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This can’t be happening.

Draco stares into the cafe’s window in disbelief. He rubs his eyes and blinks five times and yet, his eyes haven’t betrayed him. Floppy black hair, childish round glasses, and that faint zigzag of a scar…It’s Harry Potter. Harry bleeding Potter.

Potter glances at the door and checks his watch, and just as his eyes slide over to the window, Draco ducks and presses himself to the wall. He digs out the small card in his pocket.

Magic Match
The Thrown Scone 3 p.m.
Right Corner Table

With another quick glance, Draco confirms it. He’s been matched with Harry Potter.

“One hundred percent success rate, my left bollock,” Draco mutters. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

He shoves the card back into his pocket and pulls out his Flip Floo. With another quick peek, Draco finds Potter staring at the door again, waiting for him to show up, and he darts the opposite direction, sliding into an Apparition alley. Notice Me Not magic is a welcome sensation, but his fingers still shake as he dials up Cho’s number. Her fiery green image wafts into being, hovering over the small black device. It’s clear enough to make out her smile. Draco glowers.

“How did it go?”

“It didn’t!”

“What? Oh Merlin, Draco, it’s just five after three now. Have you even gone in yet?”

“No, and I’m not! This was a mistake. They’ve bollocksed it up. It’s defective!”

“You can tell all that before even meeting the bloke? Magic Match has a one hundred percent success rate—”

“—Cho—”

“I thoroughly researched it, as you know. Perhaps your match isn’t the most attractive at first sight—”

“—That’s not—”

“—but you should give him a chance, Draco. How can you know unless you actually meet him? Talk to him? It’s just a coffee date, and—”

“It’s Potter!”

Cho’s eyes widen, but her mouth finally closes. Though Draco isn’t sure the silence is better than her ceaseless nattering.

“Harry Potter?” she finally says.

“Yes, Harry Potter. Of course Harry Potter. Do you know of any other Potters?”

“That would work you up into this much of a tizzy? No.”

“I’m not in a tizzy! This was just a mistake. I never should have done this.”

“No. Maybe there was a mistake—but you shouldn’t give up on Magic Match. Unless you want to go back to hand jobs in the back of the loo with nameless Muggles, or wizards who only want to shag you for your Dark Mark.”

“You know I haven’t done that in—”

“I know.”

A flare of heat shoots through Draco’s body. His drunken confessions to Cho one night over too many firewhiskys come back to haunt him. He’d think she was more Slytherin than Ravenclaw, getting him pissed after a long day of filing efficiency reports just to wrest his secrets from him, but this is the first time she’s ever directly brought them up.

She looks contrite but doesn’t apologise. He didn’t expect her to.

“Go back,” she says. “Maybe there was a mishandling of your case and they’ll sort it out. They don’t have a whole efficiency department to report to, after all.”

Draco snorts. “I’ll think about it.”

“Draco…”

“I said I’ll think about it! I have to Apparate now. Before Potter shows up in this same alley if he ever realises he’s been stood up.”

“You’re horrible,” she says.

“That’s why you like me.”

Draco shuts his Flip Floo. He closes his eyes and breathes. Maybe Cho’s right. Maybe it was just a mistake. A paperwork error. Merlin knows if his time in the Ministry’s Department of Systematic Efficiency for Well-Organized Productivity and Proficiency has taught him anything it’s that the Wizarding World is terribly inefficient.

What’s the worst that can happen if he tries again?

 

Draco's just got home from work and hasn't even locked the door to his flat when he hears furious pecking at his living room window. Instinctively, he checks Flaubert's alcove to find his own owl's feathers ruffled in obvious annoyance, one wing up to cover his head.

The pecking continues, and when the beak makes an awful screeching sound as it's dragged down the glass, Draco hurries across the room. "Merlin's arse!" He opens the curtains to find one of Magic Match's owls there, parchment clutched in a taloned foot.

Draco lets it in, and the parchment falls into his hands. "I suppose you want treats as well as payment for making such a nuisance of yourself with that racket." Draco distractedly swishes his wand, opening a cupboard door as well as the nearly empty bag of Ernestine's Fancy Owl, as he gives the rolled parchment a shake to unfurl it and his gaze sweeps over the contents.

"Twenty-one Galleons and ten Sickles for this," he mutters to himself. "Wish I'd never met Cho Chang."

Once the Magic Match owl has got her fill of treats, Draco shoos her back toward the open window. "You, too," he tells Flaubert. "This could take me some time, so fly around the neighbourhood a bit, will you?"

Once he's shut them both out, he sighs and plops down in his favourite spot on his sofa. Draco Summons a self-inking quill, grabbing up his dog-eared copy of Efficiency Magic: Gift to All the Wizarding World from the coffee table and using it as a makeshift desk. He frowns, props a foot on the edge of the table, and begins.

He skips the intro page – perfect match, a romance for the ages, blah blah blah – and gets right to the questions on page two:

1. Favourite colour:

Draco sighs heavily. "Idiocy," he grumbles even as he writes out his answer: Emerald green.

He's moving on to the next when he stops himself, looking up and frowning at his own thoughts. He answered 'emerald green' the last time. And yes, he's operating on the assumption that there was a glitch in the magic, but shouldn't he do whatever he can to prevent a similarly disastrous outcome this time? It would only make sense to also change his answers, wouldn't it? Just in case?

He fiddles with his quill for a moment but then nods in agreement with himself, and, with an incantation, he Banishes his perfect penmanship and starts over.

1. Favourite colour:

Draco considers for a moment, quill feather tickling under his chin, and then writes decisively, Puce. He looks at it and nods, satisfied.

"Moving on."

2. Favourite foods:

Draco bites his lip and scribbles furiously, Greasy. Pedestrian. Anything with artificial colours, preferably puce. He snorts at his own humour. Nothing with any nutritive value. And then after another moment's thought, Sardines.

3. Favourite class at Hogwarts/Beauxbatons/Durmstrang:

Divination. "Well, obviously."

4. Ideal job:

"Kicking whomever's arse it is that thought up these questions," Draco muses, but after some consideration, he puts quill feverishly to parchment.

Dragon dung disposal unit, team captain.

He's a bit terrified with whom he might get matched because of that, but truly, it can't be anyone worse, so… Draco battles on.

But bloody hell, the questions on the last page are nothing short of deranged.

"Favourite cloud shape?" Draco shakes his head but then takes a deep breath and writes, Fractals.

Next comes a series of insanities such as If you had a pet Hippogriff, what would you name her/him? If you were a Muggle, what would be your least favourite flavour of ice cream? and Why don't Kneazles shed? An existential crisis question if ever Draco's encountered one.

The last question is one simple word:

9. Babies?

To which Draco replies, Yes, loads. Seven possibly. I bloody adore a good screaming, smelly, intolerable infant.

With that, he gives a great sigh, signs his name in the fifteen places required, and then tosses parchment and book-desk aside. He makes a beeline to his kitchen where he pours himself a huge glass of wine and waits for the owls to return – so he can pay far too much money to be matched to anyone other than Harry Potter.

 

Draco taps his wand in his pocket, resisting the urge to cast Tempus again after he’s already done so twice, discretely, since he arrived. The first time, it was two of. The second, one after. By now his “date” is at least three minutes late. Not the worst sin in the world, and it very well could be the bloke’s best quality. Dragon dung? Puce? Anyone’s better than Potter, he reminds himself. And at least the restaurant Magic Match picked has a variety of non-puce-coloured food on its menu. It’s actually a nice place, casual atmosphere, warm colours, semi-dim lighting. A perfect spot for a second date…

Draco frowns and pulls out the card, double-checking that he’s in the right place, sitting in the right booth, at the right time when—

“So sorry I’m late. There was nearly a splinching incident at—Malfoy?”

Draco jerks his head up, mouth falling open. “YOU? Again?”

Bright green eyes blink at him behind those same tasteless round glasses. Draco hates those glasses. Perhaps even more than Potter’s slovenly, tousled hair.

“Are you—?” Potter pulls a matching card out of his pocket, and Draco sees the restaurant’s name in the same elegant script that's on his own.

“Do you have some sort of love affair with puce?” Draco asks.

“What are you on about?” Harry narrows his eyes. “And what do you mean, again? Were you the one who stood me up last week?”

Draco clamps his mouth closed.

“At the cafe.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Right.” Potter slides into the booth opposite Draco and has the nerve to open the menu on the table. “Have you eaten here before?”

“What are you doing? Why are you sitting?”

“I don’t fancy standing while I eat. You’re buying, by the way.”

“You’re supposed to take one look at me and run the opposite direction.”

Potter puts down his menu. “Like you did last week?”

“It was the sensible thing to do!”

Potter snorts and picks up the menu again, much to Draco’s consternation.

“Fine. I’ll go.”

“Can’t get through a meal with me?” Potter asks without bothering to look up this time.

Draco pauses with half a butt-cheek hanging off the booth. He bristles, even as he feels his face go pink. He lifts his chin, slides back into the booth, and opens his menu with a snap.

“Don’t see why you’re so keen,” Draco grumbles as he pretends to scan the menu.

“Do you think, just maybe, we’ve been matched again because you skipped our first one?”

Draco peeks over the top of his menu to see Potter still busy reading his own.

“It’s never happened to me before,” Potter says.

“How many blind dates have you been on?” Draco watches as Potter’s face tightens a hair, but he gives a grim smile and shuts his menu.

“One too many, clearly.”

“Ha, ha.”

“Let’s just order, all right?”

“I’m not paying for lobster.”

“If you’re that hard up, I can pay,” he says with an annoyingly cheeky grin.

Draco glares at him. “Shut it, Potter.”

“Make me,” Potter says, but before Draco can spit out a suitable response (something about his fist shutting Potter’s mouth, would be most satisfying) the waiter approaches. Potter orders a burger and chips and completely plebeian house ale.

“I’ll have the lobster and your best chardonnay,” Draco orders, handing over his menu. He’ll be in peanut butter sandwiches the rest of the week, but Potter doesn’t need to know that. Potter rolls his eyes, but Draco feels a glimmer of satisfaction anyway.

They fall into an awkward silence. Draco drums his fingers on the table, missing the comforting feel of the menu in his hands. Potter slides a placard of the dessert specials over and studies them intently. Draco wishes he’d thought of that first. He wishes Muggle food didn’t take so long, that he had a Time Turner that could jump ahead to the end of the meal when he could finally be rid of Potter’s presence and be back in his flat, complaining about the whole thing to Cho, or settling into a good book, or even filling out the Systematic Efficiency Reports for the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office that he hadn’t completed at work that day.

He wishes he hadn’t ordered the lobster. He doesn’t much like lobster.

“One hundred percent success rate. Someone should sue,” Draco grumbles.

“Hmm?”

“Nothing, Potter.”

Potter slides the dessert placard back to the side as their drinks arrive. He thanks the waiter and takes a healthy gulp of his ale. It looks disgusting. Smells it too.

“You know that doesn’t mean they get it right the first go every time, yeah?”

“Why not?”

“It just means they eventually get it right. If you stick with it.”

Potter’s knowledge of Magic Match makes Draco wonder just how long he’s been sticking with it.

“Why did you sign up in the first place?”

“Why did you?”

Draco frowns. His jaw tightens. As if it isn’t bleeding obvious. “Some of us don’t have loads of sycophants lying at our feet, begging for a glance, much less a date with the precious Chosen One.”

“That’s what you think?” There’s an edge to Potter’s voice that gives Draco a little shiver down his spine.

“It’s true and you know it,” Draco taunts.

“I’ve an idea,” Potter snaps. “Let’s not talk anymore.”

“It wasn’t my idea to continue the sham of this date in the first place,” Draco says.

“What about not talking. Think you can handle that?”

Draco crosses his arms. “Yeah, I can handle that.” Wanker.

“Good,” Potter says.

“Good,” Draco says.

“I’m glad,” Potter says.

“Yes, me too,” Draco says.

“Do you always have to get the last word in?”

“Do you?”

Potter opens his mouth, then shuts it and simply glares. Draco smirks and sips his wine as Potter downs the rest of his ale and silently signals for another.

 

When Draco arrives back to his flat after an evening of silent chewing and glaring oneupmanship with Potter, he finds a scroll unfurled on his dining room table.

On a scale of Marvellously Magical to Terribly Troll, please rate your Date.

Draco snorts and wastes no time marking Terribly Troll, certain that Potter is doing the same. He hesitates at the next question:

Would you like another match?

His quill wavers between Yes, undoubtedly! and No along with a doodle of a frowning wizard, before he takes a breath and marks in the affirmative.

The rest of the parchment, originally blank, fills in with more questions, and it only takes a minute to recognize them as the form he’s filled out twice now, his answers seemingly making no difference in the choice of his date. He glares at the questions, fingers tightening around the quill, and quickly scratches out the same answer to each one:

NOT HARRY POTTER.

 

"All right," Cho says, slapping down her Efficiency paperwork on Draco's desk. "What's with the peanut butter?"

Draco forces a swallow. "Oh, don't worry, I'm having leftover lobster for dinner."

"Interesting choices." Cho pushes her glasses up onto the top of her head and squints at him instead. "What's happened to you?"

"What do you mean? Don't you have a PR meeting?"

She waves her hand. "There's always a PR meeting, it's the Ministry. Seriously, Malfoy."

"Chang," he mocks, taking a much-needed gulp of pumpkin juice. Merlin, not even a self-respecting first year would make a lunch of this.

When Cho just continues to stand there, one hand annoying splayed on the edge of his desk, Draco rolls his eyes. "I got Potter again."

Cho's eyebrows rise. There is the beginning of a smile.

"Don't," he says, pushing the last third of his sandwich away. "The lobster was the only decent thing about it. And I don't fancy lobster."

"You got Harry? Again?"

"I'm bored of you. You can go now."

"Well, well, well." And now it's not just her hand; she's sat her boundaryless bum on the corner of Draco's desk.

Draco leans back in his chair and crosses his arms, facing her. "Don't give me that. You went on, what? One date with him? One and a half? You must know what a tosser he is."

Cho shrugs, an expression halfway between fond recollection and embarrassment stealing over her face. "We were clueless. And I was obviously not exactly his type. Or not only." She has the audacity to nudge the arm of his chair with her foot.

Draco can feel the stupid start of a blush and runs his hand through his hair for something to do. "I am not Potter's type. And more importantly, he's not mine."

Cho smirks. "You could do worse."

"I could do better."

"Oh really? Name one person you'd rather date than Harry Potter."

Draco opens his mouth, but only a scoff comes out, and he shuts it again. He sits up abruptly. "But see, that's the bloody point! It's supposed to be someone I don't already know!"

"Name one person you know that you'd rather date than Harry Potter," she presses.

When Draco promptly forgets every name of every person he's ever known and merely gapes, his gaze frantically searching his desk as if the answer resides there somewhere in his Efficiency paperwork, Cho unseats herself and laughs, walking away.

"Get back here! I've got it!"

She waves her fingers at him without turning.

"I've got one! Damn you!"

She turns with a smile and taps her watch. "PR meeting." Then an exaggerated whisper, "Sorry."

Draco drops his head into his hands. And as Cho’s jaunty exit brings with it a stifling silence, still no name makes itself known. The silence, indeed, becomes a deafening roar.

 

Draco's week goes slowly and isn't particularly enjoyable. It's one of those awful times of year when the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes turns in their quarterly efficiency report, and it's always the worst in the Ministry, one might say a catastrophe all its own. Draco's buried in parchment all week and ends up putting in ten hour days on both Wednesday and Thursday because Harriet Smart is out with Vanishing sickness.

He almost forgets that Friday night he's off again for another Magic Match.

Almost.

He's actually been a touch grateful for all the work if he's honest, because it's when he's not working, when exhaustion hits and he's home and able to relax, that memories of Potter sitting stoically silent in the booth across from him surface.

That stubborn jaw at which Draco itches to throw a punch. The atrocious manners that meant Potter gulped more often than he sipped. The brutish way he attacked his burger and always, every time, shoved three chips into his face at once.

As Draco dresses for his third blind date – which simply must be the charm, he tells himself – he keeps getting sidetracked by those flashes of memory: Potter's throat as he swallowed; the way he'd stop and clean his glasses on his napkin like someone raised in a barn; the way he leaned back and draped his arm along the back of the booth, fingers drumming without rhythm, as they waited awkwardly for the check.

After they’d settled, the somehow equally forceful and relaxed strides he took as Draco watched him walk away.

No more of that, Draco thinks to himself, shaking away the thoughts and focusing on the lay of his hair in the mirror. Try as he might, he can't get the front strands to stick, and they keep falling into his face. After some failed charms, he leaves it. He'll have to remember to pick up more Stay Right There serum when he visits Diagon next.

He tucks his shirt more evenly into his trousers, straightens his belt, sighs, and stows his wand.

 

It's raining by the time Draco reaches the restaurant, but thank Merlin his Drought charm works better than his Sticking. Still, he checks his reflection in the window quickly before he opens the door and enters.

This place is a bit classier than the last: French and Asian fusion, even dimmer lighting that reflects from shiny chrome fixtures, ambient music playing softly.

Draco checks his card again:

Magic Match
Savoureux, 8 p.m.
At the bar, center right

He licks his lips and pockets the card, gaze quickly finding the bar to the left of the entrance. It's busy, though when a woman takes her martini from the glossy bartop and steps away, Draco sees that there's one open barstool next to a man who—

Draco catches his breath.

He'd recognize that unruly mop of hair anywhere.

For a moment, Draco just stands there, speechless. A maitre d' asks if he'd like to be seated, and Draco only shakes his head, his gaze still magnetised to that one spot at the bar, where Potter lifts a pint and sips.

There's a moment when Draco knows he could leave. It's a long enough moment. He even has several seconds to consider it. Potter fiddles with the napkin under his drink. He adjusts his glasses and gazes at the bottles behind the bar, perhaps reading their labels for something to do while he waits.

He's in a purplish shirt. Not purple exactly. Maybe plum? Although that's not quite right either.

Run! Draco's mind screams at him, even as he stands there staring.

Eggplant? Is that what that colour's called?

Leave, you idiot!

But then Potter lifts his gaze, turns his head, and suddenly he's looking right at Draco, their gazes meeting.

Puce. The bloody shirt is puce. Not that it matters anymore. His answer for favourite colour this time was NOT HARRY POTTER and this is what he gets: Harry Potter. In puce. The Universe is cruel and unusual and… and Draco's pulse is hammering as though his blood would like to beat through his skin.

He watches Potter sigh. There's a rueful smile tugging at one side of his mouth as well. Potter shakes his head, gives a little shrug, and then turns back to his pint, simultaneously pulling the barstool that's been reserved for someone other than Draco out another inch.

And he could still leave. Even now. Draco could walk out. No harm, no foul. Not really.

Turn around.

Walk out.

Instead, he takes one step, and then another, and still another, and then several more, across the room.

Draco takes his seat at the bar. "Potter."

"Malfoy." Potter gives him a slight glance and then lifts his finger for the bartender, who acknowledges him with a nod while still busy at the other end.

"So even after last time…?" Draco can't help but ask. "Again with the matching for you?"

Potter finishes his pint. "That's quite a double standard you're sporting."

"Well, I didn't think there was any possible way that… Fuck's sake, I wrote 'Not Harry Potter' for every answer!"

Potter bursts into a laugh. "You what? Seriously?"

Draco thinks Potter ought to look more offended than this, being that he doesn't look offended at all. In fact, Potter's smiling in Draco's direction. He's pleased somehow.

"Well, what did you write?" Draco asks as a defence, but then once it's out of his mouth, he finds he actually wouldn't mind hearing the answers.

A tall woman with tattoos peeking out slightly from the cuffs of her shirt steps up to them across the bar. "What can I get for you?"

"Chardonnay?" Potter asks Draco.

"That depends. Are we going to speak to one another this time or go with the silent treatment again?"

When Potter doesn't reply immediately, Draco lifts his gaze and looks at him.

Potter's sitting there considering him as though he's never quite seen Draco before. "We're talking," he says.

A perverse thrill rocks through Draco's body. He studies Potter's eyes. The level of honesty there perplexes him deeply, and he has to look away. "In that case," Draco tells the bartender. "I'm going to need a whiskey. Neat. A double, actually."

Potter snorts.

"Another pint?" she asks Potter.

"No, I'll have what he's having." That rueful smile. Another disbelieving shake of his head.

No sooner does the bartender pour their drinks than a maitre d' comes over. "Mr Potter, your table is ready."

They stand, and Potter motions for Draco to precede him. Draco rolls his eyes ceilingward but puts a pin in his impatience as the maitre d’ ambles rather than walks them to their booth. Draco takes his seat while Potter slides in across from him, and at least he has the good sense to unfold his napkin and place it in his lap straight away. Perhaps the whole 'raised in a barn' thing was too harsh after all. Maybe Draco will live through this somehow.

They're handed their menus, and Draco dives into his as though it's an instruction manual on how to proceed. He's surprised out of his concentration on the entrées when Potter asks for his input.

"Excuse me?"

"I just figured you might know more about…" He regards his menu once more and reads from it. "…lobster coral, uh, xiao long bao."

Draco puts down his menu. "Are you calling me a priss?"

"I— You got lobster last time, Malfoy."

"Not because I like it! Those things are vile, crawling around the ocean floor like… crustaceans,” he finishes awkwardly.

Potter opens his mouth but then confusedly shuts it again, sighing as he consults his menu once more. After another moment, he slaps it down on the table. "You know I was hoping to meet a nice bloke," he says. "A nice bloke."

"Mm, this talking thing is really working out," Draco observes. He still has a bit of that feeling like his veins are too full and his blood too fast. He takes a long sip of his drink.

"Fuck," Potter sighs. "You're right."

Draco's glad he's already swallowed. "I'm… what?"

"Maybe we should start over."

"In what regard?"

Potter thinks for a moment. He takes a deep breath. "Maybe we should talk to each other like we never met. Like I have no idea who you are and you have no idea who I am and we just met. Here. Tonight."

"At the bar?"

"Yeah, at the bar. What do you think?"

"I think you're mad."

Potter snorts. "Okay, so you just met a complete madman at a bar. What do you want to ask him?"

Draco's head swims. Potter picks up his whiskey and, eyeing Draco over the rim, takes a swallow. Draco opens his mouth without knowing what he'd like to say when their waiter steps up to the table.

"Do you know what you'd like to order tonight, gentlemen?"

Potter smirks. "Nothing with lobster." He looks at Draco. "Right?"

"In that case," begins the waiter and then proceeds to regale them with the specials, which all sound fine to Draco. He chooses distractedly, something with shiitake cream, and when the waiter asks if they'd like to see a wine list, Draco, maybe too hastily, orders them each another whiskey. Potter nods, his lips twitching slightly. When the waiter departs with their menus, it feels like there's no shield between them anymore.

"So," Potter says. "What are you doing with yourself these days?"

And what a relief that is! Work. Draco can easily talk about work. It's wonderfully dull and has nothing whatsoever to do with anything.The waiter returns with their drinks, and Draco allows the slow burn of whiskey down his throat and its accompanying lightheadedness to spur him on.

Potter listens with relaxed intent as Draco talks about the rewards and perils of being a mid-level manager in the Ministry's Department of Systematic Efficiency for Productivity and Proficiency. Draco finds Potter's listening skills distracting actually. Those very nearly too-green eyes always on his face make Draco blush slightly.

When their meals arrive, it's a relief.

"What did you order?" Draco asks, realising belatedly that even this would normally be something he'd bite his tongue to avoid saying. Asking what Potter’s eating seems like some drastically impulsive move, the alcohol on his empty stomach having repressed his inhibitions.

But Potter just laughs a little. "Is this a quiz? Because without the menu in front of me…" He looks down at his dish. "The only words I remember are 'flatiron steak'. Is that enough information for you?" Then, "Or would you like a taste?"

Draco disguises the fact that he's just caught his breath. Potter clears his throat and looks as though maybe he's having his own alcohol-induced impulsivity revelations.

"I— No. That's fine," Draco says, concentrating on the lay of his napkin across his thighs.

Potter tucks into his steak, and Draco takes his first bite of what turns out to be a pan-seared tuna that makes him want to shudder with pleasure.

"Good?" Potter asks.

"Exceptional," Draco answers. Then, even though he doesn't feel like sharing, "Would you…?"

"No, thanks. I've got my work cut out for me over here."

Draco finds himself giving Potter a smile before he can stop it. Merlin, he's spent his entire life, it feels like, hating everything about the man across from him. Being hated by him. There’s never been anything to smile about.

Yet Potter just sat there and listened to Draco drone on about his boring Ministry job for all of ten minutes without strangling him or drawing his wand once. Though maybe there had been some under-the-table swishing and a convenient privacy charm employed.

Except that Potter had nodded in all the right places. He'd even chuckled a little when Draco told his funniest story about the mishap of the Auror paperwork getting Banished.

Maybe we should start over.

Draco watches Potter cut into his steak, taking a bite and nearly moaning.

It isn't really possible to start over. It never will be. And even if they try, that doesn't necessarily mean they'd consent to a date, either one of them.

Yet, here they are. For a third time. And Potter seems resigned, even perhaps determined, to make the best of it. Even though all his life, he's never seen anything good, not to mention best, in Draco at all.

Potter dabs his lips with his napkin. "This is insanely good." He smiles, takes a sip of his whiskey.

He's let just the hint of facial hair grow in since last Draco saw him a week ago. It's barely anything. More than a darkening of his jaw but not anything Draco would actually name a beard. It's scruffy, unseemly.

Potter swallows, and Draco realises he's been staring. He hastily downs the rest of his drink. A moment later, their waiter deposits a fresh one, and Draco reminds himself to tip as generously as he can manage. He drops his gaze to his plate and finishes his dish slowly, methodically.

"So," Potter says after a bit. "You mentioned Cho Chang. You work together?"

"Oh, well, not together. She's in Public Relations, which, as I'm sure you could guess, the Ministry needs a lot of."

Potter chuckles. "Right," he says. "So, you don't see each other much?"

"No, we see each other plenty. She's impossibly nosy and always loitering about my desk. I’m brilliantly interesting." Draco lifts his gaze to check and see if his self-deprecating sarcasm has been lost on Potter, and by Potter's lopsided smile he sees it hasn't. "No, er, she's… She's sort of the one who pointed me toward Magic Match." Draco rolls his eyes and moves a mushroom around on his plate though he's too full to actually eat it. He hears his mother's voice in his head telling him to stop his fidgeting and lays his fork down in acquiescence.

"Really," Potter says, and Draco starts to feel a defensive ire build. Maybe Potter sees it because he hastens to add, "It was Ron and Hermione for me. Well," he laughs, "it was Hermione at any rate."

"They're still together then?"

"Very much so, yes. They're that annoying couple who thinks everyone should have what they have and if we don't, we're decrepit or something."

"Yeah, Cho's not like that. She's just bossy and controlling."

"Oh, I think Hermione could give her a run for her money there."

Draco stomps down the desire to smile at him again. The impulse is becoming a nuisance. "So," he says, carefully avoiding the playful glint in Potter's eyes, "she thinks you need help finding someone?"

"She's not impressed with my dating pool, which she describes as 'a half-dozen old professors and Neville Longbottom'."

"You're at Hogwarts? You're teaching?" Draco's shocked to discover this, though he knows he shouldn't be. He's astutely avoided any news of the Chosen One sort, but that doesn't mean this is in any way a surprise career move for Potter, though Draco had heard rumours in school that it was his desire to become an Auror, something Draco's been relieved he didn't actually follow up on.

"Mm." Potter dabs at his mouth again and pushes his plate away. "Four years now."

"Defence?" Draco guesses.

"Yeah."

"And you like it?"

Potter looks straight into him it seems. "I love it."

Draco tries to remember if he's ever said he loves anything in his entire life. And there Potter says it so easily, and yet not without weight. It's like the weight of it is nothing for him to carry.

The alcohol dulls Draco's innate reaction, which he can still feel there but muted: this ancient jealousy, a dark and ugly feeling that could take over if left unimpeded. Draco almost wishes it weren't impeded. It's at least familiar, whereas this notion to push it aside and keep talking to Potter like he's a person is not.

"I can't imagine going back there," Draco finds himself saying. He sips his drink to fortify himself after voluntarily becoming so vulnerable in Potter's presence.

"Yeah," Potter replies, swirling his own glass. "After what happened there, I—" Potter shrugs. "But it's my home." He downs his drink and sets down the glass with a quiet thud. He lifts his gaze, and Draco sees an answering vulnerability that makes his own jaw soften and his eyes blink to take it in. "Where do you call home, Malfoy?"

"Oh, uh, I just, I have a flat. Close," he adds and then flushes with heat. That's not what he meant to insinuate. Merlin, he doesn't want that! He doesn't want to take Potter home. He doesn't want to unbutton his puce shirt and see what's underneath after all these years – since Potter's become a man.

He doesn't.

God, how he doesn't.

"Do you want another?" Potter asks, nodding at Draco's glass.. “Or dessert? Or both?”

"Er, no. No, I really, um. Just the check, I think."

Potter insists on paying, and though it's staggeringly bruising to his ego, Draco lets him. He's sick to death of peanut butter, and this place would put him into debt.

This time, when they leave, Potter waits for Draco to rise from the table before walking to the door. Once again, he motions Draco to go ahead of him, but this time Draco doesn’t feel like rolling his eyes. He precedes Potter and can’t help but imagine Potter’s gaze on his back. He stifles a shiver. Potter reaches past him when they reach the door and holds it open for him. “Thanks,” Draco murmurs so quietly he almost doesn’t hear himself.

"Shit," he then blurts, seeing that the rain shower of before has now become a deluge. Water pours from the awning under which they stand. "Where did you Apparate from? I think my Drought charms are just almost—"

He's interrupted by Potter pushing him back against the window glass, his mouth descending and opening Draco's lips.

"Mm!" Draco objects, though in the next heartbeat it leaves him. It just all bloody floods away, like a trapdoor under an ocean, and leaves in its wake a wave of want so hard it shakes Draco to his core.

Potter slips his tongue into his mouth, and Draco whimpers, his back sliding down the glass only for Potter's arm to wrap around and hold him up. Draco pulls Potter to him, angling his head, his cock going hard in the instant it takes him to feel Potter up against his body, their tongues clashing.

Potter groans into the kiss, and Draco feels the hard length of his cock pressing insistently into his thigh.

He can't breathe. He doesn't want to breathe. He wants to be this lightheaded forever.

And it's terrifying.

Draco pushes Potter back, and, almost surprisingly, Potter goes. It had felt unstoppable, this thing now buzzing between them like a ready spell.

"I… can't," is all Draco can say. He doesn't even know what it is he can't do. Kiss Potter? Because that was going all too well. Do more? Because, below the belt, he's ridiculously ready. All Draco knows is that the mass of the fear and complication, everything the alcohol and the ambiance suppressed, now feels suffocating. "I… have to go."

Draco chances one look up to see the naked desire and conflict in Potter's eyes. Somewhere, maybe while Draco complained about the rain, Potter removed his glasses. They're clutched in his hand, and he's panting. He looks so young suddenly. So young and yet so changed. So charged with life and energy and confused and…

He wants Draco. It's so clear. So abundantly clear. And that, too, scares the hell out of him.

Draco turns, not even bothering with the Drought charm, so panicked he is to get away, and he walks through the rain, getting almost instantly soaked to the skin.

 

 

Draco throws off the stifling covers. The sheets twist around his legs as he pushes them down until he’s finally free of them as well. He flops onto his back and stares at the ceiling. Twice now, he’s renewed the cooling charms. Twice now, he’s almost fallen asleep when they abruptly quit working and the room thickens with heat. Outside his window a flash of lightning brightens his bedroom. Draco dutifully counts the seconds until thunder crackles in its wake.

Draco closes his eyes. And again sees Potter. Face shadowed with the rain, moonlight falling on the shiny metal of his glasses. Potter takes them off, clutches them in one hand. He steps closer. Draco twists his fingers into his shirt, gripping handfuls of puce. Potter breathes against his mouth. He’s hard against Draco’s thigh, hard and thrusting, and the heat is unbearable and inexplicable and magnetic. Draco drowns in it, choking and gasping, but he can’t let go.

“What are you so afraid of?” Potter whispers.

Draco’s eyes snap open. He’s panting, hand curled around his softening cock, with a sticky mess painting the inside of his pyjama bottoms. Sunlight streams through his window and a mechanical bird chirps at his side.

“You’re late, you’re late, you’re late, you’re late…”

“It’s Saturday, you stupid twit!” He bangs on the bird with his un-stickied hand until it ceases its incessant nagging, then grabs his wand and magics his traitorous body clean with a shaky Scourgify.

After trading his sticky bottoms for a fresh pair of trousers, Draco pads barefooted into the kitchen for some toast (no peanut butter, thanks very much), but stops short at his dining room table, the Magic Match feedback form hastily unfurled right where he left it the night before.

“Fuck,” Draco mutters. He scrubs his face and feels the scratch of whiskers along his jaw. Potter’s five o’clock shadow rises in his mind. How it felt against his skin, that brief scratch around his mouth, along his chin. “Fuck—can’t you just stop for one bloody minute!”

Brilliant. Now he’s arguing with his own brain. From the moment Potter was reintroduced into Draco’s life, he’s been driving him nutters.

Some things never change.

Draco summons a quill and he’s just about to mark the date “Terribly Troll” again when he changes trajectory mid-swipe and lands on “Acceptably Average” instead. Draco snorts. There’s nothing particularly average about Potter, but fuck Merlin if he’s going to pick “Swimmingly Superb” regardless of what his prick thinks. “Unhappily unfucked is not an option,” Draco mutters to his crotch jokingly, though his brain, ever annoying as it is, pipes up with And whose fault is that?

“I don’t want to fuck Potter, all right!”

“Who are you talking to?”

Draco whips around, parchment snarled up in one hand, his quill in the other, and finds Cho’s smirking face in the Floo before him. He glares at her.

“Clearly I’m not in a state for visitors.”

“Then clearly you should have blocked your Floo,” Cho snaps back, the smirk never leaving her lips. She’s right of course. Another thing to blame Potter for. He left Draco so discombobulated that he didn’t even bother to lock up his house properly.

“What do you want?”

“Oh, well, I need the figures for the Department of Magical Games and Sports’ Efficiency quotas—”

“This is about work? You do realise it’s Saturday.”

Cho has the grace to look a bit sheepish. “I do need those figures—but, I thought, perhaps—”

“You’re here sniffing around about my date.”

Cho leans in and her voice drops to a whisper. “Is it still going on?” She glances at Draco’s bare chest, and he flushes, clutching the parchment against it. “Is he here? Was it Potter, again? Animosity can make for great sex.”

“Merlin’s tits, woman!”

“What? It’s true. Well, you can tell me if—”

“I’ll speak to you on Monday, Cho.” Draco stomps over to the Floo and in the middle of her “At least tell me—” Draco repeats, “I’ll speak to you on Monday,” then forcefully shuts the connection. He blocks all incoming connections for good measure.

He lets out a breath, and the parchment flutters in his hand. When he spreads it back out on his table, he notices a new question has appeared below his “Acceptably Average” rating.

Would you like to see Harry Potter again?

Draco’s chest goes tight. It’s a simple yes or no. Check one or the other. And finally bloody Magic Match is actually giving him a choice. Although, he notices below in small neat print, there is a caveat:

If your match makes the same choice, another date will be arranged. If not, you’ll receive a complimentary new match.

Bitter irony, that. Picking Potter for the first time, asking for him, and then getting someone else for once.

Maybe that would be for the best. That kiss was nothing but the result of a night full of whiskey and years of pent up tension. It didn’t mean…well, it didn’t mean either of them actually wanted it.

Draco takes another shuddering breath and checks “Yes”.

At least this way, he’ll know.

 

The sun shines brightly overhead, but thankfully the next Saturday afternoon develops a cool breeze to give relief to the late summer heat. The crowds aren’t helping though, as witches and wizards from all over England queue up for the latest Falcons vs Cannons match-up. The Cannons have had an unusually good season, at least from what Draco’s been able to glean from his week buried in stacks of Magical Games and Sports efficiency reports. Apparently the Cannons’ surprising turn has made the whole Quidditch department terribly inefficient.

“This crowd is terribly inefficient,” he mutters as a child not more than four bumps into his leg, smearing chocolate sprinkled ice cream on Draco’s trousers. Draco draws his wand to clean up the mess and a woman behind him inhales sharply. He looks up; the mother is attempting corral the child, practically shoving him behind her robes, and Draco recognizes that look in her eyes. Fear. Disgust. Hatred.

I wasn’t going to hex the little brat! he wants to snarl, but he’s learned with time that never helps. He quells the frustration with a deep breath, pockets his wand, and turns away, shuffling along with the crowd. He tugs on the long sleeve of his shirt, and he wonders why he bothers. His mark is covered, but that doesn’t matter, does it? No one ever forgets what’s there.

Thankfully, once his ticket is taken (not without a raised eyebrow at his seat in a private box, which Draco does his best to ignore), and he climbs the stairs, the crowds drop off until he’s alone, facing an orange door marked with a glittering “5”.

All the nervous energy that’s plagued him since he received his little card, informing him of his date with an enclosed ticket, but not bothering to inform him with whom this date would be, hits him full thrust all at once. His stomach flips and jumps as if a Snitch is racing about inside him. But he takes a breath. He puts his hand on the knob. And he opens the door.

Potter stands at the far end, looking out over the stadium. All the air bottled up in Draco’s chest comes out in a great gush of relief.

Potter turns. His eyes light up briefly. “Hey,” he says. He smiles, just a little.

Draco’s stomach flips again. “You picked me.” The words come without thought, and Draco wants to slap a hand over his mouth.

“Hmm?”

“Nothing.” Draco waves him off quickly. “I was just saying…surprised you’re not decked out in orange.” Potter’s wearing slim but comfortable jeans and a cotton shirt he fills out nicely. Just snug enough. Draco licks his lips before he can stop himself.

Potter’s smile grows, just a tad. “Oh? Where’s your Falcon’s banner?”

Draco wants to kiss Potter. This desire that’s haunted his dreams and harassed his waking hours over the past week, that he’s successfully stuffed inside his tight chest, blooms. He’s sure it’s written all over his face, but he can’t seem to school his features anymore than he can school his thirst. He shuffles forward, unable to keep from staring.

Potter rubs the back of his neck, and Draco’s gaze slips from Potter’s eyes, his jaw, to the line of his arm and the soft swell of his bicep.

“Malfoy? You all right?”

“What? Yes. What? It’s just. The box. I wasn’t expecting it. It’s nice that Magic Match gave us a private box.” He’s babbling uncontrollably, and though he knows this, he can’t seem to stop. “Although with what we’re paying them, I suppose they can afford it.”

“Yes, it’s nice. I’m relieved, actually.”

Draco’s stomach drops out. His shoulders go tight. And even though he tells himself this is silly, and he knows Potter doesn’t mean it the way it sounds, the words still sting.

“Ashamed to be seen with me, are you?” He tries to keep his tone light, but Potter’s eyes darken, and Draco knows he’s failed utterly.

“No. I can banish the privacy screens if you want. It’s an easy spell—” Potter goes to withdraw his wand, and Draco scrambles closer, grabbing his wrist to stop him.

“No, please don’t. Please, Potter.”

“Ashamed to be seen with me?” he asks quietly. Draco’s so close now, he can see Potter’s dark lashes behind his glasses. He blinks.

“It’s not that. It’s just…”

“Too much pressure for our third date,” Potter finishes for him.

“Fourth,” Draco corrects automatically, but Potter’s words hit him like a stunner to the chest. Date. Potter said date. And that’s what these have been, haven’t they? Multiple dates with Harry Potter. And now they’re both here, again. Willingly.

“I don’t think the one where you stood me up counts,” Potter says. He laughs a little. Draco manages a smile.

“Sorry about that,” he says. And to Draco’s surprise, it’s a completely genuine feeling. He is sorry. It’s not a new emotion, it’s just…he can’t remember ever apologising to Potter before, not once in his life.

Not that he hasn’t deserved it before this.

“S’all right.” Potter says. “I forgive you.”

Draco’s breath catches. And it's only now that he realises he’s still holding Potter’s wrist when Potter slips out of his slackened grip.

Draco catches Potter's gaze and gets stuck there. And before he knows what's he's doing, Draco kisses him.

He can’t help himself. Things go blurry, and suddenly he’s kissing Potter, and it’s the rainy night all over again, except this time, Draco clutches Potter to him instead of pushing him away. This time he willingly and with utter clarity, opens his mouth and invites Potter inside. But Potter’s kiss softens, and goes slow. His tongue slips along Draco’s as if he’s relishing the taste. He slides one hand around Draco’s waist and snakes beneath his shirt, splaying his fingers against Draco’s skin. Draco trembles all over.

A whistle blows, harsh and loud in Draco’s ears.

Potter pulls away, but his eyes are sparkling. “The match is starting.”

Draco can’t remember being more disinterested in watching a Quidditch match in all his life.

But he nods and manages to use his legs to follow Potter over to the seats, ignoring how his back feels cold now that Potter’s no longer touching it.

The players zoom back and forth, darts of grey and orange, but Draco can’t keep up. He’s too aware of how close their seats are, the press of Potter’s knee against his own. How in the brief moments when he blinks and lets his eyes stay closed just a little too long, he can still feel Potter’s lips.

How much he wants this game to be over so he can feel them again.

In the few glances Draco lets himself have of Potter, he finds Potter enraptured, shouting at Chasers, cursing at one Seeker for falling for the other Seeker’s feint. And smiling. Hugely. But then Potter turns his head and catches Draco staring.

And Potter smiles at him.

And Draco’s stomach threatens to drop out.

“You’re too quiet. Upset the Falcons are taking a beating?” Potter’s smile turns crooked.

“Oh. Yeah—it’s. It’s just been a while,” Draco says.

“Since you’ve been to a match? Or since you’ve watched the Falcons lose this badly?”

“Har, har. You’re not going to get under my skin, Potter.”

Potter leans over, and his lips brush against Draco’s ear as he whispers, “That’s not what I want to get under.”

Draco's face heats. "That was terrible," he says, trying to laugh, but it comes out more strangled than anything because his cock has jumped to attention at Potter's suggestion, however corny it might have been. He's careful to keep his eyes straight ahead on the match itself even as Potter chuckles in his ear.

"I'll do better next time."

It’s then that Draco knows, he’s going home with Potter. Or Potter’s coming home with him. Either way, it’s happening. His cock won’t take no for an answer two dates in a row. Not that Draco wants to say no. His rational mind would advise caution, but it’s buried beneath too much desire. He wants to lick Potter’s chest, feel the weight of his cock in the palm of his hand. Press against him and thrust against his thigh. He wants to be bent over a bed and fucked into the mattress.

Rational mind be damned.

Potter tenses next to him and leans forward in his seat. Draco follows his gaze to see the Snitch, the Cannons' Seeker hot on its trail.

"Here comes your bloke, too!" Potter shouts, jumping up from his seat.

"My who?" Draco replies before his brain catches up and he realises Potter means the Falcons' Seeker. "Oh yes. Bloody fantastic." His gaze isn't on the match but on Potter's arse, though – in those drool-inducing jeans. Merlin…

But when the Seekers disappear into the sky, Potter sits again, sighing and turning a lopsided grin Draco's way. It's an expression Draco has only seen him use with friends. He's seen it across the vast expanse of the Great Hall during dinner before Pansy would kick his shin under the table to get his attention. He's seen it in their classes, Potter openly and annoyingly pleased when Granger wouldn't stop answering Professor Snape's questions no matter how many times he refused to call on her.

Draco's seen this very look out on the pitch when Potter came away with the Snitch himself.

And now, that's how Potter's looking at him.

It's fleeting as one of the Falcons' Chasers gets the Quaffle through, and Potter's focus once again shifts to the game. A great wash of grey banners waves now from the stands, but Draco finds himself hoping for another strong move by the Cannons if it will get Potter jumping up and giving Draco an unimpeded glimpse of his fit arse again.

But then again, Draco decides the sitting's good too when Potter's knees range wide and one of them bumps Draco's leg again. Draco's mouth goes dry. He takes a quick glance at Potter's profile to see if he's doing it on purpose, this casual touching, but then suddenly the Seekers swoop down just in front of their box. It's a startling swirl of orange and grey, and now the crowd is on its feet again, Potter included. Draco can't help but feel a little bit of that old excitement and leans forward in his seat. He remembers what that was like… fighting to outrace Potter to the Snitch. It's always the matches against Potter that he remembers, too. He can't even recall most of the other Seekers' names.

The Snitch darts and dives, and there are some near-misses between both of the Seekers with other players when the Snitch careens between the goals, but ultimately, it can’t escape the clutch of the Seeker’s hand, and a veritable sea of orange erupts from the stands along with the roar of celebration. Draco realises a little belatedly that he's stood and is clapping as well.

Potter’s right next to him giving a great big wallop, but he jostles Draco’s shoulder with his own and yells to be heard above the fray. “You do realise you’re cheering for a Cannons victory, right?”

Draco couldn’t care less. “It was a good game,” he yells back, having no idea if that’s the truth or not. He hasn’t once looked at the bloody score.

People are still clapping and stomping their feet as the players land and the teams shake hands. His team was crushed—Draco isn’t even aware by how much—but he feels light and floaty, skin buzzing with excitement.

“Want to go—” Potter asks just as Draco turns to say, “Do you want—”

Draco stops abruptly, and Potter grins at him.

“You first,” Draco says.

“I was going to ask, if you’re not busy, do you want to have a drink?”

It’s not the invitation Draco was hoping for, but before he can answer, Potter adds, “I’ve got firewhisky at mine. If you’re good with that.”

Potter licks his lips. Draco’s eyes follow the path of his tongue and want rears up in him, so much that he’s afraid he’ll beg for it if Potter makes him wait much longer. “I like firewhisky,” he manages to say.

And Potter grins. “Good.”

 

The walk out of the stands and to the nearest Apparition point is agony. Amazing agony. It seems, now that he's ready to have sex with Harry Potter in both mind and body, Draco can hardly stand the idea of waiting even half an hour longer to do so. He feels like he's unwittingly been waiting years.

Merlin, how had he never seen it before? The potential for this?

True, Potter had been rather scrawny in school for a good while. Though by fifth year that had certainly begun to change.

And you noticed, his mind supplies.

"Shut it."

"What?"

"Oh. Not you. I— Merlin, never mind. Where's the bloody Apparition point again?"

"Two blocks." Potter points, a lazy smile lifting the corner of his lips. "In a hurry?"

Draco shoots him a scowl. "I just think it's inefficient to place them so far from the pitch itself."

Potter nods, considering, and they continue to walk, their arms brushing occasionally and sending sparks of lust down Draco's spine. Their arms! Their perfectly clothed arms! Draco's reaction strikes him as downright Victorian. He's starting to worry that Potter's exposed ankle could give him the vapours.

Not that it's been that long since he's pulled.

Except that it really, really has. That was the whole point of this. Well, that and finding a decent bloke rather than the absolute winners Draco's realised are attracted to the likes of him.

There isn't one person left in the magical world who wouldn't define Harry Potter as decent, Draco knows, himself included. In fact, he's beginning to wonder when, precisely, he stopped hating Potter. When he started to feel like he could tolerate him. And when that slowly and insidiously turned into this. This wanting to kiss him at every turn. This wanting to feel Potter’s hands on his body. This shiver of delight at even seeing the git's scruffy face.

The fact that a glimpse of Potter's bicep beneath his soft cotton sleeve can make Draco hard.

And now that all of that bollocks is loose, well… A two-block stroll to the nearest Apparition point is painful.

It's also the least of his problems.

"We're here," Potter announces, tilting his head at an alcove in front of what appears to be a closed shop.

As they step in, Draco frowns. "That's odd."

"What?"

"Well, it's the nearest point and yet we're the only wizards here. After a Quidditch match let out."

"Oh, well, I might have…" Potter clears his throat. "…put a Disillusionment charm on it after I arrived."

Draco starts. "Is that… legal?"

"I doubt it." Potter grins.

Draco fights the thrill he gets from that. And then he wonders why on earth he's fighting any of this. "So…no one can see us?" He steps closer to the radiant heat of Potter's body.

Potter shakes his head and says softly, "No."

Draco wraps his hand around the nape of Potter's neck, not even allowing himself a moment to think, to let this become some sort of moral dilemma, to breathe. He draws Potter in, pressing their lips together. When Potter's part to let his tongue slip inside, Draco gives in completely and grasps onto him, hauling him close. His erect cock aches for the full-body contact, even through their clothes.

Potter makes a rough sound, hands tightening on Draco's hips, but then pulls just slightly away. "Hold on," he says, the words little puffs of warmth against Draco's lips.

Draco's hands tighten on Potter's body, and in the next instant there's the disorienting whoosh, the pull at his middle, the swirling world with Potter the only constant, and then they land with a jolt.

"Sorry," Potter breathes. "Rough ride. I usually have more—"

"I'm okay with that."

Potter's eyes flare a little at the insinuation. Draco stifles the urge to prevaricate, mostly because what he sees in Potter's eyes is exactly what he meant to imply. And Merlin. It looks good.

Potter has let go of him to take the wards off his front door, and that's the first time Draco realises that they're standing on a porch in front of a modest house and that this is where Harry Potter lives. He's about to enter the inner sanctum, where Potter no doubt entertains only his closest and most trusted friends.

Potter turns the knob and pushes the door open. "After you."

Draco steps inside, and Potter lights the room with a swish of his wand. In the most utilitarian way, Potter's front door leads into his kitchen. Draco's never seen anything like it. A former version of himself would find this deeply distasteful, but what he's feeling right now is something more like fascination, maybe even relief. This is so far removed from the life Draco led up to losing everything in the war – and so much closer to what he's living with now, his peanut butter sandwiches and tightly-budgeted income. Potter has the funds to do better, but this is what he's chosen for himself. Modesty.

There are pictures on the walls, even here where he cooks. Weasley and Granger. Weasley’s parents. Thomas, Finnigan, and Longbottom all laughing with their arms around each other. Draco walks up to a framed photograph in which Potter stands with a group of children in black Hogwarts robes.The smile on his face is magnetic, so genuine. It's out in front of the castle, just outside the gates, perhaps taken when they'd returned from a trip to Hogsmeade. It looks so real. Draco has to catch himself from reaching out and touching the snowflakes as they fall on Potter's shoulders.

He tears his gaze away and looks around at the casual furnishings, the tug-of-war between clutter and tidiness. Potter's house shows a flagrant disregard for status and a distinct focus on comfort. It speaks to a cozy, unassuming life built around the things and people that matter to him personally, rather than what's expected of him.

Draco realises that while he's been staring, Potter has descended into a sunken living room and is pouring firewhisky at a drinks cabinet. Draco follows him into the room, finding more photographs, more quiet comfort.

Potter turns with a drink for Draco and smiles. Draco takes it, their fingers touching. He takes a sip and enjoys the burn of the alcohol down his throat.

"You took it neat before," Potter says, pouring one for himself. "I just assumed that's how you'd want it now."

"Yes, that's fine. It's good," Draco amends. "The firewhisky."

Potter turns and takes a sip himself. Draco can't read what's in his eyes. It's soft yet purposeful. It's a touch inquisitive but without any haste. The silence lengthens between them. Draco drops his gaze to the fiery liquid in his glass and swirls it around. "You know, Potter, I was really hoping 'I've got firewhisky at mine' was a euphemism for 'I have a bed on which to screw you.'"

Draco is close to holding his breath after that. He's about to glance up to try to gauge Potter's reaction when Potter's hand grasps Draco's glass – Draco had not noticed his approach – and sets it aside. He then hauls Draco in and kisses him deeply. A soft whine is pulled from Draco's tight lungs. He wraps his arms around Potter, suffocating the air between them to nothing.

Draco tries to angle the kiss deeper, but Potter pulls back. "I do," he says. "Have a bed."

"You just going to stand there and brag or are you going to show it to me?"

Potter's smile is everything – tender and hot all at once. And then, WHOOSH!

They land in the near dark beside a large bed, and Draco sways in Potter's arms. He feels them tighten around his body, feels the easy, quick strength in them, and oh bloody Merlin, it's good. Draco launches into a new kiss, and Potter moans into his mouth. Draco's hands drop and scrabble for the button on Potter's jeans, ripping it open and then yanking the zip down.

Potter's hands cover Draco’s, stopping him. He cups Draco's jaw in his palm and kisses him softly. Yet it would never qualify as chaste. His tongue slips in and out of Draco's mouth – slow, deliberate – until Draco is practically trembling from the force of his desire.

And that's when Potter steps back altogether.

"Wh—? Bloody hell, we were just getting somewhere really good," Draco says.

Potter smiles. He takes the hem of his shirt and draws it up, revealing a peek at hipbones, lightly muscled stomach, the chest of a man who duels daily. Merlin help him. Potter whisks it over his head and off, clearing his glasses in a way that's likely practised over the years. He probably reads in bed. Shirtless. The fucking fit arsehole.

"Do you have a pressing appointment, Malfoy?" Potter lets the shirt drop to the ground. He steps back in and begins unbuttoning Draco's shirt.

"Nnng," is what comes out of Draco's throat in answer.

Potter steps in close enough to murmur against his ear, his hand finding its tortuous way inside Draco's open shirt. "Good." His fingers stroke over Draco's nipple, making him gasp. "Because I was planning on having you all night."

Draco shivers hard, hands grasping Potter's steady hips to keep himself upright. Potter's fingers send little jolts of lust through his whole body and most certainly down into his cock, which twitches hard. Fuck, he's already leaking pre-come, just from this.

Draco's shirt seems to fall off his shoulders in slow-motion as Potter kisses his neck. Draco clutches at him the whole while because when his eyes fall closed, the world tilts. Except for Potter. Potter lets the shirt drop, and then his hands fall to Draco's waist, around to cup Draco's arse through his trousers, squeezing. His mouth dips to the hollow of Draco's throat, and he groans, squeezing harder, only to then kiss along his collarbone and make Draco whimper.

"Oh fuck," Draco breathes, grinding against Potter's thigh while Potter massages his arse.

And then Potter's kissing him again – leisurely, breathless – and his fingers work Draco's trousers open. They fall to the floor, and then Potter takes the waistband of Draco's pants, and – holy sweet fuck – he inches them down Draco's hips. He takes his bloody, fucking time. Draco feels his pants pulled just far enough down his arse that he feels the cool air on the crack between his cheeks. Draco doesn't know why, but that feeling, that small exposure, rockets through him as though it's the greatest of intimacies.

So, of course, that's where Potter stops. With Draco's pants not even half off, Potter strokes his finger down between the cheeks of Draco's arse just barely, all the while kissing him, and Draco melts. He sags in Potter's embrace even as his cock rears up, testing the cotton of his briefs. He can't help it; he rubs himself against Potter's body, wherever he can reach while Potter softly strokes the crack of his arse, not quite reaching where Draco is now dying for him to go.

"Oh you absolute bastard," Draco moans his complaint.

Potter chuckles, walking around behind Draco and hooking his thumbs in the front of his pants, not near enough his cock by any means. "Malfoy, you have no idea."

Draco whines, Potter's warm bare front pressed to his back. Potter starts to tug, letting the fabric catch on Draco's cock. Draco leans back into him, panting already, without even a touch. "Fuck you, just do it."

Potter insinuates his face to Draco's neck and finally, finally, pulls his pants down, clearing his obscenely hard cock and baring his arse. Potter presses to him, his own hard prick more than apparent as he nestles in against Draco's bum. Then, one hand presses warm and secure to Draco's heaving stomach, while the other…

"Oh fuck."

The other descends between Draco’s legs. Potter lifts Draco's balls, cupping him and squeezing, before he wraps his hand around Draco's cock and gives one, long, slow stroke.

And, with that, Draco falls the fuck apart.

"Potter, fuck, oh god!" Draco comes. He comes from one bloody touch of Harry Potter's hand. He shoots into the continued caress of Potter's fist closing repeatedly now over the head, crying out with every throb. Draco spills over Potter's knuckles, and it drips to the floor. He leans back into Potter's body and quakes with the strength of his orgasm.

"That's bloody hot," Potter whispers in his ear. It ameliorates the feeling of embarrassment that was sure to follow the rapture of his climax, because dear Merlin, he came from nothing!

Well, not nothing. Potter's hand, still cradling his cock, is like velvet-wrapped lightning, calluses and soft skin. There's a raw strength in his fist that Draco could sense him restraining, which, even now, is ungodly hot.

Draco is ready. He just came, of course, but there's still this underlying hunger that has as much to do with how much he wants to touch Potter, to take him apart piece by piece, as it does with meeting the needs of his own body.

He turns in Potter's arms, wetting his lips. He can feel the muscles of his thighs wanting to surrender to the pull of gravity. He wants, more than anything, a taste.

But before Draco can fall to his knees right there, Potter murmurs, "Lie down."

Draco wouldn't automatically grant such a request – his default setting is still probably to contradict Potter at every turn – but he makes the mistake of looking into Potter's eyes. Draco sees it all there: Potter has most certainly not come yet, and there's an unbanked fire of need in his imploring gaze. It steals Draco's breath. He finds himself ditching the last of his clothes quickly and backing his way onto Potter's bed without a word, much less a fight.

Potter watches his every movement while he kicks off his own shoes. He pushes down his jeans and pants, peeling off socks on the way. And it's a good thing Draco's arse is now sat on the bed because when Potter straightens, completely nude, Draco simply stops breathing for a moment.

Draco has the time it takes Potter to walk to the bed to feast his eyes on his body: the slight hipward curve of a very impressive cock; the rosy blush to the slick head; the dark, wiry hair around his balls and down his thighs; the way his heavy prick bobs as he approaches. The glasses are the last thing to go, and Potter lays them on the bedside table before he climbs up over Draco, gently forcing him to lie back into luscious pillows.

Draco expects for the pace to pick up now, since Potter is so obviously more than ready. But no. Draco is realising that this must just be how Potter operates.

At least tonight.

Or at least with Draco.

Potter kisses Draco on the lips, short and sweet. He does it once. Twice. A third, more lingering time. Then he mouths his way down Draco's throat, which Draco arches to give him access. Potter's lips descend once more to his collarbone and then travel without hurry to Draco's shoulder.

"Potter," Draco sighs. "This is extremely inefficient."

Potter laughs, barely lifting his lips, and the vibration of his low, amused chuckle resonates across Draco's skin.

The mere fact that he made Potter laugh resonates through Draco's whole being.

Potter gives the muscle of his shoulder a nip of his teeth, a warm lick.

And Draco's complaint is a hollow one as well. Having Potter's weight and warmth on top of him is making Draco feel close to delirium. His skin tingles everywhere Potter's hint of beard touches, everywhere his lips trail. Draco's cock pulses with new life, beginning to swell just slightly against his thigh.

Potter's mouth lowers, and he kisses one of Draco's nipples, licking around and the over the tight nub. When he sucks, Draco arches, his breath gasping out.

Potter moans, flicking it with his tongue and then sinking his teeth into it. Draco wails, grasping sheet, pillows, anything. His cock rears up, stiffening and brushing Potter's leg. Potter moans again, flicks some more, bites down just enough to send Draco into panting trembles.

He kisses across Draco's chest to the other one, and Draco whines. He doesn't know if it's complaint or encouragement, if he loves or hates this aching tease.

"You have such tight little tits, Malfoy," Potter says before he sucks it into his mouth.

"Oh god…"

"I could play with them all night."

"Fffuck."

"Merlin, look how hard they get."

Epithets pile up in Draco's brain, but all he does in the end is arch on a groan into the wet torture of Potter's mouth.

Potter flicks at his nipple a few more times but then makes his way down Draco's ribs, which is somehow relief, disappointment, and excitement all in one. If this downward trend continues after all… Draco's cock gives a leap of approval, and he tries to catch his breath while Potter's lips are distracted elsewhere for the time being.

Potter kisses Draco's stomach – once, twice. Then he lifts his shaggy head and replaces lips with inquiring fingers. Draco realises he's found the only remaining scar from that day, the faint line that strikes diagonally across his torso.

"Is… this…?" Potter asks. He swallows, glancing up and finding Draco's gaze.

Draco nods.

Potter's expression goes somber, his gaze falling to where he traces the scar with tender fingers, making Draco catch his breath. Potter glances up at him again and then bends his head and places a lingering kiss to the faded line. Draco watches him, watches the path of his lips. He sinks his fingers into Potter's hair, letting the soft strands tickle his palm. Potter exhales against his body and then lifts his gaze once more.

"I want you.” Draco watches the change that brings to Potter's eyes. The green goes darker; the tight lines relax. "Don't stop. I want you, Harry."

And what that does to him…

Potter groans, dropping down again and leaving rough, biting kisses across Draco's stomach. He takes Draco's cock in his hand, steadying it.

"Please, yes," Draco sighs, pulling the pillow to his face and widening his legs. His heels drag on the silky sheets as his knees bend of their own accord.

And then Potter sucks the head of Draco's cock into his wet mouth.

"Ffffuck, Potter."

He bobs his head, quickly at first, giving in to the urgency. Potter moans – as though he likes it, as though it's good for him – taking Draco deep, again and again.

But then in true Harry Potter fashion…

"Nnnnggghhfuck!" Draco growls when he, once again, slows. "Fuck, Potter, you bastard."

He lifts his lips. "Thought I was 'Harry' now." He goes back to diligently working the head in and out of his mouth. "I'll answer to 'you bastard', too, though."

Draco growls wordlessly, his body twisting on the bed. Potter takes hold of his hips. He stops everything until Draco lifts his head and meets his gaze. Then Potter tongues Draco's slit, licking up the pre-come. He opens his mouth to take him in. And he sinks down… down… down… down… His lips stretch around the root, and he gives a soft hum of pleasure. Draco is breathless watching it, feeling the heat of Potter’s mouth engulf him. Then Potter comes back up… up… up… up…

Inch by inch, Potter goes down, the pressure of his tongue under Draco's cock making Draco gasp, making his eyes roll shut, making him tremble all over. And every time he rises back up again, he's sucking, working Draco's prick in his mouth, driving him bloody insane.

Draco doesn't know how much more he can take. There are tears in his eyes, for Merlin's sake, threatening to trickle from the corners and dampen the pillow beneath his head. It takes a few moments for him to realise that the whispered chant he's hearing is himself.

"Harry… Harry… Harry… Harry…"

Potter moans, lapping under the head, before sinking back down with that agonizing restraint.

A tear slips from the corner of his eye, and Draco is gone. He's reduced to begging. And he doesn't even care. "Please, Potter," he whispers. "Please fuck me."

He expects more slow torture, maybe a chuckle and then a defiant continuation of the mastering of Draco's cock with Potter's mouth.

But that's not what happens. At his words, Potter groans. He sucks off and roughly flips Draco over onto his stomach. Draco gasps – and then again when Potter hauls him up onto his knees with strong, sure tugs.

Potter wandlessly Summons lube. And Draco has begun a new chant into the bedding beneath his cheek. "Ohfuckohfuckohfuck…"

He feels a slick finger trace over his entrance, and his first instinct, even through the lust and want, is to seize up. But once Potter's finger circles the rim for a moment and the lube warms, Draco releases the grip of his muscles, and in the next instant, Potter's finger slides into him.

"Oh ffff—" Draco buries his face in the pillow. Because Merlin, he's going to turn into an utter slag for this in record time. He arches his back, and when Potter's finger pushes into him again, a second has joined it. "Oh my god yes."

"You like that?" Potter's voice is hoarse from desire, his breath ragged. He withdraws to fingertips and then pushes back inside.

"Yes," Draco whimpers. "Yesss…"

"Fuck, you're tight."

Draco widens his knees. "Then loosen me up." He takes an illicit peek behind him to see Potter's lazy, sensuous smile, his eyes darkened to near-black. He rotates his forearm, muscles flexing, and thrusts his fingers back inside Draco's arse, palm up. He fucks them in faster, watching it.

Draco groans and buries his face again. In no time his arse is warm, almost hot. He's so slick and wet that the way is easy for Potter's two fingers. When Potter once again changes the angle of his hand, Draco cries out.

And it's more than good, just holding still for Potter to do this to him. His cock is leaking, and there's a wonderful hot ache in his arse – which intensifies when Potter, slowly now again, works in a third finger, opening him up.

Draco's face lifts from the bedding. He's panting with it, Potter's hand nudging at him when he's pushed his fingers in as far as they can go.

"That's it," Potter urges. "Merlin…" He pulls out, screws them back in, and Draco starts trembling. "You like three fingers, Draco?"

"Mmm-hmm!" He starts countering the push of the digits into his arse, rocking back.

"God, that's hot. That's so bloody hot," Potter tells him. "I'm dying to put my cock in you."

Draco turns to glance at him again. He pants out the words. "Do it." He swallows. "I'm so ready." He puts his head back down, his sweaty hair falling into his eyes. He closes them. "So ready for you…"

Potter pulls his fingers out and aims his cock. The head touches his stretched rim. Potter grasps Draco's arsecheek in his other hand, and then, with a shove, he's pushing inside. And more and more and more. He's big, and it hurts a little, but Draco's so wet and so turned on, and when Potter groans, hips settling against his arse, cock lodged firmly inside, there is nothing about it that Draco doesn't want.

Potter holds him by the hips, pulls out an inch, and then drives back inside. They both groan. Potter does it again. "Merlin, Draco, you feel so good." Experimentally, he goes a little faster, and Draco has to muffle his cry of pleasure into the pillow.

"Harder," Draco gasps. He turns his head again to speak to him, not making eye contact this time. "You can go harder."

"Yeah?" Potter pulls out further this time and then slams his cock home.

"Yyyes!"

He does it again, a little more this time. Draco's arsecheeks jiggle when Potter bottoms out in him again and again. Draco feels so full, all his nerve-endings on fire. Every thrust of Potter's cock inside him brings him closer to climax.

"More?" Potter asks.

Draco spreads his knees, just an inch more, but it's enough of an invitation, he hopes.

Potter starts fucking him faster, bouncing Draco's arse off his cock each time and giving little rhythmic grunts of exertion.

"Oh bloody ffffuck," Draco cries. He lifts up a little, grabbing Potter's headboard in one hand to keep from being fucked into it. He arches his throat, eyes rolling shut, because it's just too good. Too bloody good. The words fall from his lip with no censor, and he can't even care that he might regret it later. "Fuck me good, Potter. Just use me. Use my arse and come inside me. God please…"

Potter groans, long and low. And then his hand slams down on Draco's arse, the sharp sound of the slap cracking through the room.

Draco cries out. And when Potter does it again, Draco muffles the string of wordless sounds that get forced from his throat, pressing his moaning mouth against his own arm.

And all the while, Potter's fucking him.

"Fuck, Malfoy, you've got a sweet arse." Another smack. "You've got the hottest arse I've ever bloody seen." Smack! "You like me fucking you? Fucking your pretty arse?” A groan. Another slap. “You like me rough, Malfoy?"

Draco is beyond words now. He's floating in a place no one has ever taken him to before. When Potter makes a fist in his hair and tugs a little, Draco groans loudly, and the pre-come dribbles liberally from his cock.

"Do you… Draco?" Potter gasps, and from the edge of that place where he's still conscious, Draco hears that it's not rhetorical. That underneath the heat of his words, Potter's asking because he cares what the answer is.

Draco can only nod furiously, the movement impeded by how Potter's holding his head in place.

"Merlin, I'm going to come so hard," Potter breathes. "I'm… going to…" He leans over Draco's back, hips taking short, rutting thrusts, his lips near Draco's ear, hand releasing his hair to wrap around Draco's body and hold him close.

"Come inside me," Draco says. “Fill me up.” He sneaks a hand down between his legs and starts going on his cock, quick and brutal. His balls draw up tight. "Mark me... Harry."

Potter cries out, and Draco feels it, the warm, wet splash inside him, the pulsing of Potter's cock as he comes. Potter's lips open against the back of Draco's neck, hot huffs of breath and a little whining sound that make Draco shiver.

Suddenly, it hits him, and Draco comes all over the bed, pushing his arse back on the cock still fucked deep inside him. Every slowing rock of his hips licks pleasure up his spine.

Draco empties, and Potter's softening cock slips out of him. He can't even conjure the energy to Summon his wand and clean up the mess he made, so he tentatively rolls to the middle of the big bed and onto his back, panting. Potter crawls over him and does the same next to him, an arm thrown up over his messy head. They lie there breathing together. Draco's hips, his back, his arse… everything hurts. It's wonderful. His mind drifts in and out of innocuous, half-finished thoughts. Like the tide going out, little by little.

 

Draco doesn’t know how long they lie there like that, sweaty and sprawled, until he gradually becomes more aware of his breath slowing and he feels Potter shift, rolling to his side, facing him.

“That was—”

“If you’re about to say something cliché, hush,” Draco says.

“Hush? What if I wasn’t going to say something cliché?”

“Haven’t you ever heard of enjoying the moment, Potter?”

Draco feels Potter’s eyes travel the length of his body and itches to grab a sheet and cover himself up. It’s ridiculous. He’s being ridiculous. He’s just laid himself bare, let Potter fuck him in ways he didn’t even know he wanted until Potter stirred these desires, and yet it’s like he’s been dosed with a sobering potion and is just now startlingly aware.

Maybe this isn’t even something new to Potter. Maybe a cliché would be fitting.

Potter rolls to his back, throws his arm up and tucks it under his head, propping himself up on a pillow. “You’ll let me know when I can speak again?”

“What have you got to say that’s so important?”

“Oh nothing. Just how great that was. How great you are.”

“You can always say that,” Draco says.

Potter laughs. It’s delightful, and Draco finds a smile tugging at his lips despite himself. “You weren’t so bad yourself.”

“So bad.” Potter shakes his head. He legs spread slightly as he shifts again, and his knee bumps into Draco’s. “That’s good. I’m glad I wasn’t ‘so bad.’”

Draco isn’t certain what to do. He thinks this is the time he should probably roll out of bed and find his clothes, but what if Potter expects him to stay the night? Is that what normal people do after normal, clichéd sex? Stay the night. Have awkward small talk over coffee and scones the next morning, or Merlin forbid, beans on toast. Potter probably does have beans on toast for breakfast. And Draco would be expected to sit there and shovel it in politely because that’s what people do. At least, he thinks so anyway. Maybe he should have asked Cho what was expected. Maybe then he wouldn’t be lying here frozen in Potter’s wrecked bed, unable to even grab a sheet to cover his cooling body because he’s not sure if that would send the wrong signal.

The silence stretches on between them. Then Potter clears his throat. Draco feels his gaze again, but keeps his own eyes fixed to the ceiling.

“I have to go back to Hogwarts on Monday. Get ready for the new term.”

“Oh.” A weird lump rises in Draco’s throat but he swallows it down. “I guess you won’t be going on any more Magic Matches then.”

“Well, no. I don’t need to now, right?”

“Got what you needed.”

“Yeah,” Harry says. “Didn’t you?”

Draco blinks. “Yes, I suppose.” He can no longer just lie in the bed, so he gingerly sits up and swings his legs off the side.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m cold,” Draco says. It’s not the whole truth, but it is true. He finds his pants in the disarray of the room, and when he pulls them up, he feels the barest hint of relief.

“So, I’ve got a week before the students arrive. And then there’s always weekends. I can’t really leave Hogwarts until the holidays, but if you wanted to come up sometime...”

Draco’s found his shirt, but he pauses at that and whips around to look at Potter. “You want me to come visit you? At Hogwarts?”

“Yeah, we could have a bite at The Three Broomsticks, or…if you want something besides pub fare, I’m sure I could get the House Elves to make us something—not that we’d dine with the students or anything like that.”

Draco’s heart beats faster in his chest and goes tight. He needs air, the cold breeze of the night to fill his lungs. He fights the urge to Alohomora the nearest window. His hands clench in his shirt and he sees it, out of the corner of his eye, the faded remains of his dark mark on his forearm, forever etched on his skin. Not impressive enough for the lovers of his past; not faded enough now.

“There’s no private box in Hogsmeade,” Draco blurts out.

“I’m not ashamed to be seen with you.” Inexplicably, Potter’s lips slant into a smile. “But there’s always my quarters at Hogwarts. They’re private.”

Draco yanks his shirt on and pulls the sleeves down tight. Not that it matters now. Not that it ever matters. Covering it up wouldn’t prevent the well-deserved sneers from Longbottom, McGonagall… Worse than from strangers.

Worse in front of Harry.

He finds his trousers twisted at the foot of the bed, shakes them out and pulls them on, nearly tripping as he steps on the hem of the right leg.

“Are you leaving?” Potter asks. He sits up, leaning forward.

“I’ve an early day.”

“It’s Sunday.”

“Yes well, Cho needs some figures from me for the Monday morning Prophet and I’m behind in compiling the data.”

“Another article about how well-run our Ministry is nowadays,” Potter snorts.

“What of it? Do you have a problem with my job?”

“No—I didn’t mean—it’s just those articles are ridiculous.”

“The public needs to regain trust in the Ministry, and I, as a junior officer in the Department of Systematic Efficiency for Well-Organized Productivity and Proficiency, serve an important function in analysing the efficiency of each department to make sure important Ministry programs are serving witches and wizards to their highest capability, but I suppose I’m just ridiculous.”

“No—fuck, Draco. I’m sorry.” Potter jumps up from the bed, and in two long strides, he stands before Draco. “You’re not ridiculous. I wasn’t trying to say that.”

“What were you trying to say?”

“Nothing. I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

“Fine.”

Potter tentatively touches Draco’s arm. “Are we okay?”

“Yeah,” Draco breathes. “We’re fine. I really do have to go, Potter.” Standing this close to him, naked at that, Draco feels his chest tighten up once more, and he feels like if he doesn’t Apparate right then, he’ll scream.

“I’ll Owl you?”

“Great.” Draco finds his wand in his trouser pocket and Potter only has a split second to drop his arm before Draco Apparates home. The spell squeezes a giant knot into his stomach, but when he opens his eyes and sees the familiar comfort of his own modest bed, he can finally breathe again.

The cold hardwood floor is a balm to the soles of his feet, and that’s when he realises he’s left his socks and shoes behind at Potter’s.

“Fuck.”

 

The owl arrives early the next morning. Draco watches as it struggles through the open window with a brown-papered package in its claws, which it drops unceremoniously on the table before landing right next to his breakfast.

“Hey watch it,” Draco grumbles. The owl ruffles its feathers and glares at him, and if Draco didn’t already suspect it to be so, he’d now know for certain that this is Potter’s owl. Uncouth bird.

“Just for that, no treats for you.”

Draco sighs as he pushes his plate to one side and pulls the package towards him. The owl doesn’t seem to be bothered and steals a bit of half-eaten bacon off his plate.

Draco bites his lip and unwraps the paper, finding just what he expects: his socks and shoes. It’s why he left the kitchen window open, after all. He fully anticipated the return of his things; that way there would be no reason for Draco to drop by before Potter left for Hogwarts.

Not that Draco was planning on it. Or even thinking about it. Not in the least little bit.

But he finds a note sat atop his shoes with Harry scrawled across the bottom. Draco’s stomach flutters. It’s a completely inane reaction to something as plebeian as Potter’s handwriting and yet, he can’t seem to quell his hope.

You left so quickly that you forgot these. I wanted to make sure I got them back to you before I left for Hogwarts. I hope Harley’s behaving herself. She’s a bit stubborn. She’ll get out of your hair after a treat or two. But I’m hoping you’ll reply before you send her away. I’m afraid I might have fucked up last night. I’d like to see you before I leave tomorrow. I have dinner with Ron and Hermione tonight, but do you want to come to mine after? I still have the firewhisky we didn’t drink.

- Harry

Draco gulps in a large breath, and it comes shuddering out of him. Potter’s afraid he might have fucked up? A rash of mixed emotions swirls in his belly. Potter wants to see me. Excitement and fear war with one another inside him. He absently moves to the cabinet where he keeps his treats and tosses a few at the owl despite his earlier promise. In his jittery nervousness, his aim skews, and they skitter across the edge of the table and fall off. Harley hoots in disapproval. Draco mumbles, “Sorry,” and bends down to retrieve them.

“I’m apologising to an owl. And squatting on the floor. What is wrong with me?” He rubs his face as he stands, then Leviosas the rest with a flick of his wand. Harley just blinks at him before carefully grabbing a treat with her beak. She chomps, never taking her eyes off his face.

It’s disconcerting to say the least.

Draco needs to think about this. He needs to calm down and think, preferably without Potter’s owl staring him down while he does so.

“You can go now,” Draco says. “Take your treats and leave.”

Another blink. A soft crunch. And no indication that she’s leaving any time soon.

Potter’s a bleeding liar.

“What if I don’t have a reply right now? I have my own owl I can send, you know.”

The owl hoots and fluffs out its wings. Draco throws his hands up and shoos her, but she simply blinks again in response.

“Fine! Fine! You win.” Draco collapses into his chair, then summons a quill and a fresh sheet of parchment. He smooths the paper out on the table, careful to avoid bits of crumbs the owl has left from her enormously slow chewing. He weighs down the parchment with a bottle of ink, dips his quill and…stares at the blank page.

He doesn’t have to go over there. Just because Harry asked. Just because Potter asked. He could come up with his own dinner-with-friends he must attend, or say he has too much work to catch up on, or just not say anything at all. No excuse necessary. Thanks, but no thanks. Potter can go back to Hogwarts and Draco can return to his job and his peanut butter sandwiches and efficiency reports and his carefully-ordered, unscary life.

And try to forget.

But he’d be lying. Lying to himself. Lying to Potter. Lying to Potter’s owl.

He doesn’t want to forget.

The owl hoots softly.

“Fine, yes, I’m writing. I’m writing.”

I’ll be over at 9 sharp, he scribbles, and then quickly adds, You didn’t fuck up. Once the words are written, Draco feels them sink in. He could scratch them out. Erase them with a charm.

He folds the missive before he can change his mind and offers it to the owl. “This should be sufficient.”

The owl cocks her head.

“That’s all he’s getting! Just take it!”

With a bothersome hoot, she snatches the parchment from his fingers, then shoves his plate across the table with her talons as she takes off.

“Bloody menace.”

Draco looks at the remains of his breakfast scattered over the table. All the same. He couldn’t eat right now even if he wanted to.

The day passes slowly. Draco tries to distract himself with work until the figures of Cauldron thickness blur together and he finds himself recommending that requests for changing standards be filed in triplicate with every other department before approval can be granted. He stares at the words, shakes himself, and decides work is probably not the best diversion. He could grind the entire Ministry to a screeching halt all because he can’t stop thinking about Potter. Potter’s mouth. His brilliant hands. The weight of his body and the press of his skin. The way Potter made him feel. Weightless. Unburdened. Free.

He pulls out the already worn piece of parchment. His eyes linger on the last line. I still have the firewhisky we didn’t drink.

Draco balls it up and shoves it back in his pocket.

 

The door swings opens a split second after his first knock. Potter smiles at him, the kind of smile that could make a man throb, but it’s not going to work on Draco. He straightens his shirt and lifts his chin.

“I’m glad you came,” Potter says.

“I’m not having sex with you,” Draco states with the unwavering voice and stern expression he practised in his mirror minutes ago.

“…All right.” Potter blinks. “Would you care to not have sex with me inside?” He steps back to make room in the doorway. Draco quickly pushes past him, hopefully before Potter notices the rising flush on his neck, and heads directly to the alcohol. From the horny daze he was in the night before, he’s glad he still remembers where Potter keeps it.

He grabs a glass and pours himself a healthy portion of Ogden’s Finest.

“Help yourself,” Potter says as he closes his front door.

“You invited me over for firewhisky, right?” Draco takes a swallow and drains half his glass in one go.

“Mind pouring me one?” Potter says, a touch of amusement in his voice.

“Oh. Yes, I suppose.” Draco sets a second glass down on the small bar, pours Potter a portion, then refills his own.

He hands Potter his glass; their fingers touch. Draco pulls away quickly.

“Are you still upset because of what I said about your job last night?”

“My job?” Draco gapes a little and shakes his head. This is not how he expected things to go. “No, it’s not about my bloody job. My job is ridiculous.”

It’s the first time Draco’s ever admitted it outloud. It’s the first time Draco’s ever really admitted it to himself, and he just said it so carelessly, without any thought. He’s always known it, deep down inside, but confessing it here, now, to Potter of all people, and knowing it’s true—an airy lightness comes over him, his head feels fuzzy, and he downs another half of his whisky. He sets the glass down on the bar when he notices his hand shaking.

“You were right. It’s rubbish. The whole department is.” He stares at his drink, smoke swirling in circles above the amber liquid. “We’re supposed to make the public feel good by eliminating bureaucracy from the Ministry, but if I was doing my job correctly, I’d recommend eliminating it. But what would I have, then? What would I have?”

“Draco—”

“Can you not call me that?” His gaze snaps to Potter’s. “I’m Malfoy, remember. You’re Potter and I’m Malfoy.”

“No, you’re not. You’re Draco.”

“Just because we fucked?”

“No, not just because we fucked." Potter exhales a breath. He rakes a hand through his hair, though it springs back into disarray. As stubborn as everything else about Potter. "Do you regret it? Last night?”

“No!” Draco bites his lip. He didn’t mean for that to come out so forcefully. He exhales a deep breath. “No. I just…is that all I am to you? You don’t think I eat dinner?”

“Dinner? What are you on about?”

Draco pulls out Potter’s note from his pocket, but doesn’t bother to smooth it open. “I’m having dinner with Ron and Hermione, but could you come over for one last fuck before I run off to Scotland?”

“I didn’t say that.” For the first time, Potter looks well and truly angry. His face goes hard from the line of his jaw to the glint in his eyes. “Damn it, Draco. What is this? Did you want to have dinner with Ron and Hermione? You acted like I was mad to suggest we even eat at The Three Broomsticks together and now you want to go public in front of my best friends? They know about you. It would have been fine, but I didn’t ask because—”

“Th-they know about me?” Draco interrupts, stutteringly stunned. “That we’ve been out together?”

Potter’s face softens. His lips curl up just the tiniest bit. “They know you stood me up.”

“—Potter—”

“They know we had a silent meal together.”

“—That wasn’t my idea—“

“They know I gave into your prickly charm when you wanted to run away. They know I insisted on giving us a real chance. They know I kissed you. How I picked you on my Magic Match form, and how I hoped to hell you’d picked me too even after you did run away again. They know how relieved I was to see you walk through that door at the Quidditch match.”

Draco feels buzzed. His skin prickles all over, like a light wind might knock him over. “Do they know about last night?”

“About the mind-blowing, brilliant sex? I kept the details private, but they know I’ve never had a night like that before. Not with anyone else.”

“You haven’t?” Draco asks quietly, barely managing to get the words out.

“I thought maybe it wasn’t the same for you,” Potter says softly.

“It was.” Draco swallows. He feels like he might jump out of his skin any moment, but he takes a breath and manages to keep his feet firmly on the ground. “I thought it wasn’t the same for you.”

“It was…indescribable. Before I say something cliché.”

A unexpected bark of a laugh escapes Draco before he can stifle it. He lets himself smile though. Lets himself breathe for a moment.

“But I don’t just want a booty call,” Potter says, “if that’s what you were thinking.”

“What’s a booty call?”

Potter shakes his head. “Something Muggle—“ He waves a hand. “It means I don’t just want to have sex with you. I thought that was clear. I’m sorry if it wasn’t.”

“It was.” It’s a hard admission to make, and yet…something about Potter just lets him say these things so easily now. Draco scrubs his face. He feels laid bare, as open and naked as he was the night before, face down on Potter’s bed, clawing at the sheets, begging him. Mark me, Harry.

Draco’s skin flushes with heat; his face feels on fire with that memory. But Potter steps close. He rakes his knuckles along Draco’s cheek. Draco lifts his gaze and falls into Potter’s.

“What are you so afraid of?” Potter whispers.

“It’s us,” Draco says. “You and me.” Even as he speaks, he angles his head closer, Potter’s lips like a magnet for his own. “How can you not be?”

“Maybe I am,” he breathes. His mouth brushes Draco’s lightly as he speaks. “But I think you’re worth the risk.”

Potter kisses him, and Draco’s stomach drops like he's diving on a broom, hurdling to the ground, falling out of the sky. But he doesn’t push the rush away. He lets himself feel it. Lets himself live in this moment. Draco deepens their kiss, and Potter opens for him, urging him to take everything, all that he wants. Draco’s whole body trembles, drawn forward by an undeniable force. His hands fall to Potter’s hips. He yanks them close and hangs on to Potter's belt loops. Potter's length hardens against his thigh. Draco rolls his hips, throbbing and needy. A whine escapes his throat.

And then Potter pulls back, breathless. “No sex. You said no sex.”

“That was then.” Draco slips beneath Potter’s shirt and feels the hard muscle of his stomach. "Can't a bloke change his mind?"

“Mm, yeah. I suppose so.” Potter smiles, eyes twinkling. He pulls Draco’s shirt free from his trousers and presses his palms to Draco’s back, just above his waistband. “But I still have to finish packing.”

“Pack after. I’ll help.” He starts to tug on the fly of Potter’s trousers, but Potter stills him with a hand.

“Will you come visit me? At Hogwarts?”

Potter’s desire is plain. His eyes shine with his vulnerability. And Draco sees that this is him: bare, open, naked. The familiar fear threatens to claw up and take hold again, but Draco breathes through it, past it. The answer isn’t easy, but it’s the one he wants to give.

“Yes.”

Potter’s face breaks open in joy, and that makes it all worth it.