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Wild

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“It’s positive,” Harry heard a weak voice say from the other side of the bright red bathroom door. Well, it was either weak or muffled, Harry wasn’t entirely sure. Then he decided that due to the context it was probably both, actually.

“Are you--” Harry grimaced and cut off sharply, quickly trying to search his brain for a word that wasn’t positive. Because that would be fucking awful. “Are you sure?” he tried hopefully, “Do you want me to come in?”

He heard a short scream of frustration and stepped back from the door hastily, almost slipping when he caught his heel on the corner of the rug behind him. It was actually far too early in the day to get involved in a pregnancy scare, Harry decided, and then thought maybe that there wasn’t really a good time of day for that sort of thing. “I wanted you in here when I was peeing on the fucking thing, Harry. But no. We’re far too modest for that,” Bébhinn said angrily.

“Is that a yes?”

“Yes, it’s a fucking yes,” she said, sounding as though her hands were over her face, which Harry didn’t think was a good sign. He pushed the door open warily, thinking back to the last time he’d opened a bathroom door too quickly in this house. It had taken an entire two weeks for the base-of-a-shampoo-bottle shaped bruise to fade.

“Are you alright?” Harry asked, stepping onto the tiled floor and pushing the door partially closed behind him. Bébhinn was sitting on the toilet, clutching a blue pregnancy test in one hand and, rather inexplicably, a tub of Vicks vaporub in the other. She wasn’t alright, he knew that without having to ask and wondered for a second why he’d even bothered.

“Oh,” she said, “I’m just fucking peachy. I’m pregnant, I don’t know if you knew, but other than that I’m having a wonderful morning.”

Harry made a little movement towards her as Bébhinn slumped over a bit, the side of her head pressing against the pale pink walls of the bathroom, still slightly damp from where Moran must have taken a shower earlier and forgotten to open the window, like she always did. He pulled his hand back, not sure if she would take well to being touched right now. Harry thought that if he was in her situation he might not want to be.

“Can I see the test?” he asked, more for something to say than because he had any real interest in holding something that someone else had just pissed on. She handed it over reluctantly, with a small shake of her head. Harry grasped it, gingerly, and stared down at the little clear window for a few seconds before saying “I actually have no idea what I’m looking at.” He tried to pass it back.

Bébhinn rubbed her thumb over her bottom lip and tore off a strip of loo roll from the holder beside her arm, folding it a couple of times. She wrapped it around the stick as she took off him and Harry barely refrained from rolling his eyes. She couldn’t have done that before she had given it to him? He immediately felt guilty about thinking that because it was actually pretty clear she was having quite a large crisis.

“Two lines means pregnant,” she explained, looking down at the bright red lines, stark against the white plastic.

Harry was lost with this one. He had grown unfamiliar with crises in the years since the war, and he had never been very good at offering comfort. Neither had he ever really become used to receiving it. “Are you sure it’s not a food baby?” he asked, trying for a joke, hoping it might lighten the mood.

Bébhinn narrowed her eyes and tightened her fist around the jar of vaporub. “You did not just quote fucking Juno at me. Tell me you didn’t just do that.”

Right. That had had the exact opposite effect from what Harry had been aiming for, God he was shit at this sort of stuff. “No,” he lied, shaking his head a little and taking a tiny step backwards at the look in her eyes. Pure anger, was what he would describe it as. Pure and unbridled rage. “Definitely not.”

“I should have known,” Bébhinn said, “I should have known because I’ve been eating really weird stuff.” Harry thought about last week and when he’d walked in on her watching T.V. from the floor in front of the sofa, eating pickled onions out of the jar. And he was reasonably sure that they didn’t just keep pickled onions lying around the house, which meant she’d gone out and bought them. He felt like maybe he should have realised.

“It’s just that sometimes I skip a period and apparently that’s normal so I didn’t really think about it too much when it happened last month,” she continued, and Harry thought she’d sort of forgotten he was there.

“Okay,” he said.

“It’s normal,” she protested, as if he had argued with her.

“Listen,” Harry said, trying very hard to be gentle. “Do you want me to get your sister?”

“Get me for what?” a cheerful voice piped up from behind him, making him jump a little in a way that he would probably deny later. “Why are we all in here? Why wasn’t I invited?” Moran asked, making her way over to the medicine cabinet above the sink. Her hair was still damp from the shower and she was already in her school uniform, some sort of horrible pleated skirt in a shade of brown that made Harry feel sick just looking at it. Brown the colour of rust. The colour of blood, dried on a wrinkled t-shirt.

“What are you doing?” Harry asked, instead of giving her an answer, watching her as she took down a shiny box of plasters from the top shelf.

She turned and leant against the basin, crossing her ankles. “Getting a plaster,” she replied absently, searching through the box. “One of the guinea pigs bit me, again, the little bastard.”

Harry blinked. “Heal it,” he said tiredly. “You’re a witch. Heal it.”

“Yeah,” Moran said slowly, “ Or I could put this plaster on and then it’ll be a talking point when I get to school. Did you hear about Moran’s plaster? A guinea pig bit her.

Harry sighed, not really knowing which of those things to address first. He just stared as Moran carefully applied the colourful plaster to her index finger, her tongue sticking out of her mouth in apparent concentration. She looked up after she was done and finally caught sight of Bébhinn, still sitting on the toilet and staring down at the pregnancy test as though it might spontaneously decide to transfigure itself into a negative one.

Oh,” Moran said quietly, because she was smart and had realised immediately. “Oh fuck.”

“Yeah,” Bébhinn said, “I know.”

Harry felt like he was intruding a bit and wanted to back out of the bathroom and leave them to it, but his way was blocked by Moran and then he also felt that might be a completely shitty thing to do.

“Bébhinn’s pregnant,” he said, even though everyone in the room was pretty well caught up at that point.

“Are you sure?” Moran said apprehensively, “Sometimes they’re not totally accurate.”

“I’m pretty fucking sure,” Bébhinn told her, before standing up and pulling her t-shirt over her belly. Harry had the sudden urge to avert his eyes, but he didn’t. “Look,” she said, poking at the taught skin, “I’ve swelled.”

Harry didn’t really know what her stomach looked like normally but even he had to admit it did look… well. Swelled was probably as good a word for it as any.

“Feel it,” Bébhinn moaned, “It’s all hard. I’m fucking growing something.”

“I don’t really want to?” Harry said, feeling queasy, “I definitely believe you though.”

“Ugh,” Moran said, “Men.” She then proceeded to curl a hand over Bébhinn’s stomach with a little frown on her face. “Yep,” Moran declared, “Feels pregnant to me.”

“How do you know what pregnant feels like?” Harry asked, both wanting and not wanting to know the answer.

“One of the girls in my class got pregnant last year,” Moran said, breathing deeply, her eyes closed and her hand still on Bébhinn’s stomach. “She’s had it now but her stomach felt like this at the beginning.”

“Oh Christ,” Bébhinn whispered, “I need to go and lie down for a bit.”

“You’re driving me to school,” Moran protested, then she paused for a second when Harry and Bébhinn’s eyes both snapped onto her. “Okay yeah, I see how that sounded bad.”

“I’ll drive you, I don’t mind driving,” Harry volunteered. “Are you going to be alright here by yourself?” Harry addressed this to Bébhinn, who had pulled her top back down and was now shivering a little bit, her feet bare on the cold floor. She looked utterly different from her sister, all pale hair and long limbs, in direct contrast to Moran’s sturdy frame and the hair so dark it looked as though she’d dyed it, so dark it seemed like something that couldn’t ever occur naturally.

“Mallaidh’s got to be around here somewhere,” she replied dazedly, “If you see her on your way out will you send her in to me?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, “Of course.” She seemed unusually fragile, looking around herself as if this wasn’t really happening. Harry gave in to the urge to pull her into a firm hug, wrapping his arms around her body tightly. She rested her head on his shoulder. “It’ll be alright,” he assured her. “Seriously, it’ll be fine.”

“I’m going to be an aunt,” Moran said happily.

“You’re going to be such a shitty aunt,” Bébhinn said, “I’m not letting you near this poor child.” Her mouth was crushed against the collar of Harry’s soft shirt.

“Right,” he said, aiming for rallying but possibly just achieving stern. “Moran, get your shit together and then we’ll go. Bébh, you go back to bed and I’ll come check on you as soon as I’m back.”

“I feel like you’re not allowed to order me around,” Moran mused, but headed for the door anyway.

Harry let go of Bébhinn, who shook her head sharply, as if clearing it. “I panicked there for--” She cut off abruptly and tilted her head, listening for something out of the range of Harry’s hearing.

Guys,” Moran’s voice came shouting from downstairs, “There’s a strange man in our kitchen.” She didn’t sound nearly as put out by that fact as she should be, Harry thought, as he was overtaken by panic.

It had been years since he’d really felt it, but that familiar spike of adrenaline at the merest hint of danger came back to him so quickly it was almost as if it had never left. Harry hurtled down the stairs, his feet thumping loudly on the wood and his hand skimming along the banister. He would probably pay for that later, in splinters. He could hear Bébhinn close behind him.

The kitchen was in chaos, everything that wasn’t tied down or glued down (which happened to be absolutely nothing, obviously) was floating a few feet up in the air. Moran was standing in the middle of it, her steady gaze fixed on Draco Malfoy, who was backed up against the stable door that led out to the herb garden with his hands up. Harry’s mind went red hot with anger and before he knew it his wand was out of the waistband of his trousers, trained on Malfoy, barely even shaking in his outstretched hand.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Harry spat, literally not caring one bit about the answer, thinking instead about how he had managed to get through the wards. Nobody got through the wards. “Get the fuck out of here.”

“Brilliant,” Malfoy drawled, his accent as crisp and clipped as it had ever been. “This is exactly the reception I expected. Thank you, Potter, for being so fucking predictable.”

Harry frowned. “I have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about,” he said, seething as Malfoy just slowly rolled his eyes towards the yellow ceiling. There was a leaf caught in his hair, and two bright grass stains on the knees of his grey woollen trousers. “Did you not hear me say get the fuck out, or should I repeat myself?”

“I heard,” Malfoy sighed, plucking a pine needle out of his thick jumper and flicking it disdainfully onto the floor. He seemed unwilling to elaborate.

Harry tightened the grip on his wand. It had been so long. So long since Malfoy, so long since the Battle, so long since he’d used his wand for anything like this, anything confrontational. He felt sick at it, all of it. “Malfoy,” he started, but then stopped when Moran let out a small choked gasp from behind him. Harry turned, minutely, unwilling to take his eyes off of Malfoy for even a second. “What?” he said, and surprised himself at how rough his voice sounded.

“Draco Malfoy,” Moran said, her eyes wide in shock, using that voice she used when she didn’t want to tell someone something. “I forgot to tell you.” Harry watched as all the floating objects wavered in the air for a second, before gently settling right back into their proper places. “This is the guy.”

“What guy?” Harry asked. Malfoy snorted and Harry had to almost physically restrain himself from cursing the smug wanker’s fucking face off.

“The guy,” Moran repeated. “The potions guy.”

“Oh,” Bébhinn said, as if that meant something to her. “The potions guy. I totally forgot about the potions guy. ”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Harry asked them, hating the way his voice sounded like he’d gone back in time several years, back to when he was vicious, every minute of every day, because he’d had to be.

Alright,” Moran said, “I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to swear in front of me.”

Bébhinn laughed at that, until she was almost breathless, still holding the pregnancy test tightly against her chest. “Shut the fuck up Moran, you swear like a fucking sailor half the time.”

“You are both terrible influences on me,” Moran pointed out, frowning half-heartedly.

“Hey,” Harry said lowly, “Not to bemoan the issue, but can someone tell me what the fuck is going on?”

“You’re using that word incorrectly, Potter. Great to see you’re still just as clever as you were in Hogwarts, which, of course, is to say not at all,” Malfoy said smoothly, now fiddling with the corner of his jumper, apparently totally unconcerned by the entire proceedings.

“Woah,” Moran said, “That’s a bit far isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Harry echoed, “That’s a bit fucking far, Malfoy, you utter fucking piece of shit.”

“That’s also pretty far,” Moran said, apprehensively, “To be totally fair.”

“Well I’m going back to bed,” Bébhinn said, sounding much perkier than she had before, “Make yourself at home Draco. Harry you have like, thirteen minutes to get Moran to school on time.” She turned on her heel and disappeared out of the room with almost no ceremony whatsoever.

“Um,” Harry said, “How about maybe don’t make yourself at home, Malfoy.” Moran snorted and picked up her backpack. “What the fuck is going on?” he asked nobody in particular, not really expecting an answer.

“Oh lower your wand, Potter,” Malfoy sighed, “We all get it, you hate me. And you could hex me if you really wanted but I think everyone here knows you’re not going to.”

“Is that a challenge?” Harry asked, really wanting it to be a fucking challenge. Really wanting any excuse to just curse Malfoy into next week.

No,” Malfoy said, shaking his head in wonder. “Merlin. Why would that be a challenge?”

“He’s here to do his potions mastery,” Moran said wearily, apparently sick of the bickering going on in their corner of the room. “Some sort of thesis research project, I’m not sure.”

“Why wasn’t I told about this?” Harry asked, which he thought was a perfectly reasonable question. Moran shrugged and made a face.

“Dunno,” she said, “I already said I forgot to tell you. It sounded really boring so I didn’t care.”

“Thanks,” Malfoy said dryly. “School sounds boring. Have a great day.”

“I’m going to have a shit day,” Moran said feelingly. “But I doubt it’ll be any worse than being stuck here with Harry for six hours.”

Hey,” Harry said, wounded, at the exact same time as Malfoy said touché. “Moran,” Harry continued calmly, nearly managing to ignore Malfoy altogether, “Can I remind you of something?”

“Yep,” Moran said, shoving paper into her school bag, “Go ahead. Actually, is it my chem homework? Because I already know that I forgot to do it. Oh also that reminds me, I’m going to get a detention today so I’ll be home late.”

“It’s not that,” Harry told her, before lowering his wand with considerable effort. “It was just that you’re supposed to be on my side.”

Moran laughed airily. “Harry,” she said, “There are no sides in a Democracy.”

What?” Harry asked, utterly stumped by that one, “Wait, what? Yes, there are. Who told you there weren’t ?” Malfoy started laughing, quietly, and Harry just really wanted more than anything to punch him right in the neck.

“Luna,” Moran said, as though it made perfect sense. Which, Harry supposed, it actually did, now.

“She’s wrong,” Harry protested, then quickly rethought the whole lecture he had been ready to give. “Shall we just go, actually? I want to get as far away from this fuck as I possibly can,” he said, nodding his head towards Malfoy.

Charming,” Malfoy said, “Absolutely charming.

“Shut up, yeah?” Harry replied, smiling in a way he knew sometimes scared people. Malfoy did not seem deterred, to Harry’s consternation.

“Who’s in charge around here?” Malfoy asked, straightening a little now he didn’t have a wand pointed at his throat. He folded his arms, and his white hair glinted suddenly and sharply in the sunlight streaming through the half-open door.

“Nobody’s in charge,” Harry sighed, suddenly incredibly tired.

“Actually,” Moran contradicted, “Technically Mallaidh’s in charge. But she’s out so you’ll just have to hang around until she gets back.”

“Alright,” Malfoy said slowly, “Could you point me to my quarters?”

Moran burst out laughing, and even Harry managed to crack a slightly mean smile when he saw Malfoy’s cheeks stain a deep red. “Quarters,” she said, “This is fucking priceless. This isn’t a fucking ship.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Malfoy muttered.

“Take it however you want,” Harry told him, “Stay in here and don’t touch anything.”

“I’m making myself a cup of tea,” Malfoy warned him.

“You know how to do that?” Harry retorted. Malfoy didn’t reply, just pulled out one of the wooden chairs and sat down at the paint-splattered kitchen table, looking with disgust at the remains of Moran’s breakfast, and at the sewing machine Harry had been using to mend a pair of his jeans, and the knives Mallaidh had been sharpening but just left out as if Harry wouldn’t eventually forget they were there and cut himself on them.

“Harry we now have six minutes to get me to school,” Moran reminded him from the doorway, “So can you stop watching him suspiciously and come and turn a seventeen-minute journey into a five-minute one?”

Harry slammed the door of the dark blue jeep closed, determined to use this small amount of time not to think about Malfoy, before he arrived home and had to not only think about him, but also look at him, and inevitably talk to him. He grabbed the car keys from where Bébhinn always left them behind the steering wheel, rifling through several empty Tayto packets before he found them.

So,” Moran said, from the seat next to him, as she arranged her skirt around her knees. “Old friend?”

Harry laughed, once, shortly, before he said “I don’t really want to talk about it.”

Moran grumbled for a second and sounded as though she had something else to say about the matter, until she caught sight of the clock on the dashboard light up as Harry turned the car on.

“Oh fuck me,” she said, “I’m so late.”

Harry glanced over at the red digits. Her school started at quarter to nine, and it was twenty-three minutes to now. “Yeah,” he said, and grimaced. “Sorry about that.”

“I’m not repeating this year,” Moran said decidedly, “I’m not spending one more year in that fucking hell-hole.”

Harry snorted. “It can’t be that bad,” he said, looking over his shoulder as he reversed the car around the front of the house. His teeth started chattering as they bumped their way down the pothole-riddled driveway through the forest.

“Go as fast as you can without getting us into a crash,” Moran advised. “And it is that bad. The other day some guy in my class tried to make fun of me because I didn’t have a mobile phone. A mobile phone.”

“Wow,” Harry said, raising his eyebrows, definitely not bringing up the fact that that sounded like a fucking holiday compared to most of the stuff he got up to when he was at school. “Sorry about that.”

“You’re making fun, aren’t you?” Moran asked suspiciously. “That’s not very nice.”

“I’m not making fun,” Harry protested. “It just sounds really ridiculous.”

“Yeah,” Moran said slowly, “I know it sounds ridiculous. That’s why I’m telling you. Everyone’s so weird. That guy especially, but also everyone.”

“Just don’t talk to him,” Harry suggested.

“Brilliant idea Harry,” she replied, “It was already the plan, but it’s good to know that when you’re going to ignore another person entirely that it has at least one other person’s approval.”

Harry laughed. “You’re in your last year. It’s literally a matter of months before you never have to talk to any of those people again if you don’t want to.”

“I won’t want to,” Moran muttered darkly, then brightened considerably when she said “Shall we talk about your problem now, since I think we’ve just about covered the fact that I’m utterly friendless.”

“What’s my problem?” Harry said, because she’d caught him off guard at a junction where he really had to concentrate, so he wasn’t listening as well as he should have been.

“The one sitting in our house,” Moran elaborated. “Pale and blonde, not unlike my sister. Also mean, not unlike my sister.”

“Malfoy isn’t a problem,” Harry grunted, wrenching the car into a higher gear. It felt as though it was on the very verge of breaking down completely. “He’s a non-issue. And Bébh isn't mean.

“Good word,” Moran said approvingly, “But he didn’t seem like a non-issue when you were pointing your wand at his face.”

“Yeah,” Harry sighed, “Well he caught me off guard.”

“Hm.”

“What was that?” he accused, glancing over at her.

“What was what?” she replied innocently.

“That noise. That hm.”

“Oh,” Moran said, “It just--” she clucked her tongue and cut off, as if searching for the right way to put it. Harry sat there and waited, warily, because it wasn’t as though he could escape. Being as though they were in a moving vehicle. “It just seemed like a pretty strong reaction. Not really a caught off guard reaction, more of a die now or I’ll make you reaction.”

Harry snorted. “It was maybe both,” he admitted. “Malfoy and I were on pretty bad terms when I was at school.”

“You never talk about your school,” Moran said, “Does this mean you’re going to start?”

Harry was silent. It was just that it made him so sad sometimes, thinking about what his life used to be like before the war, before he had killed people, before he started having dreams every night that used to bleed into his waking hours, before he started flinching every time a wand was raised in the wrong way or at the wrong angle and he’d find himself back there. Surrounded by Death Eaters in the crumbled remains of Hogwarts. He shook his head sharply. “Do you want me to tell you something about when I was at school?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Moran said eagerly, turning to him. “Can you tell me about the ghosts? I can’t believe I’ve been alive for eighteen years and have never seen a ghost before. Does that sound fair to you?”

“Every house had one,” Harry said, “Like, they used to come and say hello at the feast of the beginning of the year.”

What,” Moran laughed, “That is wild. What was your ghost like?”

“His name was Nearly-headless Nick,” Harry told her, utterly expecting the peal of laughter he got in response. “And he was nearly-headless.”

“Yeah,” Moran said, breathlessly. “I got that bit. What the fuck.”

“He was quite nice actually,” Harry said, and then got a little bit sad when he realised he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen him.

“He sounds lovely,” Moran said, “He sounds brilliant. He sounds like he’d have the best fucking stories.”

Harry squeezed his eyes shut for a second, before opening them again and wincing for a second at the harsh light. “I don’t know,” he said, “We’re almost there.”

“Right,” Moran said, looking at him oddly, he could feel it, right at the back of his neck. “Are you picking me up? Or will Bébhinn be here?”

“Oh my God,” Harry said, widening his eyes. “I forgot about Bébhinn. She’s fucking pregnant.

“I know,” Moran agreed, “It’s ridiculous. We’ll never hear the end of it.”

“I can’t believe I let Malfoy distract me from the fact that your sister is somehow now pregnant,” Harry lamented, shaking his head. “What a prick.”

“Ah,” Moran said, through a wide smile. “This is going to be brilliant. I’m genuinely angry that I have to go to school and miss out on all the fun. Do you think you could persuade Bébh to tell Mallaidh about the baby once I’m back?”

“Probably not,” Harry said apologetically, pulling up to the front of Moran’s school, a tall, grey building that apparently used to be a nunnery. It looked like it, Harry thought, all imposing and supposed-to-put-the-fear-of-god-into-you . “I’ll tell you all about it though. And I don’t know who’s going to be here this eve, but someone will I’m sure.”

“Ugh,” Moran said, getting out of the car and hiking her backpack onto her shoulder. “I’m jealous. School’s the worst.”

Someone’s got to go to college, honey,” Harry said, and then grinned when she put up her middle finger.

“Fuck you. Don’t quote Blue Crush at me as if it’ll make me feel better,” Moran responded, unable to keep a smile off her face. “Have a great day with the potions nerd,” she called over her shoulder, walking backwards towards the building with her finger still extended.

Harry was about to put the car back in gear when he heard a knock at his window. “Forget something?” he asked, rolling it down.

“No,” she said, “I just realised that it might have seemed like I was making light of the fact you’re upset about that guy being here.”

“Oh,” Harry said, “It’s--” He stopped talking and blinked.

“It’s not,” Moran said, and her face looked serious, “I’ve never seen you like that before.”

“Sorry,” Harry said, before he could take it back.

She laughed. “It’s not something you have to be sorry for. I just… I don’t know. You seemed scared.”

Harry put his hands in his lap, slowly, and clasped them together as if they weren’t shaking. “Only for a second,” he admitted.

Moran thumped her forehead on the door of the car, gently, then looked at him again. “I thought it was funny and I’m starting to see that it’s really not.”

“No,” Harry agreed. “But it’s alright, I think we all reacted badly.”

“What did he do?” she asked.

And Harry didn’t think she would appreciate being told the whole answer so he said “We were on opposite sides, during the war” and watched her eyes get bigger and her eyebrows raise and her forehead wrinkle in shock.

“Are you okay?”

I have to be, Harry wanted to say, I have to be, I’ve always had to be, I always am, but it was kind of a lie. “Dunno,” he lied, echoing her words from earlier, “I suppose we’ll see.”

Harry wanted to cry after she'd gone but couldn’t because he had to be able to see to drive home. Instead he just sat there for a second and thought about how he had been keeping himself so safe out here, in the wilderness, with the animals and the sea and the mountains, and how all of it might just be lost now. Made unsafe by the appearance of an unsafe person. And also about the way that his heart had beat faster when he'd seen that shock of blonde hair, and how the muscles in his arm had remembered how to threaten someone with a wand, and how his body was flooded with a hatred he'd mostly forgotten and now wanted to forget again. He'd felt helpless, uncontrollable, wild. He felt like that now, even, and was so worried it would somehow become a permanent state that he was having difficulty breathing. He put his head onto the steering wheel and tried to think about the way Hermione's voice sounded when she read out loud from a book, soothing and clear and familiar. It had always calmed him down and it did the trick now, sort of, and Harry pressed his forehead against the leather with his heart thudding in his chest for a long time, until a car beeped from behind and forced him into movement.


Draco sat at the kitchen table and bemoaned the fact that this was where his life had ended up. Which was the correct usage of the term. He made a mental note to tell Potter about it as soon as he got back from dropping a strange teenager off at school. It had been five years since they’d seen each other last, since Potter had spoken at Draco’s trial quite without either his approval or foreknowledge, and Potter hadn’t become any less weird in all that time, apparently. Draco couldn’t even imagine what had brought him all the way out here in the first place, to a strange country and strange women. Draco tried to picture Potter turning up here in the middle of nowhere, and what the inhabitants of this house must have thought when they’d seen The Boy Who Lived on their doorstep, and why they’d allowed him to stay. It confused him, all of it, and since Draco had never taken very well to being confused, he decided to stop thinking about it.

Draco yawned widely and stretched out a cramp in the base of his neck, the one he always got after across-seas Portkey travel. He ran a hand through his hair, smoothing it down a little, and was dismayed when he found a leaf that had apparently been there the entire time he’d been talking to Potter, making a fool of him.

Draco frowned at the crisp, brown foliage and rested it gently on the table in front of him. The journey up here had been absolutely ridiculous and Draco had never experienced anything like it in his entire life. The Portkey had dropped him off in some sort of abandoned laneway, where grass was growing tall in the wheel-ruts and the hawthorn in the hedgerows obscured any view there might otherwise have been. Trees had been growing a little further back, old and gnarled, and they’d reached across the road to touch one another, forming an arch over his head. The light that had filtered in had been green and pale and watery. Draco had looked one way down the road, and then the other, utterly unsure of which way to turn. Eventually he had just sort of tossed a mental coin and turned right, picking his way gingerly over large puddles and through patches of thick nettles, tiny bugs floating around his face silently.

He had reached a well after a while, obscured by rushes and surrounded by a thick cloud of midges, and as he stooped to look inside it he caught sight of a flash of yellow, glimpsed through a gap in the trees. He had straightened, maneuvering himself around for a better look, and a thorn had caught in his jumper, scratching a long red mark into his neck. Wincing, Draco had peered through the leaves to see an ivy-covered house in the distance with a bright yellow door, right on the edge of a dark forest of pine trees and sycamore trees and oak trees. He was in a valley, Draco realised, deep and wide, and the track cut right through the middle of it like a river. Reluctantly, Draco had been forced to accept the fact that there was no path leading up to the house, and also that the said house might not even be the one he was aiming for. Determinedly, though, since it was his best option, he had cut through the foliage until a gap had appeared, big enough for him to climb through. It had been humiliating, and all Draco could think as he crawled on the floor like a bloody house-elf was that he was just lucky there had been nobody around to see it.

He had arrived at the house, slightly dishevelled and very out of breath, bemoaning the fact that maybe he wasn’t quite as fit as he’d used to be. Which was another correct usage of the word, and another point in Draco’s favour as far as he was concerned. The house wasn’t quite a ruin, but it wasn’t in brilliant condition either, Draco had realised, as he’d stood at the front door, in between that and the huge pond that was filled to the brim with giant lily pads. He had looked up, at the ivy trailing around the huge windows, and the chipped paint on the doorframe, at the weeds growing in the gutter, at the grey stone. It was a shameful way to treat a house such as this one, Draco thought sadly, one that could be so lovely with a little care and a little money invested into the upkeep.

He’d knocked firmly on the front door, and the paint had felt sort of sticky against his knuckles. When there had been no reply he had walked around the side, past the bay windows at the front that were wide open, past a closed side door that wouldn’t budge when he’d tried it, down a tiny path through a tidy herb garden to the back door, the bottom half shut and the top half swinging outwards loosely, the scent of roses in the air. He had pushed it open, calling out into the echoing kitchen, and the next thing he knew a young witch was wandlessly levitating everything the room except him, and a wild-looking Harry Potter had emerged from somewhere and started flinging threats all over the place. It had been a tiring morning, and as Draco folded his arms on the table to rest his forehead on top of them, he thought he could probably go to sleep right where he was.

Draco had been dozing lightly for a few minutes and listening out for the sound of a car returning, the warm sunlight on the side of his face making him sleepy and at ease, before he heard someone say a quiet “Hello,” and he jerked upright. There was a woman standing in front of him surrounded by dogs, tall and dark skinned and beautiful, and she was looking at him curiously. “Are you Draco?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, wriggling his shoulders a little and trying not to yawn. He held a hand out for her to shake, which she did, firmly. “Draco Malfoy, you must be Mallaidh?”

She nodded and rubbed a finger over her lip. “I’m sorry I didn’t send someone to get you at the Portkey drop-off,” she said apologetically, “I forgot that today was supposed to be the day you were coming, to be perfectly honest.”

“Oh,” Draco said, “It’s alright,” even though it had actually been quite a large inconvenience.

“You got past the wards okay?” she asked. Draco frowned.

“I hadn’t even noticed coming through any,” he admitted, because he hadn’t, had pretty much just assumed there weren’t any at all.

“I had Bébhinn change them as soon as I found out you were coming,” she said, with a smile that Draco literally could not help returning, “I knew I’d forget otherwise.”

One of the dogs started to edge towards him and Mallaidh clicked her tongue against her teeth disapprovingly. It sat back down again, thumping its tail against the dark wooden floorboards.

“He thinks you have food,” she told Draco, who thought maybe that he hadn’t woken up after all, that maybe he was still dreaming right now.

“I don’t,” he said, after a slight pause.

“Hm,” she said, “Have you had breakfast?”

“Yes,” Draco told her, bewildered.

“Good,” she said seriously, “I hope it was a big one.” It had been porridge, actually, but Draco was a little afraid to tell her that.

“Um,” he said instead, totally forgetting his manners. “This is a lovely house, I like the colours you’ve picked.” They both looked around the kitchen for a second, as if reminding themselves of what it looked like. Draco hadn’t been lying when he’d said that, actually, because the kitchen was lovely, if in a state of disrepair, much like the outside of the house. It was bright and airy, with huge windows on two sides and a view of the forest to the back, a little glimpse of the steep valley below them to the left. There were potted plants everywhere, and dried herbs hanging from the ceiling, and copper pans piled onto shelves beside the kitchen sink. There was a cookbook on every single flat surface Draco could see, there was more crockery than four people could use in an entire lifetime, and there were colourful drawings stuck to the red refrigerator with what looked like little buttons, the kind of colourful drawings that a child might do. It was utterly different from the house he himself had grown up in and Draco for a split second envied the person who had spent their childhood here, surrounded by this warm clutter.

“Thanks,” Mallaidh said, and Draco had almost forgotten she was there. “It belonged to my parents.”

“Oh,” he said. Belonged. The past tense was never a pleasant one. “I’m sorry.”

She sighed, “They just moved away, but thanks anyway.” One of the dogs started moving for Draco again, and he held his hand out before she could call it back.

“Do you mind?” he asked, when it started licking his hand. “What’s your name?” he said to the dog, smiling when it’s tongue got sort of trapped outside its mouth and turned into a very long, slow lick.

“Dagda,” Mallaidh said, “Like the god. Moran named her.”

“It’s a lovely name,” Draco said, staring down at the black and white face looking up at him eagerly. “What breed is she?”

“Border Collie,” she replied, “She’s a sheep herder.”

“Really?” Draco asked, pleasantly surprised for no real reason. “You have a job,” he told the dog. “ I don’t even have a job.”

“You can come and watch her do it sometime,” Mallaidh suggested, “A lot of the farmers around here never really bother training sheepdogs anymore, so she gets a lot of business.”

“Do they all do it?” Draco asked, oddly touched by the offer, glancing across at the other four dogs lying at her feet.

“Yeah,” she said, looking down at them fondly, her eyes softening. “They make themselves useful.” Draco was struck with the distinct impression that the five dogs would be here even if they didn’t make themselves useful. “So you’re doing your potions mastery,” she said, changing the subject, her voice firming again. “It’s your last year?”

“Yes,” Draco said, grimacing. “Year five.”

God,” she said feelingly, “That’s forever.”

“It’s been a long time, yes,” Draco said, laughing a bit, “But it’s almost over. A couple of months of research and then I get three months to write the actual paper at the end.”

“Well,” she said, “We’re happy to have you with us. I think we should wait to go over scheduling stuff until everyone else arrives home, though, just so you don’t have to explain it over and over. Because I don’t know what exactly you’ll want to do and it’ll be good to get everyone’s suggestions for things we should show you.”

“Alright,” Draco said, ready to agree to pretty much anything after the morning he’d had. “I think… I’m sorry, I don’t know her name, but the woman who wasn’t going to school, she’s still here.”

“Bébhinn? Is she?” Mallaidh said, looking upwards to the ceiling, as if she could see through it. “Huh.”

“Can I ask where I’ll be staying?” Draco ventured, after a few moments of silence. Mallaidh snapped her gaze back to his.

“Of course,” she replied.

They made their way through the house slowly, the dogs padding behind them, Mallaidh pointing to closed doors and quietly telling Draco what the rooms were used for. Uses he promptly forgot all about since there were about a thousand rooms in this house. He peeped inside the downstairs bathroom on his way past, the only door that had been open so far. It was filled with plants, just like the kitchen, hanging off the dark green walls and from the shower rail. There was a claw foot tub painted in black and red patterns, and white tiles on the floor that Draco could almost feel against his feet.

They went up a flight of stairs to the first floor, lit in golden sunshine from the windows in the stairwell. Draco peered down the hallway and caught sight of a window seat with a buttery yellow cushion, and several stacks of books on the floor beside it. All through the house were these chipped floorboards, rounded at the middle like they’d been worn down over the years. Mallaidh pushed open a door and went up another flight of stairs, this one darker and a little more rickety, without even a handrail to hold on to. At the very top she put her entire weight against a white wooden door and shoved hard, spilling inside when it burst open. This room was paler than all the others he’d seen, with sporadically dusty floors as though only certain spots had been swept, and three double beds scattered haphazardly throughout the room. It was the attic, Draco realised, with its high walls and sloping roof, converted into a huge bedroom, filled with antique looking armchairs, and about five writing desks, and several expensive-looking patterned rugs.

“This is you,” she said, “I hope you don’t mind sharing.”

Draco’s stomach sank, and he shook his head but the truth was he did mind sharing if it was going to be with Harry Potter. He inspected the bed farthest away from the door, piled high with knitted blankets like the ones Draco had seen in Luna and Ginny’s apartment. There was a Quidditch broom lying on the ground, battered and old and looking it as though it had been very well used and not treated with the appropriate amount of care. Draco picked a book up off the floor and absently read the title. It was Muggle, he didn’t recognise it. All of a sudden Draco could imagine Potter in this draughty room by himself, reading Muggle books in a space meant for ten people, and he felt overwhelmingly sad for a split second before mentally rolling his eyes and brushing it off. 

“No, this is fine,” he said, and made his way back over to the door, past the furniture and over the rugs, before setting his shrunken bag down on the bare cover of the bed furthest from Potter’s. There was a skylight directly over where his pillow would go, and Draco leaned over until he could see the blue sky and the occasional tree branch waving overhead. “Where can I find the laundry cupboard?” he asked, looking around the room and happening across nothing of the sort.

Mallaidh shrugged apologetically. “You’ll have to ask Harry about that I’m afraid, he does all the washing and there’s some sort of system to it now that I don’t really understand. Or Bébhinn might know, actually, but I think she’s probably asleep right now.”

“Right,” Draco said weakly, and sank onto the bed. He had been hoping in a vague sort of manner that there might be some way to get out of talking to Potter, unless it was possibly a life or death situation. Apparently that wasn’t going to be the case. “That’s fine.”

“I’ll get out of your hair,” Mallaidh said, “When Harry gets back will you ask him to come and find me? The vet wants to see him. You can come as well actually, it might be good for your research.”

Draco agreed, nodding his head, unable to talk. When Mallaidh was gone, after disappearing down the stairs and shutting the door gently behind her, he allowed himself to curse Luna just a little bit, just the tiniest bit. She had assured him that this would be easy, that Potter was much more quiet now than he used to be, that he would probably barely even notice Draco in the first place. He didn’t know if she had been lying or if she’d genuinely not known, but it was clear to Draco that while Potter may have changed, in one respect he had stayed exactly the same. His hatred of Draco was exactly on par with how it used to be, and Draco’s shoulders crumpled a little at the idea of living here for three months in the same room as Potter, being able to sense disdain pouring off him in waves every time Draco walked into a room. It wasn’t a pleasant thought and it almost had Draco giving up. Almost had him heading down to the owlery to order a Portkey out of there, back to his peaceful little flat in London, one with almost no inconvenient plants, and no dust, and no former schoolmates who had once wanted him dead. Still did want him dead, for all Draco knew. Which he could foresee being a problem.

He wouldn’t go back though. He couldn’t. Draco was so fucking close to having the life he had worked so hard for, and he would be fucked if a little inconvenience like Harry Potter was going to ruin everything all over again.

Chapter Text

When Harry arrived back home, slowing down as he got to the end of the driveway, he looked up at the house and tried not to torture himself imagining what Malfoy must have thought when he’d first seen it. It hadn’t always been like it was now, Harry remembered. When he’d arrived everything about it had been a little bit brighter, a little bit sturdier, a little bit better. The pond hadn’t been so overgrown, the ivy hadn’t been let loose over the entire house, it didn’t use to try and creep its way into cracks in the window-sills and grow there, splitting everything apart. Harry tried so hard to keep everything under control but it got away from him most of the time. It was difficult, everything expanding, and him trying desperately to battle it into submission when he had no idea what he was supposed to be doing.

He’d sort out the pond one day, clear some of the lily-pads away and feed the brightly coloured fish and cut back the rushes as best he could. And then he’d leave to do something else and the next thing he knew it would be wild again. It was a never-ending job, trying to tame that house and the lands it stood in. He supposed that one day they would probably have to give up, retreat inside the building as the woods grew close in on them and the pond overflowed and the grass became too tall to walk through, but for now it was alright, it was doable.

The inside wasn’t much better than the outside, although there was a lot less nature to contend with. There were the floorboards constantly in need of sanding and varnishing, there were the walls with their cracked and faded paint. There was the plumbing, there was the heating, there were blocked fireplaces and doors that wouldn’t open. It was friendly, though, in the way that Luna and Ginny’s apartment was friendly, or Ron and Hermione’s house was friendly. You walked in and you could sense the way that the house wanted you in there, turning the taps on and lighting the candles in the old chandelier and just generally making a nuisance of yourself. You could tell, when you walked in, that the occupants wanted you there too, that they were welcoming, that they would make you feel loved.

Harry had never felt that in a place he had actually lived before, and he got kind of angry sometimes when he thought about what he’d missed out on. Hogwarts had had it, a little bit, but there had still been people there who hadn’t wanted him anywhere near them. Grimmauld Place had never had it, not even once, and he couldn’t step foot inside of it anymore. And the house in Little Whinging had been the total fucking antithesis of everything good and nice, and it didn’t even bear thinking about most of the time.

Ages ago Harry had read a book he’d found on the floor of the upstairs bathroom, underneath the low chair that Mallaidh used to always sit in to talk to Bébhinn while she was in the bath. There was this line in it that he never could forget. If I had grown up in that house I couldn't have loved it more. Harry thought about that a lot, when he looked up at this house and examined the way he felt about it, and liked how he had found something to describe the way his heart hurt when he was inside it, crumbling and old, on the side of a mountain on the edge of a forest. Harry loved it, everything about it. The fresh flowers in the front hallway, the sandalwood scented candles that they always burned, the heavy wooden doors, the mismatched furniture, the sound of dog paws clacking on the floorboards, the pink upstairs bathroom, it all made him want to cry with how much he never wanted to live anywhere else.

It was why he was so angry about Malfoy, in a way, on top of everything else. Everything else like the fact that Malfoy was a bully, and that Malfoy was nasty and cruel and selfish and Harry didn’t want to spend any time with him at all. It was more than that, it was Malfoy invading a place where Harry had never felt anything less than welcome and happy. It was the thought of that being ruined for him, the thought of going in the front door and seeing everything through Malfoy’s eyes. Seeing the dust and the grime and the faded-ness of the whole place and not seeing potential , but just something useless and empty. Harry imagined going to Bébhinn, or Mallaidh, or Moran and saying Remember when I first came here and how Mallaidh’s mum let me stay even though everyone else thought it was a bad idea? Remember that one glorious year of fifteen people living here, the way the house was full and loud? Remember how it felt when they all left? Quiet, like a vacuum, a gaping absence of something. Or like we were trying so desperately to keep this place afloat all by ourselves and as though with just one wrong move our heads would be underwater. That’s the way that Malfoy makes me feel, please make him leave.

Harry half-skulked into the kitchen, both pleased and suspicious that there seemed to be no trace remaining that Malfoy had ever been there in the first place. One of the dogs was asleep under the table, and he reached down to scratch its belly absently, watching the way its tongue lolled out of its mouth in pleasure.

“You want to come with me to talk to Bébhinn?” he asked, frowning a little when he didn’t receive a reply. “Alright,” he agreed, “Maybe next time.”

He made his way upstairs quietly, a little afraid that he’d run into Malfoy all of a sudden, lounging against a door frame or popping his head out of the library to insult Harry’s intelligence, or the way he looked, or his entire personality. He knocked on Bébhinn’s door softly, before pushing it open when he didn’t get a reply. The windows in her room were wide open and she was buried under the duvet, blonde hair spilling out over the side of the bed.

Harry shook her shoulder a little. “Bébh?” he ventured, “Are you alright?”

She snapped open her eyes and jerked away from him as if she’d been burned, before declining into laughter. “Fucking hell. I didn’t hear you come in.”

“Sorry,” Harry said, “I was being quiet. I didn’t know if you were awake or not.”

She started choking a bit, and he had to thump her a few times on the back. “I’m alright, I’m alright,” she said. “And I spoke to Mallaidh, she’s taking me to the doctor in a few days to get a proper test.”

“Okay,” Harry replied, “Okay good. Are you still panicking about it?”

“I was shocked,” Bébhinn said, “I was so fucking shocked. And--” she cut off, closed her eyes again. “I don’t know. I’m overwhelmed at the idea of having a child in this house again but it’s not necessarily a bad overwhelmed, if you know what I mean.”

Harry didn’t, because for him that had always been a bad feeling, the feeling of having too much stuff to cope with, the feeling of something slipping through his fingers. “You’ll have to stop swearing when it comes,” he said, instead of agreeing, smiling and squatting down next to her so that he was level with her face.

At twenty-eight, Bébhinn was the oldest in the house, and that still wasn’t very old. Bébh had been the very first person he’d met when he had arrived all that time ago, when the house was fuller and cleaner and brighter. It had been pouring with rain and Harry had turned up at the front door dripping wet and fucking terrified and asking for Luna. Bébhinn had taken him into the kitchen and made him drink a whole mug of Irish breakfast tea before she sent one of the numerous children out to search for her, apparently off in the fields helping with the cows. Harry remembered thinking that Bébhinn had seemed impossibly mature, sitting in front of a half-finished Fantastic Mr. Fox puzzle, wearing a set of soft flannel pyjamas and nothing on her feet, as if the house was a kingdom and she was its ruler. Harry had been a mess, and seeing someone so in control, so in charge of themselves, had comforted him more than anything else had that day. More than the tea, more than Luna, more than curling up in front of the fire in the living room with three dogs while strange adults he’d never met whispered about what to do with him.

It had been really odd, seeing her panicked and unbalanced that morning in the bathroom, and he couldn’t help feeling now that it had been a bad omen. Harry hadn’t believed in omens until he had moved here.

“Mallaidh wanted to see you,” Bébhinn said, instead of acknowledging him, as if Mallaidh was actually easy to find. “And I want to go back to sleep.”

“Any idea where she is?” Harry asked. “I’d take even a general direction at this point.”

“Upstairs,” Bébhinn murmured, curling her hand up until it was over her face, starting to go again. “Your room.”

Harry’s stomach went cold. “Bébh,” he said urgently. “Please tell me that doesn’t mean what I think it means.”

*

It meant what Harry thought it had meant, unfortunately. Malfoy was in his fucking bedroom, lying on one of the unmade beds and staring out of the skylight as if he had Harry’s permission to do any of those things.

“No,” Harry said, by way of greeting. Malfoy’s blonde head rose slowly, carelessly. “Get out.”

“I feel as though we’ve already established this, Potter,” Malfoy responded. “And I feel that what we established was that you telling me to get out of places really doesn’t make me more likely to vacate them.

Harry closed his eyes. “Who said you could come up here? This is my room.”

“Mallaidh,” Malfoy said, pronouncing it wrong. “So take it up with her.”

It was too much, Malfoy being in here, Malfoy seeing where he slept, his clothes when they weren’t on his body, all his belongings. Harry wanted to go over there and steal back everything that Malfoy had already seen about him, claw it right out of his brain.

“You’re saying that wrong,” Harry said, instead of doing that thing.

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “I’m pronouncing it exactly how Luna told me to pronounce it.”

Harry took a deep breath. He’d forgotten that Luna and Malfoy were friends, that must be why he was here in the first place. For a second he imagined Malfoy having dinner with Ginny and Luna where Harry always did, in their living room, sitting in the same spot as him, eating from the same plate, using the same cutlery. Harry didn’t know what to do, the image was so foreign to him.

When Harry had first heard about Luna and Malfoy becoming friends he had pestered her about it. Why? Harry had asked, and Luna had been very non-committal about the whole thing. Eventually Harry had given up, since he had moved away anyway and it wasn’t supposed to matter anymore, once there was no danger that they might run into each other at a party or a dinner. Someplace that was supposed to be normal and then suddenly wouldn’t be, once Harry and Malfoy started spitting vitriol at each other, which was bound to happen. Harry hadn’t understood, and he still didn’t, why someone like Luna would want to be friends with someone like Malfoy. Malfoy who was vile, and awful, and used to call Hermione words that made Harry shake when he thought about them. Malfoy who had been a Death Eater.

And yeah, maybe Malfoy had changed since then, and maybe it was awful that Harry didn’t care, but he really just didn’t care. And he thought maybe it was alright that he didn’t care. Harry thought maybe he was well within his rights to just not give a shit about Draco Malfoy anymore. Harry had to stop thinking about it, right then, because it was making him more angry than he knew what to do with.

As he stood there, Harry was finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that someone else was in his space, let alone the fact that that person was Malfoy, and even though what he’d really wanted to do today was sleep for a few more hours and then read for a while, he promptly resolved to spend the entire time anywhere but here. When Harry tried to leave Malfoy jumped up to follow, brushing himself off as though he’d become incredibly soiled, just from lying in Harry’s bedroom for a while. Harry stopped beside the door and stared for a couple of seconds, unable to form a sentence.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” he managed eventually, Malfoy watching him the entire time with his arms crossed, as though Harry was a car crash he couldn’t quite take his eyes off.

“Mallaidh wanted me to come with you when you went to find her,” he said, sounding incredibly bored by the entire enterprise, and it seemed to Harry as though he wasn’t really saying it because he wanted to go, but because he wanted to make Harry’s life as hard as possible.

“Mallaidh was looking for me?” Harry asked, even though Bébhinn had already told him. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Malfoy shrugged, long and slow, and Harry clenched his fists, his mind going as hard and cold as a stone. “You have to fucking tell me, if someone asks for me,” Harry told him, spelling it out. “We have rules. You can’t just turn up here and ignore the fucking rules.”

“I don’t know what the rules are,” Malfoy pointed out. Which was actually a little bit fair, Harry had to admit. “So until I’m given some sort of primer on them, or maybe a leaflet of some description, I’m perfectly happy to ignore them.”

“Here’s one,” Harry growled. “When someone asks you to give a message to another person, you do it. Even if it’s me.”

Malfoy rolled his eyes, clearly not taking it seriously.

Harry shook his head in disbelief. “You really have no idea what we do here, do you?”

Malfoy snorted. “As far as I can tell, Potter, you do nothing at all except drive people around.”

Harry felt a little unsure for a moment. On the one hand he really very badly wanted to get away from Malfoy at all costs, and then on the other hand he wanted to prove Malfoy wrong. Eventually the need to be right won out.

“Come on,” Harry bit out. “I have no idea where she is though. And don’t do anything weird.” Malfoy rolled his eyes, again, and all of a sudden Harry realised that it was a gesture he was probably going to get used to. The thought was vaguely horrifying.

They were silent as they walked through the corridors, Harry poking his head into rooms and Malfoy hanging back, standing behind him like a particularly obtrusive shadow. It was awkward, Harry thought, wandering around and not talking to each other at all. But he couldn’t think of anything he wanted to say that wasn’t Alright Malfoy, you’ve had your fun, now fuck off and leave us all in peace again.

Eventually they found Mallaidh right on the edge of the wood, beside the rabbit hutches, filling a bird feeder with monkey nuts.

“You were looking for me?” Harry asked, trying to ignore the way that Malfoy was hovering.

“Harry,” she smiled, and he instantly felt lighter for it. “The vet wanted someone to go out for a birth, it’s on the Duffy farm.”

“Right,” Harry said, nodding, “When was that?” He wanted to talk to her by himself, he wanted to tell her about Moran hating school and Bébhinn being pregnant, but he didn’t want to say any of those things in front of Malfoy. It wasn’t for him, they weren’t his friends, it was none of his business.

Mallaidh bent down to fill another holder, her long skirt brushing on the floor and picking up pine needles and dirt. “Just after you left to take Moran to school, so if you’re going you’d better go now.” She straightened and looked at Draco. “Did you want to go with him?” she asked. “It might be useful.”

“I’d prefer to go on my own,” Harry said, before Malfoy could answer, trying to convey to Mallaidh just how much he wanted to go on his own using only his eyes. Don’t make me do this he thought at her, it’ll probably end badly.

“You can show him about the salve though,” Mallaidh said, with that confused face on that Harry found it very hard to say no to. Harry thought maybe that Mallaidh had never argued with another person in her entire life, and that’s why she wasn’t picking up the tension between he and Malfoy. “I’d go myself but I’m putting some stuff together for Saturday.”

Harry nodded, giving in all of a sudden, in one big rush of surrender. “Yeah,” he said, “Alright then. Alright.”


Potter seemed to love slamming car doors, that seemed to be a new thing of his, to go with the messy hair and the awful glasses that he apparently hadn’t changed in five whole years. He’d done it exactly four times since they’d been standing here, and at least three of those times had been entirely unnecessary, as far as Draco could tell.

“Are you going to help?” came a terse voice from behind him, and Draco turned slowly, looking Potter up and down. He hadn’t changed much and it was sort of comforting in a way, Draco thought, to know some things would always be the same. The sky would always be blue, grass would always be green, Harry Potter would always look as though he’d been dragged through a hedge backwards and then taken a particularly vigorous flight on a Hippogriff. He was standing in front of Draco angrily, if someone could stand angrily, and he was holding a ratty-looking cardboard box filled with shiny jars topped with silver lids. Draco tried incredibly hard to pretend as though he didn’t find the whole thing very interesting.

“You look like you’ve got it under control,” Draco replied coolly.

Potter scowled. “Open the fucking car door.”

Draco blanched for a second. He didn’t exactly want to admit it, but he’d never even touched one of these contraptions before. And it wouldn’t be a problem -in fact Draco considered it a distinct attribute- except that he didn’t want to come across as foolish in front of Potter. He looked down at the door, regretting the fact that he hadn’t paid more attention when Potter had been fiddling about with them.

“Oh for fucks sake,” Potter sighed, before Draco could even move his hand in an attempt to open the thing. He dumped the box on the roof of the car, the jars jingling together in a way that made Draco a bit nervous. Potter pulled open the door, narrowly avoiding clipping Draco with the edge. “I know you’re not going to help with anything,” Potter continued, “But can you at least try and not make things more fucking difficult for me.”

“I don’t know why I would do that,” Draco replied absently, trying to peer around Potter to get a look into the jars. They seemed to be shimmering, which was quite curious.

“Great,” Potter said, slamming another door in a way that apparently brought him a lot of satisfaction. “Brilliant. Don’t know why I expected anything else.”

Draco didn’t say anything. It was embarrassing to admit, but before he’d actually seen Potter that morning, before he’d had a fucking wand pointed at his throat, Draco had been having all sorts of wild ideas about moving on and forgiveness and all that bloody rot . Draco had actually been ready to apologise, of all things, and he couldn’t think about it now without blushing a bit. Draco had imagined this whole grand speech about how he was grateful to Potter for speaking at his trials, how he’d been trying to overcome all his mistakes and be a slightly better person than he had been before, how he hoped they could become friends. Ugh. Friends. It was true, of course, but it was also sickening, and sentimental, and Draco must have been very drunk when he’d even considered it. Either that or Luna had been rubbing off on him. Draco was genuinely upset at himself for thinking that he and Potter might ever be able to get on with one another. Because now that he was here it was so obvious, wasn’t it, that Potter didn’t give a shit if he’d changed or not.

Draco was brought out of his thoughts by Potter shouting Bébhinn at the very top of his fucking voice, as if Draco wasn’t standing right next to him, as if Draco wasn’t a person with eardrums. A window on the second floor of the house slid open and the very pale woman who looked a lot like Luna stuck her head out, the one who’d been in the kitchen earlier, her hair blowing in the breeze.

“What?” she yelled back. Merlin , Draco thought, what on earth had he walked into here? The whole thing was absurd. He should have expected that, actually, since Luna had been the one to suggest it.

“I’m going out,” Potter bellowed, and Draco took a few cautious steps backwards into some weeds. “Do you want anything from the shop?” he continued.

“Pickled onions,” Bébhinn shouted back, and to Draco’s shock Potter just put his middle finger up, high in the air. It seemed to be a private joke of some sort because she just laughed and pushed the window down again.

“Right,” Potter said, turning back to Draco as if that little interlude had never happened. “We’re going now.”

“Okay,” Draco said, and blinked.

“Get in the car,” Potter prompted.

“Okay,” Draco echoed. He stumbled a little on his way to the front seat, in the rough gravel underfoot, and didn’t miss the way that Potter snorted softly. Draco tentatively grasped the black handle of the door and pulled it towards him, breathing a tiny internal sigh of relief when he managed it, before frowning at his next dilemma. All the cars Draco usually saw in London were those long black ones, low to the ground, ones that looked like shiny beetles. This car seemed to be a totally different monster. There was a seat inside with a step up to it that was covered in something that looked like shit but that Draco hoped was merely mud.

He looked down at his walking boots. Ginny had taken him out to get them, from a shop called TK Maxx. Draco had been utterly bewildered at the time and could barely remember it now. They’d spilled out of the store after a fraught half-hour of trying on shoes in front of total strangers with a pair of nondescript grey boots. They were pristine, albeit ugly, and Draco wanted very much to keep them that way.

“It’s shit,” Potter said, already sitting in the seat with a wheel in front of it, adjusting a little mirror for some reason Draco couldn’t even begin to think of. Clearly Potter didn’t care much about the way he looked, walking around as though he’d put his clothes on drunk. And in the dark. He was lucky his face looked the way it did. “Sometimes the farmers around here forget to wash the slurry off the roads, so we get shit on the car. You’ll get used to it.”

Draco didn’t even know what to say. He didn’t even know what half of that meant. Also he didn’t think he’d ever get used to something like that, and frankly it was a little worrying that Potter had. Then he thought that Potter had probably been used to worse things in the past.

“That’s repulsive,” Draco told him, hauling himself into the car anyway. Better to get it over and done with.

“I know,” Potter told him, rolling his eyes. Which was Draco’s thing. “You’ll get used to it.”

Draco had no idea why Potter kept saying that . It was making him rather upset. “I doubt it,” he muttered.

Potter looked at him for a second and Draco tried not to shrink back in his seat a little. Potter had really mastered that intense stare.

“You’ll want to close the door,” Potter prompted, after a long moment. Draco looked to his left, where the door swung wildly outwards. He made a grab for it, his fingertips just grasping onto the handle, before he hauled it back towards himself. It shut with a slam that made Draco jump and also made him realise what Potter had found so satisfying about the whole thing. “You’ll also want to put your seatbelt on.”

Thus ensued a few tense minutes of Draco trying to pull his seatbelt out and Potter having to do it for him. Also of Draco trying to plug it in and Potter also having to do that for him. Draco wanted to obliviate himself after the process was done with. Obliviate himself or just jump out of the car and bash his head against a large rock, both would probably have the same effect.

Potter started the car with a roar that made Draco startle. As soon as all the lights on the panel in front of him were lit up Potter pushed a button very hard that made music start playing, something that sounded old. Draco didn’t know what it was so presumed it must be Muggle.

They made their way out of the valley in silence, Draco putting one hand on his knee and gripping it very tightly, hoping Potter wouldn’t notice the way his knuckles went white. First there was a forest and a track that had seen better days, dark and dank with almost no light whatsoever, and when Draco peered into the trees and saw the way that everything was growing and the way the plants were crawling and how everything was so fecund, it reminded him of the Forbidden Forest. After the woods came a road, a little better than the last, but still narrow and windy. Draco had about ten seconds to think about how he had thought Ireland might be more green when the trees cut away and they were in mountains, high and ragged, with bright heather growing out on all sides, thick and carpet-like.

It had been such a long time since Draco had seen mountains like this, five years since Scotland and Hogwarts, ages since he’d been anywhere even remotely like the countryside, except Hampstead Heath with Pansy and even that was in the city. It had been that long too since he’d been back to The Manor and its manicured grounds, not able to face it after everything that had happened there. His parents had closed the house up and all Draco could imagine was everything inside covered in those white dust sheets that big houses always seemed to have an endless supply of. He imagined the sound of fabric whipping in the air before settling gently over the dining table they’d always eaten at, the piano where he’d taken lessons since he was six, the desk in his room, his old bed. And then he imagined a five-year-thick layer of grime sitting on everything he’d once loved.

There were sheep flocking across the gravel and Potter waited patiently for them to pass, edging forward a little at a time. They jumped down into the ditch on the side of the road, chewing at the cropped grass and ignoring the car altogether.

“Mountain sheep,” Potter said shortly, although Draco hadn’t asked, and couldn’t imagine what had made Potter volunteer that information in the first place. Their horns were curled and ridged, and he watched the way that they stepped over the rugged ground as if it was nothing. They were built for it, Draco supposed.

After a few minutes the mountains started getting lower and lower and started fading into the ground a little bit, and the road got wider and the trees got less dark and more green, and they passed a river cut into the ground, white water churning on its surface. They hadn’t seen a single house and Draco remembered how isolated Luna had said it was, but he hadn’t imagined it like this.

Eventually the car started slowing and Potter pulled into a small driveway in front of a red house, beside a white van that was already parked there. Somewhere, a dog started barking, and Draco couldn’t see it but he could hear the way that it was pulling against a chain.

“Don’t do anything weird,” Potter said, just like he had earlier, and Draco opened his mouth to say something about it but Potter interrupted before he even got the chance. “They’re Muggles, so try and refrain from hexing them.”

Draco was a little insulted and also wanted to tell Potter that he knew how to deal with Muggles, thank you. That he saw them almost every day when he left his flat to walk to the nearest apparition point and that the trick with it was to pretend that you weren’t utterly bewildered by every single thing they did. He thought that Potter wouldn’t be very impressed by that though, so he stayed quiet.

They got out of the car and Potter rummaged around on the back seat for a while before emerging with a few of the shimmery jars. He didn’t ask for help and Draco didn’t offer.

“Hello?” Potter called, as he walked around the side of the house, Draco following behind him even though he hadn’t been told to.

“Harry,” someone said in a strong Irish accent, before Draco caught sight of a short man running towards them. He was wearing bright orange gloves that came up to his shoulders. Was that some sort of Muggle fashion thing? Draco couldn’t remember seeing anything like it in London but he supposed it might be different in a different country. “You’re just in time. We’re in the cowshed.”

Potter nodded firmly and Draco couldn’t think of the last time he’d been more bewildered. “Come on,” Potter said brusquely, gripping the jars tightly and stepping over a massive brown puddle in the direction of a large grey building with a horrible corrugated steel roof. Draco was finding the whole thing to be an aesthetic nightmare and wanted to go somewhere nice and neoclassical, just to set his nerves at rest.

The cowshed was depressing, Draco surmised, and as soon as he’d stepped foot in the place he wanted to leave again almost immediately. There was hay all over the floor and the whole place smelled a bit like something rotting and there were cows in there. All crowded together and watching him with their massive eyes.

“Harry!” a woman said, and Draco couldn’t for the life of him work out why so many people were so enthusiastic about seeing Potter .

“Gwen,” Potter replied, slipping into this easy-looking smile that made the corners of his eyes crinkle. “How’s everything going?”

Draco listened as a woman apparently named Gwen went into more detail about cow anatomy than he had ever wanted to know. She started walking backwards, still chatting about udders or something, and she gestured for Potter to follow. “Who’s that?” she asked, nodding her head towards Draco.

“Draco Malfoy,” he said, holding his hand out for her to shake. She laughed and held her hands up, they were encased in those awful orange gloves.

“I’ve been sterilised, I’m afraid,” she said, “But it’s nice to meet you. I’m the vet.”

“Right,” Draco said, because he didn’t know what that meant, except for the bit about being sterilised. “It’s nice to meet you too.”

Potter sighed deeply, which Draco thought there wasn’t any need for. He wasn’t acting weird at all. He was being polite.

“What?” Draco hissed, once Gwen had turned her back. “What now?”

Potter was saved from answering when Gwen said “She’s terrified, the poor thing,” and pointed to a sad-looking black heifer. “It’s her first one.”

Draco thought he might be liable to faint, because as they got closer he saw a small set of hoofs dangling out of the rear of the cow. She was doing something Draco could only describe as baying. A frightful, low sound. He averted his eyes and took a deep breath, which didn’t help, due to the horrifying smells. Draco could literally not believe that this was his first day here. He could literally not believe that when he signed up to come and do potions research that he was apparently volunteering himself to be witness at a live fucking animal birth.

“Malfoy,” Potter said impatiently, “You might find this interesting, I don’t know. Or you can keep standing there as though you’re about to keel over at any moment, I’m easy.”

Draco nodded weakly, and stepped a few paces closer to the cow’s head. Gwen was in there with her now, doing something round the back that Draco didn’t really want to think about.

“This is calming salve,” Potter said, setting down two of the jars on the floor and opening another, “It’s topical.” He promptly scooped out a huge glob of the stuff and smeared it onto the cow’s forehead. She went silent and still all of a sudden, her eyes started to close slightly. Draco blinked.

“What,” he said. “What? What? ” Draco looked around at all the fucking Muggles watching, as if this was a normal occurrence. As if this didn’t break the fucking statute of secrecy about a hundred times over. What was Potter thinking, letting all these Muggles see him use a bloody potion?

“Save the hysterics,” Potter said, screwing the lid of the jar back on. He stood up.

“What?” Draco repeated. Because nobody had answered his question.

“That’s it,” Potter said, to him and to the short man and apparently to Gwen. “I’ll leave some of this here but it won’t work as well as the other stuff just did since I’m not the one applying it.”

“Thanks Harry,” Gwen said, poking her head around the side of a fucking cow. “And tell Mallaidh the same. Nice to meet you, Draco.” Draco couldn’t really respond. Also he distinctly remembered them already covering how nice it was to meet each other.

“Will do,” Potter said cheerily, leaving the little jars where they were, shimmering merrily away. He started making for the entrance and it took Draco a few moments for his legs to work enough to follow.

Potter ,” Draco hissed, once they were outside again, standing in the yard beside that horrible puddle. The dog had stopped barking. “What the fuck was that?”

Potter smiled, gleefully, as if it had been a little treat for him to make Draco’s brain stop working. “That was a topical calming salve, we go down when the vet asks for us and help out sometimes.”

“Right,” Draco said, still not knowing what a vet was and also very much past caring. “Except that they’re all Muggles. Do they just think it’s some sort of weird concoction you’ve cooked up? Tell me that’s what they think.”

Potter snorted. “Afraid not, no.”

“But…” Draco said, his voice going a little high with panic. “The statute,” he finished weakly.

“Ireland doesn’t have a statute,” Potter said, smiling still, broadly now. Draco got distracted for one half of a second by how white his teeth were. “Pretty much everyone around here knows about magic.”

Draco started laughing, since it was the only reaction he could possibly muster that wasn’t Please punch me in the face so we can all test if I’m dreaming or not?

“Great,” Potter said, “You took that a lot better than I thought you would.” Draco put his hands on his knees and started breathing through his mouth. He felt as though maybe this was all some huge practical joke that Ginny had set up. It seemed exactly the type of thing she might do. “We’re leaving now,” Potter informed him chirpily, and apparently this little intermission had really improved his mood.

“People around here don’t know about magic, ” Draco said firmly as they got back in the car and Potter started it up. Draco jumped again and wondered at what point he’d get used to the sound. “You’re definitely lying.”

“Malfoy,” Potter sighed, putting his hand on the back of Draco’s chair and looking out of the back window, for some fucking reason. “Why would I lie? You just saw all those people in there watch me put a fucking healing salve on a cow.”

“They can’t just know,” Draco said, “Everyone would know, if they knew. Muggles can’t keep anything to themselves, it would be all over the internet.”

“You don’t know what the internet is,” Potter said. Which was true, actually, Draco had just heard that phrase once when he was standing in line for a coffee. He wasn’t about to admit that though.

“It doesn’t matter,” Draco replied primly. “I cannot believe the government lets you all get away with this.”

Potter snorted, again. “I’m not really up for giving you a history lesson right now, actually.” Which. Well, Draco didn’t remember asking for one. “But basically the government don’t know, it’s only certain places that even believe in magic.”

“I have no idea what to say to that,” Draco said, because he really didn’t.

“Cool,” Potter replied, “I’m putting the music back on now.”

“Wait,” Draco said, because something had occurred to him and even though he didn’t really want to engage Potter in a conversation, he was out here for a reason. “When you told them that the salve wouldn’t work as well if you didn’t apply it, what did that mean?”
Potter looked at him, which was terrifying, since Draco suspected he should have been looking at the road, since he was driving. “The salve doesn’t work as well when it’s applied by Muggles as when it’s applied by someone with magic.”

Draco frowned and took his notebook out from his back pocket. “No,” he said, “That’s not at all how it works. A potion is a potion, it doesn’t just change strength out of nowhere.”

Potter shrugged. “I don’t know, I’m not the one who makes them.” That made sense more than anything that had happened to Draco all day. Potter had always been shit at potions in school.

“Well,” Draco said, not really knowing where to start. “Who does?”

“Mallaidh,” Potter said shortly. “Can you just ask her about it, maybe? I’m really not up for helping you with whatever it is you’re here for. Since I actually have a lot of stuff to do.”

“You’re not doing anything right now, ” Draco grumbled.

Potter took a deep breath. “You’re right, Malfoy. I’m not, and I still don’t want to fucking help you.”

Draco put the notebook down on his lap, stung. He didn’t say anything though, there wasn’t really anything he could say. He just watched Potter out of the corner of his eye as he turned the music back on, his hands clenched tightly around the steering wheel.

Later that evening someone came to find Draco in the attic where he’d been hiding out ever since he’d come back from that lovely little day trip with Potter, whom he hadn’t seen since. And who was obviously avoiding him.

“Draco?” a voice called from the other side of the door, before it was pushed open anyway. “Hi,” said the girl from that morning. Moran. She wasn’t in her school uniform anymore. He crossed the page in the book he’d been reading and set it beside his leg.

“Hi,” Draco agreed.

“I heard you went to a cow birth,” she said. “They’re always quite fun.”

Draco raised his eyebrows. “We didn’t stay for the actual birth part,” he told her dryly.

“Right,” Moran said, and deflated a little. “Right, yeah. Anyway dinner’s ready if you want to come down and get some?”

“Brilliant,” Draco sighed, trying not to be rude but also very much just wanting to fall asleep. Fall asleep and wake up in his own apartment.

“You didn’t have to help since it’s your first week here, but after that we’ll make you cook.”

“Alright,” Draco said tiredly, unable to argue. He was getting to stay here for free, after all, and it seemed to him as though they most certainly needed the money he had offered, money that had been gently turned down.

“Have you seen the dining room yet?” she asked.

“No,” Draco said, shaking his head. Then, because it was clear that she was trying to engage him in conversation, he said “I’ve really only seen the kitchen and my bedroom.”

She started laughing, and Draco didn’t imagine what he had just said to be particularly funny. “Harry’s so pissed off that he has to share his room with you. I don’t think he’ll be super pleased to hear you call it your room.

“Right,” Draco said, “Thanks for the tip,” and he resolved to do it as soon as possible.

“You’re going to do it anyway, aren’t you?” Moran sighed.

“Probably,” Draco shrugged.

“This is it,” she announced, swinging open a heavy-looking wooden door. The room was at the front of the house, with those huge bay windows and the view of the valley down below. They were open, and the breeze was cool and crisp. Bébhinn was laying the table, setting down pale pink plates and unmatched silver cutlery. Draco picked a knife up and weighed it in his hand, more out of habit than anything else. It was real silver.

“Can you light those candles?” Bébhinn asked, and Draco was about to pull his wand out of his pocket until Moran came up behind him. She waved her hand over the huge golden candelabra in the centre of the table, and the wicks caught alight all at once. Draco hadn’t seen anything like it, ever.

“Show off,” Bébhinn admonished.

Moran grinned, sitting down in a chair at the head of the huge table. It looked as though it had been meant for fifteen people, Draco thought, running his hand over the dark mahogany table top, not four, not five.

“Did you have a good day?” Bébhinn said, looking at Draco as she finished setting out the glasses. They were cut crystal and the facets glimmered in the candlelight.

“Yes,” he lied, because he hadn’t really but also didn’t want to say that to them.

“Sorry we weren’t properly introduced this morning,” she said, “I’m Bébhinn, that’s my sister Moran, who you’ve already met.”

Draco smiled and didn’t know what to say. “You can do wandless magic,” he said after a few moments to Moran. “I’ve never actually seen it done properly before.”

“We didn’t get taught with wands,” Moran told him, pouring herself a glass of water from the carafe in front of her. “Our parents don’t believe in them.”

“Right,” Draco said, as if it was as easy as that. As if wandless magic was as easy as our parents didn’t believe in the opposite. “Why not?”

“They’re very phallic, aren’t they,” Moran said absently, before shaking herself and saying “That’s not why obviously, sorry, it’s because they thought they were useless.”

“They channel your magic,” Draco said, trying not to sound as though everything he’d been ever taught was suddenly proving to be wrong. “They release your magic in a way that gives it purpose.”

“Nah,” Moran said, “Our mam always said that wands were like a funnel, and that if you had enough control, and were willing to take your time, then you never needed one.”

“They thought wands were lazy,” Bébhinn said, “Basically. And pointless. But then again, they thought a lot of things were pointless, so it was hard to keep track most of the time. Do you want to sit?”

Draco blinked. Pointless. He pulled out the chair he was standing next to and sat down. It was covered in a soft, dusty pink velvet and didn’t match a single other piece in the room. “Like what?” he asked curiously.

“Like organised education,” Moran said, “Like formal lessons.”

“It’s why we weren’t at Hogwarts,” Bébhinn explained, “You know Hogwarts offers places to students from the Republic of Ireland.” Draco nodded. “We were offered places.”

“Our parents didn’t like the idea of formalised education away from the place we’d grown up,” Moran continued. “Magic in Ireland is different from anywhere else, you can’t separate it from its surroundings.”

Draco was dazed, all of a sudden, and didn’t know at all what they meant and also wasn’t quite sure he even wanted to. It was too much, all of it. Potter, this house, these women.

“Potter said that Muggles knew about magic,” Draco said, because he felt as though he really needed an explanation for that one.

“Not all of them,” Bébhinn disagreed, “Most of them don’t believe it’s real. But the ones around here do.”

“Like, a lot of older people know about it,” Moran said, “And then they try and tell their children or whatever and it’s hard for them to take it seriously. Which is understandable. So in a lot of places, especially in towns and cities, nobody knows anymore. But here, it’s still important and it’s still useful. So people know about us.”

“We help out,” Bébhinn continued, “The community around here probably couldn’t work without magic. It’s fucking sad because people keep moving away and there’s less work for us, and then we start moving away because it’s hard to make a living. So it’s a vicious circle, but we’re holding on.”

“Yeah,” Moran said, “Barely. And we’re some of the more successful ones. Down in places like Dublin there’s almost no witches or wizards, they’ve all fucked off. To England or America or wherever. It’s awful.”

Draco nodded and suddenly everything came into focus for him. The house, the overgrown grounds, this room, this table. There were supposed to be people here, Draco realised, not just a few leftover witches trying to keep their house from falling down. Draco felt very sad, looking across at Bébhinn, at the windows behind her, and imagining this whole room lit up with people, alive with them. Draco wondered where they’d all gone, if it had been like this when Potter had arrived, if he’d seen it like it was meant to be.

“What work do you do?” he asked, “It can’t all be helping animals give birth.”

“It’s not,” Bébhinn said, frowning, and Draco thought maybe he might have offended her. “But that is an important part of it. We help people if they’re sick, we help them set up timetables for when to plant crops, we help them with protections and wards. And in return they do things for us, like giving us fruit they’ve grown, or gifting us with livestock, or not telling outsiders about what we do or that we even exist.”

The you wouldn’t understand was unspoken but Draco heard it anyway. And she was right, he didn’t understand. All his life he’d been taught that Muggles were less than and he’d only recently become used to the idea that he’d been utterly wrong about that. But he was still comfortable with separate Wizarding and Muggle worlds, couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to have a relationship with Muggles like the one these witches seemed to have. One that was mutually beneficial, one that involved Muggles knowing about magic, needing it.

“Oooh,” Moran said suddenly, wrenching Draco away from his thoughts, and she looked over his shoulder to the doorway. “What’s tonight?”

“If you’d wait for about five seconds then you’d know, ” Potter said from behind him, and Draco couldn’t stop himself from tensing his shoulders.

“It’s spaghetti,” Bébhinn sighed, “Moran we have spaghetti every single Wednesday. We’ve been having spaghetti every single Wednesday for the last five years.”

“And yet here I am,” Moran sighed, “Hoping every week that Harry might have learnt to cook something else.”

Draco snorted, and then flinched when Potter set a bowl hard onto the table.

“Moran,” he said, “You’re allowed to complain when you actually start cooking us dinner.”

She scoffed. “I have school, I’m busy. All you did today was go and see a baby calf, which I would have loved to go and do, you know I love births.”

“You’re so fucking weird,” Bébhinn said. “ I love births. Who says stuff like that?”

“Where’s Mallaidh?” Potter sighed, “Before we get into an argument I feel like we should make sure everyone’s here, at least.”

“Dunno,” Moran said, reaching for the bowl, “Can I start eating? I’ve got homework.”

“Oh like you’re going to do it, ” Potter retorted, before pushing the bowl closer anyway and sitting down in a seat next to her, ignoring Draco. He looked as though he had spent all day outside and Draco noticed a smear of mud on his forehead, as though he had wiped it on there with the back of his hand.

“I might do it,” she said airily, shovelling pasta onto her plate, “You have no idea.”

“You’re not going to do it,” Bébhinn said, producing a bottle of wine from somewhere. It was a screw-top. The room had gone silent and she looked up to find Potter and Moran staring at her, their eyebrows raised. Draco didn’t know what was happening and he felt as though that might be becoming a theme.

“Oh,” she said, “I forgot.”

“You forgot,” Potter said, in something that sounded like disbelief. “How did you forget?”

“Forget about what?” Draco ventured, and everyone looked at him as though they’d forgotten he was there, Potter’s eyes narrowed.

“I’m pregnant,” Bébhinn said, “Found out this morning.”

“Oh,” Draco said, “Congratulations.” Potter snorted. “What?” Draco asked him angrily, “Seriously, what?”

“Nothing,” Potter said, shaking his head, “I’m just finding this whole thing really unbelievable.”

“Dinner,” Moran said, “We never argue at dinner.”

“Yeah,” Potter agreed, “We don’t argue at dinner, Malfoy.”

“Oh my fucking god,” Bébhinn said sternly, “Harry.”

Potter put down his fork slowly. “I can’t just fucking sit here and--”

“Sorry I’m late,” Mallaidh said, and Draco honestly thought she might have timed her entrance, for maximum effect. “I was out with the dogs.”

“It’s alright,” Moran said, practically throwing food into her mouth, “We didn’t wait or anything.”

“I can see that,” Mallaidh told her amusedly. “Since you’re eating like someone’s going to take it away.” Draco saw Potter flinch, hard, from out of the corner of his eye.

“I’m going to bed,” he said, roughly, and pushed his chair out from the table. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Harry,” Bébhinn protested, as he walked out of the room. “You’ve got to eat something.” She trailed off as the door slammed closed behind him.

There was silence for a few moments, before Draco stood up. “Excuse me,” he said, and didn’t wait for a reply before he was storming out of the room after Potter. He caught up with him in the hallway of the first floor. “Potter,” Draco called, and watched as he came to a standstill, his hands shaking at his sides. “I know you’ve got a problem with me but--”

Potter scoffed, and it wasn’t in amusement. He spun around slowly until he was facing Draco. “Contrary to your fucking opinion, Malfoy, not everything’s about you,” he interrupted.

Draco clenched his jaw. “You’re acting like I’m still a fucking criminal,” he pointed out.

Potter took a step closer. “It didn’t really occur to me that you might be, actually, since I try not to think about you at all if I can help it.”

“Right,” Draco said, and swallowed loudly. “But you’re acting like I’m about to curse you.”

Potter took a deep breath, and Draco wanted to hide from him. He was terrifying, really, standing there in the hallway and making everything look smaller. His long hair flying about his face, his brown skin glowing, he looked powerful, like he could hurt you. “I act , Malfoy, as though you’re a shit. And frankly, I haven’t seen any evidence to the opposite. So here we are.”

“If you think I’m such a shit,” Draco said, angrier than he’d been in forever. “Then why did you speak at my fucking trials? I didn’t ask for that.” And as soon as he’d said it he wanted to take it back, didn’t even know why he’d brought it up in the first place. Being around Potter had always made him sort of muddled, always made him think bad ideas were good ones.

Potter started laughing. “Your fucking mother asked me to, Malfoy, before you get all sentimental thinking it was my idea.”

Draco blanched. His immediate reaction was to think Potter was lying, obviously, but something in his eyes -something in the easy way he’d said it- told Draco he wasn’t. “Why would you do anything my mother asked?”

“I owed her a life debt,” Potter said, and his mouth was curved in some small approximation of a smirk. It was awful. “She never told you?”

Draco’s mother had never told him much of anything, actually, but he wasn’t about to start telling Potter that. “No,” he said, unable to come up with anything else. “She didn’t.”

“Right,” Potter said, “Well that’s why. It’s not because I thought you deserved it.”

Draco took a step backwards. It shouldn’t have hurt him so much to hear that, because he’d already known Potter thought him worthless, but it did. There was a difference between knowing something and hearing it said to you out loud, with total sincerity. “So,” Draco started, “When you said all those things about how I was manipulated into joining the Death Eaters, that was a lie. You didn’t believe that.”

Potter shrugged, and Draco hated how careless he was. “You were young, yeah, and living in the Manor must have been fucking awful. But we were all young, weren’t we? And we didn’t all make the shitty choices you did.”

Draco almost drew his wand. Suddenly, fiercely, he wanted to be vicious. “You were right,” he said, putting that fucking smirk on that he hadn’t used in an age. A proper one, a better one than Potter’s. “I wasn’t manipulated into a single fucking thing. I thought it was an honour.”
“I know,” Potter said, unblinkingly, “I know all that.”

“Good,” Draco said, “It was five years ago.”

“I know,” Potter repeated.

“I’m not going to--” Draco cut off, searching for the right words. “I don’t care what you think of me, if you think I’ve changed or if I haven’t. I don’t care. But I’m here to work. And I know you’re here to do the same thing. So I think we should try and be civil.”

“I don’t think you’ve changed,” Potter told him, sounding weary all of a sudden, “And I don’t think I’d care even if you had.”

“Brilliant,” Draco said, wanting nothing more than for this conversation to be over. “When I said we should be civil, though?”

“Civil,” Potter echoed apprehensively, as though he wanted very much to disagree.

“Yes,” Draco said, “We don’t have to talk. We just have to not argue.”

“No insults?” Potter asked, and Draco didn’t know where he’d got that impression from.

“I just want to get on with my work,” Draco said, not wanting to make any promises he couldn’t keep. “This doesn’t have to be more difficult than it already is.”

Potter stood there for a second, before he slumped a little. “I suppose,” he said, “Yeah alright.”

“Alright,” Draco agreed.

“Do we shake hands?” Potter asked.

Draco laughed, even though he didn’t want to. “Fuck no,” he said.

Chapter Text

Being civil was hard, Harry thought, when he woke up early on Saturday morning in the dusty patch of sunlight that was streaming in from the low window beside his bed. He made his way downstairs blearily, only tripping once on a piece of furniture on his way out of the bedroom. Harry suspected it may have woken Malfoy up but he couldn’t bring himself to feel bad about it.

“Malfoy sleeps with the shutters open,” he declared, rubbing his eyes as he collapsed onto a chaise longue in the sitting room. He curled his toes into a grey fleece blanket at the end, then started petting Dagda’s ears when she pulled herself up from her place on the floor and started shoving her small head into his hand.

Mallaidh pulled a face. “Is that why you’re awake?”

“It’s too bright up there,” Harry told her, “Also the sunlight goes right onto my bed and like, heats up the covers. I’m literally sweating right now.” He pulled the fabric of his t-shirt away from his sticky skin to demonstrate the point.

“Why does he do that?” she asked, as if Harry would have any fucking clue. He shrugged. Malfoy had insisted the last few nights, and Harry had only agreed in the spirit of the uneasy truce they’d brokered.

“Do you want this?” Mallaidh extended her hand over the gap between their seats, holding out a small passionfruit and a silver teaspoon.

“Yeah,” he said, taking it from her. “Have you got a knife?”

“It’s already cut,” she said, as juice started dripping over his hands onto the brightly patterned rug below.

Harry scoffed. “I got that, actually,” he said, showing her his wrist, and the way the yellow liquid was streaming into the cuff of the long-sleeved t-shirt he wore to sleep in.

“Sorry,” she said, “I was going to eat it but then I realised I didn’t want it. They’re very tangy for first thing in the morning.”

Harry nodded in agreement, scooping out some of the seeds. “What’s the best fruit for breakfast, do you think?”

She sighed gustily and slumped down in her armchair, apparently thinking about it. Dagda gave up with Harry and skulked over to Mallaidh instead, at the noise, putting one paw firmly onto her stomach. Mallaidh started laughing and tried to push her off. “Why can’t you be like the others?” she asked, nodding her head over to the other four dogs; they were lying together beside the fire that wasn’t even on, utterly unimpressed by the current proceedings.

“Yeah,” Harry said, backing her up and gesturing with his teaspoon, “Be good for once in your life.”

“Shut up,” Mallaidh responded, cupping Dagda’s soft ears in her hands, “She’ll hear you.”

“I doubt she’d understand,” Harry said distractedly, searching underneath himself for the T.V. remote. “Since she’s a dog.”

“Um,” Mallaidh replied, “Excuse you. Collies are very clever.”

“Yeah,” Harry agreed, still rooting around in the blankets, “But not like, understand our conversation clever.”

“What are you looking for?” she asked finally, staring at him, as though he was a wild animal that had somehow found its way into the house.

“The remote,” Harry explained, “Any ideas?”

“The T.V. isn’t working,” Mallaidh said, “I don’t know why you’re bothering.”

He stopped, looked at her, aghast. “What do you mean it isn’t working? It was working last night when you all wanted to watch Masterchef Australia and wouldn’t wait for me to finish cooking dinner before you started it,” he said sorely.

“You wanted to watch that?” Mallaidh asked, absently scratching the fur underneath Dagda’s chin, “I didn’t realise.”

Yeah I wanted to watch it,” Harry replied, “But then I missed it so I wanted to watch it now.”

“You can’t, the T.V. isn’t working,” she repeated, as if everyone in the room wasn’t already extremely clear on that particular point.

“Oh my God,” Harry said, then put his palms over his eyes, “Oh my God, I just wanted to know why.”

“Do I look like a person who would know why the television isn’t working?” she asked, making an expansive gesture over her whole body that Harry just caught the end of. It was a fair point, he supposed. She was wearing some sort of drapey black dress that came down to her ankles but left her arms bare, he could see a flash of her collarbones every time she moved.

“Yeah I guess not,” he admitted, “You know you’re really living up to that witchy stereotype. If the neighbours came round you’d scare them half to death.”

“We don’t have any neighbours,” she murmured, “Nobody will come round.

“The postman might turn up,” Harry pointed out, “That’s a thing that sometimes happens.”

Mallaidh’s mouth twisted. “Well it’s not really, is it? We never get that sort of post.”

“Moran’s ordered a dress online before, so I assume that could be a thing that would occur again,” he argued.

“Harry,” she said, sighing deeply, “It’s about half seven in the morning, nobody’s coming here at half seven in the morning.” Harry opened his mouth to argue but then found that he didn’t really have anything to say to that.

“You don’t have time to watch a full episode of Masterchef anyway,” she continued, “We’re leaving at eight for the beach.”

Harry groaned. “Are you finally going to tell me what it is we’re doing?”

She’d been acting so oddly, since Malfoy had arrived, and Harry had thought she was going a little overboard in her teacherly duties. The other day he’d walked into the library to find a book and caught her flicking rapidly through one of the family’s old potion books, muttering to herself and making notes in the margins. When he’d enquired, gently, so as not to startle her, she’d gone wide eyed and frantically said I want to show him the best ones. Harry had made his excuses pretty much immediately after that and escaped into the garden with a dictionary of apple species tucked under his arm.

“It was supposed to be a secret,” she admonished, “If I tell you then the others will want to know.”

“How about...” Harry started, “How about I don’t tell them that I know? I feel like that would be a potential win-win situation.”

“I think that I’ve made a mistake,” Mallaidh frowned, shaking her head so that her braids whipped a little bit on the fabric of her chair. “I think that I’ve really built up the suspense and now you’re going to be disappointed when you find out we’re just brewing a potion on the beach.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “I sort of already knew that.”

“How did you know that?” she asked, sitting up to glance over at him curiously.

“Well,” Harry said, “It was a couple of things. The first and biggest clue was when you announced to everyone at dinner on Thurs that we were taking Malfoy out to show him the ropes. I thought to myself, you know, what ropes? Right? And then I was like, well, Malfoy is here to do some sort of potions research that nobody cares about except you, so it must be something to do with that. And now here we all are, going to brew a potion on the beach, just as I suspected.”

“You did not suspect,” Mallaidh argued, “I was very secretive. Do you think he’ll like it? Do you think it’s a nice idea? It was between the beach and going to brew one in a standing stone, but then I thought that standing stones might be a little advanced for a first lesson.”

“I think it’s probably going to make him piss himself,” Harry said truthfully, kind of relishing the idea, “I had no idea what was going on with potions in this country when I arrived and I wasn’t even that invested in them to begin with.

“It can’t be that different,” Mallaidh argued, “I always thought you were exaggerating. Or maybe that you just didn’t really realise.”

“I know I was shit,” Harry said, a little affronted, “But I knew enough about them to be shocked when you started like… brewing them in a fucking hole in the ground.”

“It wasn’t a hole in the ground, it was a packed-earth cauldron.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, “See that’s what I’m talking about. That doesn’t mean anything.

“Well there’s a pretty big difference between a hole in the ground and something that’s been specifically dug in a specific type earth that’s then packed down to form a smooth surface.”

“Oh man,” Harry said, laughing, “I just cannot wait for Malfoy to find out about that. I think he might faint.”

Harry thought about Malfoy down beside the river with the cold breeze making him shiver, watching as Moran used a heavy spade to loosen the dirt. He thought about watching Malfoy watch Bébhinn get rid of any rocks, he thought about Mallaidh packing the earth down until it was firm and smooth and featureless. He thought about Malfoy being confused for a minute, wondering what it was for, until he would see her pour in some Aqua Vitae or something and then realise. It was a nice thought, imagining Malfoy all outraged and pissed off about the whole thing, spouting stuff about contaminants or processes. Then Harry thought about Malfoy storming off back to England in a rage and it was lovely.

“I’m starting him off easy,” Mallaidh said, “something that’s simple but still demonstrates a few techniques that are apparently different from in England.”

“Alright,” Harry agreed, “Do I have to go? It’s just that I think the weather might be about to get bad.”

“Yes,” Mallaidh said, in a tone that left no room for argument. “You can help.”

“No I can’t,” Harry protested, “I’ll be absolutely fucking useless, we all know it.”

“Useless at what?” he heard Bébhinn say from behind him, before she flopped onto the chaise longue right on top of his feet. “Oh sorry,” she said, when Harry started wriggling them out from underneath her. “Sorry, sorry, sorry. You can put them on my lap.”

“Useless at helping to brew whatever potion Mallaidh’s decided will be fun,” Harry explained, “Useless at not getting into an argument with Malfoy, just generally useless in a universal sense.”

“Like in an I’m useless at everything sense?” Bébhinn asked, pulling his feet onto her lap as promised.

“Sure,” Harry said, thumping his head backwards onto the pale blue velvet, “Why not? Mallaidh I’m useless at everything, don’t bring me along.”

“You haven’t been arguing with Draco,” she pointed out in response, “So you’re not useless at that. Actually I think the fact that you’ve made peace with each other is really nice.”

“We didn’t make peace,” Harry hissed, looking over his shoulder briefly at the door, just to check Malfoy wasn’t standing there or something equally awful. “We are so far from making peace that I don’t even know how you could come to the opposite conclusion.”

“You’ve been very polite to one another,” Bébhinn said, “It’s been quite nice.”

“I’ve been polite to him,” Harry said tersely, “To stop myself from punching him in the face. It’s been a very difficult process. Last night he told me -and I quote- that I was an utter fool for putting avocado in a salad. Can you even imagine?”

“I was there when he said it,” Bébhinn said, “You said if you have such a fucking problem with it, Malfoy, then you can come and make the fucking thing yourself. So I can imagine.”

“Well,” Harry said, “I think that was fair.”

“Maybe he was trying to joke around with you, you know, friendly banter.” Mallaidh suggested, “Imagine if he was thinking oh I’ll just poke fun at Harry and won’t it be funny and maybe he’ll laugh and then you respond like that. It’s making me quite upset to think about it.”

What? ” Harry asked, trying not to sound as though she wasn’t being totally ridiculous, “No he wasn’t.

“Wait,” Bébhinn said, “You call what you said last night being polite?”

“Um,” Harry said, widening his eyes. “Yeah. Compared to what used to go on that’s practically like us being best fucking friends.”

“What used to go on?” Bébhinn asked, putting a warm hand on one of his feet. “Because you keep telling us you don’t trust him but you never actually say why. And you keep telling me not to trust him and I’m like why? Doesn’t seem fair to just do something like that on your word, not even give him a chance or anything.”

“We were on opposite sides during the war,” Harry said, trying not to grit his teeth.

“Oh,” Mallaidh said, “Apart from that, we meant, because you’ve definitely said that enough times.”

“Isn’t that a good enough explanation?” Harry asked seriously, “I feel as though he was a Death Eater should be a good enough explanation.”

“It’s…” Mallaidh started, before cutting off with a sharp sigh. “It’s a difficult one. Because all evidence points to the fact that he’s not one of those anymore.”

“Oh my God,” Harry said, blinking, “Of course he isn’t a Death Eater anymore. I probably would have hexed him on the bloody spot if he’d have still been a fucking Death Eater. But he used to be.

“Yeah but,” Bébhinn said, “That was five years ago, wasn’t it?”

“He said the exact same thing to me,” Harry told her, “And all I could think was like, so what? You know? Five years isn’t a very long time. And to be honest there’s not like, a set amount of time after you’ve stopped being a Death Eater that it suddenly becomes acceptable.”

“I’m not sure I’m saying it’s acceptable,” Bébhinn said. “Am I?”

“I think--” Mallaidh managed, before Harry cut her off.

“Guys,” he said, “Sorry, but I just really don’t want to talk about it. Can we maybe like, I don’t know, talk about anything else?”

“Oh fine,” Bébhinn said, “We talk about you too much anyway.”

“I agree,” Harry said, “Let’s talk about Moran while she isn’t here.”

“The other day Moran told me that her religion teacher gets really upset when people in class talk about celebrities because she says that you shouldn’t talk about people unless they’re there to defend themselves,” Mallaidh said, yawning, “So that’s weird.”

“I talk about people behind their backs all the time,” Harry agreed, “It’s my worst flaw.”

Bébhinn snorted. “No, it really isn’t.”

“Go on then Bébh,” Harry challenged, grinning, “Please enlighten everyone as to my worst flaw. I’m dying to hear it.”

“You know when we’re all cooking in the kitchen and you need to lean in front of me to get something but you jokingly say behind because you think it’s funny? And then you confuse me because I lean forward but you’re actually going forward? That’s your worst flaw, and every single time it happens I just want to hit you very hard in the dick,” she replied.

Harry raised his eyebrows. “Wow,” he said, “I wasn’t expecting that.”

“Me neither,” Mallaidh agreed, “I was thinking more along the lines of you’re very stubborn and think everything is divided very clearly into good and bad when really, nothing is ever that simple, and it makes you a little self-righteous sometimes.”

“Oh my God, Mallaidh,” Bébhinn said, “You don’t just tell someone that kind of thing.”

“I kind of already knew that,” Harry said, pulling a face, “That’s not really new information. I think I can actually add to that, if you want to hear it?”

“Oh go on then,” Bébhinn sighed, “Since we’re apparently back to talking about you.”

“My worst flaw is that I know that I see things as divided into black and white when in reality they aren’t, but then also that I think they should be. You know? Like, I know that everyone’s a little bad and a little good and it’s all a mix, but I genuinely just think everyone should be good. And I can’t ever wrap my head around why people would do things for what I consider to be the wrong reasons.”

“Well,” Bébhinn said, blinking, “At least you’re self aware.”

Harry laughed. “I don’t know, I think it’s just about that one thing.”

“What’s my worst flaw?” Bébhinn asked, “Because I think it’s that I forgot condoms existed when I had a one night stand two months ago.”

Harry snorted. “That’s not really a flaw,” he said, “I don’t know what it is, but I don’t think it’s a flaw.”

“Yeah,” Bébhinn said, “I know, I was trying for a joke.”

“Oh we can joke about it now?” Harry asked, “When did that happen?”

I’m allowed to joke about my pregnancy,” Bébhinn explained, “You aren’t. Mallaidh is, maybe, but I’ll review that on a case by case basis.”

“Why am I allowed but Harry isn’t?” Mallaidh asked, “Also should we bring a picnic to the beach?”

“Yes,” Harry said, “Straight up yes. Don’t know why you’d have to ask, yes.”

“Yes," Bébhinn echoed, "And I don’t know, I just feel like it. Maybe it’s because he’s a man, maybe it isn’t. But also I think it might be because he’s a man.”

“Fine,” Harry sighed, standing up unsteadily and hiking his pyjama trousers up a bit from where they’d slipped down. “I’m going to get dressed.”

“Wear something warm,” Mallaidh advised, “And when you’re done will you come and help me make sandwiches?”

Malfoy was still asleep when Harry went upstairs after grabbing a bowl of cereal from the kitchen, and for a moment Harry considered shaking him awake. He decided against it when he thought about the fact that they were trying not to be mean to each other, and Harry thought that might constitute as mean. He had been surprised, when he realised that Malfoy wasn’t as awful a roommate as Harry had been imagining, if he didn’t count the sleeping-with-the-shutters-open thing. They stayed out of each other’s way most of the time, and Malfoy was mostly quiet, moving silently around the room and writing in his little notebook and reading in one of the many armchairs.

Malfoy had also been unfailingly, annoyingly neat. He did this weird thing where he actually hung his clothes up after he’d taken them off. Harry had never seen anything like it in his entire life, since he and basically everyone he knew except possibly Hermione were more of the throw it on the floor and see where it lands type. Malfoy was tidy, and really clean, and he always made the en-suite smell like lavender every time he came out of there after changing, which he refused to do in the main room. Harry had been having no such qualms. Yeah, it was Malfoy, but years of sharing a dorm room had given Harry pretty much zero shame when it came to getting naked in front of someone he was sharing a room with.


Draco woke up to a half-naked Harry Potter sitting across the room from him. Again. Again for what genuinely felt like the fiftieth time in three days. Had he absolutely no shame whatsoever? Draco thought for about a single millisecond before he answered his own question. No, Potter had no shame, had never had any shame, probably would never have a single iota of shame.

Draco sat up in bed, smoothing his sleep-ruffled hair down and yawning in the dusty morning air. Potter was sitting on his own bed, eating a bowl of cereal with almost no clothes on. Merlin. It was utterly unfair, Draco thought, as he tried desperately to look anywhere else in the room, that Potter was so fucking attractive. Objectively attractive, Draco corrected himself, the kind of attractive that you notice in a person even when you sort of hate them and they definitely hate you.

“Potter,” Draco said, before clearing his throat and trying again, “Put some fucking clothes on.”

“Be civil,” Potter said, grinning in an angry sort of way around a spoonful of what looked like cheerios. Draco had never had cheerios before coming here, but they were now his favourite food in the entire world, probably. He wanted to murder everyone on the planet for not telling him about them.

“I’m starting to regret ever saying that to you,” Draco muttered.

Potter heard him anyway, because the acoustics in this room would have put a fucking concert-hall to shame. “I imagined you regretting it as soon as it was out of your mouth,” Potter said.

“Alright fine, I’m regretting ever suggesting we be civil with one another. Not for the first time. Happy?”

“Oh my God,” Potter said, “Ecstatic.”

“Put your fucking dick away,” Draco retorted, “This isn’t the Roman baths.”

“You’re lucky I help Moran with her history homework,” Potter said conversationally, “Otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten that reference. And don’t be dramatic, I’ve got pants on.”

“You don’t help her,” Draco said wearily, “I don’t know why you’re bothering to lie about it.”

“Fine,” Potter said, rolling his eyes, “She told me about it once because I was interested. There.

“Do you need to use the bathroom?” Draco asked, trying to block out whatever it was Potter was babbling on about and simultaneously trying not to notice the way the sunlight hit off Potter’s skin and made it look all golden and brown and warm. Draco wanted to punch himself in the face once that thought had finished flitting across his brain. He wanted to punch himself right in his own traitorous eyes.

“Nah,” Potter said, with an elaborate hand gesture towards the aforementioned en-suite, “It’s all yours. Mallaidh said we’re supposed to be going in about twenty minutes, though, so you’ll probably have to cut your beauty regimen down by a good hour and a half.”

Oh,” Draco said, clutching his throat theatrically, “Because I care about my appearance you think that makes me shallow. Potter, you wound me.” Potter shrugged, apparently unconcerned. “You’re the one who isn’t fucking dressed,” Draco continued. “Any idea of a time frame for that one? Or were we planning on just flashing every single person who comes in here today.”

“Nobody comes in here,” Potter sighed, closing his eyes, “Except you, unfortunately. The others let me have a bit of peace and fucking quiet.”

“You sound like my grandmother,” Draco informed him, “Everyone hated her.”

Potter wrinkled his entire face, and Draco was unable to come up with a response to that.

“Wear something formal,” Potter told him, finally standing up and digging through the pile of woollen jumpers on the floor beside his bed. He emerged with some sort of hole-ridden roll-neck in a dire shade of yellow and proceeded to throw it onto his body without a t-shirt underneath. He finished the look off with a pair of brown corduroy trousers. Draco wanted to go over there and shake some fucking sense into him. Because what was the point of having a face like Potter’s if you were going to ruin it with terrible clothes? Although, Draco supposed, his whole personality did an alright job of ruining Potter’s looks on its own.

“I’m ignoring you,” Draco informed him, searching for his black cashmere jumper. “And I’m also leaving.”

“I’m going to make sandwiches,” Potter informed him, as though Draco gave even a single fuck, “What sort of fillings do you like? Just so I can be sure not to give them to you.”

“That’s just spiteful,” Draco said, trailing off when Potter left the room without even bothering to wait for him to finish speaking. “You utter prat,” he continued, to the empty room.

They arrived at the beach unharmed, despite the terrifying car journey, and Draco wanted to remember every single tiny detail of it for the rest of his life. He wanted to live here. He wanted to build a house right on the sand, just out of reach of the huge, crashing waves.

They’d driven a different way through the mountains to get here than he’d been before, spending about twenty minutes navigating their way down tiny, treacherous roads. There had been a blanket of mist over the highest parts, a layer of cloud just sitting on top, and Draco wondered how Potter had been able to see in front of him to steer the car. Sheep had kept popping up into the road like apparitions and Potter had kept having to swerve into the ditch at the side of the road to avoid them, swearing emphatically each time. They’d driven down a cliff on the other side of the range and Draco had been able to see the thin sliver of sand they were supposed to be heading for, white waves breaking on rocks out into the dark sea.

The strip of beach was deserted, Draco realised, as he glanced around himself while Potter started unloading Merlin-knows-what out of the boot of the car. Draco risked a glance over, caught sight of a grubby cardboard box, and promptly decided he wasn’t going to offer to help. Seagulls wheeled over their heads, crying out sharply. The sand looked wet and thick, as though the tide had entirely washed out in the last minute or so, suddenly and sharply. The edge of the ocean was far away and the surface of the ground was slick and shining and soaked.

“Draco,” Moran said, and he turned to her. She was leaning against the car in a dense fair-isle jumper that came down to her knees, finishing the last remnants of a pear. She dropped the core onto the ground beside her, scuffing it into the gravel with the toe of her boot. They had parked in a tiny lay-by and Draco had spotted a little gap in the verge that would presumably take them down to the sand. “Will you take this?” She reached beside her into the open door and drew out a heavy-looking wooden box with a leather handle, beaten and a little battered. “Careful though, it’s quite heavy.”

Draco was excited and he couldn’t even be bothered trying to disguise it. Old wooden boxes with leather handles always meant something interesting was about to happen, in his limited experience. Truth be told, he had been looking forward to this for days. Mallaidh had been showing him around the farm, showing him the potions stores and all the places where she harvested her ingredients, but this would be the first time he would get to see a potion being brewed. This was the first time he would get a chance to really start on his research. He didn’t even really mind that much that Potter was here, making the atmosphere a tiny bit darker, the air a little bit heavier.

“Of course,” he said, and took it from her, weighing it in his hands. He could feel glass hitting off glass inside.

“Mallaidh,” Potter said, with his head still stuck in the boot, “I can’t reach that.” He indicated to something Draco couldn’t see, and when Mallaidh leant in to pull it out he saw a flash of bright copper.

“Is that a cauldron?” he asked, peeking his head around the car to look into the boot. A large, shallow bowl sat on the fabric car-mats, glinting determinedly in the watery grey light. It was roughly made, and the surface was bumpy and scarred. “What do you use that for?”

“You’ll see,” Bébhinn said cryptically, “Nobody tell him if he doesn’t know,” she continued, gesturing to the others with what seemed to be a ceremonial dagger in her hand. Draco felt as though it should be in a box somewhere, or at the very least wrapped in some leather or something, but he wasn’t about to voice his concerns while she was holding it like that.

Potter snorted, then hefted a garish yellow tub onto his hip. It filled with dry firewood, covered in peeling green moss, and it smelled like the barns back at the house. “They have a very loose definition of what counts as a cauldron out here,” he said, before yelping when Mallaidh poked him hard between the shoulder blades. “I’m holding something,” he protested.

Draco considered saying how would you know what constitutes a cauldron? and also considered laughing, but he did neither of those things, thinking of civil, and spun around to watch the waves crashing again instead.

They made their way down the beach unsteadily, laden down with various potions accoutrements, all of which were hidden away in boxes, or wrapped in heavy cotton, except of course Bébhinn’s knife, which she’d now slotted into one of her belt-hooks.

“Why can’t we brew closer to the car?” Draco asked, trying to sound as though he wasn’t moaning, once they’d walked about a half-mile down the beach. He definitely was moaning though, since sand was awful to walk on and his thighs were starting to ache with the effort. “Is there a reason?”

“It’s a dog-walking beach,” Moran said, stopping to wait for him to catch up, “Just because there aren’t any Muggles here right now doesn’t mean there won’t be, so it’s best to be out of the way when we set up the wards.”

“I thought Muggles knew about magic,” Draco panted. “Why do you need wards?”

“Not all of them do,” Moran explained, “Only some. It’s just safer to have them up in case someone comes over and starts asking what on earth we’re doing.”

“Come on!” Bébhinn shouted, from a little way up ahead, “Here’s a good spot!”

Draco sighed in relief, and trudged the rest of the distance beside Moran, grateful that she had slowed down to walk with him.

Mallaidh was digging a hole in the sand with her bare hands when they arrived, the covered items strewn around her in a loose circle. Draco set his box gently onto the sand and watched her for a moment with interest. “Do you want some help?” he asked, “What’s the hole for?” His hand twitched towards his back pocket and the notebook there.

“No,” she said, sitting up and brushing her hands on her knees, sand spitting onto the ground in a wide spray, “But you can go with Harry to get the water.”

“Can you not just do an aguamenti?” Draco asked.

“Seawater,” Potter sighed, “This one uses seawater.” He was still holding the tub of firewood, and his eyebrows were lowered, his forehead creased.

Seawater. Draco blinked. Then he decided to hold off on the questions until they were back and he could get his notebook out. Potter dumped the tub on the ground a few feet away, over where the sand was a little bit dryer. “Come on then,” he said, in a tone Draco could only describe as long-suffering.

“Have you brewed this potion before?” Draco asked, trying to make conversation, as he and Potter stepped over a tide pool and started crushing shells underfoot on their way down to the water’s edge.

“Yeah,” Potter said, swinging a clouded glass jug in a wide semicircle. Draco barely restrained himself from flinching out of the way. “It’s pretty easy.”

Draco took a deep breath. “I don’t know how to respond to that without being rude,” he admitted. To his surprise, Potter laughed shortly, sounding for a second as though it had shocked him, too. “Do you want me to tell you what I was going to say?” Draco offered.

“Alright,” Potter replied, as though he didn’t care either way, “Go for it, if you’re so desperate.”

Draco ignored him “My response to that would have been, ‘If you think it’s easy, Potter, then a newborn baby must be able to make it.’ If we weren’t being civil, of course.”

“Oh, of course,” Potter deadpanned. “That was a shitty insult anyway.”

“It wasn’t shitty,” Draco argued, wrinkling his nose at some seaweed, “I didn’t have a lot of time to think of it, that’s all.”

“It was shitty,” Potter said, almost to himself, “Although I don’t know why I’d want you to be better at insulting me.”

“What if I’d said then a toddler must be able to make it?” Draco asked, not really expecting a response.

Potter laughed, again, properly, and Draco had seen it before but never directed at him. His eyes started doing something awful and sparkly, his mouth went wide and relaxed and happy, and Draco almost stopped breathing. He didn’t know if he never wanted to see it again or if he wanted to see it all the time.

Abruptly, Potter’s face shuttered, and he cut off, and Draco decided. He wanted to see it all the time, he missed it. Potter probably shouldn’t do anything else again in his life except for laugh.

“Stop,” Potter said, practically growling.

“Stop what?” Draco replied tiredly, suddenly sick of Potter and his fucking behaviour that didn’t ever make any fucking sense.

“Stop talking to me,” Potter told him, with this horrible blank look on his face, “Stop fucking talking.”

Draco scoffed, because it was so rude he couldn’t even fathom what had made Potter say it, and he had no idea how to respond.

“We’re here,” Potter continued, “Before you start crying.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Draco asked, narrowing his eyes, “What makes you think you can talk to me like that?”

Potter shook his head, “I don’t want to get into an argument.”

Draco almost laughed. If Potter didn’t want to get into a fucking argument then why did he keep trying to start an argument? Draco was struck with how unfair this situation was. What gave Potter the right to insult without consequence? “You’re not acting like it,” Draco told him.

Potter shrugged, and Draco had never realised before how rude it was to shrug when someone said something to you. “I guess I can’t help myself.”

Merlin, Potter wasn’t even trying, was he? Draco had known, before, that Potter hated him, but he hadn’t realised he wouldn’t even be given a chance. And now Draco was angry, because he had honestly believed that it didn’t matter to him what Potter thought anymore. Right up until he saw the look in Potter’s eyes and Draco thought about how awful it was to be looked at like that, and how he wanted it to stop. He had forgotten, in the last five years, what it felt like to be looked at as though you were worthless.

He stopped in his tracks, itching to say something. What gave Potter the right to think he was better than Draco, when he didn’t even know Draco anymore? What gave Potter the right to act as though he hadn’t done some awful things, almost equally as awful as Draco had done? What gave Potter the audacity to act as though he hadn’t almost killed Draco, once? Or had he forgotten, and how could you forget something like that?

“Potter,” he said, “I think you should remember that you’re not so perfect either, before you talk to me as though I’m the worst person to ever walk the planet.”

Potter widened his eyes and laughed, but it wasn’t anything like before, it was cruel. “You think I think I’m perfect. Oh my God,” he said, as though he was in awe. “That’s ridiculous. You have no idea.

“Alright well you don’t know me,” Draco responded, “You have never known me.”

“Malfoy,” Potter said, in a horrible tone of voice that made Draco feel like a child, “I do. So I think you can forgive me for hating myself when you make me laugh.”

Draco couldn’t breathe, didn’t know what to say. What do you say to something like that? What did it even mean?

“You may have seen me when I was sixteen,” Draco said, so slowly, “You may have seen me do all those awful things and deduced that I was an awful person. And you know what? I was, at sixteen, at seventeen. But it’s been five years since I saw you last, and even you can’t be so oblivious as to think everyone stays the exact same all their life.”

“I can’t think about that,” Potter said, inexplicably, lowering his shoulders, his body going all loose and slumped and defeated. “Stop talking about it, I can’t think about it.”

Draco’s whole body tensed with unsurety, a muscle jumping in his clenched jaw, his errant fingers twitching, desperate to reach out and touch Potter’s shoulder, more by reflex than anything else.

“How much water do we need?” he asked instead, hating how soft his voice sounded, as though Potter had beaten it into submission.

Potter swallowed hard and knelt down, the water rushing over his shoes furiously. “I think three litres,” he said, voice cracking, dipping the jug in and pulling it up in one swift motion. Draco could see sand, swirling in a fast hurricane inside the cloudy water.

“Won’t that sand be a problem?” he asked, “What is this even for, anyway?”

“Dunno,” Potter shrugged, even though both of them knew very well that Potter did know. “Let’s go back so you can ask someone else about it.”

Mallaidh poured three litres of seawater into the shallow copper bowl, that was set now in the hole she’d dug in the sand. The rim of the metal was just slightly below the surface of the beach.

“This is the base,” she said, and Draco’s brain went a bit fuzzy.

“No,” he said, ignoring the way Potter snorted behind him, “A potion base needs to be neutral. Seawater is about the least neutral thing there is.”

“Shut up,” she said, and Draco was shocked for a second before he realised she was looking over his shoulder. “You can get a start on the fire if you want.”

Draco saw Potter back away to the tub of wood out of the corner of his eye. Beyond him, Bébhinn was standing with her hands in the air, and Draco could see the ripple of wards start to form, and he could feel how strong they were, something about the way the air changed.

“Okay,” Mallaidh said, back to addressing Draco, “Maybe it’ll help if you don’t think of it as a base. But just… something that gives the potion volume.”

“I don’t understand,” Draco said, taking his notebook out and flipping to a blank page. He licked the tip of his quill. “It doesn’t make sense, potions are all about control, and you can’t control what goes into seawater.

“Potions isn't all about control,” she replied, “Potions is about intent.

“What,” Draco said, his thoughts flattening, “No it isn’t. It’s about ingredients and measurements and timing. Control. A potion won’t work without all of those things.”

“Maybe the way you do it,” Mallaidh replied, “But here it’s different. It’s like the magic wants us to succeed. Like it sees the way that we help people and corrects the potion if it’s overbalanced. You’ll see.”

Draco tried not to whimper. That’s not how it works, he wanted to say, Magic doesn’t want anything. “Alright,” he said instead, trying to suspend his disbelief, “What about the bowl? Why is it set into the sand like that?”

“Harry?” she said, glancing over at Potter, who was grumpily building a triangle bonfire. “Want to answer that one?”

Potter sat back on his heels and looked over at Draco. His hair was whipping about his face, almost obscuring those eyes of his. “The first part of the potion is brewed in the cold because the fresh things go in first, cold seawater, cold fern leaves, cold dandelion stalk. The sand keeps the bowl cool.”

Draco blinked. Potter knew something about potions. Potter had told Draco something about potions. He didn’t quite know what to do.

“Here,” Mallaidh said, pulling out a scarred wooden chopping board from within a piece of cloth, “You can chop the fern while I mash the goosegrass.”

“Alright,” Draco said weakly, “Any specific cutting technique?”

“No,” she said, offering him a handful of bright green fern leaves, “Whatever you like best.” Draco had been expecting that one, actually.

“Mallaidh!” Moran shouted, “Bébh and I are going for a walk! Do you need us to collect anything?”

Mallaidh stood, and Draco was left chopping ferns on his own, his hands gradually becoming more and more yellow, stained from the juice.

“Essence of dittany,” Mallaidh explained, as she transferred the lumpy potion into an iron cauldron, set over the bonfire Potter had lit, “Is very difficult to access here.”

“It’s difficult to access anywhere,” Potter said, “Hermione only had a tiny bit when we were--” He cut off, shook his head sharply.

“It’s difficult to access anywhere,” Mallaidh amended, and Draco watched as she put a hand on Potter’s forearm to squeeze gently. “So this is a replacement.”

“Is it effective?” Draco asked, “Because most of the alternatives are terrible.”

“It’s quite good. It heals cuts very well, the only thing it doesn’t do is get rid of scarring. For that we’d need fairy wing, and that’s probably harder to get than dittany itself.”

“Also it’s unethical,” Potter interjected.

“Also it’s unethical,” she agreed.

“Essence of dittany isn’t one hundred percent when it comes to scars anyway,” Draco said distractedly, thinking about the cosmetic purposes of fairy wings and how that connected with the healing of scars. He was about to write a note down when he heard an odd strangled sound from beside him and looked up.

Potter wasn’t moving, wasn’t blinking, was just staring at Draco with an awful look of terror in his eyes, and Draco realised suddenly how Potter would have taken that. The bonfire expanded, bursting upwards at a harsh gust of wind, and the reflection of the firelight rose up into Potter’s glasses, dancing on the surface. Draco inhaled and his chest tightened, he could almost feel his scars, the ones Potter had given him, contracting with his breaths.

They held eye contact for what felt like forever, before Potter jerked his face away and stood up. “Malfoy,” he said, “Come and help me look for something.”

Mallaidh looked between them confusedly. “I need some of that dark green seaweed,” she volunteered, after a tense moment.

“Mallaidh needs some of that dark green seaweed,” Potter repeated, still watching Draco intently. “Come on.”

The sky darkened as Draco followed Potter down the beach, a few metres behind him. Clouds were rolling in off the ocean, and Draco could feel the spray from the waves spitting onto his cheeks. They were loud, crashing beside him, and he thought Potter probably couldn’t hear that Draco was trailing him. He rethought that when he heard a shriek from back down the beach, when he turned to see Moran and Bébhinn racing along the sand, laughing and tripping over their feet.

“Look,” Draco heard Potter say, faintly. He swivelled. Potter was pointing at the floor, leaning down and looking at the place where the water stopped.

Draco took a few steps closer, afraid all of a sudden. Had he provoked Potter, by making some ambiguous reference to a harm Potter had caused him so long ago?

“Look,” Potter repeated, and Draco followed his gaze down to the floor. A tiny, translucent jellyfish lay there in the sand, clear and quivering.

“Oh,” Draco said, “I’ve never seen one before.”

“They’re potions ingredients,” Potter said, “Surely you’ve seen one.”

“Yes,” Draco sighed, “But I’ve never seen one like this. In the wild.”

“Do you think it’s alive?” Potter asked, squatting down beside it and reaching his hand out.

“Don’t touch it,” Draco said, “It’ll sting you.”

“Not the top,” Potter said, but Draco heard an unspoken what do you care? “Only the… tentacles, or whatever, sting you.”

“I think it’s alive,” Draco said, even though he had no evidence either way.

Potter glanced up at him. “Invisibility potions are rare, aren’t they?” Draco nodded. “This little guy is a main ingredient in the one we brew in Ireland.”

“I don’t think jellyfish have a gender,” Draco said, “Or a sex.”

“It’s a figure of speech,” Potter replied absently. “Mallaidh would want this.”

Draco watched him for a second, silently. The little jellyfish, glowing a small bit in the weak light. Potter, staring down at it intently. Draco took out his wand. “Do you think it’ll be alright if I wingardium it back into the sea?” he asked.

Potter’s eyes snapped upwards, soft around the edges, as if he had been expecting Draco to make a bloody potion out of it where they both stood. He nodded.


Malfoy had scars, Harry thought, watching him levitate a jellyfish back into the ocean. Malfoy had scars that Harry had given him. Malfoy had scars that Harry had given him and Malfoy was saving the life of a jellyfish.

It should be easy to hate him. After all the things that Malfoy had done it should come naturally to Harry. He thought about the word mudblood, and the way Hermione’s face always crumpled when she had heard it. Harry thought about the way it was on her body now, permanently, a reminder of that day in the Manor. He thought about the Death Eaters, and how Malfoy had been one of them, and how Malfoy had wanted to be one of them.

He also thought about Malfoy saving his life. Thought about the Malfoy who had suggested civil . Malfoy who had scars. What did Harry do here? Did he forgive Malfoy for everything he’d done? And if he forgave Malfoy was that the same as saying that the things Malfoy had done were okay? And if he didn’t forgive Malfoy was that hypocritical, when Harry had done some different, terrible things? He didn’t know, and it hurt his brain to think about it. There wasn’t an easy answer, Harry knew, as he looked at the intense concentration on Malfoy’s face, at the way Malfoy’s jumper rode up as he brandished his wand. And the very bottom of Malfoy’s dark mark peeking out of his jumper.

“You have scars,” he said, once Malfoy was done with the jellyfish. “From that time in sixth year.”

It wasn’t a question but Malfoy answered anyway. “Yes,” he said, “I have scars.”

“I thought that Snape--” Harry began, but Malfoy cut him off.

“He didn’t get there in time to stop the scarring,” Malfoy said, “I probably deserved them.”

“What?” Harry asked, sure he had misheard.

“I don’t know why I said that,” Malfoy said, rubbing his eyelids with the heels of his hands, “I don’t think I deserved them. I think I deserved something. Some punishment, probably. But not for that, not for crying in a fucking bathroom.”

“You tried to crucio me,” Harry said, “What was I supposed to do?”

Malfoy looked at him, steadily, and it was clear they were both thinking the same thing. Anything but sectumsempra. “I’m sorry,” Harry said, because he couldn’t stop himself from hating Malfoy, couldn’t stop that awful sick feeling he got in his stomach when he saw him. That rush of terror and adrenaline that reminded him of fighting. Maybe one day that feeling would disappear, and maybe Harry would be glad to see it go, but it wasn’t today.

He could apologise though, for giving Malfoy scars. For giving Malfoy scars and also everything. Sorry you grew up in that house, sorry you couldn’t make the right decisions, sorry you got hurt because in a kinder world it shouldn’t have happened, sorry I almost ended your life, sorry that our lives were both so awful. It wasn’t much, but it was something, and it was all Harry could manage.

“I’m sorry too,” Malfoy said, and Harry had no idea at all which of his misdeeds he was apologising for.

“I can hardly look at you sometimes,” Harry said, and he wanted to cry at the look on Malfoy’s face. He didn’t know why he had said that. He wanted to take it back.

“I can hardly look at myself, sometimes,” Malfoy replied, and it might have been the saddest thing Harry had ever heard. “But fuck you for saying that, anyway.”

“I wish--” Harry started, but Malfoy interrupted him again.

“Don’t,” he said, as though he knew what Harry had been about to say, even though Harry himself wasn’t even sure. “If you want to be able to look at me then just look at me. Don’t deliberate for hours on end about how it makes you feel. Just fucking do it. And if you wish things could be different then make them different.

Harry didn’t know what to say. Of course he wished things could be different, but it wasn’t that simple. Too much had happened for change to be that easy. And if he was being really honest with himself, it was simple to hate Draco Malfoy, it was the path of least resistance, it was habit.

And then Harry felt so fucking sick with himself, at that realisation, because hating someone because it was easier than the opposite was terrible, and hating someone because you were used to it was worse. He had no idea how to go about not hating Malfoy, though. Where did a person even start with a task like that? Probably with being civil, Harry thought.

 

Chapter Text

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Mallaidh said, tapping a teaspoon against her cocktail glass, the one Harry and everyone else in here knew full well was filled with sparkling orange juice and not some exotic alcohol. The sound twinkled through the room, echoing in the corners, and everyone fell silent. Her face was lit from beneath, golden in the flickering candlelight. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she continued, in a much lower tone, “I know it’s been a bit delayed because we’ve all been busy, but let’s all officially take this time to welcome Draco to our home.”

Bébhinn and Moran started clapping enthusiastically. “Hear hear,” Moran said, raising her glass, “To Draco!” She declined into a fit of laughter when Bébhinn did an elaborate bow in Malfoy’s direction.

“I’ve been here for two weeks,” Malfoy said wryly, a fingertip resting on his glass of red wine, “But I very much appreciate the sentiment anyway.”

“It has not been two weeks,” Mallaidh said, her mouth in a shocked little oh. “Shit.”

“Mallaidh,” Moran said, “Babe. Mallaidh. Babe. Please tell me you know it’s been two weeks.”

“It seems like less,” Mallaidh replied, frowning, before sitting down at the head of the table, directly in between Harry and Malfoy.

“You know what,” Bébh said conspiratorially, “I think we need a holiday. It’s been so fucking long since we’ve had a holiday.”

Yesss,” Moran hissed, before clutching at Bébhinn’s arm, “Please let’s go on a holiday?”

“We can’t just go on a holiday,” Mallaidh sighed, “We have responsibilities.”

Harry interjected when he saw the crumpled look on Moran’s face. “Where’s dinner?” he asked. “Not that I’m not loving this drinks-only dinner party, because I am. But also, I’m quite hungry.”

Malfoy snorted and Harry levelled him with a look. “You’re always hungry, Potter,” he said, ignoring it.

Harry blinked in confusion then pointed to his face. “Did you not see the look I just gave you?”

“Yes,” Malfoy said, with a frown, “What was it? I thought you were just hungry.”

“Oh my God,” Harry said, “For future reference, when I do this face--” he cut off and looked at Malfoy from under his brow, “That means that I know you’re about to say something rude and that I think you shouldn’t say it.”

“What’s wrong with being hungry all the time?” Moran asked from beside Harry, before Malfoy had a chance to respond.

“Nothing,” Harry said defensively, “Malfoy was the one who said it like it was an insult.”

“I said it like a fact,” Malfoy said, studying his fingernails, “Which it is. Potter was the one who took offense. Which could be seen as offensive in its own right, if we all take a moment to really think about it.”

Christ,” Bébhinn moaned, “You’re just as bad as each other, can we leave it at that?”

“Dinner,” Moran reminded them, “Who was meant to make it? What day is it?”

Harry groaned when everyone turned to stare at her. “Please tell me you’re joking,” he said, “Like we’re all going to laugh at this in a few seconds when you jump up and bring us dinner.”

“I’m beginning to get the feeling,” Moran said, looking around the table at everyone’s faces, “That you all thought it was my turn to cook.”

“It’s a Sunday,” Malfoy said coolly, “So yes. And I know I’m meant to be neutral here because I’m new but also I cannot believe that you’ve done this to us.”

“It’s not a fucking Sunday,” Moran said, wide eyed. “Oh fuck me.” She clambered out of the armchair she always ate in, throwing her cloth napkin onto the table. “Homework,” she said shortly, “Fucking motherfuck,” and ran out of the room.

The door slammed behind her and Harry put his head in his hands. “I can’t believe we were all just fucking sitting here like goons waiting for dinner to be brought out.”

“Best sports movies,” Bébhinn blurted, pointing at Mallaidh, “Go.”

“What?” Mallaidh asked, downing the rest of her club orange and pouring herself a glass of sprite, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Goon,” Bébhinn said, “That movie about ice hockey, the best sports movie of all time.”

“What about it?” Harry asked, “I thought we were about to argue over who had to go and make dinner now that Moran’s run off to actually do homework for once.”

“I was just wondering what everyone else thought,” Bébhinn said, a little more subdued now. “About what was the best sports movie of all time.”

“Blue Crush,” Harry sighed, taking a long sip of water and giving up, “And Moran’s answer would be the same.”

“I’ve never seen a sports movie,” Malfoy said, “Do they have one about Quidditch?”

“Muggles don’t know about Quidditch,” Harry told him, “So I really fucking doubt it mate.”

“Don’t mate me,” Malfoy said, making a face that was disgusted and also totally unwarranted.

“Ugh,” Harry said, closing his eyes, “You have no idea how that sentence sounded.”

“I’d like to eat something,” Mallaidh said, “And I think that Harry should cook, if that’s alright with you, Harry.” She looked over at him and he found himself nodding, even before she’d finished talking. “Because I’m quite tired, Bébhinn did lunch, and then Draco’s quite bad at making anything that isn’t like, Beef Wellington,” she elaborated.

Malfoy narrowed his eyes. “Beef Wellington is a valuable addition to any cook’s repertoire and I will not be shamed for my high standards.”

“It’s quite fancy,” Bébhinn told him, apologetically, as though she was trying to sooth an incredibly nervous horse. "Also you know we're all vegans, to be fair."

“Well don’t come crying to me when all you can rustle up for a dinner party is beans on toast,” Malfoy said, crossing his arms firmly.

“We definitely won’t,” Harry interjected, “Any dinner requests?”

“Beef Wellington,” Malfoy said, “Oh wait. None of you heathens can even make it.

“You should all prepare yourselves,” Harry said, ignoring Malfoy almost entirely, pushing his chair away from the table before standing up, “Because I’m actually doing beans on toast now.”

Bébhinn made some sort of horrible wounded noise at that and the sound followed him out of the room and practically all the way into the kitchen. The lights were off when he went in, and he flicked the switch downwards, waiting a few seconds for the lightbulbs to wrench themselves into illumination. He was opening a tin of beans over the sink when Malfoy turned up, opening the fridge and sticking his head in.

“Have we got any ice cubes?” he asked.

Harry looked over his shoulder. Malfoy’s face was washed out in the stark fluorescence. He kicked his foot towards the bottom drawer of the fridge. “You’re looking in the wrong bit. They’re in the freezer.”

Malfoy nodded shortly and squatted on the floor, opening the black freezer drawer with interest. A cloud of white smoke spilled out as he opened it.

“Merlin,” he said, “I never know where to search for anything in this place.”

Harry emptied the beans into a heavy saucepan and put them on the hob. “Here,” he sighed, as he went over to Malfoy and drew out the little drawer inside the main drawer that held the ice cubes, “You fill this up with water and then they freeze.”

“Bébhinn asked me to get them,” Malfoy said, as if Harry were accusing him of something.

“Okay,” Harry replied, stepping back over to the cooker and stirring the beans. “Do you want to know how to use the toaster?” he offered, after a second of not-totally-uncomfortable silence.

Malfoy scoffed. “Why on earth do you imagine I’d want to do that?” And Harry had to fight the urge to roll his eyes, because Malfoy had actually been tolerable, these last two weeks, once Harry had decided to actually tolerate him, until he went ahead and said stuff like that.

“I don’t know,” Harry deadpanned, “So that you can make toast? I can’t think of any other reasons right now, but I’ll get back to you as soon as I come up with some.”

“Maybe another time,” Malfoy said, “If that’s alright with you.”

“I wasn’t like, super invested in it or anything,” Harry told him, shaking his head and grabbing a couple of slices of brown bread from the breadbin in the corner of the countertop.

“Potter,” Malfoy said, his voice going all odd and low and serious, “What are you--”

“Harry,” Moran interrupted, breathless in the doorway of the room, “Do you know anything about quadratic equations?”

Harry watched Malfoy’s face for a few more seconds, saw how it shuttered at the sound of Moran’s voice, his grey eyes narrowing once more.

“No,” Harry said, tearing his eyes away from Malfoy, “I don’t even know what those are.”

“Oh yeah,” she replied, leaning back against the door and waving a piece of paper around emphatically, “I forget that all you did at that fancy school of yours was like, Transfigurations and stuff.”

“It’s not all we did,” Malfoy argued, “There was Herbology, and Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Care of Magical Creatures, if you can call that last one a subject.”

“Alright,” Moran sighed, interrupting, as if she could sense when Harry was about to say something rude, “I get you went to a Wizarding school, no need to rub it in.”

“You could have gone to Hogwarts,” Harry reminded her softly. She could have gone five years ago when her parents left, but she hadn’t wanted to then, and Harry suspected she didn’t want to now, either.

“I didn’t want to go to Hogwarts,” Moran said, confirming what he already knew, “I want there to be a Wizarding school here.”

“Start one,” Malfoy said, before picking up the glass he’d been wrestling ice cubes into. They clinked against one another. “I’m not actually entirely sure how you’d do that,” he continued absently, making for the door, “But I don’t think it would be too difficult to find out.”

“Moran wants to start a school” Harry announced, when he returned to the dining room with three plates wavering in the air behind him. “Thanks to this one.” He nodded his head in Malfoy’s direction, who just stared at him blankly.

“You’re fucking kidding me,” Bébhinn said, setting her glass down heavily on the table. “Also isn’t she eating with us?”

“No,” Harry said, handing everyone their beans on toast. He didn’t miss the way Malfoy’s nose wrinkled slightly as he stared down at it. “She helped me with buttering the toast and then she ran off upstairs with her dinner to do homework.

“I don’t believe you,” Bébhinn said, “Prove it.”

“She asked Potter a question about maths,” Malfoy interjected, poking suspiciously at a baked bean with his fork.

“Wow,” Mallaidh said, “I assume you couldn’t answer it.”

“You assume correctly,” Harry said, “But I’m not going to let any of you make me feel bad about the fact that I can’t do maths. It’s just not happening.”

“We’re not trying to make you feel bad,” said Bébhinn, “I just think it’s a bit weird that Hogwarts stopped teaching it at eleven. At eleven I barely knew how to fucking add, let alone all the other stuff. Subtracting, times tables, all that shit.”

“Weren’t you home schooled?” Malfoy asked.

“Yeah,” Bébhinn replied warily, “What of it?”

“I just don’t think it’s an accurate comparison,” Malfoy said, “Some other children might have been at a higher level than that at eleven.”

“I can’t tell if you’re insulting me or not,” Bébhinn asked, “Are you insulting me?”

“No,” Malfoy said, sitting back in his seat a little and looking genuinely aghast that she would even suggest it. Which was really fucking rich, Harry thought, coming from him. “Of course not.”

“I have a question,” Harry said, “Why are we talking about this?”

“It’s a conversation, Potter,” Malfoy sighed, “Have you honestly never been a part of one before?”

“Why are we talking about maths,” Harry elaborated, “Of all the fucking things.”

“I feel as though you brought it up,” Malfoy pointed out.

You brought it up,” Harry protested, “About thirty fucking seconds ago. How do you not remember that?”

“I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about,” Malfoy responded airily, before taking a small bite of toast, “But if you wish to change the topic of conversation, then by all means do so.”

“Why are you talking like that?” Harry demanded, “Are we all of a sudden in a fucking Jane Austen novel and nobody let me know?”

“I still don’t know what you’re talking about,” Malfoy informed him, “And I can’t say I care to.”

“Is anyone else hearing this?” Harry asked, looking first at Mallaidh, then Bébhinn. “He’s gone really posh all of a sudden, right? Or is that just me?”

Bébhinn shrugged. “I’ve been tuning it out.”

Mallaidh hummed briefly. “I think Draco pretends to be posher than he is when you two get into an argument.”

“I do not, ” Malfoy replied, “I do no such thing because I’m very posh all the time, thank you very much.

“You’re doing it right now,” Harry said gleefully, pointing his knife at Malfoy briefly before remembering his table manners and lowering it. “I can’t believe I haven’t noticed this before.”

“Hm,” Malfoy said, making a face.

“What?” Harry sighed, “If it’s an insult then let’s just hear it.

“No,” Malfoy replied slowly, “It was more of an outward vocalisation of an internal dilemma.”

“Okay,” Harry said, “Brilliant. Don’t know what the fuck you’re saying.”

“Well, when you said I can’t believe I haven’t noticed this before, I just had a little crisis about whether or not to make a comment on your general obliviousness, and then if I did would that then be admitting you had something to be oblivious about, if you get my drift,” Malfoy said, in a way that made it clear he thought he was explaining something, when he most certainly wasn’t.

“I don’t,” Harry told him.

“Yes,” Malfoy sighed, “I suppose that’s to be expected though, isn’t it.”

“Can you fucking stop telling me how unintelligent you think I am,” Harry growled, “Because I’ve been trying very hard this week to not think you’re such a fucking prat anymore, but when you say stuff like that it makes it very difficult for me.”

“Oh is that what you’ve been doing?” Malfoy asked thoughtfully, “I did wonder.”

“You know what--” Harry started, fully ready to throw all thoughts of reconciliation to the wind and just fucking get into it with Malfoy again, before he was cut off by Mallaidh.

“Hey,” she said softly, and Harry turned to look at her, “We don’t argue at the dinner table.”

“You’d better not be taking his side,” Harry grumbled.

“I’m not taking sides,” she said, “It’s just that this was supposed to be a nice welcome dinner and now we’re missing one person and two more can’t stop arguing with each other.”

“Sorry,” Harry said, to her, not to Malfoy. He really was sorry, if not for the actual arguing then definitely for ruining something she had planned out. Harry knew all about how bad it felt when plans, even small ones, even meaningless ones, became derailed. “Sorry, Mallaidh.”

“Yes,” Malfoy said, sort of self-deprecatingly, “It’s terribly uncouth to argue at the dining table, I don’t know what my mother would say if she were here.” Harry closed his eyes, to stop him from rolling his eyes.

“Are we done?” Bébhinn asked, lifting her head from where it had been resting beside her plate, “You’re all tuckered out?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,” Malfoy said, again, apologetically, in a voice he would never use with Harry, not in a million years.

“It’s alright,” Bébhinn said, before patting his arm gently, “I hardly do either most of the time.”

“I wanted to talk about something,” Mallaidh’s hopeful voice piped up, “About Draco’s research?”

“Oh do we have to,” Harry asked, before he could stop himself.

“Refrain from being rude,” Malfoy suggested, more chirpily than Harry ever would have thought possible, “Just try it on for size, see how it fits.”

“You know what?” Harry repeated, before he was interrupted for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.

“So,” Mallaidh said, in an extremely firm tone of voice. “I have a list of things I wanted to show you, Draco, and then once we’ve covered everything on it we can have another meeting and you can tell me if there’s anything you want to delve into more, or if there’s anything you think I missed out on.”

“I don’t know if he’d know if he’d missed out on anything,” Bébhinn pointed out, “If you catch my drift. Great phrase, by the way Draco. But let’s hear the schedule anyway.”

“So we covered potions using seawater as a base, but I wanted to also talk about the different places you can brew potions, and how that affects them.”

“Before,” Malfoy said slowly, looking into that fucking notebook of his, the one that he could apparently produce out of thin air on a moment’s notice, “Potter mentioned something along the lines of they have a very loose definition of ‘cauldron’ here, and I’m interested to find out what that means.”

“Yes,” Mallaidh said, “I’ve got that written in for some time in the next week. There’s also an experiment I’d like to try, where we brew two potions that should have the same effect, say… anti-sickness or something, but one with the British version and one with our version, and see how they differ.”

Malfoy nodded, “Anti-sickness potions vary a lot anyway, though, so it could be something like a sleeping draught? Because they all have very much the same effects.”

“Yes!” Mallaidh agreed enthusiastically, “Let’s do that. Also, if it’s--” she cut off and looked over at Harry, as if she was a little afraid to voice the next thing, “If it’s alright with the both of you, then I’d like Harry to take you around the gardens in the next few days, show you how we use potions to maintain them. And then some of the places we actually grow our own ingredients.”

Harry sighed, it had been quite a while since he’d actually seen Mallaidh that excited about something that wasn’t her dogs. “Yeah,” he said, because of that and also because he remembered he was trying to be nicer, “I’ve got some time tomorrow.”

*

“This,” Harry said, extending his arm outwards theatrically, because he’d had two coffees earlier that morning, “Is the polytunnel.”

Malfoy wrinkled his nose. “Are you talking about that white thing over there? I can hardly see it.”

Harry followed Malfoy’s gaze. “I admit it’s a little overgrown,” Harry said, looking at the waist high nettles and the massive ferns and the blackberry bushes, and the tall grass that was almost collapsing under its own weight, and how green everything was. The garden smelled ripe and earthy, as though everything in it was just on the right side of rotting. If he would have turned back the way they’d come he would barely have been able to see the house, just a white window or two, perhaps.

A little?” Malfoy said incredulously, “I’d hate to see what your definition of a lot would be.”

“Alright,” Harry conceded, “This actually counts as a lot overgrown, it’s pretty bad.”

“How do we even get to this… polytunnel?” Malfoy asked apprehensively, surveying the thicket before them, and Harry knew he was seeing the lack of any discernible path. A strong breeze was making everything rustle together, nettles hitting off grass with a gentle brushing noise that was made loud when multiplied by a hundred, the leaves in the high trees chattering amongst each other.

“I mean,” Harry said, with a grimace, “I usually just sort of… fight my way in.”

“Right,” Malfoy said, looking him up and down momentarily, in a way that made Harry feel as though he was being evaluated, “I see.”

“What do you see?” Harry asked, and as soon as it was out of his throat he was sure he didn’t want to hear the answer.

“I understand now why you look like such a mess all the time,” Malfoy said, “If you’re doing this sort of thing every day.” He made an encompassing gesture toward Harry, and then toward the patch of wilderness they were on the edge of. Harry tried not to look down at his outfit, but he did anyway and hoped Malfoy hadn’t noticed. He didn’t even think he looked particularly bad today, actually, in a pair of dark green cords and a thick wax jacket he’d bought at a farming co-op. He supposed he could have actually brushed his hair, instead of tying it back with a hairband stolen from the bathroom. Harry suspected there must be tendrils escaping, because there usually were.

“Oh just come on,” Harry sighed, starting in the direction of the polytunnel and choosing not to comment on how utterly incongruous Malfoy looked out here, all impeccable and aristocratic, as though he should have a few pedigree greyhounds following him around or something. His white hair was ruffled, though, because he’d finally stopped gelling it back as though his life depended on it, and his cheeks were stained a little pink from the cold.

Merlin,” Malfoy muttered under his breath.

“Look,” Harry said impatiently, “If you don’t want to do any work then you can just fuck off for a bit while I do this.”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t--” Malfoy started, before cutting off sharply. “Just shut up, I’ll help. Is it diffindo?”

“Yeah,” Harry replied, “If you cut as close to the ground as possible then it makes it easier.”

“Fine,” Malfoy said shortly, aiming a neat diffindo towards a thorny blackberry branch. It broke with a crack and sank towards the ground in slow motion, cradled in the thick grass.

They made their way slowly towards the polytunnel and by the time they arrived Harry was sweating profusely, despite the chilly weather. He watched a bead of sweat run down the side of Malfoy’s forehead before he turned away to fiddle with the door handle.

“You do this every time?” Malfoy asked, breathing heavily, almost on the verge of panting.

“Yeah,” Harry said, shrugging, “It’s really only the specialist stuff we grow out here anyway, so it’s not like I need to do it that often.”

“Right,” Malfoy said, trailing off when Harry finally unstuck the door and pushed himself inside. “Right,” he said again, absently this time, staring upwards at the plastic ceiling, and the dark red vines trailing there. He took out his notebook and started scribbling furiously. “Is that Moonseed?” he asked, pointing his quill in the direction of the small, silvery green plant in the corner, “That’s incredibly poisonous.”

“Yep,” Harry responded, “These are mostly poisonous, to be honest with you. I didn’t actually know what half the stuff even was when I took over caring for it, I had to get Nev over for a week or two to talk me through everything.”

“Neville Longbottom?” Malfoy guessed, poking at the Moonseed stalk dubiously, “I heard he was doing something off in Australia.”

Harry blinked. “Yeah,” he said, struck by the fact that Malfoy would know that, that he would even care. “He’s been there for about a year, something about marine plants. He once went on a twenty-minute rant about how ‘above-ground plants’ were always taken much more seriously than underwater ones. It was terrifying.”

“Hm,” Malfoy said, “I ran into him a couple of years back.”

“Right,” Harry said, “Did you--”

“Potter,” Malfoy interrupted flatly, “That’s aconite.”

“What?” Harry asked, trailing Malfoy as he weaved his way in between the sturdy oak benches. “I don’t think so.” He reconsidered for a second. “Actually, what is that?”

“Wolfsbane,” Malfoy replied, “Monkshood. Where in the world did you get this? How did you get it to bloom?”

“Um,” Harry said, glancing between Malfoy’s awestruck face and the tall blue plant in a terracotta pot on the floor beside their feet. “I don’t know. It just does that. Is it not supposed to do that?”

“It grows in the wild,” Malfoy told him, writing another bloody note down on his paper, “Only the wild. So no, it’s certainly not supposed to be able to grow in whatever this monstrosity is. Just invest in a bloody greenhouse for Merlin’s sake.”

“There used to be a greenhouse,” Harry replied indignantly. “Do you see those fucking vines though?” He pointed upwards, not waiting for a reply before he continued. “They grew through the panes of glass, it was ridiculous. And for some fucking reason they don’t grow through plastic, so that’s why we have this monstrosity. Any other disparaging remarks about our plant-growing methods?”

“That’s a pretty big word for you, isn’t it?” Malfoy replied coolly.

Civil,” Harry reminded him, through gritted teeth. He clenched his fists. “You fucking prat.”

To his surprise, Malfoy just laughed softly and went back to writing. Harry didn’t know what it said about him that he was almost disappointed when Malfoy backed down so quickly. “Is this a different type of Wolfsbane than in England, or do you do something to this that makes it grow indoors?” he asked. And Harry really had no way of answering that.

“I don’t know,” he said, “I don’t do anything special, I just come in and water them whenever the schedule says to.”

“Interesting,” Malfoy mused, even though it definitely wasn’t. “Different type, then. Do you think that affects its potency when used in potions? I wonder if it has different effects.”

Harry waited in silence for a few moments before asking “Do you actually want me to answer those?”

Malfoy looked up at him in confusion. “Do you know the answers?”

“No,” Harry said.

“Well then,” Malfoy replied decisively, “We seemed to have figured that one out pretty nicely.”

“Do you seriously find this interesting?” Harry asked, before he could think better of it.

Malfoy sat back on his haunches, and Harry didn’t know how he could go so quickly between that posh, never-got-his-hands-dirty-in-his-life thing and the current, at-home-in-a-plant-shed thing. “Don’t you ?” he countered.

“Not particularly,” Harry admitted, “It’s just one of the jobs I have to do.”

“It’s the thing I’ve chosen to do for the rest of my life,” Malfoy said, “So yes. I find it interesting.”

“I thought you’d chosen the potions part,” Harry replied.

“This is the potions part,” Malfoy told him, standing up and brushing his hands off on the front of his jumper. “Making sure that you have the best ingredients is very important. I wouldn’t ever use anything in a potion if I didn’t know where it had been grown. Everything changes an ingredient, the strength of the sunlight it’s grown in, the soil quality. And then that all changes a potion, and that’s what I find interesting, trying different things to come up with the best possible version.”

“Oh,” Harry said, wondering what it would be like to feel that way about anything. He couldn’t really imagine being interested in something the way it sounded like Malfoy was interested in potions, now that he’d stopped playing Quidditch.

“Why do you do this?” Malfoy asked, “If you don’t like it, that is.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it,” Harry protested, “I just don’t think watering plants is the most interesting thing in the world.”

“Yes but why do you do it?” Malfoy insisted, and Harry couldn’t see why he would care.

“It’s useful,” Harry replied, in a big rush. “I would feel bad staying here if I never did anything useful. Bébhinn does her thing, Mallaidh does the potions and she looks after the dogs and the birds, Moran has school… It’s just things I can do to make everything easier.”

“What’s Bébhinn’s thing?” Malfoy asked, and Harry forgot he hadn’t really seen it yet.

“Wards,” he replied, “You can come with us next time she has to go and ward a property. It’s pretty interesting.”

“You don’t--” Malfoy started, before falling silent. Harry let him figure it out for a few seconds. “You don’t have a thing,” Malfoy finished, and it wasn’t really a question, as such.

“Not really,” Harry said, “Not a specific thing anyway. I just try and keep the place from falling apart.”

“What other jobs do you do?” Malfoy asked, and Harry thought for a second how weird Malfoy looked in this light. The light filtering through the translucent plastic made everything dull and flat and he wasn’t glinting half as much as he usually did. His skin looked paler than usual, and Harry wondered for a second what he looked like in this light, and would Malfoy notice if he’d changed?

“I don’t know,” Harry said, shaking himself. “I do this," he said, and gestured around at the plants, “I clean the house a lot, do all the shopping when we don’t get given food as payment. I try and do the gardening but it’s sometimes quite difficult to stay on top of everything.”

Malfoy stared at him, intent all of a sudden. “What was it like when there were more people living here?”

Harry raised his eyebrows. He wasn’t sure what sort of question he’d been expecting but that hadn’t been it. He started to say I don’t know before he cut himself off, because it wasn’t the truth. “It was brilliant,” he said, in a way that made it seem as though he was confessing some long-held-onto secret. “It was so much easier, when there were a load of people around. I never had to do anything by myself.”

“Where did they go?” Malfoy asked, and Harry felt very surely that they were caught in some sort of spell, because what else could be making them talk to each other like they were?

“America, mostly,” Harry said, “Bébhinn and Moran’s parents moved over there a couple of months after I arrived. To some sort of ranch, I think, where it was easier to sustain more people.”

Malfoy frowned. “They just… moved away, and left their daughters here?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, even though it flummoxed him too sometimes. “I think that they thought they were making some big sacrifice, though.”

“In what sense?”

Harry took a deep breath. “They were so into the idea that Magic is tied to the place you live, and that when you do Magic it should help the land and the people living around you. I know they hated the idea of leaving the place where they grew up, but they wanted Bébh and Moran to be able to stay. So like, even if only two people could afford to still live here and keep the place running, I think they would have done anything to make sure those two people were Moran and Bébhinn.”

“Did you know them well?” Malfoy asked.

Harry thought about when he’d arrived and how awful he’d been feeling, how he’d heard them talking in hushed tones about how they couldn’t let anymore fucking tourists stay as long as their hearts desired and how he’d not really had very much room for emotion but could definitely muster up a little annoyance that they were referring to Luna like that. Because they had been. He thought about Mallaidh’s mother persuading them to let him stay, how wary they’d been of him, how they’d watch him every time he ate as if he was doing something wrong, and how sometimes it would remind him of the Dursley’s watching him eat and he would feel sick and have to lie down with Luna for a bit. “No,” he replied, “Not really.

Malfoy pursed his lips. It made him look very odd, Harry thought. “So everyone left.”

“Yeah,” Harry confirmed.

“Why did you stay?” Malfoy asked, in a terrible hushed voice, the kind of voice a therapist on television might use.

“Um,” Harry said, stepping backwards into one of the benches. “I guess I don’t really know.”

“You must know,” Malfoy argued, “You’ve been here for five years . There’s got to be a reason.

“I hate to disappoint you Malfoy,” Harry said, as coldly as he could possibly manage, “But there isn’t. Or actually there is, but it’s just…” Small, he wanted to say, small, and none of your business. It was that I felt safe here and I didn’t in England. “It’s personal,” he finished. “It’s nothing, it’s personal.”

“Alright,” Malfoy said mildly, “I don’t really care anyway.”

“Good,” Harry answered, “That’s great. Shall we go, or are there more plants you want to stroke?”


“I miss you,” Pansy said, her voice sounding muffled and crackled. “Do you miss me?”

Draco smiled, even though she couldn’t see him. “Not at all,” he lied, “I’m having a positively brilliant time here without you.”

“You’re an arse,” she said, “I know you miss me.”

“Maybe a little,” he admitted, pulling his coat closer around him. “It’s fucking freezing here. Is it freezing in London?”

“I don’t know,” Pansy said, “I haven’t been outside today. Just cast a warming charm or something.”

“I did,” Draco replied, allowing himself to whine just a little bit. “They wear off so quickly though.”

“Maybe yours do, ” she retorted. “You could always ask Potter to do one for you. He seems like the type to cast a sturdy warming charm.”

“I’d rather die,” Draco declared, “I would rather eat slugs.”

“I doubt that very much,” Pansy said drily, “Anyway, tell me how it is.”

“I have to share a room with Potter,” Draco said, “It’s fucking terrible. I mean, it’s really very interesting and I’ve been learning a lot and you wouldn’t believe some of the odd potions shit they get up to here, but it’s also very terrible.”

“Is that why you sound like you’re standing in the middle of a hurricane?” she asked, “Is it because you want to gossip about Potter somewhere where he can’t hear you gossiping about him?”

“There won’t be gossip,” Draco replied, aghast at the accusation, “There might be a relaying of facts. But a Malfoy would never indulge in something like gossip.

Pansy started laughing, and didn’t stop for a full minute before Draco eventually had to cut her off. “Good one,” she gasped, “I’ve really missed your Malfoy-related humour.”

“I wasn’t joking,” Draco protested.

“Remember Hogwarts?” Pansy asked.

“Yes,” Draco replied apprehensively, “I doubt I’m going to forget about it anytime soon, Pans.”

“Remember how literally all you did was gossip about Harry Potter for hours on end?”

“I did more than that,” Draco said, “I also planned revenge on Harry Potter, and conspired against Harry Potter.”

“Hm,” she said, “There was also a fuck ton of gossiping.”

“Yes, yes,” Draco sighed, “Alright.”

“Do you have anything juicy I could sell to the papers?” Pansy asked, “I’d probably make a fortune if you told me where it is you actually were.

“You already have a fortune,” Draco sighed, “What would you need with two of them?”

“I want my own fortune,” Pansy said, “Not the one that came with my fucking husband.

“Ah,” Draco said, “I see. You want to make your own money. By selling information about Potter to the Daily Prophet.”

“I wouldn’t actually sell information about him,” she grumbled, “I’m very much over that sort of thing now.”

Draco grimaced. “That was in poor taste,” he said, “If you were joking about the incident I suspect you were joking about.”

“Trying to give him up to the Dark Lord?” Pansy asked innocently, “What else is there to do except joke about it?”

“Never bring it up again,” Draco suggested, “That’s one thing. I’m sure between the two of us we could come up with a few more.”

“It’s not like I’m joking about it to his face,” Pansy said, “It’s only you.

“Yes,” Draco said, “Still.”

“Shall we change the subject?” she asked.

“Yes please,” Draco said, gratefully, “The scenery here is wonderful.”

“You’ll have to bring me back some photos,” she said. Draco shifted on his seat. Well, it wasn’t so much a seat as it was a wrought-iron bed-frame brought outside, mattress and all, and converted into garden furniture. It was set just on the edge of the forest, piled high with mismatched blankets and cushions that always seemed to be dry and warm. Draco wondered who had done the charm work, because it was very impressive.

“How is Blaise?” he asked, “Speaking of husbands.”

“Were we?” she replied airily. “Anyway, I suppose he’s fine. He keeps complaining about my long work hours and I have to pretend very hard not to be thrilled about the fact that I work and he doesn’t.”

“I would have thought Blaise enjoyed lounging around the house all day waiting for you to return.”

“He does,” she assured him, “He doesn’t like the fact that I’m gone so long.

“Ah,” Draco said. “Tell him to get another job, if he’s so desperate for some company. Or join a bridge club of some sort, I’m sure I could get mother to recommend one. I mean, it’ll be in France but it’s not like he wouldn’t have the time.”

“Yes,” Pansy said, “You’re terribly funny.”

“Tell him I said hello,” Draco said, “And tell him I miss him.”

“Oh you’ll say it to him,” she protested, “But not to me?”

“I miss you a lot,” he said, and it was the truth. “Do you feel better?”

He and Pansy had lived together after the war, for two glorious years where all Draco had done was take his Potions mastery a lot less seriously than he should have done and got variously very high or very drunk almost every single weekend. Then Pansy had done the unthinkable and gotten married. As if they were thirty years old instead of twenty. Then she’d moved out and Draco had become very sad sometimes walking past her empty room so he’d sold the flat and bought a new one, a flat with the appropriate number of bedrooms for one person.

“Yes,” she said, “I knew it already, of course, but it’s nice to hear it said out loud.”

“Of course,” he said, “How’s the job going, anyway?”

“It’s brilliant,” she said, “I have a fucking assistant.

“Banking seems the exact opposite of brilliant, ” Draco said, “No offense.”

“Offense taken,” she retorted, “Potions seems boring.”

“Potions is so interesting. You have no idea.” Draco said, smiling.

“I should go,” she said sadly, “I think Blaise is calling me. From the bedroom.”

“Brilliant,” Draco sighed, “Have a brilliant time having sex. I’m going to go to a farm today.”

“Thanks,” she said brightly, “I’ll definitely have fun having sex now that you’ve told me to.

“Call me again soon,” Draco said. “Love you. Send my love to Blaise.”

“I will,” Pansy replied, “Love you too. Have an amazing time on the farm, loser.”

Draco hung up, laughing, before cutting off when he saw Potter strolling towards him with his hands shoved in the pockets of a huge purple coat.

“I didn’t know you had a phone,” he said, his unruly hair ruffled from the wind. “I didn’t know you could use a phone.”

“Why would you know that?” Draco asked, trying not to let Potter ruin the good mood he’d suddenly found himself in. “Pansy bought me it as a going away present, if you must know.”

“Oh,” Potter said, hunching his shoulders even more, “Are you two together, then?”

Draco laughed, again. “ No, ” he said, “She’s married.

“Not to you,” Potter said.

“Not to me, no,” Draco confirmed, “To Blaise Zabini.”

“Hm,” Potter said, raising his eyebrows a little bit. “Good for her.”

Draco blinked. “What?”

“Zabini’s quite fit, isn’t he?” Potter asked, frowning a little bit at Draco’s confusion.

What?” Draco repeated. “I mean. Yes. But.”

“We’re about to leave,” Potter said, as if he hadn’t just fully blown Draco’s mind, gesturing in the direction of the house. “You’re coming, right?”

*

“I don’t know how you didn’t know Pansy and Blaise were married,” Draco panted, struggling to keep up as he and Bébhinn and Potter all traipsed down a very long, very muddy driveway. They’d had to park on the road when even the jeep didn’t look like it would make it through.

“I don’t really know why I would know something like that,” Potter replied, slowing down a little to allow Draco to reach him. He folded his arms as he stepped over a particularly large thistle, putting his hands under his armpits. It really was a freezing day, the first of its kind that autumn.

“Well,” Draco said, “You know how Witch Weekly always seemed to name you bachelor of the year?”

“Even when I had a girlfriend?” Potter replied bitterly, “Even when I was sixteen years old? Yeah, I remember that.”

“Everyone was very confused when you disappeared off the face of the earth,” Draco said, “And apparently Witch Weekly didn’t know what to do with themselves after their main source of inspiration wasn’t making regular public outings. So, the year after you left they had this whole publicity thing where they announced that for the first time in however many years, Harry Potter would not be bachelor of the year.”

“I don’t get it,” Potter said, and Draco had to fight the urge to say yes, well, is that so surprising?

“Blaise was named bachelor of the year,” Draco explained, “And I have to say he did a much better job of it than you ever did.”

“Oh,” Potter said, “I think that’s because I didn’t realise it was a title that came with responsibilities.”

“Hurry up!” Bébhinn called, from up ahead, and Draco looked away from Potter for a second. She was waving frantically. “It’s so cold. Why are you so slow?”

Draco ignored her. “They’re informal responsibilities,” he said, “So he did things like attend galas, and flirt with people. Everyone loved him, because he had been just close enough to the Death Eaters for it to be a sort of bad-boy situation.”

“Bad-boy,” Potter snickered, “Fucking hell.”

Anyway. When he announced the engagement,” Draco said, “There was crying in the streets.”

“Let me guess,” Potter sighed, “The wedding was covered extensively in Witch Weekly.”

“Like you wouldn’t fucking believe,” Draco confirmed, “It was horrible. They called it the wedding of the century.

“Lovely,” Potter said, “That’s nice for them.”

“So that’s why I’m surprised you didn’t hear about it,” Draco finished, “Because I thought every single person in the Wizarding world would have heard about it.”

“Was it a nice wedding?” Potter asked, then “Jesus where is this fucking house?”

“It was very tasteful,” Draco replied, “Unless you count the venue, and the food, and all the guests, and the gifts.”

“So everything,” Potter summarised.

“Everything except Pansy’s dress,” Draco confirmed, “Which I helped pick.”

“She bought it off the rack?” Potter asked, and Draco blinked for a second. Because how did someone like Potter know a phrase like off the rack?

“No,” Draco said, “Merlin no. Could you imagine?”

“It would have been a scandal,” Potter said, “Witch Weekly probably would have never let her live it down.”

Draco snorted, and then felt his cheeks go a bit pink when Potter turned to stare at him as though he’d never heard anything like it in his life. “Yes well it would have been between that or Witch Weekly commending her on such a brave choice.

“I wonder if they have an Irish version of Witch Weekly,” Potter mused.

“Thinking of getting a subscription?” Draco asked, “I’m sure the British version deliver here. Especially if you told them it was for the Boy Who Lived.”

Potter wrinkled his nose and sidestepped around a dark brown puddle. “Come on,” he said, “I think Bébhinn’s probably about ready to murder us if we don’t speed it up.”

Finally,” Bébhinn said, when they turned up at the end of the track, Draco’s trousers soaked in muddy water at the hem. She was standing in front of a newly-built farmhouse, it wasn’t yet painted and the plaster surface was grey and lumpy. A dog was lying on the back step, thumping its tail rhythmically against the concrete. They were surrounded by trees on every side, and Draco could see bright green fields through a gate on the far side of the property.

His gaze snapped to the side of the house, where a dark wooden door was opening and a woman in some sort of running outfit stepped out. “Hi,” she said brightly, waving, “Do you want to come in for some tea?”

Bébhinn took a couple of paces towards the house before she stopped, “I think it’ll be better to talk outside,” she said. She was frowning slightly. “This place has a weird feel,” she said, under her breath, before introducing herself cheerily when the woman approached.

“I’m Lucy,” the woman said, shaking all of their hands one after another. “Thanks for coming out here.” She was short and blonde, with bright blue eyes. “I’m so sorry about the road on the way up.”

“Have you had a lot of rain out here?” Potter asked, before anyone else could respond. “It’s been pretty dry where we are, so far.” Draco blinked, their own house was only about forty minutes away.

“No,” she said, “It’s the turlough, even though it doesn’t flood the road all the way it still gets pretty bad during winter.” Potter and Bébhinn both nodded, as if what she had just said made any sense whatsoever.

“What’s a turlough?” Draco asked, definitely pronouncing it incorrectly.

“Seasonal lake,” Potter said, “Like, a lake that only appears during the winter months.”

“What specifically did you want help with?” Bébhinn asked, getting out a little notebook that Draco wholeheartedly approved of. “We can do full warding, and that’s against people and animals. We can set it up so there’s a list of people who are allowed on the property, but I wouldn’t recommend that for someone who lives so far away, because it would take us a while to get down here if there was someone who you wanted to let in. We can also do tree protection, where we come up with a plan for you to plant protective trees. That’s not as effective at keeping people out, but it usually works quite well at deterring people with ill intent.”

Lucy wrinkled her brow. “My neighbour’s fences are awful,” she said, “Always breaking.”

“I can do one that keeps animals out,” Bébhinn told her, “That’s no problem.”

“Not all animals,” she said, “Only farm animals. Is that possible?”

Bébhinn nodded, writing all this down in her notebook apparently. Draco was finding it quite hard to get over the fact that this Muggle was just asking for wards.

“What sort of perimeter are you looking for?” Potter asked, “Because sometimes the effectiveness goes down the bigger the area you want covered.”

*

“What is that?” Draco asked, leaning on a metal gate while Bébhinn and the Muggle woman talked about prices underneath a nearby sycamore tree.

“What’s what?” Potter asked distractedly, standing next to him and kicking at an odd-shaped stone on the ground.

“If you’d look,” Draco said, pointing. Potter followed his finger to a dark shape in a nearby field.

Oh,” he said, “That’s the castle.”

“What castle?” Draco asked, “That doesn’t really look like a castle.” Although, now that he’d said that he was beginning to see the shape forming. It was covered in ivy and half falling down, but he could see slim windows in one of the walls, and the boxy shape of a turret.

“One sec,” Potter said, and walked off to interrupt Bébhinn. “Okay,” he said, once he was back, after some expressive gesturing and a lot of head nodding from Lucy. “She says we can go over there.”

Draco grimaced, at Potter’s suggestion and also at the field they would have to walk through to get there. He could see as many as six different cows. And in his limited experience, the presence of cows usually meant the presence of cow shit.

“Don’t sound so enthusiastic,” Potter said, “We can apparate, if the walking over there part was a deal breaker.”

Draco widened his eyes. “In front of her?” he whispered, nodding in the direction of the meeting still taking place. “Are you sure?”

“We can go behind a tree or something if you’re that desperate not to let her see,” Potter suggested.

Draco narrowed his eyes, put one hand firmly on Potter’s shoulder, and apparated them both with a sharp crack.

“You could have warned me,” Potter gasped, immediately after they both rematerialised, putting his hands on his knees and bending over, “Fucking hell.

“It’s not nearly as awful as you’re making it out to be,” Draco said, ignoring his swirling stomach. He looked upwards, they were right in the centre of the small ruin, standing in a tall patch of stinging nettles. “Look,” he said, his eyes focusing on a small, dark stairway in the corner, through a crumbling doorway. “Do you think it would be dangerous to climb those stairs?”

“Yes,” Potter replied, even though Draco knew perfectly well he hadn’t even looked at them, “Definitely.”

“Do you want to do it anyway?” Draco asked cautiously.

“Yes,” Potter responded, before straightening and rubbing his hands over his face. “Let’s definitely climb those stairs.”

“I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not,” Draco said primly, aiming a quick incendio at the frankly quite offensive nettles.

“Fucking--” Potter said, jumping out of the way, “Warn me. Again. Warn me.

Draco rolled his eyes, “It was hardly even near you.”

“It was near enough,” Potter replied, inspecting a barely smouldering trouser leg. “And I’m not being sarcastic. Let’s climb them. Do you want to go first?”

“Is this a trick?” Draco asked suspiciously, and the stairwell was beginning to look a lot more ominous than it previously had.

Potter blinked a few times. “Doesn’t that seem like the type of thing you’d do?” he asked.

Draco opened his mouth to argue and then found that he couldn’t. “Not anymore,” he muttered, making his way over to the stone archway. The steps were surprisingly sturdy-looking, if dark and damp and generally unhygienic-looking. He could see one of those small windows at the top of the flight, letting in a sliver of bright sunshine.

“This is repulsive,” he said, when he was halfway up and had tripped a little and put his hand out onto the slimy wall to steady himself. “Why are we doing this?”

“Because it’s interesting,” Potter responded, closer than Draco had thought he was. “And also I want to see out of that window.”

“We’ll have to get there first,” Draco said, apprehensively surveying a gaping hole in the step right ahead of him. He decided it might be prudent to skip that one, since he had no idea what Potter’s first aid skills were like, and thought it best not to take any more risks than strictly necessary.

“You could hurry up,” Potter said, “Just a suggestion.”

“It was a supremely unhelpful one,” Draco told him, “In case you were wondering.”

“I was sort of joking before,” Potter said, sounding oddly strained, “But this is quite uncomfortable. So it would be brilliant if you’d fucking move.

Draco turned, as much as he could in the narrow space, to see Potter a couple of steps below him, straddling the broken one. His eyes were bright and wide, almost panicked looking, and he was staring up at Draco like a trapped animal. Draco moved.

“Wow,” Potter said, once they were both firmly situated on the cramped landing, their shoulders brushing together. “What a fucking view.” His head was halfway out of the window, and when he drew it back in his hair was tousled and wild. Draco had a terrible urge to smooth it down. “Look out there,” Potter said, “You can see for miles.

He was right, and although Draco couldn’t tell exactly how many miles, he suspected it was a lot. The mountains in the distance were grey and purple and hazy, as if they were encased in smoke, and the fields in front of him were a sparkling, emerald green. The cows below them looked a lot less threatening now, when they were high up.

“There used to be some sort of Lord,” Potter said, “Who owned the land around here. And even by the time he owned it this castle was ruined, so he used to keep his hunting dogs in here.”

Draco thought about the small courtyard they’d just been in. “It doesn’t seem very secure,” he said.

“I think it was a little less ruined than this,” Potter told him, his voice practically in Draco’s ear, his breath hot on Draco’s neck. This had been a truly terrible idea, one of his absolute worst.

“How do you know all this?” Draco asked, sitting back on his haunches and pressing his shoulder blades against the rough stone wall, trying to put as much space as possible between him and Potter. It wasn’t really working though, Draco thought, as he looked at Potter and how he always seemed to fill up every room he was ever in.

“I came down here before, ages ago,” Potter said, a little dreamily. “With Luna. There’s a ring fort she wanted to visit, and we met some farmer who let us onto his land to see it, and he told us about the castle as well. We wanted to go but it started raining like you wouldn’t believe, so we headed back.”

“I forget Luna lived here,” Draco said, and put his hand flat on the cold floor, flexing the muscles. He looked across at Potter, who had mirrored his position on the opposite wall. He had pulled his knees up though, and tucked his hands underneath the backs of his thighs. Draco could hardly even see him in the watery light.

“Well,” Potter said, and it sounded as though he was smiling, “She didn’t really. She was only here for a month or so.”

“What made her come out here?” Draco asked, and he felt a terrible tug in his gut, because he knew all this, he had heard it from Luna herself. But he wanted to keep Potter talking.

“Her dad sent her here,” Potter said softly, “He thought she needed a break from England, which he was probably right about.”

“But then she came home,” Draco said.

“Then she went home,” Potter repeated, “And I stayed.”

“She didn’t like it?”

Potter made a little humming noise, in the back of his throat. “I don’t think it was that she didn’t like it, it’s just that it was a holiday for her. But it wasn’t a holiday for me.”

“What made you come here in the first place?” Draco asked, taking his chances.

Potter was silent for a few moments, long enough to make Draco think he wasn’t going to answer, before he said “I’d just broken up with Ginny and like, I was also having panic attacks all the time. And then Ron had just joined the Aurors and he kept talking about how good it felt to still be helping out. So, it was a combination of all that stuff, I woke up one day and I couldn’t breathe and I thought that if I stayed in England then I probably would have joined the Aurors too, and I don’t think I would have--” He cut himself off. “I don’t know if I would have dealt very well with that,” he finally said, in a terrible, sad voice that made it seem like what he was saying was I don’t think I would have survived that. “So I packed some stuff and I went over to Hermione and Ron’s new place and I told them what I was doing, and then I fucked off. That was it.”

“Have you been back?” Draco asked, so quietly.

Potter shuffled, and the sound that the fabric of his coat made when it moved against the wall overwhelmed the tiny space. “Yeah,” he said, “I go back for Christmas. I don’t think they’d let me get away with not going back for Christmas.”

They meaning Granger and Weasley?” Draco guessed.

“Meaning all the Weasleys,” Potter replied, “And Luna, and Neville, and everyone. I suppose it’s nice, in a way, to have people who want me to come back permanently, even if I can’t.”

“So,” Draco said, “Do you stay with Luna and Ginny when you go back?”

“Sometimes,” Potter said, “Sometimes they stay at the Burrow and so I have to then stay at the Burrow, and then I’ll stay with Hermione and Ron, too, occasionally.”

“Luna and Ginny have a lovely apartment, don’t they?” Draco said, more to himself than to Potter.

“I’m a little jealous that you live in the same city as them, actually,” Potter replied anyway, “Because it means you can probably go over there whenever you want.”

They had the nicest house Draco had ever been in, except maybe the one he was staying in now. It had that same sort of feel, all welcoming and homely. Rugs everywhere, an abundance of cushions, the most comfortable guest room in the entire world. Everything so warm all the time, Luna’s art strewn about the place, Ginny’s Quidditch gear. He missed it actually, and couldn’t even imagine what Potter must feel about it.

“We have game nights,” Draco told him, not trying to make Potter jealous but also unable to help himself. “Every Sunday I go over there and we play Muggle board games. It’s great but also really shit, because Muggle board games are shit.”

“That sounds nice,” Potter said, kind of sadly, “Do you play Monopoly? Gin always cheats at Monopoly.”

“I know,” Draco said, “She’s a menace.”

“You would, ” Potter said, sadly, Draco thought, “Of course you’d know.”

“Harry?” came a voice from below, “Draco?” And Draco shouted back at Bébhinn and started moving down the stairs before he could do something incredibly imprudent, like ask, cruelly, do you miss her? Are you jealous of her and Luna? Or before he could go one step further in the other direction and touch Potter gently on his calf, the only place Draco could reach, and say, softly, do you miss her? He didn’t know what the answer would be, and for some reason he was desperately afraid that it might be yes.

Chapter Text

Draco was falling asleep in the living room. It wasn’t strictly his fault, the room was so warm and the ugly velvet sofa was so comfortable, and the sound of Moran’s voice was low and soft as she talked to Potter, as though she was telling him a secret. Draco wondered, absently, in that sleepy way he always wondered something when his thoughts became very far apart all of a sudden, if they’d forgotten he was there. He shifted his whole body, fractionally, down the sofa, because to do more than that would be too much of an effort. His fingertips dragged in the fabric of the seat cushion and he thought about how long all this furniture had been around, anyway, as he slowly became aware of how worn and tired the fibres felt. He blinked, and his vision was blurry.

“--then people were jealous of me,” Potter was whispering, from somewhere on Draco’s left.

“Oh, and that’s such a hardship,” Moran hissed back. Draco smiled into the musty-smelling cushion, lazily and tiredly, because exactly. Moran was a person of immense knowledge and intellect and Draco would have had exactly the same response had he thought himself able to form a sentence right now.

“That’s not even what I’m talking about,” Potter replied, “And you know it.” There was a brief pause, and Draco could only assume that Moran was using this time to roll her eyes. Hopefully in the way Draco would have done it, wide-eyed, with a slight head tilt for emphasis. “Okay,” Potter amended, “I know how that sounded.”

“It sounded bad,” Moran agreed.

“I just got sad sometimes when I thought about what people were actually wishing for when they wished they had my life, and then that always made me think how fucking depressing all the stuff I did actually was,” Potter said, in a hushed voice, “I sort of ignored it most of the time because it all seemed par for the course, you know? All the shit . And then people would call me the fucking Chosen One or whatever and I’d think like, you have no fucking idea, do you?”

“Right,” Moran said, in the tone of voice Draco also would have produced, the tone of voice someone uses when their whole world has tilted very slightly to the side, just enough for it to feel like things are dribbling out. “Right,” she repeated, weakly.

“This isn’t some sort of feel sorry for me thing,” Potter said hastily, “Luna told me it was good to talk about this sort of stuff.”

“I know she did,” Moran said, “Because every time you tell me anything about the war you cap it off with that little phrase.”

“I’m sorry,” Potter whispered, and there was a faint rustling sound, Draco wanted to be awake right now very badly, but his body was pulling him further and further away from this room, this horrible conversation that Draco wanted both to hear and not hear.

“Don’t,” Moran told him, sounding desperately sad, “Please don’t apologise as though you have something to feel guilty about.”

Potter laughed thickly, “It’s not that,” he said, “I always feel really weird whenever I tell anyone anything. I told Malfoy the other day why I’d moved here and I wanted to obliviate the both of us afterwards.”

“Sometimes it scares me when you talk about what happened,” Moran told him, “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. And the same goes for you, even if it scares you to talk about it you should still talk about it.”

“I don’t think anybody wants to hear it,” Potter admitted, which he was wrong about, as per usual, because Draco wanted to hear about it. More than anything, and he hadn’t even realised it before that exact moment.

“You know I’d tell you if I didn’t,” she replied, and there was more silence, silence long enough for the crackling of the nearby fire to become more and more apparent, long enough for Draco to be lulled into sleep.

He was woken up by a firm shake, Potter standing above him with dark hair falling all over his face, curling around his ears. The lamps had been turned off and the only light in the room was coming from the still-glowing fireplace.

“Wake up,” he said, like a fucking prat, being as Draco was clearly already awake. “We’re going out.”

“What does that mean?” Draco asked, covering his mouth with his hand before yawning widely. It was terribly rude but he didn’t think Potter was the type to call him out on it.

“I thought it was pretty self-explanatory,” Potter said, turning his head a little to the side, after a noise at the door. His cheekbones sparkled in the dim light.

“Have you got glitter on?” Draco asked, propping himself up on one elbow. He found himself far too close to Potter’s face for comfort and backed up a little. His whole body was itching from falling asleep in an outfit that was largely comprised of wool.

“Yes,” Potter replied, “There’s a meeting in the kitchen in five minutes.” Draco blinked. Of course there was. These people were so fucking odd.

“What time is it?” he asked, trying to ascertain exactly how much sleep he’d just got, because his head felt as though it had been sat on. Potter sighed and looked at his watch, pulling up the sleeve of a black roll-neck. Draco hadn’t seen it before, either on Potter’s person or in the pile of clothing beside Potter’s bed.

“Three past one,” Potter replied, “A.M.”

“Yes,” Draco sighed, gesturing tiredly towards the windows, and the pitch-black sky outside. “I assumed that much.”

“You’ve only got four minutes now,” Potter pointed out, as if there was some sort of deadline for a middle-of-the-night kitchen meeting.

They were all wearing black, Draco realised, as he shuffled his way into the kitchen and sat down in the nearest available chair. Potter reluctantly pushed a mug of tea towards him and Draco immediately wrapped his hands around it, the weather had been getting colder and colder lately and the kitchen didn’t exactly have the best insulation in the house.

“What’s going on?” he asked dazedly, before raking a hand through his hair and sighing internally when he felt it sticking up. Potter’s eyes were a heavy weight on his face, all bright green and intense and staring. It made Draco a little bit nervous, if he was being honest. “I’m liking this whole…” he cut off and searched for the word, waggling his finger at the four of them all lined up in a neat row on the other side of the table, “Aesthetic,” he finished, and Bébhinn grinned at him.

“We’re letting you in our club,” Moran said, “This is the initiation ceremony.”

“That’s not what we’re doing,” Mallaidh sighed, “Don’t give him false information, look at his little face.”

Draco straightened, as affronted as he could possibly be considering his current energy levels, and Potter started laughing. “What about my face?” Draco asked. “There’s nothing wrong with my face.”

“He looks so confused,” Bébhinn said, “Aw.”

Draco narrowed his eyes, considered throwing a tantrum, and then let it slide.

“We have a mission,” Moran said, “And this is you being invited along for it.”

A mission. Draco thumped his head on the wooden surface, narrowly avoiding a small weaving loom and a ball of bright red wool. Potter tutted, which was weird, and moved it out of the way. “Do you mind?” he said.

Draco didn’t answer. Then he thought about it and said “Not particularly, no.” Potter sighed, deeply.

“What do you know about standing stones?” Mallaidh asked.

“Nothing,” Draco replied, “And if it were possible to know less than nothing about a subject then that’s how much I would know about standing stones. Why?”

“We got a call from a do-gooder,” Bébhinn said, “About a neighbour of hers.”

“She was kind of a tattle-tale,” Moran said, “In my opinion.”

“We want people to be tattle-tales,” Bébhinn said, “Like, I wasn’t going to tell her not to rat her neighbours out to us.”

“Please,” Draco said, “Someone tell me what’s going on or I’m going back to sleep.”

“Because that would be such a tragedy,” Potter muttered. Draco raised his middle finger slowly, and Potter smiled, unexpectedly and brightly. It was terrifying.

“Standing stones are... well, stones that are standing up, I suppose,” Mallaidh explained, “But we're talking about ones that are arranged into circles. There’s a lot of historical stuff about them that you don’t really need to know. What is pertinent to your interests are the effect they have on potions.”

“One time,” Moran piped up, “Mallaidh’s mother brewed a potion inside a double ring of standing stones and it doubled in quantity, just like, spontaneously.”

“That’s not possible,” Draco said, although his heart wasn’t really in it.

“I was there,” Moran said, affronted, “So excuse you.

“It’s true,” Bébhinn told him, “There’s lots of different things that happen, depending on the size of the circle and the type of stone and loads of other stuff.”

“The smaller the circle the more potent the potion,” Potter said, “Is a general rule, I think. Is that right?” he asked, looking over at Mallaidh.

“Pretty much,” she replied, “That’s the basic gist of it anyway. I think there’s probably a more detailed account of everything in the library.” Draco found himself, for the first time, too tired to take out his notebook. It was immensely unsettling.

“They’re supposed to be all about energy,” Mallaidh said, “Which is a very weird concept and one I’m not sure I fully believe, but a lot of people do. Like this woman who just called us. Basically, there’s a standing stone near her… what, herb garden?” She looked around the table.

“Vegetable garden, I think it was,” Potter volunteered. “She definitely said something about her squash being ruined.”

“Squash is disgusting,” Bébhinn said, “I don’t know how you can ruin something that’s already horrible.” Draco sat upright again and considered getting the conversation back on track. It was a difficult dilemma and one that he was constantly faced with, living in a house in which the occupants could argue about literally any single thing for literally hours on end. He usually found it best to try and ignore his confusion until they wore themselves out.

“Um,” Potter said incredulously, “No. No, it isn’t. Actually, what are you talking about?”

“You like squash,” Moran agreed, frowning, “So yeah, what the hell are you talking about?”

“Stop saying squash,” Bébhinn said, “You’re making me want to throw up.”

“Probably the baby doesn’t like squash,” Mallaidh said sagely, “So that’s why you’ve stopped liking it.”

“I’ve never liked it, because it’s disgusting.”

“Once I made butternut squash soup for dinner and you ate literally all of it before it was even dinner time,” Potter said, raising his eyebrows. “Don’t you remember that?”

Bébhinn made a gagging noise. “It doesn’t sound like me.”

“Is nobody going to address what Mallaidh just said?” Moran asked, “Because it seems like she thinks that it’s the baby’s decision for Bébhinn to go off squashes.”

“I don’t think it’s a conscious thing,” Mallaidh assured her, “But isn’t that how it works?”

Moran made a face. “Yeah, I said that but I really don’t know, actually. Who the fuck knows anything about pregnancy?”

“I read that it was a leftover biological impulse that was supposed to stop pregnant people going near food that could be contaminated,” Potter said, and everyone turned to look at him.

“Shall I take this one?” Bébhinn asked, glancing around the table, then continuing before anyone could answer. “Where did you read that?”

“Some pregnancy book I found in the library,” Potter shrugged, “I don’t know which one.”

“Why were you reading a pregnancy book?”

Potter laughed for a second, before cutting of when he realised nobody else was. “Because you’re pregnant?” he said seriously.

“Yeah but…” Bébhinn started, before trailing off. “Alright then,” she said, after a long silence, “Continue reading pregnancy books, whatever floats your boat.”

“Is that weird?” Potter asked, “I don’t think it’s that weird.”

“It’s a little weird,” Draco told him, “That you have the time to just sit down and read an entire book about pregnancy,” he paused, “Let alone the inclination.”

“Shut up,” Potter replied, “Nobody says inclination anymore.”

“What would squash have in it that would be harmful to a baby?” Moran asked, “If you don’t mind me asking.”

“I don’t think it’s a scientifically proven theory,” Potter explained, “And I think it was more for things like eggs or whatever anyway.”

Science,” Draco scoffed. Everyone ignored him and continued arguing, and he considered saying it again for only a second before deciding against it on the grounds it might make him seem foolish.

“--Don’t see what’s so appealing about pickled onions,” Moran was saying.

“Oh my god, they are so good,” Bébhinn told her, “Do we have any?” she asked, looking around the room as if pickled onions might suddenly start appearing out of thin air.

Accio pickled onions,” Potter said, and then waited for a few seconds expectantly, before shaking his head, “Apparently not.”

“It goes on the shopping list,” she said decidedly, and then turned to Draco, smiling a little. She raised her eyebrows.

“What?” Draco asked.

“You’re nearest the fridge,” Potter pointed out, “So you’re the one who puts it on the list. Don’t you know anything?”

“You know,” Draco said conversationally, rising from his chair to write pickled onions in neat script on the notepad stuck to the fridge, “This meeting is very unstructured. I would actually even hesitate to call it a meeting, since it’s been more of a random set of arguments strung together, interspersed with some very bad explanations.”

“How dare you,” Moran breathed, putting one hand on her collarbone, “Take that back.”

“No,” Draco replied, “Not unless someone tells me what’s going on in the next three seconds.”

“We got a call from some old woman who said the guy who lives on the farm next to hers has damaged a circle of standing stones in some way and now she wants us to go down there and repair it so that her vegetables aren’t stunted,” Potter said.

“Right,” Draco said weakly, “I suppose I take it back then.”

“It’s illegal,” Mallaidh said.

“What?” Moran asked, “Taking back statements? I don’t think so, but maybe--”

“The fucking trespassing is illegal,” Bébhinn snickered, “Taking back statements.

“I need more sleep,” Moran protested, “You’re all very irresponsible for letting me come on this mission.”

“It’s not a mission,” Potter said, brushing his fingers over a scab on the side of his wrist. He’d got it the other day when he’d tripped over one of the dogs in the hallway and smashed a glass he’d been carrying. Draco had watched from the stairs in something like horror, as Potter had stood there and bled and apologised to the dog for about thirty seconds before even bothering to look at the cut.

“Do you have to ruin this, Harry?” Moran asked, “You are ruining this for me right now. What harm could come from letting me call it a mission?”

“I’m getting second-hand embarrassment from it, actually,” Potter replied, “You wouldn’t know a mission if it punched you in the face.”

“Oh because you’re so grizzled and world-weary,” Moran said gleefully, “Because you’ve been on real missions.”

Potter grinned. “Kids these days, thinking repairing a bloody stone circle counts as a mission.

“In your day-- ” Moran said.

“In my day,” Potter interrupted, laughing, “It wasn’t a mission until someone had a near-death experience.” Draco watched, half horrified, as he sobered abruptly, the smile falling off his face. “Fuck,” he said, “That’s terrible. I shouldn’t joke about that.”

“It’s okay,” Bébhinn started, reaching her hand out.

“It’s not okay,” Potter said, “I don’t know why I fucking--” He cut himself off and frowned down at the table. “Sorry,” he said, “Let’s forget it. Fuck.” Draco wanted to say something, half-opened his mouth for it even. Possibly it’s alright or don’t worry about it or please get that awful look out of your eyes but he couldn’t get the words out, and thought they wouldn’t be welcome even if he could.

“Harry,” Moran said.

“No,” Potter replied, blinking fast, “Let’s just go.”


Harry held a piece of marmite-covered toast between his teeth and juggled various sets of keys from hand to hand while he attempted to lock the front door. The cold, dark air would have been completely silent, if not for the faint sounds of Malfoy whining about something or other from the direction of the car.

“--don’t see why I have to,” he was saying as Harry approached, “How long is the drive, anyway? Because I draw the line at anything over an hour.”

“I can’t believe you’re being so mean about this car right now,” Moran said incredulously, stepping neatly to the side so that Harry could pass her, “You have no idea what us and this car have been through.”

“I’m not being mean,” Malfoy said, even though he probably was a bit, “I’m merely saying that it gets very cramped in the back seat, and instead of just personally deciding it, like you’re a queen or something, I think we should draw straws.”

Moran started laughing. “A queen,” she echoed, “Okay.”

“What are we making Malfoy do?” Harry asked, “Aren’t we leaving?” Then, seeing Bébhinn trying to haul herself into the front seat he said, “Are you alright?”

She grunted. “I’m just tired, growing a person makes you tired.

“Okay,” Harry said.

“Do you need help?” Malfoy asked, at the same time.

“No, no,” she replied, waving her hand vaguely, “Keep arguing though, that was really helping.”

“We’re trying to get Malfoy to sit in the middle seat,” Moran whispered, “Since he’s skinniest.”

“Oh,” Malfoy said loudly, “Now I’m being punished because of the massive amount of inbreeding my ancestors got up to? If anything, that should get me a window seat.”

Harry ignored him, it was becoming surprisingly easy. “Am I not driving?” he asked, “Where’s Mallaidh?”

“In the driver’s seat,” Malfoy told him, “Listen, can’t you sit in the middle? You’ve got the shortest legs.”

Harry looked at him for a long second. Malfoy’s face started falling after a moment, uncertainty crossing his features. “Um..” he started.

Harry cut him off. “You’re really losing your touch,” he pointed out. “You’ve got short legs? I’m shaken.”

“That’s because it wasn’t meant to be an insult,” Malfoy replied, eyes narrowed, “It was an observation. A fact, if you will.”

“Oh so now I’m being punished because of my short legs?” Harry asked seriously, “Because I feel, if anything, that should get me special treatment?”

Malfoy snorted. “Fuck off.”

“No I’m serious,” Harry protested, trying not to laugh, “I really--”

“Oh fuck this,” Malfoy interrupted, “You’re an arsehole.”

“Will you sit in the middle?” Harry asked.

“Not a fucking chance,” Malfoy replied.

Harry spent the next fifty minutes with his leg pressed against Malfoy’s thigh, warm where they met. He learnt many things on the journey, like the fact that Malfoy apparently smelled like lavender all the time, not only after he’d just had a shower. Also, that Malfoy had a terrible singing voice.

“What the fuck is that?” Bébhinn had asked, turning around as Malfoy tried valiantly to sing along to the Vampire Weekend record that had been stuck in the CD Player for about a year.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Malfoy had replied, haughtily, as Harry had started grinning.

“You sound like one of those really bad X Factor auditions,” he said, and Moran laughed.

“That’s something Muggle, isn’t it?” Malfoy asked, suspiciously. “I understand that you’re insulting me, by the way, I would argue that it’s not very effective if I don’t even get it, though.”

Eventually Mallaidh had pinched the bridge of her nose and shut the music off and nobody had complained, except Malfoy who just huffed a bit and crossed his arms. Luckily, because if he’d insisted on having it back on then Harry thought he might have been obliged to punch him in the face.

It was still dark when they arrived, spilled out of the car in relief, stretching their legs. Harry wasn’t going to say it out loud, obviously, but Malfoy was maybe a little right about the cramped thing.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” Mallaidh said, leaning over Bébhinn’s phone screen, before taking a clump of Bébhinn’s hair and flicking it over her shoulder so she could see better. They pressed their foreheads together, squinting.

“Yeah?” Bébhinn responded, not sounding very sure at all, actually. Harry rolled his eyes and stood back as Moran did a disillusionment on the car.

“Every time you do a spell without a wand it weirds me out,” Malfoy told her, conversationally, digging in the pocket of his long, wool coat. His hand emerged, triumphantly, wrapped around a cereal bar. “Mm,” he said, opening it and shoving half in his mouth. Harry blinked.

“Where did you get that?” he asked.

“My pocket,” Malfoy said, after swallowing loudly. “I might have another one in here if you want it?”

“What flavour?”

“Um,” Malfoy said, flattening the wrapper out on Moran’s shoulder. She looked up from the book she was reading, briefly, then looked back down. “Date and orange.”

“Yeah alright,” Harry said, “The cold always makes me hungry.”

Malfoy made a noncommittal noise and rummaged some more.

“How much stuff do you have in there?” Harry asked, after a full minute of watching Malfoy’s face sharpen in concentration.

“A lot,” Malfoy replied, “I put an undetectable extension charm on it.”

“Oh,” Harry said, “Do you put a lightening charm on each individual thing when you put it in there, or on the whole coat?”

“Each individual thing,” Malfoy replied, finally handing over a significantly crumpled bar. “Because I’m constantly putting things in there and taking them out.”

“Huh,” Harry said, before taking a thoughtful bite.

“Apparently, it’s possible to do a lightening charm on the actual pocket that then applies to everything that goes in there and then cancels as it comes out, but that seemed unnecessarily complex,” Malfoy said.

“Hermione did that for me once,” Moran said, glancing up, “On my schoolbag.”

“Really?” Harry asked, “When?”

“Last time she was here?” Moran said, “So like, two years ago. It’s a shame that backpack was of such shitty quality though, because it was so useful.

“She’d probably do it again if you asked her,” Harry said, “I think she does them any chance she can get.”

“What’s your favourite spell?” Moran asked.

“Um,” Harry said, “Not sure, why?”

“I was just wondering,” she replied, “Draco? Favourite spell?”

Malfoy frowned a little. “I love a good bat-bogey,” he said, “Or possibly a nice alohomora. You know, a classic, always in style.

“Really?” she said, “I like warming charms, myself, but whatever floats your boat.”

“Patronus,” Harry blurted, “I just changed my mind. That’s probably the best.”

“I can’t do one,” Malfoy mused, before looking upwards in shock, as if he hadn’t meant to say that.

“Don’t worry,” Moran said, bumping their shoulders together, “My patronus is a fucking field mouse, if it makes you feel better.”

“Guys!” Mallaidh called, “Don’t worry, we’re in the right place.”

“I was going out of my mind,” Malfoy said under his breath, “I was just honestly panicking, but I’m terribly glad it’s been sorted now.”

“That’s a weight off my shoulders,” Harry said, “I was on the verge of tears, let me tell you,” and then was surprised when Malfoy laughed.

“Can you see it?” Bébhinn asked, pointing off into the darkness. They were parked in front of three small bungalows, all with their lights off. A huge hill rose out of the darkness behind the houses, a massive silhouette against the cloudy sky. Bébhinn was pointing in the other direction, across the small road and into the fields opposite. If he squinted, Harry could just make out the outline of a couple of stones beside a hedgerow, sticking toothily out of the ground.

“Mother of Merlin,” Malfoy exclaimed, when he saw the state of the field. It was half-submerged in dirty water. “Sorry, I didn’t expect for us to have to fucking swim there.

“Look,” Harry said, pointing at a lonely cow, “She’s fine.”

“She’s a cow, Potter. She has hooves.

“Look at you all up-to-date on your cow anatomy,” Harry deadpanned.

“I’m not going out there,” Malfoy said, crossing his arms and watching Bébhinn, Mallaidh and Moran all ignore him and climb gingerly over a rough stone wall, hopping down onto the other side with a wet squelch. “These boots were custom made.”

“No, they fucking weren’t,” Harry sighed, “You literally told me three days ago that you and Ginny bought them in TK Maxx. I remember because you sounded very upset about it.”

“It was a tough day for me,” Malfoy said, “TK Maxx was, I’m sure, what hell would be like.” He paused, “If I believed in hell.”

“I actually really like it,” Harry said, making for the spot where the girls had just climbed over, “And if you don’t come now then I think we might all be about to leave you here.”

“Maybe I’ll just wait in the car,” Malfoy said, “How long do you estimate this will take?”

“Listen,” Harry told him, getting a little frustrated now, “If you don’t come then you’ll miss out on something I’m sure you’ll find very interesting about potions. And if you do come then the worst that will happen is that your socks might get soaked.”

“Please,” Malfoy said in a pained voice, “Don’t talk to me about wet socks as if there’s nothing terrible about that phrase. Wet socks. I can’t imagine very many things that are worse.”

“I don’t know what to do here,” Harry admitted, “Because I feel like I’ve already spent way too much time trying to persuade you to come when I don’t really care that much either way.”

“Charming,” Malfoy said, “Where on earth did you learn your manners?”

“A state school,” Harry muttered.

“Well they didn’t do a very good job,” Malfoy informed him, “I can get you the number of the finishing school Pansy went to, if you want?”

“I’m climbing over this wall now,” Harry replied, before doing just that. He stood on the other side, slowly sinking into the boggy earth, and wiped the moss from his hands onto his thighs. “Pansy went to finishing school?” he asked, absently turning to see where the others were. Moran had done a lumos and he could see a little orb of light hanging over their heads as they traipsed over to the standing stones. As if she could sense that he was looking, Mallaidh turned and waved. Harry raised his hand.

“Yes,” Malfoy said, then “Fuck, alright,” with determination. He made an abortive movement towards the wall, and then backed up quickly as if he wasn’t sure from which direction to approach it.

“It’s really not that hard,” Harry said, “ I did it and I’ve got abnormally short legs, isn’t that right?”

“I didn’t say abnormally short,” Malfoy said, glancing at him, stunned. “Anyway they probably make you sturdy or something equally ridiculous.”

“I don’t know if I should be offended or not,” Harry said, amused, “But I’m going to go with not, because I can see you’re having a difficult evening.”

“I’ve had a brilliant idea,” Malfoy said suddenly, and he appeared next to Harry with a sharp crack and a considerably large splash, of which Harry just caught the tail end. “Fuck,” Malfoy said, “Oh for--”

Harry started laughing. Malfoy was covered right up to the knees in watery brown mud. “Brilliant,” he managed, “Another brilliant idea from Draco Malfoy.”

“You can shut up,” Malfoy scowled, pointing a slightly muddy finger in Harry’s general direction, “I don’t remember asking for your input, scarhead.”

“I love,” Harry said, wheezing, “That you were like, I’ve had such a good idea, and then immediately got covered in shit.”

“This isn’t shit, is it?” Malfoy asked, aghast. “I was under the impression this was mud. Which, while not being ideal, also isn’t quite shit, either.”

“I think it’s mainly mud,” Harry told him, “Like, eighty percent.”

“I will hex you,” Malfoy said, but it didn’t really have any bite to it, since he seemed to be quite busy casting hasty tergeos onto his trouser legs , one after another in quick succession.

“You’re going to get dirty again walking over there,” Harry said, probably in vain, then snorted when Malfoy didn’t even stop what he was doing in order to raise his middle finger.

“Where were you?” Mallaidh asked, when they eventually turned up. Harry pointed to Malfoy’s trousers in answer.

“Did you fall?” Moran asked sympathetically. She was looking oddly impeccable in a long wool skirt that seemed to have remained crisply pressed somehow. She’d also found a black beret from Merlin-knows-where, and it was stuck on her head at what Harry supposed was quite a jaunty angle.

“No,” Malfoy replied tersely, “I did not.”

“He made a rookie mistake,” Harry said, “And apparated right into the center of a small pond.”

“Didn’t anyone ever teach you not to apparate on a farm?” Bébhinn asked, “Too many things going on. Too many variables.

“He was too busy being taught manners, apparently,” Harry replied.

“Shut up,” Malfoy said, without his usual levels of venom, “I’m much too tired to get into an argument with you right now Potter.”

“Do you want to look at this?” Mallaidh called, and Harry turned to find her gesturing at the stones. The circle was bigger than he’d thought it would be, wide and open and covered in yellow lichen, lit up by Moran’s faint bauble of light. There was grass growing thick and long in the centre, with shining patches of mud in between each stone. There was also a new-looking wall built right through the very middle of it. He started laughing.

“Why the fuck would someone do this?”

Mallaidh sighed, then walked over to stand beside him slowly, balancing precariously on a small ring of raised earth that circled the stones. “I don’t know,” she said, arms outstretched for balance. “Does anyone know any spells that would drain this water a bit?” she then asked, wrinkling her nose at the wet beneath her.

Harry, ankle deep in thick mud, thought about it for a few seconds then shrugged apologetically. “Hermione would probably know,” he said, unhelpfully, and everyone ignored him.

“I think maybe it would be difficult to do one that would only drain surface water,” Bébhinn said thoughtfully, “What about if we froze it?”

Moran snorted, “Oh yeah, we’ll all just ice skate as we try and deconstruct then rebuild a fucking wall.”

“Fuck off,” Bébhinn said, “But also fine, you’re right.”

“Might just have to--” Harry said, cutting off to haul himself over a bit of churned up mud and onto the mound Mallaidh was on. He patted one of the stones amicably, “Might just have to shower very thoroughly when we get home.”

“I don’t know about any of you,” Malfoy said, and he had a little fleck of mud on his jaw, Harry noticed, “But I’m not actually ashamed to admit I don’t know the first thing about…” he paused, surveyed the landscape apprehensively, “wall-building,” he finished weakly.

“You’re in luck,” Moran told him, “We’ve done this before.”

“A thousand times,” Harry said.

“Not quite that many times,” Moran corrected, “But definitely at least three times.”

“And did it work out well for you?” Malfoy asked, sounding amused, and Moran did a little hand wave that Harry thought was meant to mean sure, it’ll be grand.

“It’ll be grand,” she said, and Harry laughed softly, satisfied.

“I know that seems like a lot,” Mallaidh said, “But you’d be surprised at the amount of people -and not to stereotype but they’re usually farmers- who build walls through sacred sites without even giving it a second thought.”

“Well, they’re Muggles,” Malfoy said.

“Oi,” Bébhinn said disapprovingly, at the same time as Harry made a little ugh sound at the back of his throat. Fucking Malfoy. “Come on.”

“Oh not like that,” Malfoy said, rolling his eyes, “For fucks sake. I just mean that they don’t know what they are, do they? For all the farmer knows it’s just an ancient inconvenience, not a place where potions brew better.”

“Stone circles are historically significant, and not just for witches,” Moran said primly, “He should have some respect.”

“There are about a million of them here,” Harry said, “And not to be mean but there are ones that are a lot more impressive than this one. So he’s probably really used to them and then also doesn’t think this one is that great. Which is how we find ourselves having to fix his bloody mistake.”

“Snob,” Bébhinn said, “It’s not this stone circles fault that someone decided to graze cattle on it.”

“We’re going to have to duplicate some of these stones,” Mallaidh said, and she was beside the wall now, poking at it curiously. "Because if we’re re-routing the wall around the circle then there might not be enough stones.”

“Did we bring mortar?” Malfoy asked, “Or any supplies other than our wits?”

“We also have whatever you can dig up out of your pockets,” Harry suggested.

“So about seventeen potions books and a travel pillow,” Malfoy retorted, “I suppose if we have any spare time for light reading then they’ll come in handy.”

“That’s a dry-stone wall,” Moran said, pointing at it.

“Why do you have a travel pillow?” Harry asked, “You got a portkey here.”

“That’s a dry-stone wall,” Bébhinn echoed, “Guys, Malfoy, that’s a dry-stone wall. It doesn’t need mortar since it’s basically just stones stacked on top of each other.”

“Oh,” Malfoy said, “That doesn’t seem particularly stable but far be it from me to pass judgement on alternative wall-building techniques, I suppose.”

“I suppose we should just--” Mallaidh said, levitating a stone out of place before thumping it onto the ground nearby with a wet slam. “Start by doing this?”

“Oh Merlin,” Malfoy said quietly.

*

Harry was sweating fiercely, two hours later, and trying desperately to wedge a heavy stone into a gap that was clearly too small when Malfoy said oh Merlin again, but a lot more panicked sounding this time. He said it once more and Harry looked over, finally cramming the stone into place. Malfoy was holding his arm out from his body and had another hand over his eyes. He started whimpering, and Harry stood up.

“It’ll be fine,” Bébhinn was saying when he plodded over, the mud stuck deep in the tread of his boots making them heavy. “Stop fucking flapping it around and I’ll-- ” She cut off and caught Malfoy’s wrist in mid-air. Malfoy who responded with a panicked and slightly shrill don’t touch it.

“What happened?” Harry asked, averting his eyes from the sight of blood dripping down Malfoy’s fingers and onto his wrist, staring at the hand over Malfoy’s face instead, pale and thin and shaking a bit. Harry took a step back.

“Oh my god I can see bone,” Moran said, coming up to stand beside them, “Fucking hell.” Harry elbowed her in the side and she looked suitably mortified, then mimed zipping her lips up and throwing away the key. Harry chewed on his lip for a second, nervously.

“I’m going to sue you all,” Malfoy said, terribly, “Can someone make me not fucking bleed anymore please?”

Bébhinn said something, quietly, and Harry heard an awful slick sound before he dared look again, at Malfoy’s now blood-free finger. It still looked quite mangled though, and Harry grimaced.

“How did that happen?” he asked, not really expecting an answer.

“A fucking stone fell on me, you fucking prat,” Malfoy snapped, “What do you think?”

“I have something for that,” Mallaidh said, very calmly, “If someone wants to take him back so we can finish here?”

*

In the downstairs bathroom, Malfoy sat on the side of the bath and talked loudly about irresponsibility while Harry squatted on the floor to look through their medicine basket. He looked dubiously at the smudged writing on the back of his hand and then peered at the label of a small blue bottle. “Right,” he said, “I think this is the one.”

Malfoy stopped talking and raised his eyebrows. “Is that a joke?” he wanted to know.

“You grabbed my hand quite hard when we apparated,” Harry said, apologetically because Malfoy looked quite peaky, “And it smudged a bit. I’m reasonably sure this is right though.”

Mallaidh had an impeccable system of labelling potions, and it was largely done by numbers.

“Let me see,” Malfoy said, cradling his hand away from Harry as though he was afraid Harry would take it away from him or something. “I don’t trust you.”

“Once I broke my foot when a horse stood on it,” Harry said, conversationally, after he’d passed Malfoy the bottle and held out the back of his hand for inspection.

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Malfoy sniffed, unscrewing the cap, “It doesn’t.”

“I’m just saying,” Harry said, “There have been worse accidents. Once, Mallaidh got second degree burns from that awful vine on the side of the house? She tried to trim it and nobody had told us it was… acidic, I guess.”

“Is this one of those there are worse problems in the world things?” Malfoy asked, “Because in all of history that line has never worked to make somebody feel better.”

“It’s not,” Harry told him, “I was trying to distract you from the pain.”

Malfoy narrowed his eyes. “Would you get me a teaspoon?” he asked coolly.  When Harry was back from his brief trip to the kitchen, as soon as he had pushed the bathroom door open a sliver, Malfoy was there. He snatched the spoon away and stalked back to sit down on the edge of the bath again, then he reconsidered and put the toilet lid down, perching there instead.

“I can’t believe you left me alone with this,” he said, holding his little finger aloft, it was remarkably bent out of shape but the skin was whole and sealed. “It’s repulsive.”

“Take the medicine,” Harry advised, leaning back against the wall and folding his arms. The light in the bathroom was dim and muted, light bulb flickering gently above them. Everything in this house needed fixing.

Malfoy threw three teaspoons of the viscous liquid into his mouth in quick succession, pulling a face at the taste. “No,” he said, “No I don’t like this at all,” then, “Merlin,” and bent over at the waist.

Harry took a quick step towards him and was shocked when Malfoy scrabbled at the air for a second before landing his good hand on the flesh just above Harry’s knee. He squeezed down tightly and then let up again, as quickly as he had started. “Sorry,” he said, looking upwards at Harry through the strands of white hair on his forehead. He panted, “Sorry.”

Harry didn’t know what to do, so moved closer again for lack of a better idea. “It’s alright,” he said, and was surprised to find that it had been, actually. The warm crush of Malfoy’s hand over his jeans, one of Malfoy’s fingers digging in, steadily, just above Harry’s kneecap. He reached down and guided Malfoy’s hand back. “It’s alright,” he repeated.

Malfoy panted again and held on, his face contorting. He brought the injured arm out from under his stomach and held it up so they could both inspect it, staring at it with disgusted interest. Harry saw the wounded finger move for a split second, bones rearranging under skin, before he had to look away again and settle his gaze on a spot just over Malfoy’s flushed left ear. I’m terrible at this, he wanted to say, and then did. Malfoy glanced up at him, away from where he had been focused on the cool tiles under Harry’s feet.

“At what?” he asked, voice still a little off from the pain.

“Um,” Harry replied, “Comforting people?”

“You’re doing a shit job of it Potter,” Malfoy said, and then laughed a little hysterically to himself as if he’d made a joke. “No, you’re fine actually.”

“See I should be the one reassuring you,” Harry told him, and then tried “You’re doing very well.”

Malfoy groaned. “Don’t,” he said, “You’re better when you’re silent.”

“Well done,” Harry said, getting into it now, smiling, “Rearranging bones sounds like it isn’t easy but you’re really good at it.”

“It’s a hard job,” Malfoy agreed, and it seemed as though he would have laughed if he wasn’t otherwise indisposed. “But someone has to do it.”

“At least it works fast,” Harry said, serious now, “Because say what you will about skele-gro but you can’t deny the fact that it takes way too long. I have things to be doing! I can’t be waiting around for hours for my bones to reappear.”

“Hmm,” Malfoy said, humming in absent agreement, and apparently they were now both pretending he wasn’t still holding Harry’s leg, that his hand wasn’t clenched so hard that Harry could practically feel his pulse. He was distinctly aware of the patch of skin that was covered by Malfoy, it was itching, he had pins and needles, everything was hot and odd and his skin felt tight. Harry felt utterly ridiculous and simultaneously as if nobody had ever touched him before in his life.

“Are you alright?” Harry asked, and Malfoy looked away from his eyes and down at his lap, like he’d only just remembered what was happening.

“Yes,” he said, and let go of Harry’s knee, and flexed the fingers in his just-healed hand. “Yes it’s.” He stopped, looked up again and frowned.

“It’s really good stuff,” Harry blurted, “I’ve used it before.” Then, because he was feeling tired and strung out and the light from the rising sun was spilling in through the bathroom window, hitting Malfoy’s face at just the right angle, he put two fingers onto Malfoy’s jaw and felt a muscle jump underneath his fingertips. “You’ve got a bit of mud on your face,” Harry said, “It’s been there for ages.”

“Okay,” Malfoy agreed, then stood up and swayed close. Probably by accident, Harry thought, as he felt the heat radiating from Malfoy’s body, as he noticed that he still for some reason had his coat on. That had definitely been an accidental sway. He was taller than Harry. And Harry had forgotten that, while Malfoy had been sitting on the loo with his hand all mangled and his voice all strained and with sweat on his temples, curling his hair. He’d forgotten everything.

He was saved then, from what he didn’t know, by Moran and a short shout of glee from down the hallway. “Oh my god,” she said, muffled, and Harry took a deep breath and pretended he couldn’t fucking smell the fresh linen fabric conditioner Malfoy insisted on using. He stepped away sharply and Malfoy deflated a bit, and flicked his hair out from his eyes, suddenly himself again.

Moran pushed the door open. “Did you see this?” she asked, breathless. Then she looked at Malfoy and said “I came to check on you, are you alright?”

Malfoy held up his hand again to show her, There was blood on the cuff of his jumper. “You’ll have to pay my dry-cleaning fees,” he told her drily, as if nothing had happened. And nothing really had, Harry thought, except that his heart was still beating quite fast and why would it if nothing had happened?

Moran laughed in relief and patted him on the arm. “I’m so sorry,” she said, even though it hadn’t been her fault, “We shouldn’t have let you do it.”

Malfoy snorted. “What did we not see?” he asked, changing the subject.

“Oh!” Moran said, snapping her fingers, “A new room came up.”

“What?” Harry asked, distracted, “Down here?”

“Yeah,” she replied, “I thought it would be upstairs as well but you know what this place is like. Come and see.”

The door was pale yellow and painted by someone who didn’t know what they were doing, Harry thought, as they stood outside and he saw the thick drips that had dried on the surface. It had popped up in the corridor between the bathroom and the dining room, in the short space of time between him retrieving the teaspoon and now. He couldn’t remember if he’d seen it before or not.

“What in Merlin’s name is this?” Malfoy asked, lips pursed, fingertip resting right underneath a brown-blue blob painted onto the door.

Moran leaned close and squinted at it. “I think it might be a teddy bear,” she said, “Possibly wearing a small waistcoat.”

“Ah,” Malfoy said, “That makes a lot of sense.”

“Does it?” Harry asked, pulling a face.

“No,” Malfoy told him, “Where did this room come from?”

“They um,” Moran said, “Sort of pop in and out of existence?”

“Ah,” Malfoy said again, nodding now, “The Manor did that a bit, actually. I hate to think what it looks like now.”

“There used to be way more rooms when more people lived here,” Moran told him, “But it shrivelled some when they left. The kitchen used to be half the size, before the downstairs bedrooms disappeared.”

“Should we go in?” Harry asked, and turned the doorknob before anyone could reply.

It was a nursery, done in lavender lilac, complete with what Harry assumed were all the normal nursery things, like a cot and a small wooden rocking horse and even a very dusty pack of nappies, sitting in the corner with the top ripped open. He turned the light on, dust hung in the air. It smelled musty, like the inside of a shed or a cupboard that hadn’t been opened in a really long time.

“Oh,” Malfoy said, “I suppose…” and then trailed off.

“I know,” Moran agreed, “Bit sad, isn’t it?”

“We can clean up a bit,” Harry said, going to stand over by the window. The curtains had a zoo scene on them; little giraffes stretching to eat leaves, lions rolling over under an orange sun, penguins splashing in a bright blue pool. He’d never seen anything like it. “It’s not sad.”

“Yeah,” Moran said, “No, of course we can. I just meant like. I don’t know, I think maybe I was the last person to be in this room.”

“No,” Harry said, “There were kids here when I was here. Julia’s ones.”

“Julia's my cousin, she lives in England now like a massive traitor,” Moran explained, to Malfoy who was over by the cot, arms folded and leaning his torso over to look inside. He hummed in agreement. “And I’m pretty sure they were in the upstairs nursery.”

“Oh,” Harry said, “I don’t think I saw that one either.”

“It was bigger,” said Moran, “I’m pretty sure that-- I mean as far as I can remember this one was never in use.”

“It’s a little inconvenient,” Malfoy said, “To have a nursery downstairs, no? When Bébhinn’s room is, you know, not.

“Honestly Malfoy,” Harry sighed, “Nothing in this house works very well. Mallaidh was hoping an extra bedroom would pop up for you, once the house had kicked into gear and realised there was an extra person here. But apparently it didn’t feel like it.”

“The charm work needs refreshing,” Malfoy said, “We had to do it in The Manor a couple of times, you should have a book about it in the library I’m sure, the spells are largely the same for every house.”

“This is such a nice room,” Harry said, looking around, white floorboards, squat lamp on a table with stars cut out of it. High, high ceilings, roomy and tall. “Do you think Bébh will like it?”

“Yeah,” Moran said, and rested her chin on his shoulder very briefly before pulling away, “Did you know you’ve still got your coat on?”

“I got caught up in the emergency situation,” Harry said, “But if it’ll make you feel better I’ll take it off now.”

*

The sky was red and fiery when Harry finally pulled himself up the stairs to his bedroom, Malfoy on his heels. Bébhinn and Mallaidh had arrived back about twenty minutes ago, with seven bags full of shopping and a brand new mauve Kitchen-Aid, payment from the woman for defacing her neighbour’s property. She’d seemed pleased about it, Mallaidh had said, unpacking one of the bags and holding an expensive packet of biscuits. Malfoy had sat at the kitchen table after relenting when Bébhinn insisted on making him a hot chocolate, sipping it quietly.

“I think I’m in shock,” Malfoy said, once they were upstairs, and sat down heavily on his bed. He looked flatter and paler than usual.

“Do you want a glass of water?” Harry asked solicitously, and then went to then en-suite to get him one anyway. He set it down on Malfoy’s bedside table, already stained with rings.

“I’m alright,” Malfoy protested.

“Other than being in shock,” Harry said, taking his jumper off and putting it on his rapidly-growing laundry pile. It had mud on it, and probably blood, if he was to look more closely.

“Yes well,” Malfoy said, flapping his hand and then wincing, “Other than that, of course.” He was still in his clothes and it didn’t really seem as though he was too eager to rectify that. “It aches a bit.”

“Do you want some painkillers?” Harry asked, and then blinked hard when Malfoy started wriggling out of his trousers.

“No,” he said, tiredly, “I just need to sleep.”

Harry sat down hard on his bed and tried to avert his eyes. He looked at the ceiling, and a sharp outline of the window pane cast in bright pink sunlight. Malfoy was making some sort of rustling noise now. “Do you need to use the bathroom?” Harry said.

“Nah,” Malfoy mumbled, “I’m going to sleep,” and he was in his fucking pants now, lying on the covers and fiddling with the buttons of his shirt. He had very long legs, Harry noticed, hating himself at the same time, long and muscled with pale hair. There were a couple of smears of dried mud on his ankles and Harry thought that Malfoy would probably hate himself in the morning once he realised he’d got in bed like that. He didn’t say anything though, and left instead.

In the bathroom, looking at himself in the mirror as he brushed his teeth viciously, Harry frowned. Malfoy. Draco fucking Malfoy. Was attractive, actively and actually attractive, with his soft looking hair and his nice legs and his terrible, mean mouth. And it didn’t even stop there, because on top of that horrible revelation Harry thought it was entirely possible that it wasn’t objective, and that he was personally attracted to Malfoy. Draco fucking Malfoy who was a former Death Eater and who right now Harry was imagining kissing. Just. Just going back in there and straddling Malfoy’s lap and pressing their lips together. Not even to shut Malfoy up, because Malfoy had seemed incapable of speech a minute ago, but just to see what it would be like to have Malfoy hold onto his hips with his warm hands and be mellow and pleasant for once instead of shitty and argumentative.

“No,” Harry said to himself, firmly but quietly. Then pointed at his reflection for good measure and also for emphasis. “You will not.” And then he thought about Malfoy falling asleep in his socks, his white hair spilling onto a pillow, his grey eyes, and he had to press himself against the cool porcelain of the sink basin to calm down. “Not now. Not right now,” he whispered, grimacing at the sheer inevitability of it all, because now he’d thought it he couldn’t very well unthink it. "Now is a really bad time."

“You fucking piece of shit,” he then said, addressing his brain, and spat foamy toothpaste into the drain. “You’ve really fucked me over this time mate.”

Chapter Text

Potter had been acting… off, lately, and it was making Draco unsettled. It wasn’t-- he couldn’t even confront Potter about it because it wasn’t at all like it had been at the beginning; outright insults and that horrible empty stare Potter got, where Draco had just known he was having some sort of flashback to one of the numerous terrible things Draco had done. It wasn’t really friendly either though, except for the times when Potter would just smile at him out of nowhere like he wanted Draco to melt. Probably the only way to describe Potter’s odd behaviour as of late would be intense. He stared during breakfast, he stared when Draco was making a potion, he just… sat there and watched when Draco tried to work on his thesis. It wasn’t a nightmare, but it was definitely getting close.

And Draco wasn’t oblivious or anything, he knew it had started up after that weird, tense, sexually-charged bathroom-moment they’d shared. Neither of them had said anything about it, obviously, but Draco thought maybe it had made Potter uncomfortable. Well, he’d thought that for a very brief moment, until he caught Potter loitering in the doorway of the library while Draco was reading, just looking at him. He’d blushed, deeply, and then Draco thought it was possible that there was a different explanation.

He had decided to be kind about it. Potter was-- Potter was difficult, and he didn’t like Draco very much, and he seemed like the type of person who would feel guilty about it if they had sex. So Draco didn’t say anything, and Potter didn’t say anything, and they had spent the last few days in an odd sort of limbo, skirting around one another and stealing glances. Draco was tempted, and from an objective standpoint he very much liked the idea of making Potter lose control a little. But it was them, and nothing had ever really been good between them, and sex was last in a long list of things that would solve their problems.

*

“Did you see what Moran did?” Potter asked, one morning while Draco was still in bed and comfortable and still half asleep. He sounded unreasonably awake for somebody who was up so early. Draco got a split-second waft of sweet-smelling coffee before he pulled the duvet over his face and tried, quite desperately, to go back to sleep. He got about as far as imagining what it would be like to be drifting off again when Potter said, as if it meant anything, “I want to get all the sheets on to wash before we leave.”

“What does that have to do with me?” Draco mumbled, “Please fuck off.” Draco had found that Potter was a lot easier to resist when he was spouting nonsense and waking Draco up before he’d had a solid nine hours of unconsciousness.

“The television’s still broken,” Potter said, and Draco heard him shuffle about on the floorboards like he was deciding where to sit. “Which is fine, I’ve sort of learned to live with it by this point, but I went downstairs this morning and someone had printed out a still from Masterchef and taped it over the screen. Like, to taunt me that I never got to watch the final.”

“Oh,” Draco said, both freezing and trying to sound neutral. “That’s very mean. Poor old you.”

Potter was silent for a few seconds and Draco tried not to convey any more guilt than he currently was. He lay very still and tried to breath like he had been before, but he couldn’t remember how he normally did it. “I’m starting to think you had a hand in this,” Potter said, “And that Moran wasn’t working alone like I previously hypothesised.”

“No,” Draco said dismissively, shaking his head even though Potter couldn’t see, “I don’t even know what Masterchef is. Of course, I could guess, because I’m not totally incompetent. Is it something to do with cooking maybe?”

“Right well you’re laying it on a bit thick now,” Potter said drily, “What I’m finding hard to believe is that you worked out how to use the printer.”

“Moran did it,” Draco said sleepily, “I’m innocent. Go and shout at her instead.”

“She keeps telling me to watch it on my laptop,” Potter grumbled, “Which I had no idea you could do. And then it always declines into her insulting me about how old I am.”

“Very old,” Draco said nonsensically, “Please, please stop talking to me.”

“You need to get up,” Potter told him, “Mallaidh said, in no uncertain terms, that we were to be in the car at ten a.m. sharp. Departure time is at five past ten.”

“I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t come,” Draco said, sitting up and letting the duvet pool around his waist, “Wait, does she mean for us to just sit in the car for the five minutes in between us getting in and the actual departure time?” Moran’s birthday was coming up and Mallaidh had decided -after quite a few fraught and secret conferences- that they were giving her a car. Not a new car, the car they currently had, the one that was practically falling to pieces. So now they were driving halfway across the country-- actually, not even halfway across the country, the full length of the country, to pick up a Land Rover that Mallaidh had bought second hand. They were spending the night in a bed and breakfast. It was either going to be lovely, or absolutely the worst trip he’d ever been on. Draco was holding out hope for the latter.

Potter was sprawled in one of the armchairs close to the foot of Draco’s bed wearing a t-shirt that was too big for him. It had some sort of nature scene printed onto it; a howling wolf, a bright moon, three bears rearing onto their hind legs. “That’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen,” Draco pointed out.

Potter, to his credit, immediately realised what Draco was talking about and looked down at his front curiously. “It’s not that bad,” he said hesitantly, “I mean, for something that was free.”

“You would have to pay me to wear that,” Draco informed him, “And it would have to be a very substantial amount to combat the massive loss of dignity.”

“Don’t you think I look dignified right now?” Potter asked, mock offended, and Draco considered him for a long second. Potter’s hair was characteristically untamed, his trousers were about two inches too short, and laid out beside him on the floor next to his chair was that horrible corduroy monstrosity of a coat, as though he was a child preparing his outfit for school the next day. He still looked lovely though, with that perfect brown skin and those brilliant green eyes of his, and the ability to look as though he’d thrown on whatever he’d found in the bargain bin in a charity shop and still almost pull it off. Draco looked at Potter’s forearms, his wrists, his neck. Those were all nice bits too, unfortunately. Draco was finding it very hard to find a point on Potter’s body that he wouldn’t like to touch.

“No,” Draco said shortly, “I can’t quite find the words for what you look like right now.” He glanced out the window. “Maybe I shouldn’t come,” he said again.

“You don’t have to come,” Potter replied mildly, utterly oblivious to the huge internal crisis Draco was currently having about the way he looked and moved and just generally existed. Potter looked as though he smelled like pine trees, all the time. Not fake pine either, just, the way a forest smells after it’s rained. “Nobody’s forcing you,” he finished.

“I just don’t think I can bear to spend two days in a car with you,” Draco told him coolly, and then immediately regretted it. Because he was a prat, and apparently his brain thought that the ideal solution to finding Potter attractive was to insult him. As if that would solve anything. Potter’s mouth went a little downturned around the corners and Draco’s fingers flinched with the need to curve them upwards again. Merlin, he was completely fucked.

“Can you just get up?” Potter asked, setting his half finished coffee cup down on the floor where someone would definitely knock it over. “Because I really do think we should put the sheets on to wash so they’ll be nice for when we get back.”

Draco yawned widely and decided it would probably be easier at this point to just agree with whatever Potter was harping on about. “Yes alright,” he said, “Alright, alright.”

“So will you strip your bed once you’re dressed?” Potter asked, “And put it in the washing machine?”

Draco narrowed his eyes. Potter and his weird found family were oddly insistent on using Muggle machines for household chores. It was fine, of course, Draco didn’t have a problem with it. Except it seemed exceptionally inconvenient. The first time he’d tried to do a cleaning spell on his sheets Potter had gasped at him. “Fine,” he said, “Yes.”

“Don’t tell me you’re still pissed off about the washing machine,” Potter said, “Cleaning charms are not effective, Malfoy. I’m honestly worried about you if all you do at home is cleaning spells.”

“Please let’s stop talking about chores,” Draco said, going over to the wardrobe and pulling out a grey t-shirt. “Is this what house elves talk about? I feel like a house elf.”

“That’s so offensive,” Potter said, “The fact that you think all house elves talk about is the best way to clean sheets.

“I’ve never really thought about it before,” Draco told him, suddenly sick of talking. He was aching to get as far away as possible from Potter, and his ugly clothes that made Draco feel very conflicted about wanting to fuck him. “I’ll meet you in the bloody car, alright?”

*

Cork was an odd name for a place, Draco thought, sitting in the back seat with his arms folded while Potter and Mallaidh bent their heads over a map and argued in quiet, snappish tones. Cork was an odd name for a city and an odd name for an entire county, and for about one second he considered how it came by the name before he realised he really didn’t care all that much. They were on their way there, maybe he would find out from a well-placed information board.

There was a dog curled up in the foot well next to his and every so often it would raise its head to stare at him dolefully for a few seconds, before falling asleep again with a sigh, as though Draco had somehow disappointed it. Draco had of course questioned whether it was a smart idea or not to bring a dog on a seven-hour road trip, but he’d received a blank stare in response and let it drop. The dog seemed fine though, sleepy and content looking. Draco had shoved a handful of treats into his pocket during a last trip inside to use the bathroom. He was saving them for later though, when the dog might need a pick-me-up.

He looked out of the window and unfolded his arms because neither Potter nor Mallaidh had taken any notice of his silent protest. They were parked in a lay-by just outside a small, dark looking city. He could see a mountain in the distance, jutting up from the landscape in green and brown, with a small mound at the top. On the other side of the car, the dog’s side of the car, was a clear lake.

“What’s that?” Draco asked, pointing at the mountain. Potter turned in his seat, looking harried.

“Oh,” he said, following Draco’s finger, “That’s Knocknarea. That one’s Ben Bulben,” he then volunteered, pointing to one a lot closer, with a flat top and dark cracks going up the side like someone had stretched it out and it hadn’t quite sprung back into shape properly.

“What’s that on the top of it?” Draco asked, about the one with the thing on top of it.

This time Mallaidh answered, not even looking up from the map. “A cairn. Queen Medb is buried there, apparently standing up facing her enemies in Ulster, which I think is hilarious. It doesn’t look that big but when you get up to it it’s about twice as tall as this car.”

“Really?” Draco said, looking at the little hump. It didn’t look like much from here, she was right, a small grey dot perched on the green dome of the mountain. He could imagine her in there though, looking down on the city at her feet. “When did she die?”

“Around the year 50, apparently,” Mallaidh said, “I mean, people don’t know if she actually existed or not. She’s sort of a mythical figure.”

Draco stared at the cairn. He wanted her to have been real, in the year 50, and for her to still be buried there now.

“I think she was real,” Potter said, and then, out of nowhere, “And I also think we should go through Mayo.”

“You’re wrong,” Mallaidh said firmly, “It’ll take about half an hour longer.”

“I thought the whole point of Malfoy coming along was so he could see some more of the country,” Potter argued, “So I think the half-hour-longer scenic route is probably worth it.”

“This entire country is a scenic route,” Mallaidh said.

“I really don’t mind which way we go,” Draco piped up, “It does seem like we’re wasting time arguing about it though.”

“Scenic route,” Potter chanted, “I’ll drive the extra half hour.”

“Fine,” Mallaidh sighed, starting the car. “Scenic route.”

*

Ireland was the most beautiful place he’d ever seen in person. They’d been driving along the coast for a small while, high up along the edge of some cliffs, before veering away back into the countryside a little more. Green and wet-looking, the fields looked empty and sad, with stone walls cutting through them sharply, intersecting and then splitting once more. Draco rolled the window down. The air smelled like salt and rain and reminded him of Scotland; standing on the edge of the Great Lake with Pansy and throwing rocks in the water, Quidditch in the middle of a storm, the way the stone walls of the astronomy tower went cold and damp after it had rained for a whole day.

“We could play a game,” Potter suggested, and Draco glanced at him, at the back of his neck visible through the grey headrest. He was currently sprawled in the passenger seat with his socked feet resting on the dashboard. The cd was playing softly in the background for about the fourth time. Mallaidh changed gear and the car jolted with the effort.

“I-spy?” Mallaidh asked, “I love it and I know it’s for children but I don’t care.”

“I have no idea what that is,” Draco yawned, and rested his elbow on the windowsill. “Do cars have windowsills?” he asked.

“No,” Potter answered, then paused for a second, “Actually I don’t know, because then what do you call that part.”

“The part where the glass disappears into?” Mallaidh suggested, “That’s very long though.”

“Windowsill,” Draco decided, “I’m convinced it’s a windowsill.”

“I thought windowsills were the part that stick out,” Mallaidh mused, “That you can put stuff on. Like that shelf above the fireplace which I’ve forgotten the name for.”

“Mantelpiece?” Draco said, “I’m not sure.”

“I think it’s a windowsill,” Potter said, “Let’s just call it a windowsill.”

“Anyway, I don’t know what I-spy is,” Draco said, just to get everyone up to speed.

“It’s where you have to find something in the car, or outside the car, and then say I spy with my little eye, something beginning with… and then whatever the thing you saw begins with. And then people have to guess. We played it all the time when we were children. On the way to school or wherever.”

Draco didn’t really want to tell her how dull it sounded, but it sounded incredibly dull. He looked out of the window again and couldn’t see a single house on the horizon. Three donkeys in a field raised their heads as the car passed, and Draco turned to watch them as they got smaller and smaller.

“Did you see those donkeys?” he asked.

Potter hummed in what may have been agreement, and then sat up straighter in his chair. “Let’s just ask each other questions that we have to answer truthfully,” he said, sounding truly excited about the prospect.

“I’d rather play I-spy,” Draco told him, “In all honesty.”

“Hey,” Mallaidh said, sounding amused, “We’re playing it later, I’m going to make you play it later.”

“I look forward to it,” Draco said drily, “Being forced to play a children’s guessing game sounds like my very idea of a good time.”

“Then you’re in luck,” Mallaidh said, apparently sincerely, “How’s Dagda doing?”

Draco looked down at the dog. She had her chin rested on her two front paws, it was adorable, and he had to control the waver in his voice as he said, “She seems fine. She’s just asleep.”

“What’s the best thing about living in London?” Potter asked, “And then you can ask me a question.”

“So, we’re just jumping straight into your game without even a vote?” Mallaidh said, “That seems a bit rude.”

“Says the person who at some indeterminate time in the future is going to make us play I-spy,” Potter said.

“Can we stop saying that?” Draco pleaded, “It’s become meaningless. All I’m hearing is a jumbled mess of syllables.”

“What’s the best thing about living in London?” Potter repeated.

“Fine,” Draco said, “Fine,” and then he thought about it for a second.

“Hurry up,” Potter told him, “You only have five seconds to think.”

“You can’t just add rules,” Draco replied, “Arse.”

“It’s my game,” Potter said.

“Let him think,” Mallaidh admonished, and then turned the music up a little, using a dial on the radio. Draco listened, and thought.

“It’s probably… the anonymity,” he said finally, and felt himself blush a small bit, which was patently ridiculous. “Which I know is a wanky thing to say but… I like how nobody really knows who I am.”

“Did you just say wanky?” Potter asked incredulously, turning in his seat and clutching at the headrest for balance. “I can’t believe you just said that.”

“Fuck off Potter,” Draco said, “It’s a real word.”

“It’s not,” Potter said, “But it is amazing. I love it.”

“Ginny says it all the time,” Draco said, “That must be where I picked it up. It’s only to describe certain things though.”

“Like how the best thing about London is the anonymity?” Potter asked with a smile, even though it looked as though he was trying not to.

“Fuck off,” Draco repeated, although he found himself smiling as well.

“You know people in London though,” Potter said, “Like Gin and Luna. And doesn’t Parkinson live in London? Wait, do you ever hang out with all of them at the same time?”

Draco snorted at the thought of Pansy in Ginny and Luna’s flat, drinking camomile and listening to one of their Joni Mitchell records. “No,” he said, “And yes I do know people there, obviously, but it’s not like--” he cut off for a second and looked at Potter. He was a dick, but he looked earnest right now, as though he was actually interested. “Diagon Alley is sort of a nightmare,” Draco explained, and Potter looked sympathetic for a second before schooling his features into something more neutral. “I couldn’t really go there, after the war, people didn’t exactly want to see someone like me getting on with their life, you know? I think they prefered to imagine I was languishing in Azkaban or something, which is fair enough. Anyway, in Muggle London nobody gives a shit, nobody knows.”

“Where do you do your potions apprenticeship?” Mallaidh asked, “The way Harry talks it’s almost as though Diagon Alley is the only wizarding part in the whole of London.”

“Um,” Draco said, hesitating, “I do it in Herne Hill? It’s not a wizarding area so much as it just has a large wizarding community. Mr. Goshawk -that’s who I do it with- he lives there and has his potions lab in the back of the house.” Draco loved it, actually, even though he’d applied for about twenty other apprenticeships before finally being accepted. He loved his own apartment in a Muggle building, he loved walking to the apparition point in the early morning, he loved Mr. Goshawks’ house; small and poky with a random assortment of heirlooms and what looked like IKEA furniture. He loved the lab at the back of the house, with its big windows and the permanent cold draught. It didn’t sound like much, when he said it out loud, but he’d worked for it, and it was his.

“What’s the worst thing about London?” Potter asked.

“I thought we took turns,” Draco pointed out, and then gave up when Potter just kept looking at him expectantly, “Probably how big it is,” he said, “Which I know isn’t very interesting.”

“It’s fine,” Potter said, “It’s the truth, isn’t it? It’s fine.”

“It’s hard to get places. You can spend hours on the tube and only end up in the same fucking city.”

“God,” Potter said, shaking his head, “That used to be my favourite thing about it actually. The tube.”

“Really?” Draco asked him, genuinely surprised. Nobody liked the fucking tube. Everyone in the history of the fucking thing complained about the London Underground system every chance they got. It was an essential part of living in London. Like pubs, or food markets, or the weird little taxis, or those beigel shops on Brick Lane.

“Yeah,” Potter assured him, “Genuinely. I used to love sitting on the trains. I used to dream of the times when the circle line was still a circle and you could go the whole way around.”

“That’s very odd,” Draco told him, “What an odd hobby.”

“It was more of a distraction,” Potter said drily, “But I did like it. I like the way people leave newspapers on the seat for other people to read. I used to find the weirdest shit. I was so up to date with celebrity gossip it was ridiculous. Heat used to be my favourite.”

Mallaidh snorted. “Those things are so fucking misogynistic Harry.”

“Oh yeah,” Potter said, “Like, the diet advice? It didn’t really seem like it was written for real people, you know? Like it was just insulting you at every turn.”

“Is Heat the one with the sex tips?” Draco asked.

“That’s Cosmopolitan,” Potter corrected, “The one Carrie Bradshaw wrote for?”

“I’m not sure who that is,” Draco confessed.

“Have you never seen Sex and The City?” Mallaidh asked, turning away from the road for a second to look at him. Potter made a sort of wailing noise and flapped his hands in the direction of the windscreen for a few moments, before she turned back around with a sigh.

“Eyes on the road, oh my god,” Potter said, breathless, “I hate it when you do that.”

“Sorry, sorry,” she said, “You’ve got to admit that’s weird though. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t at least heard of Sex and The City.

Draco felt like too much time had passed to admit that he’d actually gone with Pansy to the cinema to watch the last movie, so instead he said, “I’ve heard of it, I just never knew that was her name.”

“I think it’s a brilliant name,” Potter mused, “Very journalist-y. Very Cosmo.”

“What are these words?” Draco asked, leaning towards the window a bit more so he could catch a better view of the house they were passing. It looked like a proper castle. Gatehouse and everything. “The Manor had a gatehouse,” he heard himself say.

“You grew up in a Manor?” Mallaidh asked, “Fucking hell.”

“Yes,” Draco said, not really wanting to talk about it, wondering why the fuck he’d brought it up in the first place. “It was fine.”

Fine,” Potter repeated, laughing, “It was massive.” Draco blinked for a second. He had no clue how Potter could just… remember it and also laugh about it.

“The peacocks used to bite me,” Draco told them, “And there were ghosts. But not ones like in Hogwarts. The ghosts of my fucking ancestors. They thought scaring children built character.”

“Doesn’t sound that bad,” Potter said, slowly, “It kind of sounds like an adventure.”

“I’m telling you it was shit,” Draco snapped, “So please believe me when I say it was shit.”

Potter turned even more, until he was looking Draco right in the face. His t-shirt rucked up against the horrible seat fabric until his arm was almost entirely bare. He had a couple of scars above his elbow that Draco hadn’t seen before. “Sorry,” he said, “No, I’m not trying to… I’m not trying to argue with you. If you say it was bad then I’m sorry.” He looked very sad and Draco wanted to claw that expression right off his face.

“You’ve been there,” Draco said, “You know it was bad.”

“It can’t have been like that all the time,” Potter replied, “Surely.”

“It wasn’t,” Draco said shortly, “What’s your favourite thing about living here?”

Potter looked over Draco’s shoulder and out of the rear window. “It’s pretty,” he said, “And very peaceful. And I like living with Mallaidh and Bébh.”

Mallaidh smiled at that, and Draco saw it curve on the side of her face. “Not Moran?”

“Moran is a terror,” Potter grinned, “I can’t wait for her to go to university.”

Mallaidh laughed for a second. “You’re such a bad liar.”

“It really won’t be the same without her,” Potter admitted, “I’m actually trying not to think about it.”

“What does she want to do?” Draco asked. Moran had been talking about it the other night while they made dinner but he hadn’t been paying attention very well. He’d been trying to fit in more time for working on his thesis lately. It was peaceful here, Potter was right, but somehow they always seemed to be busy doing various activities and going various places. He’d been staying up late at night trying to write, he wrote through dinner sometimes, he didn’t want to miss anything.

“History,” Mallaidh said, “Celtic History. In Dublin.”

“Wow,” Draco said, “I always liked history.”

“Nobody liked History of Magic,” Potter argued, “Professor Binns was absolutely shite.”

“I bet you were one of those people who used to fall asleep in class, weren’t you?” Draco retorted, “It was interesting if you payed attention, Potter.”

Hermione could barely make it through one of his classes,” Potter told him, “I honestly think you’re lying. But then you liked Potions, didn’t you, and not a single other person in school did. So you’re sort of an outlier I think.”

“Plenty of people liked potions,” Draco said, “Plenty of people I knew liked them anyway.”

“You’re an outlier,” Potter said, as if that was going to be his explanation for everything Draco said. “And no offense but you were always a bit odd,” he then said, as if he wasn’t.

*

Draco rolled over from where he’d been picking absently at the pink covers of the hotel room duvet and stared at the shiny white door for a second; it was currently opening with a low creak. Apparently, being an utter prat, he’d forgotten to lock it. He sat up and grasped around for his wand a bit desperately. One could never be too safe in places like this.

“Do you want to go out?” Potter’s disembodied voice asked, before he popped his head through the doorway with a grin, “You forgot to lock your door,” he then pointed out, redundantly.

“Where?” Draco asked, deflating and flopping back down, letting his wand fall out of his hand.

“Well,” Potter said, then hesitated. Draco glanced up at him, “Can I come in?” he asked, “I hate hovering in the entrance like this.”

“Oh,” Draco said, in surprise, “Yes. I didn’t think you’d bother to wait for an invitation.”

“I don’t know if that was an insult or not,” Potter admitted, shutting the door firmly behind him and then looking around the room helplessly. “You’ve not got any chairs,” he noticed, after couple of seconds.

“Well spotted,” Draco agreed, surveying the empty room in the hope that maybe some chairs would decide to lurch into existence any moment. Prospects didn’t look hopeful. “Have you got chairs in your room?”

“Yeah,” Potter said, “I’ve got about five for some reason. Do you want one? You can have one if you want, I’ll bring it in.”

“This establishment is terribly run,” Draco told him, “None of the rooms make sense. Look in the en-suite,” he said, and nodded his head over to a door opposite his current position, star fished across the mattress.

Potter opened the door and stared at the back of another, identical door. He tried it, as Draco had done, and found it to be locked. Just as Draco had done.

“Right,” he said, “Where are you supposed to go to the toilet?”

“I’m not sure,” Draco told him, “Possibly out of the window.”

“You can use my bathroom,” Potter offered, “It’ll be just like back at home.”

“Oh joy,” Draco sighed, “Do you want to sit down?”

“On the bed?” Potter asked, and then perched down on the end anyway, brushing his knees off for some reason. Draco scooted over a bit so he’d have some more room.

“You were asking if I wanted to go out,” Draco prompted.

“Yeah,” Potter said, “I was, yeah. I was thinking like, for dinner? And then possibly um. Some of the nightlife?”

“They have nightlife here?” Draco raised his eyebrows. “Goodness.”

“I mean… They must do,” Potter said, “It’s a city. Cities have nightlife. Bars and whatnot.”

“Bars and whatnot,” Draco repeated apprehensively, “Potter you’re not really selling this to me, in all honesty.”

“You’ll be able to get out of this hotel room,” Potter said hopefully, “Which is a positive.”

“Where’s Mallaidh?” Draco asked. She’d disappeared up to her room about thirty seconds after checking in and he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of her since. “Does she want to come?”

“She’s asleep,” Potter said, sitting back so that he was resting on his elbows, face dangerously close to Draco’s kneecap. “Driving makes her tired, and we have to go all the way back tomorrow.”

Draco looked out of the window for a few seconds. They were right on the top of a hill, and he could see another one rising close by, lined with houses and trees. “Do you not get tired?” he asked.

“I get bored,” Potter said, picking at the same flower Draco had been a few minutes before. Draco kicked his knee.

“Don’t pick at that,” he said, “This place needs at least one nice thing in it.”

“I saw you doing the exact same fucking thing when I walked in here Malfoy,” Potter said, and Draco shrugged.

“Alright, we can go out,” he said, instead of answering. “Should we get drunk?”

“Let’s see where the night takes us,” Potter suggested, “But I’m not ruling it out just yet.”


Harry was actually well on his way to being drunk by the time Malfoy insisted he needed company in the bathroom and dragged Harry in there with him. They were at some sort of bar, it couldn’t really be called a nightclub, and had been for at least two awful hours. Harry had absolutely no idea what had been going through his mind when he invited Malfoy out, other than he was restless after being cooped up in a car all day, other than the fact that his recent realisation about Malfoy’s general attractiveness had been making him act strangely. He could sense it happening, he could almost sense Malfoy noticing. Harry had just... been looking a lot, lately, at the way Malfoy’s clothes sat on his body, at the way his mouth moved when he spoke. Harry couldn’t tear his eyes away a lot of the time. Because it hadn’t just been a momentary blip, like Harry had been hoping. He’d had been so tired , the other night, and there was that weird moment in the bathroom and he’d thought he could probably pass it off as exhaustion, until the next morning when he’d seen Malfoy eating scrambled tofu at the breakfast table, frowning, ruffled, and Harry had wanted to drag him right back up to their bedroom and his bed and spread him out and kiss him and then probably suck him off.

He was fucked, basically. He’d forgotten what it felt like to not be hyper-aware of where Malfoy was at all times. The air went thick and muggy every time he walked into a room, Harry felt it when he sat down, when he stood, when he flicked his hair out of his eyes. Harry had forgotten what it was like to act normally. Malfoy hadn’t said anything, thank god, even though Harry was sure he knew. He was still at the stage of working out what the fuck he would say if Malfoy confronted him about it. Potter, you’ve been acting oddly. Potter, stop fucking looking at me. Potter, what the fuck do you want? Maybe he could tell Malfoy he was sick. Maybe he could tell Malfoy he had something on his face, to distract him, and then change the subject or possibly run away.

The bar was packed, for some reason, clearly Thursday nights were a popular time to go out. It was dark and smelled slightly of sweat and slightly of the acrid smoke pumping out of the smoke machines. There was a fine haze in the air in front of his face, he felt overbalanced and a bit sick. He could feel himself sweating. Malfoy looked great, unfairly great, and he had done all evening. He was dressed entirely in black and when he’d emerged from his hotel room looking for all the world like he had done in school, Harry had blinked very hard and tried to remember why he’d ever thought him unattractive. Death Eater, torture, Mudblood. He’d remembered, obviously, and then felt gross and terrible when Malfoy shifted to pull the door shut behind him and Harry had had to take a deep breath at the flash of a sharp collarbone, the pale curve of his neck.

After a few drinks it was easier to look at Malfoy, easier to allow himself to look, easier to like looking. Malfoy had sipped slowly on a neon-adjacent cocktail and smiled lazily at the girl behind the bar when she put three cherries in his drink. It was that kind of place, it was an umbrella-in-drinks kind of bar, with wet toilet walls and tacky floors that stuck to the bottom of his trainers when he walked. He knew the toilet walls were wet because he’d leant his forehead against one of them about three seconds ago, before pulling away in silent and outraged disgust. He stepped backwards carefully, mindful of the people milling around him, and leant against a mirror instead. It was only damp, which he considered to be a definite upgrade. Malfoy finished at the urinal and Harry tracked his easy movement across the room to wash his hands. Their seats were definitely going to be gone by the time they got back but Harry was a sucker, and he couldn’t pass up the opportunity accompany Malfoy anywhere, even this particularly unhygienic toilet.

Malfoy caught his arm on the way out, stared him straight in the eye for a few endless seconds before dragging Harry through the crowd to a free booth. Like he’d known it was there. “Sit down,” he said, “I’ll get us another drink. Stay here.” Harry blinked at him, thoughtlessly, before nodding and slumping back in his seat, rubbing his shoulders against the squashy material of the cushion. He snorted. Like he would leave. As if he would go anywhere else. Malfoy returned and slid into the opposite side of the booth, then pushed Harry’s drink across the table. It was clear, in a tall glass. It looked like water.

“This is water,” Harry said, after taking a long, dubious sip, “Why is this water?”

Malfoy rested his elbows on the surface of the table, before lifting one and inspecting it suspiciously. He started gathering napkins to wipe the table. “The table wasn’t wet when I left.”

“I think it was,” Harry told Malfoy’s perfect face. “What would I have done, exactly?”

“I don’t know,” Malfoy said, “It’s water because I thought you might need a water, but I can go and get you a beer if it’s absolutely vital.”

Harry hummed around the three black straws Malfoy had included in his beverage order. “It’s alright, actually. Is there, what?”

“A hint of lime?” Malfoy finished, “Yes. They have a lot of different flavours. Watermelon seemed too off-the-cuff though, lemon a little boring.”

“A little middle-of-the-road,” Harry agreed, smiling.

“A little overdone,” Malfoy said, smiling back, beautifully. He discarded the tissues and leant both elbows back on the table, apparently satisfied with the little clean up job he’d just done. “They told me they were out of strawberry and mint.”

“Oh,” Harry said, tilting his head and speaking around the straws, “I quite like the sound of strawberry.”

“I thought you might,” Malfoy said apologetically, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have told you.”

“It’s alright,” Harry sighed, “I prefer to know.”

“What?” Malfoy asked, leaning closer across the table. “It’s really fucking loud in here.”

Harry hadn’t noticed, actually, but as soon as Malfoy said that it was like all the sound came flooding in. Groups of people around them, chattering and shouting. Thumping music he only just realised he’d been feeling in his chest. He smiled, again, and tongued absently at the straws. Malfoy looked bewildered for a few seconds before masking his features, a faint red blush staining his high cheekbones. It might have been the lights, Harry allowed, watching him in delight. It was quite a reddish-looking bar.

“Do you go out a lot in London?” he asked, raising his voice.

Malfoy wrinkled his nose and flicked his finger against the rim of his glass. If it made a sound Harry couldn’t hear it. “Not really,” he said, “Sometimes to--” and then cut off, making a face.

“What?” Harry prompted, “Where do you sometimes go?”

“You’re going to love this,” Malfoy told him, “There’s this Karaoke bar in Peckham--”

“You don’t,” Harry interrupted, laughing, “You’re not telling me you go to Karaoke. I didn’t even know that was still a thing?

“Ugh,” Malfoy said, but he was smiling too, “I never sing, if it makes you feel better. Did you know Luna has a lovely voice?”

“No,” Harry said honestly, “What does she sing?”

“She always insists on doing a spice girls song. Every single time we go it’s a spice girls song, I don’t know what she’d do if someone suggested she do anything different.”

Harry imagined Luna in the middle of a darkened stage, glitter on her face, stars behind her. He missed her fiercely, just for a second. “Gin’s a bit of a shit singer,” he said, and then felt bad. “Although she has numerous other talents. Does she ever do it, or is it more of a you and Luna activity?”

“She does duets,” Malfoy smiled, “She and this guy we know always do the worst possible country music song they can find on the machine. Something un-ruinable, although she sometimes manages.”

“Sometimes she would sing in her sleep,” Harry told him, thinking about it. “Like, it would wake me up.” Malfoy frowned and Harry realised how sad he’d sounded just then. “It’s not--” he started, and flexed his fingers, looking for the right words. “It’s not like that,” he said, “It’s just that I really miss them, both of them. They’re my friends.”

“No,” Malfoy said, “I know. You’ll see them at Christmas, won’t you?”

“Yeah,” Harry replied, perking up, “That’s quite soon, isn’t it. I forgot.”

“Have you not booked your Portkey?” Malfoy asked, raising his eyebrows, before looking around them belatedly as if anyone would overhear or even care. “They get very busy around Christmas you know, inundated with requests.”

“No,” Harry said, then “Inundated. Huh.”

“People don’t use that word enough,” Malfoy agreed, “You should book it soon, honestly Potter.”

“I usually fly,” Harry told him, “Have you ever flown?”

“In an aeroplane?” Malfoy asked incredulously, and raised his eyebrows. “Are you quite well?”

“I really like them,” Harry confessed, “Like, the airport part is quite shit, but between you and me I never really got used to all the… portkey stuff, apparating, the floo. I try and avoid all that.”

“Aeroplanes are very unsafe,” Malfoy said, in his knowledgeable voice, “You did know that, didn’t you?”

“Oh, and brooms aren’t,” Harry retorted, shifting in his seat so that he could hook one ankle around a table leg. Malfoy was still laughing in the face of good etiquette, elbows on the table, chin now resting in his hands. He looked very intent, Harry thought, his mouth had gone all serious. “I could count on one hand the number of times a broomstick has almost killed me.”

Malfoy smirked, for the first time in what seemed like weeks. It made him look younger and Harry wasn’t sure if he liked it or not. “I don’t think you’re using that phrase quite right,” he said.

Harry held up his hand and waggled his fingers around. “I think,” he said, “that ideally there wouldn’t have been any times.”

Malfoy groaned and tilted his head so that he was laughing into his palm. “I can’t even argue with that.”

Harry smiled. “So anyway, I’m booking a flight.”

“Right, I’ll probably--” Malfoy started, and then stopped to frown and pick at the edge of a napkin. Harry was struck with the urge to smack his hand away. Or maybe squeeze it very tightly in his own.

“What?” he prompted.

“I suppose I’ll see you,” Malfoy said in a big rush, “At… parties, and so on.”

“Oh,” Harry said, and frowned a bit as well, “I guess so, yeah. I mean, I usually--”

“Last year I didn’t go to Ginny and Luna’s Christmas thing because I knew you would be there,” Malfoy confessed, before Harry could finish. “It seems… quite childish, when I say it out loud.”

Harry grimaced into his water. “I did the same thing, actually, at New Year’s a couple of years ago.”

Malfoy snorted but Harry didn’t exactly think it was because he was amused. “I suppose we can both go wherever we want this year,” he said, and he wasn’t making eye contact, staring just over Harry’s shoulder instead.

“Yeah,” Harry said, surprising himself. They could do this. They could go to bars together. Surely that meant they could go to the same fucking Christmas party. “I’ll see you at the gingerbread-house making-and-decorating competition.”

Malfoy was startled into a laugh, and his eyes flitted to Harry’s. “Right,” he said, and Harry didn’t know if he was imagining the relief in his voice or not. “Just to warn you, I came a close fourth last year and I’m looking for a first at this one.”

“I can imagine you being quite cutthroat about gingerbread,” Harry said thoughtfully, “And just to warn you that I’ve already asked Ron to be my partner.”

“Fuck,” Malfoy swore, succinctly. “Weasley’s won it two years running.”

“I know,” Harry said, sinking back into his seat, “He never really lets anyone forget.”

“Actually, I don’t believe you’ve asked him to be your partner already,” Malfoy accused, “If you haven’t even booked your flights then there’s no way you’d already be thinking about the competition.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, and grinned, “I haven’t. But like.” He stopped talking and pulled his phone out, after a brief tussle with the inside fabric of his pocket. He started to look through his contacts.

“You’re not calling him,” Malfoy said.

“I might be,” Harry replied, then glanced up, “I mean, I’m not. I’ll just text him quickly.”

“I’m going to win,” Malfoy promised, “Last year I made the mistake of asking Luna to be my partner. Which. I love her, we all love her, but she’s remarkably bad at decorating for someone who practically sweats glitter.”

“You could always ask Gin,” Harry said, managing to keep a straight face for about three seconds before he devolved into giggling.

“You’re an arsehole,” Malfoy said, “Ginny Weasley wouldn’t enter a gingerbread competition if her life depended on it.”

“She hung out with me last year while it was going on,” Harry spluttered, “And it was at her fucking house. Oh my god, she made us go to the cinema, it was terrible.

Malfoy was grinning. “What’s she going to do if we’re both there?”

Harry shook his head, “I have no idea, probably hang out with Molly. I mean. Who does she know who won’t be there? Quidditch teammates?”

Malfoy made a face. “You’d be surprised at how many members of the Holyhead Harpies actually live in Wales.”

“Would I,” Harry deadpanned, “Since Holyhead is in Wales and all.”

“Well she’s not going to go all the way to fucking Wales in order to avoid a bit of baking,” Malfoy said, and then visibly reconsidered before saying, “Hm. Actually.”

“Wouldn’t it be so weird to commute every day to Wales,” Harry mused, frowning. He tried to catch all three straws in his mouth and failed miserably. “I’ve run out of water,” he said, at the weird slurping sound emerging from the bottom of his glass.

“Do you want another one?” Malfoy asked, “I mean, I don’t mind. Technically it’s your round though.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “Technically you got me a free water on your round. One that I didn’t even ask for.

Malfoy sighed in response and tipped his head back to look at the ceiling. “Fine,” he said, as if Harry was causing him some great big inconvenience. “I’ll go get you a proper drink this time, what do you want?”

Harry stared at his throat for a moment before saying “Um,” and swallowing hard.

“Brilliant,” Malfoy said, shaking his head. The skin on the underside of his chin looked really nice and soft and Harry really wanted to put his mouth on it. “One of those horrible beers you love so much, I suppose.”

Harry blinked as Malfoy righted himself and took his hands off the table, readying to leave. He tried to make it seem as though he hadn’t been staring but when he peeked a glance back Malfoy looked a bit shocked. Harry wasn’t exactly surprised, he wasn’t really known for his subtlety.

When Malfoy returned he was holding two of the beers Harry liked very much in his hands, and he paused at Harry’s side of the table. He put them down then pointed at the empty space on the seat.

“I’m going to sit here now,” he said, and then got a look on his face like he wanted to take it back immediately.

“Yeah,” Harry replied, as if he hadn’t just suddenly become aware of the way his heart was beating in his chest. “That’s. It’s pretty loud, so,” and scooted over, so that Malfoy could slide in and press his thigh against Harry’s probably by accident.

“Yes,” Malfoy agreed, and shifted his leg so as the coarse fabric of his trousers brushed against Harry’s exposed ankle. He wasn’t making eye contact, which was convenient, because Harry couldn’t have looked away at this point even if he’d wanted to.

*

When they’d decided to leave, Harry had sobered up considerably. A depressing amount, actually, since Malfoy had kept plying him with that delicious flavoured water. They’d gone to dance after a while, which in hindsight had been a huge mistake. Harry honestly didn’t know how he’d fucking coped, seeing the things he’d just seen. Malfoy with a thin sheen of sweat on his face, his jacket abandoned in the corner after much argument and a quickly deployed disillusionment spell. His entire body lit up in pink and purple and red, his mouth open when he laughed, his hand warm and firm where he’d held Harry’s arm. It was nightmarish, in the same way that looking at something lovely is always quite terrible when you can’t have it.

Malfoy hadn’t let go of his arm when they’d left, and at that point they were clearly still fooling themselves. Neither of them drunk, both of them willing to pretend so that they could keep it going a little longer. They were beside a river, almost at a bridge, and people were spilling out of the pubs surrounding them in a steady stream.

“Hey,” Malfoy said, and stopped walking, which then in turn forced Harry to stop walking, “Look at that.”

“Look at what?” Harry asked, following his gaze.

Malfoy huffed in impatience and turned Harry’s head a bit with two fingers, which was so overwhelming that Harry couldn’t even process it. “Venus,” he said, “She looks like a really bright star but--”

She?” Harry asked, turning away from the sky to look at Malfoy’s face. He seemed washed out, in the orange streetlights.

“She,” Malfoy said firmly, “Venus is definitely a she,” and then folded his arms and shivered. Which was unacceptable since it meant he wasn’t touching Harry anymore. A couple of strands of hair blew into his face and he pursed his lips as he tried to get rid of it without actually moving his arms. He looked ridiculous, and Harry wanted very much to kiss him.

He must have had some look, just then, because Malfoy blinked a few times and then put on his determined face. It was that one he got when he was about to argue about some potions thing not being possible or whatever.

“Come on,” he said, sounding exasperated for absolutely no reason, and started making for an alley in between two heaving pubs. Malfoy skirted around a bin and Harry lost sight of him for a second before he finally got it into his head to move.

“Are we apparating?” Harry asked, before he saw Malfoy leaning against a partially graffitied wall and just. Knew. “Oh,” he said, and stopped walking.

“Just come here,” Malfoy told him, and even though Harry wasn’t really close enough to see , he could still tell that Malfoy had just rolled his eyes. Harry went over, stepping around a very wet bin bag. He thought about how it had probably rained while they’d been inside. He was still thinking about that when Malfoy grabbed onto the hem of his t-shirt. “Honestly,” he said, “You’re very--” And then he had to stop talking because Harry had kissed him.

“Very what?” Harry pulled away after a second to ask. Malfoy’s eyes widened almost comically and he opened his mouth to answer, but Harry took advantage of that and pressed their lips back together. Malfoy had to have known this was coming but he didn’t seem very prepared. His hand kept clenching and unclenching around Harry’s t-shirt, he put his hand on the back of Harry’s head for one second before resting it on his shoulder. His mouth was warm and he tasted like those very sweet cocktails he’d been drinking, and Harry could literally not resist biting a little on his bottom lip. Malfoy opened his mouth and swiped his tongue against Harry’s, licking into his mouth, he seemed to have got a bit more used to the whole idea now. Harry took his hands from where they’d been resting politely on Malfoy’s waist and dug them underneath Malfoy’s jacket, and then his t-shirt, so that he could touch Malfoy’s heated skin.

They broke apart at a clattering noise behind them. Malfoy’s lips were… distractingly red, and Harry started to reach his hand up to put a finger on them. Before he could quite manage that, a girl started laughing and he had to turn around. She had just rounded the bin and was holding the hand of a really muscled guy with a tight shirt on. He was blatantly not looking in their direction. “Sorry,” she said, breathlessly, “I didn’t know this alley was… occupied .”

Malfoy started laughing, brightly, and she grinned then started backing away carefully, “Carry on,” she told them, waving her free hand magnanimously, “Sorry, sorry.”

“Merlin,” Malfoy said, still laughing, and Harry had to kiss him again. It was a little bit difficult but he felt he made it work. Malfoy snorted into his mouth and broke off, gasping. “We own this alley,” he said, and laughed even harder when Harry tried to kiss him again, pushing at his shoulder. “This alley is our kingdom,” he managed, resting his head back against the wall where his mouth it was definitely out of Harry’s reach.

“Are you still drunk?” Harry asked, frustrated and smiling.

“Oh,” Malfoy said, at the look on Harry’s face, “Sorry,” and then pressed their lips together again, opening his mouth, cupping Harry’s jaw, sliding his hand up Harry’s side.

“Kings of the alley?” Harry said, after a second, into Malfoy’s mouth. He pulled back and looked at Malfoy incredulously. “You just said we were kings of the alley.

“Stop it,” Malfoy retorted, unapologetic. “Just. Here,” he offered, and grabbed for Harry’s hand, pushing it back under his t-shirt, holding tight onto his wrist, “I liked this, you can do this for a bit."

Chapter Text

He hadn’t imagined it anything like this. He hadn’t really let himself imagine it at all, actually, beyond vague thoughts sometimes about what Potter’s mouth might look like stretched out around his dick. He’d always felt guilty about it afterwards - thinking that sort of stuff without Potter’s permission. So he’d not thought about it, not properly, not until they were in that repulsive alleyway and Potter was doing something amazing, with his teeth on Draco’s bottom lip. He’d breathed in, sharply, and it had come to him in a rush. Bringing Potter back to his cheap hotel room with the flowery throw, pushing him onto the mattress, pushing inside him. The way Potter would look against the duvet, the way his bare skin would feel against Draco’s. He had been thinking about Potter’s thighs when he’d realised there wasn’t a mouth against his anymore.

“Should we go back?” Potter had asked, mouth all wet, looking very unsure of himself for someone who’d just slipped his fingers down the back of Draco’s trousers. “I just don’t really want to--” he’d cut off and looked at the ground dubiously. As though he had seriously been considering kneeling down right there, as if it would be worth it, to mouth at the front of Draco’s briefs, to taste him. Draco had laughed, briefly, and then again when Potter said “I mean, I don’t mind,” with a hurt sort of look on his face.

“Merlin,” Draco had said, horrified at how fond he sounded. “We’re not going to suck each other off in this horrifying alley.”

Potter had snorted unattractively in response. “I was going to suck you off,” he’d said, and Draco’s brain had just full on stopped working. “I know how you are about your trousers.”

“I’ll just side-along us,” Draco had offered, politely, he thought, basically just desperate to have that happen as soon as possible. Potter had laughed at him, not unkindly, and done it himself. Which is where the night started to deviate from what Draco had imagined.

First of all, they were in Potter’s room. Second of all, it was somehow managing to be even weirder than Draco’s. “What the fuck?” Draco asked, gasping just a little and trying to ignore the mouth on his neck. “What the fuck is that?”

“You should just ignore it,” Potter mumbled, against his skin, “More important things are happening.”

“I don’t know if I can,” Draco told him, “And I think I’d like to turn it around, just to be safe.”

Potter huffed once, his warm breath spilling over Draco’s collarbone, and then pulled away with a very wry smile. He turned where he stood to lean his shoulder against Draco’s, then put his arm onto the back of Draco’s neck for good measure. He smelled like smoke, and faintly of beer. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” he said as they surveyed the scene in front of them.

Draco stared at the painting of a boar wearing a lilac dress. It was almost the size of the television back at the house. “I hate it,” he said, “I’ve never hated anything more. Please don't make me look at it.”

“Am I right in thinking we’re putting the sex we were about to have on hold so that I can take down a painting?” Potter asked.

Draco hummed in agreement. “I think it would be best for everyone involved.”

“You’re very… demanding?” Potter ventured, as he went to take the painting down. He put it under the bed, which would definitely creep Draco out later. He didn’t mention it at the risk of seeming fussy. “Is that alright to say?” Potter asked, followed by a soft grunt as he lifted himself up off the floor. Potter had been hard, when they’d been kissing in the alley, but Draco didn’t think he was anymore.

“Come on,” Draco said, reeling Potter back in by the sleeve of his coat, determined to rectify that situation as soon as possible. “Should we turn off the lights?” he asked, “Is that-- Should we do that?”

“Um,” Potter said, and started laughing, “Sure?” He let go of Draco’s forearm and went to turn the light switch off. The room was immediately bathed in deep red.

“What?” Draco said, not really expecting an answer.

“Yeah,” Potter agreed. “So it’s either this,” he said, switching the light on, bright white flooding the room, “Or this,” and turned it red again.

Draco was struck, not for the first time, by just how fucking weird everything always was. He looked at Potter, as best he could in the dim light; his jeans, his mussed hair, his slightly crumpled t-shirt. He looked at the bed, and the formerly-white-but-now-red sheets. There was a dent at the edge like Potter had sat there for a bit before coming to Draco’s room earlier. He looked at Potter's five chairs, all lined up under the window, facing the bed as though they were there for an audience. He looked at the faded, empty space on the wall where the painting had hung.

“Red,” he said, then, “Come here.”

Draco sat on the end of the bed and Potter came to stand in front of him, shucking his jacket on the way over. He flung it onto a chair and parted Draco’s knees with the press of one hand so that he could stand in between them.

“Red,” he echoed, “Makes this place looks like a very classy brothel. I think we should go with it, though.” Draco hated him sometimes, and the way he just never fucking shut up. Potter leaned down a bit then, so that he was at exactly the right height to get his mouth on Draco’s, kissing him quickly and sweetly and briefly, over and over until Draco was loose and jittery.

They undressed after a while. Actually no, they didn’t, Draco did, with Potter standing back and watching, as he tugged his t-shirt off and threw it onto one of the waiting chairs. Potter had the same look on his face as he had done earlier. As though he was barely holding off from grabbing Draco and just… eating him alive. Draco undid his trousers and slid them down, before kicking them away absently. He could see the outline of Potter’s cock pressing up against his jeans, he didn’t really know why Potter wasn’t taking his clothes off.

Potter blinked for a few seconds, then smiled faintly and knelt down between Draco’s legs. He put his hand over Draco’s tattoo, the one on his hip, the fern leaf. They both watched as the tips curled and uncurled slowly under Potter’s fingertips. Potter’s thumb brushed over the tent in Draco’s pants, almost by accident, and Draco couldn’t help the full-body shudder that ran through him.

“Nice,” Potter said, and Draco didn’t know what he meant, “The tattoo,” Potter elaborated, “Does it mean anything?”

Draco started laughing. Potter was just- Potter was just kneeling in front of him, fully clothed, his face about thirty centimetres from Draco’s erection, and now he wanted to talk tattoos. Draco felt like he should have been expecting this.

“No,” he said, “It doesn’t mean anything.” Draco had just wanted something on his body that he liked to look at. He glanced down at his forearm, his dark mark. Potter didn’t seem as though he was going to say anything about it.

Potter hummed in acknowledgement and leant closer to Draco’s body, sliding his hands so they were resting right on the sensitive skin behind Draco’s knees. Draco moved his hands further back down the bed, so his body was tilted. He could feel muscles jumping in his stomach.

His breath hitched audibly when Potter pulled Draco’s briefs down, tapping on the side of Draco’s thigh so he could raise his hips. His cock slapped against his belly, hard and red and flushed. The sight of Potter down there was too much.

“Can you take some clothes off?” Draco asked, then got really embarrassed at the way his voice broke halfway through, as Potter wrapped a hand around his dick.

Potter huffed out a laugh, let go, and took his top off. All the while Draco fucking hated himself for asking. It wasn’t as though he needed to see Potter’s fucking chest to get off. He’d seen it before. It had been fine. Hair, muscles, all the usual components. It was different now though. Not different but- Potter’s dark nipples were hard, there was the smallest amount of sweat beading on his collarbone, Draco didn’t know which thing he wanted to get his tongue on first.

“Yeah?” Potter asked, thumbing just under the wet head of Draco’s cock, his four other fingers sliding up and down the side, catching a little where Draco was too dry. “Is this okay?” Potter asked. Then he spat into his hand and cupped Draco’s balls. Warm and slick in entirely the wrong fucking place.

“I--” Draco managed, full on hissing when Potter dragged a palm over his slit, slow as anything, grinning. “Fuck.”

“You want to?” Potter asked, all earnest and serious and happy. Draco wanted to remember that look for the rest of his life. He slumped backwards so he couldn’t see it anymore and focused on Potter’s fingers, the hard press of them against his foreskin.

“Not right now,” Draco told him, shivering and tensing and untensing all at the same fucking time. “I don’t have--” He cut off, he couldn’t help it, he’d wanted to finish his sentence but Potter had just sucked for a split-second on the head of his dick and he was trying to work out how to make it happen again. And all the time.

“Condoms?” Potter guessed, and Draco felt warm breath, damp and close. “Lube?”

“Yes,” Draco agreed. He was rewarded with a wet, open-mouthed kiss on the underneath of his dick. Potter licked a hot stripe up the side and got his tongue under Draco’s foreskin. Then he just stayed there for a bit, sucking gently, and it wasn’t enough. Draco put his own hand on his hip and then slid his fingers into his pubic hair. Potter pulled off and bit, very very gently, on Draco’s index finger.

“Wait here,” he said, and darted into the bathroom for a moment. He was back before Draco could even lift his head. Potter showed him a small bottle, apparently waiting for some response. Draco closed his eyes. Potter had unbuttoned his trousers, a pair of annoying yellow boxers were peeking out. “Malfoy?” Potter asked, sounding unsure of himself. Which wasn’t right. Potter had been doing very fucking well until he’d just left.

“Yes,” Draco replied, rallying. He pushed himself up a little. “What?”

“Aloe Vera moisturiser,” Potter said, nonsensically, “Is that okay?”

“For what?” Draco asked, very much not into the idea of being fingered using a fucking moisturiser.

Potter went reddish. “For… what we were just doing,” he answered.

“Oh,” Draco said, and lay back down again, “Yes, yes, I thought you wanted to fuck me.”

Potter laughed. “Not with this,” he said.

“I should think not,” Draco muttered, pulling himself across the covers until his head was resting on one of the numerous pillows. The mattress dipped as Potter put a knee on the bed, and then released again when he swung a leg over to straddle Draco’s calves. His hair was a fucking mess. Draco wasn’t finding it nearly as off putting as he usually did.

He still couldn’t wrap his head around what was happening. He’d thought, distantly, that it might be… frantic. It was supposed to be frantic. It was supposed to involve them taking their clothes off as fast as possible and then wanking each other off equally as fast. Draco wasn’t feeling anything close to frantic right now. He felt slow and lazy; that kind of lasting arousal he got when he really took his time getting himself off. Like he wanted it to last forever. Draco’s brain hurt. He just really, really hadn’t expected the sight of Potter’s ugly boxers and the weight of Potter’s body on his legs to make his fucking dick leak.

Potter abandoned his weird tube of moisturiser on the duvet in order to haul himself up Draco’s body and kiss him square on the mouth. His jeans were rough against the full side of Draco’s leg. Draco hooked his ankle over one of Potter’s, cupped Potter’s jaw in his hand. Potter tried to smile against his mouth and it made Draco’s lungs hurt for a second. That general area, anyway.

Draco felt a firm kiss being placed on his neck, the very centre of his chest, the very top of the trail of hair on his stomach. Potter got his palm against Draco’s cock and started moving again, slowly and greedily. As though this was giving him so much pleasure. Just getting to kiss Draco’s skin. It was horrifying. Draco was truly horrified, as he stared at Potter’s scalp and then put his hand on it. Potter hummed happily. Draco said fuck very softly under his breath. He heard the click of a bottle being uncapped, the squelching sound of Potter warming it up in his hand, his own ragged breath as Potter started wanking him. Properly and smoothly. He limited his movements to the bottom half of Draco’s erection, which was confusing for a moment until he popped the head of Draco’s cock into his mouth, and Draco thought it must have been because he didn’t want to get Aloe Vera moisturiser in his mouth.

Potter kept swallowing, Draco could feel the movement of his tongue whenever it happened. It probably shouldn’t have been hot, but it was actually the best thing Draco could remember feeling for a long time. Potter pulled off with an obscene slurping sound and licked Draco’s slit, in a sort of determined fashion. Draco bucked his hips, the feeling sparkling at the base of his spine. Potter laughed softly and did it again, then again, and then sucked Draco’s dick back into his mouth, deeper this time. Draco could feel the hard roof of his mouth.

“I thought about this,” Potter confessed, backing off and glancing upwards. Draco didn’t know what to say. “I changed my mind about it though,” he then followed up with.

“What are you nattering on about now?” Draco asked, feeling mean all of a sudden.

Potter mouthed thoughtfully at the head of his cock then said “I mean like, I thought about this. And then I thought it wouldn’t be a good idea. But now we’re doing it and I don’t know where I changed my mind.”

“You thought about this?” Draco asked, propping himself up on his elbows. Potter’s mouth looked swollen and wet, his eyes darkened with what was presumably arousal. He did look sweatier than usual, Draco noticed, although that wasn’t a particularly bad thing. “You thought about this?” he repeated, and moved his hips just the slightest bit. The head of his cock dragged against Potter’s lower lip. “Your mouth on me?”

Potter smiled, and Draco fucking felt it. “Not this specifically,” he said, “But. Somewhere near this.”

“The other way around then,” Draco guessed. “You lying here instead of me. We can do that next if you want,” he offered.

Potter closed his eyes for a moment and started moving his hand again. Up and down. Slow as anything, like he’d forgotten it was happening, like it was nothing. “Okay,” he said, “I’ve never.”

“Oh,” Draco said, and flexed his fingers. They’d gone tingly. “Right.” Potter had never had a blowjob. Potter. It was a fucking miracle Draco have ever been bloody kissed, if someone like Potter couldn’t--

“Oh,” Potter echoed, interrupting Draco’s thoughts, but he was laughing, “I meant I’ve never done this,” he clarified, and sped his hand up.

Draco blinked. Somehow that seemed worse. “I thought you were--” he started, not really even knowing where the sentence was supposed to be going. I thought you were you. I thought people would want to. He shook himself mentally. Of course people had fucking wanted to. Potter had the face of a fucking angel and probably the personality of one too, when he wasn’t being an utter arse. Potter must have been the one who’d never wanted to. Or gotten a chance to. It was utterly mind blowing and also oddly didn’t surprise him.

“You’re doing well,” Draco offered, because it looked as though Potter was expecting him to say something. “For an amateur. I suppose.”

Potter snorted. “Thanks?” he said, “What rating out of ten?”

“Ugh,” Draco said, “You’re such an arse all the time.

Potter narrowed his eyes and put his lips back around Draco’s dick, although it seemed as though he was trying to keep his tongue out of the way, as though that would be some sort of punishment. Draco’s head fell back and he gasped throatily, once. He felt really fucking embarrassed at himself until he felt and also heard Potter moan slightly. He gasped again and it got the same reaction. He filed that away for future reference and then wondered if he’d ever get to do this again. He wasn’t sure he wanted to. This was turning out to be a lot more intense than he’d anticipated.

Potter, at that moment, apparently decided to get his tongue involved and Draco entirely lost his train of thought. He looked down the length of his body; Potter’s head bobbing, his hand working, the flashes of skin Draco could see when he moved his fingers. Potter hollowed his mouth and pressed the tip of his tongue against the vein on the underside of Draco’s cock. Draco’s limbs went mushy and he stretched his arms out, pleasure building in his stomach, his thighs. He tilted his head back and writhed a little, which Potter seemingly found inconvenient, because the next thing Draco knew there was an arm braced over his hips. Potter pressed him into the mattress and sucked hard on the head of his cock, the flat part of his tongue flexing. Draco heard himself make an inarticulate noise and then patted Potter on the head. Potter redoubled his efforts and Draco was forced to actually speak.

“I’m going to come,” he breathed, his vowels incongruously clipped and neat, his voice sounding heavy against the silence of the room and the slick sounds Potter’s hand was making as it moved. Potter raised his eyebrows and pulled back, with one last -almost forlorn- lick at the edge of Draco’s foreskin. Draco’s eyesight went all blurry, and then it only took a few more pulls before he was spilling over Potter’s hand, splattering warmly onto his stomach. His breath was harsh in his own ear. His limbs felt unattached and squirmy.

Draco panted a couple of times and then screwed his nose up when he felt Potter put a cold, come-sticky hand on his shoulder. “Rghh,” Draco mumbled, and tried to shake him off. “Wash that,” he managed finally.

Potter grinned and licked his hand. It was hot for about a second, until he actually tasted it and made a face like he might vomit. Draco rolled his eyes.

“Aloe vera,” Potter explained, “I tried really hard not to get moisturiser in my mouth.”

“You could have just used spit,” Draco yawned, covering his mouth with the back of one heavy hand.

“Hm,” Potter said, heading for the bathroom, “I felt like experimenting.”

Clearly,” Draco replied, but he didn’t think Potter heard him. He shook himself when Potter emerged from the bathroom, sat up. “Alright,” he said, trying not to sound brisk. “Come here then.”

Potter snorted but obeyed anyway, crawling up the bed in the most inconvenient way possible. He kissed Draco’s kneecap on the way past, his mouth when he arrived there. He didn’t taste any different than he had before, Draco realised, when he licked Potter’s tongue. Just sort of like beer and a little like mint. He found himself a tiny bit disappointed by that. He rolled Potter over in order to cheer himself up, then straddled his hips, rolled his own a couple of times until Potter had his head all the way sunken into a pillow, muscles in his neck tensing visibly. Draco looked at Potter’s nipples, dark and small, and gave into the urge to put one in his mouth. Potter let out a nervous laugh that then declined into a low moan. Draco smiled.

He mouthed at Potter’s stomach for a little while before he took his trousers off. It was soft and warm but Draco could feel the hard pack of muscles underneath. He remembered, just for a second, that time Potter had saved his life in the Room of Requirement. He remembered holding tight onto Potter’s waist, gripping one of his arms; he’d not been soft back then.

Potter’s dick was big and curved slightly, and when Draco got there he found it leaking onto Potter’s stomach, hard, and dark with blood. He put his hands on Potter’s hips, thumbs sitting right on Potter’s hipbones. Potter angled himself so that he could stuff another pillow under his head. He watched, dark-eyed and quiet and serious, as Draco nosed into the hair on his groin. He smelled like clean sweat. They’d danced a lot. Then done this.

“What’s your favourite body part?” Potter asked, out of nowhere.

He seemed sincere so Draco thought about it for a few moments. “I like my neck,” he said finally, “Why? What’s yours?”

“This bit here,” Potter said, sliding his fingers over the place where his leg met his torso. Draco followed them with his tongue, and felt Potter shiver and laugh. “I don’t know what it’s called,” he said, and his voice sounded breathy and odd.

Draco hummed and sucked the head of Potter’s cock between his lips, holding it steady with a firm hand. Potter was totally silent, except for some controlled breathing. He tasted bitter from where he’d been dripping and Draco licked it away. He pulled Potter's foreskin forward a bit and got some of his tongue under it, the way he sometimes liked it himself, and Potter came in his mouth, panting.

“Fuck,” he said, while Draco tried to swallow, “Fuck, I’m so sorry.” Draco licked his lips and kept a hand on Potter’s cock, coaxing out a few last drops of come. They pulsed onto the side of his fist. Potter was still apologising, which wasn’t really the point.

“I get the feeling you didn’t even enjoy that orgasm,” Draco pointed out, before he looked at Potter’s face, a few curls springing in the sweat on his forehead, and changed his mind. He looked a bit wrecked, actually. Potter’s whole body shuddered, and his dick jerked in Draco’s grip. Draco raised his eyebrows.

“Nghh,” Potter said, collapsing back onto the mattress and collecting himself for a few moments. “Sorry about that,” he said after a minute, “That was such bad blowjob etiquette.”

“I suppose it’s been a while,” Draco replied, before he could think better of it and shut his fucking mouth. Potter laughed.

“Yeah,” he said, “I mean. Living where I live and everything. Do you want to use my shower?”

Draco looked distastefully at the come drying on his stomach. Potter was fine. He’d swallowed most of Potter’s come. “Alright,” he agreed, “Thanks.”

“I know this might be weird,” Potter said, and wrangled his limbs so that he was vaguely nearer Draco’s face than before. He kissed Draco thoughtfully, slowly, none of his previous heat. “Should you stay here tonight?”

Should I?” Draco asked, and put his hand on Potter’s neck. “What a weird choice of words, Potter.” Potter leaned into it.

“You can, I mean,” he clarified, “I’ve decided that you can and that it wouldn’t be weird. If you want to.”

“I don’t think it would be any weirder than what we just did,” Draco told him seriously. “I’m getting in the shower.”

Potter kissed his jaw one last time and slid under the covers without putting any clothes on first.

In the shower, Draco had time to think. Which possibly wasn’t wise, because when he got out and joined Potter in the bed, and Potter had slung a weighty arm over his stomach, he said “Why did you change your mind?”

“Hm?” Potter asked, and kicked Draco’s foot, “When?”

“Oh,” Draco said, “You said you’d thought about this and then changed your mind. Why did you--”

“I thought it might be complicated,” Potter said, sounding as uncomplicated as a person could, sleepy and content. “So.”

“It doesn’t have to be,” Draco said sharply, and Potter cracked his eyes open. They looked glossy and red in the overhead light. “People do this.”

“I know, Malfoy,” Potter said, “I’m acutely aware. Are you having a… panic… about this?”

“No,” Draco told him, although actually he thought he might be. Potter. What the fuck had he been fucking thinking? As if he could just-- do this and then forget about it. It was possibly in the top five greatest things that had ever happened to him.

“Alright,” Potter said, “You shouldn’t worry that I’m going to--” he cut off and took his arm off Draco’s stomach, “Get all weird about it,” he finished. Draco had just started parsing through that statement when Potter said, “It’s fine that this was-- a one-time thing. I had fun.”

Draco blinked in the red light. Sucked in a deep breath to answer and then let it out again in a big rush of air. He didn’t know if-- he wasn’t sure what to say. He didn’t think he actually did want this to be a one-off. But then it was also equally possible that his heart couldn’t stand up to a repeat. Potter being soft and careful and looking at him like he had done this evening. Draco thought he would most probably die if he had to go through it again.

“Did you have fun?” Potter prompted, “Apart from when I came in your mouth without any warning.”

“Yes,” Draco said, “Yes I had fun. Go to sleep now please.”

“Okay,” Potter said, and put his hand on Draco’s stomach. It wasn’t quite as nice as the arm had been, but it wasn’t bad, either.

 


 

When Harry woke, Malfoy was tucked up against his side with his head on Harry’s pillow, facing away. The room was bright with sunlight and Malfoy’s pale skin was lit up in it. Harry breathed in and out a few times while he stared. He figured he might as well, since Malfoy couldn’t see him. He took in the short, closely cut hair on the back of Malfoy’s head, the long strands further up and the way they rested on the pale green pillow. Malfoy was shifting in his sleep, just a small bit, just enough for his skin to drag against Harry’s arm. He was hot and pliant and Harry wanted to wake him up just to see what would happen. He thought last night had been brilliant. Malfoy had been brilliant. Sex with Malfoy had been brilliant. This was not where he’d thought they’d end up, the first time he’d seen Malfoy in the kitchen of his house.

Harry’s phone started buzzing in the pocket of his jeans and Malfoy bolted awake, pulling away from Harry sharply. “Sorry,” Harry said, slumping out of bed and digging through his crumpled trousers where he’d left them last night, “Sorry, fuck, sorry.”

Malfoy blinked blearily a few times and then seemed to realise where he was. He relaxed against the mattress.

“Hello?” Harry asked, answering without looking.

“Hi!” Mallaidh said, sounding tinny and far-away. “Are you up?”

“Um,” Harry said, looking at Malfoy, naked and watching him, “Almost?” he ventured.

“Alright,” she said, and started whispering, “The guy’s doing breakfast, you should come down if you want some.”

“Why are you whispering?” Harry asked, and sat on the end of the bed. “Is he listening?”

“It’s small down here so he might be,” she replied, and then in a normal tone went on to say “I got the car, by the way.”

“You did?” Harry asked, surprised, “When?”

“This morning,” she replied, “I walked there. It was quite pleasant. So anyway we’ll be ready to leave as soon as you are. Will you wake Draco up? Or should I knock on his door?”

“No,” Harry said, trying to sound casual, “I’ll wake Malfoy up.”

Malfoy chose that moment to snort and also mutter, under his breath, “You already fucking did.” Harry put his middle finger up without even looking.

“Okay,” Mallaidh said, and then whispered “I have to go,” really fast, and hung up before Harry had the chance to say anything else.

He turned to Malfoy, who was still under the covers. He looked nervous and he wasn’t saying anything. Harry wasn’t sure what the correct response for that was. So he said “Mallaidh already got the car, she says to come down for breakfast,” and smiled in a way he hoped was encouraging.

Malfoy stared at him for a few moments, long enough for Harry to start worrying he might have something on his face. He narrowed his eyes. “I’m using your bathroom,” Malfoy informed him, then pursed his lips and gathered his clothes with as much dignity as he could muster. He shut himself in the bathroom and Harry heard the tap cut on. He had hoped, just a tiny bit, that Malfoy might be a little nicer once they’d had sex. Maybe it was just because it was the morning. Maybe it was also because Malfoy regretted it and hated him again and now it would be awkward forever.

Being attracted to Malfoy was turning out to be a really tense experience. On the one hand, he’d been great, hadn’t he? He’d given Harry a blowjob and been genuinely nice to him. And also he was just generally nice now, actually, and hardly ever properly rude anymore. On the other hand he was still a prick though, Harry reminded himself, still definitely a prick and also a complete bastard. He thought again about having sex with Malfoy. Was it bad to have sex with a person you thought was a dick some of the time? Harry’s brain started hurting and he had to stop thinking about it.

“I’ll meet you down there!” Harry called, and let himself out of the room after a minute when Malfoy didn’t reply. Harry wasn’t exactly keen to sit around while Malfoy hogged the bathroom and acted icy and awkward and avoided eye contact. He stopped on the way down the stairs, at a window on a half-landing. The new car -or what he assumed was the new car- was parked next to their old one. It was matte, army-green and high up. Knowing him, he probably wouldn’t even be able to reach the fucking driver’s seat. He wondered if Mallaidh would let him drive it back.

Malfoy skulked downstairs after a few minutes and inhaled two cups of coffee. He didn’t talk much and after a while he got a very angry look on his face and went upstairs to ‘collect his things.’ Mallaidh asked Harry if everything was okay and he had to lie to her. He could have said no, Malfoy and I had sex and now I think it’s quite possible he might leave forever, but Mallaidh would probably deck him for being a prat. God, it had been such a fucking pointless thing to do. Fun for one transcendent hour and then just entirely shit for a few months until Malfoy left.

Harry was standing beside the boot, waiting for Malfoy to put his backpack inside, when Malfoy just… decided to kiss him. Out of fucking nowhere, with a look on his face like he thought he would be kicked in response. Harry felt his eyes widen but he didn’t say anything and he didn’t back off. Malfoy did it again, cupped a hand around the back of Harry’s neck and held him there for a few seconds, his lips warm and firm and his breath tasting like mint.

Harry blinked. Malfoy hadn’t seemed like-- “I thought you didn’t want to,” he blurted, before he could even finish thinking about it.

Malfoy stepped back, “I did,” he said, “I do. Fuck.” He looked angry, at either himself or Harry. Neither was ideal.

Malfoy wanted to kiss him. And also still wanted to kiss him. Harry wasn’t quite sure what to do with this nightmare situation he’d found himself in. Malfoy for one night had been fine. Malfoy being nice to him and giving him blowjobs all the time? Unnerving and also scary. Terrifying and probably amazing. Harry’s brain started hurting again, right when he thought he’d recovered.

“I assumed you wouldn’t want to,” he said truthfully, for lack of a better response. Mallaidh had left three minutes ago. Malfoy had waited until Mallaidh had gone in order to kiss him. Why had he done that?

“Why not?” Malfoy asked, following Harry when he started towards the front door of the car. He was wearing his outfit from yesterday and looked very sharp, all hard edges and creases and folds.

Harry pointed at the passenger side and Malfoy rolled his eyes but went anyway, hauling himself up while Harry started the car. “I don’t know,” Harry said, but that was a lie. “I just. That’s how things go, isn’t it?” He put the car in gear and turned to watch them out. It was a bright day, blue and cool. The sun had been in his eyes when Malfoy had kissed him.

Malfoy was silent for a few moments and Harry could see him frowning out of the corner of his eye. He looked unhappy. “Remember last night, when I said that ‘people do this?’ As in, people have sex with their friends sometimes and it doesn’t have to be a big deal?”

Harry clenched his jaw and looked out of the wide windscreen, at the dark grass in the fields, at the low heather on the verge. “Yeah,” he said.

“Sometimes people have sex and then want to do it again,” Malfoy said, after what seemed like a full minute.

“Okay,” Harry said, and tightened his hands around the steering wheel. He started indicating because there was a lay-by coming up that he wanted to pull into. He couldn’t concentrate on Malfoy telling him he wanted to have sex again and drive at the same time.

“Are you--” Malfoy started, hesitantly, when Harry parked, “Do you. Do you want to do that?”

“I’m not sure,” Harry told him, because it was better to be honest. He rolled down his window after a second and didn’t look at Malfoy. The air smelled like cut grass, like summer, almost.

“Right,” Malfoy said quietly. It was so unlike him to be unsure, Harry thought. It was terrible. “Did you not…?” he asked, and then trailed off. Harry tried to work out where he’d been going with that.

No,” he said, after a second, turning in his seat. Malfoy’s back was very straight, and he had his ankles crossed primly in the foot well. “Fucking hell.” Because it seemed like Malfoy was-- “You were there,” he said, and felt himself blush, “It was really good, Malfoy. I distinctly remember telling you that.”

“Ah,” Malfoy said, coldly, and started nodding, “So it’s the other thing then?” He unbuckled his seatbelt and visibly thought about leaving the car.

Harry frowned, “What other thing?”

“The thing,” Malfoy repeated, “The fucking thing. The thing where you can’t look at me without wanting to throw up. Isn’t that what you said that time?”

“God,” Harry said, shocked that-- “No.”

“It’s fine for you to fuck me,” Malfoy said, and then shook his head sharply, “I mean. It’s fine for us to have sex once, so you can pass it off as a fucking mistake. But then as soon as--”

Harry interrupted him. He felt bad about it but he couldn’t let Malfoy think what he was thinking right now. “Shut up,” he said, “It’s… come to my attention, over the last few weeks, that you’re really not as bad as you once were.” And now that he was saying it he thought that it actually might be quite a massive fucking understatement.

“Oh,” Malfoy scoffed, “How fucking nice of you.

“You’re lovely,” Harry said, thinking of last night. And now. Malfoy unhappy. Malfoy kissing him. “I really think that.”

“You don’t fucking act like it,” Malfoy said, sounding mollified somewhat. Harry swallowed hard and started shaking, just a little. He got out of the car and barely heard Malfoy follow him. He felt melodramatic and also like a fucking twat. His face was stinging.

“It’s quite hard,” he said throatily, and Malfoy started laughing.

Hard?” he said, incredulous and angry. “Is that a joke? It’s hard to like me? Fuck you, actually.”

“How can I--” Harry said, then cut off and cleared his throat. “How can I hear about you being a better person now and not fucking hate myself?” he asked, and the look on Malfoy’s face was awful.

He couldn’t stop though, now he’d started. “I don’t want to believe it, because if you’re lovely now then maybe some of the people I fucking killed had the potential to be… lovely, also.” Malfoy snorted and Harry closed his eyes. “Not lovely, maybe, just. Not terrible. I need to believe that what I did was right, at least on the very fucking surface. At the very least I need to be able to say the people I killed were bad, and I was right for doing that. Please tell me you understand that.”

“You think that all the fucking Death Eaters who died were suddenly going to turn into nice people?” Malfoy asked, “You’re fucking wrong.”

“You did,” Harry told him. “You did, didn’t you.”

“I wasn’t-- I wasn’t like them,” Malfoy said, after a second.

“You believed it all though,” Harry said, “Like, you weren’t… I know you weren’t really forced to do anything. I know it’s not that simple or anything but… you did choose.

“I don’t know what to say,” Malfoy confessed, didn’t even deny it, then took a step closer, his shoes crunching on the gravel. A lorry sped past and his white hair whipped up in the breeze. “I genuinely don’t even know where to start, Potter. The people who… died--”

“The people I killed,” Harry said, almost toneless. He blinked at the new car. There was already mud on the wheels.

“The people you killed,” Malfoy amended, “Were not people with hidden fucking depths. They wanted Muggles dead and they wanted you dead. I can’t believe I have to tell you that you were justified in what you did.”

Harry swallowed. “I don’t like to think about it.” He didn’t even know how he’d turned this into a conversation about the war. He hadn’t wanted that at all. He was just confused. And all Malfoy had wanted to know was whether or not he’d wanted to fuck again. Jesus. “Malfoy,” he said, and then didn’t finish.

“Yes,” Malfoy replied, and he didn’t look like he even gave a fuck anymore. He looked shocked, more than anything.

“I don’t know if I have it in me to--” Harry said, and stopped. He wanted to say that Malfoy deserved better than someone who felt guilty about liking him, but he wasn’t sure that was what Malfoy was asking for, exactly.

“I just want to shut you up sometimes,” Malfoy said, the words incongruous with the look on his face and the tone of his voice. He looked like he wanted to shut Harry up by kissing him.

Harry rolled his eyes. “I wouldn’t feel too bad about it,” he said, “I want to punch you in the neck at least once a day.”

“You’d punch me in my favourite body part?” Malfoy asked, mock offended, and Harry was so surprised he let out a laugh.

“I don’t know what we’re talking about anymore,” Harry confessed, “I’m really lost, what did we establish?”

Malfoy grimaced. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to the conclusion you’re a lot more fucked up than I previously thought.”

“I’ve come to the conclusion you’re a dick,” Harry retorted, “Does this mean you don’t want to have sex with me again?”

“Ugh,” Malfoy said, and kicked at a rock beside his feet. “I fucking wish.”

“This is going to end so badly,” Harry told him. He didn’t think there was any point denying it.

“I’m not asking for your fucking hand in marriage,” Malfoy snapped. “I just. I’d like to see you again,” he finished, oddly formal.

“We live in the same room,” Harry told him, and then ducked out of the way laughing when Malfoy tried to smack him half-heartedly.

“Maybe if you just tell me when you’re going to get upset about the war and we can… talk about it,” Malfoy suggested, after a while, his mouth downturned at the corners like he was trying very hard not to find the whole thing extremely painful.

“You’d want to talk about it?” Harry asked, not fully believing him.

“Um,” Malfoy said, “Not-- Not as such, no. But if you want to then…” He trailed off and looked incredibly uncomfortable. Harry was weirdly touched. Malfoy didn’t seem like the type to talk about something he didn’t want to for someone else. Luckily for him, Harry couldn’t imagine very many things worse than talking with Malfoy about everything that happened. They’d probably murder each other out of pure frustration.

“You know Ginny and I broke up,” Harry started, then paused. He wasn’t sure if what he wanted to say next was too honest. There was a fine line between cruelty and honesty, but he wasn’t very good at judging which side was which some of the time.

“Oh dear,” Malfoy said.

“I just mean that like,” Harry said, and pulled a face, “I couldn’t make it work with her and I thought she was the love of my life.”

“Oh fuck me,” Malfoy said, almost to himself, “Fucking Merlin. Salazar Slytherin. Will you just stop. Why are you saying these things to me? I’m so embarrassed for you right now.”

Harry frowned. “What do you want, Malfoy?” he asked, angrily. Malfoy didn’t want a relationship, that much was clear, and also fine with Harry. He wanted to fuck? Maybe? But not just once. Regularly. Harry had no idea.

“To be near you,” Malfoy responded, equally as angry, sounding like he wanted to murder someone. He widened his eyes and Harry felt himself mirroring the action. “That’s literally it,” Malfoy finished weakly, and then winced and started massaging his temples.

“Oh,” Harry said.

“Yes oh,” Malfoy snapped, “This is the worst day of my entire life. Can you run me over with the car please Potter?”

“I didn’t realise,” Harry tried. He wasn’t sure he realised now actually. So what, Malfoy wanted to be near him. Harry wanted the same fucking thing actually, he just wasn’t about to say it out loud.

“Neither did I,” Malfoy told him, “Until we had sex. If that makes you feel any better.”

“It doesn’t, really,” Harry said.

“Well it makes me feel like less of a prat,” Malfoy replied, “So suck it up.”

*

Moran screamed when they arrived back home. The sun was sitting low in the sky, a haze of purple clouds in the distance that looked like towering mountains, the very bottom of them lit up golden in the fading sunlight. Harry had been able to see Venus the entire way back, in his rear view mirror. Malfoy squeezed his hand briefly before he got out of the car. Apparently they were allowed to touch each other now.

“A car,” Moran whispered, standing very still outside the front of the house. The ivy needed cutting, Harry noticed absently. He could see it moving around one of the upstairs windows as if it were waving at him. “I love you all so much.”

“Do you like it?” Mallaidh asked, smiling and laughing. “We drove for a year.”

“I mean,” Moran said, patting her hand on the hood of the old car, “I’m familiar with her. But she’s mine now, so she’s better? You know?”

Malfoy snorted. “You should paint it a different colour.”

“Pink,” Moran agreed immediately. “No. Black. No, pink. Fuck. Half and half?”

“What?” Harry asked, “Like, back half pink, front half black?”

Moran shrugged and looked around like she was searching for something. “That would be so ugly. Where are the keys? Can I take it for a spin?”

“You’ve driven it a thousand times,” Bébhinn said, from her spot at one of the outside tables, perched in a wrought-iron chair. She was drinking some sort of thick, muddy potion out of a mug.

“Here,” Mallaidh said, handing her the keys, “You can take it for a drive. It’s yours now! I’m so excited for you. Can you drive us to the cinema tomorrow?”

“Drive yourself,” Moran replied airily, “I’m free now. To go wherever I please.”

“It’s literally your birthday party,” Harry told her, “But I guess you can go where you please and we’ll have it without you.”

“I was joking,” she said, and pulled herself into the car. She screamed again and beeped the horn several times. “I’ll drive you wherever you want for the rest of your life. I can chauffeur you around once you’re old.”

“You’re literally like, five years younger than me,” Harry muttered.

“I’m hoping the novelty of that will wear off soon,” Malfoy said, screwing his face up at the noise. “Good gods.”

“Thank you,” Mallaidh said, squeezing Harry’s arm. “I have to go and make the birthday cake now. Morgana help us all.”

“Do you need help?” Bébhinn asked, lolling back in the chair, her arm swinging down, her fingertips brushing in the gravel. “I can definitely help.”

Mallaidh grinned and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “Drink your horrible potion,” she said, “Sit still for a bit.”

“You’re such a shit baker,” Bébhinn protested, but didn’t follow when Mallaidh slammed the kitchen door on her way inside. “Don’t worry,” she said conspiratorially. “I’ve actually bought a backup cake, just in case.”

“Thank Merlin,” Malfoy deadpanned. “Potter I was wondering if you’d help me with something in our quarters?”

Bébhinn started laughing. “Are you still saying that?”

“No,” Malfoy said hurriedly, “Don’t tell Moran.”

“I wouldn’t,” Bébh replied, and shooed him away, “Leave me to drink this shit in peace.” Moran beeped the horn and revved the engine, in order to underscore that point.

They were halfway up the stairs when Malfoy stopped and looked around surreptitiously, as if he were seriously afraid of the possibility they might be under surveillance. “Potter,” he whispered, “That was just a ruse. I don’t actually need help with anything.”

Harry blinked. His eyes were a bit blurry from just coming in out of the light. “I know,” he said slowly, “I’m not three years old.”

“Oh,” Malfoy said, and looked momentarily despondent before smiling hopefully. “Do you want to make out for a bit before dinner?” Harry held out for maybe ten seconds, until Malfoy rolled his eyes and stuck his hand under Harry’s t-shirt, grazing a thumb across his nipple. “I’m not going to ask again,” he warned.

“You definitely fucking would,” Harry argued, then “Oh, alright,” when Malfoy pushed him gently against the wall and started sucking what was definitely going to be a bruise onto his neck.

 

Chapter Text

It had been raining for almost a week straight, until the morning Draco woke up with the sun harsh across his face, Potter apparently long gone. He roused himself in increments, stretching across the mattress, rolling over underneath the heavy duvet. He felt slow and fuzzy-headed from too much sleep and not enough exercise. The last few days had been spent entirely indoors, working on his thesis or reading in the library, Potter emerging at various intervals looking periodically wetter and more windswept as the days progressed. He’d been spending more time outside fussing around in the garden and the forest, as if he was a squirrel preparing for winter, and Draco was fucking sick of Potter’s skin being freezing all the time, his hair too tangled for Draco to run his fingers through. Draco listened to the crows cawing outside the window for a bit before he tugged on a pair of trousers and went downstairs.

The house was empty, unless the four other occupants were hiding somewhere, which seemed unlikely. Draco made himself some toast and ate at the messy kitchen table, startling when one of the dogs licked at his bare foot. He ducked under the table and offered it a crust. “Where’s Mallaidh?” he asked it, but it stayed silent, only drooled a bit more and sniffed his hand hopefully. He yawned and looked out of the window, at the short grass in the fields and in the garden, then decided it was much too nice a day for work.

He found Potter standing outside the front of the house with his arms folded, staring up at the facade with a determined look on his face, bumping their shoulders together briefly when Draco came to stand beside him.

“What are you doing?” Draco asked, hugging himself in the cold breeze. He’d put on a coat that had been hanging up beside the door, dark purple wool with too-short sleeves. He felt a little self conscious about it but Potter didn’t seem to even notice.

“Thinking about doing something about this ivy,” Potter replied grimly, and they were silent for a few seconds as they both regarded the wall, thick with the dark plant. “Nice day, isn’t it?” Potter asked after a while, smiling widely all of a sudden at the sheer mention of good weather. He was wearing wellington boots with little crocodiles on them, and his glasses had a smear of something in one corner. Draco was itching to clean it away, but knowing Potter it was probably some poisonous plant goo that would take his bloody skin off, so he left it where it was.

“Yes,” Draco agreed. The sky was clear and sparkling blue, a couple of swallows were flitting about in the driveway. The path had been slippery and wet when he’d walked over, and he could hear the sound of water dripping from the branches of trees onto the forest floor. “I’ve decided to leave off the writing for today.”

Potter nodded. “Do you want to go for a walk or something? I think Mallaidh went down to the river with the some of the dogs, if you want to go find her?”

Draco yawned widely, “Maybe later,” he suggested, “I feel too lazy to do anything right now.”

“Do you want to help me with this?” Potter asked, gesturing at the thicket of green leaves glinting in the sunlight. “It might be fun.” Draco raised his eyebrows, and Potter started to look a bit sheepish. “Alright,” he admitted, “It won’t be fun. But it’s really hard and I could do with a hand.”

“What will it involve?” Draco asked suspiciously, “Because I’m not doing anything that will require me to leave the ground.”

Potter snorted and then flapped his hand around a bit, accidentally hitting Draco’s shoulder. “You can just watch me. I’m starting to feel like you’d me more of a hindrance than anything else.”

Draco narrowed his eyes and started to say no I bloody well wouldn’t be when he realised that it might just be a ploy. “I’m not falling for that,” he said, and Potter laughed, “I’m not going to help you in order to prove you wrong.

“Okay,” Potter agreed, “I was actually being serious, but okay.”

“I’m not totally incompetent,” Draco informed him, going over to sprawl in the slightly-damp grass. Sometimes when Potter went very earnest and sincere it hurt Draco’s chest to look at him. “I just don’t like gardening,” he said, almost to himself. “You can’t make me feel guilty for not liking gardening.”

Potter turned from where he’d been propping up a ladder against the house. His mouth was upturned at the corners, as though Draco had said something very funny and he was trying not to laugh. “I’m literally not even trying to make you feel guilty,” he said, “I’m actually not saying anything at all.”

“I could tell,” Draco snapped, then lay down and closed his eyes. He feld odd, halfway between falling back asleep and itching to be very mean to Potter, not even because he’d done anything, just because he was there. Draco lay quite still and tried to resist saying anything he might regret. A shadow crossed over his vision, but he didn’t look. His stomach felt weird and sick and slightly anticipatory. The hairs on his arms raised as the grass brushed against his skin.

“Hey,” Potter said, sounding close and quiet, “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” Draco sighed, and rubbed his eyelids, “Sometimes I just get annoyed with you for no reason, please carry on with whatever you were doing.”

“Oh god,” Potter said, sitting down beside Draco and putting a hand in his hair, “I think I’m getting a fucking pavlovian response from you being a prick.”

Draco was silent for a few moments, sinking into the hard ground, soothed by the movement of Potter’s hand. He turned until his forehead was resting against Potter’s leg. “I don’t know what that is,” he said, and then felt denim scratching his skin as Potter laughed.

“It’s like… I don’t know, I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s just that whenever you say something shitty I just care less because I know we’re probably going to have great sex later.”

“You’re a nightmare,” Draco told him. Potter did actually get turned on by the weirdest stuff, he’d realised, and it had been… eye-opening, to say the very fucking least. A couple of days ago Draco had brought upstairs a scone for Potter to eat in bed and then five minutes later had found himself the recipient of the most determined hand-job he’d ever experienced. They’d had sex last week immediately after Draco had hoovered their bedroom, and he’d been trying to work out ever since whether it had been a coincidence or not.

“I was wondering...” Potter started, then trailed off before going deathly silent. Draco absolutely could not stand it when he did that, and he sat up in order to say something to that effect, dislodging Potter’s hand in the process (which was an unfortunate but necessary sacrifice.) Potter wouldn’t make eye contact, instead he was just staring off at a pine tree with a constipated look on his face. “What?” Draco prompted, scooting over into Potter’s line of sight. “What were you wondering, Potter? Please put me out of my misery.”

“Oh my god” Potter muttered, scowling, and ripped a clump of grass out of the ground. “I was wondering,” he then said, in a normal voice, “If you wanted to go for Dublin for a bit. With me.” Draco widened his eyes, almost by accident, and Potter got this look on his face like he wanted never to have existed. “No,” he said, “No, I know you’re busy. It’s alright.”

“You want to go on a weekend away?” Draco asked, absolutely unable to wrap his head around it. They were fine now, because they could talk to other people and spent a lot of the time giving each other orgasms. But a fucking romantic break would definitely result in… a death or something, probably.

Potter grumbled something unintelligible under his breath and then said “Have you ever been to Dublin?”

“No,” Draco informed him, “And to be frank with you I never really planned on it.”

“We have a house there,” Potter said, and then paused, “Well. Not me, the others do, it’s owned by their parents. Moran’s going to live there next year.”

“Alright,” Draco said, slowly, “You want to go and stay there, then.”

Potter started smiling, the way he did when he was about to tell a joke. “I thought it might be nice,” he said, “I have no idea why I got that idea into my head though. You and me, every waking hour. Sounds like a dream.”

Draco scoffed. If Potter didn’t think it was going to be fun then why had he even asked? Draco truly didn’t understand him, and the things that went on inside his brain. “Fine,” he said, because this seemed like a brilliant opportunity to prove Potter wrong about something while also getting a holiday out of it, “Let’s go on your little trip. I ache to have a romantic getaway with you, Potter, honestly.”

“You do realise I just did the thing,” Potter pointed out.

“What thing?”

“The thing where I said you’d be bad at something to get you to do it,” Potter replied. “Like with the ivy? Except this time you fell for it.”

Draco narrowed his eyes and flicked Potter quite hard on the knee. “I’m going to be mean to you the entire time.”

“Yes, because you’d definitely be capable of being nice the whole time,” Potter deadpanned, and then broke down into laughter when Draco’s mouth went into a shocked little oh.

“That was very uncalled for,” Draco said, “You’re a massive wanker.”

“In summary,” Potter said, ignoring him slightly, “I think this will be a great opportunity for us to have sex without having to be scared someone will walk in on us.”

Draco made a face. “Were you afraid of that? Was that ever a possibility? We locked the door, didn’t we?”

Potter shrugged, which made Draco think that the answers to some of those questions would inevitably be ones he wouldn’t want to hear. He considered, just for a second, biting Potter on the jaw, and then thought that Potter probably wouldn’t see that as a reprimand.

“I’m excited,” Potter said, “We can go and see the Monet painting that that guy punched that one time.”

“Sorry,” Draco said, blinking hard, “Was that a real sentence? Were you speaking English just then?”

“There’s this painter,” Potter explained, “Muggle. Really famous. And his painting got punched one time, in a gallery in Dublin.”

“Oh,” Draco said. Muggles were an endless fucking surprise, weren’t they. “I see.”

“I think they repaired it,” Potter said, sounding disappointed by that fact. “But anyway, we can go and find out.”

“Potter, I am thrilled at the prospect. Let’s go right now. Let’s abandon the ivy and go right now to see a painting that may or may not have a hole in it,” Draco said, and actually managed to keep a straight face the entire time.

Potter wrinkled his nose. “So I see you’re starting now,” he said, “With the being mean thing.”

“I don’t turn it on and off,” Draco sniffed, “It’s my default state.”

“At least you admit it,” Potter sighed, “Now are you going to help me or not?”

“Not,” Draco replied, falling back down and spreading his limbs. He looked up at the sky and his eyes started watering. A swallow flew overhead. Potter scrambled to his feet and kicked Draco lightly on the calf, and Draco honestly thought it was a testament to his continuing patience that he didn’t even respond, beyond calling Potter a piece of shit under his breath.

 


 

Harry stood in front of the downstairs bathroom mirror and pressed one finger absently against a faded bruise on his collarbone, until it throbbed and ached. He liked how it looked on his body, the physical evidence of Malfoy’s mouth having been there. A knock on the door startled him, and Bébhinn said “Dinner’s ready,” muffled through the wood.

They were already serving themselves at the dining table; thick yellow soup and soft bread that Bébh had made earlier in the day. He sat next to Malfoy and nudged their feet together under the table briefly.

“How was school?” he said to Moran, who was sitting in her customary spot at the head of the table, leant back in the chair with a bowl of soup resting on her chest.

“Fine,” she said, “You know how it is, I just have a load of work on at the moment.”

“Are your friends jealous of your car?” Malfoy asked, pouring himself and then her a glass of water from the jug on the table.

She screwed up her face momentarily, “I don’t really have that many friends,” she said, “But the girls in my P.E. class were pretty complimentary about it.”

Bébhinn sighed, “Are those the girls that came over last week? The ones who kicked us out of the living room to watch the Jurassic Park trilogy even though you had to watch it on your computer?”

“Yep,” Moran replied, “How come?”

“They count as friends,” Mallaidh informed her, around a wide yawn. “They seemed really nice.”

“I suppose so,” Moran said, “They’re not like… friends for lifetime friends though.”

“Nobody has those kind of friends,” Malfoy told her, “Except Potter. And I think he was just exceptionally lucky.”

“You have Pansy,” Harry protested, and then made a wounded noise when Malfoy elbowed him in the side.

“Alright,” Malfoy amended, “I have one friend like that. But it’s okay, nobody else does.”

“Maybe I’ll make one at university,” Moran said hopefully.

“You definitely will,” Bébh told her, “Look at you. So smart, so pretty.”

“Shut up mum,” Moran retorted, “You’re embarrassing me.”

“So gorgeous,” Bébhinn insisted, trying to pat her on the cheek without knocking over the soup bowl.

“Oh my god,” Moran said, but she was blushing, “Can we talk about anything else?”

“Have you booked your flights Harry?” Bébhinn asked, turning away from Moran. “Were they expensive?”

“Um,” Harry said, and swallowed his mouthful of bread, “They were about sixty euro? And I haven’t decided whether or not I should get the train from the airport or just apparate.”

“Where are you flying into?” Mallaidh asked.

“Gatwick?” Harry said, “So like, it’s not that far from London, I could apparate to Luna and Gin’s, but if I decide to stay with Hermione and Ron that evening then I’ll have to get the train.”

“Where do they live?” Malfoy asked, “In Surrey, no?”

“This village in Kent,” Harry corrected, “It’s called Godden Green. There’s like, one pub.”

“I wish we had a pub,” Bébhinn said, “A pub would be like… a dream come true out here.”

“It’s really nice,” Harry said, “They moved in about two years ago.”

“What are you doing for Christmas Draco?” Moran asked.

Malfoy paused with his soup spoon halfway to his lips and then lowered it slowly. “I think I’ll spend it with friends,” he said, “Blaise and Pansy, it’s sort of a tradition.”

“That’s nice,” Mallaidh replied, “Do they live in London too?”

“Yes,” Malfoy said, and then went silent. There was a weird pause for a bit, until he turned to Harry and said “I expect you’ll be spending it with the Weasleys?” as if he didn’t already know.

Harry blinked at him. “Yeah?” he said, then, “It’ll be good to see everyone.”

“It’s only in like… four weeks,” Moran said, “Which is ridiculous. I swear it was August about a month ago.”

“I’ll miss you,” Harry told them, “I’m going to charm all my presents so they do that thing where they arrive on Christmas morning under your tree.”

“It’s not for that long,” Bébh said, “You’ll have such a nice time, honestly.”

She knew that he sometimes got nervous about leaving. He’d told her once, a couple of years ago, when he’d been planning on staying in Ireland for Christmas. She’d booked plane tickets behind his back, and told him about them when he’d ended up changing his mind about it.

There were still some things he couldn’t stand, of course. Diagon Alley. The sight of the front page of the Daily Prophet. The taste of the mushrooms Hermione would sometimes cook for breakfast, the way she had in the forest. It would be worth it though, to see them, the entire sprawling Weasley family and all the honourary members. He missed them endlessly and constantly, a low thrum at the back of his brain that never turned off, only dulled occasionally.

“So Malfoy and I are going to Dublin for a bit,” Harry said, changing the subject. Moran choked a little on her soup. “Is that alright?”

Why?” she asked, narrowing her eyes and cutting a look over to Bébhinn. “No offense but-- why?”

“A couples retreat,” Malfoy told her airily, scraping his teeth against his fork for some reason, possibly for emphasis. Harry froze, along with most of the other people at the table. They’d not-- he and Malfoy hadn’t been keeping it a secret, exactly, whatever was happening between them, but neither had they really… advertised it. And he knew Malfoy was joking but it was still unnerving to hear him say couple so easily. As if they were-- well. As if they were.

“Oh,” Mallaidh said weakly, while Harry was busy looking into his soup and trying to conceal how hot his face was getting. Malfoy rested a cool hand over his, where it was clutching the bottom of a glass. “Congratulations?”

“Yes,” Malfoy said, calm as anything, “We think it’ll be good for us.”

Harry spluttered and tried to-- “ We don’t think anything. As two separate individuals who both have brains.”

“It’s just a figure of speech Granger,” Malfoy said, smirking like he was so fucking pleased with himself. “Merlin. This is why we need some time away.”

Bébhinn started laughing and Harry glared at her with as much anger as he could muster. Which wasn’t that much, to his consternation. Malfoy’s hand felt very soft on his own and Harry deliberated for a second saying we’re going so that we can have sex with each other a lot, but decided against it.

“We’re actually just going so that we can have sex with each other a lot,” Malfoy told the entire table, in a low, conspiratory tone. As Moran said this is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to me, Harry closed his eyes and willed himself not to elbow Malfoy very hard in the dick. He barely managed it.

 

*

 

By the time they got a chance to leave for Dublin it was halfway through December and the train tracks were flooded in the middle of the country. Malfoy complained half-heartedly as they changed from a train to a bus and then back onto another train, but his heart didn’t seem to be fully in it. He held Harry’s hand under the table and wrote with the other one, pages and pages of flowing script with hardly a break. Every time he crossed something out he huffed, quietly, under his breath. They arrived in the late evening, on the third carriage of an empty train, and walked through dark streets to the house. It was small and squat, a red brick facade and a tall tree outside with brown leaves that crackled against one another in the wind. The pavements were wet and slick from rain earlier in the day. Harry had been there a few times before, but only with Bébhinn and Moran and Mallaidh, never by himself. The air inside the living room was musty and cold when he opened the front door and pushed it inward. Malfoy thumped the wall for a bit, looking for a switch, and when he found it the light flashed a couple of times before settling down with a low buzz.

“Charming,” Malfoy said, lowering his satchel to the floor with a thud, but it seemed as though he actually meant it. There was one big room downstairs, filled to the brim with sofas and armchairs, as if someone had gone to a furniture shop and bought everything in sight. A small kitchen was at the back of the room, with a window looking out over a tiny courtyard. A spiral staircase led upstairs to the bedroom and bathroom, and they abandoned their bags on the bed before coming downstairs when Malfoy insisted on a cup of tea. Harry remembered from before the way the orange streetlight shone into the upstairs window, it hadn’t changed.

“What kind do you want?” Harry called. Malfoy was peering out of the blinds at the street, it had started raining again and Harry could hear it beating down onto the skylight above his head.

“English Breakfast,” Malfoy replied, “Your neighbours are doing something suspicious.”

Harry went to join him while the kettle boiled, elbowing him out of the way for a better look. A moving van was outside the house, and two small women were transporting a sofa inside with a surprising amount of grace.

“Why is that suspicious?” he asked, “They’re moving in.”

“What?” Malfoy asked, and pulled one of the slats down with two fingertips, so that it buckled in the middle. “Really?”

“I don’t understand why you’re surprised about this,” Harry told him, honestly perplexed, but Malfoy looked very serious.

“Why are they doing it at--” Malfoy cut off and looked at his watch, “Ten past eleven in the evening?”

“I don’t know,” Harry said, dislodging his fingers and trying to coax him backwards, “Stop spying on them.”

“I’m just interested,” Malfoy argued, “Is there any milk?”

Harry sighed, “Fuck,” he said, “I’ll have to go to the shop, do you want to come?”

“No,” Malfoy said, and then grabbed hold of his sleeve, “Don’t leave me here alone! What if those neighbours aren’t actually moving, and they’re periodically robbing every house on the street?”

“Think about that statement,” Harry said, stepping closer anyway. He put a cold hand inside Malfoy’s t-shirt, and then laughed when Malfoy flinched and hissed and pushed him, “Does that seem like a likely scenario?”

“Potter,” Malfoy said, looking at Harry intently and cupping his cheeks, “As far as I’m concerned, this is a new place and a bad neighbourhood and anything is likely to happen.”

Harry rolled his eyes and stuck his hand back onto Malfoy’s stomach, this time it wasn’t removed, Malfoy just shivered under his fingertips a little. “This isn’t a bad neighbourhood,” he said, “This isn’t the best neighbourhood, but it isn’t bad. ” The kettle started whistling so he clenched his fist around the hem of Malfoy’s coat and led him to the kitchen.

“I read,” Malfoy said, while deliberating whether he should have green tea or peppermint, “That anything north of the river is a bad neighbourhood, and anything south is nice.”

Harry frowned and took a sip of his sweet, milkless tea, “Where did you hear that? Whoever wrote that sounds like a huge snob. Or a tourist,” he amended, after a small amount of consideration.

Malfoy snorted, “I don’t know where you get off sounding so snobby about tourists,” he said, “Since we are tourists.”

“I’m not a tourist,” Harry informed him, “I live here.”

“Oh!” Malfoy said, setting his cup down and putting a hand on his chest, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t realise you lived in Dublin. I can’t believe I didn’t know that! We spend so much time together and everything!”

“Alright, alright, fine, yeah, fine,” Harry said, “Also fuck off.”

Malfoy grinned and spilled a bit of peppermint tea when he picked up his mug, he licked it off the side and it was slightly gross because Harry wasn’t entirely sure when these mugs had last been cleaned, and also oddly arousing. Anything involving Malfoy’s tongue was arousing these days, and he’d been finding it incredibly inconvenient.

“Do that again,” he suggested, “That was really hot.”

“Oh, when I licked the side of this cat mug?” Malfoy asked, his forehead wrinkling as he raised his eyebrows, “That was hot? You found that attractive?”

Harry shrugged. “I think so,” he said, “But you’d better do it again so I can make totally sure.”

“I’m not doing it again,” Malfoy said, taking a delicate sip and crossing his ankles as he leant against the counter.

“Do it again,” Harry urged him, “Come on, do it again.”

“I’m simply not going to,” Malfoy said coolly, “Don’t bother asking. I draw the line at licking a cat mug for you.”

“Oh is that where you draw the line?” Harry asked, “So two weeks ago, when you saw a peanut butter flavoured lube and then we ended up using peanut butter flavoured lube, that was okay. But this isn’t?”

“Exactly,” Malfoy said airily, and then smirked a bit like he was remembering it, “You weren’t really complaining.”

“I know I wasn’t complaining,” Harry snapped, “Your arsehole tasted like peanut butter. It was great, you have great ideas. That’s not the point.”

Malfoy rested his hand gently on Harry’s bicep. They still both had their coats on, while they waited for the heating to properly kick in. “What is the point you’re trying to make? Because I’ve lost it a little bit.”

“Lick the cat mug,” Harry said, even though at this point it was more the principle of the thing.

“No,” Malfoy said, and then got on his knees in front of Harry, which really didn’t give him the air of authority he seemed to be going for. Harry’s dick started to harden in anticipation, just a bit, just enough for the lazy, slow arousal he was feeling to bloom into something much more urgent. “No,” Malfoy repeated, and then stood up. He brushed off his knees for a second. “Actually, no, that’s terrible, that floor is very cold. I can’t do that.”

“Alright,” Harry said mildly, and then backed Malfoy into the miniscule kitchen table, putting his tea down on the way, “That’s alright.” He kissed Malfoy on the mouth, bit his bottom lip, licked where he’d just bitten.

Malfoy pulled away after a few minutes, his mouth slick. He sounded breathless when he said “Here?” and then rolled his hips, the hard outline of his erection nestled against Harry’s, his hands around Harry’s waist.

“Here like here?” Harry asked, pushing against him, his hands braced on the table, “As in like, is this a good place for your dick to be? Or as in like, should we relocate this entire production?”

Malfoy panted for a bit, distracted, when Harry mouthed at his neck and got both hands onto his arse. “Um,” he said, “I meant in a general let’s go to the bedroom sense.”

“There aren’t any sheets on the bed,” Harry said, pulling away and frowning.

“Do I seem as though I care right now?” Malfoy asked, and ruffled Harry’s hair, almost on a whim. “You know you need to cut this.”

“I like it this length,” he said, shaking it around a bit for emphasis, “Don’t you like it?”

Malfoy tugged on it, and then pushed it behind his ear, “I suppose,” he said, “Shall we go upstairs so we can lie down? It makes what I’m about to do a lot easier.”

“What are you about to do? Were you going to fuck me?” Harry asked, genuinely happy at this turn of events.

Malfoy slumped against him, “Penetrative sex is far too much effort,” he protested, and Harry deflated a bit, “Quick hand jobs and then straight to bed.”

“Wow,” Harry deadpanned, holding him up with some considerable effort, “Where did the romance go?”

“There wasn’t ever any romance,” Malfoy pointed out, “Also let’s hurry before I pass out and you’ll have to have a sad wank in the bathroom.”

“I’d just have a sad wank in the bed,” Harry replied, unbuttoning his trousers, “I have absolutely no shame.”

“I am aware,” Malfoy told him, and then darted out of his grip to start climbing the stairs. “I am well fucking aware of that fact. It’s a wonder you ever wear clothes, honestly.

“Clothes are uncomfortable,” Harry said, following him after one quick sip of his lukewarm tea. “Boo clothes. I’m starting a movement to ban clothes. Except underwear, pants are comfortable and they can stay. Also pyjamas. Also fleeces.”

“I’m not paying any attention to what you’re blithering on about,” Malfoy informed him, when Harry entered the room to find him stripping off without any ceremony whatsoever. He threw a sock in Harry’s general direction, and then made a face when Harry neatly sidestepped out of the way.

“What else is new,” Harry muttered, pulling his t-shirt over his head and dropping it on the floor. He watched Malfoy slump backwards onto the bed, his flushed dick half-hard against his thigh, his long legs spread obscenely. Harry found it hard to breathe sometimes, when Malfoy looked like he did now. He hadn’t got any more used to it in all the time they’d been doing this.

He took the rest of his clothes off as quickly as he possibly could, then clambered onto the wide bed and over Malfoy’s body, holding himself away and kissing the corner of his lips. Malfoy tasted like peppermint, and sage lip balm, and his mouth was open and slick and hot.

After a while, Malfoy put his hands on Harry’s arse and pulled him down until their erections were sliding against each other, the tip of Malfoy’s cock nudging wetly against his belly. Harry felt strung out and warm and sleepy, and he buried his face in Malfoy’s neck as they moved against one another slowly, with just enough friction for everything to build up, in his stomach, his chest, his limbs.

“I might be too tired to come,” Malfoy said into Harry’s shoulder, his words entirely at odds with the way he was grinding himself against Harry’s hip. Harry pulled back for a second, watching Malfoy’s dick twitch, then leak slowly onto his stomach. Malfoy blinked at him wildly. “Why on earth did you stop?” he asked, panting.

“You said you weren’t going to come,” Harry told him, frowning a little. “I thought you wanted to stop.”

“I do not want to stop,” Malfoy argued, getting a hand around his cock and jerking himself smoothly. “Whatever gave you that idea?”

“When you said you were too tired to come,” Harry repeated, watching the movement of Malfoy’s hand. “Do you want me to tell you again?”

“Mmm,” Malfoy said in response, lifting his hips slightly, fucking into his fist, “I said I might be. On the other hand, I might not be.

“You’re talking out of your arse,” Harry told him, “Seriously, what are you saying to me right now?”

“I want to fuck you tomorrow,” Malfoy replied, closing his eyes. Harry could see him thinking about it. He sat back a bit and just… looked. As Malfoy wanked himself faster, his thighs shaking. His foot thumped against the mattress a couple of times when he ran his thumb over his slit.

“Okay,” Harry said, and kissed his chest. “If you’re not too tired, obviously.”

“I’ve changed my mind,” Malfoy told him, breathless, “I want you to fuck me. I want you to do all of the work. I feel like just… lying there while you do everything.” His cheeks were red, his collarbones were flushed, he looked like nothing Harry had ever seen.

“Fuck,” Harry said, “Yeah-- I-- yes, let’s do that.”

“We can do both,” Malfoy said, shoving Harry over until he was on top, rubbing his dick against Harry’s thigh. “I decided we can do both.”

Harry shifted around until their erections were lined up again. Malfoy groaned and clutched at his waist, then came, his cock jerking and spilling, gasping into Harry’s mouth. Harry rolled his hips a few more times, smearing come between their stomachs, feeling Malfoy go limp and soft above him. His orgasm washed through him not long after, brought on by that more than anything else, golden and sweet, with Malfoy’s hand on his back and nose in his hair, breath damp against his neck.

They showered one after the other, Malfoy brushing his teeth while Harry leant his forehead against the wall and washed come out of his pubic hair. He laughed to himself, briefly, and Malfoy made an incoherent noise and stuck his head through the shower door.

“What?” he asked, “Can you hurry? I feel disgusting.”

“Nothing,” Harry sighed, then turned to look at him, pressing his entire body against the tiles and letting the water run over his chest. Malfoy’s hair was limp from the steam, falling into his eyes, and his lips were red and full. He looked like a cherub in a renaissance painting, or an angel, blushing and pale and pleasant. Even with his lips pursed, the way he did when he was annoyed about something.

“Hm,” Malfoy said absently, frowning a bit, then, “Are you hungry? I’m really quite hungry.”

“We ate on the train,” Harry yawned, he’d had a falafel wrap, it had been delicious and also only about an hour ago.

“Yes,” Malfoy agreed patiently, “But I’m hungry again. I might go to the shop.”

“After your shower?” Harry asked, “I thought you were about to pass out.”

“I changed my mind,” Malfoy sniffed, and then grinned, “That was very invigorating.”

“Shut up,” Harry said, and then yawned again, making absolutely zero effort to cover his mouth, “I’m fucking exhausted.”

“Do you want me to get you anything?” Malfoy asked, “I don’t think I’ll be gone that long, where’s the nearest shop?”

“We passed it on the way up that hill,” Harry said, starting to search through the myriad shampoo bottles for one that actually contained some shampoo. He had to settle for a rose-scented shower gel, “And I could actually go for some chocolate.”

“Alright,” Malfoy agreed, “Hurry then, because I’m not going out covered in semen.”

“Mm,” Harry said dragging his fingers across his scalp, “That’s a lovely image.”

“Exactly,” Malfoy replied, “Can you bloody imagine.

 


 

When Draco got back Potter was asleep, deeply, with his back pressed against the radiator beside the bed and one arm curled under his head, his mouth parted and slack against the pillow. Draco stripped all his clothes off before sliding in between the cool sheets Potter must have put on while he’d been out, shivering slightly until he pressed himself against Potter’s body. His chest was glazed with sweat and burning hot to the touch. Draco shook him awake and tried to pry him away from the radiator, Potter moaned in consternation and shifted backwards away from Draco’s hands.

“You’re cold,” he protested sleepily, “Get away.”

“I was outside,” Draco agreed, “You’re too hot, come on.”

Potter snickered, his eyes still closed. “You’re not awful to look at either,” he said.

“Don’t be annoying. Come away from the radiator a bit,” Draco said, “You’ll burn.”

“I won’t,” Potter said, inching away anyway. He burrowed himself against Draco’s side. “I think you need warming up,” he said, “You’re too frosty.” Draco put one hand on the small of Potter’s back, his skin was practically volcanic.

“I was walking up that awful hill, and the entire way this woman was walking ahead of me carrying a bag of dog shit,” Draco said, “It was five whole minutes of walking up a hill and smelling dog shit. All so you could get a four euro bar of that weird dark chocolate you like.”

Potter laughed and tried to get closer. Draco didn’t think it was physically possible, but it wasn’t as though he was going to complain or anything. “That weird dark chocolate is the only type I can eat. You’re very good to me,” he said, sleepily, like he had no idea what he was saying, and Draco’s chest did an odd clenching thing.

“It’s just a chocolate bar,” Draco managed, trying to sound like his heart wasn’t in his throat. How Potter could be so fucking casual in his affection was beyond him.

“It’s a metaphor,” Potter said, eyes still closed, “For how much you like me.”

“It is not,” Draco argued, aghast.

“Where is it?” Potter asked, apparently unconcerned. “I’d quite like some.”

“I threw it in the bin,” Draco lied.

“You didn’t,” Potter said, “You probably brought it up here with you. What did you get to eat?”

“I got a chicken roll,” Draco told him, “It was horrible, while also being brilliant at the same time.”

“Ugh,” Potter said, “Please get away from me,” ignoring the fact that he was the one insisting on being so close to Draco, limbs wrapped around Draco’s tightly, face against Draco’s neck. He always got like this, Draco had found out, when it was late at night or he’d just woken up and his brain hadn’t had a chance to fully turn on. Never really during the day, never when he was awake.

“Do you want the chocolate?” Draco sighed eventually, when it seemed like Potter wasn’t making any move to let go.

“No,” Potter murmured, “Shut up, I don’t even like chocolate.”

Draco narrowed his eyes and tried to resist pinching Potter’s stomach, the only part he could reach now that his hand was pinned underneath Potter’s body. “Go to sleep,” he said instead, and petted Potter’s hair, “You’re clearly exhausted if you’re saying that sort of thing about chocolate.”

Potter didn’t reply, and he was silent until he woke up screaming in the early hours of the morning, the watery light shining in weakly from a crack in the curtains onto their bed.

“Sorry,” he panted, limp underneath Draco’s hands, not moving anything except for his face. “Sorry, sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

Draco was shaking, just a little bit. That scream. He’d not heard anything like it for five years, and would probably give any number of things to never hear anything like it again. He’d wrapped his fingers around Potter’s wrists to stop him flailing and he could feel Potter’s pulse, thumping fast and hard against the palm of his hands.

“What was that?” Draco asked, before he could think better of it. He already knew the answer, anyway, he’d had dreams like that himself. Dreams that used to wake him up, sweating and terrified, Pansy already opening the door to his room, light floating across his floor from the hallway.

“Nightmare,” Potter said, his eyes wide and scared. “I get them sometimes.” Then he must have seen the look on Draco’s face, the one that said no, you don’t, I think I’d know, because he corrected himself. “When I sleep in a different place I sometimes get them. Never at home.”

“Do you want to tell me what it was about?” Draco asked, climbing off Potter’s still body to sit cross legged on the mattress. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, but he’d always told Pansy and it had always helped. He just didn’t want Potter to not have the opportunity to talk about it.

Potter shook his head, and then blurted out “Teddy,” after a few seconds.

Draco was silent for a few moments. “My cousin Teddy?” he asked warily. Obviously it was though, and he felt silly about even asking.

“Yeah,” Potter breathed, “Your cousin. My godson. Teddy. Fucking hell.”

“Oh,” Draco said, and he didn’t ask what had happened in the dream. He didn’t want to know. He didn’t even want to think about it.

“God,” Potter said, and put his hands over his face. “Sorry about waking you.”

“Okay,” Draco told him, and placed his hand on Potter’s bare arm, “You don’t have to keep saying that.”

“You were really tired,” Potter breathed, and Draco felt like fucking crying.

“I’m okay,” he said, “I’m alright. Are you alright?”

“Yes,” Potter said, then, “Actually maybe no. Not really.” He shivered, once, this full body thing that made him shudder under Draco’s hand. He sat up, suddenly, and moved so that he was sitting opposite Draco, cross legged, their knees touching, a determined look on his face.

“What?” Draco asked, hesitantly, after a moment or two of silence. He didn’t know what to do, what to say, he didn’t want to do anything wrong.

“How are you happy?” Potter asked, and Draco opened his mouth to say something but no words came out. He thought he probably looked ridiculous, but Potter didn’t say anything, just sat there patiently.

“Are you-- are you not?” Draco asked. It seemed like Potter was, Potter acted as though he was, but then he had nightmares. And he sometimes went very quiet and wouldn’t speak, and sometimes he would spend an entire afternoon in the bath and not eat dinner.

“I am,” Potter told him, with no pause, “No, of course I fucking am. I just-- I wish I was happy without fucking qualifiers, you know? I wish I didn’t have to sleep in the same place every night in order to not have nightmares, I wish Ron could tell me about his job without it making me feel guilty. I just want to be normal. For once, I just want to be normal.” He said it in a big rush, words tripping over each other, and then afterwards he got this terrible look on his face as though he wanted to take it all back. As though he wanted to maybe obliviate them both.

Draco didn’t say anything. He didn’t know-- he didn’t know what would make this better. “Maybe you just need to give it more time.”

“Okay, I wish I didn’t need more time.” Potter said, and scratched his knee absently.

“Okay,” Draco echoed, and took a deep breath, looking for the right words. “Maybe you’ll never have happiness without qualifiers. Maybe there will always be things that just… hurt.” Potter pursed his lips, and Draco thought that possibly could have been too honest. He’d accepted a long time ago that there were things he would never move past, never get over. He’d never imagined that Potter had the same problems, and he felt incredibly and fiercely guilty for never even thinking about it.

Potter swallowed, audibly. “Are there things like that for you? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”

“Things that still hurt?” Draco asked, almost laughing.

“Yeah,” Potter said, and looked him right in the eye until Draco had to break away to stare at the grey sky outside the window.

“I haven’t seen my father in four years. I can’t talk to him, I can’t listen to him speak,” he said, and tried not to move when he spoke. Sometimes that made it easier.

“I’m sorry,” Potter told him, and sounded as though he actually was.

“He’s a bad person.”

“I know. I’m sorry he’s a bad person,” Potter replied easily.

Draco clenched his jaw. “Sometimes I think I am . I’ll think about everything that happened and just-- I’m scared that I’m still the person I used to be. Or that some of those things are still there.”

“I don’t think that you are,” Potter said quietly, before Draco could actually hex himself in the face for confessing something like that.

Draco rolled his eyes, but not at Potter. “I mean… overall? I don’t think so either. But there’s-- I tried to be better, I am better. But sometimes I think I might never be totally rid of-- I don’t know, whatever it was that made me do all those awful things. Sometimes I think I am and then sometimes I truly don’t know, and it terrifies me.”

“I know, I know,” Potter said, soothing and low.

“Do you know what I’m talking about?” Draco asked, fucking desperate for it.

Potter smiled, just a small one, and then said “Yes, yeah, of course I do.”

“Sometimes I think it’s a tragedy, what happened to both of us, what the both of us did. I have no idea how we do things like laugh or smile or even function, most days,” Draco whispered, and then leant over to open the curtains wider so Potter couldn’t see his face. The tree outside had lost more leaves since he’d last seen it, and they were scattered across the dark pavement.

“It could be worse,” Potter allowed, after a moment.

“It could be a lot fucking worse,” Draco agreed.

“I don’t want you to think I’m ungrateful,” Potter told him, and Draco stared for a second, incredulous.

“I don’t think that,” he said, urgently, “Why would I think that?”

“I know it doesn’t seem like it but-- I am trying to be happy, you know? Like, I hate the fact that a lot of the time I just decline into complaining, and I--”

Draco put his hand over Potter’s mouth very, very gently. “Fucking stop it,” he said, trying to sound a lot less emotional than he actually was. “There’s nothing wrong with you for complaining, you prat, it doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful, I’m not annoyed at you,” he paused, and smiled slowly. Not for this anyway,” he amended, “You’re allowed to be sad and complain because you’re a fucking human, Potter, and that’s what humans do. It makes me very angry when you feel guilty about your feelings, they aren’t wrong just because they aren’t happy, you know. ”

Jesus,” Potter said, emphatically, and closed his eyes, leaned into the touch. He looked very young, just at that moment, and Draco wanted to kiss him but didn’t.

“Can I ask you something?” he ventured, and then in the spirit of honesty said, “I’ve been wanting to know for ages but I don’t want to take advantage of this weird confession thing we’re doing.”

Potter laughed at that, and said, “Yeah, why not.”

“Why did you come here?” Draco asked, “Why did you leave England?”

Potter was very quiet for a long time, long enough for Draco to consider telling him not to worry about, but then he spoke. “There’s that saying, isn’t there? Who are you when no one’s looking? And it’s like, awful, obviously, and pretty much meaningless, but also I didn’t know, did I? I mean, my entire life I’d been with other people all the time, which was fine, that wasn’t bad, but then also I’d been in danger all the time, every fucking waking minute, and I just wanted to find out the person I was when I was… at rest, I guess. When I wasn’t on the run, or fighting, or having to kill people and hurt people.”

“And you couldn’t do that in England?” Draco asked. Potter shook his head.

“Do you want to know something?” he asked, and Draco nodded. Potter wrapped his fingers around Draco’s ankle and didn’t say anything for a while.

“I died, that day, during the battle. Like, actually died,” he started, and Draco’s breath caught in his throat. There had always been… rumour, about that, that Potter had come back from the dead. He’d never believed it, probably wouldn’t now except that Potter looked serious and sad, like he was telling the truth. “Then I came back to life but it wasn’t… It wasn’t the same life as I’d had before, and I was sad all the time even though strangers were insisting I should be happy, and half the people I knew had actually fucking died, they didn’t get to come back like I did, and the press were taking photos of me as if I’d done anything more than kill someone. Then Ginny and I broke up and it was because we weren’t in love anymore but it still hurt me, and it still threw me off track because I relied on it too much. And then I went looking for Luna because I just got so sick of it, all of a sudden. And then I found her, and this house, and these people, and I was terrified at first and then I became useful . For something more than just… awful things. I became useful for keeping things alive rather than the opposite, I wasn’t reminded of the war at every possible turn, I got happy again, mostly.”

“Right,” Draco said weakly, and couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“So that’s why,” Potter told him, tightening his hold on Draco’s skin.

“And that’s why you and Ginny broke up,” Draco said, because Ginny had told it like that, but he’d never-- he’d never realised he wanted to hear it from Potter until now.

Potter wriggled his shoulders around and then said, “Yeah, mostly, there was other stuff though. She looked at me like there was something wrong with me. I think that I looked at her as though she could fix all my problems. It wasn’t fair to either of us, I don’t think.”

“I’ve seen her with Luna,” Draco said, “She’s really happy.”

Potter’s face went hard, and his voice was sharp and hurt when he said “What are you hoping to achieve here? I know she’s happy. I know that, Malfoy.”

And Draco didn’t know what the fuck he was doing, he was so angry that Potter was-- “You’re all alone out here,” he said, “I know why you’re here, obviously, but-- are you going to stay forever?” He was desperately fucking afraid that Potter would say yes. That he would live out the rest of his life only coming back to England for fucking Christmases, that Potter wouldn’t ever have-- someone who made him happy. Potter seemed like he needed someone who made him happy. Draco wanted to say this: Potter, you deserve better, but he didn’t know how, and now he was making Potter upset for no fucking reason at all.

“I’m not all alone,” Potter said fiercely.

“You know what I mean,” Draco sighed. Potter clenched his fingers but didn’t move them. He looked like he had that first day in the kitchen, like he had all the time when he’d seen Draco at school. Like he was angry, but more than that, like he couldn’t believe Draco was saying the things he was saying.

“Yeah, I do,” he snapped, “I just think you’re fucking wrong. I’m not seventeen anymore Malfoy, I don’t expect-- love to just put me back together again after everything that happened. I’m doing it myself, and it's a long fucking process. Maybe it doesn’t look like a life to you, because it's not some wizarding job and an apartment in the city and a fucking-- I don’t know, a wife and children, a husband and children. But for me it works, it’s peaceful.” He paused for a breath, but continued before Draco could even open his mouth.

“I would have joined the Aurors if I’d stayed,” he said, sounding horrible and defeated, “Did you know that? And there’s-- I just can’t be-- I won't let myself be healed by another person, other people. I made that mistake before, when I thought Ginny would just-- solve everything for me.” He took a ragged breath, like it was being ripped out of him, and he sounded desperately upset when he said “Because what if they leave, and part of me is still tied to them, you know? What if it’s ripped away when they go and-- and I’m just-- and I’m just sad forever, I don’t deserve that. I don’t think I deserve that.”

Draco closed his eyes, for a split second, and then opened them again. A lot of the time he expended a considerable amount of effort not letting Potter in on the fact that Draco thought he was one of the best people in the world. He imagined himself to be doing quite a good job of it, and now he thought he was honestly about to flush all that hard work down the drain. He looked Potter right in the eye and started talking before he could make himself stop.

“I have learnt, over the years, that nobody ever gets what they deserve,” he said, and even to his own ears he sounded torn apart by the words, ”But if there is one fucking person on this planet that should, then it would be you. And you would have everything you’d ever wanted. And I’m so sorry, that you were ever unhappy for a day in your life, because you shouldn’t have been, because you’re wonderful. And I am so sorry that I ever caused you a fucking second of distress.”

Potter exhaled sharply and leant forward until his head was resting right in the centre of Draco’s chest. He didn’t say anything, just breathed slowly for a few minutes with Draco’s hands on his shoulders. “Don’t ever tell anyone I said that,” Draco warned him, and Potter started laughing, huge sobbing gasps that made his whole body shake with the effort.

“God,” he managed, “I don’t think they’d fucking believe me even if I wanted to.”

“Exactly,” Draco told him, smiling against Potter’s dark, tangled hair. “I have a reputation to uphold.”

“Let’s go back to sleep,” Potter said, pushing Draco into the mattress and sprawling over him, his hands hot where they rested on Draco’s waist. Draco kissed Potter’s forehead, his cheekbones, sighed over his temples. Draco thought this was turning into something he thought he might be unprepared to handle. In fact, it was entirely possibly it already had.

A long while later, past the time Draco thought Potter had fallen asleep, Potter shifted on the mattress and said “Sometimes I think that the war didn’t need me to happen, or like, maybe even if I was never there then everything would have happened exactly the same way.” Draco didn’t say anything, but he thought about the prophecy, and knew that wasn’t true.

“I don’t think I ever had a choice,” Potter whispered, and Draco pulled him closer, tighter against his body. “Although I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway, really, when I probably would have made the exact same choices.”

“It matters,” Draco told him, hushed and low, “Of course it fucking matters.” Potter didn’t reply, but it was a very long time before Draco felt him go slack and soft, felt him breathe deeply as he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Draco apparated into the alley with a sharp crack, pausing for a few seconds as the cold air settled around his shoulders. He hated apparating into Muggle areas, but this part of London only had about three apparition points total; the nearest one to Ginny and Luna’s apartment being a solid forty-minute walk away. Plus, he’d always thought it impolite to apparate into someone’s house without at least warning them beforehand. He walked down the thin laneway through a painted field of vivid flowers, underneath an archway covered in metal poppies and out onto the bright pathway, squinting in the sunlight.

Luna had one foot hanging out of an open window when he emerged from between the two office blocks opposite her and Ginny’s flat. She was singing along to a song that was blaring in the background at full volume; a noise complaint waiting to happen. A Muggle shouldered past him on the narrow pavement and huffed in consternation, looking up at Luna and shaking his head. Draco allowed himself one second to smile, fondly, before stopping. Luna was about the only person on earth he allowed himself to feel fond about. He couldn’t even be bothered to send a stinging charm after the arse who’d pushed him.

“Luna,” he shouted up at her, and her bare foot stopped bobbing in time to the music. She looked down and smiled slowly, her white hair flying around her face.

Ginny and Luna lived on the third floor of an old Victorian terrace above a greengrocers, complete with the clanging pipes and the loose floorboards and the wiry, tangled fire escape that clung to the back of the house like a dark spider. Everyone in the building used it to smoke on, gingerly climbing their way out of an opened window, ducking under the hanging baskets and leaning out over the scraggly garden at the back where the bins were kept and the people who owned the shop would let their dogs out to lie out in the sun. Periodically through the night people would charge up the stairs at full clip after having let themselves into the garden from the back alley that let out beside the tube station. It was nothing like anywhere Draco had been before.

She can't tell the night from the day,” Luna sang at him, a few seconds before the voice on the song, propping her foot up onto the cracked white paint of the slim windowsill. She popped her head back inside and shouted something he couldn’t quite hear. A small piece of snow landed on the front of his coat, and he was brushing it off when a few more joined it. He got a whiff of the Bangladeshi restaurant a few meters down the road, as someone opened the front door and hurried inside, their voices cutting off sharply as the glass door slammed close behind them. The music lowered in volume just before Ginny’s bright head appeared at the window.

“Draco Malfoy,” she said, leaning over Luna’s legs and laughing. “Who invited you over?”

“Ginny Weasley,” he replied, trying not to smile in return. “I didn’t realise you’d be here otherwise I probably wouldn’t have come.”

“Are those for us?” Luna asked, gesturing at the bouquet of bright, sweet smelling flowers he held in his arms. He looked down at them.

“No,” he said, brushing a bit of yellow pollen off the plastic wrapper, “They’re for you. Make sure you put them somewhere Ginevra can’t look at them.”

“Prat,” Ginny said, “Do you want a bat bogey?”

“Can you let me up?” he asked. “I’d love to stand here all day trading insults, believe me, except that it’s snowing and I think you’ll hear me far better indoors.”

“Fine,” Ginny said, disappearing for a few seconds before he heard the intercom buzz on the other side of the road.

Luna was standing in the front doorway waiting for him as he climbed the last few steps into their hallway, panting faintly. He loved their apartment, obviously, because it was lovely, but he could do without the three flights of stairs one had to drag oneself up in order to reach it. He spared a brief moment to think about his own flat, in a very nice building near Hyde Park, with a very nice doorman and a very nice elevator.

“You should come to mine more often,” he said, breathing hard, “Merlin I need to exercise more.”

Luna frowned, taking a step forward and putting her hand on his throat. Draco shook her off and rolled his eyes; after five years of having random parts of his body touched by her he was more or less used to it. She looked younger than she had the last time he’d seen her, for some reason, standing in the carpeted hallway and backlit by the wide windows in their kitchen. She had a rip in her paint-covered jeans, and the sleeve of her sweatshirt was fraying slightly on one side. The whole thing rather reminded him of Potter.

“I thought it was--” she said, wriggling her shoulders, then cut off. Frowned a bit more. “I think you’re just not very fit.”

“Yes thank you Luna, I rather knew that,” he said, exasperated, sidestepping around her and into the apartment. He set the flowers onto a small wooden side table as he took of his coat. “What did you think it was?”

She got as far as saying “There are these little throat things that--” before he cut her off with a moan. She looked very confused for a second. “Maybe you do have them,” she said, and tried to touch his throat. Again.

He fended her off briefly. “No touching my throat,” he said sternly, “And I don’t have them, that was just me not wanting to hear about creatures that live in your throat.”

“If they live there long enough then they can steal your voice,” she said, seriously. “Once, forty-seven people died because a wizard lost control of his own tongue. They can cause quite a bit of mayhem.”

Forty--” he started incredulously, “Luna I think that forty-seven people dying counts as a lot more than a bit of mayhem.

“I said quite a bit,” she replied unconcernedly, “Anyway you don’t have them, so you’re fine. You just need to go to the gym or something.”

“The gym,” Draco scoffed, toeing his shoes off and sliding them into a spot next to a pair of scruffy trainers he distinctly recognised. “I wouldn’t go to the gym if you paid me.

“I think you would,” Luna replied. He narrowed his eyes. Mostly because she was probably right.

“Is Potter here?” he asked finally, looking around the place surreptitiously. It hadn’t changed much, bar the addition of a new wall hanging in the corner over the pink sofa. He kicked at the edge of one of their rugs, sprinkled with little flying eagles flapping their wings lazily. They'd got it in America. “This is so ugly,” he told her, but Luna wasn’t listening, busy moving his shoes to a different, but almost identical spot on the floor.

“Draco,” Ginny said, emerging from around a corner and plucking the flowers up from where they lay on the table. She went over to the kitchen to start pouring water into a vase, sliding a little in her socked feet. “Thanks for these. I assume we’re done pretending that they’re not for me and Luna?”

“Yes,” he grumbled, eyes flicking over to the three closed doors off the wide living room. He half expected Potter to just jump out at him. “I got them in Spitalfields,” he said, dragging himself over to a yellow corduroy monstrosity before slumping into it with a soft grunt.

“They’re lovely,” Luna said, “Yellow’s my favourite colour.”

“I know,” Draco told her, looking steadily at her yellow jumper, and the yellow walls of the living room, and the yellow cabinets in the kitchen. Then down at the yellow sofa he was currently collapsed on. “It’s a wonder Ginny let this happen, you know. This colour scheme clashes rather remarkably with her hair.”

Ginny snorted, and stopped filling the kettle long enough to jab her finger in his direction with a surprising amount of force. “When,” she said, “Will you bloody stop with the colour thing. The walls have been painted like this for four years. You helped us do it. Can you please give me a time frame for when you’re going to stop complaining about it?”

“You should come to mine more often,” Draco said again, since she hadn’t heard when he’d voiced it in the hallway.

“Oh sure,” she said, rolling her eyes. “If I wanted to sit in neutral hell all evening. Getting bored out of my mind with your black marble counter tops. Sipping boring white wine out of your fucking cut crystal wine glasses. Sign me the fuck up.”

“The apartment was like that when I moved in,” Draco sniffed, affronted. “And you know full well that an interior designer fitted everything out. It’s very fashionable.”

Ginny gagged, which Draco felt was rather uncalled for. Then she started laughing. “I hate you,” she said, shaking her head, “I sort of forget when you aren’t here.” Draco pursed his lips. She had very odd ways of showing affection. He looked to Luna for a little support, but she was concentrating pretty hard on her current task; dusting out the inside of his favourite mug.

“I want to go to TK Maxx again,” Draco said, changing the subject to one that would hopefully involve less insults on Ginny Weasley’s behalf. “Because the last time we were there I saw this lovely set of sheets from the V&A collection and I really regretted not buying them.”

“They won’t still be there,” Ginny replied absently, casting a quick silencing spell on the kettle, just as it started to hiss loudly. “It was about six months ago Draco.”

“I know that,” he told her, shaking his head. “I’m not a complete fool.”

“I thought you hated TK Maxx,” Luna said, “You were… quite vocal about it the last time Ginny took you.”

“I actually told Luna I was never going to do you another favour as long as I lived,” Ginny said, and then brandished a teaspoon in the direction of Luna’s luminous hair, “Didn’t I babe?”

‘Babe’ Draco mouthed to himself incredulously, while Luna nodded and said “Yes, quite a few times actually.”

“Well. I can hardly go by myself,” he said, deciding to let it go. “Would you come if I said please?”

“Are you going to say please?” Ginny asked, rather astutely. Draco crumpled his face up.

“I might,” he said, “If we could come to some sort of agreement.”

“You could buy them online,” Luna suggested, “I don’t mind helping you. Hermione signed me about this class in Diagon Alley where you can go and learn how to use computers. It’s brilliant, Ginny wouldn’t come with me.”

“Listen,” Ginny said, “We have a house phone, and we have the yellow pages. As far as I'm concerned that's enough technology in one house. It was bad enough when they started saying you had to have an oyster card to use on the bus.”

“What?” Draco asked, sitting up a bit, “When the fuck did they do that?”

Ginny snorted. “About a month ago?”

“So let me get this straight--” Draco said, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“You can’t use change on the bus anymore,” Luna told him, “I think it’s so much more hygienic. Think of all the people who’ve touched the coins you have to carry around with you.”

“I can’t believe this. I am truly shaken,” Draco said, then considered. “I mean, I already have an oyster, so it’s fine. But think of all those old Muggles who have to get on the bus and… tap their card. I really feel their pain. The first time I did it I had to pretend to be a tourist so I wasn’t as embarrassed about it.”

“Your toffy accent probably gave the game away,” Ginny said. “What kind of tea do you want? We just got some peppermint in.”

“Don’t insult me,” Draco sighed, “English Breakfast. I’m not a peasant.”

“You’re rude is what you are,” Ginny muttered, reaching into the top shelf to pat around blindly for the box of tea they only used when he was over. She blew a bit of dust off the top once she’d caught it.

“You need to clean your cabinets,” Draco said loftily, and a little too loudly. Potter was definitely here, those had definitely been his shoes. Unless he’d brought more than one pair of shoes with him on holiday which… seemed unlikely. Seemed impossible, actually, considering the only other shoes he owned were wellington boots.

“Milk?” Luna asked, opening the fridge, “Or lemon? Actually scratch that last one, we haven’t got any. Unless you want lime.”

“I’m not even going to dignify that with an answer,” Draco told her. “Is Potter here?”

Ginny looked at him thoughtfully, halfway through pouring milk into a red mug with a little dog on it. His mug. He frowned at the amount she was putting in but didn’t say anything. Five years of telling Ginny Weasley she over-milked every cup of tea in sight. He didn’t think she was likely to stop any time soon.

“He’s been in the bath all afternoon,” Luna said quietly, her eyes flitting over to the obstinately closed door of the bathroom; behind which Potter was presumably listening.

“What?” Draco asked suspiciously, straightening, “Why? What did you do?”

Ginny laughed, once and brightly. “Nothing,” she said, “He got back from Ron and Hermione’s and he said he didn’t feel well. Luna ran him a bath and he’s been there ever since. Why would you assume we did something?”

“I don’t know,” Draco snapped, “You’re weird, that’s why.”

“Oh, so now we’re declining into playground insults are we?”

“It was a lavender bath,” Luna said serenely, “With seaweed. In case anyone was interested.”

“Since when do you give a shit about what Harry does, anyway?” Ginny said accusingly, her ponytail bobbing, and Luna put a hand onto her arm. Which was intensely unsettling.

Draco opened his mouth but couldn’t really find the right way to describe exactly what he and Potter were to each other. He got as far as stammering “We-- we’re--” before Luna sighed and rolled her eyes.

“He told us,” she said, as Ginny made an annoyed noise then started laughing, trying unsuccessfully to stifle it with the palm of her hand.

Luna,” she admonished, “That was about to be so funny.” Draco narrowed his eyes and thought sincerely for a few seconds about hexing her. Then she handed him his mug of tea over the counter and he reconsidered.

“You’re mean,” Luna said, pointing at him, “Look at his poor face.” Ginny spat a mouthful of tea back into her mug. Sometimes she had such bad manners he honestly didn’t know what to do with himself. He supposed he brought it on himself by hanging out with people who weren’t Slytherins all the time.

Draco looked at the ceiling for a few moments. “Why do people keep saying that?” he wondered, to nobody in particular. Then Luna’s words registered in his brain. “What exactly did Potter tell you in this little chat of yours?

“He told us you were in love,” Ginny said, and this time Luna did actually elbow her in the stomach, even though-- even though Draco hadn’t believed her, exactly. “Alright, alright,” she said, fending Luna off with a burst of laughter, “He said you were seeing each other.

Luna smiled. “I asked if that meant you were dating and he got quite embarrassed.”

“Only because everybody knows that seeing each other is code for fucking,” Ginny said, sounding exasperated. Draco stood up, abandoning his mug on the low coffee table.

“I’m going to go and talk to him,” he said, “Because I don’t think I can take any more of this conversation. Unless we’re drinking something a fuck of a lot stronger than tea.

“What did you just say?” Luna asked, as he tried the bathroom door, then knocked when it wouldn’t open, “Did you just say a fuck of a lot? That’s not a real term of measurement, Draco. I did an article on them for the Quibbler in fourth year.”

“Don’t be too long,” Ginny warned, “We’re going out. I know you’ve missed all the nightlife Peckham has to offer.”

He turned briefly from rattling at the doorknob, almost speechless. “What fucking nightlife?”

Ginny hauled herself up onto the wooden counter top, immediately wrapping her arm around Luna’s waist. “Karaoke,” she said, in a tone that made it very clear how much of an oblivious wanker she thought he was, “Duh.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Cocktails,” he said, trying for compromise, “And then I’ll consider karaoke.”

*

“Potter,” Draco said as he entered the darkened bathroom, after hearing the door unlock, breathing in a lungful of lavender scented steam.

“Malfoy,” Potter replied, nodding, low and quiet from the bathtub on the opposite side of the room. He had his eyes closed, and his arm splayed out to the side; a book hanging loosely in his hand. Draco moved a bit closer, trailing his fingers over the freezing pink tiles of the wall. When Luna and Ginny had moved in they’d vowed never to redo the bathroom, much to Draco’s constant displeasure. Everything was pale pink, which he didn’t have a problem with in theory, except that in execution it was… terrible. And hurt his eyes. Potter had closed the blinds though, and lit a few candles, making it easier to ignore the overwhelming hue. They’d even bought bath towels to match.

Potter slid down further into the clear water and leant his dark head back against the rosebud tiles behind him. “What do you want?” he asked tiredly.

Draco frowned. “I wanted to get away from Ginny Weasley’s cruel and unusual teasing, but now I rather want to know what’s wrong with you.”

“I can’t tell if you’re trying to be nice or not,” Potter told him, letting the book fall to the floor with a thump.

“I’m trying for it, yes. How am I doing?” Draco said, sliding nearer. He eyed the chair beside Potter’s outstretched hand for a few moments, complete with a pile of towels and a myriad of small bottles, before settling instead for perching on the lip of the tub.

“Not that great,” Potter said wryly, cracking one eye open. “Care to go again?”

“Why are you sad?” Draco asked, and put his hand in the bath. The water was practically scalding.

Potter snorted. “Who says I’m sad?” he replied, closing his eyes again. Now that Draco was closer he could see a thin sheen of sweat on Potter’s brow and collarbones, beading at his hairline.

“Me,” Draco said, “I do. You look sad. What the fuck are you moping in here for? You’re missing out on Luna and Ginny making fun of us.”

“Why are they making fun of us?” Potter sighed.

“You’re changing the subject,” Draco said, narrowing his eyes. “But I’ll answer anyway. They-- found out that we’re--” he took a deep breath and cut off, flapped his hand around a bit, lost for words again.

“Seeing each other?” Potter supplied after a few beats, “I told them. Are you angry?”

“No,” Draco said, surprised to find out that it was the truth. He thought for a second. “I suppose that you’ve actually saved me the trouble of having to tell them myself. Maybe I should thank you,” he continued thoughtfully.

“You can,” Potter offered. “I’d be very gracious about it, I promise.”

“I’m not actually going to,” Draco informed him sternly, “Like I would. Come on.”

“Okay,” Potter said, opening his eyes properly, moving his knee to nudge against Draco’s still submerged fingers. “But only because I’m a bit surprised you aren’t angry.”

Draco frowned. “Because I’m-- I don’t understand. You can tell them whatever the fuck you want, Potter.”

“Right,” Potter said, blinking, “I guess I just thought you’d be pissed off I didn’t talk to you about it.”

“I’m not,” Draco assured him, “I’m really not.”

“Yeah,” Potter replied, a smile curving his lips, “I’m starting to see that.”

“You’ve definitely given Ginny a lot of material though,” Draco mused, “I bet she’s out there thinking of all the ways she can torture us about it.”

“Hmm,” Potter just said, noncommittally, then closed his eyes again.

“Is that what you were sad about?” Draco asked, poking him until he looked back over.

“No,” Potter said, and then wrinkled his nose, “And I’m not sad Malfoy.”

“Right,” Draco said, rolling his eyes, “You’re just holed up in a dark bathroom cooking yourself because you’re having a great day. My mistake.” He stood up.

Potter splashed some water on the floor in his haste to grab at Draco’s leg. “Do you want to get in?” he asked hastily, looking determinedly at the sink beside Draco’s hip.

“Do I--” Draco started, then shook his head a bit. “Luna and Ginny are right outside,” he said.

Potter looked at him, eyes darkened. “So?” he asked, “I’m not fucking coming onto you, I just--” he sighed, “No, it’s fine. Fuck off then.”

Draco raised his eyebrows. And then crossed his arms for good measure. “What’s your problem? You have thirty seconds to tell me before I actually do fuck off and leave you in here to… stew, or whatever it is you’re doing.”

“Ugh,” Potter said, then “I was at Ron and Hermione’s last night, I don’t know if you knew.”

“Oh,” Draco said, then uncrossed his arms. He started to unbutton his shirt. Clearly Potter had done the unthinkable and told Granger and Weasley. Since he seemed to be in a confessionary mood lately. And -equally as clearly- it hadn’t gone well. “I’m not going to make a habit of this,” Draco warned, “Comforting you is not going to become an everyday occurrence. Get that into your head right now.”

“What are you doing?” Potter ignored him and asked. It was utterly unwarranted, of course, since Draco thought it was rather obvious what he was doing. He didn’t answer, and took his trousers off instead. “Holy shit,” Potter said, sitting up with a splash, widening his eyes, “Were you not wearing underwear?”

Draco looked at him. “No,” he said, “But I fail to see how that’s important.”

I think it’s pretty fucking important,” Potter managed, “How is that not so uncomfortable?”

“Yes, well, if you buy all your trousers in a fucking Marks and Spencer,” Draco said, “Like an old man, then I can see how it would be. But since I get all of my clothes tailor made, it’s really not.”

“I can’t believe this,” Potter said, as Draco stepped into the hot water.

“I can’t believe you didn’t know about this,” Draco replied, hissing a little at the temperature. Potter pulled his knees up to his chest to make room for Draco at the opposite end of the bathtub.

“I think I would know about this,” Potter argued, slinging one leg over the side, water dripping from the heel of his foot onto the wooden floor below.

“Alright,” Draco admitted, “I don’t do it that often.”

“Did you run out of clean underwear or something?” Potter asked knowingly.

Draco grimaced. “That happens?” he asked, vaguely horrified at even the thought. “No I didn’t run out of clean underwear.”

“Okay you don’t have to say it like that. As if I’m some sort of... gross person for sometimes, occasionally, running out of clean underwear,” Potter pointed out.

Some sort of gross person, ” Draco echoed, looking at the ceiling, “Really fucking eloquent.”

Potter kicked him half-heartedly, a few droplets of water landing in the hair on his chest and shining there. Draco couldn’t take his eyes off them. “How’s Parkinson?” Potter said, as though he were actually interested. Draco narrowed his eyes. He would not ask after Granger and Weasley’s health. He simply wouldn’t.

“She’s fine,” Draco said, “Both of them are fine.”

Pansy and Blaise had both been radiant, actually, at their Christmas party the other night, glowing under the bright lights in the stairwell, the two of them holding hands and moving through their tastefully decorated living room as if it had been one of those parties their parents had held. The parties before the war. The parties where he and Pansy had been dressed up in heavy robes and told to stay silent, until they’d escaped to the kitchens or their bedrooms or to the steps outside the mirrored ballroom in Malfoy Manor. The parties had always been held at the Manor. Draco had been told to bring someone the other night, and hadn’t, and had spent the whole evening wondering what it would have been like if Potter had been there, hating himself for it at the same time. As if Potter would ever put in a fucking appearance at a Slytherin party, as if Potter would put on dress robes and do a bit of formal dancing in a chandelier-lit ballroom just because Draco had asked him to.

Potter stretched and put his foot back in the bath, wriggling it under Draco’s thigh, his toes squirming against Draco’s skin. “When are you going to theirs? Christmas Eve?”

Draco pulled a face and leant back against the cold porcelain. “They’ve booked a holiday.”

“Oh,” Potter said, quietly. “Oh. So you-- Did they not tell you?”

“It was last minute,” Draco sighed, “They were very apologetic.”

“Yeah well they should be,” Potter said forcefully, “What are you going to do, hang out with your parents or something?”

Draco shook his head. “Maybe I’ll go to Greg’s.”

“Maybe you should...” Potter said, trailing off, and Draco rolled his eyes.

“I’m not going to come to the Weasley’s, Potter. Can you fucking imagine.”

“I don’t think they’d mind,” Potter replied, looking for all the world like he believed that. “You should at least come to their Christmas Eve party, about a million people always turn up. We’ll all be there.”

Draco, against his will, found himself horribly charmed by the easy way Potter had said that, at the wholehearted belief he apparently had that Draco would just… be accepted. Draco watched his face for a moment, lovely and open, and tried not to kiss him. Potter was such a fucking prat most of the time, but now and again he would just come out with stuff like this and throw Draco entirely off track.

“Maybe,” Draco said, not having the heart to tell Potter that a party at the Weasley’s sounded like his worst nightmare. “Did you tell Granger and Weasley that we were fucking?”

Potter raised his eyebrows and laughed nervously. “Way to change the fucking subject,” he said, “And no? Why?”

“I thought all this,” Draco said, gesturing around the room, “Was because you had told them and they’d been upset.”

“Um,” Potter said, “I don’t think they’d be upset.”

“But you didn’t tell them.”

“No,” Potter replied, and then screwed his eyes up, “I mean… they’re probably going to fucking murder me when they find out Gin and Luna knew before they did.”

“I think you’re being hyperbolic,” Draco informed him.

Potter laughed and caught hold of Draco’s ankle under the water. “Yeah,” he said, “I don’t think they’re actually going to kill me, Malfoy.”

“So why all the drama?” Draco wanted to know.

“First of all,” Potter said, looking sad again, “Fuck you. Second of all I had a nightmare last night and I had to crawl into bed with Ron and Hermione like I was--”

He cut off and laughed bitterly. “I was going to say like I was a kid but--” He opened his mouth and then closed it, apparently unable to continue.

“Right,” Draco said slowly, “So you’re embarrassed.”

Potter cut him a sharp look. “I’m not embarrassed, I’m annoyed at myself.”

“I don’t think you can really help it,” Draco told him.

“That’s not the point,” Potter sighed, leaning back and closing his eyes again. He squeezed Draco’s ankle.

“I rather think it is,” Draco pointed out, but Potter didn’t seem as though he was listening, instead just put his hand on his stomach and started scratching through the dark hair there.

“Do you want me to give you head?” he asked, eyes still closed.

Draco ignored the jolt in the pit of his belly and scoffed. “Not now, maybe.”

“I can be quiet,” Potter told him, “I just feel really restless.”

“I thought we were talking about your nightmares,” Draco said.

“I’m bored of talking about my fucking nightmares,” Potter replied, moving his shoulder against the back of the bath, “I want to suck you off.”

Draco took a deep breath. “Not that I’m not impressed with the amount of ways you’ve said that,” he said, “But I’d really rather not have bath sex with Luna and Ginny right outside.”

Potter opened his eyes. “Later though. Can we later?”

“Can you give me a blowjob later?” Draco asked, his cheeks heating, as Potter hummed and nodded and smiled. Draco swallowed. “I’m probably not going to stop you.”

“Good,” Potter said, and slid his fingers into his pubic hair, arching his back. He smiled slowly, in the way that never failed to make Draco’s blood sing in his veins. “Brilliant.”

*

“I can’t believe it about you two,” Ginny said, a little too loud, before taking a sneaky sip out of her hip flask. Draco glanced over to the bar where Luna and Potter were queueing up to buy drinks. They were engrossed in conversation, their skin cast in red from the low-hanging lights in the ceiling.

“Hmm,” Draco agreed, stretching his hand across the rough surface of the table and wriggling his fingers until Ginny handed him the flask, cutting her eyes around to check for people watching. Draco sighed and worried at a splinter in his thumb. “Nobody’s looking,” he sighed.

Ginny made a face. “You never know, I don’t want to be thrown out.”

“This is the very definition of a dive bar,” Draco told her, shifting in his seat. “They should consider themselves lucky they even get customers in the first place.”

“I like it,” Ginny said stubbornly, kicking him in the shin and grabbing her flask back. She took a slug before stuffing it deep into her backpack.

“Well,” Draco sighed, “You would.” It was a very Weasley type of bar, not that he’d ever say that out loud. A little rough and ready, very cheap, somewhat cool, with its mismatched furniture and its back-alley entrance and its kitchen-table decor. He inched a little bit away from the steeply sloping wall and thought about the cocktail bar he and Pansy always went to in Belgravia. The one not situated under an old railway arch. The one that didn’t have slimy walls and a mostly-student customer base, drinking cheap beer as fast as they could before the ten thirty closing time, when they’d inevitably end up being annoying somewhere else. Probably the fucking Bussey building.

“Thank you,” Ginny replied smugly, with a look on her face that said she was deliberately misunderstanding him. He snorted softly and looked at the bar again. Potter looked good, the wanker. He was wearing one of Luna’s jackets and actually managing to pull it off, wonder of wonders. Draco huffed and started ripping up one of the numerous cardboard coasters into tiny pieces, making a little pile of debris on the table top beside the base of a pink candlestick.

“Merlin,” Ginny said, eyebrows raised. “I take it back. I definitely believe it. The way you fucking look right now.”

“Shut up,” Draco snapped, eyes fixed determinedly on the ceiling. He supposed he’d brought this on himself, by signing up to wait at the table with Ginny, by visiting their flat today, by even getting involved with Potter in the fucking first place. Merlin he had the worst fucking decision-making skills. “Anyway,” he muttered, “You’re one to talk.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ginny replied loftily, before falling into a grin. “Yeah,” she continued, looking over Draco’s shoulder, presumably at Luna’s back, “I do, sorry. I do know what you’re talking about.”

“It’s utterly horrifying,” Draco told her. “Be less in love, could you? You’d be doing everyone a favour.”

“No,” Ginny said, rifling through her backpack with her nose screwed up. “Fuck. I had this really funny gag for later when I was going to present you both with a box of condoms, but I’ve forgotten it.”

Draco pinched the bridge of his nose. He-- he’d opened himself up for jokes like this, when he’d initially befriended what was arguably the most devious Weasley child. Sometimes it didn’t seem worth it. “Condoms are expensive,” he said, instead of something more ill-advised.

“I fucking know,” she said, suddenly enthusiastic, “Did you know you can get them for free from the GP?”

“Excuse me?” Draco said incredulously, raising his eyebrows, “As if I’d ever go to a Muggle doctor. Ginevra you’ve lost your mind.”

“Oh yeah,” she said, deflating, “Harry could, I suppose.”

“I don’t think they give them out for free in Ireland,” he said apologetically, “But I’ll pass the message along anyway.”

“I’m tired,” she said, yawning into the back of her hand. “It’s so nice to have a break.”

“How are the Harpies?” he asked, leaning forward to hear her better, his t-shirt catching on the rough edge of a chip in the table. “Wales is still there and everything?”

“Last I checked,” she replied, “And it’s good, yeah, it’s been a really good season.”

“Are you still living there during the week?”

“Mmm,” she said, nodding, then amended that to “Well, three days a week. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night, and then I get a Portkey back to London on Thursday afternoon after practise.”

Draco wrinkled his nose. “Hours still shit?”

So shit,” she agreed vehemently, “I love it, obviously, but the hours are shit. You wouldn’t believe the amount of time I spend at the gym.”

“I don’t think I would,” Draco agreed, because it wasn’t as though he’d had to do anything other than turn up to practise once in a while, back when he was playing for Hogwarts.

“My trainers have upped it,” Ginny said, before sticking her tongue out in a particularly vivid approximation of a gag. “And then practise goes on for ages, and then we have strategy meetings all the time off the pitch...” She trailed off, plucked one of Draco’s bits of coaster off the pile and held it over the flame of the candle.

“Are you-- Are you thinking of quitting?” he asked, as she dropped the smouldering bit of paper onto the table where it slowly curled in on itself.

No,” she said, looking up at him, a wild strand of hair flying into her eyes. She pushed it away impatiently and said “No. Definitely not. It’s amazing, you know it’s amazing. I mean, obviously professional Quidditch is nothing like it was in school, but you know how it is, flying.”

“Yes,” Draco agreed, “I know. I remember.”

“I wish I was home more,” she said, looking over his shoulder again. “And Luna has her job here obviously, I can’t exactly get her to move.”

“It must be hard,” Draco said, trying for sympathetic. He considered patting her on the shoulder for a second and then cringed away from the thought.

“I think we might get married,” she said, almost absently, and then widened her eyes and stared at him in shock.

“Fuck,” Draco said, not really knowing where to start.

“Fuck,” Ginny whispered, agreeing. “I haven’t said that to anyone.”

“Merlin,” Draco said, “I’m not sure I’m ready for that kind of responsibility. Can we tell Potter? Can you tell one of your brothers or something? I don’t want to be in this alone.”

“Do you want to help me pick out a ring?” Ginny asked, her eyes flashing.

“Fuck off,” Draco scoffed, “Do I want to help you pick out a fucking ring.” He swallowed hard and looked at the table.

“So that’s a yes?” Ginny confirmed.

“Ugh,” Draco said, putting his head in his hands “Obviously. If you’re forcing me.”

“Forcing you to do what?” Potter asked, rescuing him, sliding into the chair beside Draco’s and sliding a beer in his general direction, before taking a generous gulp of his own vivid-green concoction.

“Nothing,” Ginny said hastily, looking exactly as guilty as she actually was. “I’ll er-- I’ll tell you later maybe.”

“Will you tell me later?” Luna asked, reaching over Ginny’s lap to fish around for the hip flask, pouring a large measure into her already quite full glass.

“Yeah,” Ginny said. She’d gone a very deep red, deeper than her hair. It was absolutely fascinating.

“So me and Luna were talking about what song to sing,” Potter said, as Draco took a sip of his golden beer. “I thought maybe a classic Beatles one. Or like… a Whitney Houston. But I don’t want to embarrass myself trying to hit those Whitney notes.”

“You wouldn’t be embarrassed singing a Beatles song?” Ginny asked, sceptical.

Luna leant forward. “Here’s the thing about the Beatles,” she said, “None of them were very good singers. Harry would be fine.”

Draco started laughing as Potter spluttered and then elbowed him in the ribs. “Hey,” he said, “I don’t know why you’re laughing.”

“Now,” Luna said, frowning, “Don’t make fun of Draco’s voice. He has an ongoing throat problem.”

“Do you?” Potter asked, staring at Draco and raising his eyebrows. “I didn’t know about this.”

“No,” Draco said, to him and then again to Luna. “No, I don’t have a throat problem, I’m just not very fit. We’ve established this.”

Potter got a constipated look on his face all of a sudden. “I really want to make a joke about that,” he said.

“Go on,” Ginny prompted, “I promise we won’t laugh.” Draco snorted into his drink a little bit.

“It was more of a lewd comment,” Potter amended. “Something like… Malfoy, of course you’re fit, don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Ginny groaned. “Terrible,” she decided, “Also get a fucking room.”

Horribly enough, Draco found himself blushing. “I’m going to the bathroom,” he said, trying to avoid their eyes, and skirted around Potter on his way into the wide aisle.

He was drying his hands off on his thighs when Potter cornered him at the entrance of the loos. He was vibrating faintly. “You look really fit,” he said, and scrubbed a hand through his already terrible hair. Draco itched to run his hands through it.

Draco laughed softly through his nose. “Okay,” he said, “Any reason you couldn’t tell me this again at the table?”

Potter narrowed his eyes and grabbed him by the elbow, manhandling him slightly into a darkened corner, before situating them firmly beside a foul-smelling potted plant. “What?” Draco asked, shaking him off, “You’re crushing the flock,” he snapped, smoothing down the velvet at the elbow of his jacket.

“Crushing the flock,” Potter repeated in a sigh, rolling his eyes deeply. “Fucking hell.”

“Did you want to make out or something?” Draco asked, the idea just occurring to him. He perked up, looking behind himself for a moment over to where Luna and Ginny were talking amongst themselves, heads close to touching.

“Jesus,” Potter said, “Not after crushing the flock.

“Oh come on,” Draco said, scoffing, “I don’t believe for one fucking second that that put you off.”

“I was going to ask if you wanted to maybe skip out on karaoke and go back to Ginny and Luna’s early and have sex,” Potter said, in a rushed whisper, as if anyone was going to overhear them in this abandoned plant corner.

“Are you still going to?” Draco asked coolly, the slight catch in his voice probably betraying him.

“Where do you live again?” Potter said, by way of answer.

“Hyde Park corner,” Draco told him, “What? Do you think we should go back to mine? We can go back to mine.”

“On the tube?” Potter asked, wrinkling his nose. “Would it take long? It’s just that I really want to fuck you. Look at this fucking velvet jacket you’re wearing. I feel like ripping it.” He sounded incredibly turned on.

“Don’t you dare,” Draco breathed, jerking himself away when Potter went to touch his collar. “I’d throw such a fit.”

“Ugh,” Potter said, “It’s going to be so awkward having sex in Luna and Ginny’s guest room. Is that awkward? I don’t want it to be weird.”

“Let’s just go to mine,” Draco suggested, on the verge of insisting. “We can be as loud as we want.”

Potter went sort of red. “Right,” he said slowly, “Except I kind of--” and cut off.

Draco thought for a second, tried to parse through that frankly unintelligible statement. “You…” he started, “You like the idea of being quiet?”

“Aaaaa,” Potter said, panicked, “Kind of? Is it weird that we’re talking about this here?”

“Stop asking me that,” Draco told him, “Nobody can hear us. Are Ginny and Luna looking?”

Potter glanced around his shoulder. “No,” he said, “They’re kissing. About three people are staring.”

“Okay,” Draco said. “Here are our options. We can get the tube to mine, or we can bow out of this early and go back to Ginny and Luna’s and have really rushed sex before they get back.”

“Ugh,” Potter said, “I feel a bit guilty.”

“We haven’t done anything yet,” Draco reminded him.

“Right,” Potter agreed, “I-- I suppose it would be best to go to your apartment.”

“Yes,” Draco said, “It probably would.”

“And then we could stay for karaoke.”

“Yes,” Draco repeated.

“Okay so we’ll do that,” Potter said, “We’ll do that, yeah? Karaoke and then your place? How long do you think we’ll be? I think I can wait about three hours before I’ll have to pull you into the loos and like… blow you, or something.”

Draco glanced longingly at the entrance to the men’s. “Not here,” Potter hissed, waving his hands around like he was trying to draw Draco’s attention away. He then put them firmly at his side. “Do you think it looks like we’re having an argument?” he wondered, before pulling Draco into a tight hug.

“What are you doing?” Draco asked, in a long-suffering manner, before patting Potter gingerly on the back.

“I dunno,” Potter grumbled. “I feel a bit weird. I just wanted to hug you. People do that,” he finished defensively, his breath warm and harsh against Draco’s neck.

“We’re done now,” Draco told him, pulling away with one last pat, “I didn’t like that at all. Don’t hug me again.”

“I probably will,” Potter blurted, “At some point.”

“Well, try to refrain,” Draco frowned. “Did we come to a decision about where to have sex?”

“Yeah,” Potter replied, “But I’ve changed my mind and now kind of want to go to Ginny and Luna’s. It’s only a three-minute walk away! We could be having sex inside ten minutes.”

Draco let out a lengthy sigh. “You have far too much energy for someone who’s had several drinks already. Can’t you just get a bit sleepy like everyone else on the planet?”

“No,” Potter said, pressing close and putting his hand on Draco’s arse for about an eighth of a second before pulling back to see if anyone was watching. “Let’s go tell the lovebirds that we’re leaving.”

*

“Never tell anyone I said this,” Draco said throatily, “But sometimes you do actually have ideas that aren’t wholly terrible.”

“Oh yeah,” Potter replied, his lips moving against Draco’s sternum, his hair brushing against Draco’s skin. “I’ll definitely be bragging about that compliment to all my friends.”

Draco cupped his hand around the back of Potter’s neck, his little finger stroking up and down gently. Potter glanced up at him and smiled.

“You’re incredibly pretty,” Draco told him, still a little tipsy and loose-lipped, kind of in the mood to make Potter blush. Potter always went very still and surprised when Draco complimented him, which was of course part (if not most ) of its appeal. It was true though, he was probably one of the most attractive people Draco had ever slept with. Lovely green eyes, smooth brown skin, dark hair that was horrid and messy but also soft, and just the right length for holding in his fists.

“Um,” Potter said, and then stopped talking to lick at Draco’s left nipple instead, apparently considering that to be safer territory.

Draco let out a sharp gasp of air and Potter smiled, again. It was getting to be rather too much, Draco thought, all this affection. “Do you want to fuck me?” he asked, matter of fact, and Potter paused with his tongue still out, looking utterly unintelligent.

“Um,” he repeated, and bit thoughtfully on Draco’s nipple, a little too gently. “I don’t know, I don’t mind.”

“Right,” Draco said suspiciously, then, “A bit harder. Did you have something else in mind?”

“No,” Potter told him, moving away entirely with a grin. Draco had a strong urge to flip him over and press him into the mattress, hard and fast, but he didn’t. Potter shifted his hand on Draco’s wrist, held against the duvet cover over his head. “No, I didn’t have anything specific in mind. I thought maybe that you would want to… do me, though.”

“Why?” Draco asked, arching his back as Potter’s knee slipped in between his thighs, as Potter’s stomach skimmed very briefly over his erection.

Potter shrugged, an impressive act considering both his hands were wrapped around Draco’s wrists. “Dunno,” he said, “I just got a feeling about it. Let’s fuck you though. That’ll be fun.”

“Oh I have no doubt,” Draco replied drily.

“Protection spell?” Potter asked, letting go and sliding down the mattress to start sucking Draco off, fast and kind of sloppily, his tongue flat on the underside of Draco’s dick. Draco drew in a long breath, shakily, as Potter steadied his erection with one hand and cupped Draco’s balls with the other, brushing his thumb over them, back and forth a few times until Draco was panting.

“Condom,” Draco countered, “It’s less cleanup.”

“Okay,” Potter said, after pulling off with a messy sucking sound. “I kind of want to eat you out.”

Draco breathed out sharply. “Not tonight,” he said, his fingertips on the shell of Potter’s ear.

“Okay,” Potter echoed. Draco’s cock slapped against his belly wetly when Potter let it go, still shiny with spit. “I’ll go grab a condom.”

Draco blinked. “Do you not have any?”

“I didn’t bring any with me, if that’s what you’re asking,” Potter replied, hefting himself off Draco’s legs and rolling off the mattress.

“Oh,” Draco said, and lay his head back against the pillow, getting his hand on his dick, stroking himself slowly. “I don’t know why Ginny and Luna would have condoms,” he said, to the open door of the en-suite.

Potter made a muffled noise, and apparently dropped a few things on the floor, before emerging in the doorway holding a bottle of hand soap. “What?” he said, “Did you say something? Are you wanking?”

Draco looked down at his erection, thick and dark red in his fist. “Yes,” he replied, looking at Potter and pulling his foreskin up a bit, exhaling shakily. “And I said I don’t know why Ginny and Luna would have condoms.”

“Oh dear,” Potter said, lowering the soap, “Am I going to have to explain to you some things about sexual health?”

“No,” Draco snapped, then hesitated, “Only-- you know.” He wriggled his shoulders against the soft duvet.

“I don’t know,” Potter told him, “Do you know what dental dams are?”

“No,” Draco said, propping himself up on his elbow and frowning. “Should I?”

Potter shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess so? If you don’t like using protection spells sometimes. I’ll… explain tomorrow, I guess.”

“Explain now,” Draco suggested.

“If I explain it to you now then I’ll just be thinking about it in terms of Luna and Ginny,” Potter sighed, shuddering a little and putting a hand on the back of his neck, “Which will really ruin this for me.”

“Fine,” Draco agreed, slumping back onto the bed.

“I’m just trying to make the point that you can use condoms for more things than penetrative sex,” Potter said, “That’s all.”

“I believe you,” Draco told him, “Do they have any?”

“Oh yeah,” Potter said, disappearing again for a minute before coming out holding the little silver packet.

“Tell me you at least have lube,” Draco said, “The conjured stuff goes very odd with condoms, I think.”

“Ooh,” Potter said thoughtfully, chucking the condom onto Draco’s stomach. “I think I saw some in the cabinet actually.”

“Hurry,” Draco said, throwing his arm out plaintively, “I’m growing old over here Potter. I’ll be a hundred by the time you get your dick in me.”

“So I thought about this the other day actually,” Potter started, lube in hand, pausing to push Draco over onto his front.

“Thought about us fucking in old age?” Draco asked, putting his face in the pillow as Potter opened the bottle with a sharp snap.

“Did you-- did you do a cleaning spell or do you want me to do one?” Potter asked, thumb at the crease where Draco’s thigh met his arse.

“I did one in the bathroom,” Draco said impatiently, “When we got here.”

“Alright, alright,” Potter soothed, “No need to get snippy with me.” His thumb slid to the side, over Draco’s arsehole, circling it a few times.

“I’m not getting snippy,” Draco sighed, moving back against Potter’s hand. “Warm the lube up before you put it on me.”

“Yeah,” Potter said, before muttering a quiet spell.“I know, I know. We’ve done this enough.” Draco held in a gasp as Potter dribbled a healthy amount of lube over his hole, pushing it inside very slightly with the tip of his thumb. “Is that okay?”

“Yeah,” he panted, writhing against it a little. “Put it in me." He wanted to take that back as soon as he'd said it but Potter didn't seem to mind, if the hard twitch of his cock against the outside of Draco's thigh was any indication.

Potter laughed, low and throaty, before slipping his thumb inside up to the first knuckle. “Yeah?” he checked.

“Yes,” Draco said, used to reassuring him by now. “Yes, definitely yes, more maybe, even.”

“I was thinking that when you’re a hundred you’ll probably have the same colour hair as you do now,” Potter said, getting further in, his knuckles close against Draco’s perineum.

“Oh,” Draco said, as Potter moved inside him, “Oh, yeah. I suppose I probably will.” He hummed as Potter pulled out, as another drizzle of warm lube hit him.

“Two fingers okay?” Potter asked, holding the tips of them against Draco’s arse, waiting.

Draco smiled against the pillow, turning his head until he could see Potter out of the corner of his eye. “Yes.”

“Okay,” Potter replied, pressing them in, slowly and smoothly, crooking them a little once he was fully inside. He had the small frown on his face that he sometimes got when he was concentrating hard on something. “Let me know when I’ve found it,” he said, sliding out with his fingers still angled, hitting against Draco’s prostate in a way that made his whole body feel like it was melting.

Draco shifted as the feeling sparked at the base of his spine, then grunted softly as Potter did it again. Potter laughed. “Good enough,” he said, and leant forward to press a firm kiss in the small of Draco’s back.

“I want you inside me,” Draco told him, breathless, “One more finger though, hurry.” He ached with the need to have Potter open him up, to have the whole of Potter’s body pressed against the whole of his, to feel Potter’s breath at his ear.

“It’s bad to hurry,” Potter argued, giving in anyway, sliding three fingers in and out too slowly, adding more lube than Draco thought was strictly necessary. His skin felt sensitive and weirdly tender, as though everywhere Potter touched him it would leave a mark. He circled his hips against the mattress a few times, fucking back onto Potter’s fingers. Potter who was too gentle sometimes, too patient. It made Draco feel so odd, at the way he’d get frustrated and wanting and Potter would just sit back and look at him coolly and finger him like he could do it all night. Like he didn’t even want anything else.

“Do you want to?” Draco said breathlessly, “Do you want to fuck me?”

“Yeah,” Potter replied, and Draco heard a few wet sounds that weren’t coming from Potter’s fingers inside him. He craned his neck around to see Potter wanking himself luxuriously, the tip of his cock dripping and wet, his eyes on Draco’s face. He tipped his head to the side. “Yeah,” he said again, his fingers twitching against Draco’s rim, “Yeah. Are you okay?”

Draco made an incoherent noise. He wanted-- he wanted Potter's dick inside him, now, yesterday, three weeks ago. “Here,” he said, ripping the condom packet open impatiently and throwing it off the side of the bed. He held the latex circle out to Potter, who grinned at him and slid it down over his cock, holding his foreskin back with his thumb and forefinger.

“Sometime,” Potter said, with a look on his face Draco didn’t quite recognise, “I’m going to make you ask for this.”

“I’m already asking,” Draco replied, parting his legs, drawing one knee up to his chest. Potter put his thumb back onto Draco’s arsehole for a few seconds, before replacing it with the head of his dick. He left it there, while Draco breathed in and out and tried not to push himself backwards onto it.

“No,” Potter said, “Like--” he cut off and wrapped his hand around Draco’s side, his fingers skimming over Draco’s hip bones. “Like, properly ask,” he said.

“Like beg?” Draco asked, turning to look. He smiled, syrupy and sweet. “Why would I need to beg, Potter? When you’re so eager to give it to me.”

Potter shivered, grabbing hold of his erection and teasing it against Draco’s hole, getting his hand on the lube and slicking himself. “I’ll give it to you, Malfoy,” he said, his eyes dark.

Draco laughed, light and happy, and couldn’t stop smiling. “Fuck me,” he said, “You want to, look at you. As if I’d ever need to beg you for it.

“You think you’re irresistible,” Potter said, half teasing now. “You’re not irresistible, Malfoy.”

Draco hummed, and moved away a fraction, Potter following him. “You should--” he started, cutting off as Potter started to ease inside him gently. He opened his mouth wide and exhaled, relaxing all his muscles.

“I should what?” Potter whispered, and Draco listened to the sounds of cars moving outside, the shift of fabric where their bodies were pulling at the bedsheets. “Is this okay?” Potter asked, because obviously he couldn’t help it. Draco didn't know how to respond. Is this okay?

“You should be begging me,” Draco told him, whimpering just a small amount as Potter pushed in further, thick and hot, then stilled.

“Is this okay?” he asked again, his breath hitching halfway through. “Do you want me to finger you more? It’s-- I don’t-- do you want to do one of those relaxing charms?”

“Doesn’t hurt,” Draco said, and it didn’t. It was so far away from hurting he didn't know how Potter could have mistaken it as such. “Merlin,” he said, and wanted to tell Potter you're good at this, but didn't.

“So--” Potter said, grunting softly as if he hadn't meant to, before thrusting his hips sharply for a second before stilling. “So no begging,” he confirmed.

“No,” Draco agreed, managing to keep his voice steady. “Why the fuck would we do that?” 

Potter pulled out a little, before fucking back into him in one slow push, until his balls were settled against Draco’s. He was very warm. “I like the idea of you… wanting me,” he said, breathing heavily.

“I want you,” Draco told him, before he could stop himself, mindless with it. “Fuck me.”

“I think it’s more… you being vocal about it,” Potter confessed, circling his hips, reaching his hand around to cup the slick head of Draco’s cock where it was making a wet spot on the sheets.

“I can be vocal,” Draco said, “Fuck me. Just-- stop fucking talking, and fuck me.” He swallowed hard as Potter squeezed his cock in an almost friendly manner. 

“Yeah,” Potter breathed, resettling his knees and bowing his head until his fringe tickled at Draco’s back. “Yeah, exactly.”

“Fuck me,” Draco panted, grinding himself against Potter’s groin, feeling the hard length of Potter’s dick moving inside him. He bit off a please before it even started. It wouldn’t do to give Potter too much of what he wanted. “Just-- hard, I know you can. I want to come with you inside me. I want you to come inside me.”

“Inside the condom inside you,” Potter said, like a prat. Draco batted at his arm tiredly.

“I’ll fucking--” leave, had been what he was going to say, but Potter chose that moment to pull out, all the way, and then thrust back in, as hard as Draco had wanted it when he’d asked.

“Yeah?” Potter said, fucking him in sharp, shallow thrusts. Draco let himself melt into the mattress, let Potter press his fingers softly against the head of his cock and rub his foreskin.

“Yes,” Draco said, and then couldn’t stop saying it. Potter huffed a couple of times and Draco felt it in his hair. “Yes,” he said. “Like that,” he continued.

“Like this?” Potter asked, angling himself so that the tip of his dick hit that spot inside Draco on every pass, the one that made him want to explode, the one that made him feel like there was something thrumming in his blood, the one that made him groan and gasp uncontrollably. His thighs shook against Potter’s.

“Fuck,” Potter said, almost silently. “God, you feel so good.”

Draco could hardly speak. It was always like this, with Potter. Like nothing else. Not even that it was better than any sex he’d ever had before, even though it might have been. It was Potter. It was the sight of his hand on Draco’s bicep, his bitten nails, the scar that Draco always thought looked like words but could never really read. He wanted this forever, Potter inside him, Potter moving on top of him. The thought that they were both feeling the exact same thing at the exact same time. The idea that while this was happening they couldn’t be cruel to one another, not that they really did that anymore anyway. He wriggled his hand underneath his hips, until he could stroke through his pubic hair, his fingers hitting against Potter’s.

Potter moved his hand on Draco’s dick a couple of times, gripping the shaft tightly, slow and awkward where it was trapped under the weight of Draco’s body. Draco made a noise in his throat. He felt wound up, highly strung, his skin heated and stretched tight, Potter’s cock hot and hard inside his body.

“Are you close?” Potter asked, cutting off at the end to grunt, which forced Draco to actually take stock of himself. Sweat prickled on the small of his back. His toes were curled into the bedsheets.

“Yeah,” he said, slurring slightly.

“You want me to come inside you?” Potter asked, his voice wavering and unsteady.

“Inside the condom inside me.” Draco smiled, eyes closed.

“Yeah, inside you, I know,” Potter said nonsensically, “Fuck. I’m so fucking close.”

“Are you going to come?” Draco asked, almost whimpering when Potter started thrusting harder, moving his hand on Draco’s cock as fast as he could manage. It would be enough, Draco thought, it was already enough. “I want to feel it. Next time no condom.”

“It was--” Potter said, gasping hard, “Your fucking idea, Malfoy.”

“I’m going to come,” Draco told him, panting wetly into the pillow, maybe even drooling a little bit. He was well past caring. “Oh fuck,” he said, quietly, coming into the duvet cover, into Potter’s hand, the whole world narrowing for a second, converging on his body, at the syrupy feeling in his stomach and his calves.

Potter laughed weakly and moved a few more times before freezing, buried deep inside Draco, shuddering and gasping. Draco twitched when he pulled out, and then shivered as one more burst of pleasure ran through him, faint and sweet.

Potter collapsed hard onto his back, and then rolled over so that the entire side of his body was pressed against Draco’s. “Good?” he asked.

Draco nodded weakly. “Good,” he confirmed, stomach rumbling.

“Are you hungry?” Potter asked, wiping his hand off on Draco’s back, to half-hearted protestations.

“Could you not?” Draco said, “Get your wand right now and clean that off.”

“It’s yours,” Potter grumbled, then did as Draco told him. “Are you hungry, Malfoy? I can make something.”

“I’m too satisfied to be hungry,” Draco said, and then screwed his eyes shut as his face heated.

“Wow,” Potter said, kissing him for the first time in what felt like forever, his breath hot. Draco kept his eyes closed and kissed back, moving his hand up to cup Potter’s jaw.

“Shut up,” he pleaded, against Potter’s lips.

Too satisfied to be hungry,” Potter repeated happily, ignoring him. “I don’t think I’ve ever received such good reviews.”

“Please shut up,” Draco said, “You can go and make me some food if it’ll shut you up.”

“It won’t,” Potter said, all pleased-sounding.

“Well at least that way I won’t be able to hear you,” Draco said, settling into the duvet, categorically ignoring the wet spot underneath him that was about to force him to move.

“What do you want?” Potter whispered, “Are you asleep?”

“Omelette,” Draco said, voice muffled in the fabric.

“I’m a vegan,” Potter told him, “I can’t cook you an omelette.”

“Pizza,” Draco said, in a good enough mood for compromise.

Potter was silent for a few moments. “I can’t-- I’m a bit too tired to make a pizza from scratch,” he said. Draco cracked his eyes open; Potter stared back at him, naked and apologetic. “Dhal?” he said hopefully.

Draco’s hands felt fuzzy, for some reason. “Yes,” he said, “Yes, of course.”

“Okay,” Potter said, pulling his underwear on. “I’ll be back in a sec, don’t fall asleep just yet.”

“I’m having a shower,” Draco told him, as Potter kissed his face.

“Okay perfect,” Potter replied, already at the door.

Draco lay there, very still, the inside of his thighs still wet with lube, and listened to Potter rustle around in the kitchen, heard the sound of lentils hitting the steel pan of the measuring scales. He lay there, and the longer he did the fonder he felt, and the more the lump in his throat grew larger, the more he wanted to claw it out. He could tell Potter was fond about him, it was horribly obvious, but somehow it felt worse coming from himself.

He breathed in and out and concentrated on the feeling in his stomach, the tugging in his gut that throbbed every time Potter so much as made a sound, took a step on the creaky wooden floor.

He felt… attached. He wanted to get up and leave. He wanted to flee down the fire escape and into the garden and into the alley and beyond, into the city. Anything, to get away from this. Anything, for this sudden, awful, hyperawareness to leave him. Draco could be back in his apartment alone, he could be in France having dinner with his parents, he could be halfway around the world and the feeling would still be there, probably. He thought he could be anywhere on the planet and would still feel it every time Potter moved. He could be in the desert, maybe, and he would still know when Potter sat down or took a small step or breathed out. He’d feel it in his skin, in his limbs, at the back of his neck, in a pain in his ribcage.

Potter had cracked Draco open, with his soft and sturdy hands, with his bitten fingernails. He had split Draco wide and he was pouring parts of himself into the space he’d created. He had given Draco the sound of his voice when he’d just woken up, slurred and dreamy. He’d given Draco the shape of his mouth when he was laughing, wide and happy. He’d given Draco the feeling of their skin sliding together, warm and solid and wholly brilliant, in a way nothing in Draco’s life had ever been before. It was terrible, the things Draco knew and had felt and had heard, the things Draco thought he would probably one day have to live without. It was inevitable that he would one day have to stop touching Harry Potter, because doing so made him incandescently happy, unsustainably happy, and the things that made Draco happy had always been fleeting.

He lay very still and looked at the window, and then at the door, and then thought about all the times he’d ever been scared in his life, and how they’d always been about bad things. Potter was-- Potter was the best thing he had ever been scared about. He lay very still, until the lube had started to dry, until he heard Potter start to fry something, and then got up to have a shower.

Chapter Text

In the years since Harry had first seen it, Ron’s bedroom had lost a lot of its eye-searing orangeness, and, Harry thought, quite a lot of its charm. He was sitting on the edge of Ron’s bed, freshly made with new sheets that didn’t have even a passing resemblance to anything like a Chudley Cannons logo on them. They had flowers instead; little red ones that looked like poppies, except that when they opened slowly there was another, smaller flower inside. They were very tasteful, and Harry felt that Ron definitely couldn’t have picked them out, being as Ron was lovely but nonetheless had pretty terrible taste.

He slid his hands backwards on the bed and looked up at the steeply sloping ceiling. Devoid now of Quidditch posters, the paint had a couple of greasy marks on it from where someone had clearly cast a very hurried sticking charm. It looked bare and slightly sad and nothing like it had when Ron had been twelve, which Harry supposed was to be expected. He peered at a bit of graffiti above his head. Rons a prat, heavily crossed out. Someone, presumably Ron, had then chimed in with Fred and George and Percy are tratoros spiders who aren’t allowed in my room. Harry hadn’t seen it before, probably since it had been hidden by the corner of a Cannons calendar or something.

Hermione stood by the open window with her head hanging halfway out of it, a stiff breeze blowing waves through her loose hair. She had her hand resting on the back of Ron’s desk chair, which honestly looked like it had been built a hundred years ago, and for a child of five. There was a small heart cut-out in the oak backrest.

“They’re putting out sofas,” she informed them, pulling her head back in and turning away from the window without bothering to close it. “Should we go and help?”

Ron moaned from where he was lying prone on the bed next to Harry, with his jumper pulled up and one hand on his bare stomach. “I couldn’t even if I wanted to,” he said, and then groaned a bit more.

“We all get it,” Hermione said drily, threading a hand through her hair and shaking it out a little with her fingers. “You can stop groaning.”

“I physically can’t,” Ron replied darkly, “I think it’s physically impossible for someone full of mince pies not to groan about it for at least an hour.”

When Harry had arrived at the house earlier in a cloud of oppressive floo smoke, right on Luna’s heels, Molly had been sitting in an armchair by the fire, deeply asleep, with a book about knitting on her lap. Ginny had knelt down beside her on the floorboards and patted her very gently on the arm, which had roused Molly so violently that the heavy book had gone flying, landing beside Harry’s feet with a resounding thud. Then, Molly had sworn. Only once, but even that had had a deeply unsettling effect on everyone in the room; Harry had even taken a startled step back. Then she’d raced into the kitchen and started getting very upset about the lack of mince pies, and about how this had definitely messed up her schedule, and shouting at Arthur for not waking her even though Arthur hadn’t actually seemed to be in the house. Harry had really missed The Burrow.

He’d gone into the kitchen after a short pause in which to collect himself -Ginny laughing helplessly and uselessly, still crouched down beside the armchair- and seen what could only be described as a mountain of mince pies. Probably enough to feed the entire Gryffindor house, with some left over for all three other houses. He’d gently pointed this out but Molly had just given him what he assumed was supposed to be a withering look and then started rolling out more pastry, with a little more force than Harry had deemed strictly necessary.

Safe to say, Ron had definitely contributed towards the imaginary mince pie shortage, since he’d eaten about ten in quick succession just in the time Harry had been in his bedroom, washed down at various intervals by some repulsive-looking eggnog. Eggnog which Hermione had just picked up, eggnog that Hermione was coming dangerously close to actually ingesting.

“Don’t,” Harry warned, as she sniffed it before making an interested face, “Please don’t do it to yourself.”

“It doesn’t even smell that bad,” she said, lifting her chin. “Kind of like cinnamon, I don’t know what I was expecting.”

“Rotten eggs,” Harry said, shuddering, “It looks like rotten eggs.”

Hermione lifted the glass up to inspect the thick, white liquid. She looked over at him and tilted her head. “It doesn’t look like rotten eggs,” she said seriously, and then smirked a little bit. Harry took a deep breath and chose not to address it.

“Did Hermione just make a dirty joke?” Ron asked, now rubbing small circles onto his stomach. He had his eyes closed.

“I don’t know,” Harry told him, putting his face in his hands momentarily. “I don’t want to think about it.”

“Bleurgh,” Hermione said, from the other side of the room, and when Harry glanced over she was in the process of dribbling eggnog back into the glass from her open mouth. He… didn’t quite know what to do.

“Are you okay?” he asked, sitting up straighter on the bed.

“No,” she replied thickly, and wiped the back of her hand across her mouth. “Jesus, no.”

“Didn’t I tell you?” he prompted, “It’s horrible. Have a nice hot chocolate or something.”

She grimaced and gesticulated towards the door. “I would have had to go downstairs, then,” she explained.

Harry nodded in sympathy. Firstly, because it could take a full five minutes to walk up and down the massive, lengthy, rickety staircase from Ron’s room to the kitchen, and secondly because the daytime before the Weasley’s Christmas Eve party was basically an exercise in careful timing and avoidance strategies. There was always, always someone asking you for help with some preparation activity or another, always someone (Molly) begging you to get out of the kitchen and put up bunting or chuck some gnomes around or something. It took careful forethought and a few well-done notice-me-not charms if you were hoping to get down to the kitchen and escape with food unscathed or without promising to… hand-craft an entire tent, for example, or re-upholster a ratty sofa. Harry had no idea why nobody started on those kinds of tasks, say, a few days before the party was supposed to happen, but felt bringing up that point might very well result in him being roundly and swiftly shot down.

“When I’m older,” he said thoughtfully, “I want to be the type of person who’s always very prepared for parties. I want to be the cool hostess who stands around with a glass of champagne and doesn’t have to worry about like, whether gnomes are kicking all the guests in the shin or something.”

“Mm,” Hermione said dreamily, “I’m going to hire caterers, every single time. For every occasion. I’m going to hire caterers for Christmas Dinner itself.”

“What the fuck makes you think we’re ever going to get to go somewhere else for dinner other than here?” Ron piped up, “We’re never escaping. It’s going to be Christmas at the Weasley’s until death, I shit you not.”

“Oh yes,” Hermione said, pressing her lips together, “Obviously. Can’t believe I forgot.”

Harry thought it was great. He couldn’t fucking wait to be eighty and hanging out with his grandchildren and all Hermione and Ron’s grandchildren and listening to Ron complain about having eaten too many mince pies. “We are going to be such funny old people,” he said happily, “It’s going to be hilarious.”

“I feel like we’re going to be well cool,” Ron agreed, “I mean, think about all the stories we already have. Kids are going to love us. Plus, we get to be grumpy all the time. And retire.

“Mmm,” Hermione said again, piling some things up on Ron’s desk so that she could make space to perch on the end. She chucked a remembrall at Harry, who caught it out of mid-air. “I’ll still be working at ninety, obviously, but you two can both feel free to retire and lie around all day.”

“I will,” Harry told her, shaking the remembrall. It stayed stubbornly free of colour.

“That’s broken,” Ron said cheerfully, cracking one eye open, “The charms have stopped working. I might get Seamus to take a look at it.” He paused for a second, “Or just… buy a new one. Doesn’t actually seem worth bothering Seamus about.”

“I don’t think he’d mind,” Hermione said, “But also did you ever use that? I feel as though you’d forgotten it existed until I just unearthed it.”

“Yeah well obviously,” Ron replied, “If it worked I’d remember about it.”

Hermione sighed. “I just use the memo feature on my phone,” she told them, a little sadly.

“What’s going on outside?” Harry asked, “Are they still doing sofas? Earlier Bill roped me into helping with the warming charm but he said they were doing that once all the furniture was out.”

Hermione yawned and looked behind her out of the window. “Yes,” she said, “They’ve put some rugs down on the grass. Luna is lying on one and Ginny’s trying to drag her around.”

“Of course she is,” Harry said absently, slumping backwards until his head was resting on Ron’s thigh.

“Ow. I feel pregnant,” Ron announced, “Is this what it feels like to be pregnant?”

“Wouldn’t know,” Hermione said shortly, inching the window shut with a loud creak. Harry sat up again.

“Oh my god,” he said, shaking his head sharply, “I forgot to tell you that Bébhinn’s pregnant! I can’t believe I forgot to say.”

“I know,” Hermione said offhandedly, still fighting with the stiff window, “We email.”

“Oh,” Harry said, lying back down. “I didn’t know that.”

“They talk about you,” Ron told him, after patting Harry’s hair briefly.

“We do not,” Hermione protested, “And I resent that accusation. Bébhinn and I talk about warding, a lot of it is very pertinent to my job. For instance, those ones she does where you can designate a category of animal to be let in that excludes all others? It’s very interesting.”

Harry was never entirely clear about what Hermione’s job actually was, because the title was very long and he’d usually forgotten the start of it by the time she even got around to finishing. Something to do with animals, or possibly magical beasts, and she definitely had to work at the Ministry and wear a suit. Also there was too much paperwork and someone kept stealing her biros.

“Fine,” Ron amended, “Sometimes they talk about you.”

Hermione narrowed her eyes. “It might come up occasionally.”

“What about me?” Harry asked, already knowing.

“Oh just… how you’re doing, those sort of things,” Hermione said airily, plucking a thread from the hem of her sweatshirt.

Harry sighed and looked at the graffiti again. Rons a prat. He knew that they talked about him sometimes, he just wished Hermione believed him when he told her he was fine, rather than… double checking with Bébhinn about it. “Okay,” he said.

“Listen,” Hermione started, and then paused to come and sit down on the bed next to him, cramming herself in beside Ron’s sharp elbows. “It’s just that sometimes you’re a little uncommunicative. So when I ask you how you are and you just say fine, how are you? I sometimes want a tiny bit more information. I’ll stop asking her about you if you want me to.”

“Oh,” Harry said, and wondered if Bébhinn had said anything about him and Malfoy, but he didn’t think she’d do that without asking him first. Harry also thought maybe that if Ron and Hermione knew then they would have said something about it. He had no idea why he was so afraid to tell them, when letting Luna and Ginny know had been so painless, bar the relentless teasing on Ginny’s part. Malfoy had done some really shitty things to Ron and Hermione though. Harry thought his life would be a thousand times easier if Malfoy had acted like a normal human being when he was a child, rather than a weird, creepy, sometimes jealous, monster.

“Sorry,” Hermione said, after a few moments of silence.

“You don’t have to be sorry,” Harry told her, “I was just thinking about something.”

“What?” Ron said tiredly, wriggling his body on the bed. “Tell us all your thoughts, also I feel a bit sick.”

Harry thought he might not get a better opening than that. “You know… Malfoy?” he asked, pausing, looking for the right way to say it.

“Yes,” Hermione said, “Luna told us he was coming tonight, I don’t really mind about it.”

“Okay, that’s good,” Harry replied, “You know how we sort of live together now?”

“Oh no,” Ron said, “I don’t like the sound of this. Are you two friends now or something?”

“Um, sort of?” Harry ventured, “We’re-- actually no, I guess-- We’re sleeping together, actually.”

“Oh no,” Ron repeated, and covered his face with his jumper so that his entire stomach was on show. “Oh no. That pointy-faced bastard.”

“He has got quite a pointy face,” Harry agreed, trying not to smile. “But like, it wasn’t just his decision.”

“Excuse me?” Hermione asked, face blank other than the way her mouth had gone a little downturned at the corners. “You’re sleeping with Draco Malfoy. What possible reason could you have for sleeping with Draco Malfoy?”

“Oh no,” Ron said again, muffled. “Don’t ask him that.

Harry felt like throwing up. “We’re seeing each other, I think it’s a little more than sleeping together.”

“Right,” Hermione said, and stood up. “You’re dating. I didn’t--” She went to open the window, then stuck her head out. Harry could see her chest moving up and down as she breathed deeply. He didn’t know quite how to make this better.

“Sort of,” he said, his voice cracking a little bit, “I don’t really know. We haven’t like, properly talked about it. And he lives in England.”

Ron sat up abruptly, displacing Harry’s head. His jumper fell down, exposing his face, worried and pale. He put his arms around Harry and wrestled him slightly into the bed, smelling like mince pies and his weird cedar aftershave. “Merlin,” he said, “Don’t cry.

“I wasn’t crying,” Harry told him, trying to sound soothing. “I wasn’t going to cry. Are you angry?”

“We don’t have any right to be angry,” Hermione said seriously, her voice harsh, even though he didn’t think that harshness was directed at him. He couldn’t see her face. “You’re an adult and you can make your own choices.”

“You don’t think it’s the right one, though,” Harry said, his hand going a bit numb where it was trapped under Ron’s hip.

“It doesn’t matter,” Hermione said patiently, “Also I don’t know. That was-- I heard he’s different. I mean obviously nothing would be happening between you two if he wasn’t different.”

“The sex could be really good,” Ron suggested.

“There is that, yes,” Hermione agreed, after a moment, “But we should still trust your judgement, Harry.”

Harry didn’t say anything for a couple of seconds. “He has changed,” he said, into the edge of Ron’s itchy jumper. “I don’t really think we need to get into sex, though.”

Ron sat up, finally, then punched Harry on the shoulder. “Good hug,” he said, in a deep voice, “Good talk.” Hermione snorted.

“It’s important to me what you think,” Harry told them, shaking himself out a little and crossing his legs. “I swear.”

Ron made a face that Harry couldn’t interpret, and then waggled his eyebrows at Hermione. “That seems like a convenient segue,” he said, bouncing his hands on his thighs.

“Uh oh,” Harry said, when Hermione nodded and got back onto the bed. She settled herself a little, and Harry suddenly got incredibly nervous. She looked at Ron, seriously, and for a long second.

“We were wondering if you had any plans to come and live in England again,” Ron said.

Harry bit his lip, his heart beating somewhat faster than it had been before. “Is now the right time to talk about this?” he asked, even though they’d apparently already decided that it was.

“I think we should,” Hermione said, smiling faintly. She was so lovely, Harry thought, now that she didn’t look sad and scared all the time like she had when they’d been on the run; all gaunt and a little weak from too much running and terror and not enough food. She had a dot of yellow eyeshadow at the corner of each eye, bright against her dark skin. She blinked, waiting.

“Well, then I don’t know,” Harry told them, annoyed at them and at himself. “When I’m better, I suppose.”

“Right see this is the thing--” Ron started, before Hermione took over, her tone a little gentler than Ron’s had been.

“Harry,” she said, “There is no-- You’re not going to miraculously let all of this go one day, you know that right? Isolating yourself is no longer the solution.”

Harry didn’t know how to explain himself to her. He didn’t know how to tell her that he wasn’t isolating himself. “I’m just trying to--”

She interrupted him, which he thought was a little unfair since he had actually been asked a question. “I know what you’re trying to do. Ron and I supported that when… when we thought it was right for you, but it-- it isn’t, anymore. You have to come home, you have to start living your life again.”

Harry dug his fingers into his ankle, fiercely angry, and stared at the flowers opening and closing on Ron’s duvet cover. “My life, Hermione? Really? What fucking life? I’m not saying that to be-- to start an argument, but seriously, what fucking life?” He laughed, bitterly. “I spent the first eleven years of my life living with people who hated me, and then the next seven mostly just trying to kill Voldemort, while simultaneously trying to dodge being killed by Voldemort. So what the fuck do I have here to come back to?”

“Us,” she said, quickly and hurt.

“No,” he said, sighing, “No of course other than you. I’m sorry, I meant-- of course other than the two of you. You-- I meant like… I haven’t got a job, I haven’t got any qualifications, I do not want to join the Aurors, as if they’d even let me in in the fucking first place anymore.”

“You could get your NEWTs,” she insisted, “Harry, you are so smart. You could do anything.

“What if this is what I want to do?” he whispered. “Why isn’t that allowed?”

“Of course it’s allowed, mate,” Ron said, “It’s just-- doesn’t seem healthy. It’s kind of sad. We want you home.”

“I just need some time,” Harry said, looking out of the open window. It was starting to get dark, the sun setting on the horizon, lights blinking on in the hills in the distance.

“You’ve had five years, Harry. We can’t let you do this to yourself anymore,” Hermione said.

“What happened to me making my own choices?” Harry asked, and felt like a child.

“What happened to our opinion being important to you?” Hermione countered, and she was right.

“Yeah,” Harry sighed, “I don’t know. We’re at an impasse.”

“Good word,” she said, and smiled, familiar and warm. Even when they were disagreeing about something they were always on the same side.

Ron put his hand on Harry’s knee. “It doesn’t have to be an argument,” he said, “We just wanted you to know. And we miss you.

“I miss you too,” Harry said, feeling like he actually might cry now, “I’d miss them though. They need me,” and he didn’t think he had to specify who he was talking about.

“You can’t stay just because they need you,” Ron said, “It has to be about you.”

“It is,” Harry said, and he couldn’t explain that-- he liked feeling needed, for the things that he was needed for back at the house in Ireland. For cooking and gardening and driving. Easy things.

He liked the way his hands felt now. Hands that had cut down Voldemort where he’d stood, palms that used to sweat when he ran from his enemies, fingers that had one year not gone a single week without touching the blood of someone he loved. Arms now that made things grow, palms that were soft from peace and quiet. He liked holding someone’s hand and not have it be because they were escaping from something. Harry stayed silent.

“Think about it,” Hermione said, leaning against Ron’s side. He nodded, he already was.

 

*

 

A few hours later, Harry was eating breadsticks and some sort of smoky aubergine dip, watching Ron and Hermione dance, when Neville poked him in the back and handed him a glass of steaming, golden liquor. They were crammed into the living room, and Harry was boiling hot even though his back was towards the wide open doors that led out into the garden. A blanket warming charm covered the entire outside of the house, where people were sitting in groups of twos and threes on conjured furniture. Harry could see Bill and Fleur through the window on his left, talking to a witch Harry had never seen before. They were holding hands.

Once people had started turning up a few hours ago, he and Ron and Hermione had pushed all of the furniture in the living room up against the pale walls so that there was more space for people to dance and stand around talking. Harry was currently squished up next to a hefty tartan armchair that held three small children, giggling and eating cake messily with their hands, smearing icing over everything in sight. Harry didn’t know where their parents were and felt sort of oddly protective over them for some strange reason. One of them, in red dungarees, dropped a bit of cake on the floor and stared at it morosely for a few seconds before starting to sniffle. Harry tried not to think about where Malfoy was, and why he wasn’t here, because he was kind of a prick and loved it when people dropped cake on the floor then got upset about it.

“Firewhiskey,” Neville said, breaking Harry out of his thoughts, leaning his shoulder against the wall and smiling. He looked confusedly down at the chair and blinked. “Whose children are those?”

“Hi,” Harry said, grinning, “Thanks.” Neville nodded absently before resituating a lampshade so that it wasn’t as much poking his eye out as it had been before.

“How’s Ireland?” Neville asked, tilting his head a little. “I heard Bébhinn’s pregnant?”

“How does everyone know about that?” Harry demanded, “Is there some sort of newsletter I don’t know about?”

“Hermione told me,” Neville said, “There should be a newsletter though, that’s actually a really good idea.”

“Yeah, she’s having a baby,” Harry admitted, “It’s really weird. And if I think it’s weird then I have no idea how it must feel for her.

“Well, tell her congratulations from me next time you see her,” Neville said, watching Luna and Ginny spin past in a haze of pink gauze before taking a sip out of his own glass. “Bébhinn’s very sensible, I really liked her.”

Harry let his eyes follow Luna and her astounding party dress as she floated through the room. She hadn’t been wearing it when they’d left the flat earlier, and must have changed into it at the same time as Ginny had put on her dark red velvet suit. They should have looked overdressed, but didn’t. Harry looked back at Neville and studied him for a few seconds.

The last time Harry had seen him had been in Ireland, during the week or so Neville had spent helping him wrangle the unwieldy garden into relative submission. He looked healthier now than he had back then, more happy, Harry thought. The further they got from the war the happier everyone looked, he’d noticed, not that that had been such a huge revelation, in hindsight.

“You look tanned,” Harry pointed out, “It suits you.” Neville looked down at himself, at his nice, neat green jumper that was almost the same shade as Harry’s eyes, and his coal-grey trousers. He looked very pressed, very crisp. It was a bit odd, actually.

“Yeah?” Neville said, laughing slightly, “I’ve been in Brazil for the past two weeks, and then before that I was in Tibet and Nepal, although I doubt that contributed to the tan. And then Australia before that.” He sighed, “I’m bloody exhausted, Harry, seriously.”

Harry grimaced in sympathy. “What the hell were you doing in Nepal?”

Neville laughed. “Gravity resistant trees, mate. I’m working for this company that supplies materials to Quidditch broom companies, so I’m going around researching this water-repelling tree that grows in Brazil and all that.”

“Seriously?” Harry said, “That sounds so interesting.”

Neville shrugged and sort of shook his head. “I thought it was going to be interesting when they asked me to do it, but then I kind of found out that it actually involved a lot of talking about Quidditch.”

“And you hate Quidditch,” Harry prompted.

“Not hate,” Neville replied, hedging, “But it is only really interesting when you’re watching a game.”

“Or playing,” Harry said, trying to remember the last time he’d actually played a proper game and coming up blank.

“Or playing,” Neville allowed, “But I never really did much of that.”

“Right,” Harry said, “Of course, yeah.”

“Anyway, I’m thinking of quitting,” Neville said, making a face. “I’m not sure yet though, don’t tell anyone.”

Harry laughed. “Who would I tell?”

“I don’t know,” Neville said, raising his hands, “But just in case. I don’t want the company to find out before I’ve actually made my decision.”

“What would they do?” Harry asked, fascinated. It sounded like the mob or something.

“Nothing, nothing,” Neville assured him, “Just-- I might not. You know how it is.”

“Decisions are hard,” Harry agreed, “I feel you, it’s fine.”

“I could always become a professor,” Neville said, sounding very uneager and grimacing a little. Then he looked in the general vicinity of Harry’s hip and said, “Seriously, whose children are those? They’re so sweet.”

“Oh yeah,” Harry said, and glanced down at them. They’d gone very wriggly, probably from the sugar. “I have no idea. How old do you think they are?”

Neville looked at them dubiously. “No bloody clue, I’m terrible with that sort of stuff. Check the tags in their clothes?”

Harry snorted. “Oh yeah, because I want to be thrown out.

“Can you imagine,” Neville agreed, breathless with laughter, “If you had actually done that. Merlin.”

“I would have blamed you,” Harry told him, “I would have taken you down with me.”

“I would have denied it,” Neville replied innocently, “I have a very trustworthy face, people would definitely have believed me.”

Harry rolled his eyes and took another sip of firewhiskey, his throat burning as it went down, steam curling on his tongue.

“So what are you doing?” Neville asked, “How’s the fake greenhouse?”

“Oh it’s really good,” Harry said, perking up immediately. “It’s really great. Actually, while I’m here we should go out for that dinner I promised you.”

Neville flapped his hand around for a second, “I was happy to help, it gave me an excuse to escape from Professor Sprout for a bit.”

“I still find it weird that Professor Sprout was so mean to you during your apprenticeship,” Harry mused, having heard extensive stories on the subject.

“I know,” Neville agreed sadly, “I thought it was going to be so… pleasant, you know? That I’d just get to spend all day outside and we’d drink a lot of tea.” He shook his head and shuddered. “I had no idea she’d be so strict once I wasn’t technically a student anymore.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, doing a sympathetic face, “I don’t envy you there, to be honest.”

“We’re friends now,” Neville insisted, “I go round hers for dinner every so often. She has dogs, it’s nice.”

“It sounds nice,” Harry said, and laughed when Neville rolled his eyes, “No I’m not even being sarcastic, it does sound nice. I’m glad you could get over that bump in your relationship.”

“I hate you,” Neville said, shaking his head, “I won’t be able to look at her now without thinking about that.”

“I think it’s darling,” Harry said, trying to keep a straight face, “Absolutely heart-warming.

Neville sighed deeply and accioed a pumpkin pasty off a nearby table. Molly always made hers with puff pastry, which Harry felt went against everything a pasty was supposed to be but was also very delicious and a great idea. “How do you do that without it coming off someone's plate?” Harry asked, and got a very odd look from Neville in return.

“I wanted to talk to you about something,” Neville started, after a bite, trying to be serious even though his mouth was full of pastry. “It’s not… set in stone yet, but I wanted to see if you’d be interested before I make any moves.”

Harry raised his eyebrows. “Okay?”

“Okay,” Neville said, leaning in, his fringe getting in his eyes a bit. “I was thinking about starting my own business.”

“Oh,” Harry said, “Right, I think that sounds like a great idea.”

“Yeah,” Neville agreed, “I kind of want to get back to gardening, rather than working for a big company.”

“That sounds great, Nev,” Harry repeated.

“Lots of people don’t know how to set up a proper wizarding garden,” Neville continued, “ Or how good it can be for a wizarding house to also have a wizarding garden.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, “I really want a pumpkin pasty now.”

“I want a business partner,” Neville said, and then paused.

“Oh right,” Harry said, at the look on his face, “Oh.”

“I think it would be great,” Neville insisted, nodding, “It would be really hands-on, going around and setting up designs for people's gardens, working on them, working on the upkeep. We’d have to employ some people.”

“I live in Ireland,” Harry told him, “I can’t-- I can’t. I don’t even like gardening that much.”

“Oh,” Neville said, “You’re really good at it though.”

Harry rubbed his thumb across his bottom lip. Neville looked so earnest. And if Harry was being honest with himself he could imagine it, actually, working with Neville. It would probably be really nice.

“Just-- think about it,” Neville said, patient as ever, “I haven’t left my other job yet, there would be loads of stuff to work out.”

“I haven’t got any qualifications,” Harry said, looking desperately for some way to let Neville down gently, some way to get out of saying I can’t fucking move back to England, I’d be absolutely fucking useless.

“That doesn’t matter really,” Neville was saying, as he polished off the last corner of his pasty. “You have a lot of experience.”

“I just don’t think--” Harry started, but Neville was looking across the room and had raised his eyebrows almost up into his hairline.

“Merlin’s beard,” he said, “Look what the cat dragged in,” but he was smiling.

Harry turned, looked past the chattering children on the armchair, past Molly and Arthur laughing together in the corner of the room under a swinging pendant light, and saw Malfoy looking very nervous in the doorway, pale, with his coat buttoned right up to his chin.

“Oh,” Harry said, and watched as Luna went over to him and whispered something in his ear, as the people in the room started to notice and went a bit quieter than they had been before. “Malfoy.”

“You two live together now, don’t you?” Neville asked, “He’s not that bad anymore, is he?”

“No,” Harry replied, and Malfoy was taking off his coat and handing Ginny a bottle of wine.

“He apologised to me,” Neville said, “It was the single weirdest experience of my whole life.”

Malfoy did have a pointy face, Ron was right. It wasn’t bad though, Harry thought. It was kind of nice, actually. “Huh,” he said.

“You’re being odd,” Neville said, from somewhere behind him, and Harry nodded.

“I know,” he said, “I think he apologised to me, too.”

“You think?” Neville asked, as Malfoy nodded to someone across the room. Not Harry, Ron and Hermione. They nodded back and Harry felt like he might throw up.

Malfoy’s hair was very white in this light, bone white, bleach white. He looked very normal, standing in the Weasley’s living room and accepting a mince pie off Luna, holding it dubiously. He didn’t really look like a person who could have done the things Harry knew he had done. Harry wondered, just for a second, if people looked at him and thought that he didn’t really look like someone who had killed people.

Malfoy saw him, Harry saw it happen. His eyes widened and he got a very, very slight smile on his face. Harry heard someone say, over the sounds of Christmas music, --in Merlin’s name is he doing here? Malfoy hadn’t heard, thankfully, because he still had a pleased look on his face and he was still staring at Harry instead of off hexing someone.

“I’m just going to go and get some fresh air,” Harry heard himself say, and pushed his back away from the wall.

“Okay,” Neville replied, taking Harry’s glass of firewhiskey when it was handed to him.

Molly stopped him on his way out into the garden, red-cheeked and somehow on this side of the room when she hadn’t been before.

“Have you had a mince pie, dear?” she asked him.

Harry swallowed and focused on her face. “Er,” he said, “No, not yet.”

“Well make sure you do,” Molly insisted, patting his arm. Her hand was very warm. “And make sure it’s one of mine, because Luna brought some too.” She paused, reconsidering a little, “Which was nice of her, of course.”

“I will,” Harry assured her.

“Luna’s are on the plates with the leaves on them,” Molly said, taking her hand away. “She was insistent that they be separate. They have nutmeg in them, and you know I’m allergic to nutmeg of course.”

“Um,” Harry said, glancing at the conjured orbs in the garden, glowing orange and red. “I didn’t know that, I’ll be sure to try one of yours.”

“Good,” Molly said, pleased, “You look very thin, Harry.”

Harry wasn’t thin, but he thought that maybe Molly was the type of person who just said things like that in order to get people to eat more. He kind of liked that about her.

“Okay,” he said, smiling now, wobbly, “I’ll eat two.”

 

*

Harry stood just beyond the reach of the light that spilled out from the house, right at the edge of where the crops in the field would grow high and thick in the summertime. He missed England, all the time, everything about it; the way a field of maize sounded when the wind blew through it, days and days of sunlight all strung together in a row, rolling hills and dusty footpaths and forests that weren’t fecund and impenetrable. He missed winter here, Christmas at the Burrow, the lights on Carnaby Street, the faint dusting of snow on cobbled streets. Ron and Hermione, Luna and Ginny.

He took a deep breath and listened to laughter and music and the steady hum that came from a lot of happy people talking all at once.

“Potter,” Malfoy hissed angrily, from somewhere behind Harry’s back, and he was the only person who ever called Harry by his second name anymore.

“Hi,” Harry said, and didn’t turn around. He shivered a little, even though they were both still inside the warming charm. “Nice evening.”

“You fucking arse,” Malfoy continued, ignoring him, sounding furious about nothing.

“What’s your problem?” Harry scoffed, as Malfoy arrived beside him and crossed his arms. He was vibrating with anger and, when Harry stole a look over, his face looked blotchy and red and screwed up.

My problem?” Malfoy repeated incredulously, “My problem? I’m not the one who took one fucking look at me and ran away, like a fucking child .”

“I didn’t run away,” Harry argued wearily, but his heart wasn’t properly in it. “I just wanted some fresh air.”

“Sometimes it is honestly like you think people can’t see you when you do things,” Malfoy said lowly, gesturing tightly with his hands. “But I’m not-- I saw the look on your face, Potter.”

“Are we seriously having an argument right now?” Harry asked, finally turning to face Malfoy. “It’s Christmas Eve, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

Malfoy hadn’t got his coat on anymore, and now he was just incredibly overdressed, instead. He was wearing a waistcoat. Harry saw the glint and gleam of a pocket watch as Malfoy moved his arms.

“I don’t give a flying fuck what Eve it is,” Malfoy told him, harsh and mean, straightening his back. Harry never really noticed how much taller Malfoy was than him, until he did. “You massive prick,” he finished.

“I don’t understand what I’ve done wrong here,” Harry pointed out, even though that wasn’t quite true. He just wanted Malfoy to drop the whole fucking thing. He wished maybe he’d not invited Malfoy in the first place, he didn’t want him here anymore. “And do you ever think maybe not everything is about you all the time?”

Malfoy widened his eyes, swept a hand through his hair, and scoffed, apparently disagreeing with that last statement. Then, in a tone that made it sound like he’d just realised something, he said, “You’re actually not going to let me forget, are you?”

“Jesus, forget what?” Harry replied, because now it looked like Malfoy was talking about the fucking war, of all things.

“Is it because I looked happy?” Malfoy asked seriously, “Is it because I looked happy, and you feel the fucking need to remind me at every turn that oh, no, you don’t have anything to be happy about, you’re a shitty person.

“What are you talking about?” Harry replied, “I have no idea what the fuck you’re saying to me.”

“I know what you just thought,” Malfoy argued, stabbing his finger towards the house, “Back there. You saw me with your fucking friends, being nice, and you hated it.

Harry lifted his shoulder. “Why would I hate that?” he asked, and knew it sounded as though he was sulking. He couldn’t bring himself to care.

Death Eater,” Malfoy said, rolling his eyes and gesturing to himself, “Mingling?”

“You’re not one of those anymore,” Harry said, and snorted. “You’re pretty fucking insistent on that point, actually.”

“Yes,” Malfoy said patiently, “I know that, but sometimes you look at me and I get the feeling you don’t know that.”

“What?” Harry asked, intelligently. “I know you’re not a Death Eater anymore. Why the hell are we talking about this?”

Malfoy didn’t say anything, just shook his head a little. “Fine,” Harry said, “I don’t know why the fuck we’re pretending there’s such a huge fucking distinction between ex-Death Eater and just-- Death Eater. You still did all that shit.”

Malfoy took a step backwards, his mouth open. “You piece of shit," he said, "You piece of shit."

He stopped talking, and Harry couldn't find the words to say I didn't mean it like it sounded. "There is a pretty fucking big distinction,” Malfoy breathed, barely loud enough for Harry to hear him. “Potter, tell me you--”

“I know,” Harry snapped, he did. He did. He was just-- “Of course there’s a difference, no, I don’t know why I said that.”

Malfoy got a very vivid look of disbelief on his face, brushed his hand over his hip, his fingers flexing nervously. “You’re not ever going to treat me as anything more than a criminal, are you,” he said, although it didn’t feel like a question. “If you think that then--”

Malfoy had said that to him before, once, what felt like an entire year ago. Harry had denied it then, too.

“I’m not treating you like a fucking criminal,” he tried, for what felt like the hundredth time. “Or-- I’m not trying to, and I don’t think that, I know how hard you worked after--”

He cut off, he really had just wanted to take a few seconds to get himself used to the idea of Draco Malfoy in The Burrow. And now this had turned into something that felt like it was going to hurt them. 

Harry clenched his jaw and had a very childish impulse to just… run away. “I don’t want to argue,” he tried, “Seriously, can’t this please fucking wait?”

Malfoy lowered his arm, slowly, and shook his head, his hair flitting back and forth. “I can’t believe how fucking… stupid I feel right now,” he said, wondrous at himself.

Harry frowned. “Don’t.”

“I’m serious,” Malfoy said, and he was. “You arse.

Harry stared at him and felt a flash of anger. Fucking Malfoy, in his fucking suit, turning up here like he-- Harry was finding it hard to remember why he’d thought this whole thing was a good idea in the first place.

“Alright fine,” Harry said, “If you want to get into it so much. How the fuck is it that can you just forget about all the things you did, seriously? How can you just pass them off as ‘things you did when you were younger?’ Why do you get to move on so easily?” Harry asked, bitterly, before he could stop himself or even think about how unfair he was being.

He didn’t even mean it, really. Then he thought about Malfoy laughing inside The Burrow, Malfoy bringing wine for Molly and Arthur like a perfect fucking guest. Harry hated him, sometimes, right this second. He hated himself.

Malfoy spluttered, and spent a few seconds with his mouth open looking for some way to reply. “How did you forget the things you did?” he said, nastily, and then sobered. “I didn’t mean that.”

“I didn’t forget,” Harry reminded him, “What the fuck are you talking about?”

Malfoy shook his head, sharply, and then said, “He’s dead, Potter,” and now he was talking about Voldemort. Harry had no idea how this had even started. “Why can’t you just--”

Harry spat, “If you’re about to say ‘let it go’ I genuinely think I might--” but Malfoy interrupted him.

“No, I wasn’t,” he said sharply, “I was about to look for something better than that. I just-- I don’t understand why you’re holding onto it all so tightly. He’s dead, we’re supposed to be-- we're supposed to be free,” he said, looking like he meant it. Then he took a step closer to Harry, who felt his own face crumple a little.

“Fuck you,” he swore, “It’s not at all that bloody easy. And if you’re saying this because you think it’d be more convenient for you or whatever--”

What?” Malfoy asked, half laughing, looking around himself in a comically bewildered fashion. “What the fuck are you talking about? And I didn’t say it was easy, but you’ve at least got to fucking try.

“You think it would be easier if I was happy all the fucking time. And like, just ignored the fact that we both did some really shitty things,” Harry said, not even really sure where that had come from. He hated the way his voice cracked at the end, and swallowed hard. He glanced back towards the house but nobody was looking at them.

Malfoy didn’t say anything for a few moments, long enough that Harry turned his head back to stare at him. He had gone very still. “I don’t--” he said, hesitantly, “Merlin, Harry, that’s not-- I just-- It’s not fair that--”

Harry wrinkled his nose. “It’s not fair that you moved on so fucking quickly, and you’re fine. And I’m not, when you’re the one who was a fucking Death Eater.

He was scared that he had said that, because it wasn’t even really what he thought. He didn’t think Malfoy had moved on quickly, he knew how hard Malfoy had worked, how much he had changed. Harry felt over-balanced, though, and dizzy, and he wanted to be mean. He felt sick to his stomach about how mean he wanted to be.

Malfoy looked shocked. “I-- Is that what you think happened?” he asked, his voice calm and low. Harry didn’t-- he wasn’t sure, but he was angry, and it was making his head fuzzy.

“That’s what fucking happened, Malfoy,” Harry said, “I don’t get how you’re the one lecturing me on moving past it when I was--”

Malfoy growled, then, of all things, and Harry was so shocked that he stopped talking. “You are such an arsehole,” Malfoy snapped, “How did I--? First of all, what the fuck is wrong with you? Second of all, it’s been five years, you do know that, right? I was a fucking mess for about two of them, I have no idea how I got through my potions mastery except that the guy I do it with is exceptionally nice. You weren’t there, Potter, you just ran away.”

Harry opened his mouth to-- do something, but Malfoy wasn’t done. “I could have done that too, gone to France with my parents and married someone really nice and pretty and just-- stayed rich forever, or whatever. But I didn’t, it was hard but I didn’t. You’re allowed to be a dick about the things you know about, that’s fine, but don’t make up more stuff to hate about me. It’s not a competition, we’re both sad, fuck you. And nobody could spend more than three fucking seconds with me and think I'm passing everything off as a childhood mistake, you wanker.”

“I’m not saying it’s a competition,” Harry said, “I know that we both--”

“You’re making it into one!” Malfoy cried, “You’re making up some fucking thing because I’m not as sad as you are all the time, and I’m not having nightmares, and you think that just because of that, it means I got over the war quicker than you, and you think that’s unfair.”

He took a deep breath. “Never mind the fact that you think that because I was on the wrong side I should feel guiltier than you, never mind the fact that that’s not how it works. I feel plenty guilty, Potter, I’m not going to make up more to make you feel better. The fact is is that neither of us are ever getting over the war. That’s it, there’s not going to be some day where we suddenly wake up and it isn’t a part of us anymore.”

“I know that,” Harry said, “I know all that.”

Malfoy scoffed, “I don’t think you do. But you should. We’re both going to be recovering, forever, and I can’t do it if you’re trying to guilt me into feeling more guilt. So what if I want to be happy? I’m allowed to want that!”

“Okay,” Harry said, shocked out of his fucking senses.

“You cannot,” Malfoy said, pointing a finger at him, “Tell me you think that I’m basically the same as a Death Eater. I know what the fuck I did, but I'm not that person anymore.”

“God,” Harry said, weakly, “I don’t even think that. I was-- I have no idea, sometimes it’s weird to me to even think about you believing all that blood-purity shit.”

“Yes,” Malfoy said, blinking, “I know. It’s hard for me too. But I don’t want to spend every second of every day wondering if you’re going to just turn on me, and act as though I didn’t spend five years just--- ridding myself of that shit.”

“Okay,” Harry told him, “Okay, no, I know.”

“I’m sick of you looking at me as though I’m going to fucking kill someone if you don’t keep a hard enough eye on me,” Malfoy said.

“That’s not what I think,” Harry insisted, stepping closer. “You just remind me of bad stuff sometimes.”

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “And you think you don’t do that for me?”

Harry nodded, thinking about it. “Things are quite… tangled,” he said, looking at the ground “Aren’t they? Which is annoying. So.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Malfoy said, and Harry thought he might have been trying for gentle.

“Well, it’s not specific, is it?” he said, looking back up. Malfoy was just… standing there, intently, so focused on him. Harry kind of wanted to touch him, but refrained. “Like, I wish there was one thing we could look at and just… talk it out, right? Like… what happened in the bathroom, in sixth year. I wish we could just go, you know, this is why I did it, I’m sorry, and then forgive each other. But everything leads to something else, everything’s all mixed up in everything else,” Harry continued, trying to explain.

Malfoy frowned. “So there’s no solution, that’s what you’re saying. We’re just… not right.”

“Oh my god,” Harry said, something awful stuck hard in his throat, clawing at his insides. “No, I’m not saying that. We aren’t breaking up over this.” He thought for a second about the look on Malfoy’s face earlier when he’d noticed Harry watching him. He hadn’t ever thought he’d be the person to make Draco Malfoy look pleased, but it had crept up on him somehow.

“I know,” Malfoy said, almost kindly, shaking himself out of it, and put a cold hand on Harry’s neck. Harry covered it with his own, on instinct more than anything else. “I don’t really believe that, anyway.”

“That there’s no solution?” Harry asked, after a beat.

“That--” Malfoy started, then paused to think. Harry looked at the black sky over his shoulder, the trees in the forest beyond. “I don’t know. Sometimes I think you hate me, and then sometimes you get this look on your face that makes me feel like I imagined it.”

“I am trying so hard,” Harry told him, “I like you so much, you’ve got to know that. I’m sorry if I make you feel like I hate you. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me, I don’t want to argue about this shit forever.”

“I’m worried about how shitty we are to each other sometimes,” Malfoy confessed, “It doesn’t seem healthy.”

Harry shrugged. He didn’t even know what-- what that meant. “I’m sorry I-- ran away, in there.”

“Yes,” Malfoy agreed, rubbing the side of his nose.“That didn’t really make me feel great. You’re supposed to be happy to see me.”

“I know,” Harry said, “I--” he broke off, and laughed. “This is so confusing, half the time I have no idea what I’m feeling about anything, let alone whatever the fuck we have going on.”

Malfoy just looked at him. “We’re ridiculous together,” he admitted.

Harry laughed again. “I feel like we make it work,” he said.

Barely,” Malfoy muttered.

“Hey,” Harry said, feeling very tender, out of nowhere. He stepped closer, kissed the soft skin on Malfoy’s jaw line, smooth like he’d only just shaved. “I like you,” he said, “I’m telling you right now, just so you know.”

“You’re so weird,” Malfoy huffed, “Please don’t ever tell anyone I said this, but I like you too, when you're not doing stuff like this, an awful amount. I hate it.”

“I know,” Harry agreed, and started smiling, “You’re really obvious about it.”

“Fuck off,” Malfoy said, against Harry’s neck. “I fucking hate this.”

“Hate what?” Harry asked, grinning.

“Arguing about nothing and then making up and then confessing our undying love for each other,” Malfoy said, pulling away and rolling his eyes, “Like we’re in a fucking romantic comedy or something equally disgusting.”

“A dramedy,” Harry supplied, heart in his throat.

Malfoy grimaced, and somehow managed to look really fit whilst doing it. “Exactly,” he said. “Ugh. I can’t even remember what we were pissed off about in the first place.”

Harry lifted one shoulder. “I was a dick to you.”

“Oh, of course,” Malfoy said, nodding. Then he looked thoughtful for a few moments. “There are--” he said, “So many things I want to talk to you about, about what I did. Not now though, obviously, since it's Christmas Eve and I don't want to cry on Christmas eve."

Malfoy stroked his fingers through the hair on the back of Harry's head, and said, "I know that I hurt you badly, I know that, and as much as it’s important to me that you know I’m not the same person as I was, it is equally important you know that I haven’t forgotten about any of it.”

“I know you’re not the same person,” Harry said, his heart beating hard in his chest. “I know you haven’t forgotten about it. I don't want you to ever feel as though I don't like you, because I do, very very much.”

“Potter,” Malfoy said quietly, “You have to know, this is the easy part.

Harry blinked. “I don’t get it,” he confessed, after a second of confusion.

Malfoy sighed. “This,” he said, gesturing around them wildly, at the garden, at the lopsided house, at the crisp night air. “This is the easy part. The hard stuff is going to come when I have to move back to England, and we’re going to argue about that, and probably everything else in the world, and you’ll cry, and we’ll both be upset.”

Harry shivered. “I’ve been trying not to think about that,” he confessed.

“Yes, well,” Malfoy sniffed. “It’s going to be utterly crap.”

“Yeah,” Harry agreed.

“So this is supposed to be good,” Malfoy said, clearly summarising. “This stuff where we’re at the same party and get to listen to Christmas carols and eat our body weight in food together? We’re not supposed to argue about this bit.”

“I think Luna put weed in the mince pies she brought,” Harry told him.

“We’re going to go inside now,” Malfoy said, after a pause to process that information. “And you’re going to stand next to me. You’re going to stand next to me and ignore it when people talk about us and pretend you didn’t just panic about me being here.”

“Oh,” Harry said, “Okay.”

“It’ll be easy,” Malfoy promised, looking at him steadily, “I might even let you hold my hand.”

 

*

 

It was easy, easier than Harry had expected, when they went back inside and avoided Luna’s mince pies and talked to Charlie Weasley about dragons.

“Oh fuck,” Malfoy said weakly, once Charlie had left to go and fill up his drink. “I feel a little ill.”

“Why?” Harry asked, then made a face. “Your hand’s gone a bit sweaty, can I let go now?”

“No,” Malfoy snapped, “And it’s not polite to talk about sweaty hands with the person whose hand you’re currently holding.”

“I should really go to finishing school,” Harry sighed, picking one-handedly at the lump of potato salad on his flowery plate.

“Hm,” Malfoy hummed noncommittally, his eyes on Charlie’s back where his t-shirt had ridden up.

“Oh my god,” Harry exclaimed, “You have a crush on Charlie Weasley!”

Malfoy grimaced. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Should I be jealous?” Harry asked, even though he kind of already was a little bit. Charlie laughed at something Dean Thomas was saying; he was wearing leather trousers.

“Maybe you should get a job working with dragons and start wearing leather trousers in casual settings,” Malfoy mused, not even denying it.

“Says the guy wearing a three-piece suit,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. They were in the kitchen, backs pressed up against the wooden counter in front of the sink. People kept having to reach past them in order to fill their cups up with water. The lights were brighter in this part of the house than they were anywhere else and Malfoy looked very nice standing underneath them. Except for the part where he was still red from when Charlie had complimented his wristwatch. Harry thought about asking why Malfoy was wearing both a wristwatch and a pocket watch, but decided to save it for later.

Malfoy glanced over to smile, minutely, and then tightened his grip on Harry’s hand. He hadn’t been joking about the hand-holding, so now they’d been doing it for almost an hour and a half. Malfoy leaned in, until the entire right side of his body was pushed up against Harry’s. He didn’t seem to care that at least seven people were staring overtly in their direction.

“Potter,” he said lowly, right into Harry’s ear, “At least one of us has to make a good impression.”

Harry sighed and crossed his ankles, brushed his fingers against the back of Malfoy's hand. “I look really nice, so you can shut up about it.”

“You look messy,” Malfoy said, all quiet, and Harry couldn't take him seriously when he was talking like that, “Like you always do.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “Is this supposed to be… a seduction of some description? Do you think insulting me is turning me on?”

“I thought you said it did,” Malfoy countered, and Harry wanted to elbow him in the stomach. Because Harry had actually said that and he'd never liked having his own words used against him. “Can I continue?”

Harry swallowed. More people had started staring. “By all means,” he offered, tipping his head back.

Malfoy swivelled on the spot, until his groin was pressed up against Harry’s hip. Harry actually did hate him, right at this second. “To recap,” he murmured, “Your clothes are truly terrible, and because of that I'd like very much to divest you of them.”

“Oh,” Harry said, unable to keep from laughing, “Right now? Here in the Weasley's kitchen?”

“You’re ruining it,” Malfoy told him, smiling, “I want to fuck you.”

“Oh,” Harry said, and blinked. Malfoy’s hair tickled at the side of his nose.

Oh,” Malfoy agreed. “Tonight, when we go back to mine--”

“I’m staying at Ron and Hermione’s,” Harry informed him.

“Tonight, in Ron and Hermione’s guest bedroom I'm going--” Malfoy started, and then snorted into the side of Harry’s neck, collapsing somewhat. “Okay, sorry, sorry, I couldn’t keep a straight face for that.”

“They wouldn’t actually mind if you stayed over, I’m pretty sure,” Harry said.

Malfoy pulled back. “Alright,” he agreed, and then, as loud as anything, “So can I top? I can't stop thinking about it.”

“Ohhh my god,” Harry breathed, widening his eyes, determinedly not glancing around the room; not looking over to Charlie, at the three old men playing tarot games at a table nearby, “Tell everyone, why don’t you?” Malfoy opened his mouth, eyes glinting, and Harry had to shush him hastily. “That was sarcasm.”

“Oh, right,” Malfoy said, and grinned. “But seriously I’d like to get a firm answer on that.”

Yes,” Harry hissed, “Yes, yes, shut up about it now please.”

“You're such a prude,” Malfoy said, as if it delighted him, laughing when Harry pushed him away, burrowing his face into Harry’s neck to laugh some more. Harry put his hand in the small of Malfoy’s back and pretended not to see the witches in the corner looking at them and whispering. He couldn't even start to think about that right now, what people-- what people were going to say. About Malfoy, about him.

“Oi,” Ginny said, saving them. “Stop canoodling and come and play Quidditch.”

Malfoy raised his head, suddenly all stony again. “We weren’t canoodling, Ginevra, and I resent that accusation.”

Then he glanced over at Harry, and his eyes actually sparkled, like they were both in on the same joke. Harry hadn’t noticed before, the way Malfoy went soft around the edges when he looked at him. He’d expected it from Ginny, once, and he hadn’t realised that she hadn’t wanted to be soft. But when Malfoy did it it was as though he was so fucking grateful for the opportunity to let go of everything that made him a little bit cruel and a little bit mean, if only for a short while, a split second out of his whole life. Harry loved it, wanted it forever.

 

*

 

Harry thought he was probably about two drinks too drunk to be playing night Quidditch with a gaggle of other, similarly drunk people. But then Ginny appointed Ron as the captain of the other team and he had been chosen as seeker and then it was a little too late. They spelled all the balls to be glow-in-the-dark, and Harry thought about suggesting they just do a couple of lumoses or something, but thought that might ruin everyone’s fun.

“Good evening,” Malfoy said, appearing out of nowhere, balanced precariously on a broom that was far too small for him. He was the other seeker, obviously, except weirdly enough Ron had been the one to pick him.

“Hi,” Harry agreed, floating upwards lazily while Seamus and Dean argued in loud voices about who got the last remaining Firebolt. Ginny was whizzing around on her Harpies-issued state-of-the-art Riser; the only one out of the lot of them with a halfway decent broom.

“Seeker, I see,” Malfoy commented, smirking.

“Yes, you see correctly,” Harry told him, “You’ll need those razor sharp observational skills to actually have a chance in hell of beating me.”

“Wow,” Malfoy said, raising his eyebrows, “Trash talk? Really? Aren’t we a bit old for that?”

Harry shrugged, and then almost tipped entirely sideways. “You tell me,” he said, then smiled. “ Ferret .”

“Oh shit,” Malfoy said, laughing properly now, bright and sparkling in the quiet above the makeshift pitch. Harry could see hundreds of stars behind Malfoy’s cape-clad shoulders, twinkling against the blue-black sky.

“I’m going to beat you into the ground,” Harry told him.

Malfoy bent over at the waist laughing, clutching at his broom tightly. “Ha,” he said, “I’d like to see you try.

Harry rolled his eyes, Malfoy had used to be a lot better at this. “You’re literally about to,” he said.

“I hope your glasses steam up,” Malfoy said, in between the giggling.

“Is that seriously the best you can do?” Harry asked.

“I can call you scarhead if you want,” Malfoy offered, “You always did like that one.”

“I hated that one,” Harry told him.

“Okay scarhead,” Malfoy said, “Don’t get your panties in a twist.”

“That’s offensive,” Harry said.

“It’s trash talk, Malfoy replied, and made it sound like he was saying duh. “It’s supposed to be offensive.”

Harry gave up. “Maybe we should incorporate panties into our sex life,” he mused, “Just to spice things up.”

Malfoy narrowed his eyes and drew his heavy cloak a little closer around his shoulders. “Our sex life doesn’t need spicing up,” he said, “Save it for when we’ve been together for thirty years and only have sex on our birthdays.”

“Are you going to want to see me in panties in thirty years?” Harry asked dubiously.

Malfoy made a face. “Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.”

“I don’t just want to have sex on birthdays,” Harry said, actually a tiny bit upset at the prospect.

“What?” Ginny asked, breathless with her hair flying all over the place, coming to a hurtling stop beside them.

“Um,” Harry replied, looking over at Malfoy for some support.

“We can have sex on anniversaries as well,” Malfoy assured him, utterly unhelpfully.

“What?” Ginny asked again, “Why the fuck are you two negotiating your sex lives right now? The game just started.”

“Oh,” Harry said, looking around for the snitch. His vision went a little blurry at the edges. “Can’t see it.”

“Oh shit,” Ginny said, “Knew I should have picked Draco.” She was gone before he even got the chance to try and push her off her broom.

“Aw,” Malfoy said fondly, rising higher in the air. Harry followed him, focusing on the shiny bit of metal on the front of Malfoy’s boots instead of, say, the ground. “I like her.”

“Neville offered me a job,” Harry heard himself say. Malfoy stopped moving, stopped scanning the air. "He wants to... go into business together, build gardens."

“Oh yeah?”

“Well, sort of,” Harry said, “In a way, yeah. It’s in England.”

Malfoy was a bit too far away for Harry to get a good read of the look on his face. “Oh,” he said, voice carefully blank. “That’s-- are you going to take it?”

“I’m not sure,” Harry whispered, “A few months ago if I’d been asked it would have just been a no.”

Malfoy flew closer, got a pleased look on his face. “Well.”

“What do you think I should do?” Harry asked him, desperate all of a sudden. He thought about Moran and Mallaidh and Bébhinn, the house he helped to stop from sinking. He wondered if it was arrogance to imagine they couldn't do it without him. He caught sight of Luna flying beneath them, still resplendent in her pink dress.

Malfoy sighed and did a little weaving motion on his broomstick, then shifted his hands up and down. “Honestly,” he said, after a few seconds, “I’m going to regret saying this but I think you should move back to England and start a garden business with your friend and date me.”

Harry laughed, shocked, even though the sentiment wasn’t entirely out-of-the-blue. “Don’t regret saying that,”

“Can you say something really heartfelt so that I don’t feel so bad?” Malfoy asked, grimacing “Preferably something embarrassing and heartfelt.”

“I don’t want to lose you,” Harry told him, freezing his fucking arse off, staring at Malfoy’s lovely face. “I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do, but I want you to know that I’m going to try really hard not to lose you.”

“I don’t know that you have to try all that hard, actually,” Malfoy said, and then rolled his eyes and looked away. “Ugh, I hate myself.”

“It’s a good thing one of us likes you,” Harry said. He stared at the fast moving players closer to the grass, dark shapes against the dark ground. He stared over at Hermione, who was standing over beside the house talking to someone with red hair, maybe Percy. “I wouldn’t have anywhere to live, if I came back.”

Malfoy didn’t say anything. Then, he did, in a rush. “I have room.”

Harry stared, but Malfoy didn’t disappear in a haze of smoke or anything, and he seemed to be serious. “What?” Harry asked.

“We already live together,” Malfoy said, not making eye contact.

“Oh my god,” Harry breathed.

Someone shouted at them from below in an Irish accent that made Harry jump. “Will the two of you stop making out and actually do some seeking for once in your miserable lives?”

“Fuck off Finnigan. I’d like to see you even try,” Harry shouted, into the black.

Malfoy laughed, and Harry thought it might be one of the best sounds in the world, wondered how he’d lived so long without it. Then Malfoy twisted his shoulders around, actually looking for the snitch now. His cloak got caught in a gust of wind and blew out behind him, blotting out the goalposts and the other players for a second. He glanced at Harry, and then fixed his gaze. “Ready?” he asked, his grey eyes going all serious for a second.

“Okay,” Harry said, after a beat, not really even thinking, “I want to move in,” and then laughed when Malfoy almost fell off his broom. He caught sight of the snitch, glowing golden beside a fence post. “Not now,” he said, backing away, “I can’t now, but someday, I promise.”

“You better not just be saying that to throw me off,” Malfoy shouted after him, “Because that’s definitely cheating. I’m going to have words with the ref, Potter!”

“There isn’t a fucking ref, Malfoy,” someone shouted fondly out of the gloom, possibly Dean. “This is street Quidditch, you posh wanker.”

“You’re on my fucking team,” Malfoy yelled, sounding like he hadn’t even noticed what Harry was doing. He sounded, shrill, a little panicked, and fucking incandescent with happiness. Harry liked knowing the way that sounded in his voice.

He wanted it, that life Malfoy was half-suggesting, in his odd way, that life where he didn’t have nightmares and got to sleep in the same bed as Malfoy all the time and worked outside in the sun. He couldn’t-- it wouldn’t be tomorrow, it probably wouldn’t even be this year. But Malfoy had held it out in front of him, made it seem easy, and Harry wanted to take it, more than anything. He was so tired of being wary, and closed off, and far away, and he was feeling less like that with every day that passed. 

Malfoy shouted again. His terrible posh accent that Harry was almost becoming fond of rang through the freezing air. “Throw insults at Potter why don’t you? Start with his hair, maybe, that’s always a crowd-pleaser.” Harry laughed, sudden and sharp, the wind stealing it away, with his broom humming underneath him, with the sound of Malfoy’s clear voice echoing in his ears, with his fingertips already anticipating the cold, gleaming touch of the snitch.