For three nights and three days Harry sat by Draco's bed and waited for him to open his eyes. Poppy had the house elves bring sandwiches, and Harry would eat one if Poppy stood and glared at him long enough. Without her petulant stare to anchor him, Harry would take a bite, set the sandwich aside absently and forget to pick it up again, absorbed in the tasks of twining his fingers through Draco's and wondering if he'd made a horrible mistake.
At night, Harry's back would begin to grow tired from sitting motionless in the wooden visitors' chair all day. So even though he knew Poppy always made a round through the ward before morning, Harry would kick off his shoes and shamelessly curl up next to Draco, taking some wordless, hopeless comfort in the warmth of his skin through the cheap cotton hospital pyjamas and the even, rhythmic breaths of his senseless body. At dawn, Harry would wake with an extra blanket tucked around him. And he would sit up, lace his shoes back on his feet and resume his post in the hard wooden chair.
Snape came early in the morning, not long after Harry was back in his chair, and would stay until his first class. He would pull up a chair exactly like Harry's, nod a grim acknowledgement, and then open a large black potions book and appear to read until it was time for him to leave. It was only an act, though: Harry noticed on the first morning that he wasn't turning the pages. Despite the fact that he usually found Snape intimidating and unpleasant, Harry was always glad when classes were over and the Potion's master returned to share a weirdly companionable silence.
Snape would take a light dinner at Draco's bedside, and badger Harry into eating with the eloquent arch of a black eyebrow. Around nine in the evening, Snape would excuse himself to mark his students' work, prepare the following day's lessons and get some sleep. His only words to Harry would be as he left for the night, demanding that he be notified immediately if there were any change. Harry always responded, "Of course," and wished the Professor good night. And Snape would always reply to that with a sarcastic roll of the eyes, as if Harry were an imbecile for thinking that anything could be good as long as Draco was lying so still in a hospital bed.
He was right, of course. Nothing was good, and Harry was an imbecile.
When Draco revived and then lost consciousness, Harry's first instinct had been to bring him to Hogwarts. After the War, when Draco had been so ill, Poppy and Snape had been the ones to keep him alive when no one else believed he'd last longer than a few hours. Surely if they could manage that, they could care for him now that he had been resurrected via experimental dark magic. Besides, when he was in trouble, Draco always, always turned to Snape. And Draco hated St. Mungo's.
When Harry explained what had happened, he was surprised that Snape had no angry words for him, no sarcasm or dark threats. His face just lost what little colour it had to begin with, and he laid a gentle hand on Draco's pale forehead. And then he began asking questions about the spells Harry had used, question after arcane question, and Harry answered as best he could. Finally, as the questions seemed to run dry, Snape's expression grew thoughtful and he wandered out of the room. He returned near dawn with several different elixirs which he poured down Draco's throat. "There's nothing left to do but wait," he said and settled into a chair to do so.
Harry had hoped that the effects might be instantaneous, but one hour edged into two, which crawled into three. Snape left to teach his classes, and Harry stayed and waited. He waited so long, waiting took on a kind of meaning of its own, as if Draco couldn't die again as long as Harry was there to bear witness. As if the sitting there was accomplishing something.
At first Harry imagined Draco opening grey, unclouded eyes and smiling at him, thanking him. But that was silly because Draco didn't go around thanking people for things, even things like bringing him back from the dead. He was much more likely to deliver a lecture on the dangers of the Dark Arts and scold Harry for being a fool. So then Harry imagined that instead. In his mind, Draco was sarcastic and bitingly witty and made Harry feel about two inches high but at the same time elated because everything was going to be fine.
Then the thought occurred to him that even if Draco did wake up, he might not be all right. The first time he realized this, Harry ran to the loos to be sick, but he couldn't rid himself of the possibilities. What if the spell had done some kind of damage? What if something went wrong with his brain? What if when he woke up, whatever essence of self or soul or what-have-you was gone, and it was Draco's body but it wasn't really Draco any more? What if the luminous grey eyes were just cold, dead reflections? Or what if there was something truly evil there in Draco's place?
He wouldn't think about all the hundreds of ways this could end in disaster, he told himself. He would sit and he would wait.
When it finally happened, it was rather anti-climactic. It was the afternoon of the third day, and Harry was staring down at Draco's hand in his own, cataloguing in his mind every time he'd been lucky enough to feel Draco's fingers curling around his. He happened to look up, and was startled to find Draco very much awake. Harry dropped Draco's hand in surprise.
"I was rather enjoying that." Draco's voice was raspy from disuse, but he was speaking English, even forming complete sentences. That seemed like a good sign. Draco turned his hand over palm up, invitingly, and Harry slipped his own fingers in where they belonged.
"How, um, how are you feeling?"
"Much less deceased than I expected. And desperate for a piss." He sat up and Harry leapt to assist him. "I think I can manage," he drawled. "I promise I'll call if I need help, all right?"
Harry nodded but he couldn't keep himself from shadowing him down the length of the room to the toilet, hovering ridiculously as Draco made his way on perfectly steady bare feet.
When he came out, he was running his hands through his hair repeatedly and scowling. "Good grief, Potter! These pyjamas are atrocious. I can't believe you allowed them to put these things on me! No, wait. I take that back. I can believe that you would. I can't believe that Sev would. How much trouble could it have been to get me a decent set? Something in silk? Or at least a pleasant flannel?"
And that was how Harry knew that Draco was going to be okay.
When Poppy heard their voices she came rushing in to prod Draco, looking into his eyes, asking him who the Minister of Magic was, pinching him unexpectedly on the arm which caused him to emit an uncharacteristically vulgar squeak.
"Poppy! That's enough," he growled. "I'm perfectly fine, but I'll submit to all your tests if you'll just leave us alone for ten minutes."
"You're a terrible patient," she answered, but Harry could tell that she was relieved that Draco was well enough to be a bother.
He gave her his most charming smile. "Well, that's hardly news to you. Please. I promise I'll still be here when you come back."
She eyed him reluctantly. "If you sneak away I'll set The Professor on you."
"On my honour as an ex-Death Eater spy."
She clucked her tongue at him, then leaned down to give him a quick, fierce hug. "I'm glad you're back." She took her leave, sparing them a last stern look from the doorway.
Draco sighed and laid back on the pillow with his hands behind his head. "That woman takes her calling far too seriously."
"You must be tired. I'll go," Harry began, but Draco's eyes flew open in alarm.
"No, please stay. I've been sleeping for - Actually, I have no idea how long I've been sleeping."
He raised an eyebrow. "Really? My word. Have you been here the whole time?"
Harry felt colour rising in his cheeks. "Um, I. You know, I made a trip to the loo every now and then. But for the most part, yes."
A slow smile spread across Draco's face. "Well, that explains the state of your hair," he said, but so fondly Harry felt the words like a caress. "Harry, we should probably talk. About what happened."
"Do you mean when I kissed you? Or when a homicidally insane American killed you and I raised you from the dead with experimental dark magic?"
Draco cocked his head thoughtfully. "We should probably talk about both of those things. But we only have ten minutes so let's talk about the kissing."
"All right, then."
Harry waited. Draco frowned down at a perfectly manicured nail and looked only slightly less uncomfortable than he had the first time they'd had this conversation.
"I thought you were going to start," Harry said finally.
"Suddenly I find myself at a loss for words."
The thought of Draco ever at a loss for words made Harry laugh, and Draco began to laugh, too. The tension in the room lessened a bit, and Harry scooted from the hard wooden chair over to sit next to Draco on the bed.
"I haven't changed my mind," Harry said as he took Draco's hand. "But, um. Whatever else - sitting next to your hospital bed for three days put things in a sort of perspective."
"And what perspective is that?"
"That I'd just be glad if you woke up and still had all of your working parts."
"Well, certain parts haven't been fully tested." Draco's sly grin promised all sorts of wicked things.
"I think I'd be willing to make a few sacrifices for medical science, if you need some help with that," he said as he inched a little closer on the bed.
"Always the hero, that's you, Harry." Draco's voice was as soft and warm as spring weather, and it wrapped around Harry and pulled him in.
"It's a dreadful burden," Harry whispered as he leaned in and kissed him.
They kissed for long, light minutes, and the air of desperation that had surrounded them in the parlour was gone. Now it felt as if the whole of time had been presented to them personally, as a reward for services rendered. And as delicious as their first real kiss had been, Harry could feel this second kiss soaking into his skin, changing him. It was alchemical, a bright, greedy blaze made of Draco's smooth, white skin under his fingers, the sparks of desire dancing in his belly, the specific taste of Draco's lips, dryer than they had been in the parlour but wonderfully alive. It burned delightfully, consumed what had been before and catalyzed it into something new. Something hopeful.
Neither of them heard Poppy open the door to the ward. She coughed politely and Harry sprang off the bed to resume his place in the chair.
"All right, Mr. Potter. I think it's time for you to see about organizing some tea from the house elves while I do some tests on Mr. Malfoy here." Harry nodded bashfully and took his leave before his blush started a fire in his hair.
Draco's voice stopped him at the door. "Harry. Have dinner with me tomorrow night?"
"You think you'll be well enough to leave by then, do you?" Poppy scoffed.
Draco lifted his chin in an aristocratic gesture so wholly familiar it made Harry smile. "I'm well enough to leave now, but I promised to be a good patient. What about it, Harry?"
"Of course. If Poppy says it's all right."
There was a long pause in which Draco seemed to be considering any number of the myriad things that were still hanging in the air between them. But in the end, he only said, "Tell the house elves not to steep the tea too long. And ask for extra milk. And see if they have some cakes. The good ones, though, Harry, not the ones we used to use for projectile weapons in the Great Hall.
Poppy was smiling indulgently as she took Draco's pulse when Harry turned to go.
When he got back, followed behind by house elves bearing tea and an enormous amount of food, Snape was standing over Draco's bed scowling at him while Poppy continued checking her less-than-patient patient over.
"And what are the ingredients for invisibility potion?" Snape's voice was whip-sharp.
Draco rolled his eyes, and Harry was amused to see Snape's own facial expression being used as a weapon against him. "The Dark or Light version?" Draco snapped back. "The Light version is more difficult to brew and not as effective, but some people find removing the eyes of a five-year-old albino child for the base of the Dark potion to be somewhat repugnant. Sev, my memory is fine. You don't need to keep quizzing me! I remember everything you ever taught me."
"I doubt that very much. Clearly the lesson about staying alive never sunk in." Snape's face was drawn tight in harsh lines of disgust.
"Oh, because you've never sacrificed yourself for someone else, or a cause that you believed in. And you certainly wouldn't sacrifice yourself for a cause you weren't sure of anymore. I must have gotten the lesson plans confused." The velvet tones of Draco's voice were dripping with acid, and Harry realized it was the first time he'd ever seen Draco take exception to Snape-ish criticism.
By Snape's face, he was rather surprised himself. "You should do as I say, not as I have done. As I have explained to you repeatedly. And that's a low blow, Mr. Malfoy."
At the sound of his last name, Draco's eyes widened as if Snape had slapped him and he looked down at the bed clothes, shamefaced. "You're right. I apologize. And I know you're brassed off because I got myself killed, but for fuck's sake, Sev. I was a dead man anyway!"
Poppy stepped back from her task and glared furiously at both of them. "It's impossible for me to get an accurate reading on his blood pressure with the two of you going after each other like a couple of wild dogs! Now, if you can't behave yourself Professor, you're going to have to leave."
Snape threw himself into a chair, grumbling under his breath, but clearly vanquished by the show of strength from Poppy.
Draco's expression remained distinctly unhappy, though. At least until Harry cleared his throat and announced, "Um, tea's here." Then Draco's eyes lifted from their morose fixation on his hands to settle on Harry. His quiet, satisfied, not-quite-smirk made Harry wish for another ten minutes alone. Or better still, considerably longer.
Poppy turned and gave him a more innocent smile. "Thank you, Harry. Just in time."
They had tea, and made polite conversation, though it was clear that Draco and Snape were still feeling tender around one another. After tea, Poppy completed her examinations and said that Draco appeared to be fine. She wanted to keep him in the ward overnight for observation, but barring anything unusual during that time, she would probably release him in the morning. Snape looked relieved despite his obvious attempts at neutrality. Poppy left, shaking her head and muttering something about Slytherin pride.
Snape turned to Harry. "Mr. Potter, would you excuse us? I have more than a few things to talk over with Draco and I'm sure he'd prefer you were spared the tedium of our discussion."
Harry felt very reluctant to leave Draco alone with his godfather. He was convalescing and still obviously upset by the earlier row. He'd been dead, for God's sake, couldn't Snape ease up on the criticism for a few days? A bitter anger was churning in Harry's stomach, far out of proportion to the situation, and it only sputtered and grew as Draco nodded agreement.
"It'll be all right, Harry. Go and get some sleep. And come and see me in the morning, will you?"
Magic tingled in Harry's fingers, just begging to be focused through his wand and used, and he felt suddenly confused about why he was so angry. Draco blinked and cocked his head curiously at the sudden change in the energy in the room, but Harry didn't want to try to explain something he couldn't understand himself. He just ran a hand through his hair and shook the feeling off. The gathering magic dissipated, and just like that everything went back to normal.
"Good night, then," he said, and turned on his heel and left. And in spite of the unexplained spike of anger and his lingering annoyance at being kicked out of Draco's room, it took very little time at all before he was snoring softly in his borrowed Gryffindor Tower bedroom.
He slept through the night and didn't wake until well after eight the next morning. His first thought upon opening his eyes was to remember that Draco was okay and waiting for him. He bathed, shaved, and tried to coax his hair into something resembling a hairstyle, then performed a cleaning charm on his clothes, which had admittedly begun to reek. After all that grooming, he started to feel presentable. Not that this was a date, exactly. Or that Draco was his, what, boyfriend? The word gave Harry an irresistible urge to giggle like a first-year.
But if he was going to have a boyfriend, he supposed he would want it to be Draco. He could draw hearts on the covers of his textbooks with their initials in them, and pass him notes on the ripped corners of parchment asking, "Do you like me? Hermione said she heard from Pansy that you do. If it's true, meet me behind the broom shed after Quidditch practice. XXOOO." He laughed at the thought of Draco and him, full sized, crammed into the tiny first-year desks, furtively passing each other notes under Snape's disapproving gaze.
He felt giddy, like he would draw hearts with Draco's initials in them if it wasn't so completely ridiculous. And unmanly. He wondered if this was a side effect of becoming gay, or whatever it was that had happened to him. Was this schoolboy-manic happiness a symptom of his burgeoning homosexuality? Or simply a result of being in love? He felt like he should go out and do something aggressively masculine, but he didn't really have time. Draco was waiting for him, after all.
When he got to the hospital ward, he found Draco stretched out on the bed, fully clothed in the cream cable-knit jumper and black trousers he'd been wearing when Harry brought him in, hair immaculate, feet still bare. He was - big surprise - reading a book. At Harry's soft knock at the ward door, he looked up and smiled sweetly. Harry's heart started beating double time. There was nothing more breathtaking than Draco when he bestowed one of his rare, genuine smiles.
"I've been waiting for you, you great lazy sod. Come in." He marked his place in the book with a scrap of parchment and closed it, sitting up to make room for Harry on the little twin bed. Harry sat down a little closer than was strictly necessary, but Draco didn't move away.
"My discussion with Sev last night made some changes to my plans. I was thinking I'd have you to dinner at the Manor tonight, but he's made me promise to stay at Hogwarts for a week so he can keep an eye on me. So is it all right if we go out for dinner in London instead? I'd suggest a Muggle place so we won't be so conspicuous."
"That's fine with me." And it was, though Harry had been looking forward to a quiet dinner at the Manor, as they used to have sometimes. The fact that dinner at home put Draco's bedroom very near by hadn't escaped Harry's notice, either. Still, dinner with Draco anywhere was much better than dinner without him.
"He also insisted I ask you to play bodyguard for me one last time while I go pick up a few things from home. Would you be willing? I know you may have to get back to the Ministry, but it should only take an hour or so."
"I'm assigned to you until I hear differently. I'm yours to command." Harry smiled in what he hoped was a flirtatious manner, and Draco arched an eyebrow playfully. But then a shadow crossed his face, and the playfulness was gone. It wasn't like Draco to pass up an opportunity to flirt, and Harry felt a little knot of worry begin to gather in his stomach.
"Good, but you have to promise me something. If something happens to me again - not just today but at any time - you must never use Exanimus or Perfundere. No Dark magic of any kind. Promise me."
The knot of worry twisted around itself and began smouldering. "If you'll promise not to step in front of any more curses aimed at me."
"It's a fair trade. Why should you get to play the hero when I don't?"
"Because it's not the same thing! You're not all right. That spell damaged you, it's already showing."
Harry remembered that odd spike of anger from the night before and realized that his emotions were running rather high at the moment as well. He felt sick. "What do you mean?"
"I can tell from your face you know exactly what I mean. You were truly angry last night, over a trifle. Magic was swirling around you and you hadn't even touched your wand. You weren't consciously controlling it. In someone with your level of power, that's worrisome. Tell me you aren't worried about that."
He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "Now that you mention it, I'm not exactly thrilled."
"There are things you can do to mitigate the damage. Sev and I can teach you. It will be a little bit harder for you because you haven't been working with Dark magic all your life and you're obviously channelling a lot more power. But you can learn, if you stop doing yourself any more harm. Another spell on the level of Exanimus could throw you out of balance permanently. No matter who you're trying to save, it isn't worth it."
"You died in my place but you're not worth the same sacrifice?"
"It's not the same! Dying is easy, dying isn't the problem. The problem is you wouldn't die. Fuck, Harry. Think it through! You're risking more than yourself with this. If I snuff it, Sev gets annoyed and some charities and Pansy Parkinson get all my money. No harm done. But if you lose your grip on your sanity, it could be catastrophic, apocalyptic, even."
"I'd miss you," Harry answered quietly.
Draco sighed. "Oh, Harry." He scrubbed his face with his hands in frustration then looked back at him.
"What you're asking me to do goes against everything in my nature. To have the power to save someone and not use it, someone that I . . . care for. You might as well ask me to have blue eyes instead of green."
"But you'll promise if I promise?"
"If you'll promise to keep yourself safe, then I'll promise to try my hardest to be careful."
Draco scowled at him. "That's a weak pledge, Harry Potter."
"A weak pledge in return for the promise of a notoriously sneaky Slytherin. Sounds like a fair trade to me."
"Fuck," was Draco's only answer.
"Are we going, then?" Harry asked innocently.
"I should tell both of you to bugger right off, do you know that? You and Sev. The two most stubborn, irritating wankers in wizarding England, and I manage to saddle myself with both of them." As he was ranting on, he took several medium-sized pieces of parchment out of a drawer next to the bed and began folding them in intricate patterns. "I'm attempting to do the right thing here. I'm trying to have a broader perspective."
Harry laid a hand on his arm, stilling the manic folding. "We don't want to stand at your grave and watch them lower you into it. You can't blame us for loving you."
Draco blinked twice, then said mildly, "I've asked to be cremated."
So much for romantic declarations. Harry rolled his eyes. "That's brilliant. I'll keep that in mind. Are we going?"
He tossed two of the folded pieces of parchment onto the floor, where they formed something looking vaguely like a pair of canoes. He took his wand from the bedside table, muttered something and waved it carelessly. The parchment transfigured into a rather stylish-looking pair of hiking boots. Then he laid the remaining two pieces on the bed and transfigured them into a pair of socks, which he began putting on.
"We're going. The next time you bring me back from the dead - if you can find time before your psychotic rampage, of course - could you please remember to bring me a pair of shoes?"
They Apparated from Hogsmeade to the concealed entrance on the East side of the Manor. No one shot at them and no one hurled curses at them, for which Harry was grateful. They'd owled ahead to warn Hydrangea and she met them at the front door.
She had remained as commander of the operation while Harry was at Hogwarts, but the other four Aurors had been given a week's leave to cope with Janice's death and replaced with new staff. Hydrangea had been offered leave as well, of course, but she said she wanted to stay busy and neither Harry nor Moody had the heart to tell her no. She looked ragged, with her straw-coloured hair escaping in bits from her usually-neat braid and dark circles beneath her eyes the shade of bruises. Guilt that he hadn't tried to do more for Janice crawled along Harry's skin. He wondered if his regret was etched across his face as clearly as Hydrangea's grief marked hers. But she lifted her head proudly to make her report: the house was secure and there had been no unusual occurrences since Mr. Malfoy left four days ago. Harry thanked her and followed Draco inside.
The first stop was the parlour. Everything had been tidied, cleaned, the furniture all set back in the proper places. No sign lingered that traumatic events had once occurred there. Draco stood in the middle of the room, staring at the Chair of Deepest Evil, now stripped of its warning sign. He turned to give Harry a tight little bittersweet smile.
"So, what shall we call it now, hmm? The Good Chair seems to be overstating the case a bit. The Morally Neutral Chair? The Chair Not Suspected In the Slightest of Being Murderous? The Falsely Accused Chair Which Is Perfectly Benign? Perhaps I should make a sign that declares, Please Feel Free to Sit in This Chair." He collapsed gracefully into the chair in question with a sigh. "If it were only a matter of my being a moron, it would be funny. If it hadn't cost someone her life." He shook his head and sneered, "Some Seer."
"It wouldn't have helped," Harry answered. "Even if you had realized that the dream was about the smoke and not about the chair, we still wouldn't have had any way of connecting it to Catherine. It wouldn't have made any difference. Just because you sometimes see the future doesn't mean you can fix everything."
Draco fixed him with a steely eye. "You mean, just like how being the most powerful wizard in a hundred years doesn't mean you can always save everyone?"
"Yeah. Like that," Harry heaved a sigh of his own and sat down on the sofa.
Draco leaned his head on the chair back and stared up at the parlour ceiling. "Is it wrong that I'm glad to have my favourite chair back in spite of everything?" He put his booted feet up on the ottoman.
"Take your shoes off if you're going to put your feet on the furniture," Harry said, only because Draco had said the same to him more than once.
Draco responded with two rude fingers but didn't bother raising his head. "My furniture, Potter. Besides these things will be fading back to paper before very long. They weren't intended to do more than get me back to my wardrobe."
They sat in silence together and Harry felt the tension that had gathered in his shoulders slowly dissipating. It was easy to imagine that it was a week before and everything was normal. Janice was still alive, Draco had never died, and Harry hadn't decided he was falling in love with him. It was comfortable, relaxing, spending time doing nothing much, waiting for Draco to say something scathing and hilarious. But then he made the mistake of glancing over at Draco in his Morally Neutral Chair.
The long white plane of his neck was exposed with the tilt of his head, an alabaster contrast with the neck of his cream jumper. His eyes were closed, leaving his long, dark gold lashes to rest on the planes of his cheeks. His lips were just barely parted, and his clever fingers were hidden from view, clasped to provide a pillow for his head. His legs were spread just a hand's width apart, in a natural resting position, and Harry couldn't help thinking that there was just enough room for someone to nudge between them and crawl into his lap. Or to push the ottoman out of the way and kneel in front of him between his legs. He was just spread out there, like an advertisement for ravishment, and Harry had to admit that this particular chair had been the setting for more than one fantasy in the last week. He swallowed nervously.
Maybe it was just coincidence, or perhaps Draco sensed a shift in the temperature of the room, but he chose just then to lift his head and look at Harry. Their eyes locked, and Harry watched his gray eyes darken to a stormy hue as he inhaled sharply and then held utterly still. Sexual tension crackled through the air like magic building before a spell.
Harry was crossing the room before Draco could take another breath. He could have been under Imperius for all the control he had over himself. In a moment he was at the end of the ottoman, then crawling up the length of it to wedge his knees between Draco's thighs and the soft arms of the chair, kneeling over this beautiful, infuriating man whose full, pink lower lip seemed to demand that Harry taste it. So he obeyed, cupping the curves of Draco's jawline in his palms. The slow, hot kiss spread like molten gold through Harry's skin to pool heavily between his legs. It was sweet like something dangerous would be, like absinthe with extra sugar, like some delicious, highly addictive drug.
Draco's hands came up to curl into Harry's hair, and Harry could feel him moaning quietly against his mouth. He sank down a little lower, trying to get closer, get more of his body into contact with Draco's, but suddenly Draco's hands were on his shoulders, pushing him away.
"Harry. Harry, stop." He was panting slightly, and Harry sank down farther, far enough that he could tell that Draco had been just as affected by the experience as he was. Draco groaned and clenched his jaw. "Fuck, Harry, you have to stop."
"Why?" The silence was broken only by their breathing, and Harry asked again. "Why?"
Draco's eyes were wide and dark, and emotions seemed to be flashing through them at the speed of light. He licked his lips and answered, "Stay the week at Hogwarts. You have holiday time piled up, you could keep me company, keep me from studying too hard. Sev and I could start teaching you some of the things you need to know."
Harry sat back on his heels and looked at Draco hard. "All right. I'm not sure what it has to do with what we were just doing, but okay. I will. Now, do you want to explain what's going on?"
"I just. . ." He took a deep breath, released it. "We should go slow."
"You want to take it slow?" Harry didn't mean to sound quite so incredulous.
Draco scowled at him. "Is that so surprising? Do you think I jump into bed with every man I see?"
"Of course not. Just the attractive ones."
A lightening-fast shove left Harry blinking up at him from the carpet. "Just for that, Captain Tact, you'll be paying for dinner tonight. And we're going somewhere nice. Pack ample Muggle cash and some decent clothes. If I don't get distracted by fucking the house elves and whoever else happens to wander in, I'll meet you downstairs in an hour."
And with that he was gone, leaving Harry in a disordered, confused and very frustrated heap on the floor.
The journey back to Hogwarts was rather quiet, both in the sense that it was thankfully uneventful, and also in the sense that neither of them said very much. Draco's face had set into that unruffled stillness which indicated that he was quite upset about something, thinking very hard, or both. Harry felt miserable and definitely guilty. On reflection, it did seem bad form to imply that he thought Draco a bit on the slutty side. But honestly Harry didn't really think of it as slutty so much as seizing the opportunities open to someone with Draco's natural advantages. Sadly, he couldn't think of a way to tell Draco that without making things infinitely worse. He wondered if he'd been too pushy as well, but Draco had seemed no less eager than Harry himself the afternoon before.
Could the change in attitude have something to do with the Dark magic business? The thought was horrifying and left him feeling somewhat leprous. Was he really that damaged, that dangerous? At least Draco was still willing to go to dinner. That was something, though perhaps they might be better off packing it in if the entire conversation was going to consist of confused, uncomfortable silence.
There had to be something he could do or say to make things right. It wasn't as though he had no experience with making an ass of himself and having to tidy up after his wayward mouth. With Hermione, he had just widened his eyes as much as he could and done his best to look pathetic, and she would eventually purse her lips and shake her head at him. Then a few seconds later she would start laughing, and give him a hug. Then he would say he was sorry and she would forgive him. It had been easy.
He tried that first thing with Draco and it cut no ice at all. There was no exasperated head-shaking, no frustrated-but-fond chuckle. Only a disdainful, haughty expression and a clear non-verbal declaration that Harry was going to have to do a hell of a lot better than that.
Well, all right. It wasn't exactly a surprise. Draco had been high-maintenance as a childhood rival - he could only be worse as a boyfriend. If that's what he really was. A boyfriend.
As they walked through the corridors of the dungeons to get to Snape's quarters (where Draco was staying in his customary room), Harry turned to Draco and said, "We're having our first row."
"We've never done anything but row," he answered sadly. And with that he unlocked Snape's door, entered, and shut it in Harry's face.
Harry was in deep trouble, and there was obviously no option left but to bring in the big gun. Fortunately, the big gun's last class for the morning had just let out. If Harry begged, maybe Remus would have lunch with him and tell him how to fix it.
By the time the house elf arrived at one with a note to meet Draco at eight at a French restaurant in Muggle London, Harry had conferred with Remus and developed a plan. Or rather, Remus developed the plan; Harry nodded a lot and wrote things down. By five to eight on the dot all Harry's errands were completed and he was opening the door to the restaurant.
His first stop that afternoon had been to Armani Wizarding to get a whole new set of clothes from their Muggle line. Draco had ordered things for Harry there before, and neither Harry nor Remus felt comfortable trying to second guess his taste. Remus instructed Harry to throw himself on the mercy of the salesmen and be prepared to drop a small fortune. That last was no joke; more than a month's salary for just the jacket, and it was a good thing that Harry's Gringotts account could stand the strain. But the salesmen were more than attentive and even Harry could tell that they knew what they were doing. By the time they were finished with him, Harry had a dark grey suit, a light green shirt, a dark green tie, shoes, socks, belt, even a matching handkerchief, and was feeling rather posh. They were happy to put a rush on the alterations to have everything to him by that evening, which left Harry to complete his second objective. That was a bit harder, but he emerged victorious and was back at Armani in time to pick up his new things, Apparate back to his London flat to wash, wrestle with his hair, and make it to the restaurant with five minutes to spare.
He was escorted to the table where Draco was already waiting, wearing all-black except for a Slytherin-silver tie. Draco rose gracefully from his seat at Harry's appearance, and gave him an amused smile.
"Did you remember to bribe the boys at Armani to keep them from selling the story to the gossip pages?"
Harry could feel his eyebrows quirking up in complete bewilderment. "Buying a suit of clothes is newsworthy?"
Draco chuckled as they both took their seats. "I'll take that as a no. When you're Harry Potter and you've asked for rush alterations and therefore clearly have a hot date, it's newsworthy. Gossip worthy, at least. Oh, well. No harm done. My compliments, by the way. You look very nice." Draco looked pleased, and Harry felt a rush of accomplishment.
"I brought you something," he said, and reached into his pocket for the crowning jewel in his efforts to fill in the hole he'd dug for himself. It was a small, tattered book, with the title stamped on the cover in fading gold, Little Known Transfigurative Potions. He handed it to Draco, whose eyes widened almost imperceptibly.
"Where did you get this?"
"An antiquarian shop just off Diagon Alley. Do you have it already?"
"No, actually. It's fairly rare. There used to be a copy in the family library, but Lucius burned it after an unfortunate transfigurative experiment by yours truly."
"There's an inscription."
Draco opened the cover and read it. Dear Draco - All I ask is that you refrain from using this to turn me into a frog. My mouth is big enough already. Please forgive me. Affectionately and apologetically, Harry. 8 April, 2000.
It had taken Harry ages to come up with that, and he still wondered if he should have tried to be more poetic, or more romantic, or something. He held his breath.
Draco looked up and smiled, and Harry knew he was off the hook. He felt like shouting Yes! and doing a victory dance around the table, but he reckoned that wouldn't be particularly classy. He owed Remus an enormous favour.
"It's lovely," Draco said. "Thank you." His eyes were glowing with that blue-grey light they got when he was particularly happy, not something that one got to see very often, and Harry's stomach did a slow, pleasant shimmy. It would be worth any amount of inconvenience to see that light in Draco's eyes every day.
Draco ordered for both of them at Harry's request. He spoke to the waiter in a quick, gliding French, most of which went by too quickly for Harry to catch. He did hear several mentions of wine and he didn't doubt for a moment that the cost of the meal would be worthy of a Malfoy.
"So, did you and the Professor get yourselves sorted last night, then?" Harry asked after the waiter had gone.
"At length. I agreed to the week's visit on the condition that he limit his complaints about my reckless disregard for my own survival to half an hour each day. I was aiming for a half-hour daily for the listing of all my faults, but he drives a hard bargain. I was outclassed."
"So he can complain about anything except your getting yourself killed for as long as he likes?"
"For as long as he can make his insults entertaining enough to keep me in the room, at any rate." Draco's smile was fond, and Harry had to shake his head in wonder.
"You're both complete nutters."
The waiter brought a bottle of champagne, opened it, offered the testing glass to Draco for approval, which he gave. Two glasses were poured full and the waiter scurried away.
"He wants you to meet him tomorrow afternoon to start your new training regime." Harry's groan earned him the Malfoy Smirk. "He's just as thrilled to have you as a student again, believe me."
"Did he have any choice words about our . . . You know. Us?"
"Oh, yes," Draco sipped from his glass. "He said he didn't understand how two boys who had been famous for their discord, direct quote, imagined they could create a harmonious relationship." Draco's voice was smooth and dry, as if he were completely unaffected by the criticism, but Harry couldn't believe that the earlier comment about their fighting had been unrelated.
"What did you answer?"
"That one might find an interesting discord more stimulating than a tiresome harmony."
"That's very poetic."
Draco waved a hand as if to say it was nothing, but smiled back. "And what would you tell your Gryffindors?"
"Remus and Sirius know already."
"I'd imagine Black had a few choice words himself." From his casual tone and the elegant arched brow, you'd think they were discussing an academic dispute over the best use of newt toes, rather than familial objections to their relationship.
"Remus told him he couldn't scream at me in the kitchen, so I missed most of it."
"Ah. You're lucky to have such a reasonable werewolf for a step-godfather. What about Hermione and the rest?"
Harry shrugged. "I don't know. I'll think of something. I'm tired of living my life based on everyone else's blueprints, Draco. They're all just going to have to cope."
Draco raised his glass in salute, but there was a dubious crinkle around his eyes and Harry got the feeling that he wasn't entirely convinced. Nevertheless, he turned the conversation to other, less inflammatory topics, and charmed Harry nearly senseless through the rest of the meal. The food was outstanding, the wine perhaps slightly too plentiful but delicious, and Draco's black shirt made his eyes seem even more startling than usual, dark grey like deep water on a cloudy day. If Harry hadn't already been fairly certain he was falling in love, dinner that evening would have confirmed it. The small table between them seemed an inexcusable distance. Harry longed to get closer.
He took Draco's hand during the walk back from Hogsmeade, and Draco seemed happy to let him do so. They kissed for long minutes in front of Snape's doorway, like schoolboys willing to risk Filch's wrath just to get a bit more snogging in. But when Harry pulled back, breathing hard, and asked Draco back to his far more private room in Gryffindor Tower, Draco only smiled and said, "Not tonight." He gave Harry one last, almost-chaste kiss and slipped the book Harry had given him out of his pocket. "Tell Remus he does excellent work. But you should know - I'd forgiven you already." And he winked and let himself in to Snape's quarters, leaving Harry bemused and in need of a cold shower.
And that became the maddening pattern for the week. They would spend much of the day in each other's company and have breakfast and lunch together. Sometimes it felt like nothing had changed. They teased each other, and Draco bullied Harry into helping him prepare potions experiments and revise for his exams. They were two unlikely friends enjoying their time together. Then other times some heavy thought would catch Draco, and he'd go stony silent and cold for an hour or two before something equally obscure snapped him out of it. There were moments when Harry thought he'd go mad from the sexual tension, and moments when he felt completely at ease and content. But he could never tell exactly why things were shifting from one tick of the clock to the next.
In the afternoons Harry would meet with Snape in the empty Potions classroom and then he and Draco would have dinner alone at a restaurant somewhere in London, always somewhere Muggle so they wouldn't be recognized. When they got back to Hogwarts, Harry could never resist tasting the lingering hint of their dessert on Draco's lips. Their kisses were too full of passion and longing to be called innocent, but the touching between them never went any further than that. Before too very long, Draco would pull away, flushed and breathing hard but evidently determined to say goodnight. And Harry was left in the hallway, staring at the closed door of Snape's quarters, hard and completely at a loss. When he'd envisioned going out with Draco, he'd pictured rather a lot more sex.
It seemed clear that everything had changed the night after Draco woke. That afternoon, everything had seemed fine, and if Poppy hadn't interrupted them things might very well have progressed much more in the direction that Harry had been hoping. But between the time that Harry left that night and the next morning, something happened. Maybe Snape had warned Draco away, for some twisty Slytherin reason that Harry couldn't fathom. Or perhaps it was some sort of test of Harry's emotional control, related to his Dark Arts Recovery training. But the thought of confronting Snape about the issue left him quaking, so he feigned patience and hoped every afternoon that Snape would bring it up.
On the last day of the week, no explanation had been forthcoming and Harry knew it was up to him. His anxiety and curiosity didn't do much to help his focus during the meditation exercises, and several times he peeked open an eye to find Snape glaring at him. He closed his eyes again and tried not to fidget. They went through the other exercises until finally the lesson was over. They both stood to take their leave and Harry took hold of his vaunted Gryffindor courage. He blurted without preamble, "What's going on with Draco?"
He was rewarded with the Snape-specific version of the Malfoy Eyebrow, which was much less sexy and much more intimidating, in Harry's opinion. "I can't possibly answer such a vague query, Potter. Try again."
"Things between Draco and me have been a little . . . weird. Ever since the night after Draco woke up, when the two of you had your talk. I want to know if the, um, tension between us is something the two of you cooked up as part of my training. Maybe to test my control in, um, uh. Frustrating circumstances. Or something."
Snape looked highly amused. "You're not getting any and you're asking me if it's because of your training?"
"Yes. Basically. Yes." Harry felt his face flushing from a humiliating shade of crimson to a wide variety of even more embarrassing shades of red.
"The only frustration built into your exercises is your infuriating inability to sit still. Whatever's between you and Draco is exactly that, between the two of you."
And there it was, the sudden starburst of anger that he'd been battling against in these sessions all week. He took a deep breath, swallowed down the magic that was threatening to explode from him and kept going. "What did you tell him, then? I'd expect a comprehensive list of my faults, in order of importance, but you couldn't have said anything he didn't know already. Unless -" A dreadful thought suddenly struck. "Lucius. You told him about Lucius." Magic was dancing around him and he opened his hands, trying to disperse the power without losing his focus on the conversation.
"Don't be an idiot, Potter! He's known all along that you were the one who cast the Killing Curse on Lucius. He looked up the classified reports as soon as he was well enough to leave Hogwarts, months ago. And I resent the implication that I would use that situation to influence him. It's insulting on a number of levels."
"You'd do anything to protect him, you told me once."
Snape drew himself up to his full, impressive height, the very picture of haughty dignity. "I don't lie to Draco, and I don't manipulate him. Not even for his own good. He's had enough of that in his life. And so have I, for that matter."
The sadness in Snape's voice shook the anger out of Harry, leaving him wrung out and awash in sadness himself. "Then what did you say?" he asked plaintively. "What changed his mind?"
"Obviously I'm not going to betray Draco's confidence by conveying our private conversation to you. If you want to know what I said, you'll have to ask him yourself."
"I did, and he said that you didn't think we'd be able to get along, that we disagree on everything and we always have."
"That was a part of it, yes." He sighed and took a seat behind his desk. "Potter, I can't tell you what Draco and I discussed, but if you're asking me directly what my objections to your relationship are, I would be happy to enlighten you."
Harry really wasn't sure he was feeling up to hearing it, but he nodded anyway.
"I am concerned that the two of you don't share enough interests in common and you have a history of being volatile together -"
"When we were children! It's completely different now."
"If you want to hear this, then don't interrupt. It's entirely for your benefit and Draco will probably rake me over the coals for it, so kindly allow me to finish."
"I am worried that you're a dabbling straight boy who can't make up his mind where he wants to put his dick and that you'll break Draco's heart in the end. And most of all, I'm very concerned that you're on the verge of Dark Magic Psychosis and Draco will end up having to put you down like a rabid dog. Assuming that he can manage the task, which frankly with your power isn't at all a given. I am not particularly thrilled with the idea of fighting yet another war with a self-styled Dark Overlord, nor would I wish the experience of choosing between the life of one's lover and the fate of the world on anyone, much less someone I think of as my favoured son."
"Is that it?"
"Give me a moment." He appeared to be giving the matter some thought, and then finally said, "I think that's all, yes."
"Do I get a rebuttal?"
"If you wish."
"First of all, Draco and I get along fine. Most of our arguments are recreational, and anyway he wouldn't want someone who didn't argue with him. He'd be bored to tears and you of all people should know it. Secondly, my overall sexual preference is none of your business but my attraction to Draco is more than just physical. I'm not using him to experiment and he's just as likely to break my heart as I am to break his. As for Dark Magic Psychosis, well that's what the private tutoring is for, isn't it? I admit that I'm experiencing some control problems, and that it's a bit scary. But I'm determined to get over it, and becoming another Voldemort is high on my list of things to avoid. I can only give you my guarantee that I am working as hard as I can, and that Draco's willing to help me." He scrubbed a hand through his hair. "That's it, I suppose."
Snape made no response.
"Well, what?" he sniffed condescendingly. "Potter, it doesn't matter what I think about it. If Draco decides he wants you, my opinion is entirely beside the point. You'd be much better off having this conversation with him."
Harry ground his teeth together, but he pushed the anger, and the magic that surged up alongside it, down. "Fine," he growled. "Thanks for your time." He stomped toward the door of the classroom, but Snape's voice stopped him at the threshold.
"Your control's much better. You've made good progress this week. I thought you might hex me across the room at several points during this conversation, but you didn't. Keep working on it and you might even learn to sit still for ten minutes at a time."
Harry turned to try to see how sincere Snape was being, but he looked just the same as he always did: smug, superior, tightly controlled, hidden. Harry realized that despite being Lucius' son, Draco bore a striking resemblance to Snape in all the ways that counted. And he felt a sudden surge of compassion for this man who had sacrificed so much.
"For what it's worth, I am sorry about Lucius. I didn't realize at the time what it meant, what you were to each other. It must have been horrible. I don't blame you if you hate me for being the one who cast the spell."
A tiny, sorrowful smile played around the edges of Snape's mouth. "It was a kindness, Potter. To me, that I didn't have to be the one to do it, and to him, that he was finally free. He'd have preferred that to a trial and the Dementor's Kiss anyway."
Harry didn't know what to say to that, so he just nodded once and made his exit.
Draco was set to go back to the Manor the next morning. In the absence of any further problems, all the Aurors had been recalled, and Draco would finally be getting back to something like his normal life. Harry escorted him to the Manor out both of a sense of paranoia and a reluctance to let it all end. He'd be going back to his flat in London, and despite the mixed messages and the confusion of the last week, he was going to miss Draco terribly.
When they got inside the front door, Draco headed immediately up toward his bedroom to put his things away. "Why don't you come up and keep me company while I unpack?" Harry was willing to drag things out as long as possible, so he followed.
He'd never actually been inside Draco's bedroom. Contrary to his daydreams, it was light and airy, with large French doors opening out onto a narrow balcony and a huge canopied bed with cream linen curtains tied back by lengths of gauzy silk. It was beautiful. Romantic, and not at all as sinister as Harry had once assumed. Much like the man himself.
He leaned against one of the bedposts and watched as Draco expanded his luggage and set it on the bed to open. The morning light was filtering through broken Spring clouds, and there was something about it that gave Draco a soft-focus glow. He'd never looked so ordinary, so normal going about his petty chores, and yet so incredibly alluring. Harry felt like Tantalus; what he longed for was consistently snatched from his grasp, and it was suddenly more than he could take.
"Why won't you make love to me?"
Draco turned sharply to look at him. "What?"
It was horribly unfair, that Draco should have the light striking his hair like that while Harry was trying to have this conversation. He tore his eyes away, scuffed a toe against the thick carpet. "I can understand that you might not be attracted to me. God, you could have anyone you wanted. Men were queuing up at that club just to have a word with you. But when we kiss it seems like you want to, that you might want me. I’m confused and I was hoping you could explain it to me."
He was glad at least to be getting some kind of reaction instead of just the impassive Malfoy Mask, even if it was shock and a kind of mild horror. Draco closed the few steps between them and curled a gentle hand around Harry's neck.
"Never doubt that I want you," he said in a voice full of rich feeling, and yes, sex. He reached up and kissed him, and at first Harry responded to how good it felt. But then his frustration with Draco's games overwhelmed him and he pulled away.
"Then why don't you touch me? Why won't you let me touch you? Please." His voice cracked embarrassingly. "Tell me. Is it because of the Dark magic? If you're afraid to be with me, I deserve to know."
"Harry, no." He stroked a gentle hand down Harry's cheekbone, making him shiver. "It isn't that. I have faith in you. As long as you take the problem seriously and keep working on it, you'll be fine."
"Then what is it?"
Draco sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. "It was so much easier when I knew I was going to die. Can you believe that? All those years I spent daydreaming in spite of myself about what it might be like to have my whole life ahead of me, but I never imagined it would be difficult."
"I don't understand."
"Because everything's real now! I mean, what I did during the War mattered because I was trying to save the world. But I had the dreams to guide me, and my instincts, and I was fairly certain of what I was doing most of the time. I wasn't really afraid because I knew I was going to die no matter what happened. I wasn't looking forward to the pain, of course, and I hated the idea of what might happen if I botched things, but in the end I was going to be too dead to care who was ruling the wizarding world. Even though what I was doing was important, there were no consequences for me personally."
"Okay, I get that, but what does it have to do with us?"
"Harry, I've never done this before. I've never had a personal life. Having sex was like, I don't know, getting my broom serviced; it was maintenance to keep my body from distracting me. I enjoyed it but the key thing was to take care of it and get back to work. Starting a relationship with someone was out of the question. The closest thing I'd had to a proper date before this week was someone offering me a mint after a blow job in the men's."
Harry sat down on the bed, careful not to crowd him too much. "You're scared." It seemed amazing that Draco could face Voldemort and certain death every day at sixteen years of age, and yet still be afraid of something as simple as this.
Draco's only answer was to lift his hand so that Harry could see it trembling violently. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I want you so badly I can barely contain myself. But I don't think I can do this."
"You're in love with me." Harry could feel his eyes growing wide and slightly glassy at the realization.
"I'm. I." Draco just stared at the ornate carpet, tongue-tied for only the second time in Harry's recollection.
He started chuckling. "Draco lu-uves Harry, Draco lu-uves Harry," he sang.
Draco started laughing, too, and gave him a playful shove. "Leave off, you wanker."
"I am a wanker, but only because you've been holding out on me. Cock tease." Draco stuck his tongue out and Harry thought the dignified aristocrat with his tongue hanging out might be the cutest thing he'd ever seen. "I love you too, you know. I've told you that already."
That turned Draco serious again. "But I'm no good for you, Harry. You're being wilfully naïve if you think the world is going to just let you go along your merry way, shagging the tabloids' most sinister celebrity. Not to mention the fact that I'm a selfish bastard and a holy terror to live with."
"And a drama queen."
Harry inched closer and the temperature in the room seemed to increase dramatically. "The tabloids can go fuck themselves."
"It's easy to say that now when they aren't camped out on the front lawn." Draco squirmed a bit at Harry's increased proximity, but didn't move away.
"I'm not afraid of them." He moved closer again, letting his thigh brush against Draco's. Draco closed his eyes and gave a nervous laugh.
"You're a stupid fucking Gryffindor. You don't have sense enough to be afraid. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be."
"I'm afraid of losing you. I'm afraid of not getting to touch you any more." He reached up and tucked a strand of hair behind Draco's ear. "I'm afraid of you dying - again - or me dying before I'd had the full Draco Malfoy experience."
"Now including soul-destroying torture and death, absolutely free." His voice was shaking and breathy. Harry thought it might be the sexiest thing he'd ever heard.
"We've already had the soul-destroying torture and death parts. We deserve the good parts, too. Please, Draco. I'm not above begging."
"I'm sure you're very fetching when you beg, but it's not going to help. I can't -"
"Please," Harry whispered as he leaned in to kiss him. "Please, please, please."
If Draco was reluctant, evidently he'd neglected to inform his lips about it. He kissed back with no hesitation and Harry was nearly overcome with lust. Goosebumps ran over his skin, and the kiss deepened. He reached up to unbutton Draco's shirt, and Draco pushed all the suitcases off the other side of the bed onto the floor with a loud clatter, all without breaking contact. But the buttons were small and Harry couldn't manage them without looking down. He broke off just long enough to unfasten them all in a fearful rush, resuming his whispered pleas.
As he guided the shirt down the slopes of Draco's arms, he leaned in to mutter into his ear. "Please. I need you."
Draco shivered and groaned. "Okay, begging might help a little bit." He pawed at the bottom of Harry's jumper and managed to pull it over his head with the minimum interference to their kissing.
"So beautiful," Harry murmured between kisses as he ran his hands over even, almost-translucent skin. "Wanted this so much." His hands wandered down to open Draco's trousers, and when he reached inside, Draco arched and hissed his name. "You'll have to show me what to do. I want to learn how to make you forget everyone else." Draco was slightly thicker than Harry was and the velvety skin was so, so soft. It felt at once alien and familiar, and Harry loved the way he could make self-possessed Draco pant and writhe by moving his hand along him. "Teach me how to make you scream," he whispered into Draco's ear, and Draco twitched delightfully.
"Harry," he gasped. "I can't - fuck, you have to stop talking. I’m not going to last."
"What if I don't want you to last? What if I want to make you come right now, and then start all over and make you come again?" He moved his hand faster, and Draco arched his back and convulsed beautifully, moaning Harry's name.
He collapsed back on the bed, laughing quietly and still breathing hard. "You should be illegal. Look, you've made a mess of me and I haven't even got my trousers off yet. Embarrassing." He reached over to the bedside table without looking and pulled out a flannel to clean himself up, and Harry stretched out along side him, laying little kisses on his shoulder and neck.
"I think it looks good on you. You look ravaged." Even to his own ears Harry sounded smug.
"I have been ravaged. By a ridiculous Gryffindor hero who by all rights should be saving me instead." He set the flannel on the table and turned his attention to Harry with a smouldering kiss. "But evidently my dick has decided the issue for me and I’m doomed. Predictably."
They kissed more, as his hands got busy unbuttoning Harry's trousers. When he'd got them open, he slid his hand down Harry's stomach so very slowly, leaving trails of tingles in the wake of his long fingers. Harry twisted into the touch as Draco's hand wrapped around him and began stroking gently. Someone in the back of his brain had been screaming You're having sex with Draco Malfoy! for a few minutes now. But he couldn't tell if that was panic or jubilant relief he was hearing. And really, it felt so good. Draco felt so bloody good. Those fingers were every bit as clever as he'd thought they must be. His heart was racing, he was nearly painfully hard, and he felt so pathetically grateful that Draco had finally decided to put him out of his misery. Every cell in his body was singing Yes! and More, more, more!
But just as the chorus was beginning to gain volume, Draco pulled his hand away. "What are you doing?" Harry heard himself whinging.
Draco leaned down to unlace Harry's boots. "Getting these clothes off you. Don't mind, do you?"
"Just hurry." The self-satisfied smirk he got in return would have provoked a fistfight back in third year. Harry kicked at him gently. "You weren't so full of yourself a few minutes ago."
Both boots and socks were off in short order, and Draco pulled Harry's trousers and pants off in one smooth motion. He tossed them carelessly onto the floor, and stood up. He set one hiking boot on the bed and started unlacing it, but his eyes were fixed on Harry, now completely naked and spread out on the bedcover like a buffet. Draco got both his boots, his socks, his trousers and underpants off without once taking his eyes off Harry, and his gaze was hot enough to burn.
He stood there, whippet-lean, polished-marble perfect, hair just dishevelled enough to be frighteningly sexy, already hard, just looking Harry over, eyes as sharp as his eagle-owl's.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked again, more demanding than petulant this time.
"Trying to decide what I should teach you first." His voice was warm and thick as melted chocolate, and Harry twitched. Draco smiled. "Mmm. Nice. Let's start there."
He crawled across the bed like a stalking predator, and Harry shivered all over. "Oh, we haven't even started yet," Draco murmured. "Move over a bit, into the centre of the bed."
Harry did as he was asked, and got a kiss for a reward. Then, even better, Draco began kissing and licking his way down Harry's body, heading in a very favourable direction. "I do know how to get a blow job," he said cheekily, "but don't let that stop you."
"You know, I rather doubt that. Not a proper one. But this is teaching by example. There will be a quiz later." He took Harry into his mouth, and Harry's brain stopped working entirely. The world contracted down to sensation alone. Draco played his body expertly, driving him to the brink of release and then coaxing him down just enough to keep him vibrating at the edge until he was begging in all sincerity.
When Draco took his mouth away, Harry was gasping and pleading for him not to stop. "Shhh." Draco laid a gentle finger against his lips. "It's time for your next lesson. I promise you'll like it." He pulled a small vial out of the bedside table drawer, poured a little of the liquid into his hand and set the vial next to the flannel. Then he went down on Harry again, until Harry thought he would definitely die if he wasn't allowed to come. But then, instead of the gentling down for another tease that he was expecting, he felt a slick finger push into him, and pleasure exploded through him. Every square inch of his skin seemed to be shouting halleluiahs to Draco, and he came until he thought he might black out.
When the tremors had subsided to a intermittent tremble, Draco withdrew with a gentle kiss that still made Harry jump a little. He wiped his hands on the flannel, and stretched out on the bed. Harry rolled over and kissed him passionately.
"Jesus Christ, you're good at that."
"You're easy," Draco smirked.
"Is it my turn now?"
He shrugged with his customary grace. "Whatever you'd like." But his eyes were hungry.
"I'd like it best if you, you know, were inside me. Come inside me. Teach me that, too."
He looked surprised but the hungry spark in his eyes was now a blaze. "Are you sure, Harry? It isn't necessary."
"I'm sure." And he was. He wanted the experience to feel finished. Like he'd had sex with Draco in every way that mattered. Like he'd claimed him and been claimed and known what it was like to be as close to him as anyone could be. So that no matter what happened he could look back and know that he hadn't run away from the intensity. So that for these hours at least, he could say Draco had been his. "Please."
Draco smiled. "You're getting a lot of mileage out of that word." And he kissed him and began running his hands along his skin. "Lay back," he murmured, and Harry did. He spent long minutes just touching him everywhere except where Harry expected him to. Post-orgasmic glow seeped through him, and Harry felt himself sinking into the soft cover of the bed, floating on the enjoyment of deft fingers. After a while, the intensity of the touching picked up, and Draco began concentrating on Harry's nipples, and running soft fingertips over his slowly re-emerging erection. When Harry was hard again, Draco went back to the vial on the table and began preparing him.
Without the impending orgasm, Harry could pay more attention to the feeling of being stretched and played with. It felt odd, but right. Good, increasingly good, and eventually he found himself flexing down on Draco's fingers, greedily trying to collect more sensation. Then Draco sat back and began spreading the lubricant on himself. Harry watched and felt deliciously naughty. He loved the way Draco's long fingers moved quickly across himself, the little tilt of his chin and the almost-inaudible sigh of pleasure.
Draco leaned down and kissed him. "I'm going to go slow at first. It's going to burn a bit, but if it really hurts you need to tell me, okay?" Harry nodded. "You're positive you want to do this?"
Harry smacked him on the arm. "Yes, God, do you need an engraved invitation? Just fuck me already!"
Draco laughed and carefully pushed in, his laughter quickly turning to a strangled moan. It did burn, but it wasn't really painful exactly, just intense. After a few careful, slow strokes, Draco began to pick up speed and the burn was replaced with jolts of stunning pleasure.
Harry didn't know how he'd ever lived without this man. He was sure he'd never be able to again. Draco's beautiful voice sounded in his ear, slick gliding syllables of French and repetitions of nonsense words, and the word yes over and over again. And Harry could hear his own voice rising quietly to harmonize with affirmations of his own, until Draco was shaking and calling his name and thrusting into him so hard and Harry had to reach down and make himself come again before he lost his mind.
He lay there panting and waiting for his heart to slow and he realized that this was probably what an addict felt like after that first hit of heroin. He felt so good he'd never, ever be able to give it up. He was hooked.
Draco gave him a sexy, lazy smile and rolled off of him.
"Do you still think you're doomed?" Harry asked muzzily.
"More doomed than ever before, in a long history of doom." But he didn't sound very upset about it.
"That's too bad. What do you think we ought to do?"
"Want to go to Italy?"