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The Miseducation of Draco Malfoy

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And by making people feel small/ Makes you think you're unable to fall

Superstar - Lauryn Hill

 


 

There were many instances when Harry Potter, the unfortunate leader that a dubious prophecy thrust upon us, jeopardised vital D.A. work and neglected his duties on account of the whims of his unhealthy passion for Draco Malfoy, a passion that tore the school apart. A passion that eventually led him to excuse and defend the criminal and treacherous behaviour of his alleged lover even in a court of law, to the point that the latter escaped just imprisonment for his numerous and despicable crimes that resulted in the death of dozens of people. Could a love potion be behind such inexcusable behaviour from our so-called “Saviour”, or are we finally prepared to face the truth that we have raised a man of questionable ethics to a hero’s pedestal?

Zacharias Smith, One Man (in Dumbledore’s) Army: the Unsung Heroes of the War

 

When Zacharias Smith wrote a tell-all about the DA, it wasn’t Harry Potter who punched him on the nose first like a common Muggle — although he deeply desired to — or even Ron Weasley — who had the tendency to lash out after the death of his brother — but surprisingly it was Draco Malfoy and it happened right in the middle of Diagon Alley, which meant that Harry, fresh out of Auror training, was called in to deal with it.

The first thing Harry saw was a fuming Smith, his nose still a bloody mess, and Draco Malfoy, under an Incarcerous curse cast by an overzealous shop-owner, the ties slightly tighter than would have been advisable, but then again, these days people took their revenge on the Malfoys any little way they could. The first thing Harry said, ignoring an irate Smith, was to Malfoy:  “Thanks for doing that. Still need to bring you in.”

Smith was less than pleased to hear these words, but Harry, unconcerned, undid Malfoy's binds and turned to Smith, a quill rising from his pocket along with a notepad that flipped to a fresh page. “I need a statement from you and I need it in under a hundred words. Go.”

“Unlikely,” Malfoy scoffed beside him, rubbing his wrists, incorrigible even when facing arrest. “Didn’t you read his tripe? It was verbal diarrhea, ten words where one would suffice.”

Harry couldn’t help the snort that escaped his lips, nor could a few of the people watching them from the crowd. Smith noticed and went beetroot red.

“You filthy little Death Eater,” he hissed at Malfoy, raising a wand, and people pressed closer, eager for excitement and blood or, at least, a little Malfoy punishment. Smith’s smirk was a masterpiece of conceit as he advanced on Malfoy; he’d become a media darling, a best-selling author, and was secure in his celebrity status, in his superiority over the disgraced Slytherin. Harry stepped neatly between him and Malfoy, raising his own wand, a wand that most people thought had killed Voldemort, and gasps were indeed heard from the people watching them. Someone even photographed it.

They were wrong of course. The wand that killed Voldemort was in Harry’s bedside drawer. He’d been unwilling to return it to his rightful owner for reasons he couldn’t precisely comprehend.

“Listen, Smith,” Harry said, “I won’t pretend I like you one bit and in fact I’m not far from suing your arse for libel myself. But I’m here to do my job and my job says that I have to ask you if you’ll press charges to Malfoy or if we can end this now quietly.”

“Of course I’ll press charges!” Smith snarled, throwing a little spit on Harry’s face. “He punched me without provocation—”

“Your lies are provocation enough,” Malfoy hissed and Harry laid a hand on his arm to shut him up before he made everything worse, as he was wont to do, being Draco Malfoy.

“Lies?” Smith yelled. “What was the lie? That you’re a Death Eater?” He took obvious enjoyment in seeing Malfoy flinch. Hostile whispers rose around them at the mention of Malfoy’s past, as if it was something anyone would soon forget. “Or was it that Harry was clueless and frankly incompetent and won the duel by a — a technicality?”

Harry’s rising temper drowned out the noise of the street, and he grasped at a last shred of restraint and common sense, but Smith wasn’t done yet.

“Or,” and here his eyes fell on Harry’s arm on Malfoy, “was it a lie that Potter was eye-fucking you the entire time at school while people died for him?”

Harry reacted instinctively. He might not have been the first person to punch Zacharias Smith on the nose, but he was the second. And third. And fourth.

 


 

 

The Aurors who came to break the fight and arrest Draco and Potter threw them in a holding cell inside the Ministry, giving dark looks to Draco and understanding looks to Potter, which could be the title of Draco’s book: Everyone Sympathises With Potter And No One Gets Me: An Autobiography. They confiscated their wands.

Potter might justifiably hate him, but unfortunately Draco could not hate back, not with the passion their past history deserved, not when there was a Life Debt between them, a Debt which his mother insisted had to be Honoured and possibly Exploited. His mother spoke often in capitals after the war. “Put the School Feud behind you and focus on Mending Fences,” she advised. “He Testified in your trial — and mine — surely that means he’s willing to put the Past behind him.”

It only meant that Potter was a self-righteous bastard intent on Doing Good, Draco thought, but he didn’t reply to his mother and just stared in the middle distance, not really taking in the white and gold drawing room of their London house, a house drowning in silence, a house that got no visitors except for some insistent journalists that rang the bell asking for an “exclusive of his side of the War” as if Draco was an idiot and didn’t know it was a recipe for disaster, selling your soul to the media. His mother sighed, possibly remembering glorious days of dinner parties that this house held just a few years ago. “We need all the help we can get These Days.”

But Draco had no inclination to mend fences. He’d do anything to help his family, except approach Potter. Even though he knew he’d been wrong, or perhaps because he’d been horribly wrong in so many things, Draco could never willingly face Potter again, could never stand in front of someone he’d treated so badly and who ended up saving his life and say what? Be my friend? Draco knew how that story went, he’d known since he was eleven.

Life had other plans, though, and yesterday Blaise called unexpectedly on Draco. Draco should have known better than to expect a visit from an old friend to bring joy These Days. They had tea in the living room and Blaise produced a cigarette from a smart metal case. He offered one to Draco, who shook his head, because he wasn’t to be trusted with anything remotely addictive, obsession was his middle name. After lighting the cigarette, Blaise lay back on the sofa and brought up the book that a “snotty Hufflepuff” wrote. An ashtray floated towards him and he flicked his ash in it.

“Surely you read it?” Blaise asked.

“Why would I read something written by a Hufflepuff?” Draco scoffed. Blaise looked good, he thought, healthy, sane. Unburdened with remorse. He could probably still walk out and about without being shoved by strangers. Draco hadn’t ventured outside in a while (sixteen weeks and three days) and he had no desire to.

“It mentions you,” Blaise said. He put out the cigarette, standing up at the same time, elegant and cool, and accepted his coat from an elf who appeared as quietly as she disappeared. He straightened his tie before he continued. “It mentions you and Potter. If I were you, I’d read it.”

Draco did indeed read the book that very night after an express owl delivery and all through the following morning. In the afternoon he left his house after sixteen weeks and four days, tracked down Smith using a combination of mildly illegal Legilimency and the Prophet’s celebrity gossip page, and confronted him outside Aguamen-TEA, “Best Cauldron Cakes in London” according to the Daily Prophet, at 5:45 in the evening of 29th January 1999, where he proceeded to smash Smith’s nose and get himself arrested in the process.

A decision, which was a Bad one — though not join-the-Death-Eaters-bad — since it led to his nemesis coming to his rescue once again, until Potter made an utter mess of things, as he was wont to do, being Harry Potter.

“Why didn’t you hex him? Why throw a punch?” Potter asked him suddenly.  They’d been sitting in the cold cell for half an hour now and not one of them had felt the need to speak, which Draco thought was an excellent tactic. He glanced sideways at Potter.

“Why did you punch him?”

“Thought it’d feel more satisfying than a hex,” he replied.

“And did it?”

Potter glanced back with a grin that Draco had never seen directed towards him. “You tell me.”

Draco closed his eyes and thought of his one single punch that broke Smith’s nose, the satisfying crack he heard. “It felt splendid.” Such a Muggle thing to do, as well, his mother would be furious. He wasn’t sure what he hated more about the book: the fact he was mentioned only very little, as if he was a nobody, not the one who held Dumbledore at wandpoint and brought a bunch of Death Eaters in the school, a feat that everyone thought impossible; or the fact that he was mentioned as being in love with Potter through Years Five and Six, a fact that was decidedly not true, no matter what Pansy might say, or Greg, or even Blaise, or his mother — really, everyone was completely one hundred percent wrong.

“Can you sue him for libel?” he asked Potter, keeping his eyes shut. He didn’t have any wish to speak to Potter about this particular issue, this being-in-love-with-each-other nonsense, but he figured it must be done at some point, at least to know if Smith was getting his comeuppances somehow.

“Not sure. Spoke to three different solicitors and they said he doesn’t mention anything specific that can be verified as fact – just a whole bunch of ‘Potter stared at Malfoy’ or ‘Potter was obsessed with Malfoy and followed him around’—”

“Which isn’t even a lie,” Draco muttered, eyes still closed.

“Or ‘Malfoy did everything he could to get Potter into trouble’ which isn’t a lie either.”

I was an idiot, Draco wanted to say but he said nothing, because it possibly went without saying, nothing new there.

“What about the incompetence thing? Surely that must sting.” Draco wondered, not for the first time, how much of a moron Smith was. Draco had lived with the Dark Lord and had served under him and knew intimately his prowess and his ruthlessness and the cold, terrifying brilliance of his magic. Draco had no delusions whatsoever about Potter’s competence, even though he wouldn’t readily admit it out loud.

“The solicitors say it’s his opinion and he’s entitled to it. Hermione went through the book with a fine-toothed comb — he’s been very clever in not stating anything as fact besides things like when the D.A. met, or what we did in the lessons and such.”

“You could possibly sue him for suggesting you’re attracted to men,” Draco offered, and there was silence for a long moment until Potter spoke again, his voice low.

“Well, that’s — that’s not a lie either.”

Draco kept his eyes closed and himself still, very still indeed. He possibly forgot how to breathe. He wondered whether Smith was a Legilimens besides a moron. Draco would never have guessed that about Potter.

“So he basically outed you,” he said in a flat voice.

He felt Potter shift beside him and Draco finally opened his eyes and looked at his face, a face he knew so well that he could probably draw in his sleep; green eyes that gazed at him with curiosity but no hatred, at least no hatred on the surface, who knew what bubbled underneath.

“Don’t you read the Prophet?” Potter asked.

“Why would I read a paper that calls me a million ugly names almost every other day?”

Potter pushed a hand through his hair, making it even more untidy, something that Draco hadn’t thought was feasible. “Got drunk in the Ministry Yule Party and snogged someone. I mean, I’d snogged them before but that night it was in public. Next day it’s front page news. Four pages of articles on queerness and the Saviour, complete with photographic evidence. You missed out on some entertaining headlines.” Potter’s voice hardened. “All the while, we have a Ministry to reorganize, the Wandless to take care of, Hogwarts to rebuilt… but no, me snogging Justin was the big news everyone cared about!”

Harry’s anger flushed his face in a way that made Draco rail at the injustice of life, at how unfair it was that certain people’s blood could colour their face in such a distracting way, and so he stared at the wall instead until something Potter had said reached his tired brain.

“Justin who?”

“Um, Finch-Fletchley? He was in school with us.”

For some reason Draco found this information extremely offensive. “Are you telling me, Potter, that you could have had anyone and you chose him?”

Potter’s face tightened, showing a hint of the boy he knew at school, the familiar hostility on his face an old friend that Draco almost welcomed. “You’re saying this because he’s Muggleborn.”

“No, I'm saying it because he’s an idiot! Back in school, he was the first to believe the Heir of Slytherin rumours and he’d hide every time he saw you, like a total berk. Also, he’s a Hufflepuff.”

“What’s wrong with Hufflepuff?” Potter’s voice was still icy cold.

Draco turned to stare at him. “Smith is one of them. I’m surprised you didn’t snog him.”

The animosity brewing between them was familiar, comfortable even, and Draco was prepared to settle in it, like a couch that knows the shape of your body, but footsteps echoed down the corridor and stopped in front of their cell, ending the trip down memory lane.

“Well, well, well. Isn’t this a surprise. The young Malfoy scum in prison. Never thought I’d see the day.”

Draco tilted his chin up and stared coldly at the Auror, a man built like a door with tufts of steel hair around a bald plate, pointing his rather short wand towards Draco.

Potter walked up to the door. “Is Allsop about to release us or what? There were mitigating circumstances, she must understand.”

“This is what I’m here to tell you, m’boy. She’ll see you now. Both of you.”

The Head of Aurors was a woman with fierce eyes and a startling amount of dreads, tied high up her head. The new Minister for Magic — Draco wasn’t completely uninformed — stood beside her.

“Kingsley, surprised to see you here,” Potter said and shook hands with him. He was naturally on first name terms with the Minister for Magic, another reminder of how life was unfair, but Draco couldn’t dwell on that now.

Shacklebolt looked stern as he gestured to two leather seats. “I’m here especially for you, Harry. I’m concerned about what happened.”

Potter must have finally realized that he might be in some trouble, because he promptly set out apologising to his boss and to the Minister for “letting my temper get the best of me”.

“Potter,” Allsop said, breaking the apology, “I won’t lie to you. Anyone else attacking a civilian would mean not only suspension, but also an Internal Affairs investigation and possible dismissal, but in your case,” here Draco rolled eyes because he had to, he’d spent six years in the vicinity of Potter and knew intimately what that meant, “I might make an exception.” Yep, there it was. “The Battle of Hogwarts was less than a year ago and instead of taking a break, you worked non-stop helping the Department. I don’t even blame you for losing your temper, especially after — well, let’s just say, we don’t all believe the rubbish some people publish.”

She threw a glance at Draco that he could read perfectly well, as if it was a flashing sign above her head: “bad enough that the Saviour is attracted to blokes and won’t produce Saviour babies to repopulate wizarding Britain with his heroic sperm, but there’s no way the Chosen One would ever be attracted to anyone less than a goddamn angel and you’re nothing but scum”, and Draco wanted to laugh, because Justin? Excellent choice there. Of course Potter would never be attracted to Draco, that was a given, but Draco suffered their hostile looks in silence, while Potter tried to do the Honourable Thing and suggest Malfoy be treated as leniently as him.

“We’ve actually discussed this already and have taken our decision,” Shacklebolt said and Draco sighed deeply. It’d probably be life in Azkaban for him and a pat on the wrist for Potter, which was on par with how his life went so far, but the Minister surprised them.

“You’re both assigned to 240 hours of community service. Three months. Together. In Muggle London.”

No amount of protest helped things and before he knew it, Draco was given an appointment time for the next day and, worst of all, a Muggle address — it hadn’t been a joke, Draco had wished until the very last moment that they were having him on — and he was dismissed with the promise that if he didn’t show up, he’d be sent to Azkaban to share a cell with his father.

Chapter Text

every ghetto, every city and suburban place i’ve been

Every Ghetto, Every City - Lauryn Hill

 

The Apparition point for Clapham was in an alley next to three bins overflowing with rotting food and empty beer bottles. A stray cat froze and stared at Draco before it decided he wasn’t a threat and continued tearing holes in a plastic bag, spilling pungent food on the street. Draco stepped delicately away from a stain that smelled like vomit and turned his head to the loud crack behind him.

He and Potter stared at each other for a moment, before Potter nodded at his wand twitching in his hand. “This way.”

Draco had no intention of talking to him but he couldn’t help being curious. Potter slipped the wand inside his jacket when they reached the street and consulted it at every junction.

“What is your wand doing?”

“It’s a spell we learn in the Academy. You feed it an address and it tells you how to get there from the area’s Local Apparition Point.” He looked at Draco. “Useful for catching Dark wizards on the lam.”

Draco ignored the jab — he was used to much worse, please — and looked around him, an unwilling explorer in the Muggle world, trying to get used to this new exotic environment. People hurried down the road, some in suits and carrying briefcases, some wearing the same shabby clothing that Potter favoured, baggy jeans and jackets with three white stripes down the sleeves. To his surprise and relief, no one paid the two of them any attention. It was new.

Cars were everywhere and they were noisy. Draco knew all about them, not that he took any pride in the fact. It was Greg who’d become completely infatuated with cars when they were in Year Five, before the war and the Carrows had taken everything decent he still had inside him and twisted it to darkness and bile. Greg had made Draco swear not to say anything about the secret car-spotting club he belonged to, which took excursions to Muggle areas to record different types of cars. Now Greg rarely left home, not since some kids he tortured in his last year of school tracked him down and beat him up so much that he was sent twice to St. Mungo's with severe injuries.

Potter didn’t testify in Greg’s defense.

They were all broken branches of a sick, rotting tree and Draco felt for the first time in his life disgust for wizards. The wizarding bloodlust hadn’t abated — it had just turned towards them.

Cars honked, engines revved, tires screeched and the noise brought Draco back to the present. They soon reached a squat building where their supervisor, a short-haired, beak-nosed woman, handed them two sets of orange jumpsuits, possibly the most hideous article of clothing Draco had the misfortune to lay eyes upon. If going to Azkaban was offered then, he might have taken it.

“Go put it on. Locker room’s that way,” the supervisor said, frowning at Draco’s silk shirt and velvet dark blue waistcoat. “Then come back to my office and I’ll take you to the square where your task is to remove the graffiti.”

Once in the locker room, he turned to Potter, already knowing the answer, but it was worth asking anyway. “How long will it take us to clean the … graffiti,” he pronounced the word carefully, “using magic?”

“We’ve been asked to do it by hand,” Potter replied, because being contrary to Draco was Potter’s whole reason for existing.

“I know we’ve been asked to do it by hand. I remember. But I’m also not keen on spending several freezing hours on the streets picking up the graffiti.”

Potter looked at him for a second and then laughed out loud. “You don’t pick up graffiti.”

Draco’s temper took little to rise to the surface — at least when Potter was involved. “How should I know how someone treats graffiti? Forgot who you’re talking to?”

Potter stopped laughing and looked at Draco with an expression he couldn’t interpret, so he turned to stare at the dented door of his locker.

“I know who I’m talking to,” Potter murmured, but Draco didn’t reply and put on his uniform. He winced when he saw himself in the mirror. Orange was not a friendly colour on him; in fact it was an enemy colour, and he wasn’t surprised in the least that the orange suited Potter perfectly, contrasting nicely with his dark hair and olive skin and warming his green eyes. He cursed himself and this sentence and once again wished for Azkaban whose inmates at least wore grey, a much more sophisticated and stately colour in Draco’s opinion.

But there was nothing to do but exit this godforsaken room with the broken tiles and the harsh lighting, receive wire brushes, dust masks, and solvents that attacked his sense of smell, and follow the lady, Ms Harris, to the end of the street and round a corner to a little square that looked very much the way Draco felt inside: abandoned, bleak, and wounded.

Draco was considering changing the colour of his jumpsuit by magic, aquamarine would be just right for his complexion, when Ms Harris said, “And I’ll be having your wands now.”

When she saw their startled looks, she explained. “I’m a Squib, didn’t they tell you? I’m a Liaison between the Ministry and the Muggles. Your sentence is to do your community service in the Muggle way. The Minister thinks it’ll teach you a lesson, I suppose. So I’ll need to collect the wands in case you’re tempted. You’ll have them back at the end of the session.”

“What if we’re attacked?” Potter asked, aghast.

“You’re in Muggle London. If you’re attacked here, you can throw a punch. I’ve heard you’re good at it.”

Draco sent a look of loathing to Potter for getting them into this.

Ms Harris continued. “What Shacklebolt said to me was, and I quote: ‘since they’re brawling in the Muggle way, they’ll be doing community service in the Muggle way.’” She took their wands and added, “In any case, you can always do an Accio. Wandless magic is easy to tap into when in danger. They’ll be in my office, not far off.”

When in danger? They’d be wandless in possible danger? Draco was so livid that the words “My father will hear about this” almost escaped his lips, but luckily he remembered in time the whole 'Father in prison, disgraced family, shunned by society' and instead glared at the person next to him and his stupid glasses.

“This is all your fault,” he spat, when the woman left.

“How is it my fault?” Potter snapped back, looking equally bereft without his wand, and stretching his palms as if he didn’t know what to do with himself.

“You punched Smith. If you had arrested me like a normal Auror, then I’d make bail, attend a court hearing, pay an exorbitant fine, and this — this ridiculousness would never have to take place.”

“That’s rich coming from the person who actually punched Smith in the face first. You deserve the Muggle sentence more than I do.”

“Oh fuck off, Potter.”

Potter looked very close to throwing another punch. A fist fight sounded particularly enticing right now and Draco was sorely tempted, but it would cause untold embarrassment to his mother, should he be caught behaving like a Muggle. Again. So he took a deep breath, gagging at the stench of urine and rubbish, and turned to Potter with as much a disdainful look as he could muster. “So where is this graffiti?” He scanned the sky and the bare tree branches. Potter said it wasn’t picked up, so perhaps it was dragged down.

Potter snorted, “This is graffiti,” and pointed at the unmoving murals on the wall.

“I don’t understand.”

“These,” he tapped a finger at some scribbled words reading Colleen woz ere. “We have to clean them. They’re illegal.”

“I assumed they were intentional. City decoration. Very poor aesthetically, granted, but not that I expected better taste from Muggles.”

Potter chewed his mouth, looking like he wanted to say something, but in the end he slipped the dust mask over his face and spoke with a tight voice. “Let’s get on with it.”

They chose walls as far from each other as possible. It was tedious work, designed to extinguish Draco’s will to live. He wondered idly, as he was scrubbing the wall, whether this wasn’t an elaborate attempt on his life. It was an unusual plan and utterly genius, perhaps Granger’s idea then, but he was sure a few more days of this would result in his death by boredom.

How did Muggles manage it without magic? He peered at Potter who had lived as a Muggle for ten years, growing up around them. Draco didn’t hate the Muggles, not really, but he could hardly shake the feeling they were — insignificant worms.

Four hours later the walls looked marginally cleaner and they trudged back to the Centre where Ms. Harris handed back the wands and reminded them of the following day’s meeting. Draco Disapparated home from the locker room as soon as he stepped out of the horrid jumpsuit and without a goodbye to Potter.

 


 

Time and again in the DA lessons, one couldn’t help but notice clear examples of favouritism towards the same two people (and by extent the numerous relatives of one of them.) It’s true that Potter favoured his friends above other, more deserving and hard-working students, such as Ernie MacMillan, Susan Bones or yours truly. Although the Muggleborn Hermione Granger’s powers were not inconsiderable (but let me say here that her true strength lies in memorizing notes rather than actually using the magic in creative or innovative ways), the second person favoured by this arrangement was someone whose magical competence was lesser than anyone else’s in class, except maybe Neville Longbottom’s, yet another inept member we had to suffer because of his close personal friendship with Harry Potter.

Zacharias Smith, One Man (in Dumbledore’s) Army: The Unsung Heroes of the War

 

Harry had to go for a drink after Malfoy fucked off from the locker room — which was illegal dammit, L.A.P.s exist for a reason — still railing at the Minister’s decision to make his life hell and pair him with Malfoy for three whole months. He sent a Patronus to Hermione, Ron and Ginny that he’d be drinking himself into oblivion at The Ticklish Thestral, a wizarding pub in Hammersmith they quite liked.

The pub wasn’t very busy. He took a seat in the back with a pint of Carling and a whisky chaser, ignoring the stares and whispers from the other patrons. Harry wondered if there’d ever be a point in his life when he might walk in a wizarding establishment without anyone making a fuss about him. He tried to gauge which camp the patrons belonged to: Potter Saved Us or Potter Sucks?

The first camp had grown out of the Quibbler’s account of the war, which Harry and Neville helped Luna write in an effort to show the truth of what happened and give respect to the fallen. Once The Daily Prophet bought and re-published their story, Harry’s popularity soared higher than ever before. But now there was a second camp, one which treated the tell-all as gospel. Smith’s book was ostensibly about the D.A. and their school years, but what he did in effect was paint Harry and his friends in the worst possible way and call it ‘the unvarnished truth’. It might have been his ‘opinion’, as Harry’s solicitors claimed, but Smith’s words had an impact and the Prophet, in a typical change of direction, sucked them up. The sensationalist ‘flawed hero’ articles sold hundreds of copies, more so than the Saviour-type stories.

Now Harry added daytime drinking to his faults. Well. He had no job to worry about for three months, he was a young offender after all, and he decided he could play the part. Still, he ordered some bangers and mash to make sure he didn’t peak before the others came.

A rowing team crossed the river in front of the pub and seagulls swooped in and out of the water. In the summer, the riverfront was busy with strollers, but on a weekday in late January, there were few people around. However, a small crowd gradually gathered outside the pub. Paparazzi. Harry liked this pub because it didn’t allow them in, but the sight of them still made him furious.

Ginny arrived shortly afterwards and responded to the paparazzi in her usual way, flipping them off. She waved to Harry when she walked in and stopped at the bar to get a drink.

Ginny stayed a close friend after their break-up. The intimacy shared between them translated easily into friendship – intimacy, Harry mused more than once, that had never been particularly sexual to begin with. There was something Romantic in the way they threw themselves in each other’s arms in the face of certain death, something seductive in the whole ‘going off to War and leaving a Sweetheart behind’ scenario, but it was a completely different feeling that greeted them those first few weeks after the Battle. Ginny wanted to be free, life is short, she told him, too fucking short, and Harry had to learn to live with the unbearable weight of guilt that threatened to suffocate him, knowing he’d never be free of it, not really. And once he spent a few weeks living without the threat of imminent death at the hands of a maniac, he discovered something in himself that he’d never acknowledged before.

Ginny laughed herself hoarse when he told her that he was also attracted to men, possibly more so than women. “Oh Harry,” she’d said, “darling oblivious Harry. I’ve suspected for a while.” Since then she regularly owled him gay porn magazines which Harry accepted, bemused and somewhat grateful.

“Eating is cheating, Harry,” she said now, glancing at his food.

“Give me a break, it’s still early in the day,” he smiled as she slid in the booth. “How’s the flying?”

She’d taken to training every day for hours on end in the fields near the Burrow. Ron flew with her sometimes, and George joined them when he wasn't in the shop, the absence of Fred a gaping hole.

“I’m hoping to be Captain next year,” Ginny said. "I need the practice."

“So it’s happening. School opens in September.”

“That’s the plan. Hagrid and Grawp are a huge help, Dad said. They rebuilt the Gryffindor Tower and are working on the Astronomy one. Most other dormitories and classrooms are fine. The wards are the problem. Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick have been working hard on them.”

“And how are you?” he asked her but she smiled, a smile that didn’t reach her eyes, or even her nose, and said, “Fine, Harry, I’m fine. Tell me about you. How’s Justin?”

Harry didn’t want to talk about Justin. Justin was a mistake that happened in a charity ball about war orphans that he was asked to attend, the Chosen One a prize to be gawked at. He went there with Luna, a reliable party partner, who spent much of her time chatting with various members of the Ladies Society hosting the ball about the dangers of a bad-hair-day outbreak. “Extremely contagious,” she claimed to a pack of women cackling like hens.

After having his hand shaken and his picture taken repeatedly, Harry found a remote table to sit at and knock back glass after glass of champagne, watching the members of the upper echelons of wizarding Britain pretend everything was fine.

Malfoy was there too, a forbidding figure in all black, long fingers dangling a champagne glass, while he politely worked the room. It was early days, just after the Trials, when Malfoy was seen several times in public. Harry couldn’t help looking at him, his childhood nemesis, who kept his distance from Harry and never truly smiled to anyone.

Justin, on the other hand, didn’t keep his distance and smiled a lot. He wore royal blue, a colour that suited his fair complexion, and he sat with Harry while Luna swirled in concentric circles on the dancefloor among swaying couples. They reminisced about Dumbledore’s Army and Justin spoke about how he had to flee the country with his family, their mansion in Surrey gutted by Fiendfyre by Death Eaters who’d come looking. There was something in Justin’s vowels, the way he enunciated words, the way he sipped his champagne that Harry found incredibly attractive. Justin Finch-Fletchley wasn’t a pureblood, but he was a toff through and through, and Harry realized that night that it turned him on like nothing else. Glances laden with meaning and casual touches under the table, and by the end of the night, Harry was snogging Justin in a loo, running his fingers through golden hair, while Luna convinced one of the Shafiqs to invest in gnome saliva as an IQ-enhancer for her grandsons.

“Can we not talk about my sex life?” Harry complained.

“Why ever not? It’s so entertaining,” Ginny said. Harry wished Neville was in the country. His sexploits were guaranteed to steal the spotlight from Harry, but no, he had to go gallivanting with Hannah Abbott in Morocco.  

“Justin’s family has a holiday home in Dorset,” Harry told Ginny. “Right on the coast. He wants us to go there one weekend.”

“Hm,” she said, sipping her pint, “sounds like he’s trying to go from friends with benefits to something more substantial.”

“We’re not even friends with benefits,” Harry said. “Just fuck buddies.”

“Isn’t it the same thing?”

Is it?” Harry asked with real curiosity. He didn’t know who to talk to about these things. He’d turned eighteen but instead of going to clubs and getting pissed and snogging strangers, he’d finished a fast-paced Auror programme, attended Death Eater trials and testified against the accused, going over the same horrific experience of his life again and again. He dreamt of the dead every night. Dennis Creevey was unfailingly polite whenever he saw him and it broke Harry’s heart all over again. There was no Sirius or Remus to advise him about love and lust and the million permutations between them, and he could hardly ask Arthur how to tell if someone you fuck casually wants something more.

“I think it amounts to the same thing, yeah,” Ginny said. “The question is: do you want something more with Justin?”

“We literally have nothing to say to each other,” he said. Their subsequent meetings had shown that quite clearly. Harry supposed that was how fuck buddies came into being; when you had nothing to say to each other, you could dispel the awkward silence with a make-out session. “In fact, I think I’d like to stop seeing him altogether. It’s fun, but I don’t know. I wouldn’t mind meeting someone new.”

“So, you’ll break up with him?”

“Do I need to, or can I just—? Ugh, I don’t know.”

Two pints later, voices distracted them from outside. Ron and Hermione pushed against the throng of paparazzi as they came in, Ron predictably taking a swing at one of them. They brought a pitcher of beer to the table and pint glasses.

“So how was today?” Hermione sat down and rolled her shoulders, evidently tired. Ron rubbed her upper back briefly and she smiled gratefully at him.

“They took away our wands,” Harry said and was rewarded with three expressions of horror. He nodded fervently, “Yes, we had to clean everything by hand. I was hoping I’d do a little bit by magic. Shacklebolt is cruel, I’m telling you.”

“How did that little git take it? Did he throw a tantrum? Stamp his foot on the ground asking for Mother?” Ron asked.

“We almost got in a fight,” Harry confessed.

“Nothing new there, then,” Ginny said.

“So we stayed away from each for the whole day.”

“Wise.”

“He’s still such a snob.” Harry’s voice heated. “After everything that happened and he’s still full of contempt for the Muggles. You’d think he’d be different.”

“Well, he looks less smug now,” Ginny mused.

“A father in Azkaban does that for you,” Hermione said.

“I wonder what he’s doing shut at home all this time,” Harry murmured. “Why isn’t he at the Manor?”

“Here we go again,” Hermione sighed and Ron rolled his eyes. “Have another drink and forget about him.”

“How can I? I have to see his stupid mug every bloody day.”

“Man,” Ron said, “if it were me, I’d ask for Azkaban instead. No way I’d handle being around the dick who almost got us killed in the Room of Requirement.”

“That was Crabbe,” Hermione corrected him.

“Same difference,” he scoffed.

“He’s not a killer, Ron,” Harry snapped. The others stared. “What? He’s not a killer. He’s just an intolerable tosser. There’s a difference.”

Hermione sat back and gave him a thoughtful look. Harry didn’t like it. It was like she was X-raying him.

“I think you should Obliviate him and set him loose in Muggle London. Without a wand! Imagine how he’d fare,” Ron said, gleefully.

“He’d wander around trying to pick up graffiti!” Harry couldn’t help laughing again at Malfoy’s ignorance. This morning in the locker room was the first time he’d laughed in ages. Malfoy’s expression looked so uncertain, almost tender.

“What’s so funny about that?” Ron wondered.

Hermione linked her dark fingers with Ron’s and smiled fondly at him. “Will explain later.” She turned to Harry. “This new Muggle Liaison Initiative is an excellent way to foster cooperation between the two communities. They suffered a lot in the war, too. Instead of laughing about it, Harry, you could use this experience to educate Malfoy in Muggle culture.”

“I have no wish to educate Malfoy in anything,” Harry said, although the thought of unleashing a confused and annoyed Malfoy in Muggle London sounded quite entertaining.

“The community isn’t united and it’s hurting us. Revenge crime is on the rise,” she said.

“They deserve everything they get!” Ron said, heated.

Ginny was thoughtful. “What happened last week to that poor kid, though, was ugly. Just because he was a third cousin to the Lestranges.”

“Exactly. It’s attitudes like yours, Ron, that are holding us back,” Hermione said. “Putting the war behind us also means mending fences.”

“With Malfoy? Give me a break, Hermione! He’s unrepentant. Harry said so!”

“I didn’t say unrepentant, just arrogant,” Harry said.

“What’d you expect from someone raised by Lucius Malfoy?” Ginny asked her brother. “He could have gone much worse. He could have killed Dumbledore in the tower.”

Harry stood up. “I’m getting another round,” he said and walked to the bar. By the time he returned with another pitcher, the conversation had shifted to Luna’s latest postcard from her travels.  

As the evening wore on, the pub filled with chatter and laughter, a sound that Harry still hadn’t got used to. Happiness. Safety. People were moving on. Harry watched his friends indulge in some Ministry gossip, discuss the changes that awaited the students at Hogwarts, and make plans to visit Hagrid, maybe for Easter. They were coping, Harry thought, more or less.

Ron was touch and go there for a while. For months he was tense like a violin string, alert for anything that might allow him to vent his rage, his temper a thing to behold. Hermione worked herself to the bone in the Ministry, overexerting herself until she was admitted to St. Mungo's with fatigue. Now Ron tried to get her to finish work on time and Hermione attempted to keep Ron from lashing out when his grief tended to overwhelm him and they seemed to be succeeding. Harry thought of Ginny flying alone for hours, travelling to Quidditch matches, dating a string of people, and moving, always moving. He thought of Neville, shagging his way around magical Britain and smoking a few too many of his favourite plants.

He thought of Malfoy holed up in his house, removing himself from society altogether, unable to bear the guilt and shame.

Life is too fucking short.

Chapter Text

To the love that was shown when our lives were spared

Tell him - Lauryn Hill

 


 

“Indeed I never expected he’d go as far as assaulting me, but is it really surprising? Potter’s incredibly flawed and my book was a humble attempt in showing the truth. But who listens? This society has idolised Harry Potter. It’s a society that copies his hair style, tattoos his scar on their skin and stalks him wherever he goes. Perhaps we have the Chosen One we deserve.”

Zacharias Smith, Interview with Rita Skeeter, The Daily Prophet, 18th February 1999

 

The good thing about community service was that it allowed Draco to not think. Showing up at the Centre, wearing the orange monstrosity, removing graffiti, or picking up litter were monotonous enough tasks that let his mind take a much needed holiday. Sometimes he’d lift his eyes from his surroundings and realize four hours had passed and he hadn’t thought of a single thing.

It was a delightful void that he cherished, a reward for surviving the Dark Lord, for putting up with this ridiculous task, for seeing Potter every day, and he started looking forward to coming to the Muggles, cleaning like a house elf, and not-thinking.

His London home was full of thoughts, buzzing around like angry wasps or clouding the air like locusts. (The Manor was worse. He couldn’t step foot in the Manor, not yet, not maybe ever.) He could sense restless thoughts in his mother’s eyes, her tone of voice, her tireless attempts to be included in social events. She worked quietly and with the same self-assurance she always possessed and, grudgingly but surely, the wizarding society opened hesitant arms to welcome her, or at least the Malfoy gold. Still, no one would come visit the Death Eaters at their house and invitations to the most prestigious balls had to be won with blood.

Draco found another unexpected benefit to the Muggle world, one that he wouldn’t admit even under Crucio: to the Muggles he was a nobody, and for the first time in his life, Draco felt the appeal.

Who’d have thought he’d long for anonymity after all those years resenting Potter for stealing the limelight from him in school, a limelight he justly deserved as a Pureblood, as a Malfoy, as an excellent student, as a decent Quidditch player, as a gloriously handsome specimen of a wizard. Draco had tried so hard to be everything he was meant to be, everything his father wished him to be, only for Potter to stroll in with his messy hair and easy smile, his devoted friends, and his infuriatingly good luck, and steal the spotlight from Draco.

They hardly spoke when working, except “I’ll take this side” and “Which brush do you want?” It was a comfortable silence, much preferable to the tightening of his chest that occurred every time their eyes met.

Until one miserable grey morning in late February, three weeks into their sentence, when Potter cleared his throat and said, “Malfoy, can I ask you something?”

Draco tensed. They’d fallen into a routine where they even took breaks at different times to avoid interacting with each other and now Potter was ruining all that, by taking a packet of something edible called Walkers from his pocket, sitting on a filthy curb and looking over at Draco.

“What do you want?” Draco snapped, eyes returning on the wall in front of him.

Potter didn’t reply immediately and Draco glanced back, intrigued. In fact, Potter looked extremely reluctant to follow through and that made Draco abandon his brush and casually stroll over. “Well? Is there a reason you spoke to me or did you simply wish to break my concentration?” which he thought was stretching it, as the work would be better described as mindless rather than requiring any sort of focus, but Potter didn’t correct him and instead offered the open packet to Draco.

“Want one?”

“What is it?” Draco asked, peering inside.

Potter had stopped to buy it on the way there. Draco had remained resolutely outside the shop, along with a bunch of hooded teenagers who smoked something that smelled suspiciously like Spiritous Euphorius.

“It’s crisps. Potatoes.”

Draco carefully lifted a round flat piece and ate it. It tasted mostly of oil and vinegar rather than potato, but not unpleasantly so.

“Um, thank you,” he said, because he was a Malfoy and had manners. “Is that what you wanted to ask me?”

“No, um. I just wanted to ask if — well, it’s. See, the thing is. Um.“

“Well, it’s. The thing is. How eloquent, Potter, have you considered a career in speech writing?”

Potter’s eyes narrowed, his mouth tightened and instantly they both relaxed into their normal roles.

“Forget it,” he hissed and Draco, now utterly intrigued, pressed on.

“No, I won’t forget it. You interrupted my work and now you’re not telling me why? I demand to know.”

He was pleased to see Potter redden, his face infused with colour, which meant he was embarrassed about what he was going to say. This was going to be delicious, Draco thought, although it disconcerted him a little how that word came to his mind when he was looking at Potter’s lips smeared with oil from the crisps. He shook the thought away like an insistent fly.

“Wanted to ask if — if you know how to break up with somebody,” Potter said.

Draco paused, his breath suddenly short. He sat beside Potter, at a safe, non-reachable distance. “Are there many ways to do so?”

“It’s complicated. We’re not together-together,” Potter said, looking as if he’d successfully explained something when in fact he hadn’t.

“Is this a Muggle expression? Is there a together-together-together, three times? ”

Potter’s eyes lit up. “The Muggles!” he said and set off down the street, abandoning their equipment. Well, if he was going, Draco wasn’t going to stay behind. He caught up with him.

“Are you breaking up with a Muggle?” he asked, and he did have a terrifying thought right then that the Boy Wonder of the wizarding world was dating a Muggle of all people, and Draco didn’t know if he could take it, this was so much worse than Justin.

“No,” Potter said, as he walked back in the direction of the shop. “Muggles would know. They have magazines and stuff – and things like agony aunts and advice columns – and, you know, relationship advice.”

“Muggles have all that?” Draco asked, not wanting to inquire about how much agony an agony aunt caused and why on earth would anyone want such a thing.

Draco pushed past the loitering youths this time and followed Potter to a rack of reading material with creepy pages that were both unmoving and extremely glossy, a combination that Draco found slightly nauseous. It was his first foray into a Muggle establishment. The shop was dingy and small, the shelves crammed with hundreds of products. Draco would suspect an Interior Enlargement Spell, if the place hadn’t tasted so Muggle.

“So, you didn’t tell me what you meant together-together. Are you dating the bloke or not?”

“I don’t know,” Potter shrugged, as if this made any sense.

“How can you not know?”

“We’re only shagging, it’s not like we’ve been on a date or anything. We’re fuck buddies. I think,” he said, unsure.

Draco’s heart stopped. Just momentarily. Potter was having sex. When his heart started again, it thumped against his chest. He schooled his features in a disinterested frown.

“So what are we looking for here?”

Potter pulled a magazine from the rack. “Anything with relationship advice.”

Draco picked one with a voluptuous woman in the cover. “Get the right man in your life tonight,” he read aloud. “Not exactly what you’re looking for, though. You want to get rid of a man.” He read silently the rest of the cover. Put more bliss in your kiss. Two things that stop a guy from saying I Love You. Draco wished he had Muggle money with him. Even the magazine’s name was something suitably sophisticated for a Malfoy: Cosmopolitan. He wondered if Potter would lend him the money.

Potter had his nose buried in another magazine. On the cover with big letters: Is She Clingy? Give her the Boot: 5 Easy Ways to Break Up.

“This ain’t a library, lads,” said the shop owner from behind the counter and they both looked up.

“I’ll get this, mate,” Potter said and walked to the till.

“Potter.”

“Yeah?” He turned to look at Draco.

“Could you possibly,“ Merlin, this was embarrassing, “lend me some Muggle money for this? I’ll give you the galleons. If that’s alright with you.”

“Sure thing,” he shrugged. “This one too, mate.”

The shop owner rang them up. “So, Laddie and,” here he glanced at Draco, “Cosmopolitan. Hm.”

Draco bristled at the man’s look. How could Draco look cosmopolitan in an orange jumpsuit?

They returned to the brushes and solvents, their magazines folded in the uniform’s overlarge pockets, and resumed scrubbing.

“Why did you buy the Cosmo?” Potter asked. Draco sighed. Silence had worked for them pretty well so far, but now the spell was broken and Potter seemed to think he could make conversation. He couldn’t even ignore him, not when Potter refused his galleons.

“Curiosity,” Draco replied. “Trying to understand the Muggles. Isn’t it the whole purpose of this exercise?”

“I thought maybe you were looking for love advice too.”

“I hardly think a Muggle magazine can assist me with my love problems,” he said. Love problems wasn’t what he was planning to say but he couldn’t take it back now.

“Why is that?” Their cleaning had brought them next to each other facing a low wall bordering a filthy canal.

“Because I seriously doubt a Muggle magazine would have an article on ‘How to find love when you’re a disgraced Death Eater.’”

“Not seeing anyone then?”

Draco turned, incredulous. “People spit on me, Potter.” He definitely hadn't wanted to admit to that but now it was out and Draco’s skin was hot. “They spit when they see me in the street. Why do you think I stopped going out? How you can possibly imagine me having a flurry of dates is beyond me. You have no idea what my life is like, not a fucking clue.” He took a rattled breath and stopped Potter just as he opened his mouth. “And don’t you dare remind me I deserve it. I know fully well that I do.”

He turned back to the wall and brushed hard. His eyes burned, only a little. He blinked a few times. Behind him, Potter spoke, quietly.

“I wasn’t going to say that. I — never mind.”

They returned to the Centre an hour later, picked their wands up, and Draco Disapparated murmuring a goodbye to Potter. At home, he shut himself in his bedroom, lest his mother see the Muggle magazine, and lay in bed reading it. The kissing article was useful; informative. But Draco had no one to try the advice on and so he hid the magazine in a drawer, dressed with care for dinner with Mother, and tried to put kissing out of his mind.

 


 

It was busy in The Ticklish Thestral on Saturdays. Ginny and Hermione were talking in low voices and giggling, a bottle of Chardonnay empty in front of them, while Harry was thrashing Neville at darts. Not that Neville minded much. Tanned after a month in Morocco, tall and handsome, he drew the eyes of almost everyone in the pub. Although Smith’s book portrayed Neville as a talentless bore, there had only ever been one camp of Neville’s fans and it was probably called Shag Me Senseless, if what Harry saw of their behaviour was anything to go by.

“Where was Ginny and her Bat-Bogey Hex?” Neville laughed when they told him about Harry’s arrest. “So Malfoy punched him? For real?”

“I’d have done worse to that shit,” Ron said, who’d been watching them play, and Harry marveled at how a Hufflepuff arsehole could unite even the most bitter of enemies. In Smith’s book, Ron was a total jerk but what Ron wouldn’t forgive was how Smith portrayed Fred. Harry knew that he hadn’t assaulted Smith only because Harry and Malfoy beat him to it.

A table of witches burst into laughter behind him, something about a hippogriff and a wizard walking into a bar. A young man pushed past him, carrying two colourful cocktails for him and his girlfriend, who accepted hers with a peck on his lips. Two Aurors he knew from the Academy stood by the bar with pints of Guinness, deep in conversation. Ron was now beating Neville at darts — really Neville was crap at it but he kept playing, and Harry smiled, because that was such a Neville thing to do. He leaned back on the wall, letting the sounds of idle talk and tinkling glass wash over him. It’d been worth it, he told himself. This was why they fought. There was something unhurried and soft in everyone’s faces, a pure joy of simply being, that Harry couldn’t get enough of.

But Malfoy couldn’t come here. He couldn’t enjoy an evening like this, putting the war behind him like everyone else. He’d escaped prison but he wasn’t free. Harry never thought he’d feel pity for him. Malfoy deserved what he got, a part of himself said, but it was the thirteen year old part of himself and its voice was growing small. Nothing like fighting a war and coming back from the dead to give someone a little perspective. Harry felt he aged years in those months of hunting Horcruxes, in those stark moments walking the forest to his death, and maybe that’s why he could see clearly how Malfoy had never been free, not really. Growing up in the Malfoy household, his path was predetermined and yet — yet he made a different choice one night in a dark tower.

Malfoy should be here, he thought. Drinking, smiling, flirting...

“Ehm, Neville Longbottom? Could I have an autograph, please?”

The voice that interrupted Harry’s thoughts belonged to a curly-haired witch who offered a quill to Neville. Her friend hovered behind her, eyeing Harry with interest. Harry looked away.

Neville sighed, but he turned magnanimously to the woman, who batted her lashes. “Where do you want me to sign?”

She smiled slyly and slowly parted her robes, showing her collarbone and the top of her chest. “Here.”

“Why do I never get this kind of fans?” Ron complained, sending at the same time a guilty look towards Hermione.

“Because you haven’t been on the cover of Witch Weekly topless holding a sword,” Harry laughed and Neville turned, hand poised over the witch’s chest.

“They said it would be tasteful!”

“Oh, it was!” the witch breathed.

Her friend edged closer to Harry. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for us, Mr Potter,” she said. His fans were always very polite, nothing of the sort Neville got and he didn’t know what to think of it. Ron shrugged it off, we aren’t sexy enough, mate, but he’d received knickers in the post once, while Harry never.

“You’re welcome,” he said. She’d tattooed a lightning on her forehead and Harry’s eyes darkened. “If you’ll excuse me.”

Hermione and Ginny were on their second bottle of wine and Harry sat heavily down. Behind him, he heard the witch tell Neville “Floo me”, and Ron’s snort.

A tiny brown owl fluttered to Harry’s elbow and nudged him. He opened the parchment. “It’s from Justin. He’s in town.”

“Great,” Ron murmured, as he took a seat next to him. Neville was at the bar, getting the next round in and probably giving more autographs on body parts.

“He wants to meet up. Should I invite him here?”

“Weren’t you thinking of breaking up with him?” Ginny asked, using her wand to dry a wine spill.

“Yeah, I might do it tonight,” Harry lied, because he was a few beers in and wanted a shag.

“I have no idea what you see in him,” Ron said for the millionth time, as Harry sent a Patronus with his location to Justin. Faster than owl.

“He’s—”

Harry didn’t know what Justin was, besides available maybe, but there was something about him that he found himself attracted to like a heart attack, but he couldn’t say exactly what. Harry wondered if he would ever understand half of what was going on inside him. No wonder it’d taken him eighteen years to put a name to that feeling he had in the Quidditch locker room after practice.

Hermione wasn’t enthusiastic about Justin either (“I can’t really talk to him about anything,” she said once, and when Harry suggested that they could talk about their Muggle upbringings, she frowned “But that’s even worse. He’s a Baron’s grand-nephew or some sort, practically royalty in Muggle Britain, whereas I grew up in Hampstead and went to a state school”).

Ron was making a joke about Neville’s date with Susan Bones next week (“Will you bone Bones?”) when Justin walked through the door, pale, golden and haughty, a combination that did many things to Harry’s chest, and even more to his groin.

“How are you, old boy?” Justin shook hands with Neville and Ron and waved at the girls before sitting next to Harry. He put a proprietary hand on Harry’s thigh and leaned in to whisper in his ear.

“Hey, you. Have you thought about Dorset?”

Justin’s accent alone could give Harry an erection. Harry whispered back, “How about I finish my drink, take you home, and we talk about it?”

Justin grinned and Harry felt a twinge of guilt as his idea of talking-about-Dorset involved telling him he couldn’t make it. Should he break up with him now? He’d even memorized a line from the article that seemed appropriate for their non-relationship. ‘It’s been great spending time with you, but unfortunately, I'm not seeing a future for us. I wish you all the best. You're such a cool guy.’ But he wanted to sleep with him and it probably wasn’t right to do it immediately after sex. Perhaps tomorrow. Yeah, definitely tomorrow.

Later he left a snoring Justin in bed, opened the bedside drawer and went to the kitchen. There, he made a cup of tea, sat next to a solitary candle and examined the wand that had vanquished Voldemort. He ran a hand over it, the wood warm under his fingers.

He beat Voldemort with Malfoy’s wand. This fact never ceased to amaze him. Fate seemed to want to bring the two of them in the same orbit time and again, but they insisted on behaving like they were still in school, clinging to the past and their mutual dislike, unable to find common ground to tread on even after everything.

Perhaps it was time to let the past go.

Chapter Text

Pardon the way that I stare

I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You - Lauryn Hill

 


 

 

Potter was in a much more talkative mood as February turned into March, and Draco found himself responding and sometimes even talking to him first, as, unfortunately, he had to ask him for guidance regarding Muggle food. Draco brought Muggle currency with him now, and they made a habit of stopping at shops and buying vinegar crisps and Jelly Beans that Potter liked; Wotsits, a snack that Draco loved; and a soft drink that made him excited and energetic called Coca Cola, which Draco drank by the gallon until Potter had to take the bottle away from him because he said it made Draco ‘even more insufferable than normal’ and which prompted a lovely little row, both of them yelling at each other and reaching for wands that weren’t there.

Draco had to admit Angry Potter was the second best look on Potter’s face and he delighted in provoking it as often as he could.

By late March they regularly strolled with their brushes and bin bags through Muggle neighbourhoods of varied decrepitude, with boarded shop windows, broken bus stops, and the ubiquitous graffiti everywhere — Draco had to admire the persistence of Muggles in spoiling their walls — and Draco pointed at anything unusual, like the red boxes that Potter explained were post boxes, saying that Muggles paid people to do a job that the birds did for free. They visited the high street, stopping to grab a bite at a greasy spoon or for Draco to go on an escalator in Debenhams, which always brought a smile to his face. People stared at both of them, which Potter assured him was because of the jumpsuit.

“They think we’re probably muggers, or burglars or some such sort.”

“They think we’re dangerous?” Draco said, surprised.

“Well.” Potter’s eyes sobered. “We are dangerous.”

He shouldn’t have been this astonished, but Draco realised that the more time he spent in the Muggle world, the more he forgot. He certainly laughed more than he ever thought he’d laugh again, and he felt lighter than he had two months ago, his limbs looser, his breathing easier. The nightmares persisted but not as frequently as before. Now he had other dreams, sometimes.

Potter once took him to a large store full of boxes called telly or tellvision, presumably named like this because you told the box to show you dramatised stories and it did by means of buttons and knobs.

Draco swore it was magical. “No way the Muggles have come up with something like that on their own.”

Potter smirked. “You like something Muggle,” he crooned and Draco made to punch him on the arm, but Potter dodged and Draco tried again, and they ended up doing a sort of dance, until Potter nodded at the irksome assistants who looked ready to intervene. They settled in front of a telly that showed colourful animated illustrations.

“What is this?” Draco said, awed.

“Cartoons,” Potter replied.

Their breaks now took so long that they typically returned to the Centre six hours after they’d set out. The second week in a row this happened an unhappy Ms Harris called them in her office.

“What’s going on?” she inquired, giving them both very suspicious looks.

Potter had clearly never heard about obscuring the truth — an essential life skill according to Draco's father, which wasn't outright lying but had the same effect — and he confessed to their long breaks in Muggle shops, like the idiot he was.

Ms Harris’s forehead furrowed even more. “Well, this ends now. You’re meant to be out there doing Community Payback, not sightseeing. Anything you are so keen to indulge in will have to wait for the end of your day.”

Today they stopped for crisps, a quick ten-minute break they felt they could get away with, and Draco browsed magazines, which was his second favourite thing about the Muggles so far, the first being the absolute delight that were cartoons. Or maybe Coke was first. He’d have to make a list. The dearth of wizarding magazines was glaringly obvious to him now, a veritable fault in their society, and for some days now Draco had been entertaining the thought of starting his own publication, perhaps called CosmoWizard, he wasn’t sure.

Draco selected one about cars to owl to Greg; it might cheer him up, he hoped. He leafed through a boring FHM — all those buxom ladies — when he noticed Potter staring intently at a picture.

“Who is he?” he asked, peering over his shoulder. Potter was staring at some stupid blond’s picture and even traced a finger over the man’s face.

“Some pop star. He looks a little like Justin, doesn’t he?” Potter said in a dreamy voice that made Draco want to kick something, or preferably someone. “The hair’s practically the same. And look at this.” He pointed at the name. “He’s also called Justin.”

“Hmm.” Draco returned to his magazine and attempted to straighten the page he’d scrunched up. “Didn’t you say you were breaking up with Finch-Fletchley?”

“Ah. I fucked that one up. Will tell you later,” Potter said and paid for his magazine with Justin Number Two in it. It occurred to Draco, as he paid for Car and Driver, that he hated all the Justins in the world, starting from Finch-Fletchley and ending in this Timberlake fellow.

It was litter day today and it was disgusting and tiresome. Scrubbing walls hurt Draco’s hands but picking litter was a whole body workout and he always returned home exhausted. He glanced around him, removed his plastic glove and surreptitiously pointed his hand to a gum wrapper on the ground.

“Accio!” he whispered. Nothing happened. He tried again. “Accio.”

“What are you doing?” Potter asked.

“What does it look like? Trying wandless magic.” He opened his palm wide and this time the gum wrapper flew into his hand. He raised triumphant eyes at Potter. “What? Going to tell me it’s wrong?”

“No, I’m going to try the same thing.”

“What happened to ‘we’ve been asked to do it by hand?’”

“Fuck that,” Potter smiled and Draco smiled back.

Draco and Potter spent the last hour and a half of their day, hiding in alleys and Accio-ing the hell out of the rubbish. Pretty soon, Draco had a grip on the magic.

“It requires a different kind of concentration, doesn’t it?” he said.

“More exhausting, though.” Sweat curled the hair in the nape of Potter’s neck. He opened his palm and cast an Accio so strong that several cans flew towards him, one knocking him on the forehead.

Draco burst out laughing. “You might want to rethink your aim.”

“I’d like to see your aim,” Potter murmured, rubbing his forehead.

“Check this out,” Draco said. He stood tall, back straight, legs slightly open — Father always said that half of the success in casting is in the posture — and pushed his hair off his face. He took a deep long breath and focused intensely on his target. “Accio,” he said and a green beer bottle rose from a pile of them and flew in his outstretched hand.

He turned to Potter with a smirk, thrilled that he showed him up, and saw him staring.

“Well, Potter?” he asked, when the silence stretched.

Potter swallowed. “Brilliant.”

“I should think so,” Draco smiled and dropped the bottle in his bin bag.

 


 

If you’d told Harry two months ago about how much he’d enjoy showing the Muggle world to Malfoy, he’d have you locked up in St. Mungo's right next to Lockhart. But these past weeks he caught himself laughing loads, much more than he’d done in months, or even years. When Malfoy poked around a public telephone for the first time and jumped back at someone’s voice on the receiver, Harry thought he’d die right there on the pavement from laughing so hard. Malfoy was annoyed with Harry for the rest of the day, but Pissed Off Malfoy was the second best look on his face and Harry set out in provoking it as often as he could.

The days were longer, warmer and brighter. On the last day of March, Ms Harris gave them back their wands with a “Just four weeks to go, lads, you must be excited,” which prompted only silence from both of them.

They stopped at an O’ Neil’s after they left the Centre, now that Malfoy had taken to walking with Harry to the Local Apparition Point instead of Disapparating from the locker room. Potter hadn’t allowed him a single drop of Coke that day and he wanted to make it up to him.

At the bar, Malfoy showed off his newfound knowledge of Muggle money and ordered (Coke for him, a pint of Boddingtons for Harry). Idle chatter filled the pub, not loud enough to be annoying, punctuated by the crack of the balls from the billiards table at the back. Malfoy spent some time looking curiously around him. Harry pointed out that Muggle darts had no will of their own and Malfoy was amusingly appalled. “But what’s the point then?” Harry should have brought him to a pub earlier.

“So,” Malfoy said, turning his attention to him, “what happened with the break-up?”

Harry frowned. “I handled it so badly. Spent some weeks avoiding Justin, and then, when he wouldn’t get the hint, I met up with him. Tell him face to face, you know. Big mistake.”

Malfoy looked steadily at his glass. “What happened?”

“I thought I was doing okay. I had a speech memorised and everything. But he looked so sad and I — well, I ended up accepting an invitation for a weekend by the sea with him in a couple of weeks.” He also accepted a blowjob but he wasn’t about to say that to Malfoy.

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “You’re pathetic, Potter.”

“So you keep reminding me.”

“Please tell me at least that Finch-Fletchley has hitherto unsuspected talents in bed that are worth this hassle.”

Ginny had sent Harry a paperback last week, The Wizard’s Staff, a gay erotica novel about a Curse Breaker and his best friend and part-Giant. The sex in it was described as ‘mind-blowing’, ‘heart-stopping’ and ‘breathless’ which was not really Harry’s experience with Justin.

“It’s just sex. I mean, what’s good sex, really?”

“Are you asking me?” Draco said.

“Sorry. No luck there, then?”

Draco didn’t reply.

“You could try going out again. Not in public, maybe, but there are private parties.” Harry saw Narcissa Malfoy in the society pages of the Prophet, but there were no photographs of her son ever.

“I went to a few balls back in the summer and enjoyed being spoken to with extreme rudeness. Not an experience that I’d care to relive.”

“That was months ago. People are putting the war behind them. And you’ve been pardoned. It’s time to move on.”

Malfoy didn’t speak for a long moment, he just stared at his drink. Then, “I’ve nowhere to move on to.”

Harry’s next words stopped in his throat. It was so rare seeing Malfoy without the mask of cold, drawling haughtiness he liked to don, and this — this fragile admission stirred something inside Harry that he put aside to maybe examine later. At a quiet moment, preferably at night. He caught himself wanting to touch Malfoy, just on the shoulder, but he didn’t think it’d be welcome.

They didn’t speak for a while. A waitress brought their chips and chili con carne, the smell making Harry salivate. A couple walked in, the woman rubbing her hands to warm them up, while her companion examined the drafts on offer.   

“See this, Potter?” Malfoy broke the silence. His haughty manner had returned; his air of nobility marred a little by the chip he held in his fingers as he gestured broadly.

Harry watched Malfoy’s lips close over the chip. He swallowed. “See what?”

“This. No one knows us here. We’re nobodies. And it’s marvellous. No one is glaring at me, or muttering under their breath about me escaping justice, or threatening revenge. No one even looks at me.”

Everyone is looking at you, Harry thought, because he’d noticed the admiring and often lustful looks that Draco drew in the Muggle world. Even with the awful orange jumpsuit on, he looked glorious, beautiful and unattainable, like a shining galleon in the dirt. Now, sitting close with a soft ice blue jumper and bright hair, he looked like something out of a dream.

“No one stares at me, too,” Harry agreed. “No paparazzi, no people coming to shake my hand, or ask me for an autograph.” He paused and his voice hardened. “No one with tattoos on their forehead in the shape of my scar, as if it’s a fucking trend.”

Malfoy spoke quietly. “Yet you still go to balls.”

“I have to. Kingsley expects me at every bloody Ministry function, and charity balls have reportedly more donations when I show my face. So I go.”

“But not with Justin.”

Harry groaned. “That’d give him even more ideas.”

“You can’t blame him,” he said. “The Boy Who Lived is eligible bachelor No.1. I read Witch Weekly, you know.”

Harry raised an eyebrow and Malfoy quickly amended, “Mother subscribes to it, Potter,” as if Harry didn’t know that Malfoy read every issue of Cosmopolitan he could get his hands on, even going as far as asking a bemused Ms Harris how to order back issues.

They left the pub three pints later, Harry mellow from the beer and Malfoy buzzing from the Coke. He’d asked Harry to show him how to play Muggle darts and he turned out to be quite decent. Harry’s aim wasn’t the best after three pints, but he made himself useful by helping Malfoy with his stance, gripping his waist to steady it and moving his wrist in the right position, and Malfoy let him.

Outside, as Malfoy buttoned his dark grey coat and wrapped his scarf around his face, Harry had a three-pint idea. “Do you want to maybe go see a film at a cinema one day? I know you hate Muggles but you might enjoy going somewhere you’re not glared at. Like you said. Which is why I’m saying this. Because you said.”

“I don’t hate Muggles, Potter,” Malfoy said. He gazed at his hands for a moment, his breath fogging in front of him. “All right. We could do that. I’d like to try the cinema thing.”

“Friday maybe?”

“Sure.”

The night was cold, cloudless. They moved in and out of pools of lamplight in comfortable, thoughtful silence.

“It’s not a trend, you know,” Malfoy said when they reached the Apparition point.

“What?”

“The tattoo. It’s not a trend. It’s gratitude.” He gazed steadily at Harry and just before he Disapparated, he said, “People love you, Potter.”

 


 

 

Draco knew what a cinema looked like from the outside, because they passed Clapham Picturehouse a few times in their rounds and he’d asked Potter (“What’s this?” “A cinema.”) What Draco wasn’t sure of was what happened inside a cinema. Potter mentioned looking at a film, so he assumed it had something to do with photography. Muggle photography disturbed him; no one moved in the slightest, it was unnatural, like death, but he’d accepted the invitation and had to go through with it. He was quite nervous as Friday loomed closer, which Draco told himself was about the uncertainty of what he’d have to face inside a cinema, nothing else.

At breakfast on Friday morning he was downright antsy. His mother noticed.

“What’s Bothering you, Draco? You seem on Edge.”

He knew better than to say that he’d be indulging in a popular Muggle pastime and so he tried to obscure the truth.

“I’ll be late tonight, Mother. Potter and I have… uh, plans.”

“What plans?”

“I’m not entirely sure. They involve er… walking.”

“Walking.”

“And talking, I — I assume.”

“And talking.”

Cold sweat covered him at his mother’s unblinking stare. “Well, it was his suggestion and I couldn’t say no, I mean, it’s only polite, he’s only the bloody hero of the wizarding world.”

“The hero of the wizarding world.”

“Mother.” Draco put his fork down. “Can you please stop repeating what I say? It’s like having an echo.”

“I will, if you stop Obscuring the Truth and tell me what is really Going On. What has Potter got you doing that you wish to hide from Me?”

Her eyes bore on him and he sighed. Of course his mother would see right through his feeble attempt. She was married to the best obscurer there was.

“Potter and I are going to a cinema.”

“What is that?”

“I’m not sure, but it’s,” he swallowed, “Muggle.”

His mother stared at him for a moment before turning to her breakfast. She sipped her tea, replaced the cup gently on the saucer, and picked up her fork.

“Mother,” Draco leaned closer, suddenly anxious, “say something.”

“There’s nothing to Say, my dear. I thank you for your honesty.” She sighed and put her fork back down. “You’re not the first one to be Enticed by the allure of Muggle institutions. You’re hardly to Blame when the Minister has thrust you in the Muggle world himself. These things Happen. In fact, it was Bound to happen, considering how Infatuated you are with this Muggle-loving hero.”

Draco’s cup clattered on his saucer. “Mother, not this nonsense again, please!”

“Whatever you say, my dear. Now. What will you be Wearing?”

 

It drizzled the whole time they picked rubbish and Draco’s hair was a mess by the time they returned to the Centre, which pissed him off no end. He and Potter spoke little that day, an awkward silence settling between them where banter used to be, as if Potter was also uncertain about the imminent expedition. Perhaps he regretted it and he’d cancel, the thought of which made Draco alternately relieved and furious.

Draco spent a few minutes surreptitiously fixing his hair with his wand when Potter was in the loo, and looked himself once over in the cracked mirror. He wore a royal blue shirt that his mother had suggested over with grey wool trousers he bought yesterday, because he needed them, for absolutely no other reason. Potter had also made an effort with his clothing that day, even going as far as wearing a pressed shirt, and Draco didn’t know what to make of it, except that it made his insides squirm.

Eventually they left the Centre and hurried towards the Picturehouse, Draco casting a discreet Impervious over them to protect their hair from the insistent drizzle. It was always a relief to get his wand back, he couldn’t stop touching it in his pocket and he noticed that Potter did the same. Draco never asked Potter what happened to his old one, the one that’d vanquished the Dark Lord. Perhaps it was in a museum. Perhaps in the Department of Mysteries, being poked at by Unspeakables. He considered inquiring, but he didn’t want to rehash those memories. The new wand he purchased from Fenella McIntyre, a former lover of Ollivander’s as rumour would have it, suited him much better. New wand, new start, a proverb said; well, he got his new wand and he hoped the new start wasn’t far behind.

They walked inside the brightly lit building and Draco Finite-d the Impervious.

“It’s your first time at the cinema so—” Potter said.

“First time inside one,” Draco corrected.

“Duly noted.” Potter’s lips twitched. He led them to a small queue. “Well, watching a film is like — like television but bigger and better. This cinema has three screens available, so they show three different stories, and we choose one of them to watch.”

“Do they have cartoons?” Draco asked, breathlessly.

Potter scanned the posters around the walls. “Doesn’t look like it, not today, but we can come again,” he smiled, eyes soft, and Draco had to stop his heart from making such a noise, honestly, hearts needed to be outlawed.

“So what are we watching?” He successfully managed to sound utterly bored despite the thundering in his chest, a result of his excellent breeding and the fact that Draco had perfected his drawling to an art form even before he set foot in Hogwarts.

Potter eyed him with a look that Draco would describe fond if he didn’t know any better. “Let’s ask what’s on.”

The young man at the ticket box was thrilled to be asked which film to choose.

“Only the best bloody movie of the year, if not the decade!” he said. Even his glasses were excited.

“Which is?” Excitable people made Draco wary.

He gave them tickets and change. “Screen One. You’ll thank me later.”

Potter walked him through the rest of the experience. Muggles typically bought a white salty snack that smelled wonderful — and Coke! Draco was very pleased about this — to snack on while watching. Since Potter paid for the tickets, Draco offered to buy the food. They spent a few minutes chatting and eating the popcorn and finally an usher led them into a large room with seats in rows like the Wizengamot, only comfier.

When the lights lowered, Draco tensed. “What’s happening?” He tried to be casual but his voice betrayed him. It’d gone pitch dark and he–

“It’s normal,” Potter explained. He must have noted Draco’s rigid shoulders and shallow breathing. “Are you okay?”

Draco forced a deep breath. “I’ll — I’ll manage. It’s just that — I have …er nightmares and in the nightmares it’s always dark and—” A cold, high-pitched voice. He took another breath. His knuckles were white on the armrest.

Then Potter made everything ten times worse, as he always did. He leaned closer, his after shave tickling Draco’s nose, and took Draco’s hand in his, and, as if that wasn’t enough to make Draco want to spontaneously combust, he ran a thumb over his knuckles, clearly intending to kill Draco, really this was an attempt on his life. “I have a lot of nightmares, too. Look, we’ll give it ten minutes and if you still feel uncomfortable, we’ll go, okay?”

Draco nodded, his eyes frozen on their linked hands. His breath came out with even more difficulty. He was suddenly certain this was a dream.

“Look.” Potter pointed at the rising curtain. The screen behind it came alive with a flicker and Draco’s attention left dark lords and warm hands, and focused on the images. Soon the tension fell off his shoulders and his breathing eased. Potter still held his hand, but his eyes were fixed on the screen and Draco suspected that Potter had simply forgotten where his hand was. So careless with body parts, he thought, but he still allowed his thumb to stroke Potter’s palm as many times as he dared (four). Some time later, Potter removed his hand and helped himself to some popcorn and Draco felt a slight pang of loss, but he also wanted some food.

Draco loved the whole experience: he loved the popcorn, which Potter replenished with a non-verbal spell, he loved Potter’s shoulder touching his, a comforting presence in the dark, and he loved the story itself. When Neo decided to fight the agent instead of fleeing, both of them whooped. And when he stopped the bullets at the end of the film, Draco felt his heart swell with triumph.

They left the cinema and walked aimlessly past cafes and pubs and Italian restaurants, until they found themselves in familiar surroundings. The rain had stopped but a sharp wind rose and Draco cast a Warming Spell around both of them. He could walk these streets for hours, side by side with Potter, talking about the film and breathing the cold free air of Clapham. It was one of the happiest nights of his life and he wished it’d never end.

Dodge this,” Potter mimicked Trinity’s stance from the film, pointing his wand at a lamp post. Draco giggled. He put a hand over his mouth, mortified. Giggling was so undignified.

“I would give acting school a miss if I were you, Potter,” he sneered quickly.

Potter ignored the jab. “You know, maybe you could try calling me Harry.”

“Don’t be daft. People will think we’re friends.”

“Did you have fun?” Potter smiled at him. He smiled a lot.

“I promise I won’t say another thing against the Muggles if you take me to watch cartoons next week. Oh, fucking hell.

“What is it?”

“Look!” Draco pointed at a newly graffiti-ed wall. “We removed this last week. Honestly! They’ll make us do it again.”

Potter leaned back at the lamp post, arms crossed. The light fell on his cheekbones, his eyes deep dark pools.  “And people will tag over it again. That’s the way it is.”

“Well, not anymore.“ Draco cast a swift look around them, but they were alone. Noise came from a pub down the road and a car honked from the junction they’d passed, but no one was within sight. Draco pulled his wand out and cast a thorough Scourgify on the wall.

Every hint of graffiti was gone as if it had never existed, the wall painted a fresh coat of white, an impeccable job if he said so himself. He moved purposefully down the street.

”Hey!” Potter ran behind him.

“You can’t stop me, Potter,” he said, his wand a blur. He moved quickly, ducking in shadows at an approaching car or a twitching curtain. Rubbish flew in bins, graffiti tags disappeared, broken windows glew back together. He turned left and they — Potter helping now — cast spell after spell, exuberant and exhilarated. They passed the shops and the people they got to know: Mrs Porter’s bakery, Jayesh’s cornershop, the WHSmith that Jenny worked and always kept a magazine behind the counter she thought Draco might like. They cleaned and fixed and painted and polished the neighbourhood Draco knew so well now; a place that he would have no reason to revisit in four paltry weeks.

Finally, they reached the LAP and stood face to face, beaming at each other.

“That was fun,” Draco said.

“We’ll get in so much trouble.” Potter said it smiling, unconcerned. His hair stood all ends and his eyes glittered.

“We’re used to it,” Draco shrugged.

There was a moment of silence as they stared into each other’s eyes, a moment when something took shape in the space between them, and Draco didn’t know, or rather he knew, he knew very well what was happening and it was excruciating; excruciating because he knew this moment would end and he didn’t know how it would end and if–

Then Potter reached a hand to Draco’s face, caressed his cheek very softly, touching the corner of his mouth, and with a “Goodnight, Draco” he Disapparated.

 


 

Sleep was out of the question. Harry sank in his sofa, his head in his hands, his mind an Omniocular replaying the night’s events: Draco’s adorable poshness and his hidden vulnerability, his childlike enthusiasm for The Matrix, the way he marched down the street like a reverse hurricane, fixing things instead of destroying them, his eyes bright with laughter. How he looked in the end, his face open, lips parted slightly, and Harry had never wanted to kiss anyone so badly.

How could he not see it? How could he not notice such a monumental shift in himself? And why didn’t Harry kiss him?

He’d felt so scared when the realisation hit him that he Disapparated like a freaking coward. This was Malfoy, he said to himself, my enemy, but a part of himself replied, No, this is Draco, who likes television and drinks too much Coke; who fixed Mrs Porter’s shop sign and Jayesh’s peeling wall. Draco, who'd spent two months in the Muggle world and allowed it to open him up and change him.

Half an hour later, he still stared at the fire with a glass of firewhisky in his hand that Kreacher brought him, muttering “It’s one of those nights.” But Harry never really had one of those nights before. This was completely new and downright terrifying and his head hurt, a pain much akin to someone hitting him over the head with a heavy saucepan. Every single thought in his mind was Draco and his chest ached and he was afraid he’d just made a huge mistake, but he didn’t know which one it was: holding Draco’s hand in the first place, or not kissing him?  The doorbell rang and he shuffled to the door to open it, his mind miles away.

It was Draco.

Harry froze on the threshold, capacity of speech utterly lost. Draco scowled at him for a moment and then he grabbed Harry by his shirt none too gently and crashed his lips on Harry’s. His mouth was warm and soft and angry, and Harry opened his lips for more, but Draco pushed him back and stared at him, looking cross and vulnerable and daring and trembling at the same time.

“This is how they say goodnight, Potter,” he said and Disapparated, leaving a stunned Harry on his front step, his heart singing.

Chapter Text

I sometimes have the tendency/To look at you religiously

Nothing Even Matters - Lauryn Hill

 


 

“What happened?” Hermione asked. “You look positively glowing.”

“Um.” Harry didn’t know what to say so he moved his sprouts around his plate.

The kitchen at Grimmauld Place was warm and full of the aroma of roast potatoes, chicken and thyme, the wireless humming softly in the background. Candles burned in ancient Black candelabras, which Harry had inherited and Kreacher had polished to a fierce shine, casting flickering light on Hermione’s and Ron’s faces.

Kreacher was delighted that Harry had invited them for dinner on Saturday evening and cooked a veritable feast for the three of them.

“Master should invite people more often,” the house elf had told Harry as he whipped up three different kinds of dessert. “Kreacher is happy to cook for guests. Master should host a dinner party.”

Master might, Harry thought. He might invite Draco and they might eat and then maybe they’ll kiss and Harry will touch Draco’s hair and kiss his neck and lick the—

“How’s the education of Malfoy going?” Ron drew his attention to the present. Harry’s cheeks burned and he was grateful for the low lighting.

“We went to the cinema yesterday.” His voice came out raspy and he had to cough to clear it.

“What’s a cinema?” Ron asked and Hermione laughed.

“Harry, you’re showing me up. I’m very behind with Ron’s Muggle Studies.”

“Hey,” he objected, “I know things!”

“Like?”

“Well, I know the names of all the appliances in your parents’ kitchen.” He leaned back with a smug smile. “Does Malfoy know that? I bet he doesn’t.”

Harry’s insides were warm and fuzzy and he couldn’t stop smiling. What would Draco make of a fridge? He grinned at the thought. He looked up to see the other two staring, Hermione’s eyes narrowed in her X-ray vision.

“You know, we should try going to a Muggle pub for a change,” Harry said quickly just to say something. “No paparazzi or anything. We went to one the other day and no one bothered us.”

Hermione was still on X-ray mode. “You went with Malfoy to a pub and to the cinema?”

“Well,” he shrugged and pushed the sprouts around some more, “we’re friendly now.”

“Hm.”

“Friends with Malfoy?” Ron said, helping himself to more chicken. “Merlin’s beard, Harry, are you Imperiused? I mean, I get that it’s entertaining watching him fumble in the Muggle world, but you forget what an arsehole he was at school? You said he was unrepentant.”

“I never said unrepentant, Ron, I said snob, not the same thing. And people change, you know. Besides,” he said irritably, “isn’t unity what the Ministry bandies about these days?”

“Harry’s right,” Hermione said, drawing a shocked look from Ron. “Harry, why don’t you invite Malfoy to the ball on Tuesday so we can meet this changed man?” More shocked looks from Ron. “If you haven’t made reservations for two in a Muggle restaurant or something.”

It was irritating how Hermione could read him so well. Her smirk told him she was perfectly aware of it.

“There are more important issues to discuss here,” Harry replied, spearing a potato with unnecessary force. “Like who Neville is bringing to the ball.”

Changing the topic — not a success with Hermione, who kept her shrewd face on — worked nonetheless with Ron, whose eyes lit up. “Susan Bones,” he said mid-chew, his mouth full of chicken.

“Honestly, Ron, close your mouth!” Hermione said, her attention finally diverted by her boyfriend’s table manners. “And you’re wrong. There’s no way he’s bringing Susan.”

“Fancy a wager then?”

Harry refilled everyone’s wine glass while they bickered amiably, his mind racing. Inviting Draco to a wizarding ball felt big, no question about it. This wasn’t their ‘sightseeing’ as Ms Harris had called it, their holiday in the Muggle world, their safe bubble from a harrowing past; this was the real world that came knocking, demanding they answer; the hint of a cold snap threatening the fragile blooms of whatever was growing between them.

 

On Monday, Harry was so nervous about seeing Draco again that he’d forgotten all about their cleaning spree until a tight-lipped Ms Harris ushered them into her office. They took seats while she leaned on her fists over her desk, glaring at them.

What were you thinking?”

“About …?” Draco asked, looking supremely unconcerned.

“Don’t play coy with me, Mr Malfoy. Look at this!” She smacked open a Muggle newspaper and read. “Toto, We’re Not in Clapham Anymore: Residents wake up to find area transformed. They call it the ‘Miracle of Clapham.’”

“Well, how did that happen?” Draco asked in an innocent voice.

Ms Harris wasn’t amused. “Do you know how much trouble you’ve caused the Ministry?”

“You keep saying ‘us’, but do you have any proof?” Harry’s Auror training kicked in.

“Proof? We know magic was used and you’re the only wizards in the area with a predisposition towards … disobedience.”

“You say it like it’s a bad thing,” Draco scoffed. “Let me ask you this then, Ms Harris. Where would we be if the Boy Who Lived hadn’t disobeyed the Dark Lord’s regime?”

His tone was light, teasing, but her eyes flashed.

“Why, you would be in the Ministry, Mr Malfoy, and Mr Potter would be dead.”

Draco blanched.

“What Draco means is that your evidence is circumstantial.” Harry dropped his arm between their chairs and discreetly pressed the back of his hand against Draco’s. He’d gone so rigid. Draco pressed back, an acknowledgment of Harry’s attempt at comfort. “Not enough to prove conclusively that we had anything to do with it.”

“Are you telling me this wasn’t you?”

Harry said nothing.

Ms Harris sighed deeply. “Both of you are treating this sentence as a joke—”

“That’s because it is a joke.” Draco’s voice was icy cold, a hint of the old Malfoy in his expression that really shouldn’t turn on Harry as much as it did. “We’re wizards and you have us scrubbing walls. It’s inconceivable that it’s been allowed to go on for so long.”

“You’re not the only ones, Mr Malfoy, doing Muggle community service. In case you thought you were special.” She sat heavily on her chair and pinched her nose with thumb and forefinger. When she removed her hand, she avoided Draco’s cold stare and looked at Harry instead. “Did you by any chance think you’d get out of doing your sentence? Because you won’t. You’re only transferring to Brixton. Wands on the desk please. Enjoy the long walk.”

Harry enjoyed the long walk. In fact, it was one of the most enjoyable walks he had ever taken, despite the grey skies and light drizzle, because he took every opportunity to touch Draco on the shoulder or the forearm or the small of his back and Draco, in turn, gave him small smiles and leaned in now and again to whisper in his ear.

“We have to make new acquaintances. Find new magazine shops,” Draco mused, glancing at the Muggle paper map in Harry’s hands. “Or else visit Jenny and the others when we return.”

“We can do both,” Harry said. He touched Draco lightly on the elbow to pull him out of the way of an old lady’s trolley.

They hadn’t mentioned the kiss but it was there, in the air they breathed, the smiles they exchanged, in Draco’s grey eyes that almost burst with unspoken things and more emotion than Harry had ever seen. He himself felt heady, drunk, every sense alert and vibrant, his whole body thrumming.

“How did you find my house?” Harry asked. “It’s under a Furtivus Thesaurus.” Furtivus Thesaurus was a nifty little spell that Hermione dug up from a history book that kept the paparazzi and busybodies from finding his house without Harry having to go full Secret Keeper on his property.

“Did you even read what the spell does before you used it?”

Hermione had explained but Harry hadn’t paid much attention. “Yes,” he lied.

Draco scoffed, seeing right through him. “Sometimes I wonder if you’d pass any exams at school without Granger. A Furtivus Thesaurus is an excellent way to keep people from finding a location but a person who’s been there before. Created by pirates in the 17th century to hide treasure.”

“I know that.” Well, he remembered the bit about the pirates. It was what sold the spell to him. “So you’ve come to my house before?”

Your house is my mother’s aunt’s house, naturally I visited. Last time when I was seven, I think. Dinner party. Ate too much pudding and had to lie down in one of the bedrooms for half an hour.”

Which bedroom, Harry wanted to ask, but restrained himself. He’d have to ask Kreacher.

Thinking of Draco and bedrooms brought to his memory the cloudless night on his doorstep, the crisp air on his skin as Draco kissed him, and Harry’s blood roared. He stopped Draco with a hand on his forearm.

“Hey, you have something in your hair,” he lied. He stood a little too close and brushed Draco’s platinum locks carefully. Draco’s breath felt hot on his skin and he smelled like citrus and cedar. Draco inhaled softly when Harry ‘accidentally’ brushed his ear. He pretended to flick something on the ground.

“All perfect now.”

Draco’s face took his familiar haughty expression, drawled a “thanks, Potter” and stalked away but Harry had caught the wide eyes and the blushing cheeks. He smiled to himself and followed Draco, humming.

Doing community payback was the best.

They practised wandless magic earnestly now when there was no one around. Well, Draco did. Harry spent most of his time watching Draco Scourgify and Accio and Wingardium Leviosa their surroundings, all the while trying to persuade himself that their first kiss — well, first proper kiss — should wait for a time when they didn’t wear orange jumpsuits and stood among bin bags.

There was also the matter of the ball and Harry felt unusually tense, his stomach a tangle of nerves. He’d never felt this anxious asking Justin or even Ginny out. His mind wrestled with it again and again. Draco turning him down only meant that he didn’t want to go to a wizarding ball. Right? Unless he regretted the kiss and simply didn’t want anything to do with him ever again. In that case, Harry would go insane from wanting another one so badly and perhaps this was Draco’s plan all along, the evil mastermind.

Perhaps Harry was being dramatic, the part of himself that sounded like Hermione admonished.  

In the end, he knew this: he wanted Draco to come to the ball. He wanted this — whatever this was — to last beyond their little Muggle holiday. Still, he postponed asking until they returned to the Centre, removed their jumpsuits, and Harry realised that Draco had been talking to him.

“Sorry what?”

“Is everything alright?” Draco’s lips formed an uncertain pout that Harry immediately wanted to kiss better.

He cleared his throat. “Um, yeah, actually I was wondering if — if you want to come to a ball tomorrow?”

Draco’s voice remained casual. “Which one?”

“It’s called Wands for Wandless. A fundraiser, somewhere in Yorkshire.”

“I know the one. Mother tried very hard to obtain an invitation but it was impossible.” His tone was a little too casual as he sat on the bench.  “The fundraiser is organised by Mrs Longbottom.”

The implication was clear: Mrs Longbottom would never invite the sister of Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry hadn’t thought of that. His infatuated brain had only demanded Draco be there and he dove right in, heedless of the implications of inviting a Malfoy.

“I don’t know about your mother, but I could get you invited,” Harry suggested. His infatuated mind was a one-track mind and not easily dissuaded.

“Thanks, Potter, for your charity but I think I’ll pass.”

“Don’t be a prat, it’s not charity.”

Draco kept his face averted and Harry sat next to him. He gently turned Draco’s face towards him and waited until Draco’s eyes met his. His skin felt cool, soft, and Harry’s heart beat even faster, his blood taking command of all brain functions. One particular urge pushed at the forefront of his mind — Draco’s lips were right there! — but he ignored it.

“I want you there. I want you there with me, with my friends, having a good time. Well, as good as anyone can have in these functions.”

“Your friends will be there, too?”

Harry sensed that he was doing a pretty bad job convincing Draco, a bad job which he followed with: “Yes, Neville invited us all.”

Great, there’s someone who’ll be pleased to see me.”

“Oh don’t worry about Neville, he’ll be too busy breaking up and getting back together with Hannah to pay any attention,” Harry quipped, trying to lighten the tone, and it was the wrong thing to say.

Draco stood suddenly and moved out of reach. “So it’s alright for me to be there as long as I go unnoticed?” He leaned his back on a locker and stood there, scowling.

Harry’s heart ached at Draco’s hurt expression, an expression he tried to hide but Harry knew him very well by now. He approached him carefully, wanting to make everything right just as voices interrupted them. Three other offenders in orange jumpsuits walked in the room, threw them a curious glance and moved behind another set of lockers. One yammered about a night out in a club called The Fridge and the antics of Bonkers Bob, prompting laughter from the others. Some minutes later they strolled out.

Harry remained silent by Draco’s side.

“Why can’t we just go out here?” Draco said, meaning the Muggle world.

“We can go out here. We’ll go to this Fridge club if you wish, but I still want you to come to the fundraiser tomorrow.”

“These people hate me, Potter.” He said this quietly.

“They don’t hate you.” Draco didn’t reply and Harry realised he couldn’t press him any more, so he left the Quaffle in his court. “I’ll have an invitation sent to you. You make up your mind.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Draco murmured.

Harry stood very close now, his face inches from Draco’s head and he slid his hand in Draco’s. Draco gazed at their linked hands with a thoughtful frown.

“Say you’ll think about it.” Say you’ll come.

Draco’s hair smelled of rain. “I’ll — think about it.”

 


 

The next day Potter didn’t mention the ball at all, although the invitation had arrived in the evening, Draco’s name in gold on the thick cream envelope. He’d entered the drawing room to find his mother staring at the departing owl, her face pinched. She turned to Draco with a smile after a moment.

“Darling, this is for You.”

After tolerating an increasingly flirty Potter, Draco returned home that day, feeling that his life was in imminent danger of capsizing. He’d managed to stay afloat in turbulent times, and yes, refusing to step outside his house or punching Hufflepuffs weren’t particularly healthy coping strategies, but they’d worked fine for him so far. Now, he felt control slipping from his fingers, the boat sinking, himself drowning in unfamiliar emotions, and it was all Potter’s fault, the story of Draco’s life.

He fell on his bed and considered never leaving it again. No one would really care he didn’t attend the fundraiser. Potter might, sure, but he’d have his friends there. He wouldn’t be lonely. And it’s not like he asked Draco there as a — well. He just said, he’d like Draco to be there. That was all, that meant nothing really and Draco should probably cancel before the situation became even more ludicrous than it already was. If he went, he might end up kissing Potter again like the insanity that happened on Friday night. Draco was still astonished at himself for doing that, it was such an idiotic decision on his behalf, possibly the most idiotic in a lifetime of idiotic decisions because now he couldn't think of anything else but Potter’s bloody mouth.

He sighed and sank back in his pillow. How could he say no? Potter would give him his sad puppy look tomorrow, a face full of disappointment, and who knows, maybe he’d never take him to the cinema again. Of course, Draco could surely go on his own now that he knew what the procedure was, but he didn’t think he’d enjoy it as much without Potter’s arm touching his in the dark.

If he went to the ball, he might end up kissing Potter again.

There was nothing for it. Draco left the bed and asked his house elf to prepare a bath and his best robes.

 


 

“How come you’re not ready yet?” Ron called from downstairs.

“Um,” Harry said, still examining himself in the mirror, turning left and right.

Ron’s footsteps thundered up the stairs. “Mate, what’s taking you so long? Hermione cornered Kreacher about a survey she prepared at work, it’ll get ugly if you don’t come down soon.”

“I’m not sure about the robes,” Harry murmured, looking at the midnight blue fabric and his bow tie. He didn’t think bow ties suited him. Did bow ties suit him?

“What you on about?” Ron went. “These are the ones you wear at every event.”

“Exactly. Shouldn’t I have bought something new by now?”

Ron stared, incredulous. “Why?” He started giving Harry suspicious looks, so Harry quickly shrugged it off.

“No reason. It’s too late anyway. Let’s go.”

“Is this about — oh please, don’t make Hermione be right again!” Ron said, as they ran down the stairs. “Don’t make Smith—

“We’re late, Ron,” Harry interrupted the exasperated look that Ron cast him and called Hermione away from Kreacher, assuring the house elf he didn’t have to fill in the questionnaire if he didn’t want to. Hermione scowled at that, clearly displeased, but was too polite to say so in front of Kreacher, except that Ron decided to take her side and spent a good ten minutes arguing with Harry, who just wanted to get to the bloody ball already. Finally, they left.

The fundraiser took place in a restored 11th century abbey in Yorkshire in the middle of the moors. Red carpet led from the Apparition point to the building that stood imposing under a thunderous sky tinged violet in the west. Spells buffered the winds and warmed the grounds to the temperature of a balmy May evening in the Mediterranean. Harry stepped in the rather austere foyer and handed his invitation to a house elf, who examined it with care. Harry’s heart hammered in his chest. It was absurd, it wasn’t like he hadn’t been out with Draco before but still — he rubbed sweaty palms on his robes and crossed the hall, followed by Ron pulling Hermione determinedly away from the alarmed house elf as she rummaged in her purse for the Ministry survey. Music and noise spilled from an open door, where Mrs Longbottom and two other elderly ladies greeted guests.

“Your guest has already arrived, Mr Potter.” Mrs Longbottom’s steely eyes met his and Harry wore a defiant expression, although, if he was being honest with himself, the lady scared him a little more than Voldemort had.

“Do come in,” she continued to the three of them. “My grandson is inside with his girlfriend.”

“Which girlfriend?” Ron said carelessly and Hermione elbowed him.

Mrs Longbottom’s eyes glittered. “He’s very popular, isn’t he?”

The long abbey had been cleverly converted into a ballroom. Around the dancefloor, round tables with heavy green and purple damask tablecloths reminded of the sea of moors outside the mansion. The silverware shone in the light of golden orbs floating at the tall ceiling and Conjured fireflies fluttered above their heads. An orchestra played on the balcony, the notes competing with the polite chatter of dozens of superbly-clad wizards and witches.

Neville waved at them from the dancefloor, cutting an elegant figure with the girl in his arms.

“Back with Hannah, eh?” Ron murmured. “Damn him.”

Hermione smiled. “Pay up, Ronald.”

“I was sure Bones was a keeper,” he grumbled, handing Hermione a galleon.

“Neville will end up with Hannah, you mark my words now.”

Harry’s eyes searched but he couldn’t find the white blond head. He can’t have left already. Or perhaps—

But there. At the back, alone and staring out of the window was Draco Malfoy. Harry abandoned the others with a wave, mumbling “later”, and pretended he wasn’t running across the ballroom.

Before he reached Draco, he stopped and took a breath. Using his wand, he made a valiant and futile effort to flatten his hair, picked two glasses of champagne from a nearby black-robed waiter and sauntered to Draco, all casual.

“So you came.” Harry handed him a glass of champagne. Draco wasn’t wearing a bow tie, but a cravat and looked resplendent. Harry was going shopping tomorrow. With the help of someone other than Ron this time.

“You’re late,” Draco said, his mouth annoyed, his eyes soft.

“Clothing crisis. House-elf crisis.”

“Is that why you wore the shoddiest dress robes you own?”

“They’re the only dress robes I own,” Harry said.

Draco’s eyes widened. “Potter, I have six different sets of dress robes and I don’t even leave the house.”

“I should take you out more often then.”

Draco smiled with a corner of his mouth before he sipped some champagne. “You’d better.”

 


 

His evening with Granger and Weasley began as horribly as anyone could predict, which nonetheless was still evidently a surprise to Potter, his lofty ideals probably expecting a teary reconciliation between Draco and his two best friends, as if they hadn’t hated each other all through school. In fact, it was only marginally better than the time Granger punched him and indeed Draco made sure to keep on the other side of her fighting arm, while also considering Transfiguring the knives on their table to rubber.

They chatted in very stilted voices about the lovely weather they’d been having and how delightful the orchestra was and Granger looked at Draco with eyes like slits, searching his face for he-didn’t-know-what, while Weasley just kept a constant scowl on his face the entire time. Draco knew they noted every one of his movements, sifted through each word, eager to find any kind of fault, and he responded instinctively by becoming ruder, colder, more contemptuous, until he glanced at Potter and Potter’s sad puppy face.

He didn’t speak much but watched the interaction of his friends with Draco anxiously like a mother hen, and Draco felt a pang inside him, because it seemed that Potter wanted him to get along with his friends and that meant – well, that meant that the least Draco could do was make an effort, if he wanted to see more of Potter. Which he did. He very much did.

“So tell me about your work, Granger.” He startled her and she seemed wary, albeit a little pleased. Her boyfriend rolled his eyes in an exasperated way, “Here we go again.”

“I work in the Department of Regulation of Magical Creatures, in the Sentient Creatures division; Centaurs, house elfs, the like. I’m currently drafting a bill to make changes in the centaur classification, but Mr Bates from the Wizengamot is blocking me at every—”

“Of course he is, Granger. His only daughter fell in love with a centaur and ran away to live in the woods, until she got cold enough and hungry enough to bring herself home. Mind you, she was untouched, the centaur didn't even want her; she just stalked him and ate mushrooms and berries. But it caused quite the scandal and Father said Bates even wanted to start a war. Your best bet is to approach Narvales, the Clerk of the House. He can bypass Bates and get your bill read by the Wizengamot.”

“Why would he do that? If the bill’s not supported by—”

Draco smiled smugly. “Let’s just say that Narvales shares Mr Bates’s daughter’s enthusiasm for centaurs. He’ll read the bill.”

Granger’s mouth opened and closed like a fish. “Um, thank you? You’ve literally saved two months’ work. Why did no one tell me I could go straight to the Clerk?”

“No one tells people these things, Granger. The information is there and it’s for people who know it to use it. Like a Furtivus Thesaurus.” He glanced at Potter when he said this, who grinned at Draco. Draco’s heart missed a beat. Just the one. It was okay.

“So if I needed a Wizengamot member to support a new bill for the house elves…” She trailed off.

Draco replied easily. “Avoid Burkinshot at all costs. The man had several of them decapitated on minor charges. Your best bet is Mrs Fitzpatrick, who hates Burkinshot’s guts and will happily promote any scheme that he’s opposed to. She’s also a Gryffindor. Happy to attach herself to noble causes.”

Potter gazed at him with something close to gratitude now. Draco sometimes wished he could see the world with Potter’s eyes, that straightforward, clear look, intensely honest and good. With his infuriating kindness and his stupid devotion to his friends and his formidable stubbornness, Potter blazed, he radiated heat and sincerity like a small sun and Draco felt drawn to him like a starving plant. What Potter lacked in finesse, he made up in a searing will that was capable of sweeping you off your feet.

It'd swept Draco off his feet anyway.

Really, the Dark Lord had been doomed from the start.

The music changed to an upbeat rhythm and the dance floor filled with swirling couples. A waitress refilled their wine glasses. Across the table, Weasley looked suspiciously at Granger’s mollified expression and crossed his arms in a hostile way. Here we go again: Potter-friend-to-impress-number-two.

“So, Malfoy.” Weasley shot out.

“Weasly.”

“Know what a microwave is?”

Draco paused at the nonsensical question. “Should I?”

Weasley turned to Granger and Potter with a triumphant look. “What did I tell you? I know more Muggle stuff.”

“Was there a competition that someone entered me without my will?” He considered this and snapped his head. “ Potter?”

“If it was a competition,” Weasley continued, looking so smug that Draco wished to shove his rubber knife in his eye, “I’d surely win. I’ve been in a Muggle house once a week for the past six months, you know.”

A sneering comment was on the tip of his tongue, but then Draco’s mind touched on something else. His eyes widened. “Do they have a telly?”

“Yeah,” Weasley said, startled out of animosity, “but I can’t do any magic in the room if I want to watch the Vicar of Dibley because it affects the signage. I have to get up and pour the tea myself.”

“And he won’t stop complaining about it,” Granger muttered under her breath.

“Hey, I like to have the cup float towards me. My back hurts, Auroring is hard.”

“How about Coke? Do your parents drink Coke, Granger?”

“Not really,” she said. “It’s bad for the teeth.”

Draco blanched. “What?” He turned to Harry. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I honestly didn’t really know? I mean, no one really drinks it as much as you do, Draco.”

Granger raised an eyebrow at the Draco and Weasley’s jaw dropped and Draco himself was also a little surprised at hearing his name come from Potter’s lips. He really should  stop thinking about Potter’s lips.

“Tell them about the Matrix,” Potter suggested, gesturing with his fork.

Draco brightened and launched in a description of the film with much enthusiasm and even did an impression of his favourite scene, which had Potter in stitches and even Granger cracked a half-smile, while Weasley just stared at him open-mouthed and turned to Potter and said, “He’s such a dork. How did we not notice before?”

Draco stopped himself from snapping at Weasley. Dork was something Draco could work with. He didn’t like it much, but it was better than git and he’d take it for now.

Unlike the last balls he attended, being in Potter’s proximity transformed people’s looks of hostility into curiosity, bafflement and, in some cases, merely lesser hostility. This was a tough crowd, the toughest his family could break, but here he was, being talked to with a modicum of politeness which, all things considered, was more than he’d hoped for. Potter made the rounds, shaking hands and being photographed, and Draco danced with Hannah Abbott who hated him a little less than the others. Meeting Longbottom was awkward and Draco was certain he didn’t imagine the look of utter contempt on his face. Still, it was bearable. He gossiped about the Ministry with Potter’s friends, made a huge donation, and it wasn’t long before he argued with Weasley about the best Quidditch team.

All in all, Draco caught himself enjoying the party, even though there was a distinct lack of Potter-kissing, which was the main reason he’d come, if he was honest with himself. Of course he didn’t expect Potter to snog him in public, the room was full of reporters after all, and maybe Potter never wanted to kiss him in the first place, which meant that there might be no Potter-kissing ever again. Draco allowed himself a few minutes to brood discreetly in an alcove about this dreadful possibility, and then shook his head, straightened his back, smoothed his face in a Malfoy special, and left the alcove only to bump into Mr Ollivander.

“Mr Ollivander,” Draco said, stunned into immobility. “How do you do.”

“Mr Malfoy. How do you do.”

They stared at each other for a moment and Draco itched to get away, but he certainly couldn’t step away first as if dismissing the man, giving the impression that he was running away from his horrid past, which was exactly what it would be. He therefore politely waited for Mr Ollivander to move away but the wandmaker stared at Draco for long silent moments in that unnerving way he remembered since he was eleven. Perhaps he was waiting for Draco to speak. Perhaps an apology would be a good idea.

“Sir, I understand nothing I say will ever make it right, but please let me apologise for what you suffered in the hands of the Dark Lord during your — uh, stay in our residence.”

Mr Ollivander said nothing. His eyes fell on Draco’s pocket and he extended an arm. Draco handed him his wand with some trepidation.

“Fenella’s work, isn’t it? I can tell from the markings." The wandmaker ran a hand over the wand. "Larch and unicorn. Eleven inches. Pliable. This is a good wand, Mr Malfoy.”

“Thank you.”

“Not as good as mine, however. I’m saddened you felt you couldn’t come to me for your new wand. But I understand why you thought it inadvisable.”

Draco had no idea what to say to this.

Mr Ollivander handed him back his wand. “An unusual combination. Complex. Do it justice, Mr Malfoy. New wand, new start, they say.” With that, the man finally turned his back and returned to the ballroom.

Draco had to escape to the garden.

Potter found him on a bench hidden by rosebushes, facing a gurgling fountain of three marble dancing Veelas. Fairies flitted around the trees and the bushes shimmered with pixie dust, the scent of roses drifting in the air. He sat next to him and slipped his hand in Draco’s, who’d been staring in the middle distance for quite some time.

“Been looking for you.”

“I came across Mr Ollivander,” Draco said.

“And?” Potter's hand tightened.

“I thought he’d be furious with me. But he was only slightly cross because I got my wand from Fenella McIntyre instead of him.”

“Isn’t she supposedly his—”

“I know the gossip, Potter. I didn’t expect him to — to be civil, I guess.

“He knows it wasn’t you who threw him in that cellar, Draco.” Draco. Potter kept calling him Draco and it tugged pleasantly at his gut. Potter’s thumb grazed his palm. “And you started a competition with Ron about Muggle Studies and he’s determined to win it, you just be careful now.”

Draco snorted. “As if there's any chance I'll lose to a Weasley.”

“Do you regret coming?” Potter asked, his voice soft. His eyes fell on Draco’s mouth like they did all night. Draco suddenly felt his palms sweaty. He shuffled closer to Potter, bumping their knees together, and looked at his face. Draco could see every dark eyelash behind his glasses. Potter’s lips were parted and Draco’s heart beat unsteadily.

“No, I’m glad I came.” His voice was raspy.

Potter glanced at his mouth again and, without removing his eyes from Draco’s, he dug out his wand and cast a quick Notice-Me-Not charm around them. He leaned in then and Draco met him in the middle, relief and happiness exploding inside his chest. Their noses touched, breaths mingling, and their lips played on each other’s, barely touching. Then Harry pressed closer and kissed Draco.

Potter smelled like the woods on an autumn morning. Draco loved the woods.

They kissed gently for a while, but they were both hungry for more. This was a long time coming, Draco realised, as his tongue slipped inside Potter’s mouth, licking and tasting, running along the soft inside of his lips. Very soon the kiss became deeper, insistent, their hands grasping tighter at their clothes. Draco slid a hand under Potter's shirt, smiling at his startled gasp. He run his tongue along Potter’s neck and tasted Potter's skin. Draco had never been happier.

“Draco,” Potter breathed, and Draco shuddered right to his toes. Harry’s voice was soft, almost trembling, a caress and Draco had to cup his face and snog him again, their lips devouring each other.

Draco found himself sitting on Potter's lap, pressing his erection against him. His mind had left the premises, he was all feeling and instinct and skin. He rubbed himself experimentally over Potter’s crotch, and Potter moaned, and oh if this sound didn’t almost kill Draco. Potter threw back his head, breaking their kiss and said, “I think we should continue this at my place.”

They Disapparated immediately to Potter’s living room, where he pushed Draco on the sofa and pressed over him, still kissing, always kissing.

Draco didn’t know where he ended and where Potter began. He trailed his hands over Potter’s strong back, tugging at his shirt, slipping under the waistband of his trousers and Potter pulled away, provoking a whine from Draco. Potter looked down at him with dark eyes and said, “you’re killing me,” and before Draco had to wonder whether he meant it as a good thing, Potter took off his shirt and resumed kissing Draco. A good thing then.

The heat that burned his skin would consume him. Draco thought that perhaps this was another elaborate plan to kill him, one that he’d willingly embrace, Potter could be the death of him, literally.

He pressed Potter close to him, then ran his hand through his hair, while Potter tugged the buttons of Draco’s shirt. Draco lifted his torso just a little to take it off and felt Potter freeze. He sank back on the sofa with a resigned look, he knew what was coming, and stared at Potter, who gently stroked his scarred chest.

“I was so stupid.” Potter murmured, his fingers tracing the raised skin.

“Yes, you were. Now, can you kiss me?”

Potter just stared into his eyes. Draco looked back with all the sincerity he could muster, trying to tell him, that yes, I know you feel guilty, we both do, about everything, and it’s time we stopped, and Potter must have seen all that because he kissed him again, his tongue deep inside his mouth, as if he couldn’t get enough of Draco, and it was bliss.

Their erections demanded attention, pressing against each other’s bodies as Potter straddled him, drunk on lust, and fumbled with Draco’s trousers until Draco grabbed his wand and spelled the buttons open with an exasperated sigh that had Potter smiling fondly. Potter wrapped his hand around Draco, his eyes lighting at Draco’s soft moan. The frantic kisses slowed, and Potter stroked Draco’s cock, slowly, while he kissed him on the neck, light, butterfly kisses, and said, “you feel so good, Draco, you feel perfect, just perfect” and Draco thought that this was it, right now he was dying.

He had a hard time keeping his eyes open as he wanted to lie back and feel, but he forced himself to look and he almost came right then and there. The sight of Potter’s hand stroking his cock, faster now, was too beautiful for words. He met Potter’s eyes, who stared intensely at Draco’s face, as if searching for something, and Draco responded by letting the unbearable pleasure show on his face, and he could tell that Potter was turned on. He shifted his position and reached a hand for Potter’s trousers, which opened quickly under his fingers, and then it was Potter who moaned and fluttered his eyes shut and opened his swollen mouth so indecently that Draco stroked harder and harder.

Draco was so so close. Propped over him, Potter tugged their trousers low and brought their cocks together, wrapping both in his hand, and it was too much. He only had to grind himself against Draco a few times, before Draco came hot and loud over Potter’s hand and then Potter spilled on Draco’s skin.

They fell back on the sofa, next to each other, breathing hard, and covered in sweat and spunk.

Draco dared a look at Potter, who was looking at him with something soft in his eyes that resembled wonder. Maybe he was drunk, Draco thought, he should have checked, made him walk in a straight line, what if Potter accused him of taking advantage?

“What are you thinking?” he said in the end when he couldn’t take it any longer.

“How wonderful you look like this,” Potter murmured against his shoulder.

“Sweaty?”

“Half-naked. Post-orgasmic. In my arms.”

There must be a name for this explosion that happens in your chest when people make love to you with these words, Draco thought. Instead he said, “You look good yourself, Potter.”

“Potter? Perhaps it’s time to call me Harry, don’t you think?”

Draco smiled as he said it. “Harry.”

Harry kissed him and Draco said it again, “Harry. Harry,” and every Harry earned a kiss until they were both kissing deeply again, Harry’s arms holding him so tight it almost hurt.

“Do you want to stay over?” Harry whispered.

Draco wanted to, oh he so wanted to. But he’d have to notify Mother and he couldn’t lie to her, and he also wasn’t ready to talk about this, whatever this was. So he shook his head, and said, “I’d better get home actually. Preferably with Floo, I doubt I’m in a position to Disapparate right now.”

Harry cleaned them with a quick spell and Draco buttoned on his shirt, leaving it untucked over his trousers. He shrugged on his robes. Harry was smiling at him from the sofa.

“What?” Draco asked, embarrassed and pleased by the attention.

“Look at you,” Harry said in the same tone of voice, the one that hinted at awe, and Draco looked down but couldn’t see what the matter was.

“You look beautiful. And fucked. Beautifully fucked,” Harry smiled and got up and kissed Draco again, his hand on his face, pulling him close.

Draco really didn’t want to leave. He was sure he’d regret it, he was already regretting it, especially as his cock stirred again and Harry gripped his arse and pulled him close and—

“I’ve really got to go,” he breathed, hating himself a little.

Harry took a step back and Draco grabbed a handful of Floo. He threw it in the fire and stepped in the green flames. Harry said, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” and Draco said “Draco Malfoy bedroom, Knightsbridge,” and Harry’s living room disappeared.

Draco fell on his bed over the covers, his smile eating his face. He didn’t think he’d be allowed this much happiness, but here he was, drowning in it.

He should have known it was all going to blow up in his face.

Chapter Text

What you want might make you cry

When It Hurts So Bad - Lauryn Hill

 


 

 

However, the most scandalous rumour to come from the Wands for Wandless fundraising ball is that Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, was seen in the presence of none other than ex-Death Eater, Draco Malfoy, raising questions over the nature of the friendship between the two men and prompting concern regarding what many call Potter’s ‘self-destructive tendencies’ (for an in-depth analysis, see Rita Skeeter’s article, pg. 6). Neither Potter nor Malfoy were available to comment, although a source told us that the two of them looked very cozy together.

Gladys Glenmorgan, The Society Pages, The Daily Prophet, 6 April 1999

 

The club Fridge was in Brixton and it was The Place To Be, according to Jenny, although Jayesh said he didn’t much fancy the ‘dance scene’ and Mrs Porter had no opinion on it whatsoever, but gave them a cheese pastry the day after the ball, which they shared and then kissed each other silly.

They kissed each other silly every day and Draco didn’t think life got any better than this, but it kept getting a little better every day, when he realised he hadn’t dreamt this, that it was really happening, and he wondered how much happiness a human body could hold, how much bliss fitted under one’s skin before something gave.

His mother’s knowing looks he could live without. Draco now strongly suspected she was a Legilimens of a high calibre, because all it took was for him to step into the drawing room the day after the ball and she'd gasped and put her book down.

“Draco! You’ve—”

Draco froze, waiting to hear the end of that sentence. Had sex? Boffed Potter? Indulged in some frottage with the Saviour? Fucked a Gryffindor?

“You’ve had a Dalliance.”

Draco blushed to the tips of his toes, wishing the earth would open and swallow him right there and then.

“Would you like me to tell you about the ball?” he asked, his voice as casual as he could make it, and took a seat on the sofa, trying very hard not to think of what transpired in Harry’s living room in case his mother did read his mind and see everything, and then nothing but self-immolation would save him from the embarrassment.

She smiled, her eyes full of an emotion he couldn’t identify, and then her face smoothed. “Of course. Do tell. Who was there?”

“Mrs Burke, the eldest, with that pillock of a son…”

Draco spent a pleasant hour describing the event to his mother. He dared to hope that things were looking up for them, especially when a letter arrived from Mrs Longbottom herself thanking him for his generous donation, ‘the largest donation of the evening’. Shortly afterwards, an invitation to a spring ball arrived with both their names on and his mother left the room to make arrangements, looking happier than he’d seen her in — well, years.

It was a lovely week. On Thursday, two nights after the ball, Harry took him to his local for a meal and a game of darts. There was a sticky moment when they’d walked in, as a grey-faced wizard shook Harry’s hand and promptly started sobbing, and Draco froze at this open display of pain. The man eventually retreated to his table where he continued crying quietly into his pint. Harry looked devastated and some people glowered at Draco as if he was responsible for the man’s grief, and maybe he was, Draco had no idea. Others examined Draco openly as if he was a rare and dangerous exhibit, and one of them, her face somewhat familiar, patted him on the shoulder on her way out, as if she understood — what, Draco didn’t know. He turned his back to everyone, throat tight, and Harry ordered a pitcher, possibly because he suspected someone would spit in Draco’s drink, but by the time their meal arrived, they were left alone and Draco relaxed.

They played darts and it turned out that Harry was pretty good at it, so Draco turned on the charm, touching Harry on the arm, sending smouldering looks when Harry took aim, licking his bottom lip, he even considered batting his eyelashes. The darts sensed Harry’s distraction and landed in the most random places, one even embedding itself in the kidney pie of an elderly wizard, to whom a red-faced Harry apologised profusely, ‘usually I’m good at this.’ The wizard was fuming, but being the Chosen One had its advantages and Harry suffered only the lightest of scoldings. Draco didn’t resent him getting preferential treatment. He was too busy shaking with laughter.

When the game ended — Draco won, naturally — they slid in a booth at the back as the pub filled in. Night had fallen on the quiet river outside where a small group of paparazzi huddled, the red tips of their cigarettes glowing in the dark.

“People tip them off,” Harry told him, “they always show up wherever I am.”

“Except when you’re in the Muggle world.”

“Except those times, yes.”

Who’d have thought that pureblood Draco Malfoy and the Boy Who Lived, for different reasons, would ever consider the Muggle world a haven. Draco felt safe there, but here was home and he’d missed it: Weird Sisters on the wireless and someone arguing about the Wimbourne Wasps; an inebriated portrait of a witch with a monocle making lewd comments to the unfortunate lads sitting under it; the smell of butterbeer and the cocktails that changed colour according to the wisdom of the drinker and the number of healthy teeth in their mouth; a bloke Transfiguring his tie before his girlfriend arrived, and three goblins at the bar, asking for a private room. This was home, and if it came with being treated like a pariah, so be it. He might have fucked up his place in it, but at least, it’d led him to this: Harry.

“Do you mind if I invite Ron and Hermione?” Harry said. “It’s pub quiz night and Hermione loves them.”

There was nothing Draco wanted less, but he nodded, because he was stupid when Harry looked at him in that way, a soft, hesitant sort of way that made Draco want to grab him and never let go.

Harry took his wand out and cast a Patronus, the show-off. A silver stag dissolved with a gallop in the air, while the other patrons barely looked up from their conversations. It must have been a regular occurrence.

“One of the most difficult spells ever created and you use it to summon your friends to pubs?” Draco asked.

“I don’t feel the least bit sorry about it,” Potter replied with a smile and knocked back his drink. How insufferably smug, Draco thought, and he knew that a few years back he’d want to kick Potter but now he wanted to kiss him, and who knows, perhaps it was the same thing.

Weasley and Granger showed up twenty minutes later, narrowing their eyes when they saw Draco, because Harry must have helpfully forgotten to mention he was there. Everyone remained civil throughout, however, and it turned out to be an enjoyable night. Granger’s demeanour towards Draco had slightly thawed since Narvales proved as helpful as he’d suggested, and to Draco’s surprise, they bonded over a shared competitive streak which ensured their team won the pub quiz. Weasley was predictably useless at it and Harry even more so, especially as Draco kept his knee pressed against him all night and occasionally ran his foot along the inside of his calf. Seeing Harry get progressively redder made Draco’s night, but it also made him impatient for the evening to end, and for them to be alone.

“So clubbing tomorrow? With the Muggles?” Harry said as they all headed to the private fireplace upstairs, the pub’s concession towards its most famous customer, who didn’t wish to leave by the front door. Granger agreed and Weasley looked at Draco as he said, “Bring it on.”

After Harry’s friends disappeared in the fire and after thanking the sisters that ran the pub, Harry Floo-ed them to his living room.

“You’ve tormented me all bloody night,” Harry growled and tugged harshly at Draco’s clothes, catching his mouth in a searing kiss. Draco smiled against Harry’s lips, but before he replied, Harry pulled back and gave him a mischievous, dangerous smile that reminded Draco of their school years. “Now it’s my turn.”

Harry pushed Draco on the sofa in a sitting position, his trousers around his ankles, and knelt inside his open legs. Draco’s breath hitched, and he found he had serious trouble breathing for the next twenty minutes as Harry tormented him indeed with the best form of Crucio, kissing the inside of his thighs, licking the underside of his cock, slipping the head in his mouth before pulling away, teasing, mercilessly teasing, until finally he took him in his mouth and sucked him off and reduced Draco to an incoherent mess.

An hour later, they lay naked on the sofa, after both coming twice with the other's mouth and hands. They instinctively avoided the bedroom again, perhaps because fooling around on the sofa made their affair feel less serious. Less scary. Less something. Although Harry asked him once again to spend the night, but Draco refused, even though his mother didn’t really need to be notified, he was of age after all and she probably suspected where he was anyway, she seemed to know everything these days. But still he hesitated to take this to the bedroom.

“Have you before…?” Harry stroked Draco’s arm as it lay across his chest.

The fire cast a warm glow in the otherwise dark room and the city outside was quiet, a dog barking in the distance. Draco ran his fingers in Harry’s chest hair, lightly pulling.

“I fooled around in school. A little. Beginning of sixth year when I felt—” He swallowed. “I was too stressed after.”

“With who?” Harry didn’t stop his stroking, skating over the mention of that awful year.

“Harper, once or twice. Blaise a few times. Pansy gave me a handjob once but it was a dare, I don’t think it counts.”

“I had sex just the once when I was in school,” Harry confessed and for some reason that made Draco feel great. Fewer of Potter’s exes to hex. “The rest of the tower fucked with abandon, especially in Year Six but Ginny and I — well, we only slept together once, the night before I left for the Dursleys.”

“She was your first,” Draco said, thanking all four Hogwarts Founders that it wasn’t Justin Finch-Fletchley, he didn’t think he could bear it if it had been.

“Yeah. And you? Have you had…?”

Draco knew what Harry meant even though he couldn’t finish a sentence, apparently. “Just fooling around. Handjobs, blowjobs. That’s it.”

There was a pause when their minds inevitably thought of the same thing. Just the idea that it was something he might do with Harry Potter, that it was a possibility, that his school fantasies could actually come true made Draco’s heart race.

“You know,” Harry cleared his throat, “you could stay at mine tomorrow after the club. I mean, it’s going to be a late night, who knows what time we’ll get back and you shouldn’t wake up your mother,” a euphemism if Draco ever heard one. Harry brought Draco’s fingers to his lips and spoke softly. “I’m not asking for anything. I’d just like to sleep next to you.”

“I’ll — let Mother know.” Draco had to clear his throat too. His mouth was dry, his saliva had vanished, although if he went looking, he’d probably find it inside Harry’s mouth.

They did have community service early tomorrow, though, so Draco Apparated home a little later, hair ruffled, clothes wrinkled, and his mind thinking of the following night that he’d spent in Harry Potter’s bed.

 

Five Gryffindors and a Hufflepuff waited for him outside the doors of the club and Draco wondered how his life had led him to this. He ran a critical eye over their attire, disappointed with what he saw. Weasley the Annoying wore a stripy T-shirt over his jeans, Weasley the Scary denim overalls and the Longbottom-Abbott couple wore jeans and those Adidas jackets everyone seemed to like. Draco never in his life would have thought he’d know what Adidas meant but there you had it: nine weeks in the Muggle world and he was now considering buying one himself. He was surely going insane. For tonight, Draco had chosen a crisp white shirt and a silk tie under a smart jacket and smirked, thinking of how underdressed the others would be if the club was anything like the one his father belonged to.

It was nothing like the club his father belonged to.

Instead of leather sofas, wood-paneled walls and a long polished bar where a barman might pour single malt firewhisky in cut glass tumblers, this club was a vast open space, dark and smoky with bare walls, strobing lights and very few places to sit. Draco remembered Blaise’s tales of Amortentia, the club in Knockturn Alley, that sounded a lot like this one. Low lighting, Blaise had said, sexy music and smoke, but Draco doubted anyone would call this music sexy. It had no lyrics and was fast, repetitive, and entirely too loud. Everyone danced wildly, throwing arms in the air and waving around glowing sticks for no other reason he could think of than allowing their friends to find them in the dark. Some blokes were topless, others had their hair in spikes and everyone’s clothing was like nothing Draco had witnessed before: colourful and phosphorescent and very little of it. Draco feared he’d lose Harry in the dark so he grabbed his hand as they shoved their way towards the bar through the crowds of dancing people.

When they emerged from the sweaty throng of dancers, they still held hands and Potter’s friends stared. Draco tried gently to pull his hand free, not that it’d do any good, the crup was out of the bag, but Harry gripped it tighter and pulled them closer to the bar where he ordered a round of Bacardi Breezers.

The reactions of Potter’s friends varied. Abbott seemed only mildly concerned with what Harry got up to and way more interested in the girls eyeing up her boyfriend, who in turn appeared clearly displeased with this development between his friend and his former bully. The Girl Weasley’s and Granger’s faces showed no hint of surprise, but Boy Weasley looked like he was having a stroke. Draco accepted his Smirnoff Ice — Harry knew he liked the silvery colour of the drink — and cast a discreet Silencing Bubble around them so they could speak.

“The music is…” Abbott said. She shrugged when no appropriate word came. Draco doubted any words existed to describe this music.

“What’s with the whistling?” Granger asked.

“I like it here,” Weasley Girl said, moving her shoulders in time with the music.

Harry stood with the other two boys. Weasley, an exasperated look on his face, stared at Harry who looked back defiantly. Longbottom also stared at Harry for a moment and then sighed and gave a resigned shrug when Harry stared back, and generally there was lengthy communication going on between them with eyes and no words, which Draco disliked and which also possibly explained why Harry could never finish a sentence properly. He also felt a small — alright, large — pinch of jealousy at this wordless communication Harry had with his mates.

“So,” the male Weasley turned to the group, “is this how Muggles have fun?”

“Don’t you know?” Draco sneered. “Thought you were an expert at Muggles.”

“I am,” he said. “It was a — rhetorical question.”

“Do you even know what Muggles call this drink?” Draco pointed at the bottle.  

Weasley’s eyes flickered uncertainly at the pineapple Breezer he was holding. “Of course I know. They call it alcohol like we do. I can see through your trick questions, Malfoy.”

“It’s called alcopop,” Draco said with glee. “Are we keeping score?”

“I’d like to see you in a Muggle kitchen—”

“Shall we dance?” Harry interrupted, wrapping an arm around Draco and flashing his eyes to Weasley.  

“Please let’s,” Longbottom said, pulling his girlfriend’s hand towards the dance floor where Ginny danced very energetically and where a beautiful, tall girl offered Longbottom her glowing stick with a smile that made Abbott almost draw out her wand. Apparently, his pulling power extended to the Muggles as well. The rest of them followed and, with the aid of alcohol and Harry touching him now and again, Draco found he was actually rather enjoying himself. It also helped he didn’t have to make further conversation with Harry’s friends, a blessing of this strange, loud music.

 

Draco was coming out of the loo when the Weasley girl pounced and dragged him into the ladies’ despite his protests.

“What are you doing?” he hissed. Weasley untied his tie and shoved it inside his shirt pocket, while the women queueing looked on with interest.

“Just a little makeover,” she said.

“This is a twenty-galleon tie.” He pulled it out to show her.

Is it?” Weasley’s eyes signalled danger, but he picked on it a little too late. “Let me see.” She took it from his hands and chucked it behind her on the wet filthy tiles, and Draco mourned his tie, since there was nothing on this planet that’d make him pick it up from a toilet’s floor.

He stepped back trying to get away from her reaching hands, but the sinks prevented any further retreat.

Weasley undid the top two buttons of his shirt. She raised an eyebrow thoughtfully, and a woman washing her hands next to them said, “One more.”

Weasley nodded to her and undid another button, smoothing his collar open.

“I ask again, what do you think you’re doing?” He itched to hex her, the Statute of Secrecy be damned.

Weasley took out his silver cufflinks and he snatched them from her and shoved them in his pocket, before she threw an 18th-century Malfoy heirloom away, too.

“Making you hotter,” she said, rolling up his right sleeve.

“I am hot,” Draco growled and some girls tittered. A small crowd had gathered, girls in ponytails and holding lollies, who took unusually long to get through the process of queueing and peeing and washing hands.

Ginny ignored him.

“And Harry likes me anyway,” he said in a lower voice, although, on second thoughts, perhaps he shouldn’t remind Harry’s ex of the fact.

“I know he does. I don’t know why, but he does.” Weasley’s fingers slid over the faded scar of his Mark on the other hand and stilled briefly, before she continued rolling the sleeve up. “I also don’t know what’s in it for you, what you get out of it. But what I do know is that when he sees you looking like this, he’ll smile and be happy, and I want him to be happy.” With a not very gentle shove, she turned him to face the mirror, ran a hand through his hair, messing it horribly, and they both stared at Draco’s dishevelled image that exposed far more skin than he’d like. He looked like a — like a trollop.

However, the girls in the loo agreed with Weasley’s makeover, and one even wolf-whistled. “Much better, love.”

“Well, aren’t you a bit of alright?” said another, but Draco only had eyes for the Weasley girl who met his in the mirror and leaned in his ear. She whispered, “If you hurt him, I’ll kill you.” Her eyes said she’d make good on her promise. She swept her long hair behind her back and left him there with the leering girls.

He tried to leave when Granger walked in and headed towards him, and this night would never end. She looked at him from top to bottom and murmured “Someone will be pleased.” Then she met Draco’s eyes. “So,” she said. “Ginny got you?”

“She got me,” he confirmed.

“Right. I wanted to say, I don’t know what you’re playing at here, but I’ve never seen Harry look at anyone this way before.”

“Oh, you’re gay, sunshine?” said the girl who spoke before. “Shoulda known. All the good-looking ones are.”

Draco wished his interactions with Harry’s female friends didn’t have an audience but the girls at the loo wouldn't leave, some still pretending to wash their hands, others openly watching.

Hermione ignored them. “If you…”

“Save your breath,” Draco interrupted her. “Weasley Girl beat you to it.”

Draco staggered out of the ladies’, thinking of bolting it and getting away from all these Gryffindors, but then he saw Harry dancing — appallingly — and he took a moment to watch him unobserved. Harry danced with Neville and Hannah, holding his watermelon Breezer, his sweaty T-shirt sticking to his back. He waved his hands in the air like the Muggles, while Neville whistled like a maniac; the whistle a gift probably from another adoring fan. Harry was a terrible dancer, really, there was no hope, and Draco caught himself smiling as he saw him, his chest warm and fuzzy.

He thought of spending the night later with Harry, sleeping in his arms and waking up next to him and he knew he’d never ever hurt him, not the tiniest bit, in fact he’d put up with anything to be with him, including his terrible, unwanted-makeover-giving friends.

As he approached him, Harry turned and spotted him and his eyes widened. Draco came closer and Harry still stared open-mouthed. He ran his hands up Draco’s bare forearms and his eyes fell on his collarbone. Draco was a little surprised and more than a little pleased at Harry’s reaction. It seemed that the Weasley girl, death threats aside, knew what she was doing.

“What happened, Potter?” Draco drawled. “Kneazle got your tongue?”

Harry, his fingers on Draco's neck, leaned in his ear and whispered, “You look amazing.” He traced Draco’s collarbone, his eyes dark with desire.

“Is this how you prefer me?” Draco asked.

“Oh, I like you all buttoned-up and prim.” Harry nuzzled his ear. “Makes me more eager to undress you. But this… Sex on legs. That’s what you are.” Harry’s arms circled his waist. “I can’t believe you’re mine.” He realised what he said and blustered, “Not that I think I own you, it’s just an expression, I didn’t really mean—”

Draco felt something shift inside him. A seismic change, silent but devastating. His chest suddenly ached. He pulled Harry from the dance floor and dragged him to a dark corner where he cast as many Muggle Repellent and Disillusionment Charms he could manage before he pinned Harry to the wall and crashed his lips on him.

“What brought this on?” Harry panted when they drew for breath.

“I am yours,” Draco said, looking at him seriously. “I am yours.” He bit Harry’s shoulder and Harry gasped. His lips fell on Harry’s again and he fisted his T-shirt and yanked, he had to make him see. He kissed him again, desperately. Draco unbuckled Harry’s jeans and shoved his hand down his boxers. “I am yours,” he repeated in Harry’s ear, stroking him and Harry moaned, the thrill of being seen — which was impossible, Draco cast his spells well — bringing him feverishly to a fast and furious orgasm, while Draco kept whispering “I’m yours, I’m forever yours” in Harry’s ear.

After Harry came, gasping against his neck, he reached a hand towards Draco's trousers, but Draco stepped back and shook his head.

“Why?” Harry said.

Draco cupped Harry’s cheeks and brought their faces together. “Do you understand?”

“Yes. Yes,” Harry said, his expression softening in a post-coital glow, “You’re mine.” Harry wrapped his arms around him and held him close. He kissed Draco tenderly and slowly and Draco felt the previous urgency melting and himself becoming liquid in Harry’s arms. He’d never hurt Harry, there was nothing in the world he desired less, what were they thinking? But they couldn’t know how deep his affection went and Draco knew he had to prove it to them, again and again, but he was willing to spend his whole wretched life proving to the world that he’d never hurt Harry Potter.

“I’m in love with you,” he murmured and Harry’s hands tightened around him. “I’ve always been in love with you.”

There it was, out in the open. Draco was a naked, exposed, raw nerve.

They breathed each other’s breaths for a moment, and Harry started to say something, but Draco stopped him with a hand over his mouth. He didn’t want Harry to reciprocate, not yet anyway, this was about making him understand, about being as honest as he could be.

“I’ll clean us up.”

“What was that all about?” Harry smiled, as Draco cast cleaning spells and buttoned them up.

Now that the urgency had passed and Draco had got his message across, he relaxed back into his usual self and raised an eyebrow. “I had to think of a way to keep you from dancing. It’s simply too embarrassing for words.”

“Which god do I thank for you looking like this?” Harry ignored his teasing words and touched Draco’s collarbone as if he hadn’t seen it before. Truly, he was becoming obsessed with that part of Draco’s body, leaving there a series of soft kisses.

“Well. I wouldn’t call her a god really.”

 


 

 

“So what do Muggles do after clubbing?” Ginny traipsed down the road, whistling madly and Ron blamed Neville for giving the damned thing to her before he and Hannah bid them goodnight.

It was after 3 a.m. and Harry’s stomach rumbled audibly.

“They go for a kebab,” Hermione said and they followed the smell of chips down the road.

They sat at a plastic table, eating their greasy doners and kebabs and Harry couldn’t stop looking at Draco; Draco with his open shirt collar and mussed hair, like some sex god, and his unexpected and utterly welcome assault before, grabbing at Harry as if his life depended on it and telling him he was Harry’s. Telling Harry he was in love with him. Harry felt dazed. He didn’t even let Harry respond to his feverish statement when his lust-addled brain tried to reciprocate. The conversation in the kebab shop continued but Harry thought only of how he was falling pretty hard for his old enemy and it scared him, the intensity of his feelings. He’d never been this much in love before. Never, not even with Ginny when the imminent war had given their embraces a life-or-death quality to them.

Nope, this was new and beautiful and terrifying and there was no way Harry could ever finish this kebab. His stomach was in knots and all he could think of anyway was taking Draco’s face in his hands and kissing him until they both had no breath left.  

“Look, an owl in the city!” a customer exclaimed and Harry turned his head to see the brown bird fluttering outside the window. His boozy brain failed to recognise it, but Hermione tugged Harry’s sleeve.

“Go see what the owl wants,” she urged him, but Harry shook her off. Draco’s thigh pressed against his and he had no intention of moving an inch.

“Maybe it’s for you,” he told her but the warning in her eyes troubled him. Before she said anything else, though, a customer opened the door and the bird flew in and dropped a letter to Harry, looking knackered, as if it’d been flying for hours trying to locate him.

A niggling gut feeling tried to stop him from opening the letter, but his brain was full of alcohol and images of soon-to-be-naked Draco, so he fumbled with the envelope and took the parchment out.

Draco leaned in and put his head on Harry’s shoulder, casually, flirtily, a little drunkenly. “Another invitation for a ball, Mr Popular?” His eyes fell on the short note and he froze. Harry froze, too.

 

Darling Harry,

Pick you up at eleven tomorrow? You’ll love Dorset, you’ll see.

Justin

P.S. Can’t wait to get naked with you again.

 

Harry turned to Draco who’d stood up, his face a pale mask. “Draco, let me explain…” I forgot, he wanted to say, I completely forgot about Justin, we planned this weeks ago and I forgot, it means nothing, I’ll cancel, but he had no chance of saying anything because Draco stormed out, and when Harry ran after him, he heard a crack from behind a skip and Draco was nowhere to be seen.

The rest of the night went straight downhill. Harry scribbled a note: ‘Sorry, can’t make it tomorrow. I’m really sorry, but I can’t see you again,’ to which Justin replied, ‘Well, fuck you too,’ which Harry thoroughly deserved. He tried to Floo to Draco’s bedroom at Knightsbridge, but access had been blocked. In the end, distraught, he stayed at Ron and Hermione’s, who took pity on him and let him sleep on their couch.

He slept fitfully and woke up feeling his limbs heavy, ice in his veins. Sunshine streamed through the window, heralding a bright spring day; the weather mocking him for what he’d let slip through his fingers. But it couldn’t be the end, Harry couldn’t — wouldn’t — accept it. Ron made tea and Hermione brought Harry parchment and a quill. He borrowed their owl, but the bird returned empty-clawed.

He didn’t know how he’d have made it through the weekend if it hadn't been for his two friends. They cooked for him and Hermione held his hand and Ron kept any scathing comments about Malfoy to himself and they lent him their owl so he could sent letter after letter to Draco. No reply came back and, in the end, Harry contacted Narcissa Malfoy, who replied that her son was out of town, although he had no idea if she was lying or not. He spent the whole maddening, futile weekend at their flat and late on Sunday he collapsed on the sofa, as Ron and Hermione closed the door behind them.

“Why do we have to find him? Good riddance, I say.” Ron was audible outside the door.

“Ron, Harry’s suffering. This thing with Malfoy — it’s pretty serious, I think. And if Malfoy’s this upset — perhaps it’s serious for him too.”

Ron sighed deeply. “I know. So many things make sense now.”

“The whole of Year Six, for example…”

“The Potter Stinks badges… What a cry for attention.”

“Without Voldemort, they might have even got together at school.”

“‘Mione, I thought we talked about this. Can we not say You-Know-Who…?” Their voices disappeared down the corridor, but it took hours for Harry to fall asleep.

Monday dawned and Harry, ragged and sleepless, was at the Centre half an hour early, waiting for Draco. He paced in the locker room, his head snapping at the slightest sound, but Draco never showed up.

“Has Mr Malfoy decided not to honour us with his presence?” Ms Harris asked.

“Can you reach him?” he asked, desperate. “Do you have a way?”

“No. I’ll contact your Ministry and ask that he—”

“Something happened,” Harry interrupted. “Can I take this day off so I can find him and we’ll make up the hours at the weekend, is that okay?”

It wasn’t okay. Harry had to scrub walls on his own, and the hours he spent doing his community service, the hours that seemed to fly in the past, felt like an eternity.

When Draco didn’t show up the next day either, Harry walked out, not caring about any punishment that he might get, and frantic with worry. He decided to put his Auror training in practice. First, he visited Narcissa Malfoy, who produced the note Draco had left and confirmed it was his handwriting. The note read that he was going away, he was safe, but asked his mother not to look for him.

“What happened, Mr Potter? What have you done?” She didn’t hide the cold fury in her voice.

“I might have made a mistake,” he whispered.

“Then I suggest you Fix it.”

He would fix it, he’d make everything right, if only he found Draco again. He called in on every friend of Draco’s he could think of.

Blaise said he hadn’t seen him in weeks and could he please be allowed to leave now, he had an appointment for a Ministry internship and he mustn’t be late. Pansy Parkinson didn’t meet his eyes once and said she hadn’t spoken to Draco in a good while, but perhaps Nott would know? Theodore Nott’s house elf informed him that Master was out, although Harry saw the curtain twitch at an upstairs window. Finally, Greg Goyle, a shell of himself, ushered Harry into his drawing room, a cold, large room, retaining only a hint of former glory and opulence. Harry winced at the sight of him, as he limped around faded wallpaper and baroque dusty furniture. Goyle’s skin had a strange purple tint and he’d lost an eye to the attacks by his former victims.

“He’s sent me car magazines.”

“I know.” Draco had told him of Greg’s little hobby.

“Have you seen a Mazda Miata?”

“Not sure,” said Harry.

“They’re Japanese. They make them in Japan and bring them all the way here. I like the Miata.”

Harry stood to leave, this was getting him nowhere, when Goyle spoke again. “Have you looked at the Manor?”

“Draco said he could never go back there.” Draco had turned green every time he spoke of the Manor. Harry headed to the door when Goyle murmured,  “But it’s his home.”

The following day, when a concerned Ms Harris said Draco didn’t show up again, Harry tracked down Narcissa Malfoy at a luncheon so he could ask for permission to enter the Manor’s wards.

It was late afternoon by the time he Apparated just beyond the grounds, the sky above him clear and blue. It was colder in the country and a sharp wind rustled the trees and cut through his jacket. Harry spoke the incantation, waved his wand in front of the gate as Narcissa had taught him, and entered the garden.

The Manor looked abandoned. This was his final hope; after this, he had no idea where to look. The front door opened for him and he went inside a damp, freezing house. Sullen portraits peered at him as he walked around the ground floor, wand out, his footsteps soft on thick dust, and opened door after door. He entered the drawing room last, the one where they’d been held prisoners.

The chandelier was missing, but the long ornate mirror still hung over the fireplace. Harry shook. He didn’t expect the physical reaction to be so strong. His body remembered the terror of that night, Hermione’s pain and Ron’s despair and the paralysing fear of Voldemort, and he almost retched. When the feeling passed, he took deep breaths and checked the room. The dust was undisturbed. No one had been in here for months.

He sat down on the cold floor and cried then. It was the least Gryffindor thing he could do, but he allowed himself a few minutes of this, letting warm tears ran over his cheeks. Eventually, he wiped his face with his sleeve and stood shakily up. He decided to use Homenum Revelio before he wasted time searching the rest of the mansion and, to his relief, the spell pinged.

Someone was in the Manor.

The spell suggested downstairs so he took a staircase that led below and reached the fire-lit kitchen, the first warmth he’d encountered in the house. Through the ajar door, he saw a figure sitting at a wooden chair and staring into the fire. The remains of a meal were on the table: cheese, bread and half a pear, Harry noted, as he cast an Anti-Apparition jinx around the Manor. It occurred to him that Draco must have felt the swooping sensation of the Homenum Revelio spell and hadn’t left, and this thought gave him a glimmer of hope.

Draco didn’t turn his head from the fire when Harry stepped inside. “You’re trespassing, Potter. I suggest you get the fuck out of my house before I call the Aurors.”

“Your mother gave me access to the wards.”

“I figured as much. I’ll change them as soon as you bugger off.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” Harry dragged another chair and sat next to him in front of the fire. Draco looked haggard, the dark circles under his eyes resembling bruises. Harry itched to touch him but instead he cast his eye around the room, noticing a blanket and a pillow on the bench at the far wall: a makeshift bed.

“Are you sleeping in here?” he asked.

“How was Dorset?” Draco asked. “Did you have fun, darling Harry?”

Harry wished Draco would look at him. “I’m so very sorry. You can’t imagine how sorry. I was stupid. That was all. I was stupid and I forgot all about it and I didn’t cancel.” He turned towards Draco who still glared at the fire. “I haven’t seen Justin in weeks, not once since you and I… The main reason it slipped my mind was because I was thinking of you night and day.”

“So it’s my fault.”

Sigh. “Can you look at me, please?”

“No.”

Harry let the silence stretch and fill the corners of the vast room. The only sound came from the fire, crackling merrily and throwing dancing shadows on the wall, unconcerned with the drama going on between the humans. A clock chimed from an upstairs corridor. They stayed like this for a long time.

“It's the one room I can be sure he never entered,” Draco murmured.

Harry didn't ask who.

Draco continued. “When Father spoke of the Dark Lord and of our superiority over — well, everyone else — he made it sound glorious, dazzling, almost like becoming royalty. But when the Dark Lord came … well, the reality was different. Werewolves,” his face grimaced at the word, “came and went, filthing the grounds with their kills, stinking of blood and soil and sweat. Rowle, that piece of shit, made a pass at Mother when Father was in Azkaban, but luckily he kept fucking up his assignments, or else the Dark Lord might have given him my mother as a reward. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking of it. What were my parents thinking? Sure, the Dark Lord thrummed with power; the pull was incredible, he was a magnet, but there was nothing glamorous about Scourgifying the blood of unfortunate Muggleborns from the floors or getting tortured for making the slightest mistake. Oh, and Aunt Bellatrix!”

He huffed a mirthless laugh. Wanting to comfort him, Harry touched Draco’s forearm and Draco didn’t shake him off, but perhaps he was too lost in the memories that poured out to feel it. “Mother spoke of Aunt Bella’s beauty and poise, the sisters the prettiest debutantes to come out into society in years, but all I saw was a hollow woman, empty but for the Dark eating her away. Aunt Bella followed the Dark Lord constantly, sometimes even sleeping on the floor outside his bedroom. If he’d told her to bark like a dog, she would have, and how — what is this kind of love that makes you forget you’re a person? That you lose yourself?”

“That wasn’t love,” Harry said.

“I won’t be like that.” Draco finally turned to stare at Harry. Harry’s heart clenched: Draco was in full mental armour, the wall was up, his haughty mask was on, the hurt look in his eyes the only thing he couldn’t completely disguise. “I can’t be with you. We’re done, Potter. So now that you’ve heard what you came to hear, go. Find Justin, find someone else, I don’t care. Go.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Harry repeated and Draco gave a ‘whatever’ shrug and turned back to the fire.

Well, Harry didn’t expect to be forgiven easily. This was Draco Malfoy, proud as a Hippogriff, champion at keeping grudges, Occlumens extraordinaire, who pushed his feelings under his Malfoyness, who hated appearing vulnerable. The fact he’d opened himself to Harry so completely that night was why he’d ended up so hurt, and this display wasn’t fooling Harry about Draco’s real feelings. Harry was willing to put in the time and effort required to find the Draco he’d come to love, and if it took years and an incredible amount of grovelling, then so be it.

“Is this all you’ve eaten for lunch, Draco?” Harry asked.

“It’s Malfoy to you.”

Harry pressed on. “Have you had a hot meal while you’ve been here?” He doubted Draco even knew what a saucepan was.

“See any house elves around here? Oh yes, you stole our elf and then got him killed, now I remember.”

Harry flinched. His hands curled into fists, but he took a deep breath and uncurled them. Let him lash out. He got up, found the pantry door and rummaged inside. There was some dry food, spices and a few cans of tomato. A variation of the Impervious spell for foodstuff, which lasted indefinitely, protected some fruit, an onion and a wheel of cheese.

“I can cook us some pasta, if you want.”

Draco said nothing so Harry decided to take it as a yes. He tried to find the pots and pans, but it was a large kitchen with many cupboards. After the seventh place Harry checked, Draco got up and said irritably, “Here,” and banged a cupboard open.

Harry began cooking and Draco remained standing, hovering hesitantly around him, curious despite himself. Harry felt Draco's eyes on him as he filled a pot with water, brought it to boil, and added the pasta. He chopped the onion by hand, he didn’t know all the cooking preparation spells, and the years of practice at the Dursleys were hard to shake off.

“Where did you learn to cook?” Draco asked.

“The Muggles that raised me had me do the chores since I was old enough to reach the top of the stove.”

“They made you cook their meals?”

“Breakfast, mostly,” Harry said, pouring some oil in a pan. “And I also cleaned windows, swept and dusted and mopped, mowed the lawn and so on.”

“Didn’t they know who you were?”

Harry added the onion in the oil and stirred for a few minutes before pouring two cans of chopped tomato. “They didn’t care.”

When the food was ready, Draco brought plates without being asked and even located a grater for the cheese.

“Ms Harris was worried about you,” Harry said conversationally. It’d been days since he’d eaten properly so he tucked in. Draco must have been starving; he devoured his food in minutes, his manners forgotten, and Harry was glad he’d cooked so much of it.

“Well,” Draco said, lingering over his second helping, “I guess I need to go back and finish my sentence before you bring the Ministry down on me.”

“Yes, because I would do that.”

Draco threw him a vicious look. “I guess not. You still wanna get in my pants.”

Draco sure wasn’t making it easy, Harry sighed internally. “Can you not be like this?”

“Be like what, Potter?”

Harry stopped himself from saying anything that would make this worse. They finished their meal in tense silence, although Draco once or twice opened his mouth to say something, and then stopped.

Harry Vanished the scraps and ran hot water in the sink to wash the dishes. Draco stood by him and took the clean plates to dry. Perhaps it was an apology of sorts.

“Will you come back to London now?” Harry asked when the dishes were back in their place and the table scrubbed clean.

Draco shrugged. “Alright.”

 

Ms Harris promised she wouldn’t inform the Ministry about their neglecting their duties if they made up the hours they owed at the weekend, which was why Harry and Draco found themselves spending their Saturday picking rubbish near Brixton market.

Things between them had reverted to how they were initially. Draco ignored Harry or replied in monosyllables and only very reluctantly did he accept a can of Coke from him on the first day back. Gifts aside, he turned Harry down when he suggested going to a department store so Draco could see what a microwave and a fridge looked like.

“You don’t want Ron to win the competition,” Harry teased.

“There’s no competition anymore. It’s not like I’ll ever spend time with him again, is it?” Draco didn't look at Harry if he could avoid it and Harry missed seeing his eyes, his sharp cheekbones, his mouth—

He swallowed. Perhaps it was for the best that he couldn't look at Draco's mouth. He tried again. “The store has several floors. You know what this means. Escalators.”

Draco visibly wrestled with this temptation as Harry knew he would, but it was in vain: Draco’s stubbornness won and he refused, although with more regret in his voice this time.

They rounded the corner of Iceland, a supermarket Draco didn’t like because he couldn’t handle the products — Harry had taken him to a Tesco’s in the good old days and it had proved very hard to drag him away from the shelves of Muggle food — when they ran into a small agitated crowd. A security guard urgently pushed people away, while a curious box rested on a pallet behind him. Two police cars arrived.

“What’s happening?” a lady said beside Harry, her two-year-old son in her arms.

“No idea,” Harry said.

Draco had pushed to the front and he now returned, his face pale. “He said something about a bomb. If we had our wands, we could help.”

Harry didn’t get a chance to reply. He felt the explosion a second before he heard it, a sort of vibration that chilled his blood, and then a voice called ‘Protego!’ and everything went black.

Chapter Text

Your love makes me feel ten feet tall/ Without it I'd go through withdrawal

Nothing Even Matters, Lauryn Hill

 


 

 

A heads-up: mention/description of injuries and blood in the beginning, in the first 200 words or so.

 

Harry opened his eyes and coughed, spitting dust from his mouth. His face was covered in it and he wiped it off with a sleeve that made little difference. Noise assaulted him: screams and sirens and shouts from further away, moans and wails and sobs from around him.

He staggered up fast, stumbling once, as the memory of what had happened rushed in. He ran his hands over his body but he was unharmed. Around him, so much blood. Dozens of people lay on the ground with nails sticking out of their body; the lady that had stood beside him wailed, holding her son tight, who was bleeding profusely from the head.  

“Draco?” he yelled, his voice raspy. Panic flooded him. He needed his wand, he felt helpless without it and it was too far away. How did Muggles manage emergencies without magic? He yelled “Accio wand,” putting every last bit of despair and panic in his magic, knowing it was probably futile, the wand was so far away, but he hoped, he had to hope, as he looked at every dust-covered, bleeding person, trying to find Draco.

There! Thank Godric for the orange of the jumpsuit, the hideous colour standing out like a beacon. The explosion had blasted Draco across the road. Harry wove around the other victims, his heart thundering in his chest, and leaned over him. He froze at the sight of the limp body, the faint breathing, the blood… Why was Draco hurt when he did a Shield Charm?

“Draco? Draco, can you hear me?” Nails had pierced Draco in several places, his blood seeping on the ground below. He needed to take him to the hospital and yes, he heard it then, that familiar and so very welcome swish in the air, and he stretched out his arm and grabbed his wand. He Apparated to St. Mungo's immediately, unconcerned about little things like the Statute of Secrecy.

“Get me a Healer. Now!” he screamed, making everyone jump and the nurses scatter, and in seconds a Healer rushed in, levitated Draco and took him out of his sight through the double doors.

“Wait here,” a nurse said and he collapsed on a chair, waving away another Healer’s attentions. “I’m fine, I’m not hurt.”

Half an hour or a century later, the Healer returned and he ran to her.

“He’ll be fine,” she smiled and Harry sagged from relief. “Luckily, his injuries are non-magical. The nails have been removed and the cuts healed easily. There won’t be any scarring. However, he lost a significant amount of blood, so he’ll need to spend a couple of days here taking a Blood-Replenishing Potion until he’s completely out of danger. You brought him here in time.”

“Can I see him?”

“He needs rest but—” She glanced at Harry’s scar. “Well, it’s you, isn’t it?”  

She wouldn’t refuse the Saviour, Harry realised. He’d never before used his celebrity to gain anything, but he had no qualms about it now.

“Yes, it’s me. The Chosen One. I’d like to see him. And could someone please owl his mother?”

“She’s already been notified. This way, Mr Potter.”

She led him to a room with three beds, the two unoccupied. Draco lay at the one at the far end.

“He asked about you, you know,” the Healer said as she Scourgified Harry’s clothing. “When he opened his eyes.” She closed the door behind her and Harry approached the bed.

Draco lay awake, staring at the ceiling. The bedside lamp cast a soft glow on his wan face, his expression unreadable when he turned to look at his visitor. Harry stared at him, the words in his throat choked by fear and relief and longing.

“Your wandless Shield Charm was very strong,” he said in the end. “I’ve not even a scratch. Very impressive.”

“Don’t see why that surprises you. I’ve been practising wandless magic for weeks now.” Draco’s voice was raspy, but his arrogant tone made Harry smile. He sat carefully at the end of the bed and leaned against the footboard. His leg touched Draco’s foot and Draco didn’t pull it away.

“How’s the toddler?” Draco asked a few minutes later.

“What toddler?”

Draco’s words came slow. Harry noticed a half-empty goblet of Sleeping Draught on the bedside table. “He was beside you with his mother. Is he alright? Did you see them?”

Harry remembered the wailing woman. “He was bleeding from the head, but I think he was alive when I left.”

Draco nodded. He closed his eyes and Harry thought he’d fallen asleep until he spoke again.

“How did we get here?”

“I Summoned my wand.”

Draco opened his eyes then, frowning, lips pursed, a pinched expression on his face.

“Are you in pain? Should I call the Healer back?”

The expression became clearer: annoyance. “I’m just irritated at your tendency to always one-up me. I did a fucking Shield wandlessly and then you had to go and Summon your wand all the way from Clapham.”

Harry smiled, his worries gone. Draco would be alright if he was already getting pissed off with Harry.

“I disagree with this assessment of who one-upped who. Protego is a harder spell than Accio.” That seemed to appease Draco, who leaned back on his pillows.

“Why didn’t you Shield yourself?” Harry asked him softly.

“I tried, Harry.” Draco’s eyelids closed. “But no wand. I couldn’t even Shield the second properly.”

“The second?”

“Tried to help the kid,” he said and fell asleep.

Harry stayed propped against the footboard, looking at Draco’s sleeping figure. Who would have thought that the Malfoy scion, pureblood and ex-Death Eater, would ever Shield Harry Potter and an unknown Muggle boy from a blast of nails. Harry stared at his peaceful face, throat tight, until his fatigue caught up with him and he drifted off, still sitting up.

He woke up, not sure if he’d been asleep for minutes or hours. He stretched slowly and realised that he’d fallen asleep holding Draco’s foot. He felt eyes on him and looked up to see Narcissa Malfoy stare at him from her chair by Draco’s bed, pale and worried and furious.

“What happened, Mr Potter? What did you do This Time?”

“Nothing. It was a bombing attack. Muggle. We were at the wrong place at the wrong time, ‘sall.”

“They showed me the nails that came out of my Son. Four-inch nails. You, however, are completely Unharmed. I find that highly Suspicious.”

“Draco Shielded me.”

Her eyes widened and she looked at her sleeping son. “Well, I shouldn’t be surprised. He was always a Fool when it came to you.” She turned her eyes to Harry again. “Taking up with you is probably the most foolish decision he could make. Everyone calls you a Saviour, Mr Potter, but all I see is how you keep Hurting my son.”

“I didn't meant to,” he mumbled. “None of it.”

“You never do, Mr Potter. Now if you could leave me alone with my son, please.”

Harry shuffled off the bed, letting go of Draco’s foot. “I’ll come back tomorrow,” he said before he closed the door behind him, leaving Draco’s mother to her vigil.

When he got home, he found an official-looking owl waiting for him with an urgent message from Kingsley, who’d been alerted by a frantic Ms Harris, so he took a few moments to pen a letter describing in detail Draco’s actions, and then asked Kreacher to hold off any further Floo-calls and owls. His bed beckoned and Harry fell asleep immediately, not that he found any rest in sleep. He tossed and turned, plagued by dark, blurry dreams that eventually turned into a very clear and very bad nightmare; not Voldemort this time, but himself in a bathroom and Draco bleeding on wet tiles.

The next day, he stopped at Clapham first. He didn’t know if Draco had got his wand back, but the Centre was shut on Sunday, so he casually broke in Ms Harris’s office, idly wondering whether becoming an Auror had been a good decision what with his tendency to break the law repeatedly; perhaps he ought to rethink his career choice. The wand wasn’t there and, still too early to go to the hospital, he went down the road to Jayesh’s shop.

“They say a racist motherfucker did it,” Jayesh told him, leaning over his counter. “Not IRA or any of that shit. They targeted the black community, apparently.”

Harry had lived through enough hate wars to last him a lifetime. The bell at the door tinkled as two girls entered and headed to the soft drink section.

“Can’t believe you were in the middle of it, mate,” Jayesh continued, after the girls had paid and left. He picked a card from the rack by the counter. “And Draco was hurt? He gonna be fine?”

“Yeah, but he lost a lot of blood.”

“A miracle no one died,” Jayesh said, scribbling inside the card. “Did you hear about the kid?”

“What kid?”

Jayesh opened one of the Sunday newspapers and showed him the article. Harry smiled, thinking of breaking the news to Draco. He was sure it was the same kid he’d tried to protect.

“You were damn lucky yourself, Harry,” Jayesh said, handing him the card. “Can’t believe you have no injuries at all, even if Draco pushed you out of the way.”

“Miracle,” he shrugged.

When Harry arrived at the hospital, Draco was arguing with his mother over an orange. “I don’t want to eat anymore, Mother, and stop feeding me, I’m not an invalid.” He pushed away the fruit, which she placed on the tray by his bed.

“Hey,” Harry said. He lingered at the door, unsure of his welcome by Draco, now that he wasn’t dosed up on Sleeping Draughts.

Mrs Malfoy stood up. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll have some tea upstairs. Will you be alright, Draco?”

“Yes, Mother, please.”

She swept past Harry with a curt nod and closed the door behind her, but Harry remained where he was.

“Well? Are you going to stand there?” Draco’s eyes flitted to him and whatever Harry read in them made him approach.

“Got your wand back, I see,” Harry nodded at the bedside table.

“Yes. Shacklebolt stopped by early this morning. Ms Harris sent it to him when we didn’t return. She was the one who alerted them about us — the Ministry had no idea about the attack. It was Muggle London so they didn’t care.” Draco sounded bitter. “The Minister apologised for sending us out there with no wands. You should have seen Mother. She tore him to pieces over it,” Draco smiled. “It was beautiful.”

Draco sounded better today, even though his complexion was still ghostly pale. He gazed at Harry with a guarded, cautious expression, which made Harry’s chest ache, but which, he had to admit, was an improvement over last week’s hurt-and-hateful flavour.

“Here, I’ve got some things for you.” Harry opened his messenger bag. “This is from Jayesh.” He passed the greeting card to Draco, who looked startled and pleased.

Draco opened it, read it with a hint of a smile, then turned it upside down, flipped it to the back and then the front, and finally looked at Harry. “Doesn’t do anything else, does it?”

Harry sighed. “Surely, even you must appreciate the sentiment behind it.”

Draco scowled at him before he placed it on his bedside table. “I was just making sure. Never received a Muggle card before, Potter.”

Harry.

“My name is Draco.”

“No, my name is Harry.”

“I know that.”

“You know what I mean,” Harry huffed defeated and sat on the chair Mrs Malfoy had vacated. “Here, there’s more.”

Draco’s face lit up at the sight of the can of Coke that Harry placed on his bedside table.

“That’s from Jayesh, too. This is from me.” Harry handed him the magazine. “Latest issue of the Cosmo. So you won’t fall behind.”

“Thank you,” Draco said, holding the magazine and staring at it, a complicated expression on his face.

“Is everything okay?”

Draco didn’t reply for a moment. “Do you want to do the quiz?” He asked finally.

Twenty minutes later Harry was a Fun Flirt according to the quiz, Draco was a Mischievous Minx, the can was empty, and Draco had ‘perked up’, according to a surprised Healer who had no idea of the amount of caffeine and sugar inside a single can of Coke. Harry found himself back against the footboard so he could look straight at Draco, who was propped on pillows. This time Draco stretched both feet over Harry’s lap with a familiarity and intimacy that made Harry wonder whether Draco had forgotten about the ‘we’re done’ statement, although he wasn’t going to be the one to remind him.

“The little boy survived,” he told Draco, massaging a foot through the thin green blanket.

“Yeah?” Draco’s face lit up.

“It’s all over their news. A nail pierced his skull and brain, but he’ll live. The doctors say it’s a miracle.” Harry rubbed Draco’s feet slowly but firmly, unsure of whether he was doing a good job but Draco wasn’t complaining, so he carried on. He let his hand travel over Draco’s calf, his hands still over the blanket. The desire to hold Draco in his arms was overwhelming.

The air between them was thick with everything they left unspoken. There was the ghost of their last kiss, the memory of a meal in a shadowy kitchen, words that hurt, and words whispered between kisses. Silence bloomed, punctuated by the sound of distant footsteps on the corridor.

“I’m glad he made it.” Draco said finally, eyes on his magazine, and Harry, doubtful for a moment, pulled his hands away.

“Don’t stop.” Draco looked up. “I saved your life, the least you could do is massage my feet.”

“Is that all I have to do?” Harry resumed his massage.

“Oh no, you’ll be repaying the Debt for the rest of your natural life,” Draco informed him.

“What does that involve?”

“Well,” Draco appeared thoughtful. “This was a good start. You’ll have to bring me Coke and magazines every week. Take me to the cinema once a week or maybe even twice.”

“Of course,” Harry smiled. “Anything else?”

Draco’s face was flushed in a way that possibly had little to do with the Blood Replenishing Potion. “Well, you’ll have to rub my feet, obviously.”

“Hold your hand?”

Draco swallowed. “On — on certain occasions.”

“And maybe kiss you?”

There was a long pause. Draco stared at Harry, the look in his eyes changing from hesitant to warm and resolute. “And maybe kiss me,” Draco whispered.

Harry could float to the ceiling right then, buoyant and happy, but he suppressed a grin and kept his voice businesslike. “How about cuddling? Is cuddling part of the repayment plan?”

“What a silly question, of course it is,” Draco drawled.

“Well, maybe I can start repaying right now,” Harry said. “Don’t want to be late and incur interest.”

Draco sighed as if put-upon, but he put aside the magazine and scooted to one side of his hospital bed and Harry, his heart singing, climbed beside him. Draco smelled like he always had, and Harry had missed him so much. He wrapped his arms around Draco and pressed him to his chest, and both held tight, squeezing one another, heads burrowed in necks and hair. They remained like this for a long moment, breathing each other’s scent and hearing each other’s heartbeats.

“I was so scared,” Harry whispered, nuzzling Draco’s hair. He pulled back to look at him. “Thank you. For the Shield Charm. For protecting me.”

“I owed you a Life Debt myself,” Draco murmured. “A real Life Debt where you saved me from certain death.”

“Is that why you did it?”

A pause. “Imagine if something happened to the Boy Who Lived in my presence,” Draco said dryly. “I’d be in Azkaban for life. That is if your fans didn’t lynch me in the streets before I even got there.”

“You’re thinking of Neville’s fans. Mine are quite tame.”

“They tattoo their skin for you, Harry.”

“So you saved me because I was the Chosen One?” Harry touched Draco’s face, fingers travelling over the sharp cheekbones, the stubble on his chin, the corner of his lips. He felt such relief at being able to do so, like he could finally exhale after days of holding his breath.

Draco slid a hand under Harry’s T-shirt, his fingers cool and soft against his heated skin. “No. I was — well, I don’t know why. I didn’t think. I just acted.”

“It was very heroic,” Harry whispered.

“I’ve never been heroic,” Draco murmured, his hand tracing Harry’s waist. “Not once. I’ve always feared pain. Getting hurt.” His voice was barely there, almost inaudible. “But this time, I feared for you more.”

It was so quiet at that moment in the room, as if the whole world had disappeared except for this small corner under the thin green blanket. Harry turned Draco’s face towards him. “When I saw you lying there…” He took a shuddering breath, trying to dispel the terror that accompanied the memory, and changed approach. “I’m glad you’re okay, because now I can tell you what I should have told you before.”

“Tell me what, Harry?”

Harry caressed his cheek. “That I’m in love with you, too. I’m yours, Draco Malfoy. Do with me what you will.”

They stared at each other and Harry felt his heart drumming in his chest. Everything was still, like the moment before a cresting wave crashes on the shore. He was going to kiss Draco and Draco was going to kiss him back, and things would be fine again. He wondered how no one in the hospital could hear his heartbeat, it was all he could hear. He leaned in, Draco’s head rose a little and—

The door opened and Narcissa Malfoy walked in.

 


 

When his mother entered, both of them sprang back, as back as their tangled position would allow, and Draco had never imagined he’d ever be annoyed to see her, but this exact moment he was very much so. He felt slightly worried about her reaction — Harry was a Half-blood, after all — but his mother, presumably used to finding people in compromising positions at parties — in the good old days Father indulged in a little recreational blackmail — behaved as if it was perfectly natural to see her son in another man’s arms on a hospital bed. She took a seat, smoothing her flowing violet robes and thoroughly ignoring Harry, and handed Draco the Daily Prophet with a smile.

“Have a look at the front page, darling,” she said. Harry leaned in to see and Draco spread the paper between them.

The headline read ‘Death-Eater Saves Potter’ over a picture of a smiling Draco that was a few years old, because Draco hadn’t smiled like this in quite some time — well, with the exception of the last few months in Harry’s company. The article praised the quick thinking of Draco Malfoy, who cast a wandless spell of such power that protected the Chosen One from a Muggle attack. Kingsley corroborated the story, ‘according to ‘his correspondence with Mr Potter’, and there was even talk of a medal.

“Order of Merlin, honey! Second class, but still,” his mother beamed. “It is Splendid news!”

“It’s certainly unexpected,” Draco said, dazed.

“I was at the lobby just now. There’s a reporter asking for an interview. Do you think you’re up for one?”

“Now?” Draco said, his eyes darting to Harry, who found his hand under the blanket and held it tight. Couldn’t his mother just go and have a very long lunch instead?

“Now is the best time. Lying in the hospital bed shows how much you’ve suffered for,” her voice hardened, “the Chosen One.”

Harry’s expression remained polite, albeit a little stiff. He grazed Draco’s hand with a thumb, lingering over the knuckles, making what little blood Draco still had inside him boil, and stood up. “I’ve got to go actually. Sunday lunch with the Weasleys. I’ll pop back in later.”

“Don’t be too long,” Draco said, while at the same time his mother picked up the can and the magazine with disdainful fingers, her face frowning in disgust.

“Draco, what in Salazar’s name are these?”

“Um…”

Harry waved from the door with a smirk that said ‘glad I don’t have to deal with this’ and Draco turned to his mother and ratted him out. “Potter brought them.”

He choked a laugh when he saw Harry’s face pale under his mother’s glare and he tried to say ‘now you have to deal with this’ with his eyes, and Harry seemed to understand him. Draco wondered if perhaps they were reaching the level of wordless communication that he’d witnessed between Harry and his friends, the thought of which pleased him immensely. Harry mumbled something to his mother and practically ran out of the room, and Draco sank back in his pillows, unable to stop grinning. All he wanted now was to lie there and play Harry’s words in his mind again and again. I’m in love with you. I’m yours, Draco Malfoy.

His mother’s presence wouldn’t allow for such pleasant distractions, however. “Haven't you had Enough of the Muggle world, Draco? I’d assume, seeing as you were Hurt by their actions—”

“I was hurt by the Dark Lord’s actions too, and his torture had been far worse, Mother,” he reminded her. She stilled, rigid and hurt, but he was unable to stop the words pouring out of him. “I like Muggle magazines and I don’t care if they’re Muggle, I will keep on buying them. I have Muggle friends, too, and they sent me a card because they care I was hurt. I also like Harry and I will date him and if you love me at all, you’ll be nice to him. This is how things are now, Mother, so you’d better accept it. And now please call this reporter so we can get the interview over and done with.”

Her eyes glittered as she examined his flushed face. Draco couldn’t decipher her expression — she was a hard woman to read, people said; ‘a locked room’ his father called her with pride, because no one but the two of them had the keys, and she’d open up for them, her deepest thoughts and affection a treasure for them alone. Draco’d  never had a problem understanding his mother until now. He waited breathlessly for her reaction.

“We have to break the news about Harry to your father with Care,” was what she said. “Perhaps it’s best if we do it when we visit Azkaban next month. He’ll have a Year until his release to get over it.” She covered Draco’s hand with her own and held it tight. “Never use ‘if’ to talk about my love for you. Never doubt it.” Her voice was fierce, and Draco felt a tinge of regret about his outburst, but she smiled as she stood. “Now, let’s see about this interview.”

When Rita Skeeter entered his room with a photographer in tow, Draco wished he’d asked who the reporter was before he accepted. Indeed, as he suspected, the interview strayed very quickly to his friendship with Harry, the reasons for assaulting Smith, his opinion of Smith’s memoirs, and whether he thought Harry Potter was ‘cute’. Cute? He’s fucking gorgeous, he wanted to tell her, but restrained himself and answered her questions, while the photographer snapped him as he lay back on the pillows or took his potion. Rita Skeeter was relentless and it took every ounce of his upbringing to respond with the right amount of vagueness that would make her think she had something worth printing, while also not confirming anything substantial. Jayesh’s card was also a hit with the reporting duo and, finally, after a long and tedious hour, they left and Draco closed his eyes, wishing that Harry would hurry and return already. Beside him, with an expression akin to encountering a new species that might bite, his mother opened the Cosmo.

Draco must have napped for a while because when he opened his eyes the lamps had been lit, pushing the gathering dusk out of the window by his bed. His mother informed him she’d return home to freshen up and Harry stood next to her, beaming at Draco, who felt every part of his body — especially that part — wake up.

“I’ll return later, unless of course you’re happy to stay with him tonight, Harry?”

Harry’s eyes widened at the use of his first name. “I’d love to.”

“I’ll go then, darling.” She turned to Draco and kissed him on the forehead. “Remember to take it easy.”

She gave him a knowing smile and Draco should have felt embarrassed, but all he felt was eagerness for her to leave, a sentiment that left him feeling guilty but unrepentant. As soon as the door shut, Draco rose on his knees, pulled Harry by his T-shirt and kissed him.

The relief coursing through his body made him heady. The week they’d been apart had been hell for Draco, even if it had been his decision, and keeping his distance from Harry had hurt more than he’d thought it would. But it was over, and Harry’s lips and tongue clashed with Draco’s, deep and desperate with need. He pulled Harry flush against him and Harry ran his hands on Draco’s back, caressing his skin, tracing his hips, and making him blind with lust.

A Healer barged in, making them jump, and would these interruptions never end? Unlike his mother, she became very flustered at the sight of them kissing; she reddened and coughed before depositing a goblet on the bedside table.

“Time for your potion,” she chirped, her eyes repeatedly darting between Harry and him, and Draco wouldn’t be surprised if she was tempted to go to the Prophet with this information. They’d pay good money for it.

Draco picked the goblet up. The basic ingredient was nettles, a taste he’d never been keen on, but he drained it in one gulp. “When’s the next one due?” he asked her, handing it back.

“Oh, first thing in the morning. One last dose before you’re discharged.”

She hurried out of the room, and Draco just had to hope that she wouldn’t Floo to the Daily Prophet’s offices within the hour. He couldn’t worry about it now, not when he had more important things on his mind: Harry and getting him naked. He picked his wand up and, with a Colloportus, locked the door.

Harry looked surprised when he saw Draco drag his pyjamas over his head. “What are you doing?”

Draco gave him a look. “What do you think I’m doing? We’re having sex, Potter.”

 


 

 Harry thought he misheard, but seeing Draco’s bare chest and mussed hair made thinking difficult.

“Get your kit off, Potter,” Draco urged, pulling at his T-shirt, but then a shadow crossed his face and he sat back on his heels. “Oh, maybe you don’t want to—”

Harry snapped up, grabbed Draco and kissed him fiercely. “I want to, are you kidding me? I want it so much. But you’ve been wounded and you’re still weak—”

“Just so you know, Malfoys are never weak.” Draco kissed him hard on the lips and tugged at the T-shirt again. Harry raised his arms to take it off, and Draco threw it on the floor, still kissing him. His mouth tasted of the potion: nettles and ground mimbletonia and a hint of ginger.

“But—” Harry tried to marshal his thoughts, but it was proving exceedingly difficult as Draco slipped his hands inside his waistband. “We’re in the hospital. Someone might come in.”

“They won’t, you heard them. Next potion is tomorrow morning.” Draco unbuttoned Harry’s jeans and tried to push them down.

“Yeah, but,” Harry persisted bravely under an assault of tongues, lips and exploring hands, “it’s a hospital. Shagging here is—”

“It’s what, Potter?” Draco asked, exasperated.

“It’s—” He searched for an appropriate word in vain. “It feels naughty.”

Draco smirked. “If you want to make me even more turned on than I already am, please keep talking about how naughty this is.”

Harry sighed, but he also wondered who he was kidding. His cock was already hard and the blood rushing to his groin had severely affected any reasoning abilities.

“I’m an Auror, what if it’s against the law,” he insisted once more, even as he was taking off his shoes and socks.

“So we’ll get arrested and be sentenced to community service,” Draco said.

Harry pushed him on the bed. “I guess that’s not too bad then.”

He leaned over Draco and let his eyes roam over the slender body, wanting to worship very inch. He kissed Draco’s belly and then tried to take his pyjama bottoms off with his teeth. He did a terrible job of it, and Draco laughed, clear and carefree like a bell, a sound that made Harry’s heart sing with joy. All he wanted was a lifetime to make Draco laugh, he thought, as he pulled down the pyjamas, threw them on the floor and descended on Draco, who lay back, his eyes inviting and his lips parted. They tangled in the sheets, kissing and rubbing, skin on skin and lips on lips, and Harry felt a rush of desire unlike any he’d ever experienced before. It wasn’t the first time he held a naked Draco, but this was after he thought he’d lost Draco twice. He felt almost reverent. He wanted to take his time, a difficult feat when Draco lay under him with half-lidded eyes, mussed hair, his arm thrown over his head, looking like the very picture of sex. Harry’s erection throbbed, but he made a valiant effort to pace himself and kissed Draco everywhere: his neck, his scars, the soft hair leading to his groin. He licked his hipbones, relishing the taste of his skin. He ran gentle teeth over the inside of his thighs. He buried his nose in Draco’s pubes and inhaled the intoxicating mix of musk, sweat and arousal. He licked Draco’s cock slowly, listening to Draco moaning. Harry nuzzled his balls and licked around the head, his tongue pressing the slit, and Draco writhed under him. Then, he took him deep in his mouth and sucked, keeping a leisurely pace.

“Potter, I’m an invalid, you need to stop tormenting me,” Draco breathed, and Harry smiled against that beautiful cock and pulled back to say, “So now you’re an invalid. Perhaps I should stop.”

“Please don’t, or I’ll hex you,” Draco said and Harry laughed, but wrapped his lips around Draco’s cock again, listening to Draco becoming more incoherent, until his hands pulled him back up.

“Come here,” Draco murmured, showering him with kisses. He burrowed his head in the crook of Harry’s neck and whispered, “I want you, Harry.”

“I want you, too,” Harry said.

“No, I meant…” He shifted, opening his legs and wrapping them around Harry. “I want you inside me.”

Harry felt like someone pushed him off a height. “Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Draco said with a hint of exasperation.

“But we’re—”

“Please don’t say hospital one more time.”

Harry kissed Draco slowly, purposefully. Draco tugged at his bottom lip, and then slid his tongue back inside Harry’s mouth, slow and sensual. Harry felt their erections press against their bodies and he abandoned all reason. He conjured some lube on his fingers, then sat back on his heels and took in the sight of a naked, sprawled Draco, trembling but smiling, his cock leaking and heavy. His fingers explored Draco’s arse, touching his opening for a moment, before he inserted one finger, carefully, looking at Draco the whole time.

It was a tight fit. Harry would be the first to take Draco this way and he almost came at the thought, feeling the heavenly warmth of Draco’s arse, and Harry had no idea how he’d cope inside him himself. He worked on Draco until he could fit another lube-coated finger and Draco’s hips were rising to meet him, his eyes shut and his breath rasping.

Harry pulled his fingers out, coated them in lube again and inserted three, stretching Draco wide.

“C’mon. Fuck me, Harry,” Draco said, looking deliciously flustered. “We haven’t got all day.”

Harry leaned over him and kissed him. “Wrong. We have all our lives.”

Draco’s eyes closed. “The things you say…” he murmured as he wrapped long legs around Harry again, and Harry propped himself on his elbows, lubed his cock thoroughly, and pressed the tip of his cock against Draco’s arse. He closed his eyes and pushed, slowly but inexorably, and Draco, greedy and impatient, urged him for more, faster, harder.

Draco’s face was the picture of pleasure, his mouth parted obscenely, and Harry kissed it hungrily as he paused, letting Draco get used to his cock stretching him. It was — fuck, it was tight. He gave a small thrust, checking Draco’s reaction.

“Yes,” Draco whispered. “Yes, fuck, this is good.”

Harry started moving, slow, deep thrusts that made his whole skin feel on fire, every nerve tingling.

“Faster,” Draco breathed, his hips rising to meet him, and Harry thrust harder, moaning himself now. They snogged sloppily as Harry increased the pace, and Harry kissed Draco’s face, anywhere he could reach, his eyelashes, his mouth, his cheekbones, his jaw; he kissed him and Draco held him tight, the pace increasing into something maddening. He alternated his thrusts: going slow, deep, intense, then hard and fast again, and Draco whispered in his ear, “yes, like this, Potter.” Harry couldn't get enough of Draco, of his warmth and smell and the sounds he made. He fucked him hard, sweaty chests gliding against each other, Draco’s erection pressing at Harry’s belly, until Harry wrapped his hand around it and Draco gasped and bit Harry’s shoulder and said, “Fuck me raw, Potter,” and of course Draco would turn out to be a dirty talker, Harry mused, feeling turned on out of his fucking mind, as he jerked Draco off until he came with a gasp, leaking hot spunk over Harry’s fingers.

Harry was close, he’d been close since he’d pushed himself in and now, Draco’s arse clenching deliciously around him, he rode Draco until his own release found him and he exploded inside him, while Draco held him tight as a vice.

Galloping fucking gargoyles.

The air felt cool on his skin when he pulled his spent cock out and fell beside Draco, his mind blown to pieces. Draco dragged the blanket over them and Harry wrapped his arms around him and buried his face in his sweaty hair.

“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m mad about you,” he said, when their breathing returned to normal, and Draco, his eyes half-shut, said, “I know, Potter,” and kissed him softly.

They stayed snuggled while outside the city slumbered.

“I had no idea sex was like this,” Draco murmured.

I had no idea sex was like this,” Harry said, who until now thought that experiences such as what had just happened occurred only inside the pages of a book.

They cleaned themselves with a spell and held each other close, Harry’s chest against Draco’s back, fatigue claiming them. “Goodnight, Draco,” he said with a kiss at the nape of his neck.

“Goodnight.” Draco paused. “And me too,” he said after a moment.

“Me too what?”

“I’m mad about you, too, Harry.”

 

Rain lashed the window in the morning and Narcissa Malfoy woke them up, looking more thunderous than the sky. “Have you Any Idea of the number of paparazzi in the lobby?” she started her lecture before they’d had a chance to blink and gather their thoughts. “What if one of them sneaked past the Healers and snapped you in Bed? With clothes Strewn on the Floor? Is this the kind of attention you want? Especially with today’s article?”

Harry drew the blanket to cover his naked chest. “What article?”

“We locked the door,” Draco said.

“Breaking a Colloportus is child’s play, Draco. First, make yourselves Presentable. The Healer is coming in any minute now.”

She turned her back to them and Harry picked his clothes up from the floor and dressed, trying hard not to feel mortified, and failing. When they were finally decent, with Harry sitting on the edge of the bed, Mrs Malfoy turned and handed the Prophet.

“The centrefold.” She glanced at Harry with a curious look.

When Draco opened the paper, Harry understood why.

The two articles were examples of The Prophet’s dual depiction of Harry: the heroic Saviour and the irresponsible cad. Although Harry was used to it, he’d never before seen pieces that referred to him in such contradictory terms in the same issue, much less side by side; a new high — or low, depending on your viewpoint — for the paper.

On the left page was Draco’s interview: From Death Eater to Muggle Lover: how love redeemed a young man. Draco looked positively demure in the main photograph and Harry almost snorted, the memory of Draco telling him to fuck him raw coming to his mind. There was also a small picture of Harry receiving his Order of Merlin last summer, one of his more flattering photographs, where he smiled bashfully at the camera. Rita Skeeter took great pains in using the word ‘friends’ throughout the text alongside her liberal use of ‘love’, and Harry, used to this crap from Smith’s book, knew she’d claim she was talking about love between good friends and nothing more. Harry wouldn’t have minded the whole world knowing about him and Draco if it wasn’t for the field day the press would have, and he didn’t even want to think about the frenzy that’d consume the paparazzi.

On the other page, Harry was snapped staggering out of a pub, drunk out of his mind, and leering. In the main photograph, another golden-haired boy smiled innocently to the camera, and the headline above read: The Boy Who Shagged Me.

“Finch-Fletchley gave a kiss-and-tell interview?” Draco snorted. “And I thought this day couldn’t get any better.”

“It’s not funny,” Harry said.

“Oh, it is to me,” Draco informed him, but smiling, teasing, although Harry wondered if this wasn’t an effort to hide any lingering hurt feelings. Or gleeful feelings of revenge. With Draco, both were possible. “In fact, it’s hilarious,” Draco continued. “Listen to this.”

“Our readers are dying to know what Harry is like in his intimate moments. Is he as passionate as he appears in some interviews, or is he perhaps timid, the way he comports himself in social events?”

“There is a detachment in Harry that I failed to notice until later on. A real reluctance to open up. At first, I didn’t see it. Initially, Harry was an animal, a beast. Greedy. Insatiable. He blew my mind away with his kisses, his stamina, his prowess…”

“Can you not read it out loud?” Harry interrupted, glancing at Mrs Malfoy, who stared outside the window, totally unperturbed.

“Just this one more thing, my insatiable beast,” Draco said and Harry rolled his eyes. He’d never live this one down, he knew. Merlin knows what Ron and George would have to say.

“Were you upset by the end of your affair?”

“At first, yes — but now I can’t help feeling I dodged an Unforgivable, seeing as Harry turned out to be a cruel, inconsiderate man, who threw me out of his life on the eve of a weekend away without a second thought or without the courtesy of telling me face to face.”

“Well, you deserved that,” Draco said.

 


 

Draco was certain this was the best spring he’d ever experienced. Before he left the hospital, another visit from the Minister informed them that their community service had, in fact, ended. “With what happened — well, we’re satisfied you’ve learned your lesson,” Shacklebolt told them. A sense of sadness surprised Draco at hearing this, the memory of those months in the Muggle world falling in love with Harry already tinged with nostalgia. Even more surprising was the other piece of news that Shacklebolt brought him. He had a proposition for Draco: could he possibly teach his experience with wandless magic to the Ministry staff? There was talk of making it part of the Auror training curriculum and even the new Hogwarts syllabus.

“There’s an over-reliance on wands and Aurors are woefully unprepared for other eventualities,” a Senior Auror was quoted saying in an article that announced the seminars and Draco received a letter from Professor Flitwick asking to consult with him with regards to creating lesson plans. Draco knew that only terror and love had made him cast such a powerful Shield without a wand, but he guessed it didn’t hurt to teach the halfwits in the Ministry a thing or two, and besides he wanted his boyfriend’s colleagues to be semi-competent at least.

He and his mother decided to return to Wiltshire. It was time to put the past behind them, face old demons or whatever rot people said about these things, and after a cleaning crew had polished floors, dusted cobwebs, and repaired the damage from the criminals his parents had let in, he took residence in the Manor once again.

Harry Floo-ed in most evenings and they spent time in the gardens, flying and snogging, or in the drawing room by the fire, talking and snogging, or in his bedroom, shagging and snogging. There was more snogging than Draco thought he’d ever have in his life but still, it never seemed enough.

New memories came to crowd out the dark memories of the last couple of years and most had to do with Harry. Sometimes they went out: to see their Muggle friends in Clapham, where Jayesh introduced Draco to Fluid and Boyz, gay lifestyle magazines and Draco’s new obsession; double-dating with Granger taking Weasley to the cinema for the first time to watch 10 Things I Hate About You — Weasley exasperated when the three of them came out of the cinema crushing on the male lead; pub nights with Longbottom, decidedly warmer towards Draco, now that he’d saved his friend from harm; clubbing in Amortentia, dancing close with Harry and kissing in the shadows.

His fondest memories were from their time in the Manor, however, and Draco considered making a list, wanting to keep a record and never forget: Harry in the flowering orchard, hand in hand with Draco, as he narrated childhood adventures and games, and then kissed him under the cherry trees; Harry teaching Draco to cook in front of his scandalised house elf, who Draco had to bribe with the promise of letting her clean the attics; Harry on his broomstick catching the Snitch once again, grinning like the smug bastard he was, and irritating Draco; Draco taking his revenge that night by having Harry ride his cock as hard as the broomstick, sweating beautifully, and trailing hands over Draco’s chest.

Now he looked at Harry, naked and prone on his bed, and kneaded Harry’s beautiful arse leisurely. The window let in a cool, fragrant breeze, and birdsong filled the spring air.

“Why Hogwarts?” Draco asked.

The first Anniversary ball of the Battle of Hogwarts was to take place in the now fully restored school. The Ministry wanted something splashier, something truly fancy for such an occasion, but Harry, the sentimental fool, decided the Great Hall would be a better choice, and no one had the guts to disagree with the Chosen One. If Draco worked in the Ministry, he’d give Harry a piece of his mind — well, he did anyway.

“Do you expect Ministry officials to dine at the scuffed Hogwarts dining tables?”

“You’re being unreasonable,” Harry insisted. “It’ll be like the Yule ball, remember? Round tables and a bar and the garden is lovely…” He trailed off and blushed and Draco leaned forward, sensing something embarrassing.

“And what?”

“And it’ll be like the Yule Ball,” Harry said, now completely red and trying to bury his face in the pillow. “I had a crap time then. I’d asked out someone I didn’t care about, romantically I mean, and — now it’ll be like going to the Yule ball with you.”

Draco didn’t trust himself to speak for a long moment. He tried to focus on inserting his fingers in Harry’s arse and working him loose, while at the same time cursing him for making him feel stuff. In fact, his chest ached in a most peculiar way, a combination of happiness and longing and underneath, paralyzing terror — what if he lost Harry? What if something happened to him in his stupid, dangerous job? But he breathed out slowly and concentrated on the here and now, the way Granger had taught him on their last outing which caused him to panic — apparently, he couldn’t visit a zoo and/or a snake house ever again — and pulled his fingers out and pushed himself inside Harry, taking it very slow. There was no rush; they had their whole lives ahead of them. Harry sighed softly and Draco leaned over him and whispered in his ear.

“I’m going to make really sweet love to you tonight.” He kissed Harry’s neck, pushing his cock in until he was fully seated. “And then I’m going to fuck you into the mattress until you have no breath to ask for mercy,” he added, and Harry laughed as he knew he would. Draco decided he would be happy to spend his life making Harry laugh, and thrust in.

 

Epilogue

Draco had to hand it to Harry: the Great Hall looked magnificent and the contrast between now and the aftermath of the Battle was poignant; many of the guests teared up during the evening.

The talks were dull, naturally; Harry was flustered as he received a standing ovation, predictably; the food was delicious, as always; and the guests seemed hardly surprised to see Draco in the company of the Golden Trio, which would have been unthinkable three months ago.

In short, it was turning out to be a successful night, if Draco ignored the close attention of the reporters searching for any hint of intimacy between them. He knew Harry hated the press analysing his every move, and having received his share of unwelcome attention in the media, Draco was happy for their relationship to stay a secret from the public.

Of course this was before Ginny took it upon herself to introduce Draco to a tall, dark, very handsome, international Quidditch player, and although Draco remained simply polite, the man became increasingly flirty, as he assumed that Draco was single. Draco decided that the Weasley Girl was the devil incarnate, there was no other explanation, but he had no time to think of anything else, because Harry — always impulsive, no wonder he always got himself in danger; Draco would have to teach him some self-preservation — marched up to him, grabbed him by the lapels and kissed him, in full view of everyone.

The sound of the flashes and the camera shutters going at once was deafening. Every photographer in the room had their cameras pointed at them and everyone else simply stared: McGonagall pursed her lips, Hagrid had dropped his goblet on the ground, Harry’s boss looked shocked, Kingsley rubbed his forehead, Weasley shook his head and handed a few galleons to Granger who accepted them with a smug smile, Blaise winked at him, and Rita Skeeter looked more ecstatic than he’d ever seen her, almost orgasmic.

Draco glanced at Ginny, who winked. “You’re welcome,” she said.

Unable to fathom this woman, Draco turned to Harry, who still held on him tight. “You do realise we’ve just gone and proved Smith right, don’t you?”

“Oh well,” Harry offered with a shrug.

“Let’s give them something good to talk about then,” Draco suggested, and Harry smiled, bent him backwards, and gave him a proper kiss, tongue and all.