When Draco finally made it to the great hall, one seat at the head table was significantly empty. As he took his own he nudged Longbottom, who seemed intent on all the sorting that was going on.
“Is Mordred not back this year?” he said, ignoring Flitwick's irritated attempts to hush him. Longbottom glanced back and grimaced.
“Why are you always late?” he asked Draco, somewhat rhetorically. A bulging eyed muggleborn was sorted into Ravenclaw. “And yes, Mordred was caught dealing in restricted items this summer, don't you read the Prophet?”
“Of course I don't,” Draco slid his chair back, making an appalling grating noise that made even the Sorting Hat hesitate. McGonagall was glaring, but that wasn't anything new. Draco found the sorting boring – song, lots of small children, excruciating delay before food, etc. He'd never once attended the entirety of one in the twenty years he had been a teacher. “And you shouldn't either, it's a load of propaganda and nonsense.”
“For Merlin's sake, keep your voice down,” Longbottom said, but he was smiling. “Anyway, if you haven't read the Prophet then you won't know who they've hired as Mordred's replacement. You're in for a shock.”
The last brat scurried off to the Gryffindor table, and McGonagall hurried away with the sorting hat. Professor Emberbright- the only Hogwarts headmaster ever to only have one ear, had taken to the pulpit, propping his hearing trumpet casually among the crest of candles there.
“Good evening one and all,” he boomed, “welcome, welcome, welcome, to students old and new alike. And a very warm welcome to our new professor for Defence Against the Dark Arts. I'm sure he requires no introduction-”
“Bollocks,” Draco muttered, taking in Longbottom's grin. Over at the far end of the head table, someone very familiar was trying to get to his seat without tripping over his robe.
“Harry Potter, Order of Merlin first class and formerly head of the Auror Division at the Ministry for Magic!” Emberbright set about clapping so enthusiastically that his ear trumpet fell off the pulpit and rolled down the steps with a clatter that was swallowed up by a roar of cheering from the pupils- mostly on the Gryffindor side.
“Bollocks,” Draco repeated, but no-one was paying any attention to him at all.
It had been years and years since Draco had seen Potter at all. He'd stopped reading the papers almost since he started working at Hogwarts, which had saved him from seeing the speccy git's face plastered over every front page. In all that time, Potter had changed.
Time took its toll on everyone of course. Draco felt like he had weathered the storm better than others- Longbottom was practically haggard, brown and creased from all those hours spent outdoors tending to his crops. Potter hadn't done too badly though. His hair was thickly streaked with grey at the temples, and he was wrinkled around the eyes and mouth in a way that suggested years of laughter.
He didn't seem to be laughing anymore. In fact, he seemed unusually grim.
At first, Draco thought it might have just been the start of term- getting used to a new job, but Potter quickly gained a reputation as one of the harshest Professors. He strode around the castle with a face like thunder, spent all his free time writing owl after owl to the Auror department, and even made a group of first years cry with his stories about the war. Draco felt like taking him to one side and telling him that actually, the Dark Lord was long gone, and there was no need for all this nonsense.
He was a nightmare and had a terrible effect on the usually jovial mood of the first term. Eventually, Draco felt that he had to stage an intervention.
“Potter,” Draco made sure to sweep into the classroom as theatrically as possible. He was in no way as skilled at it as Snape had been, but he was respectable enough. Potter looked up from his desk, where he seemed to be marking third year reports rather brutally, and scowled.
“What?” he asked, scratching his red quill dramatically through a segment and splattering ink everywhere.
“Potter,” Draco repeated. “I am asking you as one wizard to another, please, the dramatics need to end.”
Potter’s eyes flickered up and widened comically. “Excuse me? Dramatics?” His hair was a fright, shoved messily back from his face and tangled around his ears. He seemed to be trapped in a permanent state of extreme frustration.
“Yes,” to illustrate, Draco messed up his own hair and stomped around the classroom, shoulders hunched, in what he thought was a fairly brilliant impression. Potter just stared at him as if he was mad, so Draco was forced to elaborate. “You’re acting like you don’t want to be here- you’re being completely horrible. I suggest that you leave, before you put the first years off being a wizard altogether.”
That seemed to do the trick, because Potter looked a bit contrite.
“I didn’t mean to-“ he trailed off and stared desolately at the ruined parchment in front of him. “I didn't think it was that obvious.”
“You're an idiot,” Draco said. He tapped the parchment, “here look you just marked her down because she didn't use her full name on the top. Even I would say that was unduly harsh.”
“Merlin,” Potter groaned. “I've become Snape.”
Draco sniffed. “Don't flatter yourself.”
After that, Potter was a little better, and Draco even caught some students looking eager on their way to the defence classroom. That was much better, because with Potter in a good mood, Draco could get down to his usual business of loathing him and being a thorn in his side. Draco quickly learned that Potter felt duty bound to help anyone who asked, which made it very easy to irritate him.
“Potter,” Draco dropped into his seat, jostling a jug of coffee. It was a quiet morning- no lessons on Sundays, so only about half the children ever made it down for breakfast. Lazy little sods.
“Nope,” Potter was reading the Daily Prophet, with a wrinkled nose, as if every word offended him. Apparently the major topic of the day was Ministry spending cuts. Tedious. “Whatever you want me to do, I'm not doing it.”
“Oh now come on,” Draco sniffed and poured himself a cup of coffee. Longbottom was nowhere to be seen, but he could have quite easily eaten already and headed up for his twice daily bracing walk around the grounds. Draco had never met anyone so fond of the hideous Scottish weather. “I'm really in quite a pickle and you're the only person I can ask.”
Potter's eyes flickered up from the paper and Draco knew he had him.
“Go on,” Potter said eventually.
“I went to collect some Spinner's Sorrel yesterday and found a nest of Gnadits right in the clearing where I always get it. I suppose I could try and find another clearing, but I really need the sorrel for tomorrow's lesson on sleeping draughts.”
“Why can't you deal with the Gnadits yourself?” Potter mumbled around a mouthful of toast. A crumb fell onto a photograph Chief of Budgetary Revision, Percy Weasley, and he brushed it off himself, pursing his lips and checking to make sure his horrible gingery hair was in order.
“I'm absolutely no good at stinging hexes,” Draco admitted, which was quite true. Usually he just lured the Gnadits off with honey sandwiches, but he wasn't going to mention that. He wanted to see Potter struggling to fight off a family of irritated Gnadits.
“Fine,” Potter folded the paper up. “I needed to go into the forest tonight anyway. You can help me too.”
“I can- what?” before Draco really had a chance to object, Potter was gone.
It was raining of course, and Draco spent almost twenty minutes waiting for Potter, who turned up wearing galoshes, and worse than that, carrying nets.
“You don't need nets to scare off Gnadits,” Draco said slowly, when Potter handed him one.
“No,” Potter grinned. Of course, the idiot hadn't thought to cast a water repelling charm, so his hair was plastered to his forehead and water was dripping down his nose. “I'm teaching the sixth years about Lethifolds and I spotted a Bathyfold last time I was in the forest, it will do perfectly as an example.”
“No sixth year will ever be fooled by one of those hideous things,” Draco sniffed. Potter just smiled, as if he was deliriously happy to be out in the rain hunting horrible monsters that looked like piles of dirty cloth.
An hour later found Potter desperately beating a Bathyfold with his net while Draco was molested to within an inch of his life by the creature's hideous, sucker covered tentacles.
“For god's sake, stop shrieking,” Potter shouted. “It's not going to hurt you.”
After a great deal of smacking, the Bathyfold withdrew its tentacles and dropped lifeless onto the ground. It looked like a towel, but Draco supposed, in the right light, it might look like a Lethifold. Potter scooped it up in one of his nets and looked unreasonably happy.
“Well done,” he said, and Draco supposed he was talking to himself. Fat headed prat.
Draco expected Potter to clear off at Christmas, but he was there for the feast, sitting down at Gryffindor table with the other rejects and charming holly wreaths to dance around as they ate and made merry. One of the Slytherin sixth years, a boy called Clarence who was muggleborn (Draco tried not to hold it against him) kept casting Wet Willy charms at the Gryffindors from beneath the festive tablecloth. Somewhere around about the third round of puddings, Draco joined him, just to get in the festive spirit.
Afterwards, when all the students were cloistered safely away in their dormitories, to play chess or exploding snap or whatever else they did in their free time, Draco found Potter trying to set the biggest Christmas tree to rights. As the day had gone on it had begun to collapse slightly, probably because McGonagall had been lacing her pumpkin juice with Ogden's and she was the one who'd transfigured the tree in the first place.
“Don't you have a legion of Weasley-Potters to see?” Draco said, maybe a little cruelly.
Potter looked up from the lower hanging branches of the tree, red in the face from the effort.
“Uh, no. They're all – doing their own thing,” he stood up, and Draco grimaced at the sustained cracking noise that his back made. That reminded him, Potter was an ancient dinosaur who had sprogged up relatively young, so all his children were long gone from the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, and probably busy mating like all Weasleys tended to do.
“That's quite tragic,” Draco said, slowly. His mother was in the south of France and Astoria had taken Scorpius to Sweden, so technically he was alone as well, but then he didn't crave the warm embrace of a great big gingery family. Being alone at Christmas suited Draco perfectly, but poor Potter, he was one of those family and friends people.
“Well we're all getting together for a big dinner tomorrow,” Potter sniffed, prodding the tree a few more times with his wand, making it shiver and stand a little straighter. “It's just that Ginny spends Christmas with Byron, and Lily wants to stay with her mum, and James has just got a girlfriend so-”
“Why on earth are you telling me this?” Draco cut in. A million years ago, Potter probably would have got angry and maybe thrown a few wild punches, but this was now, so instead he just smiled.
“I don't even know. Ron sent me a nice bottle of Firewhisky, Neville's joining me tonight for a drink if you want to come.”
Draco stared at him. Harry Potter, the boy who lived and became the grumpy Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher all without once changing the style of his hideous, unflattering spectacles. He had a muggle shirt on under his robe, and the collar was poking through the neck, creased and spotted with pumpkin juice.
“Oh I suppose if there's whisky to be had,” Draco found himself saying.
All in all, it was all right. They had a drink, made fun of each other, joked about their own school days in a fond way that almost made it seem like the whole hideous good vs. evil wizarding war had never happened. Longbottom told a charming anecdote about a drunk muggle who had tried to rob his house, and nearly got eaten by his sofa.
Spring was full of hormones and bickering. Draco had a sixth year class currently attempting to recreate the convoluted plot of 'Love, Betrayal and Transfigurations,' a WWN romantic melodrama that Draco absolutely did not listen to sometimes (always) while he was in his bath. Potter got nearly three hundred valentines from all the students not put off by his hideous personality and hair.
Draco got one, from his mother, which had a coupon inside for Magnus Flanderson's finest hair regrowth charm. It wasn't really that Draco was getting that bald anyway. It was more that he had an aggressive widows peak than anything else.
“Bit harsh,” Potter said, when the coupon slipped out of the card and into Draco's porridge. Potter had a pint of black coffee at one elbow and a stack of valentines at the other. As usual he was scowling at the Prophet. Harry Potter, the man who paid a monthly subscription just to scowl at something.
“My mother is deluded,” Draco sniffed, prodding the coupon with his wand until it incinerated. “Everyone knows Flanderson was fined eight thousand galleons for advertising fraud.”
“I like your hair anyway,” Potter said, kind of distracted. Draco disliked the little spike of pleasure he felt at that immensely.
And then, came exams. Draco absolutely loved the exam season. He spent all year preparing for it, up all night ruminating on how he could make them as nasty as he possibly could. He created trick questions that would have given Hermione Granger nightmares. He started dressing entirely in black and looming, as best he could. He made cryptic comments alluding to what might be in the exam, prompting torrents of panicked last minute revision.
Potter, bless his boring soul, just wrote an exam with straightforward questions on the topics he had covered. When he peered at Draco's questions, he blanched in horror.
“ 'In his philosophies and thinkings on the art of poison',” Potter read aloud, looking truly pained. “ 'the wizard Salamandra described the six elementary bases of any poison. Write two inches on each base, and describe how Salamandra's work changed the art of poisoncraft.' Draco, 'Philosophies and Thinkings on the Art of Poison' is in the Restricted section of the library!”
“Yes well it's NEWTS, Potter, if they haven't worked out how to break into the restricted section by now then they don't deserve to pass.” Draco snatched back his paper dramatically and smiled down at it, like a father might dote upon his newborn baby.
“You are an evil man,” Potter said. He was dragging a suitcase behind him of a reasonable size. Boggart sized. Draco thought of all those little third years waiting terrified to face their biggest fear, and smiled.
The end of term was always bittersweet for Draco. As a long divorcee, his house in London had become relatively bachelorised, but spending a school year elbow to elbow with Longbottom, surrounded by children, however annoying, and then going home to spend all summer alone was always jarring. Still, he had his space again, he could sleep in, eat when he wanted, wear what he wanted, and go out at night.
Draco liked to go out. He liked to spend his summer clubbing and fucking around and pretending he was young. It was a few months of madness after all the hard work he put in at school. Past fifty he couldn't really cut a rug like he used to, but he relished the energy of being a single, anonymous person, one of hundreds all pressed together reduced to mouths and dicks and simple, meaningless encounters.
He went to a spot on the edge of the densest part of wizarding London. It was the sort of meat market where Draco would never run into anyone he knew, and he could find a chap to know carnally and never know again. It was the style to dress muggle at these places, so he wore his best grey shirt and a pair of jeans so old that he felt a flush of achievement every time he managed to squeeze into them. That combo, and the fact that he just looked like a rich bastard, usually did the trick.
Draco was three minutes in to getting to know a twenty-three year old intern at Frostlyte Apothecaries, when he glanced over at the far side of the bar and locked eyes with Harry Fathead Potter.
“Bollocks,” Draco said, and the intern looked hopefully up at him.
It was far too embarrassing to play the gay pick up game with Potter hovering around like a bad smell. Just the fact that Potter was gay made Draco feel strange, like he'd just found out that muggles actually had extra nipples or something. Not personally relevant, but still evidence that mother nature was creepy and weird.
They both stomped out into the street and Potter spent a few minutes tugging at his hair and gnashing his teeth.
“I'm not going to sell it to the Prophet as an exclusive, you know,” Draco said, which earned him a weird look.
“Malfoy the Prophet-” Potter frowned. “You don't read it, do you?”
“No,” Draco sniffed. “It's a filthy libellous rag run by biased, sensationalist, morons.”
Potter grinned. His teeth were very white and straight in the darkness, and he didn't look totally horrible. He was in a black shirt and jeans, and black boots that Draco coveted instantly, patent dragonskin with little silver caps on the toes.
“Well, there's no way I'm going to score now. Let's get a bottle of something and go to the park,” Potter said. Draco could think of about a million reasons why that was a really stupid idea, not least because they were multiple decades gone from being teenagers, and even as a teenager Draco had been far too cool and important to drink cider from a paper bag in a park. They'd both been too busy actually, which may have been the point. Instead of mentioning any of that though, Draco just said, “Oh, all right then.”
I don’t see how my life is any more tragic than yours,” Potter said with more than a little irritation. It was a great departure, Draco thought, from their youth, when Potter’s life had been more tragic than anyone’s and woe betide whoever tried to say otherwise.
“Let’s see,” Draco raised fingers and began ticking them off, one by one. “At the ripe old age of fifty-three-“
“Fifty-two,” Potter interrupted, grinding his teeth. It was a matter of something like two weeks and Draco just waved his hand to dismiss any protest.
“Scandalously divorced, single, retired from your beloved job, still looking like an enormous eruption of hair and scowlyness-“
‘Scowlyness?’ Potter mouthed, looking outraged.
“Not to mention grey,” Draco added, although he quite liked the grey. Then, delighted by the rhyming, he added, “and gay!”
“You’re divorced,” Potter replied, and rolled over onto his stomach. The park stretched out dark and endless behind him. London seemed like a distant mirage of lights and vacant noises beyond their little pocket of green. Down the hill some muggles were playing with a light-up Frisbee. “You’re gay too, and going bald.”
“I like my job though,” Draco said, cruelly. Potter sighed and dropped his chin down onto his folded arms. In the dark he looked quite a bit younger – the artificial light of the city was kind to the lines on his face, and hid the streaks of grey. They could have been two young men there, like they still felt inside. Potter was getting the black ink from the stamp on his hand transferred on his face. Draco smiled.
“You’re right about that,” Potter whispered. Draco shifted a bit closer, so that they were pressed together at the shoulder. Potter always felt so vital, thrumming with energy and warm. Draco had once been called a cold fish – he supposed, compared to Potter, he sort of was. Cold fish, or maybe just something cold-blooded, like snake. Something that needed to bask in warmth, rather than generate his own. He wriggled closer.
“Why did you have to stop being an Auror?” Draco said eventually, because it felt like the right time. He had to admit to himself, he’d been painfully curious, ever since Potter had turned up at Hogwarts like a bad knut.
“Well,” Potter sighed long and heavily, lifting his head off his hands. The movement brought their faces very close together and Draco felt a really familiar tug somewhere at the pit of his stomach. “I got hit by a dematerialising curse, when we were on a raid. The medwizards managed to stop me from-” he hesitated, like the thought still frightened him a bit, “from being vaporised, but the side effects meant that I can’t apparate anymore.”
Suddenly it was obvious. Why Potter took the train, or floo, portkey, broom- anything at all except for the easiest and swiftest way. Why he always looked so annoyed when people apparated near him. Why he couldn’t ever really be an Auror again. Draco actually felt a little sorry for him. He couldn’t imagine how frustrating it would be to suddenly lose the complete freedom he’d had since he was a schoolboy.
“They actually set up a committee to decide whether I was still capable of doing my job,” Potter sounded very bitter. “All these witches and wizards I’d never met who had some opinion on it, and in the end they offered to let me keep my job, as long as I stayed at my desk. No field work.”
“Mm,” Draco looked at the side of his face, the angry set of his jaw and the dangerous kind of look in his downcast eyes.
“I told them to fuck right off.”
“Hear hear,” Draco said, then flipped onto his back, rolling up against Potter in the process and jostling them both terribly. Down the hill the muggles were shrieking and laughing. “You’re better off where you are, anyway. You seem like a good teacher.”
“Really?” Potter’s head lifted up in surprise, and oh they were- absolutely in the perfect position to kiss. Potter seemed to sense it too, his head jolted down fractionally, instinctively, and then he smiled as if he was amused at his own folly.
“Really,” Draco murmured, quiet enough that Potter had to lean closer. He smiled again, like he was enjoying this little game they were playing. Maybe it was the firewhiskey he’d drunk, (from a paper bag no less) but Draco felt unusually reckless. He didn’t mind whatsoever that this was Potter, that he was a hopeless mess of a person, with a wreck of a life and a great fat head. In fact, somehow, it just made it better when they did kiss- after a hesitation that felt several seconds long, filled with silence, as the noise of London seemed to recede.
“Mm,” Potter said, pulling away. He was still smiling that self-deprecating little smile of his. It felt to Draco as if, although he’d learned nothing else in his 52 years, he’d at least learned to make fun of himself. “This is probably a bad idea.”
“Are you kidding me? It’s a terrible idea. But if your life is such a tragedy, you should at least get a shag every now and then.”
Potter’s smile transformed, went dark and a little wicked. It was not a look Draco was used to seeing from him, but he liked it.
“I suppose I should,” he murmured, voice gone incredibly throaty and Draco was actually a bit embarrassed by how much that turned him on. There was more kissing, Potter shoved one hot hand up under Draco’s shirt. Then something occurred to him.
“So wait. Now we have to get the tunnel back to your flat, or whatever dreadful thing muggles do? Instead of apparating like normal wizards?”
“Unless you thought to prepare a portkey in anticipation of this very situation,” Potter pushed up on his elbows, shoving his glasses further up his nose and looking very annoyed. “Or we could apparate if you want, I guess. I’d just explode into a million tiny pieces and that might impair my ability in the bedroom somewhat.”
Draco eyeballed him, doubtful. Potter scowled, but instead of being off putting, it just seemed to galvanise Draco. He really wanted this. He wanted it so much he actually surprised himself.
“I have an idea,” Potter said eventually, and stood up, dragging Draco with him. They practically jogged down the hill, Draco put his arms around Potter’s waist and try to trip him up. By the time they reached the street they were both breathless and laughing in a way that was totally undignified for two grown men. Potter stuck his wand out.
“Oh god, no,” Draco said, as the Knight Bus roared to a stop at the curb.
The journey was actually quite fun. They sat on a squishy sofa that slid about as the bus darted from street to street, and tried to feel each other up without the other passengers noticing. It barely took ten minutes before they were spat out onto the pavement in front of Potter’s flat, staggering up the steps and kissing pressed up against the front door. Potter’s neighbour, who Draco was pretty certain was a hag, hissed at them through her curtains. Draco hissed back.
In the dark quiet of Potter’s flat though, there was a moment of hesitation, where Draco couldn’t really see anything in Potter’s eyes but shadow, and their kisses grew slow and stilted. Potter breathed out against Draco’s neck.
“Oh Potty,” Draco murmured. “Has it really been that long?”
Another one of those self -mocking smiles, this time just a curve against Draco’s skin. Potter slid his hand right up under Draco’s shirt, smooth and not hesitant at all.
“Oh yes,” Potter said, “It’s been bloody ages. Still, I think I remember how it goes.”
He did, thankfully.
Potter apparently woke up at some kind of ungodly hour. It was if he hadn’t got the message that this was the summer holidays; the only time in the year where he didn’t have to rise at dawn and supervise breakfast, or clear out a warren of Hornips from the Quidditch field, or take morning detention. Draco pretended to be asleep and listened to Potter stumbling about, making clanking noises in the kitchen. It was when he got in the shower and started humming Celestina Warbeck tunelessly that Draco finally decided he’d had enough.
“Do you mind?” he snapped, shoving the bathroom door open. Potter was standing under the shower, looking a little surprised. It was – appallingly bright in the bathroom. Draco could see every single, tiny detail of his naked person. The silvery lines of ancient scars on his forearm, where his skin was darker from decades of rolled up sleeves. A mole in the vulnerable hollow of his throat. The way his cheeks went blotchy when he flushed red. It brought everything back in a rush, and Draco felt slightly lightheaded. It might have been the steam.
“I know I’m incredibly good looking but there’s no need to drool,” Potter said, squinting. His glasses were propped on the windowsill and he looked alarmingly vulnerable without them.
“It’s the steam,” Draco said, slowly. Potter leaned out of the water, and gave him a wet kiss.
“Good morning,” he said.
“Yes, well,” Draco pulled away. “I shall just be going?”
He hadn’t meant it to come out as a question, but as a result he ended up fucking Potter again, so he couldn’t really complain.
Draco actually thought that was it. They parted ways before lunchtime, having mutually grown tired of each other's company, and he didn’t hear from Potter for weeks. The first of September was looming and Draco was doing his usual curriculum revamp, spreading all his lesson plans on the floor of his living room and sweeping around pretending to be Snape while he decided what would stay and what would go. The process was as usual lubricated by Stronwich’s finest ruby wine. He was just choosing whether to start the third years on dreamless sleep or ageing potion when there was a cough of sparks from his grate.
“Malfoy,” Potter spluttered from the dying coals. Draco very carefully stoked the fire a little, trying not to poke Potter too much in the eye.
“Good evening,” Draco answered, dropping down on his elbows. It was hard to tell, because his fire was so low but he thought Potter might be smiling.
“Are you busy?” Potter said, straightforward as ever. “I want to fuck.”
“Well,” Draco twirled a strand of hair around one finger, aiming for coy. Potter snorted a few sparks. “Since you asked so nicely…”
As booty floos went, it wasn’t so bad.
The thing about Potter was he was Draco’s age. Mostly, when out and about, Draco went for the much younger lads, who were inevitably drawn to his magnetic good looks and spurious wealth. They all looked very nice- not saggy anywhere, and full of energy, but they were also on the whole, insecure, and inexperienced. Draco liked them because they looked nice and hung onto his every word. He had always assumed that he didn’t need much more than that.
Potter was different. He obviously knew what he wanted, and quickly cottoned on to what Draco wanted too, but he was comfortable with experimenting, and confident enough that when things didn’t go exactly right, he could laugh about it. Draco learned quickly that he liked that, he liked that he could tell Potter to stop trying to bend him in directions he wouldn’t bend and instead of getting all self-conscious Potter would just laugh and try something different. It worked, against all expectations.
“This is different,” Potter said, that second time, after they had rolled around over Draco’s lesson plans and finished off the ruby wine. “I mean, I like how easy it is being with you.”
“Are you implying,” Draco said, “That I am of loose virtue?”
“Maybe,” Potter smiled. “Actually what I meant was that I don’t have to try and impress you because you already think I’m a hopeless case.”
“True,” Draco mitigated the insult by stroking a hand through Potter’s hair. The grey at his temples swirled back into thick black. He was showing no sign at all of thinning or hair loss, Draco was jealous. “Although I have discovered that there are a few things you are talented at.”
Potter looked entirely too pleased with himself at that. After a bit, he sat up and started putting together his clothes. Draco enjoyed the fact that he was clearly aware when the moment was over.
“Might not see you until we’re back at work,” he said, on his way into the fireplace. They kissed, and he rubbed his knuckles briefly over Draco’s stomach, which made him shiver and his cock twitch with unusual ambition.
“Yeah okay,” Draco said, and then Potter was gone in a swirl of green flame. Draco found himself staring fondly at the back of his fireplace, and quickly shook himself and returned to his work. They’d made an unholy mess of the notes he had spent all evening patiently laying out, but he really didn’t have it in him to be annoyed.
“What in Merlin's name did you do to Harry?” was the first thing Longbottom said, when Draco flooed into school for the start of term. Teachers started the week before students and the school was full of suitcases being levitated about and supplies stacked up by classroom doors. The old guard, of course spent most of the holiday at the school, but Draco thought he had at least another forty or so years in him before he became Sybil Trelawney, and set up camp in his leaky, dingy quarters.
“What do you mean?” Draco shrunk his cases with a wave of his wand, and sent them down to the dungeon. They sailed over Flitwick's head and off down the stairs, looking rather jaunty.
“I forgot, you don't read the Prophet,” Longbottom said, then quickly went on before Draco could start his usual rant about journalism standards. “All summer it's just been you and Harry and your big gay scandal.”
“Eh?” Draco nearly dropped his wand. “Scandal? Why on earth?”
Longbottom actually looked a bit like he pitied him. Sometimes Draco wondered if he was missing something, some Post-War handbook that guided everyone on how to act. It seemed that a lot of the time people were very shocked by Draco existing and eating and needing a job and a flat and the occasional shag. Was there some rule, that former Death Eaters weren't allowed to do normal things?
“Because it's you. Even I had a hard time believing Harry would sleep with you,” Longbottom sighed, like he secretly wanted to accuse Draco of using a love potion or something, but he knew that was unreasonable.
“Well,” Draco sniffed. “That's something you should take up with him, not me.”
He swept off down to the dungeons before anyone could corner him with more invasive personal questions about where he was putting his penis, recreationally.
Potter turned up that evening, after dinner and brought Draco some of his favourite wine and a few entertaining ideas about how they could spend their time. Afterwards, they spent some time gossiping about the returning students, and how stupid they could be. Finally, Draco couldn't really resist.
“Did the Prophet really spend all summer printing pictures of us snogging and calling us a gay scandal?” he asked, and Potter spat out a mouthful of the wine all over the bed. “You're disgusting,” Draco said, cleaning it away with a wandless scourgify.
“Well. Yes. It did.” At first Draco couldn't really work out what Potter's face was doing, or why he seemed to be struggling to articulate himself. Then Draco realised that he was embarrassed. Sheepish.
“Are they still at it?” Draco crawled over and dropped down close enough to Potter that if he had wanted to, he could have probably used his shoulder as a pillow.
“Not really, it's mostly blown over now. Are you mad?”
Potter's face was very close. Draco looked at him, tried to work out how much he really cared whether Draco was mad or not. He wasn't an easy person to read, but Draco was spending a lot of time around him, these days. It was a perfect opportunity to torment him, of course.
“I don't read the Prophet,” Draco murmured, and Potter's lips curled into a smile.
He leaned close, they were nearly kissing when he replied, in a whisper, “I like that about you.”
In October, Potter-Weasel firstborn, who Draco learned was called James and played beater for the Tornados, got engaged. Apparently he'd locked eyes with young Alstromeria Warbeck at a charity do and realised he'd met the one. By all accounts, Potter should have been overjoyed, it was definitely marrying up – the Warbecks, although overexposed, had good blood. Instead, however, he acted like James was making the worst decision of his life.
“He's so young,” Potter grumped. Draco had gone up to his quarters to shag, and had ended up watching him mark first year tests while complaining about the engagement. “He doesn't even know what he wants to do with himself yet!”
“He's probably not gay though, statistically speaking, so maybe his marriage will work,” Draco propped his feet up on the table, and Potter shoved them off, in a huff.
“Isn’t he like thirty now? How old were you when you got married?”
“I take it you don’t want to have sex then?” Potter said, through gritted teeth. Draco decided to be diplomatic and shut up about the whole thing.
“I really don’t know how they became so grown up,” Potter said, quietly. Draco wouldn’t call what they were doing cuddling per se but there was a definite element of comforting physical contact. He had his head tucked on Potter’s shoulder, and was stretched out in the space next to him. His head on Potters shoulder was their only real point of contact, but Potter was trailing slow fingers through Draco’s hair, by his ear.
“Well, you idiot, time passes, and they grow bigger and get personalities and so on and so forth,” Draco tried to ignore the indulgent way Potter was smiling at him. “What did you think, they would stay children forever?”
“You’re right,” Potter sighed, staring myopically up at the bed canopy. Potter’s face without glasses had become so familiar to Draco, enough that he associated it with these quiet moments, when they were close enough that he didn’t need his glasses to see.
“I will have to stop sleeping with you though,” Draco announced, “when you become a grandfather. It’s not good for my reputation.”
“I see,” Potter said. His fingertips didn’t stop moving, just little whisper touches to the edge of Draco’s ear, the hair curled around it. Draco shivered. “Will you trade me up for a younger model?”
“Absolutely,” Draco said, and realized as he said it that he never, ever would. It was like a great big strike of lightning, sudden enough to make him flinch. He didn’t want to trade Potter in – he wouldn’t even consider it. Potter laughed, he hadn’t noticed, and rolled over to kiss Draco on the forehead, smiling through it.
“I’m concerned,” Draco told Longbottom over dinner the next day. Longbottom was eating his third chip and sausage butty covered in brown sauce. Draco hated that he could eat all that and still have the figure of a witch weekly cover model. You’d never have guessed it from his formative tubbiness.
“That’s a new one,” Longbottom took a long swallow of mead. “Go on, unload your concerns.”
“Potter,” Draco whispered sotto voce. The man in question was actually at the far end of the table engaged in a very in depth conversation with McGonagall about why it was fine for Quidditch to go ahead despite the weather conditions. Horizontal hail was cutting across the lofty rafters of the great hall. Occasionally a chunk fell down and splashed into the student’s glasses of pumpkin juice. “I think he’s falling in love with me.”
Longbottom carefully put the last bite of his roll down on the place and pushed it away. He looked at Draco askance.
“You can’t be serious,” he said. “I don’t think there is any danger of that. At all.”
“Malfoy,” Potter stormed over, “You’ve scheduled your Gryffindor potion study session to clash with the match? You can’t do that!”
“I can,” Draco examined his nails.
“Change it,” Potter ordered, and Draco just raised his eyebrows and took a long sip from his cup. Potter’s tone went pleading, “change it Draco, come on.”
“Perhaps, as a personal favour, I can change my schedule.” Draco conceded. “It will be very, very inconvenient though.” For a fraction of a second, Potter looked genuinely annoyed, but he must have seen something in Draco’s expression because abruptly he smiled, a bright, fond thing.
“Thanks,” he slapped Draco on the shoulder and jogged off. Longbottom was staring at him.
“Meanwhile,” Longbottom said, looking quite horrified. “You’re in love with him. As in – you actually are.”
“Potter is a good shag, “ Draco sniffed, “I merely do what I can to make sure I continue getting serviced in the manner I have become accustomed to. Love doesn’t come into it.”
“Right, that’s why you look at him like he’s the very last chocolate frog, right?”
Draco made a noise that was supposed to be dismissive, but came out rather weak, and hid behind his copy of the Quibbler for the rest of the meal.
“Have you ever been in love?” Draco asked later on, when they were taking advantage of Potter’s enormous bath. Personally, Draco thought it was favouritism that he got a room high up in Gryffindor tower where it was warm and dry and there was no water leaking in from the lake. Draco kept on having to cast impervious charms onto his drapery. Potter had his legs stretched out on either side, but Draco had his knees tucked up under his chin. The two of them were surrounded by a cloud of bubbles that tingled and let out little chimes when they burst. Potter, being an enormous homosexual, had lit some candles, and they glowed amber, throwing dim light in flickering stripes across the room.
“Um, yes,” Potter said, as if was obvious. “I loved Ginny. I still do, sort of.”
“What’s it like?” Draco watched Potters face, watched him recalling, the way his eyes looked distant, and vaguely happy. Draco resented that look immensely. He hid his irritation by popping a few bubbles, which melted away in a pleasing major chord.
“Well I mean, it’s nice. It’s just terribly exciting for a while - every time you see them you just feel so happy, and you look forward to time together, you feel like, you just can’t do without it. And then,” he hesitated, shoulders hunching a little.
“Well then it just winds down, and becomes ordinary. When that feeling is gone, you just feel out of place,” Potter looked unreasonably sad, and Draco had to stop himself from reaching out. “I mean, I understand now, in retrospect, that we were never going to be together forever. At the time it’s pretty terrible.”
“But that’s not part of being in love, that’s falling out of love,” Draco popped some more bubbles, and they sounded a bit melancholy.
“Same thing,” Potter said sadly.
Draco made a face, “I’d forgotten how depressing you could be,” he said, crawling forward through the bubbles and slithering up until they were nose to nose. “Come on, focus on the good things. If you’d stayed with Ginny you wouldn’t be where you are right now, enjoying oodles of casual sex with me.”
“Mm,” Potter stroked Draco’s throat and looked incredibly sad. He was smiling in a way that made Draco tense with sudden fear, all the blood in his body thrumming oh my god oh my god oh my god . Then the smile was gone, and replaced by something more wicked. Draco dropped onto him.
When Draco had started working at Hogwarts, more than a decade back, there had been protests and stuff, angry parents gathering in Hogsmeade and around the ministry, demanding that a former Death Eater should never be employed there. Draco, who at the time had been pretending he didn't want the job, and had just applied out of boredom, actually was desperate for it. The landscape of his adult life had become barren and meaningless. He considered the first few years he had spent at Hogwarts as a student, before it all went to shit - as the only time he had truly been happy. Jewels glittering far back on the canvas of his past.
He'd been a bit at a loss as what to do when people marched around holding placards to try and stop him working there. Emberbright had been understanding, but in the end it had been Dumbledore, from beyond the grave, who saved him. Always Dumbledore.
He'd written a statement, before his death, and long before Potter finally put paid to the Dark Lord. It had been his testimony, in Draco's defence, for the hearings that came after. Optimistically, Draco thought, he had written one for Snape as well.
Emberbright published the statement again, in defence of Draco's appointment. Draco had not really listened to it the first time, way back when he'd been in front of the Wizengamot, his Dark Mark still itching. He listened to it then, when Emberbright presented it, and couldn't believe that it was describing him, that somehow Dumbledore had seen something in him that was not tarnished or petty.
Occasionally, when Potter looked at him, Draco felt the same way. He wanted to grab Potter's stupid, speccy face and say, “What can you see? What are you looking at?”
The group that had protested Draco's appointment were called 'Light of the Future' and they pasted nasty posters around London and Hogsmeade, naming and shaming local former Death Eaters. People who had done their time in Azkaban, even people who had been pardoned. Every now and then they sent Draco a howler. He would take it to his room and listen to it, thinking about the two faces he found himself with; a wasted, wounded former monster, not fit to live amongst wizards, or this redeemed fascinator, somehow interesting enough to capture Potter's attention, earn Dumbledore's trust.
Draco himself just felt a bit dull and mostly lost.
“Not these freaks again,” Potter grumbled, pulling his prophet open and dunking the bottom corner in the yolk of Draco's egg as he did.
“My egg,” Draco said plaintively. Potter ignored him.
“Don't they have something better to do than dredge up ancient history?”
Draco peered at the cover then looked quickly away. It was Light of the Future, binding themselves to the ministry statue with chains to protest the changes to Defence Against the Dark Arts syllabus. He thought it was pretty ballsy of Potter, who still had a dirty great scar on his forehead, to dismiss it all as ancient history, but nonetheless, he agreed.
“The focus on magical creatures and practical defences is far more justified than adding counter curses and combat hexes,” Potter continued, a little tired, like he'd had this argument a lot before. “Those and the unforgivables were never in the curriculum anyway.”
“Mm,” Draco said, feeling a bit uncomfortable. He snaked a finger in between his collar and his neck to scratch at where puckered scar met unmarked skin. Potter, being Potter, and only observant when it was most irritating, noticed.
The look on his face made Draco feel terrible and he had to turn away.
Draco had fully intended to spend the Christmas break at Hogwarts, shagging Potter as much as possible. Scorpius, who had always been Draco's best friend when he was young, now sided firmly with his mother, and neither of them were talking to Draco, because of the summer of gay scandal. Draco tried to explain that it was actually Potter's fault for being famous and having such a big fat head, but no-one listened.
Then, the day school broke up for the holidays, an owl dropped a handwritten invitation onto Draco's desk. Christmas day, family dinner, from Hermione Granger-Weasley.
“Oh,” Potter said, when Draco showed him it. He did a very poor job of hiding the fact that he'd clearly asked that they invite Draco too. “Well, it's just Ron and Hermione, want to go?”
It was the way he said it, not just the words he used, but the shape of his mouth, the uncertain, uneasy tone. Potter wanted Draco to go a lot. Potter didn't want to go alone. There was nothing Draco wanted to do less with his Christmas.
“Oh, all right then,” he said.
Draco figured it out about one glass of champagne in. Weasley couldn't stop talking about the Auror Division. The portkey had taken them as far as a field in Midsomer Norton, and they'd had to fly the rest of the way. The countryside was blanketed in snow and sparkling. Draco had enjoyed flying with Potter, and after spending some time following the rules, they'd begun showing off; loop-the-loops and dropping low enough to throw up frozen spray.
Awkwardness upon arrival had been minimal. Both Granger and Weasley were obviously trying to be on their best behaviour, and the Weasel had mellowed a little over time, but still, he wouldn't bloody shut up about work. He kept jabbering on about it, like Potter wanted to hear all about the new cases, and what all his old team members were up to. Potter didn't say anything of course, but more and more as the morning went on, his face sort of seized up and his mouth set in a line that wasn't anything like a smile. When Hermione asked someone to go and get the Christmas tablecloth from the garage, Potter leapt at the chance.
“I blame you, you know,” Weasley said glumly, once Potter was out of earshot. “I mean, I still think you're a shit and all, but if that's what he wants fine. But still, he's been acting all weird since you two got together.”
Draco stared at him. Draco wanted to get up and scream or something, tell him that he was the one doing the damage, going on and on about his life as an Auror, something Potter wanted more than anything, but couldn't have anymore. Draco wanted to have a proper, school-style fight, right there in the lounge while Granger swore at roast potatoes in the next room. Then, abruptly, all the hot air seemed to leak out of him.
“He's been acting weird since he quit the Auror division,” Draco said, and he was proud of how mild he managed to make it sound. For a brief moment, he thought the point had sailed over Weasley's head. Then Weasley flinched, and Draco knew that he understood. Neither of them spoke, and Potter reappeared soon after, with the Christmas tablecloth folded over one arm.
“What were you saying about the new arrest policy?” Potter asked Weaselby, dropping into the sofa next to Draco. They didn't sit close enough to touch, but there were empty chairs about, so Potter was probably making a point.
“Aw mate,” Weasley swallowed audibly. “I'm fed up talking shop. What about Hogwarts? I heard one of the students set themselves on fire during the halloween feast!”
Later on, long after dinner, when Potter and the Weasel were arguing drunkenly about quidditch, Granger leaned over and whispered in Draco's ear, smelling a little bit of rum, her whiskery hair tickling his neck.
“You had a word with Ron, didn't you?”
“Mm,” Draco looked at her out of the side of his eye. He remembered how annoying she'd been at school. It had been such a source of rage for him back then, that she was so much more brilliant than he was when she was muggleborn. Nowadays Draco realised that actually she had been remarkable. He liked how she didn’t seem to be aware of that at all.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“What the hell are you laughing at?” Draco managed to force the words out evenly enough, considering what he was doing. Potter's hands were on his hips, almost too hot, thumbs pressed into the soft skin by his stomach. It was getting hard to hold onto coherent threads of thought.
“Just thinking,” Potter shifted his hips restlessly, and a noise fell out of Draco's mouth that he was embarrassed to own up to. “Imagining what eleven year old me would have thought if I told him I'd be fucking you in Ron and Hermione's guest bedroom one day.”
“Aaah,” Draco said, because just as he tried a smart reply Potter twitched his hips again. “Ugh, uh, don't remind me where we are- you'll aah, ruin the mood.”
This time, Potter moved his hips in a way that was entirely deliberate, most likely to prove that they were definitely past the point of ruining the mood. Draco hid the noise that prompted by humming, lifting both hands and burying his fingers in his hair.
“Merry Christmas,” Potter said, half laughing, half panting.
“Ah, Harry,” Draco moaned, because he couldn't manage anything else.
Once, when they were sleepy and shagged out, Potter had told Draco that one of his biggest fears was taking a Portkey and not ending up where he was supposed to. They'd been all curled up under the blankets in Potter's toasty Gryffindor room with rain slapping against the window, and Potter had told Draco all about how he'd grabbed the Triwizard Trophy and ended up in a graveyard. More than anything, this seemed to have stuck with him, worse than everything that had followed. Perhaps it was because one moment he had been celebrating victory, and the next it was all destroyed.
Draco was not excellent at giving comfort, but he'd put a hand on the back of Potter's neck and held him still, like he was keeping him safe. It seemed to have been enough.
It was particularly cruel then, that Light of the Future decided to abduct them by hijacking their portkey.
Draco found himself again, face down on the floor. It was cold stone, and damp and dank, like they were in the Hogwarts dungeon. He managed to roll over, but with some difficulty, because his hands were tied behind his back. There was enough light in the room to see that it was circular, ringed with grimy stone pillars. Potter was standing in the middle of the room.
“Harry?” Draco said, hoarsely. He got no reaction. Potter was very still, looking at something on the far side of the room. Someone.
Draco had always imagined Light of the Future to be a bunch of crazy muggle humping weirdos. In the photos they painted their faces bright colours, and screamed and chained themselves to railings. It was beyond frightening then, to see that it wasn't some gurning freak. It was someone completely ordinary, someone Draco could have passed in the street a hundred times. It was Ernie Macmillan.
Macmillan looked haggard; dark circles under his eyes, his mouth twisted in a tight line. His hair was completely grey, and looked as if he had been tugging clumps out of it. He made Draco feel a little better about ageing- however old he might look, Macmillan looked far, far worse
“Don’t you remember what it was like?” he said, raggedly. He wasn’t talking to Draco. Draco glanced over at Potter, who had a strange kind of an expression on his face. He looked annoyed, certainly, but he also had sort of sadness in his eyes. Draco eventually recognized it. Pity.
“Yes Ernie, I remember,” Potter said. “How could I forget?”
Macmillan made a choking noise. “But you did! You did! You’re teaching these kids disarming spells and how to shoot coloured lights – talking about the war as if it’s a story!”
“Yes,” Potter said steadily. It was the first time, really that Draco realized how much he had changed since they were both boys – how far away the Harry Potter that used to be really was. He didn’t seem angry, he just seemed incredibly calm, hands at his side, shoulders down, chin raised. This was a man who had spent 52 years facing evil and wasn’t afraid of it in the slightest. “I didn’t do all that, so my kids, and their kids could grow up learning unforgivable curses like I did.”
Macmillan’s face crumpled. His eyes looked far too bright, like he had a fever. His wand point quivered. His lips twitched, and Draco saw, the exact moment when something inside of him snapped, when he decided to fight.
It was all over in a scant few seconds. Macmillan’s wand twitched, his mouth formed the first syllable of Crucio and Potter moved like water, his wand arm swinging easily up. It looked almost lazy, so confident in comparison to the way Macmillan was shuddering. Draco shivered, and Potter said, conversationally, impedimenta.
Macmillan dropped to the floor in a heap. The only indication that he had even tried to curse Potter was the slightly acrid smell of unused magic in the air. Potter tucked his wand away and sighed.
“What a tragedy,” Draco managed, although he felt pretty shaky. It was like Potter had forgotten he was there at all because when he spoke, Potter spun round, looking horrified.
“Draco,” He said, rushing over and dropping to his knees. His fingers were clumsy on the rope around Draco's wrists, like he'd forgotten he had a wand. Before Draco was even really free, he grabbed him, clutching him tight against his chest. Draco could feel how Potter was sweaty, shaking. He'd seemed so calm, from a distance. “Are you all right? Are you hurt?”
“I'm fine,” Draco said, into Potter's shoulder. It was strange. They'd never really hugged just for the sake of hugging before. It was nice. It was a nice thing that he hadn't done with Potter before. For a long moment, Draco just listened to Potter breathing, and wondered why, even at 52, he still felt like he wanted to cry. He couldn't even be angry at Macmillan. He'd felt that once, the desperate, prickling hatred that drove a person to do terrible things.
“He was going to kill you,” Potter said, “He said he was going to kill you.”
“He was never going to kill me,” Draco mumbled, “He was up against you for Merlin's sake. He tried to play quick-curse with Harry fucking Potter.”
Potter was silent for a bit at that, raising a hand up and stroking the back of Draco's head.
“He thought I would help him,” Potter said finally. Draco felt the strangest thing, like a spasm in his face, that left his eyes hot, and his lips shaking. He had to gather himself together again before he could reply.
“Well, he's never had me suck his cock, so there was no way he could know,” Draco said, instead of he didn't realise that you loved me. Potter got it anyway, because he laughed, just a little bit. He drew back, and his face was the most frightening and beautiful thing Draco had ever seen.
“You always talk like you give me blow jobs all the time,” he said. “You almost never give me blow jobs, Draco.”
Then the Aurors came, and there was lots of Weaselby shouting and they were made to sit in the ministry for hours and answer questions, and there were reporters crowding the atrium, and Potter had to stand up in front of all of them and describe what happened, and denounce the Light of the Future as terrorists. And then, in front of all the wizarding press and half of the ministry, he opened his big fat mouth and said,
“By kidnapping the man I love and attempting to kill him, these misguided individuals have shown their true colours.”
“What!” Draco bellowed, silencing the cacophony of reporters and sputtering flashbulbs. Potter got a distinctly hunted look about him. “You what? The man you what?”
All the cameras swivelled around and started flashing at Draco. Potter looked like he didn't have a clue what to say. Draco was filled up with a giddy, fizzing fury. He spun, and headed for the nearest floo, and didn't stop until he tumbled out of the dusty grate in his flat. And then, he burst into laughter.
Potter tipped up a few hours later, looking very sorry for himself, and also carrying a bottle of Stronwich’s Ruby Wine. It was a good start.
“I'm sorry,” he said through the door.
“What for?” Draco prompted, earning him an exasperated snort. Instead of answering, Potter made a few half-hearted attempts to break in, each time foiled by Draco’s handcrafted anti-intruder charms. They made a farting noise when anyone unauthorised tried to open the door.
“What for?” Draco said again, peering through the peephole. All he could see was the side of Potter’s head, and a chunk of his his ridiculous hair.
“I'm sorry for telling the world wizarding press that I love you,” there was a pause, and an awkward clearing of the throat, then Potter continued, “I mean sorry for telling them before I told you. That I love you. Which I do. It’s a bit cold Draco.”
Draco opened the door, and Potter stepped in. He looked a bit hunted, but also there was a determined quality to him, like now he had said it, he was just going to follow through with conviction. Draco didn’t completely subscribe to the whole Hogwarts Houses thing, but that didn’t mean that Potter wasn’t the prototype Gryffindor sometimes.
“You love me,” Draco said slowly.
“Yes,” Potter said. He still had the wine in his hand.
“Okay,” Looking at Potter, at his familiar, dear face and his horrible ugly glasses, Draco found words quite difficult to form. He stepped closer until the wine bottle was jabbing into his side. “Okay.”
Draco had always felt, always, since they were both boys that Potter had a kind of magnetic pull on him. It hadn’t always been the same type of pull, but it had always been there. Up close it was even stronger, like there was no way they could be within a foot of each other and not reach out. Potter had that hooded-eyed look, and Draco knew he felt the same thing. They kissed, and it was wonderful, completely magnificent, even with the wine bottle in the way, until Draco realised Potter was trying to say something.
“Wait, is that all you’re going to say?” he managed, leaning back and pushing his glasses up his nose. “Okay? What about you?”
“What about me?” Draco took the wine and set it on the side table, irritated.
“Do you love me too?” Potter asked.
It dawned on Draco then that Potter might not actually know, that he might have been as lost and confused about the whole thing as Draco had been. Potter who had described how love was just a story with a drawn out ending, who sometimes looked at Draco like he knew exactly what he was thinking. It hadn’t occurred to Draco.
“Of course I do, you enormous prat,” Draco said, feeling his face heat up and his throat tighten. He wasn’t just sad, and he wasn’t just happy, he was in a kind of ecstasy in between that. “I don’t know how you qualify to teach children when you’re so dense.”
“Shut up,” Potter said, and then, probably because he didn’t quite trust Draco to do it himself he did the job for him. They forgot all about the wine.
The Hogwarts entrance hall was shrouded in floating candles. McGonagall was standing at the top of the steps, looming. Everyone was waiting for the first years to turn up, tripping over their too-long robes. There was an atmosphere of hushed expectation, just like every year. Draco was lurking near the stairwell, trying to be inconspicuous, but Longbottom still found him.
“I don’t think you’ve ever turned up on time for a sorting,” he said. He looked disgustingly tan, apparently he and Hannah had gone on a tour of South America looking for rare magical plants or something. Draco couldn’t think of anything worse. “Is this you turning over a new leaf?”
“I don’t turn over new leaves,” Draco said, crossing his arms, then uncrossing them in an attempt to not seem defensive. He caught a glimpse of a familiar figure in a familiar dusty robe on the other side of the entrance hall and felt a flicker of excitement despite himself.
“Your face,” Longbottom said, gleefully. “You’re so obvious, you’re here so you can sit next to Harry at the feast and hold his hand under the table.”
“I won’t take this,” Draco said, scandalised. “I have never once, not even when married to my ex-wife - ever held hands with anyone under a table!”
Longbottom had that half smile, half pitying look on his face again, and Draco was embarrassed, felt a flush coming on. He’d never got red in the face about this sort of thing before Potter came along. He couldn’t help it, he folded his arms over his chest again.
“Don’t you have flowers to water?” he said, feeling aggrieved. Everyone was gathering in the great hall, and Draco could see Potter taking a seat over at the teachers’ table.
“You better go, before someone else takes your seat,” Longbottom said, with a wink. Draco did, more to end the conversation than out of any concern for his seat. When he got to the table, Potter looked up and gave him a smile that was indescribably wonderful and completely unfair.
“You look like someone annoyed you,” Potter said, as Draco settled in, and got it so his robe wasn’t crumpled anywhere. “You’re all blotchy.”
“You look homeless,” Draco said, looking at the Slytherin table, where everyone looked neatly pressed and devious. “Did you not keep any of the three hundred combs I gave you?”
Potter just laughed and the room fell quiet as the crowd of first years were ushered in. Draco remembered how it had felt on his first day, looking up at that starry ceiling, and all the hanging candles. He remembered acutely the weight of his new robes, and the pinch of his new shoes and the fresh, humiliating sting of being rejected by Harry Potter on his first day of school.
Potter reached up behind the chair and pressed his hand to Draco’s nape, just leaving it there, a firm, warm pressure. It was a reassurance, and a comfort. It wasn’t holding hands under the table. It was more than that.