Harry jerks back. The pack of flying spoons, forks, and knives shoots past his head, pummelling the wall and clattering on the floor.
“Be careful, Ron!” shouts Mrs Weasley from across the kitchen. Her face is red with bother, as well as from steam off the giant bird she is basting. “And is it really necessary to set the table with magic?”
“I’m seventeen now,” Ron says, gathering the cutlery and spreading it unceremoniously across the long table. “I’ve every right to—”
“Having the right to do something doesn’t make it polite. You could have hurt Harry. Now hurry up, they’ll be here soon.”
“It’s all right,” Harry says absently. He can’t seem to stop glancing at the door to the Burrow’s kitchen. He’s been distracted all day, and it was pure luck that he’d taken notice of the deadly projectiles.
“Don’t see why we’ve got to make a fuss about supper,” Ron mutters as they set the plates and napkins on the table. “It’s just Snape. He’s always coming to our house for Order meetings. As if we even want him here to begin with....”
“I don’t want to hear another word about it.” Mrs Weasley is levitating a hot bowl of potatoes to the table (while Ron looks at Harry, wide-eyed, as if to ask indignantly why she gets to use magic in the kitchen). “And it’s not about Professor Snape. You know it’ll be Draco’s first night here. We should try and make him comfortable after all that he’s been through this past year. Poor dear, I can’t imagine—his mother murdered, almost before his eyes, and his father threatening to disown him if he refuses to join up with the very people who killed her.”
“That was a year ago,” Ron says. “I’m not happy it happened to him, but Malfoy’s still a right pain in the arse, Mum. Don’t let him fool you.”
Ron is right, of course. Malfoy is no ray of sunshine, or bouquet of flowers, or box of baby puffskeins, or anything that would bring joy to the average person. But there is a side of him Ron has never seen. Perhaps no one has seen it. No one but Harry in the solitude of the dungeons, where they spent most of their free time this past school year. Slytherin was absent of most students after the Great Walk Out, except Malfoy and a handful of people Harry doesn’t know, which made it easy for him to sneak in and spend time with Malfoy in his newly private dorm. There was so much kissing to do, so much love-making, so much lounging and laughing and wrestling, which Malfoy was merciful enough to let Harry win at sometimes; and there was so much whispering and nose-touching and back-rubbing (usually for Malfoy) and hand-holding and more kissing. It was a time of thoughtless joy. When Harry had to think, it came in the form of homework, with Malfoy scowling over his shoulder and correcting his mistakes before he even made them; in the form of worrying about You-Know-Who and what Harry and Malfoy would do about their respective conundrums with that particular fellow; and, most of all, what Harry would choose to do about his gender-identity on his 17th birthday, when Dumbledore’s sexual transition spell would fade.
It is July 25th, and Harry has less than a week to figure it out.
“I suppose it would be nice either way,” Harry confided once, with Malfoy’s head on his stomach, Malfoy’s eyes lazy with post-sex contentment. “You know...being completely man or completely woman.”
“I like you as you are.”
“I know. But I have to choose. And I have a feeling I know which you’d prefer.”
“How dare you presume what I think,” he murmured, sliding up to kiss between Harry’s small breasts.
“I think you like women. At least, you like women’s bodies. I never saw you look at Blaise Zabini like I saw you look at Fleur Delacour.”
Malfoy pushed onto his elbows, frowning. “What I like,” he said after a moment, reaching out to touch Harry’s cheek. “...is you. That’s all that matters.”
Harry hopes so. He really hopes so.
The kitchen door bangs open. Harry whirls around, nearly dropping a stack of bowls in his excitement. It is Hermione and Ginny. Harry slumps as they take their seats whispering excitedly.
“What are you two on about?” Ron asks.
“Nothing,” Hermione says, starting to straighten out Ron’s table settings. “Ginny fancies someone.”
“I do not!” Ginny exclaims. “I don’t even know him. Luna’s the one who said it.”
Now Ron is suspicious. “Said what?”
When Ginny won’t respond, Hermione says delicately, looking more at the forks she is arranging than at Ron, “Rumour has it Malfoy’s fit now.”
“What?” Harry and Ron both say. They exchange embarrassed looks.
Ginny is trying to conceal her smile by bowing her head and folding a napkin into a droopy swan. “Apparently, he and Snape went to the Lovegoods’ house this summer to collect some rare potions ingredients her dad had picked up somewhere. Anyway, Luna swore that he took off his outer robes when they were in the greenhouse, and...well, you know.”
“Why are you telling us this?” Ron asks, flustered.
“Well, you asked!”
“That’s enough of that talk,” Mrs Weasley says, setting the gravy down manually. “I won’t have any of you making the boy uncomfortable, whether it’s by making him feel unwelcome or making him feel too welcome.”
Ginny’s mouth drops open. “Mum, I wasn’t—”
“Come along upstairs, Ginevra. Let’s get you into some more modest clothes, now that I think of it. That shirt is rather revealing.”
Ginny makes an outraged noise, shoots Hermione a look, and follows Mrs Weasley upstairs.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione sit in silence until Ron clears his throat.
“Don’t worry, Harry. He’ll never lay a finger on her. I’ll see to it.”
Harry is startled. It’s like Ron has been peeking inside his mind, seeing how his thoughts went from eager to see Malfoy, to pleased at the thought of him disrobing in the sticky heat of the greenhouse, to mildly jealous at the thought of Ginny fancying him. Only then does Harry realize what Ron and Hermione are actually assuming: Harry is jealous because he is supposed to like Ginny, not Malfoy.
“Oh, yeah, right,” he says quickly. “It’s fine. I don’t think Malfoy would care, anyway.”
“Better not,” Ron says, jabbing a ladle into the gravy.
Hermione tilts her head towards the door. “Now’s your chance to find out. I can hear them coming.”
She’s right. Two deep voices are growing louder as they approach the kitchen door, which swings open with such force that it shakes the spices on the shelves.
“—should have thought of that before you came to stay at Spinner’s End,” Snape is saying, charging into the kitchen.
Malfoy is hot on his heels. “How was I to know we were really going to be brewing potions and studying Dark Arts all summer? I thought that was just a cover to get me out of my father’s house.”
“It was a cover. That does not mean I’m not going to make you useful while I’m minding you.”
“Minding me! I thought I was making myself useful—risking my neck, spying for your little club.”
“Our club, as you put it, is doing you more favours than you are doing it. You’d be wise to remember that.” Snape faces the trio abruptly. “Where is Dumbledore?”
Harry’s makes a face. “Er, Professor Dumbledore is coming?”
“You thought we were here to merrily break bread? It’s an Order meeting, Potter.”
Snape does not wait for response before sliding into the farthest possible seat from the three of them. Harry is disappointed when Malfoy sits across from Snape without a word.
Over the next ten minutes, more Order members file in. Lupin and Tonks come together, followed by Shacklebolt and Mad-Eye Moody, then Hagrid, who comes bearing an enormous flagon of homemade whiskey, and other Weasleys emerge from their rooms at some point, too. Everyone seems interested in Draco Malfoy’s aloof presence, but probably no one more than Harry. Malfoy hasn’t even looked at him, which feels wrong and quite unexpected. He puts it out of his mind in time to see Ginny slink back into the kitchen with a coy smile, trying to pretend she’s not wondering what’s under Malfoy’s heavy black brewing robes.
Ron springs up, saying, “Saved your favourite seat, Gin! Right between me and Hermione. There you go. Budge over, Harry.”
Harry finds himself pressed against Malfoy, who smells as if he has freshly washed with his favourite shampoo, the one with piney afternote. He tries to touch Malfoy as little as possible, since Malfoy seems intent on staring out the window, stiff and erect as a broom, even when Harry specifically looks at the side of his head for signs of acknowledgement.
Mrs Weasley has followed Ginny in, trying to look cheerful. “Well, tuck in, everyone! Or are you all waiting for me to spoon feed you the turkey?”
“Oh, are we having turkey, dear?” Mr Weasley says, clapping his hands together and looking around.
“Well, of course we’re having—OH NO!” She throws up her kitchen towel and scurries to the oven, releasing a cloud of smoke as she opens it. “Oh dear, oh dear....”
As it turns out, the turkey is fine, and Mrs Weasley places it on the table (levitates it, really, to Ron’s chagrin) just a little browner than intended.
“Let’s eat. No use starting the meeting till Dumbledore arrives,” says Mr Weasley. He begins to dole out generous portions of meat.
Soon the kitchen is alive with conversation. Harry has nearly forgotten about Malfoy as he and Ron chatter about the Chudley Cannons’ recent miraculous victory.
“Doesn’t matter if the other team’s Seeker crashed his broom and had to play the match running around on the pitch,” Ron is saying around a turkey leg. He points it at Harry. “Sound win in my book, sound win.”
“I like your robes, Malfoy,” someone says out of the blue. It’s Ginny, leaning around Ron’s shoulder.
Malfoy snorts, ladling gravy onto his meat. “They’re Snape’s. Tell him.”
Snape looks down his nose, like he’s daring Ginny to compliment his fashion taste.
“Severus,” Mrs Weasley interjects, “You’re not eating. You must be famished after all that brewing and training with Draco, and these Order meetings, and the other meetings.” She gives him a meaningful look. “Here now, give me your plate. Would you like white or dark—?”
“It is unnecessary. I am here on business,” Snape says.
“Well, at least let me make you a package to take home.”
Malfoy is smiling snidely. “I, for one, am thrilled to be eating something not from a can for once this summer. Mrs Weasley, your cooking is divine.”
“I see,” she says, both flattered and uncomfortable. “How nice of you to say, dear.”
“That’s a relief,” Fred whispers to Harry and Ron. “I always thought Snape scraped his meals off the side of the road.”
“Or fished them out of You-Know-Who’s rubbish bin,” adds George.
“Or kidnapped them from a zoo.”
“Or an orphanage!”
“Boys,” Mr Weasley says, frowning over this glasses. Apparently they weren’t whispering very quietly.
As Harry is trying not to smile, he notices Malfoy is snickering into his goblet. He looks over the rim, and their eyes meet. Just as quickly, Malfoy looks back at his plate.
Snape is scraping back his chair. “I see no reason to stay if Dumbledore is not—”
“I haven’t smelled anything this delicious since your turkey last Easter, Molly!”
Dumbledore gliding into the kitchen, his eyes sparkling, his arms thrown wide in greeting as he takes in the sight of the feast. Not for the first time in recent months, Harry notices his shrivelled, blackened hand. He thinks of the last time he saw it, in the hospital wing of Hogwarts, as Madam Pomfrey pumped Dumbledore with rehydrating draughts while telling them both off for “messing about in some horrid cave full of undead.” Harry hasn’t seen Dumbledore since, and somehow the old man looks as good as new. Except for that decrepit hand.
“Severus, do sit and have seconds,” Dumbledore says, beaming as he takes his seat between Shacklebolt and Lupin. He serves himself a heap of dark meat and crusty bread.
“Albus, it is high time we decide what to do,” Snape spits. “I’m spending my summer doing menial Dark Arts instruction while—”
“Did you brine this turkey?” Dumbledore asks Mrs Weasley.
“I did! Overnight with garlic and thyme and—”
“Professor Dumbledore,” Lupin chimes in, “Severus is right. With everyone off doing their own tasks, the larger question is being ignored. There’s no point in Hagrid conversing with giants, in me conversing with werewolves, in Severus doing—well, whatever he’s doing—if we’re unable to bring down You-Know-Who himself.”
Dumbledore is nodding, though Harry cannot tell if he is nodding at Lupin or the spoon of buttered peas he has just sampled.
“Things around the Ministry are feeling uneasy,” Shacklebolt says slowly, making everyone shift in their seats and look left and right for reactions.
Moody leans over the table, his glass eye spinning. “Albus, I’ve been hearing rumours about plots to overthrow Hogwarts. We’ve got to get them before they get—”
“He has already taken Hogwarts,” Dumbledore says.
The table goes silent. Everyone looks shocked, except for Snape, who just looks even more annoyed, folding his arms.
“Severus, did you know this?” Lupin asks. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
“It did not seem relevant compared to the subjects of Quidditch and my dietary habits.”
“What are you going to do, Albus?” Mr Weasley asks.
Dumbledore finally puts down his fork and knife, wiping his mouth before he speaks. “Firstly, I have suspended all Hogwarts letters. Though, I imagine the new Headmaster will commence in sending them out to the students as he sees fit. What do you think you will do, Severus? Enact a purebloods-only policy?”
Once again, silence. Even Malfoy looks gobsmacked. Harry himself is growing dazed, sick, and unsteady in his seat.
“Snape?” he exclaims. “Snape’s been made Headmaster?”
The man in question gives Harry a look that would make a small child burst into tears. “It was only fitting, according to the Dark Lord,” he says, but seems to be addressing the whole table.
“Well, in spite of that, I’d still like to discuss our plan of action,” Lupin says, and then adds, “I’ve got some...safety concerns,” giving Tonks a sidelong look that Harry can’t read.
Dumbledore returns to his dinner. “That, dear Remus, we will discuss after pudding. Molly, lemon pie?”
“Curses!” He looks pointedly at Harry and Malfoy. “And I will see the two of you, as well.”
Harry looks into his lap and says, “Er—”
Malfoy stutters, “I don’t...see why....”
“No?” says Dumbledore, chewing. “Oh, pardon me, Draco. I thought you would want to discuss your options for staying out of Hogwarts this term. I don’t imagine you’ll want to be there with all your former Housemates returning and dealing with awkward questions the whole year....”
“Oh,” Malfoy says, relaxing. “Yes, let’s do that.”
“And, Harry, have you been strategizing for the plan of action we’ve discussed?”
“What?” Ron exclaims, looking hurt. “What’s he doing? Harry, why didn’t you tell me you were doing something?”
“Shush, don’t worry about it,” Harry says. He knows Ron is thinking about Horcruxes and horrible things. The whole table is looking at him, trying to appear like they aren’t. Malfoy has gone stiff again and is leaning towards him ever so slightly. “I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot, Professor.”
“And. Well. I’m still unsure about my options.” Harry worries his brow, adding quietly, “Will you be back again before my birthday?”
Dumbledore pauses, frowning at his turkey. “I am afraid not.”
“I see. Then I would like to speak with you in private.”
Dinner is tense after that. Ron keeps elbowing him. Hermione keeps leaning around Ginny’s shoulder, while Mr and Mrs Weasley eye them all worriedly. And Harry’s on edge: now he will have to decide what to do about his gender by the end of tonight. He’s lost five whole days of thinking! Which is why it’s slightly comforting when Dumbledore first invites Malfoy to the garden after pudding. Harry heads to Ron’s room to flop onto the bed and stew in thought.
Ron and Hermione are leaning out the window, spying on the top of Malfoy’s head and the point of Dumbledore’s hat.
“What do you think they’re talking about?” Ron wonders.
“Probably exactly what Dumbledore said they were going to.”
“Dumbledore’s cryptic. By ‘keeping Malfoy out of Hogwarts,’ he probably means throwing him in a cage somewhere so he can’t rat out the Order’s plans.”
“Malfoy’s not on their side, Ron. He was feeding Harry information about the Death Eaters all last year, wasn’t he Harry?”
“Hm? Oh yeah.” Harry is on the edge of the bed, chewing his nails.
“Stop that. You’ll bleed.” Hermione plops next to him. “We need to talk about what we’re going to do.”
“What we’re going—? Oh. We’re doing nothing, Hermione. If anyone’s going to do anything, it’s me. So, don’t trouble yourself.”
“You really think we’re going to let you run off on your own to find those things?” Ron asks, folding his arms and leaning on the dresser.
“I don’t know. But I don’t want to think about it right now because, er...I don’t want to burden you.”
Hermione puts a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Harry, you were in such a state when you got back from that cave with Dumbledore. We helped you then, and we want to help you now. You don’t have to cover anything up.”
“I’m not covering anything up! Maybe I just have more pressing things to think about than Horcruxes right now! Did you ever think of that?”
Before he knows it, Harry is rushing out of the bedroom, leaving his friends staring at each other confused.
Of course, he didn’t mean what he said. He cares a great deal about the Horcruxes and defeating Voldemort and putting all this behind him, but he can’t focus on it for more than a moment without thinking about Dumbledore's ruddy gender spell. His body, his identity, his mind, his emotions, and certainly his relationship with Malfoy might start to change at any moment. How can he possibly cope with all that and save the world? Imagine! Harry is duelling with Voldemort and suddenly he can’t think straight because his balls have decided to drop!
He’s got to resolve this before he can discuss plans with Ron and Hermione.
He finds himself in the garden. He is on the other side of a hedge, where two garden gnomes are sticking their tongues out at him. He imagines Mrs Weasley will have him and Ron cleaning those out before Bill and Fleur’s wedding, but right now the gnomes don’t matter. Harry hears voices.
“It is simply not safe, Draco, for you or any of us. I will not allow you to remain in your father’s care while you’re in the Order. Perhaps if you were better trained, but for now—”
“But how can you keep me with Snape? He’s a monster! He’s ruthless with my training and relentless about the studying and the wandless magic and—”
“I have instructed Professor Snape to do what it takes to make you a competent spy. If you find his methods harsh, do direct some of your blame to me.”
“Oh, I do. You’re as bad as the Dark Lord, holding me hostage like—”
“I am not holding you against your will. And you should count yourself lucky you have never met this man you compare me to. If you had, I imagine you would be running back to Spinner’s End straight away.”
There is silence. When Dumbledore speaks again, he is gentler.
“Draco, I do not see in your eyes that you would willingly betray us if I sent you home. But I do not underestimate Voldemort’s tactics if he became interested in what you’ve seen in my care. Despite this, I’m not in the business of forcing people to do what they don’t want to do. You can make your own choice. Remain in the Order and listen to Professor Snape—study what he says, practice what he says, and make yourself suitable to mingle with Death Eaters without fear of succumbing to their probing. Or leave. But I warn you, once you take your leave, we will be hard-pressed to accept you back.”
There’s a scuffing sound, like a shoe kicking dirt, and then Malfoy snaps, “Do I really have to stay in this hovel while Snape’s gone? I could take the opportunity to clean his house while he’s away. I’ve got elves who’d do it in a snap.”
“While I find that gracious of you, I don’t think Professor Snape would appreciate it,” Dumbledore says amusedly. “Besides, it would be unsafe to have you there alone. For all the same reasons we’ve just discussed. The Weasleys will keep you comfortable.”
There is ruffling of leaves, clouding of dirt, and Harry sees Malfoy sweep past the hedge to make his way towards the Burrow.
Dumbledore says, “Were you impatient for your turn, Harry?”
Harry rounds the hedge, finding Dumbledore smiling at him. “Sorry.”
“No matter. I can’t imagine Mr Malfoy’s circumstances are very secret from you.” When Harry can only drag his toe in the dirt, Dumbledore continues, “When you never called on me for guidance, I assumed that meant you would let the spell run out and let your male side take over.”
“I had thought about it,” Harry admits. “But I’m afraid. I don’t know what it will be like, being male. This is the only body I’ve ever known.”
“Naturally, you are clinging to what is most familiar to you—like Mr Malfoy. He is unsure whether his father has his best interests at heart, yet he would still prefer to be at Malfoy Manor, even while Voldemort resides there. Sometimes the things that feel the best are not for the best.”
“Are you trying to persuade me?”
Dumbledore closes his eyes for a beat. “I did this to you. I would like to see to it you make a choice that will give you the best chance for happiness.”
“Which choice do you think that is?”
He is now looking past Harry at something in the distance. When Harry turns, he sees Malfoy sitting on the roof of one of the Burrow’s middle stories, glaring into the setting sun.
“It is most certainly one way or the other,” says Dumbledore. “Most certainly. Though which way, I cannot say. That should depend on how you feel. Do you identify with one sex over the other?”
Harry thinks of Quidditch, and motorcycles, and roughhousing with Ron, and practical jokes with Fred and George, and how he wants to be cool like Bill; he thinks of feeling reserved, even shy, and that flutter in his stomach whenever Malfoy smiles down at him, or pulls him close, or compares the sizes of their hands—his large and Harry’s small; and then he wonders if those things can really be categorized as masculine or feminine at all.
At last he says, “I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it yet.”
“I have a feeling, if you want to choose female, you will have think about it right away.”
“Can’t you recast the spell? Make me stay the same for a little while longer?”
“Harry,” Dumbledore says cautiously, eyeballing Malfoy again.
“Please,” Harry hisses, stepping closer. He can’t help it. It’s too much, too scary, too uncertain. “I need more time to think—to make the right decision, not just any decision. Just until my next birthday.”
“Are you asking this because you are unsure what you want?”
He hesitates. “Yes.”
“The spell will break when the caster does,” Dumbledore whispers to himself.
“What do you mean? You’re the caster. Nothing’s going to happen to you.”
Dumbledore’s black hand twitches. He covers it with his good hand. “If it is what you want, I owe it to you. Meet me under the large oak tree after the Order meeting, but not until the moon is high in sky.”
Harry is disappointed again when Malfoy doesn’t join them at the Order meeting. He doesn’t seem interested in seeking Harry out at all. Harry tries not to take it personally, but thinks that after being apart for several weeks, he’d at least be interested in saying hello.
That night, Harry makes his excuses to his friends and slinks down to the oak tree, holding in his arms a small basket containing two chicken eggs, a jar of honey, a sprig of parsley, and a lily from the Weasley’s pond.
“I feel like we’re having a picnic,” he says, handing it to Dumbledore, who has lingered when the rest of the Order has gone home.
Dumbledore seems to have descended from his chipper mood to something drowsy. Perhaps it’s been a long day. He takes the basket and sets each item in the groove of a circle he’s etched in the ground with his wand. “Eggs for the reproductive organs,” he says. “honey for health, parsley for rebirth, and a lily for your mother’s spirit.”
“Nothing for my father’s?”
Dumbledore digs in his robes, pulling out a Golden Snitch. This is the first time his blue eyes brighten. “The first one you ever caught. I have a feeling James was with you that day. Keep it for yourself after this.” He places the Snitch near the lily and directs Harry to stand in the centre of the circle, where he pulls out his wand, points, and says, “Let’s hope I remember all the words.”
He closes his eyes, and begins to chant an unrecognizable incantation in muttered strings of Latin. Harry picks out words like “vera anima” and “pectus,” which he thinks mean “true soul” and “heart,” but then he thinks that “pectus” can also mean breast, and wonders, uncomfortably, how literal Dumbledore is being. At the end, he flicks his wand three times and says, “and to Artemis, Aphrodite, and Merlin, I beseech.”
“Merlin wasn’t a god,” Harry says, confused.
“No, but he might still come in useful. All right, Harry. Until your 18th birthday.”
Dumbledore pulls up his hood, slouching and somewhat pale after the spell, and begins down the hill away from the Burrow and the anti-Apparition wards that keep Harry safe here.
“Professor,” he blurts out, running after him. He doesn’t know what to say, but something is troubling him. “Sir, are you all right? You seem off.”
Dumbledore smiles. He puts the good hand on Harry’s cheek. “I will be, dear boy.”
But Harry’s stomach hurts as he watches Dumbledore limp away and Disapparate into the night.
The Burrow is silent when Harry sneaks back in. He stops to a fill a glass with water, and is nearly to the staircase when he hears a whisper from the drawing room.
Harry jumps. He searches the room, his eyes adjusting to the darkness, and finally sees Malfoy throwing a blanket off himself and rising from the sofa.
“What were you doing? I saw wandlight. Was Dumbledore...changing you?”
Malfoy is close enough that his face is now visible. It is tight, and his eyes seem to flick across Harry’s jeans like he’s afraid what’s underneath has been mangled beyond repair.
“Well, I don’t look like a girl, do I?”
“No,” Malfoy says, pausing nervously. “So, you’re a boy?”
“No. Neither still. I asked him to buy me some time. Until my next birthday.”
“I see.” His shoulders relax. He looks around the room, at the Weasley family clock, at the patched upholstery, and Mrs Weasley’s doilies. “This place is strange. They almost live on top of one another.”
“They do, if you think about it. There’s a bedroom on each story.”
He hums humourlessly, and raises his eyes to Harry’s; in this light, of lack of it, they look more black than gray. “I’m glad you’re here, though.”
Malfoy reaches for Harry’s shirt, pulls him close, and Harry almost spills his water with the force of Malfoy’s kiss. His free hand curls around Malfoy’s back, and he releases a breathy moan—Ginny and Luna were right. Malfoy feels like he’s packed on a half stone in muscle. It was not visible beneath Snape’s batlike robes. Now he wears a tee-shirt and cotton pyjamas, and every firm plane is apparent.
Malfoy has got his hands up Harry’s shirt. “Can we—?”
Harry is about to nod, about to throw caution to the wind and mount Malfoy right there on Mr Weasley’s favourite chair, but then a door creaks open upstairs.
“Fuck,” Malfoy says.
“We’ll work it out,” Harry promises, and pecks him goodnight.
On his way up to Ron’s room, Harry is so lost in his giddiness that he bumps into Ginny, who is tip-toeing downstairs.
“Ow, you poked me in the ribs!” she whispers.
Harry narrows his eyes. “What are you doing?”
“I was just—er—getting a glass of water.”
“Here, take mine.”
“Ginny,” he says firmly. “Go to bed. Now.”
She crosses her arms. “Harry, if you wanted me, then you should have done something about it.” She whirls around, hair flying, and tromps back up the stairs.
Harry has trouble keeping his promise to Malfoy over the next few days. For one, Malfoy has a tendency to disappear in the daytime. (Mr Weasley says he knows Malfoy is at the Burrow somewhere, otherwise his protective charms would begin to wail). For two, anytime Malfoy is around, Ron is very protective of Harry (and Hermione and Ginny, for that matter).
“I don’t like the way he looks at you,” he tells Harry one day, as the three of them are laying under the big oak tree. “I think he’s plotting something. I don’t trust him one bit.”
“Honestly,” says Hermione, “if Dumbledore trusts him and your mum and dad trust him, then why can’t you?”
“And you!” Ron says, stooping over Hermione. “I’ve seen the way you look at him. Goggling while the prat is riding his broom around the house. Probably up there scouting the place out for weak points, and you’re looking at him like he’s Witch Weekly’s latest heartthrob!”
“I—have—not!” Hermione stammers. “He’s not bad looking, but do you really think I would goggle someone who’s spent the better part of our acquaintanceship calling me a Mudblood?”
“Certainly not! And why would you care if I were?”
Ron’s ears go pink. He lays back down. “He’s just a prat, is all.”
“He’s not a prat with a Dark Mark, at least,” Harry says. “Hermione’s right. Dumbledore trusts him, so you should try to give him a chance unless he proves Dumbledore wrong. Hey,” he exclaims, patting the pockets of his jeans. “Have you seen the Snitch Dumbledore gave me? I’d been keeping it in my pocket.”
“You probably lost it in that cluttered room of Ron’s,” Hermione says, putting her nose in some book Dumbledore gave her.
“Probably Malfoy stole it,” Ron mutters.
“Would you shut it about Malfoy?” Harry snaps. “He could buy a flock of Snitches. He wouldn’t want mine. It probably just fell under the bed, or something.”
It isn’t under the bed, or in the closet, or in the laundry, but Mrs Weasley is all too pleased to suggest they clean Ron’s room while they search. In the end, Harry decides it most likely ended up in Fred and George’s room and will pop out someday when the place explodes. Anyway, he gets a new Golden Snitch in the form of a birthday cake from Mrs Weasley. Harry’s well-wishers applaud as she floats it out to the Burrow’s garden, and Harry feels happier than he has since—well. He looks down the table at Malfoy, who is sitting between Hagrid and Gabrielle Delacour, looking like he’d rather be doing anything than eating cake amongst these people. Harry’s heart goes out to him for a moment, but then he reminds himself that Malfoy’s not exactly doing anything to better his situation. He could seek out Harry if he wanted to. He could be nice to everyone if he wanted to.
“Harry, open your gifts, dear!” Mrs Weasley is saying.
He is overwhelmed by the generosity showered on him: books from Lupin and Tonks, clothes that aren’t the size of a baby elephant from Bill and Fleur, a new Sneakoscope from Hermione, some Quidditch gloves from Ginny, and a beautiful watch from Mr and Mrs Weasley, among other things.
“Ronnie, we thought you bought Harry a book of some kind,” Fred says suggestively.
Ron shows Fred two fingers. He’d privately given Harry a book called Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches, and while Harry is touched, he’s sad he has no use for it. Maybe he’ll re-gift it to Neville.
“There’s one more here,” Hermione says, handing Harry a tiny package wrapped in gold paper. “There’s no tag.”
He opens it. It’s his lost Snitch.
Harry rolls his eyes at Fred and George. “Ha ha, thanks, you two. Is it going to explode in my hand?”
“Not from us, mate,” says Fred.
“But good idea,” says George, whipping out a quill and a tiny notebook.
“Turn it over,” someone says at the end of the table. It’s Malfoy, lounging with his arms behind his head, looking completely bored.
Tentatively, Harry does. There’s an engraving on the Snitch now. He reads it aloud.
Hogwarts’ Finest Seeker
The silence is punctuated by rapturous cooing from Fleur and Gabrielle.
“Because zey are rival players,” Fleur is saying, putting a hand to her chest. “Comme c'est mignon!”
There are murmurs of agreement, mixed with shocked but pleased expressions, and Hagrid even pats Malfoy on the back, nearly pressing him face-first into his cake, saying, “Always knew yeh had a nice side, lad!”
Harry comes out his stupor, feeling warm all over. “Thank you, Malfoy. I didn’t expect this.”
Malfoy raises his eyebrows, twitches his mouth, and looks away.
The rest of the party goes as expected, with a little too much of Ron saying, “I still don’t trust him, Harry, I really don’t,” and a little too much drinking. Even Mrs Weasley is red in the cheeks, hugging one of her children around the neck and barking with laughter. Harry is too tipsy to tell which child it is until she says his name.
“Charlie, don’t you want to look presentable for the wedding, at least? Since you wouldn’t let me cut your hair for poor Harry’s birthday?”
At the mention of his name, Harry hazily remarks, “I like it long. It’s nice.”
Charlie’s eye glitter over his butterbeer. “See, Mum? No one cares but you.”
He winks. Harry’s stomach flips, and he looks away. He tries to catch Malfoy’s eye, thinking he’s the only person Harry’s stomach should be flipping over, but Malfoy has disappeared again.
The party winds down late, probably too late considering the Weasley-Delacour wedding is the very next day. Ron is so zonked he’s foregone snoring for once, while Harry is climbing into his makeshift bed on the floor feeling like he could sleep for a week straight.
He doesn’t sleep five minutes before he hears a whisper.
Harry bolts up, groping for his wand and glasses. A hand stops him.
“Calm down. It’s me.”
“Malfoy,” he hisses, looking up at the bed, where Ron is nose-down in the pillow. “Is something wrong?”
“Yes.” He is kneeling over Harry, fully dressed. “I couldn’t wait any longer. Seeing you walk around this place. It’s driving me mad.”
He kisses Harry, putting a hand beneath his head to pull him closer. He smells slightly of butterbeer and strongly of piney shampoo. Harry feels so nostalgic he doesn’t protest when Malfoy sheds his outer robes and sprawls on top of him. When he feels how passionate Malfoy has become—and that is not in reference to his mouth—Harry stops the kissing.
“Hold on, this is bonkers,” he whispers, flicking his eyes to Ron.
“Oh, he won’t wake up.” He grins and leans down again.
Harry turns his cheek. “What? Did you do something?”
“May have put a little something in his drink tonight. One of the perks of living with Snape is free access to some pretty interesting potions.”
“Malfoy! How could you? I’m having a hard enough time convincing Ron you’re not out to get us without you poisoning him.”
“I like to think of it as sparing the poor bugger of what I’m about to do to you.”
“Oh God,” he says, as Malfoy pushes his hands aside and shucks off Harry’s pyjamas. “Oh God,” he says, when Malfoy starts on his own trousers and he sees Malfoy’s cock spring out for the first time all summer. “This is nutters, Malfoy. We can’t—”
“Potter, it’s a Peaceful Sleeping draught. He’s fine. He’ll have some lovely dreams, while we have some privacy. It was the only thing I could think of. Sweet Merlin.”
He is looking at Harry’s breasts now, while Harry wonders where their clothes went. He gasps. Malfoy is taking a nipple into his mouth—the whole breast, really, as Harry hardly has much to speak of—and is rolling it under his tongue. Malfoy looks up, his eyes shining with lust, beginning to leave open-mouthed kisses down Harry’s ribs...and then his stomach....
Harry lays, thinking about their sexual past. Malfoy has always been crude in his ministrations, nagging for blowjobs, fisting his cock with fervour over Harry’s face, conveniently losing their condoms, talking in the foulest, dirtiest language, leaving Harry to fend for his own climax, and Harry understands—this is how Draco Malfoy is. He is the same Slytherin they met on the train, the cajoler, the whiner, the spoilt, and the egotist. But there is another side to it: there is the hunger in Malfoy’s gaze which lights a fire of arousal between Harry’s legs; there are those moments when his smirk softens to a contented line across his handsome, angular face, and Harry feels like the only person Malfoy can see; there is the spring in his step when he pursues Harry through the Hogwarts corridors, down into the dungeons, and straight into the first private corner they can find. There is Draco, the lover, who Harry likes very much. Even still—Draco, the lover, has never put his mouth where he is putting it now.
“What are you—?”
Malfoy’s teeth gleam in the darkness, his mouth wide like the Cheshire cat’s, and then he closes that mouth over Harry’s labia.
“Oh my—oh my—”
A high, gritty noise escapes Harry’s throat, for Malfoy is grabbing his thighs, pulling him down the duvet, and sucking on the whole of him. Harry struggles to lift his head now that it’s so far from the pillow. He can see shoulders moving as Malfoy licks. He is gentle. He is deliberate. Harry dearly wants to watch. He pushes up onto his elbows. His body curls and his legs draw up more, and Malfoy is there, not a foot away, with his face in there, and it feels so good. Malfoy isn’t just licking it. He is practically worshipping it. His eyes are half-lidded, his tongue slow and careful, his hands gripping Harry’s legs abruptly, only to relax and stroke them with care. Harry sighs, and drops back down.
“I’ve wanted to do this for so long,” Malfoy says, rubbing his cheek against Harry’s wet thighs. “I just never did it.”
It is shocking. Malfoy does as he’s told.
But Harry enjoys it with guilt. Ron is sleeping only three feet away. He fumbles for his wand, thanking Merlin he’s now seventeen and has no Trace, and flicks it towards the bed. The covers pile over Ron’s head, and it is almost like Harry and Malfoy are alone.
He puts his hands into Malfoy’s hair. It is fluidly soft, falling over his ears. He has tilted his head to one side, so he can look Harry in the eye as he licks. He presses firmly into the folds of Harry’s inner labia, draws his tongue up, parting them wetly, and then sweeps across the clitoris as an afterthought. Harry wonders if he knows how sensitive that part is. He puts his hand on Malfoy’s neck, urging him upward. Malfoy catches his wrists, pressing them into the sheets, and resumes licking with a grin.
The bastard knows.
It is several minutes before he makes the agonizing ascent up Harry’s labia to press the point of his tongue against the clitoris. Harry is shaking with anticipation. Malfoy begins to flick his tongue out, and then briefly close his lips over the swollen flesh; there is a sucking sound, much like a kiss. Harry wraps his legs around Malfoy’s neck, pleading with his body for more, more, more, and at last Malfoy relents. He buries his face into the wetness, moaning, his dick bobbing hard past his head and shoulders, and Harry thinks of that hardness as he shivers out the tightest, longest, most starbursting orgasm he’s ever had.
Malfoy is between his legs, nose to nose, in an instant. “Was that good, Potter? Did I lick your pussy right?”
Of course, Malfoy has to ruin the moment with his gob. Harry is too euphorically tired to care. He spreads his legs while Malfoy penetrates him. His balls are slapping against Harry’s arse as he whispers, probably mostly to himself, things like, “Take it,” and “So tight now, aren’t you?” and “Yes, you’re so wet.”
At last, he whispers something that makes Harry’s ear perk.
“Mmm, I’ve missed this.”
Harry can’t help opening his eyes and wondering aloud. “Have you missed me?”
“Hm?” Malfoy stops, buried to the hilt. His eyes are hazy with longing. “What do you think?”
“I don’t know what to think. You won’t even look at me. I know it’s strange...whatever’s happening between us. But I don’t see why you have to avoid me...keep up this charade that you don’t like me.”
“I like you.”
“I can’t tell with the way you act towards me in front of other people.”
Malfoy huffs. He moves his hips slowly, as if to prevent himself from going soft, and then he buries his face in the crook of Harry’s neck. Harry thinks he means to finish without a word, until he begins to speak. “You think I don’t like you? Did I not share my secrets with you? And risk kissing you in the corridors, where anyone might see us? Did I not humiliate myself, holding your hand, when I had no idea if you wanted to hold mine back? Did I not stay with you at Hogwarts when all my friends left?”
“You didn’t do that for me.” Just the same, he runs his toes behind Malfoy’s thighs and closes his legs around him.
“You’re right. I didn’t. But something tells me I wouldn’t have done it at all if you hadn’t been there.” He is picking up his pace, growing harder, longer inside of Harry. “I missed you, not just this. Believe me. I’ve been wanting to talk to you, but Weasley and Granger are always lurking around.”
“They’re my friends. You’re allowed to talk to me, even if they’re—”
Malfoy doesn’t seem to be listening. “You’re beautiful. When I look into your eyes, I think you’re so beautiful.” He turns his head and whispers, almost too quiet to hear. “Believe me?”
Harry closes his eyes. “I believe you.”
“Open your eyes.”
He does. Malfoy is staring at him as he moves. His mouth is open, nothing coming out but his strained breath, until he says, “Do you want me to come?”
“You don’t need my permission.”
“I want you to want it.”
“I do,” Harry admits. He doesn’t admit that it’s his favourite part, from the wild expression in Malfoy’s eye, to his gritting teeth, to his grunting and moaning, to the way he puts his full weight onto Harry until there is a warm, twitching feeling inside. It makes Harry wetter, wanting to do it all over again, but he knows Malfoy will not recover fast.
When Malfoy is half-asleep, growing soft between Harry’s legs, he remembers something with a start.
“I got a period last month.”
Malfoy’s eyelashes flutter on his neck. “Really.”
If Harry were in Malfoy’s position, he’d probably be upset or scared, but Malfoy simply rolls off him, looks at the ceiling, and says, “You always were a late bloomer.”
“Oy!” He smacks Malfoy on the chest. It’s a really nice chest.
“I’m sure Snape has some kind of morning-after elixir in his stores. At least one with abortive properties. He’s coming for me tomorrow, using the wedding for cover. I’ll owl it to you. You should have had me pull out, imbecile. You know what happens when you let boys cum in your fannie, don’t you?”
Harry rolls his eyes. “Spare me the birds and the bees lesson.”
“Wizards call it,” he says, rolling on his side and smirking, “the dragon and the eggs. I’ll give you one guess what the dragon is.”
“No one would confuse that with a dragon, Malfoy.”
“What?” He looks genuinely, hilariously offended. “This dragon will spit fire all over your face if you don’t shut it.”
“Just try! I’m Hogwarts’ finest Seeker, remember? Which means I’m faster than you!”
“You’re fast, are you?” His offence has melted into a devilish smile, and he has Harry by the wrists in a moment. Harry pushes as Malfoy bears down. “Too bad. You’ve lost already. I ought to take back that Snitch.”
“You only engraved it! The Snitch was already mine, thief.” Harry pushes again. Malfoy nearly topples over. He steadies himself, throwing a heavy leg over Harry, and they begin to twist in the sheets.
“You ought to stop calling me names, Scarhead.”
Harry laughs. “You ought to stop being an arse.”
“You shouldn’t wrestle! You might be with child. Poor delicate thing.”
“Well, if you hadn’t thrown all the condoms out of a tower window at Hogwarts!”
“The wind took them.”
“Disgusting thought, carrying your child, anyway. It’d stab me on the way out with it’s pointy face!” There is tumbling, more laughing, sweating, and grappling, and at last Malfoy has him pinned again. “We should stop—we should stop!” Harry pants.
“Why? He won’t wake.” Malfoy is calming down, too.
“Well, someone else in the house might.”
Harry doesn’t know who initiates it, but now they are kissing. It’s as soft a kiss as Harry can remember, much like their first real kiss at the entrance to the dungeons at Hogwarts. When it ends, Malfoy is rubbing his nose against Harry’s, their foreheads pressed together. Their hands are still entwined above their heads, but Malfoy is not holding him captive and Harry is not trying to get away.
“You’re leaving, then?” Harry asks.
“Yeah. Don’t think I’ll be back before you three decide to run off and have your adventure.”
His eyes widen. “You know?”
“Everyone knows. You’re not that secretive.” Malfoy closes his eyes. Opens them. “You know, you don’t have to do it.”
“Do what? Kill the Dark Lord when I’m the only one who can?”
“And how’s that?”
Malfoy swallows deeply. “You go to Dumbledore, complete the sex change, and run away with me.”
It’s hard to breathe suddenly. Harry searches Malfoy’s face, but sees no humour. “What?” he chokes.
“I’ve thought of everything. You’d be permanently disguised as a girl, right? No more Harry Potter—no more danger for you. As for me, we’d go stay with my cousins in Quebec, where the Death Eaters have no influence. It’d be perfect. We’d just have to change your name.”
“I was thinking Malfoy.” He is clutching Harry’s hand brutally tight. He sees the shock in Harry’s eyes, and adds, “It’d be easier that way, of course.”
“Is that what you want? To get married? This doesn’t sound like you, Malfoy.”
He sighs, sliding off Harry and leaning his head on a fist. “Well, I’m not exactly in the best position either, am I? The idea of a new life...no obligations...no fears...sounds appealing, don’t you think?”
Ron flails in his sleep, startling them. Harry looks at the freckled hand now hanging off the side of the bed.
He says, “I can’t.”
Malfoy nods, mouth thin. “Didn’t think so. Worth a shot, anyway.”
“Are you still going to go?”
“I don’t know.” He sits up and pulls his shirt on. Harry thinks he will leave, but suddenly he lays back down, looking serious. “Be careful.”
“It might not be as dangerous as all that.”
“It will, and you know it. Be cautious, not a Gryffindor. Do as I say.”
“Do as Dumbledore says.”
He expects Malfoy to be upset about his eavesdropping, but he simply frowns and says, “Maybe.”
They lay together, Malfoy’s hand stroking from his thigh all the way up to his ribcage, until the room becomes light, birds begin to sing from beyond Ron’s window, and Malfoy is forced to sneak back to the sofa.
“Draco,” Harry says, tiptoeing onto the landing. Malfoy returns from the stairs, and they share a last, long kiss.
“Have you ever called me that before?” he asks, his hand on Harry’s cheek.
Harry laughs, feeling himself go red. “Not unless you were inside me.”
Malfoy smiles. It’s not a smirk. It’s a smile, and it makes Harry fight for breath again. “Then I shall venture to hear it more often.”
Harry doesn’t know if that’s a sweet or dirty remark, but he doesn’t care. He kisses Malfoy’s palm and tells him goodnight.
The next day, a gaggle of Weasleys, Order members, and Veela cousins arrive for the wedding. Harry hates having to be Polyjuiced as “Cousin Barney,” but it gives him a chance to sit amongst a crowd of witches and wizards without being bothered. From his reception table, he nurses a butterbeer and watches, tickled, as Luna Lovegood asks Malfoy to dance. He is surprised to see Malfoy accept only to stand rhythmically tapping his foot as Luna spins circles around him like some kind of fairy. He catches Harry’s eye, and quirks an amused eyebrow.
There is more dancing, drinking, singing, and feasting. Harry finds himself craning his neck, wondering if Dumbledore is going to make an appearance, but the only elderly people he can find are Auntie Muriel and Elphias Doge; he sits and converses with them because he can’t for the life of him think of an excuse to go sit next to Malfoy, who is somehow surrounded by Fleur’s cousins no matter where he wanders. Harry is worried. Not just because he’s jealous. He has something else he wants to say to Malfoy before Snape swoops in to take him away. He just can’t think of the words to express the feelings churning inside of him.
After a while, Hermione throws herself into a chair next to Harry’s. “I simply can’t dance anymore,” she sighs, rubbing one foot. “Harry, are you okay?”
But Harry is still in his head. He is thinking about Malfoy and his next birthday, and wondering if he will simply try to put off his gender decision every birthday forevermore. And he’s wondering how much his relationship with Malfoy is influencing his hesitance.
He opens his mouth to tell Hermione he’s fine, but suddenly he thinks he’s not: a glowing, translucent lynx is streaking over the dancers’ heads. It is slender and graceful, which is why it is surprising when it speaks in Kingsley Shacklebolt’s slow baritone.
“The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming.”
The party erupts in chaos. The wards break. People begin to Disapparate just as hooded figures appear. Hexes fly. Hermione is beside him, shouting for Ron, and while Harry is concerned he is also looking for Malfoy. He pushes through the crowd, towards the dance floor, and stops short, seeing an unfamiliar Death Eater stooping over Malfoy, his wand at Malfoy’s throat.
“I don’t trust you, brat,” the man is saying. “Nor your father! So you’d better tell us where Potter is, or else—”
“I told you, I haven’t seen him here!”
Harry doesn’t think. He pulls out his wand and shouts, “Stupefy!”
The man slumps over, leaving Malfoy wide-eyed in front of Harry. Harry reaches out, wants to say—something—but before he gets close enough, another Death Eater is sprinting by, not sparing a glance at Polyjuiced Harry, grabbing Malfoy by the arm and hauling him away.
Harry’s stomach drops. That Death Eater is too short to be Snape. He makes to follow, but now someone is grabbing him. He jerks and shouts, for Malfoy is disappearing into the crowd faster than Harry can keep track of him. He turns to throw a hex. He stops. Hermione is there.
Sound is blotted out, darkness falls upon him, and he is swept away from the Burrow.
“Where are we?” asks Ron.
“Tottenham Court Road,” says Hermione.
They find an alleyway and change their clothes, Harry beneath the Invisibility Cloak, and he can’t stop shaking. He can’t even speak as they make their way to a dingy diner.
He knows he’s selfish, fretting about Malfoy when they don’t even know if Ron’s family, Lupin, Tonks, the Lovegoods, or even Hagrid is okay. He knows he’s selfish to be thinking about his interests when the Ministry has fallen. But he’s never felt this way before: this devastating affection for another person, this inescapable draw to them whenever they are in proximity and guttural longing when they are away. He thinks of the fear in Malfoy’s eyes when he told Harry to be careful. He thinks of the anxiousness in his voice when he said the words “run away” and “Quebec” and “I was thinking Malfoy.” He thinks of all the feelings he, Harry, couldn’t fathom how to express as he watched Malfoy smiling in the fairy lights on the dance floor tonight. He wonders: are these feelings called lo—?
In the diner, two workmen are reaching for their wands, and Harry realizes he won’t have the luxury of thinking about feelings anytime soon.