--of or pertaining to the home, the household, household affairs, or the family.
--devoted to home life or household affairs.
--a household servant.
Fifteen months after the Battle of Hogwarts.
"Is that Malfoy?"
If Hermione were lunching with them today, she'd chastise Ron for pointing so rudely. It's almost better that she's not, Harry muses. These days their bickering quarrels tended to end with doe eyes and romantic murmurs of apology. He loves his friends, as he should, but he doesn't need, or want, front row seats to their giggly PDA. A year had done little to diminish their new-couple flirtation, much to his nauseous embarrassment.
As it is, Hermione isn’t with them—apparently having finally secured a lunch conference with the Secretary of the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures for her S.P.E.W. campaign—so Harry tosses his unwanted sandwich crust on its plate, brushing his hands together to lose any lingering crumbs, and his eyes follow Ron's outstretched finger to the crowd gathering in front of Flourish and Blotts. He briefly wonders if some hot, new author is debuting—Lockhart, he remembers with a snort—but then a large bloke wearing a too-small robe shifts to one side and he sees that the crowd is formed instead around that of a mounting argument.
Two older wizards stand on opposite sides of the human circle, one in severe, coal black robes with perfectly styled cropped hair to match his stiff spine, and the other wearing dusty-bottomed spring green robes, bald and rosy-cheeked from verbal exertion. It takes Harry a moment to realize that they're not arguing with each other but rather a younger wizard standing point, chin tucked down as he glares at them from beneath a curtain of lank, brown hair.
"No, that's not—" Harry starts to say, then stops, squinting as the younger man sneers at the growing crowd.
That particular sneer he knows all too well—especially the fear behind the bravado.
Harry scrambles from his chair, stumbling over the wide leg base of the table and nearly face-planting onto the street. Fortunately, the argument has garnered all attention so no one notices the clumsy save as he grasps the café railing, aside for Ron—whose snort of laughter isn't particularly appreciated. He can't help but be startled though. The last time he'd seen Draco Malfoy had been—
Narcissa Malfoy's funeral.
Completely unaware of Ron's exasperated protests, Harry quickens his stride when he sees Malfoy's two opponents reach for their wands. Both they and Malfoy—and he's positive now that it's Malfoy—don't notice him wiggling his way through the crowd. Instead, Malfoy presses back against the Flourish & Blotts window with a look of panic.
"Malfoy!" Harry shouts as he reaches the edge of the ring of onlookers at last.
There are gasps, of course, and pointing—always everyone with the pointing—as people recognize him in turn. The lack of attention he'd enjoyed seconds before disappears completely as he once again finds himself center stage. Even Malfoy and the two older wizards appear to have frozen in their standoff as a hush goes over the crowd; they all seem to lean in curiously, waiting for him to say more.
"Er, um," he stammers, a blush lighting his cheeks as his eyes dart between Malfoy and the swarm. Now that he's nearer to Malfoy, he can see what he mistook for light brown hair is either greasiness or mud. Possibly—probably—both. Studying Malfoy more closely, he takes in the tattered robes and yellow-tinged skin with unveiled surprise.
Malfoy is too thin—always thin before but now too thin. The robes he wears look like they're from decades earlier, hanging off his body like ratty old drapes. Even the skin of his face looks saggy, like it's still stretched to fit a fuller mold. The grimy sight before Harry now is at odds with his memory of the glowering Malfoy he'd given a small, apologetic nod to that sunny day of the funeral a year prior. Malfoy had appeared bony and exhausted then too, but nothing to this extent.
Malfoy tenses under the scrutiny but finally greets Harry with a stiff nod of acknowledgement and a quiet, "Potter," voice rising like a question, as if he is unsure whether Harry is there to help or harm.
Belatedly, Harry realizes that he has no idea what to say to Malfoy. Hadn't known what to say then, when Narcissa's casket was being carried into the tomb, and didn't know what to say now in front of the curious shoppers who keep staring at him, just waiting.
To his luck, Ron appears by his side and tugs on his arm, saying in a quiet but tense voice, "We'll be late for afternoon practicals. C’mon."
Ron manages to drag him two steps and then he hears it. The noise is not quite an angry protest but not quite a pathetic plea either. Desperate yet annoyed, perhaps, but enough to remind Harry why he'd rushed over. He spins back around to Malfoy and finds grey eyes intensely focused on him, distress evident in the crease of Malfoy's brow. From the corner of his eye, Harry notices one of the wizards from before rolling the wand in his hands nervously.
Clearing his throat, Harry gestures for Malfoy to follow, saying, "Well, come on then." Deciding it may be prudent to give the gawking crowd a reason Harry Potter would invite Draco Malfoy to join him, he adds, "If you can wait while we finish training, we'll, er, go for dinner… or something. The three of us can, um, catch up, you know?"
At that, Ron gives a quiet snort but, to Harry's surprise, he doesn't object.
Malfoy doesn't need to be asked twice. He immediately pushes away from the Flourish & Blotts window, marches past his two shocked opponents, and latches onto Harry—not in the way that he has a physical hold on Harry's arm, but he stands close enough that Harry feels his body heat against the crisp autumn air.
Being too close to someone he is so strongly aware of sends goose pimples down Harry's arms and legs, tickling his fingertips and toes. Shaking the feeling away, he briskly heads toward the floo port that will take them back to the Ministry. The crowd parts to make room as Malfoy and Ron both silently follow.
Malfoy follows so closely that he steps on Harry's heels a couple of times.
Harry had once heard a rumor that the Department of Magical Law Enforcement's waiting hall hadn't been redecorated in over a century—he believes it. He also believes that Malfoy's grungy robes fit right in with the setting.
Absently pushing at the sweaty bangs sticking to his forehead, Harry stares at Malfoy, who stares back as if accepting a challenge, somehow appearing both defiant and composed even with his head tilted back to meet Harry's gaze from where he sits. When Harry had first entered the hallway after training, he'd seen Malfoy tenderly touching one arm and wincing. He gestures to it now to break the silence, asking, "Are you— Your arm… What, er, what's wrong with it?"
Malfoy's mouth thins and he tugs the arm in question closer to his body with a small shudder. He appears a twitch away from scowling at Harry, but then grey eyes flicker past Harry and the would-be scowl morphs into a fear-tinged frown. He clears his throat, opening his mouth to speak, then decides against it and simply shakes his head in answer to Harry's question, eyes darting to the floor.
Curious as to what has spooked Malfoy, Harry glances back to see two crimson-robed senior Aurors striding toward them.
He almost heaves a sigh in exasperation.
"Said he's waiting for you," the taller Auror, Burdock, says with a jerk of the head at Malfoy. He flashes a look of disdain at the blond before staring expectantly at Harry.
"Er… yeah. Uh, we met up at lunch. There were some people—" Catching the way Malfoy's hands tighten into fists around the frayed robes at his knees, Harry stutters for a second, then finishes lamely, "Um, he wasn't busy, so we thought we could, uh, talk, so… yeah."
The stockier Auror, Malon, leans close, the look on his face like that of sympathetic fondness. He's the one in charge of morning lessons and, annoyingly, is of the sort that thinks Harry's a delicate child in need of a father figure. "If he's bothering you then just say so, Potter. We'll take care of him."
Harry's irritation flares. He can handle himself, thanks—especially against Malfoy of all people. Malfoy, who tenses at Malon's words and again fixes an intense gaze on Harry, like a rabbit on the chopping block eyeing the butcher.
"No, it's— I'm—" tired from practicals, and grimy and sweaty and smelly, and Malfoy is hardly a threat and looks like he hasn't eaten in weeks, and is probably as grimy and sweaty and smelly, and I wish people would stop babying me while treating me like some sort of divine savior at the same time—
"I'm fine. We're fine," Harry finishes, acknowledging his inner jaded monologue with only a mental eye roll. He makes a small wave at Malfoy and randomly adds, "We were in the same year at Hogwarts," as if that were some new bit of information that hadn't already been published in The Life & Times of Harry J. Potter: Allies & Enemies Volume One, or some other such rubbish that Rita Skeeter's ilk seemed so keen on writing.
The Aurors nod anyway and seem to tentatively accept the statement as an excuse for Malfoy having sat in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement's waiting room for five and a half hours.
Harry wonders why Malfoy had stayed.
"Well, if you need anything, you let us know," Malon says with a pointed look.
Harry forces a polite smile and waits until they leave in a fluff of red robes, standard boots clacking on the tiled floor, before turning back to Malfoy. He stares for a moment more, watching as Malfoy's eyes flicker between his and the floor. When the silence continues, a glimmer of impatience slowly twists Malfoy's pallid features until it finally transforms into the original scowl that had fled with the approach of the Aurors. Harry almost smiles.
"Have you anywhere to go?" he asks at last, wondering what he is supposed to do with Malfoy now that there is no threat of angry civilians or over-protective Aurors.
Malfoy's jaw works furiously for a moment as he searches for, presumably, an appropriate insult, but eventually he merely turns away, closes his eyes, and quietly releases a heavy breath before giving a tiny shake of the head. A strange feeling that's borderline pity but mostly compassion shivers through Harry.
"Come on then. You can stay with me," he says. To his surprise, Malfoy simply stands and follows. No scowl, no sneer, no shame.
Just weary acceptance.
When they leave the D.M.L.E. and make it to one of the authorized apparition points, Harry draws Malfoy close enough to get a good sniff.
Yes, they are both in need of a bath.
"You can't use a lot of magic outside the wards on my flat. It messes with the muggles' electricity. Just basic spells here and there," Harry explains as the lift shakes to a halt on his floor. Malfoy appears scandalized by the fact that he lives in a muggle apartment building.
"S'not that bad. You get used to it." Then, because he does feel slightly discomfited about his living situation—doesn't want to burden the Weasleys, too many unpleasant memories at Grimmauld Place—he adds, "It was a lot easier than trying to live in the magical world, what with, well…"
"What with the Hero status and all," Malfoy quietly finishes for him, tart but somehow not derisive.
Harry hesitates, then gives a small nod—no point in denying it—and leads down the creaky hallway to the apartment at the end. He's already unlocked the door and stepped inside when he realizes that Malfoy isn't behind him anymore. After kicking off his shoes, he leans back into the hallway to see Malfoy standing a few paces away from the lift, one arm still drawn up like it is injured. Malfoy stares back but his eyes narrow suspiciously when their gazes meet.
"Why—" His voice sounds rough and he clears it and swallows before retrying, "Why are you doing this?"
The reluctance and distrust frustrates Harry—mostly because he himself is still uncertain about the whole situation. Why couldn't Malfoy just gratefully accept his kindness instead of asking questions he couldn't answer?
"What's it matter? You haven't anywhere else, have you?" he snaps. Malfoy's expression promptly closes off in response, smoothing over in clear disdain, and Harry sighs. All he wants is a shower and some dinner, not to stand in the hall tenderly coaxing a wary Draco Malfoy. "Look— I'm, you know, sorry. It's just… Can we talk about this later? I'm tired and I don't feel like talking. Just chalk it up to me being a bleeding heart Gryffindor for now, all right?"
With that, Harry trudges back inside, telling himself that he doesn't care if Malfoy joins him, but he listens closely for Malfoy's steps all the same. The soft footfalls come after he's already discarded his robes and torn off his sticky undershirt, intending to hit the shower first as per his usual evening routine. He pauses, looking over his shoulder to see Malfoy standing in the hallway beyond the front door.
For a breath, Malfoy hesitates, then steps inside.
In later chapters, there are a few cliche things I briefly wrote in (such as mentioning their childhoods) because I felt like those issues would eventually come up between the two characters but I didn't want to go into details as they had already been explored in other fanfics.
Chapter 2: The Kitchen
Malfoy moves slowly as he closes the door behind himself, leaning back against it and fixing Harry with a look that seems to ask, "Now what?"
"Er," is all Harry manages, unsure how to answer Malfoy's unspoken question. Malfoy's eyes drift down to his bare chest then to the shirt in his hand. Feeling oddly sensitive to his state of undress under Malfoy’s examination, he forces himself to refrain from covering up like a blushing maiden.
"I usually shower when I get back," he offers as an explanation. After another uncomfortable minute with Malfoy's stare, he tugs the sweaty shirt back over his head. He fails to stop his blush at Malfoy's raised eyebrow, and hastens to add, "You, uh, you go ahead and shower first though. I'll make us dinner. …I guess."
Malfoy just scoffs quietly in response and pushes away from the front door, pausing just before the carpet beyond the entryway to peel off his shoes. Harry is certain that they're a battered pair of women's loafers and he bites his tongue to keep from asking about them. When he looks up again, Malfoy glares.
More than uncomfortable now, he quickly says, "I'll, er, get you something to change into," and then escapes into his bedroom.
He's lived in the flat for almost a year but has yet to purchase dresser. His clothes are merely in piles on the floor: one clean, the other dirty. It had never mattered much to him before but now he grimaces at the sight, embarrassed. Perhaps he'll get lucky and Malfoy won't ever see his bedroom. At least he bothered to keep his robes hung nicely in the closet.
He digs through the clean pile until he finds an old Dudley shirt. It's too big for him even now, will probably swallow Malfoy like a nightgown, but it'll have to do. He almost grabs a pair of his pants out of habit but then jerks his hand back quickly and snags some pajama bottoms instead. The thought of Malfoy wearing his pants…
Strangely, it doesn't evoke a shudder like he expected.
Malfoy hasn't moved from the entryway when Harry returns. He does hesitantly take one step forward when Harry holds up the clothes, but then eyes Harry suspiciously for a long while. Harry has to resist the urge to roll his own eyes—does Malfoy think this is a childish trap or something?
"A bleeding heart Gryffindor," Malfoy murmurs and then cautiously closes the distance between them, eyes still on Harry even as he delicately takes the offered shirt and pajama bottoms. He winces as he moves his left arm, though only slightly. Harry notices anyway.
"Uh, yeah, well, the shower's in there," Harry says needlessly, motioning to the bathroom. "Don't worry about your, er, robes. I'll put them in with the laundry later." Or the trash.
As with before, Malfoy just stares at him for a while, enough to make him uncomfortable all over again.
"A bleeding heart Gryffindor," Malfoy repeats, as if he's still trying to make sense of that one statement, and then finally steps around Harry to go into the bathroom.
The bathroom door closes with a soft click, and Harry's shoulders sag in relief as he sighs—only to tense up again as he wonders what he could possibly make for dinner from the almost bare food supply in his cabinets.
One hurdle down, he thinks wearily, and the next a higher jump.
Malfoy's presence in his flat is almost tangible in the air. Harry spends most of the night tossing and turning, waking up hourly. It's as though he can feel Malfoy sleeping on the other side of his bedroom wall—an unexpected but not altogether threatening invasion of his den—and he swears he can hear Malfoy breathing.
Dawn's arrival finds him already tiptoeing through his morning routine, forcing himself to not wander into the living area until he absolutely has to. When he finally does, his eyes immediately go to the unmoving form that has taken over his couch.
Malfoy has wrapped himself in the blanket that Harry had provided like a newborn rodent would curl in its mother's nest. His hair tufts out the top of the cotton roll, now back to silver blond without the grease and grime to muck it. It must have taken a lot of soap to get it that way because Malfoy had spent so long in the shower that Harry had wondered if he planned to sleep in the bathroom.
At least that one part of Malfoy was back to normal. The rest… Well, even the width of the old Dudley shirt hadn't hid his skinny limbs and jutting bones. If anything, it had made him look worse. During dinner the night before, the shirt neckline had hung over so sharp a shoulder that Harry had been certain the bone would poke through the paper-thin skin. Yet, despite appearing positively starved, Malfoy had only taken a few sips of Harry's quickly prepared chicken noodle soup. He hadn't touched any of the solid noodles or vegetables or even the chicken.
Maybe, Harry supposes, it had been too much for him all at once.
Or maybe Harry was simply bad at cooking. The Dursleys hadn't exactly had refined palates.
Harry only approaches the couch when he cannot delay leaving for training any longer. Malfoy jerks his face free the blanket when Harry touches his shoulder. His expression is carefully guarded but he looks exhausted, like he has been awake all night too, simply lying there and listening. Some corner of Harry's mind laughs at them both being too afraid to sleep near one another.
When he reaches into his pocket, he doesn't miss Malfoy's tension at the action, or the relief that follows when all he pulls out is a simple brass key. His eyes momentarily dart to Malfoy's blanket-concealed, likely injured arm.
"This is my spare," he explains quietly after a moment. Holding the key up for Malfoy to take, he continues, "It's connected to my wards so you can come and go as you need. I made a sandwich for you for lunch. It's on the counter with a freshening charm, but there's other stuff in the kitchen if you want to look for something else. The leftover soup is in the refri— In the tall white cabinet. You just have to take the preserving charm off it. …Okay?"
Malfoy merely continues the guarded stare, neither answering nor taking the offered key. With a small sigh, Harry places the key on the coffee table and then turns to leave.
At the door, he hears a soft rustle and looks back to see that Malfoy has extended an arm out of the blanket nest to take the key; long, bony fingers wrap around it almost tenderly.
The corner of Harry's mouth twitches up.
Harry sets his lunch tray next to Ron's on the table. "Not Diagon today?"
Ron gives him a dramatic eye roll and says in a whiny voice that Harry's heard him use to imitate Hermione many a time, "It's too cold," which promptly earns him a slap to the shoulder from the mocked female.
"There's nothing wrong with wanting to keep warm while you eat," Hermione huffs, and as soon as the words leave her mouth, a sad look comes over her—one that is immediately mirrored by Ron. It's enough to let Harry know that he's not the only one who still occasionally thinks of their extended camping trip.
"S'fine," Harry says. He grins at them both in hopes of lightening the mood. "The cafeteria isn't crowded today. Guess everyone's starting their fall holidays."
Hermione gives him a grateful smile and, to change the subject, prompts, "Ron said Malon held you back?"
"Yeah. He wanted to ask about Malfoy some more," Harry sighs.
"Oh, that's right. You mentioned this morning that you ran into him yesterday?"
"Yeah," Ron snorts, still chewing his bite of sandwich as he continues, "and Harry had to save his arse from being hexed by some shoppers. Then he sat in our waiting hall all afternoon, creeping out the receptionist."
"He came back to the Ministry with you?" Hermione asks, frowning.
"Well, he didn't really have anywhere else to go…" Harry starts hesitantly, only to be cut off by Ron.
"'Course he came back with us! You know what a coward Malfoy is. He wasn't going to stay in Diagon Alley, not with everyone yelling at him." Ron mimics his mother's disappointed head shake—improves at it a little more every time, Harry thinks. "Ferret looked cornered."
Harry recalls the way Malfoy had pressed up against the Flourish & Blotts window, and the tender way he'd touched his arm, how he'd cradled it the night before as he watched Harry set a bowl of soup on the table. Cornered indeed. How badly had Malfoy been injured anyway?
"What do you suppose he does now?" Hermione asks, dabbing primly at her mouth with a napkin. "He didn't return to Hogwarts to repeat seventh year like Neville and I. It's possible that he did private study, but I didn't see him during N.E.W.T.s, though at the time I imagined that that was due to his—to his mother's death." A brief flash of pity crosses her face before she continues. "He lives near Diagon then? Where is he staying there?"
Harry feels a stirring of doubt by the question. Narcissa's skill in navigating policy loopholes had kept the Malfoy fortune intact despite the Manor being seized in the week following the Battle of Hogwarts, but he finds it hard to believe she'd be foolish enough to plant herself back in public so soon. Yet she had to have found a place for herself and Draco. Harry hadn't been told the details of her death; he only knows that she'd been killed by an assumed friend during afternoon tea.
Killed for helping him escape Voldemort.
Still, even her unforeseen death couldn't explain Draco's current state. Unless there were clauses keeping Draco from his galleons, there were no reasons for Narcissa's beloved son to be wandering the streets filthy and homeless. However, Draco's malnourished, filthy appearance concurred more with the admission of having nowhere to go than with Harry's assumption.
"Not anywhere nice from the look of him," Ron answers first, apparently thinking along the same lines as Harry. He sounds less mocking than before—not quite sympathetic but not as merciless—but then he shrugs his shoulders like he's unsettled by the momentary compassion for his schoolboy rival and adds, "Whatever. Stop worrying about Malfoy. It's not like we have to see the git anymore, right?"
"Er, well, actually…"
"Ronald! There you go again!"
Harry trails off as Hermione begins to argue with Ron on name-calling. It's a perfect time to interrupt and explain that Malfoy will kip on his couch for a bit, until something can be worked out, but he doesn't feel especially compelled to do so. Instead, after a moment of watching their bantering, he shrugs and resumes his lunch.
It's not like he has to tell Ron and Hermione everything.
Harry pauses inside one of the Ministry's apparition cubicles, rolling his sore shoulders as he thinks. Daily routine demands he apparate to just inside his front door. However, it's probable that Malfoy expects him to apparate nearby and walk home, as they had the day before, though that had been to give Malfoy an idea of the area. Nonetheless, Malfoy probably wouldn't enjoy being startled by a sudden appearance; they hadn't discussed schedules yet.
Well, hadn't discussed anything, for that matter.
A loud knock on the cubicle door interrupts Harry's thoughts, a Ministry worker impatient to leave for the day. With a sigh, Harry focuses on the alley he'd taken Malfoy to and turns in place.
The muggle streets are always busy at this time of day. His Uncle Vernon had often complained about evening traffic. Sighing again, Harry casts a quick glamour to hide his robes, making himself look like an evening jogger. At least the disguise would explain away the smell.
A short trek to his building and another creaky elevator ride later finds him pausing again, this time at his front door, momentarily zoning out as he wonders what Malfoy did all day. A night of bad sleep has left his mind is as exhausted as his body. He pushes his glasses up to rub his eyes, and then digs his keys out of his trouser pocket, making sure to unlock and open the door as noisily as possible to alert Malfoy of his return. Hopefully, Malfoy doesn't fancy roaming about naked.
As it turns out, it's a pointlessly loud action; the flat is empty.
"Malfoy?" he calls, moving through the usual habit of losing his shoes, sweat-soaked socks, and outer robe even as he glances around. There's no response and he sees no sign that Malfoy had even been there aside from the neatly folded blanket on the couch. Everything else is unmoved, untouched. Even the extra sandwich he'd made sits in the same spot on the counter in the kitchen, spoiled from having long lost the freshening charm. Harry frowns at it and moves to throw it away, but a small dark spot on the kitchen floor draws his attention.
When he leans down, he realizes that it's the spare key he'd given Malfoy before leaving that morning. He curiously picks it up and turns it over in his hand, wondering how it ended up on the floor of all places. He considers checking it for any residual magic but a thud from the direction of his bedroom interrupts his thoughts.
Setting the key on the counter, he grips his wand and cautiously heads toward the noise, calling again, "Malfoy? You still here?"
He rounds the bedroom door just as Malfoy pops up on the other side and they nearly collide, making them both stumble back a few steps and blink at each other in surprise. Malfoy's hair mats to one side, many fly-away strands sticking out on the other. His eyes look puffy and crusted and the Appleby Arrows pullover he wears is one Harry distinctly remembers seeing on top of the clean laundry pile.
Was he asleep just now? Wait, was he sleeping in my bed? Harry wonders, incredulous. Then Malfoy tugs at the bottom of the pullover to preserve his dignity, making Harry abruptly realize that he's not wearing pants.
Was he sleeping naked in my bed?!
Whatever Malfoy had planned to say and Harry's squawking are both interrupted by Malfoy's loudly growling stomach.
Harry almost laughs at the horrified blush that spreads over Malfoy's cheeks—as though it is shameful for an aristocratic abdomen to make such an appalling sound. He only refrains because, well, it's a reminder that Malfoy really is too thin.
"I'm making dinner," Harry says decisively, indignation having evaporated, and strides purposefully to the kitchen before Malfoy can protest otherwise. Then, remembering how little Malfoy had eaten the previous night, he pauses to ask, "Are there any foods you don't like?"
Malfoy hesitates awkwardly in the bedroom doorway, appearing confused by Harry's question. Then, before Harry can ask again, he darts into the bathroom and closes the door.
"Okay," Harry says slowly to the empty air, perplexed and somewhat offended by Malfoy's abrupt escape. "Leftovers it is."
A quiet scraping noise behind Harry makes him jump. He spins away from the stove, snatching his wand off the counter, but then slumps when he sees that it's only Malfoy standing at the edge of the kitchen. He hadn't heard the bathroom door open.
"Merlin," he grumbles, setting down his wand as he returns to the warming pot of soup. "Make some noise, would you?"
Malfoy doesn't answer, but Harry sees the brief smirk from the corner of his eye. Malfoy now wears the same pajama bottoms from the night before, clearly having left them in the bathroom—which reminds Harry that apparently Malfoy did indeed enjoy strutting about without a stitch of clothing. He shudders when he remembers his poor bed and glances at Malfoy with a mild glare. Malfoy doesn't notice; his eyes are on the brass key he's taken from the counter.
"The soup's warm enough," Harry says, turning off the burner with a click of the knob.
"Ah!" Malfoy gasps, startling Harry and almost causing him to drop the pot he'd picked up. "How did you—without magic—"
Malfoy abruptly cuts off and frowns at Harry reproachfully, as though it is Harry's fault that he should be interested in the stove. It's almost strange to hear him speak naturally again.
"It's a regular gas stove," Harry answers with a shrug, eyebrows lifting when Malfoy inquisitively studies the stove like he has never seen one before now.
Catching Harry's stare, Malfoy scowls, muttering, "I didn't think they looked like that is all. I thought they were… bigger."
"What? Stoves?" Harry asks, baffled. When Malfoy's scowl darkens, he can't help but gawp incredulously. "Bigger? Maybe back in the eighteenth century? You've never, what? Been in a kitchen before?"
"What reason could I possibly have to enter a kitchen?" Malfoy sneers, drawing back defensively.
A humorless bark of laughter escapes Harry and he gapes at Malfoy. How could someone be that unfamiliar with a kitchen? To not even know the look of a modern stove? Then he remembers house-elves, a sharp pang in his chest when he thinks of one in particular with connections to the Malfoys. The Manor must have been similar to that of Hogwarts: go to the dining room and the food appears, cooked and ready to be eaten. Or perhaps the house-elves had catered the food to the table like the slaves the Malfoys saw them as.
Such a princess, Harry thinks, glaring at Malfoy.
"Forget it," Malfoy growls roughly, as if reading Harry's mind, and spins on his heel.
"The soup's ready!" Harry yells at him angrily.
"I don't want any!" Malfoy shouts back and darts once more into the bathroom. He tries to shove the door closed—most likely hoping for an anger-displaying slam—but its hinges are springy and it simply rebounds back at him and he has to grab it and close it carefully, effectively ruining his show of temper. A second later, the shower starts to run.
Harry gawks at the closed bathroom door, then scowls and slams the pot back on the stove.
The soup sloshes out and burns his hand.
At some point in the night, Harry hears the shuffling of blankets and then the soft thumps of feet on carpet as Malfoy tip-toes to the kitchen. The pot of soup is probably cool by now but Harry'd left it under a preserving charm to prevent spoiling. He'd been tempted to put the whole thing away, but had then thought of Malfoy's sagging skin and bony shoulders—he shouldn't let Malfoy starve just because they couldn't get along for more than a minute.
Strangely enough, Harry finds it easy to fall asleep to the sound of Malfoy rummaging through the drawers for a spoon.
"Potter, I need a toothbrush."
Harry jumps in surprise at the quiet statement, not having thought Malfoy awake—or wanting to act awake, at the very least. He turns to see Malfoy's eyes just peeking over the edge of the blanket, half-open and hazy with sleep.
"Um, there's a store on the corner—"
"I don't have muggle money," Malfoy mutters. He shifts under the blanket and struggles to sit up, briefly ducking back down to hide an undignified yawn.
"Well, I gave you my key so you can always—"
"No," Malfoy interrupts. His voice is firm though it still holds a tone of quiet defeat rather than the commanding air Harry remembers from Hogwarts. He sighs and draws his legs up, stretching over them the Arrows pullover. He rests his chin on the extended fabric and glares halfheartedly at Harry. "Just buy one with anti-plaque charms while you're out today. I'll reimburse you the knut it'll cost."
Harry nods and finishes pulling on his trainers. "Anything else you want me to grab while I'm out?" he asks, ignoring the small voice in his head that demands he not to encourage Malfoy to stay—it sounds like a young, petulant Ron.
"Floss would be nice," Malfoy answers, though he looks like he wants to say more but isn't sure how to say it.
Oh god, Harry thinks, mortified, What if he wants me to buy him pants?
Malfoy starts to unfold and lie down, but then pops back up and adds, "No toothbrushes with flat bristles, okay? It doesn't feel right."
"Um, okay," Harry says, uncertain what Malfoy even means by that. Flat bristles? Like on the brush? His own toothbrush had flat bris—wait. Wait. "Malfoy. Did you… You didn't use my toothbrush yesterday… did you?"
Malfoy stares expressionlessly for a long minute and then casually rolls over so that his back is facing Harry. Muffled by the blanket and the back of the couch, he scoffs, "Don't be disgusting."
Harry sends Malfoy and bathroom both skeptical glares. Just before he apparates, he runs his tongue along the backs of his teeth, telling himself that the sudden strange taste in his mouth is only a figment of his imagination, not the lingering flavor of Malfoy.
"This does not appear difficult," Malfoy says a couple days later as he watches Harry gather food for a simple dinner. He fiddles with the cuff of the long-sleeved, faded old shirt he wears, twisting it tighter and tighter around his wrist, holding, and then untwisting, only to repeat the action again a few seconds later. Fidgety.
I hope he's not wearing my pants, too, Harry thinks with a grimace, eyes drifting down to his trousers sagging low on Malfoy's scrawny hips. Not that he wants Malfoy walking around bold shogun either. Although, Malfoy wearing muggle clothes is an odd enough sight in of itself.
"Not difficult at all," Harry mildly agrees to Malfoy's statement, "Much easier than Potions anyway."
Malfoy scoffs softly but his expression is light, so focused he is on Harry's cooking technique.
Full meals have done a lot for Malfoy's appearance in the four nights that he has camped on Harry's couch. Of course he is still too thin, too bony—that will take weeks, not days—but his skin is already a healthier color and his eyes no longer look sunken or bruised. With a little more time to reach a normal weight, Harry imagines that Malfoy could have possibly grown to be quite handsome during seventh year.
He'd always be a pointy git.
Not that it matters to Harry—though it would be nice if Malfoy stopped strolling round his flat starkers while he's gone.
Not that he has proof that Malfoy has done so since that first day; it's just a likely conclusion.
Did it once, will do it again.
It is Malfoy, after all.
"What?" Malfoy demands suddenly, expression wary.
Harry blushes and turns back to the cooking, not having meant to stare. "Nothing."
Malfoy rolls his shoulders as though Harry's eyes have left a lingering physical touch and then turns and disappears into the bathroom—his sanctuary when things get too awkward between them. This, naturally, reminds Harry of sixth year and of Malfoy crying and then bleeding into overflowing water on dingy tiles, of Moaning Myrtle's shrieking bringing Snape, then Snape on the Astronomy Tower with Dumbledore, whose wand was taken by Malfoy, the wand that they all shared—
It is easiest to simply ignore Malfoy when he hides in the bathroom.
"Er, so how's Parkin—um, Pansy?" Harry asks on Saturday. So far, he and Malfoy have managed to politely avoid one another for most of the morning, with Harry reading training manuals in his bedroom and Malfoy lounging on the balcony despite the autumn chill already present. But then Harry went and made sandwiches, had suggested that Malfoy join him for lunch at the small table in the dining nook. He'd been surprised when Malfoy actually did.
At Harry's question, Malfoy's eyes dart up from his sandwich for a moment before slowly drifting back down. His lips are tinged blue and his nose red from having sat outside through the cool morning.
"She's… fine," Malfoy answers quietly, and then begins to rip at his sandwich crust a bit aggressively.
"Oh." Harry eyes Malfoy's fingernails, noticing how trimmed and clean they are even as they tear through the bread. "See her, um, often?"
"I certainly hope no one has seen me recently," Malfoy grumbles darkly. He stills for a breath but then quickly pushes away the half-eaten sandwich with its shredded crust. When he carefully folds his arms over his chest, wincing only slightly, the cuffs of Harry's button-up that he wears ride up his longer arms, showing a small amount of burned skin on his left wrist. He looks anywhere but at Harry—looks, to Harry's extreme discomfort, like he might even cry. "I haven't seen anyone from Hogwarts since— Since my mother… You and your weasel are it."
"I—oh." Harry licks his lips, frantically wondering how to change the subject.
"Is this interrogation practice or something?" Malfoy snaps then, glaring at Harry.
Harry shifts in his chair and tries to return the glare, but his unease makes him more embarrassed than angry. Still, he manages to snap back, "Sorry, it's just that I can't help but wonder why you've been sleeping on my couch all week. Why aren't you staying with a friend?"
Malfoy's glare immediately falls from Harry to where the carpet frays along the baseboard.
"Do you want me to leave?" he asks.
Harry exhales heavily and drops his own sandwich on its plate. He tries to catch Malfoy's eye, but Malfoy refuses to look up, instead staring obstinately at the carpet. Pushing his own plate away, he says, "It's not that. It's just, I mean, I don't understand why you're here."
"Because you offered to let me stay," Malfoy grumbles sourly. "I thought we'd already discussed this."
"We haven't discussed anything."
"You are the one who didn't want to talk about it."
"I said I didn't want to talk about it right then," Harry argues and finally Malfoy glares at him again. "You said you haven't anywhere else to go, but—"
"That's not— I do have somewhere to go," Malfoy interrupts softly. "I just can't get there anymore."
Malfoy grimaces. "The only way to enter is by apparition."
Harry stares, waiting for Malfoy to continue. When he doesn't, Harry prompts, "Then what's the problem?"
"…I don't have a wand," Malfoy admits bitterly.
Harry frowns. "I gave you back your wand."
"Yes, you did," Malfoy bites, pushing his chair away from the table as though needing more room between them, more room to breathe. He looks like he might sick up. "And I— It was… snapped."
The blood pounds in Harry's ears, blocking out oppressive silence that immediately settles between them, leaving only Malfoy's voice echoing in his head.
The hawthorn wand—snapped!
Harry swallows the lump in his throat and wishes he'd noticed Malfoy not using any magic that week.
"I— I don't understand," he stammers. "You were pardoned. The Ministry…"
Malfoy's eyes are closed and, for the first time, Harry notices that those walls he's built around himself have begun to waver.
"It wasn't the Ministry," he says quietly.
"Who snapped it?" Harry asks, and then promptly winces at his own blunt question.
Malfoy never answers. Instead, he rises from his chair and quickly strides to the balcony.
The balcony has a more satisfying door slam than the bathroom.
Malfoy doesn't come back inside for the rest of the day. Likewise, Harry keeps to his bedroom all afternoon, only making brief ventures to sneak peeks at the stiff figure on the balcony. When evening rolls around, Harry eats dinner alone. Malfoy doesn't bother to join him a second time—only gives Harry a withering look at the tentative suggestion and then pointedly returns his attention to the muggles on the street below.
As he had the night before, Harry finds himself sleepless—listening—and he only relaxes into his pillows when he hears the balcony door quietly slide open then closed and Malfoy's soft steps to where the food waits under charm on the kitchen counter.
"You seem distracted today, Harry."
Harry blinks, the hand holding a foam triangle now hovering in midair over the wreckage of his once block castle. So lost in thought, he'd entirely missed the playful swipe from rambunctious godson.
"Er," he says, briefly watching Teddy squeal in delight at the foam destruction before lowering his hand and facing Andromeda, "Yeah, I guess. Yeah…"
Aside from an artfully lifted eyebrow, her expression remains neutral as she sips her morning tea.
"Well," Harry quickly continues, somehow feeling a heavy pressure under her silence, "I've been… um, busy, so I've a lot on my mind, you know? With, er, Auror training and all."
"I see," Andromeda murmurs. She sets the tea cup on its saucer with a gentle click—much nicer than the loud clatters with which Harry handled the chinaware. The action is fluid and calm and she leans back against the chaise in a comfortable manner, yet there is a commanding air about her. Her continued silence, it seems, demands a better explanation.
"Draco Malfoy is staying with me," Harry rushes in one quick breath, and then winces.
This, at least, warrants two raised brows.
"I see," she repeats in the same composed tone.
"It's just, he looked terrible," Harry hurries to explain, "and I couldn't just leave him in Diagon with those wizards yelling at him, so he came back to the Ministry with me and Ron, but then he didn't have anywhere to go and I thought it'd be all right if he slept on my couch or whatever but he hasn't left yet and it's been a week, but yesterday he said he does have somewhere to go but his wand's snapped but he wouldn't say who snapped it and he was mad at me all day just for asking, and he acts like he doesn’t want to eat even though he looks like he'll fall apart 'cause he's so thin but I know he sneaks food at night, but he didn't even know what a stove looked like and he watches me all the time when I cook, which is just creepy, and I don't really know what to do with him, and just—argh!"
Harry throws his hands over his burning face. Sometime during his embarrassing spiel Andromeda had calmly returned to her tea. It never ceases to amaze him how she can pull so much from him with only a few simple words. Even Teddy has stopped playing during his rant to stare, though with the blank innocence of a toddler not fully understanding the conversation.
"The two of you argue?" Andromeda finally asks after a long minute.
"Every time we talk," Harry admits, lowering his hands but not meeting her dark eyes.
"Then keep talking. You'll wear out yourselves eventually," she advises and the small smirk behind her tea cup is evidence of her Slytherin heritage. "Perhaps Draco needs something to occupy his mind and time. Stewing about all day clearly does little to improve his disposition."
Harry nods, wondering what Malfoy did in his flat besides watching muggles from the balcony. What else could Malfoy do all day? Paint? He frowns. "Should I ask him if there's something he wants?"
The look Andromeda gives him is akin to the disappointed one Professor McGonagall used to give when a student answered wrong a simple question.
"A noticeable interest will appear to you in due time," she answers before rising to her feet with a grace that had never passed to her daughter. The second she stands, Teddy's hands make grabby claws at her and he grunts demanding little noises mixed with the occasional toddler-chipped word. She obligingly picks him up and his hair immediately turns dark and wavy to match hers. Her smile for him is small and brief but bursting with affection.
Adjusting Teddy in her arms, she addresses Harry again, "I believe Molly and Arthur will be expecting us soon. Shall we?"
As they prepare to floo to The Burrow for the usual Sunday lunch, Harry realizes that, despite the kind, sympathetic words spared for her nephew at Narcissa's funeral, Andromeda hadn't offered to let Draco stay in her much larger, wizarding home.
That evening, Harry finds a stack of leftovers being shoved into his arms.
"Here, Harry dear," Molly says, adding another square container on top, "Why don't you take some home with you, hm?"
He clumsily grasps at his armload but smiles a truly grateful smile at her. "Thanks Mrs. Weasley." She'd given him enough food to feed eight people—or, more importantly, to last two people four days.
"Well, of course! The way those Aurors treat their trainees—shameful! How they can possibly expect you boys to eat when they exhaust you to the bone every day!" she mothers, even going so far as to wipe a smudge of mud—remnant of a fierce afternoon quidditch match—from his cheek.
"If you keep feeding him, he'll never learn to cook for himself, Mum," Ginny says, appearing from behind Harry, grinning, flowery, and still a little windswept. She pokes at the top container wickedly, acting as though she means to push it free. "This'll all go bad before he can eat it."
"I'll eat it," Harry assures her, returning the grin. "And I can cook. I just, you know, don't."
Unless I have to feed a hungry Malfoy, he thinks with a small cringe.
"Oh, can you?" Ginny asks, and her tone is teasing but the way she suddenly flutters her eyelashes takes him aback. It's a habit he expects from Lavender Brown but certainly not from Ginny—never tomboy Ginny. Her grin falters as she notices his confusion.
"Perhaps all he needs is someone to cook for him, sweetheart," Molly interjects. She smiles a warm but pointed smile at them both, not aware of the sudden awkwardness that has arisen.
"That'd be lazy of him," Ginny mumbles, a faint hint of pink in her cheeks, but she abruptly brightens and grins at Harry again, more in the feisty way that she does during quidditch rather than the coy look from a minute prior. "Well, if you're already a cook, then show up early sometime and make us all lunch!"
Harry laughs at her normal teasing and pushes away thoughts of those girly fluttering eyelashes with a sense of relief. "I could, but it'd be basic stuff. I don't know any real recipes, nothing complicated."
"Well, you already have so much to do. Leave learning to cook to those who waste all day flitting about on their broomsticks," Molly says, and this time the pointed look is meant for her daughter alone.
Ginny's face erupts in flames. "I've told you, I want to play professionally!"
"Yes, yes, of course," Molly's voice is full of doubt and frustration, "but even professionals need to have other priorities, too, dear. You can't always occupy your mind and time with quidditch, especially when you decide to start a family of your own. You'll need to take care of them, won't you?"
Molly's quick glance at Harry as she mentions Ginny's future family makes him uncomfortable, but then he catches the other part of the statement. Hadn't Andromeda said something similar to that?
"Perhaps Draco needs something to occupy his mind and time. Stewing about all day clearly does nothing to improve his disposition. A noticeable interest will appear to you in due time."
"—and he watches me all the time when I cook, which is just creepy—!"
"Er, actually Mrs. Weasley," Harry says, interrupting the growing argument between mother and daughter, "Do you have any cookbooks or old recipes that I could borrow? I think it'd be, uh, fun to learn more… or something."
Molly smiles uncertainly. "But Harry, you're so busy. You must be so tired when you get home. Ron—"
"Not all the time," Harry quickly lies. At her dubious look he adds, "I mean, most days, yeah, but sometimes I need a break from studying Auror stuff at night, you know?"
"Merlin's beard, Mum! There's nothing wrong with a man learning to cook!" Ginny barks out, fists clenched at her side in anger.
Harry quickly ducks his head to hide his grin. Ginny always looked so strong when she was angry. He wonders if that had been what had attracted him to her.
The grin drops away and Harry shifts uneasily at the thought.
Unmindful to Harry's growing uncertainty, Molly stammers, "Oh course there isn't— I just thought perhaps— I never said that there was!" Her own face flushes a hot red to match Ginny's before she harrumphs and spins on her heel to dig through a nearby cupboard.
A moment later, three large cookbooks heavily land on top of Harry's already bulky armful.
The cookbooks sit untouched on the counter for two days after Harry sets them there. Malfoy's even stopped watching him cook in the evenings, though Harry doesn't know if that's because reheating leftovers isn't much to watch or because Malfoy is still avoiding him over Saturday's lunch failure. Either way, Harry goes to sleep Tuesday night wondering if he'd misjudged Malfoy's interest.
On Wednesday, his apparition home is greeted by a loud crashing noise from the kitchen. His body jerks into a defense ready position before his mind can catch up—due to Auror training or years of paranoia, he'll never know—but it's only Malfoy who appears around the counter. Malfoy holds one of the cookbooks open to his chest in a protective manner and, as soon as he sees Harry's pointed wand, his grip on the book tightens enough that the tendons define on the back on his bony hand in thin ridges.
Harry quickly lowers his wand. "Er, sorry. I thought… You startled me."
Malfoy flushes, bright splotches of red on his pasty white cheeks, and looks for all the world as though he had been doing something highly inappropriate and possibly illegal before Harry had appeared.
Oddly, the thought of Malfoy prancing around the flat, gloriously naked, pops to the forefront of Harry's mind.
"You do not have all of the appropriate materials that are required by this manual," Malfoy says roughly. At Harry's confused look, he jerks his chin toward the cookbook in his hands to indicate it without taking his eyes off Harry. "You’re not fully stocked to complete any of these methods, nor do you have all of the necessary apparatuses."
Harry stares at him for a moment before leaning forward to peer into the kitchen over the half-walled counter. Malfoy flinches, obviously not wanting Harry to look, but the small action only makes Harry all the more curious.
Pots, pans, and cooking utensils line the counters in neat rows, grouped by like items and arranged by size; all of the cabinets are open and the dry food within sorted in a similar manner to the cookware; even the unplugged refrigerator and attached freezer are open to display their now-organized contents.
Harry blinks at it all. "…Oh."
The sound of something slamming makes Harry jump, and he turns back to see Malfoy toss the now closed cookbook onto the table to join the other two.
"I didn't— I wasn't— You're back early—" Malfoy stammers, hurrying to put away all of the items he has pulled from the cabinets and drawers. In his rush, he accidentally elbows a stack of pots and it tips over the edge of the counter. The pots hit the floor in a succession of loud crashes that causes them both to wince.
Malfoy's expression morphs from horrified embarrassment to miserable, angry defeat as he leans over the pick up the mess.
"No, it's fine," Harry rushed to assure. At Malfoy's sharp look of doubt, he adds, "No, really, it's fine! I, er, I mean, I brought those cookbooks back for, well, you, so… I mean, you know, you can—" he gestures to the organized clutter of his kitchen and the rolling pots on the floor, "—all you want. If you want. You know, to learn, to give you something to do, or… whatever." Harry feels his own cheeks warm. "I thought you might be interested is all."
Malfoy's eyes widen at the admission, but it only takes two blinks for him to return to guarded and they are back to staring at one another.
"You do not have all the items required in those manuals," Malfoy repeats after an uncomfortable minute.
"Uh, yeah, you could just—" Harry cuts off, remembering Malfoy's insistence that he be the one to buy a toothbrush. He runs a hand through his hair, grimacing at the oiliness that sweat from training has left behind, and glances at the cookbooks on the table. With a small sigh, he meets Malfoy's cautious eyes again. "Why don't you make a list of what you need? I'll pick everything up on my way back tomorrow."
For a fleeting moment, Malfoy appears taken aback, but then he hesitantly nods and loosens his grip on the frying pan he holds; Harry's only just noticed it and wonders which window his defensive Auror awareness had flown out.
The list Malfoy gives Harry the next morning is four columns of tiny, perfectly precise handwriting somehow crammed in a beautiful way onto a foot long parchment. Merlin, but only Malfoy could have such prissy writing.
Harry reads through the list, occasionally appalled and sending Malfoy flat looks over some of the items. "You do not need 'colorful egg cups shaped like octopi.'"
"The manual calls for them in a certain procedure," Malfoy sniffs.
Harry rolls his eyes. "Listen, it's a cookbook, and it probably suggests them, but that doesn't mean—"
"I am the one paying, so you have no right to—"
"Yeah, but I am the one who has to carry it all back, so I have every right to—"
"You have a wand, Potter. Use your little brain to figure out how to use it," Malfoy hisses, and stomps out to the balcony, slamming the door closed between them—the ability to slam a door in frustration encouraging him more to the balcony than the bathroom as of late.
Harry sighs, knowing that he should have just taken the list without complaint, colorful octopi egg cups and all.
"The cabinets and drawers need expanding," Malfoy says that evening, his mood considerably brighter once Harry dutifully returns with arms full of food filled paper bags and pockets laden with shrunken bake- and cookware and various utensils and cutlery (and the promise of more via owl that had to be ordered special—specifically, egg cups shaped like octopi).
Malfoy almost appears excited as he organizes his new acquisitions—a big difference and definite improvement from the bitter scowls and morose frowns of the week prior. He is certainly more attractive when he's happy, Harry notices. Although, Harry quickly comes to understand that an excited Malfoy means an arrogant Malfoy, so he's not so sure this is an improvement.
"That big white cupboard, too, if you will. Now would be best."
Harry groans quietly and rises to his aching feet from where he had slumped at the table. He steps around the stack of new pans waiting to be put away and tiredly waves his wand in the direction of the nearest cabinet. It hums for a moment and then, to his surprise, the wood turns rubbery and droops downward in the center.
"Er," he says, and Malfoy arches an eyebrow. It's such a perfect imitation of Andromeda that it throws Harry for a second. He quickly shakes his head to clear the thought and waves his wand again, but the second attempt is worse that the first. Sap forms from the rubbery wood and drips in large drops that seem to hang forever before finally reaching the counter.
Harry hastily tries to explain, "Um, it's only that I've never—"
"Oh just let me do it," Malfoy snaps and impatiently holds out his hand for Harry's wand.
They both freeze.
Malfoy, it seems, is just as shocked by the demand as Harry, clearly having acted without thinking. His fingers slowly curl closed and then he is quickly pulling his hand back, shoulders tensing in anticipation of anger.
Anger that, strangely, Harry doesn't feel. Instead, he feels outside of his own body as he merely lifts his wand, pauses, and then holds it out for Malfoy to take. Their eyes meet with shared uncertainty but then Malfoy cautiously, hesitantly, gently takes the holly wand—Harry's wand. He doesn't quite move his hand away at first, as if positive that Harry will snatch it back. When no such action arises, he finally closes his fingers around it more firmly and then rolls it carefully in his palm as if to get a feel for it.
Harry hovers a little closer, though he's amazed to find it's more due to curiosity than to any apprehension. Malfoy watches Harry from the corner of his eye even as he swallows nervously and directs the wand toward the cabinets.
A quick flick and the rubbery, sappy cupboard returns to normal; a few smooth swishes and a wave of bright magic descends over the kitchen in a sparkly roll. Pops and scrapes sound, though nothing appears to change. When all is quiet, the kitchen looks no different than it had seconds before.
Harry walks over to a cabinet and opens it, eyebrows rising in admiration at the spacious, clean interior. He looks back at Malfoy with a small smile.
"I did get Os in Charms and Transfiguration," Malfoy says quietly, albeit haughtily. He shifts awkwardly on his feet and then holds the wand out for Harry to take back, as if wanting to be rid of it as soon as possible.
The second exchange is quicker than the first and Harry wonders at the warmth he feels in the magic when they are connected by the wand for a brief moment. It reminds him of when he first held Malfoy's hawthorn wand.
"Well, I'll, er, leave you to it then," he says, gesturing to the kitchenware.
Malfoy waves his hand, turning his back on Harry to re-organize his fancy new spatulas, but the light blush in his cheeks lets Harry know that he's more flustered at the unexpected wand hand-off than he wants to let on. Harry smiles and ducks into the bedroom to give him some space.
Malfoy doesn't offer Harry anything he cooks for the first few days. Given the state of the food being tossed in the vanishing bin—burnt, soggy, very burnt, are those blisters?—Harry decides that he doesn't mind so much. Another week and two more shopping trips is all it takes for Malfoy's creations to start looking like, well, food. Malfoy begins cooking so much that Harry finally sets up an order cupboard with the nearest wizarding grocery. He's tired of hauling heavy bags of food home every evening.
"I— You really wanted to learn this, didn't you?" Harry asks one evening, taking a break from studying to watch Malfoy's skillful vegetable chopping—putting those potions lessons to use, no doubt. At Malfoy's glower, he hastens to add, "You're really dedicated to it, is all."
"It… distracts me," Malfoy answers after a moment. What he needs distracting from, he never says, but Harry has a good idea anyway. He does, however, grumble a minute later, "It's not like there is anything else to do here."
"You could always go out," Harry snaps, and Malfoy twitches in the way that suggests a controlled flinch. Harry sighs quietly, his irritation dissipating as his eyes fall to the arm that Malfoy still favors. "There's a muggle park down the street. We—or, uh, you could go there, instead of a wizarding area. It'd be, um, nice? To get some sun?"
"I get plenty of sun on the balcony," Malfoy says, tone prickly, and that is the end of that.
It is at the end of Malfoy's third week of sleeping on Harry's couch that he makes Harry taste test. Saturday morning, Harry wakes to the smell of bacon for the first time and he staggers blearily from his bedroom to find Malfoy setting two plates on the table. Their eyes meet and Malfoy commands, "Eat."
After a cautious poke at the food and a mental assessment of his potions cabinet for a bezoar, Harry begins to eat his first Malfoy-made meal. The scrambled eggs are a bit mushy, the bacon too chewy, but the scone is perfectly browned and fluffy on the inside.
Malfoy looks at the soggy portion of eggs that Harry doesn't finish and glares expectantly.
"I just like eggs a bit drier is all," Harry says defensively.
Malfoy's lips thin and he snatches up their plates, stalks back into the kitchen, and ignores Harry for the rest of the day—which only serves to irritate Harry again. Why does everything have to be tense between them even after almost a month? If only they could communicate like normal people—well, if only Malfoy could communicate like a normal person. At least the git's presence in his apartment had helped to improve his lecture results, what with him studying all the time to avoid talking.
Malfoy makes breakfast again Sunday morning, but the scrambled eggs on Harry's plate aren't mushy in the slightest. In fact, they are perfectly balanced between mushy and dry and Harry's mouth waters just looking at them. Feeling eyes on him, Harry glances up to see Malfoy with the same expectant expression and he abruptly realizes that Malfoy isn't glaring so much as intense—and quite possibly anxious about Harry's review of the eggs, if that nervous glance were any indication. He gives the blond a small smile and eats everything except the chewy, fatty bits of bacon. He leaves those in a pile on his plate, wondering if Malfoy will notice.
Malfoy doesn't cook breakfast during the week, as he is usually still asleep when Harry leaves for training, but the next Saturday Harry sits down to perfect eggs, a perfect scone, and perfectly crisp bacon.
Harry wakes one night to the muffled sound of water running.
It takes him several minutes of blinking at his fuzzy ceiling before he realizes that he is, in fact, awake and not still dreaming, then several more to understand that the noise of the bath filling was what had woken him. Mumbling sleepily, he rolls onto his side and fumbles for his clock, squinting at the red glow of the numbers: 2:16.
With a groan, Harry flounders out from under his blanket, grumbling his way to the bathroom. Hadn't Malfoy taken an hour-long shower just before bed? Why run a bath at two in the morning?
The water stops just as Harry's half-awake stumbling ends in front of the bathroom door. Light spreads from under the door over Harry's feet and he stares at his toes for a moment—blurry and funny-shaped that they are without his glasses, and why were his pinky toes so oddly curled? He continues to stare at them, mouth hanging slightly, before he jolts awake again. Shaking off the stupor, he lifts a hand to rap sharply on the bathroom door.
"Malfoy," he calls, voice scratchy, "What are you doing? It's the middle of the night!"
There is a splash, then silence, then a confused, "Potter?"
"Yeah? Were you expecting someone else?" Harry scoffs, rolling his eyes even though Malfoy cannot see him. "Wha—" he starts before being cut off by a forceful yawn and so tries again, "What are you doing?"
"What do you imagine I am doing?" Malfoy snaps back. Then, quieter and less caustically, "I didn't think I was being loud."
"You weren't," Harry concedes, "but of course it'd wake me up—it's two AM!"
Still not entirely awake, and thus not quite rational in his motives, Harry grabs the doorknob and twists, intending to tell off Malfoy face-to-face. Unfortunately—or quite fortunately, depending on the point of view—the door is locked and he merely slams into it, having assumed it would open. On the other side of the door Malfoy shrieks and there is the rushed sound of metal dragging across metal that Harry assumes is the shower curtain being closed.
"Merlin, Potter! Don't intrude! I'm leafless, you great boor!"
Leafless? Harry mouths, rubbing his sore nose. "How is that any different than any other time?"
"What? How is what any different than any other time?"
"You being leafless," Harry says in another yawn, voice warped. He hears various splashes, smacks, and shuffling from the other side of the door. "I know you walk around my flat in the buff when I'm not here, so—"
A click and the bathroom door flies open to reveal an irate and appalled-looking Malfoy, whose wet skin gleams behind the open neck of the bathrobe that he wears—Harry's bathrobe, the thief! Malfoy leans close enough that Harry can see the crease between his eyebrows when squinting against the sudden brightness of the bathroom light.
"Excuse me?" Malfoy says warningly, the ends of his hair wet and dripping onto his shoulders. "I most certainly do not roam about in the buff, as you so crudely put it. Why on Earth would I?"
"You're wasting water," Harry says, ignoring the question, and then facetiously adds, "My water bill was tripled for last month."
"I like being clean," Malfoy growls. He looks ready to argue more but then does a double-take and stares at Harry in disbelief.
Harry shifts uncomfortably, fumbling his hand at his side to make sure that, yes, he has on pants. "What?"
"Your eyes are green," Malfoy says, sounding strangely reproving.
"Your lips are blue," Harry peevishly counters, and then his awake-half reminds his asleep-half that it isn't a contest and that he is no longer five years old. "Wait, why are your lips blue?"
"Your eyes would be green, wouldn't they?" Malfoy continues in a dramatic huff, his own eyes rolling to the ceiling in a put-upon manner. He then gives Harry another irritated look-over before stepping back and shutting and locking the bathroom door again.
"Wha—Hey!" Harry grabs the doorknob and rattles it despite knowing that it is locked.
"Vanish, you deviant!" Malfoy barks through the closed door.
"Fine, you—you—you half-merman nudist! Wasting all my water! Being naked all the time! In my water!" Harry yells back and turns sharply to stomp back into his room—only to collide with the bedroom doorframe as his eyes are no longer accustomed to the dark.
"Ow!" he shouts in frustration, followed by a, "Oh, piss off!" directed toward the bathroom when he hears Malfoy snickering. It is only after he's made it back into his bed, forcefully tugged his blanket back up, and again settled in for sleep, this time with a scowl and a sore nose, that he mumbles petulantly, "I'm not a deviant."
On cue, his mind vividly recalls the memory of water droplets dripping from the ends of blond hair, sliding over the pale, smooth skin of Malfoy's neck and collarbone, and disappearing beneath the bathrobe.
"What do you imagine I am doing?"
Harry groans and buries his face in his pillow.
Malfoy isn't cooking when Harry apparates home the following evening, as he had been for the past two weeks. He's napping on the couch.
Of course he is, Harry thinks resentfully. Unlike him, Malfoy had the leisure to sleep all day and waste water all night.
"Hey," Harry snaps, moving to stand over Malfoy. He means to kick the edge of the couch to jolt Malfoy awake but misjudges the distance and cracks his toes against the unforgiving frame, making him yelp and swallow back swearwords. He clenches his jaw to keep a straight face as Malfoy sighs awake from the noise, hoping Malfoy won't see the tears that have already formed behind his glasses.
"Potter?" Malfoy mumbles blearily before sitting up. He stretches without really stretching, seeming to stiffen his whole body rather than extending his arms or legs, and then frowns at Harry. "What? What do you want now?"
Harry does his best to glare, trying not to whimper over his throbbing toes.
"Are you doing dinner or am I?" he asks in a tight voice, taking a limping step back as Malfoy sits up.
Malfoy's frown redirects to the kitchen and he appears thoughtful for a moment before sighing and standing. "My food is better than yours."
As he shoves past—narrowly missing Harry's sore foot with a look on his face that says he was definitely aiming for it—Harry catches a whiff of shampoo and notices the dampness of his hair.
"Yeah, well, Snape certainly thought your potions were better, too," Harry answers, pushing down the agitation over Malfoy's excessive use of his bathroom, "So I figured you'd manage at this."
Malfoy fixes Harry with a flat look. "Potter, kindly do not compare the glorious art of Potion making with this atrocious fate of ambiguity."
With an eye roll, Harry sets about peeling off his training robe and gathering clean clothes for his own shower—hopefully Malfoy had bothered to leave him some hot water.
"'Fate of ambiguity'? Really, Malfoy? Don't you think you're being a bit dramatic?" he shouts from the bedroom, only popping his head out to add with a smirk, "Oh wait, you being dramatic is nothing new."
Malfoy mockingly returns the smirk and makes a show of grabbing a bell pepper—a vegetable he knows Harry hates. His smirk turns real when Harry grimaces.
"Potions," he begins, "require specific, meticulous steps and absolute precision. Things like, 'After adding the equally cut, fresh Birtham root, perform two counter-clockwise turns at a radius of 10 centimeters followed by ten clockwise turns at a radius of 2 centimeters using a birch spoon under the same atmospheric pressure one would find on the shores of Berk at midnight.'" His face takes on a wistful look. "It's a beautiful craft, utterly magnificent in its complexity."
Harry's uninterested scoff snaps him from the daydream and he cuts sharply into the bell pepper, giving Harry a sour look. "Cooking, however, is the most inexact practice I have yet seen. A dash of this, maybe a touch of that, stir for a bit until the texture is to your liking, add an extra egg if you want. Pour in some water until the consistency is right. Don't like salt? Remove it entirely, it's not that important. Go ahead and chop the onions anyway you please—they don't have to be perfectly cut! It's all about personal taste!"
"Isn't that better though? Not having to worry about each and every silly little detail?"
"Those little details are not silly, lummox," Malfoy says, but the sigh in his voice takes away the bite. "Details are the difference between Felix Felicis and Infortun Infelicitas—simply that one extra little half twist while stirring, a sparser bit of tollyreed, unicorn's whisper rather than unicorn's whinny, and you get a minute poison rather than a potent one. You get luck instead of instant death."
"Well that's—" Harry cuts off as his brain catches up to Malfoy's words. "Wait, Felix Felicis isn't a poison."
Malfoy's grip on the cutting knife falters and he stares at Harry, appalled. His mouth opens and closes a few times as he struggles to find words.
"Not a—Wha—Surely you don't honestly think—In the newt level—Ugh!"
Malfoy gives Harry a disgusted look and returns to chopping the pepper. Quite brutally chopping the pepper.
"Go bathe already. You smell, you utter moron," he snaps, and then mutters to himself, "Not a poison! Merlin! How did he pass sixth year? Oh right, Slughorn's beloved Chosen One."
Harry almost argues the point—he was the one who'd taken Felix Felicis in sixth year, after all, and it hadn't hurt him a bit, had helped him actually—but decides to just drop the subject, ignoring Malfoy's continued grumbling. He can always ask Hermione about the potion later.
Malfoy had forgotten to pull the drain so Harry finds the bathtub filled to the brim with water—water that is icy cold when he reaches in to lift the plug.
More and more often Harry is woken in the night by Malfoy's random baths and more and more often he returns to his flat in the evenings to find Malfoy sleeping on the couch with wet hair. Harry draws the line when Malfoy starts taking three baths a night—one just before bed, one around midnight, and the other a couple of hours before Harry has to rise for training.
"Dammit, Malfoy!" Harry shouts through the, yet again, locked bathroom door, still hazy with interrupted sleep and wondering if perhaps this is a dream. "Again? You were in there not three hours ago!"
"Fuck off already!" comes Malfoy's croaked response. He sounds as fed-up with Harry as Harry is with him. He also sounds just as tired as Harry feels, so what was with this nightly custom? "I'll give you gold for the water so just leave me alone! Close your bedroom door if you're that much of a light sleeper!"
Harry bangs is fist against the door in frustration and thinks that maybe he'd do better to toss Malfoy back on the streets and out of his hair.
He immediately feels guilty for the thought and quietly slinks back to his bed. He leaves the bedroom door open.
"You making dinner?" Harry asks offhandedly after waking Malfoy. After two weeks, it's integrated into his nightly routine: apparate home, take off shoes, wake Malfoy, take shower while Malfoy makes dinner, eat, study for a bit, sleep.
"Yes," Malfoy murmurs in response, like always, and Harry heads off to take the usual shower.
Except, twenty minutes later Malfoy hasn't moved from the couch—or even changed positions from the look of it. Harry stands next to the armrest, toweling his hair dry as his stomach grumbles in protest. He scans the lackluster form of his once schoolyard bully, but only Malfoy's eyes flicker in movement and even they merely spare Harry tired glance before heavily closing once more, dismissive in their lack of interest. He hasn't really looked at Malfoy recently; it surprises him to find that Malfoy's skin appears oddly yellowish again rather than the improved pale peach it had become over the last month and half.
"I'll do dinner," Harry says softly, hoping to get Malfoy's attention. "I can warm up what's left of that zucchini gratin from yesterday, if you want?"
Malfoy releases a slight sigh but is quiet for a long minute. Just when Harry is about to pose the question again, Malfoy gives a small shake of the head.
"Oh, all right then," Harry says with a confused shrug that Malfoy doesn't see. He starts to turn to the kitchen, but pauses uncomfortably and looks back with a frown. Leaning over, he reaches a hand to brush the wet locks from Malfoy's forehead, but grey eyes open unexpectedly and he jerks the hand back, instead asking, "Hey, uh, you okay?"
Malfoy's mouth barely moves but Harry hears the soft, "I'm fine," that he murmurs and Harry knows that he is lying.
No one who feels fine looks that miserable.
On schedule that night, Harry wakes to Malfoy quietly closing the bathroom door and the muffled rush that soon follows as the bath is filled. He simply rolls over and closes his eyes again, not in the mood to bicker.
Malfoy is still in the bathroom when Harry's alarm clock rings hours later.
"Malfoy?" Harry calls cautiously, tapping lightly on the bathroom door. "I need to get ready for training."
There's no answer, but a minute later Harry hears the water swish as Malfoy stands and the gulp of the drain. When Malfoy finally opens the door, he hasn't bothered to towel dry, merely wrapping himself in Harry's bathrobe again. He looks even worse than he had the night before, with skin that is yellow but so pale and big dark half-moons under his eyes. Without glancing up, he sidesteps Harry and trudges back to the couch, easing down onto it like an old man and promptly falling asleep with a pained expression on his face.
Harry hesitates at first but decides to leave Malfoy be, anxious though it makes him.
It's dark when Harry returns that evening, dark because it's begun to rain outside and it casts the apartment in eerie shadows. In his mind, he hears Sybil Trelawney's voice warbling about the rain being an omen of doom and, startlingly, he feels like there might be a ring of truth to such a prediction.
Ron had looked confused and mildly offended at Harry's flimsy excuse and quick departure immediately after training. Normally, they'd linger with the other trainees to discuss the various lessons and strategies from the day, but Harry hadn't been able to get Malfoy out of his head, hadn't managed shake the anxious feeling he'd gotten that morning—a feeling that only increases at the shadowy, stuffy quiet of his flat.
"Hey, Malfoy? Where are you?" he shouts, but then notices that the bathroom door is closed. In long, quick strides he stands before it and presses his ear against it to hear the shaa, shaa of the shower over the light rumble of thunder. Giving the door a good knock, he calls again, "Malfoy?"
His only response is an odd, occasional splashing sound and the continued fall of the shower.
"Malfoy, are you okay?" His voice jumps nervously and he tries the doorknob despite knowing that it is locked. Malfoy still doesn't respond, even to the rattling of the door which always makes him squawk, and that is enough to encourage Harry to grab his wand. He casts a quick alohamora, pauses for a second to blush over what he is likely to see, then shoves into the bathroom—
Straight away, he slips in the two inch thick layer of cold water covering the floor, shouting an embarrassing, "Gyaaah!" before the breath is knocked from him as he slams into the tiles.
Gasping, Harry rolls onto his side and struggles for a handhold on the doorframe as he regains his bearing. The water quickly soaks through his clothes, only prevented from escaping the bathroom by the charm Hermione had placed on the doorframe ("What if the toilet overflows? You don't want that in your carpet, do you?"). His tongue throbs and there is the metallic taste of blood in his mouth, but he ignores both and swings his head around to the bathtub.
The shower is running but the drain must be blocked because water splashes over the rim of the tub, not leaving through the overfill drain faster than the shower pours. At the edge of the drawn shower curtain Harry see water-matted blond hair, almost submerged, and all he can think is, Oh god, Malfoy's drowned!
Slipping, sliding, and splashing the short way to the bathtub, Harry shoves aside the curtain and heaves Malfoy up from the water by grabbing under his arms. Malfoy gives a strangled gasp of pain at the rough treatment, but Harry is more relieved than apologetic—Malfoy hasn't drowned after all!
Relieved, that is, until he notices the pained expression that Malfoy wears even in unconsciousness, the way he gasps for air like there's none in the room, and how his skin burns with fever despite the uncomfortably cold water. Then Harry sees the deep red burn that covers most of Malfoy's left arm. It looks raw and inflamed in spite of the blurring water.
The first thing that shoots through him is panic—an overwhelming wave of it that makes his heart slam against his ribs—but it's instantly followed by a calm gained from years of dealing with dangerous situations and compiled with his recent Auror training. A familiar detached composure settles over him as he moves to turn off the shower and pull the drain plug. A carefully cast spell causes the excess water to swirl into two twin cyclones that disappear down the drains in the bathtub and sink, effectively drying himself as well. He specifically avoids Malfoy with the spell, not knowing the effect it could have, but he grabs his bathrobe from the wall hook and wraps Malfoy in it as best one can when maneuvering dead weight.
Malfoy cries out again when his inflamed arm is touched despite the care Harry takes with it. His eyes shoot open momentarily, unfocusedly seeking out Harry before he again slips into unconsciousness, head falling limply back to thump against the shower wall. He can't possibly weigh much, but Harry casts a lightening charm all the same before tucking arms beneath ribs and knees and gently lifting. Malfoy makes a strange noise, something akin to a breathless whimper, as Harry shifts him to get a good hold but otherwise is as lifeless as a muggle doll.
The loose bathrobe falls open but Harry pays it no mind. Malfoy will simply have to live with having his bits exposed for all to see when they arrive on the Urgent Magical Treatment floor of St. Mungo's Hospital.
Harry twists in his chair to find the same mediwitch that had whisked Malfoy from him standing in the doorway, the bright light of the hallway haloing around her hay-colored hair. She smiles awkwardly, the way that so many do when meeting him for the first time, and clears her throat, gesturing with her clipboard toward something down the hall. "Healer Hollowberk would like to ask you some questions? Regarding the young man you brought in?"
Quickly rising to his feet with a sharp nod, Harry barely remembers to politely thank her as he exits the waiting room. Glancing in the direction she had indicated, he sees many doors along the hallway, some closed and others not.
"If you go down a ways and to the right, he's on the open ward behind the third curtain," the mediwitch explains, seeing the question forming on Harry's face.
"Thanks," Harry says again, and sets off down the hall. His mind immediately recalls the image of Malfoy limply sliding further into the bathtub, and he quickens his already brisk pace.
Around the corner at the end of the hallway is a large, open area rather than another row of doors. Multiple beds line the walls with thin cotton curtains between each, reminding Harry of the Hogwarts infirmary. A mediwitch station sits in the center of one wall, shelves of parchment rolls behind it and two mediwitches chattering quietly to one another as they read through a parchment on a clipboard. Not many of the curtains are closed but there is an occasional hoarse cough followed by a flame burst and a high-pitched whinny from farther down the row of beds.
Moving to the third curtain as instructed, Harry tugs at the edge and peeks around it. On the other side, a healer, lime green robes crisp and clean, scratches away at his own piece of parchment, feather waving as quill moved. Malfoy, still unconscious and looking ghostly, lies on the bed but is now dressed in the standard pale blue, thin robe that Harry'd seen other patients wear. A simple beige blanket covers him to his waist and his left arm is laid atop it, wrapped in bandages that are splotched blue, as though Malfoy's proclamations of superior blood were real.
Harry swallows his rising nerves and jerks his eyes from Malfoy's alleged blue blood back to the healer. "Er, excuse me?"
The quill doesn't stop moving even as the healer looks up at Harry over round glasses and smiles widely. He finishes his notes quickly and gestures Harry inside the curtain with one hand, stepping over to make room in the small area. "Mr. Potter, an honor to meet you, a right honor. Do come in, do come in. I am Healer Hollowberk."
The curtains must be warded because the noises of the floor disappear as soon as the cotton drape falls back into place. Harry shakes the healer's extended hand, again glancing uneasily at Malfoy—purple rings still under those shut eyes. "Is he, you know, all right?"
"Mr. Malfoy has suffered an injury that would have been minor had it been treated properly. Unfortunately, he chose not to seek treatment, which exacerbated his wound." The Healer shakes his head with a frown, and then returns to scribbling on the parchment. "The mediwizard said you found him in a bathtub?"
"Er, my bathtub, yeah—um, yes, that is. He's been taking a lot of, um, baths and showers," Harry stammers out, blushing brightly when the quill abruptly stops and Hollowberk stares curiously at him. Ducking his head in embarrassment, he mumbles, "He's been staying with me, you know, to help with, er, getting back on his feet, so to speak."
Hollowberk gives a thoughtful hum and then is back to writing. "Yes, I imagine cool water made the fever feel much better."
"Oh," Harry mumbles, feeling stupid for not having made the connection between Malfoy's numerous baths, the way he never wore anything short-sleeved, and how he had begun to favor his arm more and more. "What kind of curse was it?"
"Not a curse but a hex. However, I am afraid I cannot give you many details, Mr. Potter," Hollowberk replies and smiles apologetically at Harry. "Family privilege only."
"It doesn't matter if Potter knows."
Harry and Hollowberk both turn to the bed at the soft, scratchy voice, but Malfoy steadfastly ignores them and frowns at the folds of the curtain, looking dejected and humiliated. For his part, Harry tries not to stare, tries to instead focus on his shoes and the cracks in the tiled floor, but he can't help but glance at Malfoy every few seconds—something which Malfoy notices, as a blush slowly rises in his otherwise colorless cheeks.
Hollowberk doesn't appear to discern, or care, how miserable Malfoy is as he addresses his patient, "I am glad to see you already awake, Mr. Malfoy. The immune-boosting potion must be working well."
Malfoy ignores the statement, only moving his attention from the curtain to the blanket, which he begins to pick at with his uninjured hand. Hollowberk, however, is undeterred and continues on, hand poised to take notes on the parchment. "If you are feeling up to it, I'd like to go over your treatment procedures as well as discuss when the injury occur—"
"I don't remember," Malfoy cuts in, mumbling his words to the blanket.
"Mr. Malfoy," the healer starts firmly, and his chastising tone gives Harry the impression that he has much practice dealing with obstinate patients, "I cannot treat you to the best of my ability if you do not cooperate. Judging by the extent of the damage, I can estimate that you were hexed two and a half to three months ago. However, an actual date would be much—"
"I don't remember," Malfoy growls louder and this time shoots a quick glare at Harry.
Taken aback, Harry almost snaps that it's not his fault that Malfoy went and got hexed, but then Malfoy glares pointedly at him again and he realizes with surprise that there is more plea than anger in the look. Before Hollowberk can begin berating Malfoy once more, Harry quickly intervenes, "What sort of treatment does he need? Will he have to stay here?"
Hollowberk looks startled by Harry's interruption but regains his footing soon enough, only pausing to frown at Malfoy and scratch something on his parchment. "Mr. Malfoy does not need to be kept overnight. As I said before, the hex, had it been treated as soon as possible," here he sends Malfoy a stern look, "would have been a minor burn. Only time and the lack of treatment allowed it to spread to such extent. A simple burn salve will clear the injury in no time. Mr. Malfoy is free to leave as soon as he completes the customary scrolls."
"I imagine the Prophet is to be informed of Potter's magnanimous rescue?" Malfoy grumbles, but his sneer is weak and half-hearted at best and already a small sheen of sweat shows along his hairline, as if the mere act of staying awake were exhausting enough. None of this prevents Harry from rolling his eyes at the statement, though he does find himself nervously wondering the same thing. He still hasn't told Hermione or Ron or anyone besides Andromeda about Malfoy.
"St. Mungo's proudly operates under discretion, Mr. Malfoy," Hollowberk sniffs. "I can assure you that any story contained within tomorrow's newspaper will not come from any employee here."
The Healer's words do little to reassure Harry, and he is not the only one doubtful if Malfoy's disbelieving eyebrow lift is anything to go by, but he can only hope that the mediwitches and wizards would abide by St. Mungo's well-known discretion, compulsory or not. It's not that he is ashamed of helping Malfoy but it isn't anyone's business who he lets sleep on his couch or who he rushes to the hospital when said freeloader ignores basic medical treatment and gets sick.
And, well, Malfoy is Malfoy; Harry really isn't in the mind to deal with the owls and gossip that would come if the story did get out.
Perhaps sensing their doubt, Hollowberk clears his throat loudly and lifts his chin a tad defiantly, saying, "Let's get back to the matter at hand. Mr. Malfoy, if you could please explain the situation as well as the date of when you were hexed, I will be able to properly form an advised medical opinion."
Harry looks at Malfoy, but the blond had dropped his head back and closed his eyes already, possibly having finally given in to the exhaustion. Harry recalls from Auror training's crash course in magical medicine that magical ailments and injuries drained one's magic during the healing process, thus draining one's energy—the reason, in fact, why magical attacks on muggles were so dangerous as muggles had no magic to fight the damage. It also explained Malfoy's progressive fatigue, but Harry has the feeling that Malfoy's lack of response now is more due to a want to ignore the Healer. He cannot help but give a small smile at the obstinate blond.
Clearly thinking the same thing but quite less amused, Hollowberk dramatically huffs, muttering, "Well! Of all the rudeness!" as he turns to exit Malfoy's curtained slice of the ward, allowing the fiery coughing and horsey whinnying of before, now accompanied by a patient's livid argument with a mediwizard, to sound again as the fabric is pulled back.
Before he leaves completely, he smiles graciously one last time at Harry and says, "It was good to meet you Mr. Potter, an honor. Although I do hope the next time we meet it is not in a medical setting. A mediwitch will be along shortly with the required scrolls for Mr. Malfoy to complete. Have a good evening."
Harry bids him the same and the small area around Malfoy's bed falls into silence once more as the curtain closes.
"Do you want me to transfigure the couch a little?"
Harry inwardly grimaces as Malfoy just flatly glares from where he leans against the hall-wall counter, as if to silently say, "You're only thinking of that now?"
"Or you could sleep in my bed?" Harry blurts. Strangely, the idea doesn't disturb him as much as he'd expected it would.
Malfoy lightly scoffs and pushes away from the counter, staggering over to the couch and promptly collapsing on its seats with a weary and slightly pained groan.
"I said I'd transfigure it for you," Harry weakly says.
"You'd only make it sticky," Malfoy says into the cushion, voice muffled. Peeking at Harry and seeing the scandalized expression, he adds, "With sap, you degenerate," and waves his unwrapped arm in the general direction of the kitchen.
Harry blushes, more embarrassed that Malfoy had known exactly where his mind had gone than by his lack of understanding. He tucks his hands into his pockets and shrugs, looking down at his toes. "Maybe you could transfigure it then? When your magic has leveled out, I mean."
"Yeah," Malfoy mumbles, "Maybe."
Harry watches as Malfoy rolls onto his back and squirms to find a more comfortable position on the old gray couch. When Malfoy looks up at him, he says, "You could just take my bed though."
"Yeah, maybe," Malfoy repeats and closes his eyes, breathing in deeply and releasing the breath as a heavy sigh.
"We'll talk about it tomorrow?" Harry suggests, smiling softly when Malfoy just nods. Somewhere, deep inside his chest, something untwists in relief because Malfoy hadn't drowned in the bathtub, Malfoy hadn't died from overheating with fever, and Malfoy hadn't had a horrible incurable injury. Malfoy is still sleeping on his couch and, with a little bit of medicine, is going to live to mock and insult Harry another day. He cannot explain why that pleases him.
"I'll wake you in the morning to apply the salve, okay?" he adds, but Malfoy merely moves his fingers in what Harry assumes is a small, dismissive wave.
The salve, as it turns out, is blue, not Malfoy's blood.
The consistency of it gives Harry chills, easily slicking between his fingers like a liquid but holding more or less together like a solid. Slime, Harry decides. It is like blue slug slime that feels as though it has been under a cooling charm all night rather than sitting on the counter in its tin container—perhaps the container itself is charmed. When he'd twisted the lid off, the smooth surface of it had made him think of petroleum jelly, but he had shuddered down to his toes as soon as his fingers squelched through it for a feel.
Malfoy glares woozily from the couch, sitting up but mostly leaning back against the high armrest. He had snapped something sleepily unintelligible when Harry had shaken him awake and now, when Harry turns with fingers covered in squishy blue salve, he grouses, "I can do it myself, you know," in a raspy voice. "Don't you have training to get to?"
"It's fine. I have time," Harry says, walking over and setting the tin of salve on the coffee table. "I don't mind."
"I do," Malfoy mutters, tugging away his arm when Harry reaches for it and pressing it between his body and the couch where Harry cannot easily touch it. "I can do it myself," he says again. "I don't need your help. With this."
Harry politely ignores the admission of needing some help, even as Malfoy's face blooms a joke-worthy shade of red, and simply holds out his hand. "Come on. It's not like I don't know what to expect. I did do your paperwork for you yesterday, or don't you remember? You did seem out of it. In fact, I'm pretty sure you slept through the mediwizard's speech on how to care for the burn."
Malfoy scowls but does reluctantly give in with an annoyed sigh and turn, pausing only in brief hesitation to give Harry a wary look before sliding closer, his knees fitting between Harry's in the small space between couch and coffee table. He extends his arm for Harry to take with a small wince, then sends Harry a warning glare. It might have been threatening without the addition of bed-head and sleep-puffy eyes.
Carefully, Harry unwraps the used, blued bindings that are around the wound and sets them aside. Underneath, Malfoy's skin has been stained by the salve so that his arm looks like one giant bluish bruise, offset only by the darkened red of the burn and the thicker skin of the scar that had once been the Dark Mark. Harry recalls the way the mediwizard's eyes had repeatedly, nervously, drifted back to Malfoy's bandages while explaining the salve and knows that Malfoy being hexed in the arm was hardly due to poor aim on the part of the hexer.
For his part, however, Harry pretends to not notice the scar, merely gently washing the skin and injury with the soapy water he'd prepared before waking Malfoy. He discreetly glances at Malfoy, but the blond is staring out the balcony door with a bored expression. Only the tightness of Malfoy's jaw lets him know how tense the other man really is. When the area is cleaned, Harry drops the washcloth back into its bowl and lightly pats the area dry.
Another shudder of revulsion tickles through Harry as he again dips his fingers in the salve. Apparently, Malfoy is equally disturbed by the slimy texture because he stiffens and shifts ever so slightly away from Harry's hands, making Harry smile.
"What are you doing?" Malfoy demands when Harry starts to softly rub the salve across his arm.
"It has to be rubbed in," Harry explains, spreading the gooey mixture and massaging over the burn, careful not to press or hold too hard, even as Malfoy shifts away again. "Am I hurting you? Stop squirming."
Malfoy scowls, clearly bothered by either the movement of Harry's hands or by Harry's command—or both—but nonetheless sits obediently still for the rest of the treatment.
"Why are your hands blue?" Ron asks a couple days later when Harry's hands become too stained to hide.
"Cooking experiment," Harry lies. "Food coloring."
"It's the medicine. Malfoy's hurt," is what he tells Andromeda when she makes the same query. "He got hexed and let it get bad."
"Oh dear," she responds. Her eyes seem accusing somehow.
"It wasn't me!" Harry rushes to say in his own defense. "He got hexed by someone before I even found him, and then he wouldn't tell me anything."
She gives a small smile. "Perhaps you should work to improve that."
"I hate that you get green eyes. You," Malfoy mumbles one evening, impatiently waiting for Harry to finish applying the salve, the fingers of his free hand drumming against his knee. As Healer Hollowberk had predicted, all the hex had needed was treatment. Only a week and half in and already the burn had diminished to a small sore. Harry insisted that they continue with the salve until the burn disappeared completely, but Malfoy let his newly energized irritation show with each treatment.
"That's ridiculous," Harry answers back, waiting until he has Malfoy's attention before rolling his eyes. Somehow, the banter in the past week has become a comfortable crutch in their budding alliance—one that neither of them openly acknowledges. Sometimes it turns aggressive, bitter, hateful, and Harry might then think that things were easier when they were ignoring one another. Mostly, though, he knows that they both still have a lot of grudges to overcome and he tries to compromise.
"What's it matter if my eyes are green?"
"I never liked the color much anyway," Malfoy sniffs, ignoring the question.
"Yeah?" Harry asks skeptically. "I thought Slytherins were obsessed with green?"
"Not on you," Malfoy retorts but it is an uncommitted insult as he is already staring out the balcony door again. He never looks at his arm until Harry wraps it in fresh bandages—Harry wonders if he is ashamed.
In a more reserved voice Malfoy continues, "Besides, all that Slytherin and Gryffindor stuff is finished. We are adults now."
"Yeah," Harry agrees after a beat, "We are. Barely. Doesn't always feel like it though."
Harry gives a small smile and, to his surprise, so does Malfoy.
Malfoy's arm is so blue now that Harry grins as he speculates how long it will take for the staining to go away, how long Malfoy will have one blue arm. Once finished massaging in the salve, he wraps new bandages around the area, still taking care even though Malfoy no longer complains about the pain. As he wraps, his mind drifts back to Hollowberk and how Malfoy wouldn't have had to suffer through this had he gone straight to St. Mungo's in the first place.
"Why didn't you get this treated right away?" he decides to ask, even though he knows it broaches on subjects that their weak alliance won't tolerate.
As expected, Malfoy tenses and his eyes are instantly on Harry, narrowing as if trying to determine whether or not the question is a trap, all amusement from the minute before having vanished. After a moment, he seems to decide that Harry has no bad intent and relaxes somewhat, looking down at his arm now that the burn and scar are covered.
Harry abruptly realizes that this minute show of trust, this lack of an antagonistic response, is Malfoy's way of compromising, too.
"I didn't think they would treat me. I—" Malfoy begins, but then he scowls, swallows, and starts over, "There was a private healer near where… nearby. I went to him but when he saw the—that, he sent me away."
Harry absorbs the words quietly but anger mounts within him at the reminder that it's still too early for people to forgive and forget, that it's only been a year and half. He asks in a low tone, "Is that why you haven't gotten a new wand?"
"Maybe," Malfoy says softly and he looks pained when Harry glances at him, but Harry knows that it's not because the bandages are too tight. He shifts uncomfortably on the couch, his knees knocking lightly against Harry's. "That, and I may not be able to pay for it."
"What?" Harry asks in surprise and confusion, his hands stopping. "But you still have—"
"Yes, I know, but," Malfoy fidgets again and Harry can see his defensiveness rising. He fixes Harry with a pointed glare. "But Malfoy gold is shit right now, Potter. Not even greedy shopkeepers want to risk having someone recognize me and spreading the word that they sell to my kind."
"You're not—" Harry cuts off with an irritated growl, gripping Malfoy's arm to keep the other from pulling back, because Malfoy had been and the idiot had willingly made the choice to be before realizing the mistake of doing so.
Harry wants to hate Malfoy sometimes, when he lies in bed at night and thinks about it, but then he remembers Voldemort telling Malfoy to torture Rowle or be tortured in return and he puts himself in Malfoy's shoes, pompously expensive ones that they are. He thinks about how he'd be now if he'd been raised by close-minded Death Eaters to think such hypocrisies. When he thinks of these things, the hate he wants to direct at Malfoy seems to instead simmer into a strange understanding.
"You're not," Harry says again, this time insistently. "Not anymore. That's— All that is over now too. I—We need to move on, put it behind us."
"Maybe you can move on, but it is still there, isn't it?" Malfoy snaps back with a sharp nod at his bandaged arm. "Wars don't just end. And not everyone has the luxury of having chosen the right side—and yes, I know I made that bad decision myself. You do not have to remind to me, thanks. I sorted out that one rather early on, in fact. But even if what's done is done, even if it is all over now, even if I was pardoned due to your ill-prepared but greatly appreciated testimony, it doesn't change the truth that I was a Death Eater, and people aren't going to happily and unquestioningly give me another chance just because Harry bloody Potter can, so stop all of your righteous Savior anger on my behalf this instant! You and your stupid green eyes are giving me a headache!"
Malfoy's yelling by the end, and he abruptly stands, yanking his arm away from Harry's tightened grip and practically stumbling over Harry's legs as he escapes. Harry hardly has time to process everything Malfoy had said before the blond whips around again and shouts, "What is with you? Why do you have to be so mature, with your lame talk of moving on? Do you have any idea how difficult it is trying to figure out what you want from me? What you mean by letting me stay here? Do you? Why can't you just glare and spit and hate me like everyone else?"
"Because unlike everyone else, I know that you're not the same stupid kid you were when you took the Dark Mark," Harry shouts back, standing to face him. Malfoy's outraged expression morphs first into surprise and then uncomfortable uncertainty. Harry hesitates on his next words, not sure if saying them will be more harm than help, but finally adds in a quiet voice, "Dumbledore knew that too, and he was willing to give you a second chance, wasn't he?"
Malfoy's response is to flee to the balcony—to avoid the question.
"Does having green eyes mean something?"
Hermione's attention doesn't leave the ties in her hands. "Mean something?"
Harry fidgets. "It's just that someone," a great, great prat, "once said to me, 'You would have green eyes, wouldn't you,' or something like that, and I was wondering what he meant."
"Who said that?" she asks and finally looks up, her brows drawn together in confusion.
"Er, just, you know, someone in the street," Harry lies.
Hermione accepts the lie with a nod, clearly too distracted to pick up on it like usual. Her gaze returns to the ties. "Well, green is an uncommon eye color, only third to violet and red in rarity, I believe. There are theories that eye color is directly associated with magical ability—with the more rare a color, the stronger the magic, but nothing has been proven, of course. There are cases of muggles and squibs having green eyes too, though they do almost always have magically powerful children."
She looks at him again and holds the ties up for him to see. "Which do you like more?"
Harry blinks blankly at the silky-looking pieces of cloth, momentarily mixed-up by the sudden change of topic. Aside from color, the two ties look exactly the same. Was he supposed to be imagining them with an outfit? "Er, the black one, I guess?"
"I like that one, too. It'll look more elegant with your slacks," Hermione hums thoughtfully, then nods decisively and sets the red tie back on the shelf.
"Tell me why I'm buying all this again?" Harry groans, gesturing to the dark gray slacks and crisp white shirt that Hermione had already chosen.
"Because you refused to wear your formal robes," she says with a scolding glare.
"They're itchy," Harry justifies. "And that's not what I meant. The thing is, why are we even going somewhere so formal? It's just dinner with Ron and Ginny. Why can't we go someplace comfortable and, you know, more casual?"
"Oh Harry," Hermione sighs exasperatedly. "We do casual all the time. It'll be fun to try something new. Besides, don't you want to impress Ginny?"
Harry's expression contorts in doubt. "Impress? Does she think I should?"
Hermione frowns again and gives him a strange look.
Harry shucks his sodden cloak and tosses the spell-protected clothes that Hermione had insisted he buy over the half-wall, kicking off his wet shoes so that they fall in a muddy heap by the front door. Rain beats against the balcony doors, a roll of thunder in the distance, and his flat is darkened like the sky outside. The only light shines from the crack under the bathroom door and over the pattering of the rain he can hear the sound of shower running.
Anxiety squeezes his chest at the familiarity—it's only mid-afternoon and Malfoy had stopped taking showers at randomly strange hours since the hex-burn had begun to heal. The only reason for Malfoy to start again would be if something had happened.
He doesn't want to find Malfoy half-drowned and feverish in the bathtub again.
Racing over to the bathroom door, Harry bangs against the fake wood, shouting desperately, "Malfoy?"
Silence for a moment—long enough for Harry to reach for his wand—and then a muffled but weary and defeated sounding response of, "Piss off."
The lack of bite worries Harry. Like before, he presses his ear to the door. "What's happened?" he demands, "Is something wrong? Did the hex flare up or something?"
"No," comes the stronger reply, but its effect is ruined by the heavy sigh that follows. "…go away."
"What? Malfoy, don't—Just—Are you hurt?"
Another sigh, this time more of a frustrated scoff.
"I'm fine, Potter," is the snappy, but weak, answer. "Go away."
Harry hesitates, fingers lightly moving over the door as he thinks. Why was Malfoy trying to hide the burn again? Or was there a new injury? Had Malfoy left the flat that day? Harry had thought that, after the last time, they had silently agreed on a truce, agreed to be more open about asking for help from one another—that Malfoy could ask for help and Harry wouldn't belittle him.
Apparently they hadn't.
Perhaps their last argument had ruined the already fragile alliance between them.
Frustrated by Malfoy's lack of faith in him, a quick alohamora is off Harry's tongue before he bothers to think any more on it and he pushes in to the bathroom, demanding, "Malfoy, if there's something wro—"
One step inside is as far as Harry gets before the words die a shameful death on his lips. The bathroom is not overflowing with water, Malfoy is not half-conscious in the shower, hazily blocked from view by the curtain and nursing some unidentified wound. No, even though the shower is running, Malfoy isn't even in the tub.
Malfoy is on the toilet.
And there is nothing pleasant about the smell.
Harry barely sees the shock and outrage register on Malfoy's face before he hastily jerks back out of the bathroom, trying to pull the door closed along with his retreat but he has moved too fast and the latch doesn't catch. He manages to grab its knob before it can spring open wide and this time pulls carefully until he hears it click shut.
A long pause and Harry knows that, while his own face feels like fire—his insides curling up in utter embarrassment—Malfoy's is probably a shade of red never before identified. The quiet continues, only the sounds of the shower and the rain and the ticking of the clock in the kitchen, and finally Harry clears his throat and, barely loud enough for Malfoy to hear, says, "Er, uh, sorry."
Malfoy doesn't respond. Harry assumes that he is either too busy dying of humiliation or too furious to form words.
"I was concerned," Harry rushes to explain in the silence. "I didn't know you were, er, well…"
"Oh god, Potter! Just go away!" Malfoy shrieks, his voice indeed an agonizing mix of mortification and fury.
"I'm sorry!" Harry insists. "I didn't think you…"
Malfoy's indignant squawk is only slightly muffled by the door. "What? You did not think that I, what? Defecated like every other creature on this planet? That, sometimes, said defecation isn't all roses and glitter? Did you expect me capable of creating fairies and rainbows rather than bodily waste? Or perhaps, when I told you that Malfoy gold is shit, you imagined that this is how my ancestors made their riches? Certainly the Malfoys are wealthy, what with galleons coming out of their arses!"
Harry barks out a laugh but tries to cover it with a cough. He clears his throat and starts over, "That's not what I meant. I know you… It's just, I hadn't ever thought about you, you know, doing it."
"Of course you hadn't," Malfoy says, the exasperation clear in his voice. "Who idles about with thoughts like that?"
"I'm sure there are fetishists somewhere," Harry answers, smiling at Malfoy's small laugh. It weakens a little and he adds, "Sorry, really. I was worried."
There is a small noise that perhaps could be a snort. Malfoy probably isn't as embarrassed anymore either, but then he says, voice back to sounding drained, "Potter, your overwhelming concern is noted, but I am tired and quite possibly poisoned by that pasta you made, so, if it pleases you, I would like to make gold in peace. Go away."
"Right," Harry says, backing away from the door. "Sorry."
He gets two steps away when Malfoy shouts, "But if it is ever particularly large or wondrously shaped, I'll call you to have a look. Manly pride and all that," and Harry stumbles from another unexpected burst of laughter.
Really, he had never expected something like that from Malfoy—Seamus, certainly, but not the prim and proper Draco Malfoy.
Perhaps their alliance isn't as weak as he had assumed.
On the evening of his unwanted formal dinner, Harry grudgingly changes into the kit chosen by Hermione, eyeing the way the slacks look rumpled where he's tucked the shirt. Hopefully, no one will notice if he doesn't button the shirt to the top—breathing is necessary. The clothes feel awkward and too stiff. He gives himself one last disheartened look-over in the mirror and then, sighing, trudges to the dining nook where Malfoy sits.
Malfoy pays him no mind at first, merely taking small bites of cut fruit out of a bowl and casually flipping through the transfiguration periodical that he had demanded Harry buy. Eventually he looks up when Harry remains standing at the other end of the small table. His eyebrows lift in delicate surprise as he studies Harry from top to bottom and then back up again.
"What are you wearing?" he asks calmly after swallowing a bite of apple.
Harry's face heats—which is ridiculous, because Malfoy's opinion on his clothes means nothing to him. Nothing. He feels no brief upset at Malfoy's words, no need to impress the pretentious ponce. None whatsoever. Yet, he cannot help but ask, deflated, "It looks bad?"
"It is quite…" Malfoy pauses to gently set the small fork he had used to eat the fruit on the edge of the saucer under the bowl, daintily dab his mouth with an ivory-colored cloth napkin—an additional forced procurement of Harry's—and fix Harry with another studying look, "…muggle."
Harry lets out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, an unexpected feeling of relief sweeping through him. "That's it? Muggle?"
"That's it?" Malfoy echoes, stunned. "Potter, you did say that you were to dine tonight at Gliding Golden Hooves on Pixie Path, yes? The one off Diagon Alley?" At Harry's cautious nod, he continues, "Well, then perhaps you are mistaken and need to check with your dinner associates for the place you will be dining. While hardly elite, the Gliding Golden Hooves is not the sort of venue where muggle attire is acceptable." As an afterthought, he wryly adds, "Not even on the Great Chosen Savior."
"I know that's the place Hermione said," Harry argues defiantly. As if he could ever forget or mistake a name like Gliding Golden Hooves. "Maybe it's about time it accepted muggle attire. Maybe the elite need to stop being so close-minded."
"Because refusing to participate in common wizarding custom is clearly an open-minded approach. How silly of me to think otherwise."
"That's not what I—You—"
No logical excuses make their way to Harry's stammering mouth, making Malfoy smirk, much to his irritation. He sighs again and glares halfheartedly at Malfoy, mumbling, "I guess I've got to give that one to you."
He wants to be angry, maybe even tell Malfoy where to shove it, but the former Slytherin still has the uncanny ability to stir doubt in his mind, all talks of having grown up aside. Harry rubs his hands down the front of his slacks as though to dry them, both his relief and defiance rapidly evaporating.
Frowning, he asks again, "So it looks bad?"
"It looks inappropriate," Malfoy answers and picks up his tiny fork once more, dismissively saying, "Go and don your dress robes like a respectable wizard. You want to impress your darling Weasley, do you not?"
Harry's initial scowl at Malfoy's command morphs into confusion. "Why would I need to impress Ron?"
Malfoy fixes him with a flat look. "I meant the female Weasel, you tit."
"Why does everyone keep asking me that?" Harry grumbles. He and doesn't catch the strange expression on Malfoy's face as he turns back into his bedroom.
Git, Harry thinks as he closes the door but does as Malfoy instructs, shucking his muggle clothes and dragging his dress robes from the closet. The robes are a tad wrinkled from the last time he'd worn them (Kingsley's Minister Induction banquet) but not so bad that it's noticeable. As per usual, he feels distinctly awkward in the fancy robes—and already incredibly itchy around the neck and cuffs as he had insisted to Hermione he would. He looks down at himself and scoffs at how prissy he feels in the robes.
"Better?" he asks, tone resentful, when he steps back into the dining nook.
Malfoy's hand freezes mid-turn of a page as he glances up at Harry and then he slaps it down on the table, making the now empty bowl clank against its saucer. "Potter, those robes are wrinkled!"
"It's not that obvious!" Harry protests, looking down his front again.
"Only to the untrained eye, which, I assure you, you will find very few of at Gliding Golden Hooves," Malfoy snaps, rising from his chair and moving to Harry's side to fuss over the miniscule creases. "For Salazaar's sake, at least try to charm them away!"
"There're charms for that?" Harry asks. The expression on Malfoy's face is so scandalized that it makes Harry laugh, which earns him a painful punch to the shoulder. "Ow! Hey!"
"Your wand," Malfoy demands with a shove, "Fetch it!"
The second Harry lumbers back from his bedroom with wand in hand, Malfoy snatches it from him without asking and begins easily smoothing the wrinkles from Harry's robes with a non-verbal spell. Harry gets the impression that the spell is one his fastidious houseguest had mastered in childhood—when he thinks about it, he doesn't remember Malfoy's robes ever having wrinkles back at school.
Harry tugs at his collar, wanting to scratch underneath, but Malfoy slaps his hand away with an admonishing glare that could rival Hermione's.
"It itches," he says irritably.
Sighing a put-upon sigh, Malfoy taps Harry's wand against the collar and instantly the itchiness fades. Surprised at the comfort he suddenly feels, Harry quickly suggests, "The cuffs, too?" and Malfoy gives him a small, knowing smirk before spelling those tolerable as well. It doesn't take long for Malfoy to finish the charm and soon Harry's robes appear as crisp and new as the day he'd bought them.
Not entirely finished, however, Malfoy merely presses the wand back into Harry's hand before straightening the collar and shoulders of the robe so that they fall more naturally. Harry unquestioningly stands still through the grooming, noticing for the first time since Malfoy came to stay with him that they are the same height now. Malfoy had always been taller in school.
Taking the moment to study the man in front of him, Harry confirms his earlier thought that Malfoy had indeed become handsome during their two years apart—easy to see now that he was being fed regularly. Yet, somehow, Malfoy also came across as… beautiful. Nothing about the strong hands or sharp eyes or curve-less build was effeminate and yet, in some way, those same masculine features made Malfoy beautiful.
"What?" Malfoy asks, startling Harry from his thoughts. The tidying had ended.
"Oh, er, nothing," Harry mumbles, giving himself a mental shake. Malfoy, beautiful? The words didn't belong in the same sentence. Clearing his throat, he says, "So I'm all good to go then? Not a great embarrassment to wizarding tradition anymore?"
"You will always be a great embarrassment to wizarding tradition," Malfoy sighs, shaking his head with obvious mock-disappointment as he sits against the edge of the table and folds his arm over his chest, his sleeve pulling up a little to show his blue-tinged wrist. "But I imagine you may survive tonight without making an utter fool of yourself. Do leave now so that I may have one night of quiet peace."
Harry rolls his eyes and says, "You just want to prance around naked, like usual."
Malfoy makes an indignant noise and demands, "What is with your obsession about me being naked?"
Harry feels his face heat up. "I don't have an obsession with you being naked!"
"Yes, you do! You constantly mention it—and at the most random of times!" Malfoy insists. "I bet you think about me starkers all the time!"
"Wha— I do not!" Harry denies, but a small, niggling voice in the back of his mind starts ticking all the times he had done exactly that.
"Do you walk around without a stitch when you're alone?" Malfoy asks accusingly.
"Wha— No, I— No."
Malfoy looks both appalled and highly entertained. "My, my, you do, don't you? I've seen the way you start stripping as soon as you get back from your training—"
"I always take showers when I get back! It's only natural!"
"God, Potter! I hope you at least had the sense to cast a reflective charm on the balcony doors, seeing as you refuse to buy curtains!"
Giving an aggravated groan, Harry counters, "I do not refuse to buy curtains. I've just never thought about it. And it's not like anyone can see in here—we're on the top floor!"
"I know you took Astronomy, so I also know that you know what a telescope is," Malfoy says with a small puff of a laugh.
"Why would anyone have a telescope here?" Harry says, gesturing to the room but meaning the whole city in general. "You can't see the stars with all the lights!"
Malfoy's smirk widens. "People don't have telescopes in the city to see stars, Potter. Now I know why that elderly muggle in the flat across the street is always sending me vicious looks. With me here, she doesn't get her daily ogle of fit, young arse!"
"What!" Harry breathes, eyes darting uncertainly to the balcony doors—blackened by the dark outside so that he only sees his reflection.
Could people really see into his place on the top floor? Was there really an old lady across the street that had watched him?
Refusing the notion, he looks back to Malfoy a tad wild-eyed. "You're making that up just to get under my skin—and fuck! You're making me late with this nonsense! Hermione'll kill me!"
Malfoy laughs, even as Harry glares and disapparates.
"I thought you'd be out here, taking a moment."
Harry startles and turns to see Hermione slipping out the front doors of Gliding Golden Hooves, a unicorn raring above the restaurant's ostentatiously displayed name. In truth, he's only just arrived, still ruffled from Malfoy's claim and trying to regain his balance after the abrupt apparition, but no need to share that with Hermione. He smiles at her instead. "Taking a moment?"
Rather than answering his question, she gasps "Oh! You're wearing your dress robes after all!" and excitedly examines him at arm's length, vocally approving the lack of wrinkles. Then, beaming, she asks teasingly, "So, not nervous then?"
"Nervous?" Harry laughs. "About what? Embarrassing myself in this fancy place? That's why I'm wearing these uncomfortable robes!"
Actually, the robes weren't so bad after whatever charms Malfoy had used.
Ugh. Stupid Malfoy and his stupid nakedness and stupid old ladies.
"That's not what I meant," Hermione says, her whole body momentarily slumping in an exasperated sigh. "I meant—Wait. You're only wearing your dress robes because you were worried about the setting?"
"Not worried. I just didn't want to stand out." He frowns at her disappointed expression. "Why? Should I have worn the other thing? Only Mal-ah-I, um, I, that is, my thoughts were that it'd be better to, uh, blend in."
"Oh," is Hermione's even more disappointed response, but before Harry can question it she brightens and says, "Well anyway, you'll complement Ginny perfectly now! She's absolutely stunning in her dress robes. See her there, with Ron at that table, by the window?"
At Hermione's encouraging nudge, Harry gazes across the Gliding Golden Hooves patrons on the other side of the large windows until he reaches Ron. He grins, impressed. Properly fitted, in-style dress robes truly do bring out Ron's good-looks, making his height appear gentlemanly rather than lanky. The dark steel color of the robes softens Ron's features and bright red hair. With having filled out in the year of Auror training and a clean-shaven face, Ron would likely turn the eyes of many a lady during the evening. Whoever had dressed him had done it well.
With a small chuckle, Harry's eyes drift across the table in search of Ginny.
His jaw promptly drops and he spins back around to Hermione, cheeks hot with a blush.
"She—She looks like a—a girl!" he exclaims.
Whatever response Hermione had expected, that clearly wasn't it. She blinks at Harry in a baffled manner before huffing, "She is a girl—a young woman, to be precise!"
"Yes, but, uh," Harry stammers, panicking and then gesturing at his own chest, "since when did she have, you know…"
Hermione flushes scarlet. "Oh my god Harry!"
"No! No, it's just, I mean, she never, you know, before—"
"Of course she—My word, you—She was fifteen!" Hermione snaps, her hands flying up to protect her own bosom. "Most girls don't even—not until the ages of seventeen to twenty, but that's not—Harry!"
"No! I'm not—I just wasn't expecting it, er, them, no, it, I, argh!" Harry buries his face in hands. He takes a deep breath and tries to organize his thoughts before continuing. "It's not just that she, um, grew up. She just looks… different. It's not… She doesn't look like Ginny all dressed up like that. All that stuff on her face."
When Hermione doesn't respond, he lowers his hands to see her staring at him with a perplexed but somehow thoughtful expression.
"It doesn't feel like Ginny," he mumbles, and blushes all over again.
"She can't wear outdoor robes and muggle shirts all the time," Hermione says, still blushing herself. "I know… Well, I know you two haven't officially gotten back together, but—"
"I've been busy," Harry cuts in defensively. "With Auror training."
"So has Ron," Hermione answers reproachfully, "and he and I still find time to see each other."
"She was at Hogwarts all last year!"
"So was I!" she snaps, but her anger quells almost immediately and she continues more gently, "So was I, but Harry you have to— It's like you're afraid to get to know Ginny now. She grew up a lot during, well, during her sixth and seventh years, both in body and mind. Simply because she acts more like a girl doesn't mean she's not Ginny anymore. She's still the same tomboy that she was then. She just likes pretty things now, too."
She hesitates before asking, "Is that why you've been avoiding her? Why you haven't tried to get back together with her?"
"I'm not—" Harry sighs, pushing up his glasses to rub his eyes. "I haven't been avoiding her. I'm just not… I don't know. Do we have to talk about this now?"
The thoughtful expression returns as Hermione frowns at him. "Harry… Do you think perhaps you… Cho and Ginny were both so… I mean, I always thought you never looked at me all those months in the tent because we are, essentially, family, and because of Ron, but maybe you…"
"Huh?" Harry blinks. Then, realizing that he hasn't complimented her dress robes—hasn't even looked at them—and supposes that must be what she means, he quickly says, "Oh, yeah, you look nice tonight. Very pretty."
Hermione's frown only deepens. Not what he'd expected.
"Yes, thank you." She waves her hand dismissively at his confused look and seems to compose herself. "You're right. Now's not the time. We'll discuss this later, okay? Come, let's go inside before they start to worry. Just be polite and try not to… stare."
Harry blushes at the insinuation and follows her to the doors, grumbling to himself that not staring at Ginny's unanticipated and intimidating bust would be the easy part.
Ginny has tiny hands.
No, not tiny, per se, but the hand that reaches up to tuck a stray red, styled lock behind a freckled ear isn't the strong one Harry remembers holding his so firmly back in sixth year. She's shrunk, he thinks at first, but then he realizes that, no, he'd grown and she'd stayed the same. She may be a little taller but whereas before he need only tip his head for a kiss, now he has to bend just to press one to her cheek.
"Are you sure you don't want to come back to The Burrow with us?" she asks as he draws back. He hates himself for the concern and hurt in her expression.
"Yeah, I should really get some sleep tonight," he lies, hoping that it doesn't show on his face. Girls were always so intuitive about those things. "I, er, wanted to get to Andromeda's early tomorrow. You know, spend more one-on-one time with Teddy before we come over for lunch."
"Oh, right," she says slowly, studying him in a way that suggests he's indeed been caught. But then she smiles and shrugs and says, "Well, see you tomorrow," before lifting onto her toes to return the cheek kiss. Her chest presses against him for the brief moment and he's hit with the image of the large, poisoned pus-filled Mimblus tubleto sacs Auror Malon had shown in training.
"Right, well," he says quickly, backing away, "I'm going now, to get some sleep. Right. See you."
Over Ginny’s shoulder, Hermione gives him an apprehensive look just before he apparates.
A little known fact: this entire story was written for the line, "Certainly the Malfoys are wealthy, what with galleons coming out of their arses!"
After I made it to that point, I had no idea how to continue. I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out how to fulfill the rest of the prompt. XD
Chapter 4: The Bedroom
Malfoy glances up from the book he's reading to arch an uninterested eyebrow. "Hey, um, what?"
Harry glares halfheartedly at him. "I got an owl from Andromeda today. She wants us to come around Saturday."
A brief flash of surprise lights Malfoy's face before he schools it back into indifference—or so he thinks. Harry knows him well enough by now to see his obvious interest under the cool mask, and if it weren't so clear on his face, the way he primly sits up from his slumped position on the couch is telling in itself. "Us? She knows that I'm… staying with you?"
"Er, yeah. I told her the first week you were here." Harry hesitates. "Why, was I not supposed to?"
Malfoy shrugs lightly, still trying for nonchalance. "It doesn't matter. Why does she want us both to visit?"
"I don't know." Harry mimics the shrug. "You're her nephew, so maybe she just wants to catch up?"
"Sure," Malfoy says, but he's doubtful, even a little hurt. He's probably thinking, if that were the case, Andromeda would have invited him over before now.
"Are you making dinner?" Harry asks to change the subject.
"Yes," Malfoy sighs and sets aside his book. "I suppose I can if I must."
"It's not like you're busy with anything else," Harry says, prodding Malfoy's shin gently with his toe. He grins at Malfoy's answering scowl.
Malfoy kicks Harry's foot away as he stands, stretching his arms above his head. Even though it's been a month since the last treatment, his arm is still dyed a faint blue.
"I baked all day," he says simply.
Harry smiles. "I know. I think my teeth are rotting out from the smell of sugar alone."
He catches Malfoy's amused smirk as they head in opposite directions, Malfoy to the kitchen to cook, him to the bathroom to shower, both of them comfortable and familiar with the routine.
On Saturday, Malfoy kneels in front of Harry's clean clothes pile, tearing through it and scattering various articles around the bedroom.
"What are you doing?" Harry asks, standing shocked in the doorway.
"Why is it that nothing you own is even remotely acceptable," Malfoy snaps and throws down a t-shirt with some random wizarding rock band Harry'd never heard of—begging the question of where he'd obtained it in the first place. "Aside from those dress robes, but this is hardly the kind of occasion…"
"We're only going to see Andromeda and Teddy," Harry interrupts. He moves into the room and begins gathering up the scattered clothes. "What's it matter what you wear?"
Malfoy falls backward to lie on the floor, his hands flopping dramatically on either side of his head. "I cannot arrive at my aunt's looking like a lazy lout. I can't, Potter. It's just not done." He groans in frustration and covers his face with his hands.
Harry shakes his head at the theatric display and dumps the clean clothes back into their pile. "Have you always been like this? Look—"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"—wear something casual, like jeans and a shirt. I always do."
"You," Malfoy says as he staggers to his feet, "my aunt expects to be of the unrefined masses. I, however, will be held to a much higher standard, for I am not only a Malfoy but am also a Black."
Harry rolls his eyes. "Whatever. Just get dressed. No one cares what you wear."
But even as he says it, his gaze lingers on the curve of Malfoy's bum in his trousers when Malfoy bends to grab a shirt.
Time comes to leave, but Malfoy dances away when Harry reaches for him. Harry sighs.
Malfoy's eyes narrow speculatively. "Have you done side-along apparition before? As the initiator?"
A memory of holding Hermione's hand in a dense, winter forest and concentrating on a new, just as obscure location flashes through Harry's mind.
"Only I don't fancy dropping in at my aunt's with no legs, you see," Malfoy adds.
"Yes, Malfoy, I've done side-along plenty of times. You'll still have your legs when we get there," Harry says flatly. He holds out his arm. "Will you just grab on already?"
Malfoy grumbles, "I can't believe she's going to see me like this," but reluctantly takes Harry's arm with a strong hand. He had a bit of a point, though. Harry's clothes didn't fit him well at all, despite the two of them being the same height. More leg than torso, a naturally leaner frame—even at a healthy weight the clothes don't fit Malfoy right. Harry's trousers only reached past Malfoy's ankles because they were so loose and hanging at the waist. The summer robe is the same, a little too long past Malfoy's torso and baggy across his shoulders.
He still looks good, Harry thinks.
"What are you waiting for?" Malfoy snaps, his grip tightening to painful. "You were the one being pushy. Are we going or not?"
"Yeah, yeah," Harry mumbles, and quickly apparates them before Malfoy can see his blush.
"Harry, I believe you have mentioned once before that Draco has a home but cannot reach it?"
Harry tries to drag his attention away from Malfoy and Teddy sitting under the window in the lounge. His head turns but his eyes stay glued to the two. Teddy's excitement has distracted Malfoy from the spindly-legged toys walking around them, the rapid succession of hair colors drawing Malfoy's curiosity. When Teddy realizes that he's being watched, he grins a slobbery grin at Malfoy and his hair turns straight and white blond in imitation. Malfoy appears surprised, and then smiles a wider and brighter smile than Harry'd ever seen on him.
"Huh?" Harry jerks his eyes to Andromeda, reddening under her shrewd stare. "Oh, right, uh, yeah. He said he couldn't get there 'cause his wand's snapped."
"But I imagine all of his things are there," Andromeda says. Though she sounds uninterested in the topic—small talk for small talk's sake—there's a sharpness in her glance at Harry before she resumes her knitting, the yarn spilling over the dining room table.
Harry blinks. "Er, I suppose they are…"
"Things like clothes, of course," Andromeda continues calmly. "His potions ingredients and manuals. Items that he'd want to keep himself entertained, I'm sure."
"Oh," Harry says. Then, "Oh."
"I can apparate him there," Harry realizes, eyes finding Malfoy again as he thinks about it.
"You can," Andromeda agrees lightly.
Harry dawdles at the edge of the kitchen the next morning, waiting for Malfoy to finish filling the sink with soapy water before he waves a self-cleaning charm over their breakfast dishes. Malfoy dries his hands as the plates and utensils began to queue at the sink edge, moving under the charm as though they have minds of their own. He absent-mindedly holds up a pan of raspberry muffins for Harry to tap a preserving charm to before it's tucked neatly in the already packed space of the charmed refrigerator, between a half-eaten lasagna and a delicately iced cake.
Malfoy hums to himself as he inspects the crowded shelves.
"You should take some of this with you when you leave for the Weasleys'," he says, turning to Harry. "And start taking some for lunch during the week."
"There's probably enough in there for Hermione and Ron too. You cook too much," Harry accuses, though it's immediately followed by a grin.
Malfoy scoffs and begins to remove food from the refrigerator. "It's called learning, you twit. Practice makes perfect and all that." He waves his hand in a vague motion before concentrating on transferring the food to portable tubs, adding more dirty dishes to dance in the queue. Once finished, he slides the full tubs across the counter to Harry for new preserving charms. "Anyway, when are you leaving today? I know you usually go by my aunt's first…" He hesitates. "I thought perhaps I could come along again? You could always bring me back here before heading to see the Weasels."
"You want to see Teddy?"
"That's not—! It'd be impolite to never visit, now that I have invitation."
Harry smiles lightly at Malfoy's apparent embarrassment—the smile growing when Malfoy tries cover the embarrassment with a sneer. Then, remembering his conversation with Andromeda, he clears his throat and says, "Er, well, actually, I wasn't going to Andromeda's this morning. She has some, um, errands to run and was taking Teddy with her. She said she'd meet me at The Burrow in time for lunch."
"Oh," Malfoy says, and his shoulders slump a touch. Barely noticeable but it's there. "I see."
"So I thought we'd go by yours instead," Harry adds with a casualness he doesn't quite feel. At Malfoy's startled expression, he swallows his nerves and continues, "I mean, if you gave me the address, that is. Or, you know, my wand's been working fine for you, so, uh, maybe you could take us there."
Malfoy stares at him with wide eyes.
"I just thought you might want to grab some things," Harry resumes quickly. "Like clothes, or… I don't know. Whatever you need to bring back with you. Or want to bring back. If you wanted to come back here. You don't have to. I mean, I can just take you there, if that's what you want. It's up to you, I guess. Only you mentioned that my clothes aren't, uh, a good fit, I guess. I know I, uh, should have, er, thought of this before but, um, I wasn't—"
"Potter, stop babbling," Malfoy quietly interrupts.
It's Harry's turn to blush. "Yeah. Sorry." He waits for a breath. "Um, so…"
Malfoy shrugs—he's trying to be casual again. "We can, if you're fine with it."
"Yeah, it—yeah." Harry hesitates. "Would you want to come back? Here, I mean?"
Malfoy turns away under pretense of scanning the remaining food in the refrigerator. When he speaks, his voice is low and the tone mildly shy. "I can't imagine being trapped in a house for the rest of my life, with no one to speak to aside from my own reflection, being particularly exciting. So yes," he glances sideways at Harry, "I'd prefer to continue imposing, if you do not mind."
"I don't mind," Harry says quickly, and it's true. He'd thought a lot about it the night before and had come to the conclusion that he really doesn't mind having Malfoy around all the time, kipping on his couch and making an eatery out of his kitchen. Funny, that. "So I guess I'll, er, get my shoes on."
Malfoy nods and looks anywhere but at Harry. "Right. Yes. I'll..." He waves his hand in the same vague gesture of before and hurries past to the bedroom. "I'll just grab something warm."
Malfoy squeezes the holly wand in a worryingly rough grip, the nails of his other hand digging painfully into Harry's wrist.
"Er, are you sure you don't want me to do it?" Harry asks nervously, his free hand inching towards his wand.
"I can do it," Malfoy says sharply, quickly tucking the wand behind himself and out of sight. He tries to glare but his nervousness bleeds into the attempt—it makes him look more terrified than angered.
"We don't have to go today. Maybe you should practice first—"
"I am not incompetent, Potter! I remember perfectly well how to apparate. It's only been a few months"
"Only a few months? Malfoy, you've been here a few months. Let me do it."
Harry winces as Malfoy's fingernails dig even deeper into his wrist to stop him from making another go for the wand.
"We've discussed this. My mother— There are blood wards," Malfoy grumbles, but he'd already admitted that he wasn't entirely positive the wards existed so Harry finds it difficult to believe him now. As if reading Harry's thoughts, Malfoy snaps, "I could just go without you—it'd be infinitely more convenient and likely less time-consuming. But I suppose you think I may never return."
"I'm going with you," Harry says, "because I'm curious. Not because I don't trust you."
Malfoy shoots him a disbelieving look but doesn't press the issue. "If you insist on coming then shut it and let me deliberate about the determined destination or we'll never get there."
Harry sighs and withholds any further commentary. Malfoy takes a steadying breath and stares forward, seemingly focusing on the wall but Harry knows that he's not really seeing it at all. The ticking of the clock in the kitchen sounds loud in the silence between them but a second later they're jerked into the familiar pull of apparition.
They reappear with a crack in front of a wide, cold fireplace. Harry's immediate impression is that they're in a log cabin in the middle of the woods. The room isn't large but it's sparsely filled with simple yet elegant furniture and has a high ceiling, giving it an open feeling despite the modest size. The color that stands out most is a dark beige, the décor earthy and the molding carved as flowering vines. A simple staircase climbs the wall near the fireplace with only one door at the top. There doesn't appear to be a door to leave the home, only one archway leading to a hallway under the stairs, but the two windows opposite the fireplace show a wet-looking, foggy forest beyond the walls.
Malfoy releases a heavy breath that seems to take his whole body to expel and then smirks triumphantly at Harry.
Harry snorts and teases lightly, "I still have my eyebrows, right?"
Malfoy's expression turns wry. "It'd merely have been an improvement to lose them, I assure you." He waves the holly wand in Harry's face but yanks it back before Harry can grab it, at the same time stepping out of reach. "I may need to shrink something, so I'll be keeping this for a bit." He pauses thoughtfully. "You may look around, if you'd like, but do refrain from touching anything."
One last condescending sneer is sent Harry's way and then Malfoy exits through the archway with a relaxed stride. Rather than being offended, Harry grins at Malfoy's regained confidence—the blond evidently felt more comfortable both after a successful apparition and when in his own territory.
Harry takes another glance around, disinterestedly looking at the few knick-knacks here and there. He wanders over to one of the windows. There's no tell-tale shimmer of a charm on the glass, making him think the scenery beyond must be real and that they are indeed in the middle of a mossy forest. Outside, mist rises from the earthen floor, the ground warmer than the air above. A lack of fire in the hearth left the cabin chilled, but the magic of the wards gave off enough heat to keep the place from being an ice box.
As he studies the trees around the cabin, Harry notices a smudge on one of the window panes. He angles until he catches it in the right light—a hand print. He touches his fingertips to it, feeling the hum of a ward (a regular one, at that, not a blood ward at all). Had Malfoy stood in this same spot, he wonders, staring at the world beyond and wanting to be in it but not wanting to leave the safety of the cabin?
"I can't imagine being trapped in a house for the rest of my life, with no one to speak to aside from my own reflection, being particularly exciting."
Harry's eyes focus on his own face reflecting in the glass and then he pushes away and purposefully heads in the direction Malfoy had gone. Suddenly, the silence of the cabin, not even the sounds of nature making it past the ward, is suffocating.
Through the archway is a short hall with two doors. Harry sticks his head in the first but it's only a tiny dining room. It's decorated in neutral colors like the rest but it feels cramped with its one small window and low-hanging ceiling. A Gerald's Elf Services take-out menu sits on the small table.
Harry backs out and moves on to the other room, a bedroom with deep earth-green walls, where Malfoy is charming clothes to stack and fly inside a large trunk. Robes hang magically suspended in the air next to him and the floor is littered with old Hogwarts textbooks that had, evidently, been cleared from the trunk to make space.
Malfoy spares Harry a brief glance but his magic never wavers. Harry's wand always works well for him.
Harry lets his eyes drift around the rest of the room. Most of the clothes rose from a small dresser beside the bed—he suspects its interior has been expanded, given the volume coming out of it. Malfoy appears to have an order with which the clothes are being tucked in the trunk, as some are placed on the bed and gathered before joining the rest. However, Malfoy's current clothing group makes Harry blink in shock.
"Er, Malfoy? Why do you have knickers?"
The magic finally falters when Malfoy whips his head around to Harry, but he hurriedly collects it before answering.
"Excuse me? I do not have knickers, Potter. What are you implying?"
"Those are knickers," Harry says, gesturing to what were obviously neatly folded girl's underwear on the bed.
"No, those are traditional wizarding pants, you muggle-raised moron," Malfoy says, sounding weary.
Harry delicately picks up a pair, ignoring Malfoy's indignant protest. "These are silk and they have lace trim, Malfoy. And look how short they are! I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that makes them knickers."
"I agree—that you're not an expert, that is." Malfoy snatches the pair of lacy knickers from Harry's hand, glaring. Then he seems to realize something, giving Harry a calculating look. "If you aren’t wearing proper undergarments, then what are you wearing under your robes? Are you baring bold? Like some ninety-year-old? That's a tad too traditional, Potter, and rather audacious of you."
"I'm wearing pants, you twat. Normal, everyday pants, not anything like this girly string thing," Harry scoffs, hooking a finger around another pair of charcoal not-pants. Yet, as he does, he vaguely recalls being, embarrassingly, handed a pair of knickers in the Twilfit & Tattings's fitting room when he'd been trying on robes. He ignores the memory and says, "Ron and Neville never wore pants like this and they grew up in the wizarding world."
Malfoy snorts at that, shaking his head. "A little odd, don't you think, that you remember your friends' underthings? Anyway, let me remind you that at Hogwarts we were underage."
Harry stares, waiting for him to continue. Instead, Malfoy sniffs and returns to packing his trunk, as if his last statement should be explanation enough. Harry sighs in frustration and prompts, "And? What does being underage have to do with it?"
"It's improper, Potter," Malfoy says, mockingly mimicking his sigh back at him. Then, strangely, Malfoy blushes, which he immediately tries to cover by turning his back to Harry. "I mean, obviously the older students are, um, active at Hogwarts, but parents do not want to think of their beloved sons or daughters, you know, getting up to it."
Harry cocks his head to one side, even more confused. "What?"
"Oh for Merlin's sake!" Malfoy barks, and the quick glare he sends Harry shows him having a redder face than before. "There is a certain air of—" he fumbles for a word, "sexuality that comes with wearing adult pants!"
Yelping, Harry flings the charcoal pair back on the bed as understanding dawns.
"What?" he squeaks. "Malfoy, you, in those, you mean—"
"God, Potter! Just get out and stop gawking at my pants, you complete cretin!"
Harry's more than willing to flee the room. The last thing he hears is Malfoy's insulted, "What'd you think I wore? My Martin Miggs tighty whities? I'm not twelve!" before the door magically slams shut behind him.
Malfoy takes his time gathering up the rest of his things. Harry doesn't care, too busy spending the next hour trying to think of something other than those lacy silk knickers (he refuses to call them "pants," no matter that they had had an extra bit of fabric where there shouldn't be an extra bit of fabric on panties). Rebelliously, his mind recalls every minute detail, down to the design in the lace—then, more horrifyingly, it begins to ponder what Malfoy'd look like wearing them. To his consternation, no amount of head shaking or squeezing can clear Harry of the thoughts.
When Malfoy finally leaves the bedroom, all it takes is one exchanged glance and Harry's face catches fire. He pointedly avoids Malfoy's eyes, clearing his throat and gesturing to the door at the top of the stairs.
"Need anything from there?" he asks.
"…no. That is—was my mother's room," Malfoy answers after a breath.
"Oh," Harry says awkwardly. "Um, sorry."
It's Malfoy's turn to clear his throat. "Yes, well. I have what I need, so… Aren't you late for your Weasley Sunday custom?"
"Oh. Yeah." Harry holds out his hand. "Let me apparate us, so I can just drop you off and keep going."
"Don't forget to grab the leftovers before you leave," Malfoy says, handing over the wand and then taking Harry's arm with only a brief hesitation, his other hand holding the handle of his trunk.
Harry had forgotten about the leftovers in his not-thinking of Malfoy's man-body in lace, but he nods and says anyway, "Yeah, yeah. I know," and apparates them back to his flat before Malfoy can respond.
"Ugh," Ron groans, dropping onto the backdoor step beside Harry. "What was with Bill today? Isn't he too old to play that hard? It's too cold to be pulling moves like that anyway."
Harry grins and accepts the cup of warm tea handed his way. "He's not that old and he's fit. Besides," Harry shrugs, "after Auror training, a rough game of quidditch shouldn't do you in."
"I landed on my arse more today than I ever do in Auror training," Ron snorts. He leans back against the door frame and shivers. "At least it kept us warm. Let's go inside yeah? It's too cold out here, especially when I'm all sweaty. And I want some more of that cake you brought. You sure you didn't buy it somewhere?"
"No, it's, uh, it's homemade," Harry says with a forced laugh, quickly taking another sip of water to avoid having to say more. He burns his mouth and sputters.
Ron pats him on the back distractedly, giving a knowledgeable nod. "Nothing ever tastes as good as homemade. You should make some more of it. That cheesy casserole, too. When'd you find the time to practice cooking? I'm always knackered after training."
"Oh, you know. Weekends."
"You're pretty good at it. If you get washed out of the Aurors, I guess you could always be a chef," Ron says, chuckling. Then he appears thoughtful. "It's strange. You were only ever good a potions because you had Snape's book."
"Potions require specific, meticulous steps and absolute precision. Cooking is a fate of ambiguity," Harry says without really thinking. He blinks. "Er."
Ron pulls a face. "I didn't think you liked potions that much."
Harry shakes his head. "I don't really. I was just repeating what someone told me."
"I'd rather have the deliciousness of ambiguity, personally. Anyway, I figure you're baking so well 'cause Mum left notes like the Prince—er, Snape," Ron jokes, elbowing Harry's side with a grin. He then shoves off the step to his feet. "Come on. I'm so sweaty my pants are gonna to freeze to my bollocks out here."
"That's… attractive," Harry says sarcastically, rising to his feet, too.
Ron shrugs. "It is what it is."
"Hey, about that," Harry starts, and he's glad that he can blame the cold for his red cheeks. Maybe Ron won't notice if they get any redder. "Er, I mean, this is a strange question and all but, um, what kind of," Harry makes a vague motion at his lower body, "what kind of, um, pants do you, uh, wear?"
"Like boxers or briefs?" Ron asks with a frown. He shrugs again. "I've always been a boxers man myself."
"No, I mean," Harry pauses, searching for the right way to ask, "Er… What do they, um, look like?"
Ron's brow wrinkles. "Like… the color?"
"Not just that…" Harry says slowly. He shoves a hand in his pocket, the other gripping his mug, and shifts awkwardly on his feet, looking down to watch the dirt scrape under his shoe. "What I mean is, do they have, you know, stuff around the edges?"
"What, like ripples?"
Harry blinks. "Uh… ripples?"
"Yeah. You know, like this?" Ron undulates his hand in a wave-like motion.
Oh god, my best mate wears frilly pants! Harry thinks, horrified. He tries to keep the shock off his face but he's fairly certain that he's failing at it.
"But… um… what about, uh… has patterns… like lace… kinda…?" he stammers, voice trailing off at the end.
"You mean netting?" Ron blinks, appearing confused, and gives a stiff, slow shrug as if he's not quite sure how Harry expects him to answer. "I don't wear any with netting. I always found it itchy, but I know Charlie likes the briefs that have, um… inch and half netting? The kind with a thick band of it around the top."
A thick band of netting—lace—around the top edge.
Harry has to remind himself to breathe.
Dragon-taming, stud of a man with big bulging muscles and great white teeth that showed when he laughed his great booming laugh. Had girls swooning for him wherever he went. A man among men.
Charlie Weasley… wears lacy knickers!
"Oh," Harry finally manages meekly. "I see. This… Everyone in your family, er… They all wear, um," he struggles to remember what Malfoy had called them, "traditional wizard pants?"
"Oh Merlin, not my dad!" Ron says, eyes going wide. "He likes to be, you know," he gestures at his groin in the same manner Harry had, only much more frantically, "bold below. Nothing. Lets it all hang. Used to traumatize us when he'd get home from the Ministry and prop his feet up."
Harry winces. That was not a mental image he wanted in his head. At least Malfoy in knickers was a relatively pleasing thought.
"Why are you asking about it?" Ron asks. "Er, it's kind of weird, talking about my family's pants like this."
"Oh, well, um," Harry's cheeks reignite, "I've only recently heard about, er, traditional pants, is all."
"Then what've you been wearing? Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle tighty whities? Well, don't tell anyone I told you this, but Percy still has plain ol' boxers that he wears—I saw them in his dresser! Just plain blue ones, with no ripples or netting or design at all! Like he's a kid or something!"
Ron starts to laugh, but cuts off when Harry doesn't join in. "Did you hear me?"
Harry pretends to look in the distance. His pants, after all, were plain ol' boxer briefs. Mostly monochromatic, but a few that were plaid or striped—probably not the design Ron meant. He scuffs his foot on the ground again and suggests, "Er, maybe he has them for a reason?"
Ron makes a wildly disbelieving face. "Like what?" He scrunches his nose. "Merlin, I'd die if someone caught me in those. Can you imagine? What if the dark wizard you're chasing hexes your trousers off in front of everyone when you're wearing those? Or, Merlin," he shudders, "What if you were in the middle of, you know, and she found out you had kid's underwear on? That'd ruin the whole mood!"
At that possibility, Ron looks amazed and horrified at the same time. Harry's face probably has a similar expression but his is more due to him not wanting to think of Ron and Hermione you-know-ing.
"Maybe he's just keeping them because he doesn't like throwing things away," Harry mumbles.
"Ugh, probably. He's always badgering me about tossing old clothes. I bet he plans to make his son wear them!" Ron guffaws. Harry awkwardly laughs along with him but is relieved when he finally trails off into chuckles. He wipes his eyes as he composes himself, and then shivers again.
"C'mon," he says, waving an arm for Harry to follow him, "I'm freezing. And hungry. I want some more of that cake."
"Yeah, me too," Harry agrees, but his thoughts are on anything but food.
After all, it's not every day that one learns he's the only adult in wizarding Britain not wearing knickers.
Training is particularly hectic Monday afternoon, now that Harry's paranoid he'll lose his trousers and everyone will then know he wears "kid's pants." His fervor ends up sending more than one other trainee to the Ministry infirmary, Ron included. Apparently, spells rebounding off powerful defense charms were no laughing matter.
"Merlin's beard," Ron moans as he's being escorted away on a magical stretcher, "I still need my kidneys, 'arry, urgh."
"Fantastic, Potter! That's the sort of intensity you'll need in the field!" Auror Burdock gruffs, slapping a hand on Harry's shoulder. At Harry's current state of fatigue, it feels as though it's from Hagrid: hard and heavy and makes his knees tremble.
Thankfully, Auror Malon has a different opinion than Burdock. He frowns and says, "Go home early today, Harry. You're using too much magic in the charms and overextending yourself. It's becoming unsafe."
Harry merely nods, still too out of breath to respond. He's sweating far more than usual, what with the exertion being compiled with the nerves. His legs and arms feel like weights attached to his torso. If he stays any longer, he'll end up passing out and that would be as embarrassing as everyone seeing his pants.
Malfoy is relaxing comfortably on the couch—head propped against pillow and armrest, one knee bent with the other leg hooked over it, dangling foot bouncing as he reads a book—when Harry apparates home. He's wearing an old Cannons shirt and a pair of baggy sweatpants, both of which are Harry's.
"Why are you back already?" he asks, studying Harry curiously. "Are you ill? You look ill."
"Why are you still wearing my clothes?" Harry demands around gasps for air. The apparition had taken more out of him than he had wanted to give.
"Because I do not own loungewear and, of course, there is nothing else to do but lounge. I hardly want to wrinkle my good outfits," Malfoy sniffs. Then he frowns. "Seriously, Potter, you look like shit. What's wrong with you?"
"I'm fine," Harry mumbles and doesn't even bother to untie his shoes, just squeezes his feet out of them and kicks them aside, before trudging toward the bathroom.
An hour later, Harry flops face first onto his bed and groans into his pillow. He feels exhausted and it only gets worse the more time passes. Walking from bathroom to bedroom had felt like moving through a vat of molasses. Even his heart feels as though it's beating sluggishly. He'd spent most of his shower simply lying in the tub and letting the spray hit him. He hadn't even had the strength to charm the water warm when it went cold.
A weight tips the bed next to Harry.
"Roll over, blockhead," Malfoy sighs.
Harry just hums another groan, one that seems to come more from his chest than his throat.
"Come on, roll over," Malfoy says again, this time aided with a nudge at Harry's shoulder. "You've a fever, don't you? Overextended your magic, hmm? Guess it's to be expected from someone like you."
Harry summons the energy to roll onto his back. He tries to look insulted but can't quite get the muscles in his face to move right and gives up after a few seconds.
"I feel terrible," he croaks.
"Yes, yes, I'm sure you do. This is what you get for being an utter dunce and putting too much magic in your spells," Malfoy chides, but his soothing tone is at odds with the words, as is his touch when he softly places a cool cloth over Harry's still damp but burning forehead. He pushes away the wet strands of hair sticking to Harry's face and sighs again, shaking his head. "Just go to sleep, nitwit. Rest is the only thing that'll help."
Harry obediently closes his eyes, already barely awake when Malfoy gently runs a hand through his hair.
Harry wakes some time later. The room is dark, his hair is dry, but the damp cloth still rests on his forehead. A lasting charm to keep it cool and wet, he assumes. He struggles to sit up, not feeling as awful as before but not quite better yet. His movement causes something else on the bed to shift and he glances over to see a plate of chicken over rice with large pieces of steamed vegetables, all of it warmed and preserved under charms. A note in Malfoy's tiny, perfect script sits beside the plate:
Eat, even if you are not hungry.
Harry weakly pulls the plate closer and smiles a little, amused that Malfoy had expected and prepared for him to wake in the middle of the night. He waves off the charms and slowly begins eating, making sure to clean the whole plate even though it takes him a while. He rests a moment to let the food settle, leaning back against the wall and closing his eyes in a light doze, and then finally fumbles to his feet to get some water.
The lights from the city shine through the balcony door, illuminating the living room and most of the kitchen. Malfoy doesn't stir when Harry moves past the couch. Harry quietly sets the dirtied plate in the sink and grabs a glass from the cabinet.
As he turns on the tap, he studies Malfoy's sleeping form. The couch isn't as long as Malfoy is tall, so one foot hangs in danger of falling off entirely and the other is propped over the armrest. Likewise, there isn't enough width for Malfoy to stretch out; instead, his arms are tucked in tight, his wrists crossed over his chest, one hand slack, one hand fisted in the blanket he's wrapped in.
It looks like a very cramped way to sleep.
Harry sets the glass in the sink once he's finished drinking and tiptoes back to bed, placing the damp cloth on his head and easily falling asleep once more.
Tuesday isn't as bad as Harry envisions. As expected, he's more tired than normal but, having gone his entire life without having his trousers hexed off, he convinces himself not to worry about anyone seeing his pants. Or maybe he's just too tired to worry.
Malfoy had woken early to prepare his lunch, stuffing his bag with special strength-gaining foods—not that he realizes this until Hermione mentions it.
"I heard about yesterday, that you strained your magic," she says around a bite of biscuit Harry had offered her (he suspects Malfoy'd sent him with the tin to make room in one of the leftovers cupboards). "Did you get enough rest? That's the best cure for strain, but strength foods like these help, too, of course." She'd given him a curious look. "How'd you know what to pack?"
"Manuals. You know, from the Health course Ron and I had to take," Harry lies. He's beginning to feel guilty over lying to his friends all the time. He needs to tell them about Malfoy, but hasn't found the right moment yet. They'll be angry when they learn Malfoy's stayed with him for almost four months now.
Despite plenty of rest and food, Harry staggers his way through afternoon practicals and ends up being sent home early again. To get even more rest, he's told.
"We expect you back on the broom tomorrow, Potter. And if this happens anymore we'll suspect you're doing it on purpose, just to be lazy," Auror Burdock admonishes, but then he gives Harry a conspiratorial wink and another smack to the back. Harry rubs his sore shoulder and concludes that Burdock and Hagrid could go head to head in an arm wrestling match.
This time when he apparates to his flat, Malfoy isn't reading on the couch. Rather, a thump sounds from the bedroom and Malfoy appears through the door a second later, flustered and once more wearing Harry's clothes.
"You're back early again," he says quickly before Harry can speak, and he uses Harry's pause to compose himself with the usual sneer. "Don't tell me you overexerted yourself today as well."
Harry shrugs, not wanting to put out the effort required to become offended, though honestly their bickering matches these days don't hold even half the steam that their teenage brawls did. Not even close. Instead, when his stomach growls as he bends to remove his shoes, he simply asks, "Hey, can we eat early today? I ate everything at lunch but I'm still hungry."
"Absolutely not. Dinner will be at seven like always," Malfoy snaps, but his tone lacks any real bite. He even walks into the kitchen after a moment and pulls out some cheese and crackers, cutting the cheese into neat squares and placing them around a small platter with the crackers.
"Here," he says, setting the platter on the half-wall between them. "This should be good enough to hold you over until dinnertime, you bottomless buffoon."
Harry takes the offered snack with a small grin—Malfoy certainly had a mothering streak, all tacked-on insults aside. Harry assembles a piece, biting into it as he pads to the bathroom. "Thanks. I'm going to take a shower."
"You are not eating in the bath!" Malfoy gasps.
"I'm eating in the bath," Harry confirms and closes the door on the immediate protests. It does little to muffle Malfoy's indignant squawks; Harry chuckles around another bite of cheese.
The platter is placed on the counter beside the bath for easy reaching and Harry tosses his sweaty robes in a pile by the door. The hot water feels amazing against his magic-sprained joints. He'd been too out of it to enjoy the soothing feeling the previous afternoon. He moves through the usual washing, almost grabbing Malfoy's shampoo by mistake, and then leans against the shower wall with a relaxed sigh.
The anxiety over his underwear situation seems ridiculous now. So what if his pants were considered childish by wizards? At least they didn't look like knickers, with lace and frills and bows, like little Spank Me pants. Besides, how often did one's britches drop in public? Plus, he could always get fitted for wizard's pants on Saturday. Problem solved.
He scoffs when he thinks of Malfoy wearing the lacy pair. Netting, Ron had called it. Did witches follow the same rules? Ginny had had frilly knickers on, that one time Harry'd let his hand wander up her skirt while they were snogging, but that had been back at school. Maybe witches' panties got plainer when they reached age.
Harry closes his eyes and remembers Ginny right after the war. She'd cut her hair boyishly short then. It had looked good on her—beautiful even, the short red strands making her face a stronger square. She'd hated it, he recalls, but he'd liked her like that, especially when they'd been fighting over the snitch during those first Sunday afternoons at The Burrow, before she'd had to go back to Hogwarts for her seventh year.
Harry inches his hand down to stroke himself. Ginny on her broom, batting at the snitch and laughing with him, is one of his favorite fantasies. Malfoy's presence limited how often he felt he could get away with it but surely a good wank would help relax his tired body just as much as rest and food could.
He closes his eyes and imagines the short-haired Ginny pushing him against the shed outside The Burrow, snogging him like she is starved for it, her strong hands opening his trousers, the both of them covered in sweat from flying all afternoon, the sun just starting to set on the horizon…
"Fuck," he mutters, his fist moving faster over his cock as fantasy Ginny rips open his robes and kisses her way down his chest until her mouth joins her hands. Actually, it could be anyone blowing him. If he wanted to take the time to picture Ginny, he could, but taking time was generally counterproductive to the point, and he didn't have any memories to use since he'd done little more than some inappropriate touching with Ginny.
So he thinks of a warm mouth, any warm mouth, kissing, licking, sucking, and imagines what that would feel like. He thinks of Ginny's hands, strong and pumping him with a good grip, long fingers wrapping around him and squeezing that perfect pressure that was neither too painful nor too gentle.
It doesn't take long. With a shudder and a shaky sigh, he comes into his fist.
After a moment, after his heartbeat slows to normal, he opens his eyes and looks down at his hand, frowning. It hadn't been unpleasant, obviously, but something hadn't felt right. He lifts his hand under the shower spray, watching the water wash away the glob of semen. He keeps his hand there, staring at it curiously, until he realizes the problem.
Ginny doesn't have strong hands anymore.
He wonders if she ever did.
"So if you've been wearing my clothes all this time," Harry asks after dinner, "then how come you never noticed that I, er, don't have any traditional pants?"
Malfoy shoots Harry an exasperated look, answering, "I suppose I thought that you kept them elsewhere, your lack of a proper wardrobe notwithstanding."
"Yeah, I know," Harry sighs. "I need a dresser."
"Indeed. You cannot keep with this pile thing forever. It's shameful that you've left it like that as long as you have. Now shut it and go to bed."
"I'm not tired," Harry whines, though that's a lie. Despite the early hour, he feels plenty tired. Exhaustion, it seems, creeping up again.
"Yes you are," Malfoy says with a disbelieving scoff. He shoves Harry toward the bedroom. "I'll take care of the dishes. You'll be asleep before you know it. Now go."
"Yes, Mum," Harry grumbles; then he smirks at Malfoy. "You seem awfully concerned about my welfare."
"Nonsense," Malfoy denies, but his cheeks pink. "You are simply no use to me with your magic drained."
Harry laughs but drops the topic, trudging to his bedroom as ordered. He strips down to his (plain) pants and crawls into his bed with eyes that already feel heavy. There are all sorts of sounds coming from the kitchen, with Malfoy cleaning up after dinner, but he immediately starts to nod off in spite of the noise. His last thought just before falling asleep is that his pillow smells like Malfoy's shampoo.
Wednesday morning, Harry can't find his wand.
He wakes to the magical beep of his clock and stumbles through the morning activities of relieving his bladder, dressing for training, and teeth-brushing. He goes to the kitchen to make lunch but finds that Malfoy's made it for him again, this time adding a tub of iced cupcakes that he guesses he's meant to share like the biscuits. He puts on his shoes, gathers up lunch, and reaches into his pocket for his wand in order to apparate.
Only it's not there.
He sets the lunch and cupcake tub on the half-wall and rechecks every pocket. Not finding it, he huffs and begins looking around his flat, checking the bedroom, bathroom, dining table, kitchen—no wand. Then he remembers: Malfoy had been using it to clean up after dinner.
His eyes snap to the sleeping figure on the couch. Malfoy lies on his side, his face tucked into the corner between seat and back. Harry tiptoes closer, bracing one hand on the couch back to lean over Malfoy.
There it is.
Malfoy's wrists are crossed again, squished between his body and the couch, and in one hand is Harry's holly wand.
"Er, Malfoy?" Harry whispers. When that doesn't evoke a response, he moves his hand down to gently shake Malfoy's shoulder. "Hey, Malfoy?"
Malfoy moans and buries his face deeper into the cushion, mumbling something that sounds like, "Runchen kishen."
Harry blinks slowly. He shakes the shoulder again. "Malfoy, I need my wand."
"Yourunch ishin kishen," Malfoy grumbles, lifting his free hand to sleepily push away Harry's own.
"Thank you, I got my lunch," Harry chuckles, "but I need my wand."
"Wand?" Malfoy asks, but it's more a grunted noise than actual formed word.
"Yep, wand," Harry confirms. He squeezes his hand between Malfoy and couch to tap the fist that holds the wand hostage. "Right there. Can I have my wand? Only I'm going to be late, you see."
Malfoy finally relinquishes the wand, only giving Harry a quick opportunity to grab it and then he's snuggling deeper into the couch. Harry smiles and, before he realizes what he's doing, reaches down to fondly brush a few stray locks from Malfoy's face, tucking them behind an ear. He draws back slightly, startled by his own action. Malfoy doesn't even notice, already back in dreamland.
On Thursday, Harry wakes up late—or, rather, he wakes up on time, but turns off his alarm and falls right back asleep. When he wakes again it's to a mild heart attack upon seeing the time and he throws back his bedspread so forcefully in his race to get up that it and sheet both land on the floor. He doesn't stop to pick them up.
He's so quick to leave as soon as he's brushed his teeth that he forgets his three foot essay over cursed artifacts; it's due at the end of lessons. He ultimately remembers it halfway through the morning.
"Gotta go!" he shouts at a puzzled Ron as he sprints toward the lifts the second they're given their morning break. He has ten minutes to get to the apparition cubicles, apparate home, grab the essay, apparate back to the Ministry, and be back in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement lecture room before lessons resume.
To his luck, the apparition cubicles are mostly open, the hour for hoards of Ministry workers pouring in long past. Harry takes the first one and disapparates before the door even closes.
His flat is oddly quiet when he pops into it but he doesn't much notice since he's too focused on hurrying over to the table and rolling up the parchment that contains his essay. In his haste, he knocks over an inkwell, spilling a large black blot across his writing.
"Fuck!" he growls, quickly siphoning off as much of the ink as he can.
A rustling from his bedroom makes him freeze and he finally becomes aware of the fact that Malfoy isn't on the couch, or in the kitchen or bathroom. The angle between dining nook and bedroom doorway doesn't allow for much sight, but he leans forward a bit to see the foot of his bed—which is covered by the blanket that should still be on the floor and has a definite lump in it.
Carefully rolling up the rest of the parchment, Harry quietly steps into the bedroom, eyes following the human lump under the bedspread to the head of the bed. Blond hair is all Harry can see of Malfoy, sticking out at the top and spreading over the pillow. It reminds him of the first morning after Malfoy'd stayed.
So, Malfoy is sneaking into his bed while he's gone, Harry muses with a quiet chuckle, watching as Malfoy sniffles and snuggles deeper into his pillow.
He catches himself with a jolt, remembering why he had come back to his flat in the first place, and hurriedly backs out of the room to complete his essay mission.
Another mission is already forming in his mind.
"What are you doing?"
Harry frowns at his now lop-sided bed, and then embarrassedly glances back at Malfoy, who stands in the bedroom doorway with folded arms.
"Er, I was trying to widen the bed."
Malfoy scoffs, eyeing Harry's shoddy transfiguration work. "Why? Not big enough for your ego anymore?"
"Actually, I was thinking it wasn't big enough for yours," Harry mutters back. Maybe his idea of sharing the bed isn't such a good one after all. The couch couldn't be that bad.
Malfoy, however, appears genuinely startled. "What?"
Harry blushes and turns back to the mis-transfigured bed. "You don't still want the couch, do you?"
"I already know you come in here when I leave."
Malfoy's face flushes red to match Harry's but Harry ignores him and gives another try at fixing the bed. For a split second, he thinks the spell has worked, but then the bed groans and a spring pops through the mattress, ripping through the bottom sheet and bouncing from released tension.
A spring—his mattress isn't even supposed to have springs.
"Here, let me do it," Malfoy says, tone too calm. The expression he wears is carefully neutral. For the first time in a long time Harry finds him unreadable.
He resists halfheartedly before relinquishing the wand, and only because he thinks he ought to put up a fight. It should to bother him, part of his magic being in the hands of someone else—being in the hands of Malfoy—so very frequently but it doesn't. Not a bit.
"Go… wash your face or… something," Malfoy says with a dismissive wave and turns to the bed, flourishing Harry's wand in a way that is reminiscent of Professor Flitwick.
Harry rolls his eyes but leaves Malfoy to face the bed alone. He takes his time brushing his teeth in order to compose himself, knowing it's going to be a weird night with Malfoy sleeping beside him rather than in another room. He hopes Malfoy isn't a kicker.
When he finally exits the bathroom, the rest of the flat is dark and he lets out a tensed breath, feeling a tiny bit of relief that no awkward conversations about sleeping arrangements will commence. Instead, Malfoy is already on the far side of a much larger bed (not at all lopsided, no springs), facing the wall. Harry's wand rests on his pillow.
He hesitates, and then pulls back the bedspread to slide between the sheets. A small glance over shows that Malfoy's shoulders are stiff. Neither of them, it seems, will manage to get any proper sleep tonight.
Lying on his back, Harry stares at the ceiling for a while, feeling suffocated in the heavy silence. When it becomes too much, he mumbles, "Nice work."
"Of course," is Malfoy's quiet but pretentious response.
An extra pillow peculiarly rests between them and Harry eyes it before continuing, "What I mean is, I'm surprised how well my wand works for you. Even that first time with the kitchen you didn't have any trouble."
The quiet stretches long enough that Harry wonders if he's being ignored, but then Malfoy murmurs, "When I use it, it feels… friendly."
"Wha—?" Harry chokes and sits up so quickly that it startles Malfoy into doing the same. "What did you—"
"Forget it!" Malfoy interrupts, and even in the dark his blush is obvious. He hurriedly lies back down, tugging the blanket up to his shoulders and hunching away from Harry. "Just— Shut it already! Go to sleep! Don't you have training tomorrow? God."
Harry gapes at Malfoy, shocked at hearing his own thoughts on Malfoy's hawthorn wand being echoed back at him. Eventually he shifts down onto his back again and returns to blinking at the ceiling. The pillow between them has fallen flat so that it now rests as an annoying lump taking up too much space. He grabs it, meaning to toss it elsewhere.
"Leave that where it is!" Malfoy barks, back still to Harry.
"Because I do not wish to wake in the morning with you cuddling up to me like the needy kitten you are."
Harry scoffs but shoves the pillow in place. "I'm not going to cuddle with you, but if you feel it will protect your—wait." He abruptly recalls the way Malfoy always seems to curl around blankets and pillows when sleeping, always with the half-awake snuggling deeper into the cushion. "Are you— Malfoy. Are you a closet cuddler?"
Malfoy sits up with alarming speed and twists to glare down at Harry.
"I am nothing of the sort," he growls darkly, and then gives another purposeful tug of the blankets as he flops back into his original position.
Harry snorts in disbelief. "If you want to lie to yourself, go ahead, but don't spoon me, all right?"
Malfoy's threatening rumble makes Harry grin as he too rolls onto his side to face the other wall.
Oddly enough, he falls asleep within minutes.
The hour before sunrise on Friday finds Harry awaking early to the warm feeling of something pressed against his side. He stiffens, panicking, until he remembers the previous night's arrangements. Groggily opening his eyes, he carefully shifts so that he can look at the other person in his bed. Malfoy had rolled to face him and is now tightly wound around the no-cuddling-pillow, one hand reaching over it to clench Harry's bicep. His legs are bent so that his shins press against Harry's leg and one ankle hooks over Harry's own. He's buried his face between the pillow and the mattress.
Not a cuddler, right, Harry thinks with a quiet chuckle, turning off his alarm before it can chirp.
He has to pry his arm from Malfoy's fingers.
"Harry, I— Can we talk?"
Harry blinks at Hermione's hand on his sleeve and then lifts his eyes to hers, confused. "Uh, right now?"
"No, no, of course not. You have training," she says, letting go of his sleeve so that he can face her. "What I mean is, perhaps I could come by your flat later? Tonight even."
"My flat, tonight? No, you can't!" Harry quickly shakes his head. Then, realizing that he's probably being too adamant about it when Hermione's eyebrows shoot up under her bangs, he hurriedly adds, "Er, that is, tonight's not a good night. I'm, um, still feeling tired from what happened on Monday. I thought I'd go to bed early, you know?"
"Oh, right, of course," Hermione says, deflating. "You need your rest."
"What did you want to talk about?" Harry asks, but at that moment Ron, having realized they were no longer following him, sticks his head through the door and shouts, "Oi! Let's go already! We've only got two minutes!"
Hermione gasps and pushes Harry toward the door. As they part ways on the other side, she whispers to him, "I'll come by tomorrow morning, okay? It's important," and doesn't give him time to answer before briskly walking in the opposite direction.
"Hermione's coming over tomorrow!" Harry shouts the second he apparates home.
Malfoy leans over the half-wall, spatula in hand.
"Okay…" he says slowly. "Is that your way of demanding a lunch for three tomorrow?"
"She's coming the morning actually, but no—that's not—" Harry shakes his head. "I've just never told her or Ron that, um…"
"That I'm staying here," Malfoy finishes. His mouth forms a tight-lipped line at Harry's embarrassed nod and all he says is a crisp, "I see," before drawing back into the kitchen.
"Wait— Malfoy— That's—"
Harry hastily kicks off his shoes and strides around the wall to the kitchen. Malfoy disregards him and continues to stir the spaghetti sauce on the stove. He glares when Harry moves beside him, standing shoulder-to shoulder.
"Of course, I understand how you'd be ashamed to house a Death Eater," Malfoy starts.
"I'm not ashamed," Harry denies, interrupting in the firm voice he used during practice interrogations. One sharp look from Malfoy and he returns to stammering. "I just— I tried to tell them once but they started arguing and I just never, uh, remembered after that."
"How terribly forgetful of you." Malfoy elbows him painfully in the side. "Back off. I can't cook with you hovering."
"Wait— Listen, I—"
"Go shower. Then we can have dinner and discuss when you'd like to send me back to seclusion."
Frustrated at being ignored, Harry grabs Malfoy's wrist, making him gasp, and yanks away the spatula, carelessly tossing it on the stove and splattering sauce everywhere.
"Draco, just—stop and listen to me!"
Malfoy's eyes widen, huge and round and making him look ridiculously innocent with his startled expression, but Harry isn't sure if the shock is due to his actions or because he'd used Malfoy's first name. He doesn't care either way and just plows on.
"I am not ashamed of you or about helping you," he says, moving forward and forcing Malfoy back against the counter and pinning him there. "I'd do it over again, exactly the same, because no one deserves that kind of treatment. No one. I'm glad I helped you and I'm glad you're here."
Malfoy licks his lips to wet them, a nervous gesture, and asks, voice low and trembling, "Then why haven't you told anyone other than my aunt?"
"Because—" Harry falters, blushing when he realizes the answer. He abruptly lets go of Malfoy's wrist and steps away. "Because, I don't know. Well. I mean. You're my secret right now and uh, I guess I didn't feel much like sharing, okay?"
"…Oh," Malfoy says after a moment, rubbing his abused wrist. He studies Harry, expression still somehow innocent but now confused as well, and then adds, "That's awfully selfish."
Harry lets out a tense laugh, rubbing at his neck as a nervous gesture. "Yeah? You think so? Well, I've rarely had anything to myself so I suppose you'll just have to forgive me this." His brow wrinkles. "I didn't… I'm sorry, I shouldn't'uv… Is your hand okay?"
"Please," Malfoy says dryly, poise finally returning. He retrieves the spatula and lowers the fire under the bubbling sauce. "Not only are you weaker than my Great Aunt Metella, but I am quite accustomed to your unstable emotions and manhandling by now."
Harry frowns and gently touches his elbow. "Hey, I mean it. I'm sorry for grabbing you like that. And I'm sorry for not—"
"Oh, Potter, stop talking to me in that boyfriend voice," Malfoy sighs, smiling a bit at Harry's startled laugh. "I'm fine. I don't see you apologizing for that time you punched me in fifth year."
Harry grins a little. "You deserved that."
"Or that time your friends turned me into a slug."
"That one, too."
"Or in sixth year when you nearly cut me to pieces in the girl's loo."
The grin falls like a sheet of ice.
"You didn't deserve that one," Harry says softly. "Malfoy, I—"
Malfoy turns the burner off entirely and faces Harry.
"What was it that you were preaching that one time?" he asks. "The war is over? We need to move on and all that rot? Besides," he affects a dreamy expression, "I vividly remember the pleasant sound of your nose crunching under my shoe, hmm…"
Harry tries to glare but ends up smiling, shaking his head.
"Anyway," Malfoy continues, eyes returning to Harry, "the point is, what's done is done. If you are so worried about attacking me like a baboon every time I intentionally rile you, then take some anger managements classes. In the meantime, go bathe already. We'll discuss Granger's impromptu and unwanted visit later."
Then, before he turns to finish their dinner, Malfoy reaches out and gives Harry's hand a brief, light squeeze.
For some reason, Harry finds the small gesture comforting.
Hermione arrives precisely at eleven o' clock Saturday morning, just as the owl she'd sent two hours beforehand said she would. Malfoy had donned some of Harry's muggle clothes and disappeared thirty minutes earlier, presumably gone to the nearby park for a few hours. He'd claimed that it was something he'd taken to doing during the week anyway and that he could easily spend time watching "those weird muggles on the little boards with wheels."
"Potter, it's fascinating, the jumps and twists they can do, almost like they've their feet on brooms," he'd said. Then he had shrugged and sighed. "Pity, though, that they all look like potions junkies. Not the sort you'd want to know personally, mind you. Some look barely old enough to be at Hogwarts and already little ruffians. Muggles, honestly. What are they teaching their children?"
"Did you just say 'ruffian'?' Harry had asked, laughing.
Malfoy had purposefully trod on his foot in retaliation.
"You want some water? I've got biscuits and cake too, if you want any," Harry says to Hermione after inviting her inside. "There're brownies, but I don't really want to share those, but if you really want one…"
"Turned out well, did they?" Hermione teases, exchanging a grin with him, but the good cheer lessens and she puts on her serious face. "No, no, I'm not thirsty. Harry—" she grabs his arm and takes a deep breath. "We need to talk."
"Is something the matter?" Harry asks, suddenly very worried. He hadn't been paying much attention to Ron and Hermione as of late, his thoughts mostly occupied by Malfoy, so maybe he'd missed something. Were they fighting? Really fighting? Is that why she wanted to talk to him secretly?
Hermione takes a seat on the couch and pats the space next to her, waiting until Harry sits down to continue.
"Harry," she says firmly, "I've been meaning to talk to you about this since that night we went to Gliding Golden Hooves. It's been so hard to find the right moment, but I've decided it just needs to be said. You and Ginny…" she sighs, "I don't think it's going to work."
Harry blinks, face scrunched in confusion. "Is this about that boob thing? Because she just never had those before."
"Yes, because she grew up," Hermione says exasperatedly.
"Because she—!" Harry stares agape at her, insulted and hurt at the same time. "So you think I'm some kind of pervert that only likes little girls?"
"No!" Hermione yelps, blushing wildly. "No, that's not what I meant at all. What I meant was… Oh, Harry," she takes one of his hands in hers and squeezes it comfortingly—which only confuses him more, "Not a pervert, just that maybe you—how to say it—maybe breasts aren't your thing?"
"Not all guys like giant tits," Harry says flatly. She quickly releases his hand to cover her glowing face, clearly mortified by the direction of the conversation, but Harry's rather embarrassed about the topic himself so he can't summon the ability to feel any sympathy for her. "It's not that weird to like small ones, and it doesn't make me a pervert that ogles little girls."
"I know! I never said— Merlin!" she huffs, exasperated. She drops her hands and looks at him with determination. "I was trying to say that, well, maybe girls aren't what you're interested in."
Harry stares at her.
To her credit, she only shifts uncomfortably after the silence stretches for more than a minute. Then she caves and asks, "Do you understand what I'm—"
"Yes, I got it. You're saying you think I like… men?" At her frantic nod, he laughs and shakes his head. "I don't think I like men, 'Mione."
"Yes, well, isn't that you say 'I don't think I like men' a bit telling in of itself?" she asks back, stammering only slightly.
Harry rolls his eyes and opens his mouth to tell her not to dispute semantics, but for some reason hesitates.
"I mean, Cho and Ginny were both tomboys," Hermione hurries on, sounding more confident at Harry's lack of an answer. "Not that straight men can't be attracted to tomboys, but you stopped liking Cho when she started, well, acting like a girl, and you don't really like it when Ginny does the same. I mean, Ginny told me that you give her weird looks when she tries to flirt with you, and every other man at the Gliding Golden Hooves couldn't keep his eyes off her, except of course Ron, but you didn't even want to look at her. Plus, you always notice details when it comes to men but you never notice much beyond the obvious when it comes to girls, if that makes any sense. It's like you—"
"Yes, Hermione, I get what you're saying. You can stop now," Harry breathes. He'd meant to argue with her, to tell her that she's reading too much into it, but it's like a door has opened and now he can't shut it again. "I guess… I guess I never thought of it as a possibility. "
"Well," she says, "maybe you should try giving it some thought?"
"You want me to like guys?" Harry asks. "What about Ginny?"
"It doesn't matter to me who you like," Hermione laughs weakly. She takes his hand again. "I only want you to be happy and I know Ginny only wants you to be happy, which you wouldn't be, neither of you, if you try to force yourself to be with her. Harry, I know you often feel like you have to do what everyone expects, but we'll all love you no matter what, even if you don't take Ginny as your rescued damsel. You can live happily ever after with someone that isn't her, man or woman. You should do what feels right, okay?"
"I've never thought about it," he repeats, quieter.
She smiles sympathetically, patting his hand lightly.
"I know. You've always been a bit obtuse."
Malfoy drops his fork and knife onto his plate with a loud clatter, startling Harry.
"Okay, what is it?" he demands. "You've been silent and broody all afternoon and evening and it's making me mental! So—what? What did Granger want to talk about? What did she say?"
Harry blushes and avoids looking at him. "Nothing. It's… nothing."
"Did she finally confess her love? Wants to get it on with you behind the Weasel's back, doesn't she?" Malfoy mocks, swinging both hands out dramatically. Then he brings them both in to his chest with a theatrical gasp. "She wants a threesome! That little tart! All this time, acting like such a prude when really she's been aching for two thick—"
"She doesn't want a— threesome, you—you, ugh!" Harry presses the heels of his hands to his eyes with the hope of scrubbing away the image his mind had felt the need to supply.
"Been there, done that then?" Malfoy continues with a smirk. "You three were in the wind together that entire school year. What's a little stress relief between friends, hmm? And you in your boy pants. How embarrassing it must be for you now."
Harry covers his ears, half whimpering, half groaning. "That's just—stop it Malfoy! Just stop talking!"
"It's a bit late to act shy. Don't worry. I'm sure your Wizened Wizard William briefs will attract you an older, parental type, which you seem to crave. Only, make sure it's hidden from the rest of us, because those father-son sex games are a bit much for society to handle."
"You'd know all about that," Harry throws back. "What was it you and your daddy got up to when you're wearing those bow-tie knickers, hmm? The ones with the tiny red ribbons? I bet that's the only time Lucius ever spanked you."
"One, they are not knickers, for the last time," Malfoy snaps. "Two, my father was too busy to play any game with me—"
Harry's chest tightens at Malfoy's tone—no inflection, stoic, calm. As if it were natural for parents to ignore their children.
"—and three: stop ogling my pants, pervert. I bet you even know what pair I'm wearing now."
The momentary empathy flees and Harry blushes again, his green beans meeting a viciously stabbed fate.
"No," he mumbles, "I don't."
"Right, if you say so," Malfoy says dryly, rolling his eyes—the habit stolen from Harry but refined to be more obnoxious.
Harry pointedly begins eating again, indicating that the conversation is over. Malfoy pouts irritably, but drops the argument, much to Harry's relief.
Relief, that is, because Harry does know which pants Malfoy currently has on—that first lacy pair from the cabin. In his defense, he hadn't been trying to see Malfoy's man-knickers. It wasn't his fault Malfoyhad bent over right in front of him, still wearing the muggle jeans that hung just low enough to expose to top edge of the lace. Harry hadn't ever considered himself a panties-perv, but that slim bit of lace had been enough to make his mouth water.
Give it some thought, Hermione had suggested.
Harry jerks his head up and studies Malfoy closely.
Noticing, Malfoy stops eating and frowns, asking, "What? Did I get some on my face?" and immediately dabs with a napkin. When Harry doesn't stop looking at him, he quickly covers his mouth with a hand, eyes widening. "Is there spinach in my teeth?"
Harry barks out a laugh, but tries to cover it with a casual chuckle. He throws his own napkin on his unfinished dinner and pushes away from the table.
Sometimes, Malfoy could be so… cute.
"Relax. You don't have any spinach in your perfect teeth," Harry says as he rises, and Malfoy looks confused but sincerely pleased by the compliment, straightening in his chair a little proudly. Taking a small breath, Harry adds thoughtfully, "I'm going to take a shower."
Malfoy glares. "And leave me to do all the dishes!"
Harry rolls his eyes the proper dramatic way and tosses his wand on the table, hoping that his hand isn't as obviously quivering as he feels it is. "There you go. Thanks for dinner. It was a delicious."
"Of course it is, not that you've eaten any of it. Leaving good food on your plate like that, pushing it around the entire time like it's some greasy pub dish, shameful," Malfoy sniffs. Then, just before Harry steps away, "Wait! You never told me what Granger wanted!"
Rather than answering, Harry darts into the bathroom and closes and locks the door. Malfoy shouts after him but verbal chase is all he gives. Still, Harry doesn't budge until there's a clanking in the kitchen of dishes being washed.
He strips quickly and moves to the tub, his heart thudding in his chest. Hermione probably hadn't meant for him to give it some thought while tossing off, but he may as well jump in cock first. Besides, he hadn't been this nervously excited about a wank since he'd hit puberty.
He starts the water and then leans against the tiled shower wall, taking in a shakily deep breath and closing his eyes as he releases it. He suspects Hermione might truly be onto something because already his cock is showing a good deal of interest at the promise of, god, Malfoy wearing those fucking lacy knickers.
He can easily see it. Malfoy would walk slowly toward him, would unbutton the shirt along the way but let him be the one to push it off, let him run his hands over smooth collar bone and shoulders, down long arms until the shirt fell away completely. The jeans would sag on Malfoy's narrower hips, and there it'd be, just like Harry had seen: the edge of the lace sticking out the top. He'd grab Malfoy's waist and tug until they were standing toe to toe, would just hold and watch as Malfoy unclasped the jeans and let them drop. Then Malfoy would step out of them and closer to him, strong pale hands would move to rest on his shoulders.
And there, the fabric would stretch over Malfoy's hip. The lace would dip low, maybe even catch in short blond hairs, the darker color of the material bold against Malfoy's soft skin. Skin that would be red and raw where the lace scratched. At the touch of cool fingers against the sensitive skin, Malfoy would hiss that same soft hiss he'd made when Harry had applied the burn salve, would tilt his head back and moan when Harry's fingers ghosted beneath the lace. Knickers, definitely knickers, no matter they were made for men, but instead of being flat down the front like a girl there'd be the bulge of—
Harry chokes on a gasp for air, and then bites his bottom lip to quiet the moan in his throat as he strokes himself faster and harder. It's so perfect in his mind, so vivid—the outline, the way Malfoy's cock would stretch the fabric and push it past the lace but still be confined, how his balls would be held firm in place, smoothed over by the material.
It had been hard to think of Ginny dropping to her knees—only easy to think of a mouth and a pair of strong hands—but it requires little effort for Harry to imagine Malfoy doing the same. Malfoy's eyes would flicker to Harry's, grey and amused, his blond hair would be tucked behind an ear on one side, loose on the other and waving as his head bobbed on Harry's cock, lips wet and swollen and reddening the more he'd move. Malfoy would moan and hum, his hands would stroke and cup and squeeze, his tongue licking and wrapping around the head of Harry's cock. Harry would slide a hand into the blond hair, petting, and then pushing Malfoy further down, gently at first, then a little rougher, making him take in more until his mouth stretched wide and his lips pressed at the base. Harry would thrust a little and Malfoy's eyes would be on his again, accusing and sharp but he'd know Malfoy liked it and that the reproach was an act.
Then Harry'd look down Malfoy's body, would see Malfoy reach into the lacy pair and tug himself free, and the red tip of his cock would poke out enticingly, smeared with pre-come—
That's what does it. That thought of Malfoy touching himself while giving a blowjob, the question if Malfoy's come would taste the same as Harry's had the one time he'd experimentally licked it, sends Harry over the edge. The force of his orgasm is unexpected—his fantasies involving the vague Ginny had never satisfied him like this. His whole body seems to lock and stiffen. His eyes roll back and all he sees is gray, blissful oblivion. He probably makes an embarrassingly loud keening noise but he's too gone to care.
Too far gone, that is, until his twitching body causes his foot to slide on the slick bathtub bottom and his legs sweep out from under his body—then the keening becomes strangled cry. On the way down, his head crashes against the tub edge, and his hand seizes the shower curtain in an instinctive, desperate attempt to stay upright but it only succeeds in bringing the whole thing, rod and all, on top of him. His flailing other hand manages to knock off every bottle on the shower shelf.
As soon as he's down, he snaps forward with a whimper, tears springing to his eyes. He holds tight to the throbbing lump on the back of his head, but his sore arse and aching right knee, damage done by the metal curtain rod, both demand attention as well.
The door rattles.
"Potter!" is Malfoy's muffled shout, sounding truly worried. "What the hell? Are you dead?"
"I slipped," Harry groans and shakily gets to his feet, cringing as he straightens his bruised tailbone. There's silence on the other side of the door and then, slowly, a quiet laughing. It doesn't stay quiet for long and Harry sighs exasperatedly when Malfoy full on starts guffawing. He turns off the still pouring shower and begins fixing the curtain, bending with a wince to pick it up. "Yeah, thanks. I could be bleeding to death in here, you prick."
Malfoy answers something back but it's too obstructed by laughter for Harry to make any sense out of it. He can't be too angry, though. In fact, he can't even keep a grin from spreading across his face.
Malfoy probably wouldn't be laughing if Harry loudly recounted the fantasy that had just given him the best orgasm of his life.
At The Burrow on Sunday Harry pulls Hermione aside.
"You were right, as usual," he whispers. "I definitely like men."
She appears shocked, confused, and happy for him all at the same time. "But, it's only been a day! You said you'd never thought about it before!"
"I hadn't. Well, no, I had, I guess, like you said, but I always, I don't know, dismissed the thoughts, or something, because I figured I was going to be with Ginny and all, so what else did I need to know?" He laughs mockingly at himself. "Like you said, I'm a bit of a dunce, but, well, I just feel like everything's falling into place now."
"Falling into place?"
"Well, I suppose something always felt off. Kinda like what I thought before wasn't necessarily wrong, but it wasn't right either."
"And now it feels right?"
Harry shrugs, smiling a little embarrassedly.
"Yeah. It does."
Harry hesitates before crawling into bed that night, pausing in the bedroom doorway after changing into his nightclothes. Malfoy sits at the head of the bed, leaning on a pillow propped against the wall and reading, unasked, through Harry's Offensive Stealth essay. He shifts uncomfortably and reaches back to punch at the pillow. After another minute, he finally notices Harry standing awkwardly nearby and looks up.
"What?" he asks warily. "It's not my fault you left your paper on the table. It's full of holes, by the way. I think that's clear proof you were given favor at Hogwarts. No one else would have passed with writing this bad."
"I didn't ask you to read it," Harry answers mildly, not moving from his spot. "It's not that bad. How would you know if it's full of holes anyway? Secretly taking the same courses, are you?"
"Hardly. I read your textbooks."
Malfoy primly inspects his nails. "I've a lot of free time."
"Maybe you could get a job," Harry suggests flatly.
"I've never wanted to work," Malfoy sighs.
"That's not very ambitious of you."
"Not all ambitions involve careers."
"But you'd make such a good maid," Harry teases with a small smile. At Malfoy's sharp glare, he gestures to the neat stacks of folded laundry on the floor. "Got tired of the pile, huh?"
"Of course I did. Get a dresser. I cannot live out of a trunk forever." Malfoy shifts against his pillow again. "And get a proper bed frame while you're at it. No more of this mattress and box spring on the floor nonsense. Honestly, Potter, one would think you grew up in a cupboard."
"…I did, actually," Harry says after a beat.
"You did, what?" Malfoy asks, but he's no longer looking at Harry, his focus returning to the essay.
"I grew up in a cupboard."
Malfoy hums in response, uninterested. Then his head snaps up again, his eyebrows drawing together in uncertainty. "What?"
"I grew up in a cupboard," Harry repeats. "Below the stairs. My aunt and uncle…" he shrugs, and then waves away the topic. "Listen, Malfoy, there's something I need to talk to you about—to tell you."
"Um, okay," Malfoy says slowly, the uncertainty still present, as if he's either confused by the sudden change of subject or not sure he believes Harry about the cupboard. Perhaps both.
Harry takes a hesitant step closer to the bed. "I, er, I can understand if, well, if you want to go back to the couch after I tell you. Or—well, I could take the couch, I guess."
Malfoy now appears frightened.
"Oh Merlin," he breathes, "What is it?" His eyes grow wider. "You have explosive gas, don't you? You're taking the couch! I will not have you Dutch-ovening me, Potter!"
"What?" Harry asks incredulously. "What is—Dutch oven—god—no, I do not have—"
"I make my oath to Merlin, if I feel you—"
"I'm not going to fart on you!" Harry shouts. He rubs his eyes and groans. "Just—shut it for a minute, will you? I'm trying to say something here."
"Well then say it and stop keeping me in suspense!"
"I wasn't—Fine. Listen, I—" Harry clenches his fist to keep his hands from shaking; it doesn't help.
Just say it, he thinks. If Malfoy makes fun of you, you can toss him out on his fuckable arse.
"Say it!" Malfoy demands, the frightened look returning.
Harry lets go of his breath with a whoosh, squeaking out at the end of it, "'Mgay."
Malfoy blinks at him as if he's spoken a word in another language. With his lack of articulation, he may as well have.
"I'm gay," he clarifies a little louder. "I like men."
Malfoy continues to stare, but it's an expectant look now. He seems to be waiting for Harry to continue.
It's Harry's turn to blink and he lifts he shoulders in a slow shrug, waving out his arms briefly as though to say, That's it, here I am.
"Potter," Malfoy finally says, speaking slowly and tipping his chin down to give Harry a stern eye, "Gay men get gas too, so if you're trying to use that flimsy excuse to negotiate your way back into this bed—"
"I do not have gas!" Harry cries, throwing his hands in the air. He can't decide if he wants to glare or gawk at Malfoy. "I—Ugh! I'm trying to tell you that I'm gay, Malfoy! That's it. That's what I needed to tell you!"
"Yes, well, I already knew that so my confusion and doubt are justifiable, you see," Malfoy scoffs, expression still suspicious.
"And yet you keep on with this— Wait, what?"
Malfoy shakes his head disappointedly at Harry. "Was it supposed to be a secret? You're not especially subtle about it."
"Subtle about it? Wha—" Harry stammers, "I mean, how could I have not been subtle about it if I haven't been it for very long?"
"Haven't been it for… What?" Malfoy asks, sitting up straighter. "What are you—oh my god." His hand flies over his mouth in dramatic surprise and then falls away. "Potter, you— Is this— This is a new realization for you, isn't it? Are you just now realizing that you're gay? How is that even possible? You're nineteen!"
"I just never thought about things in terms of gay or straight before!" Harry snaps defensively. "How was I supposed to know?"
"How could you not know?" Malfoy gasps. "How could you just not know something like that? That's like not knowing you have toes!"
Harry sighs, runs his hands through his hair, and moves to sit on the edge of the bed. "I had a lot on my mind, a lot going on in my life. I didn't have time to stop and wonder why Seamus's bubble butt made the occasional appearance in my dreams. I just thought it was something all guys go through—hormones and all that. And I liked girls too."
Malfoy rolls his delicate eye roll. "Yes, the Weaslette who looks like an effeminate man, and the she-brute of Ravenclaw—"
"Cho's not a brute—"
"She bit me in a quidditch game! Bit me, Potter! Like a rabid crup!"
"Yes! Took a bigger chunk out of my hand than that damned hippogriff!"
Harry chuckles, but swallows it back at Malfoy's threatening glare.
"Yeah, well, anyway," he continues, "I liked Fleur. She's not masculine, not a bit."
Malfoy frowns. "Fleur? Fleur Delacour? The champion from Beauxbatons?"
"She's a Weasley now. Married Bill couple summers ago. They even have a little girl—Victoire."
"That's quaint, but she's part veela, you halfwit. Veela magic affects testosterone. The more you have, the harder you fall. Hence, women aren't particularly affected."
"Then I guess you're not affected either, eh?" Harry taunts. He laughs when Malfoy tries to kick him, the action being not at all successful with Malfoy's foot tucked under the blanket. Then, with another sigh, he looks down at his hands. "I guess I was too caught up in the whole saving the world thing—"
"—and I'd always wanted the perfect marriage everyone says my mum and dad had. I figured I could do that with Ginny, be what everyone expected, but when Hermione told me I might like men—"
"What?" Malfoy interrupts. "Granger told you? Are you joking? Seriously?" A look of realization dawns across his face. "That's why she came over yesterday."
"Yes, Hermione had to point it out to me, and yes, that's why she was here. Go ahead and laugh now so we can get it out of the way," Harry growls.
Malfoy shakes his head. "I pity you too much to laugh, Potter."
"In that case, as I was saying," Harry carries on, doing so cautiously because he half-expects Malfoy to start laughing anyway, "Once Hermione, you know, suggested that girls aren't, er, my thing, everything just, I don't know, made sense and I knew she was right."
"Potter. That's, well." Malfoy sighs. "It's pathetic is what it is."
Harry glares and presses his hand down on Malfoy's foot, not enough to hurt but enough to make Malfoy squeal and jerk his legs up.
"You know, Malfoy," he says, "for someone who claims to have already known that I'm gay, you seemed quite happy to crawl into my bed. Something you want to tell me?"
"Yes, that ratty couch is absolutely horrid and you are a terrible person for making me sleep on it for so long," Malfoy sniffs. Then he glares. "And I did not crawl into your bed."
Harry scoffs. "Oh, I'm sorry. You seemed quite happy to snuggle into my—"
Malfoy yanks the pillow from behind himself and flings it at Harry's head. "I do not snuggle!"
Laughing, Harry plops the easily caught pillow onto his lap. "You're like the Devil's Snare when you sleep, always reaching and wrapping around whatever's closest…" He trails off, thinking of Broderick Bode—sleeping, recovering, and then being strangled to death. He shrugs uneasily. "Well, maybe not the Devil's Snare, but you're awfully clingy."
Malfoy flushes and turns away, scowling at the wall. "I get cold, I'll have you know."
Harry smiles at his defensiveness and, after a moment, returns the pillow. Malfoy eyes it in disgust at first, possibly thinking it contaminated after touching Harry, but takes it back and shoves in place behind him. The look makes Harry's smile drop.
"So," Harry starts again, clearing his throat, "if it makes you uncomfortable, I can take the ratty couch for a bit—"
"I don't care," Malfoy says quickly, but he appears indeed uncomfortable in spite of it, not meeting Harry's eyes and smoothing his hands over the bedspread wrinkles.
With a sigh, Harry rubs his temples. "Really, Malfoy, it's not a big deal. I don't mi—"
"Potter!" Malfoy barks. He still doesn't look up—he's blushing again. "I said I don't care, so shut it already and let's go to sleep."
"Er," Harry says, "If you're really all right with it…"
To answer, Malfoy thrusts Harry's Offensive Stealth parchment across the bed and then scoots to lie down, tugging his pillow from against the wall to under his head. After positioning the no-cuddling pillow, he rolls onto his side, giving Harry his back.
Knowing better than to keep asking, Harry sighs and hesitantly pulls back the thick blanket it, sliding beneath it a hesitant moment later. He glances at Malfoy as he waves a hand to fade the overhead lumos light but Malfoy is still facing the wall, ignoring him.
As Harry shifts into the place, the no-cuddling pillow falls on him and he gives it an annoyed shove back into its spot. Then, with a quiet but sharp intake of breath, he suddenly realizes that maybe Malfoy had wanted the pillow there more to protect himself from Harry than to prevent any midnight cuddling—if he truly had already suspected Harry of being gay. The thought of such passive rejection brings an unfamiliar ache to Harry's chest.
Letting out a shaky breath, he rolls onto his side to face his own wall, squeezing his eyes shut and desperately trying not to think about it.
Immediately the bed rocks as Malfoy flies into a sitting position, scaring the daylights out Harry when he screeches, "What are you doing?"
Harry scrambles up as well, heart pounding frantically in his chest, adrenaline pumping as his body prepares for an attack. "What? What is it? What are you—"
Malfoy's eyes are wild and wide, and he jabs a finger at Harry's lower body. "You will not point that at me!"
Harry almost punches him in the face, both hurt and angrily offended. So Malfoy really had worried about being molested by a gay man. Harry's hands twitch, ready to start swinging—and why does his chest hurt so much?—but before he can decide whether to break Malfoy's pointy nose or go for a black and gray eye, he abruptly realizes that Malfoy means his arse, not his cock.
Rather than being molested in his sleep, Malfoy, it seems, is still worried about Harry's assumed bad gas.
Harry is relieved for all of a breath and then he swings an arm up to punch Malfoy anyway. He at least aims for the shoulder rather than either of his original targets and doesn't put nearly as much force behind it. "Fuck! Don't scare me like that, you fucking twat! I told you I wasn't going to fart on you!"
"Ow! Don't hit me!" Malfoy snaps and punches back, making Harry yelp at his surprising strength. "You won't be able to keep that promise if you're asleep, so your arse should either be glued to the mattress or facing that wall!"
"What about you?" Harry demands, "Why are you allowed to point your arse at me?" and then desperately tries to ignore the sudden image of Malfoy's bare bum being presented to him.
Malfoy lifts his shoulders and chin in an arrogant tilt, his face a stoic mask.
"Because," he says evenly, "Malfoys defecate galleons and fluff out fairy dust."
Harry gawks at him for a beat and then collapses into a hard laugh, gasping, "I cannot—believe you just—and with a straight face—"
"You should feel blessed by every puff," Malfoy continues haughtily. Harry almost misses when his nonchalance cracks, the quick smile he gives at Harry's cackling, because in the next second he's moving to lie down again and saying over his shoulder as he rolls onto his side, "Go to sleep, Potter. You have training tomorrow. And I mean it about your arse."
Harry sighs out his last chuckles, sides aching from the laughter, cheeks aching from the grinning. He eases onto his back and rolls to face Malfoy, the blond mostly blocked by the no-cuddling pillow. All the hurt from moments before had evaporated after that single, quick smile and Harry suddenly has the urge to get rid of the pillow between them. He wants to wrap his arms around Malfoy, to bury his face in Malfoy's hair. The tangy potion smell of Malfoy's shampoo has already begun to fade on his pillow but he breathes in the last lingering bit of it as much as he can, closing his eyes and imagining the beginning of his new, soon-to-be favorite fantasy—of just pulling Malfoy closer and snogging him senseless.
Harry's eyes fly open and his whole body stiffens.
Forget being gay, when had he started liking Malfoy?
Harry waves a Muffliato the moment morning break starts on Monday.
"Ron," he begins to his bemused friend, taking a deep breath before continuing, "Ginny and I, it's—well, it's not going to work out. I'm… Er, I like men, I think. I mean, I know. I am. Gay, that is."
Ron stares in surprise at Harry, hand paused where it had been shoving his books into his bag and head cocked to the side. "As in, only men?"
"Er," Harry says intelligently. "What?"
"I know you look at blokes' arses a lot, so I figured you swung both ways," Ron explains, looking away thoughtfully before coming back to Harry. "But you're saying you only like men? Is that it?" His eyes become sharper. "Have you told Ginny? You'd better tell her soon. You've been leading her on long enough, yeah?"
"Wha… I don't—blokes—Ginny—wha—I do?" Harry sputters, face flaming. "H-How come you never said anything?"
Ron shrugs uncomfortably. "I don't know. Is it supposed to be a secret? That you like blokes? And, hey, answer me. What about Ginny?"
Harry closes his gaping mouth, tries to speak, but it just falls open again as he keeps staring at Ron. Then he's flooded with frustration and snaps, "How did everyone know that I'm gay except me?"
"I thought you liked both!" Ron says defensively. Having retrieved the books he needs for the next lesson, he tosses his bag on the floor between their chairs.
"But how did you notice?" Harry demands. "Do I really—"
"No, it's not that you—I don't know. I just noticed, all right? I'm your best mate." Ron shrugs again and drops back into his chair. "Well, and that time we went to Gliding Golden Hooves? I thought I'd have to beat off every guy there with a stick to keep them from getting at Ginny, but you…" he glares at Harry, "You didn't even look at her—you practically ignored her all night! You even flinched when she hugged you!"
Harry ducks his head, feeling appropriately ashamed for his behavior from that night. "Yeah, I—yeah."
"And there I'd been, kicking up a fuss before we left The Burrow 'cause I didn't want her walking out like that, wearing those low hanging robes, knowing everyone'd be looking at her. Merlin!" Ron suddenly stares horrified at their table. "When did my baby sister grow up so much?"
"She's definitely more… intimidating now," Harry says, wincing. "Her appearance, I mean."
Ron shakes his whole body like he has the chills, clearly not wanting to think about his sister's appearance. He turns back to Harry. "Anyway, after that I just watched you a little closer, thought maybe you had a girl on the side if you weren't paying any attention to Ginny, especially with all that fantastic cooking you've been bringing. But…" He shifts in his chair, then asks again, "So you only like blokes?"
"Is that a problem?" Harry asks, more coldly than he'd intended. Malfoy must be rubbing off on him.
"No, it isn't, so stop glaring at me like that," Ron snaps. "The only thing that's a problem is that you haven’t told Ginny."
"I'm going to," Harry says, putting his elbows on the table and pressing his face to his hands.
"Tonight," Ron orders, voice rising as he adds, "You're coming for dinner tonight and you're going to tell her. She's been waiting for two years now!"
Ron cuts off, "No! You're doing it tonight!" Then he pauses thoughtfully and grins, his ire having dissipated as fast as his mood swings always tended to. "And you're going to make some of that cake, too. At least now I know why you're so good at cooking."
"For your information, I'm not the one who—" Harry stops abruptly, eyes darting to the side shiftily. "I mean, that's, er, sexist or homophobic-ist or something. I don't know."
"What were you about to say?" Ron asks suspiciously.
"Er, um, just that being gay doesn't make me good at cooking. That's a prejudice of some kind, I'm sure. A stereotype."
"No, before that!" Ron barks, eyes narrowing on Harry critically. When Harry doesn't quite meet the gaze, Ron leaps out of the chair and grabs him in a headlock, disregarding the other trainees who can still see them if not hear what they're arguing about. "Oi! You really do have someone on the side, don't you? Who is she— I mean, he? I can't believe you've been cheating on my sister!"
"It's—not—like—that!" Harry gasps, struggling with Ron's arms for a few seconds before squeezing the pressure point between Ron's elbow bones. Ron howls and releases him, and he uses his sudden freedom to leap out of his own chair and put some feet between them.
"I mean it," he coughs out. "It's really not like that. I'm not— He's just staying with me for a bit. As a guest. Besides, I only just realized I'm gay, okay? And Ginny and I never officially got back together anyway."
"But you haven't officially said you're not getting back together either," Ron says accusingly, but his expression is less harsh than his words. He slumps into his chair. "How can you not have known you were gay?"
"I just never thought about it," Harry sighs, moving back to his own chair.
Ron gives him a wild stare. "How can you not have thought about it?"
"I had a lot on my mind, all right?" Harry says dryly, glaring halfheartedly.
"Yeah, well, you're still coming over tonight and talking to Ginny. She deserves to know," Ron grumbles, rubbing his elbow where Harry'd pinched. He frowns and shifts uneasily. "Er, you can bring your—guest—if you want." Then he scoffs, rolling his eyes. "Guest. As if someone just cooks for another man if there's nothing there."
Harry's heart gives a hopeful stutter and he hates himself for it. Realizing his attraction to Malfoy had been greatly harder to swallow than realizing his attraction to men in general.
"I doubt he'd want to come," Harry tries to say casually, not wanting to sound as gloomy as he feels about his barely civil, quite platonic non-relationship with Malfoy. "I told you, we're not—together. He's just… staying with me for a little while."
"You want to be, don't you? You like this guy," Ron says, eyes narrowing in perceptive examination, and of course it's the one time he chooses to be observant, Harry thinks with a mental groan. Perceptive or not, Ron doesn't seem to notice his mental anguish. "You should just, you know, do something about it then. You're already living together, right?"
Harry blushes. "I, uh, can't."
"Why not?" Ron asks. "Just, um, go for it."
"Do you really want to talk about this?" Harry asks, glaring.
"About your boy problems? Nah, I guess not," Ron teases, grinning. "Can I at least know who it is? This bloke of yours. Someone I've met?"
Harry looks away. "You really don't want to know. Trust me."
Ron makes an aggravated noise. "'Mione's gonna tell me anyway. You might as well just say it now."
"Who says I'm going to tell Hermione?" Harry scoffs. They share a look. "Okay, fine, yeah. I was planning to talk to her, but—fuck, Ron, just don't— I haven't—this is all still new to me, okay? Things sort of just happened and now there's this, with the gay thing and all, so—"
"Merlin, Harry, just say it. Who is he? A troll or something?" Ron snaps, somehow appearing terrified, excited, and scandalized all at once.
Harry sighs and decides to start from the beginning. "You remember back in August, when we went to Diagon for lunch without Hermione?"
A second crack of apparition is on the heels of Harry's that evening when he heads home. He barely has time to step out of the way before Ron pops into existence beside him.
Without even bothering to take off his shoes, not even giving Harry a chance to warn Malfoy, Ron dashes around the half-wall counter to the kitchen and freezes, eyes wide.
"It's true," he says in wonder, "It really is you!"
"I said I wasn't lying," Harry grumbles, following Ron. Malfoy stands in front of the stove, his shock at Ron's sudden appearance swiftly changing to a flat glare before he returns his attention to the stew he's preparing. Harry smiles apologetically at him and then turns back to Ron. "Can we go now?"
"Go?" Malfoy asks, perking and turning to Harry.
"Not just yet," Ron says at the same time, and he strides up to Malfoy, folding his arms over his chest authoritatively and glaring.
"What do you want, Weasel?" Malfoy sneers, looking wary.
Ron stares down his long nose at Malfoy, being the tallest of the three of them. "Listen Ferret, if you hurt Harry—"
"God, Ron, what!" Harry hisses.
"If you hurt him," Ron says again, ignoring Harry, "I'll hurt you."
Malfoy arches an eyebrow at him in dull dismay. "That's it? 'I'll hurt you'? That's the best you could come up with?"
"I mean it," Ron says threateningly. Harry can't see his face but whatever look he gives Malfoy must be a frightening one because Malfoy actually appears startled and takes a step back.
"That's enough," Harry interrupts, grabbing Ron's arm. "I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself, thanks. And Malfoy isn't going to hurt me anyway."
Ron holds up his hands innocently. "I'm just sayin'."
"Yes, well, you're a bit late," Malfoy scoffs, though he still appears ruffled. "If I had wanted to harm Potter I could have easily done it last week by smothering him with a pillow when he was too exhausted to fight back. Or any other time in the past three and half months that I've been here." He shoots Ron a scowl. "Stupid, ugly Weasley."
"Okay, that's enough," Harry repeats, stepping between them before Ron can respond. He directs his best firm Auror frown first at Malfoy and then at Ron. "Now that you've your proof, unless you're staying for dinner—"
"The hell he is!" Malfoy snaps angrily, slapping his wooden spoon on the countertop.
"And Harry isn't either 'cause he's coming to The Burrow since he has to talk to Ginny," Ron says, giving Harry his own firm Auror frown. Then he smirks at Malfoy. "You're not invited, Ferret."
"Ron," Harry says warningly.
Ron rolls his eyes in an exaggerated way that neither Harry nor Malfoy would be able to pull off. "I don't know what's gotten into you, letting the ferret stay here, but I guess you have your reasons."
He pauses, thinking about his own words, and then glances between Harry and Malfoy with a small shudder. Malfoy scoffs but Harry's too embarrassed to look at him.
"C'mon. Mum'll be wondering why I'm not back yet," Ron adds, motioning for Harry to follow him, and then glances over at Malfoy. "Oi, I don't like onions so stop putting them in everything."
"You can simply stop eating my food, Weasley!" Malfoy snaps yet, peculiarly, there doesn't seem to be as much heat in his voice as before.
"And make some more of those cupcakes, the ones with the blue icing!" Ron says over his shoulder as he moves around the half-wall counter to the entryway.
Instead of following, Harry turns to Malfoy, though his eyes are still on the floor, his cheeks still red. "Listen, I meant to send you an owl, but—"
"Don't stay out too late," Malfoy interrupts, his focus once more on the bubbling stew. "You have training tomorrow and I need you to—" he glances over his shoulder to where Ron peeks over the half-wall at them and then gestures to the pot, clearly not wanting to admit his lack of a wand in front of an audience.
"Yeah, I got it," Harry says, touching him lightly on the arm and their eyes meeting briefly. "It'll just be dinner and then I have to tell Ginny about—yeah."
"Yeah," Malfoy echoes quietly.
Ron coughs loudly, and Harry hurries out of the kitchen.
To his relief, Harry manages to get Ginny alone immediately after dinner by offering to help her clear the table, much to Molly's disapproval.
"No, no, Harry," she says, flustered and trying to shoo him away, "You're the guest! And I'm sure you'd rather chat with Arthur—"
"Men can clean, too," Ginny growls, shoving dirty plates into Harry's hands as if he were trying to escape rather than being pushed out. She even gives him an irritated glare. "Mum's still stuck in the 50s, thinking only women should cook and clean."
"I make your brothers clean all the time!" Molly huffs.
"Yeah, because they're your sons," Ginny snaps back. "And you don't ask Bill to help clean anymore, not since he married Fleur!"
Molly flushes. "That's different! His wife should care for him properly. And I've asked Harry to help plenty of times! Not that you have to, Harry dear."
"Not in a while you haven't, since you seem to think—" Ginny cuts off, blushing, and stomps over to the sink, ignoring her mother's shout.
"It's okay, Mrs. Weasley," Harry says quickly, stepping between them. "I don't mind at all. Besides, I like talking to Ginny."
Having been on the verge of arguing, Molly suddenly gasps an, "Oh!" and then smiles slyly at Harry. "Yes, yes, I'm sure you would like some more time together. Right, dearie me, I'll leave the clean-up to you two then."
Ginny stiffens at the sink but doesn't turn around as her mother leaves.
"Er," Harry says, placing the plates on the counter next to the sink. "Here are the rest. I can, um, get the spells going if you need me to."
"You're a man, are you sure you can do them right?" Ginny mutters angrily.
"Well, I hope so. I've been using them every night for a while now," Harry says, lightly grinning when Ginny finally looks at him. He elbows her playfully to make her smile.
"Sorry," she says, looking sincere. "Mum's been driving me mad with all this homemaker nonsense. I know she means well, but—ugh. She just doesn't get it."
"Yeah, I know." Harry smiles understandingly and gives her another friendly shove which she returns. They finish setting the spells to the dishware in silence, Ginny lost in her own thoughts and Harry wondering how to approach the next subject. As they turn away from the dancing plates and pots, drying their hands, he finally sighs and says, "Ginny, I— I need to talk to you."
Ginny's eyes widen at first and then she looks sad.
"Oh no, I think I know what you're—Oh, Harry," she murmurs ruefully. She takes his hand and leads him over to the table, pushing him into a chair and then sliding onto the one next to it. Still holding his hand, she pats it lightly and then squeezes. "Listen, Harry, you're amazing. I love you, I do, really. But I—" She presses her eyes shut for a moment and when she opens them again, they're shining with tears. "I can't be what you want me to be. It's not that I don't want to one day have a family, but that's just not what I want right now, okay?"
"Er," Harry says, blinking. "Okay?"
"I'm so sorry! You're a wonderful guy, I know I've been leading you on, but I just—things between us haven't been the same," she hurries to explain, looking determined. "I will play professional quidditch, no matter what, and I want to do that for a while before I consider anything else. Plus, you and I, please don't take this the wrong way, but we're not meant to be together. Not really, not if you look at it. We're great friends, but when it comes to everything else, we seem to—"
"Ginny, I'm gay," Harry cuts in.
"Huh?" she says.
"I'm gay," he repeats. "If either of us can't be what the other one wants, it's probably me."
"Gay?" Ginny asks in wonder. "You?"
"Very much so," Harry assures her.
She wipes her eyes, blinking rapidly as she does. "Oh. I knew you liked men, too, but I thought—"
"What?" Harry interrupts sharply. "How did you know that?"
"Well, it's, I guess, obvious when a fit bloke walks by. Your eyes just sort of follow him," she explains with a shrug, followed by a flat stare. "And it irritated me how you and Charlie were always flirting with each other."
"I— What? I do not flirt with Charlie!"
"You do," she confirms. She waves away his further protests with a thoughtful look. "Wait, so you mean, you weren't about to ask me out again?"
Harry blushes. "No, I, er, was just going to tell you that, you know, it'd never work out between us. Me being gay and all."
"Then why'd you ever ask me to begin with?" she demands angrily. "Were you ashamed and thought I'd make a nice cover—"
"It's not like that! I didn't know I was gay until Saturday!"
"What? Are you having me on? How could you not know you're gay?"
Harry groans and flops against the back of his chair. "Why does everyone keep asking me that! Look," he leans forward and slams a fist on the table, "I had a lot going on, okay? And I'd never even heard about men liking other men until last year during training and it wasn't like I saw it right in front of me. I just overheard someone talking about her brother and I didn't think much on it, all right?"
"You don't have to be so defensive," Ginny huffs, but then she gives him a small smirk to let him know she's teasing.
Sighing, Harry sags in his chair, rubbing his face with his hands. "Yeah, sorry. I— Well, it's all still new to me and, I don't know, it's been a little confusing."
She rubs his shoulder comfortingly. "No worries. I understand." They're silent for a long minute and then she slaps her hands on her knees, saying, "Well, this has been fun." She gets to her feet. "It’s good that we talked about it. Even better that it turned out so well, both of us wanting different things. Though I suppose Mum won't agree."
A wicked light begins to glow in her eyes.
"No, I don't think she'll mind at all, actually," she continues, smirking. "All this effort with cooking and cleaning and you being so pretty and all, if a bit hairy—you're going to be such a lovely housewife for Charlie!"
Harry groans again and buries his face in his arms, not knowing whether to come clean about the cooking, be offended by the term pretty, or shudder at the thought of still not being able to avoid Molly's family plans.
"I can't believe you didn't tell me!" Hermione shrills on Tuesday, dropping heavily into the seat across from Harry. She wears a reproachful frown. "And there I was, just this past weekend, trying to help you and you didn't even think to tell me you'd already figured it out! With Malfoy of all people! Where was he on Saturday, hiding in the bedroom, having a laugh at me?" She draws back, hurt. "Were you lying, too, when you said you were worried about Ginny?"
Harry gawks at her and then angrily whips his head around to Ron.
"What did you tell her?" he demands.
Ron shrugs uncaringly, eating the leftover stew Harry'd brought, scowling at every onion he comes across. "Just that you've been shacked up with Malfoy for the past three months."
"We've not been—ugh!" Harry turns back to Hermione, assuring her, "No, Malfoy wasn't there on Saturday. He'd gone for a walk, and no, I was not messing you about. I really hadn't thought about—" he glances around at the others in the Ministry cafeteria nervously, "—about you know. And I've just been letting Malfoy stay because he couldn't go home." He quickly holds a hand up to stop her questions. "It's complicated, all right?"
"Complicated or not, Harry, I think it's only polite to tell your friends that you're sharing your bed with a Malfoy," she hisses, eyes darting about as well.
"What!" Harry yelps. "How did you—it's only been since last week—"
"No blankets or pillows on the couch, and he was wearing your clothes," Ron says helpfully. He shrugs at Harry's amazed look. "I'm in Auror training too, you know. Anyway, that's not the issue here. You should have told us all from the beginning, especially Ginny."
"That's right!" Hermione says. "It's horrible that you waited so long to tell us!"
Harry sighs and gives his friends a withering glare. "You know, I tried to tell you both back when it started but you wouldn't listen."
"This is really good," Hermione says, having disregarded Harry's comment in favor of tasting the stew.
"I know! Who'd have thought Malfoy could actually do something useful?" Ron says.
"Fine. Be that way. It's all my fault," Harry snaps, getting to his feet. "Eat as much as you want. I'm going to go pout in the loo like Myrtle."
"You can tell that it's for Harry, though," Hermione continues on, even after Harry has stomped off. "Not too salty, the vegetables cut small, and more soup than beef. That's exactly the way Harry likes it."
"Yeah, everything else, too. The biscuits and cakes and such. That's why I thought it was him cooking, since it all fits his tastes so perfectly," Ron says. Then he sets his spoon down with a grimace. "Made just for him. Ugh."
Hermione reaches across the table and squeezes his hand. "Malfoy can't be all bad, especially if he cares enough to be trying for Harry."
Ron sighs heavily. "He does make brilliant cupcakes. I guess that means he's okay."
Hermione smiles fondly at him, shaking her head. "Oh, Ronald."
"Too cold out there…"
Harry glances up from his textbook to watch Malfoy slide the balcony door closed with a head-to-toe shiver, massaging his fingers to encourage circulation. Harry's coat is too wide on him.
"What?" Malfoy asks inattentively, heading to the kitchen. He often takes to running his wrists under warm water when he's cold. Something about warming the blood flow, he had said once.
"Skinny," Harry finishes—only immediately, under the force of Malfoy's appalled glare, to sputter out, "I mean, not in a bad way! Well, now that you've, uh, gained weight, that is. It's just you know, compared to me, you're not as, er, square, and, uh, athletic—no! No, no, you're athletic, what I mean is, you're like a—a—a cheetah! All sleek and quick, and I'm more like a, um, lion or something with muscle power, you know…"
"Potter, are you saying that I'm weak?" Malfoy growls.
"Cheetahs are strong…" Harry answers meekly.
"I look like a girl then? Is that it? Because I'm not the one with big eyes and long, fluttery lashes!"
"Malfoy, you are nothing like a girl," Harry says flatly. He has the suspicion that he's being called pretty again. "But you're not a, er, lion like me either."
Malfoy scoffs, expression twisting into mocking disbelief, and Harry readies himself for an insult. Instead, Malfoy hums an ambiguous, "Hn." With a small twitch of the eyebrows, he spins back around and continues into the kitchen, ignoring Harry as he turns on the hot water and shoves his wrists under the flow.
Harry's mouth drops open, and in the next second he is standing directly next to Malfoy, practically on the blond's toes.
"Wha—Potter! Move off!" Malfoy shouts, pushing at him with wet hands.
"You think I'm right, don't you?" Harry demands, unable to contain his grin. "I won that argument—admit it!"
"I think no such thing! And there wasn't an argument for you to win, you dolt!" Malfoy snaps, again pushing at Harry's chest when Harry moves a bit closer. "Ugh—get off!"
Harry only laughs, even as he stumbles back from a particularly hard shove. "But if you had thought I was wrong you would have said something. By not saying anything you admitted that I was right."
"I did nothing of the sort!" At Harry's insistent gaze, Malfoy sighs heavily and stares at the ceiling. "Fine. Given your affection for stripping the second you come home, I may have noticed that you are no longer a scrawny, speckled git—oh stop smirking like that! Honestly, Potter, I can practically see a tail wagging behind you, you ill-mannered dog! You are still a speckled git, merely an adult-sized one."
Malfoy turns back to the sink, intent on ignoring Harry, but Harry lightly shoulder-bumps him to steal his attention again, even if it's annoyed attention, and says, "You grew up, too, you know. All graceful and handsome now—that's what I meant before."
"Skinny is not the best adjective to convey that opinion," Malfoy grumbles, and Harry can see the blush on his face even as he refuses to look away from the running water. However, he quickly tires of Harry's hovering and gives another wet-handed shove, chastising, "Stop flirting with me and go study your Auror nonsense."
"Oh," Harry says, swallowing nervously and looking away, all the mirth having disappeared at Malfoy's accusation. "Right. Sorry. I didn't mean—"
"Potter, shut it," Malfoy interrupts quietly, sighing. He turns off the water and reaches for a hand towel, drying his hands as he turns to Harry. "I'm not— I'm— I don't care that you're gay, you absolute moron. I was just…" he flutters his hand in the air between them in a vague motion, "teasing, all right?"
"Oh, I— Oh." Harry rubs his neck awkwardly. "I, um, just don't want, I don't know." He sighs. "If it bothers you at all, staying here—"
"Bothers me? What? You being gay or your inability to understand basic banter?" Malfoy asks wryly. "The distinction needs to be made, you see, because the yes or no answer changes based on the question."
Harry glares, but his heart jump hopefully. "Me being gay, you git."
"Oh, in that case, no. It does not bother me in the slightest," Malfoy says, adding after a beat, "It'd be dreadfully hypocritical of me and all, seeing as I'm gay too, you git."
He tosses the damp hand towel in Harry's shocked face and casually steps past, heading to the bedroom. Harry reflexively catches the towel when it falls, but his mind races away with Malfoy's words as his heart thuds in his chest.
"As slow as you read, I imagine it will be the middle of the night before you finally finish studying," Malfoy continues calmly over his shoulder, "So until you decide to make it worth my while, do try to avoid flopping onto the mattress like the oaf you are and waking me when you come to bed. I need my beauty sleep."
With that, Malfoy disappears into the bedroom, the lumos light fading a second later. Harry still stands in the kitchen, gawking at the empty space that Malfoy once occupied.
On Saturday, Andromeda sighs a delicate little sigh as she places the last warm biscuit onto the tray Harry holds.
"What is it, Harry?" she asks, her dark, knowing eyes sweeping up to meet his. "As usual, there seems to be much on your mind."
"Oh, it's nothing," Harry lies, shifting uneasily on his feet when Teddy's shrieks of laughter followed closely by Malfoy's quiet chuckles sound from the lounge. His gaze drifts to the open doorway of the dining room that separated kitchen from lounge, but he snaps it back when he realizes Andromeda is watching him.
"I was under the impression that you and Draco no longer argued," Andromeda says.
Harry snorts lightly. "We don't fight all the time anymore, but I don't think we'll ever not argue."
Andromeda holds up a hand and gives one subtle curl of her fingers to motion him to follow her.
"As long as you understand that," she says evenly, "then your relationship will be fine. Spouses always have disputes. It's the ones who refuse to accept this that don't last."
Harry stumbles over his own feet and would have dropped the tray if not for Andromeda moving a hand underneath it while he regained his balance.
"We're not in a relationship!" he sputters, cheeks heating hotly. "And we're certainly not—spouses!"
"Oh?' Andromeda arches a curious brow. "You are not together? Forgive my assumption. Your interactions seem closer than that of mere acquaintances, you understand. I believe Draco has also blushingly mentioned that you are now sharing a bed."
"Th-that's because the couch—!"
"It's just—it's cramped, and, and not—he told you?"
"You are both intelligent young men. I'm sure you'll work it out," Andromeda says over his stammering. She smirks. "Emphasis on the young men part, of course."
"Oh my god," Harry groans, and wants to hide his red face but having both hands on the tray gives him nothing to hide behind. He settles for ducking his head down and closing his eyes.
"Don't be silly, Harry," Andromeda continues, and though she is nothing if not respectful, there is a definite note of humor in her voice. "I understand the wilds of youth. I too was young once and found it difficult to keep my hands to myself in the presence of my beloved."
"Malfoy's not my beloved," Harry says, opening his eyes to look at the cookies with a frown. "He doesn't even like me. He's only staying with me because he doesn't want to be trapped in that cabin all alone."
Andromeda is quiet for a moment, then says softly, "You do not give yourself, or him, enough credit, Harry." Then, louder, "Come. There is no point in baking if the sweets go to waste."
Harry hesitates, confused, and then trudges after her, setting the tray of fresh biscuits on the dining table as she calls for Draco and Teddy to join them. Harry looks up right as Malfoy comes through the doorway carrying a still-giggling, black-haired and green-eyed Teddy.
"All it takes is your name for him to look like this," Malfoy says, and a small, fond smile quirks his lips as he looks down at Teddy but it morphs into a smirk when he meets Harry's gaze again.
"Oh, but I didn't think he'd ever heard my last name," Harry replies, sliding onto a chair.
Malfoy rolls his eyes and takes the seat next to Harry after placing Teddy in the waiting high-chair. "Obviously I meant your first name, you dolt."
Harry stares at him. "When do you ever use my first name?"
Malfoy blinks back, and then flushes.
"Harry helped me bake," Andromeda interjects, her smile deceptively sweet as she places one of the sugar-free biscuits in front of Teddy. "He made the chocolate ones."
"Er, I only mixed them," Harry says mildly, watching Malfoy pick a chocolate biscuit and take a small bite. He'd be offended by the dainty nibble but he had seen Andromeda do the same many times. For some reason, they considered it good manners. "I usually burn anything I bake so I left that part to Andromeda." He frowns as Malfoy eats another small piece. "It probably tastes bad."
"It's fine," Malfoy says indifferently.
"Probably not as good as the ones you make," Harry continues, his biscuits not living up to Malfoy's standard oddly bothering him.
"Of course not," Malfoy agrees, then lightly places a hand on Harry's thigh and meets his eyes briefly before adding, "But it's good, too."
Harry blushes and turns away as Malfoy calmly retracts the hand. Across the table, Teddy giggles as he smushes his biscuit under pudgy fists; Andromeda smirks.
The pathetic attempt Harry makes at studying that evening is an utter failure. The place Malfoy had touched still tingles, making Harry want to rub the other leg just to even out the feeling. His body, of course, is more than happy to welcome Malfoy's touch, his lower abdomen tightening with desire whenever Malfoy walks past—always flitting about half-naked like he owns the place, always wearing Harry's clothes to sleep in, always bending to inspect something low and sticking his arse in the air.
How could I have not known I'm gay? Harry wonders with a soft snort, eyeing Malfoy's nicely shaped and perky backside as the blond puts away the last of the clean pots in the lower cabinets. His mouth waters as he imagines letting his hand follow that smooth curve to between Malfoy's legs, cupping, pressing, sucking…
Malfoy straightens and Harry jerks his eyes back to the blurry pages of his Obscure Curses & Their Counterspells manual, only discreetly glancing over the top of the book as Malfoy glides past. He stretches arms above head as he does, making the baggy shirt he wears—another Dudley one—lift up teasingly. He no longer sleeps in pajama bottoms, claiming they make him sweat under the heavy bedspread, and Harry can just see the bottom edge of his pants for a moment—navy blue with scalloped lace trim—before the shirt falls back into place as Malfoy lowers his arms.
"Potter, are you planning to study all night?" Malfoy asks as he disappears into the bedroom.
"I need to get this chapter done," Harry lies quickly—it's not as though he's going to admit he's waiting for Malfoy to fall asleep so he can secretly rub one out in the bathroom.
"Do that tomorrow," Malfoy complains, followed by a whump as he flops onto the bed. "I can't sleep with all the lights on."
"Shut the door!"
Harry sighs. Daydreams of Malfoy and even Malfoy himself had been winding him up all day—all week—and now the prat wouldn't even allow him a good wank. He closes the book he hadn't been reading anyway and slides it across the table. "All right. Give me a minute. I've got to brush my teeth."
There's a rustle, then Malfoy appears in the bedroom doorway just as Harry enters the bathroom.
"You didn't always brush your teeth at night," he says, his expression half-irritation, half-pout, his hair messy from the bed, and the Dudley shirt hanging off one smooth, no longer bony shoulder.
Tease, Harry thinks resentfully, trying to subtly adjust himself as he turns to the sink. He avoids looking in the mirror as he grabs the toothpaste from the medicine cabinet.
"Yeah, well, I guess you've angel's breath to go with your fairy dust fluffs, but I'm a mere mortal you see." He shoves his pasted toothbrush in his mouth and, eyes staying on the faucet, garbles around it, "I thought troll breath'd wake you, you being such a light sleeper 'n all."
Which isn't true at all—Malfoy being a light sleeper. Sometimes it took the world ending to wake him.
"Yes, thank you for the consideration," Malfoy scoffs. Then he's sighing in annoyance and a second later he's right behind Harry, nagging, "You never close it all the way!" and reaching around to shut the partially open medicine cabinet, his chest a hair's breadth from pressing against Harry's back.
Harry freezes, his eyes snapping up to meet Malfoy's in the mirror. As if realizing what he's doing, Malfoy stiffens as well, arm still extended, and he stares back at Harry, neither of them breathing. Then, hesitantly, he lowers his hand to the sink counter next to Harry's hip and leans forward ever so slightly—not enough to push himself into Harry but enough that their warm bodies lightly touch from shoulders to thighs, eyes still connected in the mirror.
"Potter…" he whispers, breath brushing against Harry's ear, eyes inviting.
Harry's resolve shatters. Yanking the toothbrush from his mouth, he tosses it carelessly on the counter before twisting around to grab Malfoy by the waist.
"Whoa, whoa!" Malfoy gasps, quickly putting a hand between them as Harry leans purposefully forward. "Not with a mouthful of frothy spit and toothpaste you don’t!"
"'s clean," Harry says and grabs the back of Malfoy's head to pull him into the kiss, making him squeak and his hand between them give as it's pressed between their chests.
Malfoy relents for barely a second and then he's jerking away again, roughly hitting the wall behind him in his haste. He places both hands on Harry's shoulders and locks his elbows to keep Harry from getting any closer.
"Absolutely not!" he hisses. "You spit and rinse this instant! Ew!"
Harry growls in frustration but speedily does as ordered, water still trickling down his chin when he slaps Malfoy's arms out of the way and presses forward once more. Their teeth clack painfully and Malfoy glares, making a muffled noise of disapproval, but then Harry's hands are under his shirt, cupping and squeezing his lace-clad arse, and he moans, rocking into the touch.
Not taking his mouth away for anything more than quick gasps of air, Harry turns them away from the wall and presses Malfoy against the counter, making the blond yelp, "Eek! Wet!" as the splashed water around the sink soaks through his shirt. He scrambles a hand behind himself, trying to gain some leverage against Harry's onslaught, but ends up knocking the soap dispenser into the sink and cracking his knuckles against the faucet.
"Mmoww! Potter!" he gasps. He winces when Harry grinds their bodies together, the counter likely digging into his lower back. "Potter, ow, you're—nngh—hurting me, stop!"
"Sorry," Harry murmurs, meaning it, and pulls Malfoy off the sink, rubbing his back soothingly and nuzzling behind his ear with quick but soft kisses, trying, with some difficulty, to be moderately gentler. His whole body vibrates with want, his heart thudding, blood pulsing.
Kissing Ginny hadn't felt like this.
"We'll go—fuck—to the bed."
"We're doing what in the bed?" Malfoy asks, sounding alarmed, but Harry's already dragging him out of the bathroom. He plants his feet to stop them, but Harry winds an arm around his waist and lifts—not strong enough to throw Malfoy over his shoulder like a caveman but he's able to make Malfoy hop and stumble the rest of the way into the bedroom.
"Mm—ahh—wait!" Malfoy cries, trying to twist his mouth away from Harry's demanding kisses. He's breathing quickly and trembling and his lips are swollen and wet and red.
Harry can't look at him and remember the meaning of the word wait.
He moans when Harry bites at his neck, shuddering and melting for the moment only to begin resisting when Harry tugs his shirt up and over his head.
"Wait!" he repeats, muffled by the fabric. Then the shirt is off and he's standing in nothing but his navy blue man-panties, which shouldn't look right on a man's body with a bulge where there shouldn't be a bulge in such a lacy bit of cloth, sitting above strong legs spattered with short, blond hairs and below a flat chest and stomach. It shouldn't look right, but it does, even if Malfoy is still a little too thin, with his ribs showing ever so slightly and his hips a bit sharp.
Malfoy wraps his arms around himself, blushing brightly. "Potter! Y-you can't just—"
"I can," Harry breathes, tossing his own shirt aside, and cuts off the next indignant protest with another rough kiss, walking forward to make Malfoy move backwards until his calves touch the mattress. A gentle push sends him falling with a shriek onto the bed. Harry crawls on top, kissing, licking, nipping away Malfoy's complaints. One hand slides into blond hair, the other massaging down Malfoy's abdomen to reach the laced hem of the knickers.
"Wait, wait, wait!" Malfoy says in quick succession, all in one huffed breath, arms that had unconsciously wrapped around Harry's neck now a stiff barrier between them. "Potter! Do you even know what you're doing?"
Harry's eyes drift lower to Malfoy's tented pants and he licks his lips, his fingers tucking under the edge with the intent to pull down. "I've a pretty good idea…"
Malfoy catches the wandering hand and squeezes it in a bruising grip. "For Merlin's sake, just wait!" He bites his lip nervously. "Don't you think we should slow down? I mean, you've only just realized you're gay so…"
"Yeah, and I've wasted plenty of time thinking I was attracted to girls, haven't I?" Harry replies, exasperated, and tries to free his hand. "And you're the one that started it!"
"I didn't know a little flirtation would turn you into a beast!" Malfoy snaps, cheeks turning a splotchy red.
"Ohh, I knew it! I knew you were messing with me!" Harry growls, and finally breaks Malfoy's grip, immediately snatching Malfoy about the wrists and pinning them to either side of his head.
"Wait!" Malfoy squeaks. "It's not like I'm leaving in the next hour so you don't have to be so—" he cuts off, sharply looking away, his expression angered and uneasy. He doesn't meet Harry's eyes when he speaks again. "You don't have to be so rushed about it, all right? Haven't you ever heard of enjoying the moment?" Then, as an afterthought, he mutters, "Brute."
Harry blinks, his grip loosening on the pale wrists as Malfoy's words cut through the lust-crazed fog that had settled in his brain. He'd been fantasizing about Malfoy all week, and now that the opportunity had presented itself he, as Malfoy had stated, was rushing through it, wasting it. Malfoy was right. He should be taking his time, memorizing every detail. He should be making Malfoy delirious with pleasure, moaning and keening and begging! He should be—
His prick rubs against his boxers as he shifts, and he bites back a groan.
"Malfoy," he breathes, letting go of one wrist to firmly take Malfoy's chin, forcing Malfoy to look at him. "Listen, I— This isn't— It's not that I want to rush this, I don't, but I can't— Malfoy— I—fuck—!"
"…Oh forget it. You're hopeless, Potter," Malfoy murmurs with a sigh, but the irritation in his eyes is gone, replaced by a strange sort of amused affection that throws Harry for a second. He doesn't get much time to wonder about it because soon Malfoy's free arm is wrapping around him, hand pressing between his shoulder blades to bring him down into a sweet kiss—one that quickly turns fiery and wet. Harry's arms give way and their bodies crash together, eliciting an, "Oof!" from Malfoy. Their legs entwine, their groins rubbing against each other's thighs.
None of Harry's fantasies live up to the feeling of a real body, a real cock, pressed against his own, even with the fabric boundary between them. Malfoy's heat beneath him is fantastic and perfect, and all he wants is to vanish the rest of their clothing, to touch skin to skin, because he just knows it'll be a million times better. The thought disappears, however, as his mind rapidly clouds with pleasure when Malfoy squeezes a hand between their bodies to cup him through his pajamas.
He moans, burying his face in Malfoy's neck and thrusting into the touch. Malfoy strokes him once, twice, and then wiggles the hand up enough to slide it into his boxers. Malfoy hesitates for a moment, hand trembling, and then his fingers wrap around Harry's cock.
"God," Harry gasps, struggling to get his arms under his body. "My-my wand—need—"
Malfoy whispers a spell and suddenly his hand is slick with lube.
Harry nearly collapses again. "Ohh, fuck, Malfoy, did you just—wandless—"
"Simply because I didn't defeat a Dark Lord," Malfoy gasps shakily, "doesn't mean I'm not an impressive wizard in my own right."
"You're incredible," Harry agrees, rocking his weight onto his knees so that he can return the favor. Malfoy eeps when Harry yanks his knickers down, then arches and moans when Harry takes him in hand.
He's sensitive, Harry thinks, but it too is whisked away with all other thought, lost in moans and gasps, as he and Malfoy thrust against each other.
Harry wants to hold on, tries to, but Malfoy's too good at this, knowing exactly how firm to grip him, where and how to rub, how fast to go. All too soon he feels his stomach and thigh muscles clench, his balls drawing up, and he can't concentrate on Malfoy anymore. His hand moves erratically, and it's too much—Malfoy sweaty and needy below him, their hands both slick and firm, their moans echoing one another. In what seems like no time at all he's coming with a shout, only managing to avoid falling on Malfoy because his arms lock as his whole body stiffens.
"Fuck," Harry groans through a clenched jaw, spilling onto Malfoy's hand and wrist. "Mal—nngh."
His vision blackens, his mind turns to goo, his body shudders from the tips of his sweaty hair to the ends of his curled toes.
Forget brilliant wanks in the shower—he'd take a rushed handjob from Malfoy any day.
"Potter," Malfoy whines softly, arching into Harry's loosened grasp, still very much hard. He squeezes Harry's sensitive, twitching prick a little tighter to gain Harry's—wincing—attention, repeating more insistently, "Potter!"
"Sorry," Harry breathes, opening his eyes to blurrily take in Malfoy's frustrated expression, still a little dizzy from his orgasm. He crawls sideways as fast as his sluggish body will allow and lies beside Malfoy, leaning forward to kiss Malfoy as he resumes stroking.
Malfoy moans into Harry's mouth, hips jerking into the air and legs unable to spread further than the knickers around his thighs can stretch—not that he seems to want to spread them far. His knee are bent and his legs stiff, close enough together that Harry has a difficult time getting to the base of his cock. He's feeling it too, Harry realizes, that increased desire at it being someone else touching him, the mental aspect amplifying the physical.
Harry draws back, wanting to see Malfoy's cock in his hand. He's watched himself wank too many times to count but this is entirely different. They're about the same size, minor variances in length and girth, but Malfoy's naturally pale skin is brightly flushed, the head of his cock wet and sticky with more precome than Harry's own had ever produced. A fantasy flashes to the forefront of Harry's mind, of Malfoy sitting on the couch and Harry kneeling between his legs.
"Potter! Wha-What are you doing?" Malfoy gasps out as Harry scrambles down the bed. His hair sticks in sweaty strands to his forehead, his eyes dark and cloudy.
"Tasting," Harry answers, the word seeming to rumble from his chest, and then he's mouthing Malfoy's prick. Malfoy's whole body jerks and he sharply cries out. Harry doesn't have time to do more than one swipe of his tongue before Malfoy's shooting into his mouth.
It's not some copious amount but it's more than Harry expects and he pulls back, letting the last of Malfoy's spurt arc in the air and land on the pale stomach. He doesn't quite know what to do with his mouthful at first, but then quickly swallows it down. He immediately shudders, pulling a face—the consistency is like that of a raw egg. Strangely, unlike his own, which had tasted slightly bitter and very salty the one time he'd tried it, Malfoy's come doesn't have much of a flavor at all.
Malfoy's eyes are closed, body shaking slightly, when Harry crawls back up. He touches a reddened cheek with the back of his hand, his palm still slimy with lube and precome, and caresses lightly until Malfoy opens his eyes.
"Uh, hey," Harry murmurs, not knowing what else to say.
Malfoy swallows uneasily, his cheeks a bright pink. He croaks, "I don't normally come that fast."
"Me either," Harry quietly laughs. He wipes his hand on the bedspread, and then starts blushing too. "Actually, I've, uh, never done this with anyone."
Malfoy looks away. "…Me either."
"What? Really?" Harry asks, surprised. "I thought for sure you…"
"Well I haven't," Malfoy grumbles, still avoiding Harry's eyes, and reaches down to pull up his pants before moving to roll off the bed.
"Hey—wait!" Harry grabs his shoulder to stop him. "I've just said I'm new at this too, so what are you embarrassed about?"
"Did I say that I'm embarrassed?" Malfoy sighs. He lets Harry tug him back but stares at the ceiling. "We're nineteen, Potter. It's a bit shameful, don't you think?" His cheeks become blotchy again. "Being so inexperienced."
"Only if quantity is more important to you than quality," Harry says, smiling when Malfoy's eyes flicker to him briefly.
"Sentimental fool," Malfoy mumbles.
Harry rolls his eyes. "If you hate being a virgin—"
Malfoy makes an outraged noise at the term.
"—so much, then why haven't you gone and done all of London yet?"
"Because, believe it or not," Malfoy huffs, "there aren't that many gay wizards frolicking about. The entire time I was at Hogwarts, the only other gay Slytherin was Marcus Flint—"
It's Harry's turn to make a noise, his being disgusted rather than angry however.
Malfoy scoffs. "Oh shove it. His face is a bit… unfortunate, his lack of intelligence more so, but he has the body of a god. I'd have happily messed about with him, had I not been thirteen the last time I saw him."
"You didn't look outside of Slytherin? I bet there were better pickings," Harry says. "You wouldn't have had to settle for Flint, not when you're so gor—" He catches himself, and gives Malfoy an awkward shrug and small grin. "I mean, you're not bad. Er, looking, that is."
Malfoy blinks and then smiles, ducking his head to hide it. When he turns back, the smile is mostly gone, but it's still obvious he's preening. "Yes, well, for your information, I did search outside of Slytherin. The one other guy I heard about was a strawberry blond kid from Hufflepuff, two years below ours."
"Oh no, not a dreaded Hufflepuff. Your Slytherin nature would never allow such an atrocity," Harry teases, earning himself a light shove.
"He wasn't bad," Malfoy continues, sparing Harry a flat look, "but by the time I'd heard about him—well. Between you and me, it wasn't exactly a sexually conducive time. He tended to run in the other direction when he saw me, you understand."
"Oh. Right. I do understand, actually. Those last years weren't particularly favorable for me either," Harry says, exchanging an embarrassed smile with Malfoy. Then he shifts awkwardly, clearing his throat. "Too bad it took me so long to figure it out, eh? Could've made our fights a wee bit more interesting if I had."
"Indeed," Malfoy answers quietly. He sits up suddenly, bending his knees and wrapping his arm in a loose hold around them. He affects a dramatically wistful look and stares at the wall. "I'd always heard about group wanks in quidditch locker rooms, or boys getting each other off in their dormitories, and I wonder now, where was that happening? Certainly not anywhere in Slytherin House."
Harry chuckles, propping his head in his hand. "Not in Gryffindor either. Probably would've figured out the gay thing much sooner if there had been."
"It's all lies, I assure you. Much like the common straight male fantasy of girls pillow fighting with no tops on. Pansy told me it was utter bunk, though there was that one time she and Milly came to breakfast with feathers in their hair…" Malfoy looks thoughtful for a moment, then slants a flat glare at Harry. "I don't believe you, by the way."
"You don't believe me about what?" Harry asks, moving to sit up too.
"That you've never done anything like this before. Being with another guy, maybe, but you knew exactly what you wanted and how to go about getting it." He rubs his wrists.
Harry blushes, but he's grinning. "Well, yeah. I did know what I wanted, but that's because I've a pretty active imagination. Not because I've lots of experience with girls. Though I have been wanting to, uh…"
His eyes fall to Malfoy's lips.
"Molest me?" Malfoy supplies.
"Yeah, you could say that," Harry laughs. He lets his gaze roam down Malfoy's body, past the drying semen on Malfoy's stomach to the edge of the blue knickers. His stomach tickles with a touch of desire.
"Pervert," Malfoy accuses softly, bringing Harry's eyes back up to his. He licks his lips, mouth parting slightly.
Harry slips an arm around his waist, leaning in so that their mouths are centimeters apart.
"Can we, again?" he asks, grinning. "I know you'll have to settle, but surely I'm better than Flint, right?"
"I suppose so," Malfoy says breathily, hands coming up to Harry's shoulders. "I've been trying to get your attention all week. I thought for sure you'd jump me on Wednesday, but alas, I was disappointed."
Harry's heart takes an extra hard beat. "Be careful, Malfoy. Keep saying things like that and I'll molest you all night to ensure you'll be anything but disappointed."
"Please. I'd like to see you try," Malfoy mocks. "You'll have to fix that premature problem of yours first."
The next two weeks pass in a blur of sexual exploration, interrupted only by Harry's training—which he comes to resent—and the various necessities of eating, bathing, and sleeping. Harry comes close to being late to his morning lessons on multiple occasions after waking with a hard on and Malfoy snuggled to his side, the no-cuddling pillow since removed. He simply cannot ignore the opportunity presented. It's like he can't get enough. They kiss, touch, and suck their way to exhaustion.
"You're so clingy," Malfoy says shakily one evening after Harry's flopped beside him on the floor in front of the coffee table and thrown an arm over his chest.
"I don't want to hear that from you," Harry laughs in the same breathy tone, wiping a bit of come from his chin. "You hug me so tight at night I can hardly breathe. And you're the one who jumped me just now. I haven't even showered yet."
"Mm, yes, you stink," Malfoy murmurs, turning toward Harry and breathing in deeply despite his words.
Harry chuckles weakly and struggles to sit up, not bothering to tuck himself back into his trousers. He smoothes a hand over Malfoy's back, massaging lightly, when the blond rolls onto his stomach. "What's for dinner?"
Malfoy groans into the carpet, and answers, "I don't care. Just remove the charms and warm up some leftovers. I'm too tired to make anything."
Giving Malfoy's bare behind a pat, ruffly pants now confining Malfoy's ankles, Harry hefts to his feet and stretches with a grunt. "Shower first."
"But I'm hungry," Malfoy whines, muffled, only rolling over again when Harry nudges him with a toe, not at all appearing to care that he's naked. Instead, he's pouting. "Can't you make dinner for once?"
"Isn't my food, ah, what was it you said? Horrid?"
"Terribly so," Malfoy sighs. He waves a hand at Harry. "Fine. Leave your wand on the counter and I'll un-charm and mix up some of the leftovers."
"You need my wand? You, uh, haven't been needing it for…" Harry wiggles his fingers with a grin.
Malfoy blushes and smiles shyly. "I—well. All wizards are adept at lubricating charms, even when wandless."
Harry's humor fades and his eyes drift to the Dark Mark scar. Malfoy notices and quickly tucks his arm against his side, giving Harry an irritated and slightly confused look.
"How long has it been? Since your wand was snapped?" Harry asks softly.
Malfoy sits up and reaches to pull up his pants, finally awkward about his state of undress. "Five months or so. It happened around the same time I…" He gestures to his arm. "The hex, you know."
"Oh," Harry says, not knowing how else to respond. He clears his throat and shrugs, both gestures out of nervous habit. "I, uh, I'm going to take a shower. I'll just, um…"
Harry quickly grabs his training robes from the floor and fishes his wand out of a pocket, placing it on the counter like Malfoy had asked. Malfoy nods, wrapping his arms around his knees and not quite meeting Harry's eyes.
"Right. Well. I guess I'll stop stinking up the place," Harry says, trying for a weak grin but Malfoy's still not looking at him.
"Dinner will be ready soon," Malfoy says and unwinds his arms to grab the shirt he'd been wearing before Harry had yanked it off, "So don't take long."
Harry hesitates, thinking there should be something else he could say, maybe something comforting given the nature of their new relationship, but eventually turns and heads to the bathroom. He needs some time to think.
Malfoy groggily murmurs something into Harry's chest. It's wet; he's drooled a little in the night. "Hmm?"
"A new wand," Harry repeats, absently wiping away the spit with one hand and petting blond hair with the other as he thinks. "In time for Christmas, too."
"Why'ree 'wake?" Malfoy grumbles and turns to bury his face in Harry's armpit, forcing Harry's arm out at an awkward angle. His next muffled sentence sounds something like, "Day is it?"
Harry pats him on the shoulder, the movement clumsy. "It's Saturday, and we're awake because it's morning. See—the sun's up. Time for breakfast."
Malfoy's arm and leg that are wrapped around Harry tighten.
"Hn," he grunts.
"Come on," Harry says. When wiggling doesn't free him, he pinches Malfoy on the arse. "Let go. We're having breakfast and then going for a wand."
"Unnh." Malfoy finally releases him, but merely rolls over and curls into the blanket. Then he snaps up and twists to face Harry, wincing for one dizzy second as his head spins from the sharp action. "What?"
"God, you take up the whole bed, did you know that?" Harry says, nearly falling off the edge of the mattress when Malfoy moves, having been pushed to the spot while they'd slept.
Malfoy rubs his eyes, picks at the collected grim in the corners. "What's this about a wand?"
"Let's get you one," Harry says.
Malfoy stares for a long time, then slides back down and snuggles into the blanket again, facing away from Harry. "Go to sleep, Potter," he says wearily. "It's only dawn and already you're being stupid."
Rolling his eyes, Harry slumps on top of Malfoy, forcing the blond onto his stomach and squishing him into the pillows, holding him there when he starts struggling. "I'm not the one being stupid. You can't be enjoying not having a wand, success with lube charms aside."
"Get off, you fat troll," Malfoy growls.
"I'm not fat!" Harry huffs and releases Malfoy for a quick second to give him a spank.
"Ow! Hey!" Malfoy yelps. Managing to turn onto his side, he braces an arm against Harry's chest and glares. "Of course I don't enjoy being wandless, but think for one moment, will you? Where do you suppose I'll get a new wand? Are you proposing to take me to Clover Path in Dublin? To Murray's Wands? Because I don't care what Finnigan says—his wands are shit!"
Harry stares at him, waiting until the color in his cheeks recedes once he finishes arguing, and then leans in to place a simple kiss on the tip of his nose. The action earns Harry a suspicious glare that's more adorable that daunting in the dim light of sunrise.
"I have a—well, a plan, I suppose you could call it," Harry says. Then, seeing that Malfoy's about to start another rant, adds, "Just trust me, okay?"
Malfoy's eyes shift away. "Fine. Whatever."
Harry kisses him again, this time pressing their lips together, and finally lets him up. "Good. So what's for breakfast?"
The boards are gone from the windows, the glass replaced after having been knocked to pieces, but all in all Ollivanders Wand Shop looks the same, even down to the solitary wand on the dusty, purple cushion.
Malfoy doesn't notice where they've stopped at first. He's nervously glancing at the few other shoppers plodding through Diagon Alley in the early hour. Most of the shops are closed, but Ollivanders, Harry knows, never closes, the wandmaker eager to introduce a possible pairing between wand and wizard at any hour.
When Malfoy finally glances at the storefront that is their destination, his whole body goes rigid and his mouth falls open in shock. He then scowls at Harry, his anger mixed with confusion and hurt.
"Are you out of your mind?" he hisses, taking another quick look around to see if anyone has noticed them. "I can't ask him to give me a new wand!"
"Not giving. He'll want to be paid, I'm sure," Harry jokingly says, but his humor is clearly not appreciated as Malfoy elbows him in the side.
"I'm getting out of here," Malfoy breathes and spins on his heel to book it back to The Leaky Cauldron.
Harry catches Malfoy by the arm and tugs him back, suspecting that the only reason he doesn't put up much of a fight is because he doesn't want to draw any attention.
"It'll be fine," Harry insists.
Malfoy plants his feet. "You're out of your mind!"
Pulling him close, Harry whispers in his ear, "If he refuses you a wand, I'll give you mine then and there and get a new one myself."
"What!" Malfoy gasps, completely taken aback. "How could you even—it's your wand!"
"I can promise that because I know he'll sell you another one and I don't have to worry about losing mine," Harry says calmly. He presses his hand against Malfoy's back encouragingly and grins. "Come on. We've still got to go by Gringotts after this so you can finally pay me back every knut you owe me."
Malfoy glares weakly but lets Harry draw him into the tiny wandshop. The inside of the shop is as dusty and crowded with wandboxes as ever. No candles are burning but the shop itself seems to glow from all the magic it contained.
"He's likely asleep, Potter," Malfoy whispers, glancing around nervously. "Any sensible wizard is at this hour."
"You whinge a lot in the mornings," Harry says and playfully pushes Malfoy a step away. Almost immediately, Malfoy glues to his side again. He sighs, exasperated. "Would you relax already? He's not going to hex you. It's Ollivander, for Godric's sake!"
Malfoy opens his mouth to retort, but at that moment a whispery voice cutes him off, making him freeze in place.
"Harry Potter," Ollivander says, tranquilly sidestepping a tower of wandboxes, fingers steepled before him and shining eyes firmly on Harry. "I did not expect to see you so soon… A few years, perhaps. A wand, for a child of your own."
"Er, yeah. Maybe," Harry says, thinking of Teddy. He gestures to Malfoy, whose grasp on his arm is slowing his blood flow. "But today I was wondering if we could get a wand for him?"
Ollivander's gaze swiftly moves to Malfoy. No recognition shows on his face but he does say, "Ten inches, hawthorn, unicorn hair, as full of paradoxes as the tree that gave it birth. Why, pray tell, would you abandon that complex and intriguing wand? Does it deny you, choosing instead its new…" his eyes drift back to Harry, "…master?"
Harry becomes tense under Ollivander's studying eye and, out of nerves, elbows Malfoy when he doesn't immediately answer.
"It was snapped," Malfoy mutters.
"Snapped?" Ollivander breathes, looking horrorstruck. "The wand that repelled the Dark Lord's curse, the curse from the Elder Wand itself, snapped?" His expression changes to one of remorse and pain at their nods—an expression that many wore at the funerals following the war, wands being as dear to Ollivander as anyone's loved ones. "How dreadful."
"Yeah, it, uh, it was a good wand," Harry says, trying to sound comforting.
With that, Ollivander turns sharply and disappears back into the stacks of wands, leaving Harry and Malfoy to stare at the empty space behind the counter. Malfoy makes a distressed noise and takes a step back.
"I told you, didn't I?" he whispers harshly. "He's not going to sell me a wand, so let's go."
"He didn't say he wasn't going to sell you a wand," Harry sighs, grabbing Malfoy again to prevent him from escaping. "Stop squirming! He could come back any second."
On cue, Ollivander's voice sounds from within the stacks, "Pine, eight and three quarter inches, unicorn's hair…" He steps up to the counter out of the gloom, eyes on Malfoy as he holds out a short wandbox. "Values independence and intrigue."
"See?" Harry whispers, nudging Malfoy closer, barely able to contain his excitement at not only having been right but also for Malfoy being able to get a new wand. Mostly about being right though.
For the first time since they entered Diagon Alley, Malfoy looks hopeful. He hesitantly steps forward, hand lingering on Harry's arm until he absolutely has to let go, and lifts the wand from its lined box. Taking a deep breath, he gives the pine a soft swish.
"Not that one," Ollivander says, and snatches away the wand, disappearing from the counter with the speed and swiftness of a child rather than an old man. Malfoy stares at his hand in surprise, appearing to wonder what had happened to the wand that had recently been in his grasp. Giving him no time to begin worrying all over again, Ollivander quickly returns, rattling off the new wand's information, "Hair from the mane of a manticore, eleven inches. Blackthorn, the bush which sports wicked thorns but the sweetest berries after the harshest frosts."
This time, when Malfoy swishes the wand, it sparks and pops, but soon fizzles out.
"Not a warrior then," Ollivander intones and, like before, steals the wand and vanishes sooner than either Harry or Malfoy can speak.
Harry sighs and settles into the one dusty, spindly chair in the corner. "Something tells me this is going to take a while."
"Your wand is holly, not silver lime, so stop acting like a Seer, Potter," Malfoy grumbles.
"Oh ho! Know a bit on wandlore, do you?" Ollivander asks at Malfoy's side, making the blond startle, not having realized he'd returned. He holds out another short box. "Seven inches, applewood, kneazle fur."
"Kneazle fur?" Malfoy asks doubtfully, scowling when Harry snorts out a laugh, but reaches for the applewood wand. His fingers barely skim the light-colored timber before it's shooting from its box in a great shower of sparks, over Ollivander's shoulder, and crashing into a tower of wandboxes.
"A wee bit light for you," Ollivander murmurs and moves to rescue the quivering wand from the bottom of the pile as Malfoy blushes in embarrassment.
"Kneazle fur," Harry laughs. "I wish you'd gotten that one."
"It's a Hufflepuff's wand," Malfoy hisses, scowling at Harry's amusement. "But applewood is nothing to disparage. Owners of applewood wands are supposed to be well-loved."
"And long-lived, full of charm," Ollivander adds, again startling Malfoy. He holds out another box. "Ten and a half inches, heartwood of an elder hornbeam, whisker of a nundu, dangerously difficult to subdue in beast and wood."
"Viktor Krum's wand is hornbeam," Malfoy says, looking at the displayed white wand with fascination.
"Indeed," Ollivander concurs, sounding curious as his eyes narrow on Malfoy. "Ten and a quarter inches, dragon heartstring core. A rigid wand, that one." He extends the box closer to Malfoy. "Give this a try then, boy."
When Malfoy's fingers come in contact with this wand, the tip glows a brilliant green. Malfoy lifts it fully from the box and it gives a throb of magic like a heartbeat. His face lights up with delight and he smiles widely at Harry before catching himself and trying to school his features back into calm pleasure. It doesn't take long for him to forget his poise and start smiling again.
"So, that one?" Harry asks, unable to keep from smiling too, feeling his heart throb like Malfoy's wand.
Malfoy's smile morphs into a smirk, more giddy than wicked. "Hornbeam wands are very personalized, Potter. Even if you take this one from me, it won't work for you."
"Yes, particularly fine-tuned and sentient wands," Ollivander hums, rubbing his chin thoughtfully as he watches Malfoy transfigure the wandbox into a guinea pig and back again. "Likewise they absorb their owners' honor codes, whatever those may be, for good or for ill."
Malfoy clears his throat, his smile faltering at the words. He shifts on his feet, giddiness gone and now looking uncomfortable. "Yes, I suppose that's true, too." He waves a hand at Harry. "Well, pay the man, Potter."
Harry snorts at the command but stands and reaches into his pocket for his money. "Remember, Gringotts is next."
"I'll pay you every knut," Malfoy says dryly, rolling his eyes, but he sobers quickly as he faces Ollivander. "Th-thank you. For the wand. Even after…"
"Even after what?" Ollivander queries, sounding genuinely confused. He doesn't give Malfoy time to answer as he calmly swipes the galleons Harry places on the counter into his palm. His eyes are interested as he studies Draco and the hornbeam wand. "Do come by if you ever feel like discussing wandlore, young Draco."
"Oh, yes, of course," Malfoy stammers, clutching his new wand.
"C'mon," Harry cuts in, seeing the tension build in the blond's shoulders. He grabs one of Malfoy's hands from the wand and gives it a tug. "To Gringotts we go."
Malfoy hesitates, looking almost timid, and then smiles a little, the tension dropping away as his fingers tighten around Harry's.
"I don't have training next week," Harry murmurs that night, pressing Malfoy into the pillows. "We've the week off for Christmas."
Malfoy draws away, expression unimpressed but eyes amused. "Oh? Is that supposed to mean something to me?"
Harry grins wickedly. "Yeah. That you'll be nothing more than a pile of orgasmic goo by the time I'm finished with you."
"That… doesn't sound at all appealing," Malfoy replies, pulling a face.
Giving a short laugh, Harry reaches up and brushes away stray strands of blond hair. "It'll feel a lot better than it sounds, I hope." He wiggles his eyebrows playfully. "I'm gonna rock your world, baby."
"Ugh." Malfoy turns his face away to dodge Harry's kiss, shrieking and struggling when Harry slobbers against his neck, nuzzling him like a dog. He pushes Harry off and hits him with a pillow, making Harry laugh. "You're disgusting sometimes, Potter."
"You think?" Harry shrugs, still grinning. "Maybe."
With a soft scoff, Malfoy sits up and leans against the wall, smoothing the pillow over his lap and looking away from Harry's lecherous grin. His new wand rests beside Harry's on the mixed pile of their books next to the bed and he stares at it, expression becoming contemplative. Harry glances at it, too. The city lights shine through the bedroom window and touch the wand, making its white wood gleam prettily in the dark, the decorative swirl at the base giving it a sweet flair—Malfoy's precious new girl.
"How did you know Ollivander would sell me a new wand?" Malfoy asks suddenly, reaching a hand over to press his fingertips to mentioned stick. It hums appreciatively at his touch.
Harry shrugs again. "I don't know. He's, well, a bit mad. Even after we rescued him from Voldemort," Malfoy flinches, though Harry's unsure if it's because of the name or the nature of the topic, "he was still fascinated by the power Voldemort could wield with the Elder Wand. I think, when it comes to wands, he doesn't hold grudges. It's too interesting to him, to see what wizards his wands choose."
"My old wand had died," Malfoy says softly. He glances briefly at Harry. "The unicorn hair, I mean. A unicorn hair core is very faithful to its first owner. It becomes miserable when it's passed about."
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean—" Harry flusters.
Malfoy rolls his eyes. "I know, you sap. I hardly hold it against you. My point is, the wand wasn't a good fit for me anymore. A melancholic core and hawthorne wood? It'd have never worked right for me again, even if I'd properly won it back from you. It was infuriating trying to use it. It was useless."
Harry frowns, an understanding dawning. "Malfoy… I might be out of line here but I have to ask… Were you the one that snapped it?"
Malfoy blushes, ashamed. "I regretted it immediately, you realize. A damaged wand is better than no wand."
Harry stares, mouth dropping open.
"I was angry," Malfoy explains embarrassedly, eyes not meeting Harry's. "I'd been alone for so long and just when I decided to venture out I got hexed because I couldn't even produce a basic shield charm. And the woman who'd hexed me? She had to have been at least ninety. It was terribly humiliating and vexing and I just…"
"Snapped?" Harry supplies. Malfoy sends him a withering look.
"I didn't think everyone would turn me down," he mutters, shifting uncomfortably. "I thought someone would at least help me a little. I didn't expect them all to slam their doors in my face."
"I helped you," Harry says, nudging Malfoy's knee with his own. Malfoy smiles weakly.
"Yeah, you did." The smile fades, and he sits up a little straighter. "Listen, Potter, about that… When the Ministry releases the Manor…"
"You'll want to return there?" Harry asks, trying to sound indifferent. He wonders if it shows on his face when his heart jumps hopefully at Malfoy's immediate denial.
"No! No, I—" Malfoy winces. "I never want to live there again. I plan to put it on the market as soon as I've all my family possessions back in the vaults. I'm positive some loon will want to own the once dwelling of a Dark Lord."
"But isn't it your ancestral home?"
"That gaudy place? Merlin, no. My father bought it the same year I started at Hogwarts," Malfoy explains with an eye roll. "It and those daft peacocks."
Harry's heart beats faster. "So… you'll stay here then? With me?"
"Potter, you…" Malfoy trails off, his hesitation making Harry nervous. He looks embarrassed—and a little sad. "The thing is, you were wrong before."
"Wrong?" Harry gives him a suspicious frown. "What was I wrong about? You've a wand, don't you?"
Malfoy huffs a sigh and looks away, cheeks reddening. "I— That's not what I'm talking about."
"I'm not the one settling here, okay? You do realize that, don't you?" Malfoy says, sulking. He waves a hand uncaringly in the air, but it's undermined by the nervous way he swallows and the way the hand moves to rub his neck after the motion. "I'm not the catch, you are. You don't have to let me stay here out of pity. I know enough about the muggle world now that I can manage if I have to." As an afterthought, he adds, "And I have a wand that works now."
Harry stares for a long while, long enough to make Malfoy start fidgeting, and then smiles fondly.
"You aren't as clever as you think," he says, shaking his head. He cuts off Malfoy's angry retort with a kiss, slipping an arm around Malfoy's waist and tugging him closer, grabbing the pillow that's in the way and tossing it aside. He pulls back, licking his lips and grinning at Malfoy's irritated scowl. "Since you haven't noticed by now, I'll just Gryffindor up and say it: I want you to stay. I like you, you prat."
The scowl drops and Malfoy blushes, stammering, "O-only because I'm the first gay wizard you met!"
"Maybe, but I'd already known what an arse you can be and I still started to like you, didn't I?" Harry says, laughing at Malfoy's offended glare. "I thought it'd have been obvious, given that I can't keep my hands off you."
"You're male," Malfoy snaps. He lifts his chin. "And I'm spectacularly gorgeous. Of course you wouldn't be able to keep your hands off me."
"Is that why you let me touch you then? Because you're a guy with a sex drive?" Harry asks and doesn't try to hide his disappointment.
"That's not— I didn't say that!"
"Then why?" he presses. He smiles a little sadly. "Because I'm a catch, as you called it? The Chosen One? Or what, you think I'm attractive, so why not? Like with Flint?"
"You're too hairy to be attractive," Malfoy mutters, absently running his fingers through the hair on Harry's arm.
Harry leans in to kiss him. "I am Harry."
Malfoy quickly turns away, forcing Harry to kiss his cheek instead. "Lame puns do not earn you kisses! All I meant was that you don't have to settle. For me. I was a Death Eater, you know. I tormented you all through school, too."
"I already said I hadn't forgotten any of that," Harry murmurs, kissing along his jaw and nuzzling behind his ear. "And yet, miraculously, I still like you."
"I hate it when you act mature," Malfoy mutters. He shivers and then pushes at Harry's chest. "Stop it."
"But I like you," Harry says.
Blushing, Malfoy begins struggling to escape Harry's arms. "I heard you the first time."
"I like you," Harry repeats.
"I heard you, I said!"
"I like you."
Harry slips a hand into Malfoy's hair, catching him by the back of the head and turning him into the kiss. Malfoy resists, hands pushing at Harry's chest, very nearly managing to push him away, but just when Harry thinks he'll have to relent, Malfoy does so first, slumping in Harry's arms and yielding. He opens his mouth under Harry's, letting Harry kiss, lick, nip, and plunder as much as he pleases.
Harry scoots them both until Malfoy's on his back like he'd been at the start, resting against the remaining two pillows. It's a position Harry likes—Malfoy under him, moaning and gasping. It hadn't happened yet, but one of these days, he'd have Malfoy begging.
"You're seeing the Weasels tomorrow," Malfoy protests when Harry pulls at his shirt.
"And? I'm not the one that gets tired easily," Harry teases, removing his own nightshirt as well.
Malfoy glares but his eyes soon flutter close when Harry lies beside him and smoothes a hand across his chest. He's more sensitive about his nipples than Harry is, always gasping and arching when Harry touches them. He does so now, as Harry pinches a nub and then rubs thumb over it, moving to lick the other. Then Harry's massaging the hand down to the edge of Malfoy's man-knickers. The ones he's wearing are Slytherin green and have small silver bows.
"I like the lace better," Harry murmurs, nipping at Malfoy's chest.
"Y-you! You're still wearing those kid's pants!" Malfoy gasps in response, eyes cracking open to glare unfocusedly in Harry's direction. "So you don't get to comment!"
Chuckling, Harry tugs the knickers down Malfoy's thighs, bringing his hand back up to rub near the base of Malfoy's cock, through the short, blond hair there.
"You know, I've thought this before, but I didn't think it was possible for people to have straight pubic hair, yet there you are," Harry says, eyes having followed his hand.
"Not everyone has to have a big, curly bush," Malfoy answers, breathing heavily. He slants a look at Harry. "Ever heard of trimming, caveman?"
"If you want me to," Harry teases and pushes the green knickers further down so that he can move between Malfoy's legs. Already, just from the few touches, precome gathers at the tip of Malfoy's stiff cock. "You're so sensitive."
Malfoy just hums in response, eyes falling closed again with a soft moan when Harry leans down and kisses his belly button. He moves his legs up and down, trying to lose the knickers Harry realizes after a moment, and then spreads them wider, arching closer to Harry's mouth. Harry draws away with a chuckle and then wiggles back up to kiss him.
"Lose those pajamas," Malfoy says against his mouth, hands pushing at the edge of said clothing.
Harry does as requested, quickly shucking pajama bottoms and boxers both, and then settles against Malfoy once more, skin to skin, cocks rubbing deliciously.
"Potter," Malfoy murmurs, regaining Harry's attention, his voice low and eyes dilated. He licks his lips. "I want… I want…" He takes Harry's hand and guides it down, squeezing it between their bodies and shivering when Harry's fingers brush over his prick, but moving lower and pressing Harry's hand between his legs, behind his balls, eyes firmly locking with Harry's own. "I want."
"Oh," Harry breathes. They'd fingered each other several times in the past two weeks, always searching for that extra burst of pleasure, but hadn't gone any further. "Are you sure?"
"You don't want to?" Malfoy asks impatiently.
Harry's stomach clenches eagerly. "Fuck yes I want to."
"Do you…?" Malfoy licks his lips again. "Do you know how to…?"
Harry pulls a face. "As if anyone could forget the sex-ed classes with Flitwick. God."
"At least we didn't have McGonagall like the girls," Malfoy jokes weakly.
Harry whimpers a laugh, amused but distressed. He doesn't want to think about Flitwick and McGonagall, not when he's about to have sex for the first time, with Malfoy naked under him, asking to be fucked.
"All right, give me a moment," Harry says, fumbling for his wand. He whispers the usual cleansing charm over Malfoy, which, to his amusement, always makes Malfoy squeak and startle. Although, in Malfoy's defense, Harry wasn't particularly fond of the invasive spell either.
Spelling lubricant onto his hand, he gives Malfoy's prick a couple quick but loose strokes, keeping his body interested but not wanting to push him anywhere close to the brink just yet. He then moves his slick hand further down, bypassing Malfoy's balls, and gently pressing a finger first against, rubbing and making Malfoy moan, and then inside.
"Relax," Harry says softly, careful to only touch near Malfoy's prostate as he slides the finger in and out—he's already learned what sudden, direct pressure does to the blond. Malfoy really is too sensitive, making it difficult to keep him focused. Entertaining, of course, when Harry wants him to fall to pieces but that's not the objective this time.
They've done this part enough though that Malfoy easily relaxes, even moving his hips to encourage Harry along. Taking the cue, Harry pushes in a second finger, grabbing his wand with his free hand to whisper more lube to the spot, making the slide smoother. Malfoy grunts appreciatively, only to breathe in sharply when Harry prematurely attempts a third.
"Not yet," he says, hand swinging down to stop Harry, his cheeks red from both the flush of body heat and the blush of embarrassment. "Move them about first. You know, um…"
"Scissoring, right," Harry says. He smiles apologetically. "I'm trying to not think of Flitwick, you see."
Malfoy laughs a little, shivering when Harry spreads his fingers. Usually, Harry slipped his fingers in, moved them in and out, found Malfoy's prostate, and rubbed it until Malfoy was screaming from his orgasm. The new goal, of course, requires a similar but different method.
At the time Harry had sat through Flitwick's sex talk, humiliated along with the other sixth year boys, he'd assumed any anal sex he'd be having would be with a girl—with Ginny. Now the mere thought of pink, flappy girl bits above his hand, rather than Malfoy's leaking cock and fuzzy balls, almost kills his desire. Almost, because there's no way he could lose his desire entirely with Malfoy's arse clutching at his fingers, with Malfoy arching and moving his hips and whispering shakily, "Okay. You can…"
Harry slips in a third, keeping his fingers bunched together at first before slowly stretching and turning them, trying to remember Flitwick's squeaky advice without remembering Flitwick himself. The first two fingers had been the usual direction, a little different, sure, but nothing Harry hadn't yet done. However, the third finger brings his thoughts to order, makes his heart beat faster, makes swallowing difficult. He's suddenly very aware of what they're doing and his breath comes heavier and quicker.
"Maybe…" Harry licks his lips and tries again. "Maybe you should turn over. On your knees, you know?"
Malfoy's hands brace against the wall above his head as he slowly moves himself along with Harry's fingers. He'd started to sweat at some point, likely more from nerves than any exertion, and a fine sheen of it shows on his forehead. He swallows anxiously and meets Harry's lustful gaze.
"I… I can," he says slowly, not looking as though he likes the idea. "If you want me to, I can."
"It's supposed to be easier that way," Harry explains. His cock gives an enthusiastic throb when Malfoy moans at being stretched further; he has to pause for a moment, eyes closing, and wills away his rising need. Malfoy makes a confused noise at the unexpected halt and Harry lightly rubs his hip to reassure him. When he opens his eyes again, he smiles softly. "I'd rather do it like this, though, but only if you're okay with it."
"It's fine," is all Malfoy says and he turns his head to press his face into his arm, eyes closing and breath coming quicker. "Just—just do it already."
Harry snorts at the shaky command but is amused. His smile only drops away as he takes a deep breath and scoots closer, his cock brushing pleasurably against Malfoy's until he guides it lower. The angle seems odd, he thinks as he spells more lube into his palm, stroking himself. He glances at Malfoy, who's peeking at him from under an arm.
"Can you hold your legs back a little?" he asks.
Malfoy blushes hotly, then slowly, hesitating, lifts his legs and grasps them, holding himself open and appearing as though he's terribly embarrassed for doing so. For Harry, the sight is a complete turn on. His whole body begins to shake with anticipation.
"Would… Would a pillow help?" he asks, eyes glued to Malfoy's quivering hole, slick with lube.
"God, stop talking!" is Malfoy's nervous response.
"So shy," Harry says with a small, equally nervous laugh. He leans forward, holding up himself with one arm while his other hand again directs his cock to the right place. Then he's pressing in, hearing and feeling Malfoy take deep breaths, either trying to relax to let Harry in or just trying to relax.
It's a strange but certainly not unwelcome or unpleasant feeling, and amazingly different from mouth or hands. Harry presses the palms of his feet and his toes into the mattress for leverage as he pushes slowly forward. Malfoy gives a strangled moan, his sweaty grip on his legs faltering. Harry wants to ask if he's okay, but his mind is rapidly clouding with pleasure, because fuck if Malfoy's arse doesn't feel incredible.
Once fully inside, Harry pauses, chest rapidly rising and heart pounding in his ears. He'd love to go wild, just grab Malfoy about the hips and thrust in and out until he was blind from blissful satisfaction. Luckily, some part of his rational mind is still intact—probably the part that reminds him he'll have to be gentle at first if he wants to do this again sometime.
And he does want to do it again.
Finally, he calms enough to gasp out, "You okay?"
"Yes," Malfoy meekly answers, arms and legs shaking. He looks away, squeezing his eyes closed.
"Not bad then? I can move?" Harry asks. His mind starts to cloud again. "Fuck, Draco, tell me I can move."
"Just stop talking," Malfoy pleads breathlessly.
Taking that as permission, Harry pulls out and thrusts back in, trying to do so slowly but the feel of the tight ring of muscle moving up and down his cock, Malfoy's inner heat fitting to him, makes it difficult to be as gentle as he imagines he should be. He manages a few more similarly slow thrusts before his body demands he move faster, his hand on Malfoy's side gripping tighter.
He leans forward more, forcing Malfoy's legs further apart. One leg slips from Malfoy's grasp but he keeps it clamped to Harry's side, the arm that had held it being thrown over his eyes. Harry gives him a quick moment to adjust and then moves faster, a little rougher, the mattress shaking and bouncing under them. He moans, long and deep, relishing the feel of Malfoy clamped around him.
It's brilliant—better than any wank in the shower, better than anything they'd done since that first night. Malfoy's moans are like choked hiccups and Harry's hips seem to have a mind of their own, snapping faster without his permission. His head falls back, his mouth opens, and he could happily die like this, buried in Malfoy, their bodies rocking together.
Or so he thinks, until Malfoy is suddenly too tight, his fingernails unexpected talons digging into Harry's shoulders, his knees and thighs painfully squeezing on either side of Harry's ribcage. His body arches off the bed, his moan loud and hoarse. For a dizzying second, Harry thinks something is wrong, completely confused by the abrupt change, but then Malfoy collapses boneless against the mattress, the bewildered, lightheaded look on his face one Harry's come to know well in the past two weeks.
"Did you just…?"
Malfoy moans again, but this time it's one of embarrassment rather than pleasure. He throws both arms over his face, the limbs shaking. "Don't talk to me."
Harry's disbelief makes it possible for him to hold still with Malfoy reflexively clenching and unclenching around him. Breath still heaving, his eyes fall to the splash of come painting up Malfoy's stomach and chest. "You really… Already? But I hadn't even touch—"
"Fuck, Potter, shut up!" Malfoy growls, voice wavering from his trembling. He stiffens when Harry shifts.
Harry notices. "Er, should I—"
With a dog-like whine, Harry eases his still quite hard cock out of Malfoy's quivering body, mourning the loss of the tight heat he'd only briefly been able to enjoy. Malfoy immediately presses his legs together, forcing Harry out from between them.
"Wha-?" Harry breathes, utterly bewildered and wincing as his cock bounces in the much colder air. He wouldn't normally describe his bedroom as frigid but it suddenly feels that way.
Malfoy appears to take pity on him and reaches up to pull Harry closer, aligning them so that Harry mostly lies to one side but also on top of him.
"Not a single word," Malfoy says, glaring threateningly, and kisses Harry hard, taking his prick in a firm grip and stroking in the way he most liked. Harry moans and thrusts into the hand, the feeling not as perfect as Malfoy's arse but getting the job done all the same, and within a few minutes he coming, spilling onto Malfoy's hip.
Harry pants into Malfoy's neck, mind racing away with questions. He finally settles on a cheeky, "So you liked it then?" and yelps when Malfoy pinches him in the side. He draws back, propping himself on his forearm and blinks down at Malfoy.
"Why are you so angry?" he asks. "It must have felt good if you—"
"Potter!" Malfoy barks, but he can't hold Harry's gaze for long. "Just—it was a bit much all at once, all right?"
"It didn't hurt? I thought it was supposed to hurt. I was trying to go slow."
"Really? That was slow?" Malfoy mutters. He looks like he'd rather not discuss it, but concedes embarrassedly under Harry's stare, "It wasn't that it hurt so much as it felt… different. You—there was a lot of, um, pressure." He blushes brighter. "It's different from fingers. I wasn't expecting it, is all."
"Oh," Harry says, brushing away his sweaty bangs and then doing the same for Malfoy. He smiles affectionately at Malfoy's angered pout. "Why are you being so shy?"
"I'm not being shy," Malfoy mumbles, cheeks still red and eyes still avoiding Harry's.
Harry sighs shortly, the action exasperated but also fond.
I could love this man, he thinks suddenly, shocking himself at first but adjusting to the idea rather quickly. He brushes his hand across Malfoy's hair again, this time leaving it there and pausing before leaning in for a kiss, which Malfoy reluctantly gives.
"Let's try again," Harry chirps when he draw away.
"What?" Malfoy squeaks.
Harry grins. "You're the one who said it. Practice makes perfect."
"Potter— I— We just—"
"It'll give us a chance to work on foreplay," Harry continues, pushing Malfoy's legs apart and settling between them again. "I told you, didn't I? An orgasmic pile of goo, that's what you'll be."
"Ugh, stop with the pile of goo nonsense," Malfoy groans, turning his face side to side to dodge Harry's kisses, sweaty hands slippery against Harry's biceps. He becomes more and more frustrated until he flusters, "I— I didn't enjoy it!"
"No?" Harry asks doubtfully, arching a brow. He pointedly looks at the semen still smeared on Malfoy's stomach.
"I faked it!" Malfoy snaps defensively.
They both freeze, Harry breathing in sharply. Two more seconds tick by, and then Harry crumbles, laughing so hard he can't hold himself up anymore. Malfoy gives an angry shout, cheeks flaming, and shoves Harry off. He twists to brace his feet against Harry's naked chest and pushes, sending Harry rolling off the bed in a heap of laughter and blanket.
"Oh shut it," Malfoy growls. "And give me back that blanket. I'm going to sleep!"
With a snort, Harry jerks the other end of the blanket, hard enough that Malfoy too tumbles off the bed, shrieking.
"You faked it, did you?" Harry asks, pressing Malfoy to the carpeted floor. He kisses both of Malfoy's hot cheeks. "Then I wasn't good enough. We definitely need to practice now, until we get it right."
"What? No!" Malfoy protests, gasping when his thigh rubs against Harry's already filling cock. He looks aghast at Harry. "Get off me! You're a beast! A true beast!"
Harry moans at the friction, then grabs Malfoy's wrists and pins them. He smirks, eyes clouded with renewed desire.
"Darling, you don't even know yet."
The smell of burning eggs greets Harry when he steps out of the bathroom the next morning. He scrunches his nose, rubbing the towel around his neck over his wet hair as he pads to the kitchen. Malfoy stands in front of the stove but his eyes are unfocused, his face slack, even with the unpleasant smell rising right in front of him.
"Hey," Harry says, coming up behind him to touch a hand lightly to his hip, their bodies smoothly fitting together, and pressing a kiss to his hair, still damp from his own shower. "You're burning them."
"Huh?" Malfoy grunts, blinking.
Harry reaches around him to turn off the stovetop. "You're burning the eggs."
"Oh." Malfoy's gaze slowly falls to the now incredibly dry and blackened eggs. He startles, waking out of his stupor. "Oh!"
"Tired?" Harry chuckles, and then quickly dodges Malfoy's elbow.
"Get off! Merlin, my legs are still shaking, you animal!" Malfoy snaps, cheeks splotchy, and he moves to scrape the burnt eggs into the vanishing bin. "Go eat your toast—that's all you're getting!"
"Of course, my dear," Harry says cheerily. He grabs the plate of toast—only slightly burnt—from the counter and takes it to the table. "Do we have any of that apple jam left?"
Instead of answering, Malfoy simply opens a cabinet and then brings Harry a jar of the jam in question, setting it on the table next to Harry's plate with a thunk before he eases gently into the other chair, glaring when Harry chuckles. He props an elbow on the table, cupping his cheek in his palm, and watches Harry eat. It doesn't take long for his eyes to become unfocused again as his mind dazes. After a moment, he blinks back to reality and, catching Harry's knowing smirk, scowls and looks away.
He straightens, eyes on the balcony door. "Is that an owl?"
Sure enough, a small barn owl sits on the railing of the balcony, rolled parchment tied to its foot and its feathers ruffled against the cold wind that whistles between the buildings.
"Oh, it's Andromeda's owl, Indy," Harry says, rising and padding over to the balcony door. He opens it, letting the owl fly through, as well as letting in a burst of cold air. The owl glides to the back of Malfoy's chair and holds out its foot.
"Indy?" Malfoy inquires with a dry look, but his tone is kind and he tears off a piece of Harry's toast, feeding it to the owl before untying the parchment and handing it to Harry.
"Teddy named her," Harry explains, petting the owl's soft, cold feathers. "She's new." He unrolls the parchment as he sits back down, scanning Andromeda's beautiful handwriting.
Malfoy hands the owl another small piece of toast, which it happily takes. "What's it say? We're going to see her in an hour, what's so important that she sent her new owl in this weather?"
Harry blinks at the letter, a little shocked, a little confused. "Er, well, she says not to go to her place today. To just go to the Weasley's since she needs to pick up some Christmas presents that came in this morning that couldn't be owl-delivered."
"Oh," Malfoy says, sounding disappointed. "I wanted to show her my wand."
"Uh, well, you still can, because you're to come with me to the Weasley's, she says."
Malfoy's hand pauses in mid-pet on Indy's back. "What?"
"Er, yeah. I guess Ron told his mum, because apparently she's demanded that you be there for Christmas, too," Harry explains. His cheeks flush at Malfoy's shock and he grins sheepishly. "Since we're, um, together, that is."
"I'm not going to the Weasel's house," Malfoy breathes, horrified.
Harry rolls his eyes and gets to his feet. "You are. Come on, let's get dressed. It'll be easier if we just get it out of the way, all right?"
"No! Absolutely not!" Malfoy says, grabbing the edge of his chair and holding on tight as though he thinks Harry will try to pull him up.
"It's Andromeda's orders and, believe me, you don't want to upset Mrs. Weasley either." Harry leans over the back of the chair to press a kiss to Malfoy's temple, lightly squishing Indy between them and making the owl shriek in indignation.
Malfoy looks like he wants to shriek too. "They'll curse me on sight, Potter!"
"Nah, they'll just scowl a bit. Well, Ron will." Harry shrugs. "Just try not to be such an arrogant git, will you?"
"I'm not going," Malfoy answers.
Harry leans to give him another kiss, but draws back when Indy chatters and nips sharply at his shirt in protest. He smiles warmly at Malfoy instead. "You'll be fine. Trust me?"
Malfoy's eyebrows scrunch in uncertainty, his mouth opening and closing as he thinks, but eventually he deflates, giving Harry a weak glare.
"Fine. But you're jumping in front of me when they throw the curses."
As it turns out, the moment The Burrow's front door opens, the one who is immediately under attack is Harry, not Malfoy.
Ginny's hand flies out so quickly that Harry doesn't have time to dodge—doesn't have time to realize that he needs to dodge. The slap is hard enough to jerk his head on his neck and send him flying into the layer of snow on the ground. Unfortunately, the snow is packed from being repeatedly traversed and does not at all provide a soft impact.
"Ow! Hey—wha—" he sputters, cheek stinging enough to make his eyes water. Forget Chaser, he should have made Ginny a Beater back at Hogwarts. Malfoy tenses and watches Ginny warily, looking ready to whip out his wand and apparate away any second.
"I can't believe you didn't talk to me until after you shacked up with Malfoy!" Ginny says, scowling.
"What? Malfoy and I aren't—that's not—!" Harry catches sight of Ron standing just behind Ginny, casually breaking off pieces of biscuits from a tin and tossing them in his mouth like popcorn. He glares, struggling to his feet, and demands, "What are you telling everyone?"
"So Malfoy hasn't been living with you and you're not messing about with him?" Ron asks calmly, eyes flickering to the blushing blond and scanning up and down. Malfoy straightens defiantly under the examination.
Harry falters. "Er, well, no, yes, that's, I mean, we only just—"
Malfoy makes a protesting noise in his throat, wide eyes glaring at Harry.
Taking Harry's distraction as an opportunity, Ginny slaps him again, this time against the other cheek but just as hard, sending him stumbling into Malfoy.
At least now his face feels even.
"Thanks for the heads up and all," she says flatly, but now there's a smile hiding behind the scowl. Harry narrows a calculating eye at her as he holds his burning cheek, and she breaks, her face cracking into a wide grin.
"You just wanted to slap me!" he accuses.
"Yes, I did. It's irrational and childish, but it does make me feel better about having wasted so much time pining after an idiotic gay man," she answers with an unconcerned shrug. "And you did start up with Malfoy before you spoke to me, so you deserve it."
"But you wanted to break up with me, too! And we hadn't done anything until after I talked to you!"
She waves away the protest with a scoff. "It's the principle of the issue, you understand." She moves to go up the stairs, but pauses, looking over her shoulder with an irritated frown. "You might want to pull that scarf higher, Malfoy. The cold is making that spot on your neck stand out."
Malfoy squeaks, hand flying to his neck and his entire face flushing. He shoots another glare at Harry.
Ron snorts at his embarrassment but steps aside to let them in.
"You told your Mum!" Harry hisses at Ron as he passes.
"I'm regretting that, believe me," Ron huffs. He eyes Malfoy's empty hands in annoyance. "Where's my cake?"
"I'm not your personal baker, Weasley," Malfoy snaps. Then he shifts on his feet, eyes darting to the side, and he mumbles, "Potter has it in his bag."
"What! You'd better not have squashed it when you fell!" Ron barks at Harry, eyes searching.
Harry glares and pulls the expanded bag from under his cloak, lifting it to show that it had been perfectly safe through Ginny's attack. Ron immediately relaxes and steals the bag, opening to examine the contents. He shrugs at Harry's continued glare and then, noticing Malfoy looking, holds out the biscuit tin.