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Little Compton Street (One Rainy Night in Soho)

Chapter Text

“The greatest drug of all, my dear, was not one of those pills
in so many colors that you took over the years…
It was the city, darling, it was the city, the city itself”

Andrew Holleran – Dancer From the Dance (1978)

On an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday morning, The Daily Prophet brings its love affair with Harry Potter to an abrupt end. Draco can’t say he plans to mourn the loss of vapid pseudo-journalism like the scintillating article from a month prior about Potter purchasing some new socks, but the rambunctious, gleeful tone recounting the moments leading to the demise of Potter’s perfect little set-up with Ginny Weasley leaves a bitter taste in Draco’s mouth. He too has been on the receiving end of salacious gossip columns that pass judgment on his hedonistic lifestyle. Even the word socialite—so frequently used in connection with Draco—implies a frippery and ease to his existence that woefully misrepresents most of his post-war years. He flicks through the paper, still crisp and inky, taking in the wildness of Potter’s eyes and the furious set of his jaw as he pushes through the throng of photographers lined up outside his small cottage in Godric’s Hollow to document his fall from grace.

The Boy Who Lied!

Draco rolls his eyes. There was a time he might have enjoyed reading about Potter’s supposed infidelity, but now he’s already irritated by the endless column inches offering more detail about Potter’s liaisons than Draco ever cared to know. There hasn’t been so much as a whiff of a scandal in months, and the press clearly plan to milk this latest exposé for all it’s worth. Despite the fact Draco is already over the whole sorry affair, he peers more closely at a picture of an angry Ginny captured in slow motion, red hair flying around her face as she pulls Potter away from their home. She doesn’t exactly fit the paper’s depiction of a jilted fiancée mourning the loss of her unfaithful brute of a lover. She doesn’t look half as upset with Potter as she does with the photographers shoving cameras in their faces. If anything, it’s as though she’s trying to protect Potter from the barrage of media attention, her grasp on his hand firm and sure. There’s a certain defiance in the way she moves, while Potter keeps close to her side, unshaven and rumpled. Draco couldn’t give a fig about the Prophet’s sensationalist account of Potter’s love life, but he can’t help being curious about the real story, and one aspect in particular.

Although an official statement has yet to be released, our source confirms that Harry Potter is a homosexual.

Draco turns the pages until Potter’s bewildered expression is replaced by the far more interesting news that Draco’s shares are doing exceedingly well. Satisfied, he sits back in his chair and picks up his coffee.

“Well, Potter,” he says, tipping his cup in the direction of his owl who gives him a haughty look, “welcome to the club.”

*

There’s nothing quite like a wet afternoon in London. Everything is grey and the roads and buildings merge together in vast webs of concrete and tarmac. The glass buildings are slick with rain and darkened by the promise of storms, their sharp angles jutting against the sky where clouds gather together to form an impenetrable, mournful veil which blots out even the hardiest rays of sunlight. Orange lights from Hackney cabs and red London buses offer the only bright splashes of colour as they crawl through the endless lines of traffic. The air is fresh from the scent of thunder and rainfall, which wash away the mugginess of the summer that passed by too quickly in a dizzying haze of bright sunshine and al fresco dining. The clouds in the sky move like Dementors over Azkaban and Draco shivers, wrapping his arms around himself as he picks up his pace, pacing through Paternoster Square to join the streets of suited City workers.

The Muggles walk in busy lines without once looking at one another. Heads down, umbrellas up. Draco passes a man selling plastic cagoules to tourists by St Paul’s, pausing for a minute to take in the imposing domes which dominate the London skyline. People huddle under brollies at the base of the steps, caught in hurried conversation. Feet splash in puddles on the slick pavement and Muggles use suit jackets, files and newspapers to shield themselves from the downpour as they dash across the open space to find refuge in nearby coffee shops. New and old exist together in an uneasy alliance as the buildings of the Square Mile nestle shoulder to shoulder and stretch gloomily upwards, dwarfing the throngs of people beneath them. Draco is grateful for his umbrella as any charm would be far too conspicuous in such a crowded space. He copies the Muggles, keeping his gaze fixed firmly on the floor as he joins the tightly-packed group of people waiting for the lights to change at a bustling crossing just before Fleet Street, at the base of Ludgate Hill.

Eventually the rain becomes too much and Draco ducks under the awning by a newsagent on Fleet Street, retracting his brolly and shaking off the worst of the water. When he was convinced to buy the thing at Pickett, the long cherry wood handle and plain black canvas seemed elegant and pleasing. Now, using his umbrella as a stick to rest against, it feels too much like his father’s cane. It suits you very well indeed, Mr Malfoy, the shop assistant had said. Would you care to see our range of deerskin gloves?. Draco had avoided black, settling for a deep chocolate brown with cashmere lining but now those too remind him distinctly of his father. He lifts a hand to his hair, cropped short and stylish like the Muggles. That, at least, is different.

I’m different in other ways too, Draco reminds himself. Different by design, different by choice, different because he’s alive.

An icy fist twists Draco insides, as if Lucius Malfoy himself is reminding Draco of the parts that will always be Malfoy. They are intricately part of the man Draco is today. Not a wholly good man, perhaps, but certainly a better one.

Draco takes his time choosing a newspaper, the Muggle tabloids with their lurid headlines making him think of Potter. The scrutiny has been merciless but with no official statements coming from anywhere Draco trusts and the only evidence of the supposed night of infidelity being a few static Muggle pictures of Potter dancing closely with another man, Draco is reserving judgment for now. In part, he wants the story to hold an element of truth. He can’t help but feel if the great Harry Potter himself came out of the closet, it might make his own life a bit smoother.

Is that really the only reason? his brain niggles. There isn’t part of you that thinks if Potter’s gay and you’re gay then perhaps—

Draco shoves those thoughts to one side without entertaining them and grabs a copy of the Financial Times and the Telegraph. By the time Draco leaves the shop with his newspapers and some Polo mints—his new favourite discovery—the rain has eased. The lunchtime rush appears to have been swept away with the last heavy shower, and the streets are quieter than before. The bustling cafés and coffee shops have only a handful of people inside now and the long queues at the various sandwich shops have dwindled away almost to nothing.

When Draco left the house this morning he planned to spend his afternoon at the Royal Courts of Justice. He does that, sometimes, on quiet afternoons when he needs a break from people trying to look at his (always covered) forearm for any trace of the Dark Mark or muttering things like one of You-Know-Who’s lot under their breath. It’s only in the Muggle world that Draco allows himself the rare, illicit pleasure of wearing short sleeves. The courts offer an escape from the hum-drum of the city. There’s something soothing about being somewhere so steeped in a Muggle legal system that Draco doesn’t know the first thing about. It reminds him that even within a space as relatively small as London’s Zone 1, there are much bigger things than Draco and his past. He drinks in the evidence of a long history, sometimes slipping into viewing galleries and on other occasions simply wandering around the cold, stone space with its intricate carvings and displays of judicial robes which don’t look unlike formal wizarding attire. There’s something fascinating to Draco about the pomp and circumstance of barristers in their wigs and gowns, surrounded by piles of books and paperwork as they craft complex technical arguments. His father had always made Muggles seem so small; so inconsequential. Draco doesn’t think he will ever quite forgive himself for the ease with which he believed it.

At one juncture, Draco considered going through significant administration and an intense period of study which would give him the qualifications necessary to pursue a career in Muggle law. The idea of working in the legal profession when the wizarding world would scoff at the idea of a Malfoy in Magical Law Enforcement was enticing, but ultimately nothing more than a lazy day’s fantasy. Draco fingers the wand in his pocket, the thrum of its magic warming his skin. A complete retreat to the Muggle world was never a realistic possibility, as tempting as the idea was on occasion. Instead he focused his attentions on understanding the relationship between Muggle and wizarding finances. He would be a shoo-in for a job at Gringotts, if not for his name, and at this point he has gathered enough experience to support any application to work on the frantic trading floors at the investment banks in Canary Wharf, or one of Mayfair’s illustrious hedge funds. Still, he chooses not to take that step, preferring instead to manage his own mix of magical and Muggle investments and observe everything else from afar. He likes being the master of his own fate, and he can’t help the persistent feeling that becoming part of the City’s wealthy elite would be conforming to type; giving the naysayers more ammunition to the claim that money and status are the primary concerns of a Malfoy.

In the end Draco decides not to go to the courts, more restless than usual at this point in the afternoon. The itch beneath his skin has intensified in recent weeks, like the electric closeness of the air before a thunderstorm. At some point he stopped grasping the days by the hands and living each one with defiant purpose. Now his aimless wandering through the streets of London is an exercise in whiling away time in the expectation that something is going to happen, constantly on the cusp of that unknown event, waiting for the clap of thunder and first flash of lightning to unleash the storm. Picking up his pace, Draco continues onto the Strand and makes his way into the tourist heart of London’s West End. Even in the rain, there are still people wearing waterproofs on open-topped buses, taking pictures of the sights. The garish signs of the theatre district are flashy and inviting and the lights from car headlights add extra spots of yellow-white warmth to the dark afternoon. Draco leaves the main stretch of traffic, noise and people behind and slips down a small side-street, retracting his umbrella and opening the door to a small bar nestled into the brick-work.

“Afternoon.” The attractive waiter gives Draco a broad smile and grabs a menu, gesturing in front of him. “Usual table?”

“Fine.” Draco follows the waiter, wondering if he’s really that predictable.

Outside, the rain starts up again in earnest.

*

It’s a rarity to find somewhere in London that’s half decent but relatively undiscovered, even though the city seems to make a business out of places largely hidden from the public eye; speakeasies, members’ clubs, secret cinemas and pop up bars on tiny museum rooftops or sprawled across concrete car parks. The allure of exclusivity and the promise of uncovering hidden things means most of those places are constantly full of people. It’s in part their cachet of being difficult to find or gain access to. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. Mercifully, word doesn’t seem to have got out yet about Sage & Thyme, a tiny bar with an exquisite book of wine and a long list of cocktails infused with herbs, spices and aromatics. By day, the decent sandwiches and extensive coffee menu offer ample choice for the frequent visitor, and the bar is sufficiently relaxed that Draco can while away hours with his paper or a book. On occasion he attempts to work out how to use the Muggle mobile phone that he invested in to conduct his rare business with Muggles, but with no contacts he could call friends in his address book, the idea of learning how to text is unappealing. The fact he can make a call suffices, for now.

Draco flicks through the menu before placing his order for a coffee and extracts his paper, opening it up to read. So engrossed is he in a particularly high-profile acquisition, that he almost misses a very familiar laugh from the table opposite. He looks up, his heart unexpectedly quickening in his chest. Sure enough, there Potter is. He has a huge full English in front of him and he laughs again at something the waiter says. There’s an easy familiarity between the two of them that unexpectedly rankles. Potter’s eyes are bright and his smile more open than it’s ever been when Draco’s around.

Harry Potter is a homosexual.

The article in the Prophet whirs through Draco’s mind as Potter continues to flirt, his arm slung over his chair as he chats to the waiter. Eventually another customer comes in and the waiter takes his leave reluctantly, but not before murmuring something in Potter’s ear that makes him look up, curiously, his gaze landing on Draco.

“Oh bollocks.” Potter pulls a face. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Draco glares. “Hello to you too, Potter. What an unexpected pleasure.”

Potter rolls his eyes and aggressively spears a couple of beans with his fork. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Enjoying the peace and quiet. Or at least I was until I had to hear you try to charm anything with a pulse in that oafish way of yours.”

Potter makes an irritated sound and cuts into his sausage. Draco strongly suspects Potter is imagining the sausage is Draco’s head. “I’m not charming—”

“—I couldn’t agree more,” Draco interrupts. Potter walked right into that one.

Potter puts his knife and fork down with a clatter, his jaw clenched. “I’m just trying to have a quiet breakfast.”

I’m just trying to have a quiet coffee,” Draco says. “And I was here first.” There’s something about Potter that exacerbates Draco’s childish petulance.

Potter narrows his eyes at Draco. “Are you trying to get territorial over a bloody coffee shop?”

“This is my place, Potter,” Draco hisses. He leans forward in his seat so as not to create a scene. “There’s a terrible pub down the street. I think the Muggles call it a Wetherspoons.” Draco shudders. “It’s your kind of establishment.”

Potter’s jaw works, and he cuts into his bacon as if it’s offended him. “You know nothing about me. Perhaps this is exactly the kind of place I like to go.”

The thought that he and Potter might have similar taste in anything is an appalling notion.

“I doubt it.” A thrill from the memory of battles past spurs Draco on to speak before he can stop himself. Even a simple conversation with Potter becomes a race to see who can get to the Snitch first, and thanks to the Prophet Draco has some ammunition that’s guaranteed to topple Potter from his broom of moral superiority. “I know all about the sort of bars you frequent. I think you might have missed a turn on your way to Soho.”

Potter dabs the corner of his mouth with a napkin before responding. Draco doesn’t miss the way his angry expression fades away until it’s replaced with a stoic iciness. “Still making fun of people for being different, Malfoy?” Potter throws his napkin on the table and pushes his half-eaten breakfast away. “Tosser.”

It’s not exactly in Draco’s nature to feel badly for anyone but watching Potter root around in his pockets for his wallet sends a strange rush of panic through him. The truth is, Draco is bored of tapping away at a phone he doesn’t know how to use, sick to death of reading the same old Muggle financial news and wandering aimlessly through the streets of London. Potter might be dreadful but at least he’s company.

“I couldn’t care less about your personal life. Besides, it’s not as though I’m not used to being called similar.” Draco can’t quite bring himself to apologise. “Don’t be a pillock. Finish your breakfast, I’ll leave you in peace.”

Potter looks distrustful but after a moment he stops fishing around for his wallet. He picks up his fork and tugs the plate back towards him. He could do with a decent meal, in Draco’s opinion. His jumper is bigger than usual, and his eyes are framed by dark shadows. He points his fork at Draco. “Not another word.”

“Fine.” Draco rolls his eyes and returns to his paper. He takes a glance at Potter wolfing down his breakfast down as if he hasn’t eaten a proper meal in days. A kernel of curiosity niggles at him. Have things really gone so disastrously wrong for Potter that he has nowhere to go for decent food anymore? Draco forces himself to make a show of reading his paper, even though the sentences blur together, and he can’t focus on much more than the clink and scrape of cutlery against china and the whispered conversation between Potter and the waiter that is slightly too quiet for Draco to catch.

After a long period of silence, Draco looks up to start up conversation again.

There’s nobody else around; just a few crumpled notes and an empty seat where Potter was sitting just moments before.

*

“Don’t you have a job to do?”

A week later, Potter returns to Sage & Thyme and takes the seat opposite Draco without so much as asking if it’s occupied. Because it isn’t, and part of Draco was secretly hoping Potter might return, he decides to let the imposition slide for once.

“Not really.” Draco folds his paper and places it to one side. He can’t be bothered to explain his investment portfolio to Potter. He’s certain Potter wouldn’t consider making money from assets Draco already possesses to be work and Draco knows what the public think of the fact the Malfoys retained a significant portion of their wealth after the war. He doesn’t want to pull at that thread when he and Potter seem to have reached a tentative truce of sorts. Draco can’t help the niggling feeling that any attempt to explain the impact the post-war years had on the Malfoy family would amount to defending the indefensible.

Draco takes a moment to consider Potter’s appearance, with a quick glance over the top of his coffee cup. He’s taller than he was, but still just a little shorter than Draco, with a wiry athleticism. His hair is the same thick, messy shock of black it’s always been. His features are neither chiselled or sharp but there’s a definition to the slight curve of his cheekbones and the firm lines of his jaw that is instantly pleasing to Draco. Even the eyes—sinfully hidden behind Potter’s terrible black-rimmed glasses—are a pleasing shade of green, one of Potter’s most distinctive hallmarks together with the scar which is currently hidden beneath a swoop of hair. In truth though, it’s not so much the architecture of Potter’s face that holds the most appeal. It’s the way he wears his emotions on the surface of it, from the sunny smile and teasing, almost flirtatious look of amusement to the way his expression can alter as quickly as the sky just before rain. Potter has aged, of course, and in those cloudy moments he loses the restless boyishness that reminds Draco of the Potter of old, laughing with Weasley and Granger or whooping with delight on the Quidditch pitch.

Handsome, Draco’s brain helpfully supplies. Harry Potter is handsome. The realisation shouldn’t come of as much of a shock to Draco as it does. There’s part of him that’s self-aware enough nowadays to acknowledge the obsession with hating Potter was in no small part a result of a whole different kind of emotion that twisted his gut with anger and stole the breath from his lungs. After that there were other things to think about, and Potter took up residence as one of those people Draco wouldn’t allow himself to think about in any great depth. That is until the Prophet article, and their first strange meeting. He still can’t fathom quite why Potter is so keen to repeat the experience of eating brunch with Draco, but at this point Draco isn’t sure he really knows Harry Potter at all. It’s just a muddle of memories of a boy hero which carry a strange, nostalgic quality and a passing familiarity with salacious gossip columns which probably bear little relationship with the truth. For somebody whose emotions are written all over his face, Potter remains something of an enigma, present but untouchable.

Draco changes the topic of conversation from his business and pushes all further thoughts of Potter’s appearance to one side.

“I’m not the only one sitting in a Muggle café on a Wednesday afternoon.”

Potter pulls a face. “I’m on holiday.” He seems put out about it, and Draco strongly suspects there’s more to it than that. He wonders what on earth might compel the Ministry to let their brightest star take an indefinite leave of absence to mooch around London and strike up conversations with former Death Eaters.

“I hear the South of France is lovely at this time of year, if you’re hiding from the press.”

“I’m not hiding from anything.” Potter frowns at the menu, turning it over in his hands. “Who the fuck has avocado for breakfast?”

Draco does, but he decides not to mention it. Potter wouldn’t know a decent meal if it jumped up and bit him on the arse. “I don’t think they serve avocado at the Wetherspoons,” he says, pointedly.

“Probably not.” Potter doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere. Instead, he beckons the waiter over and orders another full English. “I’ll have tea with that, please.”

“We have an extensive selection,” the waiter says, eagerly. He’s clearly about to launch into a sales pitch for the new range of pearl milk teas when Potter cuts him off.

“I’ll just have the regular stuff, thanks. Hot, with milk and sugar. You know how I like it.” The last sentence is suggestive, particularly when accompanied by Potter’s warm smile and a wink. “Thanks, Tom.”

Draco bristles at the fact the waiter—Tom, apparently—is so thorough charmed. He orders another coffee and waits impatiently for the waiter to stop cleaning their already perfectly clean table before turning to Potter again. “You and Tom seem fairly chummy.”

“Do we?” Potter raises an eyebrow but doesn’t confirm or deny anything.

“If you’re so interested in him, why don’t you sit somewhere else? I wouldn’t want to cramp your style.”

“Because I’m sitting with you.” Potter gives Draco a steady look which is very disconcerting. “Besides, I’m not interested.”

“Of course not.” Draco doesn’t believe Potter for a minute. “Why do you bother coming here if you just want tea and a fry up? There are plenty of greasy spoons around for that.”

“It’s quiet here.” Potter shrugs. “Besides, the breakfast is good.”

“Not exactly close to home.”

“I know what you’re doing.” Potter sits back. “You should just ask me, you’re obviously dying to know.”

“Ask you what?” Draco feigns innocence, largely unsuccessfully if Potter’s expression is anything to go by.

“Whether Ginny has booted me out.”

“Has she?”

Potter shakes his head. “Nope.”

Draco makes an annoyed sound in the back of his throat. Potter’s monosyllabic answers are so damn frustrating. “Then why are you in London?”

“I have a flat in town.” Potter shrugs as if that doesn’t create more questions than it answers. “It’s easier staying there at the minute.”

“Why don’t you just admit she’s asked you to leave?” Draco can’t help the gleeful note that enters his voice. He’s not proud of it, but Potter is infuriating. Draco would kick Potter out of his house too, if he had half the chance.

A shadowy expression crosses Potter’s face. “If you must know we’re making it look as though I’ve gone elsewhere to make the newspapers back off for a bit. We made a show of moving my things into Grimmauld Place to put the press off the scent. We thought it might stop them from camping outside Godric’s Hollow, but no such luck.”

Draco pulls a face. It’s so typical of Potter to have people forgive him everything, even getting off with someone else when he’s meant to be engaged. “I expect you’re still pretending to be straight.”

“I’m not pretending to be anything.” Potter squirts some ketchup over his bacon and sausage, liberally coating it with the sweet substance. Draco decides not to let the full extent of his displeasure be known. Potter is clearly a lost cause. “Not anymore.”

“You haven’t exactly been waving rainbow flags and marching in parades,” Draco says, snidely.

It’s unfair and Draco knows it. The wizarding world doesn’t have many parades in the first place. Not for something that’s just a phase, dear or when coming out becomes nobody wants to hear about your sex life. Being gay in the wizarding world is something one does quietly, with a certain amount of discretion. For all Draco was raised to believe Muggles are backwards, spending time in London with his head finally removed from his backside led Draco to question how his father and other like-minded wizards remained convinced of their superiority for so long.

Being gay might not be illegal in Draco’s world and it might not require revolting against the might of the Ministry, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a large and vocal public condemnation of homosexuality in the media. Socialite isn’t the only word the Prophet levels at Draco with such venom. Deviant. That’s another favourite. Finding communities in Muggle London with their different words for all kinds of identities, the activism, the brightly coloured flags and the joyous, defiant marches was a revelation. Draco still can’t get enough of the music thrumming through his veins like magic, the taste of sweet liquor and freedom on his lips and the stories from perfumed queens about different times. It’s one of the reasons Draco lives so unapologetically, now. With this, at least, he might finally be on the right side of history, even if he’s been on the wrong side with everything else.

Potter studies Draco then returns to his food, speaking around a mouthful of toast. “You think I’m dishonest?”

Draco shrugs. “I don’t know, Potter. You’re not exactly forthcoming with the truth these days.”

Potter gives that some consideration. “I am with the people who matter.”

Even though he would hardly expect to make the list, Draco can’t help being disgruntled. He should have known, somehow. Surely there would have been signs? “What other secrets do the people that matter know about you?”

Potter laughs under his breath. “None of your business.”

Draco is so annoyed he almost scalds himself on his fresh coffee. He makes a show of unfolding his paper and puts it in front of his face, pretending to read.

Potter leaves without saying goodbye.

*

Potter has already eaten by the time Draco arrives the following Wednesday. Considering it’s his third week lounging around in Muggle coffee shops, Draco is highly suspicious of the nature of Potter’s so-called holiday. He’s sitting at the table Draco usually favours, frowning at a paper which looks suspiciously like the Prophet.

“You can’t read that in here.” Draco snatches the paper from Potter, looking around for Muggles wondering why the fuck the pictures on Potter’s paper are waving at them.

“There’s no one here.” Potter takes the paper back and unfolds it, showing it to Draco so he can see the pictures have been charmed so they don’t move. “See? Just like any other paper. I’m a wizard, you see and there’s this stuff called magic—”

“—Will you be quiet?” The last thing Draco needs is for some Muggles to commit them because of Potter ranting about spells and Hogwarts. He watches Potter put the paper in a tatty satchel, already familiar with the latest revelation on the front page. “You’re seeing a Mind Healer?”

“I’m one step away from Janus Thickey according to Skeeter.” Potter pointedly doesn’t answer the question. He seems well-schooled in the art of responding to questions without ever really answering them at all. Draco isn’t surprised it’s a skill he’s needed to develop, with the way the press hounds Potter’s every move. After the war Harry Potter was the most famous man in wizarding Britain and as the threat of mortal danger dissipated, the press became even more fixated on him than ever. The more Potter tried to fade into the background, the more they seemed thirstier than ever for Potter-related sightings, documenting the most mundane activities. It’s something Draco finds intensely annoying.

“There’s no shame in counselling.” Draco can’t help but be put out by Potter’s dismissal. Obviously, he thinks it’s embarrassing to go to counselling, like it’s something the great Harry Potter shouldn’t be associated with. Potter doesn’t know the half of it.

“I never said there was.” Potter looks around for the waiter. “Are you having a coffee? I thought I might get cake.”

“Might as well.” Draco orders his favourite afternoon coffee; rich and milky. “Why are you here again?”

“I like it here.” Potter leans back in his chair, looking around. “It’s quiet.”

“Only you would look for somewhere quiet in the middle of a city,” Draco mutters.

“Not only me,” Potter replies.

Draco has the distinct impression he’s being teased, and it makes his cheeks hot. He changes the topic swiftly, because loneliness isn’t a topic of conversation that makes him terribly enthusiastic.

“Where’s this flat of yours?”

“Why?” Potter takes a bite of his cake and lets out a sinful groan of pleasure. “Would you like to come over for your tea one night?”

“Don’t be obtuse.” Draco leans over to take a forkful of Potter’s cake because if he’s going to sit there moaning like he’s an extra in a budget porno, the least he can do is share some of his chocolate cake. “I didn’t know you owned property in Diagon Alley.”

“I don’t.” Potter seems entertained by Draco helping himself to cake. “Half of the Prophet’s photographers are camped outside Godric’s Hollow and Grimmauld Place, just waiting for a picture of me looking like I’m losing my marbles. Nobody knows where my flat is, because nobody would think I have any interest living somewhere Muggle.”

“I hate the press,” Draco says, bitterly. “Although you probably think I deserve everything they say about me.”

Potter contemplates Draco, his expression serious. “Not really. I don’t take a lot of pleasure in seeing people’s misfortunes aired for public sport.”

Draco swallows because misfortunes is one way of putting it. There’s a strangeness in the word, because on one hand the very thing Draco has left is a fortune, in the monetary sense. It’s the warmth of companionship, friendship and family that he no longer has, but he’s not entirely sure the reasons for that can be reduced to bad luck. Draco opens his mouth to say as much, but something holds him back. He can’t help but feel lamenting his losses would come off as being a bit too poor little rich boy for Potter’s tastes. He can’t push aside the niggling fear that Potter might tell him you got what you deserved. The same part of Draco that gravitated towards Potter’s celebrity as a child, can’t help but want to impress Potter as an adult. The aftermath of the war has left scars—physical and mental—that have changed Draco forever, and a rush of desperation makes him want to hang on to these fragile, fleeting moments with Potter. It’s testament, perhaps, to how isolated Draco has allowed himself to become, that the need to cling to a handful of strange weekly interactions grips him with a force that’s as sudden as it is overwhelming.

“Okay, Malfoy?” Potter gives Draco a quizzical look, a note of concern in his tone.

“Fine.” Draco shakes off the rush of panic and steadies himself. “Where’s this Muggle flat of yours then?”

“Can you keep a secret?” Potter leans forward, the air of a co-conspirator about him. It makes the moment intimate and warm.

“Yes,” Draco says. He holds Potter’s gaze, which is rather like he’s staring down a restless Hippogriff. Trust me, he thinks. Please. He doesn’t know why it matters, and yet somehow it does.

Potter sits back, seemingly satisfied. “Fine. It’s in Bemondsey.”

“Oh.” Draco mulls that over. “How curious.”

Potter mutters something impolite under his breath. “Go on, then. I’m sure you’re dying to tell me what’s wrong with Bermondsey.”

“It’s south of the river,” Draco says, with an appropriate level of disdain. Of course Potter is well on his way to becoming an unbearable hipster. He might want to stop being so affronted by avocados.

“Yeah.” Potter’s eyes shine and his lips twitch as if he’s trying not to laugh. “I expect Chelsea is more your speed.” He nods at Draco’s Muggle attire. “I’m surprised I haven’t seen you in red jeans yet.”

Draco glares at Potter. “It’s rich of you to give other people fashion advice. Did you buy that jumper from a charity shop?”

“This?” Potter blinks at his jumper and scowls at Draco. “What’s wrong with it?”

“What’s right with it?” Draco points at the offending item of clothing. “Is that supposed to be a dragon?”

Potter grins at Draco. “No, it’s a dinosaur. I got it when I was in New York.”

“When were you in New York?” Draco stares at Potter. He’s always wanted to go to New York, but it’s always felt like the kind of place to go to with someone else. Besides, he would have to visit Pansy if he went there and he’s been avoiding her for a while, for reasons he chooses not to examine too closely.

“Another time.” Potter puts some money on the table and stands, putting his bag over his shoulder. “Bye, Malfoy.”

Draco stares after Potter’s disappearing form. Despite his scathing comments about Potter’s clothes, the jumper fits perfectly. The black wool is warm and soft in appearance, and the flash of yellow at the base of the jumper sits just on the top of Potter’s arse which is actually quite attractive in his light jeans.

Fuck.” Draco stops ogling Potter’s backside and orders a glass of wine. Finding Potter attractive—even in a fleeting moment of madness—is as good a reason as any for drinking during the day.

He spends the rest of the afternoon nursing an average glass of Merlot and refuses to allow himself to admit he’s already looking forward to next week.

*

“Is that what it looks like?” Potter reaches across the table for Draco’s mobile phone, which he took out of his pocket out of force of habit as much as anything else. It feels very Muggle, tapping at the buttons and pretending he’s doing something important. It helps him blend into the background, and sometimes that suits Draco just fine.

“It’s a mobile phone, if that’s what you mean. It’s Muggle.”

“I know what it is. I’m just surprised you have one.” Potter turns it over in his hands.

“You’re the one that lives in a Muggle flat when you’re not busy convincing your fiancée you’re not cheating on her,” Draco replies. “I’m surprised you don’t have one.”

Potter’s eyebrows rise. “I’m not cheating on anyone. I’m also not engaged anymore, not that it’s any of your business.”

“I can’t say I’m surprised.”

“Because of what they said in the press?” Potter contemplates Draco as if he’s trying to work something out.

“Because I can’t imagine anyone wanting to be engaged to you for very long.” Draco takes his phone back from Potter. “I’m capable of a bit more nuance than Rita Skeeter. Grinding against a Muggle in Dalston doesn’t necessarily make you gay. I’m more concerned that you’re one hipster location away from growing a beard and drinking cocktails out of teapots.”

Potter laughs, and the sound warms Draco. It doesn’t escape Draco’s notice that he doesn’t take steps confirm or deny the Prophet’s conclusions. Merlin forbid he’d actually give Draco any information about his personal life. If Potter is as pally with Ginevra as he seems to be, Draco is starting to wonder if Potter and his merry band of Gryffindors are into swinging. It seems like the kind of thing Potter might go in for, a way to unwind after years of going around with a gigantic stick up his arse.

Draco leans forward in his seat and lowers his voice. “Are we ever going to talk about this homosexual business?”

Potter blinks at Draco. His lips twitch as if he’s trying not to smile. “Is it the logistics that are bothering you?”

Draco splutters at the impertinence of questions. “I don’t need to know anything about logistics, thank you very much.”

“Really?” Potter asks, amused. “You seem very interested in the things I get up to. Hermione gave me a book, if you’d like some tips. There’s this really nifty thing you can do if you’re in the middle of—”

“—Stop!” Draco curses under his breath. “For the love of Merlin, I don’t need sex tips.”

Pleased with himself, Potter turns back to his menu. “Then I probably can’t help you, that’s the bit I’m good at.”

“Are you being deliberately obtuse?” Draco ignores the way that’s the bit I’m good at makes his neck slightly sweaty.

“Oh, absolutely.” Potter shoots Draco a grin. After realising Draco is approximately five seconds from reaching across the table and throttling Potter, he rolls his eyes. “The Prophet got the homosexual bit right, I really would recommend that book and I’d like to order some food because I’m hungrier than a Hippogriff on a Gamp’s Decidedly Dreary Diet.”

“How did the press get the photos?” Draco waits impatiently for Potter to order some food before asking his next question. Having a Muggle hideaway makes perfect sense because the wizarding press doesn’t venture much beyond the magical parts of London. The fact the Prophet is more of a snob about Muggles than Draco’s father used to be, makes the static pictures marking Potter’s fall from grace particularly unusual. They were definitely not taken by one of the photographers from the wizarding press.

“They’re Muggle photos, taken by a wizard. They must have printed them and posted them to the Prophet and got their mate to give all the anonymous source bollocks. The person I was with that night had a friend that was being weird, but I just thought he was drunk or on something.” Potter shrugs. “I should have trusted my instincts and got the hell out of there.”

“Perhaps.” Draco isn’t sure how he feels about the fact that Potter’s reward for saving the world is a broken mind, a month out of work and the inability to dance in a Muggle club in peace. The thought makes him feel strangely sad, even though he’s certain Potter wouldn’t want a moment of pity.

“Show me your phone again.” Potter holds out his hand, and Draco notices a slim, plain silver ring on Potter’s finger for the first time, and a thick, deep brown leather band around his wrist. It’s odd, seeing Potter in any kind of jewellery. Draco can’t imagine Potter caring enough about his appearance to put on rings and bracelets when he wakes up in the morning. His hands look large for his slender, athletic frame, and there’s something so masculine about them, it sends a flash of heat through Draco’s veins. Damn Potter for flaunting his wrists and thoroughly distracting fingers with unnecessary adornments.

“Very subtle change of topic.” Draco hands Potter the phone and watches him stare at it with fascination. “There are ways and means of getting access to them in our world. I use mine for business.”

Draco likes how lofty that sounds, even if he originally purchased the phone after becoming curious about something called Grindr that he read about in the Financial Times. After politely asking a Muggle barman how to download applications on his phone, the barman had taken one look at Draco’s phone and burst out laughing. Need a smartphone for that mate. That’s practically vintage. Thought they phased those out in the nineties. Draco took that to mean that his mobile, if not smart, must be a particularly stupid one. It has nothing of the slim elegance of most of the phones he sees Muggles using but considering he can’t even make this one work that’s probably for the best.

“I thought you didn’t have a job?”

Draco is surprised how pleased he is by the fact that Potter remembers their earlier conversations, even if it is a little rich of Potter to bring up work, when their meetings have spanned over a full month. He hardly seems to be in gainful employment at the moment himself, but Draco decides not to pull at that thread.

“I don’t, not really. I have personal investments that require regular management. Some Muggle, some magical. The Muggle stock market doesn’t tend to operate via Fire Calls and Owl Post.”

“Funny, that.” Potter rubs his hand against his jaw. “Maybe I should get one. Is it any good?”

Draco shrugs. “No idea. I haven’t a clue how to use it properly and I have no one to message. From what I can gather, it’s also completely out of date. I can make a phone call if I need to, and that’s about all I do with it.”

“Is it legal?” Eventually Potter hands the phone back to Draco.

“I don’t pay for it and never signed any sort of contract, so probably not.” Draco lets the waiter put two coffees and Potter’s cake on the table. “Are you going to report me to the Wizengamot?” Draco can’t help but be facetious.

“Probably not.” Potter grins. “Besides, I think it might be cool to get one.”

“It won’t work in Grimmauld Place or Godric’s Hollow.” Draco bets they would hand Potter one of those smart phones right off the bat, and he isn’t sure he wants Potter discovering the kind of Muggle sex sites he’s been reading about. He also isn’t sure why.

“I know that. I bet it doesn’t work in the Manor either, and you still have one.”

“Then get a phone, Potter. I don’t give a fuck.” Draco rolls his eyes. “You’ve managed to buy a Muggle flat, I can’t imagine getting a phone is that difficult.”

“I haven’t really tried.” Potter furrows his brow, thoughtfully. “I’ve never had the need for one. Nobody I know uses them. It’s a bit late now. I can’t get one from our world like you did if it’s even slightly illegal, not with the press crawling all over me. The last thing I need is to start drawing attention to myself in the Muggle world, faffing around with contracts that could connect back to my flat. I’m not exactly incognito now and trying to buy dodgy phones doesn’t seem like something an Auror should be doing. They’d probably say I’m using it for all of those homosexual affairs of mine.”

“You probably would be,” Draco mutters. He sighs at Potter’s put-out expression. “I can get you one if you like.”

“You can?” Potter looks pleased. “I’ll pay you.”

“Yes, you will.” Draco doesn’t need the cash but he’s not about to start randomly buying gifts for Harry Potter. He wouldn’t want him to get the wrong idea. “I’ll send you the details when I have a price.”

“Okay. Bring it next week if you can. Same time, same place?” Potter has the audacity to wink. He stands and drops some money on the table. “This should cover my food and a tip.”

“Wonderful. Always a pleasure.” Draco extracts his book and opens it. He plans to order a glass of wine when Potter leaves. He imagines Potter would love an opportunity to be sanctimonious about Draco having an afternoon drink.

“Hey, Malfoy?”

“Hmm?”

“When I get my phone, you’ll have someone to text.”

Draco wants to point out that conversing with Potter once a week is already too much, but it’s not exactly true. By the time he thinks of a smart response, he’s met with the door closing behind Potter’s exiting figure. After a minute of scanning the pages of his book without taking anything in, Draco beckons Tom over and shows him his phone.

“I don’t suppose you know how to send messages on this thing?”

Tom takes Potter’s recently vacated seat and shows Draco how to use his phone properly.

It’s because it’s a waste of money having a phone I can’t even use, Draco tells himself. That’s all.

It would be madness to think it could be anything else.

*

Considering Potter must be privy to most of the secrets of the Ministry of Magic, his enthusiasm over a brick of outdated Muggle technology is ridiculous.

“You’ve been playing around with that thing for the last thirty minutes. It’s rude.”

“Is it?” Potter pushes his glasses up his nose and gives Draco a sheepish smile. “Have you played this snake thing?”

“Certainly not. I use my phone to conduct business, you imbecile.”

“All work and no play, Malfoy.” Potter has the cheek to shake his head as if Draco is somehow lacking in the fun department. “Did you put your number in here?”

Draco fights back a rush of heat which threatens to leave him embarrassingly flushed. There’s something quite peculiar about being at the swapping numbers stage with Potter. It’s dangerously flirtatious. Even adding his number into Potter’s phone before giving it to him felt like an invitation of sorts. That’s the bit I’m good at has been whirring through Draco’s head since the previous week, and Draco has so many questions it’s driving him insane. The finer details behind Potter’s coming out and the article in the Prophet is a topic they both seem to be avoiding, although Draco isn’t entirely sure why when being known homosexuals is one of the only things they have in common. He takes Potter’s phone from him and shows him the contacts page which currently consists of one Draco Malfoy and nothing else.

“I’m hardly ever anywhere my phone even works. I doubt I’ll reply.”

“I’ll give it a shot, anyway.” Potter finally puts the blasted phone away, laughing under his breath. “Brilliant. Wait until I show Ron.”

“I’m sure he’ll be delighted to hear you acquired an illegal piece of Muggle technology from me.”

“I reckon he’s got more important things on his mind.” Potter doesn’t elaborate. He takes a careful sip of his tea, clearly building up to asking Draco something impertinent. “Why are you always on your own?”

Bloody Potter. Draco bristles and folds his arms. “You’re always on your own too.”

Potter makes a non-committal sound. “My friends work.”

“As do mine.” It’s not exactly a lie. Pansy does work, so does Blaise, Theo and Greg. The fact they work in other countries and most haven’t made pains to contact Draco in ages is none of Potter’s business. Draco has friends in London. He just doesn’t choose to spend every waking minute with them. They’re really more acquaintances. Draco isn’t sure you can call someone a friend if your main interactions include a quick shag and not sticking around until the morning. “Why are you so bothered about my social life all of a sudden? It’s not like you give me any information about yours.”

Potter grins. “That’s true.” He taps his phone with his finger. “Now we’re text buddies that might change.”

“We’re nothing of the sort,” Draco says, horrified. “I hope you’re not going to make a nuisance of yourself.” What’s even more horrifying is the pleasant twist in Draco’s stomach, the light flutter of excitement at the thought of more conversations with Potter.

“As if.” Potter sits back in his seat. “Do you think this is odd?”

“I think you’re odd.”

Potter seems unphased by Draco’s needling. “Don’t you think it’s strange we ended up in the same place at the same time when there must be a million bars in this city?”

“I suppose. If you’re going to tell me this is serendipity, I don’t believe in coincidences.” Draco pockets his phone and glances at the menu, even though he practically knows it by heart. “I half suspected you might have some sort of trace on me.”

“Why on earth would I do that?”

“Because you’re an Auror—or at least you used to be until you started brunching in the West End with me—and I’m…” Draco trails off, not sure how to finish that sentence. A Death Eater? Not exactly, not anymore.

“I’m still an Auror.” Potter clearly doesn’t see fit to expand on how that's the case, given the fact they’re now in week five of whatever it is they’re doing and Potter hasn’t so much as a Patronus from Shacklebolt asking him to attend to Cornish Pixies running rampant in Surrey. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Malfoy, but I don’t really see you as a threat to society now.”

Draco gives Potter a look. “Did you ever?”

Potter shrugs. “You specifically? At one time, perhaps. Not just you. Everything you were part of.”

Draco swallows around the sudden lump in his throat. He doesn’t want Potter to look at him in that steady, open way of his, as if he’s disappointed. Even if Draco deserves it, he hates how small references to his choices back then still make him feel.

“If you’re not here because of me, how did you even find this place?” Now he thinks on it, Draco would be surprised if Potter had been expecting to run into him at Sage & Thyme. Oh bollocks isn’t exactly the greeting of someone expecting to see you.

Potter pulls his bottom lip between his teeth, thinking. Eventually he nods towards the waiter who helped Draco learn how to text. Tom.

“I met Tom in a bar a few weeks ago and told him I had some time on my hands. He said he knew someone I might be interested in who seemed to have time on his hands too. That’s why I came in here that first day.”

“You kept that quiet.”

“I keep a lot of things quiet.” Potter shrugs.

“What happened to this mystery date of yours?”

Potter gives Draco a sheepish smile. “What do you think? I wouldn’t say I’m not here because of you, not exactly.”

“Oh.” Draco glances at Tom who does seem to be paying them a bit more attention than usual. He winks at Draco and gives him the thumbs up. Scowling, Draco turns back to Potter. “What’s he looking so pleased about?”

“Probably the fact we’re getting on.” Potter pushes a hand through his unruly hair, the scar on his forehead showing momentarily. “I told him we had a history after he asked how it was going. I think he thought I meant history.” Potter lifts his eyebrows up and down as if his past with Draco involves something far happier than war, jealousy and a lot of regret.

“I imagine he doesn’t know the half of that history if he’s Muggle.” Draco studies his coffee. “Why was he so eager to set you up, anyway?”

Potter clears his throat. “He owed me a favour.”

“What sort of favour?” Draco narrows his eyes and swallows back his jealousy when Potter steadfastly refuses to answer, a small smile on his lips as he watches Draco. “Oh for fucks sake. Have you spent all your time since Hogwarts putting it about?”

“Not all of it, no.” Potter laughs under his breath.

A picture of Potter on his knees for the handsome young waiter flashes through Draco’s mind and he curls his fingers into a fist, trying his damnedest to banish any further images. “Once you found out it was me, why did you come back?”

“I like the breakfast. Anyway, we’ve been coming for weeks and it’s never busy. I don’t think the Prophet’s going to find me here.”

“And the company?” Draco can’t help but push.

“Better than expected.” Potter winks and it sends an unexpected jolt of arousal through Draco.

“Thanks ever so.” Draco can't fathom why he would be chosen as a possible suitor for Potter. Tom must have other friends beyond his business which attracts about as much custom as a flobberworm convention. “There must have been a reason this Tom of yours tried to set you up with me. I’ve hardly spoken to him, and it’s difficult to appreciate the full extent of my scintillating personality when I’m ordering coffee. Am I your type, Potter?”

Potter’s eyes trace Draco’s body with a slow up and down, before settling on his face once more. “Maybe.”

Draco swallows, because he just wanted to ruffle Potter and perhaps generate some kind of clumsy compliment about his looks. Instead, he’s the one left unbalanced by the heat beneath Potter’s gaze and the way the upward tilt of his smile is almost like a promise.

“Let me know when you decide, will you?”

Draco tries for an air of nonchalance, but if Potter’s amused look is anything to go by, he’s not sure it’s entirely successful.

*

It takes three pings before Draco realises the persistent sound is coming from his blazer jacket. He reaches for his phone and his heart does a strange flutter when he sees the green light illuminating the screen and a picture of a little envelope with the number three on top of it. With anticipation coiling in his stomach, Draco clicks through to his inbox.

hello

its Me Harrry..0f,

potter

Draco laughs under his breath and texts back quickly.

you’re terrible at texting

It takes a little while before the phone pings again.

Im trying

very trying

ha ha ..

where are you?

having a glass of wine in The Savoy

of course you are ,

You?

Shed

waiting for someone

better go

Draco stares at his phone. In a flush of annoyance, he turns it off and shoves it back in his blazer pocket. He asks the barman for another glass of wine and stares into the distance. He knows the bar Harry’s in. It has an unexpected outdoor drinking area covered with fairy lights and brightly cushioned seats, situated at the end of dark entrance which makes the place look far less appealing than the bar itself. The bar inside is vast and lively, with a constant stream of young, attractive patrons and the kind of energetic music that always makes Draco want to get up and dance. It’s also a gay bar.

Draco refuses to confront the spike of jealousy that flattens his mood. It’s as if he’s been doused with a bucket of iced water. Hearing Potter is out at Shed makes him think of Tom and Potter’s favours. Draco can’t believe a few brief meetings with Potter and a couple of misspelled text messages could lead to feeling lonelier than ever in one of the most prestigious hotels in London. It’s Friday night. Draco should be out with people, throwing two fingers up at the Prophet or planning a night at the Muggle haunts he favours. He had been tempted to go out in Soho later, but the West End has taken on whole new associations now Draco has been spending so much time there getting reacquainted with Potter. Draco frowns to himself. He’s already completely overly invested in Harry Potter’s love life.

With a snort, Draco pays for his drinks and makes his way outside. He refuses to let Potter think Draco makes a habit of drinking alone. He’s suddenly desperate to be out of the crowds in Muggle London and back in the warm buzz of the magical streets of Diagon Alley, where his phone won’t ping with any more updates from Potter. The Savoy is close enough to Charing Cross that Draco doesn’t have to contend with Hackney cabs crawling through traffic. He wraps his coat around himself and makes his way as quickly as he can in the direction of Diagon Alley. He can’t help the mean thrill that takes over him, as he imagines what Potter might think if he sees Draco in the Prophet with someone significantly better looking than Potter on his arm. Draco might loathe the press as much as they hate everything associated with the name Malfoy, but the gossip columnists love a rich socialite and Draco is more than ready to give them a little material.

Draco checks his phone one more time before he goes to Diagon Alley. The screen is resolutely blank.

He puts the phone away and crosses from the Muggle world into the magical one, determined to spend the night forgetting all about Harry Potter.

*

Potter suggests a new location for their next meeting which has is fast becoming their unspoken routine. He does so via text, with the usual errors that he doesn’t bother to fix. Although Draco doesn’t often venture south of the river unless he’s going to watch the tennis at Wimbledon, exploring Richmond for a change of scenery or looking for a night of pleasure in Vauxhall, he agrees to make the journey to Potter’s part of town. He’s curious about the area Potter would choose to live in, and he hopes that being on his own turf might make Potter more forthcoming.

The café on the River Thames isn’t part of a chain that Draco recognises. It’s a one-off, arty sort of place with crisp white walls and huge floor to ceiling windows. He has to admit that the artwork in the clean, bright restaurant is striking, with splashes of colour and sharp angles. The vantage point is quite spectacular, with the tall windows offering views of the iconic Tower Bridge. Small speedboats bounce over the water and a heavy metal anchor and cable on the walkway outside give a nod to the nautical history of the area. With the cobbled streets and waterfront cafés, the whole area reminds Draco of portside villages abroad. It would be the perfect place for a glass of chilled rose and a lazy brunch, were it not for the dark clouds overhead and the oppressive weight of the air just before a thunderstorm.

“Good choice.” Draco tries not to keep the surprise out of his voice, because Potter looks glum and more closed-off than usual. His mood matches the weather outside, with the Thames moving in fast, choppy waves and thick, grey clouds hanging low in the sky. Despite the fact it’s just after the busiest lunchtime rush, it’s one of those days where the sun never quite seems to come out and it’s already dark enough to feel like early evening.

“Somewhere different for a change,” Potter agrees. He orders a beer instead of his usual tea and takes a long swig straight from the bottle when it arrives. “Good weekend?”

Draco doesn’t know if Potter reads the papers with any regularity, but if he has been keeping an eye on the news there would be little chance of him missing the pictures of Draco leaving one of his favourite expensive bars in Diagon Alley with a couple of very affectionate Witch Weekly models. Sebastian and Seamus (the names Draco has given them on account of not remembering their actual ones) had been an unexpected find. It’s rare that Draco manages to find any wizards that don’t flinch when he tells them his name, and Diagon Alley doesn’t have any gay bars to help the process of meeting other wizards along. After coming out in a blaze of post-war defiance, with an array of young models and actors looking to get their pictures in the press, Draco largely gave up on finding anything meaningful in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. Pissing Skeeter off and scandalising the pearl-clutching society stalwarts his mother and father associated with was fun at first but being made to feel ashamed of perfectly natural inclinations took its toll after a while. Now he rarely tries to find people in wizarding spaces, unless he’s trying to make Harry Potter jealous, apparently.

“My weekend was fine.” Draco smirks, which he hopes gives the impression he’s been indulging in lots of excellent sex. “How was your date?”

Potter frowns at Draco. “My what?”

“Your date. I assume you were meeting a Muggle in Shed on Saturday.”

“No.” Potter shakes his head, his confusion clearing. “I don’t really do that.”

“Date?” Draco raises his eyebrows. He knows that Potter is hardly a monk. “I don’t believe you.”

“Then don’t.” Potter shrugs, like he couldn’t care less. He turns back to his menu and changes the topic with not a modicum of subtlety. “The trout sounds good.”

“Fuck the trout, Potter.” Draco is so impatient for information he thinks he might burst with it. “You traipsed all the way across London to meet a stranger in a coffee shop. Pretending you don’t go out with people is completely facile.”

“Ah.” Potter rubs the back of his neck. “Well, I actually traipsed all the way across London because I had to be in the area that afternoon and you know how those meet-ups go. I wasn’t really looking for something heavy.”

Draco huffs. “I’m sorry I spoiled your plans for a quick hand job in the loos, Potter.”

“No problem,” Potter says, easily. “There are plenty of other places to go for those.”

“I’m sure you’d know all about that.” Draco tries to keep the bitterness from his voice.

“I’m sure you would, too.” Potter pointedly doesn’t look at Draco, studying his menu as if it’s the most interesting thing he’s read in months.

“I can’t imagine why you’re not putting any effort into finding a boyfriend,” Draco says, a little waspishly. “You don’t seem like the type to fuck around.”

It’s not that Draco’s prudish about casual sex. Most of his experiences in Muggle London have largely involved sex parties, one-night stands, a flirtation with the fledgling underground chemsex scene he has little desire to repeat and illicit encounters in saunas. It’s just that he expected Potter to be more the no sex before marriage sort. The kind to marry an accountant and adopt babies. It’s unsettling to think of Potter having casual sex and enjoying it. The knowledge that he might have a trick or two up his sleeve makes Draco unbearably warm and intensifies his interest in the smallest things Potter does. Every flex of Potter’s fingers sends Draco’s mind to places it has no business going. The way he pushes his jumper up to the elbows to reveal tanned skin and the smattering of dark hair on his forearms makes Draco’s mouth dry. He is irrationally, impossibly jealous of every Muggle who has had the pleasure of seeing Potter on his knees.

“One rule for one, one rule for the other, is it?” Potter’s clipped tone bellies his annoyance. “You know nothing about what I want, or what type I am.”

“I might know a bit more if you stopped treating me like one of Skeeter’s lackies,” Draco says. “It’s like getting blood out of a Knut, talking to you.”

Potter rolls his eyes and for a minute Draco thinks he’s going to say something, but in the end, he sets his jaw and returns to the menu without saying another word.

Realising that getting information about Potter’s love life when he’s in this kind of mood is a futile exercise, Draco orders himself something outrageously expensive and tells Potter he can pick up the bill.

*

Draco polishes off his final mouthful of chocolate fondant and pushes his plate away with a satisfied sigh. Potter’s mood lifted somewhat after a few slices of warm bread and another beer. They kept the conversation to Quidditch and an old Ministry case, easily sparring back and loath as he is to admit it, Draco is enjoying himself. The food is exquisite, and Potter isn’t terrible company when he’s not on the defensive. He might let Potter choose the restaurant again, if their weekly meetings continue.

“Who were you with on Saturday?” Draco can’t help but be curious, and with Potter seeming more like his normal self, he decides to chance another question that isn’t what do you think of the Cannons this season?

“Ginny.” Potter finishes his own dessert and drains the last of his beer. “Coffee?”

“Yes. Stop changing the subject. You took your ex-fiancée to a gay bar?” The Weaslette seems clever enough not to marry someone with no interest in her, so he can’t imagine why she would be interested in flogging a dead horse. Perhaps Potter took her to a gay bar to make a point.

“We do that sometimes.” Potter contemplates Draco. “You’re not going to let this go, are you?”

“Probably not.”

Potter sighs. “Fine. Did you stay in touch with Millicent after the war?”

“Bulstrode?” Draco shakes his head. “No.” He decides not to mention that’s because their last conversation involved Draco making a snide comment about Bulstrode’s dull appearance to which she responded you, Draco Malfoy, are an utter cunt. Looking back on the snotty little brat he was, Draco would be inclined to agree with her.

“Do you stay in touch with anyone?” Potter asks.

Draco really doesn’t want to get into his friends, or lack thereof. “We can talk about that next week. You were telling me about your weekend.”

“Yeah.” Potter gives Draco a curious look, but thankfully moves on. “Millie has been seeing Ginny for a while, we sometimes go out together.”

What?” Draco shouldn’t be surprised really, but he is. He’s surprised that Potter is hanging around with Slytherins all of a sudden, but most of all he can’t believe that in all his years of feeling like the only gay at Hogwarts he was less alone than he first thought. Draco should have known about this, too. Millicent wasn’t one of his closest friends (largely on account of Draco’s epic cuntishness) but they were often together. He tries to process Potter’s revelation. “Were you and Weasley just covering up for each other?”

Potter frowns. “It’s complicated.”

“I’m sure I’ll be able to keep up,” Draco replies.

“Fine.” Potter rolls his eyes. “When the fuck did you get so nosy?”

“When the fuck did you get so evasive?”

Potter grimaces. “When the press started taking pictures of me buying underpants.”

Draco laughs despite himself. It seems to take Potter by surprise. “I remember that article. I wrote an anonymous letter of complaint, suggesting their readers might prefer actual news.”

“I bet you did.” Potter grins at Draco. “Me and Gin did get engaged after the war. That was all real. It took quite a while for us to realise we were just flatmates, really. Best mates, who lived together. We both needed to work out some things. It’s impossible to work anything out with Quick Quote Quills and cameras shoved in your face. We decided to keep the engagement as a cover to get a bit of breathing space to try to understand what we actually wanted, instead of dealing with the fallout that a broken engagement would have caused.”

“Did anyone else know?” The explanation certainly explains why Ginny looked as if she was protecting Potter instead of getting ready to hex him.

“The people that needed to.” Potter shrugs. He gives Draco a small smile. “Enough information for you?”

“For now,” Draco says. There are still a hundred different questions he has about Potter, but they can wait. Besides, he has the feeling he’s not going to get much else from Potter this afternoon.

“Seems like you had a good night on Saturday too,” Potter says. It’s just casual enough to sound like he couldn’t care less, but Draco also hasn’t seen anyone eat an after-dinner mint quite so aggressively before. Potter isn’t fooling anyone, and the thought that he might be even the tiniest bit jealous gives Draco a moments satisfaction.

“Ah, yes.” Draco gives Potter a sharp smile over his coffee. “Sebastian and Seamus.”

Potter mutters something rude under his breath. “Wonderful. I’m very happy for you. That your type, is it? Witch Weekly models with more muscles than a Beater?”

“Not particularly.” Draco gives Potter a look up and down. “Although I don’t dislike Quidditch players, if that’s what you’re asking. I just tend to prefer Seekers.”

Potter humphs under his breath but his cheeks take on a faint duskiness. Considering Potter has, by his own account, been pretty free and easy with his sexual favours, Draco thinks it’s a bit rich of him to get on his high-horse about Draco’s liaisons, and he has a mind to tell him so. He probably would, if not for the part of him that gets a thrill from seeing Potter huff and puff about Draco’s night out.

Draco doesn’t even know the real names of the Witch Weekly models, so attempting to pretend they’re quite the happy throuple seems like cutting off his nose to spite his face. He doesn’t mind making Potter a little jealous—it’s good to keep him on his toes as he clearly thinks he’s some kind of untidy sex-god—but he doesn’t want teasing Potter with the fact people actually find Draco attractive to lead to (incorrect) assumptions about Draco’s availability. Because the never-to-be-spoken-out-loud truth of it is that Draco is wide open, arms outstretched, let’s go on holiday to the South of France and buy a kneazle kind of available. Considering he spends a significant amount of time by himself, Draco isn’t very good at being alone and the fact his love life consists largely of one-off anonymous encounters in dingy Muggle saunas is getting depressing.

Potter winces as he takes a sip of his coffee too quickly. “Well I hope you find a Seeker to do whatever you got up to with Sebastian and Seamus.” It’s patently obvious from his expression that he hopes nothing of the sort.

“I don’t think I have much interest in finding that again,” Draco says. He keeps his gaze focused on Potter. “I’m looking for new adventures, Potter. Playing the field gets rather boring after a while.”

“Yeah.” Potter breathes out as he studies Draco like he’s a particularly complicated piece of Arithmancy. “Maybe.”

Draco doesn’t give a flying fuck what people get up to in the bedroom or out of it, but he’s always been jealous. Play nicely, Draco, his father would say. It’s polite to share one’s toys. As much as he might have worked on improving himself over the years since the war, in this, at least, Draco knows he is just as he ever was. He simply does not like to share.

Potter takes another after-dinner mint, which is rude as there were only two in the first place. “I think you should call me Harry,” he says around a mouthful of what was rightfully Draco’s.

It feels like progress.

*

It’s another wet Wednesday, when Draco finally gets into Sage & Thyme. He shakes off his brolly and looks around, cursing under his breath at the way his heart gives a pathetic little leap at the sight of Harry with his nose stuck in a book.

“Granger’s influence?” Draco slips off his blazer and puts it over the chair, taking a seat opposite Potter.

“What?” Harry stops reading, his mind clearly elsewhere. He blinks at Draco and then closes the book. It’s covered with rich, burgundy leather and it has the initials S. B. on the cover in elegant, cursive script. “Oh, no.” Harry frowns at Draco. “You do know other people apart from Hermione can read, don’t you?”

Draco rolls his eyes. “Naturally. I just didn’t get the impression you were particularly fond of doing so.” Harry has always struck Draco as the active type. More the sort to barge into something arse over tit, waving his wand around and shouting about noble things than someone who takes the time to research.

“I like a book from time to time.” Harry rubs his jaw which is shadowy with stubble. “It’s Sirius Black’s diary. I found it when I moved my things back to Grimmauld Place.”

“You can’t read somebody’s diary!” Draco stares at Potter, scandalised. “They’re private.”

Harry arches a sceptical eyebrow as if he thinks that the idea of taking advice on ethics from Draco is the last thing anyone should be doing.

“I know that. It’s not like it’s your diary, Malfoy. No need to get your knickers in a twist.”

Draco shudders at the thought of Potter getting his grubby paws on Draco’s diary. Not least because of the unfortunate chapter in fourth year when Draco had clearly taken leave of his senses. I dreamt about Potter last night. The idea of Harry reading any of it is enough to make Draco break out into a cold sweat.

“I hope he comes back and haunts you,” Draco mutters. It makes Potter—odd creature that he is—look almost wistful.

“I think he’d be fine with it.”

“I think he absolutely wouldn’t.” Draco sits back, contemplating Harry. “Would you like to put a wager on it? We can ask Great Aunt Walburga what she thinks.”

“Can’t.” Harry shakes his head.

“Why on earth not? Her portrait’s at Grimmauld Place. How is my ancestral home treating you?”

“Give over.” Harry rolls his eyes. “You don’t need another house.”

“Neither do you,” Draco points out. “Three seems excessive. Don’t try to pretend the fact I have money makes you better than me. You have connections to old money too. I’m fairly certain I give more to charity than you do, these days.”

Harry snorts under his breath. “I’m fairly certain you don’t, not that it matters. Anyway, it’s not just like you can throw money at things and fix everything.”

Draco refuses to let Potter see how much that rankles, even though it does. He’s determined not to get into a debate on this kind of thing with Harry Potter, boy wonder, saviour of the wizarding world, erstwhile Auror and benevolent do-gooder. Draco is sure that despite his efforts to get back to a position where he can face looking at himself in the mirror every morning, Harry would still have something of an upper hand. He self-consciously scratches at the Mark on his forearm, hidden by the cotton of his shirt.

“What have you done to my Great Aunt?” Draco changes the subject, hoping to get them back on topic and away from comparing honourable—or in Draco’s case largely dishonourable—deeds.

“It’s quite an intricate spell, actually.” Harry gets a smug look about him. “Like Sellotape, but with magic. She kept yelling about blood purity and it was doing my head in. I’ve put a dressing gown over her too. I don’t think she likes it.”

Draco glares at Harry, even though he’s not entirely sure his Great Aunt is someone he should be defending. By all accounts she was just as batshit as Aunt Bella.

“Anyway.” Harry continues as if he hasn’t just further demonstrated his lack of respect for the dead, “She wouldn’t know the first thing about Sirius. She hated him. I’m not asking her anything.”

“Fine.” Draco huffs and glances curiously at the diary. “Anything of interest?”

“Plenty.” Harry steadfastly doesn’t say anything further, until the silence gets somewhat uncomfortable. He raises his eyebrows at Draco. “If you reckon his ghost should hex my bollocks off just for reading the thing, I can’t imagine you think he’d be happy if I started sharing his secrets?”

“I couldn’t give a fuck about Black’s secrets, Potter.” Draco gestures for the waiter and orders a coffee. “I’m just bored of talking about your dull battles with infamy. I thought it might give us something else to talk about.”

Harry glares at Draco before his expression clears. He drums his fingers on the book thoughtfully. “There was one thing, actually. Have you ever heard of Little Compton Street?”

“You mean Old Compton Street? I’m a gay man who spends a significant portion of his time in the Muggle world. Yes, I’ve come across Old Compton Street.” Draco chooses not to mention he also has a passing familiarity with the Chariots in Vauxhall, because he suspects Potter would get that air of judgment about him at the idea of visiting a sauna, no matter how easy he seems for an attractive smile these days. “I’m amazed you haven’t, although it seems as though you spend most of your time in East End establishments where they serve drinks out of jam jars.”

“No, I don’t mean Old Compton Street.” Harry opens the diary again, skimming through until he finds what he was looking for. “This bit.”

Draco tries not to react as Harry’s warm fingers brush against his own when he takes the diary. It seems important to treat it carefully, and he makes sure that he doesn’t handle the faded parchment too roughly. The words slant forward in bold, precise script. It’s as if Black was in a hurry when he wrote this entry, the sentences punctuated with exclamation marks and blots of ink that have long since lost their crisp sharpness.

November, 1979

I dragged J out to Soho again. We went drinking after starting out with the punks at The 100 Club where we talked to the Muggles about how shit Thatcher is, because it’s the proper thing to do. Nobody likes a Tory coming out to watch The Damned and ruining everyone’s night.

We were three pints in at the Admiral when we got chatting to someone about Little Compton Street. I always thought Diagon was the only bit of London for our sort but get this—there’s a whole street we’d never heard of!! Can you imagine? Mother would be clutching her pearls over it. Of course, I had to find it straight away, and because J likes an adventure he came along for the ride. We nearly didn’t find it at all, but then there it was just like we were told. Down the stairs into the basement of the Soho Bookshop there’s a curtain which leads into this small space with a neon light that says Girls, Girls, Girls. You tap the arrow on the light with your wand and voila! Little Compton Street. As easy as Diagon Alley, but better by miles.

It was brilliant. I’ve never been anywhere like it. It was full of witches and wizards just like me. I’m shaking just thinking about it. When this war’s over I’m going to go dancing there every night. I had my first Randy Ravenclaw, Hung Hufflepuff and Gryffin Dear. I refused on principle to have a Slippery Slytherin, but J had one. Said it tasted like slime.

We ended up in The Sundowner. They do this cool thing where they can play Muggle music even with all the magic about. I need to learn how to do that.

Kissed J when they put Bowie on.

I haven’t stopped singing Life on Mars all day.

Draco pushes the diary back to Harry. “J?”

“James, I’m guessing.” Harry gives Draco a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “My dad.”

“Oh.” Draco stares at Harry. “Fucking hell.”

Harry nods. “So much for my mum and dad being happy.”

“You don’t know they weren’t.”

“They can’t have been that happy if my dad was getting off with Sirius in gay bars.”

“Maybe he was just horny.” Draco shrugs. “It happens.”

“Does it?” Harry groans and puts his head in his hands. When he speaks again his voice is muffled. “That’s a pretty shit thing to do to Sirius, isn’t it?”

“Not if your dad could give a decent blowjob.”

“Bloody hell.” Harry glares at Draco. “Can you not talk about my dad giving head to my godfather?”

“You’re the one that brought it up.” Draco blows on his coffee to cool it down. “Don’t be such a prude. You of all people should be familiar with the activities two men get up to together.”

Harry makes a strangled sound. “But this is my dad.”

“You don’t know what was going on. It might have been a ménage à trois. Perhaps Lupin joined in on Sundays.” Draco snickers at the thought. It’s always the quiet ones.

“Pillock,” Harry mutters.

“Perhaps.” Draco shrugs. “The point is, your father could hardly have been upset with this latest revelation about your preferences if he made a habit of tossing off Black in bars in Soho.”

Kissing, the diary says nothing about—”

“—I’m using my imagination. You have no idea if he was curious, got caught up in the moment and never went there again, bisexual, in a triad, polyamorous or a gay man who never came out of the closet. It’s a waste of time worrying about the worst-case scenario. At the very least your father was prepared to go out to those kinds of places with his friends. I think that’s the bit to hold onto.”

Harry stares at Draco for a long moment, before tipping his head to the side thoughtfully. “Your father disapproved?”

“My father is dead, Potter.” Draco has a drink of his coffee too quickly and the liquid burns his throat. “Unlike you I have little desire to resurrect ghosts. Based on past form however, I can’t imagine he would have been thrilled.”

“He loved you,” Harry says. It makes Draco irrationally angry because Potter doesn’t understand the first thing about Lucius Malfoy, or how men like Draco’s father place conditions on their love.

“Thank you for that validation,” Draco replies. “I feel much better.”

Harry narrows his eyes as though he’s going to say something else, but mercifully thinks better of it. “Have you heard of the place Sirius is on about?”

“Not a word,” Draco mutters. The bitter taste left in his mouth from discussing his father fades and he gets a peculiar flutter of excitement in his stomach at the thought of there being somewhere for people like him. Somewhere the Prophet and its opinions on deviancy hasn’t infiltrated. The momentary flush of excitement fades away. Draco has been out for years, and he’s not particularly subtle about it. “It’s probably long gone, otherwise I would have heard about it.”

“Would you?” Harry’s question seems pointed and the wave of anger returns, burning through Draco. Fuck Potter and his sanctimonious bullshit and his big, stupid heart. He thinks he’s so much better than Draco, but he’s out there in Muggle London looking for exactly the same kind of physical connections just to feel. Merlin forbid they could even have this in common.

“Fuck you, Potter.” Draco puts some money on the table and stands, pulling on his coat. This time he’s going to leave first, and he’s going to find somewhere to go which is far away from Potter. “You think your godfather’s little club was just for people who deserve to feel safe being queer, don’t you? Good luck getting your invite and enjoy your precious little street full of good gays.”

Furious, Draco leaves the café in such a hurry he forgets his umbrella. Of course, because the weather hates Malfoys as much as everyone else seems to, the heavens choose that moment to open. Drenched though to the skin, Draco walks on auto-pilot until everything is numb from the cold and the damp. His wretched Muggle phone beeps and with a growl of frustration, Draco takes it from his pocket.

sorryks

going to try to find it

I hope you find what you’re looking for

tosser

Feeling a bit better, Draco pockets his phone and takes a minute to work out his location. He sighs with resignation at the familiar pubs with a significant number of Muggle men drinking outside, sheltering under the awning. Comptons. It’s no surprise when the warmth of Potter’s magic fills the space around him.

“I know you’re behind me.”

“Beside you, actually.” Potter’s shoulder brushes Draco’s and the touch sends an unexpected jolt of heat through Draco. “I don’t want to go looking for this place by myself. My dad didn’t go alone.”

“Am I Sirius Black in this scenario?” Draco doesn’t care to point out that on the basis of the evidence they have to hand Black was probably head over heels for James Potter who ended up marrying his pretty redhead. There’s a certain irony to the situation that isn’t lost on Draco.

“Hardly,” Harry says, amused. He nudges Draco with his shoulder. “Sorry for being a twat. I haven’t heard anything about this place either, it’s not like you’re being deliberately kept out of it.”

“We’ll see,” Draco says. He can’t bring himself to stay angry at Potter for long and the fury that welled up so quickly within him fades away. He suspects there’s an element of truth to Harry’s assumption in any event. “I suppose you want to go and find this lost street of yours now.”

“If you want.” Harry glances at Draco, gesturing to a shop with a lurid read neon light outside. Sex, Sex, Sex the shop promises. There’s a big sign in the window with a picture of two men in leathers with naked, muscled torsos and the books on display include a combination tasteful erotica, with the promise of more inside. The name—Soho Bookshop—looks as though it needs a little updating, weathered by the years with the paint cracked and peeling. “I’ll buy you a drink.”

“You’ll buy me several.” Draco crosses the street with Harry until they’re outside the shop. “You also owe me an umbrella. A very expensive umbrella.”

Potter narrows his eyes. “How expensive?”

“About three hundred pounds.”

“On a fucking brolly?” Harry asks, scandalised.

“I thought you were trying not to be a judgmental dickhead.”

“It’s an umbrella.”

“Yes, with a cherry wood handle from a very posh shop.”

“You were robbed,” Harry mutters. He leans in close enough that Draco can catch the woodsy scent of him. For one heart-stopping minute Draco thinks Harry is going to kiss him. His lips part involuntarily, and he closes his eyes when Harry’s warm hand slides over Draco’s hip. It takes every last ounce of Draco’s strength not to moan when Harry’s hot breath tickles the shell of Draco’s ear. He can practically taste Harry, the pulse of his magic washing over Draco’s skin and the hard lines of his body just close enough that Draco starts to react. Harry murmurs a spell in a sinfully low voice. Every syllable is like liquid sex, sliding through Draco’s veins and making him shudder with pleasure and anticipation. An instant later the damp that had started seeping into Draco’s shoes leaves his body entirely, replaced by warm waves of powerful magic, the faint scent of soap and the taste of Harry Potter’s magic on Draco’s tongue.

Harry stands back and clears his throat. “Better?”

Draco isn’t sure he’s capable of speech. He opens his eyes and stares at Potter, wondering if he looks as wild and dishevelled as he feels. It was nothing. Nothing but a whisper in Draco’s ear and a basic charm. If Draco responds like this to the simplest displays of magic or a moment of fleeting proximity he is utterly, utterly fucked. Of course Potter can do wandless magic that makes Draco want to slide to his knees and suck him off right in the middle of the theatre district. Of course.

“All better,” Draco replies. His voice is rougher than usual. “Show off,” he adds.

“Maybe.” Harry holds Draco’s gaze for another charged moment before he turns back to the shop and takes a deep breath. He puts his hand on the door and has the audacity to wink at Draco. “Well, Malfoy. Want to come to a sex shop with me?”

Draco pretends that invitation doesn’t send a thrill of pleasure through him and he keeps his features carefully blank. “Do try to control your fetish for blonds when we’re inside, Potter.”

Harry laughs as he opens the door. “I’ll do my best.”

Draco is really only human for hoping that Harry’s best might not be good enough.

*

“Have you ever tried one of these?”

Draco puts down the copy of Leather Daddies he had been thumbing listlessly through. The leather scene has never really been his thing, although he’s always prepared to experiment with the right partner. After Potter’s little display of wandless magic, Draco made a deliberate beeline for something that wouldn’t make him think of having sex with the saviour of the wizarding world. Difficult, in a sex shop.

“Tried what?” Draco wanders over to Harry and swallows. “Potter.”

“What?” Harry raises his eyebrows at Draco, grinning. “Does it bother you talking about shagging?”

“You don’t talk about anything and you expect me to tell you whether I like toys up my arse?”

“I didn’t ask that, actually.” Harry picks up a box with a slim p-stim toy in it. Unlike Draco, he obviously made his way straight to the butt-plugs, dildos and other assorted toys. Typical Gryffindor; absolutely no subtlety at all. “I asked if you’d ever tried one. I didn’t ask if you were alone or not. You could have used it on someone else.”

Even Draco’s elbows are sweating. He can’t believe he’s standing in the basement of a Soho sex shop with Harry Potter, casually discussing sex toys. He’s starting to rue the moment Harry barged into Draco’s life and turned it upside down. Or, more accurately, flipped it over three times, set it on fire and danced in the ashes.

“Yes,” Draco says through gritted teeth. “Once. That’s all I’m telling you.”

“Oh.” Harry looks up from the box, surprised. By rights Draco should be offended that Potter seems to think he’s the only one capable of getting any, but he’s too busy being distracted by the toy Harry’s holding in those beautiful fucking hands of his. “Any good?”

Draco makes a strangled sound. “I thought this was the bit you were good at. Granger got you a book. I’m sure you don’t need me to explain that certain kinds of stimulation generally feel good.”

“No.” Harry gives Draco another one of his far too attractive smiles. He puts the box down and wiggles his obnoxious fingers in Draco’s face. “I just think there’s nothing wrong with traditional methods.”

Christ. Draco’s growing obsession with Harry’s hands has just got a hundred times worse. The faux browsing has gone on for long enough. The very idea of using toys with Harry—on Harry—or of Harry using them himself gives Draco heart palpitations and the last thing he needs is to get half-hard over Potter and his voracious sexual appetites. It’s Harry Potter, Draco reminds himself. Idiotic Gryffindor, insufferably noble and definitely not fuckable. The problem is, lying to himself is becoming increasingly futile, because Potter is fuckable. Very much so. Today is another classic example of rumpled attire and terrible shoes never having looked quite so devastating. With his cosy navy jumper, stone washed jeans and battered Converse, he looks good enough to eat. The pushed-up jumper sleeves revealing his forearms and the ever-distracting leather band on his wrist and silver ring on his fingers do nothing to help the situation. Particularly now Draco knows that he’s fond of putting those hands to work.

“You can buy one another day, Potter,” Draco hisses. He yanks Harry away from the toys because thinking of Harry and shagging in the same breath is getting to be a problem. “We’re here for a reason.”

“Of course.” Harry shoots Draco a sheepish smile and oh god the things Draco wants Potter to do to him with those lips. “Everything okay, Malfoy? You seem a bit flushed.”

“Considering it’s been raining since February this shop is boiling,” Draco replies. He tugs his collar away from his neck and pointedly doesn’t look at Harry. He’s hot for reasons he doesn’t want Harry to delve into too closely.

Harry puts a firm hand on Draco’s shoulder before they get to the curtain. “I don’t mind if you want to look at this stuff before we leave.” Harry drops his hand from Draco’s shoulder and runs his fingers over a soft, leather flogger with a thoughtful hum of interest.

“Why on earth would you think I want to look at this?”

Harry’s brow furrows. “Because you went straight for those magazines.”

Draco smirks at Harry. “You were paying attention.”

“Not really,” Harry says. It’s not convincing in the slightest. “Is that what you like, then? Motorbikes and S&M?” His lips twitch as if the idea amuses him.

Draco rolls his eyes. He has a feeling Harry’s been busy making lots of wrong assumptions about Draco’s preferences based on those blasted magazines. “No. I didn’t realise you wanted to stock up on cock rings and lube. I thought we were here for another purpose.” Draco nods towards the curtain at the back of the shop. “I just picked up any old thing to make it look like I was browsing.”

“Very clever, Malfoy.” Harry winks at him. “Still, having been undercover quite a bit since the war I don’t think there’s any harm in trying to have a bit of fun at the same time.”

“We’re not undercover and nobody is paying me an Auror salary to spend time with you in a sex shop, so you can have fun on your own time.” Draco heads pointedly towards the curtain. “Hurry up, Potter.”

“What do you like, then?” Harry glances at Draco as they reach the curtain.

“We’ve talked about this.”

“We have? I think I’d remember.”

“If you insist on prying into my private affairs, I’m entitled to pry into yours. I suggest you think about that before you ask me anything else.”

“Okay.” Harry shoots Draco a lopsided smile. “I just have some questions.”

“As do I,” Draco mutters. They stop together in front of the curtain that shimmers and thrums with magic. None of the Muggles seem to notice it and the handful of people browsing the books and shelves aren’t paying either of them any mind.

“Wait!” Harry cries out at the same moment Draco pulls them both, stumbling, to the other side of the curtain.

Draco turns to face Harry, whose features are etched with panic. The red glow from the Girls, Girls, Girls sign casts peculiar shadows on his face, lifting his cheekbones and making his teeth glow strangely in the light as he opens his mouth and closes it again. Draco is acutely aware of how close they are; pressed into the small space behind the curtain. Harry’s breath is ragged and loud in the quiet box of a room. He reaches for Draco and clutches his arm as he struggles to control the jagged huffs of breath that hiss from between his lips.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Draco shifts closer to Harry, keeping him steady by putting his hands on Harry’s waist. There’s something unnerving about seeing Harry Potter scared. Draco is so used to thinking of him as virtually infallible, it’s a sharp reminder that Potter, too, has his demons.

Harry rights himself and drops his hand to his side where he balls it into a fist. He doesn’t move away from Draco and his warm breath ghosts over Draco’s cheeks. “I’m sorry.” He ducks his head, his breathing steadying. “The curtain reminded me of something else.”

Draco gives Harry a minute to calm himself, not making any sudden movements. “We’re fine. It’s just like Black’s diary said.”

“I know.” Harry takes a gulp of breath and pushes a hand through his hair. He has a wild-eyed look about him and his face contorts into a grimace. “Fuck. Have you ever been inside the Department of Mysteries?”

Draco has never been inside, but he knows the room Harry means. He’s heard all about the Department of Mysteries with its large black door and the voices of the dead enticing the living to join them beyond the veil. He’s seen pictures of the room in textbooks and he’s heard of the way the room whispers to you and beckons you inside. He knows something of hearing voices of the dearly (and not so dearly) departed. One of his first tasks after the death of his parents was to rid the Manor of the kind of Dark artefacts kept in his father’s private quarters. Save me, son one of them whispered, as the unmoving portrait of Lucius Malfoy watched over Draco. On another day, Draco swears he heard Rabastan: it’s our queer little traitor Bella, what fun we can have with him when he gets here, what sport. Draco shudders at the recollection and the warmth that pulsed through his body following his conversations with Harry is replaced by a chill which travels the full length of his spine.

“I know enough of it to know what it contains,” Draco replies.

“Sirius died there,” Harry says. He takes another breath. “He fell through the veil. I just thought, for a minute…”

“A Soho sex shop would be an odd choice for a veil leading to certain death.” Draco hopes it will lighten the mood, because Harry’s shakiness is making him cold all over. Even more dangerous than the way Draco reacts to Harry’s proximity and persistent questions about Draco’s sexual preferences is the way something fierce and protective takes up residence in his chest. He wants to make it okay for Harry. He wants to wipe away the pain of the past to bring Harry firmly back into the present where he’s joking about Draco wearing leather again.

Harry laughs under his breath and the tension leaves his body. “Good point.” He puts his hand out in front of him and flexes it. “Looks like we survived.”

Satisfied Harry is fine, Draco extracts his wand and studies the sign. The rest of the space is dark, blank walls. There’s nothing that says magic and yet the entire room is somehow still full of it. It’s like the pulse of Muggle music in one of those busy clubs where you can feel the bass through your feet.

“I’m not sure we would still be together if going through the curtain had killed us,” Draco says.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean I don’t know if you and I have the same things awaiting us,” Draco says. The topic isn’t something Draco wants to unpack now, or ever. He's not sure why he raised it at all, other than the mood in this small, warm space seems to invite sharing private thoughts.

“Draco?” Harry’s voice is quiet and questioning, his hand back on Draco’s shoulder. It’s warm, solid, and alive. Draco wants that. The reminder that he’s alive, and all the little deaths he hopes to have before the big one. Draco has been walking through the rain for so long. It’s been forever since he has truly felt the heat of companionship. The last thing he wants to do now it feels like the sun is finally coming up is to dwell on death.

“It's stupid. I'm being morbid. I want to focus on living, not dying.”

“You really think that's how it works?” Harry sounds doubtful.

Draco arches an eyebrow at Harry. “You want to discuss my views on the afterlife now?”

Harry pulls a face and glances at the neon sign on the wall, his body practically vibrating with excitable, restless energy. “Maybe not.” He curls his fingers around his wand and points it at Draco. “Another time, though. You’re telling me another time.”

“A secret for a secret, Potter,” Draco says. “That’s how it works.” They didn’t sort him into Slytherin for nothing.

“Fine.” Harry shrugs. “I’ve got nothing to hide.”

“I beg to differ,” Draco murmurs. “I think you have everything to hide.” He moves Harry’s hand away from the sign before he can tap his wand against it. “May I try, first?”

“Okay.” Harry gives Draco a questioning look. “Why?”

The Mark on Draco’s arm itches underneath his shirt. He composes himself before answering so his tone is as dispassionate as possible. “There are certain places that have wards against people like me. I want to ensure there won’t be any nasty surprises.”

“Because of the Mark?” Never one for subtlety, Potter barges right on in like the insufferable Gryffindor he is. “You’re not a Death Eater anymore, though.”

“The fact I still have a skull and a snake on my arm indicates otherwise.” Draco presses his lips together because surely Potter with his scar on his forehead should understand the permanence of certain things better than anyone. Draco might not think like a Death Eater any longer, but the Mark on his skin will identify him as one for the rest of his life. Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater. At least according to the Prophet. He has his father to thank for that, too. People are distrustful of Malfoys who claim to have repented for their sins.

“Haven’t you ever thought of getting rid of it?” Harry asks.

“I doubt it can be removed any more than your scar can.” Draco gives Harry a look. “No matter how much you try to cover it up with that shaggy mop of yours.”

Harry lifts a hand almost subconsciously to his forehead, before adopting a duelling stance as if he might have to do something to stop Draco from bursting into flames. “Go on, then. Do it. See what happens.”

Gryffindors. Draco takes in Harry’s battle pose and can’t help the small smile which tugs at his lips. “Do you think you’ll always have a hard-on for saving people, Potter?”

“Didn’t realise you were so concerned with my erections, Malfoy. Spend a lot of time thinking about them, do you?”

“Bugger off.”

Harry gives Draco a crooked smile. “If I didn’t know better I would think you’re stalling. Scared, Malfoy?”

“Not with the great Auror Potter to protect me.” Draco rolls his eyes. “You’re such an unbelievable cretin.”

“I do my best,” Harry says, obviously pleased with himself. “I wouldn’t want you to turn into a gnome on my watch.”

“I can think of worse things to be turned into. Like a ferret.” Draco glares at Harry before sucking in a breath and approaching the neon light which flickers and hums as he gets nearer. With another shaky breath, Draco taps his wand against the base of the arrow just like Black’s diaries described.

For a moment, nothing happens. The lack of response leaves a bitter taste in Draco’s mouth because of course he isn’t welcome in this newfound place of Potter’s. If it still exists at all, it’s just another part of the wizarding world for Draco to feel unwelcome in. Just another place that wants to keep him at bay in the way his ancestors sought to keep people without pure blood lineage out of magical places. It makes his skin crawl with shame, being here with Potter and experiencing rejection first hand. It’s hardly as though Harry isn’t already fully aware of all the mistakes Draco has made and the elongated silence sends them into sharp relief.

Draco pockets his wand and decides not to spend any longer on Potter and his hair-brained schemes. “There’s nothing here for me. Enjoy your evening, if you manage to get inside.”

“Look.” Harry relaxes, pushing his own wand into the waist of his jeans. “It’s working.”

Draco turns back to the wall in front of him and sucks in a sharp breath as slowly but surely it slides open. Unlike Diagon Alley, the magic at the entrance to Little Compton Street is less smooth, as though it hasn’t been used in a while. The walls part like doors on rusty hinges, with a creak and a shudder, until there’s a hole easily big enough for Harry and Draco to pass through side by side. After they step through to the other side, the magical door closes behind them both with a squeak.

Draco looks up. He learned to do that after reading one of his books about London. So much of the history of the city has been erased, modernised and altered at eye-level, the best way to find unexpected pieces of architecture is always to look up. The first thing that catches his eye before anything else is the distinctive rectangular white sign with its black, bold font and square red typeface announcing the location. A rush of excitement makes Draco’s mouth water and he clutches tightly onto his wand as he drinks in the sign on the weathered brick wall.

 

“ Roger gone, Craig gone, Cesar gone, Stevie gone.
And this feeling that I'm the last one left, in a world where only the ghosts still laugh.
But at least they're the ghosts of full-grown men,
proof that all of us got that far, free of the traps and the lies.
And from that moment on the brink of summer's end,
no one would ever tell me again that men like me couldn't love.”

Paul Monette – Becoming a Man: Half A Life Story

The little street is a cosy, winding space with dappled cobbles and weather-beaten brickwork which stretches up on either side of the narrow path. The shop fronts are dark and dusty, paint peels on the signage outside bars nestled alongside one another and outside a pub called the Joiner's Arms a lone rainbow flag waves in the breeze. It's the only part of the dusty street that looks well-maintained, as if it's been positioned to welcome new visitors to Little Compton Street. Unlike Diagon Alley the street is entirely covered by a cavernous arch, yet despite the extensive brickwork there’s an airiness to the space which suggests the roof is little more than an illusion. Whatever the magic involved, it gives the sense of being underground but without the damp darkness that reminds Draco of the Malfoy cellars or the Slytherin rooms deep in the belly of Hogwarts. The brickwork is dotted with candles which cast an inviting orangey light into the space, reminding Draco of the sun-burnished streets of London on a summer’s afternoon. Brightly coloured silk ribbons flutter and twist, and upside-down umbrellas in a wide variety of colours hang suspended in the air.

Unlike the bustling streets of Diagon Alley there’s a stillness to Little Compton Street which couldn’t be more different to the heaving bars and clubs of Soho, where people with pints served in plastic cups spill onto the street on a hot summer’s day. The longer Draco stares at the rows of boarded up bars, a strange shiver travels the length of his spine. He can almost taste the summer, with the cherry blossom lining pristine Chelsea streets and al fresco Sunday roasts in Primrose Hill. He can taste the summer here, in this little bit of London that’s hidden away from the judgment of the masses. If he closes his eyes he can feel the heat of warm bodies pressed together and the restless vibrations of music beneath his feet. Draco wonders if Harry feels it too, this deference to the ghosts of the past. I'm the last one left, in a world where only the ghosts still laugh. A quote from a book Draco can’t quite recall, by a man whose name he doesn’t remember. The air is full of them. The angels of Little Compton Street. The spirits whose laughter catches on the breeze, whose echoes slide through the cracks of the brickwork and disturb the dust on empty floors. There's a sense of a party left unfinished, an abandoned dancefloor with the DJ still playing. It's as though the narrow street would soon buzz with people again, if only someone switched on the right song. It’s unbelievable how a street which is so decidedly empty can feel so full.

“Do you reckon it’s all closed?” Harry says. He keeps his voice low and quiet, as if they’re intruding in someone else’s private space.

“I’m not sure.” Draco frowns and takes in the bars, many of which have thick layers of dust on their windows. He moves closer to one, rubbing his hand over the glass but all the grime seems to be on the inside, not the out. Draco can’t shake the image of a past full of dreams never fully realised. Where did all the witches and wizards of Little Compton Street go, when Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade have no more spaces for them than they did all those decades ago?

“Look at the rainbow flag.” Harry seems as awe-struck by the place as Draco, turning on his heel and taking everything in with wide eyes. “I didn’t know we had those.”

“Neither did I.” Draco’s throat is too tight to speak without a rough edge of emotion.

Harry’s voice takes on a breathlessness. “Do you hear that?”

Draco listens carefully until he catches it—the distinctive thump-a-thump on the still air and the faint sound of laughter. “Muggle music.”

“Must be, come on!” Harry picks up the pace and leads them down the winding path into the heart of Little Compton Street.

As the volume of the music increases, Draco takes in the names of the bars long-since abandoned, with chipboard over the windows and heavy metal locks on the doors. Madame Jojo’s, The Black Cap, The Joiner’s Arms, Candy Bar, Barcode and Area. Draco tries to picture what Little Compton Street might have been like at its prime, whenever that was. According to Black’s diaries the place was thriving back in the seventies. The ghostly air to the abandoned buildings intensifies, emphasised by the way the music from some unknown venue curls and twists around them both as they make their way swiftly towards the promise of people.

Eventually they reach a courtyard with several bars—this time open for business. A heady rush overcomes Draco as the memory of going to his first Muggle gay bar mingles with the memory of the time he chose his wand. The magic in the air has a defiance to it, the promise of freedom already lifting Draco’s heart as the thrum of music and the pleasing slide of magic moves over his body like a hug from warm arms.

Unlike the other part of Little Compton Street, the courtyard has the appearance of being open air, but like the brickwork archway that too is an illusion. The sky is as false as the one in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. The rain has been relentless in London, but here the sky is like sunset on a hot summer day. The clouds are burnished reds and oranges, the hazy brilliance of it making everything warmer than Draco’s ever felt under London’s rainy skies. He wonders if Little Compton Street is always like this: a place where the sun never rises or sets. Draco can’t tell if it’s supposed to signify the cusp of night or the promise of a breaking dawn, but it lends a timeless beauty to the courtyard and the surrounding hostelries. An enormous rainbow flag billows and wafts in the breeze, hanging from the sky without anything keeping it in place. Everywhere Draco looks there are new things to see—bright lights in a thousand different colours, imprints of fairy wings which flutter and shimmer when the light catches them, thick, waxy candles marking out paths for the people walking along the cobbles and a huge, brightly coloured tent with a pointed roof sitting on a wide expanse of green grass, with a rickety wooden sign declaring the space to be Compton Common.

Harry seems as stunned into silence as Draco, although the powerful force of Harry’s magic is more distinguishable here than anywhere else they have been together. It’s the magic of a battle-weary warrior who still wants to fight to save things, the struggle between boy and man, of someone resolutely determined to focus on the future but haunted by the ghosts of the past. As their fingers brush together here, on Little Compton Street, their stories collide with the force of something unstoppable. Draco has never understood Harry as acutely as he understands him in this moment, or ever felt such an unexpected kinship with someone he should by all accounts be continually butting heads with. He’s always felt on the periphery of Muggles with their marches and rainbow flags because they are all part of a story Draco doesn’t know. Those Muggles had their own Voldemorts and none of them knew about Draco’s. It’s here that the final Knut drops. The simple, stupid, ridiculous truth of it is that being gay wizards gives Draco and Harry a history and a purpose which, for the first time since Potter refused to shake Draco’s hand, is fully aligned.

Harry puts a hand on Draco’s back and the warmth of it offers an unexpected assurance that perhaps, on this strange, rainy afternoon in Soho, he feels it too.

“Malfoy…”

Brilliant,” Draco agrees, his voice hoarse. “It’s fucking brilliant.”

Harry opens his arms and turns his head up to the sky, letting out a whoop. “Hello, Little Compton Street!” The intensity of the moment flickers and fades, and everything is just a little bit lighter than before. Harry grins at Draco. “Fancy a drink?”

“Why not?” Draco can’t help but smile back because Harry’s enthusiasm is infectious. “Where first?”

“Christopher Street Inn, The Tavern, Rivera & Johnson, the Mayor and Miners, or…” Harry trails off, his wide smile fading. He swallows, and his voice is rough when he speaks again. “The Sundowner.”

The Sundowner is much larger than the other pubs, which range from untidy little taverns with jolly candlelight in the windows to more modern establishments with magical neon signs promising music and cheap booze. The Sundowner stretches up towards the sky with several floors and a huge, outdoor terrace which is adorned with rainbow flags. Draco can tell that the place with its bouncers having a smoke and a chat in the doorway and the witches and wizards milling around outside has an impact on Harry. With so much gone, and so many people lost to the war, it seems significant somehow that the place mentioned in the diaries that brought them here is still open, with its music beating like a racing heartbeat.

“We’ll go there last,” Harry decides. “We’ll go there…after.” He seems overwhelmed, his jaw set definitely and his eyes hungry as he takes in the other options. “How about the Christopher Street Inn?” He takes a breath as if he needs to compose himself and gives Draco another one of his lopsided smiles that do peculiar things to Draco’s insides. “Pub crawl?”

Draco makes a show of checking his watch and sighs, in a put-upon fashion. “As long as I don’t have to carry you home.” He gestures to his shoes. “These are Italian leather. Armani. Please try not to throw up on them later.”

“As if.” Harry gives Draco’s shoes a sceptical glance. “Did they cost as much as the brolly?”

“Significantly more,” Draco reassures him.

Harry laughs under his breath. “You’re such a posh twat.”

“And you’re an insufferable arse. We all have our crosses to bear.”

Because he’s actually quite curious to see more of Little Compton Street, Draco decides to follow Potter as he heads straight for Christopher Street Inn in that usual bombastic way of his.

Draco thinks he might have to take up diary keeping again. He makes a mental note of his first entry, because there’s something about this moment with the not-quite-setting-sun and the Muggle disco anthems pulsing around them that makes him want to immortalise it just like Black did.

Wednesday 18 September, 2010

I discovered Little Compton Street today and Potter and I decided to go drinking in a bar with a rainbow flag above the door.

I think he’s trying to retrace the footsteps of Black and his father on the night they found this place.

I wonder if that includes kissing in The Sundowner, too?

I can’t say I’d mind.

*

The Christopher Street Inn looks as though it’s seen better times, with the paintwork peeling from the walls and old posters which seem to date back to a nineties club night called Flesh. Behind the bar is a small screen designed to look like a television, but clearly magically charmed to show a slide-show of magical photographs of waving punters, from muscled gym bunnies to tall-haired drag queens. From the fashion, which is largely Muggle, it places the heaving nights in another decade and which suggests there might not have been so many recent events which packed out the bar. Colourful candles light up the assortment of drinks bottles in a dizzying array of rainbow colours, with crudely drawn stickers announcing special offers. A white-haired barman looks bored, as he flicks through the Prophet, his eyes widening with recognition when he looks up to greet his newest patrons.

“Blimey. It’s you.” The barman stares at Harry, his eyes flicking up to Harry’s forehead where his scar is, as ever, covered by his messy tangle of hair. “Harry bleedin’ Potter.”

“Yeah.” Harry runs a hand through his hair and pulls a face at Draco.

“How did you find out about us?” The barman looks curiously at Harry.

“I think my godfather used to come here.”

“Who’s that, then?”

“Sirius Black,” Harry replies. The name doesn’t cause the shudder it once would after Black was posthumously pardoned. Draco feels certain that the Padfoot Pardons have some connection to Black. They were part of Potter’s campaign in those early post-war days when the Ministry was in disarray and the Death Eaters were standing trial. Potter did a lot of things in those days. Keeping Draco out of Azkaban was one of them.

“We’ve read all about you.” The barman waves a copy of the Prophet at Harry and he seems displeased. “We managed to keep Little Compton Street out of the press for years. Now you show up with—”, the barman’s smile fades, “—Merlin, aren’t you one of You-Know-Who’s lot?”

“Not anymore.” Draco rubs his arm and presses his lips together, fighting back the heat in his cheeks. “Not for a long time.”

“He’s okay.” Harry clears his throat. “Promise.”

“I don’t know.” The barman trails off, doubtful.

“Do you want us to go?” Harry’s tone implies he really doesn’t want to go anywhere, and Draco curses Skeeter and her minions for making Potter feel like he needs to hide away in that Muggle flat of his. The wizarding world owes Harry Potter so much, they might want to try to make him feel welcome.

The barman seems to feel similarly, his earlier cloudiness disappearing as he gives Harry a broad smile. “’Course I don’t want you to leave.” He gives Draco a suspicious look. “And I suppose if this one is a friend of yours…”

“He is,” Harry says. He gives Draco a grin. “Isn’t that right, Malfoy?”

“Yes, Potter. Such is my good fortune.” Draco can’t help the smile that tugs at his lips, even as he attempts to sound as droll as possible. He’s closer to being friends with Harry than he is with anyone else in his life. If you can call it friends when you spend a significant amount of time thinking about taking your pal to bed and doing all manner of filthy things with them.

“Then it’s fine. Stay.” The barman holds out his hand which Harry shakes. “Have a drink on the house. It’s the least I can do after all you did for us.” He gives the walls of the bar a thoughtful look. “This place could use some sprucing up, and I’ve been after a bit of celebrity eye-candy. How do you feel about being on posters?”

“Not brilliant.” Harry grimaces.

“Don’t be so hasty.” Draco sees an opportunity for teasing Potter, and of course he takes it. “I’m sure your oiled torso would be an instant hit with the clientele. You should wear leather trousers and a Gryffindor tie around your neck. It would be very homoerotic.”

“Leather and oiled torsos?” Harry stares at Draco, then his lips tilt into a smug smile. “Sounds like someone has a few schoolboy fantasies to live out. I suppose you want to take the photos?”

“Absolutely not.” Draco does, actually. Quite a lot. He can’t be bothered to refute the schoolboy fantasy comment. It’s possible he does harbour a couple of those when it comes to Potter. “We would hire a professional.”

“We would, would we?” Harry’s smile widens, and he leans in close to Draco, his hot breath ghosting over Draco’s ear. “Do you think you might find it difficult to keep professional, Malfoy? With all that nakedness, leather and oil.”

“I wouldn’t find it difficult in the slightest.” Draco’s heart skips a beat and involuntarily he leans into Harry. “Although I do have a very expensive camera if you ever care to put my resolve to the test.”

“Mmm.” Harry makes a non-committal sound, but he stays close to Draco as he turns back to the barman who is still watching them with confusion. Draco wonders what they must look like to him, an unlikely combination of Sloane Square tailoring and wherever the fuck Potter gets his clothes from, with a past that pitted them on opposite sides of a war. “What happened to all the other bars?”

“Gentrification,” the barman says, spitting out the word like a curse. “Property in this part of town isn’t exactly cheap. If we don’t start doing more business, they won’t be the only ones closing down.” The barman pours Harry and Draco two drinks and pushes them across the bar, waving his hand to decline Draco’s money when he tries to pay because it seems like the polite thing to do. “Mark my words, if business doesn’t pick up, Little Compton’s going to be taken over by those fancy chains taking off in Diagon Alley and a load of Centaurs Coffee shops. One on every bloomin’ corner.”

Draco feels now isn’t a good time to mention that buying early shares in Centaurs was one of his best investment decisions. “How can business be expected to pick up if nobody knows this is even here.”

“Some people know.” The barman shrugs. “We want it kept safe. There are those that can be funny about our sort.”

“Wizards?” Draco asks, confused.

The barman laughs under his breath. “Queers.” He grimaces. “We don’t want a load of people coming in just to have a gawk, either. Next thing you know we’ll be having hen parties at our drag nights like those Muggle bars.”

Draco isn’t overly familiar with the idea of a hen night, but then he suspects he favours a slightly less commercial establishment when he goes out in Muggle London. The places with wipe-down surfaces and Men Only on the doors don’t exactly attract the diverse club scene crowd. When he drinks in London he doesn’t really favour the cheesy pop of Village or G-A-Y anymore. Even though he’s not even thirty yet, he feels old and alone in those clubs. When he discovered the blissful pleasures of Muggle drugs, dancing on the vast floors of Heaven after the war was like a religious experience, the sweaty bodies, beating music and pounding hearts enhanced by the chemical du jour. Draco left that behind some time ago, and now he prefers a glass of something expensive in Claridges or The Savoy. It’s boring, clubbing alone.

“It used to be heaving here.” The barman looks glum. “Three deep at the bar at least on a Friday.”

“Sirius was here in 1979,” Harry says. “He didn’t mention anything about any bars being closed. Why did people stop coming?”

“We had to keep hidden during the first war, and the second. It was too risky to advertise openly.”

“Couldn’t you tell people about it now?” Harry looks thoughtful and Draco wonders if he’s already planning his new project. You can take the boy out of the fight, but you can’t take the fight out of the boy.

“Maybe.” The barman shrugs. “Most folk that come here remember the seventies, when the Ministry was corrupted and nobody knew who to trust. I don’t know if they’d be happy to see Aurors walking around Little Compton Street.” He gives Harry an apologetic look. “We lost a lot of people and things never quite recovered after that. Word of mouth only goes so far if people are scared of talking.”

“You lost people because of the wars?” Draco asks.

The barman raises an eyebrow at Draco. “That, and AIDS.”

“That only affected Muggles, didn’t it?”

The barman’s expression gets cloudy. “Just what I’d expect from a Malfoy.”

Guilt worms through Draco, because of course it’s another example of a Malfoy being a selfish cretin, oblivious to the issues of the wider world. “I only meant I never heard anything about it in the press or anything. I just assumed—”

“—No surprise there,” the barman interrupts. “Tell him, Harry.”

“I, err…” Harry trails off and the knot in Draco’s gut loosens a little. He glances at Harry whose cheeks are pink with embarrassment. Ha! Draco thinks. Potter doesn’t know any more than I do.

The barman shakes his head. “Young folk don’t know anything about history anymore.”

“Can you tell us?” Harry asks. His voice is serious and quiet, and Draco recognises his firm tone from the way he addressed crowds of people looking for something to believe in shortly after the war. It’s his Auror voice. “I’ll do those posters if you like.”

The barman laughs under his breath and then looks around the quiet bar. “You don’t have to get Malfoy here putting baby oil on your chest just to get information that by rights you should already know. Justin! Come and take over for a bit, will you? I’m showing our VIPs around.”

“We don’t have VIPs.” A gorgeous blond—Justin, presumably—gives Draco a suspicious look. It’s only when he clocks Potter that his eyes go wide, his voice getting breathy. “I heard, but I didn’t believe it. Hi, handsome.” Justin smiles at Harry, brighter than the sun. “If you want a private tour later, I’m very good at those. I’ll give you access anywhere you want, darling.”

“Thanks.” Considering he has a lot of sex, Harry isn’t exactly smooth. He looks more flustered than Draco has seen him in a while. “I’ll, um, think about it.” Draco huffs under his breath. Trust Potter to make a distinct lack of suave look so ineffably charming.

“Ignore Sunshine over here.” The barman rolls his eyes and beckons for Harry and Draco to follow him. “Come on, then. I’m Paul, by the way.”

Paul leads them outside, taking them down a side street away from the main courtyard. They stop in front of a ramshackle row of shops which are all boarded up. On the brickwork is a huge poster with weathered print reading ACT UP; the text long-since faded. A smiling wizard winks at them and waves, as they watch him. The poster has been covered in a glass case to keep it protected from any further weather-damage, and there’s a plaque beneath it which reads Jonathan Ashton, 1960 – 1987. The trace of old magic is particularly strong here, just as it was by the boarded-up bars of the earlier stretches of Little Compton Street. The whole place is full of echoes, like the faint pulse of music somewhere just out of reach.

“This is Jonathan,” Paul says. “He set up the magical faction of ACT UP in the eighties. I suppose he was what you’d call an AIDS activist and we needed that here, as much as all those Muggles in New York, San Francisco, Washington, Paris…” Paul trails off and takes a breath, as if talking about Jonathan is hard for him. “He was more than an activist, though. He was also my friend.”

“I’ve never heard his name.” Harry’s jaw is set, and his gaze fixed on the poster. “I worked on the honours list after the war, and I don’t remember seeing his name on that. If he was an activist, why wasn’t he awarded an Order of Merlin?”

Paul snorts. “Because the Ministry liked to pretend he didn’t exist, even though they knew damn well he did. He sent hundreds of Howlers to them and the Prophet. He even used the Sonorous Charm to give a speech in Hogsmeade before the Aurors threw him in Azkaban for a couple of nights for promoting deviant behaviour or some such rot. I think they made up a charge just to get him out of the way. After that he stuck to the speaker’s box on Compton Common, so at least people here were informed.”

“Why on earth would they pretend he didn’t exist?” Draco casts Harry a nervous glance because he looks very much like a Gryffindor on the verge of throwing himself head-first into battle.

“Nobody ever talked about HIV and AIDS in our world. Nobody in the Muggle government did for a long while either, but the Muggle press did. Oh, they had a lot to say and none of it good. Gay cancer, they used to call it. Like it was being gay that made you sick. Our lot never mentioned a thing, though. Not the Ministry, not the press, not St Mungo’s, nobody. Didn’t seem like our folks wanted to admit that something Muggle couldn’t be cured with magic. They didn’t want people to know there were as many of us in the wizarding world as the Muggle one and that half of our lot were out in the Muggle bars all the time anyway.”

“How did they explain all the deaths if nobody talked about it?” Draco knows enough about the bits of Muggle history he’s picked up over the years to be aware that the deaths were significant and from bitter experience he’s fully aware of the futility of using magic to try to cure certain illnesses.

Paul’s Adam’s apple bobs in his throat as if he’s trying to compose himself before answering.

“When people died in the eighties they put it down to the war. They made up stories about curses, potions and random attacks. With all the killings going on, people were ready to believe it. After You-Know-Who disappeared—well, you know all about that, Harry Potter—they just stopped talking about the deaths at all.” Paul’s voice is rough with emotion and anger. “Nobody knew we were fighting a different kind of war here. Only our battles were with an illness nobody understood, and the very people that are supposed to protect us.”

“How many.” Harry speaks with a quiet, choked fury. The powerful waves of magic rolling from him give Draco the first true sense of Auror Potter in a long time. “How many died?”

“Thousands in the UK. Hundreds of gay and bisexual wizards and our trans witches.” Paul touches the smiling face of Jonathan Ashton. “Others too, the ones that weren’t part of our little community in Soho, but like us, they were all the people polite society wanted to forget about. This one didn’t see beyond twenty-six.”

“There must have been some people at the Ministry prepared to help.” Draco’s chest is tight, an icy hand gripping his heart as he stares at the smiling face of the young man suspended in time in grainy black and white. “Surely people tried to do something?”

“Some Muggles did.” Paul smiles, sadly. “Lady Di came here, once. The only Muggle with not a bit of magic in her bones to be let into Little Compton Street without being part of our community. We put out bunting and probably broke a hundred different statutes of secrecy, but we would have done anything by that point. They didn’t even care enough to throw us in Azkaban. They just wanted to ignore it was happening and pretend this place didn’t exist. We had to take care of ourselves and in the end, it was the Muggle world that gave us the treatments and the information we needed to learn how to protect ourselves. Nobody ever found a cure through magic, and I’m not sure how many really tried.”

“Is anyone trying now?” Draco asks.

“Not really.” Paul shrugs. “One or two at St Mungo’s. The main ones helping are Muggle-born, but we’re still miles behind. If it wasn’t for the Muggles giving us access to all their information and treatment, we’d have lost a lot more and we’d still be losing them. The problem hasn’t disappeared, but the Muggle treatments have changed everything and they're getting better all the time.”

Paul takes a breath before continuing and Draco notices his hands are shaking, as he clasps them together. “For all we think we’re the bees’ knees with our magic and clever spells, our lot wouldn’t put time, money or resources towards any of it. We didn’t even get postscripts in the Prophet, a proper cause of death to mourn our losses or a class about basic STIs at Hogwarts for all the kids that might need to know that sort of stuff in the future.” Paul pulls a face. “It’s all Goblin Rebellions and how to stroke a Hippogriff.”

Harry’s voice is gruff with emotion. “I’ve got access to Ministry resources. We could change that.”

“Fuck the Ministry.” Paul winces and gives Harry a glance. “No offence.”

“None taken.” Harry sounds as miserable as Draco feels. “There must be a way to help.”

“Not without changing a lot of opinions first and that’s not a one-man battle.” Paul puts a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“He likes to help,” Draco says, quietly. He has never understood so keenly Potter’s desire to fight for things. No wonder Little Compton Street has the sense of something ethereal about it. The small area has a vast, complicated history that’s as unknown to the wizarding world as the existence of the street itself. It hums with the bittersweet mix of tragedy with joy and defiance, the sentient magic in the bricks warm from the fire of fight. “Saving people is Potter’s thing.”

“I see.” Paul grins at Harry. “Well if it’s going to make you feel better, you can always do those posters to make the bar look a bit more special.”

“Anything,” Harry says. His voice is shaky. “I’ll do anything.”

Paul’s grin fades and he squeezes his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Come on, now. You’ve done a lot already. There’s plenty more that would have died if it hadn’t been for you. You-Know-Who would have found Little Compton Street in the end and I can’t imagine it would have been pretty if he had.”

“It wouldn’t have been,” Draco mutters. He can almost feel Paul’s eyes boring into him and he looks up, heat rising in his cheeks. “I know enough of my father’s views to be sure of that.”

“I see.” Paul studies Draco as if he’s trying to work him out. “I suppose your dad wasn’t much good at making sure you knew about things half our lot didn't want to talk about.”

“He taught me Unforgivables to keep me safe, if that’s what you mean.” Draco gives Paul a humourless smile. He knows, in his heart, his father's methods were born out of a desire to keep Draco alive and help him succeed. It was just all so misplaced. Such a horrible, wretched mess.

Paul mutters something that sounds like fucking Death Eaters under his breath. “If there's any advice you ever need or if you want to pick up condoms and Tesco won't take your Knuts, go to the Muggle place on Dean Street. There are one or two Healers that know what they’re on about at St Mungo’s, but not many and some will give you a potion or something that just doesn’t work.”

“I’ve been to Dean Street before,” Draco replies. He glances at Harry and can tell his mind is whirring. “I knew I couldn't cast protective spells on Muggles without breaking the law and one more misdemeanor and they would have thrown me in Akaban and chucked away the key. My father's preferred Healer wouldn't entertain the possibility of sex with Muggles, let alone other men. St Mungo's didn't give me any information besides what I knew already, but I always just put that down to being a Malfoy. I stopped trusting Healers after a while.”

Paul sighs. “Wizards can’t half be arrogant twats thinking they’re impervious to everything. There’s plenty that can’t be remedied with magic, and it’s not just this.”

Draco swallows and a picture of his mother flashes before his eyes. Sometimes he sees her dressed in finest velvet robes or heavy silks, with her pearls and stern expressions. More often than not these days is the image of her in a nightgown, her blonde hair fanning out on the pillow. She would smile at him as if looking at Draco made her sad. My darling boy. I just want to see you happy. Draco never told her about his preferences, but he thinks, somehow, maybe she already knew.

“Cancer,” Draco says. “That can’t be cured with magic either.”

“No,” Paul replies. His eyes soften as he looks at Draco, losing the cool distrust from before. “You know a bit about that, do you?”

“My mother,” Draco bites out. He can’t look at Harry because he doesn’t think he can bear the pity that he’s quite sure would be written all over Harry’s face. “St Mungo’s would have helped her. I understand they use Muggle remedies when necessary. Father insisted on a private hospital that spent so long on magical cures by the time they realised the only option was Muggle treatment it was too late.” Draco had been questioning his parents’ beliefs for a long time before that point, but watching his beloved mother die from snobbery, pride and a misplaced sense of wizarding superiority was the last, cruel blow that cemented his desire to slam the door on his past, instead of following his father’s path of strategic repentance.

“I didn’t know.” Harry’s hand settles on Draco’s back, warm and firm.

“Nobody did.” Draco steadies his breathing. “The official reports kept the details vague. It was a long time ago.” He fights back the sting of tears pricking his eyes. “Did somebody mention a drink?”

“I’ll do you an Ogden’s.” Paul ushers them both back into the pub. “Don’t look so glum, both of you. We’re already losing business and I don’t want you two turning the punters off. History is important, but we don’t let our tragedies define us. Alright?”

“Alright.” Harry nods, his jaw set. He still seems distracted and deep in thought.

When they get back into the Christopher Street Inn, Paul turns the music up and they have their drinks in silence.

*

When Paul finishes work for the day, he exchanges his Floo coordinates with Harry and Draco and they promise to keep in touch. The heavy conversation from before has taken some of the unfiltered excitement off their pub crawl, but Harry seems determined to continue with the plan to try the bars that are still open before moving on to The Sundowner. He has been stoic and brooding since the discussion with Paul, and Draco wonders what’s going on in his head.

It’s odd, seeing Potter quiet and thoughtful. He’s usually so full of bombast and an almost tireless energy, his pensive expression and the cloudiness which passes over his handsome features reminds Draco of the way Potter looked during the Wizengamot trials, or in the Prophet photographs accompanying the article that gleefully outed him to the rest of the wizarding world.

They move on to the Mayor & Miners and Harry buys a couple of bottles of beer for he and Draco, before they settle at a quiet table next to a flickering fire.

“Are you always safe?” Harry doesn’t look at Draco, picking at the label on his lager.

Draco pauses and lowers his beer, staring at Harry whose expression is dark, his cheeks flushed. Perhaps the reason for his silence was about more than just churning over ways to save Little Compton Street from the closure that Paul seemed to indicate would be inevitable.

“Excuse me?”

Harry glances at Draco. “Do you use condoms and protective spells when you have sex?”

“Yes. I use condoms. Not for oral, even though I probably should. Nobody seems to, so I just never did. I don’t sleep with many wizards largely because they don’t want to sleep with me, but on the rare occasion I use protective spells.” Draco’s stomach clenches. He knows nothing is insurmountable now, but even the thought of Potter having a common cold doesn’t sit well with him. He wants Harry well and vibrant, annoying Draco with his poorly spelled texts and his broad smile. “Aren’t you?”

“Mostly.” Harry rubs his hand over his jaw. “There was once, a few months back though…”

Draco makes a frustrated sound in the back of his throat. “What do you mean there was once?”

Harry turns to Draco, holding his gaze. His throat bobs and he curses under his breath. “I met a Muggle in a club, we went to my flat and we fucked. I didn’t use anything.”

“You topped?”

“Yeah.” Harry has another swig of his beer. “I haven’t thought about it in weeks. He said we’d be fine because he said he did it all the time without a problem.”

Draco glances at Harry who still seems preoccupied. There’s a shame in Harry’s expression that Draco wants to chase away. Don’t you fucking dare, Draco wants to tell him. Don’t you dare feel ashamed of having sex with other men. He wonders if the secrecy of the last however many years is finally starting to weigh on Harry. The Prophet continues to make comments about his ‘lifestyle’ as they’re calling it now and living your life in the shadows takes its toll after a while.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Draco says instead. He wants to offer Potter more reassurance, but he also doesn’t know how without it sounding like a lot of false platitudes.

“Yeah.” Harry rubs his forehead. “But what if it isn’t? I just took his word for it and I didn’t even know his last name. I’m an Auror for fucks sake, I don’t just trust what people tell me without doing my own investigations. I’m such a twat.”

Draco understands the frustration, even though he knows that statistically the chances of Potter having contracted even an annoying but swiftly curable STI are remote. Draco has had his own moments and things he regrets. For the most part though he wants to wipe the embarrassment from Harry's face, desperate not to add having sex with men to the list of things Potter is clearly going through.

“Go and get a check-up. It can’t hurt, and it should stop you from twisting yourself into knots.”

“Do you do that?”

“Get check-ups?” Draco takes a breath and he nods, not looking away even as his cheeks burn. “I’ve been known to engage in what I believe some people term risky sex, particularly after the war and everything with mother and father. I spent a large amount of time doing everything and everyone I could until I went to one party that ended up being something of a wake-up call.” He shrugs, the initial heat in his cheeks receding. There are a lot of things Draco feels guilt over, but this is not one of them.

“You don’t do that anymore?” Harry seems curious, as if he hasn’t had many of these conversations before.

“I’m no angel. I might not take everything under the sun now, because I don't think that was helping. I still like sex. I usually go to saunas when I feel the need.”

“Oh.” Harry stares at Draco. “Right.”

“Yes.” Draco rolls his eyes at Potter being sanctimonious when he’s out there barebacking his club scene twinks whose names he doesn’t remember. “So sorry to disappoint.”

“No, it’s not that.” Harry’s voice is slightly rough. “I just don't really have anyone to chat to about this. No men, anyway.”

“That's what happens if you insist on being friends with straight people.” Draco gives Harry a small smile to show he's joking.

“It feels weird talking about sex with you.” Harry picks at the label on his bottle again, studying it as if it's suddenly fascinating. “Unexpected.”

“Really?” Draco raises his eyebrows at Harry that's the bit I'm good at Potter. “I didn't get the impression you found it at all weird when you were informing me about that book of yours or shoving sex toys in my face earlier and telling me you love fingering people.”

Harry splutters. “When the fuck did I say that?”

Draco waves his hand in Potter’s face, putting on an exaggeratedly gruff tone. “I prefer the traditional methods.”

“Oh, that.” Harry grins around his bottle and some of the tension leaves his body. “Yeah, well. I do.”

“Bully for you.” Draco glances at Harry. “I don't care. I don't mind talking about it. I'm not ashamed of any of it, even the days when I was fucking just to feel wanted by someone for a change.” He sounds fiercer than he intended and Harry turns properly to him, his eyes fixed on Draco. There's a warm curiosity behind his expression, a flash of empathy and understanding that takes Draco by surprise.

“You've been out for a long time,“ Harry says. His gaze is so focused and intense, Draco wants to drag Harry into a dark corner and do all manner of things to him. “The press hasn't got to you, yet?”

“Of course it does. The press, remembering jokes people around me used to make. Pure-blood beliefs in the right way to live a life.” Draco takes a sip of his beer. “But there are enough things I feel guilt over. Of all the views I've held, believing there is nothing wrong with two men being together is one I still feel with absolute conviction. I have enough to be ashamed about as it is. Fucking handsome strangers isn't going to be one of them.”

“Only strangers?” Harry murmurs, his eyes tracing Draco's lips like a caress.

“It depends who's offering.” The charged moment between them dissipates and Draco breaks eye-contact. “I've been a persona non grata in our world for a while. My homosexuality is the least of my concerns.”

“I'm sorry,” Harry says. It seems sincere.

Draco pulls a face because the last thing he wants is for Harry to apologise. I'm sorry you made all the wrong choices. I'm sorry you finally understand bigotry after spending your childhood perpetuating it. “I don't want your sympathy, Potter.”

“Okay.”

“You’ll go to Dean Street?”

“I’ll go. Thanks, Malfoy.” Harry pauses. “Have you ever been with someone long term?”

Draco snorts. “No. I haven’t. You?”

“No.” Harry frowns at his beer, turning the bottle in his hands. “Why do you think that is?”

“Because you’re annoying, I don’t know.” Draco looks over at Harry and sighs. “It’s probably because you’re meeting Muggles in clubs and taking them home for a quick shag without telling them anything about you. Like the fact you’re a wizard, for a start. At least now you can shag people who know all about the great Harry Potter. I expect you’ll get plenty of blowjobs for saving the world.”

Harry laughs and shakes his head at Draco. “Fuck off.”

Draco smirks at Harry. “Maybe the Prophet has done you a favour after all.”

“The Prophet doesn’t do anyone any favours,” Harry says, bitterly. “The last thing they’ll do is give me room to start seeing people in peace. They got a picture of me outside Grimmauld Place the other day and wrote a three-page article on my wrinkles.”

“Not many of those.” Draco takes the invitations to scrutinise Harry’s face. He’s hardly the careworn, lovelorn man the Prophet seem to love to write about. The press can fuck off.

“One or two.” Harry shrugs, unbothered. “I don’t care about things like that.”

“I can tell.” Draco’s eyes catch the silver ring on Harry’s finger. “I didn’t expect those.”

“The ring?” Harry holds his hand up and studies it, giving Draco an opportunity to admire it in the candlelight. He really does have excellent hands. “It was my dad’s wedding ring. I found it with Sirius’s diary when I was going through things at Grimmauld Place. I’m redecorating.” He touches his fingers to the leather band on his wrist. “This belonged to Remus. Professor Lupin,” he clarifies.

“I see.” There’s an ache in Draco’s chest at the way Harry carries around his trinkets of the dead. It’s another difference between them. Draco sold much of his mother’s jewellery and most of the things that belonged to his father. The small possessions he retains are locked away in his study in a drawer he rarely opens. He wonders which one of them has made peace with death. Perhaps neither of them has.

“I thought I’d be married by now, with three kids or something.” Harry gives Draco a wry smile. “Stupid, isn’t it?”

“Not really.” Draco pulls a face. “I can’t say I ever want to get married.” There’s a way marriage is talked about amongst pure-bloods with beliefs like his father, that makes Draco resentful of it. Not getting married is an act of defiance. A final fuck you to the society he determined to leave behind for good after his mother's death.

“I’m not sure I care about any of that anymore, either.” Harry frowns. “I’d like to have someone, though. Maybe we could have a crup.”

Draco’s heart flips which is very dangerous territory. It could only have been more perfect if Potter had said kneazle instead of crup. He contemplates Harry.

“I can only imagine any crup of yours would be the sort to eat expensive shoes and piss on the carpet.”

“Thanks.” Harry laughs. “This mystery bloke of mine probably shouldn’t leave his expensive shoes lying around, then. Or he should stop being such a snob and try a pair of trainers for a change.”

Draco shudders at the thought, although he quite likes the implication that Harry’s future partner shares similar tastes to Draco. Perhaps he can forgive Potter’s crup after all. He would probably be the sort to have a ball of fur that would be an absolute menace, bounding around all over the place. Then he would give you puppy-dog eyes and be instantly forgiven. It seems like a very Potter-ish sort of pet to have.

“I’m sure you’ll meet someone, if that’s what you want.” Draco runs his fingers over a heart etched into the table. The lines of it are broken and it makes him inexplicably sad.

“I think I’m scared.” Harry’s voice is quiet. “Not because of the press, I could handle that if there was someone important. It’s just that people I love have a habit of leaving.”

“I’m familiar with that.”

“I’m sorry about your mum,” Harry says.

“Yes, well.” Draco shakes his head and doesn’t look at Harry. “Not tonight. I don’t want to talk about that tonight.”

“Okay.” Harry mercifully doesn’t push. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Your struggles with fame and fortune.” Draco rolls his eyes before giving Harry a look. “Maybe monogamy just isn’t for you. It’s not uncommon to be perfectly happy with less conventional relationships.”

Harry laughs under his breath. “I’m not sure that’s it.”

“I don’t like to share my things,” Draco says, honestly.

“No.” The intensity as Harry meets Draco’s eyes sends a powerful surge of desire through Draco. Harry Potter is going to be the death of him. “Neither do I.”

“Then I hope you find someone who can tolerate your company for long enough to make a go of it.”

“Thanks ever so.”

“You’re welcome.” Draco studies his nearly empty bottle, before draining the last of his lager. “More booze?”

“Yeah.” Harry gives Draco another one of those smiles that sends Draco’s heart racing. “Thanks.”

Draco makes his way to the bar and is surprised by how much colder everything feels without the pulse of Harry’s warm magic humming next to him.

*

They’re three drinks in when Harry asks Draco the question he’s been waiting for, even though he remains as woefully unprepared to answer it as he was when Harry first appeared in Draco’s life again.

“Why haven’t you stayed in touch with your friends?”

Draco pulls a face. “That’s quite presumptuous.”

“Is it?”

“If you want me to answer that you owe me a question of my own,” Draco replies.

Harry considers the proposition. “That’s fair. I still want to know.”

“We stuck together after the war.” Draco drums his fingers on the table, the conversation bringing back memories of huddling around creaky tables in the Three Broomsticks and walking in tight groups through Diagon Alley as people levelled pointed comments in their direction. Death Eater scum! He shudders, closing his eyes briefly. The air fills with the scent of vanilla (Pansy), Butterbeer (Greg), cigarette smoke (Theo) and Zabini’s distinctive cologne from Liberty’s. In a flash, it fades away to nothing and Draco opens his eyes again, back in the present.

“We thought there might be safety in numbers, but it seemed to make everything worse. Some people thought we were together because we were trying to pick up again where our parents left off.”

“I remember.” Harry’s tone doesn’t hold any judgment or condemnation. He’s serious, but dispassionate, neither apologetic or triumphant. “They asked us to keep an eye on you all when the Wizengamot overturned the convictions of anyone under the age of twenty-one.”

“I know.” Draco was fully aware of the presence of brusque Aurors wherever they went. It felt as though every conversation was being carefully observed from a distance. “The press hated us as much as they adored you, and we soon realised that bandying about together did the very opposite of what it was supposed to, which was keep us safe and help us integrate into society again.”

“You just stopped talking?”

“It doesn’t work like that.” Draco shrugs. “It wasn’t as if we made a collective decision. People started to leave. Theo went to work for an investment bank in Hong Kong. He was the first to go. He was always close to Blaise and when he went to visit Theo, he came back full of stories of a different world. It showed him there was more to life than Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade and the people who whispered about us wherever we went. He’s fluent in enough languages that he could move to Europe. He ended up taking a job in Milan. I think he spent some time in Spain and Portugal too, and now he’s back in Italy.”

“Doing what?” Harry sounds curious enough that Draco believes it to be a genuine question. He feels certain that the Ministry likely has details of the whereabouts of anyone remotely connected with the Death Eaters, but he can also believe Potter isn’t the kind to go in for paperwork.

“He works in fashion, would you believe.”

“I would, actually.” Harry seems pleased to hear good reports of Blaise, despite their fractious history. “Do you see anything of Parkinson?”

“She left too. She lives in New York. She started her own business. Cupcakes, or something.” Draco allows himself a wry smile. “I’m surprised you didn’t bump into her out there.”

Harry’s cheeks get pink. “I did. Somehow she found out I was in New York and she asked me for coffee.”

The thought that Harry knows more of Draco’s friends than Draco does now, makes him irrationally angry. “Well why did you ask about her if you’re such good friends?”

“We’re not.” Harry holds his hands up in a gesture of defence. “It was one coffee. I tried one of those cupcakes she makes, and she said I’m sorry I tried to hand you over to the Dark Lord, Potter and it was pretty bloody awkward to be honest. We didn’t meet up again, after that. I think she just wanted to try to make amends. She said it hadn’t been easy after the war.”

“I notice you didn’t think whether or not I was having an easy time when you were busy fraternising with the enemy over cupcakes and cappuccinos.” Draco can’t help the bitterness in his tone. He hasn’t heard so much as a peep from Potter in the last few years. It rankles that Potter managed to afford Pansy that courtesy on an entirely different continent.

“That’s not quite true.” Harry fiddles with a stray thread on his jumper. “I thought about getting in touch with you.”

“But you decided Pansy was more deserving of your benediction, is that it?”

Harry winces. “It wasn’t that, I promise. She contacted me.”

“I contacted you!” Draco remembers writing a series of pathetic, hopeless owl when everything was going from bad to worse.

Harry’s lips twitch. “You contacted me to complain about Ministry procedures I implemented. You didn’t say let’s get coffee I’d love to say sorry for being a dick.”

“It was still contact. You could have read between the lines. Besides, my mother saved your life, you ungrateful pillock.” Draco folds his arms and glares at Harry. “I don’t care if you think none of us deserved your help, but hearing you’ve been cosying up to Parkinson does rather single me out as the person you couldn’t be bothered to respond to. I’ve lived in the same country as you for years, and written multiple letters of complaint to you. You couldn’t be bothered to Fire Call to give me the option of kissing your heroic backside to make life a bit better for myself?”

Harry’s cheeks flare pink and he runs his tongue over his lips. “Well, that was sort of the problem, Malfoy.”

What was the problem?” Draco’s skin is hot with anger, a sudden rage pulsing through him. Potter is still the same infuriating dickhead he’s always been, making decisions based on nothing more than his pompous self-righteousness, deciding who should be saved and who should be left to the bitter condemnation from the press to every witch and wizard with an opinion.

“The kissing my—how did you put it?—heroic backside bit.”

Draco nearly splutters out his lager. “You didn’t ask me for coffee because I’m gay? That’s the most hypocritical bollocks I’ve ever heard. I suppose you didn’t want to encourage me in case I tried to lure you into my boudoir to bugger you senseless. You’re so arrogant.”

“Your boudoir?” Harry’s lips twitch and the flush in his cheeks dissipates. “Do you mean your bedroom?”

Draco makes a strangled sound. “Fuck off, Potter. I’m busy being incensed.”

“It wasn’t because I thought you would try to get off with me or anything.” Harry’s tone is, at least, apologetic. “I didn’t want to see you because I thought it would make things odd.” He shifts awkwardly in place, his voice sheepish. “I think I was more worried I might end up having to admit a few things to myself.”

Draco stares at Harry, his mouth suddenly dry. “What?

“I don’t know.” Harry groans and shakes his head. “You were always in the papers and had this snooty look about you and there were some weird dreams in fifth year. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on in my life and the last thing I wanted was for everything to get even more complicated.”

“You fancied me.” Draco sits back in the seat, sure his disbelief must be written all over his face.

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far…”

“Don’t try to weasel out if it.” Draco can’t resist smirking at Harry. “I didn’t realise. These last two months must have been torture for you.”

“Alright, don’t start. I was a teenager and everyone has stuff like that happen when they're that age.” Harry looks amused.

“Not everyone. I certainly didn't,” Draco lies. It's a wonder a bolt of lightning from one of London's endless thunderstorms doesn't hit him.

“Mmhm.” Harry raises a sceptical eyebrow at Draco. “I said it might have been weird. That’s all. I’m over it.”

“Are you?”

“Yeah.” Harry doesn’t sound convincing in the slightest and everything is just a little bit warmer and more hopeful than before. “Obviously.”

Obviously.” Draco glances at Harry and decides to put him out of his misery. For now. “I’m still surprised you said yes to Parkinson’s invitation.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “It was mainly because I don’t believe in holding grudges and I think she’s changed. A bit. She even asked after Hermione, through gritted teeth.” He grins at Draco. “I just don’t think she likes me, much.”

“She’s good at giving off that impression. You probably annoyed her by being a sanctimonious arsehole.”

“No doubt,” Harry says, easily. He gives Draco a side-long look. “If you’re so pissed off about inter-house fraternising, you should probably know that Ron and Goyle have been speaking. They’ve offered Goyle a job at the Ministry with the Floo Network Authority.”

“I heard.” Draco presses his lips together. “He’ll be good at that.”

“I reckon,” Harry agrees. “Ron likes him. He said he’s pretty solid and works hard.”

“He’s always been good at manual things.” A wave of sadness washes over Draco, because he misses Greg. Of all his friends, Greg is the one that still tries to keep in touch with Draco. The owls just make Draco depressed. Greg clearly still looks up to Draco, when there’s no discernible reason for him to do so. There was such an unfiltered eagerness when he told Draco he would be returning to the UK, it made Draco’s chest hurt. He doesn’t want Greg to come back to London to his new job and to have to cope with the negativity that comes from associating with a Malfoy. It’s better for all concerned if Draco lets Greg make his own life without him. “I wish him well.”

“You should meet up with him,” Harry suggests, quiet and tentative. “I think he might like to see you. Ron said he’s always talking about you.”

Draco raises an eyebrow at Harry. “What did he really say?”

Harry laughs. “He said ‘Goyle keeps banging on about the ferret like he’s Merlin’s bloody gift, I don’t understand it Harry, really I don’t.’”

“That sounds more like it.” Draco rolls his eyes. “I think it’s better for Greg if he and I keep our distance. He has the chance for a new life.”

“So do you,” Harry says. He nudges Draco’s leg with his thigh. “You both do.”

“Maybe.” Draco shakes his head. “We’ll see.” He gives Harry a smug smile. “My turn.”

Harry rubs his hand over his jaw and meets Draco’s smile with one of his own. “Go on, then. Do your worst.” His brow furrows. “Just nothing about my Mind Healer. Not tonight.”

“Fine.” Draco thinks for a minute. “Why are you on holiday?” He places enough emphasis on the word that Harry knows Draco doesn’t believe he’s on holiday for one moment. Nobody takes two months of precious holiday time just to wander around London and discover magical streets in the basement of sex shops.

“Because I deserve a break,” Harry replies. He pulls a face when Draco remains resolutely silent. “After the war everything was different. I was busy helping the Ministry, but the fight wasn’t all on my shoulders anymore. Shacklebolt’s been brilliant, but the Ministry has been around forever and there are ways of doing things. They don’t just let students fresh out of Hogwarts barge in and start changing all the rules.”

“No matter how hard they try.” Draco can just imagine Potter charging in head first, thinking he can build Rome in a day. “You changed some rules.”

“Eventually.” Harry’s lips twitch into a half-smile. “It’s taken forever but it finally seems like the Ministry’s where it needs to be—at least I thought it was until tonight.” His expression darkens.

“Another battle for you fight, Potter?”

“I don’t know.” Harry looks at Draco, his brow furrowed. “I’m still trying to work it all out.”

“Me too,” Draco agrees. “What changed with the Ministry? Surely getting your changes implemented would make it a better place to work, not worse?”

Harry shakes his head. “I’m not sure. I’ve been restless for a while. I was working undercover on my last case and had to use Polyjuice every day. When I looked in the mirror one morning I didn’t know who I was, anymore. It’s all been smoke and mirrors, living with Ginny in a fake domestic set-up neither of us really wants, having sex with Muggles that don’t know anything about me, hiding from the press and going to work wearing somebody else’s face.”

“I can’t imagine that working for one minute.” Draco really can’t. There’s a powerful honesty in everything Harry does. An openness that Draco can’t understand, being as Slytherin as he is. Even now with Harry so schooled in the art of answering questions without really giving anything of himself away, he’s still fundamentally, irrepressibly, Harry. His emotions show all over his face, his fire and fight present in every pulse and twist of his magic. Over the last few weeks his demeanour has changed and now there’s a weightlessness that seems to have been brought about by the ability to speak his truth, in a street full of strangers with its rainbows billowing in the breeze.

“It wasn’t just that,” Harry continues. “When work at the Ministry slowed down, it gave me too much time to think about things. Too much time to remember.”

“You’re trying to stop your mind from playing over events during the war by giving yourself even more free time?”

“Sort of.” Harry taps his foot, skittish and jittery. “I can’t just keep myself busy and hope that one day I’ll wake up and all of the memories of everything that happened during the war will be gone, because that’s never going to happen. Not without an Obliviate.”

“Do you really want them to disappear?” Draco has wanted to wipe everything out before and start from a clean slate, but his war was very different to Harry’s. Even during the most wearying days, he knows it’s important for him to remember who he was. He’s not entirely convinced a shiny new Draco Malfoy wouldn’t make exactly the same mistakes again, without the memory of the reasons why he shouldn’t to keep him on track.

“Not really.” Harry shakes his head. “I’d lose everything that makes me who I am. I need to work out how to face up to everything that happened, though. The longer I try to put the memories in a box, the harder it is to keep them contained.”

“Like lots of things,” Draco says. He gives Harry a careful look. “Boxes of memories, closets.”

“That too.” Harry takes a breath. “I think maybe I lost the person I am, trying to be the person I thought I was. Those demons have to be confronted. It’s better I do that on my own time, not on the Ministry’s.”

Even in his desire to work through war traumas and the impact of trying to keep a massive secret under continuous press scrutiny, Harry talks in terms of battling demons. It’s so like him to think about inner turmoil as like fighting a dragon. He’s a lion-hearted Gryffindor, through and through.

“I wondered if the Ministry might have encouraged you to take some time after the press outed you,” Draco muses. “I’m glad it wasn’t that.”

“No, the article just gave me the push I needed.” Harry pulls a face. “Kingsley was supportive and as for some of the others, I just thought they were making stupid jokes. I didn’t realise the Aurors had a history involving arresting gay men for no reason at all. Some of them are old enough to have been working for the Ministry in the sixties.”

“What sort of jokes?”

“Stuff like me being too busy watching their backsides to watch their backs.” Harry rolls his eyes. “As if I’d want to go anywhere near Dawlish’s pimply arse.”

Draco snorts. “Twats.”

“Some of them. I’m not bothered.”

Draco isn’t sure Harry is entirely convincing, but he lets it slide. “How long are you off for?”

“A few months.” Harry shrugs. “It’s flexible. I check in with Kingsley most weeks and Ron keeps me up to speed. We’ve been partnered together since the war and we talk about cases when I go and see him. If something big happened I’d go straight back. It’s not for good.”

“I never thought it would be,” Draco replies. He can’t imagine Harry not doing something with institutional gravitas that allows him to do honourable things.

Draco has a sip of his beer, unable to believe Harry is finally opening up to him. There’s an easy warmth to the conversation and it makes Draco realise how much he’s missed people. His owl and the portraits in the Manor are little compensation for talking about everything without a filter. Perhaps he will get in touch with Greg, after all. They don’t have to meet in the heart of Diagon Alley in full view of the Prophet reporters.

The thought of his friends brings Draco back to another question that’s been playing on his mind since it first came up in Sage & Thyme. “Why did you go to New York?”

“I thought it was my turn to ask the question?” Harry takes a sip of his drink and winks at Draco. “Does this mean I get two?”

“If you like.” Draco tries to make it sound blithe, like he doesn’t have any secrets. He hopes Harry doesn’t realise that Draco’s biggest secret at present is the fact his traitorous heart won’t seem to stop beating for a boy hero with a disarming smile.

“Ginny and I finally realised it wasn’t going to work between us. One of the cases needed somebody on the ground in America, and I took it to give her some space.” Harry takes a moment, as if he’s choosing his words carefully. “It was different for Ginny than it was for me when everything fell apart. She’s bisexual, and for her it could have worked. She came out to me before I'd even come out to myself. She's never really said it in so many words, but I think she wonders if her coming out was the thing that made me realise I'm gay.”

“And was it?” Draco is torn between jealousy and sympathy. He's not certain he would cope very well with having Harry and then losing him so completely.

“Probably, in part. It forced me to face up to some things I'd been trying to ignore.” Harry glances at Draco. “I already had questions I didn't know how to answer.”

Draco swallows, thinking about their earlier conversation and Harry’s reluctance to get in touch with him after the war. It’s foolish to hope that he might have had any part to play, but in this strange, magical place, anything seems possible.

“How was New York?” Draco moves the subject back to America, sensing Harry's mood shift. Draco's never made promises to a significant other beyond dinner dates and a bottle of decent wine, but he imagines it must be strange to go back to a past which held a very different kind of future.

Harry brightens, the wistful look dissipating. “I loved it. Nobody cares half as much about my name in America, I could go and buy coffee and pretzels without a camera shoved in my face.”

“You weren’t tempted to stay?” New York is a city that's always fascinated Draco, with its bright lights and distinctive Manhattan skyline.

“Part of me was, but I’ve got friends and family here. They’re part of me.” Harry laughs. “Molly kept sending me cottage pie and her famous rhubarb crumble. I can’t run away from that, can I?”

Draco shakes his head, wondering if Harry thinks that’s what Draco’s been doing. Technically it’s his friends that have been doing the running, but Draco was happy to let them. He let owls pass unanswered, allowed Fire Calls to become harder to schedule until they were infrequent and, finally, stopped happening at all. When his friends did return to England to see family or otherwise, Draco made no attempt to welcome them back. Staying static in the same old country pile, with the same owl—Aristotle has lived for an absurd length of time—and keeping up his daily routine of walking in the London rain, is a form of distancing himself from his past. It’s not running. It’s exactly the opposite of running, but the result isn’t terribly different. The only reason he doesn’t run is because he hasn’t the faintest idea where he would run towards.

“Your turn to ask a question,” Draco says. Thinking about the choices he made since the war is almost as depressing as thinking about the choices he made during it.

Harry grins at Draco and looks around to make sure no one is listening to their conversation. The pub is quieter than the Christopher Street Inn, and the only person remotely within in earshot is engrossed by a magical jukebox in the corner of the room.

“Tell me what you like most in bed.” Harry’s voice is a peculiar combination of rough and breathless.

That’s your question? I thought it was weird talking about sex with me.” Draco was hoping for something more light-hearted, but honestly. Trust Potter to take any opportunity to pry into Draco’s sex secrets. “You’re such a pervert.”

“I am not!” Harry looks put out. “I’m just naturally curious and I've already told you I don't have anyone to talk to about this stuff. You already told me you’re into toys and I think you’ve got a leather fetish.”

“You think wrong.” Draco glares at Harry. “I said I used toys once and I’ve already told you the leather scene isn’t for me.”

“I would have believed it too, if you didn’t say you wanted to put me in leather trousers.” Harry looks far too pleased with himself.

“Only because it’s entertaining to think of you looking stupid.”

“It didn’t sound stupid.” Harry still sounds far too amused for Draco’s liking. “It sounded very specific. Almost like a fantasy you’ve had in your head for a while.”

“It just came to me off the top of my head.”

“Sure, Malfoy. Whatever you say.” Harry’s leg presses against Draco’s again and neither of them make any move to pull away.

“You’re the one having wet dreams and drooling over pictures of me in the Prophet.”

“I said you looked snooty and annoying, nobody said anything about drooling.”

“You didn’t have to.”

Harry snorts. “You’re so up yourself. I’ll make sure I don’t wear any leather around you in case it makes you hot and bothered.”

“As if you could make me hot and bothered,” Draco mutters. Even as he says it, he’s acutely aware of the heat in his cheeks and his clammy palms. Damn Potter.

“What exactly does make you hot and bothered?” Harry asks again, clearly trying to keep his tone conversational. “Just out of interest.”

“If I answer this, I’m not answering any more of your obnoxious questions.”

“You owe me another one.”

“This one counts as double.” Draco meets Harry’s eyes, which spark with mirth. “After this, game’s over.”

“Fine.” Harry twists the ring on his finger absentmindedly, which has the unfortunate result of drawing attention to his hands. “You win.”

“I’m versatile, if that was your question.” Draco makes it sound casual, as if he’s not sitting unthinkably close to Potter, talking about sexual preferences.

“Brilliant, me too. And it wasn’t my question. My question was what do you like most.”

Draco sighs. “You’re so annoying Potter. Fine. What I like most is when I can top and bottom.”

“You already said you’re versatile.” Harry frowns at Draco.

“That’s not what I mean.” Draco tries to think of the best way of phrasing it because all possible terms have a range of meanings and none fit exactly. “I hear people throw around terms like topping from the bottom and power bottom, but I don’t particularly care for slapping a label on it that people frequently misunderstand.” He takes in Harry’s curious expression and rolls his eyes. “I like to be on the receiving end of a thorough fucking, Potter, and if there’s any play involved I have a preference for taking the dominant role. For some reason there are people that struggle to wrap their heads around someone with a preference for being the receptive partner liking to top in all other ways.”

“I don’t have trouble with that.” Harry sounds slightly croaky. “I don’t have trouble with that at all.” He leans in towards Draco, his voice low. “Let’s say—hypothetically—that you were with someone who liked the sound of that but hadn’t had that sort of experience before. How would you, um, want it?”

Draco decides to get his own back on Harry. Don’t get mad, get even is a very Slytherin way of doing things. Harry might think he’s going to make Draco blush and simper over his answer, but Draco has other ideas. If Harry wants to talk hypothetically, he’s going to get the full force of Draco’s very best seduction techniques. If he thinks he can throw Draco off his game just because he’s had more anonymous fucks than you can shake a broomstick at, he’s sorely mistaken.

Draco makes a show of shrinking his jacket down to a small ball, which he puts in his pocket. He opens another button on his shirt and stretches his arm across the back of the seat, contemplating Harry. Harry seems to drink it in, the look in his eyes going from surprised, to hungry and he shifts closer to Draco, almost so he’s in the crook of Draco’s arm.

I’ll show you sex, Draco thinks. Hold onto your broom, Potter. He smirks at the innuendo and keeps his voice to the crisp, cultured drawl he knows previous partners have found particularly pleasing. Talking dirty is something Draco excels at, and he isn’t going to let the fact it’s Harry Potter on the receiving end put him off his stride. Draco leans closer to Harry, his lips close to Harry’s ear, dropping his hand onto Harry’s shoulder.

Hypothetically, I would probably start by asserting some kind of control over my partner.” Draco brushes his fingers against the nape of Harry’s neck, pleased to feel him shiver at the touch. “I would tell him to strip for me, perhaps, or have him on his knees for a while. He could take me in his mouth to get me hard.” Draco glances at Harry’s hand on his thigh, his fingers flexing against the thick denim of his jeans as Draco talks. “I’m quite fond of traditional methods too, as it happens. I would definitely ask my hypothetical partner to get his fingers and his cock well-lubed, so he could spend a lot of time fucking me. Ideally, he wouldn’t be allowed to come unless I said so. I want a top with a submissive streak that can take instruction and one who can demonstrate a bit of stamina and force when he’s topping. You would be amazed how hard they are to find.”

“Bloody hell,” Harry says. His gaze is focused on Draco’s lips, his cheeks lightly flushed. He flicks his tongue over his lips and clears his throat. “That’s...”

“You asked.” Draco shrugs, moving back a little with reluctance. As much as he wants to close the distance between them he knows if he starts kissing Potter now, Draco will end up Aparating them both back to the Manor before you can say Accio and he really does want to see The Sundowner. He glances at Harry. “Hypothetically, how do you think a situation like that would be received?”

Harry’s eyes are still dark. “I’d say very well indeed,” he murmurs. “Hypothetically.”

“I’m glad you approve, Potter.” Draco flashes Harry a smile. “Come on, I need more booze. Let’s go to The Sundowner, it’s dead in here.”

It doesn’t escape Draco’s notice that when they stand, Potter adjusts himself in his trousers and looks deep in thought.

*

On their way to The Sundowner they hear live music coming from another little alley just off the courtyard. Curious, they make their way down the small street where the leaves from nearby trees settle in a colourful carpet over the cobbles. There’s a small shop selling brandy of all kinds, from plum to apricot, and unlike many of the other shops it appears to be open with a jaunty welcome sign on the glass part of the door. Next to the brandy shop is a bar called The Gateways, with a bright blue door that is small enough it requires Draco and Harry to duck as they venture inside.

“Erm.” Harry stops and takes a look around the bar, prodding Draco with his elbow. “I dunno if we should be here.”

Draco isn’t entirely sure, either. The bar is busier than the others have been but there are only a handful of wizards in sight. The clientele appears to be mainly witches, a number of whom are intently focused on the act currently on stage. Draco squints, trying to get a better view in the dark room.

“Wait, is that—?”

The singer puts down their guitar mid-song and laughs, deep and ruddy. “Well I never. It’s only Harry Potter. Did you lose your way trying to find The Sundowner? I hear they have go-go dancers from ten.” She chuckles under her breath. “Come in, come in. You’re quite welcome. We don’t bite.”

Draco can’t quite place the singer, but he has a sense he’s met her before. The ruddy face with its bold, distinctive features is both familiar and not. She looks like a well-dressed gentleman from another era, with a waistcoat and pocket watch that Draco instantly admires. She has grey hair arranged in a quiff of sorts, and a jovial expression on her face. She stops to whisper something to a woman on the table closest to the stage, whose hair is piled on her head in a tidy bun.

“Goodness.” The woman turns around and gives Harry a smile, her eyes flaring with momentary surprise as she notices Draco. “Fancy seeing you two here.”

“Fancy,” Draco says, staring back at Professor McGonagall.

*

There’s a flurry of activity as space is made at the table for Harry and Draco, and they are given two tankards of what appears to be mulled cider, which smells spicy and delicious. Draco has a sip, savouring the apple and cinnamon flavours, which taste like the best parts of autumn. Harry still looks shell-shocked, as though he’s never seen a drag king before in his life. It makes Draco smile into his drink, pushing his nerves at seeing McGonagall after all these years to one side.

“Do you remember Professor Grubbly-Plank?” McGonagall asks. Her partner—the singer from the stage in the excellent clothes—extends her hand for the shaking.

“Hello, lads. I did Care of Magical Creatures with you for a bit.” Grubbly-Plank lights a pipe and puffs on it contemplatively, watching them both. “You can call me Wil. I much prefer it to any of that Professor nonsense.”

“I like your waistcoat,” Draco says, for lack of anything more profound. He really does. It looks classic and well made.

“How kind.” Wil grins at McGonagall.

“I wondered if we might see you here one day.” McGonagall frowns at Harry. “I hope that nonsense with the Prophet hasn’t been causing you any problems. The writers are nothing more than gossips and fools.”

“I know.” Harry shrugs. “I haven’t had too much bother, not yet.” He looks between McGonagall and Wil, his mind clearly buzzing with questions. “We found this street for the first time today.”

“Well, well. Welcome.” Wil obviously decides to put nosy-parker Potter out of his misery. “Min and I have been coming here together for a long time. Since the fifties. Isn’t that right, love?”

“You’re making us sound terribly old,” McGonagall says, cheerfully. “Next you’ll be telling them you remember when The Glass House was open.”

“I do remember when Glass House was open.” Wil squeezes McGonagall’s hand before returning to her drink. “Ah, those were the days.”

McGonagall leans forward conspiratorially. “Until I met my Wil, I used to say I preferred a good book to a good man. I never thought for one minute I was about to lose my head over a woman in a very fine suit.”

“I never knew,” Harry murmurs.

McGonagall gives him a sharp look. “Come, now, Mr Potter. I don’t keep my private life a secret because I’m ashamed of it. Wil has been to countless balls and events with me, I just doubt you ever paid much mind. My private affairs are such because I’m a private person. You would know little more of my business if I had the misfortune to find myself married to a man.”

“I'm sorry.” Harry rubs his forehead, thinking. “It just feels like there's so much more to our world than I ever realised. I found out my dad and Sirius were...” Potter trails off and shrugs, as if he doesn't know how to finish that sentence.

“Ah.” McGongall's expression flares with understanding and she glances at Wil. “They were the life and soul of the party on the handful of occasions they came here, although they tended to favour different locations to us.”

“I never knew,” Harry says, miserably. “I didn't know who either of them were, not really.”

“Good men,” McGonagall says. “They were good men. That's enough, isn't it?”

Harry takes a shaky breath. “Yeah. It's enough.” His brow furrows. “Do you know why they stopped coming?”

“No.” McGonagall shakes her head. “War, I imagine. Family life, perhaps. There were certainly best of friends until the very end. For some people bars and clubs are an intoxicating part of adolescence and something people leave behind. Others will still be drinking in The Sundowner until they spin their final song.”

“The barman at the Christopher Street Inn told us about Jonathan Ashton, earlier.” Draco glances at Harry who once again looks deep in thought, churning over half-told stories that don't have a firm beginning or end.

McGonagall sobers. “Ah yes. We volunteered for a group who set up lesbian blood drives. My one deepest regret as part of my work at Hogwarts is that I have never successfully been able to ensure the syllabus equips witches and wizards with an understanding of the history some want us to forget, and to provide them with the resources to take the best care of their sexual health.” She tuts under her breath. “Professor Snape held one extra-curricular class in the late eighties and everybody was so traumatised it simply never returned.”

“Snape?” Harry gawks at McGonagall. “Teaching about…that?”

“Indeed.” McGonagall gives Harry a look. “He was the one member of staff with some understanding of the subject. I’d invite you to remember that Severus and I were friends.”

Draco can practically feel Potter looking at him and he shakes his head. He’s not entirely sure what some understanding means, but he never heard anything more than rumours about Severus’s preferences. He wonders if there was something else Severus battled with, as well as the war and his life as a spy, that was simply never discussed, or, perhaps, even widely known.

“We could do something about it now,” Harry says.

“People are already trying.” McGonagall raises her eyebrows at Harry. “Has your friend Hermione Granger not mentioned her work trying to add personal, social and health education to the Hogwarts curriculum?”

Harry’s cheeks flush red and he rubs his jaw, embarrassed. “Hermione does a lot of things. She, err, has all sorts of causes.”

McGonagall tuts. “I expect you simply stopped listening to her talk about many of them.” She gives Harry an admonishing look. “These things should not only become important when you realise they may directly impact you.”

Draco is sorely tempted to stand up and do a jig. It’s delightful seeing Harry ticked off, while he stays quiet and enjoys his delicious cider. He expected to be on the receiving end of McGonagall’s stern, clipped tone, and he’s rather enjoying seeing Potter in the bad books for a change. He wishes she could still take house points.

“You’re rather quiet, Mr Malfoy,” McGonagall remarks. Fuck. So much for Draco not getting a lecture.

“I’m listening to the conversation.” Draco meets McGonagall’s gaze, already feeling the familiar pulse of shame that overwhelms him when he is forced to confront the past head on.

“Rather unusual.” McGonagall peruses him. “I seem to remember a young boy with a lot of opinions.”

“And none of the right ones,” Draco mutters, looking gloomily at his drink.

“I have always believed people to be capable of great change.” McGonagall’s voice softens. “I expect you may surprise yourself one of these days.”

“He’s changed already.” Harry’s body is warm against Draco’s and unexpectedly his hand finds Draco’s leg under the table, squeezing briefly before returning to his cider. “I think we both have.”

“Entirely understandable with the experiences you boys have had.” Wil finishes her drink and shakes their hands. “I’m afraid I have to continue entertaining the masses. You’re welcome here anytime you like. There’s a full band at the weekends.”

McGonagall looks between Draco and Harry and sighs. “You two be careful. I can’t imagine this will be easy for either of you, but if it makes you happy you certainly have the support of the Hogwarts Staff, or those I can vouch for in any event.”

“Thanks, Professor,” Harry says.

“I think Minerva will do just fine.” McGonagall extends her hand to him and he shakes it. “You mustn’t be put out by my frank manner. We owe a great deal to you.”

Harry lightens a little, the tension leaving his shoulders. “You were right about Hermione. Me and Ron have a laugh about her sometimes, caring about stuff so much. Maybe we should—”

“—Stop being wankers?” Draco interjects. He smiles serenely at Harry, who scowls at him. It’s not that Draco has suddenly become a great defender of Hermione Granger and her countless causes, but he does love an opportunity to have a dig at Potter.

They leave the little bar and Draco nudges Harry with his shoulder. “I notice you couldn’t keep your hands to yourself in there.”

Harry grins at Draco, the last remaining tension in his shoulders leaving him entirely. Draco senses it too, the promise of The Sundowner and the steady beat and pulse of the music that already beckons them in as it filters through the streets like the roar of a beating heart. “I was being supportive.”

“You were being something.” Draco feels more content than he has in a long time, sighing happily. “I did enjoy watching you squirm.”

“Oh?” Harry’s smile is far too innocent to be trusted. He leans into Draco, slipping an arm around his waist and pulling him close. “I think I’d enjoy watching you squirm too.”

Draco pushes Harry away with a laugh, a thrill running through him as he puts on an affected air. “You’ll be waiting a long time to see that, darling.”

Or another few hours, at least, Draco tells himself, unable to stop smiling as he and Harry make their way back into the now buzzing courtyard of Little Compton Street.

*

Hours in The Sundowner seem to slide away from them like sand through fingers. Mirror balls and magical strobes bring bright pops of light to the dark, cavernous space and it gives the night a certain energy. They find a place to sit that’s close to the bar and the dancefloor, trading barbs back and forth as the club gets busier. Unlike the pubs of before, it seems as though everybody congregates here at some point in the evening. There’s a lively buzz to the place and a vast array of bodies taking their drinks onto the dancefloor and waving their hands in the air to unfamiliar Muggle tunes. It's a largely male crowd, most a bit older than Harry and Draco, although there are younger people dancing in clusters. A group of witches chatting to the DJ, a drag queen with tall red hair and an impressive cleavage. Draco and Harry eat huge, messy burgers with a plate of vinegary chips and order sweet cocktails as the night draws in and the club gets busier still.

Draco isn’t sure how it happens, but somewhere around midnight, it seems people start to notice Harry. Too many groups walk past their table, staring curiously, for it to be entirely accidental. Draco isn’t sure if Harry picks up on the shift in attention, but from the firm set of his jaw and the way he keeps glancing around as if he’s primed for an attack indicates that he might have done. There’s a new tension in his shoulders which had left entirely after hours of easy conversation; a reappearance of Potter the Auror, always on guard for the unexpected flash of a bulb.

A man selling brightly coloured shots which bubble and glow fluorescent in the dark, sits at their table. He passes each of them a shot although his interest is clearly directed solely at Harry.

“These are on the house,” he says. He follows it up with a bright smile, all white teeth and flirtatious promise.

“Thanks.” Harry knocks back the shot, giving Draco a light shrug that says might as well. “It’s busy here, tonight.”

“Not as busy as the weekend.” The man leans forward. “Haven’t seen you around here before. Harry Potter isn’t it?”

“You know full well it is,” Draco mutters under his breath.

“Yeah.” Harry runs a hand through his hair and Draco knows he’s doing so in an attempt to cover his scar. Considering Harry’s face is one of the most famous in wizarding Britain, it’s a pretty rubbish attempt at disguising himself. “It is. Thanks for the drinks.”

“No problem.” The man doesn’t seem to pick up on the polite dismissal and he pushes a piece of paper across the table to Harry. “Here are my Floo coordinates if you get lonely later. I’ll be finished at about two. Bring your friend if you like.”

Draco rolls his eyes. How flattering to be an afterthought in Potter’s sexcapades. He can feel Harry watching him and he pointedly doesn’t look at him, speaking low enough for Potter to hear. “Do what you like, Potter. I’m sure I can find my own way home. I’m a big boy.”

“Thanks, we’ll think about it.” Potter pockets the piece of parchment and the man leaves.

Before Draco can point out how obnoxious Potter is, another wizard slides in next to Harry.

“I heard you were here. I’m such a fan. You’ve got to come and dance, we’re all dying to know how Harry Potter moves.” The man laughs and leans in, whispering something to Harry and putting a non-too-subtle hand on his leg. He pulls back after a moment. “I bet you want to, don’t you?”

“Not at the minute, thanks.” Harry sounds slightly hoarse which only increases Draco’s irritation. The least Potter can do is get hard away from Draco, if it’s not going to be because of him. “I’m here with someone.”

“Oh, you are?” The man feigns surprise, looking at Draco as if he’s only just noticed him. He laughs, giving Draco a scathing look. “Well, I’m sure you two aren’t together. I assumed he was here under Auror protection or something.” He gives Draco a wave and another sharp smile. “Evening, darling.”

“I’m going to the bathroom, Potter.” Draco gives the man his iciest smile. “And as for you, darling, you can fuck off.”

Shady fucking queen, Draco thinks as he makes his way to the bathroom. It should be no surprise at all that every single person in the room is madly in love with Potter. He might have known this would happen. Harry Potter is the new shiny toy on the wizarding gay scene and everybody wants a piece of him. Draco can’t say he blames them. It was easier when he and Harry stuck to Muggle coffee shops and restaurants.

With anger rolling through him, Draco pushes his way to the crowds. He sees someone taking poppers on the dancefloor and for a minute he’s tempted to give in to that heady, dizzying rush of euphoria that can strip everything else away for a moment’s sweet oblivion. In the end, he keeps moving until he gets to the bathroom. He takes a piss and washes his hands, cursing Harry under his breath. The night which started out with such tentative promise has quickly become a sharp reminder of the gulf that exists between Draco and Harry; the way they are perceived by those around them and the futility of hoping that there could ever be anything other than a tentative friendship between them. A restless desire to go cruising tugs at Draco, a need to go somewhere where he can be anonymous and focus solely on sensation for a while. He has half a mind to leave Potter here with his adoring fans, so Draco can lose himself to pleasure and chase away the sense that he isn’t good enough at Chariots, Sweatbox or Pleasuredrome.

“Evening, gorgeous.” A man stops Draco on his way out of the bathroom, giving him a winning smile. “Fancy having some fun?”

Draco can’t quite believe the niggling guilt which suggests that maybe he shouldn’t go with the attractive stranger. Harry has a veritable buffet of choices and Draco doesn’t owe him any kind of misguided fidelity. Besides, if Draco has his own fun, at least his mind won’t be consumed with the jealousy that’s eating away at him.

Draco shrugs. “Why not?”

“What the fuck, Malfoy?”

The familiar voice stops Draco in his tracks and he turns to face Potter. His jaw is set with determination. It’s a bit rich, considering he’s being offered sexual favours left right and centre. Perhaps he’s put out that someone is finally showing interest in Draco?

“Potter.” Draco keeps his voice cool. “Can I help you?”

“Yes, you bloody well can.” Harry growls under his breath and tugs Draco away from the bathrooms, muttering a brusque apology to Attractive Stranger.

“Get off me.” Draco shakes Harry’s hand off his arm, but continues walking with him nevertheless. They make their way along darkened corridors until they come to a relatively quiet spot.

“What the bloody hell are you doing?” Harry’s expression is fiery, and he looks hurt.

“I was hoping to get my cock sucked.” Draco folds his arms and glares at Harry. “You seemed otherwise occupied, so I thought I might as well entertain myself.”

“I wasn’t occupied, I was being polite, you dickhead.” Harry’s hands ball into fists and he glares right back at Draco. “Were you just planning to fuck off and blow someone in the loos while I was getting gawped at by everyone on the dancefloor?”

“It must be such a hardship being so universally adored,” Draco says, his words laced with sarcasm. “How dreadful.”

“I don’t ask for it, you twat. I don’t ask for any of it. I’m here with you.”

“No, you’re not.” Draco shakes his head. “You’re here because of Black’s diaries. I just happened to be around when you needed company.”

“I brought the diaries to show you.” Harry’s face is etched with fury. “I didn’t come here to get off with someone I’ve never met before.”

“Well you certainly didn’t come here to get off with me.”

Harry gives Draco a calculating look, his lips slanted in a defiant tilt. “Sure of that, are you?”

For a minute, it’s as though Draco’s heart stops beating. He chases back the dull roar in his head and swallows thickly, keeping his gaze focused on Harry. When he can finally speak again, his tone is biting. “Your usual modus operandi is to get it where you can. Am I supposed to assume that’s all changed?”

Harry makes a low, furious sound. “You know that’s not what I want, not really.”

“I don’t know anything about what you want, apart from to drive me to distraction.” Draco tries to feign disinterest, but he isn’t sure it’s terribly successful. “We’re both inclined to keep things casual. I hardly expected you to be celibate tonight. You’re the new star of the scene, after all. I would hate to cramp your style.”

Harry rubs his forehead as if he’s getting a headache and his jaw works as he keeps quiet for a minute. Finally, he looks up again.

“My dad and Sirius found this place together, and they left together. I’m not interested in going anywhere, with anyone. Particularly not someone that’s interested in me because I’m—how did you put it—a new star. Fuck that.”

Draco stares at Harry. He takes in the firm set of his jaw, the crumpled, messy appearance and his shock of inky hair. He lets himself drink in the pulse of Harry’s magic and the way his spirit shines through in everything he does, even when those things include shouting at Draco and ruining his potential orgasms. Draco’s stomach flips and his heart beats soundly in his chest. There’s nobody here that compares to Harry. Everybody pales in comparison. It’s no wonder people gravitate towards him. Draco doesn’t want to push Harry away, but he’s terrified of this thing that wells within him. The hot curl of desire, the desperate want. Draco doesn’t think he’s ever needed or wanted anything in his life as much as he needs and wants Harry Potter. It’s almost a relief to admit to himself the intensity of the growing power of his feelings, but Draco has always been a coward. He isn’t sure he’s brave enough to risk his heart.

“It works both ways,” Draco says at last. “If we’re sticking together.”

“I know.” Harry gives Draco a tentative smile. “Sorry I ruined your…whatever he was.”

“Yes, well.” Draco can’t fight back his own smile. “You owe me a blowjob.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Harry murmurs. He looks at Draco with such naked intensity, it’s impossible to look away.

“You do that.” Draco is acutely aware of Harry’s proximity, from the warmth of his breath and the heat of his body. He leans back against the wall, keeping his eyes on Harry as though watching him might be enough to pull him in closer still.

The strains of music filter into the space around them and Harry tips his head, listening. The smile on his face widens. “I’ve been speaking to the DJ. I wanted them to play a song, that’s why I came looking for you.”

“What song?” Even as he asks the question, Draco already knows the answer.

“Life on Mars.” Harry puts his hand on the wall next to Draco’s head, his gaze dropping to Draco’s lips. “Bowie.”

All smart comebacks seem to have fled with I’ll see what I can do. Even in this huge club with people seemingly everywhere, in this moment it’s just the two of them. Harry’s breath is hot on Draco’s face, his body a warm, solid presence. The hum and pulse of his magic and the sharp, brilliant green of his eyes makes for a devastating combination. Standing in a darkened corridor with the first strains of music curling around them, the word that springs to Draco’s mind is privilege. There’s something so impossible about Harry at times—something so unreachable, a strength and goodness that can’t be touched—here he’s as open as he’s ever been. It’s a privilege to stand close enough to touch, to be close enough to kiss. Harry’s eyes are warm and searching, his lips upturned in a smile that makes it look as though Draco has caught him off-guard. Perhaps they’ve both been caught unawares, by the unexpected, desperate force of attraction that has crackled and sparked between them from the moment Harry walked into that little café on another rainy day in London.

“It’s the song from Black’s diary.” Draco brushes his fingers against Harry’s jumper, which is just as soft and warm as it looks. “An excellent choice.”

“Mm. I’m glad you think so.”

Harry whispers Draco’s name as he closes the distance between them. The kiss is as unexpected as it is inevitable, because even in this Harry manages to be full of contradictions. The kiss that starts with a slow, tentative pressure quickly becomes something else entirely. The force of Harry’s body pins Draco against the wall, his hand gripping Draco’s waist and the other sliding to cup Draco’s jaw. The silver band of the ring he always wears is cool against Draco’s skin where everything else is hot. Harry Potter can kiss, Draco thinks, dimly, the words hurtling through his mind as he parts his lips to Harry. Their lips open willingly to one another until the kiss becomes a greedy, urgent fight of a thing.

It’s been a long time since Draco has had the pleasure of kissing for kissing’s sake. He can’t remember the last time he even shared a proper, heated kiss like this. They pull one another closer and press against each other, pushing their hips together. Draco groans into the kiss, fisting his hands in Harry’s hair as the hard, delicious heat of Harry’s cock presses against his body. Draco slides a hand between them to feel the girth and length of him, another groan of pleasure leaving his lips as Harry pushes into his hand with an answering murmur of appreciation.

“Want to do everything with you.” Harry’s voice is gruff, his lips damp against Draco’s. “I’ve wanted this for such a long time.”

Draco moves his hand reluctantly from the glorious bulge in Harry’s jeans, and pushes both his hands into Harry’s hair, answering him with another searing kiss. Need slides through his body, his heart beating rapidly in his chest as his body responds with eager readiness to every slide of Harry’s tongue against his own. He’s fairly sure he’s never had a kiss this raw or urgent, with no frantic rush to the finish line. The friction is more delicious foreplay and the promise of later. It’s different to Draco’s other experiences which have largely involved sprinting towards climax with rough hands, the taste of a stranger on his tongue and the hard, heavy press of an unknown man’s fingers on his hips. This time there’s no doubt in Draco’s mind who’s kissing him. The taste of Harry’s magic and the familiar, soapy scent of him is overwhelming. Draco pulls Harry as close as he can, a dizzying, heady kiss with all the build-up of the last few weeks released with beautiful, brutal force.

It’s as though Harry’s hands are everywhere, his body wiry and heated against Draco’s own. They fit together perfectly, and the open-mouthed kiss to the pulse of the music surrounding them feels like the beginning of the soundtrack of their lives. After another brilliant minute of losing himself to Potter’s skilful lips, Draco pulls back reluctantly. With his heart beating hard in his chest, he faces Harry at last and drinks in his dishevelled appearance, the plumpness of his lips and the wild, unguarded want in his eyes. To be looked at like that by Harry Potter is quite something. The nakedness of his desire and the traces of his boyishness and pure-hearted, hopeful smile is almost as arresting as the kiss itself. Draco takes in the way Harry’s throat works and his eyes shine as the song soars and echoes around them. He’s quite sure Harry has used magic to make the music play more loudly, to cocoon them together in this space with the rising vocals of a song from the past.

With a low curse, Harry pulls away and turns his back to Draco, dragging the sleeve of his jumper across his eyes. “I’m sorry.” Harry’s voice is choked. “Stupid of me.”

“No.” Draco’s heart clenches. “Not stupid.”

Harry finally turns back to Draco, looking lost and uncertain as if he doesn’t know what to do. Draco helps him, pulling Harry close by clutching a fistful of his jumper in his fist. Harry goes willingly, his face pressed into Draco’s neck and his hands firm on Draco’s waist.

“It was an excellent kiss, Potter, but there’s no need to cry about it. I don’t mind if you’re desperately in love with me,” Draco says.

Harry presses a kiss to Draco’s neck, his laugh muffled. After a moment’s quiet, his warm lips travel in a curve along Draco’s neck and over his jaw. “I’m not crying. And if I was, it wouldn’t be because I’m kissing you, you tit.”

“I know that.” Draco sighs and rests his head against the wall, tipping his head back to give Potter better access to his neck. The steady curl of arousal returns and intensifies, sliding through his body. “You’re very lucky to be kissing me.”

“I know,” Harry says, with not a hint of teasing. “I know.” He kisses Draco again as if to prove it, deep, searching and confident.

I’m lucky to be kissing you too, Draco thinks, even if it’s not the kind of thing he wants to say out loud. His heart gets too big and tight for his chest as images of the last few weeks flicker through his mind, in a kaleidoscope of colour. Harry pouring over Sirius Black’s diary, waking up in the morning and putting on his dad’s silver wedding band and Professor Lupin’s brown leather bracelet. The satchel he carries everywhere is battered and old, as if it spent more time than most holding Hogwarts textbooks. Harry carries his dead with him, wearing the reminders of them on his body. Like Little Compton Street’s perpetual sunset and sunrise, Harry is caught somewhere between the past and the future. His ambivalent present makes his future direction hazy and unclear, and even as he pushes resolutely forward, he will always be surrounded and shaped by the ghosts of his past, constantly being pulled back into another time with every twist of the ring on his finger.

This time Harry breaks the kiss, giving Draco a slow smile. It’s the sort of smile that could light up the darkest room and Draco is just going to have to accept that’s like an absolute bloody idiot, he’s fallen head over heels for Harry Potter.

“Sometimes,” Draco says, “I don’t think it’s as easy to be Harry Potter as people might imagine.”

“No.” Harry gives Draco the same steady smile. “How is it being Draco Malfoy?”

Be brave, be brave, Draco’s heart beats. It’s been so long that he’s taken only the most carefully calculated of risks, that a stirring sense of possibility makes him decide to throw caution to the wind.

“Better every day,” he says. It’s the closest he can manage to better since you.

Harry seems to get it, that brilliant, warm heart of his shining through the tip and curve his smile. “I’m glad.”

“Me too.” Draco pushes himself off the wall and pats his hair back into place, because he’s sure it looks frightful after Potter’s clumsy pawing at it. “Are we going to get pissed?”

“Might as well.” Harry murmurs a spell which brings up a hazy clock face, showing the time to be three in the morning. It shivers, shimmers and fades. “We’ve been here for hours.”

“It closes at six in the morning, I think,” Draco replies. He waves his hand in Harry’s face. “I have a watch, Potter. You don’t have to show off with those fancy spells of yours.”

Harry laughs. “Sorry.” His gaze drops to Draco’s lips again. “I never like it when things finish.”

“I assume you’ve stayed up all night before.”

“Not for ages.” Harry shrugs. “I don’t sleep brilliantly sometimes, but I’m not sure that counts.”

“Not really.” Draco can’t remember the last time he stayed out all night either, without something to help him stay awake. All he knows is that he’s more wired than he’s been in a long time, and the last thing he wants to do is go back to the gloomy Manor. “Do you want to?”

“Are you sure you can handle it, Malfoy?”

“I’m not the one bawling in the middle of the club,” Draco points out. “I have no doubt I could drink you under the table.”

“You can come back to mine after,” Harry decides. “I’ll order breakfast.”

“Is that a proposition?”

“It’s whatever you want it to be,” Harry says. He slides his hand over Draco’s side and presses close, so Draco can take another moment to enjoy the hard length of his body. “I just don’t want the night to end.”

Neither does Draco, so he doesn’t think twice about saying yes before they sink into one more delicious kiss that tastes like magic and coming home, as Muggle music plays in the background.

*

The day is fully underway by the time they reach Potter’s flat on Bermondsey Street. The pedestrian walkways on Tower Bridge are full of workers making their way to the offices of the City, Canary Wharf and the buildings that flank the River Thames on either side. There’s a strange weightlessness to being up all night without sleep; a sense of being part of your own dream. Everything around Draco takes on an abstract quality as the sounds and bright flashes of colour seem louder than normal. He can’t remember the last time he stayed up all night. He’s fairly sure he was on something to help keep himself awake, but now it’s eight in the morning and he’s just as wired as he’s ever been on chemical enhancements. Harry Potter and the city of London are the drugs pumping through Draco’s veins, together with the memory of the Muggle songs and that long, searching kiss that he swears he can still taste on his lips.

They walk in easy silence and Harry is as lost in his own thoughts as Draco is. There’s something dizzying about being above ground, out in the open, and brushing up against one another as they sip the coffees they grabbed from Soho.

“Here we are.” Harry takes his keys from his pocket and he uses them to buzz them into a house in a private gated mews close to Bermondsey Street. When they reach the door to his flat after an uncomfortable moment on opposite ends of the lift, Harry puts his keys on a small table by the door and gives Draco a grin. “Home.”

Draco laughs under his breath. “A duplex is a little more than a flat.”

Harry closes the door behind them and gives Draco a sheepish look. “I like that there are stairs. It feels like a small house.”

“There’s nothing small about property in this part of town.”

“I need a shower.” Harry seems in a good mood, but there’s a nervous energy to the way he moves around the flat as if he’s wondering what Draco makes of it. Draco hopes he isn’t regretting the offer of carrying on the night. They didn’t do much more than drink and dance after their moment in the dark corridors of The Sundowner, and there’s an odd tension crackling and humming between them. The sunrise has brought the hazy night into sharp focus and everything suddenly feels more serious, here in Harry’s flat where anything can happen. There aren’t hundreds of people milling around, looking to ogle Potter’s scar or spilling drinks on Draco’s shoes. It’s just Draco, Harry and the rest of the day stretching endlessly ahead of them.

“You’re not the only one.” Draco gives his shirt an experimental sniff and pulls a face at the scent of cigarettes, sweat and booze. A cleaning charm would do the job, but it’s not the same as a proper bath or shower. There’s nothing like washing away the grime of a long night. Draco likes the water just on the cusp of too hot, tipping his face into the stream of water and letting the heat, steam and powerful jets massage away the voices in his head that don’t always quieten down.

“Do you want to go first?”

“No, I don’t mind.” Draco slips off his coat and looks for somewhere to hang it, eventually setting for a chair. There’s a sparseness to Harry’s flat, with its exposed brickwork, timber and highly-polished kitchen. The open-plan area contains none of the trinkets or signs of family and friends that Draco would expect Harry to have in his house. He can only assume that all of those things stayed in Godric’s Hollow with Ginny or moved to Grimmauld Place after the Prophet published its tell-all piece. “Do you have coffee?”

Harry gestures to a fancy-looking coffee machine. “It’s supposed to be good.”

“Very fancy,” Draco observes. He goes through the cupboards until he finds the coffee, switching the machine on and leaning against the counter with his arms folded as he watches Harry. “Do you want one before you shower?”

“No.” Harry’s smile steals Draco’s breath from. “Not a coffee, anyway.”

Draco pulls a face even though there’s nothing remotely disgusting about Potter. If there was, Draco wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

“I’m not shagging you when you stink like apple sours and sweaty dancefloors.”

“Pity,” Harry muses. He hesitates before leaving the room, his eyes catching Draco’s. “Do you want a shower too?”

Draco raises an eyebrow and smirks. “Are you asking me to shower with you?”

Harry’s cheeks take on a delightful pink tinge and he clears his throat. He licks his lips and his eyes flick over Draco. “If you wanted to do it we can. Shower, that is. Together.”

Draco decides to put Harry out of his misery. “I’ll shower after.”

Harry seems relieved, even though Draco’s quite sure he’s been naked in a flash with other people who have come back to the flat. It doesn’t cause the same tug of jealousy as it might, because it makes Draco glad that they’re not just getting straight to the fucking in an attempt to ignore the need for a proper conversation at some stage. He doesn’t have any interest in being one of Harry Potter’s one-night stands.

Harry grabs a TV remote and flicks through the channels, setting on the BBC News. “I’ll leave this on in case you get bored.” Harry hands Draco the remote, showing him how to flick through the hundreds of different channels, and Draco tries not to be too obvious about leaning into his warm body.

Draco takes the remote and experimentally flicks through a couple of channels, excitement rushing through him. “I’ve never had a television before.”

“Well.” Harry clears his throat and he leans in to press and almost-kiss on Draco’s cheek. “Now you do.”

Harry leaves Draco to it, the sound of the shower coming from somewhere deep in the large flat. Draco decides to leave on the news, plumping up some cushions and kicking off his shoes as he settles back to watch with his hands behind his head. Considering there’s hardly anything about Potter’s place that is homely, he shouldn’t feel as comfortable here as he does, and yet. There’s a pleasing softness to the large sofas, and the television offers a welcome distraction from the memory of Harry pressing up against him in the club. Unlike the rest of the open space, the settee is well-lived in. Draco fights back a yawn and turns up the sound of the television, pushing thoughts of Harry in the shower to the back of his mind. The Muggle newsreader is talking about fracking, but no matter how hard he tries, Draco can’t concentrate.

After a short while the shower stops, and Draco can breathe again. He risks a quick glance at the half-open door Potter disappeared through and when it opens, Draco’s heart begins to pound in his chest, blood rushing to the parts of his body that have no business responding with such speed after a long night without any sleep. Harry is wet from the shower, his skin slick. He’s wearing thick, grey jogging bottoms slung low on his hips and no t-shirt. From his vantage point on the sofa, Draco can see the flex and twist of the light muscles in Potter’s torso. He lets himself drink in the sight of Harry, from the promise of the tantalising bulge in his tracksuit bottoms to the hair on his chest. There’s no boyishness to Harry now. He’s all masculine lines and dark chest hair that Draco just wants to run his fingers through.

“I’ve left you stuff out if you want to borrow a change of clothes,” Potter says. His cheeks are pink from the shower and his hair is damp and rumpled. He’s mouth-watering. “Resize them if you like. It’s just pyjamas. Unless you want to go out for breakfast?”

“What?” Draco is thoroughly distracted by the dusky pink of Harry’s nipples and the dark hair which creates a tantalising path from Harry’s belly button, disappearing into the waistband of his joggers. Before he gets caught staring, Draco pulls his eyes away from Harry despite the fact he has an inexplicable, hungry desire to drink in every inch of him. To taste every inch of him.

“Do you want to go out for breakfast?” Harry approaches the sofa so he’s back in Draco’s eyeline, which is somewhat inconvenient for Draco’s semi-erect cock. “There’s this place down the road that does brunch. It’s cool, full of lots of old gym stuff from a Muggle school.”

“That sounds disgusting.” Draco pulls a face. “Who wants sports socks and sweaty trainers with their eggs benedict?” He makes a mental note to take Potter for a proper brunch at The Wolesley one day, if this thing of theirs continues.

Harry laughs, perching close enough to Draco on the arm of the sofa that it’s possible to catch the musky scent of his shampoo. Draco hadn’t appreciated the sinfully erotic qualities of Imperial Leather before this moment. He’s assuming it’s Imperial Leather, or similar. Potter strikes him as the sort to buy his toiletries from Boots.

“It’s not like that. More horses and rope. Look, it doesn’t matter. You’ll see what I mean.”

“Do you want to go out?” Draco lets his eyes graze over Harry’s body with deliberate purpose. “I think I’m inclined to…eat in.”

“Oh.” Harry’s breath hitches and his throat bobs as he swallows. “I’ll get something from Deliveroo.”

Draco has no idea what that is, but he also doesn’t particularly care. “Excellent.”

“Do you want me to show you how to work the shower?” Harry gets a cheeky grin on his face that’s really more of a leer.

“I’m sure I can work it out.” Draco rolls his eyes. “I’ve been learning about fracking.”

“Any good?” Harry slides off the arm rest and settles himself on the sofa next to Draco, putting Draco’s feet in his lap. Draco has been in his socks for the last twenty-four hours and he’s not sure about introducing Potter to his toes under the circumstances, even if there is something comfortable and right about their current position.

“No, it’s not good. Not according to the BBC, anyway.” Draco closes his eyes for a minute. Harry smells like shampoo, soap and like everything Draco could possibly want. Even with Harry looking as good as he does, he fights back a yawn and wiggles his toes. He extracts his wand from his pocket and casts a lazy freshening charm in the direction of his feet.

“Tired?” Harry sounds amused, squeezing Draco’s toes with his hand. It’s delicious. Draco wonders if Harry might be inclined to massage his feet.

“We’ve been up all night, Potter. Obviously, I’m tired.” Draco could sink into the comfort of Harry’s sofa and fall asleep right here, with Harry working his fingers into Draco’s feet as if he’s just cast Legilimens and read Draco’s mind. If he had the energy he would be doing something a little sexier than putting his feet in Potter’s lap, but a wave of exhaustion overtakes him. “I need a shower, otherwise I’m going to fall asleep here.”

“You can if you like.” Harry gives Draco a warm smile. “I’ll cover you with a blanket, like they do in the films.”

“You’re an insufferable romantic.” Draco’s voice is thick with sleep. It doesn’t escape his notice that Harry takes a moment to cast a none too surreptitious glance at Draco’s body as his eyes flutter closed.

“Perhaps,” Harry murmurs. The television hums in the background and Harry’s tutting under his breath pulls Draco out of the beginning of a very good dream. “Wow. This fracking stuff is mental.”

“Mm. Mental.”

In less than a minute, Draco is fast asleep, dreaming of kisses in dark corridors, green eyes and the way the sun never quite sets on Little Compton Street.

*

When Draco finally stirs, he finds Harry watching him with a fond look on his face.

“You’re so creepy, Potter.”

“You’re the one that was saying my name in your sleep,” Harry informs him. “That’s creepier.”

“I was not.” It’s possible of course. Draco did have an excellent dream which involved Potter and some kind of water bed, but he’s fairly confident he’s being teased.

“No, you weren’t.” Harry picks up Draco’s hand and checks his watch. “Do you know we’ve been on this date for over twenty-four hours? It’s four in the afternoon.”

“Draco sits up and stares at Potter. “Excuse me?”

Harry taps Draco’s watch as if it’s the time that’s at issue. “We met at one yesterday. Now it’s four. Twenty-seven hours.”

“I can tell the time, thank you.” Draco really needs to shower, and his back has a crick in it which he stretches out with a wince. “I’m just not sure why you think we’re on a date. You might have told me.”

“Sorry.” Harry doesn’t sound sorry at all. “Isn’t that what we’ve been doing all this time?”

Draco narrows his eyes at Harry, trying to ignore the way excitement flares in his belly. “I thought you didn’t do that.”

“Turns out maybe I do,” Harry says.

Draco yawns and rubs his chin with his hand. It’s rough with light stubble and it prickles beneath his palm. “I haven’t been doing any such thing. I don’t take dates to coffee shops and sweaty nightclubs. You’ve hardly been wining and dining me.”

“I took you to my favourite restaurant.”

“It was rather good.” Chatting to Harry in the arty, riverside restaurant seems like a lifetime ago. “It’s usually polite to tell someone they’re on a date. I would have put more effort in.”

“I didn’t know what the fuck we were doing, to be honest.” Harry worries his lip between his teeth. “But it felt like something, didn’t it?”

Draco nods. “Yes. It felt like something.”

“Well, you know I’m easy for blonds.” Harry winks at Draco, lightening the mood.

“You’re easy for a few shots and a snog up against a wall,” Draco says. He frowns as he takes in Harry’s stubble and the fact he hasn't done much more than put a t-shirt on and apparently order some food, the remnants of which are sitting on the coffee table. “Haven’t you slept?”

“Yeah, I went to bed for a bit.”

“Good.” Draco’s stomach growls. “I should go back to the Manor.”

Harry runs his tongue over his lips and his cheeks flush. “Or you could stay if you like. Have a shower, we can order more food.”

Draco takes in Harry’s tired eyes and an overwhelming surge of affection washes over him. He’s sure there’s a Muggle film about this. Two people keeping the night going, never wanting it to end.

“You order the food, I’ll take a shower.”

“Okay.” Harry grabs a laptop, which, considering he’s completely rubbish at using his mobile phone, is something of a surprise.

“You can do computers but not a phone?”

Harry shrugs. “I got the computer and a licence for the TV when I got the flat. I never bothered with a phone, because none of my friends have them. By the time I decided I wanted one—when I spoke to you—I didn’t want to risk trying to get a contract and have the press make any connection between me and this flat.”

“If your friends don’t have phones, I doubt they have email either.”

“No, I don’t have any of that.” Harry pats his computer like it’s a crup. “I just use this for food and porn.”

Draco stares at Harry. “What?”

“That was a joke.” Harry flicks through to a screen and shows Draco a variety of food options. They choose something together and Draco makes his way to the shower. He takes one look back at Harry, curled up on the sofa and laughing at something on the television.

I could get used to this.

Draco shakes the impossible thought from his mind and goes to wash away the previous night.

*

Later that evening they flick through the channels and settle on a film to watch. Draco’s toasty and comfortable in Harry’s flannel pyjamas and a t-shirt with a Muggle band and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? on the front. He’s full after a delicious takeaway, and the pleasant thrum of arousal that’s been hovering just beneath the surface intensifies as he studies Harry instead of the film. He’s smiling at something on the telly, his eyes shining in the low light of the room, and he looks more relaxed than Draco has ever seen him. Harry turns to catch Draco looking at him, and there’s an undeniable heat behind his eyes.

“I owe you something,” Harry murmurs. He looks back at the screen, shadows passing over his face and his cheekbones accentuated by the blue light.

“I can’t think what.”

“No?” Harry, moves from his seat on the sofa to kneel between Draco’s parted legs, looking up at him. “Don’t you remember?”

Oh.” Of course Draco remembers. He can’t even recall what Attractive Stranger looked like now, but he remembers the look in Harry’s eyes when he said I’ll see what I can do.

“Is this okay?” Harry asks, voice soft and low.

Draco clears his throat and he nods. He touches his fingers to Harry’s chin, taking in the beautiful, untidy, look of him. On his knees he’s lovelier than ever, and Draco is already quite sure he doesn’t deserve him.

“More than okay.” Draco slides a little lower on the sofa and puts his head back, closing his eyes. The cushions are thick and luxurious and it’s like something from a dream—a reel of black and white film that Draco knows he would reply again and again.

“Good.” Harry’s hands are firm and sure on Draco’s thighs. The air in the room is cool and there’s a lazy calmness to the night which never quite reached an end, bleeding into a new night and another burst of desire. “You look good in my clothes.” Harry sounds amused as he moves his hands higher. “I like it.”

“Your clothes are an abomination.” There’s no bite to Draco’s words and he’s fully aware he sounds as fond and amused as Harry does. He sucks in a breath when Harry slides Draco’s pyjama bottoms from his hips. “Harry…”

“Hmm?” Harry nuzzles his nose against Draco’s thigh, his breathing rough. “You look so good. So fucking good. You always look good. I’ve been dying to see what you look like when you’re not being posh and uptight.”

“Have you?” Draco laughs under his breath, even though by rights he should be offended. He runs a lazy hand through Harry’s hair. “If I’d have known, I’d have let you suck my cock earlier than this.”

Harry brushes his lips against the base of Draco’s cock, mouthing lightly over his balls. “Everything you say makes me want to fuck you.”

Draco’s cock twitches enthusiastically at the thought, and he runs his hand over it in a quick stroke, as Harry moves back on his heels to watch. “Not everything, Potter.”

“No.” Harry laughs. “Maybe not everything.”

“Do I have to do this myself?” Draco keeps his hand moving, not at all close to coming but making sure he’s fully hard before Harry pushes his hand away.

“If you’d get out of my way…”

Draco is about to make another smart retort, but he’s cut off by a wave of pleasure that washes over him as Harry takes him into his mouth. It quickly becomes apparent that Harry knows exactly what he’s doing, with his hands tight on Draco’s bare thighs and his unflinching ability to take Draco into the back of his throat.

With a low hiss of pleasure, Draco pushes his hands into Harry’s hair and spreads his legs wider. Harry seems to like the gentle pressure of Draco’s hands in his hair, enthusiastically doubling his efforts until Draco’s cock is slick with saliva and warm from the heat of Harry’s tight mouth, wrapped around him. Draco holds Harry down and is surprised to find he obliges as Draco pushes up further into Harry’s mouth. Draco loosens his grip on Harry, letting him take over again as there’s something particularly pleasing about being blown without doing a jot of work. Harry’s enthusiasm is enough for both of them. He worships Draco’s cock with licks, kisses and the slow slide of his sinful mouth. He takes Draco deep into the back of his throat without so much as gagging around him, pushing his nose into Draco’s belly and tightening his fingers until they’re digging into Draco’s thighs. Draco allows himself time to take in the pleasure of the sensations, before finally opening his eyes and watching Harry.

The slide of his cock into Potter’s mouth is mesmerising. He stares at Harry working his lips over Draco, and slides his hands deep into Harry’s hair, controlling his movements. He wants to prolong this moment for as long as possible and Harry doesn’t seem in any rush to bring Draco over the edge. Instead he groans around Draco’s cock, his lips plump and well-fucked, his whole appearance gloriously dishevelled. There’s a submissive quality to Harry on his knees, even as his magic and strength fills the whole room. The flickering, fluorescent light of the telly bathes everything in its soft glow, sending shadows along the wall. Draco couldn’t be less interested in the action on screen, his whole body attuned to Harry.

“Close.” Draco pushes up into Harry’s throat, his word fractured by a groan. He notices the way Harry drops his hand to his joggers, pressing his heel against his cock before returning to continue working over Draco’s cock.

Harry makes no move to pull off Draco despite the warning, continuing to slide his mouth over him until the pulse of Draco’s orgasm brings him to a heady climax. Slowly, Harry pulls off Draco’s cock and swipes his lips with the back of his hand. He looks up at Draco—so fucking handsome—and gives him a lazy, shagged-out smile.

“Good, yeah?”

“Yes.” Draco runs his thumb over Harry’s lips, sighing as the sharp heat of his orgasm dissipates, settling into a perfect, sated ease. He watches Harry tip his head and take Draco’s thumb into his mouth, sliding his lips over it. Draco extracts his thumb from Harry’s mouth and touches the base of his chin. Without any further encouragement, Harry looks dutifully up at him as if he’s awaiting further instruction. “What about you?”

“Well.” Harry gives Draco a small smile. His lips are plump, his cheeks are flushed, and his eyes blown wide with arousal. “Technically you don’t owe me a blowjob.”

“No.” Draco glances at the noticeable hardness in Harry’s joggers. “I seem to recall my being responsible for stopping you from getting a hand job in the loos at Sage & Thyme, though.”

Harry’s eyes are warm as he watches Draco. “I think what I ended up with was much better.”

“Hm.” Draco rubs his thumb over Harry’s cheek, his throat tight. Me too, he thinks. Me too.

“You said you liked to make people wait,” Harry points out. If he’s aiming for innocent, he’s fucking terrible at it. He looks filthy, as if he wants to go to bed and have a long, thorough, shag. “I was being good.”

“God.” Is about all Draco can manage. He pulls up his trousers—Harry’s trousers—and pats his thighs. “Up.”

Harry makes a low, broken-off sound in the back of his throat and he gets up from the floor, straddling Draco on the sofa. He looks down at Draco, his hair falling untidily over his forehead.

“Like this?”

“That’ll do.” Draco pushes his hand under Harry’s t-shirt, his belly hot against Draco’s palm. “Take this off. I don’t want to look at…whoever that is when I’m tossing you off.”

“It’s a Muggle popstar.” Harry pulls off his t-shirt and drops it on the floor. “I wouldn’t want to look at them either.”

Draco tugs down Harry’s joggers, murmuring a lubrication charm to get his hand nice and slick. He wraps his fingers around the thick length of Harry and bites back another groan.

“You have to be impressive at everything, don’t you?”

“Mm.” Harry sounds as though he isn’t capable of much else, hissing as he bucks into Draco’s fist. His body is hot and hard in Draco’s lap, his cock truly spectacular. If Draco hadn’t just had a first-class orgasm, he would be salivating over the thought of being fucked by Harry. It’s been a while since he’s bothered to chase after the delicious stretch of someone deep inside him, and his mind wanders to letting Harry take him with sure, confident ease.

Harry is passionate and forceful in everything he does. Draco slides his hand over Harry’s cock wondering how that might translate in the bedroom, moving his head back on the sofa and allowing himself to luxuriate in the thought of it. He rubs his thumb over the head of Harry’s cock and adds a twist on the upstroke, digging the fingers of his free hand into Potter’s bare thigh. Harry is so responsive. He can’t just be still in Draco’s lap. He shifts and squirms, his breathing heavy as he mouths over Draco’s jawline with little finesse. His lips find a particularly sensitive part of Draco’s neck and he sucks on it, his stubble scratchy against Draco’s skin.

“I could fuck you for hours,” Draco says, only half aware he’s said it out loud.

The idea seems to please Harry, his cock twitching in Draco’s hand. He pushes his hands into Draco’s hair and yanks him into a forceful kiss, grinding his backside down into Draco’s lap with enough enthusiasm to make Draco’s spent cock try to perk up again with interest. His lips taste like man, and want, salty with Draco’s come and every open-mouthed slide of his tongue urgent and desperate. Draco takes pity on Harry for having been so patient and quickens the movement of his hand until Harry comes over his fist, climaxing with a grunt into Draco’s neck.

Draco strokes Harry a couple more times, before moving his hand completely. He lets Harry continue to mouth over his neck, arching it for more. He slides his hands along Harry’s back and memorises every flex of his muscles, finally moving to his chest where he touches his fingers to the thick shock of wiry hair.

“Fuck me,” Harry says at last. His voice is rough, and he slides off Draco, flopping onto the sofa. He seems perfectly serene, tucking himself back into his jogging bottoms with a contented sigh. He grins at Draco, tipping his head to the side and watching him. “Thanks.”

“Anytime.” Draco means it quite sincerely. He would happily give up a day wrangling with his investments to do all manner of filthy things to Potter.

Harry stands with a yawn, stretching. He’s probably the sort to fall asleep straight after an orgasm. He looks rumpled and happy, his smile wide as he holds a hand out to Draco and tugs him into another lazy kiss.

Draco doesn’t want to leave the blissful quiet of Harry’s flat, but he needs to feed Aristotle and get up with the markets in Asia to manage his investments properly. “I should go,” he says, breaking away. “I have an irritable owl to feed.”

“It’s been nearly thirty-six hours. I think that’s pretty good, considering there was a time we couldn’t do thirty-six minutes.” Harry hands Draco his clothes, which have been freshly washed and folded with cleaning charms. He must have done that when Draco was asleep. “Do you want to change?”

“I was going to Apparate.” Draco pulls a face and looks down at his pyjamas. They’re so cosy he doesn’t want to take them off. “You probably want these back.”

“It’s fine. I’ll get them next time.” Harry pulls Draco close again with a light tug on the waistband of the pyjamas. “Anyway, I like you in my clothes. Keep them if you want. I’ll have all sorts of dirty thoughts about you in that posh bed of yours wanking in my pyjamas.”

“Filthy,” Draco murmurs against Harry’s lips “Absolutely filthy.”

“Yeah.” Harry kisses Draco back and it nearly turns into something, before Draco pulls away reluctantly. He slides his hands over Harry’s waist, down to his hips and up again. He doesn’t want to stop touching Harry. He wants to stretch out on a bed with him and really take his time, but it’s going to have to wait.

“It’s been good, hasn’t it?” Harry asks, his voice quiet.

“Pretty damn good,” Draco agrees. Not goodbye, he has to tell himself. This isn’t goodbye. He doesn’t know why it’s so hard to just go home. It’s something about the strangeness of finding a new magical place that feels like something out of a dream. The hazy, booze-soaked kisses and the endless night that ran on for hours.

“Take this.” Harry yawns and hands Draco a box with some of the left-over food in as he opens the door to the flat. “In case you don’t want to bother your millions of house-elves or whatever.”

“Okay.” Draco feels suddenly awkward, and in the end settles for leaning in and pressing a kiss to Harry’s jaw which wasn’t quite the intended target. “Thanks, Potter.”

Harry leans against the door, watching Draco. “Night, then.”

“Night.” Draco opens his mouth to ask about next Wednesday, but it seems odd to do so. They have never made formal plans to meet before and doing so now feels like breaking an unspoken code. Draco doesn’t want the fragile, fledgling thing between them to disappear with the sunrise, so he says nothing at all.

He finds a spot to Apparate from unnoticed, and goes to sleep that night dreaming of Harry, rainbow flags and trying to find the way out of one of the dusty, locked-up bars of Little Compton Street.

*

It’s a shock to the system spending almost a week without Potter, after their hours cocooned away in the flat in Bermondsey. Draco throws himself into his investments and ends up having conversations with Aristotle, who offers only haughty hoots in reply. Keeping busy is a necessity, because Draco needs something to distract himself from the memory of Harry on his knees.

On Wednesday morning, the Prophet throws Draco’s mood to shit, with its pictures of Harry and Ginny walking through the streets of Diagon Alley. Harry is bundled up warm, his Gryffindor scarf around his neck, and Ginny looks better than ever with a brilliant shine to her auburn hair and fashionable skinny jeans and a big, cape-style overcoat. They make it look so easy, strolling through the streets together and as hard as he tries, Draco can’t imagine himself in Weasley’s position, looking across at Harry with shining eyes, laughing at his jokes.

The Boy Who Loved!

Harry Potter’s homosexual liaisons may have been little more than a phase. Sources close to the Auror have confirmed that Potter has been spending more time at Godric’s Hollow with his ex-fiancée. “They’re trying to make a go of things,” our source commented. “Harry Potter’s no poof.” Potter’s presence at Godric’s Hollow with several large boxes on Sunday appears to confirm that he is moving back home.

Our sources suggest that after a period of estrangement, the Weasley family has welcomed Potter back into the fold. Since their rumoured reconciliation, Ginevra Weasley has been spotted visiting St Mungo’s. With her recent fondness for baggy clothing, could the pitter patter of tiny feet be on the cards for Britain’s favourite love birds?

Representatives for Harry Potter and Ginevra Weasley declined to comment.

Draco’s foul mood isn’t improved by London’s rainy skies or the nervous anxiety that grips him as he makes his way to Sage & Thyme. He and Harry didn’t make any firm plans and Draco isn’t certain that Harry will even be there when he arrives. His Muggle phone has no new messages on it, and a niggling part of him wonders if something might have pushed Harry back into his pretty nearly-wife’s arms. It was Black’s diaries that led them to Little Compton Street, after all. Perhaps he read something about his father that made him decide to go back into the closet and give being everybody’s favourite heterosexual hero another shot. Despite the fact Harry hasn’t technically done anything wrong, Draco is increasingly angered by the time he gets to the coffee shop. His shoes are damp and won’t stop squelching after an annoying encounter with a puddle just by the Barbican, and he’s got a good mind to remind Potter about that umbrella he was supposed to be replacing. Next time he comes to meet Potter, he plans to Apparate—if there is a next time, that is.

Draco’s palms get clammy as he pushes open the door, his heart giving a pathetic skip when the first thing he sees is Harry, sitting at their usual table with a folded-up copy of the Prophet next to him.

“Afternoon.” Harry beams at Draco like he’s just won the lottery. Next to him, a familiar umbrella is propped up against the wall. “Nobody nicked your brolly, so I don’t have to go poncing about London spending all of my Galleons on a new one.”

“As if it would make a dent in your Galleons.” Draco looks around and casts a surreptitious drying charm on his shoes when he’s sure nobody is looking. “I wasn’t sure you would be here.”

“Are you disappointed that I am?” Harry looks curiously at Draco, his mug of tea half-way to his lips.

“No. Of course not.” Draco rolls his eyes. “I’ve been spending the last few days talking to my owl. I’m bored out of my mind.”

“That’s really flattering, thanks.” Harry drinks a sip of his coffee. He gestures to the paper next to him. “You know this is a load of bollocks, don’t you?”

Draco grits his teeth and shakes his head, biting back a harsh response. “I’m not a mind-reader, Potter. The other pieces weren’t entirely off-beam. I believe the phrase is where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Harry frowns at Draco and worries his hair, messing it up even more than usual. “Do you think I’d just get back together with Gin without telling you?”

“I have no idea what you would do. I sometimes wonder if I know you at all.”

“I see.” Harry gives Draco a steady look, his brow still furrowed. “I’m gay, Malfoy. Did you miss that information somewhere along the way?”

Draco gives Harry a scathing look. “I’m sure you could play the doting husband role, whatever you are. It would certainly make life easier.”

Harry snorts. “Yeah, because I’m known for wanting the easy life.” He puts the Prophet in the battered satchel he carries everywhere, pointedly not looking at Draco. “I think your opinion of what makes an easy life differs to mine from the sounds of it. There’s nothing easy about a life unlived.”

“That’s what you say,” Draco mutters. His bad mood lifts a little, but he still has a restless itch under his skin, a dissatisfaction he can’t quite place. “You were doing something with boxes. Weasley is carrying a little Potter sproglet according to the news.”

“I was helping Ginny move out, not moving myself back in.” Harry rolls his eyes. “Ginny was seeing her gynaecologist for a regular check-up and she’s no more pregnant than I am. Would you care for the details?”

Draco pulls a face. “No. Thanks all the same.”

Harry huffs and sits back in his seat, studying Draco. “I was going to make a suggestion before you turned up looking like one of those storm clouds outside.”

“Let’s hear it.” Draco feigns disinterest by looking at his nails.

“I’ve been doing some thinking.”

“Brilliant. First time for everything.”

“Are you always such an arse?” Harry seems to be losing patience with Draco being impossible.

“Yes.” Draco orders a coffee when Tom comes over, deciding to treat himself to a piece of chocolate cake. It’s gloomy outside, and chocolate tends to help matters. “I’m amazed you’ve only just noticed.”

“How do you feel about a night out?”

Draco studies Harry, wondering what he’s up to. “Fine, in theory.” In truth, he feels better than fine. The hours stretching into days without so much as a peep out of Harry have been as dull as the weather. The fact is, missing Potter has contributed to Draco’s ill-temper, the realisation that he’s in this much deeper than he had intended to be slowly dawning on him as the clock ticked past the minutes towards today.

“I think we should take Ginny and Millie to Little Compton Street.”

“Oh.” Draco’s stomach knots and he swallows his coffee too quickly. “I didn’t realise we were doing that.”

“Doing what?”

“Telling other people.” Draco puts down his coffee and folds his hands in front of him. “I wouldn’t want to give Weasley a heart-attack or for Granger to have you committed.”

Harry snorts. “I think I’m capable of making my own decisions.”

“Really? I think your friends will suggest your current decisions are bad ones.”

“Let me be the judge of that.” Harry shrugs. “Everyone knows we’ve been meeting.”

“Do they also know you’ve become intimately acquainted with my cock, Potter?” Draco smirks at Harry, who responds with a scowl.

“I haven’t gone into the specifics, Malfoy.”

“Exactly.” Draco narrows his eyes. “There’s a big difference between coffee and coffee.”

“I told Ginny. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been at the cottage so much. Stupid of me, but I had this idea that you might want to see it at some point. I’m sure you realised that Bermondsey is convenient, but it’s not exactly home. Should I have kept it to myself?” There’s an air of challenge in Harry’s question, his gaze firm and unwavering.

“No.” Draco shrugs. “I don’t care,” he says, a little meanly. “I’m sure your countryside cottage is delightful. We can make jam.” Draco’s not sure quite why he’s being such a prick, but self-preservation has kicked in, and as the crawling, claustrophobic sensation prickling under his skin intensifies, he’s desperate to create a bit of distance between himself and Harry.

“I don’t know why I bother.” Harry rolls his eyes. “Once a twat, always a twat.”

“You can tell the Prophet that when you announce our love affair, which you’ll probably do without consulting me.” Draco has a forkful of his chocolate cake, pushing the plate across to Harry after a moment’s hesitation. “People won’t take kindly to this. You and I are…improbable.”

“Are we?” Harry raises his eyebrows, taking a generous forkful of cake because he’s exceedingly impolite. “Ginny didn’t think so.”

“I’m thrilled your former lover thinks we make a good match. What a delightfully modern group we will be on our night out.” Draco pauses in his eating, mulling over Harry’s revelation. “She doesn’t think it’s peculiar?”

“No, she doesn’t.” Harry shrugs. “She thinks it makes sense. Mind you, she still thinks you’re a dickhead, which seems pretty astute at the minute.”

Draco pulls a face. “You knew who I was when we started this.”

“Yeah.” Harry contemplates Draco. “I think I know you pretty well by now. I know what you’re doing, by the way.”

“Oh?”

“You’re trying to pretend none of it mattered, because it’s easier if it didn’t.”

Draco stays silent, steadfastly not saying a word.

“Next Friday, I thought,” Harry continues. “I won’t be able to be here next Wednesday, I’ve got a thing.”

Next Friday means over a week of reading articles about Harry with little or no contact, if the last few days is anything to go by. Draco isn’t sure he can bear it, but he’s certainly not going to say so out loud.

“A thing. Sounds important,” he says instead, with an edge of annoyance.

“It is.” Harry doesn’t elaborate, back to his usual evasive self. “You do know if the Prophet somehow got hold of this,” Harry gestures between them, “I wouldn’t let them hound you?”

Draco shrugs. “Firstly, I’m not sure you would be able to stop them when you can’t keep them at bay yourself, and second it doesn’t matter what you say. Everyone will think I have you under Imperio.”

“I can actually resist that.” Harry looks pleased with himself.

“You’re so annoying.” Draco tucks into another piece of chocolate cake, but the usually pleasing richness is cloying and sickly today.

“Thanks. Goyle’s back in London now.”

“I know.” Draco sighs, pushing away his plate and letting Harry finish the rest of the cake. It’s exhausting trying to stay angry at Harry without any cause. He’s too damned persistent, and the sight of him in his weird dinosaur jumper and awful glasses chips has been chipping away at Draco’s defences since he sat down. “I think I’m going to meet him. He’s been sending me owls.”

“I’m glad.” Harry grins at Draco and nods towards the window. “Fancy a walk?”

“Little Compton Street?” Draco isn’t entirely sure he can do another all-nighter, but he also has a suspicion that wherever Harry leads, he will probably follow.

“Not today. I thought we could go for a drink in Soho. Muggle Soho, this time. There’s a pub I like, and I fancy getting chips.”

“It’s raining.”

“But now we have your stupidly expensive umbrella back.”

Draco leaves some cash on the table and grabs his coat. “Come on, then. Show me this pub of yours.”

*

“I had a meeting with Kingsley earlier today,” Harry says. He glances at Draco and he seems nervous about whatever he’s going to say. “He wanted to talk about your dad.”

Draco stops in his tracks. “You’ve been busy. Telling your ex-fiancée about something we haven’t even discussed and talking to the Minister about my father. What else have you being doing this week? Giving Skeeter an exclusive about my sexual preferences for her rag of a paper?”

“Stop it.” Harry folds his arms, glaring at Draco. “Ginny’s living in my house while she sorts out her own place and the press are crawling all over Godric’s Hollow. I told her I would let her know if I got involved with anyone serious. She deserves to hear it from me, instead of from that rag of a paper as you put it.”

A tight knot of anger coils within Draco. “I’m glad you took it upon yourself to decide we’re so serious.” Draco practically spits out his words. “When I was lonely, and you were just…there. I’ve had plenty of eager boys on their knees, Potter. The ability to give an average blowjob doesn’t make you special.”

Harry looks as though he’s been slapped, a flash of anger twisting his face into a grimace. “Fuck you, Malfoy.”

“You wish.” Draco already wants to claw his words back. The anger dulls, replaced by a giddy panic. His skin crawls with the same restless itch, the burn of the Dark Mark under his crisp cotton shirt and the whispered voices that keep reminding him: not good enough. It’s like a fatalistic desire to prove the voices right—to demonstrate that he absolutely isn’t good enough for Harry—has wormed its way under his skin like a parasite, eating away at the hopeful, happy mood of last week.

Harry stares at Draco for one long, cold minute. “You’ve always been a selfish bloody coward. I hope you enjoy mooching around London by yourself and talking to your owl in that big lonely house of yours. God forbid you’d ever take a chance at being happy.”

A Muggle pushes past, and Harry reaches for his wand as if he’s going to retaliate. He curses under his breath, before turning on his heel and disappearing into the crowd without another word. Draco has two choices. He can follow Harry, or he can walk away and try to forget the last few weeks never happened. He knows what the safer option would be, but he has a lifetime of bad decision making behind him and this one isn’t really a choice at all. I choose you, Draco thinks, pushing through the crowd in the hope that Harry hasn’t Apparated. Fuck, I’m sorry, I choose you. I’ll always choose you.

The heavens open as Draco picks up his pace, catching sight of Harry as he disappears back in the crowd just ahead of Draco. He finally catches up with Harry outside Covent Garden tube station, putting his hand on Harry’s arm to get him to turn around.

“I don’t care who you tell, you can put an advert in the Prophet for all I care, I’ve been out forever anyway and it’s not like I have anything to be ashamed of when it comes to my choice of partner.” Draco takes a breath, tightening his grip on Harry’s arm and hoping this doesn’t end with either of them getting Splinched. “It’s serious for me too.” He takes a breath, his voice lowering because the Muggles are giving them odd looks. “It’s serious for me too,” he repeats.

Harry’s jaw works. He frowns at Draco’s hand on his arm, then shakes his head. “Come on.” His voice tight, Harry jerks his head towards a small side-street. They walk together in silence until they reach a pub and Harry makes his way to the bar. “Drink?”

“White wine,” Draco says. His heart is still pounding in his chest, his hands shaking.

“Pint of Doom Bar and a glass of Chardonnay.” Harry glances at Draco, rolling his eyes when he winces. “Glass of whatever he wants.”

Draco orders his preferred wine and waits for the drinks to be poured, following Harry into a private little nook at the back of the bar. He glances at Harry. “No chips?”

“Not quite so hungry anymore.” Harry shrugs and fiddles with one of the beer mats. “In a bit, maybe.”

Draco takes a breath. “I’m terrified of you.”

“You are not.” Harry looks up, giving Draco a half smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “Don’t be a twat.”

“I don’t…this is new to me,” Draco says.

“Yeah, well. It’s new to me too.” Harry has a long drink of his pint, before sitting back and looking at Draco as if he’s trying to see through to the very heart of him. “Do you think I’m ashamed of you because you’re a man?”

Draco tuts under his breath. “Not because I’m a man, I’m sure you’re belligerent enough not to give a kneazle’s arse about that.” He wets his lips, his mouth dry. “Because I’m a Malfoy, perhaps.”

Harry seems to give that some consideration, picking thoughtfully at his beermat before answering. “If I was bothered by your last name I could have just left that coffee shop and not come back.”

“We’re never anywhere magical.” Draco’s words flow from him, as he finally puts his finger on the itch under his skin, the things that have been bothering him. Self-doubt is something Draco never suffered from until after the war. Now it’s always there, reminding him of the mistakes he made. “Little Compton Street doesn’t count because nobody knows where the hell that is. Maybe I’m the kind of person you fuck discreetly.”

“I don’t fuck you at all, at the minute.” Harry gives Draco a lopsided smile, and it’s significantly warmer than the last. “I was trying to tell you I wanted you to see Godric’s Hollow and you made some pissy remark about making jam. I told Ginny—not your biggest fan, by the way—that I wanted to see where things could go with you. Why do you think I did that?”

“Because you’re obsessed with me, obviously.” Draco runs a hand through his hair and gives Harry a small smile to indicate he’s teasing. There’s a lightness in the air again, and the panic recedes until Draco can breathe again. “Do you have the Prophet?”

Harry gives Draco a questioning look but pulls it from his satchel and pushes it across the table. “Today’s?”

“Mmhm.” Draco opens up the paper and shows Harry the picture of he and Ginny, walking through Diagon Alley. “Can you imagine what they would say if that was you and me, Potter?”

“I don’t care what they’d say.” Harry’s jaw works, and he gives Draco a challenging look. “Do you?”

Draco sighs and takes a sip of his wine. “No. I don’t suppose I do. But it wouldn’t be a picture-perfect love story.”

“No,” Harry says. “Not from their perspective, maybe.”

Draco’s heart quickens and he’s right back where he was, breathless and aching for Harry Potter all over again. He might as well accept it, he supposes. The brief realisation that he might lose Harry for good was enough to make him see that he would prefer to be in this messy, complicated, difficult thing than out of it.

“I’m sorry I mentioned your dad.” Harry gives Draco a careful look. “I won’t again, if you don’t want me to.”

“It’s complicated.” Draco swallows back a wave of nausea. “Talking about my mother and father is difficult.”

“Okay.” Harry nods. He reaches across the table and squeezes Draco’s hand, before letting it go again. “I won’t push.”

“What was the meeting with Shacklebolt about?” Draco steels himself, watching Harry. “I want to know.”

“He thinks they know who killed your father.” Harry sighs and pushes a hand through his hair. “You might not believe anyone cares, but the Ministry doesn’t let cases go unsolved, not anymore. I asked Kingsley to let me know if he had any news while I was on leave.” Harry winces. “I thought it might be easier coming from me.”

Draco’s throat gets tight as he remembers the dispassionate piece of parchment, delivered by official Ministry owl. The pictures in the Prophet of Lucius Malfoy, glassy eyed and unblinking.

“It is easier.” Draco’s voice is gruff. “Thank you.”

Harry shrugs. “I can send you a copy of the file if you want. They don’t usually do that, there would be a trial and they don’t want any retaliation, but the person died shortly after and they left a signed confession. It was someone who lost their family in the war. I thought you might appreciate answers.”

“Yes,” Draco says. A wave of unexpected emotion crashes over him and he clutches onto his glass. “I hate him.” Draco can’t look at Harry. “I hate him for the things he taught me to believe in. I hate that he let my mother die because he was too arrogant to believe Muggles could have a cure. I have to hate him because he’s everything I despise, and everything I don’t want to be anymore.”

Harry stretches his arm across the back of the seat, shifting closer to Draco. “You don’t have to hate him to live a different life.”

“I do. If I don’t stay angry with him, I might become him.”

“You won’t,” Harry says. His voice is sure and confident, his fingers warm on Draco’s shoulder. His voice thickens, and he speaks softly. “It’s your dad. It’s okay to miss him.”

Draco doesn’t know what to do with it, this heavy weight that threatens to consume him when he lets the happy memories get too close. It’s like the thunderclouds in the sky, looming closer and blotting out the sun. He’s never allowed himself to let that grief in, because he worries that if he does everything he’s built himself into will shatter into pieces.

“I miss them both. So much, I don’t know what to do with it.”

“If you ever want to talk about it, I’ll listen.” Harry shifts back a little, clearing his throat. “No judgment, I promise. I found out some things about my dad once. Things I didn’t like.”

Draco rubs his eyes and takes a shaky breath, focusing on Harry. “There’s a world of difference between your father and mine.”

Harry’s jaw works but he thankfully doesn’t argue the point. “I know.”

Draco nods, taking a steadying gulp of his wine. “Let’s talk about something else.” A thought occurs to him and he looks up at Harry. “Are you still seeing your Mind Healer?”

“Every week.” Harry pulls a face. “I’m not very good at grieving either, if it helps. At least I haven’t been. They help me talk about things I’ve spent a long time pushing to the back of my mind. I’m not much of a talker, I prefer to do stuff.”

“You like problems you can fix with a duel and a race for the Snitch. Typical Gryffindor.”

Harry laughs. “Yeah, something like that.”

“I like it here.” Draco looks around the cosy pub with its private spaces, and beer mats smelling of stale lager. It’s not the kind of place he would usually favour, but there’s a gentle hum of conversation in the background and it feels like the kind of pub that’s been around forever. “Was this where you wanted to go?”

Harry nods. “I used to come here for a pint after work with Ron, sometimes. Nobody pays any attention to what you’re saying.”

“And they serve chips.”

Harry pats his stomach and grins at Draco. “And they serve chips.”

They share a bowl of piping hot chips with lashings of tangy vinegar and sharp bursts of salt, and everything is right with the world again.

*

It’s raining by the time Harry and Draco leave the pub. The sun set hours ago, and the dark streets are slick with puddles. The streets are starting to fill with the theatre crowd and Hackney cabs slice through the water, their lights beckoning to the people standing on the pavements, huddling underneath their umbrellas.

“I’ve got to go for dinner in Ottery St Catchpole.” Harry looks across at Draco as they walk. “Otherwise—”

“It’s fine.” Draco wishes Potter didn’t have any plans, because he wanted to go back to the flat in Bermondsey and make up for all the stupid shit he said earlier.

“Besides.” Harry stops underneath the awning from the markets which are closing upd, tugging Draco close. “I wouldn’t want to give you anymore average blow jobs.”

Draco snorts under his breath. “Now you’re just fishing for compliments.”

“Maybe.” Harry looks relaxed, but Draco doesn’t miss the flicker of doubt which crosses his features.

“There’s nothing average about you, Potter.” Draco doesn’t mean for it to sound as serious as it does, but there’s a rawness in his words as he closes the distance between them. “Nothing at all.”

The kiss is different from the first, without the pulse and beat of the music around them and the noise of the club. They nursed their two drinks in the pub for long enough that it’s an entirely sober kiss, without the sticky-sweetness of shots and Coca-Cola on their lips. Their cheeks and hair are damp with rain, and Harry pulls Draco closer, deeper into the shadows. His kisses take on a fresh urgency and Draco has to remind himself they’re in public, as much as he wants to sink into Harry and never come up for air.

When they pull apart, they’re both breathless.

“Fuck dinner,” Harry says. “Ron and Hermione will understand. Let’s go back to mine.”

Draco laughs under his breath. “Go and see your friends. Friday, you said?”

Friday.” Harry gives Draco another heart-stopping kiss. “If I wanted to tell them about Little Compton Street, what would you think?” He pauses, worrying his lip between his teeth, his expression so earnest. “If I wanted to tell them about us, maybe. That too.”

Draco brushes Harry’s hair back from his forehead and presses a kiss to his jaw, pressing against him. “I’d say tell them whatever the fuck you want, Potter. I’ll look forward to receiving my Howler from that daft owl of Weasley’s.”

“Pig isn’t so bad.” Harry grins and gives Draco a searing look, his eyes dark with desire. “I can’t bloody wait to see you again.”

“Always horny,” Draco says. Not that he’s complaining. “You can’t get out of this thing on Wednesday?”

“Afraid not.” Once again, Potter doesn’t elaborate.

Draco puts everything into his next kiss with Harry, to make absolutely certain that Potter will spend the rest of the night thinking about what he could have been doing with Draco.

They sink into the shadows of London’s West End as the rain falls around them.

*

Thanks to Potter and his mysterious thing, Draco has a free Wednesday and he decides to use it to meet Greg. He suggests the pub he went to with Potter. It was small, quiet and cosy, and Draco can’t help the fact that he now associates Wednesday afternoons with Harry. Instead of stewing over whatever it is Harry’s doing, he plans to have a pint with Goyle and wander from the pub to Covent Garden. He made a tentative booking at The Ivy for a late lunch, and he plans to enquire about theatre tickets for the evening. Anything to keep the late-night thoughts of Harry that occupy every part of his mind at bay.

When he arrives at the pub, Greg is already there. He beams at the sight of Draco and everything comes rushing back. Greg has lost the hardness and surly expression he often wore at Hogwarts. He’s as tall and broad as ever, with ruddy cheeks and carefully combed hair. He extends a thick hand and shakes Draco’s enthusiastically.

“Good to see you, Malfoy.”

“You too, Goyle.”

“You look good,” Greg says. He stumbles for his next sentence. “I don’t mean it in a funny way. I’ve been seeing this witch. Doris, she’s called. Really lovely lass, too good for me, mind.”

Draco rolls his eyes. “You’re straight, Greg. I get the message.”

“Sorry.” Greg rubs his jaw. “I don’t care about it, though. Doesn’t bother me what you get up to.”

“As long as I’m not trying to get into your,” Draco glances at Greg’s trousers and pulls a face, “corduroys?”

Greg rubs his brown cords with his hand, frowning at them. “I thought these were nice.”

Draco sighs. He doesn’t want to be mean to Greg. There was enough of that in Hogwarts.

“They’re fine.” He sweeps his eyes over Greg, trying to gauge his reaction to his next revelation. “Anyway, I’m off the market.” It gives him something of a thrill to say it. He and Potter haven’t exactly had the let’s be boyfriends discussion or asked what are your views on monogamy? in relation to whatever it is they’re doing together, but Draco doesn’t have the slightest bit of interest in anyone else right now. He’s quietly confident that Harry feels the same.

“You are?” Greg looks curious. “I’ve not heard about that.”

“Nobody has. It’s top secret.” Draco smirks at Greg. He wonders what he would say if Draco casually dropped Potter’s name into the conversation.

“Well, as long as he’s treating you nice,” Goyle says, gruffly. He cracks his knuckles. “He’ll have me to answer to otherwise.”

“Mm, good luck with that.” Draco turns to the barman cleaning the table. “I’ll have a glass of the Chablis.”

The barman scowls at Draco. “It’s not table service, mate.” He rolls his eyes, throwing his cloth over his shoulder. “I suppose I’ll get you this one, though. Next time, go to the bar.”

Naturally, Potter would favour a place where the bar staff are really fucking rude. Draco waits for the barman to disappear and turns back to the conversation. “Congratulations on the new job.”

“Thanks.” Greg looks pleased with himself. “I’ve always loved the Floos. Spent ages working on the network in Wales. It’s a shame you couldn’t visit. I sent owls.”

“I know.” Draco picks at some invisible lint on his trousers. “I’ve been a little off the radar.”

“I heard. Must be hard in the Manor by yourself.”

“I have Aristotle.” Draco shrugs. “It’s fine.”

“Theo’s having an engagement party in Hong Kong. You should come.”

“He is?” Draco recalls a letter from a few weeks ago, but he’s so used to ignoring all his correspondence, he didn’t pay it much heed. He didn’t even realise Theo was seeing someone, let alone that he was engaged. “Maybe I should.”

“We’d all like it if you did.” Greg stares at his hands. “Was difficult for a bit there, after the war.”

“That’s an understatement,” Draco murmurs. “I lost touch with a lot of people.”

“I’ve become friends with Weasley, would you believe?” Greg sounds nervous, as if he thinks Draco’s going to tell him off.

It makes Draco inexplicably sad that even after all this time, Greg would be worried about telling Draco he’s made new friends. His heart clenches at Greg, dressed up nicely in his new trousers, well-scrubbed face and carefully styled hair. It’s as though he wanted to impress Draco. He was a good friend for so many years. He didn’t deserve to be dropped like a hot potato, because Draco was trying to leave his old life behind.

“I heard you and Weasley were in cahoots.” Draco holds up his hand as Greg starts to launch into a long-winded explanation. “It’s fine, Greg. I don’t care if you get on with Weasley, you should be friends with him. We all need friends.”

“You could come for a pint with us,” Greg offers. He doesn’t look certain about it, but Draco appreciates the offer more than he can say.

“Perhaps.” Draco wets his lips and studies Greg, finally taking a decision. “I’ve actually been spending some time with Potter.”

“You have?!” Greg’s eyes get wide. “Didn’t you say he was an insufferable pillock?”

“Yes, well—”

“—with a hero complex and a broomstick up his arse?” Greg clicks his fingers. “Oh! You also said he looked like a mountain troll.”

“I did?” Draco can’t believe he said that. There’s nothing remotely troll-like about Potter, more’s the pity. Draco’s life would be a lot less complicated if Harry wasn’t quite so stupidly attractive.

“You did.” Greg grins and leans forward. “Dresses like an ill-bred crup in need of a good brush.”

Draco winces. “I might have refined my opinions a little.”

“Isn’t he one of your lot?” Greg frowns and a pause stretches between them until the knut drops. “Wait, Potter isn’t this new bloke of yours, is he? Weasley mentioned he’s moon-eyed over someone.”

Interesting. “What else did Weasley say?”

“Just that he’s been happier of late. Said the war had started to catch up with him and they were worried he was going to do something stupid.”

Draco’s throat gets dry, because not for a minute did he think things were that bad with Harry. “What do you mean, something stupid?”

“I don’t know.” Greg gives Draco a strange look. “Jack in his job and take up painting or summat.”

Draco relaxes. “I told him he needs to stop spending time in Shoreditch. I’m not surprised people think he’s one Bitcoin away from becoming a one-man experimental art installation.”

“Bitcoin?”

“It doesn’t matter.” Draco waves his hand. “Have you seen much of Millicent Bulstrode?”

“Yeah.” Greg’s face lights up. “She’s brilliant. She came to visit me in Wales.”

“She did?” Draco didn’t know about that, either. “What does she do now?”

“Does some accounting for Gringotts.” Greg shrugs. “She doesn’t like it much. I think she wants to do something with clothes.”

“Clothes?” Draco tries to keep the surprise out of his voice. He remembers Millicent being plainly dressed and stocky, he can’t imagine her showing collections at Diagon Alley Fashion Week. “Seriously?”

Greg frowns. “Don’t be like that.”

“Sorry.” Draco swears under his breath. He really can’t help himself sometimes. “I’m just surprised. I think I might be meeting up with her too.”

“You are?” Greg looks pleased, then confused. “She thinks you’re a bit of knob.”

“That’s probably because I was.” Draco takes a careful sip of his wine. “How do you feel about gay bars, Greg?”

“Dunno.” Greg shrugs. “Do they serve pints?”

“Yes, they serve pints.”

“Then I feel okay about them.”

Draco grins. “Excellent. Do you have plans for Friday?”

*

Draco leaves the pub with a lightness in his step. He extracts his phone from his pocket and can’t hold back his smile when he sees he has four new messages.

everything is ok !!

went to dean street

they ask a lot of questionss

relieved. Still on for friday ?

Draco had forgotten all about the conversation with Harry in The Sundowner and his plan to go to the clinic on Dean Street for a check-up. That must have been Harry’s mysterious appointment. Draco types back a quick response.

I knew you’d be fine. You lead a charmed life.

Still on for Friday. Greg’s coming too. Is that a problem?

no oof course not why wd it be?

No idea. I wanted to check. Why can’t you learn how to text properly?

why do you care

have you ever heard of sexting?

I can’t be expected to do that with someone who can’t construct a proper sentence

your terrible spelling would make me lose my erection

is that what we’re doing?

Not yet. Not ever if your texting skills don’t improve

I think we should

Of course you do. You’re constantly horny

where are you?

Covent Garden

Draco’s phone rings and he answers it with a roll of his eyes. “I might have known you couldn’t resist the promise of something involving sex.”

Harry’s laughter is warm in Draco’s ear. The sound sends pleasure through Draco’s body and he gets a sudden, powerful image of Harry on his knees with the Muggle telly flickering in the background.

“How does this sexting work, then?” Harry asks, ever the conversationalist.

“I have no idea. You’re my only contact, remember?”

“Well you brought it up.” Harry laughs again, and something rustles in the background. Draco has a very pleasing image of Harry stretched out on his bed. “How would it go?”

“I already said I don’t know. You send some dirty messages, have a wank.” Draco tries to sound bored and moves away from an elderly couple giving him a very odd look.

“Bit difficult to wank when you’re typing, I imagine.” Harry’s voice is low and teasing.

“Particularly if you struggle to type without an erection,” Draco remarks.

“What about phone sex?” Harry’s definitely up to something. Draco can tell from the way his voice has that hum to it. “Ever tried that?”

“Never.” Draco glares at his phone before putting it back to his ear. “Considering I got you this phone, I hope you haven’t either.”

“Nope.” Harry’s breathing gets a little more jagged. “Want to?”

Draco does want to. Very much. He’s also in the middle of one of the busiest markets in London.

“Where are you?”

“At the flat.” Harry lets out a low hmm of contentment. “In bed.”

“Wearing?” Draco looks around for somewhere quiet, spotting a side-street away from the bustle of the markets. He slips down it before Apparating to a quiet spot in Bermondsey that doesn’t stink of rubbish and piss. Part of him is tempted to go straight to Potter’s flat and offer to give him a helping hand in person, but there’s something so illicit about speaking to Harry like this, he wants to continue for a while at least.

“Stockings, suspenders…” Harry’s breath hitches and he laughs quietly.

“I’m sure you are.” Draco rolls his eyes, finding a bench to sit on. He lowers his voice to the same drawl that seemed to have such an impact on Harry in the Mayor & Miners. “I asked you a question, Harry.”

Oh, yeah.” Harry sucks in a breath, as if he likes Draco being firm with him. Draco files that information away for future reference. “Wait, why is it quiet?”

“Because people were giving me peculiar looks and I had to leave, despite having arranged a late lunch at The Ivy.”

“I didn’t mean to ruin your plans.” Harry doesn’t sound sorry at all, and at this minute Draco couldn’t give a fuck about The Ivy.

“I’m sure I’ll survive. Now, what are you wearing?”

“Erm. Nothing. I just showered.”

Draco bites back a groan at the thought of Harry’s soapy, shower-warm skin. “What are you thinking about?”

You,” Harry breathes. “God, I’m so hard. I’ve been thinking about that afternoon, about getting on my knees for you and sucking you off. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the things you said you wanted.”

Draco makes an appreciative sound. “You want to top?”

Harry lets out a soft groan. “I want to fuck you. I want to do that thing you said.”

“What thing?” A couple of boys in hooded jumpers start cycling around the grassy knoll near Draco so he lowers his voice. “Tell me exactly what you want.”

The sheets rustle again, and Draco can just about make out the slap of skin against skin. He can’t believe this is their second time having sex of a sort, and he still hasn’t had a close-up of what felt like a very pleasing part of Harry’s body.

“I want to finger you. Some people don’t like that, but I fucking love it.”

Draco’s breath hitches. “Well some people are idiots.”

“I want to fuck you, just how you like it. However you want it.”

“You want to be told what to do, Potter?” Draco’s voice has lost its sharp edges now and he can’t sit on a bench, half-hard with a bunch of idiotic teenagers cycling around him. He gets up and makes his way swiftly out of the park towards Harry’s flat.

Yes, fuck yeah. Tell me what to do.”

Draco does groan now, very glad he’s no longer in Covent Garden or anywhere other people might hear.

“I’m telling you what to do now. Stop touching yourself.”

What?” The sounds over the phone stop and Harry’s shallow breathing is the only noise. “You fucker.”

“Be good, Harry. I’ll be in touch.”

Draco hangs up the phone, making a swift path to Harry’s flat wondering not for the first time if Harry Potter is going to be the death of him.

*

As tempting as it is to see if Harry would wait until Friday, Draco makes him wait a grand total of two minutes and forty-six seconds, namely the time it takes to walk to Harry’s flat. He searches for the doorbell and presses it, smirking when it’s yanked open by a very rumpled, grumpy looking Harry.

“Good afternoon, Potter.”

Harry’s eyes are wide, a slow smile spreading over his face. “You’re a total dickhead.”

“Thank you.” Draco peers behind him. “Are you going to invite me in?”

“Yeah.” Harry stands to one side, gesturing inside the flat. “I’ve just been watching the telly.”

Draco snorts. “Is that what they call it?”

“It was very good whatever it was,” Harry says. He closes the door behind them, and Draco allows himself a minute to look at Harry. He’s in a new pair of joggers—navy this time—and he doesn’t have a top on. It’s obviously Harry’s lounging about the house attire and Draco has no complaints whatsoever.

Draco makes his way straight to Harry’s bedroom, because he can’t be bothered to keep up any kind of pretence he’s not here to pick up exactly where they left off.

“Do you have to be anywhere in the next few hours?”

“No.” Harry leans in the doorway to his room, watching Draco with an amused look on his face. “I don’t have anywhere to be for the rest of the night, if you want to put me to good use.”

Arousal pulses through Draco at that, because for some fortuitous, inexplicable reason, Harry has hit on what Draco likes. The idea of putting Harry—fit as fuck Harry—to use is dizzying. His mouth gets suddenly dry and he nods, sliding off his coat.

“I think that sounds like a very good idea.”

Harry unbuckles the leather bracelet he always wears and puts it on the bedside table together with the silver ring which he slides off his finger. There’s a deliberate intent to the way he does it, his eyes holding Draco’s as he approaches him. The erotic promise of why Harry’s removing his jewellery steals Draco’s breath from his lungs. They aren’t even touching yet and the energy in the room alone is enough to make Draco’s cock fill in his trousers, as Harry moves closer. A powerful rush of desire slices through him and he takes Harry’s hand in his when they’re finally close enough to touch.

“Your hands are quite something.”

“Yeah?” Harry sounds a little shaky, letting Draco turn his hand as he wishes. He leans in, trailing his hand over Draco’s back which sends shivers of pleasure down his spine. “You want to tell me how to get you off, Malfoy? Because I’m all yours.”

Draco runs his tongue over his lips, his voice rough. “I’ve fucked you a thousand times in my dreams.”

“Me too.” Harry begins unplucking Draco’s shirt with his sure, deft fingers. “Even when we have more time together than I've had with anyone, it still doesn't feel like enough.” His voice dips, lips warm on Draco's skin. “I want to be the best fuck, keep you coming back for more.”

Draco's fairly certain he'll come back for more even if it's the worst shag of his life. Which it won't be. “You like the idea of being used by me, Potter? Being told what to do?”

Harry makes a strangled sound and sucks at a particularly sensitive part of Draco's neck. “Fuck, yes. I want you to call me if you want it. Get me over just because you need me. Call me at midnight, I don’t care. Get me hard and use me, however you like.”

It’s damned near impossible to think clearly with Harry talking in that husky way of his, sliding Draco’s shirt off his shoulders and letting it pool to the floor. Harry moves his hands to the buckle of Draco’s belt and he mouths over his jawline, in a damp path up to Draco’s ear.

“I want to get you stretched on the bed,” Harry says. “Where I was getting so damn hard thinking about you bossing me around.”

“I thought you were watching television?” Draco laughs, nudging Harry away from him. “Get your clothes off and grab the lube.”

“Anything you say.” Harry does as Draco asks, taking off the last of his clothes. He stretches out on the bed and pops open the lube, making no attempt to hide the fact he’s drinking in every inch of Draco as he strips.

Draco gets on the bed when he’s naked and is promptly rolled onto his back by Harry, who gives him an insistent kiss.

“So impatient, Potter,” Draco murmurs against Harry’s lips.

“Yeah, well. I’m a rudely interrupted wank ahead of you,” Harry says. He smiles against Draco’s mouth and then pulls back. “Boss me about a bit, then.”

Draco lets himself watch Harry for a long, pleasurable moment, thinking of all the different ways he could be put to good use. If the night ends up with fucking one way or another, Draco is okay with that, but at the minute there’s something he wants more.

“I want you to finger me until I come,” Draco decides.

“I can do that.” Harry’s voice is rough, his eyes dark with arousal. Draco is starting to suspect Harry has a thing for a certain kind of play, with his interest in fingers, toys and fucking. Draco has no complaints about that at all.

Harry gives Draco another slow kiss, before slicking his fingers with lube. He moves to the side of Draco, pressing against him and kissing his neck with maddening sweetness. Draco doesn’t want tender. He’s so horny he just wants Harry to take him to all of those places Draco’s been thinking about from the moment he started developing an inconvenient fetish for Potter’s hands. He mutters a curse under his breath when Harry gets him in a position that holds him open, Draco's leg thrown over Potter’s side. He wraps an arm around Harry’s neck as Harry shifts behind him, fisting his hand in Harry’s hair. Harry might not be overly muscular or large, but he’s strong and he keeps Draco in place as he slides slick fingers over Draco, teasing him by applying pressure but never slipping inside.

“You’re going to have to get yourself off like this.” Harry slides his hand over Draco’s cock, fondling his balls and then strokes back behind them to press against him again. “Yeah?”

“I’m sure I can work it out,” Draco rasps. “Just get inside me, would you?”

With an acquiescent ungh of agreement, Harry pushes a finger slowly inside Draco. It’s blissfully good, even though he hasn’t actually done much yet. At the moment he seems content just to work his finger into Draco and drive him absolutely mad with wanting. His cock is already swollen and leaking at the tip, jutting against his stomach. The insistent press of Harry's cock against his side is the hard, thick promise of another time.

“Put your back into it Potter,” Draco says. He refuses to be embarrassed by the naked arousal in his voice and Harry doesn’t seem to mind in the slightest. With a murmur of Draco’s name, Harry slides his forefinger out and pushes his two middle fingers deep inside Draco. The heel of his palm is firm against Draco’s body, and he works his fingers in and out with a curling motion as he pulls back a little. His breath comes in shallow pants as he bites down lightly on Draco’s skin, finally fucking him with the force and pressure Draco wants. He hits all the right places, finally finding the part of Draco that makes everything get hotter, more urgent and desperate. With his legs shaking, Draco grips onto his cock and mutters a charm to leave his hand slick.

“You’re so gorgeous like this. Want to ruin you.” Harry growls out his words and fucks Draco harder. His voice is rough as he pats and rubs inside Draco, sliding his fingers out entirely and then working them back in again, hard. “Ever been fisted, Malfoy?”

Draco hasn’t and he’s not sure he wants to be but it’s one of his most persistent wanking fantasies. It’s one of those things that’s close enough to the things he likes but further than he’s typically prepared to go that leaves him hot and sweaty after a thorough wanking session. He shakes his head, groaning when Harry finds his prostate again.

“No but it's a fantasy…fuck.”

Draco isn’t sure that Harry gets it, but he seems to as he works his fingers into Draco, his voice ragged.

“Not for real, no?” Harry pushes his fingers inside Draco and Draco nods, arching with a groan and thumbing over the slit of his cock. “But you get off on the thought of it, I bet.”

Nngh is about all Draco can manage in response. Yes he gets off on it. He gets off on the filthy, glorious fantasy of being stretched open and fucked. He thinks he might be a bit of a size queen at heart, or at least fantasy Draco is. He suspects real Draco might not take too kindly to an actual fist up his arse, not that he cares if other people like to do it.

“I’d take my time with you.” Harry’s voice is low and rough. “You’d tell me how you want it, make me take your cock in my mouth and get you warm, get you hard. Then I’d finger you slowly. Build you right up to it. I’d use so much lube, it would sound so fucking filthy.”

“Yes. God, yes.” The slap of Draco’s hand against his cock and the sound of Harry fingering his lube-slick body is maddening. Harry’s breath is hot against his skin, his words driving Draco to distraction.

“Do you trust me?” Harry asks. He works in a third finger just for the extra stretch of it, before returning to the maddening, forceful speed of two.

“Always,” Draco says, breathless. It’s the truth. He trusts Harry with everything.

“I trust you too,” Harry says. “I’d let you do things I’ve never done before. Things I’ve always wanted to try but haven’t found people to try them with.”

That revelation in and of itself is almost enough to make Draco come. Harry’s skin is beaded with sweat, the exertion of keeping Draco held in place. He rubs and presses against Draco’s body, chasing his own stunted pleasure as he puts his focus whole-heartedly into finger-fucking Draco like his gorgeous hands were made for it. He makes pleasing little grunts and whispers things like you’re so tight and love fucking you, Malfoy that makes Draco’s head spin. It’s so blissfully good, being held open and fucked by Harry Potter. Draco can sense the heat of his eyes, watching his fingers push and twist inside Draco’s body. Their limbs move together, sweat-slick and urgent, completely lost in physical sensation as everything else washes away.

“Tell me…” Draco manages. “Tell me what you want.” He thumbs over his cock, squeezing it and jerking it faster. He's so close, it's almost agonising.

“I want you to tie me up and ride my cock,” Harry offers. His voice is rough, his fingers sliding from Draco before he pushes them back inside. He whispers a lubricating charm, clearly not interested in stopping for long enough to do things the Muggle way. “I want to watch you come when you’re riding me, you can make a mess of me. Have me lick you out before to get you ready. I bet you’d look so damn good like that.”

With a strangled cry, Draco comes to a bone-shaking climax. Harry’s fingers are still buried deep inside him and he clenches around them, the intensity of his orgasm heightened significantly by the stimulation of Harry’s fingers. As he comes down from his orgasm, he puts his arm over his face and winces as Harry slides his fingers out of Draco’s body and lets his leg down from its now awkward position.

“For the record I don’t actually want to be fisted,” Draco says in a murmur. “The other things though...” he thinks the satisfied hmm which follows is approval enough.

“I got that.” Harry sounds like he’s smiling. He brushes his lips on Draco’s shoulder. “I don’t think I’d be too into fisting either. I'd worry about cocking something up and hurting you. Nice idea, though.”

“On the top ten of my wank fantasies,” Draco agrees.

“Fancy telling me the other nine?”

Draco sighs. Harry is such a nosy fucker. “I’m sure you’ll get them out of me at some point.” He realises he’s being rather selfish and slides his arm from his face, turning to Potter. “You haven’t come yet.”

“No.” Harry rubs his jaw, watching Draco. “Do you want me to?”

It’s a lot to take in, having Harry look at Draco like that, warm and earnest, asking permission from Draco. With a smirk, Draco pushes Harry back on the bed and slides down his body. Without so much as a smart comment, Draco takes Harry into the back of his throat and shows him exactly how much Draco wants him to come. Harry’s cock is heavy and thick in Draco’s mouth and the stretch of it makes Draco think of the other places it might stretch. It’s all very good, feeling Harry squirm back into the sheets and make bitten-off noises as he arches into Draco’s mouth and tangles his beautiful hands in Draco’s hair. It doesn’t take long for Draco’s concentrated efforts to bring Harry to a forceful climax.

A dull twist of arousal returns as Draco moves up the bed to kiss Harry. “I think I want you to service me again, Potter. If you’re very good, I’ll ask you to fuck me on Friday.”

Harry groans against Draco’s lips and kisses him firmly, rolling Draco onto his back. He makes his way down Draco’s body, tonguing at his nipples and biting lightly on the inside of his thigh. He reaches for the lube again, using his other hand to keep Draco in place on the bed.

“I’m going to do it from down here, this time. I want to suck you off while I finger you.”

Draco sucks in a breath and nods, sinking into the sheets and closing his eyes.

“Don’t let me stop you, Potter.”

*

Draco stretches, kneazle-like. He’s sore in all the right places and his skin carries the scent of sweat, sex and Harry on it. He turns to see Harry watching him, a dazed look on his face. He reaches over to push Harry’s hair from his forehead, running his thumb over Harry’s scar. It’s well past sunset and most of the day has been spent in a messy tangle of limbs. They shared a pizza and a glass of warm, cheap white wine before going straight back to bed. Even for the thirty minutes or so they spent in the kitchen, they couldn’t stop touching one another; sinking into dirty-hot kisses, touching hot, exposed skin, looking at one another as if even the quick break for food was too long not to be in bed. Draco isn’t at all surprised Harry looks dazed. Draco feels a bit dazed too.

“I never thought someone like you could want someone like me,” Draco says. It’s quiet in the still room and now that the heady passion has finally abated, it seems like a time for truths. The watery moonlight slips through the cracks in the blinds and gives the room a ghostly glow.

“I hate it when you do that.” Harry’s voice is gruff. “I hate it when you make it sound like you’re worse than me.”

“I am,” Draco says. “I always have been.”

Harry captures Draco’s hand and kisses it, before shifting closer, running his hand down Draco’s chest to his belly. “I cut you open, once.”

“You didn’t know what you were doing.”

“I didn’t care, I was angry enough to throw anything at you.”

“I was going to do much worse.” Draco swallows around the lump in his throat. “We’re not the same. Even if you told me every terrible thought you’ve ever had, it wouldn’t make us equals, not in this. Don’t make yourself sound worse to balance everything out. Let me try to be better, instead.”

Harry looks as though he wants to argue, his jaw working. Eventually he nods. “Okay.” He runs his hand over Draco’s chest, settling over his heart. “I think you’re a good man, for what it’s worth. Whatever you were then, I think you’re a good man now.”

A wave of emotion crashes over Draco and he closes his eyes. “Thank you,” he says. “Your opinion matters to me.” There’s not a hint of irony, sarcasm or teasing in his tone. It’s the truth.

“For the record,” Harry whispers, his hand sliding down Draco’s body again, “I plan to fight anyone that says different.”

Draco pushes into Harry’s hand, clutching onto the sheets as pleasure washes over him. He didn’t think he had anything more left in him, but the air is so full of the thrum of Harry’s magic and the scent of sweat and boy hero, Draco thinks he could let himself go all over again.

“You’re always getting hard for saving people,” Draco murmurs.

Harry presses his lips to Draco’s ear, speaking in an almost-whisper. “There are other things I get hard for.”

“Mm?”

“Are you into rimming?” Harry asks, ever so casually. His voice is still low and rough, and he squeezes his hand to emphasise the question.

Draco answers by rolling over onto his front, plumping his pillow and resting his cheek on it. “What do you think?”

“Either you’re off to sleep, or I’ll take it as a yes.” Harry sounds amused. He makes his way down Draco’s body, holding him open.

Harry tongues at Draco and the intensity of the pleasure, the firm heat of Harry’s hands holding Draco open and the tender caress of his magic chases away any further thoughts of the past.

*

“This place is incredible.” Ginny Weasley laughs with delight, finding Draco and Harry’s table at The Sundowner. “We should get shots.”

Harry stands and gives her a hug. “I was wondering where you were.”

Liar. Draco thinks to himself with a smile. Harry was actually wondering if Draco fancied sneaking off to the loos for a grimy, Harry-on-his-knees, illicit semi-public blow job. He decides not to point that out.

“Is Millie coming?” Harry releases Ginny and looks over her shoulder. There’s no sign of Bulstrode anywhere, but the reminder that she’s like to arrive any time now makes Draco’s stomach lurch. He’s nervous about seeing her. It’s an odd feeling, having gone from lording it over most of his friends to now genuinely seeking their approval. He doesn’t have the upper hand of conviction in his own superiority anymore.

“She’s just gone to the loo.” Ginny grins at Harry. “We decided to check out The Gateways before coming here. I heard this was all dancing boys and glitter, and Mill prefers a different sort of crowd.”

“Less cock, I imagine,” Draco suggests.

Ginny rolls her eyes. “Oh. Hullo, Malfoy. I’ve been looking forward to seeing you.”

Harry gives her a look, but Draco doesn’t care. If a waspish hello is the worst he gets all night, he’s doing pretty well.

“We went to The Gateways too,” he says. “Saw McGonagall there.”

“Us too!” Ginny’s cheeks are flushed with excitement and she turns to Draco, her eyes shining. “It’s brill. Much nicer than a lot of the places in Stoke Newington and they do these wicked cocktails with Butterbeer. You don’t get that in Muggle bars.”

“You don’t,” Harry agrees. “Right, then. I’ll get these shots in. A round of Griffin Dears, I think.” He winks at Draco. “We’ll get you a Slippery Slytherin if you like.”

Draco pulls a face. “Not if they taste like slime. Besides,” he gives Harry a smirk, “Gryffindors don’t taste half as bad as I expected.”

Harry’s cheeks get hot and Ginny snorts under her breath. “You two can stop that until Millie gets here. Keep it clean, Malfoy.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Ginny slides into the seat next to Draco. “I suppose I should say hello properly. Draco.”

“Ginny.” Draco holds out his hand and Ginny gives him an odd look, so he pretends he was reaching for his drink. “How are you?”

“Oh, you know. I’m moving out of the home I lived in for years, my fiance left me and apparently he’s fallen for some fancy Lord of the Manor type I used to want to Bat-Bogey-Hex into oblivion. So I’m doing just dandy.”

Draco winces. “Sorry about that.”

Ginny waves her hand. “Don’t be sorry, I’m teasing you.”

“How are things with Millicent?”

“I’m quite happy.” Ginny’s cheeks flush with pleasure and her smile softens as if she’s thinking of happy things. “It’s worked out rather well, really.” She looks over at Harry. “He’s not very easy to get over, you know. You probably don’t want to fuck it up.”

“I don’t,” Draco says, honestly. “I’m not planning to in any event.”

“Good.” Ginny sits back. “Because if you hurt him, I swear I’ll come after you and curse you with a lifetime of genital warts.”

“There’s a curse for that?”

“Several,” Ginny says, cheerfully. “Who else is coming tonight?”

“I think Greg’s planning to come with Weasley and Granger from work. That’s it.”

“Cool.” Ginny watches Harry at the bar, laughing with the barman. She looks thoughtful. “I’ve never seen him like this, you know.”

“Flirting with men?” Draco raises an eyebrow at her and she laughs.

“He’s just chatting. I don’t think he’s interested in doing much of anything with anyone now.” She gives Draco a curious look. “I think you make him happy. I thought you were his type for ages—he’s always made a bit of a beeline for blond boys that look like you—but I thought it was just physical.”

Draco isn’t sure how to respond to that, so he lets her continue.

“I didn’t know if it would fit in all the other ways.” Ginny meshes her hands together as if to demonstrate things fitting together. “But it does. He’s been loads less grumpy. He even sang in the shower the other day.”

“I apologise for that.” Draco has heard Potter sing in the shower too, and it isn’t pretty. “Is there any way to make him stop?”

“I usually cast a music charm and listen to something else until he’s finished.” Ginny’s expression clouds. “The press are shit, though and they don’t half have a problem with you. He says it doesn’t get to him, but I know it does. He’s spent so long trying to keep everything private, letting them think he’s this big hero with everything all worked out. It’s a lot of pressure, being Harry.”

“I’m getting that.” Draco thinks of Harry wandering around London in his dinosaur jumper and his empty flat in Bermondsey, curled up on that sofa of his and watching the telly by himself as he tries to avoid cameras and Quick-Quote Quills. “I’m not afraid of the press.”

Draco might have been afraid of a lot of things in his time, but he’s not afraid of the Prophet. Not anymore. They have already unearthed every possible secret and thrown every slur in his direction. Now, Draco is ready to fight back.

“Let him have his moments if he needs them, when they articles are particularly bad.” Ginny glances at Draco. “If he wants to keep things private sometimes, it’s not going to be about you.” She jumps up, waving. “Over here, Mill!”

Millicent Bulstrode approaches the table, giving Draco a thoroughly unimpressed look. “I thought I’d seen the last of you. How the bollocks did you manage to get into Potter’s Calvin Kleins?”

“My what?” Harry returns with a tray of brightly coloured shots and a round of drinks.

“Your pants, Harry. Millicent wants to know how Draco got into your pants.” Ginny gives Millicent a kiss on the cheek and whispers something which makes her laugh. She grabs two shots and gives Harry a gentle push towards the dancefloor. “Let’s give these two a minute.”

Harry looks across at Draco, eyebrows raised in a silent question. Draco nods and watches as Harry and Ginny wander off to dance together. He tries not to be jealous because he knows it’s a terrible look on him. He also trusts Harry. For the first time since this tentative thing started, he feels certain that Harry only has eyes for him. It’s a dizzying thought.

Draco turns away from Harry and Ginny, to take in Millicent properly. Her hair is cropped short and she’s wearing a buttoned-up shirt which suits her well, and an excellent pair of brogues. She’s not in the slightest bit dull, as he once thought. She’s full of vibrancy and the same gruff humour he remembers from Hogwarts.

“Greg said you’re working in fashion.”

“Not fashion, at least not the wanky kind you’re probably imagining.” Millicent folds her arms with a huff. “I’ll leave that to Zabini.”

“What kind, then? I want to know.”

Millicent narrows her eyes. “I know you’re not the sort to spend the night talking about boobs and fanny as you’ve never been particularly fond of either, so I’ll keep this short.” She runs a hand over her shirt. “Sometimes people like me want a bit of binding. I do those. Magical binders.” She drums her fingers on the table. “Shirts and stuff for people who are a bit larger and can’t get them to fit right. I do a bit of bespoke tailoring for those that want it. Grubbly-Plank said she’s putting in an order.”

Draco takes in the pleased flush on Millicent’s cheeks and it sends a rush of pleasure through him. He likes her more than he expected to, and not for the first time curses his younger self for being a cretin.

“I’m sorry I was an idiot in school.”

“That’s putting it politely.” Millicent rolls her eyes and has a drink of her pint. She looks across at Draco. “It’s alright. If Ginny here can give you a second chance, I’m sure I can.” She sticks out her hand, and Draco shakes it firmly. “I know you’re loaded though, so you can get the next round in. That would probably help too.”

Draco laughs and tips his shot in Millicent’s direction before downing it in one.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

*

Just as the hours sped past on their first visit to The Sundowner, the night rushes ahead of them in a blur of excitable chatter, drinking and dancing. Draco spends a good hour pretending to understand the Floo Network, sandwiched between Goyle and Weasley. It’s better than sitting in stony silence and Weasley seems to be under strict instructions from Potter and Granger to make an effort, because he keeps engaging Draco in conversation on everything from Quidditch to the worst articles in the history of the Prophet. Granger is a delight, and Draco instantly has more in common with her, discovering a fresh interest in finer points of magical theory he had all but forgotten about when he began focusing on his investments. She’s bright, witty and if Draco wasn’t as gay as a man could be, he would probably be inclined to marry her.

He doesn’t see much of Harry at all, relying on heated glances when their eyes meet and the promise of later. It seems every time he catches Harry’s eyes, he’s doing something that makes Draco think of sex, flaunting his hands around or sucking his drink suggestively through a straw. Considering at the minute Harry Potter doing his accounting would make Draco think of sex though, it’s possible it’s just the charged energy between them and Draco’s general horniness.

“Fancy leaving soon?” Harry slips into the seat next to Draco, the tight squeeze ensuring they’re pushed firmly together. He makes a bit more room by stretching his arm across the back of Draco’s seat, which is the most affection they have shown one another all night.

“You’re not keen to do another five apple sours and make a twat of yourself on the dancefloor?”

Harry laughs. “Not really.” He turns his head, his lips tracing the shell of Draco’s ear. “I’ve got plans and I don’t want to be too pissed for them.”

“Is that so?” Draco turns so he can face Harry, close enough that Harry’s breath is warm and boozy on his skin. “Anything you’d like to share?”

“I thought maybe I’d fuck you tonight. If you want.” Harry’s gaze drops to Draco’s lips, his tongue running over his own. “I’ve been thinking about it since you came over.”

“Me too.” Draco recalls the heavy weight of Potter in his hand and with a searing flush of arousal, he wants it. The kind of filthy, raw, end of the night sex that feels as intense as fucking should. He leans almost imperceptibly closer, lowering his voice so only Harry can hear. “I don’t want it sweet, Potter. No tender lovemaking. Get me inside, slam the door behind us and fuck me until I can’t remember my own name.”

With a low groan, Harry pulls Draco into a deep, open-mouthed kiss that tastes like booze, sweat and the promise of sex. He grips his hand in Draco’s hair, deepening the kiss until Draco is pretty sure from the catcalls (Ginny and Greg), the Merlin’s ballsack, get a room! (Weasley) and the you’re a filthy slag, Draco Malfoy (Millie), it’s time for he and Potter to leave. He breaks away, his breathing rough, and he stands, pulling Harry to his feet.

“It’s been a pleasure,” Draco says.

“Yeah, sorry, I’ll, err. See you soon. Got to go, I think I left the oven on,” Harry adds.

Before Draco can make a snide comment about how utterly terrible that excuse is, Harry Apparates them out of Little Compton Street and back to Bermondsey.

*

In all previous sexual encounters, they’ve done things, largely, the Muggle way. This time, Harry is all force and fire, his magic thrumming around them as he pushes Draco against the door to his flat and kisses him until his knees are weak. How did the Muggles not sense this? Draco wonders, dimly. The magic is an unstoppable, powerful force, hot and electric around them both. Draco pushes Harry back and makes his way to Harry’s bedroom, extracting his own wand and flicking it in the air with a quick spell that leaves them both naked.

“Clever,” Harry says. “Who’s showing off now?” He settles between Draco’s legs and gives him another deep kiss, before pulling back. “I’ve been wanting to fuck you all night.”

“Then get on with it.” Draco stretches out and gives Harry a lazy grin. “Manhandle me.”

Harry laughs. “Come on, then.” He gives the fleshy part of Draco’s upper thigh a swat. “Hands and knees.”

Draco obliges without hesitation, hissing when Harry parts the cheeks of his backside. “Lube, no prep. Just fuck me, will you?”

Harry bites Draco’s buttock lightly and murmurs a protective charm and a spell to leave Draco lubricated, the powerful rush of magic tingling on Draco’s skin. “I wanted to eat you out first, but I’ll save that for the morning.”

Draco groans, torn between wanting Harry’s talented tongue again and needing Harry inside him. “You’d better keep that promise,” he says at last.

“I keep all my promises, Malfoy.” There’s a seriousness behind the teasing response which makes Draco warm with pleasure.

Harry gives Draco’s backside a light swat, the slap of his hand making Draco even more desperate to be filled. He’s always loved the sensation of being fucked, even when he pretended not to. He’s glad for his first time with Harry he’s completely free from those deep-seated hang-ups he carried around in his first year on the scene. He used to think bottoming somehow made him more gay as if having a cock up another man’s arse most weeks was peak heterosexual behaviour. It took him time to get rid of the niggling voice of his father, the jokes he heard in the Manor and the suggestion that he was doing something that made him less of a man. For all the shame that sometimes hits him with overwhelming force, Draco can say with absolute conviction his sexuality and sexual preferences are no longer remotely the cause of it.

“Get on with it, will you?” Draco pushes back as the blunt head of Harry’s cock presses against his hole. The anticipation of Harry positioning himself and the slickness of the cold lube is almost a tease too far.

In one, heart-stopping push, Harry fucks into Draco without any holding back. It’s perfect. The stretch is just the right kind of painful and the sudden rush of being forcefully filled is everything Draco has been craving since he first set eyes on Harry Potter in that coffee shop. Harry’s hands are hard and firm on Draco’s hips and the magic in the room around them is unmistakably theirs. Even though Draco can’t see Harry’s face, he can feel him. The leather from Harry’s bracelet rubbing against his skin, the cool silver ring, the hum of his magic. Every breath and grunt is uniquely Harry, and Draco’s heart beats in staccato rhythm with every push and pull.

In fucking, Harry is just as Draco imagined. He’s utterly committed to his task and he drives into Draco with restless passion and boundless energy. He makes all the right noises and slides against all the right spots, finding the angle that blows Draco’s mind. He leans over Draco as he fucks him, the puff of his breath hot on Draco’s skin and the scent of perspiration heavy in the air. He’s uncompromising, just as Draco asked him to be, thrusting into him with long hard strokes and taking Draco closer to the brink with every movement.

Harry slides his hand over Draco’s cock as he takes him, over and over. He murmurs another spell which skitters, twists and fizzes over Draco’s skin. Every press of Harry’s fingers against Draco’s over-sensitised body sends blissful sparks of pleasure through him. It’s only the two of them in this quiet flat, where the noise from London’s busy streets doesn’t even filter through the window. The breeze brings the scent of rainy London nights into the space and the cool air slides over Draco’s skin, chilly where Harry’s body is so, so hot. Harry works his slick hand over Draco’s cock, taking him to his climax with primal instinct, chasing their pleasure with every push of his cock deep inside Draco’s body, and every twist of his hand around Draco.

In a moment of sharp, biting pleasure, Draco reaches his climax and comes with a grunt. He pushes back against Harry who stills as Draco rides through his climax. Harry slides out of Draco and spreads his hand on Draco’s backside, holding him open. Draco trembles from the force of keeping himself up on shaky legs, but it’s worth every ache in his muscles. He lets out a soft moan of desire when he realises what Harry’s doing. The slap of Harry’s hand against his cock gets faster as he keeps Draco exposed to his gaze. The idea that Harry is getting off looking at where he’s just fucked Draco open, is a dirty, glorious pleasure, which would make Draco want to go again immediately if he had an ounce of energy. Eventually, Harry comes and the heat of his climax hits Draco’s skin. With a murmur of pleasure, Harry runs his fingers along the crack of Draco’s arse, dipping two fingers slowly inside Draco.

Harry.” Draco pushes back with a groan, his body almost shaking with want. Harry nudges Draco over, letting him take the weight off his hands and knees. He murmurs a charm to lift Draco’s backside a little as if there’s a cushion beneath it, and he slides two fingers back inside Draco. His fingers are covered with lube, sweat and come and it’s such a messy, filthy moment, it’s all Draco can do not to ask Harry to start fucking him all over again.

“Hi.” Harry slides his fingers out of Draco after another minute and moves up the bed. His hair is damp with perspiration, beads of it on his torso and his back. Draco answers him with a kiss, dirty, hot and open-mouthed, sliding his tongue into Harry’s mouth and tasting him.

“Hi yourself,” Draco says, as he breaks the kiss. “You’re a total pervert, aren’t you, Potter?”

“I think I am a bit.” Harry looks thoroughly shagged out. “I think I…err…like watching. I like watching you.”

“Like watching my arsehole, you mean.” A contented wave of sleepiness makes Draco yawn.

“That too.” Harry laughs, and he nuzzles Draco’s neck, licking the spot where his pulse beats before pulling back. “I think I like you debauched. When I’m fingering you, or putting my cock inside you, it feels like I’m ruffling you up a bit.”

“You’re doing more than ruffling me up.” Draco yawns again, turning his head to give Harry a smile. “And I like being debauched by you. If that’s what we’re calling it. Is that why you were so curious about toys?”

“I think so.” Harry gives Draco a grin. “Want to come to a sex shop with me again, Malfoy?”

“If you can keep your hands to yourself while we’re in there I will.”

“I’ve got something to ask you.” Harry sounds nervous and Draco cracks open his eyes.

“You’re not the sort to propose after fucking, are you?”

“What?” Harry stares at Draco and then laughs. “No, you twat.”

“Thank god for that. What did you want to ask?”

“I thought you might want to come and see Godric’s Hollow on Monday. Ginny’s moving out properly this weekend, and I’d like you to see it.”

“Happily.” Everything is just a little bit warmer and Draco slides the sheets over him, reaching a hand out so he can tug Potter closer even if he is like a furnace. “I’ll even make jam.”

Harry says something that sounds vaguely grubby, but Draco is already half asleep before he finishes.

*

Draco is inexplicably nervous, standing outside the door to Godric’s Hollow. He thought it would be entertaining to bring Potter an oil painting of himself he had commissioned when he was busy being an unbelievable arse. It was intended to be a hilarious house-warming gift, but now he’s standing outside Harry’s home with a painting of himself, feeling like a twat.

“Hiya.” Harry opens the door, his smile warm. He looks sleep-warm and rumpled, as if he’s just woken up from a nap, which he probably has. He’s wearing light jeans and his feet are bare. His t-shirt proclaims Gryffindors are the Greatest! which suggests Potter is as much of a dickhead as Draco is.

“I thought I would bring a gift.” Draco shoves the painting into Harry’s hand and makes his way inside the cosy hallway. “I also have wine, because I expect you have nothing drinkable in the house.”

“Thanks.” Harry tears the brown paper off the painting and huffs with laughter. “Fuck me, you really do love yourself, don’t you?”

“Hang it somewhere everyone can see,” Draco says, trying to sound flippant. “Or, alternatively, you might enjoy looking at my face when you’re feeling lonely at night.”

Harry narrows his eyes, casting his wand over the painting with a humph. “Is this magical? I don’t want a running commentary when I’m trying to get off.” He looks thoughtful. “Although, actually…”

“It’s not magical. It’s stupid. You can throw it in the bin if you like.” Draco’s cheeks heat and he tugs his collar away from his neck. “It was a joke.”

“A very good one. Thank you.” Harry puts the blasted portrait down and pulls Draco into a firm kiss. “Everything okay?”

“Yes.” Draco takes a breath, his nervousness receding just a little. He runs his fingers along Harry’s jaw, breathing in the familiar scent of him. “It is now.”

“I’ll show you around. I know how nosy you are,” Harry says. It’s rich, considering Harry is one who asks impertinent questions about whether people enjoy using sex toys or not.

Draco follows Harry into the living room, taking everything in. Harry seems content to let him poke about so he makes sure he takes in every part of the room. There’s a small, untidy bookcase crammed full of books about Quidditch and official-looking Auror examination texts. On the mantlepiece above the hearth several photographs occupy every inch of the surface. Draco recognises Harry’s parents from textbooks and he touches his fingers to the frame of the battered photograph with the waving twenty-somethings inside. It looks like the kind of photograph that’s been carried around for a long time. I’m sorry, Draco wants to say. I’m sorry that I was ever part of something that left him without you.

Draco moves on from James and Lily Potter to photographs of Harry’s friends. Ginny, Granger and Weasley take up a significant amount of room, laughing over ice-cream and waving at the camera from what looks like a Muggle theme park. There’s a brightness in every single one of the photos of Harry with his friends, as if the person behind the camera was laughing too. Nights out at the Three Broomsticks—he recognises Thomas and Finnegan drinking a yard of ale—Luna Lovegood plucking something out of Longbottom’s hair, as he bats her hand away, laughing. There’s a strange plant on the side, with a card on it and jagged, child-like writing.

Draco yanks his hand back before touching the plant. “When people say they want a houseplant to spruce the place up they don’t typically mean a Venomous Tentacula.”

“Don’t be rude about Terry.” Harry grins at Draco. “It’s from Hagrid. A birthday gift. Don’t worry, it’s harmless now. I’ve had it neutered.”

“Oh.” Draco touches the plant gingerly and it snaps at his fingers with a toothless grasp that’s more ticklish than anything else. “How…charming.”

“It could have been worse. I’ve had a baby dragon, a rare breed of flesh-eating pygmy puff and a three-foot-long Hippogriff egg before,” Harry says. He sounds remarkably cheerful about it.

“New York.” Draco picks up a photograph which is one of the few Muggle pictures on the shelf. It’s a black and white scene of Manhattan skyscrapers and distinctive taxi cabs. He glances at Harry. “You didn’t want a picture of Parkinson instead?”

Harry snorts under his breath. “No chance.” He moves close to Draco, looking at the photograph over his shoulder. “We could go if you like. I’m probably going back to the Ministry in October, so it mightn’t be for a while, but next year, maybe?”

Draco leans back into Harry, taking in the warmth of his body and the promise of next year which sends Draco’s heart beating faster.

“I’ve always wanted to go.”

“Then we’ll go,” Harry says, easily, as if it’s just that simple. It probably is, when you’re Harry Potter.

In the corner of the shelf, there’s an unexpected photograph that makes Draco slightly unsteady. He swallows and picks up the picture of himself from the Prophet. It’s not particularly old, or particularly new. It’s just a photograph of him leaving a shop Diagon Alley. He looks good. Happy, relaxed and not in the slightest bit pinched or angry as he used to look when the press took his picture. He remembers the day, and the article. It was after his second meeting with Harry and he decided to buy a new shirt in case Potter turned up again for a third.

“I thought I should have one picture, at least. I like this one. I don’t much like having pap shots on my mantlepiece.” Harry’s hand is warm and comforting on Draco’s side, his lips close to Draco’s cheek. “Thankfully, now I have a massive oil painting.” He sounds amused, his voice low and teasing.

“Lucky, that.” Draco puts the photograph back and turns to face Harry. “Did you just put that up for tonight?”

“Not really.” Harry shrugs. “I’ve had it for a bit. I’m not in the habit of keeping old copies of the Prophet, but I found that one the other day. I liked the picture, so I cut it out and kept it. It’s, like, a placeholder. Until we get a better one.”

Draco imagines being here on Harry’s mantlepiece, laughing with all his friends or doing something stupid with Harry as someone else takes the picture. There’s something untouchable about the images flicking through his mind, but it doesn’t seem like pure fiction. There’s such unexpected hope in that small space on the shelf that Draco’s made his way onto without even realising. I’m part of you here, Draco thinks. Not just in Bermondsey, not just in Muggle London. Here. Where you’re Harry Potter, I’m Draco Malfoy and everybody knows who we used to be. There are a hundred different photographs somewhere in their future, hazy and undefined but bright, colourful and rich with possibility.

“Is it weird?” Harry pushes a hand through his hair and pulls a face. “I’m not sure I’d like going over to some bloke’s house and seeing a load of pictures of me from the Prophet.”

Draco rolls his eyes. “You’re hardly some bloke. It’s not weird. I like it. I’m just thinking about the better ones.”

“Yeah.” Harry’s looks at Draco intently, a smile playing over his lips. “Me too.”

“You’re a sap.” Draco makes his way out of the living room as if he hasn’t just been daydreaming about skipping through fields of daffodils with Potter. “Show me the rest.”

Harry takes Draco through the rest of the house. Unlike the Bermondsey flat with its plain white walls and cold architectural details like exposed brickwork, steel and timber, Godric’s Hollow hums with magical energy. There are no televisions or Muggle devices anywhere, and the tiny cottage is full of nooks and crannies that have curious little details about Harry’s life hidden within them. There are broomsticks propped up against the wall, long wizarding robes and a Gryffindor scarf hanging in a little laundry room and smart, dragon-hide Quidditch boots that look well-worn. The kitchen is bright and airy, and Draco can almost hear the chatter of a family around the large wooden table. For a moment he pictures red-headed Weasleys and boys with bright green eyes clanging their spoons against bowls and laughing excitedly.

“Do you wish you could have a family?” Draco runs his hand over the table, the Potter-Weasley family flickering and fading away into another universe. Harry’s already talked about this, but Draco wants to hear his answer here, now, in this cosy domestic space he’s built.

“I thought I did.” Harry leans against the kitchen counter, looking at the table as if he’s imagining the same things Draco is. “I spent a long time thinking maybe I wouldn’t be complete without children of my own.”

“There are ways and means, if you want that,” Draco says.

“I know.” Harry shrugs. “I’m not saying never, but I think it’s okay. It took me a while to realise, I already have a family.” He gives Draco a lopsided smile. “It just looks different to the one I imagined.”

“I understand.” Draco does. He spent half his life expecting he would be like his mother and father, carrying on the Malfoy lineage. He knows it could happen, if he wanted it, but he’s no longer certain he does.

“Teddy stays with me once a week, too.” Harry laughs. “He’s a menace. Remus and Tonks’s kid,” he adds, for Draco’s benefit. He beams, proudly. “Plus, Hermione’s expecting.”

“She is?” Draco never expected to feel happy at the news of another Weasley in the world, but he does. Harry’s enthusiasm is infectious, and he makes a mental note to send flowers. “There’s also your crup.” Kneazle, he adds to himself. At least if Draco has any say in the matter.

“That too.” Harry adopts an innocent expression. “Want to see upstairs, Malfoy?”

Draco laughs. “I thought you’d never ask.”

*

Harry’s bedroom is not the mess of unwashed socks and Quidditch posters that Draco expected it to be. Of all the rooms, it’s the closest to his Bermondsey flat, with crisp, clean sheets and mahogany furniture. It smells like fresh paint, as if the room has been recently redecorated, and Draco wonders if Harry deliberately put his own stamp on this room first to wash away the past and to welcome new beginnings.

It couldn’t be more different to their last night together, which was a release of pent-up desire bubbling under the surface for hours of not being able to touch or sneak off for a moment’s relief. They undress one another slowly and stretch out on the bed, not in any particular rush to do things with the hot, heavy, desperate urgency of before.

“Can I fuck you tonight?” Draco looks down at Harry after pulling back from a delicious, languid kiss.

“Yeah.” Harry’s cheeks flush and he runs his tongue over his lips. “Although it’s been a while since I did that.”

“I’m more than happy to do things the other way, if you prefer.” Draco presses a kiss to Harry’s neck, breathing him in. “I think you know how much I like that.”

“I know.” Harry laughs, low and rich. “I’ll give that to you whenever you want. I’ve already said I’m at your service.”

The thought sends a shiver of pleasure through Draco and he makes a mental note to test that theory. He rather likes the thought of texting Harry on his Muggle mobile or Fire Calling him, demanding he come over immediately and attend to Draco’s needs.

“Don’t you like it?” Draco asks.

“I do.” Harry clears his throat. “I’m, um. Not sure how to put this.”

“Honestly?” Draco smirks at Harry, as if he, Draco Malfoy, is the paragon of truth-telling.

“Thanks, Malfoy.” Harry laughs and the tension in his body eases. “I’ve done it before, but I don’t do it a lot. It’s not been brilliant.” He obviously sees the flash of anger in Draco’s expression and he shakes his head. “Not bad, don’t look like you’re going to hex anyone. Just not brilliant.”

“It’s not, always.” Draco thinks back to some of his own less than satisfactory experiences. For the most part he’s entirely happy bottoming, but sex isn’t always good. Sometimes it’s messy, awkward and uncomfortable as fuck. “If you never want to bottom again, Potter, I’m sure I’ll survive. You don’t have to say you’re versatile just to give me options.”

“I’m open to it.” Harry’s brow furrows. “I’ve always been open to it—sometimes I’m really into the idea of it—but it’s not quite been as good as I thought it would be when I was,” Harry makes a crude gesturing motion with his hand, “you know.”

“Wanking,” Draco clarifies, helpfully. “You seem to do a lot of that.”

“No more than you, I bet.” Harry grins at Draco and pushes a hand through his hair. “I want to try it again with you, though. Let’s do it.”

“No pressure,” Draco mutters. He hasn’t topped for a while either, and he’s now developing a crisis of confidence with Harry seemingly placing all his hopes on tonight. It might be fucking awful. He narrows his eyes at Harry. “Are you being a Gryffindor about this? Here’s my arse, let’s see what happens?”

“No.” Harry laughs and rolls so Draco can feel his cock, semi-hard against Draco’s thigh. “Maybe a bit, but I’m definitely getting into the idea of it.” He slides his hand over Draco’s side, humming thoughtfully. “I like you topping me in other ways. I think I want you to top me like this, too.”

“If you’re sure.” Draco still feels doubtful.

“Oh, come on.” Harry pulls Draco over him and looks up at him, heartbreakingly lovely. “I’m not a blushing virgin, just get your cock inside me and stop being so noble.”

Draco bites Harry’s neck and pulls back. “Fine, where’s your lube?”

“Drawer.” Harry reaches across to open the top drawer in the bedside cabinet. “We’re doing this the Muggle way?”

“Apart from the condoms, yes.” Draco reaches across and grabs the lube. “You remember I don’t have a lot of experience with wizards. I think it’s best for both of us if I stick to the methods that usually work.”

“Okay.” Harry sounds slightly breathless. He stretches his arms over his head and gives Draco a thoughtful look. “Want to use handcuffs?”

Ohmygod. Draco glares at Harry. “Fuck, no. I mean, yes, obviously, but not now. Let me fuck you first, then I’ll tie you up and spank you after if you like.”

“If you like.” Harry tugs Draco into a kiss, his voice deep with arousal. “I’m actually looking forward to this.”

“Your surprise is incredibly flattering.” Draco rolls his eyes. He puts Harry’s lube easily to hand and nudges Harry. “Hands and knees for this bit. You can turn over when you’re ready, so I can fuck you on your back.”

Draco’s quite pleased with how crisp and instructive that sounded. I want to see your face when I’m inside you sounds awfully revealing, even if it’s precisely why he wants Harry in that position. Harry doesn’t seem to buy it for a minute, but he turns over dutifully and gives Draco a good eyeful of his gorgeous arse. Biting back a groan, Draco spreads Harry open and runs his tongue over Harry.

Unf!” is Harry’s less than eloquent response. The fact he pushes his backside into Draco’s face makes Draco think it’s a good unf. He tongues at Harry’s balls, stroking his cock with languid strokes. He gets to a point where there’s no doubt the sounds coming from Harry are full of approval, and he moves off Harry’s cock, holding him open and tonguing him in earnest. He uses his tongue to loosen Harry, listening for the hums and groans which tell him he’s doing a good job. He uses his tongue to relax Harry completely, before slicking his fingers with Harry’s lube. He makes sure there’s a liberal amount of it and slides a finger slowly inside Harry.

Draco.” Harry says Draco’s name like a plea, pushing back towards Draco’s finger. “I’m good, fuck me, will you?”

“Impatient.” Draco slides his finger out and gives Harry’s backside a light swat. “You’re ready when I say so.”

The response seems to make Harry even more turned on, his hands clenching the sheets as he speaks through gritted teeth.

Please.”

Draco wants Harry writhing and desperate. He wants more than one plea before he gives Harry what he wants. He pushes two fingers inside Harry, who is now thoroughly relaxed. It would be easy to fuck Harry now, but Draco wants to do this. He sees what Harry gets from it, being in this position and watching his fingers slide inside. Harry on the other end of a finger-fucking is a veritable treat. He pushes back against Draco’s hand, always so pent up and full of tireless energy. Draco takes his time, curling his fingers back towards him and making sure he hits his target enough times to drive Harry to the brink of pleasure. Eventually, he slides his fingers out and gets Harry on his back as he lubes himself up and casts the necessary protective charms.

“Hi,” Harry says. His voice is shaky around the edges. He tugs Draco into a messy kiss that’s teeth, tongue and pure want. “Will you do me, now?”

“Obviously, Potter.” Draco hooks Harry’s legs over his arms and then lifts himself up a little to position himself properly. “Okay?” Draco isn’t usually an okay sort of person, when it comes to sex. He believes in setting boundaries and establishing full, enthusiastic consent, but it’s not the kind of thing he feels the need to keep checking. Now, though, there’s more pulsing through his veins than desire. He can feel it in the clutch of his heart, the way his breath hitches at the look in Harry’s face as much as it does at the physical sensation of fucking.

“Come on, then.” Harry pulls Draco down and murmurs against his lips. “Get inside me.”

With a push, Draco moves Harry’s legs back against his chest and does just that. He keeps his face close to Harry, their breathing ragged as Draco slides almost out and pushes in again after giving Harry time to adjust. The combination of the hot, tight clench of Harry around him and the delicious sounds Harry makes is overwhelming. Fucking has never quite been so desperately intimate, and every part of Draco is sensitised to Harry. It’s as though he’s fucking Harry with his whole body and every raw, unbridled emotion that’s been welling up inside him opens like a dam. He kisses Harry, urgent, messy, fucking him slow and deep. Harry reaches down to wrap his hand around his cock, and Draco can feel the jerk of Harry’s hand beneath him, slapping against their bellies as Draco quickens his pace. Harry’s hair is damp and the untidy curls of his stick to his forehead, his eyes a brilliant, bold green when he flickers them open to look at Draco. Everything is overwhelming.

It’s not just being with Harry. It’s not just topping him for the first time. It’s doing it here, in Godric’s Hollow. This small, private, magical space that is in no way associated with Harry looking for a quick shag and a distraction from the job that isn’t working out exactly as planned. The cottage is so ineffably Harry Potter, it’s as though he’s letting Draco inside the most intimate parts of him in more ways than one. It’s the trust that comes with this, the hope implicit in a grainy newspaper photograph on the mantlepiece, the promise of New York and the casual conversation about families and future that isn’t really casual at all. Draco presses his lips to every damp, sweat-slick part of Harry’s skin he can reach. He takes him with his whole fucking soul, the one he thought had been lost somewhere on the way from childhood to this point in time. The salty tang of perspiration on Draco’s tongue is like communion, and he kisses, bites and sucks at the bits of Harry that thrum with magic and carry the beat of his racing heart. Draco has wanted greedily, selfishly, wantonly before, but he doesn’t think it’s ever been like this.

“I’m…” Harry’s sentence leaves him in a shudder and the damp heat of his climax spreads between them.

Draco slides out of Harry and straddles him, pulling his hand over his cock in urgent strokes. It’s already too much, but then Harry smiles up at him full of warmth, power and—

“—I think you should come on my face, Draco.”

It pushes Draco over the edge and he does just that. He slows the pace of his hand, chasing the last few seconds of his orgasm. He stares at Harry, filthy looking gorgeous, with come on his face and a beatific smile and Draco can’t help himself. He bursts out laughing, moving off Harry and tugging him into a terrible mess of a kiss that tastes like sweat, come and magic.

*

“I think I’m a bottom now,” Harry informs Draco, after polishing off the last slice of cheese on toast they brought up to bed. Toast in the bed is a terrible idea as a rule, but Harry has a nifty spell that gets any crumbs out of the sheets with a quick flick of his wand.

“In that case I think I’ve just cut off my nose to spite my face.” Draco levitates their plates and glasses to a nearby shelf to deal with in the morning. He stretches out on the bed, full and content. “You enjoyed it, then?”

“Yeah.” The movement of the bed tells Draco that Harry’s stretched out too. “I’m kidding, by the way.”

“Thank fuck for that.”

“I’ll want to do it again, though.”

“That can be arranged.” Draco glances at Harry. “What are we doing?”

“Seeing where things go.” Harry props himself up to look at Draco. “What do you want to be doing? Apart from the obvious.”

Draco musters up his courage. “I want to be in more of those photos of yours, and not because you cut me out of the paper like a stalker.”

“Okay.” Harry laughs, the sound warm and comforting. “You still have to take those pictures of me in leather and baby oil for Little Compton Street, anyway. We can put those up.”

“We definitely can’t.” Draco’s pretty sure there won’t be any posters or pictures fit for public consumption if that particular fantasy ever plays out. He looks curiously at Harry. “How do you feel about monogamy?” Draco knows they discussed this in a roundabout sort of way, but it’s very different when it’s hypothetical.

“In general, or with you?”

“With me,” Draco says, his mouth dry.

“Good.” Harry presses a kiss to Draco’s chest, just over his heart. “I feel good about it. You?”

“The same.” Draco struggles with trying to phrase the thoughts racing through his mind in a way that doesn’t send Potter running for the hills. “People think the places I went to were so seedy, but I never thought of them like that. I enjoyed it.”

Harry props himself on his elbow and looks at Draco. He’s so much, it takes Draco’s breath away. He trails his free hand along Draco’s chest. “Are you thinking you still want to go to those places if we keep doing this?”

“No.” Draco doesn’t want that. The idea of getting even one hundredth of what he gets from Harry from anyone else is ludicrous. He already feels as though there are parts of him—the part that beats out Harry’s name in his chest in particular—that belong only to Harry. “I just want to know your expectations.”

“Okay.” Harry looks serious. “My expectations are that we’re monogamous. That’s how I feel at the minute. I know something more open works for a lot of people, but I can’t imagine drinking with friends, knowing you were at Pleasuredrome or wherever the fuck.” He breathes out, steadily. “But I’d rather you tell me if that’s what you want, than keep it to yourself until it becomes something you do without telling me.”

“I would,” Draco says. He’s not used to being forthright and wearing his heart on his sleeve, but this is a promise he knows he can keep. “I would talk about it.” He honestly can’t imagine it being something he has to raise with Harry, but he also knows they’re in that heady period where everything is sex, heightened passions and looking misty-eyed towards the future. He hasn’t been in a relationship long enough to know how difficult monogamy might become after one year or twenty.

“And if I want?” Harry asks, carefully. “If I decide I ever want to talk about it?”

A wave of nausea rolls through Draco. The idea of anyone else touching Harry makes him want to throw up. He’s not good at sharing. He’s jealous, and he knows exactly how he would react if Harry blithely suggested he might want anything or anyone other than Draco.

“I would probably tell you to fuck off,” Draco says. He glances at Harry. “But eventually I’d listen.”

“Yeah.” Harry grins. “Same.”

“Neither of us have done this before.”

“I think we’ve done this quite a few times.” Harry slides his hand over Draco’s side. “I’m ready to do it again.”

“Because you’re a sex pest. I’m trying to be serious.”

“I know.” Harry stops what he’s doing for a minute and pushes a hand through his hair. “We both might be shit at relationships. Open relationships work for people. I’m not there now and I’m not sure I’ll ever be. But I’ll tell you. If that changes, I’ll tell you.”

“Me too.” Draco grimaces. “I’m not sure I’d be good at it.”

“Me neither.” Harry gets back to kissing down Draco’s chest before pulling back and giving Draco a curious look. “Why did you bring up the saunas if it’s not because you want to go off to one later?”

“No, I don’t. That’s not what I’m asking.” Draco’s sweating because he doesn’t think he’s ever been so unflinchingly honest with anyone, before. He’s never really been in a position that necessitated this kind of conversation.

“Then tell me. Tell me what you’re asking.” Harry leans down and kisses Draco on the edge of his jaw, which clenches as he tries to find the right words.

“I’m saying I like it sometimes. The anonymity of it. The idea of fucking a stranger. I think you enjoyed it too, having a night in sweaty clubs and a pretty blond on his knees.”

Harry laughs, low in his throat. “I did. I liked it a lot.”

“I’m suggesting there might be ways to recreate that. With magic.”

Harry’s eyes flare with interest as he pulls back. “Oh. We could do that.” Harry stretches out, palming his half-hard cock lightly. “We don’t know each other. You could just be waiting for me. I could be anyone.”

Draco bites back a groan and pushes Harry onto the bed, straddling him. He rocks over Harry’s cock as it hardens beneath him.

Harry’s eyes shine, and he slides his hand over Draco’s sides. “I’m a pretty powerful wizard, Malfoy. I could make this place look exactly how you like it.” His eyes darken, and he grips onto Draco more tightly. “Do that, one day. Make me get everything ready for you. Be a selfish, demanding arsehole, because I think I get off on that.”

Draco murmurs a lubricating charm to leave himself slick with lube, bending down to kiss Harry. “I’m going to use your cock for my pleasure now, Potter. Keep talking.”

Harry seems more than happy to oblige.

*

It seems apt that it’s an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday morning when everything goes to hell.

Aristotle drops the Daily Prophet on Draco’s table when he’s just finishing his crumpet with lashings of butter and raspberry jam, hooting as if there’s something important that Draco needs to see. The morning paper doesn’t usually invite much trepidation unless there’s a rumoured dip in some of Draco’s shares. This morning, however, Draco has a sense of something amiss even as he unfurls the paper to peruse the front cover.

The Boy Who Cheated!

Despite reports that Harry Potter has been building bridges with Ginny Weasley, this paper can exclusively report that Potter has set his sights on a far more unlikely suitor. On Tuesday morning, former Death Eater and known homosexual Draco Malfoy, was photographed leaving Potter’s home in Godric’s Hollow.

Our source confirmed that Potter and Malfoy have been meeting in secret for some time, in a little-known magical street in Soho. Our source told us that Potter and Malfoy have been “eye-fucking all over London for ages.” All reports suggest that Potter and Malfoy are now enjoying a whole new level of intimacy, presumably in the bed Potter used to share with his lovely fiancée. Another anonymous source informs us that Draco Malfoy is a known practitioner of sadomasochism and has a fully equipped sex dungeon in the basement of his family home in Wiltshire.

When asked to comment, Ginevra Weasley told us: “bugger off and leave me alone.”

She is clearly devastated by this new turn of affairs and may never recover from the trauma.

TURN TO PAGE 12, 13, 14 AND 15 FOR AN INSIGHT INTO THE SECRET DEN OF DEVIANTS AND PERVERTS, LITTLE COMPTON STREET.

There’s a thump from the Floo followed by a very familiar ouch!

“Potter?” Draco advances to his Floo where Potter—covered in soot—has his hands pressed against a translucent wall, a very disgruntled look on his face.

“Seriously?” Harry moves, and it sends a billow of green Floo powder into the chimney, making him cough. “Your wards aren’t open to me?”

“I didn’t think.” Draco drops the wards, allowing Potter to stumble through. “I couldn’t imagine any reason for you to want to come to the Manor.”

“Couldn’t imagine any reason?” Harry puts his hands on his knees, coughing again. Finally he rights himself, glaring at Draco. “Maybe I love you, Potter, let’s be boyfriends would be reason enough.”

Draco definitely hasn’t said I love you orlet’s be boyfriends but thinks that now’s probably not the right time to point out either of those things, as Potter launches into another dramatic coughing fit.

“I’ll change the wards.”

“Oh, brilliant. Thanks.” Harry leans on Draco’s ottoman with a wheeze. He waves his hand. “Love what you’ve done with the place.”

“There’s no need to be sarcastic.”

“Your creepy paintings are staring at us.”

“Because Harry Potter fell through the Floo.” Draco guides Harry into his study which is the one room in the Manor that doesn’t carry any of the vestiges of the old Malfoy family. Perhaps Harry is right, Draco really needs to redecorate. “I’ve just seen the Prophet.”

“Yeah.” Settled with a cup of tea, sitting in one of Draco’s leather armchairs, Harry finally stops coughing. “It’s a load of bollocks.”

“Aside from the fact it’s all true, apart from the bit about my sex dungeon and Weaslette’s traumatic heartbreak.” Draco pours himself a coffee and watches Aristotle swoop around the study, before settling on a stack of books. “What do you want to do about it?”

Harry looks miserable. “I don’t want them going after Little Compton Street. Paul’s asked if I’ll say something at Compton Common on Saturday. People want reassurances that the Ministry isn’t going to start getting heavy-handed. I’ve got a meeting with Kingsley about it.”

“It could turn out to be a good thing.” Draco isn’t sure the Prophet ever does any good and he hates the way they saw fit to wrench the feeling of safety away from the little street that has started to feel like home. “If anyone is in position to raise awareness, you can.”

“Perhaps.” Harry frowns, deep in thought. “Do you think anyone would listen?”

“To you?” Draco turns his eyes heavenwards. “I imagine they might. Even if you are spending time eye-fucking me all over London and actually fucking me in your pre-marital bed.”

“I really want to know who these bloody sources are,” Harry grumbles. He rakes his hand through his hair and sighs. “I’ll see how it goes at the Ministry.”

Draco contemplates Harry, thinking of some of their conversations since this all began. “Didn’t you say yourself that you lost a sense of purpose after the war? Maybe this is your new fight.”

“I’m not sure I’m up for another one.” Harry rubs his jaw. Draco doesn’t believe it for a minute. Harry Potter will always be fighting for something, whether he wants to or not.

“You’re not alone in this fight.”

Harry raises his eyebrows at Draco. “I wasn’t alone in the last one.”

“You were, and you weren’t.” Draco puts his coffee down and crosses his legs. “The whole battle doesn’t rest on your shoulders, this time. There are plenty of people who will support you. My name is unlikely to help anything, but I’m extremely rich, Potter.”

“Your three hundred pound brolly gave that away,” Harry mutters.

Draco waves his hand. He is rich, wealthier than he likely deserves, but with this he can use that fortune for some good. The Malfoy name will never lose its associations with pure-blood politics and some of the darkest periods of wizarding history, but he can put the fortune his family amassed by pursuing all of the wrong paths, into finally pursuing the right one.

Draco pushes the thoughts of his own position to one side and continues. “McGonagall is in charge at Hogwarts, Longbottom is on the staff, you have the Minister of Magic on the other end of a Fire Call whenever you need and Weasley and Granger are advancing through the ranks. Not to mention you’re a shoo-in for Head Auror when you return to work. You’re annoyingly well-connected.”

“The Prophet has a way of changing people’s perceptions.”

Draco snorts. “The Prophet has been a farce for a long time. Throw their words back at them. What did they call Little Compton Street? A den of deviants and perverts.” Draco shrugs. “Put it on a t-shirt.”

“Very Slytherin of you.” Potter grins at Draco, as if he doesn’t have a decent dose of Slytherin himself.

“I try.” Draco glances around his study, realising Harry has never been here before. He’s suddenly acutely aware of the way the cold Manor must feel in comparison to Harry’s cosy, countryside home. “My study.” He gestures towards the desk. “Does it meet your approval?”

Harry runs his tongue over his lips and gives Draco a very pointed look, trailing his eyes over Draco’s body with not an ounce of subtlety.

“Malfoy?”

“Hm?”

“Have you ever been fucked over a desk?” Harry pushes the sleeves of his jumper up, as if he’s preparing himself for action.

“No.” Draco stands and meets Harry in the middle of the room, the Prophet nearly forgotten. “But I expect I soon will be.”

Harry runs a hand down Draco’s back and brushes his lips against Draco’s ear, which sends shivers down Draco’s spine. Harry’s hands are truly sublime. “That’ll do for starters. Then I want to see that bedroom of yours. The one where you were a snotty teenager, wanking over me.”

“You wish,” Draco says without any heat. “You’re the one who’s been tossing off to pictures of me in the Prophet for years.”

Harry points to the desk. “Do you want me to fuck you, or not?”

Draco does, so he unbuckles his belt and decides any further insults can wait.

*

“Excuse me, Mr Malfoy?” A young witch in a Hufflepuff scarf approaches Draco. She’s carrying a stack of leaflets. “Could you possibly help us to promote our event?”

Draco looks at the leaflet, a swell of pride leaving his cheeks hot. It’s the first time Draco has ever been asked to put his support behind something that might help, instead of something that could turn the world upside down. He knows that he’s one small part of a much larger movement on the cusp of something important, but it helps not to have people flinching away from him or avoiding him in the street.

“Deviants and Perverts Yule Ball.” Draco turns the leaflet in his hands with a smile. “How…festive.”

“I think so.” The girl gives him a happy grin and extends her hand. “I’m Aisha. I’m the founding member of LEVIOSA, lesbians against discrimination.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Draco shakes Aisha’s hand. “I’ll do what I can.”

“Thanks!” She gives him another cheeky smile. “Can’t wait for Harry’s speech. I bet he’s dynamite in the sack, and I’m not even into wizards. See ya!”

Draco stares after her, jolted out of his thoughts when Harry approaches. “There’s a rumour going around that you’re a sex-god.” Draco hands Harry the leaflet. “We should support this.”

“We will.” Harry squeezes Draco’s hand, his palm clammy. “I hope you’re not going around telling people I’m rubbish in bed, just because you’re jealous.”

“Please. I want people to think I have impeccable taste.” Draco shakes his head. “There are new groups springing up all over the place.”

“Brilliant, isn’t it?” Harry puts the leaflet in his pocket and pulls out a bit of crumpled parchment. “Are we ready?”

“I think so.” Draco looks around Little Compton Street, resisting the urge to give the Prophet photographers the finger. “Who invited the press?”

“I did.” Hermione appears by Draco’s side. She sounds cross. “They’ve already taken my words out of context three times.”

“Luna said she would run a special report in The Quibbler,” Harry says. “It won’t get as much readership as the Prophet, but at least it’ll be accurate.”

“See?” Draco nudges Harry with his elbow. “Connected.” He thinks of Jonathan Ashton, struggling to make his voice heard in a void where nobody wanted to listen. He swallows around the lump in his throat. “We’re lucky.”

“Very.” Harry’s mind seems to be in the same place, his expression sombre. “I think it’s time.”

The crowds part and Harry makes his way towards the makeshift stage set up in the middle of Compton Common. The cameras flash and the hub-bub of noise drowns out the first few words of his speech, until he clears his throat and casts a Sonorous so he can properly be heard. His eyes find Draco’s in the crowd, and he begins to speak.

“In the eighties, Jonathan Ashton went to Hogsmeade armed with no more than his wand and the hope that if other people heard his story it would prevent people from dying. The only spell he cast was the same spell I’m casting today, to amplify his voice so his message could be heard by the widest possible audience. He was thrown into Azkaban for three nights on a fabricated charge. Following Jonathan’s arrest hundreds of wizards and transgender witches, primarily from marginalised groups, died of an illness called AIDS. Jonathan Ashton died of the same disease when he was twenty-six years of age. His death went unnoticed by all but those who knew him.

Little Compton Street has been described by the Prophet as a den of perverts and deviants. If that is what we are, then I am proud to be part of it. For centuries, this street has been a place that allowed people like me to meet in safety, away from those that believe we’re doing something wrong. The reason this street has been hidden for so long says more about everyone else than it does about the friendship, love and community that exists here. Magical people often believe themselves to be superior, because we can cast spells and make potions. Yet when Jonathan Ashton looked for help the only people that offered it outside of Little Compton Street were Muggles. We put him in prison for trying to call attention to unnecessary deaths. It is 2010 and for all our magical prowess we are decades behind Muggles when it comes to understanding the different ways there are to live, and love. The wars have shown all of us the harm caused by bigotry, hatred and violence and they have also demonstrated the power of hope for a better tomorrow.”

Harry takes a breath and Draco can see the fury etched on his face, feel the force of his magic and the power in his conviction as he finishes his speech with his parchment shaking in his hand.

“I am a gay man. If you came here today for any quote or confirmation, this is it. I ask if you have bad intentions to leave Little Compton Street to those who do not. I am only alive today because of love and I refuse to live my life without it, or to be cowed by the fear of public condemnation. I will be returning to the Ministry in October and nobody else will be allowed to die of indifference on my watch.”

Harry crumples up his paper and pushes it into his pocket, dropping the wand from his neck.

The crowd murmurs as Paul takes over the stand, announcing a wand lighting vigil for the lives lost on Little Compton Street. Harry pushes through the crowds, his expression firm as he refuses to answer the questions from Prophet reporters. When he finally reaches Draco, he takes him in his arms and Draco kisses Harry wishing he had a big fuck you sign to show to the paps, as the cameras pop, flash and click around them.

“Hope will never be silent”

Harvey Milk, 1978

On Saturday 1 July 2012, Draco decides to take an early morning walk through London. He leaves Harry’s flat and crosses over Tower Bridge, which is already filling up with tourists in colourful cagouls taking pictures of the Tower of London and the River Thames. Large boats ferrying people from East to West make their steady journey across the dark water, which pulses with choppy waves and strong undercurrents, winding snake-like as it divides North and South. He stops at a tourist shop next to the Tower and orders a coffee, checking his phone when it pings in his pocket.

where are you?

went for a walk

see you at Diagon

I’ll bring glitter

please don’t

Draco wonders if his heart will always skip and trip when he gets a new message from Harry, still the only contact in his phone. Draco sips his coffee as he makes his way towards St Paul’s. The Square Mile is ghostly and still, without the City workers to fill the streets with their dark suits and crisp conversations on mobile phones. Even the shops largely shut down on the weekend, with only one or two open for business. The sun is watery and struggles to break through the white blanket of cloud, darkened at the edges by the rainclouds which loom on the horizon. There’s a mugginess in the air, a closeness left by the scorching June sun on black tarmac, tall glass buildings reflecting the rays onto the streets below and the heaviness of the traffic on London’s roads.

Instead of taking his usual path along the Strand to the coffee shop he and Harry still frequent, Draco ends up in Little Compton Street. It seems like years since he and Potter first discovered the Soho Bookshop, with its neon signs, sex toys and magazines. He picks up a copy of Leather Daddies to remind Harry of the first time they discovered a whole new world. In some ways, Draco thinks of that as the start. In others, today feels like the real beginning.

Little Compton Street is humming with activity, and the stretch of boarded up bars have taken on a new lease of life, with their shiny windows and fresh paintwork. Not all have reopened as they were, and one of the shop frontages declares Centaurs Coffee – Coming Soon!, the first creep of advertising that almost certainly won’t be the last. The brick walls are covered with advertising for male grooming products, magical lube companies promising A better slide than Astroglide! which sprung up seemingly from nowhere and fashionable boutiques selling everything from branded underpants (enhance your package without magic!) to dragon-hide boots. One of the most welcome new additions sits squarely between the Joiners and the site for the new Centaurs. Bulstrode’s Binders and Bespoke Tailoring.

In the courtyard, the plans for the Pride after-party are already in motion, with rich, rainbow colours hanging from every brick and bar, huge rainbow flags suspended in the air and an enormous Happy Pride sign hanging over Compton Common. A half-finished stage in the Common, announces bands like Potter and the Pixies, Magic! and The Thestrals, that are expected to attract large crowds to Little Compton Street that afternoon. For the first time, the sky is charmed with the warmth of the sun on a hot summer’s day, and the magical rays cast their light around the courtyard, making the highly polished windows and the spruced-up bar frontages glisten and shine.

Draco escapes the bustle and slips into the alley by the Christopher Street Inn, stopping in front of the smiling face of Jonathan Ashton. Next to the sign, work is already in progress for a clinic like the one in Dean Street, freshly painted and ready for its opening. Draco looks through the window, his stomach flipping at the sight of the tidy reception and the rows and rows of leaflets ready for visitors to take. This, in part, was his work. Draco’s name is still something people are leery about and even after all this time, the press continues to speculate about whether Draco’s deviant ways were responsible for corrupting Harry Potter. When Draco donates funds he does so anonymously, because anything bearing the name Malfoy is tarnished by the memories of the war. It’s Granger that helped get this project off the ground and put her name behind the work. The only thing Draco has funded that carries any association with the Malfoy family is the St Mungo’s Narcissa Award for young Healers who demonstrate outstanding promise in the field of Muggle medicine.

After soaking up the atmosphere in Little Compton Street for a while longer, Draco surfaces on Charing Cross and makes his way to Diagon Alley.

“I made you a sign.” Harry’s arms wrap around Draco’s waist and he keeps his voice low, so Draco alone can hear him. “It says Potty for Potter.”

“Oh good, I’ve been looking for some paper to burn.” Draco leans back in the circle of Harry’s arms, which have increasingly started to feel like home. “How many people?”

“A few hundred, I think. It’s not bad, considering it’s the first.”

“Not bad at all.” Draco takes in the small, disparate groups huddling together in the spot where the Magical Persons Pride Parade is due to start. The air crackles with nervous energy. Palpable excitement mingles with an underlying tension and the unshakable sense that this is an event that will change things forever. It might not be quick, it might not be easy, but it’s a step forwards, out of the archways of Little Compton Street and into the open air.

“The sun has finally risen on Little Compton Street,” Draco says. He pulls out of Harry’s grasp and presses a kiss to his cheek, lingering long enough to breathe in the familiar, soapy scent of him. “I’m planning to get outrageously drunk.”

“Me too,” Harry agrees, cheerfully. “I’ll probably disgrace you.”

“No change there.” Draco smiles at Harry, whose grin is infectious. “Just us tonight?”

“Just us.” Harry’s eyes drop to Draco’s lips, dark with a flash of desire. It’s always been just us, ever since that conversation in Godric’s Hollow, but as neither of them have a brilliant relationship history, Draco likes to check in on occasion. Ultimately, there’s really nothing better than sex with Harry, which is the greatest drug of all as far as Draco’s concerned. He’s sure that must make him quite nauseating to be around.

“I hope you don’t expect me to carry the other side of that banner of yours.” Draco points to the furled-up roll of canvas propped against the wall. He already knows it says Ministry of Magic LGBT Society across the front, largely because he helped Potter make the damn thing. “I imagine I’ll be arrested by Aurors if it looks as though I’m trying to involve myself with the Ministry.”

“Ron’s carrying the other side.” Harry’s chest puffs out with pride. “Hermione got him a t-shirt that says Auror Ally on it.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Draco rolls his eyes. He glances around at the Aurors who have turned out in force, noticing that the ones wearing the Auror Ally t-shirts or—like Potter—the Some Aurors are Gay. Get over it! t-shirts are in the minority. Most of the others pace amongst the crowds, looking official and serious as they try to keep an eye out for any sign of trouble. For every Auror decked out in rainbow face paints and t-shirts, there are at least three that are all business, there because they think the crowds might need protecting from the patrons of Little Compton Street, with their colourful banners and defiant chants.

The banners are a brilliant, colourful assortment of political messages and charities and activist organisations that have come out of the, well, out of the closet, since the Prophet exposed the existence of Little Compton Street and Harry started working in earnest on his new fight. Draco’s heart lurches at the sight of Harry, wearing his rainbow flag like a cape. He’s chatting to Paul from the Christopher Street Inn, who holds a placard high in the air with Jonathan Ashton’s picture on it, advertising the new Christopher Street clinic and seeking new volunteers for ACT UP. Draco’s heart gets too big for his chest and he can’t help the ball of fear that settles in his belly. He keeps looking at the crowd, trying to catch a glimpse of a Death Eater mask or somebody who might try to cast a spell at Harry—the celebrity that the Prophet is already describing as too vocal, too opinionated, too gay. As encouraging as the progress has been, and as happy as it clearly makes Harry to have a cause, there are people that wish him ill.

Before he can start really panicking, Draco takes a calming breath and tries to settle the itch beneath his skin. Instead of focusing on Harry, he focuses on the banners, finding new ones with each addition to the burgeoning crowd.

Society for Queers in Quidditch

Bi the way I’m not straight or gay

My Agenda is Transgender Rights!

Lesbians for Lycanthropes

Diagon Alley isn’t straight and neither am I!

Harry returns to Draco’s side before the parade begins, just in time for the first clap of thunder and a few fat drops of rain.

True to his word, Draco isn’t holding a banner, largely because he doesn’t want to lug something around Diagon Alley. He would prefer to hold Potter’s hand, because he can’t shake the way everything has a fleeting, surreal quality to it, the memory of discovering dusty shops and the echoes of angels on Little Compton Street. He has a picture in his mind, so sharp and vivid, of Sirius Black and James Potter kissing to Bowie and wonders if they’re here too, somewhere, watching the group of misfits about to take their first steps forward. He can’t take Harry’s hand though, because he’s clutching onto his banner with one and using the other to show off a clever rainbow spell he’s been practicing. The sparks and bright lights from his wand surround those nearby in cascading, rainbow-bright colours that mingle with the rain. The reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues and violets bleed into the puddles on the street, until everything shines with the hues of a hundred different rainbows.

“You’re such an unbearable show-off,” Draco tells him, even when he knows it’s not true. They're marching right in the middle of the parade, because Harry refused to march at the front. He wanted other voices, other groups to have their moment in the spotlight. The rain gets heavier and Draco sighs, putting an umbrella charm over his head. “I think this is what they call raining on our parade.”

“I like it.” Harry tips his face up to the rain, ignoring the fact he’s one of Britain’s most powerful wizards in favour of having a moment in the storm. The rain tracks down his cheeks like tears, but his expression is one of pure, unadulterated happiness. A beautiful, messy boy full of contradictions and the fiercest desire to fight, fight, fight.

“You would.” Draco puts his arm around Potter, waiting for the parade to begin. “I’m bored. When do we start walking?”

“Any minute now.” Harry turns to Draco, his breath hot on Draco’s cold skin. “I can keep you entertained until we get going.”

“Please do.” Draco pulls Harry out of the downpour, under his umbrella charm, and they laugh as their lips connect.

Their kiss tastes like London rain.

~Fin~

Chapter Text

In this fic I included multiple references to aspects of queer space, history and activism, specifically movements around the late sixties onward, in the UK, America and certain parts of Europe. Because I'm a massive geek, I thought I would list out those references and the moments in history or locations that inspired them in case any of this kind of detail is of interest to you. Please feel free to offer any of your own thoughts/contributions in the comments if you wish.

I have also created a Spotify playlist for this fic which can be found HERE and my reasons for choosing a couple of the songs on the playlist are also highlighted below. I hope you enjoy these little facts and bits of detail.

LONDON TOWN

Little Compton Street was a real place in Soho which connected Old Compton Street at its junction with Charing Cross to New Compton Street in 1896. You can still see the buried sign for the street under a grate but the street itself is no more. It has been blocked by an office block and part of the street became Old Compton Street. Because of the fact Compton Street has long had connections with (typically gay and bisexual male) space and the fic explores disappearing bars/hidden communities, Little Compton Street struck me as the perfect location. The pubs Comptons of Soho (est. 1986, formerly The Swiss Hotel est. 1890) referenced by Draco and the Admiral Duncan (est. 1832), which Sirius references in his diaries, are both well-known gay pubs on Old Compton Street. In 1999 the Admiral Duncan was the site of a nail-bomb attack by a Neo-Nazi.



The Soho Bookshop which houses the entrance to Little Compton Street is inspired by Soho Original Books on Brewer Street. It is also a general homage to all of the LGBT and erotic bookshops that existed in the Soho area over the years, and the book shops in London which are known for selling LGBT literature, most notably Gay’s the Word, one of the only specifically lesbian and gay bookstore in the United Kingdom, located in Bloomsbury.

THE PUBS OF LITTLE COMPTON STREET

The closed bars mentioned when Harry and Draco discover Little Compton Street are all names of LGBT bars in London that have closed and of course that storyline is a comment on the gentrification of areas like Soho that were formerly queer space and have gradually been taken over by office blocks, regular bars and chains. Draco’s saunas are all still in existence, but the Chariots sauna, once part of a large chain, now only has premises in Vauxhall.

Joiner's Arms. Although I have referenced several closed LGBT bars in London in passing, LLAP115 and I agreed to focus on this one in the piece of art inspired by the fic so it gets a specific mention here. A pub and nightclub on Hackney Road in East London, the Joiner's closed in 2015. A campaign to save the building led to a condition in planning permission for the new flats proposed on the site that they could only go ahead if they include a pub that will "remain a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-focused venue for a minimum of 12 years." It is believed to be the first time that the sexual orientation of a venue’s customers has been included as a condition of planning approval.

Christopher Street Inn. The name of this pub pays tribute to the Stonewall Inn, the location of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The renovated Stonewall Inn is on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, New York. The posters that Draco notices in the pub for the ‘Flesh’ night is a reference to the 90s queer scene in Manchester. Flesh was a monthly night at Hacienda launched with ad campaigns using slogans like 'Queer as Fuck' and 'Practice makes Pervert.’



source: manchester digital music archive

Mayor & Miners. This pub references American politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk, the ‘Mayor of Castro’ and Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, the LGBT activist group that supported the UK's striking miners during the eighties. LGSM raised substantial funds for the miners and the support was reciprocated when mining unions lead the 1985 London Pride march. Draco’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Harry put ‘Deviants and Perverts’ on a t-shirt is a further nod to the group, who took negative press and turned it around to their benefit. The 'Pits and Perverts' fundraising ball in Camden's Electric Ballroom, raising over £5000.


source: LGSM archive

Rivera & Johnson. This pub is named after the American gay lib and transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Marsha P. Johnson was at the forefront of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a founder of the Gay Liberation Front and with Sylvia Rivera co-founded the STAR, a group dedicated to helping homeless young drag queens and trans women of colour. The importance of trans women of colour like Marsha P. Johnson and the impact they suffered as a result of the AIDS crisis can have a tendency to be erased from accounts of the gay lib movement. In a speech at Christopher Street Liberation Rally (1973) Rivera said: I have lost my job. I have lost my apartment for gay liberation and you all treat me this way? What the fuck's wrong with you all? Think about that! I do not believe in a revolution, but you all do. I believe in the gay power. I believe in us getting our rights, or else I would not be out there fighting for our rights...If you all want to know about the people in jail...do not forget Bambi L'amour, and Dora Mark, Kenny Metzner...come and see the people at Star House on Twelfth Street on 640 East Twelfth Street between B and C apartment 14. The people are trying to do something for all of us, and not men and women that belong to a white middle class white club. And that’s what you all belong to!. Both Marsha and Sylvia spent their lives dedicated to LGBT activism.

The Tavern. This pub is named after the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, an iconic London gay bar and South London’s oldest surviving gay venue. In 2015 the building was listed as a site of historic importance to LGBT communities. Rumour has it that Princess Diana, who did a significant amount of work on HIV and AIDS related causes, was smuggled into the RVT by Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett, disguised as a boy. The pub staged a play about that night as part of LGBT History Month in 2015

The Sundowner. The Sundowner club is named after Sundown Discotheque on Charing Cross which was the location for ‘Bang’ one of London’s first queer club nights which opened in 1976. According to the Sabotage Times, in a piece recounting the recent history of London’s gay clubs, “prior to the opening of Bang gay venues in London were either small members' clubs or...dives with postage stamp-sized dance floors.” The reason I chose this as a site for the first kiss between Harry and Draco is because even following the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK in 1967, the legislation stated that men aged 21 and over could only conduct homosexual activity in private. This meant that gay men could be arrested for kissing and sometimes even chatting in public, even in places hosting events like this, which were frequently raided by the police. The original materials advertising Bang included this sobering reminder of the legislation.



Gateways. The Gateways club (or “the Gates”) (est. 1931) was a noted lesbian nightclub located at 239 Kings Road on the corner of Bramerton Street in Chelsea. It was one of the few places in the UK that women could meet other women in the 40s, 50s and 60s. It closed in 1985. The Little Compton Street Gates, unlike many of the other bars referenced, remains open past 1985 and continues to be a meeting place for witches during Harry and Draco's era on the street. The references to Elsie Ware - the Queen of the Gates in the Little Compton Street installment focusing on Minerva McGonagall's life, Play Me Like A Love Song, was inspired by the surname of one of the original owners, Ted Ware, who ran the Gates with his wife Gina Cerrato. The Smithy referenced a number of times in Play Me Like A Love Song was also inspired by a Smithy who co-owned the Gates with Gina from 1959. The real life Smithy was originally from California and a member of the American Air Force, and was posted in London. She had an arranged marriage in order to stay in the UK with Gina and Ted.

Rainbow Flag. The rainbow flag was designed by San Francisco based artist Gilbert Baker and was first used in 1978 as a symbol of pride. In 1978 the flag originally had eight stripes (the extra two removed due to the difficulties with finding the fabrics for those colours). That's why the flag in the art accompanying this fic has eight stripes, a suggestion made by LLAP115 when we discussed how I wanted the fic to reflect aspects of LGBT history and activism.

Pride. The date 1 July for the first Magical Persons Pride Parade was chosen as it is the date of the first London Pride. The date of that Pride was selected as the nearest Saturday to the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

AIDS ACTIVISM AND ACT UP


source: ACT UP Oral History Project

Johnathan Ashton. This name was chosen as an amalgamation of the names Jonathan Blake and Mark Ashton. Both were founding members of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. Mark died from AIDS aged 26. Jonathan was one of the first men the UK to be diagnosed with HIV and after refusing several early treatments, he is still alive and remains heavily involved with activism today.

ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. ACT UP is the real name of an organisation founded by Larry Kramer in 1987 in New York, which had factions in major cities, including London and Paris. The London faction was founded by Peter Tatchell. The film 120 Beats Per Minute (2017) documents the Paris chapter of ACT UP. The organisation staged 'die-ins' at sites such as churches and places of political importance, and used fake blood to raise awareness of the devastation caused by AIDS. Although the London faction disbanded in the 90s, they revived in 2012 and dropped half a tonne of manure on UKIP leader Nigel Farage's doorstep when he said people with HIV should be prohibited from entering the UK.

Paul. I chose the name Paul for the barman of Christopher Street Inn as a reference to the gay American author, activist and essayist, Paul Monette, who is also quoted at the beginning of Part II. Monette wrote his memoir-style Becoming a Man: Half A Life Story, but is also known as one of the foremost gay male writers documenting his experiences of the AIDS epidemic and the loss of his partner Rog in texts such as ‘Elegies for Rog’, ‘Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir’ and ‘Last Watch of the Night’.

“We queers of Revelation hill...died of the greed of power, because we were expendable. If you mean to visit any of us, it had better be to make you strong to fight that power. Take your languor and easy tears somewhere else. Above all, don't pretty us up. Tell yourself: None of this ever had to happen. And then go make it stop, with whatever breath you have left. Grief is a sword, or it is nothing.”

Monette died from AIDS related illness in 1995 and his books remain one of the foremost accounts of the impact of AIDS on gay men in America.

Dean Street Clinic. I located the unnamed clinic referenced a couple of times in the story on Dean Street in Soho in homage to the multiple places offering sexual health services on Dean Street over the years. These clinics provided support for sexual health, tests, advice on contraceptives and so on. 56 Dean Street and their work in London offering, among other things, advice and treatments for people living with HIV, featured in the documentary Chemsex (2015) about the rise of the chemsex scene in London.

MUSIC AND POP CULTURE

Justin a.k.a. 'Sunshine'. The barman who makes a brief appearance a the Christopher Street Inn was named after Justin from Queer as Folk (US). The UK version of Queer as Folk (originally titled Queer as Fuck) aired in the late nineties and chronicled the lives of three gay men living in Manchester's LGBT village around Canal Street and was written by Russell T Davies. At the time The House of Lords was debating the age of consent for sex between men, which was initially 21 and was then lowered to 18. This was still out of sync with the age of consent between men and women which was 16, and in 2001 the two were finally brought in line with one another, and the homophobic Section 28 which prohibited the "promotion of homosexuality" by local authorities (which many interpreted as including schools) was still in force when the show aired. This gives some sense of the landscape when Queer as Folk was first released. The US version followed and although both had detractors for promoting a particular stereotype, Queer as Folk undoubtedly paved the way for later shows like the L Word, although it would be some time before more queerly diverse characters found their way into mainstream media.

Tom Robinson Band - Glad to Be Gay (1978). This song is from the Tom Robinson Band's 'Power in the Darkness' LP which contained multiple rock/punk anthems of despair and anger at the British political system. Glad to be Gay was originally written by Tom Robinson for 1976 London Pride. It was first released in 1978 and because of its controversial and political lyrics, BBC Radio One refused to play the song, a decision which was subverted when DJ John Peel, widely recognised for promoting alternative talent, played the song.

Dreaming of the Queen - Pet Shop Boys (1993). The only band to feature twice on the Little Compton Street playlist, Pet Shop Boys and their instantly recognisable British electronic dance pop have long had a history of creating music which has resonated with LGBT communities. Pet Shop Boys formed in the early eighties. Neil Tennant, former writer for British music magazine Smash Hits, was the lyricist and singer, and Chris Lowe played keyboards and programmed the music. They frequently use gender-neutral pronouns in their songs. Dreaming of the Queen is one of a number of their songs which reference AIDS, 'It Couldn't Happen Here' (1987), 'Being Boring' (1990) and 'The Survivors' (1996) being a few of the others. The song references Princess Diana who did enormous amounts of work raising awareness of AIDS and the song pits Diana against the Queen who, like Thatcher (and Reagan in America) was far less responsive to the AIDS crisis. By 1993 when the song was released, 2.5 million AIDS cases that had been reported globally.