Shine, Even in the Darkness
I can fly, but I want his wings.
I can shine even in the darkness,
But I crave the light that he brings.
“Would you mind if I sat here?”
It was a voice that Harry hadn’t heard in well over ten years, but before he’d even had time to raise his eyes to the newcomer’s face, he knew who it was. He stared up at Draco Malfoy.
Malfoy stood at ease, one hand holding a pint and the other resting, already proprietorial, on the chair opposite. His face was unexpectedly tanned, making his hair appear ludicrously fair and drawing a veil over the pale, pointy boy he’d been when they’d last met. The years seemed to have treated him well. There were a few creases around his eyes and his skin stretched taut over cheekbone and jaw in a way it hadn’t done at nineteen, but otherwise he hadn’t changed much.
They hadn’t seen one another since the immediate aftermath of the trials. There had been a rather awkward meeting shortly after, when Malfoy had bumped into Harry and Ginny on one of their early relationship re-starting dates. Malfoy had tried to thank Harry for speaking at his trial. Ginny, in the midst of her grief over Fred, had struggled to understand Harry’s more pragmatic view of Malfoy’s role in the war. She hadn’t said anything, but Harry had known she was unhappy and so had accepted the thanks, but in a cursory fashion, and not stayed to hear the rest of whatever Malfoy had to say.
“Potter? There aren’t any other free tables.” Malfoy inclined his head questioningly, but he didn’t seem to particularly begrudge Harry his woolgathering. He was staring back, frankly, and Harry wondered what he was noticing. The flecks of grey at his temples? The frown lines? Being an Auror wasn’t exactly a low-stress job. Harry glanced at the chair and then gave Malfoy a small affirmative shrug.
Malfoy pulled the chair out and sank into it, tucking his long legs under the table. He nodded to Harry over his pint and half turned to peruse the bar. Harry realised he had been wrong about Malfoy not having changed. His hands had changed. Without having given it any thought before, Harry realised that he would have been able to tell those long fingers anywhere: gripping a broom handle, slapping the back of a friend after an offensive joke, the traditional one-fingered salute they had not infrequently traded back in the day. Or the same hands twisting nervously, fingers rubbing compulsively over knuckles. The hands he saw now had lost the softness of youth and the raw, oversized reddened joints, abraded by cold weather or a vigorous scrubbing after Potions class. They were tanned, sinewy and capable looking, but motionless. The old Malfoy had been forever waving his hands around, fiddling, tapping and touching his clothes or his hair or the people near him.
“You’re not looking too bad, Potter. Considering,” Malfoy said, turning back to him. The statement was neutral enough, but Harry could detect the curiosity behind it. His divorce had finally slipped from the front pages, though it’d taken nearly six weeks to do so. The hacks had wrung every last drop they could from the non-story that had been the final, public winding-up of his marriage. Everyone he’d ever met had wanted to know ‘what really happened,’ and most of them hadn’t been that shy in asking or, in the absence of an answer, speculating publically.
Harry grimaced. “I’m doing all right.” And he was.
The really miserable period had been eighteen months back, when he and Ginny had gone through the heartache of acknowledging that something was broken between them. They’d tried still living together, for the sake of the children, until James, of all people, had said at breakfast, “Mum cries when she does the washing up. Dad, I don’t think you should live here anymore.”
Harry had moved out at the weekend and they had started formal proceedings for their divorce on the following Monday. Initially Harry’d moved to the still-vacant Grimmauld Place, but it was just too fucking depressing, so here he was, at the Leaky Cauldron, going on eight weeks now.
Malfoy, mercifully, didn’t press the matter, turning back to his pint. Harry’s own curiosity was piqued. He knew Malfoy had been living and working in North Africa or somewhere similar since a few years after the war. Hermione’d told him. He couldn’t remember what it was she said Malfoy did.
“You over here for work or just a holiday?” Harry asked.
“A bit of both.” Malfoy didn’t appear to be in a sharing mood any more than Harry was.
It was weirdly peaceful sitting here with Malfoy though. Having that vacant seat occupied meant he needn’t worry about someone else trying to join him. It wasn’t like Malfoy was going to ask him searching questions about his life choices, like Hermione. If he did, Harry wouldn’t have had a moment’s hesitation in telling him to fuck off. And he wasn’t going to anxiously repeat that he was still his best mate. A habit that Ron couldn’t quite seem to break, despite Harry’s recent injunction that each time he said it he’d have to buy Harry a pint to prove it. In fact, the addition of sixteen pints last time (Ron had bought himself one each time too) had not improved the situation and they had both ended up tearfully hugging and singing old Wizarding rock songs from the nineties. Not edifying.
Even Luna, the most blithely accepting of all his friends, was starting to talk about moving on and getting his own place. Harry didn’t feel ready. Hogwarts, his Hogwarts, had been destroyed in Voldemort’s last battle and the newly built school didn’t feel the same. The home he had built with Ginny had been, well, his home. His children had been born there. He wasn’t ready to think about a flat and buying furniture and whatever. Making a new home, just for him. The Leaky was fine for now. It was familiar and the food was all right. Luna had even offered for him to come and live with her and Rolf now Lorcan and Lysander were at school. Much as Harry loved Luna and loved visiting her, he couldn’t imagine living in that nut house. The Leaky was quiet. Tom kept an orderly house.
Ironically, Harry was jarred from his musings by the violent jostling of his table, which caused his mostly-empty pint to tip over. Scooting back to avoid the dribble of beer over the table he looked up and saw Malfoy, with one hand steadying the table and another bracing his own pint, turning slowly to face the new arrival.
“Don’t want your sort in here,” the man looming over Malfoy growled.
“I believe it is up to the publican whom he admits and as you can see,” said Malfoy gesturing to his beer, “I have been served.” His regarded the man with a bland social smile, but the expression was one-dimensional.
“You make me sick!”
“Really? It does seem slightly perverse of you to come and stand right over here then.” Malfoy’s drawled reply was similarly mild and he’d not drawn his wand, but Harry felt a thrum of magic. Looking down, he identified the ring Malfoy wore on his right hand as carrying an amulet charm. Usually these were simple anti-hex, but the whiff coming off this one suggested it’d been tinkered with in some way.
The man didn’t back off and Malfoy pushed his chair back, preparing to rise, with no change in the mask of gentle enquiry.
“Sit down, Malfoy,” Harry said. “You,” he said addressing the stranger, “leave us alone.” The man blustered and Harry shut his eyes briefly. It’d been a long week. “Look, I just want a quiet pint after my supper. I think as Deputy Head Auror I can probably keep Malfoy here under control, so you can just take yourself off.”
With high indignation, the man bustled off. “It is so delightful to be home again,” Draco observed. “My apologies, Potter. Let me get you another pint.”
“That’s all right.” Harry caught Gwen’s eye over at the bar and gestured for two more pints. There were advantages to being a long-term resident. The hum of conversation around them returned slowly to normal levels.
“Thanks, Potter,” said Malfoy when their pints arrived.
“So where is it you’ve been? Hermione said something about North Africa.”
“I was based in Marrakech for a little while, but I live in Aqaba now. In Jordan.”
“What is it you do, anyway?”
“Is this an official interview, Potter?”
Malfoy didn’t seem unduly worried, though the mask was still in place so it was difficult to tell. Harry replied with a similarly false smile. “Oh no. You’ll know when it’s an official interview because you’ll be manacled to the chair. This is just chat, Malfoy.”
Malfoy snorted. “Fine. I’ve done this and that. Still do. I work for Adnad Jabal. I’m here in relation to some imports and exports deal he’s interested in. It’s mostly silks and carpets on our end; should be wildly lucrative. All fully licensed and approved, I assure you. I can show you all the paperwork from the Department for International Cooperation if you really want to bore yourself to tears.”
The frozen quality that had marked Malfoy’s demeanour after the altercation with the stranger had receded but he could hardly be described as lounging. It was more than just his hands then. Malfoy seemed to deliberately have as little impact on the space around him as possible. He didn’t look tense or awkward, but there was a poise about him: his few gestures precise, elegant in wrist and fingertip, but his hands were quickly furled and tucked closed again.
“What are you doing at the Leaky then?” Harry asked.
“Just visiting, Potter. I haven’t spent more than the bare minimum of time here since I left sixteen years ago.”
“Has it been sixteen years? Christ! Now I feel old.”
“You’re a divorced father of three, of course you feel old.”
“Thanks, Malfoy,” Harry said wryly.
“I visit from time to time. Keep up with people.”
“In that case shouldn’t you be at the Manor or something?”
Malfoy grimaced. “Fortifying myself. Being spat on by strangers is nothing to being grilled by Mother.”
“I’m not even joking. I am literally afraid to go home because the next time my mother casually mentions a ‘lovely’ and coincidentally single girl she happens to be doing hospital visiting with or binding books for Hogwarts I will not be able to respond with appropriate filial respect.”
“Just not found yourself the right girl?”
Malfoy sucked his teeth. “It’s the girl part that I have problems with, really. Girl parts, if you’ll pardon the pun.”
“Oh,” Harry said. “Have you, ah, tried just telling your mum that?”
“Please, Potter! I don’t talk about my sex-life with my mother.”
“I wasn’t suggesting you go into detail,” Harry said. “I just thought it might be easier if she gave up on the idea of you getting married.”
“Oh, I will get married at some point,” said Malfoy. “Just not now.”
“Okay,” Harry said sceptically.
“I don’t expect you to understand, Potter, but there have been Malfoys living in the Manor and the old manor before that for over a thousand years. One doesn’t put an end to that line just because one isn’t mad for pussy.”
Harry held up his hands. “It’s your business, Malfoy.”
“Yes, well,” said Malfoy, appearing mollified. “It’s not something I’m particularly looking forward to, hence avoiding my mother.”
Malfoy looked faintly woebegone at the prospect and Harry found himself feeling an unexpected surge of pity. “It doesn’t have to be all bad. I mean, I think you’re insane, but if you find the right woman, it can be all right even if you aren’t ‘mad for pussy.’ For a bit anyway,” he trailed off.
“Potter,” Malfoy narrowed his eyes, assessing. “Are you speaking from personal experience?”
“Potter, you can’t go telling people things like that!”
“I didn’t expect you to answer, for Merlin’s sake! Have the papers got wind of it yet?”
“Nope. We only went public on the divorce six weeks ago. I’m saving my coming out speech for when the Auror Department has monumentally fucked something up and we need to deflect the flak.”
“So you have some residual political savvy, even if you appear wholly lacking in an instinct for self-preservation.”
Harry shrugged. “Maybe I just don’t rate you as a threat.”
“I’m wounded,” said Malfoy with a twist of a smile.
They went back to sitting in silence.
“Do you want another one?” Malfoy gestured at Harry’s pint about twenty minutes later.
“All right. But it’ll be quicker if I just give Gwen a wave and save you getting glassed on your way up to the bar.”
“I wouldn’t get glassed.”
“All right. Saves me from having to arrest you for carrying a concealed weapon and atomizing whoever tried you glass you. You know that ring is flagrantly illegal?”
“It’s purely defensive. You can ask my lawyers. Silvertongue and Sylvester handle all the Jabal Family’s business.”
Harry grimaced. “Should have known you’d be with Silver and Sly.”
“You know they’re absurdly proud of that nickname. You Aurors should really try and think up something genuinely offensive.”
“Oh, believe me, we do. We’re just not rich enough to say it out loud.”
Malfoy was drawing little diagrams in the condensation on his pint glass. This was more like the Malfoy Harry knew, his fingers always active. But when Malfoy noticed the direction of Harry’s gaze his fingers stilled.
“You used to wave your arms around a lot more,” Harry observed.
“I’m an adult now. I have put childish things behind me.”
“Like marrying for love?”
“Do you get judgey when you drink, Potter?”
“Well, it’s not like you told me with any expectation of approval. I’m a Gryffindor. We really don’t do loveless marriages for the sake of inheritance.”
“That’s all you know. You’d just dress it up in some sort of noble self-sacrifice. You’ve got the moral high-ground all sewn up. I wouldn’t even think of competing.”
“It’s a stupid idea. If you don’t want to marry a woman, but want an heir, just adopt someone.”
Malfoy huffed with annoyance and started drumming his fingers on the table top. Harry was oddly triumphant that he had nudged Malfoy out of his self-imposed poise again.
“It’s not as simple as that. The Malfoy estates are entailed. They must go to an heir of the blood. A male heir. It’s all very specific.”
“You could leave them to Teddy. He’s a boy.”
“Teddy Lupin. He’s your second cousin or something. You know him. I thought your mum and Andromeda had made up after the war.”
“Oh, you mean Theodore. He’s distaff line, and a disinherited branch at that, and anyway, creatures are excluded.”
“What do you mean, creatures?”
“Magical beings.” Malfoy waved a hand airily. “His father was a werewolf. Don’t look at me like that! I don’t make the rules.”
“Wizards with Lycanthropy are equal under the law. He can’t be excluded.”
Malfoy snorted. “Potter, the Malfoy family entail is above any such passing legal fads. I personally couldn’t give a rat’s arse if Theodore Lupin was a two-headed Snorkack with a fondness for public indecency. He could be the last wizard on earth and the Malfoy family entail would still prevent the title going to him.”
“It sounds like a load of bollocks.”
“It might well be, but the point remains, I need a legitimate son, of the blood, or the Malfoy line fails after over forty recorded generations, father to son. Frankly, I’d rather do the deed, and get some nice pureblood girl ‘in the family way’ than be the weak-minded queer who brought the whole thing to ruin.”
“Do you really think it’s that important to carry on the family line, or are you just too cowardly to carry the can?”
“Fuck off. At least my wife will know she’s marrying a pouf.”
“My marriage was entered into in good faith.”
“Oh, I’ll bet that’s a massive consolation to Ginevra.”
They glared at one another, the strange détente from earlier in the evening all evaporated.
“Thanks for the drinks, Potter. It’s been good to catch up.” With a cool nod, Malfoy rose from the table, wrapped his cloak around himself and headed upstairs.
“Arsehole,” Harry muttered into his pint.
“Oh, you know Hortense.” The reply came from a bespectacled middle-aged witch Harry didn’t know. “If you donate to her causes she doesn’t care who you are. She’d probably have joined the Death Eaters herself if they’d promoted Thestral welfare alongside Pureblood supremacy.”
Harry was no longer listening. He looked over the heads of the crowd to where Draco Malfoy stood, head bent, in conversation with their host, Hortense Bronthwaite. Despite the doubtlessly excruciatingly dull content of Madame Bronthwaite’s conversation, Malfoy looked polite and attentive, his head nodding just occasionally enough to convey engagement. The mild, polite expression on his face was the same one he’d used to face down the guy in the pub. Malfoy was either contemplating doing Hortense in to escape the conversation (and he wouldn’t be the first) or it was simply a default expression required at gatherings like this. Cressida Maiswell probably wasn’t the only person to comment on Malfoy’s attendance at the Bronthwaite ball.
Harry had only been looking at him for a few seconds when Malfoy looked up and straight towards him, as if his name had been called. He stared at Harry for a moment before turning his attention back to Madam Bronthwaite.
For the next hour or two it was as if every time Harry looked up he caught Malfoy staring at him. He moved between the drawing room, the library and the buffet set up in the hall, but wherever he went, Malfoy seemed to be there too: a tall dark figure, with his hands tucked out of sight within his robes.
Harry had just sat down on one of the sofas in the side alcoves of the ball room when Malfoy appeared.
“What?” Harry huffed.
“What?” Malfoy replied.
“I assume you have some reason for hovering around me all evening?”
“Nice to see you still think the world revolves around you,” Malfoy observed. “It would be so sad to see you ground down by life’s realities.”
“I've been circulating, Potter. It's a social gathering. It’s what you do.”
Harry snorted and Malfoy continued. “Not that I'd expect you to have any grasp of the social niceties, skulking off here in a corner when you are supposed to be guest of honour.”
“I'm not skulking, I'm having a break. So far I've had at least six old ladies assure me, with actual tears in their eyes, that Ginny and I will get back together, and four younger ladies have offered their company if I want to ’talk’. I damn well deserve a break.”
“Poor, Potty. You won’t get any sympathy from me. I've had at least ten people intimate to my face that I ought to be in prison or at the very least holed up somewhere, broken and contemplating my failure as a human being. That's not even including the speaking glances I get every five minutes. I don't know, the tan in particular seems to enrage people. They keep commenting that I look well, as if it is a personal affront.”
“Well, I guess the tan does suggest you don't spend all that much time weeping into your pillow contemplating your failings. You should probably work more of that into your schedule. It would do you good. Besides, it's Britain and the sun has only just started to shine after about six months of rain. Anyone with a tan is de facto an arsehole.”
Malfoy shrugged then turned to Harry with a glint in his eye. “If you count the waiter at the bar, I've had five people offer me the pleasure of their company, which is one more than you, so I'm winning.”
“Bollocks,” Harry scoffed. “If you subtract the people who think you’re a blot on the face of Wizarding society you’re actually negatively desirable here.”
“What about the six or seven old ladies who’ve congratulated me on putting ‘all that unpleasantness’ behind me and then gone on to reminisce about how handsome they thought my father was at school?”
“Pureblood groupies don't count.”
Malfoy snorted. “Since when do you get to make the rules?”
“I’m not ... Anyway, I'm not even playing this ridiculous game of yours.”
“That’s just as well. You’d be disqualified for wearing that suit.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my suit. It’s bloody Stieg Troubridge.”
“It is not!”
“Yes, it bloody is. I bought it. I read about him in a magazine. I needed new dress robes and so ...”
“Get up,” Malfoy barked.
“What?” Harry grumbled, climbing to his feet. Malfoy immediately started flipping open the fastenings on the front of Harry’s robe to throw it open. “Hey!” Harry protested.
Malfoy examined the lining and the discreet label carefully. “Good lord, you’re right. What have you done to it?”
“I haven't done anything to it. What’s your problem?”
“Stieg Troubridge is an excellent tailor. This is a dreadful suit. Did you have it adjusted or something?”
“No,” Harry protested. “There’s nothing wrong with my suit!”
“There’s almost everything wrong with your suit. Did Stieg even measure you?”
“Of course he did. I'm certainly never getting a fancy suit again. I have better things to do than get groped for half an hour by random tailors. I don't care how celebrated they are.”
Malfoy narrowed his eyes. “He took thirty minutes to measure you? Was he rude to you?”
“No, he wasn’t rude. We just chatted.”
“That proves it. He must have the most enormous crush on you. Stieg is rude to everyone. Did you talk about clothes?”
“Well, yes. That was sort of the obvious topic of conversation.”
“That’s it. I bet you wittered on with some nonsense about how you like your clothes to be comfortable and not show the wrinkles.”
“That’s not actually nonsense.”
“Stieg has made you a comfortable suit.” Malfoy said this in a tone that equated comfort with the lowest forms of human depravity. “That pissant! I'll tear him a new one when I see him.”
“So he made me the suit I wanted. What’s wrong with that?”
“Everything! However ignorant you happen to be on the subject of clothes, you went to him for a Stieg Troubridge suit and he had no business making you anything else. More importantly, he’s an artist. He had no business making a bad suit just to ingratiate himself with someone he wanted to shag.”
“Maybe he was just being nice?”
“Potter, if you were investigating some crime and you found out something, like that one of the relatives of someone you fancied was implicated, would you brush that evidence under the carpet for them?”
“Of course not.”
“Exactly. Being nice has nothing to do with it. It’s about integrity.”
“It’s just a suit.”
“That is.” Malfoy gestured at Harry dismissively. “A bad one at that. But Stieg has a real calling. Should someone paint a shoddy painting or write a shitty book because they have a crush on someone with crappy taste?”
“I don't have crappy taste. I don't give a shit whether you like my suit,” Harry was tiring of this line of discussion, but Malfoy was just not ready to let it go.
“Look, Potter. My robes are by Stieg, too. Look at the line of my back,” Malfoy turned around to display his back to Harry. “Look at the line that goes from the nape of my neck down my back and over my arse. Now, I happen to have a perfect body, but even if I didn't, Stieg could make it look as if I did just by that line. The back of your robes just hangs and there is,” Malfoy twitched impatiently at the fabric of Harry’s robes, “there is all this. What even is all this?”
“I like to have room to raise my arms,” Harry said.
“Whatever for? We’re at a ball. Think of the line. Here.” And Malfoy started to pinch together the fabric muttering incantations as he went.
“What are you doing?” Harry twisted to try and peer behind him.
“Hold still. I'm saving Stieg from himself. You haven’t told anyone who made this for you, have you?”
“No, but ...”
“Good. Stieg is far too good to have his reputation ruined by a momentary rush of blood to the head, or rather the cock. I'm doing you a favour, too. You’re the Saviour of the Wizarding world and nearly Head Auror. It's pretty tragic to get trumped in the pulling stakes by ex-Death Eater scum. There.” Malfoy stepped back.
“Jesus, Malfoy, I can hardly move,” Harry waggled his arms experimentally, demonstrating the impossibility if raising his elbows above waist height.
“Of course you can move. You just can’t do star jumps, which, and here’s another free tip, aren’t going to do much for your sex appeal anyway.” Malfoy circled around him smoothing down the drape of the robes.
“It was a perfectly good suit,” Harry muttered.
“It was an abortion.”
“Wow, well done, Malfoy! Thanks for reminding me you’re a dick. Fun as it’s been being alternately primped and insulted by you, you weirdo, I think I'd better get back to the party.”
“You’re most welcome,” Malfoy answered sarcastically. “Oh, and Potter?”
Harry turned around.
“Get a haircut.”
Harry gave him the finger as he spun back into the main ballroom. He immediately collided with a waiter, because he was smooth like that.
“Oh, I am sorry, sir!” the waiter exclaimed and began to make a business of smoothing Harry's robes back into place.
“I'm fine. It was my fault,” Harry protested.
“No, really sir.” The guy, who now Harry looked had clear blue eyes and quite cute, bouncy dark curls, smiled at him warmly.
“I, um.” Harry could feel himself starting to blush.
The waiter’s smile broadened further and he twitched a little piece of parchment from his sleeve, muttered a charm over it and slipped it into Harry's pocket.
Harry fished it out as the guy hurried briskly off. It said, ‘Marcus, after 1am’ and the name of a bar off Diagon Alley. Harry blushed even more fiercely.
Without thinking, he turned back to see if Malfoy had seen, but of course he had. Malfoy was looking beyond smug and before Harry could turn away again he sketched an elaborate bow.
“Twat,” Harry muttered and headed back to join the throng.
“Hey, Lysander marches to the beat of his own drum. I don’t think we should try and pin him down,” Harry chipped in.
Hermione looked at him, eyes narrowing. “You’re just saying that so someone has a worse detentions record than James.”
Harry, Luna and Hermione tried to have lunch together at least once a month. It’d started a few years ago when things had begun to get really rough with Ginny and Hermione and Luna had decided Harry needed to be reminded that they were ‘there for him’. It’d become a routine now and also an opportunity to compare notes regarding the letters they’d each got home from Hogwarts. With five teen and pre-teen boys in the mix, pooling resources served to make the most of a fairly limited flow of meaningful information. Today they were favouring Hestia’s Hummus Bar off Diagon Alley.
Harry grinned. “I think the pair of them combined might have surpassed even Fred and George’s combined record for detentions. And you have to admit that it’s a bit bloody awkward to be lecturing our kids on the necessity of sticking to the rules when they read about us in History of Magic breaking one rule after another.”
“Mmm,” Hermione agreed.
“Lorcan is very keen on History of Magic,” Luna said. “The other day he said you were a very foxy lady.”
“What?” Hermione started to choke on her coffee.
“He’s got a poster from the Methusela History of the Second Wizarding War series we ran. You know the one with you centre and Harry and Ron turned towards you on either side. I think you look very foxy in that one, too.”
“Thanks, Luna. But good grief, he’s thirteen! That’s weird. Don’t you think that’s weird?” She appealed to Harry.
“Don’t look at me. If I got weirded out by thirteen year old girls having posters of me on their walls I’d have had a nervous breakdown long ago. Anyway, speaking of weird, I saw Malfoy the other day.”
“Oh, yes. I think he’s so much nicer than he used to be. Don’t you?” Luna replied.
Harry grimaced. “He’d be hard pushed to actually be more unpleasant.”
“Well, I think he’s really very nice now. He was round at mine just the other day helping with the annual cleansing.”
“Okay, what?” Harry asked. “Since when did you have Draco Malfoy round to your house?”
Luna pondered thoughtfully. “I think about five years, Harry.”
“Seriously? You never mentioned that.”
Luna shrugged. “You always used to get quite upset when he was mentioned. But you seem fine now.”
“I did not get upset. I don’t know what you mean! Wait, did you say the cleansing? You don’t mean your Nargle thing?”
“Malfoy helped you and Rolf with that?”
“Yes. He isn’t usually visiting at the right time, but he was this year. It was very nice of him to help, seeing as none of my other friends could spare the time.” Luna shot Harry and Hermione a pointed glance.
“Oh. My. God. Did he do the dance? Tell me he did the dance?”
“Of course he did. That’s a key part of the ritual.”
“The dance and the chant? Did he drink the special cleansing tea too?”
“Well, he had to, didn’t he? He would have left just infested with Nargles if he hadn’t.”
“Oh God, that tea. I was burping it up for days. Why didn’t you Firecall me to come over immediately, Luna? Really, I feel personally betrayed.”
Luna swatted him. “It was very nice of Draco to help. He did very well, considering it was his first time.”
Hermione’s straight face finally split into a grin. “I admit I wouldn’t have minded seeing that.”
“So, tell me again, how come Malfoy agreed to do this? Wait, there aren’t pictures, are there? Because if you have a picture of him doing your anti-Nargle dance I would seriously love you forever.”
“It’s not an anti-Nargle dance, Harry. We align the energies in the house by means of our bodily energies and this encourages the Nargles to seek out alternative locations when it comes to nesting.”
“No photographs, then?”
“So Draco was at the Bronthwaite ball?” Hermione broke in.
“Yeah, and he was staying at the Leaky a few days, avoiding his mum, and I saw him there too. Wait, you called him ‘Draco’, too. Don’t tell me he pops round regularly to your house, too?”
Something about the look Hermione and Luna exchanged before answering caught Harry’s attention. “What?”
“Nothing,” Hermione said. “No, Draco doesn’t pop round, but yeah, I’ve seen him a few times in the last few years. But if you’ve seen him a couple of times and I haven’t heard of any unseemly fist-fights taking place, you must be getting on with him better than you used to. In fact, the gossip has it, a lot better.”
“What? Oh, God. What are they saying now? They can’t seriously think me and Malfoy … Wait, they aren’t even supposed to know I’m gay yet!”
Hermione shrugged consolingly. “You know how it is. Apparently someone’s got hold of the fact you were both staying in the Leaky, that you had a drink together, then headed upstairs one after another.”
Harry rolled his eyes. He was mostly resigned to it, but he couldn’t help finding the constant intrusion into his private life infuriating. “We were both staying at the Leaky, hence at some point we would both need to go upstairs.”
“I know you don’t read the Warlock’s Whirl column, but it said there you two were canoodling in an alcove at the ball. You should probably write something to James and Al at least, so they feel comfortable telling their friends it’s nonsense.”
“We weren’t bloody canoodling, for fuck’s sake. Malfoy was criticising the cut of my damn dress robes and then he fixed them for me. Bloody, bugger it!” Harry thunked his glass down on the table and thought about doing the same with his head, but didn’t want to go back to work with a secret gay romance and hummus in his hair.
He and Ginny had talked to the kids about his being gay or probably gay. It had been part of making sure they understood that they were not in any way responsible for the breakdown of their parents’ marriage. The kids understood, Harry thought, but he had also told them he was going to be taking his time about seeing anyone else and that they would know about it when the time came.
He groaned and got to his feet to ask Hestia if he could borrow her owl. Scribbling a hasty note and promising to set up a firecall with them all soon, he sent the owl winging its way off to Hogwarts before re-joining the others.
“Cheer up, Harry,” Luna said. “Malfoy will probably sue the Prophet. He doesn’t like people talking about him.”
“Yeah,” said Harry perking up at the thought of Malfoy siccing Silver and Sly on the Prophet.
“What was Malfoy doing fixing your robes?” Luna asked.
“I don’t know. He’s completely weird. He’s all poised and suave with everyone else, then he comes over to me and starts some stupid pissing contest about who’s had the most come-ons that evening.”
“He probably likes you,” Luna said.
Harry snorted. “Yeah right, because ‘you’re a cretin who can’t dress himself’ is such a great way of signalling your interest in someone.”
“Well, like you say, Draco is a bit weird sometimes, especially about you. But he must like you because he spent years and years avoiding you and you’ve seen him twice this week.”
Harry thought about trying to explain to Luna that this didn’t actually mean anything, but gave up before he’d started. Trying to get Luna to drop an idea once she’d got it into her head was like trying to take gold off a Niffler.
“When Rolf and I were staying with him a few months ago, he asked about you quite a lot.”
“What? You went and stayed with him? In, um, wherever he is?” Harry asked.
“Jordan. Yes, for Rolf’s new book on the emotions of rocks. We told you. There are some very expressive sandstones around Petra. Draco was ever so helpful, arranging access to sites that are privately owned. And the Jabal family have an amazing library.”
Harry remembered vaguely hearing about Luna and Rolf’s latest expedition. To be honest, he tuned a lot of it out, especially the slideshow. Once you’ve seen one rock …
“I’m pretty sure you didn’t mention you were staying with Malfoy.”
Luna looked a bit abashed and glanced to Hermione for help. Again, the two women exchanged a look that Harry couldn’t read.
“Okay, really, what?” Harry asked, exasperated. “You two don’t honestly think I’d have had some big problem with you hanging out with Malfoy if you wanted to. It’s Ginny who’s still a bit upset by the Malfoy thing, not me. I just think he’s a prick, because he’s a prick.”
Hermione and Luna looked at one another again and Harry huffed.
“It’s not that, Harry,” Hermione said finally. “Draco’s been … well, he’s been doing this thing. Trying to … atone, I suppose you could call it. I didn’t mention it to you, not because I was worried about what your reaction would be, but because … it felt sort of private between me and him. It felt pretty raw at first. I didn’t know really how I felt about it and then, well it seemed like it was pretty raw for Draco, too, and also like something that he wouldn’t want you, in particular, to know about.”
Harry peered at Hermione. He could tell from her tone she was trying to explain something emotionally complicated, but he couldn’t actually work out what it was she was trying to say. “So he came and said he was sorry, or something?” he tried.
“Well, he wrote first. It’s a thing he learned about in the madrasa he was at. Not just an apology, but a ritual really, for atonement. He explained that it was important that he didn’t impose himself on the people he approached because that would make it about his need and not theirs. So he wrote on the anniversary of the day I was taken to the Manor. You remember, Harry.”
Hermione was starting to look a bit strained. Harry wished vehemently that he hadn’t brought it up. “It’s all right, Hermione. Let’s leave it,” he urged.
Hermione smiled at him. It was the sort of smile that reminded him that she had ten times the balls he did. “That’s maybe another reason I didn’t mention it to you Harry. You get so upset when I get upset. But it’s not bad upset. It’s … it’s been good.”
Hermione continued, “So he just wrote. He explained about the ritual and his intention to try to start the process of making things right. That he considered himself at the service of me and my family, not in recompense, but as a mark of the debt he owed, because he had been there and he should have acted. He said I didn’t need to do anything, but if I ever felt like the time was right, he’d like permission to come and make this vow in person. It was about four years ago that I felt that perhaps I did want to see him. He’d sent that letter at the same time each year, so eventually I replied and he came. We talked. It’s not like I think it was all his fault, but Bellatrix and Lucius are dead and …”
Hermione wafted her hand in front of her eyes and grinned in a watery fashion at her two friends.
Luna broke in gently, “He did the same for me. The letters and then he came round. When I said he could. It was sort of the same. I know he wasn’t the one who snatched me and he probably couldn’t have done much to help me. But the people who did hurt me are all dead. It felt good to have it acknowledged and to know that someone else remembered.”
Hermione nodded. “It isn’t about saying sorry or the vow, really. It’s the marking of something. I needed that and I think Draco needed it, too. It costs him something to bind himself to me, to us, like that, and over time that means something. Or it seems to.” She shrugged.
“Wow,” Harry said. “I guess he’s not a total prick then.”
“Oh, he’s still a total prick,” Hermione said firmly, dabbing at her moist eyes with outstretched fingers, trying to avoid smudging her work makeup. “I’m not saying he doesn’t feel some sort of remorse, but for him it’s about things like family honour. He still has the most dreadful opinions about family and blood. Don’t ever let him start talking about House-elves. He’s just a prick who, for once in his life, is trying to do the right thing.
“God help him, it doesn’t come naturally. The ritual works because it’s so prescriptive, even down to the form of words. Those Arabic wizards knew a thing or two about human psychology, I guess. That’s what I mean about us not being friends. He’s visited each year to reaffirm his vow, we have a cup of tea, but it’s pretty awkward after the formal part. He can barely speak for the effort it takes him not to say anything offensive during the half hour he’s there. You should have seen his face when Ron and the kids came in, with their cousins too, after a game of pick-up Quidditch and they were all splattered in mud and shrieking, as they do. I thought Malfoy would rupture something trying not to make a snide comment.”
“He does have quite an acerbic sense of humour,” Luna nodded. “I told him that he didn’t need to try and be polite with me and Rolf and really he’s just intensely curious about most things. I don’t think he’s ever seen a home like ours.”
“Luna,” Harry said, “no one’s seen a home like yours.”
“He tries. He helped with the ritual and the time Lorcan lost his Humdinger.”
“Luna sees the best in everyone,” Hermione said fondly. “Oh dear, I’d better get back. We have a Goblin delegation in at two.”
Hugs and kisses were exchanged and the each headed back to their respective offices.
Harry found he had a lot to think about.
Harry looked up from his breakfast to see Draco Malfoy standing over him. He was barely even surprised this time. “It’s not …” he began, trying to protest that the haircut had nothing to do with Malfoy’s advice last weekend, but he didn’t think anything he said would wipe the smug look off Malfoy’s face. “What are you doing here?” he asked finally.
“It was recommended to me as a good gym and spa.”
“You following me around is starting to get really creepy, Malfoy.”
“I’m not following you around, Potter. I work out.” Malfoy gestured to his own trim figure in evidence. He was wearing a fitted white shirt tucked into charcoal grey wool trousers that were also well fitted. Harry couldn’t deny that there were indications that Malfoy had probably used a gym on more than this one occasion.
“All right,” Harry conceded. “But why did you have to come to my gym?”
“Rooftop pool,” Malfoy replied, nodding to the blue expanse shimmering beside them. “There aren’t that many in London. I prefer to swim in the open air. Indoor pools are unpleasantly humid. It’s unhygienic.”
Harry still wasn’t sure what to think about Malfoy after what Luna and Hermione had told him and on the whole, he preferred not having to think about Malfoy at all. He squinted up into the May sunshine as Malfoy hovered over him, not looking like he was going away.
“I was going to get breakfast, too,” Malfoy began. “Oh, for fuck’s sake.” With a wandless wave of his hand Malfoy must have cast a charm as Harry experienced a veil of soft grey over his eyes and he suddenly didn’t need to squint any more.
“What was that?”
“A glare shield charm. Honestly, Potter.” Malfoy spoke in a low voice, glancing at the glossy haired women sitting at the next table, aware that the gym was primarily a Muggle one. A waiter came by and Malfoy sat himself at Harry’s table and ordered a smoothie. Harry just rolled his eyes and gave in. It was a pretty good charm, he had to admit. He’d ask Hermione about it.
Malfoy gestured again and Harry felt the familiar tingle of a Muffliato. “So, I thought as an Auror you wouldn’t need anything so tawdry as structured exercise. Don’t you get enough, chasing down despicable dark wizards and fighting the good fight?”
“I’m Deputy Head Auror now. Most, if not all, of the chasing I do these days is of reports and quarterly figures.” Harry shrugged. “So I try to come here most mornings. It’s good for stress. At least it is most of the time.” And he gave Malfoy a pointed look.
Malfoy predictably ignored him. “And do you fly anymore?”
“Yeah. I’m in the MLE team. Still a Seeker. We play pretty regularly.” This wasn’t strictly true. Harry did play the Seeker position when he could make it to training or matches, but that wasn’t as often as he’d like. Harry chose not examine why he was posturing like this for Malfoy. “And you?”
“I play a little Quidditch now and then. The Jabals field an amateur team a few times a year. Still a Seeker, of course.” He flashed Harry a knowing smile. “Mainly I fly Griffin though, in desert time trials. Persian League.”
“You fly Griffin?” Harry was neither interested nor impressed. Oh no.
“Yeah. It’s a big sport out there, you know. All the major houses have their own stables and the Griffins of the Persian Gulf are really the finest in the world. Bloody minded, but fucking fast. It’s how I got my job, actually. I completed my education at the Rashidun Madrasa in Marrakesh and got into Griffin riding there. I was at a bit of a loose end when I was done with my studies and started competing in some races. I did pretty well and started riding for the Benari family.
“When you win things, you know, you end up at these parties with all the movers and shakers in the League. I was quite a novelty, you know. A Westerner and gay and so on. Anyway, Mr Jabal was looking for a consultant with knowledge of Western markets for a planned expansion of one of his lines of business, to do with carpets and silks mostly. He’s not the most enlightened man, but he loves his Griffins and believes he can trust men whom the Griffin respond to.” Malfoy shrugged.
“Anyway, I started working for him and riding for his stable. Madame Jabal is interested particularly in the silk business and he trusts me to work alongside her, ‘cause I’m a queer. It works out for everyone.”
“What’s it like riding Griffin?”
Malfoy grinned, a flash of white teeth, and it was so genuine and infectious that Harry caught himself grinning, too. He always responded to real enthusiasm like that and he didn’t think he’d ever seen Malfoy look that way before. Not calculating, not a smirk, but a real smile of spontaneous, pleasure.
“It’s like nothing else, Potter. Sons of bitches to a man. They make Hippogriffs look like poodles.”
“Yeah? ‘Cause you did so well with Hippogriffs,” Harry couldn’t refrain from pointing out.
Malfoy just smirked at him. “I’m a better man now. You have to have a spark of humility to master beasts and that wasn’t exactly my strong suite as a child. But I learnt, just enough.” A strange half smile played over Malfoy’s lips at this oblique reference to the war. It was like he expected Harry to understand.
“Mostly,” he continued, “you have to be even more bloody minded, even prouder and even more of a son of a bitch than they are. And that was always more in my line.” The same half-smile of shared knowledge flashed across Malfoy’s face. And it was true really, Harry supposed, he did know Malfoy. It might have been well over ten years since they last saw one another, but it would take more than that to erase the seven intense years of formative youth, watching one another.
“The humility is just to give them a way out; to concede to your mastery with their dignity intact. It’s a delicate balance. You master them and you have to keep mastering them all the way to the end of the race.” Malfoy’s eyes were shining. “If you do that, they’ll give you everything: heart, guts and sinew. They’ll die under you rather than lose and you have to give the same, you know. It takes it out of you, like I said, but it’s like nothing else on earth.”
“Sounds pretty cool,” Harry said. He tried not to think about how his own life lacked anything similarly exciting and compelling. He loved his kids; a deep anchoring well of love that more than compensated for everything else, but …
“I’ve got to keep in shape while I’m here. Hence the gym.” Malfoy was looking at him speculatively. “Do you want to go flying, Potter?”
“Now. We could go flying. First to the Snitch. See if we’ve still got it?” When Harry hesitated, Malfoy pressed. “Come on. It’s Saturday and I know your kids are away at school. It’ll be great. I’m fitter than you.” Harry huffed out a demur. “But you’re on a broom a lot more than I am. I haven’t flown a broom for months. It could be close. I’ll win of course.”
Harry snorted again. “Seriously, Malfoy. You’ve never beaten me. I’ve got the eye. A natural gift. Youngest Seeker …” He waved his hand blithely to indicate the rest.
“But you’re not so young now, are you?” Malfoy said. “Getting a little soft around the middle with all that paperwork.”
“My middle is entirely fit for purpose, thank you very much!”
“Prove it.” Malfoy stood up. “If you win, I’ll take you to ride Griffins across the Wadi Rum. All expenses paid. They’re the best beasts in the world. And more beautiful Persian boys than you know what to do with.”
“And if I lose? Which I won’t, by the way.”
“If you lose, Potter,” Malfoy’s face was alive with anarchic glee, “I’ll have won. I spent five years trying to beat you to that Snitch. I have,” he paused, his face stilling and becoming more intense, “I have a number of regrets, concerning those years. The vast majority of which I can do fuck all about. But I can do this, you fucker!” And the glee was back and it was pretty damn infectious.
Malfoy held out his hand to Harry. “Come on, old man.”
This was ridiculous. Harry had plans. He wasn’t going to spend his Saturday morning with Draco sodding Malfoy. Malfoy’s hand was still stretched out before him, his smile still warm and challenging. As Harry hesitated though, he saw, without any perceptible movement, Malfoy’s smile became that familiar mask: social, meaningless and impersonal.
Harry was suddenly completely certain that he didn’t want to be one of the people who did this to Malfoy, turned him from the living man into the political actor. Without giving the matter further thought, Harry reached up and gripped Malfoy’s hand and Malfoy hauled him to his feet.
Malfoy used more strength than necessary and Harry had to put out a hand to prevent himself from being tugged into a close embrace. Malfoy’s eyes were glittering fiercely again with satisfaction, but also with something else. Challenge, perhaps even anger, as if he had read something of Harry’s thoughts but interpreted Harry’s acquiescence as pity.
“So grateful you could spare the time,” he breathed.
“Oh I can always spare the time to kick your arse,” Harry responded. If Malfoy wanted to make this personal, Harry wasn’t going to shy away.
Something in Harry’s response seemed to please Malfoy and he relaxed slightly, back into the playful mood he had been in before. Leaving the table had dispersed the Muffliato and Malfoy leaned forward to speak low in Harry’s ear. “Come on, we can Apparate from the bathroom.”
Malfoy grabbed Harry’s arm and started to guide him off the roof terrace. A couple of glossy, blow-dried ladies-who-lunched raised their eyebrows as Harry and Malfoy hurried past their table. Harry shook off Malfoy’s grip.
“Malfoy,” he hissed, “this is my gym. Could you try to make this look less like a hook-up?”
Malfoy turned and looked at him, mischief dancing in his eyes. “Come on, baby,” he urged, the opposite of discreet, hooking his fingers in Harry’s belt loops and dragging him backwards the last few steps towards the door off the terrace.
Harry decided it would make less of a scene to just get inside as quickly as possible. As soon as they were inside, he prised Malfoy’s hands off him. “That’s not fucking funny, Malfoy! This is my gym. I come here every day. I bring my kids here.”
“So what? It’s not like the pool staff are going take a little kid aside and ask them if they know their daddy blows strange men in the bathroom.”
“No, but that’s not the point.”
“Are your Gryffindor morals so dreadfully offended that someone might even think you’d blow a man in the bathroom?”
“No! I’ve got no problem, in principle, with …”
“Come on, then. Where’s the bloody bathroom?” Malfoy said, impatiently turning and grabbing Harry’s hand to pull him along behind him.
“The gentlemen’s lavatories are down this corridor, on your left.” It was one of the blue-shirted guys who worked in the gym coming along the corridor and he was smirking knowingly at the pair of them.
Harry thought for a moment about trying to explain that it wasn’t what it looked like, but swiftly gave up on the idea. If he protested he’d probably just end up like some tragic closet case. He followed Malfoy into the bathroom.
“Great! Now I’m going have that guy and probably everyone else who works here giving me looks whenever I go to pick up my towel and locker key. Thanks a lot!”
Malfoy just looked highly amused. “Oh don’t worry about it, Potter. At least I’m smoking hot. Probably raised your cred round here no end.”
“You are seriously more trouble than you’re worth, Malfoy. Now get in the fucking cubicle.” At this point there was the sound of a flush from the far cubicle that neither of them had noticed was occupied. A deeply-tanned middle-aged gentleman exited briskly, washed his hands and shot them an extremely disapproving look as he exited. Harry watched him in dismay, replaying his last words in his mind. He’d dug his own grave with that one. Malfoy collapsed into what could only be described as giggles.
“It’s not fucking funny, Malfoy.” But the sound of Malfoy trying to stifle his giggles was and Harry couldn’t stop his lips quirking into a smile. He hustled Malfoy into a cubicle and locked the door. Now at least he might avoid further public humiliation.
“Sorry, Potter.” Malfoy’s voice was high and strained with the effort of containing his laughter. “You know, now we’re here, you could blow me. As that’s what everyone here thinks you’re doing anyway.”
“Why the hell would they think I was blowing you? You might be blowing me,” Harry protested.
“Oh, please,” Malfoy snorted. “I am clearly the hot one and you’re the needy one.”
“I’m bloody well not!”
“You keep telling yourself that.”
“Well, where are we going to fly?”
“I don’t know. You’re the one who invited me.”
Malfoy exploded into undignified laughter again. “Yeah, that’s really toppy, Potter. I’m totally convinced now.”
“You’re such an arse, Malfoy. It was your idea. I assumed you had a plan.”
“Well, I didn’t. I keep telling you. I’m not following you around. I don’t have a scheme. I just bumped into you here and it seemed like it would be fun to fly against you again. Correction. To finally beat you to the Snitch.”
Harry shook his head. They stood awkwardly facing one another as far apart as the cubicle would allow, which was not far.
“You’re the one who lives here. I’m just visiting. I didn’t even bring a broom with me, but we can Apparate to Quality Quidditch and buy a pair of brooms then head out to the country. If we have the same model you can’t bitch at me for having an unfair advantage on the latest broom.” Malfoy reached up to grip Harry’s arm to Apparate, but Harry shook him off.
“Jesus, Malfoy, I’m not going to Apparate into the middle of Diagon Alley with you and go buy matching brooms. The press would be all over it.”
Malfoy stilled. “Okay then. I suppose we should’ve cleared this up earlier, but I thought … Anyway, I understand I’m hardly an ornament to anyone’s public profile, but I’ve been tried and I’ve paid my reparations and I’m just not prepared to do the whole ‘it’s fine so long as no one sees us thing'. So if that’s how you feel …” Malfoy slid the lock of the cubicle open to leave.
“Stop. That’s not what I meant.” Harry shook his head. “Look. As far as the press and public are concerned I’ve only been separated from Ginny for six weeks. There’s already stuff flying around about us. I just don’t want to fuel it. It isn’t because you’re you. Come on, let’s Side-Along to Grimmauld Place, I’ve got a couple of old brooms there. We can at least talk about this not standing in a damn toilet?” Harry reached out his hand somewhat tentatively and when Malfoy didn’t move to shy away he gripped his arm and with a ‘pop’ they Apparated.
Standing in the gloomy hall at Grimmauld Place Harry tried to explain. “Seriously, Malfoy. It wouldn’t matter if you were, I don’t know, Seamus Finnigan or a complete stranger, I’d be wanting to avoid any scenarios that could be written up as ‘Harry’s new man’. You can see how bloody that’s going to be, can’t you?”
Malfoy nodded. “I suppose that makes sense.” He huffed out a sigh. “I don’t … I’m probably a bit sensitive. For a while, years ago, I made the mistake of keeping up with old friends. Friends who would only see me in private and who cut me in public and I’m really … I don’t do that anymore. I can sort of see where you’re coming from. I certainly don’t like the press nosing into my business any more than you do. But I’m not going to start lying if anyone I know asks me where I’ve been and I’m not going to, I don’t know, throw myself into the bushes if someone comes along while we’re together. If you aren’t comfortable with that, then that’s fine. We can just forget about it.”
Malfoy smiled and shrugged. He looked bored by the whole conversation and with a start Harry recognised the look and the posture of the fourteen year-old boy he had known. And in a moment of clarity he understood that exaggerated disdain and drawl for what it was, the low-fi version of the seamless shutdown the adult Malfoy had perfected.
“I know this sucks,” Harry offered. “I’m not expecting you to hide. I can see why … Anyway, it’s just … things are complicated enough in my life just now and ... Let’s just go flying and not try to draw attention to ourselves, but, you know, whatever happens, I’ll live with it, okay? I’m not talking about not wanting anyone to know, I just mean the press, because it’s none of their fucking business, not because I’m ashamed to be seen with you or anything.”
The buoyant atmosphere of earlier had vanished, as had Malfoy’s hectic smile, and Harry found that he rather missed it.
It didn’t take long to dig out a couple of brooms and a box of Quidditch balls. The brooms were spares, but only a couple of years old. Harry would have liked to summon his current racing broom from the Leaky, but having vetoed Malfoy’s plan to buy himself a new broom he didn’t feel like raising the subject again.
“All right then,” Harry said, turning to Malfoy. “Where shall we go? I usually fly at the Auror training grounds, but there’ll be quite a few people out there on a nice day like this and …”
“Whatever, Potter. I’m not looking for an audience and I can understand you want to preserve your professional pride in front of your colleagues. Greg and Vince and I used to fly over a wood near the Goyles’ place. Haymire Woods. It was deserted enough that we never got into any trouble, even before we could cast Muggle-repelling charms.”
“Okay, that sounds fine.”
Malfoy took his arm and they Apparated again. They arrived at a small clearing in the woods, a forestry track. The wood was dull serried rows of forestry conifer. Harry could see why not many people would choose to walk there.
Malfoy threw his broom on the ground and unshrunk something from his pocket. It was his gym bag. He withdrew some crumpled clothing, wrinkling his nose in distaste. After casting a couple of cleansing spells, he shook out a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt and started unbuttoning his white shirt.
Harry, who was already wearing jeans and a t-shirt, hadn't given any thought to changing. He looked around the forest, but it didn't really offer any sort of distraction. He glanced back at Malfoy and his mouth ran dry and then flooded with saliva so that he had to swallow to avoid unseemly drooling. Malfoys was carefully folding his shirt and his golden tanned torso was dappled in the sunlight falling into the clearing.
Harry was fit, he had to remind himself. He worked out daily and until pretty recently he’d done a job that was pretty physical, too. He'd kept himself in shape, but damn. Malfoy had the body of an athlete; slim, lean and muscled. His abs rippled as he pulled his t-shirt over his head. His soft, tight, white t-shirt. He bent to slip his trousers down and kicking out of the legs he turned to pick up his sweatpants. Harry knew he should look away but he couldn’t quite tear his eyes from the sight of Malfoy’s long, firm thighs and perfect, perfect arse in tight black briefs.
Jesus Christ! Harry turned quickly before Malfoy could catch him gawping and studiously examined the branches overhead.
“You know, Potter,” Harry could hear the smirk in Malfoy’s voice, “you’re going to get yourself in a lot of trouble if you think you can get away with eyeing people's arses up like that in any sort of ‘just two guys hanging out’ scenario.”
Harry had it on the tip of his tongue to deny the accusation, but he knew he wouldn't really be kidding anyone. “Thanks for the advice, Malfoy. I'll bear it in mind. Now, if you’ve quite finished preening, let’s get in the air.”
Malfoy grinned at Harry and stuck out his hand. The broom he’d dropped leapt from the ground into his grasp.
Harry unshrunk the box of Quidditch balls and extracted the Snitch. “How about I let this go and we take five minutes to get used to these brooms, then it’s first to the Snitch wins?”
“Sounds good to me.” Malfoy set his broom to hover at his side in mid-air and pulled something from his pocket. He gathered his hair up and twisted it at the back of his head into a scruffy knot and fixing it with a black band. Without the soft hair falling about his face his features became sharper and more feral. “When you’re ready, Potter.”
Harry released the Snitch and set a Tempus charm. “It’ll chime once at four minutes, once at four and a half and three times when five minute’s up.”
Malfoy nodded and they both soared up past the tree line. It felt good to be in the air. Actually, it felt great, Harry thought. He really needed to make the time to do this more. He sketched a few loops and rolls, reacquainting himself with the idiosyncrasies of this model. There was a frustrating drag on the descent that also rendered the steering through a dive a bit unpredictable and he remembered why this broom was languishing in a cupboard.
Looking up, Harry saw Malfoy jerking his broom this way and that.
“This thing is a piece of utter shit.”
“Yeah, well, it’s no worse than mine. You just have to ease into the turns, understeer a bit.”
Malfoy flew off, muttering imprecations against his broom. Harry watched him as he tried to bank, got frustrated with the pace, over-steered and ended up in an unplanned roll. A stream of oaths floated over the spring air and Harry started to feel pretty confident about his prospects.
Patience clearly wasn't a Malfoy virtue. Malfoy appeared to be trying to break his broom’s spirit. Harry watched the broom buck and spin as Malfoy refused to accept the limitations of its responsiveness and acceleration. After a few minutes, though, Harry started to think that the five minute settling-in period had maybe been a tactically unsound move.
By the four minute chime Malfoy was looking a lot more comfortable and fluid. By the half minute chime, when Harry watched Malfoy raise his hands over his head and take his broom through a series of tight slaloms steering just with his seat, he conceded he might have a bit of a problem.
The three chimes for five minutes sounded and Malfoy soared up high to scan for the Snitch. Harry maintained a mid-height, aware that he needed to avoid coming at the Snitch from a long dive. He unfocussed his gaze and stopped ‘looking’, letting his mind relax. He had always flown like this: instinct and the primitive brain of the hunter that could see and respond to a flicker of light in the very periphery of his vision, if he didn't shut it down with too much thinking.
The pair of them hovered, a hundred, two hundred feet apart, still and silent. Harry registered the flick of blond as Malfoy scanned back and forth. Malfoy probably didn't have a primitive brain anymore, just the twitching nerves of generations of inbreeding. They floated around, alert for about ten minutes.
Light caught Harry’s eye and he was wheeling round even before he’d made any conscious decision to do so. Harry didn’t take his eyes off the Snitch, but he was aware of Malfoy throwing himself into a barrel roll, using his own body weight to drive the broom into a downward acceleration attempting to intercept.
Harry flattened himself against the line of the broom, trying to inch another notch of speed. It was going to be close and they were almost certainly going to collide too because Harry wasn’t giving any thought to anything beyond reaching the Snitch before Malfoy. He was damn sure that Malfoy wasn't either.
Twelve feet. Harry could hear the rush of Malfoy above him now. Six feet. The Snitch, which had been meandering gently before them, veered suddenly upwards and left, well out of Harry's reach. He banked sharply after it and saw Malfoy twist in the air, his arms upraised as he stretched after the Snitch, which swept just inches above his clawing fingers. Rather than execute any sort of turning circle, Malfoy used his thighs and knees to snap the broom round and up into his hands transforming his upwards reach into a new course. All of a sudden, Harry realised that Malfoy was bypassing the broom’s poor steering altogether and using the momentum of flight and his own core strength to flick it from course to course. Well, fuck.
The Snitch soared out of sight and they both came to rest, panting slightly. “You flash fuck. Where’d you learn to fly like that?”
“Needs must, Potter. I’m not letting this piece of cheap kindling stand in my way.”
“You're full of shit, Malfoy. There’s no way you just made that up. How'd you even cancel the steering charms without crapping up the acceleration?”
Malfoy just laughed, infuriatingly. “Just admit it, Potter. You’re totally outclassed.”
Malfoy shimmied his hips and executed a complicated little figure of eight beside Harry before banking off and resuming his high altitude scan.
Right, Harry thought, he needed a new plan. His best hope, he decided, was to fly as aggressively as possible. On the next race to the Snitch, he kept more of an eye on Malfoy’s course, aiming to intercept him ten feet or so before the Snitch. He body-checked Malfoy hard and, as he’d surmised, without steering charms Malfoy span wildly off course for a couple of seconds before he could regain control of his broom.
The split second Harry had taken to glance at Malfoy was enough though and the Snitch had disappeared again.
“You shit, Potter! You dirty, fucking shit. I almost had that, you son of a bitch.” But Malfoy was laughing too, his teeth and hair flashing in the sunlight.
For the next fifty minutes they wheeled about. Each time the Snitch appeared Harry divided his attention between it and attempting to knock Malfoy off his broom. Malfoy barrelled and swerved and attempted to retaliate. The Snitch easily evaded them both.
After about an hour Harry was beginning to regret putting quite as much as he had into his earlier workout. Out of the corner of his eye he spied the Snitch again, quite close by this time. He began to drift towards it, trying to avoid attracting Malfoy’s attention. For a couple of seconds it seemed it was working. Then Malfoy must have either spotted the Snitch too or clocked what Harry was doing and with an oath he threw himself into another dive.
Harry sped towards the Snitch, keeping half an eye on Malfoy’s rapid descent. As they closed with one another, Harry squared his shoulders and edged right into Malfoy. Or at least where Malfoy had been a second before. Malfoy had taken the same second to barrel roll right beneath Harry, kicking out with one foot at the tail of Harry’s broom to knock him off course. In the moments it took Harry to correct himself, Malfoy completed the roll, righting himself and hurling himself forwards, almost off his broom, to capture the Snitch.
Malfoy somersaulted forwards, the Snitch in his fist and his broom tangled in his ankles. For a couple of beats he just fell and Harry was drawing his wand for a Levitation charm, when Malfoy managed to tuck himself into a ball, drawing his broom towards him until he could catch hold of it. He spun dizzily for a few more turns before he regained some sort of control.
Malfoy’s victory howl rang out across the forest below. He held the Snitch aloft and threw his head back, whooping, before hurling himself into a series of wild loops as they both descended back into the clearing.
Malfoy flung his broom aside and tore his sweat-soaked shirt over his head grinning from ear to ear. Harry was laughing, too, and stumbling as his eyes accustomed themselves to the relative dimness of the forest floor. Malfoy was so clearly jubilant that Harry couldn't even begrudge him the win. His heart was still thumping from the exertion of his last sprint and the rush of adrenalin when he’d thought Malfoy was falling.
Malfoy strode towards him, grinning, the Snitch fluttering weakly in his grip. “I won, Potter. I won.” And he brought up his free hand, gripped the back of Harry's neck and kissed him.
Without a single thought in his head, Harry wrapped his arms around Malfoy and kissed him back. Malfoy’s chest was hot and hard against his own and Harry felt the flutter of the Snitch’s wings against the small of his back as Malfoy brought his other arm round to grip him tightly.
Harry’s blood pounded in his ears as he ran his hands over the hard planes of Malfoy’s sweat-slick back. Malfoy pulled back just enough to see Harry's face. The sun caught him through the trees. He looked like a golden god.
Harry had no idea what he was doing, but he dragged him back into another kiss. Malfoy insinuated one of his long, hard thighs between Harry’s legs and Harry moaned into his mouth. He remembered the arse he'd seen when Malfoy got changed and ran his hands over it. It felt as good as it’d looked.
Their kisses were getting sloppier and more urgent. Malfoy dipped his hand into the waistband of Harry’s jeans, lightly caressing the top of his arse, and Harry moaned again.
Just then a chime began to sound insistently from Harry’s pocket. It was his two-way mirror device. He reluctantly pulled away from Malfoy. “Sorry, sorry. I have to get this. It could be work.”
Harry fished in his back pocket and flipped open the mirror casing before him.
“Hi, Harry.” It was Ginny. Her face so familiar and yet rendered so strange by six weeks apart.
“Oh, hi, Gin.”
“Is now a good time? I wanted to discuss plans for the summer holidays. I was thinking of taking the kids to Crete. Angie and George are going with Roxie and Freddie.”
“That sounds great. Now isn’t such a good time, though. Can I call you back?”
“Not at work on Saturday, I hope?” Harry appreciated that Ginny was trying to be friendly, as they felt their way, tentatively back towards some sort of common ground.
“No, no, I …” Harry faltered.
“Harry, you’re blushing. Are you … are you on a date or something?” Ginny’s voice was warm and curious, not censorious. Harry was flooded with relief and a remembrance of why he’d loved this woman. They’d been through some rough years and some downright bloody months, but it really seemed as if they might one day manage to make it back to friends.
“Well, um, sort of. It wasn’t planned, but then it sort of turned into one. I think.” Harry grinned sheepishly. He glanced at Malfoy, who was watching him with a curious expression.
“Ooh, well, don’t let me interrupt! Anyone I know?”
Harry’s eyes flew to Malfoy, who must have heard Ginny’s question and whose face was frozen, betraying no emotion. But things were so precarious still with Ginny, with such a fragile basis for their friendship, he just couldn’t.
“No. No one you know.”
Harry tried to plead with Malfoy with his eyes. Make him understand, as he wound up his conversation with Gin, but Malfoy was already walking away.
Harry snapped the mirror casing shut. “Malfoy!”
Malfoy paused by his gym bag on the other side of the clearing, his back to Harry.
“Malfoy, I know I said … I know you said … but things are still really difficult between Gin and me. And it’s just …”
Malfoy swung his gym bag onto his shoulder. He stared hard at Harry, his expression as flat and opaque as it had ever been. “Thanks for the game, Potter.”
He tossed the Snitch down at Harry’s feet. Its wings were mangled. And Malfoy Apparated away.
Harry felt crap for the rest of the day. He could see that it was probably pretty shitty for Malfoy, having people always wanting to disassociate themselves from him because of his past. At the same time, he didn’t think he could have reacted differently. It was just fucking bad luck that Ginny had called when she had. Or maybe it wasn’t.
After all, it was a monumentally bad idea to pursue anything with Malfoy. The man drove him up the wall and everyone he knew, except maybe Luna, would think he’d gone round the bend. He didn’t need that right now. He just wanted a quiet life, didn’t he? He wanted to meet someone nice (Malfoy definitely wasn’t nice). Maybe have a bit of fun first (Malfoy was probably fun. Probably a lot of fun). Harry remembered the feel of Malfoy’s sculpted arse beneath his fingers and his hard thigh sliding between his legs …
Fuck, fuck, fuck! For the tenth time that afternoon Harry tried to get thoughts of Malfoy out of his mind. The trouble was, there wasn’t a lot to distract him in his room at the Leaky. He tried desultorily reading over the papers he’d brought home from work. He didn’t even have laundry to do, as he just bagged it up for the hag who did the rooms and it came back all clean and folded.
Harry tried to re-apply himself to a proposal document for new procedures regarding the admittance of Seers’ evidence. Malfoy had a great smile. His teeth looked really sharp and white against his tan, attractive and dangerous. Imagine that mouth around your cock – shit! Damn it all. Maybe he should just have a wank?
No, absolutely not. He was not having a wank over Malfoy. That was his line in the sand. He just needed to get out. He needed to get some action. Apart from some really awkward, ‘trying to reignite the spark’ sex with Ginny and a few stilted encounters with blokes in nightclubs, his sex life had been dismal for the last few years. That was probably the problem. He needed to get laid or he was clearly going to lose his mind. Malfoy was a symptom and not the cure. What if he had just taken Malfoy up on that suggestion to blow him in the bathroom? That would have shut him up. If he’d just sunk to his knees, without saying anything and taken Malfoy’s cock in his mouth.
Shit! He was doing it again. This was hopeless. Harry went over to the fireplace and stuck his head in the Floo. He’d call Stuart and see if he and Simon were going out tonight. Harry was supposed to be going to Fiona’s birthday, but at this point he’d rather chew off his own arm. Everyone else there would be couples with Hogwarts-aged children. They’d all be talking about magical extensions and whether it was morally acceptable to leave their kids in school over Christmas so they could go on a romantic alpine break. Ginny might even be there and if she was she’d naturally ask him more about his date. He definitely needed not to go.
Stuart was a wiry, fifty-something Scot who ruled the MLE Records and Documentation office with an iron fist. He could make seasoned Aurors cry if he thought their paperwork was too sloppy. He lived with Simon, who was about five foot nothing and made Luna look grounded and conservative. They were Harry’s clubbing buddies. Stuart was so obviously in love with Simon, Harry had been able to talk to him about his own sexuality, at the point when he’d been feeling most vulnerable and confused, without be afraid it would somehow tip over into something else.
“Harry, ma’ boy!” Stuart said jovially.
“Hi, Stu. I wondered if you and Simon were going out tonight. I’m going a bit crazy with the paperwork and I just really need a night out.”
“Well, we weren’t planning anything, but I don’t see why we couldn’t head out for a few pints at least. How about we meet you at the Sailor’s Arms at nine o’clock? We can have a wee drink there, then head over to Endymion after that. That’s all right, isn’t it Simon, darling?” Stuart bellowed the plan upstairs to Simon who appeared to have no problem with it.
“Thanks, Stu. That’s really great. I’ll see you there.”
Harry spent the next couple of hours getting at least a little work done then having a shower and getting dressed in his tightest jeans and a thin white t-shirt before grabbing a quick supper at the bar downstairs. Maybe if Stu and Simon wanted to go home before he did he could go and see if he could find the bar that waiter had said he’d be at?
Looking round the nightclub later that night he smiled to himself. It definitely felt better to be out. They’d had a pint at the Sailor's and then headed over to the club. It was still pretty early on, but it was Saturday, so there was enough of a buzz going. They sat at the back bar and watched the dancers. Stu and Simon danced a bit. Harry didn’t dance. Not unless he was really, really drunk.
There was a good looking, dark-haired guy at the other side of the bar. Harry had glanced at him a few times and been caught at it. Harry really hated this bit. He never knew what he was supposed to do. Should he just go round and talk to the guy? Shit, you’d have thought that by the time you were thirty seven you wouldn’t have to go through this crap.
Harry suddenly looked up from his bottle of beer, startled. It was like he heard a door banging open somewhere, but that didn’t make any sense, as he could barely hear anything over the noise of the music. Malfoy was here. Malfoy had come looking for him. Harry didn’t know how he knew this, but it was true none the less. He stood up from his stool and scanned the crowd.
It was only moments before he saw him. Malfoy was making his way directly towards him through the throng of dancers and his eyes locked with Harry’s. Malfoy’s hair was down flowing over his shoulders and he wore tight black jeans and a thin charcoal sweater that clung to him enticingly. The sleeves were pushed back to the elbows, showing his tanned forearms and the shadow of the mark.
Harry put down his beer and squared himself to meet him, feeling tension coil in his belly.
“Potter,” Malfoy said, once he reached him.
“Malfoy,” Harry replied. “How’d you know I was here?” There was no point even pretending at this point that Malfoy hadn’t come here deliberately looking for him.
Malfoy twitched an odd smile and shrugged. “I just guessed, I suppose.”
They were standing too close to one another. Harry wanted to sit back down on his stool and put some distance between them, but he also didn’t fancy the height disadvantage if Malfoy chose to remain standing.
Harry licked his lips. “What do you want?”
Malfoy’s eyes tracked the flick of Harry’s tongue and he seemed to have difficulty pulling his gaze back up to meet Harry’s. “I wanted to see you,” he said slowly. “I think I … I think I over-reacted this morning. I still don’t like what you did, but I … I don’t know. I needed to see you.” Malfoy’s eyeline slipped again, raking over Harry’s body.
Malfoy’s eyes were hooded when he looked back up and he gave Harry a warm little half-smile. His eyes slid down to Harry’s groin again and back up, biting his lip. “You look really good, Harry.”
“I’m so glad my outfit meets with your approval this time,” Harry said wryly. He was trying to keep his distance, but there was something intoxicating about the way Malfoy was eating him up with his eyes.
Malfoy’s lips twitched in a smirk. “I’m not saying I couldn’t make a few improvements. For example, I’d like to see how you look with your shirt off and those jeans pushed down to about mid-thigh. I think you could really work that.”
Harry shook his head with a snort, but he couldn’t stop a smile playing about his lips. Why wasn’t he surprised that Malfoy was anything but subtle?
“Come and dance with me,” Malfoy urged.
“I don’t dance,” Harry replied. Malfoy slid one hand around Harry’s waist. His palm felt shockingly hot through the thin cotton of Harry’s shirt. “I really can’t dance,” Harry murmured half-heartedly as he allowed himself to be pulled onto the dance floor.
“Don’t give me that rubbish, Potter. I’ve seen you fly.” Malfoy smiled. It was a bit strange. Chatting with Stu and Simon had involved a lot of leaning over and roaring into one another's ears, but he could hear Malfoy without a problem.
“You can’t say I didn’t warn you,” Harry muttered. He hated dancing, why was he doing this?
“You’ve just got to relax,” Malfoy said pulling him close, one hand in the small of Harry’ back, the other resting on Harry’s hip.
“Yeah, yeah, feel the music,” Harry groaned. People had tried to teach him to dance before. Many, many times.
“Fuck the music,” Malfoy murmured, still smiling. The hand on Harry’s back slipped down over his arse and pulled him still closer allowing Malfoy to press their hips together. “I didn’t come here for the music, Harry.”
God, Malfoy was hard. Harry could feel the length of him pressing into the seam of his thigh as he ground against him. Fuck! Harry’s hands, which had been loosely and a little nervously placed at Malfoy’s waist, scrabbled for purchase. He caught hold of one back pocket and one belt loop and hauled himself up against Malfoy’s thigh.
Malfoy hummed a low, pleased noise in his throat. The vibrations seemed to travel directly from Malfoy’s chest to Harry’s. Malfoy rocked their hips together in time with the music, his head tipped back and his eyes drifting closed.
Harry was rapidly becoming hard himself. Around them the crowd swayed and pulsed with the music that thumped overhead. No one was watching them. Harry couldn’t quite understand why not, because Malfoy’s long throat rising up from the low v of his sweater, his slightly parted mouth, the play of disco lights across the planes of his face made him really, really worth looking at.
One of Malfoy’s hands gripped Harry’s arse firmly, holding him in place, while the other worked its way up the back of his shirt, his thumb stroking lightly over Harry’s ribs in the way that sent electric ripples through his body. Harry groped Malfoy’s arse shamelessly. God, it felt good flexing beneath his fingers. This was not subtle at all. They were practically dry humping in the middle of a night club. If Harry was serious about being discreet he really needed to stop this.
Malfoy opened his eyes again. The pupils were large and dark, with just a ring of luminous grey iris haloing them. “See, I knew you could dance.”
Harry laughed, shaking his head. “I’ll admit I’m no expert, but I really don’t think this is dancing.”
Malfoy just smiled again, but this time the smile had a faintly predatory edge that quickened Harry’s pulse. Malfoy started walking him backwards, not breaking the contact between their hips, guiding Harry back until Harry felt his back thunk against the cool concrete of one of the pillars holding up the balcony. All thought of telling Malfoy to back off dissolved as Malfoy pressed him back against the cool concrete and licked his lips.
For a couple of seconds Malfoy just looked at Harry as he held him in place, then surprisingly gently Malfoy lent forward and kissed him. Harry parted his lips and allowed Malfoy’s tongue to slip into his mouth. Malfoy kissed him slowly, savouring with his tongue and running Harry’s lower lip lightly between his teeth.
When Malfoy had kissed him in the clearing that morning, he’d been exultant and flooded with the adrenaline of flying. The kiss had almost just been the overflowing of exuberant energy. This time, though, Malfoy was kissing him with absolute focus, as if Harry’s mouth was the most important thing in the world.
Malfoy kissed along his jaw before working with soft bites and kisses down his neck.
“Malfoy, I … I’m not sure this is a good …” Harry tried. The rest of what Harry was going to say was bitten off in a soft gasp when Malfoy leaned up and ran his teeth and then his tongue over the shell of Harry’s ear at the same time as he reached down to cup Harry through his trousers.
“Shit, Malfoy,” Harry breathed.
Malfoy took the lobe of his ear between his teeth and nibbled it gently before starting to suck harder on Harry’s neck as he rubbed lightly across his cock. Without conscious intent, Harry tilted his neck to the side to give Malfoy more room and spread his legs further apart.
“I should have stayed.” Malfoy’s voice was low in his ear. And he shouldn’t have been able to hear him speaking this soft, but somehow he could hear him perfectly because Malfoy wanted him to understand. “This morning,” Malfoy said slowly. “I shouldn’t have just left. I should have stayed, even though you’re a craven bastard. I should have stayed and fucked you.”
Harry wanted to play it cool, but pressed against each other as they were, he couldn’t disguise the rise of his chest as he inhaled sharply. He let out a shaky breath and swallowed, his chest rising and falling.
“You looked so beautiful in the air, Harry. You fly like you always did. And I wanted to fuck you the entire time.”
Harry swallowed again. He gripped Malfoy firmly, though he wasn’t sure whether he was holding Malfoy against him or holding him still, lest he try to take things further.
Malfoy bit and sucked on Harry’s neck, before sliding up to nuzzle the soft, sensitive skin behind Harry’s ear. Malfoy was talking to him, his lips moving against Harry’s neck. Harry couldn’t stop himself thrusting lightly into Malfoy’s hand and he could feel the heat of Malfoy’s thighs and chest against his own.
“I can’t stop thinking about you. Merlin, you smell amazing, Harry. You taste amazing. I want to taste you.” Malfoy punctuated his words with wet kisses along his throat and huffs of breath that sent shivers running from Harry’s neck straight to his groin.
“Can I taste you?” Malfoy continued. “I want to kneel at your feet now and taste you. I want you so badly. I can feel you on my tongue.”
Harry entirely forgot about this not being a good idea. It was the best idea. He worked one hand under Malfoy’s sweater and his skin was just as hot and slick and perfect as it had been in the clearing. The other hand hadn’t let go of Malfoy’s arse. This was his new favourite place in the world.
“I can tell how good you’ll feel Harry,” Malfoy murmured, “hot and heavy on my tongue. And, God, the taste of you!”
Harry’s thoughts flew back to what he’d wanted that morning, when Malfoy had slipped his fingers beneath the waistband of Harry’s jeans and Harry had imagined those fingers travelling further.
“Yes,” Malfoy hissed in affirmative, though again it was as if Harry could hear him without the words being spoken aloud. It was odd, but it didn’t seem to matter very much as Harry pictured Draco naked on his knees in front of him. His hungry mouth swallowing him down as his fingers thrust their way into him.
“Yes, like that, Harry. I’ll take you so far down my throat and I’ll work you with my tongue. I’m good, I promise. You like teeth? Just a hint of teeth, while my fingers fuck into your arse. How many do you want Harry? Do you want more?”
Harry moaned aloud now and Draco tore his head up to kiss him, open-mouthed and hungry. Draco’s tongue was stroking into his mouth as Harry imagined his fingers twisting inside him. Draco’s arms were around him pressing him up against the column to angle one of his thighs between Harry’s legs.
Harry got an arm around Draco’s neck as Draco gripped his arse, his finger at the arse-seam of Harry’s jeans simulating the pictures in Harry’s mind. Harry ground against Draco’s thigh, rocking against him, and panted into his mouth in between sloppy, desperate kisses. He wound his fingers into Draco’s hair, grasping a thick twisted hank and tugging as in his fantasy he wound his fingers into Draco’s hair, hip thrusting between Draco’s mouth and fingers.
Harry heard someone nearby hoot encouragement. He broke his kiss with Malfoy and looked over to see that a few of the club’s other punters were standing nearby blatantly watching the show.
“Oh, don’t mind us, darling,” one of the men laughed.
“Unless you’re looking for a third?” another offered hopefully.
Harry registered through the fog of arousal that he wasn’t entirely happy about being watched like this. Less vaguely, he sensed the thrum of hostile magic where Malfoy’s hands gripped his arse possessively. Malfoy was still wearing that damn ring.
Malfoy twisted round with a snarl, eyeing the men murderously. His eyes were flashing black, the pupils so dilated that the irises were barely visible.
“Come on, Malfoy,” Harry wrestled himself out of Malfoy’s grip, keeping one hand clamped around the wrist of the hand wearing the ring. “Seriously, Malfoy,” he hissed, “Come on. Let’s get some air or something. You can’t curse them for watching. We’re in the middle of a club, for fuck’s sake.”
Malfoy looked at him blankly and then at Harry’s hand around his wrist. He shook his head as if trying to clear it.
Another thought struck Harry. “Malfoy, have you … taken something? Your eyes … look, let’s just get some air.” He part guided, part hauled Malfoy through the dancers to the exit and away from the people milling about or queuing to get in.
“I told you not the wear that ring any more, Malfoy. Seriously …” Harry broke off in concern when Malfoy, who had been staring at him glassily, slumped slightly, catching himself on the nearby wall and rubbing his free hand over his face.
“Malfoy, are you all right?” Harry went to again take Malfoy’s arm, but he fended him off, waving him away. Harry took a step back, watching Malfoy closely and poised to catch him if he looked like falling.
Malfoy shook his head again, like he was emerging from water, and he stared at Harry, his breath heaving and his pupils still over-dilated.
“Malfoy, what ...?” Harry asked again.
“I don’t know,” Malfoy rasped. He coughed a couple of times and spat on the pavement. “Potter, where am I?” he finally asked.
Harry stared at him in concern. “Have you taken anything? Has anything happened?”
“Where am I?” Malfoy repeated.
“We’re outside Endymion. Do you not remember coming here?”
“No, I …” Malfoy massaged his temples frowning intently. “I was … what was?” He looked back in the direction of the club and then suddenly back at Harry. “We just … what happened?”
“I don’t know? You just showed up and…” Harry waved his hands in a way he hoped conveyed something of the progress of events.
Malfoy swallowed and beneath his tan, Harry could see his skin was clammy and pallid.
“This club, where is it? Where are we?”
“Off Lamb’s Conduit Street. But look, maybe I should take you to St Mungo’s?” Harry moved towards Malfoy again.
“Don’t touch me,” Malfoy barked. “I’m … I’m going home.”
“You can’t Apparate. Wait …” But it was too late, Malfoy was gone. Harry cast a quick Double Vision spell to distort the view of the area and hopefully persuade any Muggle who happened to be looking that they hadn’t seen what they might have thought they saw.
Then it was Harry’s turn to sag back against the wall.
He’d almost come in his pants, in a crowded club, while grinding himself earnestly against Draco Malfoy. He took a deep breath. Maybe he should … maybe he should check Malfoy got home okay? He knew Malfoy had left the Leaky and was presumably back home with his mother.
Harry really didn’t want to show up at the Manor at nearly midnight and talk to Narcissa Malfoy about whether her thirty-seven-year-old son had made it home safely from a gay club. Harry settled on using his mirror device to see if Luna was up. She was and he apprised her, as briefly as possible regarding his concerns for Malfoy’s well-being.
“I just wondered if you could make a Fire-call and check he was all right. He looked like he might need medical attention, but I don’t … want to intrude,” Harry floundered.
“All right, Harry,” Luna said blithely. “I’ll see if he’s feeling okay. I don’t think he’ll see a healer. He really hates hospitals.”
“Thanks, Luna. That’s great.”
“No problem, Harry,” Luna replied happily. “That’s going to be a very nice lovebite when it’s come up. I hope you had a good time?”
“Yeah, ah, thanks, Luna.” Harry snapped his mirror casing shut. He reached up to probe gently at the tenderness he could feel beneath his left ear. Yup, he was going to have a massive lovebite there. Brilliant. He tried to decide whether it would be more or less humiliating if he had actually come in his pants. At least that way he’d have got off.
He decided, on balance, that it was best that he hadn’t. This way they’d just snogged in a club. Malfoy had the excuse of being under the influence of some kind of drug, potion or curse and had appeared pretty horrified when he came to himself. Harry’s best chance was that Malfoy remembered very little of it. Harry didn’t have any sort of excuse and he’d been blatantly into it. If Malfoy did remember, it would be some sort of salve to Harry’s dignity that it had just been a snog. And a bit of a grope. And grind. Anyway, Malfoy would have no way of knowing how close Harry had got to coming in his pants.
Harry looked back at the entrance to the club. He should go back. Stu and Simon would wonder what happened. But Harry couldn’t face it. Frustrated as he was, the thought of finding someone and negotiating whatever needed to be negotiated to get his rocks off just seemed like too much effort. At least you could say this for Malfoy, Harry never needed to come up with any lines. Malfoy was just there. Harry spent a couple of seconds wishing that he’d managed to ignore those guys a little longer, then he strengthened the Double Vision spell and Apparated back to the Leaky. He made a quick Fire-call to Stuart’s House-elf, Suzette, and asked her to tell Stu and Simon he’d got home fine and would call them soon.
Harry didn’t even try to kid himself that he wasn’t going to wank over Malfoy before he went to sleep. Maybe he was having an early mid-life crisis. Maybe it was some sort of delayed post-traumatic stress, brought on by seeing Malfoy again. Post-traumatic stress that they were both suffering from at the same time.
Harry left his clothes puddled on the floor in the middle of the room and crawled into his bed in just his briefs. Shit it had felt so good when Malfoy had licked him. Of course, he’d only licked his neck, but it had felt like … it had been really intense. Was that normal? And Malfoy’s voice? Was that just Malfoy or had it really been so long that Harry had forgotten what it was like to be properly, eye-rollingly turned on?
He closed his eyes and slid his hand into his briefs. He tried to remember the images that had danced before his eyes in the club, Malfoy’s thin, smirking lips wrapped around his cock, cheeks flushed and saliva dripping down his chin. But instead he got a vivid vision of Malfoy’s long, tanned thighs straddling his shoulders as he lay back on his bed. Is that what Malfoy’s cock looked like? God, he hoped so.
Malfoy was kneeling over him, slowly jerking himself off. Harry fondled himself in time to imaginary Malfoy’s strokes. He found himself straining upwards, wetting his lips. Malfoy’s grin was feral as he angled his cock down towards Harry’s mouth. Harry watched, mesmerized, as Malfoy’s cock beaded with pre-come.
He moaned, then flung one arm up to muffle his moans as his tried to keep his strokes as slow and languid as Malfoy’s.
He really couldn’t though and his mouth was gasping open and begging. “You want it, Potter?” he could hear Malfoy’s taunts and, oh God, he did. Malfoy was moving faster now, his other hand braced against the wall over Harry’s head. “Please, Malfoy,” he groaned.
“Open your mouth, Potter, nice and wide.” Malfoy’s hips were starting to piston to meet his hand and Harry stretched out his tongue avidly towards Malfoy’s cock.
Malfoy’s hips shuddered erratically and he was coming in hot pulses on Harry’s face and into his mouth.
Harry pressed one hand to the bruised skin beneath his ear, his other hand working furiously over his cock. And came.
Saturday was also not the only night he wanked over Malfoy. He honestly hadn’t thought he had such a fertile imagination or that he’d be so into … well. He didn’t know where some of those ideas had come from. He clearly needed to do something about his sex life.
He decided he was actually having some sort of mid-life crisis. That’s what men did, wasn’t it? He was thirty-seven, secure in his job, divorced and single with three kids in Hogwarts. It was entirely reasonable for him to want to break out in some way. He’d got that stupid stylish haircut and started this … thing … with Malfoy. Malfoy was the equivalent of an expensive sports car and an inappropriate girlfriend rolled into one. A Muggle sports car and an inappropriate girlfriend half his age would probably be less trouble in the long run. And he was clearly doing something wrong because he wasn’t getting any sex either.
He’d finally agreed to the blind date with Fiona’s cousin that she’s been suggesting ever since she knew he was gay. He needed to get proactive. Okay, so he had held off the actual date for another two weeks, but it was all arranged. He wanted to wait until the lovebite had gone, he told himself. Because he had standards … or something.
He’d sent Malfoy an Owl to ask if he was all right and received no reply. But that was probably just as well. Luna would have told him if it was anything serious and the man was at home with his mother. She would surely notice if he was cursed. Right, he wasn’t going to think about Malfoy any more. For one thing, he was already showered and dressed and thinking about Malfoy only led in one direction these days.
Harry retrieved the gift he’d bought for Luna. An antique Muggle musical box with a ballerina that turned as the music played. It hadn’t been the sort of shop that gift wrapped, so Harry spent fifteen minutes trying to get the paper he’d bought to wrap neatly around the box before taking it downstairs to Gwen at the bar.
Tonight was going to be fun, he told himself. Luna’s birthday parties were always a lot of fun. There would be a lot of the old Hogwarts crowd there and that selection of familiar faces added to the unique atmosphere of Luna’s place always seemed to make everyone feel freer and more youthful. Maybe he’d even meet someone nice there.
Harry was taking a Portkey with Ron and Hermione, so he Flooed to their house first and they had a quick beer and catch-up in the peace of their kitchen before heading over to Luna and Rolf’s. The Portkey landed them at the bottom of the garden, which was festooned in coloured flags and pixie lanterns.
“Goodnight, Vienna. Now lovers kiss beneath your linden trees …” A large frog crooned to them from the grass.
Harry wasn’t sure if it was a stray gift or part of the planned entertainment, but there were enchanted frogs all over the garden singing old dancehall tunes. Different tunes. At different times. The effect was … very Luna.
They made their way up the garden and found Luna to give her their presents. She seemed to love the musical box, which Harry was really pleased about. He wasn’t all that practiced in buying presents, as he’d rather lazily allowed Ginny to take care of all that when they’d been together. It was one of the many things he’d come to realise he’d have to learn or re-learn now he was single. But that was a good thing.
They’d shared a hug and a kiss and then Harry had wandered off to where Rolf was manning a makeshift bar.
“Pineapple beer?” Rolf asked.
“Yeah, why not?” Harry replied with a grin. The answer to that question became abundantly apparent once he’d sipped it.
Harry strolled around the garden, chatting to people as the light began to fade and the pixie lanterns twinkled pink, primrose and violet.
With a sudden whoosh, Harry became aware of another Portkey activating across the lawn. Before he’d even finished turning around, he knew who it would be. Malfoy.
Malfoy had never been at Luna’s birthday before, but then he wasn’t usually in the UK this time of year or for so long. As Malfoy straightened up, regaining his balance after landing, he froze. His eyes flicked momentarily in Harry’s direction, but he did not turn. Deliberately did not turn. Harry sighed as he watched Malfoy make his way up the garden. Bollocks.
That was okay. They could be adults about this. Say a quick hello and be polite and all that. Harry watched as Malfoy found Luna and unshrunk a parcel from his pocket. Luna unwrapped it and took out the most peculiar looking musical instrument. It looked like some sort of homemade banjo crossed with a harp. Harry couldn’t hear what Malfoy was saying, but when he touched the thing lightly Harry could make out the strains of metallic notes, woven into a complex, overlapping rhythms that even to Harry’s untutored ears sounded sort of Eastern.
Malfoy’s eyes flicked over to Harry in irritation again. Harry started to make his way over. If they were going to do awkward hellos they might as well get it over with. As he neared them though, Malfoy bowed hurriedly to Luna and turned his back on Harry, heading off in the opposite direction.
Not polite hellos then, just good old fashioned avoiding one another. Fine. Luna looked at him curiously, but Harry just turned and stomped off over to the bar. Dean and Seamus had given him the heads up that if you asked for wheat beer you at least got something vaguely drinkable.
So Harry drank and chatted and had fun, like he’d meant to, but the whole time he was aware of Malfoy’s presence. Unlike the majority of guests who were in Muggle clothes, like Harry, or colourful flowing robes, Malfoy was dressed severely in black. His hair was falling in a shimmering curtain down his back and reflected the coloured lights in the garden. Harry couldn’t help noticing that Malfoy didn’t speak to many people, circulating, but not joining any of the laughing groups.
Malfoy was a prick. He probably thought he was better than everyone else here. The thought didn’t quite ring true, no matter how hard Harry tried to will it. Malfoy was just aware of not imposing himself where he was not wanted and skilled at making his socially awkward presence as unobtrusive and palatable as possible.
About forty five minutes later Harry finally came face to face with Malfoy in the corridor running from the bathroom in Luna’s house. Malfoy froze when he saw Harry and looked for a minute like he would turn back around, but then he set his face in a stubborn frown and stood his ground as Harry came back along the corridor. What the fuck was his problem?
“Good evening, Potter.”
“You doing all right?” Harry tried to ask the question neutrally, so that it could encompass both a general sense and an allusion to the previous weekend.
Malfoy swallowed. “I’m fine.” He didn’t exactly look fine. He stood stiffly upright, his body thrumming with tension. “I’m just going, actually.” He turned to retreat back down the corridor and Harry caught at his arm.
“What was that thing you got Luna?”
Malfoy looked down at Harry’s hand on his arm, his chest rising and falling as his breathing sped up. “It’s a simsimiyya. They play it in Aqaba,” Malfoy said in a low voice. “I got a friend of mine to play it and we charmed it to replay the music when touched.”
A friend, Harry thought. Would that be one of the beautiful Persian boys Malfoy had talked about being in Aqaba? Harry felt an irrational flare of jealousy and scowled.
Malfoy inhaled sharply as if responding to the heat in Harry’s eyes. His gaze became hooded and Harry noticed his pupils growing larger.
“You have to let go, Potter,” Malfoy said distantly. “I have to leave.”
“No. Malfoy, we have to talk about this. Something is going on. Come here.” Harry dragged Malfoy protesting into Rolf and Luna’s study nearby.
“What’s going on?” Harry demanded when he’d shut the door behind him. “Because this is weird, right? This isn’t normal.” He gestured between them.
“I don’t know,” Malfoy confessed. “It isn’t … I took a Bezoar and that should have neutralized or at least disrupted any potion I had inadvertently taken. And it didn’t … nothing changed.” His cheeks were splotched with pink.
“And what,” Harry licked his lips, “what have you noticed … about … this thing?” He felt himself blushing too. “I can tell where you are, even without looking,” he volunteered. “I knew as soon as you arrived at the club last weekend and at the party tonight.”
Malfoy was looking around the room agitatedly, perhaps looking for something to distract himself with. “I can tell where you are too. Anywhere. I mean, I think I can find you.” He stared at Harry. “I can smell you. You smell …” Malfoy swallowed and looked away again. “I’ve been having these dreams. Did you …?”
Images from the dreams flooded Harry’s mind and either Malfoy could see them too or could see something of them in Harry’s face, because he took a faltering step towards him before letting out a strangled huff and turning around to lean over Rolf’s desk, gripping the wood and breathing hard. Harry took a step towards him, then stilled. He knew he should stay back, but the urge to go and see if Malfoy was all right was intense.
“I tried to leave.” Malfoy’s voice was strained. “I went to the Portkey office to get an international Portkey back home, but I couldn’t take it. I literally couldn’t put out my hand. It felt like … like it would be a terrible mistake. I don’t know what’s happening.” He sounded desperate.
Harry took another step towards him. “Maybe it’s a curse or something. Hold still, there are some checks I can do.”
“Don’t come any closer, Potter. I mean it,” Malfoy growled. But there was something in the tone of his voice, some promise, that made it very hard indeed not to.
Harry concentrated on the incantations and cast a series of Auror spells designed to reveal the presence of curses or dark magic. There was nothing. Nothing except Malfoy’s damn amulet ring and a stink of something coming off his other hand too.
“Where did you even get that damned ring?” Harry asked.
“I got it a few years ago, in Knockturn Alley. I wear it when I’m back here. Why?”
“Take it off.”
Malfoy took it off and tossed it aside, but it didn’t appear to change anything or lessen the tension throbbing between them.
“What about the other one? The other ring.”
“That’s my signet ring, Potter. I’ve worn it since I came of age. It hasn’t been off my hand since. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
“It’s showing traces of dark magic.”
“It’s a Malfoy ring, Potter. Practically everything we have this old has traces of dark magic in it. It wasn’t even called dark magic when it was made. I’m not taking it off.”
“Fine.” Harry cast again but nothing he could think of revealed anything amiss. “I don’t know, Malfoy. I think we’re going to have to get help.”
Malfoy still had his back to Harry, hanging his head as he gripped the edge of the desk, the line of his shoulders eloquent with misery.
“It’ll be all right,” Harry said, and without thinking he stepped forward to rest his hand lightly on Malfoy’s back.
Even through the layers of robe, Malfoy was radiating a fierce heat. Harry was about to snatch his hand away when Malfoy spun around, catching him and pinning him against the table.
“Harry,” he whispered, “I told you not to touch me. I told you. I tried.” His voice sounded almost plaintive.
“It’s all right, Draco,” Harry found himself responding, struggling to think around the smothering waves of satisfaction that came from feeling Malfoy pressed up against him. “It’s all right. I know you tried.” Harry tried again to assert some control over himself. “You just need to let me go again and I’ll go and get help,” he said gently.
“But I can’t,” Draco said simply. His eyes were shining black. Entirely black. There were no whites visible at all, just an obsidian gleam. He smiled at Harry and it would have been sweet if his teeth were not so sharp. Surely his teeth hadn’t always been that way? Harry’s mind stumbled to a halt. It didn’t matter. Draco was still beautiful. Still so beautiful.
Draco leaned forward and pressed with his tongue on the charm-hidden bruise on Harry’s neck and Harry let out a ragged moan.
“Draco, you have to let me go.”
“No, Harry.” And again, Harry could hear Draco’s voice in his head, soft and regretful, as Draco’s lips worked at his throat. “I won’t ever let you go.”
Harry was aware that it was important to leave, but it felt nice, being held like this. Draco straightened, running one hand over Harry’s shoulder and chest, while his other raked through Harry’s hair. He stared at Harry intently, as if memorizing him as he stroked and petted him. He cupped Harry’s jaw and stroked down his cheek. One of his fingers strayed near Harry’s mouth and without thinking, Harry turned and caught it between his lips.
Draco’s eyes widened and he stood transfixed as Harry sucked on his finger. It felt exhilarating: the sensual gratification of Draco’s finger in his mouth, tracing his tongue down to the salty skin between Draco’s fingers, and the mind-blowing awareness that Draco’s breath was coming in fast uneven gusts, that he was swaying on his feet and starting to tremble just because of this. Because of Harry.
Harry ran his teeth lightly up Draco’s finger tipping his head back. With a growl Draco snatched it away, caught Harry’s head in his two hands and kissed him fiercely, moaning his name between frenzied kisses.
“Please, Harry, please,” Draco begged. Harry didn’t really know what he was asking for, but hell, he could have it. Whatever it was, whatever he wanted, he could take it, take it now.
Draco hummed with warm approval and, cradling the back of Harry’s head, he laid him back across the desk.
Harry’s hands came up, beginning to fumble with the hundred of tiny buttons that appeared to fasten Draco’s robes. Draco was not similarly encumbered and he just brushed Harry’s hands away, pushed his t-shirt up to his armpits and bent to suck one of Harry’s nipples while palming him through his jeans.
Harry gasped and threw one leg up to hook around Draco’s waist and give himself the leverage he needed to grind his hips up.
“Mmm, Harry, I’ve waited so long for you,” Draco murmured heatedly. “I can’t wait any more. I’m sorry, I just … you are so…” He pulled back to start unfastening Harry’s jeans. “Please, Harry, I can’t wait.”
Harry just thrust up into Draco’s hands. Anything that involved Draco getting in his pants was a good thing. Draco’s needy begging was just driving him even wilder. It felt so good to know that Draco was this trembling, hungry mess because he wanted Harry so much. All his hauteur, all his attempts to ignore Harry and really he wanted this.
Draco managed to get Harry’s fly enough undone to slide one hand inside and grip Harry’s cock. Harry let out a heartfelt moan of satisfaction at the same time as Draco groaned and threw himself down to rest one elbow on the table so he could lean close over Harry as he began to work him slowly with his other hand.
“You feel so good, Harry. You look so good like this. I knew you would. I knew how you would feel under my hands. Mine.” Draco bit his lip, staring at Harry intently with his deep, black eyes. He rubbed the pad of his thumb over the tip of Harry’s cock and Harry let out another breathy sound.
“Yes,” Draco smiled softly, eagerly, his eyes fluttering shut, before he forced them open again to gaze at Harry. “I want to see you. I want to see your face when you come. Is this good?”
“Oh, yeah, Draco,” Harry gasped as Draco’s hand twisted. Draco had just the right grip, the slide of his fingers over the ridge of Harry’s cockhead, the edgy drag of friction. Harry clawed at Draco’s back, trying to haul himself closer. He wished Draco had fewer clothes on. His breath was coming in heavy pants now.
Draco was panting too, in sympathy, in unison with the strokes of his hands, his brow pinched as if he was the one on the brink of orgasm. “Oh Harry, you look so beautiful, so perfect. Oh, God, Harry, I can’t wait,” Draco groaned. “I want to see you come. I want to feel you splash over my fingers. I’m going to gather up your come from your belly and push it back inside you, into your arse with my fingers, and then I’m going to fuck you. Come on, Harry…”
“Brother, brother, brother!”
The voice was not threatening, but it was insistent. It had been there for some time, Harry dimly recognised, but was getting louder and more urgent. Harry could not summon the mental faculties to give a damn about working out what was going on.
“Brother, you must wait, brother.”
She didn't sound like she was going away. She should go away though, because it was distracting Draco.
“What?” Draco finally raised himself and barked over his shoulder. Harry groaned, this time in fierce frustration.
“Brother, you must wait. It is not the time.”
Draco growled low in his throat, but to was in annoyance rather than anger. “I have waited long enough.”
“No, you must wait still more. It will be beautiful, but you must wait or you will spoil it.”
Draco let out a sound that was half huff, half whine, but he levered himself off Harry. The loss of Draco’s body heat sent a keen chill through Harry. This was a bad thing, Harry’s depleted mental resources supplied. Whatever it was, it was distracting Draco from fucking him. A very bad thing.
Through the haze of his intense desire and urgent, urgent need to come into Draco’s hand as soon as humanly possible, Harry registered he was lying with his trousers and pants down to mid-thigh in a room in someone else's house and that someone else, at least, was definitely there. He should probably do something.
Putting his dick away seemed like a really stupid idea with Draco standing right there, but then again ...
“Harry, are you all right?” It was Hermione’s voice. Crap. That tipped the balance and Harry shuffled upright and off the desk tugging his trousers back up as he went. This manoeuvre demanded more coordination than he could currently muster and he stumbled forward.
Draco caught him and it was bliss. Harry smiled stupidly up at him. Wow, his eyes were really, really black. There were patterns running from his hairline, around behind his ears and down his neck that Harry had never noticed before. They were a soft grey, like an old, faded tattoo, and took the form of regular serrated markings like the flight feathers of birds of prey. They were beautiful.
Draco smiled at him, raising one hand to stroke his face. Harry noticed, absently, the same markings running down Draco’s wrist as it appeared from his robes. The markings became denser until over his knuckles the coalesced and his fingers were a solid black. His nails shone black like his eyes.
“Beloved.” Draco said, still smiling at him. Whether there were other people in the room was entirely unimportant when Draco looked at him like that.
“Brother,” that insistent voice broke in. “Brother, remember you must wait.”
“I must wait,” Draco said ruefully and stepped back, dropping his hand.
Harry frowned, well pouted really, and was about to follow Draco and close the distance between them again when Hermione’s voice came again.
“Harry. Harry come over here.” She spoke low and urgently and Harry finally tore his eyes away from Draco and looked over to the doorway. Hermione stood there, beckoning him furiously. Beside her he saw Fleur advancing on Draco slowly, her hand outstretched to guide him further back into the room. As Fleur moved, Harry saw behind her Bill Weasley, his wand drawn and trained on Draco.
Without thinking Harry drew his own wand. Besides Bill, Ron also stood, wand drawn. Despite his alarm, Harry found he couldn’t begin to process what was going on beyond the need to protect Draco.
“Harry, please,” Hermione pleaded. “You need to come over here.”
“What’s going on?” Harry demanded. He crossed the room to position himself between the corner where Fleur now stood with Draco, holding Draco’s hands in hers and murmuring to him.
“You need to move aside, Harry,” Bill directed.
Harry felt a flare of anger and squared his shoulders.
“Harry,” it was Luna’s voice now. “It really would be better if you came over here now. No one’s going to hurt Draco.”
Harry couldn’t seem to get his mind to work properly. Why was everyone here? What was going on? He knew he didn’t like people pointing their wands at Draco like that. He bared his teeth and ordered Bill and Ron to lower their wands.
Luna’s voice was as calm and phlegmatic as it always was. “I think everyone should lower their wands and calm down.”
“Shall I just stun him?” Ron asked, pointing his wand at Harry.
Draco spun out of Fleur’s grip and hissed something at Ron that Harry couldn’t understand.
“No!” Fleur snapped. “Everyone, lower you wands, right now. Bill!”
Ron, then Bill reluctantly lowered their wands and Harry, glancing back at Draco, did the same.
“It is important that we help Draco now,” she said turning to Harry. “Harry, please stand further away, your nearness makes this harder for him.”
Harry looked at her. What on earth was she talking about?
“Really, Harry. I swear to you, I am trying to help Draco.”
Harry walked uncertainly towards the door.
“Don’t anyone touch Harry,” Fleur warned. “Harry, don't leave, just stand by the door. Draco has experienced a transformation, but he was not, I think, prepared and we need to help him back.”
Draco stood beside Fleur, his head thrown back defiantly, but his black eyes twitching back and forth between Harry and the figures at the door. He looked wilder than he had when he had stood beside Harry. When Luna spoke again his head twitched in a way that reminded Harry of a startled animal.
“What should we do, Fleur?” Luna asked.
“Remind Draco of the vows he made you. He needs to remember his other ties. It will help to draw him back into himself.”
Harry frowned and blinked, trying to clear his head. What it just him or was Fleur talking bizarre nonsense?
Luna nodded. “Hello, Draco. I’m Luna,” she said to Draco with an easy smile. “You come and see me every January. You come because you have a promise you want to make to me. You promised me that if I should ever need help, you would strive to aid me. If I ever have something to ask of you, you said you would strive to fulfil it. And you say that this promise will stand until your death, because your family committed a crime against me that cannot be forgotten. I think your family is very important to you. You’re also my friend, Draco.”
Fleur murmured something to Draco again and then nodded at Bill.
“Hello, Draco. I’m Bill Weasley, though you insist on calling me William.” Bill smiled wryly. “You come and see me every June and make me a promise too. You tell me that you’re heir to the Malfoy family, just as I am to the Weasleys. You come to acknowledge that your family has done my family injury and that you, personally, have caused me harm. You say that it’s your hope that the enmity between our families will come to an end and so you pledge that until your death you’ll extend any service you can to me and my family. You also said that you hope one day you might have a son who should call the Weasleys his friends.”
Bill frowned slightly and looked enquiringly at Fleur, who nodded and turned back to Draco. She had taken his hands again, but now Draco was making brief replies or perhaps asking questions. Harry realised that they were speaking in a language he couldn't understand. He could tell that Fleur was trying to help Draco, so that was good, but for the rest his thoughts felt like treacle and he really, really just wanted everyone to leave so that he and Draco could get on with what they’d been doing. Surely this weird sharing ritual could be managed another time?
Hermione glanced at Ron, then spoke up. “Draco? I'm Hermione. You’ve visited me every March for the last four years.” Hermione licked her lips. “You come because you want to work towards .... To be free, I suppose, of the debt you feel you have to me, because of the actions of your family during the war and because of your behaviour to me. I don't know how many people you visit, it must ... it’s more than just a gesture. I think you’re doing a good thing.”
The markings on Draco’s skin were fading and the colour receding from his fingers where they were clasped in Fleur’s hands. But he still looked confused. Harry opened his mouth to speak, but Fleur shook her head at him. Okay, so he wasn’t supposed to join in?
“Ronald,” she prompted.
“Oh, ah,” said Ron. “Hi, Malfoy. I’m Ron. I don't think you've ever actually called me Ron though, you call me Weasley. Um, we don't really get on, but I think you’re trying to be less of a prick and, uh, that's good. So … I hope you’re all right.” He shrugged
Fleur spoke slowly to Draco and this time she was speaking English. “See. You can recall both natures, both your memories and the memories of the sky children. Pull the threads together and you have brought your two natures into balance. Don’t worry, it will get easier. With practice you will be able to align them with the merest effort.”
Nope, Harry thought. Still definitely nonsense.
Draco looked deathly pale beneath his tan, giving his skin a sickly grey colour. He stared dazedly at them all, then back at Fleur. He opened his mouth, as if to speak, then shut it again, swallowing.
Harry felt an overwhelming need to try and offer Draco some comfort. He looked like he needed it. Like he needed Harry. Harry stepped forward, but again Fleur held out a hand to ward him off. “No Harry, stay where you are. Draco has had a shock and his control of his Veela nature is still weak.”
“What?” Harry said looking round. Everyone just looked grave and Hermione held out her hand for him to come over to her instead. Harry just swayed on the spot. He felt so confused. He wasn’t used to feeling so disorientated. This must be the thing. The whatever it was thing he and Draco were suffering from.
“It’s all right, Draco,” said Luna coming forward instead. “It must be very strange, but it’s exciting too, isn't it?”
Draco was examining his hands, which had mostly returned to normal, though the tips of his fingers and nails were ash grey. They trembled visibly.
“My ring,” he murmured absently. He headed slowly back over to the desk scanning the floor and around, looking for something. He froze suddenly and reached his hand out tentatively to pick up a couple of small blackened fragments from the corner of the desk. He seemed to be moving in slow motion as he turned the fragments over in his hand.
“What is it, Draco,” Luna asked gently.
“My ring,” Draco’s voice was hollow. “I...” He swayed slightly and put out a hand to brace himself against the desk and shut his eyes for a moment.
Harry had to grit his teeth with the effort it took not to go over to Draco and try offer comfort. He looked dreadful. Luna did go over and laid a hand on Draco’s arm. Draco held out his hand with the fragments in it.
“My ring,” Draco repeated. “It was my ring. It … means I’m no longer ... I’m ...” He looked across at Bill and then back at the fragments in his hand, closing his fist around them tightly. “Sorry, William, it seems …” Draco broke off with a short, mirthless laugh.
“Draco, it will be all right,” Luna comforted, but Draco didn't appear to hear her. He was staring at his clenched fist, his knuckles white.
Harry couldn’t contain himself anymore. “Draco,” he said softly. Draco looked up at him then. Harry froze under the force of the loss he saw in Draco’s eyes. It was a not a grief that begged for comfort.
“I think Draco will need some time, Harry,” Fleur said. “I think, Hermione, Ron, can you take Harry with you. I think Draco needs ...”.
Hermione came and took Harry’s arm. Harry was still watching Draco.
“Don’t tell Mother,” Draco said, as he slowly opened his palm and dropped the fragments of his ring to the floor, his palm smeared with blood. “I think I’m going to be sick now.”
Luna, Fleur and Bill closed around Draco and Ron come up on Harry’s other side. “Come on, mate. They’ve got him.” And Harry felt himself swept up in a Side Along and stumbled to a stop back in Hermione and Ron’s kitchen.
He immediately swung back around in panic, but Ron had already cast an anti-Apparition ward. “No, mate. You heard what Fleur said. Give him a bit of time. They’ll look after him. Just let’s sit down. They know where you are, if they need you.”
Harry ran his hands through his hair, suddenly swamped by everything that had just happened. “Fuck, fuck, what? Fuck!”
“Come on, mate,” Ron’s voice was calm and easy. “Sit down, let me get you a drink.”
Somehow Harry found himself sitting at the table with a firewhiskey and a cup of sweet tea. He stared at Ron and Hermione.
“Yeah,” said Ron placidly. “It’s a bit of a headfuck, isn’t it.”
“Harry,” Hermione said kindly, “can you tell us what’s going on between you and Draco?”
“What’s going on? I don’t fucking know what’s going on. Jesus Christ, Hermione.” Harry could hear his voice rising.
“All right, calm down, Harry. Let’s start from the beginning. How long have you been seeing Malfoy?”
“I haven’t been ‘seeing’ Malfoy,” Harry exploded. “I just … I just bumped into him a few times. I told you. I hadn’t seen him since the trials, not for years, and then he was just bloody everywhere.”
“You told me you saw him at the Leaky a fortnight ago and then at the Braithwait ball. When else have you seen him?” Hermione asked.
“All right, um, last weekend, on Saturday he was at the gym and we ended up going flying and then on Saturday night, he sort of turned up at Endymion when I was there with Stu and Simon and we sort of, you know, and it was a bit weird because we didn’t really talk and Draco, Malfoy, um, Draco was sort of strange and I thought he maybe had taken something, but I guess it was this …” Harry massaged his temples with his hands. It felt like his head was going to explode.
“I guess it was the beginning of this … thing. Well, maybe not the beginning, because it was weird before, how he always knew where I was. What the actual fuck though,” Harry broke off. “Wait, did Fleur say he was a Veela? She thinks that’s what it is?”
“Yeah, that’s what it looks like,” said Ron.
“Malfoy can’t be a Veela. That’s ridiculous,” Harry said, looking to Hermione. “You know how Ron was around Fleur that time at school. Malfoy never had that effect on anyone.”
Hermione looked at him speculatively. Harry didn’t like that look. He turned back to Ron, who just shrugged. “He looked pretty Veela to me today, mate. The eyes and everything. Hey, look on the bright side,” he continued, “at least it means you don’t actually like Malfoy.”
“If it was just the Veela thing. The allure. Because I have to say, that was really going to put a strain on my whole being totally supportive of your life choices. Because, Malfoy, yeah?”
“I don’t like, Malfoy. He’s a prick,” Harry said, though he had to admit, he didn’t sound particularly convinced or convincing.
“That’s the spirit. He’ll go back to wherever he lives at the moment, and you’ll be fine. What the hell was all that with the ring anyway?” Ron looked to Hermione.
“I honestly don’t know what happened there,” Hermione replied. “I’m afraid that there’s quite a lot we don’t know at the moment. I mean, all the Veela I’ve ever heard anything about were women. Fleur certainly gets it through the maternal line. I think we need to do a bit of research.”
Hermione raised her wand and pronounced a series of referencing incantations that brought five or six books whooshing in from her study. “There isn’t much here,” she said ruefully bending her head over them, “but it’s a start.”
“Malfoy said to me,” Harry started, remembering. “He said that the Malfoy family have a bunch of legal stuff about who can inherit and he said creatures were excluded. He said Teddy could never be considered as an heir because of Lupin’s lycanthropy.”
“That’s not legal,” Hermione spoke up absently, her attention mostly on what she was reading.
“Shit,” Ron said at the same time. “You mean Malfoy really isn’t going to count as a Malfoy anymore, because he’s got this Veela thing going on? That’s going to seriously fuck him up. I mean, I might not like the guy, but it’s not hard to pick up on the fact that family is pretty important to him.”
“He can’t be disinherited for just for having this particular genetic inheritance,” Hermione insisted.
“I don’t know. Old pureblood family like that. It sounds like just the sort of batshit nonsense that might be true,” Ron said.
“Still not legal,” Hermione muttered.
“The old families don’t really work like that, you know,” Ron said. “It’s sort of like a legal framework, but it’s mostly sort of, you know, magic.”
Hermione shook her head, disapproving.
“So he might really …” Harry asked. “He might really not … but then? Because he said to me there was no other heir except himself. That’s why he wanted to get married and have a son.”
“Shit,” Ron said again, slowly. “Shit, so there really won’t be any more Malfoys. Shit, that’s pretty intense. No wonder he looked like he was going to vom.”
“I’m going to Fire-call Evelyn and see what she has on male Veela.” Hermione, who had been scanning through the books rapidly, stood up.
“Don’t say anything about Malfoy,” Harry said quickly. “He wouldn’t ….”
Hermione nodded as she left the room. “I’ll keep it hypothetical.”
Harry sipped his tea and he and Ron sat in silence. Harry’s thoughts kept running back to Malfoy. All the effort he had put in to redeem his name and it had been for his family, mostly, Harry was pretty sure. When they had first met, Malfoy had offered to help him get to know the right sort of wizard. He was pretty clear on the difference. Malfoys were the right sort. Half-breeds like Hagrid weren’t and now … . What would Draco do now?
“You’re not still thinking about having sex with Malfoy, are you?” Ron looked concerned.
“That’s good then.” Ron appeared to be content with this.
Another five minutes later, Ron piped up again. “You don’t need to feel embarrassed, you know. That Veela thing is pretty powerful and you probably couldn’t do anything about it.”
Harry got up and made himself another mug of tea. Mainly to have something to do. Ron yawned widely. It was gone one o’clock in the morning.
Why hadn’t someone Fire-called from Luna’s to let them know what was going on? They couldn’t have imagined that they’d just go to bed, could they? It was sort of weird to think that all that stuff with Malfoy had just been this Veela thing, but that was fine. Not a mid-life crisis then. That was probably a relief. Probably.
He just wanted to check Malfoy was okay. Not because of anything, but because … because it was a shitty thing to happen to anyone. Not the being a Veela part. Maybe that was okay. Fleur seemed okay with it. But the whole thing where it seemed to mean he’d maybe lose his inheritance. He was probably okay for money, but the other stuff, being the Malfoy heir and head of the family, that seemed pretty important to him.
Harry was just working up to thinking of way to nudge Ron to Fire-call Luna without, you know, asking him, when Hermione stuck her head around the door.
“Can I take your temperature, Harry?”
Hermione cast a quick charm and twitched her lips in dissatisfaction at the result. “Have you had … basically, have you been having, you know, erotic dreams recently?”
Harry felt his face heat up. “Um, yeah. Pretty much.”
“For how long?”
“Um, a couple of weeks?”
“So since you saw Malfoy again, right? Not the sort of dreams you used to have, would you say?”
“Um, yeah, sort of more vivid and … yeah.” Harry really hoped he wasn’t going to have to confess to having wet dreams again. Ron was already getting wide-eyed.
“Right.” Hermione’s head disappeared.
Harry drained his firewhisky and Ron pushed the bottle towards him. Harry held out another five minutes before just asking Ron to go and Fire-call Luna. Ron hurried out of the room with something like relief.
Harry slumped at the table. He felt exhausted, like he hadn’t slept properly in weeks. He hadn’t felt this awful since those nights, sitting alone in the kitchen long after everyone had gone to bed, thinking about how he felt or didn’t feel about Ginny.
He couldn’t deny it had felt so good having someone’s arms around him, someone who wanted him so much. Someone he had wanted too. It was difficult to understand that none of it had been real. It had felt real. It felt real now.
Draco had smiled at him and it had been a private smile, something he wanted to share just with Harry. And he had looked just like the boy Harry had known, only nothing like him at all, because Draco had never smiled at Harry like that before. A simple, traitorous part of Harry wanted to believe Draco had never smiled at anyone like that before.
God, he was an idiot. The whole thing had happened in his head. Because he was lonely and because Draco had suddenly turned into this sex-crazed Veela thing, which had set its sights on Harry. His friends, and Draco’s too, were trying to work out how to sort it out.
The stupid part was, he missed it already and, more than that, he was gutted that this thing between them was turning out to be Draco’s worst nightmare, robbing him of everything he valued in his life. Even if they could sort it out, Draco would probably never want to come near Harry again.
Hermione came in again looking grave. Harry didn’t know how long it had been. She sat down next to him. “Harry, I’ve got a couple more questions.”
Harry tried really hard not to just ask after Draco, instead he nodded.
“Right, try and relax, Harry. Count backwards, out loud from twenty.”
Harry did so and Hermione took him through some basic questions, his childrens’ names and birthdays and other memory tests.
“Where is Draco Malfoy now?” she asked.
“He’s at Luna’s house,” Harry muttered.
“In the kitchen.” He didn’t know how he knew that, but …
“How is he?”
“He’s …” Harry started and then his voice choked off and he doubled over, the breath leaving his lungs as if he’d been punched in the gut. “Oh fuck,” he groaned as a wave of intense, clawing misery swept over him. Someone else’s misery. Draco’s.
Hermione bit her lip. “Luna said he was doing all right. That he seemed pretty calm and collected.”
“Well, he’s not all right,” Harry rasped. “He’s …” Harry was already rising from the table.
“Wait, Harry.” Hermione rested her hand on his arm. “I agreed with Fleur we would go back to Luna’s tomorrow. They still need to talk and it will be easier without you there. Draco has to be able to think. You two don’t function too well in close proximity just now. It will be all right. We’ll figure something out, but it does look a bit more complicated than we first thought.”
Harry let out a deep, huffing breath and sat back down. “Why? What’s going on, Hermione?”
“Male Veela are really rare. It mainly manifests in females and is passed down the female line. It isn’t diminished as it passes from generation to generation, even if the fathers are just regular wizards. So they don’t really need male Veelas, but it does happen. It used to happen more, according to the historical record, particularly in more violent ages. No one really knows why, but it happens with human birth rates too: more male babies are born following periods of conflict, as if nature knows which gender will need replenishing. So, anyway, maybe the war … or it could be to do with the charms the Malfoys have used over the generations, suppressing female births in favour of sons. Anyway, Malfoy’s quite unusual.
“So he really is … he really is Veela. It’s not a curse or a trick or anything. It’s really him?”
“Yes, Fleur knew at once something had happened. We were all talking and she suddenly spun round, as if someone had screamed. She was able to sense or hear what was happening or something. There’s quite a powerful bond between those with Veela inheritance. As a race, a people, I don’t know what. As a phenomenon it doesn’t follow the laws of human genetic inheritance, so I don’t know what we might call it. It manifests randomly. Well not randomly randomly, but the criteria are difficult to map in any way. Fleur just says, ‘When it’s right’.”
“So, he can’t turn back? It isn’t like … . Does that mean he was always Veela?”
Hermione let out a sigh. “No, I don’t think there is any undoing what has happened, now that it’s manifested. I’m not sure about his always having been Veela. It seems like it can lie totally dormant and maybe it never would have manifested, but … for whatever reason it has.”
So that was it, Harry thought. Draco really had lost his status as Malfoy heir, unless there was some way of overturning the rules that seemed to govern inheritance within that family. And that was all kinds of fucked up. Would Draco be able to get over that? Harry wasn’t really listening to what Hermione was saying.
“So if that’s the case,” Hermione said, “and it seems like it is... It could be a very tricky situation.”
“What could?” Harry asked, rubbing his eyes. He probably should have laid off the firewhiskey.
“If the bond’s already formed between you. It’s more than you just happening to be the one standing there when Draco transformed. Even I can see that. Even Ron can see that, Harry.”
“What?” And God, Harry was just so tired. So tired of his life not making any damned sense. Of having stupid, fucking choices. Terrible choices to make all the time. He didn’t even care if it made him sound like a whining, fucking princess. “Why does this have to happen to me, Hermione?”
She swallowed and bit her lip. “I don’t know, Harry, but we’ll make it all right. It’s Draco’s problem, not yours. We’ll find a way to make it be all right.”
And that hadn’t been what Harry meant, but he was too tired and maybe too drunk to explain. He wasn’t sure he even knew himself. He couldn’t really tell if the knot of misery in his gut was because he’d just come out of a bloody divorce and wanted to not be steamrollered by emotional drama immediately. If he just wanted someone he could love in an uncomplicated way, like everyone else had. If he was actually genuinely sorry that whatever he’d felt about Draco or thought Draco felt about him hadn’t been real or if it wasn’t even his own damned misery and just the echo of whatever Draco was feeling.
He rubbed his face violently.
Hermione reached over and squeezed his shoulder. “I know, Harry.” Though how she could when he was so bloody confused was anybody’s business. “We should get a few hours’ sleep. I said we’d go round at nine o’clock and it’s three now. You should stay here. The spare room’s all made up.”
What energy Harry had had seemed to leave him in a rush. “Yeah, okay.”
“I think you should take some Dreamless Sleep.”
“Thanks, but I think I’ll be fine. I’m knackered.”
“It’s not that, Harry. It’s the dreams. It would be best if you … they might be strengthening the bond and it will be better for you and for Draco if things don’t go any further than they have already.”
“Oh, okay.” Harry shrugged “If that’s what you think.” And he followed her limply upstairs.
Fleur sat beside Draco. Harry took a seat as far from Draco as he could and Hermione sat next to him. When Luna had set the coffee back on the stove, she sat at the head of the table. Harry smiled at Luna, but his eyes kept sliding back over to Draco. He couldn’t look away. How much was it costing Draco to keep his eyes off Harry, or was that not how it worked?
Bill and Ron weren’t there. They’d decided that, awkward and personal as the whole thing was, the fewer people involved the better. Harry was glad. He could tell, somehow, that Draco’s control was paper thin and how a night of strangers prying into his private affairs and turning his loss over and over while he forced himself to remain polite had taken its toll.
Draco did look at him then, his face swinging round and his expression baleful. “I don’t need your pity, Potter.” He stared for a moment until something else began to quiver on the edges of his expression and he snapped his head back to stare at the wall, his shoulders rigid with the effort.
Harry tried, tentatively to reach out as he had done unknowingly the night before, but he could feel nothing. Draco must be using Occlumency. Too bad that he himself was still shit at it, he was probably broadcasting everything loud and clear.
“Don’t do that, Harry,” Fleur murmured. “Don’t try and use the bond.”
Harry nodded, slumping back in his chair. He still couldn’t stop looking at Draco. If they wanted him to stop doing that, someone was going to have to put a tea towel over his head.
“Draco wants to break the bond, Harry,” Luna said.
“Oh, okay. What does that …?” Harry began.
“Can that be done?” Hermione asked at the same time. “The sources I read were quite clear that the bonds can’t be broken.”
“That is true,” Fleur acknowledged. “But the bond that is incompletely formed may be broken. In theory, at least.” She sounded sceptical.
“Fleur doesn’t believe it will work,” Luna said. “But Draco, well, this has been very sudden for both of you. Perhaps it will be better if you both feel you have some freedom, some control over who you spend the rest of your life with.”
Fleur huffed impatiently. “The bond between you is not just going to go away. We would be better off discussing how you might both be acclimatised to it. There is a lot of nonsense talked, and written,” she said shooting a glance at Hermione. “The bond is not one of enslavement, it is a natural enhancement of a relationship that already exists.”
“That is Fleur’s theory,” Draco said coldly, still not looking at Harry. “But I had no understanding of what was happening and I refuse to be bound for the rest of my life by an impulse I couldn’t control and,” he shot a brief glance at Harry, “that I … do not recognise.”
“It does not come out of nowhere, Draco,” Fleur insisted.
Draco’s lip twitched in a sneer. “That is your theory,” he repeated.
“Okay, what do you mean, the rest of your life?” Harry asked. The strange fog that had clouded his thoughts the night before was starting to reassert itself, now he was back near Draco again.
“That is what the bond means, Harry,” Fleur said, glancing at Hermione.
“I did tell him,” Hermione said with a quick smile at Harry. “Last night.” Harry just shook his head. She took his hand under the table. Draco’s lip twitched.
“The bond formed between a Veela and her, or in this case, his mate, is a love bond. It’s indissoluble and will last until the death of one or the other party, and sometimes beyond,” Fleur said.
Harry blinked rapidly. “You mean, me and Draco … you mean it wants us to be, like, married?” He couldn’t deny that he found Draco attractive and that part of him, maybe a big part, wouldn’t have minded seeing where their relationship might go. But bound together for life—that was not something Harry was ready for at all.
“But why would it … why me and Draco? That makes no sense. We hadn’t seen each other in over fifteen years till the other week.”
“Draco chose you, unconsciously or not,” Fleur said, but was interrupted by Draco.
“Mrs Weasley has theories on that too, which she will not be sharing here.” He glared at Fleur, then rose abruptly and went over to the sink, getting himself a glass of water.
Though Harry’s attention had briefly been drawn to Fleur, Draco’s movement sent his gaze flying back. He really couldn’t concentrate. It was like that time he had a concussion, thoughts sliding just out of reach, whenever he groped for them, and a pounding headache.
It seemed to relieve a little when he was looking at Draco and not trying to think of anything else. Draco raised the glass of water to his lips. The water in the glass sparkled in the morning sunshine coming in the window and caught Draco too, turning his lashes and the edges of his hair to silver.
Harry had a vision of him naked, in morning sunlight. Draco’s face was upraised as water cascaded over him and over the hard planes of the body Harry had felt pressed against him last night.
With a soft pop the glass in Draco’s hand shattered into a thousand fragments. Draco stood rigid for a moment, before quietly apologising to Luna and banishing the pieces.
“Your hand,” Harry said, rising from his chair. Draco was bleeding slightly.
Luna slid her chair back, blocking his path. “I don’t think that will help, Harry.”
“Draco?” Harry said.
Draco turned his back. “Get him out of here, for Merlin’s sake,” he said hoarsely.
Harry stopped and took a deep breath. “I need to be here, Draco. I don’t want to make this more difficult for you, but this is my life too.”
“There’s nothing more to say. Don’t tell me this is something you actually want, Potter!” Draco exploded. “Are you really so starved for affection as all that?”
“I just think, seeing as it is my life, that I have a right to understand what the fuck is actually going on, rather than just wait to have it explained to me afterwards,” Harry gritted out.
“Oh, but I was under the impression that Hermione customarily did your thinking for you. Is that not how it works? Perhaps I can explain, then, quite simply.” Draco was addressing a point a few feet away from Harry’s shoes, frowning fiercely. “The options on the table are, that you are mine, to do what I like with until you or I are dead or, option two, we part now—permanently—and allow this peculiar bond to whither and release us.”
“That is not,” Fleur broke in, “that is not how it works at all. The bond is not one of power, it is one of love. Its foundation is love. It has the capacity to bring both of you happiness that you cannot even imagine. We can talk about this. I have tried to tell you. We need to talk about how this will work.”
“Oh, but it is one of power, Fleur. I can feel it. Harry barely knows his own mind at the moment. Admittedly, I did not know him well before this thing happened, but I shall be generous and assume he was not always such a mess.”
Harry glared at Draco, but it was hard to deny that his thoughts were in disarray and that he was struggling badly to concentrate.
Draco’s expression was pinched and intent. “He can’t stop looking at me now and he hasn’t stopped thinking about me since we parted last night, except for the few hours his friend drugged him. Shall I demonstrate?”
Draco’s lips were twisted into a nasty smirk. He looked fourteen again. Harry’s head was pounding. Arrows of emotion kept leaking out around Draco’s Occlumency block: stabs of anger, grief and pain.
Draco looked up at Harry and his face transformed. He smiled warmly for the first time and it was the smile he’d given Harry in the glade in the forest, when he was lit up with the joy of their game. It was his own smile. Not the cold sneer of his father or the polite social mask he’d learned from his mother.
The barriers between them dissolved and, as Draco’s eyes darkened and his smile stilled to a private intense gaze, Harry felt the caress of Draco’s heart reaching out to him.
“Ai tanne, nahmiel,” Draco spoke to him softly. Harry didn’t know the words, but he understood the meaning: come here, beloved.
“Mendor, ma’nahmiel.” As Draco wished, Harry dropped to his knees at Draco’s feet.
The spell, or whatever it was, was broken by a harsh cry from Fleur. Harry looked up startled to find himself staring up into Draco’s face, which was washed with conflicting emotions. Harry scrambled to his feet, but Draco put out his hand and caught lightly at his arm. “Stay,” he said, looking into Harry’s eyes. It wasn’t a command, it was a wish, but either way Harry found he could not move, could not step away from Draco’s touch.
Fleur was shouting at Draco to stop, that it was an abomination to use the bond in that way. Hermione was also on her feet looking pale and appalled. Harry shuddered. What was happening to him?
“You see,” Draco said. “That’s your sacred bond. That’s what we are talking about. Hermione looks like she wants to curse me. But I should warn you, Hermione,” he said turning his head towards her,“Harry will step in front of your curse or take you down before you can cast it. I wouldn’t even need to speak. Raise your wand at me and see what he does.”
Hermione stared at Draco, white-faced. Harry felt sick, torn inside by the urge to break away and the urge to close this distance between himself and Draco because, though Draco was acting like a total shit, Harry could also feel the waves of despair emanating from him.
“You see, Hermione is upset because she believes in free will,” Draco said. “I don’t. I believe in duty, only it seems that I have been relieved of all duties. I believe in power too and,” Draco looked back at Harry and raised his other hand to stroke Harry’s cheek. He continued slowly, “it would appear that I have been gifted with sudden and surprising power, beyond anything I could have hoped.”
Hermione’s face set fiercely and she drew her wand. “If you think I’m going to let you do that to Harry, you have made a big mistake.”
Harry fought a wave of compulsion that flowed through him. Compulsion, just as Draco had said, to protect Draco, to stop Hermione, even as the rest of him rebelled again it. He groaned. “Hermione, you have to stop. I can’t …”.
“Draco, you made a vow to me, and I charge you by it now,” Hermione said. “I charge you to release Harry from this bond.”
“You can’t do that,” Fleur said, tiredly. “I keep trying to explain. That’s not how this works.”
“Yes it is,” Draco corrected. “I don’t know if my vow to you stills holds. I don’t really know, you see, if a man without family can have honour.” The mask of his cold composure slipped slightly and Harry felt a stab of the aching loss beneath and cursed under his breath.
“You still have a family, Draco,” Luna said quietly.
“Really, Luna? My father would have drowned me at birth if he’d known what I was. I don’t know about Mother,” Draco paused and swallowed, “but I certainly hope I don’t have to see her face when she learns this about me.”
“You are not a beast. We are not beasts,” Fleur murmured, she sounded like she had said this before, but Draco just ignored her.
“Fortunately, for you all, I have decided to become acquainted with this Muggle idea of free will and to choose for myself, now I have no family and no name. And I choose to break the bond.”
“Thank you,” Hermione said stiffly.
“I’m not doing it for you. Or for him.” Draco gazed back at Harry, still cupping his cheek. He looked at him intently. “Why,” he said slowly, “now that I am finally free to choose, would I choose to spend my life with a puppet like this?”
He released his hold on Harry, with a twisted little smile. Harry felt too wretched even to glare at him, but stumbled over to a chair and collapsed into it. It shouldn’t feel as bad as this, when he knew none of it was real anyway. It shouldn’t.
Draco made his way over to the door. “I’m going home. To Aqaba. From what I understand, the distance should help. I trust that, when he has recovered himself, you will instruct Harry … instruct Potter in what he must do to further the breaking of the bond.
“Goodbye, Luna. Mrs Weasley, Mrs Weasley.” And Draco nodded at the women. Harry looked up from where he’d been hunched over the table and his gaze locked with Draco’s.
He knew he could do nothing to stop the naked desire that fired down the bond between them, despite everything. He gripped the table to prevent himself from rising.
“For Merlin’s sake, Harry,” Draco voice was strangled, but he managed to turn and propel himself through the door and out.
Helplessly, Harry’s mind groped after him.
“Let me go, damn you,” he heard Draco’s voice in his head. With a wrench, Harry forced himself to recall Lily’s face. The gap between her teeth, her beaming smile and the jerky little dance of delight she used to do when he returned home after trips away on cases. He remembered holding Albus sleeping on his lap, when everyone else had been out Christmas shopping last year. Albus had a nasty flu and had fallen asleep reading and Harry had thought, ‘Soon, he’ll be too big. This is probably the last time I’ll hold my sleeping son.’
And that was enough to break the focus of the link between them. Draco was gone. Apparated.
Harry dropped his head in his hands and tried to concentrate on his breathing, on remaining in the chair, on not calling out hopelessly. The humiliation helped, because, God Almighty, he did not know what had happened to him or when it had happened, but he needed to get back some control.
“So?” Hermione asked.
They were having lunch back at Hestia’s. It was just over two weeks since Draco left. Harry had felt really rough at first, but he had to admit he was feeling better. Not brilliant, but better. The disorientation and headache had receded almost as soon as Draco had left. An itchy sense of wrongness had lingered, but that too was starting to fade.
“So,” Hermione said with emphasis, “how was it seeing Adrian again? Did you have fun?”
“It was fine. It was good. Yeah, he’s nice ... We, er, you know, went back to his place. It was nice.”
“Does that mean you had sex?” Luna asked.
“Er, yeah,” Harry said, blushing a bit. “It was good.”
“So, ’good’ and ’nice’. That doesn’t sound like he set your world on fire or anything?” Hermione prodded.
Harry shrugged. “He’s nice. The sex was ... you know, sex. It was good. He’s really into his work at the school. I like that. It was nice.”
“So, are you going to see him again?” Luna asked, breaking in.
“Um, probably. He said he’d give me a Fire-call about his next free weekend, so, yeah.”
“You don’t sound that enthusiastic,” Hermione said.
“Merlin, Hermione, what do you want from me? I'm seeing the guy. I'm going to see him again. We had sex. I've been out for drinks with Fiona’s cousin. I'll probably see him again too. Isn’t that what I'm supposed to be doing?”
Hermione’s face scrunched up. “You’re supposed to be ... you’re supposed to be free. Having fun,” she said.
“It was fun. I just said it was. I’m sorry I haven’t found the love of my life, but it's only been two weeks. I've been trying.”
“I know. I know you have.”
“I think Hermione just means ... that’s its a shame you aren’t more happy.”
“Are you still having the dreams?” Hermione asked.
“I can’t take Dreamless Sleep every night,” Harry said defensively.
“Yeah, I've had a few.”
This morning’s dream floated vividly before Harry’s mind. It hadn’t been like the others, he’d woken Adrian up flailing, Adrian had told him later. He’d found himself in a railway carriage of the Hogwart’s Express. Before he’d had a moment to orientate himself within the dream, Draco had been on him, his face twisted with fury, just like when he was fifteen.
“This is for my father,” Draco had said, only instead of being Petrified, Harry was on his feet and when Draco launched himself at him they’d both crashed back into the carriage window behind him.
Draco landed a hard punch on his ribs and Harry had jarred Draco’s head hard into the window, which rattled alarmingly. The landscape beyond the glass was a blur of rain.
Harry didn’t know why they hadn't drawn wands. It just hadn’t occurred to him in the dream. Draco went for his throat and Harry grappled with him, bringing his knee up into Draco’s stomach. They both tumbled back onto the bench. Harry had got hold of Draco’s wrists and Draco was writhing beneath him, trying to buck him off.
He could hear their fierce, rasping breathing, which sped up as the writhing became frotting and he’d ground down against Draco, as Draco had cursed him, arching up against him, pouring invectives into his ears even as they both climaxed.
“I think he’s definitely still having the dreams,” Luna said turning to Hermione.
Harry blushed. He might have zoned out there for a moment.
“They’re getting less. That one was ... but yeah, otherwise, they’re getting less ... distinct.”
“Well, that’s good,” Hermione said. She didn't look convinced.
“Do you miss him?” Luna asked, her head cocked to one side.
“What?” Harry asked, hedging for time. Luna knew she didn't need to clarify. “Well, I ... I mean, he was only around for a few weeks. That's hardly long enough to miss him. And he's a prick.”
Luna just looked at him expectantly, like he still hadn't answered the question. She was annoying like that.
“I suppose it was sort of, you know, lively, having him around again.” Harry shrugged. “I mean, he drove me crazy, acting all weird, but he’s not boring to be around, is he?”
“Oh, no,” Luna agreed. “I don't think Draco’s boring. You never know what he’s going to do, sometimes he’s terribly polite and then he’s dreadfully rude. He’s awfully funny when he’s drunk.”
“Yeah?” Harry said. He couldn't help being intrigued by the idea of Draco drunk. Of Draco not completely in control of himself.
“Oh, yes. At first anyway, then he gets sort of glowering and sad, more like you do when you’re drunk.”
“I don't get drunk.”
“We don’t let you,” Hermione said, “because you’re so bloody miserable when you’re drunk. Are you saying Adrian’s boring?”
“I wasn’t saying anything about Adrian,” Harry protested. “He’s not boring, he’s just ... nice.”
Hermione made another face.
“Ginny’s not exactly nice,” Luna said. The other two looked at her. “I mean, of course Ginny’s nice, but she’s not nice nice. I mean, I don’t think anyone trying to describe her would say, ’oh Ginny Potter, she’s nice,’ you know?”
“Okay?” Harry said.
“I mean, maybe you don’t exactly go for nice. Maybe you should look for someone a bit less nice?”
Harry blew out a breath that was perilously close to a sigh. “Yeah, maybe,” he said. He thought back to the guy he’d pulled at Endymion’s last weekend. He’d been really hot, with a wicked smile, but the next morning had been unbearably awkward. Seth’s barely concealed curiosity about his life and the sense Harry couldn’t quite shake that he was just itching to tell all his friends that he’d banged Harry Potter.
“It’s just not easy, you know,” Harry said.
“I know, Harry,” said Hermione. “We just want ... we just want you to be happy. After everything with Ginny. After everything, really, we just want you to have a chance, you know, to find ... what you want in life.”
“I am happy. I’m fine.”
“I think it’s good that Draco isn’t going to get married now. To a woman I mean,” Luna said.
Both Hermione and Harry had known her long enough not to be fazed by her non-sequiturs.
“I don't think anyone who wanted to marry him, just to have his money, would have been very good for him.”
“They wouldn’t just have his money though, would they?” Harry said without thinking.
Luna looked at him expectantly again, but Harry didn't really want to dwell on what he'd meant. It was all kinds of fucked up to feel ... jealous of some young pureblood woman, who didn't even exist, but who might hypothetically, have been what Draco wanted, what would make him happy.
Harry cut off that line of thought and tried to concentrate on his food. Hermione and Luna finally took pity on him and switched the conversation to other topics.
He didn’t really have much to compare it to. He’d fallen for Ginny such a very long time ago and the period had been drawn out and confused by so many things. He could remember thinking about her. Being unable to concentrate whenever he caught a glimpse of that long, red hair. The swing of it when she walked.
He could remember the plummeting feeling that came when he’d been reminded that she was seeing someone else and the warm and special feelings he’d nursed all that year hunting Horcruxes. He couldn't imagine Draco inspiring such tender thoughts in anyone.
Ginny had been fiery and elusive and fun, but she’d also been sweet and soft and precious. Draco wasn't like that. He was madder than a box of bees, for one thing, spiky and petulant and probably so high maintenance he was off the scale. Harry couldn’t imagine him being gentle. He couldn’t imagine Draco smiling at him, sleepy and fond, across the tumbled sheets of a shared bed, like some of his best memories of Ginny.
But if he could ... if Draco did ever look like that. After the spitting and hissing and fighting. After the barbed words and viciousness. Harry imagined that Draco slept tucked in on himself, still, contained and guarded. But what if he sprawled, unconscious and uncaring? What if you could trail your hand over his exposed belly as he slept and see him smile, even in his sleep.
Harry let out a huffing sigh. Was this all just the Veela thing, or was there more to it? Round and round.
“So, who’s the lucky lady?”
Harry looked up to see Stephen Maychant, one of the Unspeakables from Level Three, standing in front of his desk, grinning.
“I knocked,” Stephen said, “but you didn’t hear me. Just sitting here with a dopey sort of look on your face.”
“Hi, Stephen,” Harry sat back and raked his hand through his hair. “Just a hot blond I can’t seem to get off my mind.”
Stephen smirked, complicitly. “She giving you the runaround?”
“You could say that.” Harry wasn’t mates with Stephen and didn’t feel the need to enlighten him further.
“Ah, well. It wouldn’t be any fun if they didn’t put up a bit of a fight, would it? The thrill of the chase.” Stephen grinned again, wolfishly.
What a twat, Harry thought privately, even as he nodded noncommittally and steered the conversation around to professional matters.
When Stephen had gone, though, he reflected on what he’d said. Maybe he was right, in a way. Harry had never backed down from a challenge. Even when his life had substantially settled down, he’d always hankered after those opportunities that pushed him out of his comfort zone. He’d stayed in the field, long after the point when other Aurors had put in for desk work, citing the responsibilities of spouses and kids. He just wasn’t comfortable with comfortable.
Maybe that was something else Draco offered him. Another dimension of the attraction, because he was about as far from comfortable as you could get. And the life he lived, travel and exotic sports, seemed so enticing when everyone else around Harry was settled and mature and sensible. Or Luna.
Was this back around to the mid-life-crisis theory or was this ... just him?
Harry signed off on another two reports and sent a memo through to two of his junior Aurors regarding improper use of duelling spells outside of the designating sparring area. He could hear Draco's voice in his head, jeering at him for his hypocrisy and smiled to himself.
Harry got up from his desk to stretch his legs and gazed out of the window at the charmed spring landscape. Reaching a decision, he scribbled a note and dispatched it by owl to Luna.
What if I do miss him?
Luna’s reply was only thirty minutes coming.
Go and talk to Fleur.
He sat at her kitchen table, twisting his mug of coffee round and round. He had tried to explain his dilemma. Not, it had to be said, wildly articulately.
“You see,” he muttered, “I'm finding it really hard to ... to tell what’s my own feelings and what’s just the Veela stuff that I have no control over?”
“And you have control over your feelings?” Fleur asked, a little wry.
“No. I just mean ... You know. What’s me, what I feel, and what’s because of the bond? Thing.”
“You mean, you wish to distinguish between your feelings for Draco and your knowing that he loves you?” Fleur said, frowning.
“What? No. What?” Harry stuttered. “I mean. He doesn’t. I mean ... What?”
“Oh, Harry.” Fleur shook her head. “You have these ideas about what the Veela are. All wizards do and it is mostly such rubbish. You are thinking about the Triwizard championship perhaps and the boys, like Ron, who said and did such silly thing, no?”
“Well, yeah, maybe.”
“But you did not, did you? Or Cedric or Viktor? The professors? So yes, a pack of adolescent boys and some of them got carried away. But I never could ... what do you think? Control their minds?”
“But the Veela at the World Cup?”
“They were full Veela and arrayed in their power there and even then all they could do was turn heads, cause people to briefly forget themselves.”
“But people said ... People said things like that men had gone mad for love of the Veela?”
“So? Men have gone mad for the love of pretty women too. They have gone mad for love of boys or love of horses or love of war. Some men are always ready to die for something. And men have always left their wives for pretty faces and no one approves. And people, both men and women, tend to blame the pretty faces, do they not? Not the feckless men. And the Veela, we do tend to have pretty faces.”
“So, you’re saying ...” Harry trailed off.
“We cannot enchant you. If I tried now, with all my concentration, to beguile you, I could perhaps get you slightly dazed and you might make some silly declaration, but that would be all. It would be no more than that because my heart is not free and neither is yours.”
“So, Draco ... But he ... When he ... that time.”
Fleur grimaced and shook her head. “That was very wrong of him. But he was angry and confused. He was able to use his desire, and yours, in a way that should be handled with more sensitivity. But he would not be the first man to seek to hurt the one he loves.”
“You keep saying that. That he loves me.”
“Of course he loves you. He is Veela now. The bond could not have developed as far as it did without genuine feelings on his side. Or on yours.”
“But that’s ... We hadn’t seen each other for fifteen years. And we hardly ... I just don’t.” Harry raked his hand through his hair.
Fleur just looked at him. “How is it that you think love works, Harry?” she said after a bit.
“I don’t know. I cannot speak for Draco. Of course I cannot. And he was very adamant. It is very unfortunate that he has no one to guide him. There are so few male Veela and usually there is someone within the family who can help, but the Malfoys, they are not that sort of family.”
“Why would it just happen now? Out of the blue?”
“Well, I do not think is it out of the blue, you know? It is most strange that Draco did not assume his Veela identity when he came of age. But I think maybe it did not manifest because he had already chosen you and you were not free.”
“You mean?” Harry gulped. “You mean ...”
“You loved Ginny. And you loved her for a very long time,” Fleur said simply. “Male Veela are rare. It is a trait that lies dormant. I think it may be that, out of some instinct for self-preservation, Draco was able to suppress it while there was no chance that he might have the one on whom his heart was set.”
“But he hated me,” Harry said weakly.
“Hate and love are both very powerful emotions. And there was war and we all thought we might die any day. And you were our saviour and our only hope.” She smiled at him to take the sting out of the words. “Do you think it is so impossible that Draco might have found himself ... conflicted in his feelings for you? You saved his life, did you not?”
“Yeah, but he never spoke to me after that.”
Fleur let out a little laugh. “I do not think that Draco is a man who could be described as being ’in touch with his emotions’, no? What would he have said?”
“He came and said thanks to me once. After the trials. After I'd spoken at his and his mothers’ trial. But I was with Ginny and ...” Harry trailed off again.
“You were with Ginny.” Fleur nodded. “But now, you see, you are not.”
“So you think ... You think he ... waited?”
“He does not agree with me, you know. He is so angry. And he has some terrible views about the Veela. Worse than yours. Worse than I have heard in a long time.” Fleur twisted her face in disgust. “His family ... is far from enlightened, and the spells of entail have now excluded him.” she pursed her lips then shrugged. “Ah, it was a great deal for him to understand all at once.”
Harry sat silently for a bit, trying to take it all in. “So you think ... You think what I feel is real?”
“I don’t know. What is it you feel?” Fleur’s lips quirked into an amused smile and Harry understood, for a fleeting moment, why Bill had ignored the feelings of his family, to marry her with such haste.
He stared down at his coffee cup, feeling an answering smile creep over the corners of his mouth. “I feel ... I feel like ... when I’m with him, I’m alive. Like I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it's a ride ... and I want to be on it.”
Fleur laughed softly.
“He’s ...” but Harry couldn’t find the words. Instead he changed tack, looking up at Fleur a little bashfully. “You really think ... that he came here ... for me?”
“I think that he did. I think perhaps it is no coincidence that despite his strong sense of duty in that regard he did not marry and perhaps, too, it is interesting that he has worked so hard these last ten years to make his atonement to the people who happen to be your family and your friends. I think he came for you now.”
“But then, why’d he leave?”
Fleur shrugged. “I can’t answer that. Because he is stubborn. Because he is angry and frightened. Because you could still walk away and he cannot now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Now he is how he is, now he has assumed his Veela inheritance, he cannot walk away.”
“But he’s gone?”
“Yes. I am surprise he has managed to stay away so long. It will be costing him. It will be costing him a great deal to stay away. But you are fine. And if you decide that, after all, he is not who you want, that you cannot love him. That you do not love him. You will be fine. You are not Veela. But he is and he will not be fine.”
“I don’t understand?”
“You are his chosen partner. And something, enough of your heart responds to him, that the bond is forming between you. You can see something of his thoughts, can you not? You can reach one another in dreams?”
“You mean, that’s him? The dreams? Wow. I thought I had a seriously filthy subconscious or something.”
Fleur laughed at him again. “No, that was probably him, then.”
“Wow,” Harry said again.
“So, you are still ... sharing the bond with him?”
“Well, not as much as before, but yeah.”
Fleur frowned. “Well, it could be that the bond is breaking. If you are not ... if you are truly pulling away. In that case, you will be fine, as I have said.”
“I cannot say. It could be, if the bond breaks between you, it could release you both. But it could also be otherwise.”
“It could break him.”
Harry felt a sudden knot of dread in his stomach. “What do you mean, break him?”
“It is not just men who die for love of Veela.”
“You mean, if I walk away, he could die?” Harry’s voice rose dangerously in pitch.
Fleur sighed. “Look, I really don’t know. Male Veela are different and I have never met one before or even heard much. And most of the time,” Fleur glared at Harry, “most of the time people are not so stubborn and so determined that they should both ignore what they feel about one another.”
“So, this could be hurting him? Really hurting him?”
“It will be hurting him,” Fleur said with certainty, “but I don't know ... how much.”
“And he could actually die?”
Fleur regarded him steadily. “So it is said,” she finally replied.
“Well ... Shit.”
Fleur huffed out a laugh. “Usually ... normal people do not fight so hard against the prospect of happiness. But you and Draco ...”
“We’re normal,” Harry protested. Fleur just raised an eyebrow.
“You were at our wedding, weren’t you? You saw how happy Bill and I both were. It is always like that at weddings, of course, or at least it should be. But for us, it is like that every day.
“I know how he feels. Every minute, if I choose to. And he knows how I feel. And there is no possibility of the misunderstandings that break people’s hearts. Or of growing apart.
“We have arguments, of course, and disagreements. It is not mind control. But underneath it all, I know how he feels and he knows how I feel and we love each other. There is great comfort, great security and great happiness in that.
“He will never leave me and I will never leave him. He will never love another and neither will I. Not if we were to live a thousand years. Not if, by some mischance, we were never to see one another again. He has my heart and I have his. That is Veela magic.”
“Wow,” Harry said lamely.
“So, you must be sure of your choice. Because once the bond is formed between you, there will be no breaking it. You know, do you not, the power love can wield when wedded with magic?”
“You can walk away, if you want.”
“Perhaps he may be able to walk away too, one day.”
“But perhaps not?”
“Perhaps not,” Fleur confirmed. “You are not responsible for his heart. Yet.”
“But ... Ron. And Ginny. And Molly and Arthur. They’re my family and, well, he’s Draco Malfoy.”
“Yes,” Fleur said. “He is not a terribly ... good choice, in some ways, is he? He’s not a nice man. He’s not the person your friends would choose for you and not everyone will be able to wish you well. But I don't think he is ... a bad man. And I even think he could be ... a better man, if he had a reason to be.”
“But I don’t want him to be ...” Harry broke off.
“Oh, Harry.” Fleur’s smile glinted at him. “You do not want him to be a better man?” She smirked more broadly. “Perhaps you even like him the way he is?”
“Shit. I don’t know,” Harry said.
“Well, like I said, you need to be sure. But it is your life. Not anyone else's. And you only get one, even if you have died once or twice already.”
“So, you would...?”
“I am Veela. I would tell you to follow your heart. Only ... do not wait too long.” She looked at him seriously.
“Yeah,” Harry said, getting up from the table. “Thanks, Fleur. Thanks a lot.”
“Bon chance, Harry.”
Luna and Hermione looked up from where they sat at Luna’s kitchen table.
“Harry,” Luna said at the same time as Hermione said, “Luna, don’t.”
“What?” Harry asked.
Luna hesitated and Hermione was staring at her hard, clearly telegraphing something.
“What, damn it?”
“Luna,” Hermione warned.
Harry glared at her suspiciously and then looked back at Luna.
“Narcissa Malfoy came to see me last night. She ... she knows Draco and I are friends. She wanted to know if I knew where he was or how he’s doing. She can’t reach him and she was worried.”
“And?” Harry asked.
“I don’t know,” Luna shrugged helplessly. “I can’t reach him either. I haven't heard from him for nearly two weeks. I think ... I think he might not be doing very well.”
“What’s his address?” Harry asked.
“No, Harry.” Hermione stood up. “I knew this would happen if Luna told you. It is not your job to save everybody.”
“Luna?” Harry said, ignoring her.
“But you’re doing fine,” Hermione protested. “You’re seeing other people and it's all getting sorted out and now you’re going to go and get yourself into a big old mess again. It is not your responsibility, just because you suddenly learn he might not be doing too well.”
“I came here to ask Luna where he is,” Harry said and Luna looked up at him, suddenly smiling. “I want to see him.”
“I really don’t think you should,” Hermione said. “You haven’t got... you’ve never had any ... perspective where Draco is concerned. It would be better if someone else went.”
“I don’t want bloody perspective. I want to see him. You don’t have any perspective where Ron is concerned.”
“That is completely different!”
“Why? Why is it completely different?”
“Because Ron and I love each other.”
“Yeah?” Harry said. “And how do you know that Draco and I couldn’t have the same thing?”
“Because he’s bloody Draco Malfoy! Because you deserve better.”
“Yeah?” Harry said again. “Well, you’re the smartest witch in your generation. You think there aren’t people who think you could have done better than Ron Weasley?”
“Harry!” Hermione said, shocked.
“You think there aren’t people who believe you’re together just because of what you went through when you were kids?”
Hermione stared at him, furious.
“I know you and Ron are good together,” Harry said in a more conciliatory tone. “But how can you be so sure that me and Adrian or me and Sebastian are a good idea and me and Draco aren’t?”
“Because he’s Draco Malfoy,” Hermione said quietly.
Harry reined in a surge of anger with a steadying breath. “I'm sorry you feel like that.” He looked over at Luna expectantly.
“You’ll need to get an international Portkey to Cairo and then on to Aqaba. I'll write down the address. You can get a carpet from the Portkey office in Aqaba. Just show them the address.” Luna rose to get some parchment.
Harry and Hermione stared at one another.
“I have thought about it,” Harry said. “I’m not just rushing off because I think he needs me.”
Hermione took a deep breath. “I just want you to be happy. I just want you to have ...”
“What you and Ron have?” Harry said. “I thought I did have that. I thought that was what I wanted. But ... maybe I want something a bit different. Something, maybe, that Draco can give me.”
“You’re going to kill each other,” Hermione said.
“Maybe,” Harry conceded.
“I don’t think Harry would kill anyone,” Luna said, handing over a fold of parchment. “And Draco wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Hermione and Harry looked at her incredulously.
“Well, he’d hurt a fly. But he wouldn’t kill it. Except maybe by mistake. Or if he lost his temper. Or if someone dared him.”
Harry snorted. “That’s great, Luna. Thanks.” He wrapped her in a close hug.
“I hope you find him,” she whispered. “He doesn't really mean to hurt things. Except when...”
“Yeah, I know. Except when he does. Thanks.”
Harry and Hermione looked at one another again for a moment, before Hermione grabbed him and hugged him fiercely.
“I hope you find him too, Harry. You stupid big lump,” she choked out.
Harry gave her an extra tight squeeze and stepped back into the floo.
The magic was opaque to him and evaded his focus. House-elf magic was like that, so inconspicuous that wizards barely even registered it. The arrogance of wizarding kind had long taken that to mean that there was nothing to it, domestic magic, housekeeping charms, no more noticeable than the charms that held the creases from their robes and the dust at bay. Harry, though, had good reason to respect its power. Still didn't make it any easier to deal with.
Harry resisted the urge to just shout. If Draco was there, he knew Harry was too, and if he hadn’t released the wards, then shouting at him wouldn’t make a damned bit of difference.
Centuries of servility, and still many wizards didn't know the power that lay in House-elf magic. But Draco would know, of course. Harry cursed some more.
He tried to relax his mind: feel himself into the walls of the building, the paint over plaster, the tile, the dust in the air. He could hear the honking of car horns in the distance, the bustle of a city outside.
He noted the cracked tile, the dirty smuts of urban pollution that stained the window aperture at the end of the corridor. He ran the pad of his thumb over the rough wall, spreading his palm flat to feel the thrum of passing traffic, air-conditioning units, electricity in Muggle apartments nearby, alien and inconsequential.
House-elves. Genius loci Muggles had called them in the past. He wiggled his toes in his boots, feeling the cold tile beneath his feet and through that the building and the ground beneath. The dust and dirt stretching out towards the sea. And then back into the house, back to the wall, behind which he knew he would find Draco.
There it was, seamless like House-elf magic always was, not fabric and seam, but two cloths woven together. And you couldn't cut it, not with any amount of magic behind you. You had to unweave it. Harry took a deep breath and began painstakingly teasing one thread from another. If he lost his temper, he’d just have to start again. And it would be worse a second time. House-elves had evolved their magic to be unnoticeable to wizards. And to evade them.
Harry lost track of time as he sank into the intricacies of the ward. At last, the last final slip and the door to Draco’s apartment stood clear to him. Fuck. Harry took a couple of moments to stretch out the knots of tension from his shoulders and recover. There should probably be more research into this, because even in the Auror department there were precious few wizards who could deal with House-elf magic. But it would feel like a betrayal to suggest it.
Harry pushed at the door, just Wizarding wards now. Bloody hell, Draco had himself sealed up tighter than a Gringotts vault. Probably sensible if you went around pissing people off like Draco did. At last, with a final ’pop’ the wards released and Harry pushed the door open.
The air inside the apartment was musty, with the stale stillness of long-empty rooms, but Harry knew Draco was there somewhere. The hall was dark. Cool tile and a few pieces of intricately carved wooden furniture. Harry passed down the corridor, glancing into a dark, shuttered rooms. At the far end, the corridor turned and opened into an alcove, beyond which lay a large room occupying the whole west-facing side of Draco’s portion of the building.
The room was completely trashed. Harry knew at once that this was where Draco lived, not the pristine rooms behind him. This was where Draco was. Harry strode across the room to throw open the shutters on the window in the wall opposite him. They were also warded, but Harry, patience done, just scythed through them, flinging the shutters back. The stillness of the room was unnerving him.
He walked down the wall, doing the same to another two windows until the room was bathed in the golden light of the setting sun. The room wasn’t just untidy. Furniture was overturned, splintered. Chairs lay on their backs, missing legs here and there. The tile-clad walls showed indentations and cracks that spoke of the impact of heavy objects or curses.
Tall, wooden cupboards and wardrobes stood along the walls, with the same rich carving, inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl patterns that glimmered in the evening light. The room smelled of cedar and sandalwood and mint and stale sweat.
One of the large cabinets lay face down on the floor. Others gaped open, the doors hanging off or missing altogether. The floor was littered with debris, articles of clothing, objects, books. Glass and fragments of inlay crunched beneath Harry’s boots. He stumbled as a brass tumbler skittered from beneath his foot.
At the end of the room was a large canopied bed. The hangings drooped, ripped from their moorings. Harry made his way over to the body he could see sprawled across it.
Climbing over the strewn cushions, Harry felt quickly for a pulse beneath Draco’s jaw. It was there, rapid, but faint. Harry gripped Draco’s shoulder and rolled him over. Draco lay inert, breathing shallowly. He was wearing only loose, black cotton trousers that tapered to just above his ankles. He was naked from the waist up, apart from a broad, pale rectangle of gauze taped to his left side.
Draco’s throat and chest and arms were covered in the markings Harry had seen back at Luna’s, darker and more pronounced than before. His back, too, before Harry had turned him over, had been rich in the swirling patterns of feathers. The palms of his hands and his still, slightly curled fingers were completely black. Harry smoothed the hair away from Draco’s face, noting that the marking running up his neck seemed to extend into the fine hair at his temples and behind his ears before fading into the white-blond of Draco’s natural hair colour.
“Draco,” Harry said. “Draco,” he said again, shaking him gently. Draco let out a quiet moan.
“Draco, wake up.” Another moan.
“Draco.” One of Draco’s hands shot up to grip Harry’s forearm tightly. His eyes still closed.
“Draco, I'm here.” Harry stroked the fine hair away from Draco’s temples again. Draco made a needy little noise in his throat and Harry shifted closer to bring his body in line with Draco’s, wrapping his arms around him.
It felt unbelievably good to hold him close like this and pet his hair in a way Harry couldn't quite imagine fully-conscious Draco allowing. But then again, Draco was a toucher, even though he now seemed determined to rein in the urge. Vulnerable as he was now, there was no concealing Draco’s satisfaction with the arrangement. The pinched lines of pain around his eyes and mouth were starting to relax already and his pulse to even out.
“You stupid bugger,” Harry whispered into his hair. “What have you been doing to yourself?” There was no reply and Draco's deepening breathing suggested he had fallen asleep.
Up close, watching Draco's sleeping face, Harry could see how drawn he looked, even relaxed as he was now. Harry picked up one of Draco’s hands and examined it. It didn’t feel any different from a normal hand. The black skin was smooth, though the fingers and palms had the calluses that came with regular physical work of some kind, flying or, he guessed, riding. The nails though were harder and thicker than normal nails, not long or sharp enough to have scratched as Harry remembered. Perhaps Draco could unsheath them when he wished? Harry turned Draco's hand over and pressed a kiss to the tender skin of his inner wrist. He should probably stop touching him. He was asleep after all, but somehow Harry couldn't stop.
Harry ran his hand over Draco's chest. The markings flowed from his neck over his breastbone and tapered out at his sternum. They didn’t feel any different from the unmarked skin below either. Up close, Harry could see that it was, in fact, far from unmarked. An interlacing of scars, new and old, spread across Draco’s arms and chest, indicating a man who, in the past at least, had taken risks with his physical safety. Running from Draco’s collarbone in a haphazard line over his chest there was a single long scar, faded to white. Harry ran his finger along its length. He’d given Draco that scar. A long time ago.
Harry trailed his finger lightly over the scar again, reflectively. Draco’s Dark Mark was almost entirely concealed in the markings that ran down his arms, getting denser towards his wrists. You could just make it out, but barely. Harry chose not to examine the satisfaction he felt that his mark remained visible, where Voldemort’s was lost in this transformation of Draco’s body. That wasn't ... nice or appropriate. But when had his feelings for Draco ever been nice or appropriate?
The light cotton trousers Draco was wearing hung low on his hips. Looking down Harry could see the startling transition from tanned torso to the pale, white skin of Draco’s abdomen. That skin was familiar to him. Draco used to be entirely that colour, milk white from head to toe. It was a shock to be reminded. And this glimpse of the soft, hidden skin that never saw the light of day carried a powerful erotic charge.
Harry stroked along the waistband of the trousers, slipping his finger into the gap at the hollow where Draco’s hip bone jutted out. The skin was so soft and delicate there. Harry could feel Draco’s pulse fluttering at this junction of hip and thigh. He wanted more than anything to be able to feel this soft skin with his lips, to take his time nosing out this private territory. Harry imagined the luxury of having Draco naked and pliant before him and of having all the time in the world to explore every inch of skin, from the old scars to the intoxicating vulnerability of this fine, white skin, stretched over bone.
Harry pulled his hand away to wrap around Draco’s chest again and took a few deep breaths into Draco’s hair to steady himself. Draco needed his help, not to be groped whilst he slept, but, my God, when Harry got permission ...
In part to try and distract himself, Harry turned his attention to the gauze pad taped down Draco’s side. He muttered a spell to release the taping and peeled the gauze back a little to look. Draco’s left side, from high up his ribs to down below his waist was a mass of newly-spelled scar tissue. It looked like something had taken a fair sized chunk out of him or had had a damn good try. Though the skin was whole, it was bruised here and there with the crimson and purple Harry knew meant incomplete healing and bleeding beneath the surface. Draco needed to see a healer. A wound like this would routinely need multiple castings to heal properly and it didn't look like it’d had any attention for some time.
Harry swore quietly and fixed the gauze back in place after casting a few field sterilisations over it. Draco stirred and Harry shifted to look at him. He was torn between anger at Draco’s carelessness and that strange tenderness that had overwhelmed him as soon as he’d touched Draco.
“Draco, are you awake?” he asked softly.
Draco tugged weakly on his arm, urging Harry closer and parting his lips. Harry bent to hear him, but instead Draco arched up, eyes still closed, and kissed him. Draco’s lips were dry and cracked and wonderful. Harry pressed himself along Draco’s right side and licked gently over the rough skin of Draco’s lips, softening and soothing them. When Draco’s tongue crept into his mouth Harry welcomed it eagerly, curling himself over Draco and pressing him down into the cushions.
It was so good. Better than the night club or Luna’s party because he knew this was what he wanted. To have, to take, to keep. After a few minutes of increasingly sloppy kissing, Harry’s brain reasserted itself. He broke away, breathing hard, struggling to control himself from just plundering Draco’s mouth and rutting, fully clothed, against him until he came. But Draco needed his help, so he needed to stop thinking with his dick.
“D’you want a drink or something?” Harry could hear his voice rough with desire. He could taste the smudge of blood on his tongue that he could now see welling through one of the crack’s in Draco lower lip. Harry looked about him, but there was no sign in the decimated room around them of any provision of drink or food near Draco’s bed. Harry frowned and Accioed one of the brass beakers he’d tripped on earlier.
Harry urged and assisted Draco to sit a little more upright in the bed. Then he cast an Aguamenti, filling the beaker and holding it to Draco’s lips. Draco drank thirstily and Harry refilled the beaker and offered it again. As Draco drained the third beaker of water, Harry felt his temper starting to fray again. Had Draco honestly made no attempt to care for himself? He knew Draco had friends here and must have had at least one House-elf. Why had no one been here?
“Where’s your Elf, Draco?”
Draco choked slightly on the water and Harry took away the cup. Draco flopped back into the cushions, closing his eyes again. He looked wiped out.
“Sent him away. Malfoy Elf. Wasn't right,” Draco mumbled.
“And did you tell him to seal the place behind him?”
Draco turned his face away, feigning sleep. Harry bit his lip to keep from shouting. “You stupid, stupid fucker, Draco,” Harry whispered furiously, to relieve his feelings. “You stupid, fucking arse. I'm going to kill you when you wake up.” He pressed a kiss to Draco’s forehead as Draco’s breathing evened out again into true sleep.
Harry smoothed at his hair again. It was quite possible, he thought, that he would never get tired of being able to do that, stroking the silken hair and fine skin where it stretched over the hollow of Draco’s temple.
It was impossible. Draco was impossible. Harry struggled to think around the conflicting waves of almost narcotic sensual pleasure he got from touching Draco and his anger at him and lurking retrospective horror at what might have happened if he had not come. But Draco was sleeping now and seemed to be in no immediate danger. If anything he was looking better than a mere drink of water should have effected, so probably at least part of the stress on his body had been his craving for Harry.
Harry yawned, he was truly shattered. He raised himself up to take off his boots. He’d take Draco to see a healer in the morning. Draco hummed in dissatisfaction, demanding his human blanket back. Trust Draco to be able to bitch at him whilst only barely conscious. Harry threw his jacket on the floor to join his boots and tucked himself back along Draco’s side, wrapping his arm over him and resting his cheek into the silken fall of Draco’s hair where it lay across the cushions.
“Not a morning person, then?” Harry said.
“What are you doing here?” Draco hissed. He wasn't exactly throttling Harry, just holding him in place. It wasn't comfortable though.
“I came to see you,” Harry said.
“You’re a fucking idiot, Potter, and I'm going to kill you,” Draco said deliberately.
“You were okay with it last night.”
“I don't remember last night. I was sick.”
“You’re damn right you were sick, you stupid bugger. What were you playing at, letting yourself get into that state?”
“Fuck off, Potter. I'm not answerable to you.”
Harry’s temper rose to match Draco’s. The feelings that he’d damped down last night rearing up again. “You barricaded yourself in here. Did you even have any intention of getting better, without help, without even food or water?”
“Fuck you,” Draco spat. “You have no right to come here and judge me. You don't know anything about the choices I've made or the price I've paid for them. You’re nothing to me.”
“Yeah? So who does get to judge you? Who gets to call you on your bullshit?”
“Fuck you!” Draco thrust down on Harry’s shoulders, jarring him back into the bed.
“Get the fuck off me, Draco,” Harry said, finally losing his temper enough to break Draco’s hold and send him toppling off to one side. Draco seized the momentum of the thrust and, twisting like a cat, sprang to his feet by the side of the bed. Harry, too, had scrambled up and they stood on opposite sides of the bed, glaring at one another.
“How long were you down back in sixth year? When I cut you open,” said Harry eyeing the scar on Draco’s chest. “How long were you down for before you got back up again?”
Draco’s face was blank again, his black eyes unreadable. “Three days. I was back in classes after three days.”
“So what’s the problem this time? I've seen you scared before, Draco, but I've never seen you give up like this.”
Draco bared his teeth and, moving faster than Harry would have thought possible, leapt in two strides over the bed, knocking Harry to the floor. Harry did not want to hurt Draco’s injured side. He managed to block the first blow, but not the second which Draco landed hard in his ribs and the breath ouffed out of him.
They rolled across the floor, scuffling. Despite his reticence, Harry was combat-trained and it wasn’t long before he had Draco in a hold, sitting on his chest with his weight bearing down on Draco’s wrists pinned above his head.
“For fuck’s sake, Draco. Calm down before I have to hurt you.”
Draco planted his feet flat on the floor, bucking and twisting his hips, trying to throw Harry off.
“Don’t think I won’t Stun you, if I have to,” Harry gritted out.
“Fuck you.” Draco managed to shake his balance enough to get one wrist free and he struck out, this time with his black talons unsheathed, at Harry’s face.
Harry only just jerked up out of the way in time, throwing himself backwards and off Draco and rolling to his feet.
Draco got his feet under him quickly, but appeared winded enough to stay down in a crouch, breathing heavily. His eyes, still black and flickering, glinted with menace and Harry didn't trust him not to launch himself at him again.
“Shit, Draco, that was my fucking face!”
“So?” Draco puffed out, sitting back on his haunches. “You seemed to enjoy the scar you gave me, it seems only fair that I reciprocate.”
“You’re crazy, Draco. You could have had my eye out.”
“Maybe if I wrecked your pretty face, it wouldn't be so hard to ... I told you to to fuck off.”
“Get back on the bed, Draco. You’re in no fit state.”
Draco remained where he was, though Harry could see him gathering his weight beneath him, preparing for another strike. Harry drew his wand.
“Seriously, Draco, I will Stun you. Get back on the bed. I don’t want to hurt you.”
Draco’s pose shifted subtly, resting forward on his knees, his black gaze glittering up through pale lashes. “Not even if that’s what I want, Harry?” he breathed.
Unbidden an image flashed into Harry’s mind of Draco pinned down and naked before him. He had one of Draco’s wrists twisted up hard behind his back and he was fucking him mercilessly.
Harry gasped and took a step back. Understanding suddenly dawned that this was Draco’s vision, shared with him over the bond.
“Stop that,” he ordered.
“Really?” Draco smiled maliciously. “Are you sure?”
In the vision Harry pressed his free hand hard into the tender, wounded flesh on Draco’s side and Draco arched up in pain, thrusting himself back on Harry’s cock and crying out.
“Bloody stop it!”
Harry blinked his eyes and shook his head to clear the vision. In that moment of distraction Draco leapt at him again, catching him in a high tackle and tipping him back over to crash to the floor with Draco on top of him. With Draco holding his arms, Harry couldn't break his fall and his head cracked on the floor, sending a flare of black across his vision. His wand skittered away.
Instinctively Harry brought an elbow up, shielding his face, and caught Draco under the chin. He heard Draco's teeth click together and, when Draco swore, saw blood welling up in his mouth.
Well and truly pissed off now, Harry used both arms and added propulsion from his legs to send Draco head over heels over Harry's head and onto the floor behind him. Harry sprang back to his feet, summoning his wand.
Draco let out a pained whimper and struggled to rise, collapsing back to the floor. Harry's anger evaporated at once. "Shit. Are you okay?" He hurried to check and Draco kicked out hard, taking Harry's feet out from under him again.
Harry toppled, but prepared this time, caught himself on one arm and was already turning to catch Draco's next strike. He used Draco's own momentum and growing weakness to roll him and pin him again. This time with his forearm across his throat and a fist in his hair. He kept himself well out the way of Draco's furious thrashing.
"You are seriously starting to try my patience."
"Let go of my damn hair, you barbarian," Draco snarled.
"You’re a slippery piece of shit. I'm not letting go ‘til you calm the fuck down."
All of the sudden Draco relaxed, the tension running out of his body. He looked up at Harry with hooded eyes and licked his lips slowly.
Harry was assailed by another vision. This time he was gripping Draco's hair, forcing his head back as he thrust down Draco's throat. Draco's hands were tied behind his back and tears leaked from his eyes as he choked on Harry's cock.
"You fucker!" Harry rasped, closing his eyes against the vision, but not loosening his hold. He could feel himself slide all the way down Draco's throat, feel the engulfing heat and pressure and the delicious vibrations of Draco's moans. He was growing hard and distantly he heard Draco's dry laugh.
In retaliation he forced himself to concentrate on the memory of Draco’s sleeping face from the night before and the guileless need with which he’d craned up for Harry’s kiss. He recalled the soft noises Draco had made as Harry held him.
Draco flushed angrily, all pretence at seductiveness vanished. "Let me up," he growled.
"Are you planning to try to hit me again, or have you got it out of your system now?"
Draco pouted. "You're no fun."
"You're a piece of work, you know that?"
"Let me up."
Harry gave a sigh and released Draco, rolling quickly out of reach and to his feet, wand ready if Draco did in fact intend to have another go at him.
Draco got to his feet more slowly and stalked away across the room, limping slightly and heedless of the debris beneath his bare feet. Harry could see the cuts and scrapes that had been made across his back as they’d rolled on the glass-strewn floor.
“Just fuck off out of here. Whatever you think, I don't want you here,” Draco threw over his shoulder, keeping his back turned.
“Get back on the damn bed,” Harry repeated stubbornly. “I'm getting you a healer.”
Draco didn't move and so neither did Harry.
After a minute, Draco said, in a slightly different voice, “I was going to summon what I needed. I did, only it was ... It was hard ... my wand didn’t. It didn't always work. I...” Draco broke off. Harry could feel distant waves of distress that leaked around the shield of Occlumency Draco had drawn back around himself. It seemed that, apart from the anger that Draco was all too ready to share, Harry wasn’t supposed to know what Draco was feeling.
“You’re an idiot. You should have listened to Fleur. She told me you might have trouble with your wand. Now you’ve shifted in nature like this. Especially when you’re like this.” Harry saw a tremor pass through Draco’s body and saw from the hunch of Draco’ shoulders and another leak of emotion that it was revulsion.
“It’s not ... Draco, it just means you need a new wand.”
“What?” Draco turned to look at him, clearly startled.
“Your magic. There’s nothing wrong with it. It's just changed a little, like you. You just need a new wand. One with a Veela hair for a core, like Fleur’s.”
“What?” Draco’s face was as impassive as ever, but Harry could see his chest rise and fall as he breathed rapidly.
“Fleur told me and I bet she told you, or would have if you’d let her speak to you, you stupid bugger. Did you think that was it, that your magic was failing? And what the hell,” Harry gestured at the gauze bandage, “is that? Those wounds aren’t healing properly and need medical attention. And what happened to this damned room?”
Draco’s eyes flashed. “I've seen a healer. I’ll be fine.”
"Yeah, you would be, if you’d had that treated properly." Harry raised an incredulous eyebrow. “What did you even do to yourself?”
“I tried to ride the Griffin,” Draco spat, his temper clearly flaring again. “I tried to ride, but my concentration ... I couldn't maintain my concentration. I was lucky one of the other riders happened to be there. Anide, the Griffin I was riding, will miss the big summer races because Yusuf had to half kill him to get him off me. Mr Jabal is livid. I'll probably lose my job. I can’t ride anymore.” The last was said with a furious finality.
“So what, you just slunk back here and decided to give up did you?”
“No,” Draco refuted, “I was sick, I told you.”
“How long have you been here? A week? Ten days? What happened here?” Harry gestured at the room.
Draco glowered at him. "I lost my temper."
"At the room?"
The look Draco shot him suggested rather it had been at Harry.
"Well, it must have been some tantrum."
Draco curled his lip and looked away.
“Why haven't you seen a healer about those wounds? The healing charms are only just holding. Why aren’t you back at Mr Jabal’s fighting for the job you love? Why haven't you returned Fleur or Luna’s messages? Your mother's worried. She went to see Luna to see if she knew where you were. Have you even spoken to her about this?”
Draco flinched and he stared across the room at nothing. Harry walked over him, stopping a few feet away.
"You're being an idiot. From the look of you, you've caught it rough from the Griffin plenty of times before."
"This time I couldn't. I can't. This time it was my mistake. And I could see it coming and there was nothing I could do about it."
"So learn." Harry said. "Jesus, Draco, you've only had a few weeks. You need to talk to Fleur. You ... you're leaping to all sorts of conclusions. You don't know enough."
"I know enough."
Harry let out a groan of frustration. "You're so fucking stubborn."
“I want you to leave,” Draco said. “I don't need your help and if you stay, I'm going to kill you.”
“No you’re not. I have extensive experience of people trying to kill me. You don’t even make it onto the scale.”
Draco’s hand shot out, snake fast, to catch Harry’s throat again and he crowded forward to breath into Harry’s face. “You let him fuck you.” Draco’s nails bit in to skin beneath Harry’s ear, pricking blood. “You let that man fuck you. I was riding and I saw and I couldn’t ...” Draco was breathing hard, his sharp teeth flashing before Harry’s eyes.
Harry felt a wave of guilt at the pain he’d caused Draco. Swiftly followed by anger. “That was what you wanted,” he shot back. “You left. You said I should try to break the bond.”
Draco just snarled at Harry again, scoring with his thumbnail a bloody line down Harry’s neck. Harry’s pulse was thumping in his ears and he couldn't tell if it was still anger or a response to Draco’s claiming touch.
“Then why are you here? I left. I went through hell, you arrogant fucker, you have no idea. No idea what it was like.”
“Fleur said you wouldn’t be able to stand it,” Harry said. “She said she was surprised you hadn't come back already.” He fought down the urge to lean into Draco’s hand.
“Well, I did stand it. I didn’t come back. And now, damn you, I'll have to do it again. I'm not sure I can. It was like a brand searing into my flesh, day and night. It was like knives flaying the skin from my body. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I could see you with them. I think I'd rather kill you.” Draco snarled. "Every time they touched you I could feel it. And you let him fuck you. Why aren't you back with him? Or one of the others? Weren’t they enough for you?”
“No. Not nearly enough. That’s why I'm here.” Harry said simply.
Draco stared at him.
“I think we made a mistake. I think we could try ... I think we should try and see how things could be between us.”
“You’re out of your mind.” Draco let go of Harry’s throat again and took a quick step back. “Get out of here.”
“I think it could work.” Harry couldn’t make sense of the sudden flash of panic that leaked around Draco’s Occlumency shield.
“Well, I don’t,” Draco said pacing away across the room. “Get out of here, Potter. I don’t want you.”
“We’d kill each other. You think a decent fuck is worth that?”
“I'm not here for a fuck, Draco.”
“What, you think you have feelings for me now?” Draco sneered back over his shoulder at him.
“What are you so afraid of? Yeah, I think we have feelings for each other. I'm not suggesting we’re going to skip off into the sunset holding hands. But I think we made a mistake not to see how it could be.”
“I know how it will be. Did Luna make you come? I don't need you to save me.”
“That is a matter of opinion,” said Harry. “But it’s not what we’re talking about.” He stood still by the window. “What are you so afraid of?”
Draco stared back at him for a long moment before turning deliberately and stalking back across the room towards him. There was something predatory in his stride now and Harry was reminded of how strange he really looked, with his black eyes and marked skin. Draco walked with his head thrown back, like a man burning bridges behind him, coming to a stop almost toe to toe with Harry. “So what do you think these feelings are?” he said, his voice low and challenging.
It was Harry’s turn to feel discomforted. “I ...” he faltered. “Well, I don't know, but I think it could be good.”
Draco reached up to cup Harry’s cheek and, as before at the club, his touch was surprisingly gentle. “But you think that you could love me, don’t you?”
“I don’t know. I mean ... I don’t know. Maybe?” Harry said.
Draco smiled. It was a wide smile, but tinged with bitterness. “It is sweet of you to say so.” He drawled. “But then I wouldn’t expect anything less from you. You’re a consummate Gryffindor after all. A couple of weeks of thinking about my cock and you fancy yourself in love.”
“It’s not just that.” Harry felt another flare of irritation. Draco really was such an arse.
“So sweet. Darling,” Draco smirked, stroking his cheek.
“But that’s not really the problem.” Draco shook his head in mock sorrow. “You see, I know the nature of my feelings. I know I don’t love you.”
“Okay,” Harry said and he was proud of how levelly he spoke.
Draco continued to cup Harry’s face, his sharp thumbnail drifting lightly over the skin of Harry’s cheek. “I don’t love you. I want you. I want every drop of blood in your body and every inch of flesh.” Draco spoke slowly and vehemently, almost at a whisper, leaning towards Harry.
“I want every beat of your heart. I want every breath, every word you utter to be mine. Every flicker of your eyes, every glance, every spell you cast, every thought to pass across your mind. I want to tear the still-beating heart out of anyone who’s ever touched you. I want you never to touch, to look at, to think of another person, other than me. I want to obliterate every memory you have of the world that isn't me, so that you are wholly mine, forever, and nothing else. Nothing else at all.”
Draco dropped his hand to his side and looked at Harry, who blinked at him. “And that isn’t love. Is it?”
“No,” Harry said.
Draco turned his back and stepped away. “So, get out.”
Harry stayed where he was. “That isn't love. That’s nuts.”
Draco swung back around and his eyes were cold, grey and steady. “I know. That’s why I'm telling you to fuck off.”
“The thing is,” Harry said, ignoring him, “feeling that way and then choosing to walk away ... well, that’s ... maybe that’s a little closer to ... I don’t know, maybe ... love, sort of territory.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Isn’t it? Look at your hands. They’re back to normal. You’re just you now, asking me to leave...”
“I'm telling you to fuck off,” Draco corrected.
“Asking me to leave, because you’re nuts and you’re scared. Scared that you’re going to hurt me.”
“I’m not scared. And if you stay I will kill you.”
“Not if I kill you first,” Harry grinned.
The corner of Draco’s mouth twitched just a fraction, then his face became sober again. “I can’t do this, Harry. I can’t control ... I want so much ...” He swallowed. “Hermione was right. You ... you ... it’s not right. I wouldn't have, if I'd known what was going on.”
“What? You aren’t making any sense. But I get that you’re trying to protect me. From what?” Harry coaxed, questioning, “because, other than this, I'd say you have a pretty high sense of your own self-worth. Do you really think you’re that bad a deal?”
“I can’t,” Draco huffed, “I can't control myself with you.”
“I know. I kind of like that.”
“What? You like waking up with someone about to tear your throat out?”
“No. I like that... I like ... I like that I get under your skin. I like that you can’t be polite with me. I like that your mask slips and you start to twitch and fiddle with things. That you start to babble and show off and do all those things you’re too controlled to do in front of anyone else. I like that.”
Draco stared at him like he was the crazy one.
"Is that what scares you? More than thinking you'll tear my throat out?"
“You know, you really underestimate me,” Harry said. “I admit you caught me by surprise at the beginning, but do you really think I'm so easily ... that I couldn't put up a fight ... to match you?”
Draco’s eyes started to darken again. “You know what I can do.”
“Yes, but do you know what I can do? People have tried to control me before and it hasn’t gone that well for them.”
“At Luna’s ...”
“At Luna’s I didn’t know what was going on. I didn't understand what was happening or how to respond, any more than you knew how to begin to control yourself. I've talked about it with Fleur. I think I understand better now. Ask me to do something.”
“What are you really afraid of?”
“I don’t want you to kneel to me. Not like that,” Draco blurted out.
“When I kneel to you, it won't be like that.”
And with that Draco’s eyes shuttered full black. Ma’nahmiel,” he murmured. “Ton meer.”
Harry felt the tug of the compulsion, but he reached up to stroke down Draco’s chest of his own volition.
“Mehreer.” Draco voiced the wish that Harry would kneel at his feet. Again, Harry felt the tug of compulsion, but it was even less now, because he knew that obedience wasn’t in his nature and that Drace didn't really want that of him.
“I'll kneel when I damn well want to,” he told Draco, sliding one hand up into the hair at the back of Draco’s head and kissing him.
Draco’s mouth opened for him and before Harry could take advantage he heard the little sound of want that escaped between Draco’s lip.
Draco’s hand came up, either side of Harry’s head, and he returned the kiss fiercely.
Draco broke away. “I could still tear your throat out.”
“Yeah, we're going to have to work on that and the, er, temper tantrums," Harry said smiling and glancing around the room. "Don't worry. I can still kick your arse, any day of the week.”
Draco smiled tentatively.
"You know all that stuff about my blood and my every thought is a bit disturbing, right?"
"But that's how I feel," Draco said hoarsely.
"You know you're not getting that?" Harry said, shaking his head.
Draco regarded him for a moment before his lips quirked into a crooked smile. "Not even a little bit?"
Harry smoothed back Draco’s hair, sensing the anxiety beneath his words. “You’re not getting anything I don’t want to give you.” The shattering desire in Draco’s face stole any further words and Harry kissed him again.
"And, you know, no tearing out anyone's still beating heart,” he whispered over Draco’s lips.
Draco's flinched slightly and drew back. "And what if I can't? You make me ... I can't always ..."
"Then I'll stop you."
"And, you’re so sure you can do that?"
"Oh yeah, I can stop you." Harry said. "But maybe not without hurting you, so, you know, make an effort."
"I'll bear that in mind." Draco smiled again and Harry lent forward again to catch that smile on his lips.
"You’re so ridiculous," he whispered.
"I am not," Draco retorted indignantly.
"You are. You are the most ridiculous man I've ever met. And I've met Rolf Scamander."
"I hate you."
"Yeah? Well, I think you’re a total prick and mostly insane."
They kissed again and when they parted after a minute or two they were both breathing heavily.
“God, you’re so, you’re so ...” Harry ran his fingers through Draco’s hair.
“You really like my hair, don’t you?” Draco laughed.
“I love your hair.” Harry kissed him again. “You’re going to drive me completely mental,” he whispered against Draco’s lips.
“Probably,” Draco agreed, kissing his ear, his jaw and down his neck. “And I'm probably still going to kill you, but Merlin help me, I'm going to fuck you first.”
Draco started to urge him back towards the bed.
“We can’t,” Harry groaned. “You were practically at death’s door last night. You need a healer.”
“But I'm feeling miles better,” Draco asserted. And it was true, he looked better, stronger and more alive.
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Then,” said Draco, placing a hand in the centre of Harry’s chest and pushing him hard so that he fell back onto the bed, “you’d better do exactly as I tell you.”
Draco stood over him where he sprawled back on the bed. “Take your clothes off. All of them. I want to see you.”
“We really shouldn’t. You ...”
Draco growled and his eyes began to darken again. “Harry Potter, take your clothes off, right now. Or, so help me, I might hurt myself tearing them off you.”
Harry swallowed and gave in, pulling his shirt over his head and tugging his trousers and pants down and off.
Draco hummed in approval and looked down at him hungrily.
“Now you,” Harry prompted. “God, I want to see you.”
Draco slipped the cotton trousers down and stepped out of them. As Harry had seen the night before, beneath them his skin was pale as milk, apart from his cock, which jutted red and hard before him.
Harry surged up to sit on the edge of the bed, to do what he’d wished for the night before, catching Draco’s hips in both hands. He ran his nose along the fine skin that stretched between hip and groin. Draco stood completely still above him, barely even breathing.
Pulling Draco closer towards him, Harry nuzzled around his balls and pressed his face into the soft, vulnerable, pale skin of Draco’s belly. He could feel Draco’s cock rub along his cheek, hot and velvet. Pulling back a little, he took the end of it in his mouth, capturing the tip and rubbing the flat of his tongue over the head.
It was all just as good as he’d imagined. His brain flatlined as the feel of Draco’s skin beneath his fingers and tongue, the smell of him in his nostrils and the taste of him in his mouth overwhelmed his senses.
He smoothed his thumbs over Draco’s hip bones and felt a tremor run up Draco’s thighs, though he still didn't make a sound. After a minute of sucking gently on the tip, Harry took more of Draco’s cock into his mouth, feeling the hardness beneath the velvet skin and the blood that rushed there beneath his tongue.
Draco’s cock ran over the roof of Harry’s mouth as he took him down as far as he could. He was no expert cock sucker. This was only the fourth time he’d tried this, but genuine enthusiasm took him a long way. Raising his head back up, Harry traced the ridges with his tongue, laving over the tip before swallowing him back down, hungrily.
It was too much. Everything and perfect. He could taste a faint salt on his tongue as Draco’s cock began to leak precome. Chasing the taste, Harry caught hold of Draco with one hand and pumped in time with the strokes of his tongue. Spit dribbled down his chin. Experimentally he grazed his teeth lightly along the underside, before pressing the flat of his tongue hard against the tip.
Draco let out a small, stifled sound and an intake of breath. Harry’s other lovers had been all grunting and moaning, but this tiny sound from Draco was electric. He sucked Draco down again, taking him as far back as he could, matching his movements with his hand. He wanted more, more taste, more of those reluctant little sounds, more of everything, like he could never get enough.
Draco still hadn’t touched him, standing still over him. Harry reached blindly for one of Draco’s hands, which hung clenching reflectively at his side. Catching the hand, he guided it back into his own hair.
Another small sound and Draco’s hips snapped forward shallowly once, twice. Before his fist tightened in Harry’s hair and he dragged Harry’s head back, off his cock. Harry let out a little whimper of protest before he could stop himself.
Draco tilted his head back with a tug, looking down at him, and rubbed the hard edge of his thumb nail over Harry’s split-slicked bottom lip, dipping his thumb into Harry’s mouth. Harry captured it immediately, sucking on it and running his teeth over the pad. He just wanted as much of Draco as he could get. Needed more. Draco tugged his head back again.
Harry stared up at him. It was sort of like the foggy disorientation he remembered from Luna’s party, but not the same. It was a sensory overload, every nerve burning with the desire for more.
“Stop shielding yourself,” Harry said, hoarsely. “I want to know what you’re feeling.”
Draco blinked once and let his Occlumency fall. Harry was assaulted by such a wave of emotion he gasped. Desire and possessiveness and wonder and terror. Draco wanted him just as much as he wanted Draco and Harry felt a sense of elation and calm sweep over him.
“Get back on the bed,” Draco whispered.
Harry shuffled himself back, as Draco climbed on to join him. Draco crawled over him, stroking up his chest and neck and cradling his face. Draco wanted him, wanted to touch and taste and mark and own and Harry wanted it too. He tipped his head back, sinking into the feel of Draco’s hard naked chest against his, the covetous caress of his fingers, the warm, damp breath against his cheek, and gave himself over.
“You can’t just ...” Draco whispered shakily.
“Of course I can,” Harry murmured, completely without fear.
Draco buried his face in Harry’s neck for a moment, curled over him. He rubbed his forehead over the junction between Harry’s neck and shoulder before raising himself back up.
“Turn over,” Draco directed softly, taking a steadying breath.
Harry twisted himself over beneath Draco’s hands. Draco was going to fuck him now and that was absolutely the best idea in the world.
Draco sighed, another soft sound, as he stroked along Harry’s back and down over his arse. He stroked another few times and Harry could feel the greedy beat of Draco’s desire. The sensations of Draco’s touch and the caress of his thoughts shared through the bond merged into a tide that Harry didn’t even try to resist. He stretched, seeking more of Draco’s touch, not impatient but so, so ready.
Draco hummed in pleasure and approval. “Just perfect, Harry,” he said as he resumed his ministrations with both hands gliding over Harry’s back, arse and thighs. Everywhere he touched left a trail of velvet over Harry’s skin.
Draco pushed Harry’s arse cheeks apart, exposing him. Harry’s heart-rate sped up in anticipation and mindless wanting. Harry wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting exactly, but he was definitely startled by the ghost of Draco’s breath over his balls, quickly followed by the rough, wet press of the flat of his tongue over his hole. Harry started away, gasping in surprise, but just as quickly pressed back, seeking more. He’d been mistaken. This was the best idea ever.
Draco licked him again and Harry moaned and hid his crimson face in the cushions of Draco’s bed, not so inadvertently causing his arse to push even higher up in the air.
Draco's amusement was palpable over the bond. “You like this, Harry. I knew you’d like this. First time and no one has ever touched you like this, have they? I like that. I like that so much.”
As in the nightclub, Harry could hear Draco’s voice murmuring to him even while Draco’s mouth was otherwise occupied. Draco kept up the firm, lingering strokes with the flat of his tongue. “You’re so good. So perfect. I knew you would be.”
Harry was vaguely aware of small sounds escaping him on each exhale as he pressed his arse back against Draco’s face, his breathing becoming rapid, heavy pants. “That’s right Harry. I want to hear you,” Draco urged and Harry let the tangled sounds that had been rising in his chest spill over his lips.
Draco traced Harry’s rim with the hard tip of his tongue, beginning to alter these more pointed strokes with the swipe across the surface. Dipping his tongue inside and then smoothing again. Harry’s thighs started to tremble, his cock hard and aching and untouched.
Draco pushed his arse cheeks further apart, the pads of his thumbs moving closer to Harry’s entrance as his tongue stroked in deeper. “That’s right. You’re so tight. Going to get you all wet. Just relax. You taste so good. Been wanting to taste you for so long. So long. Just relax. Let me. Just let me.” Draco’s voice was a warm buzz inside Harry’s head.
“You’re so perfect. Merlin, I will never get enough of this. The sounds you’re making. You’re so hot. So tight. I can’t. I want you so much. So much. So much.”
Harry could feel a trail of saliva running down over his balls, as Draco sucked and licked and probed him with his tongue. Harry’s hands were clenching in the sheets and his hips had started a shallow rocking motion over which he had absolutely no control. He was panting out short moans with every breath.
“Merlin, the sounds you make. So perfect. I could eat them too. I want everything. Everything you can give me and you’ll give me everything, won’t you?”
“Yes,” Harry gasped and then couldn’t stop. “Yes, yes, yes.”
“Say my name. Say my name, Harry.” Draco’s voice tumbled urgently into his head.
“Draco. Oh, God, Draco,” Harry moaned. “Draco, I'm going to come. I can’t. Oh, God. Please.”
“No. You aren’t going to come yet. Not ‘til I'm inside you. Not ‘til I've taken you and you can feel ... Oh, Merlin, ‘til you can feel me come inside you. ‘Til you can feel my come leaking down your thighs as I fuck it out of you.”
Harry snapped his hips back erratically. “Please, Draco,” he babbled. “Please, I can’t. I need. Now, please. I can’t.”
“What? Tell me what you want. Say it,” Draco urged in his head, still rubbing and stroking at him with his tongue.
“Oh, fuck, Draco, I want you to fuck me. Please, I need ... I need you to fuck me,” Harry gasped. The fierce roll of Draco’s emotional response poured down the bond over him, stealing his breath.
Harry couldn’t stop. “Oh, fuck, Draco. I need you now. Need you to fuck me. Need you so badly. Now. You have too. I can’t wait, Draco.”
With a last wet swipe of his tongue, Draco raised himself up. Soothing Harry’s shaking thighs and stroking over his hips, Harry could hear his own breathing, harsh and shallow, and feel an answering tremor off the body behind him, vibrating with contained energy.
Draco pressed his arse cheeks apart with his hands again and Harry could feel the hot, blunt tip of Draco’s cock where it pressed against him. Draco must have uttered some spell because he could also feel the slide of lubricant. He whined in his throat, pressing back and felt himself stretch to accommodate the head of Draco’s cock.
They both panted in unison. “So, so tight. So hot,” Draco's voice was back in his head. “You’re so perfect. So hot, so tight. I knew you’d be perfect like this. So hungry for me. So ready.”
Draco pressed in a little further, before pulling back and pressing forward again. Streams of pleasure ran down Harry’s thighs and up his spine and he threw his head back, arching and pressing back towards Draco.
“Merlin, you’re so perfect. I've waited for ... I've waited so long. I wanted you so much. So long. And you’re perfect. You want more, don’t you. There. There, oh, Harry.” Draco slid in further and back and further in rocking gently into Harry until Harry was full and could feel Draco’s thighs pressed against the backs of his own.
He took a few steadying breaths, clenching around the hard, heat he could feel inside him. Draco’s slow withdrawal and thrust drew from him a long moan. It felt so good, so much and he pushed back in an entreaty for more.
“Say it,” Draco urged.
“More,” Harry gasped. “I want more. Jesus, Draco. I want you to fuck me. Oh, God.”
Draco tightened his grip on Harry’s hips, pulling nearly all the way out before thrusting back in. Harry whimpered.
Draco set up a hard, regular, pounding rhythm, and it was just what Harry needed. Hard and steady, finally.
He could feel molten heat running down his thighs and curling in his belly, his balls tight and aching on the very edge of coming. And Draco held him there, fucking him hard, drawing him closer and closer until Harry couldn’t feel anything except the joining of their two bodies and the pleasure building inside him.
Draco's grip on his hips was fierce and he tugged Harry back with each thrust, ramming in harder and faster.
“Harry,” Draco gave a soft, little cry and Harry realised that he’d finally spoke this aloud, not over the bond. “Harry, I'm going to come.” Draco’s voice wavered.
“Please, Harry, please,” and it was as if Draco couldn’t hold himself silent anymore. “Please, Harry,” Draco gasped, “I'm going to come. I need. Harry, please, please.”
And Harry couldn't speak, but he tried to pour everything he felt down the bond and press back harder onto Draco’s cock and give him whatever it was he needed.
“Please.” Draco’s voice was broken and his hips snapped and stuttered and Harry could feel the hot flood of come pulsing inside him, and he tipped over the edge, coming in waves that melted through his body.
Harry’s arms collapsed and he tumbled face first into the cushions, his hips still anchored in Draco’s hands as Draco held him tight against him, his breath coming in pained gasps that were almost moans.
At last Draco’s grip relaxed and he pulled out. Harry flopped round, uncoordinatedly, their limbs tangled. Draco sat back on his haunches, staring at Harry dazedly, but his eyes were grey and clear.
Harry grinned. Draco didn't appear to know what to do with himself and Harry reached out to snag one of Draco’s hands and pull him, toppling, towards him. Harry tugged him up and kissed him, before rolling him onto his back and following him round to lay half on top of him, stroking his sweat-damp hair away from his face.
Draco looked up at him looking poleaxed. Harry laughed because Draco was lying there with all his sharp edges knocked off, boneless flushed and still panting. And it was uncomfortably hot now the morning was well on its way to noon and Draco’s skin was slippery beneath his fingers. It was actually pretty gross to feel come dribble down his thigh and his arse sort of hurt, but it was still perfect.
He knew Draco’s doubts would return and that he’d probably wig out again and they would have massive rows and probably manage to really hurt one another. But the bond was settled and about that nothing more needed to be said. Mine and yours and forever.
Draco's face broke into a smile, his eyes shining silver. The markings across his arms, chest and neck rippled into focus. It was like wings unfurling.
"You know, I might not kill you, after all," Draco said.