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Palace of Eternity

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Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity.
–John Milton

2242 – Nice, France

Harry stood in front of the large gilt mirror hanging in the entryway of his suite and gave his reflection a final once-over. He looked good in his dark grey, double-breasted suit: respectable, if a bit old-fashioned. His outfit wasn't quite the style these days, and he might turn a few heads by not wearing something more modern, particularly given his relatively youthful appearance. One might expect to see this sort of dress on somebody well into their one hundreds, as opposed to man who looked to be less than half that. But Harry was of the opinion that some styles never truly went out of fashion, and this suit had served him perfectly well over the years. Besides, it was a funeral, not a fashion show, and he'd never managed to become quite comfortable in this decade's latest fads—not that he'd tried particularly hard to acclimate. It was hard to care when he knew the trends would change again in the blink of an eye. Better to stick with the classics.

He'd have to hope the novelty of his dress wouldn't stand out too much in the crowd given his desire to remain inconspicuous, though he could always cast a Notice-Me-Not Charm if things became dire. It didn't help matters that his hair had stayed true to form, managing to thwart all attempts to tame it. He shrugged, long-since accustomed to the impossibility of his wild locks. At least his shirt and jacket neatly obscured the myriad of tattoos decorating his arms and chest. These days, it was more unusual to meet somebody without some form of body modification, from the tame to the outlandish, but Harry's tattoos were for him.

He didn't feel like sharing.

Satisfied, Harry made his way out of the hotel, pausing for a moment in Nice's afternoon sun to breathe in the cool, salty air coming in off the ocean. The city had changed dramatically since the last time Harry had been here some sixty years prior, but he'd purposefully chosen a hotel in the historic wizarding quarter, a neighbourhood that thankfully hadn't lost too much of its charm. There were, of course, subtle suggestions of modernisation—one couldn't avoid that anywhere, it seemed—but at least the historic districts managed to keep the worst of the technology at bay. Not that Harry was a luddite by any means, and he could certainly appreciate all the advances that had been made over the decades, but each new discovery only reminded him of how long a road he'd walked so far—and how much farther there still was to go.

He did his best to shake off the melancholy thoughts as he made his way towards the church where the funeral was to be held, though he wasn't entirely successful. That wasn't exactly a surprise—Harry had been running from his dark thoughts for the better part of the past two hundred years with little success. Why stop indulging them now?

A smartly dressed usher greeted him at the door, confirming Harry was there for the funeral and handing him the program, a razor-thin rectangle of clear polymer. The usher tapped the edge of it with his wand and flowing French script began to shimmer onto its surface. Despite the plentiful time on his hands, Harry had never managed more than a rudimentary grasp of French—enough to muddle through, but not nearly enough to call himself proficient. Given that many of the deceased's relatives were British, the family had clearly anticipated this possibility, as incantations and movements for a translation spell scrolled along the top of the program. Harry stood in the corner of the foyer—the atrium had not yet opened for the service—and cast the necessary spell, watching as the incomprehensible text blurred into familiar English.

We welcome you to the celebration of life for Mrs Vela Martin née Malfoy-Potter.

Harry's heart constricted. He hadn't expected to be confronted with her maiden name, though that was clearly foolish of him. He'd not been able to stomach attending Caelum's funeral, Albus and Scorpius's bright little boy—thankfully not so little anymore by the time he'd passed—but he'd thought Cae's daughter, Vela, the great-granddaughter Harry had never met, would have been enough distance at last. Harry squeezed his eyes shut against a wave of pain, surprised at how sharp it could still be, even after all this time. He'd spent the past one hundred years doing whatever he could to withdraw from his past, but no matter what he did, it never appeared to be enough.

"Hello, Harry." A rich, familiar voice pulled him from his reverie, a voice that, in over two hundred years, had never failed to spark some kind of emotion in Harry: brilliant, terrible, and everything in between. "I didn't expect to see you here."

Harry raised his eyes from the program—he couldn't have stopped himself from doing so if he'd tried—and met the liquid steel gaze of Draco Malfoy.

It had been twelve years, five months, and six days since the last time Harry had laid eyes upon Draco—not that Harry was counting. He looked exactly the same as he always did, his features as sharp as the cut of his robes, which, of course, were in the latest fashion. They would have looked ridiculous on Harry, but Draco's strong, lithe body wore them with effortless grace. His white-blond hair glowed beneath the bright lights in the foyer, and Harry hated himself for the flicker of relief he felt at seeing the same subtle undercut Draco had been sporting the last several times they'd run into one another, instead of one of the ridiculous styles the young men had these days.

Harry took a steadying breath, and his heightened senses immediately honed in on the spicy musk scent of Draco, so innately familiar to him, even after all this time.

Something like joy threatened to rise within Harry's breast at the sight and smell of him, feebly encouraged by the thrice-damned bond that had perked up like a Niffler sensing gold the moment Draco had spoken. The bond might be weak, but it was still there, despite Harry's best efforts. He did his best to ignore it as he ruthlessly tore out the feeling of pleasure growing through him like a persistent weed. Instead, he let the ember of anger that constantly glowed inside him to fan into flame, burning out everything else until he was hollow, a charred-out husk.

"I could say the same to you," Harry replied, his mouth twisted into a grimace. "I wouldn't have thought a small family funeral would have appealed. Then again, I suppose you've always enjoyed any excuse to travel to France."

Draco's smooth jaw turned hard as marble. "I thought you knew me much better than that, Harry," he said, his words sharp and precise, chipped off a block of ice. "I have as much reason to be here as you—Vela was my great-granddaughter, too. There's little in this world that means as much to me as family." His grey eyes flashed with cold fury as he continued, "Which is more than I can say for you."

Harry reeled, the words hitting him harder than a physical blow. "How—how dare you," Harry sputtered, choking on his anger. "You have no right—"

"Right?" Draco spat, a bitter smile on his lips. "I have every right. I'm the only one left alive who has any right! I'm not the one who's martyred himself into solitude and abandoned the only family he's got left."

Harry vibrated with emotion, guilt and shame feeding into an all-consuming anger that threatened to drown him. In all his long life, Harry had never met another being who could inspire such strength of emotion in him.

He hoped he never did. One Draco Malfoy was quite enough.

"Alive?" he asked, his voice soft and mocking, unable to stop the instinctive desire to lash out and hurt Draco the way Draco continued to hurt him.

Draco gave him a disgusted glare. "Yes, that would be what you'd choose to focus on, wouldn't it? Heaven forbid—"

A tinkling of chimes cut off Draco's rant. Apparently the atrium doors had been open for some time, and the attendants were doing a final sweep of the foyer. The funeral would be starting soon.

Harry's expression must have shown just how grateful he was for the interruption, because Draco flashed him one last furious look before turning and sweeping off towards the service. Draco had become better at masking his emotions over the decades, but despite Harry's best efforts to forget, he still knew Draco better than anybody else in the world. He'd still seen the hurt and the longing in that final look, though it was clear Draco had attempted to bury the feelings as far down as he could manage. It seemed as if the two of them had found their true calling, both doomed to spend eternity hurting one another over and over until there was nothing left but suffering and ashes.

Should he leave? He could slip out now before the funeral started, before either of them had a chance to inflict more damage. They'd been estranged for over a hundred years, but their paths had crossed half a dozen times since, and each meeting had been electric… cataclysmic. Who knew what kind of destruction would be wrought this time?

No. Harry shook his head and steeled his jaw. He would not allow Draco to chase him out of his great-granddaughter's funeral. Harry hadn't been there for her in life, but he'd be there for her in death. He would be there to send her off to that eternal sleep, and do his best not to burn with envy thinking of all the people she'd be joining there.

He sighed, set his shoulders, and followed Draco into the atrium, making sure to choose a pew, far, far away from the white-blond head glowing bright like a beacon.

2012 – Wiltshire, England

"Is it almost ten yet? Can we go soon? I bet Mr Malfoy won't mind if we're early," Albus said with all the unrestrained enthusiasm in his possession. As a rather precocious six-year old, that was, unfortunately, no insignificant amount.

Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair—he could hardly make it look any messier than its usual disheveled state—doing his best not to grimace. Albus was a bright, perceptive boy, and he already seemed to have picked up on the fact that Harry was very much dragging his feet when it came to Albus's best friend, Scorpius Malfoy. The two of them attended the same primary school and had quickly become thick as thieves, and now that school was out for summer, he'd been begging to go over to Scorpius's to play. Harry had finally—reluctantly—capitulated, recognising he could only put it off for so long before his son started resenting him for it. It wasn't Albus's fault he didn't understand Harry's history with the Malfoys. And, Harry grudgingly admitted, it wasn't Scorpius's fault, either. He didn't want to punish the boys, either of them, for Draco Malfoy's past mistakes.

So here he was on a perfectly nice Saturday morning in June, getting ready to spend the afternoon at bloody Malfoy Manor, because like hell was he leaving his son alone in that cursed place. Which meant that, since Albus would be off playing with Scorpius, Harry was sure to be in for an excruciating several hours with a man he hadn't spoken to in years, and never with much cordiality when he had. Still, they were adults now, and by all accounts Malfoy had grown into an entirely different person… or, perhaps more accurately, an entirely different being.

Oh yes, Harry had heard all about the rogue vampire who'd savagely attacked Malfoy and his wife—who'd at that point been in the final trimester of her pregnancy with Scorpius—nearly six years ago. In a turn of events nearly too shocking to be believed, Malfoy had apparently been quite heroic, protecting his wife and unborn child with a selflessness Harry wouldn't have thought him capable of, and dispatching the feral being before it could harm his family. Unfortunately, Malfoy himself hadn't made it through unscathed, and oh how the papers had had a field day with that one—pure-blood Draco Malfoy turned into a lowly vampire. To everyone's surprise, his wife, Astoria, had stayed with him despite his new condition, and despite the fact that his classification as a Magical Being effectively nullified their marriage. Eventually, the media's feeding frenzy had subsided without any juicy new scandals to sustain it. Of course, it had all started back up again with increased outrage last year, when news of Astoria's illness—a rare blood curse—had hit the public.

She'd died last summer, nearly a year ago to the day in fact, and wizarding Britain had been in an uproar, certain of Malfoy's complicity in her death and calling for his head. As a high-ranking Auror, Harry was well aware of the more-than-thorough investigation that had followed, the one that had officially cleared Malfoy of any suspected wrongdoing, not that the Prophet seemed to put much stock in that. Harry almost couldn't blame them; he knew that not a one of the investigating Aurors would have let Malfoy slide if there was so much as a shred of evidence of his guilt, but it didn't mean he was keen to let his youngest son stay over unsupervised. Besides, Harry could admit, to himself at least, that he was just the teensiest bit curious as well, underneath all that distrust. Malfoy had always been fascinating, and apparently being a widower and an undead creature of the night only made him more so.

It didn't help matters that the ink was barely dry on Harry's divorce parchments, though he and Ginny had been separated for going on six months, and their relationship had been deteriorating long before that. But with her moved out of the home they'd built together, and the kids splitting time between their two households, Harry found himself at odds, unsure of what to do with himself. He was used to a full and busy home, but with James off at peewee Quidditch camp and Lily with her mum, the house was strangely quiet. Albus wasn't as noisy as either of his siblings, but Harry was still selfishly glad he'd begged Ginny to spend the weekend with Harry instead of with her as scheduled. Of course, he strongly suspected it was only because Albus knew Harry was about to give in on the Malfoy issue, but he was grateful for it all the same.

"Daaaaad," Albus whinged, bouncing impatiently on the balls of his new trainers. "Can we go now?"

Harry let out another sigh and nodded. Albus gave an enthusiastic shriek as he raced towards the Floo, and Harry allowed himself a single grimace before he stood and put on his game face. He could do this. It was just a few hours. He'd be respectful and polite, and he'd do his best not to ruin this for his son. But if he caught a whiff of anything unsavoury, he'd have Albus out of there in a flash, Apparition wards be damned.

Albus was on his tiptoes when Harry made his way into the study, doing his best to reach the Floo powder that Harry had purposefully set out of reach. Albus's accidental magic had been increasingly erratic of late—which Harry suspected (with no small amount of guilt) was likely influenced by the uncertainty of the divorce—and objects he wanted had a habit of making their way into his hands. Sure enough, the bowl began to wobble precariously towards the edge of the shelf, and Harry reached out, grabbing hold of it seconds before it likely would have gone crashing to the ground.

"You know you're not allowed to use the Floo powder on your own yet, Albus," Harry said sternly. He felt a small flutter of panic in his breast at the thought of Albus getting lost in that terrifying maze of fireplaces, the way Harry had the first time he'd used the Floo on his own, when he'd been much older than Albus.

"I was just getting it down for you," Albus said innocently, though he looked properly chastised when Harry's firm stare didn't relent. "Sorry, Dad. I know I'm not supposed to touch the powder yet. I'm just excited."

"I know, Al. Let's go, shall we?"

Albus perked right back up, and Harry smiled. He grabbed a handful of Floo powder with one hand and held out the other for Albus, pulling them both into the fireplace before calling out for one of the last places he'd ever thought he'd be voluntarily Flooing to:

Malfoy Manor.

They tumbled out into what Harry assumed was a study—likely, one of several—and Harry immediately observed that they weren't alone. Draco Malfoy was sitting as still as a statue on a dark green sofa across the room, a pretty and vaguely familiar blonde woman by his side. Scorpius must have been sitting in the chair facing away from them, and Harry hadn't even finished Banishing the soot from his and Albus's robes before his son was all but tackled by a blur of pale skin and white-blond hair. His heart momentarily leapt into his throat, his wand hand twitching towards his holster in an instinctual need to protect his son before his rational brain caught up and told him it was just Scorpius, who was excited his playmate had finally arrived.

A sudden wave of high-pitched, little-boy chatter hit his ears in a cacophonous riot of sound, and Harry made out 'play' and 'garden' and 'you can see us from the window' before the two of them all but vanished. He closed his eyes against the sudden pulse of a headache, tension stiffening up every last muscle in his body until he felt like a walking tree. Malfoy appeared to be absorbed in conversation with his guest, so Harry took the opportunity to put off speaking with him a little longer and made his way to the window. The boys were already outside, racing around the elaborate gardens in clear view of the study, and Harry relaxed a fraction. Despite being able to see them perfectly well, he didn't plan on leaving them out there alone for long. He knew how quickly Albus could get into mischief, and though he could shatter the window to reach the boys expediently if needed, destroying Malfoy's home probably wasn't the most auspicious start to what was sure to be a frequent association, if Albus and Scorpius had anything to say about it.

His reflection quirked a small smile. Blasting a hole in the Manor might not endear him to Malfoy, but it would be fun.

Harry watched the boys play for a few minutes more, then turned, steeling himself for what was sure to be an excruciating few hours.

Malfoy and the blonde were now standing, clearly saying their goodbyes as Malfoy clasped one of the woman's small hands between both of his own.

"I appreciate you coming over, Daphne. It's always good to see you."

Ah yes, Daphne Greengrass. She'd been in their year at Hogwarts—a Slytherin, of course, and the sister of Malfoy's late wife. Harry couldn't help but find it interesting that they appeared to be on such good terms.

"Of course. It's…" She trailed off and cleared her throat before smiling gently. "It's good to be around family during times like these."

Malfoy inclined his head. "You'll have to come over again soon. I know Scorpius would appreciate it. You are his favourite aunt, after all."

"And with such stiff competition, too," she said with a laugh. Her eyes flicked towards the window, her expression shifting from playful to displeased when her gaze snagged on Harry. She ignored him and focused back on Malfoy. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather I stay…?"

Harry's cheeks grew warm at the implication that she didn't trust Harry alone with Malfoy, that somehow Malfoy was the one in danger. Malfoy shook his head, a smile pulling at the corner of his lips.

"Oh no, I've got things covered here. No need for us both to be uncomfortable."

"In that case, I'll speak with you soon." Daphne leaned in and pressed a kiss to Malfoy's cheek—apparently unconcerned about placing her throat so close to a predator's lips—before moving towards the Floo. Her eyes met Harry's as she passed, and she gave him a tight, insincere smile.

"Auror Potter," she said, the title mocking instead of respectful. Before Harry had a chance to respond, she was gone in a swirl of green flame, leaving him and Malfoy alone together for the first time since… well, probably since Hogwarts, though Harry couldn't have specified when.

He opened his mouth to say something, anything, desperate to break the awkward silence, and entirely unsure how to go about it.

Malfoy let him struggle for several moments, obviously amused, before apparently the discomfort got to him as well.

"Welcome to my home, Potter. Please, take a seat." He gestured towards the chair across from his sofa before sitting back down. Harry did as requested, uncomfortably aware of Malfoy's keen eyes on him all the while. His neck prickled, and he wasn't sure if it was because it was Malfoy or because Malfoy was a vampire. Probably both.

Harry glanced over at the window. "I should probably go out and look after the boys. I know we can see them from here, but I'd really rather they not be out there alone."

Malfoy waved a dismissive hand. "They're hardly unsupervised. Scorpius's personal house-elf Yelly will be keeping an eye on them. She never lets Scorpius out of her sight and is more than capable of stepping in should anything require her intervention."

Harry hesitated, not so much because he doubted the veracity of Malfoy's claims, but rather because he really wanted an excuse to escape being trapped alone with Draco Sodding Malfoy. Malfoy's lip twitched, his eyes glittering with poorly suppressed delight at Harry's agitation.

"We can, of course, join them if you're truly so concerned," Malfoy added silkily. "Though if your son is anything like mine, he won't thank you for intruding on his play time."

Harry deflated, hating that Malfoy, of all people, was right. Albus hadn't yet reached the age where everything Harry did was hopelessly uncool, but Albus no longer seemed to much desire Harry's company when his friends were around, a fact that both relieved and saddened him.

"I suppose you're right," Harry said with some reluctance. "It's probably best we leave them to it for now, if you're certain Yelly's keeping a close eye on them?"

"Absolutely positive," Malfoy said crisply before raising a single brow. "In the meantime… however shall we amuse ourselves?" He looked out the window to where Albus and Scorpius were running and laughing exuberantly. "If your son has half the energy that Scorpius does, we've got several hours yet before they tire themselves out. I do hope you have something more interesting planned than just staring at me all afternoon. Not that I don't make for a rather striking subject." He paused, smiling sharply as he met Harry's gaze. Something about it, the look in his eyes, the razor's edge of his smile, hit Harry straight in the gut, and he swallowed heavily as Malfoy continued hopefully, "I don't suppose I could convince you to go home and pick up Albus in a few hours time?"

Harry smiled tightly back at him, Malfoy's attempts to get him to leave bringing him back to steady, familiar ground. "No, I don't suppose you could."

"Not even if I promise not to eat him for lunch?" Malfoy asked sweetly, flashing a hint of his elongated canines as he smiled. "Children have such poor diets, you know." He gave an exaggerated shudder. "Makes the blood taste positively dreadful."

Despite knowing full well that Malfoy was just fucking with him, Harry couldn't stop the curl of his lip and the narrowing of his eyes as he straightened in his seat. Malfoy seemed delighted by his reaction, his eyes fairly sparkling with pleasure. That wouldn't do, that wouldn't do at all. Malfoy could try and goad Harry all he wanted, but Harry didn't have to give him the satisfaction of reacting.

He reigned in the anger that had so easily and quickly kindled in Malfoy's presence, focusing instead on his lingering curiosity and fascination.

"I'm afraid I don't know much about vampires at all," Harry said evenly, entirely ignoring Malfoy's inflammatory remarks. "Perhaps you could help educate me? Given my son's… attachment to yours, I imagine this won't be the last request for a get-together. I'm sure you can understand my desire, as a father, to be fully informed before allowing my son to stay somewhere unsupervised."

"He'd hardly be unsupervised," Malfoy countered. "I'd be here."

"Exactly," Harry muttered under his breath, though judging by the tightening of Malfoy's jaw, he'd heard him perfectly. All right, so it appeared he could confirm enhanced hearing was on the list of vampiric abilities. Pretending he hadn't realised Malfoy had heard him, Harry said aloud, "I must admit, that surprises me. I thought vampires were unable to withstand sunlight."

Draco sighed, as if tired of having been asked this very question for the thousandth time. "Historically, yes," he said, his tone bored as he looked down at his nails, which Harry could tell, even from a distance, were perfectly manicured. "Thankfully society has made a number of advancements in the past millennia. With the right combination of charms, spells, and potions, I experience no adverse effects from the sun and am able to keep a more… human schedule."

"So you still have access to your magic, then?"

Malfoy shot him a glare. "Is this an interrogation, Auror Potter?"

Harry shook his head and gave him a sheepish look. "No, of course not. I'm just curious. The only other vampire I've met was back at Hogwarts. He was a friend of Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor Ghost."

Malfoy snorted. "I bet he was a riot."

Harry found himself smiling in agreement, entirely against his will. "Sanguini was… well, he was pretty much exactly what I thought a vampire would be like. You're different." He paused, before slyly continuing, "But you don't have to answer my questions it they make you nervous."

As he'd hoped, Malfoy bristled. "I'm not nervous, I'm cautious." He sniffed haughtily. "But yes, I still retain my magic. It's different than before, but rest assured I can handle myself just as well in a duel." He flashed a false smile as he effortlessly conjured a crystal tumbler into his empty hand. Another hair-raising prickle of magic, and the tumbler filled with liquid, dark red and viscous.

Harry shifted uneasily, but refused to let Malfoy bait him. "Okay, then," he said. "Do you have a reflection? Or a magnetic allure to ensnare unsuspecting humans? Do you sleep in a coffin?"

Malfoy rolled his eyes and set down his glass, bringing his hand up to tick off the answers as he replied, "As if I'd deprive a mirror of my stunning visage; you're thinking of Veelas not vampires; and only when I'm dead, if I have anything to say about it." He shuddered theatrically, clearly not enthused about the idea of being locked up in a casket, not that Harry could blame him. A childhood spent confined in his cupboard under the stairs hadn't exactly endeared Harry to small spaces.

Harry took a moment to process Draco's response, surprised that he'd actually answered all of Harry's questions, before his thoughts snagged on Draco's last point. "Wait, will you ever die?"

A complex cocktail of emotions spilled across Malfoy's face before he managed to return to a more neutral expression.

"I'm sure I will, someday," he said softly. "But it won't be a natural death, no."

"You're immortal," Harry said, stunned despite fully expecting that answer, an involuntary shiver rolling through his body.

Malfoy smiled blandly. "It would appear at least one of the rumours you've heard about vampires is true."

He wanted to ask more, to probe deeper and find out how Malfoy really felt about the fact that he would never die. Harry couldn't think of anything worse than being cursed to live forever, to outlive his friends and family and spend eternity alone. It seemed a fate far worse than death, but perhaps Malfoy viewed it differently. Every power-hungry Dark wizard Harry had ever encountered, starting with Voldemort and continuing on through his tenure with the Aurors, had done their level best to become immortal, or as close to it as humanly possible—humanly being the key word, as not even Voldemort had been willing to become a vampire for the dubious privilege of eternal life. Not that Harry truly thought Malfoy was looking to become the next Dark Lord or anything, but the prideful, self-important boy Malfoy had been when they were at Hogwarts certainly would have seen the appeal in it, Harry was sure. Though that same boy had been so entrenched in the dogma of blood purity that he couldn't have possibly seen vampirism as anything other than lesser.

It had been a little over five years since Malfoy had been turned, five years since he'd apparently stopped aging. Harry tried to study his features as subtly as he possibly could, doing his best to determine if he looked any younger than Harry's own thirty-two years. Perhaps his skin was a bit smoother than Harry's own, but it was nothing that good genetics and a dedicated skin care routine couldn't have accounted for. Five years wasn't all that much in the scheme of things, particularly for long-lived wizards, but Harry was curious as to what the difference would be like twenty years down the line, fifty, if Malfoy would truly still look as polished and youthful as he did now.

"Any other burning questions?" Malfoy asked when Harry remained silent for too long. "Since you insist on staying, you might as well get the curiosity out of your system."

With somebody else that might have been enough to encourage Harry to move the conversation to more polite waters, but not with Malfoy. There was a challenge in Malfoy's gaze, as if he were daring Harry to do his worst. Harry had never been good at ignoring Malfoy's provocations.

"I assume you need blood to survive."

Malfoy's glanced down towards the cut-crystal tumbler he'd conjured earlier, still full to the brim with a dark-red substance. "That's not a question," he said with a bright smile, his tone almost, but not quite, sing-song.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Fine, then. Do you need blood to survive? Where do you get it? Are you able to consume anything else?"

"There we go," Malfoy said, for some reason seemingly satisfied with Harry's blatant and unrestrained curiosity. Perhaps he just liked the attention. "Yes, I need blood to sustain me, preferably fresh, and preferably human—" He paused to flash Harry a wicked smile full of those elongated fangs that made Harry's pulse race before continuing, "—though I can make do with animal blood or warmed blood bags if needed. I get my… sustenance from willing donors, all perfectly above board and in compliance with Ministry regulations, of course."

Harry huffed out an unexpected laugh. "Of course."

Malfoy grinned at him, almost conspiratorial. "To answer your other question, I can still eat and drink whatever I like, though it's no longer necessary for my survival. In fact, human food and beverages no longer provide me with any nutritional benefits—blood alone sustains me. I do, however, still enjoy the more, shall we say… sensual benefits of savouring a glass of Ogden's finest, or consuming a nice bar of Honeydukes chocolate."

Something about the way Malfoy said the word sensual brought a hot flush to Harry's cheeks. It was in the shameless way his lips curled around the syllables, the provocative smolder in eyes as he spoke, promising all kinds of carnal, hedonistic pleasure. It was more alluring than Harry thought it would be, and he had to fight to tear his eyes away from Malfoy's magnetic gaze, his breath a little more ragged than before. He would have suspected some kind of vampiric allure if Malfoy hadn't already debunked that particular myth. Then again, it wasn't exactly out of character for Malfoy to have lied about something like that. Harry would have to ask Hermione about it later.

He cast about for a change in subject, desperate to move on from the discussion and the uncomfortable feelings it had inspired. "I… I realise we've never been close, but I never offered my condolences on the passing of your wife. I'm sorry for your loss."

Ahh, yes, the dead wife most of the world suspected Malfoy had a hand—or rather a fang—in offing. A much safer topic.

Malfoy's lip curled, a blank mask settling over his features as the burning fire in his gaze seemed to cool. He inclined his head in acknowledgement. "Thank you."

It was obvious Draco wasn't keen to discuss it, but Harry found himself unable to stop prodding. "It's been about a year now, since she…"

"Yes, a year ago tomorrow, in fact," Draco replied. He picked the tumbler up off the side table, swirling the thick liquid around and watching as it clung to the sides of the glass. "That's why Daphne was here earlier. It is a difficult time of year for all of us."

Harry felt a slightly unwelcome pang of sympathy. His and Ginny's marriage might not have worked out the way he'd wanted it to, but at least she hadn't died. Things were awkward between them right now as they tried to figure out the boundaries of their new relationship, but Harry knew Ginny was there for him and the kids no matter what, and he had faith they'd find their new equilibrium eventually. Even if they were no longer together in the traditional sense, she was still an important part of his life, and he couldn't even fathom a world without her in it.

"I can't imagine how hard it would be, losing someone I loved like that."

Malfoy gave him a strange look. "Can't you?" he asked softly. "You've lost more than your fair share of loved ones."

Harry swallowed thickly, letting the familiar anguish wash over him in a gentle wave, quickly reaching its painful crest before softly receding into the background. "I suppose that's true. Loss isn't a competition, but I imagine it's different, losing a partner, somebody you're in love with. Not necessarily a worse kind of grief, but a different one."

"Ah," Malfoy said thoughtfully. "Astoria was…" He paused and seemed to mull over his words, as if debating how much he wanted to share with Harry. Harry silently urged Malfoy to just spit it out, certain the curiosity would kill him if he didn't. Eventually, Malfoy's expression cleared, and Harry did an internal jig of triumph when he continued. "Astoria was my dear, dear friend, and I loved her very much, but our bond was one of convenience. We both did our duty, of course, but given our marriage was invalidated the moment I was turned, I imagine we would have eventually gone our separate ways had Astoria been around long enough for either of us to find a companion better suited to our preferences."

Harry blinked. He'd not been expecting any of that, though arranged marriages were hardly uncommon among the pure-blood aristocracy.

"Preferences?"

Malfoy smirked, some of his earlier sensuality heating his gaze as he explained simply, "I like men. Astoria, similarly, preferred women. We both decided to go along with marriage for a variety of reasons, not least of which because we were friends and knew of one another's inclinations." Darkness encroached on his previously light expression. "I can't bring myself to regret it for my sake, not when it brought me Scorpius, but we'd both planned on finding real love someday, after we'd done our duty. If I'd known she was wasting the little time she had on this charade…" He trailed off before shaking his head, a faint expression of surprise crossing his face, as if he hadn't intended to share so much, before his politely distant mask slipped back into place. "So you see, I didn't lose the love of my life, after all."

His tone was flippant and dismissive, belying the pain beneath.

"That doesn't mean it can't still hurt," Harry said softly.

"No," Malfoy replied, his voice equally gentle. "It does not."

Harry's gaze flicked down to the most recent edition of the Daily Prophet, where he could just make out the words Malfoy and Mysterious Death in what was, no-doubt, a provocative headline. He was certain it had something to do with the anniversary of Astoria's passing, and the public's lingering suspicion that Malfoy had something to do with it. Malfoy scowled, the expression significantly more menacing than Harry could ever remember it being back at Hogwarts. Harry was curious if that was simply due to his being older, or if it was because of his new vampiric nature, if Harry was instinctively picking up on some innate predatory aura Malfoy was emitting. Harry wondered why the resulting squirm in his belly seemed more intrigued and impressed than fearful and wary.

"I'm sorry about that." Harry nodded down towards the Prophet. "The papers, I mean. I know how awful it can be when they turn on you." Harry smiled wryly. "Especially when they're wrong."

Malfoy gave him a stubborn, challenging stare. "Who says they're wrong?"

Harry barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. God save him from contrary bastards who'd cut off their nose just to spite their face. "I know the Aurors investigated you, Malfoy, and I know they didn't find anything even remotely incriminating."

"Not for lack of trying," Malfoy said sullenly before raising the tumbler to his mouth and taking a long drink. Harry watched, momentarily transfixed by the bob of Malfoy's throat, and the glossy red sheen along his lower lip when he lowered the glass. Harry scowled when he realised he was staring and ran a hand along his jaw.

"Can you really blame them?"

Malfoy clenched his jaw but said nothing, which Harry took as a no. They were silent for a long moment before Malfoy spoke suddenly, his voice so low Harry had to strain to hear him. "You know what's funny? Despite all the Prophet's sensationalist claims, I never once fed from Astoria." He laughed, the sound conveying anything but amusement. "With me being newly made and my sire dead and unable to provide any sort of guidance, it took me far too long to realise what that might signify."

"What do you mean?"

"Beyond what was required to provide an heir, my relationship with Astoria was completely platonic," Malfoy said, his tone pensive. "And after my turning, I had no desire to feed from her. At first, I assumed it was due to a lack of sexual desire. Once I realised craving someone's blood didn't necessarily have to coincide with wanting their body, I thought perhaps it was because she was family, that my biology had decided she was off limits." He swivelled his wrist, swishing the glass full of liquid—blood, it had to be blood—around in a delicate swirl of crimson. "It wasn't until she started manifesting other symptoms of her illness that I really paid attention. It wasn't that I simply didn't crave her blood, but rather that the thought of feeding from her actively repulsed me. It was like contemplating biting into a piece of rotting fruit. Somehow my instincts had picked up on what my conscious mind had not. Something was wrong with Astoria's blood."

Harry's eyes widened. "The blood curse."

"The blood curse," Malfoy confirmed with a grimace. "As I said, she was symptomatic by the time we finally took her to the Healers, which meant it was already too late. The curse is hereditary and inconsistent, which is why the Greengrasses never knew about it. Daphne and Scorpius have both received the counter-curse, and the Healers are confident that they won't suffer Astoria's fate, though I suppose there's no way to really be sure." He grimaced again and took another draught of blood, throwing back the mouthful like one might down whisky.

Harry opened his mouth, to offer his condolences, ask more questions, anything to continue on with the most absorbing conversation he'd had in recent memory. He couldn't imagine it—not only losing a loved one, but then having to live with the uncertain fear that his children could be next. Unfortunately, Scorpius and Albus chose that moment to come bursting into the room in a flurry of noise and movement, all but hurling themselves at Harry and Malfoy both, talking over each other in a way that made it impossible to determine what it was they were trying to communicate.

Harry did his best to switch gears and focus on his son, shocked and a little ashamed to realise that there was a very small part of him that resented the interruption. He and Malfoy had been finally getting somewhere, and it was startling to realise just how much Harry wanted to continue speaking with him, to learn more about Malfoy, to know everything. It was hardly the first time that Malfoy had drawn his full attention, but unlike all those previous instances, and despite the initial misgivings he'd come to the Manor with, his curiosity now was mostly void of suspicion. Instead, it was tinged with something a little more thrilling, an emotion he refused to name or acknowledge, one that made his palms sweat and his heart race as he glanced sidelong at Malfoy, who had Scorpius on his knee, a look of intense concentration on his face. Harry realised in that moment that he'd not had a chance to see Malfoy with Scorpius before, and he wasn't prepared for the spark of appreciation that hit him like a bolt of lightning, sudden and devastating.

Harry wasn't sure what gave him away, but clearly something had alerted Malfoy, because Malfoy's gaze immediately flicked over to his in apparent alarm. Harry couldn't stop the red hot flush from flooding his cheeks, nor calm the admiring thud of his heart. Malfoy's eyes widened in shock before his expression slid into something slyly pleased, the ghost of a smile flickering across his handsome—handsome?—lips.

Once more, Harry forced himself to look away, when all he wanted was to drown himself in Malfoy's stormy eyes. He pushed the unwelcome and distracting thoughts aside, focusing once more on Albus, who was still talking about the nest of Glumbumbles he and Scorpius had discovered in the garden.

Bugs, Harry could handle.

That look in Malfoy's eyes, however, the one that had been full of wicked, tempting promise, was another matter entirely.

2242 – Nice, France

When the service concluded, everybody was warmly welcomed to join Vela's family for refreshments and to share stories of the woman whose life they were celebrating. The family had rented out a nice restaurant down the road for the reception, and in Harry's eyes, the procession out of the church seemed a strange combination of joyful and somber. The spectacle was made more bizarre by the bold and showy robes that most everybody was wearing; they might have been all the rage, but Harry was discomfited by such flashiness at a funeral. Then again, what would Harry know about what was appropriate for such an event? Despite the death that had haunted him since he was a baby, he'd not actually attended many funerals, and the last one had been well over a hundred years ago. Times had clearly changed, even if Harry hadn't.

Harry lingered in his pew at the back of the church for several minutes after the last of the guests had left, debating whether he should attend the reception. He'd planned to originally—figuring if he was going to start facing his past, he should do it fully—but he hadn't expected Draco to be here. A foolish mistake—ever since they were eleven, Draco had never missed an opportunity to show Harry up. A small part of Harry wondered if he'd truly been so careless as to overlook Draco's potential presence, or if perhaps he'd purposefully ignored the likelihood… if, perhaps, he'd hoped Draco would come. Harry scowled and forcibly shoved the thought away. If he'd really wanted to see Draco, then he wouldn't be sitting here right now considering skipping town just to avoid seeing him again, now would he?

Satisfied with his logic, he stood. Of course he didn't want to see Draco. He didn't want anything to do with him, not after what he'd turned Harry into, but he wasn't going to let Draco chase him out of town like some kind of criminal, either.

It wasn't his fault, he didn't know, that damned, persistent voice in the back of Harry's mind whispered. Harry ignored it. He'd grown used to the voice by now, and had no problem at all crediting it to the unwelcome bond that Harry couldn't seem to destroy, no matter how hard he tried. It wasn't his conscience murmuring in his ear, it was just the bond trying to influence him, but it wouldn't work. Harry was stronger.

He'd go to the reception and observe, let himself look in on the descendents he'd spent the past hundred years pretending didn't exist. Most importantly, he'd do whatever he could to avoid Draco, and hopefully prevent the inevitable scene that would ensue if they were in each other's presence for too long. Harry would have to be on his best behaviour, would need to be vigilant and not let Draco's uncanny ability to slide under his skin and prod at his sensitive spots spark the temper that Harry had never managed to control as well as he should.

The last thing they needed was a repeat of Beijing.

By the time he made it to the restaurant, the room was full of people talking and laughing and crying together. The bustle made it relatively easy to slip in unnoticed.

"Bonjour," a young woman called to him genially. Harry sighed. Make that mostly unnoticed.

"Bonjour," Harry replied, hoping his accent wasn't as atrocious as it sounded to his own ears. Judging by the woman's slight wince, followed by her effortless switch to English, his hopes had been in vain.

"Ahh, an Englishman," the woman said with a slight accent. "I knew gra-mere grew up in England, but I hadn't thought so many of you would make it out here for her funeral. She'd be pleased." She gave him a bright smile, completely unaware that his mind was reeling at the realisation that the young woman in front of him was his great-great-great-grandchild. "Oh, where are my manners? My name is Antlia, and Vela was my grandmother. How did you know her?"

"She was friends with my grandfather," Harry said after a moment's hesitation. "He was too ill to make the trip to France for the funeral, so I'm here on his behalf to pay his respects." He smiled and hoped Antlia wouldn't press for more detail. He'd had enough foresight to come up with a hasty cover story when he'd decided to attend the funeral, though he hadn't really given it much thought. At first, he'd planned to use some kind of Concealment Charm, but something about it had grated—he was sick of not being seen. He'd hoped not to attract any attention at all, but he'd come up with the half-hearted fiction about his grandfather in case anybody asked. With any luck, his little white lie would go undetected.

Surprisingly, in this one instance, luck appeared to be on his side. Antlia smiled gently back at him, her eyes full of emotion. "Oh, that's so kind of you. I'm sure…"

She continued speaking, but Harry didn't hear a word she said, his attention suddenly caught by a group of people on the other side of the room. Or rather, caught by one specific person. It would have been uncomfortable enough seeing Draco again, though he'd done his best to steel himself against the inevitability during his walk from the church to the restaurant, but more disconcerting was how warmly Draco was greeted by the others. He shook hands with everyone, the smile on his face small but genuine, and an older woman with familiar green eyes even went so far as to pull him in for a hug, though Harry was strangely pleased to note the flash of discomfort in Draco's expression as he awkwardly patted her on the back.

These people were clearly Vela's relatives—his relatives—and just as clear was the fact that they knew who Draco was, or at least they were familiar with whomever it was Draco was pretending to be. Surely they couldn't know the truth. Harry wondered what lies Draco had fed them, or if perhaps they did know, and he was just feeding from them, keeping it in the family, so to speak. The thought sent a sick kind of jealousy pulsing through him as his neck began to tingle with the phantom press of Draco's fangs, the memory crystal clear and sharp as glass despite how long it had been since the last time he'd let—begged—Draco to drink from him. His body began to heat and flush as he remembered the ruinous pleasure of it, and he barely stopped himself from bringing his fingers up to caress the skin along his throat, where two pale silver scars were still barely visible in just the right light.

"Ahh, yes, he does cut quite the figure, doesn't he?" Antlia said, tearing Harry away from his thoughts. He blinked at her.

"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that."

She huffed a small laugh. "Draco tends to have that effect on people." She leaned in close, her voice lowering into a conspiratorial whisper. "He's a vampire, you know."

Harry's eyes widened with shock at the fact that apparently everybody was aware of what Draco was. Antlia, though, interpreted his reaction differently.

"Oh, don't be nervous! He's a little prickly, and a bit odd, but he won't hurt you. There's still so much stigma against vampires and other Magical Beings, though Draco says it's a lot better than it used to be." She smiled encouragingly at Harry. "He's actually a distant relation of the family, and he likes to stay in touch and check in on us. It's kind of sweet, really."

Harry wasn't sure if he wanted to snort or scream at this assessment, so instead he turned his attention back to the man in question. He was deep in conversation with the green-eyed woman—"My mother," Antlia helpfully supplied—speaking in a fluent, melodious French that seemed to roll effortlessly right off his tongue. A tongue Harry knew from experience was talented in a variety of ways.

Once again, Harry shivered, a Pavlovian response that a hundred years hadn't managed to dull. Harry had always loved when Draco spoke to him in one of the several languages he was fluent in, though Harry had always liked French the best. He had frequently requested that Draco do it in bed, so that even now, simply hearing the word chéri was enough to make Harry's cock twitch. Perhaps that was why Harry hadn't ever managed to obtain more than a rudimentary grasp of the language, despite learning several others over the years. He couldn't seem to hear French without thinking of Draco speaking French, and those were memories best avoided.

Then again, these days, which memories weren't?

He listened as Draco spoke with the woman, his enhanced senses allowing him to hear every nuance and syllable from across the room, though he couldn't understand more than a handful of the words being exchanged. Harry wondered what other languages Draco had picked up over the years in addition to the French, Spanish, and Latin he'd learned as a child. Draco had often spoke of how much he wanted to become fluent in Japanese, and Harry was suddenly hit with an urgent desire to know if he'd managed to accomplish that goal. The yearning was strong, powerful the way every emotion connected to Draco always seemed to be. It didn't matter if they were good, bad, or somewhere in-between, Draco-related feelings always seemed to take up an impossible amount of space inside Harry, filling every nook and crevice until he was nothing but blood and flesh and Draco, Draco, Draco.

The longing pressed up against the not-quite-dormant bond, the intensity of it pumping life into the weak thread despite Harry's best efforts to pull it back. The bond might be frail from neglect and disuse—and from Harry's many active attempts over the years to cut it off entirely—but it was still there, an ever-present tickle in the back of Harry's mind. It was all but stagnant with how fervently Harry blocked the connection, but there didn't appear to be any way to rid himself of it for good, no matter how hard he tried. There'd been a time when he thought the bond was a gift, but that was before he'd learned just what it, and Draco's vampiric nature, would cost him.

The bond hummed, Harry's tumultuous emotions reverberating through it like a plucked harp string. Harry could tell the moment Draco felt Harry's involuntary nudge from the widening of his eyes and the sudden shiver that rolled throughout his body, both movements so subtle that Harry was certain nobody other than himself would have even noticed them.

Draco looked up. Their eyes met. The bond sang.

2014 – Cornwall, England

"Fuck, fuck," Harry moaned, his voice catching as Draco delivered a particularly devastating thrust. They'd been fucking for what seemed like—and might have actually been—literal hours, and Harry's entire body felt like an exposed nerve, delicate and over-sensitised. He no longer seemed to possess the ability to fully process the difference between pleasure and pain, but that didn't mean he wanted to stop.

He never wanted to stop.

Harry looked back over his shoulder at Draco, catching the flash of his white teeth in the dark as he kept right on fucking Harry hard and slow, flexing his hips and plunging his cock deep inside. His hands were iron bands around Harry's wrists, pinning them to the mattress next to his head, his enhanced strength as secure as an Incarcerous. Harry loved it, loved the power and the predator in Draco, loved the way he felt caught and trapped and undone on Draco's cock. He hadn't known that about himself before Draco, hadn't known this yielding of body and spirit was something he craved. Now that he'd had a taste, he knew he'd never be able to go back; he was hooked, addicted to the serenity of surrender.

It had been over two years since Draco Malfoy had waltzed back into his life, and ten months since they'd started having the best sex Harry had ever experienced. He wasn't quite so certain when the sneaking around for mind-blowing sex had evolved, when he'd caught feelings, but he was self-aware enough to know that what he felt for Draco now was big and terrifying, and he'd have to face it soon. Some time later, when he wasn't preoccupied with getting screwed into the mattress.

He wriggled uselessly against Draco's hold, wanting to encourage a faster pace but unable to obtain any leverage. Harry just had to lie there face down and arse up and take it, accept whatever Draco was willing to give him. The knowledge sent a bolt of lust spearing through his desire-drenched body, making his hard cock twitch and drip precome onto the bed sheets.

A welcome breeze blew in from the open window, the warm air cool against Harry's damp skin. It smelled of salt and sea, melding seamlessly with the musky tang of sweat and sex that filled the bedroom with an almost palpable haze. They'd rented a place for the weekend on the coast, a gorgeous house right on the water in Newquay, Cornwall. Draco had assured him it was a quaint, modest cottage, and Harry could only blame himself for not realising their definitions of quaint and modest didn't quite line up. He'd teased Draco relentlessly for his obnoxiously posh tastes, but at the end of the day, he couldn't bring himself to truly mind the luxurious mansion (he refused to pretend it qualified as a cottage), not when Draco had taken the initiative to organise their first weekend away together. It wasn't exactly easy to arrange weekend getaways with one's secret vampire lover, particularly when the both of them had young children to raise and Harry had a demanding job as an Auror to manage. Besides, there was something undeniably enjoyable about fucking to the soundtrack of waves lapping against the shore. The rumble of the ocean was a constant rush of sound that ebbed and flowed in almost perfect synchronicity with the languid rolls of Draco's hips.

"Salazar, you feel good," Draco said, his voice low, guttural. He swivelled his hips and the both of them groaned, Harry's eyes rolling back with the sudden deluge of pleasure.

"You're so sensitive," Draco marvelled, as if this was brand new information, as if he hadn't spent the last ten months wringing every bit of sensation he could out of Harry's willing body. "I want to see you."

Before Harry could so much as blink, Draco had him flipped onto his back, his thick cock sliding easily back inside Harry's slick arsehole as Draco pinned his wrists once more. This time, he used just one hand to press Harry's wrists to the mattress, his enhanced strength making him more than equal to the task. Draco trailed the other over Harry's cheek and neck, his fingertips dancing across Harry's collarbone before circling his right pec. Harry shivered as Draco's finger circled, drawing closer and closer to the stiff peak of his nipple. He was particularly sensitive there, a fact that Draco had fixated on like a Thestral—or perhaps, more accurately, a vampire—scenting blood.

Harry shuddered when Draco finally reached his nipple, giving it a gentle rub before scraping the sharp edge of his nail over the hardened nub. Harry's cock jerked at the sudden stimulation, the pain enhancing the bright burst of pleasure. Draco flashed another one of his predatory grins before lowering his mouth to Harry's chest, tonguing the other nipple and then drawing it between his teeth, gently worrying at the flesh with his incisors as Harry writhed and thrashed beneath him in agonised ecstasy. Draco's teeth on his flesh never failed to make Harry think of the other ways in which Draco might bite him, how it might feel if he were to sink his teeth into Harry and drink.

He wanted to find out.

"You should let me pierce them," Draco said.

Harry was already crying out, "Yes," before he realised Draco meant to pierce his nipples, not his throat, but it didn't change his answer. He'd never considered the possibility before, never considered himself one for piercings of any kind really, but now that Draco mentioned it, he could see the appeal. His cheeks went hot as he imagined metal hoops threaded through the sensitive nubs, pictured Draco tugging on them with fingers and teeth, teasing him until he begged.

Draco's eyes glittered in the pale moonlight streaming in from the window, his gaze hot and intent on Harry as his thrusts became slow as treacle. "You mean that, don't you?" Draco murmured softly, his voice full of something not unlike wonder. "You'd let me mark you." His thumb slid over one of Harry's sensitised nipples, and Harry shuddered.

He met Draco's gaze, flayed open and exposed as he replied, "I'd let you do more than that." Harry tilted his head, maintaining eye contact as he displayed his throat, his intention clear. Draco's eyes widened, his throat bobbing with a heavy swallow as the rest of his body fell into unnatural stillness, his cock still buried deep in Harry's arse. In the ten months since they'd started sleeping together, there'd been no end to the wild things they got up to behind closed doors. Harry had never been so sexually satisfied in his entire life, each assignation with Draco impossibly better than the last, but there was still one thing they'd never done, one act that Harry couldn't stop dreaming of.

"Harry…"

"I want you to do it," Harry said, cutting off whatever excuses Draco was sure to start spewing. He knew Draco was nervous, holding back out of some misplaced sense of fear or guilt or shame, but Harry was tired of waiting. He already knew who Draco was, what he was. Harry was perfectly aware of the predator that lurked beneath the surface, knew the strength of control Draco had to exert every single moment to keep his darker hungers at bay. But Harry didn't want his restraint, didn't want the polite mask. He wanted all of him, wanted everything, the man and demon both. "I want you to bite me, Draco. I want you to drink from me."

Hesitation was clear on Draco's face, warring with a thirst so potent Harry knew it should frighten him. Instead, it inspired a sudden wave of yearning that caused his arse to clench around Draco's cock. Draco's breath hitched, and his fangs finally dropped. Even in the pale moonlight they gleamed and sparkled, as if the razored points were edged with diamonds. Harry could swear his neck ached to feel them, and judging by the helpless way Draco's gaze lasered in on Harry's exposed throat, as if hypnotised by the flutter of his pulse, Harry knew he wasn't the only one affected.

"Do it, Draco," Harry said, begged, tilting his head back even farther. His legs came up to wrap tight around Draco's waist as he began to babble. "I want it, want it so fucking bad. You won't hurt me, not more than I want to be hurt. Just bite me, please bite me. I want to—"

Draco struck.

Harry hadn't even had a chance to finish his sentence before Draco was on him, his hips resuming their spine-melting thrusts as his teeth found their way to Harry's throat. They slid effortlessly into his skin, parting his flesh like a hot knife through butter. There was an instance of pain as the thick, metallic tang of his blood joined the sex-and-sea-salt fragrance of the room, and then Harry was too overcome with bliss to pay attention to any of his other senses. It exploded through him, as dazzling as a supernova, so beautiful and terrible that Harry wasn't sure if, like those ancient stars, this would be his grand finale. As overwhelmed as he was by the eruption of euphoric nirvana liquifying his insides, he couldn't bring himself to mind if it was. How could he ever be satisfied with normal life after experiencing such paradise?

Harry wasn't sure how long it took before he came down from those heavenly clouds and back to reality. It felt like eons, though it couldn't have been quite that long, because he was still sweaty and sticky when he regained awareness, the come coating his chest letting him know that he'd orgasmed, though it had been lost in the all-encompassing pleasure of Draco's teeth sunk deep in his throat. There was a dull ache along his neck where Draco had bitten him, and if he'd had the energy, he would have brought his fingers up to touch the marks to confirm they were real.

"How are you feeling?"

Harry blinked, Draco's rough voice further grounding him back to reality. He looked up, shocked to realise Draco was still nestled between Harry's legs, though sadly he was no longer inside of him. Harry could feel the slow trickle of come leaking out of his arse.

Harry looked into Draco's eyes, noting the mixture of concern and satisfaction swirling in their grey depths. Instinctively, his gaze flicked down to Draco's mouth, wondering if he was just imagining that Draco's lips appeared redder than usual. Were they flushed from kissing and the exertion of sex? Was it the infusion of blood giving him a revitalised glow? Or were there still traces of Harry's blood coating his lips, giving them their rosy sheen?

"I'm fine," Harry said, and then, when Draco's brow furrowed, "I'm brilliant, truly." He paused. "Though I'm a little sticky."

Draco's eyes widened, a sheepish expression crossing his face as he reached for his wand and cleaned them both off. He looked at Harry's neck and hesitated. "I can heal the punctures, make sure the cuts don't reopen, but… there might be a tiny scar. Wounds from magical creatures and beings are different from ordinary abrasions."

Harry had known that, of course, though he hadn't given it much consideration before begging Draco to bite him. He probably should have if he'd wanted to avoid uncomfortable questions, and yet… The thought of having Draco's marks on him filled his belly with fire, made him want to roll right over and demand Draco fuck him all over again, refractory period be damned. Worst case scenario, he'd have to cast a small Glamour, and in the meantime, avoid making the potential scars any more noticable. Perhaps Draco would just have to avail himself of one of Harry's less visible arteries instead.

He tilted his head so that Draco could cast a Healing Charm, marvelling at how much his life had changed in the nearly fifteen years since the War. How inconceivable it would have been to his eighteen-year old self that Harry would react to Draco Malfoy pointing a wand at him, not with mistrust, but by further baring his neck. Of course, his eighteen-year-old self would probably have taken greater issue with the fact that he had just begged Draco to drink his blood while fucking him through the mattress, but a lot could change in fifteen years.

Clearly.

Once Draco had finished cleaning and healing him, they curled up together on the large, four-poster bed. Harry wrapped an arm around Draco's waist, his head resting against Draco's smooth, cool chest. The sound of ocean waves upon the shore filtered in through the window, louder now that they didn't have to compete with gasping breaths and the slap of skin. Beneath Harry's ear, Draco's breast was utterly still; there was no steady thump of a heartbeat, no expanding and contracting lungs to make his chest rise and fall. When Draco did breathe or pant, it was more out of habit and a desire not to disconcert people rather than necessity, and Harry had discovered that quiet, private moments like this were when Draco was most likely to let the pretense fall away. The subtle show of trust made something warm bloom inside of Harry, possessively pleased that he was one of the few people—perhaps even the only person—whom Draco allowed to glimpse behind the curtain.

He liked it a lot, maybe too much. These feelings for Draco had taken root so quickly, burrowing deep and growing fast. How easily he'd become accustomed to his lover's vampiric quirks, how intensely he wanted Draco, all of him, all the time.

It hadn't ever been like this—not with Ginny, whom he'd loved enough to marry, nor with any of the other lovers he'd briefly had before and after their marriage. Only Draco had managed to consume him so thoroughly, and Harry wondered if it was healthy, wanting somebody so much. It wasn't as if his feelings for Draco had weakened him, prevented him from doing his job to the best of his abilities, or from caring for his children, or being there for his friends. If anything, being with Draco made everything else a little easier. It was as if he'd been weighed down by an unmet need without even realising it, and with Draco there to help shoulder that burden, he was freer to give himself fully and completely in other aspects of his life. He cherished his time with his children, but now, instead of dreading the lonely days when they were at Ginny's, he had something to look forward to when they were gone, rushing over to the Manor the second he was free.

Harry couldn't deny this thing between him and Draco had become something so much more than lust. The sneaking around that had been so hot at the beginning was growing old, and his friends and family were starting to ask questions about where he spent all of his time, and to tease him about his permanent, well-shagged grin. Fuck buddies didn't spend romantic weekends together on the coast, and the fact that it had been Draco who'd suggested and arranged this particular tryst gave Harry hope that perhaps the conversation between them that was long overdue wouldn't go as poorly as he feared. Even Draco, as stubborn as he was, couldn't pretend that this was merely physical. After what they'd just shared, after months of fucking and talking, Harry couldn't be the only one who felt it, that intrinsic, almost instinctual connection between them, the unexpected harmony they shared. He wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't felt it himself, but Draco seemed to know him in a way nobody else did, the kind of knowing that went deeper than being able to name his favourite colour or the facts about his childhood.

It was the kind of knowing that didn't come around all that often. The kind that Harry didn't plan on letting slip out of his grasp without a fight.

2242 – Nice, France

"I didn't have a chance to say it earlier, what with all the… unpleasantness, but it really is good to see you again," Draco said as he gracefully folded himself into the empty chair next to Harry. Harry sighed. He really should have ducked out of the reception as soon as Antlia had excused herself to make her rounds, but some part of him had wanted to linger. He was quite hungry after all, and the canapé on offer looked and smelled divine. He'd filled a small plate and settled himself at one of the tiny tables in a far, dark corner, watching the mourners talk and laugh and grieve.

Harry had thought that being here at his great-grandchild's funeral would inspire some depth of feeling within him, would reopen the chasm of grief that had threatened to consume him back when he realised what his fate would be. It had, at first, but the pain had been brief, and now he felt rather detached. He observed everybody around him with an anthropologist's curiosity, interested but remote. Vela might have been his relation, but he hadn't known her, had never even met her, and she certainly hadn't known him. Her passing was more conceptual than tangible—a drop in the ocean compared to the other, greater losses he'd suffered over the years—and it was hard to feel her absence keenly when so many of his other descendents clearly remained, filling the room with their chatter.

Life went on.

For Harry, it went on even longer than most.

"How long's it been now since the last time we saw one another, twenty years?" Draco continued, his voice full of false cheer when Harry didn't reply. Harry wasn't altogether sure it was good to see Draco again. Of course, he couldn't say for sure that it wasn't either, no matter what he might try to tell himself.

"Twelve, in São Paulo," Harry corrected. "You're thinking of Beijing."

Draco smiled smugly, clearly pleased, and Harry realised Draco had misspoke on purpose in an attempt to pull a reaction from Harry. Damn him for knowing Harry every bit as well as Harry knew him.

"Ahh, well, can you blame me?" Draco replied. "Beijing was rather… incendiary."

In more ways than one, Harry thought darkly, though he couldn't prevent the shiver that licked up his spine at the memory of the less destructive parts of that liaison. Sex had always been one of the things that they did very, very well together. Even in Beijing, when they'd both been furious and explosive, when Draco, after eighty years of waiting and cajoling had finally lost his patience, shouting that if Harry was going to keep running then Draco was just going to have to be more creative about how to make him stay.

Draco's magic had lashed out at Harry, binding him with thick, black ropes, and Harry… Harry had let him. He could have stopped him if he'd wanted, could have easily broken Draco's hold—Harry's magic had grown stronger over the years, strong enough that no ordinary bonds could contain him. Deep down, he hadn't wanted to escape, not really, because no matter how much he fought it, he missed sex and Draco and sex with Draco, and, he'd rationalised, it would be easier to sneak off once Draco was passed out in post-coital bliss.

Of course, it hadn't worked out that way. Even after they'd fucked for hours, shagging each other on every available surface, Draco had never once let down his guard. Harry had managed to run away in the end, though not before they'd set fire to several city blocks, started an international incident, and got themselves a lifetime ban from setting foot on Chinese soil.

They'd both had a chance to cool down by the time Draco had found him again six years later in São Paulo, but that didn't mean that Harry had changed his mind. Not then, and not now.

"Beijing was a mistake. They've all been mistakes," Harry said quietly, resisting the urge to rub at his chest, where a sudden ache began to throb. "I made my choice, Draco. Why can't you respect that? It's the least you owe me, considering—"

"Considering what?" Draco asked, his voice tight with rage. He paused for a breath, visibly attempting to cool his ire. When he spoke again, his voice was even, his words precise. "Considering that it's my fault that you're still alive? You know full well I had no idea this would happen, but I'm not sorry for it, either. We've been given a gift, Harry, and you're squandering it."

"A gift," Harry said with a sneer. As if immortality could ever be anything other than a curse. He'd learned that lesson young, watching a hooded figure drink silver blood from a slain unicorn, and his opinion on the matter hadn't changed since then. Harry thought back to his early years with Draco, how he used to worry about him, wondering what would become of him after Harry died, after all Draco's friends, his son, had passed on as well. And then Harry had realised that, thanks to Draco and the bond that Harry himself had begged for, Harry wouldn't be dying, and all he'd felt was terror and desperation.

It had taken several decades after that awful realisation before he had finally accepted the truth. Decades of searching and researching, trying to determine a way to stop whatever had been inflicted on him without his knowledge or consent. Even Hermione's entire department of Unspeakables couldn't put a stop to it, though they had managed to locate a particularly old vampire who'd been able to shed light on the phenomenon, though by then it was far too late to change a thing. Apparently, in the very rare case where a vampire found its mate in a human witch or wizard and their affinity was strong enough for an unbreakable bond to form, the human mate would take on certain characteristics of their vampire lover to ensure their longevity and durability. The transfer happened slowly, so slowly that it had been years before Harry had even noticed it was happening, but as the bond settled, Harry gained aspects of Draco's enhanced senses, his increased strength, and, most odiously, his immortality. Harry would have rather absorbed the need to drink blood than the curse of living forever, but nobody had consulted him in the matter.

Draco had contributed what he could to the research, but bit by bit their relationship had deteriorated. Harry had been unable to stop himself from blaming Draco for inflicting this on him, even if it was unintentional, even if he'd known it wasn't fair of him. Draco, for his part, grew resentful, clearly bitter that Harry so obviously despised the thought of becoming like Draco, of spending eternity with him.

It wasn't until Ron died peacefully in his sleep at the ripe old age of one hundred and forty-one, that the full weight of what it would mean to live forever finally hit Harry. Ron had been one of the cornerstones of Harry's life for a hundred and thirty years—he'd been his heart, his strength—and now, he was gone. Ron was the first of them to pass on, but he wouldn't be the last. Harry would have to sit by and watch as everybody else he loved, save Draco, succumbed to one of nature's few inevitabilities: Hermione, Ginny, Teddy, his children, their children, all of them would leave him, one by one, until it was only Harry and the man who had doomed him to life everlasting. Ron's death had torn the wool from his eyes, and Harry had been inconsolable with rage and bitterness. He'd hated Draco in that moment, hated him just as passionately as he loved him. It was almost like being young again, forced to bear a burden he didn't ask for and didn't want, and hating Draco Malfoy.

They were still together at that point, but their relationship had become so strained that it made Harry's decision all the easier. Teddy, Scorpius, and his own children were fully grown with lives and children of their own, and though they all loved him, he knew that despite their best efforts, they were disconcerted by his agelessness, particularly as they themselves continued aging, looking now more like his older siblings than his offspring. They didn't need him, not anymore, and he… he couldn't bear to stay and watch them die. Nobody could ask that of him, surely?

There'd been a time, right after the end of the war, when Harry had wanted to disappear. He'd been in a dark place, haunted by the things he'd seen and done, and driven mad by his inability to so much as walk down the street without being accosted by half a dozen witches and wizards wanting something from him. It had been suffocating, and for a while, Harry had seriously considered leaving the wizarding world behind entirely and starting over somewhere new in blissful obscurity. In the end, he hadn't been able to escape, incapable of leaving his friends and the wonderful world of magic behind, but he'd come close, close enough that he'd done his research, locating a rare and complicated spell that would have helped him achieve his aims. If cast correctly, it acted as a mass Memory Modification Charm, allowing the caster to change public perception on a large scale. According to the dusty tome he'd found it in, the spell was most effective on persons possessing some degree of notoriety already.

Lucky for him, he was the famous Harry Potter.

He'd not thought of the spell for decades, but it came to him then, grieving for his best friend's passing and desperate for an escape. The weathered book was exactly where he'd left it in the Potter family Gringotts vault, and reading over the pages, Harry knew he'd found his answer.

It took him less than a month to gather the necessary supplies and to put all his affairs in order. Thankfully, he'd left the Aurors some decades prior so there had been no need to give notice, and the rest of the documents regarding his last will and testament only required a quick refreshing. Draco had given him plenty of space, seeming to believe Harry when he'd said that he needed some time alone to grieve Ron's passing. He spent time with his family, with Hermione and Teddy, with his children and grandchildren, saying goodbye without ever uttering the words.

Harry called Draco to him the night before he performed the spell, throwing off his anger and bitterness and blame for a few hours at least, allowing himself one last memory with the man—the being—he loved. It had been months since they'd last been intimate, and the sex had been incendiary, as it always was. The bond sang between them, and Harry let himself glory in it the way he had when it first formed, before he'd learned of all the misery it would bring upon him. Draco had touched him with fervent desperation, as if he could sense this was goodbye, his teeth sliding into Harry's neck like they belonged there, each throb of pleasure an anguished plea for Harry to stay. He didn't let himself think of his vow to spend his exile figuring out how to tear the bond from his soul in hopes that without it, whatever held him here would relinquish its iron grasp. That perhaps there was some way for him to eventually find peace.

Those thoughts were for after.

He'd left Britain as soon as it was done, knowing that to everyone who knew him, or had even heard of him, Harry Potter would now be more of a concept, a feeling, than a man. His friends and family would remember him fondly, with a sense of pleasure instead of loss, and though he'd not provided any specific details of his death, their perception of Harry when they thought of him would be of somebody who was no longer with them… which wasn't a lie, really, not at all.

In over a hundred years, he'd never once returned to the land he'd left, unable to bear the torrent of memories that would no doubt assault him. He was grateful that Vela's funeral was held in France—he wasn't certain if, even now, he was ready to see Great Britain again. Perhaps he never would be.

Draco, much like Britain, was full of too many memories, symbolised too much of what Harry had lost. Just looking at him hurt, his very existence through the years a constant reminder of what he'd done to Harry, what Harry had been made to give up without any say in the matter. The bond between them shivered with excitement, like an over-excited Crup greeting its masters after a long absence, and Harry scowled even as an undeniable sense of rightness flowed through his body.

When he'd cast that spell all those years ago, he'd been meticulous, poring over the texts, tweaking and refining the incantation to ensure that it would go off without a hitch. He'd thought of everything.

Everything except the vampiric soul bond that linked him to Draco.

That one miscalculation meant that the spell worked on everybody who'd so much as heard of Harry Potter, save the only person in the world who had the time to wait him out. He'd been shocked that first time Draco had found him in San Francisco, eleven years after his disappearance. Harry had been sipping a gin and tonic in the shadowy corners of the Badlands—a club in the Castro district—watching pretty boys grind together beneath the flashing lights and trying to remember if there'd ever been a time when he'd felt that young and carefree. When Draco had appeared before him, his blond hair glowing blue beneath the clublights, Harry had been sure he was hallucinating, thinking that perhaps he'd finally lost it. The thought had almost been a relief—perhaps madness might make eternity more bearable—and he'd thrown himself at the apparition, deciding that if his broken mind was showing him his long-lost lover, the one he still loved just as deeply as he resented him, then Harry was going to take full advantage.

It wasn't until after—when Harry's throat was raw from swallowing Draco's cock, his salty release coating Harry's tongue, his familiar musk filling Harry's nostrils—that Harry fully realised that Draco wasn't a figment of his imagination, but very, very real.

Draco remembered him. He'd never forgot Harry at all.

Thus began their long game of Kneazle and mouse. No matter how far Harry ran, no matter how frequently he moved on, somehow, some way, Draco always found him. After San Francisco it had been Venice, then Cairo, then Montreal, their cataclysmic reunion in Beijing, and then their most recent run-in in São Paulo. Or, it was the most recent. Harry supposed Nice had just been added to the list.

"You know what I've never understood," Draco said softly, his tone perfectly even as his gaze seared straight into Harry. "Is why, if you're so miserable, if you hate living so much, that you haven't just ended it? It's not as if you're indestructible." Draco shuddered almost imperceptibly, a flicker of unease filtering through the bond, as if the acknowledgement of Harry's vulnerability pained him. "Even vampires can be killed."

"I'm not a vampire," Harry said, knowing that he was being petty by focusing on the least important part of Draco's point.

Draco smiled bitterly. "Yes, I'm well aware of that. Not a vampire, and even more… delicate." He reached out and ran a cool finger along Harry's cheek bone. Harry wasn't sure which of them was more surprised that Harry let him. "You could end it all with a single spell," Draco whispered, his voice managing to be both pained and derisive. "You could finally experience the death you blame me from stealing from you." Harry glared, and Draco laughed, contemptuously amused. "Always so righteous, Saint Potter. You can pretend all you want, my dear, but I know you better than that. I know you well enough to be sure you considered it."

A spasm of pain shot through the bond—it had to be strong to come through so clearly with Harry doing his best to block it—and guilt curled its claws around Harry's throat. Because Draco was right, of course he was right: Harry had considered it. Two hundred and sixty years was a long time to be alive, and that was a blink of an eye compared to the eternity that stretched before him. He'd thought of it often in the earlier days, had almost, almost thought he might actually do it a time or two, but deep down he knew he'd never go through with it. Harry had already had his chance to die, had stood there with Dumbledore on the platform and chosen instead to return to the land of the living. If fate had decided that his punishment for defying the laws of nature was to remove the possibility of a natural death entirely, who was he to take matters into his own hands?

He couldn't bring himself to take his own life just to end his suffering, but that wasn't to say Harry hadn't spent the last century living recklessly, throwing himself headlong into danger as if he hadn't a care for his own life at all. He didn't. If he happened to die while saving a child caught in a burning building in Australia, well, at least his death would be in the pursuit of something good. A life for a life, surely that would balance the scales?

But no matter how many Australian children he saved from life-threatening situations, Harry always managed to make it through relatively unscathed. Fate, having dealt him his thrice-damned immortality, seemed unwilling to grant his apparent death wish. Sometimes he wondered what he'd done that was so terrible, so awful, that he couldn't be allowed that final, eternal peace. Hadn't he sacrificed everything for the greater good when he was only a child? Hadn't he dedicated his life to making the world a better place? Was one lifetime not enough?

Draco was still looking at Harry with fierce eyes, clearly unwilling to let the issue die without an answer. Harry clenched his jaw and looked away.

"Maybe I've thought about it," Harry finally replied. "But that doesn't mean I'd ever do it. You should know me better than that. I'm not that much of a coward, not so selfish as—"

Draco cut him off with a loud laugh, loud enough that a few mourners several tables away gave them a concerned glance before politely turning away, likely blaming the slightly hysterical edge of Draco's laughter on grief.

"What the fuck is wrong with you," Harry whispered furiously, looking around to check they weren't attracting any more unnecessary attention.

Draco wiped at his eyes, still chuckling, though there was a mean edge to his mirth that said he was more enraged than amused.

"What's wrong with me?" Draco asked. "What's wrong with me is you and your martyred hypocrisy. You run away, abandon all of your friends and family because you couldn't handle the fact that one day they'd die and you wouldn't, and I'm supposed to think you're not a selfish coward, that somehow offing yourself would be a step too far?" His grey eyes burned black as pitch as he glared venomously at Harry. "You cast that awful spell, threw away everybody who loved you, threw me away, as if we didn't deserve just as much say in the matter as you. You've been given a gift—we both have, and instead of appreciating it, you've been indulging in a century-long strop like a spoiled child."

Harry's blood boiled, a cauldron-full of potion set directly over an open flame. "What else should I have done, Draco? Stuck around and watched everybody I love leave me instead, one by one? You don't get to call me selfish, not after everything you've done. Not after you tied me to you for eternity just so you wouldn't have to be alone."

Draco reeled as if struck, and Harry's pleasure over the jab quickly faded. That had been a low blow.

"You know it was an accident."

Harry did know that, and yet…

"That doesn't mean you weren't happy about it."

Draco's jaw clenched, but he didn't deny it. "Am I supposed to apologise for that? I'd spent decades coming to terms with my immortality, knowing that one day I'd be alone. Can you blame me for thinking that I'd been granted a boon once we realised what the bond had done to you? For the first time since I'd been turned, I had hope. Hope that maybe eternity wouldn't be quite as lonely as I'd envisioned." He laughed again, a bitter sound that scraped Harry's eardrums raw. "It was foolish of me, I suppose, not to realise how deep your loathing of the idea of forever with me ran."

Harry scoffed and ignored the tug of guilt and shame, cloaking himself in familiar anger instead. "Oh, I'm I supposed to feel sorry for you now? Judging by how chummy you've been with everybody at this funeral, I don't imagine you've been that lonely after all."

Draco shook his head, looking at Harry with something like pity, and Harry's insides writhed with fury. How dare he—

"You're right, Harry," Draco said, squaring his shoulders as he cut Harry off before he could utter his next scathing remark. "I haven't been nearly as lonely as I imagined I'd be, even with that empty space in my mind where you've suppressed our bond, even with not having you at my side. Unlike you, I made my peace with my nature. I haven't spent decades hiding, stewing in shame and self-pity." He gestured at the room. "All these people here? They know who I am, what I am—I've never denied it. They don't care that I'm a vampire; I'm still family. I send them birthday presents and visit for the holidays, and I get to see bits of Scorpius and Albus and you in them all. I get to remember that even if our children are gone, parts of them live on in their, in our, descendents."

Draco's words pierced straight through Harry, his cheeks growing hot with hurt and shame. He wanted to scream at Draco, to tell him that he didn't know what it was like, that Harry had already given up so much, that it wasn't fair to ask him to lose everybody over and over again. But even in his head the words sounded every bit as childish as Draco had accused him of being, a grown man throwing a tantrum because life wasn't just. It wasn't as if Harry hadn't learned the truth of that statement when he was still a child, but surely there had to be a limit to what one person could be reasonably asked to endure?

It had been different when Harry believed that Draco handled their shared fate so much better because of some lack of emotion on his part. He'd convinced himself that Draco didn't experience things quite as deeply as Harry did, that he'd become cold and numb to the death that followed him almost as surely as it followed Harry. But this… that Draco had managed to do what Harry could not, that an undead being could focus on life, could move past his grief for the dead by cherishing the living… it galled Harry with a bone-deep mortification so immense and vast that Harry couldn't bear it, unsure if he'd ever be able to feel anything else if he let himself sink into that abyss. Instead, he let it harden into ire, retreating into the safety of his anger and condemnation.

He wanted to say something devastating, something that would cut Draco to the quick, that would wound him as critically as Draco's words had wounded him, but nothing would come. Instead, he gaped like a fish, his face contorted as wrath and disgrace closed off his throat.

Draco looked at him, his expression containing a myriad of emotions: censure and compassion, anger and hurt, love and desperation. When he spoke again, his voice was low, though no less precise, no less brutal in his honesty.

"How many times have you faced down death, Harry? Far too many to count, and that's just considering the instances before your abrupt departure from my life. I'm sure you've had many more since you left me." He shook his head sadly. "But that's not the problem, is it? You've never been afraid to die, not really. But living, never dying… that's where your lauded Gryffindor courage has found its limit."

Harry was done. He didn't want to hear this, he didn't have to hear this. It didn't matter that, for the first time since São Paulo, the ever-present bond in the back of his mind was humming happily, radiating a quiet contentment that Harry refused to take comfort in, no matter how pleasant it promised to be. The bond could go stuff itself; Harry had vowed long ago that he would never again let it dictate the course of his eternal life.

His body trembled, and Draco's eyes widened with concern. He reached for Harry, but Harry shook his head violently, stumbling out of his chair, sure that if Draco touched him, everything would be over. He'd give in, like he always did when it came to Draco, and in the morning it would be that much more difficult to convince himself to leave. It was hard enough already, he didn't need to make things harder.

He closed his eyes on the funeral party, on Draco, and Disapparated.

2034 – Oxford, England

"I'm glad you were able to make it, mate," Ron said between bites of lasagna, flecks of red sauce glistening on his lips like blood. "It feels like it's been ages since we've all hung out, just the three of us."

"Draco didn't mind being left behind, did he?" Hermione added, looking as if she didn't particularly care if he did mind, but felt that she should. She and Draco had long ago managed to reach some kind of accord, but they were far from friendly—surprisingly, Draco got on much better with Ron than he did with Hermione. Harry didn't blame her for keeping her distance, and it wasn't as if Draco was particularly cut up about it either, but Harry knew a part of her felt guilty for the fact that she couldn't seem to completely get past Draco's childhood transgressions. Hermione was well aware of the fact that she didn't owe Draco a damn thing, including forgiveness, particularly as she'd been nothing but civil to Draco since he and Harry had got together. Unfortunately, the irrationality of this unwelcome guilt over her continued dislike of Draco, and her inability to rid herself of it, only made her more irritated at him.

"Nah, he was happy to have the evening to himself. He thinks he's close to some breakthrough with the potion he's been working on for the past few months, so he's going to be holed up in his lab all night anyway."

"That's good then," Hermione said. "I'm assuming everything is still going well with you two?"

"It has been a few years since the last time you've fought badly enough to warrant a night in our guest bedroom," Ron added with a laugh.

Harry grinned. Things had always been… intense between him and Draco, and there had definitely been a number of domestics, particularly in the beginning, where the risk of homicide would have been far too high had they both spent the night under the same roof. They still had their spats, of course, but after twenty years together, they knew each other better now—well enough to know when to give the benefit of the doubt and what arguments were really worth having. At one point, this increased harmony between him and Draco might have worried Harry, made him wonder if perhaps the fire that sparked and crackled between them was burning itself out the way it had with Ginny, but he knew now that couldn't be further from the truth. Twenty years later, and Harry still wanted Draco just as badly as he ever did, wanted his body and his mind, his sharp wit and those clever fingers sliding over his skin.

"Yes," Harry replied, hoping his cheeks weren't as red as they felt. "Everything is great with Draco."

"You'd think it would've stopped being weird by now, you going all moony-eyed over Malfoy," Ron mused with a teasing grin. He shrugged. "Maybe in another twenty years."

Harry loved Ron for that, for the casual assumption that Harry and Draco would still be together twenty years from now. It had understandably taken him awhile to come around, and he had hardly been the only one to struggle with his and Draco relationship. The papers had practically wet themselves with excitement, and everybody and their mother had had an opinion to share. Thankfully, his children had taken it all in stride, warmly welcoming Draco and Scorpius into their family. The drama surrounding their relationship had mostly died down within a few years, and those of his friends and family who hadn't grown to love Draco had at least managed to accept him as part of Harry's life.

"Did you see that the new Magical Being Equality Act is coming up before the Wizengamot?" Hermione asked as she reached for the bottle of wine and poured herself another glass. She held it out towards Harry, tacitly asking if he'd like some more as well. He nodded, and she emptied the rest of the bottle into his glass. "If it passes, you and Draco could legally marry, if you wanted."

"Draco was actually asked to consult on the bill for the more vampire-specific clauses," Harry said while he reached for his now-full wine glass. He took a drink, savouring the acidic tang of the Sangiovese. "It'll definitely be a big step forward if it passes, but we haven't really talked about the marriage part. Honestly, it's not really something I need for us, and I don't think Draco feels any differently."

Ron's brow furrowed in apparent confusion, as if the idea of commitment without marriage was unfathomable. "Why not?"

"We've both already done the marriage thing before, and what we have…" Harry shrugged and took another sip of wine. "I don't need an expensive ceremony to know that it's real, and frankly, the idea of trying to organise a wedding where both his and my friends and family are in attendance sounds like a bloody nightmare."

Both Ron and Hermione made a face at that, as if they hadn't realised that Harry wouldn't have exclusive rights over the guest list. Harry snorted. "My thoughts, exactly. If the kids weren't all already grown we might do it for them, but that's a moot point. And even if the law passes, there are still a lot of restrictions on what legal benefits he'd qualify for as a Magical Being, especially given his immortality. At the end of the day, neither of us are all that hung up on the idea of marriage, and besides—" Harry's cheeks grew warm, as they always did when he thought of his and Draco's connection, still so exciting even after all this time, "—we've got the bond. A marriage feels almost trivial in comparison to the kind of commitment we've already made to one another."

Hermione and Ron both nodded. Ron looked as if he still didn't really understand why Harry wouldn't want to be married properly, but he trusted Harry well enough to know his own mind. Hermione, for her part, was clearly much more interested in the bond, her eyes gleaming with the familiar academic-like curiosity that always seemed present whenever Harry mentioned his and Draco's connection. She'd told him, in complete confidence of course, that the Unspeakables had an entire department dedicated to investigating the unusual magics possessed by the various Magical Beings, but nowhere in their records on vampires did they have anything on bonds. He knew she was desperately curious, and he told her what he could about his experience, though he'd made it clear that he was telling his friend, not the Head of the Department of Mysteries. The bond was too precious, too intimate, to be subjected to the various tests he was sure Hermione and the rest of the Unspeakables would want to try, and Harry had no desire to become the Ministry's lab rat.

He could still remember the moment he and Draco had cemented the spontaneous fledgling bond all those years ago. Draco hadn't known any more than Harry had about the possibility of a bond, but he'd been able to tell when the tendrils had started to form between them, gossamer strands linking their souls inextricably together. Apparently Draco had first become aware of it the night Harry had accidentally consumed some of Draco's blood during a particularly vigorous shag in the coatroom at some Ministry event, Harry biting down on Draco's shoulder hard enough to pierce the skin in an effort to muffle his cries as he fucked Draco up against the coat racks. After that, the threads seemed to grow stronger each time Draco fed on Harry, until Draco finally realised the risk. After his experience with the Dark Mark, Draco had become wary and suspicious of any sort of bonding magic, especially the mysterious kind he didn't understand. Neither of them had known precisely what the bond signified, but given how close they were and how completely Harry had given himself to Draco, Harry figured it wasn't a stretch to assume the bond was romantic in nature.

Draco had wanted to cease drinking from Harry altogether, but Harry had put a stop to that ridiculous notion posthaste. The idea of Draco feeding from somebody else filled him with a sick, violent jealousy—he'd come to crave Draco's teeth as thoroughly as he craved his cock, and the two were indelibly linked in his mind, even if he knew intellectually that Draco was more than capable of feeding without any kind of sexual urges. Draco eventually acquiesced, sure that nothing would happen so long as Harry was careful to never drink from Draco in return.

Harry had never been good at being careful.

He understood Draco's logic, but the moment that Draco had mentioned the possibility of completing the bond, Harry had wanted it with a passion that had shocked him. Draco made him greedy, made him want every last bit he could get his hands on, and the thought of having Draco in such a deep and intimate way made Harry's soul sing. Despite Draco's reservations, it hadn't taken Harry long to convince him that they should do it. Draco was clearly just as eager to bond as Harry was—the same proprietary beast that lived in Harry's breast dwelled in Draco's as well.

Harry thought back to that night as he took in another mouthful of wine, recalling the warm gush of Draco's blood in his mouth, so much sweeter than it had any right to taste—certainly sweeter than the tart wine currently sliding across his tongue. Draco had sunk his teeth into Harry's throat at the same instant, and Harry wouldn't ever forget the sudden awareness that had flooded through him as their bond came to life.

That had been ten years ago, and they were still testing the limits of the bond—a bond that was unlike any other they'd been able to uncover in their admittedly half-hearted research. He focused now on the tickle of awareness at the back of his mind, noting with a fond smile that Draco was currently completely absorbed in some task, his mind bright and sharp as he worked, likely processing the potion's breakthrough he'd mentioned to Harry earlier that evening. He left Draco to it, not wanting to distract him from his work, and returned back to the conversation at hand.

"As long as that's what you want," Hermione said with a smile. "Just because vampires and other Magical Beings will hopefully soon have the right to marry a witch or wizard doesn't mean you have to personally take advantage of it."

"Exactly," Harry replied, his lips twitching into a wry smile. "Besides, I don't think Albus and Scorpius would thank us for it."

Ron laughed a little too loudly, his face flushed from the food and wine. "You could make it a double wedding! What kid wouldn't want that?"

Harry could imagine the colourful language Albus and Scorpius would employ in response to that particular suggestion. "The whole unofficial step-brothers thing was a big enough hurdle for them as it is. And I think we can all agree the literal years of pining were torture for us all." Ron and Hermione nodded emphatically in agreement, and Harry grinned wryly. "Albus might actually hex Draco and me if we decided to get married just as they're finally tying the knot."

"I can't believe the wedding is just a few months away!" Hermione enthused before becoming distracted by her reflection in the polished silver vase in front of her. She frowned, prodding at the corner of her eye with an index finger. "God, when did we get so old?" she said, turning towards Harry and brandishing her wine glass at him. "It's not fair how well you're aging compared to the rest of us, you know. I'm just about ready to cave and ask for some of whatever magical skin potion Draco's no-doubt brewed for you. I never thought I'd be someone who cared about wrinkles, but…" She gave Harry a slightly self-mocking grin and shook her head at the silliness of it all.

Harry let out a strained chuckle as his insides turned to ice. "You look lovely," he said sincerely as he cast about his brain for a change in subject. "But speaking of our children, how are Rose and Hugo doing?"

As he hoped, Ron and Hermione latched onto the topic with gusto—they both took great pride in their children's accomplishments and were more than capable of extolling them for hours. Harry smiled and nodded along, doing his best to pay attention, though his thoughts were miles away.

The truth of the matter was that Harry's youthful countenance had been haunting him every time he looked in a mirror for years now, but he'd done everything he could to ignore his disquiet and cast the unease out of his mind. He'd thought he was likely just imagining how little he appeared to be aging, and that perhaps living with an eternal being of the night had skewed his perception of the passing of time. Until now, nobody else had ever commented on the matter, so Harry had been content to assume it was all in his head. Hermione's casual compliment had destroyed that blissful ignorance. Because Draco certainly hadn't brewed some sort of secret youth-retaining serum for Harry's skincare regimen (there was no regimen at all to speak of, in fact) and Harry had a sickening feeling that there wasn't a moisturiser in the world that could provide the miraculous, age-defying effects on his complexion that were apparently now starting to become obvious.

He observed Ron and Hermione as they spoke, taking in the delicate wrinkles around the corners of their eyes, the faint laugh lines around Ron's mouth and the barest puckering of skin beneath Hermione's chin. Early fifties wasn't quite mid-life for a wizard, but their bodies had already begun to tell the story of their lives. Their hair was thinner and showing hints of grey, and their skin had started to lose the rosy elasticity of youth. They looked, in a word, old. Or, rather, they looked older, whereas Harry still looked like a man a decade or so younger than he was. A sharp sense of loss pierced through his chest, filling him with the sting of being left behind while his friends, his closest companions through life since he'd been eleven years old, moved forward to a place he didn't seem to be going.

No. He was mistaken, he had to be. How many times had he felt sick at the knowledge that Draco wouldn't be able to grow old with him, that one day Harry would die and leave him behind? It was one of the only things they never discussed in all their years together, Draco's immortality and what that meant for him, but that didn't mean it hadn't weighed constantly on Harry's mind. There had been many a moment where he'd desperately wished things could be different, sick with the thought of abandoning Draco and leaving him alone in the world for eternity. That desire had clearly made Harry confused and paranoid, led to him reaching impossible conclusions with the barest whisper of evidence. The long-buried suspicion that had been lurking in the depths of Harry's mind for years couldn't possibly be true.

There had to be some other explanation.

Harry waited until after pudding—there was very little in the world that could make Harry forgo a slice of Ron's treacle tart—before making his excuses. He hugged them both as they all promised, like they always did, that they wouldn't let things go so long before their next dinner, and then he disappeared through the Floo towards home.

Habit had him focusing on the bond the moment he stepped into the study, confirming that Draco was still intent on whatever task had been absorbing his attention for the past several hours. Harry let the bond lead him towards Draco, following the instinctive pull that guided his feet towards Draco's potions laboratory. He made his presence known through their connection, broadcasting his intent to speak with Draco, though not his intended subject. Acknowledgment filtered through his awareness as he descended into the basement, Draco's laser-focus easing up as he paused his work.

"You're back early," Draco said in greeting when Harry pushed open the heavy door to his lab. He smiled at Harry, curiosity glinting in his eyes.

Harry smiled tightly and leaned in to brush a kiss against Draco's cheek. When he pulled back, the curiosity had been replaced with wariness. Draco had clearly picked up on Harry's rattled nerves.

"What's on your mind?"

Harry had spent nearly the entire pudding course going over what to say to Draco, how to voice his concerns without sounding accusatory. He'd played out the conversation in his head a dozen times, but it appeared he'd left all those careful thoughts at Ron and Hermione's. Instead he blurted out, "Have I stopped aging?"

Draco's eyes widened in evident surprise. "What are you talking about?"

Harry huffed in frustration, stepping back and running a hand through his messy hair. "I don't think I'm getting older, not physically at least, not in the same way that Ron and Hermione are. I think I've known for awhile that something wasn't quite right, but today at dinner, Hermione made some off-hand remark, and I realised how much they've aged over the years, and I…" He trailed off and looked helplessly at Draco. "How much older do I look compared to when we first got together?"

Draco's brow furrowed as he stared at Harry. "I don't know," he said slowly. "You've definitely aged since then, but I was turned nearly thirty years ago and my perspective is a little skewed." He gestured at his own face, forever twenty-six. "I'm not exactly an expert on aging."

"You didn't… do something to me, did you? I'm not turning into a vampire, am I?" Even as he gave voice to those long-buried fears, Harry regretted it. He knew Draco better than that, knew he'd never knowingly turn Harry without his consent. Harry wouldn't be sharing his life with him if he thought otherwise.

Draco's entire body turned to stone, retreating into an unnatural, vampiric stillness as he processed Harry's accusations, the shock and hurt in his eyes the one sign at all that he'd even heard them.

"No, Harry," Draco finally said, his voice low and perfectly even, the way it got when Draco was particularly angry. "I've not turned you against your will. You've always been quite clear that you've no interest in becoming a vampire. Do you really think—" He broke off, his voice cracking with emotion. Harry's heart clenched.

"No!" Harry said emphatically. "Of course not, I know you wouldn't." He hesitated. "Not purposefully, at least." Draco opened his mouth, his eyes flashing, but Harry continued, "I don't know what's going on with me, but it's got something to do with you, with your being a vampire, there's no way it doesn't. You've got to know something."

A sudden flicker of hesitation vibrated through the bond, and Harry's eyes widened. The small seed of doubt and suspicion he'd been harbouring in his gut began to sprout.

"You do know something!"

Draco shook his head and glared, clearly defensive. "I don't know any more than you do, Harry. Until now, I hadn't even realised there was something to know."

"But…?" Harry prompted, knowing there was more Draco wasn't sharing with him.

"But," Draco continued slowly, giving Harry an intense look. "If I had to take a guess, I'd wager that whatever is happening to you has something to do with this." Draco gave the connection between them a sharp mental tug.

"The bond," Harry said, a sense of dread churning his stomach as realisation slowly dawned.

"Maybe," Draco hedged. "I couldn't say for sure."

Harry shook his head, not wanting to believe that the connection he'd wanted so fervently, the one that had brought him so much pleasure, could be betraying him. And yet… despite his instinct to recoil from the possibility, Harry could see the sense of Draco's theory. Harry couldn't pinpoint the precise moment he felt his body had stopped, or at least slowed, the aging process, but ten years—when they first formed the bond—felt about right.

"You never…" Harry shook his head again, his entire body off-kilter and shaky as if he'd been hit with a hex. He was unable to mask the accustation in his voice as he continued, "Why didn't you warn me that something like this could happen?"

"Are you having me on?" Draco asked, his expression twisted with furious incredulity. "That's all I bloody well did! How many times did I tell you that we had no fucking idea what cementing the connection would do? I told you that there weren't any known instances of spontaneous bonds occurring between ordinary wizards, that we'd be going into completely uncharted territory. There's not exactly a wealth of information out there on bonds between wizards and Magical Beings either, seeing as how they're still not even technically legal." His eyes glowed with his inhuman rage as he jabbed a finger accusingly towards Harry. "Don't you dare turn this around on me. You're the one who begged me to go through with it, that said we should complete the bond and damn the consequences. And I made it clear there would be consequences. You don't get to pretend I forced you into it now that you have to deal with them."

Harry crumpled. Draco was right. Harry really had nobody but himself to blame for whatever was happening to him. His head might know that perfectly well, but no matter how rationally he tried to think about it, there was a part of him, deep inside, that couldn't help but hold Draco more accountable. If he had really been worried, he could have argued more fervently against Harry's pleas, could have tried harder to make Harry realise the gravity of the situation. In the end, Draco had barely offered more than a token resistance, obvious in his eagerness to make Harry his. Draco was the vampire, the one with immortality, the one who was changing Harry in unknown ways.

"You're right," he said softly, knowing better than to give voice to the unfair bitterness in his heart. All that would do would be to drive a wedge between him and Draco. It would wound him, and that was the last thing Harry wanted.

"I'm just frightened," Harry continued. "I hate that something's happening to me, and I don't know what it is or how to stop it." Was he becoming a vampire in some untraditional way? Had his aging merely slowed, or had it stopped forever? Harry shuddered and wrapped his arms around his middle, doing his best to fend off the panic attack starting to rise up inside him.

Draco moved in close, tugging Harry into his arms and sending calm reassurance through the bond. The physical and mental sensation of being cradled and cared for worked to slow Harry's frantic heartbeat, and he pressed his nose against Draco's throat, breathing in the spicy scent of him, familiar and soothing.

"I know you're worried, but we'll figure this out, Harry," Draco said gently. "Now that we know something's happening, we can start researching." He paused, hesitating before he continued, "You know Hermione's been desperate to have a crack at our bond. If you ask her for help, she won't hesitate to put her entire Department of Mysteries on the case." Harry could sense Draco's displeasure at the possibility, but he knew the offer was sincere—Draco would offer them both up on a platter if that's what it took to make Harry happy.

Love surged up within him, temporarily drowning out the trepidation and blame. Draco was right. Knowing that there even was a problem was half the battle, and Harry had stuck his head in the sand for far too long. He'd been fighting impossible battles since he was a baby; this would be nothing.

He pulled back just far enough to lean up and press a soft kiss against Draco lips. It quickly grew heated, and Harry pressed Draco back against the countertop as Draco's fingers began to fumble with Harry's flies.

Harry would be fine, they both would be. If Harry was in the process of becoming a vampire or immortal, then they'd just find a way to stop it.

They had to.

2242 – Nice, France

Harry paced his hotel suite, absently throwing magic about with his waving hands as he all but wore a hole through the carpet. Every flick of his wrist sent another of his belongings zooming through the air towards his luggage, each piece arranging itself neatly within the leather cases. Like the room, the luggage set was elegant and expensive. The decades he'd spent living with Draco had given Harry a taste for the finer things in life, and though he'd purposefully limited his excesses during his self-imposed exile, he couldn't entirely break himself of the habit of indulging in the occasional luxury.

One of the many things related to Draco that Harry couldn't seem to rid himself of.

He knew he should get moving if he wanted to obtain a proper head start, but he found himself drawn to his balcony instead, taken by the sudden urge for a smoke before he set out. Time and technology had engineered cigarettes without any of those nasty cancer-causing ingredients, but the old-fashioned kind could still be obtained if one knew where to look. Harry much prefered his dodgy, black-market fags to the shiny, "clean" version more readily available to the modern public. Perhaps it was because he liked the edge of danger, even if he knew his vampire-enhanced constitution would protect him from any ills the cigarettes might try to inflict upon his body. Or maybe it was merely out of a sense of nostalgia for a simpler time, though he'd never been much of a smoker back in Britain. Truth be told, he wasn't much of a smoker now—he rarely made it through even half a pack before it went stale and he had to throw it out and buy another—but every once in awhile the urge overtook him, and he gave in to its call.

The hotel was right on the waterfront, and with his superior hearing he could make out the gentle rush of waves upon the shore the moment he stepped outside, even from the top floor. He slid a slim cigarette out of the pack with a practiced tap and flick of his wrist before igniting the end with a concentrated burst of magic. Harry stepped close to the railing and leaned out over it as he brought the stick up to his mouth for a deep inhale, holding his breath for a moment before exhaling in a giddy rush. Smoke curled into the night, melting into the darkness, fleeting and ephemeral.

Most things were.

He paused for a moment, breathing in the night air and letting the smell of ocean brine tinged with smoke take him back to a different time. Harry had been listening to waves much like these the first time Draco had ever drank from him, had told Draco he loved him for the first time the following morning as they walked along the beach, sand squishing between their toes as he convinced Draco they could make a proper go of it. While they were together, they'd gone away to the beach together every year, some familiar, some exotic, though the one in Cornwall had always been Harry's favourite. Harry wondered what that beach looked like now, what changes time and humanity had wreaked on its shores. Perhaps it was better that he didn't know.

The sound of the waves breaking on the beach below was oddly soothing, even as a melancholy ache took up beneath his breast, an ache that not even the frantic puff of his cigarette managed to dissipate. He'd come to associate the ocean with happiness, with Draco, his Slytherin water sign, and all the time and distance in the world had not managed to shake it. Harry gazed out at the water's inky blackness as it stretched towards the distant horizon, realising that he'd unintentionally spent most of the past one hundred years avoiding the sea like the plague. It hadn't been a conscious thought, but even when he'd been in coastal cities he'd stayed far away from the water, anything to avoid the call of seagulls and the tacky mist of seaspray upon his face. Perhaps whatever instinct in Harry that had urged him to attend Vela's funeral had guided his hand in selecting this hotel too, forcing him to face all his demons at once.

Speaking of demons.

"How did you find me?" Harry asked the water as he ground out the spent cigarette on the handrail before Banishing the butt into the ether. Out of the corner of his eye, a shadow peeled itself away from the door to Harry's suite, and a solid body joined Harry against the balcony railing.

"I'll always find you," Draco replied softly, and Harry felt the truth of those words reverberate through his bones. They filled him with weary resignation, but it was tinged with something sweeter, a feeling not unlike relief, of belonging.

"You don't have to keep doing this, you know," Draco continued after a brief pause. "You don't have to keep running." He turned towards Harry, his gaze a physical caress against Harry's cheek as Harry stared fixedly out at the ocean. "Stop fighting it, Harry. Stay with me."

"Do you want to play house, Draco?" Harry attempted a sneer, but his heart wasn't in it, the organ too busy being constricted by the thick emotion pulsing through Draco's end of the bond. "Do you think we'll grow old together? Because we tried that. It didn't work out the way we planned."

"Life never does!" Draco said, exasperated. "If you don't know that by now, then you're a bloody fool." He sighed, exhaustion evident in the heavy exhalation of breath. "Do you think this is how I thought my life would go? That I wanted to be attacked and turned into a vampire at twenty-six, forced to feed on humans to sustain myself? You're not the only one who had their choice taken from them. Do you think I've not struggled with what I was forced to become? That I haven't wondered if perhaps the world would be better off without me in it, sucking the life out of humanity like an undead leech for the rest of eternity?"

Harry gasped as pain lanced through him, Draco's words cutting deeper than a Severing Charm. Even with all the pain and loss he'd endured, the fact that Draco existed somewhere out there in the world had been his one constant. He hadn't realised how much comfort he'd taken over the years in that indelible fact. The thought of Draco dying was so awful, so abhorrent, that Harry couldn't bear to even contemplate it. He shook his head, as if he could physically erase the possibility from his head.

"Aren't you tired of this… tired of hating yourself, tired of being miserable?" Draco pressed when Harry didn't answer. "I've tried to be understanding and give you space to process, but my god, it's been over a hundred years! What are you fighting against anymore?"

"You know I've been searching for a cure," Harry said, his voice rough, the excuse weak.

"Oh, Harry." The gentle tone made Harry's throat grow tight as pressure built behind his eyeballs. "There is no cure, you've got to know that by now. If you want out, there's only one way to do it."

Harry did know that, but there was a part of him that didn't want to believe it. He'd beaten impossible odds before. Why did this have to be any different?

"I won't pretend to understand what you've been going through," Draco continued. "It's not as if I haven't had to deal with something similar, but clearly…" He cleared his throat. "Clearly it's been different for you, and I'm sorry for that. I'm so sorry that you've been in pain, love, but I'm not sorry you're still here with me, and I can't pretend any different. I know you've blamed me for doing this to you, and I understand that."

Draco's lips twisted into a grimace, his hands wrapped so tightly around the balcony railing, Harry was certain he'd leave finger-shaped indents in the metal. "It may have been an accident, but I can't say I wouldn't have tried to convince you to go through with the bond, even if I had known what would happen. I wouldn't ever turn you without your consent, but I'd also be lying if I said there hadn't been times when I'd thought about it, thought about what it would be like to keep you by my side forever. Salazar, that used to be all I could dream about, getting to keep you with me, always." He laughed darkly, a mocking smile twisting his lips. "Careful what you wish for, eh?"

"Draco…" Harry trailed off and turned back towards the sea. He wasn't sure what to say. He didn't know what he wanted, didn't know where to go from here. Draco was right, he was tired. Tired and sad and lonely, and tired of being sad and lonely. But he'd been running for so long, he didn't know how to do anything different. He wasn't sure if he deserved any different.

Draco reached out and pressed a hand against Harry's racing heart. "You still love me, so why can't you stay? I know you feel it, too." The hand slid up over Harry's throat and cupped his jaw, turning his face until Harry met Draco's eyes. He was laid bare before Harry, unmasked emotion visible in the youthful planes of his face. "Harry, darling." His voice cracked, and Harry's heart cracked with it. "We were meant for one another; we belong together. Don't you know that? Don't make me spend another century alone."

Harry's resolve began to crumble, limestone wearing away beneath the relentless waves of Draco's pursuit. Draco could clearly sense he was gaining ground, bright hope shining through the bond as he took a step towards Harry, bringing their chests flush.

"Just because we can't grow old together, that our lives won't have a natural end, it doesn't mean that life itself has to lose all meaning," he said, his voice low and hypnotic. "There's still so much beauty in the world, Harry. Let me show it to you." He brushed his lips against Harry's jaw, nuzzled his nose against Harry's hair. He took a deep breath, and Harry knew he was smelling Harry's blood, taking in Harry's familiar scent the way Harry was breathing in Draco's. Draco pressed a kiss against the sensitive skin behind Harry's ear, and his knees went weak. "Let me take care of you," Draco murmured, the words a hot rush of breath against Harry's ear. "Please."

They both felt it when Harry gave in, the bond a solar flare between them as it blazed back to life, unfettered by Harry's active suppression. Draco stopped nibbling on Harry's ear and looked him in the eyes, joy and wonder and triumph writ across his face. When he smiled at Harry, the light filtering onto the balcony from the suite glinted off the sharp points of his descended canines, an indelible reminder of Draco's nature.

For the first time in over a century, seeing those fangs didn't immediately send Harry's thoughts down the spiral of contemplating his own immortality. Instead, the sight filled him with the old familiar heat, desire warming his blood as his neck began to tingle. The last time Draco drank from Harry had been more than a lifetime ago, on the night before Harry had left Britain for good. The want hit him so hard he gasped, and Draco's grin widened before he closed the last few inches between their lips, and kissed him.

Draco tasted exactly like Harry remembered, a unique flavour that Harry knew better than even the burnt sugar of treacle tart. He tasted like comfort and desire, and relief at the familiarity sluiced through Harry as he melted against him. The kiss lit him up from the inside out, waking up Harry's long-dormant pleasure-centres as lust beat a steady cadence inside him. Draco's kiss inspired nothing more insidious than love and longing, the acrid bite of resentment blessedly absent. Harry had forgotten how sweet Draco's kisses could be without that bitter undercurrent, and Harry quickly found himself swept away, dizzy and drunk. He'd been surviving for years on watered down Butterbeer, and now he was drinking expensive Firewhisky straight from Draco's lips.

Merlin, it was a relief, the tension draining from Harry's knotted muscles as he let Draco shove the heavy burden of exile off his shoulders. He'd been fighting it for so long that he'd never really stopped to re-evaluate, to ask himself why? At the time, he'd left because he couldn't bear to watch the rest of his friends, to watch his children, fade away one by one, leaving him behind. But they'd all been dead and gone now for decades, and still Harry had run. Not once since he'd left had he ever truly stopped wanting Draco, but even when every cell yearned for them to be reunited, Harry had resisted. He wasn't sure if he'd ever be truly happy about his immortality, but in his heart, he'd long since come to terms with it, had accepted that there was nothing to be done. There shouldn't have been any reason after that for Harry not to return to Draco, to allow himself some measure of happiness for the rest of his numberless days.

Though that, Harry supposed, was part of his problem. He hadn't been able to stomach the thought of being happy, of allowing himself to find contentment in his curse. How could he be joyful in a world without Ron and Hermione, without James and Lily and Albus, Teddy and Scorpius? Wasn't it disrespectful to their memories, to the people who had made him who he was, who had given his life purpose and showed him what it meant to love and be loved? He could see now how flawed his reasoning had been, could see how he'd let his self-loathing and grief twist things up in his head. Because what good did it serve punishing himself, forcing himself to be alone? His family wouldn't have wanted that for him, wouldn't have wanted him to spend eternity miserable and lonely out of some misplaced sense of obligation. There was no going back, no undoing what had been done, which meant it was past time for Harry to make his peace with his fate and move on with his life.

With Draco.

They stumbled back into Harry's suite, Draco guiding them towards the bedroom, more familiar with the layout than he probably should be, but Harry wasn't bothered. He wanted a bed for this just as badly as Draco apparently did, knowing this time things were different, that this time, Harry would still be there in the morning. Harry pulled at Draco's shirt as Draco backed him into the room, his fingers tugging impatiently at the buttons before a burst of magic had them falling free from the fabric, dropping with a clatter onto the hardwood floors. The bond flickered with amusement as Harry pushed the unfastened shirt off Draco's shoulders, smoothing his palms over bare skin.

"Your turn," Draco breathed against Harry's lips. Harry felt the swell of Draco's magic through their bond, the way it expanded briefly like a balloon before Draco expelled it in a rush of energy that left Harry completely starkers, his clothes Vanished; Draco was clearly even more impatient than Harry.

There was another release of magic and the room filled with twinkling lights, the better for Draco to look his fill. Harry experienced the briefest moment of self-consciousness—it had been a long time since he'd been so bare in front of Draco, emotionally, if not physically. But he could feel how much he was cared for, how fervently Draco wanted to know every last bit of him, from the creases between his toes to his most deeply-held secrets. It should probably frighten him, the avariciousness of that desire, the way it seemed to know no bounds, no limits. There was no end to the ways in which Draco wanted him, and Harry had never realised how much he'd hungered to be known until the bond let him experience the infinity of Draco's love for him. It wasn't normal, wasn't human.

Harry didn't care. He wanted it anyway.

Draco's gaze smoldered as he looked him over, leaving trails of fire over Harry's skin as he catalogued every inch of his body. Harry knew his appearance hadn't changed much in the twelve years since Draco last saw him, save for the latest addition to his collection of tattoos—a japanese-style dragon curled around his left pectoral. Draco's gaze seemed to narrow in on it immediately, his eyes pulsing with an otherworldly glow as he took it in. All of Harry's tattoos had some significance, most dedicated to the people he loved. Harry had interacted with his fair share of dragons in his lifetime, but there had only ever been one that had truly meant anything to him.

"How long?" Draco asked, his voice rough.

"I was in Japan when I heard about Vela's funeral and decided to attend. Right before I left, I passed by this tattoo parlour with the most beautiful dragon designs on their holo-displays and I… I couldn't take it anymore. These tattoos…" Harry ran a finger along the infinity symbol over his heart, made up of his children's names, brushed across stag along his ribs with its antlers wreathed in colourful lilies. "They're for the people I love, the ones I miss and want to keep with me always. It wasn't right to not have you with them."

Draco reached out and ran cool fingers over the sleeping dragon. The creature shuddered, arching its back in pleasure, as if it could feel Draco's touch just as acutely as Harry did. His fingertips circled Harry's pec and he cupped the muscle, his thumb flicking at the ring threaded through his nipple. He was still wearing the pair Draco had gifted him not long after he'd convinced Harry to get his nipples pierced, solid gold and expensive; made to last. Draco flicked the ring again, and Harry's breath caught at the bright burst of pleasure.

"You know," Draco said softly, bringing his free hand up to play with Harry's other nipple, "Every time I saw you, I expected to see that you'd finally taken these out." He pulled on them both, harder this time, and Harry whined as his toes curled against the floor. Draco looked at him, arousal turning his grey eyes black. "It's how I knew you weren't lost to me, that there was still a part of you that wanted to be mine."

Harry hadn't ever thought of it like that, not directly, but he'd be lying if he said that the piercings hadn't made him think of Draco, that on lonely nights he didn't close his eyes and pull on them and think of Draco's touch. They'd never exchanged traditional rings, but the ones through his nipples had been a way for Draco to leave his mark, and Harry had wanted that more than anything. He'd liked the thought of having something more physically tangible than the bond, and though what he'd wanted most of all at the time was a stark white scar upon his throat, neither of them had felt like dealing with the inevitable questions and judgements that would arise from friends, family, and the public alike. The piercings had been a compromise, and quite a pleasurable one at that.

They were also inextricably linked to Draco, and there had been many times over the intervening years where Harry had debated taking them out. He'd even gone so far as to actually remove them a time or two, but he'd never lasted more than a couple of hours before the holes would begin to close and he'd dig out the golden rings in a panic and thread them through once more. The piercings had become as much a part of him as his scars and his tattoos, and the thought of losing them had been more than he could bear.

"You do want that, Harry, don't you?" Draco asked, his voice low and mesmerising. Harry swayed towards him, pressing his chest into the pinching pull of Draco's fingers. Draco tugged at the rings again when Harry didn't answer, and Harry blinked at him.

"Hmm?"

Draco let out an amused laugh as he leaned closer. He brushed a kiss against Harry's cheek, then his jaw, sliding his nose along Harry's throat as he breathed in deep and shuddered. His hands slipped from Harry's chest to settle along his waist, his thumbs rubbing maddeningly along Harry's hip bones as he held Harry in his iron grip.

"Do you want to be mine again, Harry?" he breathed against Harry's ear.

Harry's entire body quivered, and his voice cracked as he replied, "Did I ever stop?"

A rush of possessive pleasure roared through the bond with such intensity that Harry felt certain he would have fallen to his knees if it weren't for Draco's hold around his waist. Draco's lips found his once more, and Harry met his passion with equal intensity, giving himself up to the whirlwind of want that Draco always inspired. He hooked his fingers inside the waistband of Draco's trousers and pulled him towards the bed, collapsing back onto the mattress when his knees hit the edge.

Harry shimmied towards the centre of the bed, his eyes locked on Draco as he finished stripping off the rest of this clothes. Unlike Harry, Draco's body was entirely unchanged from the last time they'd been naked together, and the last, and the time before that. His skin was pale and unblemished, save the faded grey mark on his left forearm, a relic from the past. Harry had long since grown used to seeing the hateful mark upon his lover's flesh, time wearing away the edge of discomfort he'd felt every time he'd seen it during the first several years they were together. It was as much a part of Draco as the faded scar on Harry's forehead was a part of him, a testament to the past that had shaped Draco. It was a constant reminder of the path he'd started down but had ultimately rejected, though he'd be the first to admit it had taken him longer than it should have to realise the profound wrongness of his beliefs. They'd had years together, decades, to make their peace with that particular past, and it struck Harry then how strange life was. He'd let bitterness, resentment, and misplaced blame keep him from Draco for more than a hundred years, and not a stitch of it had a thing to do with Voldemort or the Death Eaters or the war he and Draco had found themselves on opposite sides of as children. Merlin, the boy he'd been back then felt like a different person… it was a lifetime ago—several lifetimes, in fact. But Harry was working on letting the past go, moving on from the life and the people who were gone and focusing on the present, on Draco.

It always came back to Draco.

Draco, who was crawling onto the bed between Harry's spread legs, all predatory grace, elegant and fierce. The polished white of his sharpened canines stood out in sharp relief against his flushed lips, and Harry couldn't help but be smugly proud of how badly Draco wanted him. He usually had better self-control, managing to keep his fangs retracted until just before he came, but clearly tonight was wreaking havoc on his restraint. Harry was glad of it. He didn't want Draco's composure and distance, not tonight.

"What do you want?" Draco asked, the words thick around his mouthful of fangs. His palms slid up Harry's calves and cupped his knees, brushing against his sensitive leg hairs. Harry opened his mouth, but Draco cut him off before he had a chance to speak. "And don't say everything." He flashed a sharp smile. "We've got all the time in the world to get through that long list. Tonight, I want you to be specific."

Harry shivered, and it had nothing at all to do with the cool sea breeze wafting in from the open window.

"I want you inside me." Draco's eyes grew darker, and he squeezed Harry's knees in appreciation even as he gave Harry a look that said Harry could do better than that. Right. Specificity. Harry met Draco's stare and raised his chin definitely. "I want your cock in my arse and your teeth in my throat."

"It would be my pleasure." Draco grinned, showing off those teeth of his to beautiful effect. "But there's something else I'd like to do first."

Harry raised a single eyebrow, a habit he'd picked up from Draco. "Oh?"

Draco nodded and wrapped a hand around Harry's erection, stroking it slowly as he leaned over to whisper in Harry's ear. "Turn over for me, chéri."

Harry moaned at the French endearment, and Draco smiled with self-satisfaction as he sat back and released Harry's cock, freeing him up to turn over as commanded. Harry did so, his heart racing as he settled face-down against the mattress. He spread his legs without prompting, dizzying desire making his head spin as he wondered if Draco was about to do what he hoped he was. A dry thumb pressed up against Harry's arsehole, and his rim fluttered against the sudden pressure, desperate for more. The thumb disappeared, and Harry would have whined at the loss, but he was too distracted by the soft brush of lips against his tailbone. His body tensed, then melted like wax beneath flame.

"You never did learn how to ask for this, did you, Harry?" Draco whispered against the cleft of his arse, his breath damp and hot. "You'll beg for my cock and even my teeth, but not my tongue in your arse." He licked a wet swathe along the side of Harry's left arsecheek, so close but not close enough to where Harry really wanted it. "Do you want this, darling?" Another lick, this time to the right cheek. "Do you want me to eat you out?"

For a moment Harry thought the earth was shaking, but then he realised it was just him, his limbs quivering entirely against his will.

"Yes," Harry replied, his voice a ragged groan. "Do it. Fucking put your mouth on me."

"You only had to ask," Draco replied, entirely too self-satisfied. But then he was sticking his tongue up Harry's arse, and Harry couldn't be bothered to care about anything other than the pleasure pulsing beneath his skin.

It had been decades since the last time—in Cairo—and it was clear Draco's enthusiasm for the act hadn't waned. He'd always seemed to enjoy giving as much as Harry liked receiving, licking into Harry with an eagerness that couldn't be faked. His tongue was preternaturally strong as it flicked and wriggled, and Harry's arse relaxed, as it always did beneath such a dedicated onslaught. Harry couldn't help but rock into the mattress, grinding his leaking cock against the bed sheets as Draco's mouth took him apart. He was close already, and closer still when Draco eased up just enough to slide two slick fingers inside Harry along with his tongue.

"Fuck," Harry moaned as Draco began to finger him in earnest, licking at Harry's rim where it clung to the thrusting digits. Draco hadn't had the chance to finger him like this in decades, and yet he still knew exactly how Harry liked it, knew the precise speed and pressure to use in order to push Harry right up to the edge without tipping him over. It was glorious and maddening, Harry's body riding a knife's blade of pleasure, teetering on the brink. He wanted desperately to come, but even more desperately, he wanted to come on Draco's cock while Draco drank from him, his blood circulating through Draco's veins.

"Enough," he gasped as Draco began to massage his prostate, coaxing even more precome from Harry's cock onto the already-soiled bed sheets. "Stop playing and take me."

Draco let out an inhuman growl, the noise rumbling through Draco's bones and vibrating the fingers in Harry's arse. Harry clenched down around them and rocked, needing more, needing harder. He whined, frustrated.

"Yes, okay, let me just—" His fingers slid out of Harry's arse, and then Draco used his prodigious strength to take hold of Harry's hips and flip him onto his back.

Harry frowned—the both of them had a marked fondness for Draco taking Harry on his hands and knees.

Draco leaned down to kiss the sullen look away, murmuring against his lips, "I need to see you this first time. Need you to see me."

Harry nodded in understanding, not realising until Draco said it that he wanted the same. He spread his legs wider, sliding his hands down Draco's back to grab hold of Draco's firm arse and encourage him closer. Draco didn't take much convincing, dropping his weight onto Harry as they kissed slow and deep, their cocks grinding together.

"Come on," Harry said after what seemed like half an eternity. The kissing and frotting was good, but tonight his body craved something more substantial. He wanted to connect with Draco in every possible way, a primal affirmation of this new course they were charting together.

Draco pressed himself up and took hold of his cock, rubbing the head against Harry's rim. For a moment, Harry was certain Draco would tease him with it, the way he'd done countless times before, but it seemed Draco was as disinclined to wait tonight as Harry. He pressed inside with steady surety, his dick even thicker and longer than Harry remembered. Harry gasped and clutched the bed sheets in his fist, throwing his head back and panting through the sudden burn as Draco buried himself inside Harry's arse. It had been far too long since the last time, and though Harry knew it would get better, could remember the glorious euphoria that could be found on Draco's cock, somehow he always managed to forget about this first bit, these moments of sharp pain. But the discomfort always faded, making way for that pleasurable fullness Harry had come to crave the way Draco craved blood. It was one of the many joys he'd denied himself over the decades, along with love and belonging, family and friends, and most of all, Draco.

He wasn't denying himself anymore.

He'd made a decision out on that balcony to stop running from the things that terrified him, the things he didn't think he deserved, and he planned to stick with it. So he threw himself headfirst into the throbbing ache of his arse stretched wide around Draco's cock, embracing it for what it was and what it would lead to. Sure enough, it didn't take long for the soreness to shift into something sweeter, bliss beginning to effervesce through him like champagne bubbles as Draco started to slowly swivel his hips.

Harry let out a small sound of undeniable pleasure and Draco's face split into a grin. He clearly took it as a sign to start moving, because he braced his hands next to Harry's head and began to thrust, quickly building up to a powerful rhythym that shook Harry down to his very bones.

Merlin, it felt good, it felt right, having Draco inside of him, fucking him so damn well that there wasn't a single cell in his body that wasn't bursting with pleasure. Suddenly, it seemed impossible to him, unfathomable, that he'd gone so long without it. It was obvious why he'd had to work so hard not to think about Draco over the years, about what they had together, because if he'd allowed himself to remember the exquisite slide of Draco's lips along his jawline, he'd never have been able to resist for as long as he had. Draco unmoored him, as he always did, but for the first time in an aeon, that thought didn't fill him with dread. Harry thought being adrift at sea wouldn't be so bad, as long as he had Draco at his side.

Wasn't that exactly what Draco had been trying to tell him, all along?

Liquid rapture flooded through Harry as Draco fucked him, his cock leaking a river of precome onto his navel with each precisely aimed thrust. He was close, his cock swollen and sensitive, begging for the barest excuse to empty itself all over his belly. Above him, Draco snarled as he chased his own pleasure, his hungry gaze roaming over every inch of Harry's flesh as if half-terrified he'd disappear into smoke before his very eyes. Harry would feel guilty about that fear later—he had a literal eternity to make it up to Draco—but right now, all he could focus on were the ivory-coloured fangs glimmering above him in the moonlight.

Harry met Draco's eyes, pitch-back and wild, and then slowly tipped his head back, tilting it to the side to display the line of his throat, sure that Draco's unnaturally sharp vision would pick up on the nearly invisible scars Draco had left there so many years ago. Harry thought back to the first time they'd done this, nearly two centuries ago—how Draco had been fucking him on his back just like this, and Harry had arched his neck and begged for it then, the way he was begging for it now. How brilliant and beautiful it had been when Draco had finally given in.

"Please, Draco," Harry whispered, offering himself up to him, wanting nothing more than for Draco to take Harry inside of him, the way Draco was inside of Harry.

Draco's pointed canines seemed to lengthen further, his eyes giving off that strange, other-wordly glow they emitted whenever Draco's supernatural instincts were particularly close to the surface. Harry only had a moment to admire them before Draco ducked down, his tongue licking a shiver-inducing stripe along Harry's neck towards his carotid artery. Blood throbbed beneath his skin, desire turning his pulse into a mad, frantic thing. He imagined the iron-rich substance was like a magnet, drawing Draco inexorably to him, an irresistible, unstoppable force.

Draco's teeth met his skin, the sharp points caressing his flesh before parting it effortlessly, a bright bee-sting that quickly blossomed into unimaginable bliss. It quickly overwhelmed Harry, a bucket filled well past the brim, the feeling magnified by the constant feedback loop provided by their bond. The connection swelled with excess, fat and happy after decades of starvation, glutting itself on the surplus of love and pleasure. Harry couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so good, the last time he'd felt so complete. It was like coming home, and Harry realised that here, in Draco's arms, was the one place left in the world where he fit perfectly, a missing puzzle piece slotted into place, making both of them whole. They might not be flawless—in fact, they were run through with tiny fissures and fractures—but like Kintsugi, their broken edges came together just right, fused and strengthened with the golden threads of their bond, a whole greater and more beautiful than the sum of its parts.

Just as he'd wanted to, Harry came with Draco's cock and teeth both buried deep in his body. Post-orgasm-and-bite bliss made him limp and lax against the mattress, a blob of contentment, the cocoon of his flesh the only thing keeping him human-shaped. The thick length of Draco was still inside him, and come was beginning to leak from his arse around Draco's softening cock. Harry didn't mind, and even if he did, he was far too indolent just then to do anything about it. Though he was no longer latched to Harry's throat, Draco's face had yet to move away from the crook of Harry's neck, his tongue rasping against the puncture wounds, each kitten-lick making Harry shiver with a delicate aftershock of pleasure.

Harry's ran his palms in idle strokes down Draco's back and flanks, the smooth expanse of his skin addictive beneath Harry's hands. The entire room seemed to possess a strange luminescence, the salty, ocean air emitting a glimmering, golden glow. Instinctively, Harry knew this strange effect was due to the bond, and Harry wasn't sure if it was real or if it was merely a trick of the mind, some attempt to physically manifest the bond within. Not even in the early days of the bond, when Harry had blindly embraced it, had it seemed so strong and healthy. The vine connecting them had withered away from years of neglect and seething resentment, but it hadn't taken long for it to grow back full-force, robust as ever. It was hard not to think of the bond as almost sentient, twining around them and purring with pleasure like a Kneazle pleased that its owners were finally together after a long separation.

The stray thought sent Harry's mind down a path it hadn't travelled in over a century, contemplating a future he'd thought was lost to him: waking up next to Draco every morning, enjoying breakfast together on the patio of whatever expensive château Draco had purchased for them, a real Kneazle butting its furry head against their legs as their bond sang, vibrant and strong. Harry wanted that… he'd always wanted that, and the feeling of contentment and joy that possibility inspired didn't lessen just because the Harry and Draco in that image were healthy and hale instead of old and withered.

The strangely domestic contemplation and the satisfaction it left behind sent a wave of tenderness through him. Harry focused on the bond, and on the steady undercurrent of Draco beneath the overwhelming sense of belonging radiating from it. He sensed the apprehension, the almost painful level of longing and hope that had kept Draco's face buried in Harry's neck, unable to look Harry in the eyes and find out that it had all been a lie. The tenderness swelled, and he threaded his fingers through Draco's hair, tugging him away from his throat and into a slow, sensual kiss. Harry poured everything he had into it, all the apology and forgiveness, all the grief and yearning. The kiss was a promise, a vow that this wouldn't be their last kiss, that Harry had meant it when he'd said he would stay, that he was done running from the future, from Draco, from himself.

Draco was smiling when they finally parted, though there was a melancholic edge to it that Harry couldn't quite place. A hand cupped Harry's face, and Draco's thumb brushed feather-light against the skin along the outside of his right eye.

"These are new, you know," Draco said softly, a strange expression gracing his face.

Harry's brow furrowed. "What are?"

"Wrinkles. They're faint, but they're there." Draco smiled again, a warm and compassionate thing that didn't match the trace of sadness lingering in his eyes. "They weren't there fifty years ago."

Harry shook his head, unable to follow this sudden shift in mood and topic. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that you're not like me, Harry. We've never understood the mechanics of the bond, not fully. It may be happening slowly, but it is still happening. Your body is aging." He pressed a kiss to the corner of Harry's eye, where apparently faint wrinkles had begun to form. "You'll live for a very, very long time, but not forever, not like me." He paused, hesitating before adding, as if unable to help himself, "Not unless you want to."

Harry understood what Draco was tacitly offering, a choice that Harry was certain he'd never bring up again. If Harry wanted, he could grow old with Draco, the way he'd once planned to. True, the time it took to become old would take much longer than he'd originally thought, centuries instead of decades, but eventually the ravages of time would find him. He would die.

Or.

Or he could ask Draco to turn him. He could leave behind this half-existence—not quite vampire, not quite wizard—and officially become what he'd always feared. There'd be no more uncertainty, no more attempts to demystify the bond and determine if there was some way to reverse its effects. With a simple request, he could permanently decide his fate.

He knew that was what Draco wanted, that he'd been wanting it for a long time, perhaps even as far back as when they'd first got together. It was a desire that went deeper than simple craving, a primal instinct engraved into his soul. He'd never pressured Harry though, not even with those subtle, Slytherin manipulations that came so effortlessly to him, and Harry knew he never would; Draco had vowed long ago to never take away someone else's autonomy, that he wouldn't let himself become like the men and monsters who'd shaped his childhood. Harry knew him well enough to trust that principal would hold true, even in this. Draco wanted him—wanted him body, heart, and soul, wanted more and more deeply than most would consider healthy or sane. He wanted everything, but most importantly, he wanted Harry to give him everything.

It wouldn't mean a thing to Draco if he had to take it.

The knowledge that there was a choice should have made Harry happy. Wasn't that what he had spent the past century searching for, for some sign that he wasn't cursed to live forever? Now it appeared he could have his treacle tart and eat it too, spend several lifetimes with his literal soulmate before meeting a natural end, finally reunited in the afterlife with all the people he'd lost along the way. But instead of relief, all Harry could think about was the sad acceptance lurking in Draco's eyes, the knowledge that Draco had already resigned himself to a far-off future where Harry would once again leave him, this time for good. The wrongness of it rubbed him raw, a small but persistent worry Harry couldn't ignore. For the first time in all of Harry's long life, the thought of true eternity didn't seem quite so abhorrent. He wasn't ready to make the decision now, but he could admit that there was a decision to be made, that living out the rest of his life wasn't as much as a foregone conclusion as Draco seemed to think it was. After all, what was the afterlife but a different kind of eternity? Could Harry resign himself to that, knowing he'd be with everybody in the world who he'd ever loved, save the person who knew and loved him better than any other?

"It's not a no," Harry said softly. Surprised pleasure bloomed through the bond like a morning glory greeting the dawn as Draco looked down at him with wide eyes.

"Oh," Draco replied, and this time his eyes shone just as brightly as his smile. "All right, then."

There was more kissing, joyfully exuberant enough to inspire round two. This time was less involved than the last, the two of them rutting together like school boys until they added to the mess still smeared across Harry's stomach. Draco didn't bite him again, still full from his last draught, and Harry did his best not to pout, already greedy for the next time he'd feel the sharp bite of Draco's teeth. Instead, he cleaned them off with a lazy Cleaning Charm and arranged them both to his liking, with Draco reclined against the mattress and Harry curled up against him, his head pressed to Draco's chest where Draco’s heart lay, still and silent

Harry wasn't bothered. He didn't need a beating heart to tell him that Draco was alive, that he loved him. He knew the truth of it in the way Draco touched him, could see it in the stormy grey of his eyes, taste it on his lips, wet and metallic with Harry's blood.

Harry didn't need to hear Draco's heart to know it was his, held in reserve for Harry even when they'd hated each other, waiting patiently for the tide to finally turn. Draco belonged to Harry just as completely as Harry belonged to Draco, the two of them tied together in an unbreakable knot. Their bond ran deeper than marriage vows, deeper than till death do us part. Because death wasn't coming for them, not now, possibly not ever. There would be no parting, not if Harry didn't want it.

Now that they were no longer frantically fucking, he could hear the far-off whoosh of the waves lapping against the sandy shore below. He let himself be comforted by it, the familiar sound of the sea, quietly pleased at the symmetry of reuniting with Draco to the soundtrack of the ocean.

A sudden longing for Cornwall and their not-so-little mansion on the beach struck him. For the first time since he'd left Britain, Harry yearned to return and see how their special place had fared over the decades. He was certain time would have changed it, but that was all right. Time had changed him, too. Adrenaline surged through him as he was seized with a desire to get up and start making their way back to Britain right this second so he could see what those changes were for himself. He hope there was at least some part of the shore left intact.

If he asked Draco to turn him, he'd like to do it on that beach.

Beneath him, Draco shifted, tugging Harry closer and cradling him more firmly against his chest. The urgency to get moving lessened, the thought of leaving Draco's embrace after going so long without an anathema to him.

Their beach in Cornwall, their plans for the future… all of that could wait until tomorrow. There was no need to rush.

They had all the time in the world.