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About Falling In Love

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Books, films, television shows, every other bloody song on the radio, and every person and their dog that Harry’s ever encountered refers to love as a ‘fall,’ and how one can’t make a pro’s and con’s list for that type of thing, can’t necessarily collect evidence to figure out when and where, why and how, but that he’d ‘just know.’ Those were the Golden Rules of Romantic Love.

 

In retrospect, during his years at Hogwarts as a student, Harry could understand now that he fell into puberty around Ginny Weasley - but that wasn’t falling in love. 

 

He thought it was, at the time, as all of his brain power seemed dedicated to her face, her hair, her laugh, her still-developing figure - and when he’d been snogging her in hallways, or near the Quidditch pitch, it always felt like trying to stop an oncoming train with his bare hands simply to slow down when they’d get a bit too excited.

 

Thinking about his adolescence now, Harry thinks he probably never fell in love with Ginny, but was rather struck hard over the head with repressed hormones, and while there was often grappling, and (if he was very lucky) groping involved, there was no sensation of falling.

 

So, maybe everyone and their dog was full of shite, is what he thought. Perhaps that’s not how love really is, and he was happy to believe that for a very long time.

 

Plenty of people bored of Harry, after the war. 

 

Not Ginny, though - at least, it wasn’t explicit, the way it had been with so many other people, and Harry thought that must be love as well, keeping him around even though he wasn’t an exciting adventure anymore.

 

After Hogwarts, she’d gone on to play competitive Quidditch, she was making friends everywhere she went, and having him on her arm felt a lot like being paraded as a macabre post-war decoration than being her equal. He knows she didn’t mean for any of it to feel like that, but it’s how he felt regardless of her intentions. 

 

She was off onto new people, new challenges, new adventures, though, and all he wanted was a break from them. 

 

He wanted something consistent, something familiar, something that - maybe - could make him happy, bring him peace of mind, establish a routine after a long life of inconsistent chaos, and so he came back to Hogwarts, post-graduation, and post-Ginny. 

 

He came back to teach. 

 

He came back home.

 

Upon his arrival, he was rather alarmed to find Draco Malfoy already deeply established in the position of Potions Master, and he might have backed out of the idea entirely had McGonagall not been so visibly thrilled to take him on as a Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. 

 

Unlike Malfoy, who was still pursuing enviable certifications, and licenses for potioneering while still teaching, Harry hadn’t seemed to need to prove anything to anyone.

 

After all he’d been through, it seemed as though that was all his resume needed; ‘I’m Harry Potter, please trust your children and their education with me.’

 

And Hogwarts was overflowing with new students - students too that wanted to transfer just for the sake of saying they’d been taught by Harry Potter. 

 

It got to be overwhelming at times. 

 

Hogwarts was still his home, Hagrid was still there, Professor Flitwick, Filch, Neville was even there too, Professor of Herbology now, still pursuing degrees himself, as he taught, and there were new faces at the head table, plenty of the people he knew when he was a student having since retired, but it was all still home to him.

 

It was the first real home he ever had, and he couldn’t really imagine leaving it again. 

 

He could easily be chased out of the dining hall, though, when adoring students of his practically climbed over each other in the hopes he’d indulge them in stories of his magical exploits, as if he were Gildroy Lockhart, or something.

 

Then, one night, in an attempt to hide from starry-eyed teenagers, Harry had snuck into the dungeons to have his dinner in peace, only to find Malfoy working away over a stewing potion.

 

He looked much better than how Harry remembered him looking, sixth and seventh year; his skin was pale, still, it probably always would be, but his scars had healed nicely, only visible to those really looking for them, and his complexion had a healthy pinkish hue to it. 

 

He was walking around a cauldron, steam billowing out of it, loosening his fringe, making sharp strands of white-blonde hair fall over his forehead, nearly touch his cheeks, and his brow was furrowed in concentration - it was the same kind of focus Harry had always admired in his heroes. It was strange to see such an expression on Malfoy, but it was there, clear as day, intent so palpable, it seemed to effect the barometric pressure in the room, sharp eyes, dissecting the scene at hand - 

 

“Going to gawk all day, Potter, or leave me to it?”

 

Jumping, Harry balanced his plate again, used a free hand to run through his messy hair, and told him, “looking for a place to hide, actually. Any ideas?”

 

“Even the most ambitious students don’t go seeking Potions lessons when they could be eating, or fucking about after classes, so I’d wager you’re safe in here.”

 

Malfoy still hadn’t looked up from his cauldron, it felt intrusive to Harry, to walk in on him while he was clearly at work, and so Harry shifted uncertainly on his feet, wondering, “in there - with you?”

 

Huffing a sardonic laugh, Malfoy smirked down at a page he was writing on when he retorted, “scared, Potter?” 

 

Just like that, an overbearing tension dissolved, and Harry owed it all to Malfoy - it was an odd olive branch, to be sure, but it was a clear invitation, no malice attached, even a bit of nostalgia peppered in for what Harry could only assume was his own benefit.

 

He stepped inside and finally saw how the Potions room had changed, under Malfoy’s new rule; it was wider now, more vaulted ceilings, though Harry isn’t sure how Malfoy managed to transfigure the room so much, and so well, as it defied its set dimensions quite boldly. The lighting was better now too, easier on the eyes as well, and if Harry were a betting man, he’d have put his Gringott’s vault down on the claim that Malfoy himself had funded every new vial, jar, cauldron, and scale in the room. 

 

There was a locked pantry, open for Malfoy’s use right then, but all the other pantries were glass-paned, and every container, ever hair, every herb, crystal, dissected animal bit - it was all readily on display, labeled, and bought in plenty. 

 

Harry couldn’t help but think to himself that he might have liked Potions a lot better, had it felt more like Malfoy has made it feel, and less like a riddle he had to unmake everyday. 

 

“What is it you’re making?” Harry inquired, sitting down at a table directly across from Malfoy’s platform, where his enormous cauldron is still steaming. 

 

“You’ve been working here three months, and not ventured beyond a polite greeting at staff meetings, Potter. You don’t need to make conversation with me just because I’ve given you refuge.”

 

That had made him sound like quite the arse - he just didn’t know how to talk to Malfoy when he arrived, that was all. He hadn’t meant to be hostile. Really, Harry was quite poor at talking to people altogether, and had been his entire life. This was not something he was good at, though he would’ve liked to be.

 

And I want to talk to you, Harry had thought.

 

“Oh, shush - don’t think so loudly, and don’t think so loudly in such a maudlin way, I’m trying to work.”

 

“You - ?”

 

“I inherited my mother’s abilities much more than my father’s, and thank the stars for that, as he’s absolute shite at Potions.” 

 

Turning his back to Harry, Malfoy went digging in his pantry, staring at jars, and vials in his hands, and then putting them back, muttering nonsense to himself.

 

“I didn’t realize you were a Legilimens,” Harry admitted.

 

A deep sigh came, and then Malfoy listed off, “a skill born out of necessity, wandless magic is my forte, you’ve never really known me, the war gave me a whole new bag of tricks, blah, blah, blah - why am I so low on turmeric?”

 

Harry definitely did not have the answer to that question. 

 

“What’s turmeric used for?” Harry asked, hoping to calm the waters, maybe soften Malfoy’s bladed sarcasm.

 

“Plenty - would be absurd to list all it can be used for, but I’m recalling now that I recently made an inordinately sized batch of healing potions for that stomach flu that was going ‘round last month.”

 

“Draco?”

 

They both turned toward the doorway, and Harry was shocked to see a smiling Neville walking in, wooden crates full of herbs under either arm.

 

All but running to Neville, Malfoy jumped to action, meeting him halfway in the room, putting his long hands over Neville’s sunkissed forearms, and excitedly saying, “oh, you blessed, beautiful man - what have you brought me?”

 

To Harry’s horror, Neville had blushed to his hairline, and laughed, “you’ve got to stop flattering me, Draco, I’m very much spoken for - hello, Harry,” Neville added, looking his way.

 

“Yeah - hi,” Harry said back, his eyes ping-ponging between Neville and Malfoy.

 

“Luna wouldn’t mind sharing, she’s a good woman,” Malfoy replied, poking about in one of the boxes to peek at what Neville had brought.

 

“You only want me for my herbs,” Neville joked, shaking his head in faux dismay.

 

“How dare you,” Malfoy told him blandly, moving some leaves aside to see what’s underneath, “There are so many more redeeming qualities in you than just your spectacularly green thumb. You make good money, and you’re very good looking, too. Who could ask for more? Oh - is that Moly? Did you bring me Moly, Neville Longbottom? How am I to reason this is not a brazen courting gift? You’ve brought my Moly!”

 

Laughing again, Neville swatted playfully at Malfoy’s greedy hands, and told him, “I have brought you Moly, but I overheard you as I walked in, and now I’m more worried that I should’ve brought more turmeric.”

 

A sly, potently flirtatious look came over Malfoy’s face, and he replied, “well, I suppose you’ll just have to visit me again.”

 

“Right then, not to be an arse, but what the fuck is happening?”

 

Sighing deeply again, Malfoy turned toward Harry and explained, “I was accosted my first week back here by a Professor that has since been let go of, and Neville here came to defend my honor, in what was very obviously his first attempt at staking a claim on me -”

 

“It wasn’t,” Neville chuckled.

 

“ - and then he offered to help with my potions, bringing me specialty herbs weekly, which was obviously a ploy to get me into bed -”

 

“It wasn’t!” Neville laughed again, seeming genuinely delighted by Malfoy’s flat sense of humor.

 

“And unlike you, Potter, he dared to take a seat with me at meals, and made quite the gesture at friendship, where he is now leaving me stranded. Now, I can only long from afar, as Lovegood has clearly put her family name to use, and secured a future with him.”

 

Neville’s pink face was scrunched up in a way that is reminiscent of a young child trying not to laugh during a lesson.

 

“You’re a menace, Draco.”

 

“See, I’d so much rather be a homewrecker.”

 

Laughing heartily again, Neville moved past Malfoy to put the boxes down on the table next to Harry’s, and he told Harry directly, “I made friends with him is all, Harry. Felt like the right thing to do, and when he’s not swamped with work, we sometimes get drinks together. If I didn’t have so many papers to grade, I might join you both down here. Aren’t you here just to hang out?”

 

“I’m hiding.”

“He’s hiding.”

 

Neville laughed at their synced up answers, and shrugged, “alright, fair enough. I’ll try gathering some turmeric root tomorrow, and get it to you as fast as I can, Draco.”

 

“No rush,” Malfoy answered, picking up what Harry remembers identifying as Angel’s Trumpet once, turning it over between his fingers, “You’re very kind to me, you know. Not as though I’ll forget it. I’m working on that spray for you right now.”

 

“You are?” Neville asked, brightening, “Really? How’s it going?”

 

“Still too thick,” Malfoy frowned, putting the flower down to look at Neville determinedly, “I’m absolutely positive it needs a thinning agent, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what could go in it that wouldn’t make it too volatile to use on your plants. Don’t worry about it, though. As soon as it’s finished, I’ll arrive in your classroom with a flourish, and present it to you with a wedding ring.”

 

“You better not,” Neville warned, crossing his arms over his chest with a playful grin, “I’ve still got students asking if we’re married after the last scene you made.”

 

“What scene?” Harry asked Neville, as Malfoy snickered, looking much too proud of himself.

 

“He kissed me full on the mouth in front of a full class of second-years!” Neville exclaimed, throwing his arms out.

 

“He gave me a box of Cobra Lilies!” Malfoy defended, as though it was a perfectly sound reason to assault someone, “Just gave it to me! I came by for some Bulrush, which he had, of course, he always has what I need, and then he just gifted me a box of dried Cobra Lilies! What was I meant to do? Not kiss him? Does that sound reasonable to you two?”

 

Still slightly horrified, Harry found it hard to laugh the way Neville was laughing - he seemed sincerely happy to have such a silly problem, as Draco Malfoy having an insufferable crush on him. 

 

For the first time, Harry wondered if he was having a dream, and would wake up in bed.

 

“Not a dream, Potter,” Malfoy tells him with a roll of his eyes, “You’re so melodramatic.”

 

“Oh,” Neville said after a cough, coming down from his laughter, “yeah, be careful about thinking so loud around him, Harry. He really can’t help how much he picks up. And, anyway, he’s excellent company.”

 

“Get out, or I’ll kiss you again,” Malfoy threatened.

 

Charmed, Neville put his hands up in surrender, and announced, “alright, alright, I’ll get out of your hair - make yourself free for Hogsmeade next week, though, Draco, there’s a shop near Knockturn I’m excited to see.” 

 

“I’ll try as best I can,” Malfoy replied, eyes gentling as Neville retreated with a soft ‘goodnight,’ to them both.

 

Once Neville was gone, Harry had looked to Malfoy, and inquired, “do you - do you actually like him? Like that?”

 

Solemn, Malfoy had continued to stare out the open door, and confessed, “never been half as good at anything than I’ve always been at wanting what I can’t have. That’s all.” 

 

“I always… I always sort of thought you had everything anyone could want,” Harry told him lamely.

 

“Material wealth is a poor substitute for emotional wealth, Potter, and you know that,” Malfoy said; then his mask slipped back on, he smirked, eyeing Harry, and adding, “Besides, jealousy is a terrible look on you.” 

 

“Jealous!?” Harry nearly shouted, red-faced, “I’ve never been - you? Of you? God, Malfoy, no - I -”

 

Laughing again, and with a flick of his wrist, Malfoy levitated the crates to his working desk, behind the cauldron on the platform, and with his back to Harry, said, “relax, Potter. Just be glad you’re not my focus anymore.”

 

That admission held a lot of weight, and Harry wanted to prod more at it, but he knew it would do no good. Questioning it all would only see Malfoy fold up like origami, elegant, and silent, and still sharp enough to cut.

 

So Harry let the conversation die, ate his dinner, and simply watched Malfoy work, which was actually rather entertaining.

 

It was long after he finished his meal that Malfoy declared his trial a failure, spelled away the mess, and alerted Harry to the fact that it was well into the early hours of morning, and he should be gone already.

 

It was around two in the morning when Harry returned to his rooms, and Harry should have gone straight to sleep, but he wrote to Hermione about the night instead, and the day after, she wrote back to him, celebrating her own genius at having ‘known all along,’ that Malfoy had wanted him, back in school. 

 

Of course he’s always wanted you, Hermione had written, All that pigtail-pulling, all that attention-grabbing, Harry! If I’d been the one he harassed even a fraction as much as he harassed you, everyone would have been gossiping about what an obvious crush he had on me. As it is, traditional gender roles ruin everything, and left you blind to it, because Malfoy happens to be a boy too. Man, now, I suppose. What kind of potion was he making?

 

The next night, Harry had come to the dungeons, into Malfoy’s classroom, and it seemed he was just getting started on another potion, which meant that his suggestion wouldn’t come too late.

 

“Potter. You’ve returned.”

 

“Yeah - you trying that potion for Neville again?”

 

“I am.”

 

“Have you tried, uhm - have you tried shredded Star Grass, to thin the potion?”

 

As if struck from behind, Malfoy’s eyes rounded out, and he’d leapt to work, shredding the Star Grass by hand, bemoaning his own idiocy that he’d not thought of it before, how ‘bloody obvious,’ it was to him then. 

 

He cursed himself the entire while he chopped, shred, stirred, peppered, measured, and weighed, taking a good two hours before sitting down across from Harry, hair a bit mussed from the steam, and face flatteringly pink again.

 

“How did you think of it?” Malfoy asked, an accusatory tone to his voice, “You hated Potions, as I recall.”

 

“I didn’t. I didn’t think of it, I mean. I mentioned it to Hermione, and she -”

 

“Airing out my dirty laundry to your friends already?”

 

“What?” Harry asked, heart plummeting to his stomach,“No! I - not like that, Malfoy. Seriously. I told her that I’d been rescued from my students by you, and that you’d barely made eye-contact with me the entire time I was down here because you were working on a potion you couldn’t figure out how to thin. It’s just in her nature to respond to something like that.”

 

Malfoy sat there, sharp elbows on the table, dark blue sleeves rolled up, hands steepled in front of his pursed lips, as he evaluated Harry, and then grudgingly said, “fine. Don’t go asking for advice on my behalf again, though. I’d have figured it out, eventually, and my pride is just about all I have left.”

 

“You must want something more than pride,” Harry offered.

 

“Of course I do,” Malfoy answered, combing a spidery hand through his hair, “I’ve always wanted a great deal more than the world altogether has to offer. As it’s been said, when we find ourselves with desires that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

 

“Nothing in this world could satisfy you?” Harry pondered, disbelieving.

 

“Oh, I doubt it,” Malfoy lamented, “I’m positively cursed with an insatiable curiosity, a desire to master everything I see, and touch, and none of it fulfills me as I initially think it will.”

 

Chuckling, Harry said to him, “wow. You really are a Slytherin.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“Just - ambition, cunning - I always thought those traits about you were… I don’t know. More Gryffindor, you know? Those things were always so knotted up with my idea of what courage looked like, but I think I have a better understanding now. Certainly better than I did then.”

 

“And what is your understanding?” Malfoy asked, looking genuinely intrigued.

 

Shrugging, Harry explained, “I think Gryffindors are dreamers. Not that it’s a bad thing. I think they aspire to be great things - they hope to be great things, and do great things, but Slytherins… with all that cunning, all that cleverness, the resourcefulness… you all manufacture ways to be great. You don’t wait for destiny, or fate, you all grab it with your hands, and tread some path to greatness, even if it’s the path of most resistance. Gryffindors, I think now… it’s more about this way of thinking, this, ‘I want to be,’ attitude, while Slytherins have more of an ‘I will be,’ mindset. See how I mean?”

 

“Hmm,” Malfoy hummed noncommittally, “Still don’t know if I should be flattered or insulted, though.”

 

“Take the path of least resistance for once, then, and trust that I mean it as a compliment.”

 

Smirking just a little, Malfoy nodded his agreement, and then left the table to tend to his potion.

 

That’s all it was for a while; a quirk of lips just for a moment, a sidelong glance that lasted just a touch too long, a drily delivered joke that would shock a laugh out of Harry, Neville stopping by to melt Malfoy’s knees and ignite a strange, possessive fire in Harry’s belly that he’d never experienced before. 

 

Harry started bringing his own papers to grade, and sometimes Malfoy would sit beside him and grade his own, Neville would join them every once in a while to do the same, but he seemed easily distracted by Malfoy’s teasing (which was persistent, but gladly only seemed to flatter Neville rather than potentially upset him), and so Neville preferred to get his work done in his own office, or at home (Malfoy was always sad about it, when Neville would leave them to their own devices, but Harry couldn’t say he minded). 

 

On occasion, Malfoy would be stirring multiple ingredients at once into a cauldron, and ask for Harry to fetch something for him, or chop something for him, or weigh something for him, and Harry came to enjoy those times; it reminded him of Molly Weasly’s kitchen. It made him feel useful in a way that really mattered for the first time in years, which ought to have been silly - it shouldn’t matter whether he had hands enough to help Malfoy with a potion here and there, but it felt like it mattered. It did matter.

 

His letters to Ron and Hermione became increasingly incriminating - Ron didn’t believe half of what he read in Harry’s letters, refusing to believe that Malfoy of all people had somehow matured into a reasonable adult that made for a fun companion, but Hermione ate it up.

 

She encouraged the friendship, thinking it might ‘help heal old wounds - for us all,’ and so, with blessings abound, Harry shared meals with Malfoy, sitting with Neville and him, or sometimes daring to steal Malfoy away from Neville altogether, so they could speak more personally. 

 

On trips to Hogsmeade, Harry saw how kindly Malfoy worked with the children, how some of them could barely contain the hearts in their eyes at his handsome, aristocratic face, often asking him to reach for objects in stores they had no need for, only to have an opportunity to see him take advantage of his height, and hopefully catch a glimpse of the milky skin of his forearms. 

 

Malfoy indulged them only a little, kind with them without smiling, and stern with them in a way that got the older students remarkably excited, and giggly.

 

Harry didn’t understand that bit until one night in the dungeons, when he’d gone to poke at a shelved glass containing snakes eyes (that were still glancing about), and Malfoy had grabbed his wrist, quick as a viper, seemingly out of nowhere, and stopping Harry’s breath.

 

Don’t touch,” Malfoy admonished lowly, slowly releasing his vice grip on Harry’s wrist, seemingly unaware of how immediately Harry’s body had responded to his authority, “If they get a good look at you, you’ll start seeing them everywhere, and I’m still unsure of how to break that curse. Anyway, it’s rude to touch other people’s things without permission.”

 

“Sorry,” Harry had rasped.

 

“As you should be,” Malfoy answered haughtily, with a cocked brow, and then he’d turned away, and Harry could barely tear his eyes away from how flattering those high-waisted, black pants were, stretched over his thighs, and hugging his calves.

 

His brain argued with itself that there was no way he liked being ordered around, least of all by Malfoy, but his body had something else to say on the matter.

 

He elected to ignore the revelation - it’s not like he was about to do anything with the information. He wasn’t dating, and he wouldn’t know how to politely articulate to someone, ‘please be a little rough with me, make me feel like you’d be a challenge in a fight, or a duel, because, for some Godforsaken reason, my cock is highly interested in that concept.’

 

Harry did notice that some of the older students seemed thrilled to get in trouble with Malfoy - he had no idea how to explain to Malfoy that the teenagers might be bucking his authority because they got off on it. He also did not particularly feel like shining such a bright light onto himself for making such an observation, so it would go unsaid.

 

When Summer came, Harry and Malfoy were two of fifteen faculty members staying - so it wasn’t highly unusual, at least, but Neville had gone to stay at home with Luna for the Summer, and Hermione and Ron were vacationing in Greece with plans to see Charlie, and Bill sometime soon too. Plenty of their friends were off getting married, planning families, exploring the world, but Malfoy and Harry had claimed Hogwarts as their home, and wouldn’t be moved.

 

With no students to confuse the situation around, Harry often followed Malfoy into the Slytherin common room, which Malfoy still preferred over his private rooms - he said to Harry once that he liked to imagine himself as a kid again, just with the knowledge he has now, and how he would sit there, in a plush green loveseat, and imagine all that could have been.

 

In the elegant, green and silver common room, they’d share drinks, and though Malfoy very apparently enjoyed sitting in silence, he also enjoyed gossip, and philosophical debate. He was an interesting conversationalist, when his mood called for it.

 

And when his mood waned, when he was more inclined to sit in companionable silence, he would play Wizard’s Chess with Harry, gaze into the fireplace, or sign to the merpeople that would come by for silent conversation.

 

One summer night, playing chess by the fire, Harry looked up from the board to see Malfoy gazing into the flames, memories flitting over his face with each lick of heat, and he remembered how tightly Malfoy had held onto him, flying out of the Room of Requirement, and without any forethought, Harry had uttered, “Draco.”

 

Turning to him in surprise, Malfoy asked, “sorry?”

 

“Draco,” Harry repeated; his hand was shaking over a rook. He didn’t know why.

 

“... yes?”

 

“You’re okay with that, then?”

 

Staring at him for a beat, facing relaxing into its default of ‘detached, but observant,’ Malfoy tilted his head, and asked, “why now?”

 

“Just wanted to know what it felt like,” Harry answered, something that felt a lot like a lion grumbling in his chest, excited in some kind of way.

 

“Go ahead, then.”

 

Withdrawing his hand from over the board, Harry twined his fingers on his lap, ignored his mounting nerves, and said, simply, “Draco.”

 

“Mm. Once more.”

 

“Draco.”

 

“Sounds right enough,” Draco commented, a smile in his eyes, “Would you like me to do the same?”

 

Feeling his face heat up, Harry became unsure, rattled, his head putting up a big ‘Stop,’ sign -

 

“It’s okay if you’d rather I not -”

 

“Ignore my brain, Draco - it’s - it’s barely done me good all my life.”

 

“I’m amazed you admit to that.”

 

“Say it - I - yeah, I think I want you to. You can say it.”

 

Standing up, Draco gestured at Harry to do the same, and, though unsteadily, he did.

 

Draco walked up to him, watched him closely, and then extended his hand to shake.

 

“Harry.”

 

Chest constricting, Harry wondered why it sounded so different - it was just his name. It was his name, and everyone called him that, everyone he’d ever known had taken to calling him ‘Harry,’ and there was no real reason that Draco Malfoy saying it should have made it sound like a well-kept secret between the two of them only, but that’s what it felt like.

 

It made him nervous in a very pleasant way.

 

Swallowing a hot lump in his throat, Harry’s nerves wouldn’t allow him to smile, but he did manage to take Draco’s hand, and give it a polite, firm shake.

 

“Draco.”

 

The moment was charged, but they both let it simmer down. 

 

Harry wasn’t sure, at first, what it was he was feeling that moment, but the feeling came back frequently enough for him to analyze it.

 

When the school year began again, it was back to work, and he and Draco found a good rhythm, spending long nights talking, grading, and school trips were spent walking beside each other as much as they could, while keeping an eye on their charges. Neville joined them less, and less, and Harry was deeply pleased to find that Draco didn’t mind as much, when Neville would decline to stay with them.

 

During Defense Against the Dark Arts, that October, he called on Draco as a surprise guest, with permissions, of course, to allow some of his more advanced students to begin learning about Legilimency and begin practicing Occlumency.

 

At first anxious, Harry’s fears were put to rest when he saw that Draco was much kinder than Snape had been; when demonstrating the power of a well-trained Legilimens, he did not reveal any deeply personal secrets, or closely cherished memories. He didn’t mock them, and didn’t berate them - with one particular student, a young girl named Lynn Murch, Draco went so far as to hold her hand for comfort.

 

“It’s alright. These skills are not learned overnight, and I happen to be genetically predisposed to Legilimency.”

 

“But this - this is terrifying!” Lynn cried, “Anyone could just - just waltz into my mind, whenever they please!”

 

With a slanted mouth, Draco responded coolly, “the world is a scary place. It always has been, and it always will be, but that’s why we’re here. We’ll teach you how to protect yourself. I won’t lie to you and say that there is no one out there that would not take advantage of an open mind, ready to read - there are criminals, and personal violators everywhere. What I can promise is that we won’t rest until we know that you can face those dolts any old day, and teach them a hard lesson about invading your privacy. Okay?”

 

Lynn nodded, but Draco tightened his hold on her hand, and said, “you’ve nothing to fear at Hogwarts. Truly. You’ve the Wizarding World’s Savior as a professor, and one of the bravest men to grace the halls of Gryffindor Tower is your Herbology professor - not to mention your Headmistress is one of the most powerful, brightest witches in all the world.”

 

“You know, Professor Malfoy survived living in the same house as Death Eaters, and Voldemort himself.”

 

The students and Draco all turned quickly to stare at Harry, but Harry only met Draco’s eyes.

 

“Professor Malfoy is proficient in Legilimency, and wandless magic because he had to be, to survive such dark times. He may be your Potions Master, but his charms and spells could rival anyone’s, and he’s fearsome in a duel. I may have saved Hogwarts, during that last battle, but you should know that we would not have won that war had Professor Malfoy here, at seventeen years old, not sacrificed his wand, and relinquished it to me when I’d broken my own. He saved me.”

 

The students turned to gaze wondrously at Draco, and Draco let go of Lynn’s hand, looking away from Harry as well.

 

“You survived encounters with Voldemort?”

 

“You were so young though, Professor!”

 

“Didn’t they try to take your thoughts?” Lynn asked.

 

Draco nodded, and answered her, “my mother taught me Occlumency. I had an early start.”

 

“He used it against some of the most powerful dark witches and wizards to ever walk the continent, you know,” Harry told them, “To protect me, and my friends, he lied to the most dangerous people in the world at the time - he lied right to their faces, and he helped me escape with his wand.”

 

There were some ‘ooh’s,’ and ‘aahs,’ of wonder, and intrigue, and it appeared to Harry right then that Draco seemed under prepared for such an onslaught of positive attention.

 

“Well, I still rarely beat you at Quidditch.”

 

The students laughed, and Harry smiled at the back of Draco’s neck, becoming distracted with the fair, blonde hairs coming to a point at the base of his skull. 

 

“That was very brave of you, Professor,” another student told Draco.

 

“He’s braver than most anyone knows,” Harry tells them, “Truth be told, I wouldn’t have traded places with him. And it’s because of people like Professor Malfoy, and Professor Longbottom, Headmistress McGonagall, and so many of your teachers, and the staff here that you don’t have to worry right now, about war, or fearful things like that. We all fought so that you wouldn’t have to. So, don’t worry about anyone trying to break into your heads. You have time to master Occlumency, and everyone here will help you every step of the way.”

 

The students’ focuses moved from being scared of Legilimens to spreading increasingly absurd rumors about Professor Malfoy’s untapped wells of unimaginable power, and the rumors grew and flew quickly through the halls. Harry thought it was rather funny, really, to finally have shifted the focus of the rumor mill onto someone else.

 

That night, Harry brought sixty some-odd papers with him to grade, down to the dungeons, only to find that Draco was sitting on his desk, looking distracted, and disheveled, several boxes scattered at his feet.

 

“Draco? What’s going on?”

 

“Was sorting. Meant to be, anyway. Had… things to unpack. Some deliveries.”

 

“Oh,” Harry smiled, “Did the order of Lovage come in?”

 

“What were you doing today?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Endearing me to your students -”

 

“They’re your students too,” Harry inserted.

 

“Yes, but now they…”

 

“What? Admire you?” Harry laughed, “And you’ve a problem with it?”

 

“That’s not how people think of me,” Draco said, looking troubled, “That’s not how anyone thinks of me. I didn’t save anyone.”

 

That was patently false.

 

Harry’s smile dissolved.

 

“You did, though,” Harry insisted, putting his papers down on a table, and coming to stand before Draco, “And more than all that is that all you ever wanted was to protect your family. I know. The older I get, you know, the more I think we were just opposite sides of the same coin. Only, I think I had more freedoms than you. I used to think you had it so easy, I couldn’t understand why you did what you did, said what you said - but we were kids, Draco. I did a lot of the things I did, said what I said, all because Dumbledore said it, or my parents would’ve liked me to say it, or do it, but… it wasn’t until I was older that I started thinking about what wrong and right meant to me. How to be the person I wanted to be, without all those hands molding me into what they hoped I’d be. And you were in the same boat, just on the other side of the ocean.”

 

“You really think so well of me?”

 

“I meant what I said to our students, if that’s what you’re asking.”

 

“What do you think of me now, though?”

 

“That’d certainly be simple enough to find out for yourself.”

 

“I’d not invade your privacy like that, Harry.”

 

Heart bumping strangely, Harry replied, “see? You’re a good man, Draco. And I’ve got a suspicion you may have always been good. Mislead sometimes, but - good, at the bottom of it. I think well of you, Draco. I’d have others think well of you too.”

 

A hand curled into the front of his robes, pulling him forward, and Harry’s breath caught as he came nose-to-nose with Draco, breathing the same, electrified air.

 

Silver eyes flashed up at him, and he could feel the movement of Draco’s lips forming words when he said, “I don’t care what others think of me.”

 

I only care what you think.

 

“Oh, wow,” Harry muttered helplessly, shutting his eyes against the very immediate, insane arousal that rushed down his spine at the sound of Draco’s voice in his head.

 

“Tell me you want me.”

 

Harry’s heart chose that moment to lodge itself in his throat, and he struggled to find his inner footing, he felt as if he could barely breathe.

 

It was as if all these years, over a decade, of the name Draco Malfoy rolling around in his head, over a decade of clawing at each other, shouting, cursing, hexing, jinxing, desperate to make it hurt, to make it make sense, and Draco was just ready to bare it all, brought down the weight of all those years of being hot and bothered and not knowing why - all with a single sentence.

 

“What if I don’t?” Harry tested.

 

Draco gritted his teeth, and hissed, “then stop torturing me.”

 

“Torturing you? I -”

 

Draco tilted his face the other way, his lips almost - almost - coming to brush against Harry’s as he moved his body closer to Harry’s in that serpentine way he had of moving.

 

I’ve wanted you, Harry. Since I knew the true meaning of desire - before then, even. I wanted you before I knew what it was to want. I couldn’t have you, though, so I hated you instead. It was all I could control.

 

Tugging again on Harry’s robes, Draco forced Harry to fall more toward him, stumbling into the open ‘v,’ of his long legs. 

 

Harry only managed to stop himself from toppling Draco over on the desk with a hand on either side of Draco’s thighs.

 

“Do you hate me still, then?”

 

“I hate what you do to me,” Draco answered, “I want, and it aches, and I hate that you have that kind of power over me, but if you soothe me, Harry, I think you’ll find I can be very sweet.”

 

“We shouldn’t,” Harry argued weakly, realizing he’s stared down his nose long enough to probably be cross-eyed, trying to catch a glimpse of Draco’s mouth.

 

He doesn’t need to see it, though - he can feel the shape it makes.

 

“When has the badness of an idea ever stopped you from acting on it?”

 

“I was a child then.”

 

“Then show me the man you’ve become, Harry,” Draco whispered, his free hand coming to burn a print on his abdomen, sensitive, neglected flesh between his stomach, and the start of his thigh.

 

He leaned in to kiss Draco, but Draco pulled away, and quickly ordered, “tell me first.”

 

“I want you,” Harry responded, his head going fuzzy with the need to pull in closer and taste Draco’s lips, an unstoppable gravitational force pulling him in tighter, and harder, and all of his human focus was dedicated to not kissing Draco before getting permission, he could hardly stand it a moment longer.

 

“Again.”

 

Getting hard, Harry felt the blood leaving his brain, he was lightheaded, and everything seemed syrupy, slow, and painfully arousing.

 

“I want you.”

 

Draco breathed in deeply, as if scenting him, shutting his eyes, his mouth parted just so, and Harry’s mouth was watering just feeling Draco’s warm breath dance over the corner of his mouth.

 

Again,” Draco breathed out.

 

An aching throb reverberated through Harry’s body, making his eyes flutter shut against the onslaught, just for a moment, and then he thought to get more creative.

 

“I want you. Draco. Please.”

 

“Stars, that’s bloody beautiful,” Draco admired, and then he pulled Harry in the rest of the way, closing his mouth over Harry’s.

 

At that first contact, Harry intaked sharply, deeply, and all higher brain functions ceased - he wasn’t listening to his brain anymore, he could only listen to his body, and his body was screaming to get closer, to feel Draco’s skin, and hair, and memorize it all.

 

Draco’s tongue was a talented muscle, licking into him, making everything in him feel weak, and his limbs bloodless.

 

Draco bit at his lower lip hard enough to make him gasp, and he loved it, so he moved his palms to Draco’s thighs, pushing them further apart, insinuating himself further into Draco’s space, grinding there, and he was rewarded with a low, throaty moan.

 

“Gorgeous,” Harry murmured in the spaces between kisses, moving down Draco’s jaw, onto his neck, “Bloody gorgeous, Draco.”

 

Harry,” Draco moaned, and Harry bit into his neck, eliciting a mesmerizing cross of a shout, and a growl.

 

“Like that - yeah - I like that - like the way you say my name,” Harry huffed against him wantonly.

 

“What do you want?” Draco asked him breathlessly.

 

Harry licked a long, hot stripe up the column of Draco’s already-bruising neck, bit his ear to a particularly positive response, and hungrily answered, “everything.”

 

“Now who’s the Slytherin?”

 

So, books, films, television shows, every other bloody song on the radio, and every person and their dog that Harry’s ever encountered his entire life referred to love as a ‘fall,’ and how one can’t make a pro’s and con’s list for that type of thing, can’t necessarily collect evidence to figure out when and where, why and how, but that he’d ‘just know.’ Those were the Golden Rules of Romantic Love.

 

And Harry had never felt that before.

 

But then, right then, looking mighty proud of himself, and of Harry, for some reason - Draco smiled at him. 

 

Draco Malfoy smiled at him, and it was candid, it was so lovely, his canines were so dangerously sharp, he was so clever, so interesting, so handsome, his face glowed, he looked how Harry would imagine a fallen Angel - Devilish, but with a smile that could still sanctify tainted waters, and Harry felt himself wobble on the edge of sanity, just for a moment.

 

Not a fall. Just a wobble. A simple wobble.

 

It was prolonged, though - that shaking, unbalanced feeling, that wild, animal part of him coming alive, doing anything to get Draco’s clothes off faster, using his tongue and teeth to map out every inch of exposed flesh, and Draco tasted sweet to him, like he sweats out the copious sugar cubes he puts in his teas, and it felt unsteady.

 

It was good - it was very good - and Draco was vocal, he was responsive, he was a livewire under Harry’s hands. He pushed at Harry’s front, pulled open Harry’s robes, ran his fingers through the dark hair that dusted his chest, and rubbed Harry’s nipples with the blunt head of his thumbs, turning Harry’s spine to liquid, and forcing noises out of him he’d not known he’d make.

 

He bit at Harry’s neck, and collarbone, ordered him around the room, to get on the desk, to spread his legs, and Harry didn’t even manage to get fully undressed before Draco was swallowing him down, moaning around his cock like he’s been gagging for it for years, and maybe he has - maybe that’s what all of it had always been about, maybe there’s some whirlwind of sexual chemistry between them that couldn’t be avoided any longer, and when he was quite sure he was about to come harder than he ever had in his life, Draco lifted his head, wiped at his chin with the back of his wrist, and said, “turn around.”

 

Harry could only stare dazedly back at him for a moment, trying to understand what was going to happen next.

 

Draco’s eyes were very dilated - he looked feral. 

 

Harry liked that.

 

Tell me to stop.

 

“I don’t want you to,” Harry grunted back, and he did as he was told; he turned around, elbows and chest on Draco’s desk, pants at his ankles, shoes still on, and then there was a well oiled finger trailing down his back, zig-zagging playfully, teasingly. 

 

Draco,” Harry plead.

 

“Oh, I like when you beg for me, Harry.”

 

That long, slick digit moved into Harry, and then he felt more movement behind him, and the hot brand of Draco’s tongue moved around it, wetting the skin, and making Harry jump in shock.

 

It was an entirely unprecedented sexual situation - Harry had no idea what any of it would feel like, he’d never done anything with a man before, and he’d certainly not had anyone eat him out before, but he found quickly that he liked it, and quite a lot more than he imagined he might. 

 

Once two fingers were comfortably moving in and out of him without trouble, his cock throbbing against the front of Draco’s desk, Draco pulled out and away altogether, and Harry turned his head over his shoulder, slurring, “what? Where are you going? Why’d you stop?”

 

“Relax, Wonder Boy,” Draco told him sweetly, lips shining, “Just want to see you when I fuck you. Go on - get up on the desk.”

 

Harry listened, getting on his back, on the desk - Draco removed his shoes for him, then shucked off his pants, which left Harry naked, and Draco in his dark green suit pants, dress socks, and shined shoes. That was all well and good, though, because Draco didn’t need to be naked to look entirely debauched. 

 

His hair was a mess, his face was rosy, blotched with blush, his neck and collarbone covered in bruises, his lips so dark and swollen it was obscene; he used his left hand to coat his cock in whatever oil it was he used to finger Harry with, and then stood at the ready, the head of his cock right between Harry’s spread cheeks.

 

“Tell me.”

 

“God, Draco, can’t we stop with the -”

 

“I need to know you want this,” Draco asserted, looking very serious then, “I don’t want to hurt you - in any way, Harry. I’ll stop the second you tell me to, but I won’t start until you tell me you want it. I need to know it - I need to hear you say it.”

 

That was awfully decent of Draco - to keep checking in with him. It was new to him after all, maybe it was new to Draco?

 

He couldn’t be sure, and frankly, he didn’t really want to know. He could often get hot-headed and jealous, and he really couldn’t stand the thought of someone else’s paws on Draco, when Draco had so clearly been meant for him their entire lives. 

 

Possessive, and overcome, Harry nodded, and told Draco, “I want you to fuck me. I want you, Draco.”

 

Moving an inch into Harry, Draco ignored his loud gasp, and asked, “you’re sure?”

 

“Yes,” Harry breathed out sharply.

 

Another inch in, Harry groaned, frustrated, wanting more, but also feeling as if he was going to burst at the seams with everything he was feeling, physically and emotionally.

 

“You’re happy like this, Harry? Happy with me?”

 

“Fuck, God, yes - Draco, yes, yes, please move,” Harry begged, glasses askew, legs spreading wider in apparent invitation.

 

“I take it you don’t want it slow, then,” Draco observed with a smirk, moving another inch into him.

 

Harry banged his fists on the desk, then grabbed at his own hair, panting, “I - fuck - I don’t know! I just want more -”

 

“More?” Draco asked, pushing another inch in.

 

“God, fuck!” Harry cursed, the heels of his feet slipping on the small of Draco’s back, “I think I want it - want it hard.”

 

“Hard?”

 

“Y-Yes.”

 

“Certain about that?”

 

Please,” is all Harry answered.

 

The rest of Draco’s considerable length was pounded into him in one smooth motion, and Harry’s voice crackled and broke like embers in the fire of his feverish body. 

 

There was less coherent communication from there on; Draco seemed compromised as soon as his cock was enveloped from head to root, his breathing became unsteady, and between the two of them, they may have been close to hyperventilating. 

 

Delivering on his word, though, Draco pushed back Harry’s thighs, cupping the space below his knees, and Harry’s ankles wound up much closer to Draco’s shoulders than his arse - and he pounded in, hard, and on Harry’s command, fast. 

 

The angle was mind-numbing, glorious, and Harry knew he was making noise, knew he was shouting, cursing, even drooling, but he couldn’t really tell if it was important or not, or why noise levels, or dignity had mattered at all, ever. 

 

He was rather sure nothing had ever mattered until he’d been properly fucked by Draco Malfoy - something he pledged right then to himself that he’d never admit out loud. 

 

While fucking into him, Draco reached down with his still-oiled hand, grabbed Harry’s cock from around his thigh, and jerked maybe three or four times, in long, strong pulls, and Harry’s vision whited out, a new, unfamiliar type of orgasm rippling through him from the soles of his feet, to his scalp. His entire body tensed, clenched, he could feel his muscles jumping, contracting, his blood swirling in dizzying whirlpools, and he was left utterly breathless once it passed.

 

Looking up blearily at Draco, Harry touched at the oil and cum-slick hand that had moved from his spent cock to his flank, and throaty, roughly, suggested, “you should come inside me.”

 

He would never have any idea what possessed him to say it, but it almost immediately pushed Malfoy over the edge, and he came with a stutter of his hips, and a scratchy shout. 

 

For just that moment, Harry, lost in a deep sea of post-coital endorphins, watched Draco, and wondered at how beautiful a man he was; he looked stunning, struck by pleasure, flushed, mussed, mouth slack, eyes shut, brows pulled in tight, strained, euphoric - absolutely stunning. 

 

Harry’s body was still on fire - he’d not been this excitable since he was maybe fifteen years old, having only recently realized, back then, that his cock was aching to be put to work, and waking him up in the night, throbbing, and wanting. 

 

He felt the same right then. He felt as if he could ride Draco long into the night, try to see how many orgasms like that he could wring out of Draco, how the only thing cooling on his body was his own cum, and the chill of the dungeon air on the oil spread over him, down his thighs, and really all over his entire pelvis.

 

It was thrilling.

 

“You alright?” Draco asked.

 

Smiling lazily, Harry nodded, and confirmed, “yeah - yeah, I’m good.”

 

It took a good long while for Draco to soften any, but he politely pulled out regardless, and spelled away the mess on his desk - everything else would be by rag, and hand, and it was slow moving, the both of them spent, and sluggish, and easily distracted by one another’s tongues, but once it was done, and all was as it ought to be, Harry found himself in the long shirt he wore under his robes, and nothing else, lying on the floor with Draco Malfoy, still in his pants, and nice shoes.

 

The glow lasted long, longer than Harry remembered it ever lasting, with anyone, ever, and then he thought of Ginny.

 

It was an unwelcome, intrusive thought, but he imagined how displeased she’d be to know what he’d done - how disgusted she might be that he laid with Draco Malfoy, that he enjoyed it, that he wanted more of it, that he quite liked Draco Malfoy, that he could see himself dating Draco Malfoy. 

 

Then came the thoughts of Ron, and he remembered the forest, and the locket, and thought to himself sardonically that the only romantic partner Ron would have hated for Harry to have more than Hermione, would have been Draco Malfoy. If Ron ever caught wind of what they’d done, he’d probably find some reason to believe Draco forced him into it, and make a riot, all the better to hate Draco more for.

 

Hermione may have forgiven him this, but he thought she’d be saddened by it, maybe even feel betrayed, though she wouldn’t say it - she’d blessed a friendship between them - not - whatever he’d just done. 

 

He suddenly had no idea if his friendships would survive this escapade, and he was rushed with fear enough that he shot upright, and sought out his clothes.

 

“Harry? You alright?” Draco asked kindly, seeming concerned.

 

“I - uhm - this - this -” this was a mistake - and oh God, flashes of Ginny, of Ron, Hermione moving across his inner-eye, he didn’t know if Draco heard that or not, he was thinking it loudly, even if it wasn’t a real thought, not one his heart was in, “I - you -”

 

Draco’s demeanor shifted then, turning dark, and sharp, and dangerous.

 

“Choose your next words very carefully, Harry.”

 

Holding the rest of his clothes in a messy pile up against his chest, Harry took a short breath, and then said, “I shouldn’t have done that.”

 

“Shouldn’t have done what?”

 

“Had - had sex with you.”

 

“Wow - regretting it that soon?” Draco sneered, “So deeply sorry it wasn’t up to par for you.”

 

“It’s not - it wasn’t the - the sex, it was -” you, it was that it was you - “I just -”

 

Me?” Draco questioned, standing up to full height, “So, this isn’t a sexual identity crisis, this isn’t one of your weird morality issues, this is - you just regret having sex with me? I’m the mistake here?”

 

At the end of the day, that was fairly accurate, Harry supposed - because if it had been anyone else, if he could have felt that fizzling, shimmering attraction to anyone else, he’d not have had any problems.

 

He decided not to answer, because silence seemed safest.

 

Draco huffed disbelievingly, ran a hand through his hair same as he’d done when he’d be stressed, or overthinking something, and then he said, “fantastic. Bloody good show, Potter. Get the Hell out of my classroom.”

 

“I -”

 

Out.”

 

Harry didn’t push his luck - he left, changed in the shadow of a hall, and left for his private rooms.

 

That could have been the end of it.

 

Should have been the end of it, even.

 

It wasn’t, though.

 

The next day, while Draco had stopped calling him ‘Harry,’ and had reverted back to using his last name only, he otherwise appeared completely normal. 

 

Harry wondered if he’d Obliviated himself, based on how odd the behavioral shift was.

 

When Harry asked if he was alright, Draco had scowled at him, and said, “you’ve got no business asking me shite about myself, Potter. You don’t want last night to have happened, I’m playing along, so mind your bloody business, and keep out of the fucking dungeons.”

 

Keeping away from Draco’s office proved difficult - he’d grown so accustomed to staying with Draco each night, grading, talking, drinking, helping him with potions, he hardly knew what to do with himself at the end of the school day.

 

He wrote to his friends, he graded more slowly, he found himself eating more - he was bored.

 

He wanted to go fly, but it was much too cold, and really, the worst torture came at exactly 6:17pm, every day.

 

Because at 6:17pm every day, Neville was always locking up the greenhouses, and always making his way toward the dungeons, sometimes with crates, sometimes with bags, sometimes with books, sometimes with papers, and sometimes with nothing at all.

 

Halloween evening, Harry had already heard that Professor Longbottom had taught all the third years how to handle Bloodroot, as a special ‘spooky,’ themed plant. 

 

There was almost certainly a surplus, and Harry knew that Draco would want some of the extra Bloodroot grown, for his own personal ventures, and he knew there’d be plenty - enough to warrant a completely polite, innocuous invitation to help carry the crates, or bags down to the dungeons with Neville.

 

And so that’s precisely what he did - he waited near the entrance of the hall that lead to the dungeons, acted as though he’d just been taking a stroll when Neville happened upon him, and, though Neville was a least a little suspicious, he still handed off two heavy bags full of Bloodroot.

 

“I could always levitate them, I suppose,” Neville mentioned, looking a bit shyly at Harry, out of the corner of his eye, “I, uh - I don’t know that you should come down to Draco’s classroom, Harry.”

 

Feeling pricked by a thorn, Harry’s brow creased, and he asked, “what has he told you?”

 

“Uhm - that you insulted him very deeply, and that if he were so inclined to murder you for it someday, that he’d not do away with your body in my gardens, as your compost would only sully my hard work like a ravenous plague.”

 

“Christ.”

 

“What’d you do to him?”

 

Blushing darkly, Harry looked away from Neville and said, “I - I did insult him. He was being kind to me, good to me, and I… well, I fucked it up. He’s not the boy I remember, you know? He’s so different, and I get… I get stuck in this way of thinking like I’m fourteen again, and he’s my sworn enemy, you know? Like, being close to him is a betrayal to Hermione, to Ron, to Ginny - to everyone he’s ever hurt, and I can’t get… I can’t move on. I just - I panic.”

 

“That’s a shame,” Neville told him honestly, “You’d seemed to be getting on so well. He, Luna and I have become very good friends, you know. He never really says the words ‘I’m sorry,’ but he apologizes in more meaningful ways for the way he treated us in school. Gave a huge donation to The Quibbler two years ago - I mean, they’ll be staying in print for at least five years on his coin alone. It was a very kind gesture. He took us with him for a trip to Niece, France, and made us feel like royals - and I’d never seen anyone indulge Luna’s oddities like he does. And he insisted on house-hunting with us, which I thought was odd, but once I lamented how little land I could actually afford, he split the cost with me. I wouldn’t let him buy it for me - I couldn’t - but I saw what he was doing, how badly he wanted to be the reason we were happy, and I don’t think he knows how to make people happy with just himself - he thinks he’s gotta buy people. He was a bit desperate, you know, after school. He was in a great big rush to undo all his mistakes.”

 

“He helped me to afford the gardening tools I’d need for the amount of land I bought, he got me in contact with merchants from all across the world for all sorts of exotic plants, and you know, one day, after having my fill of Draco Malfoy all but groveling at my feet - me, Neville Longbottom - I told him, ‘you know I forgive you, right?’ And he’d said ‘never crossed my mind! What should I be sorry for?’ - Ha! - ridiculous man, he is. He’s become a part of our family in a big way. I do love Draco quite a lot.”

 

“You what?” Harry’s voice came out an octave higher than normal.

 

Laughing, Neville admitted jovially, “I love that bloke. I think he’s grand, really. He’s helping plan my proposal to Luna, he’s already asked to help me with the wedding, he helps me with my workload when I’m overwhelmed, and he couldn’t give a rat’s arse about growing herbs, I can tell you that much, but if I’m in the mood for talking about it, he actually listens. I know he doesn’t care about the acidity levels of Hogwarts soil, but if I’m going off about it for an hour, he’s listening to me, really listening. He’s a good friend, Harry. You should apologize for whatever it is you did.”

 

Not that it wasn’t a grand idea, but Harry had no idea where to begin.

 

Once they got to the doors, Neville knocked, and they both heard a rustle, and then Draco’s voice traveling, “oh, who could be at my door on this holy Samhain night? Could it possibly be the most handsome, generous gardner of the UK? I’ve heard tell of Bloodroot, Neville, and you’re already such a tease, please tell me it’s true -”

 

His giddy demeanor fell entirely when he spotted Harry, and Neville smiled nervously at him.

 

“I - uh, I did bring you Bloodroot. Plenty of it, too. The second years were a little overzealous with learning their growing charms.”

 

“Wonderful,” Draco stated calmly, moving his eyes back to Neville, “Bring them inside, and I’ll sort them into drawers and jars.”

 

Sparing a single backward glance, Neville brought in his bags, and let Harry follow in his footsteps. 

 

“I’ve got something else for you.”

 

Draco smirked at Neville, and said lowly, in something Harry recognized then as a ‘come-hither,’ voice, “oh, you do spoil me.”

 

Harry felt that possessive burning burst to life in his stomach, and he - just a little bit - hated Neville.

 

Blushing, Neville reached into his sachel, and retrieved a black box.

 

“The charms you put on our home garden, Draco - I - truly, I’ve never had a garden grow like that before. And, well… I started looking for this, for you - a while back, I mean - and I don’t even know if it’s genuine, you know, so I -”

 

“Oh, hand it here, you lovely man,” Draco drolled, waggling his fingers, showing his open palm.

 

With some nervous energy still buzzing around him, Neville put the box in Draco’s hand, and when Draco opened it, his face went slack.

 

“... Neville.”

 

“Y-Yes?”

 

“Is this - is this what I think it is?”

 

“I, well - that fully depends on what you think it is.”

 

“Is this a Witch’s Ganglion?”

 

“If the merchant is to be believed, yes.”

 

Had his life depended on it, Harry couldn’t tell anyone what a Witch’s Ganglion was, but apparently, based on Draco’s reaction to it, it was the answer to all of life’s troubles.

 

The candles around the room began flickering in what Harry remembered as a sign of a sudden surge of magical energy - usually brought on by strong emotions.

 

Putting the box down on the table, Draco got a running start, then flung himself into Neville’s arms, wrapping him in a hug so tight, it could rival even Molly Weasley’s grip, and all the papers in his room transfigured themselves into origami birds, flying around in an excited tizzy.

 

Neville! Neville, I’ve done nothing to deserve you! By the fucking bollocks of Merlin, how in the fuck did you find this!? Neville!” Draco exclaimed again, sounding as if he wanted to be angry, but his happiness was canceling out every other emotion his body could produce, “Neville, I really can’t tolerate you marrying someone else now! I will hire a pianist for your wedding just to drape myself dramatically over it and weep! How did you - when did you -”

 

Neville’s arms came around Draco’s waist, and he smiled into Draco’s shoulder, simply answering, “I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for anything rare coming through Knockturn Alley, or even Hogsmeade. One of the contacts you gave me - Eston? I think his name is - the one that’s friends with Blaise’s cousin.”

 

“Eston, yes.”

 

“Well, he’d followed a thread to that plant, and he couldn’t be sure he’d found the real one, I mean, no one knows how they’re grown anymore, but he thought it was genuine, and told Blaise’s cousin about it, that cousin contacted Blaise, and Blaise contacted Luna about it, thinking she’d write you, see if you were interested, but then she told me, and I thought it better to be a surprise, and - well, I got my hands on it, is what I mean.”

 

When Draco pulled away from Neville, his eyes were glassy, and his smile was so broad, it changed his entire face.

 

“Can I kiss you? Just once?”

 

“Draco -”

 

“Please, please - I just - for a moment, let me pretend you’re my loving fiance, who has traversed the world, searched high and low to find me this gem, just for the goodness of pleasing me.”

 

Neville’s eyes softened, anyone else may have said his expression was pitying, but he smiled, sighed, and then agreed, “yeah, okay.”

 

Draco’s hands came to cup Neville’s face, he shut his eyes, as if preparing the daydream in his own mind, and after a moment of building his pretend world, being of similar height, Draco merely pulled Neville forward a little, kissing his lips chastly, and gently.

 

The kiss was so innocent, Harry’s jealousy reared its head, but he couldn’t find it in him to snap, or yell, or even excuse himself - in fact, he was rather stunned by this side of Draco, hitherto unknown.

 

Draco pulled their foreheads together, petting a hand down Neville’s face as his paper birds fluttered about.

 

“This is the most incredible gift I’ve ever, ever received, and thanking you will never be enough.”

 

“Draco, I hardly did a thing -”

 

“Nonsense, you are terrific in every way, and I’ll not hear a word more on it.”

 

Chuckling, Neville replied loyally, “yes, dear.”

 

Draco’s eyes slid open, and he gazed long into Neville’s.

 

“If you were not such a happy man, Neville Longbottom, and were your future fiancee not one of the best friends I’ve ever made, I would steal you for myself.”

 

“It’s a plant, Draco.”

 

“It’s a mythical plant, it’s a plant rarely seen by the eyes of man, particularly this far West, and it is mine, and it is mine because you care about me for some reason, and I’ll never fully understand it, but I have to tell you, this year’s holidays are going to be very hard competition.”

 

Neville looked so pleased, Harry was at a loss at the scene of tenderness - he hated seeing something so out of his own reach.

 

“Want help putting these away?” Neville redirected, gesturing towards the bags of Bloodroot.

 

“I do, but can I stare lovingly at my Witch’s Ganglion for a moment more, before I go about all the boring housekeeping?”

 

“Of course,” Neville laughed, releasing Draco’s waist, and allowing Draco to all but dance to his little black box, and stare into it with glittering eyes.

 

“Can I ask what a Witch’s Ganglion is?” Harry inquired cautiously.

 

With a put-upon sigh, Draco responded, “it is a very, very rare plant, Potter. No one knows the full extent of its qualities - writings on it have been lost, or are so few that no one can gather much about it at all, other than that it is found in ponds, in the very far East, and it is key component to the Potion of All Potential. A potion that, if properly made, and taken, unleashes a person’s highest potential - all they are capable of. Not unlike Felix Felicis, but much more powerful, much more rare, much more difficult to make, and all but impossible to find ingredients for.”

 

“Sounds handy in a fight,” Harry mentioned.

 

“And so much more,” Draco added reverently, staring down at the red bulb of the Witch’s Ganglion, “Imagine taking it before going into childbirth, or healing a potentially dangerous wound, or before the most important interview of your life - imagine taking it while casting protective charms over a safe house in war torn lands, imagine taking it before sneaking around a sleeping dragon for a better footpath, or before pursuing your own, new potion, or trying to create a new spell, or charm - it is unlimited potential. And it’s made up of only very rare ingredients, this being one of them. There is no way to test its authenticity other than to concoct something with it, but I’d rather wait to have all the ingredients for the Potion of All Potential than waste this beauty on a trial run of something less spectacular.”

 

“Do you have any of the other ingredients?”

 

Looking up from the box, Draco found Harry’s eyes, and answered, “Severus left me one.”

 

“Snape?!” Neville blurted, “He had one of the ingredients?!”

 

Draco nodded, and told Neville severely, “he left me Thaumatagoria.”

 

There was a pregnant pause, and then Neville said, “he couldn’t have. It’s not -”

 

“Not real,” Draco finished, “I thought so myself, until I saw it. I keep it safe, in my rooms with me. It’s under seventeen protective charms, some of which are lethal.”

 

“What’s the Tharuma -”

 

“Thaumatagoria,” Draco corrected.

 

“That.”

 

“It’s the stuff of legends,” Neville told Harry, “Harry, its properties are associated with the magic performed by Biblical Saints, and Angels. It’s - I never thought I’d - I just never thought it’d be real. Can I see it sometime?”

 

“Of course you can,” Draco answered Neville, smiling beautifully at him, “From now until the end of time, Neville, all that is mine is yours.”

 

Grinning again, Neville wagged his finger at Draco and insisted, “I’m still marrying Luna, Draco.”

 

Ugh!” Draco bemoaned, throwing his arms in the air, “This is entirely unfair!”

 

Giggling at Draco’s melodrama, Neville set to work on sorting the Bloodroot by size, out on the tables, and Harry approached Draco as he set the Witch’s Ganglion in a jar full of what appeared to be honey.

 

“What other ingredients do you need?”

 

“What do you care?”

 

“Would you ever forgive yourself if you let a chance for networking slip you by?”

 

Glaring at Harry, Draco pursed his lips, threw daggers at him with his eyes for a long few moments, then said, “fine. I still need two important ingredients; Niffler’s Fancy, and Pritcher’s Porritch. If you find a lead, let me know.”

 

“I will,” Harry promised, “Would it be too much to ask to get a drink, after this?”

 

It would have appeared that Harry may as well have taken a Troll’s club, and beaten Draco over the head with it.

 

“Neville, darling,” Draco inquired, still staring at Harry, “I’m going to put up a silencing charm for just a moment. I need to have words with Potter. Very unkind words.”

 

“Yes, alright, just don’t do anything too rash,” Neville replied easily - when Harry looked at him with an expression of the utmost betrayal, Neville shrugged, and mouthed ‘you think I can stop him?’

 

Draco moved his hands fluidly around them, and to close the bubble of silence around them, he, just for a moment, had to stretch his arms over Harry’s shoulders, and Harry had to curl his nails into his palms enough to hurt just to keep from putting them on Draco’s hips, and pulling them flush together.

 

They were close, and Harry decided he had really missed the smell of Draco’s aftershave and cologne - he was glad to be in Draco’s company again, even if he was furious.

 

That wobbly sensation came back then.

 

“We are not friends, Potter. Do you understand?”

 

“We were, though - we can be again -”

 

“No, no, no!” Draco shouted, “Absolutely not! I spent so long - so long, stupidly pining for you like a schoolgirl under the effect of a love potion, I was infatuated, obsessed, years of my life wasted on wanting you, and then for a single moment you taunted me with what it could be like - if I were good enough for you, Saint Potter.”

 

“That’s not what -”

 

“Shut up!” Draco yelled, looking deeply unhappy, “You said it was me, that I was the mistake, I was the problem with the entire equation - and you meant it. You were projecting your thoughts all over the room. Too embarrassed to invite me to a Weasley family reunion, are you? Too humiliated to let me sit at the same table as Hermione Granger? Wouldn’t want scum like me getting stuck under the shoe of someone like Ginny Weasley, now would you? You don’t give a shite if I’ve grown, or changed - almost none of you do. You pretend like you care, because that’s the ‘good,’ thing, and the ‘right,’ thing to care about, but you don’t. Not really. Truth is, Potter, I grew up. I grew into my own man, took responsibility for my past, and rather than forcing myself on the victims of my past, I let them live without word from me, it was the greatest gift I had left to give - do you understand?”

 

“Could you ever understand, truly, what it’s like to be so hated that the only gift you have left to give that would please absolutely anyone is disappearing from view? Because I do. I didn’t write an apology to Hermione, or to the Weasley family, I never reached out to the students I pranked, or tortured - you know Crabbe’s mother blames me? You know that? She blames me. And she’s right to. And so I leave them all alone. And I was glad to leave you alone too, but you followed me around, Potter - you came to my classroom, you came here every night, you flaunted your hard-won happiness, the comfortable fate of a hero, and I swallowed my pride, and I did everything but apologize, because it wouldn’t fucking mean anything, those words don’t mean anything, Potter - they don’t mean shite to Crabbe’s family, they don’t mean shite to the Weasley’s, those words don’t fucking matter, so I didn’t say them to you, because I didn’t believe wasting your time was an exercise of the kindnesses I’ve learned since graduating.”

 

“But you - you spoiled, attention-hogging arsehole, you wasted my time. You wasted it! You lead me into a false sense of security, and I asked you so many times what you wanted, how you wanted it, what I could do for you, if you were happy, if I had made you happy, to tell me to stop, to tell me you wanted me, or didn’t want me, and you lied through your fucking teeth, and once you’d gotten off, you told me I was a mistake, and fucked off. So, no, Potter. I’m not free for drinks, I’m not interested in what connections you have to the rarest ingredients on the planet, I don’t fucking care, and I want my effort back. Since you can’t give it back to me, perhaps you can do me the kindness of fucking off!”

 

Swallowing roughly, Harry muttered, “I like spending time with you. I don’t know what it - what that means about me, and knowing that the people I love most could be hurt by my having a relationship with you -”

 

“Then don’t have a relationship with me.”

 

Frowning, Harry opened his mouth to try and reason with Draco, but he was stopped again.

 

“Bold of you to assume I even want that from you. Come by every night you like, Potter, and I’ll fuck you senseless, give you whatever release it is you’re looking for, I enjoyed myself - but don’t come seeking anything else. I won’t be kissing you again, we won’t be sharing drinks, we won’t be playing chess. Do we understand each other?”

 

Harry would later be rather ashamed to have agreed to the terms, but he agreed to them all the same.

 

Fucking around with Malfoy at night, in the dungeons - it was not so unlike their schooling days, when they’d punch each other, kick, bite, swear, choke - it was just different touches.

 

The desperation remained the same.

 

They were like asteroids colliding, smashing apart every time they merged, but pulled toward one another over, and over.

 

For months, Harry kept quiet, descended the stairs, bringing his work with him, and working in silence until Draco would deign to acknowledge him; then he’d find himself on his hands and knees, on the floor, or sitting at a students’ table with Draco on his knees, sucking his cock within an inch of his life, and they’d pull each other’s hair, bite at each other’s jaws, suck bruises into each other’s necks, scrape nails down each other’s backs, grip and pull on each other’s hair, leave the other battered, and aching the day after, but there was no tenderness, no slowing down, and Harry didn’t feel the dizzying, sweet pressure of Draco’s kiss again - and Harry thought to himself that, eventually, he’d tire of the animal rutting nonsense, and move on.

 

He didn’t tire of it, though.

 

He wanted more, he wanted something different, and he kept thinking he could secret his way into getting what he wanted, somehow, some way.

 

He kept hoping that Draco would soften for him, that his sharp edges would round out, he kept hoping that Draco would see their chemistry for the beautiful inevitability that Harry saw it as. He hoped, and he kept trying ,he kept showing himself in the best lights, moving in ways that pleased Draco, trying for him, to toe a line impossible to walk along - wanting everything from him, but not having the freedom to step any closer. 

 

All he could do was hope - hope that things would change, somehow. That Draco would see him differently, would look at Harry the same patient, gradual way he’d taste wine and he’d simply fall into Harry’s arms, wanting the Something More that Harry wanted.

 

Though he couldn’t speak up in the dungeons anymore, he’d still be witness to Draco’s genius, watch him move about the dungeons with precision, accuracy, a studious eye, watch him mindlessly do incredible, wandless magic, watch him push his fingers through his hair, watch his face get flushed in the steam rising from his potions - it was enough. It was close enough that it always felt too intimate to just be fucking.

 

And it didn’t feel like fucking, all the time - it didn’t always feel so animal, or careless, but only when Harry was in some kind of control.

 

Sometimes Harry would ride Draco, adore the long, finger-shaped bruises left on his hips the next day, and when he’d force them to take it slow, when he could control the speed, he’d listen to Draco’s breathing, watch his eyes flutter shut, dreamlike, lost in pleasure, watch his heart pound beneath the skin of his chest, touch lightly at the scars Harry left on him so many years ago, shiny, raised slivers of skin.

 

The books, the movies, the songs, everyone and their dog - they were all wrong, as far as Harry was concerned. It wasn’t a sudden plummet, the falling in love bit - it was only like a fall in that he teetered, he wobbled, he dithered about on the edges, around the fringes of his heart’s wishes, tip-toeing at the precipice of his truest, deepest feelings, and really, there was not splat, there was no running aground - there was no contact with the ground at all. 

 

Everything around he and Draco remained nebulous, undefined, and impossible to hold onto, like fog through his fingers.

 

There was the realization, though, and that hit him like a slab of concrete to the face, which might be what all the songs, and poems, and books might be going on about. 

 

There was a building pressure, months of them touching, mixing pleasure and pain, and never knowing which was which, and then there was a snapping, a whip cracking down his spine, followed inevitably by the sudden awareness, the inescapable, binding truth of the matter.

 

They were on a trip in Hogsmeade with the students, mid-February, and Lynn Murch, one of Harry’s favored, advanced Defense Against the Dark Arts students, tugged on Draco’s cloak, asking if she might steal away into a clothing shop, as she was much colder than she expected to be, and supposed she had to spend her Honeydukes coin on a hat, or scarf instead.

 

Without a word more, Draco took off his own scarf, murmured a warming charm into it, and wrapped it around her neck, until it touched her ears.

 

“Better, Miss Murch?”

 

“Much better,” Lynn grinned at him, “Thank you, Professor!”

 

“You’re very welcome - now go join your friends in Honeydukes, or all the Peppermint Frogs will get snatched up.”

 

“Peppermint Frogs?” Lynn asked, sticking out her tongue, “Oh, yuck! You like those?”

 

“How dare you blaspheme Peppermint Frogs - I ought to take my scarf back this very second.”

 

Lynn giggled, holding fast to the scarf, “no, please! Isn’t there any other candy you like at Honeydukes?”

 

“Hmm,” Draco pondered, unaware of Harry’s watchful eye, “I suppose I’ve always been a sucker for Cauldron Cakes.”

 

“Mmm! Yes!” Lynn agreed, “If I get you a package, are you allowed to accept it?”

 

“Technically speaking, yes, but I don’t need gifts, Lynn. Would you like to know what I want most, in the entire world?”

 

“Yes! Please tell me!”

 

He stopped then, to turn and smile down at her, “what I want most in the world is for you to graduate Hogwarts, happy, healthy, strong, prepared, and whether or not you, or any other students ever like me is not really my aim. I don’t expect to be anyone’s favorite professor, or to be loved for what I do - I do care that you don’t hate me, though. That’s what I hope for. That I can help mold you all into successful magical folks, and that, despite my flaws, you might look back on your time in my classroom with fondness.”

 

“I can’t imagine anyone hating you, Professor.”

 

“Then your imagination needs stretching, Miss Murch,” Draco retorted, smirking at her, “Go get candy, enjoy your time here as a student. Believe me, it flies by, and you’ll find yourself wondering why you wasted even a moment of time bothering after your crotchety Potions Master.”

 

She clearly disagreed with his self-assessment, but she saw no winning argument to be had, so quickly hugged him, and then ran off to catch up with her friends who were already waving her into Honeydukes.

 

Draco stood still, watching her go with an affection set in his shoulders, there were some light, snow flurries landing in his hair, his nose and sharp cheekbones were pink from the cold, his smile was private, and tranquil, and Harry thought very quietly, in a secluded corner of his mind; fuck. I’ve fallen in love with him.

 

He couldn’t have known when it happened, the falling sensation never occurred, it was just a long string of stumbles, and then sudden awareness - he felt close to Draco, closer than he had to anyone in many years, he trusted Draco, though Draco didn’t return that sentiment, and how he acted with the children - Harry wanted Draco to spend time with Teddy, he wanted Hermione, and Ginny, and Ron to see all that he saw in Draco. He wanted them to experience the bounty of love that could be found in him, if patience allowed.

 

He wanted to traverse the world for Draco, and return with some gem that would have him swoon, burn down all his levitating candles, and fold every piece of parchment within a fifty mile radius into a happy, fluttering dove.

 

He thought, perhaps, with Draco, he could return to the house Sirius had left him. Maybe, between the two of them, they could make it a home - Draco could have his own study, he’d love that, Harry was sure, and he knows Draco would prefer to cook, but Harry would spend all his gold on a state of the art kitchen for Draco to charm, and enchant, and he’d stoke the fire, and they’d play chess, and sometimes they’d sit in silence, but it would be comfortable, and calm, and they’d fly together, gossip over firewhiskey - he wanted it all, and so very suddenly.

 

I’m such an arsehole, Harry told himself, watching Neville catch up with Draco, I’ve been handling this like a Gryffindor - bloody hoping, aspiring all over the place, but not doing anything. I have to take matters into my hands. I need to act like a Slytherin.

 

For all his worrying, he wound up confessing to Ron and Hermione what he was up to with Draco rather indelicately.

 

PS: I know you’ll have follow-up questions, but I’ve been sleeping with Draco for several months now. I think we were dating before that? Hard to tell with him. Anyway, I’m thinking of asking him to move in with me, so prepare for a severe adjustment period. That, or for me to drag my feet to the Burrow very soon, entirely heartbroken for God knows how long. 

 

Once that was done, he set about contacting every friend he had in the Ministry, asking after agents of international trade, and eventually finding himself in contact with a Rare Magical Items Specialist. 

 

Through that contact, he found a lead on Niffler’s Fancy, which turned out to be fifteen friends of another’s friend who heard another wizard bargaining with a street merchant in a very small village in southern India, and that fifteenth friend of a friend heard that wizard proclaim he recognized the plant as Niffler’s Fancy, had no idea it was gardened anymore, and was quickly silenced.

 

Harry took a week off work to go to the village, hunt down the merchant, only to find who he’d sold it to, find that witch, and ultimately left her with an impressive sum of his parents’ coin. 

 

He returned to Hogwarts with the Niffler’s Fancy, layered it with protective charms, hid it under his bed, and set out for further research on Pritcher’s Porritch. 

 

That one took a month more to find even a slight lead on, but once he found it, he didn’t let it go - that one required three weeks off work, and a chase that saw him apparating, and flying through Chad, Egypt, Turkey, and Kazakhstan, and by mid-May, he’d retrieved what he deeply hoped was a true, genuine sample of Pritcher’s Porritch.

 

It wasn’t much - the Niffler’s Fancy was heartier, more root still attached to it, but it fit the description, anyway; porous, oozing blue slime out of odd bulbs along its stem, and though there wasn’t much of it, it would have to do.

 

Draco’s birthday was soon.

 

Harry emptied half of his vault to the man in possession of it, and when he arrived back at Hogwarts, Hermione and Ron were waiting in his rooms.

 

“Jesus! What are you guys doing here?”

 

“Mate - where the fuck have you been?” Ron asked incredulously, eyeing his filthy clothes, and dirtied face.

 

“Oh, Harry - what in the world is going on here?” Hermione asked, coming close, but stopping when she spotted the plant in his hold.

 

“Don’t worry - it’s not the kind that bites. Gotta get it under some protective charms, though.”

 

Without question, Ron and Hermione both helped him drape charm, after charm over it, and once Harry was satisfied that it would remain in pristine condition, he collapsed on his bed, filth and all.

 

“Oh no - no, no, no - Harry, get up - that is disgusting, come on - I’ll run you a bath.”

 

Ron followed Harry to the bath - the staff bathrooms weren’t so unlike the Prefect bathrooms, and so the bath was more a pool, and the multicolored, multi-scented soaps rose up to a foot over the water level.

 

“So, Harry - about your letter to us -”

 

“I wasn’t having an episode. The plant is for him. Need to make a grand gesture. He’s cold as ice to me right now.”

 

“Right, doesn’t sound like you’re having an episode at all. You just think you maybe were dating Malfoy for some time, but at some point became unsure of that? And then you traveled through the East for some plants, as a grand romantic gesture… for Draco Malfoy, who is currently… ignoring you? No, I mean, that all adds up -”

 

“I’m - no, I’m doing a shite job at explaining it, that’s all,” Harry huffed, “When I first got here, we sort of avoided each other. Or, rather - I avoided him. Then he saved me from some very persistent Ravenclaw students, and we just started hanging out. A lot.”

 

“Right... I mean, it’s fucked, but yeah, go on.”

 

“Ugh,” Harry complained, ignoring Ron to scrub his face with soap, “We - it escalated. Sort of… out of nowhere. Like, just one night.”

 

“Oh, so you weren’t -”

 

“Hold on.”

 

“Fuck.”

 

“Right,” Harry agreed, “I… so, Draco’s a pretty powerful Legilimens. Gets it from his mum - I knew she was a strong enough Occlumens to block out Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest, but it didn’t occur to me until way later in getting to know Draco that he must have been too - to save us all from the Manor, when he wouldn’t identify us. He must have been using Occlumency on everyone in the room, to block them out of his mind, and that had to have been… I don’t even know - borderline impossible. He did it, though. At seventeen. I can’t even imagine - then again, I’m shite at Legilimency and Occlumency, so… anyway, I… I panicked. I thought… I started thinking about you, and Ginny, and Hermione, and that… how disappointed you’d be in me for choosing to be with him, and possibly betraying your trust… it… I got scared.”

 

“So, I ran for it. I made a complete arse out of myself - he was ready to just… be with me. He didn’t mind my shite at all, he didn’t mind - he liked me. Didn’t think I was a boring, old legend past my prime. He said he’d always liked me. He’d always wanted near me, he tried to get close, tried to be my friend when we were young, but he’d fucked it up, and when he realized he couldn’t have me, he just… he hated me instead, because it was easier than facing that kind of rejection. And he’s gone back to that. It’s just - instead of beating the shite out of each other on the Quidditch pitch, we’re fucking on the floor of the Potions room -”

 

“Okay! Yup, that’s - that’s never gonna leave my brain,” Ron interrupted, groaning in dismay, “Can I also say, it’s really fuckin’ weird to hear you call him ‘Draco.’”

 

“Mm,” Harry replied, “He doesn’t like it right now. He liked it before, when we were friends, but once I fucked it all up, he didn’t want me calling him that anymore.”

 

“So - can I… alright, this is a lot, mate, and I’m trying my best here, but can I just ask… why?”

 

“Why what?”

 

“Why does it have to be him? I mean… can’t you just - it’s - I mean, I’m talking to Harry bleeding Potter here, you can have anyone in the world you’d fancy. Why him?”

 

“Cause I don’t fancy him,” Harry explained, “I’m in love with him.”

 

Finally turning to face Ron, Harry watched the twist of horror and surprise on his face give way to some kind of softness.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah,” Harry replied, “I… I want to bring him to Christmas next year, Ron. I want him to really meet my family - your family. I want you all to get a chance to see what kind of man he’s become - what kind of person he was always capable of being. I’m - I genuinely can’t wait for him to hang out with Teddy, Ron, he’s great with kids, he’s a good teacher, he’s… he’s wonderful. So, I have to try and fix this. If what I’ve got hiding under my bed doesn’t do the trick, I can’t imagine there’s anything in the world I could find him that would make him forgive me.”

 

“Right, and… under your bed is…?”

 

Hermione all but lost her marbles at finding out what he had procured, and she might have tried to bribe him into giving her the ingredients instead.

 

Once he’d explained himself to them both, while uneasy, they didn’t seem shameful, or angry like he thought they might.

 

“We want you to be happy, Harry,” Hermione assured him, taking his hand in hers, “That’s all we’ve ever wanted. This is just - it’s new. And Malfoy’s track record isn’t exactly spectacular, so I… I’m nervous, Harry, but I know you’d never allow anyone to hurt your family. Whatever is going on between you two must be really serious, and Ron and I can respect that. It’ll… it’ll take some acclimating. That’s all.”

 

Harry hugged her so tightly, she had to tap out.

 

They drank a bit into the night together, talking about their work, and how they ought to meet up more often, but their schedules have conflicted lately, and Harry tells them both that Draco’s got a massive crush on Neville that’s driving him up a wall.

 

Ron sprayed firewhiskey out of his nose at that, thinking it beyond hilarious that Neville Longbottom now held the heart and dignity of one of his worst bullies in the palm of his hand.

 

“Oh, believe me, if he wasn’t with Luna, I think he’d fall pretty easily,” Harry murmured darkly, feeling possessive, and wanting to plant Draco on his lap right then, and keep him from flirting with Neville ever again.

 

“Seriously? Who is this new Draco Malfoy?” Ron drunkenly wondered, “This sounds like an alien to me.”

 

“He gets all sing-songy around Neville, begs for attention, and keeps trying to talk him into an open marriage.”

 

“Is it for the herbs?” Hermione laughed out, choking on her drink.

 

“That is at least partially true, but I wouldn’t dare look further into Draco’s inclinations - he’d trade his soul for a full-time Herbologist to work for him. That I know. He’s been funding a ton of Quibbler editions, though, and he helped pay for their house - it’s all… Neville thinks of him as family. Luna too.”

 

“The whole world’s gone barmy,” Ron muttered to Hermione, and Harry knew Ron was including him in that; he agreed.

 

As soon as he sobered up, Harry got on to contacting Neville, and letting him know what he’d done - Neville rushed to see the plants, and fully supported his romantic pursuit.

 

“Oh, God, Harry, you’ve no idea how much better I’d rest at night, if I knew he had someone like you. What can I do to help?”

 

Neville and Harry conspired with McGonagall to clear the Slytherin common room out for the evening of June 5th - Harry pressed how much Draco enjoyed being there, and for the gesture he was about to make, he’d appreciate the space.

 

She smirked at him a lot, much more than he thought appropriate, but she cooperated anyway (a bit too happily), and then Neville and Luna both helped him figure out designs for decorating the common room.



If Draco had been put off by Harry no longer meeting him in the dungeons regularly, he said nothing to it. He nodded politely at staff meetings, ate his meals mostly in silence, or with Neville, and clearly had no idea what was headed down the pipe.

 

While helping him plot the designs, Neville mentioned that he thought he’d be sad to lose Draco’s affections, though he liked much better the idea that Draco’s needs would actually be met.

 

Harry reacted in jealousy and poorly concealed rage, which only Luna’s cool demeanor could combat when she told him simply, “I don’t think Draco’s feelings for Neville are real at all, Harry. I think he’s just eager for long-awaited gentleness, and love. He’s waited his entire life for something so gentle. I don’t blame him for his infatuations. Besides, it’s been good for Neville’s esteem to be so pursued by two pretty blondes.”

 

Seeing Neville splutter nervously helped Harry feel better, and he found himself laughing with Luna over it all, rather than stewing.

 

When June 5th arrived, Neville sent a parade of students from the greenhouses into the dungeons, all carrying vast quantities of every garden herb Neville could mass produce in the month prior. 

 

Draco refused to physically show how gleeful he was to his students, but rumors did begin spreading that all his students’ parchment turned to butterflies and birds at the arrival of unending crates and bags.

 

Owls and cats donning letters and packages roamed the halls, seeking Draco out, and when his students realized it was his birthday, a suspicious amount of Cauldron Cakes and Peppermint Frogs came into his possession, most probably against his will. 

 

Luna visited for lunch, gifting Draco what appeared to be Muggle marbles soaking in butter, and explained that once the butter was entirely melted in its jar, to place it under his bed for good fortune. Whether he believed in it or not, he accepted the gift gladly, and kissed both her cheeks, moving on to shout about how her boyfriend was so obviously trying to woo him with plants, and what exactly she intended to do about it.

 

At day’s end, Harry stood in the doorway of the Potions room, and when Draco spotted him, he sighed deeply, and explained, “I’m exhausted, Potter. Another night.”

 

“Not what I’m here for, actually.”

 

“Well, it ought to be what you’re here for, as I told you that any other expectations are strictly forbidden.”

 

Heart lurching, Harry nodded and said, “ah, well, the badness of an idea has never really stopped me from acting on it. There’s something for you in the Slytherin common room. I’m here to escort you.”

 

Eyes turning to suspicious slits, Draco stepped away from his desk (overrun by letters, candies, books, herbs, and all manner of gift), and stated, “this had better not be anything friendly. I’m serious.”

 

“I’m sure I wouldn’t know.”

 

It was a bold-faced lie, but as long as he implied that this was Neville and Luna’s doing, he could still have a chance at dragging Draco to his most hard-won gifts.

 

Grudgingly, Draco acquiesced, and followed - entering the common room to find it adorned with enchanted, paper birds, levitating candles, and not a soul in sight.

 

“The fuck is all this?”

 

“Something here that requires privacy.”

 

“Oh, you just wanted to fuck in the Slytherin common room? You could’ve said earlier -”

 

“No - just - there’s something for you on the table.”

 

Draco didn’t bother asking whether it was a gift from Harry, he seemed to have surmised that on his own, and though he very apparently was displeased about it, he walked himself to the table anyway.

 

Harry passed him, making himself comfortable in one of the oversized loveseats, and waiting for Draco to sit on the couch, facing the fire.

 

As nervous as he was, Harry would have liked to look away, but instead watched closely as Draco approached the two wrapped encasements on the table, still not daring to sit.

 

Swishing his hand over them both, the wrapping was turned to ash, and revealed two glass cases, with his ingredients ripe, and intact, on display.

 

He gasped, stumbled back a step, gazing wide-eyed at them, hand over his heart; Harry noticed that the levitating candles burned brighter, and he smiled, hoping it was a good omen.

 

“Potter.”

 

“Mm.”

 

“Was this Neville?”

 

“No. I got it. All by hand, and paid for it all myself. Quite sure I’ve still got sand between my toes too.”

 

“You don’t care about potions, though…”

 

‘You don’t care about me,’ went entirely unsaid, but Harry heard it, and he fought the urge to move from his seat, and take Draco into his arms to convince him otherwise. 

 

He stayed put - he’d not been given permission to touch Draco, and though the gesture was grand, there was no guarantee that it would give him what he wanted most. There was no guarantee that Draco would actually forgive him.

 

“The art is lost on me, you’re right, but I care about it because I care about you. I traversed the world for you, just for the sake of pleasing you. See?”

 

And so now, Harry is here.

 

Suspended in this moment with Draco Malfoy, thining about all that he’s ever been taught, told, sung to about love, and thinking about the merits and pitfalls of it all, and how none of it could prepare him for happy tears to well up in such wide, silver eyes.

 

“I don’t… I don’t understand,” Draco admits.

 

“You’re not of this world,” Harry tells him.

 

“What do you mean?” Draco asks, his voice crackling.

 

The candlelight is flickering over Draco’s face, exaggerating his already very intense, handsome features, and the paper birds are fluttering faster now, overhead.

 

“Because I know - I - I find myself wanting you, and I’m never satiated, I’m never satisfied, and I don’t think I ever will be until I have you, really, for my own,” Harry explains, gripping the armrests to keep from going for Draco, “I’ll not get my fill of you, but I’ll chase you til my legs give out, til all that’s left of me is bone. I’ve stopped hoping, stopped aspiring, and I’ve taken after your way of thinking - of doing, and being, rather than… waiting for destiny to intervene. Destiny did its job, it intersected our lives, and the rest is up to us, and you lead on it, you took it by the horns like you do everything else, and I fucked it all up. I’m trying to mend what I’ve broken. It’s what I want. I’ve found myself with a single desire that this world can satisfy, but it’s only you - only you can really satiate me. And maybe the other world you belong to wants you back, maybe - maybe this world really can’t satisfy your every desire and curiosity, but please, for the love of God, Draco, let me try.”

 

Visibly swallowing, Draco gazes at him with such awestruck wonder, Harry can only hope he’ll be able to bring that expression to Draco more often in the future - and then he thinks loudly to himself, I won’t hope to make him happy like this all the time. I will make him happy.

 

“Where was the Porritch?” Draco asks, walking toward him carefully.

 

Harry’s knee begins bouncing, and he answers, “ultimately Kazakhstan, but the bastard holding onto it dragged me through Chad, Egypt, and Turkey for good measure before robbing me blind for it.”

 

“And what if I don’t forgive you?” Draco asks, coming to stand before Harry, “Had you thought of that?”

 

“I had.”

 

“And?”

 

“And I’ll lick my wounds elsewhere,” Harry replies readily, “I know you hate hearing people get all maudlin in their heads, I won’t bother you with it. I needed to try, though.”

 

Gasping, Harry’s hands twitch on their rests as Draco climbs into his lap, straddling him.

 

“You lead me here under the pretense that someone else, possibly my other friends, had arranged something for me - that’s rather devious,” Draco begins, reaching backwards to slip his shoes and socks off, “You hunted down some of the rarest magical plants known to man all in a few months which means you’ve used your resources wisely, and I know it must have required more than a little cleverness, and cunning. And this entire idea - this gesture - it was an ambitious undertaking. All of it… very Slytherin of you.”

 

“It was the first House the Sorting Hat picked for me,” Harry confesses, rapidly hardening under Draco’s weight, “Would you have liked me in green?”

 

“With those eyes? It’s a travesty you weren’t walking around in silver and green, Harry.”

 

Heart bumping, Harry smiles faintly, and brings up, “I thought we weren’t doing that anymore.”

 

“Tell me.”

 

“What?”

 

“Anything.”

 

“Alright… I’m scared.”

 

Fascinated, Draco quirks a brow, excitement twinkling in his eyes like a wild predator, “do tell.”

 

“Rather scared I’ve fallen in love with you. Never been in love before. Probably bollocks at it.”

 

Draco’s hands find his shoulders, long fingers pushing his cloak off, and down to his elbows, then moving to the buttons of his own black collar, and unbuttoning it slowly.

 

“Seems a silly thing to be scared of.”

 

“You think so?” Harry asks, palms sweating.

 

“Well, I don’t suppose loving me would be all too awful, or dangerous,” Draco tells him conversationally, pulling his shirt out of its tuck, and flexing his shoulders back to let it fall to the floor, “Certainly could test a man’s patience, but I think you’ll be fine.”

 

“Think?” Harry laughs nervously, face hot, toes tingling.

 

The swish-clip-clack of Draco’s belt buckle coming undone is a familiar sound to him now, but it still fans the flames ever higher, exciting and rousing him, “no one knows anything for certain,” Draco tells him, slipping his belt out of its loops in a slow drag, “and if they say they do, they’re lying, or trying to sell you something, so, yes, the best I can say is that I think you’ll be fine,” the belt hits the floor, and he starts in on the buttons of Harry’s shirt, “After all, being loved back will soften the landing, if nothing else.”

 

The humiliating sensation of tears prickling his eyes makes Harry blush more darkly, he can feel it burning his ears, but he can’t look away from Draco.

 

“When - uhm - when did you know, then?”

 

“Sixth year, had an inkling, but seventh - that’s when I knew for sure.”

 

“Since you were seventeen?”

 

“Before that,” Draco corrects, pulling Harry’s shirt free from his dress pants, and spreading it out to better see his chest, “I can’t - I don’t know when I fell. Think it was more a gradual thing rather than a sudden tumble. Realizing it was awful.”

 

“Tell me - please,” Harry requests politely. 

 

Draco smiles in a sad, telling way, running his hands down Harry’s flanks, sending goosebumps over all of Harry’s skin, “I was so glad you were alive. I knew the DA would think I was a rat, there was nowhere else for me to go by then, but I still hoped I’d hear from someone, anyone that they’d spotted you, heard from you… I kept telling myself you were fine. That you’d turn up, that I’d see you again, that you’d save us all, but nothing actually felt real until I saw you again. And I knew it when I saw you - I knew, because I saw your eyes behind that swollen face, and I was ready to die for you right then.”

 

Sinking down further into Harry’s lap, Draco peels Harry’s hands off the arm rests, and settles them on his waist sides.

 

“They tortured me for hours that night, but it was fine. I laughed through some of it, even,” Draco tells him, leaning his face in close, “I knew you’d gotten away. I could feel it, and nothing could take that gladness away. Seeing those eyes, though - after so long… I wanted to steal you away, kiss you, run off with you - anything. I did all I could. Never felt like enough, though.”

 

“It was more - more than enough,” Harry stammers, gripping onto Draco’s sides like a lifeline, “Maybe this summer, we can run away together. You could - if you’d like, I mean, you could… you could help me with Sirius’s place. He left it to me. We could make it our own.”

 

“... move in with you? Are you asking me to move in with you?”

 

“Too fast?”

 

Harry is left to wonder for a beat, and then Draco is grabbing his face, and pulling him up partway to meet him in a searing kiss; Harry gasps against it, having grown unused to Draco’s kisses in their absence, and starving for more.

 

Happily, Draco indulges him, tonguing into his mouth, sending waves of desire down his spine just to pool in his abdomen.

 

Draco’s hands move over his shoulders, chest, clavicle, neck, into his hair, and he lets his own coarse palms roam onto Draco’s back, rocking him forward, bucking his hips up, hating how tight his pants are, and how many layers are still between them.

 

“You’re a good kisser,” Harry tells him, half-drunk on Draco’s tongue.

 

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Draco retorts, a smirk pressed gently against Harry’s lips.

 

“I’ve told my friends that if all went well today, I was bringing you with me for the holidays next year.”

 

“That’s disgustingly romantic,” Draco whines, “You should get naked.”

 

Immediately, Harry goes searching for his wand, wracking his brain for the more aggressive laundering spells he learned from Mrs. Weasley (she had one she always used to rip the dirty clothes off her children before they came stomping in like wildebeests, dirtying up the house, and while it would quite literally rip their pants apart, Harry was willing to risk it), but then Draco is snapping his fingers and Harry’s shoes and socks go flying, and his remaining articles turn to smoke.

 

“Did you - did you just burn away my pants?” Harry laments, “Those were my nice ones.”

 

Those were your nice ones? Merlin, I’ll have to take you shopping soon,” is all Draco replies, doing away with his own pants (though Harry notices they reappear folded neatly on the couch adjacent to them, and not wisped away into nonexistence).

 

Draco summons a vial of oil from his discarded robes, and when Harry cocks a brow at him over it, all Draco has to say for himself is, “it’s my birthday - I was feeling lucky.”

 

Just when Harry is expecting orders, Draco sets the vial in his hand, and asks, “stretch me?”

 

“I -” Harry’s heart nearly stops, “Really? You want me to -”

 

“To fuck me, yes, Harry, I’m very versatile, I’ve just got trust issues - I’m trying to be patient with you, but do try to keep up.”

 

Stunned, Harry finds he can’t formulate anything back; he pours a great deal of the oil over his fingers, lets Draco hold onto his shoulders for balance, and slips his middle finger in gradually, his palm rubbing and massaging his perineum. 

 

It’s embarrassing, but Harry knows instantly that he could get off on this alone; Draco’s skin is pink, his face is flushed, his hair is loose the way Harry likes to see it when it’s been exposed to the steam of his potions, and the floating candles, and fire crackling near them is giving him such dramatic, moving shadows, and long streaks of light along his serpentine torso, stretching up, and toward Harry. 

 

His thighs are shaking, his fingers are digging into Harry’s skin, he’s so tight, so hot, and his head is lolling back, exposing his neck as it works, the bob of his Adam’s apple enticing enough to bite into - he’s so bloody gorgeous -

 

“You keep thinking like that at me, and I’m going to come much sooner than I’d planned,” Draco warns.

 

Huffing a laugh, Harry slips in a second finger, watches Draco’s eyes scrunch up tight, watches his brow furrow in concentration, feels his cock throb as Draco starts seating himself on Harry’s fingers every time they thrust upward, seeking more, and Harry just continues massaging him, and keep his free hand on Draco’s waist, as an anchor.

 

“Can’t help it,” Harry tells him, “Haven’t you heard that I’m madly in love with you? I traversed the world for the goodness of pleasing you, Draco - aren’t you pleased with me?”

 

Fuck - yes, I - I am. I’m pleased, I’m - oh, stars -”

 

Harry imagines Draco stops talking because he’s sucked one of Draco’s pert, pale nipples into his mouth, and now his affirmations are turning into desperate vowel sounds, and loud, harsh breathing - he’s all shaky limbs, clawing nails, and gorgeous debauchery. 

 

He’s sinful just to look at.

 

“I want you all to myself,” Harry tells him, laving at the bite mark he’s left on Draco’s chest, “Can’t stand how you flirt with Neville. I’m going to steal you away for myself, Draco. Didn’t know what wanting was til I wanted you.”

 

Fuck,” Draco cries, blushing to his widow’s peak, “ Harry - please, I’m ready.”

 

“You like that?” Harry asks, sucking a hickey into the sensitive skin just below his nipple for a quick moment, “The power you have over me? Like hearing how needy you make me?”

 

Harry,” Draco pleads; Harry takes pity on him, more turned on than he can remember being in his entire life, he gently removes his fingers, and coats his cock with what little oil remains in the vial.

 

“Tell me you want it - so I can be sure. Don’t want to hurt you - not ever again.”

 

Draco opens his eyes, blown, and lidded as they are, they’re still perceptive, and he notices the addition of ‘again,’ and seems to respect it.

 

He leans in close, ghosting his lips over Harry’s, kitten-licking his bottom lip, and telling him, “fuck me, Harry. Show me how badly you want me.”

 

“Beautiful,” Harry says, when what he means is ‘do anything more like that, and I will come immediately.’ 

 

He pushes into Draco as far as his angle allows, but the rest is up to Draco, who takes his time, breathing in deeply, and exhaling slowly, with a nervous staccato. He looks, and sounds so stunning, Harry’s entranced, watching him lower himself, and that all combined with the wet, torrid vice grip of his body encircling Harry’s cock, he needs to shut his eyes to focus on not coming quick enough to be a joke.

 

Once Draco’s fully seated on him, Harry pulls him in closer, kissing the fine, blonde hairs at the center of Draco’s chest, petting up and down his flanks, and back, and then Draco’s moving, bouncing on him, wringing animal noises from deep in his chest, and it’s the most perfect feeling there is in all the world.

 

“Always thought about this,” Draco gasps out, hands in Harry’s hair, gripping, and pulling back on it the way he knows Harry likes, “Seventh year, I’d imagine you - l-laid out on the floor there, in f-front of the fire - fuck - and how I’d climb you, how I’d - oh, fuck, fuck - how I’d make you want me, need me more than you’d ever - ever needed anything or anyone.”

 

“H-How does it feel to have gotten what you wanted?” Harry rasps, feeling light-headed, body buzzing.

 

“So, so fucking good, Harry - oh, Harry - I’m-I’m not going to last much longer -”

 

That makes this marginally less embarrassing for me, then, please come as soon as you like.

 

Draco makes some cross of a groan and a laugh, and sends him some sort of scrambled message back, but it’s mostly blurred images of old memories - Harry gets the impression that it’s what Draco thinks of to get off.

 

It’s all just him.

 

Harry, sitting in Potions class, tapping his chin with a quill, fixing at his Gryffindor robes outside Transfiguration so as not to get scolded by McGonagall, how his arse looked on his broom when he was reaching for the Snitch, smiling and laughing in the Great Hall, licking something off his thumb and his eyes snapping up to Draco - God, they must have been so young, and it amazes Harry to think that Draco held on to all those moments, revisited them so many times that they flashed in sequence so naturally - and then Draco is coming, untouched, riding out his orgasm on Harry like Harry was built to take it.

 

When Harry comes shortly after, his ears ring with the intensity of it, and his weakening grip on Draco’s back is all that keeps the man from falling. 

 

They gasp at each other’s mouths for a long few moments, trying to find their equilibriums, and when Harry is about to mention that they probably ought to clean themselves up, Draco hugs him, kisses his cheek sweetly, and says, “I’ll move in.”

 

Something like a sob works its way out of Harry’s mouth, and he blinks away some cloudiness in his eyes - the relief he feels is unlike anything else he’s felt before.

 

Draco’s rather good at that - introducing him to new heights.

 

“Perfect,” Harry agrees, hugging Draco closer to him, breathing in his cologne at the base of his neck - and it is.

 

It’s perfect.

 

And maybe that's all that really ever mattered about falling in love. 

 

It was never in a song, or a poem, or a film, or a book, or sage advice from someone more certified at living life - he knew it, he knew it without making lists, or collecting evidence, but the fall never really felt like falling, not in its most basic sense, and all Harry could really imagine saying on the matter was that what he felt - what he feels - is perfect. It's perfect. It challenges him just enough, it lights a fire in him, it makes him want, and starve, and feed, and fuck, and curse, and laugh, and Draco Malfoy makes for excellent company. He's a good friend. He'll make for a good husband someday, and that will be perfect too.