Chapter 1: primo
Sea mist dances over Harry’s skin, the wind whipping his hair back and pressing his sunglasses closer to his face. He grins, feeling the force of the water and the sun beating down on him in tandem. The water taxi undulates in the wake of the waves in the lagoon, bouncing up and down as it zooms by other boats, tourists waving, black shades glinting in the sun, white teeth shining with joy. Harry is surrounded by picturesque Italian beauty, and buzzing with the excitement everyone feels at the beginning of a long-awaited holiday. He breathes deep, taking in the scent of the salt air, teak oil, and the distinct musk of the driver’s Acqua di Parma floating back to him on a breeze. He commits the smell to memory and snaps a picture of the quickly-approaching Grand Canal with his Muggle 35mm camera, forever freezing the moment in time.
Hermione and Ron had opted to Apparate directly to their flat rental on the island, unlike Harry. He wanted to see the reflection of the sun’s rays on the turquoise water, hear the caw of the seagulls overhead and smell the diesel of the boats as they all chug into the mouth of the Grand Canal using Muggle transport like any other tourist, eager to soak in every moment of their holiday. Apparating would have felt like cheating.
Harry’s driver veers left, away from the hubbub of the main tourist trails heading towards San Marco, and takes a scenic, quiet tour ending along a thin, shaded back canal in the Cannaregio district. Around him looms the beautiful decadence of crumbling peach-pink and terracotta-tan palazzos, dotted with zig-zagged lines of washing hanging out to dry. The peace of the moment quickly evaporates when Harry hears his name excitedly shouted down from a nearby window. Grinning, Harry turns, spotting Ron’s ginger head poking out of a green-shuttered balcony cascading with overgrown vines on the edge of a cobbled alleyway.
“Quit acting like a tourist,” Harry calls.
“Ha!” Ron throws his head back. “Not a chance. We’re in Venice, mate!” His freckled face disappears a second later, the uproariously joyous sounds of a father freed from the burden of his children echoing out behind him into the stillness of the backwater. A pigeon ruffles its feathers on a nearby post, looking perturbed.
Harry tips his motoscafi driver heavily and apologizes for his friend in rusty Italian. The man tilts his sunglasses to wink at Harry before revving his engine and whistling as he departs. The notes ricochet off the walls around them, sending the pigeon fleeing in agitation as the chugging of the boat engine provides a bass counterpoint to the soprano of the man’s tune.
. . .
“Grazie,” Hermione says, nodding her head towards the waiter who’s brought yet another Bellini to their lounge chairs on the hot sand.
“Prego. Tutto a posto?”
Harry laughs at Hermione’s slightly slurred Italian. It’s only one in the afternoon, after all, but he doesn’t blame her. Laid out before them is the endless blue of the Adriatic, forever crashing against a shoreline of pebbled sand. Hermione had insisted that they spend at least one day “on the Lido”, the apparent go-to holiday spot for local Venetians when the omnipresent tourists overflowing on the steps of the Rialto Bridge get to be too much. Harry refrained from pointing out the obvious that they were tourists, and instead threw some clothes into his satchel and donned on a pair of shades, happy to be led. They had boarded a motoscafi that morning and by ten were secluded on a private beach belonging to a grand historic hotel. They’ll be spending the night, thanks to Hermione’s meticulous planning, so Harry feels no qualms about day-drinking themselves into a stupor.
There was one moment of apprehension when they had arrived, as there always is when Harry dares to strip down to his trunks in public—people tend to stare. Harry’s gotten really good at wandless Notice-Me-Not charms over the years, but for some reason they never work quite as well abroad. After his first three cocktails, however, he’s relaxed considerably. General whispered comments about his neck-to-toe ‘tattoos’ simply wash off his shoulders like a wave retreating on the sand.
Two spots over, Ron huddles under a violently orange Chudley Cannons towel and a peach-striped umbrella, grumbling about the terrors of the midday sun.
“Enjoying the day, dear?” Hermione asks, eyes closed, face turned toward the sun’s rays, her ebony complexion gleaming like liquid gold thanks to her argan body oil.
“It is rather pleasant, isn’t it?” Harry sighs, throwing his arms behind his head and feeling the delicious pull in his limbs as he stretches.
Harry's finding that this holiday is turning out to be more of a necessity than he'd originally thought—between Hermione's demanding political career, Ron's partnership with George, and little Rose starting to talk, Ron and Hermione apparently need to escape the country in order to get a decent night's sleep. As for himself, an indulgent three-week getaway represents a reprieve from the monotony of his life post-war. He views this break as a way to jog himself out of the rut he’s fallen into as of late—or really, for the past two years. He’s never had the inclination to take time-off from work before, but now that he’s here, on a beach with his two best friends and a world of relaxation spread out at his feet, he can’t help but dive in headfirst.
They stay on the shore for the rest of the afternoon, sipping Campari cocktails and eating slices of melon wrapped in prosciutto as the sun slowly bakes Harry’s skin until he’s the colour of a roasted chestnut, the black and gold markings of the constellations adorning him shimmering in the heat. He drops his hand from over his eyes to his chest, finding Canis Major, atop his heart as always.
Wish you were here with us. He pats his chest, smiling sadly at the ache he always feels whenever he thinks about Sirius. He stands and announces, “I’m going in,” planning to wash away his sorrows in the turquoise water.
. . .
It’s nearly four in the afternoon when Ron splutters after someone accidentally kicks sand in his face.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I just . . .”
Hermione and Harry look over, confused at the commotion. “What?”
“Your tattoos!” The intruder says, boldly stepping over Ron’s chaise and crossing in front of Hermione to get to Harry, eyes wide and hungry. Harry immediately sits up, pulling the towel draped across the back of his chair down over his shoulders.
“No! Don’t cover them. They’re beautiful.”
“Erm, don’t take this the wrong way, mate, but . . . are you high?”
The man ignores Ron’s enquiry and continues to stare. Harry quirks an eyebrow at him, too tipsy to truly be annoyed, but amused by this man’s lack of tact and his single-minded focus on Harry’s remaining exposed limbs.
“Can I help you?” he asks.
Blinking away his daze, the man reaches out a hand, introducing himself as Cameron, an art student doing a residency in Venice to study the Venetian light. Harry nods, charmed at this man’s bizarrely formal greeting despite having stumbled over Ron, kicking up enough sand to gag him, while simultaneously drooling over Harry in the process. The fact that he can straighten his shoulders, hold his head high, and speak coherently within the blink of an eye is rather impressive.
Harry squints up at Cameron, taking him in. He’s yet to stop talking, continuing to hold a one-sided conversation with Harry about where he’s staying in Venice, the beauty of the lagoon, and a warning about never trusting a gondoliere named Fabrizio, and—Harry finds himself enjoying this unexpected new acquaintance.
Cameron holds himself in a way that boasts of an ease within his own skin. He has dreadlocks; tiny, neat, and blond at the tips. They’re swept up into a bun atop his head with a few dangling down into his wide, brown eyes. There are gauges in his ears and a jade stone set in gold in his nose that winks at Harry as Cameron smiles.
“Great. Well, we’re on holiday, and, erm . . . it’s nice to have met you.” Harry can only hope Cameron gets the hint because, even though Harry’s enjoying the attention, Ron looks about ready to hex the man. It’s a shame, really, since Cameron had just been telling them where to get the best cicheti on the island. Harry feels rather hungry all of a sudden.
Not deterred in the slightest, Cameron flashes a winning smile at Harry and nods. “You too!” He takes Harry’s hand again in a firm grip. “Though, sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
“He didn’t give it,” Hermione says from behind her dark shades.
Cameron frowns at her. “Rude, darling.”
Hermione laughs, and goes back to her book.
Cameron turns around and squeezes Harry’s fingers in both hands, adamant. “Please, let me photograph you.” He steps back to pull out a Muggle camera from the bag at his hip.
Ron chokes on his drink. Harry is too busy shaking his head with laughter to answer, but Cameron insists, waxing poetic about the beauty of Harry’s skin and how it needs to be captured for posterity—“Such perfection should not be hidden behind clothes!” Harry waves him off, highly flattered by the compliments and takes the man's scribbled address on the back of one of the hotel’s cocktail napkins, if only to make him stop talking.
“Tuesday, at two! Promise? We’ll drink, we’ll make art, it’ll be inspirato! ” Cameron is saying as he finally takes his leave, pointing at Harry with an eager finger. Harry grins at him, too amused to argue. Instead, he calls over the waiter to order another drink, then laughs with Hermione at the insanity of such a come-on.
Ron, completely blindsided by this, looks to them with a shocked expression. “That’s what he was doing?”
“What else?” Hermione says with a shrug.
“I dunno. Perhaps he really just wants to take Harry’s picture?”
Hermione pulls down her shades. “He does, Ron, yes. But not for the reasons you think.”
Ron stares at his wife, one ginger eyebrow raised. “You don’t think he knew who Harry was, then?”
“Nope,” Hermione says, grinning.
“Here’s hopin’,” Harry agrees, lifting his drink in a mock cheers. The bitterness of the Campari coats Harry’s tongue and he sighs, leaning back once more, wondering what exactly it is he’s hoping will happen on Tuesday. He hopes his thoughts are straying in the same direction as the intriguing Cameron’s. When in Rome, and all that—or Venezia, in this case.
. . .
Despite Hermione and Ron’s offers to accompany him, he heads off at half past one on Tuesday afternoon with a laugh and a wave, ignoring their generous but unneeded backup. He defeated Voldemort at seventeen, he can handle an over-eager art student with a body art fixation.
Cameron’s address is nestled deep in the heart of Venice, closer to San Marco than Harry has yet to venture, but he wanders the endless winding streets with ease, allowing himself to get turned around and lost several times before finally finding his way onto a small bridge named Ponte Michel . He leans against the iron railing, breathing in the humid air, taking in the tiny canal he’s found himself straddling, and the beauty of a sprawling Venetian garden to his right, an oasis of green built upon the sea.
He’s charmed and feeling wistful as he strolls onto the tucked-away Calle Pesaro that leads directly off the bridge. Looking up, he reads the numbers above the ancient wooden doors lining the shaded alley, carved into the stone in Roman numerals, and raps his knuckles on the faded black door when he finds the correct address.
Not ten seconds later the door is opening to Cameron’s blinding smile. “You came!”
Harry nods as he’s pulled bodily into the narrow doorway, his chest bumping into Cameron’s shoulder. He apologizes but Cameron waves him off and guides him to his flat, which sits on the top storey of the building.
“We’ve got quite the balcony, I can’t wait to show you.”
“We?” Harry asks, for the first time realising that, of course, Cameron, as a student, wouldn’t live on his own.
Cameron tells Harry about his two “dreadful but darling” housemates, gesticulating wildly the entire time as they ascend a Turkish spiral stairwell that Harry isn’t entirely sure can hold their combined weight. He looks out the open archways to the interior courtyard beneath and feels a sense of nostalgia for a world he’s never known. The sensation leaves him uneasy as he reaches the top step.
“After you, good sir,” Cameron says with a bow and a flourish, his dreads flopping into his face as he holds the door open for Harry, and Harry can’t help but grin at the man’s theatrics.
Stepping across the threshold, Harry is immediately taken aback at the shock of green . Everywhere he looks—hung from ceiling beams, set on side tables, window ledges, bookshelves—are plants of every variety, cascading and unfurling into verdant hues of lush life all around him. He baulks, momentarily stunned.
“Impressive, eh? It’s all Cecilia’s and Dee’s doing, I can barely keep myself alive most days.”
“Your ‘dreadful yet darling’ flatmates?”
Beaming, Cameron nods. “Yup! Such bitches, but can cook up a five-course meal worthy of the Queen and are bloody brilliant when it comes to taking care of these creatures.” He gestures to the plants consuming the flat and Harry nods, agreeing that ‘creatures’ is definitely the correct word for them.
“Drink?” Cameron asks, and Harry nods again. “Gin or Campari . . . or both?”
“Do you have Vermouth?”
Cameron touches a finger to his nose. “Ah, a Negroni man. I knew I liked you,” he says with a wink. Harry chuckles and steps further into the apartment as Cameron disappears into what Harry assumes is the kitchen. He hears the clinking of glassware and ice being stirred and wonders if his day will go as he had planned. He had made a bit of an effort today, ironing his linen trousers with a charm and pulling his too-long hair back into a knot at the nape of his neck in an attempt to keep it contained—Hermione always says he looks distinguished like that.
Humming to himself, he takes in the artistic opulence of the room around him as he follows the sounds coming from the kitchen. He rounds a corner, distracted by a fruiting tree that’s emanating what sounds like a lullaby, before coming up short at the sight of a shockingly familiar white-blond head.
There, sitting at an ancient-looking wooden table is none other than Draco fucking Malfoy. He’s holding a cup of steaming tea cloudy with milk and reading, of all things, a Muggle paperback in the middle of the afternoon. And...Harry squints, is that a Muggle wristwatch on his arm?
“Dee, be a doll and grab some more ice?” Cameron is saying as he attempts impressive stunts with a cocktail shaker. Harry is momentarily distracted, but then the Dee in question turns to see Harry standing behind him.
“The fuck?” he says, just as Harry blurts, “Fuck me.”
Cameron halts his acrobatics with the cocktail shaker and stares at the two of them, perplexed. “Dee?” he asks, tilting his head to the side like an inquisitive crup.
Dee turns to his flatmate and says in a perfectly calm tone, “Cameron, are you aware that you’ve brought the Saviour of the Wizarding World into our humble abode?”
The cocktail shaker hits the floor with a reverberating clang. Everyone winces, and suddenly the lazy afternoon Harry had planned of a casual fuck with an eager partner, evaporates into the ether. He sighs, lamenting the loss of that drink. He really could use it.
With a flick of his wrist, Harry cleans up the spill and steps towards Cameron, gesturing to the table for him to sit. This kind of news is best taken sitting down, after all. “I’ll make the drinks then, huh?” he offers and pats a stunned Cameron on the shoulder before turning back to the counter, desperately searching for more gin.
“Make yourself at home, why don’t you,” Malfoy drawls and Harry pauses, breathing deeply through his nose, searching for patience. He looks over his shoulder and spots Malfoy unlatching his watch and slipping it into his pocket. Malfoy’s hands are shaking.
Harry grins at the tell. “Thank you, I will.”
The scrape of Malfoy’s chair on the terracotta tiles fills the kitchen as he stands. “I was being sarcastic.”
“Yes, I caught that.”
“Dee, please, I was going to photograph him. I didn’t know—”
Harry has never heard Malfoy splutter in his life, unless he counts the whinging after Buckbeak sliced into his arm, but what happens behind him as Harry throws fresh ice into the shaker and douses it liberally with gin is most definitely Malfoy in a state of unintelligible shock. Harry revels in it.
Just then, a woman’s voice calls out from the sitting room, cheerful and filled with joy over the courgettes she’s found at the market.
“They were simply delicious looking, so I just had to—” the voice trails off as she enters the kitchen and Harry turns, spotting what he assumes to be Cecilia with a canvas tote bag slung over one arm, two courgettes in hand, slack-jawed.
“Lovely to meet you, Cecilia,” Harry says, waving a knife with a slice of orange skewed on the end in her direction. Harry doesn’t think it possible, but her jaw drops even further than before. “I’m Harry Potter,” he adds, rubbing salt in the wound.
“Fuuuuu—Yeah,” is all Cecilia can get out before Malfoy shoves both her and Cameron out of the kitchen, much to their collective dismay.
Harry shrugs and focuses on mixing the drinks. He mourns the simplicity of his original plan for the afternoon, and the sweetness of Cameron’s too-eager smile. Steeling himself with a long-drawn breath, Harry turns around, drinks in hand, and steps into the Lion’s (or rather Snake’s) den.
The sitting room is just as green as Harry had left it, and with the afternoon sun pouring in through the floor-to-ceiling windows at his back, the verdant leaves and vines appear to be glowing in their pots from the ambient light.
“Are these . . . magical plants?” Harry asks, apropos of nothing.
Malfoy, having seated himself in a chair that looks very French and very ornate, leans forwards and squints. “Is that really the most pressing thing on your mind right now?”
He snatches the second drink in Harry’s hand before Harry can respond, and Harry watches him down half of it, throat working, before finally relinquishing it to Cameron.
Cecilia, knees bouncing, shoots up out of the loveseat she and Cameron are sharing and extends an eager hand. “Cecilia Contarini, Mr Potter. Piacere! It’s a thrill to meet you.”
Harry shakes his head. “Harry,” he says, clasping her hand for a moment. “Please. And, likewise.”
She repeats his name with reverence and then excuses herself to the kitchen to pop a bottle. “Festeggiamo! ”
“Celebrate what?” Malfoy sighs, rubbing his brow.
Cameron tsks at him. “Dee, your bitch is showing.”
Gesturing at Harry emphatically, Cameron emphasizes, “We have a guest!”
Malfoy throws his head back and laughs. Harry focuses his attention on the painted beams along the ceiling, ignoring the slight. There’s a macrame planter dangling from one beam near the far window, the plant inside its web seems to be pulsing . . . as if it were actually happy to be basked in so much light. Harry envies it, wishing he were back on the Lido with Ron and Hermione, soaking in equal parts Campari and tanning oil.
It’s at this moment of daydreaming disconnect that Cecilia returns, speaking rapid-fire Italian and handing out filled glasses to everyone in turn. They’re coronation glasses, apparently, from the Renaissance. Her uncle’s, if Harry is translating correctly. She keeps repeating "Tutti! Tutti!" insisting that ‘everyone’ drink and so, with a shrug, Harry does. The plans for his day have already drowned themselves in the canal outside, so he might as well have a few drinks as a consolation prize.
Two and a half bottles of Spumante and one severely abridged recounting of their Hogwarts years later, Cecilia is cackling on the loveseat, squeezing Cameron’s knee with uninhibited joy.
“My gods, Cameron! And you didn’t know?”
Dreads flying in every direction, Cameron’s laughing too hard to speak as he shakes his head.
“And you!” She points to Malfoy, who’s slumped in his French chair, long arms dangling near his empty glass on the floor. “School rivals, and now he’s suddenly here, just . . . bah!” She gives up and laughs some more. Malfoy rolls his eyes and looks to Harry, of all people, for—something. Commiseration, Harry suspects. He raises his glass to Malfoy in a mock toast and downs the dregs.
He had sequestered himself on a couch shaped, bizarrely, like a pair of lips several hours prior. Cecilia explained that ‘some mad Muggle painter’ had gifted the couch to her rich uncle, whom the painter had had an affair with in the 1930s. Stroking the red velvet curve of the seat, Harry had grinned and tried to encourage more of that story, but Cecilia had bowled on to other topics, forcing out the history Harry and Dee shared, eyes wide with fascination.
The excessive laughter came after the first bottle, once the ironic clandestine hilarity of Cameron finding Malfoy’s arch nemesis on a beach and insisting on bringing him home sunk in. This has apparently forever ruined Malfoy’s, ‘carefully cultivated utopia in the middle of the sea, fuck you very much. ’
Cecilia holds up her hands, face raised to the heavens. “Ecco, I’m a fierce non-believer when it comes to coincidence, but I daresay you two were meant to cross paths again. È scritto nelle stelle.”
“How mystical of you,” Malfoy says. Cecilia blows him a kiss.
. . .
It takes a moment for Harry to realise that Cameron is talking to him. He’s sitting close to Harry with one arm draped over his shoulder and a warm thigh pressed in tight beside him. Cameron’s chatting about cheese, and Harry wonders where the day has gone. He’s still here, in Cameron’s flat, no—Malfoy’s flat, surrounded by house plants that glow in the sun, and the compliments of a too-eager art student begging for his attention. He’s still happy to give it, and lets Cameron carry on his one-sided conversation as Harry follows him to the kitchen. They’re on a foraging mission, it seems, in search of pane e formaggio. That suits Harry just fine; food always did help him think.
The four of them indulge in oil-soaked antipasti of bread, olives, cheese, and freshly-picked tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar, topped with a sprinkle of sea salt and bright-green basil leaves Cecilia plucks from a pot on the windowsill, splitting another two bottles of Spumante in the process. Bells chime in the near distance, sending pigeons fluttering from their perches on railings and clotheslines. Harry turns to the window to see the sun sinking low over the terracotta roof tiles, the golden sky streaked with saffron-stained clouds. Harry grins, amused by it all. Somehow, he’s passed an afternoon in the company of Draco Malfoy and they haven’t killed each other. He drinks deep from his glass; Hermione would be so proud.
Harry’s sprawl on the red-lipped couch has dipped decidedly towards horizontal when Cameron interjects, “You still down for a photoshoot, Harry?” He’s holding his camera and quick as a flash, snaps a picture of Harry in his food-laden repose.
Snorting, Harry says, patting his stomach, “not today, too full. But, sure. I’m still down, yeah.”
“Typical,” Malfoy sighs, lounging with his legs crossed across from them.
Harry frowns. “What?”
Malfoy leans forward, eyes narrowing, all semblance of civility gone along with the last of the wine. “I said, typical, Potter. How bloody typical. Of course you’d let Cameron drool all over you, it’s just like you to bask in such attention. No wonder you’ve covered yourself in all that disgusting Muggle ink.” He flips a limp wrist in Harry’s direction, just as Cecilia and Cameron come to Harry’s defence with "It’s not disgusting!" and, "Don’t be rude, Dee!"
Looking stung by this response, Malfoy stands with a huff. “Fuck this, I need air,” he mutters as he stalks out of the living room, down a hallway Harry has yet to explore.
An awkward silence falls over the sitting room, which feels jarring since everything was going so well mere seconds ago. Cecilia slumps into Malfoy’s abandoned chair, looking forlorn. Even the plants seem to dim in Malfoy’s absence.
Cecilia frowns, her knee bouncing once again. “He can be such a Gemini,” she’s saying, mostly to herself. Cameron grins at her, mouthing, I know, right?
“It’s my fault. I should—” Harry stands, not knowing exactly what his next move will be, but he knows that the atmosphere in the room is suddenly missing a key component. The decadence around him feels oppressive as opposed to eclectic, the greenery claustrophobic as opposed to welcoming. He turns on the spot, looking for his shoes, not knowing what to do once he finds them under a side table. There’s a firefly fluttering its wings on the toe of one shoe and he takes special care as he slips it on his foot, not wanting to disturb the tiny, glowing thing. Its presence feels precious to Harry.
Behind him, Cameron and Cecilia are tidying up, the festivities of the evening having clearly come to an end. Harry knows it’s time to go, but just as he stands to make his goodbyes the firefly takes flight, drifting lazily in the direction Malfoy has gone. Harry finds himself following the flickering light down the dark hallway, tracing its path like a star in the sky. It disappears through an open doorway at the end of the hall and Harry pokes his head into the room. The firefly is gone, the room dark save for the ambient light of the city filtering in through the windows on the opposite wall. He wonders if the tiny bug has found a new perch elsewhere.
There’s a breeze coming from a pair of French doors left open, the curtains billowing out along the floorboards like ghostly tendrils of magic after a duel. Harry steps forward, unbidden, feeling drawn to the embrace of those curtains and the glass doors beyond. He smells the char of something sweet, like a campfire, and sees the glowing bud of a single source of light in the darkness.
“I didn’t know you smoked,” Harry says by way of greeting as he steps out onto the balcony.
Malfoy snorts, smoke exhaling from his nostrils much like his namesake. “This is the mere tip of the iceberg, Potter.”
The back of Harry’s hand tingles.
“Mind if I bum one?”
Eyebrow raising, Malfoy reaches into the back pocket of his Muggle jeans for his pack of Italian cigarettes—Harry’s surprised they’re not all crushed to a fine powder, judging by the snug fit. He watches as Malfoy pulls a cigarette free with the tip of one long finger before levitating it over to Harry at the opposite end of the railing, face smug.
“Ta,” Malfoy says, nodding. He then snaps his fingers and Harry’s cigarette is lit. Harry quickly takes a drag, not wanting it to go out.
Blowing a smoke ring into the warm evening air, Harry sighs. “Thanks.”
Malfoy considers him. “I never could do that.”
“It’s easy.” Harry shrugs, but neglects to show Malfoy how; the tenuous truce they’ve managed to broker leaves Harry feeling uneasy in his own skin—like an itch pestering him that he can’t quite reach.
They stand there, taking drags in tandem and looking out on the water, listening to it lap against the sinking sides of the ancient buildings below. It echoes in the slim canal, creating an ambient sound Harry finds soothing. Soon, his nerves settle. He’s amazed he’s managing to share the same air with Malfoy and not feel on edge.
“It’s nice here,” Harry says, after their first cigarettes have been smoked, and Malfoy hums in response, wordlessly pulling out another pair. Harry watches Malfoy’s cheeks hollow as he lights up with a snap of his fingers and pulls in a long drag; the sharp line of his cheekbones appear unnaturally pale in the dim light as he inhales. Harry’s eyes drop down to his mouth, where the white of the filter stands out like the shine of a blade against a fresh wound as Malfoy holds it between his wine-stained lips. Harry swallows, his throat suddenly dry.
“How long have you lived here?” Harry tries again at conversation, and this time, Malfoy turns to him, eyes narrow as he pushes out smoke through his nostrils.
“Oh.” Harry looks down, figuring that Malfoy must have left England as soon as the dust had settled after the war. After the trials, his father’s alleged suicide in prison, and his mother’s flight to gods knew where, Harry can’t find it in himself to blame Malfoy for leaving everything behind. He would have done the same. Sometimes, he even wishes he still could.
“How’d you meet Cecilia?”
Another eyebrow raise. Another drag. “I’ve known her my whole life. The Malfoy and Contraini family connections go back centuries. Her ancestors were the founders of the city.”
Harry allows himself to be impressed for a moment and then pushes for more. “And Cameron?”
Malfoy huffs out an inelegant laugh. “He followed her home one day six months ago, fresh from Morocco with his student visa, snapping away with that damn Muggle camera of his. He was in utter raptures about the light and the reflections of the water on the palazzos and . . . well,” he trails off with a shrug, letting his explanation lapse into silence. Harry waits for more but nothing comes, Malfoy just stares out, content to be watched, his hand idly rubbing at his opposing wrist.
The water licks at the crumbling walls around them, lulling Harry into a sense of calm he’s not sure he should be able to feel standing this close to Draco Malfoy, so many years later. He allows the soothing rhythm to hypnotise him as they collectively take long pulls from Malfoy’s cigarettes and watch the stars wink into existence in the velvet sky above, mirroring those magicked onto Harry’s skin.
Malfoy had been wrong earlier; the markings covering Harry’s skin were not “Muggle ink”, nor were they a voluntary choice. They were Harry’s reality from the age of 13 when they first started appearing all over his body at random, from his collarbones to his ankles. He sees the constellations of the heavens sprawling out over his skin in intricate detail every time he steps out of the shower and looks in the mirror. He doesn’t understand them, but they’ve never affected his daily life outside of a desperate need to cover them up in school, which he quickly learned to do thanks to Hermione. His scar was enough of a burden; he didn’t need another distinguishing characteristic to separate him from his fellow classmates.
After the war, when the scent of freshly-turned earth hung in the air like wood smoke, leaving a constant reminder of the dead in everyone’s lungs, hiding the markings on Harry’s skin no longer mattered to him. The many horrors of recent memory that kept Harry awake at night were far too consuming to spare one iota towards his vanity. People all around him kept repeating “it’s over, it’s over” and yet Harry remained half-whole and untethered in a sea of grief. It’s as if everyone thought the death of Voldemort would somehow put an immediate end to the unrelenting pain that followed in his wake for the years he terrorised the world.
They were wrong.
Harry, with no fucks left to give, had taken to calling the visible constellations on his arms and legs tattoos, and the public easily went along with that story. The Prophet considered his newfound affinity for body art an ill-fitting tribute to his late godfather. Harry, too world-weary to care at seventeen, simply let that narrative play out. Until now, it seems. He doesn’t like Malfoy thinking they’re simply Muggle ink, something frivolous Harry chose to decorate himself with. As if he’s ever cared that much about his own appearance.
He isn’t sure why, but the idea grates. Harry opens his mouth, preparing to explain the mystery of the markings, when a shimmer of something metallic catches his eye and he looks down at his hand. There, along the back, emblazoned under the faded I must not tell lies, is the constellation Draco, intricately drawn in black and gold ink. Harry rubs his hand on his thigh, palm suddenly damp.
He remembers the moment he felt the tingle and shift that occurs whenever the markings start to change. It had been back in the sitting room, when Cecilia began speaking about her disbelief in coincidence and gesturing to the heavens. He’d felt it again when he stepped out onto this balcony. Reeling, he can hear Cecilia’s beautifully accented Italian in his mind: È scritto nelle stelle.
It is written in the stars.
Draco— its long tail now curling around to the palm of Harry’s hand—normally rested out of sight along the back of Harry’s left knee, and had done since the age of sixteen, when Harry’s goal of following Malfoy everywhere around their school ended in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor. He was certain that his obsessive, reckless behaviour was the reason for Draco’s constellation becoming a feature on his body, even though he'd never quite figured out the logic behind the markings. For a while, Hermione was convinced they were some kind of celestial map complete with clues to help defeat Voldemort, but Harry instinctively knew that theory to be a false one. The constellations came and went just as the people that they represented came into and out of Harry’s life.
Malfoy’s reappearance, it seems, has caused a profound shift.
Harry swallows, switching his cigarette to his other hand so he can bury his left into his pocket, out of sight. He pulls in a long, raw drag, letting the smoke fill his lungs with harsh vapour as a way to prepare himself. He doesn’t understand it, but there’s an urge warring inside himself, telling him to explain it all to Malfoy. That’ll he’ll understand, that he’ll see the markings for what they are . . . Harry takes a steadying breath, and then a delicate laugh on the breeze cuts the silence between them.
Together, they turn to look.
Down below on Ponte Michel there’s a couple embracing, their enjoyment of the moment electric in the quiet of the canal. Malfoy and Harry openly stare as the couple begin to kiss, slowly at first, but their passion quickly escalates, so much so that Harry feels put off by his blatant disregard for their privacy.
Beside him, Malfoy whistles out low and long. “They’re enjoying themselves.”
“No kidding.” The man has picked the woman up by her hips and pushed her onto the railing of the bridge, her legs wrapping tightly around his waist. “I feel wrong watching this,” Harry whispers.
“And yet, here we are.” Malfoy leans his elbows on the railing, eyes sharp with focus as he openly takes in the couple moving against one another. “A bit of voyeurism never bothered you before,” he adds, fishing out another cigarette from his fast-dwindling pack.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Malfoy laughs, not rising to the bait. “Just enjoy the show, Potter.”
At first, Harry folds his arms, offended. But the booze in his system and the nicotine high he’s coasting on make it impossible to feel frustrated for long. He sighs, leaning his elbows on the iron rail next to Malfoy, and giving in to his base instincts like a hormone-crazed third year.
The woman is wearing a light evening jacket that goes to her thighs. It keeps her covered as Malfoy and Harry hear the clink of a buckle being undone and the hiss of a zip lowering as the man moves to push up her tight skirt. Their faces are hidden, sequestered as they are in the shadows of the canal, much to Harry’s relief. Some intimacies, no matter how exhibitionist these people are, should remain secret.
“Fuck, they’re really going to—” a cry of pleasure hits the air, cutting off Malfoy’s words as the two people below come together in a rush. Harry’s fingers shake as he pulls a drag of nicotine-laced smoke deep into his lungs, overwhelmed with the subversive thrill. He had been hoping for his day to include some quick, impassioned sex, he just had expected to be an active participant, not an uninvited witness.
“Well. Good for them,” he says, finally turning away from the scene. The man has his hands fisted into the woman’s hair, the sounds of their joined hips and wet kisses enough to sustain Harry without having to watch it firsthand. He leans back on the railing, watching Malfoy instead—the excitement clear on his face and the telling rise and fall of his chest as his breathing quickens. Harry can see the bob of his Adam's apple through the waves of his silver hair as he swallows. There’s a flush climbing his neck and staining his cheeks, his mouth left open in awe. His bottom lip is wet. He must have licked it. Harry wonders if he’ll do it again.
With a jolt that feels like a spark of pure electricity shooting down his spine, Harry blurts, “You’re getting off on this, aren’t you?”
“Like you aren’t.”
Malfoy smirks. “Liar.”
Surprised at being called out, Harry laughs. He elbows Malfoy in the ribs, silently asking for another cigarette. Malfoy obliges, snapping his fingers to light the tip. Harry’s going to feel rotten tomorrow, but that’s why hangover potions were invented.
Malfoy sighs, suddenly forlorn. The couple has now finished, it seems, judging by the lack of amorous sounds coming from below. “Too bad they weren’t both men.”
Harry coughs. “What?”
“Men, Potter. I prefer men.” Looking offended, Malfoy tilts his head to the side. “Was that not obvious?”
Blinking, Harry ignores Malfoy's question and quickly asks his own. “Wait, do people fuck on that bridge a lot?”
It’s Malfoy’s turn to laugh as he nods at Harry’s bewilderment. He gestures to the couple. “This kind of shit happens weekly in the summertime. I can’t explain it. Something about this particular little canal makes the tourists eager to bend over.”
Harry can’t shake the image from his brain. It’s tantalising, the idea of two men on the bridge, as opposed to a man and a woman. Of him and Malfoy, sharing cigarettes and listening in on a pair of men connecting in that way as they observe from on high. Harry swallows, his heart kicking in his chest as the vision swims into view; one man braced on the railing, the other behind him, hands tight on his hips, thrusting forward.
“You’ve seen men down there?”
Eyes twinkling, Malfoy nods. “Many times.”
“Fuck.” Harry turns back around. He’d leant on that bridge earlier in the day, had enjoyed the view, the solitude, felt a little zing of pleasure at the prospect of getting a leg over. Apparently, so does everyone else who sets foot on the damn thing. Funny, that.
A thought occurs to him then and he laughs loudly. “Fuck. You’re such a twisted little shit, Malfoy,” he says, doubling over at the waist.
“I will not justify my jollies to you, Potter.”
“Jollies!” Harry repeats, laughing harder.
A knock sounds behind them and they turn. Harry’s eyes are creased with tears, happy ones, and Cecilia takes note as she smiles at the two of them. “Did someone get lucky?”
Stepping out to join them, she snatches Malfoy’s pack of cigs and lights one. “Ragazzo e Ragazza?”
Malfoy nods. Cecilia exhales. “Pity. It’s more fun when it’s two men.”
“That’s what I said!” Malfoy exclaims. He hits Harry’s arm with the back of his hand, which makes Harry laugh all the more.
. . .
Draco groans as he turns over in his bed, throwing a pillow across his eyes.
“Espresso?” Cecilia says out of nowhere, causing Draco to fling the pillow aside in shock at her presence in his bedroom.
“Buongiorno, polpettino,” she sings. “Ecco.” She holds out a tiny cup and saucer.
Rolling over, Draco intones, “Leave me.”
Cecilia ignores him and magicks the curtains open, letting light pour into Draco’s sanctuary.
“You’re a cruel woman.”
“You love me,” she says, sitting daintily on the edge of the bed and combing Draco’s hair out of his eyes. Despite himself, he leans into her touch. He’s such a whore when it comes to having his hair petted. “Now, drink this espresso. We’ve a day ahead of us.”
Obliging, Cecilia bends down and nips his bare shoulder. Draco yips and covers himself like a startled virgin on his wedding night. “You fiend!”
“You told me to.”
“Sarcasm. Have you heard of it?”
“Hmm, I’m afraid that doesn’t translate.”
“You’re fluent in four languages; English is one of them.”
Feigning confusion, Cecilia tilts her head to the side and starts speaking the Venetian dialect so quickly, and with so many hand gestures, that Draco flings himself from the bed, naked as the day he was born, just to be rid of her.
Much to his dismay, she follows him into the bathroom. He lifts the toilet seat, sense of propriety be damned, and pisses.
“You’ve a lovely bum, Draco.”
“Harry thought so, too.”
Draco spins towards her in shock, mid-stream, then curses. “Shit, give me a moment, won’t you?”
“If you insist.”
Cecilia floats back out of his room, thank Circe, and Draco waves his wand to clean the mess he’s made of his bathroom. He covers himself up in a silk kimono robe his mother sent him from Japan last summer, runs his fingers through his shock of bed-head in an attempt to tame it, and walks down the hall to the sitting room. He stops short at the sight of Potter curled up like a stray kitten on their loveseat with Cameron seated upright at the far end, head slumped over the back of the couch, snoring. He’s holding onto Potter’s bare ankle in a gentle embrace that sets Draco’s teeth on edge.
He clears his throat and loudly calls, “Cecilia!” at the top of his lungs. He feels immense satisfaction watching the two men in his living room jerk awake at the sound.
“Must you?” Cecilia chides, coming back out of the kitchen with fresh cups in hand. “They were sleeping.”
“Yes, I spotted that.”
Cameron squints at Draco. “You’re a bitch, Dee.”
Draco raises an eyebrow at him. “Sleep well?”
Cameron snorts, rubbing the back of his neck. “Piss off.”
“I should probably go,” Potter says, his hands reaching for a pair of Turkish slippers Draco refuses to think of as chic, despite him owning several pairs in a similar style.
“Oh no,” Draco says, mock disappointment thick on his tongue. “We’ll miss you ever so much.”
Potter looks at him, slightly bewildered by Draco’s tone, as if Potter would expect anything else from him. He turns to Cameron. “Right, I’ll see you later, then?”
Cameron nods, eyes soft with sleep. “Yeah, the beach is a great idea. We’ll aim for a few hours before sundown, the lighting will be…” he trails off to kiss his fingertips and Draco practically groans with distaste.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Potter says, squeezing Cameron’s shoulder.
Draco turns on his heel. He’s going back to bed.
“Ciao, Malfoy,” Harry calls, just as Draco is slipping away. He halts and looks back over his shoulder. Potter is holding eye contact with him, face unreadable. It’s infuriating.
“I’ll see you later.”
“No, shan’t.” Draco slams his door behind him and tries for the rest of the morning to convince himself that he’s not hiding.
A knock sounds at his door in the early afternoon. It’s Cecilia with a tray of biscotti and almond cake, a silver tea service floating in behind her. The saucers rattle under their respective teacups as she directs it to land gently on the duvet.
“Lush,” Draco says, surveying the spread.
“Well, you haven’t eaten all day.”
“You spoil me.”
Cecilia nods. “I do.”
Draco isn’t buying it. “What do you want, Cee?”
Placing her hand over her heart, she gasps. “Me? Want something? Never.”
Smirking, Draco sips his milk-laden tea and waits. He watches Cecilia's composed facade of pureblood heiress slip into the jittery-kneed, flamboyant gossip Draco knows her to be within mere seconds. She folds her arms across her chest and huffs out a "va bene" before crowding closer to him on the large four-poster bed.
“Come to the Lido with us, polpettino.”
“You’ll have to AK me first.”
She smacks him. “Hush now. That’s not nice.”
“Nor is torture. Which is what today will be if you make me come to the Lido with you.”
“I doubt this. Sun is good for you.”
“Have you seen me? My complexion is not meant for daylight.”
“But you’re so beautiful,” she compliments, cupping his cheek in her palm. Draco leans into the touch eagerly. “Please come, if only to let me grossly objectify you in your tiny little swim trunks. I’ll pack at least three bottles of Spumante; glasses too!”
Draco huffs a laugh. “You’re incorrigible.”
“Sorry, that doesn’t translate.” Cecilia boops him on the nose and winks. “Now eat up my little fawn, you will need your strength!”
“You’re spending too much time with Cameron,” Draco says as she takes her leave, her silk robe flowing out behind her with a flourish.
“I have no idea what you mean,” she calls as she pirouettes out of the room, proving Draco’s point. He sighs; the pair of them are impossible.
Draco spends the next five minutes grimacing at the almond cake before downing the slice in two bites with a gusto he feels is somewhat retaliatory, though he doesn’t understand why he’s taking out his frustrations on an innocent slice of cake. He stands from his bed and stalks to his bathroom, surveying his appearance in the mirror, turning his head this way and that, studying the angle of his cheeks, the jut of his jaw.
“Sei bello,” the mirror tells him in a deep, masculine voice. Draco flushes and steps back, flattered yet feeling caught.
“Grazie,” he replies and turns back to his room to get ready. If he’s going to willingly spend more time with Harry Potter, he’s going to be prepared. He grabs a moisturising potion off his nightstand and gets to work. If Cecilia wants to grossly objectify him, he’s going to make it worth her while.
. . .
Harry arrives earlier than he’s expected back on Calle Pasero, called there by his curiosity and his own latent tendencies to constantly know where and what Draco Malfoy is up to. He assumes Malfoy is lounging on that ridiculous red-lipped couch draped in silk and being hand fed grapes by Cameron or something equally extravagant and bourgeoisie. Discovering such debauchery will be a satisfying sight as soon as Harry summons up the stones to actually knock.
He tucks himself away in the shadows of the alley, just far enough from the steps of the bridge not to feel its siren call, and gazes at the Venetian garden peeking out from a brick wall across the tiny canal. He finds himself wondering who owns the property and who tends to the garden. Would Malfoy, if given the opportunity, create such an oasis if he and Cecilia owned more than just a sprawling flat with a balcony to populate with greenery? Harry finds himself hoping that Malfoy would, and enjoys several minutes picturing his silver-blond head covered in a wide-brimmed hat bobbing along the olive trees and rosemary bushes, pruning and . . . whatever else gardeners do. The image makes Harry feel warm, and then he frowns, taken aback by such whimsical musings in regards to someone who, up until last night, had long been considered other to Harry. No longer a childhood rival, or enemy, or even evil, but just, someone other than he normally would associate with—no one of consequence.
Yet, as consequence would have it, here Harry is, loitering outside Malfoy’s flat and imagining him growing figs and biting into their ripe flesh with sharp white teeth.
He leans his head back on the wall, staring up at the ancient stone of buildings that loom large yet not unfriendly around him.
Blinking, Harry turns and spies Cecilia walking over the bridge, making quite the picture of a Venetian woman with a bushel of flowers in hand and a tote of bottles clinking lightly at her side in the bright sunshine of an Italian afternoon.
“Just come from the shops, I see,” Harry says, standing straight.
“Provisions for the day.” She holds up the bottles and winks at Harry.
Laughing, Harry offers to help but Cecilia waves him off, and instead, holds him with her brown-eyed gaze. Harry feels caught by it, and unexpectedly, uneasy.
“Is there something—”
“You are special, Harry Potter.”
Scoffing, Harry breathes out a sigh of relief. She hadn’t been reading him, just assessing the public figure before her and finding him acceptable. Harry can handle that, in fact, he’s flattered at winning her favour. He flashes her a grin.
Cecilia shakes her head. “You misunderstand me.” She steps closer, maintaining eye contact. “You are special to Draco.”
“Oh.” Harry has no idea what to say to that.
“Pretty sure he’s just tolerating me for your and Cameron’s sake.”
Putting a finger to her chin, Cecilia says, “I’m pretty sure Draco tolerates nothing for no one’s sake other than his own.”
This startles a laugh out of Harry so loud a nearby pigeon goes fluttering from its perch.
“We’ve a history,” he attempts to explain. “Not a happy one. He kept it brief last night but we’ve not been good to each other over the years. I can admit that.”
“And yet, here you are.” Cecilia smiles.
Rocking on his heels, Harry feels shy all of a sudden. Cecilia steps closer still, holding his face with her long fingers tipped with red polish. “You think he hates you?”
Frowning, Harry can’t help but nod. He wouldn’t have used the word hate, that feels too intimate for what he and Malfoy are to each other nowadays, but he also can’t find the power of speech to adequately correct her either.
“Chi disprezza compra,” she tells him, voice filled with a reverence he doesn’t understand, along with the translation of the phrase. Buying something you despise?
“There is no English equivalent, you English have a pitiful language when it comes expressing emotion, perhaps it is why you are all so, how do you say—stiff up?”
Harry snorts, but nods. Sure. Why not. Stuck up. Stiff upper lip. Keep calm and carry on. Any and all of them would suffice.
Cecilia lets his face go with a gentle slap to each cheek and Harry flushes at the contact, liking this woman more by the second. “I have to go upstairs and make sure Draco hasn’t wallowed himself into a stupor. Go make yourself scarce for an hour. Have a gelato or a drink. There’s a bar down there,” she points and Harry follows the line of her finger.
“Is this you kindly telling me to stop loitering outside your flat?”
She grins. “Sì. Ciao ciao.” Cecilia waves at him as she magicks the door open and pointedly closes it without offering him to come inside.
Harry turns away, awed and feeling conflicted at now finding himself in the strange position of being attracted to all three of the inhabitants of the flat behind him.
. . .
With begrudging and glacial acceptance of the inevitable, Draco descends the stairs with Cee and Cameron in turn, and strolls out to his doom, head held high.
Potter meets them on Ponte Michel, the little bridge just outside their flat. He’s smiling to himself as he looks down into the water from his place along the railing, his smirk driving Draco to distraction. He knows what Potter is thinking and it does nothing to settle Draco’s nerves over agreeing to join them.
Potter inquires about hiring a water taxi but Cecilia waves him off. There’s never a need for any of them to order a motoscafi since Cecilia owns one and keeps it conveniently docked just outside in the slim canal beside their building. Its sleek teak exterior gleams in the late-afternoon sun, and the fine Italian leather of the seats looks as inviting as ever as they all step down off the stone ledge onto the boat, sunglasses firmly in place and smiles wide.
“Cecilia, you continue to amaze,” Potter tells her, looking a bit spellstruck as he watches her turn the key and start the engine. It purrs like a basket of sleeping kittens. Draco grins, enjoying the feel of the leather under his hand. They haven’t taken a ride on Sylvia (yes, Cecilia named the boat) in ages, what with the summer season leaving the canals overflowing with tourists, but since Cameron simply has to capture the beauty that is Potter, she’s made an exception.
Draco reminds himself that she promised to bring lots of wine, and settles in for the long haul. Just as they reach the open water of the lagoon, however, his patience is tested.
“Malfoy,” Potter says, plopping down next to him as they bounce along the current towards their destination.
“Potter,” Draco nods, staring out over the rushing water.
“Your powers of observation are incendiary, Potter.”
Draco inhales, steeling himself, and pretends he doesn’t feel the warmth coming off Potter’s skin, let alone that he likes it. “Great, now that we’ve got that sorted, you can go off over there,” Draco gestures with a wave of his wrist, “and leave me be.”
Potter snorts and nudges Draco with his shoulder as if they’ve just shared the greatest of in-jokes.
Draco baulks at him. “Are you trying to shove me overboard with brute force?”
“‘Course not. If I wanted to throw you overboard, I’d simply flip these long legs of yours back over your head.” Potter bends down to scoop Draco’s legs up from behind the knees.
“Potter!” Draco shrieks as he’s tipped backwards. Potter laughs but doesn’t follow through, dropping Draco back onto the bench seat with an amused grunt. Draco smacks him on the arm. “Heathen!”
Chuckling, Harry runs his hands through his wind-blown hair. He looks comfortable, perfectly balanced on a motoscafi as if he had been born on the water, with flushed cheeks and a smile that devastates Draco’s insides. Why is Potter doing this to him?
“We cool, then?” Potter asks, apropos of nothing.
“Cool?” Draco mimics, his mouth turning up at the word.
Potter folds his arms across his chest. “Yeah. You were a bit of a prick this morning.”
“Excuse me!” Draco says, standing up. Enough with Potter lording over him. Draco gets right in his face, ire rising. “I was not a prick.”
“You were, Dee,” Cecilia calls over her shoulder, ponytail bouncing as they zoom across the water.
“Thank you, Cee,” Draco hisses. “Do shut up.”
“She’s right,” Potter says.
Draco whirls on him. “Listen, Potter. I’m allowed to be a prick in my own home.”
Potter throws his head back and laughs. “You’ve a point there.”
“Great. Well, we’re currently not in your flat.”
“Stop being a prick.”
Draco slaps him, full-handed across the face. Potter’s head goes cracking to the side, his sunglasses flying off as his head whips. To Draco’s horror, as opposed to pushing him back, fighting him with words or hexes, Potter snorts out a chuckle, his hand coming up to touch the red handprint Draco left behind. He looks delighted. Draco sits down, disturbed by how quickly he’d lost control of his temper. He dares to look up, pulse quickening at the sight of Potter’s pink tongue teasing at his top lip wet with blood. Fuck, he’d hit him hard enough to break skin.
“What’s happening?” Cameron asks, head poking out of the cabin where he’d been hiding, looking a bit green.
“Dee and Harry are having a domestic,” Cecilia explains. “Fa niente.”
Potter has fallen back onto the bench across from Draco, his hand pressed against his red cheek, laughing to himself. Draco watches in awe as Potter wandlessly summons his sunglasses from the back of the boat, pockets them, and runs a hand over his mouth, healing his split lip. He’s smiling at Draco, green eyes bright. There’s a smear of blood at the corner of his mouth. The effect makes him look feral; a predator fresh from a kill. The sight shouldn't cause Draco’s breath to catch in his throat, yet suddenly, he can barely breathe.
Behind them, the click of a shutter sounds. Cameron has his camera out, lens trained on Potter. Draco hisses in distaste, adrenaline still pumping through his veins. He stands and boldly moves to sit beside Potter on the opposite side of the boat, blocking Cameron’s view.
“Hey,” Cameron says, splaying his hands in disappointment.
“I was getting too wet on that side,” Draco explains, head held high.
“You can never be too wet,” Cecilia calls over the din of the boat’s engine before making a sharp turn of the wheel and sending sea spray over the both of them. Cameron laughs as Draco and Potter begrudgingly wipe salt water off their faces. The sound of the camera’s shutter is a nonstop presence in the background.
. . .
Cameron has set up a clichéd sort of scenario that closely resembles the trash photography Muggles would be attracted to when researching holidays in Ibiza for their summer flings. Potter’s oiled, shirtless, and lounging with a newspaper spread out across his trunks, one arm flung behind his head as he pretends to absorb some culture from the second-class journalism in his lap. He’s been given a hat to cover his forehead with, and a pair of shades that should mark him as utter sleaze, but instead simply shows off his cheekbones and the crooked (yet roguish) line of his nose. Draco had been the one to break it; he now wishes he hadn’t, because Circe help him, it makes Potter that much more attractive.
“Quit scowling, or I’ll crop you out of the picture,” Cameron chides, raising an eyebrow in Draco’s direction.
“I didn’t ask to be included.”
“And yet, here you are.”
Draco scowls harder, glaring behind his shades at Cameron from two spots over, where he’d been placed ten minutes prior, Cameron chattering endlessly about the creamy complexion of his skin glowing in the afternoon sun, and how it’d be a beautiful juxtaposition against Harry’s naturally darker skin tone. Draco’s draped in another one of his silk kimonos; he has quite the collection, thanks to his mother. This particular piece boasts the hyper-saturated hues of tangerine, jade, and ochre that fit right in with the sandy, subversive aesthetic Cameron is attempting to achieve. Draco does lament leaving his Muggle timepiece back in the flat. The leather strap and circular face would have been an unexpected casual twist to his sartorial elegance.
Potter looks anything but elegant. Draco can read him like a book he’s so telling, and currently, he appears to be highly uncomfortable, despite his supine pose. His jaw is clenched, his toes are curled, and his thighs strain every time the shutter clicks—really the overall effect is not unlike the one you'd have attempting to hold in a massive fart. Draco frowns, wondering why Potter would agree to such an endeavour if the process makes him this anxious. When Draco spots Potter’s knee jittering as Cameron attempts to direct him, Draco snaps, and sends a calming charm in Potter’s direction, along with a signal to the waiter that they are in need of afternoon libations, Cecilia having annoyingly forgotten the wine back on the boat.
He looks over again and Potter is biting his lip. Circe help him, he’s developing a tension headache from simply being near the bastard.
“Cee,” he hisses, hoping she isn’t asleep on her towel in the sand.
“Why is he so tense?”
Cecilia lifts the wide-brimmed straw hat she’d been using as a sun shield off her curls and looks to Draco with a raised eyebrow. “Who?”
Draco rolls his eyes. “Potter.”
Shrugging, Cecilia looks over at the vignette Cameron is currently trying to capture with his 35mm and squints, assessing. “He looks bored, actually.”
“Bored and tense.”
Cecilia is nodding in agreement, “It’s not a very good photo, no?”
With a sigh, she stands, brushing sand off her tanned thighs. “It is time we step in then, hmm?”
“What do you mean?”
She winks at Draco and then walks off, towards the crazy man with the camera. Draco watches in horror as she leans down and whispers in Cameron’s ear, filling his mind with all sorts of scenarios that will surely leave Draco frustrated beyond measure in his too-small swim trunks. He’d worn the kimono as a precaution, but there’s only so much silk can hide.
“Dee!” Cameron’s calling, just as Draco’s mind spirals into a minor panic attack. He looks over, spotting his flatmates gesturing wildly for him to come closer. Sighing, he stands, pulling the sides of his robe tight around him before walking past Potter’s chaise.
“You’re too far away in the image, sit next to Harry.”
“Sit next to Harry.”
Draco glares at Cecilia. “You wench.”
“Sorry, that doesn’t translate.”
Before he knows what’s happening, Cecilia has rearranged the hotel’s chaise lounges to flank underneath one of their peach-striped umbrellas, the footrests of each chaise touching. She places her floppy hat on the back of the second chaise and plops Draco down onto it, arranging his robe in such a way that sets off both his long legs and the pattern of the fabric.
“Lie back and think of England, polpettino,” she whispers in his ear.
“Snake,” he shoots back.
Cecilia kisses his cheek and steps away, surveying her work. “You’re gorgeous.”
Draco waves her off, feeling too handled to even preen at the compliment.
“He is,” Potter agrees, sitting down next to Draco and sending him a casual smile that wreaks havoc on Draco’s nerves.
Somewhere in the background Draco hears the click of the shutter and knows that Cameron has captured forever his reaction to Potter’s words. He feels overheated at the thought.
Cecilia hands him her drink. “Thirsty?”
Draco glares at her. “I will end you,” he hisses before sucking on the straw of her cocktail with a vengeance.
After he finishes off both Cecilia’s and Cameron’s drinks, he lies back on his chaise, closes his eyes, and pretends not to think about seeing so much of Harry Potter laid out next to him like a pornographic feast. He rubs absentmindedly at his wrist, fidgeting like a first-year.
Cameron is chatting incessantly, switching between Italian, English, and French at will, and holding mostly a one-sided conversation with all three of them, though Cecilia does interject every now and again with several expressive hums or agreement. He arranges Draco and Potter into different poses every few minutes, all with the end result of Draco and Potter looking as if they’re a pair of husbands living their best lives on their honeymoon. Draco sends a stinging jinx Cameron’s way when he tries to get them to hold hands.
“This is so fucking weird,” Potter whispers under his breath to Draco, one leg bent at the knee as he stares out at the waves like Cameron had asked.
“You’re just now realising this?”
“Well, getting to spend another day at the beach didn’t sound so bad.”
“You didn’t know he was going to practically strip you to capture his art, did you?”
Potter looks scandalised. “Wait, strip?”
Draco rolls his eyes. “Relax. He won’t. We’re in public.”
Potter exhales and runs a hand through the chaos of his hair. Draco bites his lip, wondering if it feels the same as it had the day Potter had dragged him from the very fires of hell on the back of an old broom. Draco remembers pressing himself as close to Potter as possible, his nose tucked into the back of Potter’s neck, feeling the wind whip Potter’s curls into his face. He’d smelt like sweat and damp leaves. The memory makes Draco ache.
He shifts his focus to the tease that is Potter’s body, lying next to him, a fragile facade of relaxation that Draco knows to be false. He’s seen Potter with his guard down, with his limbs easy and loose, lounging next to him on his balcony railing, eyes flashing with heat. He knows the way Potter looks when he’s in repose. This isn’t it, yet Draco can’t help but drink it in, eagerly surveying all that is exposed to him, every line of longitude drawn across his skin, every shimmering star.
He’d called the constellations covering Potter “disgusting muggle ink” the other night, but that had been a damn lie. Draco knows down to his bones that the imagery emblazoned on Potter’s body is far from anything so plebeian. Since the moment he’d spotted them, he knew what they were: fatis atramento. A rare magical affliction that manifests itself around puberty and hasn’t been documented in the Wizarding community since The Statute of Secrecy was signed into law in 1692. Magical beings bestowed with fated ink in the past were said to be cursed with tragedy but blessed with imminent power, which fits so perfectly with Potter, Draco has to hold back a groan. Of course Potter of all people would be the one to receive such a gift from the gods. Of course the sight of the markings, crisp and defined as they swirl around every muscle and contort around every limb, would only serve to drive Draco closer to the brink.
His frustration mounting, Draco stares to take his fill the same way a desperate man would scratch an itch that was already bleeding, wanting to conquer that which has made him so unsettled. The markings spread out across Potter’s skin like an illuminated manuscript Muggle monks would pore over with endless discipline in their monasteries; or no, rather those mad Victorians. The markings are archaic in their execution, yet exceedingly and whimsically detailed like only the Victorians and their "scientific" texts could ever achieve. Orion, standing proud and aloof, taking up space on Potter’s bicep, draped in yards of fabric like a Roman nobleman. Canis Major, howling at an absent moon, one paw lifted, placed directly over Potter’s heart. Draco swallows hard at the sight of it—Sirius, the godfather, reflected in front of him from his place in the heavens, the closest thing Potter ever had resembling a loving parent, forever immortalised on his skin.
It’s fitting, Draco thinks. It’s as it should be.
Hidden behind the concealment of his sunglasses, Draco continues to observe Potter as his chest rises and falls with his breath, following the movement down to the flat of his abdomen, where a trail of dark, coarse hair disappears behind the waistband of his trunks. There’s a swell of a bulge there, something promising and thick hidden away from Draco’s view. He licks his lips and looks up, taking in the fall of Potter’s chaotic mane draped inelegantly over the back of his chair, his fingers itching to comb through the curls. Draco shifts in his seat, feeling uneasy in his own skin. He pulls a flap of his robe across his pelvis, covering it from view.
“Am I included?” Draco asks, suddenly curious.
“What?” Potter raises his head a fraction off the back of his chair.
“In your... collection,” Draco says, twirling his hand in the direction of Potter’s torso. “Does Draco feature anywhere? I am named after a constellation, you know.”
“Probably on his bum,” Cecilia says from her place on the sand, then snorts at her own joke.
Draco turns to her, looking over the rim of his shades, “Hysterical.”
Cecilia flicks a handful of her sunscreen potion at him with a twist of her wrist. It lands creamy white in droplets all along his torso and Draco startles at her cheek, quickly rubbing away the debauched picture she’s painted. Despite this distraction, it doesn’t escape Draco’s notice that Potter has conveniently ignored his question. Cameron is too busy adjusting the shutter speed on his 35mm to pay any attention to their conversation to care. Draco huffs and lies back on his chaise longue to grimace up at the noonday sun, hating that this is how he’s been coerced into spending his day. He could be studying in a blessedly empty flat, but no, he’s here with Potter. Devastating, mysterious, headache-inducing, Potter.
“Draco,” Cameron says some five minutes later, sounding distracted as he stares at his camera lens.
“Would you mind?”
Draco looks up, wondering what the hell Cameron is getting at. “Mind what?”
“I have an idea.” And then he’s up and off, strolling down the beach without evening looking back.
“Is he done?” Potter asks, sounding hopeful.
“Doubtful.” Begrudgingly, Draco gets up and follows his mad flatmate, because sunning himself next to the golden boy of the Wizarding World without the guise of a photoshoot to keep him there is not something he ever pictured himself doing. At least, not willingly.
He’s halfway down the beach when he hears Potter call out behind him. Draco sighs and walks faster, heading towards a rocky outcropping on an otherwise flat strip of coastline.
“Cameron, what the fuck?”
“What’s perfect? Your spiral into insanity?”
“No, the rocks. The sea. You and Harry. It’s perfect.”
Draco stops dead, throat tight. Damn Cameron and his commitment to capturing the moment.
“Me and Draco?” Potter repeats, having caught up to them, the fit bastard.
“Yes! Harry, shove Draco against the rocks...”
“The fuck?” Draco spits. He is wearing Japanese silk. One does not simply manhandle Japanese silk.
“... really clench the muscles of your back, Harry. My gods, it will be gorgeous! With your skin, and his skin... ugh! It is indecent to voice aloud what I feel right now, truly, my words would shock you.” Cameron continues, oblivious to Draco and Harry’s combined shock.
“I’m not an Imperiused puppet you can boss about,” Draco says, folding his arms.
Cameron pouts at him. “You normally love to indulge my flights of fancy, Dee.” He steps in close and runs a hand through Draco’s hair. Draco practically purrs at the attention and hates himself at the same time for giving into such blatant coercion. Yet a few more drags of Cameron’s hands through his hair have Draco’s eyes closing in momentary bliss and his head nodding in distracted agreement.
“Brilliant!” Cameron exclaims and then divests Draco of his robe so quickly he feels spellstruck. “To the rocks!”
“This must be punishment for my past sins,” Draco says, mostly to himself.
“Hey, it won’t be that bad,” Potter chides, rocking on the balls of his feet. He looks awkward, boyish and annoyingly handsome. Draco hates him.
“Really, Potter? Pretending to fancy ex-Death Eater scum while humping them against the rugged landscape in pursuit of an aesthetic, is a regular pastime of yours?”
Potter scowls at him. “You’re not scum, Malfoy.”
Cameron whistles, waving them over, just as Draco snorts out a laugh at Potter’s words.
“It’s alright, Potter. You don’t have to pretend on my account.” He moves away from him, stepping closer to the rocks, the waves crashing against them in an impressive display of salty mist and seafoam.
“What do you mean?” Potter asks, quick to follow.
“I mean I won’t tell.”
“Tell who what?”
Draco huffs. “You know.”
“I really don’t.”
Cameron, oblivious to this discussion, continues snapping away with his camera trained on them. He’s directing over the sound of the crashing waves, calling out to: feel the sand, the water, taste the salt on the air. Touch each other, move together. Connettere! Connect, boys. Connect!
Draco glares down the camera lens at Cameron, and he finally shuts up, though he doesn’t stop taking pictures.
“Malfoy, what are you on about?”
Potter’s directly behind him, having snuck up on him while he was distracted by Cameron’s yammering. Draco can feel Potter’s warm breath on the back of his neck. He shivers and steps away. Potter follows.
“I mean you don’t owe me kindness. No one does. Quit acting as if this is normal. You don’t have to lie to me.”
“The fuck?” Potter says, looking stunned. “Malfoy, I’m not… this isn’t… I wouldn’t—“
Draco waves him off, sneering. “Sure, of course, forgive me. Saint Potter, as pure as the driven snow—“
“I’m not fucking pure.”
“I know! That’s what I’m saying.”
“But what the fuck do you mean?”
Pulling at his hair, Draco turns away from Potter, frustrated and badly in need of a cigarette.
“Come on, boys! Closer, now,” Cameron encourages. Draco hisses at him.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
“This was supposed to be fun,” Potter says, exasperated.
“Are you having fun, Potter?”
“Currently?” he asks, voice edging towards a shout.
“Yes, currently,” Draco shouts back. “Is this fun for you? Spending time with me? Someone you despise—”
“I don’t despise you—”
“Oh, don’t even—”
Draco hears a grunt of frustration behind him as he attempts to cut Potter off again from saying something that will no doubt send Draco’s world view tipping on its axis, but before Draco can even register the sound of footfalls rushing toward him, he’s slammed back into the flat face of the rock, breath knocked out of him from the force.
“How—“ he tries to say, but can’t find the words as he realises Harry must have cast a wandless cushioning charm before advancing on him like a feral beast.
“Shut. Up,” Potter breathes, forehead pressed against Draco’s own, sweat mingling, hair tangling together. Cameron says something about it blocking their faces, but Draco is too overwhelmed to care.
The bittersweet scent of Campari is hot on Potter’s breath as he moves, holding himself at bay mere inches from Draco’s mouth. “You think I’m acting?” Potter asks, his tone playful yet deadly.
Draco’s too stunned to comment, thrilling at the delicious zing down his spine at getting such a rise out of Potter. When Draco doesn’t answer, Potter moves his hand to Draco’s hair, pulling it taut to expose Draco’s throat.
Potter leans down, nose dragging along Draco’s sensitive skin. “Do you think this is an act, Draco?”
Behind them, Cameron is fully rapturous with delight. “Yes! Just like that! Your back is fucking sinful, Harry. Yes!” His camera clicks away like an over-cranked metronome on coke.
“I will end him,” Draco says, closing his eyes in frustration, his fingernails digging into the jagged rocks behind them.
Potter chuckles against him. “No you won’t,” he whispers, dropping a hand to press a thumb into the v of Draco’s hip, massaging circles into the ticklish skin he finds there. Draco hisses at the sensation.
“Don’t presume to know me, Harry,” he spits back, his hips canting into Potter’s touch.
“I don’t presume much. Only this.” Potter’s thigh presses in between Draco’s legs, and Draco arches off the rock at the contact, throat straining over the urge to moan. Everything that’s happened in the past thirty seconds has left Draco so incredibly aroused he’s weak with it, slumping and allowing Potter to take his weight.
Potter moves in closer at Draco’s submission, his hips pressing flush with Draco’s, bodies fitting tight together. The promise of the bulge Draco had spied earlier does not disappoint as the heat and rigidity of Potter seeps through the layers of their swim trunks. Draco licks his lips, eyes focused on Potter’s mouth. He’s hungry and Potter is offering.
“Are you acting, Draco?” Potter asks, catching Draco off guard.
Draco looks up, seeing Potter’s green eyes burn just from looking at him. Circe, if that emotion were truly real, truly meant for Draco… He swallows, trying to remember what his vocal cords are and how one goes about using them for speech. Finally, he simply shakes his head in answer, not having the strength to deny Potter the truth. How the fuck could this be an act; he’s so turned on he can’t even speak.
Potter’s reaction is twofold: he smiles at Draco, blinding and white, and then Potter presses forward with his hips, eager with excitement. Draco moves against him, a moan escaping his throat at last as he gives in, plunging his hands into Potter’s hair to finally tease out those tangled locks, if only to keep himself from erasing those few inches left between them and attacking Potter’s mouth with his tongue. Draco can’t, not here, not like this with Cameron snapping away, capturing an intimacy that should be theirs and theirs alone.
The thought of Cameroon causes the fog to lift from Draco’s lust-filled brain and suddenly he feels cold with shame. He releases Potter’s hair, moves his hands to his chest and shoves.
Potter stumbles back looking first confused, then wounded, then worried. “Did I—“ he begins to ask, but Draco cuts him off.
“No, don’t. It’s fine, I just…” Draco rubs at his wrist, feels a little desperate. “I need a cigarette,” he finishes lamely, stalking off and away from the depravity he’d just so willingly and brazenly given into.
Cecilia is waiting for him back at their private cabana, holding out a glass of sparkling wine with a look of contrition on her face.
“Mi dispiace, polpettino.”
“Shut up,” he says, without bite, and steps into her arms, allowing her to envelop him in her warmth and security. “I’m an idiot,” he tells her.
She nods, petting his hair. He melts into her embrace for a few precious seconds, savouring the feeling.
“I have to go,” Draco says, pulling back to look Cecilia in the eyes. She nods again, understanding written across every delicate feature of her lovely face.
Draco kisses her cheek, stoops to grab his wand and Apparates away, Muggle tourists be damned. He pretends he doesn’t hear Potter calling his name as he goes.
. . .
Polpettino - adding ‘ino’ or ‘ina’ at the end of words endears them, so polpettino means ‘tiny’ meatball. heheheehe
Chi disprezza compra - a saying that means 'one who hates, loves in reality' . . . and isn't that just Drarry in a nutshell?
To my recollection from when I was seventeen and staying in Venice for the summer, the beach along the Lido is flat. The rocky outcropping is a fictional addition of mine. In that same vein, the waves never get to the point where they’d be crashing loudly against the shoreline, but needs must when one is building TENSION. Forgive me this minor falsehood, it was for a good cause.
“How was it?” Hermione asks. She’s joined Harry out on the balcony of their rental flat, leaning on the stone balustrade next to him.
“Which part?” Harry’s head is hung low as he sucks down a cigarette. He’d gone to the shops in search of Draco’s brand and had bought an entire carton.
“The part where Draco Malfoy drove you to chain-smoke an entire pack of cigarettes in one evening.”
Harry scoffs, then coughs, his throat raw. He stubs out his current smoke, vanishing the butt, then tosses the half-empty pack on the cafe table behind them. “Not a whole pack.”
Hermione squints at what’s remaining inside the pack in the question. “Pretty close.”
“It went fine.”
“Oh really? Cause this,” she gestures at him with an exaggerated sweep of her hand, “looks like a whole lot of emotional turmoil for simply spending a day at the beach.”
“It was fine,” he repeats, pushing the words out through his teeth.
“You’re literally standing in a nicotine-laced cloud of misery, Harry.”
“He’s not miserable, ‘Mione,” Ron calls from inside the sitting room where he’s knitting a pair of orange socks and listening to a Cannons game on the wireless.
“Nah, he’s brooding, he is.” He points at Harry with one of his knitting needles.
“You can tell by the scowl.”
“How silly of me.” She turns back to Harry, arms folded. He reaches for the cigarettes on instinct. Hermione raises an eyebrow at him. Harry crumples the pack in his fist and throws it back down, ruined, on to the table. He pushes off the balustrade, steps two feet into the flat then turns on his heel and comes back out onto the balcony, hands running insistently through his hair. He eyes the crumbled pack on the table, considers reaching for it to see if there are any viable options left inside, then thinks better of it and turns away again.
Hermione chews her thumbnail. “This is actually painful to watch, yet I can’t look away.”
Harry, midway through another circuit of two steps in-turn-check for cigarettes-grimace-repeat, pauses to grab a bottle of Limoncello off the sideboard just inside the door. He pops the top and takes a swig. It burns but coats his tongue in its cloying sweetness, distracting him.
“This is healthy,” Hermione states.
“I’m fine,” Harry grunts, frustration shading his tone. He hands the bottle to Hermione and turns to leave, not wanting to be angry in front of them. They’re on holiday, they don’t need Harry’s poor coping skills ruining their evening.
He wanders the streets of Cannaregio, ending up on the edges of the city staring at the facade of a 15th-century church. There’s a huddle of tourists gathered nearby, their guide proclaiming that this is Chiesa della Madonna dell'Orto, and houses the remains of the great Wizarding painter Tintoretto.
Harry does a double-take. Wizarding painter? He steps closer to the group, taking in their appearance and noting their odd assortment of clothing combinations: a purple vinyl raincoat over a neon pink bikini paired with clogs, a three-piece oversized green velvet suit and mismatched trainers. Harry wanders closer still, listening to the guide as they enter the church, his voice low and soothing like the bass note of a cello.
“Scusi,” someone says behind him, tapping him on the shoulder. He turns, looking down at a little girl with two long plaits tied with yellow ribbons. He smiles at her.
She asks him, in English, what the tour guide is saying and Harry frowns. The tour guide is speaking English, how does she not understand him?
“Ear-scrambler charm, mate,” the man in the bikini and raincoat says, leaning into Harry’s space. “Sounds like gibberish ta Muggles.”
“Oh.” Harry turns back to the girl and shrugs, giving her another smile. She giggles, pointing to his left hand. “I like your dragon.”
Harry looks down at the Draco constellation still curling over his wrist and palm with its long black tail flecked with gold. “Thank you,” he tells her, his throat feeling raw once more. She skips away, rejoining her mother, and Harry watches her go, uneasy where he stands. He takes a seat in a nearby pew, slouches, and looks up at the coffered ceiling, letting his head fall back over the wooden lip of the bench, wondering how his carefree holiday with his two best friends in Italy has somehow turned into a wallowing pity fest, party of one, inside the cavernous halls of an ancient church.
“I’m pathetic,” he says aloud.
“Only a little.”
Harry jumps, startled. There’s a priest standing over him, white cassock pristine and edged with silver thread, his face weathered and kind.
“Sorry,” Harry stammers, sitting up and pushing his hair back behind his ears. The pew creaks as he shifts in his seat, the sound echoing loudly all around them. He winces and apologizes again in Italian.
“Fa niente,” the priest says, waving a wrinkled hand, still smiling. He looks down at Harry with a soft yet knowing gaze that makes Harry wonder if this man is somehow a Legilimens.
After an awkwardly long period of time in which the man continues to make a study of Harry, he finally speaks. “Are you alright, mio figlio?”
Harry nods, standing and shuffling out of the pew. “Fine. Thank you. I mean, grazie.”
The priest nods back slowly, still smiling, as Harry hurries away, feeling caught, like a first-year out of bed after curfew.
“It is fated,” the priest says, gesturing to Harry’s hand.
Harry stops, looks down. I must not tell lies.
“What is?” he asks, wary of the answer.
“Fatis atramento,” the priest says with widespread arms, his voice carrying in the open room.
Harry huffs out a bitter laugh. “I’ve had enough of Fate, thanks.”
The priest folds his hands together, face serene. “That is understandable, mio figlio.” The priest bows his head. “But to shun such a gift . . . una benedizione," he shakes his head, “it would be a waste.”
“I haven’t shunned anything!” Harry says, stepping towards the man. How dare he make assumptions. Draco shoved him, not the other way around.
Looking bemused, the priest answers, “No, you haven’t.”
Harry blinks at him, coming to the sudden realisation that he owes this man nothing. He doesn’t need to be here, listening to this priest, standing in this church, and wallowing over something he can’t control. He’s a free person, he can do whatever he fucking wants.
“Thank you,” he tells the priest, jaw tight. “Grazie mille,” he repeats, hands fisted. He inclines his head then turns on his heel, mind made up.
He makes it two paces before looking over his shoulder and asking, eyebrow raised, “Do you think sodomy is a sin, padre?”
The priest's eyes widen, shock clear on his aged, ashen face. Harry’s heart pounds in his chest. He’d wanted to startle him, offend him. He wanted to tip the old man off the very axis of his existence like he’d done to Harry by alluding to the markings on his skin.
“I think . . ." the priest starts, voice careful, controlled, “that love, and its many forms, has no earthly boundary, and therefore it is impossible to contain with words or with walls.” The priest looks up, his smile returning, eyes twinkling at Harry as if he’s in on the secret. “È scritto nelle stelle. It is not my place to dictate otherwise.”
Harry’s breath leaves him in a rush. He closes his eyes, feeling the magic inside of him fissure and awaken, the back of his hand tingling, asking for attention. When he looks down, the detailed lines on his hand are glowing. The golden streaks of Draco’s constellation stand out against the darkness of Harry’s skin in the dim light of the church.
“Fatis atramento,” the priest repeats as Harry backs away, turning to move faster towards the exit. He passes the little girl with the yellow ribbons in her hair. She waves at him but he can’t return the gesture. His hands are shaking.
He bursts out of the church into the night, gasping for breath, leaving the smells of incense and candle wax behind him. He leans down, hands on his knees, panting; his magic thrumming just under the surface like a shiver he can’t shake.
To Harry’s utter bewilderment, when he stands, he spots Hermione, seated on a conjured stool enjoying a pistachio gelato. She waves at him, the rose gold bracelet Ron had purchased for her earlier that afternoon jangling on her wrist.
Hermione tsks. “You’re right in front of a church, Harry.”
“Yeah, and the priest inside just gave me his blessing to fuck dudes. I think I’m okay.”
Hermoine chokes on her gelato. “Excuse me?”
“That, or he was coming on to me.” Harry shakes his head. “Nevermind. How’d you find me?”
She shrugs. “Oh, that Galleon I gave you at the start of the trip.”
“What about it?”
“It’s a tracking device.”
“‘Mione!” Harry shouts. A disturbed pair of pigeons take flight at the sound.
Hermione shrugs again and returns to her dessert. “What? I didn’t want to lose you or Ron.”
Harry stares for a moment, watching his best friend enjoying her gelato with a tiny spoon without a trace of guilt on her lovely face. She’s trying not to be obvious as she darts subtle glances at Harry’s hand, pointedly not asking, allowing him the room to tell her himself.
Harry sighs, and steps towards her, holding out his hand for her cup. She frowns at him.
“Can I taste it, please?”
She relents and hands it over. “Fine. You’re buying me another one.”
Harry nods. “Gladly.”
They wander the streets at a slow pace, following along the back canals and listening to commentary for a Muggle football match echoing out from every lit window they pass. The cheers of the locals whenever a goal is scored ripple out over the island and Harry and Hermione smile at each other, enjoying the novelty of the joyous sounds ringing so clearly through the streets with no cars or motorbikes to muffle the noise.
Harry never mentions what’s on his hand, nor does Hermione ask, and he loves her all the more for it. He’ll explain it to them eventually, he always does, but not now. Not tonight.
“Welcome back,” Ron says when they step through the door several hours later. “Have a nice time without me?”
Harry nods as Hermione gives Ron a squeeze. Turning away, Harry plucks up Ron’s newest pair of socks from the coffee table. They’re roughly as long as a pair of trousers, edged with purple, and are completely inappropriate for the late August weather.
“These are the ugliest socks I’ve ever seen,” he states, grinning.
Ron shrugs, grinning back. “I like ‘em.”
“And that’s what matters,” Hermione adds, leaning up on tiptoe to kiss him. Ron winks at her and pats her on the bum as she heads out of the room to get ready for bed. It doesn’t escape Harry’s notice that Ron watches her go, eyes fixed firmly on her backside with a hunger Harry prefers not to see on his best friend’s face in regards to any part of his other best friend’s person.
“Get a room,” he says, tossing the socks at Ron.
Ron easily catches them then waggles his eyebrows. “Already got one, mate.”
“Yeah. Go use it.” Harry laughs, waving him off as Ron dashes out of the sitting room like a kid at Christmas and Hermione is the gift waiting for him wrapped under the tree.
. . .
The days pass by in a blur of turquoise water and cups of white wine. Hermione drags them to the Doge’s Palace and the Rialto Bridge, out-of-the-way fish markets, a museum named after a woman called Peggy, and a bookstore whose stone floor sits so close to the lapping tide that often there are puddles in the aisles, the ancient bookshelves propped up on stilts. One day, Ron insists that they take a gondola ride together, despite Harry being the third wheel. He snaps pictures of his best friends and sends them back home by owl to Molly, Arthur, and little Rose, reminding her that no, her parents did not abandon her, and that they’ll be back very soon.
A little too soon, Harry thinks, noting the date on the calendar in the kitchen on their second Saturday in Venice.
“One week left.”
“Time flies, huh,” Ron says behind him, making Harry turn in surprise.
“You’re up early.”
“Yeah, making tea for the missus.”
Harry tries his best to bite back a smile as he takes in Ron’s appearance in his tartan robe and hand-knit socks. His freckled face is flushed and his eyes are tired, yet he’s grinning from ear to ear. Ron sees Harry making a study of him and smacks him on the shoulder. Harry smacks him back, happy for his friend.
“Oh piss off,” Ron says as he collects his tea tray, looking like a kneazle who's been given a fresh bowl of cream.
“Enjoy your lie-in,” Harry calls after him.
“I’d send a rude gesture your way, but my hands are full.”
Harry laughs and grabs his shades off the counter, heading for the door, the dwindling days on the calendar still fresh in his mind.
. . .
Draco answers after Harry’s third round of knocking. He’s barefoot, draped in a silk robe that’s falling haphazardly off one shoulder, and his silver-blond hair is tied-up into a pile of tangles on his head. He must have run down the stairs to get the door, leaving him panting and flushed pink. Harry has never seen Draco Malloy in such an indisposed state and he blatantly stares for a moment before catching hold of his senses.
He smiles as Draco wraps his robe tightly around himself, face severe with his trademark facade of haughty indifference.
Harry greets him with a cheery, “Morning! " just as Draco blurts, “What the fuck are you doing here?”
Undeterred by the frosty reception, Harry barrels on. “Dropping off these.” He holds out the pastries he’d picked up on his way, hoping that one of them would appeal to Draco’s discerning tastes.
Eyebrow arched, Draco lifts the lid of the cardboard box, eyes assessing its contents. Harry can see the moment Draco’s agitation leaves him in place of gastronomic anticipation as his pupils dilate with obvious hunger.
“You went to Tonolo?” he asks, voice filled with wonder.
“Yup.” Harry rocks on his heels, pleased with Draco’s reaction. Cameron had told Harry about the little spot a while ago during one of his many rambling one-sided conversations that flitted through a variety of topics, including (inexplicably) Draco’s favourite pasticceria on the island.
Draco’s eyes light up at Harry’s confirmation. He inhales, taking in the warm smell of butter and custard emanating from the box. He points at one zabaione with an elegant, pale finger. “So these are—“
“Fresh out of the oven, yes.”
Draco’s mouth opens in surprise, the tip of his tongue teasing at his bottom lip. Harry remembers being a hair's breadth away from getting to feel the heat of that pink tongue against his own lips back on the beach that day, pressed tight against the rocks with nothing but sweat and a mountain of bitter history between them. He shakes himself, swallowing down the negative thought and focusing on the present.
Narrowing his eyes as if coming to a decision, Draco slowly nods, lips pursing.
“Thank you,” he finally says.
Harry smiles as Draco plucks the box out of his hands and holds it to his chest, long fingers curling around the edges like talons sinking into a fresh kill.
“Can I—“ Harry begins to ask but Draco cuts him off with a, “Ciao,” abruptly shutting the door in Harry’s face.
Harry blinks at the peeling black paint of the wood, wondering where he went wrong.
Two seconds later the door is reopened. Cecilia, with her curls piled up in a silk scarf atop her head, stands before Harry smiling, arms held open wide in welcome.
He rubs the back of his neck, feeling awkward. “Hey.”
“Prego, entra,” she urges, “can’t have you standing out here all day pining, now can we? Unless, of course, you’ve prepared a serenade? I won’t interrupt you if so.”
For the life of him, Harry cannot tell if she’s being sincere or facetious. “No, I haven’t.”
She sighs and shakes her head. “Essere in alto mare.”*
Harry has no idea what she’s talking about.
Cecilia ushers him inside, pulling him by the arm up the stairs after Draco, who calls down as they ascend, “I did not invite him in for a reason, Cee!”
“Ti scureggia il cervello!”**
She waves him off, rolling her eyes at Harry. “He can be such a dramatic little bitch.”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
Cecilia drags him faster up the stairs. “Dai, dai,” she urges. “I’ve just made coffee. Can’t have it going cold, now can we?”
. . .
Draco has absconded to his room with the pastries by the time Harry’s entered their flat, much to Cecilia’s and Cameron’s varied (and loud) objections. Harry, hands clasped behind his back, trails along after them, poking his head around Draco’s bedroom door, enjoying the cacophonous sounds of all three of them shouting in Italian, though he suspects that Cameron is speaking French, due to his continual dropped constants at the end of each word.
“Go away,” Draco spits, having spotted Harry lurking in the doorway.
“No!” Cecilia says, flapping at Draco with limp wrists. “He’s my guest.”
“Then take him to your room.”
She huffs at him, stepping back and folding her arms. They glare at each other for several seconds before Cecilia’s face changes in an instant. She smiles and narrows her eyes at Draco. Harry can practically see the devious thought that has just popped into her head. “I know,” she says, touching one red fingertip to her lips, “perhaps Cameron should go take a few more photos of Harry in his room, hmm?” She turns to Harry, eyebrow raising in what he assumes to be a consent check, since he’s pretty sure she’s now using him as leverage to get a pastry out of Draco’s greedy hands.
Cameron, ever the optimist, lights up at this suggestion. “Oh brilliant, Cee! Yes, I was just thinking, the canals this morning are looking extra clear, perhaps we could take a ride—”
“No,” Draco hisses, slashing through the air at Cameron’s suggestions as if he could slap the words out of his mouth with his hands.
Cameron pouts. “But, Dee—”
“I said no.”
Harry clears his throat. “I think that's really my decision to make, Draco.” He watches Draco flinch at the use of his given name and smiles. Throwing Draco Malfoy off his game has never once gotten old in the thirteen years he’s known him.
“Lovely,” Cameron claps, heading out of the room quickly, eyes bright with excitement. “Be back in a tick!”
Draco follows in his footsteps, bare feet silent on the parquet floorboards, and slams the door shut as soon as Cameron has crossed the threshold. With a swish of his wand Draco wards the door so tight Harry wonders if they’ll ever be able to leave. He can feel the fissure of magic sweep over him as the wards slide neatly into place at Draco’s deft hand and Harry shivers at the sensation of Draco’s magic so near—it feels familiar, steadying.
Behind him, Harry realises that he’s hearing Cecilia giggling to herself. He turns, looking at her with questioning eyes. She nods at him, popping a pilfered frittelle into her mouth. “I knew that’d work.”
“What?” Draco hisses, spinning around to glare at her.
“Fa niente, polpettino.”
“Don’t you ‘polpettino’ me, you deceptive little snake.”
She puts a hand to her chest, eyes pointed skyward. “My, how you flatter me.”
“I will hex you.”
She pouts, abandoning the pastries. Patting him on the cheek, she soothes him, cooing softly in Italian. Draco’s shoulders visibly shift under his robe, posture slipping as he sighs at her lyrical speech. Cecilia steps closer still, plucking a pin from Draco’s hair and running her hands through it, working out the tangles. Harry watches as Draco wilts into her touch like a drop of melted cream descending from the rim of a gelato cone, cascading languid and sticky over Harry’s fingertips. Draco is so pliant, so accepting of affection that Harry balls his hands into fists, at once both envious and confused that he isn’t the one standing in Cecilia’s place. He’d come here to deliver pastries and hopefully make amends for his poor behaviour on the beach, and now here he is in Draco's bedroom, feeling jealous over Cecilia's abilities to render Draco speechless with a single touch.
Harry aches with a need he can’t quite name. He cracks his neck, his skin feeling too tight. He has to move, unable to stand still a moment longer. Stalking to the door, he closes his eyes to concentrate on the magic buzzing around its perimeter, desperate for escape—he figures jumping off the balcony isn’t a viable option.
“Dove vai ?” Cecilia asks, now standing behind Draco as she braids his silver hair into a plait along his neck. She clearly does not want Harry to leave.
“I . . . erm,” Harry shrugs, at a loss. “I feel awkward?” He tries for honesty.
Cecilia laughs, so carefree it almost sounds cruel. “Why?”
Harry just gestures at the two of them, wishing Draco would hiss at him, or insult him, or kiss him. Anything other than his continued silence. It’s as if Harry isn’t even in the room.
“Don’t be silly,” she says, leaving a soft kiss at the base of Draco’s neck and (finally) moving away from him. Harry swallows, frustration growing at their connection. She twiddles her fingers at the two of them and steps to the far wall, rapping on the panelling in a staccato rhythm. The wall shifts, revealing a door where Harry hadn’t seen one before.
“Eloquent as ever,” Draco quips, as the door slides shut behind Cecilia’s back. Harry turns to Draco, suddenly feeling as if he were eleven years old again, standing off in front of a boy he doesn’t know whose piercing grey eyes makes his insides feel strange.
Harry rubs at the back of his neck and Draco tsks, walking over to his bed and plopping down, silk robe falling open around him and pooling at the crooks of his elbows in an elegant display that Harry is half-convinced wasn’t entirely unintentional. Draco’s bare shoulders stand out to Harry as shockingly intimate in this setting, his skin painfully beautiful in the morning light, like an overripe peach that would bruise from Harry’s touch.
“There’s a picture,” Harry says, words coming too quickly for his brain to stop them.
Draco raises an eyebrow at him, only adding to the decadence of the scene as he reaches for the pastry box. “What is?”
In for a penny, Harry thinks, and gestures to Draco’s pose. “You. On that bed. With your clothes just so and your hair like that.”
“Why, Potter. Are you saying you find me attractive ?”
Harry wants to groan. The man is impossible. He looks to the ceiling, staring at the painted beams, desperate for patience. “You know I do, Draco.”
“Hmmm,” Draco hums while biting into a zabaione. “Interesting.”
Harry dares a glance in Draco’s direction to find him already looking back. It startles Harry but he accepts this as the challenge that it is— hold my stare and tell me you don’t want me. Harry doesn’t hesitate, he maintains eye contact, and watches as Draco slowly opens his mouth to take another bite, lips full and tongue red.
“I need a cigarette.” Harry stalks to the balcony doors and throws them open, a blast of humid air hitting him across his flushed face, doing nothing to ease his nerves, but it was either this or tackle Draco onto the bed.
His fumbles with his new pack, dropping it once before managing to pull out a cigarette. Behind him, Draco snaps his fingers. Harry’s cigarette lights in a flash. He watches the burning tip for a moment before bringing the filter to his lips, thrilling at the thought of consuming something that Draco’s magic has touched. He’d done this the other night when they watched the couple on the bridge. It hadn’t felt this profound then—this electric.
“Are you not going to have one?”
The pastries, Draco means. Harry closes his eyes and pictures the custard bursting out the side as Draco bites into its soft dough with sharp white teeth, the sugar crystals coating his lips and the cream making a mess of his chin.
Staring down at the water, he tells Draco no, voice raw from smoke. If the sounds coming from Draco are any indication, he's enjoying the pastries enough for both of them. Harry rubs at the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb, wondering what had possessed him to put himself in this position of utter torture. He casts about, desperately seeking a change of topic, anything that doesn’t include Harry having to think about Draco’s mouth.
“Plants,” he blurts.
“I beg your pardon?” Draco trails out onto the balcony licking at his fingertips, robe cascading off one pale, pointed shoulder.
Harry holds back a pathetic sound and punches out the words through his teeth: “You have a lot of them.”
“Well spotted, Potter. It is your keen observational skills that truly solidify your legacy. Why, I just was mentioning the other day that yes, of course, you did right by us all by AKing that feral bastard, bravo, but if it were not for your—“
“Yeah, gonna stop you right there.” Harry holds up a hand and Draco’s eyes widen.
“Yeah. Sorry, it just felt like you were getting on a roll there.”
“I could tell.”
Draco actually pouts. “Potter, I had a point to make.”
Harry huffs out a laugh. “I’m sure you did. Call me Harry.”
Draco blinks at him. He turns from Harry and drifts back inside, silk floating out behind him on a breeze. “I’m getting another pastry. Do not. Stop me.”
Harry finishes his cigarette, vanishes the butt, and follows. He pokes at a slightly curled, waxy leaf of an odd-looking lopsided tree just inside the glass door.
“This guy’s cool.”
“It’s she, Potter, and it’s a fiddle leaf fig.”
“No, her name is Marge.”
“—no, that’s my name.”
Draco shakes his head. “Your name isn’t Marge, it’s Potter: Giant knob and Saviour Extraordinaire. I’ve read it in the papers so it must be true.”
“I’d prefer Marge over Potter.”
“Too bad, it’s already been taken.” Draco gestures to the tree. “Rotten luck, that.”
Sighing, Harry moves on, distracted by the long trailing vines of a plant hanging from a ceiling beam in a macrame hanger. He reaches out to touch its heart-shaped leaves, feeling them brush back against the pads of his fingertips in a friendly greeting. Harry smiles.
“It’s like you,” he says.
“She, Potter. That one’s Sylvia.”
“I thought Cecilia’s boat was Sylvia?”
“They’re both Sylvia.”
“Why can’t I be Marge then?”
Exasperated, Draco stands and walks over to Harry, slapping his hand away from the affectionate leaves. “Stop that.”
“But she liked it.”
“They’re like you,” Harry repeats. He grins as a flush blooms across Draco’s cheeks in response.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Draco says, turning his head away. Reaching out, Harry tucks a strand of silver hair behind Draco’s ear, marvelling at the softness, and trails a finger down the side of his neck as a gentle experiment. Draco visibly shivers yet doesn’t shy from the touch and Harry’s heart kicks in his chest.
“They like touch.”
“Everyone craves affection, Potter.” Draco’s voice is soft, his eyes on Sylvia's leaves.
Yes, they do.
Harry wants to step into that uncharted space that exists outside of lust; he wants to take hold of Draco and keep him. Not to then move him towards the bed as an end goal, but to simply envelop him into his arms and never let go. He wants to feel Draco melt into him, feel his own arms mirror Harry’s as they wrap around him in return, long and lean and full of a magic familiarity that Harry aches to have simmering just under the surface of his own skin.
Harry wants Draco, but for more than he’d ever expected, and the realisation washes over him like a wave on the seashore, sharp and cooling with a bit of grit at the fringes. After stumbling over this shocking truth as one stumbles over a sudden crack in the pavement, a swell of panic threatens to choke Harry, climbing up his throat like a vine on a tree, and Harry closes his eyes for the briefest of moments, wanting to be consumed.
“Tell me about them,” Harry says instead of giving in, tamping down the emotions building up inside him.
“What?” Draco asks, eyes appearing blue in the soft light of the room.
“The plants. All of them.”
Taking a moment, Draco pauses, standing taller than he had before, pulling the sides of his robe together as if the action were a true gathering of his thoughts. He looks about as if seeing the room through Harry’s eyes, then starts by pointing to a jade plant in the far corner, explaining how its leaves wrinkle when in need of watering and plump like bloated green pillows when it’s fully sated. Harry allows himself a grin, listening intently as Draco guides him about the room for the next few minutes, pontificating over each plant and its uses in turn.
“So is that what you do? Something with herbology?” Harry asks, curious. They’ve yet to talk much about the practicalities of their adult lives, too caught up in the novelty of wanting to be in each other's company without the constant violence that accompanied such meetings in their youth.
“These aren’t for potions, Potter. They serve no other purpose than to bring me joy,” he says, in that self-assured way of his; nose high, eyes bright. “It’s taken years to learn to care for something other than myself and my own whims. These,” he gestures about him, “taught me how to be better.”
His vulnerability is shocking, endearing even as he speaks of the things he’s nurtured, and the pride he has in his efforts. The intimacy of the moment feels compounded by the sudden appearance of Draco’s candour.
Harry takes in the beauty of him, standing there, barefoot and draped in silk, surrounded by greenery as the morning sun glows warm and low across the floorboards, reaching out its tendrils of late-summer heat into the room. Draco’s silver-blond hair is illuminated with a verdant gleam. He looks like a wild thing, composed yet utterly free at the centre of it all; a native prince embraced by a jungle of his own creation.
“It’s beautiful,” Harry tells him, watching as Draco’s face flushes pink at the praise.
“Grazie,” he says, bowing his head. He walks over to perch on the edge of his duvet, long pale legs crossing in a relaxed display as if his four-poster bed were a pedestal throne to his kingdom made from flowers and vines held aloft by a woven hammock strung between two trees. It’s fanciful but fitting, Harry thinks.
Harry wants nothing more than to give in to this new, shimmering emotion he’s feeling and join Draco on that jungle bed, sit beside him, pet his hair and kiss him, but that’s not a reality for them. Not yet. Whatever had got its claws into Draco that day at the beach had yanked and yanked hard, pulling him far away from Harry, farther than when he’d first stepped into Cameron’s kitchen on Tuesday, just past two in the afternoon, and spotted Draco Malfoy for the first time in six long years. Draco slinks across the sun-drenched floorboards, purposefully putting space between them, proving Harry’s theory all the more; there’s too much left unsaid, too much water under the bridge. They’ll need time to continue this strangely exciting exercise in patience they’re curating around one another, and unfortunately for Harry, there isn’t much time left.
“Can I come back tomorrow?” Harry asks, hopeful.
Draco makes a study of him, head tilted to the side in casual repose. “We’ve plans tomorrow.”
“Oh. Right.” Harry thinks back to what Hermione had been telling him the other night over cicheti and endless glasses of un’ombra at the bacaro on the same block as their flat. He suspects he has plans as well, though he’d easily break them for more time with this version of Draco Malfoy. The man who wears a Muggle wristwatch and reads Muggle paperbacks without a second thought. The man who’s created a life for himself away from Wiltshire, living with eccentrics in a foreign city, all the while nurturing a verdant, flourishing oasis behind his bedroom door. Someone so far removed from the haughty, pinched, pureblood boy of their youth it makes Harry lightheaded.
Harry wonders if Draco finds him changed as well, aside from his blatant dislike of the markings on Harry’s skin, which was never something Harry could control. Does Draco favour the person Harry’s become like Harry now favours him? He wants to ask, wants to poke at his curiosity like one pokes a scab that’s newly healed and oh so tempting to rub bloody once more. It’s a sick fixation, but Harry’s never shied away from his obsession with Draco, and he doesn’t think showing restraint now is worth the effort.
The scritch-scratching of a record needle distracts him, not realising that music had been playing in the room until its absence made itself known. Harry turns to see the source of the sound, spotting an ancient gramophone in the corner. He walks over to a neat pile of Muggle vinyl records lined up along the floor next to the machine and he stoops, studying their titles. Harry halts the record’s idle spinning and readjusts the needle, listening intently as the first notes of The Velvet Underground emerge from the wide brass instrument in front of him.
“You listen to Muggle music,” Harry states, not even trying to stem the wonderment in his words.
“What of it?” Draco asks.
Harry shrugs, his hands running over the neat row of records. He plucks one out at random and smiles at the cover: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. He flips the cardboard sleeve over, eyes immediately landing on the familiar inscription printed at the bottom— To be played at maximum volume.
“Sirius owned this record.” He’d scratched those same words into the wall above his bedroom door in Grimmauld Place. Harry remembers the day he spotted Sirius’ slanted teenage scrawl marring the dingy brocade of the wallpaper. It had made him smile through his tears.
“Your godfather had very good taste.”
Harry huffs out a laugh, but it’s a bitter thing. Yes, Sirius had excellent taste in music. Harry, wanting nothing else of the world than to hide from it when he was seventeen and newly freed from the oppressive yoke of his youth, had buried himself in the bits of life Sirius had left behind. His clothes, his books, his music—there were piles upon piles of records overflowing from an expanded trunk Harry found inside Sirius’ room. Listening to every album, every song until he’d memorized them all by heart had given Harry something to focus on other than his own grief. Those days spent lying dazed on Sirius’ old bed were ones Harry can look back on now with thoughts of fondness, having put enough time and space between him and Sirius’ death, though the idea of experiencing the world without him still burns to this day.
Nico coos at Harry softly in her deep-voiced ennui as the vinyl spins, pulling him unwittingly back in time to when he was a broken little boy wanting nothing else than to be hugged by a man he barely knew, and thanks to the trappings of Fate, would never get a chance to fully know.
The corner of Harry’s eyes prickle with a telltale sting and he scrubs at his face, dislodging his glasses. He takes a moment to wipe them clean on his shirt, pretending that his bowed head is concentration, not sorrow.
“What are your plans?” Harry asks, shaking himself before the grip of melancholy can fully take hold.
“Plans, Potter?” Draco quips. Harry turns back to see that Draco has also allowed the music to sweep him off into his own musings. He’s lounged on his elbows on the bed, throat exposed as he lets his head roll back on his shoulders, one slim ankle twisting in time with the tune. Harry wants to clarify, to ask Draco what prior arrangements are so important they’ll keep Harry from coming back here to spend more time in this room with its greenery and sunlight and Muggle music and the most captivating man Harry has ever dared to want, but his voice sticks in his throat, the sight of Draco rendering him speechless.
Harry opens his mouth, attempting to speak once again when Cecilia, by some form of Legilimency, or simple eavesdropping, bursts back through the hidden door behind them, eyes alight with excitement, stopping Harry in his tracks. “Oh, Harry, yes! You must come with us!”
“To what?” he asks, both shocked and amused because Draco’s reaction to Cecilia’s untimely interruption is to squawk loudly like a disturbed goose. Draco glares at Cecilia, cheeks flush red, shoulders rigid with tension, but Cecilia ignores him.
She winks at Harry. “You shall see.”
. . .
Dove vai? - where are you going?
*Essere in alto mare - This literally means ‘on the high seas’ but it’s used in more of a ‘you’ve got a long way to go’ capacity. So Cecilia is just lamenting how far off these boys are from finally boning. We feel you, Cee.
**Ti scureggia il cervello! - This phrase literally means ‘your brain is farting!’ and I love it. I also think it’s contextually self-explanatory, idiom or no. I doubt a Venetian would say this, it’s more of a Roman thing, but hey, I’m taking liberties.
As for the football match that Hermione and Harry hear as they stroll home one night eating gelato, that is a true cherished memory of mine. I happened to be in Venice the summer they won the World Cup in 2006, and every single bar, restaurante, vaporetto with a satellite hook-up had the games on. All of the TVs were turned out into the public spaces so people could gather and watch as they ate their pasta and drank copious amounts of vino. There were two different live feeds coming into the island that were seconds off from each other, so every time there was a goal you’d hear one side of Venice erupt with cheers and then it would flow, like a sonic wave, over to the other side. Depending on which side of Venice you were on at the time, you’d either be three seconds ahead or spoiled for what was about to happen at every turn. It was such a collective, joyous experience. After each game the streets would explode with the sounds of bottles popping, old ladies banging pots and pans, fireworks, it was incredible.
*Insert the gif of Indiana Jones sighing, ‘ah, Venice,’ here*
There is entirely too much silk and satin floating about their flat for Harry’s liking as Hermione alters two sets of Venetian dress robes for him and Ron with fierce, decisive swishes of her wand. Her tongue is poking out of the side of her mouth in rapt concentration, her hair a mile high from the humidity of the early evening and her tireless commitment to a theme. The dress robes had been an unexpected surprise after Hermione learned of their invitation to Carnevale via Cecilia’s insistence yesterday. Hermione had been planning to drag them to the festivities all along; she had packed the robes away in a hidden bag, wanting to spring the idea on Ron and Harry at an opportune moment that most likely would have involved a lot of grappa and a fair amount of guilt-tripping. Knowing a member of Venetian nobility was now inviting them to join their party has sent Hermione into preparation overdrive.
There are fireflies circling the sitting room in lazy, glowing spirals, adding an ethereal bit of whimsy to the scene. Hermione unintentionally conjures one each time she Transfigures another stray bottle cap or wine cork into gold buttons in an attempt to fancy up Ron’s waistcoat. Harry’s been watching from a safe distance for twenty minutes now, glass in hand.
“‘Mione, please don't tell me you chose to come to Venice specifically so that you could dress up in a set of robes from the— whatever century and dance in the streets like a potions addict?”
Hermione smacks Ron in the arm, a sewing needle shot through with gold thread clenched in her teeth. “Carnevale di Venezia is not a festival of addicts, Ron.”
“Oh yeah, what is it?”
“A festival of drunks?” Harry supplies, raising his glass and earning himself a glare.
Hermione plucks the needle from her mouth. “It’s an annual tradition dating back to the 12th century. It’s beautiful and mysterious and fun! ”
Ron, having donned his traditional plague mask with protruding beak, decides to poke Hermione in the hair as if he were a bird, squawking like a Stupefied goose. She scowls and turns to Harry, eyebrows raised.
“Can we leave him behind?”
“Hey!” Ron yelps through his beak and Harry snorts, downing his firewhiskey and relinquishing his glass to the kitchen bench.
“Nah, let’s bring him,” he says before gathering up his freshly-altered robes and heading to his room to gamely change into them. He ignores the mirror once he’s donned his waistcoat. His billowing crepe sleeves and buttoned-up cuffs look ridiculous enough as he steps into the low-heeled satin shoes Hermione insisted he wear; he doesn’t need to see the entire ensemble reflected in front of him, no matter how many times the ancient gilded glass coos ‘sei bello, bellissimo, fantastico! ’ at him.
Cecilia side-along Apparated with him back to their flat the day before to introduce herself to his friends. She insisted on delivering her invitation to join their festival party in person. She and Hermione immediately struck up an excitable conversation about costumes and masks as Cecilia made herself at home in their kitchen and put together an impromptu platter of cheeses, bread, salumi, and prosciutto that she’d plucked from her canvas market tote. To top it off, she pulled a bottle from the bag and popped the cork with a sly grin and a shout of cin-cin! Harry was speechless.
“Did you have that with you this whole time?”
“One must always be prepared for a party, Harry.”
“You’re a marvel,” he said.
“Just wait till tomorrow night.” She winked at him and he laughed.
And now here he stands, pulling stray threads from a shirt that’s no less than three hundred years old and doing his best to not become unsettled at the increasingly crass and suggestive compliments the mirror is spewing from the corner. Harry looks over his shoulder at the last second and sees his reflection backlit from the doorway. His thighs are covered in creamy satin, his calves wrapped in white stockings which hide the markings on his skin. He huffs out a bemused laugh, feeling like a character off the cover of one of Molly’s paperback novels, grateful for the firewhiskey swirling in his belly.
“When in Venice,” he says with a shrug and leaves the room.
. . .
They Apparate across the island to join up with Cameron and Cecilia just outside their place on Calle Pesaro. They’re greeted with a round of shots that Hermione frowns at but gamely drinks, to Ron’s hearty approval. This is followed by a series of elaborate handshakes and lots of bowing, and soon, everyone’s hysterically laughing and that much more drunk. They walk down to San Marco Square as a boisterous group, with Cecilia, the only true Venetian of the lot, leading the way. Draco, much to Harry’s disappointment, has not joined them, though Cecilia promises that he’ll be along shortly.
Stilt-walkers and fire-breathers line the pathways towards San Marco, blowing out spouts of flame from their red mouths and sending pearlescent soap bubbles up into the early evening air tinged purple with ethereal light. There are cries of joy and loud blasts of music coming from every direction, silken skirts billowing, men’s tailcoats flapping, and brightly-lined satin capes fluttering in a theatrical show Harry finds more than a bit overwhelming. Cameron is right at home in the thick of it, having donned his Marie Antoniette ensemble (complete with fluttering birds zooming about his bewigged head) specifically for the occasion. Harry falls in line behind him and Cecilia, letting the knowledgeable pair slink their way through the crowd, finding the best vantage point for the Ragata, along with a quick detour to procure a vino or three for the road.
Fireworks go off, lighting up the white facade of the Doge’s Palace and the red brick of Campanile with sparks of blue and gold, much to the enjoyment of the crowd. The oohs and ahhs are audible throughout the island. Beside him, Cecilia and Cameron have begun an interpretive dance in the grand tradition of Commedia dell’arte , immediately gathering an enthusiastic audience.
Harry’s eager to watch his new friends, grinning at their dramatics before stumbling awkwardly into a fellow reveller. He spins, coming face-to-face with a devilish mouth and a shock of dusty pink hair, styled in such a way that it falls over its owner’s mask-covered forehead in a delicious tease. Harry’s fingers itch at his sides, wanting to touch, but he holds himself back and apologizes in Italian, if not for the abrasive shove then definitely for the objectification, only to be responded to in cut-glass English, which is the only reason Harry can understand him in the uproarious crowd.
“No need, Harry,” the man with pink hair says, breath fragrant and lush against Harry’s skin.
Harry frowns, his alcohol-soaked mind clouded with confusion over how this stranger knows his name; surely his mask covers his scar. He watches the man warily as the seconds pass and he doesn’t slink away into the throng of revellers around them, but instead stares down at Harry through a mask painted in creams and gold with lips stained red from wine.
“It was my fault entirely,” the man adds, eyes twinkling.
“No, s’mine. I bumped into you,” Harry insists, pressing forward thanks to the crowd shoving in behind him. He feels the heat of the man in front of him and can’t help but grin, liking the sensation more than he should. “Though I can’t say that I’m too sorry,” he adds, pressing closer, the buzz he’s coasting on making him brash, pushing all thoughts of Draco and his absence to the back of his mind.
The man smirks, wicked and wild, before leaning in to whisper, “You’ve had too much to drink, my friend.” He nips at Harry’s ear and Harry shivers, wrapping his arms around the man’s satin waistcoat, wanting to keep him close.
“So what if I have?” Harry taunts, licking a stripe up the man’s pale neck, tasting salt and savouring its flavour on his tongue.
“You’ll regret this in the morning.”
Harry grins, eagerly wanting to prove this stranger wrong. He feels reckless and free and pushes his thigh between the man’s legs, teasing him. The man hisses and pulls Harry tight against him, mouth to his ear once again. “Don’t do this, Harry. Not like this.”
“Not like what?” Harry asks, lost in a haze of booze and anonymity, enjoying the ease with which he can flirt with this surprising stranger. People press in on all sides around them, their body heat, painted masks, corsets and crinoline and cries of enjoyment, an almost suffocating mix of decadent debauchery. Harry’s heart rate soars in the chaos.
The man’s speaking again, right in Harry’s ear with a hand fisted in his hair, just the way Harry likes to be handled. He whimpers, feeling unmoored as the man tells him a series of impossible things Harry is no less eager to hear. “Since we were children I've wanted you, your attention, your acceptance, your adoration,” he says, desperate, quick and heated against Harry’s overheated skin. “I used to hate you. I wanted you gone. Erased from my memory. Then I realised that I was so affected by you because I wanted you, Harry. I burned for you. Your power, your beauty. I craved it, I wanted to consume you whole, and now, here you stand, practically begging me.”
Harry moans, letting his head fall back. The man catches him, pulls his hair taut in the loop of his fist and presses their foreheads together, the bite of his mask rasping against Harry’s. “You want me?” he asks, in Italian, this time— mi vuoi?
Harry nods, eager and beyond hungry. He wants like he’s never wanted before. He feels touch-starved and thirsty for a sip of water he can’t reach. Everyone craves affection, Potter, Harry hears in his mind and closes his eyes to the memory. He can sense this man’s magic thrumming through his own veins, can taste the power and familiarity simmering just under his skin. Harry knows, instinctively, that this man is an equal, a worthy partner, and Harry salivates at the idea of getting on his knees for him, here in this crowd, surrounded by drunken, faceless strangers.
“Ti voglio, ” Harry rasps, grabbing the man’s head in his hands and holding him close, and fuck, does he mean it.
“We’ve a lot of ground to cover first,” the man is saying, just as Harry is leaning in, desperate to kiss his full, tantalisingly red mouth.
“What?” Harry blinks through the haze.
The man steps back, releasing him. “Not yet, sweetheart.” He smiles soft and genuine behind his mask, his smooth palm against Harry’s cheek. Harry leans into it, kisses his slim wrist; presses his lips to the delicate blue veins visible just under his porcelain skin. The man sighs, melting at the gentle affection yet pulls away, his smile fading into the crowd along with his presence.
“Don’t—” Harry calls, but he has already slipped deftly through the hordes of partygoers, taking his heat and his sweetness and his dusty pink hair with him. Harry feels a pull deep within his belly, like the tug before Apparition, urging him to follow. He takes one step, then two—Cecilia stops him in his tracks, appearing out of nowhere in front him with two fresh drinks in hand.
“Where did Dee go?” she asks, looking about.
“Huh?” Mind hazy with lust and disappointment, Harry barely hears her.
“Dee!” she says, louder over the din. “He was just with you!”
Harry blinks. “No, he wasn’t.”
Cecilia rolls her eyes and hands Harry a drink. “Va bene. Dov'è Cameron?”
Harry shrugs, feeling wrong-footed all of a sudden. He transfigures his fresh glass to water and he takes a large gulp before scanning the crowd for a pink head of hair. Beside him, Cecilia puts two fingers in her mouth and whistles, loud and clear. Cameron’s elaborate, bird-fluttering hairdo comes into view at the call and he jumps and waves, spotting them in the crowd. Together, they sneak off to a secluded spot near the Campanile to watch the Ragata before heading back towards Harry’s, with Hermione and Ron in tow. The two of them had made themselves scarce during the thick of the festivities and Harry suspects they were in a secluded corner also enjoying the intoxicating anonymity of the night.
Harry tries not to dwell on Draco’s conspicuous absence. He had dared to hope that he’d join in on the fun, yet Harry hasn’t seen that white-blond hair of his all evening. He pretends to ignore the nagging sense of disappointment that eats at him the rest of the night, and instead grabs another drink.
. . .
Harry, Hermione, and Ron are all for drunken revelry at half past one on a Friday evening, nay, Saturday morning, so when they all pile in through the door of their rental flat, it takes but a moment for Hermione to pop a fresh bottle of prosecco and Ron to crank the wireless (with silencing charms firmly in place in deference to their neighbours.) Collectively, they fall one by one onto the couches and pouffes in the sitting room, exhausted yet too wired to call it quits. Cameron’s busy snapping pictures of the group as the birds from his elaborate hair-do chirp merrily around the room and Cecilia coos at them, allowing one to land on her extended hand.
“Where’s Malfoy at, then?” Ron asks, counting everyone on his fingers.
Cecilia shrugs. “He disappeared about an hour ago.”
“Pity,” Ron says and Hermione snorts in response. “Wha?”
“Like you care,” she tells him under her breath.
Ron huffs, and whispers back, “Harry does. That’s all I meant.”
“Another round— Beviamo! ” Harry calls, wanting to ignore the keen observational prowess of his best friends in favour of drowning any lingering sense of emotional baggage over Draco’s nonappearance at the festival in a magnum of Spumante. Everyone around him cries out in agreement for one more, and so he levitates the bottle to each person in turn, ending with himself. Instead of pouring the bubbly into his coupe he simply grabs the bottle out of the air and downs what’s left of it, propriety be damned.
“Exploding snap, anyone?” Ron suggests, and soon, the five of them are making as much chaos inside the walls of their rental as the continuing fireworks are making out along the Grand Canal. It’s almost enough commotion for Harry to forget the feel of flushed lips teasing over his skin and the crunch of satin under his fingertips.
. . .
“Grazie,” Harry says to the vendor as he steps back, fresh gelato in hand. He quickly laps up the melting cream as it slides down the cone and over his fingers.
He’s walking towards San Marco, contemplating the surreal turn this holiday has taken, starting with his bizarre willingness to let a complete stranger photograph him, then the shock of finding Draco Malfoy, of all people, at Cameron’s kitchen table—both of which pale in comparison to the realisation that Harry actually enjoys Draco’s company and wants to spend as much time with him as possible. He was the one to stay when he should have left that first night. He’d sought Draco out on that balcony, shared his cigarettes and laughed at his perverse antics. The confusion of their time on the beach and the uplifting visit from two days prior when Harry had dropped off pastries left him feeling hopeful yet uncertain of how to proceed.
Harry had come so close to kissing him against the rocks. And then, in Draco’s bedroom, there’d been a moment, a clear one that Harry had ignored, only to make a fool of himself the next day when he threw himself at the first willing stranger who came along with a brash arrogance Harry hadn’t known he possessed.
Shaking his head, Harry walks on, hurrying away from his bad decisions. The summer sun is beating down on the cobbles and the ever-present lapping water of the canal, casting its mercurial reflection back on Harry and the passing tourists who meander along by him.
He closes his eyes against the blinding glare of the water and leans in for another swipe of the indulgent hazelnut cream before it’s nothing more than a puddle at his feet. A warm tongue touches his, licking a stripe across his lips and stealing the coolness away from his mouth. Harry stops dead in his tracks, eyes flying open in surprise. The shock of a dusty pink head hides the face of the man lapping at Harry’s melting gelato, tongue trailing downward to lick between Harry’s fingertips.
“Mi scusi,” the man says, straightening to his full height, smirking. He’s haughty and achingly beautiful behind the pair of dark shades hiding his eyes from view.
Harry opens his mouth to speak, closes it, all the words stuck in the back of his throat. In a daze he hands over his gelato to the pink-haired Draco Malfoy, as if the offering would suffice in place of speech.
Bemused, Draco accepts the cone. “Grazie,” he says, and takes another lick of gelato, coating his tongue in cream. It’s a debauched sight that Harry will never in his life forget witnessing first-hand. His empty hands clench into fists at his sides.
“It was you.”
Draco nods, brows furrowed. “Did you really think it’d be someone else?”
Harry doesn’t know what to think. His brain has broken. Cecilia had been right, Draco had been there last night, just no one had bothered to tell Harry he’d dyed his hair. Harry looks up at it, the way it tumbles over Draco’s aristocratic forehead and the soft waves of its length as it brushes his shoulders. Draco’s wearing a button-down shirt that’s two sizes too large for him. It’s open at the throat and has slipped precariously to one side, exposing an obscene amount of collarbone. Harry wants to bite that collarbone, mark it with his teeth.
He turns, walking away quickly. Draco’s collarbones can burn in the sun for all his cares. Harry can’t be around that cream-coated tongue and candy-floss hair a moment longer. He needs solace from Draco Malfoy and his omnipresence on this sweltering island in the middle of the blasted sea. He ignores the shouts of ‘Harry! ’ behind him, too overwhelmed to take in the use of his given name. He blindly turns down alleyways and side streets, leaping over backway bridges and darts down a staircase towards the water only to look around, see that he’s reached a dead end, and sprints back up the steps for another route of escape.
Alas, standing not five feet away from the landing is Draco, face guarded, melting cone in hand.
“Why?” Harry asks him.
Draco lifts a shoulder. “Why not?” He’s aiming for indifferent but Harry can tell it’s all a front. Draco had chased him this time. Put himself into Harry’s space, licked a stripe across his lips, how dare he now stand there feigning nonchalance.
“You deceived me.”
“I freed you from your inhibitions, Harry. Don’t act like you weren’t begging for it.”
Harry flinches, knowing very well how his brash actions must have come across.
But then, one thought occurs to him. Harry looks up. “Why didn’t you let me kiss you?”
Seconds pass as Harry takes in what he can read of Draco’s face behind the dark shadow of his sunglasses. In lieu of answering, Draco’s mouth lifts into the softest of smiles, small and sad and so painfully sweet it angers Harry to see it. He watches Draco vanish the melting cone and lick his fingers clean. Harry swallows and steps closer, frustration winning out over all the other emotions whirling through him. “Why, Draco?”
Draco shrugs again, looking away over his one shoulder. “It’s like I said, you’d regret it in the morning.”
Draco nods. “And?”
“I knew—” Draco’s saying but Harry doesn’t let him finish the thought. He grabs the back of Draco’s neck, twisting his hand into the gorgeous pink shock of his hair, and pulls him forward. They connect to the sound of thunder ricocheting across the sky.
It takes a moment for Harry to realise that the sound reverberating around them isn’t an oncoming storm but their magic colliding. It vibrates in his very bones as he holds Draco to him, pushing his tongue into his mouth and tasting the melted gelato he’d stolen from Harry mere minutes before. Harry wants it back and Draco gives it, freely and with a matched hunger Harry is thrilled to feel as his hands grip tightly and bring Harry closer.
When Harry pulls back, his mouth is deliciously sore, his chest heaving with a need for breath. He puts his forehead to Draco’s, nuzzles against the dampness of his overheated skin and runs his hands down his back, landing on his hips and squeezing, fingernails biting into the fabric of his Muggle jeans.
“You’re a fucking tease,” Harry tells him, only to be met with a soft laugh; a puff of amusement against his lips. Harry chases it, kissing Draco silent once more.
Another crack, another ripple of magic shooting through his entire body. He’s weak with wanting and lightheaded from the heat, the sun, the intensity of Draco’s hands on him. He breaks free of Draco’s mouth and bites along his jaw, hearing Draco’s answering hiss of approval. He nips at his earlobe, drags his nose down the exposed column of Draco’s throat and licks across that obscene pale line of collarbone, now painted a ruddy pink, either from the sun or Draco’s natural flush, Harry couldn’t care less which.
Draco moves his hips against Harry’s, and Harry feels the bite of an iron railing at the small of his back. He turns to look, mind blanking for a moment as he takes in where they’re standing. They’re on the steps of Ponte Michel, just outside Draco’s home.
“How?” he breathes, but Draco grabs his face with long fingers and directs their mouths back together, smiling into the kiss with a wickedness that Harry eagerly meets.
“Side-along” Draco says into Harry’s mouth, and his head spins. He hadn’t even felt the tug in his gut, too wrapped up in the sensations Draco was wringing from him with simply his hands and tongue. He lets his head fall forward onto Draco’s shoulder, overwhelmed by a sudden onslaught of images tumbling through his mind as he imagines what else this man might be capable of.
“Not yet. Kiss me more.” Draco’s greedy with it, never leaving Harry’s mouth for more than the moment it takes him to breathe in some much-needed oxygen. He kisses Harry with a desperation Harry understands only too well, though the depth of it still sits uneasily on his shoulders. Has this always been simmering under the surface when it came to the two of them? This want to get under each other's skin is not new, but the variation and why of it certainly is. Harry holds Draco close, licks into him with his tongue and wonders how this version of their obsession with each other came to pass; has the inclination to take this path with Draco always been there, or is the time they’ve had to grow out of their idiot teenage selves the key ingredient that’s caused this delicious reaction?
“Stop thinking, Harry,” Draco demands, pulling his hair taut in his fist.
“I wasn’t,” Harry hisses at the sting, and Draco laughs into his mouth.
“Well, distract me better,” Harry taunts, only to be met with a wide-eyed gasp.
“Is that a challenge, Potter?”
Harry nods, biting his lip with anticipation. Draco holds his gaze, his fingernails digging into the flesh of his shoulders as they stare at each other, the only sounds now their heaving breaths and the lapping of the tide beneath them. A thumb comes up to pull Harry’s lip free from his teeth, and Draco lets it drag down over his chin, his hand softly circling Harry’s throat.
“Do it,” Harry dares, intoxicated with the feel of Draco holding power over him.
Grey eyes darkening, Draco’s hand slips down further, pushing underneath the collar of Harry’s t-shirt as if to feel as much of Harry’s skin as possible. Harry contemplates simply vanishing his shirt from existence if it means Draco would put his hands on his skin, but before Harry can do anything so brazen Draco is sinking to his knees, eyes trained on Harry’s as he silently kneels before him, fingers trailing in his wake, coming to rest over the button of his faded jeans. He nuzzles into the flat of Harry’s abdomen, pressing his nose and lips against the blatant hardness he finds just below. Harry hears him inhale and then feels Draco’s fingers deftly release his top button, then the next, and the next . . .
“I’ve thought about this,” Draco says, looking up at Harry through the fall of his pink hair and the shadow of his lashes. “That night you first came here.”
Harry swallows, overwhelmed with the confession. “Me too,” he admits, pulse beating rapidly in his throat. He can feel it vibrate through him, he’s so tightly-strung.
Draco’s eyes flash with amusement. He pops another button. “Did you want to be that couple on the bridge, Harry?”
“Which one? The woman getting fucked, or the man doing the fucking?” He says the harsh words with a reverence and sensuality Harry cannot comprehend as he stands there, drunk on lust and wanting nothing more than for Draco to touch him. He feels the flat wet heat of Draco’s tongue laving at the hair just above the seam of his pants and whimpers at the sensation.
“Answer me, Potter.”
“Both!” Harry cries as Draco breaths hot and wet over the fabric of Harry’s pants. It seeps through the thin material, bathing his straining cock with blessed attention. He immediately needs more and bucks off the railing, chasing Draco’s mouth.
Draco chuckles to himself as his hands run up and down Harry’s jean-clad thighs. “So eager for it,” he says, resting his cheek over the rigid length of Harry’s cock. Draco rubs, like a kneazle nuzzling at the leg of a beloved owner, and Harry’s head falls back. He closes his eyes to the blinding noon-day sun, seeing red hot flares of light burst behind his eyelids as he gives into whatever Draco has to offer.
“Please,” he whispers, so gone with it he can’t help but beg.
Humming, Draco drags his tongue over Harry’s pants, outlining his erection in a torturous tease. Harry’s hips move of their own accord, his back arching with the need to thrust.
“I’ve wanted to do this for so long, Harry,” Draco whispers against his overheated skin, fingers trailing along the elastic of Harry’s pants, inching them ever lower down his hips. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve pictured you beneath me on this bridge, or you holding me against this railing with your mouth at my hole, fucking me with your tongue.” He punctuates this final expression of filth with a lick to the tip of Harry’s cock through the now soaked cotton of his pants.
“Fuck,” Harry gasps, the knowledge that Draco wants him that way hits home like a gut punch for the second time in as many days. The pink-haired man the other night had been Draco, after all, and his confessions compound themselves twofold in the harsh light of day. Draco has wanted him since their youth, and the idea that he’s fantasised over having Harry like this, here, on this bridge, in Draco’s adopted city, so far from their history and their past hatred, has Harry moaning at the intensity of it all, so near the brink his entire body shivers. His hands desperately grip at the iron railing to both keep from pulling at Draco’s hair and to remain standing.
Draco’s pulling back the elastic, and Harry finally feels the heat of the day touch his bare skin just as a whistle cuts the air, long and harsh and sharp. Harry blinks; he knows that sound. So does Draco.
“Shit!” Draco curses. The elastic of Harry’s pants snaps back into place with a painful sting. Harry slumps forward, groaning. “Sorry,” Draco says, standing and quickly pulling Harry’s jeans back together.
“What’s happening?” Harry asks, dumbfounded.
“Polizia,” Cecilia calls down from the balcony, her finger pointing out over the slim alleyway leading to their secluded bridge, where Harry can easily spot two officers heading towards them.
“Oh fuck.” Harry and Draco scramble back down the steps towards the faded black door of Draco’s building.
“Shit, shit, shit,” Draco continues repeating as he thrashes through the air with his wand, sending the door flying open before them as they dash inside, the footfalls of the police officers increasing their pace behind them.
The door slams shut with a burst of dust and an ominous creak of wood. Draco immediately casts a series of Notice-Me-Not and Confundus charms onto the street through the flaps of the shuttered front window. Harry hopes it does the trick. They press their hands hard against the door, chests heaving as if they could hold back the two men by sheer force of their collective will. Harry can’t help it, he snorts.
Shooting him a look, Draco says, “You find this funny?!”
Nodding, Harry doubles over, gone with it. He turns and presses his back to the door, sliding down onto the stone floor, hysterical.
“We could have been arrested.”
Tears brim at the corner of Harry’s eyes. “I know!” He laughs harder.
“Fuck, the one fucking time . . . does danger follow you everywhere? Never before has anyone gotten caught . . . “ Draco is rambling while shaking his head. “I was so close to—” and then abruptly he cuts himself off, cheeks flushed.
Grinning up at him, Harry wraps a hand gently around Draco’s leg and squeezes. “I was close too.” Draco softens for a moment before Harry adds, “I’m surprised I didn’t shoot my load from the shock of it, actually.”
Grimacing in distaste, Draco mouths the words shoot your load back at Harry. “You really are a philistine, Potter.”
“Hey! I wasn’t the one on my knees.”
Eyes widening, Draco puts a hand to his chest. “Why, Potter,” he breathes. Harry can’t tell if his offence is mocking or sincere. But before he can ask, he hears Cecilia running down the steps.
“Cavolo! Che diavolo!”* she’s shouting as she rounds the final stair towards them.
Draco immediately advances on her, finger raised in admonishment. “Dici sul serio? I can’t believe you were watching us!”
“Mi scusi, I saved you!”
“Puttano!”** Cecilia shoots back with a wicked smirk. Harry watches as Draco’s eyes flash and his cheeks flush red. Harry presses his lips together, ready for anything as the two friends square off in front of him. Perhaps they’ll throw hexes next? The anticipation is almost enough to distract Harry from his still very hard cock and its utter disappointment in being denied head. He adjusts himself with a grimace.
Cecilia turns towards him at the sound. “Assetato, Harry?” she asks, all innocence. Draco snaps his fingers in her face.
She tuts, raising her hands in the air. “I’m just being a good host, polpettino.” She spins on her heel and starts up the steps.
“Dai, ” she calls over her shoulder. “I think we all need a drink.”
. . .
“Hey, Draco?” Harry asks an hour or so later, slumping on the red-lipped couch, his head resting on Draco’s shoulder. Cecilia has absconded to the kitchen for more drinks, their third round of the early afternoon.
“Call-me-Harry,” he mumbles before barreling on, “when were you going to tell me you stole my watch in fifth year?”
Draco stiffens next to him. He freezes so completely that Harry takes a moment to be concerned as he lifts his head to look at Draco’s shocked expression, almost waving a hand in front of his face to see if he’s somehow been Stunned. Slowly, Harry sits up, watching Draco internally war with himself over what to do next. It would be comical if Harry weren’t so taken aback by Draco’s reaction.
“Hey, it’s okay,” he consoles, shifting closer. “I don’t mind.” Harry moves to pull Draco’s left arm towards him, the large yellowed face of the wristwatch Harry took from Dudley’s old bedroom when he was only twelve winking up at him from its place on Draco’s slim wrist. It’d stopped working when Harry had to dive into the lake during the Tri-Wiz tournament in fourth year, but he remembers leaving it at the breakfast table one morning in fifth, never to be seen again. He’d assumed the house-elves had Vanished it along with his leftover toast.
To Harry’s surprise, Draco snatches his hand back. “I didn’t,” he spits. He stands, takes two steps away from the couch, then turns, glaring down his nose at Harry, eyes fierce. “I didn’t,” he repeats.
Smiling, Harry gestures to the watch. “Come on, I remember the crack in the glass. Dudley’s name is inscribed on it, even.”
Draco slants his eyes down towards his arm, nostrils flaring. He looks caught, and so utterly guilty that Harry laughs.
Which, as it turns out, is entirely the wrong thing to do. Draco turns from him and flees down the hall, just as Cecilia reenters with a silver tray floating aloft in front of her.
“Oh cazzo, what now?” She huffs.
Harry’s not listening; he’s too busy sprinting after Draco, frowning at his bizarre retreat. Draco slams and wards the door in Harry’s face, but Harry barely needs to breathe to push through them. He’s triumphantly standing in front of Draco not two seconds later, chest heaving.
“What gives?” he asks, so thrown he feels whiplashed.
Draco’s back is turned, his posture impeccably straight, head held high. He’s shaking.
“Draco?” Harry says, softer.
“I never thought you’d remember.”
Blinking, Harry steps closer. He reaches out to touch his hand to Draco’s shoulder but Draco smoothly steps away from him through the French doors to the balcony, plucking up a cigarette from the silver booklet he keeps outside on the little cafe table. He snaps his fingers and the tip flares to life. He inhales, then exhales a long stream of smoke into the afternoon sky, his pink hair blowing softly in the breeze.
“I like that you have it.”
Draco looks at him, holding Harry with his stern grey gaze as Harry comes to lean next to him on the railing. “I like it,” Harry repeats.
“You don’t think me . . . “ Draco trails off, his eloquence leaving him as he fumbles for the right word.
Harry saves him the trouble. “I was no better at fifteen. I got worse at sixteen.”
Shaking his head, Draco looks at him with a question in his eyes. He inhales another drag, eyebrows raising.
Harry explains. “I was obsessed with you, Draco.” The words feel right in his mouth as he confesses, the burden of his poorly-hidden secret coming out easily in this time and place. “Hermione was the first to say that word to me back then. I hated that she’d said it. Hated that she knew me so well.”
“But she was right,” Draco interjects. Harry nods.
“She was.” He looks up at Draco. “I still am, by the way.”
“You’re what?” Another drag, another raised eyebrow.
Harry straightens and steps into Draco’s space, breathing in the smoke he exhales through his lungs and holding his head tightly in his hands. “Ossessionato, Draco.” He whispers against his lips, and feels no shame in its truth. Obsessing over Draco Malfoy has been as much a part of Harry’s life as the scar on his forehead, or the stars magically painted onto his skin. He kisses him, tongue slipping into his mouth with ease. It all feels so simple to Harry: kissing Draco, confessing to him, being with him. Harry basks in the way Draco melts into Harry’s embrace, his shoulders relaxing, hands coming up to grab hold of Harry’s waist. Their bodies align perfectly.
Pulling back with a crooked smile, Draco says, “You know, thinking that the torch I’ve been carrying for you since I was a snot-nosed brat is sexy is rather twisted, Potter.”
“Call me Harry,” he tells him. “And I like knowing you’ve carried a torch for me all this time. Feel free to keep the watch, by the way.”
Draco shoves him. Harry laughs as he falls back, sitting down on the table with an inelegant thud. Draco advances on him, moving between his thighs.
“It was never your watch, Potter.”
Harry throws his head back. “Ha! True.”
Draco smiles down at him, wicked and wanting. Harry submits to that smile with ease. He kisses Draco until the golden light of the afternoon turns orange with the onset of early evening. The pigeons coo softly on their perches, the tide laps at the crumbling stones beneath them, and church bells ring out in the near distance, the quintessential sounds of Venice pulsing with life all around them. Draco’s hands twist into Harry’s curls as he tugs him ever closer and Harry eagerly gives in.
. . .
*Cavolo. Che diavolo! - essentially, two ways of saying ‘what the hell?’ Cavalo actually means ‘cabbage’ but it’s used in more of an emphatic sense in Italian, a less harsh form of ‘cazzo’ which is ‘fuck’.
**Puttano - hehehee, ‘man slut’. Cee is a bitch sometimes.
Assetato - thirsty *smirk*
I’ve taken even more liberties in this chapter! Carnevale di Venezia is not held in late August (my god, that would be disgustingly hot) it’s held around the same time as Mardi Gras in February of each year. But, needs must when writing fic! I wanted Draco with pink hair and for Harry to thirst all over him while sweltering in the summer heat. Naturally, I needed to write a Carnevale scene to have this occur, there was no alternative.
Harry’s final days in Venice are spent almost entirely at Draco’s flat. More specifically in his bed, surrounded by greenery and Japanese silk, the sounds of a Muggle vinyl record softly spinning away on the gramophone in the corner. After one too many interruptions from Cecilia innocently offering them trays of espresso and bread and cheeses, Harry had thrown the strongest warding charm he knew at the secret door in the wall, and threw another two at the bedroom door leading to the hall for good measure.
“Subtle, Potter,” Draco says, smirking.
“Call me Harry.”
Draco, as ever, nods and continues to ignore Harry’s request except when it suits him to do otherwise.
They’re lying on Draco’s four-poster bed, clothes haphazardly thrown aside, the late summer heat sitting heavily on the air like a duvet draped over the room. A warm breeze drifts in from the balcony, though it offers no solace. Harry casts a cooling charm over them and watches, eyes hungry, as Draco shivers with it and moves closer to Harry on instinct. He’s tracing the lines on Harry’s chest with delicate fingers, leaving ticklish trails of magic behind. Harry shivers for an entirely different reason.
“There,” Draco points, the cool tip of his finger pressing gently against Harry’s skin.
Harry grins. “What’s that?”
Draco looks up at him, “The Stag.”
Harry’s breath escapes him in a sudden rush. He had never known. “Really?”
Nodding, Draco connects the small line of stars. “The constellation, which is clearly lost, was created by the French astronomer Pierre Charles Le Monnier in 1736.”
“What do you mean lost?”
“It should be up here,” Draco’s finger moves from his chest to the dip of skin where Harry’s collarbone meets his shoulder. “In the north, but I suppose you wanted to keep him closer to your heart?” Draco says the last with a tenderness that sets Harry off balance. His throat tightens, a visceral reaction, and he swallows. He moves to cup the back of Draco’s head with his hand, but Draco shifts and quickly barrels on as if the previous moment hadn’t just ripped open Harry’s soul. “The IWAU are to blame.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“The International Wizarding Astronomical Union. In 1922 they compiled a list of the 88 constellations that the general public recognize today, and little-known ones like Rangifer were abandoned and relegated instead to the pages of dry tomes never to be studied again.”
“So, it’s no longer recognized?”
“Except by me, and now you.” Draco smiles behind a lock of fallen pink hair. Harry pushes it back behind his ear and Draco leans into his palm, melting into the touch.
“How do you know this?”
“Hmm?” Draco looks up, attention having drifted as his fingers dance over Harry’s chest.
“Why do you know all this?” Harry asks, gesturing at his person.
“Oh, I studied astrology.”
“You mean at Hogwarts?”
“No, at uni.”
Harry blinks, stunned at such a Muggle word escaping Draco’s perfectly pureblood mouth. Draco flushes red at Harry’s reaction and narrows his eyes.
“Still think so little of me, Potter?”
“Call-me-Harry, and no. Of course not.”
Puffing out his chest, Draco says proudly, “I have two degrees.”
Impressed, Harry grins. “I’d expect nothing less.”
This is met with a nod of approval. “Grazie.”
Silence falls between them and Draco goes back to tickling Harry with whispers of magic trailing from his fingertips. Harry shifts on the bed, not knowing if he wants the delicious torture to continue or warp into something else entirely. He likes that Draco is so fascinated by his body, and wonders if there’s more he can learn from him.
“What else?” Harry asks.
Draco looks to him, mouth poised on a question.
“What other constellations are hiding on my skin, Draco.”
Eyebrow raising, Draco allows his eyes to sweep lower across Harry’s chest and arms, shifting away from his relaxed position lying over him. “Shall I do a proper study of you?”
Harry, feeling bold, raises his hands to rest behind his head and nods. “I think so, yes.”
. . .
Mind racing, Draco can’t help but take a moment to breathe at what’s been offered to him: Harry Potter, hands folded behind his head, laid out before him on damask silk. There are too many options, too many possibilities of where to start and what to do. He wants it all. He leans down, lips feather-light and reverent over Canis Major, kissing the skin there as if he could taste the colours underneath his lips. He trails lower, just under the darker skin of Harry’s nipple to trace his tongue along the lines of Gemini’s stars.
“I’m a Gemini,” he says, smiling into the warmth of Harry’s skin. Harry’s hand comes down to cup the back of Draco’s head, fingers twining through the faded pink of his hair. Draco melts into the touch.
“Cecilia keeps saying that, yeah.”
“She likes to point it out. It’s because we’re changeable, two-faced.” He kisses the stars that signify each twin. “Hence the mirrored marking.”
“I’ve always liked that one.” Harry raises his head off the pillow, straining to look down at where Draco’s lavishing his attention. “They’re androgynous.”
“My, my, such a big word for you, Potter,” Draco teases. Harry flexes his fingers in Draco’s hair and Draco smiles, looking up at him through his lashes.
“My point is,” Harry continues, “that I could never tell if they were male or female or both or neither, they’re simply beautiful as they are, no matter what that is, no name needed. And I’ve always liked that.”
Studying the black and golden lines of the twins, Draco sees that Harry is right; they’re long-haired and naked, defined in the way all ancient Roman statues are carved to ideal perfection, yet the twisting composition of their bodies betrays no true distinction of gender, as if they were rendered onto Harry’s skin free from such preconceptions. Draco puts a gentle finger to the lovely face of one of the twins and their eyes close at his touch, not unlike the way one of Draco’s plants would react to such affection. His breath catches at the sight. Harry’s hand tightens on Draco’s nape and he looks up, seeing Harry’s green eyes darken.
“I felt that,” Harry says, voice low.
Shaking his head, Harry swallows, hips canting in a sinuous roll. “No, inside me. The magic ripples through me when the markings change.”
Stunned, Draco looks down, seeing the twin’s beautifully ambiguous features now quiet with sleep. He’d done that, caused that shift. He leans down, pressing a kiss to Harry’s skin, and Harry sighs, muscles tensing and relaxing under his lips.
“Gods, Draco. What you do to me.”
Smiling against his stomach, Draco says, “Haven’t done much of anything yet.”
Harry arches at the words, his body reacting to unknown forces Draco is determined to discover.
“Describe it to me,” he demands, pressing his lips into a collection of stars over the defined v of Harry’s hips. He nips at the ridge of Harry’s hip bone, then rests a cheek to the flat plane of his stomach, waiting.
“I thought that’s what you were doing,” Harry sighs, both hands now coming to collect Draco’s hair into a loop around one fist. Draco’s eyes close at the implication, the heavy weight of Draco’s cock hardening against the soft skin of his inner thigh; he loves having his hair played with and pulled. As if reading Draco’s mind Harry gives an experimental tug, sending a shiver down Draco’s spine. He whimpers and nuzzles lower towards the thick, dark head of Harry’s erection, the tip a glistening tease peeking out of its foreskin.
“I want to know what it does to you,” Draco says, circling his fingers around the head and coaxing the skin further down. His mouth waters at what’s revealed and he presses his lips to that wet heat, thirsty for its weight inside his mouth.
Harry’s hips move, following Draco as he retreats, wanting more. Draco grins, hovering over Harry’s cock and, once again, waiting. Eyes widening in challenge, Harry pulls Draco’s hair taut, and Draco moans, fingernails digging into the tense skin of Harry’s thighs.
“Fuck,” Harry curses, thrusting upward towards the withheld promise of Draco’s mouth. “It’s like an electric shock. But low and buzzing. The kind of tingle that leaves you shivering and unsure if you want more, it’s so intense.”
Pleased with this description, Draco encircles Harry with his fist, squeezing as he finally takes him into his mouth. They both moan at the contact and Draco thrills at being able to taste that salty heat against his tongue. He sinks lower, wanting more of him, all of him, until his nose is buried in the curls at the base of Harry's cock and his throat works to accept the intrusion.
“Yes,” Harry hisses, pulling Draco’s hair tighter and holding him in place until Draco simply can’t any longer and releases him, gasping for breath. Saliva trails from his lips and Harry runs a thumb over Draco’s swollen mouth. Draco leans into his palm, desperate for such gentle affection. “You’re killing me, Draco,” Harry says, voice reverent with wonder.
Draco huffs a laugh. “I hope not. We’ve barely started.”
Eyes flashing, Harry grins, placing both hands on either side of Draco’s head and pulling him up. “Come here.”
Harry kisses like the world is ending, his tongue desperate and his mouth greedy, seeking out what it wants with an intensity that sends Draco’s head spinning. He sits astride Harry, lining up their cocks so he can move against him, needing that delicious, pulling friction as he tastes the warm limoncello-sweetness of Harry’s lips.
They rock in tandem, limbs wrapping tightly around each other’s bodies, panting breaths gasped into each other’s open mouths.
“Fuck, this is what I wanted. This is what I was thinking that first night on the balcony,” Harry says, turning them on the bed and hitching his leg higher over Draco’s hip. Draco arches into him and drags his nails down Harry’s back.
“Knew it,” he pants, smug and smirking.
“What?” Harry rolls his hips in an eager rhythm, their sweat easing the friction between them yet by no means dimming the spark.
“Your face,” Draco gasps, not bothering to explain further. “Pull my hair,” he directs before running his teeth along Harry’s neck, sucking a mark into his skin. It blooms red and angry over a small cluster of stars depicting a bow and arrow. He licks them, wanting to taste them on his tongue.
“Circe, you’re beautiful,” Draco confesses, eyes closing as he nuzzles Harry’s throat, yet still seeing the vast perfection of his body covered in gold and black ink laid out before him in vivid detail in his mind’s eye.
“Shut up,” Harry says, pulling Draco’s hair like he was told. Draco moans, shivering at the sensation. “I’m nothing compared to you.” He punctuates this by running his hand down Draco’s back, palm possessively gripping his arse. “Look at you, Draco. Fuck.”
“Yes,” Draco cries, as Harry spanks him then rubs the abused skin. “Fuck, please.”
Nipping at his bottom lip, Harry says, “turn over,” and takes the delicious feel of his rigid cock away from Draco. A pathetic whimper leaves Draco’s mouth as Harry shifts them on the bed, moving Draco to drape across a pillow, facedown on the duvet. Harry kisses a trail down his spine, compliments streaming from his lips like water from a tap. Draco sighs at the attention and praise, luxuriating in the decadence of it all.
Sure hands palm Draco’s arse, spreading him open, and Draco arches off the pillow at the first surprising touch of Harry’s tongue licking a stripe along his furled skin.
“Harry,” Draco whines, eyes shut tight and hips move backwards against Harry’s face. He feels the rasp of Harry’s stubble and warmth of his breath blowing against him as he pulls back to tease Draco’s rim with the barely-there touch of a single finger.
“Mi dica cosa vuole? ” Harry asks, voice raw with emotion. “Tell me, Draco.”
“Your tongue,” Draco gasps, burying his face in the pillow, practically shaking with need at all his long-held fantasies coming true. Harry’s hands are massaging the backs of his thighs, keeping him open and exposed. Draco burns with the knowledge that Harry is making a study of him, watching him twitch with anticipation.
“Please,” he adds in desperation a moment later, unable to wait a second longer. He feels a bite against his cheek, then the delicious wet heat of Harry's tongue running a circle over him; kissing him, licking him.
“Inside me,” he gasps, needing to be filled.
Draco catches the soft sound of Harry’s laugh behind him before his mouth presses fully against Draco’s arse and his tongue works into him with a pointed tip. Arching, Draco cries out, his cock dragging against the silk of the damask, leaking and eager.
Harry fucks Draco with his tongue with the same intensity that he kissed his hungry mouth. He’s voracious and unyielding as he works Draco open, spearing him over and over as Draco rocks back against him, wanting him deeper, harder, needing ever more as his body climbs closer towards orgasm.
Pulling back, Draco hears the harsh sound of Harry spitting just before he feels wet warmth against his hole and Harry’s thumb sinking into him without warning. Draco cries out, rocking his hips into the mattress. Harry traces his tongue along Draco’s rim as he fucks into him, pressing down over that bundle of nerves that drive Draco to distraction.
“Next time, I want you to fuck me,” Harry says against the small of Draco’s back, leaving a wet kiss at the dip of his spine. He tucks his other hand beneath Draco’s hips, his fingers encircling Draco’s neglected cock in a determined grip. “I want this beautiful cock inside me so deep, Draco.”
Biting the pillow, Draco nods, unable to speak. He’ll agree to anything as long as Harry keeps lavishing him with affection and praise. He thrusts into Harry’s fist, wanting to come so badly he feels tears at the corners of his eyes. He keens when Harry replaces his thumb with his tongue once more.
“Fuc— Harry,” Draco moans, looking over his shoulder to see that shock of wild hair behind him and just a hint of his infamous lightning bolt scar standing out stark and pale against Harry’s forehead. It’s that mark, out of all the beautiful artwork on Harry’s skin—seeing that single jagged line of scarred flesh as Harry works into him that sends Draco soaring over the edge.
He thrusts back once, twice, and a third time, pounding the mattress with his fist as his entire body is wracked with his orgasm.
“Harry, oh, fucking . . . yes!” He drops his head, whimpering into the pillow as Harry milks him, his thumb rubbing just under the base of Draco’s cock as Draco pulses in his grip. All the while, Harry is still inside him, pressing deep as Draco convulses around his tongue, his whole body shuddering with the force of his release.
Falling limp and weak against the pillows, Draco turns onto his back, staring unseeingly at the painted beams of the ceiling.
“Never leave,” he says, rolling his head back and forth on the pillow. “You and your tongue live here now. I don’t want to hear otherwise. I’ll tell Cee in the morning.” Draco drops an arm over his eyes, too overwhelmed to even bother with sight. “Fucking hell,” he sighs.
Harry’s lying on his side near Draco’s hip, his fingers trailing along the pale hair of Draco’s thighs. “Fine by me.” Amusement clear in his tone.
“Good. Settled then.” Draco drops his hand from his face, and weakly gestures to Harry with a crook of his finger. “C’m’here.”
Raising an eyebrow, Harry props up on one elbow. “Yes?”
“I said, come here, Potter. Don’t make me repeat myself.” Draco tugs ineffectually at Harry’s shoulder as Harry chuckles at his poor attempts to make him move.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, still smiling.
Draco manages a glare but it’s a near thing. “I want to suck your cock, Potter. Come. Here.”
“Call me Harry,” Harry says as he rises to his knees, straddling Draco’s torso.
“Closer,” Draco urges, cupping the backs of Harry’s thighs with his hands and digging in his nails.
Eyes flashing with heat, all semblance of humour gone, Harry shifts further up Draco’s body, placing his knees on either side of Draco’s head on the pillows, one arm moving to brace against the wall, the other cupping the back of Draco’s neck.
“Feed it to me,” Draco demands and sees the hunger on Harry’s face, the twitch of his cock as it hardens further at his urging. Harry removes his hand from the wall and guides his cock into Draco’s willing mouth. Draco’s eyes fall closed, his hands moving to hold onto Harry’s hips and use them for leverage as he takes the whole of his cock in one long swallow.
“Fuck,” Harry curses through clenched teeth, and Draco opens his eyes to catch Harry watching with rapt attention. Draco maintains eye contact as he sucks him down, hollowing his cheeks and giving as good as he got. Harry’s eyes flutter shut, his head falling back on his shoulders as Draco works him, his tongue pressing flat against the underside of Harry’s cock.
Releasing him with a pop, Draco ducks, taking Harry’s balls into his mouth and sucking hard. Harry cries out, his hips bucking forward, pressing Draco back into the pillows.
“Do that again,” Harry says, and Draco does, his tongue working, mouth dripping. He presses Harry closer, wanting more of him, all of him.
“Fuck my mouth,” Draco tells him, seeing the desperate need so blatant in Harry’s eyes. Harry nods, pressing his cock down into Draco’s mouth and then moving his hand to hold Draco’s head in place as he rocks his hips. Draco closes his eyes, luxuriating at the feeling of being used, being wanted, needed. He takes what Harry gives him and sucks down hard on his prick as it slides wet and filthy in and out of his swollen lips.
“Close,” Harry grunts, hips picking up speed. Draco nods, and sucks harder, nails digging into Harry’s hips, urging him forward, faster, rougher. Harry growls, losing all sense of rhythm, his eyes closing and his head falling forward against the wall as the bed creaks under them, abandoning everything except his need to keep fucking into Draco’s mouth.
Draco feels his cock twitch with interest, his lust rekindling as Harry loses himself. He’s pumping savagely into Draco’s mouth, one hand twisted painfully into Draco’s hair, and it’s so fucking delicious, Draco can barely concentrate. He moves his right hand, pressing his thumb between the crease of Harry’s arse to find his hole and pushes into it, dry.
Harry cries out, his dick pulsing into Draco’s mouth with the shock of his orgasm. Harry quickly tries to back off and allow Draco to breathe, but Draco holds him close, forces his cock down his throat and takes it all, not letting Harry leave him, not wanting to waste a single drop.
“Draco,” Harry pants, forehead slumped against the wall, hand now relaxed in Draco’s hair as he pets the sweaty pink strands back off his face. “Draco, fuck.”
Finally, Draco releases him, his cock sliding freely out of his mouth with a depraved sound that Draco savours as he catches his breath. He looks up at Harry, throat raw, eyes wet, and smiles. Harry laughs, shaking his head.
“Sick and twisted, you are,” he says, climbing off of Draco and coming to lie next to him on the pillows. He puts a hand to Draco’s face, runs a thumb over his swollen lower lip, looking awestruck.
“I’m an enthusiastic cock-sucker, Harry Potter. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Harry barks out a laugh, eyes bright. He kisses him, smiling and sweet. Draco melts into it, feeling Harry’s hand run through his hair, his body warm and pliant next to his. They fold into each other on the bed, limbs draped over each other’s bodies, breath mingling, hair tangling together.
“Stay?” Draco asks. “For the night,” he clarifies.
“‘Course,” Harry says, nuzzling against Draco’s throat.
. . .
Waking to the sounds of pigeons cooing gently outside is new; normally the windows are closed at Harry’s flat, the tiny air-con whirring at full blast. Harry blinks, staring out at a room that isn’t his and feeling a warm body next to his on the bed. Draco, sleep-soft and snoring gently, is lying next to him, one pale arm draped over his head, pink hair tumbling across the pillow. Harry moves a hand to comb it, loving the feel of it slipping through his fingers. Draco shivers at the attention and unconsciously snuggles closer to Harry’s side. Harry smiles, kissing his shoulder before turning to lie back and stare up at the beamed ceiling, fondly replaying last night’s activities in his mind. His magic is simmering just under the surface of his skin, his entire body tingling with the feeling.
He’d felt his magic like a tangible thing all evening, and all night. He dozed in a half-sleep state, aching from his lust-filled dreams of Draco’s mouth, Draco’s cock, Draco’s pale skin and pink hair held tight in his fist. Harry shifts his hips, his cock needy and demanding attention. He palms it, sighing into the early morning quiet of the room. He looks over, sees Draco’s watch on the nightstand, and frowns. The ever-present countdown to his departure looms large and heavy in his mind.
Beside him Draco turns, nose tucking into the crook of Harry’s arm as his eyelids blink open slowly, his gaze unfocused and soft. Harry smiles at him, knowing this is an intimacy not many get to experience. At least, he hopes not many. He chuckles to himself at the thought and tangles his fingers further into Draco’s hair, thrilling at seeing Draco smile from the attention.
“Never stop doing that,” he mumbles, burrowing his head against Harry’s side, one pale leg hitching itself up over Harry’s hip. Draco shifts, his thigh pressing against Harry’s cock, nudging it in a way that makes Harry think Draco isn’t as sleepy as he appears.
“Wanna go for a run?” Harry offers and grins at Draco’s scoff.
“Are you daft, Potter?”
“Then stop asking daft questions.” Draco opens his eyes fully, taking Harry in with an expression Harry deciphers as both exasperated and fond. A pink tongue appears, teasing at Harry’s nipple, and he arches at the surprising touch, shifting to allow greater access to Draco’s wicked mouth.
Grinning, Draco continues, laying kisses all along Harry’s fevered skin before Harry sees his eyes widen and he pulls back, staring at Harry’s chest looking spellbound.
“Harry,” he says, his hand coming up to reverently stroke the stars along his chest. “What did you do?”
Frowning, Harry looks down, seeing the stars that make up the constellation of Draco’s namesake freshly reappointed just below his collarbone, the dragon’s intricately rendered tail reaching out across Harry’s sternum in a possessive sprawl.
“Oh my—” Harry brings his arm down from behind his head to see the back of his hand now empty of ink with only a smattering of tiny stars inching down from his wrist. The words I must not tell lies stand out that much brighter on his tanned skin.
He drops his hand, turning his attention back to Draco, feeling caught—as if every one of the warring emotions that he’s felt over the past weeks are now written stark and blatant across his face. Harry suspects what he feels for Draco runs deeper than what Draco is willing to offer him in return. He knows that their time together has an expiration date that’s quickly approaching; that this experience will boil down to a lust-filled affair Harry once had while on holiday, no matter his confessions earlier in the week. He doesn’t expect anything more, is too cautious to want to hope, but what he sees reflected in Draco’s eyes has his heart kicking behind the cage of his ribs.
“Draco?” he asks, his pulse quickening at the flush darkening Draco’s pale skin and the softness of Draco’s expression, how it melts the sharpness of his features into a beauty Harry cannot name. Draco smiles at Harry, his answer clear in his grey eyes, and leans forward to thread his hand into Harry’s hair, pulling him closer.
“Kiss me,” Draco whispers against his lips, and Harry does.
. . .
Random side note: I did an illustration of Harry with his celestial markings for this story (he'll be in the next chapter) and I purposefully included a rendering of the stag on Harry's chest. The stag is not supposed to be fully illustrated, it's just supposed to show the stars, hence Harry not realising it's a representation of his father. . . HOWEVER, I wanted to draw the stag, so I did. Va bene.
“You sure you don’t want to Portkey back with us, mate?” Ron asks.
Harry waves him off and takes another sip of his drink. “Nah, I want to take the train out to Verona. I already booked the ticket.”
“Va bene,” Hermione says with a sigh. Harry smiles at her. They’re sitting at a little cafe table outside a bacaro near the St. Lucia train station, watching the hordes of backpackers stroll by with their maps and their baseball caps, ready to embark on a new adventure.
Harry’s adventure is ending. He mouths at his straw, feeling nostalgic for a time that still looms present and pulsing with life in front of him yet slips through his grasp no matter how hard he tries to keep hold of it. Ron and Hermione sit beside him, glowing with the air of two people who’ve enjoyed their time abroad yet are eager to get back home to their fulfilling lives. A smile flits over Harry’s face at the thought of little Rose, so quickly becoming a toddler before their eyes. Harry bought her a souvenir stuffed toy, a flying lion, the symbol of the Venetian flag. He’s planning to charm it to roar and buzz about her head with its feathery wings, hoping she’ll enjoy the little display. It’s currently tucked into his backpack wrapped in purple paper, along with another present he’s anxious to unwrap, a parting gift from Cameron he’d been handed this morning with strict instructions to open only once he was on his train.
Church bells ring out in the distance and Harry looks down at his watch, noting that his train is due in ten minutes. He rubs his thumb over its yellowed face, the inscription of Dudley’s name set into the backing, and smiles. Draco had given the watch back to him only that morning. When Harry had woken, one last time in Draco’s bed, it was to the sight of the watch strapped around his wrist and Draco’s pale hand pressed tightly over the constellation that now resides proudly next to Sirius’ on Harry's chest.
“Don’t forget me, Harry Potter.”
Harry had turned in Draco’s arms and kissed him, pulling back only to tell him, “That would be impossible, polpettino.”
Draco had shoved him and Harry had laughed. They wrestled on the bed before Harry kissed Draco into submission, pressing his tongue deep into his mouth and pushing a thigh between his legs, feeling the hardness waiting for him there. They hadn’t wasted the moment and within seconds were gasping into each other’s mouths.
“I should head out,” Harry says, not wanting to dwell on the bittersweet memory so close behind him he can still feel Draco’s lips mapping his skin.
At Harry’s words, Hermione’s eyes fill with tears. She hurls herself at him as he stands to go, with Ron coming up behind her and engulfing all three of them in his long, strong arms. They remain that way, wrapped up together for almost a full minute, breathing in each other’s joyous memories of a holiday well spent and a reluctance to see it end as the precious time they have left comes to a close. It’s so rare for it to be just the three of them nowadays.
Hermione looks up, wiping at her nose. “Owl us when you’re home?”
“Of course,” Harry says, giving her a kiss on the forehead.
Ron nods at him over Hermione’s head. It doesn’t escape Harry’s notice that his eyes are also wet. Harry nudges Ron’s shoulder and gives him a sly grin. “You too?”
This is met with an effusive shrug. “I’m a father. I cry at everything.” He points behind Harry and Harry turns to look. “See that bird? Beautiful, that bird is. I could cry just watching it fly.”
Harry laughs and slings his backpack over his shoulder. His suitcase has been shrunken down into the size of a clunky mobile and sits just inside the front zipper, safe and sound.
“Love you both,” he tells them. “I’ll do one better when I get in. I’ll Floo Molly.”
“Oh, perfect! You can see Rose, then.”
Harry nods. “Yup.” He pats his bag, indicating her gift. Hermione grins, eyes wet but he knows her heart is full. So is his.
“Later,” he says, grinning, and steps away from the table, giving them a final wave.
“Love you!” Hermione calls as Ron blows him kisses and shouts, “Caio, ciao, ciao! Ciao bello! Ciao!”
“Ti voglio bene! ” he calls back, smiling like a fool.
Less than a half hour later Harry’s settled on the train, looking out the window and watching the foothills of the Alps loom hazy and beautiful in the distance. He fiddles with the zip of his pack, wanting to rip into the present Cameron gave him but also wanting to savour these final moments of being so far away from the drudgery of his day-to-day life. He’d wanted this break to shake him out of his doldrums and it certainly has; it's blasted the damn doors off the fragile equilibrium of his entire world, rocketing him into an unknown he’s more than eager to revisit as soon as possible.
They invented Portkeys for a reason, Potter.
Harry shifts, tender from Draco pressing into him only hours prior, his body reminding him of all that he’s leaving behind as the train pushes steadily onward. He puts an ankle over his knee, purposefully adjusting in his seat and thrills at the dull ache, wanting its echo to last, to follow him all the way back to the halls of Grimmauld Place where he’ll lie naked on his bed and think of nothing but the last few days.
After their first stop, Harry feels that he has respected Cameron’s instructions enough and tears into the glittering wrapping paper with zeal. What appears underneath his hands is a booklet with “Venice ‘04” written on the cover. Curious, he flips it open and his eyes widen—it's a photo album.
Harry hesitates, hovering over the title page for a few seconds as he catches his breath. When he turns the page, he breaks out into a surprised chuckle. There, in their festival finery are Ron and Hermione, Ron cheekily holding a fan in front of his face as Hermione looks on with humour and adoration clear in her eyes. Harry turns to the next page, and then the next, each one framing a single perfect image of their time together in Venice, most of them candid when Harry hadn’t even known Cameron had his camera on hand.
There’s one of him, a towel draped over his shoulders as he looks at the camera, face bemused. Documentation of that fateful day on the beach when Cameron first spotted him and spluttered all over himself, tripping over Ron in the process.
Harry’s heart kicks in his chest at a nonchalant image of Draco, lounging in the sand, Harry’s watch on his wrist and an ever-present Muggle paperback in hand. His hair is faded pink, glowing softly in the sun. Harry can’t help it, he touches his fingers to the page, missing the feel of that softness under his hands. The next page shows the two of them pressed against the rocks. The look on Draco’s face as he stares Harry down is so electric Harry has to adjust himself where he sits, clearing his throat and holding the book closer to his chest, as if others will spy the intimacy splayed out before him on the page—their lust for each other so blatant it feels illicit to see it in such a public place.
There’s a shot of the Ponte Michel— the little bridge just outside Draco’s flat. Harry flips the page and there’s the red-lipped couch with Cecilia draped across it in one of Draco's many silk robes, greenery embracing her on all sides. Next is, hilariously, a portrait of Cameron with his shirt off, holding a coupe, and making eyes at the camera as if he were mid-seduction. The caption below the image reads: If you ever get bored of Draco.
Harry throws his head back and laughs, startling the other passengers. He quickly apologizes and ducks down to eagerly flip through the rest. An image of Ron showing off his thigh-high socks, a backward shot on the boat with the sea spray flying out behind them in the blue water. Harry’s throat tightens each time a new page reveals Draco to him. Cameron knew what he was doing when he put this perfect present together and by the time Harry gets to the final image, a shot of Harry and Draco wrapped up so tightly in each other’s arms during the night of Carnavale, Harry’s eyes sting with the burden of unshed emotion.
The announcement for Verona rings out through the carriage and Harry looks up, seeing them pulling into the station. He leaps from his seat, backpack and photo book in hand and flings himself onto the platform as soon as the train comes to a stop.
He tastes the bitterness of adrenaline on his tongue as he sprints to the Portkey office, heart racing with the intensity of the moment.
“Desidera?” A bored-looking teenage wizard asks him as he steps up to the booth. Harry grins at the sweet irony of how the Italian verb used simply in place of the question ‘what would you like? ’ literally translates to want, longing, desire.
“Un Portkey per Venezia, per favore.”
This request is met with a curious glance as the wizard pursues Harry’s travel papers and no doubt sees that he has just come from Venice by train. Harry shrugs at him, having no time to be self-conscious. There’s an urgency to this spontaneous decision that he knows he shouldn’t question, just instinctively follow.
“Andata e ritorno?”*
“No!” Harry practically shouts, then gathers himself. The wizard behind the glass waits for him nonplussed, eyebrow arched.
“Solo andata,” Harry says, smiling.
The bored wizard heaves a put-upon sigh, having no response for Harry’s bizarre behaviour other than to stamp his papers and hand over a rubber banana with a bemused expression on his gaunt face. He points to the clock behind him. “Tre minuti,” he tells him, indicating the time his Portkey will activate. Harry nods, pays, and gives a salute with his banana before promptly cringing at the hilarity of that suggestion. An odd moment follows where the wizard behind the glass frowns at Harry, probably because he’s acting like a complete lunatic high on potions. Harry offers up an awkward laugh as apology and then quickly rushes off to one of the many departure booths across the station.
He slides the glass door closed and sits down heavily, his adrenaline-high lessening now that he’s taken this first leap. He counts down the seconds in his head, eyes falling closed as he reaches five, four, three, two . . .
When Harry blinks his eyes back open, he’s in the hustle and bustle of the St. Lucia train station once more, the streaks of sunlight slanting further across the tile floor since he’d last left. He flings himself down the wide front steps of the incongruously modern building, dodging students and sightseers alike. He finds a secluded corner in a back alley nearby and spins into the belly-tight tug of Apparation, landing himself on the threshold of Draco’s flat within minutes of arriving back in Venice. He raises his fist to knock just as his anxiety spikes and he hesitates, smile dying on his face.
“Fuck,” he curses out loud, wondering if he’s utterly daft for thinking this was a good idea.
Harry spins, spotting Cecilia coming up the stairs with her ever-present market tote slung over her arm. She smiles at him, amused, and puts her hands on her hips.
“Lo sapevo,**” she sighs, shaking her head and then gestures for him to follow, ushering her ubiquitous, "dai, dai," over and over when he isn’t quick enough.
“Where are we going?”
Cecilia merely grins at him and takes him down the hall, stopping before a blank bit of plaster once they’d reached the end.
Harry raises an eyebrow at her in question. She reassures him with a pat to the cheek and then taps the blank wall with her two fingers, marking the sign of the cross onto the plaster. Instantly, the wall unfurls, revealing an ancient set of gilded doors with the Venetian lion of Saint Mark roaring proudly as the panels settle on their gold hinges.
“Ecco,” Cecilia says, pleased.
“Your entrance, I take it?”
“Si. Prego.” She bows with a flourish and Harry huffs out a laugh. His nerves, having abandoned him during Cecilia’s interlude, now come back full force as he steps over the threshold into her lovely bedroom and sees the secret door to Draco’s room along the far wall. Harry swallows, throat tight.
“I’m insane.” He doesn’t mean to say that out loud but Cecilia agrees with him nonetheless.
She’s nodding, a finger to her chin. “But that’s love, no?”
Harry chokes on nothing and Cecilia chuckles, sounding delighted as she pushes him towards the door.
Steeling himself, Harry takes in a deep breath and knocks, only to hear Draco call out, “For Merlin’s sake, I do not want anymore frittelle, you wench! Let me suffer in peace!”
Sighing, Cecilia laments. “He’s been like that all day.”
Harry can’t help but grin. “‘Cause of me?”
Cecilia rolls her eyes. “Who else?”
Harry knocks again. Louder. Enjoying the uproarious expletive-laden tirade Draco aims back at him through the door. Before he realises it, he’s laughing just as the door wrenches open to reveal a red-nosed Draco, eyes puffy from tears and hair in utter disarray. He’s barefoot, wearing only his pants and silk kimono robe, holding a half-smoked joint between two elegant fingers. Harry’s never seen anything more perfect in his entire life.
“Hi,” he says, grinning.
“The fuck, Potter?”
“Erm,” Harry rubs at the back of his neck. “Surprise?”
“The actual fuck, Potter!?”
Draco slams the door in his face. Only to open it again a moment later, grab Harry by the collar of his t-shirt, haul him into his room, and shove him up against the wall, teeth bared.
“You left.” Draco hisses.
“I did, yeah.”
“Then why, pray tell, are you here?” he spits, his eyes burning.
Harry can’t help it, he’s too happy to see Draco not to smile. “I missed you.”
“We fucked only this morning. Are you that desperate?”
That one stings. Harry grimaces and brings a hand up to Draco’s hair, soothing out a tangle. Draco, despite himself, leans into his touch.
“No, Draco. I just wanted to see you.”
A sad laugh escapes Draco’s beautiful mouth. “Here I am,” he sighs, sounding deflated. Harry twines his fingers further into Draco’s hair, relishing the way he melts into Harry’s touch.
Wanting to explain, Harry begins to talk. “I hoped taking these past three weeks would help me get my life back on track.”
Draco’s eyes are closed, leaning into Harry’s attentions like a kneazle nuzzling an owner’s hand. “And?”
“And, they didn’t.”
Draco opens his eyes at that, holding Harry with his intense grey gaze, no less intimidating for being red-rimmed and bloodshot. “And whose fault is that?”
Harry smiles. “Yours.”
Scoffing, Draco turns his head away, frowning. “What are you on about, Potter?”
“Call me Harry.”
“You’ve ruined my life, Draco.”
Another scoff. “Gods, Potter, what a terrible thing to sa—”
“Ruined it in the best possible way.” Harry leans in, pressing his forehead to Draco’s. “The best possible way,” he repeats, unable to stop the words.
A moment passes, then two, three. . . they stand there, breathing each other in, suspended on a precipice.
“Can I stay?” Harry asks.
Draco pulls back, blinks at him. “What?”
“I want to stay.”
It takes several seconds, maybe even a full minute, but Harry sees the change in Draco as he stands before him. The clouds covering his eyes clear, his expression shifting from sullen to awestruck at Harry’s words, lighting up his face until finally, Draco smiles.
Behind them, Cecilia crows with joy and runs down the hall, shouting loudly and expressively in Italian for Cameron to come see the happy couple. Harry has no time to bother listening to their excitement, he’s too busy pulling Draco in for a kiss.
. la fine .
Andata e ritorno - round trip
Lo sapevo - I knew it . . . Cecilia knows all! lol
Thank you for coming along on this journey with me to my favourite place in Northern Italy. I don’t know if it's obvious, dear reader, but this story turned into a bit of a love letter to Italy the longer I worked on it. I have so many beautiful memories from my time spent there and I’m looking forward to going back one day. Until then, I’ll sip limoncello in my tiny kitchen and take Italian lessons via Audible while listening to the soundtrack from Call Me By Your Name on loop. Literally, that’s my typical Friday. Thrilling, I know.
And yes, Harry’s ‘later’ was totally intentional.
If you enjoyed this, please leave me some comment love. I’ll eat them up with a spoon!