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When Harry throws himself into Tom Riddle’s arms exclaiming, “Of course I’ll go to the Valentine’s ball with you!” it’s not a pre-planned decision. It’s not something his heart and mind agree on before it happens, especially when Harry knows he can’t take another heartbreak––it just happens.

It’s not how he’d wanted his Valentine’s Day to go (or it was, but only in his innermost fantasies), but it was better than the alternative.

Harry barely hears the way Romilda Vane’s shriek of “Harry!” dies on her tongue, the way her Mary Janes click to a stop when she sees them. No, Harry doesn’t see anything at all, not even the way blue eyes dart between the girl and Harry and come to a decision, because it is then that his entire body freezes, as he realizes exactly whose arms he has jumped into.

Tom Riddle has never been tactile, not even when he and Harry were friends. But he’s clever, and it seems that he knows exactly what’s happening when he sees Romilda Vane, because his arms settle, tight and hot, around Harry’s waist. Harry’s toes barely touch the floor when he is held to that strong, firm chest, that infuriatingly gorgeous face pressing into his hair.

Harry has just flung himself at Tom Riddle––and Tom Riddle is hugging him back.

Oh, god.

Tom is fit.

Harry feels a hot flush creeping up his neck, his ears on fire. He doesn’t even notice when the click of Romilda Vane’s shoes signal her departure.

“I suppose I’ll pick you up at eight, then?” Tom says into his ear, wry. Harry can feel the amusement baking off of him.

Harry’s face feels like it could fry an egg. He’s never gonna live this down, and the worst thing is, he’s finally getting what he’s always wanted––but in the absolute worst way possible.

He glances surreptitiously over Tom’s ( broad! ) shoulder, checking to see if Romilda’s left yet. He is absolutely not basking in the warmth around his body. Nuh uh. No way.

After a moment of (reluctant) hesitation, Harry pulls himself from Tom’s arms, and he probably imagines the way they seem to tighten before they release him to the open air. He feels colder where Tom no longer touches him.

Harry can’t look Tom in the face. He shuffles his feet, trying to hide the bright blush on his face as he says, hoarsely, “You don’t have to go through with it. I know––well. I needed a distraction, and it seems to have worked.”

No matter that I wish it was true.

Tom is silent for all of a moment, before he takes one hand and tilts Harry’s chin up, so that green may look directly into icy blue. God, Harry loves his eyes. Even when he was eleven he’d been entranced by them.

But that’s irrelevant.

It is so, so irrelevant right now, because Tom’s hand is settled firmly against his jaw, and even when they were friends Tom hadn’t touched Harry so casually like this.

Harry’s eyes widen, and he avidly studies Tom’s face, the inherent darkness that lurks around the corners of his fae-like features. What––?

The hand drops, and Harry’s mouth drops with it. He feels discombobulated––he doesn't know what is going on, and he doesn't know if he hates it or loves it. 

A smirk haunts Tom’s face as he taps two fingers under Harry’s chin. “It’s rude to stare.”

Harry mentally shakes himself, mouth clicking shut, and if he could flush further in irritation or embarrassment (or attraction) he’d certainly spontaneously combust. “I know that. But it’s not like you to to be so generous,” Harry says snidely. 

Something in Tom’s face shifts, just for a fraction of a moment, so fast Harry’s not even sure he saw it. But then, he’s fully straightening out, and fuck, he’s tall.

Harry wants to climb him like a tree.

“I’m inclined to deny your offer just for that, Harry.”

Harry sneers up into that handsome face, agitation swelling in his chest. “I already told you you don’t have to follow through with it. It was just a distraction––don’t go getting any ideas.”

Riddle’s face goes entirely blank, and Harry knows he’s probably said something to upset him (three years of close friendship don’t just disappear, no matter how much Tom may want them to), but he doesn’t much care, not when he’s flushed and embarrassed and angrily trying to ignore his body’s want to dive right back into Tom’s arms.

“And have Vane know you were lying? Why, you must love to make your life difficult for yourself,” Tom replies, evenly, at length. There’s a certain vitriol to his tone when he says her name, but Harry doesn’t know where to start with that.

Reluctantly, Harry agrees. He doesn’t want Romilda to know––she’s a terrible gossip, and by the end of the night, everyone will know Harry faked a date to get out of going with her. Harry may be embarrassed now, but it’s nothing compared to the utter humiliation that would bring down on his head.

But is he really going to tell Riddle that?

Well, yes. But not happily.

Harry holds up an imperious finger. “Okay. Let’s say I do this, theoretically. Hypothetically. Possibly.” And he points a stern finger at Riddle. “What would you get out of it?”

It’s not like you’d want to go with me , he doesn’t say. It’s not like you haven’t rejected me already.

At this, Riddle just shrugs, a surprisingly normal gesture for someone that seems so above , though Harry knows better. “It’s easier than having to beg off the masses, isn’t it?”

Harry resists the urge to cry.

It’s stupid, so, so stupid to be hurt by that, especially when it clearly means next to nothing to Riddle, but that he would just––just use Harry because he’s convenient, even though he knows the way Harry used to feel about him––that stings. That does more than sting––it actively hurts, a heavy ache in Harry’s chest.

He looks away, blinking quickly, before he takes a breath, turning to face Riddle. His face is utterly impassive. No regret, nothing. Just indifference.

That hurts the most.

Harry has to put conscious effort into smiling, but he does, the biggest, megawatt grin he has in him.

“Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll find someone else.”

He turns on his heel, the smile falling so quickly it’s almost as if it wasn’t there. And he will find someone else, if only to rub it in Tom’s stupid face. Maybe Luna, or Ginny, or Cedric, though that may get awkward, considering they’d broken up not a month ago (even despite their agreement to be friends). 

He hardly makes it a step, though, before a hand is wrapping firm around his bicep, hauling him back. 

“She saw you with me, lest you forget.” A muscle jumps in Tom’s cheek, his eyes dark and intense as he glares down at Harry. 

Harry has no idea what to make of the sudden anger, but more importantly, he is completely lost by Tom’s insistence. Though, he supposes Tom did explain his motives.

Harry meant it when Tom’s not generous. He only does something for others when it benefits him, too.

Harry looks up into Tom’s face, studying his features.

Would it be so bad, spending a night with the first person he ever loved? It’d be almost like a test run of what they could’ve had, and Harry can see the bullet he dodged. Can witness directly the kind of horrible boyfriend Riddle would’ve been. 

And if he’s wonderful––well, that will certainly teach Harry’s heart.

Tom’s grip tightens on Harry’s arm, and it is that that solidifies Harry’s decision.

He can do this. He can, and god, he hopes he doesn’t regret it.

“Fine. But, I have some rules first.”

*

The first thing is that the date is just that: a date. Singular. No repeats, no practice. One date.

The second thing is that it doesn’t have to be romantic. Harry can do a lot of things, but he’s not sure his heart can take that blow.

Tom’s a stubborn dick, though.

“Why else would you jump into my arms? It doesn’t make sense for you to do so platonically.”

Harry hates how sensible he sounds, so he argues, anyway. “But a romance doesn’t make sense, either! It would be weird to just––start dating. I haven’t talked to you since––”

He can’t finish the sentence, but Harry knows they’re both thinking about it. 

Tom’s voice is soft when he finally says, “It’s not about what she didn’t see, Harry. She saw something romantic, so we should give her something romantic. Even if––even if it’s vague.”

Harry rolls the thought around his head, and he can’t come up with a response that isn’t, I can’t pretend to like you when I’ve loved you since I was eleven. I can’t.

He can, and he will, and so he agrees, and that’s that. They’ll keep it vague, let people make their own assumptions, no matter what they are. But if anyone asks: it’s a date.

The third and final thing is touching. Of all the things, this is the one Harry is most adamant about. He won’t survive having Tom’s hands on him and then never having them again.

And while Tom fights it (“it’s meant to be a romantic date, Harry, how can I not touch you?”), Harry isn’t budging, and Tom’s stubborn, but Harry’s a fucking mule. He’s not moving on it, and Tom is eventually forced to relent. The most they'll do is walk in together, arm in arm, like everyone else, and have one single dance. 

So everything’s covered. One night, a single date, in which they will do no more than dance, and that’s it.

It’ll be fine.

(It probably won't.)

*

They decide to spend an early lunch together, heading down to the kitchens. They’d been talking it over anyway, it made sense to eat together, knock out two birds with one stone. No matter that Harry’s traitorous heart leaps at the chance to be with Tom, even if just for a day or two.

“––And do you already have your dress robes?”

Harry nods as he steps through the portrait to the kitchens, holding the painting open for Tom. Let it never be said that Harry isn’t polite. “Yes. Hermione’s transfiguring my Yule Robes from fourth year, though I wouldn’t––”

I wouldn’t expect you to remember.

Harry has to swallow back the words before he says them. Of course Tom wouldn’t remember; it was the year after their fight. It’s not like he would’ve been seeking Harry out. Not then. Not anymore.

He clears his throat. “Anyway, yes. I do.”

They sit down, and there seems to be something heavy in the air as they hunch down onto their stools. Harry has to hold back a snort when he sees the way Tom has to fold his (long and tall and lithe) lanky form to fit the wooden seat while they wait for actual chairs.

Most of the houselves are busy preparing the food for the actual lunch happening upstairs, so Harry waits patiently for one of them to break away from the masses to help them. It won’t be too long; Dobby will notice Harry's presence here sooner or later, and then they could maybe grab some of that (frankly delicious, droolworthy) shepherd’s pie––

“I remember them.”

Harry turns his head, looking at Riddle’s profile with wide eyes. “What?”

“Your robes, that year. I saw you walk out with the other champions.” Riddle’s eyes are cast downwards; not shy, exactly, but something like it. “You went with one of the Patil sisters, if I recall correctly.”

Harry swallows back his shock, his hurt, his yearning. He remembers that day vividly––Tom had taken the eldest Greengrass sister. It had been a sucker punch to his stomach when he'd walked out there and seen him whispering sweet nothings into her ear.

Harry had always known Riddle was handsome, how could he not? It makes sense that someone else would see it, too.

He’d been half in love with him before he’d even realized it, so of course Harry had noticed it. Still does, if he's being honest. Like this, Harry can see the strong line of his nose, the sharp cut of his jaw, his plush lips, the delicate skin of his throat. His brows are dark, something cruel in them, but gentle at the same time. How had Harry not realized how long his lashes were? 

He is gorgeous.

He is gorgeous, and Harry can feel all of the old longings ( old, but not forgotten, not gone, not yet ) rushing back to him. Can remember a moment just like this, when they were eleven; two orphans thrown into a world they’d never once heard of before, learning the world together. Learning each other, for the first time, after months of silent camaraderie.

They’d become friends in this kitchen.

And Harry misses Tom’s friendship with a fervency that hurts. 

“I didn’t know,” Harry says, finally, staring down at his lap. “You haven’t so much as looked at me since third year. I didn’t think you would’ve seen anything about me.” 

“Harry,” Tom says, and there’s something in his voice that forces Harry to look at him. Tom’s eyes are earnest, honest, and Harry’s lips part at the naked, heartbreaking loss on his face, shining through in the rueful way his mouth twists into a smile. “All I do is look at you.”

Harry feels his breath leave him in a rush.

And before he has conscious permission over his mouth, he blurts, “Friends?”

Tom blinks, looking down at the hand being offered to him, before his eyes flit back up to Harry’s face. There’s something in his face––disappointment? 

Maybe Harry read this wrong. Maybe he doesn’t want to be friends, and oh, god, what if Tom still hates him, maybe Harry has just fucked this whole thing up––

But then long, pale fingers, the likes of a pianist's, are wrapping around his own. He shakes Harry’s hand, and his fingers linger far longer than necessary when he says, “Friends.”

Harry stares, incredulously hopeful, into those beautiful blue eyes. He reluctantly pulls his hand away, his heart fluttering in his chest when Tom seems to hold on just that little bit tighter before he lets Harry go.

“Alright then,” Harry croaks.

“Alright,” Tom echoes, turning away. He stands as a house elf makes his way over to them, but before they can be swept into the hubbub of questions and ‘how can I help you?’s he says, as if under his breath, “I had missed you, Harry.”

And Harry’s heart sings it’s absolute agreement.

*

They’re exiting the kitchens together (Tom’s nose wrinkled up when they were offered treacle tart, as they knew it was Harry’s favorite, which Harry thought was both entirely offensive and hopelessly endearing), arranging where they’ll meet when Harry straight-up walks right into someone.

A firm someone, at that; Harry would’ve fallen if Tom hadn’t been right behind him and the person he’d so graciously collided with hadn’t reached out to catch him.

And suddenly, it’s as if all of the air has been sucked out of the corridor.

They’re hands on Harry’s waist, keeping him upright from behind, and they’re hands holding tight to his forearms. Harry doesn’t know quite what’s happening until he hears Tom say (and Harry can feel the way his deep voice rumbles in his chest like this, and don’t think too hard about that, Harry, that is entirely inappropriate), with carefully restrained disdain, “Diggory.”

The hands on Harry’s waist (Tom’s hands!) tighten ever so slightly when Cedric responds, semi-cheerful, “Riddle.”

And then Harry’s looking up at his ex-boyfriend, now close friend, seeing the way his eyes brighten immediately upon meeting Harry’s. “Harry. I should’ve known it was you; not many others would walk into someone directly in front of them.”

Harry flushes all the way to his roots, and something on his face must put Tom on edge, because he’s pulling Harry back against him, right up to his chest. Cedric’s hands reluctantly slip away.

Harry doesn’t know what to do in the sudden silence (not least because he’s trying to remember how to breathe), so it’s only when someone coughs from behind Tom––hoping to exit the Hufflepuff dorms, probably––that he stumbles out of the way, Tom moving much more gracefully behind him. 

“Well,” Cedric clears his throat, “I suppose I’ll just… go.”

“Yes,” Tom says, his voice cold in a way Harry has heard only once before and hopes never to hear again, “you should.”

Harry looks at Cedric’s face as he stares at Tom, glancing between their stand-off staring match. He regards them with wide eyes. He has absolutely no idea what to make of it; it makes him think of two peacocks, posturing to see who has the biggest feathers.

Like two boys, trying to figure out who has the biggest co––

It’s only broken when Cedric glances away, looking to Harry to say, “Take care of yourself, Harry. I’ll see you at the ball, yeah?” He squeezes his shoulder as he makes his way past Tom to get to the common room, knocking their shoulders together as he goes. 

Harry watches Cedric retreat with bewilderment, before turning his gaze to Tom, who, Harry is shocked to find, is regarding him with a rather intense stare.

Harry searches for something to say, and eventually just blurts, “Is something wrong?”

Something obviously is. Harry hasn't seen that much testosterone in one place since Oliver Wood stood face to face with Marcus Flint on the quidditch pitch.

Tom stares at him a moment longer before replying, finally, “No. Bye, Harry. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

And Harry is left staring after him, too, entirely lost as to what just transpired in front of him.

*

The morning of Valentine’s Day, Harry wakes up with spectacular bedhead, as per usual. He brushes his teeth, he gets dressed, and he forces himself down to the breakfast table.

And before he’s even managed to put the French toast on his plate, a (frankly gigantic) bouquet of roses is being dropped onto his lap.

Harry gapes, but that’s nothing compared to the absolute heart-attack he gets when a box of chocolates the size of a small child joins it (the only reason he even knows what it is is that Malfoy seems to get them every other week, the spoiled git). Harry’s head jerks back and forth, glancing up and down the table for a guilty face, but all that greets him are shocked expressions and the sullen, sulking face of one Romilda Vane. 

Harry is eventually forced to confront the gifts on his lap, flinching when another box falls from the sky, this one barely the size of Harry’s hand. 

Harry’s ears ring, and he barely registers the haughty hoot of the owl that delivered the parcels, or the overly-interested questions of his classmates, the curious encouragements of Ron and Hermione and the Weasleys.

Numbly, Harry plucks a note from amidst the Gryffindor-red of the roses. And really, Harry knows Tom hates him (he'd thought they had been making progress; what went wrong?), so he shouldn’t really be surprised when he reads:

Dearest Harry,

Happy Valentine’s Day. It’s not my preference of holiday, but if we’re to do this, we’ll do it in its entirety. 

Yours,

An Admirer

Harry doesn’t even realize his hands are shaking until he opens the box.

In it, a ring gleams. It has a gold band, a black stone, and is hopefully not what Harry thinks it is.

But he knows he’s not so lucky.

It’s a courting gift.

One night. One night, that’s what they’d said. They'd agreed to being friends.

They had very much not agreed on this.

Harry doesn’t even register that he’s crushed the roses in his fists until the petals land like kisses at his feet. 

He’s out of the hall, ring and letter clutched tight in his hands, before he can even register his classmates’ calls of his name.

*

“What the fuck was that?” Harry snarls, throwing the crumpled up letter at Riddle’s chest, watching as it bounces off his statue-like form.

Harry’s heart feels like a weight in his chest, dragging his lungs down and sinking to his shoes. God, he’d always know Riddle had a cruel streak, but he’d never thought––he’d never imagined he’d––

Riddle glares at Harry, defensive. “I thought this was what you wanted?”

And Harry couldn’t have stopped the angry tears if he’d tried.

You don’t get to throw my crush back in my face!” Harry shouts, tears dripping, hot, down his cheeks. His eyes burn; he can hardly speak around the lump in his throat. “I was thirteen, and you humiliated me the first time––you don’t get to bring it up again, do you understand? It’s done! It’s over! So don’t you dare try and rub it in my face! And I thought we'd––”

He doesn't have the strength to say, I thought we'd gotten past this.

He’s panting, his chest heaving. He’s been holding in that hurt for so long it feels almost painful to let it go. Because it had hurt. Getting told, point blank, by your first love that you could never be good enough for them is not something you just get over. It’s not something that sleeps quietly.

And Harry is suddenly so, so tired. He should’ve known this wasn’t gonna end well. He knew better, or at least, he’d thought he did.

Apparently not.

How had Harry expected to get through an entire date? He can’t even handle a few gifts, can't handle the humiliation of being shown what he's never going to have. This was a mistake. They should forget it. Harry could handle the embarrassment, nothing could be worse than this, worse than Tom just standing there, indifferent to Harry’s tears, uncaring of all the ways Harry loves––

“I hadn’t known they would upset you.”

Harry wipes furiously at his nose, drilling holes into the ground with his eyes as he laughs, bitter, “Well, I guess I should’ve expected that. You don’t know feelings, least of all mine.”

Harry just barely catches the way Riddle flinches back, a vindictive pleasure rising in his chest. It feels good to hurt him, instead of the other way around, for once.

Tom's voice cuts like a knife, clean through Harry's heart when he snarls, “I know feelings, Harry; you don’t get to be bitter just because I didn’t feel them for you.”

Harry reels back as if slapped.

The silence that descends speaks more than words ever could.

And you know what? If it’s gonna be like that, they might as well just get it over with. Harry was naive to think this could go any other way.

If he doesn't confront it, Tom will hang Harry's crush on him over his head, and Harry refuses to fall prey to that.

He holds his hands out, open and vulnerable, his smile mocking, hoping to disguise the years of hurt lying beneath it. “Well, don’t hold anything back. This is the part where you list all my flaws, tell me all the ways I could never ‘be good enough for you.’” He smiles, cracked and angry and, in the very back of it all, heartbroken, as he makes air quotes with his fingers. “Your words, not mine.”

Tom looks away, pinching the bridge of his nose, and Harry thinks he has a lot of nerve looking so frustrated. Eventually, when he doesn’t say anything, Harry pulls the ring from his pocket, holding it out.

“It was unrealistic to give me a courting ring, and stupid, too. One night, we agreed. You couldn’t have expected otherwise.” 

I shouldn't have expected otherwise. I shouldn't have expected this to be peaceful.

At that, Tom glances up, something hurt in his eyes before it is hastily covered by dispassionate porcelain. “Of course. How foolish.”

Harry nods, like it’s not eating him inside. “Good. Glad we’re on the same page.”

The silence stretches like miles between them, so far away from the friends they once were. It is suffocating.

Tom’s voice is quiet, tired, when he says, “I’ll see you tonight, Harry.”

He approaches only long enough to take the ring (slowly, hesitantly, and don’t imagine it’s reluctant, don’t––) and leaves. Harry feels some hidden hope in his heart leave with him.

The gifts were a humiliation, proof of Tom's scorn for all things loving and vulnerable. Harry shouldn’t have expected otherwise.

No matter how desperately he wishes it was real.

*

“Oh, you look wonderful, Harry,” Luna says, coming to stand next to him. Her robes are a pale pink, beautiful and lovely against her pale skin and blonde braids. 

“Thank you, Luna. You look stellar,” he says back, and he means it. She looks like some fairy princess, ethereal and more beautiful than human minds can comprehend.

“He’s gonna love it, you know,” she hums, looking past Harry’s shoulder, as if searching someone out. “He loves you in green.”

Harry’s brows furrow in confusion, but somewhere in the back of his mind, even in the wake of his shattered heat, he has to hope that she’s talking about Tom.

He’s just about to ask who she’s talking about, heart hating its vain hope, when she seems to find what she’s looking for and sweeps past him with a breathy, “Good luck, Harry!” 

He watches her back as she goes to Neville, linking her arm through his, happy and friendly and sweet, before shaking his head as he turns back. He should've asked her. He could've avoided this heartache.

His breath stutters when he comes face to face with Tom, who is marching directly towards him, his eyes intent, posture aloof.

Tom looks practically edible.

Harry’s chest turns inside out at the thought.

“Harry,” Tom says, coming to a stop in front of him. He’s deceptively casual, but Harry knows that there is a certain stiffness to those shoulders. 

“Tom,” Harry returns, careful to keep his voice even. He can’t look at those eyes for longer than a moment, so he turns his gaze to his collar, steadfastly ignoring the way his heart is doing painful backflips. “You look––nice.” 

And wow, that’s so fucking lame it’s almost backhanded.

He kind of deserves it, though.

Tom’s eyes scan up and down Harry’s form, gaze leisurely in its pace. When his eyes meet Harry’s, they are drowning in some liquid heat. Rage, probably. “I’d return the compliment, but it’d be dishonest.”

And Harry’s just about to bust a goddamn blood vessel when Tom steps in closer and murmurs, softly, “You look beautiful, Harry.”

Harry very nearly swallows his own tongue.

There’s a definite something in the air, something simultaneously tense and heated and cold. A cloud of hurt with something hot and liquid in the middle of it all.

“Well,” Harry finally chokes out, “Right back at you.”

There’s something decidedly satisfied in Tom’s gaze, but Harry hardly has a moment to witness it before Tom is offering his arm. Harry looks up at Tom’s face. It’s blank behind the smirk. 

Harry can’t tell if he’s furious or just indifferent. Or maybe––

But no. If he can hide his emotions, if he can hurl hurtful words and then pretend everything’s fine, then Harry can, too. This whole thing is a farce, is an excuse to make Harry hurt, and he won't give in. He won't. Even if the compliment has him off balance with fantasies drawing him down.

His hand settles uncertainly in the crook of Tom’s arm, and Tom grins down at him. It’s strained around the edges, and it gratifies Harry to know he’s not the only one feeling awkward.

“Let’s go.”

And they do.

*

When they enter the ballroom, there’s many a questioning glance thrown their way, some sullen, some gleefully unsurprised, and Harry has to resist the urge to hide his face, preferably in Tom’s chest. But that’s not his place.

A few people come up to them, and Harry wonders if they see the stilted way he smiles, holding onto Tom, his fingers barely connected to his arm as if ready to flee. 

They ask questions Harry could live never having answered, but Tom handles them with his infuriating, smooth grace: yes, it is a date; no, we’re not dating; yes, we’re seeing where this goes.

They finally have a moment’s peace, and Harry lets out a breath, staring out at the ballroom. He can feel Tom’s gaze, heavy on the side of his face, and he will not lean into his arm. Not when those same hands have ripped his heart out twice now. 

“I think I’m gonna go find my friends,” he says, quietly. Tom stiffens minutely, and Harry glances over to see something tight in the other boy’s face.

Eventually, he nods, military precise. “Of course. I suppose I should make my own rounds.”

Harry snorts, unwillingly, bitterly amused. “Still treat parties like politics, I see.”

There’s a cautious smile on Tom’s face when he says, “I never stopped.”

Harry’s chest burns when he realizes that he was never around long enough to find out.

He pulls away, suddenly; he can’t stand to touch him anymore. It hurts like a physical blow.

“I’ll meet you in a while, I guess,” he says, staring determinedly at the floor. 

Tom’s voice is completely devoid of emotion when he says, “Fine.”

Harry dithers only a moment before turning on his heel, about to try and find his friends in the throng of the crowd when he hears that deep voice say, almost uncertain, “Harry.”

He turns, looking back to see Tom standing tall in the crowd. His eyes never stray from Harry’s when he says, “Don’t be long.”

Harry feels a hook at the corner of his mouth, pulling some semblance of an empty smile across his face.

“No promises.”

And he dives into the crowd. It feels good to leave Tom uncertain, for once.

*

Someone must’ve spiked the punch. The ballroom is a beautiful, glittering blur, the music a pounding bass that Harry can feel all the way down to his toes.

He’s not drunk; he's been to enough victory quidditch parties to know how that feels, but he’s pleasantly buzzed. 

He’s danced his way across the ballroom, smiling and laughing at each of his friends, and he’s just been released from Ginny’s sweet hold when he turns into warm, familiar arms. He looks up into kind, sparkling grey eyes. 

“Hey, Cedric,” Harry says, steadying himself on the other boy’s biceps. 

“Hey, Harry,” he says, and Harry thinks he should maybe find this awkward, maybe uncomfortable, but all he feels is the steadying, heart-warming hold of a friend. “Dance with me?”

“Is that even a question?” Harry laughs, and it’s almost on instinct that his arms go around the other boy’s shoulders instead of to his hands.

Cedric’s hands settle into a respectful hold on his ribcage, polite and comforting as Harry presses his forehead to Cedric’s shoulder. His voice is quiet as he murmurs into Harry’s hair, “He’s looking at you.”

Harry props his chin on Cedric’s chest, staring up at him with questioning eyes. “Who?” he says, and maybe he’s more inebriated than he thought, because he can’t seem for the life of him to think of a single boy that would want to be looking at him.

“Riddle.” Cedric’s lips are teasing against Harry’s forehead, his breath washing over his hair. “I think he really likes you, Harry, and I know you feel the same. Be careful, won’t you?”

Harry snorts, burrowing into the crook of Cedric’s shoulder. “He doesn’t. Trust me. But––you know me. I’ll try, even though trouble tends to find me.”

Cedric’s voice is amused as he says, “That he does. He’s coming over here.”

Harry’s head whips up so fast he almost knocks Cedric’s chin. “What?”

And then, there’s a tap on Harry’s shoulder. Harry doesn’t even get a chance to linger, staring beseechingly up at Cedric, because the boy himself turns Harry in his arms, pushing him into Tom’s.

“He’s all yours,” and Harry can’t even begin to parse the tone of his voice. It's some kind of reluctant surrender. 

All he knows is that Tom smells wonderful. Something familiar, like a well-read and well-loved book. 

In the next moment, Cedric must be gone, because Tom’s hands fall to Harry’s back. Hugging him. Holding him.

“Harry,” he says, but Harry refuses to look up. Refuses to see the disdain on Tom’s face, the way he detests Harry’s touch. He just wants to pretend, just for a moment. Isn’t that what tonight is about?

“Harry,” he says, harsher this time, and Harry reluctantly pulls back, avoiding Tom’s eyes. 

“I’m sorry,” Harry says, his eyes on his shoes, his hands holding tighter to the fabric of Tom’s robes. “I’m sorry, but I just––I can’t help it.”

He looks up into Tom’s face, his eyes pleading, and wow, maybe he’s drunker than he thought, because he can feel tears starting to well. “I can’t help it. It’s just––it’s so hard.”

And Harry must be drunk, because there’s something in Tom’s face. Something cautious, something stricken. “What’s hard, Harry?” he asks, carefully, as if scared to push Harry farther away.

Ha. All Harry wants to do is be pulled closer.

He doesn’t even realize he’s gonna start talking until his mouth starts forming words. “This,” he says, waving a loose hand between them. His voice cracks. “It’s hard to hear you compliment me when I know you don't mean it. It's hard for me to pretend when all I want is for it to be real.”

He presses his forehead to Tom’s chest, squeezing his eyes shut tight as his hands hold tighter to Tom’s shoulders. As if he’ll leave Harry there. “I lied. My crush on you didn’t stop at thirteen. No,” he says, laughing wetly, “it’s still going strong. It’s so pathetic. I had a boyfriend, and he loved me, and every time I looked at him––all I could think was how much I wanted him to be you.”

Tom’s hands tighten around him, but Harry hardly notices. He can’t seem to stop talking; it feels as if some great pressure is releasing from his chest, like a balloon losing air. He rubs his face to Tom’s chest, pressing his cheek to his heartbeat. “But you made it so clear how much you didn’t want me, and I thought––I thought I wished I’d never said anything at all. Anything would have been better than never being your friend again.”

Harry is mortified to feel himself sniffling. God, he’s cried more in the past few days than he has in three years; since he was fourteen.

And Harry knows it’s coming, the way Tom pushes him away, but he tightens his hands anyway. They were so close to trying again, and Harry––Harry ruined it. Again.

“Harry,” Tom says, and instead of throwing him to the ground, one big hand comes up, gently tilting his head to look at Tom’s. Harry forces his gaze to the crowd behind, but feels his gaze torn to Tom’s when one of those long fingers traces the delicate skin under his eye. 

“I’ve wanted you since I've known you.” 

Harry stops breathing.

Tom’s face is almost regretful as he admits, “I’ve never been good at feelings, you were right. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything.” And his gaze is so intense when it meets Harry’s. Harry could drown in him and not even realize it.

“But you said––” and Tom’s thumb traces Harry’s bottom lip, and Harry loses all brainpower.

“I know what I said,” he says in a hushed, heated whisper, “but I was young and high on power, I can admit that. Let me finish,” he says, pulling Harry closer, when Harry's mouth opens to speak. “I had just found out I had my heritage. For so long, I was resentful of you. You walked into Hogwarts, into Gryffindor with a name, who wouldn’t have cared anyway––I walked into Slytherin a nobody. It was difficult for me to see you, so accepted, when I was treated like nothing.”

His face is dark, colored by something murderous, some vicious satisfaction, some unholy glee.

But then he takes a deep breath, and he shuts his eyes. Harry can’t hear anything, can’t hear the pumping bass, can’t see the flashing colors of the chandelier. All he sees is Tom’s face, in this moment. He cups a hand to Tom’s cheek, and Tom’s hands clutch at his waist, a full-body shudder traveling the length of him at Tom's touch.

Harry feels stone cold sober. He feels high on Tom's touch.

Tom swallows, continuing, “And when I learned who I was, in third year––I felt powerful.” His eyes open, going half-lidded as he regards Harry. “I had spent so long with you as all I had, and I felt resentful of that dependence, and naively––” he turns his face, kissing the center of Harry’s palm, “arrogantly, I thought I could release myself from you.”

Tom‘s face goes dark, his hands tightening like iron bands when he says, voice cold, "But then I saw you with Diggory, and I knew I should’ve known better.”

Harry can’t help the way his mouth stretches in a megawatt grin. It's stupid to be pleased by that, but he can't help it. “I am irresistible, aren’t I?” he says, giddy, and he knows it’s not from the alcohol. 

Tom nips at Harry’s thumb, and he slides an eyes open. “Cheeky, irritating thing.”

Harry’s eyes go wide, his face lighting on fire when Tom licks a slow, obscene stripe up Harry’s thumb, his eyes consuming in their feverish want. “Mine.”

Harry couldn’t have held himself back if he tried.

He lunges at Tom, taking his face in two hands as he presses a desperate kiss to that wonderful, plush mouth. Tom’s arms envelop Harry, lifting him clean off the ground as his lips move against Harry’s, licking his way into his mouth without his usual grace, but Harry loves it, anyway. 

So many things click into place.

Then, Tom wasn’t tactile––he was holding himself back.

Then, Tom didn’t express his feelings––he didn’t want to be judged.

Then, Tom didn’t return ‘I love you’––he was prideful. He was scared.

Not anymore. Not for either of them.

Harry parts only long enough to whisper, “I love you.”

He doesn’t doubt for even a second that Tom returns the feeling.

“I love you, too,” and Tom dives back in, devouring Harry’s mouth with his own.

And he does, Harry knows that now.

*

Harry wakes slowly in the Head Boy dormitory, unwilling to open his eyes as he snuggles further into the warmth all around him. A strong arm wraps around his waist, pulling him in, and he smiles to himself as Tom’s legs tangle with his own.

“Good morning,” Tom mumbles, pressing his face into Harry’s hair, his bare skin pressed all down the length of Harry’s own.

“Good morning,” Harry returns, sleepy, before he turns over, pressing his face into Tom’s neck, right where Harry had left hickeys the night before.

Harry basks in the warmth, basking in Tom’s affection, when Tom suddenly slides out of bed. Harry screws his face up, stubbornly keeping his eyes shut against the sunlight as he makes grabby hands.

He hears Tom’s dark chuckle, and carefully cracks one of his eyes open, reaching for his glasses on the bedside table. Tom, gloriously naked (and Jesus, look at that ass) with trails of scratches down his back, is staring down at something on his desk, something in his hand.

He looks back over at Harry, half-covered by the sheet, and Harry shamelessly stretches his entire body, feeling the pleasant soreness of his ass and thighs, showing off all the lovebites and bruises (and there are a lot) Tom left on his skin.

Tom’s eyes go darker with hunger, with a deep want, but he seems to shake himself out of it as he looks back at whatever’s in his hand. Harry can see the way his brow furrows in thought.

“Mmm,” Harry hums, popping his back as he arches off the bed. He slumps to the mattress, watching Tom with half-lidded eyes. “Come on. Round four?”

Tom huffs a laugh, but he casts a considering look Harry’s way. Then, he seems to build himself up, gathering his bravery as he marches bravely over to Harry. He seems so serious, almost nervous, that Harry doesn’t even admire the shameless view of his front.

“Tom?” he asks, wary. They’re still hardly a night into this, and this better not get pulled away from him before he’s even properly enjoyed it. He sits up, the sheet only covering one of his thighs and his crotch. Tom's so focused he doesn't seem to notice the blatant (and accidental) temptation. 

Tom comes to a stop at the edge of the bed, his fist clenched tight around something. And then, he gathers a breath, sets one leg on the bed, and holds out the ring.

Harry stares at it in shock, before looking up into Tom’s face. His eyes are earnest, his face dripping with sincerity, with some scarce vulnerability.

“I meant it,” he says quietly, voice barely above a whisper, “when I sent this. When I sent the gifts. I didn’t want to hurt you––I just wanted to make you happy.” 

His eyes seem to go impossibly deeper with emotion when he reiterates, “I want to make you happy.”

“Tom,” Harry breathes, his voice filled with some heady awe, "Courting? You're sure?”

“I’m sure if you are,” he insists, taking Harry’s hand in his, his eyes imploring. “You've been mine since first year. You’ve said much the same. We’ve already wasted so much time––why wait any longer?”

Harry feels something bright and determined rise in his chest. “Yes,” he says, gripping Tom’s hand firmly in his own, helping him slide the ring on his finger. It feels right. It feels perfect. “Yes.”

Tom grins, something simultaneously happy and feral, before he pulls Harry into an owning kiss. He pushes Harry back onto the bed, hovering over Harry with an expression that makes Harry’s heart stop and dance at the same time.

He leans down, pressing a slow, sweet kiss to Harry’s mouth.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Harry.”

Harry grins into it, his hand sliding through the curls at the nape of Tom’s neck, his ring glinting in the rays of sunlight bathing them in an unearthly glow. “You’re a day late,” he pants, smiling, “but I’ll take it.”

And he lets himself be carried away by this glowing happiness.

It feels better than Harry ever imagined.