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Nothing Left to Burn

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They meet again, for the first time in years, halfway around the world at a house party.

Let’s start at the beginning.

From what Harry has seen of Montreal—which admittedly isn’t much, from the Portkey Hall arrivals at the train station, to peering out the window of a taxi where the driver spoke on his phone the whole time, to a hotel lobby—it is charming.

The International Association of Defense Practitioners and Researchers is having their annual conference. Canada was chosen to host this year. In the middle of August, it’s hotter than it is back home, sweat sticking his shirt to his back. Harry’s happy at least that he’s opted for shorts instead of trousers.

“We’re not seventy-five years old, we’re not doing a bus tour,” Michael Corner says firmly, tossing the flashing conference pamphlet advertising just that into the tiny plastic bin under the desk of their shared hotel room.

“I can just stay in. I saw a place,” Harry says, flopping onto his bed.

“No, I can’t leave you here. I remember Budapest. You’ll go eat at some tourist trap of a brewpub and end up going to bed at eight,” Michael says. Harry had already looked up one that looked like a short walk down Sainte-Catherine street.

Harry has a routine. Tourist traps mean straightforward menus and an understanding he is going to order in English and no one will mind. Not that anyone had seemed to mind so far.

“I’m tired from the Portkey,” Harry says. To his credit, Michael ignores him.

“I’ve got this friend who is having a party. Very cool girl.”

And Harry let himself be convinced, even though he knows Michael will probably end up staying with one of his various friends as he often does. Their shared hotel room will be left empty most of the weekend. Harry goes anyway.

They eat chips and cheese with gravy from a corner shop for lunch. The gravy is so scalding hot it seems like it could melt the provided plastic forks. Michael says this is more authentic, and anyway it’s tasty enough that Harry doesn’t care. Harry and Michael scarf it down on the steps of a bank with some ice-cold, if overpriced, bottled water.

They buy a case of beer with some more confusion over the brightly coloured bills, then apparate to a park and walk up a residential street that could have been anywhere in the world.

They arrive at a tidy brown brick triplex with loud instrumental music. Everyone is sprawled on the rooftop terrace, and Michael and Harry join them. In the corner stands an oscillating fan that isn’t doing much to circulate air. Too many people are here already but more keep arriving with bottles of wine and excuses.

Harry can’t understand half the conversations, and it’s not even the French. It’s their local stuff that completely loses Harry. At least he understands London.

He doesn’t know the neighbourhoods or what they signify. Someone names a bar in the middle of a story and a chorus of voices jump in to complain about fucking tourists. Harry is a bit self-conscious because he is a tourist. Although he’s never chundered in an aisle of Jean Coutu, their equivalent of Boots, as someone does in another story. The griping about their Ministry goes over his head. He’s aware of McGill because it’s their Faculty of Magic that’s hosting the conference. The Wizarding World doesn’t seem cut so sharply from the muggle one here. They use the same money, frequent the same shops, go to the same universities.

No one seems to want to talk about the invocation of self in defensive magic or why some magic can only be shown and not written. Harry has interesting things to say about that. He’s presenting a paper on it this weekend and everything.

It’s crowded and getting too loud. Harry excuses himself to cut to the balcony on the second floor. He can be social, but he always feels like people can sense he made his first friend at eleven. Even now Harry finds it hard to make acquaintances if people don’t approach him first, especially if it’s not about work. Harry peels the label off his beer for something to do with his hands while he leans on the balcony and looks down the road at the rusty gated park and its blue sign.

“You’re Michael’s friend, Harry, aren’t you?” a woman asks. Harry nods. She's very pretty and around his age. She has thick, dark curly hair, and wears a pristine blue sundress with cheap black flip flops. Harry finds the contrast interesting.

“I’m Valerie.” She shakes his hand firmly, but her smile is bright. “Is this your first time in Montreal?”

Harry knows when he’s being flirted with. He might be inept at normal small talk but flirting he can do. And he entertains her for a bit, letting Valerie tease him a little about his accent and give him advice on what to do for the rest of the weekend.

“You should meet my other friend actually, I think he just got here. He’s also from London.” She wanders back inside and brings someone back around.

The minute he catches sight of him, Harry knows it wouldn’t have mattered how long it was. It was always going to feel just like this, overwhelming and breathless and too much. Harry has almost forgotten the shape of his name, it takes so long to come up. There is a Draco in his head who is still eighteen and here is this man, who is clearly not the same person. Draco is just as stunned to see him.

“This is my new friend, Harry,” Valerie says, cheerfully. “Maybe you know each other?”

Harry is busy taking in the sight of Draco, his ripped tennis shoes, worn black jeans and t-shirt. He’s got a tiny silver hoop in his nose, and his blond hair is a little messy, falling into his eyes. The Draco Malfoy he had known would rather have died than appear in casual clothes. But he looks well, like he gets some sunshine and exercise. He looks content.

“Yes, I think we’ve met before,” Draco says smoothly. He has to lean forward to be heard over the music.

“Yes,” Harry says. Harry smiles even though it feels like his heart is about to skip out of his chest.

“Valerie, come tell Fatima about the trip,” someone calls from inside the flat. She leaves them facing each other.

“How are you?” Harry says to be polite. It comes out stiff, formal.

“I’m well,” Draco says. “You?”

“I’m alright, came for a conference with Michael. Michael Corner.”

“Oh?” Draco says. “I thought I saw him.”

“We work together,” Harry explains.

All Harry can think of is the last time Harry had seen him. Through the blur of his job and his friends and their kids, he had stopped really thinking about that time in his life. He had basically forgotten, but it comes back into sharp relief.

Eighteen, traumatised, tired. He slept with Draco for the first time shortly after the trials, and to this day couldn’t tell you who started it, just that it ended in a filthy nightclub bathroom stall with Draco’s hand down his jeans. It was the first time he had felt good for months, even with Draco smirking at him like he had learned a secret. Harry slept with him again, because he had wondered if their sex was as good as he remembered. It was. Then they were at it regularly, and Draco ticked off all of his firsts, even though Harry never told him. He had never asked.

Harry thought it could be something more, but it wasn’t.

Harry hadn't yet learned to let someone in. Harry hadn’t learned to say, ‘I want you to stay.' Harry had thought he could tell him without making himself vulnerable or opening the floor to another argument. Instead, he’d tried to make it obvious that last night.

He had kissed Draco slow and reverent once they stumbled into the foyer of Grimmauld Place. Kissed him all the ways he knew how, then trailed smaller presses of his lips against Draco’s cheek, his neck, the solidness of his sternum. His hands had wandered, thumbs in the dip of his back, fingers spread. Draco had let out a long sigh. At the time it felt like surrender, but in retrospect it could have been relief.

Usually they spoke during sex, but this last time had been silent except for the occasional loud gasp or bitten off moan. There was no negotiation, just the language of long looks and nods. In the hallway to the stairs, Harry had undone the buttons on Draco’s trousers, pulled them down. Sometimes he wondered if everything he liked was what Draco taught him to like. But Harry didn’t want anything to be routine, so he’d turned Draco to face the wall, made Draco hold himself open and ate him out slowly until he could tell Draco was almost there by the fine trembling of his legs. He pulled back. Draco almost sobbed. Harry had never wanted anyone more.

Face messy with saliva and jaw sore, Harry had sat Draco on the stairs, summoned lube, and fucked himself on his fingers while Draco watched. Harry stopped every time Draco reached forward, until he understood. Harry had waited for a bed for the rest though. Put Draco on his back and waited until Draco had been about to say something before he sank onto him.

They hadn’t had sex like this during their fling. It was always hurried, rough and a little desperate. Harry didn’t want that. Harry rode him with a slow deliberate drag like he had nowhere else to be. Harry wasn’t surprised when Draco got frustrated, pulled out, reversed their positions and slid in again, hot, fast, and perfect. Draco kept one hand on Harry’s cock. He pulled Harry chest to chest, kissed him deep and filthy and rolled his hips as if he was trying to get even deeper, then Harry was coming with lightning zipping up his spine and behind his eyelids. Draco didn’t slow down for even a half second, coming inside him as Harry was still shaking through the last aftershocks of his own orgasm.

“Fuck, that was so good,” Harry slurred. Draco dropped beside him, breathing heavily.

“I’m going to miss that,” Draco said.

“Oh,” Harry said. His brain was sex-stupid, thinking of the last few moments when Draco’s hands had tightened on his upper arms like he was never going to let go. There was a long silence, and Harry was afraid of what Draco’s expression would tell him if he looked. So he lay back and stared at the ceiling, still warm.

“I have to go,” Draco said. “I told you. I just...I have to leave London.”

"See you," Harry said. Those were the last words they had said to each other.

Harry woke up some hours later, clean, tucked in his bedsheets and alone. It really wasn’t until a month later that he identified the inexplicable grief he had been carrying around. Somewhere along the line Harry had fallen in love with him and hadn’t noticed. But if Draco hadn't written then maybe it had been one-sided. Harry made promises to himself about never looking back once he lived through the heartbreak. So he lived through it, and until now, he had kept that promise.

It starts to pour rain in thick sheets, and there’s good-natured laughing as people dash indoors from the terrace. Now the party actually is too crowded, and people make their way home.

“I’m going to stay,” Michael says.

“Can you tell me where I can apparate from?” Harry says.

“Oh, you can apparate off the Island, but you’re not allowed to apparate back,” Valerie explains.

“Why?” Harry asks.

A witch shrugs. “Quebec.”

“This is why I never come to Brossard,” a pink-haired wizard adds. People laugh.

“I’m going to drive home. I can drop you at your hotel, Harry.” Harry didn’t even notice Draco had come up beside him. Draco says his goodbyes and jogs for a tiny burgundy Honda Civic. Harry follows. Rain slicks Draco’s hair back and his shirt is almost translucent in the time it takes him to unlock the door. Harry is soaked through. He flicks the rain off both of them with a neat spell and buckles his seat belt.

“Thanks,” Draco says. The sound of the raindrops only partially drowned out the gentle chug of the windshield wipers working furiously to keep up with the downpour.

Harry doesn’t say a word. He lets Draco pull them out of a tiny enclave of homes, through main streets with large, brightly lit plazas. Draco is comfortable, resting one hand lightly on the steering wheel, drumming his fingertips lightly on the gearshift, like he does this all the time. Harry almost can’t recognise this Draco as the one he knew. Just a bit softer in the face, a few fine lines around the eyes.

Draco hums tunelessly as they merge onto a bridge. Harry looks at the parallel bridge a little further away, at the shadows the steel girders cast into the car with the setting sun, at the stream of red taillights, at the reflective expanse of water that makes him think he hasn’t yet grasped how far he has come from home.

“Where do they have you?” Draco asks.

Harry names the hotel, a tiny budget chain whose pitch seems to be “you’re only here to sleep” and “your employer is cheap.” Draco nods. They don’t speak, although once or twice Draco glances over at him and smiles ruefully when their eyes meet. Soon enough they pull into Harry’s hotel drop off.

“Do you want to have a quick drink?” Harry says, instead of the goodbye that had been on the tip of his tongue.

“I can’t today. Tomorrow?” Draco says. “I’d really like that.”

Tomorrow finds them a few blocks down at an old English-style muggle pub that has seen better days. It feels weird, like a facsimile of home but exaggerated to cartoonish effect. The place is empty except for the sole staff member. The barman takes their orders, gives them both a pint. Harry has a Molson Canadian, because it sounds safe and he drank it yesterday. Draco asks a flurry of questions about what's on tap before ordering a Double Black IPA, whatever that is.

“Do you live here? What do you do?” Harry asks when they both have their drinks.

“Not for much longer. In September I’m back to Zurich,” Draco says. “I’m mostly doing contract work for potions development firms. And are you with the Aurors?”

“No,” Harry admits. “I never ended up joining. I went to uni. And now I mostly teach and do some research at Lexham U. Still Defense,” Harry says. The more they speak, the more Draco’s accent slides back closer to Harry’s.

“That sounds good for you. I didn’t think the Aurors would have been a good fit,” Draco says. That's a more delicate way of putting it than Draco had put it back then, which was something like, “I think it speaks poorly of the institution that a third of the Aurors went to Azkaban for war crimes and another half joined a vigilante group to stop them, but what do I know? I’m a Death Eater.”

“I remember what you thought,” Harry says, with a small smile. “Do you miss London?” Harry wonders. He wants to ask, did you miss me?

“Absolutely not. Haven’t been back,” Draco says. Harry knew that already. “I read the Prophet sometimes, but I’m not really keeping up much.”

“Do you regret us?” The question pops out of Harry’s mouth before he can even register it. Even Draco seems a bit shocked by it, mouth a little open before he shakes his head as if to clear his thoughts.

“Ah, I thought we would eventually get to this portion of the evening, but you never did dance around something, did you?” Draco’s naked fondness is too much for a public place. Harry thinks it feels like something you’d see in a place of worship or hear when someone was promising you something life-changing.

“No. I’m not sorry about us,” Draco says. “But I’m not sorry about leaving either.”

“Oh.” Harry tries not to sound disappointed.

“You know, I was crazy about you. Absolutely crazy about you. I wanted you. If I had been a romantic, I would have stayed.” Something in Harry has been waiting years to hear that. Believing the whole affair had been one-sided hurt much worse than hearing it hadn't, even if Draco still hadn't stayed.

“What were you then, if not a romantic?” Harry asks.

“Pragmatic. And it’s served me well,” Draco says. There’s the hint of Slytherin Harry’s been looking for this entire time.

“We were over,” Harry says. He believes it now. He didn’t believe it then. It’s easier to have perspective when it’s been years. Even Harry’s changed so much he’s not sure he would recognise or understand himself. They look at each other and look at each other. The cool grey of Draco’s eyes are flecked with darker grey. That hadn’t changed.

“I’m not going to come back,” Draco says. “You understand that?” An old anger bubbles up in Harry.

“If you didn’t come back for your parents’ funeral, I could hardly expect you to come back for me.” A careless remark, that cuts Draco visibly. Harry regrets the hurt the instant it appears in the clench of Draco’s jaw, the too-hard grip of his pint glass. Harry tries to backtrack.

“Draco, why did you come here? To this bar, with me?”

Draco looks a little lost at that. “You asked me for a drink. I came.”

“Since when do you do what I want you to?” Harry says, dismissive.

“I think you’ll find that with one notable exception you get what you want from me,” Draco says dryly. Harry doesn’t know what to say. What Harry wanted was a mess of contradictions. He searches for steadier ground.

“If we had this conversation six months after you left, would this have gone better?” Harry says.

Draco carefully considers this as if it’s a matter of importance instead of the long ago settled ruins of something less than a relationship that had ended over ten years ago. He laughs a little.

“No. We were never much good at talking,” Draco says. They had been good at fucking. Good at hurting each other. Good at leaving things unsaid that should have been made clear from the start.

“You’re so different, somehow,” Harry says. He marvels at this Draco.

“You, too. You’re much calmer. It feels like we...buried the past.” It’s unclear whether Draco wants him to agree. His eyebrow is quirked, his mouth twisted with a wry amusement.

“And this is what, exhuming the bodies?” Harry jokes. Some of the tension leeches from Draco’s shoulders.

“I prefer to think of it as a celebration of life.” There’s a touch of sarcasm, but it goes down easy. Not bitter like before.

“I don’t know you anymore, but I think I’d like to,” Harry says, feeling himself smile. They clink glasses.

Draco smiles back and taps his coaster on the table. All at once Harry can see Draco at eighteen with the Draco now superimposed over him. Draco in dress robes, sneering, back rigid. Draco who sits languid in the booth, smiling in a way he never would have let himself before.

Curiosity plays over Draco’s features. Draco’s eyes flick to his mouth and then up. Harry would bet all the gold in his vault that Draco is wondering the same thing he is. Is this part as good as Harry remembers or had he allowed their attraction to become overblown with nostalgia?

Draco moves slowly. He scoots down the bench until he’s pressed up, warm and steady, against Harry. He brings his pint and sets it carefully next to Harry’s. Then he is leaning further still. Harry doesn’t move. He lets Draco run his hand up Harry’s arm, then catches Draco's fingertips and pulls him in. There’s a beat where Harry is determined not to be the one who chases, again. Draco has no such qualms and kisses him once.

Harry feels nothing special, and then Draco opens his mouth in his next kiss and it’s sensory overload. Harry is the one who is eighteen again, eager for it, re-learning a taste he had known so well. Draco kisses like he’s rushing somewhere and taking Harry along. But there is something different. It can never be the same as it was. They have both lost a lack of consideration about them, Harry thinks. They draw back.

“I don’t live far,” Draco says, apropos of nothing. Harry thinks it might be an invitation. Harry licks his lips.

"With someone?" Draco shakes his head no.

"No. You?"

"Do I what?" Harry asks. He doesn't want to misstep by assuming Draco's asking what Harry thinks he's asking.

"Is there someone for you?" Draco asks.

There could be, but there isn't. "No."

Their gazes latch onto each other for a moment. Draco only breaks it to finish off his drink. There's the one drink that was promised. Harry wonders if he’ll leave.

"What happens if I invite you up to my hotel room?” Harry says, reckless.

“I’ll come,” Draco says. No hesitation.

They drag it out with one more pint, like they have all the time in the world. For once, Harry is the one to send a message to Michael to clear out. He feels kind of nervous and a little silly. Conferences have gone in this direction before, but at least this time the person he’s hooking up with is not a colleague he might end up interviewing in a few years. He's not taken any vows—of celibacy or otherwise.

Draco takes off his shoes at the door. He doesn’t try to catch a glimpse of himself in the mirror as Harry does. He doesn’t even ask what bed is Harry’s. He just locks eyes with Harry and strips to his pants while Harry stands next to the radiator.

“You still want me?” Draco asks. He sounds unsure. Harry imagines he means right now and not forever. Sometimes, Harry thinks, you have to distinguish the fantasy from the real thing.

“I think I’ll always want you,” Harry confesses and follows it up with a deep, searching kiss.

Draco pulls away. “You’re not allowed to use lines on me, I’m already here,” he says and dives back into their kiss. He moans when Harry gives his hair a gentle tug so that Harry can kiss the side of his neck. Draco shivers but forces their mouths back together. Harry runs hands over his solid shoulders. It’s surreal to be doing this again.

“What do you want?” Harry asks, tearing his mouth away. Fuck, Harry’s almost dizzyingly hard already. “What do you want to do?” Harry corrects.

“Let me, just let me...” Draco trails off. Instead of speaking, Draco unbuckles Harry’s belt, pushes his trousers down and pulls off Harry's shirt. Now they are both mostly unclothed.

In some ways it's like fucking a stranger and Harry prefers it that way. There's no way he could stand this if everything came flooding back at the first tentative touch. Instead Draco fits against him differently, moves with no urgency. When they finally tumble into a bed, Harry can’t even bring himself to tell him it’s Michael’s. Not with Draco peering down at him, gaze dark and hot.

Draco is hard against Harry's hip but makes no move other than to shift closer. He even smells different now, like something wholesome and sweet, like oats. But there’s an undercurrent of coppery sweat.

“Look at you,” Draco says. “I can’t believe—”

“What?" Harry says.

"Can't believe you're here," Draco says.

Harry's answering kiss is as much because he wants to as that he doesn't want to go skipping down memory lane. Harry's the first to really touch. Harry presses his palms against both of Draco’s wrists, across the Dark Mark. Even now it seems like the starkness of the lines should redden and raise the skin. He had never been allowed before. Harry traces the faded Sectumsempra slashes down Draco’s torso with a finger, because if they can’t do this then they shouldn’t be fucking at all. He relishes the answering flash in Draco's eyes and then the stillness as he submits to Harry’s touch.

Draco traces Harry’s lightning scar, across his jawline, the wetness of his full bottom lip. Draco smiles when Harry tries to catch Draco’s thumb with his teeth. Draco traces down his chest with a brief pause to brush his thumb in the hollow where the Horcrux locket had burned long ago. It feels good. It feels so good. So many people Harry has slept with either avoided the scars or paid them too much mind. Harry feels himself drawn to his hands.

Harry has always been sensitive to magic, but after studying it more, he can feel Draco’s magic as if it’s a phantom blanket wrapped around him. Comforting. Maddening. They both stroke each other but Draco’s hand over Harry’s pants is too brief a sensation to find any relief.

“Are you going to fuck me or not?” Harry says. He wanted it to come out playful but it comes out desperate. They press their lips against each other's necks, breathing heavily.

“I rather thought you’d fuck me,” Draco says breathily. Harry has to stop so that he doesn't forget what this is, how this goes. Harry needs to stop cataloguing what has changed and what hasn't. This is probably going to wreck him for good this time. There’s something to be said for going into this with his eyes open.

"If you want."

It's like hitting fast forward because they both scramble to get completely naked as if they'd been waiting for permission.

“Can you still do the....” Draco says. Harry uses an unnecessary flourish and his magic scrapes hot over Draco’s body with something extra along with the requisite spells and lube.

Draco bites his lip hard and then clears his throat. “If I had come from that, I would have fucking killed you. And it was a close thing, let me tell you.” Draco’s voice is low and amused even as he’s affecting a complaint. Harry chooses not to answer, to put Draco on his back and slowly push one finger in his slow tight heat. Draco’s hips roll slowly.

“Two,” Draco says. His eyes flutter shut, and the blotchy redness of his blush has spread everywhere. He looks gorgeous on his back like this, giving himself over to Harry’s care and attention. Harry obeys, easing two fingers in as Draco’s legs fall open wider.

“Good?” Harry asks. Draco’s gaze is a bit unfocused when he opens his eyes and answers.

"Can think of something better," Draco says. Harry conjures extra lube, slicks it down his length. The long, hot slide of pressing into Draco nearly undoes him right there. He muffles a groan, digs his nails in his own thigh to stop himself from being too loud. Draco brushes his hands over Harry's soothingly and interlaces their fingers. Harry starts slow and deep, pleading with himself to last.

"You feel so good, Draco," Harry says. There's no hiding face to face. He picks up the tempo, gratified to see Draco arch his back more, push back harder.

"Harry," Draco says, sounding a little helpless. His name in Draco's mouth feels so right. Harry is fucked and he knows it but Draco is asking for more so Harry slings Draco's leg higher and presses deeper until Draco chants his name over and over. Draco reaches for his neglected cock, heavy and hard against his stomach. Harry pushes his hands away and wraps his hand around Draco's cock.

"If you do that I'm going to—"

"I want you to come," Harry says. His brain can barely form the words in between thrusts. It takes a few minutes but with a loud cry Draco does, pulsing over both of their stomachs. Harry feels the tight squeeze of Draco around him. He can feel the pooling warmth of orgasm approaching. What tips him over the edge, embarrassingly enough, is Draco reaching up to kiss him on the mouth, shaky and tender. When Harry finishes, he rolls onto his back.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I can't believe we just did that," Harry says. Draco laughs breathlessly. Harry turns on his side to face Draco. Draco also turns to face him.

"Could you be more smug? I find it really attractive and not at all off-putting," Draco says. More sarcasm. But Draco kisses him again, deep and slow with his tongue making broad sweeps in Harry's mouth. Harry cleans them both with a wave of his wand and sleepiness hits. Draco doesn't look like he's going anywhere but it would probably serve Harry right if he leaves. Harry drifts off.

They wake up in the middle of the night and fuck again, so quiet most of what Harry hears is their bodies and the sheets sliding against themselves.

"What are we doing?" Harry whispers. Draco shushes him, puts his fingers in Harry's mouth.

"Stop thinking." He does. They fall asleep again shortly after. Draco shakes Harry awake sometime later.

"Harry, I have to go," Draco says. "I'm working today."

Harry sits up. Draco has donned his boxers but hasn't dressed. He can see Draco changing his mind as he crawls halfway up the bed to kiss Harry against the headboard. Harry is not nearly awake enough for this.

“I won’t come to London,” Draco says. Harry's heart sinks though he knew it was coming from the very start. So this is goodbye again then.

"You said," Harry says. "I know." He slept with Draco knowing it was 99.9% likely nothing would come of it. He would still do it again.

“You could come to Zurich to visit. I’d like that,” Draco says quickly. Harry feels a cautious hope spread.

"What would I do in Zurich?" Harry asks.

"There are universities there, I've heard," Draco says.

"Hm," Harry says, as if he is seriously considering the merits of Swiss universities. "This is not very pragmatic of you."

"I'm not promising anything," Draco says. But he hadn't left while Harry was sleeping. And it's not a promise, but Draco leaves an address scrawled on the hotel stationary all the same.