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He Was a Skater Boy

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Harry can feel them burning holes into his skin like sunshine through a magnifying glass. Eyes, watching his every move as he lifts a spoonful of squash soup to his mouth and drinks his pumpkin juice. Whispered questions and murmured conversations—not directed at him, but unmistakably about him—simmering underneath the general chaos of the Great Hall. He has a sudden flash of jealousy and nostalgia for the boa constrictor he released at the London Zoo all those years ago.

He thought he’d make it through at least the first week of classes before he felt like running into the Forbidden Forest and not coming back out this time. He’s a grand total of three hours into his eighth year and he’s already in desperate need of a lie-down. Preferably somewhere dark, very quiet, and very, very isolated.

“Harry, my dear boy! Oh, do forgive me, not much of a boy anymore, are you? No, no. I daresay we should be calling you The Man Who Lived now, yes? Twice, in fact! The Man Who Lived Again. That has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? I’ll need to owl Barnabas straight away, you know I do drop him a line now and then when a catchy headline pops into my mind. I’d wager The Prophet’s seen a stark rise in sales over the years thanks to me…”

Harry shrinks in Slughorn’s shadow, trying to make himself as small as possible. He pokes his thumbs through the holes he’s already worn through the sleeves of his new school jumper and picks at his cuticles under the table. Maybe, if he just stays still and quiet enough, the man will carry on his one-sided conversation and forget about Harry altogether.

Slughorn brings a heavy hand down on Harry’s shoulder, driving him further into the wooden bench. No such luck, then. “Harry, listen. I’m having some of my best students round for a welcome back dinner in my quarters tomorrow evening. You’ll be the guest of honor, of course. Do bring Weasley and Granger along with you, hm? I presume you’ve brought a set of dress robes with you in your things? Best air them out tonight.”

Slughorn doesn’t wait for Harry’s reply before shuffling back toward the staff table. When Harry turns his attention back to his plate of picked over roast chicken, he’s confronted by the eyes of nearly every person at the eighth year table. His skin crawls and his chest feels tight. The light from the floating candles suddenly feels too bright, and the only sound he can hear is the blood rushing in his ears.

A flurry of movement at the Gryffindor table catches his eye. Dennis Creevey is standing and walking toward him with a grave, resolute look on his face. Harry wants to shout at him, to apologize for what happened to his brother, to cry and beg for forgiveness. Instead, he runs.

Without a word to his friends, he stands and stalks quickly from the Great Hall. The walls—so familiar and once so comforting—feel as though they’re bearing down on him. His brain buzzes with thoughts, but none of them coalesce into anything recognizable.

Finally, he steps through the front doors of the castle and into the courtyard. The adrenaline now rushing through his veins propels him further into the cool night air until he comes to rest against a far wall, hidden in a deep pocket of shadow. He curls into a ball on the ground and rests his chin on his knees. He’d kept his hair meticulously short over the summer as penance for the rat's nest he let it become when he was on the run, but it’s getting long again. Thick curls kiss his ears and he tangles them soothingly around his fingers. He hadn’t brought his cloak with him, and he shivers a little in the chilly breeze.

He sits for some time, breathing and looking up at the stars from his little hideout. He knows this year isn’t going to be easy. He’d managed to avoid almost everyone—the press, so-called fans, even some of his friends—over the summer. The weight of his grief is palpable and he’s spent plenty of sleepless nights by the fire at Grimmauld with Ron and Hermione—and plenty of hours with a Mind Healer—trying to process everything. What he really needs, though, is the time and space to be. To live for just a little while without any expectations or obligations.

He can’t do that now. Now, he has to wake up every morning, go to class, and sit beside people he’s seen bleeding, people he’s watched crumble under the weight of grief for their lost friends and loved ones. And they’ll all be looking to him for answers or reassurance. He has to build himself big enough to carry them all, even though he’s never felt smaller. He has to fend off the panic attacks, breathe through the tears that catch him by surprise at the most inopportune moments, and pretend to care about Charms and Transfigurations.

He’s almost ready to go back in—dinner will be over soon and they still have no idea where the eighth year students will be staying—when he hears it. A low rumbling sound that echoes off the courtyard walls. He looks around for the source, unable to pinpoint it, and then—

Someone comes flying through the archway next to him. They aren’t on a broom, but they’re definitely airborne. It isn’t until their feet hit the ground and they roll further into the center of the courtyard before skidding to a stop that Harry understands what he’s seeing.

Draco Malfoy pops his skateboard up off the ground and catches it effortlessly in one hand.

He lifts the other hand to push his hair—short on the sides, but shaggy on top and parted down the middle—out of his sweaty face. He’s only wearing a thin, white vest—having bunched up his button down shirt like a tea towel and tucked it into the waistband of his black uniform trousers. They look two sizes too big for him and sit low on his hips—the only thing protecting them from the pull of gravity is a leather belt covered in shiny, silver studs. The hems of his trousers are frayed and dirty where they are tucked behind the tongues of thick-soled sneakers decorated with a black and white checkerboard pattern.

Harry has to remind himself to breathe, and audibly clicks his gaping jaw shut.

He watches as Malfoy takes off at a run, smoothly slides onto the skateboard, and pushes off hard. He gathers momentum, barreling right toward a low, stone wall. Harry is sure he’s going to collide with it, but at the last second he bends his knees deeply, his arms loose at his sides, and kicks into the air, board and all.

The lip of the board barely catches the edge of the wall, then slips off. Malfoy goes down hard on his hands and knees and the board skitters away.

Fuck, shit, shitting shit,” he hisses, lifting himself slowly off the ground. Even from across the courtyard Harry can see the blood beading up around the scrapes on his palms.

Suddenly, the sounds of people moving and chatting echo out into the courtyard indicating the end of dinner. Harry needs to move, but he doesn’t want Malfoy to know he’s there. Luckily, Malfoy just wipes his bloody palms on his thighs, slips back into his uniform shirt without buttoning it, and chases down his skateboard before dashing inside.

*

Breakfast the next morning is only marginally less panic-inducing than the previous night’s dinner.

Harry’s finally able to ignore the stares and whispers when Malfoy flops loosely onto the bench across the table from him and two seats down, and begins messily buttering a scone. The angry, red scrapes from his fall are still visible on his palms. He’s wearing an oversized, baby pink hoodie with an unfamiliar logo across the front in big, black letters; the long sleeves slip down over his knuckles, but he doesn’t seem bothered by them. His golden, shower-wet hair keeps flopping down into his eyes, and Harry can’t look away as his long, knobbly fingers slick it back out of the way.

There’s a nervous energy about him. He eats quickly, and chugs a glass of orange juice before leaping up and nearly jogging from the Great Hall. Before he disappears around the corner toward the front door, he pulls what Harry thinks is his shrunken skateboard out of his hoodie pocket.

“...Earth to Harry!” Hermione says loudly, making Harry jump. He’s staring, transfixed, at the place Malfoy disappeared around the door frame.

“Erm—sorry, what?”

 

“I said, I’ve looked over your time table and scheduled some extra study sessions starting next week. Now I know you’re going to complain, but honestly, Harry, we missed so much last year, and—“

Ron groans for what Harry assumes is the second time, because Hermione reaches over and pinches his arm.

“Yeah, whatever,” Harry says distractedly. The self-satisfied smirk on Hermione’s face is immediately wiped away when he adds—“What’s up with Malfoy?”

Hermione sighs heavily, and Ron mutters bloody hell, here we go.

“What?! No,” Harry ducks his head as his face heats. He twists his hands nervously in his lap. “Just. He’s…weird. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed!”

“Yeah, mate, he’s always been bloody weird. It’s not really out of the realm of possibility that he’d be even weirder after…well, everything.”

“Yeah, but. Why is he weird like that? I wonder what he was doing all summer…” Harry trails off, eyes going fuzzy and mind filled with the focused slant of Malfoy’s dark eyebrows just before he kicked off the ground and into the air.

“He was in Los Angeles, of course!” Luna says dreamily as she floats onto Ginny's lap and plants a big kiss on her cheek.

“What? Why? I mean, isn’t he on probation? Or…something...” Harry combs his brain for any memory of Malfoy right after the trials, but he hadn’t paid much attention to anything beyond the boundaries of his depression nest.

“He is!” She clarifies pleasantly, “But he didn’t really have anywhere else to go, did he? After the Manor burned down?”

“And there’s the whole his war criminal dad is in Azkaban and his sympathizer mum is in hospital cause she went ‘round the twist thing.” Ginny adds, gruffly.

There’s a bitter taste at the back of Harry’s throat and something not unlike guilt settles in the pit of his stomach.

Gee—don’t be unkind,” Luna scolds, tapping Ginny’s nose with her forefinger, “He went to stay with some distant cousin of ours in America until the start of term. Cal’s married to a Muggle, and from what I gather, Draco spent his summer mostly without magic.”

“From what you gather?” Ron asks, skeptically.

“Oh, yes,” Luna nods sagely, “at least, that’s the way his letters made it sound.”

“His letters?!” Ron crows.

Harry stops listening, trying instead to imagine Malfoy in America. He almost laughs at the mental image of Malfoy daintily eating a cheeseburger with a knife and fork. Except, the Malfoy he witnessed yesterday didn’t seem like he’d be shy about eating anything.

Harry doesn’t know much about Los Angeles, but he knows there’s a beach there. Malfoy probably spent all summer getting burnt to a crisp, the poor, pale bastard. Maybe that’s where he learned to skateboard. Maybe he met some cool, older guy in board shorts and trainers with loads of tattoos who taught him how, and… no, no.

Bad.

Malfoy probably learned to surf, too. He probably had to wear one of those tight, neoprene wetsuits.

Better.

He probably left it half unzipped until he got into the water, his entire chest exposed to the waves and…

“Harry, come on! We have to get to Potions!” Hermione shouts from across the Great Hall. He’s suddenly all alone at the table, and he groans when he realizes how deep into a fantasy about Draco Malfoy he’d been. It’s not that he doesn’t fantasize about boys, because he definitely does. He just doesn’t fantasize about weird, blond former-bullies and their stupid, floppy, stupid hair.

*

The eighth years have all their classes together, so Harry has to see a lot of Malfoy.

To say he slouches now would be an understatement. He sinks down into his chair, long legs spread wide, his head propped up on two, long fingers.

Fingers that are distractingly on display as he flips a pen—a Muggle pen—through them, back and forth constantly, before stuffing it between his lips and sucking. Or worse, biting down, which means Harry can see straight into his mouth to his bright pink tongue.

Not that Harry’s looking.

They’re allowed to be out of uniform now—something about being treated like adults—but Malfoy’s really taking it to extremes. He just goes about in his rainbow of giant, soft-looking hoodies, baggy trousers—sometimes jeans—and his skate shoes. He doesn’t even get scolded for leaving his hood up during class, his bright eyes practically beaming out of the shadow it casts over his face.

Again, not that Harry’s noticed, but…

Every day around lunchtime Malfoy starts to get antsy, the way he is in the morning. His knee starts to bounce under his desk and he taps his fingers rapidly against his thigh. He’s always the first to leave when they’re dismissed. The first time it happened, Harry thought he must just be hungry after his usual breakfast of a singular scone and glass of juice.

But he’s never actually seen Malfoy at lunch. In the Great Hall, Harry tries to remain vigilant for a pastel-colored blur darting in to grab a sandwich, or the sound of Malfoy’s heavy skate shoes thumping across the flagstones, but he catches neither. Without Malfoy’s bright, buzzing energy to distract him, Harry feels himself begin to shut down in the face of his friends’ loud voices and expectant gazes.

Ow, f—knock it off,” he hissed under his breath the time that Malfoy’s bouncing leg vibrated his History of Magic book off his desk and onto Harry’s foot. Harry expected a familiar scowl in return. Instead Malfoy just looked at him, wide-eyed and pink cheeked, before muttering sorry, scooping up his book, and bolting toward the classroom door.

So far, those are the only words either of them has said to the other, and if he were watching Malfoy he might have noticed that he hasn't really said much to anyone else, either. which makes Harry feel weird. Bad-weird.

So, Harry decides to follow him. Just to make sure no one is like, jumping him every day behind the greenhouses or hexing him until he does their homework for them. Or something.

*

Harry has a foolproof plan. He’ll wait until their free period on Wednesday after Charms class ends, bolt to the nearest loos, and find Malfoy on the Marauder’s Map, which he’s started carrying around with him everywhere—just in case. Then, he’ll follow Malfoy to wherever it is he goes and watch from under the Invisibility Cloak. Just in case.

He finally resolves to do it on the first Wednesday of November, but then something happens that completely derails Harry’s day. Maybe his whole life.

Dean, seated directly in front of Harry, turns his head just enough that Harry can hear him mutter ‘I bet that hardening charm is old McG’s favorite. Whaddya reckon?’ and Malfoy, seated next to Harry, chokes on a laugh and shifts in his seat. That would have been enough to send Harry into a tailspin on its own, but what really does him in is the almost imperceptible flash of silver near the corner of Malfoy’s lower lip.

A lip ring. Malfoy has a bloody lip ring. It must be new. It definitely wasn’t there during dinner the night before. Harry stares as the tip of Malfoy’s tongue slides out to shift the jewelry on his lip. Every so often he glances back over and catches Malfoy tonguing at it from inside his mouth, or pressing his lips together over it before letting them pop back out, bitten red.

“Fucking what, Potter,” he whispers, not turning to look at Harry.

“Nothing. Sorry. I—I…” Harry stammers, “it’s just…”

Malfoy makes a low, annoyed sound in his throat and turns the full force of his unimpressed gaze on Harry.

“I like your lip ring,” Harry blurts, fingers worrying the fraying hem of his jumper.

Merlinfuck he hadn’t meant to say that. He definitely did not mean to say anything remotely like that.

He feels a blush creep into his face and his body goes hot all over with embarrassment. It only gets worse when Malfoy’s cheeks also go pink, and he flashes Harry an expression somewhere between a condescending smirk and a genuine smile.

Harry nearly combusts on the spot when Malfoy parts his lips slightly to tongue at the ring again without breaking eye contact. Luckily, he’s spared by Flitwick’s dismissal and Malfoy’s hasty flight to Godric-knows-where.

He’d like to run to the loo and pull out the Map, to follow Malfoy and see what he’s up to, he really would. He just can’t stand, let alone run anywhere, right at this moment. So he stays at his desk, taking deep breaths and imagining things like Polyjuice flavored pasties, Marge’s head on the body of one of her dogs, and Voldemort in his underpants.

The mission is more successful on the following Wednesday.

This is in large part because Harry’s been diligently building up his Malfoy tolerance. If he just looks at him enough, the novelty of his total weirdness will wear off and Harry will forget there was anything to see in the first place. Pretty soon, even the thought of Malfoy will bore him. And he certainly won’t be caught off guard again by any unexpected face jewelry, or surprise holes in Malfoy’s jeans that put his pale, scraped knees on full display, or that giant, wolfish grin he only allows when he thinks no one is watching.

And it’s worked. Sort of. Now, on the annoyingly frequent occasions that Malfoy looks back at him, the floor only feels like it’s spinning a bit and not like it’s fallen out from under his feet entirely.

As soon as Malfoy pulls his usual escape from the Charms classroom, Harry leaps up to follow. He ducks into the loo and counts slowly to 30, before pulling out the Map and tugging on the Cloak. It takes him a minute to locate Malfoy’s little dot—it comes to a stop in a far wing of the castle Harry knows to still be vacant and under construction.

The room he finds Malfoy in was heavily damaged by spellfire during the Battle. Most of the exterior wall and part of the roof are gone, and the snow swirls in through the holes on a chilly breeze. The floor is punctuated by large, jagged boulders, and Harry scrambles on top of one right next to the door, taking care to keep his knees and feet hidden.

Malfoy reaches into his hoodie pocket and pulls out his skateboard, un-shrinks it, and flips it down under one foot. Harry watches him make a fast circuit of the room, crouched low on the board and weaving in and out of the boulders.

Harry’s mesmerized, just like the first time he watched Malfoy do this. He looks like he was born on a skateboard. His thin, lanky body folds and expands, almost bonelessly, as he rocks the board from side to side then explodes upward, flipping the board around with his feet.

As he warms up, Malfoy starts catching more air and his tricks become more complex. Eventually, he clambers up onto a particularly large fragment of wall and drops straight down onto a ramp that looks cobbled together from roof tiles and cross beams. Harry gasps softly when he accelerates up a matching ramp on the other side of the room and launches probably twelve feet into the air.

After twenty minutes or so, Malfoy strips off his hoodie and tosses it carelessly onto a pile of stones, leaving him in just an oversized black t-shirt. He skates hard—attempting trick after trick and landing most of them—until he’s panting and dripping sweat. His damp hair clings to his forehead and the nape of his neck, and Harry watches him dart out his tongue to catch a bead of perspiration that rolls onto his upper lip.

Harry thinks Malfoy might be about to pack it in—the lunch hour is practically over, anyway—because he weaves his way right in front of Harry’s perch and toward the door. Suddenly, one of the skateboard wheels catches on a tiny piece of debris, causing it to skid to a stop, and Malfoy sprawls out on the ground face-first. It takes every ounce of his—admittedly scant—self control to keep Harry from throwing off the cloak and leaping to the ground.

Malfoy rolls onto his back, still sprawled out on the dusty ground, and hisses as he rolls his left wrist around in his right hand as though checking for a sprain. He looks injured, but to Harry’s surprise, he starts to laugh. Louder and more genuinely than Harry’s ever heard. His whole body shakes with it, and it’s hard to tell through all the sweat but Harry thinks he sees tears gathering in the corners of Malfoy’s eyes.

As though in slow motion, Malfoy reaches a hand down and gathers up the hem of his t-shirt. Harry feels his face flush hot as he watches the long, pale expanse of Malfoy’s torso gradually come into view as he hikes his shirt up to wipe the sweat from his face. He’s so skinny—his baggy clothes hide just how thin he really is—but firm muscle ripples underneath the skin of his stomach. Harry definitely doesn’t notice the sharp jut of his hip bones, or follow the thin trail of blond curls that starts at Malfoy’s navel and disappears into—

Bloody hell. The waistband of his green boxers that are bunched up over the top of his jeans. They’re covered in little snakes. Little snakes wearing little hats. There’s even one that looks like a tiny, scaly cowboy. Harry wonders briefly if he’s died and become a ghost without noticing, because he can’t feel any of his limbs. His stomach feels weird—kind of tight and achy, but warm and tingly at the same time.

He’s unable to dislodge himself from the boulder even after Malfoy collects his things and leaves. He’s fifteen minutes late to Defense—it took him nearly that long to get his legs to work right again.

He doesn’t follow Malfoy after class every Wednesday after that—so what if that’s only because he can’t come up with a plausible enough excuse for skipping lunch again—but more often than not he spends his Wednesday afternoons watching silently from his hideout, cataloguing everything about Malfoy he’d never given himself permission to notice before.

Like the way the tip of his pink tongue pokes out unconsciously when he’s really focused on nailing a trick. Or how, after he misses a jump for the seventeenth time, he picks up his board and swings it at the wall with a growl, only to pull back at the last second to spin the wheels almost apologetically.

Harry’s tries to count all the little scars Malfoy’s collected since the Battle—his sharp elbows and knees are webbed with them, and there are a few scattered across the high points of his face. It makes him look cool and a little dangerous, and Harry wants to find out if there are more where he can’t see. Harry particularly likes the one that slices into Malfoy’s top lip, just beside his cupid’s bow—it’s barely visible, but Harry’s noticed that Malfoy worries it with his thumb when he’s lost in thought. Harry wants to kiss it, just to know if he could feel it with his own lips.

Harry also noticed how, despite the fact that he’s adopted a sort of devil-may-care attitude that fills up any room he’s in, Malfoy mostly keeps to himself. He responds quietly, almost shyly, whenever anyone addresses him directly, but he rarely speaks up in class or the hallways. A few of his Slytherin friends also returned for eighth year, but Malfoy seems to hover on the edge of their group, nodding along quietly and taking up as little space as possible.

It’s the polar opposite of how he skates, full of confidence verging on arrogance. He swaggers a bit when he has his deck in his hands, and his grunts of frustration and whoops of joy are loud and echoing. It’s the way Harry likes him best.

*

Harry stares blankly out of the window in the eighth year common room, idly watching snowflakes hit the glass and melt away. It’s late, and he’s meant to be finishing an essay for Potions, but lost the ability to focus hours ago. There’s two weeks left until exams, and three weeks before winter break starts, and he still hasn’t had a real conversation with Malfoy.

Once, he’d looked over in the middle of Defense to find Malfoy doodling on the inside of his left forearm with a black permanent marker. He’d drawn a blobby little frog near the heel of his hand, and the word ‘suck’, with a weird, blocky-looking letter ‘s’, right under the pit of his elbow. As Harry watched, he drew heavy, black X’s over the eyes of his Dark Mark, and re-drew the tongue so it looked fat and wet. He even added a trail of little droplet shapes, as if it were drooling. Harry laughed out loud. He almost complimented Malfoy on his artistry, but then Malfoy had scoffed and smirked at him—as if they were in on a joke together—and Harry’s mind went blank.

Another time at dinner, he got distracted by Malfoy’s fingers tangling and untangling the mass of thin, multi-colored rubber bracelets he always wore on his right wrist. Harry wanted to know why he wore so many, where he got them, and if they meant anything. He almost, almost got the questions out, but then Malfoy noticed him staring, flashed Harry his middle finger, and pulled his hood down further to hide his grin. Harry couldn’t speak around the goofy smile on his face.

“When did you—” he managed to croak in Malfoy’s direction a couple of weeks ago, in the corridor between classes. Learn to skateboard, he meant to ask. Malfoy had whipped his head around the instant he realized Harry was talking to him, his focused gaze darting between Harry’s eyes. But then Millicent Bulstrode shoved her way between them, and shouted something about going for a pint later. “Oh, gnarly,” Malfoy said in acknowledgement. Harry

ducked into an alcove before Malfoy could turn back around. Gnarly?!

“Harry, you got this bit wrong here—the bit about contraindications of bloodroot serum. It’s actually—”

Harry doesn’t hear the rest of Hermione’s sentence, though, because right at that moment, Malfoy strides quickly out of the passageway to their dorm rooms, through the common room, and out into the corridor. His skateboard is tucked under one arm, and his other hand is shoved into the pocket of his teal jacket.

“You know, you’re definitely right that something’s weird about him this year,” Ron says, pulling Harry’s focus back to their table, “he’s always so...sweaty.”

“Yeah,” Harry sighs, looking back toward the common room door, “he really is. Erm. I’ll. Forgot something….right back…” he trails off as he leaps to his feet and follows Malfoy out into the castle.

He makes it all the way to the door of the exploded room before he realizes he isn’t wearing the Cloak. He’s about to turn around and go back to the common room, resigned to making a real go of his essay, when he hears the unmistakable sound of a body crashing heavily to the floor. Malfoy growls loudly and the string of expletives coming from his mouth sounds thick with tears. It seems like he might really be hurt this time—

Harry barrels into the room without another thought. He finds Malfoy leaned back against one of the jagged chunks of wall, hands clutching his knee and lifting his foot off the ground. His ankle is bent at an unnatural angle that turns Harry’s stomach.

“What happened? Are you okay?” Harry nearly shouts.

“I’m...Potter? What the fuck.” Mafoy grits out through clenched teeth. His face is kind of green and clammy looking. “Are you fucking kidding me? Ow, Salazar’s bloody fucking balls that hurts—of course you’re fucking here.”

He tilts his head back against the stone, eyes squeezed shut in pain, and Harry sees that his chin is busted open. He must have bitten his lip when he fell, too, because his teeth are coated in a thin film of blood. His hands and elbows are covered in shallow scrapes.

Harry is hit with an overwhelming feeling of deja vu. If he had a galleon for every time he’d been in this position—looking down at Malfoy’s broken, helpless body on the ground…well, he’d rather have none at all.

“Le—let me help,” Harry says softly.

“Eurgh—fuck off. I don’t need your help! I’m bloody finehah” Malfoy tries to lever himself up to standing, but collapses back against the stone with a grimace. He looks like he might lose consciousness completely, and something snaps in Harry’s gut.

“Let me fix your ankle, you can’t even walk. You definitely can’t skate like this, and you—you need to skate.” Malfoy’s feverish eyes snap to Harry’s face, his pain momentarily forgotten. Harry sucks in a breath, but continues, “We practiced…I mean, I got quite good at healing spells while I was...well, anyway. Here—” He kneels down, and Malfoy slides back down the boulder, letting Harry carefully arrange his ankle on his lap.

“If you take off my whole foot I swear to—”

Episkey.”

Malfoy’s ankle straightens with a sickening crunch, and he makes a low, drawn out noise somewhere between a whine and a groan. After several minutes during which Malfoy breathes heavily through his nose, and Harry worries he might have accidentally made it worse, the color returns to Malfoy’s face and he relaxes. He doesn’t move his foot from Harry’s lap.

“Better?”

“Yeah. Sorry,” Malfoy says in a small voice. “I forgot how much it hurts to break a bone like that…”

Harry’s heart clenches in his chest.

He gently dislodges Malfoy’s leg, and Malfoy lets his knee flop to the side. He looks completely spent, his eyelids droop and it’s like Harry can see the dark circles under his eyes deepen in real time. Harry sits up on his knees and scoots closer into the vee of Malfoy’s legs.

“What are you—” Malfoy starts, but cuts off when Harry leans over him, supporting himself with one hand against the boulder. Malfoy’s tired eyes are soft, but alert, locked onto Harry’s face.

“Your, um, your chin…” Harry explains in a whisper, raising his wand enough to indicate his intentions but not enough that it’s actually pointed at Malfoy.

“No! No…” Malfoy says quickly, eyes going wide.

“What? Why? That looks like it hurts, too, and you’re still bleeding!” Harry retorts.

“It’s...it’s okay. I have bandages in my room. I don’t...I just prefer to do it that way, okay?”

“Oh...um, yeah,” Harry replies, “Well, come on, then.” He stands and brushes off his dirty hands, extending the one not holding his wand out so Malfoy can pull himself up.

They don’t speak as they make their way back through the castle to the common room. Not even when Harry, noticing the way Malfoy is balancing his skateboard on the very tips of his fingers to avoid the scrapes on his palms, reaches out to tug the deck from his hands. Malfoy resists for a moment, eyes wide and a little scared looking when he jerks his head toward Harry, but finally relents with a small frown.

Harry clutches the deck to his chest, wheels-out, and trails the sides of his thumbs over the landscape of rough gouges and fraying stickers.

When they slip through the common room door, they find it empty. It’s later than Harry realized, now, and even Hermione has abandoned her books by the fire. He trails Malfoy down the dormitory corridor. McGonagall, in her infinite wisdom, managed to arrange them each a single room for the year, and there are so few returning students that all the bedrooms fit into this single hallway. Malfoy’s room is the final door on the left.

What Harry sees when Malfoy pushes open his bedroom door is not what he expects, at all. It almost looks like two very different people occupy the one, small space. The right side of the room is taken up mostly by a large, wooden desk and a couple of bookshelves. Everything is in its place, meticulously tidy—even the feathers of Malfoy’s quills are pointed in the same direction. Malfoy’s essay for Potions is lying on his desk, half-finished, already twice as long as Harry’s pathetic first attempt.

The left side, on the other hand, looks like it might belong to a sentient tornado. Instead of the Slytherin green Harry anticipates, everything is shades of black and grey. The rumpled sheets on the bed are black, and the duvet, black with a delicate pattern of constellations in yellows and whites, is piled in a heap in the center of the bed. Several pairs of Malfoy’s black uniform trousers are tossed haphazardly over the chair in the corner with pairs of brightly colored boxers poking out of their waistbands as if Malfoy just tears all his clothes off in one go. Harry suddenly feels very self-conscious.

Malfoy grunts and points lazily at the bed—the only remotely uncluttered place to sit in the room. Harry closes the door behind himself and trails over, lifting one of Malfoy’s pillows—abandoned in the very center of the bed as if Malfoy curls up on it to sleep like a cat—and placing it on his lap.

Suddenly, he’s surrounded by the heady scent of heated skin and sweat undercut by something sharper like sawdust and grease. If Harry had to name it he’d say it smells like boy, and it turns his spine liquid.

There are a few milky drool stains on Malfoy’s black pillowcase, and some stray blond hairs. Without even thinking about it, Harry lifts the pillow and presses his face into it. It occurs to him that this might be very gross—sniffing Malfoy’s dirty bedclothes like some kind of feral animal—but the thought has no real weight because he feels lightheaded and more than a little turned on. He breathes in deeply, dragging the scent down inside of himself, and holds it there.

There’s a clattering sound across the room, and Harry throws the pillow—harder than strictly necessary—away from himself toward the headboard. When Malfoy finally turns back toward him, a metal tin in his hand, Harry can tell that his face is beet red. Malfoy gives him an unreadable look.

“Uh, yeah, sorry...it’s a bit of a mess in here, I guess,” he says softly, coming to sit next to Harry on the bed. Harry twists his fingers together in his lap, trying very hard not to fidget nervously. He tugs the sleeves of his jumper down over his knuckles, leaving just his thumbs and forefingers poking out.

“N—no!” Harry squeaks, and clears his throat. “S’fine.”

Malfoy chuckles at him, the same, enigmatic look in his eyes, and hands Harry a plaster.

“This is neon pink,” Harry says as he peels it open.

“Cool, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Harry breathes, thumbing through the rest of the differently-colored neon plasters in the tin.

“Go on,” Malfoy says, tilting his head back to expose his busted chin to Harry. “I could do it myself, but I’d probably put it on crooked.”

Harry gulps. “O—okay. Can I at least clean up the blood a bit? It might not stick.”

Malfoy huffs a laugh and shrugs, so Harry casts a gentle cleaning charm to clear away the blood and dust. He delicately peels the paper away from the adhesive ends of the plaster, pinching it carefully between his fingers to keep it from sticking to itself. He smooths the bandage down over the cut, and watches in awe as Malfoy’s adam's apple bobs over a swallow.

 

“There,” Harry says, letting his hands fall back to his lap.

Malfoy lets his head fall back down and gazes at Harry from under his long, dark eyelashes. A blush blooms high on Malfoy’s cheeks, and Harry can feel his face start to heat, too. The corners of Malfoy’s lips twitch up into a small smile, and Harry can’t help but grin. All of a sudden, they’re laughing. Really laughing. Harry’s clutching his stomach and Malfoy’s doubled over with his head in his hands, and they're both laughing so hard it makes no sound.

Finally, they collapse back onto the bed, side-by-side, gasping for air and wiping tears from their eyes.

“No offense, Potter,” Malfoy says around a giggle, “but this is the last situation I ever expected to find myself in this year. What the bloody hell is happening?”

“Do you think I have any idea? I didn’t really expect to be sticking neon-colored Muggle plasters all over anyone, let alone you.”

Malfoy grunts in agreement, then falls silent. They lie there for a while, Harry lost in the feeling of Malfoy’s duvet soft under his head, the heat of Malfoy’s arm so close to Harry’s own, and the scent of him, even more overwhelming now that he’s so near. Then a thought occurs to him.

“Why don’t you heal them? Your injuries? It’s like you’re always bleeding from somewhere.”

“Oh,” Harry feels Malfoy shrug, “I just got used to it, I guess. I didn’t get my wand back until school started, and the person I was staying with over the summer doesn’t really use a lot of magic, so I had to learn my way around a Muggle first aid kit.”

“Oh, right. Yeah…” Harry wants to ask about a million follow up questions, but he doesn’t want to ruin whatever is happening.

“And…” Malfoy continues, more quietly, “it’s part of it, you know? Wiping out. Even the most skilled and experienced skaters eat shit regularly. The scrapes and bruises, they’re like a badge of honor, almost? Proof that you’re pushing yourself to your limit and not giving up, even if it means taking off a layer or two of skin. Proof that you’ll give everything you’ve got for the sake of nailing one trick.”

“I...get that, I think?” Harry says, cautiously. “But...you could heal them now, couldn’t you? I mean, you have your wand back, and I’m not sure anyone else here even knows you skate, so…”

“No,” Malfoy says, firmly. “It doesn’t matter if no one knows or understands. I know. And I understand, better than most people, actually, how much more dangerous it is to just heal the wound and pretend like it never happened. If you vanish the pain, there’s no reminder of what went wrong the last time. You...you don’t learn anything that way. You make the same stupid mistakes, over and over, and keep getting hurt in exactly the same way.”

Malfoy sniffs, and his voice has gone thick with emotion. Harry wants to look at him, to search his face for a way he can make it better, but he doesn’t want Malfoy to feel embarrassed. And he doesn’t want him to stop talking. He feels Malfoy shift beside him to wipe his face on his t-shirt.

That,” Harry says, after considering his words carefully for a moment, “is something I definitely get.”

When he finally lets his head fall to the side, Malfoy is already looking at him. The tips of their noses are centimeters apart, and Malfoy’s watery, silver eyes look so big Harry thinks he could fall into them. Malfoy nods and lets his eyes fall shut for a moment, and when he opens them again, he smiles.

“C—can you teach me?” Harry says, nerves nearly choking his words off in his throat. “Can you teach me how to skateboard?”

Malfoy laughs loudly again and props himself up on his elbow. “Oh, I can absolutely teach you. Whether or not you’ll get it through that thick skull of yours is entirely out of my control,” he says, leaning over and flicking Harry’s forehead with his middle finger. “I hereby officially relinquish any and all responsibility for the integrity of your limbs.”

Harry chuckles and bats Malfoy’s hand away, feeling too pleased to put any force behind it, “Yeah, yeah, okay…you’re a mean teacher.”

“You have no idea,” Malfoy says, leaping up from the bed and throwing the bedroom door wide. “Now get out of my room, Potter.”

*

“Okay. Start by putting your back foot on the board first, yeah, like that—” Draco says, pointing a long finger toward the tail of his skateboard that Harry is hovering over unsteadily. Harry sets his foot down gingerly and waves his arms in little circles when the board shifts under him.

This time when Charms had ended, Draco had waited—albeit impatiently—while Harry packed up his notes and dashed after him out the door.

Oh Merlin,” Draco pushes off the wall he was leaning against and comes to stand just behind Harry. “Now, you’re going to lift your front foot and set it...there, over the screws near the nose, and—”

Harry manages to get both feet onto the deck for one triumphant second before it rocks beneath him and shoots forward, sending him flying onto his back on the hard floor.

Raagh—oof! Owwww, ow, ow, ow” Harry whines, knees bent and hands clutching his smarting tailbone. “Why did it do that?!”

“It sensed your fear,” Draco teases, waggling his eyebrows.

Harry flashes him his middle fingers as he heaves unsteadily back to his feet.

“Okay, but really. You have to move like you’re sure you’ll stick it, not like you’re anticipating the fall,” Draco says, rolling the deck back in front of Harry so he can try again. “Shift your weight from your back foot onto your front foot quickly and smoothly, then center yourself. If you lean too far back it’s going to fly away from you again.”

Harry takes a deep, steadying breath and tries again. This time, when he swings his front foot onto the board he’s able to remain standing.

“Hah!” he shouts in victory, swinging his head around to see Draco’s reaction, which makes the board slide out from under him again. Draco laughs loudly, and Harry’s ego would be as bruised as his arse if he weren’t so secretly pleased to be the cause for that sound.

Harry tries mounting the board a few more times, until he can do it reliably without falling. “Now what?” He asks, breathlessly.

“O—oh, um,” Draco stutters. “Well, you’ll need to be able to move. So, take your back foot off the deck, and—”

“What?! I just got it on there, and you want me to take it back off?”

“Oh, sorry, I thought you wanted to learn how to skate,” Draco says, crossing his arms and grinning, “though you are clumsy enough that the extra standing lessons certainly won’t go to waste.”

“Fuck off,” Harry mutters grumpily. He sets his back foot on the ground and pushes off tentatively, keeping his arms extended to hold his balance. His feigned anger is enough to keep him on the board until it rolls to a stop. He turns around, ready to rub his overwhelming success in Draco’s face, when—

“Sick! That was awesome!” Draco says, loping over to punch Harry gently on the shoulder. “Well, I guess we know what kind of motivation you respond to best, hm?”

Harry flushes, pleased by the praise and weirdly embarrassed by Draco’s implication. Not that he’s implying anything, but, if he were it would definitely be embarrassing.

“Well, what are you waiting for, go again!” Draco says, excitedly, nudging Harry back toward the board and dancing a little from one foot to the other. He looks happy, and it makes Harry’s stomach feel very warm to think that maybe, possibly, he is part of the reason for it.

They keep at it for a while longer, Harry rolling carefully back and forth across the big empty space Draco has cleared in the middle of the crumbling room. He gets braver as he goes, pushing off harder and picking up more speed. It feels a bit like flying, the way it makes his stomach swoop.

“Ok, now— turning,” Draco says just before they have to head back to class, “I’ll show you how and then we can practice next time. He urges Harry back onto the board, then stands right behind him, one hand laid carefully on Harry’s hip. He’s tall enough that even with the inches the board gives Harry, Draco’s head still comes level with his.

“Bend your knees,” he says softly, right next to Harry’s ear. Harry thinks that’s a very bad idea, since his knees suddenly feel like jelly. He tries anyway, because he wants to show Draco how good he can be at this, wants him to shout awesome again with that big smile on his face, and manages to stay upright.

“Now, you’re going to push off like before, good, yeah! Now, lean your body forward but push your heels down onto the back edge of the board. No, lean, Harry, bugger—”

Harry leans, he really does, but it’s not enough to keep him from smashing face-first into the wall. When he picks himself up off the ground, palms stinging from where he’d caught himself, Draco is grinning but it’s definitely at Harry’s expense this time.

Harry pouts, and he knows he looks like a child, but he can’t help it. His hands hurt.

“Here, you big baby,” Draco says, coming to crouch next to him. He pulls a handful of the neon plasters from his pocket, rips open a green one, and sticks it over the scrape on Harry’s hand. “He came back from the dead to kill the Wixen World’s most dangerous dark wizard, folks, but a little boo-boo will take him right out.”

Harry sticks his tongue out, but giggles when Draco rolls his eyes. “And you’ve earned this,” Draco continues, sliding one of the rubber bracelets— a blue, glittery one— off his wrist and onto Harry’s, careful not to knock his fresh wound.

“Oh,” Harry says, his voice cracking, “th—thanks. Is that how you got all of those? Did someone give them to you when you learned something new?”

Draco blushes and averts his gaze, “Um. Yeah, sort of.”

*

By the time the holiday break arrives, Harry has earned several more bracelets. He finally got the hang of turning, and managed to tic tac his way across the floor—shifting the nose of the board back and forth rhythmically to build up speed without having to push—three times in a row without wiping out.

His most recent success is by far his most exciting, and his most painful.

“Okay. Today, you will land an ollie,” Draco says firmly as soon as he unshrinks the deck, “it’s like a jump with the board.” He takes off on a fast circuit of the room, performing an impressive rail slide down a portion of an old ceiling beam that makes Harry gasp. He knows Draco misses his solo skate time, but he hasn’t once complained about having to let Harry borrow his deck.

“By land, do you mean on my arse? Because I will definitely be doing that.”

“No. I mean you will land on your feet, still on the board, preferably.”

“You have way too much confidence in my skills.”

“I have no confidence in your skills, actually. I have every confidence in my ability as an instructor.”

“Oh, sure, and your pedagogical prowess will cushion my arse when it inevitably hits the floor?”

“Ohhh hooo, don’t tire yourself out with those big words before we even get started!” Draco teases with no real fire in his tone, “Besides, it’s not my teaching your arse needs to be concerned with,” he adds, almost too quietly for Harry to hear it. When he looks back at Harry his cheeks are pink.

“Right, so, you’ll need to get really low, shift your weight quickly onto your back foot,” he says, demonstrating each step slowly, “rock back until the tail hits the ground, then push off. The combined momentum of your back foot pushing down on the tail and your front foot lifting up off the nose should lift the board. Then just let the board level and land again.” He does another one, sped up, and it looks as easy as walking for him.

“No. nope. Can’t I just stay on the ground? There have to be skateboarders out there who don’t do jumps.”

“Well, sure, there definitely are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of the most beautiful skaters I’ve ever seen just ride downhill, longboard stuff, you know?”

Harry doesn’t know, but now Draco is monologuing into the middle distance and Harry loves it when he does that.

“But, well, catching air...that’s when the real magic of skating happens. You can escape gravity, leave the earth for just a moment using nothing more than your own two feet and the deck. Once you learn to land an ollie, a whole new world of possibility opens up. This is the hardest part,” he says, wide, sparkling eyes focusing back on Harry, “once you land this, nailing every other trick is just a matter of going for it. I thought—well, seems like something you’d like.”

“Yes,” Harry says loudly, “Erm—yeah, okay. I’ll try, but I hope you brought enough plasters.”

“Don’t worry, I always stock up before we do this,” Draco says with a wink that makes Harry’s stomach go all hot and tingly.

It takes hours—and Harry does fall on his arse, his face, his hands and knees, and a few other seemingly impossible body parts—but he finally lands it.

His whole body is covered in sweat, his curls are stuck uncomfortably to his forehead and neck, and he thinks there might be a bit of blood dripping from his knee down into his sock, but he’s determined to get it this time. He balances on the board, sore knees bent as far as possible. His arms hang loosely in front of him for balance and extra upward momentum. Everything goes quiet for a moment, and the sound of his own heartbeat is loud in his ears.

He drops down another millimeter and then—

Wah!” he shouts loudly, kicking up into the air before landing solidly back on the earth, feet still planted firmly on the deck.

“YES!” Draco roars, which Harry answers with his own, unintelligible shout of joy. He turns and collides with Draco’s surprisingly solid body. His arms instinctively wrap around Draco’s thin waist, and his breath whooshes out of him as Draco squeezes him tight.

“Yes,” Draco says again without letting go, “fucking righteous, I knew you’d nail it. That was bloody wicked.”

Harry’s hands fist into the soft fabric of Draco’s jacket. “That felt amazing,” he says softly into the folds of Draco’s hood, “I get it, now, what you meant about jumps.”

“Yeah,” Draco says, just as softly, still holding on to Harry tightly.

When they finally pull apart, neither of them seems capable of making eye contact with the other, but Draco slides an orange bracelet off his wrist and onto Harry’s. He lets his index finger catch on Harry’s growing collection and swings Harry’s hand from side to side for a moment, before finally letting go and turning away to collect his board.

*

“What do you mean, you’re going to stay here?” Ron asks from the middle of his messy room, where he’s hurling things toward his trunk by the door.

The Hogwarts Express leaves in the morning, and it seems like everyone in their dorm has remembered to pack at exactly the same time. A loud thump and an ow echoes down the hall from another open doorway. Harry can hear Seamus nervously arguing with Dean about whether Dean’s Muggle mum will hate him if he doesn’t pack his dress robes for Christmas dinner.

“Yeah. I...I want to spend as much time here as possible before we’re gone forever, you know?” That’s true, but it’s only a small part of Harry’s motivation to stay at the Castle over the break.

“Okay, but...it’s only a couple of weeks, and you’ll miss mum’s Christmas roast! And Charlie’s going to be home, and Bill and Fleur.”

That makes Harry second guess his decision for a moment. He’s always loved The Burrow at the holidays, so full of energy and warmth and love. He’d missed it fiercely when they’d been on the run the year before. And for a moment, he lets himself believe that nothing will have changed. Molly will still welcome them home with her signature mix of affection and exasperation; Arthur will be preoccupied with some weird, new project; the house will overflow with people and sound and color and light and he will feel at home. A very small part of this very big, wild family.

But it won’t be like that. Not with the gaping hole that Fred left behind, not with Molly shouldering through her grief to try and keep everything as close to normal as possible. Not so soon after everything. Besides, he told McGonagall about his change of plans last week and owled Molly to let her know that morning.

“Yeah, I know,” Harry says, dejectedly. “I just...need to be here. Okay?”

Ron huffs distractedly, digging around in a pile of dirty clothes beside his bed, “Does this have anything to do with whatever you’ve got going on with Malfoy? Harry, don’t tell me you’re staying behind because of that arsehole.”

Harry bristles. He feels defensive, all of a sudden. This is the first time any of his friends have directly acknowledged his...whatever...with Draco. Truce? Friendship? Something else? He knows they’ve all noticed the way he and Draco disappear together all the time, and the way they always sit next to one another at breakfast and dinner, even if they don’t speak. Something about Ron implying that Harry believes Draco is more important than his own family makes him angry, though he can't put his finger on why, or with whom.

“No, actually,” he snaps, “it's because I’d like a little time to myself for once! Some peace and bloody quiet!”

Ron’s head snaps toward him, a hurt expression on his face. “Harry, what the fu—”

“No, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,” he says, scrubbing his hand down his face. He tries again with more honesty. “I don’t know if I’m ready to be around everyone again, so soon. I’m already on edge, see? I just...I want you all to have a good holiday together and I think I might just ruin it.”

Ron considers him for a moment, then drops the bundle of matching socks he’d finally collected onto the bed before striding over and pulling Harry into a hug. “That isn’t how it works. I know you know that, but...I get it. If you need to stay here. Mum’ll understand, too. They all will.”

“Yeah,” Harry sniffles and wipes his eyes as he pulls back, “thanks.”

“Anytime, mate. Now help me find ‘Mione’s gift—I swear I put it in my desk but it’s not there now, and I can’t get another one so close to Christmas…”

*

If Draco is surprised or upset that Harry chose to stay behind for the break, he doesn’t say anything. They’re the only two eighth years who stayed, and the fact that Draco would have been alone otherwise reaffirms Harry’s decision.

They spend their days in much the same way as they had for the whole term—Draco eats breakfast quickly before disappearing to skate on his own for a while, then Harry joins him in the afternoons for another lesson before dinner. Harry likes that they’ve come to this unspoken arrangement, it feels like they’ve carved out little spaces for each other in their own lives without needing to ask or analyze why they fall into them so easily.

Harry also appreciates that this arrangement often results in him arriving in the afternoon to find Draco sweaty and loose-limbed, and more often than not, shirtless. It’s Harry’s favorite version of him.

Sure, he’s grown fond of the Draco who hides his face in his big, soft hood and quietly watches everyone around him, who’s committed to his schoolwork and aces all his essays and exams without fanfare. He’s also particularly, maybe strangely, attached to the Draco who teases him mercilessly in the corridor between class, over dinner, or when he’s having trouble landing a particularly challenging trick. Maybe he likes it so much because Draco’s barbs are always followed swiftly by quiet praise and reassurance that makes Harry’s chest ache.

But this Draco—so open and free, completely caught up in the joy of doing something he loves and is brilliant at—is the one Harry likes best. Draco looks impressive and powerful in these moments, and Harry’s is more than content to sit by quietly and watch him shine.

They add something new to their routine, too. Harry thinks it may have something to do with the weird, liminal feeling of winter break at Hogwarts; like they’re outside of space and time. More likely, it’s a result of the fact that they have the common room to themselves, now, and they’ve both cultivated poor sleeping schedules thanks to the nightmares.

“What’s that? Is that a Muggle mobile?” Harry asks, incredulously, when he pads into the cold common room early into the morning of the third night. He shivers in his thin Puddlemere United t-shirt and flannel trousers and goes immediately to light the fire.

Draco is curled up in a ball on the couch in a pair of Muggle basketball shorts and his requisite oversized hoodie. The glow from the small screen makes his face look ghostly and washed out.

“Yeah. It’s pretty useless, here—can’t actually use it to make calls or anything—but I’ve got a bunch of videos I took over the summer that I can still watch,” he mumbles.

“Oh, videos of what?”

“Other skaters I met, videos of myself trying to land tricks so I could see where I was going wrong. Skate videos I saved from the internet.”

Harry shakes his head in disbelief. He never thought he’d see the day when Draco Malfoy would not only know how to use a Muggle mobile, but use it to save videos—made by Muggles—from the Muggle internet.

“Budge up, then,” Harry says, flopping down onto the couch nearly on top of Draco’s feet. Draco kicks his thigh gently, but flips himself up so Harry can see the screen, too.

Most of their nights go that way, with Harry tucked up against Draco’s side, trying not to doze to the sound of Draco’s soft, deep voice explaining whatever trick the person on screen is attempting.

One night, only a couple of days before everyone is due back for the start of the new term, Harry trails out into the common room having been awoken by a particularly nasty nightmare about Cedric Diggory. He feels cold all over, deep into his bones, and he craves the familiar warmth of Draco pressed against him.

He flicks his wand to start the fire in the grate—Draco never does it, but his soft thank you as he wriggles warmth back into his limbs is enough to keep Harry from bringing it up. Harry still can’t shake the chill, though, and tries hard to suppress his shudders.

“What’s wrong with you?” Draco asks after the force of Harry’s shiver knocks the phone out of his hands for a second time.

“N—nothing, just cold, sorry...” Harry bites out through chattering teeth.

“Salazar, c’mere,” Draco says under his breath, setting the phone to the side. Before Harry realizes what’s happening, Draco has pulled him between his legs and twisted them both so they’re reclining against the arm of the couch.

“Wha—” Harry tries to lift himself back up, alarmed by their sudden proximity and certain it was an accident, when his arms are pinned to his sides. Draco pulls his black, fluffy jacket around them both and zips it up to Harry’s chin.

Harry’s heart thuds in his chest, panic fluttering behind his rib cage for a long moment, until the heat from Draco’s chest begins to seep into his back. His racing mind slows as the warmth suffuses every part of him, as the smell and feel of Draco envelopes him, and his muscles begin to relax. He feels utterly held. Safe.

Draco retrieves the phone and holds it out in front of them with one hand, letting it rest on Harry’s chest. He slides his other hand over Harry’s belly until he can tuck his fingers around Harry’s hip. The sides of Draco’s hood fall around Harry’s face as he tilts forward and perches his chin on Harry’s shoulder. Harry’s ears are filled with the sound of Draco’s breathing, and he can feel Draco’s heart beating against his shoulder blade. All of a sudden it feels like they’re the only two people in the Castle. Maybe the world.

They flip through videos mostly in silence, broken only by Draco murmuring about something cool or unusual the skater did into the skin of Harry’s throat. Harry’s stomach flips every time the video features Draco—they weren’t taken that long ago, but in them, Draco looks so much younger and even skinnier than he is now. His eyes are dark and sunken, and there’s a perpetual scowl on his face. He’s clumsier and more hesitant in the videos than Harry’s ever seen him.

Eventually, it dawns on Harry that many of the videos Draco made also feature another person—another boy. He looks at least five years older than them, with shoulder-length dark hair and sun-reddened shoulders. He’s got a few tattoos on his arms and chest, and his face flashes with piercings. He seems way more experienced than Draco, pulling off tricks Harry’s never even seen Draco attempt. In some of the video’s, he’s clearly giving Draco advice, and they look almost friendly.

“Is that the person who got you into skating?”

“Um. Sort of. I mean, I hung around with this group of guys and they all skated. I sort of picked it up from watching them. Once I got good enough, I started skating with them.”

“But he was different, right?” Harry asks, pointing to the boy, now doing some sort of intricate flip in the video.

“No. Wh—why do you say that?” Draco says defensively, pausing the video.

“I—well, it’s just that he’s in almost all of your videos. None of the other guys seem to be. I’m sorry, I was just...curious.”

Draco groans and presses his face into Harry’s shoulder. He mumbles something that’s lost to the fabric of Harry’s t-shirt.

“What?”

“I was...a little bit in love with him, I think.”

Harry’s body goes hot and cold all over, and his heart beats in double time. “Oh,” he says, very quietly. He’s trying to figure out what the hell to say to that, when Draco continues.

“Jake. I noticed him at the park I used to read in, near my cousin’s flat. I didn’t even really understand that I was...am...attracted to boys. Never really had much opportunity to sort that bit out, I suppose. I just knew I wanted to be close to him, to be like him.”

Harry nods his head slightly, he hopes Draco understands it as acknowledgement, and encouragement to go on.

“He was so different from everyone I’ve ever known. He was so loud and aggressive, but in a way that made everyone around him feel seen, like they were a part of something special? It’s hard to explain. I mean, I had just left this world obsessed with propriety and honor and bloody authority, and there he was—dirty and shirtless and cool and strong, and totally accepting of everyone and everything. It didn’t matter to him who someone was or what they had done, if they showed up and tried their hardest, they earned his respect. He had such strong opinions about—about everything. Politics, and music, and skating techniques. It was fucking annoying, sometimes, but...he seemed so sure of himself. He knew exactly who he was and he wasn’t going to waste any time doing anything he didn’t want to do.”

“He sounds amazing,” Harry whispers, his stomach clenching.

“Yeah. He was. That was the problem, though. I think...I think I confused the respect he showed me for romantic feelings. No one had ever just...taken me as I am, no qualifications. I confused my own admiration for love. To me, he was like a god. I practically worshipped the ground he skated on,” Draco breaks off with a self-deprecating laugh and shakes his head against Harry's arm. “It’s so pathetic. Gods, I can’t believe I’m even telling you this.”

“It’s not pathetic. It’s not,’ Harry says, unzipping the jacket so he can turn to face Draco. They look at each other for a long moment, Harry trying to silently convey all the thoughts swirling in his head. After a while, Draco nods.

“For a minute I even thought he felt the same way about me. But to him I was just some lost little kid who needed a friend. I think I made a right fool of myself.”

“So, you started skating because you’re in love with Jake?” Harry asks carefully.

Draco sighs, “Was in love. And yeah, I suppose you could say that. But I was more in love with the skating, in the end.”

“So you don’t skate because of him anymore?”

Draco looks up at Harry, his face open and relaxed. There’s a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “No. Not for him. Not anymore.”

Harry squirms under Draco’s unwavering gaze. There’s so much neither of them is saying, and Harry isn’t sure how to begin. The tension between them is pulling tight, and Harry is hyper aware of the fact that he is still nestled between Draco’s thighs.

“Did he—he’s the one who gave you the bracelets, then.” Harry says, to break the silence.

“Oh, yeah,” Draco answers, lifting his wrist up as if to inspect them. “He got really into sex bracelets for a while, He used to give one to every person he met.”

“...sex bracelets.” Harry repeats, flatly.

“Er—yeah. That’s what people called them, in L.A. at least. Supposedly the colors represent different, um, sexual acts, and you wear them to show what you’ve done.”

Harry’s eyes snap to the veritable rainbow of colors decorating Draco’s wrist, and now part of his own.

“So, does that mean that you… I mean, with Jake… or someone else…” Harry starts, before catching Draco’s amused gaze. “Sorry, that’s none of my business. I can’t believe I just asked that…” He buries his flaming face in his palms.

Draco laughs. “Don’t worry—it’s just an urban legend. They’re just bracelets. I didn’t...I mean, I haven’t…” His cheeks flush a deep red.

“O—oh. Yeah. Okay. Me...neither. Just. Not that you asked! But, well, anyway. Um. Goodnight, Dra—Malfoy! Goodnight, Malfoy.” Harry stutters, trying and failing to keep the mortified blush from his face and warring with the odd combination of embarrassment and arousal flooding his stomach.

He scrambles off the couch clumsily, his palms sweaty, trying hard not to knee Draco in the stomach or something equally horrid.

“Goodnight, Harry,” Draco replies, laughing softly, his face buried in the overlong sleeves of his jacket.

Harry thunks his head against his bedroom door as soon as it closes behind him, his red face still buried in his hands. Eventually, he pours himself into bed and pulls the duvet all the way over his head, hiding from his shame.

Harry tosses and turns for a while, too keyed up to fall back asleep. He can’t stop thinking about the things Draco said about Jake. Harry wants to learn to skate so he can get closer to Draco. He’s also fairly certain at this point that he’s interested in more than just friendship. At least, he’s never wondered what his other friends’ skin tastes like. Is he doing to Draco exactly what Draco did to Jake? Is he confusing his own appreciation for Draco’s new skills for romantic attraction? Putting him on some weird pedestal that prevents Harry from seeing Draco as an actual person? He doesn’t think so, but...how could he even tell?

His mind wanders to the other thing Draco said—different sexual acts...wear them to show what you’ve done. He feels himself getting hard in his pyjama trousers. So far, Draco’s given him the glittery, blue bracelet, the orange one, a couple of black ones, and three pink bracelets. He’s burning with curiosity to know what each color is meant to represent, even if none of it is actually real. He knows Draco suggested that he hasn’t had any sexual experience, but he can’t help imagining what he might have done to earn all of his bracelets.

Do you get one just for kissing, for instance? Harry closes his eyes and palms himself through the flannel, imagining Draco’s lip ring against his mouth. Do you get two bracelets if you use tongue?

The blue with glitter has to be for hand stuff, he thinks, sliding his own fingers into the waistband of his pants and wrapping them around his cock. The thought of Draco’s long, perpetually bandaged fingers with their rough-bitten nails makes him leak.

And orange—he sucks in a breath and arches his back—orange is absolutely for blowjobs. If Draco’s lip ring would feel incredible against his mouth, it would probably feel like heaven on his cock. He throws his arm over his face, trying to stifle the little moans tumbling out of his mouth.

He bites down on the bracelets, his teeth sinking into the mass of rubber. Fuck, even the bracelets smell like Draco, like his sweat and skin.

He wanks himself faster, imagining Draco’s big, grey eyes peering up at him from below and his expressive eyebrows drawn down in concentration. The image makes him twitch in his hand.

But it’s the memory of Draco’s shy, whispered goodnight, Harry, that pushes him over the edge.

No, he thinks, trying to catch his breath as quietly as possible, this isn’t about admiration. He’s fully, completely, gone for Draco Malfoy.

*

It’s like some invisible barrier between them has melted over the course of those quiet nights huddled close on the common room couch.

Harry had been worried that as soon as everyone came back from the break and the real world rushed back in, whatever secret, unacknowledged intimacy he and Draco had cultivated between them would dissipate. He had been wrong. If anything, the suffocating press of people, noise, assignments, obligations only seems to bring them closer together.

They no longer just sit near to one another at dinner, but shuffle close, bodies pressed firmly together from knee to shoulder. They walk slowly through the corridors between classes, arms and hips colliding gently, never hard enough to push the other away. Harry starts sitting behind Draco in class, instead of beside him, so he can tangle his fingers in Draco’s hood, or lean forward and rest his forehead on Draco’s shoulder and doze.

During one particularly boring History of Magic class, Harry tugs on Draco’s hood, shivering in the torrent of icy air pouring in around the cracks in the window. Professor Binns never lights a fire, not needing the extra protection against the cold. Harry’s trying to pull himself closer to Draco, maybe bury his face in the soft fabric warmed by Draco’s skin. Draco leans forward, and Harry jerks upright, confused by the sudden distance. But Draco only tugs his sunshine yellow hoodie over his head and shoves it backwards onto Harry’s desk.

It’s big on Draco and even bigger on Harry. The sleeves hang nearly six inches past his fingers, and the warm cotton pools around his hips—he feels a bit like he’s swimming in Draco, floating on his heat and his scent. There’s something about being inside of Draco’s hoodie that’s almost obscene to Harry, like he’s feeling some soft, inner layer of Draco’s own body. He tugs on the hoodie strings, cinching it tight around his face.

Harry doesn’t offer the hoodie back after class, and Draco doesn’t ask for it. Harry sleeps in it every night, the soft shift of it soothing against his bare chest, and carries it about with him almost every day in case he gets cold in the middle of a lesson.

“Me too,” Harry says in a mock-petulant tone, thrusting his arm out and into Draco’s lap one late night in the common room. They’d both given up on their Herbology essays ages ago, Harry becoming entranced as he watched Draco sketch small cartoons on his arm in black ink.

“Brat,” Draco says, softly, pulling the offered arm tight to his stomach for better leverage. Harry sits, his cheek resting on the point of Draco’s bony shoulder, and watches as an elaborate scene unfolds on the inside of his forearm. Draco sketches in some scenery, first—a half pipe and some rails, bushes and trees, a round, cartoony sun near Harry’s wrist. Then he draws stick versions of himself and Harry, standing side-by-side and each holding a skateboard. He slowly fills up the negative space with little doodles—clouds, lightning bolts, and fat little hearts with arrows through them. “There you go, scarhead. All better?” he teases, poking Harry’s belly with his index finger.

Harry doesn’t wash that arm for days, tracing over the fading figures of himself and Draco with his quill during class and connecting their little stick-figure hands.

Harry doesn’t know who initiated the sleeping together thing, neither of them had said a word about it before or after it started. One late night after Harry had awoken from a nightmare to find Draco similarly awake in the common room, he’d trailed after him back to his dorm room as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

Draco had crawled right into bed and thrown the duvet back for Harry to slide in, so he had. He was pulled under by sleep almost immediately, rocked in the close heat by the even sound of Draco’s breathing. When he woke, Draco was curled around him, one hand tucked into the pocket of his own hoodie that Harry still wore, his face nestled into the top of Harry’s head.

The next night, Harry lingers outside of his own door, hand hovering over the doorknob, when they finally head to bed. He desperately wants to sleep in Draco’s room again, but he doesn’t know if he’s allowed to ask for that. Once Draco realizes Harry isn’t following him, though, he turns around, pads back down the hallway, and hauls Harry along by his sleeve to his room without a word. Harry can only grin into the sleeve of Draco’s hoodie.

Harry was wrong about his favorite version of Draco. Yes, he loves to watch Draco skate. He craves the breathless feeling that overtakes him as he watches Draco kick confidently into the air, patch up bloody scrapes without so much as a wince, and wipe his sweaty face on his t-shirt, eyebrows pinched in concentration.

When he’s alone, especially in the silent darkness of his bedroom at night, he tries to imagine the feeling of his hands pressed up against Draco’s hard stomach. He imagines whispering all of his most secret, filthy thoughts into Draco’s ear, past his seemingly-impenetrable veneer of aloofness, to make him squirm the same way he makes Harry squirm. He imagines a fierce push-and-pull full of fire and need and urgency that inevitably ends with both of them naked, sticky, and panting.

But it’s this version of Draco—sleep-soft and completely open, tucked quietly next to him in bed—that has completely and utterly unwound Harry.

Draco lets Harry explore all of his scars and scabs with the tips of his fingers, muttering their accompanying stories softly into his pillow.

He tells Harry all about Los Angeles—about how quickly the physical and emotional distance from the War snapped him out of everything, made him see so clearly just how deluded and cowardly he had been. Harry pushes reassuring fingers through Draco’s hair while he talks, urging him on.

He murmurs into the curve of Harry’s throat about how he was almost entirely consumed by guilt and shame, and the only thing that pulled him out of that darkest place was his newfound love of skating. He explains that part of the reason he loved skating so much is because it’s hard and the only way to get better at it is to practice. It's something he can be proud of because he works at it and he can literally feel himself getting better. He doesn’t need anyone’s affirmation or approval to know he’s good.

Harry tells Draco about how dark his summer had been, how scared he’d been to see or talk to anyone at all, even his family. Draco pulls him close, holds him tightly, when he admits how scared he still is to be close to anyone on the off chance that they are ripped away from him, just like the others.

For the first time he says out loud, into the stillness of Draco’s dark bedroom, how broken he feels, how he’s not sure he’ll ever be enough for anyone again, that he isn’t sure he has anything left to offer.

Draco tells Harry how much he’d dreaded coming back to Hogwarts, and how much that dread had eased the first time Harry had spoken to him again. Harry tells Draco that being close to him makes him feel a little more whole.

They don’t talk about the War, not directly. They don’t apologize to one another or needle one another for explanations and excuses. It doesn’t feel necessary, and it doesn’t feel good.

*

“So, what absolutely ludicrous thing are you going to try and convince me to try today?” Harry asks one Wednesday in mid-March.

As usual, they booked it to the abandoned room as soon as Charms ended and their free period began. Harry had recently managed to land a kickflip, and despite his teasing he’s eager to start on something new. After all this time, he’s finally begun to build up the right muscles, his body accustomed now to balancing on the deck, and he’s wiping out less and less. It feels incredible.

“I… thought we might try something different today. I thought—” Draco says, not meeting Harry’s eyes. He seems nervous, for some reason. “I thought we could skate together.”

“What?” Harry laughs, confused. “I mean, that sounds cool,” he amends when Draco jerks his head up, his eyes full of apprehension. “But Draco...I don’t know if you’ve noticed—I don’t have my own skateboard. And I’m pretty sure you don’t mean you want me to sit on your shoulders or something. Or do you—do you mean that?!” Harry asks, suddenly very wary.

“No, you thick git,” Draco spits. He stands from where he’d been re-tying his shoes and stuffs his hands in his jacket pockets. He looks at Harry for a long moment, an unreadable expression on his face, shifting his weight anxiously from foot to foot.

Draco pulls his hand out of his pocket, and it isn’t until he unshrinks the unfamiliar skateboard and holds it out in front of him that Harry realizes what’s happening.

“Are you...letting me borrow that?” Harry asks, his brain still not fully comprehending what’s going on.

Draco’s cheeks go pink and he huffs a sigh, pushing his hood and hair back with one hand in a frustrated gesture. “No. I’m not letting you borrow it. I—its...for you. It’s yours. To keep.”

“O—oh,” Harry says, his stomach tumbling with butterflies. He has to stifle the excited giggle that threatens to erupt from his mouth. He takes the deck from Draco and turns it this way and that, running his fingers over the fresh, sparkling grip tape and down the clean, unblemished edges. When he turns it over he finds that the underside of the deck has been painted the same deep green as his eyes, and there’s a big lightning bolt carved into the wood, right in the middle. In some sort of metallic, gold paint Draco has covered the rest of the deck in the same kind of little doodles he draws on Harry’s arm—funny faces, blobby animals and plants, clouds, and constellations.

“This is so cool,” Harry gushes, running his fingers over the designs, “did you do this yourself?”

Draco’s blush deepens and he shuffles where he stands, “Yeah. I wanted to have it done in time for Christmas, but it took weeks for the trucks to come in. No such thing as a Wizarding skate shop, it turns out.”

“Wait. You made the whole thing? Like—you built this skateboard. For me?” Harry says, unable to contain his wonder.

Draco shoves Harry’s shoulder and pulls his hood back up to hide his flaming face. “Don’t be weird about it. I just couldn’t spend another second watching you defile my own board.”

Harry goes quiet, an unexpected wave of emotion tightening his throat and making it hard for him to breathe properly. He stares down at the deck in his hand for a long moment trying to process the fact that Draco has been secretly building it for him for months, that he’d worked out a way to order parts from a Muggle shop, and had even gone as far as personalizing it.

Harry surges forward and crashes his lips into Draco’s. Draco jumps, startled by Harry’s sudden and unexpected movement, but he doesn’t pull away.

“Sorry,” Harry whispers as he retreats, “That was th—the only thing I could think to do to show you how much I—”

Draco’s skateboard clatters to the ground and he pulls Harry back to him, his hands wrapped around Harry’s biceps. He kisses Harry again, much more gently than before, a desperate little sound coming from behind his closed lips. Harry’s mind goes blank as he, too, drops his skateboard and presses forward.

It’s like everything he’s imagined, and like so much more than he’d ever hoped. Draco’s perpetually chapped lips are dry and warm against his own, the press of his lip ring against Harry's mouth much less noticeable than Harry had assumed it would be, but thrilling nonetheless. Liquid heat pools in Harry’s stomach and the realization that Draco is kissing him back rolls over him again and again in waves.

Harry gasps against Draco’s lips, desperate for a breath, but Draco just takes the opportunity to slip his tongue inside of Harry’s mouth. Harry’s mind whites out and his ears fill with the sound of his own pounding heartbeat. At some point, one of Draco’s hands tangles in Harry’s curls, and the other slides around to the small of Harry’s back where it pulls him in tight to Draco’s body. It’s all Harry can do to fist his hands in the back of Draco’s hoodie and hang on tight.

They kiss for what feels like ages. It’s wet and hot and clumsy, but so insistent. Draco chases Harry’s lips with his own, licking into Harry’s mouth greedily and making soft, pleased noises that turn Harry’s knees to jelly. Harry hasn’t done all that much kissing, but he’s definitely never kissed like this—so thoroughly and with his entire body, every inch of him pressing tight to the sharp line of Draco.

When they finally break apart, both of them panting like they’ve been skating hard for hours, Draco grins at him, his kiss-swollen lips stretched wide across his glowing face.

“Wow,” Harry whispers, face flushing anew with embarrassment as soon as the word slips out.

“Yeah,” Draco huffs, letting his forehead rest against Harry’s. “Let’s skate,” he says after he’s caught his breath.

“Yeah, okay,” Harry replies, unable to tear his gaze from Draco’s bashful face.

*

McGonagall asks all the eight years to stay behind after dinner on Monday night of the week before Easter break.

“You’ve all done admirably, this year,” she tells them, “and I speak for myself and the rest of your professors when I say that we are very proud of each of you.” Her voice wavers with emotion, belying her typically stoic demeanor.

“Although many of you have had plenty of time to consider what careers you’d like to pursue after graduation, we thought it would be prudent to schedule a series of career counselling interviews to talk over your options and think through next steps. There is no concern that any one of you won’t land exactly where you intend, we just want to be sure you have all the tools to do so. You will find a schedule for your first meeting—taking place over the course of this week in my office—posted to the bulletin board in your common room. That is all.”

Harry doesn’t miss the way Draco’s body—pressed close to him like usual until that moment—tenses and draws away.

“Mr. Potter, do come in and have a seat.” McGonagall says by way of greeting when Harry arrives at her office on Wednesday afternoon.

He’s surprised to see that they aren’t alone, there’s a man Harry hasn’t met before seated in the second chair in front of the Headmistress’s desk.

“Potter, this is Head Auror Robards,” she says, gesturing to the man. He’s large and intimidating-looking, with what looks to be a perpetual scowl on his face. He gives Harry a once-over and turns back to McGonagall. “Head Auror, I’d like to introduce you to Harry Potter.”

“Oh, no introduction necessary, Head Mistress, I’m quite familiar with Mr. Potter,” Robards grunts.

No, you aren’t, thinks Harry.

“Must be nice to be so easily recognized, eh son?” He asks Harry, pointing to his own forehead in the exact place Harry’s scar criss-crosses his own.

Harry feels like he’s been caught out, like he’s missed some crucial piece of information. He doesn’t tell Robards that no, it’s nowhere close to nice to be recognized so easily. It’s a bit of a nightmare, actually.

“Sorry, Headmistress,” Harry starts cautiously, “I thought we were meant to be discussing possible career plans, or something. Is—is something wrong?” His chest tightens with anxiety, and adrenaline floods his veins. It’s an old, familiar feeling, and it makes him want to cry.

“Oh, no dear. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” she says. “Last I heard it was your ambition to join the Aurors. Your marks have been above average, and if you keep up your current level of work I see no reason why you won’t earn the requisite N.E.W.T’s.”

“Not that we’d exactly turn you away, if you didn’t,” Robards says, tipping Harry a conspiratorial wink.

“Oh. Um, well, the thing is—” Harry starts breathlessly, before he’s cut off.

“I’ve asked the Head Auror to join us so he can brief you on the training program. You’ll want to make your arrangements so that you can begin as soon as exams end, I think. Head Auror?” she prompts.

Brief him? What is this, some secret mission Harry’s being sent on?

“Yes, yes, thank you. Mr. Potter, training for new recruits is serious business. You are no stranger to the types of danger and nefarious characters one encounters when combating dark magic, so it will come as no surprise that we have the highest possible standards. That said, I think we can...accelerate your programme a bit, considering your extensive field experience.”

Extensive field experience? Harry knows exactly what Robards means, but the man has no idea what he’s talking about. Harry doesn’t know the first thing about policing dark magic, all he knows is self-preservation and desperation. He balls up the sleeves of Draco’s hoodie into his fists.

“The bulk of the first year is devoted to physical and magical exercises designed to help you hone your skills. You’ll be put through a three-month intensive boot camp at Auror HQ, then be paired with a more experienced Auror for more specialized drills. The second year is all about strategy and investigative technique. Field experience is the name of the game, and—Mr. Potter, are you quite alright?”

“Harry?” McGonagall asks in a worried tone, rising from her chair.

Harry’s heart feels like it’s about to beat out of his chest. He can’t breathe, and darkness is creeping into the edges of his vision. His palms are sweaty where they grip the armrest of his chair and his face feels hot, but his stomach is full of ice.

“S—sorry, professor,” he gasps, fumbling for the office door.

He barely notices where his feet are carrying him, instead focused on drawing as much air into his lungs as possible. He’s vaguely aware of the eyes following him as he strides quickly through the door to the eighth year common room.

“Harry, what happened?” Hermione asks from the armchair in the corner.

“Mate?” Ron asks, looking up from the chessboard beside the fire.

“You’re looking a little green, there, Harry,” Seamus says, walking over and clapping a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“Oh, Harry, I’ve been looking for you!” Zacharias Smith calls, bounding down the corridor towards him.

Harry starts to hyperventilate, his skin itching uncomfortably and his thoughts racing. He backs away from his friends’ entreating gazes towards the dorm room hallway, desperate to be away from all of them, desperate for silence. His eyes snag on a blur of platinum hair and silver eyes as he turns and jogs the rest of the way to his room. He sags against the door as soon as it shuts behind him and crumples to the floor.

He counts his breaths for a long time, willing his heart to slow in his chest. As soon as the panic begins to bleed from his limbs he crawls into his bed, not bothering to remove his shoes before curling into a ball under the duvet.

He doesn’t know how long he lies there, eyes gazing unfocused at the cracks in the wall, before the quiet is punctured by a soft knock on the door.

“Harry?” Draco asks, quietly.

Harry can’t pry his mouth open enough to respond. He wants Draco next to him, and he wants to be alone.

“Harry, I’m going to open the door. If you don’t want that, say something.”

Harry doesn’t say anything.

Draco pushes the door open slowly, bisecting the room with a triangle of yellow light. The corridor and the common room beyond it are quiet, more time must have passed than Harry realized. Draco closes the door behind him, plunging the room back into darkness, and sends a small Lumos to float near the ceiling.

“Harry, are you okay?” He asks, coming to a stop in the middle of the room.

“No,” Harry says, his voice muffled under the duvet.

“Okay,” Draco says. Harry thinks he’s going to leave again, leave Harry completely alone in the dark and the silence, and Harry’s stomach aches. There’s no reason for him to stay. Harry has nothing good left worth staying for.

Then the end of the bed dips. Draco takes one of Harry’s feet and pulls it into his lap. He unlaces Harry’s shoe and lets it fall to the ground, then he does the same with the other. He peels off Harry’s socks, one after the other, and discards them as well.

He crawls under the duvet behind Harry and pulls him to his chest, squeezing Harry tight to keep him together, to keep him from scattering apart. Harry can’t hold back the tears any longer.

Draco holds him as he sobs, whispering soft things into his hair, like I know, and I’m here, and It’ll be okay, I promise, and slowly, they start to calm Harry down. Draco does know, and he is here, so maybe it will be okay, after all.

Once Harry’s been still and quiet for a while, Draco whispers, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“I don’t want to be an Auror,” Harry croaks, his throat raw.

“Okay,” Draco replies.

“McGonagall and the Head Auror...I have to…”

“You don’t have to, Harry. You don’t have to do anything.”

“I don’t—” he sniffles, tears pricking at his tired eyes again, “I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do. I don’t—”

“Ssh,” Draco soothes, squeezing him tight, again. “Harry Potter. Do you know that you’re the most incredible Wizard in all of Britain? Maybe in the whole world?”

“No,” Harry coughs, twisting in Draco’s arms. He doesn’t understand, he isn’t listening—

“I don’t mean because you’re the Chosen One and did some fancy magic once or twice, or whatever other rot The Prophet spews about you. Still have my doubts about all that, honestly,” he teases, jabbing Harry’s side and making him squirm.

Harry stills, waiting for Draco to go on. His eyes are glued to Draco’s face, tracing every familiar plane and angle.

“I mean that you’re so clever, especially in ways that can’t be measured by O.W.Ls or N.E.W.T.s. You’re loyal to your friends and family in a way that I’ve never known, and it’s...a bit frightening, sometimes, the blind confidence you have that the people you care about are worthy. You’re so bloody persistent it’s fucking annoying, but only because I don’t know what it’s like to never give up. To never want, desperately, to just give up on everything. And you’re so, so good. You’re so good, Harry.”

Harry lifts his head from the pillow to meet Draco’s kiss halfway, then sinks back down as Draco rolls on top of him, pressing him down into the mattress. Harry pours every last ounce of relief and gratitude that he can muster into the kiss, clinging to Draco’s neck, his ribs and drawing him closer with a leg thrown over his hip.

“Want to—give up—all the time,” Harry gasps between Draco’s peppered kisses.

Draco pulls back and blinks his glassy eyes down at Harry. “But you don’t. You don’t, and I won’t let you.”

Harry groans as Draco kisses him soundly again, his tongue teasing Harry’s bottom lip before pressing inside. Harry can feel him, hard and hot, against his hip bone, which sends heat flooding down Harry’s spine. Harry rolls his hips up, experimentally, pressing his own erection into Draco’s thigh, and delights at the low moan it elicits.

The sensations are almost too much for Harry. The claustrophobic heat of the duvet tented over their heads, Draco’s lips sliding hungrily against his own, licking and biting into his mouth eagerly, the friction of their fully-clothed bodies moving against one another. He’s going to come in his trousers if they don’t slow down.

He gasps and shoves the duvet off of the bed, rolling Draco over onto his back in a flail of limbs and sheets. Draco laughs softly, cheeks pink and pupils blown wide, as Harry straddles his narrow hips.

He sits there for a long moment, catching his breath and gazing down at Draco who looks back at him with so much longing and adoration that Harry nearly has to look away. He tugs Draco’s hoodie off of himself and his t-shirt goes with it. He doesn’t have a chance to feel self-conscious about his bare chest before Draco slides a hand up his stomach. Harry gasps when Draco’s fingers brush one, firm nipple. The sound turns Draco’s expression almost predatory.

He leans up and kisses Harry softly, on the mouth first, then on the jaw, the throat, and finally in the dip between his collarbones. He tugs his own hoodie and t-shirt off before pulling Harry back down with him.

The feel of so much of Draco’s smooth, warm skin against Harry’s own makes Harry’s head swim. He’s drunk on the feeling, any lingering worries or panic entirely lost to Draco’s hands, firm on Harry’s hips and back.

“Can I…” Draco starts, trailing off to kiss Harry again instead.

“No, what? Can you what?” Harry urges, made braver by the flush high on Draco’s cheeks and the nervous look on his face.

“I want to touch you,” he whispers, eyes closed.

Harry feels like he might actually be on fire. “Y—yes. Yeah. I want that, too,” he says.

Draco’s eyes fly open, searching Harry’s face as if to make sure he isn’t lying. Satisfied with what he finds, he rolls Harry back over, propping himself up on one elbow.

He kisses Harry slowly and tenderly as he slides his hand back down Harry’s stomach. He pauses when his fingers reach the button of Harry’s trousers and looks up. Harry nods frantically, encouraging him to go on.

Draco fumbles awkwardly with the button for a minute, and Harry wants to laugh at the absurdity of the whole situation, until the button pops free and Draco slides his hand into Harry’s trousers without another warning.

Harry gasps and presses up into the heat of Draco’s palm, nestled around his hard cock, over his pants.

“Fuck, fuck, Harry,” Draco breathes, eyes trained on the place that his hand disappears into Harry’s trousers. Harry can’t look away from Draco’s mouth, the tip of his pink tongue visible between his parted lips like it is when he’s hyper-focused on a new trick. His long hair tumbles around his face, and Harry reaches up to tuck it back behind his ear. He wants to see—needs to see.

Draco looks down at Harry, eyes wide with wonder, and kisses him hard. It’s all teeth and tongue, fast and desperate, and he ruts against Harry’s hip the same way. When he slides his hand under the waistband of Harry’s pants, Harry whimpers into his mouth, overwhelmed by the shock of pleasure that radiates out from his belly and turns his thighs hot and tight.

Draco’s grip around his cock is hesitant and too loose, his wrist bent at an awkward angle, but it’s the most incredible thing Harry has ever felt. He’s trying to hang on, to breathe himself down from the edge, but then Draco twists his hand slightly and murmurs, “fuck, you feel so good,” against Harry’s cheek, and Harry loses control.

He spills over Draco’s fingers, hips stuttering as his orgasm shakes through him. Draco strokes him through it, clumsily, and grinds hard and fast into Harry’s hip.

“Draco, please...” Harry mumbles, pulling Draco down to him, though he doesn’t know exactly what he’s asking for. Draco pulls his messy hand from Harry’s pants and wraps it painfully around Harry’s hip as he growls into Harry’s throat. He shudders, thrusting against Harry once, twice, three times, before collapsing onto Harry’s shoulder with a moan.

They lie in silence, watching the shifting light of the Lumos dance across the bed and the walls and each other’s skin, waiting for their breathing to return to normal. After a while, Draco shifts onto his shoulder and extends his sticky hand into the air above them to gaze at it. Harry grimaces, his spent cock twitching at the sight and his stomach curling with embarrassment.

“I’m sorry, that I didn’t...that I couldn’t…” he says, gesturing vaguely at Draco’s trousers.

“S’okay,” Draco says and huffs a laugh, letting his hand fall back to Harry’s hip and tucking his face into Harry’s neck. “Next time.”

“Yeah,” Harry breathes, “next time.”

*

Draco’s meeting with McGonagall is scheduled for the following evening. Harry can tell that he’s nervous, because he’s even quieter than usual all day. He skips breakfast, as well as lunch, in order to skate, and Harry leaves him to it in case he’d rather be alone.

He doesn’t see Draco at dinner either, though, when his meeting should be long over. He isn’t in the common room that evening, nor is he in the exploded room where they skate. When Harry knocks on his door, he’s met with silence, and he knows instinctively that Draco isn’t there.

He settles down on the couch in front of the common room fireplace with his Charms textbook, under the guise of getting some reading done, though he’s really just waiting up for Draco. He’s sure, now, that something happened in Draco’s meeting, something bad. He hasn’t been this elusive since the start of term.

Harry jerks awake to the sound of the common room door clicking shut, unsure when he even drifted off. Draco tiptoes past the couch, trying not to make any noise on his way to his room.

“Draco?” Harry rasps, his throat dry.

Draco freezes and shoves his hands in his pockets. “Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you.”

“You didn’t. I was waiting for you, I thought—” In the low firelight, Harry can see that Draco’s eyes are puffy and red as though he’s been crying. “What happened?” He asks, quietly, sitting up against the arm of the chair.

Draco looks away, toward his bedroom like he’s about to ignore Harry’s question in favor of retreat.

“Please, just sit. You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Harry says. He wants to make Draco feel the same way Draco had made him feel the night before. Like everything isn’t as hopeless as it seems, like he’s not really as alone as he feels. Like no matter what happens, Harry knows and is here.

Draco hesitates, but, seeing the pleading look in Harry’s eyes, comes around the arm of the couch and perches on the edge of the cushion. He looks small, defeated, his usual swagger entirely absent.

“I’ve got nothing,” he says, quietly.

“That’s not true, Draco—”

“Listen to me. I have nothing. McGonagall was very clear. She said that even if I got an O in every NEWT subject Hogwarts offers, my career choices are virtually non-existent.”

“But she wouldn’t...I mean, she wouldn’t just leave you out to dry, would she?”

“She tried, Harry,” he says, letting his head drop into his hands. “She contacted every Potions Master she knows, every Apothecarist, she even, apparently, sent a letter to the Minister himself. No one wants to take me on. No one has a place for an ex-Death Eater and convicted felon.”

“No, that can’t be right!” Harry says, sitting up fully and moving closer to Draco, “We have to go back and talk to her. She has to do something! That isn’t...that’s not fair.”

“Fucking hell, Harry. Of course it’s fair. Not everyone is as...as naive and quick to forgive as you are! And it isn’t McGonagall’s fault!” Draco stands, his voice rising in pitch and volume. “The only person at fault here is me. I fucking knew this was how it would go, I… I let myself get distracted, I let myself believe I might have any kind of fucking future here…”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Harry asks, standing to face Draco, voice laced with confusion and hurt.

You, Harry!” Draco shouts, waving his hands in Harry’s direction. “I let you distract me, when I should have just kept my head down and done my best to find something, anything. Instead I’ve just been wasting my time, mucking about with you.”

“You don’t mean that,” Harry says, quietly, his throat tight and tears threatening to spill down his cheeks.

Draco sighs and scrubs a hand down his face. “It doesn’t matter, anyway. My only options are to stay here and take some sort of shit job in a Muggle coffee shop just to keep myself alive, or go back to America. At least there I could find an apprenticeship or something.”

“You can’t,” Harry says, the tears now flowing freely. “You can’t leave again, Draco, please.” He steps forward, arms outstretched to pull Draco in.

“Stop. It’s out of my control. It’s even out of your control. You can’t fix this. I can’t fix this. This is just how things are—I made my choices, now I have to live with the consequences. I’m..I’m sorry,” he says, his voice cracking, “th—that this is how things have turned out. I’m sorry that I made you think that I...that we...but we can’t. We aren’t.”

Harry surges forward and throws his arms around Draco’s thin frame, squeezing him tight like he had squeezed Harry, trying with all his might to keep him together. Draco wriggles free of Harry’s grasp and pushes him away, wiping the angry tears from his face with the back of his hand.

“I’m sorry,” he says, a final time, before stalking to his bedroom and slamming the door.

*

Draco avoids Harry entirely on the final Friday before Easter break. He doesn’t turn up to any meals, and he stays away from the common room and his bedroom. Harry feels sick with worry and anger and betrayal. He wants to do something, but he knows Draco is right. There’s very little he can do. He also knows that Draco would hate him a little if he intervened, and the thought breaks his heart a bit.

He boards the Hogwarts Express with everyone else on Saturday morning, dreading the long two weeks he’ll be spending at the Burrow. He had contemplated going straight to Grimmauld from King’s Cross, but the thought of the big, empty house made him ache with loneliness.

Being back at The Burrow isn’t as bad as he anticipated. Things do, for the most part, feel relatively normal. He and Ron spend their days on their brooms in the garden, or playing game after game of Exploding Snap or Wizard’s Chess in the sitting room by the fire. Hermione chose to spend the break with her parents, who were even now grappling with the aftereffects of having their Obliviated memories restored, so Ron moped about missing her.

Whatever panic and emotional turmoil he had expected to find at The Burrow never manifests, and the days pass almost lazily. That just means he has more time to stew about everything Draco had said. Every evening before bed he picks up his pen, intent on sending Draco a letter to explain himself, or ask for more information, or apologize, or something, but the right words won’t come.

Finally, on the last night of the break, he finds them.

Draco,

I’m sorry I did that thing I do, where I jump in and try to fix everything. I know it doesn’t help. I reacted selfishly—I don’t want you to leave England again because I want you here, with me. I’m quite mad for you, I think. You’re the cleverest, most talented person I know, and I want you to be happy more than anything else. You deserve happiness. I support you, no matter what you choose to do.

But I won’t let you give up, either.

Yours,

Harry

He sends the letter off with the Weasleys’ old Barn Owl and crosses his fingers that Draco doesn’t tear it up without reading it first.

Harry doesn’t bother searching for Draco when he gets back to the castle on Sunday evening. As soon as he gets back to the common room, he ditches his trunk and his cloak and grabs his skateboard from under his bed.

He hears Draco before he sees him, his low grunts and the clatter of his skateboard echoing off the walls of the empty room. The sound is comforting to Harry, like a signal that some order has been restored to the universe, that at least one thing is in its correct place.

Draco doesn’t acknowledge Harry when he drops his skateboard to the ground and makes a loop around the room, but he doesn’t seem upset that Harry is there, either.

They skate in silence for a long time, and Harry even gets sucked into the process of trying to land a new trick, his whole focus narrowing down to his feet and the deck and the ground. After a while, when he’s exhausted and bruised and sweaty, he climbs up the makeshift ramp and watches Draco from a distance. He folds his feet up under himself and tucks his chin into his knees, eyes tracking the sweat glistening on Draco’s bare back, grateful for this chance to just look for a while.

Eventually, Draco scrambles up to sit next to Harry. His sweat-damp hair is pushed back from his face, and he worries his lip ring like he does sometimes when he has something to say but no idea how to say it.

“I got your letter,” he says, finally, voice soft in the cavernous silence of the room.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Thank you,” he whispers, ducking his head.

“For what?”

Draco shrugs, and blinks up at Harry from under his long, dark eyelashes. His face is flushed from exertion and the wind and, Harry thinks, nerves.

“If you could do anything, anything at all regardless of location, or apprenticeships, or any of that other bollocks, what would it be? What do you want for yourself?” Harry asks.

Draco is quiet for a while, then, “Honestly?”

“Honestly.”

“I’ve been doing some reading about wand lore and broomcraft, and…don’t laugh, okay?”

Harry holds his hands up and keeps his lips pressed tightly together.

“I would open a skate shop, for Wixen and Muggles. But I want to build my own skateboards. Non-magical ones for sure. But also, I think—I think I could make some really sick decks using the same principles wandmakers use, you know, incorporating magical cores into the wood to harness magical properties, and enchanting them like broom-makers do to increase their speed or precision? Stuff like that.” He’s talking more quickly, his eyes alight with enthusiasm. “I want to teach other people—kids, maybe—how to skate. I want to be for them like Jake was for me. Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean.”

Harry smiles, “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Let’s do it.”

“What the fuck do you mean let’s do it?”

“I mean, you would be fucking brilliant at that. I have no bloody clue what I’m doing with myself right now, and I have more money than anyone will ever need. And I want to do that. With you. If you want.”

“You’ve completely lost the plot, Potter.”

“No, Draco, I think I’ve finally discovered the plot, actually. I don’t want to pressure you into anything but…if that’s your dream I want to help you make it real. I want to do it for myself, because it would make me happy. Be—because seeing you happy would make me happy. I meant what I said in the letter.”

“All of it?” Draco asks, shyly.

“All of it.”

Draco’s brows draw down in a frown, and his eyes bore into Harry, like he’s trying to unearth some deep secret by sheer force of will. When he finally leans forward and kisses Harry, hesitantly, Harry releases a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding.

Harry kisses him back with so much force they lose their balance and slide down the ramp, landing in a tangled heap at the bottom. Harry doesn’t give Draco the opportunity to complain or call him names, he just rolls on top of him and kisses him into the hard ground.

“Ok. Let’s do it.” Draco gasps, laughing into Harry’s smiling mouth. “It’s going to be a fucking mess, you know. I’m still an ex-Death Eater and convicted felon, and you’re still…you. At best, people are going to be confused. At worst...well...”

“Fuck ‘em,” Harry says with a shrug. “I’d rather make a go of a total mess that I actually care about with someone...” he pauses, blushing, “someone I care about than try to fit myself into their carefully organized plan and be miserable. If it goes tits up, at least we’ll have had fun trying, you know?”

“I mean, it won’t be easy, Harry,” Draco says more quietly, his smile fading. “Not with me, I mean.”

Harry shrugs again and rolls over onto his back, shoulder pressed against Draco’s as they both stare up through the hole in the roof to the night sky full of stars.

“Yeah, I know. I think we both understand that most things worth having aren’t easy,” he says, sliding his fingers between Draco’s. “ I don’t think either of us would really want it if it were easy. But, I think...I think something can be hard and you can l—love it. Both of those things can be true. Something can drive you absolutely mental and you can be thankful for it every day,” he says, turning his head to meet Draco’s skeptical gaze. “Right?”

Draco rolls onto his side to bury his face in the hood of his yellow hoodie where it’s bunched up around Harry’s ears. “Right.”