Harry wasn't quite sure how he had ended up here, squeezed into a booth at the Leaky Cauldron playing Truth or Dare. He had Luna on one side, leaning against him with helpless laughter, and the solid weight of Greg Goyle, of all people, on the other.
“Neville! It's Neville next!” said Ginny. “Truth or Dare?”
Neville shook his head and took another pull of his drink. “Aw, heck, I hate this game.” But a smile tugged at his mouth as Ginny reached to muss his hair. “All right. Truth. I can't risk another go at dancing the can-can this week.”
Last Saturday someone (Harry strongly suspected Seamus) had Conjured frilly skirts around Neville's rather chunky legs as he'd carried out his dare. The contrast of Neville's determined face and the frivolous clothing had made a striking image. Luna was hooting breathlessly near Harry's ear, presumably at the memory of it. He wondered what exactly she'd been drinking. Then he wondered if he could have some. Or maybe he already had? It was that point in the evening when you started to lose track of things.
“Truuuuuth!” called Ginny in delight. “OK, who wants to pick a question for Neville?”
“Oh, I've got a lovely question to ask Nev,” Seamus announced, and Neville's groan reverberated through the air.
Harry looked at his empty glass. “Whose round is it?” Ron had got the last one, and Harry the one before that...
“Yours!” came a chorus of voices. Dammit. He should have known better than to ask, and he didn't have the energy to argue. He got to his feet and squeezed past a row of legs. “Scuse, Greg. Shift, Ron. What does everyone want, then?”
“I'll get this round,” said a voice at his elbow. Harry didn't need to turn round to know who it was. He just hoped no-one else could see the way his chest suddenly felt like it was filled with one of those fizzing, frothy cocktails that Ginny and Luna sometimes ordered for everyone.
Malfoy was still in his Ministry robes, the deep blue fabric loose and flowing, but as people gave their orders for different drinks, he shrugged the robes off in one fluid motion and tossed them onto a chair. Underneath he wore a white shirt and a pair of trousers. It was the trousers that were the problem; they were always too tailored, all the way up Malfoy's ridiculously long legs to the curve of his arse, so that Harry didn't know how Malfoy sat down without them ripping dramatically.
Or, maybe it was the shirt, slim-fitting across Malfoy's narrow shoulders and open at the throat, showing lots of pale skin. Yeah, the shirt was the problem ‒ fuck, Harry didn't know what was the problem. He only knew that when Malfoy turned up at the pub ‒ as he usually did now every Friday night, and sometimes on Saturdays, too ‒ Harry's throat went tight and his hands felt weird and it was as if there simply wasn't enough air in the room for both him and Malfoy.
“Your other half will be here very shortly.” Malfoy nodded to Ron, and then turned in the direction of the bar, and, sweet Merlin, these trousers were just as bad as the ones from last week, possibly even worse, in fact, and Harry had to use all his self-control just to pull his eyes away and back to the table. He sat down again at the end of the booth, took a deep breath and found that Ginny was watching him with a knowing smile. Shit.
“Your turn next for Truth or Dare, Harry,” she said, winding a strand of hair around her finger.
Shit shit shit. He didn't know why he felt so bloody awkward about it, but the thought of anyone knowing the effect Malfoy had on him made Harry want to squirm in his chair. And he didn't trust Ginny at all when she was in this mood.
Luna downed the rest of her drink and sat up straight. “I want to hear Neville answer Seamus' question.”
Harry had missed the question, but from the general snickering it had been a popular choice. Neville ducked his head, blushed, and laughed. Eventually he said that it had been in Greenhouse Three at Hogwarts, behind a large display of Honking Daffodils, which evoked a roar of approval from everyone.
When Hermione arrived, Seamus was still slapping a pink-faced Neville on the back. Ron got up and Summoned a couple of chairs so he and Hermione could sit together at the end of the table.
“Sorry I'm late.” Hermione dumped her robes on the same chair Malfoy had used.
“Again,” said Ron meaningfully.
“Draco and I were working on this illegal potions case. We were close to cracking it, too, only they insisted on locking up the Ministry.”
“It is after nine o'clock on a Friday night,” Ron said, shaking his head.
“But it's very important, you see. We're pretty sure the potions are being made somewhere nearby, not in France, as the Auror department seem to believe, because the aconite is--”
“Don't start on about work, Hermione.” Ron gave her a mock-stern look. “The only thing I'm hearing is that my girlfriend would rather spend Friday night with the Ferret.” But he slid an arm around her waist as he spoke, and turned his face towards her for a kiss.
Malfoy appeared at the table again, Levitating a tray of drinks before him. “Ah, you made it. I ordered you a little Pick-me-up for when you got here.” He passed Hermione a tiny glass containing something chocolate-brown. “Neville. A pint of Fudthuckers for you.” He sent the glass hovering over to Neville.
“Don't try ordering that when you're as pissed as I am,” Seamus advised.
“Quite,” Malfoy went on. “For Miss Weasley... a double Horntail.” Smoke rose alarmingly from Ginny's glass. “Seamus... your apple rum.”
“Weasley, when you've finished molesting my colleague, here's your horrible pint of lager. And Greg and Luna, you're both on the Pixie Mist tonight? God help us all.” The two tall glasses frothed and spat glitter. Harry looked to his left to see Goyle had moved up next to Luna and was wearing a quiet smile on his broad face.
Harry tried to remember when Goyle had started hanging out with them at the Leaky. Maybe around the same time Malfoy had first joined Hermione for a drink after work. Goyle never said much, but there was something kind of... steady and reassuring about him. Harry watched Luna clink glasses with him and wondered when on earth he and his friends had become an advert for interhouse unity.
When Harry looked back, Malfoy had put the remaining drinks down and was looking around for a seat. Shit. There was space next to Harry now Goyle had moved up, but Harry really didn't think it was a great idea—
Malfoy planted his arse down on the end next to Seamus so that he was opposite Harry. “Potter,” he leaned forward. “I don't think you told me what you wanted.” He took a long pull of his own drink, something tall and frosty. “So I got you a surprise.” He gestured at the glass in front of Harry. It was a cherry red colour, not something Harry recognised at all.
“Oh Harr-ryyyy,” Ginny sang.
“What is it?” Harry asked Malfoy.
“Try it.” Malfoy's mouth quirked into an amused shape as Harry picked up the drink and gave it a dubious inspection.
“Is it Harry's turn?” Seamus asked.
“Oh, not Truth or Dare again!” Hermione protested.
Harry sniffed the drink. It smelled sweet, and rich. He took a tentative sip. Wow. Not bad at all.
“Harry, Truth or Dare?” called Ginny.
Bugger. He took a quick mouthful, letting the syrupy warmth flow down his throat. God, it was bloody good. Like cherries, and caramel, and something smooth and smoky...
Malfoy was watching him and sipping his own drink.
“What is this?” Harry asked.
“Spiced brandy. What do you think?”
“It's good.” Harry took another taste. It was strong, too; he'd better be careful if he didn't want to end up completely trashed. “Really good. Thanks.”
“My pleasure.” Malfoy pulled at his collar, straightening it. His throat bobbed as he took another drink and Harry stared at it, stared at the sharp line of Malfoy's jaw and the hint of pointy shoulder under the shirt. Malfoy sat as if he were perfectly relaxed, but there was something hungry-looking about him that made Harry want to look, and look, and―
“I believe it's your turn to play,” Malfoy pointed out.
Ron nudged him in the ribs. “Oi. Your go, mate.”
Harry narrowed his eyes at Ginny. She was fizzing with mischief, almost bouncing in her seat. He felt like he was in serious fucking trouble.
“Truth or Dare, Harry? I have the best dare saved up for someone. Fancy a try?”
Not on your life. The dares last week, apart from Nev's can-can, had included Seamus demonstrating his oral technique on a banana, and Luna kissing Goyle. They'd all seemed to enjoy the experience ‒ although Harry couldn't speak for the banana, of course ‒ but Harry wasn't risking anything like that. Not with Malfoy sitting right there, licking beads of the icy drink from his top lip.
“Truth,” said Harry, and instantly knew he'd fallen into Ginny's trap.
“Oh, I bet this is going to be good!” Seamus cackled, and even Neville was grinning, the traitor.
“Hmm, what shall we have?” Ginny asked, pretending to think. “OK, how about this? Tell us who, out of the people sitting around the table, you fancy the most.”
Hermione frowned, but Harry could feel everyone else turning to him with varying degrees of interest. He couldn't bring himself to look at Malfoy.
“You've got more people to choose from than most of us,” Ginny said slyly, and Seamus nodded approvingly.
“She's right, you know, Harry.”
Fucking hell. He could just lie. He could just say, “Ginny,” which would have probably been the real answer if she'd have only asked him before Malfoy turned up. He did still find her attractive, even if he didn't want to actually be with her again, ever. They were bloody disastrous together. But saying he fancied his ex made him sound all kinds of pathetic, and it wasn't precisely true, and Ginny had been known to cast a Lie Detecting Spell after dubious responses.
Harry took another drink of the brandy. It was so smooth and warming as it slipped down, and then sparked wonderful tingles as it reached his stomach.
What was the worst thing that could happen if he said he fancied Malfoy, anyway? Well, Malfoy would probably find it funny. Maybe he'd laugh in front of everybody. He might sneer at Harry, and then every time he saw Malfoy, Malfoy would know...
Harry put the glass down. “I've changed my mind. I'll take the dare instead.”
Neville whistled in surprise. Ginny looked delighted. Even Hermione looked curious to see what would happen next.
“You remember what happens when you refuse to answer a Truth question?” Ginny asked.
Oh, hell. This game had too many rules. How had this tradition even started? He suspected Ginny and Seamus of cooking the whole thing up purely to torment Harry.
“Yes, of course.” That was a lie. But it was something about a forfeit... nothing he couldn't handle.
“If you refuse to answer, we enter a Jeopardy situation.”
Luna fluttered her hands around her face in excitement. “Oh, I love Jeopardy rounds. Remember when Dean lost, and forfeited his trousers? That was fabulous.”
Seamus nodded. “Any night where my boyfriend goes home in his underpants is a hit with me.”
Hermione had finished her tiny drink and was looking very bright-eyed. Harry, by contrast, was feeling sort of slow, and fuzzy around the edges, as if he would be feeling utterly contented if it wasn't for Ginny grinning like that over this bloody game. In fact, he was starting to feel suspicious of Malfoy's intentions in getting the drinks for everybody.
“So what is Harry going to forfeit?” Hermione asked.
“Hold on,” Harry said. “I'm going to do the dare, OK? I won't need to forfeit anything.”
“Such confidence.” Seamus nodded. “That's the spirit, Harry!”
“Wonderful,” Ginny said. “Then you won't mind putting up your new Meteor as a forfeit, just in case you lose.”
“Oh, man, that's harsh.” Ron looked pained. “Don't do it, Harry.”
Harry swallowed. He really loved that broom. There had only been ten made worldwide. It was one time he hadn't minded the fact that who he was had got him something he wanted.
He looked around the table. Malfoy was smiling into his drink.
“Who gets my broom if I lose?” Harry asked.
“We'll decide that in a moment,” Ginny said.
“Fine,” Harry said. “I'll do it.”
“Oh, don't, Harry!” Hermione leaned over to touch his knee.
“But!” Ginny carried on, her eyes dancing. “Because Harry now faces such a risky situation, he also has the chance to win a reward, if he successfully completes the dare.”
Oh, yeah. Well, that was cool. Because he was going to complete it. Probably.
“The group must choose Harry's reward.” Ginny said. “And better make it a good one. He deserves something special for facing all of this jeopardy.”
“Harry won't have to do anything actually dangerous, will he?” Hermione's face was creased with worry.
“Stop worrying, Granger,” Seamus waved a hand at her.
“It'll probably just be something hilarious,” Luna added.
“Something humiliating and hilarious,” Seamus said.
Oh, fucking brilliant.
“Harry's reward?” Ginny reminded them.
“A date!” Seamus suggested.
“Yeah!” Ron agreed.
“We can't just get Harry a date,” Hermione protested.
“Why not?” Seamus asked. “He's a good-looking guy... 'cept for that scar.”
Harry tried to kick him under the table, but Seamus just laughed and dodged Harry's feet.
“Oh, I think we should!” Luna's eyes were wide. “It's been ages since you last went on a date, Harry.”
Ah, thanks. This was just getting better and better. Malfoy was watching with interest. No doubt he didn't want to miss a moment of Harry's discomfort.
“I have dates. I go on plenty of dates,” Harry told them all.
“No you don't.” Neville leaned across the table. “I get more dates than you, mate.”
“He's right.” Ron nodded.
“A date for Harry!” Luna exclaimed happily.
Hermione held out a hand. “Look, we can't just get Harry a--”
“Yes we can,” Seamus butted in. “It's agreed. Harry's reward should be a date.”
“Do I have any say in this at all?” Harry asked.
Several people spoke at once. “No.”
Goyle cleared his throat. “If anyone wants to get me a date, I wouldn't argue about it.” His voice was very deep, but these days it always took Harry by surprise how soft it was.
“Aww, Gregory.” Luna patted his shoulder. “You can take the next turn.”
“What do you think, Malfoy?” Ginny suddenly asked, and Harry felt prickles of sweat break out on the palms of his hands.
Malfoy raised an eyebrow. “I don't feel qualified to give an opinion on Potter's love life.”
“I need another drink.” Harry groaned.
“Me too,” Seamus said. “It's Ron's round. Or Greg's. Definitely.”
“Hold on just a minute.” Ginny tapped on the table. “We just need to decide: who should Harry go on this date with?”
“Luna!” Seamus said.
“Maybe not.” Harry forced a smile. “Not that you're not lovely, Luna, but it would just be a bit... weird. After all this time.”
Luna blew him a kiss.
“Er, not me,” Goyle said. “I know I said I wouldn't argue... but I didn't mean... sorry, Harry.”
“That's fine, Greg, don't worry about it.” Dear god.
“It doesn't have to be someone at this table,” said Ron.
“The new saucy barman,” Seamus suggested. “That one over there in the leather waistcoat.” He pointed, helpfully.
“Merlin!” Harry was starting to cringe. He really needed another drink.
“What about Katie Bell?” Ron asked. “You work with her, don't you, Greg?”
“A sound choice.” Seamus nodded.
“I'm pretty sure she's getting married next year,” Greg said.
“Everyone think harder,” said Luna.
“I've got an idea,” Ginny said, and Harry's heart sank. There was just something about the way she said it, that made him want to walk away, no, run, as fast as he could, before―
“What about... Draco?” She rested her chin in her hands.
Ron snorted. Harry couldn't look at Malfoy. Couldn't look anywhere near him.
“Oh, yes!” Luna beamed. “Harry could date Draco! That would be excellent, wouldn't it?”
“Just hold on―” Harry said.
“He's single,” Ginny went on. “Aren't you, Draco?”
Then Harry did risk a glance at Malfoy, and Malfoy was looking— well, Harry didn't know exactly how Malfoy was looking, but he wasn't looking unhappy.
“As it happens, I am.”
“Yes!” Luna went on. “And you're very eligible.”
Malfoy smirked at that. “Oh, terribly eligible.”
Harry was wishing he had tucked the Invisibility Cloak into his robes like he sometimes did. Now would be a fucking marvellous time to just disappear. Everything was going too fast. And he had been right -- Malfoy found the whole idea too amusing for words.
“Hmm,” Ginny tilted her head to one side. “I wonder why I never thought of this before.”
Goyle leaned in. “People think Draco's a bit of a git, but he can be quite decent sometimes.”
“Oh, hush, Greg, for Merlin's sake.” Malfoy tried to look annoyed, but didn't quite pull it off.
Neville squinted at Malfoy. “He does look a lot like that bloke you were seeing last year, Harry.”
“Bloody hell, Nev--”
“He's awfully fit,” Luna added. “Fit, and very well off.”
Hermione leaned over. “Harry. If you don't want to--”
“More to the point...” Seamus' voice cut through everyone else's. “I've heard he's an absolute demon in the sack.”
Everyone, including Ron and Hermione, erupted with laughter. Goyle's laugh was rumbly and surprising. Malfoy wore a sly sort of smile that made his lips twitch up at the corners. Everyone seemed to think this whole thing was the best idea in the whole world. Except Harry. Because this wasn't some big joke to Harry. This was‒ quite a large part of him actually did want to go out with Malfoy, he realised.
And what was so wrong with that? They were both adults. Both single. Malfoy definitely went out with blokes. And there was nothing actually the matter with Harry, was there? This dare seemed like a way of getting to be with Malfoy without having to tell anyone that he liked him. But then, the thought of sitting having dinner or something, with Harry all sweaty and keen and Malfoy all cool and nonchalant and looking like he did... Merlin, no. Harry would probably make a complete idiot of himself. It was the bloody stupidest idea his brain had ever had, and he was buggered if he was going to let anyone else know that was how he felt, anyway.
“Look, how about you let me think up the prize?” Harry asked.
Malfoy leaned back and posed, his hands on the arms of the chair as he crossed one long, long leg gracefully over the other. “Am I not to your liking, then?” he asked. His voice was light, but Harry got the impression he did actually want to know the answer. “I was quite enjoying the idea of being the reward for some daring deed or other.”
Harry swallowed. “It's not that... I mean...” He looked around for help. “You're... great. If you like tall, slim, blond, posh blokes.”
“Which you totally do, Harry,” Ginny said.
This was bloody impossible. “Malfoy wouldn't date me, anyway,” Harry said lamely, and that was far closer than he'd meant to go towards admitting that it was something he'd consider himself.
Malfoy's legs were wide apart, one ankle resting on the knee of the other leg. He looked sly and a little dangerous, and he spoke quietly, as if confiding something for Harry's ears alone. “Oh, Malfoy definitely would.”
The group reacted loudly with glee (Luna and Ginny), surprise (Neville, Hermione and Greg) and protests (Ron and, well, Ron again).
Bloody hell. Bloody hell. Had Malfoy just said--? Merlin. Why had Harry had so much to drink? He couldn't tell if Malfoy was joking or not. Surely Malfoy was just joking? Harry wished his heart would stop jumping around in his chest like this and behave itself.
“There're tons of other fit, blond blokes Harry could go out with!” Ron complained. “Why do you have to make everything so bloody weird, Gin?”
Harry's heart was still hammering. But maybe Ron was right. Harry and Malfoy going from sworn enemies to people who could buy each other a drink down the pub was weird enough. The thought of being interested in each other as more than friends... Merlin. It made Harry's stomach clench in an almost unbearably thrilling way.
Ginny shrugged. “No-one else thinks it's weird. So, you agree, Draco? If Harry wins, that is?”
“Absolutely. But I think I should be the one to get the broom if he loses.”
Harry's heart plummeted back into the right place in his chest. Or possibly somewhere a lot lower than it usually was. So that was it. Malfoy was after his broom.
“That does seem fair,” Hermione was saying.
Of course it was just the broom. What else would it have been?
“Yeah,” said Seamus. “If Malfoy's willing to shag Harry, he should get the broom.”
“I think you might be moving a little fast, there,” Malfoy said lightly.
“Yeah, well, from what I heard, you like to move fast. Harry'd better brace himself.”
Harry put his head in his hands, but he could hear the laughter surrounding him only too well. When he looked up, Hermione was asking Ron quietly, “Where is Dean? Is he coming to take Seamus home before he ends up singing a Celestina Warbeck medley again?”
“He's on nights this week,” Ron told her. “Trainee Healers work even longer hours than Ministry drudges.” He wrapped an arm round her and squeezed.
“Now we've sorted that, I'll get the drinks,” Luna said, getting to her feet a little unsteadily. “Excuse me, Gregory.”
“I'll give you a hand.” Goyle got up and stood looming over the table while everyone shouted requests to Luna. She wandered to the bar with him following at her heels like a giant pet Crup.
Harry took the distraction as an opportunity to wipe his sleeve over his forehead. It had got so hot in here. Hot, and crowded, and everything sort of swimmy around the edges. He couldn't look at Malfoy. He looked around the pub instead, but he could feel Malfoy there, just across the table from him, his mere existence still making Harry's pulse thrum with excitement.
He could bloody smell Malfoy's cologne – not that it was overpowering or anything, but Harry's nose seemed attuned to it these days. He didn't even know what it smelled of, only that it seemed luxurious and very masculine at the same time, and that Harry had sometimes fantasised about pinning Malfoy down and running his nose along the sharp line of Malfoy's collarbones and nuzzling into the soft curve of his throat. Harry suspected Malfoy smelled fucking amazing there. Not that he was likely to get the chance to find out.
God, he wished Luna would come back with the drinks. Harry picked up a beer mat and stared at that, instead.
“Harry,” Hermione said quietly. “If this is making you uncomfortable, you don't have to―”
Harry glanced up from fiddling with the beer mat, and found Malfoy's eyes were on him. They were so bright, but not silvery – silver was softer, somehow – they were more like pewter.
“I'm not bothered,” Harry attempted a shrug. “It's just a game, yeah? Just a bit of a laugh.” His eyes flicked back to Malfoy's, and found Malfoy still gazing at him steadily. It wasn't fair. Why did Malfoy have to look like that when he was nothing but a broom-stealing bastard? Harry looked back down at the beer mat to find he had shredded it into a scrappy mess.
A tray of drinks Levitated over to the table, followed by two pale-golden pints plonked down by Goyle.
“So what is Harry's dare?” asked Luna, squeezing past Harry to her spot in the corner. “You didn't decide already, did you? It should be something really exciting and adventurous. Like he's on a quest, you know, to win the hand of the princess.”
Seamus snorted loudly into his drink.
“Or in this case the prince, of course,” Luna said.
Malfoy inclined his head, that bloody smirk still pulling at his lips. He must be feeling pretty confident about bagging Harry's broom at the end. Well, there was only one answer to that: see how Malfoy felt when Harry completed the dare. Then Malfoy'd be laughing on the other side of his face. He'd have to go out with Harry, just the two of them on a date, and―
Buggering hell. There was no bloody way to win. Malfoy had only agreed to the date because he might get something out of it, and now this thing – this private thing that had been Harry's little secret – would forever be something to be laughed about in the pub.
“I know exactly the dare for the occasion.” Ginny put Harry's pint in front of him. He hadn't dared ask for more of the brandy, no matter how tempting it was. It was too seductive by far, and he needed to keep what was left of his wits about him. “Hold on, Greg. Don't sit down just yet. I need you to go to the bar again.” She got up and whispered in Goyle's ear, his face blank with concentration and then creasing into a smile. “Got that?”
“What is it? What's the dare?” Luna asked.
“Not a drinking contest?” Harry said. “That's not fair; I've had at least four already, and Malfoy's only had one―”
Ginny shook her head. “Just one drink. Just one special drink.”
“Oh my god!” Neville started sniggering. “Not Gamp's?”
Ron groaned. “Oh, you rotten troll. You wouldn't make Harry try to drink a pint of that.”
“Harry!” Seamus almost squealed in delight. “I think your broom is in serious danger, mate.”
“What?” Harry asked. “What is it?” but it seemed everyone was too busy chattering like demented Doxies to answer. Only Hermione looked blank, while Malfoy's face wore the same look of cool amusement as before.
Ginny banged on the table with a spoon and announced in dramatic tones. “It's Jeopardy time. For his dare, Harry has to drink...”
Seamus butted in. “A whole pint, mind you.”
“A whole pint...” Ginny agreed.
“Of the phemon‒ the phenom‒ the extremely tasty...” Seamus continued.
“The devilishly tasty...” Ginny suggested.
Goyle appeared at the table and gingerly placed a pint in front of Harry.
“Gamp's Old Gregarious!” chorused several voices, and a ragged cheer went up from the customers immediately around them.
Harry stared at the drink. It was a dark amber, and had... stuff floating in it. “What the fuck is that meant to be?” he asked, and then the smell hit him, and he had to fight down the reflex to gag. “Oh, dear god.”
“It's Gamp's Old Gregarious,” Luna repeated, not very helpfully.
“And... that is...?”
“Evil shit,” Ron said. That was even less helpful.
“Nobody's ever managed to finish a pint.” Neville raised his eyebrows.
“Hannah said, don't forget there's a hundred Galleon prize for anyone who can drink the whole lot,” Goyle told them.
“A hundred Galleons? What the bloody hell is in it?” Harry asked.
“Oh, Harry!” Luna leaned across to squeeze his arm. “So thrilling. It's like when the hero wins half the kingdom and the prince's hand in marriage.”
“Well. Nobody said anything about marriage.” Malfoy ran his finger lightly over the rim of his glass. Fuck. Why was even that simple action something that made Harry stare and shift in his seat? This was not the time to notice that Malfoy's fingers were long, with broad knuckles, and nicely-manicured nails.
“You're safe, Draco, a good hard shag will do,” Seamus assured him loudly.
Hermione's forehead wrinkled. “I do think someone should take Seamus home.”
Hannah appeared at the table. She had an apron tied around her waist and looked sort of weary, the way she usually did as Friday night wore on, but her eyes were alive with humour. “So, you fancy your chances at this, then, Harry?”
“Chances at what? Nobody will tell me what the bloody hell―”
“Oh, I see; conned you into trying it, have they? I don't think even you're going to manage this one, my dear. It's so disgusting, nobody's managed to finish a pint in three-hundred years.”
“Why on earth do you go on selling it?”
“Well, it's tradition, isn't it? To celebrate the Leaky being allowed to stay open.”
“Was it going to close?” Harry was now even more thoroughly confused.
“It nearly closed after the Statute of Wizarding Secrecy,” Neville said. “The Minister of Magic had to make a special exception for it.”
“That's right, and one of the rules is that the patrons have to maintain good behaviour.” Hannah wagged her finger, trying to look stern.
“I always maintain good behaviour.” Seamus wore the look of being sadly misunderstood. “It's this lot who lead me astray.”
“So some bastard named Gamp brewed the most revolting beer he could manage, to celebrate the Leaky not being closed down?” Harry rubbed the back of his neck. “That makes exactly no sense.”
“Hah! Well, it was named after the Minister of Magic. Ulrick Gamp. But yeah, it doesn't make that much sense, does it?” Hannah waved her hand at the pint. “Anyway, get started, Harry, if you're going to. This, I have to see. There's a hundred Galleons for you if you can finish it.”
“Oh, it's not just the Galleons!” Luna piped up. “Harry's going on a—”
“Can I just get on with it?” Harry asked.
“Ooh, he's very keen.” Ginny winked at Luna.
“Awfully keen,” Luna agreed.
“It's not that; I'd just rather get it over with, if you don't mind.” Harry eyed the pint dubiously. A chunk of something dislodged itself from the bottom and bobbed a slow and revolting path to the surface.
“We don't mind at all.” Seamus waved a hand regally. “Pray go ahead and drink the putrid stuff. Blimey, Malfoy, I don't envy you snogging Harry after he's had his lips round that.”
Hell. Harry grabbed for the glass and held it at a distance. Maybe if he held his nose...
“Would you envy me if it wasn't for that, then?” Malfoy asked teasingly.
“Now that would be telling, wouldn't it?” Seamus attempted a leer, but it looked more like he'd been Hexed.
“I'm sure a lot of people would like to be in your position, Draco,” Luna nodded. “Harry's very eligible, too, except Ginny told me he likes to slob on the sofa at weekends eating takeaway curry out of the container. Wearing pants and an old t-shirt.”
“Thanks for that, Gin. I'm going to drink this now,” Harry interrupted.
“Oh, mate!” Ron's face was twisted into a look of disgust. “Just give him your broom! It's not worth it.”
“You don't have to, Harry,” said Hermione.
“Go on!” Ginny slapped her hand down on the table.
“Don't you think it looks a bit like someone already tried to drink it, and then vommed it up straight back into the glass?” Goyle asked.
“Oh, for fuck's sake!” Harry brought the pint to his face, but couldn't quite close the gap between his lips and the glass. It smelled like rancid fish. No, more like a pair of socks Ron had worn to play Quidditch. For three weeks solid. With a hint of egg. But it couldn't possibly taste as bad as it smelt. Harry bet that once he got started, it would be fine.
It was hard not to gag on the wretched fumes rising from the glass, but Harry managed to get the stuff to his mouth. If he just went quickly... but the second the liquid touched his tongue, his body mutinied and spat the few drops out in a revolted splutter.
“Watch it!” said Goyle.
Harry grabbed someone's drink, he didn't know whose, and took a big swallow. His mouth felt coated with a disgusting oiliness.
“Ugh.” Seamus curled his lip. “Just watching this is making me want to heave.”
“Wow,” Hannah said. “I've never seen anyone actually try this before. It really is that bad, then.”
“Give it up,” Ron urged. “It's not like you actually want to date him, is it?”
“You can do it, Harry,” said Luna. “Just imagine yourself claiming the prize.”
“Just imagine yourself with your tongue down Draco's throat,” said Seamus.
“Just imagine me Hexing the lot of you,” Harry suggested.
“Maintaining good behaviour, remember?” Hannah looked as if she were trying not to laugh.
“I must say, I'm looking forward to a nice long ride tomorrow, on my new broom.” A smug smile played on Malfoy's lips.
Right. That was it. Harry was going to drink this fucking thing if it killed him.
He took a deep breath and brought the glass to his lips again, and this time, rather than drinking, he tried instead to kind of open his mouth and throat and pour some in. For a moment, this seemed to work, and then – Merlin's fucking arse – he just about managed to spit it out into the glass, rather than spray the table with it. Not that those sniggering, hooting bastards wouldn't deserve every drop of it.
Harry heard a groan of misery escape from his own mouth as he again snatched at the nearest drink and gulped at it desperately to remove the fearful taste. That stuff was so vile, it probably classed as an Unforgivable. It reminded him of a dead Boggart he'd found in the attic shortly after moving into Grimmauld Place.
“Oh, Harry,” Hermione's face was creased with genuine concern. She looked around the table severely. “These games are getting out of hand. Harry could get seriously ill from this.”
“I'm pretty sure it's not harmful,” Neville said. “Just seriously rank.”
“It's horrific.” Harry wiped his sleeve across his mouth, again and again. “It's like... fucking hell.” There were no words for it.
“You did accept the dare...” Ginny made a little pout. “And it was Jeopardy, so...”
Hannah put up a hand. “I don't think I even want to know about this dare. All I ask is that everyone try to keep their clothes on this week. Shall I take this away and Vanish it?” She gestured to the pint of Gamp's.
Ron nodded, but Harry screwed up his face. “Wait a bit.”
“Mate, you can't.” Ron groaned at the thought.
Harry's broom. He'd only had it a couple of weeks. It was so smooth, so responsive. And he had been planning to fly down to Cornwall next week, just him and the Meteor, in one glorious, exhilarating sprint. “Just let me think,” he said.
He flicked his eyes sideways to Malfoy. Malfoy looked quite calm, but there was something alert, expectant, about his posture. Harry imagined Malfoy sitting on the Meteor. Manoeuvring with his usual grace, the wind blowing his pale hair back from his face. Malfoy closing his eyes in bliss at the sensation of speed and freedom and elation...
“I'm going to do it,” Harry said.
“But--” Hermione began.
“I knew you wouldn't give up.” Luna's eyes seemed especially wide. “What are you going to do, Harry?”
“I... don't know. But I'll think of something. Maybe I can get it down in stages.”
Malfoy was right there, just sitting there, his long legs just draped over the chair like that, his chin resting on one finger, watching Harry, all bloody poised and nonchalant and fucking impossible―
“I'm going to the loo.” It came out in a sort of growl. “Don't touch that pint.”
“No fear of that,” Seamus assured him.
“No Apparating home, now.” Ginny was grinning at him. You'd never know that under those freckles, under that cute little dress, lurked a heart of pure evil.
As soon as Harry got to his feet he realised the mix of drinks had gone right to his head. That bloody brandy... He almost stumbled, but Ron put out a steadying hand until the room stopped trying to spin away sideways. “Cheers.”
“You OK?” Ron asked.
“Looks like you've had enough already,” Hannah tilted her head to one side.
“'M fine,” Harry said, pointing himself towards the loos and setting off only slightly unevenly.
It was much quieter in the corridor to the gents, but Harry's ears still buzzed. He used the urinals, washed his hands and then used a few Charms on his mouth until he could no longer taste the taint of the Gamp's. Then he splashed some water on his face and cast a quick Sobering Charm. He'd never been very good at them, but it seemed to help.
The side door – the one leading to a little patio area – was open, and Harry stepped out and took a deep breath of fresh, cool air. What the fuck was he going to do? He knew if he made a fuss, they wouldn't really make him give up his broom... or would they? Maybe Malfoy would try. But it wasn't just about the broom. Ridiculous as it seemed, it was partly about not chickening out.
And you do want to go on that date, anyway, his traitorous mind observed.
No, I really don't. But it sounded feeble and unconvincing. “I bloody well don't,” he said aloud.
Harry spun around. Fuck. It would be Malfoy. “Shit, you startled me. What do you want?”
“Well, first of all I want to know: you don't what?”
Harry felt sure he was flushing, but hopefully it was too dark for Malfoy to see. “None of your business. What are you doing here? Did you follow me just so you could gloat?”
Malfoy looked offended. “No.”
Something about the way Malfoy looked standing there still made Harry's breath catch in his chest, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Malfoy looked at Harry consideringly. “I wanted to ask you something. You see, I was wondering... would it be worse for you to lose this dare... or to win it?”
“What?” Harry's head was muzzy in spite of the Charm.
Malfoy stepped closer. His face looked very angular and haughty in the light slanting out from the corridor. “Well, you don't want to lose your broom.”
“Of course I bloody don't.”
“But... perhaps you don't exactly like the idea of going for dinner with me, either.”
Harry felt his jaw jutting stubbornly. “Perhaps I don't.”
“Ah.” Malfoy frowned, then shrugged. “Ah, well.” He turned to go.
“Hold on.” Harry ran a hand through his hair. He felt like he'd spent most of the evening not understanding anything, but Malfoy sounded almost disappointed. “Did you...? What did you...?”
Malfoy waved a hand. “It's not a problem.”
“I was just thinking of asking if you wanted me to help you win the dare.”
Harry blinked. “Win it?”
“Yes. But it's no problem, I quite understand you'd rather not--”
Malfoy lifted one shoulder. “Well, I'm not a Potions specialist for nothing.”
“You could give me a potion? What, to make the stuff drinkable?”
“That's the idea. But listen. Stop worrying about it. I'm not going to take a near-priceless broom from somebody who got duped into playing a stupid drunken game.”
Malfoy's eyes flashed in irritation. “I'm not quite so much of a bastard these days as you seem to think. I thought taking your broom might spur you on a bit, if you want to know.”
Spur him on? But— “I don't think you're a bastard.” Well. Not most of the time.
“No?” Malfoy raised an eyebrow, and considered Harry for a long moment. Malfoy looked all golden and white, the shirt fitting perfectly as it tapered down to his narrow waist, and he'd rolled his sleeves up, his bloody forearms all strong and sinewy and sprinkled with pale hair which caught the light, and― “Well, that's something.”
“Why do you care what I think, anyway?” Harry wished his voice sounded steadier.
Malfoy seemed to ponder this carefully. “Why indeed?” His eyes flicked lightly over Harry's face, coming to rest on his mouth.
Harry swallowed, his Adam's apple feeling too large for his throat, and Malfoy seemed to come to a decision.
Malfoy's voice was low but clear. “I just thought there were worse ideas in the world than, well. You and me.”
There was a great clamouring rush in Harry's chest. Malfoy just stood there, his body slightly tense, while Harry's head felt as if it might turn inside out trying to make sense of this.
Malfoy quirked a half-smile at him, but then, when Harry didn't speak, shrugged his shoulder again. “No matter. I think I'll get an early night. Perhaps see you next week.”
“Wait.” Harry couldn't imagine what he was going to say next, but that was a good start.
Malfoy paused. He was wearing that bloody look of elegant amusement again.
“Er. Yes.” Harry was getting there. One word at a time.
“I do want you to help me win.”
“Ah.” Malfoy smoothed his hair back with one slender hand. “Well, that might cause some awkwardness, don't you think? Your friends would expect you to follow through on the so-called date. Some of them seem quite enthusiastic about it.”
Harry took a deep breath. “I don't think it's the worst idea in the world, either.” He squinted at Malfoy. He could smell his cologne again, and he didn't know whether it was the brandy or the cool night air or being so close to Malfoy that was making his head feel this way. “I mean, you and me.”
Malfoy tilted his head. “You're pretty drunk, aren't you?”
Harry nodded. “Fairly. That's probably why I'm saying this.”
Malfoy gave a sort of snort. “Well, that's honest.”
“I mean‒ I think it when I'm sober, too. But I probably wouldn't say it then.”
Malfoy's eyes ran all over Harry's face. He wasn't smiling any more. Instead, he looked almost predatory. It made strange spirals of excitement swoop about inside Harry. “Is that so?” Malfoy asked.
“Yes.” Harry felt sort of giddy, and he leaned back against the wall of the pub for support. “Do you‒ do you like me, then?”
Malfoy's eyes glinted. He took a step towards Harry. “Yes. I do. I like you, Potter.”
“You could call me Harry.”
Malfoy smiled a proper smile then, a surprising, bright thing. “All right. I'll think about it. And will you still want me to call you Harry, when you're sober?”
Harry tilted his chin up. “You'll have to try it.”
Malfoy laughed, showing very white teeth. “You know, pleasant as this is, we've been gone quite a while. I think suspicions might be aroused.”
Harry didn't want to go back in. He wanted to stay out here, doing whatever this was. It seemed like he might be, well, flirting with Malfoy. “Can't we... talk some more?”
“We can.” Malfoy nodded conspiratorially. “But why don't we go and win the dare first?”
Harry felt reckless and happy. “It's cheating, isn't it?”
“Absolutely,” Malfoy agreed.
Harry laughed. “What do I have to do?”
“I took the liberty of Apparating home while you were in the loo. Drink this.” Malfoy held up a tiny vial filled with clear blue liquid.
Harry took it from him and was attempting to unstopper it before he thought to ask. “What is it?”
“One of my experiments. I was aiming for a potion to augment the sense of smell for a while. To enable the Aurors to literally sniff out Dark magic. But I ended up with this instead. It'll muffle the taste of the Gamp's. It works on your taste buds, and your scent receptors, too.”
Harry screwed up his nose at the vial. “I won't smell or taste anything?”
“Well, not nearly so much as usual. I should think you'll still be aware of it. It seemed like it's pretty strong. But it should make it bearable.
“For how long?”
Malfoy wrinkled his forehead in thought. “A few hours? Maybe two or three?”
Harry thought it over. Malfoy's cologne was even better close up like this. He smelled completely intoxicating, and Harry stared longingly at the hollow of his throat, at the sharp line of his jaw and the perfect, sculpted curve of his lips. “There's just something I want to do first.”
Malfoy looked bemused. “Oh?”
Harry pushed off from the wall and lunged towards Malfoy's mouth all in one impatient movement. It wasn't very a graceful moment, but as his lips made contact with Malfoy's warm, blissful skin, he found he didn't care. Malfoy froze, just for a second, but then both his hands came up to Harry's shoulders and he was kissing Harry back, and, oh, Merlin, he tasted so fucking good.
Harry's hands were on Malfoy's waist and he could feel the heat of his body through his shirt, feel the smooth-firmness of his skin under the fabric, and smell Malfoy up close, and it was better than he could ever have imagined. Harry kissed Malfoy as if he'd been waiting years to do it. Perhaps he had. He could feel Malfoy's lips about to part beneath his, could think only of the moment when he would be able to taste Malfoy's mouth, all of it, and then a door somewhere inside the pub banged and Ron's voice called out, “Harry?”
Malfoy stepped away immediately and ran a hand over his hair to tidy it. Harry sagged back against the wall, the air chilly and unpleasant on his skin after Malfoy's heavenly warmth.
“Harry!” Ron yelled.
“Where's the vial?” Malfoy whispered. His face was pinker than usual, and sort of glowing.
Harry realised he must have dropped the little container. He looked around, but Malfoy spotted it near his feet and scooped it up. “Go ahead and drink it. If you're still game, that is.”
They could hear Ron shouting into the gents. “Are you sick or what? Hermione is having a right wobbler about it all.”
Harry pulled a face as he took the vial. Malfoy motioned to him to hurry, and Harry flipped the top off, but at the last minute something made him turn to one side so Malfoy couldn't see what he was doing. Instead of drinking it, Harry restoppered it and slipped the vial into his jeans pocket.
“All sorted,” he told Malfoy. “I'm outside,” he called to Ron. “Just getting some air.”
Ron poked his head out. “What's up? Oh, alright, Malfoy. Didn't know you were out here too.”
“I'm fine.“ Harry shook himself a little. “Felt a bit wonky.”
“He seems much better now,” Malfoy told Ron.
“Well, come back in, for Merlin's sake,” Ron said. “Hermione's fighting with Ginny, and Luna is hoping you've both eloped on a pink unicorn, and as for Seamus―” He shook his head. “Well. You don't want to know.”
Harry grinned. “OK. Just give me a moment. Tell them I'm fine. No, actually – tell Ginny she's poisoned me.”
“Will do. You coming, Malfoy?”
“Very shortly. I just want to... Well. I thought I'd arrange with Harry when I should collect my new broom.”
“Merlin, you're a hard bastard.” Ron looked amazed at the cheek of some people. “Reckon you won't be looking so smug when it's your turn to take a dare.”
“Oh, we'll see. I did all right last time.”
Harry recalled Malfoy's dare had been to come up with three words to describe his first kiss. Ginny had definitely been going easy on him. Malfoy'd thought for a minute, then said, “Wet. Limp. And disappointing,” and had waved away all further questions.
Ron shook his head. “Come in soon, though, Harry. I'll never hear the end of this, you know. If you'd just answered Gin's bloody question in the first place...”
Harry felt his ears burning, but Ron had already gone. There was just Malfoy, stepping a little closer again, leaving Harry feeling short of breath.
“I'd forgotten about that.” Malfoy's lips were unfairly sexy even when he was smirking. “You didn't like that first question at all, did you? The one about who you fancied the most.”
Harry wanted to duck his head, but instead he looked Malfoy in the eye. “Well. Some things are better said without an audience.”
“Yes?” Malfoy leant back against the wall. Fuck, he looked hot like that. All tall, and cool, and slightly rumpled...
“I fancy you,” Harry said, and he was surprised to find that he liked saying it. “I've fancied you for bloody ages.”
Malfoy looked as if he might start purring with pleasure. “Well. I think we should go and claim your prize, quickly, before they dream up something else to torture you with.”
“Right,” Harry said. “I take it that... what happened just now... wasn't wet, limp, and disappointing, then?
Malfoy's eyes flashed appreciation. “Oh, no. That was so far from being disappointing that I was just about to suggest we chuck the whole dare business and Apparate straight to mine.”
Fuck. “I wish you had.”
“You might as well do the thing properly now you've taken the potion, though. I'm sort of dying to see their faces.”
Harry felt the undrunk potion in his pocket, and snorted. “Come on, then.”
“I wasn't entirely sure if you'd approve of the deception involved,” Malfoy murmured in his ear as they headed back towards the bar.
“Well.” Harry considered this. “The others deserve it, don't you think?” He did feel if ever there was a situation which warranted cheating, this was it. And it wasn't that he didn't trust Malfoy's potion. No, the real reason he hadn't taken it was something else entirely.
“You're a lot more fun than your reputation suggests, you know?” Malfoy's smile was intimate and thrilling. Harry considered grabbing him, right there, and pushing him up against the wall of the corridor, but he knew it would have to wait.
Malfoy swung open the door to the bar and all the sounds and chaos of the packed room seemed to smack Harry right in the face.
“Harry!” called Luna excitedly. “And Draco!”
“Harry and Draco!” whooped Seamus.
A bearded bloke Harry vaguely recognised was sitting in Harry's old seat and chatting with Ron and Hermione.
“Budge up, Seamus, so Harry can sit down here next to me.” Ginny wriggled along and patted the space next to her. “You too, Draco, there's plenty of room. Neville went home; he's got work in the morning.”
Harry looked about, but there was nowhere else free. He sat down, not without misgivings, and swallowed heavily as Malfoy squeezed in next to him, his thigh hot and firm against Harry's.
“It sort of seemed like you sneaked off somewhere.” Ginny's eyes were gleeful. “I hope you didn't go and ride Harry's broom already, Draco,”
“Sneaked off to ride Harry, more like.” Seamus cackled. There was a fresh round of drinks on the table, Harry noticed, and everyone seemed that bit more drunk than when he had left.
“I was ill after that foul crap you made me drink. Malfoy came to see if I felt OK.”
“I bet he felt just fiiiiiiine, eh, Draco?” Seamus said, and Luna collapsed against Goyle in another stream of giggles.
Harry gave them both his best withering look. Malfoy looked perfectly composed. In fact, he appeared as if he hadn't heard, but Harry couldn't help noticing that Malfoy's cheeks were once again flushed a delicate pink. He found this so interesting that it was an effort to pull his attention away when Hermione leaned over to speak.
“I know what you said, but I made them take it away, Harry.” Hermione gestured to where the pint of Gamp's had stood. “It's idiotic to think that anyone could drink it.”
“Ah, but I'm going to,” Harry said.
“What?” Ron wore a look of disbelief. “You were just throwing up on the patio, and now you're going to drink some more of it?”
“Who's been throwing up on the patio?” Hannah glared at them as she collected glasses from the next table.
“No-one!” Harry frowned. “I'm fine. I just reckon that was a dodgy pint of Gamp's, you know?”
“Listen, mate.” Ron shook his head. “Every pint of Gamp's is a dodgy pint. That's the whole point.”
“Well, I want another go.”
“I think Harry still wants to claim his prize.” Ginny prodded him in the chest.
“I just don't want to lose my broom, OK?”
“Oh, go on, get Harry another pint, Gregory!” Luna patted Goyle's knee. “This is very exciting, Harry. We were just trying to think of a question for Gregory while you were gone, but this is much better.”
“I can think of a few things to ask Greg,” Malfoy suggested. “Hmm. How about this: what did he keep hidden right at the bottom of his trunk in fifth year?”
“I'll get the Gamp's now,” Goyle got to his feet with alacrity.
“But what was it?” Luna asked. “Ooh, ooh, I know ‒ was it porn?” she called after Goyle's retreating back.
Malfoy was snickering, and it made his leg jiggle up against Harry's most distractingly. A lively discussion began about what kind of porn Goyle was most likely to have owned when he was fifteen.
Ginny used the rowdiness as a cover to lean in close and whisper in Harry's ear. “You and Draco seem quite cheerful since you went to the loo.” Her hair was tickling his face.
“I just feel happy that I'm going to win the dare.”
“Why are you so sure about it?” She looked closely at his face. “Oh! Have you found a way to win? Are you cheating?”
Harry let himself smirk, just a little bit. “Would I do such a thing?” It seemed easier to let her think that was it.
Ginny's face lit up with a slow smile. “Harry James Potter! You're a terrible example to us all.”
“I reckon Goyle had dirty pictures of Trelawney.” Seamus slapped his hand down on the table.
“Merlin!” Malfoy shook his head.
“She was quite pretty without her glasses,” said Ron.
“For god's sake, Weasley!” Malfoy looked totally appalled.
“Are you going to tell anyone?” Harry whispered to Ginny.
She gave him a wicked sideways look, then smiled. “No.”
Harry nodded. “Good.”
“This really matters to you, doesn't it? And I don't mean your broom.” She leaned even closer and spoke right into his ear. “I mean the hot Slytherin sitting next to you.”
Harry couldn't resist a glance at Malfoy. He was taking a long swig of his drink, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down. “Yes.” It seemed pointless denying it; Gin knew him too well.
“I was certain you liked him.”
Luna's voice rose above the babble. “A girl in Ravenclaw said she'd once seen a magazine featuring Centaurs. And that everything you've heard about them? All. Completely. True.”
“You're so rubbish at hiding it.” Ginny teased Harry quietly.
Harry wiped his hands on his jeans. “Fuck. There were other ways you could have gone about this, you know.”
“Sorry.” But she didn't look sorry.
A thought occurred to him. “Hey, does it bother you or something? Is that why you set this up?”
“Me? Don't kid yourself. I just thought it would be funny, and—” Her face creased with laughter. “Oh hell, it really is. Your face, when Luna said—” She shook her head. “Someone had to do something to get you and Malfoy talking. But no, I'm not bothered. For your information, I went out with Aleksander Radkov last week.”
“The Bulgarian Chaser?”
“The very same.”
“Well.” Harry thought about this. “I see.”
“Does that bother you? You're not jealous, are you?”
“I dunno. I might be.” Harry considered it some more. “I fancy him quite a lot myself, to be honest.”
Ginny elbowed him in the ribs, and he pretended to squawk in pain, and then Goyle was placing another pint of the fetid-looking beer in front of him, and the table went completely quiet.
“Are you really going to do it?” Goyle asked in awe.
“Oh, Harry.” Hermione winced. “Nobody even knows what's in it.”
Everybody's noses were wrinkling. Harry tried not to breathe as he picked up the brimming glass and eyed it warily.
Hannah came to stand behind Ron. “I need to see you drink it, Harry, if you're hoping to win the hundred Galleons.”
“I don't want your Galleons, Hannah,” he assured her.
“He's doing it for the glory alone,” said Malfoy.
“The glory of Draco's arse!” Seamus declared.
“Ah, well.” Hannah picked up yet more empty glasses. How had they drunk so much? “In that case I think I'll leave you lot to it. I've got customers waiting. Sane ones.”
Harry looked around the table. Everyone was staring at the contents of the glass.
Malfoy uncrossed his legs under the table. Then Harry felt something brush deliberately against his ankle.
“Go on then, Boy Wonder,” said Ginny. “Show us what you're made of.”
“I know you can do it, Harry,” Luna said.
“It's probably best if you drink it down in one,” was Malfoy's advice. Whatever was stroking against Harry's ankle moved up to his calf.
“Hey, how come Malfoy wants Harry to win?” Ron asked. “I thought you wanted his broom?”
“Ah, well. I had second thoughts about that after the stern talking to you gave me. I'm going to make him take me out to some eye-wateringly fancy restaurant, instead,” Malfoy confided.
“Good luck,” Goyle told Harry.
“Yeah, it was nice knowing you, mate,” Ron said.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven...” Seamus began.
The soft, warm pressure on Harry's calf was sending tingles right through him. Up it went... and down.
“Six, five, four...” the rest of the table joined the countdown.
Harry sneaked a look at Malfoy, who was looking straight ahead with a face of pure innocence.
“Three, two, one.... GO!”
Harry took a deep breath. The Gamp's chose that moment to emit a noxious pocket of gas, which gave him the horrors. But it was no good hesitating any longer. He tilted the glass to his lips, opened his mouth and began.
A hush fell around them as people on other tables stopped their conversations to watch. Harry flinched as the first swallow hit his throat. The oily texture was still as bad as ever, and the taste was... well, the taste was still completely fucking rank, but he told himself that it was nothing he couldn't deal with.
He took another swallow. Fuck. It was bad. So bad. Like the pinnacle of badness. There was a thick, greasy coating on his tongue, like stale cooking oil, and his throat kept wanting to rebel and refuse to let any more down.
He had to concentrate on something else. Like how it had felt to kiss Malfoy. How his mouth had tasted – yes, think of that, not this wretched, bastarding drink. Malfoy tasted very nearly as good as he looked, and he looked fucking good. Malfoy tasted like kissing him was a luxury.
Another swallow. Merlin's scrotum. Which was not that far off what the Gamp's tasted like. Focused as he was on getting the stuff down, Harry still noticed one of Malfoy's hands dropping into his lap and then disappearing under the table.
Ugh. Was he halfway through yet? Surely he was halfway done―
Malfoy's hand dropped lightly onto Harry's leg, just above the knee.
Harry spluttered a bit, but managed to keep going. Another swallow. It was still grim beyond belief. The hand squeezed, long fingers stroking over the muscle of his leg. Now that felt good. Very good indeed. In fact, Harry would say that Malfoy's hand on his leg was uniquely inspiring.
He could do this. Another. Harry was slowing down. His mouth felt clogged with vileness. Sweat was breaking out on his forehead. He could dimly see faces around him, some of which looked nauseated just watching. He felt quite certain that if he stopped, he wouldn't be able to carry on. Malfoy's leg was pressed hard against his and the hand kept lightly caressing.
God, when would it end? Another swallow. He felt bile rising in his throat and warring with the foul liquid on its way down. People were chanting, calling his name, but mostly Harry could just hear a rushing in his ears, and the staccato rhythm of his own pulse. He felt a desperate desire to stop, to put the glass down, to spit the remaining mouthful onto the floor―
“Go on,” Malfoy urged quietly, and Harry gave one last desperate gulp, another, and then the stuff was all gone and he banged the empty glass down onto the table.
A great roar of cheering and chanting swelled up around him. His stomach lurched and he had to grip hold of the edge of the table and clamp his lips together to stop the whole lot heaving its way back out of him.
The hand on his leg was gone, but Malfoy's face was glowing with approval. “Oh, well done.”
He tried to smile, but it felt more like a grimace.
“Looked pretty bad, even with the potion,” Malfoy said quietly.
Harry fumbled in his pocket until his fingers found the vial. He drew it out and pressed it into Malfoy's hand under cover of the table.
Malfoy's eyes widened. “You—? You never took it?” he murmured.
Harry shook his head.
“Whyever not?” Malfoy looked completely disconcerted.
“Tell you later. Fucking hell. Do you know any maximum-strength Cleaning Charms?”
In the end it was Hermione who took Harry to the ladies, put a Locking Charm on the door and set about removing every trace of the infamous Gamp's from Harry's body.
“I don't know what gets into you,” she complained.
“Sorry,” Harry said. “These things just seem like a good idea at the time.”
“You're worse now than when we were at school. And that bunch! Encouraging you.” She cast another vicious Scouring Charm at Harry's mouth.
“Ow! Stop now! It's all gone. Hell, I feel rough. Why do these evenings always involve so much alcohol?”
Hermione rummaged in her bag and brought out a small bottle containing a cheerful orange liquid. “Sobering Tonic?”
“God. Yes.” Harry practically snatched it from her and took a few good swigs. “Thanks, Hermione. Wow. I feel so much better.”
“That's OK. You know that doesn't give you an excuse to go and get hammered all over again?” She gave him a wry smile. “You do have a reason to celebrate, though.”
Harry nodded. “Yup.”
“Not losing your broom, I mean. Must have been a relief.”
“And now you're going on a date.”
“Oh. Yes, I guess so. I'd forgotten about that.”
Hermione gave him a long look. Harry remembered Ginny's words. You're so rubbish at hiding it.
“Ugh,” she said. “I don't know how you could do it.”
“What? Go out with Malfoy?”
She laughed. “No! Drink that Gimp's, or whatever it's called.” She pulled a comb from her bag and ran it through her hair. “I can totally see how you could go out with Draco.”
“Absolutely.” She finished with the comb and tucked it away. “He's quite dishy, isn't he? Don't tell Ron.”
“What? You don't work with someone for months without noticing a thing like that!”
Harry grinned and wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug. “Thank you.”
“For being Hermione.”
“Oh, for goodness' sakes,” she said, the tip of her nose turning pink. “We ought to go back. Merlin knows what they're up to now. Poor Greg.”
A hearty cheer greeted Harry as he walked back into the bar area. Seamus seemed to be having a second wind, and was now sitting at another table telling a long and apparently obscene joke about the Bloody Baron and a pumpkin pasty. Luna was doing something with Goyle's hand – possibly telling his fortune – while he gazed at her pale face as if someone had slipped him a love potion. And Malfoy... Malfoy was sitting in one of the chairs again, his arm stretched out along the back, his legs still impossibly long and graceful and his throat still pale and mouth-watering.
Malfoy glanced up at Harry and Hermione as they came over, but didn't meet Harry's eye. Instead he turned back to his conversation with the bearded bloke, who Harry now remembered was a colleague of Hermione's from the Ministry. He may or may not have been called Ralph.
Hermione spotted someone she knew at the bar, so Harry took her seat. It was pure co-incidence it happened to be the one next to Malfoy. Ginny passed Harry an excitably-fizzing, lime-green drink. “We got you a celebration cocktail.”
“What's in it?”
“God knows. Luna went to the bar.”
Harry blinked, but took a sip anyway. It tasted of pineapples, with a weird hint of something he strongly suspected was spinach. “Cheers,” he said, and tried again to catch Malfoy's eye, but Malfoy only gave a faint smile, a polite and pre-occupied thing, and carried on speaking to maybe-Ralph.
Harry was starting to feel like he'd missed something. Something important. Malfoy downed the last half-inch of his drink and got to his feet. Man, those trousers. They made Harry want to whimper.
“Did anyone see where my robes have got to?”
The vivid blue robes were draped over the back of the chair next to Harry. He stood up and passed them to Malfoy. “Here you are.”
“Are you going home?”
“Yes. It's been quite a long day.” He slipped on his robes and fastened them deftly.
“OK. Er, shall I be in touch? I mean, about dinner.”
Malfoy met his eyes only briefly. “Well. I mean, yes, if you want to.” He sounded almost disdainful.
Harry felt utterly confused. This wasn't how he'd imagined the evening ending at all. “All right, then. I guess I'll see you?”
“No doubt.” Malfoy twitched his robes straight.
Hermione joined them again. “Are you off now, Draco?”
“Yes. Night, all. Night, Hermione.” He began to make his way through the crowds towards the back door.
Harry stood, wondering what the hell had happened.
Hermione peered at his face. “Harry. Oh dear. What now?”
Harry gestured at Malfoy's retreating back. “I don't even know what went wrong.”
“Oh, no. What did you say?”
“I didn't say anything! Why do you assume it was something I did?”
Hermione waved a hand. “Never mind. Go after him!”
“Hurry! He'll Apparate as soon as he's outside.”
Harry pushed through the groups of drinkers.
“Oi, watch it!” complained a tall wizard in red robes. “Oh, it's you! My sister thinks you're great, can I―”
“Sorry. In a rush.”
The door swung shut behind Malfoy. Harry made a great lunge and managed to open it and sort of trip over the threshold in one go. Malfoy was just outside, it appeared in mid-turn.
“Fuck!” Malfoy wobbled and froze on the spot.
Harry fell against him, grabbing Malfoy's robes for support. “Shit!”
“I thought I'd Splinched myself then.” Malfoy looked pretty pissed off.
“Sorry. You're OK?”
“I think so. What are you playing at?”
“I just wanted to talk to you.”
None of this was at all encouraging, but Harry persevered. “About dinner.”
Malfoy waved a dismissive hand. “Why don't you owl me sometime?”
“I don't want to wait that long. Look‒ what's wrong? I thought...”
“You thought what?” Malfoy's lip was curling. Harry didn't think he'd seen him like this since Hogwarts.
“I thought... I thought we were both happy I'd won the dare.”
Malfoy looked at him coldly, then pulled something from his pocket. “Why didn't you take this?”
Harry stared at the ice-blue potion. “I‒ I don't know.”
“Not heroic enough for you, I suppose.”
“What? No, that wasn't--”
“I understand. You should have said something. No nasty cheating for me, thanks, Malfoy.” Malfoy lifted his chin haughtily.
“What the fuck?” Harry shook his head. “That's not it at all.”
“No,” Harry said. Malfoy looked untouchable, standing there in the pool of light cast by the nearby street lamp. But Harry wanted to touch him. Wanted to, more than anything. “Come over here, and I'll show you why.”
“Why should I...?”
Harry took him by the arm and steered him away from the door and around to the side of the pub, away from the Diagon Alley wall. “You want to know why I didn't drink that stuff?”
Malfoy still wore his aloof frown, but he nodded.
“Because of this.” Harry took a deep breath and leaned in. Malfoy stood there, looking puzzled and then Harry's lips met his and Malfoy's whole body stiffened. For a moment Harry thought he was going to push him away, but Harry let his tongue run over the seam of Malfoy's lips, very gently, coaxingly, and then he felt Malfoy soften against Harry and – oh, God, yes ‒ start to return the kiss.
Harry kissed him with an appreciative hunger, his hands moving to Malfoy's hips, and then Malfoy's lips parted and Harry could taste the sweet, soft, smokiness of his mouth. Harry made a small sound like a whimper. It was glorious. Malfoy kissed Harry almost greedily, as if he'd been holding back for too long, and the way he tasted made Harry's fantasies seem like a poor comparison.
He pushed Malfoy against the wall and felt the length of his body, firm against Harry's as Malfoy's hands came up to pull him closer. Harry felt like he was slipping down into deep currents, wild water crashing all around him and a rushing noise filling his ears. He actually felt dizzy. He drew back, and Malfoy sucked in a breath that was almost like a gasp.
“That's why,” Harry said, his own voice hoarse and strange.
Malfoy's breath was a little unsteady, and there were two furrows in between his eyebrows. “I don't understand.”
“I didn't drink it because I hoped I was going to get to kiss you again. Like that. I didn't want to have taken some bloody potion that meant I couldn't taste or smell anything.”
Malfoy's eyes searched all over Harry's face. “You didn't...”
“Listen: you taste incredible. You smell incredible.”
“You decided you'd rather go through with the dare, and drink that disgusting concoction...?”
“Than miss this, yes.”
Malfoy looked temporarily flummoxed. “But... you had to really force yourself to do it. It must have been unspeakable.”
“You stupid bloody Gryffindor.” But his lips were curving into a smile.
Harry tilted his head. “You should be flattered.”
“It's... it's actually rather hot.” Malfoy's pupils were so wide and black as he looked at Harry.
“I really want to kiss you some more.”
“Hmm.” Malfoy's smile took on a teasing aspect.
“Can I? I want to do it for quite a long time.”
“Fuck, yes.” Malfoy looked over Harry's shoulder at the entrance to Diagon Alley. “Shall we go somewhere else, so you can do it properly?”
“In a minute.” Harry leaned in and kissed him again, unable to believe that the heavenly slide of Malfoy's tongue against his was real. Harry was on fire with wanting Malfoy, and he dipped his head to Malfoy's throat. His skin was so warm, with a honeyed scent, and Harry nuzzled against the sharpness of his jaw. Malfoy made a small noise like a sigh, and then when Harry grazed the tender skin of Malfoy's throat gently with his teeth, Malfoy bucked up against him so that Harry could feel the hard lines of Malfoy's body beneath his robes. It made him want to moan with pleasure.
His tongue darted out and traced a slick path along the jut of Malfoy's collarbone. Uhh. Harry ached with how good it was. The taste of Malfoy was like sunshine on bare skin after a long harsh winter. Harry nosed his way to the compelling hollow at the base of Malfoy's throat, to let his tongue dip in, and Malfoy tipped his head back and made a low crooning sound. Harry wanted to ravish his throat, right here, to bite and suck and mark him, pinning him against the wall, with Malfoy making noises like that and digging his fingers into Harry's arse, just like that.
“Fuck... Come back to mine, yes?” Malfoy's voice was thick with an unfamiliar huskiness, and Harry pulled back to look at him standing there, all lean and long-limbed. Even leaning up against a dirty pub wall he looked ridiculously elegant.
“Yes,” said Harry. “But... do I get to take you out to dinner, as well? Or is this a just-for-one-night thing?”
Malfoy leant his head against the wall, exposing his pale throat again. Shadows criss-crossed his face and made it look even more angular than usual. “You can take me out for dinner.”
“But when? Tomorrow?”
Malfoy laughed. “Maybe. Or maybe I already have plans.”
“Change them.” Harry took another kiss. It was still perfect. Now he knew how much he wanted this, it felt like he had nothing to lose.
“Maybe I will.”
“We can go somewhere fancy, and you can make fun of me when I don't know the right fork to use.”
Malfoy laughed again. “That does sound tempting.”
“Good.” Harry placed his hands on Malfoy's waist. “Now, let's go.”
He knew he shouldn't distract Malfoy while they were Apparating, but he just couldn't help himself. Never had been able to help himself where Malfoy was concerned. He wanted to drink him down deep, savour him to the last drop. Malfoy furrowed his brow in concentration as Harry's nose pressed once more to his neck. Malfoy turned on his heel, Harry's lips still seeking out the irresistible taste of his skin as they spun away into the darkness with a decisive crack.