Actions

Work Header

Security

Work Text:

Harry surveys the room with calm eyes, shuttering his distaste for being in it once again. It is large, and cold, but elegantly furnished. His seat does not look comfortable but is, he notes, as he shifts slightly on the velvet-covered sofa. Ornately carved agar and mahogany furniture fill the sitting area as well, along with a ten-foot mirror along the far wall, and frames filled with haughty people who (is he imagining it?) seem to be shifting nervously as they wait for either party to begin speaking. The woman across from him sits with composure, her pale, blond hair swept back into a sleek chignon and, if not for the minute trembling of her hand, Harry would have difficulty believing that she was anything other than a gracious hostess and he, her esteemed guest, come for tea.

Narcissa Malfoy does, in fact, offer him tea in a quietly reserved voice and, after a pause that lasts just a second too long, Harry says, “Er, yes. Thank you.”

Narcissa snaps her fingers lightly and a house-elf appears. “Flitter, tea and biscuits, please.”

Flitter bows low, glancing sideways at Harry with her bright, large eyes, before disappearing. Harry and Narcissa resume their silence for a moment, and Harry wonders, not for the first or dozenth time, what prompted him to agree to the meeting.

Flitter returns shortly, placing a tray of tea and biscuits on a low-level table between them. “Would Missus Cissy or Harry Potter be needing anything else?” she asks, her voice high and squeaky. Narcissa leans forward and says something too quietly for Harry to hear, and then turns back to him.

“Well…” Harry starts, momentarily bewildered as to how to actually start. He decides that being as straightforward and professional as possible, that treating her like any other client is the best course of action. “Mrs. Malfoy. If we accept your commission, we have several structures in place that you’ll need to be aware of. We have contracts with the Ministry that you’ll need to sign to allow for entry in case of warrant--”

Narcissa inclines her head, ever so slightly. “Of course, Mr. Potter.

“We can modify the wards in several different ways, and I’ll explain those shortly, but we will need access to your personal magical signature, so that we can alter the wards. The contract allows for us to weave our own into them, to alert us to any problems that may arise, but as head of house, your signature will be most tightly bound into the wards. There are potions that you must take, as well; we find that they not only increase your personal protection, as I’m sure you know, but also stabilize the force of the wards so that there are no holes.”

Harry hears a sigh, and glances up to see Narcissa’s eyebrows draw together; really it’s the first thing resembling an actual expression on her face that he’s seen since he arrived.

“I’m afraid that’s a slight problem, then, Mr. Potter.”

Harry sits back, evaluating her shrewdly. “Not only are the potions Ministry-approved and tested at St. Mungo’s, we always tailor them to each client; they won’t have any ill-effects on—“

“No, no,” she says, waving a hand vaguely. “It’s simply that, I am not the head of the house, legally.”

“Then who—“ Harry’s eyes widen as his voice fades, and he glances around just a moment before he hears the footfalls of leather shoes against marble enter the room.

Taller than Harry remembers him, less pointed but somehow still sharp, slender and yet wider in the shoulders, Harry watches Draco stop abruptly at his mother’s side. Harry lets go of an exhale he isn’t aware of holding in, and it sounds very loud in the sudden silence. A feeling of resignation and something that he can’t identify tightens in his chest.

Their new guest dips his head, one pale eyebrow uplifted, gray gaze steady on Harry’s face. “Potter.”

Harry’s throat feels suddenly dry.

“Hello, Malfoy.”

***

The business started as an argument on a Friday night after downing too much Firewhiskey.

Harry, after much pestering from Hermione about the needing to “find a path and take it,” and near-as-much defense from Ron, who kept insisting to Hermione that Harry deserved to take leave of responsibility for a while, Harry finally dropped his head onto his kitchen table with a thunk.

He could practically hear them exchange glances, and when Hermione finally spoke again, her voice was much more careful. “Of course Harry deserves some time off. We all do. But the Trials have been over for a year. Harry won’t be happy doing nothing. He can only renovate the house for so long, and then it will be… renovated. I mean, if he wanted to start his own home-design, I’d be fine with that. I just think it’s time for him to do something. You don’t have to be an Auror, you don’t have to play Quidditch, but it’s important you don’t stagnate.” She sat down next to him, and her voice grew earnest. “Really, Harry, I can see you getting… bored. I think if you just started to make an effort doing something, or even just figuring out what you want to do… I’ve finished my N.E.W.T.’s, Ron is helping at the joke shop with George and Percy… you’ve spent your whole life, practically, with one goal or another. As much as I know you’ve enjoyed taking some time for yourself, it’s not something you’ll be happy with indefinitely.”

“It would be right now,” he mumbled against the kitchen table, and heard Ron snort.

“What?”

“Nothing, ‘Mione.” Harry sighed and lifted his head. “Look. I’ve thought about it, okay? And you’re right. I’ve done almost all I can with this place; I’m getting a bit bored. But, as much as it pains me, I’m not going to be an Auror. I’d be good, and I’d probably love it, sure, but I’d also be a figurehead.”

“Maybe for a little while, but—“

“No, listen.”

Harry struggled for a moment, trying to verbalize what he had realized several months ago to be true. “I would be. No matter how deep into my career I got, people would never be able to look at me as just me. It’s a glamourous job, in its way. I’d attract attention that I’m sure the Ministry would be only too happy to capitalize on, and while there are members I respect, there are still too many politics for my liking.” He rolled his shoulders uneasily at her gently stricken expression. “Quidditch, too. I’m good, maybe even great, but I would always be a…a… star. I deserve something normal. That’s what I want. But I can’t figure out something normal that won’t also be, y’know, dull as dirt. What should I do? Work in a pub? At a bookstore? And even that presents a problem, because people would be coming in just to see me and I’d be working with the public at large and so I’d have to be polite—“

“You’re always polite, you git,” Ron interjected, eliciting a chuckle from Hermione and a reluctant smile from Harry.

“Deferential, then,” allowed Harry, rolling his eyes. “Always be too worried I’d bugger up someone’s business by not signing an autograph for a customer.”

“Why don’t you start your own business, then?” Hermione said practically.

“Dunno. Don’t know what I’d like to do, really. And I don’t have the head for all the maths it’d take to run a business. Don’t really trust my judgment in hiring people to do it for me. Plus, doing something, on my own…” Harry smiled at the two of them fondly, sheepishly. “I mean, I’ve kind of gotten used to doing things with partners.”

“Well…” Hermione glanced at Ron. “Who’s to say we couldn’t be part of it?”

Harry smiled again; shrugged. “Hermione, you went through eighth year just so you could take your N.E.W.T.’s and have a career at the Ministry. And Ron’s going to partner with George soon. I wouldn’t take that from you.”

“Actually,” Ron said slowly, “Percy is.”

At their shocked expressions, he continued, “Percy’s pretty great at it, really. He knows all of the business stuff, and you’d be surprised at some of his suggestions. George offered to make both of us equal partners. I was mainly there biding my time while someone finished school,” he elaborated, with an indulgent peek at Hermione, who looked exasperated. “I actually told George today. I was thinking of traveling for a bit, but…”

“Harry,” Hermione said, her voice warming and becoming more interested, “Who’s to say I need to work at the Ministry? I have the same issues with them as you have, you know. I want to make a difference, but—“

“But I don’t even know what I want to do,” Harry tried again.

Hermione plucked up their glasses, and then walked them over to the sink, placing them in the basin. She stared down at them for a moment. “Well, what do you think would make you feel good?”

Harry paused, caught. “I think… I think something that would help people feel safe. I know most of the Death Eaters are dead or in Azkaban, but people still don’t feel safe in their own homes. And I’m good at that, I think,” he said tentatively. “I wouldn’t mind lending my name to that, as long as it wasn’t all autographs and pictures and I actually got to do something worthwhile.”

Hermione gave a little laugh, facing them and leaning against the counter. “Maybe we should start a Securities company; have any experience with electronics?”

Harry smiled and began to reply, but was interrupted by Ron, who blurted, “’Mione, that’s brilliant!”

She and Harry exchanged baffled expressions, but Ron wasn’t done, “I mean, you understand, not the Muggle way--They have Muggle Securities? That run on electronics?—but what about a Securities company that protects Wizarding homes and business properties?”

“That’s… That’s a very good idea, Ron,” Hermione said with faint surprise.

“No need to thank me,” he said to Harry, in an aside, then turned to Hermione. “You can, later,” he added, with a quirk of a grin, holding her eyes until her cheeks pinked up fetchingly.

After that, strangely enough, things fell into place rather quickly. Harry funded their venture and approached Slughorn privately for some advanced potions lessons (which he paid attention to), and designed specialized protective spells; Hermione organized the interface between Ministry regulations and their business, wrote up contracts, and dealt with the finances as well as lending her advice on every Warding spell and potions blend that they worked with. Ron, who had been working at the joke shop for a year, had become quite good at adapting existing spells and creating new ones, and knew all of the wizarding customs they would need to utilize to become successful. Within nine months, HRH Securities was a full-blown business; they could create Wards that blocked entry or visibility, that allowed only a few to pass through or none at all; due to Hermione’s studiousness, they had even all mastered the Fidelius charm, though had not had cause to use it for a client yet.

Their services were occasionally restrictive, based on whom their clients were; current or former parolees for any reason had to sign a magical contract allowing Ministry officials to enter with just cause, as well as binding them against illegal behavior within the warded home—or the wards would act against them. (Harry was particularly proud of that bit.) Six months after they had opened, they were a thriving business and Hermione had been right; people occasionally (or even often) did hire them because Harry was the Savior of the Wizarding World—as distasteful as that was—and because Ron and Hermione were his friends-in-arms, but also because, as such, the public trusted the three of them with their safety.

They charged on a sliding scale; for those who could afford it best and wanted all of the trimmings and add-ons, they charged what they were worth. But in mutual agreement, they took each client on a case-by-case, and often cut fees or dropped them all together, dependent on the client’s needs and ability to pay, and still found themselves solvent a year and a half into their venture.

For the first time in a long time, maybe ever, Harry had felt like he was in charge of his own life, was having fun, and helping people at the same time. And maybe that was the problem; that he had been enjoying himself too much. Because dammit, that morning he had received an owl with an entreaty for a meeting, at his earliest convenience. And because he had been shocked by the name scrolled at the bottom of the parchment, Narcissa Malfoy,(and, he had to admit, overwhelmed with curiosity), Harry had responded with a simple, Yes, thanks, ten o’clock. HJP

***

Him. Of course it’s fucking him. The object of his hatred and envy, his confusion and rage, for nearly half of his life.

Potter stands, brushing lightly at his green jumper, and Draco hates himself for noticing that the color brings out his eyes, still partially obstructed by those ugly glasses. Aside from his momentarily startled expression, Potter’s face has been a mask of serenity since Draco entered the room.

“Well,” Potter says at last, directing it to both Draco and his mother, “I’ll need to walk the grounds to test your current wards and check for any inherent weaknesses in them.”

Draco exchanges a glance with his mother, who would seem unflustered if one didn’t know her, but he can see the sudden onset of nerves behind her composed expression. He waves a negligent hand in Potter’s direction. “Follow me.”

Potter picks up a small leather bag, held closed by a drawstring, and obligingly follows Draco outside. The December air is biting but the wind is light, and Draco crunches through the fine layer of snow on the frozen earth for a few minutes, with no particular direction in mind. Potter doesn’t seem to pay attention to him at all, muttering quiet incantations, waving his wand lightly as they walk, pointing it at the ground.

They reach the outer limits of Malfoy Estate, defined by the heavy wrought-iron fencing and the thick forest just beyond. Draco stops. “This is the edge of the west end.”

Potter nods silently, then opens up his drawstring pouch and dips the tip of his wand into it. He waves it in a lavish arc above them and murmurs, “Aparecium.” A shimmering gold substance appears, saturating the wards around and above them like a fine, chain-linked web. It brightens as the seconds tick on and Potter studies it intently.

Surprised, the words fall out of Draco’s mouth. “That spell is for parchment.”

“It’s modified,” Potter explains quietly, still looking at the web. His gaze flickers to Draco for a second. After a few more seconds, the web seems to dim in certain areas, thrown into sharp relief by the luster of the rest of it. Potter nods, his mouth a grim line. “There are weaknesses in your wards.”

Frustrated and bewildered, Draco nods. “Why else would my mother have asked for this appointment?” At this, Potter has the grace to look slightly embarrassed, and Draco suddenly understands. “You thought we just wanted to get you here for some reason.”

“I wasn’t sure,” Potter admits. “It’s been a long time, but I remember feeling that your wards were… stronger than this.”

“They were,” Draco acknowledges, bitterness in his tone. “Before.”

“Before the war?”

And oh, how that humiliates. He glares at the other man. “Yes. And before the trials. And my father’s death. And before people thought it would be funny or worthwhile to consistently threaten the safety of my mother and myself. The wards have been attacked on numerous occasions over the last year.”

Potter’s eyebrows skyrocket; his famous scar becomes a shapeless blur. “Your mother didn’t mention this in her letter.”

Draco shrugs, noticing the shine of the web begin to fade entirely. They begin a circuit of the grounds near the property line and Draco shoves his hands deep into his robes. “I’m not sure she even expected a reply. I can’t imagine why she chose yours out of the numerous security firms. Anyhow, I’ve done what I can to strengthen them; they are attuned to my presence, so I make sure to Apparate here at least once a week—“

“You don’t live on the grounds anymore?”

Draco shoots him a look to see if he’s being sarcastic and sees only messy hair, cold-pinked cheeks and a genuine curiosity. “No.”

“Why not?” Potter persists.

Draco rolls his eyes. “I always suspected you were dim, but really?” he sneers. “You can’t imagine why I wouldn’t want to live here?”

A glimmer of understanding passes over Potter’s face, as they stop again. “Oh.”

There is silence for a moment while Potter repeats the revealing spell he used before. In the sudden blanket of brightness, Draco is sure he sees regret on the other man’s face.

As he watches Potter, he’s filled with a need to engage; the urge is strange and familiar all at once. “So, why did you come here if you thought this wasn’t legitimate?”

Potter rolls his shoulders slightly in discomfort, not taking his eyes off of the web. “Curiosity, I suppose. …And I owe your mother,” he finishes in a low voice.

There is mostly silence after that, and for the next hour, they complete their rounding of the grounds as Potter tests their wards, asking the occasional question about the property. As they finish, Potter turns to him abruptly, raises his wand toward Draco, and says, “Hold still.”

Draco balks and hops out of the way. “You’re insane if you think I’m letting you point that thing at me, Potter,” he says distrustfully.

Potter’s face is patient. “Your magical signature is embedded in the wards. I’m going to verify it so I can use it later to secure this place. I need to touch you with my wand.”

“Merlin, Potter, at least invite me to dinner first,” Draco says without thinking.

Potter stares at him wordlessly, eyes wide. Draco feels like all of the air has been sucked out of his lungs and his cheeks flood with warmth. He recovers by shooting a practiced, snooty smirk in Potter’s direction, and watches him relax.

Surprisingly, Potter huffs out a rueful laugh, and lifts his wand again. “Hold still.”

Fighting against his instincts and closing his eyes, Draco does; the tip of Potter’s wand gently presses against the pulse thrumming at the curve of Draco’s neck. He feels a sudden heat whip through him, from pulse-point to pulse-point, settling in his groin. Potter’s magic is a pleasure, a desire, rough and abrupt and almost shameful in its intensity. Draco is unable to move away, but his neck suddenly falls back like a flower with a broken stem as he feels his cock begin to thicken. After a few endless seconds, the feeling fades and Draco snaps his head back up with effort.

Potter is staring at him again, something narrow and shocked in his gaze. He seems to be waiting for Draco to say something, but when he remains silent, Potter purses his lips.

“I’m accepting the commission. I’ll need both you and your mother to sign the contracts. Come on,” he says in a hard voice and, without waiting for Draco, stomps off in the direction of the Manor.

***

What the bloody fuck was that?!

Harry fumes as they walk back to the Manor at a furious pace, making a note to check with Hermione and trying to figure out how to do that without revealing the strange, eager effect that moment of connection had had on Harry’s libido.

He wants to turn down the job, has been considering it since Draco arrived in fact, and would but for two unavoidable truths: the first is that he really does owe Narcissa Malfoy, despite what she says about having saved Draco’s life, or what he did for her in the trials; Harry acknowledges that he will always be in her debt for what she did in ensuring he could return to Hogwarts on that last awful night. The second is that their wards really have been weakened.

His reconnaissance revealed that inside sources weakened them (which is strange, but must have happened while Voldemort’s lot had taken over the grounds; there’s little left in their wake not weaker than before), but outside sources have been attacking them as well. In several places, the generational magical protective spells should be holding solid, but there are areas where the layers of magic are tissue-thin.

Harry is still thinking furiously as they arrive back at the massive doors that swing open to admit them as they return.

All of this common sense doesn’t explain what happened when Harry touched Malfoy (of all people!) with his wand. It’s a common spell that Harry has used countless times now, designed to simply mark and filter the magical essence of a witch or wizard so it can be more tightly enmeshed in the new wards created; it’s useful to strengthen, but also as an alert. And yet, Harry had never before felt that deluge of heat--that sudden craving, that dirty and immediate twitch of his cock--while performing it. And Malfoy was no help, either; his expression had been wanton, and willing, and for a moment Harry had almost been overcome with the need to shove his hands in that fine blond hair and kiss him, pressed flush against Malfoy’s body.

So, what then? A spell on Malfoy, or from Malfoy? Harry can’t figure out what to think, and he concludes again that Hermione is his best bet as they enter great room, where Narcissa is still sitting.

Fresh tea has been laid out and, without waiting for permission, Harry takes a cup and sits in the same spot as before. The tea is perfect, hot and sweet and clouded with milk, and Harry notices Draco lift a bone-white cup as well before sitting at the opposite end of the sofa.

After warming himself with the drink for a moment, Harry finally sets the empty cup aside with regret. “Mrs. Malfoy. You were right in that your wards need some strengthening. I’d like to accept your commission.”

“Actually, it was Draco’s idea to hire you,” she says smoothly, putting down her tea and folding her delicate hands across her lap.

Harry startles, and slants a glance at the blond man.

Malfoy huffs defensively. “It was my idea to hire someone. I certainly never expected she would owl you.”

For some reason, Harry finds himself feeling inexplicably amused. He hides a grin and faces Malfoy, with all of his edges and nefarious expectations, and affects a serious face. “I can give you a reference to another firm, if you like,” Harry offers.

There’s a quick, tense moment of hesitation that Harry senses between mother and son. At length, Narcissa quietly says, “Not many would be willing to take on the job, Mr. Potter.”

Harry’s amusement vanishes and a heavy feeling settles in his chest; he sighs. “Never mind that, then. I’m here, and our firm is one of the best.”

Harry begins the process of explaining their requirements and procedures, and tries to resist looking at Malfoy again. When he finally breaks with a quick glance, he is unsurprised to find those gray eyes watching him.

***

Finally home, Harry wanders into his sitting room with a plate of dinner, still hot from the warming charms Kreacher has placed on it. Harry’s hours vary to the extent that he never knows when (or if) he will be home to eat, but despite the house-elf’s repeated, grumbled complaints, there is always something ready for him when Harry gets back.Tonight, his plate is piled high rosemary braised lamb with roasted potatoes and Harry sits down in his favorite chair across from the fire before tucking in.

He’s been eating for a few minutes when he hears the sudden voice he’s been expecting come out of the fire; Hermione’s head appears to float before him.

“That didn’t take long,” he mumbles, swallowing a mouthful of potato.

“The Malfoy’s, Harry, really?” Hermione asks, annoyed. “We wondered where you’d got off to this afternoon. And then I stopped by my office before leaving tonight and found contracts; already drawn up and signed! Didn’t you think you should run this passed us?”

Harry sets his plate aside and looks at her evenly. “Do I need to?”

For a second, Hermione looks frustrated. Finally she sighs and shakes her head. “You know we trust you. But… I wish you’d talked to us.”

“Actually, I need to. Can you come over? Have some dinner.”

Without responding, Hermione’s head disappears and a moment later, she’s walking out of the Floo. She sits down next to him and absently investigates his plate, which he pushes toward her.

“Lamb,” he offers.

She picks up his fork and murmurs a hum of gratitude as she takes a bite; it seems like only constant vigilance gets Hermione to eat on a regular basis—she’s far too busy to recognize mealtimes during the day. Ron often teases her that he inherited the appetite in their relationship, but took the time to tap Harry so that they could both be sure she remembered to eat. After a few minutes, she gives him a replete smile and sets the plate aside.

“Thank you. I realized I hadn’t eaten since this morning, and Ron is out checking in with Marcus Neeb; someone attempted to break into his shop about an hour ago.”

Harry shakes his head. “So, something strange happened today.”

“You mean, something other than you accepting the commission to protect your once-sworn enemy?”

“Yeah.” Harry pauses, scratches his nose, and finally figures that just bearing out with it will be the best course of action. “When I was reading Malfoy’s signature today, we shared… a reaction.”

Hermione leans forward, interest and worry keen in her eyes. “What kind of reaction?”

“Physical, emotional, mental,” he sums as vaguely and truthfully as possible.

“Were either of you injured?”

“No. Not like that.” Harry feels his cheeks heat up. “It was… stimulating.”

“…Oh.” Hermione suddenly falls back against the cushions. “I see. I think?” Concern still fills her tone, but now it’s shaded with amusement. “Stimulating?”

“Yes,” Harry answers shortly. “It was strange.”

“And you’re sure he felt it, too?” “

I’m sure he felt something,” Harry says carefully. “But I didn’t ask.”

“Okay… I can look into it,” she says with confidence. “Are you sure it was magically related?”

“It happened when I touched him with my wand.”

“Did you at least buy him dinner first?” Hermione asks, too innocently.

Harry shoots her a disgusted look. “You sound like Ron. And Malfoy; he said something similar.”

Finally, a peal of laughter works its way out of her throat. “Maybe he’s changed. I’m sorry. I’ll look into it, really. If you think it might be dangerous, would you like one of us to… take over?”

Harry doesn’t miss the sudden discomfort in her tone. “No. I can handle it. Ron would be utter crap at trying to work with Malfoy, you know that. And I don’t want you to have to go there again, after… I don’t want you to have to go there again.”

“If you need us to, we would,” she says softly, earnestly.

“I know.” Harry clutches her hand briefly; lets go. “I’m fine. It didn’t feel dangerous. Anyway, I’ve already used my wand to begin the protective potions they’ll need to take tomorrow. If you could just find out what might’ve happened?”

“Of course.” Hermione stands, kissing Harry lightly on the top of his hair before heading back to the fireplace, and he wonders out of nowhere if he remembered to try to flatten it that morning; probably not. “I’ll owl you if I find out anything. You’ll be at the Manor for the next week or so?”

“Yeah. Thanks, ‘Mione.”

With a smile, she steps into the fireplace and disappears amidst a heavy green flare.

***

The morning dawns clear and cold and Draco has barely slept, unable to stop thinking about that moment in his garden where, for the first time in a long time, he felt… good. Remarkably good. Indecently good.

He gets ready for the day in a gray cashmere jumper and charcoal wool trousers before heading down to breakfast where Flitter has his traditional breakfast of toast, sausages, and coffee waiting for him. He begins eating, unsure whether to be grateful or irritated that he’s going to be seeing Potter again that day. His mother comes down and joins him silently brushing his shoulder with her cool fingertips as she passes his chair. Draco waits until she’s seated and then directs a level stare at her.

“Why Potter’s company?”

His mother exhales as if he’s just so very boring. “Really, Draco. His company was the most well-recommended.”

Draco snorts. “Mother…”

Narcissa huffs, her posture erect and vaguely defensive. “What would you like me to say? He has saved my life through saving yours—more than once, I may add. I did contact two other firms, as you well know and we are not… we are not in the best position to be searching for competent people to hire as of late. Mr. Potter has shown himself to be resourceful and, although he has more reason than many to be bitter, does not seem to hold grudges.”

Draco flattens his palms on the dining table and stands slowly. “I would appreciate some warning, next time.”

“Duly noted,” Narcissa agrees, finally picking up her fork.

As she begins eating, Flitter appears, announcing Potter’s arrival; Draco beckons at her, and a moment later, Potter walks into the dining room, stopping with confusion at seeing them eating. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“No apologies necessary,” his mother says politely. “You are welcome to join us, if you’d like.”

Potter throws a slightly askance look in Draco’s direction; he responds with a small nod. “Of course,” he says crisply. “It’s early still.”

With obvious reluctance, Potter mumbles a thank you and takes the seat across from Draco. Flitter appears with several trays, bowing low as she proffers them in front of their visitor, and Potter awkwardly selects from the eggs and sausages and toast while casting furtive looks at Draco the entire time. After they have finished eating, Potter wipes his mouth gently with a napkin (who knew he actually had manners?) and sets it aside.

“Whenever the two of you are ready, I have the potions for you to take.”

Potter pulls out six small vials of about three ounces each, and four larger ones that seem to contain about five. Two of them are glowing, pale lavender shot with silver; two of them are a faint blue and seem to fizzle at the smallest movement; two of them are a warm red with gold sparkles. The largest of the vials are a swirling, ominous gray-black liquid.

“It doesn’t matter the order, as long as the grey liquid goes last,” Potter says, handing Draco and his mother one vial of each. “I’ve already taken them before I arrived.”

“What, exactly, does each one do?” Narcissa asks softly, unstoppering the vial of red and gold.

“As I mentioned yesterday, you need to be bound more tightly into the wards. Each of the smaller contains a magical signature; the blue is yours, Mrs. Malfoy; the lavender is Draco’s.”

For the second time this morning, Draco snorts. “The red and gold is you, then? I should have figured; bloody right Gryffindor of you.”

Potter shoots an amused grin at him. “I can’t help the way it comes out looking.”

Unwillingly, a small smile quirks Draco’s mouth. “So, I’m just supposed to… swallow your…”

Potter’s grin twitches wider. “It’s just a sip.”  There’s a beat where they lock eyes and something blooms in Draco’s chest before Potter continues, “It allows me access to the wards; I’ll be pulling them down today before I rebuild them.”

Draco shrugs, noticing his mother has already swallowed the three colorful drinks. Quickly, he unstoppers his own; the aroma of sweetness, like sugared biscuits hits him. And yet, there’s a strange undercurrent to the scent, like leather and wind together. “It—it smells like Quidditch,” he says as he realizes. Potter looks impressed.

“Most people only smell the surface scent. The odor usually represents something that that has identity-based memories for the user. So I suppose Quidditch makes sense, yeah?”

“Yes,” Draco says softly, downing it quickly. It slides down his throat, cold and refreshing, but flavorless.

He open’s his mother’s next, and takes a sniff. Under the sugary smell is something recognizable; fear. There’s something else, too, like warm, fresh blankets. Hers bubbles in the back of his throat and tastes like love and, oddly enough, guilt.

Finally, Draco unstoppers Harry’s and, watching the other man, takes a careful inhale of the liquid. The undercurrent is wood smoke and salt; that Quidditch scent is there as well. Draco raises his eyebrows at the challenge on Potter’s face. “Bottoms up.”

At that, Potter’s grin becomes a laugh, and he shrugs again. Potter’s flavor on Draco’s tongue is pleasant and warm, with notes of mint, and something woodsy, and something darker.

“This last one is the grounds,” Potter says, handing each of them the larger vials of gray, swirling liquid. “It’s dosed with each of us, of course, as well the magic directly from the property itself.” Potter hesitates, as they begin opening the vials. “Unfortunately, places that have experienced large doses of dark magic tend to have less than pleasant flavours. But that’s true of most magical properties that have lasted for generations.”

Draco’s mother nods, then downs her vial with a blank face. She stares at Potter for a moment, hands him back the vial, and murmurs, “Gentlemen,” before leaving the room, her narrow back held straight.

Draco plans to drink his with the same composure, but Potter’s worried glance makes him waver. “You already drank this?”

“Yes. It’s… it’s bloody awful, actually,” Potter admits.

With a sigh, Draco knocks it back and the vileness of it completely takes his breath away. It tastes like death and mildew and rot. There are also notes of warm, wet earth on his palate, something comforting (and Potter; you can still taste him), but the worst of it is the most overwhelming and he accepts the glass of water Potter hands him without hesitation, drinking it down in rapid gulps.

“Now what?” he asks, once he regains his composure.

Potter eyes him, as though judging his ability to proceed and finally seems to find Draco acceptable.

“Come with me.”

***

Harry isn’t sure what inclination makes him invite Malfoy along, but doesn’t wait for an answer. After a moment, Malfoy trails after him.

The wind is harsher today, the sky a severe blue bowl above them; snow clouds are moving in from the east. Harry leads them to the front gate in silence as he mulls his revelations about the other man.

Apparently, Malfoy is funny; or at least able to appreciate the kind of humor that is not intended to humiliate. He understands innuendo (although Harry is relatively sure the innuendo itself was accidental) and seems receptive to letting go of at least some of his former antagonism. Malfoy seems… lost, really, and a bit lonely. Not unlike himself at times, Harry is forced to admit. He wonders where the other man has been living, what he’s been doing for the past two years.

It seems almost inevitable now that Malfoy is destined to be entwined throughout his life, in one way or another. (It’s now to figure out what way that will be.)

The strange catalyst for these thoughts was obviously that shared moment of connection through Harry’s spell, Harry recognizes, but he also remembers the taste of Malfoy’s potion on his tongue—tangy-sweet, and full of regret (Harry is too familiar with that flavour to pretend it is something else) and longing. He wonders how his own tasted to Malfoy; for reasons even Hermione couldn’t explain, individuals were unable to taste the flavour of their own potion.

They finally reach the front gates and Harry stops abruptly, a foot before them.

“This is going to be loud,” he warns.

Malfoy draws his pale eyebrows together. “What is?”

“I’m breaking down your wards. You might want to cover your ears.”  Before Malfoy can respond, Harry touches his wand to the lock on the gates and mutters, “Deprimo.”

A huge whirring fills Harry’s ears; the wind amped up to a cataclysm. Harry feels the resistance from the wards, feels the pull against his navel like a twisting sensation as the protective magic fights against him. He stabs at the locks again and repeats himself, and this time the wind actually begins whipping against him, dark gray and freezing and filled with confrontation, and he fights to remain standing in the face of its fury.

He faintly hears Malfoy yell, “Potter!” above the din, and Harry holds up his free hand to prevent the other man from doing something stupid.

After another minute, the wind and noise begins to die and become more malleable. It quiets to a soft hushing, and Harry nods with grim satisfaction; only very old properties put up a fight like that anymore, and it is never pleasant, although the attack from this one had superseded all of the ward-breaking he has done thus far.

Harry is aware of Draco near him; his periphery allows him a quick intake of Draco’s bloodless face, his fearful expression.

Finally, the wind around them is simply wind, and Harry takes a deep breath. Without thinking about it, he reaches out his free hand and is unsurprised when Draco takes it without question, winding their fingers together. Harry touches his wand to the gate locks again, gently—and this part is so unpleasant, it calls for gentleness—and murmurs, “Diffindo, Expluso.”

A high, screeching crack sounds, and both men look up as the noise travels from the gate to the air above and around them. It turns into a tearing noise that sounds both mournful and angry and lasts only a few seconds before fading. Harry and Draco stand in the quiet, their hands still entwined. After a moment, Draco disconnects, and Harry wonders at his sorrow for the loss.

“Well, that was bracing, Potter,” Draco mutters. (When did he become Draco to me?) “Is it like that every time?”

“Something like it. It was a little more… aggressive… than newer dwellings or businesses in Diagon Alley. It only finally bowed to me because you and your mother gave me agency over it through the contract and the potions. And you should call me Harry, if we’re going to be friends.”

Friends?” Draco spits, outraged. “You’re our employee.”

Harry turns to look at Draco and watches the other man’s objections fade into a bewildered, frustrated silence.

“Yes, friends,” Harry says firmly. He’s not exactly sure where he’s going with this, especially since Draco’s first response to an overture is to be a daft prick, but following his instincts has seldom turned Harry wrong and he follows them now. “We’ve had breakfast together. We’ll be seeing each other for days. …You mentioned something about me inviting you out to dinner.”

“When did I…?” Draco’s face turns pink, and Harry admires the look of it for a moment. “Oh. That was a joke.”

“Was it? Well, then, it was a good one.” Harry smiles at him encouragingly. “But still. We both need to eat, and I’ll be here, setting and binding the wards. I’ll need to take a break sometime.”

Draco’s look is searching; confused. “All right, P--. Harry. Five o’clock,” he mumbles, as though expecting Harry to object.

Harry nods cheerfully. “Sounds good.” He nods at the gate. “The first steps take a while. Why don’t you go inside?”

Draco returns his nod and walks away, stuffing his hands deep into his robes.

Harry watches the long, lean line of him as he goes, and is rewarded when Draco looks back at him, just once.

***

(Was it?) Draco obsesses about Potter’s—Harry’s—remark while watching him from the window of their foyer.

Harry is walking around the gates, executing complicated motions with his wand and occasionally Draco can see a shower of silver and gold sparks fly from the top edge of the gates, off in one direction or another. Tirelessly, Potter repeats his motions and Draco can see his mouth moving in time with them, and when Flitter appears, offering lunch, Draco realizes he’s been watching Potter—Harry—for over two hours.

He sits down to eat, sending Flitter out to Harry with an invitation toward lunch, and is disappointed when she returns to tell him that, “Harry Potter would like that very much, sir, but is in a delicate stage of his work.” But then she continues, “But he wanted sir to know he is looking forward to dinner.”

So Draco eats by himself and refuses to look out the window again, pretending instead to read a book in the sitting room, hoping that Harry will come in and pass by him.

He’s still not sure this isn’t some elaborate joke or even overt attack at his expense; Merlin knows there were plenty like that in the beginning after the Trials were over and his mother is right—Harry has more reason than many to be bitter. But the other man seemed sincere and Draco couldn’t sense any ulterior motives; and, more, couldn’t stop thinking of the previous day (Was it?), that moment with Harry’s wand, and that dry, tight handclasp of the morning.

Although aware of Harry’s sexual appeal in a way he never allowed himself to be before, Draco is still uncertain as to what the other man’s sexuality is; the last he’d read, the girl Weasley had broken Harry’s heart after the trials were over—but that article had been written by the Prophet, and was hard to give much credence to. The other articles—ones about his father and himself and, particularly, about his mother, made reading the papers easily avoidable in the years since.

Finally, it’s after four and Draco has taken as much time in the sitting room as he dares and has turned exactly two pages of his book—the title of which he hasn’t even looked at. He walks over to the window and doesn’t see the other man in sight; however, there are still the occasional sparks flying off the gates that indicate that he’s still on the grounds.

Draco walks upstairs slowly, half-convinced that five o’clock… six o’clock is going to arrive with a sneering letter or sad excuse from Potter but still goes through the motions. He takes a shower and changes into fresh clothes; black trousers and white silk shirt, with silver buttons that match those on the robes he’s picked.

At five, Draco makes his way downstairs again and glances out the window; the gate seems… like a gate. Feeling stupid, Draco sits down again and stares sightlessly at his book.

Suddenly, Potter appears, Flitter at his side.

“Sorry I’m late,” he says breathlessly. His hair is windblown and his cheeks are pink and he’s wearing a deep scarlet sweater and black trousers under his robes; robes that are much higher quality than Harry was wearing that morning, Draco notes. Even his shoes shine. “I wanted to clean up and change.”

Startled that he is actually here and trying to hide it, Draco waves the book in his hand. “That’s fine. Just working my way through an old favorite.”

Harry gives him an odd look. “Advice for the Lonely Witch Or Wizard? is an old favorite?”

“What?” Draco blurts, looking down in horror at the book. “No! This isn’t—I mean, I didn’t—! I must have picked up the wrong book by mistake as I was waiting!”

Harry seems to be enjoying his objections as Draco feels his face get redder and redder. Finally, he tosses the book onto his seat and heaves a sigh. “Never mind.”

His face still too amused to Draco’s liking, Harry reaches out. “Come on. You can Side-Along.”

Tentatively, Draco steps closer to Harry’s body, slipping his arm through the crook in Harry’s and standing close. Harry is slightly shorter than him, and slender, but seems solid, sleek with Seeker muscles. The other man’s body heat is as shocking as a furnace; Draco can feel it through his clothes.

There’s an abrupt, uncomfortable twist as space shifts around them, and they pop out in front of a restaurant in the middle of a bustling Diagon Alley, lit up with holiday lights. Draco withholds a gasp and, before Harry can object, grabs his arm and bustles him into a groove between buildings, mercifully dark.

“Are you insane?” he hisses, looking furtively around.

“What? What?” Harry’s eyes scope their surroundings as well, and he looks back at Draco with a befuddled expression.

“I never would have agreed to come along if I had known that we’d be coming here.”

“Where did you think we’d be going?” Harry says calmly. “I like this place. It opened up last year, and the food is good; I think it’ll even live up to your standards.”

“It’s not about the food, you arse!” Draco struggles for a moment to control the panic twisting his insides. “I don’t… It’s not a good idea to come here, with me. I thought, maybe, you had a place in Muggle London in mind. We should go before someone sees us.”

“Ashamed to be seen with me?” Harry asks archly.

A bitter laugh escapes Draco. “Yes, that’s exactly it. And when we have to defend against hexes while we’re eating, be sure to keep in mind that they’re aiming for you.”

He starts to back away, ready to Apparate alone when Harry’s hand reaches out and grasps his wrist unyieldingly, wrapping around it like a vice. Draco looks at the other man, and all of the humor has left his face; his green eyes are bright, and as unyielding as his grip.

“Nothing will happen to you here. Come with me.”

Rather helpless against the command, hating himself for it, Draco allows himself to be led out of their shelter and into the warm restaurant, where gently floating candles above the tables lend to the atmosphere. Rich aromas waft through the room as Harry leads him up to the host before dropping Draco’s wrist.

“Two, please.”

“Oh, Mister Potter,” the man says delightedly. “Back again, so soon? And with company, how nice! Who’s your friend?” he asks, glancing at Draco, and it’s after a split second of silence that he sees realization dawning in the man’s eyes, and he glances at Harry swiftly, as though to verify.

“Draco Malfoy.”

The host clears his throat. With another glance between them, he says quietly, with no real encouragement this time, “Welcome. Follow me.”

They weave through tables, and Draco can feel the instant when people begin to recognize him, and the fevered whispers that accompany the revelation of his presence and that of his partner. After they are aeated in a quiet corner booth, the host hands them menus and disappears.

“I see what you mean,” Harry finally says grimly, staring at his menu.

“We should leave,” Draco tries again.

“No.”

A disconcerted laugh escapes Draco. “Just like that? No? Just no?”

Finally Harry looks up, his mouth quirked. “Yes. Just no. Frankly, there’s nowhere for me to go where I’m not recognized; even in Muggle London. There are enough half-bloods and parents or families of half-bloods that my name and face get recognized everywhere I go. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but when I go out somewhere in Muggle London, there’s usually an article the next day speculating as to why I’m trying to be discrete. At least since this place has been open, they don’t make a fuss over me. I haven’t gotten someone approaching the table for my autograph in since my first visit. I never have to glamour my face here or resort to Polyjuice Potion; that can get tiring. Besides, like I said, the food is good.”

Draco leans back in his seat, contemplating the other man. He had always thought fame—the positive sort that Harry had acquired, rather than his own brand of infamy—would be enjoyable. He’d honestly never considered the fundamental lack of privacy put upon Harry, as everyone just rather considered him… theirs.

“All right.”

“Just like that?” Harry parrots back at him.

“What should we order?”

As if hearing Draco’s words, a server appears beside them, studiously not looking in his direction. “Have you decided, sir…s?”

“I’ll have the pasta with scallops,” Harry says.

Draco, who hasn’t even glanced at the menu, shrugs. “I’ll have the same, thank you. And if you have bottle of nice white wine…?”

“Right away, sir,” the waiter mumbles before leaving.

Within minutes, he appears back with their orders, plates overflowing with angel hair pasta in a thick, creamy sauce that smells of garlic and lemons, and is piled high with grilled scallops. He fills their wine glasses and leaves the bottle on the table before wandering away again.

The noise in the room has picked up from furtive, overwhelming whispers, so Draco can only assume that normal (for the most part, hopefully) conversation has resumed, and he takes a long drink of his wine as Harry begins eating.

“So, what is this?”

Harry coughs a little, wipes his mouth. “What do you mean?”

“Well, you said you’d like to be friends. But this place is a little…”

“A little what?”

“Date-like.” Draco has never liked uncertainty and isn’t fond of how off-kilter he’s felt all day. There’s a deep satisfaction in the way Harry fumbles now at his directness, the way the tips of his ears redden. “Is this a date?”

“Did you want it to be?”

“Oh, no,” Draco says, smiling a little and lazily twisting pasta around his fork. “I asked first.”

Harry takes a bite of food and chews slowly. When he swallows, he looks at Draco with a speculation that causes that prickle of unease to begin again at the base of Draco’s neck.

“How about this?” Harry offers. “How about… an honest answer, for an honest answer? There are things I’d like to know, too.”

Draco thinks about this for a moment before giving a decisive nod. “What if I lie?”

“You won’t,” Harry says positively, and for a fraction of time, the room swoops around Draco as he feels the force of Harry’s faith in people; a certain sort of faith that he’s sure isn’t warranted, and is just as sure no one has had in him before.

“All right.”

“Where have you been for the last two years?” Harry asks abruptly.

“It’s was my turn!” Draco squawks, not expecting Harry (his date?) to dive right into the thick of it.

“We’ll get back to you. I haven’t heard anything about your whereabouts in well over eighteen months. Not that I’ve been looking, but… I didn’t realize you’d been living elsewhere.”

“Greece, mainly,” Draco finally says. “Germany and Greece. I’ve spent some time in France. We have estates there.”

“Why?”

“It’s… safer for my mother, with me gone. I’m sure you’re aware of how former Death Eaters, even those who’d been Imperiused, have been treated since the Trials. It became difficult for my mother to even leave the Manor,” Draco admits unwillingly. “She could now with me gone, theoretically, but the fear makes her… stay.”

“What do you do there?”

Draco shakes his head. “No, I’ve just given you two. What happened with the girl Weasley? When I last saw you, it seemed you two were about to get married.”

Harry runs a distracted hand through his hair, and Draco tries not to notice how silky it looks; tries to focus on the maddening disorder of it instead.

Harry shrugs, and his words stumble a bit. “I—we… We were. I mean, we’d planned on it. But after the Trials, I felt like… I don’t know how to explain it. I went into the war in love with her, and I stayed that way throughout. But after, it was as if all of that energy that love gives you, that it takes from you, was gone. I just didn’t have it anymore. I didn’t have a lot of things. I was—exhausted, I guess?” He looks up at Draco with regret. “I tried to wait it out, and so did she, but it was too much waiting, after too much waiting. It’s getting to the place where we can be friends again, now, though.”

“I see,” Draco says, taking another sip of his wine. He’s surprised at the depth of honesty coming from the other man; no prevarications, no evasions, just what sounds like… the sad truth. Taking a gamble, he throws another one out. “So you’re not gay, then?”

Again that startled little cough; Draco has caught him with another mouthful of pasta. Harry swallows in a hurry and glares at him. “Thanks for that.”

Draco shrugs languidly. “The answer?”

“I don’t know,” Harry says bluntly. “I’ve never considered men before. I suppose not, because I loved Ginny, and was severely attracted to her.” Straightening his shoulders, Harry adds somewhat boldly, as if striving for confidence, “But—But I’m attracted to you, as well. So I must be somewhere in the middle.”

For a minute, Draco doesn’t know what to say, and he feels a sudden throb in his groin that reminds him of the previous day. “So this is a date?”

“I really don’t know,” Harry says in a bewildered voice. “Did you want it to be?”

“I really don’t know, either. I’ve hated you for a long time, Potter, surely you know that,” Draco says, as nicely as he can.

Harry huffs a laugh out and Draco lets himself smile, just a bit. “I’ve hated you, too. But I don’t anymore. I got over that a long time ago. Now, it’s… different.”

“Yes,” Draco says softly, watching with something like hope as Harry’s eyes brighten to a bottle-green as they look back at him. “Yes, it is.”

***

It’s late, and they’re both justthissideof drunk. Harry has decided, rather responsibly, he’s sure, that they should Apparate separately to avoid possibly Splinching one or both of them. But oh, how he wants to feel Malfoy pressed against his side again; wants to smell the apple-spice cologne of his shampoo. He wants and he wants and he wants.

It’s been so long since he’s felt anything like this… this rush of exhilaration about another person, this desire to know all of the things about them; the excitement that comes when you’re interested and aroused and are going crazy with both at the same time. And Harry’s learned a lot about Draco over dinner; they put up a Muffliato charm and the more they drank, the easier the truths were told.

Like how Draco has been studying potions across the Continent, and writing. Like how so many of his friends either blamed him for their parent’s imprisonments (“they told me that it was because my father got them involved…) or just didn’t want to be associated with someone with an actual Dark Mark, no matter where their sympathies had really lain during the War. About how he was fine with the taunting and the whispers and the subversive, petty jinxes thrown at him when he went to Gringott’s or to pick something up in Diagon Alley, but how is mother shrank inside of herself, her sense of honor, and familial pride, and regal nature becoming tattered in the face of such constant opposition.

Harry has revealed just as much over dinner, much to his bemusement; he never really talks about himself, or never has before. Ron and Hermione and the Weasley’s know everything about him just from being so deeply enmeshed in his life; learning through friendship and observation and shared experiences. And Harry has always avoided the press like the plague.Yet tonight, as Draco watched him with interest, and other patrons left and new were seated, as they worked their way through two bottles of wine and dinner and dessert, Harry found himself talking and answering any question that Draco was of a mind to ask.

He watched Draco laugh uproariously over Harry’s struggles to redecorate Grimmauld Place, and how the Black’s portraits fought him at every turn, from pulling down drapes infested with doxies to painting the walls something other than a depressing plum or gray. He told Draco about growing up with the Dursley’s, and not knowing about Magic, and conversing with snakes at the zoo, and being unable to defend himself as a child. He talked about how it’s easier to go without eating if one has experience at it, yet how during that cold season in the forest as he, Ron, and Hermione looked for Horcrux’s, food was the one thing he kept fantasizing about; not Ginny or warmth or even Voldemort’s death mostly, just copious amounts of food.

He talked so much that he realized he was learning Draco through his own words, through Draco’s reactions to them, his questions and his silences, the way he tilted his head when he was really listening, or took a bite of something to keep himself from interrupting. He was learning the other man through the way his eyes darkened and brightened and avoided; through the way he leaned away from Harry unconsciously, and then toward.

And the night passed, becoming hazier, and their shared looks became longer and more filled with intent; Draco became less timid about grazing Harry’s hand with lingering fingertips, leaving a cool ghosting across his burning skin. Harry barely remembered to check for subversive beetles, so engaged was he in the conversation and the wine and in… in Draco.

He Apparates to the grounds on Malfoy Estate, near his tent, already set up. It’s a more luxurious, if smaller, version of many wizarding tents, and is outfitted with a double cot covered with a thick down mattress and crisp sheets and warm blankets. It has a loo with a shower wide enough for more than one person and Harry contemplates this as he waits for Draco to join him; wonders if they are going to sleep together and if either of them are ready for that.

When Draco joins him, a few seconds later, he seems surprised to see the tent there. “You’re sleeping on grounds?”

“I have to; the warding spells need to be attended to at specific times throughout the night over the course of the several days,” Harry explains, wanting nothing more than to not be talking.

“But, I mean…” Draco waves a hand at the Manor. “We have rooms.” His eyes catch Harry’s. Draco’s voice is lower as he finishes, “I have rooms…”

Without another thought, no more rejoinders or questions, no more denials of his desire, Harry grabs a fistful of Draco’s robes and tugs the other man close. He tilts his head up and slants his mouth under Draco’s, feeling a freezing nose against his cheek, feeling Draco’s mouth warm up over his. He bows to his need and opens his mouth, sweeping his tongue inside, tasting Draco.

Draco’s voice cracks as he groans into Harry’s mouth and the sound breaks what little restraint Harry has managed to maintain. He pulls Draco inside his tent, away from the freezing cold and the stars, and kisses him harder, demanding something he doesn’t know if Draco can give him; offering something he didn’t know he still had.

Draco is pliant and aggressive all at once, licking Harry’s tongue, thrusting his hand’s in Harry’s hair. Harry fumbles his glasses off and pulls away, gasping. He slips his fingers through Draco’s hair as well, marveling at the silk-fine strands, his mouth hot and slick on the other man’s, and for the first time since he was seventeen, a fire begins in his chest, stoked to a roar by the person he would have least expected capable.

Draco has been walking him backwards while they kiss, messy and unrefined in a way that Harry had never imagined it possible for him to be. Harry finds himself tugging off Draco’s robes, groaning as a shocking hand palms his erection through his trousers.  Draco seems to have some experience in this, and Harry grinds against his hand, not able to pull away from his delicious mouth, and he tentatively places an answering hand against Draco’s groin.

Draco hums appreciatively, burying his mouth in the curve of Harry’s neck, kissing and sucking, as Harry screws up his scattered courage and all of his craving, and untucks Draco’s shirt, pressing his hands against a smooth, sculpted stomach and, with effort, slips a hand into the waistband of Draco’s trousers. His hand curls around Draco’s cock, and he marvels at the size of it, at the moisture leaking from the tip. With awkward fingers, he touches the moisture and spreads it around the head.

Draco grunts breathlessly, and Harry feels his trousers unzipper (I should have done that), feels Malfoy’s elegant fingers grip his cock, and he is so close, already, that his hand, working into a steady rhythm on the other man, begins to falter.

“Wait, wait—“

“No.” Draco murmurs, his voice heavy with want and rich with approval.

Draco kisses him again, hard, tongues and teeth clashing and it’s too much, too good, and it’s been so long and Harry hears his own drawn-out moan, feels the tightness of his release as he spills in Draco’s hand, his body flush with stimulation and suffused with pleasure. Draco pumps him as he finishes, drawing it out, using his come as lubricant, and Harry trembles and then stills in his arms.

Their kiss becomes slower as Harry’s heartbeat steadies, and Harry uses his free hand to unzipper Draco’s trousers as well, giving him more room to work. Draco tilts his head back the way he did in the garden (was it really just yesterday morning?) his eyes closed, his lips parted.  Harry watches his own hand move, pumping Draco’s cock efficiently but with no sophistication. He feels an answering twitch in his spent cock at the visual, his hand surrounding Draco, whose cock is firm and dark pink at the tip, the foreskin retracted to allow for his erection.

Harry bites his lip, tightening his grasp and twisting his hand on the down stroke like he does with himself, and his rewarded as a hushed moan escapes Draco’s throat, accompanied by a sudden bucking of his hips. Harry repeats the gesture and Draco nods wordlessly; Harry moves closer, wanting to be pressed against him as it happens, wanting to taste his skin. His flicks his tongue in a long stripe against Draco’s pale neck, and suddenly Draco’s hips stutter, his cock throbs and seems to grow even harder as he comes and covers Harry’s hand (and part of his jumper) with his sticky release.

Dazed, they lean against each other for a moment. Finally, Harry pulls his wand, and casts a quick cleaning charm over the two of them, and they restore their clothing.

Draco leans over, grey eyes alight, and kisses him with the promise of more. “Come inside with me.”

“I—can’t we stay here?” Harry hears the hesitation in his voice and doesn’t like it, but there’s nothing for it, really.

“My bed will give us some room,” Draco says, his voice soft and hopefully affectionate.

“I’d really love it if we could stay here,” Harry says quietly. He feels awful for the confusion and dawning suspicion on Draco’s face.

“…You don’t want to spend the night with me,” he says flatly.

“No! I do,” Harry says baldly. “I mean, I’ve never… with a man… or even… before. But I want to. I liked this.”

Draco is watching him with uncomfortable perception. “Then it’s the house. You don’t want to sleep there.”

Harry sighs, caught, but unwilling to lie. “No. I’m not ready to. I don’t know how you do. One of my best mates was tortured there; someone I love was killed. I can go in there; I can. But I can’t sleep there. Not yet and maybe not ever.”

“I never thought I’d see the day a Gryffindor would let fear rule his instincts,” Draco says, looking away, his voice dripping with a sudden disdain.

Harry sighs again, knowing the mood is ruined but not knowing how to salvage it. “You’re welcome to stay here…”

Finally, Draco lifts his eyes again, and Harry is shocked at the depths of pain in them. “No. I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have said that. This was nice, but... I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Draco,” Harry murmurs helplessly, and the other man turns to leave.

Draco doesn’t respond this time; neither does he turn back.

***

Draco wakes with a start, the frantic tapping on his window corresponding with the pounding in his head. He’s barely slept, for the second night in a row, and the drink hasn’t helped.

Fortunately, Flitter seemed to understand his situation, as she usually does, and there’s a small glowing potion on his nightstand, which he drinks quickly. The pounding in his head vanishes, and Draco sits, unmoving for a moment, replaying the events of the night.

The worst of it, he thinks, isn’t that Harry couldn’t spend the night with him. He understands that; no, the worst of it is not only that his complete disappointment after such soaring hope shows him how stupid he really is—that Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived Twice, could actually get passed their history together. He hasn’t even seen Draco’s Dark Mark again yet; Draco has been careful to keep it hidden.

Draco’s disappointed too, that he thought he could move past who he was, who he had been for so long; how quickly had he reverted to type last night at Harry’s rejection? He’s ashamed of himself, but shame is nothing new and he shrugs it off like water as finally lets himself remember the rest.  Harry’s hands, tight in his hair; his mouth insistent on Draco’s. The taste of Harry, like wine and want, salty-sweet against Draco’s tongue. The endearing fumbling against his skin, detailing just how inexperienced Harry actually is (bloody hell, is the Savior of the Wizarding World really still a virgin?!) but somehow charming and earnest and an unbelievable turn on, the way only Harry Potter can be.

Draco hasn’t been with a man for over a year, but somehow he doesn’t remember it being so revelatory, and all for something that amounts to nothing more than heavy petting.

Finally, the tapping on the window grows too loud for Draco to ignore, and he walks over to open it. Nine owls immediately fly in with regular parchment, surprising him (no one sends him post anymore), and five more carrying Howlers. A couple of the Howlers are already beginning to smoke and with a roll of his eyes, he opens them first, completely prepared to blame Harry for this new complication because when has knowing him ever made Draco’s life simpler?

And indeed, the yelling issued from each them is accusing him of something nefarious, threatening his life if he harms their precious Savior, questioning his intent and his nerve and his character for being seen in public with Harry. The other three turn out to be more creative—one person accuses him of putting Harry under a love spell, another claims that Voldemort’s final spell must have turned Harry Dark, and that’s the basis of his attraction to someone so evil as Malfoy, and the final, weirdly enough, just wants to shout at him about his food choices at the restaurant the previous night.

With relief, Draco watches them each disappear when they’re done, and he turns to the rest of the mail. One of them is a newspaper that someone has sent him, which great black lines scratched through his face, and he seizes on it gratefully, to get better context for what is going on.

The headline is short, speculative, and to the point. THE BOY WHO LIVED TWICE…IN LOVE WITH A DEATH EATER? Beneath is an article questioning Harry’s sanity (Did memories of the war finally destroy what was left of his mind… and his hopeful future?), detailing the list of crimes that Draco was tried for (Malfoy, well-known as the Death Eater who was tried for the Imperius Curse, which almost took the life of another student, and tasked with a failed attempt to murder Albus Dumbledore, and was paroled after Mr. Potter spoke on his behalf), and conjecture as to the content of their date (While our sources could not hear the conversation, as a silencing charm was used, they say that the occupants of the booth seemed on very intimate terms) as well a several pictures that each seem worse than the last.

There’s a rather innocuous one of the waiter pouring wine for them, another where they are staring at each other with a burning sort of challenge, and Harry’s mouth widens into a smile that could almost be called indecent, and a final one (fuck, who took these blasted photos?!) of Harry offering a scallop speared on his fork to Draco, and Draco leaning forward to catch it between his lips, their eyes locked; Harry laughs, as Malfoy licks his lips with obvious relish.

He leaves the rest of the letters on his bed and throws on his clothes before running out, taking the stairs two at a time, the article still gripped in his hand.

Harry is already up, working on the gate. He acknowledges Draco with a nod and one finger held up, and Draco waits with agitation until Harry finishes his section of spellwork. After several minutes, Harry finally lowers his wand, and turns to Draco with an angry expression.  “I know. Hermione owled me this morning. I’m so sorry.”

Draco feels surprise ripple through him. “You’re sorry?”

“Yeah. You were right. We should have gone somewhere else, or just stayed here to eat; hell, I could have taken you to Grimmauld Place; Kreacher’s food is amazing. But now you have to deal with… with all of—“ Harry waves his hands, a helplessly frustrated look on his face.  “Hermione has already sent out a press release countering it.”

Something inside Draco softens. “I’ve had worse, believe me. But now you’re going to be subjected to all of this conjecture…”

An astonished laugh escapes Harry. “Draco, like I said last night, I’m always the topic of conjecture. This is nothing new to me. But it might make things worse for you. Hermione said people are angry…”

“Yes, I may have received some interesting mail this morning.”

“Fuck, that’s soon. I’m putting up wards for unwanted mail today; free of charge.”

“What did the press release say?”

“That you were a client of ours,” Harry says. “That we have been on friendly terms since the Trials, and since your allocution for your crimes. That the meal was innocent, and not a date.”

For too many reasons, this irritates Draco; he bristles. “But it was.”

“I know. But it’ll be safer for you if we…”

“What, hide it?” Draco demands, anger sparking inside of him. “Safer for me, or more convenient for you?”

Harry shakes his head. “Really, that’s not it. Public opinion has gotten vocal about Death Eaters in the last couple of years now that people feel more safe from them. I—I like you, a lot. But… maybe we should…”

Disappointment yawns wide in front of Draco like a dark pit and he shakes his head disbelievingly. “So you want that to be it, then?”

“Just for now,” Harry rushes to assure him. “Let me finish my work here, and then we’ll… But, you have to agree, this has happened pretty fast. We could, you know, take some time to get to know each other, to let the gossip die down a bit. Plus, I’ll be on grounds for a while, so it’s not as if we won’t be seeing each other, right?”

Draco eyes him speculatively. It certainly seems as though he’s being brushed off, but he’s no stranger to that either, and he doesn’t get that dismissive feeling from the other man. Harry seems sincere in the extreme, in that way of his, and for a second Draco allows himself to realign his wants with his expectations; not only has Harry never been in a relationship with another man before (bloody Gryffindor virgin Hero), but it’s been only a couple of days and suddenly Harry has to defend himself, his love-life, his sanity, and his company as well.

“This has happened fast,” he allows. “I wondered if something… about the spell you cast on me with your wand… I’m drawn to you.”

“I’ve got Hermione looking into that,” Harry admits in a mumble.

Draco raises his eyebrows; of course Granger is looking into it. He doesn’t know why he should have expected Harry to do his own investigating—he was always bloody lazy in his schoolwork.

“I’ll expect dinner again at the end of it,” Draco says at last.

Harry’s face brightens hopefully. “Yeah? Well, we can have them here until I leave, if you want.”

“A bloody expensive dinner, after,” Draco adds.

“The most expensive,” Harry promises with a grin. “Now get out of here, you snob, and let me work.”

With a laugh, Draco turns back to the Manor, intent on throwing the rest of the letters in the bin without reading them.

When he gets to the door, he turns back to Harry and is satisfied to find the other man still watching him.

***

Harry doesn’t remember a time in his life that is as simply… lived as the following several days.

He’d loved Ginny, oh yes, in that helpless, deep way that’s beautiful in its simplicity; he expects he’ll always love her, for showing him what he could be to someone else, in that capacity. But as he’d loved her, there were so many other complications, duties, paths that he’d had to take, and each of them carried them further away from one another.

Draco is so different from Ginny, complex and filled with edges and scars; the one’s he’s placed on Harry, and even the few Harry has placed on him. They’re bound together, somehow, and for the first time since meeting, they have both seemed to bend to the reality of it, the allowance that this must happen, in some form or another.

Harry finds himself delighted by the oddest things; Draco is wicked in his humor, pretentious in the extreme, and always suspicious of Harry’s motives. He loves his mother in an obvious, abiding way that Harry associates with the way he loves his own, though he never really knew her, and when Draco lets himself really laugh, it’s like a dark cloud has passed away from the sun for the moment; head thrown back, eyes shining, teeth white and straight and flashing.  He loosens up, even lowering himself to wear jeans once (though he snorts in derision when Harry comments on them), seems receptive, seems calmer, seems like he’s… waiting.

Harry wants to let go, to end that waiting for both of them. But the letters he’s received from Hermione and Ron (the first two of Ron’s were Howler’s, nearly blazing Harry’s ears off with their disbelief and dismay, followed by a calmer one that was obviously guided by Hermione and begrudgingly said that he would support Harry’s choices…even if they were horrible ones.) have given Harry a pretty good idea of the public’s view of his relationship with a Malfoy, and he’s not sure if Draco can handle that, despite what he says.

So Harry loses himself in building wards more complicated and expansive than he’s done before and in between sessions, rather than Apparating home or to visit Ron and Hermione, or even to the office—which is apparently drowning in requests—he spends time with Draco.

They have dinner together, and sometimes Mrs. Malfoy joins them. Though she obviously adores her son, she tends to remain quiet in Harry’s presence, and he attributes it to part disapproval of his noticeable interest in her son, and partly what Draco has told him of her situation. Harry makes sure to show up in the dining room every night at six, partially to prove to Draco that he can be in that house, no matter his discomfort, but mostly because he actually enjoys the other man’s company.  Draco is deeply intelligent, opinionated, and well-read, and hasn’t had much outlet for these qualities so Harry finds himself a willing listener to anything Draco wants to say.

They walk the grounds and beyond during Harry’s breaks and, instead of spending time snogging, which Harry is desperately longing for, have a series of conversations like:

“I was going to be a Potions Master,” Draco admits as they walk through heavy snow, shoulders brushing.  “It’s nearly impossible to expand on my skills without N.E.W.T.’s or a teacher, and impossible to get one if you’ve made the choices I did.”

“Snape was going to teach you, wasn’t he?”

“Yes. He gave me advanced lessons as early as third year; Severus was a staple in my household from as early as I can remember.”

“I’m sorry.”

Draco shrugs, but Harry can feel his sadness, and takes his hand.

And:

“We’ve been getting a fairly good reputation. Even some of the wizards at Gringott’s have approached us about shoring up their wards. Not that the goblins would ever allow us three to touch their securities at this point,” Harry finishes with a chuckle.

“Why not?”

“The whole Dragon thing, during the war,” Harry says casually and is amused with Draco’s face goes slack.

“You mean that wasn’t just a rumor?!

And:

“You never show your Dark Mark,” Harry comments idly, as they perch on a stone bench across from a sculpture of a Centaur that would surely offend them if one were to see it.

“It’s fucking freezing.”

Harry snorts. “Sometimes, inside, you roll up your right sleeve… but not your left.”

“It’s not something people like to look at. Merlin, even I can’t stand the thing.”

“I don’t mind it,” Harry says softly. He feels Draco’s eyes on him, but doesn’t look over, staring instead at the offensive statue. “I mean, it’s not like it turns me on thinking about it, but… I guess, it’s a part of you. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t show it in front of me.”

He feels a warm breath gusting out against his cheek, his neck, and then Draco’s forehead his dropping onto his shoulder from the side, and they sit like that, in silence.

And:

“I can sleep there because he’s not in it anymore. Voldemort, I mean,” Draco says softly out of nowhere as they stomp through the woods. “Granted, I didn’t sleep much when he was there. But sometimes. And if I could do it then, I sure as fuck can do it now. It’s not pleasant sometimes, but… It’s a relief now.”

“I’m sorry. I never thought of that.”

“No reason for you to. But you need to understand that I have different associations with it. It was my home, for a long time and then it… wasn’t. Now it is, again.”

And even: “How can you support the Falcons over the Cannons? Are you completely mental?” Harry yells.

“They have a good team this year,” Draco argues back just as stubbornly. “That they’ve lost for the last two was the fault of the coach for getting such inexperienced players. They’re going to defeat the Cannons with no trouble. Classless prick.”

On the twelfth day of Harry’s stay, he turns around after completing his session, exhausted and ready for his break, to find Draco waiting for him, practically dancing where he stands; he has a look of excitement on his face.

“What’s going on?”

“Come with me; I just remembered a place I haven’t shown you yet.”

Harry has no doubt about that; despite their extended wanderings over the previous days, the land has so many secret niches and alcoves—mysterious hidden spots covered with a fine mist of magic—that Harry doesn’t know if a lifetime of walking could introduce him to all of them. He shrugs and puts away his wand, following after Draco’s quick pace.

“Where are we going?” he calls out ahead as they move through a path in the woods that hasn’t been walked in ages; broken branches, pine needles, and overgrown bushes obscure everything, but there’s packed earth underneath in the form of a trail, when Harry looks hard enough.

“How long do you have before you have to get back?” Draco yells backward instead of answering.

“About ninety minutes.”

Draco doesn’t respond, moving quickly still and Harry has to jog to keep up; at several points, Draco disappears but for the pale glint of his hair through the foliage. Finally, Draco skids to a halt in front of him, and Harry catches up.

Breathlessly, he looks around in bewilderment—the forest is pretty, sure, but just a forest. “Where are we?”

Draco points up with a wide smile, and Harry follows the direction of his finger, finally noticing a small, floating stone fortress, hidden high in the branches of a thick fur tree. “My playhouse. Come on.”

Draco casts a quick warming charm, and says a quiet incantation, and a shimmering, hovering ladder appears. They scale up it quickly.

His breath coming back to him, Harry lays on his back on the floor and stares up. There’s no roof to the place, but a light snow is falling and doesn’t come in, instead hitting an invisible barrier that catches it and makes it melt away. Draco shoves him aside with a gentle shoe and Harry obligingly scoots over as the other man lays next to him in the same position, staring up. Then there is quiet, as they watch the snow fall.

After a while, Draco’s voice breaks Harry out of his reverie. “I want to fuck you, you know,” he says in a lazy sort of tone that makes Harry’s fingers feel nerveless; makes his heart skip erratically.

“I know. …I’ve never done that before.”

Draco picks up his hand and creates little scrolls in Harry’s palm with idle fingertips, making Harry shiver. “With another man, or with anyone?”

“With… With anyone, not all the way. I’ve done things, but those were with Ginny.”

“What did you think of it?”

Harry’s throat is dry. “I liked it. I—I want it.”

“You could fuck me first,” Draco offers in that same maddeningly mild voice. “

I’m not sure what to do.”

“Then I’ll show you.” Draco turns on his side so and nudges Harry so that he does as well, and they are facing each other.

“Draco, maybe—“

Draco leans forward and catches Harry’s lips with his own. It’s awkward and lovely, the way Draco’s mouth moves against his, gently encouraging Harry’s lips to open, so Draco can sweep his tongue in with an unhurried sort of skill. Harry finds his free hand gripping Draco’s hip tightly; the other is caught flat between them, pressed against Draco’s chest, and Harry can feel the fast thrumming of his heart. The kiss goes on and Harry feels himself lose his sense of time and reality; when has there ever been anything other than Draco’s mouth on his, his warm breath on Harry’s face, the length of his erection pressed firmly against Harry’s stomach? Harry is aroused too, almost unbearably, but neither of them touch each other but to kiss, to hold on, as the sound of the snow hushes around them.

Finally, Draco pulls away, mouth slickened and eyes soft. “We could leave. Think about it. We could go away from here, we could have this; what the last few days have been. I never imagined…”

Harry is nearly speechless, searching. “Go away from here?”

“We wouldn’t have to answer to anyone else. We wouldn’t be subjected to the gossip and the disgust and the judgment,” Draco says earnestly.

“I think you’re underestimating us,” Harry says dryly.

Draco laughs, the sound low. “Maybe. But—“

“Draco, no.” Harry pulls away a little more, and Draco’s hands on him slacken. “I don’t want to spend my life running away and hiding. I like what I do. I want… I want you to be a part of it. At least, a part of my life. But I don’t want to disappear to have that.”

Draco’s eyes darken and he opens his mouth to reply, but a high, keening like a whistle sound hits both of them at the same time. The wards. Harry heaves himself up, touching Draco’s cheek.

“I have to get back. We can talk later, yeah?” Draco’s face is bleak, and Harry kisses him once more, roughly; quickly.

“We’ll talk later,” Draco finally assents quietly, but for some reason, Harry isn’t reassured.

***

Draco lays back down, hearing Harry bustle further and further away through the woods. He feels colder than he has in years, despite his warming charms, but what did he expect? That Harry would really care enough about him to follow him somewhere—anywhere? That they would ever be allowed to just continue being themselves, the way they have been for the last several days?

That this escape was his real life?

No. Not for him, not anymore, he acknowledges. Like it or not, Draco knows that the choices he’s made in his youth, whether pressed upon him or not, will inevitably define him through the rest of his life.

And he knows, too, that the hero can never really love the villain.

The problem with Harry is that he’s so damned honorable. A man doesn’t get to be twenty-two, famous, wealthy, always engagingly, messily sexy, and still a virgin, without having a bit of the throw-back romantic in him.

Draco wishes that he could be glad of it, now, that Harry has turned him down twice, that Harry will go on to fall in boring and predictable love with a boring and predictable person and have mediocre sex for the rest of his life, when he finally gets around to it. Instead, all he has is a bad taste in the back of his mouth as he thinks about someone else touching… enjoying… the other man in ways Draco will never get to.

The last days have been so effortless, so happy, they’ve almost made him forget who he was; who Harry was.  Their paths were meant to intersect, it seems, but never to converge.

And Draco knows that Harry will continue, battling a war that can never be won—against public opinion, his friends, and Draco’s reputation—that he won’t give up unless given real incentive.

Feeling sick, Draco climbs out of his fort, vanishing the ladder and walking steadily through the woods. His heart is heavy, his mind racing and dark. “It was just a distraction,” he says to himself, convinced of nothing.

When he finally reaches Harry, the other man is executing some sort of spell on the wards that unleash from his wand the same golden webbing as the first day, but this time the frame of the tiny, shimmering links seem to glow in succession, creating lit-up roadways of different colors as they catch in the air. Harry, too, is lit up, saturated in bright vapors of blue and red and green and gold that swirl around him as he arcs his wand in this way and that.

Draco waits for him to finish, and then says, “That was beautiful.”

Harry turns with a start. He smiles a little, pleased with the praise. “Thanks. Not too much left now; I’ll be done tomorrow morning.”

“Good.” Harry steps forward as if intending to catch him, and Draco takes an abrupt step back.

Harry stalls, uncertain, inspecting Draco’s face as though he already knows something is about to happen.

“What is it?”

“We need to talk.”

Harry runs a hand through his hair and shoves his wand away. “I know. Listen, about what I said—“

With a shake of his head, Draco interrupts. “No. No, you were right.”

“What do you mean?”

“This should be over now. It was a trivial little… vacation, I suppose, from real life. But I think you’re getting a bit invested now, and as you’ve done a lot for me and my mother, I don’t think it’s fair of us to continue on.” Draco delivers this, his face carefully blank.  Harry stares at him.

“What do you mean?” he says again, bewildered. “I won’t go away with you, so it’s just… over?”

Draco shrugs. “Well, yes. It would have been pleasant to extend this,” he says with a vague gesture between them, “but the truth is, I’m tired of complications and there are a lot with you. Please bill us with your fee, and we’ll transfer funds for your work immediately.”

He turns to go and is halted by Harry’s tight grip clutching at his bicep.

“Talk to me!”

“There’s nothing to talk about, Potter. This was a nice distraction, but it’s near enough over, and I think we should end it now. When you’re gone tomorrow, you’re gone.”  Harry’s face breaks his heart. His eyes are shining at Draco with entreaty, with pain. Draco can’t stop himself from adding, more gently, “Really. It’s for the best.”

At this, Harry’s face changes, becoming flinty with unleashed anger and a hint of disgust. “You coward.”

It stings, of course, because it’s no less than the truth, but Draco refuses to let it show.

“A nice distraction,” he repeats coldly. “Becoming less pleasant by the moment. Really, Harry, I know you’re inexperienced, but I actually thought you might behave with more sophistication at this point.”

“Fuck you, Malfoy,” Harry spits, dropping his hand away from Draco.

“Well, I offered,” Draco says with well-feigned amusement. “You’re here for another night if you want to take me up on it.”

Harry sneers. “Like I’d touch a bloody Slytherin Death Eater like you.”

“You didn’t seem to have that problem this afternoon,” Draco taunts, heart pounding.

“That’s when I thought you lo—you were different. That’s when I thought you had changed. More fool me,” Harry says bitterly. “Really, Malfoy, my fault. I should have simply let you live up to everyone’s expectations of you in the beginning.”

Draco glares at him with fury, noting with his last coherent thought that Harry, himself, is more Slytherin than he’ll ever admit; he knows exactly where to aim his ruthlessness to best maim.

Suddenly, their wands are both drawn, and they oppose each other the way they haven’t in years. Neither fires a hex, but with a distant mind, Draco hears them each yelling awful things at each other, unforgivable things. It’s combative in that ugly way Draco had hoped he’d left behind, but trust Potter for bringing it out in him again.

At length, Draco can barely recognize their words or voices anymore, and the silence that falls is as loud as the thundering of Draco’s heart. His face is wet, Draco realizes absently, but can’t conjure up anything inside of himself left to care.  Something inside Harry’s expression breaks, and he takes a step forward.

“Draco,” he says, in a voice of quiet entreaty, a voice Draco finally recognizes as something in his world again; the voice Harry used when they were in the tree. “I know what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Draco looks away, taking a dull swipe of his cheeks with his hand. Keeping his voice as steady as possible, he says, “It already is.”

“Give this a chance; a real chance, outside of here,” Harry tries again, his voice tight. “Draco. I think we’ve—I think I’ve—that I’m falling in love with you.”

Finally, Draco looks back at Harry, who is gazing at him with such an open, sorry expression that it takes all of Draco’s will to not accept what Harry is offering.

“You’re right then,” he says simply. “More fool, you.”

Harry’s face falls, and Draco begins away so he doesn’t have to look at it any longer.

Harry doesn’t follow.

***

It’s been almost a week, and Harry deep in drink when Ron and Hermione find him. He’d sent precisely one owl with a vague explanation of taking a vacation before holing up at Grimmauld place and yeah, could have gotten more creative but wanted to get and stay thoroughly pissed, and had plenty to drink at home.

He wakes at Hermione’s voice; Ron is shaking his shoulder roughly. Harry fumbles to sitting on his couch, feeling as though he’s about to sick up over the floor when Hermione hands him a bin to hold as she conjures a potion and thrusts it in front of his mouth.

“Drink,” she orders.

“If I wanted to be sober, I would be sober,” Harry says (although if he’s being honest, it’s more of a slur).

“Drink. It.”

Harry rolls his eyes (Merlin, even that hurts) and obeys. After a moment his head clears a bit, though it still throbs.

“Do you have the other?” he rasps.

“I’m not sure you deserve the other,” Hermione snips.

Ron hands him the other potion silently, and Harry drinks it; finally, blessed relief blankets the pain, and his nausea subsides. Harry rubs his eyes and adjusts himself into a more upright position.

“What are you guys doing here? Didn’t you get my owl?”

“You mean the one where you say the Malfoy job is complete and you need to be alone and are taking a vacation and don’t come looking for you?” Hermione summarizes, her voice rising with every word. “Yes, we did.”

Harry darts a glance toward Ron, who is sitting across from him impassively. Ron’s eyes widen fractionally and flick to Hermione with a raised eyebrow. Harry sighs. “I’m sorry, Hermione. I just needed—“

“What did Malfoy do to you, Harry?” she interrupts. “Did he curse you? Hurt you? Was he the one who sold the story to the papers?”

“He did nothing. Nothing,” Harry says, the truth of it heavy on his heart.

Hermione finally sits down next to him, gusting out a loud exhale. “Then what is it? Did being there remind you of before? Did that thing happen with the wands again? What’s going on that you can’t talk to us, and start drinking so much that Kreacher gets worried enough to come fetch us?”

Harry leans back, rolling the stiffness out of his shoulders. He looks at Ron with a bit of entreaty, and this time Ron shakes his head.

“I’m with her on this one, Mate. You should have talked to us before your trip down the kitten hole.”

“It’s a rabbit hole,” Hermione absently corrects.

Ron shrugs. “Whatever. Listen, even if I think you’re bloody stupid and ridiculous and maybe even fully mental for becoming friends… or whatever… with Malfoy, ‘Mione and I are here for you, no matter what happens. So whatever he did, you need to tell us.”

Anger slams into Harry, hot and brutal. “I said he did nothing! He was charming, and beautiful, and wounded, and brilliant, and he made me want him and then he was too much of a coward to let go of his fear long enough to do something, to take anything from me. He did nothing!”

His friends’ silence hangs thick in the air for a moment. Finally, Ron breaks it with a loud sigh. “So. It’s Malfoy, then?”

Harry nods slowly, his eyes bright with unshed tears, but he feels a bit steadier than he has in days. He realizes that Hermione has taken his hand at some point.

“Yeah,” he says, swallowing hard. “It’s Malfoy.”

“Oh, Harry.” Hermione’s hand grows tighter over his. “You’re never going to learn to do things the easy way, are you?”

A wet laugh bubbles out of Harry’s throat. “You’re one to talk. But I guess not.”

“So what can we do, Mate?”

Harry looks at Ron, who is visibly trying to hide his revolted expression. Harry laughs again, and this time the sound is tinged with bitterness. “Nothing. He won’t listen to anything I have to say. His life has been hard since the war—during, too—and he won’t believe that we can ever really… work. And I didn’t help matters at all.”

“What do you mean?” Hermione asks softly.

Kreacher suddenly appears at her side with a tray of mugs, and she passes one to Harry before taking one for herself with a whispered, ‘thank you.’ Rob grabs one, too, and Kreacher disappears, without a word for once. Harry winces, realizing how worried the house-elf must have been to fetch Ron and Hermione. He’ll talk to Kreacher later.

After taking a careful sip of steaming, tart cider, Harry clears his throat.

“I was too thick about it at first,” he admits eventually. “We’d gotten fairly close, and I was sure—sure—that it was going somewhere, and then Draco—“

Draco,” Ron mutters disconsolately.

“Stop,” Harry says, but feels a smile play with his mouth. “Draco came up with this—this, just, dismissal of me, of us, as though it had never been real from the beginning.” He feels the sharp tug of pain again, still fresh in his mind.

“And I didn’t believe him at first, of course, but then I did, which was so much worse,” he says, voice tight. “I believed he could still be like that, could use me in that way, and I was awful to him. I-I called him a Death Eater. I think I said his father would be proud of him. I told him that he could never come back from what he’d been, and I was sorry I’d thought differently.”

Harry hears Hermione sniffle beside him, but doesn’t look up. It’s too much to bear, the next part, and the words feel weighted as he forces them out; forces himself to say it in a dull voice he doesn’t recognize as his own. “And he was yelling at me too, ridiculous stuff about how could I have thought a Malfoy could be serious about a muggle-born, really stupid things like that, and I noticed he was crying. Really crying, and had been for a while. And I knew for sure then that I’d been wrong; how badly I’d hurt him by ever believing his lies about us, by dismissing his fear. He’s been living elsewhere for the last couple of years, because he thinks no one will accept him here. And he wanted to take me with him, but I said no—because I don’t want to give up everything for him. I still don’t,” Harry finishes softly. “I want to give him everything.”

Harry finally looks back up at his friends. Hermione is crying gently, brushing tears away as they fall, and Ron is staring at him with such a gobsmacked expression, Harry feels an unwilling glimmer of amusement.

“Merlin, Harry,” Ron mumbles. “That’s… a lot.”

“Well, you have some fixing to do then, don’t you?” Hermione says abruptly; her eyes are still wet, but her voice is brisk.

“I don’t know how,” Harry says honestly. “I don’t even know where he’s gone.” “

Oi, Harry,” Ron says with exasperation. “Didn’t you just spend two weeks building his wards? Locations spell, Mate. It should find him right quick.”

Feeling stupid, as much for his inertia of the past few days as for not realizing something so simple, Harry grabs his wand and casts the quick locating spell. Silvery words appear on the back of his hand, under his detention scar. Malfoy Manor, they read, glowing and cold.

“Shit, he’s still here!” Harry looks up hopefully.

“That makes perfect sense, if everything you’ve said about him holds true,” Hermione points out, logical to the bone.

“What do I do?”

“Stop drinking and feeling sorry for yourself,” Hermione commands immediately. “Come back to work. Fix yourself up and think about what would convince Malfoy—Draco—that you’re not going anywhere, and neither should he.”

“Thanks, that’s very helpful,” Harry says dryly. He hears Ron snort as Hermione bristles, and Harry softens his words with a smile. “No, really, it is. The hard part is figuring out what to do.”

“By the way, I did some checking into that first spell you cast on him,” Hermione adds, as she and Ron get up to leave.

“I don’t think that spell had much effect on what happened between us, really,” Harry says. “Not anymore.”

“You’re right; it didn’t. You mastered his wand at one point, and performed powerful magic with it before giving it back to him. Your magic recognized his, that’s all. The spell where you read his magic simply amplified anything the two of you were feeling in the moment,” Hermione explains.

“Wait, what?” Harry shoves his glasses up higher on the bridge of his nose. “I didn’t feel those feelings until that spell.”

“You must have,” she says simply, bussing a quick peck on his cheek. “Even if you didn’t recognize it.”

Hermione steps into the Floo and calls out her address, and Ron lingers for a moment after she disappears to clap Harry on the shoulder.

“Okay. Malfoy it is, then. Mum’s going to have a field day with this one.”

“Run interference for me?”

“I’ll try.” Ron shrugs, a glint of humor creeping over his face. “S’going to be fun to watch, either way.”

After they leave, Harry takes a moment to apologize to Kreacher for worrying him, and Kreacher glares his (Harry assumes) forgiveness before announcing that he will be taking the monthly day off that Harry insists on the next day. Kreacher’s days off usually consist of him napping for about eight minutes longer at night and serving a slightly less extravagant dinner than usual, but Harry recognizes the statement for what it is, and apologizes again.

Harry takes a shower, shaves and makes his first attempt on his hair since he’d stumbled home days ago. (It doesn’t do any good.) Then he falls into bed and sleeps for nine hours.

When he wakes up, he sends two owls before going to work. He accepts a two-day, basic warding job at a new, high-fashion robe shop in Diagon Alley. During his breaks, he sends owls; three each day.

When the job is over, he keeps sending them, despite the lack of response. Harry is giving Draco until Christmas, he decides, and then he’s done waiting.

On Christmas Eve, Harry retires to bed early; he has morning plans with Ron and Hermione—the Weasley’s are traveling to see Charlie again this year—before beginning his full assault on Draco’s defenses.

He falls into a restless sleep and wakes with a start just before midnight, disconcerted. He feels a freezing pain in his hand, and rubs at it absently before glancing don. His throat dries as he sees the words etched there, glowing bright in the alert of danger.

Draco Malfoy, Diagon Alley.

***

Each new day has dawned bleak and cold, even when the sun has come out. Draco finds himself going through the motions before he leaves.

He’s planning on going back to Greece to escape the weather--the everlasting cold that feels as though its seeped into his marrow—but he can’t quite make himself leave. There always seems to be something for him to do; his mother wants his help commissioning a portrait of Lucius, which takes a while and is ultimately sent out to an artist in France to complete who is willing take their gold.

Then Flitter seems to become ill, and his mother requires him to send for a House-elf caretaker, a profession Draco was completely unaware existed.

After Flitter has been sentenced to rest, he needs to locate a house-elf to replace her temporarily (although, really, the word temporary doesn’t exist for a house-elf; whoever they decide to bring in to their home will likely be there longer than Draco and his mother.), and Draco wishes for someone like Dobby with a piercing ache; despite the way his father had viewed and treated house-elves, Dobby had always been kind to Draco as a child, and he’d felt a strange, stark sorrow at the elf’s death.

Draco hires (adopts?) a new house-elf named Peep, who is ecstatic at his new commission to serve, and Draco thinks he’ll get along well with Flitter, once her condition has improved.

And then Christmas is barely two weeks away, and Draco would be coming home for that, anyway. So there’s really no purpose in leaving, getting settled in their villa in Greece and returning.

The truth, however, that he’s only able to confront at night, is that he can’t bring himself to leave; to increase the distance between himself and Harry.

He dreams, every night, about the feel of Harry’s tongue in his mouth, against his, the hot slide of it. His fantasies extend in his longing and desolation, filling in the blanks of what he will never get to know because of his cowardice. He wakes up each night, his body frustrated and ready, and Draco strokes himself to completion in utter misery, imagining Harry’s mouth on his cock; Harry’s rough hands trapping his wrists; Harry bent over a thick mattress, his ass spread and ready and beautiful.

And then, a week before Christmas, an owl arrives. It has Draco shaking his head in utter disbelief; it’s from Granger and Weasley.

Draco, I understand that you and Harry are now seeing each other, and we’d like to extend an invitation to you for Christmas morning. Our address is below, and you’re more than welcome; we’d love to have you and catch up. Please owl us with your arrival time, if you’re free to attend.

Sincerely,

Hermione Granger-Weasley

Ron Weasley

Underneath is a brief post-script from Ron that almost (almost) gives Draco a begrudging sense of amusement.

Malfoy-- Hermione is a shite cook, but I’m pretty good. (I promise not to poison anything.) I know Harry’d love to see you. R.W.

Draco can’t figure out what their motive are; didn’t Harry tell them it was over yet? Didn’t he tell them how ugly it got? Didn’t it matter to them who Draco was, in the first place? He puts the letter down carefully as though it’s a Howler and about to explode in his face, then leaves it on the table in the Hall, not deigning to owl back with any sort of response.

The next morning, another owl addressed to him, from Harry this time. It says, simply, I really, really miss you. HJP.

Draco leaves the letter on top of the first, but finds himself returning to it several times, his eyes lingering on the messy scrawl.

Later in the day, another comes that makes the back of his throat hurt with unshed tears: I’m so sorry I said those things to you; I didn’t mean them. I know who you are. Harry.

And before dinner: Don’t leave. HJP.

After that begins the deluge, three and four letters a day of varying lengths and with vastly different content. Sometimes Harry drops a note with one or two lines like, Exhausted today. Wishing I were with you. to longer missives, such as,

Draco. I wake up every night thinking of you. Don’t leave, for fuck’s sake. I want you like nothing before. I want you in every way you could imagine, and in all of the ways I’m sure you already have. Stay. I close my eyes and I can almost smell you. I can almost feel you. It’s not enough. I want to feel more. Send an owl back, and I’ll be there straightaway. I don’t care where we are; I don’t care about your house or your mother or your history except as it pertains to you. HJP.

Harry Potter, trying to be a poet. For him.

Draco begins keeping the letters in a pile next to his bed, and reads them so frequently that the parchment becomes worn and the handwriting faded within days. There’s a vague lingering scent of peppermint on them, a scent he associates with Harry, and he inhales each new letter before reading it.

His mother approaches him one morning, delicately inquiring whether Harry might be interested in joining them for the holidays.

“I understand he may have standing plans, Draco, but you two seemed to be getting along rather well, and if he has no other place to go, you are welcome to invite him here.”

“I happen to know that he does have other plans, Mother, but I’m sure he would appreciate the offer, were I actually going to extend it.”

Narcissa sucks in a quick breath. Her hand flutters uneasily at her side for a moment, and then she lifts it; places a gentle palm against his cheek. “But you seemed so… happy, Draco.”

“It seems being happy doesn’t work well for me,” Draco responds starkly.

“It’s all I’ve ever wanted,” she murmurs. “Surely you know that. Even when your father… Even when you were younger. All I’ve done, I’ve done to make sure you had advantages, to make sure your life would be full.”

Draco eyes her sharply. “I know. But I’m not in the most advantageous point of my life, and there’s no point in dragging anyone down with me.”

“It seems there’s a wide variety of outcomes to any situation, if you truly examine what advantages you have instead of squandering them,” she says soberly, locking eyes with him for a moment. She leaves before he can respond.

And fuck it, his mother’s gentle censure and fragile hopes for him crumble the last of his resistance. Draco knows that he’s never been strong enough to stand up to real opposition, and he’s not going to be better this time.

(But I will be, later. I will be, for him.)

He still doesn’t respond to Ron and Hermione, but takes a chance in hoping they were serious about not poisoning him, because the only thing Draco can think of to do that’s as romantic as Harry’s letters is to surprise him on Christmas. But first, he needs gifts.

Draco Apparates to Diagon Alley early in the evening on Christmas Eve. The snow has just begun to fall, but it doesn’t deter him; he wanders from shop to shop, ignoring askance looks and muttered whispers, looking for presents that announce, “I’m not going to kill your friend, please don’t harm me,” and, “I’m in love with you, you were right, now don’t be such a Hufflepuff about it.”

For Ron and Hermione, he finds a cookbook titled, “Cooking For the Busy Wizarding Couple,” and is bewitched to give an alarm if a wrong ingredient has been added or something is about to burn in the kitchen. He adds a small enchanted flag for the Canon’s that chants for them (utterly plebian, but Harry mentioned that Ron likes them too) for Weasley, and a diary of charmed parchment for Granger that never ends; when it runs out of pages, new ones appear and the old ones vanish, becoming weightless and invisible until the owner needs them again.

For Harry he looks until late; he looks at brooms, and potions, and even ties, and can’t find anything remotely satisfactory. He keeps searching, until many of the shops begin to close, and Diagon Alley becomes darker as lights start switching off.

The street is dimly lit, and he has the vague idea that he might examine the contents of a small arts shop that seems to contain charmed sculptures of different locales and objects that undulate in method of their inspirations when the first hex hits him.

It’s a simple jelly-legs jinx, but Draco is off-kilter, and his arms are filled with packages. He automatically drops them and reaches for his wand when pain sears across his face; he feels something wet, and tastes bitter iron. Then a physical blow, across his back, too near to his spine, rattles his whole frame, and he falls to his knees with a grunt. He can’t even see his attackers, but he senses two darkened figures circling him.

A kick finds his ribs, another his kidney. Magic hits his face, and he can feel the bones in his nose crunch as a deep laugh rings in his ears.

There’s a sudden crack and bright light, and Draco has finally managed to grab his wand, but he doesn’t need it because Harry is there somehow; Harry is there and standing over him like an avenging angel, like the Ender of Voldemort, like the Boy Who Lived Because He Just Could Not Be Killed.

His eyes are bright in his face, furious, as he brandishes his wand at two men whom Draco can now see but doesn’t recognize.

“Aurors’ are on the way and you’ll be lucky if they get here before I kill you both first,” Harry says, his voice truly frightening.

There’s a beat and then Harry is kneeling next to him, his wand still pointed at Draco’s attackers. “Oh my God.”

A soft hand is roaming over Draco’s frame; he winces as it passes over his ribs, surely cracked, and again when it lightly touches the bridge of his nose. He looks up into Harry’s eyes.

“You just make it a habit to save everyone, don’t you,” he whispers, and Harry looks relieved.

“Oi, why are you defending him?” one of the men yells out belligerently. “We were doing this for you, ya know. For e’ryone. Death Eater’s got no place here; he musta done something to you to get you to work with him. You’re Harry Potter.”

Harry glares at the man so coldly that for a moment, he reminds Draco of his own father. “Exactly. I am. You think I’m able to kill Voldemort but not protect myself against someone I went to school with for years? How dare you.”

“How dare you be consorting with him?” the man calls back.

“I’ll do more than that once he’s nice and healed, while you rot in a cell for assault, which by the way, I can make sure happens.” Harry says loudly, gripping Draco’s hand with a sudden fierceness that would make his knees weak if he could stand. A crowd has been drawn, late as it is, and people are watching. “And you’ll all mind your business and let me live my life.”

Finally, the Aurors have arrived and one of them comes over to Harry for a brief, quiet rundown of the events. Harry lowers his wand and watches with dark satisfaction as the men are arrested and taken, and then gently kneels again, carefully putting an arm under Draco’s shoulders before Apparating them away.

They arrive on the stoop of Grimmauld Place; Draco has a vague memory of it as a very young child and, of course, everyone knows where Harry lives, though few have access to his home.

Harry half-lifts, half-drags him inside and calls out, “Kreacher!”

With a crack, a horribly old elf appears and helps Harry move Draco up a flight of stairs, into a bedroom decorated in rich browns and creams.  They seat him at the edge of the bed, and Draco sinks a little against the soft mattress.

“Can you get my supplies,” Harry asks, and Kreacher is gone and back before Draco can say a word. He lays an array of potions and vials beside Harry.

Harry touches Draco’s nose, and then whatever is bleeding on his forehead, with his wand. “Episky,” he murmurs each time, and Draco feels the sudden heat and cold that accompanies healing. He removes Draco’s shirt and his sudden intake of breath is what tells Draco how bad it looks. Harry probes his ribs and mutters the same spell before fumbling through his vials and handing two of them to Draco to drink, which he does, obediently.

Harry bends and grabs a swatch of gauze and soaks them in something. He presses it against Draco’s back, over his kidney, and in another spot near his spine. “This should help with the pain.”

The liquid is slowly dripping, but most if his pain is already gone, and Draco looks at Harry in wonder, crouching awkwardly between his legs, worrying his bottom lip with his teeth.

“How did you find me?”

***

(How did you find me?) Harry doesn’t answer, bewildered, drawing a blank at the question. The sight of Draco’s bruised and bloody form makes him want to throw up; he hadn’t lied when he’d told Draco’s attacker’s how close they’d been to death. He swallows hard, still staring at Draco’s midsection; the dark bruises are rapidly becoming a pale, yellow-green and he continues to apply pressure with the pain-relief potions to the worst of it.

He starts when Draco suddenly touches his chin, lifting his face up.

“How did you find me?” he says again, softly.

Harry holds up a shaky hand so that Draco can see the fading words on them. “The wards. They extend to anyone who lives on your property. They alert us if you’re in immediate physical danger.”

Harry can’t tell if Draco is disappointed or relieved by how mundane the explanation is until he adds, “I was going to come looking for you tomorrow.”

“You weren’t going to have to,” Draco says quietly, and a shudder of something like relief, and something deeper, passes through Harry.

“Do you want to go to St. Mungo’s for the rest of it?” he asks abruptly, removing the dripping gauze. He hands Draco a towel and watches him carefully wipe off the remaining liquid with a gentle hand, trying not to notice how fit Draco is without his clothes on, in case Draco wants to leave.

“No, I think I’m all right, actually,” Draco says, surprised. He pauses. “What you said… Everyone’s going to think—“

“Everyone will be right,” Harry says firmly.

“What about your press release?”

Harry chuckles, startled. “Has that been bothering you this whole time? I thought I explained; that was for you. I don’t give a damn what the gossip columns write. Haven’t you been getting my letters?”

“All nine thousand of them, yes,” he answers dryly, still wiping himself off, but Harry is fascinated at the pleased blush that darkens Draco’s pale cheeks.

“Draco.”

“We should talk, I know,” the other man says with a sigh.

“Draco.”

“What?” Draco looks up with irritation and Harry loves him so much in that moment he can scarcely breath with it; so he doesn’t, instead kneeling down between Draco’s legs again.

Draco stares at him with dawning understanding, a smile curling his cynical lips, as Harry places both of his palms flat on the tops of Draco’s thighs and leans in to catch Draco’s mouth with his.

Tremors wrack Harry’s body at the contact; he’s had too little of it to start, been craving it for too long, that now it’s almost painful in its rightness. Draco’s tongue slips into his mouth, licking gently, and he gives Harry’s lower lip a nip with his teeth, causing Harry to jerk in surprise.

“You want me,” Draco mutters, hands light on Harry’s ribcage.

“Yes. Yes.”

With unexpected grace, Draco stands up, pulling Harry to his feet. A heavy hand cups Harry’s fierce erection through his trousers, and Harry thrusts helplessly against it.

Draco’s voice is impossibly lower. “Do you want this?”

Fuck, Malfoy,” Harry groans, unable to concentrate on something other than the delicious movements of that hand.

“Shut it, Potter,” Draco says, and then takes Harry’s mouth in hard kiss.

Harry’s brain stutters to a halt as Draco takes over; he grabs Harry’s hair and tilts his head back, deepening the kiss, sweeping his tongue inside. Harry strokes it with his own, tasting him, and the world becomes blurry and bright around him.

Draco’s hands are everywhere, aggressive and unyielding. Harry’s trousers are unzippered and yanked down, and then he’s divested of his jumper, his shirt, with speedy measure. Harry makes quick work ridding himself of his clothing at Draco’s silent insistence, refusing to lose contact with his mouth whenever possible.

Finally he stands, naked, waiting, as Draco’s hands cover him again; one fist wraps tightly around his erection, the other lightly cups his testicles and gives them a gentle squeeze and Harry groans in response to the sensation. Draco breaks their kiss, pulling away as Harry’s mouth follows him helplessly. His grey eyes are smoky with intent and his mouth curls up wickedly as he slides to his knees in front of Harry. Harry feels himself swallow hard, and then feels Draco’s breath against his cock a split second before his mouth slides over it.

“Oh fuck,” he hisses, feeling Draco’s tongue swirl around the head of his cock, moving his head up and down in perfect rhythm with the hand that still encircles him. He thrusts minutely, trying to control himself, and then harder as Draco takes his other hand and reaches around, cupping one side of his ass with tight fingers.

His mouth is slick and hot and perfect, and Harry can feel the friction of his tongue, the light scrape of his teeth and he wants to come, is going to come—

“Malfoy—“

There’s a pause, and then a moist, blunt fingertip begins probing his ass, circling the puckered skin, and the combinations of feelings are overwhelming, not enough, his hands gripping Draco’s hair, his cock in his mouth, that skilled suction. Harry’s hips jerk, his breath coming in hard pants as he comes, cock throbbing, Draco’s name a wrenched cry issued from his lips.

Draco stays on his knees through the duration, his mouth becoming softer as he works Harry through the orgasm. His tongue is a light touch on the underside of Harry’s cock, his lips a gentle slide that makes Harry twitch with sensation. At length, Draco removes his lips from Harry, and even that feels good.  He stands up, presses a lingering kiss to Harry’s willing mouth; Harry can taste himself on Draco’s tongue.

His hand finds the other man’s erection, which is tenting his trousers obscenely, and he palms it roughly through the material.

“Do you want more?” Draco asks quietly.

Harry feels his first shot of real nerves but he meets Draco’s calm grey eyes and nods.

“Yes. More.”

***

(Yes. More.) The words are like a balm to Draco, like a prayer, a charm, the most beautiful spellwork Draco’s ever encountered. Harry looks at him, vaguely anxious, but there is entreaty in his eyes, too; excitement for deliverance of the unknown that he’s only just recently realized is something he could want. And there’s trust, as well, in his gaze, a trust that humbles Draco and makes him feel small and powerful at once.

He thinks of Harry trembling above him, the frantic pace of his hips, the thick slide of his cock in Draco’s mouth; thinks of Harry crying out his name at the end of it. He thinks of the taste of Harry’s come, salty-bitter, still fresh on his tongue and wants to make this good for him more than he’s ever wanted anything in his life.

He starts slow, pressing light kisses against Harry’s neck, nipping at his ear, tasting the salt of his skin. Harry responds eagerly, pulling Draco into his body tightly, working at Draco’s belt and trousers so that he can push them down. Draco steps out of his shoes, toes off his socks, and divests himself of his trousers, which are pooled at his knees, all while maintaining bodily contact with Harry.  Harry fumbles a bit, trying to help, but getting distracted in Draco’s kisses, which makes a melting sort of happiness pool somewhere in Draco’s midsection.

Draco has had lovers before, but never one he’s loved--never one that meant anything real, and he feels nervous too, because this will; this does.

Their kisses become heated again, become a lovely clash, in that familiar way, the way it seems everything will always be between them, each struggling for dominance. Draco bites down on the tendon in the curve of Harry’s neck, and a groan, low and deep, issues from Harry’s throat. He returns the gesture by tracing the shell of Draco’s ear with his tongue, his hot breath making Draco shiver, before nipping almost too roughly at the lobe.

Draco turns them, walking until the backs of Harry’s thighs bump against the mattress, and Harry sits. He leans back on his hands and stares at Draco admiringly; Draco returns the stare: Harry’s cock is beginning to thicken again, resting in the thatch of curling black hair at his groin. Harry’s body is tan and lithe, etched with scars. It’s a perfect Seeker’s body, dappled by the sun, long and covered in lean muscles.

“You’re so fucking beautiful,” Harry whispers, parroting Draco’s thoughts, and Draco can feel a flush of pleasure at the compliment heat his face. “Come here.”

Draco obliges, kneeing Harry’s thighs apart before perching between them on the mattress. He presses a damp kiss to the path of dark hair leading from Harry’s groin to his belly button, and feels the muscles in Harry’s stomach jump at the contact.

Leaning over Harry now, Draco kisses him, and Harry opens his mouth in supplication. He arches his body up against Draco, pressing flush against him, and Draco feels the delicious friction of their cocks trapped against each other, between both of their stomachs. He rubs the length of his body in slow thrusts against Harry, making him gasp.

“Please. Please,” Harry murmurs against Draco’s mouth, pushing blindly upward.

“We need something for—“

Accio lube,” Harry mumbles, almost incoherently, against Draco’s mouth, and Draco is too relieved at the small bottle appears to take the time to be impressed with Harry’s thoughtless use of wandless magic.

He takes the bottle and coats his fingers with the slippery substance and then reaches between them. His fingers, long and sure, find Harry’s tight, puckered entrance and begin the task of loosening him, pushing a gentle finger inside. Harry bucks up against him with a surprised sound, but moves in time with Draco’s fingers until a second finger joins the first. At this, Harry begins to still, writhing slightly at the discomfort, but Draco continues slowly, slowly, pushing his fingers in and out until Harry becomes more comfortable with the intrusion.

Draco takes a moment to distract Harry by sliding their cocks together again, hard on hard, and Harry moans, his green eyes dilating almost to black. Draco scissors his fingers slightly, feeling Harry’s muscles contract in response; he does it again, wider this time, moving in and out, and the motion makes soft squelching noises that are about to drive Draco insane with lust.

He adds a third finger and is encouraged when Harry moves immediately to accommodate him. After a few minutes, Draco removes his fingers with a soft pop and Harry lays before him, breathless, waiting.

Wordlessly, Draco guides him to pull up his knees closer to his stomach, and Draco runs his hands over the rough hair on the backs of Harry’s thighs as he helps him. He stares down at Harry’s ass, glistening and ready for him, and he’s so aroused he’s not sure if he can be entirely gentle.

But then he looks down at Harry, eyes hot and dark as they stare up at him. Draco takes a deep breath and presses a kiss against Harry’s mouth. He takes a moment to coat his cock in the slick lube, then lines up against Harry.

At first, despite his preparation, there’s only resistance. Draco presses slightly harder and feels the thick head of his cock gain traction; he slips in about an inch.

Harry is breathing hard, his breath coming in choppy pants. His hands come up and grip Draco’s forearms tightly, the only signs of any distress.

“Relax,” Draco whispers, pulling away and pushing back.

Harry nods, swallows hard, and Draco can feel the deliberate loosening of tension in the other man’s body as he slowly rocks back and forth. Suddenly the tight ring of muscles locking Draco out seem to soften, and Draco sinks into Harry, slowly working his cock deeper to give Harry time to adjust.

When he’s as deep as he can go, Draco stills, catching his breath. He looks down at their joined bodies (fuck, that’s hot) and then back up into Harry’s face. Harry is grimacing slightly; his erection has wilted a bit between them.

“All right?” Draco asks breathlessly, ruthlessly ignoring the urge to push, to take Harry hard.

Harry seems to take stock for a moment before he nods minutely. “All right.”

Draco gently pulls back and thrusts again, eliciting a small gasp from Harry. Mindfully, he adjusts his angle slightly, hiking up Harry’s thigh under one of his arms; Harry is almost bent in half, splayed open, and his position looks uncomfortable, but when Draco thrusts lightly again, an entirely different kind of gasps escapes Harry. Draco feels his mouth curve up in triumph.

He thrusts again. “Like that?”

Yes,” Harry answers on a drawn-out moan.

He’s so tight around Draco that he knows he’s not going to last long this first time; despite his experience, he’s wanted this for too long, has fantasized about this too much. Harry is groaning beneath him, lifting up to meet his thrusts. One of his thighs is clenched tight around Draco’s hip; the other leg has worked its way up to Draco’s shoulder

. Draco thrusts deeper, harder, the friction making him gasp. “You feel so…”

“Fuck, yes, do it, oh God, Malfoy,” Harry babbles, his voice rough and thin, and Draco can hear the slapping of flesh on flesh, feels the sudden wetness of Harry’s come spreading against his stomach, and Harry’s inner muscles tighten and contract around Draco’s cock. Draco’s orgasm hits him so hard that his vision dims, and he holds himself deep inside Harry as he climaxes.

As the pleasure, hot and sharp, slowly fades, Draco realizes that he’s lying heavily on top of Harry; becomes aware of soft hands lazily stroking the indentation of Draco’s spine.

With a sense of regret, Draco pulls away, gently disengaging his body from Harry’s, and rolling to the side. He hears Harry cast a cleaning charm (Wandless magic again?), and then the other man scoots closer, fitting his frame into Draco’s, pulls the blankets up over them, and they fall asleep.

***

A pleasant, lazy tugging sensation on his cock wakes Harry up. He blinks his eyes, squints at the pale sunshine spilling into his room, and finally focuses on Draco, curled next to him, stroking Harry’s cock with an elegant, deft hand. He has his free hand on his own erection and Harry is temporarily mesmerized by the sight; his mouth grows dry as he watches Draco indolently stroke both of them in unison.

“It was there when I woke up,” Draco mumbles, his voice sleep-thick. He squeezes Harry’s cock to emphasize. “It seemed a shame to waste it.”

“A shame,” Harry agrees seriously, and rolls onto his side to get closer. Draco kisses him languorously, and Harry feels his hand pick up the tempo of speed, increasing pressure. Harry’s hands stray to Draco’s erection and he begins mimicking the other man’s movements; a gentle, rapid stroke, a quick roll of his wrist.

Draco’s breath becomes lighter, faster, and then he holds himself stiff and trembling against Harry, and Harry can feel his release coat his hand, slicking it. Draco pauses in the motions of his hand to gather up some of the fluid, and the palm that grasps him again is slippery and tight (ohmerlinohfuck) and Harry comes as much from the knowledge that Draco is using his own ejaculate to get Harry to climax as much from the sensation it produces.

They lay in quiet for a few minutes, hands wandering. Harry feels tired, and damn sore, but every ache is wonderful. All night, he’s been aware of Draco beside him; he’d woken up Draco twice in the middle of the night, unable to stay away from his body.

At half-four in the morning, they had gotten up to share a shower and Harry had been able to do something he’d been fantasizing about curiously for weeks; take Draco’s cock in his mouth. The resulting rush of power and pleasure as Draco had groaned above him was so rich that Harry had been unable to stop touching himself has he’d sucked Draco off, hot water pouring over them as they came.

At one point, as they’d washed off after, Harry had taken Draco’s forearm and lightly trailed his fingers over the dark tattoo still etched there, like a brand. Draco became as unmoving as stone. Harry watched him carefully as he leaned down and fluttered light kisses over it. Draco’s breath had gusted out raggedly at the gesture. (I don’t care. I accept you.)

They’d picked at the food Kreacher had left on a covered tray in the kitchen; slices of roasted chicken and mashed potatoes with thick gravy, crackers and cheese, grapes and balled melons in different colors. They’d fed each other and laughed quietly between kisses before losing interest in the food and indulging in their newfound obsession for each other’s bodies, and Harry had never known that this kind of happiness could exist outside of fairytales.

But then, he’d believed Hogwarts to be something like a fairytale once, too.

Harry reaches for his glasses and puts them on, surprised to hear Draco chuff a soft laugh beside him.

“Oh, good. You look like you.”

“How’s that, now?”

“Unkempt and sexy and just-shagged and irresistible, with extremely ugly glasses,” Draco supplies helpfully, and Harry snorts.

He takes a quick glance at his clock; it was a gift from the Weasley’s the previous Christmas, and is similar to their clock at home. Under Harry’s name, the hand has twitched to VERY LATE.

“Oh, shit,” he says, scrambling out of bed and wanting nothing more than to crawl back into its warmth with Draco. “I was supposed to be at Ron and Hermione’s an hour ago. And what about your mother?”

Draco shrugs, too calmly for Harry’s frame of mind, and says, “I sent her an owl to let her know we’d be in for supper tonight.” He hesitates. “Granger and Weasley invited me.”

It’s news to Harry. He stops rifling through his closet to face Draco. “When?”

“Right before you sent your first letter. I hadn’t responded, but I was… I was going to show up, today. To see you.”

A glowing warmth fills Harry and he shoots Draco an affectionate look. “So then you’re coming?”

“I bought gifts for them, last night, but I suppose they must’ve gotten knocked into the street, during… Well.”

A flash of anger shoots through Harry again, but he shakes it off at the disappointment on Draco’s face. “There were some packages in the kitchen; I noticed them last night. Someone from MLE must have dropped them off while we were… Kreacher put them on the counter. You didn’t have to do that, you know.”

“I couldn’t find anything for you,” Draco says, almost too quietly to hear. “I didn’t get you anything.”

Harry stops again. He walks over to Draco and cups the back of his neck; he kisses him hard. “Yes, you did.”

Draco smirks, but his flush betrays him. “You’ll get more of that, later. I meant something seasonal.”

“We can prance around in nothing but Santa caps later if you want,” Harry laughs, delighted and strangely turned on by the image.

“What’s a Santa?”

“Never mind. Get dressed. We’re late.” He tosses Draco’s clothes, mended, freshly cleaned, and pressed (thank you, Kreacher) on the bed, and they finish dressing quickly. It’s a shame to watch Draco cover up all of that pale skin, but fortunately, he looks just as gorgeous with clothing on.

It’s going to be a very distracting day.

They arrive to Ron and Hermione’s, and all of Hermione’s lectures dry up at the sight of Draco by his side. It’s not as awful as Harry had feared; he knows his friends love him (and if the invitation they’d sent Draco was any indication, didn’t mind having him in Harry’s life, and theirs by extension), but good intentions don’t always line up with reality, so he’s relieved when Hermione exclaims with delight over Draco’s gifts, and presents him with one as well.

“We weren’t sure you were coming. But I wanted to have this, in case,” she explains, as Draco looks down at the brightly wrapped package in his hands.

He seems vaguely bewildered at the offering, and Harry squeezes his shoulder. Draco opens it slowly; it’s a thick scarf made in Slytherin green, with black and silver stripes. Draco wraps it around his neck slowly, and gives Hermione a subdued thanks.

“Of course! Your gifts are lovely,” she says again. “Perfect. Harry, we got you Quidditch tickets again; a set of three this time,” she finishes with a quick glance at Draco.

“Brilliant; thanks, ‘Mione, Ron!”

As they eat, Harry can’t help but notice that Draco seems strangely quiet, listlessly picking at his food (which is really quite good, as Ron did the cooking).  Harry finally leans over and murmurs, “Are you okay?”

“I just… How can they…”

“People can, Draco. If you let them.” Harry grasps his thigh under the table. “Ron, did you know that Draco’s team is the Falcons?”

“Disgusting!” Ron announces, waving a fork in the air in a vaguely threatening gesture. “We’ll straighten you out yet, Malfoy!”

Fortunately, Harry sees Draco’s familiar, competitive sneer twist his face, and much of his disturbing passivity seems to fall away. “The day the Falcons lose to the Canons this season, I’ll—“

“Yeah?” Ron demands, swallowing a mouthful of food. “You’ll what?”

As they begin to argue, Harry leaves them to it, getting up to help Hermione in the kitchen. They begin working on the dishes together, shoulder to shoulder, the silence companionable. At length, Hermione says, “I like him.”

Harry feels smug. “Of course you do. I have excellent taste in partners.”

“That’s what you are?” she asks idly, handing Harry a pot to dry.

“Yes. He’s my…” Harry searches for a word that feels true. “Lover.” It seems strange, but feels right. Draco is his lover. The lover of Harry. He feels that same happiness from this morning bloom, warm and deep.

“And it’s… going well?” “Hermione, it’s been a day,” Harry says with only a little exasperation.

“A day, three weeks, and eleven years,” she points out. “Just because the angles have changed doesn’t mean you haven’t been building to this for a long time. Look at me and Ron. Maybe you two are just a more extreme version of that.”

Harry contemplates this for a moment. From the beginning, it was true that Draco Malfoy had gotten under his skin like no other with his general nastiness and sense of entitlement. Harry also has to admit to having been slightly obsessed with his flaxen hair for the longest time; it used to be an identifying measure in a crowd, a way for Harry to seek him out, but now Harry wonders if that’s all it was.

Finally, Harry shrugs a bit, accepting another pot to dry. “I guess we’ll see. We… We haven’t talked much in the last day. I—I think he’s on the same page, but I don’t know how, y’know, deep it goes for him.”

Hermione responds with a little laugh. “Well, then, talk. That clears up a lot of confusion, trust me.” She gives him a little sideways smile and, with no preamble, whispers, “By the way, I’m pregnant.”

“WHAT?” Harry drops the pot and it clatters back into the sink.There’s a momentary pause in the other room before Draco and Ron resume their argument.

“Shhh!” Hermione looks cross and pleased at the same time, an expression that she has somehow perfected in the years since he’s known her. “Ron doesn’t know yet!”

What?” Harry says again, although he remembers to whisper it.

“I’m telling him tonight. I have a special surprise planned,” she says with a strange little glint of a grin that makes Harry roll his eyes. “And I didn’t think we’d be seeing you for a few days, what with Draco, and the offices closed for the hols. Ron won’t mind. And, you know, Harry—you’re our family. I mean, in all of the ways of real family, and in all of the ways they aren’t.”

Touched, Harry swallows thickly and sweeps her up into a tight hug. Hermione returns it, holding him close, and he hears a soft whisper in his ear, “Take all of the happiness you can, Harry.”

“Congratulations, ‘Mione.”

When Harry and Draco leave an hour later, the snow is just beginning to fall again. Draco, wrapped in his new scarf, waits patiently while Harry says goodbye, giving Ron a hug that lasts a little too long. Ron looks at him strangely, amused, and his brow furrows as he glances at Draco; Harry knows him well enough to understand that Ron is attributing his sudden affection to Ron’s acceptance of the other man, and he grins in reply.

He and Draco Apparate back to Grimmauld Place, and Harry watches Draco hunt through his clothing for something suitable; Christmas dinner at his house, he’s explained, is always formal. He finally finds Harry’s dress robes in the back of his closet and inspects them. Apparently finding them suitable, he hands them to Harry.

“Here, put these on. I’ll change at home.”

“It’s a bit early, isn’t it?” Harry asks, but obligingly begins removing his clothing.

Draco shrugs. “I’d always rather be early for my mother than late. You’ll understand once you get to know her.”

Harry is down to his pants, and he walks up to Draco, removing his glasses with deliberation. “No. I mean, don’t we have time?”

Harry sees the moment the other man gets it; Draco smirks and lifts a single eyebrow at Harry, who grins.

Harry grabs Draco and pulls him close, kissing him roughly. Draco responds in kind, licking hotly into Harry’s mouth, gripping him around the waist. His hands are splayed flat on Harry’s back, and they wander over Harry’s skin, leaving cool trails of heated flesh in their wake. They stumble over to the bed, locked around each other, and Draco’s clothes are removed—although later, Harry won’t be able to say by whom.

Draco kisses his way down Harry’s body, pausing to nip a bit of skin on Harry’s stomach, and dart his tongue out at the crevice where his groin meets his leg. Harry moves restlessly underneath him and finally Draco takes Harry’s cock into his mouth, practically swallowing him. Harry yelps with surprised arousal at the sudden saturation of feeling. Draco’s mouth is hot and wet, and Harry thrusts up into it with abandon, not even trying to control himself. Draco presses calming hands to Harry’s hips, bobbing his head up and down for a few moments, before finally removing his mouth.

He reaches for the lube, and Harry hesitates, not sure he’s ready again so soon—despite that amazing spot Draco’d found in him the previous night that had made him see stars—but willing to trust the other man. He starts to spread his legs, but Draco is reaching around his own body with slickened fingers, and Harry hears him sigh softly as he penetrates himself. Fascinated, Harry clambers up on to his knees as circles the other man to watch. Two of Draco’s fingers are disappearing into himself with an easy rhythm, and Harry finds that he wants to help.

With some trepidation, he coats his own fingers and says, “Can I?”

Draco, whose fingers are working faster, groans. “Yes. Just one.”

Harry gently takes one fingertip and presses it against the Draco’s. He pushes inside and it’s the weirdest sensation, that furrowed bit of skin, the fingers moving with his.

Draco gasps in response as Harry pushes his finger in and out. Finally, guides Harry’s hand away. “I’m ready.”

Unsure why he’s so shocked, Harry can only nod dumbly for a moment. “You want me to…”

“Don’t you want to?”

“I’m afraid I’ll hurt you.”

Draco gives him a surprisingly sweet smile. “It’ll be okay. Lie back.”

Harry obeys and Draco straddles him quickly. He grasps Harry’s cock in a firm hand, raises up on his knees and fumbles a bit, searching for the right spot, before carefully lowering himself onto Harry’s cock.

Again, Harry can’t help but to buck his hips, trying to get more, make it faster, but Draco waits until he’s still again, and continues lowering.

“Sorry, sorry,” Harry gasps.

Draco gives a filthy little laugh, white teeth flashing. “Hold still, Potter. Learn some patience.”

So Harry does, and finally Draco is seated fully on him. Harry wonders briefly if it’s the same for every man as it was for him, or if that was just the first time; that strange, intrusive sense of fullness, the discomfort so sharp that it bordered on real pain, until Draco had found that bundle of nerves inside Harry with his cock that had made it feel as though electricity was zipping up Harry’s spine.

When Draco finally begins to move up and down, Harry gives a tentative nudge upward, and Draco exhales sharply with pleasure.

“Right. There,”he orders through gritted teeth.

Harry does it again, although the control is costing him; he feels his brow begin to sweat—his testicles are drawn up tight against his body, but he fights off the rushing climax to continue moving within Draco.

To distract himself from his own sensations, Harry reaches out and grasps Draco’s cock, lying stiff on Harry’s stomach. He circles it, gives it a gentle squeeze, running his thumb over the moisture leaking from the tip and swirling it around the thick head. Draco bites his lip on a moan, riding Harry harder, and Harry closes his fist around Draco’s cock. The sensations are intense, being surrounded by so much heat; the lube has made Draco’s ass silky and Harry thrusts up, strokes his fist up and down Draco’s cock in time with the motions of Draco’s hips.

And then it’s barreling toward him, he’s almost there, he can’t hold back any longer. His hand begins a desperate pace and Harry feels the warm spurt of Draco’s climax cover his hand and stomach as he comes too, long and hard, inside of him.

Draco falls forward and drapes himself over Harry, his light hair soft and spicy-smelling on Harry’s face. Their hearts beat in a strange, frantic synchronicity as each of them catch their breath. After a few minutes, Draco slowly pulls away, up and over, and lays next to Harry.

“Well,” he says thoughtfully, “it’s a good thing we did that before dinner with my mother, because I’m not sure you’ll be in the mood after.”

Helplessly, Harry laughs.

***

Dinner is a lavish affair consisting of several courses. After he changes into appropriate attire (while constantly batting away the wandering hands of an indiscreet Gryffindor), Harry and Draco make their way downstairs to his dining room where his mother is waiting.

When he was a child, nothing seemed as beautiful as Christmas at his house. He sees the same look of wonder on Harry’s face as they walk through the hall; an intake of breath, the wide green gaze staring at the decorations. The Manor, usually so coldly formal throughout the year, is lit up. Floating candles wander gentle through the air, as if with no real direction. Enchanted lights shaped like snowflakes burn silver and drift through the room, which is decorated with bright bursts of fur and holly berries.

Draco smiles to himself. He nudges Harry, who blinks at him owlishly, and points to a wreath. Harry raises his eyebrows in question, and Draco shrugs. “The colors look good together,” he explains, a little awkwardly.

Red and green. He sees the moment Harry understands his point, as Harry casts him a searching look and gives him a warm grin. “Beautiful.”

Draco’s mother is already seated at the head of the table, where his father used to sit. She notes their entwined fingers with the rise of a single eyebrow, and then smiles with welcome. “I’m so glad you could join us, Harry.”

For years when he was growing up, Christmas was a crowded event at the Manor; dozens of people attended, and many of them stayed for several days before and after. This is the first time his mother has extended herself to allow someone in socially since the War, since the Trials, and Draco allows himself to feel a moment of pride on her behalf.

“Thank you for the invitation, Mrs. Malfoy,” Harry says politely as they sit. He automatically pulls out a chair for Draco before sitting down, and Draco looks up at him with amused surprise; he’s not sure if Harry is doing it out of habit or nerves or manners, but he finds he likes being catered to, just a bit.

Once they’re seated, Peep begins delivering the food, beginning with a warm carrot soup. Harry (being Harry) introduces himself to the house-elf, who seems slightly dazzled. “Of course Peep knows who Mister Harry Potter is, sirs! It is Peep’s greatest honor to serve in the house of Malfoy and attend to Harry Potter’s needs!”

Harry asks in an aside where Flitter is, and Draco murmurs, “Later,” before pressing the side of his knee against Harry’s and turning to his mother to start a conversation.

She’s more animated tonight than Draco has seen her in a long time. She asks about Harry’s company in far more detail than she did before hiring him, asks after his friends, discusses the current Minister’s announcements in the papers for the renovation of St. Mungo’s, and the addition of a mental well-being clinic, run by wizards with training specific in that area.

“Muggles call them psychologists,” Harry supplies at one point. “But as I understand it, the same therapeutic principals will apply, only with a magical element added for ease and safety of the patients.”

“Ah, yes. A quite fine idea; very practical. A place for suffering people to go before physical healing is required. I find that quite interesting,” Narcissa says, taking a dainty sip of her wine. “Tell me, do you happen to know if it will also attend to other sorts of sentient magical creatures, or if only witches and wizards will be welcome?”

“That’s an excellent question; I’ll be sure to ask the next time I visit the Ministry. It would obviously be very helpful to have different sections for different types of creatures but the cultural divides may make it difficult for specific therapies to become available to everyone.”

The exchange feels odd to Draco; something seems amiss. Is his mother considering wizarding therapy? Of course, Draco wouldn’t discourage it if she felt it was something she needed, but her interest in the subject feels decidedly strange. However, Narcissa switches topics again, and as Harry answers each of her questions with a quiet, confident ease, Draco puts it out of his mind. He’s too surprised and proud of the man sitting beside him (his boyfriend? Bugger. Yes.) to wonder how Harry achieved these social skills; in school, he’d always seemed such an awkward mess when interacting with people that weren’t Dumbledore, the half-giant, or Granger and Weasley. He’d never seemed to have the aplomb he’s using now to discuss the negative impacts that the expansion of Diagon Alley might have on the economic structure of Wizarding London.

After they’ve finished dinner and dessert, Harry thanks Narcissa again for her invitation. Draco is astonished when she lays a hand on Harry’s shoulder and gives him a genuine smile. “It was a pleasure to have you. Please join us again.” She kisses Draco’s cheek lightly. “Goodnight, gentlemen.”

“Goodnight, Mother.”

“Goodnight, Mrs. Malfoy.”

Draco takes Harry upstairs to his rooms and begins getting undressed before stopping to look at Harry oddly. Harry is sitting, pose relaxed, on a chaise lounge near the east windows, watching Draco undress and Draco feels uncomfortable, but there’s nothing for it. “Are we… Did you want to go back to your place?”

“Not if you want to stay here,” Harry says calmly.

“I thought—I thought you couldn’t…”

“I’m where you are. I’ll make my peace with the rest, if you’re with me.”

Draco tastes salt on the back of his throat and curses himself; when did he become so soft? “I’d like to stay here.”

“Then we’ll stay.”

Draco continues divesting himself of his clothing. “So where did you learn all of that, what you were talking to my mother about over dinner?”

Harry scratches his nose, shrugs. “I dunno, really. I listen to things. I read the papers because I have to. Hermione keeps me apprised of anything I might need to know to do with the Ministry, or different ways that I might be able to use my name for a good cause; that’s how I knew about St. Mungo’s. Our business takes us into Diagon Alley a lot, and Bill—Bill Weasley, Ron’s brother—worked at Gringott’s for several years, so I have a pretty extensive idea of the flow of capital that goes through Diagon Alley.”

“The flow of—Who are you?” Draco demands. “Why don’t you ever talk to me about this?”

“You never ask,” Harry says simply. A flush works its way up his throat. “Speaking of talking about things…”

Wariness steals over Draco. Talking when talking has been announced is usually not a good sign; look what had happened when Draco had done it. “Yes?”

“Well, I’d like to do more of that. Talking. About things.” Harry pauses. “Like, even if they’re uncomfortable.”

“What kinds of things?”

“Well, we avoid certain topics, like the way we were in school with each other…”

“I’ve noticed,” Draco acknowledges.

“But, I mean, if this is going to work, we need to be able to talk about all sorts of things. And I want this to work,” Harry says earnestly. “But there’s just so much that hasn’t been covered, that’s rather important, don’t you think?”

Suddenly Draco feels tired; trust Harry to talk him into circles. He sits down next to Harry on the chaise. “I suppose so, though I can’t think of anything right now.”

“Hermione’s pregnant,” Harry says abruptly.

Startled, Draco shoots him a look. “That’s… good. Right?”

“It’s fantastic for them.” He hesitates again. “Do you want kids?”

“Yes,” Draco says instantly.

“But you’re gay.”

“There are ways around it,” Draco says steadily to Harry, who is seeming more nervous by the minute.

“Because when Hermione told me, I thought that I really do want them, too, someday, you know—not now, of course—but someday, but I know that you have, or had, certain thoughts about purebloods and such, and I don’t even know if this is something, or I’m someone, you’d think about having kids with, because I know I’m on this side of really serious about us, this has happened really fast, and I know you really care, but I’m not quite sure how—“ Harry stumbles out in a rush.

“Yes,” Draco says promptly, again, fighting amusement.  This was the same man who had, minutes prior, so impressed Draco with his social skills?  And yet he rather adores this side of Harry, too; the ineptness, the eagerness to proceed without a real plan in mind.

“Yes? To… which part?”

“To all of it. To being completely in it. With you. And talking about kids. With you. Somehow. I still believe that wizards are stronger with pure bloodlines, but you can’t know Granger without knowing that muggle-borns can have a lot of inherent talent, so there’s that.” Draco takes Harry’s hand, which is trembling. “Yes, to this having happened fast. Yes to waiting, because I’d like to be able to wake up in the middle of the night and fuck you into oblivion without being interrupted by a child. Yes.”

Harry is staring at him, open-mouthed, and Draco rolls his eyes. It’s not as if he hasn’t been obvious about it; granted, Harry did say that—that thing about love and such when Draco was trying to push him away, but that he could doubt that Draco was feeling things as deeply, or wanting a real future together, is ridiculous.

“There’s, ah.. There’s another thing?”

“What now?” Draco sighs.

“I know you feel bad about the no Christmas gift, thing,” Harry mumbles. “But I—I sort of got you something. And I thought, maybe, your gift to me could be to accept it.”

Suspicion whips through Draco. Harry seems entirely too guilty.  “What is it?”

Harry reaches into his robes and pulls out a letter, which he hands to Draco.

My dear Harry, Of course! As you know, I am fully retired now, and find myself at rather a loss for how to fill my time. I have only recently begun to consider taking on an Apprentice. Your word on the character of Mr. Malfoy is good enough for me, and I remember him to be a rather good student, with a bit of talent for Potions --though not like yours, of course! Haha. Extending you a favor would be a delight in my retirement, for you of all people know that I never forget my friends, as I know they are always there for me when something is required, as well. Please call on me again, soon, young man, and have Mr. Malfoy owl me at his earliest convenience so that we may begin his training.

Sincerely, H. Slughorn

“You…” Draco is so stunned, he can’t even process it. “You got me a—“

“A Potions Master,” Harry says softly. “Yeah. Slughorn likes me; he likes being friends with famous people, especially when he can call on them for favors. And he likes being influential to people with talent, so he’ll love having trained you, once you’re a Master at the craft. Plus, he’s a Slytherin, so I’m sure he knows how people look at them sometimes, and I thought that couldn’t hurt, and…”

Harry still looks a little sheepish, like he’s not sure how the gift will be received. And honestly, Draco doesn’t know what to say, really. His life’s ambitions were ruined years ago from the choices he’d made, from the damned Mark on his arm. He’s drifted from country to country, gleaning what information could, often to be turned away when people discovered his identity, and then having to experiment on his own. To have someone accredited as a Potions Master be willing to make Draco his Apprentice was… huge. Life-changing.

He opens his mouth to thank Harry, but what falls out instead is, “I love you.”

Harry blinks at him slowly, once, twice, and then an uncertain smile breaks across his face. “You do?”

“Yes. No one has ever—but that’s not why. I just do. Because you’re you, and I’m me, and somehow we’ve managed to make that not matter,” Draco says, hesitating. “Or, perhaps, because we’re us, that’s why it matters so much. I love you.”

He closes his eyes when he’s finished, trying to steady the desperate beat of his heart. He feels a strong, rough hand seek his own, feels warm fingers twine through his, and finally opens his eyes to see Harry gazing at him.

“I love you, too.”

***

Harry rests, tangled and breathless and sweaty on Draco’s giant mattress, the taller man’s thigh lying between his own as they clutch at each other. He feels as though he’s never been so replete in his whole life, and yet can’t stop wanting more of Draco, all the time, everywhere. He’s insatiable for the other man and is grateful Draco seems to feel the same way.

Of course, in the several days since Christmas, there has been more than sex. (Although there has been so much sex, the memories of it become blurry and intertwined in his mind, when he has a moment to think about it.) Harry’s taken Draco to see Teddy, and they’d spent the day with Andromeda, who kept dropping such unsubtle hints about getting together with her sister that Draco had finally just invited them to the Manor after the New Year, despite not consulting with his mother first.

He’d also taken Draco to see a couple of Muggle movies, which Draco had not understood much of, but had adored.  He was, quite frankly, an awful movie-going partner, constantly leaning aside to ask things (“So she hasn’t been Imperiused? Then why is she acting like that?” “Okay, so I’ve heard about the space program, of course, but isn’t there an easier way to protect oneself from space than that suit?” “*That’s* a Santa? How strange! And people are okay with the idea of him coming into their houses while their children sleep?” Draco had later presented him with Santa hats, and they’d had some fun with it.), but his enjoyment was so infectious, Harry loved every minute of it.

They split their time between Malfoy Manor and Grimmauld place as they’d tried to work out the logistics of their relationship. Harry had spent one night alone, unfortunately, since the start of their relationship, when Draco’s meeting with Slughorn had ended up running long and he had to owl Harry that he wouldn’t be back until the following day.

Harry knew that they weren’t ready to live together, although for all intents and purposes, they were, a bit. But he’d missed Draco’s presence so much that night, that he didn’t allow him to leave the bed for four hours the next day.

Slughorn had written Harry again, praising him for his pick and inquiring as to why Harry had left out the sheer amount of knowledge that Draco already had; he’d hypothesized that his training would take closer to three years, rather than the five that was typically required for complete Mastery. And Draco had beamed with pride as Harry had handed him the letter to read; he and Slughorn were to begin training after the New Year, when Harry went back to work.

In anticipation of long hours of separation for both of them, they were seldom apart and, in meeting with Harry’s request, they’d talked, a lot (sometimes too much), about everything, such as:

 

“You don’t have a scar where I hit you with Sectumsempra,” Harry said idly, stroking Draco’s flawless chest with lingering fingers.

“No. Snape had a counter-spell that allowed for full healing; he also gave me potions and the like.”

“I never said I’m sorry for that.” Harry looked up into Draco’s face, regret filling him. “I didn’t know what the spell did. I never would have used it, even on you.”

“Even on me?” Draco asked, voice amused. “Well, I tried to use worse on you, didn’t I? I tried to kill you.”

“You tried to kill a lot of people,” Harry pointed out. “It’s a wonder you didn’t. Unless you didn’t really want to. Have you ever thought of that? And besides, you saved me, later; here, by not identifying me.”

“I couldn’t,” Draco said simply, and Harry doesn’t ask why.

And:

“I loved my father, you know.”

“I know.”

“And I hated him.”

“I know.”

“But he loved me. A lot.”

“I have no doubt.”

And:

“So, I’ll be in training from eight until six every day, and there’s no real way to predict your schedule, right?” Draco asked over breakfast, one morning.

Around a forkful of eggs, Harry had shaken his head. After swallowing, he said, “No, not really. But most jobs aren’t like yours; they usually take a couple of days, and don’t always require me to spend the night on the premises. But you could join me, when I have to. My tent is quite posh, you know,” he added, feeling proud when Draco had laughed. (He loved making him laugh…)

And even:

Oh, Merlin-fuck, yes right there, oh, God Draco don’t stop, do it; harder, oh please, oh god, I’m going to come—

Do it, Potter, come for me, you like that, don’t you, feeling me up inside you, feeling my hard cock pounding you—

“FUCK, MALFOY!”

As they laze in bed, Harry feels Draco press a drowsy kiss to his temple and he snuggles in closer. Draco murmurs, “Are you hungry?”

“Mmm.. Don’t wanna leave.”

“We could get Peep to bring us something,” Draco points out.

Peep is a sweet little elf, Harry has to admit. He’s also a bit star-struck by Harry, as well as Draco, and is always leaping to do things for them—not that that’s unheard of in a house-elf.

“Maybe a little hungry,” Harry concedes, and then remembers something. “Hey, whatever happened with Flitter? You never ended up telling me.”

“Oh. She’s sick. It’s been a couple of weeks now. She had started to get worn, Mother said, and then had a couple of fainting spells. Mother’s quite upset about it; Flitter was one of the Black family elves—she worked with, you know, Dobby,” Draco says softly, “…And I guess, probably Kreacher, although she’s younger than him.”

Harry processes this, trying to figure out what’s wrong the what Draco has just told him. Slowly, he says, “But house-elves don’t get sick.”

Draco pauses. “Yes, they do. Well, they must. She’s sick right now. Mother says she can barely keep a thought straight in her head; just talks babble.”

Harry sits up abruptly, earning a startled glance from Draco, whose arms tighten fractionally to prevent Harry from leaving, before releasing him. “No, you don’t understand,” Harry says. “House-elves don’t get sick. Trust me. They can die or be—be killed, they can develop problems, but they don’t get sick unless powerful magic has been rendered, and even then it takes forever for it to take effect.”

Harry begins getting dressed quickly, his mind working. Draco sits up in bed, covered in nothing but a deep blue silk sheet that outlines his body appealingly and throws his pale skin into stark relief. “What does that mean? How do you know?”

“I don’t suppose you remember S.P.E.W? Probably not,” Harry says with a shrug, searching for his shoes. “Hermione’s pet project in school; she’s always had an interest in elfish welfare, and I’ve learned more about them through her, and Kreacher, and Dobby, than I guess a lot of people—even keepers of house-elves—are aware. One of the things is that they don’t get sick. Oh, hell, Accio shoes.” Harry’s shoes fly out from under Draco’s bed, and Harry begins putting them on as Draco gets up and begins to dress.

“All right, so, I understand it’s not normal and that it can be bad, but why are you so frantic? Can’t we just owl Hermione or something?”

“Well, I’m not sure of the specifics of what could have been cast against her. I need to check your wards.” Harry grabs his wand, drops a kiss on Draco’s questioning mouth, and leaves.

He goes outside to the front gates, touching his wand to the lock, and mutters a revealing incantation; the strength of the wards send a pulse through Harry’s wand, which reverberates up his arm. Harry’s confusion and worry deepens; the wards seem to be intact. He wanders down the length of the gate, casting a golden web in random places to check for weaknesses and finds none; the netting glows at him everywhere, bright and strong and sure.

Harry makes his way back to the Manor, his mind working furiously. Draco meets him at the door, fully dressed, looking worried. “Anything?”

“No.” Harry pauses. “I need to speak with your mother.”

There’s a faint crease between Draco’s light eyebrows, and then he nods, leading Harry back up the staircase, and down a hallway that Harry doesn’t recognize, to a set of double doors. Draco knocks lightly, then turns the knob and enters. Harry follows him and looks around; it’s a library, stuffed with ancient volumes of books from floor to ceiling.

Narcissa is sitting in a comfortably stuffed chair near a window, reading. Her eyes widen upon seeing them, and she carefully sets her book aside. “Hello, Draco. Harry.”

“Flitter,” Harry says, flatly. Her face blanches for a moment before she can compose herself.

“Yes? Is she all right?” she asks, and only a slight tremble in her voice gives Harry any reason to think that his suspicions might be right.

He takes a deep breath and lets it out in a slow exhale. Suddenly, Draco takes his hand; whether to encourage or comfort, it doesn’t matter. The simple contact has a calming effect on Harry’s turbulent feelings, and he squeezes it back in gratitude without looking at the other man. “I think you’re the reason she’s sick.”

Narcissa inhales loudly, shocked. “I would never—“

“Not intentionally, not anymore, maybe,” Harry says, struggling to set aside any lingering bitterness concerning Dobby. “But you had her attack your wards, didn’t you?”

He feels Draco’s startled glance, but again, doesn’t look over at him. Harry’s eyes are locked on Narcissa’s, whose blue gaze wavers for a moment before dropping.

“How in Salazar’s name could that have hurt her?” Narcissa asks, almost absently.

Harry clutches Draco’s hand tighter, and walks over to a sofa across from Narcissa, where they sit. He hesitates, trying to structure an explanation. “Haven’t—haven’t you ever seen the way a house-elf treats itself when it disobeys its master, or even when it speaks badly about them?”

“Well, yes, but she was simply following my orders.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Harry says quietly. “You told her to attack your wards, which is the same as attacking your magic. I think getting sick is a manifestation of her self-punishment.”

Narcissa seems composed, but Harry notices her hands, held so tightly together that her knuckles are white.

“I think she’ll be okay," he says, more gently. "I think she needs you to reassure her that she was acting under orders; that she’s a good house-elf.”

“Of course she is,” Narcissa says in a slightly lost voice. “She’s been in my extended family for years, and has served us proudly.”

Draco, who has been silent for the duration of the discussion, finally blurts, “Merlin, Mother, why?”

“It was for you,” Harry said quietly to him, when she hesitates. “That book you were reading, Lonely Wizards, remember? And there were strange holes in your wards that I couldn’t figure out; I attributed them to Voldemort’s presence, but… She did it for you.”

Narcissa sighs, then nods her assent. “You had been gone so long,” she explains, leaning forward in sudden entreaty." And I knew that you would not be back unless you had some—some indication that there might be acceptance from the outside world; unless you were given incentive to believe that would be true.”

“But—but you never leave. Our wards were attacked,” Draco objects. “I was here the last time it happened.”

“It hasn’t happened like that in years,” Narcissa says tiredly. “I don’t leave because I’ve found life simpler at home. But I’ve been trying, lately. I’ve made contact with a few old acquaintances. I know my actions have led you to believe that we would never be accepted back into Wizarding society, Draco, but you wouldn’t listen to me when I told you that it wasn’t true. I know there are people who will always be angry, but I needed you to see that wasn’t true of everyone.”

“So… You never contacted any other securities firms?” Draco asks, still faintly bewildered. “Why Harry’s? How on earth did you know that we’d—“

“I didn’t,” Narcissa says, and Harry can see the first signs of a smile begin to play with her mouth. “I didn’t expect you to become friends, let alone anything… else. But I was aware enough of Harry’s political leanings about forgiveness and motivations to move beyond the War, and as he had spoken at both of our Trials, I thought that if you were forced to work with him, you may start to see that acceptance wasn’t so unlikely; I thought that you would perhaps stay.”

Draco looks at her wordlessly for a few minutes. “Mother,” he says, weakly.

Narcissa straightens, seeming to come into herself. Her eyes are calm again. “I did not mean to injure Flitter with my machinations. I just wanted to find some security for you,” she says, somehow making her actions—though dangerous and unthought-out—seem perfectly reasonable to Harry.

She stands and leaves, with a murmured comment about attending to Flitter, and Draco and Harry sit in the silence of her wake.

Harry scoots closer, twining his hand through the other man’s again. “Her motives were… good,” Harry says with only a little uncertainty.

“She should have talked to me.”

“Would you have listened?” Harry asks, voice wry. “I don’t condone what she did, but come on, Draco.”

“Maybe not,” Draco allows in a slightly resentful voice. Out of nowhere, Draco begins to laugh, surprising Harry. “She wanted me to find security… And I suppose she did.”

Harry chuckles too, but he knows what Draco means.

For so much of his life, Harry has felt unsettled, driven toward something not of his making or choosing, through the orchestrations of those around him. Starting his firm had been the first steps in beginning a new path in life, and yet he had still felt vaguely… adrift.

He thinks of his listlessness after the war, after the trials; his inability to find (or even look for) something that made him happy. He thinks of the man sitting next to him with a wistful expression, a man who chooses him, not for what he can or will do, but because of who they are together. He catches Draco’s face in his hands, cupping it; grey eyes look at him with tenderness, with love. Harry kisses him deeply.

“You know,” he says quietly, “she did for me, too.”

 

The End