Pushed to it and admittedly missing the sort of company neither Ron nor Hermione could provide—biting sarcasm and cruel teasing, punctuated by bouts of frenzied groping—Harry agreed to let Draco stay on at Grimmauld Place, with the sole stipulation that they take separate bedrooms. Draco agreed to the condition startlingly quickly, suggesting he had either been sorely missing his privacy over the past eight months or else had no intention of actually sleeping in his bedroom and would instead use the room as little more than an over-furnished walk-in closet.
Harry regretted giving him his choice of bedrooms, though, as on seeing that Harry was renovating Sirius’s bedroom, Draco promptly selected Regulus’s and had already Vanished the dust and Banished to the attic any furniture he’d be replacing with his own before Harry could mount any protests.
“The whole point was so we wouldn’t be underfoot with each other!” Harry sighed, ducking to avoid getting clipped in the head by a hefty bedside table arrowing for the attic.
“Then I suggest you stay well out of my way,” Draco said.
When he’d nearly emptied the room of all its furnishings save a handsome bookcase of mahogany (probably stuffed full of texts on the Dark Arts) and Regulus’s writing desk, Harry wondered aloud, “Won’t your parents notice so much furniture missing from your room…? How are you going to explain to them that you’re…you know?”
“Shacking up with our beloved Saviour?” Draco Transfigured the dark, heavy curtains into something light and diaphanous, bringing light flooding into Regulus’s dour, dingy room. He lifted one shoulder in an elegant shrug. “I suppose we’ll find out when you come to the Manor for luncheon on Sunday.”
Harry blinked several times in quick succession. “When I what now?”
Draco’s smile glittered with knives.
‘Luncheon’ it turned out was a rather complicated affair, involving at least five courses, a virgin vintage from the cellars (far away, Harry hoped, from the mouldy, squalid dungeon with the cages of iron bar and steel), and stuffy dress robes that stank of some ancient cologne. If Harry had thought that house arrest and a decidedly inelegant fall from grace were going to sap the Malfoys’ love of tradition, he was sorely mistaken. Less surprising, though, was how much work they had managed to put into restoring the Manor to its former glory in just one week.
It was like—well, magic.
The floorboards had been stripped and refinished, removing any nasty stains—blood or otherwise—and the furniture had been reupholstered to similar ends. The walls shone with fresh coats of paint, and even the neglected greenhouses in the garden had been reseeded. It had to have cost a mint, making any restoration an ostensibly difficult task, given how heavily the Malfoy fortunes had been garnished by the Ministry for post-war reparations. Draco had nothing to say when pressed about the cost of the repairs—up to and including the busted lock to the pantry in the kitchens—so Harry assumed the source of the funds was not up for discussion. Lucius Malfoy was a Slytherin, after all—always prepared. He probably had caches of treasure hidden all around the globe, untraceable and unmarked.
No, that the Malfoys continued to live a blessed life even after the fall of Voldemort was not so very surprising; what was truly astonishing was the fact that Lucius hadn’t been chucked back into Azkaban the moment Kingsley had been appointed temporary Minister for Magic. In retrospect, Harry supposed he should have seen it coming; had he not told Draco himself that his parents had a talent for managing to keep their heads above water when most anyone else would have sunk like a stone?
Lucius had evidently worked out some sort of deal with the Ministry to serve an indefinite term of probation provided he cooperated with Aurors concerning any details on rogue Death Eaters who had gone to ground after Voldemort’s defeat as well as forces being marshalled abroad. The Ministry had allowed him a wand, though they had wisely slapped it with a dozen different Charms for tracking and limiting the sorts of spells it could cast. Draco had pronounced it humiliating and made a sour face when he’d explained the details of his father’s probation to Harry, but that had been all he’d had to say on the subject.
Narcissa, by contrast, had avoided serving any time altogether with Harry’s testimony that she had saved his life in the Forest, at great peril to her own. It was his speaking for her at her hearing that had prompted Narcissa to warm to Harry considerably—which mostly amounted to a polite nod when their eyes met and genial small talk when called to do so. “Oh she’s all but stitched you onto the family quilt now,” Draco assured him this meant, and Harry had to take him at his word. Lucius did not seem to feel any more fondly toward Harry now than he had when they’d first met, but Harry was pretty all right with that, satisfied that he simply kept his mouth shut when they had to interact.
Like right about now, as the Malfoys’ army of house-elves was shuttling away the remains of the main course and bringing out dessert—a crème brûlée with hints of treacle, which Harry suspected had been prepared special at Draco’s command. Lucius had downed nearly half the bottle of wine the elves had produced for the table, pointedly ignoring his wife’s soft throat-clearing whenever he moved to top off his glass, and looked like there were only about a thousand places he’d rather be than settling in for sweets with the Boy Who Was Sleeping With His Son.
It was only when the bottle was empty and he was bereft of any further excuse not to entertain some polite conversation that he wiped a hand over his face, Vanished the bottle with a careless wave of his Ministry-appointed wand, and asked with a strained smile, “So, Mr. Potter. Are you…satisfying all of Draco’s newfound needs?”
Harry choked on his crème brûlée, and that was the end of lunch. Draco promptly excused the both of them, thanking his mother for the lovely meal, as if she’d lifted a finger to prepare it herself, and slipped his arm through Harry’s, ready to Disapparate right from the dining room. It was only just as he was twisting on his heel that he called out, “By the by, I’ll be boarding at Harry’s place for the foreseeable future. I’ll have the rest of my things Summoned in the morning. Don’t bother trying to Owl me—the place is under a Fidelius, drat it all. I’ll be back for luncheon again next week, ta!”
The last thing Harry saw before they spun out of sight was Lucius’s bald expression of gobsmacked horror, which almost made the afternoon worth it.
They settled into a comfortable rhythm over the next couple of weeks, just the pair of them. Harry learned to make Draco’s porridge just the way he liked—though this didn’t stop Draco from nitpicking it every morning—and Draco learned to make precisely one meal (a shepherd’s pie that required next to no finesse in the kitchen) because it was polite to share chores and they didn’t have Hermione or Ron around to lighten the load at the moment.
It was nice. Admittedly it was still a bit strange at times, catching Draco stumbling down to the kitchen in the mornings wearing one of Harry’s oversized sweatshirts inherited from Dudley, or settling in on the sofa in the sitting room after dinner to listen to Quidditch on the Wireless, instead of trying to catch an episode of Potterwatch or burying their noses in Horcrux and Founders research. Strange, but not bad. It just left Harry a bit tilted, the rapidity with which their adventure had come to an end, leaving them now trying to navigate the matter of calm, quiet domesticity, a concept with which neither of them was particularly familiar nor well-suited.
Helping matters none was that there was no Sanctuary here and thus no way for Draco to really stretch his wings. Indeed, to Harry’s knowledge, he hadn’t transformed at all since the Battle of Hogwarts, and so they were left to find other ways to release tension and reaffirm their bond, a not altogether unpleasant task. Harry still didn’t really like being surprised in the shower, but it was a lot less harrowing knowing there was no one around to overhear them. Draco’s “room” was, as expected, mostly for show, and they shared the king-size four-poster in Sirius’s bedroom.
Harry wondered if the “Slytherin way” to seduction was romanticised siege warfare, driving Harry to the edge until he was finally forced to give in. If so, Draco had clearly studied at the foot of the masters—and patience had never been one of Harry’s virtues, a fact Draco was mercilessly taking advantage of. He almost imagined he could hear that damned clock in his head again, counting down the sighs, the breaths, the heated moments until Harry broke—but he only dug in his heels all the deeper, determined to do this his way, for once. It still wasn’t the right time yet, there was still something missing, and until he found it—or at least figured out what it was—he couldn’t bring himself to take that final step with Draco, ache for it though he might.
After nearly three weeks cooped up inside Grimmauld Place, though, they were beginning to run out of ways to entertain themselves—which really was saying something. With Diagon Alley likely to be recovering from the ravages of the war for months, and Harry wary of going anywhere near Gringotts these days, there was little else to do except mess about in bed, but Harry was quickly learning there was such thing as too much of a good thing.
“I think it’s going to fall off…” Harry murmured into Draco’s hair one evening, sticky with spunk and sweat from his head to his toes.
“I’ll commission you a new one,” Draco offered, voice just as lethargic and limbs just as boneless as Harry’s. “Solid gold. Ruby-encrusted bollocks. You’ll piss Amortentia and spurt elf wine.”
“That doesn’t sound very comfortable.”
“Well if this is going to work between us, you’d best get accustomed to the finer things in life.”
And Harry did, to his great shock, want this to work. It was different, when it was just the two of them with nothing to hide behind, and they had made no further great confessions since their reunion, both perhaps feeling such phrases were wasted on the day-to-day, losing their lustre if not doled out sparingly. Their feelings remained unchanged, though, so Harry did not, really did not, want to fuck this up.
Which was how he wound up suggesting Draco invite a few of his friends over for dinner and drinks.
Draco gaped. “…You realise who my friends are, don’t you? Slytherins for one—and either sold you out to the Dark Lord or else made a whole-hearted attempt to do so for another?” He touched Harry’s temple with a thoughtful frown. “I haven’t wanked you silly, have I? I know you had no smarts to spare to begin with, so I’ll never forgive myself if—”
Harry only batted his hand away with a playful snort. “I’m perfectly sane. And yes, I know the sorts you call your best mates—”
“Right, clearly you don’t, or else you’d know I called none of them my ‘best mates’ like we’re in nursery school.”
“—but we can’t spend all our time in bed—”
“—and seeing as we’ll have plenty of time with Ron and Hermione come the end of the month, and probably more later on for house parties and whatnot—” Draco gave an exaggerated shudder and moaned Gryffindors. “—I figure why not? If you can put up with my lot, surely I can put up with yours.”
“Even though Pansy tried to barter your life to save her pasty arse? And Greg wanted to bring you to the Dark Lord trussed up like a Christmas goose?”
“First off, you’re in no position to call anyone ‘pasty’,” Harry said. “And…well, er, at least they both wanted to hand me over alive?” It was very difficult to look on the bright side of the situation, but he was bent on being the bigger man here. Parkinson and Goyle embodied the very worst aspects of Slytherin’s finer traits, but Draco had been friends with them, once upon a time, and if he was still of a mind to call them as such, then Harry didn’t want to stand in the way.
Draco studied him for a long moment. “…You’re serious? I can invite them over? You don’t mind?”
“Draco, it’s your house too, you realise?” Harry laughed. “I’m not your landlord; we’re…housemates, or something, I guess.” He ducked his head, correcting, “Sorry, house-M words.” Draco elbowed him sharply for the crack, but he was smiling, and he and Harry wrestled briefly before Harry managed to pin him to the cushions. “Seriously. Invite whoever you want. Guests are more than welcome. Even if they might’ve been happy to dance on my grave only a month back.”
Draco’s brows lifted, impressed. “Ooh, so my parents, too…?”
Harry winced, wishing he hadn’t been feeling in quite such a giving mood and wanting to reassure Draco that he wasn’t beholden to Harry in any way, something he knew Draco despised. “Er, I sup—”
“Merlin, Potter, I was joking! I think I just lost what little respect for you I’d scraped together.”
It would be an offer Harry would live to regret.
Grimmauld Place was the liveliest it had been since the Order had held meetings there, which Harry quite liked, as it helped distract from the fact that every room outside of their bedrooms and the sitting room still looked like it was set to host a funeral—though the company left something to be desired. Draco had taken Harry up on his suggestion and then some, and now sprawled around the sitting room—on freshly Transfigured furniture, courtesy of Draco—were Pansy Parkinson, Gregory Goyle, Theodore Nott, and Millicent Bullstrode, all of whom looked about as happy to be there as Harry was to have them.
Harry felt like he’d unwittingly wandered into the Slytherin Common Room, and Draco’s friends made sure he didn’t forget it. They fell back on inside jokes or discussed their own post-war situations with Draco, not bothering to loop Harry in. He’d thought the backhanded compliments on his cooking had been bad enough, but trust Draco’s companions to manage to sink even lower than Harry had imagined possible. Granted, it was admittedly nice to see Draco so garrulous and comfortable—even at the best of moments with Harry and Ron and Hermione, he had always mostly kept to himself, rarely starting or continuing a conversation on his own. It wasn’t that Draco had to like Harry’s friends…he just wanted him to. He wanted Draco to feel like part of Harry’s life, a valued presence in Harry’s circle.
Somehow, he still felt compelled to offer those blasted ‘reassurances’ at every turn.
But these Slytherins certainly weren’t going to make it easy—and what was he waiting for, an engraved invitation by Owl? No; Salazar had prized those who were self-sufficient, who looked out for themselves. If Harry wanted to be brought into their chummy little enclave, he was going to have to be a Gryffindor about it and force his way inside.
He struck up a game of Exploding Snap, which after a few drinks—courtesy of the bottomless Black Family wine cellar—turned into Strip Exploding Snap, and Harry started to suspect that Parkinson might have a crush on him, as he was pretty sure she was losing on purpose. Perhaps Draco thought the same, as he cut the game short before things got too indecent, and then they mostly sat around nursing their drinks and talking shit about each other in what Harry realised was a sort of Slytherin bonding ritual.
They drank deep to Zabini’s memory—and even knocked back a shot to Crabbe’s—and a few drams later, Goyle was blubbering an apology and confessing he’d hid in the Hufflepuff Common room when he’d roused after Harry and Draco had saved him from the Fiendfyre, as the entrance had been left open, perhaps by students hoping others might find sanctuary within. “Didn’ even fight, I didn’ want to… Just wanted to be a part of somethin’…”
Harry wondered, as before, what life might have been like if things had gone just a little different. If not just Draco had been his friend, but Pansy and Theo and Greg and Millie too. He didn’t want to be a Slytherin—he loved those glorious red and gold banners and his lion-hearted friends. He just wondered is all. Another of those dozens of what-ifs being around Draco made him wonder about.
“‘M sorry, Potter,” Pansy told him nearabout midnight, her breath reeking of a Goblin brew they had fished out from behind a heavy cask of elf wine. She was trying very hard to crawl into his lap, and Harry was trying very hard not to touch her breasts. “I just didn’t wanna die, yeah? Draco’s still pissed off at me, but you’re not, right? You’re a soft touch—oh.” She gave his bicep a squeeze. “Maybe not so soft…”
“Er—sure, Pansy. All’s forgiven. How about I put in a good word for you with Draco, hm? If you’ll—just—remove yourself—?”
“He’s gorgeous, isn’t he?” Pansy sighed, collapsing against him. “It’s like he’s even prettier knowing he’s bent, yeah? ‘Cause you can’t have him.” She frowned at Harry, as if only just now processing who she was lying atop. “Or I guess you can. Circe’s saggy tits I wish I had a cock. I’d shove it right up his pert little—”
“Draco—help—” Harry gasped, one arm outstretched pleadingly as Draco returned from helping Greg through the Floo.
“Is she complaining about wanting to fuck me with her nonexistent cock yet? That’s usually the sign she’s done for the evening.” Draco Levitated Pansy off of Harry despite her squirming protests and shooed her towards the stairs. “She’s been working on a topically applied Polyjuice ointment since Third Year, you know. One of these days she’ll manage it, and then none of our arses will be safe.”
“Just you wait, Malfoy~” Pansy threatened in sing-song as she stumbled down to the kitchen to Floo home, barely catching herself on the banister.
Once the last of the plastered Slytherins had been safely seen through the Floo, not a one sober enough to Apparate five feet let alone all the way home, Harry wanted to just collapse into bed, nearly as drained by the ordeal as he’d been by his duel with Voldemort—so he did.
“Your friends are…” he started, searching for appropriate language as Draco helped divest him of his jeans—one button of which had already been undone when Draco started. Fucking Pansy.
“Insufferable?” Draco snickered, shimmying the jeans down Harry’s legs. “I’ve certainly called them worse. Lift up.”
Harry did as asked. “No! No, honestly, they aren’t, they’re just…”
“Mm, an acquired taste.” Draco motioned for Harry to lift his arms so he could peel off his t-shirt. “It’s all right; so many fine things are. We’ll work on it.” He patted Harry’s cheek, then began to disrobe.
Harry watched him with undisguised interest. “…I tried tonight. You saw.”
“I did see. I was there too.”
He sounded a bit patronising, and Harry frowned. “…How come you’re not drunk?”
“Because I didn’t touch a drop of that Black swill. Aged Kneazle piss is still Kneazle piss. Besides—” His shirt hit the floor with a soft whump, and he climbed up onto the four-poster alongside Harry, graceful and lithe. “I didn’t want to be too compromised.”
“Too compromised? For what?”
This turned out to be glorious head that made Harry nearly swallow his own tongue, stars spangling his vision as his orgasm swept through him, and Harry thought that maybe having Draco’s friends over now and then wasn’t so terrible. Demonstrations of appreciation were, it seemed, never out of fashion.
They couldn’t have dinner parties every night, though, and within only a few short days, Draco’s edginess had built once more, making him even more snappish and peevish than usual. Convinced that one or both of them was going to blow a fuse if they didn’t find a suitable outlet for Draco’s pent-up energy beyond the bedroom, Harry stuck his head through the Floo while Draco was in the shower.
When Draco stepped out, skin warm and pink and hair darkened to straw-gold with moisture, Harry was practically bouncing on his heels, shoving him towards the wardrobe in Regulus’s room and reminding him to dress down.
“…What for? I’m not going back to that Muggle supermarket, I told you; I don’t care how impressive their selection of ready meals is.” Harry rolled his eyes, and Draco stamped his foot in irritation. “The manager couldn’t distinguish custom-tailored dress robes from some common frock!”
“Well, no, but that’s beside the—anyway, we aren’t going to Tesco.”
Draco’s brows drew together, wary. “…Where are we going, then?”
“I believe we’ve settled the matter of whether or not you trust me so just trust me and get dressed.”
“Don’t push your luck, Potter,” he said, but began rifling through his wardrobe all the same.
Despite being advised to dress down, it was still another half hour of dithering before Draco finally decided on an outfit and looped his arm through Harry’s, letting himself be dragged into spinning darkness with a sharp CRACK. He winced when they popped back into existence microseconds later just on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, shading his eyes from the bright morning sun with one hand.
“Hogsmeade?” Draco said, and Harry shook his head, pointing down High Street, where a winding lane stretched away from the village.
“Hogwarts,” Harry corrected. “I told you, remember? That we might drop by to pitch in with the reconstruction efforts?”
“But—I thought that was…after your birthday—fuck.” Draco blanched. “I haven’t forgotten it, have I? Not that I memorised it, it’s only your birthday’s practically been a bank holiday since as long as I can remember—”
“You’re barking,” Harry laughed. “My birthday’s not a holiday.”
“If not before, it certainly is now,” Draco said, raking his eyes over the shopfronts as they stepped onto High Street. Hogsmeade was bouncing back more quickly than Diagon Alley, likely because of its proximity to the castle, which meant more able hands to help with repairs in the village as well.
“I Floo-called McGonagall, asked if we could pop in,” Harry explained, suddenly a bit embarrassed by his presumption. “…It’s only, out here you can transform whenever you like. I know you’ve been missing it—don’t try to tell me you haven’t,” he added, when Draco opened his mouth, protests evident on his lips. “Grimmauld Place has its charms—”
“I think you mean curses.”
“—but the garden’s tiny, and I wouldn’t mind getting a few laps around the Quidditch pitch myself. So?”
Draco gave him an arch look, then sighed dramatically, slipping his arm through Harry’s. “If we must. We’d better at least get a free lunch out of this.”
They were offered lunch, as it turned out, but it wasn’t exactly free. It was all hands on deck at the castle, and Harry spotted no fewer than half a dozen familiar faces among those engaged in construction and renovation and restoration. Draco proved more excited by the prospect of finally being able to stretch his wings again than he’d let on, grabbing Harry while he was in the middle of catching up with Seamus and Dean and practically frog-marching him to the Quidditch pitch.
Harry took his time choosing a broom from the rack, and by the time he returned, a handsome Nimbus model (pilfered from the Slytherin stores) over one shoulder, Draco had shed his human form for something rather more suited to his name.
Out here, in the safety of the Scottish countryside and shielded from Muggle eyes, Draco could let loose—and so he did, diving and rolling and capering like a boy with his first broom, wild and carefree as he’d never been in the Sanctuary. Harry stole a moment, just to watch him, until the excited pounding of his heart grew too much to bear, and he mounted up and kicked off.
The pitch hadn’t seen any fighting, per se, but it still showed signs of the recent battle; the Hufflepuff stands had been demolished by a tree trunk, likely thrown by one of Voldemort’s giants, and the sod on the field had been turned over in long, wicked furrows by wild spellfire. It would need to be retilled and seeded anew before any games could be held, as many of the Curses that had struck the ground had been Dark, killing the grass.
Harry buzzed Draco to get his attention, earning an irritated snort for his efforts, and then it was a thrilling game of chase, with Harry weaving through the stands and under bleachers whenever Draco got too close. There was one particularly close call when Draco ambushed him from perched atop the Ravenclaw stands, but luckily enough, the sun was in just the right position to throw Draco’s dark shadow against the ground, giving Harry enough warning to take a detour before he came shooting out from under the bleachers.
After a good half hour of cavorting, Draco seemed to have finally burnt off enough excess energy he wasn’t practically vibrating out of his skin any longer, and they returned to the ground. There was a high, happy flush to his cheeks when he shifted back, his hair a windswept mess, but he was grinning from ear to ear with an infectious smile Harry couldn’t help but catch himself.
“Feeling better, then?” Harry asked, and Draco rolled his eyes, still smiling.
“I’ve certainly felt worse.” Draco gave him a sidelong look. “…I’ve been a right prick lately, haven’t I? I didn’t realise…”
“Hm? Oh, no more than usual.” Harry shrugged. “I can’t say as I’ve noticed at all.”
“Arsehole.” He bumped shoulders with Harry, and they headed back to the Quidditch shed to return the broom. “…It crept up on me,” he said with a worried frown, leaning against the door jamb while Harry locked up. “I thought—I thought I was over this. It hasn’t been…a need for me. In a while, but this…” He closed his eyes and shook his head, and Harry drew close, taking Draco’s hands in his own and running a thumb over his knuckles.
“So I’m not enough, then?” he said, taking care to keep his tone playful and teasing; Draco could be very sensitive about the M word business. “You’ve gone and hurt my feelings.”
Draco pursed his lips, like he was trying to keep from smiling, and his eyes fluttered open. They’d gone a dark, steel grey, and they bore into Harry with insistence. “You’re plenty for me… But for the dragon, maybe not so much. Don’t take it too personally.”
Harry clutched his chest, as if struck a mortal blow. “I may need some reassurances of my own, in that case.”
Draco’s eyes flicked around the shed, lips quirking up on one side. “In the Quidditch shed, Potter? I should have guessed…”
Harry gave him a shove, laughing brightly, and stepped around him and out into the fresh air. “We’re going to be missed. I don’t want to get caught by McGonagall with my trousers down when we’re meant to be helping out,” he said, largely to keep his mind from supplying helpful images to get him in the mood.
“I can be quick,” Draco wheedled, falling into step beside him. “And you can be very quick.”
Harry flushed, cutting him a dark look. “That was one time, and I told you: I’d just been dreaming about—”
“If we aren’t going to pull each other off in the Quidditch shed, maybe don’t get me worked up with a vivid retelling of your wildest fantasy?”
“Wasn’t my wildest fantasy…” Harry protested weakly.
Draco raised a brow, rolling up his sleeves; he’d still insisted on wearing a button-down with a waistcoat, the stuck-up prick. “…One wonders what could possibly get you off faster, then.”
Harry smiled. “Put in an honest day’s work, and maybe I’ll tell you.”
He would wager Draco performed more physical labour in the next eight hours than he had in his entire life. When he tired of mixing mortar for the brick-layers and Scourgifying the flagstones in the corridors that had seen fighting, he shifted into the dragon and fired the forges for the metalwork and helped Hagrid haul loads of heavy stone from the Courtyard into the Great Hall to repair the sundered walls.
They were so exhausted by day’s end, they collapsed into bed back at Grimmauld Place and actually went to sleep—though Harry roused in the wee hours of the morning to hold up his end of their bargain, which seemed to suit Draco just fine.
The end of May soon rolled around, and Ron and Hermione showed up on the front steps on the 1st of June as promised, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Neither made any remark concerning Draco already being in residence, which was a small relief; Hermione had been the one to Side-Along Draco onto the property in the first place, so Harry supposed she had put two and two together easily enough, and Ron just seemed so thrilled to be out from under his mother’s hen-pecking he didn’t notice Regulus’s room had been given over to a new occupant.
“It’s like she thinks if she takes her eye off me for two seconds, I’m gonna run off looking for more Horcruxes!” he groused over dinner their first evening back together. Draco had insisted on ‘cooking’, so it was Aunt Bessie’s steak pies all around. “I think she wouldn’t even let Ginny go back to Hogwarts if she had her way!” He shovelled a bit into his mouth, swallowing around a gulp of pumpkin juice. “I’m about at my wits’ end; June couldn’t come soon enough.” He slammed his glass back down with a contented sigh. “I’m officially changing my allegiance to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black!”
“Please; you’re utterly bereft of the Black line’s exquisite bone structure,” Draco sniffed. He turned to Harry. “We’ll have to blast ‘Noble’ off the family tapestry now.”
Ron looked like he was ready to get right back into it, after nearly a month away from Draco’s barbs, and Hermione cleared her throat pointedly. “Well I have to say I’m glad to have a bit of time away from my folks as well…”
“Oh yeah; how’d the de-Modifying go?” Harry hadn’t wanted to pry, but she’d brought it up, so he supposed it was fair game.
She gave a wan smile. “…Er, I guess it’ll come as no surprise they weren’t happy about having magic worked on them against their will. I think I managed to restore all the changes I made, though they still call each other Wendell and Monica sometimes.”
“Not as thrilled with their lengthy holiday down under as you might have hoped?” Harry asked, offering a sympathetic smile.
“No indeed,” she sighed, pushing her mash around her plate absently. “I’ve left them the address of an Owl Post Box if they want to get in touch with me, though. Perhaps a bit of cooling off time is just the ticket.”
Ron reached around to squeeze her shoulder. “They’ll come around. Your folks are stand-up sorts. They’re only as angry as they are ‘cause they were worried about you.”
“Your parents are…Muggles?” Draco asked, in that same sort of strained tone of forced politeness Narcissa used with Harry. As if he didn’t well know Hermione was Muggleborn—he’d certainly thrown enough slurs at her over the years about her blood status.
Hermione seemed to be thinking much the same thing, and she nodded. “I Modified their memories before I left with Harry and Ron to hunt Horcruxes and sent them to Australia. Gave them a whole new life—one without me in it, just in case…” She took a breath. “But it’s over now, and they’re none too pleased to learn what I did. Even though I still believe it was the best choice I could have made—and I was a wanted witch! Death Eaters wouldn’t have hesitated to torture them to try and get to me!”
“You’re right; they wouldn’t have,” Draco said, and raised his glass. “Here’s to doing whatever it takes to keep our parents safe.”
“Up to and including removing yourself from the house before you Hex them,” Ron added darkly, raising his as well.
Hermione allowed a prim little smile, ducking her head in thanks, and offered her glass.
Harry tapped a finger on the lip of his glass. “So should I just excuse myself or…?”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Well I don’t think any of our parents would still be around and kicking if you hadn’t been your insufferable martyr self, so I think you can share the toast.”
Harry grinned and clinked his glass against his friends’.
It was almost like back in late summer the year before, when he and Ron and Hermione had been stuck here. Except they weren’t living in fear for their lives anymore, and Draco was here now, so it was actually pretty nice. Grimmauld Place was a lot bigger than Perkins’ tent, even with its expanded interior, so they had all the room they might want to spread out. Plus, Kreacher had kept the place spotless, even after their abrupt departure, so while the decor still left something to be desired, it was as fine a place as any for four friends to share.
Draco’s birthday rolled around the first week of June, and Harry decided to start his special day off right with breakfast in bed—his preferred porridge, of course. As he was finishing his pumpkin juice, Harry placed a small gift box on the tray, trying not to fidget with excitement. Perhaps Draco could sense his eagerness, for he ignored the box at first, draining his cup to the last drop and daintily dabbing at his lips with his napkin.
“Would you just open it?” Harry prodded, collapsing back onto the pillows beside Draco and jabbing him in the side with an elbow.
Draco squirmed. “It’s my birthday; I’ll take as long as I damn well please. And I’m older than you now, Potter, so you’d do well to show some proper respect.”
“You’ve always been older than me, and I’ve never shown you any respect before. Not about to start now.”
“I distinctly recall being reassured that you quote, ‘respect the fuck’ out of me.”
“I do respect you,” Harry said. “But you won’t catch me showing it.” He sidled in close, so their sides were pressed together. “Just open it. Oh, but—” Draco raised a brow in question. “It’s not all of your gift. Hermione’s taken care of the rest. Only because, well, I didn’t know how to do the magic myself, and there was something of a time crunch issue.”
“You had Granger prepare your gift for me? And they say Gryffindors aren’t romantic.”
“It was my idea, at least! And I got you this bit. So.” Draco was still giving him a wry look, and Harry reached for the box. “Fine, if you won’t open it then—”
Draco snatched the box away, suddenly protective. “It’s my gift. I’ll thank you to keep your grubby mitts off.” He kept his shoulder turned toward Harry, as if shielding the box.
“Then open it,” Harry prodded, pinching the soft bit of skin showing at Draco’s waist as his night shirt rode up.
Draco wriggled and writhed, nearly upsetting the breakfast tray. “Stop manhandling me—all right, all right! I yield!” His resignation came just as Harry was preparing to Banish the tray back to the kitchen and convince Draco bodily to open his present, one hand already on Draco’s hip. “Don’t start something you aren’t prepared to finish,” Draco warned, eyes flicking down to Harry’s wayward hand. “We’re lunching with Mother and Father promptly at noon.”
Harry grimaced. “Do we have to? Or—do I have to? You’ll have a much better time without me—”
“No, you’ll have a much better time without you. I shall have a miserable time without you.” He hooked a finger into the collar of Harry’s shirt, drawing him closer. “The sooner we let my parents celebrate me, the sooner we can come back and have a proper do.” He turned the box over in his hands, carefully untying the ribbon wrapping it. Inside, he found another, smaller box, fashioned from wood, and when he undid the clasp, it popped open to reveal a shining, golden Snitch.
His lips twitched in bemusement, and he reached to take it in hand—
“Don’t!” Harry warned, smiling nervously. “I mean, don’t touch it yet.”
Draco frowned—and then understanding dawned. “…You got me a virgin Snitch?”
Harry shrugged. “Like I said, it’s only part of the gift. Hermione took care of the rest of it.”
Draco glanced to the door, then back at Harry. “Now?”
“Would I really keep you waiting on your birthday?”
Draco tapped Harry’s hand, where it was still settled on his hip. “You might just.” He shoved the hand away, rolling out of bed and sending the tray back down to the kitchen with a flick of his wand. “Step lively, Potter.”
“Harry,” he muttered under his breath, letting it slide because it was Draco’s birthday for one, and because Draco only did it because he knew how it annoyed Harry for another. It was always Harry Harry Harry when it counted.
Draco found the door easily; he’d grown up visiting Grimmauld Place, after all, and had spent enough time here in the past month to fill in the gaps in his memory. Harry had had Hermione place it just off the sitting room down on the first floor, where anyone passing by might think it was a closet. He had recalled Hagrid mentioning something about permits and documentation being required, but as it was a last-minute gift idea, he hadn’t exactly submitted the proper paperwork for the space, so the less conspicuous it looked, the better. Besides, it wasn’t as if the Ministry was in any fit state to comb through the Grimmauld Place blueprints and notice an improperly permitted extension, so he could just put in the request later.
Harry nodded encouragingly when Draco touched the knob, holding his breath as he pushed through. He’d only snagged a brief peek the night before, while Draco had been washing up, just to check it was ready. Hermione had shaken her head, fondly ruffling his hair, and told him You’re a good man, Harry Potter, which had been nice of her to say, though Harry didn’t really see what had prompted her to say so.
It was just, giving Draco a new Sanctuary had been so obvious a gift choice.
He’d prodded Hermione into getting a bit creative with the interior, as this one wouldn’t be moving about from site to site and so could support a stable environment within. It had taken some thought, deciding what this Sanctuary should look like, but given the wondering look on Draco’s face, smoothly replaced by a smile of dawning realisation, he felt he’d chosen wisely.
“…This is my family’s lands. It’s Wiltshire.”
“Is it?” Harry asked, all innocence.
“I broke my wrist climbing that tree when I was seven—and I tried to go swimming in that pond when I was ten until I found out the hard way it was infested with leeches. Father commissioned a private Quidditch pitch for me, just between those hills…” He whirled around, shaking his head with an utterly baffled expression on his face, as if he couldn’t believe his eyes. “You’re mad.”
“I don’t think I am. It’s just an Undetectable Extension Charm—with a few personal touches.”
“You’re mad,” Draco breathed, sidling closer and taking Harry’s face in his hands, sliding their lips together. “Absolutely—” He peppered Harry’s jaw with little sucking kisses, “Barmy—” And across his cheeks. “Barking—” And nose. “Stark-raving—” And back to his lips again, holding for a long moment before drawing back slowly. “Mad.”
Harry supposed he’d been called worse, and though—as with Hermione—he didn’t really understand what had prompted the display, he let it stand. It was, after all, Draco’s birthday.
They put off christening the Snitch for later, as Hermione and Ron would be rumbling about now, and they had a terribly, horribly awkward lunch with the Malfoys to prepare for. Ron had, likely at Hermione’s insistence, procured a present for Draco as well, which was reluctantly passed over with a muttered Happy birthday just as they were heading out the door. Harry suspected his timing had been planned so that he wouldn’t have to stand around waiting to see how Draco received the gift, which turned out to be a first-press edition of Men Who Love Dragons Too Much autographed by the author.
Lunch with the Malfoys was lunch with the Malfoys, and Harry was willing to bet all the gold in his Gringotts vault that the only reason it was an intimate meal for four rather than an extravagant affair in the ballroom with glitz and glam and a string quartet was because Draco had threatened to cut ties with them altogether if they dared invite another soul. Lucius seemed thrilled for the excuse to focus all his attention on his son, ignoring Harry’s presence altogether, and gifted him a handsome watch. Harry thought it seemed a bit stuffy for a gift, until he recognised the piece as something similar to the one Mr. Weasley had given Ron when he’d come of age—and the one Harry had received from Mrs. Weasley to the same end. Of course; with Lucius rotting in Azkaban for Draco’s seventeenth birthday—and Draco not much better off, drowning in his Animagus studies and fearful for his and his parents’ lives—there’d been no opportunity for traditional coming-of-age birthday gifts.
Draco looked to be thinking along the same lines, for he took the watch with a trembling hand, head ducked so that none but Harry could see how his eyes were shining. Lucius, too, seemed troubled by the unusually emotional exchange, quickly shooing Draco back to his mother, who was delighted to bestow upon him a new broom—a Nimbus 2020.
“I know you don’t need one anymore,” she said placatingly, when Draco reminded her he was perfectly capable of Apparating—and flying—on his own. “But it would be such a shame to let those Quidditch skills you were so diligent in cultivating go to waste!”
“Well, I have got a Snitch that needs breaking in…” he allowed, cutting a sly look to Harry, and Lucius whispered a colourful oath under his breath, snapping for a house-elf to top off his wine glass.
While Draco had objected to his parents throwing any sort of affair for him at the Manor, he had been only too happy for Harry to organise something far more laid back at Grimmauld Place—which meant louder music, questionable drinks, and more games of Strip Exploding Snap. Pansy, Theo, Greg, and Millie showed up unfashionably early, which Harry suspected they had done on purpose, and dragged Draco off into the sitting room to shower him with gifts, with Harry, Hermione, and Ron pointedly not invited.
“You wanted to be invited?” Ron asked, scandalised, when Harry complained about it as he was putting the finishing touches on Draco’s birthday dinner and dessert.
“Well—no, I just—” He sighed. “It would’ve been nice to feel at least a little included.” He lifted his eyes to the ceiling, wondering if there was a spell that would let him see through into the sitting room two floors above them. “They’re up there having their little Slytherin orgy, and I’m down here playing house-elf.”
Ron was looking very distressed. “Wha—you want to…you want to have an orgy with them?” He shook his head. “Mate, I’m really trying hard to be understanding here, but honestly—”
“Harry, watch the milk! Don’t let it burn!” Hermione said, pointing her wand at the burner over which Harry had been absently tending a sauce pan. The flame shrank to a bare flicker.
“Right! Right, sorry. And obviously I didn’t mean a literal orgy,” Harry explained, cheeks heating.
“Less discussion of orgies, more warming of milk!” Hermione huffed. “I’m doing the hard part getting the tart moulds ready.”
And she was, to be fair. On top of preparing Draco’s new Sanctuary, so they wouldn’t have to trek out to Scotland every time Draco wanted to stretch his wings, Harry had also been intent on finally polishing the egg custard as he’d promised at the new year. He hadn’t yet managed it alone, but Hermione had thrown herself into helping however she could, with Ron evidently providing moral support.
He was struck how, at every turn, his friends had done nothing but attempt to guide and support him as he navigated the tricky business of his relationship—whatever form it took—with Draco Malfoy over the years. They’d had his back when barbs had been traded during classes, blithely tolerated his obsession in Sixth Year, gone grudgingly along with most every bad decision he’d made during their Horcrux hunt (if only to make sure he didn’t get himself killed), and were now at the point where Ron was mostly concerned he was sleeping with several Slytherins instead of just Draco while Hermione fussed over the thinness of her dough.
He began whisking the eggs and sugar together, stealing glances at Hermione and Ron out of the corner of his eye. “…You’re sure you two are okay with this?”
“As long as Draco reminds them to hold their tongues,” Ron grumbled, reaching for the evening edition of the Prophet; Kingsley’s temporary appointment to the Minister for Magic position had recently been made permanent, and he waved out at them from the front page.
“I had half a mind to Jinx the main course to make them croak like bullfrogs for twenty-four hours if they said Mudblood,” Hermione said. “But Harry assured me they were reasonably civil the last time they were over, so perhaps there’s no need.”
“No—I don’t mean—” He turned to frown at Ron, who was smiling with his head buried in the paper, and Hermione was doing much the same as she struggled to crimp the rims of the tart shells. “…I hate you both.” He went back to whisking furiously. “I’m really concerned here. I don’t want it to be weird.”
“Well,” Hermione said, “I confess there’s never going to be anything not weird about you and Draco Malfoy, but…” She stole a glance at him, one brow lifted. “Do you feel weird about it?”
Harry opened his mouth to say no, of course not, because that was what you were supposed to say. If you were with someone you wanted to be with, even if everyone else thought you’d lost the plot, you at least were expected to be confident in your choice, to stand up for it. But this was Hermione, and she wasn’t asking for what he thought was the right answer. She just wanted to know.
He shrugged weakly. “I feel like…I should feel weird about it—and there are times I do, you know? I’ll get hit with a memory, or he’ll say something or do something that I’ve seen him do a dozen times before, back at school, and wanted to clock him for it—but then it’s like it’s glazed over, I don’t feel angry like I ought to.”
She reached out and rubbed his shoulder. “Who says you ought to be angry? You’ve been through a lot this past year—so has he. So have all of us.” Her eyes went to Ron, then back to Harry. “We just want you to be happy, Harry. That’s really all there is to it. We’ll put up with rather a lot from you, in case you haven’t figured it out over the years. Plus—” She bobbed her head. “Well, we kind of like Draco, too.”
“Speak for yourself,” Ron muttered from behind the paper.
“He’s our friend, crazy as it seems—”
“Don’t let him hear you say that.”
“—and we want him to be happy too.” She used her wand to pull down Ron’s paper, so he had to look her in the eye. “Isn’t that right, Ronald?”
Ron tossed the paper aside with a dramatic huff. “Yeah, all right. I guess I want old Ferret Face to be happy. He’s pretty insufferable when he isn’t, after all.” He gave Harry a crooked smile, though, to show he mostly spoke in jest. “You’ve spent too much of your life worrying about other people already. Just have some fun—make bad choices. Make some really bad choices, if you have to. Like—choices you’re going to look back on in ten years and think, ‘What the bloody hell was I—’”
Ron ducked his head, full-on grinning now, and waved Harry off. “Enjoy your lizard boyfriend, if you must. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.”
True enough; they had tried to warn him off Draco time and time again, and yet he’d still wound up here all the same. Somehow, though, Harry didn’t really mind so much that it felt like yet another situation in which he’d had no say, been given no choice. Maybe because Draco was in much the same position—what had the locket said? Like a moth to dragonflame. A sappy romantic might have called it destiny, and though Harry did not think he was either sappy or romantic, that sounded like a pleasant enough take on their relationship—much more palatable than the take in which their life forces were intimately linked, one doomed to drag the other down into death after him. Yeah, he was just gonna go with destined.
Dinner, including Harry’s egg custard, was a rousing success, given he earned a, “Passable, Potter,” from Draco and Pansy and Theo had cleaned their plates. Greg and Millie had cleaned theirs too, but this was less a surprise or a compliment, as Draco had confided in him that Greg would eat anything that stood still long enough for him to stab it with a fork, and Millie had burned off all her taste buds in a Potions accident in Fourth Year. They set up picnic tables in the new Sanctuary, and it was kind of perfect.
Gifts were exchanged, drinks were had, and stories of Malfoy birthdays past were divulged. Harry found he liked the one about his twelfth best, when Lucius had presented Draco with twelve handsome brand-new Nimbus brooms, and the spoilt git had thought they were all for him, and not a ‘donation’ to the Slytherin Quidditch Team. “You should’ve seen his face, Potter,” Pansy gasped, slapping her knee. “You’d think he’d just been told he’d contracted Spattergroit!”
She’d been on the verge of offering up the memory for public viewing, if they could just track down a Pensieve, when Draco had complained he was tired from all the excitement and hoped they could wrap it up soon. Pansy had only leered at him, muttering something about still got a few presents you’re expecting, then? and rounded up her fellows to leave so quickly she might as well have Summoned them.
Once the guests had all Flooed home and Hermione and Ron had retired to their rooms, Harry sent Draco upstairs to enjoy a bath while he finished with the Scouring up. “Leave it,” Draco said, tugging him toward the stairs. “It’ll still be there in the morning.”
“It can wait. I can’t.”
It turned out Draco was very appreciative of his gifts and dinner and did not hold it against Harry at all that Hermione had been largely responsible for both. Harry slapped up the quickest, strongest Muffliato he’d ever cast when Draco bent forward, lips stretched tight around his straining cock, and he bit his fist hard enough to leave marks.
“Why—am I getting—head when—it’s—hngh—your birthday—th-though…?”
“Are you actually turning me down?” Draco asked, lips puffy, as he lazily pumped Harry’s cock.
Harry frantically shook his head. “Nope. Nope, definitely not. Carry on.”
And on he carried, and on and on and on until Harry’s vision went white. No, on closer consideration, he decided that this had been his favourite Malfoy birthday after all.
Draco’s parents insisted on biweekly visits for lunch, and try as Harry might to get Ron and Hermione to come along and help make the tense meals a bit more bearable, they refused to be budged. “We’d die for you, mate,” Ron assured him with a clap on the shoulder, “but there are some sacrifices you just can’t ask us to make.” Harry could hardly blame them, but he really didn’t enjoy the meals, and he honestly didn’t think Draco did either, always bustling them back through the Floo before dessert had even settled in their stomachs.
When he asked Draco why they had to attend so regularly, if he didn’t even like the visits, he only received an elegant shrug. “They’re my parents. They ask me to come, so I come.”
“And I’m going along because…?”
“Because I want you there,” Draco said simply, as if that was all there was to it. Which, there might well have been; Draco was still a tricky, fickle beast to navigate, too draconic by half at times and in ways Harry didn’t think he’d ever grow accustomed to. Truthfully, though, it smacked a bit of ‘hoarding’, and Harry wondered if they ought to speak with Charlie, to see what else they might try doing in order to settle those restless bits of Draco that refused to be tamed. Not that Harry wanted him tamed; it was only…he wanted to be prepared, he supposed. So he didn’t fuck things up, as he was so wont to do.
Deciding they had kept themselves cooped up in their little love nest long enough, and that lunches at the Manor definitely did not count as proper outings, Harry threw his weight into convincing Draco to come visit the Burrow with him, finally managing it well into June. He hadn’t wanted the Weasleys to think he was avoiding them, but he’d needed a bit of time to himself—and to Draco—after that final battle. It was quiet in Grimmauld Place, and there had been a comfortable rhythm with Draco that did not involve Muggle gadgets and gizmos and a house fit to bursting with life. Harry loved the Weasleys, but he was finding out there were a lot of other things he loved as well, so he’d kind of been enjoying his little holiday, as it were.
As Ron told it, Mrs. Weasley had understood his need to recover, always asking after Harry when Ron popped in but never pressing for more, and Ron had returned to Grimmauld Place after each visit laden with baked goods clearly prepared with a healthy dash of love. Still, Harry felt the tiniest bit guilty, and given he could hardly leave Draco alone to stew while he popped over to Ottery St. Catchpole, they would have to go together.
When Draco asked why his attendance was required at what was looking to be a rather raucous reunion of Weasleys, with everyone but Charlie in attendance, Harry had simply turned his own words on him: “Because I want you there.”
Draco had gone scarlet and donned his best dress robes until Harry had assured him with tickled laughter that this wasn’t the Manor and that he had to dress much more casually, else he was going to make their hosts feel self-conscious.
“I have to dress like you?” Draco asked, scandalised, but managed to find a clean pair of slacks and button-down that didn’t make him look like he was off to his own funeral.
Harry had warned Mrs. Weasley in advance that he would be bringing Draco along as his dinner guest, hoping she would pass the word around to Bill so he didn’t try to Hex Draco on sight again, but he could not have possibly prepared himself for the sight of Molly flinging herself at Draco the moment they’d stepped through the Floo, wrapping him in a crushing hug that he’d be feeling for a few days.
“Oh, you dear, dear boy! Throwing yourself between our Fred and that curse! You can’t know how—” She choked herself up, shaking him like a rag doll, before she finally released him, holding him at arm’s length to get a good look at him. “Goodness, you’re skin and bones! Ronald Weasley, you haven’t been ‘losing’ the pies and casseroles I’ve been sending around, have you?”
Ron arrowed for the back door, mumbling a reply that Harry didn’t catch but was probably something along the lines of Haven’t been here five minutes and he’s already causing me trouble…
Mrs. Weasley ignored him, beaming at Draco. “Well, not to worry, we’ll get you sorted quickly enough.” She belatedly noticed Harry, who had stood quietly off to the side so Draco could get the mothering over and done with. It seemed to be his turn now, though, for she folded him into a hug half as frantic but twice as tight as Draco’s, clutching him to her breast and pressing a kiss onto his crown. “Oh Harry, Harry, I can’t tell you how much…” She sighed, and Harry patted her arms. He’d known this was coming, but it didn’t make it any less uncomfortable.
“It was nothing, Mrs. Weasley—”
“Nonsense! It was everything, and just…” She drew back, her eyes shining. “…I’m just so glad you’re here,” she warbled thickly, her words heavy with meaning.
She nodded, releasing him at last, and wiped her eyes. “Well, you boys head off into the garden and say hello to everyone else. It’ll still be another half hour before I’m ready for you!”
Harry ducked his head, looping his arm through Draco’s and dragging him towards the back door.
“Weasley’s mother is…” Draco started, and Harry held his breath, waiting. “…stronger than she looks.” He rubbed his arms.
“Not quite lunches with your folks, is it?” They made their way through the little kitchen garden towards the distant sound of laughing voices. “So how much do you think you can eat before you’re too pudgy to make it off the ground?”
Draco’s face went sheet-white, and he drew up short. “Don’t even joke about that.”
“Molly likes making sure all her children are well-fed and happy.”
“Thank Merlin I’m not one of her little red-headed whelps, then.”
“Oh, sorry, I misspoke: Molly likes making sure anyone who sets foot in her home is well-fed and happy.” He poked Draco in the waist, making him squirm. “You might need to let out a belt loop or three before we leave.”
Draco raked him with a scathing look. “You look fit enough after all these years under her roof; I think I’ll survive.”
Harry’s brows rose. “You think I look fit?” Draco’s cheeks pinked, and he started walking again, now at a faster clip to try and lose Harry, until he was nearly jogging by the time they joined the larger group.
It really was most everyone in the family: Ron and Hermione, Bill and Fleur, Fred and George; Ginny was home for the weekend, though she’d been spending most of her summer at Hogwarts, helping with the rebuilding; the only ones missing, aside from Charlie, who’d had to return to Romania, were Percy and Mr. Weasley, who were pulling long hours at the Ministry these days but had assured Mrs. Weasley they’d be home in time for dinner.
There were greetings all around, and Draco gamely shook every hand extended his way. Even Bill offered him a terse apology for knocking him out. “Thanks for pulling Fred’s bacon out of the fire. We’ve got a backup—” He jerked a thumb at George, who showed him a couple of fingers of his own. “But we like his model better.”
Draco only nodded and muttered, “Of course…” looking thoroughly out of his element. Harry winced inwardly; this was going to be worse than visits to the Manor if he didn’t find a way to settle Draco’s nerves—though that might prove difficult, given he hadn’t exactly found the time yet to explain to his extended family the precise nature of his and Draco’s relationship.
Oh they knew Draco was an Animagus, knew he’d been not quite himself for a while and brought down Dumbledore in his animalistic rampaging—but they didn’t know why he’d done that. They didn’t know why Harry had broken him out of the Ministry, why he’d had to tag along on their very dangerous and very secret quest. Perhaps they wondered, but they didn’t ask, and so they didn’t know.
And Harry wanted to tell them, he did, but he wanted it to be on his own terms—and he wanted Draco to be on board with it as well. He wanted this to be another all-in moment, and that couldn’t happen right now, on a balmy Saturday afternoon out in the garden.
So he wrangled Hermione and Ron into playing buffer, giving Draco someone to talk to that he didn’t feel he owed fifteen apologies. Granted, he did owe them apologies, but they didn’t seem like they minded so much. Hermione politely asked how he was enjoying the Sanctuary, as if she hadn’t caught them tumbling out flushed and laughing just the day before, and Ron grabbed them a round of Butterbeers so he had an excuse to mingle with Draco but not talk.
“Have you thought about using it for spell practice?” Hermione suggested, just as the sun was touching the distant horizon. Mr. Weasley and Percy would be home any minute now, and even this far from the kitchen, Harry could smell wonderful scents drifting out the open windows. “No sense in letting valuable skills go to waste!”
“You sound like Mother,” Draco snorted, blowing over the lip of his bottle so it sang.
Hermione flushed. “Well you don’t have to practice offensive spells. What about your Patronus? Harry mentioned you were getting very close, but you said you hadn’t managed it by…well, by Hogwarts. You should try to master it, you really should!”
Draco’s brows quirked up, and he smiled into the draw he took off his bottle. “Well, it’s mastered. So you can stop your harping.”
Ron choked on his swig. “The fuck it is.” He looked to Harry, dubious, and Harry had to nod.
“Afraid it’s true. He took his sweet time getting to it, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes.” He grimaced. “Unfortunately.”
“So what is it, then?” Hermione prodded, curious.
“Please be a ferret, please be a ferret…” Ron muttered under his breath, fingers crossed.
“It’s a swan,” Draco proclaimed proudly, chest puffed out. “A nasty brute, as Potter tells it, but I’m pleased enough.”
Ron burst out laughing. “A swan? It’s a bloody bird? And he’s ‘pleased’ with it!”
Draco frowned. “Something wrong with swans, Weasley?” He palmed his wand, brandishing it with a flourish. “Shall we compare our Charms? I’ve heard yours is a Chihuahua.”
“It’s a Jack Russell Terrier,” Ron sputtered, “and it’ll tear yours to shreds!” He tossed his empty bottle into the air and drew his wand, Vanishing the bottle before it hit the ground.
“Oi,” George warned from nearby. “Mum said no duels before dinner! It’s on your head if she catches you!”
Ron grumbled sourly but slipped his wand back into his pocket, and after ensuring he wasn’t about to be Hexed, Draco did the same.
Once his back was turned, though, Ron leaned over to Harry and whispered, “…Yours is still a stag though, yeah?”
“Uh, yeah?” Harry laughed. “What else would it be?”
“No, yeah. Just. I mean, y’know.” Ron rubbed at the back of his neck, then shrugged. “They—change. Sometimes.” He nodded to himself, evidently relieved, and released a huff of nervous laughter. “So long as it doesn’t suddenly become a dragon.”
“Don’t worry,” Harry said, clapping him on the shoulder. “If it changed, it’d probably become a peacock.”
Harry was spared from having to explain himself by the crack of Apparition, as Mr. Weasley and Percy finally arrived, and then there were more greetings and welcomes all around. Mr. Weasley gave Draco’s hand a firm shake, saying, “Didn’t think I’d ever be glad to see a Malfoy darkening my doorway, but there’s a first time for everything. Welcome to the Burrow, Draco,” and though Draco had nothing to say in return, only ducking a guilty nod, Harry thought he seemed a little relieved to have the matter of their families’ antagonistic past addressed right from the start and promptly sailed over.
Dinner was quite the most filling thing Harry had had in months, and he sorely regretted taking so long to start reaching out to his friends and family again, mending ties the war had strained. He resolved to start dropping by on a much more regular basis; after all, Draco would never be able to be himself around Harry’s friends without frequent exposure.
Mr. Weasley drew him aside just as they were preparing to leave, asking for a private word. “I’m not sure if you’ve seen the papers, but the Ministry’s finally getting up and running again.”
“Yeah, I saw Kingsley’s been appointed Minister full-time? That’s great!”
Mr. Weasley nodded, smiling. “He’s a tough nut, but a good man, just what the Healer ordered at a time like this.” He cleared his throat softly. “So, er, when you have the time…you ought to think about bringing Draco by. To the Ministry, I mean.”
Harry felt the blood leave his face, and Mrs. Weasley’s sumptuous stew began to bubble nauseatingly in his stomach. “What? Why? He hasn’t done anything wrong!”
Surely they couldn’t still mean to prosecute him for Dumbledore’s death. Everyone knew he’d had no control over himself—except, did everyone know that? Snape had, but Snape was dead. That Bragge bloke and Kingsley had seemed convinced as well, but that had merely been assumption on their part. What if they wanted to interrogate him? What if they thought it’d been part of a plan of Voldemort’s? Granted, it kind of had, but that wasn’t—
“Well, no, not exactly—calm down,” he urged, seeing Harry’s obvious agitation. He offered a wry smile, too fatherly for Harry’s taste. “But he’s kind of an unregistered Animagus, no?”
Harry’s shoulders slumped in relief—oh, was that all?
“Not that there’s probably anyone left on the island of Great Britain who doesn’t know about the great white dragon that fought at the Battle of Hogwarts,” Mr. Weasley continued, “but formalities do not appear to have been one of the victims of the war.” He squeezed Harry’s shoulder. “No rush—I only thought to offer a reminder, in case it had slipped your mind.”
“No—I mean, yeah, I guess it had…” He nodded, forcing a smile. “Thanks, I’ll talk to Draco about it.”
“You do that,” Mr. Weasley said, shooing him off. “And don’t be a stranger!”
Harry meant to put off bringing up the Registration business for at least a few days, thinking he might ease into it once he caught Draco in a particularly good mood—but no sooner had they Apparated back into the entryway of Grimmauld Place with a loud CRACK than Draco was plodding down the stairs into the kitchen to put on a spot of tea, throwing back with feigned casualty, “So what did Weasley’s father want?”
“Er…” Harry followed him down, clutching the newel at the base for comfort. “…It was about you, actually.”
Draco lifted a brow as he filled the teapot. “He was warning you off me, then? Reminding you to sleep with one eye open?”
“…He thinks we should go down to the Ministry and get you properly registered as an Animagus.”
The teapot dropped into the spacious sink with a bright clang, the water still hissing from the faucet. Harry drew his wand and spelled the tap shut, slowly slipping closer so as not to startle.
Draco’s hands were gripping the edge of the sink, white-knuckled, and he had his head hung. “…Why the fuck do I have to—” he started, then cut himself off. His shoulders tensed. “It’s not as if it’s a secret!”
Harry came to a stop just in front of the oven, leaning back against it. “Yeah, I know. It’s just—protocol, that kind of tripe, that’s all.” Draco was staring down into the sink at the toppled teapot, though Harry suspected his mind was elsewhere—like buried in the Department of Mysteries, locked away where no one would be able to find him this time, trapped in a deep, dreamless slumber. “It’s not urgent, he said. It was just a reminder. We don’t have to go right now—”
“No,” Draco said, then shook his head, as if to convince himself. “No, I’ll go.”
This close, Harry could see he was trembling, and he corrected gently. “We’ll go.”
It spoke to how genuinely unsettled Draco was by the prospect of willingly returning to the Ministry that he didn’t snarl back something along the lines of I hardly need a nanny! He was breathing heavily, though, eyes closed now as he tried to wrest back some measure of calm. Harry hated it; they’d had a pleasant enough evening at the Burrow—certainly loads less tense than any lunch at the Manor—and now Harry had ruined it.
“I’m sorry—” he started, but Draco only shook his head sharply.
“It’s fine,” he said, wiping his face and running his hands through his hair. He cast a last look at the abandoned teapot, then stormed off. “I’m going to use the Sanctuary—go on to bed.”
Harry watched him go, feeling suddenly impotent. He wanted to follow, wanted to fly with him, or just be there when he tired himself out, as he was likely intending to do. Working himself to exhaustion was Draco’s way of ensuring he slept like the dead, more effective than any Dreamless Sleep. It was invariably a signal he was worked up—and he did not want Harry to follow him. Harry had been unaccountably hurt, those first few times Draco had done it back in the tent, feeling dismissed and shut out, though he’d told himself this was only because he had been dismissed and shut out, as he and Draco were hardly bosom companions.
Now, though, he saw it for what it was: simple pride. Draco, even now, did not want Harry to see him weak. He would rather suffer in solitude than expose himself to Harry’s pity, still that frightened little eleven-year-old stinging from Harry’s scorn underneath those sharp grey eyes and flashing scales.
Harry did not notice him come to bed, and he was up before Harry the next morning, pouring his nervous energy into sorting through his two—two—wardrobes for a suitable outfit in which to address any Ministry sorts who wanted to cause him grief.
“Seriously, we don’t have to go today,” Harry reminded him, leaned against the door jamb as he watched Draco rifle through his closets. They weren’t bottomless—Harry had checked—but you wouldn’t know it from the sheer volume of fabric Draco managed to find stuffed inside. “It’s not as if they’re going to come cart you away—” Draco’s eyes flashed in warning, and Harry swallowed his tongue. Well that had been the wrong thing to say. He cleared his throat, trying again. “Shouldn’t we wait until Monday, at least? No one’s going to be about today—”
“Hardly my fault; I’ll be on record as having presented myself as soon as the matter was brought to my attention, and then they can contact me at their leisure. It’s their own incompetence that let me slip through the cracks in the first place; you’d think they’d have a big fat file with my name on it, given what sort of havoc I wrought with my first transformation.”
“…Well, yeah, they did actually, but Snape saw it got ‘lost’.”
Draco shrugged. “And that’s my concern how?”
Harry sighed. Slytherins. He supposed a haughty bravado was better than the peevish nerves Draco tended to exhibit when he was discomfited, though, and they set off for the Ministry just before noon. Hermione and Ron had left for Diagon Alley a bit earlier: Ron to pitch in at the twins’ shop as he’d promised to do with the school year starting inside of two months, and Hermione to get in some shopping she’d been putting off while waiting for a shipment of books to arrive at Flourish and Blotts. There were plans for the four of them to meet up for a later lunch once Harry and Draco’s business at the Ministry was sorted, and Harry’s stomach was already grumbling.
“Need a Silencio?” Draco ribbed as they turned down the grimy, glorified alleyway hosting the Visitor’s Entrance. It was overcast, making the darkened shopfronts and graffitied walls seem all the more imposing. The old red telephone box used as the entrypoint for Ministry visitors was impossible to miss, looking as shabby and dilapidated as ever and still missing multiple windowpanes with the receiver itself hanging at an odd angle.
Draco wrinkled his nose and drew his cloak tighter about himself; how he wasn’t dying under such a heavy garment in midsummer was beyond Harry, but maybe he always ran hot these days, considering.
Together they squeezed into the telephone box, drawing the door shut with a snap behind them. Harry awkwardly reached for the receiver, lifting it out of the way to show the dial. He hooked a finger into the little divots of 6-2-4-4-2 and waited patiently to be addressed.
A cool female voice—the same, Harry reflected, as in the Ministry lifts—chimed at them, “Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name and business.”
“Er, Harry Potter, here with Draco Malfoy for an Animagus registration?”
“Thank you,” said the woman. “Visitors, please take your badges and attach them to the front of your robes.”
A click and a rattle sounded from inside the telephone apparatus, and shortly two square, silver badges came sliding out of the coin return. Harry’s read Harry Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World; Draco’s read Draco Malfoy, Here to See a Man About a Dragon.
Draco pinned Harry’s to his robe for him with an exaggerated roll of his eyes. “As if your overinflated melon of a head needed to get any fatter than it already is…”
Harry grinned as the booth began to sink into the earth, fixing Draco’s badge to his robes. “Thought you liked my head.”
Draco’s lips quirked up at one side. “…You’re improving. Still a lot of practice needed, though.” He leaned in close, nuzzling the sensitive skin just below Harry’s ear—oh, this was not a good idea, getting hot and bothered in a cramped little lift. “Perhaps a demonstration’s in order.”
“Definitely not,” Harry chided gently, trying to shift his body away—though he only succeeded in drawing one of Draco’s legs between his own, causing his cock to rub just so over Draco’s thigh. He swallowed. “Unless you want to get arrested for public indecency.”
“What’s the use of being ‘Saviour of the Wizarding World’ if you can’t flout a few morality statutes with impunity?”
“The Ministry of Magic wishes you a pleasant day,” came the woman’s voice again, and Draco cursed.
“Hope you weren’t planning on finally fucking me today,” he drawled morosely under his breath as they stepped out into the Atrium, its rich hardwood floors and peacock-blue ceiling unchanged from a year prior. “Someone else has beat you to the punch.”
Leery of dawdling too long in the atrium, lest Harry find himself hounded by well-wishers eager to express their gratitude to the Boy Who Lived in person, they quickly made their way to the lifts after having their wands checked at the security desk, and then it was up to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Harry had hoped that, once inside the Ministry proper, he wouldn’t have to worry about being approached by strangers wanting to shake his hand or kiss the metaphorical ring, but the lift ride up was a crowded one for a Sunday, and he was quite possibly the most recognisable face in all of wizarding England at the moment.
Draco grew more and more tense as the lift rose, though it was difficult to tell if his nerves stemmed entirely from how close they were getting to the Auror office, or if they could be attributed, at least in part, to the lovely young woman explaining to Harry in a choked voice that her father had been among the Hogsmeade residents who’d fought in the Battle of Hogwarts, and how she was certain he was only alive today thanks to Harry’s brave actions. With a sniffle and a quick hug of gratitude that was less chaste than Harry might have liked, she bustled off at Level 3 (“Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes,” announced the disembodied voice in the lift), and the carriage rattled onward and upward.
Harry tried to distract, now they were alone. “I don’t think it’s that bad.”
“What?” Draco asked, a bit testily.
“My head. I don’t think it’s as terrible as you make it out to be.”
Draco glared at him, eyes narrowing in suspicion—like he could see right through Harry’s clever little scheme to make him feel better. “…Are you talking about your head? Or…your head?”
“Which do you think?”
“I think they’re both in a horrific state, so you’re off your rocker either way.”
“And I think you’re just saying that to be contrary.”
“Oh?” Draco laughed. “That confident in your cocksucking skills, are you?”
“You haven’t complained,” Harry said, hoping his efforts weren’t about to backfire.
“Maybe I’ve been grading you on a curve.” Draco rested a hand at the dip of Harry’s hip. “Perhaps I ought to raise my standards.”
Harry glanced down at his Ministry badge, tapping it with a frown. “Well, this thing here says I’m the Saviour of the Wizarding World, so I’m not sure how much higher your standards can go for there to still be any eligible bachelors hanging around.”
Draco made a face. “So I’m stuck with you, is what you’re saying.”
“Look at it this way: it’ll be less of a hassle for you to just mould me into the kind of Chosen One you’d prefer to associate with than to go out and find another one altogether.”
“For a Gryffindor, you do make the occasional good point.”
“Level 2, Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” announced the lift voice, and Draco sighed audibly.
Harry guided him out, a hand on the small of his back, when he didn’t immediately step off. They made their way to the reception desk, behind which sat a cheery young man who was thrilled—just thrilled—to escort Mr. Potter and his companion to the Animagus Registry desk, just thrilled!
“If he says how thrilled he is one more time, I swear to—”
“Easy,” Harry said, keeping his voice low. “It’s just signing a few forms, and then we’ll be off.”
Well, that was a lie. It was not just signing ‘a few’ forms; it was signing a whole stack of forms apparently—several of which, they were informed, would need to be initialled by the Head of the Dragon Research and Restraint Bureau, seeing as Draco’s Animagus form was technically a Dangerous Creature. It was therefore down to Level 4 and the Beast Division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, where none other than Cassius Bragge welcomed Harry and Draco into his office, evidently having recently received a promotion.
“Oh, I’m absolutely delighted to see you’ve made something of yourself, Mr. Malfoy!” Bragge tittered, pouring the three of them generous cups of scalding tea. “I do hope there won’t be any, er, misunderstandings about the need to…well, to see that you didn’t hurt anyone else—and that you weren’t a danger to yourself, either?” He drew a half-empty package of biscuits from a drawer, placing several on a small tray—when his bushy brows beetled in thought. “…That does remind me, though: who was it, exactly, who authorised your release? I don’t recall the paperwork coming across my desk, but it was a…tricky time…”
“Er, I think Auror Kingsley might have worked something out with Professor Snape.” Bragge didn’t seem to find this immediately believable, so Harry added in reminder, “Like you said, it was a tricky time. But everything worked out—I’m sure you heard about Draco’s efforts in the Battle of Hogwarts?”
Bragge was blessedly easily distracted and eagerly dropped the matter of Draco’s mysterious disappearance from the Ministry’s holding cells in exchange for tales from the battlefront. It was hardly a topic Harry wanted to revisit so soon, but if it made Draco’s registration go a bit smoother, it was worth it—especially as he could feel Draco’s rage bubbling just under his skin, heralding an imminent explosion of anger and frustration. He hadn’t wanted to come here in the first place, and now he had to sit back, quietly so as not to give anyone cause to think him unstable, and watch as Harry politely went ten rounds with every lookie-loo in the Ministry itching for stories from a war most hadn’t been remotely involved in.
Best to get this over with, for both their sakes. “So, about the Dangerous Creature forms, sir?” Harry prompted, hoping to get on with the registration.
“Yes, yes! Now let’s see here…” Bragge tugged out his pince-nez, popping them on his nose and giving the forms Harry and Draco had been told needed his initialling a once-over. He nodded, lips pursed. “Seems quite straightforward—let’s move to the holding cells, shall we?”
“What?!” Draco shrieked, already on his feet and hand on his wand. “I haven’t done anything—”
Bragge held his hands up defensively, easing back from his desk. “Your pardon, Mr. Malfoy—it’s nothing nasty. We’ll simply need a bigger space to work.”
“Work?” Draco sputtered. “Work at what?” He looked to Harry, expression plaintive. “I haven’t done anything!” he repeated, pleading now, as if Harry needed convincing.
Harry tried to keep his voice calm. Draco had been so worked up before they even stepped out of the house that morning that it wouldn’t take much to push him into a full-out panic transformation, which was precisely the last thing they needed right now for so many reasons. “Mr. Bragge—would you mind explaining?” he asked. “I’m sure you can appreciate Draco doesn’t have the fondest memories of the Ministry’s holding cells…”
Bragge mopped his forehead, chuckling nervously. “No, I dare say he wouldn’t! Do forgive me, my boy. I must simply make a few assessments of your magical stability before I can sign off on these forms you’ve brought me.” He directed his attention to Draco, his voice soft and melodically soothing; Harry wondered if this sort of tack usually worked on dragons, or if Bragge was just playing it by ear. “This being a unique situation involving a Dangerous Creature, I’ll be handling the job your case manager usually would—which includes an evaluation of your transformational capabilities, your mental fortitude, that sort of thing.”
“Mental fortitude?” Draco spat, hand still ready at the hilt of his wand.
“I assure you, Mr. Malfoy, there’s nothing untoward about these evaluations. We ask all Animagi to complete them, and once you’ve demonstrated satisfactory marks, everything will be settled and you may go on about your day. And Mr. Potter is, of course, welcome to join us—in fact, I must insist.”
“Oh you must, must you?” Draco’s lips drew into a sneer, but there was still an unmistakable tremor in his voice.
“Yes, I must,” Bragge said. “We’ll have a few forms for him to fill out as well.”
“Me?” Harry frowned. “I’m not an Animagus, though.”
“No, but—” He cleared his throat. “Well we like to try and keep mated pairs together whenever we’re dealing with anything Class-4 or more dangerous.” He beamed at Draco. “It helps to keep the creatures calm.”
Harry wanted to sink through the floor, and Draco was flushed so red Harry expected to see steam start shooting out of his ears. Or lava belching from his mouth, one or the other.
“Now then!” Bragge scooped up the forms and Charmed his tea cup and the rest of the biscuits to float along after him as he swanned from the office. “To the holding cells!”
Harry couldn’t recall if the room into which they were led was the same one Draco had been held in, or if all the holding cells just looked the same. Given Draco had been unconscious at the time, he would not remember the room either, but he was decidedly wary of the sturdy stone walls and flickering lamps in sconces all the same.
Bragge produced a file from nowhere and Summoned a quill from his office, clearing his throat. “All right, Mr. Malfoy—if you would be so kind as to demonstrate a transformation for us?” He seemed to catch himself, belatedly adding with only a hint of worry in his tone, “That won’t be an issue, will it? Dear me, I’d hate to have to ask Mr. Potter here to go diving back into—”
“I can shift fine,” Draco grit out, tossing his travel cloak at Harry and stalking into the centre of the room. He took a breath to clear his mind, as he sometimes had to do when too agitated to make the transformation without a hiccough, and then released it in a long, slow exhale. Smooth as silk, he flowed into the dragon, his robes ballooning into the great barrel of the beast’s belly and limbs stretching out long and lean before bulking, tipped with claws that could have gutted Bragge with a single swipe. His wings nearly filled the room, and his tail lashed nervously as he shook his trunk-sized head, glaring at Harry and Bragge from behind eyes of mustard yellow.
“What a truly beautiful creature…” Bragge marvelled, before he recalled himself with a humming chuckle. “That was splendid, Mr. Malfoy. Full marks—and you’ve even learned to shift while clothed! Tremendous.” He ticked off several boxes on the form. “Now, if you’ll—let’s see… Give us a turn-about?” He waved his finger in a circle. “Let’s get a look at you from all angles.”
Draco released an angry snort of smoke but did as instructed, awkwardly manoeuvring in the space. He had to practically dance in place, as the holding cell was still too tight for him to pace out a full circle, but he managed it in the end, and Bragge clapped in delight. “Excellent! That’s ‘Understands commands in transformation’ down, then!”
After another ten minutes of demonstrations, Bragge seemed satisfied and ticked the final box on his form, giving Draco leave to shift back.
“Now, Mr. Potter, if I could just get your signature on this particular form?” Bragge slid a slip of light-blue paper over to Harry. “For our records.”
Harry passed his eyes over the text: in big, bold type at the top were the words ASSUMPTION OF OWNER’S LIABILITY, with several phrases throughout the text scripted in by hand. “‘I, [Harry James Potter], do hereby take on sole responsibility for the actions—including damage to persons or property—of my [Dragon / sp. Antipodean Opaleye], forthwith, on this the [21st of June, 1998]. I understand that, should I fail to maintain sound control of this animal, which I have been made aware is a Class  Dangerous Creature, all legal repercussions will be borne by—’” Harry shook his head, baffled. “I’m sorry, what is this?” Draco snatched the form from his hands, mouthing the words to himself as he read.
Bragge looked rather uncomfortable. “Well, as you know, Mr. Malfoy’s Animagus form is technically a Dangerous Creature, and given he’s had quite a volatile past, we can’t very well just release him into the wild, as it were, when there’s a risk of his…er, we’ll call it backsliding.” Bragge gestured to the paper. “This form is generally used with folks seeking to become owners of magical creatures of Class 3 or above, in order to relieve the Ministry of any liability should the animal cause injury or damage.”
“I’m no one’s pet—” Draco started, incensed.
“Well, no, of course not. Not in so many words, at least.” Bragge wrung his hands, pasting on a wry smile. “But it’s best we think of you and your Animagus form as two different entities in this case, Mr. Malfoy. As a human, you’re perfectly in control of your own thoughts and feelings—well, as in control as any of us can be! But this being a rather unique situation, and you having shown a history of…unpredictability when it comes to your Animagus form, the Ministry feels obliged to take every precaution it can with your case. With Mr. Potter’s sworn and notarised statement, you can be released into his care and go about your business.” He offered Harry his quill. “Mr. Potter, if you don’t mind?”
Harry frowned at the quill. “…Are you sure this is entirely necessary, sir? Draco hasn’t had an incident in months, and you’ve just seen he’s perfectly capable of controlling his form now.” There was, however, an insidious little voice worming about inside his mind, whispering unhelpfully that Draco did still have his moments, his near-misses, where the lines between wizard and dragon got just a bit too blurry for comfort. He punted it away. “Can’t he just be responsible for himself, like anyone? None of the other Animagi I know have been asked to submit something like this.”
Bragge held out his hands. “I’m afraid we have little precedent on which to rely, and the Ministry cannot take the chance they’ll be held liable for Mr. Malfoy losing himself once more, succumbing to the creature’s baser instincts and harming someone. Unfortunately…you must either sign the form—or have someone else sign it and assume the responsibility—or we’ll have to ask that Mr. Malfoy agree never to practice Animagecraft again.”
Draco dropped the paper, and it fluttered to the ground. “…What?” he whispered fearfully.
“It is a harsh request, I know—but I beg you to understand the Ministry’s difficult position. It would be inhumane to imprison you, but the Ministry cannot be held responsible should you lose yourself and go on another rampage. Mr. Potter’s signature here affirms that he’ll help you keep check on yourself—” He fixed Harry with a serious look. “Though be certain, Mr. Potter, that affixing your signature to this form means that you will be held culpable if you’re unable to restrain Mr. Malfoy in the event…well, in any event. Do so wisely.”
Harry pursed his lips—and then took up the quill.
“Restrain me?!” Draco hissed at him once they were on their way back to the Registrar. “Like an animal!”
“You can get out of hand from time to time, you have to admit.”
Draco scoffed. “I hardly think they’re speaking of throwing a strop, Potter.” He shook his head. “And of course you signed it, you gormless fool.”
Harry frowned, bemused, as they stepped back onto the lift. “What else was I going to do? You heard him—the alternative was you never being able to transform again.” Even now, Draco flinched at the prospect. Under any other circumstance, Harry might have laughed, given how terrified Draco had been of shifting in the first place. Now, though, he had clearly come to enjoy the power and freedom his Animagus form gave him, even as it took away a bit of his humanity in the process. Asking him to give it up, when he’d finally found acceptance, was bordering on cruel.
“…It would hardly have been an impossible ask.”
Harry didn’t know about that; Draco no longer suffered from the need to transform, as he had in those early weeks, but he definitely still used the dragon as an outlet for all the emotions his stubborn pride kept tamped down as a wizard. “Maybe,” he allowed, not wanting to get into it—especially now the point was moot. “But it’s done.” He waved his copy of the form—a cheery canary yellow—under Draco’s nose. “You’re all mine now.”
Draco made a swipe for it, but Harry slipped it back into the packet of papers they needed to return to the Registrar. “Just remember you said that when I start shitting in your shoes or rutting against your leg while there’s company over.”
Harry grinned, drawing his wand—his Elder Wand—and waving it for show. “Nah, I reckon I could take you if you stepped out of line.”
Draco frowned. “Oh, right. You’ve still got that thing?”
Harry ran a finger along the warm, familiar wood, pensive. “…I don’t quite know what to do with it, to be honest. I could put it away, I guess. Claim it was broken and get a new one, but…” He shrugged. “It’s my wand. The first one I ever got—one of my first real birthday presents. I got it the day I found out I was a wizard, did you know? I…I can’t bear to part with it, if I don’t have to…” He had so many memories with his holly wand—it had defended him, so valiantly, and even if it was Death’s wand, even if it claimed some manner of sentience and ached to be used to evil ends, Harry didn’t want to abandon it, to just toss it aside. It wasn’t as if his wand had asked to take on this power, after all. It hadn’t been given a choice.
Draco gave him a long, unreadable look, then sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I trust you won’t go bragging about it, at least? I’d hate to have to kill someone for you.”
Harry’s lips quirked up on one side. “You won’t die for me, but you’ll kill for me?”
Draco flashed him a sharp smile that was not at all happy. “I already died for you, Potter. Was the once not enough?”
Right, that was enough of that conversation.
They quickly finished up with the remainder of the paperwork and were lined up to Floo to the Leaky Cauldron by just after 1. Draco looked exhausted by the ordeal, still peaky around the edges, and Harry offered to call off lunch and just return to Grimmauld Place, but Draco was adamant they continue with their plans.
“It’s going to take more than a measly trip to the Ministry to undo me, you’ll learn,” he said, with a shaky sort of bravado, and Harry let it be.
They poked their heads into Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes to find Fred alone at the till, busy with a customer. He stepped away just long enough to let them know that George, Ron, and Hermione had gone on ahead to the Three Broomsticks, and if they hurried, they’d probably catch them arguing over the menu. Fred had declined to join them this time, as they were shorthanded on the weekends and needed at least one of them holding down the shop during business hours, but professed the next round would be on Harry.
George still had just the one ear on his right side, but on his left, he now had a girl: Angelina Johnson, who was apparently dating George. They were openly affectionate at the table, handsy and flirting, and even Hermione and Ron were acting a bit like an old married couple, with only eyes for themselves once it became clear Draco did not want to discuss how their visit to the Ministry had gone.
It honestly left Harry feeling a little lonely. His friends were sat there, budged up together and grinning and jostling playfully with their partners, while he and Draco had to sit across from them, pretending they barely tolerated one another. Not that Harry could fault them—he had not, after all, explained his relationship with Draco to anyone outside of Ron and Hermione. And even they didn’t have the whole picture—mostly because Harry hadn’t managed to figure it all out yet himself.
It was only, for all the talking they’d done, it had mostly been about the past; discussions of the future, of what this was, had been thin. It had been enough, at the time, for Harry to be assured that there was something between them, something real and something strong and something that they couldn’t not pursue, to whatever end it led. But what they were to each other, and what they were to the world, were two very different matters right now.
And it would become a thing if they bothered to openly acknowledge it, naming themselves something as mundane as ‘boyfriends’ (and ‘mates’ was right out).
Harry just wanted more time—he wanted to run away and live in the mountains, all alone, for a year, and then maybe he’d be able to handle the Daily Prophet and Witch Weekly plastering their covers with his face and Draco’s alongside scandalous headlines like The Boy Who Kissed Another Boy and The Chosen One Chooses a Death Eater!
It was none of the public’s business, besides. They hadn’t even been entirely open with their families about it—at least on Harry’s part.
Which made him wonder why he was dragging his feet. It was one thing to want to keep his private life private and out of the public eye—but it was another thing entirely to want to keep such an important part of himself secret from the closest thing he had to family these days. He was a fairly private person, he thought, but he’d never imagined himself the type to keep something so…so fucking big from his loved ones. And he really, really didn’t want to, he realised.
He tried to bring it up casually in bed that night, taking Draco’s temperature on the matter. “Would you…would you be okay if I told Ron’s mum and dad? About—y’know. About us?”
Draco fluffed his pillow with a punch before lying down, drawing the coverlet over himself. “Us?” he repeated with a ghost of a smile, almost a leer—definitely teasing.
“What’s so funny?” Harry asked; it had been a serious question, and he’d hoped for a serious answer.
“Nothing,” Draco sighed, still smiling for whatever odd reason. “I’m just stupidly taken with you when you say that word. I can’t stand you on the best of days, and this helps matters none.”
And oh, Harry was beginning to see the issue now, in dazzling technicolour. “Can’t stand me when I talk about us?” He made sure to emphasise ‘us’, and Draco pulled the pillow out from under his head and beat Harry with it. Harry doubled over shielding his face with his arms and laughing, “Enough! I yield!” Draco shoved the pillow back into place with a superior hmph, though his good humour still showed in the curl of his lips and the glint in his eyes in the low light. Harry released a huff of exertion. “All right, fine—no more saying the U word, if you’re so insistent.”
Draco stared at him for a long moment, then shrugged. “…I suppose if you don’t overdo it.”
“What’s overdoing it?” Draco reached for his pillow again in threat, and Harry held a hand up. “Right, right. But—seriously, I just…” He rolled onto his back, staring up at the ceiling. There was a crack, jetting out like a lightning bolt from where the chandelier overhead was tacked to the drywall. “…I feel like I’m hiding it, and I don’t mean to—but then, I kind of do mean to? Not—not because I don’t want to be associated with you or anything, seriously it’s not that—”
And for some reason, this made him blush. That quiet, confident reassurance; another reminder of how much Draco trusted him, even after he’d fucked up so many times. Maybe the locket’s prediction still held true: like a moth to dragonflame, Draco couldn’t help but be drawn to his own destruction, placing his heart in Harry’s hands when there was every danger of him crushing it.
Harry swallowed. “…I just thought…maybe I’d start with them. And then see how that goes.”
Draco said nothing for several agonising heartbeats, before asking, “Why?”
“Why do you want to tell them?”
He didn’t say it in protest—no, he just sounded curious, and Harry turned the question over in his head. “…Once I tell them, it’ll be real.”
He thought Draco might say It’s not real now? but instead he only asked, “…What about Granger and Weasley?”
“They don’t…I don’t think they know. Not really. Or—they don’t understand. They think—” They think it’s something lesser, he didn’t say, because that wasn’t right: they had to know, had to understand, because they knew Harry better than he knew himself sometimes. But there was still something important, some step taken, in speaking up for himself.
He could feel Draco staring at him in the darkness, and then reaching over, gently tilting Harry’s head to face him. Draco lifted up onto his elbows, leaning forward to move his lips over Harry’s, and together they melted. Harry snaked an arm around Draco, drawing them chest to chest, and imagined he could feel the roaring inferno swirling within Draco as a real, physical heat, letting it sear him and reduce him to ash.
Draco slid a slender thigh between his own, bucking his hips gently so that Harry’s cock rubbed with agonisingly insufficient friction alongside Draco’s—enough to encourage the shaft to fill, just in case, but certainly not enough to finish the job. Quite the literal cocktease.
Draco caressed Harry’s jaw and drew away, breaking their kiss just enough to whisper against his lips, “Do you realise how much it hurts?”
“Wh—what?” Harry mumbled, thoughts addled by Draco’s insistent little thrusts solely intended to drive him out of his gourd with want. “What?”
“My heart,” he hissed miserably, nibbling at Harry’s lower lip. “It’s going to burst. Sometimes it’s fucking overwhelming, loving you.”
Harry tightened his arms, his stomach clenching and his heart beating in countertime to Draco’s, racing at breakneck speed. “Shit, don’t say things like that,” he panted, rolling his hips. “You know what a bloody sap I am…”
“Remind me,” Draco said, their foreheads pressed together, and this close he was just a soft blur of light and dark and grey.
“…I want everyone to know. Everyone. You used to tease me, saying I sought out the limelight and those stupid fucking headlines, and it wasn’t true, but I want them now. Not rumours, not gossip—I want it to be clear as day, no room for doubt.” He slipped a hand under the hem of Draco’s briefs, sliding over the globe of his arse and squeezing tight, until he knew there would be marks left in the morning. “I never got to tell my story, never got to shape how people saw me—but I’m going to now.” He pressed a fierce, hot kiss to Draco’s lips, trying to draw him in, make him as much a part of Harry as it felt he already was. “And you’re going to be part of it.”
Draco shuddered, mouth forming a delighted o, and he bucked again, more violently with a new, heady insistence. Harry could feel him, hard, on each shallow thrust. “Then fucking tell them. Put a full-page announcement in the Prophet, if it pleases you.”
“You’re mad,” Harry laughed.
Draco just shrugged. “I can’t possibly lose any more esteem in the eyes of society than I already have—so if you’re bent on ruining your sterling reputation, then let it be on your head.”
“So pessimistic,” Harry said, pressing a line of kisses along Draco’s jaw. “You can’t think it’ll be that bad.” There might be some fuss, naysayers protesting the actions of Draco’s family and the leniency they enjoyed in their punishment. Some might even say Draco had seduced Harry for just such purposes. But Harry would know different, and he’d make sure Draco understood the same.
“Can’t I? Ask yourself—” he said, working a hand between them to fondle Harry’s cock through his pyjama bottoms, “—how you would have reacted to the very suggestion of us doing this only a year ago.”
A chill ran down Harry’s spine, and his cock felt like a lump of dead flesh in Draco’s grip. “…Fuck.”
“Fuck, indeed.” Draco nuzzled his neck, untroubled by the way Harry had gone limp as he slowly, lazily worked him back up. “Tell whoever you like. Or don’t. Like you said: it’s your story.”
“Is that your fatalism talking again?” Harry chuckled wryly. “Doesn’t sound very self-serving.”
“Mm, not very Slytherin at all, is it?” Draco shifted, until their cocks were lined up neatly alongside each other. “Must be the Gryffindor in you rubbing off on me.”
“Thought you liked it when I rubbed off on you…” Harry said, giving a firm, tight thrust into the narrow space between their bodies. Draco’s arse tightened under his touch, and he hissed softly. Using his free hand, he moved Draco’s hair behind his ears, gently rubbing little circles just at the curve where skull met neck. “…Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Draco said simply. “Though I’m not sure what for. You may need to remind me of my generosity.” He rolled his hips. “Or is this a preemptive display of gratitude?”
Harry stilled his rutting with a squeeze to his arse and a finger on his lips, begging a moment before they made each other fall apart. “Just—for everything,” he said, and it felt so pithy, so insufficient. It was only he felt a bit like Draco did: It’s so fucking overwhelming, loving you. Love and like and want and need churned in his stomach in a slurry of emotion that filled him up and threatened to drown him, to choke him with too much of a good thing. Sometimes he thought about this, about how Draco made him feel, and he wanted to weep because an insidious little voice in his head kept taunting You could have had this so much sooner if you’d just taken it.
But that was a lie. He couldn’t have had this, because that just wasn’t how things had gone. There was a difference—a subtle one, but there—between not being given any choice, and there never having been a choice to begin with. Their very actions, made based on who they were at their core, had kept this from happening, kept them from finding each other, until it was just the right time, and that was all there was to it.
So he was grateful, beyond measure, that Draco hadn’t given up. Had waited, perhaps not patiently, until he’d been where he needed to be, and Harry had been where he’d needed to be, so that they could be just what they needed from each other, precisely when they needed it most.
He rejoined their kiss, having nothing more to say but still so much more to express, and eased Draco’s briefs down until he could palm his cock, tugging with a ruthless languidity. He’d neglected to put up any Silencing Charms and didn’t want to waste the breath to do so now, but he was still conscious of Ron and Hermione sleeping only one floor below. Draco fumbled with the ties to his bottoms to get his hand on Harry’s cock and rushed to catch up. They lost themselves in the warm, close darkness, biting back breathy sighs and swallowing moans until they came with silent screams.
Never in his life had Harry felt, with such conviction, that he was right where he’d always been meant to be.
But his decision to share more of himself with his adopted family was shifted aside when July came and their visits to Hogwarts to help with the rebuilding resumed in earnest. The reconstruction was coming along nicely; the Great Hall had been completely rebricked, and the staircases had been wholly repaired and were functioning properly once more—or at least as properly as they ever had, still occasionally depositing people where they hadn’t meant to go.
But Gryffindor Tower still showed obvious signs of wear—including remnants of the damage from Draco’s own wild attack over a year earlier—and the Quidditch pitch had yet to be reseeded, though carpentry appeared to have been started on the demolished stands. There was a fair bit of work yet to go before the castle was returned to its former glory—but McGonagall remained confident they would reopen on schedule, welcoming students old and new into the sturdy stone halls.
“And I hope that includes you lot as well,” McGonagall said, just as Harry and the others were bidding their farewells after a sumptuous dinner in the Great Hall; Kreacher had made sure that Harry’s beloved treacle tart had been on the menu this evening, and he’d had half a mind to beg the old elf to come back to Grimmauld Place, Hermione’s probable protests be damned.
“I’m sorry?” Harry said, thrown by the sudden, unexpected invitation. Oh he’d fantasised about coming back, having just one more year to be a student—a child—before he had to face the whole wide world on his own, but he hadn’t seriously expected McGonagall to consider it.
McGonagall didn’t seem offended she had to repeat herself, only smiling in that purse-lipped manner that said she thought he was being a bit silly. “I hope that you, as well as Mr. Malfoy, Miss Granger, and Mr. Weasley, will consider returning to Hogwarts to complete a final year of studies. I understand you’re all of-age, so this is by no means a requirement, but Hogwarts will be welcoming back any students whose Seventh-year studies were disrupted by the dire events of this past year. I have yet to sort out the details, but I and the rest of the staff have agreed that any who feel their time here is not yet finished should be invited back with open arms. And yes, Miss Granger—” McGonagall flicked her eyes to Hermione, who looked to be five seconds away from raising her hand to ask a question. “We will be offering returnees the opportunity to take their N.E.W.T.s.”
Harry blinked, mouth hanging open. “I…wow, thanks, Professor—er, Headmistress.”
She nodded congenially. “No need to give your response now—I only ask that you think it over. You’re not obligated to return, being of-age as you all are now. And should any of you wish to merely sit your N.E.W.T.s and engage in self-study instead, I’m sure we can work something out. I hope to hear from you by early August, though, so we can start sorting out housing arrangements for the overflow students.”
She bid them good evening, and they marched in silence back down the winding path to Hogsmeade to Apparate home. He hadn’t let himself entertain thoughts of actually being invited back—not seriously, really. Now that it was a very real possibility, though, his stomach churned with apprehension. Was he meant to accept the offer? Or was that only putting off the inevitable—the coward’s way out? What did he even want to do now? Not just for a career, but for anything?
He hadn’t let himself really think about the future in what felt like forever—first because he hadn’t thought he’d survive to adulthood, and now because it was so much easier to focus on the now rather than the later. His battles were so much smaller when he didn’t bother to expand his thoughts beyond next Thursday, and after spending so much of his life so far fighting, it was a welcome change.
God, he’d left most of his books and school supplies back at the Dursleys—they’d probably have burned them by now. It would hardly be a chore to buy new robes and textbooks and potions supplies from Diagon Alley, but it underscored how unprepared he was to go back to school. Why he shouldn’t, even if he very much wanted to go.
To distract himself, he checked Draco’s opinion as they turned in for the evening. “Have you thought any about what McGonagall said?”
“What, about leaving the pitch closed for the coming school year and postponing the Quidditch season until next?” Draco tossed his button-down into the washing basket with an angry huff. “Of course I’ve thought about it—it’s a fucking farce, and she’s only suggesting it because Rosier’s going to be a Second-year come fall and looks primed to lead Slytherin to the Inter-house Quidditch Cup.”
Harry rolled his eyes, snapping shut the book he’d been trying to lose himself in—Draco’s copy of Men Who Love Dragons Too Much. “You know as well as I that the best Seeker in the world won’t make up for a shitty defensive line or a blind Keeper.”
Draco’s brows lifted as he leered. “You thought I was the best Seeker in the world?”
Harry deflected. “I meant the business about us being invited back for a final year at Hogwarts.”
Draco made a face. “Oh.”
When he failed to elaborate, Harry pressed him. “…So? Have you thought about it at all?”
Again, no elaboration. “And? What do you even want to do?”
“Did I say I’d finished thinking, Potter?”
“Harry,” he corrected. “Plus I didn’t mean with school, necessarily. I was more wondering about, like…” Harry shrugged. “Life, in general.”
Draco released a laughing huff that didn’t sound all that tickled. “Trust you to come at me with the big spells first…” He rubbed a hand over his face, then ran his fingers through his hair—nervous habit, Harry had learned—before climbing into bed.
“…Sorry, I didn’t mean to put any pressure on you…” Harry removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I just thought I’d use you as a sounding board.”
“So use me,” Draco offered, rolling onto his side and propping his head up with one hand. He waggled his brows, and even without his glasses, Harry could see he was wearing an unaccountably sly expression.
He didn’t let himself be baited, sighing. “I mean, I’ve wanted to be an Auror for as long as I’ve known that kind of job existed—it’s what I’m good at, for one, and it…it sounded like it could be fun. Chasing the bad guys, being respected by the community, being…being the hero…” Maybe bouncing ideas off Draco hadn’t been such a good idea after all. “But after the last year…honestly, I just don’t know if I’ve got it in me. It feels like…like what people expect me to be—what they want to see me become. And part of me doesn’t want to disappoint them, but—”
“Fuck what they want,” Draco spat, shifting upright. His eyes were dark, and they weighed heavy on Harry, staring right through him. “It’s not their life—it’s yours. You’re even stupider than I’ve given you credit for if you’re so much as thinking of going along with what some nameless buffoon wandering around Diagon Alley thinks you should do with your life.”
“I do love our conversations,” Harry drawled. “The sweet nothings you grace me with are just what I need to hear at the end of a taxing day.” Draco rolled his eyes and fell back against his pillow with a disgusted huff. “…And I know. I’m done forcing myself to be what I’m not—but it’s not the easiest step to take, you know?”
Draco was sober. “…Yes, I know.” He sighed loudly. “Why not just be a professional celebrity, then? Make your fortune giving speeches—signing babies and taking pictures with autographs.”
Harry laughed. “I don’t think that’s quite how it goes.”
“You’re Harry-fucking-Potter; they’ll take what they can get.”
“Yes, well.” Harry rolled his eyes. “Glamorous as that sounds, I’m sure it’d be dead boring.” He shifted onto his side, one arm tucked under his pillow, and watched Draco through eyes half-lidded with exhaustion. “What about you? Any ideas at all?”
Draco snorted softly. “Well, my options are a bit limited now.”
He flashed his Dark Mark, faded now but still stark against his pale skin, even with the white scar running down its centre. “Think people are just going to be lining up to hire someone with one of these?”
“The people who matter won’t care—they’ll understand,” Harry tried to reassure.
“Well the people who matter won’t necessarily be hiring. We don’t all have the luxury to pick and choose which jobs we take up, if any.”
Harry winced; no, for all the teasing about being a ‘professional celebrity’, Draco wouldn’t have wanted to pursue such a ‘career’ any more than Harry. He liked working, liked feeling needed. He didn’t want to rely on others, but being relied upon himself seemed to suit him just fine. Or perhaps this was more dragon stuff, like ‘providing for his mate’ or some such rubbish.
He sighed. “Fine, if you could do anything, what would you want to do? Like, isn’t there some job out there you’ve always wanted to do since you were little?”
“Not particularly,” Draco said, shrugging. “I’m a Malfoy; we don’t have jobs. We have assets, and we manage those assets, and if we do that well, then the money comes.”
Harry rolled his eyes with a chuckle. “God you’re such a spoilt prick.” He shook his head. “Seriously? There’s never been anything you’ve dreamt of doing? Or thought you’d be suited to? Like—I dunno, a Potions Mastery?”
“Just because I’m good at potions doesn’t mean it’s something I want to dedicate my life to.” He shifted onto his side, reaching to take Harry’s hand in his own, and began absently rubbing his fingers over Harry’s knobby knuckles. “I wouldn’t know where to start, even if I was of a mind to make someone hire me.”
Harry turned his hand over so that their fingers laced together, squeezing. “Then…maybe that’s telling us we ought to go back. I mean, that’s what Sixth and Seventh Year’s supposed to be for, after all: figuring out what you want to do, and then buckling down and working towards it. Neither one of us had the most typical past two years, and now we’re being offered a bit of extra time. Perhaps we ought to take it.” Draco was staring down at their linked hands, brows knit in consternation, and Harry carefully amended, “But only if you want, of course. It’s your life; don’t mould it around me.”
Draco’s shoulders seized as he released a rough, dry huff of laughter. “Bit late for that.”
“Well, yeah, but—you know what I mean.” The thought that their situation—their relationship—might in any way be a burden on Draco, chaining him down and limiting his choices, did not sit well with Harry at all.
Draco flicked his eyes up to meet Harry’s. “…What are Granger and Weasley doing?”
“Mm, Ron doesn’t think he’s going to go back; he’s been helping Fred and George run the shop, since they say it’s easier on the mind—and wallet, I expect—to hire family than outside work. Things seem to be picking up now that most of the other shops in Diagon Alley are opening back up again. And Hermione’s going to intern at the Ministry, which I think will surprise pretty much no one.”
“The Ministry? Which Department?”
“She hasn’t decided yet; said she’s going to float around and see which she clicks with best. I think Kingsley’s hoping she’ll work under or alongside him, though. He’s going to have his hands full sorting through the corruption still ravaging the Ministry, after all. Not all the bad eggs have Dark Marks for easy identification…”
Draco snorted softly. “I can see it now: Hermione Granger, Minister for Magic-in-training.” He groaned and rubbed at his temples. “Merlin, you’ve already got a few Weasleys in there, and now Granger? By the turn of the century, it’ll be a warren of your lackeys and sycophants…”
“You could always look into working at the Ministry yourself to balance things out?” Draco gave him such a look, and Harry rushed to defend himself. “I’m serious! Maybe you could work with Bragge in the Dragon Research and Restraint Bureau.” He was mostly teasing, but as he said it, he realised it didn’t sound like all that terrible an idea at all. He recalled, with startling clarity, how livid Draco had been at the sight of the Gringotts dragon, tethered and tortured. Perhaps he had a different view of the creatures now that he understood first-hand how they weren’t so different from humans, in their own way, and would be of a mind to stop them being treated like soulless, common animals. “I’m just saying, you’ve got more options than you might think and people willing to lend a hand.”
“You mean willing to throw their weight around?” Draco drawled, and Harry gave an innocent shrug. Despite himself, Draco smiled. “How touching.”
“I know ‘relying on others’ really isn’t your style—but maybe consider you’re not the only one who wants to help take care of the people closest to them.”
There was a long pause, and then: “…All right then.”
“All right? Er—all right what?”
“All right, I’ll consider it.” And with a flick of his wand, Draco doused the lamps, and that seemed to be the end of the discussion for the time being.
A crackling whoosh at the Floo announced a Fire Call from the Burrow several days later, just as the four of them were settling in at the kitchen table for breakfast. Mrs. Weasley poked her head through the eerie green flames, delivering morning greetings and news that several owls had just arrived bearing official-looking letters from Hogwarts. “There’s a few for us here at the Burrow, but there’s also one for you, Harry, as well as Ron and Hermione.” She peeked around Harry at Draco, smiling nervously. “Oh, I’m sorry—none of them seemed to be for you, dear.”
Draco waved away her concern. “If I was meant to receive one, it would’ve gone to the Manor. I haven’t checked in with my parents in a few days.”
“We probably ought to get their Floo exempted from the Fidelius, huh?” Harry suggested.
Draco shuddered. “And give my parents carte blanche to shove their way through whenever they so please?” He wrinkled his nose. “Only if you’ll let me set up wards. I’ll want ample warning of Mother coming to pass judgement on this place before I’ve made it suitable.”
“Hey, it’s not so bad,” Harry protested weakly.
“Boys—the owls?” Mrs. Weasley reminded. “It’s only uncomfortable, standing here half through the Floo.”
“Sorry!” Harry quickly apologised. “Could you pass them—?”
“Ooh, wai’!” Ron said, mouth full of toast as he scrambled to his feet. He swallowed with some difficulty. “I’ve got a load of dirty washing I’ve been meaning to bring home—”
Hermione watched him go with a dark look, tossing down her napkin and marching over to the Floo. “Hurry and pass the letters over, Molly, and we’ll shut down the connection before he comes back. Maybe he’ll finally crack that book on housework spells I ordered for him ages ago.”
Mrs. Weasley slipped three crisp envelopes through the connection, reminding them all she would expect them for Sunday dinner, and then closed the connection—just as Ron clomped back down the stairs, a bulging sack of clothes slung over one shoulder.
“What the—you let her go?” he whined. “Some friends you are…”
The letters turned out to be invitations to a dinner, to be held on the 2nd of August—three months to the day after the Battle of Hogwarts—in the Great Hall for the purpose of remembering the fallen and celebrating the imminent reopening of Hogwarts. Harry’s included a personal missive asking if he would mind delivering a few remarks. “Of course they want to hear our Saviour blather on for thirty minutes…” Draco grumbled, leaned over Harry’s shoulder to read his letter.
“It won’t be thirty minutes,” Harry said. “Honestly, I don’t really want to do it at all… I’m pants at public speaking.”
“Says the guy who gave, like, seven rallying speeches at the battle,” Ron chuckled.
“I don’t think people care as much about the content,” Hermione said, “as the fact you’re speaking at all. You have…” She shrugged. “I’m not sure. A presence, I suppose. People have always felt better after you said something, even if it was just to tell them they were doing a good job on a spell they were practising in the DA.”
Harry felt his ears grow hot; god, this was going to fuel Draco’s teasing until Christmas. “That’s rubbish, though! It’s just people heaping expectations on me.”
“Well if you’d stop exceeding those expectations—” Draco said, stabbing one of Harry’s cherry tomatoes with a fork and popping it into his mouth, “—they might stop building them up.”
“He’s got a point, mate,” Ron said, levitating his dishes to the sink. “Who’s on Scourgify duty?”
“Not going to send them through the Floo to your mum?” Hermione asked, one brow lifted pointedly.
“I told you, she likes doing my washing! She practically cried when I said I was moving in here for the summer and she thought Kreacher was gonna be handling it all—”
Hermione cackled cruelly. “Y-you actually think that’s why she cried—?”
“Well, of course not, but the point is—”
Harry tuned out their bickering, running his eyes over McGonagall’s slanted script. He supposed he ought to do it, this being a special occasion and all that, but he hoped this wasn’t heralding subsequent speaking engagements that would dog him through the years. It was useless to diminish what he’d done, even though he’d hardly come by his role in defeating Voldemort through skill—it had just been shitty luck, that was all.
But people would continue to want to express their gratitude, look to him for ill-sought guidance, and there was little he could do about it. He didn’t want to be anyone’s paragon of virtue—look how far Dumbledore had fallen, after all, when people built him up to be more than he’d truly been in life, turning on him viciously at the first sign he’d not been all he was cracked up to be. He just wanted to be Harry, just Harry, and while it helped having people around who grounded him, who were happy to remind him how terribly unremarkable he was, moments like this still discomfited him.
“Here we go again,” Draco sighed, snapping Harry out of his thoughts.
“What?” Were Ron and Hermione about to get into another row? He sometimes wondered if bickering was their idea of foreplay, as they seemed to love throwing themselves into fights. Harry didn’t see the appeal at all; how could you really get on with someone when you spent half your time fighting?
Draco was watching him, slumped against the table with his head supported in one hand, and he snickered softly, an amused smile curving his lips. “You.”
“What about me?”
“Nothing, you just—you get this…” He trailed off, studying Harry, and then seemed to think better of it. “Never mind.”
Some days, Harry really didn’t understand Draco.
The rest of July passed in a sticky, syrupy sludge, melted by the baking heat, until Harry’s eighteenth birthday was upon them.
Mrs. Weasley insisted on having a big to-do at the Burrow, and while Harry would have been happy just having a few friends over at Grimmauld Place for something a bit less of a hassle, he’d never been able to turn Molly down.
The whole Weasley clan was in attendance—even Charlie was in for a dragon-tamers’ conference—along with a smattering of Harry’s schoolmates: Neville, Luna, Seamus, and Dean. Hagrid had been invited but hadn’t been able to get away from the restoration work and sent his regards, along with a rock cupcake slathered with ruby-red icing and bright yellow frosting piped into a 1-8. They had been instructed to arrive early, as gifts were to be handled before dinner, and Harry milled about, playing the host and greeting his guests, while Mrs. Weasley dashed around the kitchen putting the finishing touches on Harry’s birthday meal.
After what had to have been a half hour, his hand was aching from so many shakes, and his shoulders twinged from so many hugs—happy pains, but pains nonetheless. Probably just as well Hagrid wasn’t there. He cast about, seeking out Draco in what felt like a sea of redheads, and after scouring the Burrow, he finally found him sitting awkwardly alone in Mr. Weasley’s favourite chair in the den and looking no less comfortable here now than he had on his first visit. Harry smiled wryly, heart clenching with gratitude—Draco was one bloody stubborn git, so when he made an effort like this, it meant something. He ran a hand through his hair (a mess as usual, no helping it) and moved to relieve Draco of his boredom—
—when Charlie appeared from nowhere, it felt like, and plopped down onto the sofa just kitty-corner of Draco, a bottle of Butterbeer in his hand. Harry held back, curious to see how Draco would handle himself faced with a Weasley and no familiar face to offer support.
“Nice to see you on the mend,” Charlie said, taking a swig of his Butterbeer.
Draco stared at him blankly, evidently rendered mute with shock at being so casually addressed by an utter stranger. He quickly recovered, though, and Harry saw his walls rise up, ready to take a beating if one was coming. “…I beg your pardon?”
Charlie lifted a brow, bemused. “…You don’t remember me? No—you were pretty out of it, so I guess you wouldn’t. I’m Charlie, Charlie Weasley.”
“…The Weasley bit I gathered,” Draco drawled, but Charlie only laughed.
“Yeah, no getting anything past you, is there?” He sobered a bit. “…I’m in from Romania, I work on a dragon reserve there…”
Realisation dawned then, and Draco straightened, swallowing thickly. “You’re…you’re the Weasley who was there when I…”
Charlie nodded, smiling. “Yeah, that was me.”
Draco looked wrongfooted, and he mumbled a hasty, “…Thank you. Very much.”
Charlie only waved him off. “Not necessary. I didn’t really do much, after all—and I’m sorry about that. But you rallied—you’re looking healthy enough now, yeah?”
Draco shrugged, and another awkward silence threatened to take root. Charlie nodded, glancing around the room as if to make a quick exit—but then he laughed, a thoughtful little chuckle. “It’s funny.”
Draco looked at him like he might be just a bit mad, raking him with a dubious gaze. “…I’m sorry?”
“No, just—” He waved a hand around the room. “I was here a year ago today, actually. We had everyone over for Harry’s seventeenth last year. Mum set up some tables out in the garden—” He jerked a thumb behind him. “And I found myself sitting next to Harry.” He was smiling to himself and took another draw from his bottle. “He asked me the strangest question.”
Draco was clearly intrigued—and hating himself for it. “…What?”
“He wanted to know what I could tell him about dragon Animagi.”
Harry’s stomach bottomed out, and even from this covert angle, he could see the way Draco’s eyes widened, the subtle little flare to his nostrils. “And…what did you say?”
Charlie shrugged. “Told him all I knew—which admittedly wasn’t much and still isn’t. But he seemed to have something weighing on his mind. Unfortunately the conversation got interrupted, and we never really finished.”
Harry slipped away, as quietly as possible, and half-jogged to the kitchen. He couldn’t listen to any more—it was mortifying. God, he was never going to hear the end of it. It was hardly secret between them they’d always been a bit—all right, a lot—mad about each other, but he hadn’t wanted Draco to be made privy to just how pathetic Harry’s fixation had been.
He was so caught up in his own thoughts he nearly bumped right into Mrs. Weasley, who was levitating a casserole out of the oven. “Goodness, Harry, do be careful!” she chided, then caught herself. “Oh dear, you’re red as a tomato. Are you feeling all right? It’s awfully stuffy in this kitchen, you should go out and get some fresh air.”
Harry cast his eye about the kitchen, which was piled high with the debris of Mrs. Weasley’s earnest efforts to ensure he had a lovely party, and a wave of guilt crashed against him. She worked herself to the bone for her loved ones, and while Harry appreciated the effort, he hated thinking about how exhausted she had to be, preparing for so many guests, just on account of him.
He pasted on a smile. “Nah, I just think someone might’ve spiked my Butterbeer. Can I lend you a hand?”
“Nonsense! It’s your special day—”
“Please, I insist. It’s my birthday, after all, so I reckon you ought to let me have my way.”
She gave him a funny look, then bobbed her head. “Well then, if you wouldn’t mind peeling the potatoes? There’s a sack, just inside the pantry. A dozen should do. I’ll just pop out to the garden for some herbs.”
He fished the potatoes out from the pantry and gave them a good rinse before going through the kitchen drawers in search of a peeler. When he came up empty, he supposed he’d been meant to use magic for the task (he really needed to learn that Peeling Charm) and instead grabbed a paring knife to get to work.
He’d only managed one, though, before someone grabbed him by the waist and whirled him around, slamming him up against the counter.
Draco’s kiss was bruising, and his hands, braced firmly at the base of Harry’s skull to hold him in place, felt like they might crush him if he struggled. Quite forgetting himself, Harry dropped the knife and melted into the kiss, pliant and languid, and his fingers skittered up and down Draco’s sides out of habit. He had the number of Draco’s ribs memorised by now.
“Granger was right,” Draco breathed against his lips, puffy and wet.
Draco kissed him, again, trying to swallow him down from the inside out. “You are a good man.”
Harry didn’t know what that meant, and he didn’t really care. His mind was a white fog of confusion, and all his senses had drilled down to just the precious points of contact: lips, noses, fingers, and if he canted his hips, cocks—
Draco made a low, unhappy sound in the back of his throat, giving Harry just enough slack to slant his gaze to the side—where Molly Weasley was waiting patiently for Harry to budge up so she could rinse the fresh herbs she’d just nipped from the garden. It was here that Harry realised Draco had just kissed him full on the mouth in clear view of no fewer than four Weasleys and their assorted significant others.
“S—sorry,” he apologised, shuffling to the side.
She flicked her eyes between them, lips pursed tight—to keep from smiling, Harry was relieved to see. “Do I need to ask Ron to help me with the potatoes instead?”
“N-no, sorry, I just—” He scrambled for the potato he’d been in the middle of peeling before Draco had pounced on him, snatching up the paring knife again. “I’m on it, be done in a sec!”
Mrs. Weasley just hmphed, as if she didn’t really believe him, and continued with her preparations after giving the herbs a spritz in the sink. Draco drew up next to him, Levitating several of the potatoes at once and lazily unravelling their skins with a practised twirl of his wand. “Have to do everything the hard way, don’t you?”
“Evidently,” Harry muttered, cheeks still burning—though his lips refused to be wiped of the stupid smile plastered across them.
Once the potatoes were peeled, a process facilitated greatly by Draco’s frankly baffling knowledge of a bit of housewitch magic, Mrs. Weasley shooed him back into the den, where everyone had gathered—packed in, really—to shower him with gifts.
Ron and the rest of the Weasleys had pooled their funds to buy him a new set of Quidditch leathers, which George explained looked pretty nice despite only being run-of-the-mill cowhide. “We thought about getting you dragonhide gear, since that’s the best stuff on the market, but given present company…”
“A wise move for someone keen to keep his remaining ear,” Draco drawled, and George flicked him a rude gesture.
Hermione, predictably, bought him a book—one filled with sumptuous dessert recipes. Draco, legs thrown over Harry’s lap, was quick to point out the tabbed pages. “I’ve already highlighted my favourites, so get to practising.”
Luna gave him a lovely potted plant she claimed to have come across when browsing the open-air gardens of Thistlebaum’s Horticultural Haven, saying, “It just called to me, hoping I would find it a new home where it could really put down roots.” Charlie had gone scarlet and tugged Harry aside later, explaining in a quick, quiet murmur that the plant grew wild in Romania at certain times of year and was commonly used to bring hen dragons into heat, driving the males wild with lust, and so he should be very careful about planting Luna’s gift anywhere near where Draco might go wandering when transformed.
Neville, Dean, and Seamus had pooled their funds to shower Harry with what felt like the entire Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes line—including a few prototypes thrown in by the twins on the condition Harry report back how useful he found them. Harry’s supply of Decoy Detonators and Nosebleed Nougats had been sorely depleted after months on the run, and he thanked his friends for the thought—though he wondered when he would ever find occasion to use so many prank goods again.
“And last, but certainly not least,” Draco said, Levitating his own gift over to Harry, “From yours truly.”
Harry lifted the box, studying it—it looked very much like the box he’d received on his eleventh birthday from Mr. Ollivander, holding his first wand. He wondered if Draco had changed his mind after all concerning Harry keeping the Elder Wand and opened it with only a tiny bit of trepidation.
The top fell away, and Harry frowned. “It’s…a miniature broom?” He removed the little figure from the box, palming it.
“Hardly,” Draco sniffed, as if offended by the suggestion, and tapped his wand against the shaft.
Immediately, the broom ballooned in size to that of a regulation Quidditch broom, and in gleaming gold script that raced along the handle were the words FIREBOLT STREAK.
Harry turned, gaping, to Draco, whose brows lifted in challenge. “How else am I going to kick your arse fairly if you’re puttering about on some cupboard trash? Granted, it’s no match for my Nimbus 2020, but I can’t afford to give you too much of an edge.”
In light of his new gifts, a game of pick-up Quidditch was quickly organised after dinner, with Harry, Ginny, Angelina, and Fred on one team facing off against Draco, Charlie, George, and Ron on the other.
As they were mounting their brooms—Harry on his new Firebolt, and Draco on his new Nimbus—Harry warned, “You’d better not cheat this time. It’s my birthday; I’ll have a clean game.”
Draco sighed, shaking his head. “And I have told you time and time again, Potter, there are no regulations barring transforming into a dragon in the middle of a game. Honestly, if you can’t accept my strategy, then you really ought to get off the pitch.”
“Ten Galleons on our team!” George called.
Whether acquiescing to Harry’s request he not cheat or simply because he didn’t feel he needed to, Draco refrained from transforming during the game, and while Harry narrowly beat him to the Snitch, it wasn’t enough to overcome Fred’s poor goal defence, resulting in victory for Draco’s team.
Harry couldn’t even gloat, as whenever he tried to rub in his quicker reflexes, asking if Draco regretted giving Harry his birthday present, he only shrugged. “A win is a win—and a loss is a loss. I’m really not that picky how I come by my victories.” Which was a load of hippogriff shit, but Harry was stuffed with good food, surrounded by good friends, and laden with good presents, so he was in no mood to argue petty details.
The 2nd of August was upon them in no time, and with the Survivors’ Remembrance Banquet scheduled to start promptly at five that evening, Draco had himself and Harry well into preparations by just after noon. When asked why they had to start getting ready so early, Draco only gestured to himself with a sniffed, “You think this just happens?” and when Harry followed up with asking why he had to start getting ready so early, since Ron and Hermione weren’t leaving until a half hour before dinner, he’d been hit with a Stinging Jinx and ordered into the bath.
“Bath, not shower. Shower first to rinse, then into the tub with you. There’s a hair-care potion by the sink for you; you’re to let it sit for thirty minutes. If I see you out of the bath before it’s time, so help me I will Banish you back in and slap you with a Body Bind.”
Harry had grumbled his displeasure, though it had mostly been for show; he was honestly relieved to have a bit of quiet time to himself before the event, to compose his thoughts, if nothing else. He was still feeling uncomfortable—and a tiny bit nauseated—with the idea of having to march up in front of the crowd and deliver a speech, but he settled his nerves with a reminder that if he’d survived the Killing Curse (twice!), he could surely handle a bit of public speaking.
He gave himself an extra five minutes after the Timer Charm went off, just to be sure Draco couldn’t accuse him of rushing this hair-care potion business—which he was pretty sure was just a dollop of Sleekeazy’s mixed with a mousse agent to keep his hair bouncy but tameable. When he stepped back into the bedroom, pink as a fresh-boiled prawn, Draco had already laid out his dress robes on the bed. They weren’t bad, as far as dress robes went—but even the slickest dress robes still felt so…fussy.
But if Draco could humour him when Harry asked him to dress down, then Harry could do the same and dress up when occasion called, and he had to admit, he couldn’t exactly go marching into something with the word ‘banquet’ in the name dressed in trainers, jeans, and an oversized faded t-shirt.
He fingered the fabric, marvelling at its texture—smooth like silk, but breathable, and with a little give; Harry had hated how constricting the robes Mrs. Weasley had picked out for him back in Fourth Year had felt.
“Accio towel,” came a voice behind him, and the towel wrapped about his hips snapped free and whipped away—into Draco’s hand.
Harry’s hands immediately moved to cover his bits as he snarled out an annoyed Oi!
Draco rolled his eyes. “Please, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
“Yeah, and if you want to see it again, you’ll leave a man his dignity.” It was one thing to show off your meat and two veg when the mood was set, but another entirely when you were just trying to get dressed in peace.
“Stop dawdling and get dressed, then, would you? We’re going to be late.”
“We’ve still got two hours before we even need to think about leaving.”
“No, we’ve got two hours before we need to be there, an hour and a half before we should be there, and an hour before we’re going to be there.”
“You want us there an hour and a half early? Why?!”
“Because it’s going to take us that long to wade through the sea of your fawning sycophants, just to find our table.” Harry would have cuffed him if he wasn’t still shielding his cock. Draco made a shooing motion. “Go on, then. And grab a new pair of pants—not those ratty boxers you’ve probably been wearing since you were twelve.”
“What does it matter what’s under the robes?” he grumbled to himself, shuffling towards his bureau. When he realised Draco was going to watch him the whole time, as if he needed nannying, he snapped, “Do you mind? A little privacy would be nice.”
“Mm, debatable.” He settled comfortably against the jamb, arms crossed over his chest; for someone so invested in Harry getting ready in a timely manner, he certainly was taking his sweet time dressing himself.
“No, not debatable—turn around.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Well you’d better learn to want to—else I’m never going to get dressed.”
“You don’t want me to see your cock—so you’re going to punish me, by showing me your cock. Such elegant Gryffindor logic.”
Harry flushed. “That’s not what I—”
But Draco just waved him off with a disgusted huff. “Salazar’s balls, I’ll leave you and your cock in peace. I’m taking next bath.” He threw a sharp look over his shoulder. “…And don’t come peeping until I’m ready.”
“What, you get to ogle my cock but I can’t ogle yours?”
“You’re welcome to ogle all you like—after the banquet. Until then, keep your eyes to yourself, unless I say so.” And then he was gone, flouncing off to Regulus’s room, leaving Harry to gape in bemusement. It was exhausting sometimes, trying to keep up with Draco. Harry loved it, as much as he hated it.
When Draco finally showed himself again, he’d dressed to kill—which really, by any measure, wasn’t wise, considering they now knew that Harry’s death would drag Draco down with him. He swanned back into Sirius’s room clad in magically custom-tailored robes—they had to be; fabric didn’t just cling to the human form so purposefully by nature—of a deep emerald, with silver filigree along the cuffs and across the lapels, as if to remind all and sundry just who he was and how instrumental his House had been in bringing down Voldemort. His hair had been styled back, though not in that severely slick coif he’d favoured in their early Hogwarts years—only just enough to give it flow and show off his bright grey eyes and cheekbones sharp enough to rend flesh from bone.
Seeing the way Draco seemed to be almost preening as he glided over to Harry’s wardrobe, he had to wonder if all this fuss wasn’t influenced, just a little, by the dragon wanting to show off for its mate. Then again, Draco was a prissy tosser by nature, so it could just be innate.
“I see you’ve put away your cock,” Draco said, voice muffled as he fished out a tie to match Harry’s own robes of midnight blue shot through with silver thread, a fabric Harry only now realised he’d probably been drawn to because of his brief chat with Dumbledore in that bright, peaceful Kings Crossing. “Pity.”
“Like you said,” Harry smiled as Draco looped a tie the same smoky grey as his eyes around Harry’s neck, “After the banquet.”
Draco tried to keep a grin of his own off his features, pursing his lips tightly, but it didn’t really work. “You’re going to make us late.”
“God forbid we arrive an hour and fifteen early instead of an hour and a half.”
“Fifteen minutes? That’s all you’ve got in you?”
Harry leaned closer while Draco fidgeted with the tie, inhaling sharply. “You smell like—” He wrinkled his nose in amusement. “Like—a campfire.”
“Please, all these compliments, I’m swooning.”
“I meant it in a good way! It’s good, I like it.” This close, he could see the light flush painting Draco’s cheeks, and the way he kept his eyes resolutely fixed on securing the knot at Harry’s neck was telling.
“It was Pansy’s idea of a terribly funny birthday present; it’s meant to be subtle woodsmoke hints, but perhaps I laid it on a bit too thick…”
“Mm. Well she’s got good taste, to know what suits you.”
Draco’s eyes flicked up to meet his, a curling smile blossoming on his lips. “…Jealous?”
And that was a dangerous question to entertain when they were five minutes from leaving, so Harry settled for. “I’m—working on it.” It was probably a good thing the bits of dragon that still held sway over Draco loved the notion of Harry being jealous over him, though he was sure it wasn’t healthy.
“Don’t try too hard on my account,” Draco leered, giving the tie a tug to secure it. “There; now you won’t embarrass me.” He grabbed Harry by the shoulders and spun him around to face the full-length mirror in the corner. Harry had to admit, Draco knew what he was doing. The collar was a bit high for his comfort, and he was still convinced he was overdressed for the occasion—surely a nice set of trousers and suit jacket would have been sufficient—but he didn’t dislike the man he saw staring back at him from the mirror, and given the way his eyes darkened, like a storm rolling in, Draco didn’t either.
Draco ran a finger down his spine, resting his chin on Harry’s shoulder. Sometimes Harry hated the inch or two of height Draco had on him; other times…
Draco’s brows lifted in consideration. “…Maybe being just an hour early won’t be too tragic…”
They were still atrociously early when they finally Apparated into Hogsmeade, but this did not stop Draco from chivvying them up the drive from the village to the castle’s front gates, which had been thrown open wide and decorated with twining vines and summer blossoms. If not for a liberal application of Cooling Charms, they would have both been drenched in sweat, their lovely new robes ruined, by the time they reached the sturdy stone steps.
They were not, it turned out, the first guests to arrive; the castle was already abustle with staff, Hogsmeade residents, and a number of present and former students who had already been on-site helping out with banquet preparations. Placards had been posted in the Courtyard, encouraging guests to make their way inside at their leisure.
Harry was astounded at the progress that had been made, even in the brief span that had lapsed since he and his friends had last dropped in to aid in the restoration. All of the towers finally stood tall and proud again, including Gryffindor, and the flagstones positively gleamed with Charmwork, no longer slathered in spilt blood or oozing residue from Dark spells. The Quidditch pitch, disappointingly, was still to be addressed, with the Ravenclaw tapestries still showing nasty scorch marks and sod waiting to be laid, but Harry didn’t doubt it would be in working order once more by the start of term.
Walking tours of the castle had been instated, with a fat folder of pamphlets describing the repairs made waiting on a desk at the base of the staircase well. Harry noted, as they progressed through the castle, that here and there were little plaques embedded in the stonework, memorialising the fallen. He found Tonks’s plaque at the base of the Astronomy Tower, with Remus’s right beside it. Draco found Blaise’s in the stairwell leading down to the Slytherin dormitories.
As Draco had feared, Harry found himself waylaid at most every turn by well-wishers and those who wanted to thank him for his service, or even just to say they’d shaken Harry Potter’s hand. Even Ron and Hermione, once they arrived in smart dress, could not ward off all comers. Several times Harry wound up hemmed in so tightly he lost sight of his companions and had to wriggle his way back out, to Draco’s clear displeasure. His apologies were sheepish, and he tried to touch in some way, whenever he could—a hand on the small of Draco’s back, their arms brushing, shoulders bumping. He doubted it was enough to quell any discomfort entirely, but it was all they could feasibly manage right now without ducking into one of the empty classrooms (which was not happening, any more than quickies in the Quidditch shed were happening).
Dinner was, as expected, delicious, with the elves in the kitchen having quite outdone themselves. Tucking in, Harry couldn’t help but recall each and every one of the meals he’d shared at this table with friends—and now more than friends—and a knot that had taken root in his chest the moment they had walked through the sturdy wooden doors fronting the Entrance Hall began to grow, throbbing painfully, because god, god, he wasn’t ready to give this up yet.
He knew—had known for a while—what decision he was going to make, but he couldn’t shake the fear he was making it more out of wanting to cling to the past than to prepare for the future. Still, the fact was he didn’t feel he’d gotten everything there was to get out of this place, not quite yet, and if nothing else, he didn’t want his final memories of Hogwarts to be death and destruction and loss.
He had been struggling with what to say in his speech since he’d first been asked to deliver remarks—he’d never been good with public speaking, no matter what his friends said. Both Hermione and Draco had offered to help him, and while he’d been sorely tempted to accept, he had ultimately turned them down. It felt like this needed to be something he did on his own.
As he mounted the steps up onto the dais, taking his place at the stately podium behind which Dumbledore had always delivered his own quirky speeches, Harry could not help but feel everyone’s expectations weighing more heavily now than they ever had. A collective breath was held, all eyes on him—and Harry swallowed thickly, cast a quiet Sonorus, and opened his mouth.
“The first time I stepped into this hall, it was the happiest moment of my life. Granted, I didn’t have the most idyllic of childhoods, so it was kind of a low bar to clear, but still.”
A wave of polite laughter rippled out over the crowd, and Harry’s nerves settled, just a little.
“The last time I was here, though…it was by far one of the saddest, most terrifying, bitter moments I’d ever faced. So I’m torn as to how to feel right now, because Hogwarts holds so many happy memories for me…but it’s packed with a lot of sad ones, too. It’s led me to the people closest to me in life, the people I love most, people I’d willingly lay down my life for—but I’ve also encountered people I wish I’d never met, people whose very existence has only made my life darker.
“I have something to confess: I didn’t know if I wanted to come here tonight. I’ve been helping out over the summer with the rebuilding efforts, as have many of you, but…there’s a difference between reconstruction and…and acceptance. Trying to move on. That’s a lot harder to do than just relaying bricks or applying Charms.
“We’re supposed to be here remembering the brave witches and wizards who sacrificed their lives to try and make the future brighter, better. To defeat He Who Must Not Be Named. But I don’t think I have to tell you all…that sometimes that’s just as difficult as losing them in the first place. It’s like opening an old wound, and everything hurts again, just as raw and real as the day it happened. And this castle, this school itself, is a constant reminder. I mean—it’s literally built into the bricks now!”
More soft laughter, punctuated here and there by the odd sniffle.
“It’s hard. I get it. I really, honestly understand. But…remembering, paying homage, is still something we ought to do. Not something we have to do—just a ‘should’. A suggestion. There’s no right or wrong way to mourn, we all do it in our own way, in our own time, but we have a choice: to remember those whose sacrifices mean that we can be here now, to build on their lives and make the future better for those who follow, to work each day not to dwell on the sadness and sorrow but to take the hands of those beside us and hold tight as we move forward together. That way, if we stumble, there are people who care for us ready and willing to help us keep going, with us there to do the same for them.
“This school will open again in just under a month’s time, bringing in hundreds of old students and dozens of new ones. It won’t be the same, unfortunately. It’ll never be the same—we aren’t the same, after all. But that’s life—that’s living. We’re alive. So let this dinner be what it’s meant to be: a moment of silence, remembrance, and reflection. And then let’s start over tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. Each step taken is a step away from the pain of the past and toward the hope of the future. Not because we have to, but because we ought to. I hope you’ll join me.
He stepped back from the podium and cancelled the Sonorus—and in that moment, the spell over the audience seemed to shatter, as everyone rose to their feet in a resounding round of applause. Harry felt his cheeks heat, as he hadn’t quite been prepared for a standing-fucking-ovation, and he quickly stepped down from the dais to rejoin his party at their table. He kept his head ducked the entire way, ignoring arms outstretched for handshakes or friendly shoulder claps, and practically dove for the chair Ron had held out for him.
“You definitely should have let Granger and me help,” Draco said, leaning close to his ear to be heard over the roaring applause.
Harry wilted. “That bad, huh?” He’d known Draco would be a tough sell, but his critique coupled with the incessant clapping only made matters worse.
Draco shrugged. “Passable, for Harry Potter.” He glanced around. “And clearly your sycophants are lapping it up.”
Harry frowned—and then realised he was being teased, a ghost of a smile tugging at Draco’s lips as he joined in on the applause.
It was another five minutes before McGonagall managed to get the crowd settled, and then several other speakers followed in Harry’s steps, offering similarly stirring speeches—Kingsley’s call for a new order, for benevolence and forgiveness and compassion, was particularly well-received, and Harry clapped loudest of everyone for him—with McGonagall herself rounding out the evening.
As the hall emptied, Harry felt his stomach finally unclench, the deed done and the weight off his shoulders. People were still swarming the table, but Harry let them come with a sort of lazy abandon; the sooner they copped their feel of him, the sooner they’d be on their way, and then Harry and his friends might have some peace. Speaking of his friends—where were they? He’d turned his back for two seconds to shake the trembling hand of some ancient, hunch-backed witch who looked like she’d been kicking around since the Iron Age, and Draco had disappeared, along with Ron and Hermione.
McGonagall found her way to the table at length, having had her own share of hands to shake, to thank him in person. “It was such a lovely speech, Potter, truly. I don’t think…” She sighed. “Well, I knew I was right to ask you to share a few words. Though I know you weren’t keen on it.”
Harry ducked his head; had he been that obvious. “It was nothing, Professor—Headmistress, sorry.”
She waved him off. “I rather think after what we’ve all been through together, you might call me ‘Minerva’…though I confess I’m still hoping you’ll have occasion to address me by my title for a bit longer…?”
She was angling most unsubtly for his decision on whether or not to return for the Eighth-year curriculum, and he gave a dismissive nod. “You’ll be hearing from me soon on that matter, I expect.”
“I hope so.” She laid a hand on his shoulder, giving a gentle squeeze; she’d never been particularly ‘grandmotherly’, but Harry could almost see it now, if he squinted.
Something sharp poked him in his side as he watched her leave, and he gave a start, nearly elbowing Draco in the nose.
“Watch it,” Draco groused. “Hasn’t there been enough bloodshed here?”
“Sorry…” Harry said. “Where’ve you been?”
“You weren’t the only one with zealous fans to satiate.” He inclined his head toward the door. “But I’ve had about all the hobnobbing I can quite stand. Are you ready?”
“Definitely—where are Ron and Hermione?”
“They said we should head on without them; they’re going to linger a bit for farewells, since they’ve already decided they aren’t coming back.”
Harry didn’t pounce on Draco’s unspoken confession he was still mulling his return to Hogwarts over, but it was a difficult feat. He allowed himself to be shuttled out of the hall, wishing he’d thought to bring along his Invisibility Cloak, as it would have made their escape ever so much easier. As it was, it still took twice as long to reach the castle boundaries as it should have, and with great relief, Harry looped an arm through Draco’s as soon as they breached the outer curtain, twisting in place and Disapparating with a bright SNAP.
They landed in the sitting room, and Harry was already starting to unbutton his dress robes, tugging at the tie Draco had worked so hard on, before his head had stopped spinning. He wondered if it would send the wrong signal if he popped down to the cellar to retrieve one of the wine bottles—or something stronger. He supposed this late, a glass of warm milk was a better choice if he needed something soothing, but the buzz of alcohol did wonders for making everything go soft and fuzzy, rendering reality a bit less daunting in times when things got overwhelming—like right about now.
It being the polite thing to do, he asked Draco, “Fancy a drink? I’m still a little—I dunno, all over the place, from that speech. I think I’ve got the frayed nerves of a ninety-year-old after the year I’ve had…” When Draco didn’t answer, Harry turned back—only to find him standing, stock still, in the doorway. “Draco?”
Harry wrinkled his brow. “…You all right over there?”
Draco brought his fingers up to his neck, absently fumbling at his own tie, and nodded.
“…You don’t look it,” he chuckled nervously. “What’s wrong?”
Draco took several steps forward, until he stood at the other end of the sofa from Harry. Men Who Love Dragons Too Much, now well-thumbed, sat on the side table with an old quill slipped inside as a bookmark. “I lied,” he said, in a very small voice, and Harry tensed.
Draco swallowed, throat bobbing. “Your speech wasn’t terrible. I quite liked it.”
Harry wanted to slug him for scaring him like that. “And you couldn’t admit that back in the Great Hall because…?” He released a huff of laughter. “What, you just get off on taking the piss out of me?”
Draco allowed a weak little smile. “Well, naturally that—but…” He trailed off, grimacing to himself, as if what he was saying physically pained him—and Harry felt some of the tension return. “I felt…unequal to it.”
“Wh…what do you mean?”
“Everything you said, it was all about…remembering the past but—letting it be the past, and moving forward. Accepting what’s changed, because that’s part of life.” He looked up, fixing Harry with a pleading look that didn’t suit at all; he was meant to be proud and pompous and larger than life, not this lost little boy staring at Harry. “It’s just—difficult, is all. When everything’s changed. It’s so hard to get your bearings when you don’t know what you’re even meant to be walking toward. It’s like—there’s a fog around that battle, and I’m spoilt for choice as to which way to go, but I worry that any false step I make might be a step back, so I’ve no idea where I ought to—”
Harry lunged forward, grabbing both Draco’s hands in his own. “So hold on to me. At least we’ll be lost together?” If people insisted on using him as a beacon, a rallying point, then what good was it if he couldn’t be just that to the people he most wanted to have faith in him?
“You can’t live my life for me,” Draco said, tugging on his hands—though not too hard.
“No—though I don’t think you’d want me to anyway. Let’s be honest, I’d probably muck it up.”
Draco snorted softly. “At least my reputation can’t possibly sink any lower.”
Bullshit, Harry thought, though he really should have said it; Draco needed to hear these things, needed to have them drilled into his head now and then too, as he could be just as stubborn as Harry when he put his mind to it. Instead, he opted to keep a cooler head, something he’d been getting a lot of practice with, spending so much time around Draco. “I can’t live your life for you, no. I can’t even really give you any good directions.” He rubbed a thumb over Draco’s knuckles, no longer holding him in place, just touching, just grounding the both of them. “But…we’re all in this fog, really. None of our lives are the same; this time last year, I thought I knew so much, and then I realised I either didn’t know anything, or I’d had entirely the wrong idea. I’m as lost as anyone.”
Draco frowned at him, just this side of pouting. “…You never seem it, somehow.” Harry snorted derisively, and he pressed, “You don’t. Even when you’re confused or lost, you always have this…this look about you. Like you’re just about to solve it, just about to have it managed, and once you do, you’ll act, and you’ll win.” He sighed. “It pisses me off royally.”
Harry was bemused. “So I’m good at feigning confidence, is what you want to say?”
“I feigned confidence for years; I know another master when I see one.”
Harry smiled, drawing Draco’s arms around him, resting his hands at Harry’s hips and tracing the gentle curve of his arms, up to his elbows. The dress robes were made of something not quite silk, not quite velvet but rabbit-soft and luxurious.
“I haven’t changed.”
Draco blinked at him. “What?”
“You just said everything’s changed, and that’s got you thrown. I don’t think I’ve really changed. I think I’m the same as I’ve always been—just…maybe a little more worldly.”
“You don’t think you’ve changed?” Draco scoffed. “Think you always would’ve wound up with my hand down your pants or your cock in my mouth?”
“Maybe,” Harry said, voice gone a bit husky. He wasn’t about to be cowed by Draco’s casual use of such lewd language—he did that sort of thing to distract, Harry was learning. “Don’t think I haven’t considered it—what different choices I might’ve made, where that might’ve put us.” Draco’s eyes had a hooded quality to them, and he seemed unsteady on his feet. Harry softened his features. “You haven’t changed either, I see that now. I just started to look at you from a different angle. It’s not that there’s things about you now I love that weren’t there before; I just never noticed them. Or I outright ignored them.” He knew he sounded wistful, and he didn’t care. “Makes me sad it took so long.”
“Well,” Draco said, in a feeble attempt to collect himself. “There’s time now. To—and you’ve made me loathe this word—savour it.” Harry’s grin widened, so much it hurt his cheeks, and Draco’s eyes were bright as he blurted out in a huff, “I want to go back.”
“Go back?” Harry repeated, feeling like he’d lost the thread of the conversation at some point.
“To Hogwarts. I want to do this—this Eighth-year business McGonagall has been going on about.”
Harry felt his heart leap, excitement hitting him with a tangible jolt. “You do?”
Draco nodded. “I’ve wanted to the whole time, truthfully, just…before, it wasn’t for the right reasons.”
“Right reasons?” Harry’s brows furrowed. “I don’t get it.”
“I wanted…” Draco seemed to search for the word. “A do-over. Something familiar. Something that hadn’t changed. It hurt nothing you’d probably be going back too, and I wouldn’t have to be out there, in the world, trying to decide where I fit for another year. I was scared—”
“That’s nothing to be ashamed of, though!” Harry rushed to reassure him. “It’s not a wrong reason.”
“Then—it wasn’t the best reason. It’s not the reason I ought to have wanted to go back for. I don’t want to be driven by fear. I’ve spent years being afraid of things and letting that dictate what I do—fear of my father, of what he’d think of me if I dared be anything but what he’d moulded me into, fear of losing the respect of my peers, fear of the Dark Lord and the waste he might make of my family and future…” He closed his eyes, shaking his head. “I want to go back—I want to have the final year I deserve, I want to play Quidditch again, I want to figure out what I want, and I want—” He opened his eyes and snapped a hand out, grabbing the end of Harry’s tie and tugging him close enough their noses brushed. “To fuck you.”
Harry’s mouth went dry. “At—at Hogwarts?”
Draco shoved him away in disgust. “No, you lackwit. Right here.” He took a step closer, slotting all the right bits of himself just so against the right bits of Harry, until they were breathing the same air on each heady inhalation. “You can say no. I’m not saying you have to—or even that you ought to, since that seems to be the done thing these days. But I’m going to ask you, all the same. And then I’ll ask again tomorrow, and I’ll ask again the next day, until you Hex me silent, because I’m not going to be afraid of being rejected by the great Harry Potter anymore.”
Harry’s heart was pounding a loud tattoo in his chest that he was sure Draco must be able to hear. There was a lot to unpack, but all that tumbled from his lips was, “That’s really not romantic.”
Draco thrust his chin out, defiant. “Romantic closed up shop months ago; not even Hufflepuffs put it off this long.”
“I wasn’t putting it off—” Harry started to protest.
“Streelers mate faster than we’ve managed.”
Harry didn’t know what those were, but he suspected it was another slight against Harry’s ostensible libido—which was in fine working order, he wanted it made clear. “You know I’m a sap; I just wanted it to feel right, is all.”
“Oh—I beg your pardon. Would you have rather I said I wanted to make love to you my dear sweet buttercup? Too bad; I thought I made myself clear.” His voice went low and deliciously gravelly as he punctuated each word. “I want to fuck you.”
“What…what’s the difference?” Harry asked, in a very small voice. Oh, he had a good idea, but hearing Draco talk like this, not circumspect at all, did things to him. Fantastic things. Like back in May, when he’d shown up on Harry’s doorstep pissed as anything and just demanded.
“Not as much as you might think,” Draco said. “I just like saying it. Fuck.” He leaned in nuzzling just under Harry’s ear. “Though I’d rather be doing it.”
Harry’s breath hitched, and he’d had about enough. He snapped a hand out around Draco’s shoulder, and with a loud CRACK Apparated them directly into Sirius’s bedroom—which he was probably going to have to start thinking of as their bedroom after tonight.
Draco staggered on the landing, and his shoulder hit one of the bedposts, hard. “Warn me before you do that!” he groused, rubbing his arm.
“Side-Alonging without consent is just rude.”
There was a whiny twinge to his voice that suggested he wasn’t in any real pain, and Harry leered. “Let me make it up to you?” Draco kept his lips twisted into a scowl, but the brightness in his eyes betrayed his interest, and Harry stepped in—then stopped. “Wait—shit.”
“What?” Draco asked, and the twinge had gone full-blown whine now.
Harry pursed his lips, irritated himself. “Just—Ron and Hermione. I don’t…wanna, you know, get into anything if they’re going to be home any minute.” He loved his friends, really he did—and flatting together like this, with plenty of space to sprawl, was a dream, but he was pretty sure no one wanted that much sharing between them. Charmwork only went so far, especially when both parties were otherwise indisposed.
He thought Draco would pitch a fit, or that the mood would be lost entirely, and it would be another month before the stars aligned as it felt they had just now and it was finally time, but Draco only shrugged, unbothered. “Weasley may be staying at his brothers’ shop as they pull an overnighter to prepare stock for the final week before Hogwarts re-opens…and Granger may be helping them.”
“…They may, or are?”
“Are, after I asked them to.”
Harry felt his knees go weak, and he leaned against one of the posts for support, grimacing. “Oh god—they’re going to know.”
“What,” Draco snorted. “You think they’re so chaste?”
Harry quickly slapped his hands over his ears. “I don’t want to hear about—”
“Haven’t you noticed how long Weasley’s showers have gotten? And how Granger claims she’s going off on a morning walk right around the same time every day?”
“Stop it!” Harry pleaded.
Well that he could do. Harry snaked a hand around the back of Draco’s head, drawing him in for a warm, full kiss and promptly swallowing any further remarks. Draco allowed it, but only for a heartbeat, before he slipped a hand between them, deftly plucking at the line of silver buttons down the front of Harry’s robes.
Harry drew back, just enough to glance down between them—and then back up, gaze locked with Draco’s. His grey eyes carried a hint of challenge, as if to say Last chance to back out now. “I…I still don’t quite know what to do here, just so we’re clear…” he warned.
“Why am I not surprised? That’s a Gryffindor for you: flinging himself into an uncontrolled situation unthinkingly.” Draco cocked his head to the side, taking Harry’s lips into a teasing, lazy kiss that was saccharine sweet. He let his hand fall lower, fondling Harry through his nice new robes. “Surely you’ve got an idea, though.”
“A—few…” Harry admitted, swallowing. “I’m pretty sure we need less clothing.”
“That would be a good start, yes.”
“Right.” Harry palmed his wand into sweaty hands, then pointed the tip at his chest. “Evane—”
“Potter!” Draco shrieked in horror, making a tight fist around Harry’s cock—and the spell died on his lips. “So help me, if you Vanish those new robes I will snap your wand in half and then shove the pieces down your throat!”
“All right, all right—ease up! God, you’re going to rip it off before I’ve gotten any use out of it!”
“I could say the same for those robes!” He shoved Harry away with an irritated huff and began stripping off his own robes, starting with the fussy lacing at the cuffs and collar and working his way to the mother-of-pearl buttons holding it closed at the sides. He caught Harry watching him, with undisguised want, and snapped, “Don’t even think of pointing your wand my way!”
“Your grabhanding might’ve ensured it’ll never point at anything again,” Harry muttered, rubbing himself gingerly.
“Please; for someone who’s taken his sweet time getting one over me, you’re certainly impatient when push comes to shove.”
“For someone who’s been panting after me since before his voice dropped, you’re certainly fixated on your clothes.”
“I haven’t been—” Draco sputtered, and one of the gilded buttons popped off, hitting the floor with a bright clack and rolling underneath a bureau. “Fuck.”
“I’m trying,” Harry said, finally shrugging out of his robes. He sent them flying back into the wardrobe and hooked his thumbs into the band of his briefs—then paused. “…Er, we should probably decide…um, you know.”
“‘Um, you know’? After that speech, I had hoped you’d grown more eloquent overnight, but alas.”
Harry flushed. “I just mean, which one will…and which one will…”
Draco’s lips curled deviously. His robes slid off his shoulders, pooling at his ankles, and he sent them into the wardrobe alongside Harry’s with a lazy flick of his wand. “Any preference?”
Seeing as Harry had never really considered this before—had actually been avoiding considering it, even—he honestly didn’t think he had a preference, not really, but well, now was as good a time as any to mull the situation over, wasn’t it? He had a pretty good idea which one he’d be better at, as he imagined doing it with a bloke wasn’t all that different from doing it with a girl, but then again, he didn’t have any experience with girls either, so did it matter in the end? In fact, with the way things had gone in the past year, he knew more about getting a guy off than a girl, which he supposed he ought to find a little funny. And he did find it funny, but it also made him feel a little queasy with uncertainty.
God, this was going to be a disaster. He’d spent so long worrying it wouldn’t be perfect, he hadn’t bothered taking any steps to make it perfect.
Draco gave a sharp little intake of air, and Harry tensed. “What?”
“Nothing, just…” He swallowed. “You’ve got that look on your face.”
“Like I mentioned before: the look you get when you’re just about to solve a problem, just about to have it managed, and once you do, you’ll act, and you’ll win.”
Harry lifted a brow. “…Thought you said that look pissed you off.”
Draco huffed. “It does. Mostly because it’s damn arousing—you’re rather inconvenient with that look sometimes.”
Harry couldn’t help but preen a bit. “Sometimes. But now?”
Draco stepped forward, wearing only a tight pair of black boxer-briefs that betrayed just how enthused he was with the present turn of events. “Made a choice?”
Not really, Harry realised. “…You really don’t care?”
“I’m going to get off—you’re going to get me off, and it’s going to be raw and hot and hard either way.” He quirked his lips. “…Or both ways.”
And oh, Harry hadn’t thought about that. “We—that’s…we can do that?” He could feel his throat and chest flushing, mottled patches of red darkening his complexion. He didn’t have nearly enough experience under his belt to make an informed decision, and while the idea of a cock up his arse didn’t sound appealing on its face, there had to be something to it, right? Draco certainly didn’t seem like he relished pain, and yet here they were.
“Why the fuck couldn’t we?” he laughed.
“I—I don’t know, I just thought… I don’t know.”
Draco shook his head fondly. “Merlin, you’re a twit.”
“Well—it’s not like you’ve ever done this before either!”
“I read,” Draco said.
“Books.” His hands skittered down Harry’s sides, tracing the knob of his hipbone before sliding around to massage his arse. “They’re very educational; you should open one.”
“More research?” Harry groaned—not unpleasurably, as Draco kneaded the meat of his arse, likely leaving marks. “Please tell me Hermione didn’t help out this time…”
“I had a whole week all to myself at the Manor when you abandoned me after the Battle of Hogwarts.” He dug his fingers in sharply, and Harry hissed. “I had to occupy myself somehow.” Evidently deciding Harry still needed convincing, he nipped his ear, using just enough teeth so he felt it, a frisson of pain. “Please, Harry. Just tell me what you want, and I’ll make you feel amazing.”
Oh god, he really was going to just collapse right here, on the floor; Draco would never let him live it down. He tried not to seem like he was obviously clinging to Draco for support when he asked thickly, “And—you?”
“Rest assured I’m being entirely Slytherin about this. I’ll fucking love it.” Harry could hear the leer in his voice. “I’ve been panting after you since before my voice dropped, remember?”
“Right…” He nodded, mostly to himself. “Then—let’s. Um. Let’s be fair about it.”
Draco drew back. “Fair?”
“Fair.” Harry tossed his wand onto the bed, then pulled open the drawer on the side table—and drew out one of Hermione’s magicked Galleons. “Wizard, I’ll slip it in you; dragon, you’ll do me? For the—you know. First time…”
“Can’t make up your own mind?” Draco teased.
Harry hoped his smile was self-deprecating; he didn’t want it to seem he was dragging his feet. Nerves were a tricky thing, was all. “Spoilt for choice, rather.” He made a fist and placed the coin over his thumb. With his breath held, he flipped it—and it clattered to the floor on its side, rolling away. Harry scrambled after it and managed to grab it just before it disappeared under the bed. He stood back up, panting with exertion, and held out his hand: wizard-side up.
“…Should we do it again? It didn’t really land proper.”
“What’s ‘proper’?” Draco snatched up the coin, studying it. “I see an outcome I like. I say we take what Chance has decided and be happy.”
Draco rolled his eyes, tossing the coin back into the drawer and sliding it shut. “Don’t sound so enthused, Harry.”
“I am!” he protested. “Just—still a little nervous, I think.”
“Hm.” Draco took him by the wrist, placing Harry’s palm so it splayed over his bare chest. It was still a marvel, seeing that bare expanse of smooth, porcelain skin, no horrible lacerations to remind Harry of what his thoughtless actions had nearly cost him. “Not so different,” Draco said, and Harry could feel it now: the racing bump-bump-bump of Draco’s heart, galloping towards a cliff.
Harry smiled at the gesture; no, not so different at all. “Scared, Malfoy?”
Draco looped his arm around Harry’s neck. “You wish.”
A disconcerting feeling swept over Harry, like gravity had just gone wrong—and then he felt himself being forced down into a dense, heavy point of existence, before he exploded into being again with a POP, now flat on his back atop their four-poster.
“Did you—just—Apparate us onto the bed?” He tried to sound indignant, he really did, but it was difficult, given Draco was straddling him now, using his weight—and position, his arse grinding over Harry’s cock—to keep Harry pliant. “I thought Side-Alonging without consent was rude.”
“Terribly rude, where have my manners gone—oh.” He slid down further and rolled his hips, dragging his cock up alongside Harry’s. “There they are.”
Harry brought his hands up to hold Draco by the hips, hissing in pleasure as he bucked into the slow, delicious friction. “Ah fuck, that’s good.” He released a ragged breath. “Should I—er, my pants?”
Draco swiped his wand from where he’d placed it in its stand—and promptly Vanished both their briefs. “Wha—you just went off on me for trying to Vanish clothing!”
“I went off on you for trying to return a three-hundred-Galleon set of dress robes to the Aether. I’m hardly arsed about what becomes of your dirty underwear.”
Harry rolled his eyes, returning his attention to more pleasant matters—like the fact his cock fit just right against the curve of Draco’s arse. He gave another experimental pump—but the friction was painful now, dry, sensitive skin chafing everywhere.
“Oh—Salazar’s balls, hold up, honestly—” Draco cut him an annoyed look. “Did you think it would just slip in?”
“No,” Harry said, hotly. “Was just seeing…”
Draco lifted up onto his knees, pointing his wand at his groin, and muttered a few spells under his breath.
“What did you cast?”
“Spells, Potter. As one does with a wand.”
“Yeah, but what—”
Draco rapped him on the temple with the hilt of his wand. “Spells for the bedroom, obviously!”
Harry winced, raising an arm defensively. “Yeah, but none of those was Lubrico. Seriously, what did you cast?”
Draco took a bracing breath, gritting out, “Spells I have never needed to use before. All right?”
And oh. Harry felt his cheeks heat—and then his all over heated. This was another M word situation, and there was evidently to be no discussion of the details of these spells. Harry suspected that if he wanted to learn them for his own edification, he’d need to hunt down whatever book Draco had found them in for himself.
Draco didn’t look like he was enjoying himself all that much, though. “…Does it hurt?”
“No, it’s just—strange, that’s all.” He raked Harry with a heated look. “Distract me?”
“Well I already know what your Patronus is…”
Draco actually smiled, crawling over Harry until they found a comfortable angle to kiss. “Surely you can find other ways to distract me…”
“Oh, I reckon.” He took Draco’s wand, cast a quick Lubrication Charm, and then laid it to rest on its stand with his free hand while he slicked up his cock with the other. “Slide yours against mine.”
“I’ll come…” Draco warned.
“So? Isn’t that the idea?”
Draco swallowed, pressing his forehead to Harry’s. “…It’s not how I want to come, though.” He eased Harry’s hand away from stroking himself, then shifted on the mattress until his arse was hovering just over Harry’s groin—then bore down on Harry’s cock, rocking against him. His cock was trapped between his stomach and Draco’s arse, and it was thrilled with the situation.
Harry, however, hissed brightly, fisting the duvet as he huffed out a string of Muggle and wizarding oaths. “Now I’m gonna come…”
“So? Isn’t that the idea?” Draco teased.
And if he was going to play like that, then Harry was game. He lifted a knee, and Draco nearly toppled to the side but managed to catch himself with one hand.
“Watch it, oaf.”
“Well it wasn’t how I wanted to come either.” Harry kept his knee bent, shifting his weight to try and roll Draco onto his back—but Draco wouldn’t budge. “Er—are we going to?”
Draco lifted a brow. “You do realise you being on top doesn’t necessarily mean you physically over me, right?”
“Er…” was Harry’s brilliant response. “No, of course—I mean, well—”
Draco eased Harry down flat onto his back again, reclaiming his position straddling his hips. “I know you rather like being in charge—”
“—but I think this way will be easier on the both of us, the first time. At least until…” He had to clear his throat. “Well, until we’re sure we can control ourselves.”
Control…? Harry frowned at the implication that this was, in any way, out of their control. “Wait, do you need to…? I mean—does the dragon need—?” It was an animal, after all, and as sapient as Bragge claimed dragons to be, they were clearly still ruled in large part by their instincts. Perhaps it wouldn’t like not getting to lead—was Draco, even now, fighting against the urge to just slick himself up and…?
But Draco laughed, real and genuine and bright. “Merlin, no—it’s only, I’ve read that some degree of…deliberation…should be practised in matters such as this, or we’ll neither one of us enjoy it.” He gave another lazy roll of his hips, pulling a groan from Harry. “So until we’ve figured out just how we like it…let’s let the one getting it up the arse do the driving, shall we?”
Harry could only nod, thoughts scattering. “Yeah. Sure. Brilliant.” The Lubrication Charm was doing wonders, but as warm and tight as this was, his cock trapped between Draco’s rocking body and his own stomach, he couldn’t help but wonder how much more amazing it would feel being buried inside Draco. Like getting sucked off, but tighter, hotter, wetter—and god, if this was going to happen, it needed to happen soon, because he was in very real danger of embarrassing himself.
He gave a feeble little thrust of his hips in encouragement, and Draco grinned. “Eager much?”
“God, am I.” He was painfully hard now, and he really didn’t give two shits if Draco teased him for it. He’d wipe that smarmy expression off his face in short order, regardless.
“Good.” Draco lifted up, just enough so he could take Harry’s cock in hand, and gave it a few experimental pumps. “Well this shouldn’t take too long.”
“Not if you keep doing that,” Harry grit out. “Come on.”
Draco only chuckled darkly—then thrust his hips forward, his own cock bouncing merrily, and positioned Harry’s cock straight up, just under the shadow of his arse cleft.
Harry goggled, breath catching in his throat at the sight. “W—wait—”
Draco cut him a sharp frown. “What now?”
“But—just—don’t you need to…” He swallowed. “Won’t it—hurt you?”
“So thoughtful, our Saviour…” Draco drawled. “Spells, Harry. They’re very useful.”
Oh, so that was what those spells had been. Spells to stretch, spells to dull pain, probably even prophylactic spells.
And he found himself uncharacteristically, unaccountably irritated—for reasons he could not fathom. Because why shouldn’t Draco use magic to make this more pleasurable, for the both of them? Why shouldn’t he cast spells, for his own safety and Harry’s? Why shouldn’t he?
“What’s wrong?” Draco asked, grey eyes hooded and wary.
“…Nothing, really.” Harry swallowed. “It’s nothing.”
“It’s not nothing,” Draco accused softly, without anger—only concern. “Harry.”
“I…seriously, it’s nothing—” He could feel his cheeks heating and thanked whatever magic ran through the old house that the lamps had dimmed on their own accord, and perhaps Draco wouldn’t notice—or would chalk it up to arousal.
There was a heavy, pregnant pause, and then Draco asked, very carefully, “You wanted to?”
“I don’t—” Harry started, then changed his mind halfway through. “I don’t know. Maybe? I’ve never done this.”
He knew he was whining, could hear that defensive edge to his voice, and if Draco hit back with the same energy, then this evening was going to go to pot.
But Draco was still speaking in that calm, measured voice, and Harry almost hated him for it. “…I thought this would be faster.”
“It—it would be. Will be. But—” Harry licked his lips. “Maybe I don’t want it to go so fast. Maybe I want there to—to be less magic?”
Draco’s lips curled into a teasing leer. “I think you’ll be glad for the spells when you’re up.”
“Er—well, then maybe I’d like to help do the magic, at least.” He was certain he wasn’t getting his point across, and he could feel his frustration overtaking his arousal, wilting his cock. “It’s not…it’s not about the doing. For me. It’s—god, the whole thing’s meant to be an experience. Isn’t it?” It was why it had taken him so long to get to this point to begin with; he hadn’t been joking when he’d said he wanted to ‘savour’ it. What was the point in going to a ludicrously expensive restaurant for dinner, and then skipping the appetisers altogether? “Do whatever you need, really—just let me share it with you?”
“…Merlin you’re such a soft touch,” Draco mumbled, though his voice was thick with emotion. He shook his head, leaning forward and sliding his hands up over Harry’s chest, curling at his neck. “Of course,” he whispered, close enough to kiss. “Fuck, of course—I’m sorry, I was only—”
“Eager much?” Harry teased.
“Very. Too much.” Draco kissed him, soft and slow and full of apology. “Next time. I promise.”
“Definitely…” Harry rolled his hips, encouraging his cock back to life; it was hardly any great tragedy, and wasn’t that the thing about first times? That they were imperfect, for one, and they were generally followed by a second time, for another? Nothing ever went quite the way Harry wanted or expected it to—the fact he was sitting here with Draco Malfoy rutting atop him was certainly testament to that—so why should this be any different? That didn’t presuppose it would be bad.
Draco slid down his body until he was faced with Harry’s cock, and he exhaled a warm, open-mouthed breath over the thickening shaft. Harry squirmed, trying to keep his legs splayed when he really just wanted to lock Draco in place, until he’d taken Harry’s prick into that warm, tight mouth and brought him to the edge of glory.
He trembled, hips jerking when Draco darted a pink tongue out, kissing the shaft. “F—fuck, god, suck me.”
Draco regarded him with undisguised interest. “…Can you hold back?”
“You don’t sound very sure. I’m going to be very cross if you spurt before we’ve gotten going, Potter.”
“There won’t be any ‘going’ if I’m not hard.”
“Hm. Point…” He sighed, as if this were a great effort he was being asked, and caressed the shaft fondly, nuzzling it with a soft, breathy inhalation. “Just for a bit, then.”
He pursed his lips tightly at the crown, drawing the head in agonisingly slowly and tonguing the slit before lifting off again. He used his hand to spread the viscous lubricant from Harry’s Charm along the shaft—and Harry wondered what it tasted like. They were going about this entirely in the wrong order, but Harry didn’t want to say as such, lest Draco think better of sucking him off.
Draco took the head in his mouth again, swirling his tongue around the crown, and then bobbed down, far enough Harry could feel the tip brush against the back of Draco’s throat. Draco’s jaw worked, and Harry could tell he was trying to take him in deeper—but in all their fumblings, neither had ever really managed more than just a mouthful.
Still, the sight alone was enough to perk Harry’s cock up, and he struggled to keep his breathing even as he watched, rapt, as Draco lazily mouthed his prick. He was gorgeous like this, white-blond hair falling in his eyes and cheeks hollowed out with each ardent suckle, and every now and then, he’d sweep his gaze up to meet Harry’s, fixing him with those sharp grey eyes that failed to belie the playful spirit infused into Draco’s very bones.
God, Harry loved him. As much as he’d ever loathed him, he fucking loved Draco now. He was funny and sexy and stubborn and proud, and everything that drove Harry mad about him drove him wild as well. Dragonflame roaring beneath a prickly, icy exterior—and he wanted to share it with Harry. He’d waited for Harry, he’d fought for Harry. He wanted Harry.
And Harry wanted him back. He closed his legs, just enough to brush against Draco’s shoulders. “Ease up—I’m close.”
“Thank Merlin,” Draco rasped, rubbing his jaw. “Thought I was going to have to unhinge my jaw to get you off.”
“Not necessary,” Harry smiled, guiding Draco closer, so they were better aligned. His cock stood stiff and proud, nosing at the inside of Draco thigh and weeping angrily for the loss of that warm, wet mouth. Don’t worry, he told it, I’ve got a better treat for you coming right up.
“Well, if you insist.” Draco leaned in and kissed him, perhaps to wash away the foreign flavour of the magical lubricant—though Harry tasted nothing on his tongue but the salt of his sweat and the faint, bitter tang of himself.
Harry accepted his attentions, humming his pleasure. “Should I return the favour?”
“The gesture is appreciated but wholly unnecessary.” Draco nibbled at his lip. “Just fuck me good and proper, and we’ll call it even.”
A thrill rushed through Harry, and he thrust his hips with a shallow pump, letting the head of his cock brush along Draco’s cleft. “Get me seated, then.”
Draco glanced down between them to sight the way, then took Harry’s shaft in hand and carefully angled it. Slowly—so slowly Harry wondered if he wasn’t reconsidering—he relaxed his thighs and let himself settle down on top of it.
Harry could feel it, where his cock was meant to go—everything all of a sudden got tight, but not so tight he slipped away. Draco’s expression was tense, and Harry imagined he could smell the sweat, the nerves, of this step, this grand moment, as if everything were about to change. Which was ridiculous, but there it was all the same.
Harry fought to keep very still, though he wanted more than anything to snap his hips up, bury himself right up there where he was clearly meant to be. The spongy head of his cock felt like it was being squeezed through a warm, wet channel, and he could hear Draco panting in his ear, trying to hold his breath with effort and failing. He steadied his hands at Draco’s hips, giving gentle guidance when he seemed unable to push himself; Draco didn’t want to appear weak, so he’d never ask for help, or beg Harry to stop. He’d keep going, keep pushing himself, and the kindest thing Harry could do for him was to have enough respect for him not to say something stupid like Are you all right?
“You feel amazing,” he said instead, lifting up to kiss Draco’s neck.
“You haven’t even got the tip in,” Draco grit out. “Fuck your patronising bullshit.”
Harry lifted a brow. “Whose fault is that?”
“Want to switch places?”
“Pretty sure I already said I was open to it—shall we?”
“Fuck you, Potter.” Draco released a stuttering breath, closed his eyes, and forced his hips down—and then down and down, grimacing all the while, until his arse brushed Harry’s hipbones, fully seated, and he exhaled with an audible huff. “Fucking shit that’s…fuck.”
Harry concurred, stars spangling his vision. His fingers dug into Draco’s hips, leaving little crescent marks. “A little—warning would’ve been—appreciated.”
Draco’s eyes were still clenched shut, and his back was heaving. “I did—say fuck you.”
“Yeah…yeah you did…” Harry breathed, yanking himself back from the keen edge of orgasm. It was just so damn tight, tighter than before, tighter than he’d imagined, and Harry could feel his cock throbbing in time with his heartbeat, pumping a dull, droning tattoo. The ridges and whorls inside Draco’s arse gripped him, holding him in place, and he never wanted to leave—except he really really did want to. Wanted to draw back out and thrust back in with punching, punishing force, because that was like straight Felix Felicis, a shot to his most basic, primal centres.
“One false move, and I’ll rip it off,” Draco warned, as if he could read Harry’s mind. He was still grimacing, and his lids fluttered open—his eyes were bright, like he was fighting back tears. “Shit, that was a bad idea.”
“No, not one of your better ones.”
“Oh shut up; at least one of us is enjoying this…”
Harry didn’t bother denying it. “Can I tell you you feel amazing now…?”
Draco huffed in disgust, but he didn’t say no. “Anything. Anything to distract.”
Harry frowned. “…It’s really that bad?” There was flirtatious teasing, and then there was thoughtless cruelty; he’d never be able to forgive himself if he stumbled into the latter just because it got his cock hard. “Should we—” He didn’t want to say stop, as Draco would hear it as giving in. “Should we try it another way…?”
“Your cock up my arse is about the only way this goes.” Draco shook his head. “Just—give me a second. It fucking hurts, but it’s hardly debilitating.”
“You do have a habit of making much ado about minor injuries, now that I think about it…”
Draco pinched him, hard. “We’ll see how minor an injury you find it.” He released a whining groan. “Maybe I shouldn’t have used a spell for the stretching after all…”
“You—you didn’t practice it first?”
“Oh you are the last person I want lecturing me on throwing about poorly researched spells I picked up in shady books!”
And all right, he had a point. “…Well we’ll try it the other way next time. I told you—I’d rather take it slow.”
“Taken it slow enough already…” Draco’s breathing was starting to even a bit, and when he shifted in place, the friction against Harry’s cock sent frissons of pleasure shooting up his spine. “I want it fast. I just want it—hard, and hot, and—and—” He splayed his palms flat over Harry’s pectorals, tracing with one finger the jagged white scar from the second Killing Curse. “Light me on fire.”
Harry frowned. “…Are you sure?”
Draco closed his eyes again and tilted his head back. “Never been more sure, Potter.”
Harry swallowed—then let his hips nudge forward, a shallow, experimental little thrust with no force behind it. Draco’s brows furrowed, but he didn’t cry out, didn’t wince, so Harry drew back, further this time, and slid back in.
Draco felt that one, gasping, and he straightened. He leaned back, hands on the mattress now, supporting his weight, and he eased up onto his knees to give Harry more room to work. Harry took this as permission and decided it was time to get around to the fucking bit of fucking Draco.
He set a slow, easy pace to draw it out—Draco wanted it hard, fast, but he would get neither if Harry popped too soon, so this had to necessarily be tantric. On each pass, though, he pulled out further and slid back in with a rougher, more punishing force. Soon, the quiet of the bedroom was alive with fevered panting and creaking bedsprings and the bright clap of skin against skin. Draco was biting his lip, trying and failing to stifle desperate little grunts, and Harry knew he wasn’t imagining the way he was bouncing now, trying to keep up with Harry’s mounting pace.
“Shit…” Harry grunted. “Oh, fuck, this is—”
“Faster,” Draco breathed. “Faster—more.”
Light me on fire.
He took hold of Draco’s hips and gave a punching upward thrust—then swiftly drew out again and repeated the motion. He could feel the muscles in his stomach crying out—this was going to hurt like a motherfucker come morning—but he powered through, reaming in again and again and again. Draco’s head, flung back, exposed the long, white column of his throat, and Harry wished the angle allowed him to bite, and claim. To mark him, somehow. God wouldn’t the dragon be pleased?
He could feel his balls drawing up tight under his body, like a line drawn taut at the base of his spine. It was too much—too tight, too hot, too slick, and Draco was everywhere, all around him, over him and burning in his blood.
“Can’t—hold off—” he grunted, sweat dripping in his eyes from the effort; he was almost drawing completely out on the downstroke now before burying himself deep as he could go on the up, and it still didn’t feel like enough. He couldn’t mark Draco on the outside, but maybe inside—if he let Harry. “Draco… Draco, I’m…”
“Yeah… Go on.” Draco ran his hands down his body, wrapping his fingers around his own cock and tugging feverishly. The pink head glistened brightly when it peeked out on each stroke, winking at Harry saucily. “Shit, are you gonna…inside?”
“You should, yeah—I spelled it, do it. Fuck, come on—fill me up.” His arse was clenching somehow even tighter around Harry, and he imagined his cock might have been ripped off without the proper lubrication, which would have honestly been a rather disappointing end to an otherwise enjoyable evening.
Such a filthy invitation on Draco’s lips nearly undid Harry, but he fought back his orgasm once more, desperate to give Draco time to catch up. Nothing about this experience so far had been quite how he expected it to be, so he felt entitled to one selfish request: that they get off around about the same time. Familiarity told him Draco would not be much longer, and Harry could hold off, he could. He would.
He focused on giving it to Draco just how he’d begged—hard and hot and fast, pouring back into him the same desperation and arousal that thrummed through Harry’s veins. A constant, thrilling cycle of sex and sweat and desire. Harry watched his cock disappear into Draco’s arse, glistening with lubricant and his own leaking fluids, and Draco’s cock was dribbling all over Harry’s stomach in prelude.
“Tell me when,” Harry whispered breathily, panting now. “Tell me when you’re close.”
Draco ignored him, but his fist started moving faster over his cock, a slick, squelching blur. When he released a soft, shuddering gasp that Harry well recognised, he ratcheted his thrusts up another octave, trying to fuck right through Draco.
“Shit—there, yes, keep going, Harry…” he grunted. “Almost—there… Faster, dammit.”
Harry’s hips and back and stomach were protesting loudly, but he pushed through, too near the edge to stop now. “Come with me, Draco. I want to—I need to—”
“Just—fucking do it—” Draco gasped, and Harry let go.
He came in a rush on one final punishing, punching thrust. He felt his balls empty, pumping into Draco’s arse in a wave of heat and pleasure.
Draco seized around him with a crying shout, hands reaching out for something—anything—and Harry grabbed on, lacing their fingers together. Draco’s arsecheeks clenched, and his cock bobbed, spurting long white strips of spunk over Harry’s stomach and chest—and a little on the duvet as well. Harry kept pumping, hips working on their own like a toy winding down. Each thrust was shallower, gentler than the last, until he finally collapsed onto the bed after he’d been drained of what felt like every last bit of life.
Draco sat down, hard, his thighs giving out, and Harry groaned painfully. “You’re heavy…”
“Love you, too…” Draco mumbled, still swaying. He squeezed his arsecheeks around Harry’s cock, grimacing as he glanced over his shoulder. “Salazar’s balls…you actually did it…”
“I didn’t think you’d actually spill inside me…” Draco tried to ease up onto his knees—but it was far too soon, and he collapsed back onto Harry’s cock with a satisfying squelch.
“You told me to!” Harry huffed, red-cheeked.
“Yeah, I know.” Draco leered. “Still didn’t think you’d do it.”
“Course I did. I wanted to…”
Draco blinked, sobering. “You did?”
“Fuck yeah.” He released Draco, sliding his hands up Draco’s arm to settle at the nape of his neck and draw him down. “Humans have instincts too. Drives we want to obey.” He gently rolled his hips, and Draco gave a wincing gasp, mouth hanging open. “It’s all—dark, and primal. Felt dirty. You’re a horrible influence, you know?”
Draco’s expression was a perplexing combination of utterly scandalised and absolutely delighted. “Then we’ll have to at least use that spell again…” He found his strength at last, lifting onto his knees with a grunt, and Harry’s cock slipped free. His spunk came sliding out cleanly, dribbling down and sticking to Harry’s wiry pubic hairs in great white globs. “No fuss, no mess.”
“For you.” Harry glanced down at the state he was in. “Look at me; I look like the floor of a club bathroom…”
“Not a bad look at all, considering…” Draco ran a finger through the lacy white stripes coating Harry’s stomach.
“Yeah, well you try it on next time, see how good it looks on you.”
“Everything looks good on me, Harry, you should know that,” Draco said, then reached for his wand and began casting Scourgifys with impunity. Harry shivered as the spellfire raced over his body, and his wilting cock gave a half-hearted jolt of interest before Harry reminded it not to get its hopes up.
They crawled under the covers still naked, and the sheets were comfortably cool against Harry’s still-flushed skin. He drew up tight against Draco, crotch-to-arse, and Draco threw him a warning look over his shoulder. “If I wake up with your cock poking me in the arse, you won’t appreciate it.”
And he wasn’t joking; Draco was a grouchy beast if he didn’t get his requisite beauty sleep. “I’ll take care of it discreetly. No worries.”
Draco mulled this over. “…No.”
“No. Hold on to it until I wake up. Then I’ll handle it.”
Harry didn’t quite know how he was expected to be able to control his morning wood—especially if he woke particularly randy. Draco could sleep like the dead if he’d exerted himself the day before, and the thought of having to lie there, hard and wanting, for hours was not a pleasant one.
But Draco drew Harry’s arm around him, snuggling back, and Harry supposed some things were worth the wait.
When he woke the next morning—without his cock poking into Draco’s arse, thankfully—there was warm sunlight streaming into the room, slanted at an angle that suggested to Harry it was rather late. He strained his ears, listening for sounds of life in the house below, but he heard nothing save for the soft snuffling almost-snores of Draco drowsing beside him.
His bladder made itself known with urgency, so he carefully slid out of bed, making sure he didn’t disturb his partner, and stumbled into the bathroom. He winced as he waddled, sorer than he had expected, considering he’d done relatively little of the hard work the previous night.
God, they’d fucked. Nothing of note had really changed, he supposed, except this was finally something they were doing now: sleeping together. Not just sharing a bed, but sharing their bodies in it, in every way he could think possible—and he knew Draco would tease him for the goofy smile he was wearing, just remembering what they’d done, so he took care to wipe it off before he returned to the bedroom.
His departure had roused Draco, and Harry stood leaning against the doorway, watching him stretch languidly, like a big cat. “Morning, sleepyhead.”
“Stuff it,” Draco rasped, voice thick with sleep. “I know you only just woke up a moment before I did.”
“Call of nature.”
Draco frowned, grey eyes suddenly sharp. “I thought I told you—”
“The other nature. Unless you wanted to hold it while I pissed, too?” Draco made a face. “Right. Want me to fetch some coffee?”
Draco waved him off, struggling to his feet unsteadily. Harry rushed to his side, taking an elbow.
“All right, there?”
Harry swallowed, a flash of just what had made him so stiff hitting him. “Good stiff…?”
Draco’s eyes travelled over his bare flesh, from his neck, down over the Killing Curse scar on his chest, to the little trail of black hairs leading down to his cock—which, traitor that it was, gave a twitch of greeting. “Not a bad stiff.” He leered at Harry, sinfully close, his fingers tapping suggestively at Harry’s hips. “You know, I’ll bet I could pop down to the Sanctuary for a transformation and be right as rain, ready for another round in a moment flat.”
And part of Harry—a rather obvious part—thought that sounded like a splendid idea, but Draco shoved him away with snort, reaching for a dressing robe. “Merlin, you really are insatiable.”
“I’m—not!” Harry protested, though he doubted this was believable, all evidence being to the contrary. He grabbed a robe of his own, cinching it angrily at the waist, and followed Draco down the stairs. “You’re just being suggestive. I can hardly help reacting.”
“Hm,” Draco said, pausing at the third-floor landing to throw a glance over his shoulder. “No regrets then, I take it?”
“Of course not,” Harry said, thrown—had he done something to suggest he might? Or— “…You?”
“I was the one who asked for it,” Draco reminded him, continuing on down.
“I know, but still. Doesn’t mean it was…you know, everything you thought it might be.”
“No, it wasn’t. But—” Draco shrugged. “That doesn’t mean it wasn’t…acceptable.”
“It’s a passing grade, Potter.” Harry lunged at him, nearly missing a step and bowling him over. Draco caught him, holding him tight about the waist, and leaned in close to brush warm, dry lips over Harry’s. “No, no regrets. About any of it.”
Harry’s heart clenched. He didn’t know if he’d survive Draco not being afraid of him anymore, if this was what he might expect.
As they made their way down to the kitchen, the sounds of activity greeted them: bangs and clangs of pans, the hiss of running water, and the soft murmur of quiet conversation. Hermione and Ron were back, it seemed, which meant Harry and Draco’s idyllic morning was at an end. That would teach him to sleep in.
“Good morning!” Hermione greeted, far too brightly and casually, and Ron was sat at the little kitchen table, his nose buried in the morning’s copy of the Prophet. Harry returned the salutation weakly, making sure not to make eye contact, as he now knew what his friends had been up to (under his own roof!), and they him, and he really didn’t want to think about any of it, not before breakfast at least.
“Lovely dinner last night, wasn’t it?” Hermione said, to fill the awkward silence, and set a plate of toast topped with fluffy scrambled eggs in front of Harry. Draco was already digging into a bowl of his favoured porridge that had been sitting under a Stasis Charm. Harry wondered if stuffing them full of food was her way of warding off any uncomfortable discussions they might need to have now concerning engaging in amorous activities while flatmates were in residence.
“Er, yeah.” Harry reached for the salt. “Was good to see everyone again. Without, you know, impending doom hanging over all our heads.”
“Slughorn asked after you,” Ron said, folding the paper and placing it off to the side. “After you—y’know. When you left to—I mean.” Ron reached for his glass of pumpkin juice, beet-red. “He just sends his regards is all.”
Harry sank down a bit into his seat; the eggs were tasteless now, despite the generous drizzling of chilli sauce he’d applied. “Thanks…”
Silence hung over the four of them like a vulture, watching their feeble attempts at conversation sputter and expire. Only Draco seemed entirely unaffected by the tension, spooning his porridge into his mouth and staring off into space, like any other morning. Harry thought it must be nice sometimes, being such an unfeeling prat.
Right, time to change the topic. He cleared his throat softly. “So, uh, I think we’ve decided—me and Draco, I mean—that we’re going to go back for the Eighth-year curriculum they’re offering at Hogwarts.”
“Oh, that’s lovely, Harry!” Hermione clapped. She Levitated the final batch of scramble from the frying pan and onto her plate, joining Harry and the others at the table. “I really wish I could go back as well, but I just think it would be such a waste to pass up this opportunity at the Ministry.”
“Poor thing won’t get to take her N.E.W.T.s,” Ron snickered fondly, and Hermione frowned at him, affronted.
“Well of course I’m going to take them! It’s only that some of us are perfectly comfortable with self-study.”
“And I’m not one,” Ron said, rising to his feet to return his own dirty dishes to the sink. He clapped Harry on the shoulder as he passed by. “Good luck finding a new Keeper.”
“I’ve actually been thinking about that…”
“Quidditch?” Ron asked, and Harry nodded.
“Like—do you think they’ll even let us play?”
“Why wouldn’t they?” Draco butted in, suddenly fearful.
“Well, the Eighth-years probably won’t really be a proper class. Who’s to say there’ll be enough returnees to even have Houses, let alone whole Quidditch teams?”
Draco’s complexion went a bit green. “…Shut your mouth, Potter—if I have to share a dorm with a bunch of Gryffindors…”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Come on, you’ve shared a home with several for the better part of the past year, and you’re still kicking.”
“That was different! It was a matter of life and death, and I didn’t exactly have a choice for most of the time.”
“Well, you’ve got a choice now. Backing out?”
Draco met his challenge with a fierce glare, biting savagely into a piece of toast.
The conversation sparked a thought inside Harry, though.
They’d managed fine enough in their little almost-family unit, having learned over the months what topics were and were not appropriate for discussion and how much teasing could be tolerated before wands came into play. But Hogwarts was a big place—a new place, really—with lots of people. Many of whom weren’t at all fond of Draco, despite his service during the war.
And then there’d be dozens even more eager to cosy up to Harry since the defeat of Voldemort. He’d caught a glimpse of it just the night before and borne witness to Draco’s rising tension and irritation as Harry had been swarmed with well-wishers and sycophants—the real kind, not the kind Draco imagined Harry’s genuine friends to be.
What if it escalated, once they returned? What more could he do to reassure Draco of his feelings and commitment—especially in those moments when he wasn’t actually there? He doubted they would share every class together, as there was no telling if their career paths might overlap. Worst-case scenario, they might only see each other in the mornings and evenings in the dormitory (assuming the Eighth-years weren’t rooming in their old Houses; if that wasn’t the case, Harry might have to put in a special request to McGonagall…).
An idea struck him, like a bolt out of the blue. A terrible idea—mad, Draco would say—that was either going to get him killed or kissed, but it was all he had to work with at the moment, so he decided to run with it. He’d been very good about not being too Gryffindor lately, after all, so it was time to let his red-and-gold flag flap free for a bit and renew his vows to his house’s motto.
“How did preparations for the pre-return rush go at the shop?” he asked Ron.
“Brilliant, ‘til about two in the morning, when the exhaustion hit, but then brilliant again around four when I got my second wind.” Ron nodded to Hermione. “I think between the four of us we must’ve packaged over a hundred of the back-to-school packs.”
“What’s in those?”
Ron waggled his brows. “And spoil the surprise? I’m sure you’ll find out the hard way soon enough.”
Harry shook his head in amusement. “Fine, be mysterious if you like. But I’d still like to drop in today if you lot don’t have any plans.”
“Yeah; it’s been a few weeks since I visited, and I’d like to see it again before it gets too crowded with last-minute shoppers stocking up before the school year starts. Plus I’ve got to go supply shopping.” He’d done away with most everything he’d owned back at the Dursleys’, thinking he’d never see Hogwarts again—at least not as a student.
“Good point. It does get vicious,” Ron agreed. “That trove from Neville and Dean and Seamus wasn’t enough to tide you over?”
“I’m not thinking of purchasing anything—just want to poke my head in and see what’s what. Probably won’t have much leave to drop in once school gets going again.”
“Yeah—though maybe McGonagall’ll let the Eighth-years have a bit more leeway, seeing as you’ll all be adults?”
Harry doubted that very much. “Yeah, maybe.”
“Well, Fred and George have hired on a couple of new hands, so if we want to grab lunch with the both of them this time, we can probably swing it.”
“Excellent—shall we Apparate around…” He glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner, which said it was past ten now. “Noon?”
“I’ll meet you at the Weasleys’ shop for lunch,” Draco said, sending his dishes sailing into the sink. “I’m going to visit the Manor and let Mother and Father know of my plans to return to Hogwarts.”
“Be a mate and let us see the memory if you give your old man a heart attack, yeah?” Ron called after him as Draco marched up the stairs.
At just noon, Harry, Ron, and Hermione Disapparated from the sitting room, popping back into existence just in the back alley of the Leaky Cauldron. Hermione tapped the bricks with her wand, and the wall melted away to reveal Diagon Alley, already bustling with shoppers. It was as busy as Harry had ever seen it, and he felt something warm blossom in his chest. He’d feared things might never feel normal again, that Voldemort had left an irrevocable taint on everything Harry had ever loved, but the human spirit, it seemed, was resilient.
They wove through the crowd, a Notice-Me-Not helping Harry avoid causing a ruckus, and shortly found themselves at the entrance to Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Through the thick-paned glass, Harry could see that the shop was packed with customers of all shapes and sizes—as many grown adults as children who were clearly Hogwarts students.
“Hey, I’ll meet you inside, all right?” Harry said, and Ron and Hermione frowned.
“Meet us? But we’re here—”
“Yeah, but I’ve just remembered there’s a book I wanted to ask about at Flourish and Blotts; I’m sure I’ll forget about it if I don’t take care of it now. I won’t be more than fifteen or twenty minutes, I’m sure.”
“Books over a joke shop?” Ron tutted under his breath. “You feelin’ all right mate? I know you probably didn’t get much sleep last night—”
“Bye! Back in two shakes!” Harry blurted out, cheeks aflame as he sprinted away to lose himself in the crowd.
Once he was sure he’d lost them, the merry tinkle of the bell over Fred and George’s door audible even above the din of the shoppers milling about, Harry made his way down one of the side lanes shooting off Diagon Alley. He scanned the panoply of colourful shop signs until he finally found the one he was looking for, sat between a bakery on one side and scribist on the other: Finagle’s Festooned Fandangles.
He cast a hasty Glamour on himself before he dared set foot inside, all too conscious of the fact that the shop was only right around the corner from the Daily Prophet’s main offices. The last thing he needed was a blurry shot of himself plastered across the afternoon edition spoiling his plans.
He was in and out inside of fifteen minutes, being a simple man with simple tastes, and after slipping the little brown bag into his pocket, he rejoined Ron and Hermione at the twins’ shop.
“Sorry about that; have I missed anything?” he asked, finding them stood around a pen of what was evidently Fred and George’s latest pet fad: Micro-mooncalves. ‘Two for 10ʛ! Start your own herd!’
Ron pointed to one of the mooncalves, which had broken off from its fellows and had its long neck stretched up to accept treats from Hermione. “Tell her we don’t need one of these.”
“No one needs a pet,” Hermione said. “You get them for companionship.”
“You’ve already got Crookshanks!”
“Crookshanks isn’t a pet. He’s—well, he’s Crookshanks. And this little fellow wants to come home with me so bad, don’t you?” Hermione cooed at the animal, which unrolled its long tongue to swipe affectionately at her nose.
“And where exactly are we supposed to keep it?”
“They can be house-trained,” George said, sidling over to join the conversation. “And their dung makes for great fertiliser.”
“Ooh, the back garden’s gone to pot!” Hermione gasped. “This might be just what we need!”
“Remember,” Fred said, pointing to the sign. “You get a discount for a pair!”
Ron ignored them all, turning to Harry. “Did you get whatever book you were looking for?”
“Oh—yeah.” They continued to look at him expectantly, and he realised they were waiting for details. After all, it was hardly every day Harry went shopping for books that weren’t required reading for school. His mind whirled, and he latched on to the first title that came to mind: “Hogwarts, A History. I had it delivered home.”
Ron looked like he was seriously considering walking Harry over to St. Mungo’s, but Hermione beamed. “Oh that’s fantastic, Harry!”
He ducked his head. “Yeah, I figured it was about time I actually read it. Out of, y’know, respect for Professor Bagshot and all.”
Hermione clearly approved of the decision. “Better late than never, I say.”
Ron didn’t seem to agree, but he kept his mouth shut, perhaps fearing any further commentary would see him assigned by Hermione to read it as well.
Draco was difficult to miss when he joined them at the shop, his shock of white hair standing out amidst the crowd, and with their party finally convened, they followed Fred and George’s lead to a charming little pub owned in part by Lee Jordan, just a bit further down the street.
After lunch—and a few more drinks than they probably should have enjoyed, given it wasn’t even yet two in the afternoon—they did a bit of window-shopping, and Harry managed to purchase most of his school supplies.
“You just threw your school things away?” Draco gasped, horrified.
“Yeah, I can’t believe you’d do that, Harry,” Fred said, shaking his head. “We could’ve gotten loads of Galleons for some of that crap!”
George cleared his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen, the first item up for bid this evening is a fine specimen of sports memorabilia: a jock strap, once worn by the Saviour of the Wizarding World, Mr. H. J. Potter, during regulation Quidditch matches at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry—”
Definitely more drinks than they should have enjoyed, Harry decided.
Delighted as he was with the handling on his Firebolt Streak, Harry couldn’t resist the urge to ogle the Nimbus 2020 hovering in the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies.
“Now here’s a question,” Ron said, doing his own fair share of ogling. “What’s faster—your Firebolt, or Draco?”
“Me, obviously,” Draco sniffed. “Potter’s always had to resort to dirty tricks to beat me; when it comes to sheer speed, you don’t outfly a dragon.”
“One, they weren’t ‘dirty tricks’,” Harry said. “And two, you raced me when I was riding one of those rickety old rigs of Perkins’s. They’ve probably improved upon the speed since those models were manufactured back in—what, the 1700s?”
They continued their good-natured bickering all the way back to Grimmauld Place, where they were only interrupted by dinner.
“I’m going to start shadowing some Ministry officials in the next week or so,” Hermione said, spooning a helping of sweetcorn onto her plate. It had been Ron’s turn this evening, and he’d recently taken a shine to all things instant, as Draco had; every dish on the table had come from a tin or packet and been zapped with a Warming Charm.
“Which department?” Harry asked.
“Magical Law Enforcement first—specifically the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office.”
“Hey!” Ron smiled. “Dad’s old haunt!”
“Sure they didn’t just stick you there because you’re Muggleborn?” Draco asked, one brow lifted.
Hermione shook her head. “I asked for it; I was hoping for something a bit low-key to start off with. All the stories I remember Arthur telling suggested to me it was mostly harmless cases.”
Ron laughed. “You’d think! He must not’ve told you about the time someone Charmed a—a—what do you call the boxes that heat stuff up quick?”
“Microwave?” Hermione supplied.
“—Charmed one of those to have his dinner ready every evening right when he got home from work.”
“What happened to him?” Harry asked.
“Damned if I know. I think all they found of him after his house was blown sky-high in the resulting explosion was a couple of teeth.” Ron speared a mini sausage from his baked beans onto his fork. “Muggle electrigs don’t work too well around magic.”
“Electronics,” Hermione gently corrected. “And I’m sure they’d work just fine with the proper shielding.” She tapped her chin. “You know, that’s a thought. Mobile phones are starting to gain traction in Muggle society—my parents were talking about getting one so that they can better keep in contact with me.” She flushed. “I think they’re still sore about having their memories Modified… But the point is, Patronuses and Owls are useful for communicating over long distances, but that Charm’s complex magic, and Owl Post still takes a while. Mobile phones might be useful for witches and wizards who can’t cast a Patronus, or who lack access to the Floo Network, like those living in areas largely populated by Muggles.”
“Aw, come on, Hermione,” Ron pleaded. “Can’t you save your new campaign for next week?” Hermione gave him a sour look, and he quickly amended, “Just, your new Ministry mates would be devastated they didn’t get to hear your ideas first.”
“What’re you up to, then?” Harry asked, swooping in to save Ron from shoving his foot any further into his mouth than it already was.
Ron looked like he was considering kissing him. “Fred and I’ve already been batting around a few ideas for some new Wheezes. I’m afraid I can’t divulge the details, but you and Draco might want to be on the lookout for suspicious new sweets at school, if you catch my drift.”
“How did your parents take the news of your going back to Hogwarts, Draco?” Hermione asked, perhaps thinking Draco might be feeling left out of the conversation. From the way he winced at being pulled into their cheery banter, Harry doubted that was the case.
He sighed, wiping his mouth with his napkin. “Well, Mother took my temperature, certain I was running a fever and delusional. Father did not, I’m sorry to have to tell you, have a heart attack—” Ron snapped his fingers in a gesture of disappointment. “But he did give me a lengthy lecture about how I ought to be learning to manage whatever’s going to be left of the family finances after the Ministry get through taking every last Galleon they can as fines for wartime actions.”
The three of them shifted uncomfortably in their seats; it was tough at times, balancing their dislike for Lucius Malfoy and desire to see him pay for all that he’d done over the years with their newfound fondness for Draco.
“But, as I told them both, I’m of age now and can make my own bad decisions. I expect they’ll come around in time.”
“Well, just remind your father if he gives you any trouble that you’ve got connections at the Ministry now,” Hermione said with a firm nod. “That should bring Lucius to heel.”
After dinner, they bid their goodnights and returned to their rooms to get ready for bed. For Harry and Draco, there was no repeat of the previous night—nor anything similar, in part because their housemates were in residence and in part because Draco still seemed a bit sore, wincing when he took a seat or rose to his feet. It had sent a guilty little thrill through Harry every time it happened, and he’d worked very hard to keep it from showing on his features, but he wasn’t sure how successful he’d been. No, Draco would certainly let him know when he was ready for another round.
Though he wasn’t entirely sure he was going to be allowed a second time if he didn’t tread carefully with his plan.
He took first wash-up, scrubbing his face and—after a moment’s consideration—dabbing a drop of cologne under each ear before returning to the bedroom and sending Draco off for his evening toilette. When Draco returned, padding into their room in a fine set of silk pyjamas he’d received as a housewarming gift from his mother, it was to find a small, nondescript brown bag sitting on his side of the bed.
“…What’s that?” he asked, more wary than curious, as if he feared it might explode like the poor bloke’s microwave from Ron’s story.
“Something I picked up in Diagon Alley,” Harry said, nudging the bag closer to Draco and keeping well back himself. “I thought you might be able to use it.”
Draco lifted the bag and checked its branding, but Harry had ensured that the item was packed in a plain paper bag and simple velvet box, so as not to give anything away until it had been opened.
Draco popped the lid—revealing a pair of silver rings.
Harry swallowed. “Now—don’t freak out—”
“These are rings, Potter.” Oh crap; they were back to ‘Potter’ now.
“Yeah, yeah they are,” Harry said. “But don’t freak out—”
Draco’s nostrils flared, and his jaw tensed as he stared down at the rings, and if looks could kill, the bands would have been reduced to ash then and there. “Why are you giving me a ring?”
“Will you promise to wait until after I’ve explained to Hex my balls off for what probably seems like a really forward gift and maybe leapfrogging several relationship milestones?” Draco fixed him with a sharp look, but he didn’t say anything, so Harry was going to count that as a win. “They’re…um, okay how can I put this without…” He shrugged, deciding to just go all-in with it. “They’re—M word rings.”
“They’re what?!” Draco shrieked, and Harry slapped up a Muffliato; the last thing he needed was Hermione or Ron barging in wondering what was going on.
“M word. You know—” Harry made a face, gritting out quietly. “Mate.”
“…Oh fuck, Potter,” Draco huffed, shoulders slumping in unmistakable relief. He leaned against one of the bedposts, his forehead pressed against his arm as he seemed to struggle to collect himself. “You cannot give me a ring and then tell me it’s an M word ring!” he snarled. “Say the fucking word!”
Harry’s brows knit in confusion. “But—oh.” Realisation hit him with the raw force of a bolt of lightning, and his throat went dry. “Oh. Oh no. No—no, that’s.” He waved his hands, frantic. “Nooo no no, I’m sorry, no. No. Not that M word. The—the other M word. Our M word.”
Draco’s eyes snapped up to meet his, steely grey and unamused. “That’s enough back-pedalling, Potter.”
“R—right.” Harry ducked his head, wincing, and wondered if there was any way to recover from this. “It’s just—I noticed you were kind of…antsy, at dinner last night. And it got progressively worse as the evening wore on and we had more and more people around us. You’ve had me practically to yourself all this time, but…that’s going to change soon. We probably won’t even have our own room anymore.” Draco made a sour face. “So I was thinking that maybe it might be easier for you if you had some kind of—well…” He pointed to the ring box Draco was still clutching in his hand. “This. Especially when I’m not around to…you know…”
“Restrain me, I believe it was?”
“To reassure you,” Harry corrected. “You’ll wear one, and I’ll wear one, and no one has to know what they mean but us, if you don’t want.”
It wasn’t like they were wedding bands, after all; Harry had even gone out of his way to avoid gold.
He reached for the box, slowly so as not to spook, and took one of the rings for himself, holding out the other for Draco.
Draco frowned. “…I thought you were supposed to put this on me.”
Harry slid his own ring onto his right middle finger, where it sat cool and comfortably snug. “…Well, there’s a lot of meaning if I put it on you, I figure, and I don’t want to cheapen it.” He bobbed his head, ambivalent. “You know. If there ever came a time. Just, not saying that’s a given, but no one wants to rule things out and—”
“You really need to learn when to shut up, Harry,” Draco said, finally smiling again. He slid the ring onto several fingers, testing the fit, before deciding on the middle finger opposite Harry’s. Anyone with half a brain would be able to put two and two together, but…it was safe enough, he thought, while still doing the job.
Draco was still staring at his ring as they slid under the covers, mesmerised, and Harry could make him out as a soft blur when he removed his glasses, bringing his own ring close enough to see in the low lamplight. “Hermione and Ron are gonna ask about them, you know.”
Draco gave him a bemused look. “You didn’t tell them?”
“Why would I tell them?”
Draco shrugged, as if to say How can I be expected to understand the baffling goings-on inside your peabrain? “If they ask, I’ll just say they’re ‘M word rings’. That should be perfectly clear.”
Harry drew his pillow from under his head and hit Draco across the face with it, receiving a sharp squawk for his efforts. They tussled for a bit—which led to kissing, which led to hands wandering where they really shouldn’t, unless they wanted to wind up with new aches and pains come morning.
Harry collapsed back to the bed before he reached the point of no return, twining his fingers with Draco’s and enjoying the melodic little tinkle of their rings clacking together.
Apropos of nothing, he asked, “Did you really hate me? Before.”
Draco gave him a funny look, then softened into thought when he saw Harry was serious. Which, he was serious. The question came from nothing, but it didn’t mean nothing.
“…I think I didn’t know how to feel about you. I wanted you to notice me, I suppose. Focus on me. If I couldn’t have you doing that positively, I’d take negatively. It was still you, obsessed with me. And when you didn’t notice me, not the way I wanted you to at least, I told myself I never wanted you anyway, that you were obviously not worth my time if you saw fit to hang about with the sorts you did. Werewolves and convicted felons and—Muggleborns.” He grew very quiet. “I didn’t know how else I could feel, so I decided to feel hate. I’m not proud of it—”
“I didn’t think you were.” Harry smiled, nose wrinkling in amusement. “And I’ve noticed you now.”
“Oh, I’d say you’ve done quite a lot more than notice me.” He tapped a finger against Harry’s arm, suggestive. “And trust that I intend to notice the fuck out of you at the earliest opportunity, so I’d be on my guard if I were you.”
Harry surged forward, capturing Draco’s lips in a firm kiss. He held there, breath caught, and only drew away when he couldn’t bear it any longer. Their noses brushed, and he could feel Draco panting against his mouth. “…I like you, Draco.”
“I’m flattered, but taken.” He waved his fingers, flashing his ring. “Such a pity; I like you, too.”
“Well, I’m kind of a big deal; everyone likes me.”
“I wouldn’t say that. My father’s not so fond of you.”
“That’s half the fun of it. Besides, your mother likes me.”
“My mother finds you amusing and a bit pitiful, as one might find a turtle stuck on its back and unable to right itself. She doesn’t like you the way I do—at least I hope not.”
“Mm, and how do you like me?”
Draco waved his wand at the door, locking it with a flick of his wrist. His fingers played at the hem of Harry’s pyjama bottoms as he sidled in close, clearly damning any unspoken rules about funny business while housemates were in residence. “How about I show you?”
~ fin ~