It was one week later, to the day, when Harry was woken at what felt like the crack of dawn but turned out to actually be nearly nine in the morning by Draco Malfoy leaning on the doorbell of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, sending the announcing chimes clanging about in cacophonous discordance.
He’d thought the raucous noise might have been his hangover at first; he’d never had one, after all, but he’d found the Black Family wine cellar in his explorations the night before and, after sampling handsomely of the vintages on offer, could not tell if the banging was coming from inside or outside his head. Not for the first time, he regretted encouraging Kreacher to stay at Hogwarts for a bit and ensure the house-elves there were recovering from the battle.
When the ringing of the doorbell chimes was joined by violent pounding on the thick oak of the front door, though, Harry began to suspect he had a visitor and that he should probably make himself decent and trundle down to see who it was before they knocked the door off its hinges. He was just groping for his glasses on the bedside table when Draco’s voice boomed through the house, magically magnified: “GET THE FUCK DOWN HERE, POTTER, OR I’LL BLAST MY WAY INSIDE.”
Harry was on his feet and halfway down the stairs, still tugging on a robe, before his ears had stopped ringing. He was starting to regret having formally claimed Sirius’s bedroom as his own, all the way up on the fourth floor, instead of just kipping in the guest bedroom he’d shared with Ron during Order meetings closer to ground level.
He’d spent the better part of the past week tidying up Sirius’s room, which was still a wreck between Mundungus and Snape’s snooping (some good those Charms of Moody’s had done!). There wasn’t much else to do, after all, aside from attend more funerals—not when taking two steps into Diagon Alley meant risking being mobbed by a horde of grateful wizarding folk. He hadn’t quite made it beyond cataloguing Sirius’s photo albums and the contents of his wardrobe (including several very well-worn, comfortable leather jackets, which Harry had definitely not tried on, and a shoebox full of letters from Remus that Harry had read three sentences of before tossing back, red as a tomato), but he had time, now. There was no rush.
Well, no rush to straighten Sirius’s bedroom; there was absolutely a rush to make it down to the entry hall before Draco finished deciding whether to take the door down with magic or good, old-fashioned dragonflame. Harry wasn’t certain Grimmauld Place was insured, after all, and surely the neighbours would notice such a display.
He paused, one hand on the knob, to steal a glimpse of himself in the entryway mirror—he’d looked worse, but he’d also looked much better, and there was no fooling anyone into thinking he hadn’t just rolled out of bed. “Oh—goodness,” the mirror offered, with a scandalised gasp. “Are beehive updos back in fashion, then?”
“Shove off,” Harry said, patting down his unruly hair. It wasn’t as if Draco didn’t know his hair was an ongoing natural disaster.
He took a breath, straightened his dressing robe, and opened the door.
“I honestly didn’t think it was possible, Potter,” Draco growled, knocking shoulders with Harry as he rudely shoved him aside and strode through. He tossed his travel cloak haphazardly at the hooks by the door, and it floated over to arrange itself neatly alongside Harry’s raincoat and Invisibility Cloak.
Harry rubbed his shoulder, wincing as he shut the door behind Draco with a muttered Please, come in… Draco was already clomping loudly on the stairs up to the first floor—and Harry marvelled for a moment how Draco seemed to know his way around Grimmauld Place before recalling that it likely wasn’t his first time visiting the house, as he was a Black.
Harry followed at a healthy distance, sensing this wasn’t a social call. “Didn’t think…what was possible?” he asked, hanging back in the doorway to the sitting room while Draco made quick work of one of the ancient armchairs near the fireplace, Transfiguring it into something high-backed and sturdy that didn’t look like it hadn’t been reupholstered since the sixteenth century.
He didn’t seem satisfied with the patterning, flicking his wand in frustration as he cycled through a dozen different fabrics and colour-coordinated ticking. “To be even more pissed off at you than I was before,” he spat, voice cold enough it didn’t matter the house’s Temperature Regulation Charms had been on the fritz since at least the previous summer.
Harry closed his eyes and let his head settle against the jamb. He was beginning to feel like one of those poor chaps in the television dramas whose girlfriends or wives always seemed to be angry at them over one thing or another, and they’d have to spend the better part of the half-hour episode trying to figure out just what they’d done to nark their partner off. Granted, Harry still hadn’t properly apologised—or rather, hadn’t properly explained himself—but that was by design. He’d thought they needed a bit of time apart, considering they’d been practically living on top of each other for the past eight months—a cooling-off period. He still meant to get around to it. Eventually.
Draco seemed to have settled on the upholstery fabric—a neutral eggshell cream tone with gold fleur-de-lis patterns and bronze ticking at the seams. It was quite tasteful, if more than a bit out of place in the dusty, dark sitting room of the Black family home. He had now moved on to adjusting the carved legs to his liking.
“Er, what are you doing with that chair…?”
“You’re the Saviour of the wizarding world, Potter,” Draco said, Transfiguring the thick, straight legs into something slender and swooping that suited the casual elegance of the upholstery. “I can’t bash your brains in with any old piece of furniture, now can I?”
Harry winced. “You’re…you’re still angry, then?” As if it weren’t bleedingly obvious.
Draco fixed him with a withering look. “Did you not just hear me call you ‘Potter’?” He let his wand drop, evidently finished with the chair, and glanced around the sitting room. “So this is where you’ve been hiding out for the past week? Salazar’s arse crack, I’ve seen mausoleums with more charm.”
He wasn’t wrong about the atmosphere, though Harry still felt a pang of offence on behalf of Sirius. Not that Sirius probably wouldn’t heartily agree. “I haven’t been hiding,” he protested weakly. “I just—I wanted some time alone. To—recover. I’ve kind of been through an ordeal…”
Draco’s glare went positively arctic. “Oh yes, my apologies. You died; I can’t imagine how that felt.”
Harry grimaced. “Right, well, I thought…maybe you’d want some time to yourself too. I mean, you’ve kind of been forced into close quarters with three people you weren’t particularly fond of for the better part of the past year, and you’d finally gotten your parents back.”
He realised, though, with a guilty jolt that he’d just assumed that Draco had been relaxing and recovering at home with his parents for the past week. But Lucius Malfoy had technically broken out of Azkaban, where he’d been serving a lengthy, well-deserved sentence, and was therefore quite likely a very wanted man. And as for Malfoy Manor itself…well, nothing short of Imperius would ever make Harry set foot there again, after what he’d seen the Death Eaters doing there in his visions—and even then, he’d probably do his damnedest to shake it off. He could hardly blame Draco if he felt the same.
Had he even been home at all? Or had he spent his days since Voldemort’s fall in and out of the Ministry, pleading leniency for his father while he and his mother made the best of one of the Leaky’s humble rooms? Unless they were on the run abroad, they’d probably either been confronted by the Ministry or would be expecting an Owl very soon.
But—no, Draco wouldn’t have left their side unless he’d been assured of their security and well-being. Unless he was here to ask Harry to lean on Kingsley or the Auror Division—fuck, what if that was the case? Harry didn’t know he could say yes; Lucius Malfoy deserved to rot in Azkaban for the rest of his life for what he’d done in the name of Voldemort, especially as he’d shown no remorse nor had done anything during the battle that might sway Harry’s opinion. Narcissa, Harry was happy to defend; she had never been particularly kind to him and seemed motivated by nothing more than a desire to keep her son safe and sound, but she bore no Dark Mark, and Harry owed her a life debt for the lie she’d spun in the Forest. Without her actions, he wouldn’t be standing here today, trying to keep Draco from braining him with this lovely piece of furniture he’d Transfigured.
Harry rubbed at his neck, praying Draco wasn’t here to call in that favour he was owed. “It’s only, I knew you’d missed them terribly. I thought for sure you’d want to spend as much time with them as possible—at least for a while? Plus…” He crossed his arms over his chest. The bruise from the Killing Curse had indeed faded, as Madame Pomfrey had assured, and was now a sick, yellow blotch that would probably be gone entirely by June, leaving behind only the veiny tendrils coiling outward from the new lightning-bolt scar. “You made it pretty clear you didn’t want to see or talk to me, or even to hear what I had to say. I figured you’d let me know when you were ready…if that ever happened.”
Somewhere, in his mumbling, Harry had evidently said something very wrong, for Draco’s face took on that purple tinge that Uncle Vernon’s had always had when he was angry, except with Draco’s complexion it was more of a lilac.
But then he took a long, slow breath, holding his hands out as if to steady himself. He pocketed his wand, perhaps so he wouldn’t be tempted to use it on Harry, and closed his eyes—and when he opened them again, he was looking at Harry with a terrifying calm. Harry found himself wishing instead for the familiar glowing embers, because he knew what those heralded. This? This was foreign territory, and Harry prepared himself to make a quick exit, or else to throw up a Shield Charm.
“…I’ve spent the past eight months with you, Potter. I thought I’d figured you out, I really did—” Draco rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “But clearly I haven’t gotten it through my own thick skull that you’re a bloody idiot who has to have things spelled out for him like a toddler.” He moved to take a step forward—and then seemed to reconsider, shaking his head as if in self-reprimand, his hands clenched into fists at his sides. After another deep, bracing breath, he said, “I want to be with you.” He was distractingly earnest as he said it, that crisp, commanding calm in his voice faltering just enough Harry got a peek beneath the mask Draco kept firmly in place so as not to show any weakness. “For—whatever you take that to mean. Not because we’re—” He made a face, clearly irritated with himself. “—M words. Not because the dragon wants it. Because I want it.”
Harry swallowed thickly, Draco’s words ringing in his ears so loudly he thought someone might be at the door again. The situation was helped by nothing when Draco finally allowed himself to step forward, closing the distance between himself and Harry in carefully measured steps.
“I want your bird’s nest hair, and your glasses that do absolutely nothing for your face, and your passable Quidditch skills, and your Gryffindor stupidity—and your Gryffindor bravery—and your distressing tendency to sacrifice yourself because clearly just dropping dead is a lot easier than actually working toward a viable solution.”
He was close enough to touch now, but Harry couldn’t move a muscle. He didn’t dare. This was the closest Draco had allowed them to be, outside of physical violence, since that long, lonely trek through the Forest to meet his death. Harry felt the soft little hairs on his arm perk up, reaching out for Draco. Everything in him wanted to be closer, right now, than it was entirely possible to physically be.
Draco searched his face, looking endearingly lost. “You’re going to be the literal death of me, and yet I still want you.” His fingers came up, feathering along Harry’s jaw, almost a caress but too light, too fleeting. “It’s not a need, you understand? It’s a want. I’m choosing you.”
Harry gave him a beat, just in case he had anything else to say, but he seemed to have exhausted himself. Which was quite understandable, given Draco was usually so circumspect; most times he showed such a forthright side to himself, it was because he was really pissed off at Harry.
He recalled Ron clapping him on the shoulder in the Great Hall and encouraging Harry to stop doing what he had to do and start doing what he ought to do. Sometimes, those felt like the same thing—but with the latter, he still had a choice. A choice, and some guidance—that was what he’d always wanted, Harry realised. A Point Me spell, and the option to ignore it, to make his own path.
And everything in him was pointing at Draco right now—so he kissed him.
For the first time, it felt like he was really kissing Draco, no more pretending, no more excuses, no more hiding behind have to, just pure, joyful want. When Draco slid his hands around the back of Harry’s head, drawing him in and slotting their hips together, it was because he wanted to, not because there was any need or drive or animal instincts directing him.
It also meant, though, that there would be no more lying, to themselves or one another—no more avoiding this, whatever it was, which was pretty terrifying. But just for this moment, Harry decided to let himself live without consequence, practising that Gryffindor motto of Flinging oneself into uncontrolled situations unthinkingly.
“You should…” he started, fumbling to speak over swollen lips with breath that sounded pornographically haggard. He swallowed, nose brushing Draco’s and glasses starting to fog with their heated panting. “You should…come visit. Whenever you like. Kreacher’s still at Hogwarts, so it gets dead boring when it’s just me here. Ron and Hermione are coming to spend the rest of the summer hols here at the end of the month, so you could drop in whenever you wanted. It’ll be just like camping, except we won’t be on the run from a madman and you’ll be able to sleep in your own bed, in your own home, and not have to put up with Ron’s cooking unless you really feel like courting death again.”
He could see Draco’s eyes narrow, just a tick—and then Draco was pulling back, away, and studying him warily. Bollocks, he’d probably come on too strong—but he was too far in it now to back out, so he pressed his luck.
“And McGonagall says she’s intending on having the school open again to receive students by the 1st of September, so we’re thinking of heading over after my birthday and pitching in with the rebuilding efforts. And I’ve heard some buzz they might hold a special session or something for those of us who missed our final year, so maybe we could even go back and finish proper? Like—as Eighth Years, I suppose?” Now that he was making these suggestions out loud, instead of just entertaining them in passing fantasies in his mind, it admittedly sounded a bit silly. Or at the very least he was heaping a huge amount of pressure on someone who was likely still very cross with him. “I mean—if you’d like. It’s just a suggestion. Some things we were kicking around.”
Draco’s lips curled into a sharp frown that rode the knife edge of a sneer. “…You’ve been making plans with them?” His eyes were narrowed to slits now, until Harry could only catch in them the cruel glint of light filtering through the diaphanous curtains long the wall. “Without me?”
Oh. Shit. “No—I mean, that’s not how it’s been. Ron just brought over some food from his Mum left over from Tonks and Remus’s wake—she thinks I’ll keel over if I’m forced to fend for myself too long—and Hermione wanted me to sort through anything I still had left in the tent before she packed it away. We were just talking is all—it wasn’t plans.” Draco had spent the better part of several difficult months feeling like an outsider, unwanted, and this wasn’t helping things at all. “We weren’t—trying to exclude you, or—or doing things behind your back—”
“Then why,” Draco said with dangerous calm, “did I have to find out where this place was from Granger?”
“I don’t know,” Harry said, feeling the heat rise in his voice as his temper made itself known. He was getting well tired of having to be on the defensive with Draco every time he turned around. Things were meant to be easier once the Horcruxes had been taken care of and the Voldemort business was finished—yet all they’d done was fight and misunderstand one another, making each other miserable in the process. “Why didn’t you just send an Owl? Like a normal wizard?”
Draco reached out to cuff him upside the head. “Because this place is protected by a fucking Fidelius, you lackwit! Granger had to Side-along me onto the doorstep.” He threw his hands into the air and began to pace, which Harry thought was rather dramatic, even for Draco. “Dead silence for the past week from your quarter while I deal with Mother hovering over me like a Flitterby and Father waiting for the Ministry to drop the other boot, and I find out you’ve been having tea and scones with your lackeys on a regular basis!”
Harry’s temper flared, genuine anger firing his blood. “Don’t talk about them like that,” he warned. He was pretty sure Draco was only saying these things because he was still narked off at Harry and unaccountably feeling ignored, but this was taking it too far. “I was giving you space. You’d just been through a fucking terrifying experience, I think we can both agree—and that’s not to mention all the shit you’d been through in the months leading up to it! You had to Obliviate your own parents for god’s sake!” He raised an accusatory brow. “What, you wanted to ‘pop in for tea and scones’ too? Pissed off I didn’t extend you a handwritten invitation for cucumber sandwiches out in the garden?”
“No, you fucking—” Draco clenched his hands into white-knuckled fists, practically vibrating with irritation, and made a grating sound in the back of his throat. “I don’t want an invitation, I don’t want to pop in—I want—I want—”
Then in a flash, he was in Harry’s personal space again, chest to chest and nose to nose and breathing hard. Harry’s head was spinning from how hot and cold Draco was running. His hands came up to rest on Draco’s hips, quite without his conscious consideration.
“I want—to stay. I want to…” Draco rested his forehead against Harry’s, brows furrowed and grey eyes hidden beneath hooded lids. His lashes brushed against Harry’s, tickling. “I want to be—more.”
More. More he said—and Harry heard the unspoken meaning with stark clarity: more to you than them. He frowned, pulling his head back until Draco’s face blurred into focus. “…Are you jealous?” Draco’s lip curled into a dangerous snarl, but Harry pressed him, unwilling to give him something to latch on to. “That’s ridiculous, you know? I’ve thought so ever since the locket showed you that horrid vision. It’s—I mean, of course it’s not like that with Ron and Hermione. It’s never been like that. You’ve seen them, you know they’re mad for each other—like, literally, I’m pretty sure they’re both touched in the head, given some of the ways they twist themselves in knots over one another.” He shook his head in disbelief. “What would possess you—”
“Oh, I don’t know! Perhaps the fact you’re swooning on about how you’re all going to be shacking up together over the summer like one big happy family?” There were high points of pink in Draco’s cheeks—but that was a world better than the angry shade of lilac he’d been.
“They’re my best friends! I’ve slept in a dormitory right next to Ron for the better part of the past seven years and spent every holiday I can think of with him—and I’d probably have done the same with Hermione if we’d had mixed dorms. Because we’re friends. We love each other, we want to spend time together, we—”
“So what does that make me?” Draco spat, tone accusatory, but his expression poorly concealed his hurt. Somehow this irritated Harry all the more, as Draco had been waxing dramatic about how thick Harry had been when it came to feelings, while here he was behaving like this over Harry making holiday plans with friends.
“I—I don’t know!” Harry answered honestly. “But god, would you stop going off on me for every imagined slight? I didn’t leave you to your parents because I didn’t want you around anymore. God, we just spent the last eight months going through hell together! Ron and I barely even spoke to Hermione before that troll incident Halloween of First Year, and look where we are now. You think going through an experience like that with another person doesn’t mean something to me? To all of us?” He rounded on Draco, shaking a finger in his face. “Don’t call them my lackeys. They’re my friends—and I thought they were yours too.”
The pink in Draco’s cheek darkened, and he tightened his jaw, stubborn. “You didn’t say anything to me—”
Harry wanted to pull out his hair by the roots. “How many different ways do you want me to say I thought you’d want to spend time with your parents?”
“For a week? You thought I needed to be left alone for a week?” Draco shoved him away, laughing mirthlessly. “Merlin, you probably would’ve left off for longer if I hadn’t come!”
“Well you clearly didn’t spend the last half a year with yourself,” Harry groused. “Because you’ve been a fucking terror to be around when it came to them.” He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his robe, muttering stiffly, “I didn’t want to intrude. I didn’t…” God, he sounded pathetic. “I didn’t want to scare you off.”
“Please,” Draco sneered. “Don’t coddle me, Potter. I may not be a Gryffindor—thank all that is pure and magical for that—but I’m not a Hufflepuff.”
Harry fixed him with a hard look, making sure to be firm so as not to be misunderstood. “I can’t help it if you’re jealous of them—”
“I’m not,” Draco grit out, lips pressed into a thin, unhappy line that said he was full of shit.
“Well good,” Harry said, humouring him all the same. “So it should go without saying that you needn’t be. I mean—not for…you know. That. Sort of thing.” He scratched his neck; perhaps he wasn’t in a position to be teasing Draco about his M word hangups.
Draco eyed him suspiciously. “…What should I be jealous of when it comes to them, then?”
Harry sighed. “I’ve known them a long time, all right? Longer than I’ve known you—or, I guess, longer than I’ve really gotten to know you. If it seems like I’m closer with them, then—it’s because I am, honestly. Because I know them, know how they’ll react in a given situation. I know what they want from me when they’re happy or sad or angry. I don’t…I don’t really know any of that about you. Though—” He shook his head. “I’m beginning to get an idea of what you’re like when you’re angry…” Draco rolled his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest, and Harry stepped in slowly, touching his elbows. “If I’m being stupid, or missing something obvious, then just…tell me. Tell—don’t yell.”
“Sometimes yelling seems like all that gets through your skull,” Draco said, a sour frown on his thin lips.
“…I fucked up. I know I did. I did what I thought was the right thing, and even though I know it had to be done…” He smiled wryly. “Somehow I forgot that we were all in. After that, I didn’t want to fuck up anymore, so I just decided to do nothing. Except clearly that was the wrong thing too, so now I’m thinking why don’t you just tell me what you want, yeah? You like telling me what to do well enough already.”
Draco wrinkled his nose, like he knew he was being teased and wasn’t quite in a conciliatory mood just yet. “…Thought I already told you what I wanted.”
Harry felt his shoulders drop. “…We still haven’t actually…talked, you know? About…about anything?” Anything, or everything. All the things that lay between I want you and…beyond. They were both of them terrible with discussing things like this directly—calling it the ‘M word’ was but the tip of their iceberg—but Harry sensed it was a conversation that needed to be had if they wanted to start off on the right foot going forward.
Draco scuffed the toe of what Harry noted were very nice loafers. Probably leather, the spoilt prick. At least he didn’t have to wear Ron’s Transfigured hand-me-downs anymore. Harry rubbed lazy circles in the knobs of his elbows, and Draco trembled, releasing a soft breath. “Do you really want to? Here and now?” he asked.
“Not really…” Harry confessed. It wasn’t going to be an easy talk, after all, else they might have had it months ago, or at least once things started escalating. For all his vaunted Gryffindor courage, Harry could be quite the coward when it came to his heart, and Draco—well Draco tended to look out for number one, and that did not involve tender bouts of soul-baring. They were running out of excuses, though, and if this was…going to be something, something worth getting so worked up over, something worth them driving each other mad over, then they needed to walk in with eyes wide open and face the unhappy realities of who they were. “But we need to, I think.”
Draco made a face. “I hardly know where to begin. It’s us.”
He deserved Harry’s honorary Order of Understatement, First Class, for that. Their relationship was a veritable mine field of topics that even looking at wrong could get them both blown to smithereens. They would have to brave it, though, if they were to have any hope of holding a conversation where one or both of them didn’t wind up storming out in the end. “Well, then…do you want me to start?” Harry offered, and knowing Draco would not respond, as it would mean admitting that Harry was the braver of the two just right now, he extended his hand, palm open in invitation.
Draco stared down at it, frowning—then slowly, tentatively, he took it, lips still pursed in wary confusion.
Harry gave it a firm shake. “Hi, I’m Harry Potter.”
Draco immediately jerked his hand back, rolling his eyes dramatically. “You can’t be serious, Potter—you’re proposing one of those ridiculous ‘let’s start fresh and forget all the terrible things we’ve done to each other’ sorts of gimmicks?”
“No,” Harry said, bringing his hand back. Probably for the best Draco had released it; he knew his palms were sweaty with nerves. “No, I remember everything. I remember you nearly getting Hagrid sacked. I remember you almost killing my best friend. I remember you casting an Unforgivable at me—and meaning it. I remember every Curse you threw, every nasty slur you spat, every single time I’ve wanted to clock you sideways for good reason.” Draco’s ears were burning red, and he looked a little cowed and very, very angry. “I can’t forget that—I won’t. I’ve sat here and yearned for the truth for so long, I’m certainly not about to start ignoring it now just because it isn’t pretty. That never helps—it’s just lying to yourself, and…well, you know I’m not so fond of lies.”
The bitter anger in Draco’s expression shifted to one of discomfiture, and more than a little guilt. It made Harry feel funny, deep in his gut—he liked it, he liked how it looked on Draco, but not for reasons of karmic pleasure or a need to feel superior. It was a curdling warmth, almost like pride. Because it meant, on some level at least, Draco regretted these things, and that was a start.
Harry swallowed that warmth down and let it spread to his limbs. “But I also remember you saving my life—on, well, a few occasions. I remember you pulling the chair out from under Ron when you’d first gotten your wand back—which was hilarious, by the way, but I’ll deny it to my dying day if ever asked. I remember you humouring me with my silly resolution request—and I plan on holding up my end of the bargain—”
“Bold of you to assume there’s any such bargain still on the books, Potter.”
He spat the name with the requisite bite, but there was a playful spark of mischief in his eyes that said he was mostly only using Harry’s surname now to be contrary.
Harry smiled at the thought—then sobered, searching Draco’s face in the same earnest way Draco had touched him so often, as if he were trying to memorise Harry.
“I’m realising…I like you quite a lot when you’re not being a prick—and maybe even a little bit when you are, too.” He cocked his head, just to the side, still searching. “…I assumed—hoped—the feeling was mutual.” Draco only hunched his shoulders and shunted his gaze away from Harry’s, refusing to meet his eye. “There was a time when you wanted me to take your hand, to be your friend. To recognise you—to want you, over everyone else.” Harry licked his lips; his heartbeat was hammering in his ears. “So I suppose I’m just wondering if you still want that.”
Draco flicked his eyes back to Harry’s, brows knitting and lips pursed into an irritated frown. “Because I’ve been so subtle this whole time?” he said, waspish.
Harry released a little snort. “Hardly. But there’s a difference between saying you want me and…saying you want me.” Harry tried not to bite his tongue; he needed to get this out, and out now. “And…and I’m just trying to make sure which one it is. Because if it’s the first one, that’s fine, and if it’s the second one…that’s definitely fine too, but I just need to know. I need to hear you tell me.” How much of his roundabout, meandering speech was making any sense, Harry didn’t know, because Draco was looking at him now with this utterly lost expression, overwhelmed and stricken, and god he didn’t want to have said the wrong thing again. He was trying, and just once, he needed the words that came out of his mouth to be the right ones. “I don’t want to—you know. Be a Gryffindor about this.”
There was a distressingly long beat of silence, the only sound the furious pounding of Harry’s heart in his ears—
And then Draco blurted out, in a rush of breath, “I love you.”
“Uh,” Harry said, thinking that he ought to be very smart about this. “That’s—” Draco looked absolutely horrified with himself, eyes goggling to the point they looked like they might just pop right out, and he seemed suddenly rather unsteady on his feet. “That’s a—bit heavier than an introduction…”
Draco’s face drained of colour, and he took a stumble; Harry quickly Summoned the chair Draco had painstakingly Transfigured just as he slumped into it, collapsing with his head in his hands as he repeated in vicious self-reprimand, “Fuck fuck fuck.” He was breathing heavily, and Harry worried he might be about to have a panic attack—or worse, another transformation triggered by a heightened emotional state. There was no Sanctuary here, nowhere for Draco to safely shift; there was the garden, but it was hardly suitable for a dragon to go romping about in. “Why did I say that?” Draco asked no one, then turned to Harry, almost accusing: “Why did I say that?”
“Uh…I don’t…” Harry felt quite as lost as Draco, to be quite honest, and those three little words rang in his ears like the clanging chimes of Grimmauld Place’s doorbell. It was a high, tinny sound that made the world take on a distressing blur. His mouth had gone dry as a desert. “…Did you mean it?” he asked, because he had not courted death in a week, and he needed the rush.
Draco looked dumbfounded, one brow twitching while the other seemed determined to twist itself into Escherian shapes. “…I must have?” His tone was forlorn, and he spoke as if it were a question—like he was begging Harry to say oh no, that’s ridiculous, no way you’d do that.
And Harry broke; he couldn’t just sit here and watch Draco have a fit in the dusty, mouldering sitting room perched atop as fine a piece of furniture as Harry had ever seen. If he had to have his brains bashed in, Harry supposed there were worse chairs to do the job with. “Then…my guess would be that’s probably why you said it…”
Draco groaned, burying his face in his hands, shoulders slumped and back hunched in an elegant curve. “Fucking fuck fuck—I am so…” He inhaled sharply, voice thick. “Merlin, I’m so fucking pathetic. Look what you’ve done to me.” He looked like he might self-immolate at any moment, and Harry thought that, for his own safety, he should keep well away.
So naturally, he took a step forward. He had a reputation as a cavalier daredevil to uphold now, after all. “Yeah, you kind of are pathetic, and I have to admit I do get a kick out of hearing you beat yourself up…” he said, slipping down to his knees, because Draco refused to look up at him, evidently content to curse and moan into his hands from now ‘til kingdom-come. Harry could feel his heart trying to climb into his throat, beating with the fevered rapidity of a Snitch’s wings. “But I’m pretty sure I love you too, so we’re even.”
Draco’s head snapped up so quickly, he nearly broke Harry’s nose again—and Harry tried to jerk away, on instinct, but then Draco was on him, pushing him down onto his back and kissing him hard, like he was trying to crawl inside him. Harry could feel the smile stretching Draco’s lips, and the kiss kept getting broken because he was laughing like an idiot—at himself, at their position, at the sheer idea of them being a them. His hard, harsh searing kiss devolved into joyful little pecks that barely made contact, a quick press and then moving on, marking Harry all over—oh, so this was what ‘marking’ was—with the occasional swipe of tongue over Harry’s lips when he just couldn’t help himself, pressing in for—
Draco jerked back, gasping sharply and face washed white. His hair was in disarray, and his mouth gaped with some sudden, fraught realisation.
“Wh—what?” Harry asked, breathing heavily as he struggled up onto his elbows. Draco ignored him, only scrambled to his feet and began pacing the room, frantic. “What? Draco? Draco—what?” And fuck, he’d done something wrong again, hadn’t he? Of course he had; it was like some fucking curse. You couldn’t survive the Killing Curse twice without having to make reparations in some form, and this had to be it.
Apologies were ready on his lips—though he wasn’t entirely sure what he was meant to be apologising for this time—but then Draco waved him off, distracted and harried. “Your—water closet. Loo. Where’s the nearest—?”
“Er, it’s—” Harry jerked a thumb through the door. “Just to the left…” Draco shouldered him aside, less rough and rude and more careless this time as he darted for the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind him.
Harry half-expected to see a faint, Draco-shaped outline of dust hanging in the air over him, so quickly had he left—and the realisation Draco had simply been heeding the urgent call of his bladder put a decided stop to any amorous thoughts that might have overtaken his brain. He stared down at his crotch, where his slumbering cock had just begun to pop its head up for a peekabout only to be soundly dismissed. “…Sorry, mate. I gave it my best shot.”
He tried to collect himself before Draco returned. Maybe they could have breakfast. Draco had never really liked much of Harry’s cooking, to his frustration, but there was a café not too far from Grimmauld Square. It was Muggle, but coffee was coffee, no matter the society, so perhaps Draco could be convinced to—
His thoughts were interrupted by a sharp whoop of joy, muffled through the walls, as the bathroom door flew open. Harry scrambled into the hall, wand at the ready—and was nearly bowled over by a huge silver swan that came flapping out, hissing angrily and arrowing straight for him. It nipped ferociously at his shoelaces as he stumbled backwards, falling squarely onto his arse. “What the fu—”
“I told you it wasn’t going to be a fucking peacock!” Draco crowed in triumph, wand held aloft and eyes bright and obscenely merry. “And not a ferret either, make sure you tell Weasley that!”
This was his Patronus, Harry realised with a jolt—and tried not to dwell overlong on what had transpired right before Draco had managed it, as Harry’s head was nearly too large to fit through doorways these days as it was. He grinned, wide and proud—but then his brows knit in bemusement. “But, a swan though?”
“What’s wrong with swans?” Draco sniffed. “They’re beautiful.” He beamed down at his Patronus, which had its wings held open, flapping them in threat and making menacing clicking noises with its beak.
“Beautiful, sure—” Harry said, keeping one eye trained on the Patronus at all times; its immateriality did nothing to diminish its imposing aura, rather like its caster. “And mean as shit.” He made a shooing motion, and the swan snapped out its long neck in a bold attempt to bite off his fingers. “Honestly, I fail to see how this is all that different from a peacock!”
“Don’t be ridiculous; swans are nothing like peacocks.”
“Well, all I know is it wasn’t a peacock that chased me up a tree when my aunt and uncle made me hold the bag of feed while my cousin fed the ducks at the park…” The swan continued to peck at his shoelaces, and Harry vowed to wear boots henceforth; he was getting sick and tired of fowl-shaped familiars making a meal of his footwear.
“Lives to make Potter’s existence a living hell?” Draco mused. “Just my style.” He swished his wand again, and the swan disappeared in a silvery puff. Draco wrinkled his nose. “…Probably would’ve come in handier if I’d managed it a couple of weeks ago.”
Harry gave a non-committal hm. “Well good things come to those who wait.”
“Now that’s about the least Gryffindor thing I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth.” Draco slipped his wand into his pocket, striding forward with purpose, until he was standing straddled over Harry. “And I’m rather done waiting.”
It was hardly subtle, not that Harry had ever expected as such with Draco, and he felt his heart start its furious pounding again. God, did Draco mean to…? Right now? He could see his café plans crumbling before his very eyes.
“…Ron and Hermione aren’t coming until the end of the month, you know. We don’t have to rush.” He tried to sound like he wasn’t groping for an excuse and knew he had failed spectacularly given the sour frown that tugged at Draco’s lips.
“…You don’t want to,” Draco said flatly, and Harry couldn’t help his derisive snort.
“I told you before: it’s never been about whether or not I want to.” He forced himself to sober, holding Draco’s eyes so he couldn’t misunderstand. “None of this has, you know? Not…not for me. That was kind of the point.” He’d always wanted to, on some level. Maybe not for reasons that would make Draco happy, but that did nothing to change the facts. Draco had been driven by instinct; Harry had been driven by desire. “But there’s no more Dark Lord. No classes, no teachers, no dormmates. No ‘lackeys’.” Draco bit his lip, perhaps thinking Harry wouldn’t see him trying to disguise a smile; he thought wrong. “I just feel like we should…”
Draco crossed his arms over his chest. “So help me, if you say take it slow—”
“Savour it,” Harry said instead, climbing to his feet with a wince. “We…we haven’t really had a lot of practice. At—well, any of this.”
“There’s such a thing as natural talent,” Draco sniffed.
Harry’s brows disappeared into his fringe at what looked to be a rare compliment. “And I have that?”
“Well obviously not. But I do.” He stepped into Harry’s space, wheedling, “I could tutor you; I was a Prefect, if you’ll recall, and you’ve missed a whole year of schooling…” Harry gave him a look, and he relented with a dramatic huff. “Fine. If you’re going to insist we be so bloody Hufflepuff about this.”
“Merlin, no,” Draco scoffed. “If we did it the Gryffindor way we’d have skipped the tugging and gone right to the fucking.” He frowned at the chair he’d Transfigured, and with a flick of his wand, returned it to its former state, giving an exaggerated shiver of disgust.
“Do I even want to know what the Slytherin way entails…?”
Draco threw him a smirk over one shoulder. “No, I expect not. But you’re going to find out regardless.”
Harry cleared his throat around a cough and tried not to be obvious as he adjusted himself through his pyjama bottoms. “Well. Right. That’s…sorted.” There was an awkward beat of silence, as they tried to work out where this left them. Wary of how else Draco might suggest they pass the time, Harry took the initiative: “I don’t—suppose you’re hungry? Or thirsty? There’s a café around the corner… It’s Muggle, but it’s quiet, and there’s private booths, too. We could set up a Muffliato and…you know.”
“Salazar’s balls, Potter, in public?” Draco made an exaggerated effort to look scandalised, but it crumbled at the edges, leaving no doubt he wasn’t entirely put-off by the idea. Harry hoped it was just the last remaining vestiges of his Muggle-terrorising tendencies and not some deeper indication of voyeuristic inclinations.
“Talk!” Harry sputtered, red-faced. “We could talk! You know well what I meant!”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Talking. Haven’t we done enough of that?”
No, actually; they’d hardly done any—not the talking that mattered, at least. Harry supposed he shouldn’t press his luck just now, though; words had been exchanged, after all. Important ones at that. They could work on the less important ones as they went. “You could tell me about your week?”
Draco leaned against the arm of the settee, ticking off points on his fingers. “Well, I returned in a pique to my ancestral home that had been ransacked by a bunch of Death Eaters and the Dark Lord himself with parents whose memories were in a shambles given my Obliviation wore off when I—oh yes—died. And then I moped about for a few days, waiting in vain for word that clearly wasn’t going to come, and turned the Library upside down searching for a spell to turn a chair leg into a mace that might or might not be used to brain a mortal enemy you occasionally got off with. I was not successful—but I did master quite a few home renovation Charms in the doing. The end.”
Harry sighed. “Come on, surely there’s more to it than that. And…” He stepped closer, into the welcoming divot between Draco’s legs. “And I’ve got some things to tell you too, so…”
They had managed thus far to expertly sidestep the entire matter of Harry’s sacrifice—but the longer they put it off, the worse it would be, festering until there was no healing the wound.
Draco kept his gaze shifted just off to the side, jaw tense as he picked at a thread that had worked itself loose from the ticking on one of the cushions. “Yes, I suppose there is that…” He forced himself to look around the room, blinking several times in quick succession to disguise the bright sheen to his eyes. “Perhaps if we’re out in public, I won’t make a scene.”
“I’ve learned an audience only encourages you…” Harry said, tracing the delicate bones of Draco’s wrists. He had his sleeves rolled up, and the Dark Mark glared up at Harry in bold defiance, less intimidating now for the bright white scar slashed through its centre. “Rest assured I’ve got no ulterior motives; I just want something sweet and caffeinated and overpriced is all.” He held out one hand in invitation. “All in?”
Draco stared at it—but only for a moment, before he pursed his lips, gave a defeated smile, and took it, nodding. “All in.”