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Away Childish Things

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June 2012
Harry Potter: 31 years
Draco Malfoy: 24 years

When Draco was twenty-four, he and Harry found the illegal supplier responsible for the warehouse and the potions ring.

They were both examining memories from the Ward Record in Tailored Tinctures when Draco’s hand gripped Harry’s shoulder, yanking him out of his Pensieve.

Draco had been subdued that morning. This had made Harry wary, such that when Draco pulled him out of the Pensieve, Harry was sort of prepared for another argument about how they weren’t going to dry hump in Draco’s shop. Meanwhile, Draco was saying, “Look, Potter, look!” and tugging on his arm. Since Draco seemed to want him to, Harry stood, then Draco pushed him over toward Draco’s Pensieve and shoved Harry’s face down in it. Harry plunged into the filmy grey of memory, which eventually resolved itself into the same warehouse lab he had been watching hour after hour, day after day.

In the memories, Vance had already gone in and out of the lab a few times. Harry had told Draco to separate those memories, but Vance was not what Harry and Draco were looking for. Neither Savage nor Ron were either, because Harry already knew Savage was involved, and Ron was being controlled. What Harry needed was the supplier, because that had to be someone outside the department. If Harry could find the supplier, he should be able to more easily trace everyone who was involved and where all the contraband ingredients were. He should also be able to find whatever mechanism was controlling Ron, Hermione, and Shacklebolt, and get to the bottom of the whole thing.

When Draco shoved Harry’s face in the Pensieve, Harry was half afraid that whatever he saw would not be helpful. Maybe another Auror had got mind-controlled into being involved. Maybe Robards knew about the warehouse. Harry did recognize the figure who entered the lab in the memory, but it wasn’t an Auror. It was Abel Alby.

Harry took his head out.

“He could be the supplier,” Draco said. On Draco’s timeline, Alby had only just sacked Draco. “It makes sense; he was always disappearing at weird times, but I never knew why. I didn’t try to find out; I didn’t care—where are you going?”

Harry had stood, pouring the memories back into the jar. “I’ve got to question him.”

“Excellent.” Draco put his arm out. “Side-along?”

Harry glanced at it, then up at Draco’s face. “You’re a civilian.”

“And I’m helping you,” Draco said. “Let’s go.”

Harry looked at his arm again.

Draco put it down. “I’m going. That spineless little worm, I want to see him taken down. I want to see him—” He bared his teeth, a brutal expression that Harry remembered from the teenage version, but never from Draco in his twenties. “You can’t stop me.”

“You know that I could,” Harry said. He couldn’t take Draco with him—not because of protocol. Draco could be hurt.

“You won’t,” Draco said. “You know what he did to me.”

Harry wavered.

“I won’t do anything,” Draco said, detecting his advantage. “I’ll be a bystander. Bystanders are allowed. I just want to see. I promise.”

Harry still wasn’t sure.

“You always want to help me,” Draco said. “This time I’m asking.”

Harry put out his arm. Smiling, Draco took it, and they Disapparated to Slug and Jiggers.

*

“Harry Potter!” Alby said, bustling forward.

Harry stepped in front of Draco on instinct, Alby’s oily voice recalling enough instances of Draco getting called names that Harry instantly felt the urge to protect him. “I’ve got a few questions for you,” Harry said.

“As you know, that little Death Eater no longer—” Alby cut himself off, apparently having caught sight of Draco.

Harry expected Draco to still be smirking or to make some kind of snide comment, but he was just standing there, looking oddly blank.

“Little Lord Malfoy,” Alby said, sounding significantly less pleased.

“He’s a bystander. Come on, we’re going in there.” Pointing his wand at Alby, Harry hauled him by the collar toward the work room behind the register, then pushed Alby in with a flick of his wand. When Harry turned back, Draco was still just standing there. “Draco?”

Licking his lips, Draco followed.

“The warehouse on Colville Road,” Harry said, pointing his wand at Alby. “Why were you there?”

“I don’t know what you—”

Harry flicked his wand again, freezing Alby’s vocal cords. “Listen to me carefully. Do you know who that is?” Nodding over toward Draco, Harry went on, “You know what he can do with potions. He engineered an indicator solution for Wood-Eye Lye, so I’ll know if you’ve taken it. If you have, he, you, and I can wait together until it wears off and I can administer Veritaserum. Or you could just answer my questions right now, and we can get this over with.” Harry released Alby’s vocal cords.

“Auror Potter,” Alby said, wheezing for breath and sounding a little squeaky. “Am I under arrest?”

“Not at all. This is a friendly chat. Now tell me what I need to know, or I’ll start using my hands instead of my wand.”

“I was just getting—ingredients for my potions!” Alby looked excited about this explanation. “For my little shop! How do you think I get ingredients for my little shop? They’re in that warehouse!”

“And who else knows about it?”

Alby glanced at Draco, who was hovering somewhere behind Harry.

Harry flicked his wand again, an invisible collar slowly drawing Alby up on his toes, rising and tightening around his neck. “Who else?”

Alby gurgled. “I—Mrs. Mulpepper!”

Harry glanced back at Draco, who was just standing there in back, his eyes gone very large. When Harry met Draco’s eyes, however, Draco gave a slight shake of his head. Harry knew Draco well enough now to read it. Draco had been working for Mrs. Mulpepper for a few weeks, now, and didn’t think she could be involved. Alby might have even said something like that just to take revenge on competition.

“Try again,” Harry said, tightening the collar.

“I—Auror Vance!”

“Good.” Harry released him. “Who else?”

Alby glared at him, rubbing his throat and glancing back at Draco.

“He won’t help you,” Harry said. “You tormented him for two years. He’s had seven to think about getting back at you. You know how smart he is, how creative. You know what he could do to you.”

Alby gulped. “I—could let you in,” he said desperately. “Auror Vance is involved in it. All kinds of Aurors are involved! I could get you a cut. When they see my shipments come in—if they know it’s for me—they look the other way, and they get a cut! It’s just the reagents; it’s not the brews—they still come for the brewers; it’s the brewers who are the real—”

“Don’t make me collar you again.” Harry didn’t even bother with his wand, raising his hand instead. His wandless magic was far less powerful, but for some reason, little men like Alby were often more afraid of what Harry could do without it, when he used it like a threat. They knew Harry had killed Voldemort, and most of them didn’t know how. Harry used it to his advantage. “Who are the other Aurors?”

“Proudfoot. Savage.”

“Who else?”

“No one.”

Harry’s hand squeezed.

“Head Auror Robards!” Alby squealed.

“Good.” Harry kept his hand squeezed, then used his other hand to hold his wand to Alby’s sweating temple. “Tell me what you’re doing to Auror Weasley.”

“I’m not doing any—”

Harry’s hand tightened into a fist, and Alby made a choking sound. “Tell me.”

“I have no—”

Alby was going to deny it again, so Harry increased the hold of his magic on Alby’s neck.

“Potter.”

Someone’s hand was on Harry’s arm. Harry jerked his head to look, and Draco was standing there, his face as white as a sheet, his eyes enormous. “Potter,” Draco said. “He can’t breathe.”

Harry looked at Draco uncomprehendingly.

Draco’s eyes darted to Alby, so Harry looked as well. Alby’s face, which had been red, had lost its colour, slowly going grey.

“Harry,” Draco whispered. “Stop.”

Harry dropped his hold. Alby slumped, taking big gasping, heaving breaths, and Harry’s hand blindly reached for Draco’s. Harry found Draco’s cold, bony hand and squeezed tightly, then took his wand from Alby’s temple as well. “Auror Weasley,” Harry said again, facing Alby but still clutching Draco’s hand. “Tell me what you did to him.”

“It’s,” Alby gasped, “Imperius,” he gasped again, “potion.”

“Where do you keep it? Is it in the warehouse?”

Alby shook his head, so Harry raised his wand.

Draco’s squeezed Harry’s hand.

“Where is it?” Harry demanded.

Alby’s eyes moved to a cabinet in the right corner of the room.

“Draco,” Harry said, still holding his wand on Alby.

“Yes.” Giving Harry’s hand a final squeeze, Draco moved toward the cabinet.

“Is there an antidote?” Harry asked Alby.

Alby still had his hands on his throat, eyes darting about the room in panic.

“He’s not here to stop me now,” Harry told Alby, still pointing his wand. “Is there an antidote?”

From behind him, Draco’s voice said, “It’s got Sphynx spinal fluid.”

Harry moved so that he could see both Draco and Alby at the same time, still pointing his wand at Alby. Draco was leaning down to sniff an open phial in his hand, the cabinet open just behind his head. “Can you do it?” Harry asked.

“With that magnificent lab I’ve got?” Draco capped the phial. “Don’t be absurd, Potter. Of course, I can do it.”

“I’m going to Obliviate him,” Harry said. “After we get the antidote, I can get Kingsley back on our side.”

Kingsley,” Draco said, shocked.

“I haven’t done anything wrong!” Alby wrung his hands. “That’s not my Imperius potion; I’ve—I’ve—I’ve been Imperiused! It was him!” Suddenly straightening up, Alby thrust out his hand, pointing at Draco. “He must have put it in my cabinet when he was working here! He’s been controlling me the whole time! He’s nothing but a snivelling conniving—”

Harry waved his wand again, and Alby began vomiting slugs. Turning back to Draco, Harry made sure he was ready with the sample. “Do you have what you need?”

Draco had gone pale again, looking from the slugs sliming their way out of Alby’s mouth, back up to Harry.

“He’ll be all right.” Harry waved his wand. “Finite incantatem. They’re just slugs.”

“But don’t you . . .” Draco bit his lip. “Don’t you want to question me?”

“Question you?”

Draco’s eyes darted toward Alby, and Harry’s heart froze for a moment in his chest. When it unfroze it beat too rapidly, filling Harry up with the need to touch Draco all over again.

“No,” Harry said. “Draco, no. You worked here seven years ago.” Draco’s mouth opened to protest, possibly because in Draco’s memory, he’d only just stopped working here recently. “Even if it were then, you wouldn’t have done it. You’d never do something like that.”

“How do you know?” Alby demanded, slime still drooling out of his mouth. “You can’t know with Death Eaters! You just can’t—”

Pointing his wand, Harry casting a simple silence spell. It didn’t stop Draco from staring at Alby, Draco’s eyes so big, his brows up, lips slightly parted, as if he still couldn’t quite believe what was going on. Slowly, he turned to Harry, and Harry could tell that Draco had the same question. How do you know?

“It’s a stupid plan, for one thing,” Harry said. The fact that Draco didn’t understand how Harry could trust him felt like a sharp pain in Harry’s chest. “You’d have no reason to, for another. And most importantly, you wouldn’t. I know you wouldn’t.”

“Yes,” Draco finally said, still looking like his whole world was tilting on its axis.

“I’m going to Obliviate him now,” Harry said.

“Wait.”

Draco was coming over to them, still holding the phial of Imperius potion. His lip curled, and Harry wondered whether Draco was going to want to do something to Alby. Draco had said he wouldn’t, but maybe he was going to do something small, like spit on him or a Bat Bogey Hex, and Harry wasn’t certain he should let him. Harry understood why Draco would want to, but it wasn’t justice; petty revenge wasn’t something Harry often let get the better of him, which was why he was glad Draco had stopped him from choking Alby harder. Even if Harry had just been doing what was necessary to get information out of him.

But Draco’s lip wasn’t curling at Alby, Harry saw after a moment. Draco was making a face at the slugs on the floor, stepping carefully around them until he was beside Harry. “Can you un-silence him,” Draco said, more like a demand than a question.

Harry waved his wand.

Draco stood in front of Alby, his shoulders square. “I didn’t deserve the way you treated me,” he said.

Alby made a face that was uglier than Draco’s. “You’re Death Eater scum. Murderer and a bigot and a—”

“I’m a terrible person,” Draco agreed. “But I have a sentence, and I’m going to serve it out,” he went on, not remembering that on this timeline, his sentence had already been served. “And my parents are serving it out, because we were terrible and wrong, and we deserve it. But we don’t deserve you.”

Alby’s face was mottled with different colour—red from exertion but still green from the slugs. It made his skin seem almost purple, contorted with rage, and in that moment, he reminded Harry of Vernon. Alby began to demand, “What makes you think you deserve any—”

“Harry Potter,” Draco said. “He thinks I’m smart.”

“That’s not all I think you are,” Harry pointed out.

Draco put his nose in the air. “And attractive.”

Harry wanted to laugh, because Draco was not actually attractive in that moment—looking so pale and thin and worn, with hollows under his eyes and that snooty look on his face. “Yeah,” Harry agreed, smiling. “Is now okay?”

“Do it,” Draco said loftily.

Alby began to protest. “You can’t—”

Harry slipped his arm through Draco’s, pointing his wand with his free hand at Alby. “Obliviate,” he said, and they Disapparated.

*

At Tailored Tinctures, Draco slid his arm out of Harry’s, walking over toward one of his lab benches with the Imperius potion. “I think I can devise an antidote in an hour or two,” he said, putting the phial into one of his stands. “I already have a few ideas; I think I can just—”

Harry strode across the lab toward Draco. Catching his hand, he yanked Draco to him. “This is for you right now,” Harry said, taking off his glasses with his other hand. “Not you when you’re thirty-two. Do you understand?” Not waiting for an answer, Harry kissed him, mouth closing over Draco’s, already hot and heavy. Draco was stiff and stunned against him, and Harry didn’t care, licking Draco’s lips with his tongue until Draco opened his mouth with a bewildered little sound. Harry’s tongue pushed in, sweeping the inside of Draco’s cheek, one long hot stroke along Draco’s tongue until Draco was shaking in his arms, and then Harry pulled away. “Do you understand,” Harry said, pressing his forehead again against Draco’s, panting two inches from his mouth.

“No,” Draco said, sounding small. “No, I don’t understand. Maybe you better do it again, just so I—”

“Yeah,” Harry said, and he kissed him again. Draco was ready for it this time, opening his mouth, but Harry was shoving against him anyway, tipping Draco’s head back so Harry could kiss him more deeply. Draco was letting him, bending almost backward, just like a girl in one of Petunia’s stupid movies. Fuck. Harry wanted to slam him down on the lab bench.

He eased up, finally drawing away, putting his glasses back on.

Dazedly, Draco blinked his eyes. His lips were wet and red from kissing, just like a movie as well. Even with his sallow skin, pulled tight over his sharp features, even with the hollows under his eyes and that dull hair, he was beautiful. “Have you reconsidered the dry humping?” Draco said, sounding dazed as well.

“Fuck. Maybe.”

Draco clung to the front of Harry’s robe. “Does, um—” Draco licked his lips—“confronting criminals really get you that turned on?”

“No.”

“Then was it . . .” Draco licked his lips again. “Was it because I stopped you from torturing someone?”

“Yes. Partly.”

Draco’s gaze swept down. He was still holding onto the front of Harry’s robes. His voice was quiet when he said, “I feel like you have higher standards than that.”

Harry sucked in a breath. The truth was, he couldn’t be certain that he would have liked twenty-four-year-old Draco in this way, had he got to know him. But Harry did know that he liked him now, so that was what Harry said. “I like you.” He took Draco’s hands, prying them off his cloak. “I like you so much.”

“I know,” Draco said, sounding troubled.

Harry leaned in again. He wanted him so badly, and he was right there.

“I.” Draco took a step back. “Potter,” he said, then stopped. “I—I have a boyfriend.”

For a moment, Harry’s mind went wild, because he thought Draco meant he had a boyfriend now, in the present timeline, until he remembered that Draco must mean he had one in his own timeline, when he’d been twenty-four. Harry knew very little about that time in Draco’s life, but for seeing Draco every other month to make Draco ID his potions. “But your mum,” Harry heard himself saying, thinking more rationally now. “I thought—you weren’t going to—because of your mum.”

Looking miserable, Draco shrugged. “I thought I could give it up. I meant what I said—it’s not as important to me as my mum is. I thought that I could stop, for her, but I couldn’t. I just—want it, sometimes. So badly.”

Not just sometimes, Harry was thinking. Draco wasn’t saying he fucked men occasionally. He was saying he had a boyfriend, which meant he likely did it on the regular. He did it enough that he didn’t want to kiss Harry, even though Draco had to know he and his boyfriend were on a different timeline than the present, which meant it wasn’t cheating—unless. Unless Draco and his boyfriend were still together, in the present, now. Harry didn’t actually have any way of knowing; Draco never told him anything; Draco could be married by now and Harry wouldn’t have a fucking clue, except that hopefully he would have seen some evidence of it over the past three weeks. But it was the fucking Black family, so who the fuck knew.

Draco was going on, “I always thought that—that I could stop. But I never could. And now . . . she’s in hospital, and I just . . . she’s not even going to know, if I’m careful, if people don’t find out. I thought—if I was discreet enough—” Harry winced—“I could make her be happy, and I could have what I need as well.”

“Good,” Harry found himself saying, then saw Draco’s face. “Not keeping it a secret from her,” Harry backtracked. “But going after what you want—it’s good. I always thought—that’s always how you came across to me.”

“My Patronus turned into a fox.”

“Nothing wrong with a fox.”

“You don’t understand.” Draco looked like he wanted to put a pillow over his face. “Foxes are loner animals. Not pack animals. Not like a wolf. Not like a dragon.”

“But dragons are sort of—”nuts, Harry had wanted to say, but didn’t, because of Draco’s mum. It was true, though. Dragons had been bred basically to the point of insanity, sort of like—border collies. If you didn’t give them something to hoard and protect and fight for they got violent. Charlie liked them, but he’d always been a bit nuts as well. “I just mean,” Harry said, “foxes are neat.” And really pretty, he wanted to add, but didn’t.

“It feels so selfish.” Draco looked miserable, and Harry wanted to hold him again. He wanted to kiss him again, and Draco had just told him he had a boyfriend.

“Being who you are isn’t selfish.”

Even though Draco looked wretched, he still rolled his eyes. “I’m a selfish person, Potter, or haven’t you been paying attention these thirteen years?”

“I’ve been paying attention.” Harry swallowed. “How is . . . your boyfriend? Are things . . . good?”

Draco angled his face away. When he spoke, his voice was very quiet. “His name is Rohit. He’s a Muggle.”

Harry stared at him.

“I don’t know!” Draco said, even though Harry hadn’t said anything. Draco pressed his hands against his eyelids. “I have to shop in Muggle places—because of the restriction, and he—he always took my order for coffee, and he always smiled at me, and he was—he was nice, and funny, and he’s—fuck, he’s so good-looking—”

“You’re dating a Muggle barista?” Harry must have been pretty messed up, because somehow, the idea of Draco dating a Muggle barista was kind of turning him on. Maybe Ginny would know what the fuck was wrong with him; she was always saying stuff like, it’s because you’re bi, or that’s how homoeroticism works, but he really hoped she wasn’t going to say something like, maybe you should consider polyamory, because that wasn’t it. He didn’t like the thought of the Muggle barista Rohit and Draco being together.

Just. The thought of Draco being open enough to be with someone like that made Harry want him more.

“I don’t know how it happened.” Draco flapped his hands. “I don’t know why he likes me!”

“Draco,” Harry said. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not okay!” Draco flapped some more. “What would Mother say? And you want to kiss me!” Abruptly, he deflated. “Oh, what’s the point. Mother’s dead anyway; you said she was. Rohit’s probably dead too, considering my luck. And you’re—well. Well, you’re not dead, and you like me. So—whatever. We can shag, if you like.”

“Er.” Harry glanced down at the lab bench. “Maybe we should get to work on this potion.”

“All right.” Draco plopped down defeatedly on the stool next to the bench. “If you want to be practical about it.”

“I do.”

“Then don’t kiss me,” Draco grouched. “It’s very distracting.”

“All right,” Harry agreed. “I won’t.”

He didn’t.

Draco made the antidote, and their whole world opened up.

*

June 2012
Harry Potter: 31 years
Draco Malfoy: 25 years

Once the antidote to the Imperius potion was administered to Kingsley Shacklebolt, Harry could finally bring evidence against Vance, Savage, and Robards to someone who would listen. Shacklebolt oversaw distributing the antidote to top officials, while Harry gave Ron and Hermione the antidote himself. Hermione became responsible for weeding out those in the Department of Mysteries who were under the Imperius potion versus those who had illicitly been involved with Alby’s supply ring. Harry and Ron took on the Auror Office, since there was no way to know who had been acting under the potion and who had been acting of their own accord.

They brought Alby in for questioning, which clarified a lot of things. Robards had been involved, but only in turning a blind eye. He’d assigned all the cases of illegal brews that had come across his desk but never encouraged pursuit of where the brewers were getting their ingredients. Whenever anything got close to Alby, Robards simply turned it over to the Department of Mysteries, where Hermione found one Unspeakable responsible for covering up anything that could trace back to Alby. Robards and the Unspeakable were put on suspension pending further investigation.

Vance himself had become involved with Alby in 2008, which was also when Robards had put him in charge of reviewing everyone’s reports. Using the red tape provided by Robards, Vance had been able to manipulate witnesses and files such that connections between cases would remain unseen. He had also been the one to supply his fellow conspirators with the paint disguised as indicator solution, as well as distribute the paint-disguised-as-indicator-solution to unsuspecting Aurors.

Ron had figured it out before Harry. Knowing Harry was working on the Lorica Ludville case, Ron had started looking into it when he’d found the false indicator solution in his desk. Vance had happened to see Ron find it and had been able to slip Ron the Imperius potion before Ron had figured out who was responsible. Vance had had to control Ron from then on.

Vance was also responsible for Imperiusing Savage. Though Savage had ignored some of the hints that various illegal brews cases were connected, when evidence was shoved directly under her nose, she’d gone to Robards. Robards had passed the evidence onto Mysteries, but Savage hadn’t dropped the case, and that was when Vance had begun to use the Imperius potion on her as well. When Harry had been out for a week following the transfer of Lorica Ludville out of Azkaban, Vance had grown worried that Harry had figured something out. He had sent Savage to the Auror Office to search Harry’s files to find out when he knew, which was when Draco Polyjuiced as Harry and Harry Polyjuiced as Draco had encountered her.

When Savage reported having seen Harry in the Auror Office, Vance had broken into Grimmauld Place in hopes of stealing evidence that would lead Harry to the warehouse, not knowing Harry had already been. Savage had left out the fact that Draco had been with Harry, because Vance had only commanded her to tell him about Harry.

All of the Imperius potion involved—as well as all the questioning, which involved Veritaserum—required a lot of the antidote as well as indicator solution for Wood-Eye Lye. Draco spent most of the interval in which he was twenty-five making potions for the Ministry.

“Well,” Draco said, looking a little mystified about it all. “I said I wanted to be important.”

“Are you all right?” Harry asked. He’d come to check on Draco once his Patronus had told him Draco had aged again, then he’d told Draco about the potions he needed.

“I’ve helped crack the case of the century, Abel Alby will get what’s coming to him, I’ve broken up with my boyfriend, I’ve got a million potions to brew and only this shop to do it in, and your Patronus keeps following me about mournfully like I’m a carcass she’d really like to gnaw on but doesn’t get to. How do you think I’m doing?”

“You’ve broken up with your boyfriend?” Harry’s interest perked. “Rohit?”

“Armen. If you must know.”

“Armen?” Harry said blankly. His heart felt like it was squeezing. “You . . . had another boyfriend?”

“I’m allowed to have more than one. As long as it’s consecutive and not concurrent.”

“You had a consecutive boyfriend? Was he . . .” Harry didn’t know why it mattered; it shouldn’t matter. “Was he a Muggle?”

Draco’s face angled away. “Muggleborn.”

Harry’s heart was still squeezing—except now, for some reason, it was also lifting in his chest. Oh God. There was no reason he should feel happy; Draco had a boyfriend, and Harry wanted that boyfriend to be him, for Christ’s sake. And yet Harry felt happy anyway, and he knew that it was pride. He also knew that pride, if he expressed it, would be humiliating for Draco just now, so Harry held it in, but he still felt it. He felt it all through him, as though he was a pitcher filled with something soft and silver and perfect, all the way down to his toes.

“Stop looking at me like that,” Draco said, sounding peevish.

“Like what?”

“Like you’re incredulous I could keep from insulting a Muggleborn long enough to date one.”

Harry searched for words. “You’re bad at interpreting my expressions.”

“I know what you think.”

“Do you?” Harry said. “Or are you thinking of the other Harry? The one who’s twenty-five?”

Draco grimaced.

“You know how I feel about you. Do you really think I go around thinking those kinds of things about you?”

“I don’t know!” Draco exploded. “I don’t know why you would even—you’ve just asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, as though—as though I had thousands of choices arrayed before me and I saw the one where I was a Death Eater and my parents were in Azkaban and that was the choice I consciously selected! And then you insulted my working in a shop!”

Harry vaguely remembered that, mostly because Draco had answered the question of what he wanted to be when he grew up years later. “I wasn’t trying to insult you,” Harry said, spreading his hands. “I was trying to get to know you.”

“But why would you? You still hated me!”

“Because I was interested,” Harry said. “Not like I am now, but—I was still interested.”

“But why?” Draco said, looking appalled. “Granger was tortured at my house! I let Death Eaters into Hogwarts! I tried to give you to—V-voldemort. I did horrible things—I . . .”

When Draco didn’t sound as though he planned on finishing, Harry said, “That was years ago.”

“For you!”

“Draco,” Harry said slowly. “That was years ago for you as well. You’re twenty-five. That was eight years ago for you.”

Draco still had that wrecked look on his face. “It’s not enough,” he said, his voice catching. “It’s not ever going to be enough.”

Harry had been sitting on one of the stools in Tailored Tinctures’ lab. Now he stood, moving over to Draco. “Come here,” he said, but when he tried to pull Draco into his arms, Draco pulled away.

“I’ve got to do these potions,” he said, sniffing a bit.

“Draco,” Harry said, reaching out.

“Just—not right now,” Draco said, shrugging away. “Not today.”

Harry watched him for a moment, Draco laying out the jars of sand and dragonflies and troll mucous. “I’m sorry about your break up,” Harry said suddenly. “With Armen. I’m sorry you were hurt.”

“I wasn’t hurt.”

“Then it was okay?”

Draco slammed down the pestle into the mortar, whirling around. “I don’t know this you, yet; I haven’t met you! You are not privy to every detail of my life just because you’re in love with me!”

In this man, Harry could see the child Draco had been—the pink cheeks, heaving chest, and abrupt defensiveness that came out of nowhere like a slap in the face. “All right,” Harry said.

“Harry,” Draco said, his voice breaking.

“Draco,” Harry said. “I understand. I’ll come back next time, when you age again.”

“No.” Draco took a deep, noisy breath. “The cure is obviously working; you don’t need to keep checking on me. You can take your Patronus.”

“Oh,” Harry said.

“I’m not trying to—” Draco bit his lip, casting his eyes toward the ceiling. “I’m not rejecting you, Potter; I just need time. I need to be the person you remember, because—because wanting you on two different timelines, it’s too much for me. It’s confusing; I can’t—I just need time.”

You want me on two different timelines? Harry wanted to ask, but he had already known that. At twenty-one Draco had said Harry was his ghost, the one Dumbledore had mentioned. And at seventeen Draco had told Harry that Dumbledore’s ghost was desire. “All right,” Harry said. Taking out his wand, he waved his Patronus away. “Tell me if you need me.” Harry turned to go.

“Potter,” Draco said, and Harry paused. “Thank you,” Draco said.

Harry left him alone to make his potions.

*

June 2012
Harry Potter: 31 years
Draco Malfoy: 26 years

Alby’s testimony helped bring down Clint Matinsky, a Florida man who had been on MACUSA’s watch-list for a decade. Before then, MACUSA had never been able to prove anything. Matinsky had been shipping Alby the illegal ingredients, corresponding with Alby via two enchanted typewriters that printed messages long distance. This meant the Auror Office was able to confiscate years of records detailing who was involved in the illegal supply chain.

Two months ago, the nature of the correspondence had changed, Matinsky claiming he had found something that would revolutionize the industry of potions. When MACUSA questioned him, Matinsky claimed to have discovered the Fountain of Youth, but upon further investigation, the U.S. Auror found that the fountain had been discovered by a young witch Matinsky had murdered for the information.

The Fountain had been discovered before, but it was a protected under the U.S.’s Secret of Secrets Act, much like the U.K.’s It Was Lost for a Reason Statute. Places like Atlantis, El Dorado, and Avalon were said to be protected under such laws, as well as naturally occurring magical things such as the tree of gold apples, the Fountain of Youth, and love springs. People could know about them but should never be able to find them. This would draw into question their existence, which would further protect the magic places.

Aurors impounded the warehouse on Colville, collecting all the potions and ingredients. While the Life Water was immediately handed over to the Department of Mysteries, many of the confiscated items remaining needed to be identified before they could be properly handled. Had Robards still been in charge, even he would have ceded to the argument that a potions consultant would be required to deal with everything. Thus, Draco’s position within the Ministry became official, and he was offered a stipend for the work as well as a title.

Famously, Draco accepted the title but refused the stipend, a fact so startling it made the first page of the Daily Prophet. “Former Death Eater performs pro-bono work for desperate Ministry,” ran the headline, with the subtitle, “and looks younger than ever while doing it!” The article quoted Draco as saying, “I’ve been doing this work for Potter for free for ages.” When the reporter pressed for an explanation, Draco had gone on, “Because it’s the right thing to do.” The reporter was very complimentary, which Harry found particularly satisfying since the by-line was Lee Jordan.

*

June 2012
Harry Potter: 31 years
Draco Malfoy: 27 years

The next day the cover of the Prophet featured Draco as well, this time with the exclusive story of how he’d become younger through a potions accident involving the recently uncovered (shocking!) illegal potions supply ring (more on page eleven). Draco told the reporter (not Jordan this time, but Susan Bones, which Harry found just as pleasing) how he had been helping Harry when the accident happened, and how he had managed to develop a cure. He didn’t say anything about Harry turning young, which Harry appreciated, although Harry wasn’t actually sure whether Draco was doing it for Harry. Since Draco had neglected to mention Harry’s de-ageing, Draco could make it sound like he’d devised the whole cure at the age of eleven, which made everyone think he was a genius.

Harry was sort of all right with that, though. After all, Draco was a genius, and he was also a cheater at Quidditch. Some things didn’t change.

*

That night, Harry Apparated to a normal street with pavement and straggly bushes on one side and a carpark on the other. On the side with the bushes was a large council estate, all concrete and windows. He went up two storeys on a set of concrete stairs attached to the estate, then down a covered hall until he came to a door with the number 127 on it, where he stopped and knocked.

The door opened, and Harry found he couldn’t say anything.

“Harry?” Immediately looking alarmed, Dudley looked over his shoulder into the flat, then back at Harry. “Is everything all right?”

“Yes,” Harry said, but found he couldn’t say anything else.

“Do you . . . you want to come inside?” Dudley opened the door wider.

“I’m fine where I am, thanks.”

Dudley stood there in the doorway, hand still on the doorknob. “Look here. A fellow came by, a few weeks ago, one of your sort—that’s not to say—I only mean—he was—” Harry didn’t help him, and Dudley gulped—“magical, and there was an owl, only he said it hadn’t anything to do with you, only—are you okay?”

“I spoke to Aunt Petunia,” Harry heard himself say.

Dudley’s mouth fell open. “I’m . . .” He swallowed hard. “Sorry.”

“She misses you,” said Harry.

“She can go right on,” said Dudley.

“You don’t have to forgive her,” Harry said. “For whatever she—you don’t. And you don’t ever have to see her again or talk to her. I just think—she loves you. She still loves you, and I thought you should know. In case you didn't.”

“I got married,” Dudley blurted. “To Julia.”

“Yes,” said Harry. “Congratulations.”

“You came here just to say that about Mum?"

Harry hesitated. "Yes. No." He didn't know what he had come to say. "I came to say—I forgive you. Not because you deserve it. I don't know; maybe you do, but that's not why. I forgive you, because life's too short, and I don't want to be a person who holds grudges, and I don't want to be defined by . . . I don't want to be defined by anyone but me. So I forgive you; that's what I came to say."

Dudley stared at him. Then he blurted, "Have supper with us. I mean, sometime. Julia would—I mean. I would really like it. If you had supper with us. Sometime."

"Yeah." Putting his hands in his pockets, Harry turned away. "Sometime."

"Harry," Dudley called out, and Harry turned around. "Thank you. For—for all of it. For my life, and for Julia, and for—for my mum and dad. You didn’t have to do it.”

“Yes, I did.” Harry walked away.

*

June 2012
Harry Potter: 31 years
Draco Malfoy: 28 years

Two days later, the sixth page of the Prophet had a blurb about Draco Malfoy publishing in Biomagic Daily and getting a large grant from the Avalon Institute to continue his research on properties of age.

Harry had been a bit harassed by reporters when the article had come out about the potions accident, but Harry was used to that. About Draco, Harry was more worried, since Draco was not prepared for being famous after the quiet life he had lived—but then again, it was Draco. He’d said he’d always wanted to be important, and a part of Draco had probably meant it, despite all the other parts at war with himself. Harry hoped that all of this meant that Draco could become closer to the person he wanted to be, a person he really was, instead of what his parents had hoped for him. There was no way Draco would ever completely lose that initial conditioning, but he could still change.

Harry had to believe that, considering what his own life had been.

*

Three weeks after Draco had turned eleven-years-old was the first time Harry, Hermione, and Ron got to spend a whole evening together, instead of the brief snatches of time they had been stealing to see each other.

“I’m just sorry you had to go through so much of it alone,” Hermione said to Harry, after they got done talking about some of the statements the Auror Office was still taking.

“I’m just sorry I didn’t figure it out before Vance got to me,” Ron said. “That Imperius potion was some powerful stuff.”

“No one has to be sorry,” Harry said.

“Guess it’s a good thing Malfoy figured it out,” Ron said. “I reckon he’s always wanted to be famous. He deserves it, I guess. He’s really done some good work.”

That bright feeling came back to Harry’s chest, and now Harry knew that he was feeling pride—not just for Draco, though. Ron as well.

“It must have been really hard for him,” Hermione said. “Being an eleven-year-old with you.”

“Um, Hermione,” said Ron. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Harry’s excellent with kids. He lets Hugo climb all over him, and he actually listens to Rose, instead of saying, ‘uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.’”

“I listen to Rose!”

“Uh-huh,” said Ron.

Hermione smacked him, then turned back to Harry. “I didn’t mean it would be hard for him to be with you specifically,” she said. “I meant, he must have been so scared. Did he ask for his parents?”

“Yes.”

“Oh shit,” Ron said, apparently just realizing that this may have been an issue. “Did you tell him?”

“After he remembered third year,” Harry said.

“And I’ll bet he wanted to go back to the Manor as well,” Hermione said.

“Man, Hermione.” Ron flopped back into the sofa. “You’re making this sad.”

“It is sad,” said Hermione.

“Malfoy Manor getting torn down is not sad,” Ron said. “You were tortured there, and Voldemort lived there, and Dobby was kept there against his will—not to mention Luna and Ollivander and that lot, and it was ugly anyway.”

“It was his home,” said Hermione.

“Did I mention you were tortured there?”

“It might have come up.”

Sometimes Ron and Hermione went on like this. In fact, usually Ron and Hermione went on like this, after Rose and Hugo were in bed and just the three of them were alone together. Harry never minded, but he used to wonder why they asked him to visit when he had so little to contribute, and they always had each other. It had taken him a while to realize that they didn’t need him to help them or save them or bring up interesting things for them to do; he didn’t need to say things or do things so that they could remember why they liked him. Having Harry around made Ron and Hermione happy, for whatever reason. He could see it in their faces when he was around them.

“The accident didn’t happen to Draco,” Harry said suddenly.

“Um, mate,” Ron said, mostly just sounding curious. “’Draco’?”

“It happened to me.”

They stared at him. Harry hadn’t got a chance to tell them what had really happened; Hermione had been dealing with the mole in the Department of Mysteries, and he and Ron had been cleaning up the Auror Office. There had been so many hours of questioning people and taking sworn testimony and then having to talk to people about what to tell the press, and then there’d been tracking down brewers Alby had supplied who hadn’t been caught; they’d been working with MACUSA to make sure information about the Fountain of Life was on lockdown.

“I turned into a ten-year-old,” Harry went on. “It was the Life Water, but Draco didn’t know where the Life Water was, and he knew getting it might be dangerous, and the cure he’d thought up needed two people to have had Life Water, so they’d work against each other. So he traded our ages, I got the Life Water, put it in the cure he’d made, and now he’s ageing up.”

“Oh!” Hermione covered her mouth.

“Mate,” Ron said.

“Draco was there,” Harry said. “He took care of me. I told him there wasn’t anyone else I could trust, since I knew you two were under some kind of influence, and Shacklebolt as well, which is why he didn’t go to you for help.”

“How terrible,” Hermione breathed.

Ron glanced down at Hermione. “Harry’s been saying Malfoy’s much better for a while now,” he pointed out. “And he’s been doing IDs for the Ministry not-for-profit all this time. And you’re calling him Draco,” Ron went on, turning back to Harry. “So, was it okay?”

“Yes,” Harry said.

Hermione was still horrified. “Ron. He was ten.”

Something seemed to dawn on Ron. Harry felt pretty certain Ron was remembering what Harry’s life must have been like at ten, and what Hermione had probably explained to Ron that it might have done to Harry.

“Draco took care of me,” Harry repeated.

“I’m glad. I’m grateful to him.” Hermione put a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Are you okay?”

Harry wanted to say yes and be done with it, because he didn’t know how to describe the things he was feeling. He tried anyway, because he was thinking of the boy who could describe his feelings but had been told not to, had been told he shouldn’t. “I think I understand better now,” Harry said, speaking with effort. “What it would have been like. To have.” Harry sucked in a breath. He could feel the magic swirling in him, never knowing where to go. “To have people who loved me. At that young age.”

“Harry.” Hermione put her arm around his shoulder, her voice soft and wet.

“Fuck.” Ron stood up. “Mate.” Then he came around on the other side of the sofa, so he could put his hand on Harry’s other shoulder.

“I think I might be sort of messed up,” Harry said.

“Shit, man,” said Ron. “Yeah, you are; we love you. You are. It doesn’t matter. So are we; we love you.”

“We love you,” Hermione said. “Harry, we—”

Harry could feel her looking up at Ron—the way she sometimes did when she was talking to Harry, as though Harry always had to be handled so carefully. Harry didn’t want to look at her. He was remembering what Draco had said, when Draco was eleven. You’d cry a lot, I expect, Draco had said, when Harry had been talking about what Harry would do if he lost Draco.

“Have you thought about,” Hermione began, but then couldn’t seem to finish. “I mean, when you say, ‘messed up’—”

“She means,” said Ron, “are you thinking about getting help?”

“Er.” Harry ground his teeth. “I’m talking. To you?”

“He means professional help,” Hermione said.

“Oh.” With a sudden sinking feeling, Harry realized they had talked about him before. Ron and Hermione had had this conversation about him, because they had already known.

“It’s all right,” Ron said immediately.

“We love you so much,” said Hermione. “And sometimes we’re afraid that you’re—you seem detached, sometimes, and we worry—we worry . . .”

“We worry you don’t know how much we love you,” Ron put it, and Hermione made a soft little sound.

She was crying. “That’s right. We worry you don’t know how much we love you,” Hermione said, “how much we care about you. And if you think you’re messed up—you can tell us, and we’ll help you, we’ll help you get help, and we’ll still love you. We love you as you are. Just as you are.”

“And if you changed, we’d love that too,” Ron added.

“We only want you to be happy,” Hermione agreed.

“I could,” Harry said. “I could try. What I said—” Harry took a breath. “About being—” Another breath. He couldn’t look at them. “About being loved. I wanted you to know that the first person—the first person to help me understand what that could feel like was Hagrid. And then it was the two of you.”

“Harry.” Hermione made a choked sound.

“And I wanted to thank you for that,” Harry said. “And tell you that—that you mean everything to me. Everything. Because—because you’re my family. And family is—it’s the most important thing.”

“Yeah, it is,” Ron said, squeezing Harry’s shoulder.

“We’ll always be your family,” Hermione said, her beautiful brown eyes bright.

“Mate.” Ron leaned in so he could put his arm around Harry and hug him as well. “Always.”

*

June 2012
Harry Potter: 31 years
Draco Malfoy: 29 years

Harry was alone in Grimmauld Place when Heloise came. Harry used to take work home with him just because there was nothing else to do if he was stuck by himself besides eat and listen to the wireless. Sometimes he’d go out flying. Sometimes he’d visit Dumbledore’s grave. That was about the extent of his evening activities if he wasn’t with friends.

Tonight, Harry was trying to read Tides of Atlantis, which was an absurdly slow-paced book about the intricate politics of fish-people, mermaids, and pirates. There were lots of details and descriptions and names, such that even if Harry hadn’t had dyslexia he’d probably have trouble reading it, except Draco had whizzed through it at eleven. Harry had cast the reading spell, and the author’s voice wasn’t that bad, but he was wondering if there could be a way to moderate the spell so that the text was read in someone else’s voice. Harry didn’t have his favourite sofa, so he didn’t have anything better to do than invent a new spell.

Then the tap came at the window, and Harry opened it. When Heloise came in, Harry’s heart jumped into his throat and lodged there until he got the note unfolded. The intervals between Draco’s age-jumps had not been increasing in a mathematically predictable way, not that Harry would be able to calculate it even if they were. He hadn’t been much better at maths than he had at reading, and then Hogwarts hadn’t taught it anyway. Draco could be twenty-eight by now, or he could be thirty-two and remember everything.

When Harry got the note open, it had three words in Draco’s cramped, careful hand:

I need you.

Harry put his hand on Heloise and Apparated.

*

Draco wasn’t in the sitting-room; he wasn’t in the kitchen. Heloise flapped off out the window, while Harry Apparated to the lab. Draco wasn’t in it, which meant that he was in the bedroom. Despite how much Harry wanted to, he was hesitant to burst inside, so he knocked.

Draco opened the door, looking gorgeous and miserable all at once. His skin was pale, lips chapped, eye rimmed with red, as though he had been crying—but his size was good. He was no longer gaunt at all, similar in shape to the Draco that Harry remembered, except that he wasn’t. Harry knew what age this was. “Your mum,” he said.

Draco’s eyes slid away from Harry’s, and Harry remember what had happened—how Draco had been crying, and Harry had just stood there. Draco obviously remembered it as well, because this moment was almost a mirror of that one—both of them just standing there, Draco beginning to wrap his arms around himself.

Harry stepped forward, reaching out for Draco’s waist, wrapping his arm around it, pulling Draco to him. “Draco,” Harry whispered, his other hand on the nape of Draco’s neck so that he could pull Draco’s head into the crook of his own neck, so he could feel Draco’s forehead against the side of his throat. Draco shuddered against him, and Harry slid the hand at Draco’s neck into his hair, pulling Draco closer with the arm around his waist, then stroking the small of Draco’s back. Harry pulled back to kiss Draco’s forehead.

Draco’s breath made a guttering sound. “Fuck.”

Harry stroked Draco’s back some more, running his other hand through Draco’s hair over and over.

“I don’t.” Draco shuddered. “I don’t want to live through this again.”

Narcissa had died in March. Narcissa’s death would have happened two-and-a-half months ago for Draco, unless the “traumatic event” had caused the cure to go wonky again and pulled Draco from unconsciousness. Harry wished he could have been there when Draco had awakened; Draco wouldn’t have had to write a note and send Heloise. He understood why Draco didn’t want him there, but still.

“I’m here.” Harry brushed his lips over Draco’s hair. “This time, I’m here.”

“Why? Last time, you wouldn’t—” Draco pulled away, swallowing. “You wouldn’t,” he choked.

“I’m sorry.” Harry pulled Draco closer again, his hand in Draco’s hair letting Draco know he could put his head back against Harry’s chest, his face against Harry’s neck if he wanted. “I’m sorry,” Harry said again. “It’s stupid. It’s going to sound so stupid to you.”

“What?” Draco pulled away to look up at him.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Harry said. “I wanted to help you—but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what you wanted.”

“I wanted you,” Draco said, tugging at Harry’s robes.

“Right,” Harry said, despite the fact that his heart swelled at those words. He stroked Draco’s back. “Right. But I didn’t know.”

Draco shuddered again, but he still wasn’t crying—not exactly. Somehow it was worse, the way he was shaking. “I’ll tell you what to do,” he said. “I’ll tell you what to do, if you’re so fucking clueless.” His tone was almost savage, but he was still holding onto Harry so tightly, Harry wasn’t sure he could have got away even had he wanted to.

“I told you,” Harry said. “I’ll do anything. I’ll do anything.”

Draco made a horrible noise, sort of like a sob, but without tears. “H-hold me,” he said. “Hold me until I—until I forget her.”

“I don’t think I can do that.” Harry pressed his lips against Draco’s hair again.

“Then what good are you?” But Draco didn’t sound as though he meant it.

“Let’s try something different. I’ll hold you until it doesn’t hurt to remember.” Wrapping his arms around Draco tight, Harry Apparated them both upstairs, sitting down on the sofa with Draco. “Incendio,” Harry said, casting the spell at the empty hearth. Then he began to cast the colour spells.

“Don’t,” Draco said, shuddering against him. “Please don’t. I can’t.” He hid his face against Harry’s neck, burying himself there, as though to burrow deeper. “Please. I can’t.”

“All right.” Waving the fire away, Harry wrapped his arm around Draco again, pulling him so that he was against Harry’s chest, both Draco’s legs up on the sofa so that he could rest against Harry’s body.

Harry felt like he could lose himself in petting Draco’s hair. He thought that he could do it forever, and then he thought of those lonely nights at Grimmauld Place. This would be enough activity for Harry—just getting to touch Draco like this. It would have absorbed him completely, he wouldn’t need anything else.

Eventually, Draco stopped shuddering, so still that Harry thought he might be sleeping. Draco’s breathing hadn’t changed, though, although the light in the room had. “Do you want Andromeda?” Harry asked, after another fifteen minutes or so.

“I don’t want anyone to see me.” Draco’s voice was dull, and Harry went back to stroking Draco’s hair.

“She wouldn’t think any less of you, you know,” Harry eventually said.

“I can’t bear for anybody to see me when I’m like this.”

Harry paused. “But you sent for me.”

“Potter.” Draco sounded almost annoyed. “You always see me when I’m like this. You always—you cut me open when I was like this.”

“Sorry.” Tentatively, Harry touched Draco’s hair again.

“Being cut open felt better than this.”

Harry very gently traced the shell of Draco’s ear, and Draco shuddered.

“You really didn’t,” he began, sounding tense. Sitting up, Draco pushed away a bit to look at him. “You really didn’t know I wanted you to touch me, that day at the Manor?”

“I’m . . .” Wetting his lips, Harry tried to think about how to say it. “I’m kind of fucked up,” he said, because that had worked with Ron and Hermione. They had known what he had meant.

“You?” Draco looked at him incredulously. “You, hero of the Wizarding World, fucked up?”

“A bit, yeah.”

“Well,” Draco said loftily. “I knew it, but hearing you say it is just—” Suddenly, Draco seemed to give up on the pretence of acting haughty, unceremoniously slumping back into Harry. He picked up Harry’s hand, the one that hadn’t been in Draco’s hair, and found the scar. I must not tell lies.

Tracing it with his finger, Draco sat like that a little while, reminding Harry of the way eleven-year-old Draco had sat with him on the sofa and poked his scar. Maybe Draco was remembering as well. When Draco spoke again, he’d obviously been thinking about what Harry had said. His tone had completely changed. “You don’t know when people want you to touch them?”

“I—sometimes,” Harry said. “Sometimes I don’t—it’s like I don’t know. What I feel. It’s like I can’t—I can’t feel anything. But sometimes I do—feel things, and I can’t—I just can’t—it doesn’t come out. I don’t know how to . . . make it come out.”

“And you don’t know what other people feel either, then?”

“Not really.”

Draco kept tracing that scar. “I see I shall have to be very explicit with you, then.”

“I—yeah. Yeah,” Harry said. “That’d be good.”

“All right, well.” Dropping Harry’s hand, Draco sat up, moving away so that he could turn and face Harry. “First of all—” Draco squared his shoulders. “First of all, I’ve always wanted you to touch me. Always. My whole life. Both lives—the one from these past three weeks and the other one, ever since I was eleven. Sometimes I wanted to make you angry enough to hit me, Potter. Just so I could have you touch me.”

“Oh.”

“Secondly.” Draco’s eyes darted down to Harry’s hand, and then he snatched it up, as though Harry would take his hand away. “Secondly,” Draco repeated, “I’ve never told you this, but I’ve always admired how honest you are. There were times when—I always wished I could be as honest.” He squeezed Harry’s hand, hard, Draco’s thumb pressing into the scar. “Thirdly,” Draco went on.

A strange light was in Draco’s eyes, an almost manic energy. He was still upset about his mum, Harry realized. Draco was a little off, but it didn’t mean he wasn’t being sincere.

“Thirdly,” Draco repeated again, softening his grip on Harry’s hand. “I became convinced that if you couldn’t—you couldn’t even comfort a boy who was crying his eyes out because he just lost his mum—if you really hated me that much, you would never feel anything different for me. Before that, I’d thought—I’d thought maybe, just maybe, if I waited long enough and tried hard enough, maybe—in ten or twenty years or so—maybe you could come around enough to—to at least—at least kiss me. Once. God.” Draco looked away. “I was so pathetic. That was as high as my aspirations went. All I wanted was for you to kiss me.”

“I’ll kiss you more than once.”

“I know.” Draco started petting his hand, just like Hermione had done. “I know that now, but—I didn’t then. I was—I was—it hurt so much, because with you, I wanted—I wanted.” Draco’s breath hitched, which seemed to cause his whole expression to change, breaking down. “I—I don’t want to live in a world without my mum in it.”

“Oh, Draco.” Harry pulled him close again. “Shh,” Harry murmured, stroking Draco’s hair. “Shh.”

“I loved her,” Draco said. “I loved her, and I loved you; don’t you see? I loved you, and I thought—I thought if I couldn’t—I couldn’t have her anymore, then maybe I could—then you could be the thing that I could have.”

“Shh,” Harry said. “You have me.”

“You wouldn’t even touch me.” Draco seemed to be crying about that almost as much as his mum.

“I know. I’m sorry. I’ll touch you now.” Harry rubbed his back some more.

Draco surged up, tear-stained eyes face-to-face with Harry’s, and then Draco kissed him. It was a very messy kiss. Draco’s face was wet, his mouth too full of mucous. Harry held onto him and kissed him back, until Draco pulled away. “I’m disgusting. Sorry. I shouldn’t have—”

“I think you’re beautiful.”

Draco gave a weak laugh. “I’m a fucking mess.”

“I think fucking messes are beautiful,” Harry said, wrapping his arm around Draco again and resisting the urge to wipe his face. Harry was pretty sure Draco’s saliva was in his beard, which was kind of gross, but he didn’t want Draco to see him wipe it away. “Did the round for this year just start?”

“It’s about to end,” Draco said.

“You should have owled me sooner,” Harry said.

“I was trying to stick to the resolutions I’d made when Mum died.”

“What resolutions were those?” Harry cuddled him closer.

“First, stop losing it over Mum. Second, stop losing it over Harry Potter.” Draco twisted in his arms to look up at him. “I was obsessed with you, you know.”

“How obsessed were you?”

Draco settled back into Harry’s arms. “You’ve met me, haven’t you?”

“But, um.” Harry was trying not to pry too much, because he still remembered Draco saying he wasn’t privy to every detail of Draco’s life, except Draco had said that he was in love with him. “You said,” Harry said, trying to think of a way to remind him of it that didn’t put Draco in a corner. “You said you—felt differently. Than you’ve said. Before.”

“Harry. I was in love with you since that day you came back to Slug and Jiggers just so you could yell at Alby on my behalf.”

Harry sat up straight, spilling Draco out of his arms.

Draco grimaced. “What did you want me to do? Throw myself into your arms?”

“Maybe the second time around, yeah.”

“I had a boyfriend.”

“Oh. Right.” Harry leaned back, and Draco was settling back against his chest. “Wait a minute.” Harry sat back up, spilling him again. “Why did you have a boyfriend if you were—if you felt that way?”

“I didn’t think I was ever going to get you, idiot. And anyway. You yelling at Alby, I realized I had—I had more than just feelings of—of attraction. I liked you. But it wasn’t until that day—that day I came to yours, with the indicator solution.” Draco looked down, blushing a bit. “Do you remember?”

“Of course, I remember.

“You started telling me about your work, and you just . . . you were so concerned. For Ronald Weasley. And I’d always been jealous of him; I wanted someone to care for me that way, and—and you were also so concerned about the integrity of your work—rightfully so, apparently. Anyway.” Draco blushed more deeply. “I kept thinking about—I kept thinking, what it might be like, if that was—in the evenings, if you came home and told me about your work, and I told you about my success in potions—which would be extensive, of course. I always had a big imagination. And you would talk to me and I would listen, and you would be so—so righteous and good and honest, the way you always are—”

“I was on Veritaserum at the time.”

“I’m not talking about that kind of honest. I’m talking about the way you are to people. The way you were to me. Back then.” Draco’s gaze dropped again.

“I thought you thought I was just using you. For potions consultation.”

“I did think that.” Draco picked up Harry’s hand again, touching the scar. “But you were clear about what you wanted from me. You were respectful of me and my abilities. You . . . praised them.” Draco glanced at Harry quickly. “I go quite weak for praise, in case you haven’t noticed.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“You treated me like a human being, but you didn’t fear me or pity me. No one else treated me quite like that.” Draco was now exploring the rest of Harry’s hand—the knuckles, the palm. The curious stroking of his fingers sent shivers up Harry’s spine.

“Um.” Harry pulled his hand away. “Maybe you shouldn’t.”

Draco looked up at him swiftly, his expression stricken, but then he saw Harry’s face, which must have made the fact that he was getting turned on pretty clear. “Oh,” Draco said, beginning to smile rather wickedly. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Um,” Harry said again. He licked his lips.

Suddenly, Draco clutched Harry’s hand again, his hand claw-like. Something in his face looked pained. “Stay with me?” he panted. “Through the next year? I don’t want to wake up alone.”

“Yes,” Harry said, as Draco’s eyes rolled back, and he fell onto the sofa, unconscious.

*

July 2012
Harry Potter: 31 years
Draco Malfoy: 30 years

Harry was making supper when Draco woke up at the age of thirty. Harry heard a moan from the sitting-room and hurried in, trying not to look too anxious. Draco had gone through ten iterations of waking a year older from unconsciousness without him there; he could handle it fine.

“Fuck.” Draco covered his face.

“Everything all right?” Harry realized he hadn’t wiped his hands when he’d run out of the kitchen. “Accio towel.” He cleaned his hands as Draco sat up.

“This is so fucking confusing.”

Thinking he knew what Draco was remembering, Harry sent the towel back to the kitchen. “That kiss?” he asked.

“That fucking kiss.” Draco sagged back into the sofa.

“Was it part of your resolution?” Harry asked. “To pretend it didn’t matter to you?”

“You pretended it didn’t matter to you!”

“I shouldn’t have. I was—confused.”

You’re confused,” Draco said disdainfully. “When do you even start to want me? After that potion accident turned you into an eleven-year-old?”

“I wanted you when you kissed me,” Harry said. “I had some trouble—processing. I thought—I thought the powder had affected me.”

“I told you the powder didn’t have an effect on the one wearing it.”

“Right,” Harry said. “But by the time I understood that that meant that what I felt was—just me, you were already talking about your Death Eater lips and my horrible Gryffindor skin.”

“I never said it was horrible,” Draco said sullenly, not quite looking at him.

“Whatever it was you said.”

Draco scowled at him. “I said that it was perfect. You’re always perfect. Everything about you is—fuck.” Leaping off of the sofa, Draco began to pace. “How does this even work? We’re not even friends yet.”

“I’m not perfect.”

“Don’t I know it!” Draco waved his arms, never too concerned with contradicting himself. “How does this work?” Stalking over to Harry, Draco bared his wrist, then pointed at it with his wand. Before Harry could do anything, the cuff-button on Draco’s dress-shirt was pulling open, the whole sleeve furling like some kind a furious wind was whipping it up Draco’s arm. Draco thrust the Dark Mark in Harry’s face. “How does this work?” Draco snarled.

Harry looked at the Dark Mark, then at Draco. Looking at the Dark Mark again, Harry remembered Draco getting it the second time, the cry of pain, Harry holding his hand over Draco’s. Harry remembered Sectumsempra—the second time, but he also remembered the first, and the Astronomy Tower, and Snape, and everything. “It works like this,” Harry said, wrapped his hand firmly around Draco’s wrist. Harry pulled Draco’s arm closer, bent down, and kissed the Mark.

Draco yanked his arm away, stumbling back, his arm across his chest as though Harry had burned him. He looked at his arm, then up at Harry in horror. “How can you?”

“Because it’s a part of you.”

“I don’t want you to touch it.” Draco looked devastated. “I don’t want you to ever have to touch it.”

“All right,” Harry said, because if it made Draco feel this badly, he could avoid it.

“You don’t understand.” Draco’s devastation almost looked like panic. “You don’t understand; I’ll profane you.”

Harry’s shoulders sagged. He wasn’t sure he could do this any longer. He wasn’t sure he could stand it, how little Draco thought of himself. “Draco,” he said quietly. “I’ve already been profaned.”

“You don’t understand,” Draco said. “You’re perfect. Everything about you is perfect, and right, and just, and good, and I’m—”

“I’m not perfect!” Harry yelled, finally losing his temper. “I’m hurt! I’ve been hurt! You don’t profane me. Draco, you heal me.”

“But how? You said I was a Death Eater when I kissed you; that’s what you thought of! You said it, Potter!”

Harry looked away. “I’m going to leave,” he said, more quietly now. “Come to me when you remember.”

Draco’s eyes were bright. “I don’t understand how that much can change.”

“Then don’t come back to me.” Harry Apparated away.

*

July 2012
Harry Potter: 31 years
Draco Malfoy: 32 years

Harry regretted what he had said.

He shouldn’t have given Draco an ultimatum like that. He’d lost his temper, and he’d wanted Draco to remember, and Harry hadn’t felt able to explain just how imperfect he was. The truth was, Harry knew that he had problems. He knew he was what Ginny would call emotionally dysfunctional, because she’d been trying to help him with it for years, and he had never listened to her. He just didn’t really understand what was normal, what should be normal, what was the way the world just worked and what was him.

Six days after leaving Tailored Tinctures for the last time, Harry was getting worried. Maybe Draco just didn’t want to see him, but maybe something had happened. Maybe something had gone wrong with the cure. Maybe Draco was lying there, unconscious, waiting for the final year and he was just—never going to wake up, and Harry would get another horrible letter about Draco hating himself and sacrificing himself for Harry. Again.

On the seventh day, Harry was alone once more in the evening, trying to decide whether he could go over there, after what he’d said, whether that would be allowed. He was still dressed, mostly, but after he’d got home from work he’d taken off his boots and robe and belt and put on the dressing-gown Draco had given him. It had grown with Harry’s body, just as Draco had said it would. Then the doorbell rang.

Draco was on the stoop, looking extremely pristine in the evening summer light. He had on his typical “muted palette”—blue-grey dress shirt with well-fitting trousers and waistcoat, both of which were dove grey. His hair shone in the sun. He was beautiful.

“Still no manners, I see,” Draco said, presumably because Harry was just standing there with the door open, staring.

“Shit.” Harry opened the door wider. “Come in.”

Draco stepped in, his movements so precise, just like Harry remembered. “It’s still dark in this foyer.” Taking out his wand, Draco pointed it at the ceiling. “Lumos Maxima,” he said, tossing the light up at the ceiling.

Draco began lowering the wand, but Harry caught Draco’s hand, wrapping his own around Draco’s and the wand. “Perma,” Harry said. It would make the light last longer. Harry wanted to see him.

“Still hums,” Draco said, pulling his hand away. With his other hand, he pulled something else out of his pocket, then tapped it with his wand, casting an enlargement charm. A picture frame grew in his hand, about the size of his palm. “I brought this for you,” he said.

“What?” Confused, Harry took it anyway.

“It’s still our in-between birthday.”

Harry looked down. The picture in the frame was of Sirius, the picture that Harry had liked the best when he’d been eleven, the one in which Sirius was smiling rakishly, with Regulus behind him, unhappily waving his arms. “You remember,” Harry said, voice catching.

“Harry.” Draco touched his arm, and Harry finally looked up. “I’m so glad that you’re okay. I was so worried I—I wouldn’t get you back again.”

You were worried.”

When Draco spoke, his voice was low and warm, the same tone that Harry remembered him using all the time when Harry had been eleven, but not so very much since then. “You have to admit that you were the more adventurous of the two of us,” Draco said. “Riding in taxis all by yourself.” He smiled.

“Oh God.” Harry’s voice caught.

“Harry?” Draco’s brow knit up, and Harry could feel that tell-tale heat behind his eyes. Fuck.

Fuck.

“Harry,” Draco said, his voice sounding exactly like comfort should sound. “Oh, my darling. Harry.” Then Draco was pulling Harry to him, guiding Harry’s head, just like Harry had tried to do for him, only the way Draco did it was perfect, because he was murmuring and stroking Harry’s hair and saying things like, “Harry, don’t cry,” and, “I’m here. It’s me. Shh. I’m here.”

“Fuck,” Harry said.

“Darling.” Brushing Harry’s fringe aside, Draco pressed a kiss to Harry’s scar. Then he did it again, holding Harry and murmuring things, little things that Harry couldn’t hear, and yet the tone soothed him. Draco’s hand in Harry’s hair soothed him; the warm hard length of Draco’s body soothed him.

Harry’s hands hurt from clutching him too hard. “I thought.” He gasped for breath. “I was afraid I might not get you back.”

“I remember.” Draco’s fingers stroked Harry’s hair. “I remember you, Harry. I’m sorry I said you were perfect. You’re just as fucked as I am, aren’t you? The bright side is, you have me, and I’ll take care of you. I’m very good at taking care of people, Harry. You’ll see.”

Now Draco sounded like he was eleven and thirty-two, so much so that Harry let out a choked laugh.

“Don’t cry,” Draco murmured, drawing him in again. “Hasn’t there been enough crying? I thought there was going to be snogging. I feel that you deserve snogging, Harry, after all that you’ve done.”

“Don’t.” Harry made himself swallow his tears back, the choked little sob that was threatening. “Don’t say that you were a burden. I loved you—all through it. Do you understand? I loved all of you.”

There was a pause. “All right, Harry.” Another pause. “Don’t you want to be snogged? I’m very good at it, but you haven’t got a chance to find out about that. You’ve been snogging me, mainly. Except for those two times I threw myself at you, and I was a mess, those times. That was spur of the moment. I’m very prepared now. I’ve come very prepared to snog.”

“Um. Okay,” Harry said, hesitant, because his head felt full of snot and his eyes ached from crying, and his mouth was much too wet with tears and mucous. He didn’t actually much feel like snogging, but it was Draco—his Draco—and he felt like he’d wanted to snog him forever. He set the portrait of Sirius down, then leaned in toward Draco.

“What are you doing?” Appalled, Draco pulled away. Making his wand reappear, he pointed it at Harry’s face, saying incantations that made Harry’s head and mouth clear, his eyes feel rested and at proper moisture levels.

Harry felt like he’d never even cried at all. “What was that?”

“Just freshening spells.” Draco took Harry’s glasses, focusing on folding them and putting them aside as he said. “My mum used to do it for me. As you can imagine, she had to do them—rather frequently.”

“Draco,” Harry said, reaching for him.

“Yes.” Then Draco was kissing him.

Despite what Draco had said, Harry had sort of expected that he would be pushing Draco up against a wall at some point, but that was not what happened. Draco had been correct—Harry had done the kissing up till this point. The other times they’d kissed, Draco had wanted to be kissed, and by Harry Potter, but Draco had not wanted Harry the way that Harry wanted him. Draco had been unable to, not having the same memories, or the time to process.

Now Draco wanted him. Harry could feel that Draco wanted him, because Draco’s lips were sucking his, then his teeth were nipping Harry’s bottom lip, causing Harry to gasp in surprise. Then Draco’s tongue was darting in, slipping along the underside of Harry’s upper lip, then pulling away, teasing, as Draco’s mouth closed over Harry’s and apparently had its way with him. Harry was not at all a talented kisser, just a very dedicated one, but Draco was good at it—unexpected and surprising, causing Harry to gasp and fall back and then lean forward, trying to catch the flash of tongue he’d missed. Fuck.

Fuck, Draco was backing him up against Luna’s painting, and a part of Harry felt like he’d not even been kissed at all. He hadn’t got enough kissing; Draco had been teasing him; Harry leaned in to try to have more.

Draco pulled away. “You see, Harry?” Draco’s thigh was between Harry’s and Harry wasn’t even sure how it got that way. Draco’s mouth nibbled up the length of Harry’s jaw, along his beard. “I’m so good at snogging,” he whispered in Harry’s ear. “You’ll never want anyone else again. Isn’t that right? Do you like it, Harry?”

Harry made a stuttering sound, partly because it was just so unbelievably hot, but partly also because Draco sounded eager—eager and hopeful and a little vulnerable. Harry hadn’t heard him sound like that in weeks, which for Draco had been years. This was what Draco sounded like with his defences down, when he was completely open—when he wasn’t hiding or blocking anything, when he was confident enough in what he was doing that he could be himself.

Harry had made Draco feel that way—confident. Eleven-year-old Harry had done it as well, because Draco had finally seen what he could offer Harry.

“Yes.” Harry was still panting. “Yes, I like it. I like it—a lot.”

“Good.” Draco kissed the spot under Harry’s ear. “Because I promised you I’d never leave you, and I’m never going to.”

“I thought . . .” Thinking was difficult, with the way Draco’s teeth were teasing Harry’s ear. “I thought—Slytherins couldn’t be relied upon to keep their promises. That’s what you said.”

“Don’t listen to anything I said before this. It was all rubbish.”

“Then when you said—uh.” Harry had to stop, because now Draco’s was sucking on his ear—“When you said we could be friends when we both grew up. When you promised.”

“Yes?” Draco’s lips hovered right over Harry’s ear.

“Did you really mean it?”

“What do you think?”

“Yes?” Harry guessed.

“Harry. Yes.” Draco kissed him again.