Actions

Work Header

Star Quality

Chapter Text

Hero of the wizarding world Harry Potter wins Most Eligible Bachelor for SECOND year running as he prepares for public unveiling of twenty-foot high SOLID GOLD statue in his honour

He’s the handsome young wizard who saved the world just two years ago and stole our hearts in the process. And now Harry, 19, is set to take a starring role in this year’s anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts – beautifully rebranded as the First International Harry Potter Day – by unveiling an enormous gold statue in his honour.

Harry, sole heir to the Potter fortune, was his characteristically modest self when quizzed by Witch Weekly’s top celebrity reporter, jesting that the statue was ‘unnecessary’. The thousands of witches who voted for him to keep his Most Eligible Bachelor crown will undoubtedly disagree.

Harry has been single since splitting from rising Quidditch star Ginny Weasley, and we can exclusively reveal that the green-eyed Auror has no plans to settle down right now. Asked if he was looking for love, Harry replied: ‘No.’ But we know the right girl’s out there for him, and if you think you’re the one to win our hero’s heart, we’re informed that he’ll be mingling with the guests at the Ministry’s star-studded Harry Potter Day party tonight. ‘It’s my job,’ he quipped. And no one could fill out the Auror uniform better in this humble reporter’s opinion. We’d go so far as to say that the sight of Harry in his form-fitting robes would almost make it worth getting arrested! Bring on the interrogation, Auror Potter, sir . . .

“Leave me alone!” Harry said into his pillow, trying not to eat cotton. It was annoyingly hard to simultaneously sulk and breathe. “I’ve decided to never leave the house again, and nothing you can say or do will convince me otherwise.”

“I think the green-eyed Auror needs a pep talk,” Ron said in tones of great hilarity from the other side of Harry’s bedroom door.

“You’re just jealous that no one would ever visit Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes hoping to catch a sight of you in your form-fitting robes, Ron,” Hermione replied. “No one in their right mind, anyway,” she added thoughtfully, and then started giggling, her laughter soon accompanied by the sounds of an epic struggle.

Harry tried to nod fervently in agreement, but he had to add this to his list of things that were difficult to do whilst face-down in your pillow.

“Come on, Harry,” Hermione – the clear victor – said when the battle was finally over. Her coaxing tone had an odd, hollow quality, as if she’d bent down to speak through the keyhole. “A handsome young heart-stealing wizard like you shouldn’t—”

Harry leapt out of bed in one bound, and fell to the carpet in one equally smooth move, his legs tangled in his robe without hope of extraction. So much for sympathy! He didn’t know what Rita Skeeter was playing at, he really didn’t. There was no chance in hell she actually fancied him, but ever since he’d won the sodding Most Eligible Bachelor award for the first time, she’d been working herself up to ever-increasing displays of adoration in the media. Yesterday’s article, all eight horrendous pages of it, had been the worst one yet. “I hate you both,” he told the carpet firmly.

The doorknob rattled, and Harry managed to heave himself to his feet, batting at the front of his robes to knock off the dust. Was that a good excuse to stay at home today? Essential housework? The epic battle between man and dust?

“Come on, Harry—” Hermione repeated, a touch of irritation now in her voice.

“Harry, nineteen,” Ron interrupted, with great hilarity.

“—we’re going to be late if you carry on messing about like this. You can’t be late to your own ceremony!”

“I can,” Harry muttered, but he strode over to the door and cast a quick unlocking charm.

Hermione nearly fell into the room, tottering on shoes that made her strangely taller than usual, and Ron grabbed her to keep her upright. He was still grinning, the sod. He’d been grinning, Harry suspected, ever since he’d read that wretched article. And he hadn’t just read it; he’d apparently duplicated the sodding thing and popped into the Ministry before work to hand-deliver a copy to every single Auror Harry worked with. To make sure – Harry supposed – they all properly took the piss out of him. Harry had tolerated it as best he could – it wasn’t like this sort of thing was new to him – but when he returned to the office in the late afternoon after a painful meeting with Kingsley about the new monstrosity of a statue, it was to find a six-foot image of his face on the wall and the other Aurors kneeling down in front of it and throwing rose petals. A man had his limits, and apparently rose petals were his.

“Been wrestling with your bedroom carpet?” Hermione said, tone judgemental as she looked him up and down.

Harry drew himself up to his full height. “No,” he said with great dignity, attempting to surreptitiously reach down and flick off a bit of carpet fluff he’d missed. “At least I can walk in my shoes without falling over!” he said, and then felt himself flush as Hermione raised her eyebrows. It was true that he hadn’t entirely intended to commune with his carpet just now. “You, er, look very beautiful,” he quickly amended as Hermione waved her wand at him, casting a quick cleaning spell that had his skin feeling fresh and tingly and his robes fluff-free.

Ron slung an arm around Hermione’s shoulders. “Doesn’t she just!” he said cheerfully, and gave her a smacker of a kiss on her cheek.

Hermione rolled her eyes, but her cheeks went pink. “Ready to go?” she asked Harry.

Harry folded his arms, aware that this wasn’t the most dignified he’d ever been. “No!” he said.

“Mate, it was just a joke,” Ron said. “Don’t be a tosser. Aren’t you dying to see the statue?” he quickly added when Harry opened his mouth to protest that he wasn’t a tosser, he was just extremely hard done by and deserved a bit more sympathy.

Was Harry dying to see the statue? The twenty-foot solid gold statue of him? That would, from now on, greet him every time he went into the Atrium of the Ministry? The Ministry where he worked?

“It could be worse,” Hermione said unsympathetically. “It could have been a hundred feet. This one’s relatively modest, considering.”

“Hah!” Harry said, lost for real words.

“And skulking about here isn’t going to Incendio it,” Hermione added firmly. “It’s just going to let down all the Ministry staff who’ve worked incredibly hard to organise today’s events and make sure everything goes smoothly. Not everything’s about you, Harry.”

“Just most things,” Ron added lightly. “And you know . . . if you weren’t single, there wouldn’t be such a fuss every time you deigned to leave the house,” he continued, his voice taking on a pointed tone.

Harry tried not to a pull a face, but failed.

“I’m just saying!” Ron said. “If you hadn’t dumped—”

“Ron—” Hermione interrupted.

“I didn’t dump Ginny,” Harry protested simultaneously. “You know I didn’t. We agreed it wasn’t working, and we moved on.”

She moved on,” Ron said. “Back to Dean Thomas! I like Dean, sure, but when I pictured my brother-in-law, I always pictured . . .” He trailed off. “Not Dean Thomas,” he muttered. “Are you sure you don’t want to give it another go with her?” he asked. He raised a hand to his mouth and started chewing on a fingernail.

“Ron, that’s not fair,” Hermione said.

No, it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that when the war was over, and the funerals had all taken place, that Harry had looked at Ginny and found only a woman he wanted to love, nothing more. She was a good, kind, courageous person, and he’d wanted so desperately to feel the passion for her that he’d once felt, but he couldn’t. So he’d told her so, and hoped he hadn’t broken her heart. And for a hundred, thousand reasons he really didn’t want to go into – not now, not ever – he hadn’t dated anyone else since.

“Ron, I—”

Ron heaved an enormous sigh. “Sorry, Harry, I’m being a wankbadger,” he said, and stepped forward to give him a brief, backslapping hug. “It’s your business who you date. You’ll always be one of the family to me, regardless. I just . . .” He shook his head. “I can’t say that the second of May is ever going to be my favourite date, yeah? Let’s go to the Ministry’s shitty party, and I can mock you and your terrible statue, and we can get really, really drunk and get this arse of a day over with. OK?”

Hermione reached forward to give Harry’s arm a squeeze, before wrapping her hands around Ron’s arm and pushing comfortingly into his side. Harry didn’t often feel lonely, but he did, sometimes, when he saw his best friends together like this. Still, Ron had a point. Today wasn’t all about him, even if some bright spark had decided that it was more cheerful to celebrate the living than to mourn the war dead. Harry Potter Day was about Harry Potter the suave, international – and entirely imaginary – green-eyed hero of Rita Skeeter’s ridiculous article, not the real-life Harry who’d just fallen over his own feet and ended up covered in fluff. No one was interested in him.

“Fine,” he said through gritted teeth. “I’ll—”

Before he could even finish his sentence, Hermione was simultaneously pushing a pot of Floo powder towards him and guiding him towards his bedroom fireplace. Harry had a brief moment of regret that he’d renewed his Floo Network license for the year as he stepped in – and a further brief moment when he wondered how much trouble he’d be in if he said, for example, The Leaky Cauldron, rather than The Ministry – before he sprinkled the Floo powder, stepped into the roaring green flames and the magic whisked him away.

^^^^^^

As Harry laid eyes for the first time on the statue in his honour – a thousand golden filigree butterflies fluttering their enchanted clockwork wings as they lifted the red velvet sheet that had been covering it up, up and away – his first thought was that it wasn’t as bad as he’d expected. His second thought was that that was because it was so much worse. Beside him, he could feel the enormous vibrations of Ronald Weasley trying not to laugh, and he attempted to fix his already fixed grin into a suitable expression of delight.

“Oh, mate,” Ron whispered beside him in a hoarse cackle, almost losing control. “Mate!”

“It’s . . . It’s . . .” Hermione said with determined, false brightness. “It’s.”

Well, that said it all, didn’t it? Even Hermione, who had always managed without effort to find Dumbledore’s welcome speeches inspiring, and who enjoyed formal occasions far more than was healthy, in Harry’s opinion, couldn’t find anything positive to say about this.

“Do I really look like that?” Harry forced out through gritted teeth. It was hard work maintaining the smile. He didn’t think he’d get many compliments on it in the next day’s papers, no matter how keen the reporters were to flatter him at all times.

“Harry, no,” Hermione said, in such tones of horror that he was immediately filled with sweet relief, even as the level of indignation rose within him. He didn’t think he looked like that, but it was good to get external confirmation. The statue was so . . . And its expression was so . . .

Ron, struggling with forces against which one man was no match, collapsed into laughter so ferocious that tears sprang out of his eyes.

“It’s not that bad,” Harry said, leaping instinctively to the defence of his face, even if the statue did faintly suggest that he was the unfortunate offspring of a gorilla, Gilderoy Lockhart and . . . “Who’s that famous bloke with the big nose?” he whispered doubtfully.

“It is that bad,” Ron said as Hermione wrinkled her forehead and said, thoughtfully, “Pinocchio? Cyrano de Bergerac?”

“Gosh, Harry, I never noticed what a large and magnificent nose you have,” Luna said, seeming to pop out of nowhere and give Harry a heart attack. “Now the artist has pointed it out, I can see it more clearly,” she added serenely.

These were not the words of comfort Harry had hoped for. “My nose isn’t that big!” he protested.

“No, not physically,” Luna agreed. “But in contrast to Voldemort, your spiritual nose is full and glorious. I feel the artist has merely given form to this metaphysical richness. Don’t you?”

“Er,” said Harry.

“I’m going to go and see if I can take a closer look,” Luna said, raising her elbows in a combative stance and splaying out her aubergine-embroidered dress robes as she did so. Her shoes, Harry couldn’t help but notice, were a rounded, shiny purple and had a curious auberginey texture to them, as if she'd simply taken two of the vegetables and hollowed them out. “Wish me luck!”

“Good luck?” Harry said, and Ron and Hermione echoed his words as she vanished into the crowd in the direction of the statue, a chorus of owwws accompanying her passage. Harry couldn’t help but notice that she was pretty much the only person moving in that direction; the rest of the room, which seemed to consist of everyone in the wizarding world ever, was turned in his direction and inching dangerously closer.

Ron hadn’t stopped laughing yet, but his hysterics had quietened down into more sporadic snorts. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Your spiritual form goes to the gym a bit more regularly than you do,” he said, with deep unkindness, Harry thought.

It was enough to set Hermione off though, and she dissolved into giggles.

“You’ll wish my shoulders really were that broad when we’re crushed to death by witches in their best robes,” Harry said gloomily, which seemed to help Hermione pull herself together again, at least. The Atrium was full to bursting, and Harry didn’t have to look hard to spot half a dozen – female – reporters in the front of the crowd, their Quick-Quotes Quills moving as rapidly as the women’s lips. There would be more shit in the papers tomorrow, he just knew it.

A rush of irritation overwhelmed Harry. Why couldn’t they just leave him alone? That was all he wanted: to be left alone to get on with his job. All this . . . fuss about his love life just left him feeling anxious and mixed-up, and the more he tried to visualise the type of person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, the less certain he felt that he could ever be a good enough partner for anyone. He was rubbish at feelings. Hopeless at flirting. And . . . he hadn’t fancied anyone in ages, in any case, Harry told himself firmly, even though he knew that wasn’t true. He hadn’t fancied a woman in ages. And anything else was a bit, well, weird, wasn’t it? Best kept in the privacy of his own brain, at any rate, and preferably until he either found a woman he wanted to date or the end of time arrived, whichever came first. Anyway, Harry thought, trying to pull himself together, there was nothing wrong with being single. And single he should remain, he thought wryly, the statue catching his eye again, if he had a nose like that. It would practically be child abuse to pass on that gene to the next generation.

“Can I go home now?” Harry found himself saying, turning to Hermione and fixing her with a look of mute appeal.

“No,” Hermione said firmly – and heartlessly. “You haven’t given your speech yet. And you haven’t mingled with the guests. Not everyone here wants to get in your knickers, you know.”

“Just most of them,” Ron murmured helpfully.

“I’m wearing boxers! Manly, heroic boxers!” Harry protested, a tiny bit too loudly. Half a dozen pairs of reporting eyeballs swivelled in his direction, lit by the triumph of a hot scoop. “That’s your fault, Ron,” he hissed as Ron’s face went red with mirth again.

“I always hoped that one day you’d graduate from grotty white Y-fronts to a proper man pant,” Ron gurgled, slapping Harry on the shoulder. “You’ve done me proud. You’ve done us all proud.”

The reporters were now all wearing expressions of orgasmic joy.

“Merlin, how can we shut him up?” Harry hissed at Hermione. “I blame you for him!”

“I am never to blame for Ron,” Hermione said sternly, but she was grinning, the swine. “But best lead him to the buffet, I reckon.” She wrinkled her nose. “Faced with any buffet, Ron always stuffs his face with sandwiches as if he hasn’t eaten for a decade.”

“I do not stuff my face as if I haven’t eaten for a decade,” Ron said, straightening his shoulders and giving Hermione a firm, masculine stare. “A month, tops,” he added, lips quirking into a grin.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “One day you’ll look like a sandwich,” she warned.

“It can’t come soon enough,” Ron said, and he winked at Harry before turning in what Harry presumed was the direction of the food. He sometimes suspected Ron of having a spiritual connection to buffets; it was amazing how, even before knowing where one might be laid out, Ron could unerringly point in its direction like some sort of sarnie-compass.

“How do you put up with him?” he mock-whispered at Hermione.

Hermione grinned, but it was Ron who answered. “My sheer animal magnetism, of course,” he said, without turning back. “Now follow me! Our future awaits!”

^^^^^^

It took nearly two hours for Harry to cross the main hall of the Atrium and reach the buffet tables, set up in the long, narrow hallway that housed the Floos. It was a bit of an odd place to put them, Harry thought, given that any guests would pretty much spring out of the fireplaces and land nose first in a tray of smoked salmon, but then he caught sight of Ron demolishing a sausage roll and considered that that was possibly some people’s idea of a dream come true. Besides, he thought gloomily, there was no one left to arrive. The whole world was inside the building already, gazing dreamily at him from an impolite distance as he eyed the buffet and didn’t feel the tiniest bit hungry.

“Smff-age rollff?” Ron said, brandishing the tray at Harry.

Harry considered this. There was always the danger that if he said yes, his preference for sausage rolls would become the stuff of epic legend, and every time he made a house call as part of his job the lady of the house would shyly withdraw a platter of them from some hidden place as a special treat. He didn’t mind sausage rolls, but he had his limits. The room held its breath. “Ladies first,” he said politely, turning to Hermione and giving her a little half-bow.

“Thanks, Harry,” Hermione said with matching aching politeness. “I’ll remember you did that.”

The only benefit that Harry could see to being near the buffet, rather than in the central section of the Atrium, was that Ron had shut up about his underwear. And, he supposed, at least he’d got some of the dreaded mingling out of the way. Every step he’d taken, a witch or a wizard – mostly a witch, in her best pointed hat and ancestral jewels – had thrust their way forward to shake his hand and engage him in small talk. As he’d grimly forged on, at the speed of someone basically standing still, he’d had to politely reject half a dozen marriage proposals, several dozen dinner invitations and hundreds of gifts. He hated doing it – it was boring, and embarrassing – and yet every so often he’d find himself talking to someone who’d lost a loved one in the war, or who’d fought alongside him for freedom, or who just wanted to pay their genuine respects, and it suddenly felt like it was worth his time, after all. He didn’t know why anyone would be comforted by talking to him, of all people, who’d only done what he had to, nothing more, but . . . if they did, he would give all he could. It was only what his fallen comrades deserved.

And every now and then, to his deep relief, he’d come across a genuine friend – someone he actually wanted to talk to. Many of his former schoolmates were at the commemoration, although some had stayed at home, to spend the day more quietly. Mrs Weasley had asked him round to the Burrow for the day, to celebrate and mourn all at once, and he’d tried to persuade Ron and Hermione to go there without him, but had been unable to. He'd wanted to go to the Burrow, more than anything; but he was Harry Potter. And there was a statue to unveil. It had been impossible for him to say no to Kingsley, to the party invitation. It was his duty, after all.

Harry realised he’d been brooding, and Hermione gave him a pointed look as if she was about to start flinging the sausage rolls at him, so he looked around desperately for distraction. At the end of the hall was . . . No. It was best not to look at the statue. That way lay madness and nose-based despair. The buffet table held a heap of potential problems for the future. But by his elbow was a goblin in a sharp suit, holding a silver salver topped with delicate wine flutes fizzing with a pale liquid. “Elf wine, sir?” the goblin murmured.

Harry felt a sudden, irresistible urge to get extremely drunk. And hadn’t Ron basically promised him that he could? “Yes, please,” he said, taking a flute.

Hermione narrowed her eyes as Ron swiped a glass immediately, but then seemed to give up her inner fight and took one too.

“A toast!” called an elderly wizard with a very curled white moustache, a tiny white Puffskein perched on his shoulder. “To the boy who lived! To the saviour of the wizarding world! To our hero! To HARRY POTTER!”

Harry tried not to wince as the man’s words were taken up first by the crowd immediately surrounding him, and then by the rest of the guests, echoing off the walls and bouncing off the marble floors and ornate ceilings. People raised their glasses to him as the voices began to crescendo, until the whole world was nothing more than the chant: “HAR-RY POT-TER! HAR-RY POT-TER!”

Hermione nudged him and took an ostentatious sip of her drink, clearly indicating that he should do the same. He didn’t want to, though! Who was big-headed enough to drink to a toast like that? But the longer he dithered, the louder the crowd roared. So he reluctantly raised his glass in the air, in a toast to the crowd, and lifted the glass to his lips to drink.

The moment he did so, the nearest Floo sprang to life, green flames shooting up, and a slim wizard, dressed entirely in black, but with a shock of dazzling bright hair, so blond it was almost white, half fell out of the fireplace. And crash-landed, as Harry had half suspected anyone exiting the Floo might, right into the nearest buffet table, spraying both himself and the nearest guests with sprigs of parsley and tiny triangles of bread and ham.

Ron had half-lunged forward to help the man up, but he did a strange sort of contortion to stop himself dead in his tracks, and staggered backwards again, a look of disgust twisting his face. Hermione raised her chin and stepped forward, the set of her shoulders radiating extreme reluctance, but even she faltered when she caught sight of the look of unconcealed rage on . . . on Draco Malfoy’s face.

Because it was Malfoy, of course it was. If anyone was going to crash land in the middle of the whole world chanting Harry’s name, it had to be Malfoy. He was the only person in the universe who could make this worse. And apparently he wasn’t just here to witness one of the most embarrassing displays of ‘famous Harry Potter’ that Harry had ever experienced. No, he was here to . . . to . . . What was he here for, Harry wondered. It didn’t seem like the sort of party Malfoy would have been invited to, let alone be willing to attend.

He was here to make Harry feel strangely guilty, it quickly became apparent. Because . . . people were laughing at him. Openly. Unkindly. And while Harry’s feelings for Malfoy swung wildly between disdain and pity these days, apart from on those odd, uncomfortable nights he woke shaking after dreams of Malfoy’s body pressed against him, the Fiendfyre curling round their ankles, it didn’t seem fair for people to mock him. If Ron had fallen in the sarnies, then yes, absolutely fine and reasonable. But Malfoy . . . No. Harry couldn’t explain why, but it wasn’t the same.

“Malfoy,” Harry said, a little awkwardly, and Malfoy flinched as if he’d been punched in the stomach, before slowly straightening up, loosening his death grip on the tablecloth and flicking parsley off the front of his robes.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Malfoy said icily, and seemed to have no trouble looking Harry in the eye. His gaze was sharp, and cold, and Harry found himself unable to meet it for more than half a second, instead dropping his eyes to stare at Malfoy’s neck. It was long, and pale, and he could see Malfoy’s Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed.

Someone in the crowd hissed, “Death Eater scum,” and it was suddenly so quiet in the room that Harry could hear his own heart beating.

Malfoy didn’t flinch; he just stood there, completely motionless, not even breathing, as far as Harry could see. A tiny, horrible part of Harry whispered that it served Malfoy right, because it was true, wasn’t it, before he squashed it, feeling thoroughly ashamed of himself. Malfoy had been a complete wanker, true enough, but Harry had come to believe that everyone deserved a second chance. And as far as he was aware, Malfoy hadn’t done anything since the war had ended except keep himself to himself and comply perfectly with the terms of his sentence.

He . . . he was here, in the Ministry, to meet with his assigned Auror, wasn’t he, Harry realised with horror. No one had thought to cancel his appointment. No one had thought that maybe, on today of all days, Draco Malfoy, of all people, would prefer to be anywhere but here.

Draco had lost people too, in the war. Harry closed his eyes and swallowed hard against the tiny voice in his head that reminded him that he shouldn’t care if Malfoy was suffering, that it was only what he deserved. Malfoy’s sentence, and the part he’d played in Voldemort’s return, had spun around so many times in Harry’s head that he no longer had any sense of what Malfoy might or might not deserve, only that he felt desperately sorry for his former rival, whilst suspecting that the only thing that would make Malfoy’s life any worse than it currently was was knowing that Harry felt sorry for him.

“Malfoy, let me—” Hermione said, each word ringing awkwardly into the tense silence.

Harry’s eyes shot back open, and he unwillingly locked eyes again with Malfoy. He felt an unbearable pressure to relieve the tension, the unpleasantness, and he found himself attempting a horrendous, awkward smile. Malfoy flinched. He hadn’t flinched at the mocking laughter of the crowds. He hadn’t flinched at the hissed insult, or the unpleasant silence that followed. He flinched at Harry smiling at him. And he looked, for a fraction of a second, as hurt as if Harry had stabbed him, before his usual mask of smug disdain slid back across his face.

“Thank you, Miss Granger,” Malfoy said, barely moving his lips, still staring rigidly at Harry. “But frankly, I’d rather die than accept your help.” And he made a reasonable attempt at a cutting smile, his lips a tight, compressed line, tipped his chin in the air, and turned away in a swirl of expensive fabric and stray parsley leaves, to stalk back to the Floo he’d entered in and flicker away.

The noise, once he’d left, was almost deafening, a babble of voices Harry could only catch fragments of. Well, I never seemed to bubble out of it, along with the nerve of the man and disgusting and should have been locked in Azkaban, him and his parents, and—

“You all right, mate?” Ron said, leaning in to semi-shout in Harry’s ear. “Only, you look a bit like you’re about to vom. I’d’ve encouraged you to line your stomach with a few of these fine sausage rolls if I’d known a hideous blight on humanity like Malfoy would pop up and put us all off our wine.”

“Harry, you’re not responsible for Malfoy,” Hermione said quietly in his other ear, her hand a warm and irritating pressure on his upper arm. “You couldn’t have done more at his trial.”

Harry wondered if that was true, and felt guilt, that familiar old friend, crawling through his insides. He’d spoken up on Malfoy’s behalf, but that hadn’t stopped his old Slytherin enemy being sentenced first to house arrest, alongside his parents, and then to weekly Ministry appointments to – what? To convince them he was still being a good boy, Harry supposed. He wasn’t allowed to know any of the details; had been told by his boss that it was inappropriate, given he and Malfoy had been at school together. He’d been sorely tempted to look anyway, but had decided against it. It wasn’t his job to look out for Malfoy, and Malfoy wouldn’t thank him for it.

“Harry?” Hermione repeated. “Do you want to go home?”

Harry didn’t want to go home. He wanted to chase after Malfoy and check he was all right, even though that was completely ridiculous. He didn’t know what the hell was wrong with him. Pull yourself together, he ordered himself, and took first a deep breath and then a deep sip of his wine. By some miracle he was still holding it, rather than wearing it down the front of his robes. “No,” he said, trying to summon up some determination; he knew he had some somewhere. “I’m here to do a job, so I’m going to do it.”

“That’s the spirit,” Hermione said in rousing tones, and Harry turned to force a smile at the nearest person and slide back into making boring small talk. He tried very hard not to think about Malfoy as he did so. Sod Malfoy. He wouldn’t be spending the rest of the day brooding about Harry, so why the hell should Harry waste another thought on him?

^^^^^^

Harry probably wouldn’t have chosen twelve Grimmauld Place as his home if it hadn’t been for Kreacher. He’d once suggested moving to a new house – one with less dust and fewer insane portraits – but Kreacher had spent the next few days refusing to speak to Harry other than to insult him in a mutter, and he’d burnt so many of Harry’s meals that Harry had let the old elf win. Sometimes, when he belched, he could still taste the charcoal; eating the food had been preferable, at any rate, to refusing it and suffering Kreacher’s expression of grim disapproval at his master’s ingratitude.

Some days he almost liked the old house, with its poky corners and creaking floorboards. Most days, he found it depressing. The empty rooms, the endless dust that seemed to sprout in corners whenever Harry wasn’t looking, no matter how much cleaning Kreacher did. The house felt like it was waiting for something and was miserable that Harry wasn’t providing it. “I’m not going to get married just to make you happy!” he found himself telling the hallway once, and the house had seemed to exhale a gust of dust, the wallpaper peeling in despair. He was imagining it, of course. The house wasn’t alive. It just felt that way sometimes, layer upon layer of history bleeding through to affect Harry’s mood. He’d suggested to Ron and Hermione a year or so ago, in an off-hand way, that they move in too. It had taken a full day before Walburga’s portrait had stopped screaming the word Mudblood, and Harry hadn’t felt able to mention it again. Besides, they had their own tiny cottage now – cosy, not cramped, Hermione insisted – and if they moved in it would be out of pity for him, and that would be unbearable.

Still, it was on nights like these that Harry wished he’d gone against Kreacher and moved somewhere – anywhere – else. The walls seemed to be closing in on him, and although he was tired to his bones, he knew that if he tried to sleep he’d end up lying awake, thinking about things he didn’t want to think about. So he tiptoed up the stairs, trying not to let the ancient floorboards creak and wake the elderly elf, and grabbed his broom from its spot on the fourth-floor landing. He eased the sash window upwards and swung his legs over the window ledge, shoving the broom under him and pushing off and up. It was risky, and stupid, of course, to fly in a Muggle district, but he knew he’d stay concealed by the house’s inbuilt charms if he was careful to keep close to the walls. It only took a few seconds before he was hovering above the flat roof, and he touched down lightly, letting the broom rest by his side and sitting cross-legged on the very edge.

Harry pulled his wand out of his pocket and cast a Deluminating Charm. Instantly, all the streetlights in the neighbourhood spluttered and sparked out into nothing, and the night sky sprang into life above him, a swathe of stars against an inky, navy canvas. He knew he’d get it in the neck from his boss, Robards, the next day – his Islington street was becoming notorious amongst the local Muggle council for faulty streetlights that nevertheless seemed to work perfectly whenever they were checked during the daytime – but right now he didn’t actually care. There was something about the night sky that loosened the knot in his chest that he didn’t even notice when he was busy, but which was always there. Today – it was so late at night it was probably the next day – the knot felt particularly tight, as if it was trying to choke him.

Accio Firewhisky,” Harry said with a vague swish of his wand, and the bottle hit his left hand with a satisfying slap. He shoved his wand back in his robe pocket and undid the bottle, knocking back several swallows of the liquid. It burned his throat on the way down, fierce and harsh, and he wiped moisture from his eyes before taking another long gulp. Merlin, if he never had to do another fucking ‘Harry Potter Day’ again, it would be too soon, he thought. He toasted the sky with his bottle, and for a brief moment his view blurred, before he blinked hard and it cleared again. It was stupid to cry. It didn’t bring anyone back.

Harry’s head pounded, and he wondered vaguely why anyone would ever choose to be famous. It was terrible, and he was terrible at it, and he heartily wished he could have saved the world in some anonymous, quiet way that no one had ever needed to know about. Malfoy had always gone on about Harry’s taste for fame, as if it was something Harry had wanted. God. Malfoy should try being famous, see how he liked it. Except . . . Malfoy was famous now, wasn’t he? Or, rather, infamous. Harry supposed it wasn’t really the same thing. He’d had a taste of being infamous himself, back when everyone had thought he’d been lying about Voldemort’s return, and he couldn’t say that had been much fun either. Well, he was more than happy to pass over all his fame to Malfoy, and good luck to him, Harry thought fuzzily, taking another swig of alcohol. It was what Malfoy had apparently always wanted. It was a shame that life didn’t work that way.

Harry scrubbed a hand over his eyes. God. Why was he even thinking about Malfoy, anyway? It wasn’t like Malfoy gave a shit about him. It was pathetic, to be sitting, pissed, on his roof and feeling terrible about the way that Malfoy’s life had turned out. If Malfoy had wanted to have a happier time of it, he could have tried a bit harder to be a more tolerable person, Harry told himself crossly, taking another drink. Merlin, though, the stars were beautiful tonight. He sat and watched them twinkle, and his eye was caught by a trail across the darkness. Was it an aeroplane? Harry took off his glasses and rubbed them on the edge of his robe, before shoving them back on his nose. The streak was joined by another, and then, a few minutes later, a further stream of lights, streaking the sky with burning blue-white lines. Shooting stars, Harry realised, watching the sky dance with them.

The sky suddenly seemed a vast, empty expanse, and Harry felt very small and insignificant in the face of these balls of fire, thousands and millions of miles away. Depression settled on him once again, like a heavy cloak. “Merlin,” Harry said, and took a sip of whisky as he gazed out into the endless darkness, punctured by exploding stars. “I wish things were different.” But they weren’t, were they? Harry shivered, struck by some nameless dread. He’d wake up the next morning and things would be as they always were. He’d be famous, Malfoy would be an unspeakable tosser, and—

Harry swayed slightly, realised he was too drunk to be sitting on the edge of a roof. And he was getting cold, too. That was undoubtedly the source of the nameless dread, he told himself wryly. He was drunk, and cold, and . . . and . . . fucked off with everything. He staggered upright and managed to get back on his broom, lurching precariously through the air and back through the open window.

Kreacher was standing in the hallway glaring at him. “Master has let the night air in again,” Kreacher said with a sniff of disgust. “Night air is poison. Master will catch a chill.”

“I’m fine, Kreacher. You didn’t have to wait for me,” Harry said, feeling an overwhelming tide of sleepiness wash over him.

“Master is lucky he didn’t fall and break all his bones,” Kreacher continued, watching Harry with bright, suspicious eyes as he staggered through the nearest door and into his bedroom. “Did he expect Kreacher to go out in the cold poison and scoop him up? Master should—”

“Goodnight, Kreacher. Sleep well,” Harry said, shutting the door on the old elf’s muttering and half falling into the large, ornately carved bed that had once belonged to Sirius. The mattress was as hard as nails. He should probably do something about that, he thought as he began to drift off. He bet Malfoy wasn’t sleeping on a second-hand, uncomfortable mattress right now. It was a mistake to think of Malfoy again, Harry realised in the small part of his mind that was still awake, but he was already being sucked down into dreams that made him hot, and uncomfortable, and aching with something inexplicable. He succumbed to the pull of sleep, to dream of flashes of blond hair so pale it was white, the long press of a male body against his own, and searing heat that didn’t hurt at all.

Chapter Text

Harry woke up with a start to the sound of the wireless, blaring too close to his head. He lay there for a moment, eyes screwed tight shut, and wished he was dead. His head hurt. His body hurt. Hell, even his hair seemed to be throbbing, in time to the perky pop music assaulting his eardrums. There was something familiar about the singer’s voice that he couldn’t place. He tried to think, but it hurt too much, so instead he reached out with his hand and attempted to beat the wireless to death. He didn’t even remember having an alarm clock that played the radio. Merlin, how much had he drunk the night before? He hit out at the clock harder, each thump sending a jolt of pain through his brain, and just as his hand connected – mercifully – with the off button, the song was cut off by the thud of pounding dance music and a female singer crooning, “Ninety-five point eight, Capital FM!”

Harry opened his eyes, to see . . . the faraway blur of his bedroom ceiling and the nearer blur of the intricately carved footboard at the end of the bed. An immense sense of relief washed over him. For a moment there, he’d wondered if he’d got so drunk that he hadn’t managed to find his way back home. And however much he sometimes didn’t like Grimmauld Place, it was home.

Harry fumbled for his wand, but the smooth, warm wood didn’t roll into his hand as it did most mornings. He supposed he’d left it in his robe pocket, or something. He sat up slowly, worried that if he moved too quickly his head might fall off, and groped about a bit for his glasses, shoving them on carelessly and scanning the room. “Accio wand,” he said, holding out his hand. Harry’s wandless magic was less than reliable, which in some ways he found comforting. He didn’t want to be the greatest wizard of the age, or whatever the papers often said. He would never be as good a wizard as Dumbledore . . . or even as Snape, who’d kept the Dark Lord out of his mind for years and had been powerful enough to fly without a broom. No, Harry was more than happy to be good enough at magic. Good enough to be an Auror, and to one day head up the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

Right now, though, with the thought of getting up a slightly sick-making one, he decided he wouldn’t mind his wandless magic being a tiny bit better. Ugh. “Accio water,” he tried, without expectation, and to his mild surprise a glass of water zoomed through the air, tipping over as he grabbed at it and soaking into his duvet and the front of his pyjama shirt. “Fuck!” Harry said, holding the sodden fabric away from him and simultaneously wondering when, exactly, he’d gone out and bought a pair of old-man pin-striped pyjamas. Sometimes things did turn up out of nowhere in this house, but they tended to be more obviously Sirius’s, and however hard Harry tried he just couldn’t picture Sirius in sensible striped cotton.

Harry turned and looked at the wireless. He didn’t recognise that either. It looked Muggle to his eyes, even though it had been a long time since he’d lived as one. It was rectangular, and silver, and when he peered closer he could read the tiny branding on it: Sony Dream Machine. Harry, feeling something uneasy stir in the pit of his stomach, jabbed at the buttons until he found one that turned it on again. An unfamiliar voice announced, “This is Chris Tarrant, live on Capital Breakfast! Stay tuned for the latest news and weather, after the commercial break. But before that, here’s Craig David, down two positions in the charts this week to come in at number three with the super smooooth Fill me in.”

Harry didn’t want to be filled in. He jabbed at the off button, and once again sweet silence filled the room. Now that he was more awake, the room was different, wasn’t it? Sirius’ tatty old posters of motorbikes and bored women in bikinis were gone, and there was a chunky TV on the chest of drawers across the room. Harry shucked his wet pyjama top over his head and creaked his way out of bed, pausing to stretch widely in the hope it might help him feel more alive. Something was making him feel more alive though, and it was the increasing realisation that there was something incredibly off about this room, about this morning.

Harry nearly tripped over his discarded pile of clothes, but they didn’t seem to be his clothes. He hadn’t pulled, last night, had he? It seemed incredibly unlikely, and besides, surely he’d have remembered! But there was no extra body in his bed, or under it, or even, when Harry gingerly pulled his bedroom door open, in the hallway. “Hello?” he called, and hoped that Kreacher would bound out to castigate him for something in his usual way, before trying to force-feed him an enormous cooked breakfast, but there was only silence.

Harry turned back and bent down to pick up the clothes. They seemed to be roughly his size, but they felt unfamiliar, and either way, they definitely weren’t the robes he’d been wearing the night before. Where the fuck was his wand, then? Harry’s sense of unease grew louder and more insistent. He pulled open his wardrobe door, to find a neat row of really terrible polo shirts, trousers that rustled, and a couple of identical ugly fleece jackets. Pinned to one of the jackets was a badge that read: “Hello, my name is HARRY. Happy to help!”

“Ha, fucking ha,” Harry muttered and closed the wardrobe door on this hanging rail of horrors. He wasn’t much when it came to fashion, but even he knew a terrible outfit when he saw one. Was this Ron’s idea of a joke, maybe? Or had Kreacher finally snapped and decided to punish Harry by stealing all his clothes and selling them on the black market?

Harry took a deep breath, told himself there must be a logical explanation for all this, and left his bedroom, toes curling in thick carpet that hadn’t been there the night before. The hallway and stairs, which had been wallpapered roughly two or three years before the dawn of time, were now painted a fresh, boring white, and when Harry hit the final flight of stairs leading to the ground floor the wall was dotted with photos. Muggle photos, in cheap black frames. There Harry was, smiling faintly with people he’d never seen before. And there . . . there his parents were, holding a baby and looking proud, his mother in dungarees with her red hair styled in a profusion of curls and his father in corduroy trousers and a paisley patterned shirt, sporting an unexpected bushy beard.

Deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. Harry stepped out into the entrance hall and looked for the curtained portrait of Walburga. It was gone, as if it had never been there. As if Harry hadn’t called in more than one expert to remove it, who’d all – to a wizard – concluded that the only way they’d be able to get it off the wall was by burning down the house. Harry had never envisioned a time when he’d be worried to find it gone, and the incongruity of it almost made him laugh. What the hell was going on? Was this a dream, or something? And if it was, how could he wake himself up?

Harry scrubbed a hand through his hair – even in his dream, his hair was sticking up in every direction, he could just tell – and strode into the dining room, the flagstones cold under his bare feet. There was the wall of long dressers he remembered, packed with china, but on the side of the closest one was a row of electrical sockets, sprouting a tangle of wires and gadgets. Harry, his hangover gone as if he’d drunk a potion, walked over and let his fingers hover over them. There was a chunky mobile phone, a CD Walkman, a wide, chunky box that could possibly be a computer, although it was the smallest one Harry had ever seen, and – was that a Gameboy? It occurred to Harry that this was the first time living with Dudley had ever proved to be any practical use to him. On balance, though, he thought he’d take a useless Dudley over whatever this was. He looked around the room again, this second glance taking in small piles of crap that Kreacher would never have tolerated leaving overnight – an empty crisp packet on the table next to a bunch of keys and a screwed up receipt, a lone sock under the table, a folded newspaper sliding off a black pile on the floor in the distance that could be a bag or, equally, a horrible coat of some kind.

Harry took a deep breath, pinched himself hard on the arm – he’d heard this was a thing people did sometimes, but the only effect it had was a short moment of mild pain – and walked over to the paper, bending to pick it up and unfold it. The print rubbed off on his fingers, rough and unpleasant, as he took in the masthead – Metro – and the date: the third of May. He flicked past articles on the upcoming election for London Mayor, rising house prices and changes to pension payments without managing to take much in. He squeezed his eyes tight shut and then opened them again; no change. The paper in his hands was definitely Muggle. He was in a room littered with the detritus of a Muggle life that wasn’t his, and his house had definitely become more . . . Muggle than it had been when he’d gone to bed the night before. The date was right, but that was about the only thing that was. Harry sat down heavily in front of the dining table and set the paper down, pushing it away, before rubbing his fingers on the fabric of the pyjama bottoms that didn’t belong to him, leaving faint ink-stains. The headache was back now with a vengeance. Harry rested his elbows on the table and sank forward, supporting his head in his hands. He was very tempted to just go back to bed and put the covers over his head. Maybe if he did that, this bizarre hallucination would end? Or, he thought grimly, between throbs of pain, maybe this . . . whatever it was . . . would congeal in some way. What he needed was a pain potion, his wand and then – in all probability – Hermione.

The thought of Hermione was strangely motivating. Harry took a deep breath and sat up straight. What would Hermione think of him just sitting about like this? She’d be deeply unimpressed by his lack of intellectual curiosity. And— It suddenly occurred to Harry that maybe he was in danger, in some way. What if he was currently floating in a vat of some dark potion somewhere, his brain trapped in an illusion, and the only way he could free himself was to . . . to . . .? He was buggered if he knew. How did a wizard extract themselves from a hallucinogenic vat, anyway? It wasn’t a very comforting thought. Either way though, Harry concluded wryly, getting to his feet, he wasn’t going to get anything done sitting on his arse. He straightened up and, once he’d established that his head wasn’t literally going to fall off, strode out of the dining room. The whole vat thing had yet to be established, and if he was going to have to battle some kind of evil – chances seemed high – on balance, he thought he’d rather be wearing underpants for the fight.

^^^^^^

Half an hour later, Harry was wearing underwear. The kind of white Y-fronts – although ‘white’ was a kind way of describing the sad, greying fabric – he’d stopped wearing some time during his first year at Hogwarts. This seemed significant in some way Harry couldn’t work out, but he was trying not to think about it too hard. It was creepy enough that he was wearing pants he couldn’t remember buying, but the alternative – not wearing pants underneath badly fitting trousers he couldn’t remember buying either – had seemed worse, somehow. That was about the only success he’d managed. The box of Paracetamol he’d unearthed in the bathroom cabinet – along with a razor he’d never needed, given that he was a wizard – was unhelpfully empty, so he’d put it back. And as for his wand, there was no sign of it. Harry had tried to Accio it half a dozen times, and had resorted to pulling out all his bedroom furniture and crawling round the house on his hands and knees in search of it, but nothing. It was gone, almost as if it had never existed at all.

Harry was finding it increasingly hard not to panic. But . . . he still had his magic, didn’t he? All he had to do was go to work, borrow a spare and . . . de-vat himself, his brain added unhelpfully as he shoved his feet into ugly black shoes that felt like plastic. Acting almost on autopilot, he took the stairs two at a time, striding across the first-floor landing and into the drawing room, where he paused in front of the enormous fireplace, suddenly unsure what to do next. The pot that held his Floo powder was gone from the mantelpiece, and the fireplace was cold and unused. It was OK, he told himself firmly. He’d just have to do things the old-fashioned way.

He dashed back down the stairs and went to pick up the wallet and keys he’d seen scattered in the dining room. He eyed the mobile phone suspiciously, wishing he could turn it into an owl by strength of will alone, and decided he’d let it rest where it lay. Just because he knew what it was didn’t mean he knew how to turn it on, let alone use it. And who would he call, anyway? He didn’t have any friends who weren’t wizards. So, instead, he grabbed the jacket lying on the floor – it was a horrible rain jacket of some sort, which rustled as he put it on – and made his way to his front door and out.

To Harry’s relief, the street outside was just as he remembered it. Rows of tall, imposing townhouses, the road between them stuffed with vehicles. Harry slowly descended the steps outside his house and stepped out on to the pavement, only to be nearly mown down by a cyclist, who shouted, “Watch out, dickhead!” as he zoomed past, weaving in and out of pedestrians and frantically tinging his bell.

Harry leapt back to the safety of the steps, attracting curious glances and sniggers from passing pedestrians. It took Harry a moment to process this. People could see him. They could see him. The magic that hid his house from Muggle view had clearly failed. Harry considered this for a moment, and then raced back up the steps, fumbling in his pocket for the keys he’d carelessly shoved in them. The silver curled snake doorknocker was still in place, but the door now featured two prominent keyholes. To Harry’s great relief, the first key worked, so he shut the door again, heart thumping, and fiddled with the bottom lock until he was sure that one was bolted too.

That done, Harry stepped back out into the street, more cautiously this time, heading towards the tube station. He felt very glad, all of a sudden, for Mr Weasley’s continuing cheerful obsession with Muggle technology, which Harry had frequently indulged over the past, depressing, couple of years. Just a few months back, he and Mr Weasley had worked out a route that would take them from Harry’s house to the Ministry, so they’d suffered the tube at rush hour, Mr Weasley’s eyes as wide as saucers as they’d descended underground and packed into the tin cans that were the tube trains, getting closer to their fellow man than Harry had to another person in a very long time. Even so, it was a struggle to remember what to do, Harry first fishing in the unfamiliar wallet for the unfamiliar coins he needed to buy his ticket, and then spending an embarrassing amount of time in front of the map of coloured lines on the wall, his finger tracing the route from Highbury and Islington to Westminster until he had it by heart.

It was mid morning by now, and the trains were half empty, to Harry’s relief. He managed to make the journey without incident, and soon he was making his way out of the station, the Houses of Parliament looming ahead of him. Harry knew this area of London well, but he still found himself looking about as if he’d never seen it before, taking in the tourists massing around him, straining his eyes for a glimpse of a robe or the glitter of a spell-trail. Nothing. All he could see were Muggles. Groups of them blocking the pavement. Individuals stopping dead in front of him and making him trip over his feet to avoid walking into their backs. Policemen, at a distance. Cars everywhere. Tuk-tuks clogging up the corners, their bored-looking drivers tinging their bells and still being treated as if they were invisible.

Harry tried not to grind his teeth as he made his slow way towards the public loos that were just down the road from the station, finding himself breaking out into a run as he approached the spiked black railings and the sign reading GENTLEMEN. He descended into the grimy depths, striding past the urinals and banging into one of the Ministry’s cubicles, locking the door behind him.

Something didn’t seem right, somehow. The toilets were busy, he’d noticed, but with tourists in practical rain jackets and sensible shoes, rather than smart Muggle-fooling suits or robes. And it occurred to him as he stared at the toilet that he hadn’t needed a Ministry token to enter the cubicle. Either Muggles by the dozen were accidentally flushing their way into the Ministry, or this was no longer an entry. Harry tried to think. It had been one yesterday, he was sure of it, even though he hadn’t used it for months; these days, most employees simply used the Floos or Apparated straight in. Even so, Harry was certain this entrance was still in operation, along with the telephone box down the road for guests. But . . . was he certain enough to stand in the loo and flush?

Harry looked at the toilet, which was definitely a public toilet in both look and smell, and felt the least Gryffindor he’d ever felt in his life. It wouldn’t hurt to try a small experiment first, would it? The box on the wall that should have held the bog roll was empty, but he shoved his hand in the pocket of his horrible, rustling rain jacket and came out with an elderly, fuzzy tissue. He dropped it in the loo and yanked the chain. The cistern groaned, and a dribble of water gurgled out to soak the tissue but fail to whisk it down the U-bend.

Harry didn’t find much encouragement in this display. Still, it was possible the tissue was still floating around because it was fairly important that stray Muggle turds didn’t shoot out of the employee entrance to land, revoltingly, on the Ministry floor, wasn’t it? Harry sighed, not for the first time that morning, and stood in the toilet before he could talk himself out of it. Even as he pulled the chain, the water filled his horrible black fake-leather shoes with a depressing predictability. And, of course – of course – the toilets were still filled with tourists as he squelched out, to tug his shoes and socks off and decant them into the nearest sink, before covering them with chemical-scented hand-wash and resisting the urge to scrub off his own skin.

It took a good fifteen minutes under the hand-dryer before his shoes were dry enough to put back on, and his socks had taken on a curious and pervasive damp scent, like wet Crup. Better, Harry thought with a small shudder, than the alternative, but only just. Harry left the public toilets rather more slowly than he’d gone in, back up into the sunlight and into a world that seemed much more alarming than it had before. There was still the telephone box, though, Harry told himself, trying to boost his spirits, and at least there was no danger there of getting wet feet. When he got to the box, though, it had an air of disuse. The glass was cracked, and the inside was plastered in small, grim cards with pictures of half-naked women and accompanying phone numbers. Harry picked up the receiver, and although there was a dialling tone, when he punched in 62442 – magic – the automated voice told him to insert 20p and try again. That said it all, as far as Harry was concerned. Never in the history of the wizarding world had a wizard needed to insert 20p to turn on the magic, and while there was a first time for everything, he was fairly sure this moment wasn’t going to be the 20p’s time to shine.

Harry hung around for a bit in indecision, getting in the way of streams of tourists but not particularly caring. How the fuck was he meant to get into the Ministry if both the entrances were shut, he didn’t have any Floo powder and he couldn’t find his wand? He’d never tried Apparating without his wand before, and now didn’t seem like an ideal time to try it out. What if he Splinched off his head? And in any case, what if – what if the Ministry had moved location, his brain supplied wildly, and he ended up Apparating into the earth? He wouldn’t feel very well, that was what. No, it was best not attempted.

Harry was aware he wasn’t proving a shining example of an Auror right now, and he tried to think logically. If he couldn’t get into the Ministry by himself, then he’d need another wizard to side him along. He hadn’t spotted another wizard so far, that was true, but there was almost certainly a good reason for that. Ministry employees would all be in the Ministry right now, he improvised, rather than loitering on the street. What he needed was – Ron and Hermione! He’d been to their cottage before. He could even remember where it was. Cramond – a quaint, tiny hamlet lined with white-washed cottages, where the Muggle and wizarding community lived side by side, even if the Muggles weren’t aware of the real reason why their neighbours were so odd. There was a sandy beach, and thick, ancient woods, and peace and quiet, Hermione had said with a contented sigh that expressed more than mere words, and besides, what was a daily commute from Edinburgh to London for a witch and a wizard?

Harry reluctantly shelved his bright idea of visiting Ron and Hermione for the time being. The Hogwarts Express took hours to get to Scotland, and it seemed unlikely a Muggle train would be faster. And besides, he was in London. The centre of Britain’s wizarding community! The idea that he couldn’t find someone to help him was ludicrous. If he had to, he’d stand outside the Leaky Cauldron until someone recognised him. He was, for better or worse, the most famous person in the wizarding world right now. There was no way he’d be waiting long.

^^^^^^

It only took Harry twenty minutes to walk to Drury Lane, but he had to walk up and down it for a good long while before he was certain he was standing in the right place. The big bookshop he remembered being on the pub’s left was still there, and so was the record shop on its right, but there was no sign whatsoever of the Leaky Cauldron itself. It was curiously disorientating not being able to see the Leaky, and the fact that he couldn’t gave him the creeps more than anything else that had happened so far that day. He was a wizard. He was definitely still a wizard. He’d proved it earlier when he’d Accioed water all down his front, like a tosser. But . . . if he was a wizard, why the bloody hell couldn’t he see the Leaky any more? The obvious explanation – that he couldn’t see it because it wasn’t there – raised so many more questions than it answered that he decided not to examine it too closely, in case thinking about it made it actually real. Two stressful hours later though, it had started to drizzle, and Harry’s mind had helpfully posed the suggestion that if the Leaky wasn’t there, and no wizards had turned up because there was no Leaky, maybe there were no other wizards. Maybe, in fact, he was just a Muggle who’d sustained a terrible brain injury and had dreamed he was a wizard, before accidentally pouring water on himself. Maybe he should check himself into the Muggle equivalent of the Janus Thickey Ward immediately.

It seemed wrong to section yourself on an empty stomach though, and the gurgling of Harry’s insides was now loud enough to cut through his monologue of despair. He knew this area well enough, long days at the office often bleeding into longer nights, and wizard or no, it was essential to know where a knackered Auror could buy a hot drink and a hot foodstuff that was at least fifty percent grease. There was a chippy up by the junction between Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross Road that sold grease that dreams were made of, and if Harry had ever deserved grease more, he thought firmly as a raindrop dripped into his eye, it was now. Harry stood tall in his horrible raincoat, which rustled with every twitch he made, and pulled the horrible hood over his head, tightening the toggles to fix it in place. That dread deed done, he set off at a quick pace, weaving his way through the now umbrella-toting crowd with determination and only just managing not to get his eye poked out by a passing spoke.

Soon – thank Merlin, Harry thought, feeling oddly emotional about the whole business – he was inside the take-away and in the queue, the scent of deep-frying food coiling through the air, cut through by the harsh tang of vinegar. The line moved quickly, and soon he had a fragrant cone of paper in his hand, the rising steam off the chips fogging up his already rain-speckled glasses. He paused by the exit to liberally sprinkle his chips with salt and vinegar, and then precariously managed to lift the bottom of his raincoat and scrub his glasses dry on the edge of his T-shirt without dropping the food. The rain had slowed down, and Harry almost felt better for a moment. Whatever had gone wrong with today, he thought, spearing a chip with a tiny wooden fork, he’d be able to sort it out. After all, he’d been stuck in many other shit situations in his life so far, and none of them had involved chips, so how bad could this one be?

Harry popped the chip in his mouth, stepping through the doorway of the chip shop and back out into the street. Only to drop the bag on his feet as he swallowed in shock, the too-hot potato burning the back of his throat as he tried not to choke on it. How he hadn’t noticed it before, he had no idea. But there it was, right in front of him. The enormous Muggle music shop on the corner – the Virgin Megastore – had a different window display than the last time he’d gone by, on Auror business. He didn’t usually notice the subject of the window display, to be fair. But he could say, with complete certainty, that whatever had been in the window before, it hadn’t been an enormous poster of Draco Malfoy’s face. But there he was, repeated half a dozen times down the length of the road, his expression contorted into a disturbingly attractive pout and the words ‘DRACO MALFOY: I LOVE YOU – NEW ALBUM OUT NOW!’ in equally enormous letters above his head.

Chapter Text

As Harry gawped, open mouthed, at the inexplicable sight of Draco Malfoy’s face in a Muggle shop window, it struck him that of all the terrible things Malfoy had ever done to him, this one must count as one of the worst: he’d made him drop his chips. Harry looked down at the sad bag, chips spilling out, the paper soaking up water from the flooded pavement, and felt hungrier than he’d ever felt in his life. And as he stared at the wasted food, what had happened seemed to slot into place with a dreadful clarity, the hunger and rain and the enormous irritation combining to cut through the remnants of his hangover and tell him: it’s all your own fault.

Last night, he’d got drunk a lot of Firewhisky on his roof, after he’d already made a heroic attempt at drinking the Ministry’s wine cellar dry. He’d thought about Draco Malfoy, and he’d felt a drunken regret for how things had turned out that, in the cold light of day, the Slytherin fucker really didn’t deserve. And Harry – in his infinite wisdom – had wished things were different. He’d said it out loud, hadn’t he? And, his fuzzy memory supplied, he might even have toasted the muttered wish with a slug of Firewhisky. “I didn’t mean it!” Harry protested loudly, causing a nearby pedestrian to swerve, in case talking to yourself was catching. It wasn’t fucking fair! When he’d wished that things were different, he’d meant – well. What had he meant? Another memory hit Harry squarely between the eyes: he’d spent far too long last night brooding about how much he hated being famous, and wishing it on Malfoy instead.

The whole thing was too ridiculous for words, Harry thought, trying to pull himself together. Magic didn’t work like that. You didn’t just make a wish and then, bam, the world changed beyond recognition. Harry tried to ignore the fact that he appeared to have made a wish and then, bam, the world had changed beyond recognition. He recognised bloody Malfoy, after all. And so far today, Malfoy was the first connection to the wizarding world he’d discovered, even if right now the fucker did appear to be masquerading as a – as a – as a Muggle pop star.

“I wish things were back how they were!” Harry told the serried ranks of Draco Malfoys across the street firmly – and a bit too loudly. A passing Muggle jolted and caught Harry’s eye, clearly thinking he was talking to her, her eyes darting away immediately with a look of horror. Harry didn’t think calling, “I’m not crazy, I swear,” after her would help, so he resisted. The world hadn’t changed back on his wish, of course it fucking hadn’t. Wishing didn’t work that way. Nevertheless, he tried it again, a bit more quietly this time, simultaneously wishing that he actually was the most powerful wizard in the world and could do wandless magic effortlessly. Why had he ever thought differently?

God. What if he was the most powerful wizard in the world now, though – because he was the only one? Harry’s eye was drawn again to Malfoy’s pouting smirk. Malfoy was definitely a wizard. He was a pop star wizard, and – and Harry could feel his brain attempting to melt out of his head at the thought of Malfoy being any more up himself than he had been at school. The world was cruel; Malfoy was definitely still a wizard. He’d probably turn out to be a prince, too, Harry thought crossly, knowing his luck.

Harry squared his shoulders, lifted his chin, and made a decision. He would find Malfoy, and he would strangle him until the sod agreed to help him put the world back to how it was before. It shouldn’t be difficult. If Malfoy was still who Harry remembered – and he really, really hoped he was – he was unlikely to be enjoying the adulation of Muggles, of all people. Harry took a deep breath, shot a look of wistful despair at his deceased chips, now becoming one with the pavement, and set off towards the enormous shop at a quick pace.

It was difficult to sustain the quick pace. The crowds seemed to thicken even as he approached, and when he crossed the road it was almost impossible to actually get on the pavement on the other side. The paving stones outside the store were lined with damp young women talking loudly and enthusiastically to each other, some of them at painful volumes. Some of them were singing. Harry vowed that if they were singing something written by Malfoy, he’d lay waste to the whole world to put an end to this abomination. As he managed to get closer to the windows, though, he saw that there was more text on the posters than just the terrible revelation that Malfoy’s album was called I love you. He was probably talking about himself, Harry thought crossly, his stomach growling again and reminding him he still hadn’t had anything to eat today. The posters announced, horribly: ALBUM SIGNING TODAY, 4PM!!!

This enormous, soggy crowd – some of them, Harry realised, had brought tents, which suggested they’d been there for more than five minutes – had all come to see Malfoy. To get his autograph. They fucking were singing one of horrible Malfoy’s horrible songs, weren’t they? Harry didn’t know why this outraged him, but it did. Malfoy had been a pop star for under twenty-four hours, and already he was taking the credit for someone else’s hard work. Even if that someone was another him. Harry could feel his brain creaking as he tried to work things out. Was this wish world an odd bubble that he just had to pop? Was this another reality? An altered dimension? Or was he actually just asleep and dreaming? Harry pondered the many options and decided that he’d be quite pleased if, in the end, it turned out he really was floating somewhere in a vat of mind-altering dark potions. If it was a vat, he hadn’t done this to himself. And if it was a vat, Hermione would rescue him.

A harassed-looking security guard touched him briefly on the arm and gave him a bemused stare. “Only one entrance in use today if you want to go in,” he said, pointing further down the road. “Or if you’re here for the signing, back of the queue’s that way.” He gestured in the opposite direction. Harry stood on tiptoes and strained, but he couldn’t see an end to the line; it seemed to snake off into infinity, female and terrifying.

“Lots of people here to see Malfoy,” Harry tried, the words feeling very peculiar in his mouth.

The security guard raised his eyebrows and looked unimpressed at this great insight. “Uh-huh,” he said, and then walked off, to bully a trio of umbrella-toting girls with very short skirts – Harry tried not to look – out of the gutter and back on to the pavement. Harry could see a clutch of burly men pouring out of a side street in the distance, all carrying steel barriers. Presumably to pen in Malfoy’s fans, who’d proved themselves to be insane by standing out in all weathers to get the autograph of someone so . . . so . . . so Malfoy. A poster of Malfoy caught his eye again. His gaze really was unsettling, Harry thought, and shivered – definitely with the cold. It was bizarre to see Malfoy pulling an expression that was clearly intended to be provocative and charming, rather than his usual sulky arse-face. It . . . suited him.

Harry shook himself out of his fit of madness – the rain and the hunger, combined with the vat, had clearly done terrible things to his mental state – and looked at the enormous, heaving crowd with new, dismayed eyes. Weighing up the options – hunting down a famous ‘Muggle’ when he had no idea where the pouting arse-face was right now, versus waiting in a queue that would inevitably put Harry in front of him – the best course of action was pretty obvious. But the queue was so long. Harry dithered for a moment, wondering if he could just slip into it without being noticed before the barriers made it impossible. He was an Auror, for fuck’s sake. He hadn’t had the full training course, but he’d done the basics in stealth and tracking, and he’d faced death and defeated the Dark sodding Lord. Surely he could queue-jump without too much difficulty?

He couldn’t queue-jump without much difficulty. The girls seemed to transfigure themselves into an impenetrable wall of steel barriers the moment he took a step closer, their elbows jutting out to jab at him, and although no one said anything directly, he could hear the hiss of trying to push in and the nerve!!! He hastily backed away, falling into the gutter and nearly being mown down by a passing motorbike. He managed to mount the edge of the pavement again, trying not to notice the unkind giggles, and trudged along the endless line. He was wrong about it being all women, he noticed as he trudged, wondering if it would be wrong to mug a girl eating crisps – he needed them more than she did! The crowd was punctuated by bored, middle-aged men who Harry presumed had been dragged there by their daughters against their will, and scattered here and there were knots of attractive young men. Some of them were wearing eye make-up. Some of them were wearing T-shirts with pictures of Malfoy’s face.

Trudge, trudge. Harry began to wonder if the queue itself was some kind of time loop, endlessly repeating itself. Was this hell? It certainly seemed like a curse – to be doomed to walk beside a line of damp people who appeared to love Malfoy more than life itself, and who could not sing but did not seem to see this as an impediment. But once he’d gone at least ten miles down Oxford Street, he finally reached the end of the queue, and inserted himself into the gap, the space behind him filling up at an alarming rate. Harry looked at his watch – it still looked, and felt, like the gift from Mrs Weasley, the thought making him feel homesick – and saw that it was only just gone one o’clock. What had the sign said? Malfoy was signing things – surely Malfoy wasn’t signing things – at four? Harry’s stomach rumbled, and he found this perversely cheering. There was a good chance that come four o’clock he wouldn’t have to confront Draco Malfoy, face of a thousand T-shirts. Instead, his body would have eaten him alive and saved him from this fate worse than death.

^^^^^^

By ten to four, Harry had begun to vaguely wonder what he’d exchange for his invisibility cloak right now, to enable him to skip to the front of the queue. His house? Probably. The entire contents of his Gringotts vault? Definitely. He appeared to have been adopted by the – very kind, very sweet, he consciously added to his train of miserable thought – group of friends directly behind him. Samantha, Olivia and Sarah were all thirteen – Samantha was nearly fourteen, she’d emphasised – and to a woman, they all appeared to believe that when Malfoy took one look at them, he’d fall immediately and irrevocably in love. Harry hadn’t had the heart to probe this scenario further, but he furtively wondered whether, if Malfoy did go off his rocker and immediately propose to one of the three, the other two would rise up to stab her first in the back, and then in the front, for stealing their man. Olivia had given him an apple, and Sarah handfuls of sticky, rubbery sweets, and unfortunately that meant he was still alive to suffer through this experience.

Worst of all, Samantha had lent him the book she’d brought along for Malfoy to sign – “I know he’s signing his album today, but my mum called the shop for me and they said he might sign both if I buy another copy of I love you,” she confided, which had also introduced Harry to the hideous proposition that he would have to buy a copy of Malfoy’s album, and given rise to an unexpected new panic: did he even have enough Muggle money? Harry had attempted to discreetly check his wallet, only to be discovered in the act and drawn against his will into a discussion about pocket money and the unfairness of parents that had felt more painful than it should have been. There’d only been one picture in his house of his parents, hadn’t there? Even in an alternate reality, he was still an orphan.

He had enough money, he’d discovered; his wallet was thick with notes. But the book . . . It had somehow conspired to take away any relief that the realisation he wasn’t about to be turfed out of the queue for poverty had brought. It was an ‘authorised biography’, it said on the cover, and from the tiny amount of text in it Harry deduced that the author hadn’t been able to find much to say about the life story of a nineteen-year-old dickhead. It was mostly photos. Harry turned the pages slowly, past pictures of Malfoy as a small dickhead with his parents – a recognisable Lucius and Narcissa, albeit in extremely expensive-looking Muggle outfits. A fifteen-year-old Malfoy in a school uniform he didn’t recognise, standing in a Great Hall he fucking did recognise. And then pages and pages of photos of Malfoy as he was now. Relaxing on a sofa, noticeably exhausted but with a smile in his eyes. Surrounded by fans at an airport, a slouchy hat covering his hair as he signed a fan’s outstretched magazine. On stage, dressed all in white, an angelic expression on his face.

It was all incredibly disconcerting, as if Harry was looking at the world from behind a mirror and everything was distorted. He’d rarely seen Malfoy smile, in all the years he’d known him, outside of a mean smirk. But in these pictures, Malfoy looked . . . happy. Genuinely. As if he was someone pleasant, who liked to laugh, and not just at other people. It changed his whole expression. Gone was the pinched, sharp look of dissatisfaction and envy that Harry had thought was just Malfoy’s face, to be replaced by someone confident and friendly. Someone – although it made Harry hugely uncomfortable to admit it to himself – sort of attractive, in an odd, angular way. But it was one of the posed shots that was the worst. Harry knew that Malfoy was just looking at the camera, and probably thinking about his lunch, or how much money was in his vault, or how he could best crush some Muggles, or something, but Harry almost felt as if Malfoy was looking at him directly. There was something clear, and heartfelt, and deeply unnerving about the picture. As if Malfoy was someone – something – entirely new. Look at me, he appeared to be saying. I’m looking only at you.

“That one’s my favourite,” Samantha had said, heartfelt and serious. “It’s like he’s looking inside my soul. It’s how I know we’d be perfect together, you know? I just feel it here—” She raised her hands to her chest. “In the very depths of my being.”

“I knoooooow,” Olivia chimed in, while Sarah nodded enthusiastically, and they all squealed together, before bursting into song.

“He’s so perfect,” Sarah said in a half-whisper, when they’d finished a painful rendition of a tuneless chorus, and to Harry’s discomfort he could see tears welling up in her eyes.

Harry rummaged for a tissue in the pockets of his horrible coat, but Olivia beat him to it, whispering something shrill about mascara and prompting a panicked huddle that Harry kept well out of. He wanted to cry a little bit too. He’d just felt like a Muggle photograph of Draco Malfoy had looked into his soul, hadn’t he? The exact same way a group of thirteen-year-old girls had felt.

Harry had given the book back as soon as he could, and tried not to think about it. But for some reason, the harder he’d tried, the more the image seemed to have imprinted in his brain, until every time he closed his eyes, all he could see was Malfoy looking at him.

To be fair though, Harry thought, trying to unclench his teeth and relax his aching jaw, it was hard to think about anything other than Malfoy right now, given the situation. No one else would have managed it. He checked his watch again, to find that one minute had passed since the last time he’d looked. Nine minutes to four. The girls had stopped offering him sweets now and had mostly stopped talking at all, in favour of applying and reapplying a sticky clear liquid to their lips every thirty seconds, then blotting it off again and pouting into tiny hand mirrors. The crowd had become restless in general, and there was a tension in the air mixed with something closer to hysteria. Harry was feeling pretty hysterical himself, torn between wanting to see Malfoy so he could verify he wasn’t a) the only wizard left and b) not insane, and not wanting to see Malfoy in case he actually was a smiling pop star Muggle.

Someone started screaming in the distance, and Harry reached for the wand that wasn’t there, before he realised it was just a scream of pure excitement, rather than one of terror. He couldn’t stop his heart pounding though, and the scream was taken up by what sounded like every single other person in the queue. The queue seemed to be a living, breathing thing of its own now, bulging and writhing as it wailed in one voice. “Oh my God oh my God oh my God,” Sarah shrieked from beside him as the people surrounding him craned their necks to see . . . nothing? Harry couldn’t see anything at all. Everything seemed to have stopped, though, including all the traffic. He tried to crane his neck too, wishing he was a bit taller, and thought he could see a bus or something in the distance. As he stood on his tiptoes, the crowd surrounding the bus seemed to part, and there was a flash of blond hair Harry presumed must belong to Malfoy, given that the screaming increased in pitch and volume to ear-bleeding proportions. Thank Merlin this whole ordeal was nearly over, he thought fervently, sticking his fingers in his ears to try to save his eardrums.

“How long do you think it’ll be?” he asked Olivia a few minutes later, when the screaming had died down but the line hadn’t moved an inch. “Till we get to see the knobber— I mean Draco?”

Olivia looked closer to terrified than excited and was chewing her nails as enthusiastically as if she was as hungry as Harry, but she frowned at him at this.

Harry held his breath and tried to look like a man who hadn’t just called her idol a knobber. It seemed to work, as after a frozen second her brow relaxed, as if she’d decided that what he’d said was so unlikely, she must have misheard.

“An hour?” she guessed. “Or a bit more? I hope they don’t turn us away before it’s our turn!” she added, sounding like she was about to cry and introducing a new note of jeopardy into the situation. It was true, Harry thought, feel a fucking annoying knot of panic tighten in his chest, that the line was very long. And knowing Malfoy like he knew him, he’d probably pretend he’d strained his wrist after three signatures to get out of it and swan off home, complaining all the way. And if he did that, then not only would all this queuing have been completely pointless, but Harry would also have to work out how to get an audience with a – how had the book Samantha’d lent him described ferret-face again? A multi-platinum international sensation. And now he was thinking about that picture again, Harry realised with genuine horror, and the way Malfoy had appeared to be looking right at him.

Harry let out a breath of relief when the line jerked forward half an inch, and then, a few minutes later, another inch. He did a quick mental calculation and worked out that at this rate he’d be in front of Malfoy by – oh – Christmas at the earliest. The girls were fiddling compulsively with their hair now, their skin tones closer to green than was healthy. Their anxiety was clearly contagious, Harry thought, swallowing hard and suddenly glad he hadn’t, after all, eaten a large bag of chips. The wizarding world had to still exist somewhere, he thought ferociously. Quite apart from everything else, the thought that he could never again drink a hangover potion was a terrible one.

To Harry’s relief, soon the line began moving at a marginally quicker pace. Even so, it was nearly five before he could see the shop entrance, and going on half past before he was through the door and on to the heaving shop floor. The metal barriers stretched up and down the shop, the queue doubling back on itself more than once and snaking around a corner to where, Harry presumed, Malfoy was lurking. He had a moment of disconnect – this crowd of hyperventilating teenagers was here for Malfoy? – but reminded himself they weren’t really here for Malfoy. They were here because Harry appeared to have made an incredibly stupid mistake, wishing this reality into existence – how was wish magic even a thing, for fuck’s sake? – so it was up to him to save these poor girls by putting things back the way they were.

Harry steeled his resolve, not helped by the occasional shrieks coming from round the corner – noises of horror on encountering Malfoy’s real-life, hideous mug, he presumed – and tried to be patient as the queue moved at a snail’s pace. At some point the queue wound its way past a line of tills, and he was forced to buy a copy of Malfoy’s album as his entrance ticket to the signing. Why he also picked up a copy of the ‘authorised autobiography’ Sarah had shared with him earlier, which was also on offer by the till, he wasn’t entirely sure, but he shoved it into the plastic bag the checkout girl offered him and tried not to brood. “Big fan of Draco, are you?” she asked, the words curiously like a snigger, and looked him up and down.

Harry considered this, and decided the only dignified response was silence. “He’s OK,” he mumbled when the girl continued to look at him, waiting for an answer. He could feel his face going all hot.

The girl actually sniggered out loud this time, before turning to the girls behind him, and Harry wished he’d gone with his original silence scheme. Did he look like a wally right now? He considered the idea gloomily and concluded that he did. Not only had he, a grown man, apparently queued up for hours to get the autograph of another grown man, but he was wearing an ill-fitting outfit that even he had to admit did him no favours. And then there was his hair to consider. It was undoubtedly doing the thing it always did. Harry didn’t want to impress Malfoy, he really didn’t, but he found himself reaching up to try and surreptitiously flatten his hair down into something half-acceptable, and found no comfort in the fact that Samantha tapped him on the shoulder and, with a silent look of comradeship, passed him a tiny hairbrush and her hand mirror. He brushed half-heartedly, and then glanced in the mirror only long enough to confirm that, yes, it had made absolutely no difference – had brushing it actually made it worse? – before passing it back with a ‘thank you’ that he tried to make sound sincere.

“Don’t worry,” Samantha added in a confidential whisper, leaning closer as she stowed the brush away again in her handbag, “Draco will see what’s in your heart, and that’s the most important thing.”

Would he? Harry fucking hoped so. But he smiled weakly at Samantha, who he was still fairly sure was a pleasant if faintly irritating young woman, rather than a terrible, sarcastic monster who would have been a shoo-in for Slytherin if she hadn’t been a Muggle. Besides, this was no time to pick a fight with a thirteen year old. They’d inched back and forth across the shop floor several times now, and they were finally approaching the corner around which Malfoy lurked. Harry swallowed hard and wiped the palms of his hands on his trousers, the bag with the heavy hardback book banging painfully into his thigh as he did so.

Closer. Closer. And finally around the corner, and . . . there he was. On a stage, for fuck’s sake. Sitting behind a table covered in a hideous eye-sore of a table-cloth, all red and yellow squares repeated endlessly, as a girl openly wept in front of him and photographers tried to blind everyone with too-bright flashes. Harry stopped still and stared. Malfoy was wearing a white and navy striped T-shirt and a dark hoodie, the sleeves pushed up to reveal his pale forearms, and his pale-blond hair was soft and carefully styled. Had Harry ever seen him out of his robes? He didn’t think so. He certainly hadn’t seen him looking like this. So . . . Muggle. It was . . . He just couldn’t stop looking at him. At Malfoy.

Harry felt someone behind him jab him in the small of the back, and he took a hasty step forward, on legs that didn’t seem to want to obey him as normal.

“Sorry,” Samantha said, not sounding sorry, and then emitted a squeak as she too clapped eyes on Malfoy. “Oh my God. I think I might die, right here on the spot. Isn’t he fit?”

“Amen, sister!” called a tall, slim – and handsome – boy some way ahead of them, and his group of friends – also male, also slim, and also handsome, Harry noticed – whooped and clapped their assent.

“Draco! Draco! Over here!” Samantha called, to the obvious terror and embarrassment of Sarah and Olivia, who tried to hide behind Harry. “I love you!”

Malfoy, who was far enough away that Harry couldn’t leap on him and . . . what, exactly, he was going to do once he’d got there, he still hadn’t decided, torn between punching him on the nose and begging for help. But Malfoy was close enough to be able to hear Samantha, and his eyes flickered towards them, attention clearly caught by the noise. As he looked, though, Samantha lost her nerve, also ducking back and attempting to hide behind Harry. Three women couldn’t hide behind one man, however hard they tried, and their scuffle attracted even more attention.

Harry watched, heart thudding hard, as Malfoy whipped his head away and back to the fan in front of him, his face doing something extremely complicated. Harry supposed it must be a shock, expecting to see a shrieking female fan and instead catching sight of your worst enemy. Was Harry Malfoy’s worst enemy? He didn’t want to be – hadn’t hated Malfoy for years, if he was honest – but he was in no doubt that Malfoy hated him. Yesterday’s buffet incident probably hadn’t helped, Harry thought, trying not to wince. Malfoy still hadn’t looked back at him, was, in fact, attempting to talk to the next girl in front of him – also crying, Harry noticed – but there was a stiffness to the way that he was holding himself now that there hadn’t been before.

Malfoy finished signing the album booklet that the girl handed him, her whole body shaking, and then, too quick for Harry to look away and avoid his eye, shot another look in his direction. Their eyes caught for a fraction of a second, and Harry’s heart rate, which had calmed down a fraction, leapt back up into overdrive. Malfoy was probably confirming that he wasn’t going mad, Harry thought, feeling something akin to relief suffuse his body, even as his heart leapt about in his chest like a landed fish. If Malfoy, of all people, was shooting him sidelong glances, it was unlikely to be because he’d fallen madly, instantly in love with his messy-haired, horrible-raincoat-clad ‘fan’ – or with Samantha, who was emitting an unnerving series of squeaks behind him, and clearly thought she was the ‘lucky’ recipient of these glances. It could only be because Malfoy had recognised Harry too, and was making sure of himself before he – what? Was Malfoy also possessed of the unbearable urge to punch him on the nose, or would he beg him to change things back to how they were?

A potential problem presented itself to Harry: Malfoy might not want things to go back the way they were. But he dismissed this, after a moment’s thought. However much Malfoy enjoyed being worshipped by Muggles, they were still Muggles. There was no way Malfoy would want to spend the rest of his life living as a Muggle, was there? And as Harry inched closer, another potential problem presented itself to him: what if Malfoy had a wand? Maybe Malfoy didn’t want to punch him on the nose; maybe he wanted to Crucio him where he stood, for making him the object of so much Muggle attention.

Malfoy didn’t seem to want to Crucio him though, Harry thought uncomfortably as he got even closer. There were now only a dozen or people ahead of him before it would be his turn to mount the stage and . . . do whatever it was he was going to do once he got there. Malfoy didn’t even seem stiff or awkward any more. Instead, he seemed oddly relaxed now he’d established Harry was really there, ignoring him completely in favour of paying attention to his fans. He seemed to be coping with them extremely well, Harry couldn’t help but notice, chatting with ease and calming the shaking girls with smiles as he signed what looked to be long, personalised messages. Harry once again felt gripped with the worry that it might not actually be the real Malfoy after all, just a Muggle with his face. It . . . was an acceptable face, Harry supposed, watching Malfoy pose for a photograph with good grace, now it was smiling rather than sneering.

Once Malfoy had finished posing, though, he turned his head towards Harry and raised his eyebrows, his mouth quirking into something that was midway between a smile and a smirk, before relaxing his face back into a pleasant smile as he turned towards the next person in line. Harry, suddenly feeling his face flare into something hotter than the sun to be caught staring so openly at Malfoy, only just managed to resist the urge to stamp his feet. It was the real Malfoy, all right, the absolute fucker. He was certain of it.

The queue seemed to be moving even more quickly now, and Harry was still unable to decide what he was going to say to Malfoy when he came face to face with him. He’d just decided to wing it, when he found that it was, actually, now his turn. The security guard standing in front of the table, and who was almost as wide as the table itself, stood aside and indicated that Harry should step up to His Majesty. When Harry dithered, the guard helpfully gave him a little push, so that Harry nearly tripped over his own feet. He managed to stay upright, and the tiny snort that came from Malfoy’s direction – so soft it was almost inaudible – irritated him enough that he felt able to straighten up, square his shoulders and look Malfoy full in the face.

Malfoy didn’t say anything, just looked at him. It was too annoying to be borne.

“Hi,” Harry said, trying not to grind his teeth. He rummaged in his bag and pulled out the ‘authorised biography’, withdrawing it and banging it on the table with slightly more force than he’d intended. “I have this book full of pictures of your face.”

Malfoy’s eyes seemed drawn to the book as if he couldn’t help it, but he didn’t leap into action. Harry supposed at least he hadn’t leapt into hexing either.

“I’m here for your autograph, Malfoy,” he said pointedly, giving the book a shove across the violently coloured tablecloth towards him.

“Not my life blood?” Malfoy murmured as he opened it up and started scrawling a message on the inside page in thick black ink.

Harry frowned at that. “Why would I want that?” he said, folding his arms and trying to force himself to stand still rather than shuffle about on the spot. The more he moved, the more his hideous raincoat rustled. “Don’t be thick, Malfoy. I appear to have done something to fuck up reality, if you hadn’t noticed. I want your help.”

Malfoy’s shoulders jerked, his pen slipping on the page, and his expression flickered for a moment. He seemed to recover quickly though. “The great Harry Potter wants my help,” he murmured, looking up at Harry through lowered eyelids, and then – horrors – he broke into a smile that Harry didn’t think boded well for his future. It wasn’t the soft, gentle smile that Malfoy had been using on his fans, at any rate. It was the full-on Malfoy smirk.

Malfoy finally turned his smirk away from him and back to the book again, to Harry’s shaky relief, and continued writing for a moment, before signing his name with a flourish. “Which picture’s your favourite, Potter?” Malfoy asked as he ostentatiously drew several kisses under his signature. “Perhaps you’d like me to sign that one too.”

All of them,” Harry said sweetly, and had the great satisfaction of seeing Malfoy’s smirk falter for a fraction of a second, before it slotted back into place. “Nice outfit, by the way,” he added, unable to stop himself. “Very . . . stripy.”

Malfoy stopped at that, to look Harry very slowly up and down. He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t really need to, Harry thought, trying not to turn scarlet. Why on earth had he ever wished that things were better for this little turd? OK, so Draco looked marginally more human dressed in Muggle clothes and with his hair falling softly in his face rather than slicked back and bullied into submission, but—

“I’m glad you like what you see,” Malfoy drawled, with what sounded like deep satisfaction, turning back to the book and doodling a shower of tiny hearts. “Are you my number one fan, Potter? I hope you didn’t have to wait too long to see me.”

“Only six or seven millennia,” Harry said sarcastically. “But don’t worry, Malfoy, for someone like you, I’d wait as long as it takes.”

Malfoy looked up again at that, expression strangely startled, and for a moment they stared at each other. Malfoy opened his mouth to say something, and then seemed to think better of it. Either way, it didn’t seem to matter, because the constant background noise of the fans seemed to have grown louder and more petulant over the last few minutes, and a woman with a Virgin Megastore lanyard around her neck stalked on to the stage to whisper something in Malfoy’s ear.

Malfoy nodded, picking up the book and flipping through it quickly until he found a page that made his lip curl in amusement. Harry leaned forward a bit to see what it was, but Malfoy tilted the book closer towards him, writing something quickly on the page and then closing the book with a sharp snap. He slid the book back over to Harry. “Catch you later then, Potter,” he said, turning away as if he was done with Harry now. Harry wasn’t done with him. He hadn’t queued up for a thousand years to get Malfoy’s literal autograph! Fucking hell. Well, if Malfoy wasn’t going to be useful, and kick off an actual, proper conversation about the frankly bizarre situation Harry had accidentally plunged them into, Harry was going to—

He was going to be gently escorted away from the table and towards the exit by another burly security guard, that’s what he was going to do. He didn’t appear to have much choice in the matter. As he was guided out though, he turned, to look back at Malfoy in outrage. And Malfoy – the absolute fucker – blew him a kiss.

^^^^^^

What the hell was he meant to do now, Harry thought crossly once he was outside the shop. The drizzle was back again, and he tugged his hood up and over his head, the raindrops splattering his glasses. He was clearly an idiot. What else had he expected from Malfoy, of all people? Harry re-ran the brief encounter they’d just had. All Malfoy had done was laugh in Harry’s face, pretty much. Clearly, he’d gone in with the wrong plan of attack. He should have led with the punching, after all, rather than the talking. Maybe Malfoy was enjoying being adored by everyone around him, despite all expectations. Harry re-ran that thought in his head. Of course Malfoy was fucking enjoying being adored by everybody! Harry really was an idiot, after all. When he got back to – to normal, he was going to hand in his resignation to the Auror department. He didn’t deserve it, with these powers of deduction.

Except, Harry thought, wiping rain off his face, he bloody well wasn’t going to hand in his resignation. He loved being an Auror, more than pretty much anything. It made his heart sing, chasing down and capturing the criminals who wanted to make the world a worse place. It felt like it was what he was born to do. Sod Voldemort. Sod prophecies. This was something that was his, that he’d chosen of his own free will. There was no way he was going to let that go, just because he’d felt a bit sorry for Draco sodding Malfoy and accidentally turned him into a sexy international ‘Muggle’ singing sensation.

Sexy. Sexy. Harry shuddered, the Malfoy in the photo giving him that soul-searing look in his brain again. He vowed he was never going to tell Malfoy that this whole mess had apparently happened because he felt sorry for him, and he was never ever going to tell him that he’d apparently wished for him to be a famous, sexy pop star. The wish magic had apparently warped Harry’s mind. A tiny part of Harry’s brain tried to point out that Malfoy basically looked the same as he did before, but happily a raindrop fell directly in his eye and for a moment all he could think was ow.

Did Harry even need Malfoy to turn the world back? It was his own wish, his own mess to fix. He probably did though, he concluded, life being the way it was. Harry set his jaw and gripped the plastic bag in his hand more tightly, holding it closed against the rain. Maybe he’d just have to wait until the signing was over. Malfoy would have to emerge at some point, and possibly by then he’d be ready to talk. Maybe, Harry thought dubiously, Malfoy would expect him to be waiting. A wail of black, awful despair suddenly cut through his thoughts, and he jerked, turning back towards the shop. A mass of security guards, several almost as large as Hagrid, were pouring out of a side entrance to the shop, surrounding a tall, slim figure with very blond hair. As Harry gaped, the guards practically flung Malfoy into a waiting car with heavily tinted windows, accompanied by the sound of a thousand hearts breaking. The car roared back into life and zoomed away with a screech of tires, only to get almost instantly caught up in traffic. It vanished from sight behind a screen of screaming teenagers, until a phalanx of police managed to push them back and allow the car to move off.

“He blew a kiss at you!” Samantha wailed from behind Harry, who nearly jumped out of his own skin.

“Er, I think it was to the room at large,” he lied hastily. Samantha looked like she was about to cry. Scrap that; she looked like she had been crying, lines of black eye make-up tracked down her cheeks. It wasn’t the rain, he was sure of it. She had a large umbrella over her head, transparent with frog ears.

Sarah and Olivia were behind her, squashed under a single black umbrella with a bent spoke, and Olivia offered her a tissue.

“No!” Samantha said dramatically. “I’m fine!”

“Wasn’t he amazing?” Sarah cooed, and the three girls simultaneously squealed and jumped up and down, spraying Harry with more water from their umbrellas.

“Wait until the girls at school hear about this!” Olivia said, and went to withdraw her signed merchandise from her bag before thinking better of it and clutching it tight to her chest.

“What did he write for you?” Samantha asked. “He signed a kiss on mine.”

“And on mine too!” Olivia squeaked, as Sarah nodded enthusiastically.

“Oh,” Samantha said.

“Olivia – with best wishes, Draco,” Olivia said, a seraphic smile on her face as if she’d been touched by an angel.

“Oh! Oh! For me, he wrote, Sarah, best wishes from Draco!” Sarah said.

“He just wrote from Draco to me,” Samantha said importantly. “‘Best wishes’ is so formal, don’t you think?”

“No-o, because they’re his best wishes,” Sarah protested, and all three girls turned as one to stare at Harry. “What did he write for you?”

Harry wasn’t sure, and he didn’t think now was the time to find out that Malfoy had written him an essay about what a monumental dickhead he was. “Oh, I just got him to sign his name,” he said, and tried to look innocent under three very piercing stares.

“So, do you think he’s gay then?” Samantha asked, just when Harry had thought he’d got away with it.

Harry nearly choked on his own tongue. “Um, what?”

I think the rumours are nonsense, of course,” Samantha said, seeming satisfied by Harry’s unspoken response. “I’m going to marry him one day.”

“Not if I get there first!” Olivia responded, and a vicious, semi-whispered argument broke out between the three of them.

“Er, good to meet you then,” Harry said, thinking he was well out of this one. “Thanks for an, er, interesting afternoon!”

The girls half turned back to him, but Harry was already fleeing, dodging umbrellas and squeezing his way through the surrounding crowd of crying, rain-splattered girls. He wasn’t sure if they were crying because they hadn’t got their chance with Malfoy, or because they had. Either way, it was all unspeakable. Gay! There was no way Malfoy was gay. He was a pure-blood dickhead. If anyone was gay, it was—

God. Harry’s head hurt again. He didn’t want to think about this. No one he knew in the wizarding world was gay – at least, not openly. If anyone he’d been to school with liked blokes, they’d kept it very quiet. And Harry fancied girls, didn’t he? He’d had a crush on Cho, even though that hadn’t worked out! And he’d dated Ginny for a while, even though that hadn’t worked out either. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t found any women attractive, was it? He was sick of the media attention as it was. The idea of openly propositioning a man, of it ending up in the press, made him feel sick. There was just no way he could get his feelings clear in his head without danger, so it was best not to think about it at all. Fancying blokes was . . . Well, it wasn’t right, was it? Not in the wizarding world, at any rate. If it was right, he’d be surrounded by other happy gay wizards, wouldn’t he, not looking around for signs that he was normal and finding absolutely nothing. Having a wife and three children with your childhood sweetheart, that was normal. Fancying another bloke? Not so much.

Harry found himself following his feet down the flight of stairs that led to Tottenham Court Road underground station. It was packed, and everything was damp, and fuck it, he just wanted to go home. Sod Malfoy. He’d been no bloody help, and hanging out in the rain for any longer was clearly not going to do Harry any good, so why should he bother? He should go home, eat his own bodyweight in takeaway pizza, and then think about buying a ticket to Scotland to track down Ron and Hermione. Hermione would know exactly what to do. In fact, it was possible she was working out a solution to this problem right now, Harry thought, cheering up a fraction as he pushed his way on to a train along with approximately half the population of London.

Harry had started to feel almost human again by the time he’d got home, pizza box in hand, and managed to first get back into his house and then into the shower and some dry clothes. OK, so his house was still wrong, and the pizza probably wasn’t going to be as good as Luigi’s, the tiny place he and the other Aurors practically counted as a second home, run by a wizened old man with a pointed hat so tall it almost hit the ceiling. The clothes were wrong too; all of them were just a fraction too big, as if whoever had bought them hadn’t cared enough to buy clothes that fit and definitely hadn’t wanted to look nice in any way. Still – he was back, and he was dry, and there was food. He plonked himself down in the drawing room and, after only a minor struggle, managed to work the remote and turn on the TV. It was the news, reporting on the ‘riots’ at Tottenham Court Road. “Pop star Draco Malfoy proved so popular that the fire brigade were called to deal with suspected overcrowding,” the news reporter said in tones of utmost seriousness, “leading to the premature ending of the signing session.” The picture cut to the scene outside the Virgin Megastore, and Harry shuddered at the memory. “Fans refused to leave the shop and the street outside, and several teenage girls were injured in the crush. They were taken to hospital and are said to be recovering well. Mr Malfoy’s management have released a statement expressing their sympathy for the injured fans, and condemning the management of the shop in question for the poor security arrangements that led to disappointment for hundreds of fans.”

Harry picked up the remote and clicked the TV off again. He was a wizard; he didn’t need TV. He’d just eat his pizza and . . . brood. He opened up the pizza box and tugged out a slice, cheese trailing out to land on his clean trousers. It was delicious – hot and fragrant – and he burnt the roof of his mouth in his haste to eat it, but carried on eating until the whole pizza was gone. Finally, he sat back with a sigh, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and scrubbing his greasy fingers on a paper napkin. It would be wrong to say that he was feeling better, he thought, but he definitely felt more alive. And who was to say that after he’d been to sleep tonight, he wouldn’t just wake up with things back to normal? It was important not to panic.

Harry remembered the book that Malfoy had signed – he hadn’t forgotten it, exactly; had just chosen to ignore it – and drew the damp plastic bag towards him with reluctance. He didn’t particularly want to see what the fucker had written inside it, amongst all the passive aggressive kisses and tiny hearts, but he supposed he’d better look anyway. He drew it out and, trying not to wince, opened the cover, looking down at the signed title page. “To Harry, my biggest fan, with all the love and kisses in the world, your favourite person, Draco,” he read out loud, and then resisted hurling the book towards the opposite wall. Happily, he had a copy of Malfoy’s album in the bag too, and that did just as well.

Once Harry had thrown the album – and stamped on it for good measure – he felt a bit childish, but also much, much better. He sat back down, and was confronted by the sodding book again. Hadn’t the fucker written something else in it somewhere? Harry wasn’t sure he had the stomach for it, but he gritted his teeth and started to flick through the pages. God, Malfoy was annoying, he thought as he paged through photo after photo of the git being all smiley and perky, apart from the odd picture where he was just thoughtful and poignant. If only the people here knew what he was really like, Harry thought crossly, trying to turn the pages faster and giving himself a papercut in the process.

It was still too odd for words, seeing Malfoy in Muggle clothing, Harry couldn’t help but think as he sucked his injured finger, wishing he had his wand. In robes, Malfoy looked like – well, like a Malfoy dickhead. Stern, and formal, and like a clone of his revolting father, all hard angles and sharp lines. This Malfoy – the Muggle-ish one – was strangely soft and pretty in many of the photos, his pointy features lending him an almost alien air, as if he wasn’t entirely real. He was often dressed . . . sort of like a girl, Harry thought uncomfortably as he flicked onwards. Soft pastels, and lace and floaty fabrics Harry didn’t know the name of, and stripes of glitter, and was that eyeliner? Harry stopped at one photo to decide that, yes, it was definitely eyeliner, and then turned the page to find Malfoy in a sharp three-piece suit, his expression also sharp but his eyes oh so soft, and— Merlin. Harry needed a drink.

Harry flicked through the pages faster again, finally stopping dead at the page that had been defaced by Malfoy’s bold, dark scrawl. Fucking hell. In this photo, Malfoy – who was fucking topless, his hair dishevelled – leaned back on a bed, giving Harry – giving the camera – the most blatant come on Harry had ever seen. Harry managed to tear his eyes away from this sight – this man was marketed at thirteen-year-olds? Harry thought prudishly – to actually read the writing. “Call me!” Malfoy had written, underlined three times, and underneath this instruction was a telephone number.

Harry had never been turned on by Malfoy before, and he wasn’t going to start now. The fact that neither of those statements were one hundred percent true didn’t help things much. Harry stared at the picture, feeling all his blood rush to his cock, apart from a small amount that lingered to make his face really, really hot. Harry had . . . sort of wished for Malfoy to be famous and loved, he thought, his heart hammering. Had he subconsciously wished for him to take his clothes off too? Surely it wasn’t the act of a well-bred pure-blood to take off your fucking clothes for the media, Harry thought crossly. But Malfoy hadn’t seemed disturbed when he’d found the picture, Harry remembered, trying not to wince. He’d smirked, and then had written fucking call me next to it. Harry didn’t feel strong enough for this. Didn’t think he’d ever feel strong enough for this.

Harry had received enough fan mail to know a come-on when he saw one. But this was Malfoy. There was no way that Malfoy fancied him, of all people. Malfoy was just taking the piss, Harry thought, to make things as difficult and uncomfortable for him as possible. Just rubbing it in, that people in this reality really wanted to see him without his top on, while no one wanted to see Harry’s half-naked torso. Harry looked down at himself in his ugly overlarge clothes and gave himself a small poke in the gut. Maybe he should start eating less pizza, he thought. He wasn’t in bad shape, really, but he couldn’t have been accused of having a six pack. Maybe a two-pack, if you squinted, he thought doubtfully, still prodding his pizza belly.

None of this was the point though! Half-naked, toned Malfoy or not – and now Harry looked more closely, he could see the faint scratchings of the Dark Mark on Malfoy’s inner arm, which cut through the unwilling arousal a fraction and helped him think – he now had Malfoy’s phone number. So he should call him. And then Malfoy would help him fix reality. And then . . . Harry closed his eyes, but wrenched them open again when he found that the darkness behind his eyelids was now home to a half-naked pouting man. “And then,” he said firmly out loud, standing up and brushing crumbs off his lap, “I can get back to normal.”

What even was normal any more? Harry didn’t know. But he did know that now he had Malfoy’s phone number, he had to try and work out how to use the sodding mobile phone. He hadn’t come across a landline while he’d been turning the place upside down to find his wand, of course he hadn’t. He knew how to use a landline. That would be too easy.

Harry eyed the open book and its half-naked contents with dislike, and picked it up, going down a flight of stairs and into the dining room. He dropped the book on the table and went over to where the phone was charging on the dresser, disconnecting it from the lead and giving it a hard stare. It didn’t seem to be on, so he looked for a button that might work, prodding at it until the screen turned on and started flashing, finally resolving into a series of icons he didn’t understand.

Harry stared at it. Presumably, all he had to do was press the numbers, like a regular phone? He sat down in front of the book, gave sexy bedtime Malfoy a very hard stare, and put in the number Malfoy had scrawled down, before holding the phone to his ear. It occurred to Harry as the phone started ringing that Malfoy was the sort of fucker who’d have given someone else’s number if he could have, and as a female voice said, “Hello,” it also occurred to Harry to wonder how Malfoy even knew what a Muggle telephone number was in the first place.

“Oh, er, sorry,” Harry started, but the voice kept on speaking, and he realised it was a recorded message.

“—you have reached the number for United Talent, representing Draco Malfoy. I’m sorry no one is available to take your call right now, but please leave a message and if you have official business with us someone will get back to you. If you’re calling for the fan club, please call 020 7—”

Harry tuned this out, still staring at sexy, annoying Malfoy, who, it seemed, had managed to memorise the number of a minion, rather than his own. This was no good for Harry’s blood pressure. He couldn’t even shout at Malfoy now, could he? And what was he meant to say? “This is Harry, you know, the wizard one, please call me back, you wanker.” There was no way that would pass the screening.

“—after the tone.”

An annoying beep sounded in Harry’s ear, and he realised he was probably meant to start speaking now. “Oh, er, this is Harry. Er, Harry Potter?” he said, then realised that so far no one else apart from Malfoy seemed to know who that was. “Malfoy’s – I mean Draco’s – I mean, Draco Malfoy’s old, er, friend.” That hardly covered it, did it, but what else was he meant to say? “I’d like to, er, catch up, so could you tell him to call me?” As soon as Harry said it, he realised he had no idea what his phone number was. Bollocks. “Um, I mean, maybe he could write to me,” Harry amended, realising he sounded like a lunatic. “It’s twelve Grimmauld Place, Islington.” Postcode. What was the postcode? Buggered if he knew. “London,” he added. The post office would be able to work it out, right? Muggles had their own magic, he was sure of it. “Um, bye then,” he said, and then took several panicked seconds trying to hang up, before finally working out which button to press.

“So, that went well,” Harry told shirtless Malfoy crossly, and slammed the book shut with a thump. Unfortunately, since the cover photo was also one of Malfoy, this didn’t have the effect he’d hoped for. Harry thought it best to leave the room instead.

As he dithered in the hallway, however, unsure what to do next, he felt hit by a dizzying sense of exhaustion. It had been a bloody long and stressful day, and now the adrenaline had subsided, he felt strung out and . . . well, lonely, of all the ridiculous things. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d spent a day with more than a few minutes to himself, and the brief conversations he’d had with the girls in the queue and with King Dickhead himself barely counted. He liked to be busy, to be surrounded by his friends. It stopped him from thinking about stuff.

Harry sighed and decided that the best thing to do would be to go to bed. After all, there was a chance that when he next woke up, all this would be over. So he trudged up the stairs to brush his teeth, trying very hard not to brood. Once he’d finished in the bathroom, he found himself on the fourth-floor landing once again, and he jerked the elderly sash window open to peer out of it. It was only just dark, the sky a sulky purple black and the moon nowhere to be seen. He squinted out, but could barely see any stars, just the bright moving light of a faraway aeroplane. Could he still use his broom without his wand? It was still there on the landing, but it hadn’t felt the same as usual when he’d picked it up, the magic thrumming through it so minimal that he suspected he was just wishing it into existence. Harry leaned out of the window and peered down thoughtfully at the pavement beneath him. It looked very far away, and he decided with regret that it was probably best left alone for now. If he plummeted to the ground and broke all his bones without Skele-Gro to fix them, he might end up stuck in a Muggle hospital for the next six months, while Malfoy swanned around all sexy and popular, possibly sending him affectionate, sarcastic postcards to rub it in.

Great, now he was thinking about Malfoy again. Harry looked out at the night sky and wished, very fervently, for things to go back to normal. And then he said it out loud, for good measure. Nothing happened, and it didn’t make Harry feel any better. Because wish magic wasn’t a fucking thing! He resisted the urge to knock his head against the window frame, and instead just stepped back and banged the window closed again, shutting out some of the hum of the traffic down below.

Once he was in bed, though, he found he couldn’t sleep, the worries of the day going round and round in his head on a loop he couldn’t break free of. He had his magic, so he could fix this, he kept trying to tell himself, but he didn’t have his wand, and he didn’t have his friends, and he didn’t have, he didn’t have, he didn’t have. Harry opened his eyes and stared up at the blurry darkness, seeing nothing. All he had was his magic. And Malfoy.

Harry didn’t want to think about Malfoy right now, but it was better than making himself panic about everything else, so he shut his eyes again and tried to breathe deeply. There was one thing that might help him sleep, he supposed. And he was in his own bed – sort of – and no one was around, and there was no need to feel guilty about this, of all things, was there?

He squirmed around to make himself more comfortable, and then slipped his right hand beneath the waistband of his pyjama bottoms, wrapping it around his cock. He was still mostly soft, but a few firm tugs had his dick waking up, a mild tingling sensation starting to build in his groin as he continued to stroke.

Harry tried to let his mind drift, to let the feelings take over. It felt pretty good, his hand on his cock, the pressure just so. And he deserved to feel good after the shocker of the day he’d had. His mind flitted idly from the rain, to the queue, to the house – its depressing emptiness – and back again to the queue. He’d had more erotic thoughts, on the whole, and he tried to guide his brain into thinking something a bit more appropriate. He was never going to come, if he kept thinking about the monotony of his day and how annoying Malfoy was.

And Merlin, Malfoy really was annoying. Especially now, Harry thought, feeling his forehead screw up into a frown, when he was trying to have a wank, and . . . starting to feel moderately turned on. A memory of Malfoy from earlier that day slipped into his mind: Malfoy in his ridiculous striped T-shirt, looking very unlike Malfoy and doodling kisses in Harry’s book.

Harry wriggled about a bit on the bed, his hand tightening on his cock a fraction as he continued to stroke slowly up and down. Malfoy was a tosser, he thought, feeling pleasure coiling in his gut. God, it felt nice. Harry shuddered as he felt a small gush of liquid pulse out, to smear the head of his cock in a layer of slippery goodness.

Malfoy was . . . pretty hot, half naked, Harry thought as he pumped his cock a bit harder. In that picture . . .

Harry became aware that he was now pretty uncomfortable, his hand jamming up against the waistband of his PJ bottoms with each stroke and the elastic cutting into his forearm.

Harry let go of his cock for a moment, kicking off the covers and tugging his bottoms down his thighs. He returned his hand to his cock with a groan. God, that felt better. What was Malfoy doing right now, he wondered. It made his heart pound. He didn’t fucking care. Malfoy was a wanker. But . . .

Harry could picture the photograph of him in that sodding book as clearly as if he was looking at it right now. Malfoy, leaning back on the bed, half naked. Looking at him. Merlin. Harry felt his cock twitch, felt the slickness coat his hand again as he wanked. It was . . . weird to think about another guy in bed. Kind of filthy. And although he’d thought about it before – of course he fucking had, could barely stop himself these days – he always tried hard not to let his fantasy man’s face resolve into anyone specific. But . . . Harry swallowed hard, his hips trying to buck off the bed, and tried to slow down so he didn’t come too fast. If he had Malfoy on the bed with him now . . . If Malfoy was leaning back, looking at him like that . . .

Harry pictured it, his heart beating out of his chest and his mouth falling open. Malfoy, in Harry’s mind’s eye, beckoned Harry towards him. They were on the bed, and Harry was – oh, on his knees. He could see it now. He was on his knees, straddling Malfoy’s chest. Malfoy wouldn’t say anything – he’d just . . . he’d just prop himself up on an elbow and reach up to take Harry’s cock in his mouth.

Harry imagined what that would feel like as his hand worked up and down, every slide delicious and tormenting. Malfoy’s lips stretched around him. The warmth of his mouth. The wetness. How Malfoy might look at him as he sucked. The noises Malfoy might make. Squelches and moans and . . .

Harry lost his self control and started wanking frantically. He couldn’t stop groaning, his hips rising off the bed as he pumped. He collapsed back, thighs shaking too badly to hold himself up, and for a moment lost his rhythm, before finding it again. In his mind’s eye, Malfoy was letting him fuck his mouth now. His lips were slick with spit. And the groans.

Harry came all over himself.

It took a good few minutes for his heart rate to return to anything near normal, despite getting up to use the bathroom and clean himself up. Once back in bed, as he drifted off to sleep he wondered uneasily if it had been a mistake to let himself fantasise so self-indulgently about Malfoy of all people. But what harm could it do? It was only a fantasy. And Harry was straight, wasn’t he? How he’d been feeling lately was just a blip, a temporary madness. All he needed to do was grit his teeth and get on with things. Soon, he’d manage to get things clear in his head again, and then he’d be OK. In any case, he told himself firmly, he’d probably wake up the next morning and find that everything was back to normal. This whole situation was too bizarre to actually be real.

Chapter Text

Harry woke up with a horrible start to a loud banging noise. For a moment, his insides lurched about, like he was on his broom and had just dropped into a steep, stomach-churning dive. What on earth was that? It sounded like someone was trying to knock his door down, except he could barely remember anyone ever knocking on the door before, let alone banging on it. His address was an open secret, and he’d often found wizards and witches loitering at the foot of his front steps, but anyone who wanted to get in that badly could simply—

Merlin’s balls. Harry sat bolt upright in bed and said, firmly, “Accio wand.” His wand remained very much un-Summoned, and Harry felt panic once again take a small but insistent grip on his insides. So, yesterday wasn’t a dream. He leaned over to grab his glasses from the bedside table and shoved them on, looking round the room with distaste. His mouth felt like he’d sucked on a carpet – all thick and furry and gross – but at least he didn’t have a hangover today.

The banging had stopped, and Harry briefly wondered if he’d imagined it, before it started up again with a vengeance. Someone really wanted him to answer the door. Harry scrubbed a hand through his hair, glanced over to the clock on his bedside table – ten minutes to seven, ridiculously early – and scrambled out of bed, straightening his pyjamas and reaching for the saggy dressing gown on the back of his bedroom door, before leaping down the stairs, two at a time. It only occurred to him that it might be Malfoy – he’d called up one of Malfoy’s minions and left his address last night, hadn’t he? – by the time he was already opening the door and wishing the ground would swallow him up.

It wasn’t Malfoy. It was . . .

Harry blinked, completely thrown by this. “Parvati?” he managed, looking the woman up and down. It certainly looked like Parvati Patil, despite the horrible Muggle polo shirt and calf-length skirt. He felt a rush of sweet relief that made his knees nearly give way. If Parvati was standing on his doorstep, then she must remember being a witch! And she was a fantastic witch too, Harry thought as he looked at her. Brave and resourceful and, all right, she was no Hermione, but who was? She could still help him fix this mess and—

“Harry, for goodness’ sake!” Parvati said cheerfully, rolling her eyes and pushing past him into his house. “Why are you standing around gawping like you’ve never seen me before?” She leaned back in and gave him a thoughtful sniff. “You don’t smell pissed,” she added, handing him a Styrofoam cup of coffee. “And yet, we need to be at work to open up in ten minutes and you’re still in your . . .” She trailed off. “. . . really, really terrible night clothes,” she concluded, her voice a laugh. “Gosh, it’s no surprise to me that you’re perpetually single. No offense!”

“None taken,” Harry said automatically, feeling offended, but following Parvati as she appeared to lead the way into Harry’s own house and straight into the dining room. She would know where things were, of course, he told himself. She’d been a member of the Order. Only . . .

“Well, go on then! What are you waiting for?” Parvati said, taking a seat at the dining table and slurping at her own cup of coffee.

“Um?” Harry said stupidly.

Parvati rolled her eyes, the movement sending her long, thick plait swinging over her shoulder to hang straight down her back. “Go and put your uniform on, you plonker!”

“Er, Parvati?” Harry managed, setting the coffee in his hand down on the side.

“Mm?” Parvati didn’t appear to be actually listening any more. She was staring at her mobile phone, her fingers flying as she wrote out a text. Harry knew what that was; he’d sometimes seen Dudley do it. Dudley had been very fast too. It had been pretty much the only time Harry had seen him move quickly.

Harry took a deep breath. “If I said the word ‘Hogwarts’ to you, what would you say?”

Parvati paused, her flying fingers stilling, to hover over the phone’s keys. She turned her head to look at Harry, a look of sympathetic interest on her face. “You feeling all right?”

“No, really,” Harry persisted.

Parvati shrugged. “That posh school up in Scotland, isn’t it? Bit like Eton, except it takes the thickos too.”

“Right,” Harry said, feeling a bit like a balloon with a slow puncture. “And . . . you don’t have a wand?”

A look of pure incredulity painted itself across Parvati’s face. “A wand?” she repeated, this time actually putting her phone down on the table to stare at him.

“No, sorry, ignore me. Feeling a bit delicate,” Harry improvised in a panic. “Went out drinking last night, you know.”

Parvati’s eyes narrowed and she sniffed, before turning back to the table and picking up her phone again. “Well, don’t think you’re skiving off today, even if you have gone loony. I’m not doing a shift by myself. So get a move on, yeah?”

“Right,” Harry said and, for a lack of any other ideas, went back upstairs and into his bedroom. Uniform . . . He had a uniform hanging in his wardrobe, he remembered. Horrible trousers, a horrible polo shirt that matched Parvati’s and a horrible fleece jacket. Was he seriously going to have to wear it? He tugged open his wardrobe door to reveal that, yes, it was just as horrible as he remembered. But then yesterday he’d worn a horrible outfit too, and – and look how well that had turned out, he reminded himself brightly. Fuck’s sake. What should he do? He examined his options. He could hide in his room, waiting for international arsehole Draco Malfoy to not come and visit him, or he could put on this terrible uniform and go to his job – whatever that was – with Parvati, who didn’t seem to remember being a witch. Why didn’t she remember being a witch? What did it mean? It was a puzzle – and one that any Auror worth his wand would want to solve.

Harry sighed and started to pull off his pyjamas to get dressed. When he thought about it like that, it was a no brainer.

^^^^^^

Harry worked in a convenience store.

It took him a good half an hour before he could actually take this in, process it properly. In this alternate dimension, or whatever it was, Draco Malfoy was a pop star, and Harry worked in a convenience store.

Not that there was anything wrong with working in a shop, Harry thought as he tried to use the till without making it obvious he’d barely seen one before, let alone operated one. Luckily, instead of mysterious buttons it had a touch screen with pictures. It was just . . . if he’d been in charge of constructing an alternate reality where he lived as a Muggle, he would have chosen a job as . . . What, exactly? Harry wasn’t sure, but maybe a police officer, or a firefighter, or something.

Ron worked in a shop now, of course – he left the Aurors a year in, to run Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes with George – and that was fine, and Harry had sometimes helped out stacking the shelves when they’d had a run on a new product line, but even the thought of spending his working life confined behind a counter made him feel itchy and restless, somehow. He wondered if this was real. Whether if he had lived his life as a Muggle he’d have really made this choice, or if this was just a by-product of the wish magic. He found the whole idea depressing. No magic, no Hogwarts schooling. No girlfriend or . . . or . . . whatever. No Ron, no Hermione. No Kreacher. OK, he still had a house, and that was something to be grateful for, but what was the point of a house if he had no life to put in it?

“God, what’s with you today?” Parvati said, giving him a sharp nudge in the ribs when the customer he’d been serving – poorly – finally left the shop. There was no one else waiting, thank goodness; the shop was small, and quiet. “Were you abducted by aliens last night who wiped your memory or something?”

“Maybe,” Harry said, because it was the closest he could get to the truth, and Parvati laughed.

“Seriously, though, you all right?” She leaned against the counter next to him, her rows of multi-coloured bangles jingling pleasantly as she did so. She really was very pretty, Harry thought, and wondered why he didn’t fancy her. He hadn’t fancied her when he’d taken her to the ball at school, either. Merlin, he really had been a dickwad.

“I think I’m having a crisis,” he said honestly, and she grinned at him, her nose wrinkling as she did so.

“No different to usual then,” she said.

“Seriously, why do I work here?” Harry asked, because he didn’t know, so maybe this woman who appeared to be his friend would.

Parvati seemed to think he was asking as a joke though, because she nudged him again, still grinning, and rolled her eyes. “God knows.” She stood up and stretched widely. “If I was estranged from my family, with a fuck-off inheritance, I would be sipping drinks on a beach, not scanning beans.”

“Not much of a fan of sand,” Harry said, trying to sound light.

Parvati snorted. “More of a bean man? I thought as much. Still –” she touched Harry lightly on the wrist, her bangles jangling – “don’t forget to take me with you, if you change your mind. I always wanted a rich boyfriend to bankroll the lifestyle I’m not accustomed to.” She winked. “I can even put up with your bean fetish, weirdo.”

“Oh! I, er—”

Joking,” Parvati said firmly, cutting through Harry’s awkward panic. “God, don’t be a tosser. You’re about as much my type as I am yours. I couldn’t go anyway, you know I couldn’t. Can you imagine what Dad would say? He never stops banging on about ‘Perfect Padma’ –” the sarcastic quote marks slotted into place – “and her amaaaazing maths degree, and her internship with Willis Towers Watson and her career prospects. If he had to cut me off, who’d he get to run this fine chain of convenience stores, hmm?”

Harry took this to mean that Parvati was being trained up to run this, uh, fine chain of convenience stores, and tried to look like that wasn’t news to him. If he’d had to pick a job for Parvati in this alternative reality – Parvati, who’d duelled Death Eaters at the Battle of Hogwarts and had lived to tell the tale – he wasn’t sure this was what he’d have gone for.

“Do you want to run this fine chain of convenience stores?” he asked, because why not.

Parvati shot him a look of fierce dislike. “Do I fuck!” she said. “But someone’s got to. What a stupid question, Harry. You really are acting dimmer than usual today,” she added bitterly, before turning, all smiles, to the customer who’d just approached the till.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said when the customer had left and the bell over the shop door had stopped jingling.

Parvati appeared to have got over it already. “For what?” she said, and rolled her eyes. “Sorry you’re not my type?”

Harry grinned at her. “A little?” he said truthfully. Even in the horrible shop uniform she was lovely. So much fire and spark.

“Oh sweetheart,” she said, grinning back, “I am so sorry.” She reached under the counter and pulled out a copy of a newspaper. Malfoy’s face stared soulfully and sweetly out of the front page. “Now him – him I’d run away with,” she sighed, spreading it out on the counter and leaning on her elbows to gaze at it. “Shame he bats for the other side too, but—”

Too? “Um, Parvati, I—”

Parvati waved her hand vaguely at him to shut him up. “Yes, yes, I know, Harry, you just haven’t met the right girl. You keep telling yourself that.”

What the fuck? Malfoy was not gay. And neither was Harry. He was just . . . confused, that was all. Confused, and . . . Harry tried to think, his mind tangling itself up in knots, but his eye got caught on the headline above Malfoy’s face. “Says right there he has a girlfriend,” he pointed out, trying to keep his voice sounding level.

“Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?” Parvati pointed out in return. “If they wanted to keep it a secret. Which, duh. Can you imagine the outcry if teen heartthrob Draco Malfoy came out?” She snorted. “His management would kill him.”

“Maybe he’s just straight,” Harry protested, alarmed by the turn this conversation had taken.

“If he’s straight, I’ll eat my hat,” Parvati said. “Poor baby.” And she looked at the photo of Malfoy with a mixture of sympathy and lust that was strangely enraging.

“I happen to know him a bit,” Harry said firmly, to put an end to this sickening display. “And I also happen to know that he’s not very nice.”

Parvati turned to him and raised her eyebrows. “Sure,” she said, her tone disbelieving. She reached up and patted Harry on the top of the head, smiling sweetly. “Whatever you say.” She turned back to the paper, and then seemed to think hard about something. “Do you actually need to be nice, though, when you’re that hot?” she asked, and then mimed fainting dead away.

Harry wanted to protest that Malfoy wasn’t that hot, and that, actually, yes, it was fairly important on a fundamental level to be a nice person, but by the time he’d pulled himself together there were more customers in the shop that were waiting to be served. And, unfortunately, at the moment it appeared to be Harry’s job to serve them. So he tried to put Malfoy from his mind and cracked on with it.

^^^^^^

The shop remained busy as the morning passed, a steady stream of customers buying bread and milk and unreasonably preventing Harry from extracting any more details about his ‘life’ here in this reality from Parvati. She seemed happy enough to talk when she wasn’t actively serving someone, punctuating the beeps of the two tills and the almost continuous jangle of the bell over the door with a stream of gossip, but was difficult to steer to anything that Harry actually wanted to talk about. She was just how he remembered her from school, Harry thought, suddenly strangely nostalgic for his final year there. It wasn’t as if he wanted to be back there, with Voldemort hanging over everything, and Ron making them all sick with his pawing over Lavender, Parvati’s best friend, but . . .

“Do you still talk to Lavender?” he asked, cutting into a story about a recent shopping trip when she hadn’t been able to decide between a green dress and a blue dress.

“Who?” she asked, and that had depressed Harry enough to let her finish her story and move on to another scintillating story about shoes.

Harry had hoped to be able to talk to Parvati privately during lunch, but they took their breaks in the small, cramped back room separately, and when he came back out after eating a tasteless sandwich it was to find another woman on the till next to her. She was tall and blonde with very dark eyebrows, and probably only a couple of years older than he was. From her folded arms and disgusted expression Harry deduced that she’d rather be anywhere else in the world than here. The new woman – Laura, according to her name badge – grunted a hello, but then roundly ignored him, and Harry took this as a hint and went to lurk about on the shop floor and make his own entertainment.

The rest of the shift passed slowly and with extreme tedium. Harry swept the floor, and restocked a shelf, and directed customers to the loo roll, and felt extremely and painfully discontented. It seemed pointless, to stick around in this job rather than dash off to try to fix reality. But he was uncomfortably aware that he didn’t actually know what to do next. It was difficult to dash, when you didn’t know where you were meant to dash to. His best hope so far still seemed to be Malfoy, which was a fucking dreadful state of affairs, Harry thought gloomily as he turned tins around so their labels all faced outward into the aisle. He was the only person Harry had met so far who still remembered the wizarding world. It had to mean something. But the next move was up to Malfoy himself, as far as he could see; Harry had already spent hours waiting on the arsehole, only for Malfoy to take the piss. It didn’t inspire confidence.

Meeting Parvati had actually made things worse, Harry concluded as he relieved Parvati on the till; Laura shot him a sidelong glance but said nothing, so he said nothing right back. It had introduced an element of doubt into an already doubtful situation. If she was here, but had lived a life without magic, what was to say that Ron and Hermione still had their magic? What if he spent all day on a train up to Scotland, to find that they had no idea who he was? Merlin – the whole thing was a mess.

“Laura,” Harry said, turning to his co-worker when there was a gap in the flow of customers and the shop was quiet.

Laura was leaning against the counter staring into space, but she turned her head a fraction and screwed up her nose at him. “What?”

It wasn’t the friendliest of responses, but Harry decided to forge ahead anyway. “If you’d lost your friend’s phone number –” if she had any friends, Harry added doubtfully in his head – “how would you find it again?” If only he could call Hermione in advance, to know for sure if she still had her magic, if she remembered the way the world was meant to be.

Laura gave him a look that suggested he was a prize idiot. “You got friends?” she said.

“I’m friends with Parvati, aren’t I?” Harry said indignantly, stung by this accusation from someone he’d just thought the exact same thing of.

“Yeah,” Laura said with a snort, as if that said it all. “The boss’s daughter. What you need her phone number for, anyway? Bit creepy. You could just ask her.”

“It’s not her!” Harry protested.

“Uh huh,” Laura said, but she bent down and rummaged under the shop counter, coming up with a chunky but floppy directory that she half-slid, half-chucked at him. “Look her up in the phone book. Under O for Out of your league, loser.”

Harry bristled, but decided there was nothing to be gained from having an argument other than a headache. He took the book and flicked through it. It was pages of addresses and telephone numbers, ordered by surname. He wondered if he was in the book. He still hadn’t worked out what his own number was, had he? He looked himself up, finger sliding down the list of Ps until he hit Potter, H. His address was there all right, but no telephone number was listed.

Harry turned to find Laura at his elbow, smirking at him unpleasantly. “Forgotten your own number, have you?” She tapped her head with a finger. “Braindead as well as blind, I see.”

“Yeah, sorry,” Harry said, actually glad he didn’t have his wand, because it wasn’t a great idea to hex random Muggles, even if they did bloody well deserve it. “I should learn from your great example, right? Maybe if I try really, really hard, one day I’ll have a sparkling personality just like yours.”

“You what?” Laura said, drawing herself up to her full height.

Harry smiled sweetly. “Just paying you a compliment.”

Laura twitched alarmingly, as if she was on the verge of giving him a slap, but luckily a customer sloped up to her till and she was forced to abandon the fight.

Harry turned back to the phone book. It looked like it only covered London, but if he was lucky, he thought, maybe Hermione’s parents would be in there somewhere and he could get her number from them.

There were over a dozen entries for ‘Granger’, and Harry was just starting to wonder if he’d have to note down all the numbers and call them one by one, when he found one that made him pause for thought. Granger, H. (Ms). It could be Harriet Granger, of course, he told himself. Or Helen. Or . . . some other name beginning with H that he couldn’t think of right now. But something in his gut told him that it was, indeed, Hermione. Listed in the phone book, without Ron. Harry stuck his finger in the ‘Granger’ page and flicked to the back to check out the Weasley listings. There weren’t any. Damn it!

Harry grabbed the nearest pen and scribbled down Hermione’s – no, H’s, he told himself firmly – details on the back of an abandoned till receipt and shoved it in his pocket. “Gross,” muttered Laura, but he clenched his jaw and ignored her, glad that he’d at least got something out of this tedious shift. Now all he had to do was wait for it to be over, so he could go home and call the number.

^^^^^^

At three twenty-nine on the dot, two pleasant-looking middle aged women in the same uniform as Parvati entered the shop, vanishing briefly into the back room and emerging without their coats to take up their positions on the tills.

“Thank goodness,” Parvati said to Harry with a gusty sigh of relief, catching him by the front door. “Slaving over for another day. Have you got plans for the rest of the afternoon?” Harry briefly wondered if she was going to suggest they hang out, when she continued, “I’m going to get my nails done – look at the state of them! – and then I’m going up the West End with Cho and Rose, and . . .”

Cho? Harry wondered if he’d heard that right, but Parvati was already talking about something else – her thousands of plans for the weekend, if he understood correctly – and he couldn’t think of how to ask if it was Cho Chang she was meeting without sounding like a stalker or a lunatic.

So jealous you don’t have another shift until Monday, ugh, I can’t even,” Parvati said, and she gave his shoulder a quick squeeze before setting off at double-pace in the opposite direction to Harry’s house. “See you then! I’ll bring you coffee as usual. Be wearing clothes this time!” she called over her shoulder.

A passing elderly lady gave Harry a very funny look, and he resisted the urge to protest that he always wore clothes! Always! Even in the bath! But instead he just smiled weakly at her, and she shied away like a startled Hippogriff, gripping her walking stick more tightly in case Harry, the secretly naked sex pest, suddenly decided to attack.

Best to get home as soon as possible, Harry thought, speeding up. He groped in his pocket for the folded bit of paper with the address and phone number on it, and sped up a bit more. Maybe it was Hermione, he thought, hope rising in his chest. Maybe it was her, and she’d answer and would take charge of the situation in her usual calm and efficient way, and explain that the reason she hadn’t called him first was because he wasn’t in the phone book, was he? And she’d been too busy, anyway, working out how to fix things, which was why she hadn’t visited, and she’d already got a plan, and—

It was only a minute’s walk, if that, from the shop to his house. Harry was almost at his front door. He stopped dead, his heart suddenly speeding up unpleasantly. There, sitting on his top step, wearing a very sharp skirt suit and talking rapidly on a mobile phone, was . . .

Parkinson?” Harry said, stomping up the steps and trying not to glower at her. “What are you doing here?”

“Got to go,” Pansy said into her phone, snapping it shut and giving him an unimpressed stare. “Have we met?” she said, and then, before he could reply, let out a very sharp sigh and said, “I presume you’re Harry. Have you any idea how long I’ve been waiting?”

“No?” Harry said, not sure whether he was pleased or disappointed that she didn’t recognise him. If she didn’t recognise him, then she definitely didn’t remember the wizarding world. But on the other hand, even if she had, what use would that have been? Pansy loathed him, and the feeling was entirely mutual; he suspected she’d rather spit in his eye than help him, even if it was in her own self-interest.

Pansy stood up, batting at the seat of her skirt with her hand, and swinging her handbag into the crook of her arm. “Well, come on,” she said, and started descending the steps, her heels clicking on the stone as she went.

“Where to?” Harry demanded. But, in a way, he already knew. There was only one reason why Pansy would be sitting on his doorstep. Sodding, arsing hell. “I’ve only just got home! I need to get changed and—”

“No,” Pansy said, scowling at him from the foot of the steps. “If you don’t come now, I’m going without you.”

Harry considered this. It sounded lovely. Horrible Pansy Parkinson sodding off and leaving him alone, rather than dragging him to Malfoy’s foul lair. Harry was surprisingly tired after a day on his feet, and he wanted to go inside, drink a pint of coffee and have a boiling hot bath before calling Hermione and going home, back to the world where he belonged. He didn’t want to schlep all the way to wherever Malfoy was lurking, all . . . all . . . popular and pretty and . . .

Harry could feel himself starting to flush bright red. Pretty! For fuck’s sake. Malfoy was a toad and Parkinson was a cow and everything was too awful for words.

Pansy was tapping her foot impatiently on the pavement now, her arms folded tight and her whole mouth a scowl. “Well?”

“All right! All right!” Harry said crossly, slouching back down the stairs and following her into the back of a sleek black car parked up outside his house.

“Driver, Elstree Studios, Eldon Avenue entrance, as fast as you can,” Pansy ordered, and the man in the driving seat nodded and pulled out before Harry’d had a chance to put his seatbelt on.

Despite the fast start, however, the journey seemed to take ages. Pansy appeared as reluctant to talk to Harry as he was to talk to her, but after half an hour the silence seemed to have mutated into something alive and furry, and Harry felt compelled to break it or else be smothered alive by it. “Known Malfoy long?” he asked.

Pansy shot him a poisonous look. “Since school.” She went back to tapping away at her phone, but then turned her head to give him a nasty smile. “We were at Hogwarts together, you know. Where did you go to school?”

Where had he gone to school? Harry didn’t think the answer ‘dunno’ would go down very well. “St Brutus’ Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys,” he said, mostly to see Pansy twitch. It was entirely possible he had been sent somewhere like that by Uncle Vernon though, he realised once he’d said it. If he’d been sent a Hogwarts letter in this reality, Vernon would probably still have chucked it in the bin, out of spite. And with no Hagrid, how would Harry have ever known about it?

“God,” Pansy murmured, sounding absolutely disgusted. “Draco’s taste, I swear . . .”

“Sorry, what?” Harry asked, but Pansy pursed her lips tight and turned away to stare fixedly out of the window, so Harry gave up on getting an answer, feeling incredibly unnerved.

It took another twenty minutes of Harry constantly checking his watch before the driver pulled off the main, ugly road and into an equally ugly private side road. Harry tried not to groan when he realised that the road was packed with a queue of teenage girls again, and Pansy swore under her breath, looking with irritation at her own watch. The driver beeped his horn loudly, and the girls made a minimal attempt to clear a path for the car, peering with interest into the windows and looking both very excited to see Pansy and hugely disappointed to see Harry. It was a novel experience.

The car inched along, finally rolling to a halt in front of a horizontal red and white striped pole blocking the way, along with a row of bored-looking security guards. By the side of the road was a small booth holding an equally bored-looking security guard, who stuck his head out of the window to glance vacantly at the ID pass Pansy was waving at him, before vanishing back inside. The pole raised, the security guards parted, and the car started up again, driving further down a road flanked by squat, concrete buildings and pulling up outside an unprepossessing doorway.

“Who are the girls waiting for?” Harry asked gloomily, not really wanting to hear the answer, as Pansy punched a code into the grid by the door and yanked it open.

She didn’t deign to reply, so Harry followed her in, down a maze of dull grey-painted corridors, the sound of her heels muffled by grim-looking mid-blue carpet tiles. Finally, she paused outside one of dozens of identical-looking doors and knocked smartly, turning the knob before she’d heard an answer from the room’s occupant. “We’re here for Top of the Pops, of course,” Pansy said to Harry as she walked through the door, an eye roll in her voice. “You know – the hit music programme?”

“If only you’d asked, I’d’ve told you I can’t sing,” Harry said snidely as he followed after her, to come face to face – of course – with Malfoy. And—

“Luna?” Harry said in surprise, nearly falling over his own feet. “Is that you?”

“Hello to you too,” Malfoy said snidely, and Harry opened his mouth to say something snide right back but found himself tongue-tied, remembering, very inconveniently, how he’d fantasised the night before about Malfoy sucking him off.

“Hello,” Luna said peacefully, her hands moving restlessly through a rail stuffed with outfits, “are you one of Draco’s friends?”

“No,” said Harry, at the same time as Malfoy said, “Yes.”

Malfoy shot him a look of intense dislike. “Ha ha,” he said. “Potter, this is Luna, my stylist. We were at school together. Luna, this is . . .” He stumbled on the word. “Harry. Harry Potter. We . . .”

“Weren’t at school together,” Harry said solemnly, going up to Luna and offering his hand for her to shake.

Luna took it and, to his surprise, kissed the back of it, before smiling at him. “You have a wonderful aura, Harry,” she said, and waved a hand vaguely around his head. “So vibrant and sparkly.”

Pansy snorted. “I notice that our star turn isn’t very vibrant and sparkly right now, Loony. What are you putting him in for his performance? The rabid fans are already lurking outside, so preferably something with spikes in case they attack.”

Luna didn’t seem to take offense at being called Loony, but Harry bristled on her behalf. “I’m waiting for the stars to send me inspiration,” she said, closing her eyes and smiling beatifically at the fabric in front of her.

“It’s light outside,” Pansy said. Her foot was tapping again.

“Not where they are,” Luna replied brightly, her eyes still closed.

Harry shot a glance at Malfoy, to find that Malfoy was watching him, and looked away immediately, feeling himself flush.

“Luna’s into new-age mystic shit, Harry,” Pansy said, irritation clear in her voice. “In case you hadn’t noticed. God, I need a ciggy.”

“Go and have one then,” Malfoy said dryly. “Take Luna with you.”

Pansy narrowed her eyes. “Not up to mischief, are you?” She looked from Malfoy to Harry and back again in a way that made Harry’s face feel even hotter. “Don’t forget your fans are lurking everywhere, tosspot. That time with Blaise—”

“Yes, all right, Mum,” Malfoy snapped, shifting uncomfortably in his chair, but Pansy seemed satisfied.

“Come on, Loony, let’s take ten,” she said, pulling on Luna’s arm.

“Lovely to meet you, Harry!” Luna said, still beaming brightly, still with her eyes closed, as Pansy half-dragged her out the room.

“. . . That time with Blaise?” Harry repeated faintly.

Malfoy shrugged, looking bored. “Use your imagination.”

Harry did, and found he didn’t enjoy it. Malfoy seemed to enjoy watching him though, a glimmer of spite on his lips.

“Well?” Malfoy said, when Harry had wracked his brains for several painful seconds and found he had no idea what to say.

Harry wet his lips nervously and looked around for inspiration. They were in a small dressing room of some sort, the rail of clothes on one side, and a bank of mirrors on the other. Squashed against the wall was the uncomfortable-looking sofa Malfoy was currently perched on. He was in Muggle clothes again, of course. Dark, closely fitting jeans and a white T-shirt topped with a very thin pale grey hoodie. “You look . . .” Harry started, and then trailed off at the look Malfoy was giving him. Sort of knowing and baffled, all at once, with a hideous layer of speculation under it all.

“I look?” Malfoy prompted, because he was that sort of little shit.

“Muggle,” Harry said, folding his arms. There was no way he was giving Malfoy the satisfaction.

Malfoy appeared as satisfied as if Harry had told him he looked amaaaaaazing, though. “And what are you disguised as today then, saviour?”

Harry sensed a dark, deep pit looming in front of him. “Nothing,” he said defensively, and Malfoy snorted.

“I thought you were happy to help?”

Harry looked down at his chest and the name badge proudly pinned to it. “Yeah, yeah, take the piss,” he said. “Listen – have you—”

To Harry’s irritation, the dressing room door swung back open and Luna re-entered, rolling up her sleeves with a look of determination. “Don’t mind me!” she trilled, heading straight for the rail of clothes. “I know exactly what I need now. I’ve had a vision! I won’t be long.”

“I didn’t know you were friends with Luna,” Harry said levelly, looking Malfoy in the eye.

Malfoy stared right back.

“Since first year!” Luna said from behind the rail. “Some of the other children teased me, you know, but Draco was always so kind. He appreciates my vision.”

“Really,” Harry said doubtfully, and Malfoy raised an eyebrow.

“Everyone loves me, Potter,” he said, with deep, displeasing smugness. “Didn’t you know?”

“Yes,” Harry said through gritted teeth, and he took a seat on one of the hard chairs by the mirrors. “But . . . even so, don’t you think it would be better if things were, you know, back to normal?” he hissed at Malfoy, feeling unable to be more explicit because of Luna’s lurking, cheerful presence.

Malfoy raised his eyes to the ceiling as if considering this. “No,” he said eventually, and shot Harry a hard look. “I can’t say I do.”

“So you won’t help fix things, then,” Harry said flatly.

Malfoy was still looking at him – hard, and fierce, and inscrutable. Then he raised his eyebrows. “Did I hear you say please?”

Harry thought about this, and the idea of saying please to Draco Malfoy seemed a mountain he just couldn’t climb. Had Malfoy ever said please to him, over anything? Or, more to the point, sorry? Of course he fucking hadn’t.

“Draco?” Luna called from behind the clothes rail.

“Yes?” Malfoy said, finally turning off the Lumos-bright stare and turning towards Luna. She’d stuck her head out through a gap in the outfits, her cheeks framed by green velvet on one side and white lace on the other.

“How do you feel about clouds?”

“I love them,” Malfoy said snidely. “What do you think, Harry?”

‘Harry’ thought that Malfoy needed a smack, but he didn’t say it.

“Don’t be sulky, Draco,” Luna said, pushing a pile of white fabric into his arms. “It doesn’t suit you, and you’re making Harry nervous.”

Malfoy snorted. “Nervous? Harry Potter never gets nervous. He’s famed for it.” He set the clothing down on the sofa next to him, and bent down to undo his shoelaces. He wasn’t . . . was he?

Luna turned her pale, knowing gaze on Harry. “Oh, no, Draco, you’re wrong there. I think he’s pretty nervous right now,” she said, her voice small and clear. She leaned in a fraction towards Harry and lowered her voice. “You’re making him nervous too, Harry,” she said confidentially. “If that helps.”

It bloody well didn’t help.

“Stop talking nonsense,” Malfoy snapped, kicking off his shoes and standing up. He grabbed the bottom of his T-shirt and yanked it over his head, before reaching for the fly of his jeans.

Harry tried not to stare, and couldn’t stop himself. It was as if the picture from that fucking book had come to life and was stripping off the rest of his clothes in front of him. He tried not to feel turned on, tried not to think about Malfoy’s mouth, and the harder he tried, the worse it got.

“It’s not nonsense,” Luna said serenely. “Look, you’re both going red.”

Harry looked at Malfoy. Malfoy, who was now dressed solely in tight, white boxers, and whose crotch was level with Harry’s face. If Harry hadn’t been red before, he certainly was now. Fucking hell.

Malfoy turned, displaying a firm, rounded arse, and stepped into the white trousers Luna had passed him. They weren’t particularly tight, but they were so ripped in places that they were mostly hole. He followed it up with a top – thank Merlin – but it was sleeveless, the fabric so thin it was almost transparent.

“Perfect,” Luna said, and she clapped her hands when Malfoy turned towards her. “The fans will eat you up.”

Malfoy glanced sidelong at Harry. “Will they?” he asked. His expression – his voice: it all suggested he knew exactly what Harry was thinking, and was ready and willing to take full and horrendous advantage of this new and unexpected turn of events. Harry, feeling a shock of horror a bit like he’d been plunged into a bath of cold water, wondered for a split second if Malfoy was a Legilimens, before remembering that Malfoy probably didn’t have a wand. Malfoy had no way of knowing what he was thinking, Harry told himself firmly. He’d just seen that Harry was embarrassed over the whole stripping off thing and was playing on that for all it was worth, that was all.

Luna skipped over and patted Harry on the top of the head. “Don’t be mean to Harry,” she said to Malfoy, and then skipped her way right out of the room, humming something underneath her breath.

Harry tried not to grind his teeth. His jaw was killing him. Malfoy – fucking gorgeous Muggle Malfoy, Harry felt like he was going nuts – looked like he was about to start laughing, and Harry had had enough. “Merlin, you’re milking this for all it’s worth, aren’t you!” he said indignantly, and Malfoy’s smug smirk turned sour. “Who’d have thought that you would make such a wonderful Muggle!”

“Jealous you’re not the important one any more?” Malfoy asked, voice now cold. He slouched back on the sofa and glared at Harry.

“Of course not!” Harry snapped. “I just want things to go back the way they were!”

“Yes, of course you do,” Malfoy said, lip curling. “You’re a nobody here, aren’t you? You always pretended to hate being famous, but the minute no one’s fawning over you, you’re crawling to me to fix it. To me!” Malfoy repeated incredulously. “And you can’t even bring yourself to say please! Honestly, Potter. You always deserved to be taken down a peg or two, even if you and your self-righteous friends could never see it.”

Harry rose to his feet as fast if he’d been pushed. “This is why none of your so-called friends stuck by you when your side lost!” he found himself half-shouting. “Because you’re a nasty piece of work, Malfoy. How long do you think it will be before Luna and everyone else here finds out the truth for themselves?”

Malfoy launched himself out of his own seat, and for a moment Harry thought that he might have to fight him, was struck again by the thought that he didn’t know for certain that Malfoy didn’t have a wand. Malfoy was breathing heavily, his face red and his hands coiled into fists by his side. But rather than hexing, or even just punching, he simply turned and went to sit back down on the sofa again, his face very tight. “Fuck off, Potter,” Malfoy said eventually, his voice angry and unsteady.

“Yeah, all right, I will,” Harry snapped. “Thanks for nothing.” And he stalked out, slamming the door behind him.

Harry’s anger deflated as soon as he was in the corridor, leaving behind a sensation of flatness and a pressure headache, as if someone was resting a heavy weight on the top of his head. Well, that had gone well, he thought, trying to resist the urge to throw himself to the floor and have a tantrum like a toddler. Instead of enlisting Malfoy’s help, all he’d managed to do was start an argument. God, but Malfoy was a tosser though, Harry thought crossly, looking up and down the corridor and wondering which way was out.

Pansy and Luna were both tossers too, he concluded shortly after when they both sprung out of nowhere to give him uncomfortable, judgemental stares. Instead of offering him a lift back to Islington, as he’d hoped, Pansy also told him to fuck off, while Luna looked at him with her pale, protruding eyes and wondered out loud why he wasn’t planning to wait and watch Draco perform on the show. “Because I don’t want to!” Harry had said, and had stomped off in a direction that he later learned was the wrong one, of course it was.

He managed to find a train station eventually, and by the time he’d worked out where and how to buy a ticket, and which train to get, it was rush hour and he’d almost lost the will to live. The angry words he’d exchanged with Malfoy kept running round and round in his head, and to his irritation he started to wonder if it was him who’d been the dickhead, rather than Malfoy. But then he remembered again how Malfoy had seemed to enjoy casually making him uncomfortable, and how he’d said that Harry deserved to be taken down a peg or two, and he was angry all over again. He’d lost his childhood being groomed to fight a monster, while Malfoy’s troubles had been entirely of his own making. Harry shut his eyes against the sway of the train, the smell of stale coffee and stale sweat, and felt very unhappy indeed.

^^^^^^

By the time Harry was nearly home, he was no longer angry, or unhappy, or much of anything, really. He just felt tired, and flat. He grabbed another takeaway pizza, because he couldn’t be bothered to cook, and let himself into his house. It was gloomy, and quiet, and he managed to find a light switch, which filled the hallway with artificial brightness and illuminated the dust.

He made his way up to his bedroom and slumped on the bed to kick off his shoes, dumping the pizza box on his duvet, before standing up again briefly to switch on the TV. He missed his wand, almost as much as if he was missing a limb. Its quiet presence made him feel secure, somehow. Just the feel of it – warm, and almost electric, under his fingertips. It wasn’t as if it was difficult to adjust back to Muggle life, really, Harry thought dully as he crossed his legs on the bed and opened up the pizza box. He’d had plenty of practise at it. But, right now it felt like someone had briefly pulled back the curtain to show him a world that was more vibrant, more full of life, and once he’d got used to it, they’d drawn the curtain in his face.

Was it the magic he missed most, or his friends? His life? Harry morosely pushed a slice of pizza in his mouth and chewed. He genuinely couldn’t tell.

His attention was caught by cheerful, pulsing music pounding out of the TV, and he looked up, bracing himself when he heard the presenter introduce the show as Top of the Pops. He didn’t want to see Malfoy on TV, absolutely not. But he couldn’t seem to bring himself to turn it off. So he waited, mechanically chewing, as the perky presenter babbled on about the upcoming acts, informing the viewers that unfortunately tonight’s number one couldn’t be with us – the crowd made sounds of despair – but they’d be revealing, exclusively, their brand-new music video instead.

Harry wasn’t sure he’d understood, but as he sat through the show, not enjoying a variety of pop acts who very much weren’t Malfoy, it became increasingly clear. Malfoy was number one. But, despite being very much in the studio earlier and allegedly there to perform his single for the crowd, he hadn’t done so.

Jayne Middlemiss finally announced this week’s number one – “Draco Malfoy’s emotional and magical ‘I love you’, from the number one album of the same name!!!” – and an obviously pre-recorded video started playing. Malfoy, looking lost and fragile in the centre of a dark screen, stared at the camera as a piano started to play something haunting and emotional. Harry had never seen him pull that expression before. As if he was broken.

Harry reached for the remote and switched it off, falling backwards on the bed with a thud. None of this was real, he reminded himself, staring up at the ceiling. None of this was real.

Chapter Text

Harry woke up the next morning feeling cross and out of sorts, his neck aching and his foot caught up in the empty, greasy pizza box. He knew he’d had bad dreams, could feel the memory of them clawing at his brain, but when he tried to remember what they were, he found he couldn’t.

Fuck it. He pushed himself out of bed and lurched to the bathroom, shrugging off his clothes – he hadn’t even managed to get dressed for bed last night, it seemed – and turning the shower on as hot as he could stand it, giving himself a good scrub and standing with his face under the torrent of water until he felt almost alive again. Once he was dry, he found some clothes and went downstairs. It took him some time to find his keys and wallet, and his shoes turned out to be upstairs under the bed, but once he was decent he left the house and walked the twenty minutes it took to get to the nearest decent-sized supermarket. There, he bought more food than he could comfortably carry, staggering home again with plastic bags rammed full of fruit and vegetables, the handles cutting into the palms of his hands uncomfortably.

Once home again, he unpacked his shopping and grabbed a black bin liner, going methodically through each room and picking up empty chocolate wrappers and old newspapers and scooping up things he didn’t want to look at too closely with a shudder. Then, he took out the rubbish, washed his hands very thoroughly, and went back to the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea and scramble some eggs for breakfast. Soon, he was sitting down in the dining room with his over-strong tea, eggs and burnt toast. He still felt out of sorts, but at least he didn’t feel quite as gross as before.

As he ate, he switched on his phone and stared at it grumpily. He’d managed to make a phone call the previous day, so he was sure he could work out how to use the rest of it. He was a wizard, not an idiot. Carefully, he pressed buttons, managing to bring up his phone book and scroll through the numbers. It wasn’t a long list. Dudley was on it, for some reason, and Harry managed to accidentally call him, but as he was swearing and trying to hang up before Dudley actually answered, he could hear a tinny voice at the other end of the line saying, “The number you have dialled has not been recognised. Please try again.” It was both relieving and insulting. Harry continued scrolling through, coming across numbers for work, for his GP surgery, for Parvati, and for a handful of other people whose names he didn’t recognise. Were they school friends? Harry didn’t feel very keen to find out. Either way, they hadn’t contacted him in the last couple of days, which told its own story. It was expected, but still disheartening, to see how unpopular he apparently was here. Harry supposed he hadn’t made any friends at primary school and had clearly continued that fine tradition into secondary school too.

Parvati seemed to like him, though, didn’t she? Harry thought about ringing her, and then decided against it. He’d text her instead. If he could work out how. Harry ate some more of his eggs – his breakfast had gone cold now, but he was hungry and at least it wasn’t pizza – and prodded at the phone, finding an old message from her about his next shift and working out how to hit reply.

PARVATI WHATS MY PHONE NUMBER FROM HARRY, he managed to type, and stared at it glumly for a moment. It had no punctuation, and he couldn’t work out how to change the case so the message did give the unfortunate air of screaming rage, but it would have to do. He hit send, and then waited, taking a big slurp of tea and chasing it down with the rest of his egg on toast.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when the phone started ringing, but he managed to pick it up and answer it before it cut off. “Hello?”

“Have you had a stroke?” Parvati’s voice asked from the other end of the line, her voice tinny and amused. “Or is your phone broken?”

“Er, neither,” Harry said, and then didn’t feel up to admitting that he didn’t know how to use it. “I think a key is stuck,” he prevaricated.

“Harry, love,” Parvati said, speaking very slowly, her voice drenched with pity, “why don’t you know your own phone number?”

It was a good question, and it was also a shame that Harry couldn’t tell her the truth. He presumed, too, that there was some easy way to find his number out, but then he reckoned that if he asked Parvati to cast the Wand-Lighting Charm right now she’d find it a bit of a challenge, so he didn’t see why he had to be amazing at Muggle mobile phones at a first try either. “Humour me,” he said.

He could almost hear Parvati mentally counting to ten. Then she read off a number, very fast. “Er, let me get a quill – I mean, a pen,” he said, scrabbling for one and coming up empty handed. She was going to kill him, wasn’t she? There was the sound of heavy breathing for a few seconds, and then the dialling tone. She’d hung up! Harry glared at his phone for a minute, and then dropped it with a crash when it started to emit a hideously loud rhythmic noise that nearly burst his eardrums. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. He scrabbled for it, hoping it wasn’t broken, to find that he’d got a text from Parvati. With his phone number, and the message ‘idiot’, followed by a kiss. Well, he supposed he deserved that, he thought.

After a good few minutes of trying, he managed to transfer the number into his phone book under ‘Me’, and then went to hunt down a pen, writing it on the back of his hand for good measure. That done, he went back to the dining room and, with extreme reluctance, picked up the book that contained the photo of sexy bedtime Malfoy from where he’d left it at the other end of the long, scarred table and flicked through until he found the picture. Trying not to look at the fucker, he copied the number into his phone too, saving it under ‘Dickhead Management’ and slamming the book shut as soon as he could.

Harry stared at his phone in silent dislike, and then decided that he’d better get on with it before he lost his nerve. So he dialled ‘Dickhead Management’ and after only two rings a female voice said, “United Talent, Maya speaking, how can I help you?”

“Uh, could I speak to Malfoy, please?” Harry said politely, and then amended, “Draco Malfoy, I mean.”

Maya appeared to stifle a snort. “If you let me have your details, caller, I can pass them on to Mr Malfoy’s management team, who’ll be in touch.”

“You mean Pansy,” Harry said glumly.

“Ms Parkinson is a member of Mr Malfoy’s management team, caller,” Maya conceded. “What’s the message?”

“Oh, er,” Harry said, “could you tell him – I mean, could you tell Pansy that Harry called? Er, Harry Potter, that is. And that he’d like Malfoy – I mean, Draco – to call him back?”

“Harry. Plotter. Call. Draco,” Maya repeated. “And what’s the message?”

“Potter,” Harry said. “It’s Harry Potter.”

“Yes, of course, Mr Plotter,” Maya said cheerfully. “The message?”

Plotter! Harry decided to let it go. But what message should he leave? Fuck it. “Sorry,” Harry said.

“I said, what’s the message, Mr Plotter?” Maya repeated, sounding as if her patience was wearing thin.

“No, the message is ‘sorry’,” Harry said through gritted teeth. He wasn’t sure if he was apologising to Malfoy or to Pansy, but either way, he certainly felt very sorry – for himself, at any rate.

“Thank you, Mr Plotter, I’ll pass it on. Thank for you calling United Talent, and I hope you have a—”

“Wait,” Harry interrupted, “I haven’t given you my number.”

“Oh,” said Maya, and she appeared to listen as Harry read it out, repeating the digits in the right order, but it wasn’t very reassuring. He had a very strong feeling that unless Maya decided to lead with ‘Pansy, we had the weirdest caller earlier today!’ then his message would never get passed on. For a brief moment he felt tempted to shout out something about magic, and Voldemort, but decided against it at the last minute. He reckoned there was a fine line between being considered a weirdo and a psychopath, and psychopaths tended not to get their messages passed on to cute mega-selling pop stars. Neither did weirdos, his brain helpfully added, but he couldn’t help that, could he?

That hideous chore done, Harry picked up his dirty plate and mug and went to wash up. He hadn’t washed up by hand for several years, and it was about as much fun as he remembered, but at least it didn’t take very long. He looked at his watch; it was barely half past nine. It didn’t make sense to hang around staring at his phone, waiting for nobody to call back. And besides, it was a mobile phone, wasn’t it? He could take it with him, in his pocket. He wondered how that worked; it felt pretty much like magic. He shook his head and went back upstairs to rummage about in the pockets of yesterday’s trousers, pulling out the piece of paper with ‘H’ Granger’s phone number and address written on it, and keying in the digits before he changed his mind.

The phone rang three times, and then Hermione’s voice said, “Hello, Hermione speaking?” and Harry realised he should have given this slightly more thought.

“Er, hello,” he said, and crossed all his fingers and toes that she would recognise his voice and he wouldn’t have to try to explain that magic was real over the phone.

“Who is this?” Hermione said, very brisk.

Harry uncrossed all digits; he needed them to do a dance of panic in his bedroom. “I’m, er, Harry. Harry Potter?” he tried, on the off chance that would help.

“Is this a sales call?” Hermione said, tone now snotty and suspicious. “Because if it is, you should know that I’m signed up to the telephone preference service, so you must take my number off your database immediately, or I’ll—”

“No! Wait!” Harry interrupted, before she could hang up, and then couldn’t think what to say.

“Well?” Hermione said.

“Er, what if I told you that magic was real?” he said quickly, and then squeezed his eyes shut in anticipation of a scathing response.

The scathing response came in the form a dialling tone. She’d hung up.

Well, Harry thought, putting the phone down and conducting a full-body cringe, at least now he knew for certain that Hermione didn’t remember being a witch. It wasn’t a very encouraging discovery, and Harry felt a bit like giving up. But, he then thought, if he gave up, he’d be stuck like this forever, and that was even less encouraging. He shot his phone a look of intense dislike. It wasn’t ringing, which meant that either Malfoy hadn’t received the message yet, or . . . he had received it.

Harry thought about the fact he seemed to be relying on Malfoy to solve his problems, and then considered Hermione again. OK, so she was Muggle, or as good as. But . . . she was still Hermione, wasn’t she? Capable in a crisis, passionate about righting wrongs, and full of good ideas. She was also a huge and terrible know-it-all, Harry thought, and if she was anything like his Hermione, she would find being presented with a puzzle she couldn’t solve a terrible insult, and would do anything she could to work out the answer.

Harry looked at the address he’d written down. Finsbury Park. She wasn’t even that far away. And she was home, wasn’t she? He’d just called her, and she’d answered. It wasn’t stalking to go and knock on her door, he told himself as he stood up and headed outside. She was in the phone book! She’d practically invited him.

^^^^^^

“Hi!” Harry said brightly when Hermione opened the door, feeling like the biggest creep to ever walk this earth. He tried not to move too much, thinking that the rustling rain jacket only made things worse.

Hermione – wearing well-ironed blue jeans and an equally well-ironed white blouse, her hair scraped back in a very sensible ponytail, an ink stain on her cheek – frowned at him, no hint of recognition in her face. “Yes?”

“I’m, er, Harry,” Harry said, a sensation of déjà vu crawling down his spine. “Harry Potter?”

Hermione gave him her best unimpressed stare. It was a stare she had hitherto reserved for people like Malfoy, and Harry was deeply unnerved to be on the receiving end of it.

“I called you earlier. Can I come in?” Harry asked, trying not to shuffle his feet.

“Absolutely not!” Hermione said, her stare now suggesting he was a lunatic. “Do I need to call the police?”

Bloody hell. “No! Sorry! Merlin! I mean – God!” He was aware he wasn’t explaining himself very well, and felt his shoulders droop. “I need your help.”

Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Why?”

“This is really hard to explain,” Harry said miserably. “You and me – we’re best friends. We went to school together. At Hogwarts.” Hermione opened her mouth, but Harry ploughed on regardless. “A school for witches and wizards.” Hermione shut her mouth again. “Only, I made a mistake with some wish magic and now the world’s different, and you don’t remember me, and I don’t know what to do!”

Hermione had folded her arms, and she was regarding him with an intense, but highly sceptical air. It was one she’d worn a lot in Professor Trelawney’s classes. He tried to look plausible and not insane.

“Please, can I come in?” Harry said after the silence had become uncomfortable. For him, at any rate. “I’ll try to explain. I . . . I can prove it!” he added. Could he? Possibly, he thought gloomily, trying to think of a reliable wandless spell he could perform on cue and coming up with nothing.

This seemed to swing it for Hermione, though. Her eyes glinted, and she gave a very small, very unenthusiastic nod. “I have a rape alarm,” she said firmly.

Harry had no idea what that was, but it didn’t sound much fun.

“And pepper spray,” she added. She stepped aside to let him go past her. “It’s illegal, you know, but it’s amazing what you can buy on eBay.”

Several flights of stairs, and several more doors later, Harry was sitting on an uncomfortable metal chair in a room that didn’t seem to know if it wanted to be a kitchen or a bedroom, a mug of tea in his hand. “You have a nice, uh, home,” he said untruthfully, in an attempt at small talk. He’d never been very good at small talk. Hermione’s flat was so small that if you tried to swing the proverbial Kneazle in it, it would hit the walls and bounce back to bite your nose off.

Hermione shifted a stack of thick textbooks from a second chair on to the floor and sat down, folding her arms again. “Well?” she demanded, and Harry sloshed some tea over his leg.

“Well what?” he said defensively, casually spreading a hand over the dark stain and hoping she hadn’t noticed.

She had noticed. “If you want me to believe in magic, prove it.” She sounded pleasant, but it was somehow terrifying. Harry had never felt less ready to do magic in his life.

“I’m not very good at wandless magic,” he started, and watched her eyebrows rise until they hit her hairline.

Hermione stood up, managing to neatly extract the mug from his hand as she did so. “It was very nice to meet you, Mr – Potter, was it? – but I have an essay to write, and a lecture to get to, so if you wouldn’t mind—”

Shit. Harry tried to think of something he could do that would actually work without his wand. He could . . . try to clean up the spilt drink, he supposed.

He frowned at the stain on his leg, and said, very firmly, “Scourgify!”

Nothing happened. Fucking typical. Except, it wasn’t true that nothing had happened, Harry thought with irritation. He’d magically made Hermione Granger scrunch up her nose in disgust, and that was something.

“Having performance issues?” Hermione asked. There was now a pitying edge to her voice and demeanour, as if she now no longer suspected Harry might be a violent criminal, but instead had concluded he was simply someone who needed urgent medical attention.

“Wandless magic is very difficult!” Harry said defensively.

The pitying look was so strong now that Hermione had practically gone cross eyed. “I’m sure it is,” she said soothingly, and took a pace towards him – not threatening, more like herding. “Why don’t you go and do some more practise, and when you’re ready, give your GP a call and they’ll help you work through it. All right?”

It would have taken a stronger man than Harry to stay seated with Hermione looming at him, and he found himself already on his feet and lurching towards the door. “I’m telling the truth!” he protested.

“I believe that you believe what you’re saying,” Hermione said unhelpfully, still herding.

Harry wracked his brains. If Hermione refused to help him, he really would be stuck with Malfoy. “If I brought someone else to see you who’ll back me up, would that help?”

A horrified look bloomed in Hermione’s face. “Please don’t.”

Harry sighed. Malfoy was never any bloody help. What was the point of him? Right – it was time to try the wandless magic again, he decided. If he left it any longer, he’d be out on the doorstep. “SCOURGIFY!” he yelled, ignoring the look of bewildered panic on Hermione’s face, and concentrated as hard as he could on thinking clean, sparkling thoughts.

He screwed his eyes tight shut at the blinding flash that erupted from nowhere, and then didn’t want to open them again, because that wasn’t meant to happen with a simple cleaning spell, bloody hell.

“Harry, did you say?” Hermione said, sounding curious rather than terrified, and Harry risked opening his eyes, to be greeted by a room that was . . . exactly the same as it had been before.

“Er, yes,” Harry said, wondering what in the bloody hell he’d managed to do. “Harry Potter.”

“Good to meet you, Harry,” Hermione said, sounding surprisingly business-like all of a sudden. “Would you like me to lend you some trousers?”

What the hell? Harry had a moment of panic that he’d somehow managed to clean off his trousers and underpants entirely and was now standing in Hermione’s tiny bedsit, proudly displaying his sparkling clean cock. To his relief though, when he looked down, he’d only managed to melt away his entire trouser leg. And if it had convinced Hermione that magic was real, he supposed it was a small price to pay.

^^^^^^

Ten minutes or so later, Harry was dressed in very tight raspberry-coloured cotton trousers and trying to feel grateful for small mercies. OK, so the trousers were at least six inches too short and there was a good chance they’d split across the arse if he did anything energetic, e.g. breathe out, but at least Hermione had some trousers she was willing to lend him. And – and the Scourgify that had melted a large section of his own trousers off had, at least, left him his underpants, so at least he hadn’t flashed Hermione. Ron would never forgive him if he flashed Hermione, he thought, before remembering he didn’t know Ron in this reality. Did Ron even know Hermione? Harry tried to rally, helped by the fact that Hermione – who appeared to have got over the shock of a man magicking away his own trousers in her tiny apartment inhumanly quickly – had got out a notebook and pen and was clearly ready to learn absolutely everything there was to know about magic.

An hour or so later, Hermione had filled up a least a dozen pages with incredibly neat handwriting, and yet . . . she didn’t look very impressed with it all. Harry wondered if, in trying to boil down the entire history of magic and their time at Hogwarts into a short summary, he might have emphasised the wrong things.

“So let me get this clear,” she said, staring down at her notebook, pen in hand. She had even more ink on her fingers now. “Magic is real – was real – and you have accidentally altered reality to make it so that only you are able to do it.”

“Not just me,” Harry said uncomfortably, not wanting to bring Malfoy into it unless he really, really had to. “But pretty much. Everything that was there before – the whole wizarding world – doesn’t seem to exist any more.”

“Yes,” Hermione said, and set down her pen in a meaningful way. “And you want the world to go back to how it was.”

“Yes!” Harry said, pleased she’d got it. But . . . Hermione didn’t seem very pleased to have got it. She was frowning. He’d been certain that once he’d proved magic was real, she’d be dying to help him fix reality. That was what Hermione was like!

“A world where . . . I’m a witch, not a dental student,” Hermione continued slowly. “Working in government, to better the rights of – let me get this straight – a race of people who are enslaved as domestic servants, and who aren’t allowed clothes?”

“Um, yes,” Harry said, feeling increasingly uncomfortable. When she put it like that . . . it didn’t sound great, did it? But: “All of this – it’s not real. Once I’ve fixed the spell – once we’ve fixed the spell – it will all go back to how it’s meant to be. Back to normal.”

Hermione sat up very straight at that. “I am normal, thank you very much,” she said, very haughty.

Yes, Harry supposed that right now she was. Although – was spending your working life with your hand in strangers’ mouths entirely normal? He thought it better to keep that one to himself. “My friend Hermione isn’t normal,” he said instead. “You’re not normal. You’re extraordinary. I wish you could see how much better it is, our real lives.”

Hermione seemed torn between intrigue and annoyance. Harry supposed, the issue dawning on him, that he was basically asking her to wish her own life out of existence. As far as tooth-fixated-Hermione knew, her life here was as real as Harry’s magical life was to him. If only he had access to a library, or something, to help persuade Hermione how much richness there was to magic, despite the admitted horrors that came with it. Even Hogwarts: A History would be a start. But there was nothing. Just Harry himself.

Hermione looked past him; not towards the wall, but as if she was looking into her own mind. “I’m going to be a dentist,” she said. “My parents are dentists. It’s what they want for me and . . .” She trailed off, and then turned to look at Harry, her gaze more focused now. “I’m quite happy to be a dentist. You know where you are with teeth.”

Harry supposed you did.

“Sometimes they have decay,” Hermione said matter-of-factly. “Sometimes they require really quite complicated diagnostics and drill work. Sometimes, small children bite you with them. But—” And here she appeared to pause for emphasis; Harry tried not cringe. “They never come back from the dead with no nose and try to kill you,” continued. “And they never, ever make you mind-wipe your own family and send them to Australia.”

Harry took this as confirmation that, yes, when he’d explained all about magic, he’d overdone the Voldemort bit and underplayed the research potential and—

“Ron!” Harry said.

“Bless you,” Hermione said.

Harry ignored that. “No – Ron. Ron Weasley.” Even if he hadn’t yet managed to convince Hermione about how good magic could be, surely she’d want to get back to the love of her life?

Hermione looked definitely baffled now. “The footballer? What about him?”

Footballer? Harry experienced a sinking feeling. But, he thought, at least she’d heard of him, and if Ron was a Muggle, at least he was an active, sporty one in this reality, rather than chief sandwich taster at a factory somewhere. “You love each other,” he said firmly, thinking he’d stress Ron’s commitment to family, loyalty to friends and cheerful, stubborn sense of humour, rather than his magnetic attraction to buffets.

Hermione pulled a face that suggested to Harry that Ron didn’t feature heavily in her list of top ten crushes. “Please no,” she said. “Not that ginger tosser.”

“Ron’s not a ginger tosser!” Harry protested.

Hermione visibly let out a breath of relief, her shoulders relaxing. “Thank heavens. Must be another Ron.”

“I mean, he is ginger,” Harry said, and watched Hermione freeze up again.

“Hang on,” Hermione said, and got up, coming back with a thick black box that looked like the one Harry had seen in his own house. She opened it up, and yes, it was a computer, after all – the screen and keyboard attached by a hinge. She plugged in various wires and started it up, attached electronics making a variety of unpleasant dialling and beeping noises as she did so. Finally, she typed something, waited, and then turned the screen to Harry.

“Ah,” Harry said, and uttered a silent bollocks. There was a selection of photos on screen. In the ones where Ron wasn’t kicking a ball, he was drinking in bars with a small selection of cheerful, well-built drunk men, and a much larger selection of – different – blonde women with large chests. It was Lavender all over again, Harry thought in despair.

Hermione sniffed meaningfully and turned the screen back towards her, letting out a little shudder before closing the laptop lid. “I suppose he’s handsome enough if you like that sort,” she said.

Harry didn’t dare enquire what that sort was, but it was clear enough that Ron’s face alone was not going to entice Hermione to throw over her life of teeth for love. Harry wracked his brains for more inspiration – what might persuade Hermione to help him – but came up short. He could hardly offer to teach her some spells. Even if she still had her magic lying dormant inside her, they wouldn’t get far without wands. Or he could—

“Hello? Are you listening?” Hermione said, waving her hand in front of his face.

Harry jumped guiltily. “Yes?”

“I was saying that while I’m sympathetic to your troubles, and I . . . mostly believe what you’re saying,” she said primly, “I was telling the truth when I said I had an essay to write before I’m due in at uni for a lecture, so we should leave it here for now.”

“Right,” Harry said gloomily.

“Give me your phone number and I’ll be in touch if I think of anything that might help,” she said, picking up her pen again and rummaging around in a bag by her chair, pulling out a small black book.

Harry held out his hand, where he’d written the number earlier, and Hermione snorted, but copied it into her book anyway.

“It was certainly interesting meeting you,” she said, rising from her chair.

Harry, feeling the social pressure, rose too. Had it been interesting? It had been horrible, in his opinion. She was Hermione enough to make him love her, and different enough to make him desperately want his Hermione back. She didn’t even know Ron! God. OK, so sometimes Ron and Hermione didn’t act like a normal couple – they yelled at each other, and wound each other up, and if Ron kept laying waste to every buffet he met then there was a danger Hermione might snap – but they were Ron and Hermione. If they weren’t together, then nothing was right with the world. Determination bubbled up in him again. He had to fix this; for his friends, if not for him.

“I really am going to have to persuade Malfoy to help, aren’t I,” Harry muttered to himself as he got to Hermione’s front door, trying not to groan.

“I – what?” Hermione said, halting dead.

Harry stopped too, startled by her sudden change in demeanour. “Sorry?”

“Did you say Malfoy?”

Why did Hermione suddenly look happy? It pinged a memory in his brain – something dark and terrible. What was it?

Draco Malfoy?” Hermione continued, twisting her hands together, her eyes widening.

“Um, yes?” Harry said.

Hermione’s eyes were the size of moons. “As in, Draco Malfoy, whose last single was number one for eight weeks, and whose latest has just hit number one again despite stiff competition? Who was the youngest person to win ‘Best Male Newcomer’ at the Brit Awards this year? Whose song-writing skills are far in advance of any other popular artists around, but whose talent is vastly underappreciated in the mainstream media because of his good looks and his large, immature fanbase?”

Harry wasn’t sure if he wanted to laugh or vomit on his shoes. “Probably!” he squeaked, taking a step backwards as she took a step towards him. “I mean – he didn’t do those things when I knew him!”

“No? That’s your reality’s loss, then,” she said sanctimoniously, cunningly swivelling round him until she was between him and the door, “although I’m sure he would be just as impressive, no matter what world he was in or what career he chose. I am an enormous admirer of Draco Malfoy – for his talent, of course. I have a complete collection of all of his releases, including several foreign import versions and some of them very limited editions, and—” She stopped, suddenly thoughtful.

Gilderoy Lockhart. It reminded Harry of how she’d acted around Gilderoy Lockhart, before he’d been exposed as a fraud. It had been annoying then, and it was really, really annoying now.

“In this other world. Are you sure I was going out with Ron?” Hermione asked, stroking a hand thoughtfully over her hair. “Not Draco?”

“Yeah, pretty sure,” Harry said, overcome by horror.

“Let me put on his new album,” Hermione said, “and you can tell me everything you know about him. You – you said you needed his help? So you’ve met him here? You’re friends?”

Friends was pushing it. Harry gave a half-nod and wondered if Malfoy had got his phone message yet. Probably not, he thought gloomily. God, Malfoy was annoying.

Harry’s lack of enthusiasm didn’t seem to dent Hermione’s though. She beamed at him. “Amazing! You must have so many stories to tell. Hang on, I’ll get a fresh notebook.”

Hermione turned her back and strode over to the other side of the room, and Harry did the only thing he could. He fled, before Hermione – Hermione! – could do something horrendous, like ask him to get her Malfoy’s autograph.

Once outside and round the corner – Harry wouldn’t put it past Hermione to chase him down, pen in hand – Harry leaned up against the wall of someone’s front garden and considered what had just happened. He’d met Hermione, and not only did she not know Ron, she . . . fancied Malfoy.

Harry could not live in a world where Hermione fancied Malfoy. It was bad enough that he . . . He shook his head hard, to try to scramble his brain into compliance. That wasn’t the point. No – something must be done about this, and right away. The only question was: what?

^^^^^^

“Is this Harry?” Pansy said, sounding like she had her fingers crossed it wasn’t.

“Yes!” Harry said, overenthusiastic, turning off into a side street and pausing under a shop awning, one finger in his free ear to try to hear properly over the noise of the traffic. “Thanks for calling back!”

“My receptionist tells me you’ve called the office forty times in the last—” Pansy broke off and Harry could faintly hear another voice in the background. “Thirty-nine minutes,” she said. “I mean this in the politest of ways, but – what the fuck?”

“Uh,” Harry said.

“What do I have to do to get you to stop calling?”

Harry considered this. “Call me back?” he suggested.

Pansy snorted. “Very funny. Anyway, why are you being such a pain in the arse? You’re upsetting the talent,” she said. More noises in the background. “The talent says to tell you that he’s not upset.” This time, the noise sounded more like a violent struggle.

“Er, could I speak to ‘the talent’ directly?” Harry asked, imbuing the words ‘the talent’ with as much sarcasm as humanly possible. Fucking Malfoy.

“Apparently, he’s not here right now,” Pansy said sweetly, and then added, “Ow! Draco, that hurt!” She cleared her throat and said, in a very pointed tone, “He’s in rehearsals for his upcoming tour today, so he definitely doesn’t have time to see you, given that he appears to have forgotten every dance move he’s ever learnt. But he can spare you five minutes, if you drop by the studio in the next hour or so.” She reeled off the address, and then made noises as if she was about to hang up.

“Hang on! Hang on!” Harry said, once again patting himself down frantically for a pen that he wasn’t carrying. “Where’s that?”

Pansy muttered something that Harry couldn’t quite catch but which was possibly offensive. “The Fac. To. Ry,” she said very slowly, as if she thought Harry couldn’t speak English. “Four. Oh. Seven. Horn. Sey. Rooooooad.”

“Ye-es,” Harry said, equally slowly. “But whe-ere is that.”

“Can’t you just get a taxi?” Pansy said plaintively, as if she hoped that it would all be over soon.

Could he? Harry had a vague idea that they worked a bit like the Knight Bus – you shoved out your hand and one would stop – but he had visions of not having enough cash to pay the fare and the driver calling the police on him. How would he rescue Hermione from her Malfoy fangirling if he was sent to jail for fare-dodging? “Let’s say no, I can’t get a taxi,” he said.

There was a short, and somehow pained, silence. “Where are you now?” Pansy asked. “We’re in North London,” she conceded.

Well, that, at least, was good news. “Me too,” Harry said. Where was he exactly, though? He’d wandered about aimlessly a bit since he’d fled Hermione’s flat. He looked about for a street sign, and then blinked at it. “I’m on Hornsey Road, it says here,” he said.

“Oh my god,” Pansy said, and hung up.

^^^^^^

It would have taken five minutes to get the studio if Harry hadn’t set off in the wrong direction. As it was, he arrived there some fifteen minutes later, cross and slightly sweaty. It was a warm day, and his clothes were too tight and his jacket too waterproof. He felt a bit like he was steaming himself very gently. Apparition had its drawbacks, he thought – hotly – but at least you arrived at your destination at the same body temperature you started.

The place was unimpressive – a series of low sheds, next to an industrial estate – and Harry half suspected that Pansy had been taking the piss, but when he entered the receptionist was rude and snotty enough to make him think that this was the sort of joint that might contain a Malfoy. She made him wait in reception on an uncomfortable plastic chair for over twenty minutes while she ‘cleared’ his admittance, and it was almost a relief when eventually Pansy showed up, wearing another very smart suit and a very smart scowl.

“What on earth are you wearing?” Pansy said, eyes immediately dropping to take in his – Hermione’s – trousers, and then quickly added, “Never mind. I don’t actually want to know.” She gave an exaggerated shudder. “The backing dancers are taking five, so Draco has kindly agreed to give you a minute of his very precious time. This way.”

Harry tried not to grind his teeth, remembering that he needed Malfoy’s help. He’d phoned him up to say sorry, hadn’t he? For a moment he couldn’t quite remember why, overwhelmed by annoyance at the whole situation. Oh yes – he hadn’t said please to Malfoy, the pop star knobhead, when asking for his help to reset reality. He took a deep breath and tried to picture himself saying please now; it was a strain on the imagination.

Pansy ushered him through a door into an enormous cavernous space. The floor was panelled wood, slightly springy underfoot, and one wall was entirely mirrors, but otherwise it was empty, white, brightness. Empty, that was, apart from Malfoy, who was sitting slumped against the wall at the other side of the room, drinking from a water bottle in his hand. Harry was pleased to see that Malfoy jolted as he entered, a dribble of water spilling down his chin. That was about the only thing that was pleasing, though. Malfoy wasn’t quite hitting the heights of ‘sexy bedtime Malfoy’ standards, Harry thought, swallowing hard and feeling himself fill from head to toe with impotent rage at himself, but he was clearly trying. Today he was dressed in a loose, pale T-shirt and loose, pale jogging bottoms, a pile of fabric that might be a jumper heaped beside him. He was so informal, it was almost like seeing him naked.

Harry tried not to imagine him naked. This was Malfoy. He was as bad as – oh Gryffindor – Hermione.

“Don’t make him cry,” Pansy said dismissively, and then shut the door behind her, leaving Harry to wonder who, exactly, she thought was going to be doing the crying, and why.

Malfoy didn’t get up, so Harry walked towards him, realising, as he did so, that Malfoy looked knackered. His hair was damp with sweat, as were his clothes. For some reason, this didn’t help with the whole sexy bedtime business one iota.

“Potter,” Malfoy said, his tone fucked off, and then he let out an extremely undignified snort. “What the fuck are you wearing today? Are you trying to look like a lunatic, or does it just come naturally?”

Harry tilted his chin up, in order to give Malfoy a dignified stare, but had to lower it again when it turned out he couldn’t actually see Malfoy that way. “It comes naturally,” he said, and to his surprise Malfoy actually smiled. It was a pretty poor excuse for a smile, as if Malfoy was trying hard to suppress it, but it was a smile nonetheless. “I do have a reason for the trousers,” he confessed, wondering whether if he sat down the seams would survive.

Malfoy tipped his head to one side. “Oh?”

Harry decided to risk it, sliding down to the floor gingerly. The seams strained, but held, and he only felt a tiny bit like the waistband was going to slice him in two. “I, uh, tried some wandless magic.”

Malfoy continued to look at him, head tipped. “And decided to try a new look?”

“They’re not mine!” Harry protested, wondering why he was bothering. “They’re Hermione’s.”

Malfoy grimaced. “Already in Hermione’s pants, are you? How sickening. I almost feel sorry for the Weasel.”

“Actually,” Harry shot back, “in this reality, Hermione’s into you.” He regretted it as soon as he’d said it; when this was all over, Hermione – the real Hermione – was going to kill him for letting that one slip. Once she’d killed Ron, for making himself sick from laughter, that was. It was possible she might need to kill Harry too.

Malfoy’s eyes went comically wide. “I beg your pardon? Did you just say . . .?”

Harry grinned. “Oh yes. And –” inspiration struck – “if you don’t help me fix this mess, I’m going to introduce her to you. She’s your number one fan,” he added unkindly.

Granger?” Malfoy said faintly, and pulled a face.

Harry began to feel bad. “Hermione’s a very lovely woman,” he said sternly. “She’s much too good for you.”

Malfoy set down his water bottle and folded his arms. “Potter, while I’m enjoying this lovely, revolting chat, I thought you had something to say to me?” he prompted.

“I do!” Harry said. “Help me, or I’ll set Hermione on you. She’s very enthusiastic,” he added thoughtfully. “She knows more about you than an encyclopaedia.”

“Potter, there is no reality in which I would wish to date Granger,” Malfoy said snottily. “Kind though it is of you to try to set us up.”

Harry gaped. “I wasn’t!”

“No?” Malfoy said.

“No!” Harry protested, before realising that his evidently not-so cunning plan had gone wrong somewhere. When he looked back to Malfoy, Malfoy was smirking. “Oh, all right,” he said, annoyed. “Please will you help me fix this spell, Malfoy. Happy now?”

“What was that?” Malfoy asked, still smirking.

“I said please,” Harry repeated, irritated.

“Sorry?” Malfoy murmured.

“PLEASE!” Harry bellowed. “Please will you, great and mighty Malfoy, help me. I beg you on bended knee.”

“Probably better not,” Malfoy said, one corner of his mouth curling up into a smile. “There’s no way those trousers will survive, and I’m not going to lend you mine.”

Harry immediately pictured Malfoy taking his jogging bottoms off, and felt warmth boil from his head, to set his cheeks and ears aflame. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d want to wear Muggle clothes in the first place,” he muttered.

Malfoy was giving him an odd look, but he shrugged, his T-shirt almost slipping off one shoulder. “Clothes are clothes,” he said. “The whole fuss about wizards not knowing how to wear Muggle clothes is basically just politics.” He waved a hand about. “Ha ha, imagine knowing how to dress like a Muggle?” he said, putting on a quavering voice. “You might accidentally turn into one if you know their social rules!” He snorted. “As if dressing appropriately is difficult.” He half-turned to look Harry up and down. “For most of us, that is,” he amended.

“No, really though,” Harry said through gritted teeth, trying to keep his temper. He attempted to cross his legs and then thought better of it when he nearly cut off the blood circulation in his thighs. “You seem to be coping with this Muggle thing pretty well.”

Malfoy gave him a narrow look. “Are you being rude?”

Harry considered this, thinking that Malfoy seemed to be trying to keep his temper too, despite the sarcasm. “Probably,” he said.

Malfoy laughed, without much humour.

Harry took a deep breath. “Seriously, though. Shall we, er, call a truce?” He held out his hand.

Malfoy regarded it suspiciously. “I didn’t realise we were still at war.” Harry nearly pulled his hand away, but then Malfoy let out a shaky sigh and took it.

Malfoy’s hand felt very warm in his, and Harry could feel himself flushing all over again. Was he holding Malfoy’s hand too tightly? How long were you meant to shake a hand for, anyway? This felt far too long for comfort, but he didn’t want to be the first one to pull away, in case Malfoy took that as some kind of insult and decided he’d actually quite like to stay in this reality, being a pop star and marrying Hermione. Harry experienced a pang of something that felt almost like jealousy, but couldn’t possibly be. He refused to be capable of feeling jealous over Hermione and Malfoy. What the fuck was wrong with him?

“I’m not sure handshakes usually last this long, but as long as you’re enjoying yourself,” Malfoy said snidely, and Harry pulled his hand away faster than his Firebolt’s top speed. He felt curiously unable to look away from the floor. It was very polished, and surely too slippery to do any kind of physical activity on safely, he thought judgementally.

“Also, the reason I’m coping with ‘this Muggle thing’ pretty well,” Malfoy continued, in the tone of voice a normal person might use when talking to another normal person, “is that I appear to have gone from one reality where I am rich and indulged –” he paused, and amended, with hearty brightness – “was indulged, to another reality where I am extremely rich and indulged.”

Harry looked up, to find that Malfoy wasn’t pulling a mocking smile. He just looked . . . normal. Well, whatever normal was for Malfoy; Harry didn’t think it was possible for him to pull a completely normal face, without at least a tinge of arsiness shining through.

Malfoy shrugged again. “Pansy sorts out my schedule and my travel, Luna sorts out all my clothes and I appear to have coaches for all the singing and dancing and shit. I’ve barely had to do a thing for myself – or by myself,” he added, a note of irritation creeping into his voice, “since I woke up to find myself apparently a Muggle.”

“Can you still do magic?” Harry asked.

Malfoy tilted his head back, leaning against the wall and staring up at the ceiling. “I suppose so. It feels like I could.”

“It feels . . .?” Harry repeated, a bit puzzled. Hadn’t Malfoy tried? “Don’t you miss your wand?”

Malfoy’s entire body seemed to stiffen, the line of his shoulders, his neck, suddenly angry. He made an obvious attempt to relax, though, shaking the stiffness out of his neck. “As I was saying, I’ve barely been asked to do anything, I’m so well looked after, so it’d be difficult to cock that up. Really, the most challenging thing I’ve done is to try and keep up with the professional dancers today. I’m fucking exhausted.”

Ah yes, Harry thought. Malfoy – the multi-talented dancer and singer. He hadn’t picked those skills up at Hogwarts, that was for sure. “So, why didn’t you perform on that Muggle TV show last night, then?” he asked, suspecting he knew the answer. How could Malfoy perform a song when he couldn’t sing?

“I didn’t perform because I . . . I . . . had a headache,” Malfoy said, a flash of panic darting across his face as he settled on a really rubbish excuse. He raised his chin and tried to stare Harry down.

“Oh?” Harry said, sensing he had the upper hand. “Not because you don’t know the words to your own song and didn’t want to make a massive bell-end of yourself in public?”

Malfoy stared at him for a moment, and then his normal smug expression slide back into place. “Of course I know the words to my own song, you moron. I learnt the whole dreadful album the first day I woke up a fucking pop star. It’s not difficult.”

“Oh yeah?” said Harry, sensing he had lost the upper hand, damn it.

“Yeah,” Malfoy said, tone mocking. “Learning pointless nonsense is a special skill of mine. When I was a child, my parents liked to impress their guests at parties by dressing me up in full formal robes and having me recite ancient poetry,” he continued drily. “When I was five, I regaled a special delegation from the Ministry with the whole of Ingolfr the Iambic’s ‘Saga of Blood and Gold’ in the original Norwegian. A hundred and seventeen verses,” he added. “The guests were very . . . impressed.”

“Were they? I bet they were very glad when you’d finished,” Harry said. And to his surprise, Malfoy grinned.

“I bet you didn’t take the starring role in parties with your Muggles,” he said, his tone a dare.

“No,” Harry said, and something compelled him to add, “mostly, Uncle Vernon made me stay in my cupboard under the stairs until they were over.”

Malfoy’s face did something complicated. “I beg your pardon, Potter,” he said politely. “Did you just say ‘my cupboard under the stairs’?”

Harry felt the pang of old hurts and wondered why he was talking about this with Malfoy of all people, who’d only store it up to use it against him at a later date. “Yes,” he said shortly. “Didn’t you know? I slept in a cupboard, wore my cousin’s cast-offs and didn’t have any friends until I came to Hogwarts. It’s always been great fun being Harry Potter, you see.”

Malfoy stared at him, and then seemed to come to a decision. “Well, since we’re sharing old wounds,” he said, leaning in confidentially. “You know that revolting cellar in Malfoy Manor, under the drawing room?”

Harry nodded, feeling miserable and wound up.

“Well, when I was bad . . .” Malfoy said, and then snorted. “My father used to give me a stern look, and then my mother would give me sweets to make me smile again. I was much too lovely a child to ever be punished, however naughty I was, you know.” And he leant over and gave Harry a sharp dig in the ribs with his elbow.

Harry felt a spike of anger, and then to his surprise, he found he was laughing, the unpleasant atmosphere in the room dissipating as he did so. “Git,” he said, and shoved him back.

Malfoy grinned at him, relaxed and warm. It did terrible things to Harry’s insides.

“Go on, then, why did you really bunk off your performance,” Harry asked, and Malfoy’s smile went wonky. “Are you actually a terrible singer?”

Malfoy wrinkled his nose. “I’m all right, I think. No one’s cried when I’ve rehearsed, at least.”

“Did you spill food down your white top and throw a tantrum?” Harry tried.

“No, fuck off,” Malfoy said, folding his arms across his chest.

“Did you demand a red carpet and no one gave you one?”

Malfoy looked confused. “Is that a thing?”

Harry let it go. “Well, go on then,” he said. “What was it?”

Malfoy shot him an odd look, and then looked away. “You . . . you pissed me off,” he said, and pressed his lips together.

Harry laughed. “So you were sulking, then?”

Malfoy’s eyes widened. “I was not sulking! I was . . .”

“Sulking?” Harry suggested.

“No!” Malfoy said. And then, as if he couldn’t help it, he started to laugh.

Harry felt himself starting to reluctantly smile too – this whole situation was too bizarre for words; had he really just been talking to Malfoy as if he was a friend? – when the door to the studio opened and Blaise Zabini stepped through it. Harry experienced a complicated, baffling conflict of emotions: irritation at being interrupted, and a sharp pang of something that couldn’t be jealousy because Harry was not jealous over Malfoy. Except . . . hadn’t Pansy implied that Malfoy and Zabini were . . .

“Who’s this?” Blaise said airily, coming closer. “New boyfriend?”

There was an extremely loud silence. “He wishes,” Malfoy said, very pointed.

He . . . hadn’t just said that. Had he? “I really don’t!” Harry found himself saying, his voice coming out very high pitched. He felt hotter than the sun, and he couldn’t have turned his face towards Malfoy, even if someone had offered him a million Galleons to do it.

Was Malfoy really—

Had Malfoy basically just admitted

Blaise looked amused by this. “Then can I have him?” he asked Malfoy. “He looks so innocent and darling.”

Harry’s head was going to explode. “Have you seen his trousers, though?” he heard Malfoy saying, the sod.

Blaise laughed. “All the more reason to get him out of them.”

Was Harry going to die? Possibly. No, probably. He was going to die, possibly of a blood overload to the head, and he couldn’t look at Malfoy, could never, ever look at Malfoy again, and there was no fucking way Malfoy hadn’t noticed that, was there?

“Fuck off, will you, Blaise?” Malfoy said, although there was a warm tone in his voice that Harry hadn’t heard before. “I’m busy.”

Blaise shot Harry a sly look. “Yes, all right,” he said. “But our supreme leader says to tell you five more minutes only, or you’ll push the schedule out of joint.” He blew Harry a kiss as he sashayed out of the door.

There was another short and painful silence. “He – he wasn’t like that at school,” Harry said faintly into it, looking at his shoes.

“No,” Malfoy said thoughtfully. “Although he did once threaten to ask Dumbledore to reinstate the annual school play, so perhaps showbiz was in him all along.”

The silence silenced a bit more. “Are you really, um,” Harry asked the wall.

Um?” Malfoy repeated, the sarcasm tap turned on full. “I’m not going to answer if you can’t even bring yourself to say it.”

The thought that Malfoy might, actually, answer the question honestly nearly did him in. He felt extremely ill equipped to be having this conversation. But now he’d started it, it seemed impossible to stop. And he was a Gryffindor, wasn’t he? Albeit an inarticulate one when he was nervous, even he would admit that. “Are you, um, gay?” And then he found himself burbling, “I didn’t even know anyone in the wizarding world was gay!”

“You didn’t know anyone was gay,” Malfoy repeated, sounding odd. “Are you telling me . . .?”

“No!” Harry squeaked. His heart was pounding so fast that the room started to get a bit blurry. It would be the grown-up, reasonable thing to turn and look at Malfoy, so instead he attempted to lean forward and bury his head in his knees, only to be prevented by his trousers. “I’m not!”

“I did actually sleep with Blaise a few times,” Malfoy offered, to Harry’s enormous alarm. “The real one, I mean, back at Hogwarts. And once I—”

Harry turned to him, desperate to stop this stream of confidences he didn’t want. “Please don’t say Goyle,” he interrupted.

Malfoy raised his eyebrows. “How could you think so low of me,” he said. “That would be like you fucking the Weasel. Did you?”

Harry felt his mouth drop open, and he closed it hastily. “Of course not!” he said.

“You didn’t want to?”

“Never!” Harry protested. It was true, after all. He’d barely thought about sex during his school years, which it now occurred to him was unusual. But he’d been busy! Surely Voldemort was a good enough excuse?

“Have you ever done it with a man?” Malfoy asked casually, as if he was asking about the weather.

“No!” Harry said, voice going squeaky once again.

Malfoy – horrors – seemed to be smirking. “But you want to.” It wasn’t a question.

“I – I – I –” Harry stammered, horrified to be so transparent in front of Malfoy, of all people. How was this even happening? He’d gone to talk to Malfoy about the fucking spell, to get his help so they could get back home, not to accidentally reveal a secret he’d been trying very hard to keep from himself, let alone anyone else.

“And in the spirit of our new caring, sharing relationship, Potter, I’m happy to tell you that yes, I am gay,” Malfoy said relentlessly. Harry didn’t know what his face was doing, but it seemed to cheer Malfoy up even more. “And if you want to try out cock—”

Fucking hell.

“—well, I have one, and if you ask me very nicely, you might be able to persuade me into a series of sordid experiments.”

Harry swallowed hard, and then again, and willed himself not to get turned on by Malfoy’s fuckery. There was absolutely no way he was serious. And even if he was, there was no way he’d want to—

Malfoy was still looking at him. Harry couldn’t keep up the pretence that he didn’t fancy Malfoy even in his own mind, but for the sake of his own dignity, he had to try. “No, thank you,” he managed, his semi rapidly doing its best to swell into a full-on erection, despite the lack of space in his trousers. He could feel it, trapped uncomfortably in his trouser leg, and when he looked down, fucking hell it was obvious. And just looking it was making it worse.

“No?” Malfoy said lightly. Harry’s eyes flashed to Malfoy’s face, and Malfoy smirked, before very obviously looking down at the outline of Harry’s cock.

Quick as a flash, Harry rested a hand on his lap to cover it up, which he realised a fraction of a second too late was possibly the worst thing he could have done. Now, not only did Malfoy know he had a hard-on, but he was touching it in front of him. His cock strained up to meet his hand, the layers of fabric between them suddenly feeling very thin.

“Well, think about it,” Malfoy said pleasantly, still looking at Harry’s hand. On his cock. And then Malfoy held out his hand.

Could Harry blush any harder? It turned out, yes. At least, his face felt even hotter, which he wouldn’t have thought possible. And yet, there it was. “What?” he managed.

“Give me your phone, wanker,” Malfoy said.

Wanker! Harry managed to fish his mobile phone out of his jacket pocket and toss it over to Malfoy one handed, still grimly resting his other hand on his throbbing erection.

Malfoy caught it, and then finally – finally! – looked away from Harry’s lap, to concentrate on the phone. He seemed to know what he was doing, just about, but he let out a displeased snort after pressing some buttons. “Dickhead Management?” he said.

“Just someone I know,” Harry said, trying desperately to think of unpleasant, unerotic things, like . . . like Malfoy. Sexy bedtime Malfoy popped up in his head and licked his lips.

“Here,” Malfoy said, and chucked the phone at Harry, who raised both hands reflexively and managed to catch it.

Malfoy looked at his lap again, and then up to his face.

“Well, this has been amusing,” Malfoy said lightly, to Harry’s throbbing, aroused rage.

“Malfoy, why on earth are you – you—” Harry started, and then didn’t know how to complete his sentence.

“Telling you my deepest, darkest secret?” Malfoy said lightly, and looked again at Harry’s lap, his face one enormous smirk.

“Yes!” Harry spluttered.

Malfoy seemed to consider this, still staring at Harry’s cock. “I seem to have the upper hand for once, Potter,” he said pleasantly. “It would be crazy of me not to enjoy it. And besides –” his eyes slid up to fix on Harry’s face – “it’s not as if you could use this against me when you do find a way to return us to the wizarding world, could you?” He raised his eyebrows. “No one would believe you. And it would mean revealing something quite interesting about yourself in the process, wouldn’t it?”

Harry gaped at him, feeling steam pouring out of his ears. “If I do find a way to return us?” he grated out, trying to focus on the important thing here and ignore the rest. He could deal with that later; preferably by returning home immediately and Obliviating himself over and over until he couldn’t even remember his own name.

Malfoy sniggered. “It’s your mess, isn’t it? You fix it, Potter. I’m having fun. Now fuck off,” he said, sitting up straight and stretching widely, his T-shirt riding up to show a sliver of his toned, pale stomach. “I’m busy.”

Almost as soon as Malfoy said the words, the door to the studio swung open again, and Blaise re-emerged, trailing a dozen or so Lycra-clad men and women, chatting and drinking violently green liquids with apparent pleasure.

Harry wanted to think of a parting remark that would cut Malfoy down to size, but he was too busy wondering how he was going to stand up without displaying his hard-on to the entire room.

“Here,” Malfoy said as he got up, and a thin hoodie landed in Harry’s lap. “Don’t forget to think about it – my offer, I mean,” Malfoy said, his smirk deepening to epic proportions, and then he turned and walked towards Blaise and the other dancers.

Harry didn’t hang around. He bounded up – managing, by some miracle not to rip his trousers in the action – and, keeping a firm grip on the hoodie, half-ran out of the room and away to freedom.

^^^^^^

Harry wasn’t sure how he managed to get home; by the time he got in through his front door, hoodie tied firmly round his waist, he was so simultaneously turned on and angry that he could barely think. He banged the door shut behind him, tearing off his rustling jacket and the uncomfortable hoodie, and then yanked open the front of his too tight trousers, pulling them down his thighs and taking his Y-fronts with them in one ungainly move.

God, it felt good. His cock, which had softened into an infuriating semi, immediately stiffened right back up, and Harry leant back against his own front door, feeling the edges of the letter box dig into the small of his back, and took it in hand.

Malfoy had offered to conduct sordid experiments, Harry thought angrily, lust pounding through his veins as he tightened his fist around his cock. His hand slid easily, foreskin slick with precum. He felt like he’d been turned on for hours. Years. Malfoy was an arsehole, and a tease, and he definitely hadn’t meant it. He was just taking advantage of the situation. Of Harry’s confusion about – Merlin that felt good. Of his need for Malfoy’s help, even though the arsehole had hinted he’d help, and then told Harry he was on his own with fixing things, after all. And there was no way Malfoy was really gay, despite what he’d said. Malfoy was a pure-blood wizard. Malfoy was going to get married, and have an heir, and—

Harry’s brain pictured a smirking Blaise pressing Malfoy up against a wall, and the spike of angry jealousy that punctured him was so sharp it actually took his breath away. His blood was humming, his pulse pounding. He shut his eyes, and the picture switched. He was pressing Malfoy against the wall, grinding their hips together. He felt his lips part, focused in on the thought as his hand worked harder. He was dimly aware that his thighs were starting to shake with the effort of keeping himself standing. Had he wanked standing up before, outside of the shower? He couldn’t think. God.

The picture switched again. Now he was the one being pressed against the wall by Malfoy. Was that hotter? He didn’t know. He felt so hard. Everything throbbed. He was close. Harry bit his lip, leaned his head hard back against the door. Focused in on Malfoy in his head. Their grinding hips. It was hot, but . . .

Harry pictured Malfoy naked, on his knees in front of him. Harry pressed the head of his cock against Malfoy’s sulky, willing mouth, pushed his lips apart. His cock slid inside Malfoy’s mouth. Tight. Hot. Harry’s hand on his cock was tight. Hot.

Harry came with a shudder, pulling his cock towards his body to spare the floor and ending up with come splattering his T-shirt, hitting his chin. He kept jerking his wrist, his toes curling in his shoes, and his cock pulsed more come, and then just pulsed dryly, so sensitive it almost hurt.

Harry dragged the back of his hand over his chin, and then scrubbed it on the bottom of his T-shirt, panting hard. He tucked his cock back into his underpants and kicked off first his shoes and then his borrowed trousers, feeling odd and almost guilty. It was weird to wank in the hallway. It was weird to wank in the daytime. And it was definitely weird to wank to thoughts of Malfoy, even if Malfoy had basically goaded him into it. Malfoy had goaded him into it, Harry thought as he stepped over the sad pile of clothes and went upstairs towards his bedroom. He would . . . get some clean clothes and have a hot shower, wash the madness away. Then, maybe he’d be able to think about things properly, without the fug of hormones clouding his judgement. Work out what Malfoy had really meant by the – the sordid experiments. Because whatever he’d meant, he hadn’t really meant . . . that. Had he?

Harry realised he was hard again, tried to drown out the screaming of his brain telling him he was ready to go again. Then thought fuck it. It was his own house, wasn’t it? His own sanity he was wrecking. So he headed straight to his bedroom, instead of the shower, and peeled off his clothes, lying down on top of the bedcovers and taking himself back in hand.

Harry spent the rest of the day wanking, pretty much. In bed, with the lube he’d found in a drawer. In the shower, slick with shower gel. And on the stairs, slow and almost sore, the book with sexy bedtime Malfoy open next to him, taunting him to come now, come faster, come harder. He was so turned on that he thought he was going mad. It was mad, to do this. He didn’t even like Malfoy. And yes, OK, he felt vastly, overwhelmingly aroused by him, but that really wasn’t the fucking point, was it? He didn’t want sex divorced from love; he wanted what his parents’d had. Hell, he wanted what Ron and Hermione had. Friendship, companionship, true love, alongside the passion. Every time he pictured dating a man, even for a second, he found the whole idea terrifying. It was wrong, wasn’t it, to fancy other men. Disgusting, even. And love wasn’t meant to be terrifying, to make you feel like you were wrong in some way. It was meant to be warm, and safe. It was meant to be home.

Eventually, Harry had another shower, pulled on his dressing gown and went downstairs to have some food. He was starving, had lost all track of time. Had he even had lunch? No, he didn’t think so. It was probably dinner time by now. He made himself a sandwich and ate it too fast, before remembering he had a phone somewhere, and . . . Malfoy had his number. He felt disinclined to check it, to connect with the real Malfoy, and when he finally forced himself to go back into the hallway and pick up his coat, rooting through the pockets for it, he found that it had run out of battery.

Harry stared at the blank screen and went to plug it in to charge, pressing down on the ‘on’ button until it blinked into life, the battery indicator flashing. After only a few seconds, the thing started beeping, and Harry jabbed at buttons until the beeping stopped, bring up a text from . . . “Dickhead Supreme?” Harry said out loud, and then snorted. Malfoy had clearly seen the entry for his agency and gone with the theme. He was almost impressed. He frowned at the text itself, though. It seemed to be written in a foreign language, and for a moment he wondered if it was actually some kind of error, rather than something Malfoy had sent. Then he remembered Malfoy’s tale of his five-year-old prowess. Show-off he texted back, and then tried to work out what the other message notifications on the phone were. Voicemail, possibly.

Harry pressed more buttons and eventually Hermione’s voice filtered out of the phone. “Harry, it’s Hermione. I’m sure you had a good reason for running out on me earlier,” she said, very sniffily. “But a thought occurred to me about your predicament. You said you needed a wand to be able to harness your magic successfully. Well, why don’t you buy one, then?” she suggested, as if it was obvious. “I did a quick search online and immediately came across half a dozen wandmakers – druids, and so on. Why don’t you bring Draco – I mean, Mr Malfoy – over to my flat some time and we can discuss it in more detail?” she said, and then hung up without saying goodbye.

Hah! As if Harry was going to take Malfoy anywhere near Hermione, he thought, and then considered her suggestion. Could a Muggle make a working wand? He supposed that one had to have made one at some point; before there could be a wizard with a wand, there had to be a Muggle with a wand. But somehow he doubted that a druid, whatever that was, would be able to reproduce this momentous occasion just for Harry. Still, it might be worth a try. Anything was worth a try, he thought, if it got him home and away from Malfoy and his piss-taking, life-destroying suggestions.

His phone beeped again, very loudly, and Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. Dickhead Supreme’s name flashed up on his screen, and Harry pressed his eyes tight shut for a moment, before opening up the text. Thinking about my offer? the text read, and Harry could almost sense the smugness wafting off it.

No, he sent.

Liar, Malfoy answered.

Harry turned off his phone and picked up the laptop, switching it on and hoping it would be easy to figure out. He needed to order a wand, and quick, before he completely lost his mind.

Chapter Text

I bought a new wand, Harry texted Malfoy as he ate a bowl of cereal the next morning. He wasn’t sure why he was texting Malfoy, but then he wasn’t sure why he was doing anything any more. Malfoy didn’t even want to help, did he? He’d made that clear, the day before. Before Harry had done all that wanking, he remembered, not sure if he was ashamed of himself or not. At least Malfoy would never have to know, he thought, wincing. No one ever needed to know.

He spooned some more cornflakes into his mouth, feeling embarrassed and filthy as the memories hit him with more intensity. He’d wanked in the hallway. Thinking about Malfoy. God, he was a mess. To his surprise and discomfort, the phone beeped almost immediately with a reply.

Of course you did. Find Ollivander, did you?

Was that sarcasm? Harry presumed it was sarcasm. Still, he thought, shovelling in more cornflakes, that wasn’t a bad idea, if the worst came to the worst. Maybe Ollivander still had the skill, deep inside, and if Harry went on at him enough, he might turn his hand to wands just to get rid of him. No, but good idea, he sent. And then added, Thanks, because he might as well. Maybe it would annoy Malfoy, he thought, trying to rouse himself into a more normal state of mind. That would be good.

Sleep well? Malfoy shot back.

Harry nearly choked on a cornflake that went the wrong way, but washed it all down with tea. He had, in fact, slept pretty well, after all that, er, hard work. What on earth was he meant to reply? He decided not to overthink it, because Malfoy was undoubtedly laughing at him. Yeah, great. You?

The answer, when it came, was short:

;-)

Harry stared at the text, and as he stared at it, another one came through.

That’s Muggle for winking, by the way. I hope you’re impressed x

Harry stared at that one too, wondering if it was too early in the day to have a lie down with a cold flannel on his forehead. He’d only just got up, after all, and he might end up with indigestion. Had Malfoy really just sent him a text with a kiss on the end? Did Malfoy know that an x meant a kiss? Was he taking the piss?

Harry thought about it some more and decided that, yes, Malfoy was one hundred, million percent taking the piss. He was probably wetting himself with laughter right now at getting one over on him. At stupid, mixed up Harry, and his stupid, mixed up feelings. So he sent back: Very xxx and waited for a sarcastic response that proved Malfoy had only done it to be an arsehole. After ten minutes, though, nothing else had come through, so Harry finished his breakfast and went back upstairs to clean his teeth, before he decided what to do with the day.

Once he’d got ready, Harry wondered what he should do with himself. It was Sunday, wasn’t it? He didn’t have to work at the shop again until Monday, if he remembered right. He felt disinclined to call Hermione back; she would undoubtedly want to talk to him about Malfoy, and he didn’t want to think about Malfoy any more, let alone listen to her bang on about him and his many amazing achievements. This decision also ruled out Malfoy and his dubious help – or, rather, lack of it – at least for today. And his wand – hand-whittled by a druid at midnight and made from a branch that had fallen naturally from a holly tree, the description said – was on order and would allegedly arrive within two to three working days, so there was nothing to be done there apart from wait. What else was there he could do?

Harry went for a walk to get some fresh air. He tidied his house from top to bottom, the novelty of hoovering his own place, rather than casting a household charm, wearing off after only a couple of minutes. He had some lunch, and tidied up again. He switched on the TV and watched some kind of property programme, feeling both bored and baffled. And he looked around, at a house that barely showed any signs of his life in this reality, and wondered if this was really how it would have gone, if he hadn’t been magic, if he hadn’t gone to Hogwarts. A bare house. No family, and barely any friends. An unfulfilling job. An empty life. Merlin, was he really that pathetic?

As evening set in and the sky started to darken, Harry contemplated his boring, wasted day and vowed he wouldn’t do that again. He opened a window and leaned out, concentrating hard at the night sky. “Finite Incantatem!” he yelled at the blue-black clouds, and a dog barked back at him, as if to tell him you’re wasting your time, mate. Was he ever really a wizard, Harry wondered bleakly, or had he just had an amazingly vivid dream? But no, he reminded himself. He’d Scourgified his trousers off at Hermione’s, hadn’t he? Not his finest moment, but evidence, nonetheless, of his magic. And . . . there was Malfoy. He remembered, blast him.

Harry went and got his phone, and didn’t text Malfoy. Malfoy hadn’t texted him, after all. He didn’t text Malfoy as he watched a baffling programme where people were told how much their ancient ornate clocks and antique diamond brooches were worth, and looked smugly surprised about it. He didn’t text Malfoy as he brushed his teeth and decided to go to bed early. He didn’t text Malfoy as he sat on his bed, looking at his phone, waiting for Malfoy to text him.

How was your day? he texted Malfoy, and then lay back on the bed with a groan. Fucking Malfoy.

Harry’s phone started ringing, and he fumbled for it, his heart suddenly beating wildly. “Hello?” he said, forgetting to check that it was actually Malfoy before he answered.

It was actually Malfoy. Of course it was. “Tiring,” he said, without saying hello back. “It’s hard work being beautiful and talented. Feel glad you’ve been spared,” he added in a drawl.

“Ha ha,” Harry said.

“So, where are you right now?” Malfoy asked.

“Uh, in my bedroom,” Harry replied, and then wished he hadn’t. He must be suffering from some sort of illness, he thought miserably. An illness that made him completely stupid, to give Malfoy such an obvious opening for extended, embarrassing unkindness.

“Oh?” Malfoy replied. How he could imbue the word with such meaning, Harry didn’t know; the fucker sounded both supercilious and knowing. A terrible mix. “Give me a moment,” Malfoy continued, and Harry could hear him talking to someone else, very low and muffled, before the sound quality changed to more of an echoey silence, just the sound of footsteps followed by the click of a door. “Are you in bed?” Malfoy asked.

“Ye-es,” Harry said slowly, wondering if he should just hang up, but something compelled him to add, trying to sound simultaneously calm and sarcastic, “well, on my bed.”

“Hm,” Malfoy said, and Harry could hear a rustling as he . . . sat down? Possibly. Harry tried not to think too hard. He was already anxious about the direction this conversation seemed to be going in. The urge to hang up rose again, and Harry found he was holding the phone so tightly that his hand was aching. “So . . .” Malfoy continued, and Harry heard the gulp as he swallowed something. “What are you wearing right now?”

“I – what?” Harry said, but Malfoy didn’t reply, just left a silence – a mocking one, Harry thought. He looked down at himself. “My underpants?” he tried, wondering what on earth he was doing. “And, uh, my socks.” And for some reason he found himself adding, “There’s a hole in the toe. Maybe I should throw them away. Why, what are you wearing?”

“A hole in the toe?” Malfoy muttered. “For fuck’s sake.” Then, before Harry could protest that not all his socks had holes, and he hadn’t learnt how to mend things yet, and why the hell did it matter anyway, and maybe Malfoy should consider just fucking off and dying, Malfoy cleared his throat and said, voice suddenly smooth, “I just got out of the shower, actually, so I’m in my bathrobe. Green silk. Very . . . clingy.”

This smooth and obvious lie had the same effect on Harry’s anxious semi-arousal as a short, sharp Aguamenti. There was no way Malfoy was being serious; it was now obvious that he was only trying to wind him up, to trick him into saying things that would embarrass him even further. “Oh, really?” Harry said, his voice coming out flat and unimpressed. “That the best you can do?”

Malfoy made a choking noise, as if whatever he was drinking had gone down the wrong way. “I beg your pardon?”

“Green’s not my favourite colour,” Harry said, “for reasons you can probably understand.”

“Not your favourite . . .” Malfoy echoed, and Harry was suddenly aware that he couldn’t tell if Malfoy sounded arsey or . . . embarrassed. He hadn’t really been trying to be sexy. Had he? The idea was ludicrous. Malfoy wasn’t gay. It was all an act. To get one over on Harry. Wasn’t it? Before Harry could think through the implications of this fully, though, Malfoy said, tone now hard and unpleasant, “Would you prefer if I wore something else?”

Harry would prefer to start this phone conversation over from the beginning, before it got all pointed and unpleasant, that’s what he’d prefer. He should definitely have hung up earlier. This confusion over whether Malfoy meant it was much more unnerving than the thought that he was just teasing Harry to be unkind.

“Or is that you’d prefer someone else?” Malfoy snapped. “I could tell you that I’m wearing women’s knickers if you want. Or maybe you want to hear that I have ginger pubes; is that your kink? Is your issue that you’re not gay, or bi, or whatever, but that you’re only into Weasleys?”

Well, that had escalated fast, fucking hell. “What the hell is wrong with you?” Harry snapped back. Women’s knickers? Malfoy was an arsehole. “Just fuck off if you’re going to be like this,” he added, and Malfoy immediately hung up.

Harry lay there for a while, baffled and angry, but the anger soon faded and left confusion in its wake. Had Malfoy really just rung him up and . . . tried to be sexy? And had Malfoy really flown off the handle and . . . Harry tried to replay what Malfoy had just ranted at him. Something about Harry being into ginger pubes, he thought with irritation. Malfoy had seemed angry that Harry had – what? Dated Ginny? Harry stared at the ceiling, blinking as the hanging light left trails and heat spots behind his eyelids. Harry knew he wasn’t always very quick on the uptake when it came to the emotional stuff, but he also wasn’t an idiot. Malfoy had come across as jealous. It seemed unlikely, but what other explanation was there? If there was one, Harry couldn’t think of it.

But Malfoy wasn’t gay. He definitely wasn’t gay. Why the fuck would he be jealous of Ginny dating Harry, though, if he wasn’t gay?

Just as Harry was wondering what he should do, and trying not to hyperventilate as a range of completely impossible thoughts flooded his brain and tried to make themselves at home there, the phone rang again. He shouldn’t answer it this time, he told himself. He definitely shouldn’t answer it.

“Hello?” he answered, nervous all over again.

“Well?” Malfoy demanded.

The nervousness slid away. “Well what?” Harry snapped. “You hung up on me!”

“You told me to fuck off!” Malfoy countered.

“You – you accused me of something to do with ginger pubes!” Harry said, because it was ridiculous. Malfoy didn’t say anything though, so Harry said, cautiously, not quite able to believe he was actually saying this out loud to Draco Malfoy, “You do know I split up with Ginny well over a year ago, right?”

“I really don’t care,” Malfoy said, in possibly the least convincing manner anyone had ever said anything at all in.

Was this the most surreal conversation Harry had ever had? Possibly. Probably. But dwelling on Malfoy’s feelings about Ginny was a fast Floo to being hung up on again, Harry suspected, and he didn’t want to think about it anyway. It was too weird.

“So, er, what are you really wearing?” Harry asked, because he was a Gryffindor, and always would be, even in a world where he wasn’t. There must be a real reason why Malfoy had asked about clothing, and Harry felt determined to work it out. “You’d better bloody well not say women’s knickers, you tosspot,” he added, to head off Malfoy immediately taking the piss again.

Malfoy snorted. “I am actually wearing a bathrobe, thank you very much. But . . .” Harry heard him take another sip of his drink; the ice chinked close to the phone. “It’s a hotel one. Very large, like being hugged by an enormous, shaggy towel.” He let out a satisfied sigh. “I was just having a quick nightcap with Pansy. She’s just as difficult to shake off as she ever was,” he said, voice tinged with amusement. “I thought abandoning her to have a shower would make her fuck off out of my suite, but when I came back into the living room she was still there, still talking about my schedule for tomorrow. I only called you to get her to actually go away.”

“Thanks!” Harry said, strangely stung by this.

Malfoy sniggered. “Well, and to have a bit of fun. That went well,” he added, an eye-roll in his voice. “Are you always this suspicious?”

“Hey!” Harry said, still deeply suspicious but trying not to sound it. “Can you blame me? We’re not exactly – I mean . . .”

“Yes, I suppose,” Malfoy said. “God, this gin is good. Have you really got a hole in your sock?”

“Yes?” Harry said, looking at it. The sock was, in fact, more hole than sock.

“Then you should take it off. To throw it away, of course,” Malfoy said casually.

Harry felt his heart start to speed up. “Should I?” he asked.

“Of course,” Malfoy said. “Unless your feet are cold,” he added, a note of challenge in his voice. “Or you’re chicken. An uptight chicken,” he expanded.

“All right, for Merlin’s sake,” Harry said, mostly to make him shut up. And besides, he fucking wasn’t chicken. If Malfoy wanted to play mind games with him, then he would play mind games with Malfoy right back. He reached down and tugged his socks off, chucking them over the side of the bed and on to the floor. “Done,” he said firmly. “Well?”

“Hmm,” Malfoy said, voice low and soft and tinged with amusement. “I bet your boxers are fit for the bin too.”

Harry looked down at his underpants. “They’re Y-fronts,” he said. “And they’re hideous. But what about you? Are you wearing sexy Slytherin socks, arsehole?”

Malfoy let out a snort. “Wanker. Actually, I have some poor quality hotel slippers on my feet. Very cardboardy.”

“Then you should take them off,” Harry said, because clearly he was insane.

“Why? Do you have some revolting foot fetish?” Malfoy asked, sniggering.

“Yes,” Harry said firmly, and found himself smiling as Malfoy made a noise of laughing disgust. “Got your toes out yet?”

“So vile,” Malfoy said, sounding relaxed and amused, “but yes.”

“Liar,” Harry said, shifting on the bed to make himself more comfortable. His shoulders and neck ached with tension, and he tried to make himself relax.

“I’m not sure how I’m meant to prove the nakedness of my feet,” Malfoy said, still amused. “You’ll just have to take it on trust, Potter. Can you do that?”

“What, trust you?” Harry asked, and realised it had come out sounding a bit more unpleasant than he’d intended when Malfoy didn’t say anything in response. Could he trust Malfoy? Not about the feet thing, that was stupid, but . . . He gnawed at his lip. He wanted to be able to trust Malfoy. Everyone deserved a second chance, even someone who’d fucked up quite as spectacularly as him. And . . . he hadn’t put a foot wrong since his trial, had he? Harry still didn’t know the details of his punishment – Auror Robards hadn’t let him go near the paperwork, or the arrangements for Malfoy’s weekly check-ins, on pain of pain – but as far as he knew, Malfoy had been, well, good. And he hadn’t given any awful interviews to the press, unlike his disgusting father. He’d kept himself to himself. Was it enough?

He was overthinking this, he decided. He wanted to be able to trust Malfoy, didn’t he? Maybe he should try it, see how it went. He didn’t have much to lose at this point, anyway. Well, apart from all his dignity.

“I have complete faith in your disgusting bare feet, Malfoy,” he said. “I . . . trust you. OK?”

“My feet are not disgusting,” Malfoy said after a moment, and he sounded a bit weird, but Harry decided he was probably overthinking that too. He preferred his awkward conversations more straightforward, on the whole. Or not taking place in the first place, for preference. “But . . .” Malfoy continued after a moment, tone now very casual, which instantly made Harry feel suspicious, “let’s just say I told you I’d just taken my dressing gown off and was actually completely naked, would you believe me?”

Harry snorted. “No.”

“No?” Malfoy said, sounding a bit cross.

“Well, you haven’t, have you?” Harry said, thinking was pretty reasonable. “I’ll believe you if you actually do it.”

“All right,” Malfoy said, and Harry’s insides did an uncomfortable lurch. All right? “Since you asked so nicely.”

Harry could hear faint rustling sounds. It didn’t mean that Malfoy was undressing, he supposed, trying not to panic. He could just be bouncing on his bed, to take the piss.

“Do you believe me now?” Malfoy asked, an edge to his voice.

Harry’s cock believed him; he was almost completely hard, his cock straining at the rough fabric of his underpants. He shifted uncomfortably. “Um, yeah,” he said. “Are – are – aren’t you cold?” he found himself asking, like an idiot.

“Am I cold?” Malfoy asked, sounding as if he agreed with Harry on that one. “What are you, my mother?” And then he snorted. “Urgh, don’t make me think of my mother right now, what’s wrong with you.”

Harry didn’t know what was wrong with him. He was on the phone with Draco fucking Malfoy, he had a hard on, and allegedly Malfoy was naked. Could he be responsible for the shit that came out of his mouth right now? It seemed unfair that he was being asked to think at all.

“Anyway, if I’m cold, then surely your Gryffindor sense of fairness compels you to be cold too,” Malfoy continued.

“I think fairness is possibly more of a Hufflepuff trait, if you think about it—”

“Potter,” Malfoy interrupted, with aching politeness.

“Yes?” Harry said, feeling a shiver of something inexplicable tremble through him.

“Don’t be dense.”

“I’m not dense!” Harry protested.

“No?” Malfoy queried.

Harry looked down at the erection straining his underpants. If he took off the pants, then he’d be naked. With a hard on. Talking to Malfoy. Who was also naked. And – possibly gay after all, Harry thought. Was Malfoy hard too? Harry squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. God, he hoped Malfoy wasn’t taking the piss.

“Did you never jerk off in your dormitory with your little Gryffindor gang?” Malfoy asked, to Harry’s horror.

“No!”

“Not even with the light off?” Malfoy pressed.

“No!”

“What a bunch of prudes,” Malfoy said, sounding amused. “No wonder you’re being so weird.”

“I’m not being weird,” Harry protested, “and even if I was being weird, I think it’s understandable that I’m being weird.” He reconsidered this. “You know what I mean.”

“Sure,” Malfoy said lazily. “If you like.” He let out a soft noise that made Harry freeze. Was Malfoy . . .?

“You don’t have to join in,” Malfoy said, and he sounded slightly breathless now, his words coming out slow and soft. “You can just listen, if that’s your thing.”

Did Harry want to listen to Malfoy wanking? Or pretending to wank. How would he actually know for sure? His brain told him this was not the best idea he’d ever had and that now was definitely, positively, absolutely the time for him to hang up, rather than expose himself to Malfoy’s inevitable ridicule, but his cock overrode the decision by taking all the blood from his body and doing a throbbing, pounding thing that made it impossible to think.

“Ohhh,” Malfoy said, right in Harry’s ear, so faint it was almost inaudible. Harry’s hand shot down to his underpants, tugging them down his thighs. His cock caught up in the fabric, but sprung free, twitching wildly. Fucking hell, Harry wanted to touch himself. He tried to breathe slow and steady, willing himself to just lie there.

It was very quiet in the room. And very quiet on the phone. Harry couldn’t even hear Malfoy breathing. Was Malfoy even still there? Or was he . . .

Malfoy took in a ragged breath, and then another. He’d been holding his breath. The sound – the thought – did horrendous things to Harry’s self-control. He shifted on the bed, digging the fingers of the hand that wasn’t clutching the phone into the sheets. He lifted his neck to look down at his cock, feeling it twitch again. A bead of liquid emerged from the tip, very slowly falling towards his stomach in a long, thin strand.

He flung his head back on the pillow, wet his lips, screwing his toes up tight and clenching his arse cheeks. He wasn’t going to wank with Malfoy listening. He wasn’t going to wank with Malfoy listening. He wasn’t—

Malfoy made a low groan, and then went completely silent, as if he was holding his breath again. “Malfoy?” Harry managed, feeling hot with an uneasy mix of embarrassment and arousal.

“Yes?” Malfoy said. He sounded short of breath. “Fuck’s sake. You want to chat?”

“Are you actually . . . you know,” Harry managed, trying not to die. His balls ached, and he widened his legs, trying to resist the urge to fuck the empty air for some, any, relief.

“Am I actually . . .?” Malfoy asked after a moment, sounding more normal all of a sudden. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“No-o,” Harry said, feeling awkward all over again. “I just . . .”

“What, you want a running commentary?” Malfoy demanded.

Harry thought about this, and nearly came untouched. “Um,” he said, meaning to say no and his cock saying fucking hell, yes please. He could picture Malfoy lying there, alone on his hotel bed. Cock in hand, arching his back as he jerked himself off.

He could also, on the other hand, picture Malfoy lying there smirking, fully dressed, trying very hard to remember this conversation so he could pour it out into a Pensieve later and torture Harry with it.

“This is . . .” Malfoy said, sounding a bit weird. “God, Potter. You . . .”

Harry squeezed his eyes tight shut and tried to erase the thought of naked, wanking Malfoy from his mind. Malfoy was clearly gearing up to say something nasty, and—

“Fine,” Malfoy said quickly, as if he was talking himself into it. “I’ll . . . Fine. Whatever. If it’s weird, it’s your own fault, remember that.”

What the hell?

“OK, get comfy,” Malfoy said.

Harry looked down as his erect, reddened cock. Comfy wasn’t quite the word, was it?

“Right,” Malfoy said, and Harry realised he sounded nervous, which was ridiculous. The whole thing was ridiculous. Malfoy would never actually do it.

“Are you wanking yet?” Harry asked, because he was tired of being incoherent and of Malfoy maybe taking the piss. “Because if you are, you should get on with it. I’ve got to go to work tomorrow,” he said firmly. “So I can’t stay up too late.”

Malfoy spluttered. “Yeah, fuck you too, Potter,” he said, but this time he didn’t hang up, as Harry half expected. Instead, he was quiet for a moment, and Harry could hear the rustling of fabric. “Just getting more comfortable,” Malfoy said, voice low and a fraction awkward. “OK, Potter, I’ve got my hand back on my dick now. Happy?”

Harry looked at his own dick. It didn’t look happy. It was swollen and reddened, and there was already a tiny pool of liquid on his stomach from all the dripping. He swallowed hard. “Mm.”

“God, that feels good,” Malfoy said, a catch in his voice. “I’m going to . . .” Harry could hear him spit. “Just let me . . . Ohh,” he said. “That feels hot.”

Harry strained his ears, tried to catch the sounds of tiny movements. “Are you, uh, hard?” he asked, and couldn’t believe he’d said that out loud.

Malfoy let out a breath. Maybe he couldn’t believe it too. “Of course I am, you complete idiot,” he said. “How the fuck you get by as an Auror with those shit powers of deduction . . .” he said, words choppy and breathless. “Are you hard?”

Harry was so hard it was agony not to touch himself. “Yeah,” he admitted, losing his self-control for a moment.

“Right, running commentary,” Malfoy said, breathing heavily. Harry held his breath. “I’ve – I’ve got my hand on my cock and I’m stroking it really slowly,” Malfoy said. “Because this is fucking weird and I’ve never been so horny in my fucking life. Shit,” he choked out. “I – I – I— God.”

God indeed. And Harry didn’t even believe in god. He believed in his cock though, and he believed that if he didn’t jerk himself off right now there was a possibility he might actually do himself an internal injury. So he let go of his death grip on the sheets, and curled his fingers around his cock. It felt amazing. So amazing that he couldn’t stop himself from groaning. Out loud. So that Malfoy could hear.

Malfoy didn’t laugh, though. He just let out a choking noise and said, “You’re actually . . . Potter . . .”

Harry was too busy trying not to come in under ten seconds to reply. He just grunted, clenching his thighs and arching his back at the feelings coursing through him. His balls ached like crazy, and he wrenched his hand from his cock, trailing his fingers in the pool of liquid on his stomach and stroking them agonisingly over the head of his cock. He grabbed his cock again and slid his hand up, as slowly as possible, and down again. Each slow slide was amazing. Infuriating. But not as amazing and infuriating as the sound of Malfoy’s breathing in his ear, each ragged breath almost a sob.

Malfoy was breathing faster now, groaning and going silent, before groaning even louder than before. “I want . . .” Malfoy gasped out between great gulping breaths. “I want . . .”

What did Malfoy want? Harry’s body was singing. “What . . .” he gasped out.

“I . . .” Malfoy said, sounding peculiar. “I think I’m going to come soon.”

“Yeah?” Harry said, feeling the coils of arousal tighten in his groin, the sensations building. He tightened his grip on his cock, pumping harder. He couldn’t have slowed down if he’d wanted to, his need driving him to the edge. “Me too,” he choked out, as he teetered on the edge of his orgasm, his stomach clenching rock solid, his thighs shaking like crazy.

“Potter, I—” Malfoy said wildly, and then he groaned, so long and low, the noise blurring into a stream of swear words, that Harry guessed he’d actually come.

The thought of Malfoy actually coming . . . the noises he was making . . . Harry pumped his cock furiously and came into his fist, collapsing back on to the bed and panting so hard that it was actually difficult to breathe.

When he’d recovered enough for his brain to switch back on, he wasn’t sure what to say. Malfoy was silent on the other end of the line, which was no help. What did you say to a guy you hated some of the time, pitied some of the time, and yet couldn’t stop thinking about pretty much all of the time? Not to mention, Harry thought, someone he’d just had his first gay experience with. Did that count as a gay experience, he wondered wryly. It had felt pretty gay. He expected to feel different, somehow, but instead he just felt wrung out and anxious, as if he’d made a mistake and was expecting it to rise up and punch him in the face any moment now. He still couldn’t quite believe it had been real.

“Poor show on the running commentary,” he found himself saying through a yawn, post-orgasm tiredness slowing down his brain and turning him into a lunatic. “You didn’t even announce the main event.”

Malfoy made a choking noise of shock, and then started laughing. “You think you could do better? I’ll remember that for next time.”

Next time? Harry’s insides did a nervous dance of arousal and terror. “Er, no, it’s fine. Great job, Malfoy. Very . . . Great job,” he said again, clearing his throat.

“Thanks,” Malfoy said, faintly mocking, and then he yawned. “Excuse me,” he said, not sounding very sorry. “You’re not boring me, I promise. It’s just been a long day.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry said, feeling himself relax a fraction. He could do this. It was only talking with Malfoy. He unrelaxed again. He didn’t know how to talk to Malfoy! The wanking had been a walk in the park compared to actually talking to him. “So, uh, what do you think to coming to see Hermione with me, try to convince her to help,” he found himself saying to his alarm. There was nothing he wanted less!

“Granger?” Malfoy spluttered. “Is now a good time to talk about her? Can’t you at least wait until I’ve put my cock away,” he added plaintively.

Harry laughed. “No, but seriously. This reality’s Hermione doesn’t even know Ron, and—”

Malfoy groaned. “Seriously, Potter. Must we talk about that pair of . . .” He cleared his throat, clearly thinking better of his sentence.

“Pair of?” Harry asked, deciding not to let him off.

“Pair of good friends of yours,” Malfoy said stiffly. “The know-it-all and the ginger-pubed wanker,” he amended, his voice a laugh.

You were jealous of the ginger-pubed wanker,” Harry reminded him. It felt like a hundred years ago now. The world was possibly now arranged into pre- and post- ‘wanking with Malfoy’.

“I was not!” Malfoy said, in tones of horror.

“You were, though,” Harry said, finding the whole business strangely amusing. None of this felt real. None of it was real, he supposed. Maybe he was floating in a vat somewhere, after all, he thought. Maybe it was Malfoy who’d put him there.

Malfoy, whether real or not, was making a vomiting noise. “Urghhhhh,” he said. “Please tell me you were telling the truth when you claimed you never fucked Ron Weasley. It’s bad enough knowing you did his sister.”

“Sorry, but we actually screwed every night,” Harry said, and found the silence that followed was very ringing and unpleasant. “Hermione joined in too. And sometimes Neville.”

“Fuck you,” Malfoy said warmly.

“While you were shagging Blaise and Theo, allegedly,” Harry said, feeling that odd stab of jealousy in his guts. “Did you really never sleep with Crabbe or Goyle?” Harry winced after he’d said it. He still sometimes had dreams about Vincent, and he’d never been his friend. Malfoy had never seemed to like him very much either, to be fair, but . . .

Malfoy said, very cool, “No, Potter, I didn’t fuck my dead friend.”

Oh God. “Draco, I—” Harry said, in a panic.

“I did fuck Blaise and Theo though,” Malfoy interrupted, his voice normal again. And then he paused. “Did you just use my first name?”

“By mistake!” Harry said. “I swear!”

“And if you’re a very good boy, Harry Potter,” Malfoy continued, as if Harry hadn’t answered, “at some point I might fuck you too.”

Harry felt his mouth go bone dry.

“Or you could fuck me, perhaps,” Malfoy mused. “Let’s leave it as a TBC. But right now, it appears I’m going on tour for a while. Will you survive without me?”

“Yes!” Harry said immediately, still caught between terror and arousal at the idea that he might actually – in real life – with Malfoy. It was a bloody good thing Malfoy was fucking off, he thought. And he didn’t need Malfoy to fix the spell. He could do it himself! He wasn’t useless.

Malfoy sniffed. “No need to sound so enthusiastic, Harry.”

Harry! “Can I, er, come and hear you sing?” Harry asked. He meant it as a piss take, but it came out sounding serious, and he realised he would, in fact, quite like it. It would either be entertaining, or it would be terrible – and therefore entertaining. He was on to a winner. He could even take Hermione, he thought. Introducing her to Malfoy – to Draco? – now that would be entertaining too. He could hear Malfoy sing, and then he could run away, very fast, before he had to look him in the eye.

“Can you come and hear me sing,” Malfoy repeated. “Well, it depends a bit on whether you can get a ticket,” he continued, sounding horrendously smug. “I hear the entire tour sold out in under seventeen minutes.”

“Yes, all right,” Harry said. “Do you know all the words yet?”

Malfoy uttered something foreign and incomprehensible. It was the fucking poem again, Harry thought. What was wrong with him? “Do you actually know what that poem means?” he demanded.

“No,” Malfoy said, sounding unembarrassed. “That’s hardly the point. Goodnight, then, Harry.”

“Oh, er, goodnight then,” Harry said, but he was speaking to the dial tone; Malfoy had already hung up.

Chapter Text

On Monday, Harry went to work. He tried not to think about Malfoy, told himself that Malfoy wasn’t important right now, wasn’t the point. He should be thinking about the spell, about how to undo it if the wand he’d ordered didn’t work. Unfortunately, trying not to think about Malfoy meant that he ended up thinking about Malfoy, pretty much all day.

Parvati kept giving him odd looks, but the shop was rammed for almost the whole of his shift, so he managed to avoid her. He didn’t particularly want to talk to her. She might try to probe him about his personal life, by means of asking if he’d had a nice weekend, and he might go mad and ask her the question he couldn’t stop thinking about: if you’d listened to another guy wank, and knocked one out yourself while listening, was it OK to keep calling him by his surname? Or did that make them friends now? Harry had a strong feeling that wanking wasn’t the same as friendship. And did he even want to be friends with Malfoy? What he wanted was to go home, back to the wizarding world. Back to his nice, simple straightforward life, where the only thing he had to worry about was vicious dark wizards trying to kill him. It was, he considered, far preferable to a world where he might conceivably, at some point, take off his trousers in front of Draco fucking Malfoy.

Harry wasn’t sure if he was allowed to have his phone on him during his shift, even though Parvati had hers out constantly. She owned the shop, or as good as. Besides, he didn’t even want to have it with him today. Then he’d know for sure whether Malfoy – Draco – Malfoy had sent him a text or not. He didn’t know whether he wanted him to have or not. He told himself it didn’t matter, was aware that wasn’t true. He wanted Draco to have texted him, so they could have a proper conversation about reversing the spell, Harry told himself firmly, rather than one where Draco tried to distract him with embarrassing mind-fuckery. If, that was, it turned out he needed Draco’s help. Which he wouldn’t. He stuck his hands in his pocket and crossed all his fingers that he could fix his mistake by himself when the wand arrived. It was him who’d apparently torn reality – so surely he could mend it? All he needed to do was hang on till then, try not to lose his mind.

When Harry finished work, he refused a post-shift drink with Parvati and raced home to where his phone was. He checked it, to find a voicemail symbol, and then felt too nervous to listen to it. But that was stupid, he told himself, so he forced himself into it, and felt his heart sink when he heard Hermione speaking. “Have you tried buying a wand yet?” she said. “I had another thought, though. Can’t you just – cast a spell that stops spells?” she suggested. “I mean, how did you cast the spell in the first place? Just revisit that scene and tell it to end. Call me,” she ended, “if you want to discuss it further.”

“I already tried that!” Harry told his phone. “It didn’t fucking work!” But he supposed it wasn’t Hermione’s fault. It was a good enough idea.

Harry put the phone back down, feeling flat and disappointed. He told himself it was because he’d already tried Hermione’s latest suggestion, but knew that he was lying to himself. Still, he thought – trying to cheer up, because he was being ridiculous – there was a good reason why Malfoy – Draco – hadn’t been in touch, wasn’t there? He was travelling to his venue, and doing whatever pop stars did at them. What did they do, Harry wondered. Check they didn’t sound too dreadful, he supposed, and practise their dancing to make sure they weren’t going to fall off the stage, that kind of thing. Draco would call after he’d finished his gig, Harry presumed. Providing he hadn’t actually fallen off the stage.

^^^^^^

Draco – no, Malfoy, definitely Malfoy – didn’t call him after his gig. So Harry didn’t call him either, just went to bed, and slept badly.

^^^^^^

On Tuesday, Harry went to work. He was already sick to death of the monotony of it all, and he turned up in a towering bad mood. It was nothing to do with Malfoy, nothing at all. He was just fed up, and his new wand hadn’t arrived yet, and even when it did, he had no expectation that it would actually work, and how the fuck was he meant to get home? He missed it fiercely. His job, his real house – the Muggle Grimmauld place just wasn’t the same – his friends. How did Muggles cope? They coped fine, he thought, feeling a headache slot into place in his brain. It wasn’t really the magic he missed, after all; it was everything else.

“Morning, oh ray of sunshine,” Parvati said cheerfully, which helped about as much as a kick in the teeth.

Harry tried not to glower at her. It wasn’t her fault, after all. “Morning,” he said. “What are you so happy about?”

Parvati rolled her eyes. “No need to sound so pissed off about it,” she said. “Honestly. Get out of bed on the wrong side again?” She didn’t wait for a reply but, instead, bent down under the counter and came up again brandishing a newspaper. There, on the front cover, was a picture of—

“Maybe he’s not gay after all,” Parvati sighed, and leant her elbows on the counter, resting her chin in her hands. “I wish I’d managed to get tickets for his new tour. Our eyes might catch across the crowds, and he would instantly fall in love with me, and whisk me away from the beans.”

Harry pulled the paper towards him. Draco – no, definitely Malfoy, one hundred percent Malfoy – was snuggling up to a very pretty brunette in a grainy photo on the front cover, their faces very close. DRACO MALFOY EMBRACES ‘MYSTERY WOMAN’ BACKSTAGE ON FIRST NIGHT OF UK LEG OF WORLD TOUR, the headline shouted. Harry pushed the paper back. After party. Right. That would explain why Draco hadn’t called. Or rather, the ‘mystery woman’ would.

“You all right?” Parvati said sympathetically. “Sorry, babe, I didn’t realise you’d take it so hard. He is fit, isn’t he?”

“Not really my type,” Harry said. And thought that if he had a type of man – which he didn’t, because he wasn’t gay, he was just really, really confused – it wouldn’t be the sort who would turn him on one night and then go out making kissy faces with ‘mystery women’ the next. All of which was entirely beside the point, he thought, because if he had a type of man, whatever that was, it definitely wouldn’t include Draco sodding Malfoy.

^^^^^^

The rest of Harry’s shift felt a bit like wading through glue. He was bored, and upset, and angry at being upset, because what the fuck? It didn’t make any sense. He tried really hard as he worked to fancy Parvati. She was beautiful, wasn’t she? And funny. And light-hearted, and she seemed to like him OK. But when he tried to imagine kissing her, it felt a bit wrong, as if he was imagining kissing Hermione.

“Stop looking at me like that,” Parvati said plaintively, when Harry was trying for a second time to imagine what she might look like with her top off and finding his imagination telling her to cover up, for Merlin’s sake. “If I ever imagined the face a serial-killer cannibal might make as he eyed me up for the pot, that’s the one you’re pulling right now.”

“I am feeling a bit peckish,” Harry joked, and Parvati reached up to cuff him round the head.

“Seriously, Harry, you all right?” she asked, tilting her head to one side, her gold hoop earrings swinging as she did so. “I’m worried about you.”

Harry felt even worse. It was bad enough he was making himself feel like shit over nothing, without dragging Parvati into it too. He tried to cheer up, but still caught Parvati glancing over at him, her face creased up with worry, when she thought he wasn’t watching.

By the time Harry had got home, he’d convinced himself he didn’t care about Malfoy and his mystery women. Fuck them. Harry just wanted to fix reality and go home. So he was surprised to find himself stalking straight to his dining room as soon as he got through the front door, grabbing his phone and typing out: Who’s your girlfriend, Malfoy? Great shot of you in the papers.

Harry hit send, and then thought fuck. What on earth was wrong with him?

He felt a tiny bit sick when the phone almost immediately rang, the name Dickhead Supreme flashing up on the screen as the music played. He almost picked it up, but thought better of it. What the fuck was he going to say, anyway? Anything he could come up with would make him sound like a grade-A idiot. A jealous grade-A idiot. God. He was one, wasn’t he? One dirty phone call appeared to be all it took for him to lose his mind entirely.

The phone finally stopped ringing, but then started again almost immediately. “Go awaayyyyy!” Harry told the ringing phone, and sat down at the dining room table, resting his head on the warm, friendly wood and wishing for the sweet release of death. It had to be better than this.

Harry’s phone made the horrendous beeping that suggested he had a text message. He looked, because he was clearly a masochist.

Pick up the phone, Malfoy had sent. And the screen vanished as Malfoy called again.

NO, Harry sent, when the phone stopped ringing, prompting Malfoy to call again. Harry couldn’t understand why he felt so angry, and – hurt, he realised. It was ridiculous. It wasn’t as if he actively liked Draco – Malfoy – that way, was it? He didn’t like men. And he definitely didn’t like Draco. He just wanted to fix things and get back to normal.

Draco called again, and finally Harry cracked. “What?” he snapped.

“Potter – Harry,” Draco amended, sounding both exhausted and tremendously pissed off, “I don’t have time for your tedious gay crisis right now. I was due on stage five minutes ago, and I think Pansy is literally going to kill me if I don’t go out there right now.”

“My tedious gay—” Harry started to repeat, incredulous and actually really hurt this time, fucking hell. It was the first time he’d said the word ‘gay’ out loud about himself, he thought, and wanted to be sick.

“Look, shut up, OK,” Draco interrupted, frustration rich in his voice. “You’re not my boyfriend, and I see no reason why I should have to explain myself to you, of all people, but apparently it’s in my fucking contract that I’m not allowed to be gay – at least, in public. So Pansy occasionally arranges for me to snuggle up with a girl from my record label staff, I hear, to maintain my manly heterosexual image. I didn’t know this because – you know – I’ve been in this reality for fucking five minutes, or I might have warned you. All right?”

Harry swallowed, feeling like a dickhead, knocked sideways by his own emotions. “Yes,” he managed.

“I begin to wonder if there’s any fucking reality where I’m allowed to be myself,” Draco said bitterly, “but—” He broke off, and Harry could hear someone else in the background talking very fast and very urgent-sounding. “I have to go on stage now,” Draco snapped.

Harry said, “I’m sorry,” and meant it.

Draco let out a noise of frustration. “Are you? No – I don’t have time for this. I have to . . .” He trailed off.

“Call me afterwards,” Harry said firmly, trying to pull himself together. He felt like his whole body had turned to jelly; boneless and wobbly.

Draco took an audible deep breath. “OK.”

“I really am sorry, all right?” Harry said, and then felt guilty all over again. However he felt about Draco, he was about to go and perform in front of thousands of fans. It was probably the worst time for a row. “I bet you’ll be amazing out there,” he said.

“Of course I will,” Draco snapped, and hung up, leaving Harry staring at his phone and wishing he hadn’t been quite such an arsehole. Had he gone off on one about the ‘mystery woman’ because he still half-suspected that Draco was actually straight, and had successfully tricked Harry into thinking he wasn’t? If that wasn’t it, then Harry was left with the uncomfortable thought that he was just upset that Malfoy might like someone else. And right now, he could only just about cope with the idea that he might fancy Malfoy; the thought that he might have feelings for him beyond the physical was definitely a step too far.

^^^^^^

Draco called at just past midnight. “God, I’m tired,” he said, without preamble. “I could sleep for a fucking week.” He didn’t sound tired, though; he sounded hyper, intense.

“How did it go?” Harry asked, trying to sound normal. He didn’t feel very normal.

“Fine,” Draco said, “but I didn’t call to chit chat. Can we get back to—”

“My tedious gay crisis?” Harry interrupted wryly. He no longer felt angry about that, just stupid.

Draco snorted, but didn’t say anything.

What was Draco doing now? Harry tried to picture it, and his imagination failed. He didn’t want to think Draco was pulling a face, or smirking, or anything. He didn’t sound like he was, at any rate. And if he was going to say something cutting, wouldn’t he have already said it? Draco hadn’t been the sort to keep his insults to himself in the past, so it seemed unlikely he’d start now.

“I think it’s a tedious bi crisis, probably,” Harry said, to fill the silence, and managed not to die at saying that out loud. It felt wrong, and uncomfortable, but at the same time such a fucking relief to say it to someone who got it, that he could have wept. He’d spent the hours waiting for Draco’s phone call stressing out about whether or not Draco was genuine, and in the end had just decided that he didn’t actually care. If Draco wanted to take the piss, he could go ahead. It was too late to take it back, anyway. He might as well be honest and make himself feel better, if nothing else. He was aware, though, of a low, burning hope that Draco wouldn’t be too horrible about it, even if he didn’t actually understand how Harry felt.Harry tried to get comfy on the drawing room sofa, but the cushions were too hard, the back too low. He’d only chosen to sit there to make sure he didn’t accidentally fall asleep. “Are you – have you always . . .?” He wasn’t sure what he was asking, didn’t think Draco would reply anyway to questions about his sexuality. Not honestly, at any rate. It was personal, wasn’t it? And—

“Oh, I got over my own tedious gay crisis years ago,” Draco said flatly, to Harry’s surprise. “These days it’s more of a tedious close relationship with my closet, so to speak. Malfoy heir, remember.” He did sound tired, now, a thread of unhappiness under the sarcasm. “Do we have to talk about this right now?”

“No, of course not,” Harry said automatically. “Sorry.” Did ‘right now’ mean that Draco could see a time when they would talk about it though? Harry found himself shivering with something inexplicable. Possibilities opening up in front of him that he wasn’t sure were enticing or terrifying.

Draco let out a breath that was too bitter to be a laugh. “I never thought I’d hear you say sorry to me, and you’ve said it several times today. I should write it in my diary, to re-read whenever I’m having a bad day.”

“Ha fucking ha,” Harry said, feeling a twinge of irritation – of the pair of them, it should be Draco saying sorry, over and over until he was sick with it – but decided there was no possible benefit to be had by expressing this.

Draco yawned. “If you want some therapy for your deep-seated issues right now, you’d better speak up before I fall asleep. Being a teen sex god is tiring work.”

“Um, what do you mean?” Harry asked cautiously, feeling his ears heat up but not wanting to make a prick of himself all over again.

“What are you wearing right now?” Draco said, a mocking edge to his voice.

Oh. Oh. “My terrible work uniform,” Harry said, looking down at himself.

“Will you ever get the hang of this?” Draco inquired, sounding interested.

No, he probably wouldn’t. But surely, after a tiring day, and after Harry’s embarrassing mental breakdown, Draco wouldn’t want to . . .

“Am I boring you?” Draco asked sweetly. “Perhaps you’d rather just go to sleep.”

“No!” Harry said, in a bit of a flap, belatedly realising he sounded much too keen. “Draco, I . . .” What was he even saying? “Um, it is OK for me to call you that, isn’t it?” he mumbled, feeling like a tosser.

“I – I suppose,” Draco said, sounding caught off guard. “If you want.”

An awkward silence bloomed.

“Where are you now, anyway?” Harry asked, to fill it.

“Oh, a hotel room somewhere,” Draco said. “Possibly the north? I haven’t had a chance to explore. Where are you?”

“Just at home,” Harry said, and when Draco snorted, amended, “in the drawing room. Sitting on a really uncomfortable sofa, talking to a wanker.”

“Charmed,” Draco said drily. “Well, take that hideous uniform off, then. It’s making my imagination feel sick.”

“Now?” Harry asked doubtfully. There was wanking in bed while talking to Draco, and then there was wanking in a room that wasn’t designed for wanking in while talking to Draco. He looked round to check there weren’t any portraits eavesdropping on him, before remembering that portraits didn’t do that in the Muggle world.

“Yes, now,” Draco said, sounding impatient.

“All right, all right, keep your hair on,” Harry said, putting the phone down on the sofa next to him and standing up to yank the horrible polo shirt over his head and then kick off his socks and trousers. He sat back down, now only wearing his pants, and felt simultaneously stupid and turned on. “Are you going to—” he started to ask, but Draco said shhhh, and he shut up, feeling like a wally.

“If – if I was there with you,” Draco said, a little hesitant, “I’d . . .”

“Yes?” Harry said, swallowing hard. Were they really going to this? God. Last time had been . . . But they hadn’t actually talked about fancying each other, had they? It had just been . . . wanking. Simultaneously. Sort of gay, but not exactly . . .

“Well, what would you want me to do?” Draco asked, to Harry’s horror.

“I . . . uh . . .” He couldn’t say these things out loud! He could barely think them without his head exploding.

Draco snorted. “You never struck me as the shy, retiring type, but OK. Right now, why don’t you take whatever hideous holed underwear you’re wearing off.”

“My underwear is fine!” Harry protested, jerking it down with one hand and pushing it away with his feet. It felt really weird to be sitting naked on his sofa, the leather cool beneath his thighs. It was very quiet in the room, just the gentle tick tock of the grandfather clock, and the muffled swish of the traffic filtering through the thick velvet curtains.

“Sit back,” Draco suggested, so Harry did so, although it wasn’t very comfortable. “Spread your legs a bit.”

It felt obscene. His cock was hard and heavy between his legs, his balls swelling.

“Why don’t you touch yourself?” Draco suggested, as casual as if he was asking about the weather. “If I was there, I’d touch you.”

“Would you?” Harry mumbled. He reached between his legs and took his dick in his hand, stroking himself loosely, trying not to make a sound.

“Yes,” Draco said, an edge to his voice. “Close your eyes, Harry.”

Harry closed his eyes. The world tightened to just Draco’s voice, the slippery cool of the leather beneath his bare arse, his hand on his cock, his aching balls.

“If I was there . . . what would you want me to do?” Draco asked again.

It wasn’t fucking fair, Harry thought, feeling his face blush bright even though there was no one there to see it. His hand tightened round his cock at the thought of Draco on his knees, and he caught his breath at the increase in sensation.

“Jerk you off?” Draco said as Harry wanked. “Suck you off?”

“God, yes,” Harry mumbled.

Malfoy snorted a laugh. “Which?”

“The . . . second thing,” Harry managed, feeling light-headed.

“All right,” Draco said, but he didn’t continue.

“All right?” Harry echoed, his toes curling.

“Next time I see you, I’ll suck you off. If you want.”

Harry’s hand was moving without his brain having any input into the whole business – hard and fast, and it felt amazing. He couldn’t stop groaning, each breath an oh of arousal.

“Do you want me to?” Draco asked, voice gravelly.

Harry wanted it so badly that he was half worried he might accidentally attempt to Apparate to Draco without his wand. Destination . . . Determination . . . Dick. He imagined turning up in front of Draco right now, hard as a rock and shaking with need. Would . . . would Draco reach out a hand and take over? Or would he sink to his knees and open his mouth and . . .

Harry’s hand worked his cock frantically.

“God, the noises you’re making,” Draco said, sounding flustered.

Harry felt so embarrassed he wanted to die, but then again he definitely didn’t, because he wasn’t sure if the afterlife had orgasms quite as delicious as the one that was building up in his groin right now.

“Are you thinking about it?” Draco continued, still shaky. “Your cock in my mouth. I want you writhing, begging me for it. I’ll suck you so slow that you’ll lose your mind.”

Harry thought he was halfway there right now. “Draco,” he managed, not sure what he wanted. “Please . . .”

“Are you close?” Draco asked, voice wild, and Harry could hear him swallow.

“Yes,” Harry managed, though gasps. “Merlin. I want—”

“Tell me,” Draco breathed.

Harry felt so fucking turned on that he couldn’t talk, could only groan. “You,” he said, wanking faster. He was so fucking close, coasting on the edge. “I want you,” he said, and he came with a whole body shudder, opening his eyes to see come shooting out and pooling on the carpet in front of him. He couldn’t bring himself to care. He felt fucking amazing.

Draco cleared his throat, and Harry felt a now familiar flush of embarrassment rise up as his orgasm dissipated.

“I’d say it’s fairly conclusive that the thought of other men is a turn on for you, judging by that little experiment,” Draco said grandly.

Harry snorted. Other men? Or just . . . Draco? He didn’t even know any more. This was so fucked up, he didn’t know where to start. “And how about you?” he asked, still panting as his heart rate tried to go back to normal.

“Me?” Draco asked, sounding smug. “Oh, I already have plenty of evidence that I’m queer.”

“No,” Harry said, “I meant . . . did you?” He didn’t think he’d heard Draco, uh, joining in, and the thought was vaguely unnerving. Did that mean Draco didn’t fancy him?

“I was magnanimously concentrating on you, Harry,” Draco said.

“But aren’t you . . .?” Harry asked, wincing at the plaintive note that threaded his voice.

“What?” Draco said unhelpfully.

“Hard,” Harry said, blushing all over again.

There was a short silence. “Well, yes,” Draco said, now sounding a bit more unsure of himself. “I mean, you said . . .” He shut up. “Never mind.”

Harry couldn’t remember what he’d said, only how turned on he’d been. He thought his brain might have melted. “Well, you should,” he said firmly. “Uh . . . you know.”

“You mean . . . now?” Draco asked, voice faint.

“Yes,” Harry said firmly, and then felt his ears start to burn. Was he meant to talk sexily at Draco now? He didn’t think he could. He could defeat Dark Lords OK, but when it came to this. Um. What had Draco said that had got him going? Oh. He supposed he could . . .

“I’d like to try, um, doing it to you too,” he said, thinking about going down on Draco, and discovering that it might be even more of a turn on than the thought of Draco doing it to him.

“It?” Draco mumbled. His breaths were coming quicker now. Was he actually touching himself? God.

“You know. With my mouth,” Harry managed. “I want to know –” he swallowed hard – “what it feels like. What, you know. What you taste like.” He wet his lips, thinking about it. He’d received blow jobs before, of course, but never given one. What would it feel like, Draco’s cock in his mouth? Merlin, he was in danger of getting hard again already. This was ridiculous.

“You want to . . .” Draco gasped out, sounding incredulous, and then swore faintly beneath his breath, and again.

“Yeah,” Harry said. “I really want to. Do you want me to?”

“I’ll let you do whatever the fuck you like,” Draco gasped out, sounding completely lost.

That was possibly the hottest thing Harry had ever heard. His heart was beating wildly. He wished he could see Draco right now . . . Watch him . . . “I – I want to touch you,” he said, barely able to hear himself over the sound of his blood rushing in his ears. He pictured Draco, stretched long and pale and almost undone. If he was there, he would . . . put his mouth on Draco’s nipples. Suck them. Kiss a trail down his stomach. Lick his cock, over and over.

Fuck. Harry felt his own cock actually harden again at the idea of it.

Malfoy was breathing faster now, groaning and going silent, before groaning even louder than before. “Fuck,” Malfoy gasped out between great gulping breaths. “I’m—” He made a series of choked sobs, and then a garbled string of swear words fell out of his mouth as if he couldn’t hold himself back. “Fucking fuck fuck fuck fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck fuck,” he stammered, and then groaned out, “Oh Salazar,” before falling silent. Well, apart from the panting. He sounded as if he’d just finished a ten-hour Quidditch game, as if he was so out of breath that he could barely suck in any air at all.

Harry’s head swam, his cock hard and uncomfortable between his legs. But also . . . had Draco really just come? In, like, under a minute? “Did you just . . .?” he asked, because fucking hell that was the hottest thing he’d ever heard in his life. “Already?”

“Yeah, fuck you, shithead,” Draco said, between gasps. “You try lasting any longer after all that. For fuck’s sake. Have you any idea what you do to me?”

Harry’s heart was beating so wildly that he could barely breathe. Had Draco really just said that, or was it just his fevered imagination?

“You can pretend I didn’t say that if you like,” Draco said into the awkward, pounding silence, still breathless but with a challenging edge to his voice.

Harry wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he said nothing. It was hot like burning, but it was also . . . It made him feel odd, and awkward. As if he didn’t want to be having a wank on the phone with Draco at all, but instead holding his hand, or kissing him, or—

Kissing him. Harry thought he must be going mad, but God, he really did want to kiss Draco. Over and over again, until his lips were sore.

“Or would you, in fact, like to know that you take the starring role in pretty much all of my dirty little fantasies?” Draco inquired, the edge to his voice now sharp and painful. “And have done for an embarrassingly long time, in fact. It might explain a few things, maybe.”

It didn’t fucking explain anything, Harry thought, other than that Draco appeared to have gone mad.

“Harry,” Draco said, firm and relentless.

“Yes?” Harry finally managed.

“I want to do more than hear you come. I want to watch you jerk off. I want your dick down my throat. I want you to come on me.”

Oh my fucking God, Harry thought.

“But let me get this clear: this is all I want, all right? All I will ever want from you. I don’t want a boyfriend. Or pity. Or your friendship. I want to have fun, and I want to get you out of my system, and then I want you to fuck off out of my life, whether we’re stuck in this fucking reality or not. All right?”

Well, that was fine by Harry. He didn’t want a boyfriend either, and if he did want one, it wouldn’t be this vicious, stuck-up Slytherin who switched from warm and teasing to what felt very much like violent hatred in the space of thirty seconds. “Fine!” Harry said.

“Great!” Draco said. “Goodnight then, Potter,” and he hung up without waiting for Harry to say goodbye.

He’d called him Potter again, Harry realised, tossing the phone aside and feeling completely wrung out and overemotional. And horny. Very fucking horny.

Harry spat hard into his right hand and wrapped it round his dick, jerking off to the sound of Draco Malfoy telling him he didn’t want Harry as a boyfriend, he just wanted him to come on him, playing over and over on a loop in his brain.

^^^^^^

Harry woke up the next morning to a banging on his door. He lay there for a few seconds, before leaping up and grabbing the nearest pair of trousers and top and nearly falling down the stairs as he attempted to dress and run simultaneously.

He opened the door with his head stuck in the neck of his T-shirt, hoping very much that he’d managed to do up his fly.

“What a sight to start the morning,” Parvati’s voice said judgementally from somewhere the other side of the cotton. “Hang on,” she said, and soon Harry felt her yanking at the top. Her blurred face emerged as she did so, and he managed to keep both his nose and his ears attached to his head, but it was a close-run thing.

“Don’t you normally wear glasses?” Parvati asked, bending down to pick up two Styrofoam cups of coffee and pushing one into his hands.

He took a long, burning sip. “Probably,” he admitted, and took another sip, starting to feel more alive. He’d felt too worked up to go to bed until the small hours of the morning, and the shower he’d had once he’d finally felt exhaustion hit him hadn’t helped him sleep. Had he really told Draco he was bi . . .? And then had one of the best orgasms of his life? And . . . and then Draco had gone all vicious and unpleasant, but had said he fantasised about him, and had done for ages, unless Harry’s overheated imagination had dreamed that up. He felt like he should feel more freaked out than he was, wondered if he was just saving up a proper meltdown for later.

“One day I’ll knock on your door and you’ll be in your uniform and ready to go,” Parvati said, giving him a little shove back in the house. “Not wearing yesterday’s trousers, with your T-shirt on back to front.”

Harry drank more coffee rather than reply. Should he text Draco? He probably shouldn’t text Draco. Draco wouldn’t have texted him. Draco didn’t want to be his friend, Harry’s brain helpful reminded him; he only wanted to suck his—

“Go back upstairs and wash your face,” Parvati ordered, stealing his coffee.

Harry did so, trying to stop himself from thinking; it was clearly dangerous. When he got back down – wearing his uniform this time, his hair marginally tidier and the world in focus – Parvati was tapping her foot impatiently, so he scooped up his phone and just shoved it in his pocket without checking it, grabbing his keys and following her out of the door.

Draco wouldn’t have texted anyway, Harry thought, his finger finding the ‘on’ button in his pocket and pressing it hard. He wouldn’t have texted, and—

His phone made that horrible, noisy beeping noise, and he would have spilt coffee all down his front if he hadn’t already put the lid back on, thank fuck.

“Only knobheads have their phone on maximum volume,” Parvati said judgementally. “Just saying. Who’s texting you?”

“Probably Draco Malfoy,” Harry said.

“Yeah, you wish,” Parvati said, giving him a nudge in the side. “Tell him I want a front-row ticket to his gig at Wembley on Friday.”

Harry passed her his coffee cup and dug the phone out of his pocket, dodging as she tried to peer over his arm to read the message. “Fuck off!” he said.

“It’s probably Orange, isn’t it,” she said with satisfaction, “telling you that you’ve got all your minutes left for another month, you sad bastard.”

“Ha ha,” Harry said, trying to look at the text through half-shut eyes in case a) it wasn’t Draco at all or b) it was something filthy.

It was Draco – or, rather, ‘Dickhead Supreme’. I appear to be on a bus, the first message said. It’s not even seven a.m. Why am I on a bus? What have I done to deserve this, Potter?

And then his phone beeped again, and he had to dodge Parvati a second time. Actually, you’d better fucking not tell me what I’ve done to deserve it. And if you’re still asleep while I’m awake and on a fucking Muggle bus, I’ll remember this and bear a grudge for the rest of eternity.

Harry snorted. His first instinct was to ask Draco why he was texting him, given that Draco didn’t want to be his friend, but he was too bemused about the whole bus-thing to work up the energy to be fucked off. Knowing Draco, it wouldn’t even be a regular, normal person’s bus he was moaning about, but rather some swanky private coach with comfy seats, velvet curtains and gold taps in the loo. And besides, what if this string of early morning, pissy texts was actually a ‘morning after’ peace offering? A silent acknowledgement that Draco had ended their conversation by being a massive arsehole? Miracles did happen, Harry thought dubiously.

On my way to work, he texted back. Apparently, I’m meant to ask you for a front-row ticket to your next concert. And then he thought for a second. Fuckface had called him ‘Potter’ again, hadn’t he? Harry didn’t want to be friends with Draco, but . . . he didn’t not want to be friends with Draco either. He sent a second text: And it’s Harry.

The reply came through almost immediately. It sounded smug. Sadly, all my concerts are still sold out. And I know your name is Harry, idiot. Are you having an identity crisis on top of everything else?

“Oi, Harry, stop smirking at your phone and help me open up,” Parvati said cheerfully, shoving his coffee back at him.

“I’m not smirking!” Harry protested.

Parvati gave him a look. “No?”

“No!” Harry said. “Only tossers smirk.”

“Takes one to know one,” she said sweetly, unlocking the shop door and moving to the alarm panel to key in the code.

Got to go. Beans to stack, you know how it is, Harry texted one handed. Then added Enjoy the bus! and switched off his phone, shoving it back in his pocket, before going to turn on the tills.

^^^^^^

The rest of Harry’s shift passed slowly. He was too busy to check his phone, and besides, every time he reached into his trouser pocket to wrap his fingers round the lump of plastic, Parvati managed to slide up beside him and grin at him.

“You’re up to something,” she said, the light of gossip in her eyes, “and I’m going to get it out of you, or die in the attempt.”

She’d followed up this dire warning by flipping through a newspaper and reading his horoscope out loud. “For Leos, the movement of the stars means that everything suddenly seems to make sense, fall into place and feel right. Open up your heart – look forward, not back. You never know what will happen!” She tapped the paper and then winked at him. “You should just confess to Auntie Parv. If I find out you’ve got a secret girlfriend—”

“I don’t!” Harry protested.

“—or boyfriend and you haven’t told me,” she continued seamlessly, “I’ll never forgive you.”

Harry definitely didn’t have a secret boyfriend. He barely had a secret friend, he thought. Hadn’t Draco made that perfectly clear? And he was OK with it! Totally OK with it! As long as he and Draco could be civil to each other, then everything would go smoothly. Harry would fix the spell, once he’d received his wand. And possibly before that, he and Draco would . . . have fun, Harry thought resolutely, trying not to think about anything inappropriate at work, particularly not with Parvati using her X-Ray vision on the side of his face. You didn’t need to be friends to have fun.

And maybe, Harry thought, trying to convince himself, if he had fun with Draco, he’d get the whole ‘gay’ thing out of his system, and could go back to the wizarding world ready to find a real relationship – a person to spend his whole life with. Ready to be normal again. It wasn’t as if he liked Draco specifically, was it . . .? He was just getting carried away by the thrill of it all. By how excited, and alive, this thing with Draco was making him feel; the world fizzing with possibilities he’d never let himself even consider before. Harry groaned into the pallet of kitchen rolls he was unpacking, considered the fact that he didn’t seem very good at separating sex from emotion, and then tried not to think at all.

As soon as Harry’s shift was over, he dodged Parvati, who was lurking by the shop exit, her coat already on and her Walkman in her hand. “You’re lucky I have an appointment with Radio One, or I’d be following you home and making you spill,” she said threateningly as he attempted to be invisible without the aid of his invisibility cloak.

Harry wasn’t sure what she meant, but he thanked Merlin for small mercies and waved cheerfully. “See you tomorrow!” he said, and fled.

Once he got home, he felt curiously disinclined to go inside. So, instead, he walked up the flight of stone steps that led to his front door and sat down on the top step, stretching out his legs. He took out his phone and wondered if he should call Draco. Draco probably wouldn’t answer, Harry thought. But . . . he might. And it wasn’t like Harry had anything better to do.

Draco picked up after only a couple of rings. “I’m busy,” he said, but he sounded amused rather than irritated at being interrupted.

“Then why did you answer, mandrake-breath?” Harry said, leaning sideways against his iron railings and turning his face up to the sky. The sun was very warm today, and a light breeze ruffled his hair. He could hear laughter and talking on the other side of the phone and wondered where Draco was right now and what he was doing. Talking to Draco in the daytime didn’t feel as awkward as he’d thought it might; instead, it felt exciting, like Harry’s blood was fizzing.

“I’m kind of live on air right now,” Draco said, faux awkward, to the background of more laughter. “Harry, say hello to Chris Moyles, Comedy Dave and –” he paused for a moment “around five million drivetime listeners, I’m told.”

Harry could hear a small, tinny chorus of male voices saying hello, Harry! “Er, I’ll go then, shall I?” he asked, bemused.

“They’re asking who you are,” Draco said cheerfully. “Mmm, how to explain to the listeners. Harry and I . . .”

“Didn’t go to school together,” Harry supplied drily. “Good luck with that one.”

“I think Harry and I are best described as . . . deadly enemies,” Draco said, dropping his voice to deep and confidential. More laughter in the background.

Harry snorted. Deadly enemies? Maybe he’d thought that once upon a time, but for the past couple of years it would be more accurate to describe their relationship, such as it was, as one where they both ignored each other for dear life. Was Draco being facetious, or did he really think that, deep down? He shifted uncomfortably, the stone step feeling hard under his backside.

“No, seriously, though,” Draco said, tone light-hearted. “Everyone needs a nemesis, right? Mine’s called Harry Potter.”

“Fairly sure mine was called Voldemort,” Harry muttered.

“Well, it was lovely to chat, but I’d better get back to the interview,” Draco said, too brightly to be genuine, and immediately hung up, leaving Harry looking at his phone and feeling baffled.

He didn’t have long to remain baffled, though. Less than thirty seconds later, Parvati came racing down the street towards him, bounding up the steps and then collapsing in a heap next to him.

“You! You!” she said, tugging headphones out of her ears and turning a look of burning outrage on him. “I’ve just had to run here all the way from the shop! I think I might die!” she panted out. “Were you just on the phone?” she demanded, staring at the phone in his hands.

Harry considered this, and decided the best course of action would be to deny everything. “No!” he said unconvincingly, shoving the phone back in his pocket.

“So you weren’t just on the phone talking to DRACO MALFOY?” she demanded. She didn’t have her hands on her hips, but it was a very hands-on-hips tone of voice.

“No!” Harry squeaked.

“So if I looked at your phone, there wouldn’t be an entry for DRACO MALFOY in there?” she said, leaning in closer. Harry could almost see up her nose.

“Actually, no,” Harry said cheerfully, pleased to get a question he could answer truthfully. He withdrew his phone from his pocket again, scrolling to his phone book to where Draco would sit alphabetically and showing her the screen.

She snatched it from him and pulled a face. “You’re weird, you are,” she said. “Why are two of your friends in your contact list as ‘Dickhead’?”

“You don’t have nicknames for your friends?” Harry said, tugging the phone back. Parvati didn’t want to relinquish it though, and there was a brief fight.

“He was talking to you though,” Parvati said. She put one of her earphones back in her ear and passed the other to Harry. “He’s on Radio One right now, being interviewed about his latest tour. They’re giving away tickets to his Wembley dates if you phone in.”

Harry could hear Draco talking to what sounded like a pair of Muggle radio presenters. He sounded . . . pleasant. Chatty. It was incredibly surreal.

“You should phone in,” Harry said, taking the earphone out and passing it back to Parvati, who glowered at him.

“Amazing coincidence that Draco’s friend was called ‘Harry Potter’,” she said with deep, biting sarcasm.

“Definitely,” Harry said, nodding hard and trying to look convincing.

Parvati’s phone beeped, and she pulled it out to look at it. “Fuck, I’m late,” she said. “I should have been at the tube station to meet Padma five minutes ago. But don’t think you’re getting out of this one!” she said. “I will count this as an unspeakable betrayal of our friendship if you don’t get us tickets to see him at Wembley. And backstage access. And I want to know the full story of how you became friends!” she said, already haring off down the stairs.

“We’re not friends!” Harry called to her back. It wasn’t technically a lie, he thought, wondering why he was so reluctant to tell the truth. It was just – things were complicated enough in this new reality, without him having to introduce all his old school friends to their idol, Draco Malfoy. It was enough to send anyone round the twist.

“Liar!” she yelled, as she started to jog off into the distance, shoving her earphones back in her ears as she did so, her long, thick plait swishing as she ran.

Feeling strangely stung, Harry pulled his phone back out of his pocket. You can be my nemesis if you promise to get me two tickets to Wembley, he sent to Dickhead Supreme. Maybe he should send Parvati and Hermione together, he thought glumly. They could bond over how amazing Draco was.

OK, arsehole, came the reply, almost immediately. And then, hot on its heels, I’ll sit you right at the back, so your ugly mug doesn’t put me off x

Could Harry live comfortably in a world where Draco Malfoy sent him texts with kisses at the end? Harry put his phone back in his pocket and felt very, very peculiar.

^^^^^^

Tuesday slid into Wednesday, which in turn became Thursday, without Harry having much input in the matter. He continued going to work, because it was something to do other than brood about his situation or text Draco. The brooding definitely wasn’t helping – either the situation or his sanity. He was starting to feel as if the walls were closing in on him. He still didn’t know what he’d done to change the world like this, not really. Was it all completely fake, a figment of his imagination? Or was this how the world would really have been, if the wizarding world had never existed? Every night he stuck his head out of the window and tried a quick Finite Incantatem, just in case, but every morning he woke up again to a world that was resolutely Muggle.

The more he found out about his life here, the more unsettled he became, the possibility that he was actually just going mad reasserting itself. He found himself overthinking things, tiny details adding up to make him feel unhinged. Like Parvati reading out his horoscope the other week. She’d said he was a Leo. Leo meaning lion. Lion meaning . . . Gryffindor. What if his brain had just fixed on his star sign and invented Gryffindor, as a way to make his dull life more exciting? He didn’t believe that, but once the seed of doubt had been planted, he found it hard to dismiss it entirely.

Other things popped up in his mind that he’d never noticed before, to conspire to make him feel like the wizarding world was just a crazy thing he’d invented. Diagon Alley . . . if you said it fast, it sounded like ‘diagonally’, didn’t it? And . . . and Knockturn Alley, that was nocturnally, and the very street he lived on, in a grim old place, was called . . .

He found himself asking Parvati – once he’d managed to get her to stop interrogating him about Draco for five seconds – if she knew why he owned twelve Grimmauld Place in the first place. She’d looked at him funny, clearly unnerved, and said, “Well, when your Uncle Sirius passed beyond the veil—” and had broken off at the look that must have been on his face. Beyond the veil! Apparently that was just a thing he said, and Parvati thought it was a charming, if old-fashioned way to talk about a death. Even if he hadn’t made it up, creating the wizarding world out of his twisted imagination, it was still alarming. It was as if his old life was bulging into this one, trying to reconcile the two universes, to knit them more tightly together. What if the longer he stayed here, the more difficult it became to get back?

Draco remembered the wizarding world, Harry told himself firmly when his brain threatened to send him into an unwelcome panic attack. But thinking about Draco wasn’t a very relaxing way to spend his time either – the thought that Draco had fancied him for an embarrassingly long time always at the front of his mind, threatening to make him lose his marbles – and calling him even less so. And besides, Draco was so busy. He seemed to be constantly moving, always in the middle of something – surrounded by people on his tour bus; talking to the media and to fans; sound-checking, rehearsing, performing. He nearly always replied to Harry’s texts immediately, and that made Harry feel infuriatingly guilty, as if he was piling added stress on to Draco that he didn’t need.

Harry had never thought he’d feel guilt over Draco Malfoy of all people, but when Draco had called him late on Tuesday night, tetchy and irritable, so tired he could barely talk without yawning, he’d found himself telling Draco to fuck off and go to sleep, rather than prolonging the conversation. Draco hadn’t called him after that, only texted, and to be honest Harry was OK with that. Sort of. The buzz he felt from their intense, late night conversations – he still couldn’t entirely believe they weren’t a figment of his fervid imagination – had barely faded, and even thinking about what Draco had said made him feel sick with anticipation and dread. In his texts, Draco felt less intense, less infuriating. He didn’t stir up quite so many floods of emotions Harry didn’t particularly want to feel. And Harry was entirely capable of using his right hand without Draco on the other end of the phone; he certainly had no problems there.

As Harry left work after his shift on Thursday though, to find Draco had sent him half a dozen snide texts in a row – whinges about how tired he was, and how much being universally adored was a terrible drain, and if he had to smile at another fan he thought he might die, and why had God made him so beautiful anyway – he still thought the whole thing was really fucking odd. It was almost as if the Draco he was corresponding with was a different person, someone he didn’t know at all. And yet, there had been times at Hogwarts – fifth year in particular, when in hindsight he’d spent the whole year basically stalking Draco – that he’d felt like he knew Draco practically inside out.

Was this person he was exchanging texts with – texts! – really the same person who’d called Hermione a filthy word and wished she was dead? Who’d broken his nose on the dirty floor of a train carriage? Who he’d accidentally sliced open and nearly killed with a spell ‘for enemies’ in a Hogwarts bathroom? It didn’t seem plausible.

Beautiful? Looked in the mirror lately, have you? he sent back as he walked through the busy streets, trying not to bump into the other pedestrians. Draco fucking wasn’t beautiful. He was all sharp edges and harsh expressions, and he was striking, yes, and OK Harry did find him intensely attractive at certain angles – particularly when joined with the memory of him whispering I want you to come on me in his ear – but that wasn’t the same as beautiful, Harry told himself crossly. There was no need to go overboard.

I just met a girl with a tattoo of my face on her thigh, though, Draco texted back smugly, which made Harry nearly collide with an irritated man in a smart suit and very shiny shoes. Fucking Malfoy.

When Harry got in through his front door, it was to a slim envelope and a Sorry you were out card with red edging. He pushed his thumb under the envelope’s seal and slit the paper, pulling out two printed tickets and a compliments slip printed with UNITED TALENT and the words: I’m not sure you deserve these, but Draco made me. Pansy x

Harry took a closer look at the tickets, his heart doing something uncomfortable in his chest that he tried to ignore. DRACO MALFOY: THE ‘WHAT I WANT’ TOUR, he read. ‘WEMBLEY ARENA.’ The seats were both Block A3. Harry swallowed hard, looked at the Sorry you were out card and tried to pull himself together. The missed parcel was probably his new wand, wasn’t it? He should dash to the sorting office right now – it was only just down the road – and pick it up. With any luck, it would actually work, at least well enough for him to channel his magic and cast a proper Finite Incantatem. Then he wouldn’t have to go to see stupid Draco pretend to be a Muggle pop star. Wouldn’t have to deal with how stupid Draco made him feel. Could just go back to normal – to his job, to his friends, and to his actual, real life, where thinking about Draco, and what they might do together, didn’t make him feel so turned on and terrified that he didn’t know what to do with himself.

When was the gig, anyway? Harry looked at the tickets again. Tomorrow night, of course it was tomorrow night. Well, it wasn’t like he had plans, was it? Block A3. Draco hadn’t even sent him good tickets.

I thought I asked for front row, he found himself texting, wondering if he was mock-aggrieved or actual, real-life aggrieved. Scared I’ll be close enough to see you miming?

I did send you front row, idiot, came the immediate reply. And then, straight after, Will you come?

Yes, Harry texted, before he could lose his nerve, and then headed straight back out the door to the post office, to pick up the wand that would mean that he didn’t have to follow through with it.

^^^^^^

Harry definitely wasn’t prepared for the crashing, bewildering sense of disappointment that flooded him when he Summoned a cup of tea and it made its way straight into his hand with barely a wobble. He followed it up with a Lumos that was so weak it would have got him kicked out of Hogwarts for incompetence, but it worked first time. It fucking worked.

The wand didn’t feel right in his hand – strangely harsh, something about using it setting his teeth on edge – but it still felt like an actual, working wand, the wood warm and pulsing under his fingers. He could almost hear it humming as he used it, very faint and almost unpleasant, as if it didn’t want to be used and was only tolerating him for now. Could it tell he missed his real wand? The idea was unnerving, but who knew when it came to wands. They were confusing and mysterious objects, disturbingly alive at times. “I’m sorry,” he told it self-consciously, putting it carefully on the dining room table. “But thank you for helping.”

By the time it was dark again, Harry was no longer even sure if he did want the wand to help. He was seeing Draco tomorrow; maybe he should wait until the weekend to try his Finite. It would be a shame to find himself in another reality with a singing Malfoy and not experience it first-hand, wouldn’t it? he thought. Ron would never forgive him. And there was what might happen after he’d experienced singing Malfoy, Harry tried not to think, feeling sick and excited all over again. Ron would never forgive him for that either.

It was that that decided him, in the end. He couldn’t hang about in this wrong mirror world, just on the off-chance Draco hadn’t been taking the piss and would actually follow through on his promise to suck his dick. If Draco wanted to suck him off now, he might still want to in the wizarding world, Harry thought doubtfully. And even if he didn’t, Harry thought, trying to buck himself up, it wasn’t as if he was desperate, was he? Or unpopular? There’d presumably be at least one other gay – or bi, or whatever – wizard out there who was actually nice, and who Harry would fancy, and—

What the hell was wrong with him. He didn’t want a boyfriend. He just wanted to be single, and get on with things.

Harry stood up with some difficulty, his limbs completely seized up and his feet dead lumps of pins and needles after sitting still for so long. He grabbed his new wand and managed to stagger out of the dining room and up the stairs to the gloomy living room, plonking himself down on the enormous wooden trunk in front of the huge sash windows. He jammed the bottom sash open, the view out partially obscured by the ornate iron scrolls of the mock-balcony outside. Still, if he squished in close to the window and peered upwards, the sky unfurled in front of him, dark and lush and dotted with faint stars. Well, this was it. Goodbye odd Muggle life, he thought, half with hope and half with regret. He pointed his wand at the sky, concentrated hard, relaxed his shoulders, channelled his inner Hermione – Fin-eet-ay In-can-taaa-tum – and said the spell out loud.

Chapter Text

Harry knew even before he’d opened his eyes that the spell hadn’t worked. He couldn’t have explained how he knew; he just did, deep down in the pit of his stomach. So it wasn’t a surprise when he reached over to his bedside table, fumbled for his glasses, and his Muggle house swum back into focus: his half-open wardrobe with its hideous work uniform; his Muggle alarm clock; the detritus of a life without magic. The whole room had the faint of air of neglect that proved it, at any rate; there was no way Kreacher would have stood for the half-drunk mug of tea that was undoubtedly leaving an ingrained ring in the ancient wood of his chest of drawers on the other side of the room.

Was he meant to be working today? It was Friday, and he hadn’t worked last Friday, had he? Harry couldn’t remember, too depressed by the realisation that he’d been stuck in this new reality for over a week now, and he still hadn’t made any progress on getting back home. OK, so now he had a wand that worked, more or less, but what was the benefit of that when he didn’t know the right counter spell? What was the point of magic, he found himself thinking as he sat up, scrubbing his hands through his hair and feeling depression eat at his insides. OK, so he could cast Lumos instead of using the light switch, and he could Summon the TV remote control, and he could – probably – Apparate, if he wanted to risk a mild, horrifying Splinch. But why would he bother? The Muggle alternatives were almost as good. If he had a working broom and could fly . . . That was probably the magic he missed most. His outlet, his stress release, when things were weighing on his mind. He couldn’t fly, though. All he could do was get out of bed, stomp grumpily to the bathroom to have a piss and wash his face, and continue his stomp down the stairs to the kitchen.

Harry made himself an extremely strong pot of coffee and after a large mug’s worth he felt marginally more himself. It was stupid to brood; what good did it do? He made himself some toast and grabbed a pen and paper, tugging the top off the biro and taking a large bite out of the slice as he tried to think logically. OK, so he didn’t have a magical library to help him solve this problem, and he didn’t have Robards or his fellow Aurors. But he wasn’t completely helpless. He wrote the heading I have got . . . at the top of the paper and underlined it three times, before running out of inspiration. He ate some more toast, trying not to panic, and eventually came up with:

  • Wand
  • Hermione
  • Ron ??
  • Parvati
  • Draco

He considered each of the items on the list in turn, washing down the toast crumbs with more coffee and fiddling with his pen. OK, so the wand wasn’t great, but it worked, more or less, didn’t it? It felt stupid to focus on the fact it wasn’t perfect, when it was so much better than nothing. It hadn’t worked last night, but then how did Harry know he’d cast the right spell?

Harry moved to the next item on his list: Hermione. He felt a flush of guilt as he realised that although Hermione had left him several messages, he hadn’t called her back. She hadn’t called in several days, had she? She’d either written him off as a con-artist or decided he was rude and ungrateful and not worth her time; he wasn’t sure which was worse. It was Hermione who’d suggested the wand in the first place, he realised, thinking about it now. He’d always relied on her intelligence, her courage, her infuriating stubbornness. There was no reason he should discount her just because she was temporarily tooth-fixated, was there? She still seemed like his Hermione, underneath.

Harry, feeling bolstered by this thought, looked at Ron’s name thoughtfully. He wasn’t sure he was ready for a footballing, playboy version of his best mate. But at the same time, it felt wrong to discount Ron either. If he needed Hermione, he needed Ron just as much. Their friendship just worked – all three of them, facing evil and defeating it because they had each other’s backs. Where would he be without Ron and Hermione? Probably dead, he thought bleakly, and shivered, feeling an Acromantula walk over his grave. He crossed out the question marks he’d written after Ron’s name, feeling like a bad friend.

Next on the list was Parvati. Harry paused to consider her as someone who could help. He supposed she’d already been helping, in a funny kind of way – her fun, gossipy nature had distracted him from his anxiety. Could she help him reverse whatever spell he’d inadvertently cast, though? She’d been an invaluable member of the DA, a courageous fighter. But . . . he just didn’t know her the same way he knew Ron and Hermione. And, on the off-chance he really was stuck in this reality forever, he thought uneasily, it might make sense to have a friend – a real friend, who liked him for his new, ‘magic-free’ personality, not just because he’d told them that they used to be friends in a brighter, more terrifying version of the world. He had a horrible suspicion that if he told Parvati about magic, she’d be sad – and he didn’t want to make her sad. He really liked her. Well, apart from when she was harassing him about Draco, he thought, reaching the final name on his list.

Harry poured himself another large cup of coffee and drank half of it straight down. It seemed inevitable that because Draco was the most awkward item on the list, he was also the key to the whole fucking business. He was, after all, the only wizard Harry had met so far who actually remembered being one. There had to be a reason for that. Harry drank another large swig of coffee, considering that. The most embarrassing reason – and therefore the most likely, he suspected – was that Harry had been thinking about him when he’d made the wish. In a sense, this whole reality had created itself – had shaped itself – for Draco. To give him a chance to be famous and see how he liked it. Well, he seemed to like it just fine, Harry thought, trying to resist the urge to smack himself in the face.

If it wasn’t that – what was it? Maybe Draco would have an idea, Harry thought doubtfully. He hadn’t shown much of an urge to help so far, even though Harry had offered to beg him on bended knee, but then Harry had got a bit distracted by the whole gay crisis thing, hadn’t he? He hadn’t exactly sat Draco down and demanded he wrack his brains for ways to fix reality; he’d been too busy daydreaming about Draco, and texting him, and – yes – wanking over thoughts of him. Harry decided, firmly, that the next time he saw Draco, he would be firmer about asking for his help. They could . . . meet up with Hermione, he thought, trying not to cringe at the thought of introducing Draco to his superfan. And think about how they could get in touch with Ron. And OK, so Draco hadn’t expressed any enthusiasm about going back to the wizarding world, and Harry wasn’t an idiot and could understand why. But surely Draco missed some things? Harry wracked his brains to think of things that Draco would be missing, and came up with his parents. If he was sure of anything about Draco, it was that he loved his parents, vile and terrible people though they were. Surely, Draco wouldn’t be content to give them up, in favour of this world’s Muggle imitations?

Harry found he’d finished all the coffee. He’d finished his toast. He’d finished his list. And now . . . all there was to think about was the fact that today was Friday, and he had tickets to see Draco sing. Which meant . . . Harry wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, but there was a reasonably good chance, his churning insides told him, that he’d meet up with Draco after the show, and then they’d . . . Harry tried to clear his mind and think pure, clean thoughts. In his pure, clean thoughts, Draco popped up and licked his lips.

Harry shot up from his chair, almost breaking his mug in his haste to take his dirty pots to the sink and wash them up. What should he do with his day, until the concert? He should . . . buy some new clothes, he thought as he squirted washing up liquid on a sponge. He needed some, after all. And he should— Shit! He should ask Parvati if she wanted to go with him, he supposed. He had a momentary sensation of guilt – maybe he should ask Hermione – but then he reminded himself that he was going to introduce Hermione to Draco later, so there was no reason for him to indulge this madness any further. No, he’d ask Parvati. It was basically her fault he had the tickets, anyway.

Harry finished washing up and dried his hands on a tea towel – a crime that would have had Kreacher muttering about his degeneracy for days – before going to hunt down his phone. Draco hadn’t texted, but he tried not to see this as a bad sign and sent a quick, Morning! Looking forward to tonight. He’d barely pressed send before his phone was beeping at him with a reply from Dickhead Supreme.

Of course you are.

Harry rolled his eyes, but felt a bit better; the sheer speed of the reply suggested that Draco had been waiting for him to text, didn’t it? Or that he had his phone right by him, his brain helpfully amended, making him feel like death might be a better option than this tortured life. What was wrong with him, mooning around like a lovesick idiot over Draco fucking Malfoy.

Harry considered the word lovesick and then decided he’d lock that thought deep in his brain and never allow it out again. For fuck’s sake. He tried to pull himself together, and looked at his phone again, wondering how he should play this with Parvati. He didn’t want to lie to her about Draco, but at the same time, he didn’t want to tell the truth either. In the end, he went for a simple I’ve got two tickets to see Draco Malfoy tonight. Want to come?, deciding to put off the explanation until he’d actually come up with one.

A few minutes later, as Harry was brushing his teeth, his phone beeped. Omggggggggggggggg, are you serious?!!!! Parvati had sent. He was just about to try to answer one handed, when the phone rang. He answered it in a flap, spitting out a mouthful of foam into the basin as he did so.

“Well, that sounds revolting,” Parvati said reprovingly into his ear. “Is this a bad time?”

“I’m just brushing my teeth!” Harry protested, going back to brushing, because it was only Parvati, and it would be a good excuse as to why he didn’t answer when she asked how he knew Draco, for possibly the millionth time.

“Did Draco send you the tickets,” Parvati said sternly, her words missing a question mark.

“No-o,” Harry said around his toothbrush.

“Oh my God, you liar,” Parvati said.

“His management did,” Harry confessed. “Hang on.” He removed the phone from his ear and spat out more toothpaste, swilling his mouth with water.

“You done?” Parvati inquired.

“Mm,” Harry said, unwilling to commit. “So do you want to come or not?”

“Of course I want to come!” Parvati said, and let out a high-pitched squeal that set Harry’s teeth on edge. “Are they good seats?”

Could he trust Draco on the whole front-row business? Block A3 sounded like three blocks back to him. How big was a block, anyway? How big, even, was this Wembley Arena? “Dunno,” he said, hedging his bets. “Probably OK.”

“Well, if they’re not front row, then I’ll grudging believe that maybe you don’t actually know Draco,” Parvati said, not sounding convinced. “Although you clearly do.”

“I—”

“No, let’s not have another row, I just want to be excited,” Parvati interrupted firmly. Harry hadn’t realised they had been rowing over Draco. He really hadn’t been paying attention over the past couple of days, had he? “At any rate, what are you going to wear so that Draco ‘definitely doesn’t know you’ Malfoy falls head over heels in love with you? I intend to go all out. Glitter, PVC trousers, strappy top and push-up bra, the works. Dad won’t let me out the house if he sees me,” she said with satisfaction. “Maybe I’d better get ready at yours.”

There was a buzzing in Harry’s ears. “I’m not trying to make him fall in love with me!” he said, voice coming out strained and high pitched.

“Great! Less competition,” Parvati said. “But if you wear your work uniform and show me up in public, I’ll gut you like a fish, just saying. All right?”

Harry thought he might be up for a bit of gutting. At least it would give him a good excuse for not going out tonight.

All right?” Parvati repeated threateningly.

“Yes, yes, all right!” Harry said, wondering if it was possible to Obliviate yourself, or if you needed help. Lockhart had managed it, hadn’t he?

“Good,” Parvati said cheerfully. Then there was an ominous pause. “You’re not going to do any . . . terrible dancing, are you?” she added suspiciously.

Harry thought back to the only time he could remember dancing in public – the Yule Ball. It seemed ironic, really. He’d taken Parvati to that too. This was the second time he’d asked her out, so to speak, and the second time he hadn’t fancied her in the slightest. He hadn’t danced back then, if he remembered right, and he wasn’t planning on starting now. “I can promise faithfully that if I do any dancing, it will definitely be terrible,” he said solemnly, and she laughed.

“All right. Just remember – if you try it, I’ll stamp on your toes. Deal?”

“Deal,” Harry said. And when he hung up what must have been a good half an hour later – Parvati was hard to get off the phone when she’d got into her stride, not that Harry minded much – he’d almost managed to put the whole ‘make Draco fall in love with you’ nonsense out of his mind.

Almost.

^^^^^^

Harry had a vague picture in his mind of what a concert might be like. He’d have said that his favourite band – if he was forced to name one – was the Weird Sisters, and they’d played at the Yule Ball, hadn’t they? And while, logically, his brain had told him that Draco’s concert would be something larger in scale, he didn’t entirely believe it until he got to Wembley Arena. All right, he thought, trying not to feel even more nervous, it wasn’t nearly as big as the venues for the two Quidditch World Cups he’d attended, was it? But . . . it was still pretty big. And the crowd that were streaming towards it – thousands of teenage girls, many dressed up and all talking excitedly – was pretty big too. Some of them were carrying large banners. DRACO, WE LOVE YOU! shouted one, in uneven capital letters.

Parvati clutched his arm painfully as the building loomed up in front of them, the queues outside the dozens of doors moving at a quick pace, and Harry fumbled in his pocket for the tickets. He’d checked they were there half a dozen times already, he knew they were there, but he experienced a brief moment of panic – that he’d forgotten them, that they’d fallen out of his pocket – before his fingers touched the card and he pulled them out, to pass them to the cheerful, but harassed-looking woman at the door. And then they were inside, the atmosphere strangely tense and electric for such an industrial-looking building – boring white walls, and speckled grey floors, and corridors that appeared to go on forever.

Parvati made him stop and queue for a million years outside a booth that was selling merchandise – programmes with pictures of Draco’s face that practically cost more than a week’s wages, and shapeless T-shirts with pictures of Draco’s face and lists of dates, and horrible plastic-looking scarves in red (red!) with DRACO MALFOY: THE ‘WHAT I WANT’ TOUR spelt out in white caps. Parvati had bought him a terrible T-shirt before he could stop her, and then he found himself waiting for another million years as she ‘nipped’ to the toilet before they found their seats. He dug out his phone while he was waiting, glanced around paranoidly to make sure no one was looking over his shoulder. At the venue. Anything you need me to do? he typed, and then deleted it, thinking he sounded overly anxious. But he needed to text something, he thought. The phone reception was already pretty shaky, and he hadn’t arranged to meet up with Draco after the show.

Did Draco even want to meet up after the show, Harry wondered, suddenly feeling overdressed and ridiculous. He looked down at himself, and felt marginally reassured; there was little chance Draco, with all his ingrained, stuck-up, pure-blood airs, would consider what he was currently wearing to be overdressed: a fitted black coat over black jeans, black shoes and a smarter, much greener shirt than Harry would have picked for himself. Unfortunately, Parvati had taken him shopping, and he hadn’t felt able to say ‘actually, green reminds me of snakes, and great evil, so maybe blue would be better’? Apparently, it brought out the colour of his eyes: bright green, she said. Harry had looked in the mirror after that and wondered why his eyes were so disloyal to Gryffindor, and then wondered why he cared. It wasn’t like he was still at school; it wasn’t like his Hogwarts house mattered any more.

Harry looked back at his phone, typed out I’m here. Need anything? and then pressed send before he could overthink things. His phone beeped a minute later.

Unless you want to help the girls do my hair and cover me in glitter, then no.

Harry considered this, and decided it wouldn’t be good for his constitution to help other people cover Draco in glitter. But I’ll see you after, yeah? he sent instead, aiming for casual but feeling so wound up that his hands were shaking.

You can help me wash the glitter off again, saviour, Draco sent, which didn’t help matters.

Happily for Harry’s sanity, at this moment Parvati finally emerged from the ladies. But . . . her hair was not just even neater than when she’d started, but now also streaked with glitter. What was it with the glitter? he thought resentfully. Was the world trying to send him doolally? Still . . . “You look, uh, very sparkly,” Harry said, thinking a compliment was probably expected, and then panicked. That wasn’t a great one, was it? He looked her up and down, before realising that made him seem like a perv. “And . . . and . . . your trousers are very shiny!” he added, rejecting everything else that ran through his head as likely to get him a smack. She did look nice, he thought, despite the shiny trousers; anyone with eyes could see it.

Parvati grinned at him fondly. “And you look very . . .” She looked him up and down speculatively, still grinning. “You,” she concluded.

Harry resisted the urge to reach up and fiddle with his hair. “Thanks,” he said, with heavy sarcasm. “You sure you can bear to be seen in public with me? You could just go home.”

“And miss your dancing? I think not,” she twinkled at him, folding her arm in his. “Come on, let’s see how bad our seats are.”

They made their way arm in arm, past packs of squealing girls, following the signs towards a door marked ‘A3–A5’, music spilling out from the concert hall on the other side of the corridor as they walked. Harry took a deep breath as they walked through the door and into the pulsing semi-darkness, the arena unfolding in front of him, rows upon rows of seats, and thousands upon thousands of fans. The stage was brightly lit but empty, coloured lights flashing on and off towards the crowd as canned music played. A smiling woman with a torch checked their tickets and guided them to their seats, jealous eyes following them as they sat. The stage was right in front of them; Draco had arranged front-row tickets, after all.

“This is amazing!” Parvati gushed. Then she turned to Harry and put her face very close to his ear. “He must really like you,” she whispered.

Harry was bored of denying he knew Draco. “He does get the tickets for free, you know,” he pointed out.

“I knew it! I knew you knew him!” Parvati squealed. “You are going to tell me everything. But when you’re ready,” she amended. “Because you’re being a bit weird about this, you know. Like . . .” She shot him a sidelong glance. “No way! Like you’re dating, or something,” she hissed in his ear, so their seat neighbours couldn’t hear her.

Harry could feel himself going phoenix red. “That’s not! Um!” he said incoherently. “He just arranged some free tickets!” he managed. “It’s his concert! It’s not a big deal!”

Parvati let out a high-pitched giggle. “Yeah, you keep telling yourself that,” she said, giving him a nudge in the side.

“No, really, I—” Harry started, but Parvati flapped her hands at him.

“Shh,” she said, flicking her glittery plait over her shoulder. “Just relax and enjoy yourself, all right? Seriously, Harry. You need to learn how to stop worrying and start living. What’s the worst that could happen?”

Was he really the sort of person who worried, rather than lived his life to the full? He didn’t think so. He hoped not. Didn’t he always act, make the hard choices? Hadn’t he been willing to give up everything, for the sake of the world? A little voice in his head pointed out, though, that maybe living for others wasn’t quite what ‘living life to the full’ meant. And that maybe being a tiny bit more selfish wouldn’t hurt, would it? Didn’t he deserve it, after all he’d done? After all he’d lost?

Parvati looked over at him, and he tried to smile at her. What was the worst that could happen? He could be stuck here, without the wizarding world. Without his friends – without the people who’d become his family. But . . . he already had a friend here, in Parvati, didn’t he? And there was Hermione. And Ron. He had a house. He had a brain. He had the ingredients he needed to rebuild a life without magic, didn’t he? He could probably even be happy. And . . .

And there was Draco. In this reality, there wasn’t Malfoy; there was Draco. The thought was simultaneously terrifying and electrifying. Harry took a deep breath and tried to think positively. Whatever happened, he’d be OK. He just had to get through tonight first.

^^^^^^

Harry hadn’t appreciated that Draco wouldn’t sing right away. That, instead, he would have to suffer through nearly an hour and half of support acts, none of which he’d describe as dreadful, exactly, but that were definitely not aimed at him. He supposed he should have expected it, not being a teenage girl. When he tried to express this to Parvati, during the third act – five fully grown men with very floppy hair swaying awkwardly on the spot while the one in the middle sang mawkishly about ‘flying without wings’ – she rolled her eyes, telling him he didn’t know talent when he heard it, and Westlife were going to be huge, didn’t he know they were managed by Ronan from Boyzone? Harry thought it best to leave it be, before he ended up getting a lecture on British boybands through history. It was bad enough having to suffer through them in person, he thought as the band progressed to an even slower tempo, which nevertheless seemed to leave them breathless enough to need stools to balance on as they sang.

By the time the support acts had finished though, and the interval was nearly over, Harry found himself feeling unsettled and nervous. He vanished to the toilet, Parvati telling him to be quick!, but while the queue outside the nearest ladies stretched out into the horizon, the men’s was almost empty and he was soon out and back in the dark arena. The atmosphere felt different now – tense and expectant, and punctuated by random screams of excitement that made him twitch. This was nothing like a Quidditch match, he thought; how had ever thought the two might be comparable? The World Cup matches he’d attended had been full of people brimming with competitive spirit and patriotic pride; this was a dark, pulsing pit full of women who wanted to jump Draco Malfoy’s bones and were willing to scream themselves hoarse to catch his attention. Harry tried to hunker down in the front row and be invisible, aware that if any of them suspected he knew Draco personally, they might attempt to rend him limb from limb.

As it approached nine o’clock, the music playing through the speakers suddenly stopped, to be replaced by a loud, electronic heartbeat. The screaming increased in intensity, and Parvati clutched at his arm, jumping up and down on the spot. The enormous screens either side of the stage suddenly showed two large digital clocks, counting down. 10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . .

Harry could feel his heart speed up, his blood pounding. The lights surrounding the stage were frantic now, flashing madly into the darkness.

7 . . . 6 . . . 5 . . .

The chant Draco! Draco! Draco! rolled around the stadium, thousands of voices almost tearfully shouting for him. Draco! Draco! Draco!

4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . .

Everyone around him was surging out of their seats, standing up on tiptoe; he glanced back to see some girls standing on their chairs, straining towards the stage.

1 . . .

Parvati yanked Harry to his feet, just as the stage seemed to explode: golden-red fireworks fizzing round the edges, half blinding him. When he blinked, there were lights in his eyes, and there in the centre of the stage, standing tall with his chin raised and fists clenched tight by his side, was Draco – so covered in glitter that he was sparkling fiercely, a pair of enormous red-feathered wings sprouting from his bare shoulders as red flames burned either side of him, smoke pouring out from beneath his feet to coat the stage. Harry could smell it – sweet, and strange – as it rolled off the stage towards him. Harry barely had time to take this in – to breathe – before Draco was surrounded by dancers, slim and also glittered; and then Draco was singing, powerful and confident, the song exploding out as the dancers whipped madly around the stage.

The song was something about being reborn, Harry realised when he could make his brain work. He found he wanted to laugh, a little bit, overcome by embarrassment, although he wasn’t sure if he was embarrassed for Draco or embarrassed by the idea that a singing, feather-wearing Draco might catch his eye mid song. He had no idea how to behave in this situation; no idea how he was meant to act. Draco Malfoy was singing. Singing topless. His feet, poking out from the bottom of his dark-red, figure-hugging trousers, were bare too, Harry noticed when the smoke started to clear. Again, he experienced the odd, disconcerting sensation that this reality was trying to collide with the real world. Luna had dressed Draco as a phoenix, hadn’t she? The wings, the fire . . . the rebirth . . . Harry felt a chill shiver down his spine.

The song ended, and the dancers melted away, leaving Draco alone on stage. He smiled, very bright, and Harry was close enough to see he was shaking, wasn’t sure how to deal with how that made him feel. “Hello, Wembley!” Draco said, and the arena exploded with screams and yells; whatever Draco said next, Harry could barely hear it, and soon Draco was sitting on a swing that seemed to have descended from the sky, the notes of something cheesy pounding out on a piano as the swing rose uncomfortably high into the air. Winged Draco serenaded the arena from the sky, lit by a spotlight. His voice was pure and sweet and only slightly out of tune, Harry thought, digging his fingernails into the palm of his hand as he watched and tried not to feel overwhelmed with baffling emotion. It wasn’t working so well.

Winged Draco rose higher, vanishing out of sight as the final strains of the ballad faded away, and then curtains swooshed back at the rear of the stage, revealing the members of Draco’s backing band one by one, each doing a tedious solo. Draco re-emerged after barely a minute, now casual in ripped white jeans and a soft white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck, and launched straight into another song, standing tall and confident as his backing dancers weaved around him.

“Isn’t he amazing!” Parvati yelled in his ear.

Harry thought about that, his heartrate still too fast, his stomach still doing nervous leaps. But now he’d calmed down a fraction, he could see that there were several groups of backing singers tucked at the edges of the stage, providing soft but firm support to almost everything Draco was singing. And . . . Draco wasn’t really dancing much, was he? He was standing as if he owned the stage, while not really joining in. But . . . “Yeah, pretty amazing,” Harry said in her ear, because it was true, wasn’t it? It was certainly amazing to him that he was standing amidst thousands of Muggles, watching Draco Malfoy – whose disdain for Muggles was well documented – singing his heart out for their entertainment. He was still very glittery, Harry thought, watching Draco’s clothes sparkle as the lights bounced off him.

Draco caught his eye – at least, he looked in Harry’s direction – and seemed to forget his words. He caught himself quickly, pointing his microphone in the direction of the audience, who cheerfully sung along, word perfect, as Draco stared at Harry. Harry tried to smile, feeling incredibly awkward, and did a stupid little wave, which seemed to bring Draco back to himself. He turned away and began to sing again, and Parvati hissed, “Oh my goddddddd,” in Harry’s ear, making him feel even more awkward than he had originally.

Harry lost all sense of time as the concert continued. Draco changed costume several more times – each outfit somehow unsettling in its own way. A pale formal suit with a floor-length jacket covered in embroidered flowers, somehow reminiscent of formal robes. A soft black shirt and trousers covered in stars, his fingers and toes studded with rings that caught the light in flares of rainbows. A white T-shirt with a startling green snake pattern winding round Draco’s torso, to curl, chokingly, around his neckline. He didn’t look in Harry’s direction again, but he dedicated a song, half-mockingly to my biggest fan; he knows who he is, which made Parvati squeal and nudge him again. It was the title track off his album: I love you. Harry couldn’t bring himself to listen to the lyrics, could barely look in Draco’s direction, in case his head exploded in embarrassment. He didn’t know what Draco was playing at, but he was determined not to let him mess with his head any more than he already had.

As Draco said, “Goodnight, everyone, I love you!” and left the stage to a soundtrack of hoarse, despairing screaming, Harry felt a bit like he’d been hit by the Knight Bus. He was trembling slightly, his ears were ringing, and his brain kept going round and round and round, unable to settle on anything other than Draco. The lights didn’t turn on though, and the screaming didn’t stop.

“He’ll do an encore,” Parvati said in Harry’s ear. “Bet you.”

She was right. It wasn’t long before Draco appeared back on stage, to whoops and squeals of delight, in another new outfit: a very sharp tailored black suit and white shirt, silver jewellery glinting at his wrists and neck. When he turned around, Harry saw there was a silver lightning bolt stitched into the back of his jacket. Harry reached up to press his scar uncomfortably, wondering what Luna had been thinking of when she’d chosen that particular motif.

Draco sang two more songs, and then headed to the back of the stage, waving goodbye. But rather than leaving the stage, he stood there and raised his arms high, legs spread wide. And a torrent of water gushed from the ceiling of the stage, waterfalling over him, soaking him to the skin as the fans screamed and screamed and screamed. Then the stage lights went dead, flooding the arena with darkness for a moment. When the lights were turned back on again, the arena also lit by over-bright ceiling lights this time, Draco was gone.

Harry blinked, dazzled by the lights. He felt exhausted, as if he’d been standing up for hours, and his skin felt weird. He scrubbed a hand over his face, rubbing his eyes under his glasses. He needed a drink. He needed . . . Merlin, what was he meant to do next? He hadn’t arranged a place to meet with Draco, had he? He didn’t have the faintest idea how to get backstage, or even the name of the hotel Draco was staying at. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, noticing it was gone eleven, to find he had no reception. All around them, people were already starting to file out, girls clutching programmes tightly to their chests, their faces lit by inhuman happiness.

Parvati didn’t look nearly as neat as when she’d started, Harry noticed. She, too, was beaming, her hair falling out of its neat plait and one of the straps of her top falling off her shoulder. He gestured vaguely towards her, and she grinned at him, fixing her top and pulling the hair tie out of her hair, unravelling her plait and shaking her long, sparkling hair free. “I want his autograph, even if he’s not going to fall in love with me after all,” she said, reaching over to poke him firmly in the side. “Can we do backstage?”

Could they? Harry didn’t think ‘dunno’ would cut it here, but Parvati was already waving to the nearest security guard. “Excuse me,” she said very politely, “but my friend here was given complimentary tickets by Draco Malfoy himself. Are we on the guest list to go backstage?”

The guard looked unimpressed. “Name?” he grunted.

“Harry Potter,” Harry said, after a pointed look from Parvati.

The guard took a step away and talked, very low, into a walkie-talkie in his hand. “This way,” he said gruffly when he’d finished, gesturing towards a side exit that led into the narrow channel between the seating and the stairs.

Parvati practically ran for it, Harry bringing up the rear and feeling very peculiar. They followed the guard around the side of the stage and out into an enormous cavernous space, busy with burly men pushing equipment around on trolleys. They passed through a door and into a more familiar-feeling space: a long but very narrow corridor, white walls, speckled grey flooring. The guard knocked at one of the doors, and Pansy stuck her head round it. “Yes?” she said, and then groaned out loud. “Oh damn, not you again,” she said, but she waved the security guard away, giving Parvati a curious stare. “Come on then,” she said, ushering them through.

The large room was packed with people: Luna – who waved enthusiastically when she saw him – was sitting with the musicians Harry had noticed from the stage, and there were men with cameras, and people who Harry thought might be venue staff. A handful of girls about Harry’s own age sat in a corner on a pair of sofas, looking excited but terrified, clutching programmes in their hands. “Kindred spirits,” Parvati murmured, and went over to join them, leaving Harry standing like a lemon in the middle of the room.

“Can I get you a nice bottle of water?” Pansy said from by Harry’s ear. She had a glass of wine in her hand. “I’m presuming you’re not old enough to drink.”

Harry wasn’t rising to the bait. And besides, everybody else seemed to be drinking water, pretty much; there were plastic bottles scattered on all the surfaces, along with trays of artfully arranged fruit and tiny cheeses. “Water is fine, thank you,” he said, and tried not to grin at the look of disappointment on Pansy’s face as she passed him a bottle from the tiny bar.

“Draco’s just changing,” Pansy said casually. “Be nice when he gets here – but not too nice, understand?” she added, just loud enough for Harry to hear. “He’s a pain in the arse, he really is,” she said, and then – to Harry’s surprise – grinned at him, her lips very red and her black bob swinging in front of one eye. “I hope you’re not going to be a pain in the arse, too?”

“Harry is always a pain in the arse,” Draco said from somewhere behind Harry, nearly making him spill his water down his front. “For someone with your job,” Draco said levelly as Harry turned around, “you really do have shit reflexes.”

Harry nearly choked all over again. Draco was wearing an outfit that should have been completely ludicrous, and yet somehow just looked fun and quirky: a loose white T-shirt under navy dungarees, his hair hidden under a dark-orange furry hat with what appeared to be a scarf attached on either side. The hat had ears like a bear.

Draco smirked at him and waved one end of the scarf. “It’s got gloves attached, look,” he said, sticking his hand in a pocket at the end of it. He was still glittering faintly, his skin sparkling under the ceiling lights every time he moved.

Pansy gave him a little shove. “Go and greet your fans, Draco, and then you can piss about with Harry afterwards. I’ve arranged your usual driver.”

“Yes, Mum,” Draco said, rolling his eyes, and wandering off towards the women, followed by a man dressed head to toe in black and who was, in shape, roughly as wide as the room itself. Harry thought he’d seen him before, but couldn’t remember where, too occupied watching Draco go. Draco’s back stiffened – presumably as he recognised Parvati, Harry thought, realising he probably should have warned him – and then he relaxed as he took a pen and started signing things.

Pansy took a large swig of her wine. “All right then, Mr Pain in the Arse, let’s get you in a car,” she said, and started to guide Harry towards the exit.

“Sorry?” Harry asked, wondering if he should be resisting. This was Pansy, after all; he couldn’t trust her then, so why should he trust her now? “Are you trying to get rid of me?” he asked crossly. “I haven’t even said goodbye to my friend.”

“The girl?” Pansy said without much interest. “I can arrange a taxi home for her, if you like.” Then she snorted. “Oh, I see. No, I’m not trying to spoil your evening, my love. But if you think I’m letting you be papped leaving with Draco, you must have a poor opinion of my management skills,” she said as she took Harry by the arm and pulled him out the door.

Harry blinked at her. “Papped?”

“Paparazzi? Photographers?” Pansy said, raising her eyebrows. “God, talking to you is like talking to someone who’s never visited this planet before. It’s like talking to Draco this past week or so, and I don’t say that as a compliment. I think meeting you might have addled his brain. Come on,” she continued, leading the way through the corridor and out a sturdy door at the end that led to an area reminiscent of a car park. More burly men were lugging things about, and a large tour bus was parked at one end, along with several cars.

Pansy approached one of the smaller cars, pulling a keyring out of her pocket, pointing it towards the car with her arm outstretched – a classic wand stance – and pressing on it. The car emitted a beeping noise and then a click, and Pansy pulled the driver’s side door open. “Alohomora,” Harry muttered.

“What?” Pansy said, as if he was weird, and then said, “Get in, then,” as she bent to get in the car herself.

Harry got in.

^^^^^^

Draco’s hotel was on Whitehall, just to make things even weirder than they already were. Harry had passed it dozens of times when he left the Ministry, without really noticing it. The imposing building was just another imposing building on a street that was so wealthy it made Harry itch.

“You talk the perfect amount,” Pansy said as she got out of the car and tossed her keys to a neatly-suited staff member standing outside the hotel. “Thank you.”

Harry tried to remember if he’d said anything at all during the forty minute journey; Pansy had driven too fast for comfort, and when he hadn’t been fearing for his life – it would be ironic to survive Voldemort and die in a car crash, he thought wryly – he’d been too busy stressing out about the night ahead. “I didn’t say anything,” he concluded.

“Yes, precisely,” Pansy said, stretching widely. She shot him a look. “Sorry, I’m not being a cow. I’ve just spent the whole day talking, and if I have to make any more pleasant but pointless small talk about Draco, love him though I do, I think I might scream.”

“Were you good friends at school, then?” Harry asked, without thinking.

Pansy snorted. “I knew it was too good to last. Yes, we were great friends,” she said as she led the way up the small flight of steps outside the hotel. “I knew from the moment I met him that he something special. His family are connected to royalty, you know. My family are practically royalty when it comes to show business, and I only had to pull a few strings to get him signed by his current record label. His father talked to my father about it, you know, but it was really down to me.” She looked proud, but Harry just felt irritated to discover that – surprise, surprise – in this reality, Draco was the Muggle equivalent of a pure-blood, seemingly handed everything on a plate. Pansy shot him a look. “We can’t all drag ourselves out of the gutter,” she said matter-of-factly as a top-hatted doorman held the door open for them to pass through. “What is it that you do, exactly, Harry?”

“I work in a shop,” Harry said coldly. “Tills. Stacking shelves. That kind of thing.”

Pansy screwed up her nose. “Gosh,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a shop-worker before. Socially, I mean.”

Harry tried not to grind his teeth.

Pansy swept over to the reception desk. “This is Harry,” she said to the smiling man behind the counter. “Harry Potter. He’s working for Mr Malfoy and will need access to his suite.”

“Of course,” the man murmured, pressing a tiny bell which summoned another immaculately dressed, smiling hotel worker. “Please, Mr Potter, follow my colleague and we’ll show you to the Musician’s Suite immediately.”

Pansy turned to go, and then stopped. “Do you have my phone number?” she asked, turning back.

Harry didn’t; he didn’t want it. “No,” he said flatly.

Pansy rolled her eyes. “No need to sulk because I pointed out a few home truths. Here—” She passed him a business card, which he reluctantly put in his coat pocket. “Call me if you need me. Draco will be back soon, I expect.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, vowing to never, ever call her, because she was Pansy, she fucking was, and as bad as he remembered her.

The hotel worker was waiting politely, but when Harry turned, he led him down a long, luxurious corridor and off down a side passage, to a row of lifts, each marked with the name of a suite. The man pressed a button and ushered Harry inside a lift that was practically gold-plated, the doors opening again inside an enormous, softly-lit living room, studded with sofas and with a grand piano in the corner. “Can I help sir with anything?” the man asked as Harry looked around, slightly bewildered. “A cocktail? A glass of wine from the private cellar? The menu rests here,” he said, indicating a sideboard. “No?” he continued when Harry shook his head, flustered. “Well, if sir requires anything at all, please ring the bell here –” he indicated a tasselled rope hanging on the wall – “and I will attend immediately.”

“In the middle of the night?” Harry asked dubiously. It must be gone midnight, he thought.

Any time, day or night,” the man said, with a polite half-bow, and then vanished back into the lift, disappearing from view.

Harry looked around, feeling like an intruder in someone else’s home. The room was nice enough, but it was enormous, and so neat that he felt dubious that it was occupied. He half expected a stranger to pop in at any moment and turf him out. He had a nervous poke about the room, finding a small but shiny bathroom covered in marble, and a long cupboard that when he took a closer look was actually a series of fridges, packed with champagne bottles. In the corner, a posh staircase curled up to another level, but it seemed too much of an imposition to go up and take a look.

Harry checked his phone; Draco hadn’t texted. So, to pass the time, he went and nervously used the bathroom, washing his face and peering at himself in the mirror. He looked anxious. That done, he went and perched on the edge of one of the sofas, not wanting to disturb the perfectly plump cushions. He dug his phone back out of his pocket and texted Parvati: You get home OK?

Of course, knobber, she sent back. You with Draco?!!!

Harry texted No, because it was true.

Yeah, yeah, Parvati texted, which made him grin.

He set the phone on the coffee table in front of him and tugged the now very screwed up T-shirt she’d bought him out of the pocket of his new, non-rustly coat, looking at it more closely. The list of dates on the back were tour dates, he realised. Draco was going to travel extensively, by the looks of it. Harry didn’t know why that annoyed him, but it did. He folded the T-shirt up roughly and put it on the coffee table too, moving his phone on top of it and trying to think calming thoughts as he waited for Draco to get back.

^^^^^^

Barely fifteen minutes later, Harry heard the sound of the lift door go, and he turned, half-expecting to see the hotel worker again.

It wasn’t the hotel worker.

“What, you expecting the butler?” Draco said, kicking off his shoes as he came in and tugging the stupid animal hat off his head. His hair was wet and sticking up at odd angles.

Butler! Harry had the odd mental image of handing the butler a sock and telling him that he was now free.

“You are allowed to take your shoes off,” Draco said, almost crossly, striding across the room towards the staircase. “Make yourself a drink, for fuck’s sake. I’m going to take a shower. I’ll have a large gin and tonic, no ice. Entertain yourself for a bit – there’s a terrace with an amazing view upstairs.”

And with that, Draco vanished up the staircase – or, rather, fled up the staircase, a little voice in Harry’s head amended, suddenly wondering if Draco felt as nervous as he did. The thought was oddly bolstering, even if Draco was treating him a bit like a house-elf.

Harry managed to find the gin and mixed two drinks, taking a ginger sip of one. It had an odd, but not unpleasant, floral taste. Should he take them upstairs? He grabbed first the drinks, and then his courage, walking up the sweeping staircase and finding himself in a large hallway, with doors leading off to a bathroom – he could hear the shower going – and a bedroom. With some trepidation, he walked into the bedroom, putting the drinks down on a long side table, and finding the door to the roof terrace.

It was gorgeous outside, although there was a chill in the midnight air. He was high up, and sweeping in front of him were the lights of central London – the river Thames, criss-crossed by bridges; skyscrapers reaching for the heavens; the squat dome of St Paul’s. It was so bright that the lights of the stars were faded and dull, but it didn’t seem to matter, what with the twinkling glory of the city laid out beneath him. He should probably have brought the wand with him, Harry thought, and felt glad he hadn’t, followed by sick at the reason behind that thought.

Draco cleared his throat behind him, and Harry turned, mouth going dry. Draco was practically naked, dressed only in a large bath sheet, slung low on his hips. He wasn’t even properly dry, his torso studded with water droplets, stray bits of glitter still clinging to his wet skin and his hair dark with moisture. Draco was holding two glasses, and he leaned on the doorframe, holding out one hand. “Drink?” he suggested. “I’d come out, but there was once an incident with helicopters overhead, Pansy tells me, so I’d better not.”

Harry swallowed hard again, approaching Draco and taking the drink. Up close, Draco was kind of terrifying: his gaze hard and almost mocking. But Harry had never been scared of Draco before, and he wasn’t planning on starting now. “Thanks,” he said, taking a sip. The alcohol burned pleasantly down his throat, and he wondered if he’d made the drink a bit too strong.

“Funny to see you with Parvati Patil,” Draco said, stepping aside to let Harry back inside. “Didn’t you take her to the Yule Ball?” He sounded fucked off.

“Yeah, and you took Pansy,” Harry pointed out, looking round for a place to sit and only finding the enormous bed, which wasn’t helpful.

“I work with Pansy now,” Draco said coldly.

“And I work with Parvati,” Harry said. “In a shop. On the check-out,” he said.

Some of the tension in Draco’s face drained away. “What’s a check-out?” he asked.

Harry snorted. “You’ve been in a shop before, Draco,” he said. “Don’t wind me up.”

Draco finally smiled, a little lopsided, and then took a long sip of his drink. “So . . .” he said, giving Harry a stare that had the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. “We doing this then?”

It suddenly seemed important to Harry to know whether if – when – they got back to reality, Draco would regret it. He’d told himself sternly in his head, dozens of times in the past few days, that he didn’t particularly like Draco, even if he’d lost his mind and started to fancy him. And Draco clearly fancied him right back; had even told him he’d had dirty little fantasies about him before the wish world had even existed, for fuck's sake, although Harry still found that difficult to believe. So it didn’t matter if Draco liked him as a person, did it? But he found now – faced with the prospect of taking off his clothes in front of Draco – that it did matter, quite a lot. At least, Harry told himself, trying not to panic, it was important that Draco didn’t despise him, at a minimum. Looking at Draco now, Harry had no idea what he was thinking, or how he was feeling, other than strangely possessive.

“When we get back to the wizarding world . . .” he started carefully.

Draco scowled and took a long swig of his drink. “Seriously, Potter?” he said, by which Harry understood that Draco had definitely taken it the wrong way. “I’m hardly going to go around boasting about sucking another man’s cock, am I? That would go down so well with all the pure-blood mothers looking to marry their daughters off. And I’m currently such a brilliant catch, remember.”

“I didn’t mean—!” Harry tried to interrupt.

“No, I bet,” Draco snapped. “I’m sure you meant something much more—”

Harry hadn’t come all this way to have a row. “Shut up, Draco,” he found himself saying.

Draco stopped dead, eyes widening and a look of incredulity sliding across his face. “Shut up?” he repeated, as if he was about to kick off.

“Do you like me or not?” Harry asked, feeling awkward but determined to see this through.

Draco went pleasingly red in the face. “Sometimes, I have no idea how I feel about you,” he said, which wasn’t really an answer as far as Harry was concerned, but at least it wasn’t a flat out denial. So he set his glass down on the closest flat surface, took several strides across the room towards an increasingly scarlet-faced Draco and, taking all his courage in his hands, leaned in and kissed him.

Draco dropped the glass in his hand, liquid flooding into Harry’s socks.

“Argh!” Harry said, pulling away.

“You . . . you kissed me!” Draco said, sounding completely shocked.

“Er, yes?” Harry said, feeling like a wally. A wet-footed wally. He awkwardly bent down and tugged the damp socks off. “Should I not have?”

Draco stared at him for a moment, face still scarlet, and then he practically threw himself at Harry, their faces colliding in a way that was almost painful. His mouth was hard against Harry’s, his kisses insistent, and Harry found it hard to catch his breath, he was so fucking into it. Harry parted his lips, and his tongue met Draco’s – hot, and wet, and Draco let out a noise of pleasure that coursed all the way down Harry’s spine.

Harry felt panic flare, bright and blinding, inside him for a brief moment – he was kissing a man; he was kissing Draco Malfoy – and then it burnt itself out, leaving behind only the inevitability of what was going to happen. Harry didn’t want to want this, but he did, so fucking badly he couldn’t stand it.

They half-stumbled, half-fell towards the edge of the bed, sitting down heavily, still kissing and kissing and kissing. Harry felt like he couldn’t get enough. Draco was so warm, and when Harry reached over to put his hands on Draco’s waist, his bare skin was warm too, and slightly damp, under Harry’s fingertips.

The kiss slowed, and time seemed to slow down with it, until all there was in the world was Draco’s skin, his mouth, his tongue. Harry ran his hands up and down Draco’s sides, found the action made Draco moan into his mouth, so did it again, hands butting up against the towel at Draco’s waist. Harry was already so hard that it was uncomfortable, his cock straining against his trouser leg. The thought that if he gently tugged at the towel, Draco would be completely naked next to him, was turning his mind to mush.

It seemed too fast and yet simultaneously too slow. So Harry just kept kissing, fingers sliding under the towel to nestle against Draco’s sides. Kissing and kissing, and Draco just kept making tiny noises that seemed connected directly to Harry’s cock. He began to wonder, madly, if he could actually come without being touched.

Finally, Draco pulled away. His face was still red, but his expression loose and blissed out. “Right then. You still want me to suck you off?” he asked, only slightly awkward beneath the confident veneer.

Harry felt his face explode with colour. “I– I– only if you want to!” he stammered.

Draco’s lips curled in a smile that wasn’t one hundred percent kind. “Yes, or no?” he asked.

“God yes,” Harry managed, now unable to think of anything other than how much he wanted it.

Draco’s smirk widened. “Say please.”

“Yeah, fuck off,” Harry said, regaining a bit of his self-control. He wasn’t going to beg. There was only so much his dignity could take.

“So well brought up,” Draco murmured sarcastically, but he still reached between them and started unbuttoning Harry’s shirt buttons, sliding the shirt off slowly once he was finished and then reaching for Harry’s belt. “Up,” Draco said, giving him an encouraging shove. Harry didn’t need the encouragement; he sprung up from the edge of the bed and turned to face Draco, heart pounding like a drum as Draco undid first his belt buckle and then the top button of his trousers. He felt exposed and almost stupid, even with his trousers on, his erection tenting his trousers so much that it was impossible to miss.

Draco, barely breathing now, went for his fly, fingers trailing over the fabric covering Harry’s crotch as he did so. Harry gasped, the noise embarrassingly loud in the quiet room, his cock straining even harder. He felt light-headed and hot, his cock throbbing with pressure.

Harry felt the urge to kiss Draco again, and he bent his head down, wiping the smirk off Draco’s face almost instantaneously. God. Draco kissed like a dream; the pressure just right. The speed just right. Harry thought he could come from just this. The feel of him. The sound of him.

Draco pulled away, pressing his face into the side of Harry’s neck and sucking slow, soft kisses against his skin. It was almost weird, but definitely amazing, the feeling tingly and unnerving, and Harry stretched his head to the side further to give Draco greater access, twisting to sit beside him on the bed once again.

“So fucking lazy,” Draco murmured against his skin, which Harry thought was unfair, but he couldn’t be bothered to answer. “All right then,” Draco said, sounding warm and amused, and he pulled away, briefly standing up, before sinking to his knees on the soft, thick carpet, to sit in front of Harry. Harry twisted back to face him, only to find himself unable to look Draco in the eye as Draco hooked his fingers into Harry’s waistband. “Up,” Draco ordered, and Harry lifted his bum as Draco dragged down his trousers, and then found himself making an extremely embarrassing noise when Draco leaned in between his thighs – and there was no other way of describing it – nuzzled his cock through his boxer shorts, rubbing his cheeks, his mouth, over the fabric.

Harry’s legs felt all trembly. Fucking hell – he was really going to do this. He was going to let another bloke . . . He – he thought that if Draco threatened to stop now, he was going to beg another bloke . . .

Draco kissed the inside of his thigh. “All right?” he asked, and sat back to give Harry a level look. “Not freaking out?”

Harry was freaking out, but he couldn’t tell if it was in a bad way or not. His stomach felt like it was full of squirmy things, his cock and balls aching to be touched. “I’m fine!” he managed, spreading his thighs wider in an attempt to give himself some relief.

Draco was still looking at him. “OK,” Draco said eventually, reaching down to cup Harry’s cock in his palm. Harry could feel his face flushing, couldn’t look away from Draco’s face as Draco started to rub him through his boxers, slow but firm. The fabric dragged over his cock, the warmth of Draco’s hand leaching through the fabric. It was delicious, and infuriating, and a bloke had his hand on his cock. “Sure?” Draco asked, hand still moving.

Harry nodded, very hard, feeling unable to speak he was so turned on. He pushed his hips against Draco’s hand, felt even redder when Draco’s lips quirked into a smug smile. Draco – still not taking his eyes off Harry’s face – moved his hand and then Harry could feel fingers against his sides again. He lifted his arse in anticipation, and Draco tugged his boxers down, and off.

Harry felt very exposed, sitting there naked in front of Draco, particularly when Draco dropped his gaze briefly to look at Harry’s cock. Then Draco was reaching his chin up for an awkward kiss again, and Harry sank into it.

Draco pulled away, and as he did so, he wrapped a hand around Harry’s cock and started jerking him off, slow but firm. Harry didn’t think he’d ever been so embarrassed and so turned on. It was excruciatingly delicious, Draco watching him intently as he squirmed and twitched, every movement of Draco’s wrist making warm, delicious pressure build inside him.

It was . . . it was almost too much. He groaned, and Draco’s lips parted before he pressed them together again, his hand moving away from Harry’s cock. And then – sweet Merlin – Draco had his head between Harry’s legs. Just kissing the inside of his thighs, to start with, as Harry’s cock ached and ached and ached. But moving closer in, to nuzzle – and lick – his balls. Harry curled his toes and tried to breathe steadily, but the first swipe of Draco’s tongue along his cock nearly had him losing control, just the sight of it was so hot.

Draco spent several long, torturous minutes just licking. The feeling was ticklish and arousing, but not satisfying. Harry curled his fingers in the duvet on the bed and tried not to go mad, tried not to push his cock in Draco’s face to make him suck it. The arousal was making him feel twitchy and shivery, and every time his cockhead released a drop of precum, Draco licked it off, the sensation almost too intense to tolerate.

“Please,” Harry found himself saying, clenching his thighs, tightening his hands in the bedcovers. “Please, Draco, please.”

Draco snorted, soft and self-satisfied. “Finally,” he murmured, and a tiny part of Harry felt like he should resent that, screamed out against it, but his cock was in charge and he found he didn’t actually care, as long as Draco gave him some relief.

Draco took another long, flat lick, and then another, before raising his eyes to meet Harry’s and – Harry tried not to come on the spot – opening his mouth and taking in Harry’s cock a couple of inches. It felt amazing. Draco’s mouth was warm and wet, and then he started moving – sliding his head up and down, a firm, wet, pressure building around Harry’s cock. He was taking more in with each slide, his lips now wet. Harry watched his cock disappearing into Draco’s mouth, thought he’d never seen anything hotter in his life, and never would again. Everything was wet, and hot, and tight. Draco was straining his neck to look him in the eye, moaning as he sucked.

Harry was moaning too now, overwhelmed by the heat, the pressure. The sight before him. Draco on his knees, his mouth full. It couldn’t be real. And yet. Draco kept sucking. The pressure kept building, and building, and building. Harry could feel his thighs shaking, threw back his head, then managed to look back down again at Draco. “I’m going to . . . fuck . . .” Harry said, clenching his stomach muscles rigid in an effort not to come yet.

Draco just kept on sucking though, a steady, slow, unbearable pressure. Harry started swearing, now unable to stop his legs from actually shaking. He thought he might fall off the bed. He was so close. So close. So—

Harry felt the pressure peak, and he couldn’t hold off any longer. His orgasm hit him like an explosion, and he was coming in waves, the pressure rising and falling as he came helplessly into Draco’s mouth.

Draco held still, and then continued to suck, very gently. Harry felt his eyes roll back in his head, couldn’t stop juddering.

“Well, that was something,” Draco said, sounding hoarse and incredibly smug all at once. Harry shot a look at him, and he was wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, his face still shiny with spit. “You taste OK,” he said.

“Thanks,” Harry said, not sure how to reply to that one. He felt strung out and blissful, and fucking hell, he wanted to do that again, right now, and then again for luck. Except . . . he didn’t want to do exactly that, did he? “Come here,” he said, tugging on Draco’s arm to get him to stand up.

Draco rose, keeping a firm grip on the towel around his waist which was threatening to slide off. Harry raised his eyebrows. “You don’t want . . .?” he said.

Draco flushed, looking more embarrassed than when he’d had Harry’s cock in his mouth. But he raised his chin and released his grip, the towel sliding off his waist and pooling at his feet.

Harry stared. Draco’s cock was very hard, and very red, compared to Draco’s pale skin. It jutted out from a bush of pale curly hairs, proud and thick. Harry had never seen another bloke’s hard-on before, and the sight was both arousing and intimidating. “Come and lie down,” Harry mumbled, shuffling up the bed and lying back against the mound of pillows.

Draco paused for a moment, then came to lie awkwardly beside him. “You don’t have to,” he said, which Harry thought was kind of ridiculous.

“I want to,” he said, which also sounded ridiculous – why did they have to say anything out loud? Surely silence was much easier on the nerves. His glasses were now digging into his face uncomfortably, so he tugged them off and turned briefly to put them on the bedside table. “Er, tell me if you like it a different way,” he said when he’d turned back to face Draco, and he reached down between their bodies and took Draco’s cock in his hand. It was hot to the touch, and as Harry wrapped his fingers round it and took a tentative stroke, he could feel it swell even further inside his grip.

“Oh God,” Draco said, small and controlled, and leant forward to kiss Harry.

It felt incredibly weird, touching another man, but within about five seconds Harry had decided he was perfectly happy with it, and actually, if Draco would continue squirming like that he’d be happy to do it a lot more. Draco was practically fucking his mouth with his tongue now, and that was also a bit weird, Harry thought in a dazed way, tasting his own come in Draco Malfoy’s mouth, but again, it was something he decided he’d like a lot more practise at.

Harry jerked Draco how he liked to be touched himself when he was already pretty turned on – holding his cock firm, his strokes long and quick. Draco seemed to be enjoying it, Harry thought, by the way he was kissing him. By the little grunts and sobs he was making. By the way he was almost fucking Harry’s hand, in rhythm with Harry’s movements.

In only a few minutes, Draco stopped kissing Harry, his mouth pressed open and hard against Harry’s mouth, and started jerking. Harry felt his hand, his stomach, grow wet. He continued stroking Draco until he reached down to bat Harry’s hand away, Draco then kissing him over and over, pressing their bodies together until Harry was panting and hard again already.

Draco reached down and started to jerk him off again, and they lay there like that, kissing and kissing, Draco’s hand working between his legs, while Harry lost his mind all over again.

^^^^^^

After, as Harry’s brain made what he considered a very heroic attempt to turn back on again, he did some simple arithmetic and worked out that he’d not been much of a gentleman. Draco had turned to lie flat on his back, and Harry thought about just reaching over and giving his cock another stroke, but he wasn’t hard again, and this gave Harry pause for thought. Did . . . Draco not want another go? Harry had definitely wanted another go. Could, in fact, be persuaded to enthusiastically participate in a fourth go, given a short rest.

“Do you not want . . .?” he mumbled, and then decided better of it, rolling face first into the pillow and deciding suffocation would be a fine end to the evening.

Draco laughed, but to Harry’s embarrassed ears, the sound was warm and mocking, rather than just mocking. It made a difference. “Of course I want,” he said, “but I’ve jerked off so much recently thinking about this, I think my dick’s gone on strike.”

Harry was glad his face was in the pillow; Draco wouldn’t be able to see him blushing.

“The back of your neck’s gone bright red,” Draco said, now more mocking, but Harry felt a warm hand rest between his shoulder blades, stroking down his back to sit at the base of his spine. Harry felt like he could sink into the mattress and happily float away. “Anyway, we can have another go tomorrow morning,” Draco added, matter-of-fact. “I don’t have to sound-check till four.”

Sound-check? Harry remembered, feeling like an idiot, that Draco was a pop star now. He’d seen him in concert earlier than evening, hadn’t he? It felt like years ago. Before he’d . . . done the gay stuff. Harry considered this, the scent of the hotel linen thick in his nose. He’d had gay sex, even though they hadn’t tried any . . . arse stuff. Was he meant to be freaking out properly now? He didn’t feel like freaking out over that. If he was going to freak out about anything, he thought, a little thrown by the realisation, it was that he was in bed with Draco Malfoy, more than the fact that Draco was a bloke.

Harry removed his face from the pillow before he could suffocate, turning to find that Draco was now on his side, facing him. “You’ve still got glitter on your face,” he said stupidly, noticing faint twinkles on Draco’s cheeks; the other side of the bedroom was a blur, but Draco’s face was so close, he was almost in perfect focus.

“Bastard stuff’s impossible to get rid of,” Draco said, hand now resting on Harry’s side. “It’s on your face too now, by the way.”

Harry resisted the urge to get up and check. He didn’t think he could move, anyway.

Draco’s face did something complicated, and then he reached up to push Harry’s hair out of his face, rubbing his thumb over the scar on Harry’s forehead. “I don’t know why I was jealous of this,” he said eventually, looking somewhere over Harry’s shoulder. “Does it still hurt?”

“Not since Voldemort died,” Harry said uncomfortably. “And yours – does that . . .?”

Draco looked very tired and worn all of a sudden. He took his hand out of Harry’s hair, to stare at the faint trails of the Dark Mark on his inner arm. “It only hurt whenever the Dark Lord activated it,” he said. “Now it’s just a shit tattoo and a shit reminder of my terrible choices. At least the fucking thing’s faded to almost nothing now the bastard’s dead.”

Harry wondered if he’d feel different about lying next to Draco if the Dark Mark was always black and vivid on his inner arm, rather than so pale and transparent that he could barely see it, even when he had his glasses on. He wasn’t sure, didn’t want to probe that one too hard in case he didn’t like what he found.

“To be fair though,” Draco continued, low and sulky, “my choices were between taking the Dark Mark and trying to save both mine and my father’s lives or rejecting the Dark Mark and being murdered on the spot. Maybe you would have heroically chosen differently, but I’m fairly pleased to still be alive, despite everything.”

Harry remembered – bizarrely – the T-shirt Draco had worn on stage, earlier that night. The bright green snake, winding round his torso and curling chokingly round his neck. “Is your pillow talk always so sexy?” he asked, finding the whole conversation unamusing. “I’m glad you’re alive too. I saved your life when you and your friends were trying to kill me, if you remember.”

“And I saved yours right back,” Draco flashed back.

There was an awkward, curdled silence. Harry didn’t know what to say, wondering how he could ever have been naïve enough to have thought sleeping with Draco wouldn’t lead to horrible conversations about the past that he didn’t want to have.

“Did you really think I was trying to kill you?” Draco said wearily after a while. “I seem to remember things differently to you.”

“Weren’t you?” Harry asked. “You were going to turn me over to Voldemort. What did you think he was going to do? Read me a bedtime story?” Sometimes he could still smell the Room of Requirement burning. He shivered, trying not to remember. He hadn’t liked Crabbe, but that wasn’t the point.

“I just wanted to stop you winning, get into the Dark Lord’s good books so he’d leave my father alone,” Draco said bitterly. Then he sighed. “I suppose you see that as the same, but I never wanted you actually dead.”

It was a pretty fucking fine line, Harry thought.

“Well, apart from when my father went to Azkaban,” Draco continued relentlessly. “I think I wanted you dead then. But after that . . . I couldn’t have fucking cared less what happened to you.”

“You . . . you were good tonight,” Harry said, to change the subject, because he was too tired for this shit. “The concert, I mean.”

Draco seemed to consider this, his face still pinched with horrible memories, and then he relaxed fractionally, his forehead smoothing out. “All right,” he said, still sharp and bitter. “We can talk about something else. You thought I was good?”

Harry could feel an argument still brewing in the air, whipping up gusts of bad feeling. “Yes, very,” he said firmly, because it was true. Draco wasn’t an amazing singer, and he wasn’t an amazing dancer either, but he’d had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand the entire night. When he was on stage, Harry had found it almost impossible to look away.

“I . . . thank you,” Draco said, now sounding puzzled. His eyes met Harry’s; they were very pale, and Harry wondered if they were blue or grey. He’d always thought of them as grey, and cold, but close up he could see swirls of whites and blues and greys. Draco’s eyes were made of smoke – misty and electric all at once. “Aren’t you going to ask me about my newfound love of Muggles?” he continued after a moment, a challenge in his voice.

Harry pressed his lips together to stop himself saying anything unhelpful, and Draco looked away. “You know, on the first morning when I woke up to find myself in this place, practically a Muggle, I thought it was revolting,” Draco continued, and paused, as if daring Harry to say something. Harry didn’t. “But . . . then I found out that Pansy was my manager. Pansy! And . . . I met Luna, and Blaise, and . . .” He didn’t seem to know how to describe it, frustration in his voice. He reached up to scratch through his hair. “I don’t know what they are here – Muggles, wizards who haven’t found their powers yet, Squibs. But they seem just the same as they are back in the real world.” He made a noise of disgust. “Pansy is just so . . . . You know we haven’t spoken since that last day at school . . .?”

Harry hadn’t known that.

“I miss her so much, but she’s so . . . I don’t think she understood why I sided with the Dark Lord, in those last years. I think she enjoyed it too much. I never enjoyed it,” Draco said flatly. “And I know you wanted to change the subject, but I just can’t. I’m never a mess, except when you’re around.”

“Thanks for the compliment!” Harry said, stung.

“Don’t get offended, for fuck’s sake,” Draco said. “We’re talking about my issues right now, not yours.”

A bone of contention stuck in Harry’s throat. “Well, you’d better make it quick, because I understand you’re only in London for a couple more days before you’re pissing off to Europe.”

For some reason, this seemed to actually amuse Draco. “Going to miss me after all?” he asked, lips quirking.

“No!” Harry said.

Draco stared at him.

“I just . . .” Harry amended, and then faltered, not sure what he wanted to say. “Don’t be a dick,” he said, rallying. “This is pretty weird, you have to admit. And it was you who said you didn’t even want to be friends, remember?”

“Yes, I did say that,” Draco agreed, and then seemed to be waiting for something. Finally, though, he shrugged, turning to roll away from Harry on to his back again. “You could always come with me,” he suggested, very off-hand. “It’s not like you have anything better to do.”

The implication that Harry should follow Draco around Europe like some kind of Cruppie made Harry feel annoyed. “I have a job!” he said.

Draco snorted. “And you’ll be a tragic loss to the world of retail, I’m sure.”

“Parvati is relying on me,” Harry said flatly. “And being a shop worker is nothing to be ashamed of, Muggle or not. Ron works in a shop.”

“He owns the shop,” Draco pointed out, voice now sounding a bit tight.

“So he’s better than Trina, who also works there, because he’s richer?” Harry said, the question coming out overly loud.

“For fuck’s sake,” Draco muttered under his breath. “I want you to come with me, OK?” he flared up. “Do you fucking want to come or not?”

“Well, yes,” Harry said sulkily. “But not if you’re going to be insulting to people who don’t own half of Wiltshire.”

“You could probably buy all of Wiltshire,” Draco pointed out, still sounding cross, “the amount of Galleons you have in your Gringotts vault. Aren’t you heir to the Sleekeazey fortune? You kept that one quiet at school.”

“Probably didn’t want to be looked down on as new money,” Harry said arsily. “Also, I was kind of preoccupied at the time by being an orphan who was born to defend the world from evil, if you remember.”

“Yes, yes, we all know about how you died to save the universe,” Draco said, an eye roll in his voice, and then to Harry’s bemusement Draco leaned forward and kissed him, very thoroughly. It took the sting out of the conversation somewhat, and when Draco finally pulled away, cheeks very pink, it was to say, “Oh, the things I’m going to do to you.” He spoiled it slightly with a yawn he couldn’t hold back.

Harry grinned, feeling the churning in his stomach calm down to be replaced by anticipation. And a memory of a promise he’d made to himself earlier flashed up in his mind. “If I agree to come – and I’m not quitting my job, you wanker, so it’ll be dependent on if I can take it as a last-minute holiday – I have one condition,” he said firmly.

“Oh?” Draco said, going still.

“Will you come and see Hermione with me tomorrow? I want to talk to her about ideas for breaking the spell. She’s had some good suggestions, and . . . and you do want to help me get us back home, don’t you?” Harry ended doubtfully, at the look on Draco’s face. “I know I asked before, and you didn’t exactly say yes, but we haven’t really discussed it properly so far. I . . . I know it was pretty shit for you, how things turned out, but it doesn’t mean the rest of your life has to be terrible too.”

“Thanks for your insight,” Draco said with aching politeness.

Harry tried not to frown, feeling massively conflicted.

“Yes, all right, don’t look at me like that,” Draco said. “I’ll go and see Hermione with you. I suppose the sight of her fawning over me might be amusing, at least.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, deciding not to rise to the bait; he was too thankful that he didn’t have a battle on his hands. He felt completely knackered. It must be gone two or three in the morning by now. “It’s a shame I haven’t managed to get in touch with Ron yet,” he mumbled through a yawn. Not that he’d tried, he thought, feeling more determined to do so. “It would be good to see him too. Pick his brains.”

“He has a brain to pick?” Draco asked with mock-surprise, and then grinned when Harry scowled at him. “God, you owe me,” he said bafflingly, and then got up off the bed, going to where he’d left his clothes and rooting through the pockets.

Harry tried not to stare at his arse, and only managed it because he couldn’t see properly without his glasses.

Draco came back with a phone in his hand, flopping back down next to Harry, his thumbs working. He paused, and then his phone made a buzzing noise. Draco screwed up his nose and then sent another text, chucking his phone carelessly on to his bedside table. “Sorted,” he said. “Apparently, he’ll have to bunk off training, but he was going to do that anyway because he’s met a fit bird tonight and is about to . . .” Draco screwed up his face. “I can’t even say it. Disgusting.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry said politely, “did you just text Ron?”

Draco rolled his eyes. “You’ll be Head Auror in no time with a brain like that.” And then, when Harry was deciding whether pushing Draco off the bed might be a good course of action, he said, “Ron and I went to school together, you know. He’s been sending me texts pretty much every day. We appear to be . . .” He wrinkled his nose. “Friends.”

“You’re friends with Ron?” Harry asked, feeling hurt, and feeling ridiculous about feeling hurt. He wanted to say but Ron’s MY friend, but kept it inside, where something so pathetic belonged.

Draco frowned. “Yes, odd isn’t it? Apparently, our sporting rivalry was legendary, even though he plays in defence and I, allegedly, was a striker, whatever that means. I probably could have been a professional footballer too, if I’d chosen that rather than international singing stardom,” he said lightly. “Multi-talented.”

“I wonder how things would have been different if we’d been friends at school,” Harry found himself saying.

Draco was silent for a long time. Then, finally, he said, his voice odd, “I wonder.” He didn’t wait for Harry to reply though, instead stretching over to turn off the light switch by the side of his bed and giving the covers a shove so he could slide under them. Harry followed suit, wondering if he should reach out and hug Draco, or if that would be odd. While he was wondering this though, tiredness overcame him, and at some point he fell asleep without having made a decision either way.

Chapter Text

Harry woke pressed up tight against Draco under the covers, Draco’s hair in his face and his raging hard on digging into Draco’s back. It would have been a pleasant, if unusual way, to wake, if it hadn’t been for the fact it wasn’t the discomfort that had woken him up. No, it was the row Draco appeared to be having with Pansy.

Harry opened his eyes in a panic, to find that Pansy wasn’t actually in the room, thank Godric. She was, however, standing in the half-open doorway, her back towards them. Her back, even blurred, looked angry.

“You are meant to be doing an interview with Smash Hits in half an hour,” Pansy said angrily. “What do you mean, you’re not available? Stop thinking with your dick and get your clothes on. You can fuck your little shop boy tonight, when you’ve done your job.”

Little shop boy?! Harry must have made a noise of outrage, because Draco seemed to realise he’d woken up. He gave Harry a small, and entirely unnecessary, kick in the shin with his heel.

“I love you to the moon and back, Pans,” Draco said crossly, “but sometimes you can be a real cow. Apologise right now.”

“Sorry, Harry,” Pansy said, through what sounded like gritted teeth. “But—”

“You didn’t tell me I had a magazine interview today,” Draco said firmly, “and I’ve made other plans. Ones I can’t break. You can reschedule the interview for tomorrow, if you must. And next time knock, for fuck’s sake.”

“Fine!” Pansy said, sounding seriously annoyed.

“And Harry will be joining me on the tour,” Draco said, when Pansy started moving away, making her stop dead in her tracks. “So make whatever tedious arrangements you need to, OK?”

“Sometimes you drive me up the fucking wall, Draco,” Pansy said, and she half turned to slam the door shut behind her.

“So dramatic,” Draco said, sounding unimpressed.

“Yes, I wonder why you two were ever friends,” Harry said.

Draco turned, rolling over and pinning Harry underneath him. His hair was a soft, floppy mess, his expression daring. He really was lovely, Harry thought dumbly, despite the fact he was a massive bell-end. “For that little jibe, you can stroke your own cock this morning,” Draco said, rolling off him and getting off the bed.

This didn’t strike Harry as a reasonable punishment. God, he thought, staring at the ceiling. Had he really got used to this gay thing so easily? He felt panic rise, but pushed it down; he could examine it later, when Draco wasn’t there staring at him, making it impossible to think.

“Anyway, I don’t think we have time,” Draco said, looking at his phone. “It’s already midday. We’ll be cutting it fine to fit in a reunion of the golden trio and get back to Wembley on time as it is.”

“Wembley?” Harry repeated, still not properly awake, but fumbling for his glasses.

“Yes, Harry, Wembley,” Draco said very slowly, as if Harry was hard of thinking. “I have three nights there, and then it’s on to . . .” He frowned. “I can’t remember. Germany, possibly. Or is it France?”

“There’s a T-shirt downstairs with your tour dates on if you can’t remember,” Harry said, wanting to get out of bed but feeling hugely self-conscious about being naked – and still hard – in front of Draco in the daytime. “Have you got a towel and stuff you can lend me? I really need a wash. Oh – and clean clothes, maybe. We’re roughly the same size.”

“Actually, I’m at least an inch taller, and I’d say you eat considerably more fried food than I do,” Draco said, wrinkling his nose. Then he smiled, an edge of mischief in his expression. “But OK. Go and use the bathroom – there’s spares of all the toiletries your heart could ever wish for in the cupboard, I expect, given what this hotel is like – and I’ll find you something to wear.”

“Are you calling me fat?” Harry asked, casting aside his dignity and getting up, leaving the safety of the duvet behind him. He gave his stomach an experimental poke. OK, so he wasn’t solid muscle, but then neither was Draco!

“No, I’m sure you’re just big boned,” Draco said unsympathetically, then grinned as Harry threw a pillow at him before sulking out of the room towards the bathroom.

He wasn’t fat, Harry thought as he looked at himself in the mirrored shower wall, the steam from the water failing to fog it up. He just wasn’t as slim as Draco. After years of being scrawny, he’d filled out a bit, and the hard work of his day job – which was often a night job too – had given him lean muscles he’d never really noticed before. Draco could stand to eat more, Harry thought, although his body wasn’t bony, as such, just slender and toned. As if he was a pop star, who had nothing to do other than go to the gym and be worshipped, Harry thought with irritation as he soaped himself up quickly, trying not to think too hard about Draco’s naked body. He wasn’t too keen on the idea of wanking solo in the shower with Draco just downstairs, and he needed a piss, a task that was much trickier than usual when combined with morning wood.

Harry finished up in the shower quickly, then brushed his teeth and used the loo. He slid his glasses back on his nose and then left the bathroom, still towelling his wet hair. Draco wasn’t in the bedroom, but there was a pile of clothes on the bed that Harry presumed was for him. He looked through it – underwear, jeans, socks, and . . . Harry’s tour T-shirt. Harry eyed it, then put his clothes on and went downstairs.

Draco, now dressed in a white fluffy robe, was making coffee, and his face broke out into an amazing grin when he saw Harry.

“It’s only yourself you’re embarrassing,” Harry said levelly as Draco passed him a cup.

Draco didn’t reply to that, just kept on grinning.

“Go and wash that look off your face,” Harry said firmly, and Draco did a mock bow, before going back up the stairs, and soon Harry could hear the distant sound of the shower going.

Harry sat back on the sofa, taking a grateful sip of coffee. He didn’t even like coffee very much, but it was the drink of the gods when your brain wasn’t working right. He took his phone out of his pocket – it still held a small charge – and dialled Hermione’s number.

It took her some convincing that he was serious about wanting to bring Draco over in the next hour or so, but when the Knut dropped, she made an ear-piercing shriek – something about the state of the place, Harry thought, trying not to bleed from the brain – and hung up, by which Harry presumed she was off to lay out the red carpet for a man who’d once called her a filthy little Mudblood. It depressed him briefly, but then he told himself that Draco had changed, hadn’t he? And this question – of whether Draco had changed, or was just good at adapting himself to whatever situation he found himself in – occupied him until Draco emerged from the shower some time later. He looked relatively normal today, thank goodness – or at least as normal as Draco ever would in Muggle clothes, although he still glittered faintly when he caught the light.

“Sorry I took a while,” Draco said cheerfully. “I had to have a wank.”

“You didn’t,” Harry said, feeling the borrowed jeans already growing tighter than was comfortable.

“No,” Draco said, still cheerful. “But how would you know for sure?” He strode about the room, finding a pair of trainers in the corner and shoving them on, before rescuing his abandoned coffee and drinking it straight down. “Come on, let’s go. Is Granger going to feed us? I’m so hungry I could eat my own arm. Or your arm.” He slouched over to the lift door and pressed the button, the lift doors sliding open almost immediately.

Harry sent Hermione a text when they got to the lobby, asking if she’d mind getting in a sandwich or two if it wasn’t too much trouble, and Draco strode over to the reception, the man as wide as a room suddenly there by Draco’s side, as if he’d appeared out of nowhere. “I need a car,” Draco said to the receptionist.

“Please,” Harry added, which made Draco roll his eyes at him.

“Please,” he said sweetly to the receptionist. The woman giggled, lifting a telephone receiver, and shortly after a man in a peaked cap was striding towards them, ushering them towards the door.

Outside, about forty or fifty girls were waiting, very close to the door, and they started yelling Draco’s name as soon as he was visible.

“Great,” Draco said, sounding annoyed, but the extra-wide bodyguard was already in front of him, an impenetrable wall, and somehow they managed to make it the few steps between the hotel and the car without being crushed to death. Draco smiled the whole time, waving, but it was a fixed smile now, as if he was bored of the whole business.

“It’s fun being famous, isn’t it,” Harry said helpfully, which Draco ignored.

“Pansy’s going to kill me,” he said instead, shutting his eyes against the clicks of photographers as the car pulled away.

^^^^^^

Hermione appeared to have bought out a full delicatessen, even though she didn’t have space to put anything. There were platters of meats piled on thick textbooks, nestling up to boxes of delicate, frilly cakes, in turn uncomfortably close to quiches and tartlets and the tiniest sausage rolls Harry had ever seen. He almost stepped in a pie when he got in the door, and Draco was in grave danger of sitting in a trifle before Hermione swooped in to rescue it with a shrill giggle.

Draco, a fixed smile on his face, made short work of a tiny plate of elegant cakes, and then moved on to a box of chocolates, Hermione talking non-stop, apparently attempting to list every achievement Draco had ever made, starting from the time he was seven and had passed his grade eight piano.

Harry didn’t stop her, thinking Draco probably deserved it, and too hungry to talk, anyway. He helped himself to a big piece of quiche and then some of the mixed meats and cheeses, before battling Draco for the last remaining chocolate in the box. It was this that ended Hermione’s monologue; she stared at Harry, obviously unimpressed, and then seemed to remember what they were actually there for.

“Oh! We were going to talk about your little problem,” she said, and cast a sidelong glance at Draco, as if she didn’t want to say the word ‘magic’ out loud, in case Harry was a psychopath after all.

Draco apparently hadn’t forgiven Harry for the chocolate theft. “We should wait till Ron gets here,” he said, an unpleasant smile on his face. “You have told Granger about Ron, right?”

Hermione glared at Harry. “Not this again,” she said, shooting another sidelong glance at Draco. “You can’t mean to tell me you’ve invited that oaf here.”

“Harry made me,” Draco said sweetly.

“He’s your best friend,” Harry countered, which made Draco turn green and made Hermione pause for thought.

“Maybe he has hidden depths,” she managed.

“What, Ron Weasley?” Draco said, raising his eyebrows.

“Ron’s great,” Harry said defensively. “This isn’t fair, Draco, and you know it.”

Luckily – or unluckily, depending on your point of view – at that moment the doorbell rang, and soon a conflicted-looking Hermione was ushering Ron into her tiny bedsit. She went to move the quiche for him to sit down, but he pounced on it, picking up a slice that was technically half a quiche rather than a portion and taking a large bite.

“I’m bloody starving,” he said through a full mouth and swallowed it down. “Thanks, love.”

Hermione watched him with sick fascination. “He didn’t even chew,” she murmured.

Ron went pink. “What was that?” he said, wiping his mouth with a finger. “I’ve had a hard week! I burn it all off on the pitch, anyway.” He took another large bite of quiche. “Got any coke?” he said, spraying crumbs. “Full fat.”

Hermione shuddered and got up, coming back after a moment and pointedly passing him a glass of water.

Ron grinned lazily and chugged it down. “What we here for then, mate?” he said to Draco. “Presumably not this bird. She doesn’t look your type.”

“And what is his type?” Hermione said freezingly.

“Cock and balls,” Ron said, still grinning, and reached for the tiny sausage rolls. Then he seemed to realise what he’d said. “Oh, er, I mean—” he stuttered, shooting an apologetic glance at Draco. “He’s more into male friends than dating right now,” he managed.

“Good save,” Draco said drily.

“You, er, male friends with this bloke then?” Ron said, turning to Harry and giving him the onceover.

It was the strangest thing that had ever happened to him, Harry thought: Ron checking him out, to see if he was good enough for Draco Malfoy. He resisted the urge to speak, afraid of what he might say. He was aware, too that he wanted to leap up and hug Ron, but he thought Ron might take that as a come-on, given the situation.

“He’s wearing a T-shirt with your face on, mate,” Ron said cheerfully to Draco, after he’d finished the examination and clearly found Harry wanting. “Just thought I’d point it out in case you’d temporarily gone blind. Surely that’s a boner-killer, if ever there was one.”

Hermione drew herself up to her full height. “It just shows he’s a proper, devoted fan!” she said defensively.

Harry opened his mouth to say that actually, all it showed was that Draco was an unspeakable narcissist, but Draco smoothly cut him off before he’d begun. “This is Harry,” he said. “You might not believe what he has to say.”

Oh, bloody hell. Once again Harry found himself spectacularly unprepared to explain to a friend who didn’t recognise him that magic was real. He could try what he’d said to Hermione, Harry thought dubiously. OK, so that hadn’t gone brilliantly, but it had worked out OK in the end, hadn’t it?

“Well, go on then, Harry,” Draco said unkindly, and Hermione smiled at him, whipping out another box of chocolates from under a giant model of a tooth and handing it over.

“Er, right,” Harry said, and set about the business of explaining to Ron that he was actually a wizard. It went about as well as it had done with Hermione, Harry thought, if you twisted the English language to make ‘as well’ mean ‘much, much worse’.

“Yeah, bollocks,” Ron said when Harry had finished. “Sorry, but that’s a load of stinking old horseshit. Surely you don’t believe it, Draco?”

Draco didn’t say anything, and for a moment Harry experienced an overwhelming sensation of outrage. Was Draco going to deny it? Then Draco shot a look at Harry and winked, the dickhead. “Unfortunately, it’s all true,” Draco said.

Ron looked like he’d been hit on the head with a copy of Hogwarts: A History. “What, magic?” he said.

Draco nodded.

“The evil bloke with no nose?”

Draco winced, but again nodded.

“Wizards?” Ron tried again.

More nodding.

“Well, fuck me,” Ron said, and lapsed into silence. “You sure you’re not on drugs?” he tried after a moment.

“Pretty sure,” Draco said cheerfully.

Ron’s shoulders slouched. “Do some magic then,” he said, turning to Harry. “You did some for Hermione.”

“Please don’t vanish your own trousers this time,” Hermione said severely, and then she turned to Draco, an alarming light in her eye. “Why don’t you . . .?” she started, and then seemed to think better of it. Her cheeks turned scarlet, and she folded her hands in her lap very primly.

“I should have brought the wand with me,” Harry said out loud, realising. “Thanks for the suggestion about that, Hermione. It was a good one.” He turned to Ron. “I’m not very good at wandless magic,” he explained. “Only really talented wizards can cast spells reliably without their wands.”

“You still have your wand?” Draco said, sounding odd, and Harry realised that maybe he should have mentioned this to Draco a bit earlier.

“No, but I, um, bought a new one,” he said awkwardly. “Didn’t I tell you I was doing that? It’s made by a Muggle, but it does actually work. At least, it’s better than nothing.”

“Right,” Draco said, and he closed the lid of the box of chocolates, setting it by his feet. “I see.” He didn’t look very well, Harry thought, feeling weird about it.

“Are you OK, Draco?” Hermione asked, before Harry could. “Can I get you anything?”

“He’s just eaten too much chocolate,” Ron said unsympathetically. “He always was a pig when it came to sweets.”

Hermione turned to him, the light of battle in her eyes. “Draco has perfect teeth,” she said haughtily, “so it’s impossible that he eats too much sugar.”

“He probably magicked them that way,” Ron said stoutly. “With his wand, while I wasn’t looking.” He frowned, clearly thinking. “You knowing magic certainly explains a few things,” he said reprovingly to Draco. “You could have told me earlier, you know. We could have got up to all sorts of mischief!”

“Weren’t you even listening?” Hermione said, raising her eyebrows. “The Draco you know couldn’t do magic. This one’s different.”

“I was listening hard enough to find out that in this other world, you and I apparently get it on,” Ron said, and turned to Draco in appeal. “You sure you got that right? She seems a bit of a stuck-up know-it-all, if you ask me.”

Hermione went red. “Better a stuck-up know-it-all than a lowlife who makes a living kicking a ball and spends his evenings slobbering over C-list women with boob jobs!” she said shrilly.

Ron replied angrily, and Draco leaned in towards Harry and said, as the argument raged on, his voice dripping ice, “If only you’d brought your wand, you could have cast Silencio on the pair of them. Pity, really.”

“I was going to tell you!” Harry protested. “I wasn’t keeping it a secret, I swear.”

Hermione stopped whatever she was saying and said to Harry, her eyebrows raised, “Draco hasn’t tried the wand yet? It seems pretty obvious to me that that’s your next step. If the finishing spell didn’t work for you—”

Finite Incantatem,” Harry said awkwardly as Draco’s eyebrows also rose.

“—then it might well work for Draco. Either way, you should definitely work together. The pair of you seem bound by this wish magic, don’t you think?”

Harry wasn’t sure how he felt about being ‘bound’ to Draco, in any sense.

“Really,” Hermione said, sounding more like Hermione again, “the two of you don’t seem to have taken even the most basic steps to fix whatever it is you’ve done. Have you even retraced your steps to recreate the scene of the initial magic?”

“Yes!” Harry protested. “I was, er, looking at the stars when I made the wish, so when I’ve tried to end the spell, I’ve looked at the stars.”

Harry could feel Draco looking at him, but didn’t want to turn his face. He felt ridiculous. He couldn’t even remember if he’d told Draco his theory about how he’d made the world change, which now struck him as particularly dense. It was as if he didn’t actually want to fix things, deep down, which wasn’t true, was it?

Was it?

Hermione snorted. “That doesn’t sound very scientific to me. Where were you? What time was it? And what did you say precisely?”

“If I knew what I’d said precisely then we wouldn’t be in this mess,” Harry protested, while Draco remained distressingly silent. “All right. It was after an event.” He tried to remember. “I was on the roof of my house. It was . . . late.”

“Late?” Hermione asked.

“I’m not sure – maybe two or three in the morning. I couldn’t sleep. I’d had a bit too much to drink. It had been an arse of a day.”

“Poor you,” Draco said pointedly in his ear, and Harry tried not to wince, remembering it hadn’t exactly been a barrel of laughs for Draco either.

“Yes, all right,” he said, turning to look at Draco. Draco’s face was very pinched, his hands knitted tightly together. “I like to go to my roof and look at the stars after a long day,” he continued apologetically, turning back to Hermione. “I . . .” He tried to remember. The stars were so bright that night, so beautiful. “I suppose I must have cast a spell to stop the street lights working – to hide the light pollution you know. The stars were very bright. Some of them seemed to be dancing across the sky.”

“Oh?” Hermione said, sitting bolt upright. “No, carry on,” she said, when Harry waited for her to speak.

“Yes, carry on, I’m really glad I bunked off footie training for this load of old balls,” Ron said cheerfully, and Hermione elbowed him in the side.

“I had some more to drink,” Harry said, ignoring Draco’s soft snort of disdain, “and I wished . . .” He still couldn’t remember exactly what he’d wished for. “I think I wished that things were different.” He tried not to go red. “I’d been thinking about Draco a bit – we’d, uh, bumped into each other earlier. I suppose I was feeling bad about it. We have a bit of a history,” he mumbled, not sure how to explain it, and not feeling able to be entirely honest, given Draco was sitting right next to him, glaring at his ear. “Then when I woke up, things were different. I could remember everything, but the wizarding world seemed to have vanished.”

“The wizarding world! Couldn’t you have come up with a cooler name for it?” Ron complained.

“Cooler?” Hermione said acerbically. “There are dragons in the wizarding world, Harry says. And goblins, and flying on broomsticks, and potions that cure broken bones, and you’re worried about it not sounding cool enough?”

“He also said the blokes wear dresses,” Ron said stubbornly. “I mean, what’s that about? Don’t your balls catch a chill when you’re on your broomstick? And don’t even get me started on the chaffing. The inside seam of my shorts is deadly enough as it is, without shoving a wooden stick between my legs too.”

There was a collective shudder as they all pictured this against their will. “Right!” Hermione said briskly. “So you made this wish last . . . Tuesday, was it?” She stood up and walked over to a calendar on her wall. “I thought you said you studied Astronomy at school,” she said, an air of reproof in her voice.

“The classes were at midnight!” Harry said defensively. “And what’s that got to do with anything? I can name you a constellation, if you like.”

Hermione sniffed. “No, thank you. I just thought you might be aware that mid April to late May is when the Eta Aquariids are most active. They tend to peak in early May. This year, I believe they were at their height on the second. Tuesday,” she added, in case Harry couldn’t do dates as well as stars.

“What are the Eta Whatchamacallits?” Ron asked.

“It’s a meteor shower,” Hermione said, looking torn between pleasure at being able to explain something and annoyance at having the person asking be Ron. “Dust and debris that exploded from Halley’s Comet hundreds of years ago.” Ron didn’t look like this explanation had helped much. “Shooting stars?” she tried.

“You’re telling me that Harry the wizard wished on a shooting star, and his mate Draco ended up a pop star in another universe?” Ron said, turning a look of bewilderment on Harry. “Sounds like the plot of a straight-to-DVD Disney cartoon.”

“I’m not really his ‘mate’,” Draco said from next to Harry, sounding a bit peculiar. Again, Harry found he really wanted to turn to look at him, to see what sort of face he was pulling, but his neck was so rigid that he couldn’t move.

“I should have known you would be a Disney fan,” Hermione said with gusto to Ron. “It’s just your intellectual speed.” Ron opened his mouth to say something undoubtedly rude, but Hermione cut across him saying, “Anyway, if you really did wish upon a shooting star, Harry, it sounds to me like it’s the meteor shower you need to focus on. And as you’ve only got two or three weeks left before the shower is over, you’d better get a move on. The end of the shower might mean you’re stuck in this reality forever.”

“Which sounds pretty good to me, mate,” Ron said to Draco, “if in your reality I’m dating her.”

Hermione made a noise like a kettle on a hob about to boil over. “I’ll have you know I would never date anyone who has the intellectual depth of a puddle and the manners of a badly behaved cocker spaniel,” she said loftily.

Ron went red with outrage, and Harry tried to turn off his own ears as the argument raged again.

“Is this what Muggles call foreplay?” Draco said with interest when Hermione and Ron both paused for breath.

“NO!” Hermione and Ron said simultaneously, but at least they shut up, both of them all red and cross, Hermione folding her arms with her chin raised high in the air, Ron angrily eating a pork pie.

“Well, do you have any ideas to help Draco and Harry?” Hermione said to Ron, very pointed.

“I dunno,” Ron said. And then he said, very unexpectedly, “Not sure I want to live in a reality where my best mate is someone I hate,” and he rubbed his hand through his hair awkwardly. “Bit of a kicker, that.”

“You and Hermione really are very happy together,” Harry tried.

Hermione raised her chin even higher. “In an emergency, I probably wouldn’t turn Ron away if he had toothache,” she allowed. “But other than that . . .”

“Yeah,” Ron said gloomily. “I had a date with Katie Price last night, you know. Katie Price!”

Harry didn’t know who that was, but thought it better for his blood pressure to remain in ignorance, particularly judging by the look on Hermione’s face right now.

“Well, my theory, Harry,” Hermione said, clearly talking to Draco rather than him, “is that if you want to destroy my life by making me date this Neanderthal, you’ll need another shooting star to make it happen.” She sniffed. “And as I said, I suggest you work together. If, that is, you’re sure it will be for the best.”

Harry was no longer sure of anything, really, apart from the fact that this was the most embarrassing thing that had ever happened before to anyone, ever. Even the memory of Draco confessing that he’d had dirty little fantasies about him seemed tame in comparison to the thought that Draco now knew that Harry had changed the fucking world to, by all appearances, make Draco happy.

“Thank you for your help,” Draco said politely, and went as if to go.

“Oh! Would you mind signing a few things before you leave?” Hermione said, her eyes lighting up.

Draco didn’t mind, it would appear, but it was only after he’d signed practically everything Hermione owned that she would let him go. By this time, Ron had already left, slapping Draco on the back as he went and favouring Harry with a very funny look.

Back in the car – which had, apparently, been waiting outside Hermione’s house all that time, complete with enormous bodyguard and bored-looking driver – Draco looked at his hands and then said, sounding peculiar, “You wished on a shooting star?”

“Um, yes?” Harry said, feeling horrendously, ridiculously awkward. The car set off; towards Wembley Arena and Draco’s date with the sound check, Harry presumed. “I didn’t mean to! I didn’t realise that would happen!” he protested. It didn’t make him feel any better.

Draco glanced over at the bodyguard’s bulk in the front passenger seat. “We can talk about this later,” he said, and they spent the rest of the journey in silence.

^^^^^^

By the time they arrived at the venue, and they’d driven through crowds of waiting fans – Draco sliding down in his seat, clearly not convinced of the effectiveness of the tinted windows – Draco seemed to have got over his odd mood. Even Pansy’s irritated greeting – “You didn’t do anything stupid, did you?” – didn’t seem to reawaken it.

“We left the hotel together, but otherwise no,” Draco said cheerfully. And in the face of Pansy’s rage, he simply shrugged and said, “Just put out that Harry’s my new assistant, or something. I need a new assistant, anyway. The one I have is useless.”

“I am not your assistant, jackass!” Pansy yelled as Draco half-ran away from her, dragging Harry along with him, but she sounded less angry now, more amused.

Harry stayed for Draco’s sound-check, which seemed to consist mostly of Draco hanging around looking bored, occasionally singing into a microphone and sounding like Draco singing into a microphone, punctuated by periods of complete inactivity. It was nearly six by the time they were done, and then Draco vanished for half an hour to talk to ‘terminally ill fans’, Pansy said unsympathetically, popping up by Harry’s elbow and passing him a glass of wine. “They love him, fuck knows why.”

“Because he’s charming?” Harry tried. He hadn’t seen it personally, but he suspected Draco could be, if he pulled himself out of his own arse occasionally.

“Is he?” Pansy said curiously. “Since when?”

You’ve always thought he was,” Harry said, before remembering that he wasn’t talking to the Pansy he remembered, but a new one, similar but not identical.

Pansy took a sip of her own wine. “You make my skin crawl sometimes,” she said pleasantly. “You act like you know me, and I sometimes feel I know you, but we’ve never met before, have we?”

“Uh,” Harry said, drinking wine as he tried to think what to say.

“And yes, I suppose I’ve always fancied Draco, if that’s your question,” she said candidly. “But it was obvious to me very early on that he was bent. I suppose we still might get married one day, if he wants to maintain his hetero image for the media, but . . .” She shrugged. “I love him, but I’m not sure I love him enough to do that.”

“I don’t think he’d want to!” Harry said, feeling odd.

“No?” Pansy said, and she leaned towards him and patted him on the cheek, as if he were a small child. “Have you met his parents yet?”

“Well, no,” Harry said uncomfortably, resisting the urge to scrub his cheek clean. He knew there were versions of Lucius and Narcissa in this reality too, but the idea of it – of Draco having Muggle parents – was curiously itchy in his brain.

“I’m fairly sure you never will,” Pansy said airily. “So don’t get too attached, OK?”

Harry thought about that. “Are you trying to be horrible?” he said at last, sick of her jibes.

Pansy’s eyes widened, and then she grinned, clearly delighted. “Yes!” she said, and clinked her wine glass against his. Then she laughed. “I’m just protective of Draco – both personally and professionally,” she said. “I like that you give as good as you get. I think I could almost like you,” she added thoughtfully, “but I’m not sure yet. It depends.”

What did it depend on? Harry didn’t like to ask. And he thought later as Draco pinned him against the inside of his dressing room door, kissing him hard and slow and grinding their hips together until Harry could see stars, that whatever it depended on, it was unlikely frottage in Wembley Arena with her supposedly ‘straight’ star would endear him to Pansy, either way.

^^^^^^

Draco spent the whole of the journey back to the hotel after the gig talking about nothing, his hand stroking the inside of Harry’s thigh. He kept accidentally on purpose brushing up against Harry’s enormous, take your eye out hard on, sometimes leaving his hand there, the gentle pressure sending Harry round the twist.

By the time they got to the hotel, Harry felt like he was almost ready to come. Draco shot a look at his lap, his eyes dark and steely grey, and said, “You’d better wait in the car until you’ve calmed down,” before leaving the car, followed by the enormous security guard.

Harry gritted his teeth as the driver hummed something tuneless, and after thinking hard about Pansy’s face for a good five minutes, he felt able to actually get up without causing an international incident if a photographer was lurking outside. He wasn’t sure whether to be annoyed with Draco or not, and when he got inside the suite he couldn’t see him, so he kicked off his shoes and took off his coat, before climbing the stairs in search of him.

Draco was . . .

Harry felt his face overheat, his hard-on springing back to life with impressive speed. Draco was lying naked on the bed, his legs spread and his hand on his cock, wanking very slowly. “I started without you,” Draco said, not stopping.

Earlier, Harry had been thinking that maybe once they got back to the suite, it might be an idea to go and look at some fucking shooting stars, and it occurred to him uneasily that this was still a good idea, and he shouldn’t be distracted by the sight of Draco Malfoy wanking. But . . . Draco was wanking. Right there, in front of him. For him, if Harry was any judge. They could do the star thing later, right?

For a moment, Harry stood there, torn between watching and joining in.

“Are you just going to watch?” Draco said, eyes locked on him, going pink.

Was he? Harry sat down on the edge of the bed next to Draco, trailed a finger along his inner thigh until he was nudging his balls. “Yes,” he said, feeling his blood sing. The sight was amazing. Draco’s body was gorgeous, and Harry thought he could watch him forever.

“OK,” Draco said, and visibly swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat. His hand started to move faster, and he let out a tiny choked noise as Harry trailed a finger over his balls, spreading his legs even wider to give Harry access.

Harry cupped Draco’s balls, gently massaging them as Draco’s whole chest went pink, the colour spreading up his neck and reaching his ears. He was mesmerised by the sight of Draco’s hand on his cock, by the look on his face – embarrassment and arousal mixed.

Harry continued to stroke Draco’s balls, and Draco arched his back, raising his hips to give Harry a view of his arsehole that made him feel very, very hot.

“If . . .” Draco said, sounding very choked. He cleared his throat. “If you wanted to finger me, there’s lube in the drawer.”

Did Harry want to stick his finger up Draco’s bum? It turned out he did, because he was reaching for the drawer before his brain was properly engaged, squirting out a clear, slippery, cold liquid into his palm and slicking up a finger with it.

Draco’s arsehole was twitching now, and when Harry gingerly pressed his slippery finger against it, the tip of it slipped in much more easily than he would have expected. Draco made a guttural noise, pushing against Harry’s finger and he slid in up to the first knuckle. Draco felt hot and ridiculously tight, squeezing down on his finger, and he pulled out again, the pucker of Draco’s arsehole now clenching and releasing more tightly. Harry bit his lip, took a blob of lube on his finger and tried again, his finger sliding easily in and out, deeper with each push.

Draco was properly moaning now, his hand on his cock moving faster, and Harry found he didn’t want this to be over so quickly. By the look on Draco’s face – his neck arched, head tilted back, mouth slack – it would be, if he didn’t do anything about it. So he reached over with his free hand and grabbed Draco’s wrist, pulling it gently off his cock and pushing it onto the bed by Draco’s side.

Draco’s eyes snapped open, and he stared at Harry, lips still parted, chest heaving. His cock jutted out, red and angry and untouched. Draco didn’t move to touch his cock again, but his muscles clenched down on Harry’s finger and his breathing was fast and shallow, now seeming almost timed to the movements Harry was making.

They continued like this for a minute or so, Draco’s breathing growing increasingly ragged, precum pooling on his belly as Harry worked his finger. “You can fuck me, if you like,” Draco suddenly said, voice sounding raw, and Harry basically froze. He . . . he wanted to so much he thought he might die from it, but simultaneously, he . . .

“I . . . um . . .” he said incoherently, feeling intensely pathetic, and realising – to his actual horror – that the reason he didn’t want to do it right now was because he wanted it to be romantic, and meaningful, rather than a natural progression from fingering.

Draco made a face, raising himself up on his elbows to scowl at Harry. “Are you having another crisis?” he asked, tone not very nice. “Want me to take my erection to the bathroom and leave you in peace?”

He was definitely having a crisis, all right, Harry thought; but it was a Draco crisis, rather than simply a gay one.

Harry decided he could deal with this later, though. Right now, he was too horny to give in to panic. There . . . there were other things he could try, weren’t there? Things that he’d been dreaming about, but that didn’t give him the same sense of falling off a cliff and watching the ground speed dizzily ever closer. He plucked up his courage and gave Draco a sharp, gentle shove that had him falling back against the pillows. Draco watched him warily as he climbed up on the bed, still fully dressed, and knelt between Draco’s knees, giving his thighs another little shove to get him to widen his legs.

Harry leaned over to pick up the lube again, squeezing out another generous blob on his finger and smearing it against Draco’s arsehole as Draco watched him, mouth falling open again, before he pressed his lips tight shut. “Two fingers?” Harry managed, feeling a bit like his head had been plunged into unbearably hot water, and Draco nodded sharply, so Harry went for more lube, until both his fingers and Draco’s pucker were slick and wet. He pressed gently, and Draco caught his breath, before making an obvious effort to relax. Harry, who’d frozen in place, pressed gently again, and his fingers slid in more easily.

Harry worked his fingers until Draco was breathing faster, his hands gripping the bed linen, and then he stopped moving, fingers buried deep inside Draco. It felt – it looked – fucking incredible. He felt his mouth water, at the thought of what he was about to do, his heart banging in his chest like a gong. He took a deep breath and then leaned forward, supporting himself on his free hand, and took the head of Draco’s cock in his mouth.

Draco made a low, amazed noise, and Harry sucked tentatively, the warm flesh feeling full and thick inside his mouth. As he sucked, taking Draco’s cock in even further, there was a burst of taste, strong and with a bitter undertone, but not unpleasant. Draco made another noise, and Harry looked along his body to catch his eye. It felt amazingly odd, to look Draco in the eye while he had Draco’s cock in his mouth, his fingers in Draco’s arse. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to look Draco in the eye again without thinking about it. But Draco’s face was pleasingly contorted, and when Harry moved his mouth and his fingers in harmony, Draco pulled a face that indicated to Harry that it wouldn’t be long before he was coming if Harry kept that up.

So he kept it up. A slow, steady slide with his mouth, a slow, steady pump of his fingers, with Draco falling apart right in front of his eyes.

It didn’t take long for Draco to come. Harry’s mouth was flooded with bitterness, but he swallowed it down, Draco thrashing on his fingers as his orgasm overwhelmed him.

After, Harry pulled out his fingers and wiped his mouth on the bottom of his T-shirt, wondering what to do next. Draco seemed to have turned limbless, boneless, he was so relaxed, and his eyes had fluttered shut. Harry decided to get off the bed and wash his hands, but as he moved, Draco cracked open an eye. “Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” he asked.

“Er, to clean up?” Harry said, and Draco snorted, propping himself back up on his elbows.

“Come here, idiot,” Draco said, knocking at Harry’s legs with his own, and soon Harry found himself pretty much straddling Draco’s chest. “Take your top off,” Draco ordered, and as Harry did so – wiping his hands on it in the process (“That’s my face you’re defiling,” Draco said snidely) – Draco reached down to undo his jeans, tugging both them and his boxers down his thighs.

Harry wasn’t sure what to do next. Draco’s mouth was pretty much next to his cock, but it seemed a bit presumptuous to move and unite the two.

Draco made an impatient noise, and reached round with one hand to grip one of Harry’s arse cheeks, pulling him closer. Harry, face aflame, took the hint, positioning the head of his cock against Draco’s mouth and pushing in. Draco parted his lips obligingly, resting back on his elbows, but barely moved, so Harry gingerly pushed in further, the sensation incredible, before pulling out again.

Draco made an encouraging noise, so Harry did it again, a rush of adrenaline making everything feel over loud, and over bright as he pushed his cock in and out of Draco’s mouth. Draco was breathing heavily, but the noises he was making were ones of pleasure, his eyes soft and expression loose and relaxed as Harry pumped his hips. “God, you’re incredible,” Harry found himself saying as he watched his cock slide in and out of Draco’s lips. “Fucking hell.”

Draco made a noise of approval, his eyes fluttering shut, and then he opened his eyes wide again, to watch Harry’s face. Time seemed to slow down as Harry moved his hips helplessly, mesmerised by the sight of his cock disappearing, and reappearing, into Draco’s mouth. He tried to keep a steady rhythm, to not push too far, but he found himself thrusting faster as the tension in his groin started to peak. Draco started moaning loudly with every thrust, which only made it worse, and he tilted his head at an angle that seemed to let Harry’s cock sink in even deeper.

Harry pumped helplessly, and Draco made a choking noise which had him wrenching himself away, stammering apologies.

Draco regarded him narrowly, and reached out to put a hand on his thigh. “There, there,” he said unsympathetically. “Now, shall we try again?”

Harry wasn’t sure he could, couldn’t trust himself to hold back enough not to do it again.

“You really are insufferably perfect,” Draco muttered, and before Harry could react – insufferable colliding with perfect – he’d leaned forward and swallowed down Harry’s cock, moving his head with fast, firm pressure. Harry could feel his legs almost giving way, and then Draco reached between his legs and pressed the tip of a finger very firmly against his arsehole, not pushing it in but not removing it either. Harry held very still, the sensation against his arsehole fluttery and maddening, the feeling of Draco’s mouth on his cock hot, and tight, and overwhelming.

Everything was overwhelming. When he clenched his thighs, his stomach, to stay upright, the feelings only intensified. Draco’s finger. His mouth. Harry coasted on the edge of his orgasm for what felt like forever, each slide of Draco’s mouth sending him higher and higher, closer and closer. And then he was coming, a white-hot explosion in his groin, except Draco slid his mouth off his cock and tipped his head back, so Harry came on him, too late to pull away, streaking his face, his hair, with come.

Draco looked hugely smug for a moment, and then startled. He said, “Owwww!”, and clenched one of his eyes tight shut, his free hand coming up to rub at it, while his other hand slid away from Harry’s backside.

Harry stared at him, horrified, and Draco said, in a very small voice, “You came in my eye!” and then started laughing, so hard that Harry couldn’t stop himself from eventually joining in. “Fucking hell,” Draco wheezed when he managed to calm himself down, his voice thick with laughter. “That was much less erotic than I’d hoped.”

“You’ve, er, got a little –” Harry waved his hand to encompass the whole of Draco’s head – “on you,” he said awkwardly, which set Draco off again, laughing so hard he was nearly crying.

“Yes,” Draco managed through his laughter, “I suppose I have. Owww,” he said again mock-pathetically, “it really stings.”

Harry slid off him and kicked his trousers and boxers off properly, then went to pick Draco up to carry him to the bathroom, but Draco creased up with laughter again, batting him away. “I have come in my eye, I haven’t lost the use of my legs,” he said, and he slid off the bed himself, heading towards the bathroom. He stopped and looked back at Harry through his one good eye. “Want to share a shower?”

Harry did.

Later, as they lay next to each other in bed, Draco turned off the light, and then rolled towards Harry, their faces very close together. “Would it have been hot? You know, if you hadn’t tried to blind me.”

“I didn’t!” Harry protested, to Draco’s sniggers.

“Yes, yes, I know,” Draco said. “It was all my own fault. But – would it?”

Harry thought about it. It had been hot, like burning. His come on Draco’s face, streaking his hair. As if he owned him. Merlin. The thought was . . . Harry swallowed hard. But at the same time, it had also made him uncomfortable. It wasn’t a very nice thing to do, he thought, feeling like a prude. He didn’t want to be the sort of man who treated his partners with less respect than they deserved. He . . . didn’t want to be the sort of man who had more than one partner, really, a tiny voice said in his head. He wanted to fall in love, and get married, and grow old with someone. Not . . . come in their eye. Unless they really wanted him to. “I think I could take it or leave it,” he said dubiously. “Did you like it?”

“I was a bit busy with the burning agony,” Draco said, warm and amused, “but it was worth it to see the look on your face. You were clearly thinking ‘I haven’t even taken him out to dinner!’” He sniggered. “Sorry, I suppose. I’ll warn you next time if I want to do something mildly deviant. You’re clearly a delicate flower.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, stung.

“You’re very welcome,” Draco said, to Harry’s annoyance, but he felt an arm slide around his side, Draco relaxing against him. This was nice, Harry thought fuzzily. This was what he wanted. Less come in the eye, more . . . falling asleep in each other’s arms.

The thought was enough to jolt him to wakefulness. And as he lay there, Draco breathing slow and quiet beside him, it occurred to him, uneasily, that they still hadn’t tried to fix the spell together, not even once.

Chapter Text

When Harry woke up the next morning, he was determined to broach the issue of the wish magic with Draco. They still hadn’t even talked about it properly, let alone tried to fix the spell together, had they? And OK, Harry could see the appeal of letting the days slip by a little longer – particularly when Draco’s mouth, or hand, were involved – but if they weren’t careful, they’d end up stuck because they’d spent too long tossing each other off. In all the great stories of the ages, Harry thought ridiculously as he reached for his glasses, he couldn’t remember a single one ending with the main characters failing in their quest because they’d been too distracted by wanking.

Draco was nowhere to be seen, but Harry could hear him singing downstairs, and this made him stop dead, struck by the sound. Draco was a singer here, of course he was, but Harry hadn’t heard him singing spontaneously before, had he? He sounded . . . happy.

Harry brushed away the strange, uneasy feeling and got up, rifling through Draco’s wardrobe until he found something plain he could wear without the fans noticing he’d stolen Draco’s clothes. He really needed to get back to his, get his own stuff. And he needed to pick up the wand, he thought heavily, Draco’s singing filtering up to the bedroom again, light and cheerful.

He got dressed quickly, then went to brush his teeth, before heading downstairs. Draco was already dressed too, and there was a silver trolley near the lift holding several silver domes and a basket of pastries. He stopped singing as soon as he saw Harry, his eyes darting away self-consciously. “Orange juice, coffee or tea?” he said, indicating the pots on a second trolley Harry hadn’t spotted. “I got the human house-elf to bring us some food while you were asleep. I’ve got to go soon, or Pansy might try to tie me to her wrist. I think she said it was a magazine interview?” Draco sighed, and Harry noticed that he looked extremely tired. He supposed he had been keeping Draco up late, he thought, and felt guilty.

“It might be an idea if you go back to your house today, pack a suitcase. Quit your job, if you haven’t already,” Draco continued.

Harry raised his eyebrows, which made Draco roll his eyes in response.

Sorry,” Draco said unapologetically. “You were going to take the time off as holiday, not resign, weren’t you? How’s that one going?”

There was a good chance he’d already been sacked for missing a shift, Harry realised in a sudden panic, trying not to go red. For a moment, he couldn’t even remember what day it was. Saturday, possibly. He probably wasn’t scheduled to work till Monday. Maybe Parvati wouldn’t kill him – or fire him. When Harry looked over at Draco, Draco was smirking.

“I wouldn’t want to get in the way of your terribly important Muggle career,” Draco said lightly. “Let me know if you want me to call Parvati on your behalf, plead your case.”

Harry pondered whether throwing pastries at Draco’s head would be a mature reaction, but happily Draco strode over to the drinks trolley and poured Harry a coffee, and this small gesture made him shelve the thought for now.

Draco sniggered, but then a thought seemed to strike him. “I think Pansy said something about paperwork for travelling? Does the word ‘passport’ mean anything to you? Try to find that, or she might throw a wobbly.” He strode over to a side table, picked up his phone and looked at it. “Shit, it’s nearly one. I have to go. I . . .” He seemed to dither, and then he walked quickly back over to Harry, wrapping his arms around Harry’s waist and giving him a lightning-fast hug, before pulling away, looking embarrassed. “If Pansy asks why my eye is red, I’ll tell her you made me cry,” he said sweetly, recovering his poise with impressive speed. And as Harry was spluttering at him – “Your eye isn’t red, you tosser!”– he stalked over to the lift door, entered it and turned to give a cheery little wave as the door closed behind him.

Harry sat down and ate the food that Draco hadn’t touched and had clearly ordered just for him, and realised he still hadn’t raised the issue of the spell.

^^^^^^

“He doesn’t even have a passport!” Parvati said, as if Harry had committed a terrible crime. “I know, right?” she continued, as if the sod on the other end of the phone had agreed that Harry was a terrible crime, full stop. “You’ll have to smuggle him out of the country in your suitcase.”

Harry decided it would be better all round if he let Parvati talk to Draco in peace, so he went up to his bedroom to start packing. When he’d called her as soon as he’d got back home to ask – awkwardly – if he could take some time off, he’d almost expected her to say no. What he’d got, instead, was Parvati on his doorstep almost before he’d put the phone down, the scent of gossip in her nostrils like a bloodhound. She’d agreed almost immediately that he could have the time off, once she’d found out why – even though, she’d added pointedly, she’d have to work more shifts with Laura – on one condition: Draco called to ask her personally. And, unfortunately, Draco had immediately agreed to talk to her when Harry had called, expecting him to be busy in yet another interview. There had been an almost inhuman level of glee in Draco’s voice. He suspected Pansy was going to kill him, when he next saw her.

Harry had piled almost all of his meagre selection of ill-fitting clothes on the bed, next to his tiny suitcase, and was looking dubiously at the two when Parvati came looking for him some forty-five minutes later.

“I can’t believe how lovely he is,” she said with an enormous gusty sigh, perching herself on the edge of Harry’s bed, next to a heap of odd socks. “I think I might be the most jealous I’ve been in my life, ever. I already hated you tonnes, and now I want to kill you and take your form,” she added cheerfully. Harry must have pulled a face of alarm, because she dimpled out a grin. “A bit much? All right. Maybe I could just come with you and . . . watch?” she suggested, giving the duvet a speculative pat and narrowly avoiding groping a pair of Harry’s pants.

Harry felt his face attempt to turn into a human Lumos. She did not mean what he thought she meant, did she?

“Spoilsport,” Parvati said cheerfully, even though he hadn’t yet managed to form actual words. “And after I’m so kindly letting you take a very short notice holiday. Without me,” she added pointedly. “And see how I’m not raising the fact that only a couple of weeks ago, I claimed dibs on running away abroad to sip cocktails with Draco Malfoy, and now here you are . . .” She trailed off significantly.

“I am not running away with Draco!” Harry protested weakly, wondering if that was exactly what he was doing. Running away from responsibility. Running away from his problems, from potentially his only chance to fix reality, to chase . . . God, he hoped he could trust Draco. That Draco would, actually, help him to return the world to how it was meant to be. He was running towards – towards a new, uncomfortable friendship teetering on the brink of something more. Towards fixing the spell, together. Towards. Not away. Wasn’t he? “I can stay here if you need me,” he added uncomfortably, wondering if he would if she asked him to.

Parvati let out a snort that scored an eleven on a scale of nought to derisive. “Yes, Harry. The beans are much more important than going on tour with a gorgeous international superstar who clearly fancies the pants off you. How right you are. You should definitely carry on existing, rather than living.”

Harry wasn’t sure what to say to this. What on earth had Draco said to her on the phone? And . . . existing rather than living? She didn’t know him, after all; she knew a different Harry. But . . .

“Harry, sweetheart, if you don’t go, I’ll sack you,” Parvati said firmly.

“You can’t do that!” Harry protested.

“No, you’re right,” Parvati said, grinning. “HR would have my balls for breakfast. I’ll just have to bully you into quitting. That’s much harder to prove.” Then she half turned to survey the sad piles of clothes on the bed. “And you need a job, anyway, to pay for all the new clothes we’re going out right now to buy you,” she added, wrinkling her nose.

Harry also surveyed his clothes. “I don’t need new clothes,” he said, not even sure he was convinced by that. The Harry from this reality seemed to care even less about clothes than he did, and that was saying something. “I bought some only the other day!”

“Yes, because I made you,” Parvati said, which was true, albeit unhelpful.

“I don’t—” Harry started, but was cut off by the insistent ring of the doorbell, as if someone was leaning on it.

“Saved by the bell,” Parvati said sweetly as Harry turned. He stuck up his middle finger, and the sound of her laughter followed him down the stairs.

Who on earth was at the door, Harry wondered as he opened it, hoping for Draco. It wasn’t Draco, of course it wasn’t. By now he would be on his way to Wembley Arena to prepare for tonight’s show, if he wasn’t there already. It was Pansy. She’d travelled all the way to his house to kill him, Harry thought gloomily, rather than saving it for later. What had he done now?

“Are you really telling me, the day before we’re due to travel to Germany, that you don’t have a passport,” Pansy said by way of a greeting. She was as sharply dressed as ever, and her smile was very fierce.

Harry felt an overwhelming urge to tell her that you didn’t need a passport to Apparate, or take the Floo, or use a Portkey, and none of these methods of travel involved sitting on your arse for hours on end, so could she please not treat him like he was an idiot? He managed to swallow it down, though, wondering as he did so if Draco had considered telling her about the wizarding world. It seemed peculiar, now he came to think of it. But then . . . he hadn’t told Parvati either, had he?

Harry realised Pansy was staring at him. “I don’t have a passport,” he said, in the face of her outraged silence. “At least, I don’t think I do,” he said, which didn’t appear to help matters. He’d looked – and Parvati had helped – but although he’d found a dusty shoebox of personal papers, his parents’ death certificates on the top of the pile when he peered in, he hadn’t come across any travel documents.

Pansy reached up to pinch the bridge of her nose; her fingernails were very red and pointy. “Draco is so lucky I love him, I swear to God,” she muttered. “Right!” she continued brightly, removing her fingers and putting on a faux cheerful face. “Go and find your birth certificate, and I’ll call the passport office to make an emergency appointment.”

“But . . .” Harry said, thinking about Parvati, waiting for him upstairs.

“If you tell me you don’t have a birth certificate, and are in fact a medical miracle who was hatched from an enormous egg rather than born like a normal human, then I’ll—” Pansy said, still bright, but now with murder in her eye.

Happily – or possibly unhappily, it was hard to tell – Parvati popped up behind him, making him jump. “Here you go,” Parvati said, handing Harry a small stack of papers she’d clearly purloined from his drawers. “Birth certificate, council tax bill, gas bill. Should be enough to prove who you are. Hi!” she said to Pansy, giving a little wave and a grin. “I’m Parvati. Harry’s friend. Remember me? We met the other day.”

Pansy didn’t respond in words; she already had her mobile phone out and had half turned away, to talk rapidly into it. Just a few seconds later, she turned back to Harry. “Come on then, you nightmare in human form. Let’s go.”

“Better a nightmare in human form than a—” Harry started acerbically, but Parvati gave him a swift karate chop to the arm, and he broke off in favour of, “Oww!”

“I’ll go and pick up some new clothes for you,” Parvati said, holding out her hand.

Harry shook it firmly. “No, you won’t,” he said, and then flailed as Pansy attacked his pocket, pulling out his wallet with a triumphant noise and filching a wad of cash, which she handed over to Parvati with smug glee.

“Nothing that will make him stand out,” Pansy said firmly as she passed Harry’s empty wallet back to him. And as he opened his mouth to protest – his clothes were fine, they were absolutely fine – she took his arm and dragged him into a car parked outside his house, Parvati waving cheerfully when he looked back to her for help.

“I don’t even know why you’re going along with this!” Harry snapped as he sat down, sick of being treated like a child when he was nothing of the kind. Why did Pansy care if he didn’t have a passport? Or if his clothes were shabby and ill-fitting? “It’s not like you want me to come along, is it?”

Pansy snorted. “Draco said he won’t go without you.”

He . . . what? “He didn’t mean it,” Harry said, testing it out. It felt true. “He was just winding you up.”

“If that’s what you think,” Pansy said, “you really are an idiot,” and she started the car and pulled out into the traffic.

^^^^^^

The next morning, like a recurring bad dream, Pansy turned up on Harry’s doorstep, and once again they went to the passport office, to queue for what felt like an eternity. This time, however, the appointment ended in Pansy handing over a small fortune, in exchange for an unimpressive rectangle of cardboard. At least it was in Gryffindor colours, Harry thought, trying to look on the bright side.

“I would have paid,” he said, holding out his hand for the passport as they left the building, “only, you spent all my money on clothes yesterday.”

Pansy wrinkled her nose. “And yet, you look the same as ever,” she said, but she smiled very sweetly as she handed the passport over. “I hate you, by the way,” she added, still sweet.

Harry cracked the spine, opening it up to look at the photo page. It was the worst picture he’d ever seen of himself; he looked like he’d been attacked by the Whomping Willow. “I hate you too,” he said agreeably.

Pansy just grinned.

^^^^^^

After the flight, Harry couldn’t have said whether he’d enjoyed the experience or not. He’d barely noticed it. When he’d arrived at the airport, and been guided to what seemed a private lounge, Draco had been waiting inside it. Luna was by Draco’s side, and he was surrounded by people, but all Harry could see was him. It was so disconcerting that Harry had, for a moment, stopped dead in his tracks, unable to move, but then Pansy had given him a sharp dig with her elbow and he’d remembered where he was.

Draco turned and grinned – warm, open-hearted. “Harry!” he called, as if Harry hadn’t spotted him instantly. “Over here!”

Behave yourself,” Pansy had said severely to Draco as they approached, and Draco had, but he’d spent the whole flight shooting Harry tiny, mischievous looks from his seat next to Pansy, which made Harry feel like he was going to lose his mind.

Sitting next to Luna hadn’t helped much, either. She’d spent the whole journey talking about her costume designs for Draco, and showing him her sketches. She appeared to have decided that less was more, and while Harry agreed in principle with the idea that Draco suited being mostly naked, he hadn’t been prepared to be confronted by this in public, and at length, and found he was even less prepared for the spike of jealousy that stabbed him at the thought of other people looking at Draco at all.

Harry thought he was glad when the pilot announced their imminent descent to Berlin Tegel Airport, but when they landed, collected their bags and passed through customs the airport was heaving and frantic, and Harry was nearly blinded by the flash of cameras going off, his ears ringing with the screams of fans. Pansy took his arm, and the wide bodyguard cleared a path, Draco smiling and waving as they passed with difficulty through the crowds and into a waiting fleet of cars.

“God, airports are so tedious,” Pansy said, leaning her head on Harry’s shoulder. They were, once again, in a car together, although at least this time she wasn’t driving. “I hope the photographers got some good shots.” She dug her head harder into his shoulder. “Wow, you are not comfortable.”

“I didn’t realise that was in my job description,” Harry said, trying not to squirm. He could smell her perfume, strong and spicy, her hair tickling his cheek.

“I didn’t realise you had a job description,” Pansy murmured sarcastically, and then snorted, sitting upright again and patting his knee. “But if you’d like a job, I’ll give you one: don’t upset Draco. OK?”

Harry had never been out of the UK. He’d never, in his wildest dreams, imagined that his first experience of a foreign country would be sitting in a car with Pansy Parkinson while she told him not to upset Draco Malfoy.

“No, don’t sulk,” Pansy said unhelpfully. “I just thought it would be useful to point out that you are entirely expendable, while Draco is very much not, if you take my point. Understand?”

“I am not expendable,” Harry said, thinking this was a bit much.

“No?” Pansy said, opening up her handbag and pulling out a lipstick and a mirror. “How are you important, then?”

In this reality, Harry hadn’t saved the world; he had, it appeared, lived a life so colourless it had left barely any trace at all. But . . . “I just am,” he said firmly, realising it even as he said it. So what if he hadn’t saved the world? He could save himself, this time around. “I am important,” he repeated. “And screw you, if you think otherwise.”

Pansy calmly finished touching up her lipstick and didn’t answer, and Harry turned to look out of the window, to catch a glimpse of his first foreign city speed by.

^^^^^^

Harry wasn’t surprised when they checked into the hotel to find that he was in a separate room to Draco. He wasn’t surprised, either, to find that Draco wasn’t around. “I have no idea where the bastard is,” Pansy said sweetly, by which Harry took to mean that she wouldn’t tell him even if she did know, and he decided to put off his unpacking and go and explore Berlin. Draco would text him when he’d finished his interview, or his fitting with Luna, or whatever else it was he was currently busy with, he supposed.

Harry was halfway down the road when he realised he’d forgotten his phone. For a moment, he was tempted to give Summoning it a go, but then he remembered the vanishing trousers incident and decided against it. His wand was still in his suitcase. If he tried to Summon his chunky mobile phone, there was a good chance he might end up braining himself with it if the spell actually worked. So, with an eye roll at himself, he turned back, and was soon swiping his room card and pushing the heavy door open.

Draco was on his bed, Harry realised as the door swung shut behind him with a decisive click. But not in a sexy way. Instead, he had Harry’s suitcase open in front of him, and he turned to stare at Harry with a look of guilty horror.

The wand, which had been buried under all his clothes, was now resting on the top of them, Harry noted dispassionately, wondering if he should be a bit fucked off or really, really fucked off by this.

“Are you not going to say anything?” Draco demanded after several frozen seconds, his voice truculent, as if Harry was to blame for this unfortunate situation, rather than him.

Was Harry going to say something? He wasn’t sure what to say, could feel himself frowning in indecision. It looked . . . pretty black, if he was honest. Draco rooting round in his stuff and doing things with the wand without telling him. But at the same time, he found he couldn’t believe that Draco would cast magic against him. His mind attempted the thought, and then bounced off it, as if it were impossible. Draco wouldn’t. Harry found, to his own minor surprise, that he believed in him.

“Stop looking at me like that!” Draco said, into the silence. “Are you expecting me to Imperio you, or something?”

Harry wasn’t. He reached up to rub the back of his neck and then kicked off his shoes, went to sit next to Draco on the bed, Draco watching him warily the whole time. “If you wanted to use the wand, you only needed to ask,” he said, trying not to sound as irritated as he felt.

Draco didn’t say anything, but his mouth went lopsided and odd, as if he was only managing to hold back a stream of – something – with an inhuman effort.

“I wasn’t trying to keep you from it,” Harry added into the silence, realising as he said it that he did sound irritated – and felt it, too. It wasn’t that Draco had been rummaging through his things, exactly; it was what it said about their tentative friendship, their relationship, whatever it was. That Draco would happily go behind his back. That Draco didn’t trust him.

Draco remained silent, but his shoulders hunched in on themselves, which made Harry feel even more infuriated.

“How could you think that!” Harry snapped, folding his arms and feeling intensely miserable.

Draco unhunched at that, looked oddly startled. “I don’t,” he said unconvincingly. “I . . .”

Harry waited for him to continue, but he didn’t. He just sat there, looking a mixture of angry and unhappy, as if he was the injured party here, rather than Harry being the one who’d caught him in the act of . . . something. Don’t upset Draco, Pansy had said. Hah! What about my feelings, Harry thought with irritation. Except . . . he didn’t want to upset Draco, he thought glumly, his anger leaving him in a whoosh when he glanced over at Draco again and saw the unhappy set of his mouth. It was like punching yourself in the stomach and expecting it not to hurt.

“I’ve been trying to get you to discuss the wish magic, and what we should do about things,” Harry said, attempting to relax his muscles; his shoulders felt stiff and tense. “I really have! Except . . .” The ludicrousness of the situation struck him. “Except you keep distracting me with your cock!” he said firmly, because it was true. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed!”

Draco’s mouth twitched, as if he wanted to laugh but couldn’t quite let himself.

Harry decided he wasn’t going to get anywhere by skirting the issue, so he reached over to the suitcase, grabbed the wand and tossed it over to Draco.

Draco caught it automatically, and then held it unnaturally in his fingertips, staring at it as if it might bite him.

Harry had no idea what was going on. “Look,” he said, feeling himself frown even harder than before, “I trust you, OK? So why don’t you just cast whatever spell you were planning. Have you tried it out first to see if it works for you?”

“You trust me,” Draco repeated, as if Harry was talking nonsense. And then added, a rising note of hysteria in his voice, “Have I tried it out?

“Er, yes?” Harry said, even more confused. “Have you?”

Draco looked the angriest Harry could remember him ever looking, his face going scarlet, but he didn’t say anything, just clenched his lips together, his nostrils flaring.

What?” Harry said. “What have I said? What’s wrong?”

“You know what’s wrong!” Draco exploded, chucking the wand on the duvet in front of him.

Harry had absolutely no idea. This was like the worst guessing game ever. “Er, no, I don’t,” he said.

“Seriously?” Draco demanded, eyes flashing.

Harry thought his baffled expression would serve as a reply, and for a while Draco just stared at him, before subsiding, the anger fading from his face.

“You . . . you really don’t know, do you?” he said, an edge to his voice, as if Harry was the worst. “HOW can you not know?”

Harry had had enough of this cryptic conversation. “Know what?” he snapped. “For Merlin’s sake!”

“Know that I haven’t used a fucking wand for two fucking years, you complete idiot!” Draco snapped back, improbably.

Harry blinked. “Um, what?”

Draco seemed to slouch into himself, and his hands knitted together in his lap. “God,” he said, sounding annoyed. “I was seriously wondering if this whole thing was actually a trap, a way to trick me into using magic, so you or one of your Auror oafs could spring out to bundle me off to Azkaban.”

This sounded like so-much self-pitying bollocks to Harry. “Were you?” he said, trying not to sound angry.

Draco slouched even further. “No, I suppose not,” he said wryly. “A trap wouldn’t contain so many orgasms. But even so!” he continued, rallying. “God! How was I supposed to know you didn’t know? Why the fuck didn’t you know?”

Harry wondered why the fuck he didn’t too. “It’s not my fault, is it?” he asked dubiously, just in case. “I did give you back your wand! At least,” he continued, thinking it through, “I gave it to the Ministry to pass on to you.”

Draco snorted. “Of course it’s not your fault, you arsehole. I’m actually offended that you didn’t read my Ministry file.”

Auror Robards had banned Harry from having anything to do with Draco’s case. Harry had itched to read his file anyway, but had decided it would be wrong to. It was infuriating beyond belief to find that this was being held against him now. “I wasn’t allowed to read your file,” he said stiffly.

“And you didn’t do it anyway?” Draco said, raising his eyebrows.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Harry complained. “I’ll read your private file next time, I promise,” he added sarcastically. “So, what does it say? Why the hell weren’t you allowed to use a wand?”

“I would have read your file like a shot,” Draco said, “but anyway. Did you not notice that I wasn’t invited back to Hogwarts to complete my schooling? I suppose you were.”

“Well, yes,” Harry said, wondering what that had to do with anything. “But I didn’t want to. I was allowed to join the Aurors anyway.”

“Of course you were,” Draco said unpleasantly. “I, on the other hand, have been expelled.”

Harry frowned at him. Surely he’d have heard if Draco had been chucked out of Hogwarts?

“Excluded, if you prefer,” Draco said. “Disallowed from continuing my studies. Whatever you’d like to call it. Either way, I was very much not invited back.”

“That’s not fair,” Harry said, because it wasn’t.

“No?” Draco continued, tilting his chin up very high. “I did try to murder the headmaster, if you remember, and I hear they still haven’t managed to extinguish the Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement. If it’s any consolation,” he added, his unpleasant tone at odds with his words, “they chucked Greg out too.”

Harry shifted uncomfortably on the bed, wondering if he should point out that Draco hadn’t killed Dumbledore. Hadn’t killed anyone in the end, although he’d arsed about like a gigantic prick, playing at being a villain before melting under the pressure of actual, real-life evil into someone who found, much to his dismay, that he had morals, after all. Harry realised he might have spent too much time thinking about this, closed his eyes as the memories threatened to overwhelm him. “I still don’t understand,” he said, because he didn’t.

When he opened his eyes again, Draco was staring at him. “What’s there to understand?” Draco asked, shrugging. “Wizards are only allowed to own a wand if they’re a student or graduate of an officially recognised school.”

Harry considered that. “Hagrid got around that pretty easily,” he said uncomfortably, aware that as an Auror he probably shouldn’t be encouraging illegal wand ownership.

Hagrid wasn’t told that he would be put in Azkaban for breaking the conditions of his Ministry sentence,” Draco said flatly. “The only magic I’ve done since my trial is incidental stuff. Floo powder. Magical objects. That kind of thing.”

“Oh,” Harry said, not sure what else to say. How had Draco, surrounded by magic, had the self-control to stick to that?

“I’ve found that being rich has its own magic though,” Draco said, a defiant note slipping into his voice. “Which I suppose is why I’m finding this Muggle business a piece of piss. Magic is convenience, and shortcuts, most of the time.” He shrugged again. “If you have money, you can just buy those instead.”

Harry leaned forward and shut his suitcase, before heaving it off the bed. Then he shuffled forward, swinging round to sit side by side with Draco. Draco wasn’t looking at him; he was looking at the wand.

“So, do you want to try the wand then?” Harry asked, trying to sound light-hearted, as if the previous conversation hadn’t happened. “I promise I won’t fling you in Azkaban.”

“Only because it doesn’t exist here,” Draco countered.

Harry gave him a nudge with his shoulder. “Really, though. You should.”

“I . . . don’t know,” Draco said uncertainly. “Show me that it works.”

Harry picked it up and waved it at his suitcase, Summoning a sock. He meant it to land lightly in front of him, but he was too worked up to concentrate properly, and instead he found himself with a mouth full of fabric. As he spat it out, he realised Draco was laughing. “At least it’s a clean one,” he said, trying not to feel like a wally, and he held out the wand to Draco.

Draco took it, and then just stared at it.

“I can turn my back, if you want,” Harry suggested. “If I’m putting you off.”

“Like I’m doing something filthy?” Draco countered, raising an eyebrow.

Harry tried not to go red. “If you were doing something filthy, I wouldn’t offer to turn my back!”

Draco made a heroic and yet terrible attempt to smile. “Are you sure you trust me with a wand?” he asked lightly, his seriousness bleeding through. “I could do anything.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Are you going to cast a spell before we die of old age, or what?”

Draco firmed his chin, then made Harry’s sock tap dance along the duvet, zoom around the room and finally land, neatly, back inside the suitcase.

“All right, show-off,” Harry said when Draco laid the wand down and then reclined back himself, smirking. “It works better for you. Don’t rub it in.”

“Does it work better, or am I just better?” Draco asked.

Harry tackled him, pinning him to the bed, and was just about to rip his clothes off when Draco said, unhelpfully, “I reckon Pansy will come looking for me pretty soon, given that I gave my minder the slip. I’m meant to be at the venue right now. Shall I write you an IOU?”

Harry rolled off. “No,” he said, sulking.

“Don’t sulk,” Draco said lightly. “Is that a fair reward for me virtuously telling you the truth? I’d have much preferred you to think I was up to no good.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” Harry said, turning on his side to face Draco.

Draco’s expression was now very warm. “No, I suppose not. I didn’t want you to know about the whole wand issue though. If you hadn’t noticed.”

Harry had, just a little, but he decided to let it go, terrified all over again by this further slide into intimacy. “So, er, are we going to talk about the wish thing?” he asked hesitantly instead, and then found that was almost as bad. He was going to wait for Draco to answer, but instead found himself ploughing on, not actually wanting to hear what Draco might say. “Surely you don’t want to stay like this forever?”

Draco reached across and tugged Harry’s hair. “Regretting you wished for life to be better for me?” he asked, an edge to his voice.

“That’s not fair,” Harry protested, catching at Draco’s hand and holding it.

“Life’s not fair, is it?” Draco said, not pulling away. His eyes were very pale and clear, and Harry found he had no idea what Draco was thinking. Whatever Draco was searching for in Harry’s face, though, he seemed to like what he found, because he relaxed, letting his head fall back against the pillow. “What’s your plan then, oh great saviour? I suppose I could help, if you really want me to.”

Harry didn’t have a plan. “I thought we’d try a counter spell under the stars,” he said, winging it. That had been what Hermione suggested, right? “It didn’t work when I did it, but maybe if you try . . .?”

Draco wrinkled his nose. “Well, I can’t say the idea of sneaking about after dark with the great Harry Potter doesn’t hold a certain appeal. Almost like I was one of the good guys, eh? We’ll try it tonight, after I’ve finished performing,” he said, almost cheerily.

Harry wondered if Draco was being a bit too cheerful about it, given the circumstances. The more he found out about Draco’s life back in the wizarding world, the guiltier he felt about wanting to return him to it. “Are you sure?” he asked.

Draco pulled his hand out of Harry’s and sat up. “Getting cold feet?” he asked unkindly.

“No,” Harry said, but wondered if he actually meant yes.

^^^^^^

It proved surprisingly easy to give Draco’s entourage the slip once the concert was over. Harry had spent the whole afternoon backstage, followed by the whole evening, and was starting to wonder if he would ever again experience fresh air, when Draco sent him a text. My dressing room. Now!

Harry made his way to Draco’s dressing room, and Draco pulled him inside, giving him a swift kiss. He smelt of soap, his skin damp, and when he pulled back Harry could see he was dressed head to toe in black. Draco smirked at him, his cheeks sparkling faintly with the ever-present remnants of glitter, and pulled the hood of his jumper over his head. “Disguise,” he said, as if the outfit did anything to conceal who he was. It didn’t even hide his hair properly.

“You look like a third-rate thief,” Harry said, trying not to laugh.

“Yeah?” Draco said, but he turned to rummage through a wardrobe, and came back holding . . . the stupid, orange-fur animal hat. Before Harry could protest, Draco strode over and jammed it on Harry’s head. It tickled his forehead, and while Harry knew he looked ridiculous, this was confirmed when Draco started to laugh so hard that tears pricked his eyes.

“What am I disguised as? An escapee from the Janus Thickey ward?” Harry protested. “This isn’t helpful!”

“No,” Draco said, clearly trying to pull himself together. “But it is wonderful.” His eyes were crinkled with mirth. “Right, come on then.”

“This is your plan?” Harry asked, raising his eyebrows. “A Burglar Bill outfit, and a hat that will – what? Incapacitate our enemies with laughter as we make our escape?”

“No,” Draco said, opening the door and sticking his head out, to peer down the corridor. “My plan is to run away, the moment they’re not looking.”

“And . . . why won’t they be looking?” Harry asked as they sidled out into the empty corridor and along it.

Draco shot him a smug look. “Because I arranged to meet Pansy in the VIP lounge in ten minutes, that’s why.”

“So . . . your plan is to run outside, where we will be eaten alive by your waiting fans,” Harry said, thinking this was worth pointing out.

“We’re not running out,” Draco said impatiently, as if Harry was an idiot. “We’re running up.” And he dashed down the corridor before Harry could ask him to explain himself more clearly. It soon became obvious, anyway, as Harry followed Draco up a series of twists of stairs and tiny, service corridors, culminating in a door that threatened to turn on an alarm if it was opened.

Draco held out his hand, and Harry managed to extract the wand from his trouser leg, where it was tucked inside his sock for safe-keeping, with some difficulty. “What?” he said defensively when he saw Draco staring at him with his nose screwed up. “Does your outfit have a wand pocket? Would you rather I’d shoved it up my arse?

Draco raised his eyebrows, and then sniggered. “Possibly a bit unhygienic,” he said, and then cast Silencio as he opened the door, the alarm making the tiniest of gasps but then subsiding into silence.

They walked out on to the roof, the wind doing its best to tousle their hair but only managing to make the flaps of Harry’s terrible animal hat swing about madly. It was gloomy up on the enormous, flat roof, but not pitch-black; there were still lights on inside the building, and although the concert hall was surrounded by park, the park in turn was surrounded by the urban sprawl of the city, glinting in the distance.

Harry looked up. It was cloudy.

“Well, this is a bit anticlimactic,” Draco said unsympathetically. “Can’t I at least have a tiny round of applause?”

Harry snorted. “What for?”

Draco shrugged. “Taking you to this fine roof?” He gazed around at the fine roof. “Muggles are so peculiar,” he concluded. “Is it too much to inquire why half the roof is covered in grass?”

“It’s eco-friendly,” Harry said. He’d had far too much time on his hands that afternoon. “The other half is solar panels, which—”

“No, thank you,” Draco said firmly. “You’re ruining the moment. I was just about to point out that Grindelwald might have come from somewhere round here.” He flourished the wand. “He was blond too,” he added, giving Harry a sly, sideways glance.

“Sure,” Harry agreed cheerfully, mostly because he thought it would wind Draco up. “Is this where your evil plan takes form then?”

Draco turned, and on his face was a . . . pout.

“What an evil pout you have there,” Harry said mercilessly. “I’m shaking in my boots.”

“Yeah, fuck off,” Draco said, turning back to look out into the gloom. “Did it really not cross your mind that I might try to Imperio you, earlier? Take over the world?” He said it lightly, but there was a hint of something more horrible underneath. “How would anyone stop me,” Draco said quietly into the dark, “if we’re the only two people in the world with magic?”

Well, this was fun, Harry thought, and decided it wouldn’t help to point out that there was no way Draco would be able to make the Imperio stick for more than five minutes, if it worked at all. He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Go on then, tell me your grand plan, Grindelfoy,” he said, which made Draco turn and scowl. “What would you do if you ruled the world with magic?”

“I’d . . .” Draco trailed off, scuffed his feet on the roof. “Rule over the Muggles with an iron fist, I suppose,” he said to his shoes.

“In what sense?” Harry asked, trying to keep his temper. It was cold on the roof, despite the time of year, and he shivered, wishing he’d worn a coat. At least his ears were warm, he thought stupidly.

Draco turned his back on Harry, wand hand limp by his side, staring out into the dark. “Oh, I’d make them serve me,” he said with an attempt at lightness. “Worship me.”

Harry considered this. And he considered Draco’s legions of fans, his army of staff, his expensive hotel suites, and cars, and clothes. “And how would that be any different to now?” he asked, feeling curious, despite himself.

Draco half-turned, his hair almost bone-white in the gloom. “I suppose if I were evil, I might put you on your knees.”

It wasn’t quite a joke, so Harry didn’t treat it as one. Instead, trying not to overthink things, he sank to his knees, the metal of the roof cold and bloody uncomfortable underneath him.

Draco froze, and then turned to face Harry fully. “What the fuck are you doing?” he hissed.

Harry shrugged. “If this is all it takes to stop you turning evil and taking over the world, then here I am, on my knees for you,” he said levelly, although his heart was beating so hard that he felt dizzy.

“I – I didn’t mean!” Draco stuttered. “I meant . . .” He trailed off, breathing hard. His left hand had curled into a fist, jammed tight against his thigh; his right hand curled tightly around the wand.

“In bed?” Harry offered.

“Yes!” Draco said quickly.

“Well, I’ll do that too, if you want,” Harry offered, his voice still level by some miracle, “but no, that’s not what you meant, was it?”

The wand slipped from Draco’s fingers and he was stumbling forward, grabbing painfully at Harry’s arms and pulling him upwards. “Fuck you, Harry, get up, get up,” he said. “Stop it, I fucking hate it.” He crushed Harry into a hug that wasn’t affectionate; it was raw, and tight, and somehow terrifying. “Why are we talking about this anyway?” Draco mumbled into Harry’s hair, as Harry hugged him right back.

Harry rolled his eyes, even though Draco couldn’t see it. “You started it,” he pointed out, because there was no way he was taking the blame for this.

Draco let out an unsteady breath. “I was just getting in the mood to destroy the world,” he said, his voice odd.

Harry half pulled away. “We’re not destroying the world,” he said firmly. “Don’t be silly.”

Draco pulled away completely, and bent down to pick up the discarded wand. “No?” he said, rolling up his sleeves. “I think your friend Hermione might disagree.”

“It’s for her own good!” Harry protested. “It’s for your own good,” he added.

Draco reached for Harry with his left hand; raised the wand, and his face towards the sky. “You sure about that?” he said, and then, before Harry could respond, shouted, “Finite Incantatem!”, a burst of sparks fizzing from the wand and briefly illuminating the clouds above them.

It was only a brief illumination though. Very soon, it was replaced by the blinding flash of a lightbulb. Harry realised – his expression of horror matched by Draco’s as they turned to each other – that they’d been followed up to the roof by a photographer.

Chapter Text

To Harry’s deep relief, the world’s media appeared to come to the conclusion that the sight of Draco on a rooftop, brandishing an ‘impressive toy wand’ as he yelled Latin to the night sky, was both adorably eccentric and totally British. They had less to say about Harry, his ‘partner in crime’, even though he appeared in all the photos too. He wasn’t holding Draco’s hand so much as clutching it, Harry thought, a vision of the two of them popping into his brain whenever he tried not to think about it. And his expression, as he stared at Draco . . .

“The media clearly think you’re a harmless idiot,” Pansy said with too much enjoyment. “No one could possibly believe Draco would fancy you,” she added unhelpfully. “Not when you’re wearing that hat, at any rate. I wonder why it is that Draco looks adorable in it, while you look . . .” She tapped her lips thoughtfully. “Unspeakable,” she concluded.

“I told you the hat was a great disguise,” Draco said smugly to Harry. “Oh ye of little faith.”

It was a bit rich of Draco to pretend he’d planned it, after his little performance on the roof, but Harry was so glad the cameras hadn’t captured either him on his knees, or Draco’s bone-breaking, desperate hug, that he decided to let it go. “Ha ha,” he said, and suffered Pansy patting him unsympathetically on the cheek.

Besides, Luna had spent the whole flight from Berlin to Turin scribbling frantically on a pad of paper and muttering under her breath, and by the time Turin had become Barcelona, she’d somehow managed to design, organise and make a dozen new costumes. Draco debuted the new look in the Estadi Olímpic that night: flowing black robes studded with crystals, a ridiculously tall pointed hat, and a diamante-encrusted wand that emitted a stream of light when you pushed a button.

Blaise had been flown in specially to choreograph a new routine, and the sight of his handsome, insufferable face put a dent in Harry’s amusement at the sight of Draco looking like a complete tosser, but even so. The vision of Draco Malfoy, of all people, dressing up as a Muggle wizard was still almost too funny to bear.

Besides, there was more for Harry to worry about than whether Blaise was standing too close to Draco or not. Pansy, despite her constant mockery of Harry, the ‘wizard’s assistant’, was furious with the both of them, and Harry began to find it difficult to get Draco on his own. Whenever he tried, there Pansy was, shooing Draco away to another engagement, or insisting Harry let Draco rest. Their hotel rooms were no longer next to each other, and whenever Harry tried to find Draco’s, a bodyguard would pop up to usher Harry back to his own room.

It was infuriating, but at the same time, Harry found it hard to argue with Pansy’s assertion that Draco needed his sleep. Harry already felt knackered himself, and if he was tired, how must Draco be feeling? He never seemed to stop. When they weren’t on a plane or in a taxi, Draco was rehearsing, or sound checking, or performing, or talking talking talking: to his fans, to the media, to his crew.

It wasn’t that Harry felt neglected, exactly. That would be stupid. And he didn’t think Draco was happy about the situation either; he was unfailingly polite and friendly to everyone around him apart from Pansy, Harry noticed. And he noticed – trying not to notice – that Draco was always scanning the room, looking for him. He immediately looked away if he saw Harry had seen him do it, but that almost made it worse. Sometimes, Harry could feel Draco looking at him across the room, and it was doing amazingly fucked up things to his insides.

Harry had almost started to watch Draco to stop him watching him. Except, in some ways, that made it worse. Because it made him think too much. About how, in some ways, Draco was exactly the same as ever: vicious, sharp, shitty. But in other ways, he . . . wasn’t. Was it just Harry’s wishful thinking, seeing what he wanted to see? Making excuses, because being in bed with Draco was just so fucking incredible? Because he appeared to need to keep Draco on side to have a chance of getting home? He wasn’t sure. But . . . in this odd, wish world, Luna liked Draco. And so did Ron. And Hermione and Parvati were in love with him, pretty much, and he was talented, and funny, and kind to his fans, and . . .

Thinking about a future with Draco was like running head first into a brick wall. It gave you a splitting headache, even though you could see the fucking thing coming.

Maybe it was the situation itself, sending him off balance, he thought as he skulked about backstage at yet another identical-looking venue. It wasn’t like he’d enjoyed being the centre of attention, back in the wizarding world. It was just . . . unnerving, to be treated as almost invisible. Even now, when he’d been in the papers, people seemed to look straight through him. And anyway, he thought uncomfortably, that wasn’t the point. None of this – his fucked up feelings for Draco, his crisis over his sexuality – mattered. What mattered was that he and Draco had tried to fix the wish magic, and it hadn’t worked, so they needed to try again. It had been cloudy, Harry told himself firmly, trying not to panic. That’s why it hadn’t worked. They hadn’t been able to see the stars. The meteor shower. Which was due to come to an end in . . . just a couple of weeks.

“Stop stressing out about the spell and take your trousers off,” Draco said as he pulled Harry into his dressing room in – Madrid? Harry couldn’t even remember – locking the door behind him. “Pansy thinks I’m still in a fitting with Luna right now, so we’ve only got a few minutes before she comes looking. And if I don’t get to touch you right now, I swear, I’m going to go insane.”

Harry tried to use his brain as Draco pushed him against the door, shoving a hand in Harry’s boxers and taking a firm grip of his cock. “I’m . . . not stressing about the spell,” he mumbled, tugging Draco’s dressing gown open and returning the favour.

“Yes, you are,” Draco said, leaning his forehead against Harry’s. His breath was warm, and coming more quickly now. “But we don’t even know if we can fix it outside of London, do we?” he pointed out, doing something with his wrist that made Harry’s knees buckle.

“That’s really not helpful,” Harry managed, pumping Draco’s cock harder, which made him gasp.

“God. Feels good,” Draco breathed, and the minutes stretched into bliss as they jerked each other off, Harry’s mind doing its best to unravel.

“Worst comes to the worst,” Harry heard Draco mumble, between gasps. “We’ll just abandon the tour and fuck off home. All this is just temporary, anyway,” Draco continued, voice low. “It doesn’t matter.”

Harry was going to say something, his mind trying to fight the fog of arousal, but there was a sharp knock on the other side of the door. Draco’s head shot up, and he reached up with his free hand and pressed it against Harry’s mouth, still pumping Harry’s cock hard and fast.

“I’m busy!” Draco managed.

Harry could hardly keep a rhythm going on Draco’s cock, he was so close to coming. He clenched his muscles, trying to hold off. Clenched his lips tight shut, pressing against Draco’s muffling hand.

“Draco, I’m waiting,” Pansy said from the other side of the door.

“Give me a minute!” Draco said.

A minute? Harry wasn’t sure he would last thirty more seconds.

“Fine!” Pansy snapped crossly, and Harry could hear the sound of her heels on the hard floor as she stomped away.

Somehow Harry managed to hold off until he couldn’t hear Pansy’s heels any longer, the sensations building until he couldn’t stand it, couldn’t stop squirming, his whole body jerking against the feeling. And then he came, long and hard, his groans muffled by Draco’s hand.

He sank to his knees, barely able to stand, and since he was down there, he thought he might as well make himself useful, so he leaned over and took Draco’s cock in his mouth. Harry wondered if he’d ever get enough of the feeling as his lips slid over Draco’s cock, feeling it swell under his tongue. Draco made a noise as if he was going to die, and when Harry looked up, his mouth full, Draco was clamping both hands over his own mouth, his eyes enormous.

Harry looked Draco in the eye as he sucked, and it only took a couple of minutes before Draco was coming down his throat.

“Did you mean it?” Harry said as they sat next to each on the sofa in the dressing room, Draco’s head lolling against Harry’s chest. “About going back to London, I mean. If the spell doesn’t work here.”

Draco didn’t answer for a moment. Then he sat up, his back very straight. He did his dressing gown back up, and said, “Yes,” before turning away and heading for the shower.

And Harry remembered something he’d been trying not to think about, but which nevertheless kept rising up within him, making him feel odd and unwell: that phone call, where Draco had told him furiously that he didn’t even want to be Harry’s friend, whether they were stuck in this reality or not; he just wanted to have fun, and get Harry out of his system.

^^^^^^

Ron turned up in Porto, just as Draco had left the VIP area of the frankly enormous stadium to go and get dressed in the red-winged costume for his opening song. It was awkward for about five seconds, and then it felt to Harry as if he’d known Ron for years. He had, he supposed. But at the same time, he didn’t know this Ron, who was subtly different, but still Ron enough to make him miss his own best friend as much as a missing limb.

Ron was buzzing and jovial, after – as far as Harry could tell – his team had won a match that afternoon against the local team, FC Porto, 5–0. Harry tried to remember how football worked, and was surprised by the knowledge he could dredge up. He supposed he’d spent far too much of his life listening to Dean drone on about West Ham, so it was inevitable some of it had stuck. But Ron’s enthusiasm was somehow contagious, and he seemed to quickly realise that Harry lacked technical knowledge, moving the conversation on to other things with cheerful deftness.

They talked for so long that Draco was already singing by the time Ron realised he should have gone to take his seat, the pumping music filtering in through the thin walls of the room, punctuated by the roar of the crowd. “Ah well,” Ron said, grinning. “I’m not much of a fan of pop music, to be honest. Don’t tell his majesty.”

Harry grinned back, and ordered a couple of whiskys from a passing waiter, because it wasn’t Firewhisky, and it wasn’t Ron, not really, but it was the next best thing.

Part way into their third drink, Harry stared into his glass and said, without thinking, “I wish Hermione was here too.”

Ron spilled half his whisky on his knee. “Bugger!” he said, and then he went bright red, the colour of his cheeks clashing with his hair and making his freckles stand out. “Draco swore he wouldn’t say anything, the knobber.”

“About what?” Harry asked as a waiter swooped over with a pile of tissue to soak up Ron.

Ron went, if anything even redder. “About nothing!” he said unconvincingly, and downed the rest of his glass, motioning to the waiter for a top-up.

Harry frowned at him.

“Oh, all right!” Ron said, opening up like a tipsy, ginger flower. “I might have met up with Hermione the other day. Just to remind myself how terrible she is!” he protested, his ears now scarlet. “We mostly had an argument,” he said thoughtfully, taking a sip of his refreshed drink. “She’s bloody hard work, isn’t she?”

“Not at all,” Harry said loyally, and then grinned at Ron. “She’s fantastic.”

“Is she?” Ron asked, a trifle dubiously. He leaned in confidentially. “Between you and me, mate, my reputation as a lad about town is a bit exaggerated. I like a bird as much as the next man—” He broke off, grinning. “Well, maybe the man next to the next man, no offense,” he amended, “but mostly when I’m tucked up in bed it’s just me and my teddy bear.” He went red again. “If I had a teddy bear. Which I don’t.” He took another drink.

Harry wondered, vaguely, if Ron’s teddy bear was in the shape of a cuddly sandwich, and then decided the thought was unworthy of him. “So you and Hermione . . .” he prompted.

Ron was back to giving off enough heat from his face to power a small town. “I dunno, mate,” he said, swilling his drink around his glass. “There’s something interesting about her. She winds me up no end, but . . .” He shrugged.

“You couldn’t do better than Hermione,” Harry said firmly, because it was true.

Ron seemed to consider this, his face torn between terror and interest. But then, to Harry’s alarm, he looked around to check no one could overhear him, and leaned in to say, “So, what about you and Draco, then? You going out?”

“No,” Harry said, because they weren’t, were they? Not what he considered going out, at any rate. “Not really,” he found himself amending.

Ron gave him an old-fashioned look, worthy of Hermione herself. “Yes, you are,” he said.

Harry considered replying ‘no, we’re not!’ but thought there was a danger of the whole business descending into a Muggle pantomime routine, and so didn’t reply at all. He felt conscious, anyway, of the fact that it appeared to be his turn to go red, and his face was doing its best to outcompete Ron’s earlier fine example.

“You know,” Ron said, taking another gulp of his drink, “he’s a knobhead, is Draco, but if you happened to be into knobheads, then you couldn’t pick a better one, in my opinion.”

“Er, thanks,” Harry said, hoping this terrible conversation would be over soon, before he had to dig a hole in the floor to hide himself in. “I’ll bear it in mind.”

Ron grinned at him and raised his glass. “Cheers!” he said, and Harry raised his own glass and clinked them together, hoping this toast would put an end to that particular topic.

^^^^^^

Draco, when he finally joined them after the concert was over and he’d done his duty with the waiting fans in another room, seemed unable to decide if he found it amusing or offensive that Harry seemed to have won over his ‘best friend’ so easily. He filched Harry’s almost untouched fourth glass of whisky and knocked it back, at any rate, slumping into Harry’s lap with a relaxed sigh.

“Thanks for coming to see my show,” Draco said pointedly to Ron.

“You’re very welcome, knobhead,” Ron replied cheerfully, with a wink at Harry.

Harry went hot again, and Draco gave him a curious look, before Pansy zoomed over like a targeted curse. “I leave you alone for one minute,” she said, miming tearing her hair out. “Can’t you use a chair like a normal person?”

“Hello, Pansy,” Ron said, still cheerful.

“Yes, hello, Ron, thanks for the help,” Pansy said through gritted teeth.

“I’m not a normal person,” Draco said through a yawn. “I’m a wizard. Didn’t you see the papers?”

“You, Draco, are an arsewipe,” Pansy said, tugging at his arm. Draco allowed himself to be tugged, sliding off Harry’s lap to sit very close to him instead.

“He is a wizard though,” Ron said, with all the confidence a fifth glass of whisky brought. Draco glared at him as Pansy turned to raise her eyebrows in his direction. “He is wizard, I mean,” he amended hastily. “Totally top hole. Spiffing. Etc.”

“You’re definitely ‘etc’, all right,” Harry whispered to Draco, who gave him a sharp jab in the side in response, the only real indication he was still awake. His eyes had drifted shut, and his head had drooped to rest on Harry’s shoulder.

“Give me strength,” Pansy muttered, but she sat down next to Ron, a waiter placing a glass of red wine in her outstretched hand as if by magic.

Ron sniggered, and clinked her glass with his. And then they sat there for a while, the strangest of foursomes, talking as if they were friends. Draco was mostly quiet, but Harry could feel him breathing against him; could feel the warmth of him, seeping through his thin T-shirt and into Harry’s skin. Oddly, it felt more intimate than anything they’d done so far, and Harry felt his heart start to pound as they sat there quietly, more terrified than he’d been in a very long time.

^^^^^^

When they got back to the hotel later that night, Draco vanished into his enormous suite, and Harry – after a meaningful glare from Pansy – went into his own, medium-sized room at the other end of the hallway. Ron had buggered off to re-join his team in a different hotel, after extorting Harry’s phone number and promising to call him often to tell him all about how annoying Hermione was.

Harry sat down on his bed, and then stood up again, going back to his door and opening it. Outside, her arms crossed and her eyebrows raised, was Pansy, like a cock-blocking avenging angel. “He’s tired,” she said firmly, and made a shooing motion with her hands. “Stop thinking with your dick and go to bed.”

Harry shut the door on this hideous vision and sat back down on the bed, feeling exhausted, wound up and extremely misunderstood. His phone rang, and he reached for it, not checking who was calling, expecting it to be either Parvati, calling to find out the gossip, or Ron, who’d already sent him several messages about Hermione and teeth.

“She’s worse than Devil’s Snare,” Draco complained as soon as he picked up. “As soon as you move, she’s got her tendrils curled round your leg and she’s going for your throat.”

Harry laughed, taking from this that Draco, too, had tried to sneak out of his room, only to be caught in the act by Pansy. “I’m sure she only has your best interests at heart,” he said, a little dubiously.

Her best interests, you mean,” Draco said sulkily, and yawned very loudly. “I’m not tired,” he said unconvincingly when he’d finished. “You’re just really boring.”

Harry grinned, shuffling up the bed and leaning back against the headboard. “Thanks.”

“You’d be less boring in person, I expect,” Draco said lightly. “I don’t suppose you’d like to Apparate in?”

Harry considered the fact that last time he’d used the wand, he’d ended up with a sock in his face, and decided that, on balance, he preferred himself un-Splinched. “Probably a bad idea,” he said.

“Oh well,” Draco said cheerfully, “we’ll just have to settle for dirty talk, I suppose. Have you thought any more about whether you’d like to fuck me?”

Harry made a valiant attempt to swallow his own tongue.

“Are you all right?” Draco said after a moment, sounding amused. “Hyperventilate once for yes, twice for no.”

“I . . . yes,” Harry said. “I’m fine! You just, er . . .” He cleared his throat. “Caught me by surprise.”

Draco sniggered. It was a blood-curdling sound. “You’ve gone all gentlemanly and uptight. This is eye-gate all over again.”

“It’s not!” Harry protested, feeling a little like the towering inferno in human form.

“It is,” Draco said remorselessly. “You can take me to dinner first, if that helps sooth your conscience. We’re in Paris tomorrow for a few days, and allegedly, I have a day off. I can shout at Pansy until she agrees to let me off the leash, if you’re too chicken to do it.”

“All right,” Harry said, and this time it was Draco’s turn to choke. “All right to dinner!” Harry protested.

“Of course,” Draco said, but he sounded so smug that Harry went all shivery with anticipation.

“And you can do the shouting at Pansy,” Harry said, sliding down the bed until he was lying flat. “She’s your friend, not mine.”

“Yes, fine,” Draco said, still sounding smug.

“And . . . if we can’t fix the spell after Paris, I want us to go back to London,” Harry said, because that was the sort of thing he did, apparently – ruined pleasant conversations with unpalatable suggestions.

There was an unpleasant pause. “Yes, fine,” Draco said eventually.

“I’m not being a dick,” Harry said, not sure if he was trying to convince Draco or himself. “I just . . . we keep putting it off. And if we put it off much longer, we won’t have the choice any more.”

“The choice,” Draco repeated, sounding odd. “Yes, I suppose.” He snorted. “And you are being a dick, by the way.”

“Am I?” Harry asked quietly, feeling upset.

Draco let out a noise of frustration. “Hang on,” he said, and then hung up.

Harry was just wondering whether it was normal to feel this pathetic, when there was a light knock at his door. He heaved himself off his bed and walked over, peering through the spyhole to see Draco in pyjamas with messy hair and bare feet, standing grumpily in the corridor. He opened the door quickly and Draco shot in, closing the door gently behind him. He looked exhausted, Harry thought, although his expression was triumphant.

“No lurking Pansy,” he said, and then folded his arms as if he wasn’t sure what to do next.

“It would be a bit weird if she spent the whole night in the corridor,” Harry offered. “Why am I a dick?”

Draco pulled a face. “Because you have no idea how much I want—” He broke off, clearly irritated by himself.

“To stay in this reality?” Harry asked unhappily. “Yes, I’d noticed.”

Draco was silent for a moment. “Is that what you think?” he asked eventually, tone curious.

“Don’t you?” Harry replied.

Draco pulled a face. “As much as I would love to be a permanent Muggle and live the rest of my life under Pansy’s thumb, I do realise that this has to end at some point. It’s not only you who has responsibilities back in the wizarding world, people to return to. But what I want, you idiot, is . . .” He swallowed hard, seemed to be about to say something but lose his nerve. “Right now, I want to go to sleep, because I’m exhausted,” he continued instead, catching and holding Harry’s gaze. “And tomorrow, I want to get up and go to Paris, and eat croissants, and be a tourist, and then I want you to take me to bed. And then we can reverse the spell, as you so helpfully suggested. But in the meantime, what I want is for you to shut up about it, and stop ruining my fantasy Muggle life by reminding me that it’ll soon be over.”

Harry felt too tired for this conversation, for a decision that seemed unpleasant either way: attempt to return Draco to the ruin of his life now, or later? It was Draco’s own fault if his life was ruined, Harry thought hotly, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to help Draco rebuild it.

Draco took a couple of steps closer to Harry, his expression both nervous and belligerent. “So, what do you want to do? We can try and reverse the spell right now, if you want to. Please bear in mind that it might work. Or you can take me on a date in Paris, and then take me up the arse,” he added casually, making Harry splutter. “Up to you.”

Harry dithered for a moment, caught between the option he thought was best – ripping off the plaster and getting it over with – and the option that delayed the pain for later. Because right here, right now, against all odds, he was actually happy, in an odd, hurting kind of way. The sex aside, he didn’t know how Draco felt, not really. But he knew how he felt: raw, and odd, and definitely not ready to let whatever this was between him and Draco go.

It was that that decided it, really. He took Draco’s hand and led him to the bed, throwing back the covers and pretending not to notice how Draco’s face collapsed from fake bravado into something more raw and real. “I’m doing it for the croissants,” he said firmly as Draco got in, and then quickly undressed down to his underpants and crawled in beside him, covering them both up and reaching to turn off the light.

When he rolled back towards Draco, Draco curled in towards him, tucking their bodies together. “I actually prefer pain au chocolate,” Draco said. He sounded calm but exhausted, as if he’d lost all his energy and was running on empty.

“Whatever you want,” Harry said sleepily, overcome by a yawn. He put his arm around Draco, pulled him in even closer.

Draco mumbled something under his breath that sounded all the world like, “I wish you meant that.”

“Sorry?” Harry said, startled, but Draco didn’t reply. He was breathing slow and evenly, as if he was already asleep.

He was asleep, Harry told himself. He was asleep, and definitely not muttering impossible things that made Harry’s breath catch in his throat, with the mad hope that Draco did, after all, want there to be more between them than just a fuck.

He was asleep. Wasn’t he?

^^^^^^

When they got off the plane and walked out on to the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle, Draco stopped in his tracks and sniffed the air dramatically. “La belle France,” he said, waving a hand in the air. “It’s so good to be home.”

Pansy snorted and strode on ahead, clearly too irritated to put up with this nonsense.

“Have you ever actually been to France before?” Harry asked, suspecting the answer was no. If Draco had, then he wouldn’t have shut up about it at school.

This little dig didn’t take the wind out of Draco’s sails. “No,” he said. “This is my spiritual home, of course.”

“Is it?” Harry asked mildly, walking towards the large limousine waiting for them in the distance.

“Yes!” Draco said, chasing after him. “I’m practically French, you know.”

“Do you speak any French?” Harry said.

Un petit peu,” Draco said smugly. “J’ne comprend pas, that sort of thing.”

“Right,” Harry said drily, strongly suspecting this was Norwegian poetry all over again. “Any French relatives?”

“Of course! Armand Malfoy,” Draco said, mock offended. “He came over in 1066, you know, with the Norman invasion.”

“You are so French,” Harry said sarcastically as he got into the waiting car, a uniformed driver holding the door open for him.

“I know!” Draco agreed, sliding in next to him. “Cut me, and I bleed Chateauneuf-du-Pape.” He paused. “That’s red wine,” he added facetiously. “From France.”

“God, I could do with a glass of that,” Pansy groaned from her seat opposite. She was wearing dark glasses, and Harry couldn’t tell if she had her eyes open or not.

“The wine, or my blood?” Draco asked, sniggering.

Pansy slid her glasses down her nose and peered over them at him. “Don’t ask a question if you’re not prepared to hear the answer,” she said ominously, and then pushed the glasses back in place, leaning her head back on the plump leather headrest. “Now don’t talk to me. I have a headache.”

“Sorry, Pans,” Draco said, leaving over to give her a pat on the knee, which she batted away enthusiastically without moving her head.

“I love France, don’t you?” Luna said as she slid in next to Pansy; Pansy didn’t respond, just twitched. “So many different cheeses. I think I’ll eat a chunk of a different one every hour while we’re here,” she said dreamily.

“As long as you don’t dress me as a cheese,” Draco said firmly as the car started.

Please dress him as a cheese,” Harry said, sniggering, and then had to dodge Draco, who was apparently trying to tickle him to death.

Luna watched with apparent interest. “What sort of cheese?” she asked, when Harry had managed to pin Draco’s arms to his sides to stop him, although he was still struggling, his face red with laughter.

“I will wreak a great and terrible vengeance on anyone who attempts to dress me as a cheese,” Draco said with matching great and terrible dignity, and wiggled free from Harry’s grip. “Anyway, I’m too busy today to be measured up for a Brie suit,” he continued, settling back in his seat. “Harry and I are going to have fun in Paris, given that this is my first day off in weeks.”

“Take Mark,” Pansy said, without moving a muscle.

“Yes, boss,” the wide bodyguard grunted from his seat next to the driver.

Draco looked startled by this development. “No, but—”

“Can I come too?” Luna asked cheerfully.

“Yes, of course,” Pansy said.

“Sorry,” Draco said, “but it’s just going to be—”

“You don’t mind, do you, Draco?” Luna said, turning her wide, innocent eyes on him. “I think it’s wonderful you’ve fallen for Harry, and I’d really like to know him better.”

Draco made a noise a bit like an airlock in a tap – sort of low and gurgly – as Harry wondered vaguely whether there were still any working Time-Turners hanging around anywhere, and if there were, if it would be possible to roll back time and stuff enough cheese in her mouth that she wouldn’t be physically capable of saying such an embarrassing thing out loud. It wasn’t true, in any case. Draco was enthusiastic when it came to the bedroom, but Harry wasn’t sure if he could trust in anything else; Draco was a roiling mass of contradictions. And regardless, if – when – they got back home, to their real world, it wouldn’t matter anyway. The thought of dating Draco in the wizarding world was almost as inconceivable now as it had been that night on the roof, before it had all gone wrong.

“Great,” Pansy interrupted firmly. “I know the four of you will have so much fun.”

“Yes,” Draco said, a little oddly. “I’m especially looking forward to later, when Harry takes me up the . . . Eiffel Tower.”

Harry found himself making a ridiculous noise and attempted to turn it into a coughing fit. “Absolutely,” he managed, when the others turned to give him a variety of looks: Luna sympathetic, Pansy revolted, behind the sunglasses, and Draco . . .

Harry was going to kill Draco, he really was.

Draco reached over and ostentatiously took hold of Harry’s hand. And when the others weren’t paying attention to them any more, he leaned over and whispered, very close to Harry’s ear, “But the man mountain and Luna definitely won’t be present for that.”

^^^^^^

After they’d checked in to their latest hotel – Draco’s penthouse suite on the eighth floor of the Four Seasons the most ridiculous Harry had seen so far, while his own room on the first floor was the closest thing the luxury hotel had to a broom closet in comparison – they met in the lobby to go exploring, the strangest foursome Harry had ever seen. Draco was wearing a navy and white striped T-shirt, navy chinos and horrible deck shoes, all topped with a beret – “French,” he murmured, when Harry snorted at the sight of him – while for some reason Harry couldn’t understand, the man mountain – Mark – was wearing the orange-fur animal hat. Luna, in comparison, looked the most normal out of all of them, in a canary yellow sundress, with flowers stuck in her hair. He recognised the flowers; he’d seen the same blooms in a vase in his hotel room.

As they left the hotel lobby, Draco, who had already signed some two dozen autographs, took a pair of dark glasses out of his pocket and slid them on, attempting to tuck even more of his white-blond hair under his beret. “How do I look?” he asked, smirking at Harry.

Harry gave him a good look. “Like you got dressed in the dark,” he said gravely.

Draco grinned. “Monsieur, où est la plume de ma tante?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Have you tried the desk of your uncle?” Luna said seriously, and then gave Harry a sweet smile, before linking arms with him. “What shall we do if Draco gets mobbed?” she asked Harry as they went out into the sunlit street ahead of Draco and his bodyguard to see if it looked safe. It did. There weren’t any lurking fans. At least, if there were, they were lurking with skill and talent worthy of the Auror Department.

Harry looked back and beckoned Draco and Mark – or, rather, the anonymous Frenchman and his animal-eared companion – outside too. “If Draco gets mobbed, I reckon we should run away and leave him to it,” he said, and then he and Luna had to run away for a while anyway, to dodge an irrationally angry Frenchman who seemed determined to catch up and strangle the pair of them.

^^^^^^

The weather was glorious. Paris was glorious. They wandered aimlessly at first, staying out of the worst of the crowds, but if people recognised Draco under his ostentatious disguise, they mostly restrained themselves to pointing and staring, as if they weren’t confident enough that it was really him to actually come up and talk to him.

“I suppose you’re used to this,” Draco said quietly to Harry, curling his lip, when they’d been followed for several streets by a knot of slender teenage girls.

Was he? Harry supposed so. “I find it best not to leave the house,” he said cheerfully, to which Draco let out a snort. “No, really,” he said, realising now that this made him sound a bit mad. “I mean, I leave it for work, of course, and I Floo directly to friends, but other than that . . .” He shrugged, unable to see Draco’s eyes behind his glasses to know how he was reacting. “Kreacher does the food shopping?” he said. “Um. It’s not as bad as it sounds!”

“I . . . see,” Draco said, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“Oh, Harry!” Luna said from a few paces ahead, turning back and grabbing his hand, to pull him into the nearest shop. It was a cheese shop; the place of Luna’s dreams.

They left the shop fifteen minutes later, laden down with enough cheese to clog a man’s arteries to death, but Luna had such a seraphic smile that Harry felt unable to object. The man mountain, who Luna passed all the cheese to, didn’t openly object either, although Harry noticed that at the first chance he had, he hailed a taxi and sent it away with the cheese as a passenger – possibly back to the hotel, to alarm the staff, or possibly to fling directly into the Seine, Harry thought. The cheese had a pervasive smell that hadn’t seemed to leave in the taxi, and Harry wondered if they’d all smell like feet for the rest of forever.

“Not very talkative, are you, Mark?” Draco said to the man mountain, when the cheese had vanished and they’d walked a bit further in silence, paying their respects to the absent dairy.

“No,” he replied.

“Mark’s just shy,” Luna said cheerfully, and she took a flower out of her hair and stuck it in the top pocket of his black shirt.

“No,” he replied, which made Draco melt into laughter beside Harry, although he tried to hide it.

“Come on,” Draco said when he’d recovered, hailing a taxi. “Take us somewhere fun,” he said to the bewildered driver, and they pulled away, the driver talking rapidly in French into a radio on his car dashboard, the words Draco Malfoy making more than one appearance. Draco twitched, but pretended not to notice.

They whizzed around the city at breakneck speed, taking in monuments, museums, shops in bitesize, frantic chunks. Every time the crowds around Draco grew too thick, they dashed back into a different cab and drove somewhere else. Notre-Dame. The Louvre. Sacre-Coeur. Luna dragged them into tiny fragrant patisseries down narrow side streets, to eat croissants, and macarons, and eclairs, and went into ecstasies inside a poky shop piled to the ceiling with ribbons and buttons.

“For your cheese outfit,” she said to Draco with a twinkle in her eye as she bought out half the shop, although this time the proprietor offered to send her parcels directly the hotel. Mark, who appeared to have no facial expression under the animal hat other than ‘I’m at work and I hate everything’, almost cracked an expression of relief at this, but held back at the last moment.

Harry found, almost to his surprise, that he was having fun. It was difficult to be anything other than cheerful around Luna, who was unfailingly bright and optimistic even in the darkest of times. Harry wondered sometimes, catching Draco watching her, if he was thinking about those darkest of times, but didn’t like to ask, afraid of ruining the moment. Draco seemed to like Luna, at any rate, and she seemed to adore him, constantly catching his arm and smiling up at him as she asked for his opinion about a thousand, million things.

Pansy called as evening fell and summoned them to an awkward, formal dinner in the private room of an expensive restaurant. On the plus side, there were no fans, but Harry wasn’t in the mood to make small talk with Pansy. He was starting to get extremely nervous about the night ahead. Draco picked at his food, not looking at Harry, while Pansy fiddled with her cigarette case and Luna talked cheerfully about what a lovely day they’d had.

“Are we going to visit the Eiffel Tower now, Draco?” she said when Draco had waved away the dessert menu impatiently.

Draco turned to Harry at that, a glint in his eye. “Oh, I think so, don’t you, Harry?” he said, already getting up.

They ended up at the actual Eiffel Tower, of course, climbing the stairs until Harry thought his legs might give way. It was dark by the time they got to the top, and Draco pulled Harry by the sleeve, out on to the public balcony, his hair whipping free of his ridiculous beret. Draco took off his sunglasses, leaned on the barrier and stared out at the twinkling city spread out beneath them.

“Isn’t it wonderful,” Luna said, catching up with them. She nestled in beside Harry, who’d gone to stand next to Draco.

It was wonderful, Harry thought. But not as wonderful as Draco.

The thought made him breathless, and he moved his arm so it was touching Draco’s, but didn’t look at him, just stared out at the city below. Draco moved in very slightly closer. The feel of their arms pressed together, through the fabric of their coats, made the hairs on Harry’s skin stand on end and his heart pound.

The moment didn’t last long. Soon, of course, Draco’s fans were on him again, asking for ‘just one photo’ and a ‘quick signature’, and then loitering just behind him when they’d finished. Draco obliged, just as he’d obliged every time before, but he looked fed up. Harry didn’t blame him. He felt fed up, and wound up, too, by the thought that the thing he wanted most in the world, right this moment, was to be able to fucking hold Draco’s hand. But he didn’t, sure that if he tried, Draco would shake him off.

“He’s so polite,” Luna said suddenly as Harry watched Draco, making him jump.

Harry had never thought of Draco as polite before, had barely thought him capable of it, but he supposed she was right. It seemed that when he hadn’t been looking, Draco had grown up a bit.

“He really is amazing,” Luna continued dreamily, leaning against Harry, and plucking a flower out of her hair to hand to him.

Harry took it, unsure what to do with it, and Luna smiled, taking it back and tucking it behind his ear.

“Like a star,” she said, waving a hand vaguely in Draco’s direction.

“Yes,” Harry agreed awkwardly; stars were an uncomfortable subject right now.

“Stars are amazing, though, you know,” Luna said, standing up straight to give him a look that seemed to see straight inside his brain. “Flinging out heat and light relentlessly, to light up the darkness, until they destroy themselves.” She turned her face up to the sky above them. “Each star up there is dying, even as we watch them,” she said, matter of fact.

Harry shivered, and decided he’d had enough of this evening. He put the flower in his pocket and went over to Draco, who’d been cornered by a group of tourists, and touched his arm. “Shall we go back to the hotel?” he asked nervously, and Draco immediately turned his back on his fans, to their evident dismay.

He took a step towards Harry, his expression fierce, and said, very low, “Yes.”

It took too long to get down the tower again, even though this time they took the lift. There were people everywhere, and the darkness seemed to embolden them to take the liberties they hadn’t dared during the day. Draco shrank into Harry’s side, Mark doing his best to clear a path, as people tugged at Draco’s clothes, tried to get him to talk to them. Luna went ahead to call a taxi, and eventually they were moving, the traffic terrible. Draco was, once again, not looking at Harry, his fingers drumming soundlessly on his leg, and Harry felt like he was being eaten alive by his own nervous system.

“Nearly there,” Luna said kindly, and patted first Harry’s leg and then Draco’s, before turning to pat Mark’s leg too and clearly thinking better of it.

They weren’t ‘nearly there’ enough, and yet when they drew up outside the hotel it was all too fast, and Harry felt dazzled by the bright lights in the hotel foyer.

“Goodnight,” Luna said outside the lifts, and stood on tiptoes to kiss Harry on the cheek, before pressing the button for the eighth floor and waving Harry and Draco inside it.

Mark was about to follow in after them, but Luna caught him by one of the dangly parts of his hat, and Draco said, “Goodnight,” and Harry mashed the button to close the door, the risk of being caught by fans, or Pansy, or the press, suddenly not seeming important any more.

As soon as the lift door closed, Draco was in Harry’s arms, kissing him like they hadn’t seen each other for years, and Harry fell heavily against the back wall of the lift, the handrail digging into his back painfully, but he didn’t care. All he wanted to do right now was kiss Draco, and—

Draco pulled away, breathing heavily and neatening his hair as the lift dinged for the top floor, striding out without a backward glance, but then glancing backward when Harry didn’t follow immediately after, his expression wild, impatient. “Come on, come on,” Draco said, turning to stride towards the single door at the end of the corridor, Harry following close behind him. Draco reached the door and fumbled in his pocket for the key card. For a horrible moment, Harry thought he’d lost it, but then Draco drew it out, and then got it to work, opening the door and standing aside to let Harry through.

Harry stumbled through the door, closing it by means of slamming Draco hard against it, pinning him in place and kissing him until they were both breathless, and then kissing him some more. Harry felt shivery and out of control, and terrified, and turned on, and – was he really going to do this? Draco felt soft and pliant under him, and when Harry pulled away a fraction, just to catch his breath, try to clear his head, Draco let his head fall back against the door, looking totally undone, his expression raw and needy.

“I . . .” Harry said, and then didn’t know what to say, didn’t know what he wanted, what would satisfy the aching, gnawing sensation in his guts.

Draco wet his lips, then peeled himself off the door, reaching between them to take Harry’s hand, and turning to lead the way through a corridor Harry barely noticed, to a room that contained an enormous bed. “I . . .” Harry said, and then took Draco’s face in his hands, kissing him again.

Draco wrenched himself away, gasping. “I’ve just got to . . . One second . . .” he said, and vanished through a door off the bedroom. Harry swallowed hard, yanking his shoes off without undoing the laces and pulling his jumper off over his head and trying to flatten down his hair, and in under a minute Draco was back, his windswept hair now neat. When Harry kissed him again, he tasted of mint.

“Maybe I should . . .” he mumbled, but Draco kissed him again, tugging at Harry’s clothes, and they stumbled back towards the bed, shedding garments as they did so.

It was fast, and awkward, and Harry nearly tripped over his own underpants as he tried to step out of them, Draco narrowly avoiding elbowing him in the eye. Draco grabbed him, his face suggesting he was trying not to laugh, and Harry took advantage of his momentary weakness to yank down Draco’s own pants, which immediately wiped out his smirk.

They tangled together on the bed, side by side, their mouths meeting once again. Harry’s glasses dug uncomfortably into his face, and Draco tugged them off his face, threw them aside, and leaned back in to press an open-mouthed, needy kiss on his lips, sliding his tongue into Harry’s mouth.

Harry grabbed Draco’s backside, pulled him in even tighter. It felt amazing. The heat of Draco. His breath in Harry’s mouth. The hot press of his body against Harry’s. The feel of their erections knocking each other as Draco moved his hips, grinding against him. Harry felt like he could live in this moment forever as Draco’s tongue slid against his, warm and soft, while his arousal built.

Draco pulled away, face flushed, and said, with only a touch of awkwardness, “So do you want to?”

Draco’s neat hair was messy again, and his face a blotchy red. Harry thought that he’d never wanted anything – anyone – more. “Yes,” he said. “Yes.”

Draco’s lips parted, and then he pressed them together, swallowing hard. “I . . . good,” he said, and let out a long, shaky breath. And he leaned in again to kiss Harry, this time more softly, and Harry reached up to tangle his fingers in Draco’s hair.

Draco pulled away again, face scarlet, and reached for something beside the bed, shoving it in Harry’s hands, then getting on his hands and knees. “Come on then,” he said, voice gravelly.

The sight of Draco spread out like that, his cock hanging red and hard between his legs, waiting for Harry, did terrible things to Harry’s self-control, and he scrambled up and behind him, his mouth going dry at the sight of Draco’s pucker. It was twitching even as Harry looked at it, and when he ran a hand over one of Draco’s arse cheeks, Draco clenched his muscles, the ring tightening and then relaxing. Harry wet his lips, leaned in closer, pressed a kiss on Draco’s right cheek, which made him let out a choked, “Oh,” so Harry did it again.

Draco smelled fresh and clean up close, with an undertone of soap, and Harry pressed another kiss on his skin, at the base of his spine, which made Draco press his backside closer to Harry. “I . . . If you want,” Draco said, low and embarrassed. “Or we can just . . .”

Harry felt hot and shaky, ran a finger gently down the crack of Draco’s arse, over his arsehole, and then back up. Draco started to tremble, and Harry, trembling himself, with anticipation and arousal, leaned in closer and pressed a kiss to Draco’s arsehole.

Draco stilled, barely breathing, but when Harry did it again, he tried to spread his legs even wider, sank further down on his arms. Harry took a tentative lick, and Draco made the most extraordinary noise, so he did it again, and then again, Draco literally whining as he did it. It occurred to him, ridiculously, that he was literally licking Draco’s arse, but it was so hot, and Draco was so obviously into it, that he thought his brain might melt from it.

He kept licking, until Draco was juddering under him, and he reached down between Draco’s legs and took hold of his cock. It only took a dozen or so strokes and Draco was coming so hard that he collapsed against the bed when he was done, panting as hard as if he’d just run a race.

Harry wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, wondered if it would be presumptuous to reach for the lube, but Draco was already rearing back up. “Come on,” he said, raw and desperate, but Harry bit his lip, not sure this was how he wanted it to go.

“Can you . . .” he said awkwardly, and gave Draco’s shoulder a little shove. “I want to . . .” He swallowed hard. Why were words so difficult? “Face to face,” he said, burning with embarrassment.

Draco let out a noise of frustration, but turned, rucking up the sheets, grabbing the lube and pumping what looked like half the bottle into his palm, slicking up Harry’s cock until he was dripping with it. Harry groaned, already far too turned on, his knees buckling.

Draco eyed him speculatively, twisted to push Harry down on the bed, flat on his back, and reared over him. “All right?” Draco said, eyes wide, and Harry nodded, trying not to come on the spot as Draco reached back and guided Harry’s cock towards his arsehole, pressing down against him. It felt . . .

There weren’t quite words to explain how it felt. Draco’s mouth had gone slack, and he was breathing fast and shallow as he rocked his hips gently, pressing, pressing. He let out a sharp breath and pressed down harder, and Harry felt the head of his cock be swallowed up by tight, clenching heat.

Draco stopped, breathing hard and fast.

“You all right?” Harry asked, trying to hold still and wondering, for the first time, feeling like a massive idiot, if Draco really had done this before. He didn’t ask; there was little chance Draco would tell him the truth.

Draco pressed his lips together, nodded, and pressed down again, sliding Harry’s cock deeper inside him.

Harry tugged at Draco, pulled him down for a kiss.

“Merlin, this feels . . .” Draco said, pulling himself up on to his elbows, and let out a long, low breath as he rocked his hips slowly, taking in Harry’s cock until he was seated right up to his balls. “I . . .” he murmured, and pulled up, before pushing back down again, Harry’s cock sliding in and out of him. “Oh . . .” He did it again, and again, throwing his head back and moving more rapidly. His soft cock was hardening again, and each grind of his hips pressed it between their bellies. Harry reached up to kiss his neck, and Draco fucked himself on Harry’s cock even more rapidly, his eyelids fluttering.

Harry thought it was possible he might die. Possibly from embarrassment, as he was going to come in about thirty seconds if Draco didn’t slow down. “Slow down,” he mumbled against Draco’s neck, and Draco came to an immediate stop, before moving so slowly that Harry began to feel he might die of frustration instead. “Draco,” he said, and Draco huffed out a laugh, letting Harry’s cock slide out of him entirely and rolling on his back.

Harry scrambled over him, Draco’s face warm and slack, and after only a couple of false starts managed to seat himself back inside Draco, his cock sliding in easily, Draco was so relaxed.

Now Harry could control the pace, he found he was so turned on that he couldn’t actually control himself at all. He pumped helplessly into Draco, who pushed back, craning his neck to kiss Harry as they moved together. Harry was so close. Merlin. But . . .

He slowed down, gritting his teeth with the effort of it, and spat into his hand, bringing it between their bodies and taking hold of Draco’s cock. The position was awkward and uncomfortable, but Draco tipped his head back and looked like he was about to die, started stammering out Harry’s name, and it was fucking worth it. He found he couldn’t slow down his own hips any more, fucked Draco harder, faster, his cock ready to explode.

The white-hot pressure built, and built, and then Draco was bucking under him, and his hand was wet, and Draco clenched, so tight, and hot. Harry let Draco’s cock slip from his fingers but kept pumping his hips, Draco making the most incredible, amazing noises, and then Harry was coming, the world falling away into nothing but the glorious release of pressure, the relief of it flooding through his body, wiping away everything on earth apart from the feeling.

Harry collapsed on top of Draco, and Draco kissed him over and over – his mouth, his cheeks, his eyelids – until Harry managed, with a superhuman effort, to roll on to his side and stop crushing him, pulling Draco into his arms and holding him so tight that they could both barely breathe.

Harry wanted to stay awake, couldn’t stop his heart pounding and his brain racing, unable to settle on anything, but he couldn’t. He was too overwhelmed, the hormones rushing in his blood, his eyelids shutting even though he tried to keep them open. He fell asleep with Draco in his arms, a tide of emotions crashing over him and dragging him down into the depths.

^^^^^^

Harry woke up the next morning, opened his eyes and thought: I’m in love with Draco. And then he panicked, harder than he’d ever panicked about anything in his life before.

He sat bolt upright, realising that Draco wasn’t even in the room with him, and grabbed his glasses. Seeing the room, with his scattered piles of discarded clothing – but not Draco’s discarded clothing, he noticed – didn’t help him feel better. He got up and used the bathroom, feeling grimy and exhausted, called out, “Draco?” when he was finished, but there was no answer.

Harry felt like his head was being squeezed in the coils of a Basilisk. He dressed quickly, walking through the silent suite to find his clothes, wondering what time it was. He checked his phone; the battery warning beeped at him, but no texts came through. It was barely ten o’clock. Too early for Draco to be needed elsewhere, surely?

He crept out of the suite, took the lift back down to his own room. The room was pristine, his suitcase untouched, and he sat on the edge of the bed and wondered what he was meant to do next. He was in love with Draco fucking Malfoy. He put his head in his hands and wondered if he was happy. He didn’t feel happy. It felt like the end of the world.

Draco had made it extremely obvious, hadn’t he, that he wanted a fuck – and then he wanted Harry to fuck off. And now, they’d fucked. And Draco had . . . left. It was a clear message, wasn’t it? Harry wondered if he was being ridiculous, decided that, actually, he didn’t fucking care if he was. If Draco didn’t like him enough to even wake up next to him, after Harry had . . .

Harry shook his head, to try to erase the memories of last night from his mind. It had been . . . No, he didn’t want to think about it. He’d been fucking stupid to indulge himself in this fantasy, that he could sleep with someone – with a man – casually and be OK with it. That he could sleep with Draco, of all people, and not come out of it even more fucked up than when he’d started. God – what had he been thinking? Fixing reality hadn’t even crossed his mind yesterday. He’d been too caught up by the idea of . . .

He sagged miserably into himself, telling himself he didn’t need Draco to be happy, it was pathetic. He’d been happy before him, hadn’t he? He had his house, his friends, his work. And in time, he thought, he’d meet some nice girl, and they’d settle down, and have children, and he could forget . . . whatever this was. Right now, it felt more like madness than love. And whatever it was, it wouldn’t survive the transition back to the real world. Hermione and Ron would think he’d lost his mind.

Maybe he had lost his mind, Harry thought, feeling a hand of icy dread clutch at his heart. He must have, to have fallen for a man who’d been a Death Eater. Who wore the Dark Mark. Whose parents were icy, vile bigots. Who still lived in Malfoy Manor, amongst the ruins of his family’s reputation. Who hadn’t once said sorry to Harry, for anything, despite what he’d done.

He felt a rush of shame, wondered if he was going to be sick. What would his parents think if they knew he was in love with someone like that, he wondered, feeling very small and awful. Wouldn’t they be ashamed of him? Harry was overwhelmed by homesickness, all of a sudden. He wanted to go home – to his real home. Back to the people who loved him. To his job, where he was useful, where he made a difference. He couldn’t bear to be here any more: this room, this hotel, this city, this life.

He looked at his phone again. No messages.

Harry stood up, picked up his suitcase. He was going to get back home if it killed him – and fuck Draco. Fuck him. He texted Draco, with fingers that refused not to shake, I’m going back to London, and then he turned his phone off and walked out.

Chapter Text

Harry was late for work the next day. He woke up in a panic to a silent house, rather than the impatient banging on the door and the smell of coffee he’d quickly got used to. Parvati wasn’t speaking to him, he remembered, and ran all the way to the shop, to find her silent and scowling, turning her head when he wished her a nervous good morning.

He supposed he deserved it. He’d started to have doubts about what he was doing even as he got to the airport, but it was only as the plane was actually taking off that it dawned on him that he might have overreacted, just a little. By then, of course, it was too late.

Once he’d got home, he plugged his phone in to charge, and was then too nervous to turn it on, kept wincing at any noises outside, in case it was someone charging up the staircase to bang on the door. He almost hoped they would – hoped Draco would – because then, at least, it would be evidence that Draco cared. No one did though, and eventually he cracked, turning on the phone and watching, wincing, as a stream of texts came through.

What the hell do you mean, you’re going back to London? Where are you right now?

Have you gone insane? Are you seriously leaving without talking to me?

Can you answer my bloody calls, please?

WILL YOU FUCKING CALL ME.

The notification for missed calls read – horribly – 27. Harry hit the voicemail button, feeling like the lowest of the low, but still horrendously angry. If Draco hadn’t wanted to Harry to leave, then he shouldn’t have fucking left first, should he?

Draco had only left two messages. In the first, he sounded odd – flustered, bunged up, as if he had a heavy cold. “Harry? Are you – what are you doing? Call me back when you get this.” In the second, he just sounded angry. “I thought Gryffindors were the brave ones?” he snapped. “Reception told me you’ve checked out. More fool me, I suppose. Well, screw you, Potter. I hope you have a really terrible life.”

Potter.

It had hurt more than when Draco had broken his nose back in fifth year, which felt like a hundred, million years ago.

Harry had called Parvati, not wanting to deal with this. It didn’t matter, anyway. Even if Draco was pissed off with him, it wasn’t like they had a future, was it? He just wanted to fix the spell, fix his life, forget it ever happened. Maybe, by the time he died, he might even have managed to forget how much he loved Draco.

Parvati had not been helpful. “You did what?” she said incredulously.

“He wasn’t there when I woke up!” Harry protested, feeling hot and ridiculous.

“He probably just popped to the shop!” Parvati said.

“The hotel has a butler! He has a bodyguard! He could have called Pansy!”

“You’re a complete lunatic,” Parvati said, actually sounding disgusted. “If you didn’t want a boyfriend in the first place, you shouldn’t have led him on.” And then she’d hung up, leaving Harry feeling worse than he’d started.

He’d tried to call her back, but it went straight to voicemail, and he ended up babbling about work rather than doing what he actually felt like – which was crying. He wasn’t going to cry though; he was going to get on with it.

Harry had spent the rest of the day waiting for it to be night time, the hours punctuated by unpleasant texts from practically everyone he’d ever met, with the exception of the one person he really wanted to hear from. Luna told him how disappointed she was. Ron told him he was a wankstain. Pansy left a short voicemail to tell him, her voice scathing, that she’d given him one job.

“He upset me first,” Harry snapped at the phone, pressing delete.

And when darkness finally fell, he spent practically the whole night dangling himself out of the window, casting Finite Incantatem at the stars, and wishing out loud – in every way he could think of – that things would go back to normal, that reality would go back to normal, that he could end, finish, stop, halt the wish magic and go home. “WILL YOU JUST STOP!” he yelled out of the window when he caught a vague flash of something that could have been a shooting star, could have been a plane, at the top of his lungs, and then had to hastily bang the window shut and flee when several lights across the street turned on at the noise.

Fairly obviously, he thought now, trying not to fall asleep at the convenience store checkout, nothing he’d done had worked. And just to be helpful, Parvati slid over a copy of the Daily Mail as soon as it got quiet, open at the Showbiz section, which featured a large picture of Draco looking pale and irritable, the story underneath full of faux sympathy for how well he’d coped performing with what was clearly a terrible sore throat in his latest Paris show, but also packed with little digs about his lack of energy, his poor memory for his own lyrics, and his avoidance of his fans, who’d been ‘waiting for hours’ to see him but were disappointed when he didn’t stop to sign any autographs as usual.

“Yes, all right, I’m a wanker, but—” Harry started indignantly, shoving it back to her, but she just let out a derisive sniff, turning her back again, and Harry didn’t have the stomach to go on.

After his shift – because he was clearly a glutton for punishment – Harry wished the still silent, still fuming Parvati goodbye, and then called Hermione. Hermione was very sniffy, which at least meant that things were going well with Ron, Harry thought gloomily, but at least she agreed to see him.

When he got to hers, she didn’t offer him a cup of tea, just glared at him and told him to explain himself. So, he tried to, getting more and more miserable in the attempt, and finally she sighed, cutting him off, and went to switch the kettle on.

“Anyway,” Harry said when he had a steaming mug in his hands, and shifted uncomfortably on the hard chair. “I didn’t come for advice about Draco. I came here for advice about the spell. I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried everything – every variation of a wish I can think of! But it still hasn’t worked. I mean,” he added gloomily, “I haven’t actually sat on my roof and tried it, but I can’t see why that would be the key to the whole business, and there’s a good chance I might Splinch my leg off in the process, anyway.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “You did come here for advice about Draco, though, didn’t you? Any idiot can see you’re in love with him, despite the dreadful hash you’ve made of things.”

Harry burnt his tongue on the tea.

“This isn’t news to you, is it?” Hermione asked doubtfully. “I mean—”

“Of course it’s not,” Harry interrupted, before she could go any further down this dreadful road. Was it really that obvious to everyone that he . . .? He tried not to wince. Was it obvious to Draco, too . . .? “That’s not the point, though, is it?” he said firmly, and stared into his steaming mug. “Draco’s not in love with me.”

Hermione made a small noise, and when Harry looked up at her, she was giving him a frown that suggested she thought he’d lost his mind. “You’re an idiot,” she said faintly.

Harry frowned back. “I am not an idiot.”

Hermione leaned forward to give him a patronising pat on the head. “You are an idiot,” she said, more firmly this time. “One hundred percent.”

“How do you know that?” Harry demanded, thinking this whole conversation was ridiculous.

“That you’re an idiot?” Hermione said wryly. “Well, I have eyes, and ears, and a brain.” Harry glowered at her. “Or if you mean how do I know that Draco has feelings for you, well, I have eyes, and ears, and a brain,” she repeated facetiously. “Oh, and I, er, might have talked to his best friend a few times recently as well,” she said, resting her hands together primly on her lap.

Ron?” Harry said, disbelievingly, and took a gulp of tea that burnt his throat.

“He’s taking me to see Draco perform in Oslo next week,” Hermione said, as if this was nothing out of the ordinary. “I don’t know how I’m going to make up the missed lectures, but I suspect I can crib the notes from a friend,” she added, a note of anxiety in her voice.

“Right,” Harry said, drinking more tea because he didn’t know what else to do.

“So you’d better have made up by then,” Hermione warned. “I want him on top form! None of this sore throat nonsense.” She sniffed. “Poor thing,” she added, and returned to glaring at Harry.

“Say I did believe you about Draco,” Harry mumbled, adding quickly, “which I don’t, by the way. How would I, er, make up with him?”

It was back to the ‘looking at Harry as if he were an idiot’ routine again, Harry noticed with irritation, but he bit his lip and tried to keep his temper. He supposed he had been a bit stupid.

“Say sorry?” Hermione suggested, taking a sip of her own tea.

Harry considered this gloomily.

“Tell him how you feel?”

“No way,” Harry said. He couldn’t do that! He was dying on the spot just thinking about it.

Hermione wrinkled her nose, clearly unimpressed. “It’s up to you, of course,” she said. She took another sip of tea. “And as for the spell,” she said, and then paused, the steam from the tea spiralling upwards.

“Yes?” Harry said, leaning forwards.

“Have you considered that wishing to end the spell isn’t working because your heart’s just not in it?”

^^^^^^

. . . because his heart wasn’t in it.

Harry tried twice – no, three times – as hard that night when he wished, trying to time his words to the sporadic, faint shooting stars. Was his heart really not in it? He wanted to go back to the wizarding world so badly he felt sick with it. But he couldn’t deny that the way he felt about Draco was just as intense, if not more so. He couldn’t stop thinking about him, Hermione’s words rolling round and round in his head. Even as he tried to wish for reality to reassert itself, he was thinking about Draco. What he was doing right now. What he was thinking. What he was—

It was no fucking good, was it? Harry closed the window, giving up for now. Whatever he was doing, it wasn’t working. Maybe, he thought, feeling his head throb, he just wouldn’t be able to fix reality, had fucked it up too badly to ever set it right again. But this thing between himself and Draco . . . He took a deep breath, and then another. And then he went to text the word Sorry to Draco, before he could change his mind.

It didn’t work, of course. At least, the text went through, but Draco didn’t respond. So in the morning, Harry tried again: Draco, I’m really, really sorry.

When he told Parvati later, she partially defrosted towards him, and suggested he add a Please forgive me for being a tosspot, so he did, even though he thought that Draco really should offer the same apology in response. He didn’t say that though, and Draco didn’t respond, in any case.

Ron, later that evening, suggested he send something filthy, and Harry didn’t, thinking this would go down about as well as a teaspoon of cold sick. Ron sent his own message that he wouldn’t let Harry read, only to receive something that made him go red. He slapped Harry on the arm, bought him a large drink, and said, with forced cheerfulness, “Don’t give up!” which didn’t inspire much confidence.

The week slid by, agonisingly slowly. The press was full of pictures of Draco looking ill, his skin the colour of egg white, and Parvati seemed to have developed a perverse habit of looking at online discussion boards and printing out the most concerned of the fan comments, to slide to Harry whenever he wasn’t serving a customer.

Harry even called Pansy straight after one shift near the end of the week, leaning on the wall outside the store as customers walked in and out. He’d been hunting for the business card she’d given him all week, and had finally found it. When she answered though, he wished he hadn’t bothered. She ranted at him for several minutes straight, without giving him a chance to speak. “I wish he’d never met you,” she said finally, very cold. “I wish you’d fuck off and die.”

And just as Harry was digesting this, feeling a bit like punching the wall but thinking this might lose him his job, he heard Luna say, “Hello? Harry?” into his ear.

“Hi, Luna,” he said.

“Are you sorry?” Luna asked, her voice clear. “Really sorry, I mean? Not just pretend?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, feeling flat. “Really, really sorry.”

“Well, that’s good then,” Luna said. “Draco’s very sad, you know.”

“Yes,” Harry said uncomfortably. “But you know, Luna, he won’t reply to my texts.”

“Draco would like flowers,” Luna said dreamily. “And balloons. And chocolates. He loves chocolates. And a love letter. Don’t you think?”

“I – balloons?” Harry asked dubiously, leaving the ‘love letter’ thing well alone.

“Yes,” Luna agreed. “Everyone likes balloons, don’t they? You should send them soon, and come back and travel with us. There’s still plenty of cheese to get through,” she added. “Or I could post you some?”

“Don’t worry,” Harry said hastily, having visions of weeks-old cheese arriving through his letterbox, to stink out his house for the rest of eternity. “Balloons. Got it.”

“I’ll see you soon, then, Harry,” Luna said cheerfully, and hung up, leaving Harry staring in bemusement at his phone. He was more bemused, though, when Parvati came over to him and gave him a hug. A proper one. He thought she’d already gone home, and this freely offered affection made him come over all pathetic. He had to sniff hard, not to blub on her shoulder.

“God, you’re a wanker,” she said, and ruffled his hair annoyingly.

“Were you eavesdropping?” he demanded, trying to pull himself together.

“Yes,” she agreed, apparently without shame. “You sure about balloons?”

Harry wasn’t sure about balloons, no. How did you even send international balloons without an owl? Or with an owl, for that matter, the thought of Hedwig’s expression if he’d tried to send her on a long journey attached to half a dozen balloons making him smile. He still missed her, to a ridiculous degree. “Draco will probably just pop them,” he said gloomily, which made Parvati snort.

“Worth a go though, eh?”

^^^^^^

How you sent balloons, it turned out, was that you called Hermione, and passed her over to Parvati, and soon you ended up in an amazingly expensive florists in Chelsea in the company of a convenience store heiress, a dentist in training and a premier league footballer. Then they all argued loudly and took the piss out of you, while you picked flowers, chocolates and a ridiculous, shiny purple balloon, and then they tried to read over your shoulder as you attempted to write a love letter in a card with a picture of a sad teddy on the front, without saying anything that contained the words ‘I’ or ‘love’ or ‘you’.

In the end, Harry had written, I freaked out. I’m an idiot. Please forgive me. and just as he was about to seal it up, something ridiculous came over him and he added, I think I’ve fallen in love with you and then shoved it in the envelope before he could think better of it.

Then he’d paid what must have been his life savings – thank fuck Muggle Harry was good with money – and after some embarrassing faffing about, Ron calling Luna, to speak to Pansy, to find out the address of the hotel Draco would be in the next day, the deed was done.

After, they went to the pub, and Harry attempted to drown himself in vodka, to wipe out the thought of what he’d just sent Draco. He could feel himself cringe, whenever he remembered, and by the time he was on his third vodka and coke he’d almost convinced himself that tomorrow he’d wake up and the world would be normal again – apart, that was, from Draco, who’d send the card directly to the Daily Prophet, so the world could laugh at what a hopeless, pathetic, idiot Harry was, falling in love with someone who didn’t even like him. Even the flowers now seemed embarrassing; he’d chosen the same blooms Luna had been wearing in her hair, that evening when everything had been so perfect that Harry could barely stand to think of it now.

Ron slapped him hard on the back. “It’ll all be over soon,” he said bracingly, which Harry supposed was one way of looking at things.

A couple of pissed men wobbled over, pushing paper napkins at Ron, who signed them cheerfully but then told them to piss off when they threatened to stick around and talk football. “Sorry, professional hazard,” he said, taking a sip of his pint. “Can I get you another drink, Hermione?” he said, turning solicitous. “Peanuts? Crisps?”

Hermione hid her grin with her gin and tonic. “No, thank you,” she said.

“Oh, er, Parvati?” Ron said, and Parvati smiled back and nodded, which made Hermione bristle, until Ron put a casual arm around her. She went pink, but didn’t shake him off.

It was nice, Harry thought fuzzily, the alcohol fizzing through his bloodstream, and then he remembered all over again that he’d sent Draco a card that said I think I’m falling in love with you, and he wanted to put his head in his hands and die.

^^^^^^

“It’s your own fault if you have a hangover,” Parvati said as Harry slumped against the shop counter, feeling like the world had landed on his head.

“It’s Ron’s fault,” Harry said firmly, because he could remember Ron buying him at least one drink. That had undoubtedly been the drink that had tipped him over from tipsy to full-on drunk. He couldn’t even remember how he’d got home last night, although he could remember leaning out of the window and wishing some stuff out loud that in the cold light of day he really didn’t want to remember.

“Draco’s probably got your parcel now,” Parvati said dreamily, and gave him a nudge with her elbow.

“They said they’d deliver it about nine,” Harry said, I think I’m falling in love with you making him cringe all over again. “And he’s going to ignore it, like he ignored my messages,” he added.

Parvati grinned. “OK, Draco’s nearly got your parcel now. I bet you he’ll call at . . . ten past nine.”

“If he doesn’t, I’ll take my lunchbreak first,” Harry replied.

“You’re on,” Parvati said, and turned to serve a customer with a welcoming smile.

Harry took first lunch. By half past two, Draco still hadn’t called. He hadn’t at two thirty-five. Or at two forty. Two forty-five came and went, sliding into two fifty. Harry began to feel like he was going to go mad, waiting for something that wasn’t ever going to happen.

“The delivery company probably cocked up,” Parvati said with a sniff, giving him a friendly shoulder barge at two fifty-five, and then turning back to her customer. The shop was busy at this hour, full of kids bunking off school early and parents popping in to pick up milk before doing the school run.

“Yeah, maybe,” Harry said, knowing they hadn’t. All that had happened was that he’d embarrassed himself horribly, and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Draco really didn’t like him that way. He’d been right to walk out like that, he thought miserably, and wished he’d realised it earlier. It would have saved him a lot of grief.

Parvati made a choking noise, and Harry turned to ask her if she was OK. She didn’t appear to need a glass of water, though; she had her hand in front of her mouth, and she made another, different noise – sort of an excited squeak.

Harry turned, to see . . . His knees went weak. There, in the queue, although the people around him were starting to turn and look, a buzz of excitement running through the shop, was Draco Malfoy. He was wearing what looked for all the world like pyjamas – thin bottoms and an oversized T-shirt – with trainers and no socks, and he’d made no attempt to disguise himself. His mouth was set, and angry, and in his hand there was . . . a large, shiny, purple, heart-shaped balloon.

Harry served the next few people mechanically as the shop filled up, almost faster than the speed of light, people taking out cameras to snap amateur shots of a famous pop star standing in a tiny supermarket holding a balloon in his pyjamas. Where was Mark, the man mountain? Harry couldn’t see him. Could only see Draco. Angry, balloon-toting Draco.

“Um, hello,” he said when Draco finally made it in front of him. “You, er, got my—”

“What is this?” Draco said, his voice sharp enough to cut glass.

“Um, it’s a, er, balloon,” Harry said.

“Yes,” Draco said. “I can see that.”

They stood and stared at each other for a while; Draco arsy, Harry feeling like it would be ideal if the floor opened up and swallowed him down into it.

“I came to return it to you,” Draco said. “Given that I’m the only one of the pair of us who appears to have any manners.”

“You . . . came to return it?” Harry repeated, feeling his forehead pucker as the crowd around them surged.

“Yes,” Draco said, not moving. “I flew over.”

“You . . . flew with the balloon,” Harry repeated nervously.

“It had its own seat, of course,” Draco said, very cold. “I’m not a monster.”

Harry laughed nervously, then tried not to, when Draco didn’t join in.

“I also got your note,” Draco said.

Harry felt himself go a violent red. “Right,” he said.

“Did you mean it?” Draco said, still cold, his eyes looking almost colourless in contrast to the dark circles under them.

“Draco, I, er, hate to interrupt,” Parvati interrupted, “but, er, maybe you should come and hide in the staff room, before you’re crushed to death?”

Draco blinked at that, and seemed to notice for the first time that he was surrounded by people. Proper photographers had turned up now, and were pushing through the crowd with enormous cameras. One took a photo, making Draco blink again, blinded by the flash, and when he tried to step away, he banged into the woman behind him, who reached out and stroked his arm.

Parvati banged open the door in the counter, and Draco dashed through it, his balloon bobbing along behind him. “I think I’ll have to call the police,” Parvati said. “Dad’s going to go mad.” And then she picked up the landline receiver and started dialling, shooing Harry away from her.

Harry took the hint, pulling Draco through the door that led to the lunch area and out of sight of the crowd behind him.

Draco sat sullenly on one of the orange plastic chairs, still clutching the balloon. “So this is where you work?” he asked, looking around as if he’d never seen anything so horrific in all his life.

“Er, yes,” Harry said, also sitting down. “You can, er, give that to me, if you want,” he said awkwardly, gesturing to the balloon.

Draco clutched the string even tighter. “You can’t give me a present and then ask for it back!” he snapped, making Harry jump.

“You said . . .” Harry started, and then decided it would be best not to continue. Draco looked a bit like he was ready to snap. He was in his pyjamas, Harry thought, although he was wearing a hooded jacket with bulging zipped pockets over the top.

“Say it out loud,” Draco demanded, making Harry jump again. “To my face.”

Harry went red all over again. “I’m really sorry!” he said.

Draco looked at him very evenly, finally letting go of the balloon, which rose to nestle against the low ceiling. “Not that,” he said.

Right, right. Of course not that. “Um,” Harry said.

Draco waited.

“I, er,” Harry said, wondering if it would be easier if he looked over Draco’s shoulder, or maybe if he closed his eyes? Or perhaps he could just drown himself in beans; there was an enormous tower of them, just behind Draco, although it might take a while to open them all, and he didn’t have a tin-opener.

Draco made an impatient noise. “I thought as much,” he said, and then stood up.

Harry lurched forward, grabbed him by the wrist. “Don’t,” he said. “I . . .” He took a deep breath, Draco’s tense and upset face blurring in and out of focus. Harry tried not to panic. But why would Draco have come all this way, not even stopping to get properly dressed, though, if he didn’t like him back? He grabbed hold of his courage, and said, his voice wobbling all over the place, “I really like you, OK? I . . .” He tried not to hyperventilate. “I love you, Draco. Merlin. I love you.”

Draco didn’t move, seemed unable to breathe, his eyes enormous. And then he started shaking, and he stumbled at Harry as if he were a drowning man reaching for a lifebelt, clinging to him. Harry clung right back, digging his face into the side of Draco’s head, feeling ridiculous and overwhelmed.

“So, er, you like me too?” Harry managed eventually, when Draco’s grip had loosened infinitesimally, his breathing starting to stabilise.

“No, you’re a complete shithead,” came the tart response.

Harry supposed he deserved that, but just as the words so, where the fuck did you go that morning threatened to spill out and ruin the moment, Parvati cleared her throat, and Draco sprang away from Harry, wrapping his arms around himself and looking hugely embarrassed.

“Did you know your manager reported you as missing to the police?” Parvati said to Draco, her eyebrows raised. “You should probably give her a ring.”

“Thanks,” Draco said stiffly, not moving. “What a shame there’s no phone reception in here.”

“Pansy’s sending a car to pick you up and take you back to the airport, anyway,” Parvati said. And then she grinned. “So if you want to run, you should probably do it now.”

Draco grimaced, sat down again, fishing his phone out of his pocket and glaring at it. Then he dialled, turning away from Harry.

“Um, is it safe to go outside?” Harry asked Parvati.

“Nope,” Parvati said cheerfully. “I mean, it’s safe to go into the shop, because we’ve had to close, but everyone’s just lurking out the front now, herded there by the police. It might be a good idea to slide out the back alley, where the bins are.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry said, thinking this couldn’t be good for the shop.

“Oh, don’t be,” Parvati said, raising her voice as Draco raised his own, conducting a tense, shouty argument with the person on the other end of the line. “This will be amazing for business. We’ll be packed, now people think there’s a chance they might meet a real-life pop star having a nervous breakdown whenever they come in to buy a loaf of bread.”

“OK, let’s go,” Draco said fiercely, shoving his phone back in his pocket.

“You all right?” Harry asked.

“Of course not,” Draco snapped. “I’m meant to be in Prague, performing for fifteen thousand people, in six hours’ time.”

Harry’s phone started to ring in his pocket, and when he fished it out, it was Pansy. “Tell him to get on the fucking plane right now!” she yelled in his ear. “I know the arsehole’s with you. You can come too. Tell him.”

“Do you want to?” Harry asked Draco. “Go back to Prague, I mean. I . . . I’ll go with you, I suppose,” he offered awkwardly, even though the thought of it made his heart sink.

Draco scowled at him. “Harry, you fucking ran away from me. I’m not going anywhere. Tell her I’m dead, if that helps.”

“I don’t think she’ll believe that,” Parvati murmured, and Harry and Draco turned as one to glare at her. “All right! All right!” she said, raising her hands and backing away slowly. “I’ll leave you to it.” And she turned and walked back into the shop, a chorus of cheers ringing out as the crowd outside clearly caught sight of her, expecting Draco.

“Sorry, Pansy,” Harry said, and hung up on her cry of rage. “I, er, suppose you can postpone the concert,” he offered, feeling awkward under Draco’s heavy stare.

“Yes,” Draco said, but he didn’t sound convinced. He stood up straight, straightened the neck of his T-shirt. “Are we going back to yours then? If I have a London place, I don’t know where it is.”

They fled the shop via the bins, and although there were a few fans lurking out the back, Draco broke into a run, and the fans looked too startled to chase after him. Draco seemed to know the way, and soon they were at Harry’s front door, Harry fumbling for his keys as photographers clicked away, and then they were inside, Harry sliding the door bolts shut behind him.

“I think we should probably stay away from the windows at the front of the house,” Draco said, looking around dispassionately, and he wrinkled his nose. “What a mess. What did your last house-elf die of?” he asked, and then seemed to realise what he’d said, turning a dark, mottled red.

“Your aunt,” Harry said levelly, trying not to punch him and only just managing it.

“I didn’t mean – fuck it. You know I didn’t mean that,” Draco said, and then he let out a harsh breath. “This sort of thing is the reason I said we could never be friends,” he added bitterly.

“You didn’t say that, though,” Harry said irritably, striding across the hall and through into the kitchen, Draco following behind him. “You said you didn’t want to be my friend.”

“I say a lot of things I don’t mean,” Draco snapped, and slouched into a chair, shoving off his hoodie. He drew his hands through his hair. “It’s odd to be in here,” he said, looking round without much interest. “I haven’t been in this house since I was a toddler. I remember it as more unpleasant than this.”

“We took down the rows of house-elf heads,” Harry said flatly, putting the kettle on, for something to do with his hands. “In case you were wondering.”

“Yes, all right,” Draco said tetchily. “I said I was sorry.”

“Are you though?” Harry said, whirling round.

Draco frowned. “About what, exactly?” he asked, a cautious tone to his voice.

Harry sat down next to him, slumped in his chair. “I don’t know,” he said. “I just feel . . . you should be.”

Draco was silent, seemed to be thinking. “I am about some stuff,” he said, voice spiky. “If you want me to beg you for forgiveness, though, you’ll be waiting a long time. You never apologised for slicing me open, by the way,” he added sarcastically. “That one stung a bit.”

“You were going to Crucio me!” Harry protested.

“Ah,” Draco said, and shrugged. “You’ve got me there.”

“Do you mean you do want to be my friend?” Harry asked, his head catching up with the conversation.

Draco flinched. “No, not really.” Harry felt his mouth do something horrible, and Draco let out a soft noise. “I don’t want to be your friend, you idiot. I want . . .” He trailed off, didn’t finish his sentence.

“Yes?” Harry prompted, and then, when Draco still didn’t answer, just stared at his hands on the table in front of him, said, “Where were you that morning when I woke up, anyway?”

That seemed to rouse Draco. “Oh, er, I,” he mumbled. “I went out to buy some croissants,” he said. “For breakfast.”

“No you didn’t,” Harry said, because that was the most obvious lie he’d ever heard.

“I did!” Draco protested.

“In every suite of yours I’ve been in, there’s been a bell to ring for a pet slave to fetch you things,” Harry said sternly. “Are you telling me—”

“I did go to buy croissants!” Draco interrupted crossly. “Fucking hell. All right, I went by myself because I needed some time and space to freak out, but I did go to buy the sodding croissants. Which, I might add, I didn’t eat, because when I got back, you’d fucking run away, so you fucking owe me one!”

Oh. Harry began to wish he’d chosen a more comfortable setting to have this conversation in. Draco had . . . freaked out?

“You’re not the only one capable of having a crisis, you know,” Draco said with palpable irritation. “I’m allowed to have one too.” He sniffed. “I came back after my crisis though,” he said, his voice hardening.

Harry slid his hand along the table, and Draco grabbed it, held it tight.

“Say it again,” Draco demanded, not looking at him.

It didn’t seem reasonable for him to keep saying it, while Draco very much wasn’t saying it back, but Harry couldn’t help himself now. “I . . . love you,” he mumbled.

“Yes,” Draco said, not sounding very happy about it, although he clutched Harry’s hand even tighter. “You love me here.”

What did that mean? Harry blinked, tried to think, but Draco had turned and was there in front of him, face open and wanting, and then they were kissing, and Harry couldn’t think at all.

Harry didn’t know how much time had passed when Draco finally pulled away – it could have minutes, it could have been half an hour – but Draco’s cheeks were wet, and he couldn’t remember either of them crying.

“Do you still want to go home?” Draco asked, the words pushed out as if they’d been forced.

“Yes,” Harry said, because he couldn’t say anything else; nothing else would be true. “But nothing I’ve tried has worked. I don’t think we can go home.”

“I . . . think we should try again tonight,” Draco said faintly. “Together. Perhaps that will do the trick.”

“Do you think so?” Harry asked, feeling doubtful. “I suppose we could.”

Draco looked like he was fighting a battle inside himself, and losing. “Yes,” he said eventually. “If you really do want to go home.”

“It’s a while till nightfall though,” Harry said, without thinking.

“Yes,” Draco agreed, his voice now dry. “I wonder what we should do to pass the time.”

Harry felt himself go red, wondering if blushing so much was bad for his health. “I didn’t mean—”

“Well, I mean,” Draco said, and he stood up, still holding on to Harry’s hand. “Show me which one’s your bedroom.”

^^^^^^

They spent the rest of the afternoon in bed, barely talking, except for what was necessary. Harry could barely breathe, at any rate, he was so overwhelmed. He didn’t believe that they’d fix the spell later, but a small, bright spark of hope kept flaring up within him, making him choke on it. And it was hard to think at all when he was with Draco. Particularly now, with Draco seeming insatiable, making Harry come over and over. He barely seemed to care if Harry touched him, although he made enough noise when Harry did, instead focusing all his attention on Harry in a way that was almost unnerving in its intensity. Harry came inside Draco, and then again, the second time in the shower, everything wet and slick as he fucked Draco hard against the slippery wall. When they finally emerged from the bathroom, Harry made them tea, and Draco let it go cold; Harry came in Draco’s mouth, with Draco’s fingers twisting inside him in a way that made him orgasm so hard he almost saw stars.

The fourth time took the longest, might have been the hottest, Harry didn’t know. Could only whimper as Draco drizzled their cocks with lube and they lay side by side, legs tangled together, slowly grinding themselves back to hardness and finally to completion, over endless, aching minutes, kissing the whole time.

Finally their hips stilled, their stomachs, thighs, both slick with each other’s come, and they just panted in each other’s arms. Harry’s lips felt sore, and his whole body ached. He didn’t think he’d ever come so many times in one day, tried to work out if he’d been selfish. He thought Draco might have come at least once without even being touched, the thought making his cock twitch, even after its busy afternoon.

“Was – was that OK?” he mumbled, feeling foolish.

Draco snorted. “Adequate,” he said, against Harry’s chest, his voice rough. “If I could move, I’d try again, just to check, but I can’t, so.”

Harry stroked a hand over Draco’s hair and down the side of his neck, over his shoulder, enjoying how Draco shivered beneath him. “Are you sure?”

“The Gryffindor sex god rules supreme,” Draco said sarcastically. “Want me to write a song about it?”

Harry laughed. “No, thanks,” he said, and then wondered. “So, who’s your latest single about?”

“What, the imaginatively titled ‘I love you’?” Draco said, sounding a little strange. “I wonder.”

“Is it—” Harry started, very quiet.

“Don’t push it,” Draco interrupted, sounding very tired now, so Harry left it alone. “What time is it?” Draco asked after a while, and Harry peered at the clock on his bedside table. “Almost quarter to nine,” he said, almost surprised at how late it was. “You hungry?”

“No,” Draco said, but he sat up, rubbing the back of his neck. “I suppose we’d better get dressed.”

“Yes,” Harry said, not moving. He was uncomfortably aware that Draco meant they should get ready and do the whole wish upon a star business. Any other day, Harry would have been happy to hear it. Today, however, the idea of it felt curiously deadening to his spirit, as if someone had laid a heavy blanket over his senses.

Draco reached for his underpants, pulled them on, before going for his phone. “Fuck,” he said, pulling a face at the screen. “My mother called.”

“What’s she like?” Harry asked, and Draco twisted towards him, startled.

“What do you mean? Surely you remember meeting my mother, Harry. You both get on so well.”

Harry pulled a face. “No, I mean . . . She’s not really your mother, this version, is she?”

Draco shrugged. “She feels like my mother. We’ve only spoken a few times, but . . .”

“Pansy said you’d never introduce me to your parents,” Harry said, and then wished he hadn’t; he felt like he’d accidentally turned himself inside out, so that Draco could stare into all his secrets that weren’t for sharing.

Draco didn’t seem to know what to say to that. He glanced away, frowning again. “You don’t like my parents,” he said eventually.

“No,” Harry agreed.

“And they don’t like you,” Draco said.

“No,” Harry agreed.

“I . . . suppose my mother likes you marginally more, these days,” Draco said, still frowning. “Although, I think if she found out I’d spent the whole day, give or take, with your cock up my bum, that might change again.”

This conversation, Harry thought, was deeply unproductive.

“She doesn’t know I’m gay,” Draco said dryly. “Neither of them do, I mean – real mother or fake mother. It seems in both worlds, pure-blood heir or not, I’m too cowardly to tell her.”

“Draco, I—” Harry said, wanting to take Draco’s hand, but Draco stood up, and cut him off.

“I’m just going to go and call her back. I suppose it sounds stupid to you, given that she won’t exist soon, this version, but she’s my mother, and I love her. I’ll try not to be too long,” he said, and he left the room, gathering up his clothes as he went.

Harry dressed too, could hear Draco talking quietly in the hallway outside as he did so, and tried not to listen. It was none of his business.

In only ten minutes or so, Draco was back. “Um, how’s Narcissa?” Harry asked, feeling it was the polite thing to do.

“She’s fine,” Draco said, his face stiff. His whole body was stiff. “I suppose it’s time, then. Have you got the wand?”

Harry opened the top drawer in his bedside table, pulled it out and tossed it over to Draco. Draco caught it automatically.

“Do you trust me?” Draco asked.

“Of course,” Harry said, which seemed to take Draco by surprise, but he shook his head slightly, held out his hand. Harry took it, and soon felt the sickening sideways tug of Apparition, the world squeezing away into nothing, and then resolving itself once again on the roof of Harry’s house.

Draco shivered, even though it wasn’t cold.

“Thank you for not Splinching off my toes,” Harry said gravely, not letting go of Draco’s hand.

Draco tried to smile. “You’re welcome,” he said grandly, then cast a Cleaning Charm on the ground under his feet and sat down, tugging Harry down next to him.

Harry tried not to roll his eyes, and instead looked upwards, towards the sky. The night was clear, a stiff breeze blowing, and it was newly dark, but the sky was still muffled, the world around flinging out electric lights as far as the eye could see. It was almost impossible to see the stars at all.

“You cast some sort of darkening charm, I think you told Hermione,” Draco said, shivering again, and Harry pulled him closer, putting an arm around him.

“Yeah, Deluminato,” Harry said. “It’s one I worked on in the Auror office. Not as good as Dumbledore’s actual Deluminator, of course, but you know. It does the trick, and isn’t as blinding as Peruvian Darkness Powder.”

“You invented a new spell?” Draco asked, leaning into him. “I’m impressed.”

“Not really,” Harry said, feeling uncomfortable. “The Unspeakables helped unpick the magic underlying the Deluminator first, and then I sort of converted that into a charm.”

“Show me,” Draco said, tossing the wand back over to him.

Harry took a deep breath, concentrated, and said the spell. It worked, albeit more weakly than usual, the majority of the streetlights around him flickering off, with only a handful sparking intermittently, their lights dull and low.

“All right, I suppose now we just wait for a shooting star,” Draco said, sounding odd. “Then you make a wish.”

Harry nodded, finding himself unable to speak. They sat there for ages, heads close, bodies pressed tightly together, and finally a shooting star streaked across the sky and Harry . . . said nothing.

It faded away, leaving behind a sparkling trail, and Draco turned to Harry and said, low and angry, “What the actual fuck?”

Harry couldn’t explain why he hadn’t wished. He felt caught between two impossible choices, paralysed by it all. He couldn’t stay; it wasn’t his home, it wasn’t where he belonged. But at the same time, how could he return them both to a world that was so patently shit for Draco? And this reality – it wasn’t so bad, was it? Draco seemed happy enough. And he – he could find something meaningful to do, in a world where he hadn’t defeated the Dark Lord, couldn’t he? He refused to believe that his entire purpose, his entire existence was bundled up in Voldemort. Take away Voldemort, and there was still Harry. He still meant something. Still had something to offer.

“Harry,” Draco said, when Harry didn’t answer, “it was you who wanted to do this, and now you won’t fucking do it? What’s wrong with you?”

So what if his life ambition was to be Head Auror, Harry thought dully. He could find another life ambition. He could suck it up, for – for Draco to be happy.

“I – I can’t make the choice for both of us,” Harry said, staring up the night sky, too scared to look at Draco. “You want to stay here, don’t you? I don’t want to force you. I’m not that kind of man. I . . . I want you to be happy too.”

Draco didn’t say anything. Neither did Harry. They just sat there, Harry feeling cold to the bone, staring up the stars. And finally, with horrible inevitability, a shooting star streaked across the sky again, vibrant and beautiful. Harry pressed his lips tight together, his eyeballs feeling hot and prickly.

And Draco said, very deliberately, catching Harry’s hand back in his own, “I wish things were back the way they were.”

Harry felt himself go all shivery, and this time not with cold. He turned to Draco, and it felt as if it was in slow motion, the world going fuzzy round the edges.

“You’re not the only one who made a wish, you complete idiot,” Draco said, his voice suffused with bitterness, and he wrenched his hand away again. And as he did so, the world seemed to crinkle, defusing of colour until it all went black.

Chapter Text

Harry woke up feeling hugely disorientated, the smell of coffee drifting into the room. For a while he just lay there, eyes closed, feeling the uncomfortable, elderly mattress digging into his spine, and his heart started to do an uncomfortable pitter-patter that made him feel light-headed. He opened his eyes, reached out to his bedside table for his glasses and . . .

His wand rolled into his hand, as if he’d Summoned it, the wood warm and tingly between his fingers.

Harry stopped breathing for a moment, and then he sat bolt upright, Summoning his glasses with a quick, smooth, perfect non-verbal swish. The room swam into focus. Sirius’ bikini-clad girls were back, staring into space with vacant, bored expressions, and when Harry turned his head towards the chest of drawers, the top was piled with detritus from work. The scrolls from his latest case that he’d brought home to read in bed. A broken time-turner that he’d wondered vaguely if he could fix. A jacket packed with protective spells that he always forgot to take with him.

Harry surveyed the room, his heart now absolutely pounding, and his wild gaze lighted on—

Shit! Shit shit shit shit shit. The clock on the wall, a Christmas gift from Mrs Weasley, had a hand pointing to Really late for work.

For a moment he dithered in indecision – should he forget about work and head straight to find Draco? – but then he remembered, an uneasy feeling settling in the pit of his stomach, that this was the wizarding world, not a weird, Muggle facsimile where Draco floated around the world playing at being a celebrity. In this world, Draco had undoubtedly just woken up back in his bed in Malfoy Manor. Where his parents were.

Memories of the previous night came back to him in patchy, ill-fitting pieces; it felt like snatching at smoke. What had even happened? He could remember Draco wishing the world back to normal, and the feeling of panic, of disintegration as the world had changed, and then . . . nothing. Why had Draco’s wish worked? Harry had wished to go back to the wizarding world so many times he’d lost count, and it had never worked. But when Draco had tried it . . .

Harry realised he was holding himself so tightly that his neck ached, and he tried to relax, then remembered that he was late, and panicked all over again. He was never late for work. Sometimes, he even slept at work, waking up sore and uncomfortable at his tiny desk in the main office, and throwing himself straight back into the fray.

Harry nearly ran to his wardrobe, and then remembered he was a wizard, swishing his wand and revelling in the feel of the magic shooting what felt like directly out of his arm and flowing down his fingertips, making his wardrobe doors fly open and his neat Auror robes stream out to settle on the bed, drawers opening and shutting as undergarments flapped out to join them. He dressed quickly, throwing a quick Scourgify over himself as he dashed out of the room and down the stairs.

Kreacher passed him a mug of coffee. “Good morning, master,” the elf said suspiciously.

“Er, hi, Kreacher,” Harry said, giving the drink a tentative sip; it was lukewarm, so he drained it down in only a handful of gulps.

“Will master be wanting cereal or porridge?” Kreacher asked, folding his arms. “Or a cooked breakfast? Master is always in a rush, never eats properly. Kreacher thinks he should—”

Harry suppressed a sudden, mad urge to kiss Kreacher on the top of his head; the old elf would never let him hear the end of it. He was home. He was home! “Sorry, Kreacher, I’ve got to go. I’ll be back for dinner, I hope!” he said, and then fled to the drawing room, taking a quick pinch of Floo powder, flinging it in the fireplace, and calling, “The Ministry of Magic!” as he dived in.

Harry was so distracted that morning that Robards threatened to send him home, and even that didn’t help him concentrate. His brain kept returning to the night before, to Draco’s wish, the pieces slotting together to make a conclusion that felt obvious, once Harry was on his fifth cup of coffee: Harry hadn’t been the only one to make a wish, that night the world changed.

Harry wondered what, exactly, it was that Draco had wished for, and concluded, as he got to the end of an evidence scroll and realised he hadn’t taken in a single word, that it didn’t actually matter. What mattered was that Draco had ended up living in a world where he was famous and loved. And he appeared, unless Harry was massively misreading the obvious, to have given it all up, to give Harry back the life he wanted.

Unless, of course, Harry thought uneasily as he went back up to the top of the scroll to try again, it had all been a dream. He was certain it had been real, absolutely certain. Except . . . he’d lived in the other reality for several weeks, hadn’t he? But the calendar on his desk, with the tiny picture of the Chudley Cannons’ Seeker doing endless tricks in a bid to attract his attention, said it was the third of May – the day after the horrendously named ‘Harry Potter Day’. And when he’d sheepishly slid in that morning, expecting to be told off for being late, Robards had only laughed, slapped him on the back, and told him he’d expected him to be in much later, given how much he’d drunk at the statue unveiling the night before.

At just after half twelve, a large note bird flew directly into his ear, making his colleagues splutter with laughter at his terrible powers of observation, and when he’d grinned and self-consciously unfolded it, he found that Ron and Hermione were waiting for him in the Atrium for their lunch appointment. Get a move on, I’m starving, Ron had scrawled, so Harry ran for the lift, and then ran out of it, almost running directly into Ron, who flapped good naturedly at him and looked a bit startled when Harry gave him an enormous bear hug.

“Steady on, mate!” Ron said with mild alarm, slapping Harry on the back a few times. “You’ll make Hermione jealous.”

Harry turned and gave her a hug too, which made Ron go, “Oi!” and yank at the back of Harry’s collar.

Harry couldn’t put into words how wonderful it was to see them again – his Ron and Hermione – and decided he wouldn’t, given they were both looking at him as if he’d grown two extra heads.

“Are you all right?” Hermione asked, screwing up her forehead as she looked at him. Her fingers were covered in ink, her cheek streaked with it, and Harry had never loved her more.

“How do you feel about teeth?” he asked, just to check.

“Teeth?” Hermione asked, her forehead screwing up even more. “What are you talking about?”

“Never mind,” Harry said cheerfully, although it struck him again, with odd intensity, that maybe it had all been a dream, and maybe he should make an appointment at St Mungo’s to be Obliviated, because there was no way he could live a normal life now. Not now he was in love with Draco Malfoy.

He was in love with Draco Malfoy. Harry stopped dead in his tracks, struck by it all over again. He was in love with Draco Malfoy. He had to see him. It suddenly felt like the only thing in the world that was important. Why had he been pissing about this morning, playing at being an Auror, when he should have been doing the only reasonable thing: finding Draco, and asking him . . . Telling him . . .

“Harry, let’s go and sit down for a minute, shall we?” Hermione said firmly, taking his arm and pulling him towards the nearest seat. “You don’t look very well. Maybe you should think about going home.”

The nearest seat, Harry found as they headed towards it, was – of course – the curved benches tucked around the plinth topped by the terrible statue of him. He tried to pull away, but his attention was caught by the sound of a tremendous row: a cut-glass, vicious accent he knew well, raised in immense anger.

Harry stared, in abject horror, as Auror Robards stormed past, followed by Lucius Malfoy, his robes streaming behind him, his wife hot on his heels. And behind them both, in very neat, very severe formal robes, his hair slicked flat to his head and his expression cold and tense, was Draco.

“It is outrageous to even suggest that my son missed his appointment yesterday on purpose,” Lucius shouted, as Robards failed to stop. “It is down to your incompetence! I demand to speak to Kingsley this instant. I will not put up with this appalling treatment of my family, from people like—” He broke off, rounding on Harry, his face red with anger. “You!” he said. “This is your fault,” he said. “Your lack of respect – I should demand your job for this.”

“To get respect, you have to earn it,” Harry snapped, goaded.

“How dare you speak to my father like that,” Draco hissed, which made Harry’s blood freeze inside his veins. It was like nothing had happened. Had nothing happened? Had Harry been cursed? Had he, after all, been swimming in a vat of dark magic somewhere, falling in love with someone who hated him for some unknown assailant’s amusement? He felt himself go hot, even as he went cold, had to clench his fists by his side to stop himself from shaking.

“Come on, Harry, these tossers aren’t worth it,” Ron said from behind him, which made Draco’s expression darken and Narcissa hiss, as if she was about to strike.

Robards had finally turned, was striding back towards them. “Don’t make a scene, Malfoy,” he said dismissively to Draco. “A grown man shouldn’t need his parents to fix his mistakes.” And he then turned to Harry. “Take the rest of the day off, Harry, you look worse than the bloody statue.”

Draco looked like he was ready to Crucio someone but couldn’t decide whether to start with Robards, Ron or Harry himself. He glanced up at the statue of Harry, and his face hardened, a muscle in his cheek twitching.

Lucius was shouting again, Narcissa joining in with sharp, low-pitched jabs, and Ron appeared to think it was helpful to leap in to shout back, Robards attempting to walk out again – “I need to go and do my bloody job!” – but repeatedly being dragged back into the fray.

Harry couldn’t stop staring at Draco, who stared right back – cold, and fierce, and . . . Harry thought, as he stared, that Draco looked terrified, underneath it all. Well, that made two of them, he thought, suddenly feeling certain all over again that it hadn’t been a dream.

“Draco, I—” he started.

Draco bared his teeth like a wounded animal, his nostrils flaring in panic. “Shut up,” he said.

Hermione slipped her arm into Harry’s, and Harry was suddenly struck by the scene, by the context of it all. People around them whispering. Ron’s glares at Draco, when he wasn’t rowing with Lucius. And Draco himself: cold and horrible, in front of him. Not a Muggle pop star any more. Not warm, and confident, and loved by everyone. But a Death Eater. Voldemort supporter. Shunned by society. Harry couldn’t stop himself flinching, and Draco noticed, of course he noticed: he didn’t seem to be able to move, or look away from Harry.

“Harry, let’s go,” Hermione said gently, and Harry could feel her looking at him, the side of his face burning with it, but he couldn’t turn towards her. But he allowed himself to be tugged, and eventually turned, Hermione now almost dragging him out of the shadow of the statue and out through the Atrium. He could feel Draco’s gaze burning into his back every step of the way.

When they were clear of the Atrium, Hermione gave Harry an enormous squeeze. “What on earth is wrong?” she asked when she pulled away.

Harry tried to smile. “Hangover,” he lied. He wanted to go back right now and grab Draco by the neck of his stuck-up, expensive robes, and shake him, and . . . He tried to shake the thoughts out of his head, tried to think positive. If Draco remembered . . . Well. He was bound to be feeling the same way Harry was, wasn’t he? Disorientated, and confused, and— And he was hardly going to indulge himself in a romantic reunion in front of his parents, was he?

Harry tried to clamp down on his emotions, his rising dread. He’d never been able to picture being with Draco in the wizarding world, had he? And now here they were, back in the wizarding world. And he was Harry, an Auror, who’d saved the world. And Draco was . . . Malfoy. Who hadn’t.

Harry realised Hermione was still looking at him, her expression creased with concern. “I’ll be fine once I have some food in me!” he lied again, and happily at that moment, Ron sped out of the Atrium towards them, his hair a mess and his jumper askew.

“What have you been doing?” Hermione said.

“Fighting,” Ron said dreamily, and then cleared his throat when Hermione glared at him. “You all right, Harry?” he asked, giving Harry a painful whack on the arm. “Let’s get some food in you. You look like you drained the bar dry last night, and then went back and tried again.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, and made an almost successful attempt at a grin.

“Hm,” Hermione said, clearly not convinced, but to Harry’s relief she let it go.

Lunch was difficult, but Ron had plenty of tales about the latest product-testing disasters at the shop, and Harry thought he almost managed to successfully pretend he was listening. After, he went back to work anyway, the thought of going straight home to sit with Kreacher and his teeming thoughts an unwelcome one. Robards sniffed when he saw him, and chucked him a vial of pain potion, and although it didn’t help much, it did at least ease the throbbing in his brain.

At the end of the day, he dithered, unsure what to do next, but in the end he followed his feet to the Ministry’s Owlery, nodding a greeting to the owl-keeper and heading directly to his personal owl’s perch. He didn’t have his own pet owl, thought he never would again, but he’d been assigned one anyway as part of the job, and he tried not to get attached.

“Hello, girl,” he said as he approached, rummaging in his pocket for a treat, and the owl made a cheerful chirp, nuzzling his hand as he held out the treat and nipping him with its beak.

Harry pulled a sheet of parchment and a quill out of his pocket, and stared at the blank page, wondering why everything in life was so bloody difficult. In the end, he thought he’d better just keep it simple. Nothing that could embarrass him, if it turned out he really just had dreamt it all – even though he knew he hadn’t.

It wasn’t all a dream, was it? he wrote. And then added, simply: Can we talk?

After some consideration, he signed it Harry, and then rolled up the scroll, sealed it, and passed it over to the owl. “Draco Malfoy, please,” he said, and the owl hooted its understanding, before taking off.

Well, that was that, Harry thought, watching it fly up through a narrow opening in the ceiling and vanish out of sight. Now all he had to do was wait.

Harry spent the evening going crazy, pacing around his house and looking in all the cupboards, behind the furniture, under rugs, in search of anything that might prove that he’d lived in another reality, but came up with nothing. He even started picking at some of the wallpaper, to see what lay underneath, before Kreacher came out of his room to stare at him, and Harry decided against it. Draco didn’t Owl back, and Harry tried not to think about it. Just tried to keep himself busy, until he thought his head was going to explode, his headache was so bad.

Kreacher forced him to eat dinner, so he spooned some Shepherd’s pie into his mouth mechanically, and then went back to his fruitless search. When the hall grandfather clock chimed midnight, he decided he should probably go to bed, so he went and lay down, but this only made his thoughts whir all the louder, so he got up again, lurched out on to the landing and jerked up the sash window, grabbing his broom and flying up on to the roof.

It was odd being up here again. Odd, and somehow painful, but at the same time, the light breeze against his forehead felt soothing, and he closed his eyes for a moment, feeling a sense of vertigo, the world swaying around him. When he opened them again, a large, snowy white owl was hovering near him, a look of disdain on its beak, and it dropped a scroll in his lap, before flapping off.

Harry held his breath, and then had to grab for the scroll as the wind picked up, threatening to blow it off the roof. He broke the ornate seal, unfurled the paper and for a moment was unable to look at it. But then he forced himself. There was no point putting it off.

The note was very short and to the point:

It wasn’t a dream; it was a nightmare. Please don’t contact me again.

D. Malfoy

^^^^^^

Over the next week, Harry sleepwalked through his life, feeling oddly detached from everything, as if he’d been plunged into freezing cold water and could no longer feel his limbs. He went to work. He ate his meals. He saw his friends. He didn’t think about much. And when he did, he worked harder, because there was nothing else for it, was there?

The wizarding press continued on, in much the same way it always did, and although he didn’t make the headlines every day, he usually had to flick past pages three to five at speed, to avoid accidentally reading a story about his latest non-exploit. People had complained, he discovered, about his statue, and one morning when he went into work it was to find it had now increased in size to forty feet, instead of twenty. “At least the nose is further away,” Ron said, giving him a cheery nudge, and Harry thought that would probably be amusing, if one day he remembered how emotions worked again.

It was funny, he thought, as his days ticked by the same way they always had. He’d thought he’d been happy, more or less, before he’d made the wish and things had all gone wrong. He found it difficult to imagine now. How had he not noticed the gaping hole in the centre of his life? It was as if he’d been living his whole life on autopilot, and now he’d woken up, he wished more than anything he could go back to his old ignorance. He had been happy, before he’d met Draco in a strange, new world. He had. More or less.

Harry had thought he’d been faking being a walking, talking Harry Potter pretty well, but he realised he hadn’t managed it when, at the end of a long shift in the office, he came out into the corridor to find Hermione waiting for him, her arms folded.

“We’re going for a drink,” she said.

“No, sorry, I’ve got to . . .” he said, but his excuse died on his lips when he saw her face fall. It was bad enough being upset himself, without making her upset too. “All right,” he said uncomfortably, and she took his arm and led him to the Floos, as if she was worried he might run away.

They ended up in a tiny Muggle pub near Hermione’s home, drinking pints of real ale so strong that it almost helped Harry feel better.

“So,” Hermione said when she brought him a second pint, and a bag of crunchy, delicious and yet simultaneously revolting pork scratchings. “Are you going to keep pretending you’re all right?”

“Yes,” Harry said, and opened the pork scratchings, taking a handful.

“You sure?” Hermione said, taking a sip of her pint. “I can fetch Ron, if you’d rather tell your dark and terrible secret to him instead.”

Harry wanted to protest that he didn’t have a dark and terrible secret, but for some reason he found himself asking, “How do you know I have a dark and terrible secret?”

“Harry,” Hermione said gently, and reached over to pat the back of his hand. “It’s really, really obvious.”

“Oh,” Harry said, and pushed the pork scratchings aside.

“Better out than in,” Hermione said lightly. “Counts for both secrets and pork scratchings,” she added. “Come on,” she said, when Harry didn’t answer, “it can’t be that bad.”

“No? What would you say if I told you I’d accidentally altered reality and ended up shagging Draco Malfoy?” Harry said acerbically.

Hermione nearly knocked over her pint. “I’d say I need another drink!” she said, and then stared at him. “Are you serious?” she asked, her eyes wide.

Harry winced, and then thought that since he’d started, he might as well go on. So he told her a highly edited overview of what he’d done – how he and Draco had both wished to change the world, and that they had, and now he was back. The end.

“And the, er, shagging?” Hermione asked, her cheeks flushing.

Harry stared at her.

“I mean, I don’t want to know the details!” Hermione said, going even redder. “But really, Harry! You and Malfoy? Do you . . . actually like him?”

Harry looked at his hands, in favour of looking at Hermione’s face and seeing disappointment in him etched all over it. “Yeah,” he said, staring at the dark surface of his pint. “Quite a lot, really,” he added wretchedly. “It’s making me feel a bit crap. Don’t tell Ron!” he added, the possibility making him jerk his head up with horror.

Hermione didn’t look disappointed in him, though, when he looked in her eyes; she looked very soft, and kind, and that was somehow worse.

“I’m so sorry!” Harry said, remembering how Draco had called her a Mudblood and wished she was dead. It was hard to forget that kind of thing. “And – and you don’t . . . you know . . . think it’s really weird that I’m into, um, guys as well as girls, do you? I really wish I didn’t feel this way,” he added miserably.

“Oh, Harry,” Hermione said, reaching across the table to squeeze his hand. “Don’t be sorry, you daft thing. I couldn’t care less about that. I just want you to be happy! I’m shocked that you like Malfoy – of course I am – but,” and here she sat up very straight, “I believe everyone should have a chance at redemption, and if you can see something in Malfoy, then you should go for it. Grasp happiness with both hands. If anyone deserves it, it’s you.”

“But Draco basically told me to fuck off!” Harry protested, because it was true, and this pep talk, although well meant, really wasn’t helping him feel better.

Hermione gave him an old-fashioned look. “I expect he’s feeling a bit confused, given the circumstances. You should—”

“No,” Harry said firmly. “I shouldn’t.” Draco’s letter had said their time together was a nightmare; the word was a knife in the stomach. “He made his choice; I’m making mine. I just want to get over it.” He hesitated. “But . . .”

“But what?” Hermione prompted, when he didn’t continue. “Are you sure I can’t tell Ron?”

“No!” Harry said. “I was just thinking . . .” He shrugged. It still rankled that the Ministry had treated Draco so unfairly, depriving him of his wand like that. No wonder Robards had ordered Harry not to read Draco’s file; he must have known Harry would never have gone along with something as harsh and unfair as that. If Lucius and Narcissa got to keep their wands, why the hell shouldn’t Draco too? And anyway, just because Draco was the biggest scumbag known to man, it didn’t mean that Harry couldn’t be the bigger person, did it? He could help Draco get his wand back. It might even make him feel better, he thought dubiously. Or was he being soft?

Harry explained things to Hermione, and to his relief she seemed to agree with his point of view. “All right then,” she said firmly, taking a long sip of her drink. “I know you don’t want my help fixing things with Malfoy—”

“No, thank you!” Harry interrupted quickly, in case his silence was misinterpreted and she started hatching some sort of terrible plan.

Hermione sniffed and raised her chin. “—but Malfoy should definitely be allowed his wand back. We can, at the very least, fix that.”

^^^^^^

Once Hermione was fixated on something, there was no stopping her. Harry felt like he’d barely had time to consider what he’d asked her to help with, before she’d done the research, noted down the relevant case law, written to Professor McGonagall and lodged a formal complaint with the Wizengamot about Draco’s treatment.

Harry was summoned to Robards’ office barely five minutes after the formal complaint went in. “I thought I told you not to read Malfoy’s file!” Robards complained.

“I didn’t, sir,” Harry said calmly, safe in the knowledge that he wasn’t lying.

“Yeah, yeah,” Robards said. “Well, whatever the truth of the matter, you’ll have to stay late tonight. I suppose it’s about time we came to a final decision about whether to give the lad his wand back or not, and there’s no point in pissing about. Be ready to speak in his defence – or not – after work. Dismissed!”

Harry stumbled out of Robards’ office, feeling dazed, and staggered up over to Hermione’s office in the Magical Creatures department to tell her the news.

“Yes, Robards just came by to tell me himself,” she said, barely glancing up from her enormous stack of papers. “He’s an arse, isn’t he? You should hurry up and replace him, do us all a favour.”

“Right,” Harry said, unsure what to say to this, but Hermione was already scribbling away at her parchment, so Harry went back to his office and got back to work.

The hearing itself, such as it was, was short. So short, in fact, that Harry almost missed Robards declaring that Draco Malfoy would bear the stain of his behaviour forever, but he’d paid his dues with his continued good behaviour in the last two years and so his wand would be returned to him, and his weekly appointments with the Ministry concluded, with immediate effect. Harry had barely been given more than a minute to speak in Draco’s defence, and neither had Auror O’Sullivan, Draco’s official Ministry contact, who’d spoken only to confirm his name, his job title and the fact that Draco’s conduct since his sentence had been flawless, with the exception of one missed appointment recently – “And it was Harry Potter Day,” the Auror concluded, a little sheepishly. “I wasn’t at my desk, sir. You know how it is. He might not be to blame for that one.”

Professor McGonagall had sent an Owl to confirm that Malfoy had not been expelled, the very idea, and if he wished to complete his schooling, he should make an appointment to see her as soon as possible to discuss it.

Harry waited outside for Robards to emerge from his office, and he did eventually, jumping when he saw Harry. “Go home, Harry. Don’t you have a life?” Robards said – unhelpfully.

“That was a very quick hearing,” Harry said coldly. “It sounded like the decision had already been made. And why was Draco – I mean Malfoy – under the impression he’d been expelled?”

Robards rolled his eyes. “We can’t have people like the Malfoys thinking they can get away with things so easily, now, can we? Be reasonable, lad. Now, have a good evening and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Harry felt itchy, infuriated. What was the point of the law if it was going to be abused, by good wizards and bad ones alike? He gritted his teeth, decided there was no point in going home just to pace around the house angrily, so he went back to his office and got stuck into the never-ending pile of paperwork on his desk.

It must have been gone ten at night, when Harry jumped at the sound of someone clearing their throat, and turned to see Draco behind him – still and pale in the gloom of the now-empty office. They stared at each other for a while, but Harry was buggered if he was going to be the one to speak first.

He spoke first. “You, er, here for my autograph then?” he said, finding the words came out coldly, and waved the quill in his hand. Apparently, he was still angry at Draco; who’d have thought?

Draco didn’t respond to that, just kept staring. “Why did you do it?” he asked eventually, his face expressionless.

He must mean the wand, Harry thought. “Because it was the right thing to do,” he said firmly. The word nightmare rose up in his mind, and he choked it back down. “That’s all.”

Draco turned and left, without a backward glance.

^^^^^^

Another evening, another drink with Hermione. Without Ron. Harry expected it but still found it horrendously awkward when Hermione said, her question not really a question, “You’re still miserable, aren’t you?”

“No,” Harry said, because he was miserable, but he wasn’t pathetic.

“All right,” Hermione said, “I won’t push.” But she was Hermione, Harry thought; pushing was practically in her job description. So he was suspicious when she said, as the evening drew to a close, “I think it’s about time the Ministry worked a little harder to integrate ex-offenders into the magical community again, don’t you?”

“Oh?” he said, taking a sip of his orange juice.

“Yes,” Hermione continued blandly. “For example, you, Ron and I are always invited to the full run of Ministry-supported events – social evenings, business openings, and so on – but some people never are.”

Some people,” Harry said heavily.

“Yes!” Hermione agreed.

“You mean Draco,” Harry said.

Hermione smiled around her glass. “I mean some people,” she repeated. “But I have noticed that the majority of our former Slytherin classmates are never invited to anything, these days. Haven’t you?”

Harry tried to imagine himself socialising, even for work purposes, with the real-life, real-world Pansy Parkinson, who he’d heard had wanted him handed over to Voldemort to save her small, spiteful life, and said, “Yes, and that’s fine by me.”

“Seriously though, Harry,” Hermione said, putting down her glass and giving him a thoughtful look. “Helping Draco get his life back on track might help you feel better, even if you’re not going to . . .” She left a delicate pause.

Harry definitely wasn’t ‘going to’; he didn’t even know for certain what ‘going to’ meant, but he bloody well wasn’t ‘going to’ do it. Draco hadn’t even said thank you for the wand! It would serve Draco right, Harry thought hotly, if he did keep on doing him favours. Making him more and more in Harry’s debt, and making him undoubtedly feel more and more outraged by being so.

“I suppose being invited to Ministry events is punishment for anyone,” he said flatly. “I don’t see why we’re the only ones who have to suffer.”

“That’s the spirit,” Hermione said sarcastically, and raised her glass in a mock toast.

Harry regretted taking her advice though when he turned up at the next Ministry event – a party to welcome a representative of MACUSA to England for an official visit – to find Draco standing on the other side of the room, pale and stiff, arm in arm with Luna, of all people. It was punishment, all right: for Harry.

Draco didn’t say hello, or even go anywhere near Harry. He just spent the whole evening, very unhelpfully, watching Harry. Not smiling. Barely blinking. Just staring.

“Why are you here with Malfoy?” Ron hissed at Luna when she briefly abandoned her pale shadow to come over and say hello. “He’s been spending the whole evening giving Harry the evils!”

“Harry invited him,” Luna said, sounding puzzled. “And anyway, he’s trying so hard to be a nicer person, don’t you think?”

“No, I don’t think!” Ron spluttered, turning to Harry with his eyebrows so high that they practically hit his hairline. “What the hell, mate?”

“Harry’s just being kind,” Hermione interrupted smoothly. “You know what kindness is, Ron.”

“People like Malfoy don’t deserve Harry’s kindness!” Ron protested. “Bloody hell.”

“Shall I bring him over to say hello, Harry?” Luna said, as if Ron hadn’t spoken at all. “He’s very nervous. I don’t think it’s all the Nargles in the room, but you can never be sure.”

“No, don’t bring that tosser over here!” Ron said. “Have you gone mad, Luna?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Luna said serenely. “But thank you for worrying about me.” And she wandered off, back towards Draco, who still appeared to be staring at Harry from across the room, although he looked away instantly when he noticed Harry was looking at him right back.

“Bloody hell,” Ron said again. “Bloody hell.” And Harry felt a wave of depression crash over him, even as he felt incredibly glad he’d made Hermione promise not to tell Ron about what had happened to him, and how he felt – how he still felt, fuck his life – about Draco.

^^^^^^

Over the next couple of weeks, Harry began to feel like he was genuinely going insane. Draco accepted every invite he was sent – from Harry’s ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the new branch of St Mungo’s in Edinburgh, to the official renaming of the Harry Potter Centre for the Care of Elderly Witches and Wizards. It began to feel as if every time he coughed, or blinked, there Draco was, in the distance, staring at him.

Harry wasn’t sure what to think about any of this. Draco had told him that their time together had been a nightmare, told him to never contact him again. So why wouldn’t he just fuck off, then? When he expressed this thought to Hermione though, feeling like tearing his hair out, Hermione just frowned at him. “You’re inviting him,” she said, as if that said it all.

Harry supposed it did say it all. It said he was insane. Draco, too, was also insane, by the looks of things. He didn’t seem to enjoy a single moment of his time at the events. Looked, in fact, like he’d rather be anywhere else. But there he was. Slim, upright, severe. And staring, for fuck’s sake.

The media had noticed it too. And now Harry had to play a daily game of ‘avoiding Draco’s photos in the Daily Prophet, as well as avoiding his own, meaning that most days he only read the Quidditch pages at the back. And to add insult to injury, as well as the press popping out from behind trees to ask him surprise questions about his love life, they now added questions about Draco to their repertoire.

Did Harry think it was shocking that a Death Eater was allowed to attend events with upstanding citizens? No, Harry said crossly; he’d invited him. Did Harry think it was reasonable that a former Death Eater hadn’t spent time in Azkaban? Did Harry think Malfoy should have been punished more severely? Did Harry – Did Harry – Did Harry—

Harry thought they should all fuck off. Told them, instead, that Draco – that Malfoy – was someone who’d made a mistake, and paid for it dearly. That he had the potential to be a better person. That he was a better person. And that the press should leave him to get on with making a new life for himself. The headlines the next day read: POTTER SAYS ‘DRACO MALFOY A BETTER PERSON’, and the story was followed by pages and pages of speculation about the burgeoning friendship between the former school rivals, and the merits and demerits of forgiveness.

Harry felt like his life was crashing out of control, wanting Draco so badly that most days he woke up dreaming he’d been transported back to the wish world, which only made getting up and facing reality more painful. He no longer knew what he was doing, any more, not really. Was he trying so hard to make Draco’s life better as some kind of odd revenge, for the way he’d been rejected? Or did he just want to make Draco’s life better?

It didn’t help Harry get things straight in his head when, at the next Ministry party, Draco actually strode up to him – tall, imperious, surrounded by an invisible cloud of ice – and said, each word a gust of frozen disdain, “You don’t have to lie to the media about me, Potter.”

Harry felt anger rise up. “I haven’t lied about anything,” he snapped. “You are a better person. Malfoy.”

Draco’s face did something peculiar. “I . . . Right,” he said, his words coming out rusty, and then he turned and walked away, so quickly that it was almost a run.

Harry decided he would never, ever understand Draco, not in a hundred, million years. Not that he wanted to, any more. Not that he ever would get the chance to. God, it was depressing.

Harry left the party as soon as he could, pleading a headache; Draco, by the sound of it, had left almost as soon as he’d arrived, only coming in the first place to play ‘fuck with Harry’s head’, it seemed. When he got home he went straight to bed, and couldn’t sleep, feeling sick of himself. He was driving himself mad. He was driving Hermione mad. But he couldn’t see a way out. All he could do, he thought, was keep going. He’d get over Draco at some point, wouldn’t he?

Harry stared at the ceiling. Thought he’d definitely get over Draco. Maybe even before the end of time itself.

Chapter Text

“Are you going to tell Ron?” Hermione asked him, perching on the edge of his desk between two enormous piles of paper. However hard Harry worked, there always seemed to be enormous piles of paper.

Harry had only slept a couple of hours the night before. “About what?” he said, just to be an arse. She meant Draco. Of course she meant Draco. There was nothing left in Harry’s life at the moment apart from Draco – or, more to the point, the hole he’d left, when he’d told Harry their relationship had been a nightmare.

“Don’t be a dick,” Hermione said, and folded her arms. “About you and—” She looked around. “You know who exactly who I mean,” she added, speaking lower so that the other Aurors scattered around the office wouldn’t hear.

“There is no me and ‘exactly who you mean’,” Harry snapped, and then felt guilty, but also angry, all at once. “I’m sorry,” he said, pressing the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “I know you’re only trying to help, but I can’t see how telling Ron would help me feel better. He would never understand.”

“He would understand,” Hermione protested.

“You’d better bloody well not tell him!” Harry said crossly. “Promise!”

Hermione rolled her eyes, pursing her lips very tight. “All right, I promise. But he would understand.” She raised her chin very high and strode off, leaving Harry feeling even more worked up than when he’d started. He wondered if she was right, and groaned, putting his head in his hands. This was a disaster. He’d already lost Draco; now he appeared to be in danger of losing his best friends too. How much worse could things get?

^^^^^^

Harry had just got home – early for once – and was wondering whether he should send Hermione an owl apologising for being a massive, annoying wanker, and thanking her for putting up with him, when he heard the Floo go, and Ron fell out of the fireplace, putting his hands on his knees and gasping heavily.

“Mate, Hermione’s gone mad,” Ron said when he was able to catch his breath. “She – she . . .” He trailed off, seemingly unable to finish.

Harry Summoned a bottle of Firewhisky and was about to Summon a glass to go with it, and pour Ron a restorative drop, when Ron grabbed the bottle and drank right from it. “She’s going to dinner with Malfoy,” he said, and took another swallow, before turning and dropping heavily on the nearest sofa.

Harry felt his blood run first cold, and then hot. “Why?” he demanded.

The Floo went again, and Hermione stumbled out of it, brushing soot out of her hair and frowning at Ron. “Don’t you run away from me, Ronald Weasley!” she said.

“You’re running away with Malfoy,” Ron said faintly, and shuddered, taking another long swallow.

“I am not running away with Malfoy!” Hermione said firmly. She tried to pull the bottle from Ron’s hands, but Ron resisted, and they struggled for a while before Hermione came out the victor. “I am simply going to dinner with him.”

“WHY?” said Ron.

Hermione turned towards Harry. “Well?” she said.

The overwhelming unfairness of this struck Harry like a Bludger to the forehead. “Explain it yourself!” he said testily, and then gaped in horror as Hermione turned back to Ron.

“Because Harry’s in love with him,” Hermione said. “So I thought I should try to make the effort.”

“No, he’s not!” Ron said, eyes as wide as treacle tarts.

Hermione,” Harry exploded. “You promised!”

“I crossed my fingers,” Hermione said calmly. “You shouldn’t be keeping secrets from Ron. You’ll feel much better now it’s out in the open, you’ll see.”

Ron seemed to be having a silent heart attack, and Harry pointed to him, as if to indicate the clear and obvious evidence that it wasn’t better for Ron.

“Yes, Ron,” Hermione said, as if Harry hadn’t moved. “Harry’s in love with Malfoy – I mean, Draco,” she amended, now sounding self-conscious, “and I think he’s given up on the idea of dating him because he thinks we won’t like it. Well, mostly that you won’t like it,” she said pointedly to Ron.

“I bloody well don’t like it!” Ron exploded. “But it’s not true, anyway! It can’t be true! Tell her, Harry.”

Harry tried to remember how breathing worked. In. Out. In. Out. Or was it out, then in? “It’s only slightly because of that,” he said awkwardly.

Ron clutched his head with both hands. “Mate!” he said. “No, mate. Not him?”

Harry tried to nod, wasn’t sure if he’d managed it right.

“Ronald,” Hermione said warningly.

“Hermione, he called you a Mudblood!” Ron protested.

“Yes, and if he tries it again, I’ll hex his ears off,” Hermione said firmly, and then she sighed. “I can’t say I completely understand, but Harry’s our friend, and he should feel free to make his own choices. I’m not going to stand in his way. Are you?”

“Merlin’s balls,” Ron said, and swung round to Harry. “You sure you haven’t recently suffered a blow to the head?” he asked, a pleading note in his voice.

Harry shook his undamaged head.

“Drunk a strange potion handed to you by a hooded wizard?” Ron asked, this time wistful.

Harry shook his head again.

“Merlin’s balls,” Ron said again, and he slouched into himself, seemed to be thinking things through. “My best mate, bumming Malfoy,” he said mournfully.

“Ron!” Hermione said. “For heaven’s sake!”

Harry thought he’d had enough of the heavens to last him a lifetime. “Hermione, why are you going to dinner with Draco?” he asked, trying to regain a bit of control of the situation. He found, to his annoyance, that he felt deeply, painfully jealous. He wanted to go to dinner with Draco. And then, possibly, shake him until his teeth fell out. But . . .

“Oi,” Ron said. “Back up a bit. When exactly was it that you fell in love with the Amazing Bouncing Ferret, again?”

Harry winced. “Ah,” he said, and then told Ron about the wish.

“Give me back the booze,” Ron said when Harry had finished, and he held out a hand to Hermione. Hermione rolled her eyes, but passed it over, and Ron hugged the bottle to his chest. “I wish I was drunker,” Ron said, his eyes closed, and then he turned to Harry, his expression open, honest and . . . hurt. “And you didn’t want to tell me about this?”

“I’m really sorry,” Harry mumbled. “I wasn’t sure if you’d be OK with me being . . . you know. Let alone the bit about Draco!”

The hurt expression deepened. “Of course I am!” Ron said.

Harry felt a rush of love for Ron, along with an accompanying sensation of guilt.

“I’d give you a hug,” Ron said, “but you might bum me accidentally, so I won’t.” He held out his hands defensively as Hermione turned towards him, vengeance in her eye. “Joke! It was a joke! Seriously, mate,” he said, turning back to Harry, “I can’t say I understand your taste in blokes, but you know I’ll always love you, right? Though, er –” he grinned unselfconsciously – “not in that way! Sorry.” He turned to Hermione. “So, another world where all the women loved me, and yet I still chose you,” he said smugly to her. “Aren’t you the lucky one?”

Hermione raised her eyebrows. “Harry opens his heart to you, and that is what you take away from it?” she said, sounding deeply unimpressed.

“Yep,” Ron said.

“Seriously?” Hermione said, her voice going up a tone.

Ron grinned at Harry. “Sorry, mate, but yep. A thousand times yep.”

“Ronald Weasley,” Hermione said, low and furious, “you are UNBELIEVABLE!”

“Yep,” Ron said, puffing out his chest. “Guilty as charged.”

Harry laughed, and then felt surprised by this. He felt like he hadn’t laughed in weeks. He wondered if he should tell Ron that wish-world Hermione had fancied Draco too, but decided to save that one for later. He still felt too raw to joke properly.

Ron grinned at him. “It’s good to see you smiling. I was starting to think you’d been cursed. Though in a way—”

Anyway,” Hermione interrupted. “I’m going to be late. Ron, I’ll see you later. Harry, I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, and bent down to kiss him on the cheek, before vanishing into the Floo.

Harry and Ron stared at each other for a moment. “The world’s gone mad,” Ron offered.

Harry couldn’t disagree. “Shall I fetch some glasses?” he said, gesturing to the whisky bottle still cradled in Ron’s arms.

“Better words have never been spoken,” Ron said. And when Harry returned, Ron poured out two large slugs and passed Harry a glass, raising his up for a toast. “To bumming!” Ron said cheerfully, which made Harry’s drink go down the wrong way.

For a few seconds Harry tried to breathe whisky, and found it impossible. When he’d recovered, Ron grinning and banging him on the back, he wiped his eyes and said, “Are you sure you’re OK with this, Ron? Me being – you know?”

“A tosser?” Ron said, and he clinked Harry’s glass again. “Yeah. Of course I’m fine with it, you idiot.”

Harry felt overcome with relief, even as he tried not to stress out about Hermione meeting up with Draco. What were they going to talk about? He tried not to think. Happily, Ron poured out some more Firewhisky, and soon he found not thinking a whole lot easier.

^^^^^^

Harry went to sleep that night with only one thing on his mind, pretty much: he’d told Ron he liked men, and Ron had been OK with it. And OK, he’d thought about Draco too, couldn’t stop thinking about Draco, but mostly, he’d been thinking about Ron, and about himself, and how he was gay, sort of, and it was OK.

Harry woke up, the next morning and thought: I’m gay. And then he thought that actually, maybe he was bi, and then he worried that maybe he was just into Draco and no one else, but then told himself he was being ridiculous. He got up, got dressed, said good morning to Kreacher, and ate his breakfast, all the while thinking I’m gay. And then, possessed by a great and powerful madness, he turned to Kreacher and said, “Kreacher, have you ever known any wizards who were gay?”

Kreacher gazed at him, as if his master had gone insane. “Kreacher does not know about that,” he said eventually. “Kreacher only knows that wizards must lie with witches to produce more wizards and witches. It is the way of things. Does master not know this?”

“Right, thanks, Kreacher,” Harry said through a mouthful of scrambled egg, suddenly horrified by the idea that Kreacher might think he was being asked for practical advice. “I, er, gotta go!” And he fled, but for some reason, instead of Apparating directly to work, he took the long way round. The way round that passed by the offices of Witch Weekly. And instead of avoiding it like the plague, which was the normal, rational thing to do, he found himself going inside, and sitting down in the waiting room as the receptionist made an excited noise like her head was going to explode.

Soon, he was giving an interview – apparently of his own free will – about how, actually, he found that these days he fancied men as well as women, and that was nothing to be ashamed of, was it? Lots of people did, he understood, but he thought it was a shame that no one talked about it, and he thought he might as well be the one to start. “I’m gay,” he said firmly, as the reporting witch’s eyes went wider and wider and wider; he could almost hear Rita Skeeter’s scream of fury at being denied this scoop, “and that’s fine. I’m still just me.”

Harry began to feel the pit yawning beneath his feet as he got up to leave and the witch said, still scribbling at top speed, “And do you have a boyfriend, Harry?”

Fuck it. The pit was already there; he might as well just jump right in. “There’s someone I hoped would be my boyfriend,” Harry said, feeling reckless and insane, “but I don’t think he feels the same. So no. I’m currently not looking.” He thought about that, and about how many witches propositioned him at the moment. It was less a pit, he thought, and more of a bottomless, yawning crevasse. But oh well, it was too late now. “I’m definitely, one hundred percent not looking!” he said, and then fled, before the witch could try to take any photos of him.

The rest of the day sped by, Harry vibrating nervously the entire time as flashes of the interview kept popping up into his mind. He didn’t regret it, not exactly. But he couldn’t say he was looking forward to reading all about it. He thought, vaguely, that it might be a good idea if he went to live in a cave, perhaps as a hermit, for a while. Maybe in five or six hundred years they might have stopped talking about Harry’s Big Gay Interview. Better make it seven hundred years, just to be safe.

Harry tried not to think what Draco might think about it. Fuck Draco. He hadn’t done it for him. He’d done it for himself.

Ron popped in briefly in the evening, and that broke up Harry’s stressing about the interview for at least two or three seconds. He made Ron a cup of tea, and they drank the tea, and Harry didn’t tell him about the interview, because it was now making him break out into a cold sweat, and he didn't ask about Hermione’s dinner date with Draco, because he didn’t care. He absolutely didn’t care. He didn’t care, and—

“So how was Hermione’s evening?” Harry asked. He hadn’t said the word ‘Draco’, he told himself firmly, so it didn’t count.

Ron twitched. “She said he was nice,” he said, and pulled a face like a Hippogriff being sick. “Nice! Malfoy!” He took another swig of tea. “She said to tell you not to worry, she didn’t mention you once.”

This little snippet failed to cheer Harry up.

“I almost forgot for a second there that you and Malfoy are bum chums,” Ron complained, putting his mug down too forcefully and slopping tea on the dining room table. “Malfoy!” He shook his head. “Sorry, mate. The bumming I can cope with. It’s the Malfoy bit that’s going to take a bit of getting used to.”

“There’s nothing to get used to, though,” Harry said firmly. “That’s all over.” He felt his stomach squirm, and tried not to frown.

For some reason, though, this didn’t seem to cheer Ron up. He just said, “Yeah, mate, I suppose so,” and then looked incredibly sad.

^^^^^^

The Witch Weekly ‘HARRY POTTER IS GAY – EXCLUSIVE ISSUE’ special came out the next morning. Harry didn’t know how they’d produced it so quickly, but when he got to work there was a copy of it on his desk, covered in Post-it notes with question marks and hearts on. He sat down, feeling a bit like he was going to cringe so hard that he could slide through a gap in the floorboards and shoot down to the centre of the earth, and one by one the rest of the Auror team sped by, slapping him on the shoulder and telling him all about their ‘Great Uncle Eric’ and their ‘Cousin Nigel’, who had, by all accounts, dodgy wrists and who sometimes looked for half a second too long at posters of the Weird Sisters.

This struck Harry as very kind, but ultimately very embarrassing and unhelpful. At least, he thought, putting his head in his hands, no one had asked the identity of his ‘mystery mancrush’. Harry found out why when he finally managed to tear his head out of his hands, to flick through to pages 19 through 27.

“Harry, what have you donnnnnnnnnnne,” Ron said, bursting into the room and keeling over on the floor, his face the reddest Harry had ever seen.

The other Aurors all made kissy noises, and Ron flailed on the floor, like an upturned beetle that couldn’t right itself.

“Mum’s already sent me a Howler asking how I could do it to you,” Ron said faintly, staring at the ceiling. “I thought Hermione was going to explode. Harry. Mate. I think I hate you.” He crawled over and grabbed Harry’s leg. “Do something about this, for Merlin’s sake!” He got on his knees and put his hands in prayer position, gazing up at Harry with a mixture of hilarity and faint horror painted across his face.

Robards strode in the room. “If you want to fornicate, man on man, do it elsewhere,” he said, giving Ron a cuff on the ear. “I thought you quit, anyway, Weasley. You back for more?”

“No, I returned for my one true love,” Ron said, and then made a gagging noise.

“She’s down on the fourth floor,” Harry said, trying not to grin. “Why don’t you go and kiss her, preferably in front of lots of cameras?”

Ron seemed to consider this. “I suppose it’s worth a go,” he said, and he grinned at Harry. “I’ll tell you I’m proud of you later, once the whole world has stopped thinking I’m the third corner of a sordid love triangle.” He got up, banged the dust off the front of his trousers, and ran off again.

It took Harry all morning to pluck up the courage to go and find Hermione. When he did, it was to find her sitting at her desk, apparently casually reading the Witch Weekly special. She sniffed when he came in, but didn’t say hello.

“You do know I didn’t mean Ron, don’t you?” Harry asked, pushing his glasses nervously up his nose.

Hermione carried on reading. “I feel like I should be cross at you, Harry, but I’m not.” She sighed, and put the magazine down on the desk. “You really are a plonker.”

Harry sat in the chair opposite her. “I probably shouldn’t have given the interview,” he said gloomily.

Hermione leaned across the desk and planted a quick kiss on his hairline. “You definitely should have,” she said, going pink as she sat back down. She sniffed again. “That reporter really is an absolute idiot. Fancy thinking you were in love with Ron. It’s like putting two and two together and making . . .”

“A kale smoothie?” Harry suggested, wrinkling his nose.

Hermione snorted. “Yes, I suppose. Anyway.” She looked him full in the face, giving him her full, unnerving attention. “Did you do it for Draco?”

Harry thought about that, tried to be honest with himself. He missed Draco horribly, even though he didn’t want to. He wasn’t sure he could ever be happy with anyone else, almost felt resigned now to being single forever. But . . . he felt better. For some reason, despite feeling a bit like he’d opened up his underwear drawer and shown the contents to the gawping public, he felt better. Like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders that he hadn’t known he’d been carrying. And he couldn’t be the only gay wizard out there, he thought. If he’d made even one other person feel better about themselves, that had to count for something, right?

So. Had he done it for Draco?

“No,” Harry said firmly, and Hermione smiled at him. “I did it for me.”

^^^^^^

Harry thought the headlines about him and his newfound sexuality – Ron, if the press were anything to go by – would only last a few days. A couple of weeks later, he was still front-page news and was rapidly losing the will to live. He realised, to his irritation, that he’d made a bit of a cock-up of things. First, he’d had to deal with the most awkward meal of his life, when Mrs Weasley had invited him to the Burrow – the word ‘no’ apparently not an acceptable answer – and grilled him for a solid two hours about his intentions towards her son, while George, Bill and – most embarrassing of all – Ginny wet themselves with laughter in the background, George’s QuickQuill taking notes to ‘send to Charlie’, who apparently hadn’t been free to come home and take in the hilarity in person.

Second, he apparently hadn’t taken into consideration that his little announcement would mean a small but vocal portion of the male wizarding population would rise up and take his statement that he intended to be single forever as a challenge. It was now more difficult than ever to leave the house. The hermit option was beginning to look increasingly appealing.

And third – and most unnerving of all – ever since the publication of Harry’s ‘I love Ron’ special, Draco hadn’t attended any Ministry events. Or been seen in public at all, as far as Harry could tell. Not that he was looking. Not that he cared. He certainly didn’t care that one of the reasons for Draco’s non-appearances in public appeared to be that he was spending several evenings a week with Hermione, once even at her and Ron’s house, to Ron’s evident discomfort.

“They spent the whole evening talking about alchemy,” Ron whispered. “I think Hermione actually likes him now.”

“I do like him,” Hermione said, not looking up from her books on her desk; they were sitting in Hermione and Ron’s cramped, cosy sitting room. “He’s interesting. And it’s rude to whisper.”

“Alchemy?” Harry asked dubiously.

“Yes,” Hermione said, looking up now. “He’s incredibly knowledgeable, and he’s done tonnes of research. I think he’s been bored to death the past couple of years.” She sniffed. “Wasted potential. I’m trying to talk him into getting a private tutor, so he can go back to Hogwarts to take his N.E.W.T.s. Why?” she added, narrowing her eyes. “Would you prefer we talked about something else?”

“No,” Harry said, looking at his hands.

“Is that true?” Hermione said frankly, making Ron groan and stuff his fingers in his ears.

“No,” Harry said.

^^^^^^

The next day, Harry woke up to a world gone mad. Kreacher brought him breakfast in bed and said, “Shall Kreacher cast an Aguamenti out of the window and make the nasty photographers go away?”

It was tempting, but Harry thought on balance that would only make things worse. He ate his breakfast mechanically, wondering what he’d done now. The press had probably decided he’d had a schoolboy love affair with Professor Snape, he thought idly, and put himself off his last slice of toast.

When he got to work, the Atrium was full of photographers – and full of Ministry staff trying to throw out the photographers. Harry made it to his office, to discover – for fuck’s sake – that someone had managed to unearth an ancient photo of him hugging Ron and sent it to the Prophet. He couldn’t even remember doing it. And besides, of course he’d hugged Ron. He loved Ron! He decided he might not say that one out loud though, because it would undoubtedly make things worse.

He tried to work, but the office kept getting invaded by reporters’ tricks: extendable ears sliding under the door, and tiny floating quills bobbing above his head to try to catch his unwitting confession. “Fuck off!” he told one, and it scribbled down furious denial indicating a secret passion before he Incendioed it with a short, sharp blast.

Robards gave it half an hour before he cracked and sent him home, lobbing him a packet of Gingernut biscuits as he did so. “Hilarious,” Harry said as he caught them, and then stomped off to the Floos, cameras flashing every step of the way.

Home was no better, though. He kept being fire-called, even though his location was meant to be private, and he went out several times – Kreacher hanging on his sleeve to try to stop him – to tell the reporters hanging around outside to naff off, only to be hounded by questions about whether he’d fallen for Ron at school, or if Hermione was a jilted woman.

When he heard a knock at the door a few minutes after he’d chased away a particularly nasty group of photographers, he lost his temper. He stomped angrily down the stairs. “For the last time,” he yelled as he approached the door, flinging it open, “I am NOT BUMMING RON!”

Draco Malfoy was on his doorstep, in very fine formal robes, his skin extremely pale and his eyes . . . Harry swallowed hard. His eyes were lined with red, the skin under them pink and sore. But even so, Draco looked like he was carved out of stone, his face expressionless and his chin raised. “I seem to remember we covered that in an earlier conversation,” he said, voice flat and colourless. “But I can go away again if this is a bad time.”

Harry gulped, tried to remember how to walk, and stepped away from the door to let Draco inside. Draco waited politely in the hall, and Harry, trying not to panic, or show that he was trying not to panic, led Draco to the drawing room and offered him some tea, mostly as a means of running away.

Draco nodded, very sharply, and Harry tried to carry out his fine fleeing plan, but Kreacher was already creaking the door open and waiting expectantly. “Er, tea, please,” Harry said, to make him go away again, but when he did it was worse. Harry sat there, and Draco sat there, neither moving. Harry didn’t consider himself great at small talk at the best of times, but this was something else.

In four or five long, agonising minutes, Kreacher returned with a tea tray. He’d used the best china, Harry noticed. There was a teapot, and the silver spoons, rather than Harry’s usual chipped mug and Muggle tea bags. There were plates, with tiny biscuits.

Kreacher set down the tea tray and then slid out of the room. The door shut behind him with an ominous click.

Harry waited, but Draco didn’t move. Didn’t, in fact, appear to be breathing. Right, Harry thought. Tea. He could do that at least. He poured out two cups, only spilling a tiny bit, and added milk to both, sugar to Draco’s. The fact he knew how Draco liked his tea depressed him, all of a sudden, the little detail feeling overwhelming, but he firmed his jaw and passed the cup over.

Draco took it and sipped, and the silence curdled around them. Harry was determined not to speak, mostly because he didn’t know what to say, and felt sure that the moment he opened his mouth he’d make an unspeakable tit of himself.

“Er, biscuit?” he said, when it all got too much. There was only so much silence a man could take before cracking, he thought glumly. “There’s, er . . .” He looked at the tea tray. “Little ones. Or, I have some Gingernuts somewhere.” Gingernuts! He clenched his lips shut and wished he was dead.

The word ‘gingernuts’ – or, at least, the ‘ginger’ part of it – seemed to put some fire back into Draco at least. He sat up very straight, and turned a harsh expression on Harry.

“So, I told my parents that I’m gay,” Draco said out of nowhere, his voice still very flat.

It was, almost literally, the last thing Harry had expected him to say. He tried not to gawp. Tried not to pull a weird face. Tried to push down the flare of hope in his chest that threatened to undo him.

“And that . . .” Draco said, and paused to take another sip of his tea. His hands were shaking. “That I’m in love with you.”

If Draco’s last words had surprised Harry, these new ones nearly killed him on the spot. He could feel his pulse pounding throughout his whole body – his skin felt like it was electric, live and jumping. Harry reached into the maelstrom of emotions that were thrumming through his body and pulled out anger. “Then why the fuck did you send me that letter saying the whole thing was a nightmare?” he shouted.

The silence following this seemed to ring out through the room. Harry could hear his blood rushing in his ears.

Draco had gone grey. His fingers around the teacup were rigid. “Of course it was a nightmare,” he said, low but intense. “I dreamed you loved me back, and then I woke up.”

It sounded to Harry, for all the world, as if Draco had always loved Harry. Not just during the madness of the wish magic. But . . . before. He’d told Harry he’d had fantasies about him for an embarrassingly long time, though, hadn’t he, Harry thought, and wondered how he’d been so blind.

“Did you hear me when I said I told my parents?” Draco demanded. He was now shaking so hard that he put the teacup carefully down, shoving his hands between his knees to try to keep them still.

Harry’s head was reeling. “How did they take it?” he asked, awkward, stupid.

“How do you think?” Draco said, and then he tilted his head forward, said, “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Harry Summoned the nearest thing he could see to a bucket – it was some sort of hideous wide-necked vase – and ran over to shove it under Draco’s face, crouching next to him. He put his hand on Draco’s back, very carefully, and when Draco didn’t throw a hex, he rubbed it gently.

“Deep breaths,” Harry said, trying to sound like he always shoved vases under people’s faces in their time of need. He felt a bit like he needed a vase of his own. “In. Out. In. Out.”

Draco seemed convinced, at any rate. He tried to breathe in time with Harry’s words, and eventually he shoved the vase away and sat up straighter. “Did you know that’s a priceless Black antique?”

Harry shrugged. He was amazed there were any priceless Black antiques left, the rate Kreacher had apparently fenced them, back in the day. “Are you OK?”

“Yes,” Draco said. “No.” Harry sat beside him on the horrible, uncomfortable sofa, and Draco shivered. “I can go away if you’d prefer me not to be here,” he said, voice horribly bright.

No,” Harry said, and grabbed Draco’s nearest hand. Draco squeezed his hand back, so tightly that Harry couldn’t stop himself from letting out a gasp, and Draco let go as quickly as if he’d been burnt, immediately clasping his hands back together again.

“Mother pointed out that you’d already stolen the Black family fortune, so it only made sense that you’d steal the Malfoy one too,” Draco said, still bright, still horrible. “Father, on the other hand, cast Incendio at a seventeenth-century cabinet and then told me that at least I’d made a good political choice, even though the object of my affections appeared to be pining for a blood traitor. Hard to know what to make of that, really.”

“Draco, I—” Harry said, not sure what to say but trying his best anyway, but Draco cut him off immediately.

“I don’t think I want to talk about my parents right now, anyway. God. I can’t believe I did it. I actually . . .” He pressed his hands to his mouth for a moment. “I did it. I did it.” He turned a bright, fierce expression on Harry. “Harry, I—”

It was Harry’s turn to cut him off now. He had hundreds – thousands – of questions he wanted to ask. But right now, he had to know. “What did you wish for?”

Draco stilled, expression still fierce, but now tinged with uncertainty. “I wished to be happy.”

Harry didn’t get it. Draco had wished to be happy . . . and he’d become a Muggle? “Did you want to be a Muggle then?” he asked, feeling uncomfortable. “I don’t get it.”

Draco’s expression turned pitying, as if Harry was a massive dolt.

Harry tried to think it through. It wasn’t the Muggle thing, was it? Of course not. Draco had been brought up to think of Muggles as cattle, rather than real people. It was . . . Oh. “Right,” he said, feeling a wave of depression.

Draco scowled at him. “What terrible conclusion have you leapt to now?”

“You always did resent me for being famous, no matter how much I hated it,” Harry said, feeling flat. “I suppose you can only be happy if you’re at the top of the pile.”

Draco’s eyes flashed angrily. “You have a fucking low opinion of me.”

“Well deserved!” Harry snapped back. Draco winced, and Harry subsided, his anger draining away. “Sorry,” he said.

Draco made an attempt to shrug. “I suppose you’re right. And I did think that was the answer to my wish initially. Fame. Friends.” He looked at his hands. “A world where I could be out, without my failure to have children being the end of the world for my parents.”

Harry’s heart ached. “Draco . . .”

Draco made an irritable noise. “No, shut up, I haven’t finished. But . . . none of that made me happy, after about five minutes of it. It flattered my ego, but . . .” He now looked irritated too, his forehead a massive wrinkle. “This would be a lot easier if you weren’t so terminally dense.”

“Hey!” Harry protested.

Draco shut his eyes, took a deep breath. “Potter . . . Harry. I needed those things, though. They were . . . They were the only way you would ever look at me and not see a piece of Death Eater scum. A coward.”

Oh, fucking hell.

Draco’s voice had gone flat again. “Because it turns out it’s you I need to be happy. But you needed other things. Your real friends. The Auror office. So I gave you up!” he blazed, his voice suddenly raised. “I didn’t think . . . I didn’t think you’d still want me, back here. I thought you might have . . . wanted to get home so badly that you confused your longing for home with longing for . . .” He shook his head hard, as if to shake off something clawing at him. “And I didn’t know if I could give up my birth-right either!” he flared up. “Not everything’s about you! But . . .” He swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing. “You . . . you got me back my wand. And stood up for me in the media.” He sounded incredulous now. “And arranged for me to be invited to lots of really, really tedious society events – I’ll thank you for that later – even though I’d said . . .” He trailed off.

“That it had been a nightmare,” Harry reminded him helpfully, because it still stung so much that thinking about it winded him for a moment.

“Yes,” Draco said faintly, and then looked up from his hands to finally catch Harry’s eye. “Weren’t you listening when I told you that I often say things I don’t mean?”

Harry felt barely able to believe what was happening. “So . . .” he said, and then stopped, not able to go on. He felt terrified, and there was a bright, blooming happiness swelling inside him, and he didn’t know if he could handle it, if he could survive it.

Draco slid off the sofa, ending up on his knees beside Harry, and he reached out and took his hands, kissed them. “I love you,” he said to Harry’s feet, and Harry could see him trembling, but wasn’t sure if it was just Draco or him too. “I love you. I love you. I love you. I – I can’t live without you.” He looked up then, his expression tense and oh so hopeful, it broke Harry’s heart. “I thought I could. I wanted to be able to, but I just can’t. I – I don’t think I can handle being too public right now – God, my parents, I can’t—” He broke off, took a wild, deep breath and tried again. “But I want you so much, oh God I want you. Please, please will you give me a second chance?”

Harry couldn’t reply; he was too busy having a heart attack. Too busy trying not to cry.

“Harry?” Draco said wildly.

“Fucking hell,” Harry said, hardly able to see, “why aren’t you kissing me?”

Draco scrambled up and practically threw himself at Harry, straddling his lap on the sofa and kissing him over and over again. He tasted of sugar, and tea, and tears, and Harry wanted to kiss him forever. Made a heroic attempt at it. Kissing his mouth, his cheeks, and sliding down to nuzzle at his neck, sucking love bites to the surface as Draco sobbed out tiny little breaths and craned his neck wider to give him more access.

After a while, though, it all became too much. Harry managed to get up, pick Draco up – who looked startled for a moment, but just leaned in to nibble at Harry’s neck instead – and stagger out of the room, nearly tripping over Kreacher who was lurking outside.

For a moment, Kreacher and Harry stared at each other with matching expressions of horror. Then Draco said, very airily, from Harry’s arms, “That will be all, Kreacher.”

Kreacher gave a very small bow. “Yes, Master Draco,” he said. “Excuse me, Master Harry.” And then he Disapparated with a crack.

Harry started laughing so hard, he had to put Draco down or else drop him.

“Yes, well,” Draco said, and he turned to kiss Harry again.

It was only with difficulty that Harry managed to extract himself from Draco’s arms before he lost control and started stripping him on the stairs. There was no way, Harry thought, a bubble of laughter rising up again as he remembered their awkward conversation about gay wizards, that Kreacher would stand for anything like that.

He didn’t find anything to laugh about once they got inside his bedroom though. Draco pushed him back on the bed, and climbed on top of him, the layers of clothes between them unbearable as Draco ground down against him. It took forever to undress, Harry’s fingers becoming all thumbs as he tried to tear off Draco’s outer robe, finding himself faced by rows of tiny buttons. He tried to rip them off, and found the stitching held. Draco let out a half-laugh. “Quality tailoring,” he said, and sat back up on his knees, tearing at his own clothes, and Harry tried to wiggle out of his uniform at the same time.

Finally, finally, they were naked, and God, it felt incredible, to just lie naked with Draco. The long, firm lines of his body. The hot press of his erect cock, his swollen balls. His searching mouth. Harry felt like he could drown in it all, wanted . . .

Harry swallowed hard. “Do you want to . . . this time?” he said awkwardly, pulling away a fraction from Draco’s now leisurely, burning kiss.

Draco looked at him. “Probably,” he said. “What?”

“Uh, fuck me?” Harry managed, feeling his cheeks flame.

Draco’s expression turned fierce, possessive. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, please.” And he covered Harry’s chest with kisses, sucking his nipples, before moving down to pay long, loving attention to his cock.

Harry came twice, and Draco wouldn’t let him touch him, either time. He felt so relaxed he could float away, every part of him sensitive and almost overstimulated. Draco had sucked him off, and then not stopped, continuing on until Harry’s body was wracked with endless waves of pleasure, his orgasm fading and then rebuilding. Draco’s fingers in his arse had worked him to a second, ecstatic peak, and he felt hoarse with shouting, he’d come so hard.

Draco let him rest for a while, kissing him gently, and then said, voice tight and controlled, “Can I?”

Harry nodded, reaching for him, and Draco slicked himself up and positioned himself, pushing down against Harry’s arse. It stung, for a fraction of a second, but he relaxed into it, and then Draco was in – properly in – and it felt weird, being full down there, and then finally it just felt amazing. Draco was covered in sweat as he moved, his face tight and astounded, and once he started groaning he couldn’t seem to stop. He tried kissing Harry, to shut himself up, but he just groaned into Harry’s mouth.

Harry clung on to Draco’s back, as Draco’s hips worked helplessly, reared up to meet him. Draco tipped his head back, his mouth an o of amazement. “I can’t . . .” he said, voice rough. “I’m sorry. I’m going to—”

Harry craned up to kiss him, and Draco started moving his hips faster and faster, losing his rhythm and growing jerky, before his whole body spasmed and he made a noise that Harry thought he’d remember, in his fantasies, forever.

When Draco had stopped shaking, he carefully slid out of Harry and collapsed against him, mumbling a quick cleaning spell. “I think I want to stay here forever,” Draco said sleepily, sounding worn out and amazed. “Here, in this bed, with you.”

“That can be arranged,” Harry said, pulling Draco in closer. He considered it as a lifestyle choice, and found it had its merits. “Kreacher could bring us meals,” he said into Draco’s hair. He considered it a little further. “Maybe you’d better put some underwear on before he actually enters the room, though.”

Draco laughed sleepily, tipped his head up for another kiss.

“You could, you know,” Harry said after a while, thinking about it further.

“Could what?” Draco said, on a yawn.

“Stay here.”

Draco stilled in his arms. “What do you mean?”

Harry tried to think how to put it. “I mean, as in, you could stay here. In my bed. For a while. With me.”

“How long a while?” Draco asked, voice low and somehow wonderful.

Harry shrugged against Draco. “As long as you like. I mean, you can get up sometimes, and go away again. And then come back,” he clarified. “Does that sound like something you might like to do?”

Harry felt Draco smile against him. “I might consider it,” he said eventually. “In the morning.”

“In the morning, I plan to keep you here until the afternoon,” Harry said. “Just to clarify my plans.”

“All right,” Draco said, sounding amazingly bright. “I suppose we can take it one day at a time. Deal?”

Harry rolled towards Draco and threw a leg over him, kissed him on the lips. “Yeah,” he said. “Deal.”

Chapter Text

Harry Potter, the Boy who Lived, to become youngest Head Auror in history

Fan favourite Harry Potter is hitting the headlines yet again with an amazing new achievement as he prepares for tomorrow’s Second International Harry Potter Day. We can exclusively announce that the handsome young bisexual bachelor, 20, is set to take on the role of Head Auror when his current boss retires in just two months’ time. Just how far will this young man fly?!

Harry is expected to take the lead in tomorrow’s anniversary events, and is likely to be accompanied by his constant companion, reformed bad boy Draco Malfoy, who is expected to receive straight Os in his upcoming N.E.W.T. exams. Are these two simply friends, or there is something more? When probed by this intrepid reporter, Harry simply replied, “No comment,” but his twinkling eyes and warm smile for the slim pure-blood blond, 20, said more than mere words.

Readers will be fascinated to find out what elegant outfit Mr Malfoy will be wearing at this year’s exclusive Ministry commemorations, although it’s likely that his father – former Death Eater Lucius Malfoy – will remain at home, along with his doting wife, Narcissa. The pair are rarely seen in public, although when questioned about their son’s close friendship with the wizarding world’s biggest catch, Mr Malfoy senior told this reporter exclusively: “I will love my son, no matter what.”

It was amazing the difference a year made, Harry thought as he stood in the Atrium of the Ministry and looked out at the guests at this year’s gathering for the commemoration of the Battle of Hogwarts. Last year, Hermione and Ron had practically had to drag him there. This year . . .

“It took me half an hour to get him out of bed,” Draco said to Hermione and Parvati, very low, but the eye roll still clear in his voice. “In the end, I had to cast an Aguamenti on him, the sod, and he had the nerve to complain that I was unfair! Me!”

“Next time, cast the spell earlier,” Parvati said firmly, which made Hermione giggle and Harry splutter.

“Hey! You’re meant to be on my side!” Harry said, feeling hard done by. He didn’t count Parvati as one of his closest friends yet, but he was getting there. She’d been an amazing friend in the wish world, and it had inspired him to get to know the real-life Parvati better. Well enough, now, that she’d told him, just the other week, that if he tried really, really hard then she might get over how he’d treated her at the Yule Ball in, oh, as little as ten or eleven years, tops.

He still wondered, sometimes, if the wish world still existed. Was Hermione a happy dentist somewhere right now, with her good-natured footballing boyfriend? Was a Muggle Draco Malfoy singing his songs even now, to an adoring Muggle Harry Potter? Or had the alternate reality simply popped when they’d left it, like a soap bubble? Harry supposed he’d never know.

“Why is Parvati meant to be on your side?” Draco protested. “Says who?”

“Me!” Harry said, and grinned at Draco, who grinned right back.

Harry didn’t think looking at Draco would ever get old. Maybe the Aguamenti thing might though. “I’ll tell Kreacher on you,” he threatened.

Draco’s eyes widened. “You wouldn’t!”

“I would,” Harry said.

“All right, you win,” Draco said easily, and he almost reached for Harry’s arm, before stopping himself, giving him another smile instead. “Can I get you a drink?”

“Thanks,” Harry said. He didn’t mind that they weren’t publically a couple. At least, not most of the time. He wanted to hold Draco’s hand, that was all. And was that any wonder, when Draco was so . . . well, Draco? Besides, anyone who mattered to Harry knew that they were dating; it wasn’t like it was a complete secret. It was just . . .

Mrs Weasley strode over and gave Harry a big, big hug, then pinched his cheek. “You’re looking well, dear,” she said, and beamed at him. “Congratulations about the job.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, grinning at her. He hadn’t expected it, but it was probably the third-best thing that had ever happened to him, after meeting Ron and Hermione at Hogwarts, and after . . .

“Youngest Head Auror ever!” Molly said proudly, her eyes tearing up a bit. “Your mum and dad would be so proud.”

Harry felt himself tear up a bit too.

“They’d be proud about you and your young man too,” Molly said, giving his arm a squeeze. “The world’s a funny place. I never thought I’d get over it when I found out, but I can hardly remember what he was like before, he’s changed so much. It must be love,” she said, still misty eyed. “You remind me of me and Arthur, back in the day. Are you and Draco planning on making things a little more public soon?” she asked delicately.

Draco – the first-best thing that had ever happened to Harry. “We mostly keep it private just to annoy Rita,” Harry said mildly, and turned to smile at Draco as he squeezed in, handing Harry a drink.

“Oh, Molly, have mine,” Draco said, handing her a glass of wine. “I haven’t touched it.”

Molly beamed at him. “Thank you, love,” she said. “Well, I won’t keep you, I’m sure you have mingling to do. Ginny and Dean send their love, and asked me to tell you they’re sorry not to see you this year. But you and Draco will join us tomorrow at the Burrow, won’t you?” “Of course,” Harry said, and Draco nodded, looking pleased but awkward when Molly reached up to kiss him on the cheek before turning and vanishing into the crowd.

Draco turned to Harry and opened his mouth, but then shut it again, looking a little hesitant.

“What?” Harry asked, taking a sip of his wine and then passing it over.

“Do you want to tell more people about us?” Draco asked bluntly. “I heard what you were saying to Molly.”

Did he? In some ways, Harry just wanted to be left alone by the world. Being famous had always been a bore, and the burden had never eased. The papers would always be talking about him, he thought, no matter what he did. But at the same time, Harry couldn’t help but feel a niggle of doubt in the back of his mind, like an itch he could never quite reach. Draco was the sole heir of the Malfoy name. He cared about shit like that, even though these days he tried pretty hard not to. Harry had no problem with the idea that Draco wanted to make his parents happy, but he found it hard not to believe that, however much Draco loved him – and he had no doubts about that – Draco might one day decide that his responsibility to his family was so great that he had to marry and produce a heir. He didn’t want to wonder if Draco’s desire to keep their relationship a secret was motivated by an awful future planning, but sometimes he couldn’t help it.

“Harry,” Draco said again, frowning now, “do you want to tell more people?”

“A little,” Harry admitted. “I know you prefer to be private though!” he protested.

Draco stared at him for a moment. Then he took a deep breath and, right there in the middle of the crowd, photographers and reporters everywhere, leaned in close to Harry and kissed him firmly on the lips. And then he did it again, for good measure.

Harry stared at him, shocked, and yet happiness was blooming in his insides, tendrils snaking throughout his body and twisting deep within his heart. Everyone was staring at them. It was horrendous. And yet . . .

“You can’t take it back,” Harry said, concerned that Draco hadn’t really thought this through.

Draco’s face changed: fierce, possessive, wonderful. “I never, ever want to take it back,” he said, and he reached over and took Harry’s hand in his.

And for a moment – a long, glorious moment – everyone else in the room just faded away, and all Harry could see was Draco.

^^^^^^

Hours later, Harry and Draco sat on the roof of their house together, watching the meteor shower explode across the sky.

“Do you want to make a wish?” Harry asked, leaning his head against Draco’s, feeling his warmth, breathing in his scent.

“No,” Draco said quietly, looking up at the stars. “I have everything I could ever wish for.”