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Way Down We Go

Chapter Text

in this story, your mother isn’t the villain.
in this story, you find a way to pick the lock, to wake up, to climb out of the tower yourself.
in this story, you’re angry.
in this story, you meet a dragon and
it is afraid of you.
in this story, you don’t need to be saved.
in this story, your mother raised you
to recognize a prison from a home.
in this story, they don’t fall in love with you before they know you.
in this story, they aren’t better than you.
in this story, you have claws.
in this story, happily ever after has bite marks in it.
in this story, you are free and terrifying.
in this story, you get away.
in this story, you bleed.
in this story, you survive.

Caitlyn Siehl

.

.

.

The war was over.

Or at least that’s what the papers said.

They’d been saying it, for months, as if people needed reminding.

Maybe they did. 

Maybe others found it just as easy to forget. Maybe they, like Harry, often ducked at sudden movements, flinched at loud noises, and sometimes, inexplicably, found breathing an uncertain and laborious task. Maybe they went to sleep with ghosts and woke up with guilt and spent a little too long, eyes closed, head submerged, in the bath.

The war was over.

But what happens to heroes when wars are over? When prophesies are satisfied and evil is defeated. Heroes are supposed to live happily ever after, Harry thinks. But he doesn’t know what that looks like. How that happens.There aren’t stories about that part. He wishes there were because he’s eighteen and living in an empty house with a second inheritance and a job offer and thousands of owl-post letters thanking him and asking him for interviews and—he feels simultaneously ancient and infantile.  

He is so, so tired. But he also wants someone to tell him what to do. To tell him what comes after the fighting and the death and the supposed victory. 

Maybe the better question is: what happens to weapons when wars are over?

Because that’s what he is, Harry realises, and perhaps it is an embarrassingly delayed realisation. After all, he had been carefully honed: by ignorance and cruelty and finally, maybe worst of all, affection. His abusive childhood was not just a thing overlooked or allowed, but curated, to make him more reckless, more desperate, more stupidly, fiercely, loyal. More willing to die. 

It was effective, though, wasn’t it? It worked. He’d saved the world. And now he was—he didn’t know. 

He took Kingsley’s offer to join the Aurors. Of course he did. It was expected.

It only occurred to him later to ask why a traumatized teenager without completed schooling or any legitimate credentials aside from their name would be given that dispensation. But by the time it occurred to him to ask, he already knew the answer. 

The Ministry of Magic did not need a weapon, not anymore. But they did need a figurehead. He was the boy who lived twice. The savior. Harry, photographed at crime scenes, returned widespread public approval to the Ministry. Harry’s endorsement determined the success or failure of politicians’ runs. Of legislation. Of books and brooms and fucking soap. He shook hands and held his tongue. He learned the right lines. He wore the right clothes.

But.

You can put a sword on a wall. You can shine it and mount it on mahogany and show it off as nothing more than decoration.

But it is still a sword.

And Harry is still a weapon.

Harry realises this on an otherwise ordinary Monday, that starts, early, as most days do, with the lingering feeling of nightmare blood on his hands. When the day ends, the blood is real. When the day ends, so does the last of his willingness to pretend. So he goes home and he emails Hermione and he sends an owl with his resignation to Kingsley. He packs a bag, and floos to the international travel office. And he stands in front of the permanent portkey map and chooses the most obscure, ridiculous, location. Somewhere with more livestock than people. With no expectations. With enough space and open air that maybe his lungs will stop feeling claustrophobic in his chest. Where he won’t be able to hurt anyone.

He picks somewhere no one will know his name. 

What happens to heroes when wars are over?

In Harry’s case, they run away.

****

What happens to villains when wars are over? 

Draco supposes that, in most cases, they die. That certainly seems to be the Ministry’s objective. His father is dead, along with the majority of former death eaters sentenced to life in prison. Admittedly, death was perhaps preferable to the alternative of actually living in Azkaban. 

They’d given Draco his father’s ashes. A pitiable allowance, really. He wasn’t sure what to do with them. Lucious Malfoy should have been interred in the family crypt, but the marble mausoleum, its centuries of residents, and the estate they belonged to had all been seized by the Ministry as reparations. So his father was left, without fanfare, a pound of dust in a wooden box that Draco handled with more quiescence than care.

Draco can’t decide if his own punishment is worse.

It was professed as a kindness—a mercy due to his youth:

Five years without magic.

But everyone in that courtroom knew it was equal to a death sentence. He was unlikely to survive one year, much less five.

With his magic hobbled, his health and fortune gone, and a face as recognizable as his anathematized surname, Draco quickly finds himself thinking, not fondly, but certainly resignedly, of death. 

It would be easier.

His mother, at least, is safe. And he is indebted to Potter for that. Thanks to Potter’s intercession at Narcissa’s trial, she avoided both prison time and magical impairment. She is a shadow of the woman she used to be, working for the first time in her life at a bookshop in Diagon Alley. She lives in the tiny flat above it and is slowly selling the family jewellery collection, one agony at a time, to supplement her meager income. But she is alive. And people do not treat her too cruelly.

Draco, though. 

The black snake on his arm is a testament to the ending he deserves. 

Six months after Lucius’ death, Draco visits his mother for the last time.

He refuses to let her watch him die.

He will not continue endangering her and his remaining friends with his presence. 

He is out of money, he cannot find a job, and the constant rattle in his lungs is getting hard to hide. So he brings his mother a flower at work and kisses her cheek and waves off her concern that he’s lost even more weight. 

Despite caution, someone catches him with a hex as he leaves the shop and he returns to Theo’s horrible muggle flat—where Draco has been sleeping on the sofa—with bloody teeth and enough shame to last for the rest of his life. He packs his father with the meager remnants of his belongings and he walks to the international travel office. He stands in front of the permanent portkey map and chooses the cheapest, strangest, most rural, location. Somewhere that might as well have been called “Anonymity.” Somewhere without city streets or alleyways or preconceived notions. Somewhere no one would know his name.

What happens to villains when wars are over?

In Draco’s case, they run away.

Chapter Text

He sees Potter first at the Piggly Wiggly in Lewisville, Alabama.

And isn’t that a bizarre sentence.

Draco initially thinks he might be hallucinating, but the fever he’s running is only low-grade and he’s actually feeling sort of alright otherwise. 

He pulls up the hood on his jumper—lovely muggle thing—and peeks into the next aisle around an end cap of discounted tomato sauce.

It’s definitely Potter.

His hair is longer, he’s not wearing those stupid fucking glasses, and the way he’s glowering at the cleaning supplies, arms crossed, accentuates the fact that he’s probably put on a solid 10kg of muscle since Draco last saw him.

But the profile is the same.

The set of his shoulders.

The faded jeans and ratty trainers.

The way he sighs and briefly rubs at his forehead—probably more habit at this point than anything else.

Potter puts a jug of bleach in his trolley and moves further down the aisle to consider scented Febreeze candles.

What the fuck, Draco thinks.

A few seconds later, Potter’s head comes up, turning abruptly toward him and Draco scrambles a hasty retreat.

He abandons his own trolley and goes to sit in the cab of Lavon’s truck and wait. He’ll catch hell for taking so long at the store but he certainly can’t let Potter see him. 

Potter.

In the Piggly Wiggly.

In Alabama.

What is he doing here?

In the three months Draco has been living in Tarant county he hasn’t encountered a single witch or wizard. Not that he’s noticed, anyway. Why there’s a permanent portkey and apparition point set up in a small warded outbuilding behind the post office in Marian, he has no idea. But when he came through, the general dust and disrepair of the building indicated he’d been the first to use the location in some time.

Harry emerges from the Piggly Wiggly several minutes after Draco’s hasty retreat.

He packs three plastic bags and what looks to be a mop into the boot of a shiny black car, and then peels out of the parking lot with a degree of noise and flamboyance that seems unnecessary. 

Draco waits an additional minute, just to be safe, and then returns to his shopping. 

It shouldn’t be surprising that The Boy Who Lived wanted an escape as well.

Perhaps Potter chose the Lewisville portkey for the same reason Draco did. Maybe he looked at the map and saw that one, isolated, American pin and thought, yes, perfect.

Regardless, if Potter has chosen Lewisville as his hideaway it will be easy enough to avoid him since Draco has only driven into “the city” a handful of times. It’s honesty laughable that Lewisville is considered a city at all with its population of just over three thousand, but it’s certainly larger that Marian which, with Draco’s arrival, now sits at a tidy 400.

Lewisville has, not only a Piggly Wiggly, but two petrol stations, an Ag Supply, a small shopping centre and, perhaps most importantly, a nursery and greenhouse.

Pure opulence, Lewisville.

By comparison, Marian has one petrol station, the Tarant county courthouse and post office, and a tiny block of “Main Street” which is mostly boarded up and vacant. The only shop fronts still open are the legal office, the thrift store, the diner, and Daughter’s Grocery which carries, or can order, everything from toothpaste to goat feed to lumber. It’s more of a multipurpose grocery, outdoors, hunting, fishing, hardware, agriculture supply store. But mostly people just call it Daughters.

It had originally been called Whitlock Grocery. Brian James Whitlock went on to have three daughters, and, being the progressive man he was, expanded and renamed his business Whitlock and Daughters Grocery. Some time within the following two decades, a tornado took Whitlock’s name off the front of the building and left it in a cow pasture a few miles up the road. Retired, James suggested they leave it be. And so. Daughters Grocery it is.

Draco works at Daughters which seems a little counterintuitive considering he is not a daughter, much less a Whitlock daughter. But he was desperate and his only other options for employment in Marian were farming-related. While he’s under no aspersions about the length of his lifespan, Draco certainly isn’t going to hurry things along with manual labour. 

So he works five days a week at Daughters, 9-3, and on Fridays and Saturdays he borrows Lavon’s truck, drives into Carthridge, loads the truck with a few dozen boxes, and delivers Amazon packages to six surrounding counties. 

Between the two jobs, he’s usually able to pay his rent and utilities to Lavon—who owns the Airstream he’s living in, currently parked behind Daughters—and still have enough left over, after food costs, to send his mother something as well.

It’s not exactly a good situation.

The trailer is twenty-years-old and falling apart and doesn’t have electricity which will likely be problematic in a few months. But he can take a shower at the end of the day and the storage bed is lofted just enough to make him feel safe, surrounded by windows that look at the dense woods behind the shop. And there’s all manner of wildlife that meander past his open door every morning as he sits on the steps and nurses a cup of tea and watches the morning sun dry dew on the tall grass.

It’s better than London.

There was nowhere he felt safe there. Nowhere he could sit bare-footed and half-awake with a warm, cracked, mug held carelessly in both hands.

In Marian, he’s odd. But he’s not targeted. Not hated. Not vulnerable.

He’s surviving.

And the people, well. They can be strange. All muggles still seem strange to Draco but American muggles—Southern American Muggles—certainly seem the most odd. They treat him kindly, though, if with an equal degree of bafflement. And he’s begun to think of Billy and Lavon and Ira as a sort of…extended family. Strange as that is.

He’s thinks they may actually mourn him when he dies.

He feels a little bad about that.

***

The second time he sees Potter is a week later.

Draco is in the gardening section of Daughter’s trying to coax a few sad African Violet plants back from the brink of death—honestly, why had Billy even ordered them?—and he’s fervently wishing he could just poke a finger into the soil and perk them up—he always did have top marks at herbology—when the bell above the door rings and—

Potter.

Same scruffy shoes and jeans. A checked shirt, this time. 

No glasses.

One moment Potter is squinting at a piece of crumpled notebook paper in his hands and then the next his head snaps up and he’s looking directly at Draco.

Draco doesn’t even have a chance to duck behind a bag of fertiliser.

Harry says nothing.

Draco says nothing.

“Drake!” Billy yells from the cold section. “Was that the bell?”

“Yes ma’am!” he yells back.

He stands.

He wipes his hands on his khaki trousers.

“Good afternoon,” he says. “Is there anything I can help you find?”

Malfoy?” Potter says,

God, he looks so stupid.

And still insufferably attractive despite the ugly, gaping, thing, his mouth is doing.

Shameful.

“Good afternoon,” Draco says again, pointedly. “I’ll be happy to assist you if you’re looking for something in particular. Is that a list you have?”

Potter looks at the paper in his hands like he’s never seen it before.

He looks back up at Draco again, posture shifting into something a little more dangerous.

“I don’t—did you follow me?”

Jesus.

“Potter,” Draco hisses, hoping his voice is low enough that Billy can’t hear him, “I’ve been here for three months. Kindly fuck off or cast a mufflatio because my muggle boss is just over there.”

“Why don’t you cast a—Oh.”

Like Potter wasn’t at the sentencing. Clearly memory is not one of the Chosen One’s strengths.

“Right, sorry.” 

Potter doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t even get out his wand, but Draco can feel the magic settle over him like a cape. Both familiar and wretchedly distant. He tries not to flinch but isn’t entirely successful.

He coughs a few times. 

Potter frowns at him.

“What are you doing here?” Potter asks.

Draco doesn’t have a chance to answer because Billy comes around the corner and nearly runs into them.

“Oh!” She says, “I’m sorry. Things got all quiet and I got worried.”

She turns to Harry and positively beams.

The magic wrapped around them abruptly dissipates.

“Well hello, sweetheart,” Billy says, “I haven’t seen you here before. Just passing through or do you plan to stick around for a bit?”

“Um,” Potter says, ever eloquent. “Here to stay, I think? I mean. I’ve bought some land, so.”

Draco feels abruptly nauseous.

“Oh how lovely. Whereabouts?”

“It’s not far from here, up Timber Mill road?”

No.

“Mostly fields, the property backs down to the river. There are two barns but I guess the house was destroyed—”

“In the tornado last year,” Billy agrees. “Shame about that. It’s such a beautiful piece of land, though. Are you planning to rebuild?”

“I’m not sure yet. I was thinking I’d convert one of the barns for now?”

No. No. No. 

“Well, that sounds nice. Is that what the list is for?”

“Oh, yeah. Tools and things, mostly. And, er, some chains.”

He hands it over and she slips her reading glasses from the top of her head to her nose.

“Well, let’s see what we have in stock and what we’ll have to order. Better come with me. Drake is a good boy but he’s not much for heavy lifting.”

Draco is more relieved than offended.

It’s not like she’s wrong.

“Now,” she says, leading Potter toward the back. “What is that accent you’ve got? Where are you from?”

“Oh, er. London, actually.”

“Really! Drake is from London as well. What a small world.”

“Yeah,” Harry agrees, looking over his shoulder. “Small world.”

Draco turns back to the African Violets.

He makes sure he’s restocking a shelf at the opposite end of the store when Potter pays and leaves.

***

The third time he sees Potter is also at Daughters.

It’s two weeks later, and Billy has left early for one of her grandkids’ softball games, so he’s alone at the counter when the bell rings and Potter slouches his way inside.

Well.

That’s not entirely accurate. He doesn’t really slouch anymore—doesn’t walk with his shoulders curved in like he’s trying to hide how broad they are. There’s still something distinctly…casual, about him, though. Or maybe casual is the wrong word. Maybe unrefined fits better. Maybe he strolls. Maybe he saunters. Maybe he—

“Hi,” Potter says. 

Right.

“Good afternoon,” Draco says.

He’s not sure how to play this.

Potter glances around the store. “Is Billy here?”

He wonders if he should pretend she is.

He doesn’t think he’s in danger from Potter, but—

“She’ll be back shortly.”

Potter blinks at him, eyebrows furrowed a little.

His dark skin looks strangely grey, Draco thinks. Less…rich. Or something. The circles under his eyes seem to imply he hasn’t slept since the last time Draco saw him.

Potter opens his mouth. Closes it. Starts again.

“So, you’re going by Drake, now?”

“Drake Black,” Draco says.

“You realize no one would know your name here anyway.”

“Of course. But I imagined individuals in this geographic region are rather more familiar with water fowl than dragons.”

“And the Black?”

“My mother’s maiden name.

“Yeah, I know. I meant—never mind. What are you doing here?”

“Working.”

“Okay, obviously, but I mean here in Marian.”

“Hiding, clearly. I’d think you would recognise the gesture.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Draco coughs. It turns into a bit of an ordeal that requires a sip of water from the mason jar he keeps under the counter.

Potter has the audacity to look concerned.

“Are you sick?” Potter asks.

“Usually.”

Potter exhales in a way that is very, very, familiar.

It nearly makes Draco smile.

“Problem?” Draco asks.

“I just mean. You don’t look… healthy.”

“Yes. Well. That would be the inbreeding.”

Potter rolls his eyes.

Draco does not get a thrill from it.

“Fine. Whatever. I’m hoping you can order some things for me.”

“Things,” Draco repeats.

“Yes.”

Draco looks at the list Potter slides across the counter.

Business. He can do this.

“Well we already have the PVC and 2x4s here, I don’t think we carry the fluorescent tube lights in this size, but we can order them and get them relatively quickly. The rest may take longer. Like the—”

He pauses.

“Potter,” he says. “Are you making some sort of grow room? With hydroponics?”

“Er. Yes.”

“So you’ve just. Come to rural Alabama. And bought property. And are now building a hydroponic grow room in some basement somewhere. Just for fun?”

“Not the basement,” Potter says. “I’m—there’s a barn.”

“There’s a barn,” Draco repeats flatly. “Is it climate-controlled? Can you manage the moisture? And these lights—why not HID or LED? I mean flourescent is certainly better than incandescent, but—”

“Oh yes,” Harry mutters sarcastically, “god forbid, incandescence.”

Draco stops talking.

“Sorry,” Potter says, and then makes a face like maybe he hadn’t meant to apologise.

“That’s actually—how do you know about this?” Potter asks.

“I know many things, Potter,” Draco says. He crosses his arms, curling the fingers of one hand around his opposite bicep.

Except then Potter is looking very intently at his arm, perhaps observing the fact that Draco’s hand can almost entirely encircle it.

He lets go.

He clears his throat.  “I’ll just order these items for you.”

“I’d actually…. appreciate your input. If you—if  growing plants indoors is something you’re knowledgeable about.”

Draco considers this. 

Curiosity wins.

“What are you trying to grow?”

“Oh. Just. Some potions ingredients.”

Draco really deserves some sort of commendation for not laughing out loud.

Potter smiles, a little wry, a little self-deprecating.

They both know he’s pants at potions.

“I see,” Draco manages.

“I’ve been doing some research and apparently the more sensitive ones require close monitoring so just planting them outside isn’t a good idea unless you have a magical management system in place. And I figured it would be easier using the muggle way than teaching myself advanced herbology engineering and husbandry.”

“The muggle way is rather complex as well,” Draco points out.

“Do you, uh. Have experience with that?”

“Not…practically. But I could perhaps provide some theoretical insight.”

The bell chimes and four of the five Watson boys come tumbling inside, shoving at each other.

“Boys,” Draco says warningly.

They shove a little less exuberantly.

Their harried mother, holding child five on her hip, opens the door a moment later.

“Mrs. Watson,” Draco says. 

“Drake,” she sighs. “Please tell me you’ve restocked the—”

“Ice cream. Yes. I hid three gallons of chocolate behind the Neapolitan for you, just in case.”

“Bless you,” she says fervently.

Potter watches the exchange with interest.

“So,” Potter says. “Billy told me you can deliver large items to my place for an extra fee? The lumber isn’t going to fit in my car.”

“Yes,” Draco agrees. “Deliveries are in the evenings, though.”

“Well, could you bring the 2x4s and PVC tonight and maybe take a look at my plans? Before I order anything else?”

“Lavon does deliveries,” Draco says.

“Does Lavon know about hydroponics?”

Draco sighs. He glances at Mrs. Watson who is shepherding her boys, all holding ice cream, toward the register.

“I won’t be any help unloading the truck.”

He coughs for emphasis. And then coughs a little more just because.

“That’s…fine.”

“Lovely. Shall I ring you up?”

Mrs. Watson gets in line behind Potter, whisper-yelling at her children to act right. 

“Yes,” Potter says. “Please. When can I expect you tonight?”

“Five-thirty.”

“Alright.”

There is a painful, polite, silence as he grapples with the antique register.

Potter pays and leaves.

“I’ll see you at five-thirty,” he says.

***

Draco doesn’t arrive at Potter’s residence until five-thirty-five because he’s a petty bitch.

“Residence” is perhaps an overly kind term considering that Potter is apparently, actually, living in a barn, but considering his own accommodations, Draco holds his tongue.

Potter, at least, has both running water and electricity.

Draco stands just inside the open doors of Potter’s…home, watching as Potter throws around a few suspension charms and sticking spells on what appears to be a half-constructed kitchen, and tries not to feel overwhelmingly bitter.

“Sorry,” Potter says, shoving his wand into the back pocket of his jeans like a heathen. “Got caught up. We actually need to drive the new materials down to the other barn, so—“

“Oh,” Draco says. “I saw the lights here and assumed—“

“Right. No problem. Should we just—“

“Yes. Of course.”

It is a short and silent drive.

The second barn is larger, older-looking, and the minute Draco steps out of the truck’s cab he can feel the wards. 

They make his chest hurt.

In addition to wards, there are two massive padlocks chained to the doors that Potter opens easily with a distracted, wand-less, alohomora.

Asshole.

“You’ll have to let me in,” Draco says tightly, standing just at the periphery of the wards.

“What?” Harry says. “Those are anti-muggle. You’re fine.”

Draco says nothing.

“Oh.” Potter says. “Right.”

Five minutes later, Draco is poking around what is, admittedly, a rather nice space. Retrofitting it for hydroponics and lighting shouldn’t be an issue, but depending on what plants Potter wants to grow, the climate control might be. 

He reaches for a book with several post-it ears sitting on a sawmill and Potter snatches it quickly into his own hands.

Draco raises an eyebrow but keeps moving. He pauses, backtracking, to consider the windows that used to belong to a series of horse stalls. The stalls are gone and the windows are boarded up, but they probably still—

He trips.

He crashes, palms and then elbow and then hip, onto the concrete. He sucks in a startled breath, and tries very hard not to make stupid noises as he shifts himself into a seated position.

He will not cry in front of Harry fucking Potter.

“Shit,” Potter says, jogging over to him. “Sorry, I forgot to warn you about the—thing.”

There’s a giant metal helix anchor mostly screwed into the floor but still protruding from the slab a solid four or five inches. It looks like the sort of thing that muggles use to anchor suspension cables. What it’s doing in the middle of a barn, Draco has no idea.

“What the fuck is that,” he says, and it comes out a little more breathy than he’d intended.

“Here,” Potter says, crouching next to him. “Let me see your hands. I can—”

“No. Fuck off. I’m fine.”

He tucks his hands under his armpits because clearly that is the adult, mature, way to proceed.

Potter falls back on his heels looking stupidly earnest. “Are you sure?”

Draco kicks the offending anchor.

It’s surrounded by deep scratches—a solid five foot radius of the concrete floor littered with crumbling pock-marks, some nearly half an inch deep. He wonders what the previous owners of the place used the barn for. He wonders what could do that sort of damage to concrete.

Potter clears his throat.

Draco stands.

Slowly.

“So,” he says, trying to walk like his hip doesn’t feel shattered to bits. “What are you planning to grow?” 

“Does that…really matter?” Potter hedges.

Draco gives him an unimpressed look. “Some plants require high humidity to flourish. Some need an arid environment. Some need different soil composition; different watering and light schedules; higher or lower Ph. If you want to grow a selection with varied requirements, you’ll need to set up distinct systems.”

“That,” Potter says.

“What?”

“The—varied. I need different systems. I think.”

“You think.”

“Well, I’ll want a mix of common plant potion ingredients. Most that need a lot of light and a humid environment. But also a few, uh.” He crosses his arms. “There are a few plants I’ll have that need dry air, but moisture-retentive soil. And only partial light.” It sounds like he’s quoting from something. “So. That would require a special system. Right?”

Dry air. Moisture-retentive soil. Partial light.

What is he—

“Yes, but the hemisphere the plant is native to is also important to consider,” Draco lies. “Southern versus Northern, for instance—”

“Northern.”

Draco stops walking.

He looks back at the anchor on the floor.

The pile of chains in the corner.

The subtle smell of bleach.

He considers the fact that this barn is protected by both muggle and magical means when the place Harry is ostensibly living has no wards or locks at all.

He considers Harry’s exhausted face.

He thinks: The full moon was last night.

He limps forward, bending at the waist to pick up the book Potter abandoned when Draco fell.

“Wait—“ Potter says, but Draco has already opened it to the first post-it-marked page.

Chapter-heading: Aconitum—Ecology, Cultivation, and Potion Use

“Oh,” Draco says. “Fucking hell.”

“Hold on,” Potter says.

Fucking hell,” Draco repeats. “You’re a werewolf?!”

Chapter Text

Harry spends his first full moon as a wolf chained to the floor of a barn he doesn’t own.

Well. Doesn’t own yet.

He’d found the place, empty and perfect for his needs, three days after portkeying to Marian. He’d made a cash offer that same night, but even with a thirty-day close that meant he didn’t sign the paperwork until eight days after the full moon.

He’d figured it was a good test, anyway.

He didn’t escape.

No one called the police.

No one got hurt.

He signs the paperwork a week later and makes a mental note to buy more chains for the following full moon. Just to be safe. 

It’s a beautiful piece of property. One hundred and thirteen acres. Two barns. A full creek. An assortment of ponds. It’s mostly overgrown, terraced, fields connected by red-dirt roads and surrounded on all sides by shockingly tall trees, insulated by thick undergrowth. The first night, he opens the hayloft doors in the smaller barn and sits with his legs hanging over the edge, bare heels against sun-warmed metal siding, looking at a sky full of bright, bright stars. It’s so quiet, but simultaneously not: the night air a susurrus of nature-sounds that helps to settle the pacing, anxious, thing, that’s taken up residence in his chest.

He thinks that, maybe, he could be happy here.

He spends his first week as a home-owner (barn-owner?) dealing with plumbers and electricians and a very inept AT&T installation technician who takes several days to set up his wifi. He makes three trips in the same number of days to the nearest superstore—a Piggly Wiggly—for cleaning supplies. 

It’s during the second trip, when he’s trying to figure out what cleaner is mostly likely to get rid of old horse piss stains, that he’s suddenly certain he can smell Draco Malfoy.

Which is absurd on a number of levels. 

First, he can hardly smell anything because the overpowering scent of detergent has probably burned out the majority of his supernatural olfactory senses. Second, Draco Malfoy wouldn’t be caught dead in America, much less in Alabama. Third, he shouldn’t know what Malfoy smells like anyway. 

He turns to look in the direction of the scent, more or less instinct, but there’s nothing there. After a few minutes, he leaves his trolley and circles a few other aisles just to be sure. Still nothing.

He finishes his shopping and tries not to think about Draco sodding Malfoy anymore.

He’s mostly successful until, a week later, he walks into the only grocery store in Marian and—there he is.

In khakis and a long-sleeved white shirt despite the heat. 

Malfoy has always been skinny. Pointy. Angular.

But he’s not just skinny, now. He’s—emaciated. And even that word, awful as it is, doesn’t feel suitably shocking enough for the change. Malfoy’s cheekbones are so prominent they look painful. His hair, hair that used to be beautiful, Harry will grudgingly admit, is lank and brittle.

He looks like he should be at St. Mungo’s, not stocking shelves.

And what the hell is he doing stocking shelves at a muggle grocery store in the middle of nowhere in Alabama?

Harry doesn’t remember much of their following interaction but he does know that

Malfoy is still a cantankerous bastard, and more than once Harry wants to shake him. He looks like he might break if Harry did, though. 

Malfoy pauses often to cough, like it’s a habit, which only reinforces Harry’s grudging concern.

He leaves the shop with more questions than answers. 

Two weeks later, after a second metaphorically hellish full moon and a literal bath of dittany, he invites Malfoy to his house for some ungodly reason.

And then, because Malfoy isn’t an idiot, and Harry clearly is, Malfoy figures out his big, horrible, secret within five minutes of stepping foot on the property.

The shock sends Malfoy into a coughing fit and Harry actually has to help him sit down and get him a glass of water and then Harry spends the following ten minutes watching as Malfoy breathes shallowly and pages through the dozen or so books Harry has collected.

“How long?” Malfoy asks.

“Two months,” Harry answers.

Malfoy is silent for several more minutes.

“You had help with this,” he says finally, holding up a notebook with sketched out blueprints. “Granger?”

Harry considers arguing but deflates at Malfoy’s raised eyebrow.

“Yeah. And she’s been emailing me, helping me make lists of supplies. She’s also put me in touch with a restricted plants and animals dealer here in the states so I can actually purchase some wolfsbane once I’ve got this thing—“ he gestures to the space around them—“ working.”

“Fantastic.”

“It is, rather.”

“So,” Malfoy says, attention still on the notebook. “You thought you’d just come to America. Avoid the news getting out that the Boy Who Lived has been turned. And you thought you’d buy some property and dabble in potions and if it didn’t work out—what— at least there wouldn’t be press? At least you wouldn’t be killing people you know? There are good people here, Potter.”

Harry is momentarily too shocked by Malfoy’s indignation on behalf of Alabamian muggles to be angry.

He recovers quickly.

“What? No. The whole point of this was making sure no one gets hurt. Anyone. I’ve been careful. I was chained up the last two times.  I have the whole place warded. And I—took other precautions as well. Besides, I’ll have the lab running by the next full moon. It’ll be fine.”

“It—god help us, you really are stupid.”

Excuse me?” Harry says.

“You can’t just teach yourself how to brew a wolfsbane potion in a month’s time from a book,” Malfoy snarls, like Harry has personally offended not only him but all of his pointy ancestors. 

“It takes delicacy and precision and nuance. A book will tell you when to harvest the aconite but not how. A book won’t tell you that if you crush the stems before chopping the leaves you can accidentally double the potency. Or that if you add a few drops of lavender it will improve the taste. Or if you mistakenly add the orchid before the dittany or use a stainless steel knife instead of a silver one you could kill the drinker of the potion. You can hardly expect—”

“Hold on,” Harry says. “Have you made a wolfsbane potion before?”

Malfoy immediately stops talking.

“I mean,” Harry says. “That doesn’t just sound, uh, theoretical. What you were just saying.”

Malfoy stands up a little straighter, like he’s bracing himself for something.

“I have.”

“And it worked?”

Malfoy crosses his arms. He looks like a scrawny, haughty, albino pigeon.

“Of course.”

“Could you teach me, then?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to.” He stands, and it’s a shaky, frankly embarrassing, movement. “Come remove the lumber from my vehicle, please. I have places to be.”

“I’ll pay you,” Harry says.

Malfoy pauses.

“How much?”

“How much will it take?”

Malfoy opens his mouth and then closes it again.

He considers the barn with sudden, sharp, interest. 

“I won’t teach you how to make it,” he says slowly, “But I will make the potion for you myself every month provided you give me access to your grow space and your potions lab for my own projects.”

“Oh,” Harry says. “You want to make potions?”

“Yes.”

“What do you want to make?”

“That’s none of your concern.”

“It is if you’re going to hurt someone.”

Draco laughs and it is a terrible, ugly, thing.

He runs a hand through his lank hair.

“I’ll swear an unbreakable vow that I won’t hurt anyone, if you’d like,” he says.

Despite himself, Harry feels suddenly guilty.

“No. No, that’s fine. Alright.”

“Alright?” Malfoy glances up, fingers still caught distractedly in his hair.

“Yeah. Alright. We have a deal.”

“Oh.” He drops his arms. “Well. In that case. Bring me a tape measure.”

“What?”

“If you need a wolfsbane potion in twenty-nine days then we need a working laboratory within a week’s time. Preferably less. Tape measure?”

Harry summons one from the sawhorse and passes it over. 

***

They don’t finish the laboratory in a week, but they get close.

The biggest problem is that Harry, it turns out, is very bad at building grow rooms and potion labs without supervision. Except Malfoy is constantly working at his actual job and thus Harry is mostly left to his own devices during daylight. After the second evening in row in which Draco arrives and then proceeds to make Harry undo all the work he’d proudly accomplished over the last ten hours, Harry stops working in the potions-barn at all unless Draco is present. Instead, he turns his attention to the home-barn and kitchen appliances and wall construction and hoping the loft extension he’s creating is actually weight-bearing.

But insomnia coupled with a constant urge to move and do and make means those projects are finished relatively quickly and then Harry finds himself at loose ends.

The third day, Harry picks up Malfoy from work.

Malfoy mentioned he’d been borrowing Billy’s husband’s truck, and if there are deliveries he has to wait until Lavon has completed them before Malfoy can take the vehicle to Harry’s. 

Harry has a perfectly serviceable car he can use any time he wants, though, and he’s impatient, so he just. Shows up. At 3pm on Wednesday.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Potter,” Malfoy says tightly when Harry opens the shop door. Malfoy is half-way through taking off his green apron with the white “Drake” name-tag pinned to the chest. “Can I help you?”

“Afternoon,” Billy adds distractedly. She’s frowning down at the register, glasses on, poking at the keys with more resignation than hope.

“Afternoon,” Harry says, watching as Malfoy folds his apron and stows it under the counter. “I came to pick you up.”

Billy abruptly loses interest in the register.

Malfoy’s expressions says he’d very much like to cause Harry pain.

“I’ve been assisting Mr. Potter with some of his renovations,” Malfoy tells Billy.

Billy looks doubtful.

“Don’t worry,” Harry says, “no manual labor. Mal—Drake just tells me what to do. He’s got a good brain for engineering.”

Billy’s expression clears.

“He’s a smart cookie,” she agrees. “You make sure he keeps hydrated if you’re doing any work outside, though. Humidity sure ain’t kind to the boy. Stand him on the porch in the sun for ten minutes and he wilts like a begonia.”

Malfoy makes a soft harried noise under his breath.

“I’ll make sure to keep that in mind, ma’am,” Harry says seriously.

“I need to use the facilities, Potter,” Malfoy interrupts, “Would you be so kind as to wait for me in the car?”

“Nonsense,” Billy says. “Mr. Potter can wait right here with me. Do you want some tea, sweetheart? I just made a fresh pitcher.”

Harry accepts.

Draco rolls his eyes and disappears into the bathroom, elegantly, and full of spite.

Harry tries not to smile too widely at his retreating back.

After a relatively horrifying shock at what constitutes “tea,” in Alabama, Harry finds himself in the driver’s seat of a car filled with faint country music on the radio and the smell of Draco Malfoy.

It’s silent.

“So,” Harry says. “Billy seems nice.”

“Yes,” Draco agrees.

Harry waits, but it seems nothing more is forthcoming.

“How did you find the job?”

“Luck.”

Harry consciously takes a slow breath.

“Oh?”

Malfoy throws him an irritated glance.

“The day I portkeyed through, I walked down the high street and asked every open business if they were hiring. Billy was the first person who said yes.”

Harry is more than happy with that amount of exposition, but after a moment, Malfoy continues:

“She thought I was an addict, at first. Said she wouldn’t hire me unless I took a drug test. I hadn’t the faintest what she was talking about. Did you know that muggles inject chemicals directly into their veins to get high?”

“Yes?”

“She made me show her my arms. But I was—I suppose the way I acted about the—” he cups his right hand around his left forearm, where Harry knows the Dark Mark sits under his shirt sleeve.

At first, Harry had thought the long-sleeved, collared, white shirt Malfoy constantly wears was part of a required uniform. Now, knowing Billy and her own affection for Harley Davidson T-shirts, he wonders if it’s a choice.

“What?” Harry prompts.

“She seemed to think I was part of a gang. That I fell ill and—how did she phrase it?—had a…come to Jesus moment. And now I’m reformed and ashamed and run away from my old life.”

“Oh,” Harry says.

“She’s not entirely wrong, I suppose,” Malfoy says, quiet and rough and possibly not really meant for Harry to hear.

Harry doesn’t know how to respond.

The rest of the ride is silent.

They finish the scaffolding for the four separate grow spaces that day and install the reservoir and pump system in two of them. When they test it, there are no leaks and everything works just as Malfoy said it would, which Malfoy is annoyingly smug about right up until Harry asks if he’d like to stay for dinner.

He doesn’t mean to.

It’s just, it’s long after dark and Harry is getting really hungry and he says they’ll need to eat before he drives Malfoy home. 

It doesn’t occur to him until he’s already extended the invitation that it is, in fact, an invitation.

Draco goes very still where he’s leaned over the drip manifold of the closest irrigation system.

“I mean,” Harry says. “If you want to. I don’t have much. I’ve mostly been eating eggs and beans on toast. But I also have, uh. Milk. And tea. And…cereal?” 

Which is how Harry finds himself sitting on the concrete floor of his mostly-refurbished barn-house eating Corn Flakes and scrambled eggs with Draco Malfoy.

“Have you considered furniture?” Draco asks.

Harry admittedly hasn’t.

He has a mattress in the left-hand side loft and a working bathtub, sink and toilet walled off beneath the loft. There’s a four-burner stove and a retro refrigerator and a second sink along the kitchen wall. There are four sets of mugs, plates, bowls, spoons, and cutlery stacked on the shelf he’s installed over the butcher block counter.

He feels like he’s done a pretty good job of the whole. Adult. Housing. Thing.

Then again—Harry glances around the wide, clean, but empty, space—normal people do tend to have tables. Chairs. Sofas. Rugs and dressers and…things.

Harry is distinctly lacking in things.

Aside from the old spell books and an assortment of clothing in his trunk upstairs, Harry is mostly thing-less.

He thinks about the eclectic, cluttered, warmth of the Weasley’s home. The knickknacks and cushions and busy patterns and crowded walls.

Malfoy might be right.

“Where would I find a sofa around here, you think?”

Malfoy looks reluctantly stymied at that.

“Maybe I should ask Billy.”

“Do not ask Billy,” Malfoy says. “I’ve seen her living room and it certainly does not bear emulating”

“Well. Ikea delivers pretty much everywhere over here, right?

Malfoy considers him with narrowed eyes. “You’re trying to upset me, aren’t you?”

He might be.

Harry washes their dishes and Malfoy dries and puts them away which is a kindness Harry finds both unexpected and suspicious.

As Malfoy reaches to stack their bowls on the shelf above the sink, Harry’s attention sort of absently moves down the slope of his narrow back, following the notched landscape of his spine. Lean as he was before, Malfoy used to have a rather nice arse. Objectively speaking. It’s not that Harry was ever looking, but quidditch trousers didn’t leave much to the imagination and—anyway. The point is, Malfoy certainly doesn’t have a nice arse anymore. It’s a shame, really. 

Harry wonders, not for the first time, why Malfoy is so bloody skinny. Sickly. Why the cough he has seems like it’s a part of him.

“Potter,” Malfoy says.

“Hmm?”

“Can I help you with something? If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were staring at my bum.”

“You don’t have a bum anymore,” Harry points out.

Draco’s face does a thing.

“Yes, thank you. I’m well aware. Can you please take me back to the shop, now?”

Harry drives Malfoy back to Daughters after a brief argument about where Malfoy lives which Harry loses spectacularly.

“You’re not living at the shop, are you?” he asks.

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Then why am I taking you back to the shop?”

“Because that’s where you kidnapped me and now that you’re done with me, returning me to the scene of the crime seems decent, don’t you think?”

“What is wrong with you?” Harry says, exasperated.

“Would you care for a list?”

They don’t talk after that.

Harry rolls down the windows in the car because, once the sun goes down, it’s actually getting sort of cool in the evenings, and the wind, coupled with the radio, makes the silence between them a little less awkward. Maybe.

“So,” Harry says, once he’s parked in front of Daughters. “I’ll pick you up again tomorrow? At 3?” With the engine off, the roar of insect noise nearly blots out everything else.

“Fine,” Malfoy says.

“The cicadas are loud tonight,” Harry says. Because it’s something to say.

“Kadydids,” Malfoy says.

“What?”

“No one calls them cicadas, here. They call them Kadydids.”

“Oh. Kadydids. You know, my first night here, I thought I was going crazy when the sun went down and the trees started screaming. I had to google what was happening on my phone.”

Malfoy says nothing.

“Well,” Harry says.

Malfoy gets out of the car.

“Thank you for dinner,” he says tightly.

“Thank you for helping me with my—uh. Project.”

Neither of them moves: Harry with his hands still on the steering wheel, Malfoy with his arms crossed, ducked a little to see Harry through the open passenger window.

“You can leave now, Potter,” he says.

Harry rolls his eyes and starts the engine.

When he gets home, he kneels in front of his trunk and fishes out the soft, familiar, fabric of his invisibility cloak.

It’s been a while since he’s had a mystery solve.

***

After a leisurely breakfast the following morning, Harry apparates to a secluded section of woods half a mile from the high street, wraps himself in the invisibility cloak, and walks to Daughters. He can see Malfoy through the windows, talking, surprisingly animatedly, to a tall sun-burned woman. He looks a little healthier, maybe, Harry thinks. 

Not that it matters.

Harry walks to the back of the building, past the large covered patio with stacks of plastic-wrapped lumber and bags of fertilizer. There’s a little sunny field of ankle-high wild-flower-spotted grass, a tractor that may or may not be operational, an abandoned trailer home, and then just—trees. 

Harry considers his options. 

He retrieves his wand from his pocket, careful to keep the cloak pulled closed with his opposite hand, and then walks in a circle next to the tractor, casting several layers of silentium and then a 24-hour holding spell. He considers the pocket of silence he’s created with satisfaction, steps inside it, and then disapparates to the house. He has a glass of water, then apparates back.

He stands there for several minutes, but no one comes to investigate any loud cracking noises.

He disapparates again with a smile.

The afternoon proceeds similarly to the previous day.

Harry picks Malfoy up at 3 after a short, painfully polite, interaction with Billy.

They finish the hydroponics systems for all four grow stations and get most of the light rigging finished and then have another, mostly silent, dinner of cereal and scrambled eggs.

Harry offers to apparate Malfoy back to Daughters since no muggles will be around that time of night and his car is running low on petrol.

Malfoy accepts, though he looks at Harry with obvious distrust as he curls his slender fingers around the crook of Harry’s elbow.

Harry leaves Draco in the parking lot of Daughters, disappirates home, throws on the invisibility cloak and then immediately apparates back into his pre-made pocket of silence.

He’s about to jog around the front of the building when Malfoy appears, walking straight toward him.

Harry freezes, resisting the urge to duck behind the tractor because he’s wearing an invisibility cloak.

Malfoy quickly passes him, which doesn’t make any sense and continues not making sense right up until Malfoy stops in front of the rust-spotted, practically-more-brown-than-silver-under-a-blanket-of-pollen, Airstream trailer.

He fishes a lighter out of his pocket and lights the two bamboo citronella torches on either side of the threshold.

He goes inside.

He leaves the door open.

Harry moves to stand at the partially-rotted steps, and looks inside.

The trailer is old but well-kept—wood-paneled with floral curtains and a tiny formica countertop.

There’s a lofted bed on one side, its rumpled patchwork quilt lit by a solar camping lantern hanging from the ceiling.

The other side appears to be a pocket bathroom.

Where Malfoy has just turned on the sink.

Harry watches as Malfoy unbuttons his shirt, as he shifts the fabric off his shoulders and then rinses it in the basin, as he wrings the shirt out, lean cords of muscle shifting just beneath the surface of his pale, pale, skin. Harry watches as he hangs the shirt on a piece of fishing line strung just inside the open doorway. When Malfoy reaches for the button on his trousers, Harry closes his eyes. Because Harry realizes he has just abruptly transitioned from investigator to voyeur.

When the shower turns on a minute later, Harry opens his eyes again.

The doorway is empty, Malfoy’s damp clothes swinging gently in the night wind.

There’s no heat, though.

No steam fogging the window or humidity in the air.

Harry stands there and listens to Malfoy—Draco Malfoy—take a cold shower, in a derelict 20-foot trailer that he’s apparently living in, feeling oddly displaced.

He knew that most of the Malfoy estate had been taken as reparations after the trials. But Narcissa should still have—well. Maybe not. It occurs to Harry that Sirius left him the Black estate. He could have sworn Draco had a trust that the Ministry couldn’t touch, but if that’s the case, why is Draco living here, looking like a corpse?

It occurs to Harry, with sudden, empathetic, urgency, that maybe Malfoy can’t afford to eat. Which would explain why he’s made only minimal disparaging remarks about Harry’s food offerings and completely cleaned his plate—or bowl, as the case may be—the past two nights.

Except, even in the little time he’s spent with her, Harry knows Billy wouldn’t just let Malfoy starve. Unless she doesn’t know. Maybe Malfoy showed up, thin and sickly and only shortly removed from a stay at Azkaban while awaiting trial, and she didn’t know what he looked like healthy. Maybe Malfoy is too proud to say anything, now. 

Harry tries to remember what happened to Narcissa. He spoke in her favor at the trial. He received a thankful letter from her several months ago. But. He’s ashamed to say he doesn’t know where she is or what she’s doing, now. Maybe Draco is sending her all his money? 

The water turns off and Harry doesn’t close his eyes quite fast enough.

He only sees a flash of white deep-ribbed flank and too-lean thigh but it’s—

It reminds Harry, a hollow, aching, familiarity, of the way his own body used to look in the mirror. When, at ten years old, divested of his baggy hand-me-down clothes, the jut of his hip bones meant malnourishment.

He hears a cough, the sound of wet bare feet against metal, fabric on skin, and opens his eyes again to find Malfoy in the open doorway. He’s wearing Slytherin-green pyjamas, monogrammed with DLM on the breast pocket, and he folds himself down, arms around knees, with habitual, tired, grace. The dichotomy, as Malfoy sits, wrapped in emerald silk, watching fireflies with tangled wet hair and goosebumps on his pale skin, makes Harry feel something he isn’t quite sure how to label.

Harry is thankful for the roar of cicadas—katydids— as he makes his escape back to the silent-spelled pocket and disapparates home.

He doesn’t sleep well that night.

When he does sleep, he dreams of chilled, milk-white skin stretched tight over sharp vertebra.

***

Harry is standing on Daughter’s porch when Malfoy flips the door sign to “Open” the following morning.

He watches suspiciously as Harry loads an entire trolley full of food.

“Hermione sent me some recipes to try,” Harry says as Malfoy scans over $200 worth of vegetables and flours and meats.

He’s not lying.

He asked her to send them to him the night before.

“I’m going to try and make shepherd’s pie tonight. Might try my hand at catching some perch from one of the tanks tomorrow. Hermione sent a spell that guts and debones fresh fish along with a breading recipe.”

“How domestic,” Malfoy says. “But it’s unlikely I’ll be able to join you tomorrow, so I will unfortunately miss your…fishing endeavors.”

“Oh. Why?”

Malfoy’s face goes pinched.

“I have another job delivering packages on Fridays and Saturdays. Sometimes it takes most of the day, depending on where the deliveries are.”

“But we need—“ Harry stops. “I could help.”

Draco pauses, a bag of red potatoes in one hand.

“Pardon?”

“I could help you. With the deliveries. I’m definitely better equipped to be lugging parcels up driveways than you are. No offense.”

Judging by his facial expression, Malfoy takes offense.

“Besides, if people aren’t around I could just levitate the packages to the letterbox or whatever. You wouldn’t even have to stop the car. We can knock a few hours off your time and spend it installing the new lights. They’re still supposed to come in today, right?”

“Yes,” Malfoy says. “By 4pm. I checked the tracking this morning. But—no. I don’t need help with—“

“I know you don’t need help,” Harry interrupts. “But I do. I can’t install the lights by myself so I’ll just be sitting around with nothing to do while you take forever hobbling up people’s driveways. Let me come with you. You use Lavon’s truck, right? What time do you usually leave?”

“I—yes. Eight am.”

“Great. We’ll plan for that, then.”

Harry pays and makes his escape before Draco can object.

“I’ll see you at three!”

Harry packs the $200 worth of shopping into the boot of his car, food that he has ostensibly just bought because he wants to feed Draco fucking Malfoy, and wonders what has happened to his life.

Harry spends the morning ruining one shepherd’s pie and the afternoon successfully completing a second. He returns to Daughters at 2:59pm, compliments Billy on her new haircut, demurs when she offers him tea, and then hurries Draco out to the car.

Harry lights a cigarette while waiting at the single traffic light in Marian.

Draco looks at him like he’s lost his mind.

“The fuck are you doing?”

“Smoking,” Harry says. “I didn’t get a chance to have a rebellious youth since I was busy killing Dark Lords and all. Thought I’d try it out.”

“I remain confounded by the extent of your idiocy. Do you know what is in a cigarette?”

Harry rolls his eyes. “Piss off. I’m hardly at risk for cancer. I’m a werewolf, remember?”

“And I’ve got asthma. I don’t give a fuck if you want to poison yourself, Potter, but kindly do it on your own time.”

Harry just stares at him for a moment.

The light turns green.

“You— can wizards even have asthma?”

“No,” Draco says, one syllable of pure acid. “They can’t.”

“Oh. Right. I didn’t—sorry.” Harry banishes the cigarette. Then the whole pack for good measure.

Draco doesn’t appear appeased.

“Is that really necessary?” he snaps.

“I don’t—what?”

“Throwing around wandless magic like that.”

“Oh. Sorry? Wait. So. Does magic prevent you from having health problems? That doesn’t—I’ve got loads of magic and I still get colds. Everyone got colds at Hogwarts the beginning of spring term. Even professors.”

Malfoy looks at him like he’s a lost cause.

“Granger must despair of you,” he says.

“Often,” Harry agrees.

He wants to press the subject except they come upon a bunch of cows in the road and Harry has to use his patronus to convince them to move along and then enough time has elapsed that he’s not sure how to bring the subject up again.

They work. They argue. They test. They troubleshoot. They eat a shepherds pie that turned out surprisingly good. Draco has a  second helping which gives Harry a disconcerting thrill.

It occurs to Harry, after he’s left Draco in Daughters car park that night, holding tinfoil-wrapped leftovers and looking baffled about it, that he hadn’t heard Draco cough all afternoon.

Chapter Text

Potter leaks magic.

There’s no other way Draco can describe it.

Standing next to him is a special kind of relief—a sort of stillness, an ease, that makes Draco’s body feel just a little less like it’s falling apart. Being in the same room as Potter for a few hours is enough for Draco’s skin to feel less tight, but eating with Potter, knees practically touching as they sit cross-legged on the floor, washing dishes together, fingers brushing with the transfer of cups and cutlery—the feeling then is something akin to a potions-induced high. 

Driving with Potter in the passenger seat of Lavon’s truck, knowing he’ll be there, less than a metre away, for the next several hours, is both thrilling and… slightly problematic.

Because Draco is getting greedy.

If a few hours spent in the evenings with Potter is enough to give Draco a good night’s sleep, an entire day in close proximity may extend that. And now he’s also starting to wonder what would happen if he touched Potter for a while. Not—not with a purpose, or anything. Nothing untoward. Just. Sustained contact. The accidental brushes of hands are harrowing enough—Potter practically burns with excess magic crackling like static over his skin. Draco can’t stop wondering what would happen if he just laid his palm on Potter’s forearm and left it there. A collection of seconds. Minutes. An hour.

He might feel human again for a week.

It’s times like these that he wishes he still had access to his ancestral library. Because he doesn’t understand what’s happening and he has…questions.

His driving is also perhaps a little impaired.

He swerves for the sixth time in as many minutes, because he’s glancing at Harry’s hand, only inches from his on the gear shift, and Harry clutches at the door handle like their demise is imminent. 

“Do you actually have a driving licence?” Potter asks.

Draco regrets agreeing to this farce already.

“You’re not an Auror anymore,” Draco points out. “Even if you were, I think this is rather outside your jurisdiction.”

“Yes, but a licence is usually a good indicator of whether or not a person knows how to drive.”

Draco digs into his pocket and then proffers the laminated square to Potter.

He does not shiver as their fingers touch with the transfer.

Potter holds it up to the light, then leans in close to inspect it.

“It’s a good fake,” he says, handing it back. “I’ll give you that.”

Draco is admittedly a little put out. Blaise had assured him it was perfect.

“How did you know?”

“I didn’t. But thanks for confirming.”

Draco is now more than a little put out.

“Piss off.”

Potter grins.

“Also, I’m assuming you don’t have a muggle birth certificate much less the proper immigration paperwork for a driver’s license, Drake Black.”

Oh. Right.

“What about you?” Draco asks. “Do you have a licence for that unnecessary vehicle you own?”

“It’s a vintage Mustang,” Potter says, as if that means anything. “…and I also have a good fake.”

“I believe there’s a phrase about pots and kettles that might be useful at this point,” Draco says. 

“Well. I’m not an Auror anymore,” Harry reminds him.

Draco laughs.

It doesn’t come out quite right, possibly because it’s been so long since he had a reason for laughter, but Potter doesn’t seem to notice. He unrolls the list of parcels and addresses and flattens it against his thighs, poking at the wrinkled paper with his wand. And then, annoyingly proficient wizard that he is, Harry casts a semi-transparent map onto the windscreen.

“Alright,” he says, and a scattered selection of dots appears on the map. “We’ve got twenty-three packages in four counties to deliver. I estimate we can do it in five hours. Maybe less.”

He’s grinning a little, bottom lip tucked between his teeth, leaned forward with his elbows on his knees.

“You’re mad.”

“I’m highly trained.”

“In parcel delivery?”

“Thank you, Harry,” Potter says in an affected voice that sounds absolutely nothing at all like Draco’s. “It’s so kind of you to assist me.”

Draco purposely lets the truck’s outside tyres drop off the road for a moment and Potter fumbles his wand into the floorboard so he can grab at the door handle again.

“Git,” he mutters.

Draco smiles.

****

They finish the final delivery two minutes before the five-hour mark and Potter is insufferable for the drive back to Marian.

Potter’s assistance certainly saved Draco several hours of painful work, but if a smug Potter is the cost—

Well. Alright. It is worth it. But he doesn’t have to tell Potter that.

“I’m supposed to Facetime with Hermione tonight,” Harry says. “That’s the video thing where—“

“I know,” Draco says. “Billy Facetimes her daughter almost every afternoon.”

“Right. Well. We’re planning to talk about ordering the first round of ingredients for this month’s potion. And setting up the climate spells. You still think that’s the best way to handle things, right? Rather than those muggle tent-things?”

“Yes,” Draco says. “I thought Granger agreed.”

“She does. But I wondered if you might want to stay late and talk to her.”

Draco swallows.

“I don’t want people know where I am. I’ve told you this.”

“I know, but she wouldn’t tell anyone. And I think she’s starting to get suspicious. I’m making a lot more progress than she expected.”

“It’s not my problem you’re an imbecile.”

“Malfoy.”

“If you tell Granger, she’ll tell Weasley. And he’ll tell the whole damn Weasel army who will no doubt descend en masse to protect you from my evil influence.”

“They wouldn’t.”

“Provided you remain silent, agreed.”

Harry sighs.

“I don’t like keeping secrets.”

Draco raises an eyebrow. “So says the werewolf hiding in Alabama.”

Harry makes a noise that might be a laugh. “Alright, arsehole. I don’t like keeping secrets from my friends.”

“Of course.”

“But you’re asking me to.”

“I am.”

“Fine.”

“Fine?”

“I won’t say anything.”

“Thank you.”

Frankly, Draco is shocked Potter didn’t telephone Granger the moment they first saw each other at Daughter’s. He finds it unlikely Potter is actually capable of keeping long-term secrets from the rest of the Golden Trio, but he’ll take it while it lasts.

“Well. Is there anything you want me to talk to her about?” Harry asks. “Anything we need to order? You’d said something about specific cauldrons you’ll need, yesterday.”

“Yes. I’ll write it down for you.”

Harry looks relieved.

“Great. So. Lights today and start the lab tomorrow?”

“Yes.”

Why Potter finds the need to be so chatty, even after hours of conversation, is beyond him.

“I do have to work, tomorrow,” Draco says. “So we won’t have much time.”

“Deliveries again, or Daughters?”

“Both. Only a few packages in the morning, but Billy and Lavon have lunch plans with family in Lewisville, so I’ll have to mind the shop from twelve to three.”

“Well I’ll help you again in the morning and then maybe you’ll have time to come look at things and…give me some homework to do while you’re at Daughters?”

Draco considers arguing but—

Doesn’t.

Even though he could easily give Potter the same instructions that night.

“Alright.”

***

Draco makes the mistake of mentioning Aaron McAllister while they’re eating dinner. Well. He doesn’t mention him by name, just his ilk.

The grow station lights are all installed, running overnight to make sure there are no issues, and they’re eating something called “Cornbread Salad”—a recipe from Billy—that is truly a bizarre amalgamation of ingredients but tastes…surprisingly acceptable.

Draco is sitting on the cool concrete in front of a fan, stomach full, one hand holding up his hair so the sweat on the back of his neck can dry, and for the first time that he can remember in the last year, there is not a single part of him that is actively hurting.

Perhaps this is what causes his uncharacteristic garrulousness.

“So,” Potter says. “You don’t normally work at Daughters on Saturdays?”

“No.”

And thank Merlin for that.

He must make a face because Potter, unperceptive as he is, sits up a little straighter, eyes narrowing.

“What? Do you not like working at Daughters?”

“No. No, it’s—Billy and Lavon are very kind. I just don’t particularly enjoy working there on Saturdays.”

“Why not?”

“Because during the week my customers are primarily housewives and pensioners. The weekend you get a much higher percentage of men. Saturdays are the worst because they all come in on the way to the lake for beer and tackle and scratchcards.”

Harry looks at him blankly.

“And that’s…bad?”

Draco drops his hair and finger-combs it flat. He gestures to himself with no little amount of resignation.

“Look at me, Potter. Think about where we are. I’m a thin, long-haired, perceivedly effeminate, foreigner, with no chance of growing a beard and no interest in firing a weapon. How do you think the general male population views me?”

Potter still looks lost.

Draco sighs.

“Apparently, good hygiene and an elementary grasp of grammar immediately labels you a shirt-lifter, here.”

That’s a generalization, he knows. Lavon is college-educated and takes better care of his cuticles than Billy does. Lavon is also six foot tall, over fourteen stone, and dresses like a lumberjack, though. 

“Oh,” Harry says. And then, a moment later, “Oh. That’s—have people hurt you?”

And he’s suddenly half to his feet, looking murderous, as if he might go find them and enact justice this very moment, should Draco give him names.

An odd compulsion, coming from Potter, considering Draco’s chest is covered in a fine crosshatch of pale scars that Harry himself inflicted.

“No,” Draco says, “no one has hurt me,” and Harry slides back down to the floor.

“There are a few that aren’t particularly kind,” Draco qualifies, “but no one has physically touched me. I can take juvenile insults and embarrassingly cliched threats. I’d just prefer not to.”

“People have threatened you?”

Jesus. What is Potter’s problem?

“Yes. Present company included,” he notes.

Potter goes very, very still.

It shouldn’t be stillness that reminds Draco, suddenly and unsettlingly, that Potter is a werewolf now and it is best not to upset werewolves. But Potter’s stillness is inhuman in its completeness. The calm before the storm and all that.

Potter appears to make a conscious effort to relax.

“I’m sorry. For everything that happened, before. Especially the—in the bathroom, that day. I mean. Obviously you’re at fault for plenty of it but. I apologise for hurting you.”

It is disconcertingly earnest.

“Oh. Well. I apologise as well. Of course.”

“Right.”

Draco stands and moves to the sink with his plate. “If you’re going to call Granger—”

“Yeah. No, yeah. Okay. I should take you home.”

“Thank you.”

They do the washing up in silence and Potter apparates Draco to Daughters without arguing over where he’s living. It would be suspicious if not for the fact that Potter’s entire demeanor is currently baffling. 

Draco doesn’t think much of the conversation until he’s an hour into his shift the following day and Aaron McAllister enters the shop. He’s with two of his standard fishing accomplices, Smith and Marx, and they take their time selecting alcoholic beverages and bait while talking loudly about their various manly pursuits and the poor girl that McAllister has evidently convinced to fornicate with him.

Draco is glad Ben Ward and his son left as the three men came in.

Ward is the good but hot-headed sort that would take exception to their language about women and feel the need to set a good example for his son. Draco would rather not have to clean up after a fight.

He preemptively unlocks the cigarette case and hopes no one else arrives within the next ten minutes.

Sure enough, when they get to the counter, McAllister has Draco retrieve a selection of tobacco products, making him pull dusty packs of cigarellos he has no intention of buying from the far left corner purely because he knows Draco will have to stand on a stool and lean awkwardly under the case’s door—inevitably bashing his head on the glass at some point— to reach them.

It’s all very petty, compared to their initial reactions, but Draco is relatively certain Billy or Lavon or both had a word with McAllister after the incident the prior month.

And then the bell rings.

Draco turns, automatically, and—sure enough—bashes his head on the glass.

It’s Potter.

“Afternoon,” Potter says, hands in pockets. 

He looks like he used to: head down, shoulders curved in.

His hair is getting long, Draco realises, falling in his face and over his eyes and it’s disconcerting, how deceptively meek his posture is.

Harry leans against the far end of the counter, out of the way, but decidedly present.

McAllister looks him up and down, then glances back at the Smith and Marx.

Shit.

“Afternoon,” McAllister says. “Haven’t seen you around before.”

“Harry,” Harry says, extending a hand. 

McAllister doesn’t accept it.

“Where are you from? he asks.

“London,” Harry says. He smiles a little. He drops his hand.

“No but where are you from,” McAllister insists.

“Well I was born in Godric’s Hollow. The West Country, England. If that’s what you mean.”

Everyone present is aware that’s not what he means.

“Nowhere posh like Wiltshire,” Harry continues, giving Draco a nod. “But a decent enough part of town. The house wasn’t at fault for the people in it, anyway.”

McAllister glances at his boys, then back at Harry with a confused expression.

Draco is admittedly confused himself.

“If you mean to ask what my specific genetic heritage is, I’m afraid I can’t tell you, seeing as I’m an orphan. Where are you from?” Harry asks pleasantly.

“What are you doing here?” McAllister asks.

“I came to have a word with Drake about ordering some begonias.”

Draco valiantly stifles a laugh.

It turns into a bit of a cough, but that’s standard procedure.

“I mean in Marian,” McAllister says.

“Oh,” Harry says, feigning surprise. “Living, I suppose. I just bought a bit of land”

“The Henwill’s old place,” Draco adds. Because he knows it will piss McAllister off.

“That’s a lot of land,” Smith says.

“Yes, well,” Harry says. “I’ve got a lot of money. And I liked the creek. It burbles.”

Marx mouths “burbles?” as McAllister crosses his arms.

“What is it you do, Mr. Potter?”

“Whatever I want, mostly.”

He straightens, no longer leaning against the counter, and the change is—Draco can only describe Harry’s posture as suddenly and frighteningly feral. 

All three of the men take what is likely an involuntary step back.

“You sure like asking questions,” Harry says. 

“Just curious,” McAllister mutters, significantly less confident.

“Well,” Harry says, “I’ve got business to discuss with Drake. Begonias. As I said. Are you finished, here?”

Apparently they are.

They pay for their selections without any of the typical ribbing, and are out the door within minutes.

“You’re two hours early,” Draco says once they’re gone.

“I wanted to talk about begonias,” Harry says.

“In October?”

It occurs to Draco, suddenly, that he didn’t hear Harry’s car.

He leans forward over the counter to look through the front windows, but, no. It’s not in the lot. He also didn’t hear Harry apparate. And his timing is more than a little suspicious.

Draco shifts so he’s sitting on the counter and then slides off the opposite side, moving to stand in front of Potter. Potter who is suddenly looking uncertain. 

“What are you doing?” Potter asks.

“I’m wondering the same of you.”

He considers Potter’s posture and, without really thinking, grabs one of his stupidly muscular forearms, preventing him from twisting away when Draco moves behind him.

There’s something tucked in the back waistband of Potter’s jeans. 

Something that’s rucked up his shirt.

Something that looks like nothing.

Draco’s fingers close around fabric and pull.

“What the hell,” he says a moment later, holding an invisibility cloak.

“Look,” Harry says.

“You—have you been here the whole time?” Draco says.

Harry doesn’t answer, which is answer enough.

“Where? Why?”

“In the gardening section. I just. You’d said sometimes people bother you.”

“So you decided you’d come sit invisibly in a muggle shop, flagrantly disregarding the statute, in case you needed to intervene should someone bother me?”

“Er—yes?”

“You recognise that Savior isn’t actually your title,” Draco snarls.

“Oh piss off. I was trying—”

You piss off. I’m working. And you’re—how did you even get here? I didn’t hear you apparate.”

“I’ve got a silent apparition point,” Harry mutters. “Over by your trailer. But I didn’t—“

My trailer,” Draco repeats.

Potter closes his eyes.

“Fuck. Malfoy. That’s not—”

“So you know. That I’m living there. You’ve been spying on me other times as well, then?” 

Draco’s throat feels unacceptably tight.

His eyes are hot.

He throws the cloak at Potter who catches it awkwardly.

“Couldn’t help but fall into old habits, I guess. Malfoy must be up to something. Might as well follow him around. Watch as wakes himself up coughing and cries over money he doesn’t have and hangs up his undergarments to dry after hand-washing. Excellent. Well done, Potter.”

“I’m sorry. I wanted to make sure—”

“What? That I wasn’t secretly torturing muggles? Trading dark artifacts?”

“No. No. I wanted to make sure that you had a home to go to. And it was just one time and I won’t do it again. I swear. I just. Wanted to make sure you were safe.”

“Fuck off, Potter. I’ve no interest in your fake nobility.”

Potter’s nostrils flare.

“Fine.”

He throws on the cloak. 

“Pretend I’m the bad guy.”

“How could I ever do that?” Draco says waspishly. “You’re the Chosen One. You can do no wrong. We’ve firmly established that I’m the bad guy.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” Potter says, and then, as if they aren’t currently embroiled in an argument, “I’ll be back to pick you up at three.”

Draco doesn’t have a chance to object because the front door opens with a jingle and several pensioners, dressed in their fishing regalia, enter the shop with friendly calls of hello.

By the time Draco has finished greeting them, Potter is gone.

Or nearly gone.

Draco sees the back door of the shop open quietly, seemingly of its own accord, and then, before it closes again, there’s Potter’s face, looking around the door from the other side.

“Three,” Potter mouths.

Malfoy discreetly flips him two fingers.

The last thing he sees before Potter pulls the cloak back over his head are Potter’s wide, stupidly pretty, green eyes.

Not pretty. Ugly.

Ugly green.

Like mould.

Repulsive.

***

Things are tense over the following weeks, but they manage to fill the planters with an assortment of already mature plants for immediate use and seedlings for future use without shouting at each other again.

This is likely because they’ve mostly stopped talking to each other.

Which is fine.

Preferable, even. 

Potter’s chatter was becoming an annoyance, anyway.

The potions lab is more of a work in progress, but Draco makes do. 

Instead of building things, Draco now spends his evenings moving between grow space and potions lab, slowly adding ingredients to the wolfsbane potion for Potter and making blood replenishing, pain relieving, potions for himself. 

Despite the fact that they’re not really talking, Potter continues to feed Draco.

Draco continues to let him.

He isn’t entirely certain why Potter keeps inviting him back to the barn-house at night to sit on the floor and sample increasingly more complicated, and usually surprisingly palatable suppers.

Draco suspects Potter is using him as some sort of recipe test subject seeing as Potter has amassed a frankly startling number of both wizard and muggle cookbooks and now has opinions about proving and yeast and cookware.

Perhaps Potter has found some sort of joy in cooking. He’d been spending quite a bit of time with a book of a similar title

Regardless, the draw of Potter’s magical overflow paired with Draco’s thankful grocery budget is more than enough incentive to continue accepting the invitations.

Which results in Draco eating a second portion of Coq au vin the night before the full moon while Potter paces in his—living room? It’s still just a big empty concrete space. Though he has, at least, acquired a rather nice, shaggy, rug.

Draco wishes Potter would sit down, preferably next to him, but apparently, this close to the full moon, stillness isn’t an option.

He has, at least, been very attentive to refilling Draco’s tea.

“So,” Potter says, and Draco has to crane his neck a bit to see him as he’s currently in the kitchen area. 

“Who taught you how to make this potion anyway?”  Potter asks. “It’s not exactly on Hogwarts’ curriculum.”

His arms are crossed and he’s looking at the blue mason jar of wolfsbane brew, waiting under a statis spell,  on the counter.

“Severus,” Draco says.

“Snape?”

“Yes.”

“You call him Severus?”

“He was my godfather.”

“But why?”

“I imagine because he was one of my parent’s closest friends.”

“Not—no.” Harry strides purposefully towards the windows, then just as purposefully away from them. “I meant why did he teach you to make a wolfsbane potion?”

Draco shrugs. It’s a terrible, pedestrian gesture, but needs must.

Potter is not dissuaded. “Did you have a friend who was a werewolf?”

The flinch is automatic and impossible to hide. “No.”

“Then why—”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Oh,” Potter turns on his heel again. “Greyback. He was—they were all at the manor, weren’t they?”

“What part of I don’t want to talk about it is lost on you, Potter?”

“Right. Okay. Sorry. I’m just nervous. Do you want to stay tomorrow?”

“Stay tomorrow,” Draco repeats.

“For sunset.”

No,” It comes out, perhaps, a little more loud, a little more horrified, than he intended. “No. No thank you. No.”

“What if it the potion doesn’t work?”

“It will work.”

Potter runs both hands through his already mussed hair and Draco thinks, absently, that Potter looks rather a lot like his uncle’s old Banksian Cockatoo. 

He wonders what became of the bird.

“Don’t you want to make sure?” Potter presses.

“Even if it doesn’t work, I’ll be useless. No magic, remember?”

“So ask to borrow a gun from Billy. She probably has a few dozen. Then if something goes wrong you can shoot me before I hurt anyone.”

“No.”

“Come on. I know you don’t have plans. Just stay for the sunset. We can chain me up too, and then you could just sit out of range of the chains. If it works and I’m docile you can let me out. If it somehow makes things worse and it looks like I might escape, then you shoot me.”

The fact that Potter can so cavalierly discuss the prospect of his own death is baffling.

“No.”

“But why not?”

“Because,” Draco says. “As you so astutely pointed out, Fenrir Greyback lived in my home—had free rein to do nearly anything he wished in my home— for months. And just because he was taking a potion that let him keep his faculties while transformed, doesn’t mean he was kind. If I see a wolf with a gun in my hands I’m likely to shoot it on sight whether its docile or not.”

“Oh.”

“And I’d rather not kill the savior of the world in a visceral panic, if it’s all the same to you.” 

Potter is silent for several seconds.

“You know,” he says finally, smiling a little, like they’re sharing a joke, “there was a time when you would have welcomed the opportunity to kill me.”

“No there wasn’t,” Draco says quietly. 

Chapter Text

Being fully conscious while also being a wolf would probably be the strangest thing Harry has ever experienced if he hadn't once been fully conscious while also being dead.

He sits up slowly with a rattle of metal and a frankly embarrassing amount of effort because quadruped anatomy is strange and his limbs feel like they’re all going the wrong way.

The lack of thumbs is also distinctly disconcerting.

He leaves off staring at his hands (feet?) when he realizes that Malfoy is outside.

He sort of remembers hearing the truck pull up while he was still writhing around getting furry but fear and pain had rather taken precedence over wondering why Malfoy—who had so staunchly insisted he would not be present—decided to show up anyway.

As far as Harry can tell, Malfoy is standing a few feet from the front door.

His heart is beating very fast.

The fact that Harry can’t see him, but can tell he’s distressed, is apparently a problem worth whining about.

The sound comes out all wrong because his chest and his throat and mouth are shaped all wrong and when he tries to move toward the door, he trips on his own front feet, crashing face-first into the floor.

Perhaps it’s good Malfoy can’t see him.

“Potter,” Malfoy says from outside. “I would appreciate some indication that I haven’t killed you.”

Harry discovers it is very hard to roll your eyes when you are a wolf.

He makes a noise that is supposed to be an affirmative bark but comes out sort of creaky.

“I’m uncertain what that means,” Malfoy says. “Aside from assuring me that you’re not currently dead. It sounds like you may be in the process of dying, however.”

Harry growls and finds that noise comes out just as he intended.

He sits up, slowly, and wishes he’d thought a bit more about his comfort should the potion work, rather than preparing for if the potion didn’t work.

The chains are heavy and constricting. The floor is cold. He’s going to get bored very quickly. And he’s hungry.

It occurs to him that, if he’s conscious, he might still be able to do wandless magic.

He aims an alohomora at the chains around his neck and the padlock falls with a heavy, anticlimactic, thunk, between his arms. Legs? Whatever.

He shakes off the chains and wobbles his way over to the door.

Coordinating four feet and what seems like an unnecessary amount of torso is difficult.

Also, his mouth tastes funny.

“Potter?” Malfoy says.

Harry pushes his shoulder against the door. 

Malfoy strings together a series of colorful curses.

“Well, you’re clearly alive, so I’m leaving. Goodbye.”

Except Harry doesn’t want Malfoy to leave.

Because then he’ll be alone.

And the idea of that is so intrinsically terrible that he just sort of, pushes harder at the door, maybe harder than he intended, and he hears the lock outside disengage and then he’s rolling out onto the gravel driveway in an unexpected lurch of movement.

And Malfoy—

Malfoy has fallen down.

He’s pushing himself backwards with his feet, hands in the dirt, and he looks terrified.

Oh. Harry thinks. Shit.

He drops down onto his elbows, because he feels like he’s pretty big and maybe that will make him less intimidating. And then, on second thought, he rolls over onto his back—belly-up, feet in the air—and, upside-down, looks toward Malfoy hopefully.

See? He thinks. Look. I am very not scary.

Malfoy makes a very high-pitched noise.

“Potter?” he asks.

Harry wiggles in what he hopes might be taken as affirmation.

Malfoy’s heart slows a bit.

“Are you—you?” he asks.

Harry wiggles again.

“No urges for murder and mayhem? Thirst for blood?”

Harry shakes his head.

“And you’re—you’re not hurt or anything?”

Harry provides another affirmative wiggle.

“Alright, stop. You look ridiculous.”

Harry rolls back over. Shakes. Sneezes.

Malfoy laughs and it sounds a little hysterical.

“This is fine,” he says. “This is normal. And expected. The potion worked. No surprises there. I’m brilliant.”

Harry sneezes again.

There are so many smells outside.

“Well. Good,” Malfoy says. “You’ve clearly retained your faculties. Enjoy your frolicking or what have you. I’ll leave you be, now.”

Draco stands, shakily, and Harry whines, entirely without meaning to.

He makes himself stop immediately.

“What?” Malfoy says. 

Harry firmly tells himself to stop being ridiculous.

“Right,” Malfoy says, walking backward. “Well. I’ll see you tomorrow. Goodbye.”

He climbs into the cab of the truck with a concerning amount of haste.

Harry watches him drive away and tries very hard to resist the weird howl-y feeling in his throat.

Clearly his wolf-instincts are defective.

****

Harry runs.

It takes him a while to figure out how, and then it takes him even longer to figure out how to stop without somersaulting a half-dozen times, but once he gets the hang of four legs it’s—he’s—

Harry runs.

And it’s good.

Early October twilight in Alabama is a barrage of bug sounds and animal smells and dark, reaching, shadows. The air gets an edge of chill to it as the stars come out and the moon rises full and bright in a way that leaves his chest aching. He runs until his property ends and then he keeps going. He runs through dry, low-tilled acres of nothing and early winter wheat and overgrown firebreaks between regimented lumber-tree rows.

Autumn-harvest corn stalks lean noisily against each other over his head and red dirt is soft under his feet and he is so, so, alive.

He sort of forgets himself, for a while. Or maybe that’s not quite right. Maybe he forgets the anxious human parts of himself and the other parts are just allowed to move and breathe and be.

It’s good. 

Right up until he follows his nose through a patch of piney woods and emerges, entirely by accident, into the tall grass behind Daughters.

He forgets all the stopping practice from earlier that night and ends up sprawled untidily just at the edge of the tree line. 

Shit.

He’s got absolutely no sense of what time it is. Probably early morning? Still at least a few hours before sunrise.

Malfoy is sleeping.

Or he should be sleeping.

He’s probably sleeping.

Harry doesn’t let himself move any closer to check.

He just stares at the trailer for several minutes, the dull metal siding trying valiantly to reflect the moon overhead, and lets his breathing even out.

The katydids drop suddenly into silence and Harry can barely—just barely—hear Draco’s heartbeat inside. Slow. Calm. 

It’s oddly reassuring.

He still doesn’t let himself move any closer but he also can’t seem to make himself leave.

He should go back to his house.

He should.

The night air feels suddenly thick, and his legs are tired and it makes sense, really, to lay down and rest for a while.

Insect noise swells again and he closes his eyes, just for a minute, breathing in the faint smell of woodsmoke somewhere north, stretching until he’s comfortable in a nest of pine-needles. 

Just for a minute, he thinks.

And then it’s morning.

He wakes up entirely disoriented, panicking a little because not only has he definitely exhibited near-stalking behavior but also because he’s lying naked a dozen meters from Malfoy’s window. 

Except he’s not, actually, naked.

Or he is, technically, but he’s not a naked human.

He is, most assuredly, still a wolf.

Harry is stymied.

The two previous full moons, he’d lost consciousness as the sun set, and then woken up as the sun rose, human and hurting.

But it’s well after sunrise, he’s still furry, and he’s starting to panic about it.

What if he’s stuck like this?

And then he’s pawing at Malfoy’s door.

He doesn’t mean to.

Which is on-trend for the past twelve hours.

It’s just that he was scared and then he wasn’t because Malfoy was opening the door and Malfoy will fix things. Which isn’t, actually, all that logical. Because it could very well be Malfoy’s fault—some weird potion thing?—that Harry is stuck like this. Except he immediately relaxes when Malfoy steps out into the early morning sun.

Malfoy does not relax.

In fact, he slams the door in Harry’s face with a scream that sends up the flock of birds that had been resting on the power line overhead.

“What the fuck, Potter,” he says a moment later, door cracked open.

His heart is beating really fast again and Harry feels bad because he knows it’s his fault.

Harry sits and tries to look docile.

“Why are you still a wolf?” Malfoy hisses. “Why are you here?”

Harry just blinks at him.

“Jesus,” Malfoy says. He lets the door ease open a few more inches. “Are you—can you not change back?”

Harry sighs again and attempts a nod.

“Alright. Well. That’s fine. We can figure it out. We can—actually, no.”

Draco straightens suddenly, crossing his arms. The door bashes into his elbow and he winces, off-balance.

“This is not my problem,” he says, once he’s upright again. “I have to open the shop in ten minutes. You need to go home and if you haven’t figured it out by this afternoon, I’ll help you then.”

Harry thinks that sounds like a terrible idea.

He lets his front feet slide slowly away from him until his belly thumps onto the ground.

No,” Malfoy says. “No laying down. Leaving. Going. Being— not here.” 

He points in the direction of the woods.

Harry flops onto his side.

“I hate you,” Malfoy says.

And Harry does not whine. He doesn’t. But a noise comes up and out of his throat, completely unbidden, that maybe, slightly, could be misheard as a whine.

“Sorry,” Malfoy says, and then— “No. I’m not sorry. I don’t care if you make pitiful noises. Go away.”

Harry rolls onto his back and tucks his front feet to his chest.

He tries to lay his ears back and open his eyes as wide and beseechingly as possible.

“What are you doing? That’s not cute,” Malfoy says.

Harry is pretty sure it is.

Draco shuts the door on him again.

Harry can hear Malfoy moving around inside. Taking off and putting on clothing. Banging a cabinet door. Running water and cursing and muttering unkind things about stupid sodding Gryffindors. 

He emerges a few minutes later in his customary trousers and white shirt, hair pulled back in a small, low, ponytail.

“You know what,” he says, walking past Harry. “Fine. Stay out here. Try not to get shot.”

Harry considers the very real possibility of that happening should someone see him sitting out at the edge of the woods like this and decides that, no, he will not stay here.

He stands, shakes, and then bounds after Malfoy.

Malfoy pauses, key in the shop door’s lock.

“What are you—no. No. You are not coming to work with me, Potter.”

Except that’s exactly what Harry has decided he’s going to do, seeing as Malfoy is entirely powerless to stop him.

It seems Malfoy is, himself, realising this.

Harry shoulders his way inside and finds a nice out-of-the-way spot behind the counter to lie down. The cool linoleum feels good. He makes great decisions.

Malfoy shoves his fingers into his hair, looking at him, and then turns on his heel and goes on another brief expletive-laden tirade about Gryffindors as he opens the front of the shop and coaxes the register awake and starts rearranging an end cap that already looks perfectly well organised.

“Oh, no,” Draco mutters under his breath, his voice overly chipper, “Not to worry, Mrs. Henderson. The massive predator behind the counter surely won’t savage your infant. How do I know? Oh, because he’s actually a human with a furry ailment. Haven’t you heard? It’s bring your werewolf to work day.”

Content, Harry dozes.

It turns out there’s no need for Malfoy’s dramatics because, tucked as he is in the corner, none of the customers actually notice Harry. And if one of them did it would be entirely Malfoy’s fault because he spends most of his shift muttering things in Harry’s direction.

Billy is, to Malfoy’s extreme annoyance, utterly unconcerned about Harry’s presence when she arrives to take over for the evening shift.

“Picked up a stray?” she asks, crouching to scratch Harry’s ears. “Looks like a wolf, if not for the eyes. Must be a hybrid. Seems real sweet, though.”

Harry’s tail thumps, entirely without his permission, against a box full of tobacco products.

“Not a stray,” Malfoy says. “He belongs to Mr. Potter. Why he’s here, I’ve no idea, but the vile cretin forced his way inside this morning and refused to leave.”

“Poor thing,” Billy says. “I know it’s cooling off outside but he still must be hot in all that fur. Probably wanted in for the air conditioning, huh, sweetheart?” She glances over at Malfoy. “Did you give him some water? ”

Harry perks right up at that.

Draco has the decency to look apologetic.

“I…didn’t think to, no.”

“Poor thing,” she repeats pointedly.

Ten minutes later, Harry is well-watered and happily following Draco out the back door.

Billy watches them leave with a knowing look, though Harry hasn’t the slightest idea what the look means. She can’t know that he’s a werewolf, so why she’s grinning a little and saying Mr. Potter’s dog is welcome anytime provided he continues to mind his manners, Harry hasn’t the slightest.

That’s a problem for another day, though.

The more pressing problem is why he’s still a wolf when it’s now closer to sunset than sunrise.

Malfoy opens the door to his trailer, resigned, and Harry navigates the stairs with only minimal scrabbling. He finds himself on Malfoy’s bed a moment later, ensconced in Malfoy’s scent and weirdly pleased about it and also wishing his damn tail didn’t have a mind of its own.

“I suppose there’s no helping it,” Malfoy says like the world is ending. “I’ll have to speak to Granger.”

Harry thinks that’s a brilliant idea.

“I’ll drive us over once Lavon is done with the truck. I hope your laptop isn’t password-protected or it’s going to be a long night.”

Except Harry doesn’t want to wait for Lavon and the truck.

He’s hungry and he has to pee and he misses having thumbs.

He’s apparated without his wand before.

And if he’s still capable of other kinds of magic there’s no reason he can’t—

Harry jumps off the bed, lands in a bit of an artless heap, and then snag’s Malfoy’s wrist in his mouth.

Destination, Determination and Deliberation, he thinks.

“Potter?” Malfoy says, high and frightened, but Harry has already pulled him in a half-circle and then there’s the familiar tug behind his navel and a popping in his ears and they’re standing in Harry’s kitchen.

“What the fuck,” Malfoy says. “How did—? That’s not possible. That shouldn’t be possible. I don’t—”

He frantically pats himself over like he’s afraid that Harry might have splinched him, which is frankly insulting, and then abruptly sits down on the floor.

“How is this my life,” he mutters into his hands.

Concerned, Harry moves to sit beside him.

“I hate you,” Malfoy says, even more lowly, and Harry definitely does not make the not-a-whine noise again.

“Alright. Fine. Fine. So normal transformative magic rules don’t apply to the Chosen One,” Malfoy says, more to himself than Harry, “that’s fine. That’s not even surprising. Why should Harry Potter have to obey any rules ever in his life?” Malfoy pushes himself back to his feet. “But god forbid he handle elementary things without assistance. Can he apparate while wandless and not human? Certainly. Can he complete a standard full moon transformation, which should be an automatic process? Perish the thought.”

Harry knows he should probably object to Malfoy’s little tirade, except Malfoy had used Harry’s back to help him stand without seeming to realise it—one hand, firmly pressed to the little dip in his spine—and it was—

Nice.

Harry liked it.

Or Harry didn’t, but his wolf instincts or whatever did and it was sort of hard to separate the two at the moment.

He finds himself wishing that Malfoy would scratch his head like Billy did and then immediately recoils from the same thought, horrified.

He needs to be human again.

Immediately.

Malfoy locates Harry’s laptop on the counter next to the fridge, mutters something about small mercies when he finds it isn’t password-protected, and then opens Facetime and locates Hermione’s contact information with a startling degree of efficiency.

  The dichotomy of it—Malfoy’s wrist leant against the edge of the MacBook, one long, pale, pure-blooded finger sliding confidently against the trackpad— is sort of baffling.

Even dressed in his muggle work clothes, even thin and drawn and completely without magic, Malfoy still feels other to Harry. More. A living, breathing, anachronism with sharp elbows and an even sharper tongue.

Hermione answers on the third ring, the screen filled with a close-up view of her chin and a few spiral curls.

“Harry? Is everything okay? I’m late for work, so—”

She drops the phone with a shriek and then Harry gets a brief flash of freckles and Ron’s thumb blocking the camera. “Hey mate, she dropped you. ‘Mione what are you—bloody hell.”

And then they’re looking at the ceiling again.

Malfoy?” Ron says. 

“Yes, hello,” Malfoy says stiffly. “Weasley. Granger.”

“What have you done to Harry?” Ron snarls at the same moment that Hermione says, “I knew it! I knew he had someone helping him. Of course it was you, it all makes sense, now! Ron, get your finger off the—”

What?” Ron says.

“Wait,” Hermione says. “Did it not work? Draco, did you make a mistake? Is Harry okay? Oh for heaven’s sake, Ron, give me the—”

“He’s fine,” Malfoy says, even more stiffly, as Ron and Hermione’s faces come back into view. “And of course it worked. My potion was impeccable. The problem is. Well. He’s fine,” Malfoy reiterates. “Perfectly healthy. He’s just.”

Harry puts his front feet up on the counter and leans toward the screen.

“Oh,” Hermione says faintly. “Well, that’s. Unexpected.”

“Bloody hell,” Ron says.  

The four of them just look at each other for a moment.

“We called because we hoped you might have some advice,” Draco says. “Are you familiar with any other cases of werewolves being unable to return to their human forms?”

“Oh,” Hermione says. “Well. Yes. Several, in fact. But they were all particularly powerful wizards before they were bitten and they—I suppose that makes sense, actually. It is Harry after all.”

And Harry is little disgruntled to find Hermione and Malfoy sharing what might be a longsuffering look.

“Yes. He is rather special, isn’t he?” Malfoy says snidely.

“You have no idea,” Hermione mutters.

“Oh, but I do. Boy wonder apparated us here just a moment ago. While still a wolf. And apparently can perform other wandless magic as well.”

“That’s not possible,” Hermione says.

“That’s what I said immediately after he apparated us into his kitchen.”

“No,” she repeats. “It’s just—it’s not. Transformative magic has laws. Physical, indisputable, laws—”

“I know,” Malfoy repeats.

Harry leans against his shoulder because Malfoy’s heart rate is getting a little fast again.

He accios an orange from the fruit bowl, but forgets he doesn’t have hands and it bounces off his face.

“Wait,” Ron says. “Was that—”

Embarrassed, Harry throws a quick wingardium leviosa at it and floats the fruit right up to the camera.

“Are you doing that?” Ron asks Malfoy.

“I haven’t had magic for a year, you imbecile,” Malfoy says. “And even if I did, I could barely light a candle without a wand, before. Cavalierly levitating fruit was never a talent I possessed.”

“Oh,” Hermione says.

Harry has no idea why they’re all being so dramatic about this.

“Potter’s unprecedented talents aside,” Malfoy says. “Do you have any idea how we can return him to a more or less human shape? I’d really rather not have a permanent wolf shadow at work.”

“He went with you to work?” Ron asks, and then, “Wait. You work?”

“It should be a simple incantation,” Hermione says. “The same one that animagi instructors use when students are first learning to control the shift.”

Forma humana,” Malfoy and Hermione say together.

“I wondered if that would work,” Malfoy says. “I can’t perform it, though. And there aren’t any other magical people in the city that I’m aware of.”

“I’ll have to portkey over, but I won’t have a chance until after work,” Hermione says apologetically.

“Sorry Harry,” Ron adds, “I’ve got late training tonight and I can’t miss it. I’ll already be in trouble for coming in late as it is.”

Harry thinks they’re all being ridiculous.

If he can apparate, he can surely—

Forma humana, he thinks fiercely. Forma humana. Forma humana. Forma humana. I want bloody thumbs again. Forma humana.

Ah.

“Harry!” Hermione shouts.

“Of course,” Malfoy says dourly.

“Nice to see you, mate,” Ron says. “Though I’d like to see a little less of you, if I’m honest.”

Harry’s face feels too small. Sort of squished.

Everything sounds less and looks more.

He can’t smell anything.

It takes him several dazed moments to realise he’s sprawled, quite naked, on the concrete floor.

“I’ll get you some clothes,” Malfoy says.

Harry blinks and tries to sit up.

“Are you alright?” Hermione asks.

“I think so?” Harry says.

“Well good. I really would like to shout at you for a number of things—honestly, Harry. Trying to apparate? You could have been killed!”

“Or worse,” Ron says, “expelled.”

Hermione does not appear nearly as amused by this as Harry.

“Sorry?” Harry says, badly stifling a laugh.

“We’ll talk about it later. I really do have to go. We’ll also be talking about the fact that you’re apparently living with Malfoy, later.”

“Wait,” Harry says. “No.”

“Yeah,” Ron says. “Blimey. Are you two—”

“Later,” Hermione repeats. “Goodbye, Harry. Please don’t do anything stupid until I can speak to you again.”

“No judgement if you are,” Ron says, “love is love and all, but Malfoy?”

“Honestly, Ron,” Hermione mutters, “we talked about this.”

And then the call disconnects. 

Harry uses the counter as leverage to stand.

All his bones feel weird.

“Here,” Malfoy says, thrusting a bundle of fabric at him.

Malfoy’s face is distinctly pink and he’s focusing, very intently, on the toaster.

“Oh. Thanks.”

“I’ll just be in the potions barn,” he says.

“Alright,” Harry holds the roll of clothing in front of his nether region. “I was thinking, er. Of making Lemon Chicken tonight. Is that—”

“Fine. That’s fine.”

“Great. I’ll come down and join you once it’s simmering, then? It has to stay on low heat for a while. So. I could set a timer and then--If I won’t be bothering you, I mean.”

“No. That’s fine.”

“Great.”

“Alright. I’m going, now.”

“Right, yeah.”

Malfoy leaves.

Harry puts on his clothes and resists the urge to bang his head against the fridge.

Chapter Text

Draco is doling out portions of pain relief draught into a dozen small quilted mason jars when Potter slips inside the door.

He’s wearing the clothes Draco picked out for him—a black t-shirt with faded jeans— and actually looks somewhat presentable for once.

You’re welcome, he thinks disingenuously.

“Hi,” Potter says like an idiot.

Draco ignores him.

“Is there anything I can help you with?” Potter asks, and it’s disconcerting, how earnest he is: arms crossed, leaned against the partition wall separating the potions lab from the grow space. His hair is a mess, the upper half pulled up into a sloppy little topknot, and there’s a splash of something food-related on his forearm that’s started to go flaky. It’s a good-looking forearm, otherwise. Smooth skin. Dark hair. A subtle map of veins.

“No,” Draco says. “No, I’m nearly done here.”

His face feels suddenly hot.

He checks the flame under his cauldron to see if it’s the culprit.

“Well, we’ve got thirty minutes, at least,” Potter says, “if you’d like to start on something else.”

He uses his shoulder to push off the wall and wanders over to the back side of the barn. It’s mostly full of tools and leftover lumber and several multipurpose 20 litre buckets. 

He stops in front of a large tarp-covered object Draco had noted, absently, as being new.

He pulls off the tarp. 

“What is that?” Draco says.

“A motorbike,” Harry says.

“Yes, but why?”

“Why is it a motorbike? I’m not sure I’m prepared for that sort of existential conversation. Can I think about it and get back to you?”

“Potter.”

“Malfoy,” Potter says pleasantly, crouching to open a tool box.

“Potter.”

Potter sighs. “Sirius had one. My godfather. His is still back in London but I’d been working on it before I left. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of shipping here, so. What’s the point of having money if you don’t spend it occasionally?”

Draco remembers thinking that exact thing many times before: Looking in shop windows and ordering gifts for his mother. Sliding his fingers down the newest, fastest, broom handles. Knowing that anything, anything, could be his at a whim.

It feels like a lifetime ago.

“If you have so much money, why didn’t you purchase a new one?” Draco asks, moving around the partition so he can get a better view of the machine. “That one looks rather…ill.”

Potter shrugs. “I’m good at it, I guess. Fixing things. I, er. Started using Youtube? Watching tutorials and stuff, you know, to try and get Sirius’s bike working again. And it just sort of came naturally?”

“Of course it did,” Draco mutters.

“I enjoyed it. And it was nice to find something I was good at that had nothing to do with being the… the Chosen One. Or whatever.”

Draco doesn’t know how to respond to that.

“It was a good hobby. Something to look forward to at work when things got—” Potter shrugs. “It was nice to come home to a project.”

“I thought—”

Draco stops, but Potter is already looking up at him, expectant.

“I thought you were an Auror,” he finishes. 

“Yeah.”

“Was that not—weren’t you happy? Doing that.”

Harry’s expression says everything he does not.

“It was fine. Just. Not what I expected.”

“How so?”

Potter sits back on his heels.

The hum of the hydroponics system takes over in the interim silence.

“They wouldn’t actually let me be an Auror. They wouldn’t let me take on the responsibilities that are supposed to come with the title. Or maybe they couldn’t. Because of who I am. How well-known my face is.”

“Well that’s absurd,” Draco points out, not really meaning to. “Some of the best Aurors in history were known for having all manner of secret identities that they used regularly. Glamours. Charms. Polyjuice. And Identity Artifacts aren’t cheap, but they’re simple enough to construct. I could make one for you in a matter of days if you could get your hands on the ingredients.”

Potter makes a low noise that is probably meant to be a laugh.

It isn’t.

“I asked Robards about that, once,” he says. “A few months in. After I hadn’t assisted on a single real case, only been to press events and photo-ops, while my peers from training were starting to get their own cases. Robards said my face was my best weapon and I shouldn’t squander it.”

“It sounds as if your face was his best weapon.”

“Yeah,” Harry agrees. “I realised that, eventually.”

“So,” Draco says. “You played his pawn for—a year?”

“Mm. Little more.”

“A little more than a year. And you tinkered with your moto-bike. And then you were turned and you…ran a way?”

“It’s mot-or-bike. And yeah, more or less.”

Draco sniffs. “Well that’s not very Gryffindor of you, is it?”

“I was just—”

Draco waits, but it seems Potter isn’t entirely sure what he was just.

“You were?” Draco prompts after several seconds.

“Tired, I guess. I was just tired. Of the constant attention and expectations and trying to be whatever—whatever a hero is supposed to be. Yeah, I didn’t want to hurt anyone and I didn’t want the press to find out I’d been bitten, but it was also just a good excuse. To leave. To not have to deal with any of it anymore. At least for a while.”

Draco feels like maybe Potter shouldn’t be telling him this.

“I see. And what about your friends? Your—Teddy.”

Harry stands, tossing the wrench he’d been fiddling with back into the tool box.

Draco immediately wishes he hadn’t said anything.

“I keep up with them,” Harry says. “They don’t need me there in person.”

“Ah.”

“I’ve been thinking about getting a television.”

Draco blinks at the non-sequitur.

“Alright?”

“What do you think?”

“I’ve very little experience with television. Certainly not enough to have an opinion about it one way or the other.”

“But you’re—not opposed?”

“What does it matter what I think?” Draco asks, baffled.

“It doesn’t,” Potter says sharply. More sharply, really, then seems necessary.

“Alright,” Draco says.

Potter shoves a hand into his hair, grimaces when it gets stuck, because his hair is half-tied-up, and then just—sags, exhaling.

“I’m going to buy one,” he says, pulling out the hair tie. He stretches the band into an approximate square between his thumbs and forefingers, lips pursed, and then abruptly shoves it into his pocket.

“I’m going to order one now, actually. From Amazon. It’s this website where—”

“I know what Amazon is.”

“Right. Well. I’m going to go do that. I’ll be back.”

Potter leaves.

Draco, still baffled, cleans up his work station and then sees to the plants.

“I suppose it shouldn’t be shocking that the magic-leaking werewolf is a bit moonstruck, as it were,” he says to a mustard plant. The mustard plant does not find his pun amusing. “Still, this is Harry Potter we’re talking about. Do you think we ought to be concerned?”

The mustard plant doesn’t answer.

Draco gently clips a yellowing leaf and moves down the row to the more volatile occupants.

“I imagine spending the day as a wild animal might make anyone a bit batty,” he observes to a just-blooming white snakeroot. “Perhaps we should be forgiving.”

Draco feels the snakeroot agrees.

Dinner that night is delicious, as usual, though Potter fidgets his way through it and manages to knock over not only his tea, but Draco’s as well.

He’s also disconcertingly focused on Draco’s food consumption, offering seconds and then insisting on thirds, eyes tracking Draco’s fork from plate to mouth and plate again.

Once Draco is uncomfortably full, Potter also insists on doing the washing up alone and then asks Draco to look over some muggle gardening books because he wants to add another grow station for vegetables and herbs to use in his cooking. After another two cups of tea and some sketched blueprints and a friendly amount of bickering, Draco realises it’s nearly 11pm.

“Oh,” Potter says when Draco points this out. “Do you—would you rather just stay here tonight? Since it’s so late.”

“No?” Draco says. “Where would I even—? No. It will take you less than a minute to apparate me home.”

“Right. Obviously. Oh, I meant to—”

Potter stands, rubs his palms down the thighs of his jeans, and then jogs up the stairs to the loft, tripping twice. Draco watches him, completely uncertain what’s happening.

He comes back with a long, narrow, box in his hands, scuffed at the edges, with a rubber  band holding it closed. It looks like a wand box, but that doesn’t make any sense seeing as Potter’s wand is still visibly, stupidly, stowed in his back pocket.

Heathen.

“I’ve been meaning to give this back to you,” Potter says.

And the whole world goes suddenly very, very still.

No.

It can’t be.

Draco doesn’t realise he’s taken the box until it’s open in his hands and the lid is on the ground and it’s—

It’s ten inches of hawthorn wood.

Unicorn hair core.

It’s his wand.

Was.

Was his wand.

Because he has no magic now. 

It won’t recognise him. 

He picks it up anyway, because he has to know; he has to be certain.

But when he curls his fingers around the cool handle, when he holds it like he did for the first time nearly a decade before—hopeful but wary—he feels nothing.

Nothing.

And he never will again.

The nothing morphs into nausea, morphs into visceral, clenching, sadness, morphs into fury.

“Cruelty is unlike you, Potter,” Draco manages. 

He considers throwing the wand. The wand that is and isn’t his. He considers snapping it. Just—breaking it over his knee. And then maybe throwing the pieces for good measure. He wants to, but he can’t. For some reason, that just makes him angrier.

“What?” Potter says.

His hand turns into a fist around the wood, worn butter-smooth by years of use.

“I suppose you certainly have the last laugh,” Draco murmurs, attention on his pale knuckles. “Kindly returning the wand you stole to the wizard—the, the squib— who can’t use it anymore. Did you think I’d forgotten? Did you think I needed reminding of what I did and what I’ve become?”

“I—no. I just thought that you’d want it back. It’s yours.”

“It’s not mine. It stopped being mine the minute you took its allegiance and it certainly won’t ever be mine again, which you should well know.”

“Malfoy—”

“So you’re either needlessly malicious or hopelessly stupid. Which is it, Potter?”

And oh, now here’s a Harry Potter that Draco remembers.

“I didn’t have to give it back, you know,” Potter says, all flint and iron. “I won it fair and square. I was trying to be nice. Though clearly I shouldn’t have bothered. You realise what this wand is worth? What it means to the wizarding world? It’s the wand that defeated Voldemort. It’s the wand that changed history. Kingsley wanted it in a museum, but I wouldn’t let him take it.”

“I’ve no idea why. It’d fit right in with all of the other Potter memorabilia under spotlights at the Ministry. I can see the placard now: Here lies the wand that defeated Voldemort, captured from its prior master—a Death Eater—and turned against his master.”

Draco’s fingers hurt, they’re holding the wand so tightly. 

“Practically poetic, that.”

“Why are you being like this?” Potter snaps.

Draco laughs.

He can’t help it.

“Why am I—? I’m dying, alone, in an American town to spare my mother the indignity of burying her only son because no one cares if the Ministry of Magic is unjust or cruel so long as they’re being cruel to the right people. And you facilitated them. By your own admission, you played puppet to their politicians and policy makers and shook hands with thieves and smiled for photographs with torturers and everyone reading the papers thinks, oh well, surely we can trust officials that the Boy Who Lives supports. Surely Harry Potter wouldn’t lead us astray.”

“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”

“If that’s true, you really are an imbecile.”

Draco finally forces himself to let go of the wand.

It clatters onto the floor— far quieter, less intrusive, than seems right.

It hurts.

Everything hurts.

Draco knows that he’s very close to crying and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to prevent it from happening and it will be ugly and unwieldy and awful and he refuses to cry like that whilst someone—especially Potter—is watching.

“Take me home,” he says, holding out his arm. “Right now.”

Potter does.

***

Draco doesn’t see Potter for two days.

Three.

Four.

He runs out of blood building potions on the fifth.

Pain and breathing potions on the sixth.

He’s been spoiled, he realises on the seventh, by his constant proximity to Potter.

He’d forgotten what it was like before: The constant aches and difficulty breathing and the sleepless nights. His cough, which had dissipated to an early-morning-only phenomenon returns with full-force.

Billy and Lavon fuss over him because he’s wheezing and losing the little weight he put on from Potter’s cooking, but he has no appetite and it—well it all seems a little pointless anyway, doesn’t it?

Ah. Apparently the depression is back as well.

Potter shows up at Daughters on day eight looking annoyingly healthy and well-rested and as if he certainly hasn’t been counting the days since they’ve seen each other.

“Draco! Er. —ake? Drake. You. Hi,” he says, sounding startled. As if it was unusual that Potter would find Draco, here, where he worked, on one of the days Potter knew he was scheduled.

“Mr. Potter?” Lavon says.

“Oh,” Harry says. “Hello. Are you Lavon?”

“I certainly am.”

Lavon steps down from the ladder where he’d been replacing one of the lights above the register. Even as tall and muscular as Harry has become, Lavon dwarfs him.

“I’ve heard quite a bit about you from Billy,” Lavon says, extending a hand. “Apparently you’re from London like Drake?”

“Yeah, yes.” Potter accepts his hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“Drake said McAllister and some of his boys gave you a spot of trouble the other day.”

Potter raises an eyebrow at him and Draco ducks behind the register to look for some counter spray. There’s a bit of adhesive that needs taking care of.

“You look like you can handle yourself,” Lavon continues, “but you let me know if you ever need anything, alright?”

Draco watches, just over the edge of the counter, as Lavon hands Potter one of his business cards.

“I—alright?”

“And if you do run into trouble, maybe don’t mention it to Billy. She’s too old to spend nights in jail anymore.”

“Uh,” Potter says. “Okay?”

“Good man.” Lavon pats his shoulder and folds up the ladder, whistling as he carries it to the back storage room.

“Can you explain to me what just happened?” Potter says lowly.

Draco stands, counter-spray in one hand.

“He’s looking out for you.”

“But why?”

“Because he’s decent. Also, I imagine, because of the—thing.”

“The thing.”

“The—“ he tries to remember what muggles consider politically acceptable. “The race thing.”

“The race thing,” Potter repeats slowly.

“Apparently Lavon’s family had to deal with quite a bit of… pushback when they moved here when Lavon was a child. He’s told me— terrible things. And when Lavon and Billy got married right out of high school it caused another stir. Apparently Billy ended up in jail a dozen times their first year as newlyweds because her default response when someone said something nasty was to hit them.”

Potter is looking at him with dark, serious, eyes.

“Oh,” he says. “Right. That’s kind of him.”

He looks like he wants to say more.

Draco uses his nail to pick at the adhesive on the counter. “Lavon says that most people now, particularly the younger ones, don’t appear to maintain the same prejudices. But, in the muggle world, it appears that racism is…rather systematic. Even if people aren’t vocal about their biases.”

“Yeah, I know. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?” Harry says.

Draco’s fingers clench around the spray bottle.

He lets his hair fall into his face.

Because he does know.

Draco remembers the first time he’d visited Blaise’s manor house, being shocked to see fully-dressed house elves who were asked to do things rather than told. Who were thanked; treated kindly and respectfully. Who, according to Blaise, were not owned, but rather elected to work for the family for either wages or bonded safety or both.

When Draco had asked him why, Blaise had briefly lost his aloof, cavalier, demeanor and instead became rather shockingly somber.

“Well,” Blaise had said. “It wasn’t so long ago that muggles treated people who looked like me the same way most wizards treat house elves. Mother says that no thinking being should ever be owned by another. Can’t say I disagree.”

Draco’d done a bit a bit of research on the history of muggle race relations the following term, made a few uncomfortable revelations, and found himself quietly reconsidering pureblood ideology.

Not that it mattered. All the revelations in the world hadn’t been enough to counteract his cowardice.

“You look ill,” Potter says, interrupting his memory. “Are you alright?”

Draco clears his throat. “Don’t worry, I’m not contagious.”

“That’s not what I—”“

“Did you need something?”

“Oh. Just some food. But I thought—do you want to come over tonight? Maybe you could make some Pepper-Up to help you feel better? I was thinking of chicken soup for dinner as well. Mrs. Weasley sent me the family recipe and—”

“I have plans tonight,” Draco says.

“Oh. Maybe tomorrow?”

“I’m afraid I’m busy then as well.”

“Right.”

Potter’s hands curl into fists. He opens his mouth and then closes it again. He goes to get a trolley.

When Potter returns fifteen minutes later to check out, Draco asks if he’s found everything he was looking for (yes), if he’d like ice or stamps (no) and then helps him load several bags of shopping back into his trolley without saying anything.

Standing so close, hands colliding once with the transfer of a small watermelon, is a special kind of torture.

Because already Draco feels so much better and the temptation—to say he’s changed his mind, that yes, he is available that evening—has him biting his bottom lip. He intentionally bungles the payment process so it takes several minutes to get Potter his receipt. So Potter will stand there, a foot a way, a little while longer. In the war between self-preservation and pride, pride only barely wins. In another day or so it likely won’t, but Draco will deal with that then.

“I guess I’ll see you,” Potter says.

“Have a nice day,” Draco manages.

When Draco gets off work, he drinks a Gatorade for dinner and falls into a fitful sleep until eight pm, when someone knocks on his door.

When he opens it, however, no one is there.

It’s just fireflies backgrounded by blue twilight.

Except.

There’s a Tupperware bowl sitting on the top of his steps and when he picks it up, it’s still warm. There’s a spoon and a purple post-it note on top.

The note reads in familiar, untidy scrawl: I’ll be back for the bowl and spoon tomorrow. Make sure they’re clean.

Chapter Text

Harry doesn’t understand what went wrong.

He’d thought Malfoy would be happy.

He’d thought giving back the wand would be a kindness. Something Malfoy could have to look forward to. Except Malfoy acted like he would never have the opportunity to use the wand again. He acted like Harry was taunting him with it, and he’d said—well, he’d been saying he was dying. But Harry had thought he was just being theatric, as Malfoy was wont to do. A swipe from a hippogriff was a mortal injury. A bump on the quidditch field was an unpardonable offense. Harry had initially thought that Malfoy was just having trouble adjusting to muggle life and an income shortage but he didn’t think—he didn’t actually believe there was something wrong, something fatally wrong, with the pointy git.

Because once Harry started feeding him the cough had gone away and he’d lost the dark circles under his eyes and his bones had stopped pressing against his skin quite so sharply.

So surely he wasn’t seriously ill?

Harry wishes he had a pensieve because there are other things Malfoy had said. Things that didn’t make any sense. About the Ministry and cruelty and—

Harry is starting to wonder if maybe he’s missed something.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

He picks up the wand from the floor, smoothes his fingers idly over the handle, and then, rather than boxing it back up, sets it on the kitchen counter, next to the electric kettle. It doesn’t feel right to put it away again.

He texts Hermione, asking when she’ll be free to talk.

And then he takes his laptop up to bed and spends a truly ridiculous amount of money on home furnishings. Because he can. And because trying to select a sofa from the internet is an excellent distraction from thinking in circles.

Harry is painting the living room walls when Hermione Facetimes him the following day.

He’s hoping to have the painting done by the time Malfoy gets off work.

Not for any particular reason.

It’s just the deadline he’s chosen for himself.

“Harry,” she says, already sounding judgmental.

He pushes at the hair falling into his face.

“Hey, how are you?”

“It Malfoy there?” Ron asks, leaning into the frame.

“No, he’s at work.”

“Work,” Ron says disbelievingly. “Malfoy works. What does he do?”

“He helps run a shop here in town.”

“A shop. Malfoy works in a shop?”

“Are you painting?” Hermione asks.

Harry waves his clearly paint-smeared hands. “Yeah. I ordered some furniture last night so I figured I better get the walls done before it shows up.”

Ron makes a disbelieving noise, for no reason that Harry can discern.

“Thanks for helping me with the whole wolf thing,” Harry says to Hermione. “I was starting to freak out. I’m assuming you have theories about that?”

“Sure,” Hermione says absently. “I’m about to email you some things—research—that should help you get the shift under control. I really don’t think that’s the most pressing thing we have to discuss, though.”

“Oh. Okay?” Harry says.

Malfoy,” Ron says.

Right.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you he’s been helping me. He didn’t want anyone to know where he was.”

“That’s not—” Hermione starts.

“Did he follow you there?” Ron asks.

“No, no he was actually here for a few months before I moved. Small world, right? But he’s been really great with setting up the whole hydroponics system, and he made the wolfsbane potion for me. Didn’t even taste that bad.”

“And you drank it?” Ron yells.

“Yeah, but he’s not—he’s really not that bad, now.”

“Harry,” Hermione says.

“He isn’t. And it’s not like he hasn’t had plenty of opportunities to kill me in the past and, you know. Hasn’t. I trust him. Maybe. At least with this.”

Harry,” Hermione says.

“Mate,” Ron says. “I have some concerns.”

“Everything is fine.”

“Oh sure, you’re just living with Malfoy in a house that you’re painting to look like the Slytherin common room. Clearly there’s nothing to be worried about.”

“No. No. He doesn’t live here. And this isn’t—it’s sage green, not Slytherin green. I picked it out this morning. By myself.”

“I think that makes it worse,” Ron mutters.

“I like the color green!”

“Of course, Harry,” Hermione says placatingly

Harry thinks about a few of the other furnishings he’s ordered and resolves to only Facetime with them in the kitchen from now on.

“Look,” he says. “It’s not like we’re friends or anything, but he’s different. From the way he used to be. He’s not going to hurt me. He probably couldn’t even if he wanted to.”

“Alright,” Hermione says. “But you really ought to be careful, Harry. After all, it would make sense if he held some…resentment. All things considered.”

“I spoke at his trial,” Harry says, baffled. “I’m the one that got him a lighter sentence. So he wouldn’t go to Azkaban. He should be grateful, if anything. Not resentful.”

Ron and Hermione exchange a look. 

“Er,” Ron says. “I’m not sure ‘lighter’ is really…” he glances at Hermione.

“Harry,” she says. “Whose idea was it—the loss of magic as an alternative to Azkaban?”

Harry has absolutely no idea why that matters.

“Robards. When the papers were talking about their trials—Malfoy and Parkinson and the rest— how it looked like they would all be sentenced as adults and get at least a year or two in Azkaban a piece, I told him I’d like to speak on their behalf. Because I didn’t think it was fair, that they’d been pawns just as much as I had. Robards suggested magical suspension as a way to er… placate the masses he said. Because it’d teach them respect for the way muggles live but would be an inconvenience rather than torture.

Harry thinks about Malfoy the past month, feeling wrong-footed. “Inconvenience” seems too gentle a word for the haunted, careful, way he carries himself.

Hermione is biting her lip.

Ron looks distinctly uncomfortable.

“What?” Harry says, exasperated. “What am I missing?”

“Well. That might be true if it were me,” Hermione says. “Or any other muggle-born. But Harry, all of the people sentenced were pure-bloods.”

“So?”

“So—” Hermione makes an aggrieved noise. “See,” she murmurs to Ron, “I told you he didn’t know.”

“Alright, alright,” Ron mutters back.

“Guys,” Harry says.

“You really ought to have paid more attention during magical theory lessons,” Hermione says. 

“Well, I’m paying attention now, so if you could—”

“It’s just that losing magic, for a pureblood, probably is a kind of torture. Or—or at least it’s likely just as bad as Azkaban.”

“If not worse,” Ron says.

“Because muggle-borns don’t have a magical legacy. And mixed-blood wizards have diluted magical ancestry. But pure-bloods—”

“There’s a reason pure-blood families don’t have squibs,” Ron says darkly.

“I don’t—wait. Why not?”

“Because,” Hermione says patiently. “A pure-blood squib usually doesn’t survive past infancy.”

Harry feels suddenly nauseous.

He remembers Malfoy’s face as he held the wand.

He remembers him saying I’m dying.

“Magic builds up,” Ron says. “So over generations, magic gives families like an extra—whatever. Boost. Makes them healthier. Even if they have er—what’s it called?”

“Genetic illnesses,” Hermione finishes. “Most pure-blood families have very strong generational magic, but they’ve been intermarrying with a rather small gene pool for a rather long time.”

“Some smaller than others,” Ron adds.

“But unlike muggles who suffer from ill effects of inbreeding,” Hermione says, “pure-bloods rely on strong hereditary magic to counteract ailments associated with low biodiversity.”

“So you’re saying that he’s—that Malfoy has genetic illnesses? And he’s developed them now that he doesn’t have magic keeping them in check?”

Ron says, “exactly,” in the same instant that Hermione responds “not exactly,”

They roll their eyes at each other.

“Basically,” Hermione amends, “except any illnesses he has now, he’s had all along, he just didn’t suffer from them before. Or likely even knew what they were.”

“Oh.”

Harry feels like he might need to sit down.

He does so.

On the floor, because he’s covered in paint and the sofa is new.

“So,” he says, balancing his laptop on his crossed ankles, “So you’re telling me that it is torture. That all the pure-bloods sentenced are now ill, if not disabled? That Azkaban might have actually been kinder?”

“Yes,” Hermione says.

Harry swallows.

“You thought I’d do that on purpose?”

“I mean. It’s not like they didn’t deserve it,” Ron says lowly.

Hermione gives him a look that says they’ve had this conversation before and are still at an impasse.

“We didn’t know what to think,” she says. “So much was happening and you spoke so confidently at the trial—”

“I said what Robards told me to say,” Harry says. “Which—”

He stops. Starts again. “Why isn’t everyone talking about this? There were half a dozen Hogwarts students and over thirty Death Eaters sentenced. And you’re telling me they’re all suffering right now? Why aren't we reading about it in the papers?”

“Because everyone already knows,” Hermione says. “It’s not…news.”

“So Robards knew what removing magic from pure-bloods would do to them. The council knew.” Harry knows he’s being repetitive but he can’t quite believe it. “This isn’t some secret?”

“No,” Ron says. “Not if you’ve grown up in the wizarding world.”

“Or paid attention during magical theory,” Hermione mutters.

Harry shoves his fingers into his hair: nails against scalp.

“Robards lied to me. Manipulated me. And gave me a script that intentionally didn’t mention kindness. That focused on teaching pure-bloods to respect muggle life by forcing them to participate in it. So no one knew that I was endorsing it because I thought it was a kinder option than Azkaban.”

It’s not exactly a new discovery, that people he trusted were using him, but it still hurts. It’s still embarrassing. Still infuriating.

“I’m afraid so,” Hermione says.

“It’s not your fault, mate,” Ron says. “It’s not like you knew.”

“It is, though,” Harry murmurs. “Because I’m—I do know that there’s still so much about the wizarding world that I don’t know. You know?”

He’s saying “know” too much.

He scrubs a hand through his hair again.

Ron nods because he’s a good and loyal friend.

“There’s been a lot of expectations of you,” Hermione says kindly, because she is also a good and loyal friend. “You can’t blame yourself for the actions of others. Of adults. Of people who should be trustworthy and just and not…taking advantage of ignorance to sway public opinion.” 

“We’re adults too, you know,” Harry says. “Mostly. And no one should be looking to me for guidance. Political or otherwise.”

“Well that’s probably going to happen for the rest of your life, mate,” Ron says. “You’re the Chosen One.”

“You realise that means absolutely nothing now that Voldemort is dead,” Harry says.

“You realise literally no one sees it that way,” Ron answers.

“That’s not—okay, whatever. But back to Malfoy, is he really ill? He’s been saying he is but I thought it was just—”

“Malfoy being Malfoy?” Ron supplies.

“Yeah.”

“I mean,” Ron says, “he did look like shit. But that’s not exactly new.”

“We know Pansy was badly off,” Hermione interrupts, “And she was only sentenced to a year.”

“Oh, yeah,” Ron agrees. “She had the heart thing. Her parents moved her to France and paid an obscene amount of money for a muggle-born doctor who had both medical and healing experience. Kept her more or less normal with a mix of potions and muggle medicine until her time was up and she got her magic back. Apparently it was still pretty terrible for her, though.”

“How do you even know that?” Harry asks.

“We’re cousins,” Ron says. “A few times removed, but still. Mum still talks to her mum.”

“He’s been using the potion lab we made,” Harry says. “Malfoy. That was our agreement— he makes my wolfsbane potion and he has access whenever he wants. So he’s probably been making things to help with whatever is wrong with him, right?”

“It’s smart,” Hermione says. “He really ought to be under the supervision of a professional, though. Especially the further he gets into his sentence. His symptoms will only get worse the longer he goes without magic. And five years is an awfully long time.”

It was the worst sentence handed out to any of the Hogwarts students, Harry knew. Because Malfoy had been directly responsible for Death Eaters entering the school. Because he was the only one who’d taken the Dark Mark. 

Harry wonders if Malfoy honestly believes he won’t make it four more years.

Considering how terrible he’d looked when Harry initially saw him…it feels uncomfortably possible.

“I tried to give him his wand back,” Harry says. “Yesterday. He er. Got pretty mad. When I dropped him off at home he said he never wanted to see my stupid face again.”

“Why?” Ron says.

Hermione sighs.

“Imagine when you picked up your wand it didn’t recognize you. That it felt no different than a…spoon. Or a drum stick.”

“Oh,” Ron says.  “Yeah, alright. That was a bit of a dick move, then.”

“I was trying to be nice,” Harry says.

And he thinks that maybe he should stop trying since apparently whenever he does he ends up making things worse.

“I can’t go back,” he says.

He knows that it’s a non sequitur but all he can think about is that he needs to fix this somehow—to make it clear that torturing people wasn’t his intention. That it shouldn’t be anyone’s intention. But the very idea of returning to London, to speaking to the Prophet or confronting Robards or—

He curls his hands around his own biceps.

“I can’t,” he repeats. “Not yet.”

“You don’t have to,” Hermione says. 

“But Robards can’t be trusted. And if people are suffering because of me, I have to do something.”

“It’s not your fault,” Hermione says.

“We can—look into things,” Ron says. “I mean. I can’t do much, but Mum and Dad are pretty popular these days, which is weird as hell but convenient, I guess. And Hermione already has half the Ministry under her finger.”

“I do not,” she says, grinning. “It’s really only a quarter or so.”

Ron rolls his eyes. “Point is, you probably wouldn’t be able to do anything anytime soon even if you came back tomorrow. It’s not like anyone is dying.”

“Right,” Harry says, hoping it’s true. “Okay. What about Malfoy?”

“What about him?” Ron says.

“Well, you should probably apologise,” Hermione says.

“Don’t apologise,” Ron says

Hermione elbows him. 

“At the very least,” she says, “you should give him some space. If he’s said he doesn’t want to see you, he probably means it.”

“He works at the only grocery store in town, what if I need food?”

Do you need food?”

“…no.”

“Then wait. Don’t force your presence on him if he’s not ready to talk yet. If he’s using your place to make potions he’ll come to you when he’s ready.”

“What if he doesn’t?”

“Good riddance,” Ron mutters.

“Then you see him whenever you need food next.”

Well. Harry thinks. At least I’ll have furniture by then. And the full moon is still a ways off.

And honestly, Malfoy probably didn’t mean it. Even if he did, he’ll call Harry in a day or two once he runs out of potions. 

********

Malfoy doesn’t call.

Lavon’s truck doesn’t come bumping down the dusty drive.

Harry paces a lot, for no reason that he can discern.

The plants start to wilt.

It gets to the point where Harry goes from annoyed to anxious to angry.

He runs out of food on day six but refuses to go to the store because that would mean that Malfoy had won.

Won what, he doesn’t know, but it matters.

Ron would understand.

So he reads the research Hermione sent and he practices “feeling” his wolf-side and trying to recognise how it is both distinct but connected to his human-side and he orders more shit on Amazon and he tries to get the plants to stop fucking wilting.

Until day seven, when he’s hungry, and he thinks he can sneak in and out of Daughters while Malfoy takes his lunch break. Except then Malfoy ruins it, by actually being there. In his place of work. Working.

The audacity.

Harry is shocked at how terrible Malfoy looks.

Lavon distracts him from it, briefly, but Malfoy looks just as bad as he did weeks before, maybe even worse, with purple-blue shadows under his eyes, pale lips, and jutting collarbones. His cough is back too.

It’s enough for Harry to let Malfoy win. To invite him over. Except Malfoy says no.

Which awakens a different sort of competitive drive in Harry. A need to help, whether or not Malfoy wants to be helped. 

He makes him chicken soup out of spite and leaves it on his steps with every intention to bring him a new pot each sequential night until Malfoy is—is cowed by Harry’s kindness and gives up and comes back to the barns and starts making his potions again.

Which, Harry thinks, vindictively mixing parsley into the second-night stew, would be a win for Harry and loss for Malfoy. Because Malfoy doesn’t want to spend time with Harry anymore and Harry is going to convince him to anyway.

The second night, Harry finds a clean bowl and spoon set out on Malfoy’s steps and he replaces them with the new set before quickly apparating away.

Except then, only two hours later, his new TV informs him that there’s a tornado watch in effect for the county and even with his limited knowledge of muggle trailers, he knows they likely aren’t safe in weather conditions that involve 50+ mph winds.

After several minutes of dithering, he apparates back to Malfoy’s place and stands outside for several more seconds.

Malfoy is sitting on the lofted bed at the back of the trailer, tucked up against the windows, head bent over a book, a quilt around his shoulders. The LED camping lantern hanging from the ceiling throws his angular profile in stark relief: his cheekbones and falling-out pony-tail and—

Glasses.

Malfoy is wearing glasses.

And they’re not stylish ones, either, just circular wire-rimmed glasses that look rather similar to Harry’s own old pair.

Harry isn’t sure why but the glasses confound him. Or maybe it’s the whole thing—the messy hair and the homemade blanket and the utter normalcy, the human-ness, of Malfoy with glasses sliding down his pointy nose—maybe that’s what confounds him.

He might very well have stayed, just watching, for a while, except he’d promised Malfoy he wouldn’t spy on him again. 

He knocks on the door.

Malfoy jumps, meets Harry’s eyes through the window, and then fumbles the glasses off a moment later.

When he answers the door he’s still rumpled and soft-looking but also clearly embarrassed and trying to cover up the embarrassment with haughty distain.

“Can I help you with something?” he asks around a cough, door only just cracked open.

Harry is not charmed in the slightest.

“No. I think I can probably help you, though, seeing as there’s a massive storm headed our way and a trailer isn’t the safest place to wait it out. You want to stay the night with me?”

Malfoy just stares at him. 

The door opens a few more inches.

“What?”

“The—” Harry gestures towards the sky, which is currently a nasty green-black color. “Storm,” he repeats. “Dangerous storm. There’s already been two tornadoes sighted.” A particularly hard gust of wind nearly pushes him off his feet as if agreeing with him.

“So,” Harry continues, when Malfoy still doesn’t say anything. “I thought you should probably come to the barns until it passes. To be safe.”

“I don’t seem to recall a basement on your property,” Malfoy answers. “A barn is only marginally safer than a trailer.”

“Well, yeah. But I can cast a pretty strong protego horribilis around it to keep us safe if a tornado does show up.”

“Oh.” Malfoy looks sheepish, as if he momentarily forgot that Harry can do magic.

“Well why don’t you just stay here, then?” Malfoy says, cheeks pink.

“Oh. I mean. I can? Are you inviting me in or—”

“No. What? No. Don’t be—fine. Let’s go.”

“Aright. Do you want to pack a bag? You can bring your book if you want. And your glasses.”

Harry can tell Malfoy is flushing, even in the darkness.

“About the glasses,” Harry says, because watching the red move down Malfoy’s cheeks to his neck is endlessly amusing. “Should you be wearing them all the time? Should you be driving with them? That would explain so much.”

Malfoy shuts the door in his face.

Harry stifles a laugh.

He knocks the knuckles of one hand lightly against the metal.

“Are you packing a bag or should I plan to sit on your step all night and erect some wards here?”

“I’m packing a bag.” Malfoy yells.

“And you won’t invite me in to wait?”

“No.”

“Seriously, bring your glasses. The plants are a bit off so you’ll need to take a look at them and I imagine the whole ‘looking’ thing would be simpler if you can, you know, see.”

Malfoy wrenches the door back open.

“What’s wrong with them?”

“What?”

Malfoy has a canvas backpack slung over one shoulder.

“The plants, you useless twit.”

“Oh. Dunno, really. I haven’t changed anything. I think they might just miss you.”

Malfoy scoffs which turns into a cough.

It’s wet and terrible and deep in his lungs and Harry is instantly, rather bafflingly, anxious.

He extends a hand and then drops it, reaches for his wand, but isn’t sure he knows a spell that would help.

“Are you—”

“Shut up, Potter,” Malfoy wheezes. He shoves the bag into Harry’s arms. “Let’s go. Potions barn first.”

Harry obeys.

After taking a moment to orient himself, Malfoy stalks up and down the hydroponics aisles, barefoot, still in his pajamas, with a look of absolute distress.

“Oh Merlin,” he says, bending over a particularly sad-looking rosemary sprig. “What have you done to my plants?”

Your plants?”

“Our plants.

“Our. Plants.”

The plants. Whatever. Just. What have you done to them?”

“Nothing, I told you. I haven’t changed anything.”

“Well that’s obviously untrue. Look at the state of the white oleander.”

“Which one is that again?” Harry asks innocently.

Malfoy honest to god growls at him. “I’m going to have to recalibrate the whole system.”

“Anything I can do?”

“If you’d drop dead, that would be immensely helpful.”

Harry tucks his hands in his pockets, rocking back on his heels. “Nah. I will go make something for us to eat, though. Maybe a cobbler? I got peaches from Mrs. Kent’s orchard a few days back.”

“How lovely for you.”

“I’ll keep an eye on the weather and come get you if it looks like we’re in danger.”

Malfoy doesn’t reply.

Harry, obviously the victor, goes to make a cobbler.

An hour later, Malfoy stands in the middle of Harry’s living room and blinks at his surroundings.

“Did you—hire someone?” he asks.

“Oh, for decorating? No, I just painted. And ordered a bunch of stuff.”

“You have a sofa,” Malfoy says, like he still can’t quite believe it. 

“Yeah.”

“It’s—not terrible. Where did you get it?”

“Amazon.”

“Of course.”

He sits on it, gingerly.

Harry might read into that except it seems that all of Draco’s movements are currently slow and cautious.

Malfoy’s pale skin and jewel-toned pajamas are a pleasant contrast against the red-brown leather. 

Objectively.

If you’re in to that sort of thing.

“Tea?” Harry asks. “Cobbler will be ready in another fifteen minutes.”

Malfoy is absently petting the chunky-knit, dark green, angora blanket that Harry had also purchased on Amazon. It cost nearly as much as the sofa.

“Sure,” he says.

When Harry gets back with his tea, Malfoy is asleep.

Harry bites his lip, wondering if the charms he’d put on the sofa for restfulness and comfort were maybe a bit much for a non-magical body, but Malfoy seems just fine. And he could probably use the sleep.

Harry turns off the timer on the oven and sets one via a visible, soundless, spell instead.

He whispers a few protective spells around the barn, just to be safe, and then he eases his way onto the opposite end of the sofa and turns on the TV’s subtitles.

He’s eaten two pieces of cobbler and is nearly asleep himself, when Draco sits up suddenly, clutching at the blanket he’d been cuddling.

“No tornados yet,” Harry supplies. “Cobbler is in the kitchen. And your tea has gone cold but I can fix that if you like.”

Malfoy blinks at him.

Then he blinks at the television, where the Wicked Witch of the West is currently riding on a broom.

“What on earth are you watching?”

“Muggle film,” Harry says. “It’s called The Wizard of Oz.”

“Is that what they imagine witches look like? Green and all that.”

“Some of them. The bad ones, I guess. Glenda the Good Witch isn’t green. She’s white and has a fancy dress and a crown and diamonds on her wand.”

“Well that’s absurd. Any jewels would interfere with the magical properties of the core.”

“I don’t think the muggles who made it actually care about real wand lore.”

Malfoy considers the TV for an introspective minute.

“Explain the plot of this film to me.”

Harry does.

“So,” Malfoy says, after a bit of back and forth about flying monkeys. “So you’ve decided, in your infinite wisdom, to watch a film where a house gets picked up and dropped on a witch during a tornado…while there’s an active tornado watch on the county.”

“Er…yes?”

“There’s something wrong with you.”

“Shhh,” Harry says, throwing a wandless warming spell at Malfoy’s tea. “Just watch the movie.”

Chapter Text

Draco wakes up warm and lacking any discernible discomfort. In fact, he is…exceedingly, rather shockingly, comfortable, considering that he’s tucked under Harry Potter’s blanket on Harry Potter’s sofa while Harry Potter, sitting on the opposite end of the same sofa, watches television. He likely wouldn’t have woken at all if it wasn’t for a relatively pressing need to visit the bathroom.

He blinks a few times, shifts the blanket off his shoulder—which, he doesn’t recall unfolding it, had Potter—? No. Surely not—and stands up.

“Still no tornados,” Potter supplies helpfully. “But the radar looks like it’s about to get pretty bad. Do you want something to eat?”

“Bathroom,” Draco manages, and then, because Potter is clearly making an effort to be civil, “Please.”

Potter points him to the walled-off area beneath the loft and Draco pushes aside the quilt currently serving as a door to enter the rustic room.

And rustic it is.

He pauses for a moment, just beside the galvanised metal sink, and squints.

“You have a stock tank as a bathtub,” he shouts.

And obviously Potter must be aware of this fact, but it still seems to need saying out loud.

“Yeah,” Potter yells back. “Works great! If you fold a towel over the edge it makes a nice pillow. And it was a lot cheaper than getting a tub off of Amazon.”

“You can buy bathtubs on Amazon?”

“Mmhm. You can also get them at the Tractor Supply in Lewisville.”

Charming.

Draco uses the, thankfully normal and not co-opted from farming equipment, toilet, washes his hands, avoids looking in the mirror, and then returns to the living area.

It really is much improved with the paint and the sofa and the rug, the little cushions and massive blanket, the softly glowing floor-lamp. It’s like an island of habitation in the expanse of empty concrete space, but it’s a rather cosy island all the same.

It reminds him, oddly, of the Slytherin common room. Not just because of the green colour palette, but the different textures and the low sepia light and the…safe-ness, maybe. He feels safe. For the first time in longer than he cares to admit.

There’s a warm piece of cobbler waiting on the coffee table when he sits on the sofa again and Draco takes his time eating it, trying to determine what’s happening in the new film Potter is watching. It features a soft, expressive, white-haired man and a lean, serpentine, yellow-eyed man who seem rather mad for each other.

“Good Omens,” Potter says, as if that’s supposed to mean something to him.

Within a few minutes, the rain picks up and the wind turns distinctly howl-y. Potter checks the weather on his phone and then actually uses his wand to cast a few spells instead of throwing them around with a distracted hand which should probably make Draco nervous but doesn’t. He just feels drowsy. Besides, he’s currently sitting next to one of the most powerful wizards in the world. It’s unlikely a little weather is going to be a problem for the Chosen One. Draco wraps himself in the blanket that is quickly becoming his favourite thing, possibly ever, and  returns his attention to the television. He rather likes television, he’s finding. Pansy told him it was a wonderful muggle invention but he didn’t really understand until Billy left her laptop with him one night, complete with a cache of films on standby for her grandchildren. He traded sleep for a Disney marathon and regretted nothing the following day. Aladdin was rather diverting, even if they did get genies and magic carpets all wrong. He’d worked his way through most of Dreamworks and Pixar over the following weeks and it took him an embarrassingly long time to realise that muggles also made films with real people acting in them. He watched the Pirates of the Caribbean films a dozen times each—for the plot, certainly not to goggle at the very fit Will Turner—before Billy stopped letting him keep her laptop overnight, citing fears about his sleep habits. But it was enough to decide Pansy was entirely correct. The muggles really were onto something with this television stuff. 

He misses Pansy, he thinks, hiking the blanket a little further up his shoulders. He’s well aware that he gets maudlin when he’s tired and he really ought to either go to sleep or make an effort to wake up, but instead he drifts, warm and somehow simultaneously content, yet sad. He misses all of his friends: Theo and Blaise and Vince and Greg. But Pansy was—Pansy was his best friend. And he misses her the most. Her dry sarcasm. The citrus perfume she’d worn since they were fourteen. The way she’d play with his hair. He hopes she’s fully recovered now. 

She didn’t deserve what they did to her.

There’s a sudden static in the air that raises the hair on the back of Draco’s neck, preceding a sharp crack of lightning that briefly turns the night-black window behind the television into a purple and white fractal painting.

The power flickers, goes out, and thunder rolls over them in a bass blanket of sound amplified by the abrupt darkness.

Draco blinks.

A jagged, bright, rift is left superimposed over the shadowed room.

He blinks some more.

“Bugger,” Potter says. 

His face lights up a moment later, a heatless flame cupped in his palms, and he turns to look at Draco, frowning a little.

The fire in Potter’s hands illuminates his own lightning scar, a spiderweb of pale tissue that bisects his eyebrow and goes thin and spindly at his temple.

Draco had always thought the scar was rather cool, though he’d certainly never admit it.

“You alright?” Potter asks.

“Fine,” he says.

Potter tosses the little flame into the air, then makes a dozen more, sending them up to float a few feet above them, directionless, bumping into each other, and spinning off to ricochet against the kitchen cabinets.

Draco has the sudden urge to laugh hysterically.

“I really didn’t mean to upset you,” Potter says.

Draco’s impulse to laugh abruptly vanishes.

“What?”

“When—with your wand. I hadn’t thought about, uh. I hadn’t thought things through. Clearly. So, I apologise for that.”

Draco clears his throat. “Yes, well. Perhaps I overreacted. As I said, you were either being cruel or stupid and past experience says it’s likely the latter. Ignorance can’t be helped.”

“I’m not sure if I should thank you or be insulted.”

“Definitely ignorance, then,” Draco murmurs.

Potter has the audacity to grin at him.

Like Draco isn’t do his level best to insult him.

Draco sighs. 

“In the interest of—”

He pauses. Starts again.

“If we’re offering olive branches, as it were, did you mean what you said the other day? About not knowing your genetic or cultural heritage?” 

“What?” Potter says dumbly.

“At the shop. When that stupid brute of a man asked where you were from.”

“Oh,” Potter considers the question for a moment. “No? I mean, yeah, I don’t know. I grew up thinking my parents died in a car crash. And. I knew my dad must not have been white, but my Aunt and Uncle never—I’ve got a few pictures, now. Sirius and Remus told me some stories about my parents--Dad was a pureblood, mum was muggle-born. But nothing about like. The history there.”

Draco is more than a little horrified. Obviously he has previously put too much stock in his own ancestry, but to have no idea about your family history? Your magical lineage? He can’t imagine that.

“The Potters were one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight,” he says. “So there’s extensive documentation of marriages and bloodlines and such that you should be able to access at the archives de sorcellerie.”

“The what?”

“There are several wizarding archives in Rocamadour. The archivists are specially trained and well-paid for their efforts in preservation and guardianship. The archives de sorcellerie began as a joint effort between the Sacred Twenty-Eight’s heads of household back in—oh, the eighteenth century, I believe.”

“Oh,” Harry says. “How would—I mean. Would they just let me look at things? Won’t I need some kind of identification or special permission?”

Draco only just resists a sarcastic response.

He is trying to be kind, after all.

Apparently his eyebrows say what his mouth does not—he never did have much control over them— because Potter laughs, self-deprecating, and rubs the back of his neck.

“Alright. Fair. I guess my face is probably special permission enough.” 

Perhaps he isn’t entirely hopeless.

Draco clears his throat. “The Malfoys and Potters were also allies for several generations. So my family’s library’s personal records may be useful as well for more mundane things. Photographs. Letters. That sort of thing.”

Potter’s eyes are very, very, wide.

Allies?”

“Mm. Political, mostly. A few unbreakable vows and joint investments. Amusingly, there was a tentative agreement between our grandfathers to marry a pair of their children should they be amenable. But then my father and yours were both only children who conveniently despised each other, so.”

“Oh. I didn’t know.”

“Yes. I suspected.”

Draco turns his attention to the thick, knobby, edge of the blanket. “Anyway. If you—if that’s something you’d like to look into I could assist you, possibly.”

“I would,” Potter says. “I would, very much. Yes. Thank you.”

Draco shrugs.

There’s another crackle of lightning and Potter stands, moving to the window. 

“Looks like the power is out at the potions barn too. You mind if I run down and turn on the generators?”

Draco waves an agreeable hand.

“As long as the lights don’t follow you. Is there more cobbler?” he asks, moving to stand himself.

There very clearly is more cobbler, sitting in full view on the counter, but he and Potter both ignore that fact.

“Oh, yeah. Help yourself. I’ll be back in a minute.” 

Draco takes his time slicing himself a piece of cobbler, re-slicing it when the first piece is perhaps a bit too small, and then fills a mason jar with milk. Bowl and glass in hand, he returns to the living room.

Except he forgets about the rug.

Or he doesn’t forget, exactly, he just…doesn’t think to step up onto it. It’s dark and he’s tired and his bare toes catch at the bottom of the high pile and he finds himself crashing onto the floor in a wake of spilled milk and shattered crockery.

The impact: palms, then elbow, then hip, knocks something loose in his chest and he has to pause, on hands and knees, to cough for a full minute before he can sit up and survey the shadowed damage. 

He has likely ruined Potter’s rug.

And it’s equally unlikely that Potter actually knows the appropriate cleaning spell to fix it. Then again, apparently Potter doesn’t have to know spells to effectively use them. Draco can probably just tell him the words and he’ll say them and maybe wave a hand and it’ll just work.

Draco stands laboriously, palms smarting, abstractly thinking about whether or not Potter owns muggle cleaning supplies or if he should just wait and let Potter deal with the mess when he gets back, and then promptly sits right back down again because he’s just—

Oh shit.

He’s stepped on a piece of broken glass.

Not a piece—a shard—a, a veritable weapon, which is now lodged a solid inch into the sole of his right foot.

He pulls it out without thinking.

Because glass doesn’t belong in his foot.

Except once the glass is removed the bleeding starts.

And it doesn’t stop.

“Fuck,” he says, and then, louder, because the reality of the situation is sinking in, “FUCK.”

He clamps both hands around his insole, realises that’s completely useless, and lays flat on his back, probably getting cobbler and milk and more broken glass all over his pajamas, so he can stick his foot up in the air.

That’s what you’re supposed to do, he remembers. Elevate the appendage to minimise blood flow.

Except he’s pretty sure the blood flow is not minimising.

And he hasn’t had a blood potion in over a week.

And he’s—well. 

This admittedly wasn’t one of the things he was most concerned about. He always thought the shitty lungs would kill him first, not the coagulation disorder.

But here he is, likely spending the last moments of his life covered in peach cobbler, lying in Potter’s living room with his leg in the air.

What an utterly embarrassing way to go.

He hopes he passes out quickly so he doesn’t have to deal with the indignity of experiencing this much longer. He thinks there’s milk in his hair.

“Malfoy?” Potter yells.

Ah. Maybe he won’t die after all.

“Malfoy, I can smell blood. Are you—what the hell—”

The room suddenly blazes with light and Draco almost wishes it was dark again because there’s a wash of red, red, blood all the way down his calf, pooling between the fallen material of his pajama bottoms and the slightly bent hollow of his knee.

“Oh fuck,” Potter says. “What even—”

“Do you know any blood clotting spells?” Draco asks faintly.

Potter throws a stasis spell at him instead, which, of course Aurors aren’t taught first aid. Just freeze injuries and let someone else deal with them later. Brilliant.

“I was gone for three minutes,” Potter says, “How did this even happen? How are you bleeding so much?”

“Told you,” Draco mutters, feeling rather nice and floaty, all things considered. “Inbreeding.”

Potter runs a hand through his hair.

“Ok. The nearest wizarding hospital is in Nashville. It’s a bit of a jump, but I can apparate us there and then—”

“No.”

“What do you mean, no?”

“I mean no. For one thing, I’m not a wizard anymore so it’s unlikely they’ll admit me.”

“Regular hospital then?”

“With what identification? You need—health insurance and forms and… things. Besides. If I go to the hospital they likely won’t let me leave any time soon.”

“What? Why?”

“Because I’m dying, Potter. How many times do I have to—”

A cough interrupts him and he focuses on getting through it and not passing out. It occurs to him he probably doesn’t need to keep his leg up in the air anymore, which is a bit of a relief.

“Will you stop saying that and explain what you mean by it?”

“What part is confusing for you?”

Draco!

“The Ministry took away my magic with the full intent to kill me and it is assuredly working. I’ve got a blood clotting disorder and a half dozen other things wrong with me and I refuse to die as a captive in a medical institution, wizarding or muggle. Now,” Draco says, managing to sound imperious despite a truly concerning amount of blood loss, “would you please make yourself useful.”

“Okay. Okay.” Potter stands. “I’m going to call Ginny.”

“What? Why?”

“Because she’s—”

“She’s twelve!”

“She’s eighteen and she’s flat-sharing with Luna who’s in a dual medical/healing program and Luna doesn’t have a mobile phone so Ginny is probably the fastest way to reach her.”

“Fine. But have them send for Pansy too,” Draco says.

“Parkinson?”

“If my last moments are going to occur in your living room covered in cobbler detritus with my batty cousin experimenting on me I’d at least like a friend to hold my hand through the indignity of it all. Besides, I was there all three of the times she nearly died. It’s time she returned the favour.”

Potters expression does something complicated.

“Fine. Whatever. Don’t move.”

“Wasn’t planning on it. Just, uh,” he coughs again and his vision goes a tad blurry. “As a passing curiosity, how long do your stasis spells usually last?”

“As long as they need to,” Potter growls.

Draco closes his eyes.

“Oh, good.”

Draco opens his eyes an unknown amount of time later to two cracks of apparition in quick succession.

There’s Granger, and—

“You’re the wrong Weasley,” Draco mumbles. “Fucking Potter.”

“What?” Potter says.

Ah. It appears that Potter is holding his hand. How embarrassing.

“Wrong Weasley,” he points out. 

“No,” Potter says, “Ginny and Luna are coming, they were just waiting for Pansy to come through at the portkey office, they’ll be here any sec—”

And there they are.

Pansy shoves Potter aside a moment later and Draco takes a long, relieved breath into her neck. Her bobbed hair swings down over his face as he closes his eyes.

“Watch the glass,” he says. She’s wearing white trousers. They probably won’t stay that way for long.

“And the—blood. Your trousers.”

“I do not fucking care about my fucking outfit, Draco. Honestly, bleeding to death in Potter’s kitchen? Unacceptable. Do better.”

He agrees.

He opens his eyes to find Luna poking at his leg, wand out, some sort of blue shimmery thing hanging about his foot.

“That’s weird,” he points out.

“It’s diagnostic,” girl-Weasley says.

Her hair is different: shaved at the back and sides, longer and swooped up at the top. She’s cut the sleeves off her Holyhead Harpies T-shirt and has a magical tattoo down one freckled arm that seems to involve several dragons and at least one hippogriff in a fight to the death. She’s probably put on nearly as much muscle as Potter has and she’s eyeing Luna with an appreciation that, even in his hindered state, appears more than platonic.

No wonder she and Potter’s relationship didn’t work out, Draco thinks distractedly.

Boy-Weasley appears annoying fit as well, arms crossed, muscles looking particularly…muscle-y. Luna looks oddly professional in a set of mint scrubs, Pansy is dressed straight off the Parisian runway and Granger, wearing a blazer and sensible red flats looks like she’s preparing to stage a fashionable coup.

It’s not fair, really. Everyone has gone and become more attractive except for him.

“You’re a doctor?” Draco asks his cousin.

“Oh not really,” Luna says confidently. “Just a second-year student. But I’m your best option at the moment, I think.”

“Lovely,” Pansy says. “We’re so grateful.”

“It’s no problem at all,” Luna says.

Pansy sighs.

Ginny glowers.

Draco tries to stay conscious.

Luna does an assortment of things to him whilst Pansy hisses at her to be careful and Ginny hisses back that she should shut the fuck up and let Luna work.

“Well?” Potter says finally.

He seems impatient.

“Well,” Luna agrees.

Draco laughs.

Maybe.

He laughs on the inside, at least.

“His foot should be fine as long as he stays off it for a day or two,” she says airily. “Spells can’t do much for blood loss, though. You said you have a potions lab?”

“Yeah, over in the other barn.”

“We’ll need to go there next, then. Ginny, you can help me. Pansy, I’m assuming you’ll want to stay with Draco?”

“Merlin, no,” Pansy says.  “I was second-best potioneer in our House after Draco. I’ll help make whatever he needs and your girlfriend can watch.”

Oh good, Pansy noticed the sexual tension too.

“I’ll stay with Malfoy,” Potter says as Ginny splutters something about them not being girlfriends. “Is he—so he just needs a potion and he’ll be okay?” Potter asks.

“No,” Luna says. “No, I’m afraid not.”

Everyone just stares at her for several seconds.

“Without magic, his overall condition is really not ideal,” she adds.

“What does not ideal mean?” Harry asks.

“It means he’s fucked,” Ginny supplies helpfully.

“Ginny,” Ron mutters.

Ginny gives him the finger.

Draco finds her frankness rather nice, actually.

Terrible, finding anything about a Weasley nice, but there they are.

“Okay,” Harry says. “Okay, so he’s ill. But can you, er. Fix him?”

Pansy scoffs.

“No,” Luna says. 

“Why not? What’s wrong with him?”

Luna looks down at Draco and they just sort of stare at each other for a moment before he realises she’s probably waiting for his permission.

“Oh, you may as well,” he says sourly.

Luna pats his knee.

“Draco has Von Willebrand Disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and Scoliosis, oh, and a number of food sensitivities.”

Huh. Draco didn’t know about the last one. Maybe that’s why his mouth feels funny when he eats bananas, now.

Potter is practically vibrating next to him.

“What does that mean?”

“Oh for Merlin’s sake,” Pansy says, grabbing Luna’s wrist. “We’re wasting time. Draco, deal with Potter, will you? We need to go get started on the potions.”

Ginny eyes Pansy’s hand on Luna’s arm with a level of malevolence that Draco finds impressive.

“That’s probably wise,” Hermione says. “I can help too.”

“Take the wrong Weasley as well,” Draco says. He’d rather be alone with Potter than alone with Potter and

Oh. Ha. Wrong Weasley. Sounds like Ron Weasley. Convenient, that.

He realises maybe he’s said this out loud when everyone pauses to look at him.

“Yes,” Luna says. “I think we ought to start the potions, now.”

There’s another crack of apparition and Blaise stumbles a few steps before righting himself., 

“You told Blaise?” Draco whines at Pansy.

He’s never going to live this down.

“Of course I told Blaise,” she snaps.

“You’re dead to me.”

“You’re the one dying, arsehole.”

“Point.”

“Ah,” Blaise says, tugging his shirt straight. “Good. Apologies for the late arrival, the instructions I had weren’t the best and it took a few tries to find the right place. I think I rather startled your neighbours’ cows, Potter. Or are the cows the neighbours? I’m unfamiliar with muggle bovine personhood.”

Blaise grins down at Draco.

“I see you’re still alive. Excellent news.”

He glances at the assembled people in the room.

“Right. Well. Hello everyone, what did I miss?”

Chapter Text

It’s actually something of a relief when everyone leaves.

Harry is so used to living alone—admittedly with visits from Malfoy—that suddenly having seven additional moving talking bodies in his usually silent home is a little overwhelming.

Malfoy makes a relieved noise that Harry can fully empathise with once the door has closed behind their exit.

“How are you feeling?” Harry asks.

Malfoy makes another sort of noise, one that says Harry is an idiot. It’s a familiar sound.

“Guess that was a stupid question.”

“Yes.”

Malfoy closes his eyes and Harry moves a few inches closer, using the toe of his Converse to nudge some larger pieces of glass out of the way.

“Can you—” Harry pauses. He considers the pallor of Malfoy’s face. The purple-blue veins visible through the parchment of his skin. The fact that he looks close to death does nothing to diminish the strangely pretty, ethereal quality of his pointed features.

If you were into that sort of thing.

“Did you know?” Harry asks. “About all the things that are wrong with you?”

“The food allergies were a surprise,” Malfoy says.

Harry notices a clump of peach clinging to Malfoy’s hair and pulls it out before it occurs to him that maybe he shouldn’t.

Malfoy opens his eyes.

Wide.

Grey.

Harry smears the fruit on the concrete by his knee, face hot. “You’ve got, er. Some cobbler in your hair. If you want, I can—” 

“Fine.”

“Alright.”

Harry reaches forward and Malfoy closes his eyes again.

“I was diagnosed at St. Mungo’s,” he says. “A month after my sentencing when I became symptomatic. They released me without a treatment plan and told me I’d have to consult with muggle doctors henceforth since I wasn’t, strictly speaking, a Wizard anymore. Part of the punishment, perhaps—dealing with muggle medical practices. Or maybe they just didn’t want to have a Malfoy as a patient. It necessitated extra security, then. So soon after the war.” 

“That’s not fair, though,” Harry says, and Malfoy laughs, maybe, before it turns into a cough. 

“It’s not,” Harry insists. “You’re still a wizard. Just basically a squib for a few years. And then you’ll be back to normal.”

“You can’t be that naive,” Malfoy says. He sounds exhausted, rather than angry. “I’m not going to live another year, much less another four. I’ll be dead long before my sentence is complete. Which is exactly what the council wanted.”

Harry doesn’t say anything.

He can’t.

Because even though Hermione essentially already told him the same thing, he— he’s so angry he’s afraid he might shift despite the fact that the full moon is over a week away.

Malfoy rolls his eyes. “I’ll assume from the stupid look on your face that you didn’t actually know you were endorsing my death sentence when you spoke at the trial?”

“No,” Harry says.

The word sounds woefully inadequate.

“When I approached them about speaking on your behalf I wanted to get you a lighter sentence. I though losing magic for a few years would be a slap on the wrist compared to Azkaban.”

Malfoy lets his lip curl, the full brunt of his condescension still palpable despite the fact that Harry is picking fruit out of his hair.

“It boggles the mind, Potter, that you were capable of defeating the Dark Lord,” he says.

“Believe me, I’m aware. And I didn’t, really. Not by myself. I would have been dead if not for Hermione and Ron—his whole family, really—and Neville and Luna and Remus and—” he swallows around Sirius’ name.

“Oh stop. Mocking you isn’t any fun if you get all dire.”

“Sorry.”

Malfoy sighs.

“Help me sit up. I’m reasonably sure I won’t pass out and I refuse to be sticky any longer.”

Harry isn’t certain that’s a good idea, but he’s equally unsure how to say ‘no.’

He gets Malfoy onto the sofa with only minor death threats and then Malfoy talks him through several cleaning spells which Harry thinks he accomplishes pretty well, despite Malfoy’s complaints about execution. And then Harry summons down some pyjamas for him—or Harry’s version of pyjamas, anyway: a t-shirt and soft cotton trousers—and dutifully turns his back while Malfoy slowly undresses and redresses himself to a muttered litany on insults about fashion taste and fabric quality. When Malfoy finally tells him he can turn around again, Harry does not have any thoughts or feelings about the way his clothes hang on Malfoy’s skinny frame, making him look small and vulnerable and like someone who ought to be cared for.

He feels like something in his chest is whining.

Luckily, his phone pings and the habitual movement of checking it—hand into pocket, thumb over lock screen—is a relief.

There’s a flood warning for the county, but no more tornado watches.

It occurs to him that he’s been sort of just…powering all the lights in the barn since he first found Malfoy, and he winces, not entirely sure how he’s doing it or how to make it stop.

Malfoy follows his attention to the light fittings.

“Is the power still supposed to be out?”

“Yeah.”

“So you’re doing that, then?”

“Think so.”

“You don’t even know how you’re doing it, do you?”

“Er. No.”

“You’re a train wreck, Potter.”

“Yeah,” Harry agrees.

Nox should work. For you, anyway,” Malfoy says, and it sounds resigned.

Sure enough, it does.

Except then Harry is left in mostly-darkness with just the floating lights he’s created, now drifted all the way up to the rafters, making things all sepia-toned and shadow-y and Malfoy warm and slow-breathing beside him.

Harry clears his throat. “Have you seen muggle doctors?” 

“No. Well. I was examined by Pansy’s private physician several months ago, off the record, when I was…visiting her. In France. The physician was willing to treat me, but I would have had to move to France and the expense was—it’s not like dual-certified muggle and wizarding doctors are covered by the NHS or EHIC and even with treatment she estimated I had less than three years. No point, really.”

“So you just gave up? Just—left? I don’t—”

“What else was I supposed to do?” Malfoy snarls, and it’s—

It’s the first time Malfoy has raised his voice in the months since Harry first encountered him at Daughters.

“Tell me, Potter. What was I supposed to do? Write to the papers about how unfair it was? Throw myself at the mercy of the masses and beg for my life? Most of them want me dead anyway. I couldn’t ask my friends or their families for money because they’re struggling enough trying to recover from the war—financially or socially or both—without the blight of helping a Malfoy on their record. I had no other options and I wasn’t about to let my mother watch me die. Here, at least, I can have a bit of peace first. Or I thought I would anyway. Apparently there’s no peace to be had if the Chosen One is about.”

It seems Malfoy abruptly runs out of words. Or maybe air. He coughs a few times, brings one hand up to his head, and sighs.

“Ah, apparently I was wrong.”

“What?”

“I am going to pass out after all.”

What?

Malfoy passes out.

After several frantic seconds of whispering “shitshitshitshit” Harry gets his act together and sends a patronus to Luna while checking if Malfoy is still breathing (yes) and still has a heartbeat (yes). And then he shifts Malfoy so he’s laid out more comfortably on the sofa, crouches on the floor next to him, and keeps his thumb pressed to the pulse in his pale, pale, wrist.

His wrist feels very breakable between Harry’s fingers.

“If you’ve killed him,” Pansy says, apparating into the kitchen seconds later, “I’ll—”“

“I haven’t killed him.”

Except.

Well.

He sort of has, hasn’t he? 

Not yet.

But eventually.

Maybe even soon.

Harry sits back on his heels, feeling winded, and allows Pansy to shove him aside.

The others arrive in a series of cracks, Hermione and Luna holding glass jars.

“What happened?” Luna asks, pulling out her wand.

“We had a bit of an argument. And then he just sort of—”

“And why is he on the sofa instead of where we left him?” Luna asks.

“Because Potter is an idiot,” Pansy says.

“He said he didn’t want to be sticky or on the floor anymore. Was I supposed to tell him no?”

“Fair point,” Blaise says

“You could have helped him without provoking him, though,” Pansy shouts, “Aren’t Aurors trained in de-escalation?”

Ginny scoffs.

“It’s Malfoy, Harry says.

“Also a fair point,” Ron says.

“If everyone could stop shrieking that would be lovely,” Malfoy murmurs and oh—

His eyes are open. They’re not very focused, admittedly, but they’re open.

“Oh good,” Luna says. “Do you think you can sit up and drink this?”

Harry and Pansy both reach forward to help and Harry definitely does not feel slighted when Malfoy accepts Pansy’s hand and not his.

He takes a sip of the purple-brown liquid, makes a moue of distaste, and then tips up the rest, swallowing it quickly.

“It’s not at full potency yet,” Luna says. “But it should alleviate the worst of things. We’ll have a full-strength dose for you to take in another hour. And several more to top you off over the next few days.”

She gestures to Hermione who’s in the process of putting two jars in the fridge.

“And there’s pain relief and breathing potions on simmer that I should get back to if you’re feeling better, now.”

“I’m fantastic,” Malfoy says, looking anything but.

Luna glances around the room. “Alright. Perhaps the rest of you should stay here this time.”

Harry feels like he should probably be insulted by that.

“Nah,” Ginny says. “I’m with you.”

“Shocking,” Pansy mutters.

Luna and Ginny elect to walk back to the potions barn rather than apparating, despite the fact that the rain has picked up even further.

“Ginny has an excellent umbrella spell—” Luna says.

“Does she?” Pansy asks innocently.

“—and the smell of rain reminds me of a holiday dad and I took to Scotland one year. To see the Erumpet migration, of course. Rained the whole time. It was lovely.”

“Was it,” Pansy says, even more dryly.

Ginny flips her two fingers, discreetly, as she offers Luna her arm.

“So, Potter,” Blaise says, once they’re gone, arranging himself, rather artfully, on the sofa at Malfoy’s feet. “Are we supposed to pretend like we didn’t notice the excessive amount of wolfsbane you’re growing in your little indoor muggle garden? Or is that something we can talk about? Because I admit I’m curious.”

Blaise,” Malfoy says.

“Yes, dear?” Blaise answers.

“Oh,” Harry says. “That’s because Malfoy is a werewolf. Obviously.”

“He’s what?” Blaise says, half-standing. “He can’t be. He’d—oh. Oh. Ha bloody ha. Very funny, Potter.”

He drops back onto the leather, looking cross.

Harry is actually sort of proud of himself.

Except—

“Wait,” he says. “Could that help?”

“Your humor?” Malfoy asks. “Unlikely. In any situation.”

“No,” Harry says. “What if—werewolves have accelerated healing, right? Would that help? To turn you?”

“How on earth did you manage to defeat the Dark Lord?” Pansy asks.

“Literally just asked that,” Malfoy murmurs. “Apparently he had help.”

“He’d have had to,” Blaise says. “Honestly.”

“If you could not all be condescending dicks,” Hermione says, “That would be lovely. Harry spent half his childhood being raised by abusive muggles and the other half being hunted by Voldemort so you can see how it’s understandable that he’s not intimately familiar with some aspects of the wizarding world.”

Yeah,” Ron says.

Harry curls his hands into fists, then consciously relaxes his fingers.

One by one.

“Could someone please explain to me why that wouldn’t help?”

“He wouldn’t survive the change,” Hermione says lowly. “You have to be in excellent physical condition or it will kill you. Draco is too ill.”

“Oh,” Harry says.

“So keep your teeth to yourself,” Malfoy mutters.

“Or at least make sure not to break the skin,” Blaise says.

Despite the fact that Malfoy is rather short on blood at the moment, he manages a feeble flush.

“So what can we do,” Harry says.

We?” Pansy repeats. The derision in her voice is cutting.

“Yeah, we,” Harry answers. And it’s not quite a snarl but it’s close. “It’s my fault he’s ill and if you think I’m just going to let him die because the Ministry wants a scapegoat to use as—as an example or something—”

“Alright,” Blaise interrupts. “Easy, Potter.”

Harry does growl then.

And then he abruptly realises why Blaise, and nearly everyone else in the room, looks so cautious. Because his eyesight is sharper and he can smell everything and his teeth feel a tad too big for his mouth.

“While your company is certainly better when you’re a dog,” Draco says, the only one showing no fear whatsoever, “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t go all furry right now, Potter.”

“It’s not even the full moon,” Pansy murmurs. “How is he—”

Harry concentrates on breathing for a moment.

“What.” He repeats. “Can. We. Do.”

“Luna said he’ll need a mix of potions and muggle medicine—breathing treatments, mostly,” Hermione says. “She’s going to work on finding a way to get him some prescriptions next week.”

“He also shouldn’t be living alone,” Pansy adds. “Because all manner of things could go wrong—like tonight—but we already know he’ll refuse to stay with us—”

“It’s not like he could actually stop us from kidnapping him at this point,” Blaise points out.

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” Ron mutters.

“I mean,” Blaise continues. “He probably weighs less than you now, Pans. What’s he going to do, hurt our feelings?”

“With alacrity,” Malfoy murmurs.

“He can just move in here,” Harry says.

“No,” Malfoy says.

“Well either you move in with Potter or we take you back to London,” Blaise says. “But you wasting away alone isn’t an option anymore. Which would you rather?”

“He’ll move in here,” Harry repeats. It’s maybe a lower register than his usual speaking voice.

No one appears interested in arguing with him.

Well. Almost no one.

“There’s only one bed,” Malfoy says.

“Oh dear,” Pansy murmurs.

“I’ll make another bedroom,” Harry says. “And you can have mine for now. I’ll sleep on the sofa. I do half the time anyway.”

“You’ll change the sheets first,” Malfoy sniffs.

“Fine.”

“And you’ll take me to work every day.”

“Alright.”

“And I’ll be in charge of the plants; you aren’t allowed to touch them anymore without supervision, Potter.”

“Fine, Malfoy.”

“Do you think you ought to call each other by your first names at this point?” Hermione suggests.

“No,” Harry says at the same time that Malfoy sniffs “certainly not.”

They nod agreeably to each other.

Hermione sighs. “Well, I’m not calling you ‘Malfoy.’ That’s ridiculous. Especially if we’re all going to be seeing more of each other.”

“We will?” Blaise asks.

“Well,” Hermione says. “I’m assuming you’ll want to help us change the current sentences of former Death Eaters and sympathisers. Particularly participants who were underage or otherwise coerced?”

“Ah,” Pansy says. “Nice of you to care, now.”

“I cared before,” she says evenly. “But without Harry’s involvement, I also knew it would be nearly impossible to face the issue head-on. Regardless, you’ll all call me Hermione from now on.”

She and Pansy have something of a staring contest.

“Alright,” Pansy says. “Hermione.”

“It may take some getting used to,” Malfoy mutters. 

“You call Luna by her first name,” Ron points out.

“Well that’s different. We’re cousins.”

“Ron might be your cousin as well,” Hermione muses. “A few times removed, of course. But you know how the old families are. Harry might even be distantly related to you.”

Ron makes a retching noise.

“No,” Malfoy corrects. “Harry’s not. I checked.”

“Oh did you?” Pansy says innocently. “You checked to make sure you and Potter weren’t related?”

“Shocking,” Blaise says. “I’m shocked. So shocked. So very shocked. Aren’t you shocked, Pans?”

“Terribly.”

“I hate you both,” Malfoy hisses, closing his eyes again.

“I don’t understand,” Harry says.

“Your default setting, I’m sure,” Pansy murmurs. 

“Could you maybe not insult me in my own home?”

“I could, yes.”

Anyway,” Hermione says. “If we can all act like adults for a few minutes, I think we should discuss how we want to proceed.”

“Proceed?” Pansy asks. She sounds bored.

“With getting Draco’s sentence repealed. Among other things. Obviously there are some internal things I can work on, but I think a full-frontal approach may be our best option.”

“Love those,” Blaise murmurs.

Pansy slaps his leg.

“You mean Potter goes to the press?” Pansy asks. “Gives rousing speeches about unity and fairness?”

Harry doesn’t like the sound of that.

“Press, yes, speeches, no.”

Small mercies, he supposes.

“But,” Hermione says. “I’m thinking something a little more involved than a newspaper story. There are dozens of people who received overly harsh sentences. Yourself included, Pansy. Especially considering that there was no evidence that you and your family were even sympathisers.”

“Yes, well. You suggest sacrificing the Golden Boy in front of hundreds of witnesses and little things like evidence don’t matter so much,” Pansy says.

“My point,” Hermione says. “Is that if we can compile a lot of stories—not the people who deserved harsh sentences, but stories like yours, like Draco’s, all the young people and the people who were blackmailed. If we can make it clear that the Ministry has been overstepping its bounds and intentionally hurting people—”

“Torturing,” Blaise suggests, “Murdering.”

“Yes,” Hermione agrees. “Because they have an agenda based more on revenge than justice. If we can prove that. Show that to people. I think we have a chance of forcing re-sentencing.”

“Where Potter will give an inspirational speech.”

“Well,” Hermione says. “Yes.”

Harry sighs.

“Sorry,” she says. “I know you said—”

“It’s fine,” he interrupts. “Whatever you need.”

“I have some thoughts,” Pansy says.

“Oh good,” Hermione says. “Harry, can you power the kettle for a moment? Pansy, tea?”

“Please,” Pansy says.

Harry snaps his fingers at the kettle and shifts so he’s sitting rather than squatting.

“If those two become friends,” Malfoy murmurs, voice still concerningly quiet, “it may be the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

Harry considers Malfoy’s drawn face and quietly disagrees.

An hour later, Pansy, Hermione, Blaise, and Ron are tucked into a surprisingly friendly circle around the coffee table, home to several large pieces of paper, mostly filled with Hermione’s tidy handwriting, and a half-dozen mugs of tea.

Luna and Ginny are making masking tape labels for mason jars full of various-coloured liquids in the kitchen, and Harry is feeling rather useless, sitting with his back to the sofa, one ear on Malfoy’s heartbeat, the other on the rain outside.

“—really is brilliant,” Blaise is saying, leaning in close to Hermione, ostensibly so he can tap something she’s just written. “There’s no need to modest. I always told Pansy it was unfair you were intelligent and beautiful.”

“No he didn’t,” Pansy says.

“Oi,” Ron says. “That’s my girlfriend you’re chatting up.”

“Yes, you have excellent taste. Blaise’s eyes slide slowly down to Ron’s thighs, then back up to his face. “As does she.”

“Oh. I—what?”

“Don’t be flattered,” Ginny says, closing the fridge door. “I’ve heard Blaise will sleep with anyone.”

“You heard wrong. I’ll sleep with anyone who is attractive and consenting. Preferably someone strong and,” he glances at Hermione, “maybe a little bossy, but with”—he raises an eyebrow at Ron—“a tender side.”

Ron goes progressively more red. Hermione bites her lip.

Pansy makes a retching noise. “He doesn’t actually,” she says. “He just pretends he’s a lothario so people continue to think he’s a stupid fuckboy and then when they’re all busy underestimating him he can take over the world.”

“I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Blaise says.

Ginny looks intrigued despite herself.

“Mm,” Luna agrees, leaning back against the counter so she can study Blaise, “You do have a rather innocent aura.”

“I certainly do not,” Blaise splutters. “My aura is highly corrupted. Sullied. Despoiled, even.”

“It’s really not,” Luna says.

Something nudges Harry’s hand and he glances down, surprised to see that Draco has touched two curled knuckles to the jutting bone of Harry’s wrist.

“I’m tired,” he murmurs, and he looks it: half-lidded eyes and pale skin, mussed hair.

Harry raises his voice. “Alright, everyone out. You can come back tomorrow—er, later today, but Draco needs to sleep.”

Pansy makes some affectionate threats—to both Harry and Draco—before apparating away with a hand hooked through Blaise’s bent elbow. Luna leaves a page of written instructions with Harry before leaving in a similar fashion with Ginny, and Ron and Hermione hug Harry before apparating away separately, both muttering about the trouble they’re going to be in at work for arriving so late.

“Thank you,” Draco murmurs when the house is finally quiet again—well, quiet aside from the steady rainfall outside.

“You want me to levicorp you upstairs?” Harry asks. “Or would you rather just sleep here?”

“Levicorp,” Draco scoffs, closing his eyes. “You heathens with your slang. I’m fine here.”

“Alright.”

Harry doesn’t feel comfortable leaving Malfoy alone, though.

He deposits the mugs in the sink, finishes cleaning up what he can of the broken glass and tacky milk and sugary detritus from the rug, and then sits on the counter, hands on his knees, bare heels resting on the drawer pulls of the bottom cabinets. 

He can’t go upstairs.

He isn’t sure why.

It’s just a loft, no door, not even closed off, so he’d be able to hear if Malfoy needed help.

He can’t, though.

The bruised, aching, feeling in his chest—that makes him simultaneously want to run for miles and never leave the house, presses hard and urgent against his lungs until he finds himself sliding onto the floor and pulling up his shirt and kicking off his trousers and then—

Ah.

That’s better.

He shakes, stretches, takes a moment to get used to four legs again, and then moves to climb, rather graceless despite his efforts, onto the sofa.

“Fuck's sake,” Draco mutters, cracking open one eye. “Must you?”

He must.

“You’re going to get hair everywhere.”

Harry doesn’t particularly care.

Draco shifts closer to the back of the sofa and Harry tucks himself into his side, stretched out like a long furry buffer between Draco and the rest of the world.

“We speak of this to no one,” Draco mutters

But he rests one hand, tentative and warm, on Harry’s back.

They fall asleep to the sound of rain.

Chapter Text

Draco wakes to the smell of soupe de poisson à la rouille.

It’s distinctive: the caramelised onions and brandy and heated beef stock. He can’t tell from scent alone if whoever is making it has added sherry or eggs but he can smell garlic and saffron and—

It smells like his childhood.

It smells like his mother.

It’s jarring, actually, as he moves from sleeping to waking—half-formed memories of standing on a stool so he could peer over the kitchen counter as his mother hand-stirred a simmering pot, singing in French; the house elves wringing their hands over their mistress doing all the work.

He sits up, pushing away the phantom feeling of his mother’s fingers in his hair; the lilt to her voice as she called him mon prince.

Potter has his hip braced against the kitchen counter, squinting at a sheet of paper in one hand, the other pointed—rather lazily, really, Draco thinks, but that’s to be expected from Potter—at the hob, where a spoon is stirring something in a large granite pot.

There is vegetable and herb detritus on the counter next to the stove and a second, smaller, pot in the sink that looks to have burned insides and an assortment of knives and measuring cups and bottles and eggshells spread across various accommodating surfaces.

“What,” Draco says, “and I cannot stress this enough: the fuck.”

Potter jumps and the self-stirring spoon slides despondently down into its pot.

“Bugger,” Potter mutters, and then uses another spoon to fish it out by hand instead of using his ridiculous magical ability.

The Chosen One, indeed.

“You’re awake!” Potter says.

Obviously.

“I mean, yeah. Obviously. Good. Here.”

He collects two glass jars from the fridge and hands them over the back of the sofa.

Draco downs their contents, then judges himself a little for his blind trust as he hands the empty jars back.

Then again, if Potter wanted him dead he’d have had ample opportunity over the past several weeks. He certainly wouldn’t be cuddling him in wolf form and cooking him French food, which leads Draco back to his initial question:

What the fuck.

“I don’t know how to pronounce it,” Potter says, because of course he doesn’t, “but Pansy said this was one of your favourite meals and I thought—well the potions look pretty awful—and I’ve been wanting new recipes to try, so.”

It seems Potter is still incapable of completing a single sentence.

However, judging by Draco’s past experience with Potter’s culinary experiments…he’s not an incapable cook.

“It smells good,” Draco allows.

Potter grins: crooked and honest, and scrubs a hand through the back of his hair, the bit not tied up into a stupid topknot on the crown of his head.

“Ah. Good. It should be ready in just a minute. I know it’s not exactly breakfast food but it’s past breakfast time anyway and—”

Draco sits all the way up from the disaffected slouch he’d been carefully constructing.

“No. What time is it? The deliveries. I was—”

“Oh,” Potter says, abruptly turning back to the stove. “Don’t worry about that. I took care of it.”

Draco is uncertain how to respond.

He decides on: “Sorry?”

“The whole—parcel delivery. Thing. I took care of it. Pansy came and sat with you for a few hours while I went and picked them up and uh. Delivered them. So you still have your job. If you want it, I mean. You probably shouldn’t be working so much anyway, and if you’re living here—”

“I’m not living here.”

“Oh look,” Potter says. “Food’s ready. Also, Pansy and Blaise will be back for dinner. Apparently Blaise’s mother was able to set up a permanent portkey at their manor which is—”

“Likely illegal,” Draco sighs. “Unsurprising, considering. Why are they coming back for dinner?” He glances towards the clock above the oven but can’t see it without his glasses. “And what time is it?”

“Almost one in the afternoon. And Pansy said they didn’t trust you here alone with a bunch of Gryffindors. Also, Ron and Hermione and Luna and Ginny are coming for an early dinner.”

“Fantastic.”

Draco considers going back to sleep and remaining unconscious through to the next day so he doesn’t have to deal with the prospect.

“I also phoned Billy and let her know you’re ill. She said to take a week off and she’d handle things until you’re feeling better. Also she thinks it’s good you’re moving in with me so you probably don’t have a choice, now.”

That is…likely correct.

Draco considers being furious at being so artfully managed, but is frankly too exhausted.

Despite how tired he feels, however, he doesn’t really feel bad. He certainly doesn’t feel like he’s dying anymore, which is a nice change.

“So now that you’re up we can eat and then drive over and collect your things. Luna says you should be moving as much as possible so fluid doesn’t collect in your lungs, but nothing too strenuous for the next few days.”

Potter sets a bowl on the coffee table and hands Draco a spoon and Draco is too caught up in the perfect presentation to argue with him. Which was probably by design.

You made this?” Draco asks, just to be certain.

“Yeah. I mean. Pansy helped, a bit. Gave me a memory to work off from when you were kids and—”

“Pansy gave you memory?”

“Not to keep or anything. But I’ve got a Pensieve upstairs, so.”

“Pansy. Gave you. A memory.”

“I think she’s been really worried about you.”

Draco stares blankly at the spoon in his hand.

He’ll have to deal with…whatever this is… later. 

He takes a bite.

“It’s perfect,” he says, because it is.

“Oh, good.”

Potter sets a second bowl down and sits on the floor, digging in with an amount of gusto that is both utterly uncouth and also strangely endearing.

“So,” Draco says, forcing his attention back on his own meal. “Apparently you can become a wolf without the influence of the full moon. That’s suitably impossible of you.”

“It’s not impossible, actually. Or—it’s really rare, sure. But Hermione gave me a bunch of research about it. Apparently witches and wizards with really, er, heightened magical abilities?” he looks embarrassed by this sequence of words, “it’s much more likely that they can control the transformation and even do it at will regardless of moon phase. It’s like—the wolf doesn’t just take over on the full moons, it sort of becomes part of you. And you can access it whenever you want.”

That sounds…rather fascinating, actually.

Except, of course, for the fact that it may ruin everything.

“Will you continue to need a potion during full moons?”

“Oh, definitely. There’s only two documented cases of werewolves who could completely maintain their sanity during full moons without the aid of a potion. And even then it took them years to master.”

Draco takes another bite, relieved and feeling strangely guilty about it.

“It’s definitely weird, though,” Potter continues without prompting. “Because I can turn it on and off? I’ve been practicing meditating like the one article Hermione gave me said to. But I’ve also noticed that the wolf part of me tends to—” he gestures with his spoon, brows pulled low over his stupid green eyes, “—come to the front? I guess. When I get emotional. I mean,  without me intentionally letting it. Like yesterday, when I got frustrated.”

Draco remembers: Sharp incisors. Small pupils. A distinct and certainly not compelling ferality to his posture.

“But you controlled it, then,” Draco points out. “Once you realised.”

“Yeah. It’s just weird, is all. And I think—”

He pauses suddenly, eyes tipping up to meet Draco’s before very purposely returning to his spoon.

“I think the closer the wolf is to the, uh, front? The more powerful my magic is. I haven’t really had a chance to play with it much yet but I managed a wandless expecto patronum early this morning when I was testing it.”

He shrugs, clearly abashed where nearly everyone else Draco knows would be bragging.

A wandless expecto patronum.

Honestly.

Draco despairs.

“Yes, well,” Draco says, “you’ve always been a freak.”

Potter laughs and it sounds grateful.

***

They collect Draco’s paltry amount of personal effects from the trailer after they’ve finished eating and he’s had the chance to freshen up.

He still has to wear Potter’s clothes, which are laughably big on him because Potter, the heathen, knows no tailoring spells and Draco isn’t at all interested in letting Potter’s first attempt be on Draco’s inseam.

He sits in the passenger seat of Potter’s ridiculous car, one hand tipped out the open window, fingers in the wind, and thinks that maybe, if he really is going to stay with Potter for a while, which certainly seems to be the case, that he might tell Pansy where he’d hidden a shrunken trunk of his clothes. Not for any of the fancy robes, or ostentatious pyjamas, but his old off-day Hogwarts clothes for pickup games of quidditch and trips to Hogsmeade. Good quality, but not pretentious. Comfortable.

It might make him feel a little more…himself.

By the time they return to the house, the boot of Potter’s car full of Draco’s meager belongings, Luna, Girl-Weasley, Hermione, Pansy and Blaise are already there. 

“I think I need to lie down,” Draco says.

This is clearly the wrong thing to say because instead of bypassing all the visitors, going up to the loft, and ignoring them for the next several hours, he finds himself on the sofa with multiple diagnostic charms floating around him and Potter making concerned faces and Pansy trying to pretend that she is not making concerned faces.

“Your vitals are shockingly good,” Luna says.

She actually frowns a little, which is perhaps equally shocking.

“You really shouldn’t have improved this much in such a short amount of time.”

Draco considers Potter’s proximity—the warm skin of his forearm a hair’s breadth from Draco’s hand on the edge of the sofa.

He suspects he knows why he’s improved. Or doesn’t know, really. Because it doesn’t make sense. But then, it is Potter, after all.

“Well, regardless,” Luna says, expression clearing. “You’re much improved. Like magic, even!” She says brightly.

“Horrible muggle expression,” Pansy mutters.

“You should probably still refrain from exerting yourself for another day or two, and stay on the potions regimen I’ve outlined. But honestly, compared to yesterday, you really are in excellent condition.”

“Still dying?” he asks, mostly as a joke but—

“Ah,” she says, “Yes, I’m afraid so. Not nearly as quickly, though, as you were before.”

“Excellent.”

Weasley appears in the kitchen with a crack, Auror robe over one arm, looking nearly as disheveled as Potter, a chocolate biscuit clutched in his hand.

“Sorry I’m late,” he says around another biscuit in his mouth. “Blaise’s mum wanted to chat and you can’t really say ‘no’ to that woman.”

Draco blinks at him. “You came from Zabini Manor?”

“I’m stationed in the neighbourhood right now. It’s a lot more convenient than going all the way back to the Portkey Office.”

“Ronald,” Hermione says pointedly.

“Ah,” he extends the biscuit in his hand, “got this for you.”

“You,” Hermione says, batting away his hand, “an Auror. An enforcer of magical law. Took an illegal portkey to get here.”

Ron helps himself to the spurned biscuit.

“It’s not illegal. She had paperwork—showed it to me and everything.”

Legitimate paperwork?”

Blaise mimes offense, fingers splayed beneath his throat.

Ron wipes his mouth on his forearm, shrugging. “I don’t work in forgery.”

Hermione sighs.

“About the potions regimen,” Pansy says.

Draco tries to wave away a particularly prickly spell checking his temperature via his left ear. “Yes, yes. I’ll take them dutifully. I’ll even make them myself—like I had been doing—once I’ve recovered. Though I’ll want to talk about the various ingredients you’re suggesting. I certainly feel better, but  there can’t possibly be a reason the purple-coloured one has anise in it aside from making it taste like utter—“

“Actually,” Pansy interrupts, “we think you should stop taking the potions.”

Luna’s spells fizzle out.

Potter makes a very, very small noise in the back of his throat that might, possibly, be a growl.

“Dire as my prospects may be,” Draco says, “I don’t actually want to die yet, if not-dying is an option.”

“Why are Slytherins so dramatic,” Hermione mutters, “She means that it might be helpful for you to leave off taking them for twenty-four hours so your symptoms get bad again. So you can document exactly how dire your situation is. We’re putting together a case to bring before the Ministry’s Appellate Court. If we can provide evidence of a Wizarding Rights violation—that you’ve been subjected to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment at the hands of ministry officials—then it’s likely we can have your case retried.”

“Oh,” Draco says.

He’s trying very, very, hard not to get his hopes up.

“But—how will you get that evidence? St. Mungo’s won’t accept me as a patient.”

“Which is also illegal, actually,” Hermione sniffs. “They are required to accept any human from a wizarding bloodline, even a permanently or temporarily unmagical human, as a patient.”

“I’ve already included the documentation of that infraction in the file we’re building,” Pansy says.

Hermione nods at her, “So we think you’ll need to visit a muggle hospital as well as an American Wizarding hospital. Just to be certain we’ve covered everything. Of course those are privatised here which will be a bit of a mess when it comes to payment, but—”

“Payment isn’t an issue,” Blaise interjects, reaching out, casually, to try and tame Weasley’s hair. “Theo’s uncle works at the Southern Ute Wizarding Hospital. I made a generous donation to their Hex Ward and they’re happy to see you at any time. You’ll just have to let me know when you want to pop over to Colorado.”

“Oh,” Hermione says. “Well, excellent.”

Ron slaps Blaise’s hand away, flushing.

Draco’s throat feels very tight.

“That’s—”

“Nothing less than what you’d do for me, my good man,” Blaise says congenially. “Now. The question is if you want a few more days reprieve before going cold turkey, or if you’d rather get this over with now.”

“The sooner we have documentation,” Pansy murmurs, “the better.”

“May as well do it immediately, then,” he says. “Can I—don’t you usually need appointments for muggle doctors, though?”

“Not if you go to Accident and Emergency,” Harry says. 

“It will take around twenty-four hours for the potions to leave your system,” Luna says. “So if you don’t take any for the rest of the evening, or tomorrow, you could go Monday morning to the muggle hospital for a full physical examination and then portkey Monday night to see Theo’s uncle. It will be a very long, miserable, day, but as soon as you’re done in Colorado you could go right back on the potions regimen.”

“Goodness,” Draco says drily. “A whole day of misery. I don’t know if I could bear that.”

Girl-Weasley makes a disparaging comment, too low for Draco to hear.

He ignores her.

“And how are we handling the fact that I’ve no identification or insurance or any of the paperwork muggles require for healthcare?” he asks.

“You’ll have paperwork tomorrow,” Blaise says, “And Potter will be with you in case anyone needs a bit of gentle convincing to run the appropriate tests.”

“I didn’t hear that,” Ron says.

“I will?” Potter says.

“Unless you’d rather I take him,” Blaise suggests.

“No,” Potter says. “That’s fine. I’ll take him. I’m sure you have…things to do.”

“Lovely,” Pansy says. “So we’re all agreed. We get this sorted and Draco back on the mend by Tuesday. Finish the paperwork and submit the appeal by the following week?”

“It may require some late nights,” Hermione says, “but yes. I think that’s doable.”

Ron nods sagely.

“Agreed,” Blaise says.

“Yes, and I’ll make some reserve potions as well,” Luna says, patting Draco’s elbow. “Just in case you’re not feeling up to making your own for a week or so after your hospital visits.”

“I still want to talk about the anise,” Draco mutters.

“Or you could trust the professional,” Girl-Weasley says.

“Just curious,” Blaise says politely, “Why are you here again?”

“Oh, I think we know,” Pansy murmurs.

Girl-Weasley flips them two fingers.

“Oh, it’s fine,” Luna says, either pointedly disregarding them or actually not noticing the hostility in the room.“I’m not a professional yet and Draco is quite the potions prodigy.”

She pats Draco’s arm again before standing. “We can go over my notes during dinner if you’d like.”

“Yes, dinner,” Potter says, sounding relieved. “Shall we eat?”

Draco elects to close his eyes and feign exhaustion. He can’t, of course, pretend to sleep through dinner, but the meal isn’t actually that bad.

Well.

It’s either delightfully civil or disturbingly so. Perhaps both.

Pansy and Hermione have apparently become something like friends in the last 48 hours, and spend most of the meal muttering about Ministry infrastructure and historical bloodlines and shady politics. Blaise and Ron and Harry and Girl-Weasley—well, he really ought to call her Ginny, if he’s using the others’ first names—discuss quidditch with companionable bickering.

Draco does look over Luna’s notes, and a few reference books from her course, and finds her potions logical and well thought out, even if they’re written in sparkly ink. And occasionally require anise.

Everyone leaves, before sunset because of the time difference, with a round of awkward handshakes between the Gryffindors and Slytherins and hugs between everyone else. Draco manages to slip a note to Pansy about Potter’s lineage ignorance, with instructions on opening the Manor’s library, should she be able to access the grounds. 

Having performed his Good Deed of the day, he turns on Potter’s television and attempts to navigate The Netflix. The show about the snake man and the epicurean angel is really quite diverting.

“Actually,” Potter says, putting away the last of the dishes, “before we call it a night, I was hoping you could look at a plant I found.”

Despite himself, Draco is intrigued.

“You found?”

“Yeah. When I was, uh, a wolf. I went back and looked at the flowers on it again a few days ago. I’m pretty sure it’s wild Black Foxglove.”

Draco pauses the TV.

“That’s a level 4, controlled, magical plant.”

“Yeah.”

“You have to have multiple permits and an authorised grow space to—”

“I know.”

“If a non-magical person encountered one—”

“Yeah, I know, Malfoy. That’s why I want you to come look at it. I put up a notice me not and a repelling ward around the area, but—”

“Well, what are you waiting for?”

Draco stands, trying to remember what he did with his shoes.

“We should go before we lose the light.”

A few minutes later, Draco is standing outside in front of Potter’s motorbike with his arms crossed.

“No,” he says.

Potter shifts his weight, rocking the machine back and forth between his rather muscular thighs. His trousers look a tad too small.

“Well we can’t get there with a car and it’s over a mile’s walk, which I don’t think you’re up for right now.”

Draco attempts to argue but an ill-timed cough interrupts him.

He directs the cough at Potter. Petulantly.

“If you kill me—”

“Merlin, I’m not going to kill you. I’m putting an awful lot of effort into keeping you alive, remember?”

That is admittedly true.

“Fine,” Draco says. “How does one—”

“Just climb on,” Potter says.

It takes every fiber of his being not to mimic him.

A wild-growing Black Foxglove, he reminds himself.

And submits himself to the indignity of clambering onto the back of the shuddering muggle machine.

“Right. Good. Hold on, now.”

“Hold on to what?”

“Me.”

And that’s—

Well.

He sets his hands, cautious, on Potter’s shoulders.

“No—here.”

Potter redirects Draco’s hands to his waist, palms cupped over his fingers, pressing them down firmly against the sun-heated fabric of his checked shirt; against the firm muscle of his flank, just above the band of his blue jeans. Draco’s first two fingers curl, rather without his permission, into Potter’s belt loops.

“Alright,” Potter says. “Ready?”

“Not particularly.”

Potter laughs like he’s joking.

And then they’re moving.

It’s nothing like riding a broom or a carpet or a Thestral or even a bicycle—which Draco tried once and decided was not for him. It’s bumpy and far too fast and loud. But Potter admittedly seems to know what he’s doing and the blur of autumn countryside around them is rather aesthetically pleasing.

The flat dirt-tilled fields give way to a rolling forest landscape that wouldn’t be out of place in a painting. The recent cold front has startled the trees into a sudden urgency of autumn colors: yellow poplars, red dogwoods, copper oaks, maroon blackgums and near-purple sweetgums. 

The cool wind sends a chill down Draco’s neck.

Potter takes them off the pocked gravel road and onto a dirt firebreak and then to what could only generously be called a path.

And there it is.

Potter turns off the engine.

“You said—” Draco swallows. “You said you found a plant.”

“Ah. Well, I meant it more in the plural sense.”

Draco considers the half-acre of sunset-dappled, gently-swaying, black-flowered stalks.

“Did you.”

“So. Are these—?”

“Yes.”

He slides off Potter’s terrible muggle machine and approaches the closest plant, nearly waist-high, heavy will bell-shaped ombre blooms that are a deep burgundy at the center and bleed to pitch black by the petal’s end.

He only resists touching it.

He doesn’t understand how this is possible.

How a heavily protected, deadly, magical plant could grow so well, so unmolested, in an otherwise ordinary thicket, around the bases of ordinary muggle trees, interspersed with ordinary bluestem grass and Yaupon Holly, and Dandelions. 

The fact that this little cache of plants is conveniently located on Harry Potter’s property is—

Well. It can’t be a coincidence. And yet, what else could it be?

Potter certainly didn’t plant them.

He nearly laughs out loud at the thought.

“How’d they get here?” Potter asks and Draco would mock him for it—dunno, Potter, perhaps I should ask them?—except—

“I should very much like to know that myself,” he says. “We’ll need to come back and collect some samples. The soil here shouldn’t be ideal for their root systems and they’re almost entirely in the shade, which doesn’t make any sense at all. I don’t suppose we have time today to come back?”

They both consider the sharp slant of orange light filtering through the equally orange trees.

“No,” Potter agrees. “And tomorrow you’ll be off your potions.”

“And the following day I’ll be at various medical institutions being experimented upon.”

“Well coming back will be something to look forward to, then.” Potter says. “For when all that’s done.”

“Oh yes. Playing with deadly magical plants whilst I, myself, have no magical protections. I can hardly wait.”

He’s not sure he entirely pulls off the lie because Potter just nods agreeably and starts his motorbike again.

Draco gets on with perhaps more elegance than last time and spends a good portion of the journey back to the barns actually, possibly, enjoying himself.

Because Potter is warm against the evening chill and the sunset is admittedly impressive—purples and reds and small, bumpy stings of clouds that look rather like the terraced fields they’re suspended above.

Except it appears that Potter isn’t, actually heading back to the barns.

“Potter,” Draco says, as he leaves the gravel road for another dirt one. “Where are you taking us?”

“Just thought I’d show you the pond.”

“Why on earth would I want to see a pond?”

“It’s nice. I’ve swam in it a few times.”

They round a subtle curve and yes, maybe a hundred metres away, is a pond, cupped by the edge of the forest they’d just vacated. It’s mirrored surface reflects the colours from both the sky and the trees surrounding it.

“We could take a quick swim if you wanted. It’s not that cold yet.”

“I think not.”

“Why not? It’s not like it’s stagnant or anything. It’s fed by a natural spring.”

“I will not submerge myself in water that has likely had a century of cows shitting in it.”

“Well, there’re no cows, now. Haven’t been for at least three years. Though I have been considering getting a few. Did you know that it’s actually pretty easy to make your own yoghurt?”

Potter, blessedly, turns the motorbike back towards the barns.

“No,” Draco says.

“I really think it is. The recipe looks simple.”

“Not—I meant no cows. If you get cattle I refuse to live with you.”

“I thought you weren’t going to live with me anyway.”

“I’m not. This is entirely temporary. I’m just saying that whilst I’m on the premises there will not also be a bovine on the premises.”

“Alright,” Potter says, sounding aggrieved. “We’ll table the cow thing.”

“We will not—Potter. Look where you’re going.”

“I am.”

“And yet you’re driving us straight towards that giant puddle.”

“I am, yeah.”

“For what purpose are you—Potter. Potter, don’t you dare.”

He dares.

By the time they actually get back to the barns, Draco is entirely covered in mud—some is even, possibly, in his mouth—and he’s spent the last several minutes caught between screaming and laughing.

“I hate you,” he says, sliding in an untidy, slippery heap, off the back of the parked motorbike. “I hate you most ardently.”

He shakes off his hands which only serves to splatter a bit more mud on Potter’s grinning person.

Sludge from Draco’s dripping sleeves quickly replace the displaced grime.

Potter grins with dirty teeth.

“Oh dear,” he says. “Ardent hate. Whatever shall I do?”

“Is that meant to be my voice? Because I don’t sound like that.”

“You do. Also. You’ve got a bit of dirt,” Potter gestures to his entire face, “—just there.”

“Oh do I? I wonder whose fault that is.”

“You’re right. I take responsibility for my actions. Here, let me fix it.”

Draco isn’t sure what he means but the garden hose, previously coiled in a neat pile beside the barn door is suddenly in Potter’s hands, spewing water.

“Maybe close your eyes,” Potter suggests, and then—

Oh. Draco is going to kill him.

Chapter Text

Moonrise finds them in the loft with the hay doors open: cool, autumn air, just a hint of bite to it, encouraging goosebumps on the still-damp patches of their skin. Draco is lying on his back in another one of Harry’s too-big t-shirts, limbs akimbo on the mattress. His head is pointed towards the open doors, one elbow over his eyes. His wet hair is making a dark spot on Harry’s sheets.

Harry is sat in the open door frame, one leg tucked up to his chest, one dangling over the edge outside, a mug of tea propped on his bent knee. There are still a few Whippoorwills calling softly to each other as darkness and quiet, hand-in-hand, blanket the rolling landscape of farmland—the black silhouette of the potions barn backgrounded by an ombre blue that turns to star-spangled ink in the endless expanse of sky above them.

Harry thinks that if he ever goes back to London it will feel far too small.

“What are muggle hospitals like?” Malfoy asks, apropos of nothing.

Harry shrugs, realises he can’t see that, and says, “I wouldn’t know.”

Malfoy rolls onto his belly, shoving hair out of his face, weight on his elbows.

“Why not? Weren’t you raised by muggles?”

“I was, yeah. But I never went to the hospital. I went to the GP a few times to get the jabs I needed for school. But nothing else.”

“Were you never ill? Or injured?”

“Oh, loads of times. But my Aunt and Uncle…” 

He stops. Considers his audience. Starts again.

“Well. I got better, each time. So I suppose I didn’t need to go, anyway.”

Malfoy doesn’t say anything, but his eyes are wide and silver and a little too knowing in the low light.

“Did you ever break a bone before Hogwarts?” Malfoy asks. “I did. My arm. I stole my cousin’s broom when I was six and crashed directly into the catering tent. It was my—oh, great aunt, I believe?—it was her fifth or sixth wedding. The ceremony had to be delayed because I was the ring bearer and it took half an hour to get my arm sorted. I don’t know why everyone was so vexed, no one was hurt apart from me and I only slightly dented the cake. It still tasted fine.”

Harry chokes on a laugh, imagining it: a tiny, pointy Malfoy on a runaway broom—likely in equally tiny, formal robes.

“So?” Malfoy prompts, and Harry remembers the story started with a question.

“Ah. Yeah. A few times, I think.”

He remembers an assortment of painful nights that turned into surprised mornings. Looking back, there were a few instances where the Dursleys likely would have had to take him to the hospital within a day or two, had his magic not, apparently, decided to intervene, but there was one time in particular—

“When I was nine, I broke my leg, I think.” He kicks the leg in question against the siding of the barn—still warm from a day spent absorbing the sun.

“My uncle was on a business trip and my Aunt had gone over to the neighbour’s to borrow something or other. My cousin always took advantage of those moments and I knew I was in for it if he could find me once she left. So I hid in the attic, only I couldn’t tell when she came back, and it was dark and I couldn’t see to get out again.”

Malfoy blinks at him. It might be encouragement; it might be boredom.

Harry continues: 

“So as I was trying to crawl back out, I accidentally fell between two of the joists and went straight through the kitchen ceiling.”

“I don’t understand,” Malfoy interrupts. “Joists? Did it not have a floor?”

“Oh. No, it wasn’t a finished attic. Just insulated. So the only thing between me and the kitchen was plasterboard.”

“Ah.” He looks like he still, maybe, doesn’t understand.

“So anyway, I came crashing down while my aunt was starting dinner and—yeah, the leg hurt when I landed, but her face. And the way she screamed. It was completely worth how angry they were over the hole in the ceiling.”

Malfoy doesn’t respond and Harry feels the grin on his face slip awkwardly into a grimace.

“Anyway. I was fine the next day, so. I guess my magic took care of things if it was broken.”

“You were nine,” Malfoy says. “And your Aunt was more concerned about the kitchen ceiling than your broken leg?”

“I mean. It was a pretty big hole. And I ruined dinner on the stove. What with the plaster everywhere.”

“That’s not—”

Malfoy’s eyes have gone narrow and Harry is suddenly regretting the whole conversation. He turns his attention back to his tea that’s gone cold. He nudges it warmer until hot steam curls up from the surface like a beckoning finger. He breathes it in, but doesn’t drink.

“Why were you hiding from your cousin?” Malfoy asks.

“Ah,” a safer topic. “He didn’t like me much,” Harry says. “You two would have probably got on.”

Malfoy goes silent again and when Harry glances up he looks pale.

Well. Paler.

“Did your cousin hurt you?” Malfoy asks.

“I mean. Nothing terrible. I was just small and weird and an easy target. You know how kids are.”

“I,” Malfoy says. He wets his lips. “I’d like to apologise. For anything I ever did that hurt you. I know I was a bit of a bully at times and there were certainly some aspects of my character that were due to a flawed upbringing and hardly my fault but I do regret—well. I have regrets. So. My apologies.”

There’s an urgency in Malfoy’s tone under the stilted formality that Harry doesn’t understand.

He considers the sharp ball of Malfoy’s right shoulder, bone pressed tight to white skin, where the stretched collar of Harry’s shirt has fallen to mid-bicep. He thinks about the faded scars on Malfoy’s chest that he’d seen only for a brief moment as they pulled off their wet clothes outside.  

“I have regrets too,” Harry says, setting aside his mug. “And I’m—you were a right tosser at times but. I’m sorry. For the—” he gestures towards Malfoy’s chest. “I didn’t know what it would do.”

Malfoy looks blank.

“What?”

“In the bathroom. The spell I used. I didn’t know it would do that.”

“You used—how could you not know?”

“It was written in the margin of my potions book. It just said ‘for enemies’ and you were about to crucio me, so you fit the bill—”

“Because you’d just barged into the bathroom where I was crying and decided to be an utter arsehole to me!”

“And I feel bad about that now—wait. Why were you crying in the bathroom?”

He asks before he has the sense not to, but Malfoy just curls his lip and waves a hand.

“Oh, take your pick, Potter. The Dark Lord was living in my home along with an assortment of werewolves that took up tormenting me for sport. And my mother’s survival—it was clearly explained to me— depended upon my killing the headmaster of my school, which I’d been completely unable to do. Not for lack of opportunity, but because I didn’t want to kill him. But I also—my mother was—well. The point is, I was having a rather bad day. Week. Year, really.”

Oh.

Neither of them seem to know what to say after that, but they seem equally unable to look away from each other.

“I’m starting to think I made some incorrect assumptions about you,” Harry says finally.

Malfoy exhales.

“It’s possible I did the same.”

He says it soft. Maybe a little contrite.

“We both had rather shit childhoods, didn’t we?”

It startles a laugh out of Harry.

“I dunno,” Harry says. “Sounds like yours wasn’t bad at first. Broom theft and still getting to eat cake afterward? Only cake I ever had was what I snuck from the bin at night. You know my first ever birthday cake was from Hagrid when I turned eleven?”

“Jesus, Potter,” Malfoy mutters. “Alright, you win.”

Harry laughs, standing, and closes the hay doors, chafing his hands over his bare arms. He summons two Weasley jumpers and tosses the slightly less-garish one to Malfoy.

“What are some things you wish you’d done?” Harry asks, pulling the knobbly fabric over his head. “I mean. Are there things you feel like you missed out on?”

“What with my family pledging their allegiance to a storybook villain and my teenage years being lost to tyrannical madness?”

“Yeah, that.”

Malfoy sits up, strangely non-combative about donning a chunky, clearly hand-made, jumper with a giant H on it.

“All sorts,” he says, absently flopping the too-long cuffs of the jumper back and forth over his fingers. “I couldn’t ever have friends visit during the holidays because there were always Death Eaters around having meetings. I wasn’t allowed to befriend half-bloods or muggle-borns. Didn’t have half the time I would have liked to work on coursework—not that I’m a swot or anything.”

Harry stifles a laugh at the hasty correction. “Course not.”

Malfoy looks at him suspiciously, but continues: “I didn’t have the time or energy for the Slytherin common room parties or getting into trouble—well, normal trouble, like sneaking out to skinny dip in the lake or playing games of never have I ever with smuggled firewhisky. No dating. No awkward fumblings in the astronomy tower or trips to Hogsmeade with a…paramour.” He shrugs, maybe a little pink. “All sorts,” he repeats. “You?”

“I’d’ve liked to have a pet, I think. Birthday parties. Sleepovers. Maybe played some school sports. I went to the zoo once. I wish I could have gone to more places like that. Aquariums. Museums. And at Hogwarts...same as you, I suspect. With the parties and things. And I wish there was a way I could have spent my summer holidays at Hogwarts, as well. So I didn’t ever have to go back to my Aunt and Uncle’s.”

It occurs to him that he’s talking to Malfoy. That maybe he shouldn’t be sharing quite so much, except Malfoy has rolled back onto his belly again, his chin braced on one hand that is still completely ensconced in a knobbly grey sleeve, looking up at Harry attentively.

“Strange they don’t have some sort of concession for that—especially for muggle-borns,” Draco says. “Seems like an oversight.”

He doesn’t say it with malice or judgement, just honest curiosity. “I wonder why they don’t.”

“Hermione probably knows.”

“Probably,” he allows, the last syllable swallowed up in a yawn.

It’s early still, barely eight, but Harry is tired and he knows that Malfoy is likely exhausted as well after the last 24 hours. Especially since he hasn’t taken any of his evening potions.

Harry should go downstairs.

He should make himself a bed on the sofa and tidy up the kitchen and maybe watch some TV before going to sleep.

But something anxious and pacing in his chest doesn’t want to leave Draco alone. Not while he’s weak and vulnerable and wearing Harry’s clothes.

Harry sighs and starts undressing.

“What are you doing, Potter?” Draco says, and then, a moment later, “Oh no. Don’t you dare. These sheets are clean and I’ll not have dog hair all over my—oh, honestly.”

Draco stops talking about the same time that Harry realises he’s shoved his nose into Draco’s neck. He isn’t sure why, exactly, he’s shoved his nose into Draco’s neck, except that Draco smells rather good there—right in the soft space between throat and jaw and, as a wolf, he is strangely unbothered about violating Draco’s personal space.

He pulls back, remembering that Draco likely has a history of traumatic experiences involving wolves violating his personal space, but Draco’s heart rate is perfectly fine and he is muttering threats under his breath but he’s also shoving up his sleeves so he can scratch Harry’s ears.

So that’s fine, then.

Harry bullies him under the covers and then tucks himself against Draco’s side, chin on his ribs, feeling very pleased with himself.

“This isn’t going to become a thing,” Draco murmurs, doing something with his fingers that neither of them will ever admit is petting. “I just want you to be aware of that.”

***

Blaise drops off a giant padded envelope full of papers the following morning with a suspicious grin and equally suspicious haste.

“Can’t stay, sorry,” he says. “Draco, love the fashion statement you’re making; very daring. Harry, you’re looking.…about the same as usual. Good show. Take care of our boy and don’t forget to check in tonight. Cheers.”

He apparates away with more flourish than Harry thinks is necessary.

Harry picks up the envelope much like he used to pick up textbooks chosen by Hagrid.

“I very much doubt it will actually bite you,” Malfoy murmurs from the sofa.

He’s toying listlessly with an omelette.

He looks terrible, but not quite as terrible as Harry expected.

“I should definitely be concerned, though, right?” Harry says. “Because that felt like it warranted concern.”

“I’m glad you’re not entirely stupid.”

“Is that a ‘yes’?”

“Perhaps I spoke too soon.”

Harry rolls his eyes and retrieves several stacks of paper-clipped documents from the envelope.

He flips through the first stack and sighs.

He really shouldn’t be surprised, all things considered.

“Well?” Malfoy says.

“Well,” Harry says, holding up an Alabama driver’s license. “Apparently my name is now Harold Pooter.”

Malfoy chokes on a laugh. Or maybe a bit of tomato.

“Good, strong, surname,” he says after a moment of wheezing. “It suits you.”

“Well, I’m glad you like it,” Harry says, paging through the next set of documents. “Because it’s your last name, too.”

Malfoy drops his fork. “I beg your pardon?”

“Mm. Drake Pooter. Apparently we’re married. A year ago today, even. Happy anniversary, dear.”

Give me that.”

Harry hands over the paperwork as requested, watching as Malfoy’s facial expressions progress through all five stages of grief in the span of thirty seconds.

He picks up his fork again and holds it in a curled fist. “I’m going to kill him.”

“It’s not that bad,” Harry says, reaching to retrieve the documents. “It’s just for a day.”

Malfoy slaps away Harry’s extended hand.

“But—this is hardly fair.” He jabs the fork towards one page, “Did you see our occupations? Why do you get to be some reclusive tech prodigy and I’m just your—”

“Boy toy?”

Malfoy splutters. “I was going to say ‘kept man’ or ‘trophy husband’ but you’ve managed to make this even more horrifying, thank you.”

“No problem.”

Malfoy continues on to the next stack of papers.

“It makes sense,” Harry says, actually feeling a little bad despite the fact that it’s Blaise’s fault Malfoy will be playing the role of his poor, sickly, husband. “It covers all our bases: Home schooled by cult-ish anti-vaccination types, a teenage runaway with no access to his meagre health records, married young to the kind but eccentric millionaire who took him in and helped him adapt to the real world.”

“An eccentric millionaire now saddled with a spouse whose increasingly troubling symptoms have driven them to seek medical attention with said millionaire’s excellent insurance coverage. Sounds like you’re being taken advantage of, Mr Pooter.”

“I’m sure I find your charming company worth the hassle,” Harry says lightly.

It’s Malfoy’s turn to roll his eyes.

“We may as well get this over with,” he says, discarding both plate and fork to the coffee table. “Are you ready to go?”

Harry summons one of the few button-down shirts he owns and tucks it into his belted jeans, “You’re going like that?”

Malfoy is wearing a pair of his own khaki trousers, however, his torso is still dwarfed by the Weasley jumper Harry gave him to sleep in the night before. It’s grey, but the kind of thick, knobbly, yarn that has flecks of a dozen other colours in it—mostly earthy greens and blues. The H on his chest is emerald. It looks good on him.

“From what I understand, they’re going to make me wear an awful gown for most of the day anyway.”

“Fair.” Harry agrees. He collects his hair into a small half-pulled-through-ponytail. He tucks his hands in his pockets and hopes he looks like a tech prodigy.

“I suppose we’re ready then,” he says.

Malfoy sighs.

Harry apparates them first to Birmingham and then to Atlanta where, according to the directions Blaise has left them, they take an Uber to Emory University Hospital and then, bypassing the Emergency Room entrance, follow precise instructions to what appears to be a specialist clinic’s waiting room.

Harry thinks Blaise has probably made another donation, or otherwise bribed the staff, because the receptionist at the little sliding window confirms that Mr Pooter has an appointment with Dr Sandra Kole and within minutes they’ve been ushered back into an exam room where a nurse takes Malfoy’s vitals. Malfoy looks slightly panicked through the process and goes monosyllabic, so Harry finds the burden of conversation and initial patient history is left to him. 

Luckily, he remembers the basics well enough and the nurse seems to have no issue buying their story since pureblood wizard reactions to innocuous items like tongue depressors and reflex testers are apparently very similar to cult-raised, unfamiliar with modern medicine, muggle reactions to the same items. 

When the nurse tries to take Malfoy’s blood pressure he reaches frantically for Harry’s hand and Harry ends up half on the examination table, one arm around Malfoy’s shoulders, assuring him that it won’t hurt. He spends the rest of the initial exam speaking lowly in Malfoy’s ear, telling him what to expect and assuring him that nothing will harm him. The nurse coos over how sweet they are, gives Malfoy a sympathetic pat that he would probably resent if he was in his right mind, and leaves him a gown to change into while they wait for the doctor.

Harry resolutely stares out the window while Malfoy changes, strangely without complaint, and then immediately sits back down, pressed tightly to Harry’s side. Harry would make fun of him except he’s kept the Weasley jumper’s sleeves over his arms, the body of the jumper pooled in his lap; he looks very young and very frightened.

He closes his eyes and leans into Harry and for several minutes neither of them says anything.

“What are you thinking about?” Harry asks as the silence is starting to drive him mad.

“The Netflix,” Malfoy says tightly.

“The Netflix,” Harry repeats. He’s tried to explain to Malfoy that it’s just Netflix, but so far it hasn’t stuck.

“Why are you thinking about Netflix?”

“Because when we’re through with this terrible day, we are going to watch the Omens show and see if the Hufflepuff angel and the Slytherin demon manage to thwart the apocalypse.”

“That’s not Netflix. That’s Amazon Prime.”

“So?”

“So it’s not Netflix.”

Malfoy opens one eye and flaps a sleeve at him. “It’s close enough.”

“It’s not. It’s like American muggles calling all fizzy drinks ‘Coke.’ It doesn’t make sense.”

“What doesn’t make sense is how riled up you’re getting over this. Though I suppose the full moon is coming up soon.”

“No. That’s not fair. You can’t use my—my medical condition to try and—”

“Really? Lycanthropy is a medical condition, now? Shall we ask the good doctor when she arrives what the recommended course of treatment is for your ailment?”

“Well obviously not at a muggle hospital, but I’m pretty sure—”

“Good morning, gentlemen,” a woman in white coat says, slipping into the room.

Any liveliness that Malfoy had summoned in their brief debate abruptly vanishes.

“Yes,” Harry says. “Hi. Good morning.”

“Mr and Mr Pooter?” she says with a flawless straight-faced cavalierity that speaks of years of professionalism in the face of ridiculous surnames. “I’m Doctor Kole. I’m given to understand that your circumstances are rather unique.”

She considers Malfoy over the top of her glasses and she looks—well, she nearly looks angry.

“Judging from your vitals and intake information I’m surprised you didn’t seek medical attention sooner.”

Harry waits for Malfoy to respond but it seems he’s gone nonverbal.

“Right,” Harry says. “Unfortunately my, uh, husband’s family didn’t believe in modern medicine so he’s never been to a doctor before and is… rather skittish about the idea. Bit of brainwashing, see. About the dangers of hospitals and antibiotics and the like. Which is the only reason it’s taken me so long to bring him in. I didn’t want to force him but I also—”

Malfoy takes this opportunity to cough and it rattles terribly in his chest.

Harry chafes one hand at the top of his bare arm until the fit subsides and Malfoy sags against him.

“I’m also very concerned,” Harry finishes. It isn’t even a lie.

Dr Kole’s expression softens a degree.

She rests a cautious hand on Malfoy’s knee.

“I understand this is probably scary for you, so I’ll try to explain all of the tests we do beforehand and you can feel free to ask for clarification at any time, alright?”

Malfoy nods.

“Alright,” she says, nudging her glasses up her nose. “Let’s start with some questions.”

Dr Kole has a soft, kind, voice and a reassuring presence. She has dry humour and a quick wit, and by the time she’s gone over Malfoy’s full history, Malfoy is actually using sentences again and isn’t clutching Harry’s arm quite so tightly.

“Alright, nearly finished,” she says, the front page of Malfoy’s chart pinched between two fingers, “it says here no smoking or alcohol…And you’re not currently working, correct?” 

“No,” Malfoy says, looking embarrassed.

“He’s been too ill to work, recently,” Harry says. “And he doesn’t need to anyway because I—uh. But he does work in the garden. He’s really good with plants and—” Harry just stops himself from saying ‘potions.’ “Er. Natural remedies. He’s not just some…kept man.”

“I prefer ‘trophy husband,’ dearest. You know that,” Malfoy says sweetly.

Harry has no idea why he felt the need to defend such a prat.

“Of course, love.”

Malfoy’s smile nearly turns into a grimace.

“Alright.” Dr Kole sets aside Malfoy’s chart and gestures with her stethoscope. 

“I’d like to listen to your heart and lungs now.” She taps the bell end of the stethoscope. “This might be a little cold, but it won’t hurt at all, okay?”

“Alright,” Malfoy says.

“Your husband needs to step to the side, but he can continue holding your hand, if you’d like.”

Malfoy swallows. “I suppose he ought to. He’s less trouble if he thinks he’s being useful.”

“I understand,” Dr Kole says gravely.

Harry stands slowly, giving Malfoy time to release his arm. To slide his chilled, clammy palm down Harry’s wrist. To twist their fingers together.

His expression dares Harry to ever bring this moment up again once they leave the hospital.

Harry gently—so gently, because Draco’s bones feel like they might break under the slightest pressure—squeezes his hand.

“Needy, this one,” Draco mutters, ears pink despite his general lack of blood. 

“Mmm,” Dr Kole agrees.

Chapter Text

It becomes uncomfortably easy to reach for Potter.

Perhaps because it’s expected for their deception, perhaps because every brush of skin-to-skin contact provokes a subtle relief from an assortment of aches, Draco finds himself near-constantly touching Potter: his hand or his shoulder or most of Potter’s body on one occasion memorable only for its awfulness, when they’d finally withdrawn Draco from the CT scan machine and he’d more or less crawled into the safety of Potter’s arms and refused to leave for several minutes. 

He would be embarrassed, except the nurses found it endearing and if Potter is ever stupid enough to bring it up, Draco can dismiss it as an act to further their cause and honestly there is no reason that a machine used for healing purposes should be so terrifyingly enclosed. And loud. He can hardly be blamed for his reaction.

Regardless, several hours into testing finds them back in the exam room: Draco reclined on the table with his head in Potter’s lap and Potter’s fingers in his hair.

He isn’t sure when that happened, actually. 

He recalls nearly passing out when they took what seemed like an unnecessary amount of blood from his arm—with a needle. He recalls returning to the exam room with a plastic cup of juice. Curling up under a blanket produced by one of the cooing nurses. Potter trying to feed him a truly heinous excuse for a biscuit. 

And now they’re here:

Head in lap.

Fingers in hair.

It’s nice, is the thing.

Pansy used to play with his hair back at Hogwarts in the Slytherin common room. The best window seat was reserved for them and they would preside over their domain in the evenings, Draco smirking, a book open on his chest, Pansy with sharp eyes and an even sharper smile. 

Sometimes, on much rarer occasions, when there was no one there to witness it, Blaise would slip between the drapes of Draco’s bed at night, bully him into a similar position, and then Blaise would—for lack of a better word—pet him for a few minutes before calling him a spoiled crup and leaving again. There was a six month period during fifth year where Draco had a very inadvisable crush on Blaise which made those rare moments fraught with teenage heartache.

It was worth the embarrassing pining, though, because Draco loves it—has always loved it: the scratch of fingernails against his scalp; the soft drag of a brush; the gentle tug of plaiting.

It’s stupid and vain, but one of the things he dislikes most about being so ill is the state of his hair. It used to be beautiful. Soft. Sleek. Like spun silk, his mother used to say. Like silver Merino thread. Your poor wife one day will be terribly jealous.

Admittedly, his mother stopped with the wife comments shortly after his fourteenth birthday. He’d thought, at the time, that he was keeping his proclivities secret; but in retrospect, perhaps the space between box spring and mattress was not the most discreet location for hiding a charity calendar of mostly-nude male quidditch players. Particularly when Draco himself was not the one changing the sheets and the house elves were far more loyal to his mother than him.

Oh well. Not that it matters, now.

Regardless, even if his hair is embarrassingly brittle and thin, Potter doesn’t seem to mind, and it’s been so long since anyone has touched him like this: kindly—softly—that Draco leans into it rather than away.

Potter has played the part of besotted husband disconcertingly well, Draco thinks. Though perhaps the disconcerting thing is that he has no idea how much of Potter’s quiet reassurances are genuine, and how much are contrived.

Even the doctor had apparently been suspicious of Potter’s dotage and asked to speak with Draco alone an hour before.

Potter hadn’t wanted to leave but Draco was between panic attacks—he’d just returned from an only slightly terrifying x-ray of his back—and he coaxed Potter out the door with a cavalier, “It’s fine, darling. Why don’t you go get us some lunch? She’s said I could eat after they do the blood bit.”

“Are you sure?” Potter asked.

“Positive. Off you go, Harold dear.”

Draco had assumed the doctor wanted to ask about his intimate escapades and whether or not Potter was, indeed, his only sexual partner. 

Instead, she took off her glasses and crossed her arms and asked if he felt safe. And it took several prolonged seconds of confusion for him to realize that she thought Potter—Potter—might be hurting him. Or taking advantage of him. Or—well. All manner of unfathomable things.

Apparently his disbelief was honest enough that she didn’t press much further past his initial, fumbled, denials, that no, Harry—Harold—was not mistreating him and was, in fact, terribly kind and patient and self-sacrificing.

It probably says something about Draco that he was anticipating judgement, or implications of infidelity, rather than concern. But he didn’t get a chance to dwell on that because he was whisked away for more testing and then they took his blood with a needle, and now they’re here.

“Are you ready for some lunch?” Potter asks. “I’ve got a stasis spell on it so it should still be warm.”

“Not if it’s anything like that biscuit,” Draco murmurs. 

“The biscuit was from the nurse. Lunch is from a French bistro down the street. Can’t guarantee it’s up to your standards, but it smells good.”

“I suppose it’s worth trying.”

Several minutes later, he’s lounging against Potter’s side, holding the blanket closed around his shoulders while Potter feeds him bites of niçoise and warm brie on toasted baguette slices. He doesn’t really need the blanket anymore because Potter throws heat like a furnace, but he’s revelling in the pure opulence of being hand-fed by the Boy-Who-Lived, and if he’s going to die soon he’s allowed to indulge, isn’t he?

Dr Kole smiles rather fondly at them when she returns.

“Alright,” she says, “we’ve tortured you enough for today. I’ll send you home with some prescriptions for breathing treatments and an inhaler—just speak to the front desk about your preferred pharmacy. And make your follow-up appointment. Do you have any questions for me before you go?”

Potter glances down at him.

Draco swallows.

“I—do you not have a diagnosis for me? Or a—” he tries to remember the correct terminology, “treatment plan?”

“Oh,” Dr Kole says. “No. I’m afraid it will take at least a week to compile all your tests, look over bloodwork and scans. We’ll discuss all that at the next appointment. It’s likely you’ll need to make appointments with specialists once we have those results, though.”

Muggle healthcare really is a disaster, Draco thinks.

“Oh,” he says.

“But I’ll see you again in a week and we’ll make a plan then once we have a better understanding of what’s going on with you. Okay?”

It appears agreeing is the only option.

He lets Potter tuck the prescription papers into his pocket and make the follow-up appointment and generally just take care of things, because Draco is exhausted and miserable and he clearly needed that blood they took from him (with a needle) because he still feels dizzy. But Potter takes responsibility without complaint and charms the various nurses at the front desk, holding Draco against his side with a warm, casual, hand.

Once they reach the reception, Potter tosses a wandless Notice-Me-Not around them and withdraws a folded envelope from his coat pocket, shaking out an old quill—their portkey to the wizarding hospital in Colorado— into his hand. 

“We missed the first activation time, but the second one will be in another fifteen minutes. You want to finish lunch while we wait?”

Draco supposes he could stomach a bit more brie.

Sixteen minutes later, Draco wishes he hadn’t elected to finish lunch when they arrive with a terrible lurch in the reception of the Southern Ute Wizarding Hospital.

“You alright?” Potter asks, keeping him upright.

Stupid question.

Draco takes several slow breaths through his teeth and waits for the nausea to pass.

Potter rubs his back.

Harry Potter?” someone says—shouts, really—and Draco looks up, startled, because Potter had very carefully glamoured himself to be unrecognizable moments before.

He’s not glamoured anymore, though.

It’s just his normal face: two days of scruff on his jaw and his hair half-pulled-up, green eyes and distinctive scar on display.

What the fuck, Draco thinks.

“What the fuck,” Potter says,

He meets Draco’s eyes. “Am I—”

“Not glamoured,” Draco manages, teeth still gritted. 

“Oh no,” Potter says, “this is not good.” And it’s so—it’s such an understatement that Draco forgets he’s nauseous and laughs.

“It is Harry Potter!” Someone else shouts, and suddenly they’re surrounded by people.

“Uh,” Potter says, and his face slips into a blank, placid, expression—an expression Draco has seen many times staring with confident passivity from beneath newspaper headlines.

“Yes, hello,” Potter says. One of his hands is still on Draco’s lower back and he moves them forward, his wand, quite suddenly, in his free hand. “I’m just escorting a friend to his appointment, if you can excuse us, please.”

“Oh cool, Harry Potter!” A child says. “Can I get your autograph?”

“Don’t bother Mr. Potter,” the child’s mother says, “…unless, of course, he has a moment?”

“Are you living in the US, now?” One woman asks, stumbling to keep up with them. “Have you been here the whole time? Can I take your picture?”

“Let us through, please,” Potter says.

“Who’s your friend?” a teenager with headphones around his neck asks, nearly colliding with Draco as Harry doggedly moves them forward.

“Wait,” someone else says, “isn’t that the Death Eater kid?”

“Can’t be. Why’d Harry Potter be here with him?”

“It looks like him.”

“Shouldn’t he be dead by now?”

Draco’s lungs are not very pleased with the quick pace Potter has set but he’s equally uninterested in letting the growing crowd converge upon them. 

“Excuse me,” Potter yells, “Can we get a little help, here?”

The gaurd at the security desk startles, remembers her job, and throws a repelling charm around them, instructing people to please stand back.

“Potter,” Draco says as they come to a stop. He blinks against the spots at the edge of his vision.

Potter is saying something about an appointment and the security witch is offering to escort them the private diagnostic ward but Draco isn’t sure he can move at the moment. He blinks again. His head feels detached and floaty.

“Potter,” he says again. “Harry.”

That does it.

“What?” Potter says, and then, finally, with the appropriate amount of urgency: “Oh shit. Are you—”

Draco is pretty sure Potter catches him as he passes out.

*****

Draco wakes up with his head in Potter’s lap again.

Unfortunately he also wakes up with a perfect and immediate memory of the moments that predeceased his lapse in consciousness.

“Kill me,” Draco says.

Potter laughs on an exhale. “That’s what we’re actively working against, remember?”

Draco closes his eyes. As if that might make the situation a little less horrifyingly real.

“What do you think the odds are that none of those people had mobile phones and our entire visit has, thus far, gone undocumented?

“Slim to none,” Potter says. “Pretty sure all of the teenagers downstairs caught your swoon on video.”

“Kill me,” Draco repeats.

Except it occurs to him—

This is an embarrassment for him. Continued evidence of his downfall.

But it’s also, more importantly, exactly the kind of publicity Potter has been avoiding. The kind of situation he was trying to escape when he left London for rural America.

“I’m sorry,” Draco says. “Fuck. This is a nightmare. You managed to completely evade public attention for months and now I’ve—now there are going to pictures of you everywhere—pictures of you associating with me. And questions. Speculation.You shouldn’t even be here. Blaise should have taken me.”

Potter’s fingers tighten, briefly, in his hair.

“It’s fine. No one knows where we live. No one is going to follow us home. It’s not the end of the world. We’ll call Hermione and Pansy and they’ll handle things, okay? We don’t have to worry about any of that. We just have to worry about you.”

Potter’s thumb smooths over one of his eyebrows.

Draco exhales.

“Alright.”

Someone clears their throat and they both jump; Potter’s hands leave his face; Draco opens his eyes.

“Gentlemen,” a man in green robes says. 

They’re in a suite that looks nearly identical to the private rooms at St. Mungo’s. The healer just inside the door is looking at them with a very, very carefully blank expression.

“If he hasn’t signed a charmed confidentiality agreement, make him do it now,” Draco says.

He may be ill and all but useless, but he’s not an idiot.

“I signed a binding agreement with Mr. Zabini yesterday,” the healer says. “Please be assured that your privacy, whether health related or…” his attention lingers on Potter for a moment, “interpersonal, will be well-respected.”

“I’d like to see a copy of that agreement,” Draco says.

“It’s fine,” Potter interrupts, and then, more quietly to Draco:

“He’s telling the truth. And the longer we’re here, the more we risk someone from the press finding us. I imagine Rita Skeeter is on her way as we speak.”

Draco shudders at the thought.

More importantly, though: “How do you know he’s being truthful?”

Potter glances at the healer, then back down at Draco. He worries his bottom lip against a line of perfect, white teeth. From that angle—looking up at him—Potter’s jaw is particularly sharp; his mouth particularly full.

“Later,” Potter says. “Just trust me?”

And Draco does, he realizes. 

Wholly and without reservation.

It is an uncomfortable thing to acknowledge.

“Alright,” he says. He’s still looking at the corded slope of Potter’s throat.

He isn’t sure why it’s distracting.

But it’s distracting.

“Shall we begin?” The healer asks. He appears amused by them, or at least amused by Draco, and Draco considers being insulted but finds he doesn’t have the energy.

“Yes, alright,” he allows.

“I’m Healer Alexander Nott. All testing will be conducted in this room and security is posted outside to ensure your privacy. Before we begin, are you planning to portkey out when you leave, or will you need access to an apparition point?”

“We can’t just apparate from here?” Potter asks.

Obviously not, Draco thinks, if they have designated apparition points.

He rolls his eyes at Potter, but Potter, focused on the healer, completely misses his distain. A shame.

“No,” Nott says. “We have wards up around most of the hospital that disallow apparition.” He raises an eyebrow. “There are also wards that nullify glamours and appearance-changing potions. I’m assuming you weren’t aware of that.”

“Yeah, no,” Potter says, maybe a little sheepish. “Smart, though. I’m assuming it’s for when criminals come in for treatment? So you can apprehend them immediately?”

“Indeed. It’s a complex bit of spell-work only instituted earlier this year and already a great success. I apologize, I assumed Mr. Zabini would be escorting Mr. Malfoy, neither of whom are well-known enough here in the States to draw attention. If I’d know you were coming, Mr. Potter, we could have made different arrangements for your arrival.”

Draco can tell that Healer Nott is desperately curious and trying very hard not to appear desperately curious.

“Oh well,” Potter says. “But yes, we’ll need to apparate.”

Nott waits a beat and then, when clearly no more information is forthcoming, he withdraws his wand and moves forward. “Alright. Mr. Potter, I’ll need you to vacate the examination table so I can begin.”

Except as Potter moves Draco’s head from his thigh to the table’s surface, as he slides to his feet and steps away, Draco automatically reaches for his hand. 

Not because he wants to hold it. And certainly not because he’s frightened. He’s just muddled, is all. From the assortment of yet undiagnosed ailments he has and the ridiculous amount of blood the muggle doctors took from him (with a needle) and the fact that he was very recently unconscious and spent most of the day playing the part of sick husband. Reaching for Potter has become routine. He can hardly be blamed.

Potter also seemingly automatically laces their fingers together, leaning one hip like a habit against the table at his head. A moment later, though, he goes very abruptly still, eyes meeting Draco’s, then jumping to the healer, then back to Draco again.

Draco thinks he’ll let go. Move back.

He doesn’t.

Instead, he says to Healer Nott, “Will I be in the way if I—”

“No,” Nott says. “Not at all. Most of the diagnostic spells I’ll be performing focus on the core of the body, not the extremities. I’ll let you know if you need to step aside entirely.”

“Great. Thanks.”

Draco considers shaking Potter’s hand off anyway. Because they don’t have an excuse for this. Because Nott is clearly drawing laughably incorrect conclusions about their relationship. But if Potter wants to hold his hand he’s not going to stop him. Especially when Potter’s magic, invisible but undeniably present, is bleeding slowly from his scarred knuckles and torn cuticles and the surprisingly soft webbing between his fingers—leeching with a gentle burn of comfort into Draco’s skin. He has a suspicion that their sustained contact might possibly be the only thing keeping him conscious.

So.

Hanging on is nothing more than a self-serving act.

Dragging his thumb over the jut of Potter’s first knuckle is purely medicinal.

It doesn’t mean anything. 

***

After hours spent at the muggle hospital being poked and prodded and shoved into terrifying machines, the comparatively quick and non-invasive diagnostic spells feel anticlimactic.

“Well,” Healer Nott says, arms crossed and lips pursed. “Now is when I have to ask if there’s any additional information you’d to share with me about your illnesses and how you’ve been treating them.”

“Sorry?” Draco says.

“If I may be frank,” Nott says.

“Please.”

“Between the state of your bones, your lungs, and your blood, you should be…near death, with your genetics, after over a year without magic. And yet here you are, with full mental faculties and a weak, but functioning, body. The only reason for that I can think of is that you’ve managed, somehow, to still access your magical core. But it’s—” he shakes his head, gesturing vaguely toward Draco’s chest. “It’s still entirely closed off. The binding spells are intact. And your core is badly degraded from disuse. Which leaves me very, very, curious as to how you are comparatively thriving when, to all diagnostic accounts, you are gravely—fatally—ill. I can’t help you if I don’t have a full understanding of the situation.”

Draco anticipated this might happen.

He still hasn’t, however, made up his mind about how he should respond.

“We’ve been making potions,” Potter says.

“We?” Draco mutters.

Potter rolls his eyes.

“Alright. Draco has been making potions. For a couple months. He’s a lot healthier when he’s on them. Or—he’s able to work. Doesn’t pass out, anyway.”

“No potions I’m familiar with would explain this. In a case like Mr. Malfoy’s, potions can mitigate symptoms. They can’t halt, or even, as I suspect has happened, repair permanent damage in the same way that ancestral, personal, magic can.”

“You won’t—”

Draco stops.

Starts again.

I’m not doing anything. But I fear you won’t believe me if I tell you my hypothesis.”

Potter frowns down at him.

Draco refuses to find the little perturbed wrinkle between Potter’s eyebrows endearing.

“I’m certainly willing to listen to any hypotheses you have,” Nott says, “considering I have a medical impossibility on my table at present.”

Draco exhales. “Perhaps it would be better to show you. You said you looked at my magical core.”

“I did.”

Nott flicks his wand to dim the lights, then gestures toward Draco’s chest. A dark purple ember—so dark its almost black—is superimposed over the chunky knit of the sweater. Small and contained to a three-inch space between the wings of his ribcage, it flickers weakly.

It’s terrible in a visceral way.

His fingers tighten around Potter’s.

He clears his throat.

“I’m given to understand that, normally, we would see a network of magic coming from that core—like veins—extending throughout my body.”

“Yes,” Nott says. “The containment spell placed on you renders that network inaccessible, however.”

“Right. Well. Perhaps you should look at Potter’s, er. Network. While he’s touching me.”

“I don’t understand,” Potter says.

You’re about to, Draco thinks.

“Mr. Potter,” Nott says. “If I may?”

“Sure.”

Potter’s chest lights up like a beacon.

His core is green—a deep emerald that takes Draco by surprise—it fills up most of Potter’s torso and a massive, intricate, spiderweb of sparking, pulsing, veins extends from it, bright and healthy and—

Ah.

Yes.

Usually, Draco would, at a moment like this, crow about being right.

But pride is overshadowed by—he doesn’t even know. Some combination of sustained disbelief and confusion and maybe, just a little, awe.

Because there: where Potter’s fingers are tucked between his. Where the base of Potter’s hand—so much larger than his—rests against Draco’s wrist, there:

The green web lengthens. Traverses. 

It’s faint, and becomes fainter still the further Potter’s magic gets from its host. But nearly the entirety of Draco’s arm is painted in pale, reaching green lines that barely, just barely, extend to his chest. And they coalesce there: A very unobtrusive but decidedly present, artificial core.

“What.” Potter says.

“I take it you’re not doing that intentionally?” Nott says.

His eyes are wide. Draco is certainly not the only one experiencing some version of awe.

“No,” Potter says. “I don’t even—What is that?”

“Magical transference,” Nott says, almost absently. “Or something like it.” He leans forward to further inspect the connection.

“But it’s not—it shouldn’t be possible between two wizards. Human wizards, I mean. It’s only been studied in witches and wizards with Veela ancestry. Or more recently with Werewolves. Creature genetics allow the transference of ancestral magic between individuals with similar species heritage. So a half-Veela might be able to share her magic with a quarter-Veela partner. But this—”

He trails off.

“It looks similar, but since you don’t even have a core available for Mr. Potter’s magic to feed into…I can honestly say I have no idea what this is.”

Potter clears his throat.

“What about transference from a creature to a human. Has that ever been documented?”

“No. Why would that even—”

Nott glances up.

The spells abruptly blink out.

No,” Nott says. “You were bitten? Harry Potter was bitten. That’s—”

“Confidential information,” Draco grits out.

Honestly, what is Potter thinking?

“Right, yeah,” Nott says. “Obviously. Jesus. But you’re—When? How have you been managing it?”

“Shortly before I left London. Draco has been making my potions and I have control of the shift provided I take them. But that’s not important right now.”

“Right,” Nott says again. “Right. So.” He scrubs a hand through is hair. “There haven’t been any studies on transference between Creatures and humans. The assumption is that it wouldn’t be possible because of the subtle differences in magical core structures. But this is all new science anyway. The first Veela study was only conducted six years ago and the werewolf research is still ongoing and I admittedly haven’t been following it all that closely. I’ll have to pull some articles tonight and—”

He renews the spell, bending close over their linked hands.

“Would you be willing to let me consult with a specialist? If I didn’t share your identities?”

Draco meets Potters eyes and sees equal hesitation.

“We’d need to discuss that privately, I think,” Potter says. 

“And perhaps update some confidentiality paperwork,” Draco agrees. “Until then—”

“Yes, of course,” Nott murmurs, attention still on their hands. “Can you feel that?”

“I can,” Draco says.

“You can?” Potter says. “I can’t. Why didn’t you say something?”

“What was I supposed to say?” Draco asks, “Ah. Yes, hello, Potter, it seems that whenever you touch me I feel slightly less shit—almost as if your magic is attempting to keep me alive. Despite the fact that there’s no precedent for that at all. Care to hold hands until dinner?”

“Right. Okay. But if it was making you feel better you should have said something. I would have believed you.”

“Only because you’re painfully ignorant about standard magical theory.”

“You think I don’t know that? Hermione is one of my best friends. I’m really well informed on the glaring holes in my Wizarding knowledge, thanks.”

Fair point.

“So,” Nott says.

They fall silent.

“Until I can do further research, I suggest we treat this like documented cases of magical transference. The standard recommendation in situations where an individual’s core is recovering from trauma is to encourage physical contact between the individual and their transference partner in addition to a potion regimen to treat any physical symptoms—which you obviously have in abundance, Mr. Malfoy. Mr. Potter, your core is not currently suffering from sharing magic, but we’ll want to make sure that you don’t accidentally deplete yourself.”

“Right,” Potter says. “So. We should just…keep holding hands as much as possible?”

“The more skin to skin contact the better. And, technically, contact with Mr. Malfoy’s chest would be ideal.”

Draco is glad he’s short on blood because he would undoubtedly be blushing had he any to spare.

“Okay,” Potter says. “Wait. Does it still work if I’m a wolf?”

He turns to address Draco.

“It does, doesn’t it? That’s why you haven’t actually been angry when I sleep with you at night.”

Ah.

Apparently he does have enough blood left to blush.

Draco covers his hot face with his free hand.

“Yes.”

“Okay. Well. That’s easy enough.”

It looks as if Nott would dearly like to comment on that except someone knocks on the door and they all jump at the intrusion.

Nott dismisses the diagnostic spell and turns up the lights before opening the door a crack.

“Sir?” A younger man says. “We’re starting to have security problems.”

“We’re nearly done anyway. Can we get them to the apparition point?”

“That shouldn’t be a problem if we go now.”

“Alright,” Nott glances back at them. “Can we speak more about treatment and further testing via firecall tomorrow? I’d like to do some reading tonight, as I said.”

“That’s fine,” Draco says, suddenly desperate to be home.

Or—back at the Barns.

“Alright. Mr. Potter, if you can assist Mr. Malfoy. It seems you two need to make a rather hasty exit, I’m afraid.”

Potter—well. There’s really no other way to say it—scoops Draco up into a bridal carry and, despite his protests, carries him into the hall.

“This way,” Nott says, and they are suddenly flanked by several more wizards in security robes.

“I hate you,” Draco mutters into Potter’s neck, though it admittedly lacks vehemence.

“You don’t,” Potter says.

He doesn’t.

Chapter Text

They return to the house past sunset, though that’s really not saying much considering that the sun sets at 5pm, now.

As much as Harry is usually willing to defend muggle customs, daylight savings is certainly not one of the customs worth defending.

Harry helps Malfoy to the sofa, drops off hospital forms on the kitchen counter and retrieves the potions Luna had stored in the fridge.

Malfoy takes them, making a variety of disgusted noises accompanied by disgusted faces, and then demands Harry turn on the Netflix so they can watch the Omens show. Harry doesn’t renew the debate about Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime Video because he can’t determine whether or not Malfoy is intentionally baiting him at this point; if he is, Harry isn’t going to give him the satisfaction of an argument; if he isn’t, Harry isn’t the kind of arsehole to berate someone who’s had a traumatic day.

Harry puts on the Omens show.

He brings two rewarmed bowls of soup and the last of the bread from the bistro to the coffee table a few minutes later and sits, more than a little awkward, next to Malfoy.

He’s curled into one corner, chin braced on hand, elbow braced on the arm of the sofa. He’s still wearing Harry’s Weasley sweater: rumpled and pale, thin wrist looking thinner against the thick cuff of the jumper. 

“Soup?” Harry asks.

Malfoy blinks at him.

“Mmm? No. I’m—fine.”

He blinks again, looking a little lost.

“I think perhaps I shouldn’t have taken those potions all together.”

Harry straightens. “Why? Is something wrong?”

“No, just. It’s—temporary euphoria. Happens if you don’t space potions out in a…” he blinks again, smiling slightly, “uh. Regimen. And they have ingredients that interact in a,” he waves a hand, “way.”

“Okay. So you’re not in pain? It won’t hurt you?”

“Mmm. Quite the opposite.”

Harry considers this.

“Temporary euphoria. You’re high?”

“Quite.”

He probably shouldn’t, but Harry laughs.

Malfoy laughs too, shoving his grin into the crook of one elbow.

“It’s nice,” he mutters, face half-hidden by the chunky knit of the jumper.

“I imagine so. You should probably eat something, though.”

“Are you going to feed me again?” Malfoy asks. “I liked that.”

Jesus.

Harry clears his throat.

“I…can?”

Malfoy—well, there’s really no other way to describe it—flops over into Harry’s lap, wiggling to fit the cup of his neck to the curve of Harry’s thigh, and opens his mouth expectantly.

“Right,” Harry says.

It’s not like he was unaware that Malfoy is attractive.

More than once, particularly in the last few years at Hogwarts, he’d thought to himself what a shame it was that someone so pretty was such an evil bigot.

But Harry doesn’t think Malfoy is an evil bigot anymore. Maybe he wasn’t ever. And his past behaviour certainly can’t be excused but maybe—Harry thinks it can be forgiven.

He thinks Malfoy wants to be forgiven.

Harry dips a piece of bread into soup and delivers it to Malfoy’s waiting mouth. He watches as Malfoy chews happily, as he swallows, as the lines of his jaw move too close to the surface of his skin.

Harry considers the pale blue map of veins visible under Malfoy’s eyes and feeds him another piece of bread.

He’s not—he’s not exactly pretty anymore.

He’s too thin. 

Too…brittle.

Harry can’t, in fact, point to what he still finds so compelling about Malfoy except that maybe he smells good—even under the lingering astringent scents of hospital and fear—but that’s a rather new wolf-related development, not something he ever noticed at Hogwarts.

Regardless, he is.

Compelling.

Harry doesn’t get the chance to consider the implications of this, because Pansy and Blaise arrive with a sudden and decidedly unwelcome crack.

“Ugh,” Malfoy says, turning his face into Harry’s belly. “No. Make them go away.”

“I’m delighted to see you too,” Pansy says.

“Oh Merlin,” Blaise says. “Is Potter hand-feeding you?”

Harry shoves the piece of bread he was previously extending to Malfoy into his own mouth.

“He was before you showed up,” Malfoy says, plaintive. “Go away.

Blaise chokes on a laugh.

“Are you drugged?” He turns to address Harry. “Is he drugged?”

“Er,” Harry says. “Sort of? He said he has temporary euphoria from taking too many potions all at once. He’s fine, though. I’m taking care of him.”

“Oh yes,” Blaise says, one eyebrow very, very, high. “I can see that.”

Harry’s face goes hot.

“Potter,” Malfoy says, muffled but imperious. “Growl at them or something so they’ll leave.”

“Right.” Harry says. “Malfoy needs rest so you should probably come back later. We don’t have anything to give you for the case anyway, so—”

“We know,” Pansy interrupts, “We just wanted to check on Draco after his harrowing day and drop these off.”

She sets a drawstring bag that smells like old parchment onto the counter.

“What is that?” 

“Don’t ask questions,” Malfoy whines. “It’ll just make them stay longer.”

“I visited the Manor yesterday, after dealing with an absurd amount of opposition from the Curse-Breakers and dark artefact specialists still crawling all over the place, I’ll have you know.”

“A real imposition,” Blaise adds. “Took hours. She had to reschedule her facial.”

Pansy glowers at him.

“Okay, but what’s in the bag?”

Malfoy makes a desolate noise.

“All the records from the Malfoy’s personal archives that mention the Potter family. There’s quite a bit so be careful with the extension charm. Don’t just go dumping the whole thing out.”

Harry isn’t sure how to respond to that.

“How did—”

But, of course, Draco must have told her. Must have asked her to do it. For him.

“Thank you,” he says instead, and he’s uncertain if he should be looking at Pansy or Malfoy when he says it. “I appreciate it.”

Pansy rolls her eyes and holds out a hand to Blaise.

“It’s late and we’re clearly not wanted here.”

He takes her hand with an exaggerated bow. 

“Of course, my lady. Draco. Harry. Enjoy your evening.”

And then they’re gone.

“You know,” Harry says, fingers descending to sift through Malfoy’s hair. “Hermione gave me this Sleekeazy’s kit a while back. It’s got shampoo and conditioner and a mask thing. It’s supposed to be, uh, reparative? She was trying to convince me to ‘treat myself,’ but I thought maybe you might want to use it tonight. After your long day.”

Malfoy sighs, face still tucked into Harry’s stomach.

He can feel the warmth of the exhalation through his jumper.

“I don’t need your pity,” he says, more resigned than angry.

“It’s not pity, it’s just—you did something nice for me.”

“I did not,” Malfoy protests.

“So I want to do something nice for you.”

Pansy did something nice for you of her own volition. Not even nice, really. Probably quite underhanded. Have you ever spent time in old family archives? She may very well be trying to bore you to death.”

“Malfoy.”

“What.”

“It was nice. Thank you.”

Malfoy doesn’t say anything for several seconds, then:

“If you really wanted to do something nice for me you would offer to wash my hair too.” 

The petulance should not be cute. Harry finds that telling himself this, however, does not make it true. He has no idea how to respond.

“I uh. Can?” He manages.

Malfoy rolls, surprise palpable, to look up at Harry.

“Really?”

“Sure. You want me to fill the tub?”

“Tub,” Malfoy scoffs. “Fill the trough, you mean?”

“Yes, Your Majesty, shall I fill the trough?”

Malfoy gestures: pale fingers; thin wrist; elegance and feigned disdain.

“I will allow it.”

Harry shifts Malfoy’s head from his lap to the sofa cushion and goes to turn on the water and retrieve the Sleakeazy’s kit from his trunk.

“You’re supposed to shampoo, then let the potion mask sit for 15 minutes, then condition for another five,” he says, reading the back of the box. “Do you just want to soak through all that?”

“Do you have bubbles?” Malfoy asks, reaching for a piece of bread on the coffee table.

“Er. I think I have a bag of bath salts. Is that the same thing?”

Malfoy sighs. “It is not. But I suppose it will have to do.”

The plate with bread is just an inch beyond his fingers. 

He drops his arm, expression despondent.

Not cute, Harry reminds himself.

“You can continue feeding me whilst I soak.” 

“Oh I can, can I?”

“Yes.”

Harry retreats to the bathroom, dumps a third of the bath salts into the tub, and folds a towel over the back curve of the metal so Malfoy has something soft to rest his neck on. He takes his time rolling up his sleeves to his elbows and adjusts the water temperature by a few degrees, using his hands to disperse the cooler flow before turning off the tap. He wipes his palms on his jeans. 

He takes a moment—wand out and everything—to transfigure the step stool in the corner into a larger, more chair-like, stool, and then he stands in the doorway, arms crossed, considering the space between the bathroom and the sofa.

He observers Malfoy’s prone position on the sofa, where he has taken on the appearance more of a liquid than solid being: a tumble of sharp limbs and loose clothing and wide, bleary, grey eyes.

He is such a contrast, now, to the aristocratic, refined, boy Harry used to know, but he is also somehow simultaneously achingly familiar.

He walks to the sofa and picks Malfoy up.

It isn’t quite the smooth, casual, movement he meant it to be, mostly because Malfoy nearly knocks him out with a surprised elbow, but Harry has become adept at avoiding projectiles so there’s only a slightly awkward lurch before Malfoy is tucked in a secure bridal carry against his chest.

“You’re carrying me,” Malfoy says.

“I am.”

“Why are you carrying me?”

“Because you’re still weak. And high. And you should be resting. And I don’t want you to slip on the wet floor.” Harry deposits him on the transfigured stool and sets about removing his shoes.

“Am I hallucinating?” Malfoy asks faintly. 

“No,” Harry says.

“That’s likely what a hallucination would say.”

“You’re not hallucinating,” Harry says patiently, “lift your foot for a second.”

Malfoy obeys.

“Is this a dream then?”

Harry slides off the first shoe.

“Nope. Real life. Potions high, remember?”

Malfoy doesn’t appear to believe him, but he does stay strangely docile through the removal of his socks and his shirt, holding up his arms before Harry has even fully stood from his crouch.

And then he sits there, waiting expectantly, lean, naked, arms slung around his knees, trousers low on his hips, hair a complete disarray. His eyes are wide-pupilled and guileless.

Harry gestures towards the living room. “I’ll just. Step outside for a minute if you want to take care of the rest and get in the tub. Let me know when you’re finished, okay?”

“Definitely not a dream, then,” Malfoy mutters, sounding put out. 

Harry has no idea what that means.

When Malfoy calls him back into the bathroom, his skin is already pink from the heat—from the steam coming off the milky green-tinted water.

His hair is plastered, nearly translucent, to the curve of his skull; the slope of his narrow neck; the protruding vertebra where nape meets spine.

Harry opens the shampoo and kneels.

“You should probably close your eyes,” he says.

Malfoy’s eyelashes are so thin, so pale, that even clumped together with water they are nearly invisible.

He pours a liberal amount of citrus-smelling potion into his hands and gets to work.

Despite having shampooed his own head thousands of times, there is something distinctly anomalous about washing someone else’s. 

Maybe it’s the contrast of his dark, work-rough, hands against the pale, fine, hair. Maybe it’s the heat-flushed skin of Malfoy’s shoulders where the hair falls when Harry releases it. Maybe it’s the sharp slope of shoulder-blades or the terraced landscape of Malfoy’s curved back—ribs too close to the surface, and closer still with every inhale.  Maybe it’s the goosebumps, despite the heat, at the nape of Malfoy’s neck.

Regardless, Harry didn’t know that it was possible that a brief shampooing—well, perhaps not that brief. Perhaps, even, far more extended than necessary—could induce an existential crisis.

It certainly appears possible, now.

Once he’s applied the mask with a fair bit more haste, Harry escapes to the kitchen to breathe away from the cloying scents of steamy citrus and bergamot and Malfoy.

Except he realises that, as he’s breathing, he’s also rewarming the soup and bread and pouring a chocolate nutritional shake into a glass jar with a handle so it won’t slip out of Malfoy’s wet fingers.

And then he’s going right back into the bathroom to try and coerce Malfoy into eating as much as possible because it is suddenly very, very, important that he gains some weight and stops looking so terribly breakable.

Things only get worse after the bath.

Because Harry carries him up to the loft bed and then Malfoy is pink-cheeked and silk-haired and wearing another one of Harry’s sweaters and tucked into Harry’s bed. And he doesn’t look nearly so ill.

In fact, he looks much like he used to, admittedly with longer hair.

Except instead of glaring at Harry with abrasive malice, Malfoy is—well he’s not exactly smiling, but the look on his face is…soft. Friendly. Maybe even fond.

Harry sets a container with biscuits in it on the floor next to Malfoy’s head.

“I know you said you were full, but just in case.”

“Jesus, Potter,” he mumbles, eyes nearly closed. “Stop trying to fatten me up.”

“Well someone needs to,” he snarls back.

He resists the impulse to clap a hand over his mouth as Malfoy flinches.

“Sorry. Sorry, I don’t know why I’m being weird about this.”

Malfoy blinks at him.

“Oh,” he says. “You—I should have realised. You can’t help it.”

“What?”

“You can’t help it,” Malfoy says. “The wanting to feed me. It’s—your wolf side is just confused. Because I’m in your space and I probably smell like you, now. So you think I’m your responsibility and you’re—” he swallows “—providing for me. Because I’m ill and weak. It’s just instinct. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s fine.”

Harry wants to argue with him but he’s not sure why.

“Maybe I’m just concerned about your health,” he says.

“Sure,” Malfoy answers, placating. “Thank you. I’ll try to eat more.”

Harry snarls and goes downstairs.

He doesn’t stay there.

Twenty minutes and one hurried bath of his own later, Harry stomps back up the ladder, shifts into the wolf, and crawls onto the bed, shoving his way under the duvet.

“Oh,” Draco murmurs rolling to face him. He lifts an arm in invitation, half asleep. “Are you finished sulking now?”

Harry sticks his wet nose in Draco’s ear.

Draco, the bastard, doesn’t even seem to mind.

“Shhh,” he says, despite the fact that Harry is currently incapable of speech. “It’s time for sleeping.”

He cinches his arm around Harry’s neck.

“Shh,” he says again.

Harry stills.

He could easily break Draco’s hold.

He doesn’t.

***

Harry goes for a run in the morning.

The proximity of the full moon wakes him up before sunrise, like an itch under his skin, so he shifts into his human shape just long enough to descend the loft ladder and slip outdoors and then he reclaims four legs and runs.

It helps, maybe, and he’s feeling more settled, if a little out of breath, when he slips back inside an hour later.

He finds Draco sitting on the kitchen counter, legs tucked to his chest, clutching one of the upper cabinet door handles with his left hand. His right hand keeps a mug balanced on his knees. His bare toes are curled just over the lip of the butcher’s block. 

“What are you doing?” Harry asks.

“Drinking tea,” Draco answers. His tone says obviously.

“On the counter?”

This time he says it out loud: “Obviously.”

“Okay. Why?”

“Because I felt like it, Potter. Do I need your permission?”

Harry considers the situation for several seconds.

“Where’s the spider?” he asks.

Draco takes a haughty sip from his mug.

“Under the cabinet by the fridge.”

Harry relocates the spider outdoors and then returns to the kitchen, where Draco is still pointedly sitting on the counter.

“You know,”  Harry says, fixing his own mug of tea, “you and Ron have more in common than you think.”

“Take that back,” Draco says.

Malfoy insists on going to work—says he feels practically healthy with the combination of potions and inhalers and a night of close proximity to Harry—and Harry is beginning to learn when to pick his battles. So he agrees without argument, packs Malfoy a possibly excessive lunch, and drives them to Daughters. Harry then shifts into a wolf and completely ignores Draco’s dramatics as he follows him inside.

Billy coos over them both, tries to force Draco to eat the lasagne she brought for her own lunch, and spends several minutes sitting on the floor scratching Harry’s ears.

She has long fingernails and Harry has no shame.

It’s actually a nice morning.

Billy busies herself catching up on shelf-stocking and cleaning the windows so Draco can just sit on a stool at the counter and Harry spends the morning with his nose pushed up against Draco’s ankle—against the little sliver of skin between his trousers and his socks.

The sun coming in the window behind the till moves from his tail to his back to his front toes over the next several hours and Harry doses, content, half-listening as Malfoy assures various patrons who noted his absence that he’s just fine, only had a bit of a cold and is all better now. 

Billy leaves at lunch after extracting a promise from Draco that he won’t exert himself and will promptly go home when she returns at three. She also bends to kiss Harry’s head and tells him, very seriously, to keep an eye on Draco. He blinks solemnly at her.

The following hour is similarly relaxed apart from the brief chaos that is a harried Mrs. Watson and her five boys. Harry ends up an impromptu babysitter for the youngest who, recently having discovered walking, attempts to climb into the frozen section on three separate occasions whilst his mother is otherwise occupied with his crying, shoving, shouting, handsy siblings.

Harry follows him around anxiously, tugging at the back of his shirt whenever destructive impulses hit, until he gets tired. Then, Harry finds himself sprawled in front of the till with the child on his neck, pulling sleepily on his ears, and his mother, more relieved than she should be considering her progeny is antagonising a wolf, makes jokes about hiring Draco’s dog as a babysitter.

Harry thinks that will be the most noteworthy thing to happen, right up until two pm.

When the three men from before—Harry remembers the one is named McAllister—shove their way loudly through the door.

Draco, who usually greets customers by name upon entrance, says nothing. 

Harry sits up.

“Well shit,” one man says, glancing towards the counter, “looks like Billy’s charity case is back.”

“Thought Melly said he was sick,” the second one says.

“Sick in the head,” McAllister says.

None of them make an attempt to keep their voices down as they open the beer cooler door.

“Fuckin’ right,” the first says. “Twenty years ago we’d’ve just drug him behind a truck and been done with it.”

Harry isn’t entirely sure what happens.

One moment he’s leaned against Draco’s thigh, ears tipped towards the cold section of the store.

The next he’s—

There.

He doesn’t know if he went around the counter or jumped over it or somehow managed to apparate.

He doesn’t know if he shoved the other two men aside or if they fell in their haste to get away from him.

He doesn’t know who broke the glass door to the cold case.

What he does know is that he deeply, deeply, wants to hurt the man cowered behind it.

“Potter!” Draco yells from the front of the store.

The Wolf ignores him.

The man is cornered, back against the slightly frosted racks of boxed Budweisers. The cold case door is hanging at an angle, a wake of broken glass between them. The man’s hands are curled desperately around the broken door’s frame, as if it will provide protection. 

It will not.

The fur on the Wolf’s neck and down his spine is stiff and raised. There is a noise in his throat that is most certainly a growl. He can feel the grotesque curl of his lips over his teeth. He can smell the man’s fear.

It is thrilling.

“Potter,” Draco nearly takes out an end cap as he comes careening around the corner.

“Potter, stop.”

The Wolf does not want to stop.

The Wolf wants to bite.

Except Draco’s hands are closing in the ruff of fur around his neck. They are pulling hands. Fragile hands. The Wolf does not want to shake him off but he does not want to stop, either.

“Potter, don’t. It’s not worth it. Stop.”

The Wolf wants—

“Harry,” Draco says, mouth warm against his ear. “Please. Harry. Don’t.”

Ah.

The Wolf—

No. Harry.

Harry blinks.

He swallows a growl.

He lets Draco pull him back a foot.

Then another.

“I suggest you leave whilst you still can,” Draco says.

The men run.

***

It takes several minutes for Harry to get his head right—to get to a place where he can shift back into his human shape, accio his wand from the car, and repair the spray of broken glass and splintered plastic in the cold section.

Malfoy is furious.

By the time Billy returns, the shop looks immaculate, Harry is once again a wolf, and Draco is ignoring him to the point of kicking him in the face when Harry tries to resume his place at Draco’s feet.

Draco drives them back to the barns in silence.

Tends the plants in silence.

Demonstrates he is perfectly capable of turning on the television and navigating Amazon Prime Video himself in silence.

Harry is nearly finished cooking dinner when he sighs, turning down the heat, and waves a hand at the television, pausing it.

He leans back against the counter, arms crossed.

“Look, I’m sorry, alright? I don’t know what happened.”

“And I don’t know why I’m sharing a home with an unstable animal,” Malfoy murmurs, mashing the play button on the remote. “It would seem confusion is the theme of the day.”

“Come on, they were saying some terrible shit, I can hardly be blamed—”

“You almost killed a human. A muggle. Even the great Harry Potter is not immune to murder charges and you could hardly argue self-defence as a rationale; your life was not in danger. And if you had killed him—even if you’d just bitten him, which, arguably might have been even worse—I don’t have any magic, Potter. I wouldn’t have been able to help you. You would have gone to whatever passes as prison for wizards in America and then I would have died because you’re the only thing keeping me alive right now.”

Harry pauses the TV again, ignoring Malfoy’s little growl of fury.

“I said I’m sorry,” Harry repeats. “I just. Lost control for a minute. I was so angry.”

“Have you considered therapy?”

Harry thinks Malfoy is probably being facetious, but—

“I have, yeah. I’ve got the number for a squib with a muggle practice. But she takes wizarding clients as well. I just. Haven’t called the number.”

“Oh.”

Malfoy’s face does something complicated.

“Well,” he says, considerably less acerbic. “Maybe you should.”

Harry thinks that might be wise.

“I’ll call tomorrow.”

Malfoy continues to look at him.

“Do you want me to start this episode over?” he asks, finally. “You’ve missed some good bits.”

“Yeah,” Harry says. “Yeah, that’d be nice. You want me to bring you some food?”

“Please.”

Chapter Text

Potter does not go to work with Draco the next day.

Well, he does, but only to drop him off. Potter drives Draco to Daughters, walks him indoors, and then leaves him with a frankly ridiculous amount of food for lunch and a vague, if not somewhat alarming, assertion that he needs to go pick some flowers.

Billy seems to think it’s a charming indication of courtship, judging by the knowing, pink-cheeked grin she throws Draco as Potter leaves.

Draco is pretty sure the flowers in question are of the deadly controlled-magical-substance variety, growing suspiciously healthy on Potter’s property in a location where they shouldn’t be capable of growing at all.

“Be careful,” he says, not because he’s concerned about Potter’s safety, but because his health will be affected if Potter manages to kill himself.

He can’t remind Potter of that with Billy standing there, though. So instead, he says, “be careful.”

Billy sighs, one hand on her chest and an expression on her face that says it’s going to be a long day.

It’s a long day.

Billy seems to think that he and Potter are in some ill-conceived romantic entanglement and spends the morning trying to entice details of their relationship from him whilst simultaneously reminding him of her support for “their cause” whatever that cause may be.

And then, shortly after Billy leaves at lunch, Lavon arrives and asks several friendly but pointed questions about Mr. Potter and Draco’s current living situation and how nice it is that Draco isn’t so lonely anymore, so clearly Billy has been keeping Lavon apprised of her incorrect assumptions.

Draco has never been so relieved to see Potter when he arrives shortly before 3pm to pick Draco up.

He shoves his apron under the counter, practically dives around the partition whilst yelling goodbye to Lavon, and stalks out to the car before Potter can get any ideas about coming inside and engaging in conversation.

“Nice day?” Potter asks.

“Hardly,” Draco says, buckling his seatbelt.

Potter’s eyes narrow. “Did someone give you trouble?”

The hair on the back of Draco’s neck stands up at the timbre in Potter’s tone.

“Oh. No. Not like that. Billy was—” he sighs. “My day was fine. I’m just tired.”

Potter’s knuckles on the steering wheel get a bit less pronounced.

“How’s your chest? And your head. And your…everything, I guess?” 

Fine. My cough started to come back about an hour ago, though.”

Potter pulls onto the main road, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. “I was afraid of that. I thought about dropping by at lunch, to, er, touch you? For a while. That sounds—you know what I mean. Only I wasn’t sure how I could without Billy thinking—”

“Oh, she already thinks,” Draco says dourly. “A little handholding would probably delight her.”

“Oh,” Potter says. “Okay. Well, until I’m certain I can control the wolf we’ll just do that, then.”

“Wait,” Draco says, “I wasn’t actually—”

Potter extends the hand that had previously been cupped around the gear shift. “I’ll change when we get back and lie on the sofa with you for a bit, but you can have a dose now, if you like.”

Draco accepts the hand.

He brings their linked fingers to rest on top of his thigh.

He turns his hot face towards the window.

***

Potter has a selection of Black Foxglove samples sitting in jars on the bench in the potions barn.

Draco eyes them warily as he checks the hydroponics system and then walks down the rows of greenery, fingers drifting from leafy crown to leafy crown.

“Hermione and Pansy are going to come run some experiments on them in a few days,” Harry says, pinching a yellowed leaf off a mustard plant. 

“You told Pansy and Granger?”

“Yes? I don’t know anything about deadly plants and you shouldn’t be messing with them if you don’t have magic. They told me how to take the samples and what spells to put them under until they can finish their research and come deal with them.”

He considers telling Potter that he’s far too trusting, but doesn’t. Because he actually finds Potter’s trust endearing and criticising it now seems…unsporting.

“Alright, then.”

Potter clears his throat, attention fully—perhaps too fully—on a second, well-pruned, mustard plant.

“They told me that there’s been, er. A lot of talk. In the papers back home. About us.”

Draco finds he needs to sit down.

Potter leaps forward, eyes wide.

“Are you okay?”

Draco bats at his reaching hands. “I’m fine. Just contemplating the fallout. Were there pictures?”

“Several, apparently. Pansy said she’d bring some copies when she’s here next.”

“Fantastic.”

“Hermione sent in a statement to the Prophet on my behalf asking for respect and privacy and all that. Don’t know if they’ll publish it, but we’ll see. You can send in one as well, if you like.”

Draco sets aside his own horror for a moment to consider Potter, balanced on his toes in a crouch, wrists on bent knees, head tipped to one side. He looks a little anxious. Maybe embarrassed. He doesn’t appear all that upset, though.

“You’re being shockingly cavalier about your fall from grace,” Draco points out. “Disappearing and then being seen in the company of a known Death Eater.”

Potter rolls his eyes. “Former Death Eater. And I think I’m past the point of caring what the papers print about me. I was more worried about you.”

“Me?”

It takes a moment for that to compute.

“I can’t imagine that press about me associating with you would be any worse than press about me associating with the Dark Lord.”

Potter’s nose wrinkles.

And isn’t that such a Potter reaction. Most people would shudder at the mention of Voldemort. Potter looks as if he’s smelt something a bit off.

“I suppose we both don’t care then,” he says.

“I suppose.”

“Good. Well. Healer Nott is going to Facetime us in an hour. You want to go rest for a bit until then?”

Draco had, indeed, been looking forward to the promised nap.

“Alright,” he says. 

He lets Potter help him to his feet purely so he’ll stop looking so anxious.

***

An hour later, Draco wakes on the sofa to the warm, heavy, weight of a wolf’s head on his chest and the incessant ringing of Potter’s laptop on the coffee table.

He shoves ineffectively at Potter’s face whilst leaning forward to accept the call.

“Healer Nott,” he says, attempting to sit up.

Nott says nothing for several seconds, staring at Potter who is resisting waking and attempting to shove his nose into Draco’s armpit.

“Yes, yes, The Boy Who Lived is an overly tactile wolf, I’m sure it’s all very fascinating. Do you have any new information for us?”

Nott clears his throat.

“Yes. That is, perhaps. Do you…want me to call back later? Or—”

Draco sighs. “Potter,” he says, flicking the wolf’s ear. “Healer Nott is likely going to be useless until you shift back. Can you please cooperate for a moment?”

Potter’s subsequent sigh tickles the soft inner flesh of Draco’s bicep. But he does clamber off the sofa in a series of awkward movements and then returns from the bathroom a moment later, pulling down a shirt over still-unbuttoned jeans like an absolute heathen.

Potter yawns, scrubbing a hand through hair in a riotous disarray, and drops onto the sofa, slinging a proprietary arm around Draco’s neck. He slips his hand just inside the collar of Draco’s shirt, palm pressed flat to his sternum, and squints at the laptop screen.

“Sorry,” he says. “I’m awake. Weren’t you supposed to call at four-thirty?”

Nott clears his throat again.

Draco holds very still and tries not to blush.

“It’s four thirty-two,” Nott says. “You have remarkable control over your…lupine symptoms."

“Oh. Sorry,” Potter yawns again. “And I do, yeah. Mostly. So, you were saying you had more information for us?”

Nott blinks. Then sighs. “Yes. I pulled all existing research on magical transference and have been working through it. Unfortunately, I’ve found nothing on transference between a Creature and an entirely human wizard, or transference that resulted in a temporary or false magical core. However, there was one documented case of a half-Veela wizard and a werewolf wizard in Dublin who formed an accidental magical transference pair after their Auror unit suffered a tragedy. The werewolf saved the half-Veela’s life in the field. Apparently there was also a romantic connection at play.”

“And this information is of use to us how?” Draco asks.

“Werewolves can serve in Auror units in Dublin?” Potter asks.

“Potter,” Draco says.

“Right. Sorry. Not important.”

Nott raises one eyebrow at Draco. “Is it at all possible that you have Veela ancestry? I know your mother used to joke about it at parties but I never thought—”

Neither had he.

“Makes sense,” Potter says.

“It certainly does not,” Draco says. 

Potter looks surprised by his vehemence. “Why not?”

“Why do you think it makes sense?”

Potter gestures at him, looking baffled. “Just. With the way you look, I mean. All blonde and pointy and,” he voice drops a bit, eyes cutting sideways to the laptop screen, “you know…pretty.”

“You think I’m pretty?”

“Well you are.”

“Gentlemen,” Nott says.

Draco resists the urge to hide his face. Mostly because if he did it would likely dislodge Potter’s hand, still stuck down his shirt.

Dwelling on that doesn’t help the flush he’s trying to be rid of.

“I don’t know,” Draco says. “I suppose it’s possible, but I’d have to—someone would have to go check the family genealogy archives. Does it matter, in terms of treatment?”

“No, but it would at least give us a similar case to use as precedent. Sustained contact, provided that it doesn’t overly deplete the donor, is still the recommended course of treatment, regardless.”

“Well,” Potter says, tapping his fingers against Draco’s breastbone. “That’s easy enough. And I feel fine, so.”

“How are you feeling, Mr. Malfoy?” Nott asks.

“Good. Or close to it. Tired. I still have a cough in the mornings, and it comes back if I don’t—if I don’t have contact with Potter for several hours. No headaches or dizziness or back pain. I’m back on potions for those symptoms and I’m using a muggle breathing treatment for my lungs as well.”

“Good. It sounds like you’re already forming a workable treatment plan, but I’m going to send you an official one with a list of potions and suggestions about diet and exercise.” He pauses and something about his expression makes Draco lean forward a little.

“It’s my understanding from Mr. Zabini,” he says, cautious, “that my findings on your condition might be used as evidence to force a new sentencing trial for you and others who lost their magic after the war.”

“Yes,” Draco says. “That’s correct.”

“In that case, I’m assuming you don’t want me to include mention of your inexplicable transference bond with Mr. Potter in that official file on your condition.”

“That is also correct.”

“Alright.”

Nott tidies a stack of papers on his desk, mouth turned down at the corners.

“I suppose it goes without saying, if you did not have this connection with Mr. Potter, your outlook would be…quite grim.”

“I understand that, yes. Considering the, ah, connection, do you have any idea—any estimate—on what my longevity might be?”

“I’d hesitate to try and make that estimate without further knowledge. Have you thought any more about allowing me to contact a specialist?”

“I’m alright with it,” Potter murmurs, mouth to his ear, low enough that it’s possible only Draco hears him.

“They would need to sign a nondisclosure contract before they received any information about the special circumstances or our identities,” Draco says.

“I imagine that’s possible. May I begin making inquiries?”

“You may.”

“Excellent. I’ll also send copies of the existing research on magical transference along with my official findings. I’m assuming you want these documents sent to Mr. Zabini?”

“Yes, please. And do send them with confidentiality spells in place, if you would.”

“Of course. I’ll have the documents to him within the hour. I also wonder—” Nott pauses and then begins again. “I understand you also visited with a muggle physician for a prognosis and treatment plan?”

“We did.”

“I wonder if you might share the documents of their findings with me. I find myself curious.”

“We don’t have them yet,” Draco says. “But I have no issue sharing them when we do.”

“We’ll have them at five-thirty today,” Potter interrupts. “They called about a follow-up appointment while you were at work.”

Draco frowns at Potter’s innocent expression.

“I thought they said it would take several days.”

“Well,” Potter says, “apparently they were able to expedite the results. And Blaise was able to get us portkeys set up last-minute, too.”

“How fortuitous.”

Nott either laughs or coughs. “Well,” he says, “I look forward to seeing those results. I have another appointment but I’ll keep you apprised of my success in finding a consultant.”

“Thank you.”

Draco hangs up the call.

“So,” Potter says brightly, “we should probably get ready. Our portkey is in thirty minutes.”

“Why is it you didn’t inform me about this appointment earlier?”

“Because you needed rest. And if you’d known you wouldn’t have been able to sleep. Because you would have been anxious about going back to the hospital. This way you got some sleep and didn’t have a chance to worry.”

It’s true.

Draco hates that Potter knows him that well.

“You want to wear another one of my jumpers? It looks like the weather in Atlanta is pretty cold right now. You can borrow some gloves and a scarf as well.”

Draco allows Potter to dress him with only minimal disdainful remarks.

***

When they leave the hospital in Atlanta, the sky is pink and the rain that drummed against the windows during their visit with Dr. Kole has diminished to a thick mist. The asphalt, blanketed in puddled, reflecting, water, is as pink as the sky; in places it perfectly mirrors the strings of bumpy purple-blue clouds overhead.

There’s a whole packet of papers and prescriptions tucked under one of Harry’s arms but despite the fact that he’s just been handed a death sentence, Draco is strangely content. Because perhaps it won’t be a death sentence, after all. Perhaps, thanks to whatever Potter’s magic is doing, he’ll survive long enough to have his sentence overturned.

For the first time in over a year, he has begun to hope.

Harry had suggested they go for a walk whilst they waited for their portkey home. And then, a minute into that walk, and despite the fact that they were both wearing gloves against the chill in the air, Harry had taken his hand. There was no excuse for it. Magical transference didn’t work through clothing and Draco was more than stable enough to handle a gentle stroll down a paved sidewalk without assistance. And yet.

Ten minutes later, Draco’s hand is still in Harry’s and he tries not to bring attention to it—to make sure he doesn’t twitch his fingers or tighten his grip. He glances at their surroundings, attempting a lackadaisical air. He tries to forget he has a hand at all.

Except, inevitably, in trying to avoid looking at their hands, he ends up looking at Harry, instead. Harry, who is breathing out steam, squinting against the sunset, smiling at him.

Smiling. At him.

He’s beautiful, Draco realises. With mist in his hair and one slightly crooked canine tooth in his wide, gentle smile. With his stupid eyes and his shoulders and his slowly moving thumb against Draco’s knuckles.

He’s beautiful.

And Draco might love him a little.

It is a phenomenally inopportune revelation.

Cars pass them in a soft susurrus of wet-rubber-on-wet-road noise and Draco tries to breathe normally.

How did normal people breathe?

He can’t seem to remember.

Potter squeezes his hand and Draco, overwhelmed by—he doesn’t even know, Potter’s attention? His own baffling hubris?—flinches before he can stop himself.

“Hey. You okay?” Potter asks.

He shakes his head. “I’m fine,” he lies. “Just tired. Looking forward to going home”

Potter’s smile dims, then hitches a little.

“Home,” he says, like it means something else. Something more. “Yeah. Me too.”

***

Their evening consists of another short rest with a wolf draped against Draco’s side, head on his chest. Draco sort of wishes Harry would stay a wolf because it’s a lot easier to deal with him when he’s furry and not smiling softly at him and touching him with calloused hands and looking at him.

Except Harry has to be human again to make dinner seeing as Draco is useless in the kitchen and cooking requires opposable thumbs.

Actually, Draco imagines Harry could probably cook a meal entirely using wandless magic whilst in wolf form if he really wanted to, but he’s not about to make any challenges to that effect.

Draco is paging aimlessly through the pile of research that Blaise dropped off while they were gone. He doesn’t understand half of what’s written in the very, very, dry scholarly articles spread across the coffee table and he wishes, not for the first time, that there was a wizarding equivalent to Google. Muggles may often do things completely backwards (blood draws come to mind), but the internet is clearly superior to Wizarding archives and owl-post inquiries.

Draco sighs, trying to remember where he left his reading glasses, and sits up, turning to hook his elbows over the back of the couch.

He’s going to ask Potter if he’s seen his glasses but doesn’t.

Instead, he watches: caught up in the way that Potter is holding the frying pan in one hand, the muscles of his forearm shifting as he sautés garlic, rocking back and forth on his heels. 

Potter glances over his shoulder and notices Draco staring.

“I had an abusive childhood,” Potter says, apropos of nothing.

“Uh.” Draco says. 

“Sorry. I’m just supposed to say it out loud.” He sets the pan down and waves an awkward explanatory hand that isn’t, actually, all that explanatory. “For therapy. I had my first appointment at lunch today. We don’t have to talk about it or anything.”

Ah.

“Ah. Well. If that’s something you’d like to discuss—”

“Absolutely not.”

“Alright.”

“Good.”

“Mm.”

Except Potter’s posture has gone…wrong, somehow: No longer loose and confident and Draco has no idea how to fix it.

Potter made a therapy appointment.

He’s trying.

Perhaps Draco should too.

Draco clears his throat.

“I was sexually assaulted,” Draco says. “As well as just. Generally. Assaulted. Tortured maybe? I’m not sure what the differentiation is there, actually.”

Potter, quite suddenly, is standing at the sofa, fingers curled into the blanket draped over the back of it, eyes wide and dark, posture feral.

Who,” he says, and it’s less of a word and more of a sound. A very low, frightening, sound.

Draco realises his mistake.

“Jesus, not—calm down. Not recently. There’s no one for you to kill, not that I would condone that if there was. I’m fine. Look at me. I’m perfectly fine.”

Potter relaxes a fraction but his teeth still appear a little too crowded in his mouth.

“Would you sit?” Draco says. “You’re frightening me.”

Potter sits.

He breathes for several long seconds. Takes down his hair. Finger combs it back up again.

“Sorry,” he says, finally. His voice still sounds rough, lower than usual. “Sorry. You were saying?”

“I’m not—there’s nothing to continue. I was just. You said… a thing. So I said a thing.”

The phrasing is embarrassingly pedestrian, but Draco’s pureblood lessons in elocution hardly covered heart-to-hearts about trauma.

“So,” Draco summarises. “You had an abusive childhood. I experienced a series of traumatic events whilst the Dark Lord and his minions were cavorting about my family home.We’ve both shared things, now. Therapy.”

“Oh,” Potter says. “Right. Do you…want to talk about it?”

“Not particularly.”

Potter is silent for several more seconds.

“Whoever it was. That hurt you. They’re dead?”

“Yes.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

Potter abruptly stands, returning to the kitchen, and dinner passes largely in silence. It’s not awkward silence, though; it’s companionable. With nudged elbows and mock fighting over the salt and washing up together after.

“Was it a werewolf?” Potter asks quietly as they’re drying dishes. “The one who—”

“Yes,” he says.

Potter swallows. “Should I not—does it bother you when I’m a wolf? I can stop shifting. And I can stay in the potions barn on full moons.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Obviously it doesn’t bother me. The only thing that bothers me is waking up to dog breath but that’s certainly preferable to cuddling you as…” he gestures towards Harry, ears hot “…you. So.”

Potter’s eyes narrow.

“Okay,” he says. He starts to say something else but stops. Purses his lips. Shakes his head slightly.

“Just to be clear. If it does bother you—if anything I do as a wolf, or as a human, bothers you. You need to tell me. So I don’t scare you or remind you of them.”

“You,” Draco says fiercely, possibly more fiercely than is warranted by the situation, “are nothing like them.”

“Okay, but—”

“Yes, fine. I’ll tell you. But you have to do the same.”

Harry laughs, like they’re not having a very serious conversation.

“You have nothing in common with the Dursleys. And you could hardly hurt me, physically. Even if you wanted to.”

Draco is aware that he’s been insulted but since it’s factual—

“Even so.”

“Yeah, alright. Deal.”

Potter goes very still, suddenly, attention on the window, and Draco isn’t sure he likes the nearly tangible feeling of tension radiating off of him.

“Is something wrong?” Draco asks.

Potter’s fingers curl around the lip of the sink.

He doesn’t look at Draco when he says, “I want to try something.”

“Alright?” Draco says.

“I don’t know for sure if it will work, but I think it will, so I just. I’d like to try.”

“Okay? It might help if you tell me what you want to try, Potter.”

Potter’s eyes are very wide and very green when he turns to face him.

“Please don’t get angry with me.”

“You’re not instilling me with much confid—what are you doing?”

Except it’s relatively obvious what Potter’s doing.

He’s moving to stand behind Draco. Close, behind him. Chest to back, mouth against Draco’s ear. And Potter’s hand is slipping under the hem of Draco’s sweater, sliding in a wake of goosebumps up over his belly to rest, palm flat and warm in the centre of his chest. His other hand slips down Draco’s wrist to cover Draco’s, fingers tucking themselves into the divots of his knuckles. 

Draco doesn’t move.

Because he doesn’t know what’s happening, but he also doesn’t want it to stop.

Potter guides their linked hands up, off the counter, and reaches for—

Oh.

He resists and Potter stops moving.

“You don’t have to,” Potter says lowly. “But I think—can we try? Please?”

He stops resisting.

And with Potter’s hand cupped around his, they pick up Draco’s wand from the windowsill together—the wand that has been sitting there for weeks, collecting dust. The wand that he’s been trying to ignore every time he makes a cup of tea.

Their fingers overlap on smooth hawthorn.

Smooth, warm, hawthorn.

Familiar. Like it recognises him.

Draco’s breath hitches and Potter tightens his grip.

“Cast lumos,” Potter says, more exhale than words. “I won’t do anything. I’ll just stand here, but—try. Please.”

Draco doesn’t think to argue.

“Lumos,” he breathes.

And the tip of his wand lights up a pale blue.

“Oh,” Draco says. 

Potter laughs, shaky and mostly silent, but Draco can tell he’s smiling.

Potter’s hand on his chest presses more firmly: thumb to breastbone, fingers digging into the thin layer of skin over his ribs. 

They watch, together, as the pale ember of light fades against the backdrop of the night-dark kitchen window and Draco leans back against Harry in sway of movement that Potter easily absorbs.

He closes his eyes.

He can feel the magic, subtle, but achingly present, in his palm where it’s curled around the wand. After nearly a year without, the feeling is something akin to euphoria.

“Lumos,” Draco says again.

Even with his eyes closed, he can see the light.


Chapter Text

Harry has started spending a distressing amount of time watching Draco Malfoy sleep.

For the past several weeks, through therapy and research and testing hypotheses and arguments and awkward make-ups after arguments and far too many witches and wizards invading his house, Harry has been watching Draco Malfoy sleep.

Not just at night, when Draco inevitably drops off before Harry, but also in the early mornings; in the afternoons when Draco naps after getting home from work; or late in the evenings when he falls asleep on the sofa amidst the quiet, surprisingly amiable, conversation of Gryffindors and Slytherins and one, perpetually delighted, Ravenclaw.

At first he tried to rationalise it by noting the nearness of the full moon: he was just being overly cautious due to circumstances beyond his control. As Draco himself pointed out, Harry’s wolf-side has decided Draco needs protecting. But then the full moon came and went and he was still—

So then he tried to reason that Draco was ill, after all, and it was best to keep a close eye on him in case his health worsened anyway. Except he’s been getting steadily healthier and there’s hardly anything dangerous about sleeping.

It should be weird, is the thing.

He should definitely feel weird about it.

He doesn’t.

The others have noticed. Pansy and Blaise share a lot of smirking looks whenever Harry adjusts a sofa cushion under Draco’s head or covers him with a quilt or tells everyone to lower their voices because Draco has fallen asleep and he needs his rest.

Luna smiles at him—them?—a lot and has started leaving books about love languages and fostering relationships in adversity when she visits.

Ginny rolls her eyes a lot and Hermione looks contemplative and Ron—

Well. Ron knows him best of all, which is probably why he pulls Harry aside one night and says, in typical Ron fashion, “Please tell me you’re not shagging Malfoy.”

“What? No.”

“I mean, you can tell me. If you are, I’ll get used to it. Eventually. Probably. But you’ve got to tell me so I don’t like, accidentally find out, you know? Because that would be traumatic. The fact that you don’t have a door on the bedroom is—”

“Ron,” Harry interrupted. “I’m not—” he lowered his voice, cutting his attention to the living room, where Blaise was waiting, impatience clear, by the door; Pansy and Hermione had their heads together, a scroll held between them.

Harry cleared his throat. “I’m not shagging Malfoy,” he whispered again. Firmly.

“I’m not actually sure that’s better.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well you’re doting on him a creepy amount if you’re not.”

“He’s ill. And recovering. And trying to be a better person. And. Well, we actually have a lot in common. And he’s smart and funny and he smells so good.”

Harry hadn’t meant to say the last bit.

“Too much information,” Ron muttered.

“I can’t help it,” he sighed. “I’m not shagging him. But I do—there might be, uh. Feelings.”

“But it’s Malfoy,” Ron had insisted, bewildered. “I know he’s—” Ron waves a hand, looking pained, “—and you’ve always been a bit—” another wave, “about him. But it’s Malfoy. We hate Malfoy.”

The problem is that Harry doesn’t hate Malfoy anymore.

It’s hard to hate someone whose companionship, acerbic as it may be, makes your house a home. It’s hard to hate someone who steals your clothing but returns it washed and folded. Who remembers how you like your tea even if they only deliver it to you with insults. Who talks to plants like they’re people and drives like a blind grandmother and is terribly afraid of spiders but equally unwilling to admit it. It’s hard to hate someone who can be found most afternoons curled up in a patch of sun like a very bony white-blonde kitten if white-blonde kittens communicated through warring bouts of elitist sarcasm and halting, embarrassed, uncertainty. 

For all that Harry is supposed to be the wild animal, Draco certainly acts the part of a feral creature who can’t decide if love is worth the price of domestication.

Not that love had anything to do with this.

The point is, people have noticed. Which means that Draco probably has as well, or will soon, if Harry isn’t able to get a handle on things. Except it’s hard to distance yourself from someone when you literally have to touch them as much as possible for actual medical reasons.

Harry despairs.

“You’re acting strange,” Draco says one evening. “Why are you acting strange?”

Harry takes another hasty bite of stew so he doesn’t have to answer.

Draco’s narrowed eyes go even narrow-er.

“Potter.”

“M’ not acting strange,” he says, mouth full.

“You’re a terrible liar. Did Healer Nott find something? Did Pansy and Hermione? Am I—” he goes pale. Well. Pale-er. “Did the Ministry deny the petition?”

No,” Harry says. “No. Sorry. It’s nothing, honestly. Just. I’ve been thinking about the nightshade.”

He has. It’s not completely a lie.

“Something’s been bothering me about it.”

Draco relaxes back against the sofa cushions. “You mean besides the fact that its magical uses are so fiercely guarded that we don’t, actually, know anything about it other than it being dangerous and illegal?”

“That,” Harry agrees wryly, “but also. In the field. Where we found it?”

“The improbable field that shouldn’t exist?”

“Right. It smells like Daughters.”

Draco sets aside his spoon and pats delicately at his mouth with a napkin.

Harry finds the gesture embarrassingly endearing.

“You’re going to need to explain that to me, Potter.”

“I don’t know if I can. It’s just. When I was up there collecting the samples. The dirt—once I dug into it, once I started removing plants—the scent was stale but it. It smelled like Daughters. Like the back storeroom and the dust on the shelves and the ice in the freezer section. And Billy. Well, not like Billy, specifically. Or like any particular part of the shop, just… like the shop. In general.”

“That makes no sense,” Draco points out helpfully.

“I know,” Harry sighs. “That’s why it’s been bothering me.”

“Billy isn’t a witch,” Draco says. “She can’t be. I’ve spent too much time with her. I would know.”

“Right,” Harry agrees. “But someone familiar with magic and magical plants made that clearing. And Pansy says that the climate charms on it are really advanced. Especially for such a large area to still be effective without renewal for so long.”

“Did you have any luck finding out who implemented the permanent portkey in Marian?” Draco asks.

“Not yet. ‘Mione put in the request but the people in Records at the Ministry are basically useless.”

Harry shoves another spoon-full of chili into his mouth, grimacing.

“It could be weeks—even months before we hear back and even then they might not have the information anymore because of the fire last year.”

“Another dead end, then,” Draco says.

He doesn’t seem that upset about it. 

Harry wiggles his toes where they’re wedged under Draco’s bare thigh.

Draco has taken to wearing Harry’s Weasley jumpers with boxers—green silk boxers that Harry bought as a joke but Draco immediately and un-ironically fell in love with—around the house. It facilitates less-awkward contact between them, if constant games of footsie can be considered less-awkward than constant hand-holding.  Except it’s December and Harry’s warming charms aren’t the best and the wood burner struggles to heat the massive open space of the barn, so he’s now constantly worried about the state of Draco’s thin, pale legs.

“Are you cold?” he asks, summoning the blanket from the back of the sofa. 

“I’m fine,” Draco says, but submits to having the blanket tucked around them. “I’m sharing space with a werewolf.”

“So?”

Draco raises a pale, sculpted eyebrow.

“So you throw heat like a furnace, Potter. I assumed you were aware considering your near-constant state of undress.”

Harry takes a moment to digest that. He realises, more than a little sheepish, that Draco is right. If they’re at home alone, Harry usually only wears a pair of boxer shorts. Not because he’s overly warm but because he’s constantly shifting between wolf and human and clothing is more of a hindrance than anything else.

It occurs to him belatedly as he’s sitting on the sofa in December in threadbare joggers and nothing else that he probably should be cold. He’s not, though. He can’t remember being cold at all since—well. Since he was bitten.

Interesting.

Equally interesting is the faint flush that has crept up Draco’s neck and is now staining his cheeks.

Harry resists the urge to reach out.

To touch where the pink traverses his jaw.

He swallows.

“Sorry. Does that…bother you? I can go put on a shirt or something.”

Draco considers him, not really frowning, but lips pursed, just slightly, in a way that usually doesn’t mean good things.

“It’s your house,” he says finally. 

And that. Is not an answer. 

“It’s your house too.”

“Is it? Because I haven’t signed any paperwork. There weren’t any witnesses to an agreement. You—you’ve been very kind, certainly. But it would be naive for me to assume that kindness will continue indefinitely.”

Harry feels like they’re talking about something else, now.

“I won’t—”

“And even if it does, even if you’re able to get my sentence overturned or retried, there will be no reason for me to stay, afterwards. Granger could easily take over potion-making for you, with a bit of practise. I certainly won’t dictate how you should behave in a home where I’m a temporary guest.”

Harry is still trying to navigate the sudden and baffling ache in his chest at the words “there will be no reason for me to stay,” when Draco finishes, almost as an afterthought:

“Besides, considering our history, I can hardly fault you for some harmless taunting.”

Harry absently pushes a palm against his sternum.

“Taunting? What are you talking about?”

Draco’s lip-purse becomes judgmental.

“Please.”

“Please, what? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Draco rolls his eyes. “I don’t begrudge you for it, I probably would have done the same if our positions were reversed, it’s —”

“Draco,” Harry says, and Draco stops talking. He doesn’t know if it’s because he’s growling a little or if it’s because he’s used Draco’s first name. “I need you to stop assuming I’m an arsehole and tell me what I’ve been doing to upset you.”

Draco blinks. 

He looks genuinely startled.

“Oh. I thought. I thought you’d been rubbing it in that you’re—” he gestures towards Harry’s bare chest.

“…fit?” Harry supplies.

“Sure. And I’m—” he gestures to his own chest.

“…ill?”

Gay, Potter,” he exhales, shoving his fingers into his hair. “Honestly.”

And Harry.

Harry needs a minute.

“You’re gay?”

Draco flings a hand in his direction: palm up; fingers splayed.

“Of course I’m gay,” Draco shouts. “I told you I’m gay.”

“What? When?”

He didn’t. Harry would have remembered.

“The first week. When I told you about McAllister and his—”

No,” Harry says. “No, you said they assumed you were gay because of the way you look not that you were.

“Well I am, so now you know.”

“Fine. Good.”

“Good?”

“I mean. Whatever. That still doesn’t—how have I been taunting you?”

Draco presses two fingers to his temple, giving Harry a look that says he’s a complete and utter imbecile. It’s a familiar expression.

“On Tuesday,” Draco says. “You came home from a run. Shifted in the living room whilst I was on the sofa, and then, naked, walked in front of the TV, drank from the sink in the kitchen, and did a series of stretches, before going to take a shower and put on clothes.”

“Okay, but—”

“On Wednesday,” Draco continues, “you did pull-ups shirtless whilst I was eating breakfast and then plastered your sweaty mostly-naked body against mine and ate entirely off my plate whilst occasionally hand-feeding me.”

“Well yeah, but—”

“On Thursday, you did the housework charms in the smallest, thinnest, pair of pants you own—and I’ve done all your laundry, so I know they’re the smallest, thinnest, pair you own—whilst I was trying to watch TV. And you kept turning it off so I’d pay attention to you.”

“But that—”

“On Friday, you sat behind me on the sofa and plaited my hair whilst I was talking to Blaise and Pansy and then when the others arrived to go over submitting the petition, you gave me a massage—which, admittedly, was very nice, until you pulled me back against your chest and dug your thumbs into my palms and whispered about how tense my wrists and forearms were, and I had to keep a pillow in my lap for an embarrassingly long period afterwards.”

Oh.

“And last night,” Draco snarls, “you draped yourself—your mostly naked muscular, damp-from-the shower self—over my back and stuck your hands up my shirt and told me to try and do the washing up with magic. And then when I struggled to leviosa the larger plates— not because of ineptitude, mind, but because you were petting my stomach, with your—your stupid, warm hands—you hooked your chin over my shoulder and rubbed your cheek against my jaw and told me to relax like you weren’t the reason for my extreme distraction.”

He had. He had done all of those things.

Laid out like that, they do seem rather damning.

“But,” Harry says weakly, “I wasn’t—it only makes sense that you thought I was making fun of you if you’re attracted to me.”

Draco throws a cushion at him. “Have you seen you, of course I’m attracted to you!”

Oh.

“Oh.”

“Wait,” Draco says. “If you weren’t messing with me, why would you—Potter. There’s no heterosexual reason for your behaviour.”

“Well, I’m not. So.”

Draco’s expression has gone entirely blank.

“You’re not…heterosexual.”

“No. I’m pretty sure I’m bi? Or pan? I don’t really have a label for it yet, but—”

“Potter,” Draco interrupts. “Are you saying you’re attracted to me.

The disbelief in his tone makes Harry angry. Not at Draco, but whoever led him to believe he was undesirable.

Because he is. Desirable.

He always has been. Even when he was so ill it hurt to look at him.

But now—now he’s gained enough weight that he appears more intentionally slender than emaciated. After two more Sleekeazy’s treatments, his hair is a pretty, shiny tumble of white-blonde that nearly reaches his shoulder blades. He moves with haughty grace rather than discomfort. There’s something beautiful about his hands. He smells good. And he’s constantly wearing Harry’s clothes.

Like now:

The stretched collar of the jumper slipping off one shoulder is salacious.

The slope of his exposed collarbone lascivious.

The way his fingers curl around the blanket in his lap risqué.

Harry might be projecting.

“Yes,” he says, because he doesn’t see any other option. “Yes, I’m attracted to you.”

***

Clearly, two repressed nineteen-year-olds should not be left to their own devices because they handle the revelation that they share a mutual romantic interest by doing absolutely nothing about it.

Draco abruptly needs to use the bathroom and Harry spends the rest of the evening digging through scrolls full of small, overly florid, handwriting that may or may not mention his ancestors. Draco goes to bed early. Harry only joins him, as a wolf, once he knows Draco is asleep.

Harry sleeps restlessly and leaves for a run before sunrise because he knows they’re going to have to talk about it at some point, he just doesn’t want that point to be now.

So.

If he’s being honest, half the reason he brings the snake home is because it seems like a good delay tactic.

That and he could hardly leave the poor thing to freeze to death. And he feels guilty because, well.

He steps on her, is the thing.

It’s an accident.

He’s following his nose through several inches of leaf and pine needle detritus in the woods off the back forty when something wiggles under his foot, hissing in quiet outrage about big smelly furry and ugly heavy wolf and enemy bite kill.

Harry scrambles back, sits, and then shifts.

Sorry, he says. Accident. Are you alright?

She’s not a large snake. Less than a foot long and barely as wide as his little finger. But she’s—well she’s possibly the most beautiful snake he’s ever seen: a collection of pinks and reds and yellows that, in the sunlight seem to shift to other colours. She looks fake.

She is also very confused.

Wolf? She asks. Human?

Er. Harry says. Both? Sometimes wolf. Sometimes human.

Friend? She asks.

Harry gets the feeling that the snake may be a juvenile.

Sure. Friend. Are you okay?

Cold. Hungry.

Harry should probably be cold too, considering he’s sitting naked in the woods and it’s only just above freezing. 

Would you like me to take you somewhere warm? Into the house? And I can probably get you some food. What do you eat?

The snake blinks slowly at him.

Warm, she repeats. Yes. Food. Yes. Eel. Frog. Yes.

“Right.” Harry says. “Eel. Fantastic.”

Harry is really hoping that Draco will be asleep when he gets back.

He is not.

Draco is sitting on the sofa, drinking from a mug which he sets down loudly on the coffee table at Harry’s entrance.

“Did we not just talk about your predilection for nudity last night?” Draco snaps. “You can’t pretend this is accidental, now.”

“No. I mean, yes, we did. But that’s not—look. I had to carry her back.”

He uncurls his cupped hands, keeping the snake snug to his chest as he walked back to the house, and Draco stands, moving forward to meet Harry halfway.

“Oh,” he says. “She’s beautiful.”

“And she’s cold. Can you hold her for a minute?”

“Will she let me?”

He says you’re beautiful, Harry tells her. Can he hold you?

She preens and allows herself to be handed off to Draco.

After putting on a pair of jeans and several hurried minutes of googling, Harry discovers that she is a young Rainbow snake, semi-aquatic, and, yes, her primary diet should be eels and frogs.

“Where the hell am I going to get eels?” Harry murmurs.

“Mm?” Draco says.

“She’s a Rainbow snake,” Harry reports. “Her diet should be eels and frogs but short of going and catching some at the creek, I’m not sure where to find any short-notice.”

“Blaise is supposed to arrive shortly,” Draco says. “Ask him to bring some. His mother has a small menagerie at their manor—including snakes—and his flat is right next to Eeylops. If anyone knows where to find a few dozen frogs it will be him.”

Harry sends off a patronus and goes back to scrolling. He isn’t sure if it’s safe to put a snake by a fire to warm her up. Maybe they should leave her in the sun on the windowsill?

“What’s her name?” Draco asks, and his voice is—

Harry turns to look at them.

Draco has the snake tucked in the front of his jumper—Harry’s jumper—one hand cupped to the outside around the little lump of her body. Her head is resting just on the knobbly collar, looking up at Draco in what might be worshipful attentiveness. 

He drops onto the sofa next to them.

What’s your name? He asks.

Pretty, she says, still looking up at Draco.

Your name is pretty or Draco is pretty?

Draco?

Him. Harry pokes Draco in the side. Draco.

Draco. Warm. Pretty fur.

Hair, Harry says. It’s called hair on humans.

Pretty hair, she agrees.

So, Harry presses, not that he disagrees, but they’re getting a little off-track. Your name? What should we call you?

She just blinks at him. 

Harry sighs. “I don’t think she has a name,” he says, glancing up at Draco.

Draco is staring at him.

His mouth is open, not much, just enough that the tip of his tongue can rest on his lower lip. His eyes are mostly pupil.

“What?” Draco says faintly.

Harry doesn’t have a chance to repeat himself because there’s a crack of apparition and Blaise and Pansy are abruptly standing beside them.

“Good afternoon,” Blaise says. “Or good morning, I suppose. I’ve brought the frogs you requested and I certainly have no questions or concerns about your sudden interest in procuring amphibians.”

“They’re for the snake,” Harry says.

It comes out a little more terse than is warranted, maybe; he’s feeling strangely territorial of his space. He’d like nothing more than to growl at them, but both his therapist and Draco would likely take exception to that.

He breathes, instead.

“Snake?” Pansy asks. “What sna—oh Merlin. Oh, she’s beautiful.”

She tucks herself against Draco’s other side, offering a perfectly-manicured finger for the snake to inspect.

“Hello, gorgeous. You darling thing. Are you hungry? We’ve brought you breakfast.”

Pansy glances up at Draco, “where did she come from?”

“Potter brought her home,” he murmurs, stroking a finger down her pointed nose. 

“Potter got you a snake,” Blaise says.

Harry doesn’t particularly care for his tone.

“No,” Draco says. “Potter found a half-frozen, hungry, snake and, hero that he is, carried her home to nurse her back to health.”

Harry thinks the sentence is supposed to be sarcastic but Draco is still petting the snake’s head and it comes out more fond than abrasive.

“Did you know snakes were often courting gifts for the Sacred Twenty-Eight?” Pansy says.

Were they?” Blaise asks.

“So many of them spoke parseltongue, it was considered a sign of status. My great, great, aunt received an Amazon Basin Emerald Tree Boa from her eventual wife and she wore the snake like a necklace for over a decade until he got too big. The snake’s name was Bartholomew. We have a painting of the two of them in the main hall.”

“Fascinating,” Blaise says. “Was there any sort of ritual that went along with it? Merlin knows that traditional engagements are wildly contrived.”

“Mmm,” Pansy muses. “There was a customary Latin phrase—I can’t remember it exactly but something about accepting the snake as a symbolic companion. The recipient and snake would care for each other in the same way that the recipient and their intended would later in life. The snake would provide companionship and protection for the recipient. The recipient would provide food and affection and safe housing for the snake.”

“Draco,” Blaise says, “Did Potter happen to mumble a bit of Latin at you when he presented this lovely lady to you?”

“What, no. I told you, he just found her on his morning run and dumped her in my hands the moment he got inside.”

“Well,” Blaise says, “points off for presentation, but it’s the gesture that counts, old boy.”

He pats Harry consolingly on the shoulder and Harry only barely resists letting out the growl still lodged in the back of his throat.

“What’s her name?” Pansy asks.

“Doesn’t have one,” Harry says. “That’s what we were just talking about.”

“How about Lyra?” Draco asks. There’s a flush on his neck that will, Harry knows, reach his cheeks in another minute.

Hey, Harry murmurs, Can we call you Lyra?

She considers.

Lyra?

Draco suggested it. Harry says.

Yes, she agrees. Lyra. Pretty.

“She likes Lyra,” Harry reports, “says it’s pretty.”

All three Slytherins are staring at him now.

Pansy has gone just as pink as Draco.

“What?” Harry asks.

“That was,” Blaise says, “extremely sexy. Do it again.”

Draco kicks one foot at him.

“I’ll have Harry throw you out if you don’t behave.”

“You won’t,” Blaise says. “I’m charming.”

“You’re infuriating.”

“I contain multitudes.”

“Boys,” Pansy says.

The way she says it sounds habitual.

Lyra points out that she’s still hungry and Harry, relieved, busies himself with taking the container of frogs from Blaise, taking Lyra from Draco, and finding a clean, sunny, patch of floor to make her dining table. 

When he returns to the living room, several minutes later, with a sated snake and two mugs of tea, the three Slytherins have a collection of parchment and printed paper spread across the table. Draco shoves at Blaise, occupying Harry’s former place on the sofa, without looking up.

Blaise raises a knowing eyebrow at Harry, but relocates easily enough to the floor as Harry sits and hands Draco a mug first, then Lyra.

“Where’s my tea?” Blaise asks.

Harry ignores him.

“Lyra says she’d like to stay with us, so I need to go into town for a heat lamp and a few other things,” Harry says. “Do you need anything before I go?”

Draco reaches towards him, still not glancing up from the papers in his hands, fingers colliding absently with Harry’s bicep. “Stay for a moment, if you would. I’ve got a headache.”

He’s lying.

Harry knows he’s lying.

But he doesn’t argue.

He lets Draco’s hand slide down to his wrist.

Lets Draco pull his arm around his shoulders.

Lets his fingers slip under the collar of Draco’s jumper, cool against warm skin.

There’s still a gentle flush that extends from his temples down the slope of his neck, where Lyra is curled like a fine, rainbow necklace, tucked under the curtain of his hair, now mostly fallen out of the fishtail plait he slept in.

Anyone else would look dishevelled: mussed hair, too-big jumper, glasses sliding down their nose.

Draco looks like a Waterhouse painting. 

Like some pale, pink-cheeked, wide-eyed, fairy-tale figure—a waif painted with adoration.

Pansy clears her throat and Harry realises, abruptly, that he’s staring again.

Shit.

Chapter Text

Harry has been staring at him.

Draco has noticed.

It’s been so long since someone has looked at him with want that he doesn’t even realise that’s what’s happening until Potter actually, verbally, confirms that he finds Draco attractive. And even then Draco doesn’t quite believe it until he, well, starts paying attention.

And then he feels like an idiot.

Because Potter is about as discreet as a first-year with a crush and it’s honestly embarrassing that Draco ever thought him capable of artifice—ever thought that Potter’s initial hesitance to touch, followed by effusive clinginess upon being given permission—was a construct. That his lingering eyes and gentle assistance and concern over Draco’s comfort was an act.

Potter is unabashedly greedy for physical contact to an extent that should be exasperating but, for some reason Draco can’t determine, Potter’s predilection for neediness is more endearing than anything else.

Possibly because Draco is equally starved for affection.

Regardless, Potter is the definition of guileless as he coaxes Lyra from around Draco’s neck and delivers her to her terrarium for the night with soft, sibilant, conversation.

As he tucks a blanket around Draco’s bare legs.

As he shifts Draco’s head into his lap.

As he absently finger-combs his loose hair.

He waits until he thinks Draco is asleep before tracing the scalloped curve of his ear with a tenderness that makes Draco feel like—like—

He doesn’t even know.

For someone who’s spent most of his life acting as if he ought to be treated with the utmost care and reverence, now that he is, Draco is completely uncertain how to handle it.

He starts trying to return the kind gestures: digging his fingers into the knots on Potter’s shoulders when they’re watching television or bringing home an extra packet of Potter’s favourite crisps after work. He makes Harry tea as he sorts through manuscripts and gives up napping in favour of squinting his way through correspondence between his great-aunt and one of Potter’s distant many-times-removed cousins who were either friends or mortal enemies depending on the letter. 

Draco can empathise.

He orders a roll of butcher paper on Amazon and tacks pieces up on the wall in the living room so they can draw out a rough genealogy tree of Potter’s ancestors. And they add to it whenever they stumble upon a birth announcement or a mention of a wedding in a journal or a coming out ball invitation. There are a lot of blank spaces and question marks and scratched out portions. But it’s growing. And sometimes Potter will pause whilst crossing the room, mug against his chest, and just…smile at it for a moment.

So the effort is worth it.

Draco offers to cut Potter’s hair, but he declines.

Draco, shamefully, is relieved.

Potter’s hair is nearing his shoulders, now: wild and objectively beautiful when it’s fanned out around his sleeping face as he suns himself in the afternoons, sprawled artlessly in the open doorway of the potions barn whilst Draco tends to the plants.

Sometimes, Draco imagines seeing that dark hair tangled with blond on a shared pillow.

“Pansy,” he says, face-down on the sofa one evening. “What has happened to me?”

Potter is off with his Gryffindors doing god knows what in London for the day. He took his invisibility cloak and he was dressed in his Auror uniform when he left, which Draco has certainly not spent the last several hours thinking about.

Pansy is babysitting him despite his objections. Well, mostly she’s just sitting on the sofa and drinking all the wine she supposedly brought to share.

“I’ve no idea how you want me answer that question,” she says.

“Perhaps honestly?”

“Oh,” she says, patting his arse consolingly, “I’m not sure you’ll like that answer.”

Draco sighs.

Lyra, tucked around his neck, buts her head under his chin.

He makes an appreciative noise.

“There’s nothing for it,” he says despondently, rolling onto his back. “I’m just going to have to sleep with him.”

“That’s certainly one way to handle the situation.”

He presses his palms to his eyes.

“I can’t believe I’m going to sleep with him.”

“Well. You don't have to.”

“No,” Draco says grimly. “I do. I really do.”

Pansy accepts this with an infuriating amount of calm.

“He’s a bit of an idiot, though, when it comes to you,” she says. “I mean. You’ve already established mutual interest and he still hasn’t made a move. Are you just going to climb into his lap or—”

“Please,” Draco sniffs. “I do have some shame left. It’s going to be terrible enough when he ends things, I’m hardly going to begin them. No. I’ll just…encourage him, a bit.”

Pansy taps the rim of her glass against her bottom lip.  “Do you want me to retrieve some of your clothes? Nothing too gaudy but—” 

“Yes,” Draco says, considering his bare legs. They’re a little cold without Potter’s usual warmth, but, despite their paleness, they’ve regained a degree of shapeliness—as have other parts of him—that might be worth accentuating. “Yes,” he repeats. “Some of my trousers and shirts, but also house clothes. Sleeping robes. You know the ones.”

She did, of course. She spent most of their childhood jealous of the ridiculous loungewear his mother allowed him to collect.

“I can,” she says. “Though, honestly, I think pushing him over the edge may be more simple than that.”

Draco frowns, propping himself up on his elbows.

“What do you mean?”

“Only that I think the fastest way to you and Potter getting naked—”  she shudders a bit at the thought, taking a fortifying sip of wine—“is you wearing his clothes, not yours.”

“I already wear his clothes to sleep every night,” Draco says. “So clearly that’s not true.”

“You’re nearly as dense as he is,” Pansy murmurs. “The way he looks at you when you’re wearing his jumpers is—have you considered wearing something of his that hasn’t been laundered? That still smells like him? Or perhaps something with his name on it?”

Her eyes get wide.

She sets down her glass.

“Oh, Draco. His quidditch jersey. He wouldn’t be able to resist.”

“Absolutely not,” Draco says. “There are limits, and wearing Gryffindor colours is one of them.”

Pansy sighs.

She picks her glass up again.

“That’s fair, I suppose. Keep it in mind, though. In case your more gentle approaches don’t work. Also, we could play a bit of dress up, tonight, if you like. I know you always liked that and it’s possible a dab of mascara might solve your Potter issue post-haste.”

Draco generously concedes.

Pansy goes to collect her makeup bag and wand.

By the time the Gryffindors return, the wine is gone and Draco is wearing a lapis lazuli blue scarf from Pansy’s near-bottomless purse and a beautifully executed smokey cat eye with complementing dark-blue pigments.

The only problem is that, upon the Gryffindor’s arrival, Potter barely has a chance to give him a startled look before Ginny has her hands on Draco’s face, demanding that Pansy teach her how to make wings that sharp. And then Pansy is bullying Ron onto the sofa and telling him to hold still whilst she demonstrates. Two hours later, house finally empty, Draco is sitting on his hands because if he doesn’t he’s going to reach out to touch Potter and if he reaches out to touch him he can’t guarantee that he’ll be able to stop.

Because Potter’s hair is French plaited back off his face and he has highlighter at the crest of his cheekbones and dusting the dip of his upper lip and there’s gold on his eyelids and he looks like some sort of deity in the fire light.

To say that this particular plan backfired would be an understatement.

Lyra hisses something and Draco doesn’t even need Potter to translate.

“Yes,” he murmurs, “Potter isn’t entirely unfortunate looking, hmm?”

“Actually,” Potter says, “she was saying we looked like day and night.”

“Day and night?” Draco repeats.

Lyra whispers something against his jaw.

“You’re the moon,” Potter clarifies. “I’m the sun.”

Draco knows little about astronomy aside from the constellations, but he imagines the comparison is appropriately poetically apt.

“Right. Well. Time for bed, I think,” Draco says. Because his hands are starting to go numb under his thighs. “You shouldn’t leave that on your face overnight. It’s bad for your skin.”

“Oh,” Potter says. “Okay. Bit of a shame, though, to wash it off so soon. I like it. I like yours too.”

Draco flees to the bathroom.

***

Draco is restocking the tinned food aisle the following day when Billy pushes her way into the shop, fighting against the wind.

She unwinds her scarf, pink-cheeked and grinning as she waves hello.

“Morning, Drake,” she says. “Strangest thing, the police came ‘round yesterday.”

Draco goes still.

He lurches back into motion, trying to appear casual.

He puts a tin on the shelf. 

“Oh?”

“Apparently Aaron McAllister made a complaint about a vicious wolf-dog here at the store. Said all kinds of nonsense in a statement to the police about a dog attacking him while he was doing his shopping, doing damage to the store—” she laughs, “even said it broke the door to the beer cooler and shattered half the glass in it.”

She nods to the back, where the cooler door looks exactly as it always has. There are still years-old scuffs around the exterior frame and several months’ worth of ice crusted around the interior glass edges. Draco has to admit that when Potter set it right, he did a superlative job.

“The officers and I laughed about it,” she continues, “because clearly nothing was broken here and apparently he wasn’t able to provide any injuries as evidence. But I just wanted you to be aware that Aaron is after that dog of yours. Probably because we won’t let him be an asshole to you.”

“It’s Mr. Potter’s dog,” Draco says. 

“Well, sure. He seems rather taken with you, though. The dog, I mean.”

Draco narrows his eyes. “I suppose.”

“Anyway, I was thinking of installing a camera just in case he decides to start making accusations again. Lavon has been bugging me to have a security system for years so this might as well be the time to do it.”

“Oh,” Draco says. “You don’t have to—” 

“Well I know I don’t have to, sweetheart, but I’m going to. Now, is your young man going to visit at lunch today? I’ve been practicing recipes for the church’s Christmas bake sale and I brought some for y’all to sample.”

“He’s not my—” 

“Speak of the devil,” Billy interrupts, “good morning, Mr. Potter.”

Draco only barely resists the urge to shriek.

“Good morning, Billy,” Potter says. He reaches for her jacket as she shrugs it off and goes to hang it up in the back room whilst Billy gives him the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head.

Too soon, he’s back at the front and leaning back against the counter with a truly unnecessary cant to his hips. “Morning, Drake.”

Draco ignores him and goes back to restocking.

“You’re here early, today,” Billy says, “everything alright?”

“Oh, fine, we just have a new pet and she was missing Drake so I thought I’d bring her by for an early lunch.”

Billy looks around Potter expectantly, then, a bit more wary, towards the parking lot.

He laughs and unzips his jacket enough that Billy can see Lyra curled around his neck.

“Oh, lord. Well, I’ve never been partial to snakes but Lavon would just love her.”

She doesn’t come any closer, but she does crane her head a little, one hand to chest.

“She’s not poisonous, is she?”

“Not at all,” Potter says. “And she’s very docile. Especially with Drake.”

Draco stands and extends a hand, which Lyra happily wraps herself around, and transfers her to his own neck.

She settles in with a companionable nose-bump to his ear.

“Well,” Billy says, looking more at-ease. “That’s just precious. And she sure is pretty. What’s her name?”

“Lyra,” Potter says, hefting himself up to sit on the counter. He clasps his hands between his knees, looking overly pleased with himself. “Draco named her.”

“Lyra,” Billy repeats. “What does it mean?”

Potter raises an eyebrow at him.

Draco abruptly returns to restocking the chicken noodle soup.

“It’s—just a constellation. Most people don’t know about it. Vega is part of it.”

“But what does it mean?” Billy repeats, tying on her apron. 

“Well, Lyra means ‘lyre’ in Latin. And. In Greek mythology, Lyra was the lyre that Hermes made and Orpheus used to charm Hades into releasing Eurydice from the underworld.”

“Oh, that’s lovely,” Billy says.

Potter’s smile gets wider.

“Why a constellation, though?” he asks. 

“I’m named after a constellation. And I’d always imagined—Lyra’s constellation is just south of mine and I’d always thought that I would name my daughter after it one day.”

Potter’s smile has dimmed a bit.

Billy’s hand is back up against her chest again.

“Sweetheart,” she says, “I don’t mean to be rude, but why did you give the name to a snake, then?”

“Oh, well,” Draco focuses on collapsing the empty box in front of him and not looking at either of their faces. “I don’t imagine it will get any use otherwise. I hardly think children are in my future.”

No one has a chance to respond to that, thank Merlin, because two pensioners arrive in search of bait and chewing tobacco.  

Billy throws him a look that says they will be discussing the matter later, but greets them cheerfully and is immediately pulled into conversation.

Potter slides off the counter and then, after a moment’s indecision, crouches next to Draco and opens a box.

“Nice of you to make yourself useful,” Draco says, hoping Potter will decide to let the previous conversation go.

“Why don’t you think you’ll have kids?” he asks.

Or not.

“Please,” Draco scoffs. Well, he tries to scoff. Scoffing makes it seem like he doesn’t care. “Even if I live long enough to procreate, who would want me to father their children? My dating pool is already rather small. How many gay wizards do you know who would willingly be seen in public, much less have a family, with a disgraced pureblood and former Death Eater?”

Potter takes far longer than necessary to make sure the last tin of corn on the shelf is facing label-forward.

“That’s—even if that were true, you could still have children without a partner.”

“Possibly. But children require money, Potter, and I won’t have any of that until I’m twenty-one. So I’ll have to live another two years if I want to see it.”

Potter blinks at him.

“What happens when you’re twenty-one?”

Ah. Apparently Potter’s friends at the Ministry hadn’t told him.

“When things started to go badly seventh year, my parents put ninety percent of the Malfoy holdings into a trust in my name that I couldn’t access for several years-- until any potential fallout had waned. They knew that if the Dark Lord didn’t win the war, they would be criminals. My father would go to prison, possibly my mother and I as well, and a portion of their holdings taken as reparations. In the past, reparations were set as a percentage of wealth. So they thought that the Ministry would be forced to take a percentage of the remaining ten percent, and then return to our former grandeur upon my birthday, even if we were social pariahs. They assumed the Ministry wouldn’t bother to check if they actually still had money in their vaults before laying down sentencing, and they assumed that, because of my age, it was unlikely the Ministry would invoke any reparative sentencing on my personal vault. They were correct on both counts. But they didn’t anticipate that my father would be killed. Or that the Ministry would evict my mother from the Manor whilst they took years to supposedly examine it for dark artefacts. Or that my magic would be taken away.”

Potter looks like he’s about to apologise again so Draco keeps talking.

“The Ministry can’t touch my vaults. So that, at least, worked. But I can’t either. Not until I’m twenty-one. No one can. Unless, of course, I die. One good thing that would come of my death is that my mother would re-inherit all of the family’s wealth. Don’t think I hadn’t considered expediting the process.”

Potter’s hand closes, sudden and painful, around his wrist.

“You wouldn’t,” he says. It sounds more like a command than a question.

They stare at each other, not moving, for several seconds.

Eventually, Draco looks away.

“I wouldn’t,” Draco agrees. “Too much of a coward.”

“That’s not funny.”

“I’m not laughing.”

“You’re not a coward,” Potter insists. “You could have let me die. You knew exactly who I was, at the Manor, but you said you didn’t recognise me. You’ve done terrible things, yeah, but you also saved my life. You weren’t a coward in that moment and I don’t believe you are one now.”

Draco swallows. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Potter sighs.

“You don’t have a very high opinion of my intelligence, do you?”

That would have been true for several years, except.

“I do, actually,” he admits. “I do, now.” 

Neither of them seem to know what to say after that.

Potter collapses his empty box and starts on a new one.

“So,” Draco says, when the silence has stretched past uncomfortable pause to should I pretend I need to use the bathroom to escape this situation? “why are you actually here?”

“What?”

“As much as I enjoy fostering Billy’s impression that we co-parent a menagerie, did you have an actual purpose for arriving early—or was it just to vex me for an extended period?”

“Oh, right,” he finger combs back some of the hair coming loose from his ponytail. “Hermione called. Your petition is on the list of proceedings for tomorrow’s session. So we should know within 24 hours if you’ll get a retrial or re-sentencing. She doesn’t know anything else, just that, but I thought—maybe it was stupid. I know we can't do anything about it. I just thought you should know as soon as I did.”

“No. I mean. Yes, I’m glad you came. Thank you for telling me.”

“Right.”

Draco suddenly feels light-headed.

It was easier to ignore the impending implications of the petition when he believed it would take months for the Ministry to address it.

Now, it feels very real.

And too soon.

“Hey,” Potter says. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” Draco lies.

Potter is kind enough not to call him out on the lie.

“Well,” he says. “My therapy appointment isn’t until two. You want me to stay through your lunch break?”

“I suppose. If it means Lyra stays as well.”

“Of course.”

“But don’t you try to hold my hand again. Billy nearly had a fit last time.”

“A little excitement is good for Billy.”

“Potter.”

“Alright, no hand-holding. Roll up your sleeves and we can rub elbows at the counter.”

“Fine,” Draco says, as if the contact is an inconvenience Potter is forcing upon him and not, quite literally, the closest thing they’ve found to a panacea. 

Potter, still kind, doesn’t call him on that either.

****

Draco can’t sleep.

It’s not surprising, considering that he more or less finds out if he lives or dies the following day.

He should be worried.

Because even though Potter is somehow keeping him close-to-healthy at present, they don’t know why or how long it will last or if Potter will be willing to act as medical equipment for the next two years if the petition is denied.

Draco thinks Potter would, self-sacrificing idiot that he is.

But that’s potentially even more frightening: two more years in close proximity to the man currently sharing his bed.

Man, not wolf.

Because when they’d prepared for bed that night, Potter had casually slipped under the covers in human form and asked, “alright?” and Draco had nodded and now--

Now they’re here.

Despite being deeply asleep, Potter is wrapped around Draco with a degree of proprietary casualness that makes Draco’s chest ache. Their faces are so close together that they’re breathing each other’s second-hand air.

For absolutely no reason that he can discern, Draco feels like crying.

He’d fantasised about moments like this, years ago at Hogwarts. Secretly. Silently. With the drapes around his bed closed and Potter’s open disgust fresh in his mind. Sure, he’d thought about what sex would be like between them—likely rough and angry and no less than what he deserved. But sometimes, only sometimes, on particularly bad days, he’d thought about this too. Quiet moments. Past-midnight moments. Moments of vulnerability and shared warmth. It had been okay, then, to think about such things abstractly. Because it was safe. Because being with Potter in any fashion had seemed like such a wildly unobtainable thing. Quiet intimacy was laughable. It was acceptable to fantasise about because it would never happen. 

Except here he is. 

And the possibility is here, in Potter’s clinging hands and the shared breath between them and— Draco is petrified by the possibility. 

Because Draco is in love with Harry Potter.

It isn’t something he can lie to himself about anymore.

Maybe it was inevitable. He’s Harry Fucking Potter, after all: one of the most powerful wizards in the world, and he looks the way he does and acts the way he does and despite the—the everything of his childhood, he’s not bitter or cruel or distrusting. He’s kind and generous and selfless. Ignorant about some things, yes, but endearingly so. And he’s gentle and protective and patient and rescues animals and apparently has an eye for interior design—stock tank in the bathroom notwithstanding. And, and he can cook.

What was Draco supposed to do in the face of all of that? 

Not fall in love with him?

It’s hardly his fault.

Only, Potter is not just a collection of abilities and attributes which is, perhaps, the most frustrating thing about him. He’s something more in a way that Draco has never encountered before.

When Draco was a child, his Aunt Andromeda had watched him for a week once whilst his parents took a holiday, and she’d read to him from a muggle book about a girl named Alice and her adventures in a place called Wonderland. There was a quote from the book he distinctly remembered, where a character was described as having a “muchness.” He’d liked the descriptor then, and he likes it now. Perhaps because “muchness” is the closest he’s been able to get to defining what it is about Potter that makes him so compelling.

Potter’s muchness was an indefinable but devastating thing.

And Draco is devastated.

Because even if he can admit his own feelings, he is certain that those feelings will not—cannot—be returned in a way that will be enough.

Oh, he knows that Potter is attracted to him, feels protective of him.

But he’s hardly naive enough to think that attraction and base instincts will equate to lasting romantic affection.

In no universe does the saviour of the wizarding world fall in love with a Death Eater.

Chapter Text

Harry wakes up with his face in Draco’s hair.

It’s—

Nice.

The word is woefully inadequate.

Harry doesn’t move for several seconds: breathing in the ridiculously expensive citrus shampoo that Malfoy found on Amazon and added to the wishlist purely because he knew that Harry would buy him anything if given the slightest indication that he desired it. It should probably worry him, actually, how true that is. But Harry is too pleased that they’ve found a way that Draco can ask Harry for things without his pride getting in the way to dwell on his own potentially disastrous investment in—

Whatever they are. 

They should probably talk about it, is the thing. Except Harry has never been particularly good at talking and he’s not even sure what he’d say.

Malfoy, it seems I’m having feelings—are you having them as well? Malfoy, I’m afraid I may be slightly in love with you—what are your thoughts? Malfoy, I can’t stop thinking about licking your neck—how would you feel about being my boyfriend?

It sounds fairly ridiculous in theory, he can’t even imagine trying to broach the subject in practice.

Besides, even if he did, there are three possible outcomes:

1. Draco turns him down. It hurts. Knowing, for certain, that Draco is not interested, Harry feels guilty for the pleasure he feels every time he has to touch Draco in the coming days (months? years?). Harry, possibly, goes mad.

2. Draco accepts his advances but only because he feels he must. Because he owes it to Harry or because he’s afraid Harry will no longer be willing to help him if he doesn’t. The idea that Draco might think that necessary hurts worse than the idea that Draco might turn him down.

The third option hardly seems worth considering:

3. Draco accepts his advances because he returns Harry’s feelings.

Harry honestly isn’t sure what would happen after that. It would be complicated, certainly. Magnificent, potentially. It feels dangerous to even hypothesize.

It’s obvious, now, that Draco is attracted to him. How Harry missed it initially, even with his enhanced senses, is actually a little embarrassing. But lust and affection are two very different things and Harry is only capable of confirming the former. He’s not exactly a catch, Boy Who Lived nonsense aside. He’s an out-of-work werewolf living in a barn. Hardly the landed aristocratic suitor Draco had no doubt spent his childhood dreaming about.

Draco shifts, pressing back into him, and Harry only just resists the impulse to taste the soft skin at the back of Draco’s neck. There’s a funny little whirl of white-blond baby hair just to the left of his nape that Harry finds profoundly vexing.

He pulls away and forces himself downstairs, out the door, and onto four legs.

Today is not the day to address such things, anyway.

He feels better, after a run and a shower, and he pulls on a pair of jeans before returning to the loft where Draco is still asleep.

“Malfoy,” he whispers, one hand cupping his bare shoulder. “Wake up.”

Draco swats inelegantly at him.

“Go away, Potter,” he mumbles. “It’s Saturday. You made me quit my Saturday job, remember?”

“Yeah. But we’ve got a portkey in an hour and you need to take your potions with food. Also, I’m assuming you’ll want to put on some clothes.”

“A—” Draco tips his face to one side, revealing one squinted grey eye. “A portkey?”

“Mm,” Harry agrees. “Portkey. A common object enchanted for travel. Used to transport someone touching it to a predetermined location at a predetermined time.”

“I know what it fucking—why do we have a portkey? Where are we going?”

“Well, Lyra wanted to see Paris so I thought we’d take her on a holiday.”

Draco looks so charmingly baffled that Harry takes pity on him.

“Kidding. Not about Paris, about Lyra. She doesn’t really understand the concept of Paris, though I did try. As long as we’re both there she’s happy to go with us, though.”

“Paris?” He repeats.

“I’d been wanting to visit the archives in Rocamadour ever since you told me about them. You know, the—”

“Archives de sorcellerie,” Draco responds, seemingly on instinct. “Yes. But, I don’t—Paris isn’t anywhere near Rocamadour.”

“Right. But I’ve never been to Paris and I was curious. So we’ve got a portkey from Marian to Paris at eight and then another out of the Paris office at twelve to Rocamadour. I figured you could show me around Paris for a few hours and then, uh, Pansy booked us brunch reservations at La Fontaine de Belleville at ten. She said it was—”

“My favourite,” he supplies faintly. “Yes. Is this—are you trying to distract me?”

Harry knows he doesn’t do guileless well so he doesn’t try to lie.

“We’ll just be sitting around anxious all day otherwise,” Harry says. “And I really am curious about the archives. We have a two-day appointment but we don’t have to stay both days if you don’t want to. Depending on the verdict.”

Draco sits up abruptly.

“I need to pack. I need—Potter,” he says, genuinely distressed, “I can’t go to Paris like this.”

It’s charming. Oh god, is it charming.

“Pansy already packed for you. Brought a bag with some of your old clothes and then packed another last night when you weren’t paying attention. I’ve got them both shrunk down and added to mine.”

“Bitch,” he says. “Of course she knew.” It sounds affectionate.

“You still need to take your potions,” Harry reminds him.

“Potions can wait, un-shrink the bag of my old clothes, please, and I’ll likely need to borrow your magic to tailor things. And my hair. I should probably cut it but I was never good with those spells before and now—”

“Do not,” Harry says, before he can stop himself, “do anything to your hair.”

Draco blinks at him. “Alright? I suppose I could just…wear it down?”

The relief is nearly breathtaking. Harry nods. It probably doesn’t look natural but he’s doing his best. Well. He’s not, really. Hermione would be appalled.

“I mean.” He clears his throat. “If you want to cut it that’s…fine. We can figure that out. My preference doesn’t matter. It’s your hair.”

“I know it’s my hair.”

“So?”

“So what?”

“Do you want to cut it?”

No, Potter. Merlin. Go get my bag and take a deep breath. The windows are rattling.”

Ah. So they are.

Harry obeys.

A very fraught forty-five minutes later, Draco is finishing his potions whilst Harry considers his reflection. He’s dressed in olive trousers he didn’t know he owned, a white button-down, camel waistcoat (not brown, Draco had chastised him. Your shoes and belt are brown) and an earth-toned tartan tweed coat that had been in Malfoy’s bag but he’d adjusted to fit Harry with a constant stream of baleful commentary about Harry’s shoulders and muscles that might have been complimentary but might not have. 

Draco, though. Draco is wearing an impeccably tailored, close-fit, navy suit with a grey wool coat that makes his eyes look like backlit storm clouds. 

“Well,” Draco says bracingly, moving to join Harry in the bathroom. He adjusts his collar in the small mirror above the sink. “I suppose I’m as ready as I’ll be on such short notice.”

He gives himself another critical once-over, taking a moment to pet Lyra’s head where she’s tucked, as usual, like a very fashionable accessory around his neck. “How does the back of my hair look?”

“Fine,” Harry says, more exhalation than word.

He’d combed some product through it and plaited the top half back and the contrast of spun-silk white-gold hair against the dark grey wings of his shoulders is—

Well. It’s certainly better than fine.

Harry tries again: “Really, really, fine. Good. Great.”

“Don’t hurt yourself, Potter,” Draco says drily. “Alright. Let’s go.”

Harry casts a light glamour on himself—removes his scar and sharpens his cheekbones and adds a little more facial hair— and apparates them to the Marian port-key office before he can say anything stupid. Something else stupid.

Paris is beautiful.

He’d been expecting that. It’s Paris, after all. But what makes the morning truly enjoyable is how happy Draco is, arm tucked through Harry’s, practically dragging him from patisseries to chocolatiers, to magical clothes-sellers with enchanted scarves and boots and umbrellas tucked between haberdasheries and flower shops. They walk through the Tuileries garden and Draco points out bits of wizarding history in the architecture of the Sacré-Cœur.

Draco spends most of brunch with his eyes closed, smiling, making the sorts of noises that Harry really wished he wouldn’t make in public but also dearly wished he would make often and more loudly in the comfort of their home.

He doesn’t dwell on that.

Much.

And whilst people certainly stare at Draco through the course of the morning, most of the looks are admiring. Even the few witches and wizards they encounter, who do recognise him, seem to be more fascinated by Lyra than anything else—oh they must be courting by the old laws, one elderly witch sighs Those were the days. And such a beautiful snake as a token. How romantic.

Harry wonders what would happen if he dropped his glamour.

If he was photographed holding hands over brunch with Draco Malfoy whilst wearing his own face.

He doesn’t do it.

But he wonders.

They go on to Rocamadour.

Their portkey delivers them to an arched stone alcove beside the Basilique St-Sauveur. The muggles passing by don’t seem to notice them.

“You can take off your glamour,” Draco says, flattening one lapel of Harry’s jacket. “You’ll need your face to get in and no one will bother you, here, if you’re recognised.”

Harry is all too happy to comply.

He offers his arm again and Draco looks at it for several long seconds before letting his hand rest, much more tentatively than before, in the crook of Harry’s elbow.

“People may not bother you, but they’ll certainly talk if you’re seen escorting me companionably through the streets. Perhaps a bit of distance is warranted.”

Harry tucks Draco’s fingers more tightly around his bicep and starts walking.

Draco bites his lip, but Harry thinks he looks pleased.

“Charming as the gesture was,” Draco says a few minutes later, “you’re taking us the wrong way.”

“I’m—oh. Why didn’t you say something?”

“I just did. And you were looking so pleased with yourself, I didn’t want to ruin your moment.”

“Would you just tell me where we need to go?”

Draco laughs—a real, actual, laugh—and brings up an unconscious hand to make sure Lyra is secure.

“This way,” he says, tugging them back the way they’d just come. “It’s actually not far from where we arrived.”

The entrance isn’t what Harry expected.

He’d anticipated grand arches and dark stone and forbidding architecture. 

Instead, it has the same pale, weathered face as the surrounding buildings; a brass plaque above the door first seems to advertise a law firm, but, after a moment, shifts to read archives de sorcellerie. They go up the short flight of stone steps, each tread curved gently inward from decades, if not centuries, of use, and ring the bell.

It opens immediately.

And it’s good Harry is prepared, because Draco would likely have fallen if Harry wasn’t there to support him.

Draco,” Narcissa says, and pulls him right out of Harry’s arms.

Harry doesn’t like that much, but she is his mother, so he resists the urge to snatch him back.

“Oh, my darling boy,” she says, pressing kisses to his face. “You—! Oh, mon ange. I was so worried. Clearly I needn't be. Look at you!”

Draco says nothing, but his face is ducked into her neck and he’s clinging to her with a degree of desperation that makes Harry feel as if he’s intruding.

“Maybe we should go inside?” he suggests. There are a few people staring.

“Of course,” Narcissa says, pulling Draco with her.

It’s only after the door has closed behind them that she pushes Draco back—not out of reach, but far enough that she can get a good look at him.

She touches his chin; smooths a hand down the fall of his hair; and then, with wide eyes, offers a slender, manicured, finger to Lyra.

“Draco,” she says, nearly reverent. “She’s beautiful. Is she—”

“Just a gift,” he says, “not anything else.” And then they seem to have a completely silent conversation that Harry desperately wishes he was party to.

“What are you doing here?” Draco finally asks. “I thought you were working at the shop in London. I’ve been sending you money.”

“I wanted to surprise you, darling. And you can have the money back, as I’ve been saying in every letter I write to you for the past month. I make a perfectly livable income, now, I’ll have you know. Thanks, in no small part, to Mr. Potter.”

“What?” Draco says.

“Er,” Harry says.

She turns her attention to Harry and he wishes that she had not.

There’s something about her eyes that make him feel like she knows all of his thoughts, and considering that a good portion of his thoughts these days involve her son, many of them involving licking her son, Harry shrinks a bit under her scrutiny.

“I understand you suggested me for the available archivist position,” she says placidly. “And personally vouched for my character.”

“You work here?” Draco asks.

“I just wrote a letter,” Harry says, rubbing the back of his neck. “It wasn’t a big deal.”

“Oh, I rather think it was,” she says. “As was your intercession with Draco’s sentencing. And your willingness to house him, and keep him healthy. And your kindness in distracting him today. Pansy and I talk, you see.”

Harry clears his throat. “It’s really nothing. Can we, uh, look at some…” he doesn’t actually know what he needs to look at, “…archives?”

“You’re such an idiot, Potter,” Draco mutters. “Yes, please, mother. Can we look at some archives, here, at the archives de sorcellerie.”

“Don’t be rude, Draco,” Narcissa says, smiling beatifically. “But yes, of course, this way.”

***

“Did you know that the Patil twins are actually my,” Harry counts for a moment, nose practically touching the parchment he’s got rolled out on the wide wooden table in front of him, “my third cousins?”

“I did not,” Draco says. “Did you know that your great uncle nearly married my second cousin?”

“I did not,” Harry parrots. “Did you know that my great, great, grandparents immigrated to London in 1901 from Bombay?”

“I did not.”

“Or that one of their sons had failed engagements with a Weasley, a Black and a Selwyn before he eventually married the Patil’s—er. I’ve lost the thread. But one of their ancestors. That’s how we’re related.”

“Fascinating,” Draco says. “I did not.”

“So I’m basically—oh, 40% Indian, I suppose. Originally out of Mumbai but then my more recent ancestors were immigrants from Maharashtra and Chennai. Which are pretty far apart—I’ve never been to India. I know nothing about it. Do you think we could visit? Not like right now. But after Christmas, maybe? And my mother—I wasn’t expecting to find much here about her since she was muggle-born. But apparently she actually did have some magical lineage. Her great, great, grandmother was a well-known Irish witch. She invented all sorts of transfiguration spells. There’s even a drawing of her, look.”

Harry scoots down the bench to proffer the parchment to Draco, who knocks elbows companionably with him.

“Very fierce looking,” he says absently, then glances back for a more thorough consideration. “You actually favour her a bit. The eyes, I mean.”

“Mm,” Harry agrees. “My mum’s eyes were the same. I look just like my dad otherwise, though, see?”

He hands over a photograph of his father’s family when his dad was likely not much older than he is now. The resemblance is…actually a little uncomfortable.

“Well,” Draco says. “It was a good combination of genes, I suppose.”

Harry has no idea how to respond to that.

Narcissa coughs lightly.

“So,” Harry clears his throat. “What else have you found out about your family?”

Draco hands him a piece of parchment. “I imagine Doctor Nott would be interested in this.”

It takes Harry a moment to decipher.

“You’re part Veela.”

“A very, very, small part. But apparently yes.”

“I always wondered if that story was true,” Narcissa murmurs. “Though it certainly explains your father’s…” She looks distant for a moment. She blinks and touches Draco’s shoulder. “And you, of course, darling.”

“Me?”

“You’re very pretty,” Harry points out.

He thought they’d already established this.

“Yes,” Narcissa agrees. “That.”

Draco’s neck starts to go pink.

Harry is trying to decide how best to encourage the pinkness when Hermione’s otter patronus materialises on the table in front of them.

Oh.

He’d actually managed to forget, for a while.

Harry reaches, instinctively, for Draco’s hand and their knuckles collide painfully because Draco has reached for him in the same instant.

His fingers—cool and slender—go desperately tight around Harry’s.

“I’m so sorry,” the otter says, and her Hermione’s voice sounds so devastated that Harry already knows—

“They’ve denied it.”

Narcissa sits down heavily on the bench beside Draco.

“Harry,” the otter says. “What do you want us to do?”

“What we planned,” he bites out, standing. “Call Luna and Lee. I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

“Harry, are you sure—” 

“I’m sure.”

The otter twists and then disintegrates.

“I don’t—where are we going?” Draco asks faintly.

He’s pale. His fingers are still tangled with Harry’s.

“Just me. You stay here with your mother. I’ll be back late tonight. Maybe early tomorrow morning.”

“But—where? You can’t. You don’t have a portkey.”

“Back to London. I’ll just make a few jumps. It’s fine. I’ve travelled further with apparition before.”

“Potter,” Draco says. His voice is starting to sound more normal again. “What are you going to do?”

“What I should have done months ago, as soon as I found out what the Ministry was doing.”

Meaning?” He still hasn’t let go of Harry’s hand.

“Meaning I’ve been working on a press release about the Ministry’s hypocrisy with Luna and Lee Jordan. Luna will release a print version tomorrow with the Quibbler. I’m going to record the radio and film versions with Lee now. If enough people object, Ministry officials will be forced to re-sentence you—and everyone else—or risk their careers. It’ll be okay. I’m going to handle it.”

“No,” Draco says.

Harry tries to pull his hand away.

“Yes.”

No. You—you self-sacrificing imbecile. I’ll not let you throw away your life to—” 

“Mm. It’s really not up to you, what I do with my life, thanks.”

“Potter,” Draco says, and his voice is low, desperate. “Please. Don’t. Not for me.”

“It’s not just for you,” Harry says. “It’s for Pansy and Theo and the others. And for me. For all the people bitten during the war who were forced out of their jobs and treated like pariahs or who quit before anyone could find out because they knew what would happen because of shitty, untrue, stereotypes that Ministry officials encourage. It’s for Teddy and—for everyone. Okay?”

“I thought you didn’t want to fight anymore. I thought you just wanted quiet. And anonymity.”

“I did. But I can’t just—” Harry exhales sharply, exasperated. “People listen to me, whether I want them to or not. And if I’m the only one that can fix this, I have to at least try. Because it’s wrong. What they’re doing is wrong.

Draco kisses him.

It’s mostly teeth.

“Fuck you,” Draco snarls, shoving his shoulder with a hand that, moments before, had been cupping his jaw. “Stupid fucking Gryffindor.”

The other hand is still firmly wrapped around Harry’s which makes the gesture nearly as baffling as the kiss.

“I—what?”

“Fine,” Draco says, shoving him again. “Go. Save the world. I’ll shout at you more when you come back for me.”

“Okay?”

“But don’t forget to come back. Please.”

The very idea is laughable.

He wonders if he can get away with kissing Draco again. Softer, maybe. But he doesn’t actually know what the first kiss meant and considering the pushing and the swearing—perhaps it was just a spur of the moment thing. A spur-of-the-moment kissing thing. Those happen, sometimes. Right?

He squeezes Draco’s hand and Draco, finally, releases him.

“I’ll be back,” he says. “Fast as I can.”

Draco crosses his arms. “You’d better.”

Harry disapparates.

****

When Harry returns to Rocamadour, it’s 2am and Harry’s exhaustion feels like a physical weight.

The street is dark and silent and the archive’s door is locked, but there’s an owl roosting on the sign who, upon seeing Harry, flutters down to deposit a letter in his hand.

“Follow Genevieve,” Harry reads out loud, “she’ll bring you to us.”

It’s signed N.M.

He glances around the empty street. “Who’s Genevieve?”

The owl makes a low noise that sounds remarkably like a scoff.

“Oh,” Harry says. “Er. Apologies. Yes, please take me to them.”

She does.

Narcissa’s flat isn’t far, a narrow, spindly, stone building that clings to the cliffside, no doubt with magical assistance. One small window, on the top floor, is lit from within.

The door is unlocked when he tries the handle and, barring any other options, since Genevieve had abandoned him for the rooftop, Harry ascends the stairs, wand lit. The first story is a kitchen and living area; the second a small landing and a closed door. He continues up another flight which brings him to the top of the building: an open space including a sofa, a television, several stacked boxes, and a small bed under one tilted eave.

Draco is sitting on the sofa, a book in hand.

“Well,” he says, apparently unsurprised by Harry’s arrival. “It’s about time.”

Harry doesn’t answer.

Because Draco is wearing Harry’s Quidditch jersey.

It occurs to Harry, quite suddenly, that he hasn’t thought of Draco as ‘Malfoy’ in…a while.

And he isn’t sure when Draco became Draco— the distinction seems important—but that is of secondary importance to the fact that Draco is wearing Harry’s quidditch jersey

It has the Gryffindor crest on it. It has Harry’s number on it. It says Potter on the back.

It says Potter on Draco’s back.

The jersey is several sizes too large, the stretched out collar sitting low on his prominent collarbones; the sleeves fall past his fingertips and the hem hits him mid-thigh and even though he’s still incredibly pointy he also looks—soft. Maybe. Touchable. Maybe.

Not that Harry would want to touch him, but—

That’s a lie.

Harry does want to touch him. Badly.

He thinks Draco might want him to.

“Draco,” he says.

“Oh,” Draco says, glancing up over the tops of his glasses. “Using first names now, are we?”

“Yeah,” Harry says.

Draco closes his book.

Slowly.

He swallows and Harry watches his throat move.

“Harry,” Draco says.

He sits on the sofa, close—too close? not close enough?—and reaches out to take off Draco’s glasses: Thumbs against temples. Knuckles against vaulted cheekbones.

Draco’s eyelashes look silver in the blue light from the paused television and his throat is long and pale and terribly distracting and Harry wants to untie the mussed fishtail plait draped over his shoulder. To comb it straight. To let his fingers follow it down his back. To see the white-blonde fan of hair obscuring the thick-stitched Potter name tape spanning the landscape between his shoulder blades.

Harry finds, abruptly, that he has no idea what to do next.

“Well,” Draco says, taking the glasses from him and relocating them to the coffee table. “Are you going to kiss me, or do I have to do everything myself?”

“No,” Harry says. “I mean, yes. I mean I am. Yes. But no, you don’t have to do everything y—”

Except apparently he does because Draco rolls his eyes and climbs into Harry’s lap and—

This kiss is different from the first one. Not better, exactly, but. More. Because there’s nothing to excuse it, now. It’s not rash or angry or impulsive. There is no heat of the moment to acquit the action. It’s deliberate. It’s slow. It’s a choice. It’s—

Really fucking good.

Chapter Text

Potter is asleep.

Harry.

Harry is asleep.

Draco is not.

The rickety spare bed in the attic room of his mother’s apartment is clearly not meant for two adult occupants, but with Harry on his back and Draco mostly on top of him, occupying it, they are.

And Harry is asleep.

Draco’s ear is pressed just below Harry’s sternum; one arm tucked beneath Harry’s shoulder, the other hand curled close to his own chest, wrist against his mouth. Occasionally, he’ll drag the knuckle of his index finger across his swollen lips. Occasionally, he’ll let his fingertips touch, just for a moment, the soft skin in the hollow above Harry’s collar bone.

It’s all just—

Too much.

Or maybe not enough.

Draco listens to Harry’s heartbeat.

He doesn’t imagine he’ll be sleeping tonight.

They hadn’t even done anything, he thinks. Certainly nothing that would warrant all of the—the whatever that he’s feeling.

He’d wanted to do…things.

He’d planned to.

He’d worn the fucking quidditch jersey, hadn’t he? (and he really ought to thank Pansy for packing it), but aside from a surfeit of kissing and a distressingly small amount of petting, nothing had happened.

Clothing remained on.

Hands didn’t wander.

It was Draco’s own fault. Because of course he would find a way to cock-block himself even after he’d so thoroughly debased himself: putting on Gryffindor colours and bodily throwing himself at the object of his affection.

The problem was that Lyra’s terrarium, retrieved and un-shrunk from Potter’s bag by his mother, was set up on the coffee table only a few feet away, glowing softly under a heat lamp. And Draco didn’t know how well snake night-vision was, but—

“Lyra,” he’d muttered, or maybe gasped a little. He’d never been kissed quite so thoroughly and was still trying to sort out how breathing worked in the process.

“No,” Harry said, fingers absently tracing the P on Draco’s back. “I’m Harry.”

“Your wit is—” Draco made a noise that was certainly not a whimper when Harry attached his mouth to Draco’s throat, “truly devastating,” he finished.

The sarcasm was rather lost by the pause, he thought.

Harry made an agreeable sort of sound against the hinge of Draco’s jaw.

“I mean,” Draco insisted,  “That we. That Lyra shouldn’t be here while we—can you take her into the hall?”

Harry blinked at him.

“Into the hall? Why?”

“Why? Because she’s a child. I’m not having sex in front of her.”

“She’s a snake. I hardly think—wait. You want to have sex?

“You don’t?”

So. That went well.

Actually, it did, a bit, because Potter had thumbed the loose hair out of Draco’s eyes and stumbled his way through a less than elegant but heartfelt monologue about taking things slow and dealing with past trauma and making sure that they were both healthy and comfortable.

Which was all very well and good on the surface; touching, even, but Draco was pretty sure that most of Potter’s—Harry’s—concern was stemming from the fact that a werewolf had hurt Draco in the past, Harry was a werewolf, and he seemed to be operating on the misapprehension that intimacy between them would be something traumatic that Draco would endure rather than enjoy.

As if sex with Harry would be anything but enjoyable.

Ridiculous.

Draco had attempted to disabuse Potter of his clearly incorrect assumptions, but the minute Draco’s hands had drifted to the fly of Potter’s trousers, he’d picked Draco up and moved him away (which really hadn’t helped in efforts to stem Draco’s arousal).

“Oh, honestly,” Draco snapped, crossing his arms. “You’ve made enough speeches about Houses not dictating disposition. About Slytherins being just as capable of kindness and Gryffindors just as capable of malice as anyone else. You’ve been a staunch supporter of creature rights and made that disgustingly touching eulogy at Professor Lupin’s funeral about societal judgement and personal character. The men who hurt me were already terrible before they were turned. And yes, I had a bit of an issue with wolves at first, but I’m clearly over that now considering that when you get growl-y I’m far more likely to be aroused than frightened.”

And then Potter had gone delightfully stutter-y and allowed Draco back into his lap. But he’d also said it was late and they should sleep and they could talk about it further in the morning because even if Draco was ready to do “er…sex things”—honestly, he was such an idiot— Harry wasn’t certain how ready he was and it was all terribly endearing. Potter couldn’t even be embarrassing without being attractive, the arsehole.

So.

Here Draco is:

Awake.

And despite not fulfilling his original objective, he still feels like he’s won something.

Like he’s alive in a way that he hasn’t been in years.

And he doesn’t think it’s only due to the significant amount of skin to skin contact between them.

He considers the familiar hum of Harry’s magic beneath his fingers. He listens to the soft sounds of Harry breathing and closes his eyes and thinks, somewhat despondently, that he is well and truly fucked, just not in the way he’d planned.

****

He must fall asleep at some point, because Draco wakes up to early-morning sunlight and an empty bed.

There’s a note next to Lyra’s terrarium that says Harry is on a run and Draco hopes Harry means in human form because France’s magical community may be far more liberal than Britain’s, but it’s certainly not “werewolves casually running through the streets” liberal. Also, he’s relatively certain that free-running wolves are equally uncommon in muggle communities.

He doesn’t hear any screaming out the window, though, so he steals a hoodie from Harry’s bag, settles Lyra around his neck, and walks barefoot down the stairs to the kitchen.

It seems his mother isn’t up yet, but there’s an electric kettle that looks familiar enough and a gas range with an assortment of pots and pans hung above it. He’s watched Harry cook breakfast for weeks. At the very least he can make some tea and a light breakfast.

Ten minutes later, he’s sipping tea, scrambling eggs, and feeling rather proud of himself, when Harry slips inside the door in a gust of cold air and early-morning street noise. 

“Hey,” he says, smile wide and bright and terribly fond.

“Good morning,” Draco says, abruptly shy.

Harry presses himself—exercise-warm and smelling like sunshine—against Draco’s back, hooks his chin over Draco’s shoulder and slips his hands into the hoodie pockets.

“It is,” Harry agrees, bumping his nose against Draco’s earlobe.

Harry doesn’t miss the little noise Draco makes in response to that.

He does it again, exhaling this time, just beneath his jaw.

The fiend.

Draco shivers and possibly clutches at the counter to remain upright.

“Lyra is going to bite you if you keep encroaching on her space,” Draco mutters.

“She wouldn’t. But I’ll back off if you want me to.”

Draco remains staunchly silent.

The drag of Harry’s nose turns into a kiss at the hinge of his jaw.

“Well,” Narcissa says behind them. “Good morning.”

Harry lurches away from Draco like he’s been scalded.

Draco considers abandoning breakfast and returning to bed. Or possibly just walking out into the street and hoping a car will hit him.

“I’m not sure what’s more shocking,” she says placidly, opening a cupboard to retrieve a mug, “my son using a muggle kitchen or my son wearing casual muggle clothing.”

The pointed way she says it seems to imply that, by contrast, she’s not at all surprised to find the Boy Who Lived kissing her son’s neck, but Draco can’t be certain without seeing her facial expression and the eggs need his undivided attention.

Not for the first time, he curses his pale complexion.

He’d told his mother the kiss last night was an impulsive one-off thing and there was nothing of note romantically between them, honestly, but she’ll likely want to bring up courting again, now.

“Good morning, Mrs. Malfoy,” Potter manages, filling her mug from the kettle.

“I think,” she says, “you should probably call me Narcissa, considering my son is wearing your clothes. And your snake.”

Draco brings an unconscious hand up to touch Lyra’s belly.

“Are you aware that in pureblood culture a snake is often a courting gift?” she asks Harry.

Merlin. Draco considers intentionally setting fire to the eggs but he’s not entirely sure how to achieve such a thing.

“Yes,” Potter says. “I am.”

Draco expects a qualifier to quickly follow: but I didn’t know when I gave her to Draco, or but she wasn’t a gift, we just sort of share her except she prefers Draco, or courting? Us. No way.

Potter doesn’t offer any additional commentary, though.

Draco glances up from the eggs.

Harry is looking at him.

Harry is looking at him with his stupid eyes and his stupid hair and his stupid face and Draco doesn’t know what it means or how to respond or how to look away.

He’s uncertain how long they just stand there, staring idiotically at each other, before his mother notes quietly that he ought to turn off the hob unless he wants the eggs to burn.

Ah, yes.

The eggs.

“Perhaps,” she says, sounding uncertain, “I should go buy some fruit for us to have with breakfast.”

Draco doesn’t have the chance to assure her that’s not necessary—after all, if she leaves, they might actually have to talk about...whatever it is that they’re doing—because there are suddenly several owls alighting on the kitchen window box, tapping at the glass.

Narcissa slips past Draco to let them inside and within a minute’s time there are several wizarding newspapers and nearly a dozen letters with pureblood family crests on them scattered accross the breakfast table.

Narcissa unrolls the first paper and then immediately finds a chair and sits down.

“Harry,” she says faintly. 

“Er,” Potter says. 

Draco turns off the hob.

Part of him wants to snatch the paper out of his mother’s hands and devour the article himself, but another part would rather not read what Potter has to say about him—much less whatever twisted story the media has decided to make of Potter’s declaration.

Harry unrolls the other papers and, after a moment’s deliberation, wordlessly hands Draco one.

It’s the Quibbler, but it’s distinctly lacking the usual blinking, convoluted, madness of shouted article titles on the front page. Instead, there’s a single, large, photograph of Harry, looking stern and mature and just, really bloody attractive, as he speaks to the camera. He’s wearing the outfit Draco picked for him the day before: sleeves rolled to his forearms, hair pulled back from the scar that traverses his temple.

Beneath the picture, a headline reads: Potter Speaks: Condemns the Ministry of Magic’s

Hypocrisy, Lies, Prejudice.

Well. Not pulling any punches, then.

Draco tries to take his time but finds himself skimming: half out of second-hand apprehension, half out of first-hand horror. Potter has—he’s—depending on public response, he has either just completely alienated himself from the wizarding world or he has started a revolution.

Draco is slightly terrified to find out which.

Potter, very cavalierly, serves himself a plate of eggs.

He smiles at Draco, mouth full, in what is likely supposed to be an encouraging way.

He looks just ridiculous enough that Draco is able to take the breath that had been evading him.

He exhales.

He flips the paper and starts over at the beginning.

Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy both disappeared this spring. Now, they’ve been sighted together in both the US and France, prompting understandable confusion and, in some publications, outrageous conjecture. Potter agreed to speak with the Quibbler about his motivations for leaving London—and the wizarding world at large—, his relationship with Draco Malfoy, and his criticism of the Ministry of Magic’s policy-making in the wake of Voldemort’s defeat. Radio and video versions of this interview are available through Lee Jordan’s Potter Watch radio station at 10am and 8pm for the following three days, or his Youtube channel at Jordan_Speaks. Please use the password “Sherbert Lemon” for access.

The interview is extensive. 

It starts with Potter recounting his exit from London: feeling used by the men and women who were meant to mentor him; feeling he would never be allowed to do his job; feeling as if his only remaining usefulness was as a puppet—something he wasn’t willing to be. I refuse to be a political weapon used against others by people who know how to manipulate me.

Reading it makes Draco’s chest hurt in a way that isn’t exactly empathetic, but it’s close.

He knows what it feels like when you think your life is over. When you think that you will never contribute something useful to the world again. That perhaps the world would be better off without you.

But then Potter talks about finding Draco. It’s vague—skipping over the exact location or the circumstances of their first meeting. He speaks about his shock at Draco’s condition. His grudging concern for his health. His horror at discovering he was partially responsible for inducing Draco’s illnesses. He is frank about his fury at the Ministry’s deception. 

There are pictures of Draco, then— imprinted from pensieve memories (a fancy bit of technology that Lee himself invented the year before). Draco had given his permission for this, weeks ago. He’d told Pansy and Potter and the rest that they could use any image of him they wanted. But it’s still shocking to see himself, quite literally, from their eyes: his gaunt cheeks and brittle hair. There’s one photograph from when Pansy visited him the day before he left London. He’s asleep, curled in on himself on Theo’s sofa, all long thin arms and ratty hair and cheekbones so sharp they look physically painful.

Potter’s, though.

Potter’s memory is terrible.

In it, Draco is sitting on the examination table in the muggle hospital, chest naked, cotton gown pooled at his waist, the disembodied hand of the doctor pressing a stethoscope to his back. He watches the picture move—as he breathes in and his ribs look like they may push right out of his skin; as he glances up at Potter, his eyes wide and sunken and viscerally terrified.

Merlin.

Potter talks about asking Draco to live with him. Talks about finding treatments to keep him alive and funding them himself because of course Death Eaters and others involved in Voldemort’s return to power should be held accountable for their actions, but torturing people—torturing teenagers who were coerced into participating by their parents or circumstances outside of their control—that isn’t justice. That’s cruelty. And I won’t stand idly by while government officials use my name, and my ignorance, to enact personal revenge. 

He talks about Pansy and all the others sentenced to lose their magic. Clearly Granger and Blaise and Pansy have put together some sort of list that Potter has memorised because he knows all of their names and ages and manifested illnesses. Luna has included comments from doctors and, chillingly, quotes from one autopsy report. There’s an entire file set aside in the London Wizarding Archives where people can see full copies of all the documents cited in the article, and copies of all the memories used as evidence are available upon request at the International Memory Archives in New York—all certified as untampered with by multiple experts in the field. It’s—Draco knew that the people cluttering up Potter’s living room every night were doing a significant amount of work, but the sheer scope of the research they’ve compiled is a little staggering. 

And they did it for him.

Potter finishes with a more wide-cast net of condemnation for the Ministry’s policy-making: their prejudice and mistreatment of non-human magical folk. Their hypocrisy in loudly celebrating children’s bravery during the Battle of Hogwarts, while quietly revoking their rights to return to school because of the werewolf bites they sustained as a result of that bravery.

There’s a picture of a fifteen-year-old Ravenclaw sitting on the front steps of a ramshackle wizarding home.

She looks very small and very fragile and very sad.

Her name is Lucille Kent.

At thirteen, Lucille disarmed two Death Eaters and saved the lives of nearly a dozen first years during the battle of Hogwarts before she was attacked by one of Greyback’s men. She is now an outcast in the wizarding world, despite perfectly managing her condition.

Draco finds his chest hurting for an entirely different reason.

Lyra nudges her head against his chin—perhaps she has noticed his dismay—and he reaches out, automatically, to console her. 

He continues to stroke the rope of her side as he reads on; as Potter talks about Dobby and Hagrid and Firenze; about elitism and hypocrisy.

Voldemort built a following based on the idea that some wizards and magical folk were better—more deserving of personhood and autonomy—than others. I refuse to support a Ministry that similarly discriminates while under the auspices of rejecting Voldemort’s practices.

When Draco puts the paper down, he isn’t crying.

He thinks maybe it would be better if he was.

He tries to focus on breathing and Lyra nudges him again.

Harry scoots his chair a little closer to Draco’s.

“Hey,” he says, “can you hold this?”

Draco blinks at the proffered item.

“This is…your hand.”

“Yeah.”

“You want me to hold your hand?”

“I do.”

“Why?”

“Because it seems like you’re freaking out a little and I’m not really sure how to help, but I know you feel better when I touch you. And I like touching you.”

Merlin.

Finding himself without a valid argument, Draco takes Harry’s hand.

Narcissa is smiling softly at them over the letter she’s reading.

She stands to let in another group of owls.

“Who is sending all of these?” Potter asks.

“Old friends,” Narcissa answers. “Some older than others. Some just checking in, wanting to know if I’ve seen the newspapers. Concerned over Draco’s health. Others are curious about my son’s inexplicable involvement with Mr. Potter and if, by extension, I have his ear as well.”

Potter purses his lips. “I mean. You could. Depending.”

“I think not. The latter are only interested in using you for nefarious purposes and I find myself more supportive of your actual cause than subterfuge, all things considered.”

“Oh. Er. Good?”

Narcissa shares a look with Draco that seems to say, isn’t he darling?

He is. Unfortunately.

“I think I will go get some fruit for us,” she continues. “Draco, do continue to let in any owls. I’m sure they’ll be arriving all day. Treats are in the tin on the sill.”

She gives Draco another look that he can’t entirely interpret and then collects her coat and purse from the hall before slipping outside.

“You should eat something so you can take your potions,” Potter says as the door closes.

“Maybe later. My dominant hand is occupied.”

Harry looks blankly down at the table. Then grins.

“Oh, right. Seems I’ve monopolised it, huh? Maybe I should feed you then?”

“That would be the polite thing. If you were so inclined.”

“Well. You know me. Always inclined to be polite.”

A bald-faced lie.

Harry laughs at his expression and proffers him a fork full of eggs and Draco leans forward, with dignity, to accept it.

“Thank you,” Draco says a moment later, realising that it’s heavily belated. “For everything.”

He tightens his grip on Potter’s hand because he can’t look at him.

“I know it wasn’t just for me, but I still—thank you.”

“You were a big part of it,” Harry says. Casual. And then he leans over to press a kiss to Draco’s temple, equally casual, like this is the sort of thing they do regularly: hand holding and feeding and gentle domesticity.

It feels too easy.

Like Draco has cheated, somehow.

Harry feeds him another bite and Draco finds himself leaning in, letting Harry keep him upright. He still doesn’t know what his feelings are doing and he isn’t entirely sure he wants to examine them too closely. 

He’s a little afraid of what he might discover.

Chapter Text

Narcissa finds the painting in a portion of the archives reserved for damaged and delicate items.

It’s wrapped in black cloth and several protection spells.

It’s labelled Recovered from the Potter residence in Godric’s Hollow, the West Country, England. October 1981.

It smells like ash.

Narcissa places it gently on the table with gloved hands and asks if he wants her to open the protective coverings.

Harry doesn’t know. 

Well. He does. He desperately wants to see what was deemed important enough to rescue from the destruction of his parents’ home; to transport to the archives for safe keeping; to ensconce in protective charms.

But what if the painting is damaged beyond repair? What if it’s just a reminder of everything he’s lost?

Draco’s hand slips into his, fingers cool but tight.

He doesn’t say anything but Harry doesn’t need him to.

“Yes,” he says, “please.”

Narcissa unwraps the painting.

The man’s face, warped and smudged as it is beneath black grime, is familiar.

It’s practically Harry’s face, but more square and aged, with grey at the temples. The man’s hair is far better coiffed than Harry’s will ever be, slicked to one side in the kind of effortless way that usually takes quite a bit of effort. The portrait is only from the waist up; the man is lounging in a high-backed chair, shirt unbuttoned at the top, eyes closed, for all appearances asleep. 

His chest, though, moves.

“It that—”

“Your grandfather,” Narcissa says. “Fleamont Potter.”

Harry exhales.

“Can he hear us?”

“Likely not,” Narcissa says. “The portrait was badly spell-damaged. It can be restored, though, with your permission.”

“Yes,” Harry says. “Yes. Please. How long will that take?”

“Not terribly long. A few hours. I can do it now, if you like.”

“Yes,” Harry repeats, “please.”

***

It’s interesting, Harry thinks, how similar Narcissa and Draco are when using their magic.

Lucius was all sharp movements and brute strength.

Narcissa, like her son, is fast, elegant, and restrained.

Harry recognises Draco in her wrist movements, in the feel of her magic as it settles around them, and then his chest momentarily seizes up when he realises that the last time he actually saw Draco perform magic—magic that wasn’t borrowed— was when they were on opposite sides of a war.

He blinks away the thought, focusing instead on the warmth of Draco beside him, on the glow of restoration magic and the diamond drips of liquids from glass bottles Narcissa calls to aid her. In Narcissa’s hands, the blackened, soot-covered painting slowly becomes a colourful, hopeful, thing.

“Mr. Potter,” Narcissa says, once the pale glow of spell work has faded and the canvas is bright with new varnish. “Fleamont, can you hear me?”

Fleamont stirs. He opens one eye, then the other. He sits up, squinting at her. 

“Hello,” he says. “I’m not sure—I’m afraid I’ve been asleep a while.”

“Nearly twenty years,” Narcissa says softly.

He blinks several times and leans forward, arms crossed.

“I recognise you. You’re one of the Black girls. Engaged to that fool of a Malfoy, last I heard. Narcissa is it?”

“It is.”

“Well it can’t have been that long, then. You aren’t a day over thirty.”

Draco coughs.

“Charming as ever, Fleamont,” she says drily.

“Did you end up marrying that ridiculous boy? With his long hair and his fancy clothes and his airs.”

Draco makes an irate noise and Harry smothers a laugh.

“I did,” Narcissa says. “He’s dead, now.”

“Ah,” Fleamont says, only slightly cowed. “Shame. I was fond of his father. Is Abraxas still—?”

“Dead as well, I’m afraid.”

He sobers. “Can you tell me, how did the war end?”

“The dark lord was defeated,” she says. “But at great cost.”

He exhales.

“Sorry,” Harry says, pushing forward, because he can’t help himself. “Sorry, but I—hello.”

Fleamont looks stricken.

James?” He stands, reaching out a hand, as if he could touch.

“No,” Harry says.

Fleamont jerks back. “Of course not. Forgive me. I know—I saw it happen. But you look so—oh.”

His face goes soft and anguished.

“…Harry?”

“Yeah.”

He sits heavily in the chair.

Harry feels he needs to do the same, but if he sits down he won’t be able to see the full painting anymore.

Draco, seemingly instinctively, wraps an arm around his waist and Harry, relieved, lets Draco take some of his weight.

Fleamont studies them.

“Well. You’re a Malfoy if I ever saw one,” he says faintly.

“Draco,” Draco says. “Lucius and Narcissa are my parents.”

“I hope you take more after your mother than your father.”

“I hope so as well.”

Fleamont doesn’t laugh but his mouth does tip up to one side.

“Harry,” he says. “I know it’s been some time since—” he flinches. Pauses. Starts again. “I know it’s been many years since your parents’ deaths. But, for me, you were a baby just yesterday. Your mother was trying to teach you to say ‘crup.’ You’d decided, out of the blue, that you no longer liked applesauce and your uncles were trying to convince Lily to let them take you to your first quidditch game the following month. It’s just. Shocking. To see you so grown up.”

“We have a resource room,” Narcissa says quietly. “To help restored paintings acclimatise and educate themselves about modern history they may have missed. I can bring your portrait there to stay overnight if Harry and Draco don’t mind extending their trip until tomorrow. I’m assuming you’ll leave with them.”

“Oh. Is that okay?” Harry asks.

“Of course,” Narcissa says. “The portrait is your property and, under wizarding law, a proto-sentient object cannot be archived. Now that Fleamont is restored, the portrait cannot remain here in storage.”

“Yes,” Harry says. “I mean,” he turns to address Fleamont. “As long as that’s okay with you? Only, I’m living in America right now and it’s not a very nice house. Maybe there’s a better place, somewhere else you would prefer that we take you?”

“The house is nice,” Draco interrupts. Which is…the last thing Harry was expecting. “It’s a bit rustic, yes, but it’s charming. And Harry has worked hard to make it a home.”

Fleamont is regarding Draco with a very high-raised eyebrow.

Draco clears his throat. “It’s nice, is all I’m saying.”

“And you live there as well?” Fleamont asks. “In Harry’s house in America.”

Draco goes delightfully pink.

“At the moment.”

Fleamont does smile, then. “A Potter and a Malfoy, after all this time. My father would be ecstatic. And my son would be appalled.”

“You knew my dad,” Harry says over Malfoy’s splutters.

Which. Of course he did. Obviously. But Harry— 

“I certainly hope so,” Fleamont says. “I raised the boy. Him and his hooligan friends. That Sirius Black lived with us almost every summer past the age of 13.”

“Sirius,” Harry breathes. “Can you tell me about him? About them? All of them. And my mother?”

Fleamont settles back in his chair.

“Of course, dear boy. What do you want to know?”

***

The sun is setting by the time they leave the archives and walk, arm in arm, back to Narcissa’s home.

The air is cold and Harry feels oddly possessive as he tucks Draco closer under his arm.

Draco has gained weight in the last few weeks, but he’s still too thin, and his fingers and toes are always frigid and his nose is distressingly pink in the wind and Harry worries.

There are at least a dozen envelopes waiting for them on the stoop, as well as a small flock of owls perched on the flowerbox who clearly have instructions to wait for a response.

Narcissa sighs as she opens the door.

“If you two want to go clean up, I’ll sort all this and set the table for dinner.”

“Would you like me to cook something?” Harry asks, belatedly wondering if they should have stopped at a shop to purchase some groceries on the way.

“Thank you, but no. I believe Blaise is picking up dinner on his way.”

“Blaise?” Draco says, sounding startled. “Blaise is coming?”

“Of course, darling. I invited all of your little friends over once it became clear you’d be extending your trip. Pansy was kind enough to provide contact information for them.”

Little friends, Draco mouths.

Harry tugs him quickly over the threshold and up the stairs.

“That was very kind of you Mrs—er—Narcissa. Thank you. Looking forward to it. We’ll just freshen up, now.”

“Hold on,” Draco says. 

“Don’t let Draco dawdle with his hair,” she calls, “they’ll be here in less than thirty minutes and I’m sure you know how he is.”

Harry claps a hand over Draco’s mouth before he can respond to that.

“Will do!” he shouts back down, and then bullies Draco into the bathroom on the landing.

Draco bites him.

Harry should have expected it, really. He would probably be disappointed if Draco hadn’t bit him, honestly. And standing there, hip against the sink, the meat of his palm trapped in Draco Malfoy’s teeth, he can’t help but feel—happy, maybe. Yes. He’s practically giddy with it.

He starts laughing and can’t seem to stop.

Draco makes a disgruntled noise.

“Sorry,” Harry says, “Sorry, it’s just—”

Except then Draco is laughing too, so maybe he doesn’t have to explain after all.

Harry’s face ends up pressed to Draco’s neck, as it is wont to do, and he forces himself to pull back, to coax Lyra into a bangle on his wrist.

“Stay,” Harry says sternly, punctuating the command with a kiss to Draco’s forehead.

“I’m not the one who turns into a dog, Potter,” Draco calls after him, but there’s no malice to it.

Harry sprints up the second flight of stairs, deposits Lyra in her attic tank, and then sprints right back down again.

“Hi,” Harry says, tucking himself back into Draco’s space, resuming their prior position. He uses his hips to pin Draco against the closed bathroom door. He tucks errant hair behind Draco’s ears. He drags his thumb against Draco’s top lip, exposing one canine.

“You bit me.”

A flush is slowly inching its way up Draco’s jaw.

“I did.”

“So fierce,” he murmurs, testing the edge of the tooth in question. “If you’d like to do it again, I wouldn’t complain. Maybe try the neck next time.”

“That rather defeats the purpose, if you enjoy it.” Draco answers roughly. “And besides, you’re the one with the neck obsession, not me.”

“Mm. That’s fair,” Harry says, ducking to press the words into the heated skin at Draco’s throat.

Draco swallows and his next inhale is shaky.

Harry does not gloat.

Much.

And then, Draco is tugging the tie out of Harry’s hair, and his fingers are knotted against Harry’s skull, pulling, and their mouths slot together, pushing, and Harry forgets that they were meant to talk about this before—

Before he lets Draco pull off his shirt.

Before he sits Draco on the lip of the bathroom sink and sucks a necklace of proprietary marks into Draco’s pale, pale, skin.

Before Draco hooks his ankles together at the base of Harry’s spine and tightens his thighs around Harry’s hips each time Harry presses closer.

They separate to breathe and Harry’s thumb ends up pressed to Draco’s mouth again, this time soothing the swollen bottom lip and the tiny freckle just beneath it that may or may not exist purely to vex him.

“You are,” Harry says, “so beautiful.”

Something in Draco’s expression shutters and Harry wants to take it back but he also doesn’t, because it’s true. Draco is the most beautiful person he’s ever seen, and he can’t fathom why saying it would elicit a response in which Draco draws back and into himself and slackens his hold on Harry’s hair. Except that’s exactly what’s happening. Draco’s hands move to press between them, creating space.

“Hey,” Harry says. “What?”

Draco lets his forehead fall against Harry’s sternum and breathes.

“Potter,” Draco says softly. “What are we doing?”

Harry drags both hands down the curved expanse of Draco’s back.

“I don’t know,” he says.

It’s honest, but it doesn’t feel like enough.

“You don’t know,” Draco repeats. His expression, when he looks up, is flat.

“I don’t. This is all new to me and I just. I like you. I like being with you, and taking care of you, and touching you. And for once in my life it would be nice to feel—”

He makes a helpless little gesture before bunching his fingers in the back of Draco’s shirt.

“It would be nice to feel,” he repeats, this time with a clear full stop at the end of the statement. It comes out a little more desperate than intended.

Draco doesn’t respond for several seconds, fingers splayed against Harry’s belly. His eyes are sad in a way that Harry doesn’t know how to fix.

“Alright,” Draco says.

He presses forward to kiss Harry again, but much of the heat is gone.

Harry doesn’t mind if it means he’s forgiven for whatever he did wrong.

“What do you like about me?” Draco asks, leaning back.

He nearly falls into the sink and Harry has to catch him before he can knock himself out on the mirror.

Merlin. Where to start?

Harry links his hands at the small of Draco’s back, pulling them flush again. He rocks them a bit while he thinks.

“I like…that you’re smart and opinionated and sarcastic, and fussy.”

“I’m not fussy.”

“You really, really, are. Your evening grooming routine involves eleven products, Draco. You lectured me on the difference between silk and rayon for twenty minutes yesterday.”

“I was trying to educate you, you heathen. But see if I bother, if you’re going to be unappreciative.”

Harry squeezes him into silence.

“I like that you lecture me. That you teach me things I don’t know and probably never would know otherwise. I like that you’re patient even when you pretend not to be. That you’re willing to admit when you make mistakes. And that you’ll try to apologise even if you’re shit at it.”

Draco makes a disgruntled noise, but doesn’t argue.

“I like that you talk to plants. And I like that you aren’t afraid to shout at a wolf who’s tracked mud into your kitchen, but you’ll scream and climb the nearest piece of furniture if a spider so much as looks at you.”

“They can’t be trusted,” Draco mutters.

“I like your hair. And the way you smell. And how soft your skin is.”

“That’s from the grooming routine, you ought to try it.”

“And I like that you act like you deserve to receive constant compliments but then you have absolutely no idea how to accept one when it’s offered to you.”

Draco huffs.

“So. I don’t know. I like all sorts of things about you. I could keep going, if you want.”

“That won’t be necessary.”

Harry falls obediently silent and leans his head into the side of Draco’s. Draco is delightfully pliant in his arms.

“So,” Draco says eventually, sounding incredulous. “You’re saying that you like me for me? For my personality.”

“Yeah, I know. I was pretty surprised about that too.”

“Arsehole.”

He shuffles a step back and pushes hair out of his face so he can get a good look at Draco.

“Seriously, though. What else would I like you for?”

Draco is similarly tucking hair behind his ears, but he’s avoiding Harry’s eyes.

“Nothing. Stupid question. Clearly I’ve been spending too much time with you.”

“Draco.”

“Potter.”

Harry raises a judgmental eyebrow at him and Draco sighs.

“Before I fell ill. Or—before I took a turn for the worse, I suppose. I went out a few times, to bars and clubs. Wizarding, of course.”

“Gay clubs?”

“Yes, Potter, obviously.”

“Okay.”

“It was made clear to me, on various occasions, that, considering my history, I was only worth a second glance because of my appearance. Usually the comments focused on my perceived frailty, easily bruised skin, or the potential usefulness of my mouth.”

Something violent and bitter settles in Harry’s stomach.

“And. At the Manor. Seventh year. I was told similar things by. Well, by far more frightening individuals than anyone you’d meet at a club. Granted, they didn’t often call me beautiful, but you had your fingers on my mouth and it just—I was reminded. For a moment. Like I said. Silly. No need to dwell on it, or anyth—are you alright?”

Harry is not alright.

There is an angry, living thing in his chest and too many teeth in his mouth.

Harry is breathing evenly the way his therapist has taught him and trying to focus on the grounding techniques that have always seemed ridiculous when they practiced them but don’t seem quite so ridiculous, now.

What can he see?

He can see Draco’s wide, anxious, eyes, more blue than grey in the dim bathroom light; a flush of stubble burn on his chin and his mouth

Harry looks away from Draco.

He can see a chip in the top of the mirror, a pale green towel above the toilet, a teak bench beside the bathtub, a candle, a crack in the moulding at the ceiling.

He takes another breath.

What can he feel?

He can feel the cotton of Draco’s shirt under his hands, the bumps of his ribs beneath that, and, when he shifts his fingers a few inches down, he can feel smooth, heated skin.

What can he hear?

He can hear Draco’s pulse, his soft breathing, the muted rattle of cutlery downstairs.

What can he smell?

He can smell—Draco. The Moroccan oil he uses in his hair and the tea tree oil in his toner.

He breathes again.

“Hey,” Draco says. 

His fingers are cautious when they reach for Harry’s face.

“Harry, hey. What can I do?”

“Sorry,” Harry says.

“Don’t apologise, tell me what I can do.”

“Just—”

Harry folds himself around Draco, more a collapse than an embrace,

“This. Please. Sorry.”

Draco’s resigned sigh, as if Harry really is the stupidest person on earth, is a comfort.

He keeps breathing.

Draco pets him, seemingly unconcerned, for several minutes.

Harry feels very sheepish when he straightens.

“You got a bit pointy there for a moment,” Draco says. “Want to explain what happened?”

“Sorry,” Harry says again and Draco swats the back of his head.

“I just. Had to remind myself there wasn’t anyone here for me to kill.”

“For you to—oh.”

A new flush starts to work its way up Draco’s neck.

He clears his throat.

“I suppose it’s natural that your wolf would feel protective of me, since it has mistaken me as a packmate. Nothing to be ashamed of.”

“It’s not—”

Harry only just resists the urge to growl.

“My wolf and I are in agreement that anyone who has hurt you should suffer for it.” 

Draco bites his lip and considering the conversation they’ve just had, Harry feels guilty for enjoying it as much as he does.

“Oh,” Draco says.

“I’m sorry if I scared you when I started to shift.”

“You didn’t.”

“You were just saying that I’d reminded you of—”

“I was just saying that some terrible people said terrible things to me and seeing as you are not a terrible person, regardless of your tendency to occasionally share physical characteristics with those terrible people, there is no reason for me to have been frightened. In fact, I’m feeling flattered more than anything else considering that you’ve just expressed how profoundly attracted to me you are. Now stop being absurd, I need to fix my hair before—”

“Boys!” Narcissa shouts from downstairs. “You have five minutes!”

“Bugger,” Harry mutters. “Sorry. I’ll help you with your hair, if you want.”

Malfoy blinks at him. “I told you to stop apologising. What do you know about hair?”

“I can…braid it?”

“Well,” Draco’s eyebrows are disbelieving. “I suppose we’ll find out if that’s true. We’ll need to fix this rash you’ve given me, first, though. Honestly.”

He half turns, squinting at his reflection in the mirror, and looks rather pleased despite his words. Then he pushes at Harry’s stomach and slides off the counter.

“Don’t just stand there, Potter. We only have a few minutes and we’ll need to sort out your hair as well. And where did your shirt end up? Not that I’m complaining, mind, but I’m assuming you’d like to be dressed when company arrives.”

Harry ducks to kiss him.

Because he wants to and because he can and because Draco is smiling at him like—

He doesn’t even know.

It feels good, though. Really, really, good.

Chapter Text

Draco is pleasantly full and sleepy, sitting in front of the sofa in the V of Potter’s legs, eyes half-closed, as Potter, bent forward, plaits his hair.

It’s Potter’s second try at a fishtail, with Pansy and Ginny giving him pointers from either side, and Draco doesn’t particularly care how many tries it takes to get right because Harry’s hands are warm and gentle and Draco has always liked having someone play with his hair.

Luna is sat next to him in a similar position between Ginny’s knees, freckles visible through the tears in the denim. Really, the trousers she’s wearing appear to be more artful destruction than intact fabric, but he knows that’s a popular muggle fashion statement at the moment and Luna certainly seems to enjoy pressing absent fingers to exposed skin as Ginny works on her hair.

“See?” Ginny murmurs, somewhere above Draco’s head. “Look at mine, Harry, you need to—yes. Perfect. Now the other side—watch—yes. Well done.”

“How are you so good at this?” Harry mutters. “You don’t even have any hair to play with.”

“Oh, she plays with mine all the time,” Luna says.

“We suspected as much,” Pansy murmurs, possibly too quiet for them to hear.

Harry snickers.

“Well,” Narcissa says from the kitchen, “supper was so lovely, but I think I should leave the youth to themselves for the night. If you need anything, I’m just upstairs.”

Everyone choruses their thanks and Draco finds his mother smiling softly at him, looking pleased with herself, as she ascends the stairs.

He stretches, careful not to dislodge Potter’s hands, and considers the room. Apart from the five of them clustered around the sofa, Ron and Hermione are sharing the single oversized chair by the fire, and Blaise, who’d played the perfect, if flirtatious, gentleman and helped Narcissa with the washing up, has come to stand, arms crossed, in the middle of the living room.

“Well,” he says, grinning, “isn’t this a pretty picture. We just need a Hufflepuff and we’d be a poster-card of inter-house unity.”

“It’s called a postcard,” Draco corrects. “They’re cards muggles send by post. Thus: postcard.”

“The fact that you know that is truly astonishing,” 

“I’m sure father would be rolling in his grave, if he had one.”

“Mm,” Blaise agrees. “Where did the old man end up?” he asks. “Did they give him to you or is he locked up at the Ministry somewhere?”

Draco doesn’t particularly want to answer that, but, “I have him,” he says. “His ashes, that is. In a box. At home. Or—at the barns,” he quickly corrects himself. “I wasn’t sure what to do with them when I left London so I brought them with me. I suppose I should ask my mother if she wants them, now.”

Blaise lets out a low, melodic, whistle. “Lucius Malfoy’s ashes in a box in a barn in Alabama. Merlin. What delicious irony. He would hate that.”

“Spectacularly, yes.” Draco agrees.

Hermione and Ron are looking at them like they’re not entirely sure what their response should be.

“It’s fine,” Draco says, even though it’s really not. “It’s not like I’m grieving.”

Harry’s hands leave his hair and rest, heavy, on his shoulders. He leans forward so his mouth is against Draco’s ear.

“Liar,” he whispers.

Draco pinches the skin on Harry’s calf and Harry flops back against the sofa.

“Well,” Blaise says, making a point of looking around. “It seems all the seating options are taken. Who wants to share with me?”

“Oh,” Hermione says, brightening, “you’re welcome to join us.”

Draco knows he has a tendency for histrionics, but he doesn’t think it would be dramatic to say that nearly everyone in the room stops breathing.

He sits up, languor completely forgotten, and looks at Weasley, who is grinning up at Blaise just as cavalierly as Granger.

Hermione scoots a bit so she’s tucked against the arm of the wing-backed chair, legs hooked over one of Weasley’s knees, and Weasley pats his opposite thigh invitingly.

“Sure,” he says, “we’ve got room.”

Ginny is making a choking noise. Or possibly Harry. Draco can’t bring himself to look away from what is, quite possibly, the first time he’s seen Blaise appear flustered in a decade.

“Ah,” Blaise says. “How very kind of you. I’m not sure I could keep my hands to myself, though.”

“That’s fine,” Ron says.

“Completely understandable,” Hermione agrees. “We’re very attractive people.”

“Smart, too.”

“Hard working.”

“Kind.”

“But assertive.”

“And we’re war heroes.”

“Mm. That too. Lots of sexy scars.”

“So many.”

And oh, Draco realises, delighted. They’ve planned this.

After months of Blaise’s teasing, they’ve decided to call his bluff—another muggle phrase of which Billy is rather fond. His father really would find his new vocabulary hateful. Draco finds the idea rather warming.

Blaise, wide-eyed, looks to Draco for assistance, but Draco, much like Harry behind him, is trying very hard not to burst out laughing.

“Blaise, perhaps you should just admit that you’re not a slut,” Luna says breezily. “And that your behaviour up until this point was not, actually, indicative of real sexual interest in Ron and Hermione.”

“Or,” Ron says, patting his leg again.

Blaise abruptly sits next to Draco in front of Pansy.

“I could be a slut,” he mutters.

“Of course you could, darling,” Pansy reassures him.

A lot of people think I’m a slut.”

“And we won’t tell anyone otherwise,” Luna says, soothing. “But you’re among friends. You don’t have to pretend with us.”

“Kind of want to ask why, though,” Ron says, face briefly obscured by Hermione’s hair as she settles more comfortably in his lap. “Like. What do you get out of it?”

Blaise sighs, resting his chin on Pansy’s knee. “If everyone assumes I’m a charming but useless playboy it gives me so much freedom. I can run the family business behind the scenes—”

“He’s started a few of his own businesses as well,” Pansy adds.

“It’s actually quite nice, having people expect nothing from you without hating you. Ideal, really.” He flicks one of the newspapers on the coffee table. “It allows me to occasionally help start an uprising.”

“That was convenient,” Hermione agrees. “But what if you actually wanted to date someone? Or get married? Won’t that complicate things?”

“Oh,” Blaise says. “No. I have no interest in relationships.”

Harry goes strangely still behind Draco.

“You don’t?” Harry asks. It sounds loaded.

Blaise frowns up at Potter for a moment. “No. I’m perfectly content in my bachelorhood.”

He’s lying. Draco knows he’s lying. But Potter clearly knows as well and Draco wants to know how.

“Yes,” Pansy says, “who could possibly be good enough for you?” The words are clearly meant to be joking, but there’s something off about them.

Blaise turns his frown to Pansy.

Ron clears his throat.

“So, speaking of marriage, The Prophet practically has you two married,”

“What?” Pansy says faintly.

“Harry and Draco, I mean. Did you not see the special edition they put out this afternoon?”

“Oh. Of course,” Pansy says. “Yes, they actually used a very fetching picture of the two of you. Draco was obviously in charge of your wardrobe, Harry.”

“What?” Draco says.

Hermione leans over the side of the chair and Ron automatically provides counterweight to make sure she doesn’t tumble off. 

“I brought a copy,” she says, elbow deep in her small, much-shorter-than-elbow-length bag, “I thought it might—ah, here it is.”

She levitates it over to Harry and Draco climbs up into his lap so they can look at it together. Harry mutters something indecorous about pointy elbows but settles an arm around Draco’s waist, chin on his shoulder.

Pansy is right—it is a rather nice picture.

It was taken the day before, perhaps a hundred metres from the archives; Harry is gesturing with one hand, the other tucked in the pocket of his coat. Draco’s elbow is linked with Harry’s and he’s looking up at him with such naked fondness that Draco considers immediately dying on the spot from embarrassment. 

Except then, Harry—the Harry in the photograph—stops in the middle of whatever he’s saying and reaches to tuck some of Draco’s loose hair behind his ear, which is fantastically romantic right up until Harry boops Lyra on the nose with one finger, and then, to photograph-Draco’s righteous fury, boops Draco on the nose as well. Draco swats him away and Harry laughs, and then the picture starts over at the beginning. 

Draco watches it again because he could have sworn—

Yes.

When Harry turns to look at him, when he reaches for him, when he ducks away laughing, his expression is—it’s more than amused. Or fond. Or affectionate. He looks just as stupidly besotted as Draco does which placates the very small amount of pride Draco has left.

He watches the photograph play all the way through a third time and wonders if Granger would let him keep the article. It really is a nice picture.

“Well,” Harry says. “Shit.”

Draco, startled, glances sideways at him.

“What?”

“I’m sorry,” he says, which clarifies nothing.

“You often should be, for all number of grievances,” Draco says. “What are you currently apologising for?”

Harry laughs through his nose and the exhalation tickles.

“I didn’t think about what it looked like,” Harry says. “I didn’t think—I mean, drawing attention to Lyra and touching you in public. I knew people might make assumptions if they saw us together, but—”

He points to a paragraph further down the page that Draco has not read because he hasn’t read any of the accompanying article because he can’t seem to look away from that damn picture. Also—

“I don’t have my glasses,” Draco murmurs.

“Oh, right.” Harry taps the paragraph in question. “They’re saying we’re engaged. Because of Lyra and speculation that we’ve been living together and the fact that I’ve, er—”

“Been playing the gallant hero?” Blaise offers. “Tending to Draco’s health and demanding justice before his untimely demise at the Ministry’s hands?”

Harry coughs.

“I think it’s also the way you look at each other,” Luna says, letting her head loll back against Ginny’s thigh. 

“I’m sure I have no idea what you mean.” Draco says. 

“I think,” Blaise says, “she means that Harry looks at you as if he’d enjoy eating you whole and you look at Harry as if you’d let him.”

Harry makes a garbled noise behind him.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Blaise says. “Was that indecorous? No aspersions cast on your furry little problem, of course. I meant it in a sexual way, not a species-ist way. Though Draco certainly is fond of biting,” he muses.

“How do you know that?” Harry says sharply.

“Oh my god,” Draco says.

“Not from personal experience, I assure you. Down, boy.”

“Blaise,” Draco says. “Stop. No more dog jokes. It is species-ist and utterly uncouth besides.”

“You still haven’t answered the question,” Harry says and Draco is embarrassed to admit that the low timbre of Harry’s voice, paired with the possessive hands on his waist, is certainly making him feel…things. He shifts a little, remembers belatedly that he’s in Potter’s lap, which does nothing to dissuade said feelings, and immediately goes still.

Harry inhales sharply against his neck for no reason that Draco can determine.

Blaise rolls his eyes. “I once found Draco’s, shall we call them ‘leisure reading materials’? back in our school days. A bit kinky, our Draco. But I’m sure you know that.”

“Oh!” Luna says, “I found a Poppycock book hidden in the greenhouse at the Manor after Great Aunt Elphaba’s funeral. Was that yours, Draco?”

“I’d rather this conversation be over,” Draco says.

“Poppycock?” Harry asks.

Draco knows his face is probably as red as Hermione’s handbag.

“Oh, they’re like Mills & Boon romances in the muggle world,” Hermione says. “Except they’re all about queer magical characters and they’re written under the pen name Professor Poppycock.”

Harry makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like a strangled laugh.

“Which one were you reading in the greenhouse, Draco?” He murmurs against Draco’s ear.

And it’s unfair, really, that the little gust of warm breath sends an immediate wave of chills across his skin.

“I think it was The Veela and the Vampire,” Luna provides helpfully. 

“Oooh,” Pansy says. “I remember that one. The vampire is tall, dark and handsome and the Veela is a fierce little blonde man. Very interesting cover art on that one.”

“I hate you all,” Draco says.

“Draco, has anyone told you about fan fiction?” Hermione asks. “You have a computer now, don’t you?”

“I—use Harry’s? What’s fan fiction?”

“Oh Merlin,” Ron says.

“There’s actually a pretty well-known series by a witch online about Draco and Harry,” Ginny says. “What do you want to bet it gets even more attention, now?”

“Wait,” Ron says to Ginny, “You know what fan fiction is? You’ve read it? About Harry and Malfoy?”

“If you forget it’s about Harry, it’s actually pretty hot,” Ginny says. 

“You know,” Hermione says, “I thought for a while that Pansy was writing it. Their Draco is so spot on.”

“Ew,” Pansy says. “As if I would ever write a sex scene with Draco in it. Much less thirteen of them. But thank you; it is quite well-written.”

“I think it’s up to fourteen sex scenes, now,” Luna says. “New chapter was posted yesterday.”

Draco has no idea how to respond to any of this.

“I don’t—can someone please explain to me what fan fiction is?” Draco says.

Harry tightens his grip on Draco’s waist, “It’s er, when people make stories about characters or people that already exist in other stories or in real life. So it can be written about book or television characters or real-life celebrities.”

“Harry, you know about fan fiction?” Ron asks.

“Oh honestly, Ronald,” Hermione says. “Most people do.”

“Someone has written sexual stories about us online?” Draco interrupts. “About me and Harry?”

“Multiple someones,” Ginny says.

That shouldn’t be hot.

It really, really, shouldn’t.

And yet—

Draco, very inconspicuously, pulls a throw pillow into his lap.

Harry inhales again, nose under Draco’s ear, mouth against the curve of his throat, and Draco shudders, automatically tipping up his chin to give him better access.

Harry goes very, very still behind him.

“I think,” Harry says, low and brooking no argument, “everyone ought to leave.”

After a two second pause, the room is suddenly in motion.

“It is getting late, isn’t it?” Pansy says, accepting Blaise’s proffered hand. “Goodnight everyone.”

“I’ll let you two keep that newspaper,” Hermione says, straightening her skirt. “Ron, grab my purse, would you?”

“Goodnight,” Luna says, pulling Ginny towards the door, “Enjoy the fan fiction! Be safe!”

In less than a minute, they’re alone.

“I’m going to carry you upstairs, now,” Harry says lowly. “Unless you have any objections.”

“No objections,” he says.

****

“We still need to talk,” Harry says, several minutes later, as he’s unbuttoning Draco’s shirt.

“Ah,” Draco answers, kiss-breathless and feeling a little hysterical. “Is that what we’re doing now? Talking?”

“Yes,” Harry says, ducking to suck a mark on Draco’s exposed collarbone. “Well, no, but we should be.”

He somehow manages to sound both aggrieved and utterly feral at the same time.

“What do you—” Draco hisses when Harry’s teeth get involved, dangerously close to his nipple “—what do you want to talk about, exactly?”

Harry pulls away, weight on his elbows, forearms tucked beneath Draco’s back, hands spanning Draco’s now-bare shoulders.

His eyes are bright and his skin is flushed and his hair is escaping the hasty bun he’d pulled it into and Draco is so, terribly, embarrassingly, gone for him.

“I’m—” Harry breathes for a moment. “I meant to talk to you about what you wanted. From me. And what you didn’t want. And. You don’t have to talk about the, um, things that happened to you. You can! If you want to. But if not that’s fine, I just. I don’t want to—” he pauses again, his stupid, beautiful, eyebrows furrowed in concentration. “I don’t want to contribute to your trauma.”

It is sometimes very apparent that Harry is in therapy.

Draco is glad for it.

“And,” Harry continues, looking a little wild around the eyes, “I was reading online that maybe we should, uh, take some surveys? Or. I don’t know where to start but we should definitely,” he gasps in a rather gratifying way when Draco wiggles a little under him—“we should definitely talk.”

“Alright,” Draco asks. “Let’s talk. Do you trust me?”

He realises he’s already certain of the answer, which is its own sort of triumph.

“Yeah,” Harry says. “Yeah, of course.”

“Do you trust me to tell you if you’re hurting me or scaring me?”

“I—yes?”

“Do you think that, when I’m with you, I would ever do something I did not, expressly, want to do without making my opinion known about it?”

Harry smirks. “Likely not.”

Draco reaches for Harry’s face. He slides a thumb beneath one eye, pulls him down for a kiss, and then brings up one knee to push at Harry’s flank. He obligingly lets Draco roll them.

“Well,” Draco says, settling himself more comfortably in a straddle on Harry’s stomach, “keeping those things in mind, I don’t think we need to fill out surveys quite yet. Because neither of us are…experienced. Sexually. And we’re going to take things slowly. And we’re going to determine the sorts of things we like and dislike together. Correct?”

Harry touches his tongue to his bottom lip.

“Right.” 

“And if I ever told you to stop, you would stop what you were doing immediately, correct?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“And if you were ever uncomfortable, you would also immediately tell me, correct?”

He makes a face. “I don’t think—”

“Harry. This is mutual or it doesn’t happen at all.”

Harry makes a face. “Fine,” he agrees.

“And if, as we’re determining the things we like and dislike, you wanted to do something and you weren’t sure I’d enjoy it, you’d ask first, yes?”

“Yeah, absolutely.”

“Then I think that’s enough for now. And once we’ve figured out the sorts of things that we like and dislike, generally, and we might want to get more…adventurous, we can talk more in depth then. And we would already know if there are certain things that we need to be careful about because they might frighten me. Or because you might not enjoy them.”

“I’ll do anything you want me to do,” Harry says.

Draco raises an eyebrow.

“Er,” Harry says. “Right. Of course.”

Draco sighs.

Because he’d really like to start figuring out the sorts of things they enjoy now. He’s pretty certain Harry’s mouth is going to feature heavily in his personal preferences. But he also knows that he needs to push this a little harder.

“Harry,” he says. “What if I said I wanted you to hit me?”

Harry recoils so sharply that he nearly unseats Draco.

What?”

“What if I told you,” Draco says, “that I think I’d find it very arousing for you to punch me? Slap me in the face. Kick me.”

“No,” Harry says. “No, I couldn’t.”

The very thought of potential violence has Harry hands reaching for him, anxious, and Draco leans into them.

“Exactly,” he says. “Some people find that quite sexy, though.”

“Do you?”

“No.”

Harry’s exhale is relieved.

“My point is that we’re both going to discover things that we don’t like, not just me and not just because I’m…damaged, somehow, from before.”

“You’re not damaged.”

“I know I’m not. I just want to be certain that you understand you’re allowed to object to things or ask for things just as much as I am. I know I’ll probably be weirdly into you being possessive of me and leaving marks with your mouth,”—Harry’s smile goes a bit sharp—“but the only way I’ll be comfortable continuing to tell you things like that is if you’re equally honest with me.”  Draco wiggles a few inches backwards so he’s more conventionally seated in Harry’s lap, considering. “I’ve heard werewolves are into water sports,” he muses. 

“I—what?” Harry’s pupils are wide, his thumbs absently circling Draco’s hip bones. “Water sports,” Harry repeats. “Like jet skiing? What’s that got to do with sex?”

Oh no.

If Draco didn’t already know he was in trouble, he does now. Because Harry’s ignorance is painfully adorable.

Draco has to kiss him.

“Not like jet skiing,” Draco says. “Consider context, for a moment, I beg you.”

“Context. Okay. What do you—oh.”

Harry’s pupils go even wider.

“Oh Merlin,” Draco says. “I was mostly joking. Really? That turns you on?”

“Well I wouldn’t have even considered it if you hadn’t said anything,” Harry hisses. “And maybe not like, in real life. But the idea is—I don’t know!”

“This is good!” Draco says, catching Harry’s wrists as he tries to cover his face. “You wanted to talk. We’re talking. And understanding that there’s a difference between something that’s arousing conceptually versus in practice is important. This is good, Harry. Really.”

You have to tell me something embarrassing, now,” Harry says, petulant.

Draco scoffs. “The things you find arousing are not embarrassing. But I will say I’ve always enjoyed reading bondage scenes in books. Again, not sure I’d like it in practice, might just want to start with you holding me down or something. But I’ve always liked the idea of being completely at the mercy of someone I—” he only just stops himself from saying something damning. He clears his throat, “someone I trust. I like the idea of trusting someone enough to put myself wholly in their hands. You know?”

Yes,” Harry says. “I mean. No. But—”

“But you’d like me to be at your mercy, you mean?” He asks, grinning.

Harry rolls them, forcefully, but with a gentleness that belies the perceived aggression of the movement, as he anchors Draco to the bed with his hips, as he laces their fingers together and pins Draco’s hands above his head.

“I’d take care of you,” Harry says, urgently and completely without artifice, “I promise. If you trusted me like that, I’d take care of you.”

Draco has to kiss him.

And then he has to kiss him again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

***

Draco finds that he’s rather partial to post-orgasm cuddling.

They never actually made it out of their pants, but he feels that’s an appropriate first step considering their mutual lack of experience and their intention to take things slowly. Their hair is wet from a shared shower and he has a dozen new marks on his skin and Harry is looking almost annoyingly smug. Their legs are tangled together and Draco is mostly on top of Harry because they’ve both discovered they rather like that and it’s—

Well.

Draco can’t complain.

“Christmas is next week,” Harry says, apropos of nothing.

Draco, admittedly, did not know that.

He knew it was soon, because Billy had started playing Christmas carols in the shop over a month beforehand and Paris had been absolutely dripping with the aesthetics of holiday merriment.

It occurs to him that he needs to get Harry a present.

And it really ought to be a good one, all things considered.

“Do you…have plans?” Draco asks.

He’s not sure what he’ll do if Harry does.

The thought of Harry leaving him alone at the barns—if only for a few days—opens up a pit of loneliness in Draco’s stomach that feels potentially fatal.

“No,” Harry says. “Ron wanted me to come to the Burrow but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Not yet. And I doubt you would be either.”

Draco makes a confused noise.

“I mean. We can go, if you’d like. I just figured all the Weasleys might be a little overwhelming for you right now.”

“Oh,” Draco says. “I didn’t—you would want me to go with you?”

“Well, yeah. I’m not going to leave you alone on Christmas.”

The pit in his stomach turns into warmth and bubbles and other, terribly trite, happy things.

“Well,” he sniffs. “I wouldn’t be alone. I’d have Lyra. Who would likely be far better company anyway. I’m sure you have some obscene Christmas jumper you’ll want to wear and I’m certainly not helping you drag a tree indoors.”

Harry doesn’t respond and Draco wonders if maybe his feigned disdain was too pointed.

“What?” he says.

“Oh,” Harry says. “I just. I was sort of hoping to cut down a tree, actually. When we get back. And I thought I could let you have one of my Christmas jumpers so we could both wear them and we could make hot chocolate. And maybe decorate the tree together? We don’t have to, though. Probably stupid anyway since we’d just take it down a few days later.”

Draco shifts so he can look at Harry, hands on his chest, pressing; urgent.

“No,” he says. “No, that’s not—I didn’t mean it. That sounds nice.”

“Are you sure?”

“I am. As long as you do a pest removal charm on the tree before you bring it indoors.”

Harry grins. “Deal.”

Draco lets his chin fall onto his hands.

“What will we do for ornaments?”

“I think we’ll need to drive into Marian and get some from the Walmart there.”

Draco has only been to Walmart once. It was a harrowing experience.

Harry laughs at his facial expression.

“I could go by myself.”

“No,” Draco says valiantly. “No, I’ll come with you. I have to make certain that you don’t pick something hideous.”

“Mmm,” Harry agrees, doing a little half-crunch to kiss his forehead. “Brave boy.”

Draco considers being offended but decides it’s not worth the effort.

“Do you want to invite your mum to come?” Harry asks after a moment, cautious. “Maybe not for the whole day, but the afternoon? For dinner? I could cook and you could show her your plants and your potions lab set up. I’m sure she’d like to see it.”

Draco finds it suddenly difficult to speak.

He tries for a moment and then gives up, throat hot, and just sort of face-plants into Harry’s chest.

“Hey,” Harry says, alarmed. “Draco? Are you ok?”

He can manage a nod, at least.

“Alright. Are you—does that mean yes? You want to invite her?”

Another nod.

“Okay.” He drags one hand down Draco’s back; up; down; up; down. “Okay, we will then.”

Draco’s father had criticised him, when he was a child, for wearing his heart on his sleeve.

Your feelings are far too plain, Draco.

You mustn’t lose control of your emotions, Draco.

Blank face, straight spine, Draco. Good.

He’d taken his father’s advice and learned to conceal his emotions with alacrity. Perhaps he’d learned too well. Because he doesn’t know what to do now; how to act when his feelings are not only visible but possibly returned. He doesn’t know how much he’s allowed to feel. How much he’s allowed to show. The artifice of impartiality no longer makes sense, here, but he has no idea how to go about navigating the rocky terrain of acceptable affection.

Draco closes his eyes and lets Harry soothe him and he despairs.

Because his heart isn’t on his sleeve; it’s in Harry’s hands—a messy, desperate, embarrassing thing.

And Draco has no idea how to take it back.

Chapter Text

Harry is trying to come to terms with the fact that he’s in love with Draco Malfoy.

It’s not going well.

It’s somewhere around 2am and cool air is sneaking in around the ill-sealed window in the barn loft and Harry is trying to determine when, exactly, he fell in love with Draco Malfoy—how this possibly could have happened without his…permission? Intent? 

They’ve been home for three days. Three days full of casual touching and tending to plants and Harry bringing Draco lunch at the shop and sometimes, if Draco allows it, holding his hand behind the counter. The day before, Draco had willingly put on a garish Christmas jumper and helped Harry select a Christmas tree and then Draco sat in the trolley at Walmart and imperiously directed Harry in selecting appropriate fairy lights and ornaments for their tree and when Harry pushed the trolley at a run through the car park, briefly letting go, Draco had shrieked and pretended to be furious with Harry for risking his life right up until Harry helped him out of the basket and kissed him in apology, pressed to the side of the Camaro, cool metal and warm mouths, as it started to snow. 

The snow hadn’t stuck, but the weather had turned icy and they’d spent the last two evenings cuddled on the sofa together, listening to Christmas carols and drinking hot chocolate; Draco dozing while Harry talked to Fleamont, the Christmas tree’s lights contributing a warm glow to what was, already, a painfully domestic scene.

The point is—

The point is—

He doesn’t know what the point is.

He should probably get some sleep.

Draco is asleep.

Lyra is asleep.

But, instead of sleeping, Harry is propped up on several pillows looking down at Draco’s shadow-striped face where it’s pressed against his hip. 

He’s looking down at Draco’s arm, thrown across his lap.

He’s looking at moon-bleached skin and sleep-curled fingers and his chest aches in a way that he can’t explain with anything other than love.

He shifts his attention to the piece of paper on the crate that doubles as a bedside table and the chest-feeling only gets worse.

He summons it wandlessly and smooths the tri-folded parchment page flat and reads it for the tenth time since he found it that morning, tucked under the mug of tea waiting for him on the coffee table when he returned from his run.

Draco was in the potions barn and Harry had settled on the sofa, sipped his tea once, and then completely abandoned the mug because the piece of paper was a list. 

It didn’t have a title or an explanation or a date or a signature. It was just a list. In Draco’s fluid, elegant, handwriting:

1. You’re loyal, often to a fault.

2. You’re kind for kindness’ sake, without ulterior motives.

3. You’re stupidly brave.

4. You’re distressingly selfless.

5. You’re quite gentle for someone so strong.

6. You aren’t always an idiot.

7. You can be funny, on occasion.

8. Your hair isn’t terrible.

9. Your eyes aren’t terrible either.

10. Or your face in general.

11. Listen, you’re really quite fit, you shouldn’t need me to tell you that. I’m not going to

list all of your attractive body parts. That would be ridiculous.

12. Your hands, though, are particularly nice. When they’re clean.

13. You’re actually a passable cook.

14. You’re good to Lyra.

15. You’re good to me, too.

The last two are written much smaller than the others in cramped, hasty writing:

16. You look at me like I’m important.

17. Your magic feels like home.

The eighteenth line is crossed out. Not just crossed out, but scribbled out entirely, the thick parchment dented nearly through to the other side. Even when Harry held it to the light, there was no way to determine what the final line said.

Of course, Harry realised rather quickly that the note is a list of things that Draco likes about Harry. Perhaps in response to Harry’s similarly awkward declaration several nights before? Regardless, he’d had no idea how to respond.

He’d walked down to the potions barn with it clutched in one hand, tea forgotten and going cold in the living room.

“No,” Draco said when he pulled open the door.

“Er,” Harry said. “What?”

“No. We’re not talking about it. Go away.”

“Why would you write it if you don’t want to talk about it?”

Because, Potter. Stop being obtuse. Go do something useful, would you? Fix the light in the bathroom. Or cook something. And for Merlin’s sake, put on some clothes. It’s literally freezing out.”

Harry was beginning to understand the difference between a Draco who was posturing at needing space and a Draco who actually did want to be left alone. This seemed to be a latter case.

So he’d returned to the house, and tucked the list under Draco’s glasses on the bedside table and he’d put on some clothes and fixed the light in the bathroom and cooked French food for lunch and they hadn’t talked about it.

And now, listening to Draco’s sleep-slow breathing, Harry reads the list again.

And again.

He wishes he knew a spell that would allow him to read the final line. It feels like the most important part. It feels like a secret he needs to know or he may never be able to sleep again.

He knows what he wants it to say. What he’d nearly said in the bathroom several nights before and only just stopped himself because he didn’t want to—

Well, he didn’t want to pressure Draco into a response, into saying something he didn’t mean just because he thought Harry wanted to hear it or because he thought he owed it to Harry.

And judging by the information Hermione and Blaise have been sending them every few hours, it’s very likely that, due to public outcry, the Ministry will have to re-sentence Draco, and the others, if they want to avoid an uprising.

If Draco is absolved, if his magic is returned and he’s no longer treated like a pariah; if he doesn’t need Harry anymore, there would hardly be a reason for him to stay. He could go live with Blaise or Pansy or his mother while waiting for his inheritance; he could live somewhere that wasn’t surrounded by cornfields and cows. Somewhere that had a real tub instead of a stock tank. Somewhere he could wear his fancy clothes and go on dates like a normal person and—

The point is, Harry can’t be in love with Draco.

Because Draco is going to leave.

Even if it’s not for several weeks or months or even a year.

Draco is going to leave.

So Harry just can’t be in love with him. He can’t.

Except he is.

Harry reads the list again and tells himself not to hope.

Except he does.

***

Several hours after sunrise, Harry is sitting on the sofa. One of Draco’s legs is thrown over Harry’s lap and Harry is absently petting the fine, pale, hair on his calf.

He’s half-dozing, considering going back upstairs and attempting to make up for the previous sleepless night, when someone apparates onto the front doorstep.

“Are you decent?” Ginny yells from outside. 

She opens the door without waiting for a response.

“Ah,” Draco says. “Ginevra. Good morning. I fail to see the purpose of apparating outdoors if you then immediately come inside without an invitation.”

Ginny raises an eyebrow. “You realise you’re the only one, apart from my mother, who calls me Ginevra.”

Draco’s mouth twists, in the way it does when he’s preparing a waspish retort, but stalls and resettles into something uncertain.

“Do you—” he clears his throat, back going stiff. “Would you rather I didn’t?”

“Oh.” Ginny considers. “I don’t really care, I guess.”

He nods, still stiff, and she nods back and they’re clearly having some sort of additional nonverbal conversation because that level of sustained eye contact can’t be normal. Especially between a Malfoy and a Weasley.

“Tea?” Draco says finally.

“Please.”

Draco stands and moves to the kitchen.

Harry has no idea what just happened.

A few minutes later, Draco hands a mug of tea to Ginny who gives him a very obvious once-over, eyes lingering on the livid marks circling Draco’s neck.

Half of Harry is embarrassed by the overt display of his possessiveness; the other half wants to preen that Draco wears them with what can only be pride.

“So,” Ginny says, “are you two shagging now, or is there a vampiric nargle infestation in the loft?”

Harry chokes on his orange juice.

“A vampiric—” Draco sighs. “My cousin is clearly rubbing off on you.”

“Mmm. I wish. But we’re not talking about my sex life. I asked about yours.”

“Shagging seems to imply intercourse,” Draco says, “which Potter has, as of yet, refused to facilitate. Rubbing off is, however, an accurate, if lewd, description of our amorous activities.”

“Ah. Is he the wait-for-marriage sort?”

“I certainly hope not.”

“I am right here,” Harry says.

“Point,” Ginny agrees. “Is there a reason you’ve been neglecting your pre-matrimonial duties, Harry?” she asks innocently.

“We aren’t getting married!”

“Yet,” Ginny agrees. “Though The Prophet is speculating you might already be. A London witch visiting Las Vegas last week for a hen do swears she saw you tying the knot.”

Draco makes a rude noise. “As if I would ever be so desperate. A Vegas wedding? How tawdry.” His face goes a little funny again and he clears his throat. “That being said, I respect Harry’s boundaries and the reasons for them and whilst teasing him is delightful there ought not to be assumed sexual expectations inherent to the act of matrimony. Or courting. Or…any other sort of romantic entanglement.”

Ginny blinks at him.

So does Harry.

“I mean,” she says eventually, “I don’t disagree.”

“Yes, well,” he says, “only an imbecile would. I’m rarely wrong. I need to check the plants.” He pulls Harry’s anorak off the wall hook by the door, shoves his bare feet into Harry’s unlaced boots and all but flees out the door, tugging a cascade of mussed blonde hair out of the collar and buttoning the too-large coat over his pyjamas as he goes.

“You have weird taste,” Ginny says, sipping her tea.

“Hey,” Harry objects. “I dated you.”

“That really doesn’t help your argument.”

She has a point.

“I thought we weren’t meeting until this afternoon?” Harry says as she moves to sit beside him.

“I’m off all week,” Ginny says. “Didn’t have anything on, so I thought I’d come over and do some experiments with the freaky flowers. I have a list of spells from Hermione to test out. Actually, Blaise found a copy of that book—” she gestures with her mug, “the one Hermione’s been trying to track down for weeks now?”

“Oh?” Harry says. He seems to recall something about Hermione looking for a rare book. But then, with Hermione, that’s standard procedure. 

“Yeah. Blaise found a copy in Japan. Apparently some collector has it and they’ve been squabbling over pricing for the last few days.”

“Merlin. How expensive is it?”

“Oh, I don’t think the actual price is the issue. It’s Blaise, after all. It’s more of a pride thing, I’d wager.”

“Right.”

“So, anyway,” she says, setting her mug on the table. “I’m off to experiment. I’ll try not to blow anything up.”

“Appreciated.” He stands with her. “Why don’t I come and reinforce the wards first, just to be safe?”

“Probably wise. Especially if Draco is going to be nearby, right?”

“I’m worried about your safety too,” Harry yells from halfway up the loft ladder. Since Draco took Harry’s boots, he has to go find a pair of his trainers. Well, he doesn’t have to, but the last time he wandered around outside barefoot, Draco shouted at him and then spent a very judgmental minute examining the state of Harry’s feet before making him sit on the sofa so Draco could give him the first pedicure of his life, and then Draco had threatened him with Significant Consequences if he undid any of Draco’s hard work.

So Harry wears shoes outside and makes a point to slather some lotion on his toes after a bath, because it matters to Draco, which means, apparently, that it matters to him now as well.

Also, without all the rough calluses, his feet feel nicer on the high thread count sheets Draco suggested he purchase. Sort of slippery. Like a fish.

Harold,” Ginny says, “you planning to come back down sometime today?” 

He realises he’s just kneeling by the bed, petting their rumpled sheets, and he rolls his eyes at himself, or, at least, the part of himself that would really rather stay where there are soft sheets with good memories and everything smells like DracoandHarry. He grabs the nearest pair of shoes and descends the ladder to find Ginny doing a backbend over the sofa. She turns it into a handstand before falling gracefully back onto her feet.

“Ready?” she asks.

Harry laces his shoes and checks on Lyra who is taking a post-eel-consumption nap on the windowsill.

“Ready,” he says.

“Leave the telly vision on, if you would,” Fleamont says. 

***

Harry refreshes the protection wards around the potions lab part of the barn, then sits on his project motorbike and watches Draco tend to the plants while Ginny casts purple-tinted spells at samples of the black foxglove on the workbench.

Draco keeps looking over his shoulder at Harry.

Harry smiles at him each time.

“Can I help you with something?” Draco says, after several minutes of silence.

He’s still wearing Harry’s coat and boots, hair disheveled, and he looks so completely ridiculous, secateurs in hand, that Harry can’t take him seriously.

“No,” Harry says. “I’m just enjoying watching you.”

Draco makes an irate noise, going pink at the ears, and returns to his work.

Ginny makes a retching sound.

“I could help you with something, though,” Harry says, “if you’d like.”

“I’d rather you didn’t, while I’m here,” Ginny murmurs.

Draco ignores her. “You could mist the Monstera, I suppose. That’s relatively idiot-proof.”

“Thanks,” Harry says.

He goes to retrieve the spray bottle, making a slight detour to kiss Draco’s temple—perhaps a bit more roughly than strictly necessary—on his way to the other side of the barn.

He doesn’t actually get a chance to mist anything, though, because he’s only just arrived in front of the Monstera when Hermione’s otter patronus comes charging through the back wall and jumps onto the table where Ginny is working.

“Don’t do the third spell on the list,” Hermione’s voice says. “I didn’t think about the fact that there are poppy plants in the grow space until now and even just that proximity could make it too volatile.”

“Er,” Ginny says, wand up.

There’s a levitating petal a foot away from her face that appears to be sparking in a relatively ominous way.

“You just did the third spell, didn’t you?” Draco asks tiredly.

“Might have done, yeah.”

“Should we, perhaps, take cover?” Draco inquires.

Hermione’s patronus wrings its little otter hands in a very human fashion.

“Ginny,” Harry says, already throwing up an additional shield charm, “leave it and back away.”

She does so without question as the petal begins to smoke.

“Any suggestions on what we should do in the event that she’s already cast the spell?” he asks the otter.

But apparently Hermione hadn’t prepared it with an answer to that question because it just continues to look distressed before fading away.

The petal bursts into flame, and Harry, automatically, casts an aguamenti.

It falls into a smoking, dejected, heap on the workbench.

No one moves for several seconds.

Eventually, when nothing else happens, Harry steps forward to cautiously examine it, but the smoke peters out and they’re just left with a rather charred, damp, bit of foliage.

Harry pokes it with the tip of his wand.

“Well, that was anticlimactic,” Ginny says.

Harry agrees.

And then he realises that Draco has gone silent.

When Harry turns to investigate the silence, he finds that Draco is…gone.

No, not gone.

Harry can still hear his heartbeat, when he listens for it, and it’s absolutely racing.

He throws another glance, just to be safe, at the foxglove, and, finding it still inert, scrambles around the first hydroponic aisle and down the second where Draco is crouched behind the tomatoes, hands clutching at his chest, gasping.

“Draco?” Harry says.

Draco’s eyes meet his, wide and wild and not entirely present.

Harry casts the only diagnostic spell he knows—a multipurpose Auror spell that tells him Draco’s heart rate and blood pressure are elevated and he’s terrified which Harry already knew from the way Draco looks and smells and falls desperately, without protest, into Harry’s arms when Harry reaches for him.

“What’s wrong? What’s happened?” Ginny says, “I don’t understand, is he having a reaction to the smoke? We’re fine, though. And the barrier should have prohibited any adverse effects, right?”

“It’s one of the most controlled magical plants in the world,” Harry says, a little closer to a snarl than he would have liked, “who knows? I don’t think he’s actually ill, though. Can you give us a minute?”

She looks like she wants to argue, but she doesn’t, and the minute the door closes with her departure, Harry shifts Draco just enough so that he can capture Draco’s wrists and shove his arms, rather inelegantly, under Harry’s shirt. He presses both of Draco’s palms flat to Harry’s chest.

“Hey, I think you’re having a panic attack,” he says.

“No shit,” Draco manages to gasp.

“So we’re going to breathe together, okay? Unless you know something else that will help?”

Draco shakes his head.

Harry breathes.

And he’d been reading some material that Healer Nott sent about magical transference, about intentionality and emotional states while physical contact was performed. He hadn’t really understood all the terminology being used but it seemed to suggest that a creature’s magic was intrinsically tied to its mood, and so, when magic was shared between wizards with creature heritage, it was possible for a host to also share feelings.

Harry doesn’t know if that’s true for him and Draco, but he figures it’s worth trying.

He keeps one hand pressed over Draco’s, trapping them in place. The other hand he slides under the bulk of his coat to splay on the clammy skin of Draco’s back.

He breathes.

He thinks about Hagrid and the first birthday cake he ever received.
He thinks about his first time at Diagon Alley.

His first time seeing the castle that would become his home.

His first time flying.

He thinks about the Burrow.

About Hogwarts at Christmastime.

About the Gryffindor common room.

Draco’s frantic breaths slow into hitching, shuddery things.

Harry thinks about playing chess with Ron and studying with Hermione.

About Sirius and Remus.

About his motorbike back in London.

About the first sunrise he watched from the barn.

Draco’s heartbeat falls within normal range and Harry thinks about the way it felt, as a wolf, when Draco touched him, for the first time, without fear.

He thinks about the way sunlight reflects on Lyra’s scales.

He thinks about the list Draco made for him.

He thinks about waking up with his face in Draco’s hair.

Draco lists forward, temple against Harry’s jaw, humid mouth against his collar bone.

“It was the smell,” he says.

“What?”

“The smell,” Draco says. “Of the foxglove burning. It—upset me.”

Harry, kindly, doesn’t point out the understatement.

“But why?”

“The potion I was forced to drink,” Draco says. “During the ritual that bound my magic. It smelled exactly the same. And it…” Draco swallows. “It hurt. Badly. I didn’t even realise—I just suddenly remembered, rather viscerally, how it felt, as soon as I smelled it burning.”

Harry has to remind himself that there is no one here for him to fight.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and immediately feels stupid for it. “There was black foxglove in the potion they gave you?”

“I don’t know.”

One of Draco’s hands follows the landscape of Harry’s ribs to his back. He pets the ridge of Harry’s spine and even though Harry knows he’s the one that’s supposed to be doing the comforting, he arches his back a little to facilitate it. 

“Binding magic is outlawed not only for members of the public but also for most Ministry and Auror use,” Draco says. “Plenty of high-level officials don’t have clearance to perform it and I very much doubt the Wizengamot members even knew what was in the potion. They had to have a specialist—an Unspeakable—brew it and perform the accompanying curse. But I—it had to be black foxglove. It really,” Draco takes another deep, shuddery, breath, “it smelled exactly the same.”

Harry doesn’t doubt it, not after seeing Draco’s reaction.

“I find it a little suspicious,” Harry says, releasing Draco’s hands so he can tuck hair behind Draco’s ear, “that this highly regulated European plant—that after weeks of searching, all we know is that it’s extremely dangerous and potentially fatal to non-magical persons and beasts—is growing, completely unmolested, on the muggle land I happened to purchase in the United States.”

“I find it more than a little suspicious.”

“Fair.”

“How do you feel?” Harry asks.

“Like I’ve just had a panic attack.”

“Well,” Harry says, standing and taking Draco with him, “it’s close enough to lunch time. Let’s go make some sandwiches. Maybe that will help.”

“I’m perfectly capable of walking,” Draco says.

Harry shifts the arm under Draco’s knees so he can tuck Draco more firmly to his chest.

“And I’m perfectly capable of carrying you.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“I am,” Harry agrees.

Draco slings an arm around Harry’s neck and pretends to pout.

“Ew,” Ginny says when Harry shoulders open the door to the house a minute later. “And you wonder why people think you’re married.”

“As if you wouldn’t carry Luna over the nearest available threshold if given the opportunity,” Draco sniffs.

“Well yeah,” Ginny agrees, “but I’d also marry her if she showed the slightest inclination. Are you sure you want to continue with that comparison?”

Draco clears his throat.

“Do none of you young people have heterosexual partnerships?” Fleamont asks. “Has that gone out of style?”

“If only,” Ginny mutters.

“Well,” Harry says, settling Draco on the sofa and helping him out of the laughably large coat, “Ron and Hermione are together. And Neville and Hannah are together. And I think Blaise would like for him and Pansy to be together.”

Harry, beginning to ease his boots off Draco’s feet, nearly gets kicked in the face.

“Where on earth did you get that idea?” Draco asks.

“Yeah, I didn’t get that impression at all,” Ginny says, opening the fridge.

“Well, he was lying when he said he didn’t want to be in a relationship. And he, you know,” Harry gestures with a boot in one hand, “smells like he likes her.”

“I’m sorry,” Ginny says, biting a carrot stick in half. “I’m going to need you to expand on that.”

“Oh. Uh, ever since I was bitten? I can tell when people are lying.”

“How?” Ginny asks.

“What do you mean he smells like he likes her?” Draco says.

Harry sits back on his heels, glancing between them.

“In Auror training we were taught basic legilimency, for trying to determine if a suspect or a witness was being honest? And I was actually pretty good at it then, but I got a lot better after I was turned, especially if it’s near the full moon or I intentionally let the wolf come closer to the surface. And people smell different, sometimes, when they’re scared or sick, or interested in other people.”

“I remember,” Fleamont says, “Remus was the same way—only near the full-moon, though. The boys used to practice their occlumency skills with him the week before he’d change. But then, he never had the ease of communicating with his wolf like you do, Harry. Theirs was a much more volatile relationship.”

The thought strikes Harry as incredibly sad. Because he realises he has, actually, become rather fond of his furry side.

“I wonder,” Fleamont continues, “what his life might have been like if he’d had someone like you in his life—who lived symbiotically with the beast. He was so certain he was a monster he only ever tried to fight it rather than befriend it.”

“Ok that’s really sad and all,” Ginny says, pointing at Harry with a carrot stick, “but you’re telling me that becoming a werewolf can actually heighten magic? Like, you would have been an even better Auror? If that’s true, why have there never been any studies about that?”

“I think we know exactly why,” Fleamont says.

“Yes, the Ministry has an agenda, we know,” Draco interrupts, “but if we could get back to the fact that you can smell romantic interest?”

“Yeah, actually, that is more interesting,” Ginny agrees.

“Youth,” Fleamont says.

“It’s not—I mean. I can’t just tell with random people. I have to know them and what their baseline is. And then I can start to tell when they’re ill or—”

“Aroused,” Draco says. “How long, exactly, would you say that process takes for you?”

And oh.

Harry understands where this is going, now.

From the way that Ginny is grinning, delightedly, as she chomps another carrot in half, she’s cottoned on as well.

“I didn’t actually figure it out until I had confirmation from you,” Harry says hastily. “I mean, no one is teaching me, you know? So it took me a while to put it together because you still smell like you, just. Warmer? Maybe. Or richer. I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. But I wasn’t—I didn’t know. If that’s what you’re thinking. For a long time I just thought you smelt, like, extra good, for no reason, sometimes.”

“I feel,” Fleamont says, “that this is, perhaps, a conversation you two should have in private.”

“Disagree,” Ginny says. “Hard disagree. This is hilarious.”

Harry throws a muffliato at Ginny and Fleamont—does muffliato work on portraits?—and cups Draco’s knees in his hands.

“I swear,” he says, “I didn’t know. I only started to figure it out when you got mad at me for not wearing clothes, but I wasn’t really sure until you kissed me in the bathroom. And then, uh. After. It was pretty obvious after. That’s when I started paying attention to other people as well. So it’s only been really recent.”

You kissed me,” Draco argues.

“Right,” Harry agrees, even though that’s definitely not what happened. “Of course. I’m just saying, if I’d known you were interested, I would have acted on it. I wouldn’t have kept it to myself.”

Draco reaches out, using his fingers to smooth flat some of the hair escaping from Harry’s bun. 

He thinks that means Draco believes him.

“How much sooner?” Draco asks.

“What?”

“If you’d realised. My interest. How much sooner would you have acted on it?”

“Oh,” Harry considers, leaning into Draco’s fingers, closing his eyes as Draco’s nails drag against his scalp.

“Probably…the night after we got back from the hospital visits?”

“Seriously?”

Harry opens his eyes to find Draco looking shocked—genuinely shocked.

His hand slides down to rest, apparently without his input, on Harry’s chest.

“But I was still so ill, then. There was nothing attractive about me. I avoided mirrors as much as possible.”

Harry shrugs. Even with a muffliato, he’s not willing to say, I wasn’t interested in sex, then, I just wanted to kiss you and cuddle you and feed you, out loud. He’s equally unwilling to say, I’ve always been a little drawn to you, but seeing you recognised your faults and were actively trying to be a better person made me start to like you as a person instead of just grudgingly finding you hot.

“You have strange taste,” Draco says.

“Yeah, I’ve been told that.”

Harry gets hit in the back of the head with something and finds that Ginny has just thrown a carrot at him.

“Maybe we should continue this conversation later tonight,” Harry says, “we can also talk about that list you left me, then.”

“We’re not talking about the list.”

“So candid conversations about sex things are healthy and good, but conversations about feelings are off the table?”

“I’m glad you understand that.”

“You know, my therapist says that communication is important.”

“Communicate with your therapist then.”

“Draco.”

“Harry.”

Another carrot hits him.

“I mean, she says that communication between partners in a relationship is important.”

“Is that what this is?” Draco asks. “A relationship? Because you seemed unsure. Earlier.”

Harry winces at that, because his I don’t know from their conversation the week before has been sitting, sour, in the back of his throat ever since he said it.

“I think it is.”

“Well,” Draco says stiffly, after several seconds of silence. “I suppose we should make communicative efforts, then, if that’s what the professionals recommend.”

“Agreed,” Harry says.

He spins to catch a third carrot, mid air, and curls a lip at Ginny, showing one, just slightly elongated, canine.

“That shouldn’t be sexy,” Draco mutters more to himself than Harry. “Why is that sexy?”

“Dunno,” Harry says, “you have strange taste.”

Draco takes the carrot out of his hand and then promptly chucks it at his face.

Harry kisses him and doesn’t even pretend to be outraged.

“Alright, well, I’m going back to the potions barn,” Ginny says.

Chapter Text

On Christmas morning, Draco wakes up alone.

He’s a little put out by that, to be honest.

But Potter has clearly left him with one of his over-exuberant warming charms because Draco is actually a little sweaty under the duvet despite the fact that it’s….

Snowing.

He sits up, knee-walking to the side of the mattress, and settles a hand against the small, frosted, loft window.

It’s certainly snowing.

There’s a thin white blanket, maybe two or three inches deep, on the grass surrounding the house barn and he can see the snow-covered roof of the potions barn down the hill.

He sits back on his heels and considers the likelihood that, despite the muggle forecast predicting sun and highs of 5°C, the weather, naturally and without magical intervention, turned to freezing temperatures and snow overnight.

“Potter,” he calls.

“Malfoy,” Harry answers cheerfully from somewhere downstairs. “Do you want bacon with your french toast?”

Draco climbs down the ladder and joins Harry in the kitchen.

It’s still snowing outside the window over the sink.

“Bacon?” Harry prompts, leaning to smudge a kiss against Draco’s temple.

Draco swats him away.

“It’s snowing,” he says.

“Mmm,” Harry agrees. “I’m going to assume that’s a ‘yes’ on the bacon. Fleamont was just telling me that Remus used to eat a whole pound of bacon the morning after the full moon. Bacon and chocolate eclairs, apparently. I think I’ll try that next time, I am usually extra hungry the morning after.”

“I think I still remember the recipe for the eclairs,” Fleamont says, “I never really used measurements, though, so it may take a few tries to get them right.”

“It’ll be fun to experiment, regardless,” Harry says. He leans toward Draco again, hands busy with a pack of raw meat, “Merry Christmas, by the way. Did you sleep well?”

“It’s snowing,” Draco says, beginning to feel rather silly. “It wasn’t supposed to snow. I checked the weather last night. On the Google.”

“You said that you always liked waking up to snow on Christmas morning when you were little,” Harry says, as if that’s an explanation.

Draco does vaguely recall saying something to that effect the night before, half-asleep and drunk on endorphins with Harry’s heartbeat in his ear and Harry’s hands in his hair.

“I…yes. So you did this?”

“Mm,” Harry agrees, wandlessly opening the cabinet under the sink so he can throw away the bacon packaging. He moves to rinse his hands, gently shoulder-checking Draco out of the way.

“How far does it go?” Draco asks.

“Oh, I dunno, really,” Harry rests his chin on Draco’s shoulder to peer out the window. “At least to the potions barn, it looks like.”

“You didn’t put parameters on it?” Draco has a sudden slightly hysterical thought of the entire county being covered by inexplicable snowfall.

“Nah. I just centered it on the house like Hermione told me. I put wards up at the road though, so it definitely doesn’t go any further north than the end of the driveway.”

He has an additional hysterical thought of some unsuspecting muggle driving by and seeing a wall of snowfall contained to one property.

“What is your face doing?” Harry asks.

“It’s—being a face. There’s no need to be rude.”

“I wasn’t being rude, I like your face. It’s just. Gone a bit wonky.”

“Well your face is always a bit wonky and you don’t see me commenting on it. And I’m just wondering if there will be a picture in the muggle newspaper tomorrow of a freak weather incident occurring at the Potter residence, is all.”

“Oh,” Harry says, straightening to tend to the bacon, which is starting to make popping noises. “No, I ran the property line first thing and cast a sustained glamour. It should last longer than the weather charm.”

“A sustained—how long did that take?”

“Not long.” Harry shrugs. “Half an hour?”

Half an hour? That’s impossible.”

“Draco. I run the property twice every morning in under an hour. This isn’t new.”

“As a wolf. Wait. You cast it as a wolf?”

“Yes?”

“Oh my god.”

“Will you stop emphasising everything you’re saying?

“Will you stop doing things that shouldn’t be possible?”

Harry grins. “Historically? Probably not.”

“So,” Draco says. “So, you got up early and did multiple, advanced, charms, one of them nonverbal and wandless and whilst in a wolf’s body. On Christmas morning. Because you thought I’d like it?”

“Yes?”

Draco takes a deep, steading breath. “Of course you did.”

“Do you not like it?” Harry’s smile is slipping, which is completely unacceptable.

“No,” Draco says hastily, “I mean, yes. I do. It’s perfect. Thank you.”

“Oh. Good.”

“I’m just. You made it snow for me.”

“I did.”

“Thank you.” He’s already said that. But it seems worth repeating.

“Course, you want to go play in it after we eat breakfast?”

“Play in it?”

“We can have a snowball fight. And make a snowman.”

Draco shudders. “Or we could enjoy the aesthetic from the warmth of indoors.”

“Or we could enjoy it outdoors.”

“We’re not children.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “So? It’ll be fun.”

Draco can’t very well say no. The man made it snow for him.

“No magic,” Draco says.

“Course not.”

“And no cheating.”

“You’re the Slytherin, not me.”

***

An hour later finds Draco installed nose-deep in a steaming tub with a twisted ankle and a core body temperature that, he’s certain, can be fatal in humans.

“You’re a terrible cheat and I hate you,” he says mulishly whilst Harry rubs bruise cream from his calf to the arch of his foot.

“I’m sorry. It really was an accident. Auror reflexes and all that.”

Harry presses a gentle kiss to Draco’s ankle bone, then winces a little at the taste and uses the collar of his shirt to wipe balm residue off his tongue.

“You’re not forgiven.”

Harry just gives him a fond look. As if Draco’s righteous fury is somehow endearing.

“Are you warming up yet?” Harry asks.

“No,” Draco lies. “I may never be warm again.”

“You want me to make the water hotter?”

“No,” he says grudgingly, because he doesn’t actually want to be scalded for the sake of pettiness. “The water is fine.” He considers Harry’s relatively beseeching expression and adds, “Thank you.”

Harry props Draco’s ankle up and scoots closer to Draco’s head, crossing his arms on the lip of the tub and then resting his chin on them.

“How’s that?”

Draco rolls his foot from one side to the other.

“Better, I suppose.”

“I really am sorry,” Harry says, low and earnest and with a frankly unfair amount of gravel in his tone. “Do you want me to call Luna?”

“No, it’s fine.”

“Your mum? I’m sure she’d be alright with coming early.”

“No, Potter.”

“I could see if—”

“Merlin, fine, I forgive you. Stop.”

Harry grins beatifically at him.

“Seriously, though,” he says after a moment, still laughing, “is there anything else I can do?”

“You could join me, if you wanted.”

Draco didn’t really intend to say it. He’d meant to think it quietly to himself whilst entertaining a rather nice fantasy of Harry climbing into the tub behind him. But then his mouth had opened. And it was very much no longer a thought and very much a verbal…thing. Hanging there in the heated air between them.

Harry blinks at him.

“Er. It’d be a bit crowded.”

“I think that’s rather the point.”

Harry licks his lips.

“Are you sure?”

“I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t.”

“Well. Alright then. Where should I—”

Draco pulls his foot into the water so he can push himself forward, leaving space at his back. He knows his face is probably bright pink, but the water is hot and it’s not his fault he’s fair-skinned. 

Just as Harry has pulled his jumper over his head, the distinct noise of a Facetime call sounds from the living room.

“Your computer telephone is ringing!” Fleamont shouts.

“Bugger,” Harry mutters. “Just—hold on.”

Draco resists the urge to sink below the water’s surface and stay there indefinitely.

He submerges his chin to blow a few petulant bubbles instead.

“Sorry,” Harry calls. “Really sorry. Oh, it’s Healer Nott. Hello? Yeah, hi. Is everything ok?”

Draco can’t hear Nott’s reply, just the excited cadence of his speech, and he decides amorous aquatic activities are unlikely to occur after all. 

He sighs and sets about washing his hair and ten minutes later, clean and feeling annoyed about it, he emerges from the bathroom wrapped in a towel because Potter is still talking to Nott and has yet to bring him new clothes.

“Oh,” Harry says, glancing up from the laptop, “sorry, I forgot, here.”

A jumper and a pair of Draco’s favorite boxers come tumbling down from the loft and into his hands. He proffers them to Draco whilst Nott splutters.

“Sorry,” Nott says, “did you just summon those wandlessly and nonverbally?”

“No,” Draco says, “that was entirely coincidental.”

Nott is staring, wide-eyed at Harry. “Have you found that your magic is more powerful since you were Changed?”

“Don’t answer that,” Draco says.

“Yes,” Harry says.

Draco despairs.

“Would you be willing to come in for testing some time?” Nott asks hopefully. “One of the individuals I’ve been in contact with is putting together data to request a research grant for investigating creature effects on magical persons. You would be a really compelling case study. Even if you remained anonymous.”

“No,” Draco says.

“Er,” Harry says.

“Are you aware that it’s Christmas?” Draco says, bullying Harry aside so he can glare at Nott. “It’s Christmas and we were busy when you called.”

Nott’s eyes widen, taking in Draco’s wet hair and bare shoulders.

“Oh. My apologies. I assumed you would want to know immediately that I had new information about your case.”

“You assumed correctly,” Harry says, elbowing Draco. “And we really appreciate you continuing to do research for us, even on a holiday.”

“Yes, of course,” Draco says. “Have you conveyed whatever this important information is to Harry?” Draco asks.

“Yes,” Nott says, “but I could explain it to you if you’d like?”

“That’s fine. I’m sure Harry can manage. May we call you back at a later time or do you need something from us urgently?”

“Later is fine,” Nott agrees, looking a bit cowed.

Draco is flattered that he can still summon enough disdain to cow someone, even marginally, whilst bedraggled and wrapped in a fluffy bath towel.

“Excellent. Thank you ever so much,” Draco says, reaching to end the call, “have a nice Christmas.”

“Yes, thank you!” Harry says. “And I’ll think about the testing thing. Merry Christmas!”

Draco ends the call.

Harry sighs at him.

Draco sighs back, louder.

Harry kisses him.

Draco allows it.

“So,” he says, settling himself more conventionally in Harry’s lap. “What was the ever so important information he needed to share?”

Harry blinks at him for a moment. “Er. One of the specialists he contacted is working on a paper about magical transference between magical folks with creature inheritance? Except she’d discovered a case where two US soldiers— a wizard who was a quarter Veela and a witch who was a Werewolf — ended up in a magical transference bond. So. There’s a precedent for werewolves and Veela sharing magic? I guess. And it’s well-documented because they had a healer in their unit who treated them and took lots of notes and donated her memories to the researcher.”

“Oh,” Draco says. “Were the Veela and Werewolf…involved? Like the others Nott told us about?”

“No, actually. Apparently they seemed to hate each other beforehand? Like, they got along fine when they needed to for work, but off-duty they were constantly fighting. The other researcher’s hypothesis is that two magical folk with creature heritage need a significant emotional attachment to share a transference bond—but the emotion doesn’t necessarily have to be positive.”

“So,” Draco says, “she healed him out of spite?”

Harry shrugs. “She didn’t realise she was the one keeping him alive until the medic pointed it out. Then, once she understood what was happening, she said she kept the connection because he was in her unit and she’d made a promise to keep all her people safe.”

“Mm. So perhaps our bond started because we hated each other? For so long?”

The idea is…

Rather terrible, actually.

“I don’t think so,” Harry says. “I never hated you, really,” he laughs, more exhale than sound, against Draco’s temple. “There were definitely a lot of emotions, though.”

That’s certainly true enough.

“So what does this mean? For us?” he asks.

“Well, Healer Nott is getting access to the case notes and copies of the memories within the next forty-eight hours. He’s hoping he can get a better idea of how our bond works from studying theirs. And, uh, maybe get some answers about how long it can be sustained and how it works without you having a magical core. He hasn’t found any research about that yet, but in this case the Veela’s core was completely depleted for nearly a month. So it’s the closest to your situation he’s found for that reason as well.”

“Hm. How long did they keep their connection?”

“They still have it. The injury happened four months ago and they were taken out of the field for three months for his recovery, but they’re back now. Apparently they still uh,” Harry makes a face and Draco can hear the quotes when he continues speaking, “engage in skin-to-skin contact for an hour once a week to maintain his core at peak performance. They think they can stop in another month or so.”

“Interesting.”

“Yeah.”

“They let Creatures be soldiers in America?”

“Mm,” Harry agrees. “Apparently there are all-magical units in the muggle military. Special operations and such. Hermione was telling us about it the other day. They have really different rules about the statute and I guess Creatures tend to do well in environments where they’re allowed to use their additional strengths. I imagine just the elevated senses I have in human form would be really useful in a battlefield scenario.”

“Well, I hope you never find out. I think you’ve seen enough battle for one lifetime.”

“Agreed. How would you feel about putting on some pants?”

Draco blinks at the non-sequitur. 

“Why would I want to put on pants?”

“So we can start the dinner-making process? We learnt that cooking naked is a bad idea, remember.”

He does remember.

“Lyra is also feeling neglected, so you should probably collect her from her tank and move her to the windowsill. The sun should be right for basking about now.”

Draco reluctantly pulls on the boxers that Harry summoned for him and goes to ply Lyra with headpets and declarations of admiration until she’s willing to be relocated to the windowsill. She’s not due to be fed for another day, but he slips her a small eel from the fridge anyway.

When he gets back to the living room, Harry is holding a large wrapped parcel in his lap.

“What is this?” Draco says blankly.

“It’s a present.”

“I know it's a present.”

“Well, why did you ask then?” Harry says, grinning.

“Potter.”

“Malfoy.”

Draco snarls irritably.

Harry just continues to smile at him as Draco sits and holds out his hands.

The parcel is rather misshapen and squashy in a way that indicates clothing; however, he’s surprised to find what is clearly a homemade Slytherin-green jumper inside.

It has a gold D stitched on the front that looks suspiciously like the gold jumper Harry is wearing with a green H on the front.

Draco pets the soft wool, feeling suddenly out of his depth.

“Is this—"

“A Weasley original,” Harry says. “And no, I didn’t ask Molly to make it. She just…did.”

Draco swallows hard at the implications of that and immediately pulls it over his head.

“It looks good,” Harry says. “Do you like it?”

“I do.”

“We match.”

“We do.”

“Are you alright?” Harry asks. “I thought you’d have something cutting to say about the fact that we’ve clearly been given couples’ jumpers.”

“I’m—no. I just can’t believe that she would make this for me. After everything.”

“Well,” Harry says, rubbing at the back of his neck. “I’ve been writing to her about you. And how you’ve changed.”

“Oh.”

Draco pushes himself off the sofa and goes to find the envelope and small box tucked under the tree.

He hands Harry the box first.

“Here,” he says. “It’s stupid.”

“Well, with an endorsement like that…”

He pops off the top and then frowns at the bag inside, full of red and black speckled Bertie Botts beans.

“How did—are these just the cinnamon-liquorice ones?”

“Yes,” Draco says.

“I didn’t think you could get specific flavors.”

“You can’t. I spent the last week sorting through several dozen packets in the back room at the shop. Your perpetual presence nearly ruined everything.”

“Sorry about that,” Harry says, not looking sorry at all.

He pops one into his mouth and grins.

Draco makes a face at him. “How you can stand to eat them, I’ve no idea.”

“It’s an acquired taste. I’m told I have several of those.”

Draco narrows his eyes.

“You better not be talking about me, Potter. I’m a delight.”

“You are,” Harry says, leaning forward to kiss him.

Draco flushes, then makes a gagging noise and pushes Harry away.

“No kissing until you’ve brushed your teeth. Besides. That’s not the big present.”

“There’s a big present?”

Draco pushes the envelope into his hands and then sits back, arms crossed.

Fleamont is leaning interestedly forward in his portrait by the fireplace.

Harry opens it with an adorable little line between his eyebrows.

“Are these—?”

“All relatives of yours. Some more distant than others. Perfectly willing to correspond with you or have you visit them. Two in Ireland, three in India, one here in the US and one in Spain.”

“Draco.”

“My mother did most of the work tracking down their contact information. I just wrote a few letters.”

Harry sets the papers aside with studied care, pulls Draco into a hug and then just…keeps him there.

Draco finds he’s very pleased with himself.

“How someone can gloat so loudly while being so quiet is beyond me,” Harry murmurs after several seconds.

“It’s an art.”

“You’re mastered it.”

“Thank you.”

He leans back, clearing his throat, and waves a hand toward the loft. A moment later, a shoebox, just as untidily wrapped as the jumper, lands in his palm.

“Well,” he says pushing it into Draco’s lap, “my present is a lot less impressive, but here.”

Draco looks down at the box, stymied.

“But you already gave me the jumper?”

“That wasn’t from me, that was from Molly.”

“Oh.”

He takes his time peeling the sellotape off the lid, lifting it off, and pushing aside the tissue paper.

“You’ve given me…an electric razor and scissors?”

“Well. You’re always complaining about my hair. I figured I’d let you cut it.”

Draco considers this. “Any way I like?”

“Any way you like. Though I would like some hair left, if you don’t mind.”

“What are your thoughts on undercuts?” Draco asks, turning the scissors in his hands.

“Uh. I think I’d need to know what they were before I cultivate thoughts?”

“You’re an absolute heathen,” Draco says. 

“Mmm,” Harry agrees, but his eyes have gone sort of half-lidded.

Draco considers their previous conversation about werewolf olfactory senses and wonders if Harry can tell exactly how interested Draco is in giving him an undercut; in Harry wandering around with the back of his neck exposed whilst still maintaining a mess of curls.

Draco clears his throat. “I mean, honestly. It’s only one of the most popular haircuts right now. For muggles as well.”

Harry prowls forward, shifting the box out of Draco’s hands and onto the floor, blanketing Draco with his body.

“Is it?” he asks.

“It is. Really, you should—”

Harry swallows whatever words were meant to come next in a kiss that is sharp in just the right way and Draco can’t find that he minds being interrupted. He lets his fingers curl into Harry’s hair, already imagining it clipped short at the nape and long on top and—

Harry slides his hand down Draco’s thigh, cups the back of his knee, pulls his calf over his hip, and presses down into him.

“You were saying?” He asks the tender skin of Draco’s throat.

“Heathen,” Draco breathes, but it sounds less like an indictment and more like an exaltation this time.

“Could you maybe do that upstairs?” Fleamont says.

Chapter Text

Narcissa arrives just after 4pm with a surprisingly festive scarf and a deceptively small bag. It’s mostly full of sweets and books and trinkets that she unloads on the kitchen counters while making inquisitive noises and commenting on the decor.

Her eyes linger on the wand—Draco’s wand—in its customary place on the windowsill above the sink. It gets near-daily use now, and the lack of dust is likely obvious, particularly to a mother’s discerning eyes.

“Well it’s certainly a charming, if rustic, home,” she says, trailing her fingers along the blanket draped over the back of the sofa. “Did you do the renovations yourself, Harry?”

“I did, yeah,” Harry says. “Thank you.”

Harry provides her with a cup of tea and she spends several minutes speaking with Fleamont as Harry checks on dinner in the oven and straightens the salt and pepper shakers on the newly delivered dining table and nudges at the chairs tucked under the table until Draco sets a stilling hand on his lower back.

“Easy,” he says lowly, mouth against Harry’s ear. “It’s just my mother, not the Minister of Magic.”

“There’s nothing just about your mother, and I’m far more interested in impressing her than the Minister of Magic,” Harry mutters back. But he leans into Draco’s side, presses a kiss to his temple in thanks, and then tucks his hands in his pockets and tries, resolutely, not to fidget any more.

Harry suggests they give Narcissa a tour of the potions barn and then gently points out all the excellent construction and maintenance choices Draco implemented while Draco, surprisingly humble, shrugs off their praise with a pink flush on his neck and the tips of his ears.

Eventually, Narcissa coaxes Draco into explaining the hydroponics system and Harry watches them from the end of the row, incredibly, painfully, fond. Draco glances back at him and he pretends to examine a mustard plant, feeling a rather embarrassing kinship to it, once it does, indeed, have his attention. It’s on the very end of the row and it leans inwards a bit, seeking as much light as possible. Harry considers his own body positioning, shoulders pointed towards Draco, head tipped to listen to the quiet conversation between mother and son. He wonders if Draco feels a similar, constant, awareness—no, not just awareness, a draw—towards Harry. He wonders if it’s because of their transference bond. He hopes it isn’t. He’s afraid it isn’t.

He doesn’t get to dwell on the question long, because the timer he’s set goes off and Harry excuses himself to go finish dinner preparations. 

It’s a good Christmas, is the thing.

It’s a different sort of good than Christmas with the Weasleys; a quiet, subdued, affair with soft background music and conversation composed without interruptions or multiple speakers talking over each other. But it has the same sort of warmth to it. Harry wonders if motherly love has a feeling and then, once again, the curiosity hurts so he pointedly stops thinking about it.

After dinner, they sit on the sofa and exchange presents, faces cast in green and red from the Christmas tree’s lights.

Draco gives his mother a shawl enchanted to mimic the night sky, purchased in Paris with more money than Harry, frankly, thought Draco had. She delights over it, while also chastising him for spending his meagre earnings on something so frivolous for her, but then she gifts him with similarly extravagant set of pyjamas and a matching dressing gown made of fabric that shifts between blue and silver without ever settling on a single colour.

It’s the exact colour of his eyes and Harry, despite quite enjoying Draco’s usual habit of sleeping in Harry’s old shirts, finds he’s rather looking forward to bedtime.

Narcissa gives Harry a painting conservation kit and explains how to use it to keep Fleamont’s portrait in excellent condition.

After a few pointed nudges from Draco, Harry awkwardly hands over an envelope and hopes he hasn’t overstepped and then has to deal with being hugged by Narcissa Malfoy when she opens it to find a letter from her sister expressing interest in reconciliation and inviting her to tea the following week. Included with the letter is a recent picture of Teddy, grinning cheerily with an unknown substance smeared across his face,

Harry awkwardly pats Narcissa’s shoulder and Draco barely stifles his laughter.

After Narcissa has, thankfully, returned to her side of the sofa, patting delicately beneath her eyes with a crooked finger, Harry feels himself start to relax.

They’ve done it.

They’ve hosted a Christmas dinner and exchanged presents and now they’re sitting around the fire, bathed in the glow of the tree, sipping tea and generally being happy and nothing terrible has happened.

He feels rather adult about everything.

Draco leans into his side and Harry takes his weight and exhales.

“I do actually have one more present for you,” Narcissa says. “For both of you, actually.”

She retrieves her bag and sets two items on the coffee table.

One is a vial filled with a mist that means memory.

“I understand you have a pensieve?”

“I do,” Harry agrees, baffled.

“Lovely. I recommend watching it together.”

She sets the second item, a bottle of Firewhisky, beside the vial.

“And this is for after you’ve watched it.”

“Mother,” Draco says.

His tone tells Harry that Draco has absolutely no idea what memory is in that vial.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Narcissa says, standing. “It’s a happy memory. If surprising. Or perhaps not, all things considered. Regardless,” she bends to kiss Draco’s forehead, then kisses her finger and presses the tip to Lyra’s head, resting on Draco’s collarbone, as well.

“Harry,” she says, “I cannot thank you enough for taking care of my son, but I will endeavour to try. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you at the archives or otherwise.”

“Oh. Er. Thank you for offering.”

She smiles softly at him, amused but also fond, and the expression is deeply familiar.

“Well, I’ll leave you two to enjoy the evening together. Do come visit again soon, please.”

And then she’s apparating away and they’re left staring at the memory and the firewhisky on the table.

“Well,” Draco says after a moment of silence. “I suppose we should watch it.”

“I suppose we should.” Harry agrees.

Neither of them move.

“Upstairs?” Draco suggests after several seconds of silence.

“Yeah. Put Lyra to bed and I’ll meet you in the loft?”

“Mm,” he agrees.

Harry takes his time setting up the pensieve. He holds the memory vial up to the light of the lamp and watches the cloudy liquid twist.

Draco tosses the bottle of firewhisky onto the mattress, and then follows it a moment later, belly down, looking apprehensive.

“Should we start the drinking portion of the evening now or after?” he asks.

Harry uncorks the memory.

“After, then,” Draco agrees.

“Ready?” Harry asks.

They both lean over the bowl of the pensieve.

Harry tips his hand.

They’re rather assaulted by a barrage of sound.

It’s twilight and the sprawling manor lawn—not Malfoy Manor, but Harry doesn’t recognise it—is full of people in dress robes drinking and talking and shouting at children over the distant sound of a band playing beneath a large white tent. There’s another tent that appears to be full of tables with staff bustling around adjusting place-settings and lighting candles.

“Wedding,” Draco murmurs beside him.

“Whose?” Harry asks.

“Haven’t the slightest. This is Zabini Manor, though. So likely family or close friends. Political allies.”

“Narcissa!” someone shouts and the memory moves forward.

A beautiful woman who looks rather like Pansy moves forward to hug the owner of the memory—Harry assumes it’s Narcissa. 

“Pansy’s mother, Agatha,” Draco says. “Which means this must be the Edwards-Malcoste wedding. A Slytherin and a Gryffindor a few years ahead of my parents. It was a big deal in terms of old-blood family alliances, if I remember.”

And Harry realises the pink-cheeked toddler on the woman’s hip must actually be Pansy.

“She really was unfairly cute as a child,” Draco murmurs.

The women lean back from their embrace and Narcissa exclaims over Pansy’s growth since the last time they’d seen each other.

“Where’s your little one?” Agatha’s mother asks and Narcissa gestures toward one of the other tents in the distance.

“Oh, my sister has her. Off with the other little children.”

Pansy’s mother looks slightly alarmed.

“Not Bellatrix,” Narcissa laughs. “No. Can you imagine? Andromeda. We should probably go collect him, though, it looks like dinner will start shortly.”

The women link arms and make their way down the hill to a smaller tent with an assortment of magical toys scattered over a plush rug-covered floor. A dozen children under the age of three are amusing themselves under the watchful eyes of their various caregivers and, very obviously, in the center of things, is Draco.

It would be impossible to miss him.

He’s tiny—so tiny it makes something in Harry’s chest go tight and protective, and his white-blonde hair, usually so immaculate, is fluffed up in rather artful tufts, as if someone has grabbed it with sticky hands.

And then the little boy next to Draco does exactly that.

Shockingly, baby-Draco doesn’t appear to mind and instead repays the favour, tugging at the other child’s black curls until both of them are laughing uproariously.

Why, Harry can’t fathom, but children typically baffle him anyway.

“I can’t believe you’re letting that kid manhandle you,” Harry murmurs to Draco, voice low despite the fact that no one can hear them.

Draco says nothing.

Harry glances sideways and finds Draco staring, gape-mouthed and even paler than usual at the tableau before them.

“What?”

“That’s—” Draco points. “Harry, I think that’s—”

“Oh Merlin,” Narcissa sighs. “Is that James and Lily's boy?”

No.

Except.

Yes.

“—you,” Draco finishes.

He hadn’t recognised himself because he has so few photographs from his childhood—just the annual school pictures where his scar was the most noteworthy about him, always, and then his sombre expression and too-big clothing, so this bubbly, laughing, scar-free child—

There’s nothing of himself to recognise.

“He looks just like James, doesn’t he,” Agatha says as Narcissa greets her sister, standing off to the side.

“Nine months of effort and then the child comes out the spitting image of his father. Can’t imagine what that’s like,” Narcissa murmurs. 

Andromeda laughs.

“Draco, darling,” Narcissa says, reaching a hand toward her son, now completely tangled in what appears to be a friendly wrestling match with tiny Harry, “come along, dear, it’s time for dinner.”

The children stop rolling around long enough for Draco to glance up at his mother and say assertively, “no.”

Content that the matter is handled, they go back to playing.

“Fantastic,” Narcissa murmurs. “What are they covered in? Is that—”

“Jam,” someone provides helpfully and Harry is startled to see Sirius—a much younger, happy-looking Sirius wearing a leather jacket over his slightly more formal wedding attire.

His ears are studded with little hoops and Harry is pretty sure he’s wearing eyeliner.

“Ah,” Narcissa says, sounding resigned. “Sirius. How lovely to see you.”

“Can’t say I feel the same,” he returns, smiling like it’s a joke, but Harry knows his face enough to see the truth in it.

“And it’s jam, smeared all over their…well, everything. The house elves brought around tea and toast a bit ago and Draco demanded jam with his. Rather large vocabulary for such a little man. Harry mostly sticks with ‘yes’ and ‘no.’”

“Draco gets quite a lot of use out of ‘no’ as well,” Narcissa responds drily.

“Honestly,” she says, raising her voice. “Draco, we need to go find our seats for dinner.”

“Yep,” Sirius agrees, crouching and reaching a hand for Harry, “same for you kiddo. Say goodbye to Draco and let’s go find your mum and dad.”

Draco latches onto Harry with a furious expression. “No,” he repeats, this time at high volume.

And Harry—Harry’s eyes immediately fill with tears as he scrambles to wrap his arms equally tightly around Draco.

“Oh, Merlin,” Sirius says. “Alright, alright, how about this. Let’s all walk up to dinner together. How’s that sound?”

The boys look at each other, apparently decide this is an acceptable compromise, and hands still linked, glancing distrustfully around them, allow the adults to shepherd them towards the main tent.

“Naturally my son picks the most inappropriate playmate possible,” Narcissa says lowly to Andromeda. “You couldn’t have stopped him?”

“Oh,” she says, apparently very amused by the situation. “I tried to redirect his attention several times. But you know how he is.”

Narcissa sighs in a way that says she does.

“Really, Sirius,” someone says, “you’re letting my son make friends with the enemy?”

And Harry turns to find himself face-to-face with his father.

“Wasn’t any dissuading him,” Sirius says. “Stubborn tyke. Can’t imagine where he gets it from.”

James grins and Harry has to reach for Draco for—he doesn’t know. Support staying upright, maybe. Because he feels like the world is tipping sideways.

That’s his smile, exactly as he sees it in candid quidditch photographs and in the bathroom mirror every morning while he listens to Draco make what is now daily critical commentary about the stock-tank-tub.

“Jesus,” Draco murmurs, wrapping an arm around Harry’s back. “You really do look just like him. Except the—”

“Eyes,” Harry agrees.

“Oh,” Draco says, “incoming.”

And then his mother is there. Beautiful and young and beautiful.

“Oh, Harry,” she says, more fond than exasperated. “What is all over you?”

“Jam,” little-Draco supplies helpfully.

Harry nods.

“And I see you’ve made a friend?”

Harry nods again, his hand going tight on Draco’s, eyes narrowing, as if anticipating another separation attempt.

“They refuse to be parted,” Narcissa says. “Lily, lovely to see you.”

“Yes, I can see that. Well. Perhaps we can sit together at dinner? I’m sure we can call a truce for one night, for the boys’ sake? After all. Weddings should be happy occasions, regardless of…whatever else may be happening.”

There is an uneasy silence amongst the adults.

“I suppose we’ve no other option unless we want to create a scene. I don’t imagine Draco will be quiet about his discontent if I physically intervene.”

“Nor will Harry,” Lily says, grinning. “Shall we find seats? We can pretend to be civil for a few hours and our husbands can fail at pretending to be civil for a few hours.”

James sputters something while Sirius laughs.

“Mm,” Narcissa agrees. “Hopefully they’re better mannered than our children.”

“Unlikely.”

The memory shifts, muddles, and reforms. Some time has passed as it’s completely dark, the tent lit only by thousands of candles, some magicked to float about the ceiling. The band is still playing music but it’s soft and romantic and the only people dancing are slow-moving couples.

The night is clearly winding down.

Narcissa moves to sit at a table where Sirius is lounged back in one chair, feet propped in the lap of a young, but tired-looking Remus Lupin.

Asleep in Sirius’ lap, are both Harry and Draco. They have a head propped on each of his shoulders, curved backs tucked into his elbows, knees tangled over Sirius’ abdomen. They’re still holding hands.

“It almost feels a shame to separate them,” Narcissa says quietly.

“It does,” Sirius agrees.

There’s nothing laughing about his face now.

“You know,” he says slowly, glancing at their surroundings. “If you ever decided—if you changed your mind. We could keep you safe. Both of you. All of you.”

“You can’t promise that,” Narcissa says.

“We could try.”

“I’m afraid we’re—what is that muggle phrase you like to use?—in too deep at this point. There’s no turning back, Sirius. Not for any of us.”

Sirius exhales, like maybe it hurts, and Harry sees Remus squeeze one of the ankles propped on his thigh.

“It’s never too late, Cissy,” he says, but the way he says it, soft and resigned, makes it clear he’s given up.

He shifts so Narcissa can slowly extricate Draco from Harry’s clinging limbs and then the memory fades and maybe he says something else but Harry doesn’t catch it because he’s falling up and back and out and then he and Draco are lying beside each other on the bed, staring at the ceiling.

The sudden silence is jarring.

Neither of them says anything for several seconds.

“Well. I think I’m ready for the alcohol, now,” Draco murmurs eventually.

Harry thinks that’s an excellent idea.

***

They find, relatively quickly, that neither of them has a tolerance for Firewhisky.

This is, perhaps, unsurprising considering that neither of them has serioulsy consumed alcohol before.

“We should play a drinking game,” Harry says, peering at the bottle in his hand. “That’s what you do, right? When you’re a teenager and you have Firewhisky. That’s one of the things we missed because of the war. Drinking games.”

“I don’t think spin the bottle or never-have-I-ever are really feasible options with two people.”

“I’m alright with spin the bottle,” Harry says, intentionally leering a little.

Draco snorts and it’s so inelegant—so improper—that Harry dissolves into laughter.

“What about twenty questions?” Draco asks.

“Is that even a drinking game?”

“Of course it is.”

“You just want to ask me things now that I’m drunk and more likely to spill my guts,” Harry says.

“That too,” Draco agrees. “But, you’ll find that I am also drunk. So.”

This is an excellent point.

“20 questions it is,” Harry says, and then, because he’s feeling gracious, “you start.”

Draco considers, lips pursed, eyes narrowed, for several seconds. 

“Did you really die? In the forest. I mean, did you really die and then come back?”

“Yeah. I did.”

“What’s it feel like?” Draco asks. “To die.”

“Feels like dying.”

“Potter.”

“I’m not trying to be facetious, it’s just. There are some things that don’t feel like other things. It’s not comparable. What did it feel like to lose your magic?

Draco sighs.

“I see your point.”

“Besides, that was two questions.”

“I suppose it was. Your turn, then.”

“Tell me…your first crush on a boy.”

Draco laughs. “Really? That’s the most pressing question you have for me?”

Harry raises an eyebrow.

“Are we talking genuine interest or passing fancy?”

“Genuine interest.”

Draco sighs. “Victor Krum. You aren’t allowed to tease.”

Harry’s grin turns self-deprecating, “I’d be a hypocrite if I did.”

“No. You as well?”

“Have you seen him play quidditch?”

“Ah yes, I forgot. If it breathes and can catch a snitch, it’s attractive. I suppose I should count myself lucky you’re still attracted to me at all, seeing as I can’t ride a broom anymore. What do you see in me?

“I could make you a list,” Harry says. “It seems like the done thing. Speaking of. My turn. Why did you write that list for me?”

“It seemed like the done thing.”

“Draco.”

Draco groans, then takes a long, delaying, swallow from the bottle.

His face is halved by shadow and moonlight coming in the window, bisected nearly perfectly in half.

Harry finds him almost painfully beautiful.

“You don’t seem to…realise. How special you are,” Draco says.

“I’m the boy who lived. Twice,” Harry says drily.

“I don’t mean that at all. Separate from that. Entirely separate. Or maybe in spite of that. You’re just. You’re good. Genuinely good. In a way that I didn’t think people could be. And you don’t seem to notice. And I thought you should. Be told. So you weren’t ignorant anymore.”

“Oh. Well. Thanks.”

Draco shrugs, awkward, not meeting Harry’s eyes. “How did you always know where people were at Hogwarts? I thought you might have a tracking spell on me, but I never could find one. Even my mother checked. And it can’t just be down to the invisibility cloak.”

“Oh,” Harry accios the Marauder’s map from his trunk and passes it over. Then he accios Draco’s wand from the kitchen and hands that over too, moving to tuck himself against Draco’s back, hand slipping like a habit under his shirt to rest, palm down, on his chest.

“Tap it with your wand and say ‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.’”

Draco follows his instructions.

It only takes him a moment to realize what the parchment is.

“You dirty cheat,” Draco exclaims. “I cannot believe you. You—all this time? Merlin. No wonder you were such a damn bother.”

“My dad made it. With his friends back when they were at Hogwarts.”

Draco sags back against him, tracing a finger down the familiar staircases.

“Prongs, I assume?”

“Yeah.”

“Sirius was Padfoot?”

“Mm.”

“Oh,” Draco says, quieter. “Professor Lupin was Moony. And Wormtail was Peter Pettigrew.”

“Yeah.”

Draco tilts the map, studying the moving footprints, many of which host names they don’t recognise.

“It’s really no use to you now,” Draco says. “What will you do with it?”

“I figured I’d give it to Teddy when he’s Hogwarts age,” Harry says. “Or use it myself if I ever go back.”

Draco stills. He shifts to the side so he can look at Harry’s face.

“Go back? What do you mean?”

“I’ve just been thinking about what I actually want to do with my life. Apart from what’s expected of me, I mean. I think I might want to teach Defence one day. It’s—when I was teaching the secret club, you remember—”

“I remember.”

“That was one of the few times I can remember being happy. Despite everything. And Hogwarts has always been a bit like home for me, I guess. I think I could be happy there. And useful.”

“You’d be good,” Draco says. “As a teacher. You’re patient and kind and you likely wouldn’t transfigure your students into ferrets.”

“Likely not,” Harry agrees solemnly. “I think you’ve asked more than one question.”

“Oh, those others didn’t count. How do you turn this off?”

“Mischief Managed,” Harry says, and then sends it back to his trunk.

“What did you want to be when you grew up,” he asks. “When you were a kid, I mean.”

“My father—”

“Not what your father wanted,” Harry interrupts. “What did you want?”

Draco is silent for several seconds; he settles back against Harry’s chest with a put-upon sigh.

“Well now you’re going to think I’m just copying you.”

Harry laughs, then presses a kiss to the side of his neck because it’s available.

“Tell me.”

“When I was a first year, I desperately wanted to be the potions instructor. Severus was my godfather so I already had a bit of a hero-worship thing going on. And the way he swept about the potions classroom with his cloak and his monologues about bottling fame and brewing glory and—”

“Putting a stopper in death?”

Draco laughs. “Exactly.”

“Well, perhaps we should apply together,” Harry says, and it’s meant to be a joke but it doesn’t much feel like one. “I don’t think they’ve found someone willing to stay on permanently for either position.”

Draco’s laugh turns weary. “Ah, yes. The werewolf and the Death Eater teaching children. Well. They might make an exception for you, of course. I’ve no chance, though.”

Harry wants to argue but he doesn’t manage to say anything before Draco is asking:

“What happened, the day you were bitten? You don’t have to tell me, but I’d like to know. If you’re willing.”

Harry takes a very slow, thoughtful, swallow from the bottle.

“I think I do want to tell you,” he says finally. “But I—I’m probably going to get emotional. I don’t feel very in control right now.”

“That’s fine,” Draco says, eyes a little more sharp. “Do you—is there something I can do? To make you more comfortable?”

Harry considers this question for several seconds.

“Come here,” he says, laying back and tugging at Draco’s arm and hoping he understands what he needs because he’s not actually sure how to articulate the fact that he feels most settled when Draco is draped, a comforting weight, on top of him.

Ah.

He does understand.

Harry takes a moment to enjoy the heavy warmth of him.

To breathe against the top of his head.

“Can you do something else for me?” he asks.

“Anything,” Draco says, and Harry is shocked to find he means it.

“Don’t look at me, when I tell you. Stay like this.”

“Ok,” Draco says, hands coming up to cup Harry’s shoulders.

He wiggles a little, like he’s settling in for a long haul, hitches his leg a bit over Harry’s hip, and closes his eyes.

Harry considers his pale eyelashes. The slope of his cheek.

“Alright,” he says into Draco’s hair, “it was a Monday morning.”



Chapter Text

“It was a Monday morning,” Harry says.

“Naturally,” Draco says helpfully. “If something’s to go wrong, it’s always on a Monday.”

“Shhh,” Harry says.

Draco complies.

“It was a Monday morning and there’d been a big break the night before in a case the Aurors had been working for months. Underground restricted-potions ring. Focused on potions for vampires and werewolves. They wanted me to be there when The Prophet took pictures of the warehouse the dealers had been operating out of. You know,” Harry sighs and his fingers thread up into Draco’s hair. “Wearing my robes and flashing my scar.”

“Looking stoic and noble,” Draco murmurs, pushing into the contact.

“Exactly. I didn’t want to go because—well, because the Ministry had been pushing anti-werewolf legislation at the time and I refused to be part of it. I was ignorant about a lot of things but I knew that they could very easily twist my presence into some sort of narrative that I was fighting against the—Merlin what was it Skeeter had called it—?”

“Non-human scourge plaguing our humble capital?” Draco supplies.

Harry pauses.

“Yeah, actually. That was the exact article I was thinking about. How did you know that?”

“I read, Potter,” Draco says, snottily as possible. “And I had little else to do, at the time. I was dying, not dead.”

“Mm. Fair. In any case, I said I’d only go if they promised me they would focus on the illegal brewing bit of the case, not the fact that it centred on potions for non-humans.”

“Naive,” Draco says.

“Yes, thank you.”

Draco can hear Harry rolling his eyes.

He hides a smile against Harry’s chest.

“So you put on your sexy robes and arrived for the ill-advised photo-call.”

Harry’s hand goes still in his hair.

“I—you think Auror robes are sexy?”

Draco was actually somewhat taken aback by that.

“Yes? Doesn’t everyone?”

“Huh.” He clears his throat. “Anyway. I got there and it was the usual stupidity. Posed photos that they tried to make look not-posed. The people who actually solved the case glaring at me like I wanted to be there stealing the limelight from them.”

“Sounds terrible,” Draco says. He’s only joking a little.

“Except,” Harry says, tugging lightly on Draco’s hair to silence him, “something was off.”

“Off,” Draco repeats.

“Yeah. They were giving me all the details of the case so I could talk about them at a press conference later that afternoon and some of the things they were telling me just didn’t make sense. They were trying to frame the case as a simple but widespread illegal potions-dealing ring. Except the evidence seemed to suggest that the standard potions transactions were a cover for something much worse. There were multiple bodies that had been found in magical and muggle London with unidentifiable potions in their bloodstreams. Potions that looked like they were hybrids of other potions. Different kinds even of similar unregistered potions that had killed previous people over the last year.”

“I’m not sure I’m following.”

“All of the people who turned up dead with these unidentifiable potions in their bloodstreams were werewolves or vampires who had gone missing or were reported kidnapped. A lot of them were unregistered and their families weren’t eager to talk to authorities. But the families all reported that the kids—and they usually were kids—had started talking to them before they disappeared about a potions developer who said they were working on a cure and that they could be part of the trial.”

“Oh,” Draco breathes. “Oh no. They were experimenting on them. Either coercing or forcing the most desperate and vulnerable of them to be… human test subjects?”

“That’s sure what it looked like to me. But the Ministry wanted to focus on—” Harry’s voice pitches into a surprising good mimic of Kingsley Shacklebolt, “the part of the case most relevant to the public interest.”

“Wanker,” Draco says.

Harry laughs softly.

“Yeah. Anyway, I tried to talk to some of the other Aurors about it but mostly nobody cared because the only people turning up dead were—”

“Ah,” Draco says. “Of course.”

“And nobody had the slightest bit of respect for me anyway at that point. They all knew I hadn’t been given a single case of my own.”

“So you did something stupid.” Draco says.

“I did, yeah.”

“What did you do?”

“I went back that night. To the warehouse.”

“Of course you did.”

“I didn’t tell anyone where I was going.”

“Of course you didn’t.”

“And it—ended badly.”

“Shocking.”

He gets another, less-gentle, tug on his hair for that.

But the joke’s on Harry, because if he thinks pulling Draco’s hair will be some sort of deterrent he is woefully mistaken.

“What happened?” Draco asks.

“I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for,” Harry says. “I just knew there was more to it, and that, unless there was a second brewing location—which didn’t seem likely—the Aurors had missed something. Because they hadn’t found any experimental potions when they cleared out the warehouse.”

“And?”

Harry laughs, a little bleakly. “I was right. They had missed something. A big something.”

“Honestly Potter, the suspense is killing me, will you just—”

“There was a basement.”

Draco waits.

“It wasn’t—normal detection spells didn’t reveal it, but I’d just finished being the spokesperson for a case the Unspeakables had solved two weeks before involving dark magic. Blood magic. And I—I’d written down some of the spells involved and researched them.”

“You? Research?”

“I know. Shocking. But I was fascinated. I’ve always been interested in the Dark Arts, ever since Defence at Hogwarts. And I think that Aurors should be prepared to…not play by the rules, so to speak, if they know it’s likely the people they’re up against aren’t going to.”

Draco sighs. “Please tell me you didn’t do blood magic while trespassing at a crime scene alone at night.”

“Just a little. Barely a prick of my finger. A detection spell for dark magic, nothing more.”

“And you found the hidden basement.”

“I did. The glamoured doorway lit up like a beacon. And it opened just fine for me. And I went down the stairs and it—the basement was as big, if not larger, than the warehouse. It was full of extension charms.”

“Also full of experimental potions, I wager?” Draco asks.

“Yes,” Harry says.

Harry’s chest does a funny sort of lurch, like he’s trying to breathe deeply and not quite managing it.

“It was also—there were people. Teenagers, mostly. In—cells, I guess. Cages, more like. Some weren’t in very good shape, but they were all alive.”

Draco’s chest does its own little shudder.

“I sent my patronus to Ron for backup because there were so many of them and I didn’t—I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t get them all to St. Mungos on my own and they—

Harry takes a deep breath.

Draco finds that to be a wise course of action.

“Tell me you didn’t just let them all out,” Draco says.

Harry is suspiciously silent for a moment. “I cleared the place first; I wasn’t a complete idiot.”

Draco sighs. “And then you let them all out? Likely terrified, traumatised, non-humans who’d been experimented on in captivity for who knows how long?”

“I wasn’t going to leave children in cages,” Harry snarls and Draco—well, he can’t really argue with that.

“So you let them out,” he says, placating.

“I let them out,” Harry agrees. “Except.”

Draco closes his eyes because he already knows, at least in a nebulous way, what happened next.

“There was a girl who was really ill. Thin. And she couldn’t get up. So I sent the rest of them upstairs to wait for Ron and whatever backup he was able to find and I went back to get her. And I carried her up.”

“And,” Draco says.

“I didn’t realise what day it was.”

Draco closes his eyes.

“It was a case that involved werewolves,” Draco says, sounding far more calm than he feels, “and you didn’t think to check the moon phase before going alone into a potions den previously known to brew wolfsbane at night? You didn’t think to check if the moon was full before releasing werewolf children from cages? Before picking one up so her face was level with your neck?”

“Look, it’s not my fault I didn’t have more experience in the field, ok? My instincts had been working out pretty well for me up until that point. If it’d just been a day later, everything would have been fine.”

“I cannot believe I’m in l—”

Draco cuts himself off abruptly, appalled.

Because he very nearly, very casually, just told Harry Potter that he was in love with him, idiot that he is.

Fuck.

“It was stupid,” Harry says. “I know.”

Draco suddenly feels exhausted.

“She bit you,” he says.

“She did, yeah,” Harry agrees. “Transformed in my arms. Tucked her face into my neck and just—it was gentle, at least. And it didn’t even leave a scar.”

Small mercies.

“Do you remember the girl from the article?” Harry asks, “Lucille Kent.”

“The girl from Hogwarts?”

“Yeah. That’s her. She was so desperate for a cure that she ran away from home. Volunteered herself thinking it might be a way to have a life again. To rejoin the world without being treated like a pariah.”

“And instead she ended up biting Harry Potter.”

“Yeah. Part of why I didn’t want the story getting out. She feels terrible about it. Guilty. Even though it wasn’t her fault. I felt bad asking if she’d be willing to talk to the press back when we put together the article. Because I knew she wouldn’t say no.”

Draco shoves his fingers through the loose weave of Harry’s jumper to touch skin.

“So that’s it, then? You freed the captives, were bitten, and a month later transformed?”

“Not exactly.”

Draco starts to push himself up, to try and look at Harry’s face, but Harry’s hand on his back pins Draco in place.

“This is the part where I’d rather you not look at me,” he says.

His voice is—Draco can’t even begin to parse what Harry’s voice is doing, but it’s certainly not anything good.

Draco resettles. He presses a kiss, hard, against the jut of Harry’s sternum.

“Alright,” he says. “I’ll just be here, then. Take your time.”

“I shifted that night. Only a few minutes after she bit me. Apparently it’s not completely uncommon if the bite occurs early in the night of the full moon. And I was still—I sort of knew what had happened. I didn’t lose myself completely. And I was so angry. The thing I’d been focused on before I shifted was finding the people responsible. Bringing them to justice. And I guess that bled over into the wolf’s main objective once I’d shifted. So I. Went back down to the basement. I could smell everything. The kids and the potions and people who had made the potions. The people who had touched the keys to the cells and the medical equipment and the restraints. It was just. So obvious. So simple.”

“You tracked them,” Draco realises. “The ones that were responsible for the experiments. The ones that got away because they hid in the basement while the Aurors arrested their co-conspirators upstairs..”

“I tracked them,” Harry agrees, voice rough. “They made it easy because they hadn’t split up. They hadn’t even gone far. Six of them. At a nice muggle bed and breakfast just outside of town. They were drinking when I found them, talking about how long they would have to wait before they could risk going back to pack up their stockpile. They were wondering if any of the kids would still be alive if they waited more than a week.”

Harry’s voice has gone dangerously low.

Draco wraps both arms around him, slides his hands beneath Harry’s back, fingers splayed over his shoulder-blades, and squeezes.

“I killed them all.”

Draco was expecting it.

He was braced for it.

But it’s still shocking.

Perhaps that’s his own fault, for holding Harry up as some sort of perfect moral and ethical monument.

He certainly doesn’t blame him, though.

“Of course you did,” Draco says. “Did you hurt anyone else?”

“Anyone—?” Harry’s voice breaks. “What do you mean?”

“Anyone who was innocent. Uninvolved. Did you go to the next room over and continue your killing spree?”

It occurs to Draco, as he asks, that even if Harry says yes, it won’t affect the fierce, possessive, love that makes him squeeze Harry’s rib cage even tighter.

He realises that probably means there’s something wrong with him.

He also doesn’t care.

“No,” Harry says. “No, just them.”

“Can I look at you, now?” Draco asks.

It takes nearly a full minute for Harry to quietly answer:

“Yes.”

Draco shifts so his elbows are propped on Harry’s chest. He settles his chin in one cupped palm. He meets Harry’s eyes—wet, liquid, scared eyes, with calm, steady intention.

“It wasn’t your fault. It was stupid of you to go alone, but if you hadn’t returned to the warehouse, those children likely would have all died. Once you were bitten, circumstances were outside of your control. You didn’t hurt innocents. And whilst you might have done some things that were…outside of the law…”

“Murder,” Harry says. “I murdered six people.”

“They deserved it,” Draco says staunchly. “And they would have murdered dozens of others—dozens of children—if you hadn’t stopped them.”

“I could have taken them in alive.”

“No you couldn’t have. No just-bitten wolf has control like that. Not even the great Harry Potter. It’s nice, actually, to see that your ridiculous abilities do have limits.”

Harry coughs on something that might be a laugh.

Draco leans forward to kiss his nose.

He settles back, chin on folded hands on warm jumper. He hitches his thigh over Harry’s hip.

He sobers.

“Have you forgiven me?” he asks.

He’s more than a little afraid to hear the answer.

Harry frowns at him. “What?”

“Have you forgiven me. For the terrible things I did. My cruelty. The horrific things I was directly and indirectly responsible for.”

“I—yes. Of course I have.”

“If you can forgive me for the things I’ve done—the intentional, malicious, terrible, things I’ve done—then you have to also forgive yourself. It was an accident. And the results of it were far less dire than my own mistakes.”

Harry doesn’t say anything for several seconds.

His hands find their way back into Draco’s hair.

“You sound like my therapist.”

“I hear she’s a very intelligent woman.”

“Talking about shit like this is hard,” he says.

“We can be done for the night, if you’d like.”

“I would, yeah.” he tugs a little on Draco’s hair and Draco glances up at him, questioning.

“Kiss me?” Harry asks, cautious, like there’s some possibility that Draco might say no.

Draco doesn’t make him wait to find out.

****

The following morning finds Harry sitting on the edge of the tub, feet in the basin, head leant back against Draco’s belly.

“Are you sure?” Draco repeats for the third time. “Really positive?”

“Really positive,” Harry says patiently. “Stop smelling so worried. The arousal was much nicer.”

“Yes, well,” Draco huffs, “the idea of you with an undercut is quite sexy. The idea that I may accidentally cut off your ear attempting to give you an undercut, rather less so.”

“Worse case, I can reattach the ear. Or Luna probably could, anyway. Will you get on with it?”

Draco sighs and, with much apprehension, turns on the clippers.

He’d carefully separated the hair at the crown of Harry’s head into a bun, leaving the rest down, and he contemplates the shoulder-length bit now, then the muggle device in his hand.

“Lean forward a bit?” he murmurs.

Harry obeys.

Draco sets the buzzing clippers at the nape of Harry’s neck.

He makes the first pass.

“Oh,” he says. “Well. That’s not so bad.”

A few minutes later, he’s trailing his fingers, rather reverently, along the velvet curve of Harry’s skull, with the grain, then against it. He presses a kiss to the soft, shorn, valley between the tendons in Harry’s neck.

“Mmm,” Harry says. “There. That’s much better.”

“Stop smelling me,” Draco murmurs, moving to press another kiss under Harry’s ear. “It’s rude.”

Harry makes an unbothered noise.

Draco unties the topknot and, bottom lip trapped anxiously between his teeth, begins cutting the hair in sections, just like he’d watched in the how-to video earlier that morning.

When he sets aside the scissors, tousling the longer curls he’s left, he’s actually relatively pleased with himself. 

“So?” Harry says. “Can I see?”

Draco steps back, allowing Harry enough room to stand and look in the mirror.

He grins at their reflections.

“Nice work.”

“You think so?”

“I do,” Harry says, pushing his curls to fall first to one side, then the other, then pulling them back into a tiny ponytail. He releases his hair and it tumbles into his face.

“You know, I should probably take a bath or I’ll be itching the rest of the day.”

“Mm,” Draco says, unplugging the clippers. “Alright. I’ll leave you to it.”

“Or,” Harry says. “You could stay.”

Draco glances up from where he’s kneeling, coiling the cord into a tidy pile. “Do you need help?”

Harry sighs. “Draco. Would you like to get naked and then get in the tub with me for sexual reasons?”

“Oh.” Draco says. He drops the cord and watches it unspool. He leaves it. “I. Yes. I would like to do that. Please.”

Harry grins, rakish and charming and pulls Draco to his feet.

“Do you need help with the undressing bit?”

“Yes,” Draco manages, only, perhaps, a little strangled. “These muggle trousers with their…zips. Very complicated.”

He sounds like an idiot, but Harry, thankfully, doesn’t appear to notice.

“Zips,” he agrees. “Very tricky.”

There’s a crack of apparition and they both freeze.

“Fuck,” Harry says, dropping his forehead to rest on Draco’s shoulder.

“Your Gryffindors are going to drive me spare,” Draco mutters.

“Good morning!” Blaise calls. “I come bearing eels for the lovely lady and news for the star-crossed-lovers. Put your dicks away if you’re indecent and join me in the kitchen!”

My Gryffindors?” Harry asks.

“Shut up.”

Draco steps back, allowing himself ten seconds and nothing more to appreciate the flushed, rumpled man in front of him. He doesn’t kiss Harry because he’s uncertain he’d be able to stop, Blaise be damned.

“Take your bath,” he sighs, letting his fingers trail down Harry’s warm, veined forearm, before moving away entirely. “I’ll deal with Blaise.”

“Maybe we could just wait?” Harry says hopefully. “And take a bath after he leaves?”

“Where’s the ginseng tea Pansy likes?” Blaise calls from the kitchen, “she and Hermione should be here shortly. I thought it was in the cupboard next to the fridge. Did you move it?”

“Or not,” Harry corrects himself. “Alright. Fine.”

Draco rocks up onto his toes to press a kiss, just one, quickly, to the disgruntled curve of Harry’s mouth.

“Maybe tonight,” Draco says. He reaches up to comb his fingers through a few errant curls. “Hurry so I can show off my handiwork.”

“Yessir,” Harry says.

***

It turns out that Harry and Draco have become rather famous.

Well.

More famous.

Blaise has brought an armful of papers and magazines and has another dozen links to magical social media sites pulled up on his new laptop in which people are speculating about Harry and Draco’s relationship and posting photograph compilations not only from sightings of them in Paris and Rocamadour, but going back to their school days at Hogwarts. 

Draco gets a bit distracted by a particular photograph of Harry in his quidditch uniform—likely seventh year—snarling something at Draco, shoulder-to-shoulder, their faces inches apart.

Draco doesn’t remember the moment the picture was taken, and whilst he’s certain that there was only animosity present, it certainly does look a bit…titillating. Considering the context in which it has now been placed.

“The fan fiction is getting a little ridiculous,” Blaise says. “Have you read any of it?”

“I certainly have not.”

“The whole enemies-to-lovers trope is a big hit with you two.”

“No idea what you’re talking about.”

“Do you know how much money I could make if I took a photograph of the two of you cuddling on the sofa one evening.”

“We don’t cuddle,” Draco says.

Blaise raises an exceptionally judgmental eyebrow at him.

Alright.

Maybe they cuddle.

A bit.

“It’s for my health,” Draco mutters.

Blaise doesn’t even dignify that with a response. Which is fair.

Draco pushes aside the laptop and leafs through the papers. Most of them are…strangely supportive. Apparently now that he’s been endorsed by Harry, the general public is happy to paint him as a reformed martyr—a misunderstood victim saved by love or some such nonsense.

There are a few papers—from more conservative sources, of course—which claim he’s hoodwinked the savior and has malicious intentions, but those have at least used flattering photographs of him.

“So it’s working then?” Harry says, tucking himself, warm and damp and shirtless against Draco’s back.

“Mmm. Apparently. There was a protest at the Ministry yesterday, even."

“Excellent.”

Blaise catches Draco’s eye and mouths: cuddling.

Draco mouths back: fuck off.

Blaise splays one hand flat beneath his throat in faux shock.

“Are you alright?” Harry asks Blaise.

“Perfectly. And I can’t tell you how delighted I am that you finally did something about your hair. The general swooning will no doubt double with the release of your next interview.”

“Thanks, I think. Wait. Next interview?” Harry asks.

“Mm,” Blaise says, peering into the fridge. “That’s what we’re discussing once the ladies arrive. I think Ron is at some overnight Auror thing,” he holds up a tupperware container. “How fresh is this pesto?”

“Fantastic,” Harry sighs.

Chapter Text

Harry thought, when he bought property in the middle of nowhere in Alabama, that he would live his days with few friends and, hopefully, for the first time in his life, no immediate enemies. It would be a lonely existence. But it would be safe.

However, while he hasn’t acquired any enemies lately, unless some backwards muggles count, he’s found himself rather surrounded by friends.

It occurs to him, just around dawn on the morning of the full moon, that Blaise and Pansy are his friends, now. That Blaise and Pansy have joined Luna and Ginny and Ron and Hermione, and even Neville—who’s on some sort of top secret herbology research trip in Scotland, but somehow found out about Harry and Draco—on the list of people who would likely lay down their lives for Harry. Who would support him no matter what. Even if he fell in love with a former Death Eater. 

Draco is asleep on Harry’s chest, which has become a startlingly normal occurrence. On the days when Harry wakes up alone, or has simply shifted to one side of the bed so they’re not actively touching, he wakes unhappy.

That should probably be concerning.

Except Harry can’t find it in himself to be concerned when there’s liquid grey light coming in the loft window and Draco is breathing, soft and a little whistle-y, against his collarbone. 

Harry likes the warm, slight weight of him.

The smell of him.

The way his cheek is pressed to Harry’s sternum, his upper lip pushed up a little to expose one white canine. His bottom lip is wet.

The moving, living, protective, thing inside of Harry’s chest likes that, for whatever reason, and he doesn’t feel like suppressing the wolf because it’s early and he’s sleepy and why should he? He and his wolf are in very happy agreement about Draco, generally, and Draco’s presence in their bed, specifically.

One of Draco’s hands is resting, fingers curled, just above Harry’s belly button, and Harry tucks his own hand around it, just because.

He focuses on the soft web between Draco’s thumb and forefinger: a small, manageable, part of him.

He drags his own thumb along the skin there: reverent, maybe.

He thinks about the last interview he did.

He thinks about the petitions and the subsequent interviews with other war heroes sympathetic to the plight of former Death Eaters and Death Eaters’ children. Who are calling for retrials and re-sentencing. Calling for the removal of bans at Hogwarts and other institutions currently closed to werewolves. Calling for internal investigations at the Ministry.

Draco was officially granted a hearing the day before.

They’d celebrated with a full house of friends, and Harry and Draco had fallen into bed together, giddy and exhausted and so, so happy, and Harry can’t remember ever being so content. Or so scared.

Draco makes a little noise, fingers curling around Harry’s, and Harry has to close his eyes for a moment.

To breathe.

Was it possible to miss a person before you lost them? To want them back before they were gone?

Harry knows that part of every adventure is the end, except he doesn’t want this one to end. 

He wants Draco in his bed and in his clothes for—maybe for ever. And that’s terrifying.

He presses a kiss to Draco’s knuckles. To the protruding bone of his wrist. To the pale scar that bisects the second tendon on the back of his hand. To the mark. Dark as an ink stain on parchment.

Draco inhales sharply and pulls away, turning over, and Harry drags a hand slowly up the landscape of Draco’s back, taking in the sharp, pale, everything of him—the dip of his spine, the terraces of his ribs, the wings of his shoulder blades, the goosebumps that trail in Harry’s fingertips’ wake. 

He is objectively beautiful, but it’s been a long time since Harry could be objective about Draco.

Harry presses his mouth to Draco’s temple, not really a kiss, just breathing in the clean smell of his damp hair; the new rosewater toner he’s started using in the evenings; the subtle bite of mint from his toothpaste, nearly gone after a night of sleep.

“I wouldn’t, you know?” Harry says, shifting back, but not away. His attention is still on the dark mark.

“Wouldn’t what?” Draco murmurs, half asleep.

“I wouldn’t change anything about you,” Harry says.

Draco opens his eyes. “Nothing?”

“Maybe your elbows.”

“My elbows?” Draco doesn’t sound insulted so much as bemused.

“Mm,” Harry confirms. “Make ‘em less pointy.”

Except even that’s a lie.

“You love my pointy elbows,” Draco says.

“I do,” Harry admits morosely.

The wolf paces in his chest, anxious at the idea that this might soon come to an end. That Draco will no longer need them. That Draco will leave. Harry feels guilty that he can’t entirely blame the possessiveness on the full moon. 

He exhales and wraps one arm more tightly around Draco’s shoulders.

He’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

That’s all he can do.

***

Harry wakes again, an hour or so later judging by the sun, to the sound of several people apparating into his living room.

“Oh good,” Draco mumbles, “our friends are here.”

“Darling,” Pansy calls, “put some clothes on and come greet your guests. We’re here to continue celebrating.”

“Or skip the clothes,” Blaise adds. “All that cuddling with Potter has given you an arse again. I’ve rather missed seeing it.”

Harry only barely suppresses a growl.

Draco laughs.

When they do, eventually, make it down stairs, Harry carefully avoids everyone’s eyes. It’s unlikely anyone will actually be able to tell that—

“Merlin,” Ron says. “Feeling possessive, Harry?”

Bugger.

“No idea what you’re talking about,” Harry says

Ron, sitting next to Draco on the sofa, wrinkles his nose. “What did you do, dress Malfoy in your sweaty clothes? I’m not even a werewolf and I can smell him. You might as well just piss on him.”

“An interesting option to consider,” Draco says, raising an eyebrow at Harry.

Harry makes a strangled noise and wrenches open the fridge.

The jars inside rattle ominously.

“Eggs?” Harry asks, only a little desperately.

“No time for eggs,” Blaise says. “I have news.”

“Always time for eggs,” Ron says hopefully. 

“News?” Draco says.

Blaise produces a book—a rather small, shabby looking book, if Harry is honest—from his coat pocket. He places it on the coffee table with something like exaltation.

“You’ve got a book?” Harry hazards.

“Not a book, mate,” Ron says, leaning forward to squint at it. “The book. When Hermione gets here, she’s going to have kittens.”

Ron’s similar—and apparently non-ironic— reverence causes Harry to take another look.

“The book,” he repeats. “The one about the foxglove? That you’ve been fighting with the old witch in Japan over?”

“We haven’t been fighting,” Blaise says. “That would be uncouth. But. If we were fighting, I certainly won.” He gestures to the book. “Exhibit A.”

“Of course,” Draco says.

Hermione appears with a crack and immediately scrambles over her husband to get her hands on the book in question.

“Have you read it?!” she exclaims, opening the front cover with wide, wide, eyes.

“I am a man of many talents,” Blaise says, “but reading an entire book in—” he consults his watch, “twenty-three minutes, is not a skill I possess.”

Hermione flaps a hand at him, settling with her back against Ron’s knees, flipping the first page.

“…and we’ve lost her,” Ron sighs. He glances back at Harry. “Do we have time for eggs now?”

Blaise huffs.

Ginny and Luna arrive in two quick, concurrent snaps, and immediately exclaim over the fact that Blaise has finally managed to procure the book from its previous stubborn owner.

“Well,” he says, mollified, “I supposed I could tell you how I managed it, while Hermione reads. It took a bit of finesse. And no small amount of wit.”

“Would you like a monument built in your honour?” Ron asks.

“I would, yes.”

“Oh, let him tell the story,” Pansy says.

Draco meets Harry’s eyes and they share a quick smile that feels—like more than a smile. Like a small conversation, maybe.

The wolf in Harry’s chest paces.

Harry turns on the hob and gets out the eggs.

***

“Alright,” Hermione says, an hour of little gasps and disbelieving noises later. “Alright, so this is really something.”

“Do tell,” Blaise says.

“Well, the first half is basically an entire history of the plant’s genetic engineering. It was actually made from muggle foxglove, through nearly a decade of experimental potions and charms and grafts. Which is what makes it so powerful, but also so volatile. And it can’t grow naturally because it doesn’t have a natural habitat.”

“And yet there’s an entire plot of them just up the hill,” Harry says.

“Right,” Hermione agrees. “It shouldn’t be possible. But you said the place positively reeks of magic. So someone who knows the plant essentially terraformed that space to be hospitable for them.”

“But why?” Pansy says.

“That I can’t answer,” Hermione says. “But the really interesting thing is in the second half of the book. The magic-binding curse placed on Draco? This strain of foxglove was specifically created in order to facilitate that curse. The book details the exact process for completing the potion and the spell necessary to hobble a magical person’s core. And—” She glances up at Draco. “It also details how to remove the curse.”

Harry’s immediate response is dismay.

He knows it should be excitement.

He knows.

Except all he can think about is that he’d been preparing himself for another month. He was supposed to have another month until Draco’s re-sentencing.

He wasn’t ready yet to lose him.

He was supposed to have another month.

Harry stalks to the kitchen and opens the fridge purely to feel the rush of cool air on his face.

He breathes.

“So can we just…try to take off the curse then?” Ron asks.

“We can’t just try it,” Hermione says, exasperated. “It necessitates a complex potion, which includes the foxglove harvested in a very particular way, followed by an equally complex incantation recited by three powerful witches or wizards using particular wand movements. And it can go badly really easily. This isn’t something we want to play with, especially when Draco is doing so well and has a re-sentencing date so soon.”

“Better to wait it out,” Pansy says. “And let the professionals remove it.”

“Exactly.”

Harry feels immediate relief, then disgust at the relief.

He closes the fridge.

“Does it say anything about other uses?” he asks. “Anything that might explain why there’s a quarter of an acre of it planted on muggle land in the middle of nowhere?”

“Well. It’s also a handy poison,” Hermione says. “And it all but disappears once ingested—standard toxicology spells won’t identify it. But there are much easier ways to poison someone. I’m afraid I still don’t have any clue.”

“No offense,” Blaise says, holding out one hand, “but may I?”

“Of course,” Hermione says, passing over the book. “Perhaps you’ll see something I didn’t.”

Fleamont clears his throat.

“I don’t mean to interrupt,” he says. “But I am—was, I suppose—a licensed potioneer. It’s possible I may be of assistance.”

“Excellent point, my good man,” Blaise says, standing.

Blaise, Harry has noticed, seems to have a bit of a hero-worship thing going on with Fleamont. More than once Harry has caught Blaise lounging on the sofa in a position too similar to Fleamont’s lackadaisical sprawl to be an accident.

Blaise settles next to the portrait, book open to page one, and begins to read aloud, voice low.

Pansy sighs. “Do you have a chess set, Harry?”

Ron immediately perks up.

“You should,” he says, turning to face Harry in the kitchen. “The one I gave you for Christmas last year?”

“In my trunk, yeah.”

He summons it and watches, more than a little bemused, as Ron and Pansy settle in for a game. 

He returns to the sofa and tucks himself between the arm and Draco, hand cupping his shoulder, nose against his throat.

He smells like them. Like DracoandHarry.

It’s a small comfort.

Eventually he has to move because Lyra wants to join everyone in the living room and then she very urgently needs to know what the shiny thing on Pansy’s finger is and if she can have one for her tank. It takes a while to explain the purpose of rings in a way that a juvenile snake can understand, but by the end of Harry’s description Pansy has promised to bring Lyra a selection of rings to choose from the following day.

Draco murmurs something cautious about spoiling her and everyone in the room—save Blaise and Fleamont—laughs at him.

Healer Nott Facetimes them shortly afterward and Hermione happily talks research with him for several minutes before, with Draco’s permission, giving Nott her Google Docs information and requesting he send her every bit of information about magical transference he has in his possession.

He agrees, looking a little pink and star-struck in a way that is becoming familiar to Harry, and signs off with promises to send everything over immediately.

Harry is more than a little amused that Nott has never once stumbled over his words while speaking to Harry, but becomes something of a tongue-tied mess when confronted with Hermione.

Ron watches the whole thing, fond.

After several games of chess, and a visit to the potions barn, Harry and Draco are beginning to set out lunch-making supplies in the kitchen when Hermione’s laptop—produced from her bottomless purse so she could start sorting through research—pings with a rather loud alert.

“Oh,” she says, and it’s a testament to exactly how well everyone in the room knows her that they all, immediately, stop what they’re doing.

“Oh, no.” She turns around, expression open and urgent and possibly a little frightened. “Harry,” she says, “it’s Teddy.”

The bottom drops out of Harry’s stomach.

He thinks Draco places a steadying hand on his lower back but he can’t be certain.

“Teddy?” he says.

“He’s shifted. It’s the full moon and he—Andromeda found him in his cot. She’s panicking a bit. Locked the door to his room because he tried to bite her. Ron’s dad just messaged me after she fire-called him. Harry, do you think—”

“I need to go,” he says, because it’s obvious. “It’ll be better, if I’m with him, right? I can make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone.”

“Yes,” she agrees. “Do you need—”

He doesn’t need anything. Except—

“Well, go on,” Draco says. “Though do apparate to the portkey location and then to Andromeda’s from the London office, please. Just because you might survive apparating directly across the ocean doesn’t mean you should try.

Harry obeys.

***

Teddy is actually a very, very cute werewolf.

And Harry is admittedly biased, but from the moment he slips inside the bedroom, calling assurances to Andromeda who’s wringing her hands in the hallway, he’s—

Well.

He’s rather enamoured.

Teddy is mostly feet and ears and grey puppy fluff and even when he bares his little milk teeth and growls, he sounds like a rather adorable, very tiny lawnmower.

“Oh,” Harry says, “look at you. So much fuss and you’re just a pup, huh?”

Teddy growls at him and retreats to hide under the cot.

The curtains are torn to shreds and there are claw marks on the door about a foot off the ground. One stuffed animal has been beheaded. Aside from that, it looks like any other child’s room.

The mobile of snitches that Harry got him the year before is still hung above the cot.

“Well,” Harry says, crouching. “Would you prefer if I joined you and changed into my fur? Don’t be frightened, alright? I’m a rather intimidating wolf, but I promise I won’t hurt you. We can just play and cuddle a bit and then have a nice, calm, conversation with your mum in the morning. Sound good?”

Harry doesn’t think Teddy can understand him, but the boy is watching him attentively, ears forward, so he keeps talking about Christmas and Draco and Fleamont and Lyra as he slips out of his clothes with slow, non-threatening movements. 

And then he’s a wolf.

The change is now a seamless thing for him, made even simpler by the full moon. The itch under his skin became urgent the moment he’d arrived at the London portkey office, moon bright outside the window, and it was only months of practiced negotiation with his wolf that kept him from shifting then and there.

It’s a relief to shake out his thick winter ruff and fall forward onto his elbows.

Teddy launches himself at Harry a moment later, tail wagging madly and Harry is delighted to find that, no, Teddy isn’t afraid of him.

Over the next few hours they do a bit more damage to the room, but Harry can’t feel that badly about it when Teddy is sprawled out next to him, mostly asleep, absently chewing on his ear as the sun starts to rise.

They must fall asleep properly at some point, because he wakes up to full light and a human toddler with sticky hands fisted in the fur around his neck.

Andromeda is knocking hesitantly on the door.

He wiggles out of Teddy’s embrace, shifts, and pulls his clothes back on, calling, “everything’s fine, one moment.”

He tries to quickly straighten things up, rather sheepishly, before opening the door.

“Morning,” he says. 

Andromeda’s face crumples a bit when she sees Teddy stretched out peacefully on the rug.

“He’s okay?”

“Completely. Might want to put a new nappy on him, though. Also, he definitely peed on the pot plant by the window early this morning. Sorry about that. But it was the plant or the chair and I figured the former would be preferable. Speaking of, I’m going to use the loo.”

She laughs, rather wetly, as she scoops Teddy up and Harry slips into the hall.

After cleaning up, he sets about making breakfast, listening absently as Andromeda gives a grumpy, still-sleepy Teddy a bath.

She’s taking the sudden arrival of a toddler lycanthrope in her life rather well, he thinks. But then, she’s been nothing but supportive since Harry was bitten. And her son-in-law had been a werewolf as well. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“Thank you,” she says, when Harry sets a bowl of porridge in front of her.

“Oh, no problem. I’ve found I actually really enjoy cooking.”

“Harry,” she says, “not for breakfast. For coming. I don’t know what I would have done.”

“Oh. Well. No problem at all,” Harry says. “I can come every full moon until he learns to control the shift, or is old enough for the potions. Or, if you’d rather, I can take him to the farm once a month. It’s safe there. More room to explore. Less. Er. Stuffed lions to destroy.”

She laughs.

Teddy despairs of his child-sized fork and shoves a handful of scrambled eggs into his mouth.

“Perhaps that would be best. How long can you stay? Do you need to get back immediately or—”

Her tone is casual, but Harry can see the barely-masked desperation behind it.

“Oh, I can stay for another day or so, if you’d like. We can talk. Sort things out. I’m sure Hermione will show up shortly with research to share and we can go over that together, too. This isn’t—it’s not the end of the world.”

She takes the hand he offers her like it’s a lifeline.

“Thank you,” she says again.

Harry thinks, rather selfishly, of the plans he’d had to cook Draco one of his favourite French dishes that night. He’d planned to send their friends away, erect temporary anti-apparition wards, prepare them a delicious, nostalgic dinner, and then, potentially, maybe, invite Draco to take a bath with him.

Teddy proffers a bit of soggy toast to Harry.

Harry accepts it with solemn thanks.

Ah well, French cuisine and potential baths can wait.

Draco has enough potions to mitigate Harry’s absence for a while. Harry will facetime Draco later once it’s morning in Alabama to make sure he’s feeling alright and—Harry accepts another piece of badly-squashed toast—maybe in the meantime he’ll glamour himself and take Teddy to the zoo or something so Andromeda can get some rest. He’s been a rather terrible godfather recently, and Draco will surely be fine without him for another day.

Chapter Text

Harry takes Teddy to the Zoo.

The buggy gives him a bit of trouble, which is embarrassing.

Defeat the Dark Lord? Certainly.

Figure out how to uncollapse the pile of pushchair parts so that it actually resembles a transportation device for a child? Perish the thought.

Eventually he gets it sorted, possibly with a bit of magical assistance—not that he’d admit to it— and they’re off.

Initially, Teddy is grumpy, which is fair considering he didn’t sleep much the night before, having spent it as a very small, ferocious, creature; but he naps on the walk there and wakes to find himself confronted with an atrium of birds, and suddenly is in the best of spirits. Since it’s early and cold, the zoo is under-populated and they make their way leisurely through the various exhibits unmolested. They stop for an overpriced snack from a food kiosk and a bathroom break and then continue on to the reptile exhibit.

In the dim, humid hallway, Harry finds himself missing Lyra and he casts a notice-me-not around him and Teddy before whispering a quiet hello to each of the snakes they pass, inquiring about their health and happiness and if there’s anything he can do for them. Most are quite content, but he does track down a keeper to alert them to a heat-lamp that’s gone out in the boa’s enclosure and then awkwardly suggests a slight dietary change for the king cobra. The keeper clearly thinks he’s mad, but the cobra appears to appreciate his efforts, nonetheless. They’ve nearly left the exhibit when Teddy suddenly leans forward in his buggy to point at the final glass enclosure.

Pretty banana! he hisses, and Harry is so shocked that, for a moment, he does nothing at all.

Teddy claps his hands and then cranes his neck to make sure that Harry is listening to him. Pretty banana he repeats. Look!

Harry exhales.

The toddler werewolf speaks parseltongue.

Fantastic.

Banana! Teddy cries, louder this time.

Apparently he doesn’t speak parseltongue well, though, seeing as he’s making absolutely no—

Oh.

The final enclosure hosts a bright yellow, lightly dozing, viper.

It blinks at them as Teddy repeats his banana refrain for a fourth time. 

It is possibly insulted.

Sorry, Harry says. He’s just a baby. He er, really likes bananas, though. So it’s a compliment?

The snake moves towards the glass and Teddy positively shrieks with excitement.

Hello, little human. The snake says.

Hello, banana, Teddy says back.

Harry can’t decide if he should be bursting with pride or overwhelmed with concern.

***

It takes nearly fifteen minutes to convince Teddy to leave his self-proclaimed new best friend, but eventually Harry convinces him that they can return soon to visit. The sky is overcast and looks like it may soon snow and Teddy is starting to grumble about lunch. Harry is also rather anxious to borrow Andromeda's mobile to call his own phone in Draco’s possession. Draco should be awake by now and Harry finds the thought of it—Draco waking up in their bed alone—leaves a strange hollow ache in his chest.

Their return trip is uneventful and Andromeda has lunch waiting when they arrive.

While Teddy is occupied with a banana, gibbering excitedly in only somewhat-intelligible English about his new snake best friend, Harry slips upstairs with the mobile and curls into the chair by the window in his room. He’s already smiling when it rings.

Except, after several seconds, no one answers.

He rings again.

No answer.

He checks the time.

Draco should be up. Perhaps he’s in the greenhouse? Or left the mobile up in the loft? Harry stands and tries again, pacing to the chest of drawers and back while it rings.

His stomach feels hollow in a way that has nothing to do with hunger.

He’s probably being ridiculous. There are all manner of reasons that Draco might not answer the phone and it would certainly be an overreaction if Harry were to apparate directly to the portkey office and—

“Harry?” Andromeda calls.

“Yeah?”

“Can you watch Teddy while I run to the shop? We’re nearly out of J-U-I-C-E and you don’t want to know the terrors that will be unleashed upon this household if Teddy finds out.”

“Sure, of course.”

Harry pockets the phone and resolves to stop being ridiculous. He’ll try again in an hour and if there’s still no answer then, he’ll head back to the barns.

Everything is fine.

***

Twenty minutes after Andromeda has left, there’s a knock on the door.

He answers with Teddy on his hip.

“Harry,” Hermione says. “What are you doing here?”

“Nice to see you, too.”

Harry,” Hermione says in voice that Harry has only heard a few times.

“What?”

“Did you not go home after sunrise?”

“No? I mean. Obviously. I’m still here.”

“Have you spoken to Draco at all today?”

“No, actually. I tried calling a bit ago but he didn’t answer. Why?”

“Harry, I think you ought to go home.”

The hollow feeling comes back with full force, pushing from his stomach up into his throat; wary and fearful.

“Why?”

“Because you really shouldn’t be away from Draco for more than a few hours at this point. The curse on him—or at least how I understand it—is exponential. I didn’t think--I assumed you’d go back as soon as the moon set.”

“Exponential?” Harry says. He seems to recall hearing the word in muggle primary school, but can’t remember what it means. For once, he wishes he’d taken a few more years of standard mathematics.

“Means it doesn’t have the same rate of growth,” Ron supplies. “Means it gets more bad each day instead of the same amount of bad each day.”

“That’s—yes, actually,” Hermione says. “That’s exactly what it means. And you’ve been counteracting the effects for so long that, without your presence for,” she checks her watch, “fifteen hours, now, he’s likely to have a really significant relapse into his prior symptoms. Except they’ll be even worse than before.”

Everything inside of Harry goes horrified and still.

He feels like he can’t breathe.

Oh.

Oh.

Draco hasn’t answered the phone.

He should have—Harry knew something was wrong and he didn’t do anything and now—

He presses Teddy into Ron’s arms, turns, and apparates on the spot.

He shoves his way through the crowded hall of the portkey office—ignoring the shouts of alarm at the sudden appearance of Harry Potter—and into the permanent destination room.

He runs to the section for US locations and throws himself at the stupid tire-iron that takes him to—

The Marian portkey shack.

He apparates again, directly into his living room.

No one is there.

“Draco!” he shouts.

He apparates upstairs.

No one—only rumpled bed sheets and a disturbing pile of bloodied tissues on the bedside table next to his phone.

He apparates to the potions barn.

Draco!?

Here Lyra says, and it’s as close to a shout as a snake can produce. Here, hurry.

Draco is on the floor next to the oleander with Lyra curled in an anxious spiral around one limp arm. His eyes are closed and skin is whiter than the blooms above him. His lips are blue.

He’s—

Breathing.

He’s still breathing.

Harry crashes to his knees, rucking up Draco’s shirt to get a hand on his chest. To feel his heartbeat—faint and thready but there under his palm.

“Draco,” Harry says, “Draco, wake up. Please. Draco. Wake up.

And he does.

His eyes open, unfocused and startlingly flat. Dull in a way they shouldn’t ever be.

“Oh good,” he says faintly, “you’re back.”

And then his eyes roll up and he’s limp again and no amount of yelling will rouse him.

The next few minutes pass in a lurch of terror and Harry’s own too-loud heartbeat in his ears.

He sends a patronus to Luna and then the rest; he gathers Draco up into his arms—too light, he’s far too light—and apparates them to the house.

He lays Draco on the sofa and tears Draco’s shirt in his haste to get it off and then shucks his own shirt so he can press his chest to Draco’s back; to press his hands against the cool skin of Draco’s abdomen; to press his mouth to the back of his neck; to pray, maybe.

“Draco,” Harry says, over and over again.

He doesn’t answer.

Luna and Ginny arrive what must only be minutes later, but it still feels like far too much time has elapsed.

“What can we do?” Harry asks. “There has to be something—”

“I don’t know, Harry,” she says. “There’s things we can try but I don’t know.”

Luna tips a few potions into Draco’s mouth and tells Harry to keep holding him and then Hermione and Ron and Pansy and Blaise are there and they’re all arguing and Harry has never felt so out-of-control; like he might shift at any moment; like he might lose himself entirely.

“We have to take him to ‘Mungos,” Hermione says.

“They wouldn’t admit him before, why would they admit him now?” Pansy shouts back.

“We could take him back to Colorado. Nott would see him,” Blaise argues.

“I don’t think the location of the hospital matters,” Luna interrupts. “I don’t think he can recover from this; he would have shown improvement by now—with Harry touching him and the potions—if it was something we could fix by treating symptoms. We need to have the curse removed. Immediately.”

“His hearing isn’t for another month,” Harry says.

It comes out rough. Nearly unintelligible.

Draco is so still and so cold.

I did this. He thinks.

I did this.

I did this.

I did this.

“We’ll need to file an emergency petition,” Hermione says. “To get it moved up.”

“How much time do we have?” Harry asks. He feels slightly hysterical.

“I don’t know,” Luna says. 

She’s solemn in a way he’s never seen before.

“Likely not very long,” she says.

And well. That’s that.

“We’re going to ‘Mungos,” Harry says, standing. He shifts Draco, still in his arms, into a more comfortable position. “That way he’s close to the Ministry. Call Healer Nott and have him meet us there; I want someone we trust taking care of him while we file the petition.”

“And if they won’t let Draco inside the hospital?” Pansy snaps.

“Call The Prophet, too. Any of the papers. All of the papers. Have them waiting. Mungo’s isn’t going to turn me away. Especially if it’s being documented.”

“That’s…actually not a bad plan,” Pansy allows.

“Let’s go,” Harry says.

***

Mungos doesn’t turn them away.

None of the healers there want to take responsibility for Draco but that’s fine because Nott arrives minutes after they do.

Half the Aurors, including Ron, are called in to deal with crowd control outside the building and in the reception.

Hermione and Blaise take their hastily cobbled-together petition, in person, to the Ministry.

It’s denied.

“What do you mean, it was denied?” Harry snarls from the hospital bed where he’s trying to maintain as much skin-to-skin contact with Draco.

“Rather self-explanatory,” Blaise says.

“Hold still,” Nott murmurs.

“It means,” Hermione says, “that we approached the current presiding judge and he barely looked at the petition, and then said no.”

“So what do we do next? Who do we petition next?”

“There isn’t anyone else, Harry,” Hermione says, and her eyes are bright with fury or tears or both. “Legally, there’s nothing else we can do.”

“Get me Kingsley.”

“Harry,” Hermione says.

“Actually,” he shifts so he can pull his wand out of his trouser pocket. “I’ll do it myself.”

He casts a patronus. “Kingsley Shacklebolt,”  he says. “Come to room 413 at St. Mungos immediately unless you want me to tell the press what, exactly, I think of you and your leadership capabilities. You have thirty minutes.”

The stag leaps through the wall.

Kingsley steps into the room five minutes later.

“Harry,” he says, eyebrows mobile and likely judgmental as he takes in the crowded room: Harry propped on a half-dozen pillows, shirtless, and clinging to Draco who certainly looks more corpse than human. 

“Your message was a surprise. I’m not entirely certain—”

“He’s dying,” Harry says. “The curse is doing exactly what it was supposed to and now he’s dying. We tried to file an emergency appeal to have his case reopened but it was denied.”

Kingsley fingers the embroidered edge of his robe.

“From what I understand, Mr. Malfoy has already been granted a hearing to that effect.”

“A month from now. Does it look like he has a month, to you?”

“That’s hardly my problem.”

“It is. Because you and Robards engineered this. When you lied to me. When you used me. And now you’re going to fix it.”

“Oh Harry,” Kinglsey says, and it sounds like he’s talking to a child who has asked for something impossible. “You must know, I can’t intervene. Not with something like this.”

“I do know, actually. I know better than most that you can intervene. You just don’t want to.”

“He’s a Death Eater, Harry.”

“He’s a former Death Eater who took the Mark as a minor because his mother’s life depended upon it.”

“The public doesn’t see it that way.”

“Well, clearly public perception matters more than fact.”

“Actually,” Hermione says, “Terrible as that argument may be, I think you’ll find that the public’s perception has changed recently, regarding Draco. Haven’t you been reading the papers?”

“Speaking of the press,” Harry says. “There’s plenty downstairs. Might go have a chat with them.”

“That won’t work,” Kingsley interrupts. “Not with this. You can threaten all you want, but I don’t believe you’d actually do it. And even if you did—”

“The public is still pretty divided,” Ron says suddenly.

It’s unexpected, this intercession. Usually Ron leaves the arguing to Hermione.

“And most of the more conservative voters are older. More powerful. Wouldn’t want to piss them off by helping a former Death Eater live. Not on an election year, anyway, right? Bit pathetic, to put politics over human life, but you’ve done it before; I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise.”

Kingsley’s face does something that Harry can only describe as nasty.

He looks down at Draco in a way that makes Harry want to cover him, to protect him from Kingsley’s impassive gaze.

“I’ve heard enough,” he says, infuriatingly dismissive. “Talk to the papers, if you’d like. But nothing will save him, now. And most, I think, will agree that’s a good thing.”

He stalks out into the hall.

Harry only barely resists shifting and hunting him down.

Mostly, he resists because he refuses to stop touching Draco. Nott said it’s possibly the only thing keeping him alive and Harry is now terrified to let go, even for a second.

“We can remove it,” Blaise says.

Harry forces himself to refocus. “What?”

“The curse. We know how to remove it. The book—it explains the process.

“What book?” Nott asks.

B