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A Forward Path

Chapter Text

The only reason Harry found Malfoy that morning was because he tripped over him in the corridor. 

 

He’d needed a breather, space away from the staring eyes of first years that seemed to follow him wherever he went. He’d changed course down an abandoned hallway and now was sprawled out across cobbled stone, gasping and gawking back at the curled form of Draco Malfoy. 

 

Malfoy was paler than usual, upper lip and chin crusted with blood, an eye shut with an angry, swollen lid. 

 

He still had the audacity to look annoyed, “Of course it would be you,” he sighed, “Sniffing out the opportunity for another rescue, Potter? Eager to scrape away the last of my dignity?”

 

“Merlin, Malfoy,” Harry said, standing and hurrying over, “Are you alright?”

 

“Certainly, just fancied a bit of a nap in Hogwarts’ filthiest walkway.” The blond lashes of Malfoy’s remaining good eye fluttered closed, as if remaining open was too exhausting a task. 

 

“What happened?” Harry asked carefully. He wanted to reach out, to assess for damages but didn’t dare.  

 

“I fell,” Malfoy replied daintily, “silly me.”

 

“Malfoy, what happened?” Harry repeated, more authority to his voice this time. It unnerved him to see the blonď like this. Despite the destruction of his family’s reputation post-war, Malfoy had arrived for eighth year with his head held high, smooth mask of superiority in place and enough friends to level him some protection. Apparently not enough. 

 

Malfoy scoffed, “Oh hell, Potter, what do you think. Another eager band of your righteous followers wanting to play at capture the Death Eater.”

 

Malfoy’s casual tone belied his condition. Harry knew the other boy would not be lying there so helplessly if he had another choice. An icy anger built in him—he’d heard snippets of conversations, snide remarks, growing anti-Slytherin sentiments. He’d let them slide, for the most part, people were hurt, they had a right to be angry. They didn’t have a right to this

 

“Who,” He demanded. 

 

“I somehow doubt snitching will win me any popularity contests,” Malfoy replied, “ Now if you’re not going to help me, please shove off so the next lonely tosser can find me.” 

 

“Right,” Harry responded, feeling guilty, “yeah, of course. What’s happened, you can’t stand?”

 

“Buggered my knee,” Draco replied, “Some arsehole got a good kick in, locked it backwards. Tried to stand and, well, I couldn’t.”

 

“Right then,” Harry said, crouching down, “Arm around my shoulder, then use your good leg to get yourself standing, alright?”

 

Draco did as he was bid, only grumbling a little, until the two were standing. 

 

“Okay, then?” Harry asked. 

 

“Hardly,” Draco sniffed. 

 

“You want to go like this or should I just levitate you?”

 

“Like this,” Malfoy directed, “Rather not be at your mercy any more than required.”

 

“Your gratitude is really overwhelming,” Harry muttered as the two walked and hopped their way towards the infirmary. Harry was relieved that the next class had begun and the halls had emptied out. He knew Malfoy's pride could only handle so much. Harry would be late but he doubted that Professor Flitwick would comment on his tardiness. He felt another twinge of guilt at how he seemed beyond reproach these days. He was sure it wasn't a good look. 

 

“Would think you’d had enough gratitude for one lifetime,” was the laboured response. 

 

Harry wasn’t so easily baited, more distracted by the way Malfoy was guarding his midsection, clenching his teeth, wincing when they fell out of step. His injuries were apparently more severe than Harry had realised. He felt the wave of rage building again and clamped it back down. 

 

Malfoy’s arm was tight around him and sweat speckled his hairline by the time they reached the infirmary. Madam Pomfrey looked up from her desk and her mouth thinned as she assessed the injured boy. 

 

“Mr. Malfoy, this simply cannot continue,” she chided, an efficient spell transplanting Malfoy from Harry’s side to the crisp sheets of an infirmary bed, “you’ll need to name names, eventually. You’re not being a hero, you know.”

 

Malfoy didn’t respond as the matron pressed her fingers to his wrist. 

 

“Thank you, Mr. Potter, that will be all,” the matron dismissed Harry, smartly. 

 

“Malfoy,” Harry found himself saying, “I’ll take care of this. I will.”

 

“Leave it, Potter,” Draco retorted—his words were cut short with a groan as Madam Pomfrey pressed on his abdomen. 

 

The matron gave Harry a pointed look and Harry apologised, leaving Malfoy to her care. 

 

***

 

“A telling off at the next DA meeting should do it,” Harry theorised, “Just stupidity, really. There’s no room for this vigilante nonsense.” He was with Ron and Hermione in a corner of the eighth year common room, explaining the morning’s encounter. He rubbed his palms on his trouser legs in agitation. 

 

Hermione shook her head, slowly, “I’m not sure a reprimand is the best strategy, Harry. Might just make people defensive, cling harder to their beliefs.”

 

“What’s got you three all stony-faced, then?” Came Ginny’s bright voice from behind Harry’s wing-backed chair. 

 

Harry jumped, looking up to see Ginny and Neville, holding hands and smiling at the trio. Harry was admittedly still adjusting to the sight of the two of them together. It hadn’t hurt as much as he’d thought it would, after the war, when Ginny sat him down to softly explain how her and Neville had fallen together while Harry was away. She’d cried and he’d somehow found himself comforting her. It had chafed but it wasn’t wholly excruciating. 

 

“It's nothing,” Harry responded abruptly, and a cloud fell across Ginny's pretty features. 

 

“Oh, yeah, that’s lovely, Harry, shut us out of things, we couldn’t possibly help,” she retorted, coldly.

 

Harry scrubbed a hand over his face, “Sorry,” he sighed, “sorry, Gin, you’re right, you probably will have some insight into this. Grab a seat.”

 

The flare of anger faded from Ginny’s face as she curled up next to Ron and Hermione, Neville perching on the arm of the couch beside her. 

 

“We think…” Harry started carefully, “that some DA members are getting aggressive—physically so—with some Slytherins. You two are closer to most of them now anyway, do you know anything about it?”

 

Neville looked serious as he and Ginny absorbed the information. 

 

“Well, that’s crap,” Ginny announced, “that’s not the point of the DA at all! If they’re not going to use their powers for the common good then maybe we should just disband entirely? We only kept it running because so many students still were keen on the practical aspect of it.”

 

Hermione shook her head, “I just don’t think punitive measures will be effective, I think we have to lead by example.”

 

“We already are!” Ron spoke up, “You don’t see me whaling on Malfoy, no matter how much I might want to sometimes. He’s still a haughty little shit.”

 

“I think what Hermione is saying is that the absence of action is not exactly action,” Neville said thoughtfully, arms crossed. Harry was still unused to Neville’s quiet confidence. He barely recognised the boy any longer. 

 

“Thank you, Neville,” Hermione agreed, “we can’t just say leave the Slytherins alone. We have to reach out, to actively show that we believe in interhouse unity, that we are stronger together—all the houses, not just three quarters of them.”

 

Ron made a distasteful face that Ginny mirrored but Hermione continued, “If we want to protect them, we have to befriend them. Us especially. Like it or not, other students look up to us. We’re getting along well enough, us eighth years, even with the shared common room.”

 

“Yeah,” Ron grumbled, “because with Zabini gone to Beauxbatons and Crabbe dead, there are only like five of them left.”

 

“How convenient then, that there are five of us," Hermione quipped. "Pansy and I are already friendly—we’ve been studying arithmancy together,” she continued, ignoring everyone’s surprised expressions, “Ginny, you take Daphne, Neville, you’re with Millicent, Ron, Goyle and Harry, Malfoy, obviously.”

 

“What?” Hermione asked after a moment of stunned silence. 

 

“With them?” Ron questioned, “With them to do what?”

 

“I’m asking you to reach out to students we have known and gone to classes with for years,” Hermione scolded, “You don’t have to be their best friend, but just make an effort to be friendly. Lead by example, show other students that Slytherins aren’t pariahs. We’ll gently encourage students in the DA to do the same.”

 

Ginny and Ron continued to look dubious, but Harry saw Neville nodding, “I don’t mind Millie, really,” he said thoughtfully, “And Tarts likes a cuddle some nights.”

 

“Tarts?” Ginny inquired, her top lip twitching in bewildered disgust.

 

“Yeah, you know, Millie’s cat, Tartarus, black little fluffball that’s around here some days.”

 

“I think I know the one,” Ron remarked with forced casualness, him and Harry giving Hermione a knowing look, then grinning as the blush rose high on her cheeks. 

 

“Tarts,” Ginny echoed, nonplussed, “right.”

 

“Good,” Hermione concluded, “Then we’re agreed. Now, I’ve really got to get on with—”

 

“Agreed?” Harry cut her off, “You really think I can just walk up to Malfoy with an olive branch and a butterbeer and call it a day?”

 

“If you think he’d like a butterbeer,” Hermione replied archly, “then by all means.”

 

“That’s not what I meant!” Harry burst out, barely managing to keep his voice low, “there’s too much bad blood between us, you know that. Why can’t Ron take Malfoy, or Neville?”

 

“Because it’s Malfoy, Harry,” Hermione sighed, exasperated, “and because it’s you.”

 

“What in Merlin’s name does that mean?” Harry demanded only to find Ron leaning forward, a hand bracing on Harry’s shoulder. 

 

“She’s right, mate,” Ron confirmed, “If you want to protect him, and you want to protect all the younger Slytherins, if we've got any hope at all with this harebrained scheme—sorry, 'Mione, but really, it's a bit much—It’s got to be you.”

Chapter Text

Harry could hardly believe he was doing this. He climbed out of the awkward portal that was the entry to the eighth year common room and started begrudgingly down Hogwarts hallways towards the infirmary. It was early yet. According to the Marauders' Map, Malfoy was still there and Madam Pomfrey could probably be convinced to allow visitors. If Malfoy didn’t forbade his entry right from the start. Merlin, this was a terrible idea.

 

“Potter,” the matron remarked when she appeared at the entry to back room, where Harry well knew the overnight cots were stationed. She seemed surprised to see him.

 

“Er, hi,” Harry began, “I just came to...check on Malfoy.”

 

She gave him a brief scrutinizing look, then announced, “Your timing is excellent, actually. Come on back.”

 

Curious, Harry followed her through the doorway. 

 

“Right then, Hiram,” Madam Pomfrey said to a scrawny boy perched on a chair just inside the main infirmary room, “get back to your dorm and get some rest, that's the best thing for this.”

 

The boy’s eyes grew round and large as he recognised Harry, “Oh wow,” he said, staring like a malnourished little owl in a green and silver tie, “H-H-Mr. Potter? Oh wow, oh wow, my Da says you’re the greatest wizard who’s ever lived and that if I ever saw you I should tell you so—”

 

Harry heard an audible scoff from behind a curtained section. He blushed scarlet and tried not to roll his eyes. Hermione assured him the novelty of his presence would wear off over the first few months, but as far as Harry was concerned, it couldn’t happen soon enough. 

 

“Er, that’s—that’s very kind of your Da, Hiram, but certainly an over-exaggeration.”

 

“That’s enough,” Madam Pomfrey chided, pushing the child towards the door, “but you come back and see me if you’re not feeling any better tomorrow.”

 

Hiram finally left, peering over his shoulder at Harry for so long that he nearly walked himself into the door frame. Harry sighed. 

 

“First year nerves, is all,” Madam Pomfrey commented, “He’ll be right as rain once he makes some friends.”

 

Harry thought about Malfoy’s swollen face from the morning before, then transposed it onto the vulnerable face of the child. Hermione maybe had a point, it wouldn't do to make school any harder for the new little Slytherins. Despite everything, Hogwarts had been a sanctuary for Harry, a home—he didn’t want it to be a threatening place to students, not ever again. 

 

Madam Pomfrey’s heeled boots tapped smartly on the floor and she drew back a curtain to review a slightly improved Malfoy. The skin around his eye had blackened, but the swelling had decreased, and the split in his lip seemed to have mostly healed over. He was seated in the bed, wearing only a black short sleeved thermal and form fitting boxer trunks. His injured knee was red and swollen, unable to bend fully.

 

“Potter,” He stated coldly, and Harry replied simply, “Malfoy,” in turn. Harry didn’t suppose it was encouraging that they could barely force civility, at best. 

 

“I’ve repaired what damage I could,” Madam Pomfrey explained, not acknowledging the chilly reception, “but Mr. Malfoy’s injury requires both passive and active strengthening.”

 

Harry gave her a blank look. 

 

“Twice a day, morning and evening for two weeks,” she clarified, looking at him expectantly “He can manage the active aspect himself, but I expect you to help him through his range of movement exercises, like so—lie back, Mr. Malfoy, if you would.”

 

Shooting daggers at Harry, Malfoy lie back on the cot. The matron slowly but firmly raised his knee up towards his chest, “Don’t help me, Draco, you need to relax the limb, allow it to be manipulated,” she instructed. Malfoy gripped the thin blanket and seemed to be masking a grimace.

 

“Too much?” Madam Pomfrey inquired, “You must be honest about your pain! We spoke about this, we need to stay in the therapeutic range. If you are wincing away or bracing, it does more harm than good.”

 

Malfoy gave a curt nod, “Bit too much, yeah,” he agreed, his cheekbones tingeing pink. 

 

“Very well,” she replied, easing off, then straightened the leg before bending it again. “Ten of those, a break and then ten more, do you understand, Potter?”

 

Harry nodded, unconvinced that Malfoy would let him anywhere near his injured knee once they left the matron’s sight. 

 

“You try,” came the next instructions. 

 

“Oh!" Harry remarked, surprised at the request, "oh, ah, alright,” He stepped up beside the bed. Well he’d been watching Madam Pomfrey's movements, it suddenly felt like he didn’t know what to do with his hands. He slid one hand under Malfoy’s thigh, and gripped the lean calf with his other. Malfoy’s bare skin on his palms felt horribly intimate, no matter how light he tried to keep the pressure. 

 

“Get on with it,” Malfoy growled. 

 

Harry swallowed before bending the limb upwards as Madam Pomfrey had demonstrated, trying not to move too quickly. Malfoy closed his eyes and exhaled. 

 

“Watch his face as you go,” the matron directed, “ Mr. Malfoy fancies himself a tough little soldier and won’t always admit to the pain.”

 

Harry only nodded, mimicking the action twice more. “Straight forward enough,” he said, gently releasing Malfoy’s legs, “staying here tonight, Malfoy, or—”

 

“He is fine to return to the dormitory, if you’d be so kind as to accompany him” Madam Pomfrey concluded, “Remember, twice a day, no exceptions.”  

 

“Yes, Matron,” they answered and she smiled tightly in return, then strode off in the direction of her office. Harry perched on the edge of an empty bed while Malfoy dressed. He kept his eyes diverted but they were drawn back to the other boy when he heard a quiet, pained gasp. Malfoy had one sock in his hand and his injured knee half pulled up in an effort to put it on. He was biting his lip and his eyes looked to be watering. 

 

“Fuck,” Malfoy hissed. 

 

“Here, let me,” Harry responded, stepping forward with his hand outstretched towards the sock. 

 

“Leave it,” Malfoy snarled, voice low. 

 

Harry rolled his eyes, “Oh come off it, Malfoy. I’m not waiting here all night just because you can’t reach your damn foot.”

 

He snatched the sock out of Malfoy’s hand and knelt beside the bed. He yanked the sock onto Malfoy’s bare foot unceremoniously, rolling it up over the pronounced bones of his ankle. He tried not to think about how an old sock and Malfoy’s pale foot in his face made him hyper-aware of their proximity. Without asking, he grabbed Malfoy’s polished shoe from the floor beside the bed as well and stuffed the now-socked foot into it, and tied the laces. 

 

“There,” he announced, standing. For a brief moment, Malfoy’s expression was stricken but almost at once, it converted into a show of annoyance. 

 

“Don’t think I’m going to thank you, perv,” Malfoy spat out. 

 

“I’m not holding my breath,” Harry replied, trying to keep from snapping back, “Do you need help down or what?”

 

“I’m fine,” Malfoy insisted, but Harry heard the sharp intake of breath when Malfoy hopped off the cot. He wisely didn’t acknowledge it. 

 

***

 

“What were you even doing there?” Malfoy demanded, once the two were out of earshot of the infirmary, “you better not be back to your old stalking habits, Potter, so help me.”

 

“Must I remind you that I was, in fact, right to stalk you? You were actively trying to kill our headmaster, after all.”

 

“You really don’t,” Malfoy replied, trying to hobble away, “despite your best efforts, I survived with my memories intact.” 

 

Harry winced, thinking about the scar that sliced across Malfoy's chest. He'd seen it more than once, now that they shared dormitory showers.

 

“Fuck,” Harry echoed, then reached out, grabbing Malfoy’s arm, “Wait, Malfoy, stop, I’m sorry. This is, fuck, this is the exact opposite of what I came here to do.”

 

“Don’t touch me,” Malfoy ordered. Harry dropped the other boy’s arm and held up his palms. 

 

“Look,” Harry started,  “I...I didn’t like seeing you like that this morning.”

 

Malfoy glowered, “Oh, I’m so sorry to have assaulted your precious eyes, Potter, I’ll be sure to cast a glamour faster next time.”

 

“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” Harry snapped back, “You did right by me in the war. So did your mother. I owe her my life and I told the ministry as much. Which you know, because it’s why you're here and she's not in Azkaban.”

 

Malfoy schooled his features, “You have my family's gratitude for sparing my mother,” he said carefully. 

 

“I’m not here for you fucking gratitude,” Harry said, frustrated. Malfoy just wasn’t getting it, “I don’t want to see you hurt. I don’t want to see anyone at this school hurt. I’m tired of everyone hurting each other. So I’m trying to stop it.”

 

“I don’t need your protection, Potter,” Malfoy recoiled.

 

“And I’m not offering it! Not exactly.” 

 

“Then what are you offering?”

 

“We would just...hang out,” Harry explained, and it sounded pathetic, even to him, “Once in a while. Between classes. Be friendly. If you and I can bury the hatchet, or at least just make people think we have...it could do a bit of good.”

 

Draco gave him a scrutinizing look. “Hang out,” He repeated, dubiously. 

 

“Even just for appearances. I can shout at the DA all I want but Hermione thinks—”

 

“You told Granger about this?”

 

Harry shrugged, “She’s smart. She has good ideas.”

 

“And this was her good idea. We hang out.” Malfoy’s face was one of abject disgust. 

 

“Merlin, Malfoy! I’m just trying to keep you and your friends and kids like Hiram from having the stuffing knocked out of them for no good reason. If you have a better idea, I’m all ears!”

 

Malfoy stared at him, long and discerning. Then, giving Harry a hard look, he questioned, “What’s in it for me?”

 

Harry gawked, “What do you mean what’s in it for you? Hopefully some physical safety!”

 

“Not much of a reward for withstanding your company.”

 

“Fine," Harry growled, "Alright. What do you want? Galleons?”

 

Draco’s lip curled, “Don’t be gauche, Potter. No, I want…” He paused, dramatically, as if still thinking, tapping a finger against his bottom lip. “I want you to attend me.”

 

“What?” Harry answered, not understanding the request. 

 

“With my knee,” Malfoy continued, “socks and shoes and the stretching. And various other little errands.”

 

“Wait, you want me to like...wait on you? Like a servant?”

 

“If you like,” Draco replied.

 

“I don’t like, absolutely not. I mean I’ll help you with your knee but I’m not going to just do whatever you want.”

 

Malfoy shrugged, “Then I must politely decline your offer and leave little Hiram to the cruel world.”

 

Harry ground his molars, “What kind of errands?” He demanded. 

 

“Nothing reprehensible. Bringing me refreshments. Keeping this incident private. Perhaps some Hogsmeade shopping on weekends.”

 

Harry considered, “Look, I could do little things for you, fine, but I get to veto anything weird.”

 

For what was perhaps the very first time, Malfoy smiled at him.

Chapter Text

“Well, that was a very straightforward approach,” Hermione said, late that evening as she accepted a mug of tea from Ron. The little kitchenette was one of the perks to the eighth year common room. 

 

“What do you mean?” Harry asked.

 

“Well, I wasn’t thinking we would exactly divulge the plan at all,” Hermione explained, “I thought we would just make some friendly gestures, build some relationships, that’s all.”

 

“Oh,” Harry said, feeling like an absolute berk, “right, I guess that does make a lot more sense.”

 

“Well, nothing can be done now,” Hermione replied, giving his forearm a reassuring little squeeze. 

 

“Except he’s gone and promised to be a servant to Malfoy,” Ron reminded them, sitting down with his own mug. 

 

“Hm,” Hermione agreed, "It's always something with you two."

 

"What's that supposed to mean?" Harry demanded, but Hermione didn't respond, caught up with her own musing. 

 

"It is an interesting development," she continued, "My guess is that with Malfoy, it’s just a power thing. The war stripped him of a lot of his pride, I suppose he sees this as a way to get it back.”

 

“You ever consider a career in mind-healing?” Ron grinned at her, that lovestruck expression he often wore alighting his features. 

 

Hermione returned the smile, and slipped her hand into his, "And what if I have?" She asked. 

 

"Well, think you'd be brilliant," Ron remarked. 

 

Harry nodded slowly. So, Malfoy wanted to throw his weight around a bit, feel in control. Perhaps Harry couldn’t blame him. 

 

“I’d say your best course of action is just to let him. If you just stay pleasant, don’t react, it  won’t be any fun for him and he’ll soon give it up,” Hermione advised, returning her attention to Harry. 

 

Ron snorted, “Harry, stay pleasant and calm where Malfoy is concerned? Fat bloody chance.”

 

Harry shrugged, “It’s just little things. Anything too ridiculous and I’ll just say no. Nothing’s binding. Besides, keeps me around him enough to stop any DA zealots from a repeat offense, which was the original goal, after all.”

 

“Well, good luck, Harry,” Hermione yawned, finishing her tea and standing up to head up to bed, “Please do try not to lose your temper.”

 

***


Harry awoke earlier than usual the next morning, as per the agreement he and Malfoy had come to on the walk back to the eighth year dormitories the night before. It was a little odd, the showers, usually a bit of a zoo in the mornings, were unoccupied. Afterwards, he dressed and went down to the common room, which was also deserted—save for one blond, pointy-faced bastard. 

 

“Morning, Malfoy,” Harry said, aiming for the pleasantness Hermione had been on about. 

 

“You’re late,” Malfoy reprimanded. Harry checked his watch. He wasn’t, but he didn’t argue. 

 

“Sorry,” he said instead, with a forced smile, “should we get on with those exercises?”

 

“Very well,” Malfoy replied, in a tone that made it clear that it was rather not very well at all. He lay down on the same couch that Ron and Hermione had occupied the night prior.

 

Harry tried not to notice that Malfoy was in just the thermal and trunks again, tried not to notice how the stretch of the material clung to the lean muscles beneath. He reached for Malfoy’s leg, feeling the coarse blond hairs beneath his hands, the warmth of Malfoy’s skin. 

 

“Your knee any better?” He asked, as he maneuvered the limb towards Malfoy’s chest, slowly. 

 

“Hm,” was Malfoy’s non-response, his face drawn and focused as Harry deepened the bend, keeping his eyes on Malfoy’s face for signs of pain. To Harry’s frustration, however, the other boy’s features remained disciplined and stoic, impossible to read. 

 

“Too much?” He asked at one point. 

 

“It’s fine. Get on with it.” 

 

Harry sighed. Well, if Malfoy wanted to further injure himself by failing to communicate, that was on him. Not Harry’s fault, not Harry’s problem. 

 

***

 

Harry made them both tea while Malfoy showered. Ten minutes later, they reconvened in the dormitory. Harry made quick work of putting Malfoy’s sock and shoe onto the foot of his injured leg—it still felt odd kneeling before the prat like this—and then went to stand. 

 

“Might as well do the other one, too, while you’re down there.”

 

It was Malfoy’s first command and Harry felt an initial flash of irritation. He looked up to protest, but there was a challenge across Malfoy’s features, as if he expected Harry to argue. So instead, Harry just pulled the sock and shoe onto Malfoy’s other foot, double knotting the laces with a smart tug. 

 

“Tea’s downstairs,” Harry said, cheerfully, “do you take anything in yours?”

 

“Just milk to disguise the abysmal quality, tha-” Malfoy snapped his mouth shut and Harry almost laughed. Merlin forbid any manners be wasted on him. 

 

***

 

Breakfast was a strange affair. While the eighth years had a table of their own in the great hall, most students still tended to aggregate in their old house arrangements. Harry was determined to stick with Malfoy, though, and soon found himself surrounded by Slytherins. 

 

“You lost, Potter?” Pansy asked, raising an eyebrow at him. 

 

Harry made a little show of looking around the newly constructed room, “Great hall, Hogwarts,” he commented, “no, think I’m alright, Parkinson, thanks.” He proceeded to dish up some sausage and toast, first for Malfoy, then for himself. Pansy gave them a scrutinizing look but no one else seemed to have noticed. 

 

“What’s going on with you two, then?” She demanded. 

 

Malfoy simply gave her an icy, supercilious glance. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” he dismissed her, “Potter, some pumpkin juice, if you would.”

 

Harry bit back a grin—it was an odd bit of fun, in a way. “Of course,” he replied, and filled Malfoy’s cup. 

 

Hermione arrived then, looking a bit harried, but cheerful. She squeezed in next to Pansy. 

 

“How’d you fare with that homework last night, Pansy?” She asked, “I’m almost regretting signing up for the advanced course already, and we’re only two weeks in!”

 

To Harry’s surprise, instead of a sarcastic response, Pansy gave Hermione a sympathetic smile, “Oh, Merlin, don’t say that, Granger. If you can’t handle it the rest of us haven’t got a fighting chance.”

 

Hermione beamed a little, but continued, “I thought I was doing alright, until what was it—question 38? I got some bizarre prediction about a fountain that I’m just certain is completely off!”

 

“Oh, question 38 can fuck right off,” Pansy agreed, “I stared at it for ages. Meaningless nonsense, I absolutely swear.”

 

“Any chance you want to work with me on it over lunch?” 

 

“Ta, Granger, I really would. Would rather avoid Vector’s disapproval for a little while longer.” 

 

Harry watched the two witches’ easy conversation with a hint of envy. Hermione was making friendship look effortless. It made his agreement with Malfoy feel exponentially more ridiculous. Why couldn’t they just find some common ground and chat about it, too? Why the continuous animosity and sarcasm between them, it was juvenile, honestly. 

 

“Potter, time to go.” Malfoy announced, standing. 

 

“I’m not done my toast,” Harry pointed out.

 

“That sounds rather like a you problem,” Malfoy quipped. 

 

Harry groaned inwardly.

 

Malfoy was the why, obviously.

Chapter Text

“Any particular reason we’re heading to potions twenty minutes early?” Harry inquired casually, as he altered his pace to suit Malfoy’s more hesitant gait. 

 

There was a long silence and Harry began to suspect Malfoy wasn’t about to answer. To his surprise, the other boy cleared his throat and said softly, “Because it takes me ages to get anywhere and I’d rather not give anyone the satisfaction of noticing. Sign of weakness and all that.” 

 

Harry thought it might be the first thing Malfoy had said to him that wasn’t dripping in sarcasm since this whole thing began. 

 

Malfoy must have noticed it, too, because suddenly he pushed his satchel against Harry’s chest with a heavy thud, “Here. Carry this.”

 

“My pleasure,” Harry responded, trying to keep to the good-natured approach. He slung the strap over his shoulder alongside his own. The two continued in silence to the narrow staircase down to the dungeons. Many classes were relocated down there now, where the least damage had occurred, structurally. Malfoy gave the stairs an irritable look, as he steadied himself against the walk and started down them at half speed.

 

“Are you really not going to tell me who did this to you?” Harry asked softly, knowing better than to offer assistance.

 

“What good would it do, honestly, Potter?” Malfoy replied, voice low and gaze leveled at the individual steps, “You give them a stern talking-to, they hang their heads, feel ashamed. But no one likes to feel ashamed, do they? So then they start to feel defensive, start to think about how not only am I a Death Eater, but I’m also a snitch. Use that to justify their anger, get me alone. No, I’m loath to admit it, but I think Granger’s plan might be the only feasible one.”

 

There was a hollow certainty in the words that made Harry pause. He half wanted to reach out, squeeze Malfoy’s shoulder, offer some camaraderie or something, but he doubted that would be well received. So instead he just chewed the inside of his cheek as they shuffled along. 

 

“Any eighth years?” Harry asked, suddenly, “are you safe in the dorms?”

 

“They make fast work of it,” Draco shrugged, “but no, I don’t think I recognised any eighth years. I think students who really lived through the battle...they want to leave the violence behind.  Besides, older students would use magic. These are younger students, I'm sure they feel they were denied a fight or something. Honestly, Potter, the way you go on. It happened, it’s over, don’t fuss.”

 

“Malfoy, you're limping down a staircase with a wrecked knee that Madam Pomfrey couldn’t fully heal. It’s not nothing.”

 

Malfoy fixed his pale eyes on Harry, his lips a grim line, “You of all people should know I’ve had worse.”

 

“I...you know I am sorry, Malfoy,” Harry murmured, “I was stupid, rash. I shouldn't have— ”

 

“Leave it,” Malfoy warned, his voice taut.

 

“You needed help, not—”

 

“Enough, Potter,” Malfoy hissed. He made a sudden, irregular movement, increasing his pace to escape Harry or the conversation or both, but his knee gave way and he started to pitch forward, towards the final steps. 

 

Harry’s seeker reflexes kicked in and he caught Malfoy firmly by the arm, steadying him before he went down. 

 

The two froze at the contact, eyes caught in that moment of spiked adrenaline at the unexpected. 

 

“Sorry,” Harry muttered, relaxing the tight grip he had on the other boy’s bicep, “alright?”

 

“Fine,” was the only reply. 

 

***

 

Once seated in the front row of the potions lab, Malfoy instructed Harry to retrieve Even More Advanced Potion Making from his satchel. 

 

Professor Slughorn bustled in, “Oh, Mr. Potter, Mr. Malfoy, what a surprise. You’re early.”

 

“We’re just very keen to get started on the, er…”

 

“Bounding potion!” Malfoy interrupted, with forced joviality, “should be a great bit of fun!”

 

Slughorn beamed at them, “An old favourite of mine, really, and thought it would be good for you all to start the term with a bit of levity!”

 

“And we can’t wait to leap about like Coozits for the rest of the day,” Malfoy replied, brown-nosing grin still intact, “Potter, gather our supplies, would you?” He opened the potions textbook to the appropriate page and slid it across the table. 

 

“Excellent, excellent,” Slughorn remarked, unlocking the cabinet. “I’ll leave you two to get started—just realised I’ve left the hog nephroliths in my office! Can’t bound without those!” And with that, he swept out of the classroom.

 

“Did you not prepare at all?” Malfoy demanded, as Harry scanned the ingredient list. 

 

“Hn,” Harry skirted, “oh, I, ah, skimmed it." That was a lie, "I don’t generally, you know, prepare, exactly. What’s a Coozit, anyway?”

 

Malfoy sighed loudly in exasperation, “Beasts of the Ginean mountain tops, leap astronomical distances. Merlin, you are some kind of ignoramus. Saviour of the wizarding world, can’t be arsed to do his bloody homework.”

 

“It’s potions!” Harry protested, “It’s all written down for you.”

 

“This explains so much,” Malfoy said, dryly, “It’s like being partnered with Goyle all over again.”

 

“I never asked to be your partner," Harry reminded him, slightly offended, "you’re welcome to Goyle if you want him.”

 

Malfoy snorted, “Greg, in advanced potions? Can you imagine? No, I’ve sent him off to muggle studies, hope he can somehow get through.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Harry asked, poking through the supply cupboard for sweet grass seeds, “Think Ron’s taking that this term, too. Trying to learn to relate to his future in-laws, I suppose.”

 

“They engaged then?” Malfoy inquired, almost politely. 

 

“Nah,” Harry responded, counting out the seeds onto a brass tray, “figure it won’t be long, though.”

 

“Hm,” Malfoy acknowledged disinterestedly, “make sure you get fresh tadpoles, Potter. Ones with legs sprouting will only interfere with the nephrolithic properties. And get more kindling for this fire, what you have here won’t last five minutes!”

 

Instead of the expected irritation, Harry found himself suppressing a grin. Maybe it was the overabundance of them or the extreme particularity, but all at once Malfoy’s demands, his fussing, his complaints—they felt oddly endearing.

Chapter Text

Harry’s attempts at potion-making were obviously straining the bounds of Malfoy’s commitment to their agreement. Harry could almost hear Malfoy’s molars grinding, in between barked orders and various corrections, “Clockwise, Potter, for Merlin’s sake, are you completely illiterate?” and “Sweet grass seeds are not the same as buffalo grass seeds, honestly!”

 

Not two minutes later, Malfoy erupted to his feet, “Oh fucking hell, get away from the cauldron, immediately, you’re useless.” Harry held back a laugh as Malfoy pushed past him to salvage the mauve, simmering concoction. 

 

Harry sat back, more than happy to let Malfoy take over. 

 

“Oi, Harry,” Dean Thomas was prodding at his shoulder from the row behind him, “Seamus and I are thinking of bottling our extras and having a bounding game of stealing sticks tonight on the quidditch pitch, what do you think?”

 

“Brilliant!” Harry agreed, “I’ll bring Ron!”

 

“Yeah, as many eighth years as we have potions for,” Dean replied, “we’re not allowed on the quidditch teams so we might as well have some fun!”

 

Harry grinned, feeling good about actually having something to look forward to. It was more of a blow than he’d wanted to admit, being denied quidditch. He knew it was only fair for the younger students, but he really missed the sport. 

 

“Hey, Dean?” He said suddenly, “Maybe we should make a couple of quidditch teams anyway? Not for the cup or anything, but would be good to play, you know?”

 

Dean beamed, “Fantastic idea, let’s sort it out, soon, yeah?”

 

Before they could confirm details, Harry was forcibly yanked back towards the potion, Malfoy’s fingers vice-tight around his bicep. “Enough chatter, Potter. Focus. Believe me, I would love to be able to do this without having to rely on your frankly appalling skills, but I’m short a couple of arms. Those seeds aren’t going to chop themselves.”

 

“It’s just a potion,” he muttered, “it wouldn’t kill you to relax.”

 

“It might be just a potion to you,” Draco hissed, his stirring arm tensing as he added more kindling with his other hand, “because when you leave here, you can walk into literally any job you wish. I have one year, Potter, do you understand? One year to undo my family’s hideous legacy and prove to some employer that I’m capable. I’ll need to be more than capable, actually. Thanks to my surname, I’m going to need to be excellent, perfect, if I want any hope of supporting myself. I need to walk out of here with golden fucking references, so forgive me if the stakes feel a little higher from where I’m standing.”

 

Malfoy was shaking with quiet rage, and Harry felt shame creep down his spine. Of course. It was obtuse of him not to realise that all. Malfoy was right, his father had left him with such a burden. 

 

Harry reached out, pressed his palm to Malfoy’s shoulder blade. He felt an instinctive, momentary flinch. 

 

“You’re right,” Harry murmured, “I didn’t think, I’m sorry.”

 

“Less apologizing, more slicing,” Malfoy commanded, but, ever so slightly, Harry felt the muscles under his hand begin to uncoil.

 

***

 

“Remind me again why we’re doing this?” Malfoy muttered darkly as he, Harry, Goyle and Ron traipsed their way down to the newly rebuilt quidditch pitch that evening. 

 

“Because we’ve got vials of extra bounding potion and it would be a shame to waste it.” Harry replied. 

 

“And what, exactly, are we doing?” Malfoy inquired. 

 

“Stealing sticks,” Harry explained, “It’s a muggle game. Haven’t played it since primary school, but with the potion, it will be a laugh, I promise. There’s two teams, each team has a stick, and you try to steal the other team’s stick without getting tagged by another player. You get tagged and you get sent to prison for sixty seconds. Though I think Seamus said Luna’s agreed to referee, and she’s going to just put the offending parties in a temporary body bind.”

 

“Hm,” Malfoy sounded dubious, "wait, does that mean you went to a muggle primary school?"

 

“Harry didn't even know he was a wizard until his Hogwarts letter came," Ron explained, not registering Malfoy's shocked expression, "How high do these potions make you jump?” 

 

“Vertically not more than 3 or 4 metres,” Malfoy said, "but it is more about the horizontal leaps. Some records say wizards have leapt entire quidditch pitches, but I remain skeptical. Especially student potions...could be a great deal of variety.” He then rounded on Harry, "What does he mean you didn't know you were a wizard? You're Harry bloody Potter!“

 

"Yes, well, that didn't mean a lot where I grew up. If you really want to know, I'll tell you about it later," Harry promised.

 

“A whole quidditch pitch," Ron whistled lowly, "Hope you two made a good batch then,” 

 

“Of course we did,” Harry replied, mock offended. 

 

“We?” Malfoy countered, arching one pale eyebrow. 

 

“Well,” Harry agreed, “Malfoy did. I helped.” He couldn’t help but notice the proud tilt of Malfoy’s chin at the compliment. Harry found that he liked it.

 

***

 

Bounding, Harry was thrilled to discover, was awesome. It felt like he had coiled springs for legs—even the lightest touch to the ground would propel him into the air, like flying with none of the control. It was a delight to watch students lurching all over the pitch as they honed the movements, smacking into each other and hooting with laughter at the ridiculousness of it. 

 

“How’s it on your knee?” He asked Malfoy, as he paused to catch his breath.

 

“It’s a relief, actually,” Malfoy admitted, “Almost like being in water.”

 

Their conversation was cut short when Luna blew a shrill whistle, “We’ve only got so much time with this potion,” she said, sitting side-saddle on a broom in what looked to be a shockingly unstable arrangement, but Luna didn’t seem to mind. She crossed one knee over the other and gathered several shawls around her shoulders. “So teams are roughly Gryffindor and Slytherin vs. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. I’ve hidden a green and scarlet stick and a purple and yellow stick somewhere on this pitch—on the opposing team’s side. First team to bring their stick across the midway point is the victor! Begin!”

 

Luna flew vertically upwards to observe the action, her wand held loosely between two fingers. 

 

“Hid, what does she mean hid?” Malfoy demanded from behind Harry’s shoulder. 

 

“Well, only so many places to hide a stick on a pitch, so likely the bleachers or the goal posts! Less chat, more action, Malfoy, come on!”

 

And with that, Harry bounded into the air, turning his head to scan the elevated risers, Suddenly Hannah Abbott almost knocked him off course, with an, “Oh, Merlin, sorry, Harry still getting used to this!”

 

“That’s a tag, Abbott!” Luna announced, freezing the blonde girl upon landing, “Sixty seconds!”

 

Harry laughed and sprung again, braving it across the centre line, only to be tagged by Michael Corner and frozen in place himself. 

 

From across the pitch came a bellow from Seamus, “Goal post on the left, Slythindor!!! Circle up!”

 

“Seamus, you wanker,” Dean this time, “You’re not supposed to let on! Now they’ll be on the defensive, have I taught you nothing?”

 

When his sixty seconds was up, Harry scurried to his feet and bounded full force towards the goal, dodging Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs as he went. 

 

He saw Dean and Seamus go down with a clever double attack from Ernie. 

 

“Beside you, mate!” Yelled Ron, and Harry looked back to see he was indeed flanked by Ron and Goyle, “We’ll keep ‘em off you!”

 

Harry grinned, coming down to touch ground only to bound forward again, feeling powerful as the bright autumn air filled his lungs, ruffled his hair. 

 

His focus was broken, though, with a brief downward glance. Dean and Seamus were unfreezing on the ground below. Dean stood up, laughing, reached an arm out to help Seamus up. Except once he was standing, Seamus launched into the other boy, kissing him soundly. 

 

Harry felt a weird flip-flop of his heart and suddenly he was tagged again and frozen on the ground, just watching. 

 

This was a not a first kiss, he realised. It was easy, comfortable, Seamus even copping a feel of Dean’s arse before getting shoved off with a laugh, and just like that, the two were bounding back toward the goal. 

 

A shriek went up behind him, “They’ve got our stick, tag, them, tag them!”

 

Harry felt the body bind end and sprung up into the air to tag Ernie who dropped the stick as his limbs locked up. Harry grabbed the stick from the grass next to the Hufflepuff, and bounded it back towards their own goals, where Neville was bouncing around aimlessly. 

 

“Can’t work up the nerve to cross the centre line,” he admitted with a guilty look, and Harry gave him a friendly smile. 

 

“You’re golden where you are, Longbottom. Here, guard this!”

 

He dropped the stick at Neville’s feet, then swept back to the other side, taking down another few players as he went. 

 

“Defense!” Ron was bellowing, and Harry was leaping forward, breathless with happy adrenaline. 

 

He looked ahead only to see Malfoy hurtling towards him, coursing the the air in an elegant arch, green and scarlet stick in his hands, determination writ large on his features. 

 

“Malfoy, watch out!” Harry shouted, as Corner and Goldstein came at the blond from opposite directions. Just before being tagged out, Malfoy threw the stick in a spiraling flurry, and Harry caught it. 

 

Luna’s whistle blew. 

 

Harry looked down. He was still on his team’s side of the pitch. 

 

“We have victory!” cried out Luna, face flushed pink and eyes dancing, “Draco Malfoy sacrificing himself for glory!”

 

The were wild whoops and back slapping, more bounding in all directions. 

 

“Luna, you can release Malfoy’s bind, you know,” Harry offered, “the game’s over!’

 

“Sixty second, Harry,” Luna said primly, lowering herself to the ground, “those are the rules.”

 

The Gryffindors and Slytherins rallied around Draco’s petrified body, hoisting it into the air, “Well done, Draco!” Bellowed Goyle and more rowdy hoorays chorused out. 

 

“Enough,” Malfoy announced, once he could finally speak. He was probably aiming for peeved but Harry could sense the quiet, pleased edges of his tone. He was lowered to the ground and with several final back pats, the teams diffused into the evening. Harry felt the spring-like sensation drain from his legs as the potion ran its course.

 

“Coming, Harry?” Ron asked. 

 

“My satchel’s at the end of the pitch,” Harry said, “you go ahead, I’ll see you and Hermione in a bit. I bet she can't wait to hear all about this.”

 

"I bet you're wrong," Ron chuckled. 

 

Harry and Malfoy made their way to where they had stashed their bags after class. Without being told, Harry shouldered both bags and let Malfoy set the pace back to the castle. 

 

Ahead of them in the shadows, he saw Seamus sling an arm around Dean with that same easy affection. Another kiss and then the two slowly faded from view. 

 

“Did you know about them?” Harry asked Malfoy, trying to keep his tone casual.

 

“Finnigan and Thomas? That’s old news, isn’t it?”

 

“Is it?”

 

“Merlin, Potter, they were in your house, weren’t you paying attention?”

 

“I...thought they were just mates.”

 

Malfoy chuckled, “You are incredibly dense sometimes, did you know?”

 

“How could I possibly forget with you here to constantly remind me?” Harry grumbled, without any gravity to his words. 

 

“Does it bother you, blokes into blokes and all that?” Malfoy asked. 

 

“No!” Harry responded quickly, “Course not. Doesn’t change anything, just didn’t know, is all.”

 

“I take it this means it escaped your notice that I'm bent as well?” Malfoy’s voice was curious, and Harry felt confused. Was he supposed to know that? And if he was, how? Did everyone else know that? 

 

“Oh,” he replied, tentatively, “You are?”

 

“As a fucking butcher's hook, Potter, yes.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Alright there?”

 

Harry felt his cheeks heat, “I’m not...great at reading people, always.” He admitted, awkwardly, “Especially with sex and love and all that. I didn’t even pick up on the whole Ron-Hermione thing for ages.”

 

“My word, is the saviour of the wizarding world a virgin?” It was a tease, a shade gentler than Malfoy’s typical barbs. 

 

Harry shrugged, “Been a bit busy.”

 

There was a long silence before Malfoy replied. Harry spent it feeling increasingly more self-conscious. 

 

“I…” Malfoy cleared his throat, “Look, if you tell anyone, I’ll kill you, but I am, too, okay?”

 

“Truly?” Harry asked. 

 

“Untouched as the purely driven snow, I’m afraid.” Malfoy replied with a shrug. 

 

And then Harry laughed, and jostled his shoulder against Malfoy's, who, to his surprise, jostled his shoulder back. It was a silly thing to care about but it felt like something, so he kept laughing because he was discussing virginity status with Draco fucking Malfoy and he because he was alive and no one was actively trying to kill him and the autumn air was invigorating the evening was all out fun and he felt, well, he felt happy.

Chapter Text

Harry waited until the noises in the dorm that night had settled before creeping across the creaking boards and sliding open the canopy curtains of Malfoy’s bed just wide enough to crawl in. Another eighth year perk, a bit of privacy at last. As an unintended (although likely expected) consequence, there was definitely not as much separation of the sexes—he could have sworn he saw Ginny scampering out the door some mornings. Harry was also dubious that Ron ever actually spent the night in his own bed, despite the big show of waking up there that he routinely displayed.

 

Harry knelt awkwardly on top of the comforter and muttered a locus secretum with a careful twitch of his wand to make the charm stick.

 

“What spell is that?” Malfoy hissed in the darkness, then muttered, “Lumos.”

 

The wand illuminated to show Malfoy, semi-reclined and above the covers, in the same black top and pants with which Harry was now familiar. 

 

“Just a hidden sanctum charm—silences any confined space.”

 

“Share that one around, would you? I would love to finish up my time at Hogwarts without the nightly lullaby of my classmates wanking.”

 

“One thing I won’t miss,” Harry agreed, “shove over a bit and I’ll do your leg.”

 

Malfoy obliged, shuffling over so there was space enough for Harry to crawl up alongside him and get to work. 

 

“Looks a little better today,” Harry commented, just for something to say. 

 

“Hm,” Malfoy said, “Maybe a bit.” He bit his lip as Harry deepened the bend. 

 

“Too much?” Harry asked—it was beginning to feel like a script. 

 

Apparently Malfoy agreed because he simply huffed, and said “It’s fine, Potter. I’ll tell you if it isn’t.”

 

Harry didn’t reply, but he remained doubtful. He manipulated Malfoy’s leg through the movements, observing. The shadows cast by the wand gave Malfoy a slightly gaunt look. It reminded Harry uncomfortably of that cursed day when they’d confronted each other in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Harry didn’t like it. He had been relieved to see a hint of fullness returning to Malfoy’s features this term.

 

“Fuck!” Malfoy cried out, doubling forward to clutch his thigh. Harry jumped in surprise. 

 

“What, what is it?”

 

“Fucking hell,” Malfoy was whimpering, a look of terror on his face, “The back of my leg, Merlin, it’s all cramped up, it won’t stop, Potter, what’s happening?”

 

“Flex your foot, and dig your fingers into the knot,” Harry instructed. 

 

“Are you daft?” Malfoy hissed between pain-clenched teeth.

 

“Flex your foot!” More insistent this time, “It will relieve the cramp, Malfoy, just do it.”

 

“I can’t,” Malfoy whispered, eyes wide, pupils blown. He was panicking, Harry realised. 

 

He didn’t ask again, just grabbed Malfoy’s leg, making the other boy cry out again, but Harry didn’t heed it. Instead he wrenched Malfoy’s toes back towards his shin. He shoved his other hand beneath Malfoy’s bent knee and dug his knuckles into the tense muscle. 

 

Malfoy cursed then squeezed his eyes tight.

 

“Breathe,” Harry commanded.

 

“Fuck,” Malfoy murmured a moment later, exhaling painfully, “Yeah, it’s gone. Merlin, what the hell was that?”

 

“Just a spasm,” Harry reassured him, releasing Malfoy’s foot. “I had them a couple times with sport as a kid. My year 4 teacher, Ms. Flynn, taught me that trick. Not bad, is it?” He kept working his fingers into the knotted hamstring. 

 

“It just felt like it wouldn’t ever release,” Malfoy said, flopping back and drawing his hands over his face.

 

“Scared me to death the first time it happened, too,” Harry commiserated. “Ms. Flynn would also tell you to eat more spinach or bananas.”

 

“I’ll take your word for it,” Malfoy groaned from behind his hands. “Fucking hell you have bony fingers. Hurts.”

 

Harry eased off a bit, “Sorry, it’s just a bit of a mess in here. Need it to release so it doesn’t happen again, I reckon.”

 

To Harry surprise, Malfoy didn’t argue, just shuffled down the bed and flipped over. 

 

“Fine,” the blond muttered into the crossed arms he slid under his face, “Just so not hard. And for fuck’s sake use some lotion.”

 

Harry suddenly very much regretted his actions. He was now faced with the very pleasant prospect of Malfoy’s arse and an inability to know what to do with that reaction. He felt heat rise to his face. He supposed backing out now would be ever more suspect, so he grabbed his wand and cast a quick inlitus. A small trickle of oil appeared in his palm. 

 

Carefully, so as not to stain the comforter, he tilted his cupped hand and let the oil spill onto the back of Malfoy’s injured leg, pooling in the popliteal hollow. Using his palms and thumbs, Harry worked the oil up the back of Malfoy’s thigh to the bottom hem of his pants. He really didn’t know what he was doing. He awaited Malfoy’s typical ridicule, some comment on his poor technique—like he should know the proper way to massage a thigh—but instead, all that came was a small sigh that sounded something like relief. 

 

He circled the pads of his thumbs experimentally, digging deeper into the rounded muscle. Malfoy made a little noise of protest just as a hard stone of coiled tissue became palpable to Harry’s hands. Harry held the spot, maintaining pressure, until Malfoy’s breaths evened again, then continued. It was almost meditative, the circular patterns and warm skin beneath his touch. After he finished with the thigh, he moved to gentle pressure behind Malfoy’s knee, and then onto his calf. He felt oddly privileged, being allowed to touch him like this: sprawled out, relaxed and defenseless. 

 

He almost snorted to himself at the thought. A privilege to touch him, Malfoy would like that one. 

 

He hazarded another glance at the swell of Malfoy’s arse then bit his lip in surprise when he felt the first twinges of arousal low in his belly. 

 

He yanked his hands off Malfoy like he’d been burned. 

 

“Right,” He said, wiping his hands on his pajamas, “that should do it.”

 

Malfoy turned his face to rest his cheek on his forearm, not rolling over. 

 

“That might have to become one of your regular duties,” Malfoy commented. Harry supposed he was the closest he was going to get to gratitude or a compliment. 

 

“Just so long as you keep cooperating,” Harry replied. 

 

“Me? I’m a model citizen,” Malfoy yawned, “Goodnight, Potter.”

 

***

 

Harry lay in his own bed, wide awake and staring into the darkness of the canopy above him, willing himself not to think about Malfoy. It seemed to be having the reverse effect. He tried not to think about the blond’s lean, taut arse. He tried not to think about the way his hamstring moved under his hands. What Malfoy sounded like when he gasped or hummed a low sound of pleasure. 

 

Merlin, Harry didn’t even know what that last one sounded like, but his imagination supplied it nonetheless. He felt his cock take interest in that idea, too. 

 

“Stop it,” Harry whispered desperately at it, “Please, just stop it.” 

 

Not unlike Malfoy, his erection really didn’t seem interested in Harry’s opinion. 

Chapter Text

Harry was roused a short time later by Ron shaking his shoulder. 

 

“Geroff,” Harry tried, before he could quite sort out what was happening. 

 

“We have to show you something,” Ron hissed, “get up.”

 

The seriousness of Ron’s voice made Harry snap to attention. 

 

“See what?” He demanded, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. 

 

“Just come on,” Was the only response he got. 

 

***

 

Hermione was waiting for them in the common room, “So, so far our plan isn’t working,” she explained as she led them briskly down the corridor, “I was coming back late from the library, and I saw this.”

 

They rounded the corner int the great hall, and the "this" she was talking about was instantly apparently. There was a large white bedsheet strung up over the Slytherin table, with bold black lettering scrawling out “DIE SLYTHERIN SCUM.”

 

Harry scrubbed his hands over his face, “Well, no points for originality,” he sighed.

 

“And what on earth were they thinking. A professor would likely see this long before any students came down," Hermione scolded, almost as if the offending parties were present.

 

“I think Malfoy might be right,” Harry mused, “Younger students. It’s a bit immature, a bit shoddy.” 

 

“Hm,” Hermione hummed her agreement, “Well, I just wanted you to see it before we got rid of it.”

 

“Well, wait,” said Ron, “shouldn’t we, you know, look for clues?”

 

Harry and Hermione swiveled their heads towards him almost at once. 

 

“I think you’ve been reading too many Bruce Briar: Inspector Auror novels, Ron,” sighed Hermione, tiredly. “What are you hoping to find? A perfect footprint in the toast crumbs on the dining table?”

 

Ron blushed, “Could be. Or who's missing a sheet.”

 

“Actually, that’s not a terrible idea,” Harry murmured, “We could ask the house elves when they next change the sheets, see if they can keep an eye out.”

 

“And we should bring this up with McGonagall, also,” noted Hermione, “I don’t suppose she’d like us playing detective without her knowledge.” 

 

“Alright,” Harry agreed, magicking the sheet down, “You two take this to her and I’ll head to the kitchens to chat with Winky, see if she can help us out.”

 

Hermione nodded, “Be careful, Harry.”

 

“Well, I don’t think anyone is after me, particularly,” he smiled reassuringly.

 

Hermioned didn’t smile back, “I know, but you know I worry.”

 

“I’ll be careful,” Harry promised, “I’ll see you in the morning.”

 

***

 

Harry tickled the pear and swung open the doors to the kitchen. Despite the late hour, the kitchen was still buzzing, the smell of baking bread wafting over him. 

 

An elf he didn’t recognise rushed forward, a series of tea towels fashioned into a makeshift toga slung round his body, “Mr. Potter, sir!” the elf cried out with a big grin, hands clutched anxiously in front of him, “Oh, it is too good, too good by far for you to have graced us with your presence. Does Mr. Potter require a midnight snack? Some tea and biscuits? Rolly, some biscuits for Mr. Potter, at once!” Another elf, presumably Rolly, scurried over, a grin stretched the length of his face.

 

“No!” Harry finally got a word in edgewise, “No, Rolly, that is too kind, but I’m not hungry.”

 

“Are you certain, Harry Potter, sir?” Rolly asked, “Rolly makes the most delicious baked treats! I could bring you a danish, perhaps, or a muffin, or a scone?”

 

He looked so hopeful that Harry felt letting him down would verge on cruel, “Oh, alright, a scone would be lovely, Rolly, really, thanks.”

 

The elf’s features once again lit up as he scrambled off to obey. 

 

“Is there any other service that Mr. Potter requires?” Asked the original house elf. 

 

“Er, yeah, actually—sorry, what’s your name?”

 

The house elf bowed so deeply his ears grazed the pristine kitchen floor, “Apologies, Mr. Potter, I am Barth, at your service.”

 

“Lovely to meet you, Barth,” Harry began, only to be interrupted by a little table appearing beside him with not only a heated scone but also a pat of butter and flower in a vase. 

 

“Harry Potter honours Barth with his recognition,” Barth replied, voice full of awe. It made Harry uncomfortable. And it made him miss Dobby, terribly. 

 

“Barth, is...is Winky around?”

 

“I shall get her at once!” Barth exclaimed. 

 

“Only if it’s convenient, if she’s not sleeping—” Harry attempted, but Barth was already scampering away. Harry turned to see Rolly’s eyes on him, complete with a very eager, coaxing expression. Harry obligingly buttered the scone and took an exaggerated bite. It was, of course, delicious, so he didn’t really need to fake his response. 

 

“Rolly, you’ve outdone yourself,” Harry complimented, “a lovely scone, really.”

 

Rolly wiped tears from his shiny green cheeks, “Oh, Mr. Potter, sir, you are too kind, too kind.”

 

It was then that Barth reappeared with Winky in tow. She was looking much improved since the last time that Harry had seen her, and she had a small bundle wrapped in her arms. 

 

“Winky!” Harry cried out as she drew closer, “Winky is that—”

 

“My daughter, sir!” Winky cried out with a beaming smile, “Please would Harry Potter be so kind as to let me present her?”

 

“Oh, wow, Winky, that’s wonderful, congratulations!” Harry remarked. He felt foolish for never really thinking about house elf babies before. He held out his arms and Winky transferred the tiny bundle over to him. Baby house elves, Harry realised, were hideous to the point of being utterly adorable. The little creature had eyes that occupied almost the entirety of its face, big drooping ears and a large wide mouth with thin little lips. “Winky, she’s darling,” he said, earnestly, “what’s she called?”

 

“Tibs,” Winky replied, “Oh, Harry Potter, after my master sent me away, I thought I would never know happiness again, but Harry Potter brought me here and now I have Tibs and, oh, Winky owes such a great debt!”

 

Harry cringed at the effusive emotions that he was sure he didn’t deserve. 

 

“I’m really happy for you, Winky,” he said, passing the alert little baby back to her, “Truly. And I was hoping to ask you a favour.”

 

“Anything!” Winky’s voice was so shrill with excitement it was almost a shriek, “It would be Winky’s honour to do a favour for Harry Potter!”

 

“Right, well, I’m not sure who is in charge of laundry,” Harry started. 

 

“Breety, Breety is head of laundry,” Winky informed her. 

 

“Ah, well, I was hoping Breety or whoever changes the sheets next could keep an eye out and see which student this week happens to be down a top sheet. Someone used one for a rather...cruel prank, and I would very much like to know who.”

 

Winky nodded, still beaming, “Oh yes, sir, Winky will tell Breety and together they will find this out for you at once! Tomorrow, while all the students are in class.”

 

“That would be brilliant, Winky, it really would, thank you so much.”

 

“I shall find you as soon as I know!” Winky assured him. 

 

“Well, maybe not if I’m in class,” Harry corrected her kindly, “But perhaps I could come down here before dinner tomorrow?”

 

“Harry Potter should not have to bring himself the long way down to the kitchen!” Winky cried out, horrified. 

 

“It would not be a problem,” Harry assured her, “in fact, if another one of Rolly’s fantastic scones were here, it would be my pleasure.”

 

Rolly and Winky looked elated. 

 

“Tomorrow, then, Harry Potter,” Winky said, solemnly. 

 

“Oh, one more thing—” Harry heard himself say before he’d thought about it, “You wouldn’t...you wouldn’t happen to have a couple bananas?”

Chapter Text

Harry placed the first of the bananas beside Malfoy’s breakfast plate. 

 

Malfoy gave him a curious look, “Where’d you get this?”

 

“Kitchens,” Harry replied, assessing the great hall for any signs of trouble. Hermione had come down early to make sure no one had tried a repeat stunt. All looked clear, just the typical swill of blurry-eyed students, textbooks and satchels, owls and few random pets. 

 

“Of course you would know where the kitchens are,” Malfoy said disdainfully, “go down there for a proper meal when what’s served to the masses isn’t up to snuff?”

 

“Quite right,” Harry more amicably than he was actually feeling after the late night, “I fancy myself far better than any other wizard who has ever or will ever live and demand special treatment at every opportunity. You’ve found me out, Malfoy, well done you. Now please, eat your banana.”

 

Malfoy seemed to take a moment to scrutinise his face, then smiled and obediently began to peel the fruit, “See, Potter, I knew you had a sense of humour hidden in there, somewhere.”

 

“You’re such an arse,” Harry grumbled. 

 

Malfoy only smiled sweetly and took the tip of the banana between his lips obscenely, before biting down savagely in a way that made Harry flinch. 

 

Harry busied himself filling his plate and Malfoy’s, fixing them both tea and pouring some pumpkin juice. He found he liked preempting Malfoy’s directions, it made him feel like he had an edge in the strange little game of theirs. 

 

Across the table from him, Neville and Millicent were chatting on about catnip—Neville supposed he could grow some in the Herbology greenhouses and Millicent seemed quite elated with this news: “Oh, Tartarus is adorable on catnip,” the witch was saying, “something about her expression, Longbottom, it’s classic, you simply must see it.”

 

It was at that moment that Harry felt the slightest pressure of Malfoy’s thigh against his. Harry froze. The table was busy, benches were crowded, but there was always enough space between students. Malfoy had turned to Goyle to say something while picking away at the breakfast Harry had served. It was possible it was entirely unintentional. Likely, even. Harry didn’t pull away. 

 

The pressure increased: warmth and solid muscle alongside his. Harry swallowed, and ever so slightly, he pressed back. Wondrously, Malfoy didn’t pull away either, but instead maintained the steady contact between their bodies. Harry felt his heart do that uncomfortable flip-flop inside his chest. He didn’t know how a simple, possibly accidental touch could feel so significant, he only knew that it did. Before he could analyze the moment further, Headmistress McGonagall rose to her feet and the great hall grew respectfully silent. 

 

“Good morning, students,” She greeted them, her strong, clear voice as no-nonsense as ever, “I hope you have been settling into your new routine and are enjoying your term here at Hogwarts as much as we are enjoying instructing you. We have two orders of business. Firstly, despite a delay, we are pleased to introduce the new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor who arrived last night from her work in Madagascar, Professor Lucille Haberdash-Pewter.”

 

A figure in a dark grey cloak, complete with a hood which cast the top half of her face in shadow, stood. She had ashen grey skin and Harry couldn’t quite say if the woman was human or just human-like. 

 

“I am very pleased to have accepted this post,” the new professor spoke in a low, rasping voice that lilted with an accent Harry couldn’t place, “and look forward to working with each of you.”

 

It was an infuriatingly generic greeting. Harry couldn’t garner any sense of the witch at all. 

 

“And we are very fortunate to have you here, Professor,” the headmistress continued, cordially. “The second order of business is somewhat less pleasant. It has been brought to my attention that certain attacks, gestures and pranks have been leveled towards the students of particular houses. These actions distress me a great deal. May I take this opportunity to remind you that Hogwarts houses are simply to encourage some friendly interhouse competition and collegiality, and should not be taken with any more gravity than a game of wizards’ chess between friends. To address this, I have encouraged professors to grant house points to students demonstrating acts of interhouse good faith and friendship. It is my hope that this shall stem any petty, nonsensical assumptions we may level at one another. Should this remain a problem, and students be unable to identify and address their own prejudices, I shall do away with the house system altogether.”

 

There was a truncated cry of outrage at her last statement from a good portion of the student body. Harry knew house loyalty ran deep for many students. This included, he reflected, himself. Being a Gryffindor had become part of his identity. It had given him a family. 

 

McGonagall silenced the protests with a stern gaze, “I appreciate all of your efforts in this new, more inclusive direction.” She said, firmly, dismissing the students back to their conversations.

 

Harry looked down the length of the eighth year table and realised that the house groupings among the older students had started to disperse. Daphne Greengrass and Padma Patil looked to be reviewing some astrology charts over their eggs. Justin Finch-Fletcley and Hermione were reminiscing about childhood cartoons. Ron had joined in the conversation with Malfoy and Goyle. And Malfoy’s leg was still firmly planted alongside Harry’s, giving him a confusing rush of anticipation. 

 

“You’re wrong there, Weasley,” Malfoy was saying, his tone slightly less patronizing than usual, “Ryan would be useless without Quigley, Ireland’s strength is symbiosis, not a fixation with quidditch celebrities. Quigley’s flashy but Ryan’s stalwart.”

 

“Malfoy,” Harry said suddenly, interrupting Ron’s counterpoint, “Would you like to come to the DA meeting tonight?”

 

Ron and Malfoy stared at him with identical, horrified expressions. 

 

“What on earth would induce me to attend your little club, Potter?” Malfoy sneered. 

 

Ron’s expression changed from horror to anger, “A little club that took on the Death Eaters you brought into our school, you ungrateful git!”

 

“Enough, both of you,” Harry ordered, pleased that he sounded more in control than he felt. 

 

“Ron, you know as well as anyone Malfoy’s motivations. I doubt you would have done differently if it was your mum’s life at stake.”

 

"I'll ask you to refrain from speaking about that which you don't understand," Malfoy hissed, bitterly, as Ron glared at them both.

 

“And I’m inviting you tonight, Malfoy, because our agreement was that you would make steps to demonstrate interhouse unity," Harry concluded, ignoring the obvious displeasure of the other two, "DA is great opportunity for us to do so.”

 

Malfoy shifted his leg away from Harry’s to illustrate his displeasure, and Harry, to his own astonishment, reached beneath the table and rested a hand just above the Slytherin's knee, giving a gentle squeeze. He promised himself he would pull his hand back after a moment. He just wanted to communicate some sense of solidarity, or a plea to at least try. 

 

Before he had a chance to pull away, he felt Malfoy’s slender fingers press down against his, wrapping around them. For a moment, Harry thought Malfoy’s intent was to throw Harry’s hand off him, but he didn’t. Malfoy just held them, tentative at first and then more confidently. Harry wasn’t convinced he could breathe. 

 

“Fine,” Malfoy stated after a long moment, “I’ll be there.” 

 

Malfoy gave Harry’s hand one more squeeze, then pulled away to swallow the last of his pumpkin juice in one long swig, “Now come along, Potter, it’s time for class.” 

 

“Patronizing arsehole,” Harry grumbled, but nonetheless, he stood up. 

 

“We’ll talk at lunch, Ron,” he promised his friend, who was still clearly enraged, “I know DA's important to you, but stopping these attacks is important to me. And I think Hermione will agree with me.”

 

“I know she will,” Ron growled, “you two have a remarkable way of forgiving and forgetting, but then again, you don’t have a brother in the ground.”

 

Harry felt a thrill of injustice spike through him, “Not cool, mate,” he managed to restrain himself, “we’ll talk later.”

Chapter Text

Harry wondered what one was expected to say to someone with whom one had just held hands beneath a breakfast table. He was sure there was a normal, casual response, but unfortunately it escaped him. Thankfully, Malfoy didn’t seem to know it either. 

 

“Where are we going, anyway?” Harry said after too long of a silence. 

 

“I’ve Arithmancy this morning, and you’re carrying my books,” Malfoy replied. 

 

“I’ve a free block,” Harry commented, stopping, “So I’m thinking of maybe napping before transfiguration.”

 

Malfoy gave him a look that said he didn’t think much of wizards who napped.  Harry chose to ignore him.

 

“I didn't know you were still taking arithmancy. What N.E.W.T.s are you going for?” Harry asked. 

 

“Potions, defense, charms, history, transfiguration, herbology, arithmancy and ancient runes," Malfoy rattled off.

 

“Merlin, are you trying to out-compete Hermione for number of exams? Or do you just have a death wish? I’m barely writing half that!”

 

Malfoy shrugged, “I’ve got to keep my options open.”

 

“What do you hope to do when you leave here?” Harry inquired, genuinely curious. 

 

“Employed.” Malfoy stated, grimly. 

 

Harry nudged him, “Oh come on, though, dream job, what is it?”

 

Malfoy didn't respond at once. Harry wondered if he was going to be ignored entirely.

 

“When I was a boy, I had big quidditch aspirations,” Malfoy said finally, voice quiet.

 

“You still could,” Harry replied, “Despite all the rubbish I used to talk, you are a talented seeker.”

 

“I’m a Malfoy,” the other boy corrected, “I’m a liability.”

 

Harry opened his mouth to protest and shut it again. He didn’t want to admit it, but Malfoy was probably right. Teams had to care about more than skills to sell tickets. 

 

“What else, then?”

 

“If anyone would let me within fifty miles of St. Mungo’s, I think I’d enjoy healing. Every patient is a puzzle that you get to sort out. I’ve always been quite quick with puzzles. Sparing that, perhaps I could at least work in medicinal potions. More likely though, I’ll end up in industry, brewing and bottling in a back room somewhere, where my name can’t poison anyone’s good reputation.”

 

Malfoy’s response surprised Harry. He had never considered Malfoy as the healing type, never pegged compassion as one of his strengths. There was no denying he was clever, though. He’d make an astute diagnostician, Harry was sure. Maybe there was a sector of healing that dealt mostly with unconscious patients? The hollow resignation in Malfoy’s voice made Harry ache a little. He found himself again at a loss for what to say. He didn’t think Malfoy would be particularly receptive to false reassurances. 

 

“How do you become a healer anyway?”

 

Malfoy lifted an eyebrow. 

 

“Raised by muggles,” Harry reminded him. 

 

“If you get as many Os as you possibly can and you find a healer willing to take you on as an apprentice for a few years. Then you complete your healers’ examinations and if you pass that, you’re qualified.”

 

"Oh," Harry said, stupidly. He didn't feel equipped to comment on the feasibility of all that. 

 

“What about  you, then?” the blond asked. 

 

Harry stalled, “Oh, not much thought put into all that. Always thought I’d be an Auror, but...since the war, I wonder if I’m not a bit tired of chasing down dark wizards.”

 

“Can’t say I blame you,” Malfoy said, voice thoughtful. 

 

“I—I was kind of thinking quidditch, too.” Harry admitted after a moment. It seemed only fair since Malfoy had been open with him, “I just really love it and I want to do something that doesn’t matter, at least for a few years. Then again, I’d worry about only getting a spot because of who I am and not what I can do, and might send me questioning, doubting, so who knows.”

 

Malfoy snorted and Harry shot him a glance, feeling a bit hurt. “Never mind, it’s stupid” Harry corrected himself, “every kid wants to be a sports star, don’t they—”

 

“Potter,” Malfoy interrupted him, “You misunderstand me. No one who has seen you play could ever, ever think that.”

 

It was all Harry could do to keep his jaw from falling open. His neck and ears burned with pleasure. 

 

“Fucking hell, did you just compliment me? Are you quite alright?” Harry replied, mouth unexpectedly dry. 

 

“Hardly a compliment so much as a statement of fact,” Malfoy responded and Harry saw heat rising to Malfoy’s pale cheeks as well. It stirred up something within him, something base and wanting. “Well, this is me,” Malfoy said, stopping and motioning to an open classroom door, “I’ll see you here at half past.”

 

“You will?” Harry said, confused, handing over Malfoy’s satchel. 

 

“Of course,” Malfoy informed him, “These books aren’t going to carry themselves.”

 

Malfoy turned to go when Harry stopped him, a hand reaching out to grab the boy’s forearm, “Malfoy, wait.” 

 

The blond looked first at the hand encircling his arm, and then at Harry. 

 

“Yes?”

 

“I think—I think you’d make a top rate healer. I mean, at least the medicine bits. You could probably stand to be a bit nicer.”

 

Malfoy gave him a searching look, then simply nodded curtly, a dismissive gesture, and walked away.

 

***

 

Harry and Malfoy were met with a remorseful Ron at lunch. 

 

“Maybe we could take a walk?” Ron asked. 

 

“I’m coming with you,” Hermione insisted, “I leave you two alone for one meal and your communication goes to the dogs.”

 

“Yeah, let me just—” Harry turned to Malfoy to, what, he wasn’t sure, get permission? 

 

“Go, Potter,” Malfoy insisted, “As much as I am loathe to, I am capable of serving myself lunch.”

 

“Are you going to be okay?” Harry asked. 

 

Malfoy rolled his eyes, “Public place, well lit, no bogeymen or vindictive DA bastards will try anything here. I don’t actually need your surveillance every moment of the day.”

 

“Alright,” Harry gave in, “I'll meet you here before Defense and we can all go together.”

 

“You’re nauseating,” Malfoy informed him. 

 

***

 

“Well, Ronald?” Hermione prompted as the three walked out towards the lake. 

 

Ron inhaled and then sighed, heavily, “Harry, mate, about what I said…”

 

“It’s fine,” Harry interrupted, “Lots of people are hurting, I know it’s still fresh.”

 

“I shouldn’t have implied you haven’t lost anyone, I'm sorry,” Ron said, voice thick, eyes on the ground.

 

“Yeah,” Harry agreed, “but I should have run asking Malfoy to DA by the two of you first. It was just an impulse. I worry about...leaving him alone. If he got attacked again, I’d feel responsible.”

 

“But you wouldn’t be responsible,” Hermione reminded him, “the attackers would be. Sticking by Malfoy’s side is not a sustainable solution. We need some way to change hearts and minds, here. I think the DA meeting is a good step. We’ve got to change the focus though, less offense, more defense. Emphasize the importance of protecting each other.” She grew quiet for a long moment, a pensive expression on her face, “Here’s an idea. I can’t trust either of you to duel Malfoy and keep your tempers, but perhaps I could.”

 

“Pretty rich from the girl who, as I recall, punched him in the face,” Ron commented, looking at her adoringly. 

 

Hermione’s chin tilted up, “He had that coming. As I was saying, Malfoy and I could have a bit of a duel, but with you two stepping in to demonstrate protective maneuvers throughout. It’s informative, it’s useful, it shows we trust him.”

 

“Not sure how the optics of Malfoy attacking a war hero will go over,” Harry mused. 

 

Hermione nodded, “Yeah, you might be right.”

 

“But what if we reversed it? What if Ron and I dueled and you and Malfoy offered protective measures?” 

 

“Harry, that’s brilliant,” Hermione beamed. 

 

“If you think Malfoy even knows any protective spells,” Ron remarked derisively. 

 

“He may be an arse,” Hermione said, sliding her hand into Ron’s, understandingly, “but no one can accuse Malfoy of being an unaccomplished wizard. I’m sure he can hold his own for a brief demonstration.”

 

“I suppose I’ll take this option over watching Malfoy sling hexes at my girlfriend.” Ron agreed, begrudgingly. 

 

“That’s the spirit!” Harry grinned, “‘Mione, will you make sure to run it by Neville and  Ginny, make sure they don’t think we’re making a colossal mistake?”

 

“Good plan,” Hermioned agreed, “Let’s get back while there’s still a bit of time to eat. By the way, you know I love you two very, very much, and I’m glad you’ve made up. I’m trying to make a point off saying that more. Now that we know life is a fleeting thing and all that.”

 

Harry and Ron gruffly returned the sentiment, and the three course-corrected for the castle.

Chapter Text

Malfoy seemed less than thrilled with the plan. 

 

“You lot really take things to an eleven,” he was saying as they walked towards the central tower where the new DADA class was taking place. Harry was thankful to see Ron and Hermione modulate their pace to Malfoy’s without comment. “First it was just ‘show up at our meeting’ and now it is ‘protect the saviour of the wizarding world in a duel.’ You don’t see how this could end disastrously? What if I do poorly, not that I will, but supposing I do? Weasley here lands too many good shots and I look like I’m not making a proper effort.”

 

Hermione pursed her lips, “It’s a valid point, but Ginny and Neville had an idea that I think might alleviate things. They suggested they could comment on the spells as the duel plays out, explaining what spell was performed and why. Daphne’s agreed to help them out.”

 

Ron groaned, “Merlin, are we to be inundated with Slytherins?”

 

“Well, yes, Ron,” Hermione explained gently, “that is sort of the point. As I was saying, if we have those three explaining the maneuvers, there would be no reason for the duel to go at full speed, at least not at the beginning. Plenty of warning prior to each spell.”

 

The four approached the staircase, weaving their way around rubble and loose stone.

 

“Hm,” Malfoy didn’t sound wholly convinced, “I’ll consider it.”

 

Harry peered through the embrasures of the partially obliterated central tower wall and looked out over the viaduct. Building efforts were underway with plenty of robed wizards consulting parchments and casting spells he didn’t recognise. He felt echoes of grief over so much destruction. 

 

“What do you think, Harry?” Hermione asked. 

 

“I’m game,” he offered, “but Malfoy, honestly, only if you want to. If you think it will make things worse we won’t do it.”

 

“Worse than having to be escorted around the school by the Golden Trio?” Malfoy curled his lip, mock-affronted, “Not likely.”

 

***

 

The narrow, dimly lit Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom was one of the few remaining structures of the central tower left standing. Harry hadn’t been there before and, oddly, he couldn’t even remember seeing the room on the Mauraders’ Map. There were long pews instead of desks and a few worn candles bobbing above their heads. One wall seemed to be shelved with pickled creatures in jars, musty pelts and some moulting taxidermy projects. 

 

“Feels a bit like a muggle haunted house,” Hermione commented. They were the first students to arrive, having left early on account of Malfoy’s knee. They shuffled into the third pew to the front. Harry felt an odd chill and reached inside his sleeve for his wand. The holly hummed warm and familiar in his palm. It was reassuring.

 

“I thought muggles couldn’t see ghosts?” Ron asked, bewildered. 

 

Hermione and Harry tried to explain the phenomenon to a dubious Malfoy and a delighted Ron as the rest of the eighth years trickled in.

 

Harry’s eyes adjusted to the relative darkness of the room and he realised Professor Haberdash-Pewter was already present, standing nearly motionless in her dark grey robes at the front of the room beside a chalkboard precariously fastened to the stone wall. 

 

“Please settle,” she said, stepping forward, rasping voice barely audible among the chatter. The class stilled almost immediately. 

 

Unlike during her introduction in the great hall, her hood was pulled back and as she moved closer, Harry observed that her pupils seemed to replace almost the entirety of her irises. 

 

“My apologies for the dark,” she said, “an accident left me unable to abide the light. It nearly took my voice, too, so I will ask for your continued silence when I am speaking.”

 

Harry eyed the professor’s skin, thin and gleaming as a wasp’s nest, and of a similar colour. Her hair was a thick coil of microcurls corralled back by a broad strip of black cloth.

 

“My name is Professor Haberdash-Pewter, and my research to this point has been focused on peace studies. I have been privileged to travel to many war-torn areas and speak with those affected by the devastation of what wizards can do to one another. I attempt to piece together narratives of what happened, and why, and what can possibly be done to prevent it. I also work with communities affected by mass trauma and attempt to mitigate its effects." She paused, and then her tone shifted to something more gentle, "I know as eighth year students, many of you bore witness to unspeakable things.”

 

She surveyed the room quietly. Beside him, Harry saw Malfoy uncross his arms, his hands now clutching the curled edge of the pew. Harry had an odd impulse to wrap his arm around the other boy, to pull him bodily closer. He couldn’t, of course. Not in front of their peers, not without even knowing if Malfoy would want him to. Instead, he let his shoulders relax, allowing his bicep to press gently into Malfoy’s. With a shuddering exhale, Malfoy returned the gesture.

 

The professor allowed a thoughtful silence and continued, “I know you were forced to endure, to compromise yourselves, to mature too quickly. For that, please know that I am sorry, deeply sorry. The suffering of children is a great evil in this world, and that is what you all were, children. Please do not forget that. As adults, we failed you, we harmed you. For that I grieve with you, and for you.”

 

Harry felt Malfoy tense beside him, his jaw set, his eyes straight ahead, unblinking. Harry slipped his hand beneath Malfoy’s elbow, then forward towards those rigid fingers until they were palm to palm. Malfoy’s fingers transferred from the lip of the pew to interlocked with Harry’s, clenching brutally tight. Harry protectively tucked their clasped hands close to his leg where no one would see. Not that anyone was looking. Every set of eyes was rapt on the woman at the front of the room. 

 

“The strength and resiliency you show by returning here, to the site of your trauma, speaks volumes. Your willingness to thrive in this dark world inspires your peers and your professors alike. I thank you for sharing it with me here today.” 

 

Hermione brushed a tear from her cheek. Ron held her other hand in his lap with both of his own. In front of them, Dean’s hand spanned the back of Seamus’ neck, thumb coursing a soothing track along the skin.

 

 “Should any of you desire to talk, please know that I am here to offer what solace I can,” the professor continued, “my door is always open.”

 

She scanned the room with her dilated eyes. “I hope I haven’t interfered with any freshly healed scars, I just wanted to acknowledge and recognise your plight. This year will of course involve all necessary preparations for your N.E.W.T.s: Incarcerous, Oppugno, and a few variations on Protego. I understand that many of you know these spells already, out of necessity. I encourage you to continue with your extracurricular approach. For my part, I will attempt to supplement your knowledge with some more esoteric spells: tempus caesum, which allows you to suspend time long enough to make a sudden exit; passio dedisco, which causes your opponent to momentarily forget their agenda; and salvus securus, which will instantly apparate you to somewhere safe, without you having to conjure up an image of where you wish to go.” 

 

Hermione was nodding her head slightly, obviously pleased with these new spells. The rest of class, like Harry, looked nonplussed. Harry was relieved he wasn’t the only one to be hearing about these for the first time. 

 

Malfoy’s hand relaxed ever so slightly in his. Harry traced the fine bones of Malfoy’s thumb with the pad of his own. 

 

“My class may feel more theoretical, philosophical and historical than you are used to, although I will not neglect the practical component,” Professor Haberdash-Pewter explained. “I truly believe that the best defense is prevention. You are the policy-makers, Aurors, politicians and Wizengamot of the future. I wish you to have every systemic tool available to maintain peace in this country, without compromising on individual freedoms. We will begin today with the Goblin Rebellions—”

 

A collective groan went up from the students. The professor held up a hand  to silence them, “I promise, there is no expectation for you to remember names and dates in here. I wish only to look at themes: societal values, prejudices, injustices. We can learn much about the present by looking to the past.”

Chapter Text

After classes had finished for the day, Harry headed down to the kitchens to meet with Winky and Breety. Breety, it turned out, was a toothless, wizened old elf who nodded and smiled endlessly as she spoke, her voice warm and creaky with age. 

 

“Oh, Harry Potter, sir, it near blew me over when Winky said you’d asked a favour of little old Breety! Never in my long life has Breety been sought after by such a wizard!” Breety wheezed out a laugh, “You have saved my home, sir, there is not a thing I wouldn’t do for you!”

 

“You’re too kind, Breety, truly,” Harry said, after swallowing down a mouthful of his raisin scone, “Did you happen to notice? Were any students missing their topsheet?”

 

Breety’s head continued to nod and Harry wasn’t sure if she was confirming or if it was just an ongoing tremor until she spoke again, “Oh, aye, Harry Potter, Breety sees, Breety knows!”

 

Winky, who was rocking a fussing Tibs, scolded the old elf gently, “The name, Breety, tell Harry Potter the name.”

 

“Little Clark Tiering.”

 

The name meant nothing to Harry. “Tiering,” he repeated, “Which house is he? Which year, do you know?”

 

“Aye, Harry Potter, Breety knows,” she again smiled that toothless smile at him, “Little Clark Tiering is a newly sorted Slytherin.” She lowered her voice and beckoned him closer, “Sometimes needs his sheets changed more than others, poor lad, Breety thinks he’s having a hard time of things.”

 

“Right,” Harry said, ruminating on the new information. He certainly hadn’t expected a first year, “and no one else was missing a sheet that you noticed?”

 

“Breety notices, Breety takes careful inventory. No other sheets, Harry Potter, not a one.”

 

“Hm, well thank you, Breety, Winky. I really do appreciate your efforts. And thank Rolly for the scone, will you?"

 

***

 

It took some time, but Harry eventually extracted himself from the endless gratitude of the house elves. He started towards the stairs, mind wandering as he climbed them. What motivation would a first year Slytherin have to threaten other Slytherins? It didn’t make any sense. Unless someone was trying to pin it on the other boy, but then they had to know someone would look for the missing sheet, and just how much foresight did these students have?

 

Harry opened the door that led to the entrance hall. He was surprised to hear the sounds of a struggle—incoherent shouting, and the flurry of limbs—from the far end of the hall. Several hooded bodies were descending on a single, blond figure. Harry immediately, wordlessly discharged his Patronus. The stag galloped across the vast entrance in seconds, having the desired effect. The figures scattered immediately with a series of startled cries, the Patronus circling round Malfoy and herding the offenders, who at once escaped the hall. 

 

Harry sprinted towards Malfoy, anger and concern battling for primacy within him. 

 

“Are you hurt?” Harry demanded as he reached the other boy, taking him by both shoulders and searching his face for signs of harm.

 

“No, no,” Malfoy shook his head, looking a bit stunned, “they just appeared, hadn’t gotten a blow in. Your Patronus couldn’t be a bit less ostentatious, could it, Potter? Merlin, great bloody stag prancing about.”

 

The stag was still stamping and tossing its head beside them, as if looking to shore up anyone who dared a repeat offense. 

 

“Can’t really control that, can I?” Harry asked, distractedly, moving one hand to cup Malfoy’s face, turning it to one side then the other, to reassure himself there was no damage. “You sure you’re alright?”

 

“The way you fuss,” Malfoy said, shaking his head, “honestly. I’m fine. See? Had my wand,” he waved it to demonstrate his point, “would have easily taken a few of those little bastards down.”

 

For a moment the two stood, just like that, Harry’s hand still cradling Malfoy’s face. Malfoy’s chin tilted up, just a little, a gesture of defiance. Harry realised that somewhere along the way he’d grown taller than Malfoy, just by an inch, maybe two. Malfoy’s eyes met his unflinchingly. Harry knew all at once he should kiss him, but something stopped him. He somehow knew there would be a before kissing Draco Malfoy time and an after kissing Draco Malfoy time, and the after time felt all rather terrifying. After a suspended moment, Malfoy batted Harry’s hand away and stepped back, an indiscernible expression on his face. 

 

Harry felt his heart both sink and pound. Stupid, it seemed to say with every beat, stupid, stupid. 

 

“What were you doing here anyway?” Harry asked, “I thought you were with Goyle.”

 

“Came to find you, didn’t I?” Retorted Malfoy, “Sneaking off alone like you’re on some classified mission.”

 

Harry sighed. He’d thought maybe he could get away with not telling Malfoy about the incident with the sheet. He’d not wanted to cause him any undue stress, but now he realised that made him look like a bit of a patronizing arse.

 

Which is exactly what Malfoy accused him of when he explained the situation.

 

“And you were, what, exactly? Trying to protect my delicate sensibilities?" Malfoy was staring at him, a mix of frustration, anger, and shock colouring his features, "Need I remind you I’ve been chastised by the Dark Lord?” The word held sinister connotations that made Harry shudder inwardly, “There is nothing these fuckers can do to me that would even come close. He lived in my home, Potter. I watch him torture, watched him kill. I lost count of the times cruciatus tore through me. I was a useful little pawn for controlling my parents, wasn’t I?  And you think a bedsheet with some mean words would leave me shaken? Merlin, you really are unbelievable.” His pale face was pink with rage, icy eyes narrowed with distrust. 

 

“I’m sorry,” Harry replied, desperately, “You’re right, I’m sorry, it was stupid. You had a right to know.”

 

“Fucking right, I did. You’re not my fucking protector,” Malfoy snarled. 

 

“I know,” Harry said, hands buried in his pockets, head low. 

 

“Then what are you doing?” Malfoy’s voice was low, seething. 

 

Harry looked up, surprised, “What do you mean?”

 

“Why are you always around, always...badgering me with questions, touching me.”

 

Harry shrugged, “I dunno,” he lied, “you saved my life.”

 

“Barely,” Draco hissed, “And then you saved mine, full and proper. We’re even. If that’s all this is then we’re done, Potter. Deal’s off. I’ll fend for myself until I can leave this shithole behind and forget you ever existed.”

 

He turned to storm off but Harry called out after him, “Malfoy, wait. Stop, Draco, please.” 

 

Harry hated how pitiful, how wretched and wrecked he sounded, weak. “That’s not all this is,” he pleaded.

 

Malfoy paused, his back still to Harry. He stood still for a long moment before turning back to face him. 

 

“Then what?”

 

Heart beating wildly, slamming into his sternum like a caged animal, Harry stepped in close. He reached out again, his hand coming to rest at the base of Malfoy’s skull, the blond hair smooth and fine beneath his fingertips. Harry tilted his face down so they stood forehead to forehead. He felt his nose slide alongside Draco’s and he realised he was really going to do it this time. 

 

“Fucking hell,” he whispered and then he pressed their mouths together.

 

Malfoy’s lips were fierce and responsive, pushing into Harry’s like he was feeding a hunger and maybe he was. His hands gripped Harry’s shirt and he yanked him forward, pressing their bodies close, demanding and belligerent. Harry backed him up the few feet to the side of the marble staircase, pressing Malfoy's lean body against the structure, never breaking from him. 

 

The kiss was a manic, uncontrolled thing, the first sip of water following an afternoon of flying. The moment when you realise you’re parched, actually, and a sip will never be enough. 

 

He had both hands on Draco now, the second one steadying the blond’s jaw so he could take and take, and Merlin, he wanted. He reveled in the faint scrape of stubble, the sharp angles of Malfoy’s hips, the push of Malfoy’s impatient tongue against his.

 

It was only the realization that they were in the bloody entrance hall, feet away from the entrance to the Hufflepuff basement, that made Harry pull back with a pained little sound. 

 

Malfoy’s eyes fluttered open, his mouth bright pink and his face flushed. 

 

“Took you long enough,” Malfoy chided, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards. 

 

Harry kissed him again, once, just quickly. “You could have just done it,” he groused. 

 

“Psh,” Malfoy pulled a face, hands still resting on Harry’s hips, “Not likely. You scare easy, didn’t want to invoke a homosexual awakening and corresponding fracturing of your psyche too early. Always been a bit slow on the uptake, Potter.”

 

“Well, didn’t think to wonder if I was into blokes since I was already into girls, did I?”

 

“No need to get defensive,” Malfoy teased, placating him with another kiss, “you got there eventually. Now, you told me about the stupid sheet, what were you skulking off to in here?”

 

“I was just down in the kitchens,” Harry explained, taking a step back so their posture might be less compromising if someone were to walk by, but he was loathe to take his hands off Malfoy entirely, “I asked the house elves if they could keep their eyes out for any students short a sheet.”

 

“The house elves falling over themselves to do your bidding, no doubt,” Malfoy rolled his eyes, “I bet when you go to the Forbidden Forest, all the woodland creatures gather about you like some princess in a storybook. Tell me, Potter, what is it like to have everyone just fawn over you at every turn?”

 

“Not everyone,” Harry gave him a pointed look, “if I recall, you went out of your way to make my life miserable for several years.”

 

“Someone had to keep you humble,” Malfoy grinned. 

 

Harry shook his head, “I was a scared, miserable orphan in a new, alienating world. Believe me, I didn’t need any more humbling.”

 

Malfoy’s smile fell away and his tone grew serious, “I know that now. Look, I was a right prick, and I’m sorry. If it helps...I was scared, too.”

 

Harry sighed, “We were kids. We didn’t know any better.”

 

“Plus I had this ridiculous romantic notion that if I could just make you mad enough, you’d hold me down and snog me senseless,” Malfoy shrugged. 

 

Harry stared at him, “You didn’t!”

 

Malfoy blushed a little, shaking his head, ruefully, “Wizard’s honour, Harry, so help me. I had it bad since the first time I saw you on that bloody broomstick. The way you moved, made me realise I didn’t think about blokes the way a good pure-blooded wizard was supposed to think about blokes.”

 

“Good thing I didn’t know that before I kissed you,” Harry remarked, “Not sure I could have handled the pressure of years of expectation.”

 

“Oh, my expectations have been good and shattered,” Malfoy assured him. “So, what did you learn from your doting friends, the house elves?”

 

The two walked towards the great hall for some supper while Harry told Malfoy what Breety had said about Clark Tiering. 

 

“Never heard of him,” Malfoy shrugged, “and I don’t think these were first years. All had their hoods up this time, and masked with some sort of disfigurement charm. They’re getting smarter.”

 

“Well, hopefully we’ll sort them out,” Harry said, as they slid onto the bench alongside Neville. 

 

“Evening, Longbottom,” Malfoy said. Neville looked both shocked and wary.

 

“Oh, er, hello, Malfoy,” he replied. 

 

“Why, Draco,” Harry murmured as he slid his hand into Malfoy’s beneath the table, “that was practically civil.”

 

“Just please don’t make me do small talk before I eat something,” Malfoy muttered back, “I’ll positively perish.”

Chapter Text

“Ready then, Ron? Harry?” Ginny asked that evening at the DA meeting. McGonagall had given them access to a large vacant room in the northeastern-most corner of the dungeons. It was a bit of a trek to get there, but Neville and Ginny had done quite a satisfactory job stocking it with cushions, dummies, and a few ancient defense texts on some dusty shelves. 

 

It was the first proper meeting of the new term. Harry almost missed the crackling excitement of fifth year, when the club was secret, new, relevant. Now it was faculty approved and more just a bit of practice than anything. Nevertheless, the turnout was excellent, with a lot of new faces Harry didn’t recognise. “They’re really just here to see you, Harry,” Ginny had teased before they’d called for silence in the classroom and explained the plan, "a brief brush with celebrity!" Harry tried to ignore both her words and Malfoy's appreciative smirk.

 

Harry and Ron nodded and gave each other a cursory bow. Harry fired off a bat bogey hex off just to get things started, but Hermione instantly trapped it with a protego combibo

 

“You’ll notice that all parties are speaking their spells aloud,” Neville explained, “this is just for demonstration purposes. In your own combat, we encourage you to try for wordless magic, so your opponent doesn’t know what’s coming.”

 

“Granger used combibo,” Daphne Greengrass remarked, “With a generic protego, the spell can fire back in the direction of the caster. This can be to your benefit, but when you have an ally on the other side, you might not want to risk it. Combibo absorbs and disperses the energy of the spell. There reverse of combibo— Weasley, Draco, if you would,”

 

Ron obligingly slung a stinging hex which Malfoy neatly intercepted with a protego scopum.  Hermione, in reaction, sent off another combibo

 

“Is scopum,” Daphne continued, “which specifically boomerangs the spell back towards the sender, hence the need for Granger to step in again. Scopum takes the risk out of the deflection that occurs with a regular protego.”

 

“Another clever protection spell,” Ginny picked up the thread, as Harry cast a jelly legs jinx, “is—”

 

Protego laqueus!” called out Hermione, and the jinx was snapped out of the air by the shielding spell. 

 

Laqueus is handy because instead of dispersing the energy like combibo, it traps the spell for a short period, allowing you to release it at an opportune time.”

 

Laxo,” demonstrated Hermione, and the jinx redirected towards Harry, which Malfoy dismissed with his own combibo

 

“Great,” Neville spoke up, “so those are the main spells we want you to hone tonight, protego combibo, protego scopum, protego laqueus and the corresponding laxo. Ron, Harry, if you want to continue at regular speed for a couple more minutes, just to reinforce the spells, and then we’ll break off into groups to try.”

Harry and Ron circled each other, and Harry felt the adrenaline of not knowing what was coming next start to build. He grinned at Ron who sent off a stunner that Malfoy redirected immediately. While that spell was en route, Harry threw off a stunner of his own, Hermione trapping both with a well-timed laqueus . Ron and Harry increased the pace, transitioning to wordless magic that made the game feel that much more exciting, bright cracks of spells flooding the room with light. Harry felt nimble, ready to dodge any spells that Malfoy couldn’t deflect, but those never came, Malfoy two steps beside him, firing off protective spells in quick succession and frustrating Ron’s efforts. 

 

Harry wasn’t having any more success; Hermione’s protegoes were air tight and lightning fast, but eventually Harry landed a titillando just as Ron’s expelliarmus hit his chest. Harry laughed good-naturedly as his wand flew out of his hand. Despite giggling madly from the tickling hex, Ron leaped forward, keeper’s reflexes well intact, to nab Harry’s wand before it clattered to the floor. 

 

Crucio!” A high, childlike voice pierced the air, coming somewhere from the crowd. Harry’s heart shot to his mouth and he turned to see the curse hurtling for Malfoy beside him. Harry, still wandless, bodily shoved Malfoy sideways, allowing the curse to strike his own shoulder instead. He felt the crackling of his neurons where it hit, hyperstimulating the nerves that were soon alight with pain. Harry felt his knees give way and he went down with a sharp cry.

 

STUPEFY! ” Came the voices of everyone still standing at the front of the classroom, and a solitary figure in the crowd dropped to the dungeon, unconscious. 

 

Ron giggled, swiping at imaginary, tickling hands. Hermione quickly ended the jinx, then motioned to a couple of students near the front of the class. “Ramona, go fetch the headmistress, and then Madam Pomfrey. Hudson, go with her. Everyone else, please return to your common rooms immediately.” Hermione spoke with all the authority of Head Girl, and it appeared effective. The students, casting looks at the fallen figure, who was now flanked by Dean and Seamus, shuffled out. “Ginny, Neville, Daphne, will you please make sure we have no stragglers? We’ll catch you up later.” The three set to herding the younger students towards the doorway.

 

By this point Malfoy was crouching beside Harry, arm gripping his bicep, “What did you do that for, you daft git?” He was muttering, “Are you missing the self-preservation gene entirely?”

 

Harry gave him a shaky smile, "Might be."

 

Draco sighed, “Gryffindor obtundity. Are you alright?”

 

“Fine,” Harry assured him, dusting himself off and standing, “The curse wasn’t quite full strength, not yet. Still packed a bit of a punch, though. Who is it?”

 

He looked towards Dean and Seamus who were now joined by Ron and Hermione. They were turning the unconscious body over. A small, chubby Asian girl in a Slytherin tie. 

 

“Does anyone know her?” Hermione asked, and everyone shook their heads, “she doesn’t look very old.” Ron positioned the girl on her side, one arm cradling her head.

 

"She's still breathing," he announced. 

 

“I think she’s Pearl Lum’s kid sister, Ava or Ada or something like that,” Malfoy commented. “Pearl’s a Ravenclaw beater, a sixth year. Blaise dated her for a while a couple years back, so she was around the Slytherin common room fairly often. Don’t know what her little sister would have against me, though, besides the usual.”

 

“A first year shouldn’t be able to cast a cruciatus like that,” Harry wondered aloud, “it wasn’t full power, but it wasn’t far off, either.”

 

"You alright, acushla?" Seamus asked Dean,  who appeared a bit shaken. 

 

Dean shook his head as if to shake off the entire evening's experiences, "Not a big fan of that spell," he offered, "not since—" he jerked his head towards Malfoy. "Don't know how any of you can stand it, after all that, actually." He gave a thready laugh. Seamus slid an arm around Dean's shoulders, reeling him in to kiss his temple. Dean closed his eyes and took a steadying breath.

 

Hermione reached out and squeezed his arm, "Believe me, some days are harder than others," she empathised.

 

It was at that moment that Headmistress McGonagall arrived. 

 

“I appreciate you sending for me, Miss Granger,” she remarked, making her way towards the little Lum girl, “Madam Pomfrey should arrive momentarily,” she knelt beside the student, taking her pulse. “If you could kindly repeat the story,” she prompted, “I’m afraid Ramona and Hudson were rather a bit too rattled for clarity.”

 

“I don’t know, exactly, Headmistress,” Hermione acknowledged, “but Ron, Harry, Malfoy and myself were giving a dueling demonstration. Ron had just disarmed Harry when suddenly she cast the cruciatus curse at Malfoy, only Harry took the curse instead.”

 

McGonagall tapped her wand against the tip of the collapsed student’s, and a glowing image of Harry crashing to his knees, crying out, appeared in the air. Harry heard Draco give a sharp inhale, clearly affected. 

 

“I’m fine,” Harry reassured everyone, mostly for Malfoy's benefit.  

 

“Well, she clearly was the caster,” McGonagall concluded, “or at least her wand was responsible.”

 

“I saw her holding her wand out, Professor,” Seamus confirmed, "just after it happened.”

 

“Hm,” McGonagall reflected, “and how do we know the curse was meant for Mr. Malfoy and not Mr. Potter?”

 

“We don’t know for certain,” Hermione conceded, “her aim could have been off and they were standing fairly close together, but it seemed headed for Malfoy until Harry pushed him out of the way.”

 

“I see,” the headmistress replied, “and someone stunned her, then, I presume?”

 

“Well,” Ron said, sounding a bit guilty, “I think we were all a bit surprised, so there were a few of us…”

 

McGonagall raised an eyebrow, “How many, Mr. Weasley?”

 

“Well, me, Hermione, Neville, Ginny, Malfoy and possibly Daphne Greengrass as well, I’m not sure.”

 

“Six stunning spells to take down a first year student?!” McGonagall scolded.

 

“Not on purpose,” Hermione said, “you know we all get a bit...protective of Harry.”

 

McGonagall’s face gentled slightly, “I can’t say I blame you. I’m certain she’ll be alright in a couple of days—ah, Poppy, excellent.”

 

The matron hurried over to assess her newest patient as McGonagall explained the situation, “Poor Ada Lum’s been hit with no fewer than five stunning strikes. See to her health first, but I would like to be informed as soon as she awakens. Please take the necessary precautions to ensure she cannot leave the infirmary until I’ve spoken with her.”

 

McGonagall stood as Madam Pomfrey magicked Ada’s body out the door.

 

“I’m sure you’ll understand that until this has been sorted, I’ll have to disband practical DA meetings. If you want to continue on a social level, I won’t stop you.”

 

“Yes, Professor, of course,” Hermione agreed, “Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help.”

 

“I think continuing to preach interhouse unity is still a valid strategy. Mr. Malfoy, I appreciate your attempts in this direction, also.”

 

“Yes, of course, Headmistress,” Malfoy replied, and Harry could hear an edge of surprised pride in his voice, as if he’d forgotten what praise felt like. 

 

“Will you let us know what you find?” Harry inquired of McGonagall. Her omniscient eyes diverted towards him. 

 

“I suspect if I don’t, Mr. Potter, you will feel obliged to take it into your own hands,” her lips twitched towards a smile, ever so briefly, “so yes, I will make an effort to keep you lot abreast of our efforts, if you will agree to keep it away from the school's network of gossip. Now, this has been more than enough excitement for one evening. Are you alright, Harry, do you need to see the matron, also?”

 

“I’m fine,” Harry repeated. 

 

“Very well,” she dismissed them, “then I shall bid you all goodnight.”

Chapter Text

“Hey,” Harry whispered as he climbed onto Malfoy's bed that evening. He felt exponentially more awkward than he had the night before, now that he was in the after kissing Draco Malfoy times. He cast a quick locus secretum once he’d tugged the drapes closed behind him. 

 

Malfoy looked up from the book he was reading, “Good evening.”

 

“Don’t be weird,” Harry groused. 

 

“I’m being weird?” Malfoy replied, unconvinced, tucking his book into a pocket attached to the headboard for such purposes. 

 

“‘Good evening,’” Harry mimicked, “what is this, a cocktail party?”

 

“Attended a lot of cocktail parties, have we, Potter?”

 

“Shut up,” Harry grumbled, getting to work on Malfoy’s knee. 

 

“You could make me,” Malfoy offered with an inviting smile. 

 

“Give me a minute,” Harry said, diligently moving Draco’s leg through the full range of motion. It seemed to be improving, “If I start snogging you now, I’m not sure when I’ll stop, and I probably won’t get to your knee at all, and then you’ll never walk properly again, and something tells me you can hold a grudge.”

 

Shockingly, for a brief moment, that did seem to shut Malfoy up. 

 

Harry felt a light touch on his fringe. He looked up. Malfoy swept his bangs to one side, holding them there while he ran the pad of his thumb ever so faintly along the scar on Harry’s forehead. Harry had barely thought about his scar in months. He didn’t know what to make of Malfoy’s focused gaze. 

 

“What?” He asked, feeling that bashful heat climb his neck; did Malfoy think it was ugly? Harry didn’t know much about what he looked like to blokes, especially blokes like Draco who were all fine lines and attractive angles, practised beauty like they had been sculpted by an architect. Harry was...fine, decent, he supposed. A far cry from the  work of art splayed out before him. He felt as self-conscious as he did in primary school, scrawny and swimming in Dudley's hand-offs. But Malfoy must like him well enough, Harry reminded himself. He thought about the other boy’s words from earlier, “the first time I saw you on that bloody broomstick...” Harry felt his cheeks burn now, too. 

 

“Kiss me,” Draco demanded. 

 

“Still ten reps to go,” Harry insisted. 

 

“Ten reps will not make or break the stupid healing process, Potter,” Malfoy growled. 

 

“I know, but if I don’t do them I will just be thinking about them the whole time. When I kiss you, I want to think about kissing you.”

 

“I’m not sure if that’s an insult or a compliment,” Malfoy remarked. 

 

“It’s just a statement of fact. Merlin, you are impossible sometimes.”

 

“Aren’t I, though?” Malfoy smiled superciliously, “Part of my enigmatic charm.”

 

Harry snorted and shook his head, “There, that’s ten.”

 

All of the sudden, Harry became brutally aware of the bulk of his body, the cramped space, the necessity of limbs. In the entrance hall, that had all bled away, but then again they’d been standing. They hadn’t had Malfoy’s knees up between them like an awkward median. He wanted to push his own knee up alongside Draco’s body, press into him, contain him, but he didn’t know what he was allowed. 

 

“What now, Potter,” Malfoy said, exasperated, “you look like a Neanderthal trying to solve a maths problem.”

 

“I don’t want to crush you,” Harry muttered, vaguely humiliated. 

 

Malfoy’s eyes rolled so hard they were nearly all whites, “Merlin, give me strength.” He grabbed a handful of Harry’s t-shirt, pulling him down into his space. He straightened his legs and shimmied down the bed until he was completely supine. “Let me be perfectly clear,” he said, like talking to a particularly witless child, “I want it like that. I want you. Over me, on me, crushing me, pinning me in place. I want you to keep me right here. Understand? That’s what I like.”

 

Harry took a moment to re-calibrate his understanding of the other boy, “But you’re always bossing me around,” he said, hesitantly.

 

Draco made a gesture like he was strangling an invisible Harry, his eyes squeezed shut in consternation, forming wrinkles on his flawless skin.

 

“That’s what I like out there, this is what I like in here. I cannot possibly be more clear. Please tell me you understand.”

 

Harry took Malfoy’s outstretched hands between his own, easing the rigid fingers, thoughtfully. He observed Draco’s face for another long moment. That defiant, exasperated gaze, that challenging sneer. There was something vulnerable about it, too, though, how Malfoy was giving himself away like this, knowing Harry could reject that part of him altogether. 

 

So, Harry didn’t know exactly what he was doing. But he’d done lots of things he’d never done before. He picked up on those quick enough, so why not this? He let his grip alter suddenly, from gentle to bruising, pressing Malfoy’s hands up over his head, securing them unforgivingly into the sheet’s above the blond’s head, and swinging a leg over Malfoy’s hips so they were groin to groin. 

 

Malfoy’s ice blue eyes widened and he gasped raggedly, “Holy fuck.”

 

Harry paused for a moment, enjoying the feeling of the Draco’s body trapped beneath his own, examining the picture before him. Malfoy’s eyes intent on his, rounded lips parted with desire. He looked small like this, almost fragile, and Harry found that he liked that. It gave him a heady rush of power. That Malfoy wanted it, wanted him, it added a layer of intensity that thrilled through him.

 

Malfoy’s lithe, pale arms stretched upwards, exposing in full the red outline of the dark mark seared into his forearm. Harry had caught glimpses of it in passing, but this was the first time he could see it plainly. Malfoy saw his eyes on it and his face darkened with something like self-loathing. 

 

“I can’t get rid of it,” he whispered, “I’ve tried.”

 

“No, I wouldn’t think you’d be able to,” Harry agreed. He slid his right hand down, away from Draco’s hand, grazing the blemish with his fingertips. Malfoy didn’t flinch, just watched him. “Can you feel it still?” Harry asked quietly. 

 

“No,” Malfoy shook his head, “not since that night.”

 

“Mine too,” Harry told him, “my scar, I mean.”

 

“Didn’t exactly think you were hiding a dark mark,” Malfoy muttered, aiming for quippy but just sounding breathy, uncertain. It took Harry apart. He reached up to his own face, and took off his glasses, adding them to the pocket where Malfoy had stashed his book. Locking his fingers with Malfoy’s again, he brought his lips down against the other boy’s neck, curiously tasting the skin there, reveling in the way Malfoy arched and bared himself for it. 

 

Harry squeezed their clasped hands in place, reaffirming his control, leaning into this new, exquisite feeling. He kissed Draco’s pulse point, his jaw, back down along his neck to the hollow above his clavicle just visible above the neckline of his shirt. The way Malfoy strained and whimpered beneath him was intoxicating, as was the roll of his hips, pressing up into Harry’s to demonstrate just what effect his efforts were having. Only when Malfoy looked about half ready to murder him in denied agitation, did Harry finally kiss his perfect, pink mouth. 

 

Malfoy groaned into the kiss, and Harry re-positioned himself so that both of Malfoy’s wrists were caught in one steely-gripped hand. He indulged himself with a handful of Malfoy’s hair, clasping tight against the scalp, securing him in place so he could take the kiss deeper. 

 

***

 

It was late by the time Harry pulled back. He loosened the hand that had found its way to Malfoy’s neck, remembering the hitch in Draco’s breath when he’d placed it there, the way he’d strained upwards into Harry’s palm, encouraging the pressure. Their breathing was coming faster, shallower and Harry’s pulse was in his ears. 

 

They were both painfully hard and all the snogging had them poised at a needy peak. There had been grinding and delicious friction, but Harry wasn’t sure where to go from there. 

 

Well. He knew where they could go, but part of him still blanched at the idea of having someone else’s cock in his hand. It didn’t turn him off, it just...made him nervous. He didn’t want to look like a total berk, if he could avoid it.  

 

He rolled off the other boy, breathing laboured.

 

“Fuck, Potter,” Malfoy commented, then added, in a shaky whisper, “I’m really close.”

 

Harry bit his lip, “I’m not sure I’m—”

 

“No, it’s okay,” Draco pre-empted him, “you don’t have to do anything, just, do you mind if I—”

 

“Oh!” said Harry, grasping his meaning, “No, of course not, go ahead,” He paused for a minute, thinking, then, “do you mind if I— ?”

 

“By all means,” was the reply, “Can you kiss me while you do it?”

 

Harry rolled on his side, returning his mouth to Draco’s, one hand on the other boy’s jaw, and the other on himself. 

 

It took no time at all, and then they were sprawled there, forehead to forehead, gasping and debauched. 

 

Harry kissed him again, long and slow, still barely believing he was allowed to just do that now. Malfoy rooted around the head of his bed for his wand before tidying them both with a quick scourgify. He kicked down the covers low enough that he could maneuver his feet under them, then pulled them up to his shoulders and flopped over onto his side,  back to Harry. 

 

Harry lay there for a moment, nonplussed. He hadn’t really anticipated this as a get-off-and-go type thing, but perhaps that was naïve. He certainly didn’t want to overstay his welcome. Nevertheless, the raw nerves of his heart chafed a bit as he sat up and reached for the curtains.

 

“Where are you going?” hissed Malfoy, his tone confronting and accusatory. 

 

“I...thought that was my cue to leave,” Harry muttered. 

 

“No, it was your cue to give me a cuddle, you great stupid oaf.”

 

“Oh,” said Harry, not sure how he was supposed to know that, exactly. He eased himself back down. 

 

"Under the blanket," Malfoy commanded, "since apparently you require everything spelled out."

 

Honestly relieved with the instructions, Harry wriggled into the warm bed, slotting himself into the curves of Malfoy’s body, knees behind knees, chest to back. He curled an arm around the other boy’s waist, and was pleased to find his hand quickly gripped by Malfoy’s. 

 

“Tighter,” ordered Malfoy. 

 

Harry obliged. 

 

“Kiss my neck again.” 

 

“Domineering little fuck,” Harry commented, pressing his lips against the back of Malfoy’s neck, then again under his ear. 

 

“Well, you sometimes need to be told,” Draco condescended, “you won’t know what I like if I don’t tell you.”

 

“I think I’m starting to figure it out,” murmured Harry into his hair. 

 

“Stay,” Malfoy demanded, “just for a few hours.” 

 

Harry couldn’t have resisted if he tried.

Chapter Text

Harry awoke with a start some time later, with the dreadful realization he hadn’t set any sort of alarm. He cast lumos to check his watch. Only 4 am, Harry saw, relieved. The last thing he needed was to be spotted climbing out of Draco Malfoy’s bed in the morning. 

 

Draco grumbled at the sudden stimulus and buried his head under a pillow. 

 

Harry Nox ’ed the light and untangled himself from Malfoy. 

 

“You have to go?” the other boy mumbled from beneath his pillow. 

 

“Probably for the best, yeah,” Harry replied, lifting the corner of the pillow just long enough to give Malfoy a quick kiss,  “Didn’t mean to wake you. I’ll see you in a couple hours.”

 

“Hrm,” was the sleepy response. 

 

***

 

Breakfast was a normal affair, right up until it wasn’t. Ron and Hermione were sitting across from Draco and Harry, chatting about how best to communicate that DA was indefinitely canceled. Harry’s hand was on Malfoy’s thigh beneath the table, mostly because Malfoy had picked it up and put it there. Harry was still surprised at how...tactile Draco was, always wanting to be touched. It belied his acerbic personality. Harry found the discrepancy oddly endearing and that was what he was thinking about when the owls, an entire parliament of owls, in fact, descended. 

 

Letters of every shape, size and colour bombarded Harry’s table, sharp corners stabbing into the kippers, small envelopes sinking into the cauldrons of porridge. 

 

“Oh, Harry!” Hermione bemoaned, covering her head from the onslaught, and shouting to be heard among the rumbling, mass flap of wings, “I thought you had this sorted!”

 

“I thought I had, too!” Harry cried out, “I got a postbox in Hogsmeade with explicit instructions that all my post must be routed there! It must be overfull or something!”

 

Draco, for his part, was cowering under the table, looking up at Harry with an expression of horrified disdain. 

 

“Merlin’s beard, Potter, what is all this?” He marveled. 

 

Just as quickly as they had descended, the owls departed. 

 

“You can come out now,” Harry assured Malfoy, "I think they’ve left."

 

“What exactly was that?” the blond demanded, attempting in vain to shovel scrolls and envelopes off his breakfast plate. 

 

“Harry’s fan club,” Ron explained, “He got heaps of mail like this all summer.”

 

“Of course he did,” Malfoy scoffed. 

 

“It’s really rather a hassle,” Hermione explained, “we had to sort through them all to make sure there’s nothing sinister and of course report anything suspicious to the Ministry to investigate. We have to pull out letters from friends that Harry might actually want to answer. Then there is the dodging letters spritzed with love potions and the silencing howlers—they are usually exuberant howlers, but still!”

 

As if on cue, a booming voice filled the breakfast hall, “Dearest, Harry! You don’t know me, but I wanted to tell you that I am ever so proud! Such a fine thing you have done for all of us…”

 

“Oh Merlin, find it, find it!” Cried out Harry as the letter went on to proclaim his virtues and triumphs, digging through the mountain of mail, “Make it stop!”

 

“In fact, I rather think of you as a son,” the letter continued, “a brave, dedicated soldier of all that is good. For myself, of course, I had no choice but to depart Britain during the unspeakable events, to my cottage I have in Denmark—lovely spot, really, excellent fishing—but had I not chose to vacation at just that time, I fancy I would have been right amidst your ranks!”

 

Oh Merlin, what was this utter codswallop, Harry wondered, miserably. 

 

“Aha!” Ron cried out, the howler clutched in his hand. 

 

“A mighty fine lad, you are, Harry, truly,” continued the howler, the whole great hall now listening raptly.

 

Malfoy very kindly fired off an Incendio and the howler burst into flames. Harry was blushing fuchsia and the whole lot of them were a frazzled mess. 

 

Seamus took the opportunity to hop up on the bench and call out “A mighty fine lad indeed,” laughing and clapping like an insane person. 

 

To Harry’s exquisite horror, the rest of the hall joined in, hollering and hooting and chanting his name. Harry wanted to dive into the pile of letters and never emerge.

 

At last, Headmistress McGonagall raised her hand “Not to devalue Mr. Potter and his allies' significant achievements, nor Mr. Finnegan’s effusiveness, but we have finite time before classes, and so I would like to encourage everyone to take the time to finish their breakfasts.”

 

Seamus clapped Harry on the back and Harry shook his head, “Finnegan, you absolute arsehole.”

 

The sandy-haired boy only laughed, “Sorry, Potter,” he said, not sounding sorry at all, “couldn’t help myself.”

 

“Well, we can’t leave these here,” Ron acknowledged, begrudgingly, “not if they could contain something dangerous. Come on, everyone take a few handfuls.” He started shoving letters into his satchel, and several nearby eighth years did, too, “So much for my Friday night. Was hoping to do something a bit more fun that rifle through Harry’s mail.”

 

“Thankfully,” Hermione reminded him, “you’re a good friend and you’re happy to help.”

 

Ron did not look convinced.

 

“Look,” Hermione suggested, “why don’t we make it an eighth year project. You’ve still got all that Firewhiskey George secreted away in your trunk. Anyone who helps out can have a drink.”

 

Ron stared at her like she’d grown three heads. 

 

“Hermione Granger, are you suggesting we have a party?”

 

“A gathering,” Hermione corrected primly, “a friendly gathering of legal-aged witches and wizards having a few drinks and cataloging some mail. And Harry, you do need to get to Hogsmead tomorrow to sort this all out.”

 

“I was hoping it would have died down by now,” Harry grumbled. 

 

“And it will, eventually,” Hermione assured him, “Until then, we bribe everyone with alcohol.”

 

***

 

Otherwise on Harry’s agenda for the day was tracking down the Clark Tiering lead—the Slytherin first year that Winky and Breety had discovered was lacking a sheet. Harry spotted his opportunity after charms that morning when Hiram, the first year Slytherin that had been in the infirmary that night that Malfoy was attacked, darted past him in the hallway. 

 

“Just a moment,” Harry said to Draco and Pansy Parkinson, as they walked towards the history of magic classroom. He took off after the scrawny, brown-haired boy. 

 

“Hiram!” Harry called out and the small boy turned, eyes round as buttons when he saw who was calling out. He actually looked around him, as if to make sure there wasn’t somehow another Hiram who Harry was addressing. 

 

“Er, yes….Mr. Potter?” He stuttered out. 

 

“Oh, er, Harry’s fine,” Harry corrected him, trying to sound friendly, “I just wanted a word.”

 

“Oh, of-of course, Ha—um, yes?” for a moment, it sounded like he was trying to say Harry’s name but he chickened out at the last moment. 

 

“Clark Tiering,” Harry said, “he’s in your year, yeah?”

 

Hiram looked puzzled, “Clark? Yes, that’s right.”

 

“Splendid,” Harry announced, hoping he didn’t come across quite as phony as he felt, “I wanted to have a chat with him but...I don’t exactly know who he is. Could you...point him out to me, or something?”

 

“Oh, he’s pretty hard to miss,” the boy whispered, like he was spreading the most delicious of gossip, “Clark’s got pink hair!” Hiram, apparently, was very scandalised by this, “I...I think he’s a-a-a punk. On weekends, he spikes it all upright!”

 

Ah, yes, Harry had noticed the pink mohawk wandering the halls. Not quite the standard Hogwarts fare. Maybe that explained his difficulties adjusting. 

 

“Seen him around, yes,” Harry replied, “thanks, Hiram, I do appreciate it. Oh, and if you would just keep this between us, please?”

 

Hiram nodded solemnly, and Harry got the feeling the boy didn’t have a lot of people to tell. 

 

“What do you want with Clark, anyway?” Hiram asked. 

 

Harry didn’t have a ready answer for that one, so he just winked and said, “Fashion advice,” before strolling away to rejoin Malfoy. 

 

***

 

“Dearest Harry,” Pansy was reading aloud in her most earnest tone. The ‘friendly gathering’ was now in full force, letters heaped into piles across the eighth year common room floor. Pansy was wearing her dragon-hide potions gloves while she held a letter saturated in love potion, “I had the dream again. I know I’ve spoken of it before, but this time it was even more powerful, more raw and visceral than ever before. Your eyes seared into my very soul, proclaiming your love, and I could truly feel you penetrating my body—”

 

“Absolutely not!” Despaired Harry, collapsing his head in his hands. 

 

Malfoy shot off an incendiary spell from across the room and the letter scattered into a heap of ashes. 

 

“Alright, that’s a drink for everyone who had any of the following: ‘erotic dreams, souls, love, and penetration!’” Declared Ron with delight, helping himself to two generous sips of Firewhiskey. His face was ruddy and his arm slung happily around Hermione’s shoulders. 

 

“Me next!” Terry Boot announced. The Ravenclaw, obviously smashed, tottered to his feet. “A Poem for a Hero!” 

 

“NO POETRY!” Bellowed Harry, as Boot launched into a jaunting, rhyming narrative of Harry’s feats—complete with several accomplishments Harry was quite sure he had had nothing to do with.

 

This letter, too, went up in flames. 

 

“Oh, finally, Harry, here’s one you’ll actually want,” Hermione exclaimed, passing him over a small, slightly thickened envelope from Andromeda. 

 

Harry tore into it eagerly, as Seamus and Dean resumed the festivities, pantomiming a rather obscene bit of narrative to the whoops of the easily amused audience. 

 

“What’s that then?” asked Malfoy from beside Harry on the couch. 

 

“Just a card from Andromeda, wishing me a happy beginning of term. She’s included some photos of Teddy.”

 

Harry watched the photos fondly. In the first, Teddy toppled over from a seated position and giggled up at the camera, chubby arms outstretched. In the second, the baby rotated through a series of noses, each more pronounced and ludicrous than the last. 

 

“What’s it doing?” Malfoy demanded. 

 

“Teddy’s a metamorphmagus,” Harry explained, “but he won’t get control of it until he’s a bit older. So some days the changes are pretty rapid fire, and usually hilarious.”

 

“Does it hurt him?” Malfoy asked, sounded dubious. 

 

“Not that we can tell,” Harry shrugged, “Never hurt Tonks any, that I know of.”

 

“You’re speaking half gibberish,” Malfoy informed him, “Who is this baby and why is my aunt sending you pictures of him? And what is a Tonks?”

 

“Teddy’s my godson,” Harry answered him, feeling suddenly very far away, back when thoughts of Lupin and Tonks promised hope and resistance, and not crushing sorrow, “It’s Teddy Lupin, Draco,” he continued, “Tonks was his mother, Nymphadora. Now he’s a war orphan like me.”

 

Despite himself, Harry felt his eyes grow a little teary. Must be the Firewhiskey. 

 

Malfoy’s hand jerked out towards him and then pulled back, as if suddenly aware of their surroundings. 

 

“Fucking hell, Harry,” He murmured instead, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t realise that you and...Professor Lupin were close.”

 

Harry shrugged, “Him and my dad were mates. Him, and Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew. All dead now. Almost everyone who really knew my parents is, it feels like.” 

 

Malfoy glanced quickly around the room, but no one seemed to be paying them any mind, all engrossed in another dramatic reading by Pansy. Harry felt a comforting hand on his back, rubbing tentative circles on his back. 

 

“Sorry,” Harry gulped bashfully, rubbing his eyes and exhaling hard, “I really shouldn’t drink, makes me horrible company, I let the melancholy take over.”

 

“I think it’s rather surviving a war and losing loads of people you love that’s made you melancholy,” Malfoy said, voice uncharacteristically gentle. 

 

“We’ve all lost people,” Harry deflected, “I have, yes, but so have you. It still feels weird to see you in the hallway without Crabbe flanking you. And I know it can’t be easy to have your father in Azkaban.”

 

“My father’s a wretched arsehole and he can rot, for all I care,” Malfoy fired back, a sharp, brittle emotion colouring his words, “And Vince...had changed. Greg’s a bit of a dumb puppy, he gets yanked along too easily, and I took advantage of that. But Vince...I think it was only a matter of time before he was completely consumed by all that blood purity bullshit. The deeper I got, the more wrong it felt, but...he and Nott, they enjoyed it, the torture, the death. It made them feel like big men. I’m not sure he could have come back from it.”

 

Harry examined Malfoy’s face, wishing he could kiss him. Merlin, all this would be so much easier if Harry wasn’t Harry and Malfoy wasn’t Malfoy. If they could just live their lives below the radar. But if they were ever going to make this public, it was going to be a whole thing, and conversations would have to happen before that. Besides, Harry didn’t even know what this was or where it was going. No need to publicly declare something if there was nothing to publicly declare.  

 

Harry looked around the room. Parvati and Seamus were sitting together sorting letters, and Harry imagined Lavender there with her, laughing and chatting with her friends. He wondered if they felt her absence, and how such grief could suck the joy out of a moment as suddenly as a dementor. All at once, Harry felt as hollow as he did visiting Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley and seeing only George behind the counter. Everything was broken and he couldn’t put it together again.

 

Seamus and Parvati suddenly dissolved in a pile of giggles as Dean refilled their glasses. 

 

“Everyone else seems to bear up okay,” Harry observed, feeling embarrassed. Why did he have to get like this? 

 

“I promise you, Potter,” Malfoy said, giving his neck an affirming squeeze, “no one is bearing up as well as you’d think.”

 

Harry sighed and collapsed his head into his hands. Draco shifted closer, his palm warm and soothing as he stroked a path along Harry’s spine. 

 

“Alright, Harry?” Harry jumped to see Hermione standing in front of them, her gaze discerning. To Harry’s surprise, Malfoy didn’t remove his hand, just lifted his eyes to meet Hermione’s. It was almost a challenge. 

 

“Yeah,” Harry gave her a soft smile, “you know how maudlin I get when it comes to Teddy.”

 

She returned his smile, “I know. Ron and I, we’re here if you need us,” she held out a small card, “here, thought you might want to see this one, too. Also...look,": her voice lowered, insistent and curt, "I’m happy for you two but this" she waved a hand vaguely at the two of them, "is going to be difficult for Ron to understand. He’s going to need to hear it from you, Harry. On top of that, there’s going to be waves.”


“What’s your point, Granger?” Malfoy retorted, chin tilting, a defiant edge to his words. 

 

“My point is that Harry wants to protect you, because that is what Harry does,” Harry opened his mouth to object, but Hermione cut him off. “Don’t argue, Harry, you know it’s the truth.” Her gaze returned to Malfoy’s, “It’s going to become a lot harder for Harry to look out for you if this goes public. There will be allegations of coercion, manipulation, Imperius. Or the public will turn on Harry, they’ve done it before. You think the mail was bad today? It will be a hundred times worse and directed at both of you. I’m not saying don’t be together, but I am saying that maybe some time and some thinking through how you want to approach all that is not a terrible idea. I want you both to be happy, honestly, I do, but please, just…be careful.”

 

Draco’s arm fell away and Harry mourned the loss almost immediately. “Yeah,” Harry agreed, standing “I know you’re right, I just wish it was otherwise.” 

 

“Me too,” Hermione replied, her tone muted.

 

“I’ll see you later, alright?” Harry said, looking to Draco who nodded in response. 

 

Harry picked his way across the crowd of eighth years. The letters seemed to have been more or less sorted and the party had devolved into various conversations and over loud declarations of friendship, courtesy of the Firewhiskey. Dean and Seamus were necking on a wingback chair near the hearth. Ron and Goyle were playing exploding snap and calling each other horrible names and then cheersing each time one of them lost a round. Harry glanced at the little card Hermione had handed him. It was an extraordinarily dull card, beige with the word “Thanks” embossed in brown on the front. Curious, Harry opened it. 

 

Hullo, Harry , it began in a scribble Harry was familiar with since childhood, We’re all back at home in Little Whinging now. They told us we could leave in the spring, but Mum was nervous and wouldn’t leave ‘til now. Everything seems much the same, but we have been told you did something great. I couldn’t quite follow the story, but cheers, and thanks. I hope this gets to you, I gave it to the witch (is it okay for me to use that term?) who kept us safe. She comes by to check up on us from time to time, mostly just because I think she likes how spitting mad Mum gets when she does. She also likes to poke around in the garage and badger Dad with questions. If you’re nearby over the holidays, let’s pop out for a pint.   Best, D. Dursley

 

Harry was surprised to realise he was quite touched by the little note. He hadn’t a clue what he and Dudley would say over drinks, but he thought it was pretty decent of his cousin to reach out at all. He tucked the card into his back pocket then pulled up a chair beside Ron. 

 

“Harry!” Ron, drunk and giddy, beamed at him, smacking him on the back, “I’m just destroying this great thundering dolt at snap.”

 

“Not likely, Weasley, you ginger-haired turnip!” Goyle bellowed with an equally boisterous grin. 

 

“Sounds excellent, mate,” Harry replied, “deal me in.”

Chapter Text

It was late and Harry was quite drunk. Hermione had just hauled Ron off to bed, kissing Harry’s cheek and wishing him a good night as they went. Most others seemed to have kipped it as well, Harry hadn’t noticed exactly when. He was that sort of drunk where time skipped ahead without his noticing. He was staring out the window. Outside, some builders were still working into the night, bright lights illuminating the damaged ramparts of the central tower. It felt good to watch something be made whole. 

 

Harry turned back to the room.  Goyle was snoring on the rug by the fire. Draco was sprawled on the sofa where Harry had left him, hours ago, only now his head was in Pansy’s lap  and she was stroking his hair. Harry felt vaguely jealous. He stumbled his way over to the sofa, crunched Malfoy’s feet up towards his body, and sat down. 

 

“What’s all this, then?” He asked, trying to sound jovial, but he feared it might have come across more as over-loud and threatening. 

 

“You’re drunk,” Parkinson commented. 

 

“I am,” Harry nodded solemnly. 

 

This is friendship, Potter,” she informed him, coolly, “You’re not the only one with people to watch out for you.”

 

Harry couldn’t come up with a good retort so instead he just nodded, dully. 

 

“Alright, darling,” Pansy said, her tone changing completely, as she gave Draco’s cheek a little pat, “Up you get, I’m off to bed.”

 

Malfoy sat up, looking hazily around the room, obviously not exactly sober himself. Pansy then gave him a bit of a shove, knocking him into Harry’s lap, instead. 

 

“Your turn, Potter,” she informed him, “Draco’s a miserable, pathetic drunk and he’s your problem, now. Take good care of our boy.” And with that, she sauntered off to the girls’ dormitory. 

 

Harry was not exactly disappointed to have Draco in his lap, despite Pansy’s warning. 

 

“Hey, you,” Harry said, running his fingers through Draco’s lovely hair. 

 

Draco gathered his legs up onto the sofa then turned over, burying his face in Harry’s belly. 

 

“You alright?” Harry asked. 

 

There was no answer, so Harry just kept petting the blond’s head, easing his fingers into the muscles at the base of his skull, content just to touch.

 

It wasn’t until a few minutes later that he realised Malfoy was shaking. 

 

“Draco,” Harry murmured, confused, “are you okay?”

 

Malfoy wasn’t just shaking, Harry's booze-soaked brain taking a moment to catch up, Malfoy was crying

 

“Oh!” Harry remarked, unsure exactly how to proceed, “Hey, what’s up, hm?” He coaxed, gently prying Malfoy back, trying to get a look at his face. Draco wouldn’t budge. 

 

With a bit more force, Harry maneuvered the other boy into a seated position, crouching in front of him. Malfoy looked desolate, gripping the edges of the sofa cushion, head hung so low Harry couldn’t make eye contact. 

 

“Hey now, what’s all this?” Harry asked kindly, reaching, taking Draco’s face in one hand and thumbing away errant tears. Malfoy just bit his lip, eyes welling anew. 

 

Finally, he croaked out, “Just take me to bed, Potter, alright? I’ll tell you, I just—fuck, this is too...humiliating—I don’t want you looking at me, I’ll...I’ll tell you in the dark.” His words slurred a little, speech slowed.

 

“You've nothing to be embarrassed of,” Harry tried to reassure him, standing up. Malfoy followed suit and Harry was surprised when Draco let himself be led by the hand like a child, “I was all weepy earlier, remember? Hermione likes to warn me that alcohol and war memories are ‘a coping mechanism, but not necessarily the healthiest one.’ Never quite know which way the evening might take you, do you? But believe me, I’ve been there, okay?”

 

Malfoy didn’t answer, just headed down the hall for the dormitory. Harry stopped him before they entered, directing him instead towards the bathroom, “Not having you wake me up in three hours all cranky because you went to bed on a full bladder after a night of drinking.”

 

Malfoy was oddly amenable to the instructions. He let Harry pull him into the bathroom. He didn’t even protest when Harry reminded him to brush his teeth, wash his face. “It’ll help,” Harry insisted, as he did the same.  

 

In the dorm, Draco stood despondent, and allowed a not exactly sober and coordinated Harry to undress him down to his underclothes. Then they climbed inside the curtains and Harry cast the silencing spell. Harry insisted on completing Malfoy's knee exercises and then they just lay there for a moment, silent.

 

“S’cold,” Malfoy commented. 

 

“Let's get you under the covers, hm?” Harry instructed, doing so himself, and Malfoy obeyed. Harry cast an alarm spell for the early morning before tucking his wand and glasses away. He lay down on his back.



“Come here, then,” he urged. 

 

Draco didn’t hesitate. Harry felt his arm being lifted in the dark, Malfoy wriggling under it to burrow into Harry’s chest, one lean arm around his waist. 

 

Harry, for his part, encircled the slighter boy, stroking his back, dropping a couple of kisses into his hair. 

 

“Going to tell me what’s going through your head?” Harry prodded, voice soft. 

 

Malfoy muttered something into Harry’s shoulder. 

 

“What’s that?” Harry prompted. 

 

Draco unstuck his face from Harry’s shirt, “Would rather not,” he groused, “Can’t we just pass out and forget I got like this.”

 

“No,” Harry said, firmly, even though, if he were being honest, passing out right now didn’t feel like a terrible plan. But the earnestness of Malfoy’s misery had struck him and he didn't want to just ignore it, “Tell me what got you so upset, I would like to know.”

 

“It’s silly,” Draco murmured, trying to sound unaffected, “I just get like this sometimes. Morose. But...sometimes I can’t help but feel I, I—” His voice cracked, “Well, I ruin everything, don’t I?”

 

“What have you ruined, exactly?” Harry asked, still petting Draco like he was gentling an anxious hippogriff. He liked the feel of the tidy edges along the back of Draco’s neck. He really did have such lovely hair, so sleek and soft.

 

“Just things,” Malfoy insisted, a bit belligerently, “This. You.” Malfoy muttered against Harry’s collar, “Granger even said. I’ll just make your life difficult, make everyone hate you. Because I’m selfish, I’m always selfish. I wanted you so I went for you, bugger the fallout”

 

“Oh, come on now,” Harry said, chiding him affectionately, “it’s just going to be an adjustment, but that’s okay, people adjust all the time.” To Harry’s drunken ears, it sounded almost profound, “Anyway, don’t let it get you worked up; we don’t have to sort it out quite yet, we’ve loads of time. I’m not going anywhere.”

 

“You should,” Draco replied, miserably, “You should run as fast as you can. I’ve already ruined my own life, don’t let me ruin yours, too.”

 

“Merlin, you might be even more of a dramatic drunk than I am,” Harry remarked with a chuckle, kissing Malfoy on the top of his head. “Does my life look ruined to you?”

 

“I’m not being dramatic!” protested Draco sharply, “I’m a Death Eater, I hurt people. I let people get hurt,” his tone darkened, bitter with repugnance, “I’m a spineless, gutless coward.” He paused, taking an unsteady breath, “I still see them when I sleep sometimes, did you know? Their bloated faces, their dead bulging eyes, blaming me. Muggles, half-bloods, muggle-borns, Professor Dumbledore. Judging me, tormenting me. They died in horrible pain and I let them. What’s wrong with me? Merlin, I—I deserve it, I deserve to be haunted, to never forget what I did.”

 

Malfoy’s misery and self-loathing sobering him, Harry rolled over, unseating Draco, so they were lying face to face. Harry reached for his wand. 

 

Lumos.” 

 

Draco cowered from the light, “Don’t,” he cried out, softly, “please, Harry, I can’t bear you seeing me like this."

 

“Hey,” Harry urged, “eyes up, look at me.”

 

Malfoy continued to cower, straining his head forward in an effort to bury himself back in Harry’s chest. 

 

“Now, Draco,” Harry said, letting a sharp note of control colour his words. 

 

Slowly, still shaking, Malfoy obeyed. His eyes were red-rimmed, face tear-streaked, pink blotches blooming over pale skin. Harry cupped a hand over his face. This might be a bad idea, he didn’t know. His inhibitions were down and he just...he just wanted Draco to know. 

 

“Listen,” Harry said, slowly, watching Malfoy’s eyes, “I—I was there. The night Dumbledore died. I was in his office, immobilised under my invisibility cloak. I saw you back down, I saw Snape step up.  It nearly destroyed me, in the moment, but Dumbledore was prepared to die, he was dying anyway. You’re not a killer, Draco, I know you're not. You did hurt people along the way, there’s no denying that. Hurt people I care about. You’re culpable, certainly, I can’t undo that, but I can forgive it.”

 

“I didn’t want to,” Draco breathed, “I didn’t, he—he said he would—”

 

“Oh, babe, you think I don’t know the collateral?” Harry spoke, feeling his heart aching brutally for the miserable boy falling to pieces in his arms, “Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I wonder what horrific thing I wouldn’t do, if it meant I could see my mother again, and I never even knew her. You love your mother, Draco, and she loves you, and people do terrible, desperate things for the people they love, it is built into us. It was not cowardice to protect her, and it was definitely not cowardice when you protected Ron and Hermione and I that night at the manor.”

 

“I didn’t protect you, though. You heard what they did to her,” Draco whispered. 

 

“I did,” Harry agreed; too many nights he could still hear Hermione’s screams, “but you did what you could, more than you needed to. It was treason, they could have killed you for it, and still you did it. I don’t blame you for trying to survive, how could I, especially when you were risking your own neck in the process?” 

 

He kissed Malfoy’s cheek, his jaw, his lips, all wet with tears. 

 

“You should,” Malfoy replied, fiercely, hand curling around Harry’s wrist, “Blame me, I mean. Why couldn't I be good like you? You never falter, you always do what’s just and right and noble. It’s second nature to you. All I do is protect my own arse, it’s all I’ve ever done.”

 

Harry placed another kiss above Draco’s eyebrow, precious Draco, the hope of his household. He thought about Narcissa Malfoy's eyes that night, demanding to know that Draco lived. Maybe it was the Firewhiskey, but it all became quite clear. 

 

“You know that card Hermione handed me tonight?” Harry asked. Malfoy looked at him, confused, but nodded. “It was from my cousin, Dudley. He and I grew up together, his parents raised me. They, ah, they didn’t like me much.”

 

Draco’s brow furrowed, trying to follow the plot. 

 

“They hid everything from me, about my past, about who I am. They treated me like a house elf or worse, locked me up, starved me, never even called me by my name.”

 

“I didn’t know,” Draco breathed, looking upset. 

 

“It's fine, I mean it's not, but I’m not trying to get your sympathy, I’m just trying to explain. You see, I think...I think I grew up believing I was only worth what I could do for others. Not that I got anything for it, not from my aunt and uncle or even from Dudley, at the time. But it was what I was good for. Unfortunately, I think maybe I bought into it until I actually believed I wasn’t worth anything at all.  I wonder if maybe it is just a bit easier for me to risk my safety, to sacrifice myself because of that. Like maybe I could prove I was worth something if I was just good enough, just noble enough.”

 

Draco looked suddenly very sad, and that wasn’t what Harry was trying to do. He stroked the other boy’s cheek, and continued on. 

 

“But you...I feel like maybe you were brought up to believe you already were someone. And I get the feeling your Dad undermined that a lot, but still, the seed was planted. You had a name, a purpose, a promise of superiority and success, and a mother who loved you. And I kind of wonder if maybe your self-preservation reflex is just because, well, you knew you were something worth saving.”

 

“But what if I’m not, what if I wasn’t?” Draco whispered. 

 

“I don’t believe that,” Harry said firmly, “Not for a single moment. Do you know how ludicrously happy I’ve been this last week, getting to know you properly? You’re brilliant. So clever and you work so hard, you’re witty and charming and you’re fucking trying. Despite all the mud your father’s dragged you through, all the horrible fucking slaughter you were forced to witness, you’ve not given up, you've got a plan, you’re trying.”

 

Malfoy was crying again and Harry gathered him back in, kissing his head, “I’m so stupid-proud of you, Draco, sweetheart, I really am,” Harry whispered, feeling all at once wonderfully brave and tender.

 

Draco snuffled noisily against Harry’s shirt. His shaking seemed to still and he was silent for so long that Harry imagined he had fallen asleep. 

 

Then in a very small voice, Malfoy muttered, “I like when you call me that.”

 

“You do?” Harry asked, truly surprised. He mostly just hoped he’d been sneakily getting away with it, his bleeding heart spewing affection all over. 

 

“I like nice names,” came the reply. 

 

“No one warned me that Draco Malfoy would have a penchant for cuddles and pet names,” Harry declared, pleased. 

 

“Tell anyone and I will destroy you.”

 

“That’s the spirit,” Harry said, kissing his hair. 

 

“Harry,” Malfoy said after another pause. 

 

“Yes?”

 

“Do you really believe that?”

 

“Yes,” Harry said very plainly, “I do.” He swept his arm around Draco’s back, drawing him nearer, "And if you like, I'll keep telling you that until you believe it, too."

Chapter Text

When Harry’s wand lit up and started chirping early Saturday morning, he was surprised to find himself alone. He quickly silenced the alarm and groped around for his glasses, then listened for signs of life outside the canopy of Malfoy’s bed. Hearing only snoring, he hazarded parting the curtains and looking around the still-dark room. No one.

 

He thought about just crawling into his own bed—Merlin, he was exhausted—but he couldn’t help but wonder where Draco had escaped to. He figured he’d check the bathroom just in case. 

 

The showers in the boys’ dormitory were divided by little stone half-walls, five to a side. All were vacant but one, where Draco stood under the spray, blond hair soaking and pushed back from his face, trailing down the back of his neck. His eyes were closed and Harry was struck yet again by his infuriating beauty. 

 

He walked towards him, Malfoy’s eyes opening. He jerked his head in a lazy greeting. Harry positioned himself in the adjacent stall, elbows propped up on the partition. 

 

“You okay?” He asked. 

 

Draco nodded, “Feel like shit. Drank too much.”

 

“I’ve a couple of hangover potions in my trunk, I can grab you one.”

 

Draco nodded again, “Thanks.”

 

Harry relieved himself and brushed his teeth, realizing a desperate need for both, and then fetched the potion, taking one for himself as he returned to the bathroom. He handed the second over the wall to Malfoy, who downed it quickly, grimacing at the flavour. He balanced the little phial next to the soap in the divot in the wall.

 

“Sometimes not sure they’re worth it,” said Malfoy, turning his face towards the water, opening his mouth at the spray. He gargled and then spit the mouthful of water towards the metal grate that served as a drain. 

 

“I know what you mean,” Harry sympathised, “think I might go get a couple more hours sleep. Bunch of us are heading to Hogsmeade for brunch, later, though, you coming?”

 

“I need to study,” Draco replied.

 

“Alright,” Harry gave him a half smile and turned to go.

 

“Potter?” Malfoy’s voice stopped him, “Get in here, would you?”

 

“Oh,” was Harry’s articulate response. They hadn’t done naked yet. Harry supposed they’d probably seen it all, shared bathrooms and all; it was only the proximity that was different. Draco’s eyes were intent on him, waiting. His shoulders were back, a forced sort of openness to his posture. He’s being brave, Harry found himself realizing. For Harry’s part, Merlin, he wanted to, fucking hell did. Wanted to press up against Malfoy under the hot spray of the shower, feel the solid curves of muscles and flesh against his. His whole body thrummed with the intensity of it all. “Alright,” he said.

 

He stripped quickly, slotting his clothes and his glasses into a cubby, and then crowded in close, melting into Malfoy . Suddenly it felt easy. All the nerves and inexperience and worry ran like water through the grate, replaced instead with how fucking glorious it all was. He loved the cling of Malfoy’s arms wrapped round his neck, the pressure of his cock, alert and trapped at the junction of Harry’s hip and thigh, the eagerness of Malfoy’s lips as they met again and again. Pushing into the other boy, Harry forced him backward, bracing him against the wall. He heard Draco’s breath hitch in surprise and Harry loved that, too. Feeling emboldened, he grabbed a handful of Malfoy’s arse. 

 

“Fuck, Potter,” Draco gasped, lips parted, breaths coming quick. Harry took that rounded lower lip between his, and gave it an experimental nip. Malfoy whined and fuck if it wasn’t an aphrodisiac, that pained, helpless, needy little noise. 

 

“My neck,” Draco panted, “do my neck, I fucking, love your stupid teeth on me, fucking hurts, do it.” 

 

Thrilled with the desire lacing Malfoy’s voice, Harry obliged, scraping his teeth over the bared jugular, the ropey muscles, the swell of his trapezius. There, he bit down harder, imagining the neat row of indents he would leave in Malfoy’s skin. A wild, reckless part of him wished he could mark him like that forever. Draco shuddered, crying out. 

 

Harry pulled back, “Too much?” He asked, worry creeping back. 

 

“Absolutely not, don’t you dare fucking stop.” Harry returned his teeth to Malfoy’s skin, and listened to words continue to spill from the other boy’s lips, “Please, fuck me up, a bit, I can handle it, I want to handle it, Harry, please.”

 

Harry pulled back, observing the lust and desperation smeared over Malfoy's features. Moving quickly, he forced a forearm against Malfoy’s neck, trapping him against the wall. He watched those blue eyes flash dark, pupils dilating, an almost imperceptible nod. Harry pushed just a little harder, curious, the long bone of his arm tilted up at an angle into Draco’s Adam’s apple. He liked the rasping sound Malfoy made with the partial obstruction, perhaps more than he thought he should. Harry tweaked a nipple, cruelly, watching Draco’s pale face twitch in response. The blonde lashes closed, as if to savour the sensations without the distractions of sight. It was then that Harry felt the unexpected lurch of Draco’s hips, rutting his full, slender cock against Harry’s body, as if he couldn’t help himself. Harry was painfully hard, too, could swear he’d never been so fucking aroused. It was this overwhelming rush of power and strength and Draco. He stepped back, released his forearm, pressing just his fingertips against Malfoy’s chest. 

 

“Stay,” he ordered. Malfoy was gasping, finally able to draw a full breath. He rubbed his neck and obeyed, wide eyes on Harry. 

 

“Would you like me to touch your cock, Draco?” Harry asked, forcing himself to sound calm and measured, even a little condescending. 

 

Draco nodded. 

 

“Say, ‘Yes, please.’”

 

“Yes, please.” Draco whispered. 

 

“Such nice manners,” Harry commented, over-sweet, “You’ll just have to do one thing for me.”

 

Malfoy didn’t answer, just waited, fixated with Harry’s words. 

 

“Keep your arse against that wall. Keep your hips still. Don’t get greedy.”

 

Draco whimpered. 

 

“Do you think you can do that for me?”

 

“Yes,” Malfoy agreed. 

 

“Good.”

 

Harry kissed him first, a bit gentler this time, then he reached out, wrapping his hand around Draco’s warm, eager cock. Malfoy was biting his own lip this time, jaw clenched, fingers furling and unfurling against the stone wall as Harry adjusted to the sensation of him.

 

Harry’s touch was purposefully too light, too slow. He liked how the pulse along Draco’s temple flared with forced self control. 

 

“Please,” whispered Draco. 

 

“I’m making the decisions right now,” Harry informed him, “not you.”

 

“I know, I know but please.”

 

Harry tightened his grip, just this side of too hard and Malfoy flung his head back against the stone wall, grunting. 

 

“Too much?” Harry asked again, maintaining his hold and his tone.

 

Malfoy shook his head, “No, no, it’s perfect. It’s just, I’m, fuck, Potter, I’m too close.”

 

“I don’t think you’re too close,” Harry replied, kissing him again, “I like you like this, just like this. Waiting obediently at the edge for me." Draco made that irresistible little whine again. It made Harry want to consume him. "But you’ve been so good, sweetheart, so honest and open. Telling me what you need, asking for it. Takes courage.” He began to stroke Draco in earnest, “So I don't want you to hold off any longer, I want you to go over, when I tell you to, you think you can do that?”

 

Draco nodded his head fervently, “Yes, yes, Merlin, yes, so long as it’s soon, holy fuck, I can’t barely—”

 

“Now,” Harry commanded. 

 

Draco came with a strangled cry collapsing inwards, pressing his forward to Harry’s clavicle. Harry stroked his hair, kissed his head.

 

“Alright?” Harry asked.

 

“Fucking hell,” Draco said, when he could catch his breath again, “Didn’t know you had it in you, Potter, honestly. You barely needed any coaching that time.”

 

“You are such an unbelievable arsehole,” Harry laughed, shaking his head and kissing him. 

 

Just then, the creak of the door sounded. Harry panicked and grabbed Malfoy by the shoulders, shoving him to the floor. 

 

Harry squinted down the hall, to see a dark-skinned, dark-haired figure stumble blearily over to the toilets, probably Dean. 

 

“Alright, Harry,” grunted the figure. From the voice it was almost definitely Dean, Harry decided.

 

Harry just nodded in return and then proceeded to almost bite his tongue in two, because at that moment, Malfoy had decided to wrap his hand, and lips, around Harry’s cock. 

 

Harry looked down at the blond with a furious expression but Merlin’s beard that warm fucking mouth and the devious smirk on Malfoy’s face, it was more than Harry could take. Harry closed his eyes and lifted his face into the spray, trying to look at normal as possible from the waist up. He should not be this bloody turned on while simultaneously listening to Dean Thomas take a leak, he berated himself. But Malfoy’s mouth was wet and insistent, bobbing efficiently along the length of Harry’s cock. Harry put a hand in Malfoy’s hair, stroking it almost reverently, letting himself thrust forward a little. 

 

Dean finished up, washed his hands, gave his face a quick scrub and left. 

 

Malfoy popped the cock out of his mouth, and looked like he was about to say something when Harry cut him off with a, “You will finish what you started or so help me—”

 

Malfoy grinned and took Harry back in his mouth, sucking in earnest. Harry wasn’t going to last. 

 

“I’m gonna come, Draco, holy fuck, babe, pull off or I’ll—”

 

It was too late. 

 

Malfoy detached himself and spit into the drain. 

 

“Sorry, fuck, I'm sorry,” Harry said, “I should have given you more warning.”

 

“You gave me plenty warning,” Draco replied, primly wiping his lips with the pad of his thumb and standing, “I’m just not a quitter.”

 

“No,” Harry agreed, relieved and smilling, “you’re definitely not that. Come here.” He drew Malfoy in kissing him soundly, “You’re fucking unbelievable.”

 

Malfoy puffed up happily with the praise, pushing up to meet Harry’s kisses. 

 

Finally, he put his hands on Harry’s chest, pushing him back slightly, “We’ve got to stop,” he said, “before we get into it all over again. You need more sleep and so do I. You go back first, I follow in a bit.’

 

“Alright, alright,” Harry said, unable to resist a final kiss before dragging himself out of the stall, “I’m using your towel.”

 

“Hrm,” Draco agreed, not sounding thrilled by the idea, “Oh, and Potter?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Toffees from Honeydukes. Some almond, some plain, and some butter rum.”

Chapter Text

“Let’s take a walk, Harry,” it was Hermione, cornering him after brunch in Hogsmeade. It had been a hungover but pleasant affair, mostly eighth years plus Ginny. Harry had been on his way to Honeydukes when Hermione slipped her arm through his. 

 

“What about Ron?”

 

“What about Ron? He’s gone to look at quidditch gear for that league you and Dean were chatting about this morning. I want some new quills, so I’m headed to Scrivenshaft’s and then maybe Tomes and Scrolls, neither of which appeal to Ron. We’re dating, not surgically adhered.”

 

“Yeah, of course I'd like to walk with you,” Harry agreed sincerely, “If you don't mind a stop at Honeydukes, too.”

 

“I never say no to a Honeydukes’ hot cocoa,” Hermione smiled, releasing his arm with an affectionate squeeze. 

 

“So,” started Harry, “How’s things?”

 

“They’re lovely, thanks, Harry. I’m really enjoying just being a student again, you know? I wondered a little bit if I would have a difficult time falling back into it, but I think the routine has actually been very helpful. How’s things with you?”

 

“Things with me,” Harry echoed, “Er, fine, I think. Worried about this Slytherin mess. Hoping it is just some angry students but that last DA meeting felt more sinister than that. Any word from McGonagall?”

 

Hermione shook her head, “The little Lum girl is still unconscious, stable, but they think it still might be a few days before she wakes up. We really did some damage—I feel terribly. I should have looked more carefully before I reacted. I’m just so tired of seeing you hurt.”

 

“I know,” Harry replied softly, “I’m sorry, I just panicked and Ron had my wand; it was all I could think to do.”

 

“I suppose wishing for you to jump away from danger instead of headfirst into it is foolish,” she sighed, “I should know that by now.”

 

They two had reached Scrivenshaft’s by then and dipped inside the immaculate store. 

 

“Oh,” Harry said, as they examined a display case of sleek, striped falcon feathers, “did I tell you I have a lead on the bed sheet situation?”

 

Hermione looked around the shop, it was bustling with Hogwarts students, but no one was paying them any mind. Or at least Harry thought they weren’t, right up until a trio of young witches sidled up to him.

 

“Uh, sorry,” Harry said, “did you want to look at the falcon quills?” 

 

The girls, maybe fourth years, Harry guessed, and judging by their scarves, two Ravenclaws and a Hufflepuff, giggled, “No,” responded the Hufflepuff, “we...we just wanted to say hello.”

 

“Oh,” Harry said, wishing very much for this moment to be over, “hello.”

 

“We were at the DA meeting,” one of the Ravenclaw girls spoke up, flushing brightly, “That was so decent of you, protecting Draco Malfoy like that.”

 

“I should hope,” Harry replied coolly, “that I would have protected anyone like that.”

 

“Oh!” said the second Ravenclaw, obviously catching his less than favourable reaction, “We know that! It’s just, you're Harry Potter,” her voice lowered, “and he's a Death Eater.”

 

Harry appraised them, he could feel their giddy energy, knowing they had talked themselves into coming over here. He knew he shouldn’t be irritable with them, they were just kids and their intentions seemed genuine enough. 

 

“Draco Malfoy is a lot of things,” he explained, trying to stay friendly, “a clever potioneer, an excellent seeker, an ex-Death Eater, and my friend. Draco and Narcissa Malfoy ended the war on our side, at much risk to themselves. If that’s good enough for me, it should be good enough for others. This hanging on of grudges will hurt much more than it helps.”

 

The girls just looked up at him with big eyes, speechless. 

 

“Right, then!” Said Hermione brightly, “Thanks ever so much for the chat, you three, but Harry and I unfortunately do have some shopping to do.” She gripped Harry’s arm and marched him towards another portion of the store. 

 

“How was that?” Harry asked, “Too much? Merlin, I don’t know how to go about promoting this inter-house unity business without overdoing it. I sound like a bloody preacher.”


“No, Harry, it was fine,” Hermione reassured him, “It was never not going to be awkward. I know you hate being approached like that.”

 

“It’s fucking insufferable. Merlin, and now I sound like a first rate prat. It is nice that they want to...wish me well.”

 

“It’s just an odd interaction, is all. I think you handled it fine.”

 

“Better than I wanted to,” Harry admitted, “part of me wanted to lash out or interrogate them, find out if they are connected to all this Slytherin business.”

 

“I doubt it,” Hermione said, “they seemed more interested in gossip than in revenge.”

 

“How am I ever going to convince the world that Malfoy has changed?”

 

Hermione was silent for a long moment, examining a slender crow’s feather quill. 

 

Then, very quietly, with curiosity and not malice, she asked, “Has he changed?”

 

Harry’s knee-jerk reaction was to bark at her: of course he had, how could she not see that, but he tamped down on that response and instead gave Hermione’s question some honest consideration. 

 

“In some ways, yes,” Harry said, carefully, “I think he has changed, or maybe more he has been changed. I’m not sure it was an entirely voluntary transformation. For such a...a right prick and a bully, he’s always been violence adverse. I think the war, what he saw, what he experienced, made him exponentially more so. Which is why I hate so much that this keeps happening to him. I almost didn’t come today because I want to keep an eye on him,” he admitted, “but he can’t have me just chaperoning him all the time, and he has other friends.”

 

Hermione selected a few quills and walked to the front counter to pay. They left the shop and proceeded down the main street, cobblestones underfoot and great grey clouds overhead, swallowing the last dregs of summer feelings.

 

“What else?” Hermione asked, gently. 

 

“He’s still a self-preservationist, he looks out for himself, first, and after what he’s been through, I’m not terribly sure I blame him." Harry broke off for a minute, trying to think of a way to explain, "Ever since I started at Hogwarts, I’ve had scores of people prioritizing my safety. Draco’s had to eke out his place for himself.”

 

Hermione scoffed, “Hardly, Harry, he was born into immense privilege, you know that.”

 

“Immense privilege, yes,” Harry agreed, “but I suspect he was paranoid that those around him cared much more about his privilege than they did about him. You saw how Crabbe turned on him when Draco’s status fell. And I don’t think his father provided a loving home, exactly.”

 

“You’re awfully generous,” Hermione said, shaking her head, “you’ll recall you weren’t raised by a loving family either, so I’m not sure that’s an excuse.”

 

Harry shrugged, “No, but I did everything I did to protect the people I love, and so did he. All while trying to keep me alive in what little ways he could, when it would have been easier for him not to. Honestly, I sometimes wonder if I was just lucky that things I had to do to protect those people were for the common good. I'm not sure what I would have done in the reverse situation." Harry glanced down the street, golden leaved trees neatly dotting the sidewalk. He exhaled, still trying to configure his thoughts, "So maybe he hasn't completely changed, but I think he wants to. I think he's trying to reconcile what he cares about with what he did. He wants a future for himself, who doesn't, that's not a fault. And he's definitely buried any pure-blood ideology nonsense, of that I'm certain. It's been a lot, this damned war, for all of us. I am so tired, Hermione. I want things to be easier.”

 

Hermione nodded, finally, “Yes, alright. I’ll give you those. Sending my parents to Australia, forcing them to forget me, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever withstood. Harder than the...the torture, even, I sometimes think. I knew the torture would end, but I wasn’t sure I would ever get my parents back.”

 

Harry reached over and squeezed her hand. 

 

“Also I really doubt that dating Draco Malfoy is going to make your life any easier, you berk. You really care for him, then?” Hermione asked. 

 

Harry felt an odd lump in his throat. He swallowed but he couldn’t shake it, so he just nodded. 

 

“I suppose you two were inevitable,” Hermione sighed. 

 

“What do you mean?” He asked. 

 

“Oh, just the way you two have obsessed over each other from the very beginning. Couldn’t help yourselves, always wanting the other’s attention. This year, even, that ridiculous bargain you have, waiting on him like you do. You know you wouldn’t even consider such behaviour for anyone else.”

 

Harry blushed, “I had to keep him safe,” he objected, but it sounded weak, even to him.

 

“You didn’t, though, Harry, that's the thing,” Hermione said, her voice kind, “It’s not your job to watch out for him. We have faculty for that. It’s that you like taking care of him.”

 

Hermione’s words were a thunderclap of revelation. Vignettes played through Harry’s head. Putting on Draco’s socks and shoes, serving his meals, carrying his bag, fetching his things, making his tea. All the myriad little errands that Harry rolled his eyes over. He liked them. Because by doing them he was...caring for Draco fucking Malfoy. 

 

“Oh,” said Harry, “I...right. You’re right.”

 

“It’s not a bad thing,” Hermione reassured him quickly, sensing his distress, “It’s nice thing, really, to want to take care of your...partner.”

 

“I don’t just like it,” Harry muttered, barely able to admit it, “I really like it. I find it...satisfying. Oh, Merlin, that sounds filthy, I don’t mean anything like that. It’s like...emotionally speaking. I just...really like it. Fuck, I don’t know what I mean.”

 

“I think you’re a doter, Harry,” Hermione offered, “you’re a doter whose finally found someone who likes to be doted upon. There are worse things.” She paused, thoughtfully, then wondered aloud, “I suppose that explains why you and Ginny didn’t work out. Ginny could never abide a doter.”

 

Harry found himself laughing, trying and failing to imagine Ginny letting him do even one single thing for her, “Merlin, Hermione, you are absolutely right.”

Chapter Text

Hermione had recommended that instead of confronting Clark Tiering himself, Harry should just take what he knew to the Headmistress. Harry had intended on taking her advice, but then he caught sight of that pink mohawk veering off down a side corridor and he found couldn’t possibly let the opportunity pass him by. 

 

He turned down the hallway, “Clark?” he called out. 

 

The boy jumped, then whirled around. When he saw Harry, his face went through a strange pattern of emotions, but landed on confused. 

 

“Uh, hi?” He said. The kid was gangly, with a safety pin shoved through his ear and shimmering eyeliner lining his lower lid. He looked like a child in the costume of a teenager and it was an uncanny disparity. He also had that defiant chin tilt that reminded Harry so much of Malfoy. 

 

“Just wanted to have a quick chat about Wednesday evening,” Harry said, evenly. 

 

There was no doubt that Clark knew exactly what Harry was talking about, by the flicker of recognition in his eyes. 

 

“I...I wasn’t sure if that was real,” He muttered, shoving his hands into his pockets.

 

Harry wasn’t entirely sure what he was expected to hear, but it wasn’t that. 

 

“What do you mean?” He prompted. 

 

“I mean there was some lady’s voice in my head. She was so urgent, so insistent, so I just did it, took the sheet, wrote those words, strung it up. I just wanted her to stop, I couldn’t think about anything else. I just wanted her to leave me alone.”

 

Harry scrubbed a hand over his face, “That sounds an awful lot like dark magic, you didn’t think to tell anyone?” First years, honestly. 

 

Clark’s eyes narrowed angrily, “Well, I’m muggle-born, aren’t I? Barely know a thing about any of this. I just know its fucking weird and I miss my mates and I can’t charge my mp3 player in this bloody castle and the battery ran out weeks ago. How does anyone in this world listen to music? Besides,” his voice dulled, “my mum, she’s….not well. I sort of thought I might just be getting what’s she’s got. But then after I did what the lady in my brain told me to, the feeling went away and I was just relieved. But then the next morning it was gone so I thought maybe it had been a bad dream? Or I hoped it was, maybe.”

 

Harry kind of wanted to give the boy a hug. He looked so lost and overwhelmed and terrified. 

 

“I was raised by muggles, too,” he said, kindly, “it was definitely an adjustment coming to Hogwarts, feeling like you’ve missed the first few series of a TV show that everyone else has been watching from the start.”

 

Clark nodded. 

 

“How are things otherwise? You getting on with the other Slytherins?”

 

Clark shrugged noncommittally, “Who are you even, some school counselor? "

 

"No," enjoying the unexpected anonymity, "just a student."

 

"You look old," Clark informed him. 

 

"Eighth year," Harry explained. 

 

"Well," Clark ventured, "Like you said, not much in common. No one wants to bother having to explain every last thing to me and I’m the only muggle born in Slytherin. I got on fine without magic before, I don’t know why I need it now. It’s just my mum—nothing special about our family, is there? Once we were able to convince her this wasn’t just another one of her delusions, God, she was so pleased. Plus I know my being out of the house makes things easier on her, and Hogwarts gave me a free ride. I can’t let her down by just quitting.”

 

Merlin, Harry felt for the kid. 

 

“Doesn’t sound like you’ve had things easy,” Harry reflected, “I’m sorry.”

 

Clark looked away and shrugged, “It’s whatever, mate.”

 

“Well, the good news is, I don’t think that what happened to you was what your mum’s got. The bad news is...it doesn’t sound good, exactly either. We’re going to need to tell the Headmistress.”

 

“Fuck no,” spat out the boy, “I’m not a nark!”

 

“It’s not narking,” Harry tried to explain, “I don’t think this was just a classmate messing with you, I think something bigger is going on here and we need to find out what.”

 

The boy did not look convinced. 

 

“How about this,” Harry opted for another tactic, “if you go talk to the Headmistress with me, I will ask the muggle studies professor about letting you use his generator to charge your mp3 player.”

 

“What’s a generator doing at Hogwarts?” Clark demanded suspiciously. 

 

“He uses it for class demonstrations. Blenders, stereos, that sort of thing.”

 

“Fine,” the boy agreed, “but you’ll have to convince him to let me use it whenever I want. I can’t fucking enjoy the music if I’m just watching the battery drain away.”

 

“Deal,” Harry agreed. 

 

***

 

Clark sat sullenly across from McGonagall, who was taking the matter very seriously indeed. 

 

“Tell me more about the woman’s voice, please, Mr. Tiering.”

 

“I dunno,” Clark mumbled, “It was just some lady, posh accent, would not shut up, but mostly just said the same things over and over, like instructions. 'Fetch the sheet, boy, fetch the sheet,' stuff like that, she didn't seem to know my name. ”

 

“And did it sound like she was coming from somewhere in the room?”

 

“No, like, I wasn’t looking around for her. It sounded like it was right in my brain.” 

 

McGonagall’s mouth pursed for what must have been the third or fourth time already this meeting. 

 

“Did it hurt? Did you feel dizzy at all, unwell?”

 

Clark shrugged, slouching lower in his seat, “I don’t think so, just wouldn’t stop.”

 

“But it didn’t feel like you were in a dream?” 

 

“Not at the time, I just sort of hoped it was the next day.”

 

“That’s entirely understandable,” the Headmistresses said kindly. "I'll have to do some research and then I might have some more questions for you, but I do appreciate you bringing this to me. You are free to go, but please let me know immediately if you have any similar experiences. Mr. Potter, a word, please, if you don't mind.”

 

Clark nodded and stood, shooting a warning glare at Harry, “Today, Potter, you better not fuck me.”

 

“Language, Mr. Tiering!” Scolded Professor McGonagall. 

 

“Sorry, Professor,” he grumbled. 

 

“Wizard’s honour,” Harry promised, “I’ll find you later, yeah?”

 

With a curt nod, Clark left the office. 

 

“And just what was that about?” McGonagall asked. 

 

Harry explained the bargain they’d struck. 

 

“Well, so long as word doesn’t get out, I suppose it doesn’t hurt,” Professor McGonagall said with a sigh. 

 

“Alright, Professor?”

 

She gave him a weary smile, “I suppose a year without mortal peril was too much to ask. I can’t even recognise the spell. It must be a branch of legilimency.” 

 

She steepled her fingers and tilted her head, “Speaking of, how’s your legilimency, Harry?”

 

Harry didn't quite grasp her meaning, “Professor?”

 

“Oh, I’m not accusing you of anything! I just thought you might be able to teach that poor boy some occlumency—he’s young, of course, but no harm in trying. But to teach one you need the other, and the former is certainly a dying art.”

 

Harry thought about Voldemort’s power rushing through him, those shared memories, interrogations, he’d seen it done, felt it done, something whispered he could do it, if he wanted. 

 

“I haven’t tried,” Harry said, “Not sure it would work, now that he’s...not part of me.”

 

“It might surprise you what the brain remembers,” urged McGonagall, “Why don’t you give it a try?”

 

“Professor?”

 

“I’ll extract you before you get beyond the superficial,” she assured him with a dry smile.

 

Harry felt very dubious about poking around inside Professor McGonagall’s brain, but he felt even worse about leaving Clark to worry he was losing his mind when he could do something about it. 

 

He leveled his wand at her, “Legilimens.”

 

Nothing. Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows, “Come now, Harry, you and I both know that for a spell to take hold, the intention must be there.”

 

“Right,” Harry agreed, ruefully, “Give me a second.”

 

He wiped his palms on his trousers and re-rooted himself in those discomfiting memories, the pervading, relentless sensation of taking what wasn’t his. He grasped his wand, bored his eyes into hers, as if he could course down her optic nerve to the core of her intellect, “Legilimens.” 

 

Behaving like students—this petty business with Horace, but he was a great pompous ass sometimes, truly— “That’s enough, Harry,” clipped, McGonagall, promptly booting him out, “more than enough skill for some lessons.”

 

Harry cringed, not sure he was thrilled with this newfound ability, it made him feel tainted, somehow. He wanted a shower. “Right,” he acknowledged, “Only problem is, Professor, I, uh, I never did get a handle on Occlumency, myself.”

 

“Ah,” McGonagall blinked, “Of course.  Well, why don’t we recruit Mr. Malfoy into our efforts?”

 

“Malfoy?” Harry queried. 

 

“Quite a skilled Occlumens, if I recall.”

 

“Oh,” Harry agreed, “Right. I'll...I’ll ask him.”

 

“Excellent, see that you do. Now, if you'll excuse me, Harry, I've some interpersonal situations to address."

 

"Like dealing with a pompous ass?"

 

Her lips twitched towards a smile, "Something to that effect, yes. Thank you for bringing Clark here. I do worry about his not fitting in. He's a clever boy, but that chip on his shoulder isn't making him any friends."

 

"I'll run it by Hermione, see if we can't turn the DA into some sort of inter-house mentorship type thing. I dunno, if both him and Hiram are struggling, I'm sure they're not the only ones. We'll come up with something."

 

The headmistress gave him a thoughtful look, "You've really grown into an admirable young man, Harry, I hope you realise that."

 

Harry suddenly thought about Malfoy on his knees in the shower and he blushed scarlet, not feeling admirable at all, and praying McGonagall didn't have Snape's legilimency skills, "Oh, ah, thanks, Professor." There was an awkward pause, Harry really wished people would stop giving him compliments entirely, "Well, I'll...I'll just be going then. I'll let you know about Malfoy and the, er, lessons."

 

He hightailed it out of the office, giving Dumbledore's portrait a guilty wave as he fled. 

Chapter Text

After speaking with Professor Loon, who was exceedingly pleased with the opportunity to learn about mp3 players, Harry went looking for Malfoy. He found him in the library. Given that it was a Saturday afternoon in September, the vast room was otherwise abandoned, Draco scritching away at some parchment at a table in the back. 

 

Harry scanned the room for Madam Pince. Not spotting her, he hazarded a quick kiss to the spot just in front of Malfoy’s ear. 

 

“Hey,” he said. 

 

Malfoy looked up at him, and Harry eyed that long expanse of neck, wanting to get his teeth into it again. 

 

Malfoy tapped his lips with his quill, “Again,” he demanded. 

 

Harry grinned and leaned in close, snogging Malfoy properly before sliding into an ancient wooden chair beside the other boy. 

 

“Where’s Pansy?” Harry asked, loving the way Malfoy’s hand sought out his almost immediately beneath the surface of the table. 

 

“Went for tea, I think,” was the reply, Malfoy’s eye returning to his books. He slid a large tome over in front of him. The header at the top of the open page read Transfiguration to Stun and Inspire

 

“She shouldn't leave you alone,” Harry grumbled. 

 

“Oh, come off it,” Malfoy said, retrieving his hand from Harry’s to flip to the index, “So I was caught off guard a couple of times. Now I’m on guard. See? Defensive position, facing the entrance. I can’t have, nor do I want to have, a security detail every second of every day. Now are you going to fuss, or are you going to let me get some work done?” 

 

“What are you looking for, anyway?”

 

“A spell to stun and inspire, obviously. I need an O, Potter, not an E, especially in transfiguration. It can’t just be what we learn in class. Here, this one looks promising, and practical for healers: flour into bushelweave.”

 

“Er, does that...stun and inspire?”

 

“A real testament to our education, you are,” Draco rolled his eyes, “bushelweave is one of the core ingredients for the majority of healing potions. This spell could effectively turn a pantry into a medicine cabinet.”

 

“I like this author, go fetch me another book by her.”

 

Harry shook his head, but found himself standing up, “Alright then, you irritating little tyrant, who is it? Honestly, it's lucky you're attractive, you'd never get away with this otherwise.”

 

“Claudia Excelsior Winkelmeyer,” came the response, but Harry noticed the slight blush creeping up Draco’s neck. If he’d known complimenting the other boy would have such an effect, Harry thought, he wouldn’t have spent so many years insulting him. 

 

Harry ruffled Draco’s hair, which earned him a smacked hand and a disdainful look (both worth it), and wandered off among the stacks. He’d just located a second volume—Transfigure Your Closet, Transfigure Your Life! which he didn’t suspect was what Draco was looking for, but amused him a great deal—when Draco’s tense voice cut through the silence of the library. 

 

“Harry, can you come back here a moment, please?”

 

Harry didn’t like Malfoy’s tone. It sounded strained with a forced calm. Something was wrong, Harry could feel it in his marrow. He all but ran back to blond’s side. 

 

“What, what is it?”

 

Malfoy looked drained of colour, his hands curled over the edge of the volume, clenched and trembling. 

 

“Did you hear that?”

 

“Hear what?” Harry demanded, kneeling beside the blond, taking his face in his hands, “Draco, what’s happened?”

 

“There was a woman...in my head, she tried to speak to me.”

 

“Fuck!” Harry exclaimed, “Is she still there?”

 

Draco shook his head, “No, I got rid of her. Her Legilimens is no match for Voldemort’s and I had a lot of practice trying to keep him out of my head.”

 

“Fuck,” Harry mourned, leaning in to kiss his forehead, “You alright?”

 

Draco gave a shaky nod and Harry seated himself on the adjacent chair. Malfoy reached out almost involuntarily, and Harry wrapped the boy’s hands in his. 

 

“Who was that?” Malfoy asked. 

 

“Let’s not talk here,” Harry said, “Let’s go somewhere with less places to hide.” He rose and started putting Malfoy’s books into his bookbag, while Draco sat despondent, watching him, “She’s gone,” Harry promised, wishing to say something that could ease those bunched muscles in Draco's neck, “You did exactly the right thing, you’re safe. You protected yourself, okay?”

 

Draco didn’t answer but he did stand when prompted and let Harry guide him out of the library. 

 

“Do you want to go to the common room?” Harry asked.

 

“I don’t want to see anyone,” Malfoy whispered in return. 

 

“Alright, that’s alright,” Harry soothed, “Let’s just duck in here until you’re feeling better, then.”

 

It was a small supply cupboard, just brick cubbies crowded with spare quills and parchment, a broad, stone table, and a stack of broken, dusty chairs. 

 

Harry leaned against the table, but Draco started pacing, arms tight around his torso, face stricken.  It only took him about eight strides each way. Harry let him cross the floor, once, twice, three times. 

 

“Draco,” he said, finally, “come here, please.”

 

Draco looked at him like he’d forgotten he was there, but obeyed. 

 

Harry reached out and took the other boy by the shoulders, “It’s over,” he said firmly, “I’ve got you, yeah?”

 

The blond nodded, once, and Harry pulled him in, cradling him against his chest. Malfoy stood, wooden and unmoving for a moment longer before burying his head in Harry’s neck and clinging to his jumper. Harry kept one arm wrapped securely around Draco’s shoulders, and brought the other hand to stroke his hair. 

 

“Breathe, please,” Harry instructed and he felt Draco take a long, rattling inhale. 

 

“Who was that?” Draco said again, into Harry’s chest.

 

“We think someone is using some strange form of Legilimency to control some students. At least, that is what happened to Clark Tiering, and I suspect what happened to Ada Lum, the girl who tried to Crucio you, as well. And before you accuse me of holding things back from you, I’ve only just learned this and was very truly going to tell you.”

 

Malfoy peeled his face off Harry’s shoulder and looked at him, “Do we have any idea who it is?”

 

Harry shook his head, “All Clark could say was it was a woman with a posh accent. What did the voice say to you?”

 

“She just said, ‘Let’s take a walk,’ it spooked me rather badly, so I ejected her straight away.”

 

“She probably just wanted to get you alone before giving you more instructions.”

 

“Where was she?” Draco demanded, “I didn’t see anyone, can this spell go long distances? Travel through walls?”

 

“It's hard to say,” Harry admitted, “if she—presuming it even is a she doing the casting, and not some modulation technique—was invisible, across the room, or hiding. There are just so many unknowns. Likely someone on Hogwarts grounds, though. The wards around this place are difficult to get through, and she would need to at least be able to target you somehow, know your location.”

 

Draco nodded in understanding, exhaling, “Fucking hell. I can’t get the feeling of her out of my brain. I just…” he bit down on his lower lip, “I really hate that feeling. Voldemort...he used to rifle through my memories for fun. He especially loved when I was berated by Father. He’d play those memories over and over again.”

 

“Fuck, Draco,” Harry breathed, a wave of nausea sweeping through him, knowing just what that type of shame would do to a boy like Malfoy. 

 

Draco shuddered but kept talking, “It was actually good, though, I think I almost encouraged it. Better that...better that than him finding out how I felt about you.”

 

“You hid it from him?” Harry asked, amazed. 

 

“Yeah,” Malfoy replied, voice hushed, “I still don’t know how I did it. I thought because it was what I was most scared for him to know he would pluck it out of me right away. But every time he went in there, I just, I just knew I had to protect it, protect you, I don’t know. So I somehow, I’m not sure, directed him? I knew what he would like and I offered it up, distracted him. Merlin, I was so relieved when he took the bait but I couldn’t let him see that, either.”

 

“You’re unbelievable,” Harry murmured, “He's the most powerful Legimens whose ever lived and you deflected him? Merlin's beard, that is really powerful shit, you know that? I couldn’t even keep Snape out of my head, let alone Voldemort.”

 

“I couldn’t keep him out,” Draco corrected, “just...guide him a bit.”

 

“That’s incredible,” Harry reaffirmed, “Remarkable, honestly.”

 

Draco gave him a shaky half smile, “I suppose it’s something.”

 

Harry pulled the other boy in for a kiss, and Draco came willingly. Harry savoured the warm press of their mouths, Draco’s arms snaking down to rest on Harry’s hips, the way their bodies slotted against each other so comfortingly. 

 

“McGonagall was hoping,” Harry said when they pulled away a few minutes later, “that you and I might at least try to teach the Tiering kid some Occlumency. Not that it will solve the problem, but at least it will help him out a bit. His mum, she's a muggle, and she's got, ah, some sort of psychosis and it really freaked him out, thinking he had it, too."

“A first year? I was fifteen when I learned, and it wasn’t easy.” Draco replied. 

 

“And I never managed it at all,” Harry admitted, “but at least we can say we tried. I want to do something for him, poor kid.”

 

“So when you say we you actually mean me,” Draco noted, archly. 

 

“Well, can’t do Occlumency without the Legilimency, so I’ll provide the latter.”

 

Draco visibly recoiled and the reaction manifested as physical pain in Harry's chest, “You’re a legimens?” Draco accused. 

 

“Not on purpose!” Harry insisted, “Voldemort just...lived in my head for a long time and I guess I picked up a few of his tricks. I’d never even done it before today, when I tried it on McGonagall.”

 

You tried it on McGonagall? ” Draco hissed. 

 

“She told me to!” Harry insisted, “I swear, Draco, all above board here. I didn't even know I could do it, and I can't say I enjoyed it, okay? I’m definitely not in your brain, and I would never go in your brain uninvited, promise, wizard’s honour.”

 

Draco eyed him warily for a moment, then his face softened. He rolled his eyes a bit, shaking his head, “Oh alright then,” he conceded, “We can meet with this Clark kid, but I promise, we’re wasting our time, so don’t you go expecting miracles.”

 

“Thank you,” Harry replied, “Truly.”

 

“Soft-hearted idiot Gryffindor,” Malfoy muttered, “Kiss me again so I can stop thinking about all this rubbish.”

 

Harry was happy to comply.

Chapter Text

Harry truly hadn’t intended to get hot and heavy with Draco in a supply cupboard, and yet, somehow, here they were: Draco laid out on his back on the stone table, and Harry over him, weight distributed along the blond’s whole body, trapping him like he said he liked. Draco was gripping Harry’s arse and Harry was devouring the other boy with filthy, open-mouthed kisses. Malfoy’s hips were rolling up, desperate, pleading, animal noises in his throat. The friction was too much, Merlin, Harry had to ease off or he was going to make a mess in his trousers. 

 

He rolled over, then slid to standing beside the table.

 

“Where’re you going?” Whined the supine boy.

 

“Just want to have a bit of fun with you before I finish,” Harry said, letting that tone he knew Draco liked creep into his voice, “How about you get on your knees for me, hm?” 

 

"Would rather not," groused Malfoy, giving him a murderous look, but nevertheless climbed off the table and sunk to his knees at Harry’s feet. 

 

“Lose the shirt and jumper,” Harry instructed. It gave him such a rush just to watch Draco obey. The blond shivered slightly in the damp of the cold.

 

“I can’t believe I’m dirtying my clothes like this,” he whinged, dropping them on the dusty floor. 

 

“Oh you’ll have dirtied a lot more than that when I’m done with you,” Harry promised, taking Draco’s jaw in his hand, “Open.”

 

Malfoy’s teeth fell apart, exposing the pink inner lining of his lips and cheeks, his clever little tongue. Harry traced the curves of that gorgeous mouth with his thumb. First along Malfoy's top lip, the rise and fall of the edges of the Cupid's bow, and then the fuller, softer bottom lip.   Curious, Harry shifted the pad of his thumb on the centre of Draco's pretty red tongue and pressed down. 

 

“There,” Harry remarked, “Isn't that peaceful.”

 

He watched Draco’s face for signs of distress, but didn’t see any. He slid his thumb back further, the soft villi of Malfoy’s tongue creating a pleasing, unusual sensation. Draco gagged, just a little. Harry did it again, just because he could, harder this time. Malfoy’s response was proportional, and Harry pulled back, releasing the other boy’s face. 

 

“Too much?” He asked. 

 

“That’s fucking weird and kind of messed up,” grumbled Draco, “So naturally, it turns me the fuck on. Do it again.”

 

“Pinch me, here,” Harry motioned to his thigh, “if you need me to stop,” he said, rubbing his hand gently along Malfoy’s face, “you understand?”

 

Draco nodded. Harry stroked his face, sweetly. 

 

“Actually, before we continue, I have a question. Do you like to be hit, sweetheart, slapped a bit, I mean?” Harry asked, genuinely inquiring, dropping the edge in his voice for a moment.  

 

“I...I don’t know,” Draco answered, voice breathy, “I don’t like pain, exactly, I don’t want to be hurt, but...I like...what it signifies.”

 

“What does it signify?” Harry prompted. 

 

Draco blushed, so beautifully, eyes on Harry’s shoes. 

 

“Eyes up, please,” Harry corrected him, “and answer my question.”

 

Those grey-blue eyes met his, “That you,” Draco swallowed and repeated himself, “that you can do what you want with me, because I’m...I’m yours.”

 

Harry's heart hadn't been prepared for that. Half of him wanted to just sink to the ground and snog Draco silly and say it wasn't true, in fact is was rather the reverse, that he, actually, was entirely Draco's, despite himself and everything. The rest of him somehow knew better. He knew it was easier for Malfoy to say the things he needed to when they were like this, when Harry was drawing them out of him, when he could pretend he didn't have a choice.

 

"Are you mine?" Harry asked, tilting his head. 

 

Draco looked slightly stricken, uncertain. He gave an imperceptible nod. 

 

"I agree," Harry responded and Malfoy's features smoothed with relief, "You are. And I can do anything I want with you, but I'd rather only do things to our mutual enjoyment."

 

"Sometimes I..." Malfoy cleared his throat and Harry could see that anxiety rise in him in the form of a blush, a confession of types, "I sometimes like things I don't like."

 

Harry, hand still against Malfoy's cheek, probed further, "What do you mean?"

 

Draco exhaled shakily, "Like...like this. Kneeling, it's not comfortable, I'm cold, my knees hurt, it's filthy. Or your thumb at the back of my throat, forcing me to react. It doesn't feel good, physically, at all, it feels horrid, in fact, but...it turns me on, I can't explain it. It feels like, oh I don't know, like a sacrifice? Enduring for you, suffering for you. It makes me fucking ache." 

 

Harry was taken aback, it all suddenly felt less like a game and more like something important. Something he needed to do for the other boy, and what's more he wanted to. It felt like an inseverable tether between them. 

 

“Thank you for telling me that," Harry whispered, pressing his lips to Draco's forehead, "So. Crowding you, crushing you, bossing you. Physical discomfort. Those are all things you like?"

 

"Yes," Draco breathed, "very much."

 

"But would you like me to hit you?” Harry inquired again.

 

Draco looked thoughtful, then nodded, hesitantly. 

 

“You can say no, love, truly,” Harry assured him, quickly, “it’s just an idea.”

 

“No,” Draco interrupted him quickly, “No, I want it. Try it. Please.”

 

“If you’re not enjoying it, tell me,” Harry directed, “Tell me ‘too much’ and I’ll stop straight away. I won’t be mad or disappointed or upset.”

 

“Do it,” Malfoy insisted. 

 

Harry brought his hand away from Malfoy’s face, made a gesture as though he were about to administer a light slap, but at the last minute he deked out, instead laying a gentle hand on Malfoy’s skin. Draco gasped, hard, pupils blown, lips parted. Harry stooped down and kissed his mouth. 

 

“You’re so beautiful,” Harry whispered, then straightened up, ran the edges of his fingers along Draco’s jaw. And then he hit him. Lightly, certainly nothing that would cause any pain, just a tap to the side of Malfoy’s face. It made the blond jump. It made Harry pulse with power. 

 

Harry observed Malfoy’s reaction, his eyes were now following Harry’s hand, wary but excited. 

 

“Again,” demanded Malfoy. 

 

“Manners,” Harry reminded him. 

 

“Hit me again,” Draco urged, “please, Harry.”

 

Harry obliged, a gentle back-handed pat to Malfoy’s other cheek. Then, without warning, he shoved two fingers into Malfoy’s mouth. 

 

“Suck,” he ordered. 

 

Malfoy responded so gloriously, cheeks hollowing, a devastating suction on his fingers, the warm muscle of his tongue firing up all the nerves along the surface of Harry’s fingers. 

 

“Such an obedient little thing,” Harry remarked, and Malfoy whimpered. 

 

“Release,” Harry instructed, pulling out and slapping him again, wet fingers trailing saliva over Malfoy's cheek. 

 

He toyed with him like this for several minutes, adoring the hypnotic effect it seemed to have on Draco, as he followed Harry’s hand. He startled when Harry hit him, leaned into his palm when he pet him, gagged when Harry forced him to. His pale face was tinged pink, his ice grey eyes wide and shiny.  Drawing the responses out of Malfoy like this was intoxicating. He was so supple, so compliant. Harry hit him again, slightly harder this time and Draco cried out, not in pain, just in need and it made Harry weak.  

 

Harry leaned in to kiss him again, fully, lovingly. He shifted, kissing Draco’s jaw, his neck. “You’re gorgeous,” Harry breathed murmured against his skin “I love seeing you like this, all fucked up with desire.” 

 

Harry braced himself against the table. 

 

“Take my cock out,” he instructed, and Malfoy did. Harry was aching for him, brutally hard. 

 

“Give it a kiss,” Harry murmured. Malfoy held the weight of it in his hand, kissed the ridge where the head met the shaft. 

 

“Very good,” Harry sighed, “take it in your mouth, now.”

 

Draco obeyed enthusiastically, swallowing it down almost all at once, ferociously. 

 

“Slow down you little slag,” Harry teased. 

 

Malfoy pinched his thigh and pulled back, looking up at Harry, almost hurt, “I...I only like nice names,” he insisted, quietly. 

 

“Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry,” Harry said, very earnestly, feeling guilty. He crouched down so they were eye level, reaching out to pet Draco’s hair, “I'm really sorry, babe, I should have asked. What do you want to do? Should we stop?”

 

“Merlin's tits, Potter," Draco grumbled, "I'm fine, don't ruin a perfectly good mood. Just don't call me that shit. Also, I'm pretty close to blue balls here, so hurry it up, would you?"

 

Harry chuckled, "I swear, sometimes it is like there are two of you, you bossy, submissive little prat. Shit, sorry, oh bugger."

 

"Fucking hell,  I will kill you," Malfoy growled, irritated, "Prat is fine, it's...it's context dependent, alright? Infuriating bastard, just let me suck your cock some more, would you?"

 

“Nice names only. Except context dependent. Understood. Mostly. Thank you for telling me," Harry stood up again, feeling a bit awkward, but apparently it would take more than that to quell his raging fucking hard-on, "Well, get back to it."

 

Malfoy took Harry’s cock in his mouth again, humming contentedly, sliding, more slowly this time, along the length. It was devastating. 

 

“Touch yourself,” Harry instructed, "And keep your hands off me. I want to use you." 

 

Draco whimpered at the words and hurried to unfasten the flies of his trousers, encircling his cock with his hand, and putting his other hand behind his back, as if to resist temptation. Merlin, the look of him, eyes burning into Harry's, touching himself at Harry's say so. Harry gripped a handful of blond hair and let himself fuck deeply into that wet, warm mouth. Malfoy was sputtering but pressing in, so determined to please him.

 

Harry wasn't sure he would survive Draco. 

 

It was as though everything all at once, the pressure, the speed, the urgency, everything. Draco was a mess, face red, chin shiny, so fucking overwhelmed and debauched. Harry was done for and he couldn't bring himself to mind.

 

“Yes, just like that, fucking hell. You’re doing such a good job, you’re going to make me come, sweetheart. You can touch me now, are you close?”

 

Malfoy nodded fervently, wrapping his free hand around the base of Harry's cock and sucking him properly. 

 

“Once you’ve brought me off, you can bring yourself off, too,” Harry granted. The words had barely left Harry’s mouth when he felt it hit him, that wave of intense, perfect pleasure, almost crumpling him with the release, “Bloody hell, Draco,” he cursed as he came, still reeling as he watched Malfoy’s hand fly furiously along his own dick, spurting off onto his fist and the dusty floor, Harry’s cock still held in his cheek. 

 

With a filthy noise, Draco released Harry, then pressed his forehead into his thigh. Harry continued to pet him adoringly. 

 

“So lovely, darling,” Harry murmured, “That was so incredible, so perfect, I could barely fucking stand it.” Harry cast a wandless scourgify then hoisted Malfoy up. He tucked Malfoy’s softening cock away, and closed his trousers and then saw to his own. 

 

Draco was oddly out of it, almost non-responsive, letting himself be gathered up against Harry’s chest, nuzzled and kissed and praised. 

 

“Alright?” Harry asked, as Draco’s eyes seemed to regain some of their clarity. 

 

Draco nodded and bit his lip, “That was...ah, just really intense.”

 

Harry felt an edge of concern rise in him, “Too intense? Are you okay?”

 

“Merlin, I am more than okay,” Draco reassured him, “That was just really fucking hot and I...I suppose I didn’t know it could be like that. I felt, I don’t know, entranced, or something. Oh Merlin, Potter, don’t look at me like that, I’m trying to say it was fucking incredible. You’re fucking incredible.”

 

“Oh,” said Harry, “well, er, that’s good, then. That’s how I want you to feel.”

 

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Malfoy sighed, “come here.” He pushed their mouths together in an all-consuming kiss, and Harry wondered if maybe they couldn’t just stay in this supply closet indefinitely.

Chapter Text

It took Harry a couple of weeks and the same number of attempts to convince Clark Tiering to agree to Occlumency lessons. 

 

“It hasn’t happened again, and I don’t fancy anyone digging around in my head,” Clark was saying, leaned up against the wall just outside the great hall where Harry had stopped him. This time, Harry had brought Draco as back-up, which had taken some convincing on its own:

 

“If the kid isn’t interested, he isn’t interested, don’t push it,” Malfoy had sighed, over a bowl of stew at lunch, “You know you don’t have to individually save everyone, right?”

 

“It is a matter of autonomy, Harry,” Hermione had chipped in, kindly.

 

Draco and Hermione on the same side, Harry never thought he’d see the day. 

 

“And what if she breaks into his head again, what if he really hurts someone? When I could have prevented it?”

 

“There is such a thing as being too Gryffindor,” Draco had remarked, “some might say any amount of Gryffindor is too much, this is promoting it to a whole new dimension.”

 

“Once more,” Harry had bargained, “I’ll ask him once more, make sure he understands both options, and if he says no again, I’ll leave it, alright? But Draco, you have to come with me, you’re, you know, cooler than I am, I think he’ll respect you.”

 

Draco had raised one interested eyebrow in Harry’s direction, “Say it again?”

 

“You’re incorrigible and ridiculous,” Harry had fired back, “and much cooler than I am, always have been, always will be, now will you please help me do the decent thing, here?”

 

Malfoy had looked so much like a cat who’d got the cream, Harry had been surprised not to hear him purring as he’d said, with the air of someone making a great sacrifice, “Very well, then.”

 

***

 

“Look," Harry continued, attempting to persuade Clark, "it’s either us digging about in your head, and teaching you to stop it, or else it could be that woman in there again and you, helpless to do anything."

 

“Yeah, but with you, it’s a sure thing, and with her it’s not,” said the first year, crossing his too-long arms over his chest, “Besides, I didn’t really do anything, so maybe she’s given up.”

 

Harry had enough life experience to believe that, but he didn’t know how to convince an 11-year-old of that without coming across as a right wanker. 

 

“Listen, Tiering,” it was Draco’s old, familiar drawl and Merlin, it took Harry back. Draco was examining his nail beds, looking utterly concerned, “You’re not exactly winning any popularity contests around here. Meanwhile, Potter here, the most popular bloke not only in this castle, but in the entirety of wizarding Britain, is offering to tutor you in advanced magic. Have you really no idea how interesting your classmates would find that? How they might just perish of jealousy when rumour gets out? That he saw some talent in you worth enriching? Merlin knows it couldn’t hurt.”

 

“I avoid popularity, it has many snares and no real benefit,” said the spindly, pink-haired boy, but he didn’t sound quite as stalwart as Harry suspected he was hoping to.

 

“Oh goody,” remarked Draco, “a philosopher. Let’s not waste our time, Harry. This one prefers to suffer in solitude, and you know I can’t abide a victim mentality.”

 

Draco turned to walk off and Harry, somewhat dubious, turned to walk with him. 

 

“Are you sure—” Harry hissed, but Draco silenced him with a look, and held up three fingers in front of his chest, then two, then one—

 

“Wait!” Tiering called out and Draco gave Harry his patented I-told-you-so look. 

 

“Yes?” Draco said, sweeping around majestically, as if he had very important places to be and very little time. 

 

“I guess I could give it a try,” the kid was aiming for nonchalance, but it sounded more like disguised panic. Merlin, Draco could play people. Harry wasn’t sure if he should be concerned or impressed. 

 

“Fine,” Draco said, “Tonight, six o’clock, lower dungeons, don’t be late.” Draco’s consonants clipped, his RP even more pronounced than usual. Stuffy, intolerant prat, Harry grinned to himself. 

 

***

 

“You have to be a bit nicer,” Harry was attempting to convince Draco that evening while they waited for Clark. They were seated together on a large cedar desk at the front of the small, semi-circular classroom in the dungeons. Malfoy was entertaining himself by pressing his kisses into Harry’s neck. It was distracting. 

 

“Nice was your approach and it didn’t work,” was the reply. Another kiss. 

 

“Cut it out,” Harry whinged, “he’ll walk in on us.”

 

“I set a ward,” Draco murmured, not cutting anything out, “it will chime when he gets close.” 

 

“Well, I don’t much fancy him walking in here to find me with a great bloody hard-on, either,” Harry grumbled. 

 

“Then may I suggest,” Malfoy breathed between scorching kisses, “self-control.”

 

Merlin, how could he make just a mouth against skin feel so filthy. Harry swiveled, letting his lips meet Draco’s once, twice, “You are going to pay for this later,” he promised. 

 

“Oh, darling,” was Draco’s silky reply, “I’m counting on it.”

 

Harry felt a warm swell in his belly, Draco much preferred to receive affectionate terms than to use them, and Harry didn’t think he’d ever been on this end of things. He found he rather liked it. He wondered how he could get Draco to do it again. 

 

A silvery jingle sounded in the air above them. Harry glared at Draco, who by all appearances was unaffected, and adjusted himself. 

 

The sapling of a boy entered the room, chin up, defiance trying to belie his anxiety and uncertainty. Harry again had the impulse to give him a hug. 

 

“Good,” remarked Draco, rising and making a show of checking an ostentatious gold pocket watch, “At least you know how to be punctual. Take a seat.”

 

Harry, despite his reservations, had agreed to let Draco to take the lead on things—”but only if you at least try to be nice,” he’d argued, to which Malfoy had archly replied that he would “be fair.” 

 

“Well, what do you know about Occlumency, then?” Draco demanded, once Tiering was seated in a rickety chair in the front row. 

 

Clark licked his lips, “It’s ancient magic, seems pretty obscure. I tried to look into it at the library but most of the books were in the restricted section.”

 

Draco nodded, “They would be. Wizards and witches have no business poking about in one another’s minds. And yet, someone is, and whoever it is did it to you. So here we are. Occlumency is a protective magic with many stages. The most basic stage—which is all we will be making any attempt at in these lessons—is the assembling of a wall between your thoughts and those who wish to invade them. More skilled Occlumens, Unspeakables, for instance, or those involved in espionage, are able to construct entire false realities and can conceal from their enemies that they are performing the spell at all.”

 

“What’s an Unspeakable?” Inquired Clark, perking up with interest. 

 

“Ministry employees who investigate the greatest of magical mysteries. Their research is considered dangerous in the wrong hands. Think big: gravity, time, immortality.”

 

“How do you get to be one of those?” The boy’s torch-lit face shone with fascination. 

 

“Raw talent, extraordinary effort, and sheer excellence,” Draco informed him, “so far you’re zero for three.”

 

Harry jabbed his wand into Draco’s ribs, subtly. Malfoy clenched his jaw. 

 

“But I’m open to having my mind changed,” the blond amended. Harry supposed that counted as “nice,” at least as far as Draco was concerned. 

 

“Potter here is a Legilimens. That means he will try to get in and it will be your job to extract him, as quickly as possible.” 

 

“Look, Clark,” Harry spoke for the very first time, “This is a really difficult spell, and there is no expectation for you to master it in one go. It will likely be weeks before you can accomplish even basic skills, so I don’t want you to get discouraged, but we have to start somewhere, right?”

 

Clark gave a determined nod. 

 


“Right then," Malfoy resumed, "Circumstances are actually not bad, since you’ll be able to have your wand on you. Use it, it makes things easier. Most Occlumens have to complete the spell silently and wandlessly. Not the case here.” He proceeded to teach Tiering the incantation and accompanying gesture. Clark demonstrated it several times, Draco firing off corrections—”Plant your feet, more swoop. Command the air, not so jerky, the spell knows when you’re uncertain!”—before he was satisfied to move on. 

 

Harry found that he liked watching Draco teach. He liked his attentiveness, his energy and competence. For all his whinging, Draco rose to the task admirably, and while his demeanor wasn’t what anyone could describe as warm, he wasn’t being a total arsehole either, much to Harry’s relief. 

 

“Good!” Draco called out, “There it is, Tiering, much better, excellent.”

 

Harry was almost bowled over at the praise, Malfoy shot him a smug grin that seemed to say “See? I can be nice.” 

 

“Now, we add the thought behind the gesture. Have you ever meditated?”

 

“We did it at primary, some,” Clark replied with a nod.

 

Draco raised an eyebrow, “Who knew muggle schools were so...enlightened.”

 

"I had to work with a teacher's aid," Clark admitted softly, "they said I had anger problems."

 

"Horse shit," declared Draco magnanimously, "find me someone on the brink of puberty without anger problems. The stories I could tell you about Potter here as a first year. You've never seen a face more ruddy, almost purple in his rage."

 

"Yes, thanks for that, Malfoy," Harry commented dryly.

 

"And see?" Draco continued, as if proving his point, "He no longer snaps at the bait. On the one hand, it's less fun, really, but it is also proof that these things can change. Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, meditation. For Occlumency you have to get to that nothingness, that distance, very quickly, almost instinctively. Going forward, I would like you to meditate at least once a day, preferably twice. The more often you reach that state, the more easily you can recall it. I’ll guide one this evening, sit.”

 

Clark resumed his seat, a bit glossy from the sweat of all the waving and shouting, cheeks as pink as his hair. 

 

“Harry, you too,” Draco directed, “No one wants to feel like they are being observed while they meditate, we can’t have you just lingering here.”

 

Harry rolled his eyes, but pulled up another chair and took a seat. 

 

“Good,” Draco remarked, “Now, both of you plant your feet, hands on your thighs, no fidgeting.”

 

The meditation that Draco led them through was surprisingly effective. Harry felt focused and sharp coming out of it. His lungs felt bigger, his back expanded...possibly from the amount of times Draco had shouted “Posture, Potter, attend to the body!” at him while he breathed. Harry wondered if they should be presenting more of a united front to the boy, but he supposed that was unlikely to happen with Malfoy, anyway, so no point in being fussed about it. 

 

“Time for a demonstration,” Malfoy announced, “Potter here will try to get inside my brain, and I will reject him. Typically I would do this without my wand, but for your sake, Tiering, I will use incantation and the hand movements you have just practiced.”

 

Draco turned to face Harry. “At your will,” he instructed. 

 

Harry wasn’t sure how he felt about trying to Legilimens Draco. He remembered the way Malfoy had reacted in the library a couple weeks earlier and was loath to bring that back on. He knew a demonstration was likely a good way to start but...well, Draco wouldn’t ask for what he couldn’t handle, he told himself. 

 

He looked to Draco, who gave him a terse nod, and fired off the spell, “Legimens!

 

He heard Draco call out the counterspell almost immediately, and suddenly Harry was inside. 

 

Draco’s thoughts were a black box, empty. 

 

Hello, Harry . Malfoy’s voice sounded somewhere, Welcome. I’ll eject you shortly, but I just wanted to show you something, if you’ll look this way…

 

Curiously, Harry looked from side to side of the vast nothingness. Then he spotted Draco, leaning casually against a black wall, a smirk on his lips, wearing nothing but his black pants and thermal. Even though Harry was used to seeing him in this outfit, even used to seeing Draco in no outfit at all, these days, he still felt that thorough twang of want reverberate through him. Harry was about to step towards the projection of Draco when all at once the figure whirled around, and peel down those tight black pants, revealing his bony, pale arse wriggling about, mooning him. He heard a delighted cackle and then was promptly shoved out. 

 

“Hilarious,” Harry grumbled. Real-life Draco was not cackling, but he did have a rather smug grin. 

 

“What?” demanded Clark. 

 

“Malfoy’s just being lewd, he thinks he’s clever,” Harry explained. 

 

“Oh, I don’t just think I’m clever, I am clever,” Draco corrected, “Well, Tiering, ready to give it a try?”

 

Clark nodded tentatively. 

 

Harry turned to him. He remembered the sickening feeling of Snape shuffling through his memories. It made him queasy. He promised himself to stay superficial, let the boy build up to it. 

 

Legimens! ” He declared, firing the spell. 

 

Instantly he was in, no resistance at all. 

 

“The spell, Tiering!” Shouted Malfoy. 

 

The spell, the bloody spell, God, you prize idiot, Tiering was thinking, you just had it, what have you done…

 

I think, “Occlumens!” is what you are looking for, Harry prompted gently, from inside Clark’s pink head. 

 

Oh gross, get out of my head, fuck!

 

I will, as soon as you make me. 

 

Ah, fuck, fuck, just don’t go poking around, please. 

 

I’ll try my best, but don’t think of anything you don’t want me to know—shit, actually forget that, just think of blue elephants and cast the damn spell, would you?

 

A distressed looking woman in pajama bottoms and a grease-spotted tank top was standing by a kitchen sink. There were mounds of dishes—the memory was interrupted by a parade of trumpeting blue elephants, parading through the dingy kitchen.

 

Good lad! Harry commended him, Good control, excellent, stick with the elephants, then the spell. 

 

Occlumens!” Clark managed to get out, a slight halo of darkness appearing amidst the elephants. 

 

Good, good, again, Harry encouraged, chase that nothingness, expand it, you’re doing really well. 

 

Occlumens!” Clark shouted again, but he’d lost his nerve, the woman was back, she was speaking but it wasn’t making sense. A small, blond haired boy—Clark, Harry realised, only much younger—was sitting at the table, looking wary. 

 

“You have to tell them, Clark, you need to get the message into the right hands—do you still have the letter? This is going to be a very dangerous mission—”

 

Please get out, please get out, Clark was begging him. 

 

Harry ejected himself at once, feeling like an arse, he should have jumped out as soon as Clark lost control. 

 

“Sorry, sorry!” He exclaimed, stepping closer to the young Slytherin, “Alright there, Tiering? Malfoy, the toffees.”

 

Malfoy reluctantly passed over the latest box of Honeydukes toffees that Harry had brought back to Hogwarts for him. He’d not been thrilled with the sacrifice. “What do toffees have to do with Occlumency anyways?” he’d demanded. Harry had simply insisted. 

 

“Here, Clark,” Harry said kindly, “Take one, please. This sort of thing can take it out of you.”

 

Harry ignored the quivering lip of the child, which he suspected was what Clark wanted. Tiering reached for a toffee and shoved it in his mouth, his hands in his pockets. 

 

“That was really well done,” Harry encouraged him, “You were off to a strong start there, truly. You were able to direct your thoughts—”

 

You directed my thoughts,” muttered Clark through a mouthful of toffee. 

 

“Well, they took you somewhere safer, allowed to to concentrate on the countermeasures. It’s not easy, Tiering, you did really well, trust me.”

 

“Can I go now?” Clark whispered, and Harry knew the boy was desperate to protect his pride. Merlin, how could Harry have put the kid in such a vulnerable fucking place, it wasn’t fair. 

 

“It’s normal to feel upset,” Harry told him quietly, “You can go if that is what you would like, of course, but, if you could, please consider staying here, just for a bit. Talk things out with me, I think it would help. I don’t want you leaving here and feeling poorly and not having anyone to go to.”

 

Clark collapsed back into his chair, head in his hands, covering his eyes. Harry’s heart broke a little. He brought his own chair a bit closer, and sat down. 

 

“I lost it with the professor who tried to teach me Occlumency,” Harry said, “He was cruel, he went right for the heart of me, the most personal stuff. I hope you know I was trying very hard not to do that to you, Clark. But it's only natural to have an emotional response.”

 

"Malfoy didn't," Clark argued, his voice thick with suppressed tears. 

 

"Malfoy is highly experienced and had plenty of time to prepare, let's not compare apples and oranges," Harry urged him, gently.

 

Draco was leaning against the desk, sucking on a toffee, considering them. Harry couldn’t quite discern the blond’s expression. 

 

“Fine,” Clark sniffed from behind his hands, “Fuck, I just gave it to you, served it up for you, God, I’m such an idiot.”

 

“Hey,” Harry corrected him firmly, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. It is totally normal to think about what you most don’t want someone else to see. And I didn’t help matters, telling you not to like that. Besides, now you know the basics, and you know what it’s like. Next time will be easier, and then the time after that and then the time after that. You already know the meditation piece, and you were getting there, I could see it. You’ll get there, I know you will. You’ll make your brain a fortress.”

 

Harry reached for the candy box and Draco made a big show of reticence in handing it over, as there was only one toffee remaining. 

 

“Have the last toffee,” Harry encouraged. 

 

“You sure?” Clark whispered.

 

“Yes, definitely,” Harry insisted, ignoring Draco's dark glare. The boy acquiesced. 

 

Harry put a hand on Clark’s shoulder, “I’m sorry” he said again, giving it a squeeze, “This is such a painful, terrible process. I wish it wasn’t.”

 

Clark just sniffed, but he didn’t withdraw from Harry’s touch. 

 

After a few minutes, the gangly boy picked himself up, shaking his limbs, forcing a calm expression, “These are good toffees.”

 

“They were, yes,” Draco agreed. 

 

“Don’t mind Draco,” Harry explained, conspiratorially, “only child, never learned to share.”

 

Clark gave them a watery smile. 

 

“You going to be alright?” Harry asked

 

Clark nodded, running a hand through his pink mop, fluffing it up ridiculously, “Yeah, just sucks is all.”

 

“Really does,” Harry sympathised, “Let’s call it there for the night. Keep meditating and we’ll meet again in a few days, if you’re game.”

 

Clark nodded, “I am, I don’t want anyone being able to do that to me, you know?”

 

The three headed towards the doorway to wend their way up to the main part of the castle. 

 

“You know, Tiering,” Malfoy drawled, and Harry tensed, hoping Draco wasn’t going to go and say something horrible. 

 

Clark looked up from his trainers to meet Malfoy’s eyes. 

 

“We might make an Unspeakable out of you yet,” Draco finished. 

 

Harry could have kissed him. 

Chapter Text

The two older boys chaperoned Clark back to the entrance to the Slytherin dorm, Draco insisting they take common routes.  “Good, you've now been seen with Harry,” he explained, “When people ask, just shrug and say he’s helping you with some more advanced spells. Then change the subject, play it cool. Don’t answer follow-up questions.”

 

“Not going to be an issue, no one talks to me,” was Clark’s glum reply. 

 

“They will now," assured Malfoy. 

 

Draco and Harry arrived back at the eighth year common room to the usual evening milling-about. Small groups of students were gathered to chat or to study. Neville was near the fire with Millie's black cat curled up in his lap, and Harry couldn't say exactly who was looking more content. Hermione and Pansy were intent on their arithmancy texts, quills flying, matching determined expressions.  

 

“Oi, Harry,” called out Ron, he was sitting with Dean at a table. The two had mugs of tea. Tea sounded good.

 

“Just a moment, mate,” Harry called back, then to Malfoy, “Tea?” 

 

“Mm,” Draco nodded. 

 

A few minutes later, tea in hand, the two settled at the table with the other boys. 

 

“How’d it go?” Asked Ron. 

 

“Not terribly,” Harry responded, “He actually made a start which was a lot more than I was expecting." 

 

“That’s brilliant!” Ron agreed, “Now, we need your input on this—yours too, Malfoy. Alright, so the last couple quidditch games have been fun.”

 

And they had been: a couple of thrown together eighth year teams, Draco and Harry pitted against each other but with none of the stakes, none of the anger or ego from years past, just good times with mates. It felt great to be on a broom again, scouring the skies for that flash of gold. 

 

“But,” Ron was saying, “there are only so many times we can scrimmage, just the 14 of us. Plus, with you two in play, Dean here never gets seeker.”

 

“Oh!” Harry was surprised, “Oh, hell, Dean, I didn't know you wanted to! It’s not important, you can seek next match, I don’t mind sitting one out, or trying my hand at chasing, not that I'd be any good.”

 

“Not likely, mate,” Dean gave him an easy smile, “Believe me, no one will take me when there’s you two up for grabs. Anyway, that’s not what has Weasley and I scheming.“

 

“We were thinking,” Ron continued, his voice getting more emphatic with his excitement, “it’ll get dull to just keep playing the same team over and over, so why don’t we expand it?”

 

“Are more eighth years interested in playing?” Harry asked, a bit skeptical. So far as he knew, a few less than keen students had been roped in already, he wasn’t sure both teams would remain at seven players a side for much longer. Even Neville had agreed to give it a go for the sake of a full team last time...and by the queasy expression on his face by the end of the match, Harry suspected there wouldn’t be a repeat performance, despite Ginny’s many encouraging whoops and wolf whistles from the stands. 

 

“Beyond eighth years, Harry!” Ron cried out, “Look, Hermione’s banging away at this interhouse unity drum, and now so is the new DADA professor, so I thought, why don’t we make a bunch of teams? Interhouse, inter-year teams. We won’t get enough pitch time, but we can find other places to practice, over near the lake. We have enough decent players in eighth year to act as coaches. Brocklehurst and Rivers from Ravenclaw, Smith's gone, good riddance, but Jones could do for Hufflepuffs, and then I’ll take a team, Dean here’ll take a team, you and Malfoy here can each have a team.”

 

“I beg your pardon?” Draco reacted.

 

“Oh, come off it, mate,” Ron laughed at Malfoy’s horrified expression, which only amplified at the use of the casual ‘mate’. “Think about it: six, idolizing younger years you get to order around and strategise with, what’s more Malfoy than that? Besides, think of it as part of your bargain. Harry makes you tea, you make an attempt to be social with someone who isn’t Pansy or Greg.”

 

“I still can’t believe you told Weasley about that,” Draco grumbled. 

 

“Bad news for you,” Ron laughed, “Harry tells me everything.”

 

The guilt Harry had been avoiding stabbed ferociously, then. Despite Hermione’s numerous requests and promptings, Harry hadn’t been able to quite break the news about him and Draco to Ron, just yet. He wasn’t even sure what he would tell him. Him and Draco were...friends. Friends who spent every evening snogging like death was on the horizon and getting each other off. And then some. A particularly vivid image of Draco with his swollen lips stretched around Harry’s cock while Harry fisted his hair and came down his throat popped into Harry’s mind. Well, no matter what, he certainly wouldn’t need to tell Ron that part. 

 

Merlin, he was so fucked. He was compromising the most important friendship of his life for the sake of his libido. Ron had given Harry a family. Harry felt like a prize arsehole. He resolved to tell Ron. Soon. 

 

“I think that’s an excellent idea, you two,” Harry said cheerily, “And hey, maybe we can rope Tiering in, and who's that other little Slytherin first year—Hiram! Those kids need friends, and this will make it easier for them. And I’m sure Draco here would love to help out. ”

 

“Oh you are, are you?” Was Draco’s unimpressed response, “Merlin, must I mentor half the school for you?”

 

“‘Fraid so,” agreed Harry with a smile, “Interhouse unity, and besides it will make you look even more impressive when you’re looking for an apprenticeship.”

 

“You looking into potions, then?” Dean asked, voice friendly, “You always were right talented.”

 

Draco shrugged, “Something like that.”

 

“Good on ya,” Dean smiled. 

 

Seamus wandered up to the table, then, “Gentlemen,” he greeted, stealing Dean’s mug from the table and taking a sip. “Merlin, babe,” he whined, “ever heard of sugar, what’s wrong with you?” 

 

“Just trying and failing to keep common tea thieves at bay,” Dean remarked, turning his face up for a kiss, which was granted. 

 

Harry was watching Ron. The redhead wasn’t exactly comfortable with the affection between the two, he’d quickly averted his gaze, but Harry could tell he was trying really, really hard to re-construe his ideas of normal. 

 

Dean and Seamus had become increasingly more affectionate with each other since the party a few weeks ago, especially in the eighth year common room, and Harry wondered if they were making up for all the years they hadn’t felt they could do this.

 

“When did you two get together, anyway?” Harry heard himself asking.

 

Ron, who could handle being around it, but couldn’t quite handle addressing it, turned a bright scarlet, muttered something about Hermione, and scurried off. 

 

“Sorry,” Harry cringed, “he’ll come round.”

 

“He’s been a good sport,” Dean waved it off, “we figure we’ll wear him down with exposure therapy.”

 

Seamus slid into the chair vacated by Ron, “I guess we only truly got together after the war. I think we both sort of realised how stupid we’d been. I mean, we’d been fooling around for ages but both pretending it was just 'boys being boys' bullshite. Then being without him last year, knowing he could end up dead any fecking day and I’d never said a word? Felt bad, mate.”

 

"Sentimental sop," chided Dean, affectionately, squeezing Seamus' knee. 

 

"You've met my Da, you knew what you were getting into," the Irish boy grinned, non-apologetically.

 

“What about Ginny?” Harry asked Dean.

 

Dean shrugged, “I liked Ginny, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could be, you know, normal or some nonsense like that. I think that’s why I clung so hard, she felt like my chance. Which only drove her away faster, of course. But she's not a bloke and she's definitely not Seamus, so it was a doomed enterprise.”

 

“Kind thought it would be you two, honestly,” Seamus admitted, taking another sip of Dean’s tea and grimacing, “Always at each other’s throats. Figured all that intensity had to go somewhere.”

 

Harry shrugged, feeling Draco tense beside him, “Not sure I have a lot of intensity left, sometimes," Harry deflected, "Feels a bit harder to get fussed about things, you know?"

 

Draco yawned, rubbing the back of his neck in a display of indifference, “Bet I could still get under your skin if I tried, Potty.”

 

The other three boys laughed, “Merlin, I just remembered those buttons you made,” Seamus recalled fondly, “clever bit of charm work there, Malfoy, truly. I would have been impressed if I hadn’t been so busy raging with injured house pride.”

 

“Gryffindors,” Malfoy shook his head, pleased, “You’re too easy, really.”

 

***

 

Later that night, Harry had crept into Malfoy’s bed. Somehow over the last few weeks it had become routine—always Draco’s bed, never Harry’s. Harry suspected Draco liked making Harry come to him. 

 

“I need a massage,” Draco announced, once the wards were safely in place, “and you’re going to give me one.”

 

Harry shook his head, affection welling in him for the great bossy housecat of a boy, “Oh am I?”

 

“Mm,” Draco confirmed, pulling off his vest and lying face down on the bedspread. 

 

Harry threw a leg Draco and perched himself on the very slight cushioning that his arse provided. He cast an inlitus, allowing a bit of oil to pool in the beautiful curve at the small of Draco’s back. 

 

Harry hadn’t really given a lot of massages in his life, besides the attempt he’d made on Draco’s leg in the before-kissing-Draco-Malfoy times. That seemed so very long ago. He figured Draco would not exactly hold back in telling him if he was doing a shit job though, so he smeared his palms in the oil and spread it up along Malfoy’s back. 

 

“Who taught you Occlumency?” Harry asked, thoughtfully. He’d always assumed it was Bellatrix, but Draco’s approach tonight had been less forceful than Harry anticipated, more considerate. The meditation, in particular, didn’t feel like an approach Bellatrix would value. 

 

“I asked for a massage, Potter, not a chat,” Malfoy informed him, then groaned as Harry’s hands reached the hardened muscles of trapezius. Too much studying, Harry thought, Draco was hunched over books day and night, lately. 

 

Quid pro quo, sweetheart,” Harry nudged, jokingly. 

 

“Hm,” Draco rebutted, “I think you’ve got the wrong idea about how this works; it's actually quid pro Draco.” He paused then, and Harry was deciding between pushing for more and letting it go when the blond spoke again, “My mother, mostly. After I was tasked with killing Dumbledore she knew I’d have to learn, and quickly. She knew that Bellatrix would be the one to teach me, since Mother isn’t a legimens. She wanted me prepared before subjecting me to my dear aunt. Mum could only teach me the practical aspects, but that was enough. She impressed on me the importance of my success in it; I had to protect myself, my family. We’d meditate any spare moment just so I could get there easily when I needed to. When Bellatrix finally cast Legilimens on me, I didn’t find it too terrible, I was able to deflect her fairly easily. She was a bit mad, I think, jealous. She’d wanted another way to make me, and by proxy my father, look bad. At the end of the day, it didn't make much of a difference, though. Voldemort and even Dumbledore always could see right through me.”

 

“You had no problem with me,” Harry commented, using his thumbs to resolve the tension between Draco’s shoulder blade and spine. 

 

“Don’t pretend that was a full and honest effort,” Draco muttered, “Not even half strength. You didn’t want to upset me. Mm, feels good there, keep doing that.”

 

Harry held the position, thumbs pressing deep for a full minute before easing, drawing his hands back to the small of Draco’s back for more oil. He realised how much he enjoyed this task, giving Malfoy pleasure, relieving some of that tension Harry could always feel coiled within him. Using a lighter pressure, Harry worked along Draco’s intercostals. He savoured the intimacy of bones and sinew so close to the surface, just under the skin, knowing Draco would never trust anyone else like this. He drank in the realization that Draco really was defenseless here. Harry was physically and likely magically stronger than him. He really could do anything he wanted to the other boy, and yet all he wanted to do was this: touch him, talk to him, be with him. Being allowed to care for him like this—it satisfied a hollow in his chest Harry hadn’t quite known was there before now—now when it was filled to bursting.

 

“You’ve gone quiet,” Malfoy remarked, “not like you,” he craned his neck around, “Alright, Potter? No more pressing questions about my family, my relationship with my mother?”

 

Harry tossed his head once, as if to unseat the feeling, but it didn’t budge, “I’m fine,” he said, “I just. Like this.”

 

“Glad you know your place,” Draco said smugly, rest his cheek back in his forearms, “Don’t neglect my lower back, would you? Too much bloody sitting, maybe more quidditch isn't the worst idea, after all. Mm, yes, that’s quite good.” He paused, and then, in a voice so low it was nearly smothered entirely, “Harry, look, I, ah, I like it, too.”

Chapter Text

“As I’m sure you expected by now, Ada Lum appears to have been influenced by a similar mechanism to Clark Tiering,” Professor McGonagall revealed to Harry, Ron and Hermione a few days later, in her office, “She awoke from her coma last week and I spoke with her myself. Thankfully, the—was it seven?—stunning spells have caused no permanent damage, and if anything, Miss Lum seems rather excited to have a story to tell. Of course, I have encouraged her very strongly to keep that story to herself...but I am prepared for rumours to circulate amongst the younger student body.”

 

“Should Malfoy and I try to teach her Occlumency, as well?” Harry asked. 

 

“That is a generous offer, Harry,” McGonagall said, “but why don’t we see how it goes with Tiering first. I know those lessons alongside this new quidditch league that Mr. Weasley has proposed in lieu of the DA are keeping you plenty busy, especially since it is your N.E.W.T. year. Furthermore, the Lum girl is from an ancient wizarding family and this experience didn’t faze her to the degree that it fazed young Mr. Tiering. Ada feels relatively confident that should the voice appear in her head again, she could resist doing what it said long enough to inform her head out house, and has been instructed to do so.”

 

“So, the spell doesn’t have a compulsive element?” Hermione asked curiously. 

 

“Well spotted, Miss Granger,” the headmistress smiled over the lens of her eyeglasses, “Yes, it would seem this spell lacks an Imperius nature. For Mr. Tiering it was just incessant, whereas for Ms. Lum, it seemed to play more to her desires. It convinced her that injuring Mr. Malfoy would win her friends and admirers.”

 

“What is it with all these lonely Slytherins?” Harry wondered aloud, “Don’t they talk to each other?”

 

McGonagall smiled indulgently at him, “This is unfortunately not an anomaly; every year many students from every house struggle to make the transition. It is only October; I’m sure by the holiday break we will have far fewer lonely souls. And your quidditch idea is a strong one, I think. I will allow first years to fly outside of lessons if accompanied by a sixth year or higher, and,” she said, passing a large brass key across her desk to Ron, “Here’s a key to the broom storage and quidditch equipment shed, for your use only, Mr. Weasley—you will be held responsible for the dispersing and collecting of supplies to those without their own.”

 

Ron looked thrilled, “I won’t let you down, Headmistress, thank you for this.” He tucked the key in a pocket, giving it a happy pat. 

 

“I’m sure you won’t,” McGonagall agreed, “Well, I think that was most of my communique. No word from Tiering about repeat incidents? How’s Mr. Malfoy keeping?”

 

“Pretty hard for anything to happen to him with Harry as a shadow,” Ron commented, giving Harry a playful elbow, “He’s a mother hen, Professor, honestly.”

 

McGonagall observed Harry for a quiet moment, “Well, I’m sure Mr. Malfoy appreciates it,” she said. 

 

Ron snorted, “We are talking about the same Malfoy, right? Barely appreciated Harry saving his life the first time round, I doubt he’s even noticed this time.”

 

“I thought you and Malfoy were getting along alright,” Hermione pointed out, “He’s agreed to take a quidditch team, even.”

 

“Oh, we can get along fine,” Ron agreed, “but he’s still a bit of an arrogant git, always thinks he’s got the best ideas, always bossing Harry around.”

 

“I appreciate your focus remaining on the ‘getting along’ aspect, Mr. Weasley,” instructed McGonagall. 

 

“‘Course, professor,” Ron hurried to assure her, 

 

“Malfoy’s fine,” Harry spoke up, “and Clark, too. He’s a good kid, and actually made some progress at his first Occlumency lesson. Nothing to report. I don’t trust the quiet, though, Professor. I don’t think whoever has done this has just changed their mind.”

 

Professor McGonagall nodded, “Nor do I. Unfortunately, I’m a bit at a loss for leads. The student body in general seems to be taking cues from the eighth years. I’ve had fewer reports from other professors of inter-house altercations. I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but I like to think we’ve been successful in changing the culture somewhat. I’m still trying to decide if we should do away with houses altogether. Perhaps it’s sentimental of me, but I do have fond memories of Gryffindor as a girl, and I think familiar faces can be grounding. We just also need to keep things friendly and encourage friendships between houses. The faculty are keeping their eyes and ears out, however, and we will evaluate things as they come.”

 

“I liked having a house, too,” Harry offered, “I don’t mind now, all us eighth years lumped together, but we’ve had years to get to know each other. It is a bit less intimidating to have a bit of a built-in cohort upon arrival. Anyway, we all know you’re doing the best you can. There is no perfect system for this sort of thing.”

 

McGonagall reached out and gave Harry’s forearm a squeeze, “I’m so glad you all decided to return to Hogwarts for a final year, it has been a real pleasure to have so many returning eighth years. I suspect I’m going to miss the lot of you more than I realise.”

 

***

 

“Go ask him,” Draco ordered. It was Saturday morning. McGonagall had announced Hogwarts’ endorsement of Ron and Dean’s interhouse quidditch league earlier that week with some stipulations: each team was required to have an eighth year coach, and at least one player from each house. As this was more a recreational league, and in order to provide more opportunities, students who already played for their house teams were not allowed to apply. Interested students had submitted their names, houses and preferred positions (if any) to a main list, from which the coaches were forming teams. Enthusiasm for the idea seemed high, students' names were pouring in. Clark Tiering, Harry had noticed, without surprise, was not one of those names.

 

“Well, if you ask him to be part of your team, he’s hardly going to turn you down, now, is he?” Draco had said when Harry had mentioned his disappointment. 

 

“You do remember how easily Tiering turned me down in the past? I had to get you to convince him to even attend a single Occlumency lesson.”

 

“Yes, but that is only because you have the social skills of a solitary swamp dweller.” Draco had informed him, “You need to use your social clout, not skirt it. I am not entirely sure how you’re going to survive the world outside Hogwarts, sometimes. You’ve no idea what to do with people at all.”

 

Harry wasn’t convinced from that talk and still wasn’t convinced now.

 

“I can’t just go up to him in the breakfast hall, I don’t want to embarrass him,” he muttered back at Draco. 

 

Draco looked at him exasperated, “Potter, do you really have no concept of how students at this school perceive you?”

 

“I mean, just the war stuff and all that,” Harry muttered, never liking when conversations went this route.

 

“The ‘war stuff,’” Draco echoed, horrified, “You make it sound like you’re some unnamed figure in an ancient tome. Potter, let me be absolutely clear: you were already a celebrity when I was a child. Everyone in this room with any connection to the wizarding world grew up knowing your name. And now you’ve gone and redoubled your efforts and ended a genocide . You’re not an affable uncle, for fuck’s sake, you’re a bonafide superstar, you thick-skulled muttonhead. Can you truly not conceive this?”

 

Harry stirred his porridge uncomfortably, “But I go to school with them, it’s surely lost its shine.”

 

“You paddling upstream, mate,” Ron informed Draco from his other side, “Harry never quite gets it.”

 

“Obviously,” Draco acknowledged, “How do you forebear?”

 

“Well, there are certain perks to having an oblivious best mate,” Ron shrugged, “he doesn’t notice if I borrow galleons and forget to pay him back. Got him the same quidditch book for his birthday this year as I did one Christmas, and he was just as chuffed this time round.”

 

“I thought it was familiar. Good book though, and I’m not sure where my other copy got to. I enjoyed it just as much this time,” Harry commented. 

 

“Oh, it was the same copy,” Ron informed him, “You left it at the Burrow and I thought, well, why not.”

 

Harry laughed while Malfoy stabbed his bacon pointedly, “Go!” he insisted, “Go over to the Slytherin table, ask Tiering if he fancies playing quidditch on your team, and mark the reaction of every single other student within earshot and report back. Now, Potter.”

 

Harry wasn’t exactly pleased with the instructions, but he did want Tiering to give quidditch a shot, if only to get the kid some friends. He also had a secondary motivation: proving Malfoy wrong. The student body was not just going to fall to pieces because Harry existed. 

 

“Fine,” he hissed, swallowing the last of his pumpkin juice and standing. He began to walk across the large room to the Slytherin table. Clark was easy enough to spot—weekends were mohawk days. The pink-haired boy was seated at the end of his row, no one was paying him any mind. Harry had to admit as he moved, he did notice a few students start to track his movements. There were nudges and whispers and the farther he got from the eighth year table, the more prominent they became. By the time he stood before Clark, there was what could only be described as a hush descending around him. 

 

“Morning, Tiering,” he said, sliding his hands in his pockets, trying very hard for casual.

 

“Er, hi?” The kid looked mortified—Harry felt vindicated, he was embarrassing!

 

“Noticed you didn’t put your name down for quidditch. You should. I’ll put you on my team, if you like.”

 

A collective gasp rose and whispers echoed the conversation down the long lines of the nearby tables, like a flame chasing spilled petrol. 

 

“Oh,” Tiering cleared his throat, “Uh, alright then.”

 

Harry grinned, “Excellent. We’ll have our first practice tomorrow. I’ll let you know the details once they’re sorted.”

 

The boy did not grin back. 

 

“Well. Enjoy your breakfast,” Harry said, stupidly, then wandered back to finish his own. 

 

***

 

“You were wrong, he was absolutely embarrassed,” Harry muttered as he slid in beside Draco. 

 

“Doesn’t look too embarrassed right now,” came the smug reply, and Harry hazarded a glance back over at the Slytherin table. Students seated nearby were leaning in, others had actively gotten up to crowd around him. His cheeks were pink as his spiked hair, but he now wore a rather pleased expression, as he shrugged and gave short answers to questions Harry couldn’t make out. “It’s called social capital , Harry. You have it. You ought to use it. For good, obviously.”

 

“Not sure you should be taking advice on power and politics from this one,” Ron pointed out, “Hasn’t exactly gone well for his family so far.”

 

“Oh, I think Harry knows I’m worth listening to, don’t you Harry?” Malfoy’s voice was drenched in condescension. Harry reflected that once upon a time that tone would have erupted volcanoes of fury within him.  Now he found his only response was a warm sort of affectionate feeling. Draco was just so purposefully ridiculous and it was strangely endearing. 

 

“I’d trust Hermione before either of you,” he declared.

 

“Well, no one would fault you for that,” Ron laughed, then chewing thoughtfully on a bit of sausage, continued, “Still not used to you two using each other’s given names. Hope you don’t expect me to be following suit any time soon, Malfoy.”

 

Harry felt Draco’s fingers curl over his thigh beneath the table and give a possessive squeeze. 

 

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it. Besides, to return the favour I’d have to suss out just which Weasley you are.”

 

Ron clapped Malfoy on the back with a chuckle, “Good man. Least I know the world hasn’t spun off its axis entirely.”

Chapter Text

The eighth year quidditch coaches were sorting through the player lists later that afternoon. Harry didn’t know Ravenclaws Mandy Brocklehurst, Olivier Rivers or Hufflepuff Megan Jones very well, but they seemed keen. Brocklehurst was a tall, broad girl Harry would feel compelled to describe as ‘strapping,’ if he thought he could get away with it. He’s never played her on the field, but apparently she was a reserve beater for the Ravenclaw team for years. Very Ravenclaw, he thought, to actually have back-up players. 

 

Olivier Rivers was a quiet, contemplative boy with dark skin and golden eyes that made Harry realise he really was into blokes. While Rivers, a chaser, didn’t play for the school team, he apparently attended a prestigious quidditch training camp in Sweden during the summers. Jones was a friendly, if overly chatty, strawberry blond keeper.

 

Most of the student names meant little to Harry, so he was dependent on the input of others, especially Rivers and Jones who both had younger siblings, to help sort the students into teams. 

 

“Oh, Mona, that’s my sister, she says Mathieu Rundle—his mother’s French, but he grew up in Bristol—is just the loveliest boy, but then again Mona will say that about students, wouldn’t she, she really is the sweetest girl. Have you met her, Harry? You’d like her, I just know it,” Jones was saying. She’d had something equally benign to say about almost every player that came up and it wasn’t helping Harry get a more clear picture of them. Beside him, he could feel Draco radiating irritation, and Harry appreciated the restraint Malfoy was showing. Past Draco would have silenced the girl with a scathing remark hours ago. 

 

Harry was guiltily wishing that Draco would say something, just so they could move the fuck on with this meeting, when Pansy burst into the common room, obviously upset and short of breath.

 

“Draco,” she called out sternly, once she’d laid eyes on him, “a word.”

 

Her tone would brook no argument, and Draco stood at once, sharp features piqued with concern. Harry went to rise as well, but Malfoy placed a halting hand on his shoulder, “Doesn’t concern you, Potter,” he growled.

 

Harry wanted to argue but before he could, Draco and Pansy had briskly exited the common room. He shifted nervously in his seat, but Dean gave him a kind look and said, “He knows where to find you if he needs you.”

 

“Right,” Harry agreed, but he struggled to focus. 

 

“Well, that’s a bit rude,” Jones remarked, “but I’m sure he has his reasons. To be perfectly honest, Draco Malfoy’s always been a bit rude, but my mother always says, ‘don’t judge a person until you’ve flown a mile on their broomstick,’ and I think that’s very wise, don’t you? We don’t know what he’s been through,” her voice hushed conspiratorially, “he was a Death Eater after all, only came to the side of the light at the very last moment—”

 

“Yes, Megan, thanks,” it was Dean, mouth tight, observing eyes taking in Harry’s quiet anger, “I think we all know the story of the Malfoys, Harry’s account was published in the Prophet, after all, and both Draco and his mother’s names were cleared. Anyway, I think we’ve got pretty decent teams sorted, so let’s call it a day, shall we?”

 

Harry looked down at his list. The teams were closer to ten players, due to the level of interest. Players could swap out with each other, like in football, Dean had insisted, it was about learning the game, after all. Harry’s list said:

Harry Potter (coach, seeker); Clark Tiering (1st year Slytherin, no position); Hiram Fantyl (1st year Slytherin, no position); David Clayburne (2nd year Hufflepuff, no position); Magnolia Sitthi (3rd year Ravenclaw, no position) ; Karanjeet Atwal (4th year Gryffindor, chaser); Claire Gibbens (4th year Ravenclaw, chaser);  Mathieu Rundle (5th year Gryffindor, beater); Marcia Awling (6th year Slytherin, keeper); Fitzwilliam “Fitz” Hops (7th year Hufflepuff, beater). Besides Clark and Hiram—and now, apparently Mathieu from Bristol—the names were largely meaningless.

 

“Great, well, if we’re all agreed, I’ll go post the lists,” Ron announced, casting a spell that temporarily absorbed the text so he could project them on the wall of the great hall. Jones looked eager to continue chatting but Harry was too preoccupied to remain conversational. He said something about needing a cup of tea and wandered off.  The group dispersed. 

 

A few minutes later, Harry sat down with his tea at the table near the window and opened his potions textbook to review for Monday’s lesson—something he had been doing more often lately, at Draco’s decree. He couldn’t concentrate. He just kept looking from the entrance to the window, watching the workers hoist blocks, transfigure rubble, discuss plans. They’d recently finished the central tower and were moving on to the astronomy tower. Soon, all that would be left to fix was the seventh floor corridor, but Harry knew that would never be the same. The room of requirement was gone forever. 

 

His stomach lurched as he thought back to that final night, the pure terror on Malfoy’s face as he tried and failed to rescue Crabbe. Harry could still feel Malfoy’s arms clutched impossibly tight around his waist, his screams for Harry to get them to safety before he buried his face in Harry’s shoulder to avoid the billowing smoke. 

 

His memory clicked ahead like that muggle stereoscope Dudley had been entertained with for all of five minutes as a kid. Now in focus was Malfoy in the hallways weeks ago, beaten bloody. Forward again and there was the blond, in the library terrified, his very mind violated. And now today, concern writ large across his face as Pansy burst in. It hurt, Harry realised, knowing Draco was mortal and vulnerable and he always would be and even being his permanent shadow couldn’t prevent that, couldn’t keep him safe. It left Harry panicked, breathless. He needed to find Draco, find him right now. He bolted up from his seat and dashed out into the hall, leaving his books at the table. He didn’t care, he needed eyes on the other boy, right this very moment. 

 

He turned the corner and smacked into something solid, another student.

 

“Oh, sorry,” Harry said, jumping back, only to realise an instant later that the student was Draco, “Oh, thank fuck,” Harry breathed, and he couldn’t help himself, he threw his arms around Draco’s shoulders, clinging to him, half-desperate with worry. Hiding his face in Malfoy’s neck, he could smell the other boy’s crisp antiperspirant, a smell he didn’t even know he’d become accustomed to, but, Merlin, he had. 

 

“Oh, for fuck’s—,” Draco let out an exasperated sigh, dodging out of Harry's manic embrace and steering them both into a nearby doorway. It was a first year lecture theatre, large and empty. Draco kicked the door shut, “What is going on with you?” He demanded. 

 

Harry couldn’t form a response so instead he just lunged at Malfoy again. 

 

“Merlin’s tits, Potter,” Draco muttered, but this time he folded Harry into his arms, “What’s happened, hm?”

 

“I can’t keep you safe,” Harry tried to explain but his mind was still galloping, “No matter what I do, it doesn’t matter, anything could happen and I won’t be there. Even if I am there, doesn't mean I can stop anything. You could have fallen into the fire, you could have been beaten to death, convinced to, I don't know, walk out a window, anything and I can’t stop it, Draco. I want to, but I can’t. You’re vulnerable. All the time you’re vulnerable, I can’t stand it.” Harry couldn’t breathe but he needed to, he needed to breathe and to explain, and to wrap Draco up and put him somewhere safe, where no one could get to him, but he was dizzy and the floor was so far away and Draco needed to understand. Merlin, his fingers were tingling, little electric pulses coursing up his axons and they were in the room of requirement again, Harry hurtling forward on his broom, only this time Draco was falling, falling and Harry couldn’t—

 

“Harry,” Draco’s voice is at the end of a long tunnel and they’re on their knees, Harry’s face is wet and for a second he thinks it might be blood but that doesn’t make sense. Malfoy’s hands are on his jaw, in his hair, and he’s repeating his name, “Harry, Harry, love, you’re scaring me, what’s happening?”

 

“I—I fuck,” Harry gasped, grinding his knuckles into his sternum, “I don’t know, I’m sorry, I just. I’m sorry. I need to sit down.”

 

Malfoy held Harry’s elbows and helped maneuver him the rest of the way to the floor, crouching beside him. Harry dropped his head between his knees. Draco’s hand was rubbing tentative circles on Harry’s back and all Harry could hear was his heartbeat, Merlin, was it always this loud? It felt like an earthquake ricocheting through him with every smart snap of his valves. He forced his focus away from it, clocking instead the movement of Malfoy’s palm along his spine, slow and reassuring and very much alive.  He reached out blindly, for Draco’s other hand, wrapping it up in both his, desperate to feel the other boy’s warmth bleed into his own buzzing, freezing fingers. 

 

Malfoy tipped his forehead against Harry’s shoulder, kissing the sleeve of his jumper, “There,” he murmured, “how’re you now?”

 

Harry checked in with his stuttering heart. Thankfully, it was slowing, the rabbit pulses giving way to something steadier, more human. 

 

“I’m—” Merlin, he didn’t know, “okay,” he offered. He forced himself to look up into the dim of the empty lecture hall. Then he remembered Pansy and Draco and that concerned look, and shifted to face Draco properly, blurting out, “But you, are you okay? What’s happened?”

 

“Hey,” Draco said, voice half-stern, “Harry, I’m fine, understand?”

 

Harry blinked blearily, feeling nauseous, jittery. 

 

“Did you hear me?” Draco prompted. 

 

“You’re fine,” Harry breathed. 

 

“Exactly,” Draco re-positioned himself, lowering to his knees, and taking the hand from Harry’s back to place it against Harry’s cheek, “That's right, I’m fine. You seemed concerned that I wasn’t.”

 

“I—” Harry swallowed, “Memories. I think.”

 

Draco nodded, sweeping aside Harry’s fringe and kissing his forehead, “I get them, too,” he said, almost matter-of-fact. 

 

“I don’t want to lose you,” Harry admitted. 

 

“And where would I go, hm?” Draco inquired, with a gentle half-smile, “Believe me, Potter, you’re the best thing I’ve got going for me. By leagues and leagues.”

 

“I still could, someone’s after you, I haven’t tried hard enough, I need to sort this—”

 

“Harry,” Draco cut him off, voice firm, “enough.”

 

Harry clapped his jaw shut, almost relieved at the direction. 

 

“We survived fiendfyre. We survived Voldemort. Hell, you survived him twice, or plenty more times than that, if all the stories are to be believed. We survived all that. Some grudge-wielding vigilante is not going to be our undoing. Especially not with you, and McGonagall, and all the faculty, and Pansy, and even your bloody Gryffindor friends watching out for me everywhere I go,” Draco’s volume had risen with every emphatic “and”. He took a breath to reel himself back in, “Listen, from the moment I got my mark until the moment you killed the bastard for good, I lived in fear for my life. I know what that feels like. I don’t feel that way now, understand? In fact, I’ve never felt so safe.”

 

“Yeah,” Harry replied, adrenaline finally ebbing and something that felt a bit like shame taking its place, “sorry, I don’t know what that was, it just doused me in worry. All I could think was that I had to find you.”

 

“It’s alright, I hear you. We’ve all been a bit fucked with, haven’t we?" Draco produced a shimmering grey handkerchief and efficiently mopped up Harry's face, like he was a distraught child, "So don’t censure yourself about it, how’s that? Besides, objective achieved, you've found me, and I'm fine.”

 

Harry just nodded and was relieved to feel Draco kiss him, strong, unfaltering, and sure. 

 

“Nice to know you care, though,” Draco commented, and Harry knew it was a tease, simply a tease, a way to break the tension, but he felt too scraped open for it, he couldn’t just take the wisecrack for what is was and all the sudden more words were spilling out all over again:

 

“Draco, of course I care, Merlin, I fucking care, you’re all I—”

 

Malfoy shoved both palms over Harry’s mouth, “Fucking hell, you bull-headed, stout-hearted, seeping wound of a Gryffindor. Harry, I’m begging you. I was raised on back-handed compliments and occasional nods of affection—stop, that was hyperbole, get that damned pity of your eyes, so help me—what I’m saying is, I cannot physically handle all your…sentiment, sometimes. Don’t misunderstand me, I…” Draco set his teeth on edge and swallowed like something phlegmy and foul was on his tongue, “care about you, too, and Merlin knows I like hearing you say it, but I need all this sensibility tempered with some chaff so I don’t cringe away into nothing, alright?” 

 

Harry, mouth still smothered by Draco’s palms, only nodded. 

 

“Good,” Draco sighed, “I’m going to take my hands off now so I can kiss you properly, but for fuck’s sake please just keep your feelings off me for a few minutes so I can...re-calibrate.”

Chapter Text

Harry realised pretty shortly into the snog session that he would have to take a break for mucus-related reasons. He extricated himself from Draco, and tugged the handkerchief out of the other’s boy’s hand, marking the intricately stitched Malfoy house crest above the initials DLM. 

 

Seemed almost too pretty to use, but options were scarce. First, he wiped off his tear-fogged glasses and then he gave his nose a raucous blow. 

 

Draco wrinkled his perfect nose, “Honestly!"

 

“Can’t help I get stuffed up when I cry, that’s just biology,” Harry made a gesture to hand the hanky back and Draco leaped back in horror. 

 

“Absolutely not, burn it!” 

 

“Now who's got too many damn sensibilities?” Harry grumbled, stuffing the soiled silk into his pocket and getting to his feet. He ran a hand through the permanent disaster that was his hair, feeling self-conscious, “Thanks,” he muttered, “I’m sorry about all that.” He gestured vaguely at the floor as if a hand wave and a veiled reference could stand in for a semi-delusional meltdown. 

 

Malfoy, now standing also with hands on the small of his back, arched backwards, twisting his head one direction and then the other, as in an attempt to crack his neck. He was the picture of indifference. 

 

“It’s fine, Potter, truly,” Draco reiterated. 

 

“Tea?” Harry asked. 

 

“Tea,” Draco agreed. 

 

Just before they reach the door to exit the classroom, Malfoy took hold of Harry’s arm. Harry stopped, surprised, “What?” He asked. 

 

Draco gripped his jumper and pushed up against Harry’s mouth with his own, kissing him, “Gonna spend the rest of the day looking at your stupidly attractive face and not getting to touch it,” he muttered, “Getting a bit tired of all the not touching, honestly. Just let me get my fill for a minute, will you?”

 

Harry, a bit taken aback and also more than a bit pleased, grinned into another kiss. He took Draco by the waist and whirled him around, pressing the other boy up against the door. Malfoy made an approving noise and Harry slid a thigh between the blond’s legs, pinning him there. 

 

“Not sure I could ever get my fill of you,” he observed as he felt Draco’s body respond. He pushed his leg in closer.  

 

“No,” Draco replied, a pleased gasp belying his unperturbed tone, “I don’t suspect you could.”

 

Harry chuckled, nipping at Draco’s jawline, “Merlin, you are such a conceited little git,”

 

“Mm, shame you have such a weakness for conceited gits.”

 

Harry could only laugh because he really, really did. 

 

***

 

“Is Pansy alright?” Harry asked as they sat down over tea in the common room a little while later, “I mean, I’m obviously not asking you to share her private business—”

 

“Better circle the troops,” Draco sighed, “we’ve had another attack.”

 

“Oi, Ron, Hermione,” Harry called out to the couple, who were curled up on a nearby couch. 

 

Draco flinched as if personally affronted, “Your manners could stand some revision,” he informed Harry. 

 

“Did the job, didn’t it?” Harry retorted, not fussed. He tilted his head to indicate that Ron and Hermione were on their way over. They drew up chairs. 

 

“Hello, you two,” Hermione greeted, “Something up?”

 

“Quite," Malfoy agreed, "I suspect Weasley told you that Pansy came to find me, quite upset?"

 

"He did," Hermione confirmed, "Is she alright?"

 

"Pansy is fine. Unfortunately, earlier today she found Greg wandering the hallways and he was rather beside himself. He said there was a woman in his head trying to convince him to leap off some the spectator stands at the quidditch pitch.”

 

Ron gave a sharp inhale and Hermione pursed her lips, “Whoever it is is still at it, then. What happened?”

 

“On my advice, Pansy took Greg to see McGonagall. The voice departed pretty soon after Pansy found him, but Goyle was a bit shook up about it. ”

 

“Of course he was,” Hermione sympathised, “I’m sorry, Draco, that’s terrible.”

 

“Oh, now he’s ‘Draco’ to you, too?” Ron puzzled aloud.

 

“Not the time, Ronald,” Hermione rebuked. 

 

“Right, yeah, sorry,” Ron cleared his throat, “Poor Goyle, he’s turned into not so bad bloke, really. That’s no good at all.”

 

“We need to figure this out,” Harry announced, bracing his palms against the table, “Where was Goyle when this happened? Where were Ada Lum and Clark Tiering?”

 

“Ada was in the DA meeting, but I think the voice started prior to that,” Hermione said, “I’ll double check with McGonagall.”

 

“Tiering was in his dorm. You were in the library,” Harry nodded to Malfoy.

 

“It happened to you, too?” Hermione inquired.

 

“Tried,” Malfoy shrugged, “Gave her the boot. Greg said it started when he was in the great hall.”

 

“Definitely Legilimency,” Hermione remarked. She went and got her satchel and pulled out a paper and quill, “They need to increase Slytherin dormitory security, make sure no one invisible is sneaking in. Harry, have you got your map? It’s a bit of a needle in a haystack but we could do a quick screen and make sure everyone is who they say they are.”

 

“Brilliant,” Harry acknowledged and left for the dorm. When he got back, Hermione had jotted down what little information they knew. 

 

“What I can’t make out,” she considered, “is the variety. At first it was Draco specific, with the Lum girl, then just a random message with Tiering, then back to Draco, and then trying to manipulate Goyle so cruelly. It’s so sporadic.”

 

“She feels somehow unstable, desperate,” Harry observed, “she doesn’t have a concrete plan. She’s like a hurt animal, just lashing out in whatever way she can.”

 

“I think you might be right," Hermione agreed.

 

"I would say who are Malfoy’s enemies,” Ron said, crossing his arms over his chest, “but like we've covered, that doesn’t narrow things down much.”

 

“Anyone related to anyone killed or hurt in the war,” Harry sighed, "It's not a short list. Do you think the physical attacks earlier in the year were part of this, Draco?”

 

Malfoy didn’t look convinced, “Doubt it. Like Weasley said, I’m not very popular these days.”

 

Harry unfurled the Marauder’s Map.

 

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” he muttered, giving it a tap. 

 

“I beg your pardon?” Draco said, looking at him like he’d gone barmy. 

 

“It’s just what you have to say,” Harry explained sheepishly, “look.”

 

The ink of the map curled out in magnificent detail. Harry couldn’t help but feel it was like an old friend. Draco leaned in, but before he managed to get an understanding of what he was seeing, a large golden-furred beast leaped up onto the map, and flopped over. 

 

“Crookshanks!” cried out Hermione, true delight on her face. 

 

The cat gave Draco a discerning look, his smooshed face somehow more judgmental than ever. 

 

“It’s hideous,” Draco observed, some measure of awe in his voice, “like centuries of inbreeding hideous. Granger, is this thing yours?”

 

“Well, yes, but he’s still dealing with his feelings,” Hermione tried to explain, “I could barely convince him to come with me to school, and he’s been very distant all term. I think I hurt his feelings when I left him at The Burrow.”

 

Draco blinked, “It’s a cat,” he told her, like maybe she didn’t know. He went to shove the aforementioned cat off the map but Hermione let out a pitiful little yelp. 

 

“Oh please don’t, Malfoy, he barely comes near me any more,” she pleaded. 

 

“And here I was thinking you were the cleverest witch in school,” he shook his head, clearly dumbfounded. Nevertheless, instead of moving the cat, Draco stood and maneuvered himself so he was standing behind Harry, peering over him to the aged parchment. 

 

“What is this thing?” He demanded, sounding impressed despite himself. 

 

“It’s a map,” Harry said. 

 

“Yes, thanks for that, Potter,” Malfoy clipped, “is it a...living map?”

 

“That’s not a bad way of describing it,” Harry agreed, “My dad, Lupin, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew made it back when they were in school.”

 

"It's remarkable," Malfoy breathed, and Harry felt a swell of pride. Draco’s finger found the four of them lumped together in the eighth year common room.

 

“This suddenly explains so much,” he mused, “like why you could always fucking find me in sixth year.”

 

“I swear we tried to stop him, mate,” Ron assured him, “but the obsession, it was all-consuming when it came to you. I mean I suppose there was the incident with the mead and me almost dying and you being the cause of that, so he was kind of right." Hermione put both hands to her face in a gesture that cearly said all her hard work was being unraveled.  So Ron barreled on, “But, you know, post-war Ron is all about burying the hatchet and working towards interhouse unity. After all, what’s a little near-death experience if it brought us three closer as friends?” Ron forced a grimace and shot a desperate, approval-seeking look at Hermione.

 

Hermione gave him a weak smile and patted his knee.

 

“In my defense, I wasn’t trying to kill you,” Draco offered, putting a hand on Harry’s shoulder so he could lean in for a better look at the map. Harry wanted so badly to lean back into the touch.

 

“Blimey,” Ron breathed, sounding half horrified and half amazed, “that’s all the apology I’m going to get, isn’t it?”

 

“You were underage,” Malfoy pointed out, “that’s on you.”

 

“Incredible,” Ron admired, “Malfoy, your ego, your shocking lack of compassion...”

 

“Mm, has its uses,” Draco agreed, “now if we could all please focus?”

 

“So look for a name that shouldn’t be here, adults in dormitories, former Death Eaters, anything that sticks out,” Harry instructed, allowing his eyes to drift across the professors’ quarters: Slughorn, Flitwick, Haberdash-Pewter, and so on. The names that were present seemed to match their locations. 

 

Hagrid was out in the pumpkin patch and Harry felt a pang of guilt. He’d been so wrapped up in this thing with Draco, he’d barely seen his friend in weeks. 

 

“We should go visit Hagrid tomorrow.”

 

“That’s a lovely idea, Harry,” Hermione agreed, her eyes following his on the map, “He could probably use some help getting those things carved up for Halloween.”

 

Crookshanks’ tail thwapped one way then the other, landing on the astronomy tower. 

 

“Who’re all these people?” Ron asked, following the movement and squinting at the cluster of dots and names beside the bottle-brush length of fur.

 

“Those are just the builders,” Harry said, “they’ve moved onto the final tower.”

 

“Do they all check out?” 

 

Harry shrugged, “It’s hard to know what’s off when I don’t know who’s supposed to be here. Any of the names look familiar?”

 

“Not that I can tell. I mean, Smith? Like Zacharias?”

 

“Yes, there is only one Smith family in all of wizarding Britain,” Draco said, dryly, “well spotted, Weasley.”

 

“Oh fuck off,” Ron grumbled, “Not like you’re bursting with ideas.”

 

“Well, with half the map obliterated by this so-called cat…”

 

Crookshanks flicked his tail at the astronomy tower again. 

 

“Did you see that?” Ron asked, “Crookshanks thinks we should examine the workers!”

 

“This is absolutely not happening,” Draco protested, looking from Ron’s eager face to Hermione’s thoughtful one. 

 

“He is a particularly perceptive cat,” Hermione objected, when she saw the disdain in Malfoy’s eyes. 

 

“Starkers,” the blond muttered, “absolutely starkers.”

 

“Well, at the very least we could ask McGonagall if they were properly vetted,” Harry suggested, “Mischief managed.”

 

Crookshanks hopped off the map and lumbered towards the fire. Harry folded up and pocketed the parchment and Draco reclaimed his seat.

 

“I guess I could talk to Clark again?” Harry said, not feeling hopeful, “See if he remembers anything else? Merlin, this is so frustrating! It’s like they are a ghost!”

 

Hermione patted his hand, “At least we’re trying, Harry.”

 

“Can we teach Goyle some Occlumency?” Harry asked. 

 

Draco shook his head, “I’ve tried in the past, it just didn’t take.”

 

“Well, why don’t I do some research tonight or tomorrow. Even if he can’t learn the spell, there’s usually more than one way around a problem. McGonagall pressured Madam Pince into letting me have restricted privileges, I’ll see if I can’t turn something up, even just a temporary measure would be better than nothing. I’ll ask Pansy and Neville for help, more eyes and all that.”

 

Harry rubbed his eyes beneath his glasses, “I’ve got to come up for some drills for quidditch tomorrow. Draco, maybe you could take Goyle to practice with you? Just in case anything happens?”

 

Harry expected a terse remark about not needing an au pair, but to his surprise, Malfoy just agreed, “Yeah, alright. Probably best to keep him busy, anyway.”

 

Ron stood and stretched, “I should owl Mum.”

 

“Send her my best,” Harry requested.

 

“Will do, mate,” Ron replied, then wandered off. 

 

Hermione appraised Draco and Harry and sighed, “You need to tell him.”

 

“I know,” Harry chewed his lip, “I know, I do, I just...I don’t know how. Like it's one thing to be friendly with Draco, it's a whole other thing to...” Harry didn't know how to finish the sentence, "tell him we're shagging."

 

Draco choked on his tea and Hermione gave him a despairing look, "If it thought you were just shagging, I wouldn't make you tell him," she retorted. 

 

"Well, what do I tell him then?" 

 

“I don't know, Harry, figure it out,” Hermione snapped, her patience for this issue obviously at an end, “I’m tired of secrets and I’m tired of lies. The longer this goes on, the more hurt he’ll be when he finds out you kept it from him. And he'll be even more hurt if he finds I've kept it from him, too. He is trying extremely hard, Harry, despite his not insignificant grief, to give Draco a chance. You're his best friend; the least you can do is to give him a chance, as well.”

 

“Okay,” Harry agreed, solemnly, "you're right. Tomorrow. I promise, Hermione, tomorrow.”

 

She nodded curtly, "Good," she said, standing, "I'll see you at dinner." Hermione walked away, Harry watching her, until he felt Draco reach for his hand.

 

Harry turned to look at the other boy, interlacing their fingers on his thigh beneath the table. Malfoy wore a thoughtful expression.

 

"What is it?" Harry asked. 

 

"I can't believe I'm saying this," Draco mused, "but I think I rather like Granger."

 

Harry beamed, his heart feeling suddenly fully of sunshine, "Well, yes," he agreed, "she's brilliant."

 

"Promise me you won't tell Weasley we're shagging," Draco said then, and new light in Harry's heart clouded over.

 

"I have to tell him, it's not fair—"

 

"I meant specifically don't tell him that, it's vulgar. You've seen him around Dean and Seamus, he's not exactly comfortable with the physical aspect of things. Stick with a euphemism. Say we're, I don't know, together."

 

"Together," Harry repeated, stupidly,  "That you're my..." Merlin, sometimes he was so awkward he wanted to dissolve into nothingness.

 

Draco only raised his eyebrows and took a sip of tea. 

 

"Boyfriend...?" Harry finished, his voice a strangled octave above normal.

 

"Obviously, Potter," Draco informed him, "do keep up, would you?"

Chapter Text

After dinner, Harry and a handful of other eighth years met in the library. Harry’s plan— well, Draco’s plan, actually, but Harry had agreed to go along with it—was to finish his potions homework. Potions on a Saturday evening, Harry thought, shaking his head, he could barely recognise himself. Malfoy was, however, rewarding Harry’s industriousness with proximity: the press of thighs and the covert touching of hands which Harry found in equal parts gratifying and exhilarating.

 

The assignment was an interesting one, at least. Connection Cordial, Even More Advanced Potion Making was telling him, was a unique potion in that to be effective, two parties had to imbibe it at the same moment. 

 

Connection Cordial allows two magic-users to mentally communicate for up to seventy-four minutes. While this does not allow the potion-takers to read each other’s thoughts, per se, it does enable them to send and receive silent messages betwixt themselves. The cordial cannot be commercially manufactured or distributed , as during the creation of the potion, the two subjects must give of themselves to individualise the magic. While any essence can be used, to cement the spell, the author recommends the following:

Blood -  familial ties

Sweat - athletics*

Tears - parted lovers

Spit - enemies/coworkers 

The deplorable delinquent, Mundungus Fletcher, is said to have experimented with other bodily essences in the early 1980s, but the author cannot condone such perversions and frankly refuses to report on Fletcher’s findings. 

*Note that most national and international quidditch leagues have banned the use of Connection Cordial during official competitions. 

 

Harry’s assignment was an overview of how each essence contributed to the tone of the connections, but he had to admit he was more curious about what Fletcher had been up to than anything else. 

 

“Here, you’ll need this,” Draco announced, sliding over a thin volume entitled Vitruvian Essences and Symbology by Michala von Merkel. 

 

“Don’t you need it?” Harry inquired. 

 

“Of course not,” Draco replied haughtily, “I don’t leave my homework for the weekend before it’s due.”

 

“Bully for you,” groused Harry, but he still took the book, happy not to have to be wandering the stacks. 

 

Beneath the table, Draco’s hand crept in and up along Harry’s thigh. Merlin help me, Harry thought, shifting slightly in his seat, feeling his cock twitch in response to Draco’s audaciousness. He set his jaw, pretending to be engrossed in Vitruvian Essences

 

“What do you think, Neville?” Hermione was saying, across the table, “Does Sorteria’s wort grow at this time of year? Would there be any in the greenhouses?”

 

“Oh, we’ve loads!” Exclaimed Longbottom, “It being a sentinel plant, Professor Sprout and I harvested an abundant crop of it last year, thought it might come in handy in the war effort. It’s used in all sorts of protective potions.”

 

“What’ve you found, Granger?” Malfoy asked curiously, fingertips still tracing loops and whirls along Harry’s inner thigh, making him mental.

 

“Amulets of Aversion,” Hermione answered, “Have you heard of them? A bit general for our purposes, perhaps, but they might do the trick? Let certain spells slide off the wearer. Not applicable for offensive spells, not sure if Legilimency fits into that category.”

 

She passed the text across to Draco, who stopped tormenting Harry long enough to take it and skim the description. “Wouldn’t hurt to try,” Draco commented, “the ingredients aren’t too esoteric. If you can get us that herb, Longbottom, Slughorn probably has the rest of it. I’ll speak to him on Monday and see if I can’t make a mock-up or two for affected students. Sterling find, Granger. Any idea what we should use as medallions? Something wearable, I would think.”

 

His hand returned to Harry’s leg, where he resumed his maddening ministrations. It took all of Harry’s self-control not to groan out loud like an absolute lech.

 

“I think I still have some S.P.E.W. buttons,” Hermione offered. 

 

“Some what?” replied Malfoy. 

 

“Don’t ask,” Harry advised. 

 

“They’re cheap, and it doesn’t matter if anything happens to them, and they can be pinned to the inside of a cloak, or pajamas, or whatever they need to be.”

 

“Hm,” Draco considered, hand drifting impossibly higher, “sounds plausible.”

 

“Malfoy, a word?” Harry hissed. 

 

“Why don’t you finish your assignment first, Potter,” Draco replied, casually, giving Harry’s hardening cock an exceedingly pleasant squeeze, “Plenty of time to chat later.”

 

***

 

“There,” Harry announced, all but throwing his quill down one torturous hour later, “done. Perhaps we can have that conversation now?” 

 

Draco smirked back at him, “I’m sure whatever you need to say can be said in front of our friends, here.” Draco gestured to Hermione, Pansy and Neville. The girls gave each other exasperated, knowing looks, but Neville looked concerned. 

 

“Everything okay, Harry?” he asked. 

 

“Fine, thanks, Neville,” Harry forced himself to smile, “Just need to discuss something with Malfoy. Privately.” 

 

He wrapped his cloak around him so as to disguise his highly inappropriate library hard-on, and yanked Malfoy to his feet, “Now, Draco.”

 

He carted the blond off to the storage room they had snogged in a few weeks earlier. He wasn’t sure he could physically go any further without getting his hands and mouth on the damned git. 

 

He fired off a colloportus and a locus secretum for good measure, then shoved Malfoy against the stone shelving, kissing him ferociously. 

 

“You insufferable, infuriating, deplorable tease,” Harry hissed, grinding into Draco to make his point, “Do you have any idea what you do to me?”

 

“Yes,” Draco leered, “there is some pretty solid evidence of my effects pressed into my abs."

 

“Enough,” Harry barked, stepping back, Merlin, he was going to make the other boy pay, “Clothes off. Now.”

 

“Why should I?” challenged Malfoy. 

 

Harry’s hand flew out almost before he knew he was doing it, gripping Draco by his pale, elegant throat. Not tight enough to hurt, not really, but enough to show he was serious. Draco gasped and his eyes flew wide with desire, lips parting. 

 

“You’ve had your fun,” growled Harry, “it’s my turn now. Clothes off, please. Do not make me ask again.”

 

“Alright,” Draco whispered, his whole demeanour altered from playful to breathless and enthralled. He yanked at the knot of his tie, loosening it enough to pull over his head. The air between them was charged and Harry felt that crackle of potential thrill through him.

 

“Manners, Draco,” He warned.

 

“Yes, Harry,” breathed Malfoy, eyes not leaving his. His cloak folder over the stone table, Draco next removed his jumper. He was about to toss it to the floor when Harry interrupted him. 

 

“Fold it,” he demanded, scourgifying a cubby, “put it there.”

 

Draco obeyed and Harry felt the pleasure of control coiling deep in his belly. Malfoy’s clever fingers went to work unfastening the buttons of his crisp, white shirt, first at the sleeves and then along the front. He folded that, neatly, too, stacking it on top of his jumper. 

 

Harry crossed his arms and leaned back against the door, wanting Draco to feel truly watched

 

It seemed to be working, Draco’s lovely cheekbones had that tinge of pink as he stripped off his undershirt, adding it to the pile. He then crouched to unlace his carefully polished shoes. Those came off along with his socks, trousers, and pants, leaving him standing, utterly bared. Harry let his eyes rake over the other boy for a long moment: the lean muscles of his shoulders and chest, pale trail of hair beneath his navel, keen jut of cock and those long, lean quads and calves, powerful in their own right.

 

“Do you like being bound?” asked Harry, drinking him in. 

 

“No,” Malfoy shook his head, “but I’ll stay where you put me.”

 

“Yes,” agreed Harry, “you will. Hands behind your head, feet apart.”

 

Draco emitted a slight whimper as he snapped to comply.

 

“Merlin, look at you,” Harry remarked, “presenting yourself for me. Not so impertinent now,” He observed Malfoy’s Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed. 

 

He stepped in close, wrapping a warm hand around Draco’s interested cock. 

 

“Oh fuck,” mewled Draco. 

 

“That was obnoxious behaviour,” Harry lectured, “you’re going to have to make it up to me.”

 

“Yes, Harry,” came the reverent reply. 

 

“Do you know how?” Harry asked, holding Draco’s chin and kissing him slowly, other hand still encircling Draco’s desperate cock. 

 

Draco gave a shake of his head. 

 

“You’re going to give something up,” Harry informed him, “you won’t be getting off tonight. I think that’s a fitting sacrifice, don’t you?”

 

Draco’s voice was tremulous when he murmured, “Y-yes, Harry.”

 

“Good,” Harry smiled patronizingly, kissing Draco’s neck, “I’m so glad you agree. You’ll tell me if you can’t handle it, understand?”

 

“Yes,” Draco assented. 

 

“You remember what to say?”

 

“Too much.”

 

“So good,” Harry crooned softly, "Now, let's find out where you like to be touched. Don't move." Harry started with an easy one, open-mouthed kisses along the sinewy lines of Draco's throat, teeth dipping in and out, leaving little imprints. When he reached the blond's ear, Harry kept going, nipping the vulnerable lobe, making Draco yelp and moan in turn. Meanwhile, he brought his hands to Draco's chest, splaying out his fingers, then scraping them downwards, blunt nails giving the sensation an unexpected edge. He used the pad of his thumb to coax a nipple into a hard peak, which made Malfoy arch and pant, so delightfully sensitive. He replaced his thumb with his mouth, sucking mercilessly, feeling Draco strain to hold position. 

 

"Fuck, Harry," Malfoy cried out, which only made Harry more attentive. taking the perfect bud between the edges of his teeth, threateningly. He ran his palms along Draco's trim waist, and hips, the curve of his thighs; there was nowhere he didn't want to touch him. He treated himself to a firm grope of Malfoy's skinny arse, then pressed soft kisses along his inner thighs. 

 

"Please, Harry, please touch my cock, Merlin's tits, please."

 

Harry straightened, finding Malfoy's mouth with his own, tongue invading that insolent mouth, silencing it.

 

"I'll decide what gets touched and when, thanks very much," he murmured, and Draco whined helplessly. Harry loved it. 

 

He stepped back, thoughtfully, observing the desperate boy on display, and tracking a knuckle along Draco’s sternum. He felt the ridge of the sectumsempra scar under his touch. Malfoy shuddered. 

 

“Does it hurt?” Harry questioned. 

 

“No,” Draco muttered, “No, it’s not that that, it’s...it’s fucked up."

 

“What do you mean?” Harry pressed. 

 

"Forget it, Harry, please," Draco insisted, but 'forget it' wasn't 'too much.'

 

"Now, Draco. You're mine. You don't get secrets anymore, isn't that right?"

 

Malfoy’s pale lashes fluttered closed and he bit his lip for a moment, a soft, keening noise sounding low in his throat.  With a shaky breath he began, “Sometimes, during the war, when I was trapped in that house and nothing was certain and everything felt like danger...sometimes I pretended you’d marked me like this on purpose. Claimed me as...as yours. I told myself it meant you would come for me, take me far away and,” he voice broke, “keep me safe. Because I belonged to you. I know, it’s completely absurd, fucking pathetic, I know. I just. Needed something to hold on to.”

 

“Fuck, Draco,” Harry responded, “Hands down, come here.” 

 

Malfoy collapsed into him, fingers curling into Harry’s cloak, insistent mouth seeking his with a heartbreaking urgency. Harry was stunned, overwhelmed, he ached for that miserable, terrified boy—too easily paralleled by his own childhood. 

 

“I wish I had,” he vowed between kisses, “I’m sorry I didn’t. I didn’t know, love, I’m so sorry.”

 

He coursed his arms down Draco’s back, over his arse, to his thighs. Malfoy took the cue, and, leveraged himself against the stone shelves, allowed himself to be scooped upwards, his legs wrapped round Harry’s middle. Harry kept his hands braced against the junctions of Draco’s thighs and arse, pressing him back against the cubbies. Malfoy clung to him tightly, arms encircling his neck as they kissed hungrily. 

 

Harry carried Draco over to the broad table and set him down, pressing his shoulders, so he lay back. Harry was over him then, lovingly attending to every portion of the expansive scar, feeling the other boy shaking beneath him. When he reached the inferior edge, along the incline of Draco’s ilium, he kissed that ridge, too. He nuzzled into the plane of Draco’s belly, gripping his thighs, breathing him in. Then, feeling suddenly sure and strong, he held Draco’s cock in his hand and took it in his mouth. 

 

Draco cried out, thin legs reeling up and then in, heels finding purchase on the edge of the table. His hands flew out as if looking for something to grasp. 

 

Harry reached into his own trousers as he tasted Malfoy, surveying the reactions as he increased suction and lapped along the underside of his cock. He loved the way Draco writhed, loved his needy pleas and the way he jutted his hips forward, searching for more. 

 

“Please, Harry,” he whimpered, “Oh, Merlin,”

 

Harry wondered if Draco was going to finish in his mouth, and found he didn’t mind, so much had shifted for him in a few short weeks. Now he wanted that which would have freaked him out not long ago.

 

“Stop, Harry, please,” he heard and immediately let off, looking at Draco in surprise. 

 

“You alright, sweetheart?” He asked and Draco nodded emphatically.

 

“Yes, yes, I just, I’m too close and I don’t want to…”

 

“You can if you want,” Harry murmured, some taskmaster he was, but Draco shook his head. 

 

“No, I...I want to make the sacrifice, like you said, I...need to.”

 

“If you’re sure,” Harry said, rising up to kiss him.

 

“I am, Merlin, I am,” Draco assured him, “Just. I still want you to. Can you?”

 

Harry shoved down his pants, taking his cock in his hand in earnest, “Touch yourself. Keep yourself desperate,” he ordered. 

 

Malfoy obeyed, stroking himself quickly, teeth clenched as he prevented himself from going over. The image was too much for Harry, and he came hard over Draco’s bare chest, hot trails marking him purposefully this time. 

 

“Oh fuck, oh fuck,” Draco wailed. 

 

“Stop,” Harry commanded, curious. Draco pulled his hand away with an ardent, pained lament, chest heaving, “Beautiful,” Harry told him. 

 

“Fucking hurts,” Malfoy griped. 

 

“Mm,” Harry acknowledged, “I’m sure it does. Not too late to change your mind.”

 

“Stop offering, and fucking appreciate what I’m trying to do for you, arsehole.”

 

Harry spooled Draco up into his arms, kissing his hairline, “You’re so incredible, babe. Fucking hell, you holding yourself off like that nearly killed me it was so bloody gorgeous.”

 

“Better,” Draco grumbled into his chest. 

 

“I love how compliant you are," Harry kept on, "how you listen and obey, just for me, Merlin, it’s such a turn on.”

 

“You’ve no idea how much this fucking aches,” Draco whinged. 

 

“I don’t,” Harry agreed, “but I know you’re aching for me, and I like that very much.”

 

“Don’t get any ideas about this being a regular thing.”

 

“Well, maybe next time you’ll reconsider being a dreadful nuisance while I’m trying to get my work done.”

 

“But if I’m not a dreadful nuisance, how will I ever get you to choke me and throw me against shelving units and torment me with your damn mouth?”

 

“You could just ask,” Harry suggested. 

 

“Dull.”

 

Harry chuckled into Draco’s neck before pulling back, tracing a finger along the scar on Malfoy’s chest. 

 

“Did you really…”

 

“Leave it, Potter, please.”

 

Harry took Draco’s face in his hands, earnestly, “I would have. If only I’d know, I swear, I would have. I thought you hated me.”

 

Draco fiddled with Harry’s collar, not meeting his eyes, “I did hate you. I just wanted you as well. Or wanted you to want me, I don’t know.”

 

“I wanted to take care of you, that night I did this to you,” Harry confessed, “You were so bloody tragic and I just wanted you to listen to reason and let me fucking help. But Merlin, your pride and your defiance, fuck, you got under skin, made me so furious. That’s not an excuse. I shouldn’t have done it, I hate that I did it.”

 

Draco shrugged and leaned in, kissing Harry’s neck, “It’s almost a relief knowing you regret something,” he said quietly, “because I regret nearly everything and it...it feels like a lot sometimes.”

 

“Oh, love. I do regret it. I...I don't like knowing I am capable of that much violence,” Harry said, stroking Malfoy’s hair like he was something precious.

 

“It was pretty extreme circumstances, Potter, I’m hardly worried. You’re generally regarded as a pretty decent bloke, you’ll remember, I’m the Death Eater scum.”

 

“Stop,” Harry chided, letting Draco close in for more heartrending kisses, “argh, let’s just get cleaned up and gather our things and go to bed. I want to hold you.”

 

“Merlin, you are such an intolerable sap,” Draco groused. 

 

It was not, Harry noticed, a no.

Chapter Text

Harry felt rejuvenated after a Sunday morning working in the pumpkin patch with Ron and Hermione. It had been nice to spend some time with Hagrid and even to see big, drooling Fang again. After a shower to get the garden soil off him, he was heading to the quidditch supply shed to meet with his new team for their first practice. He was feeling a bit nervous but mostly excited. It had been too long since he had been flying and he found he missed it. 

 

He spotted the two Slytherin first years huddled together outside the brick shed, looking nervous. They were quite the pair: long, gangly-limbed Clark and puny, big-eyed Hiram. Clark looked uncomfortable in his piecemeal athletic gear, Harry suspected this was not his usual crowd. Not that Clark seemed to have a usual crowd. 

 

“Hello, you two,” Harry greeted them with a friendly grin, “Anyone know the rest of the players? I’m afraid I don’t know who to look for.” Before they could respond, Harry felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to see a vaguely familiar face in a Ravenclaw scarf. 

 

“Are you Claire Gibbens?” He guessed, and the witch beamed. Harry remembered her then; she was one of the girls who had approached him in Scrivenshaft’s. A fan, he thought, not exactly enthused by the idea. 

 

“I am!” She agreed, “So nice to see you again, Harry; I was so excited when I saw I was placed on your team. I only put my name in when I learned that you were coaching, you know. My brother’s right jealous that I’m on your team and not him. How’d you come up with the teams, anyway? A bunch of us were trying to sort out the algorithm, but I thought it might just have been personal preference.”

 

“Oh, er…” Harry started, his brain scrambling to come up with a way of saying it was mostly just trying to mix up years, houses, and positions without hurting her feelings. Before he could come up with a coherent explanation, four more players arrived, most with broomsticks slung over their shoulders. 

 

They were all eclipsed by an absolutely massive Hufflepuff, a near giant of a boy who would have given Hagrid a run for his money. 

 

“Hullo, Harry!” The large bloke called out, reaching out to shake Harry’s hand, “Fitz Hops, such a pleasure, really.” He was so affable that Harry felt himself smiling at once, returning the greeting. 

 

Soon the rest of their little team was gathered and Ron arrived shortly with the key, proudly doling out equipment to whoever needed it. 

 

Harry had, embarrassingly, received several high quality brooms as “tokens of appreciation” from several manufacturers shortly after the war. It was, he thought guiltily, one of the few perks of celebrity that he really indulged in. He tested them when visiting the Weasleys at The Burrow, gifting Ron, Ginny, and Charlie each one. While he admittedly liked the feel of the Flyte and Barker offering, the homage paid to him by the model name, Lightning Strike, was just too much for him to bear. He’d stuck instead with Enderby and Spudmore’s Talaria, an exceedingly steady and well made broom with a breathtaking turning radius, and an obscene top speed. He’d spent many quiet evenings zipping over the brush and scrub of the moorlands that summer, any time his memories or the constant owls or conflicted feelings about Ginny had popped up. The broom was already starting to feel like a familiar companion. 

 

Harry’s team was slated for an hour near the entrance gate; the practices were staggered that afternoon and there would be a lot of trading off of equipment and playing space. It all felt a little thrown together, but Harry supposed that was the point. It was a recreational league, after all. 

 

Harry held back as his team mounted their brooms to fly toward the gate, keeping an eye on the first years. Clark in particular looked very ill at ease atop his broom, which he surveyed with all the trust of a dormant cobra. Harry flew slow and low beside him, trying not to make it obvious he had an arresto momentum at the ready should Clark take a spill. He'd enchanted some quaffles and bludgers to follow along behind him to the makeshift pitch, and they bobbed merrily in his wake. Thankfully, everyone arrived at the meeting place in one piece. Introductions were made and Harry explained his plans. 

 

“Tonight’s practice is just about getting to know each other” he explained, “This isn’t a tryout, don’t feel like you have to impress anyone here, it’s just a bit of fun. As you know, we’ve got several players without much experience, so I’m going to pair younger students with older students. If you’re only comfortable flying tonight, then just fly. If you’re up to it, we’ll add in a few easy drills.”

 

He set up Hops with the two first years, and the gracious Hufflepuff led them on a little tour of the grounds. Harry was impressed to see how graceful Fitz was on the broom, his hulking form perfectly at ease, perched on his Comet 300. Harry could make out the words, but the boy’s booming voice seemed encouraging as he eased the younger students into a couple of loops and slow turns. 

 

The two chasers, Karanjeet Atwal and Claire Gibbens, he set up with younger years Clayburne and Sitthi. They spent some time in a smaller circle, the younger players getting comfortable tossing a quaffle around and balancing on their brooms one-handed. Sitthi in particular showed some promise, her movements seemed thoughtful and precise and she swooped for stray quaffles fearlessly. 

 

Harry and Mathieu Rundle, from Bristol, Harry remembered, warmed keeper Marcia Awling up with some practice shots. As neither Rundle nor Harry were chasers, the shots seemed a bit easy for Awling, but the stony-faced Slytherin girl didn’t seem to mind, and she expertly intercepted each one. 

 

When Hops circled back with the Slytherin boys, who were looking slightly more confident, Harry set up a simple quaffle-only scrimmage, sending Hops and Rundle off to practice with a bludger. 



It was hardly a rigorous practice, but by the end everyone seemed happy enough, red-cheeked, and smiling—save for Slytherin Marcia Awling, who, it seemed, didn’t do happy. Harry was pleased, he figured after another practice they would be ready enough for a friendly game. He flew up beside Tiering as they made their way back to the quidditch shed, to transfer over gear to the next team. 

 

“Looking steadier already,” Harry called out to him. 

 

Clark’s pink hair was growing out, dirty blond roots showing. Harry supposed it wasn’t easy to get one’s hands on muggle hair dye at Hogwarts. 

 

“I still can’t believe you made me do this,” Tiering called back, white knuckled on his school broom, “I don’t generally do sports .”

 

“I didn’t make you, did I?” Harry responded, feeling a little bad. 

 

“Oh no, just asked me in front of the whole bloody school,” was Clark’s sarcastic response, “who would have written me off as an ingrate if I’d turned you down.”

 

“Didn’t think you much cared what other people thought,” Harry teased. 

 

“I would like to survive my time here, you know,” Clark growled then yelped as a bit of wind caught his broom. He made a quick recovery, but his face was drained of colour, “Jesus,” he cursed, “this is suicide.”

 

“I’ll slow any falls,” Harry promised, “You’ll be fine. Stick with it long enough to play a couple games. If you truly still despise it after that, you can walk away, no hard feelings.”

 

“You’re like a dad from some American sitcom,” Clark observed, “like nauseatingly wholesome, you know that?”

 

Harry found himself laughing, “Thanks, I think.”

 

“Not a compliment,” Clark assured him. 

 

***

 

Harry caught sight of Malfoy’s bright blond head as he swept down towards the quidditch shed. Harry felt that now familiar pull to go to him, even just to say hello, but Hiram’s landing was a bit of a disaster, so Harry sped over to check on the tiny boy, who looked up at him startled. 

 

“Are you hurt?” Harry asked, kneeling in front of the dark-haired boy, who now had a pretty impressive grass stain across one cheek and a stunned expression. 

 

“I...I don’t think so,” was the reply, and Harry was struck again by the boy’s owlish appearance. 

 

Harry was helping the small boy to his feet when the shouting began, 

 

“Hey now, what’s this—”

 

Locomotor Mortis!

 

“Geroff—”

 

Rictusempra!

 

“What the fuck—”


A cacophony of curses and shrieks, students with wands outstretched, students panicking, grabbing at injured body parts, fleeing in all directions. Harry looked about, trying to get his bearings, just in time to see the still unsmiling Marcia Awling point her wand at him, “ Incarcerous !” she shouted. A thin cord burst from her wand, garrotting around Harry’s neck, squeezing tight. The effect was immediate, he couldn’t breathe, the restriction increasing more by the minute. Harry couldn’t understand it, just stood scrabbling for purchase but he couldn’t get his fingers beneath it, could’t think, Merlin, he just needed air, he fell to his knees. His vision tunneled and he heard Malfoy calling his name from very far away. Blood was rushing in his ears, everything clouded over and then, nothing.

Chapter Text

For a moment, Harry didn’t know where he was. Then, memories came pouring in and his hand involuntarily flew to his throat. Nothing, save for a nasty headache. The infirmary, his brain supplied. He’d been here enough to recognise the unsatisfying weight of the too-thin blankets, and the thick off white curtains. Evening sun came searing through the narrow window. Harry’s gaze was drawn towards the light and saw Draco uneasily perched on the window sill, looking out. His arms were wrapped around his body, he looked uncharacteristically withdrawn. Harry hated it.

 

“Chin up, sweetheart,” Harry croaked, with what he hoped was a reassuring smile, “I’m alright.”

 

Malfoy whirled sharply, his expression a confusing blend of guilt and relief as he strode over to Harry’s side, eyes intent on...someone to Harry’s other side.

 

Shit.

 

Harry was afraid to look. He turned his head. Ron. Arms crossed, storm clouds quickly gathering on his face, an indignant jut to his chin. 

 

“Right then,” Ron said, voice simmering and terse. He turned on his heels, and headed for the door.

 

“Ron, wait—” Harry cried out. The redhead paused, only for a moment. He didn’t look back. Then, he left.

 

Harry scrabbled at the restrictive, infirmary bedding, trying to lunge after his friend, but Draco grabbed his arm.

 

“Give him a bit,” he said, quiet and resigned, “you go after him now and you’re more likely to end up with a bloodied nose than anything else.”

 

“You don’t know him,” snarled Harry, “he’s my best friend.”

 

“I might not know him, but I know what it’s like to be betrayed by someone you love,” Draco contended, quiet and sympathetic, “he needs a minute. Probably more.”

 

Harry pressed the heels of his hands tight against the orbits of his eyes, “Fucking hell,” he exclaimed, wishing he had something he could break, “he wasn’t supposed to find out like that.”

 

“If it helps...I think I might have given the game up a bit already.”

 

Harry’s hands fell and he looked up at Draco, trying to blink him into focus.

 

“Where’re my glasses?” Harry asked. 

 

Draco reached for them on the side table, passing them over. 

 

“What fucking happened?” Harry sighed, shoving his glasses on. 

 

“Generally speaking, I’m not sure. All I know is second hand from Granger—she’s in another meeting with McGonagall, but she’s been in to see you—It was as though...those messages whoever-it-is has been sending, they were amplified. Instead of just going to one Slytherin, they went to all of us. I felt it, heard her come in, but I shut her out so fast I didn’t hear what she said. Those of us who’ve heard her before didn’t respond, because we recognised it, but students who hadn’t heard it—they took it to heart. Apparently she said, I don’t know the wording, but basically that other students were threats, that Slytherins needed to protect themselves, that it was urgent.

 

“It was a gamble," Malfoy continued, "but once one student acted on it, it was like a floodgate and a mob mentality situation broke out with the other Slytherins firing off any curse they could think of. Bad luck for you, Awling doesn’t mess around, and she knows what she’s doing. She feels terribly, for the record.”

 

“Merlin,” Harry said, “What a fucking mess.”

 

“It was chaos,” Draco agreed. 

 

“And Ron?” 

 

Draco pursed his lips, folding his arms across his body once again, “I...I didn’t react well to seeing you hurt.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Draco swallowed, closed his eyes for a moment, when he opened them again he looked hesitant and ashamed, “I mean...I went for you. I stunned Awling—honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t try to kill her—and then I went for you. Even though the Incarcerous ended when Awling went down...I was frantic, Harry, completely off my head. Ron and Dean and a couple other eighth years put down the little Slytherin rebellion, but I was no fucking help. After, Ron came to take you away, and I know it was to try and help you, but I couldn’t bear it, and—”

 

Draco bit down hard on his lip, looked away. 

 

“What?” Harry prompted. 

 

“I wouldn’t let him near you, I was over you like a bloody animal, screaming at him, firing curses, but I was so demented nothing landed. Dean and Greg had to pull me off you.” Draco’s voice broke, his lip wobbling, “I thought you were dead.”

 

The blond paused, soul-deep misery etched into every curve of his face. 

 

“I’m sorry,” he muttered darkly, “I made a mess of things, as promised. I’m so sorry, Harry. I know you wanted to tell him, I know you would have done a proper job of it and that maybe we would have had a chance. Granger was spot on with what she said that night, I'm just making your life difficult. I’ll—I’ll go. I’m sorry.”

 

“Draco,” Harry found his voice. It was, he found thankfully, firm and sure, “Stop.”

 

Malfoy looked at him, not willing to hope.

 

“Come here,” Harry directed. 

 

Draco obediently stepped to the side of the bed. Harry scooted over.

 

“Lie down,”

 

“But—”

 

“No, you will listen. Lie down, here with me.”

 

Draco’s face fell then, all that he was trying to hold in flaring out of him like it was something painful. He crumpled into Harry, half falling onto the already cramped infirmary bed. Harry folded him into his chest, stroking and kissing his hair. 

 

“You think I wouldn’t have acted the same?” Harry asked, “You think seeing you strangled and unconscious would make me act rationally?  Merlin, love, it’s what my nightmares are made of.”

 

Draco’s only response was to snake an arm around Harry’s waist, burying himself impossibly deeper into Harry’s torso. 

 

“How long have I been out?” Harry asked. 

 

“Few hours,” Draco responded, voice thick and muffled, “Hit your head on the corner of the shed as you went down.”

 

“Ah,” Harry said, bringing a tentative hand to his forehead, where he found a sizable goose egg.

 

“Madam Pomfrey said she could revive you but it was better to let you rest.”

 

“Hm,” Harry acknowledged, “How’d you manage to convince Ron to let you in here?” 

 

Draco tensed and didn’t answer. 

 

“Bloody hell, Draco, please tell me you didn’t use Imperius or something—” Harry gasped. 

 

“Fuck, give me some credit!” Draco protested, finally lifting his face from Harry’s t-shirt, “No. I...I begged.”

 

“You what?” Harry asked, breathless with shock. 

 

“Fuck off,” Draco snapped. 

 

“Begged,” Harry repeated, shaking his head in awe, “Unbelievable. Draco Malfoy begging, and I had to go and be unconscious for it. An absolute travesty. You’ve gotta give me a little taste of what that sounded like, babe, it’s vital.”

 

“You absolute arsehole,” Draco sputtered, shoving Harry’s shoulder and then promptly burying his face again.

 

Harry laughed and ran his fingers through Draco’s hair, scritching his fingertips into the other boy’s scalp. 

 

“I’m sorry I frightened you,” Harry murmured softly. 

 

“Hardly your fault,” came the muted reply. 

 

“I don’t like when you’re upset,” Harry tried to explain.

 

“I don’t exactly relish it myself.” Draco grumbled.

 

“Kiss me, would you?”

 

Draco did. 

 

***

 

McGonagall co-opted Hermione’s S.P.E.W. buttons and the Aversion Amulet idea. Her and several faculty spent all of Sunday night making enough amulets for the whole Slytherin house, with plans to make more for the rest of the student body as soon as possible. When the buttons ran out, they would switch off to pins or hair clips, whatever they could sort out. 

 

The attack, McGonagall had explained over breakfast to a very distrustful great hall on Monday morning, had been orchestrated to turn the other houses against Slytherins, and to undermine the efforts towards interhouse unity. The precise motive behind all that was yet to be determined, but students were advised to be stalwart in their friendships. 

 

Ron wouldn’t look Harry in the eye. 

 

Eighth year potions that morning had been cancelled—the last thing students needed, it was decided, was to have any sort of telepathy, no matter how finite. Instead they were slated for double DADA.

 

Harry was still figuring out his feelings about Professor Haberdash-Pewter and Defense classes in general. He wasn’t used to it being so...abstract and philosophical. They did more talk than anything else. And they’d circled closer to modern times, recently, which made him feel uneasy. Last week they had been discussing negative perceptions of muggleborns in wizarding media. It wasn’t exactly subtle, but some of the comments made by well-meaning but clueless purebloods made it clear to Harry that it was needed. 

 

Today when they arrived, the pews were gone and in the expanse of the open floor were large, cozy-looking sectionals and easy chairs, arranged in an oblong (to fit the narrow room) ring. 

 

“Everyone find a seat, please,” came the professor’s voice from the dim of the room. 

 

Harry plopped himself down on a loveseat with Draco pressing in close beside him a moment later. Malfoy had barely left his side since the evening prior. Despite the looks of angry disgust fired at him by Ron, Harry found he didn’t mind. He liked knowing his presence gave Draco some measure of comfort. Hermione, a strained expression on her face, led Ron to an ancient chesterfield some ways away. He was gripping her hand tightly. 

 

Once all the students were settled, Professor Haberdash-Pewter lowered herself carefully into a violet wing back, sliding a matching cushion behind her lower back. She always moved like her body was more rods than bones. Harry wondered just what she had seen. 

 

“I believe in transparency,” the professor explained, “and have tried to be so with you all since we first met. As such, let me be very clear, your headmistress brought me here so I could sow the first seeds of healing after a civil war spearheaded by a murderous dictator. Let us call it what it was, a nation divided by bloodlines, a story we’ve seen repeated throughout history. And like so many wars, the bloodlines were hardly the material point, they were just a rallying cry, and a scapegoat, for the ultimate motive, that age-old drive: hegemony.” 

 

Professor Haberdash-Pewter pressed her fingers to her eyes, “You know this. And now you see it playing out again, as an outside force disseminates fear and distrust, incites violence. I am...very tired, for you all. I want nothing more than to give you rest.”

 

She looked up, around the oval of solemn-faced students. She folded her hands, one over the other, her knuckles knobbly with arthritis that didn’t suit her age, “I was brought here to address what academics call mass trauma and what I call deep hurt, grief, and the aching tatters of stolen childhoods.  It pains me that cannot complete my assignment, for the first tenet of healing is safety, and that is not something I can offer you. I had hoped it was, but something is at play here that is asking you to prolong your endurance, your resiliency, to stand together and protect each other for just a little longer.

 

"My intention was to teach Salvus Securus with you all in the spring. This spell, you’ll remember, allows apparition to a site of safety with only a feeling and not a specific focus point. I had hoped it would not come in useful any time soon, but hopes are often dashed.

 

“The spell is a little odd in Hogwarts. The castle wards will prevent you from leaving the grounds, and so you will be rerouted to a place of safety within the confines of the wards. It is not a comfortable feeling, bouncing around in an apparition like that, and it is important that you don’t panic, or you’ll end up splinched. First we will discuss feelings of safety, make sure we can all pull up concrete memories of it. Connecting with that emotion is absolutely vital for the spell.”

 

"Professor—" Hermione raised a hand and the instructor waved for her to continue, "I thought apparition of any sort wasn't possible within Hogwarts."

 

"Quite right," Professor Haberdash-Pewter agreed, "Regular apparition is disallowed within Hogwarts' grounds. However, the wards of Hogwarts were established with the intention of protecting students and as such, the plea for safety inherent in the Salvus Securus will bypass the wards to some extent, but only within certain limitations." 

 

The professor’s voice was scratchy as ever, and the students silent, focused. Harry felt the pressure of Draco’s thigh and bicep against his. He was sitting too close for plausible deniability. And Harry didn’t care. He was tired of caring. He wanted Draco close, wanted the solid, reassuring physicality of him. He wanted to take Draco’s hand in his, or wrap and arm around him like other couples could, fuck the onlookers, fuck the consequences. 

 

He felt, rather than saw, Hermione’s eyes on him. Her eyes pleading with him to just wait. To just get through this, do it one step at a time. Soon, she seemed to promise, soon. 

 

“If you could all take a moment and close your eyes, and find that feeling within yourself. It may help to focus on a specific location, the sights, the smells, but remember the visualization is not necessary for the spell, only the emotion,” Professor Haberdash-Pewter was saying. Harry forced himself to obey. “A place where you feel at rest, content, safe, and loved.” Options were pitifully scarce, Harry realised, he almost wondered if he had ever felt truly safe.

 

Oh boo hoo, he snapped at himself, impatient. So things had been difficult, but that didn't mean he hadn't been loved, hadn't been safe, that wasn't the truth, he knew it wasn't. Because what he had, well and truly had, was Molly Weasley’s kitchen, surrounded by that big, bustling family who loved him, protected him, stood by him without question. Molly and Arthur. Bill and Fleur. Charlie, George, Ron, Ginny. Harry hadn't be an orphan, not in the meaningful sense of the word, for years. That thought seeded guilt, thick as tar, in the chambers of his heart, pumping sinister black ichor throughout his veins: ingrate, ingrate, his traitor heart condemned him with every pulse. Hermione was right. He hadn’t done right by Ron, he wasn’t doing right by him, still, and he had to, Merlin he needed to, fix it. 

Chapter Text

Ron didn’t speak to Harry until Halloween. 

 

“Just give him time,” Hermione had kept promising, “I know the silent treatment feels petty, but in truth he is trying to protect you. He’s angry and he’s afraid he’ll lash out and say something he can’t take back.”

 

Harry could only nod, and let the misery circulate. He felt half absent through Occlumency lessons with Draco and Clark, through quidditch practices with a very overwhelmingly regretful Marcia Awling, through his classes. Ron finally approached him during a hastily-planned eighth year Halloween after party in the common room, placing a bottle of Firewhiskey and two glasses on the table. Harry was in a far corner, away from the music and chatter of the rest of the room. He was relieved more than anything when Ron approached. Even if the other boy was determined to cut him out forever, at least Harry would know. No more of this agonised wondering. 

 

“Harry,” Ron said, taking a seat and pouring them each a glass. 

 

Harry threw his back, hoping it  was the peace offering it looked liked. Ron did the same. Ron went to speak, then his jaw snapped shut and he poured two more glasses. They drank. 

 

“I’m...right upset with you, mate,” Ron said, finally. Harry ached at the casual endearment. Merlin, he missed his friend.

 

“I know,” Harry agreed, “you’ve got a right to be.”

 

Ron fidgeted with his glass, tapping it idly against the table. 

 

“Maybe…” Ron attempted, “Maybe you could tell me why you think I’m upset and we can go from there.”

 

Harry nodded, “One, I guess, is because it’s Malfoy. Two because I didn’t tell you.”

 

The redhead looked at him, chewing on his lip, blue eyes meeting Harry’s. 

 

“That’s about the long and the short of it,” Ron agreed, “Thought I suspect the first led to the second.”

 

“It did,” Harry acknowledged, “doesn’t mean it was a good call.”

 

“It was a pretty shit call, actually,” Ron informed him. 

 

“I know. I’m sorry,” It didn’t feel like enough. 

 

“I’m, ah, I’m a bit tired of having to prove myself to you, you know?” Ron said slowly, “I’ve been a less than perfect friend, I know, sixth year in particular I was a right git, and then earlier this year, that bit with the locket, not ideal. I know that. But I’d kind of hoped, after fighting a war by your side, I’d thought that sealed it, you know? Thought, oh, that’s my best mate, Harry Potter, he’d trust me with his life. And I would like to know, if I could, what I did to lose that standing, or if I just never had it in the first place.”

 

Ron’s tone was increasing, his words falling with emphasis. Harry could tell this was the most mild version, even still. He was sure Ron had railed at him a lot harder in his head over the last few weeks. 

 

“I do trust you with my life,” Harry said simply, “trusting you with my life is easy. It was trusting you with this that was difficult.”

 

“Because he’s a bloke?”

 

“I know that wouldn’t change how you feel about me,” Harry assured him.

 

“Right, because it wouldn’t,” Ron elaborated, “I’m maybe not used to it exactly, but I’m adjusting—I’ve adjusted, I think. With Dean and Seamus, I—I actually think it’s kind of nice, sweet, innit? Because we’ve known them so long and they’ve always been attached at the hip and they seem to really care for each other.”

 

“You’re not a bigot, Ron, I never thought that. If it had just been that, I would have told you directly. It’s because he is who he is.”

 

“Malfoy,” Ron provided. 

 

“Malfoy,” Harry agreed. 

 

Ron sunk his face into his hands for a moment, then poured them another few fingers of Firewhisky. 

 

“Out of all the fit blokes and girls at Hogwarts…” he shook his head.

 

“Oh, so you agree he’s fit then?” Harry chanced a joke and was relieved to see the corner of Ron’s mouth twitch upwards, even as he rolled his eyes. Harry didn’t wait for a response to that, “Only kidding. I know he’s been a right prick. Right prick doesn’t do him justice. He’s been a bully and an arsehole and a fucking Death Eater. He’s been spineless, petty, and cruel.”

 

“I can see what you see in him,” Ron chided softly, and Harry returned a hint of a smile.

 

“And he’s trying to change,” Harry said, “I truly believe that.”

 

“I do, too. Hell, I was finding his company positively tolerable up until all this,” Ron offered. “He’s right clever when he’s not being a total twat. But I’m not sure if witty repartee exactly absolves someone of hate crimes.”

 

“Nothing does, is the thing,” Harry replied, thoughtfully, “his past is never going to go away. But so far as I can tell, we have two choices. We say he is who he was and that’s who he’ll always be, or we say he was who he was and now he’s trying to be something better and we give him a chance to fucking change. Because I just don’t see how making people pay for their crimes indefinitely does anything but breed more resentment and make them more settled in their hatred. What did I save his damn life for if we're then not going to give him a chance to live it?”

 

“But it hasn’t even been six months,” Ron breathed. He was right, Harry knew. Hogwarts was hosting a six month memorial in two days time. Harry, to his dismay, had to speak at it. 

 

“It’s too soon,” Harry admitted, “I know it’s too soon, everything’s so fresh and the grief is heavy. I know it’s not a good look. I know what people will think. I don’t have a good answer. It’s not like I intended for this to happen. Merlin, I don’t even know exactly what did happen. What I do know is that Draco was sixteen when he was branded by a monster and told that, in order to save his family, he’d have to become one, too. 

 

“It’s easy for us to say he shouldn’t have done what he did, should have left his family to rot or worse,” Harry went on, “but if you’d had to choose between saving Hermione and, say, some professor you never really liked, that night at the manor? No one would’ve blamed you for picking Hermione. Hell, I would’ve picked Hermione, if push came to shove. There’s no winners in fucked up dilemmas like that. But even with those stakes, Draco was defiant in what furtive ways he could. He lied for us at the manor. He tried to stop Crabbe from killing me. It's not much, but it's not nothing. He's not a murderer, he never took a life. Which is technically more than I can, really.”

 

“Alright, so we give him the benefit of the doubt,” Ron sighed, “but do you have to date him?”

 

Harry shrugged, he was having a harder time finding words, thanks in large part to the Firewhisky, “I don’t really know what to tell you, mate. I wish I did, truly. All I know is that I care about him. I think I have for a long time. And I should have told you, and I’m sorry I was a big bloody coward.”

 

Ron looked grim as he took another sip of his drink, “The truth is, as much as I hate to admit it, you might have been right not to confide in me. As much as I tell myself I would have accepted it because you’re my mate and I love you and all that...I’m not sure it’s the truth. I think it’s likely I would have believed he was having you on, controlling you somehow, using dark magic.”

 

Harry was surprised and looked up from his glass, “You don’t think that now?”

 

Ron was looking bleary-eyed, the alcohol clearly having an effect. He spoke in a conspiratorial whisper, “I don’t know how much Malfoy told you, but that day at the quidditch shed? He went mental, Harry, I’ve never seen anything like it. He was sobbing, screaming, inconsolable. He wouldn’t leave your side, no matter what I threatened him with. Even Madam Pomfrey couldn’t keep him out. He loves you, Harry. No matter whatever else I might think of him, I know that much is true. And if I don’t want my best mate to be with someone who loves him, well, not much of a best mate then, am I?”

 

“You’re not just my best mate,” Harry mumbled, Firewhisky definitely not helping contain the grateful bloom of emotion, “you and Hermione, you’ve given me all the family I’ve got.”

 

Ron poured them both a final glass, “Cheers, mate. To family.”

 

Harry grinned and clinked glasses, just as Hermione strolled over.

 

“Please tell me we’re all friends again,” she said, standing beside them and sliding her arm around Ron’s shoulder.

 

Ron, in turn, happily circled an arm around Hermione’s waist and looked up at her, “We’re family, Hermione,” he informed her, well and truly smashed, “and if Harry wants to shag that insufferable blond git, then so he shall!”

 

“Surely, I should get a say in that particular agreement.” Harry looked behind him to see Draco appearing, as if out of nowhere. Harry grinned drunkenly, exceedingly chuffed to see his boyfriend. 

 

“Hello, love,” he smiled tenderly over his shoulder.

 

“Merlin, you’re faded,” was Malfoy’s disdainful reply, but, after a quick scan of the room, he still hazarded pressing a brief kiss to Harry’s temple. It pleased Harry a great deal. “So, Weasley, I have your blessing, do I?” Malfoy asked, without much sincerity. He had a hand on Harry’s shoulder and was stroking his neck with his thumb. The comfortable, casual affection of it made Harry want to burst.

 

“Yes,” Ron waved a magnanimous hand in the air, as if issuing an edict, “Snog Harry as much as you wish. And don’t fuck it up.”

 

“I’m an excellent snogger, I couldn’t possibly fuck it up,” Draco assured him. 

 

Ron tried to clarify his meaning, but by then was having a bit of a giggle and wasn’t at all comprehensive. 

 

Hermione smiled, shaking her head, “Perhaps one day, you two will be able to have a sincere conversation without aid from Ogden’s finest, but I suppose I shouldn’t count on it.”

 

Ron managed to compose himself and then looked up at her with big, soppy eyes, “I love you, Hermione Granger.”

 

Hermione gave him an indulgent look, “I love you, too, you sentimental plonker. Now, come dance with me before you’re too sloshed to stand.”

Chapter Text

“What are you wearing to the memorial tomorrow?” Draco demanded. It was the following morning and Malfoy had dragged a reluctant Harry to the library to study. 

 

Considered by some to be sisters of the Banshee and Glaistig, Cwalu (singular, Cwalus) are the vengeful ghosts of those taken too soon, Harry was reading. Why history of magic was going back in time instead of closer to modern times, Harry was unclear. Why he was even still taking History of Magic was even more unclear. The hint is in the name, the text— Historia Medieval Magica by Balbina Bloodstone— continued, literal for violent death, Cwalu are thought to have suffered turbulent ends, either physically or, in some instances, emotionally

 

“Clothing, I suspect,” Harry replied distractedly. 

 

Descriptions of Cwalu are scarce and often varied. That Cwalu are separate entities to their sister spirits is a point of contention in scholarly Medieval circles. This author, however, contends that Cwalu lack the allure of Banshee and Glaistag. Instead of seducing their victims, Cwalu are often more sly and may present with more metaphysical manifestations. Banshee, Glaistag, and Cwalu all are intent on repeating the violence visited upon them in life.  

 

“Cute,” Draco remarked, obviously not finding it cute at all. 

 

Harry flipped forward a few pages Historia Medieval Magica, trying to find the actual history part of the thing, and turned towards the other boy. 

 

“I don’t know, I suspect I’ve got some dress robes somewhere.”

 

“A bit much, don’t you think?” Draco sniffed.

 

“Obviously you think so,” Harry sighed, “but it’s dress robes or school clothes, those are your options and I’m not too fussed either way.”

 

Malfoy’s features twitched into a rather sour expression, “Saviour of the wizarding world and you still don’t know how to dress yourself.”

 

“I get by,” Harry bristled. 

 

“Your wardrobe is tolerable, at best,” Draco insisted. 

 

“Well, I don’t know what you propose we do about it right now, sweetheart, especially when you’re so determined to make a proper student out of me,” Harry waved at the stack of books and parchment piled high before them. 

 

“You'll go ask McGonagall if you can go to Hogsmeade this afternoon,” Malfoy ordered, checking his pocket watch, “I’ve a weekend pass already. Mother arrives there today prior to attending the memorial tomorrow and I’m meeting her for tea. You may join us. Afterwards, we’ll find you something suitable at Gladrags. Their selection is not ideal but it will have to do. Or we could apparate to Diagon Alley, I suppose, but McGonagall is less likely to sign off on that, and I'm trying to avoid misdemeanors.”

 

“Do I have a say in this plan of yours?” Harry inquired, finding Draco’s enthusiasm and machinations charming, despite himself. 

 

“Hm?” Draco responded, as if forgetting Harry was even present for these preparations, “Oh. Not really, no. I’m not about to let you embarrass yourself in front of the myriad grieving.”

 

“Merlin, didn’t know my clothing was such a source of consternation for you,” Harry remarked, torn between amused and a little self conscious. Memories of drowning in Dudley’s clothes and the ensuing torment began to resurface. 

 

Draco gave him a puzzled look, “You’re right fit, Harry, you must know that; it wouldn’t kill you to dress yourself with that in mind.”

 

Harry blushed, feeling uncomfortable, “I’m...I’m fine.”

 

“I’ve upset you,” Draco realised abruptly, obviously surprised. 

 

“No,” Harry rebuffed him immediately, succeeding only in making himself look defensive.

 

Draco’s eyebrows knit together and he reached to put a hand on Harry’s forearm. 

 

“I’m sorry, love, did I hit a nerve?”

 

“It’s just...when it comes to clothes and such, I never learned how. I do alright, but I don’t give it a lot of thought, because I don’t know what to even think about it. You have, you know, style,” Harry couldn’t help but notice Draco preen a little at the words, “and I mostly can’t be arsed, but I don’t think I’m an embarrassment.” 

 

“Tender-hearted Gryffindor,” Malfoy commented, but with an indulgent tone that inferred he rather liked tender-hearted Gryffindors, “I was only teasing, I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. If you must know, I was pursuing a selfish motive.”

 

“Which was?” Harry asked, ego satisfactorily soothed.

 

“I’m simply desperate to see you set up with the most glorious collection of well fitted jumpers," Draco confessed, "Solely for my own aesthetic gratification.”

 

“Oh,” replied Harry, hesitant but bemused and admittedly flattered, “Ah, alright, if you like. You’ll help?”

 

“I’m hardly leaving decisions of such gravitas to you!” Draco declared, with faux horror. Harry didn’t take the words personally this time, instead chuckling at Draco’s obvious excitement at the project. 

 

“Yeah, alright then,” Harry remarked, “I’ll ask McGonagall. You sure you want me at tea with your mum?”

 

“She wants to see you,” came the reply. 

 

Harry was taken aback at that, “She does?”

 

“Hrm,” Draco said, raking a hand through his lovely hair and grimacing. Those telling pink patches high on his cheekbones gave him away, “I think I may, possibly, have mentioned your name in one or two letters. I don’t know for sure, but I think she might...suspect...that I have feelings for you at the very least. She said to invite you, only I’ve been putting it off.”

 

“She knows you like blokes?” Harry asked, somehow assuming that wouldn’t be something Draco would have shared with his parents. 

 

Draco snorted, “Suspect she knew before I did. I’ve never been exactly macho, Potter, you might have noticed.”

 

“Right, but you're...you know. Aristocratic,” mumbled Harry.

 

"That's one way of putting it," Malfoy laughed humourlessly, "or as my father would say, a mincing, intolerable little ponce. Ah, well, six of one, half dozen of the other."

 

"Shit," Harry remarked, "That's not what I meant. I meant you still have no problem getting what you want. But that doesn't matter. Fuck, babe. I'm sorry. He's your dad and he shouldn't have said that to you," Harry didn't know exactly how to respond. Being gay was just not something he grew up really considering. Oh, there’d been the occasional slur but that was just a thing people said, not a thing people did. Except now that seemed absurd, of course. He felt a little naive. 

 

Draco just shrugged, "I didn't have much of a defense."

 

Harry resented the other students milling about the library which prevented him from kissing Malfoy sweetly and solidly like he wanted. Merlin, he hoped Draco didn't think he was ashamed of him or something. It wasn't that at all, hell, half the time Harry dreamed of being able to just kiss the boy whenever he wanted, in front of whoever cared to look. It was just complicated. Too many things were complicated.

 

“Alright there?” Draco asked gently. 

 

“I don't suppose my uncle Vernon would have been thrilled with me either," Harry reflected slowly, “not that he was ever thrilled with me. I just never gave blokes with blokes much thought, and...I think there are a lot of things I don’t know when it comes to all this.”

 

“Hm,” Draco acknowledged, “Convenient for you, you have a very charitable teacher.”

 

***

 

It had only taken a bashful expression and Harry muttering he’d realised he “hadn’t anything to wear tomorrow,” for McGonagall to sign off on Harry’s weekend pass—not that there was much left of the weekend. 

 

He and Draco walked to the Hogwarts gates, and once outside, apparated. They arrived outside of a small, trendy bistro Harry wasn’t familiar with. The minimalist text on the window simply said Camellia. Harry anticipated overpriced sandwiches and soup with too many herbs. He felt a mounting anxiety in his solar plexus. None of his experiences with Narcissa Malfoy were what he could have described as pleasant. And now, not knowing what she knew about him and Draco or how he was expected to act, it didn't help.

 

“Potter,” Draco interrupted his mounting fears with a pointed look, “the door.”

 

It was shockingly reassuring to have Malfoy order him around in that imperious way of his. He reached for the door, allowing Draco to enter first, then following along behind him. The cafe was quiet, and Mrs. Malfoy was seated near the window. She rose when she saw Draco, who went to her directly. Harry watched her place her hands on Draco’s shoulders, assessing him, before giving him a light kiss on the cheek. 

 

“You’re looking well,” she said, before turning her sights to Harry. She reached out for his hand, and, not knowing what else to do, Harry took it. Her fingers were slender like Draco’s, and only lukewarm to the touch. “Mr. Potter,” she acknowledged, “so good of you to join us.” 

 

“Course,” Harry mumbled, tips of his ears burning. Why exactly did he agree to this? Malfoy gave him another pointed look, “Ah, thanks for inviting me,” he tried. 

 

The next thing he knew, Draco was passing him his coat and scarf to hang up on the nearby coat tree. Pompous little prat, Harry thought, exasperated, but he nevertheless slung Draco’s outerwear over a hook, along with his own. Now Malfoy was looking at the chair across from his mother’s. Merlin, he could not be serious. Draco only gave him an impatient, expectant blink because apparently, he was. Suppressing an irritated huff, Harry yanked Malfoy’s chair back a foot or so.

 

“Thank you, Potter,” Draco said, giving him a smug little smile. Harry sat down quickly in his own chair before Draco got ideas about Harry pushing him in because that was simply not on. Harry’s face was flushed a deep red and he was pretty sure he was sweating. 

 

“It’s lovely to see you both,” Narcissa was saying as Harry tried, in vain, to coax the blood away from his face, “How have you been keeping, how’s school?”

 

They made strained small talk for several minutes, Harry managing, barely, to keep from stammering. They discussed classes and N.E.W.T.s, career prospects and their afternoon plans. It almost felt like any other conversation. Narcissa Malfoy was impeccably polite, showing (perhaps feigning) interest in Harry’s responses, offering mild encouragement, and even granting him what might have classified as smiles. Tea arrived along with fingers sandwiches, crumpets, clotted cream and boysenberry preserves.

 

“Please, help yourself,” Narcissa insisted. 

 

Despite what Harry suspected was an obscene price, the delicate foods were exceptionally well-made and quite tasty.

 

“These are good,” he observed. Not sparkling conversation, he realised, but he was trying. 

 

“I’m glad you think so,” Mrs. Malfoy agreed, “I don’t have occasion to come to Hogsmeade often, but I do like to take tea here when I do. I thought I would come a day early and have a chance to see Draco. Having him away at school for so much of the year has always been difficult on me.”

 

“Merlin, Mum,” Drao grumbled. 

 

“It’s just the truth, darling,” she said, “I’m sure Harry’s not uncomfortable with some slight familial sentiment.”

 

“No—” Harry started, then paused, catching Draco’s glare, and swallowed the bite of crumpet still in his mouth, “Er, no, I think it’s nice, really.”

 

“I did have a matter I wished to discuss with you, Draco,” Narcissa said, “perhaps after you and Harry find what you need at the shops you could meet me for supper.”

 

Harry was keenly attuned to the shift in Draco’s posture, an increase in tension, his fingers clenching around the delicate handle of his teacup. He saw Draco’s Adam’s apple bob in profile. 

 

“I’d rather you told me now,” Draco said quietly. 

 

“It’s hardly tea time conversation, darling, I don’t wish to spoil Harry’s afternoon.”

 

“I can go,” Harry offered, “you two can chat and Draco can come meet me at Gladrags, it’s no problem, truly.”

 

Narcissa’s upper lip twitched in distaste at the mention of Gladrags and Harry almost laughed with nervous relief. Some things didn't change, at least. 

 

“No!” Draco insisted, grabbing Harry by the hand, “Stay. Please, Harry. I want you here.”

 

Harry squeezed Draco’s fingertips into his palm. 

 

“Are you sure?” Narcissa asked, peering into Draco’s eyes, instead of staring at their clasped hands on the table. 

 

“I want Harry here,” Draco repeated, quietly. 

 

“Very well,” Narcissa agreed. She took a sip of tea. “This war made many things apparent. I was a young woman when I married your father. I had a sheltered life. I believed what my parents believed and then what my husband believed after that. That is not an excuse, however, and I also must take responsibility for my own actions. I had ample opportunity to leave and plenty of exposure to other less hateful ideas. I opted to ignore them. In truth, I suspect I liked feeling special. I liked the privilege and status afforded to me as a pureblood, and as a Malfoy. I liked my creature comforts, the pedigree, and being able to raise you in wealth. I was willing to turn a blind eye to ensure those things continued.

 

“In doing so,” she continued, “I sacrificed what I cared about most, darling, which was your safety. I won’t ever forgive myself for that."

 

“It’s fine,” Draco muttered, “I’m fine.”

 

“It’s not,” Narcissa spoke sharply, “I should never have let your father treat you as he did. I should never have let our family get caught up in the Dark Lord’s despicable plans, for letting him charge you with such a task. But I did. I was weak when you needed strength.”

 

Draco’s hand clung tightly to Harry’s. Harry brought it down to his lap, where he could hold it with both of his own. He didn’t suspect the Malfoy family typically had conversations like this. 

 

“Even after the war, after the trials, and Harry here being gracious enough to spare me from Azkaban, I still clung to the hope that things could just go back to normal. That your father would come home and we would continue our lives as before. The path of least resistance has always appealed to me. But since you’ve been away...I’ve had a lot of lonely hours to think and what I’ve realised is that I don’t want to go back. I can’t go back. Draco, I’ve asked your father for a divorce.”

 

Draco swallowed again, nodded slowly, hand still wrapped in Harry’s, “Good,” he said. 

 

Narcissa’s eyebrows raised almost imperceptibly. 

 

“I don’t want anything to do with him,” Malfoy said. 

 

“He mentioned you hadn’t replied to his owls,” Narcissa acknowledged. 

 

“What would I say?”

 

“You’re all he has, darling,” came her gentle reply. 

 

“That’s on him,” Draco growled, “He’s a murderer, a torturer, a snivelling acolyte, and that was my path, my inheritance. If it weren’t for Harry, I’d be dead or in Azkaban. That’s the legacy Father raised me to. Well, I don’t want it.”

 

Narcissa’s eyes were wet with unshed tears. She only nodded, “That is your decision, my love, and I will respect your wishes on the matter.”

 

“How can you pity him?” Darco snarled. 

 

Narcissa dabbed at her eyes, “Oh, I have plenty of spite for him, too,” she assured him, “Perhaps I just saw...glimpses of the man he could have been. But they became fewer fewer with every passing year until they flickered out entirely. Merlin, but he loved you, Draco. I can still picture his face, holding you for the first time. A son. His son.”

 

“An heir. That’s all I was. And soon enough, when it became clear that what I actually was was a thankless, simpering pansy, well, I was barely worthy of being even an heir anymore.”

 

Draco’s mother shook her head, “I don’t think that’s wholly so, but I can understand why you would feel that way.”

 

“Thank you for tea, Mother,” Draco said, rising abruptly, “I think Harry and I will be going now.”

 

“Of course, darling.”

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Draco assured her. 

 

“I’d like that.”

 

Draco snatched his coat and scarf and made a quick exit, his head low. 

 

“Can I—” Harry dug into his pocket for some coins, but Narcissa waved him off. 

 

“My treat, Harry, my pleasure, truly. Thank you for...all you have done for Draco.”

 

Harry blushed again, “Oh, it’s nothing, he’s...he’s wonderful, actually.”

 

A couple of tears rolled down her elegant cheek. She quickly dashed them away with a handkerchief very similar to the one of Draco’s that Harry had washed, dried, folded and carefully tucked away in a corner of his trunk, “Funny how things work out,” she said, as if lost in another memory. 

 

“Right,” Harry agreed, “Well, er, thanks for the tea, delicious crumpets, truly,” Merlin, what was wrong with him, “‘Til tomorrow then.”

 

Narcissa reached out and squeezed his hand, “Tomorrow, Mr. Potter.”

Chapter Text

Draco was already a block and a half away by the time Harry got outside, yanking on his coat and scarf. Harry jogged to catch up with the other boy, who appeared to be marching towards the outskirts of town, hands shoved in his pockets and cheeks stained pink with cold air and emotion. 

 

“How dare she stick up for him!” Draco burst out once Harry reached his side, “After everything he did, I’m just supposed to ingratiate myself, and what? Forgive him? I won’t. I can’t. I despise him and everything he represents.” They reached the train tracks and crossed them, Draco’s long legs striding towards the pond beyond the station. The autumn wind was disturbing the usually placid surface, little white crests were rising and falling. It was not a pleasant day; there was no one around. Draco stood facing the water, jaw clenched tight. 

 

“Hey,” Harry said, stepping in close behind his boyfriend, reaching around him to cross his arms over Draco’s chest. He pressed his cheek to Draco’s temple, “You don’t have to forgive anyone. That’s your choice and your right. It's just one option of many. I’m not forgiving my aunt and uncle any time soon. Hell, I’ll not be arsed if they kick it, and I'm not wasting any time feeling guilty about that. You’re allowed to move on from people, especially people who’ve hurt you. You don’t owe him anything.”

 

“Doesn’t that just make me a great bloody hypocrite then?” Draco sniffed, curling his hands over Harry’s and leaning back into his chest, “I want you and your mates and the rest of the wizarding world to forgive me, to give me a second chance.”

 

Harry nuzzled against Draco’s cheek, kissing him, “Different circumstances, sweetheart, you know that. Besides, it's not like your father made efforts at atonement.”

 

Draco shrugged, “Even when he does, I can’t believe him. He’s always said what he has needed to say to get his way. I don’t suspect he has a grain of anything other than self-preservation left. And the letters he writes to me, Merlin. Brimful of all the stuff I longed to hear him say for most of my life. All the stuff he denied me. But it’s meaningless now, isn’t it? It mattered when I thought his respect was worth something. Now I know him and his opinions are shit.” A shudder ran through him that Harry felt it in his body, too. 

 

“It’s okay if it does,” Harry murmured softly, “If what he says still carries weight even if you don’t want it to, that's pretty understandable, really.”

 

“I want to throw his letters in the fire, unread,” Draco said, in a small voice, “but I don’t. I read them. Again and again, I read them. It’s pathetic.”

 

“It’s really not,” Harry countered, “we don’t get to choose who’s important in our lives, not really.”

 

“How do you figure?” Malfoy sniffed. 

 

“You think you would have chosen me?” Harry probed. 

 

“Definitely not,” Draco barked a laugh, “wanting you made me miserable. For literal years.” 

 

“And I certainly didn’t want to choose you. Denied myself for weeks even though all I wanted was to press you against various surfaces and snog you senseless. But here we are, and it’s pretty fucking glorious, I think. So maybe I don’t mind not having full control in what I feel. It’s worked out pretty well, so far.”

 

Draco spun in Harry’s arms, clutching Harry’s coat along his waistline. His wind-swept face was drawn and tired. 

 

“I want to turn it off,” he muttered, “I want to wake up and not give a fuck about it. It’s just, Merlin, I wanted to please him for so long.”

 

Harry kissed his forehead, “I wish I could turn it off for you, I really do.”

 

“Doesn’t help that I don’t want to go to the damn memorial tomorrow,” Draco acknowledged, darkly. “Mother and I went back and forth on it. No one wants us there, but not showing up is an admission of guilt. But we are guilty, so I said we should stay away, but then she will go on about optics and perception and moving forward and I don’t know what the right thing to do is.”

 

“I think you should come,” Harry considered, “I’m hitting forgiveness pretty hard in my speech...Hermione’s speech, really, but I have to give it. That’s the flavour of the thing, though. Forgiveness, forging forward, burying old grudges and celebrating new friendships.”

 

“Sounds revolting,” Draco sniffed. 

 

“You’re such a ray of sunshine, darling, it’s so heartening,” Harry teased. 

 

Draco gave another bark of laughter, “I’m a right miserable blighter and we both know it," he sighed heavily, "Well, I’ll have to settle for letting you distract me and I'll deal with tomorrow tomorrow. Let’s get to Gladrags. Dressing you up however I please can only help.”

 

“Bloody tyrant,” Harry chuckled, leaning in for a kiss.  

 

“There will be green,” Malfoy informed him between kisses, “Your absurd house pride has prevented you from wearing much of anything to bring out your eyes for far too long, and frankly, Potter, I won’t stand for it. No, prepare to part with your Galleons on a lovely Slytherin-green cashmere.”

 

“Do blokes wear cashmere?” Harry wondered casually, kissing along Draco’s jaw.

 

“Do blokes wear cashmere! Merlin, Harry, what on earth do I see in you, honestly!”

 

“Doubt you’d like it if I preened like you do. I think you rather like being the peacock to my sparrow,” Harry suggested, unbuttoning Draco’s coat so he could get his hands under his shirt, against his skin. 

 

“Fucking hell, Potter, your fingers are freezing!”

 

“Mm,” Harry acknowledged, not at all deterred, “but you’re nice and warm.”

 

“Come along, Sparrow,” Draco insisted, giving Harry one final kiss, and tucking his shirt back in, “Those jumpers aren’t going to try on themselves.”

 

***

 

Harry had never spent so much on clothing in his entire life. The salesperson at Gladrags had been effusive; darting in and out of the back room to offer him item after item, complimenting everything he put on, thrilled with Harry's very presence in the shop. Harry could barely form an opinion on something before Draco would come down on them, dismissing garments with a gesture or demanding Harry try them on in various combinations. Harry couldn’t keep track of it all; by the end he felt sweaty and exhausted. He did, however, also have to admit that some of the things Draco chose—nothing too showy, just proper trim fits— did look rather good.

 

“Never again,” he told Malfoy as they walked back to the castle with several bulky Gladrags bags from the Hogwarts gate, “I feel like I just got hit by a hurricane.”

 

“And that was just in Hogsmeade,” Draco smiled cruelly, “just wait until I get you somewhere with actual selection. Merlin, Potter, you won’t recognise yourself.”

 

“Don’t hold your breath,” Harry warned. 

 

“Come now,” Draco remarked casually, “we both know you are incapable of denying me anything.”

 

Harry shook his head, grinning, because he’d be damned if the bossy little shit wasn’t right.

 

***

 

The memorial was about as intolerable and oppressive as Harry anticipated. The great hall was draped with light cream coloured banners and there were fresh white candles bobbing above the heads of the guests. Hagrid had replaced the Halloween decorations with large bouquets of autumnal foliage, and the dining tables had been replaced with various chairs. Portraits of the fallen surveyed the crowd from alcoves. Harry tried very hard not to look. He couldn’t quite bear to see Sirius, Lupin, Tonks, or Fred just now. Or Dumbledore or Dobby or little Colin Creevey or Lavender Brown or any of the rest. He wasn’t sure if this memorial was providing further closure or just freshening the wounds he had been trying so desperately to close. 

 

Harry read out the speech Hermione had penned for him to a sea of sniffling spectators. Parents were holding tightly to their children; students were linking arms, tears streaming. It didn’t feel like six months ago for any of them, Harry realised. It might as well have all just finished up yesterday. In the very back of the hall he could make out the pinched faces of Draco and Narcissa Malfoy, a purposeful berth left around them by the rest of the onlookers. 

 

“We cannot undo what has been done,” Harry concluded, watching Hermione mouth along the words from the front row, subconsciously—Merlin, but he loved her, the absolute, irrepressible keener—“but as we look towards our futures with hope, may we also extend kindness.”

 

The great hall erupted into applause and Harry sighed with relief, just glad to have made it through. His had been the last speech and now reception tables piled high with food floated gently through the air and settled along the walls. 

 

Headmistress McGonagall invited the guests to partake. Harry descended the steps from the makeshift platform and was immediately enveloped by a teary-eyed Molly Weasley. 

 

Harry collapsed into the welcome hug. 

 

“Lovely job, Harry, we’re so proud,” Mrs. Weasley praised him, "and you look quite dashing as well, you know! New jumper? Green has alwasy looked well on you, brings out your eyes."

 

“Oh, the speech was all Hermione’s doing,” Harry assured her, “You know I get tongue-tied when it comes to thinking of what to say.”

 

“Well, lovely job, the both of you, then,” she conceded, hugging Hermione next, “and so good to see you, dear.”

 

It took some time to greet and catch up with the extensive Weasley family, and Harry felt mostly relieved to get to spend some time with people he felt so at home with. Too soon was he nabbed away by Professor Slughorn.

 

“Come, my boy,” boomed the professor, a hand on Harry’s back steering him towards the centre of the hall, “You don’t get the luxury of keeping to your own, I’m afraid! Many here want to give their regards.”

 

Reluctantly, Harry waved goodbye to the Weasleys

 

“You remember the Rathchens, certainly, Harry,” Slughorn began introductions. Harry certainly didn’t remember the Rathchens, actually, but he shook hands and listened as they described their son, lost to the war. And so it continued: mourner after mourner, tear-stained faces of witches and wizards, the crushing hugs of strangers, as if they could somehow soothe their sorrow by drowning him in it. And he was drowning. 

 

“Our Lavender always spoke so highly of you, Harry, love,” a pale, round-faced woman was saying. Oh Merlin, Harry wasn’t sure he could do this, “I still remember that letter she wrote home from school, telling us she’d been sorted into the same house as Harry Potter! Oh, she was ever so proud.”

 

A dark-haired man stood behind her, drawn, eyes red-rimmed, he nodded along as the woman spoke. 

 

“It, ah, it was my honour to have fought beside her,” Harry replied, and it sounded so hollow, so forced. He was afraid they would notice that all he could see when he thought of Lavender was Fenrir Greyback’s ruthless face dripping with her blood, the coppery smell of her mangled body where she lay dying.  

 

Apparently his words had come out okay, however, because Mrs. Brown’s eyes filled up afresh with tears, “We gave our only daughter to your cause, but we still believe your cause is righteous. Artemis—come say hello, dear—This is Lavender’s father,” Harry reached out and shook the man’s hand, “we’ve been working on restoring Hogwarts. It’s not much but it gives us a sense of peace, rebuilding this place that had so many happy memories for our sweet girl.”

 

“Oh, you’ve, ah, you’ve made good progress,” Harry offered stupidly. In his mind appeared the flip of Crookshanks scrubby tail on the Marauders’ Map. The astronomy tower. The builders. Someone with motive. The gears seemed to click into place in his head, but Harry was having trouble reconciling the term's violent acts with this tearful, gentle woman. 

 

“Well, I know others are waiting to see you, dear,” Mrs. Brown said, embracing him, clingy so tightly, her floral perfume saturating his nostrils, making him queasy, “but do take care. We miss her so much and, well, I know it’s silly, but we almost see you as our son in her stead. We cannot wait to see what great things you do for the world.” Oh fuck, oh Merlin, no, Harry wanted to cry out, I'm not your fucking son. I’m sorry for your loss but please, just take your eyes off me, leave me be, I can’t take all this on, I can’t. Instead he gave them a watery smile and let them walk away.

 

He looked to his right and there was Narcissa Malfoy, a solitary slender pillar being carefully watched by several small groups and couples. He couldn’t fuck this up. 

 

“Narcissa,” he said warmly, taking her hand and leaning in to kiss her icy cheek, “Such a pleasure to see you.”

 

He heard scattered murmurs and gasps and he forced himself to ignore them. 

 

“Harry,” she greeted him, squeezing his hand, “thank you for your lovely words. We all need voices like yours to learn and to heal.”

 

There was a large click and a puff of purple smoke as some photographer went for the picture. 

 

“Please,” Harry turned, facing the photographer, “This is a day of remembrance, not a publicity event.” But he couldn’t help feeling relieved, knowing this picture and, with any luck, his message, would be owled out to the country tomorrow morning, provided The Prophet didn’t spin it into something nasty. Sensing the sentiment in the room currently, however, he got the feeling it would say what he needed it to. This crowd still wanted to celebrate him as a hero, to take solace in the idea that the loss of their loved ones meant something. The newspaper would be foolish to try and deprive the public of that. 

 

Merlin, he hated how cynical and analytical he had to be. You’re doing this for Draco  he reminded himself, for you and Draco, so you can one day be together in the world without everyone trying to tear you down.  

 

And so he smiled gently and made small talk with Narcissa Malfoy for a few minutes longer, before being passed down the line from grieving father, to grieving mother, from grieving daughter to grieving wife. 

 

***

 

Harry spent a long time in the shower late that night, hot water streaming over him. He wore his soap down to a little sliver. All those unwanted hugs, the pressure of bodies, his own ingratitude. It was all slathered across him, heavy as tar: their stories, their tears, their expectations. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to scrub their grief off of him. 

 

He heard the creak of the door and we wanted to shout, he wanted to be alone, just needed one more moment alone. Until he saw that white blond hair that could only be Draco and then all he felt was relief. Draco came closer and Harry could see that he was dressed for bed in just his thermal and pants. He had a towel under one arm.

 

“You’ve been in here a long time,” Draco remarked carefully, “just wanted to see if you were alright.”

 

Harry shook his head, “I don’t think I am, actually, no,” he heard himself saying. 

 

“Thought that might be the case, can I come in?”

 

Harry nodded.

 

“You can say no,” Draco reminded him, “I’ll understand if you want to be alone.”

 

“Want to be alone with you,” Harry murmured. Draco slipped out of his underclothes and into the shower, pressing his palms against Harry’s chest, kissing his shoulder.

 

“They put too much on you,” he stated unhappily. 

 

“Who else are they going to put it on?” Harry shrugged, feeling numb. 

 

“Their families? Mind healers? Someone who isn’t already actively grieving?”

 

“We’re all actively grieving, though, that’s the problem, isn't it?” Harry reflected. 

 

“I wanted to tell them all to fuck off,” Draco asserted, squeezing Harry’s shoulders before sliding his hands up his neck to his face. He stroked Harry’s cheeks with his thumbs, so sweetly, “Couldn’t they see what they were doing to you? Devouring you like a swarm of hungry jackels. You’re not theirs, don't they know that?”

 

“It makes me want to scream,” Harry admitted, “events like that. Then I feel so guilty because here I am living and that’s all they want for those they’ve lost. I know I should feel grateful, honoured, special, but I just want it to end. Every time, I just want it over. All that sorrow, it leaches into me, like I’ve been pickled in it. It’s in my lungs, it feels like, in my pores, I can’t get it out.”

 

“Didn’t know you were such a poet, Potter,” Draco teased, but with the gentlest of smiles, and a kiss to his cheek. Harry dropped his head to Draco’s shoulder, let the other boy run soothing hands over his neck, his back and oh, oh, it was suddenly so clear and he didn’t know why he hadn’t realised it before, hadn't realised it a hundred times over, every day they spent together. He raised his head and found those pale grey eyes. 

 

“I love you,” he said, simply. 

 

Draco bit his lip and made a little noise like Harry’s words hurt, maybe. And then Draco’s mouth was on his, kissing him with an intensity only matched by what Harry felt for him. 

 

“Fucking hell,” Draco muttered, pulling away, face scrubbed red from Harry’s evening stubble, hands still braced against Harry’s cheeks, tortured expression on his patrician features, “I love you, too, Harry. I think I’ve loved you as long as I’ve hated you and since I stopped hating you as well, and I never fucking dreamed I truly would get to be with you. Sometimes I think this is all a massive fantasy I’m having and I’m actually delusional locked in a basement somewhere.”

 

Harry felt Draco’s words warming him from the inside out, like hot soup on a blustery day. 

 

“I’ll be the only one locking you in basements, thanks very much,” he promised. 

 

And then Draco laughed and kissed him and finally, finally, some of that stifling grief sloughed off him and spiraled down the drain.

Chapter Text

“Well done, Harry,” Hermione congratulated him the next morning at breakfast, passing over that morning’s edition of The Daily Prophet

 

A portrait of him and Narcissa Malfoy graced the cover. He was happy to see the earnestness with which the photo version of himself squeezed her hands, tilted his head, asked her questions. The jumper Malfoy had picked out for him didn’t hurt either, he realised. He looked older, he thought, and certainly more sophisticated than he felt.

 

Merciful Magnanimity! Announced the headline, Potter makes a powerful appeal for forgiveness. 

 

Harry breathed a sigh of relief, “Good,” he remarked, “excellent. I was worried they would spin it.” He skimmed the article which described the event and borrowed quotes from his speech.

 

And Potter certainly seems to practicing what he's preached, began the last paragraph, Above, Harry Potter greets Narcissa Malfoy, wife of the convicted Death Eater Lucious Malfoy. As covered in a Daily Prophet exclusive in June of this year, Potter credits Mrs. Malfoy with saving his very life at the Battle of Hogwarts. He claims to have forgiven Mrs. Malfoy of her previous involvement with the Dark Lord, along with the actions of her son, Draco Malfoy. During legal proceedings this May, Potter claimed he could not give evidence that Mr. Malfoy had been similarly rehabilitated. In his moving speech this Sunday, Potter pleaded for the public to follow his lead, insisting, quite convincingly, that open-hearted forgiveness was the only path forward. We at The Daily Prophet applaud Mr. Potter for his graciousness and admirable leadership.

 

Draco’s eyes raked through the article alongside Harry’s. He squeezed Harry’s knee, “You pulled it off,” he exhaled.

 

“Well, I wasn’t exactly acting,” Harry retorted, “I would like people to stop being such ruddy arseholes and make an attempt to get along. I’m just relieved I got through to some of them at least.”

 

“Your integrity is truly ghastly,” Malfoy commented, sniping a strip of bacon off Harry’s plate. 

 

“Careful, Malfoy, he might rub off on you,” Ron ribbed.

 

“Oh, Weasley,” Draco replied, voice low and smooth, his mouth a predatory smirk, “I’m positively counting on it.”

 

Harry swatted the blond while Ron bloomed red from his neck to the tips of ears. Hermione gave a small, pleased smile as she watched the three of them. 

 

“I wanted to talk to you three tonight,” Harry said, “Somewhere a bit more private. Can we meet in the library after supper?”

 

“Course,” Ron answered, still flushed, “Everything alright?”

 

“Might have a lead,” Harry informed them, “Maybe.”

 

***

 

“You’re not serious,” Malfoy interrupted. The four of them were in a corner table of the library that evening, discussing what Harry had learned about the Browns at the memorial, “we’re going with the cat conspiracy? Truly? Have you all lost it completely?” 

 

Harry blushed he knew how it sounded, “It doesn’t hurt to check into the Browns a little. They’re hurting and they are in the building, it's not impossible that they were responsible for all this mind reading business.” Harry fiddled with the S.P.E.W. button turned aversion amulet pinned to the inside of his cloak. 

 

“And Crookshanks—”

 

“Is a bloody cat, Weasley, Merlin! This is absurd,” Malfoy spat out, disdainfully.

 

“Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it?” Hermione offered patiently, “It is a bit ridiculous, too ridiculous to take to McGonagall, who obviously deemed the Browns not to be a danger or she wouldn’t have allowed them access.”

 

“Are they even on the list?” Harry asked. Hermione shuffled through scrolls until she found the list of workers McGonagall had allowed her to copy. 

 

“Artemis Brown and...Wilma Brown?”

 

“I didn’t get her first name, but that’s Lavender’s dad, yeah,” Harry confirmed. 

 

“So, what’s the plan then? Increased surveillance using the map?” Harry asked, “So far as I can tell, the builders go home in the evenings, although some nights I’ve seen them work late.”

 

“It’s a start,” Hermione agreed, “If we saw them wandering around after construction had ceased for the evening, that would be a pretty significant clue.”

 

“Still not much to go on,” Ron sighed. 

 

“No,” Hermione admitted, “but it’s not nothing.”

 

“Any reports of anything since students started with the aversion amulets?” Draco asked. 

 

“No,” Hermione replied, “but there have been lulls in incidents before. I mean, there is a chance that whoever is doing this doesn’t know about the amulets yet and is still trying to sort out why her little trick isn’t working any more. Once she does figure it out, though,  it’s only a matter of time before she gets someone in the shower, or who forgot to transfer their button over from their pajamas to their day clothes.”

 

“It’s certainly not a solution,” Harry recognised, “but hopefully it’s bought us a bit of time.”

 

“More watchful waiting,” Hermione concluded, “certainly not ideal.”

 

***

 

They didn’t have to wait very long. 

 

The eighth years were in DADA, Malfoy having just stepped out to use the loo, when a mighty rumble reverberated throughout the narrow classroom. 

 

Professor Haberdash-Pewter paused, as did Seamus, who was just about to attempt a Salvus Securus. Before anyone could sort out what the noise was, a booming thud sounded from the hall quickly followed by another. Harry was on his feet before he knew it, dashing for the corridor. 

 

Massive chunks of the newly constructed central tower were crashing down and scattering rubble from wall to wall. Draco was frozen in the middle, wand outstretched as his eyes darted this way and that, a Protego Duo shield shimmering overhead. Harry felt a swell of relief at Draco’s quick action, but Merlin he wanted to be close to the other boy. 

 

Harry heard the shocked murmurs of his classmates as they crowded behind him. Another rumble and another piece of stonework fell from the ceiling, bouncing off Draco’s protective spell, making it quiver. 

 

Tempus Caesum! ” Professor Haberdash-Pewter’s distinctive voice rasped out and the reflected boulder froze in mid air. “Quickly now,” the professor urged, “we haven’t much time. Everyone out of the tower. Leave your belongings, we can reclaim them later. Impressive Duo, Mr. Malfoy, but please join us!”

 

The mass of eighth years scampered down the hall towards the staircase, Harry grabbing Draco by the forearm as the Protego fell and yanking him along. 

 

“Are you okay?” Harry hissed.

 

“Fine,” Draco reassured him, “just caught me by surprise is all.”

 

The professor ushered the students down the twisting stairwell before bringing up the rear. Harry knew he should let go of Malfoy’s arm, didn’t have a reason to be holding onto it, but instead of releasing him, he slid his palm flush against Draco’s, interlocking their fingers as they followed the class down the stairs. All this was in full view of Professor Haberdash-Pewter, but Harry just couldn’t bring himself to care.

 

They reached the base of the staircase just as the thundering of stone on stone resumed, the DADA professor’s spell apparently coming to an end. Harry reluctantly released Draco’s hand before their classmates took notice. Professor Haberdash-Pewter herded them all into the great hall, sending Hermione and Pansy to go locate McGonagall. 

 

“Alright, Malfoy?” Ron said, clapping the blond on the back with what seemed like genuine concern. 

 

“Fine,” Malfoy reiterated, “Except for still needing a piss. Very inconvenient collapse.”

 

“Do you think that’s all it was?” Megan Jones, the Hufflepuff quidditch coach, was at Harry’s elbow, her strawberry blond ponytail swinging.

 

“What do you mean?” Asked Harry.

 

“I’ve just heard rumours,” she whispered conspiratorially, “that someone or something is targeting Slytherins. Pretty interesting that it happened when Malfoy was alone in the hallway, if you ask me.”

 

“Pity no one did,” Malfoy informed her, testily, apparently out of patience.

 

The Hufflepuff sniffed and turned up her already rather upturned nose, and marched off. Ron stifled a giggle. 

 

Malfoy raised a defensive hand, “Sorry, sorry, interhouse unity, I know, Potter, but she’s untenable, you must see that.”

 

“S’fine,” Harry was too distracted by the girl’s words to care much about Malfoy’s understandable reaction to her. Of course, he should have seen at once that the destruction had been targeting Malfoy. That part of the tower had only recently been rebuilt—in part by the Browns, his subconscious supplied—it had no reason to collapse unless someone wanted it to. 

 

“Harry?” Ron asked, mild concern in his voice.

 

“I think she might be right,” Harry explained, “Draco’s still a target.”

 

Malfoy’s lips pursed and he nodded, “Seems that way.”

 

“Fucking hell,” Harry pulled a hand through his hair, speaking quietly as he looked toward the blond, “I’m sorry, babe, I thought we had a handle on this, at least for now. I hate you being in just constant danger like this.”

 

“Survived so far,” Draco gave him a muted smile, “And looks like maybe that prescient beast of Granger’s was onto something after all.”

 

“Are you injured, Mr. Malfoy?” It was the rough voice of Professor Haberdash-Pewter, her cloak pulled up to shield her face from the light of the great hall. 

 

“No, thank you, Professor. It was a bit surprising, that’s all.”

 

Her large pupils lingered on him as she nodded slowly, “That was a fine protection charm you cast.”

 

“Thank you,” Draco replied politely. 

 

“Very quick thinking indeed. I’m glad you are not hurt. Did you see anyone in the corridor?”

 

So Professor Haberdash-Pewter also suspected foul play, Harry gathered. 

 

“No,” Draco answered, “nothing seemed unusual, the hallway was empty.”

 

The professor nodded seriously, as if considering this. 

 

“Very well. It is good you are so capable, and have friends to watch over you,” her eyes flickered to Harry, who swallowed nervously. 

 

Before she could comment further, Hermione and Pansy arrived with the headmistress, and the DADA professor departed. 

 

“What was all that about?” Ron asked. 

 

“I took Draco by the hand,” Harry sighed, “on the stairs. She saw.”

 

“I mean I can’t say I blame you mate, but Hermione’s going to have words for you about public opinion and the slow march to changing hearts and minds and all that.”

 

“I’m aware,” Harry acknowledged, sick of it all, “ but I’m sure Professor Haberdash-Pewter has more important things to care about than the love lives of her students.”

 

“One can only assume,” Draco agreed.

Chapter Text

“What do you think you’ll do?” Harry asked that night in the safety of Locus Secretum. They’d spent some time fooling around and Harry was feeling that warm, sleepy satisfaction that seemed to come with winding Draco up and letting him release. Getting off himself didn't hurt, either. He was naked and sprawled out on his belly, propped up on his elbows. Draco in a similar posture beside him. They were scouring the Marauders’ Map for any sign of the Browns. Professor McGonagall had offered to sort out a way for Draco to finish his education via post, if he was feeling too unsafe at school. 

 

“Hm?” Draco asked absently, petting Crookshanks who had slipped inside the canopy a few minutes prior and was currently settled beside Draco’s attentive fingers. 

 

“Will you stay, do you think?”

 

“Of course I’m staying, Potter,” Draco informed him, “school from home would be dreadfully dull, not to mention far too abstinent for my tastes.”

 

Harry leaned over to press a kiss to Draco’s bare shoulder. 

 

“It’s not like I want you to go, but I wouldn’t hate knowing you’re somewhere safer,” he said, quietly. 

 

“When is Hogwarts ever safe, honestly?” Draco replied, nonchalant. “You know that better than most. If it’s not a basilisk, it’s Voldemort, and when it’s not Voldemort, it’s me trying and failing to off Dumbledore. We’d all be safer bundled up at home with our mums, but to what end? I can look after myself, and when I can’t, I have you to do it for me.”

 

“Well, I can’t always know when you’re in danger, can I?”

 

“Mm, that reminds me. I got you something.”

 

“You what?” Harry crinkled his nose. They hadn’t really ever...exchanged gifts. 

 

“I ordered it after your little episode in the lecture hall a few weeks back. When you were off your head worrying about me, because of the thing with Goyle? It’s finally arrived.”

 

“Little episode is a pretty kind euphemism for a delusional meltdown,” Harry grumbled. 

 

“Your words, not mine,” Draco replied magnanimously, rooting through the pocket on the headboard, giving Harry a rather nice view of that pert, pale arse. 

 

Harry sat up properly out of curiosity, reaching out reflexively to catch a small black box about the size of a fist that Draco tossed his way. 

 

It flipped open like a jewelry box to reveal a rather handsome muggle wrist watch of minimalist design. A black leather strap with a tarnished gold case and a blank, Aegean blue face, at least at first glance. With further inspection, Harry realised that amidst the black sleek hands, there was a slender gold one.  Etched into the golden hand, were the initials DLM. Along the edges of the face, in tiny, pale grey font, were the words familiar to Harry from Molly Weasley’s kitchen: home, school, work, traveling, lost, hospital, prison, quidditch, garden, errands, visiting, and mortal peril. The gold hand was currently pointing to “school”.

 

“It’s not terribly useful at Hogwarts, besides from telling the regular time, but it seemed a pity to get one only good for so many more months. This way, it should last you post-graduation.” 

 

Harry and Draco had never spoken about post-graduation, and the restrained trace of hopefulness in the other boy’s voice made a lump materialise in Harry’s throat. 

 

“It’s gorgeous,” Harry managed to articulate, putting in on immediately “truly, I love it.”

 

“This way when you’re getting worked up, you have some easy reassurance. Or else you can come save my arse, as you’re wont to do.”

 

Before Malfoy could say another word, Harry was pressed against him, kissing him ferociously.  Crookshanks darted off the bed, affronted by the sudden movement. Harry wrapped strong fingers along the base of Draco’s head, anchoring him. 

 

“It’s perfect,” he whispered between deep, emotion-laden kisses, “Merlin, Draco, I fucking love you so much, you know that?”

 

Draco stretched out beneath Harry, like a cat in a sunbeam, long, exposed, and entirely Harry’s, “I do,” he permitted, “but why don’t you remind me?”

 

***

 

Harry caught up to Clark Tiering in the hallway the following afternoon between classes. The lanky Slytherin, Harry was pleased to see, was actually walking beside the puny Hiram Fantyl. 

 

“Hello, you two,” Harry greeted them. 

 

Hiram still looked at Harry as though he were the sun. It made Harry deeply uncomfortable. Thankfully, Tiering had no such illusions, and just nodded his shaggy pink-ish mop. The haircut was looking decidedly worse for wear. Draco would have opinions about it, that was for certain.

 

“Uh, Clark, a word?” Harry asked, not sure how much the boy had shared with Hiram. 

 

“Alright,” Clark agreed, with a shrug, then said to Hiram, “I’ll catch you in potions?”

 

Fantyl nodded and scuttled off. 

 

“Making friends?” Harry could help but remark, “That’s excellent, really excellent.”

 

Clark rolled his eyes demonstratively, “Yeah, thanks, Dad.” 

 

But Tiering’s sarcasm couldn’t dent Harry’s enthusiasm and he felt himself grinning for another moment longer. 

 

“Hiram’s alright,” Clark relented, “bit of a bootlicker, maybe, but I figure that’s just ‘cause he’s small and easily terrified. But at least he’s not a try-hard like the rest of the dorm. So tired of them all trying to one-up each other, honestly, it’s so tiresome.”

 

Well, Harry supposed, one friend was better than none. 

 

“Sorry you’re stuck in Slytherin with a bunch of, er, Slytherins,” Harry sympathised. 

 

“Thought you were supposed to set a good example by not talking up those stereotypes?” Clark accused. 

 

“Precocious brat,” Harry laughed, “you’re right, of course. I am sorry your classmates are still so insecure they feel the need to shine their own egos at every turn, there is that better?”

 

“Marginally,” Tiering acceded. 

 

“How’s the aversion amulet working out for you?” Harry asked. 

 

“Seems to be doing the job. Haven’t heard anything since that day at the quidditch pitch.”

 

“Good,” Harry nodded, “well, then my next question is do you want to continue with Occlumency? I think you’re doing really well, showing a lot of promise, but I know it’s uncomfortable for you, so I wanted to give you the choice.”

 

Harry wasn’t lying when he said Clark was doing well. Over the past weeks, he'd been able to expand that void to mostly block out his thoughts, provided Harry didn’t try very hard. Nevertheless, Harry had still borne witness to more than a few deeply personal memories. 

 

“I want to keep it up,” was the immediate reply, the skinny boy’s jaw set, “if you and Malfoy are still willing to teach me. Like what if the amulet’s not working and she just hasn’t tried again? Or what if I lose it? I’d rather just know how to do it myself. I’ve still been meditating every day, I think I’m getting better.”

 

“Of course, we’d be happy to,” Harry agreed, reassuringly, although ‘happy to’ might be a bit of a stretch in Draco’s case, “we’ll see you tonight, then?”

 

“Yeah, alright.”

 

***

 

“Thought we’d actually get Tuesday nights to ourselves again,” Draco grumbled as he and Harry arrived in the dungeon classroom that evening. 

 

“Oh, come off it,” Harry chided, good naturedly, “I don’t think you actually mind teaching half as much as you whinge about it.”

 

“It’s...frustrating. I want to be able to just do it for him but I can’t.”

 

“No,” Harry agreed, “‘but it will click and when it does it will be thanks to you.”

 

“Mm,” Draco didn’t sound convinced, then he nodded towards the door, “Evening, Tiering, how’s your meditation coming along?”

 

Not exactly warm and engaging, Harry observed. 

 

“Not bad,” Tiering remarked, “I haven’t missed a day.” His tone was a strange mix of hopeful and proud that Harry recognised as seeking Malfoy’s approval. Harry was surprised, as that didn’t quite fit with the kid’s rebellious exterior. He examined the boy: heart-shaped face, strangely cherubic—it didn’t suit his long limbs. He had a spray of freckles across his nose and cheeks which made him look his age, despite his height. He wore torn jeans and a t-shirt with what Harry assumed was the logo of some muggle punk band across the front. His arms were shoved deep in his pockets. 

 

“I should hope so,” was Malfoy’s underwhelmed response, “well, let’s get started.”

 

Again, he led Harry and Clark through a cursory meditation and then Harry went to it, hopping into Clark’s thoughts. Clark immediately cast the counterspell,  and Harry found himself, for the first time with Tiering, in a completely black void.

 

“Superb, Clark!” Harry exclaimed from within Clark’s consciousness, “Look at this, really well done!”

 

“It’s difficult to maintain,” Harry heard in response, the Slytherin’s tremulous voice echoing from somewhere. The walls of the void began to wobble, and then they collapsed, a younger version of Clark trying to shake awake his mother, unconscious on the couch. There was a baby crying from somewhere in the house.

 

Harry removed himself quickly. He clapped Clark on the shoulder, congratulating him, while Malfoy handed over a box of toffees—he’d insisted Harry get a separate supply for younger student. 

 

“Really good work,” Harry repeated, “you managed to get those wards up immediately and you held them there!”

 

Clark shoved a toffee in his cheek, nodding seriously. He chanced a few glances at Draco from beneath his sandy-coloured eyelashes, but Draco didn’t offer any praise. Poor kid, thought Harry, he's barking up the wrong tree if he's wanting validation. Malfoy just waited until Clark swallowed the toffee down. 

 

“So what went wrong?” Draco said, “If you had it to begin with, what changed?”

 

“Jesus, you’re a hardass,” Clark muttered, crossing his arms across his skinny chest. 

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, are you here to be congratulated on failures? That’s what you have Potter for. My role is to ensure that you actually learn something useful. You can’t improve if you can’t isolate the flaw.”

 

“Sorry,” murmured Clark, looking ashamed. 

 

“Don’t apologise, answer the question,” Draco insisted. 

 

“I just started thinking about what I didn’t want Harry to see,” the first year scuffed the toe of his trainer across the dungeon floor. 

 

“Hm," Draco considered, "This time, try diversion. Might be easier than a pure block. Think of something else entirely,” Draco instructed, “Ready?”

 

Tiering gave an emphatic nod and Harry recast, arriving into the same scene. There was vomit on Clark’s mother’s blouse. 

 

“Fuck,” Clark cursed from inside his own head, “I mean, Occlumens!

 

“Something else, Tiering,” Draco’s voice rang out, “The night with the sheet, how about, focus on that, specifically.”

 

“Right,” Tiering agreed and his mother faded from view only to be replaced with the Slytherin dorm room. There were sounds of soft breathing coming from beneath several forest green eiderdowns, trunks neatly arranged at the foot of each bed. 

 

“Why don’t you just do this little favour for me?” a female voice was urging, “Can’t you, Clark, can’t you? Can’t you just do me this little favour? Be a good little Slytherin, for me, Clark?” The voice repeated the sentiment over and over, and Harry wasn’t surprised that Clark had given in, it was relentless. So sickly sweet and incessant. 

 

“Good, Tiering,” Harry said, “well done, keep your thoughts here—”

 

He’d barely gotten the words out when the scene shimmered and they were back beside his mother, the baby’s crying intensity as Clark shook his mother. 

 

Harry swiftly exited. 

 

“Fuck!” Clark exploded, throwing his wand across the room, “I can’t fucking do it!”

 

Harry accio’d Clark’s wand back over to them. 

 

“Hey,” he said gently, “it’s alright, you did well there. It’s not easy, and you’ve already made heaps of progress. Have a toffee.”

 

“I don’t want a toffee!” Clark cried out, “I want to stop dumping all my fucking secrets in your lap so you and Malfoy here can have a good laugh about my messed up muggle mum.”

 

Harry was about to offer some bolstering words when Draco stepped forward with a broad sweep of his cloak. 

 

“Take a seat, Tiering,” he ordered, “have a toffee, and listen to me.”

 

A cowed Clark reluctantly popped another toffee in his mouth and collapsed into a chair, Draco standing over him. 

 

Harry pleaded silently with Draco not to be too much of an arsehole. 

 

“The first thing you need to understand is that Potter here is the most honourable wizard you’ll ever have the good fortune of learning from, understood?” Draco’s voice was crisp but not cruel.

 

Clark peered up at him warily and gave a small nod.

 

“Potter’s honour means a lot to him, and it extends a lot of protection to you. Firstly, he would never share, with me, nor with anyone, what he experiences inside your head. And he’s certainly not laughing at you. Neither Potter nor I had particularly sunny childhoods, we’re not looking on you suffering through this with anything but respect for your willingness to be here, and compassion for your hardships.”

 

Clark sucked harder on his toffee, obviously trying very hard not to cry. 

 

“Glad that’s clear,” Draco continued, “I also need you to understand that as generous as Harry here is with praise, he’s not doing it to protect your ego. He’s stood where you’re standing. He’s felt the frustrations you’re feeling. If he says you’re progressing, I believe him, and you should, too. What you need to understand is that the more emotional you become during Occlumency, the more difficult it becomes. That’s why Potter here never got a grasp on it. He’s all heart. Which has its uses, I suppose.”

 

Draco paused for a moment considering the boy before him. Clark had his feet up on the chair, his pointy knees under his chin and his arms wrapped around his shins.  

 

“I don’t think you are quite the same as Potter,” Draco went on, thoughtfully, “I think if you are really committed to learning this, you will. What you need to get out of your head is all this worry about judgement. Do you think all your muggle anarchists are worried about what other people think?”

 

“I don’t usually care,” muttered Clark, “It’s just…” he waved in the general direction of Draco. 

 

“Draco has that effect on people,” Harry agreed with a gentle chuckle, “but so long as you’re trying, he’s truly not thinking ill of you. Besides, he can’t see or judge what’s inside your head. So you can put that fear away, yeah?”

 

“Yeah, alright,” Clark unfolded himself and stood up, “Let’s try again.”

 

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Harry said, kindly, “we can try again next week when you’ve had a chance to compartmentalise a bit.”

 

“No,” Clark insisted, “I’m ready, do it.”

 

Draco stepped back and gave Harry a shrug as if to say, go for it. 

 

Harry sighed, not feeling confident this was the right decision. 

 

Legilimens!”  he called out. 

 

Clark was completely unable to establish a defense this time. Clark’s mother was on her knees, her arms wrapped tightly around Clark's middle, sobbing into his chest, pouring out apologies. Clark was trying to shove her away—

 

Harry tried to leave, but it was like Clark's magic grabbed him, held him there, trapping him in the desperate memory, as if he needed Harry to see it. 

 

“I’m sorry, lovey,” his mother was saying between sobs, “I won’t do it again, I’m such a terrible mother, I’m so sorry, you’ll forgive me, won’t you? I just forgot, it was just a little mistake. He’ll be okay.”

 

Clark was shaking, pushing her away, looking towards a small body Harry hadn’t noticed before: a toddler, blue-lipped and silent, golden curls like a halo. Sirens were sounding—

 

Harry wrenched himself out of the memory, eyes fixed on Clark’s in devastation. 

 

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Clark was gasping, “they got there in time. Egg allergy. She just forgot—and she’d not refilled his epi, God, I thought he was dead—”

 

Clark took a step forward and stumbled and Malfoy swept in, catching him easily, his hands bracing against the boy’s shoulders. 

 

Harry watched as the little Slytherin sunk forward, still shaking, his face a blotchy mess which he hid in Draco’s chest. 

 

Malfoy shot Harry a panicked look. 

 

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” Harry exclaimed, pantomiming for Draco to hug the child back. 

 

Looking supremely uncomfortable, Draco shifted his arms from the kid’s shoulders to his back, giving him what Harry supposed could be called a close approximation of a hug. Malfoy gave a couple of cursory pats to a heaving, bony shoulder blade. 

 

Suddenly, as if remembering where he was, Clark sprang back from the embrace.

 

“Shit,” he gasped, eyes darting, “fuck, sorry. I—”

 

And then he took off, fleeing through the classroom door. 

Chapter Text

“Clark, wait!” Harry cried out, but it was too late, the kid was sprinting down the hallway. 

 

“Fucking hell,” Harry sighed. 

 

“What was that all about?” Draco asked.

 

“Well, I can hardly tell you now after you swore up and down that I wouldn’t.”

 

“Ha,” Malfoy replied, straightening his jumper as if hugging put undue wrinkles into it, “I meant generally speaking.”

 

Harry sighed and leaned up against the solid instructor’s desk at the front of the room, “Kid’s just had it tough and I don’t think he’s had a lot of people to talk to about it. I think he needed some comfort and didn’t know he was allowed to ask for it. It was strange, though, he locked me in there for a moment.”

 

Draco looked at him sharply, “What do you mean?”

 

“Like I tried to get out of his mind, but for a moment I couldn’t, he kept me there.”

 

“That is strange,” Draco remarked, “how hard did you try?”

 

Harry shrugged, “Not very, I stuck around for a little while longer and then the next time I made an effort I was able to get out.”

 

Draco furrowed his eyebrows, his mouth a thin, pink line, “I’d rather you not go and get yourself stuck inside the tortured psyches of preteens, if you can help it.”

 

“Thanks, love, I’ll be sure to make a note of that,” Harry replied, dryly. 

 

A silver flicker caught Harry’s eye, as Hermione's sleek otter Patronus hurtled into the room. 

 

“Harry, the remains of the central tower. Come now and come quietly.”

 

The otter dissolved, Malfoy still staring at it, befuddled, "Was that thing Granger?"

 

“Just her Patronus. They also work as messengers. Not a common Death Eater form of communication, sounds like?” Harry asked, chuckling at Draco's expression.

 

"Not exactly the Dark Lord's style, no," Draco agreed, "a bit too...twee."

 

“Yeah, I can imagine,” Harry agreed, then, he tapped Draco with his wand, “Camoufler.”

 

Draco shuddered at the dripping egg sensation as Harry cast the disillusionment charm on himself, also, “Let’s go.”

 

***

 

They arrived in the stairway leading up to the central tower to find Ron and Hermione crouching on the stone steps. Harry and Draco stopped a short distance behind them. 

 

Harry heard a male voice from the collapsed corridor above almost at once. 

 

“So much destruction, my dear, and to what end? We can’t bring her back.”

 

There was a quiet, higher pitched response that Harry couldn’t quite make out. 

 

“Yes, but will remaining here bring you any peace?” 

 

A long silence and then the voice again, “I’m not sure how much longer I can stand by and watch you drown yourself in this.”

 

Just then, Ron’s nose twitched. His upper lip wriggled. Hermione shot him a murderous glance, but it was too late. He inhaled sharply in, grabbing his nose, his eyes bugging out comically as he stifled a sneeze.

 

“Did you hear something?” the man at the top of the stairs demanded, 

 

Footsteps echoed and Harry grabbed Draco’s arm and they turned to run. Hermione and Ron must have come to the same conclusion because they hurried down the stairs also. They tore through the hallways, Ron and Hermione earning confused looks from startled students.



Harry only dropped the spell on himself and Draco when they reached the eighth year common room. 

 

“Were you there?” Hermione demanded in a hushed voice when she and Ron found Harry and Draco at what seemed to have become their regular table in the back corner of the room, “I thought I heard you, but, my word, Harry, your disillusionment charm has gotten excellent.”

 

“How do you know it wasn’t my disillusionment spell?” demanded Draco. 

 

Hermione looked at him apologetically, “Quite right, Draco, I don’t. Was it?”

 

“No,” he yawned cavalierly. 

 

Ron rolled his eyes, “Well, what all did you hear?”

 

“Not much,” Harry admitted, “we only caught what I assume was the tail end.  A man saying something about destruction and not being able to bring her back? And about not standing by and watching her drown. Was it the Browns?”

 

Hermione nodded solemnly, “We saw them on the map. We didn’t get there much before you, did, though, I don’t think. Mrs. Brown’s voice was hard to make out but for a while she was quite distraught. She didn’t say much, just kept crying out, “my darling” and things like that.”

 

“Seems rather blockheaded to return to the scene of their crime,” Draco mused. 

 

“I was thinking the same thing,” Hermione agreed, “but Mrs. Brown went there first, Mr. Brown only following after; at least that is what it looked like on the map. They walked with the other builders to the castle gates. It was odd to watch, we almost missed it. They both disappeared off the grounds, and then a moment later, Mrs. Brown reappeared inside the gates, moving quickly back towards the castle. Mr. Brown showed up moments later—I think he must have apparated home, and then noticed his wife didn't come with him. But he somehow knew where to find her. I think she’s unwell, the guilt, the anger, the grief, maybe it is just a bit too much.”

 

“Either way, I think we ought to take it to McGonagall,” Harry decided. 

 

“Yeah, ‘Mione,” Ron agreed, “You should go tell her, she always listens to you.”

 

Hermione surveyed the three boys thoughtfully, her eyes lingering on Draco, “I think we should all go,” she concluded, “we were all there, we might have picked up on something the others didn’t.”

 

***

 

"These are quite serious allegations you bring against a very well-respected family," Headmistress McGonagall said, considering the four of them solemnly.  

 

"We're aware, Professor," Hermione replied, "the last thing we want to do is cast aspersions on Lavender's family, but I cannot think of another reason why they would be up there."

 

"And remind me what you four were doing up there?" McGonagall asked. 

 

Harry felt a desperate, knee-jerk of defensiveness over his precious. He knew he could trust McGonagall, but the thought of losing it again...

 

"Snogging!" he blurted out.

 

McGonagall raised an eyebrow, "All four of you?"

 

"I mean Ron and Hermione were snogging," Harry said, "And, er, Malfoy was going to play a prank on them. And I was going to stop him."

 

"Yes, I'm a terrible rogue," Draco deadpanned, looking horribly unimpressed. 

 

"Oh, come off it, Harry," Hermione hissed, mortified, "We're not children. The truth is, Headmistress, Harry's got this map, it was his dad's actually—"

 

"Ah, yes," Professor McGonagall remarked with a flicker of nostalgic melancholy, "The infamous Marauders' Map. It was only ever a rumour when your father was at school, Harry, but I suspected between the audacity of him and Sirius Black, and the skill of Remus, it likely existed. Don't worry, I'm certainly not about to demand you relinquish it."

 

Harry blushed, feeling entirely stupid, "Sorry, Professor."

 

"Think nothing of it, we all wish to protect the things we care about. So, you saw the Browns on the map and you followed them. Did something make you suspect them prior to that?"

 

"Not especially," Harry responded, "I suppose my aunt enjoyed her muggle procedurals growing up because I just kept thinking, motive and opportunity."

 

McGonagall blinked. 

 

"They're a type of programme. On television. Never mind. Doesn't matter."

 

"I see," the Headmistress folded her hands upon the top of her desk, "Let me make some discreet inquiries, see if anyone has noticed anything else about Wilma Brown's behaviour or whereabouts that would give us cause to suspect. I commend you all for bringing this to me. I will be sure to keep you apprised of the situation as it unfolds."

 

***

 

"Playing a prank," Malfoy seethed as they headed back to their dormitory, "I cannot believe you would just throw me to the wolves like that, Potter."

 

"I'm sorry!" Harry replied, miserably, "I panicked." 

 

"Yeah, I'm with Malfoy on this one," Ron contributed, "that was pretty daft, mate."

 

"Hm," Draco agreed, "I think you ought to go down to the kitchens and bring Weasley and Granger and me something nice to make up for it."

 

Hermione grinned at the blond before chiming in with, "I could go for a cocoa, if the elves aren't too busy."

 

"I see how it is," Harry griped, "you're all conspiring against me."

 

"Think of it as teaching you a valuable lesson about loyalty," Malfoy replied with a pompous smirk. 

 

"You're the actual worst, did you know?" Harry grumbled, turning around to head down to the kitchens. 

 

"A couple of pumpkin pastries, Potter," was Draco's impervious response, "with a pat of butter, if you would."

Chapter Text

Saturday brought quidditch practice, and despite the decided chill in the air, Harry was pleased to be out on his broom. He enjoyed having a team where everyone wasn’t set in their positions, yet; he enjoyed encouraging them to try things out, seeing them develop new skills. Currently he was chucking small polished stones in the air for David Clayburne, Magnolia Sitthi and Claire Gibbens to dive for. He had to finalise player starting positions for the game tomorrow. 

 

While Harry had played seeker for the first round of games a couple of weeks earlier, it had felt too imbalanced with the eighth years in play. It just wasn’t a lot of fun out-seeking a second year. The coaches had collectively decided to step back and focus on instruction, and continue with friendly eighth-year only games when they had the chance. Harry found he didn’t mind, he could easily get invested from the sidelines, feeling something like pride stirring in him. 

 

Gibbens had announced that she would be an excellent replacement seeker—news to Harry—but he’d agreed to give anyone who wanted a chance a try. Claire seemed a little too busy watching him to see if he was watching her to keep her eye on the mock snitches though, and missed far more than she caught. The contemplative Magnolia Sitthi, however, was sharp as a hawk, and didn’t miss a beat. Harry was right pleased with her skills. 

 

“Nice work, you three,” Harry said, “circle up.” With pockets full of stones, the three students soared over to Harry, “Looking good out there,” he continued, “Clayburne, remember: you’re headed to where you think the rock is heading, not where it is. Not a perfect facsimile of course, because the snitch can always veer off course—so you have to remember to watch it carefully while also being aware of your periphery, so you don't get taken down by a well-aimed bludger. Good work, though, all of you, showing lots of improvement. Sitthi, I think you’ll seek for us tomorrow, what do you think?”

 

The serious Ravenclaw had her sheet of shining black hair tied in a neat topknot. She nodded and gave Harry a shy, pleased smile. Claire blushed miserably and pursed her lips, looking away. 

 

“Gibbens, you and Atwal will stick as chasers with the first years subbing in and out as they need to. Clayburne, think we’ll try you as a spare beater, how’s that?”

 

“Alright,” the second year agreed, “not sure I can keep up with Fitz.”

 

“No one can keep up with Fitz,” Harry, “he’s like our very own whomping willow. Just play your best and don’t worry about that.”

 

The brown-haired boy nodded, tucking a loose end of his yellow and black scarf into his cloak. The four of them flew over to where the chasers were busy taking shots at Marcia. The Slytherin hadn’t been able to meet Harry’s eyes since she’d tried to strangle him to death at the quidditch shed. She’d come upon him in the halls shortly after and offered to leave the team—once she’d stuttered through nearly twenty apologies—but Harry wouldn’t hear of it. “You’re the only keeper we’ve got!” he’d assured her, although surprisingly, little owl-eyed Hiram Fantyl was showing a bit of skill there, too. 

 

“Alright, you lot, superb work today, really!” Harry called out, “Starting line-up tomorrow is Awling, Sitthi, Hops, Rundle, Gibbens, Atwal and Fantyl. Tiering, you’ll sub in for chaser, Clayburne for beater. Be at the pitch at 8:30 for warm up! Oh, and we need a team name, so come with ideas!”

 

Most of the team gave friendly good-byes and took off towards the shed. Clark tried to make a hasty escape, but he’d been avoiding Harry since the Occlumency lesson and Harry wasn’t about to let that slide. “Tiering,” he called out, “help me pack up.”

 

Claire usually offered to help wrangle and enchant quaffles at the end of practice, but Harry had apparently hurt her feelings when he didn’t choose her as seeker, so she’d taken off with an audible huff. 

 

Clark reluctantly circled back, drifting to the ground alongside Harry. He didn’t say anything, just started shoving the practice rocks into their satchel. 

 

“Alright there?” Harry asked. 

 

“Fine,” Clark replied, shortly. The stones clacked smartly as he tossed another one in, then he said, “I’m not very good, am I?”

 

Harry was surprised by the response, “What?”

 

“At quidditch,” Clark clarified, “It’s just I’ve never really done sport before, we didn’t have money for teams. I grew really fast and my mum always said I couldn’t keep up with my limbs always being in new places.”

 

“Oh, I’m not worried about your quidditch skills at all!” Harry assured him, “Think of where you were when this started, barely steady on a broom. Now you’re quite capable with a quaffle. No, Clark, you’re holding your own just fine, nothing to worry about.”

 

“Aren’t we playing Malfoy’s team tomorrow?”

 

Honestly, Harry hadn’t thought to look. He’d just logged the time and set to work figuring out who would play what. 

 

“Are we?” he asked, “Sorry, I hadn’t noticed.”

 

Tiering nodded solemnly, “I just don’t want to embarrass myself in front of him again.”

 

“You’ve not embarrassed yourself,” Harry corrected him quietly. 

 

Clark started in more aggressively with the stones, “You were there, Potter, I was a basket case. Crying like a stupid baby.”

 

Harry put a hand on his shoulder, “I wouldn’t worry,” he said, “I’ve cried in front of Draco loads of times, and we still get on.”

 

“Well, you’re you. Everyone likes you. Even Malfoy likes you and I don’t think he likes anyone.”

 

“I’m sure he likes you just fine, too, although I’m not sure why it matters so much what he thinks?” Harry probed, curiously. 

 

“He’s just cool. Like he dresses smart and even though everyone hates him, he doesn’t give a fuck. He shuts people down and I bet nobody gives him any shit.”

 

Harry begged to differ, thinking about all the attacks on Draco’s life so far this term, but that wasn’t what caught his attention, “Are people giving you shit?’ he asked gently. 

 

Tiering shrugged, “Not any more. Not since Occlumency and quidditch and now with Hiram always being around. No one can be shitty with him around, you know? He’s like a fuzzy caterpillar that you are about to stomp on and then it looks at you with his little hands up and is like...too cute so you just can’t, because he’ll get sad and you’ll feel shitty after.”

 

It was kind of an accurate appraisal of the other boy, Harry had to acknowledge. 

 

“Well, if anyone gives you shit again, you can tell me, or Draco. We’ll sort it out.”

 

“But you won’t be here next year,” Clark muttered, yanking tight the drawstrings on the bag of stones and slinging it over his shoulder. 

 

“Next year is ages away,” Harry offered, “and by then you’ll have buckets of friends. This whole team will look out for you if you need it, I’ll bet, but I think you’ll be just fine.”

 

Clark didn’t reply, just ran the sleeve of his coat over his nose and mounted his broom. 

 

“Hey,” Harry said, “I mean it, you need to talk, find me, or Draco if you’d rather. We’ll talk. About school or home, or anything. You’re not on your own here. It might feel like it sometimes, but you’re not.”

 

“Oh my God, you’re worse than the social support woman,” Clark grumbled, blushing uncomfortably beneath his freckles.

 

“I’m not too fussed about being embarrassing,” Harry smiled, kicking off the ground astride his Talaria, “I am fussed about knowing you hear what I'm saying.”

 

“Yes, Jesus, I got it.” 

 

“Good,” Harry replied, “See if you can fly one-handed to the shed. I bet you can.”

 

Clark set his jaw at the challenge, raised one hand to his chest, and took off.

 

***

 

Malfoy was in a mood, Harry found, when he joined him in the library that afternoon. He expected to see the blond scowling down at a particularly gnarly arithmancy problem—Harry was often forbidden from even inquiring about arithmancy—and so he was surprised to see Draco in fact pouring over a book of quidditch strategies. 

 

“Practice went that poorly, then?” Harry chuckled, sliding into a seat next to his boyfriend and digging out some charms homework. 

 

“Shut it, Potter,” Draco growled, “I missed the last half of that bloody meeting where we got assigned our players, and it is clear you didn’t stick up for me. Unregimented, unremarkable, infuriating blighters!”

 

“The whole point was for this to be recreational, remember?”

 

Malfoy scowled, “If you’re not going to do something well, why bother with it at all!”

 

“Because it’s fun to try something new?”

 

Try being the key word, there. My bloody team just lolls about and chats, barely passing a quaffle.”

 

Harry somehow doubted that was true, “Oh yeah, what did you do this morning?”

 

“A simple set of six drills: comet chasers, pass-and-block, deke-splits—”

 

Harry cut him off with a laugh, “Merlin, babe, you work your team harder than the rest of us combined. I only just arranged a starting line this morning.”

 

Malfoy gave him an affronted look, “Well, maybe my team of  miscreants won’t fare too badly against yours, then, although I really don’t think lackadaisical leadership is something you should be bragging about.”

 

“Well, I guess we’ll just see how it plays out,” Harry shrugged. 

 

“I guess we shall,” Draco agreed, slamming the book shut with a reverberating boom that earned him a nasty look from Madam Pince.

 

“I am getting a bit of a charge over how invested you are now, considering I had to basically strong arm you into coaching in the first place," Harry commented.

 

Draco sniffed haughtily, “Like I said, if you’re not going to do something well—”

 

“Yeah, got it,” Harry grinned, “Oh, I talked to Clark, think he’s alright, after all that happened on Tuesday. Think some students were giving him a hard time in the autumn, but it seems to have slowed down, now. He’s settling in.”

 

“Well, what did he expect, with that ludicrous haircut!” Draco responded, rifling through his satchel distractedly. 

 

“People shouldn’t have to look a certain way to be treated with respect,” Harry reminded him, quietly. 

 

“Well, he’s not exactly making it any easier on himself!” 

 

“Wow,” Harry remarked, feeling his anger rise suddenly, sharp and fierce and uncomfortable, “Real decent of you. And here I was thinking you’d changed.”

 

He shoved his books back into his bag and got to his feet, making for the door. 

 

“Oh, come on, Harry, you sanctimonious prick, don’t get like this,” Draco hissed. 

 

“Get like what? Kind? Concerned? Capable of giving a fuck?” Harry's voice was a whispered snarl, “Actually, I think I’m good how I am, thanks. You should try it some time.”

 

And with that, he stormed right the fuck off.

Chapter Text

Harry was so busy storming that he didn’t bother looking where he was going until he turned a corner and slammed directly into Professor Haberdash-Pewter, nearly knocking the frail woman to the ground

 

“Merlin!” He cried out, lurching forward to correct his own balance, “I’m so sorry, Professor, are you alright?”

 

The woman stiffly adjusted herself, “Quite alright, Mr. Potter,” she said slowly in that smooth accent of hers, “Or at least, it would seem, faring better than you."

 

“Me?” Harry asked, flustered, “Oh, I’m well enough. Just…” He trailed off, looking into her eyes which were shaded by her hood. Her wide pupils made it difficult to read her expression. She wasn’t smiling, but her head was tilted to the side, listening. “How do you change someone?” He burst out, surprising himself. 

 

Professor Haberdash-Pewter blinked slowly, a smile forming on her lips like an uncurling vine. 

 

“Why don’t you join me in my office, Mr. Potter, I’ll make us some tea and we can discuss what’s troubling you.”

 

“Oh,” Harry said, “er, yeah, alright then.”

 

***

 

It was not the old Defense office that she led him to, but one on a lower level, tucked away in a hallway Harry was not sure he’d ever noticed before. The office was spartan, as though she had no intentions of putting down roots here. The only books on the shelves were those required for classes, and Harry suspected they were property of Hogwarts. The room was dim, only half the candles lit, and once inside the sparse room, Professor Haberdash-Pewter pulled down her hood. The candle light flickered off her papery skin. 

 

A stone ledge was built into one wall, upon which sat a small cauldron. She set the cauldron to boil and opened a cupboard overhead, pulling down the necessary items for tea. When it was prepared, she handed a mug to Harry and gestured for him to sit. The tea she served wasn’t what Harry was used to. It smelled of cardamom and had a bitter flavour. 

 

“Now,” the professor spoke, lowering herself gingerly into a chair opposite to him and viewing him from across the expanse of an empty desk, “the first thing you need to know about changing people, Mr. Potter, is that you cannot. A person must make the decision to change for themselves.”

 

Harry nodded glumly, supposing that was self-evident enough that he should have thought of it himself. He took a sip of the unusual tea. “Don’t suppose you can...lead them in a certain direction?” He hazarded.

 

“Thoughts and beliefs are contagious,” Professor Haberdash-Pewter suggested.

 

“What do you mean?” Harry inquired, puzzled. 

 

“Just as you cannot catch many illnesses without coming into contact with a carrier, you cannot form an ideology in isolation. Why do we believe what we believe? We sponge it up from our environment. Perhaps we are more selective of ideas than we are of sickness, but perhaps not. Perhaps that is just an illusion we tell ourselves for comfort.”

 

“Well, that’s not true,” Harry bristled, “because then every pureblood would have sided with Voldemort, and they didn’t!”

 

“Ah, but only because his ideas conflicted with values they already possessed. If someone had no such values to ground themselves in, well, it’s easier to be convinced.”

 

“So, kind of a nurture over nature thing,” Harry commented. 

 

“Precisely. You cannot expect a boy raised by wolves to act as a boy.”

 

“But people can change,” Harry reflected. 

 

“Of course, when it is of social or economic benefit to them. Different people have varying tolerances for standing apart from the crowd. Shame can be a great evil or a powerful influencer, or both.”

 

“So even if he does change, it’s just to fit in? Or so I won’t be pissed at him?” Harry questioned glumly.

 

“I won’t presume to know the circumstances,” the professor replied, “but does the motive matter if the end result is the same?”

 

“I think maybe to me it does," Harry considered, "I want him to agree with me because he sits down and has a think and realises I’m in the right.”

 

“We’re much more willing to sit down and have a think on behalf of someone we care for," Professor Haberdash-Pewter suggested, "And I encourage you, and all my students, if they can bear it, to break bread with those who oppose them, for comraderie is a great modulator. It softens extreme edges, brings people together. It’s harder to hate a group of people if they are your neighbours, your teachers, your shopkeepers. Certainly not impossible, of course, as we are shown repeatedly, but it helps.”

 

“And what if their ideas hurt people?”

 

“You speak out, if you can, with patience and love. You hope. You lead by example. I know it can hurt, to be at odds with one another. To feel their wrongness so deeply within you. But I believe it is worse to cut them out and isolate them until you forget they are even human.”

 

Harry sighed deeply, not sure he was feeling any better. He was pretty sure giving everyone a seat at the table was what Clark would refer to as bootlicking.

 

“Of course, I don’t presume to have all the answers,” the professor continued, “and there also comes a time, as you know, when words and appeasement and patience feel inadequate.”

 

Harry nodded, “Killing Voldemort scattered the Death Eaters, but I have no way of knowing if it changed their minds. More likely, those who escaped, or hell, even those rotting in Azkaban, are simply resentful and plotting, waiting for an opportunity to rise again. And the only way to prevent it is by hoping enough people believe me, choose my beliefs over theirs. For me to reach the undecided before someone else can."

 

“Not an easy task you’ve set yourself, Mr. Potter.”

 

“But I’ve got the, what is it, social capital, to do it, so what choice do I have?”

 

“We all have choices,” she assured him, “but I must say, the ones you’ve made have been admirable.”

 

Harry smiled grimly and finished his tea, “Thanks for the, er, chat, Professor. It’s a lot to think about.”

 

“My door is always open, Harry. No one can puzzle out the world all on their own.”

 

***

 

Harry found Ron and Hermione in the common room. He flopped down in a wing-back chair across from them. He checked his new watch. Draco’s hand was still at ‘school’. 

 

“What’s up, Harry?” asked Hermione. 

 

“We had a fight,” he admitted, feeling foolish. 

 

“Bound to happen eventually, mate,” Ron said sympathetically, “especially with you two, not exactly beacons of patience and calm.”

 

Harry stared at the ceiling, blew his bangs off his face momentarily, feeling listless. 

 

“I’m sorry, Harry,” Hermione said, “do you want to talk about it?”

 

Harry found he did. He gave them a brief overview, trying to be as accurate as possible. He didn’t necessarily want them to side with him, because he was starting to feel like maybe he wasn’t totally in the right, not his response, anyway.  

 

“So he said something daft and you took it to heart and then ratcheted it up a few degrees, sounds like,” Ron said.

 

“About right, yeah,” Harry said. 

 

“Well, good news,” Hermione said kindly, “you’re hardly the first blokes in history to say something you didn’t mean. It's unpleasant, but I suspect you’ll both come out of it unscathed.”

 

“I hope you’re right," Harry stated, "Might go for a fly, maybe drop in to see Hagrid, if you wanna join, Ron?”

 

“‘Course,” Ron replied, he kissed Hermione and stood, “Let’s get our cloaks, then.”

 

***

 

Draco avoided Harry that night at dinner and that evening in the common room. He kept close to Pansy and Greg and Harry couldn’t help but feel like things were regressing.  

 

“Only student with more pride than you, Harry, and it’s Draco Malfoy,” Hermione reminded him, handing him a mug of tea as they sat down, "Just give him a little bit of time."

 

“I know, I know,” Harry said, “I’ll talk to him tonight, if he’ll let me. Hey, I was thinking of maybe making some badges or something for my quidditch team. Do you know any charms that I could use on scraps of fabric or something?”

 

“Badges,” Ron mused, “you got a team logo sorted, then?”

 

“Hardly,” Harry said, “not even a team name, but I was thinking it would be good to know how to complete the charm for when we do. Give them a little sense of unity. ”

 

“Great idea,” Ron said, “let’s bring it to the other coaches, maybe pick team colours so we’re not always arguing over who’s charming their cloaks what colour right before the game. Could be a bit of fun.”

 

Hermione went to fetch a charms book from her room that she thought might have a relevant spell, while Ron and Harry idly brainstormed logo ideas. Throughout the evening, Harry couldn’t help but check his watch a few hundred times.

 

“Dire need to know the time?” Ron questioned, “You got something planned?”

 

Harry flushed, embarrassed, but took it off and passed it over for them to inspect. 

 

“He gave it to me, I didn't get it made or anything,” Harry assured them hastily, “I am trying not to be a stalker this time around.”

 

“It’s a nice idea, mate, but you know he’s sitting across the room, right?” Ron asked, “Like, I can see him from here, even.”

 

Harry dropped his head onto his folded arms, “I know. I know, I’m off my head.”

 

“It’s a very thoughtful gift,” Hermione reflected, “shows he knows how much you worry. Do try to be a bit more subtle, about it, though, Harry. Checking it like that only draws attention.”

 

“It’s just today,” Harry sighed, “I think I’m secretly hoping it will tell me what he’s feeling.”

 

“If you find one of those, get me one,” Ron joked. 

 

“Oh, believe me, Ronald,” Hermione asserted, “you’ll never have any guessing to do when it comes to what I am feeling. I've learned that lesson.”

 

“Fair point,” Ron agreed congenially and then they got back to figuring out the badges and chatting and it was almost enough for Harry to forget the sinking feeling he felt every time he thought about Draco.

 

***

 

Harry waited until the rest of the dormitory had nodded off before stealing into Draco’s bed and putting up the ward. 

 

Draco was reading by the light of his wand and he didn’t look up when Harry entered the canopy. Harry leaned up against the headboard beside him, forearms resting on his knees.

 

“Didn’t think you’d come,” Malfoy said quietly.

 

“Not a big fan of the silent treatment, personally,” Harry remarked, “or of not being around you, if I’m being honest.”

 

Draco pinked slightly at the compliment. 

 

“I thought about what you said,” Draco mentioned softly, still not looking at him, “and I suppose you’re right. It would help things along if people weren’t arseholes without reason. Even if Clark’s hair is truly horrible, I don’t want anyone giving him shit, for that or anything else.”

 

“I told him you like him fine,” Harry muttered with a half smile.

 

“You did what?” Demanded Malfoy. 

 

“Oh, he was just all worried that you don’t think he’s cool.”

 

“He’s eleven,” Draco remarked with confused disdain.

 

“Yeah, but he wants to be a very cool eleven,” Harry chuckled. 

 

“Merlin, you’re charitable,” Draco said, finally putting his book down. 

 

“I could’ve stood to be a bit more so with you today,” Harry replied, “I don’t think what you said was right, but I didn’t have to get so worked up about it, or accuse you of not changing when I know you have.”

 

“I don’t…” Malfoy started, then swallowed, fiddling with his fingers, “I don’t want to feel like my character is always under scrutiny. At least not with you. It already feels like the whole world is watching, waiting for me to step out of line, to reveal that I’m just as much of an arsehole bigot as my father. I don’t want to worry you’re waiting for that, too. Because I probably will fuck up, loads of times, because there’s things I don’t know and things I’m still learning and things I’ve just never considered before and it was kind of bullocks to have you automatically think that.”

 

“Hey,” Harry said, wrapping an arm around the other boy’s shoulders and pulling him in, kissing his temple, “I’m sorry, love. I know, my behaviour was right crap, and I shouldn’t have done it.”

 

Draco leaned in closer, letting his head fall onto Harry’s shoulder, “I’m sorry I called you a sanctimonious prick.”

 

“You weren’t entirely wrong,” Harry admitted, “I know I can be a bit...like that, sometimes.”

 

“Mm,” Draco murmured, linking his fingers with Harry’s, “good thing you’ve got me to keep you humble.”

 

Harry laughed and shook his head, straightening his legs. 

 

“C’mere,” he ordered. Draco quickly straddled his lap, arms around his neck, foreheads pressed close. Harry grabbed the blond by his slim  hips, anchoring him, before leaning in to press their lips together, hoping he could somehow communicate all the damn relief and joy and love he still couldn’t quite figure out how to say.

Chapter Text

Harry gripped the back of Malfoy’s thighs as the blond held his face and kissed him feverishly. Draco was rutting against him and the sensation was equal parts glorious and infuriatingly insufficient. Harry yanked at Malfoy’s undershirt, Draco taking over to get it over his head and tossed aside. Merlin, he loved having access to the beautiful, lithe body, loved coursing his fingers over it hard enough to make Draco shudder and arch. He sucked a mark into Malfoy’s chest, the angry red bloom that resulted contrasting so gorgeously with that pale fucking skin. 

 

“Possessive git,” Malfoy gasped as Harry next went to work on a nipple, “fuck that hurts.”

 

Harry pulled back, “too much?” forming on his lips before Draco cut him off.

 

“Don’t you fucking ask, Potter, how many times do I have to tell you! I want it intense, and I want to fucking whinge about it, and if I need you to stop, you’ll be the first to know.”

 

Draco climbed off his lap and scrambled out of his pants. 

 

“Take your fucking clothes off,” he pouted. 

 

Harry knew when he was being tested. He lunged at Draco, trapping him midway down the bed. One of the blond’s arms was caught at an uncomfortable angle beneath his torso, Harry held the other one in a grip tight enough to leave marks. He had one knee beside Draco’s thigh, the other planted on his abdomen. 

 

“You wanna be the big man, baby?” Harry growled, low in his throat, “You want to call the shots?”

 

Draco attempted to yank his arm away but Harry held fast, a warning finger in front of Malfoy’s face. He gave the blond's face a little slap. It wasn’t anything close to full force but Draco’s eyes widened and he gasped, rolling his hips.

 

“Fucking hell, Harry,” he whispered with something that sounded like awe. 

 

“Answer the question,” Harry said, hand now giving Draco's neck a little warning squeeze. 

 

“No,” Draco whispered, “I want you to.”

 

“That’s right,” Harry affirmed, “you want to be kept right here, helpless, at my mercy.”

 

Draco gave a single, brief nod. 

 

“I know, sweetheart,” Harry crooned, squeezing his neck again before leaning in to kiss his face, “and the truth is, I like keeping you here, keeping you safe from everyone but me.”

 

He ran the pad of his thumb along Draco’s bottom lip, “You’ve got such a fuckable mouth. That mouth gets you into trouble, doesn’t it?”

 

Draco sucked on the tip of Harry’s thumb as if to deny Harry’s statement, to show his sweetness. 

 

“Think I might fuck your mouth, with you here, just like this,” Harry considered, “completely trapped. What do you think, would you be good for me?”

 

Again, Draco gave a single, confirmatory nod. 

 

Harry took his time stripping, pretending to look at ease when really he was beyond fired up, exhilarated at the idea of what Draco was letting him do. He knelt astride Malfoy’s shoulders, placing one of Draco’s hands on his leg. 

 

“You know what to do if you need a break,” he instructed, pushing Draco’s fingers into a pinching gesture. 

 

“Yes,” Draco agreed, “I’m aware.”

 

Harry leaned forward, bracing himself and slipping the head of his cock between Malfoy’s lips, holding there for a moment before sliding deeper. He teased the back of Malfoy’s throat, a slight gag and then Draco swallowed, opening, Harry’s cock sliding deeper. Harry groaned, maybe more at the act than at the actual sensation. The way Draco endured, how much he wanted to make it good for Harry, sucking and tonguing at his cock. The way he strained upwards, taking more, letting Harry fuck his throat. He clung to Harry’s thighs as he worked and Harry thrusted, taking what he wanted, hearing Draco's sloppy desperate noises as he did what he was asked, so beautifully compliant.  All at once, as if from just the thought of it, Harry came. 

 

Draco sputtered desperately, coughing as Harry withdrew, crouching back on his heels.

 

“Alright?” Harry asked. 

 

Draco only nodded and sat up, wiping his face. 

 

“That was so fucking hot, Merlin, Potter, please…” He went for Harry then, kissing him filthily as Harry wrapped a broad hand around his cock. 

 

“So good, so good for me, sweetheart,” Harry murmured into the kisses, "you were such a mess for me, weren't you?"

 

Draco whimpered, rutting violently into Harry's hand, his face dropping to Harry's neck, "Yes, fuck, yes, yours, please, Harry, please—"

 

"Come, love, come for me, now, that's it, that's perfect, so good," he coaxed Draco through his protracted orgasm, the boy shuddering wonderfully in his arms.

 

***

 

Afterwards, they settled, Harry on his back, Draco draped over him. His chin rested on his folded hands which in turn were stacked on Harry’s chest. 

 

“Do you plan these things or do they just come to you?” He asked, scrutinizing Harry’s face. 

 

Harry shrugged, running a hand continuously from Draco’s hair and down his back, “Mostly just come to me. Sometimes I’ll think about things I want to do when I’m having a wank.”

 

“You think about fucking my face into the mattress while having a wank?” Draco inquired. 

 

Harry laughed, “No, that one was born of the moment. I just thought...you like being held down, I like having my cock sucked. Best of both worlds.”

 

“I rather liked it,” Draco commented, “you could definitely do that again sometime.”

 

“What did you like about it?” Harry yawned. 

 

“Like you said. Felt trapped. Powerless. But I liked how much you were liking it, too, like you couldn’t resist, you wanted me so badly.”

 

“Not really interested in resisting you, though, am I?” Harry smile. 

 

Malfoy gave him a self-satisfied appraisal, “Nor should you be.” He paused, tracing a little pattern on Harry’s chest with a fingertip, “You ever going to fuck me anywhere else?” He asked, his voice forced-casual. 

 

Harry swallowed, “You mean like…”

 

“Like my arsehole, Harry,” he clipped, “Merlin, if you can’t say it, I suppose I don’t have much hope of you wanting to do it.”

 

“I do!” Harry gasped, blushing furiously, hell, he’d thought he’d adjusted to all this being sort of bent business, “I think I really do, I’ve just never—”

 

“Well, yes, obviously,” Draco pushed onward, “I haven’t either, exactly, except on my own.”

 

“You’ve—?”

 

“You haven’t?”

 

Harry shook his head solemnly, “Never really thought of it. Not sure I want to, honestly. Did you like it?”

 

“Yes,” Draco nodded, “quite a lot.”

 

“Oh,” Harry replied.

 

“But it doesn’t freak you out?” Draco questioned. 

 

“No,” Harry agreed, “I mean, I know that it is a thing blokes do, well and other people, too, and they probably wouldn’t do it if they didn’t like it.”

 

“Harry Potter, a true philosopher,” Draco quipped. 

 

“Oh fuck off,” Harry retorted with no heat to his words. He wrapped his arms around Draco’s low back to show that he didn’t fancy the other boy going anywhere at all. He closed his eyes, imagining Draco splayed out before him, imagined fucking into him, their bodies pressed close. His cock gave a flicker of interest. 

 

“I would like to,” he determined, “I haven't exactly looked into, you know, the...logistics. The, er, preparation.”

 

“I’ll take care of that, obviously” Draco said primly. 

 

“Do we need...a rubber or something?”

 

Draco considered, “Well, you’re in here every night so I don’t reckon you’re off slapping other boys around and then choking them with your cock.”

 

“Certainly not, save that for you,” Harry winked. 

 

“And I’ve been stuck on you since puberty, much to my dismay,” Draco replied, “not to mention I’ve likely been exposed to anything you might have. Which is nothing since we were both painfully virginal setting out. So, I think we’re safe to do without? Do you think? Unless circumstances change?”

 

“If you’re sure,” Harry said, “I like the idea of...feeling you, just you.”

 

“Feeling my arsehole, Harry, I don’t want you blanching at the concept when you go to put it in.”

 

“Yes, alright, I would really like to fuck you in the arse, happy?”

 

Draco smiled smugly, kissing Harry on the tip of his nose, “Immeasurably,” he proclaimed. He rolled off Harry and shuffled under the covers, “Stay until I’m sleeping.”

 

“When do I not?” Harry grumbled, curling up behind the blond, and drawing him close, “I love you, you know.”

 

“Ta, Potter.”

 

“Prat.”

 

“Love you, too. Though I might not if your team beats mine at quidditch tomorrow. I know I’ve made great personal strides in the last months, but chances of me being a sore loser for life are high. Just so you’re warned.”

 

“Understood," Harry agreed, "I'm not asking for miracles."

Chapter Text

“Well, we were going to go with the Wyverns, but maybe we should just go with Dead Meat,” Clark remarked glumly. He was standing with Harry, watching Malfoy’s team arrive at the pitch in synchronised order, matching deep purple cloaks flapping victoriously in the wind. 

 

“Oh, chin up, Clark,” Harry chided, “presentation isn’t everything.” Harry’s own ragtag team was trickling in, mostly by foot, mismatched cloaks and looking—save for Fitz Hops, who was relentlessly cheerful—appropriately intimidated. “Alright, you lot, circle up. Hear you’ve got a team name! Excellent, any of you artists? Want to sketch something up and I’ll get some badges made?”

 

Claire Gibbens hand shot up, “My mother says I have a flair for graphic design,” she declared. Her tone was clipped and Harry surmised she was still put out about not being chosen for seeker. 

 

“Great,” Harry did his best to give her a warm smile, “I look forward to seeing what you come up with. How about a team colour, then? Looks like Malfoy’s chosen, er, purple.”

 

“More of an aubergine, I’d say,” Fitz corrected. 

 

“Right,” agreed Harry, nonplussed, “Well, what about us then? Maybe something lighter so we don’t get mixed up?”

 

“How about a lovely periwinkle?” suggested Claire.

 

“I’m not wearing periwinkle,” growled the sullen Awling from behind a curtain of long, straggly dark hair. She gave off the appearance of some apparition from a muggle horror film.

 

“Yellow?” offered Clayburne.

 

“We’re not Hufflepuffs,” Claire argued, affronted. 

 

Harry looked at his watch. Draco’s hand had shifted to “quidditch,” and, more importantly, the time showed they didn’t have a lot of time left for discussion. 

 

“How about, ah, tan?” he said, naming the first pale colour that came to mind. The nine looks of disgust told him it was the wrong suggestion. 

 

“Does anyone like tan anything?” asked Clark, incredulously. 

 

“I’ve got it,” Hiram piped up bravely, speaking in front of the older years was not his usual style, “How about we go pink like Clark’s hair?”

 

“I’m not sure about a bright pink,” Magnolia said thoughtfully, “but maybe a nice dusty rose.”

 

Harry wasn’t at all sure he knew what colour dusty rose was. 

 

“Smashing!” cried Fitz, “Awling, can you live with that?”

 

Marcia sniffed, tying back her hair, “Fine. So long as it is more dusty than rose.”

 

Fitz waved his wand and their cloaks, including Harry’s, turned a rather pretty muted pink colour. 

 

“Well, that’s quite nice,” Harry admired, “Well done, Hops. Will be easy to spot out there. Now, remember, play fair, take risks, enjoy yourselves.”

 

“Yeah, but it would be nice to have a win as well, Potter,” said Mathieu from Bristol, slinging his bat over his shoulder. 

 

Everyone laughed, ripe with pre-game jitters, and Harry grinned, “Well, I’m not going to stop you from going out there and trying for a win, either. Remember, signal me if you want a break, we have a back-up chaser and beater.”

 

“Got it, Coach,” nodded Atwal, “Alright Wyverns, let’s go!”

 

Harry watched as the starting line kicked off and up, feeling that familiar stirring of excitement gathering with him. He climbed the stands to sit with Ron, who was doing the match commentary. He was surprised to see Draco already there, seated beside the redhead, with Neville on his other side. Most of the other coaches had also grabbed seats nearby.

 

Malfoy eyed him as he entered, "Not your colour, Potter," he apprised.

 

Harry rolled his eyes, "Thanks for that, Malf—"

 

“Oi, Harry,” Ron interrupted, “Your lot got a name?”

 

“Wyverns,” Harry informed him, taking the seat Ron had saved for him. He looked out over the pitch to see the game was unexpectedly well-attended,  “Not a bad turn out for a rec match,” he noted. 

 

“Yeah, sure that has nothing to do with a certain coach,” Seamus laughed, giving Harry’s shoulder a squeeze from the row behind him. 

 

“Ah, well,” Harry blushed, “glad the teams are getting some support at least.”

 

Ginny, who was acting as referee, whistled for the captains to shake. Harry watched as Fitz Hops, that massive boulder of a boy on a twig of a broom, darted to the centre to meet with a stout short-haired witch.

 

Sonorus! ” Ron cast at himself, the boomed out over the crowd, “Welcome, everyone, and thanks for coming out to our rec league match. Got an excellent series of  games lined up for you today, starting out with the Occammies, coached by Draco Malfoy facing off against the Wyverns, under the tutelage of one Harry Potter.”

 

Harry felt his neck redden again as a massive whoop sounded across the stands at his name. He saw the players closest to him, Atwal, Rundle and Sitthi straighten up with pride.

 

“Potter’s always got the home-team advantage around here,” Malfoy whinged without venom, “hardly fair.”

 

“Just wait ‘til he’s playing pro,” Dean volleyed back, “every game in Britain will be like a home game, where Harry’s concerned.”

 

“Rightfully so!” asserted Megan Jones, the ever-ingratiating former Hufflepuff, "Didn't see you single-handedly winning any wars, Malfoy."

 

"It was not even sort of single-handed," Harry reminded her, tiredly.

 

Ron, perhaps sensing Harry’s discomfort, interrupted the chat with further commentary, “Captain of the Occamies is Viola McCracken, chaser, shaking hands with Wyvern Captain Fitz Hops, beater. Both seventh year students, should be interesting to see how they do!"

 

Ginny blew her whistle again, and the players took their positions. She released the bludgers and snitch and tossed the quaffle into the air. 

 

“And we’re off!” Cried Ron, excitedly, “The quaffle has been seised by McCracken—”

 

Harry watched, grimacing, as the quick, independent McCracken went on to make three goals almost back to back. He watched as his keeper's, Awling’s, face, become more and more drawn and determined with every crisp goal. He felt badly for the Slytherin girl, who worked hard and was a decent player in her own right. This McCracken was just a real tour-de-force. Thankfully Rundle got off a good hit on a bludger, causing McCracken to startle and drop the quaffle. Atwal was there to catch it and went on to make up one of the goals himself. 

 

Harry was distracted from his players when he noticed Malfoy. His boyfriend's knuckles were white around the rail in front of him, and his pointed face intent on his players while he muttered to himself about technique and performance, occasionally shouting out terse commands to his team. Harry felt a bloom of affection at the sight, Malfoy’s commitment to his project so endearing. He was so busy basking in the sight that he missed the first mad scramble for the snitch. 

 

“Where did it get to,” Ron was was saying “neither Sitthi nor Pedura seem to have eyes on it, that sneaky little snitch!”

 

Hiram made the signal for a sub, and Harry gestured for him to trade off with Clark. The lanky boy kicked off, looking sick with anxiety, to join the fray. 

 

Atwal passed Clark the ball almost immediately, and, to Harry’s surprise, as well as to Clark’s, apparently, he caught it. He looked at the ball in his hands with disbelief. 

 

“Come on, Tiering,” Harry shouted, “You’ve got this.”

 

As if remembering suddenly the rules of the game, Clark unsteadily wend his way towards the large purple hoops. He didn’t get far before the talented McCracken made a successful grab for it. 

 

“S’alright,” Harry called out, encouragingly “next time!”

 

McCracken carried the quaffle through for another goal. 

 

“Bit of a one-woman show going on there,” Harry grumbled. 

 

Malfoy only shrugged, waiting for a pause in Ron’s narration, “Why hide a light under a bushel? I prefer to celebrate excellence. Besides, not like your lot has cottoned on.”

 

“Oi!” Harry called out, “Fitz, Rundle, stay on her! Pressure!”

 

“Not my intention,” Malfoy groused. 

 

McCracken, now swarmed with two bludgers at once, was forced to pass to another chaser, who made an unsuccessful shot. 

 

“Nice save, Awling! Good play, Rundle!” Harry called out, “Swap out with Clayburne for a bit, would you?”

 

Mathieu gave Harry a gesture of understanding and spiraled down as Clayburne zipped up into play, focused on the game above. Malfoy similarly called for a change in line up to give his spare players a chance. McCracken, to Harry's mild dismay, was not removed from play and she got in another couple of shots before Clayburne figured out where to aim the bludger.

 

“Your chasers could use some work, mate,” Dean informed him and Harry had to agree. Draco’s offensive had an almost militant precision that Harry’s younger students couldn’t match. 

 

“I’ve got some drills if you like, Harry,” Jones proposed sweetly. 

 

“And why would he go to you, when he could come to me?” Draco demanded, archly. 

 

“Merlin, Malfoy,” Harry grumbled, although he couldn’t fault the other boy’s logic.

 

The score was not ideal, ninety-to-ten on Ron’s last recounting and Harry’s chasers were looking beleaguered from pursuing McCracken all across the pitch. Claire Gibbens managed to get her hands on the quaffle, though, and carried it down the field, Clark keeping pace to her left. As McCracken came upon Gibbens, she passed the ball to Tiering and he managed to take a shot. It was easily stopped by Draco’s stalwart keeper but Harry leaped to his feet with a shout nonetheless. 

 

“Good play, Tiering!” His exclamation was cut off by Ginny’s shrill whistle, for, completely unbeknownst to Harry, Magnolia Sitthi had gone and captured the snitch, without even Ron noticing. It was victory to the Wyverns. 

 

“Fucking quidditch,” he heard Draco spit out, “a game in which true talent is meaningless!” 

 

Harry heard himself chuckle, “Better luck next time, Malfoy!” before sprinting down the steps to congratulate his team. 

 

“Sitthi!” He hollered as he approached the excited gaggle, “Where’d that even come from! I’ve never seen a capture with so little fanfare, scratch that, I didn’t see it at all, talk about subtle, that will serve you well, truly incredible!”

 

The girl’s brown skin was pink in the cold air, and she grinned up at him, the first unbridled emotion he’d ever seen grace her usually reserved features. He patted her shoulder while they all circled round. 

 

“Well done, you lot!” Harry exclaimed, “Or should I say Wyverns! Great game, I learned a lot watching you, and have things we can improve on, but overall, I’m exceedingly proud and you should be, too!”

 

The group of faces all grinned up at him, save  for Fitz, who towered over him, easily, but was also beaming. With general congratulatory comments, the team dispersed in groups of twos and threes until just Clark and Hiram were left, waiting to hand off their gear. Harry made a mental note to look into getting them some of their own next time he was in Hogsmeade. No one liked having to deal with the foul school-owned supplies. 

 

Across the pitch, Harry watched Malfoy pace back and forth in front of his team, lecturing. He bit back a grin because it was just so classically Draco. 

 

Ginny blew her whistle, “Enough berating your team, Malfoy! We’ve got to do an equipment trade off so the next two teams can get started!”

 

Malfoy gave her a nasty look, but nevertheless gestured for his team to disband. Hands in his pockets, he trudged across the field towards Harry. 

 

“Good game, then, Potter,” he growled. 

 

Harry grinned, trying not to laugh, “You too, mate.” Draco narrowed his eyes. Jones’ team was gathering nearby, their cloaks a blinding chartreuse with patches reading “Pygmy Puffs” on each of their uniforms. 

 

“Not exactly going for threatening, are they?” Hiram whispered. 

 

Draco appraised the two Slytherins, nodding at Clark, “Nice shot out there, Tiering.”

 

“No, it wasn’t,” Clark mumbled, kicking his trainer into the turf.

 

“Better than I could have done at your age,” Malfoy informed him. Clark dared to meet his eyes. 

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Am I one for false praise?” Draco inquired and Tiering quickly shook his head. “Exactly,” Draco continued, “Are you all sticking around for the next game? Potter and I can give you two things to look out for. Sometimes it helps build your skills to watch others in play.”

 

Harry’s cheeks hurt from smiling, feeling like he must just be radiating at the blond, “At least come sit up with us, Dean’s there and he’s a right solid chaser, he’ll have some tips for sure.”

 

Hiram and Clark looked at each other, clamping down on grins that were threatening to expose them as entirely uncool. 

 

"Yeah, alright," Clark agreed, aiming for and failing at nonchalance.

 

***

 

"Thank you," Harry murmured as they climbed the stairs behind the first years, "This is really good of you."

 

"Shut it, Potter," Draco informed him, "If you think I'm not still furious, you've got another thing coming."

 

 

Chapter Text

“Pansy and I have been through the post you picked up from Hogsmeade last time,” Hermione told Harry that evening, handing him a slim stack of letters, “I think these are the ones you might want to see.” 

 

Harry looked up from his charms homework, “Oh, hell, Hermione, I’m sorry. You’re not my secretary, you didn’t need to do that.”

 

Hermione smiled at him, “I only did it because this whole quidditch thing is doing a world of good for the school and I’d rather you put your time into that. Plus, it is still good for a laugh and I was getting tired of seeing it stacked up in the common room. You ought to be more responsible, Harry.”

 

Harry grinned ruefully, “Don’t I know it.”

 

“I suspect this one, in particular, you’ll want to take a look at,” she tapped the top letter—a striking, black envelope—meaningfully, and then left. 

 

Harry looked at the crisp envelope, it had sky blue metallic ink and was impeccably addressed. In the top left-hand corner was the distinct light blue and silver image of the Appleby Arrows. 

 

Harry’s heart fluttered inside his chest. He turned the envelope over. Herimone hadn’t opened it. She must have known. Harry did a quick assessment, looking for inaccuracies or signs of forgery, dark magic, curses. Hermione would have done the same, of course. There was nothing. With shaking fingers, he opened it. The letterhead was professional and sleek. Harry could barely hold it still enough to read.

 

Dear Mr. Potter

 

We would very much like to extend an invitation to you for our upcoming trial day this 20 December. We Arrows pride ourselves on surveying The United Kingdom and Ireland for the most impressive new talent annually, to ensure our continued success. It would be our privilege should you choose to attend. Please RSVP no later than 1 December. Should you respond with plans to attend, further information on the event will be forwarded.

 

Yours,

Sable S. Skinkton

President, Appleby Arrows

 

Harry read the letter over three times before shoving it in his pocket. He felt jittery, like when he’d been put on the quidditch team in first year or hen he’d received his Firebolt. Or like every time he’d caught the ruddy snitch and ended the game. So many of his favourite memories stemmed from quidditch and now, here it was, possibly happening. He could barely breathe. He wanted to tell Ron. He wanted to tell Draco. Dean. Seamus. Everyone. 

 

But then again, maybe he didn’t. Maybe they would all just force a smile, congratulate him, pat him on the back, all while inwardly thinking he’d only gotten this chance because of the war. A decency extended to a public figure. Or maybe they’d be jealous. Not that he didn’t think they would be happy for him, but that uncomfortable feeling of being chosen when others hadn’t, he’d been through it so many times before. 

 

Later, he told himself, I’ll tell them later. 

 

***

 

It was breakfast on Tuesday when Claire Gibbens approached Harry. She was flanked by the same girls who had been with her that day in Scrivenshafts. She was flushed with anticipation. 

 

“Hullo, Harry,” She greeted. 

 

Harry swiveled to face her, “Oh, er, morning, Claire.”

 

She held out a bit of parchment, “I’ve made our team logo.”

 

Harry smiled at her, “Oh, brilliant,” he remarked, reaching for and then unfurling it. 

 

He was pleasantly surprised. He’d sort of expected her skills not quite match her proclamation from the weekend, but sketched onto the parchment was a coiled Wyvern around two crossed brooms, a golden snitch hovering nearby. The scales were detailed and the creature had a fierce, determined expression. 

 

“Well done, Gibbens,” Harry proclaimed, “This is excellent work, truly! I’m sure the team will be very happy with it. And Hermione here has agreed to help me transfigure us some badges.”

 

Claire gave him a pleased smile, her friends tittering behind her. Hermione looked at them all kindly from across the table. 

 

“I also wanted to say that I don’t think I want to try for seeker anymore,” Claire said, “not my strength.”

 

“Up to you,” Harry said, “I’m happy to switch players around so everyone can have a go, it’s about learning the game, after all.”

 

“Really winning strategy there, Potter,” Draco remarked. 

 

“Not the goal,” Harry reminded him with a playful elbow to the ribs. 

 

“Well, it is a little bit, though, isn’t it?” asked Claire, “It was fun to win.”

 

“Spoken like a true Slytherin,” Draco commented. 

 

“I’m Ravenclaw!” Claire gasped, affronted, then, she whirled around and stalked off, friends in tow. 

 

“You really are a dreadful tease,” Hermione told Draco, shaking her head. 

 

“Just checking to see if house loyalties are still running deep,” Draco rebutted, “for the common good, I assure you.”

 

“I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that Claire Gibbens looks at Potter like he hung the moon,” Pansy chimed in from beside Hermione.

 

Draco shrugged casually, “Wouldn’t put it past him, flair for heroics, this one.”

 

Pansy snorted sarcastically, “Oh yes, between the two of you, Harry is the dramatic one. Nice try, darling.”

 

Under the table Malfoy squeezed Harry’s leg. Harry wasn’t sure he’d ever be tired of that warm, easy affection. He pressed into Draco’s side and Draco pressed back. That didn’t get old, either. Not for the first time, Harry wished he could sling an arm around Draco’s shoulders or snog him right there at the breakfast table. Sometimes he wanted it so badly, he thought he might cave. Only Draco’s warning eyes stopped him; you can’t rush this, Potter, they seemed to say,  wreck your future for my sake and I’ll be quite cross. 

 

Harry thought about the quidditch letter tucked in his pocket. He thought about how quickly they would retract their offer should it come out that Harry was snogging Draco Malfoy. The thought settled like cold lead in his belly. Maybe he’d forget all about it; fuck quidditch, he’d take Draco any day. 

 

***  

 

Clark left Occlumency lessons in a hurry again that evening. He’d made further progress, but they still left him emotional, bare. Harry didn’t try to keep him there. He knew the boy just wanted to nurse his pride alone. 

 

“Come talk if you need to,” he called out as Clark darted for the door, a toffee pressed inside his cheek. Clark gave a weak wave without looking back.

 

“Poor kid,” Harry sighed, leaning back against the desk at the front of the semicircular classroom, “He’s doing so well though, he kept me distracted for a good few minutes.”

 

“At full strength?” Draco demanded, searching through his satchel.

 

“Well, no,” Harry admitted, but no point going full strength until he’s got the hang of it, is there?”

 

“Hm,” Draco supposed, pulling forth a phial, “See anything sad enough in his head to make you cry?”

 

“What?” Harry asked, confused.

 

“Connection Cordial tomorrow, Harry, do keep up,” Malfoy sighed, “Parted lovers calls for tears.”

 

“We’re not parted, are we?”

 

“No, but thought it might be nice to have over the holidays, since I don’t suppose I’ll have any luck convincing you to spend it with me at the Manor.”

 

Harry's mouth opened and closed for a moment like a stunned guppy. He rather liked that Malfoy was planning to spend the holidays thinking of him. Of course he wanted to be with Draco, but...not at the Manor. He wasn't sure he'd ever be able to face the Manor. He scrunched his nose. 

 

“Not likely," he confessed, then, feeling brave, "Might go to mine, for a bit, though, if you want to come along.”

 

“Yours?” Draco twitched an aristocratic eyebrow.

 

“My, er, house, I guess.”

 

“You guess? Which part of this statement has room for guesswork? You guess it is a house? Or you guess that it belongs to you?”

 

“Sirius left it to me,” Harry said, “Was used for Order business but now I suppose it is just mine, again. I should stop in and see if Kreacher—he’s a house elf—is, well, still alive. We could just, I don’t know, be there, together, for a bit. We can’t watch telly or anything because the service people can never find the door, but—”

 

“Yes,” Draco said, “I want to.”

 

“Oh,” Harry said, truly pleased, “I mean, I will probably spend Christmas at The Burrow and I should visit Teddy and maybe I’ll catch up with my cousin too," Harry could hear himself rambling, but he couldn't stop. Alone, with Draco, no distractions, no intruders, he could barely wait, "Actually, you could probably come along to meet him, if you wanted, he doesn’t know anything about the wizarding world, and I don't much care what he thinks of me and then there's also—” the note in his pocket felt like it was screaming at him. 20 December: trial day with the Appleby Arrows. He still hadn’t told anyone. He bit his tongue.

 

“And I’ll be at home with my mother, for the day itself,” Draco agreed, “but for a few days, it would be nice to have it be just you and me.” 

 

"It would?" Harry asked. 

 

"Obviously," Draco kissed him then, and it tasted like promises. 

 

“Now, about those tears…” he murmured. 

 

Harry groaned, “Can’t we just use spit or something?”

 

Malfoy looked scandalised, “Spit?” he repeated, “The essence for enemies or coworkers? Not a chance I’m willing to take. Here, hold still.”

 

He took off Harry’s glasses and placed them on the desk. Then he used two pale fingers to prop open Harry’s eyelid. He held the phial below Harry’s tear duct, then started to blow lightly, directly into Harry’s eye.

 

Harry’s eyelid fluttered against the firm fingers and he giggled, “This is ridiculous,” he informed Malfoy, but he could feel defensive tears starting to form. 

 

“Works, doesn’t it, though, darling?” Draco demanded, pressing another lazy, indulgent kiss to Harry’s mouth. 

 

“Oh,” another voice sounded from the doorway. Draco leaped back, Harry scrambled for his glasses, smashing them onto his face. 

 

Clark Tiering stood at the doorway of the classroom, chewing on his lip. 

 

“Shit,” the lanky boy said, “Shit, sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything, you just said I should could back if I wanted to talk and thought maybe I’d better because I get a bit worked up and, well, I was just surprised and it popped out and I’m sorry.”

 

Draco pressed a forefinger and thumb to his temples, sighing. Harry saw the blond’s fingers itching to just oblivate the boy. 

 

“Draco…” he warned. 

 

“I know, I know,” muttered Malfoy, “Why don’t you have a seat, Tiering. We’ll have a chat.”

 

Tiering glanced at them for a moment, but entered the room and sat in his usual chair.

 

“I’m not sure where to start,” Draco sighed, “You know that sometimes blokes fancy other blokes, or is this news?”

 

Clark’s chin jutted forward in that defiant way of his, “I know about gay rights,” he said, “I read zines, you know.”

 

“I have no idea what those are,” Draco informed him. 

 

“Sort of muggle counterculture pamphlets,” Harry filled him in.

 

“Ah,” Draco responded, “Alright, glad I don’t need to explain that, at least.”

 

“Plus,” Clark spoke up again, “On Sunday, I saw Dean holding hands with that Irish boy in the quidditch stands, so I asked Hiram about it. He said it’s a bit unusual but other than in really old pureblood families, wizards don’t fuss about it as much as muggles do. Less religion dictating things in this world, he figures.”

 

“Right,” Harry agreed, “I mean, I don’t know much about it. But I know it’s not great for muggles.”

 

“It’s not great for purebloods from old wizarding families, either,” Draco said, darkly. 

 

“So you’re keeping it a secret? But nobody seems to hassle Dean any,” Clark pointed out, crossing his arms, “And you could have told me! Not really fair that you know all my secrets and I don’t know yours.”

 

“Well, now you do,” Malfoy replied, coldly. Harry placed a hand on Draco’s shoulder, gave it a squeeze.

 

“We’re not hiding it so much because we’re...gay,” Harry almost choked on the word, letting his hand drop. He wasn’t sure he’d said it out loud before. Not about himself. 

 

“Well, I am,” Draco corrected, bold and unapologetic, “Harry’s more at the bisexual part of the spectrum, wouldn’t you say, love?”

 

Harry nodded gratefully, relieved that Malfoy had the vocabulary when Harry didn’t, that he was so fearless in naming it, “Either way,” Harry continued, “doesn’t matter, we’re together. Now, I know you probably didn’t know much about the war before coming here, but you’ve probably gathered from the rumour mill that Draco and I were on opposite sides of it.”

 

“Everyone says Draco was a Death Eater,” Clark whispered.

 

“That’s because I was a Death Eater,” Malfoy said simply.

 

“But you’re not any more?” queried Clark. 

 

“Certainly not,” Malfoy assured him, “It is the biggest regret of my life. Unfortunately, I left a lot of hurt people in my wake. I participated in terrorizing innocents. And most people are not so quick to forgive. Nor should they be, they don’t owe me anything. ”

 

“Going public would...complicate things,” Harry explained, gently, “and we’d rather avoid that for now.”

 

Clark nodded, “Okay, I get that. This is you kind of asking me not to tell anyone, right?”

 

“Please,” Harry responded. 

 

“Well, you didn’t tell my secrets so I’m not about to tell yours,” Clark announced. 

 

“Thank you, Clark,” Harry said, solemnly, “Is there anything else you wanted to talk about? Why did you come back?”

 

“Honestly,” Clark considered, chewing on his lip, “I was just feeling kind of, like naked as I do after lessons? Sort of blown wide open? But having some dirt on you two has done absolute wonders.”

Chapter Text

“Well,” Hermione caught up with Harry on his back from the kitchens. He’d been sent on another scone-gathering mission by Draco and was overburdened with Rolly’s finest offerings in a big basket suspended by a handle in the crook of his elbow. “What did it say? I’ve been trying to catch you alone for ages. I thought it was good news, but you’ve been mum about it ever since.”

 

Harry bit the inside of his cheek, trying not to grin. It was a relief knowing that Hermione would just be happy for him, no jealousy or envy or muddled emotions. “Er, they’ve invited me to their trial day in December.”

 

She looped an arm through his and squeezed tight, “Oh, Harry, that’s brilliant, you must be chuffed. Have you told Ron? He’s going to lose it. What did Draco say?”

 

“Um,” Harry didn’t have a lie, “I’m still thinking it over, you know.”

 

Hermione stopped in her tracks. Harry took a step before he noticed, only to be yanked backwards with the sudden loss of inertia. 

 

“Harry, you’ve got to be joking,” she hissed. 

 

“What?” He said, feigning innocence. He knew exactly what. 

 

“More secrets? Are you this blocked-headed on purpose?”

 

“It’s not a secret,” he wheedled, “I just...have to think about it.”

 

“What’s to think about? A professional quidditch team has asked you to try out. You love quidditch. I know it makes you happy, and I know you’re brilliant. I am not even all that interested in quidditch and I know that!”

 

“Well, what if they don’t want me?”

 

“Then you’ll try out again next year, or for other teams.”

 

“What if they don’t want me because, I’m, you know, bisexual,” he whispered, his face flaming, certainly not used to claiming the identity. 

 

“Are you bisexual?” Hermione asked. 

 

“Obviously,” he spat. 

 

She patted his arm, “Thanks for telling me, Harry, that takes courage.”

 

Harry groaned in consternation, yanking his arm away from hers to shove his hands deep in his cloak pockets, the basket of baked goods thwacking him in the hip, “You already knew I was!”

 

Hermione pursed her lips, “I try not to make assumptions. I reckoned you would let us know when you sorted it out.”

 

“I didn’t know I did need to sort it out, but it feels like I'm supposed to be called something! Still doesn’t feel right, honestly, but it’ll do. Gets the point across.”

 

“I don’t think you have to call yourself anything, if you don’t want to,” Hermione offered, kindly.

 

“What I don’t want is to talk about it any more,” Harry growled.

 

Hermione’s fingers flicked upwards in an ‘alright, alright’ sort of gesture, “Well, whatever your sexuality, I don’t think they will bar you from quidditch. Pretty sure that goes against several pieces of legislature. And they would have to know about you in the first place.”

 

“How much longer am I supposed to keep him a secret?” Harry sighed quietly, feeling that heavy sadness hang on his shoulders like an old, familiar overcoat. 

 

Hermione eased his hands out of his pockets to hold them in her own, “I know, Harry, I’m sorry. I can’t imagine what it is like to be bursting in love and not allowed to show it. I know this hasn’t been easy on you.”

 

“It’s bollocks,” he muttered, feeling like he was whinging, but also it really, really was bollocks. He was so very tired of it all. 

 

“Look, we’ll come up with a plan, alright? Immersion therapy but on a grand scale, how about? Some visits in public, a group of us, you two as friends, or at least friendly. Then maybe you two alone. See how the media reacts. We'll start over break, even, what do you think?”

 

“It went over okay at the memorial, with me and Draco's mum,” Harry considered, a tiny bit of hope trickling in. 

 

“And we’ll need an act of reparations," Hermione said, "Something subtle. Anonymous, preferably, but that somehow gets leaked. A sizable donation, a gesture on behalf of the Malfoy family. Maybe to war orphans?”

 

“Have you always been this cunning?” Harry accuses, shaking his head in admiration.

 

Hermione looks a bit pleased, a bit jaded, “Unfortunately not,” she laughs, dryly, “it’s an adaptive behaviour, I think.”

 

“Well, I think you’re brilliant,” Harry told her, “I’m lucky to have you, you know.”

 

She teared up a little. Hermione tended to do that more these days. Things still seemed to close to the surface, for all of them. She blinked them away, and squeezed his hands again. They continued walking.

 

“All that being said,” Hermione started up again, “I don’t think concerns about your love life are enough for you to throw this Arrows opportunity away. Unless you want to. I can see you not wanting any more publicity, or wanting out of the spotlight. Being a quidditch star is not exactly a humdrum life, I’d imagine.”

 

“I don’t want the publicity, not really,” Harry agrees, “It is something I’ve thought about, but I also know—Merlin, I sound so cynical—but it gives me a platform, doesn’t it? I’m a figurehead whether I want to be or not. So I thought maybe I could use it to keep speaking out, reminding people what we’ve lost and what we stand to gain.”

 

“I think Draco’s right,” Hermione beamed, “you really are obnoxiously noble.”

 

Harry grimaced, “Is it too much, do you think? Merlin, I never know with all this. Maybe I am just pure, exorbitant ego.”

 

“No,” Hermione assured him, “It’s perfect. But you’re telling Ron and you’re telling Draco because I’ll be damned if we have to live through the secrets and lies ordeal twice in one term.”

 

***

 

Ron was thrilled, well and truly thrilled and Harry felt like an arse for expecting anything less. Ron hooted and clapped him on the back and told the whole bloody common room. 

 

“Ogden’s Finest on me, Harry!” he announced, "I restocked this weekend!"

 

Draco gave him a thin smile, and said “Well done, Potter.” Harry immediately regretted not telling him alone. Hermione had just got him all excited about it again and then they ran into Ron and Draco playing Wizard's Chess and she was nodding encouragingly and it had burst out of him. Draco liberates the basket of pastries from him and butters a scone.

 

Dean and Seamus were equally triumphant, as if they’d received the letter themselves. Seamus barely left his side, all night.

 

“Arrows, they’re alright, Harry,” he kept saying, nodding emphatically “robust line of chasers, and their seeker, Winslow, well, been said he and the coach have been on the outs for years, and he’s a step away from quitting. Getting old, too, I think. You’ve a decent shot, mate, more than a decent shot. But play hard to get! Don’t accept their first offer, once other teams know they’re interested, hoo, boy-o, then things get interesting.” He started rattling off teams and stats and seekers and league gossip until Harry’s head was spinning. 

 

“Enough,” Dean finally said, laughing and hauling Seamus off, “You’re monopolizing Harry at his own celebration party. Let him bask in the glow of his victory a little!”

 

Harry didn’t bask. He stuck around long enough to be appreciative, but it wasn’t very late when he tugged on Malfoy’s sleeve, tilting his head subtly towards the dorms. Draco gave him a nod and the two slunk off. 

 

***

 

“I’m sorry for not telling you first,” Harry said, once safe in the haven of Draco’s warded canopy, “I didn’t think.” He was sitting cross legged and leaning against the headboard. 

 

“Hm,” Draco remarked, flopping across the bed so his head was in Harry’s lap. He picked up Harry’s hand and placed it in his hair, a not so subtle indication of his desires. 

 

Harry commenced his duties immediately, stroking the fine hair, running fingertips over Draco’s scalp. He loved Draco like this, demanding and affection-seeking. 

 

“Your news, Potter,” he said, “you get to share it how you please.”

 

“You’re not put out?” Harry asked. 

 

“I aspire to be not entirely unreasonable,” Draco informed him, “I am pleased for you. They’re a solid team; they’d be lucky to have you.”

 

“Thank you,” Harry replied, voice low. He didn’t know what else to say. They were quiet for a long time, the only sound was Harry’s fingers sliding through Draco’s hair. He knew what was sitting between them, big and bulky as a hippogriff. He was afraid to name it, but more afraid not to. 

 

“Are you worried about what it means for you and me?” Harry asked, finally.

 

Draco didn’t say anything; he took a slow breath and gave a nearly imperceptible nod. 

 

“Me too,” Harry confessed, “I haven’t even RSVP’d yet. I...I thought about just not going. Throwing the thing in the fire and pretending I'd never seen it.”

 

Draco sat up suddenly, a fierce glare on his sharp features, “Idiot Gryffindor, you'll do nothing of the sort!" he spat. 

 

“What? ” Harry didn't know what reaction he'd been expecting, but it wasn't that.

 

“I won't have you resenting me for the entirety of your adult life, Potter. Think, for once, would you?” Draco was scowling, his cheeks an angry pink, and his eyebrows furrowed. A little omega symbol formed with the crease there. Harry wanted to kiss it, smooth it over. 

 

Harry twisted his mouth to one side, “I could never resent you!” he insisted. 

 

Draco snorted, "History suggests otherwise."

 

Harry ignored that, "Besides, it would be easier. We could just hide away in Grimmauld Place, go to work at dull jobs, and fly over London only once it's dark, until everyone forgets we ever existed.”

 

Draco gave him a serious look, then collapsed back down into Harry’s lap. Harry resumed his ministrations. 

 

“You’re Harry Potter,” Draco reminded him, “no one’s going to forget you.”

 

“I know,” Harry sighed glumly. No one would, as much as he might wish it.

 

There was another long silence. Harry traced the curve of Draco’s ear, then the bone behind it and the muscle behind that. Draco liked when Harry did that, and Harry liked knowing it. 

 

“Do you really think about that?” Draco said, so quietly Harry almost missed it. 

 

“Sometimes,” Harry disclosed, then hurried to explain, “I know we’ve not been together long. It’s just a daydream. I know you’ve got plans.”

 

“It’s a nice daydream,” Malfoy told him, not looking at him, “I wish it could be that simple. But you’ve got plans, too.”

 

“Draco…” Harry started, and Merlin, why did everything feel so terrifying to give voice to tonight, “You know that whatever my plans, you’re in them.”

 

“Mm,” The other boy hummed. Harry realised in horror that Draco didn’t believe him.

 

“I’m serious,” he said, and it suddenly felt so vitally important that Draco understand him, “I know it’s been shit keeping this all hidden away, but it’s not forever, love, I swear. Hermione and I have a plan and I think it’s a good one. And it it doesn’t work, fuck them. We’ll move to...I dunno, Montreal, and change our names and take up ice hockey. No matter what, I’m choosing you.”

 

“Don’t like the cold,” Draco murmured. 

 

“Bora Bora, then.”

 

“I burn.”

 

Harry curled inward, feeling the urgent panic disperse a little. He brushed the hair from Draco’s face and kissed the line of his cheekbone. 

 

“Of course you do. Fine. Then we’ll stay here and I’ll sort it. I’ll play quidditch and rally until they listen to me, and you’ll be a brilliant healer and we’ll meet our friends at the pub and visit your mum on holidays and you can dress me in whatever jumpers you choose.” 

 

“Harry,” Draco interrupted and for one terrifying moment, Harry was sure all his dreams were going to be flung back in his face. Or worse, Malfoy would laugh, because Harry was eighteen and hopelessly sentimental. But Merlin, he just wanted someone of his own, had wanted that his whole life probably, and now when it finally felt like he had it, it was going to be ripped away with a curled lip and snide remark. 

 

“Yes?”

 

“Summon a phial.”

 

“What?”

 

“Well, I’ve got some damned tears for that potion, haven’t I?”

Chapter Text

Harry began to spend evenings training. Mandy Brocklehurst and Olivier Rivers had also received invitations to trial days—Brocklehurst, too, for the Appleby Arrows and Rivers for the Caerphilly Catapults and the Montrose Magpies (chasers had more options, Harry told himself). So most nights, the three of them would walk down to the pitch together, crunching over the frosty grass, breath visible in the golden light of their wands. Some nights, some of the other seventh or eighth years would come out to lend a hand. It reminded Harry a bit of competing in the Triwizard competition in fourth year, the whole school seemed to be buzzing with excitement for the three of them, as though their success belonged, in part, to everyone. 

 

It was a Friday night close to the end of term. The days were short, now, and Harry’s nerves over the trial day were mounting. Rivers illuminated the quidditch hoops which shone bright with a momentarily blinding white light. It made Harry feel like he was in an American football film, it had that same momentous energy. He remembered Dudley liking films about sport, remembered how his cousin would flick popcorn at him while the two sat on separate sofas in the dark. Uncle Vernon's prised surround sound set-up was always too loud and Aunt Petunia would pop in from time to time to snipe at Harry about keeping his feet off the furniture.

 

Memories of his childhood felt so far away. He didn’t like to think about that lonely boy who didn’t know things would get so much better, and also so much worse. That boy knew misery, but he didn't know grief. Not like Harry knew it now. 

 

Olivier Rivers was beautiful as he was distant. Even after weeks of practice, Harry didn’t feel like he knew the Ravenclaw any better. What he did know was that he took quidditch very, very seriously. Tonight he whipped bludgers at Brocklehurst, who batted them forcefully in Harry’s direction. Harry weaved and darted around them, feinting in all directions. Nevertheless, Mandy was a powerful and exacting beater, and she still landed several decent hits. They would leave rounded welts on his chest and arms that Draco would scowl at when he got Harry shirtless at night. 

 

“Girl needs to learn to spar, these full force hits are utterly unnecessary,” he would gripe. 

 

“Not like anyone is going to go half speed at trial day,” Harry would remind him, “besides, it’s good practice for me to stay on my broom and regroup in a hurry.”

 

Draco would roll his eyes and silently spell a cooling salve onto the marks. 

 

When Brocklehurst’s shoulder got tired, she called it there and they switched drills. Harry released a snitch and went tearing after it, Rivers doing his best to catch up. 

 

“Most chasers aren’t as nimble as you, Potter,” he’d said once, his voice low and imperious, “if I can catch up with you, I’ll be in excellent shape to catch up with any chaser in the league.” He never could quite catch up with Harry, though. Failure never seemed to irritate or rile Rivers, however, he'd always just analyze the play, "I've not sorted out your tells," he'd remark, or "I need to get lower on my broom, more aerodynamically favourable." He spoke as though he were a scientist observing his own skills.

 

Next, Harry and Mandy served as mediocre keepers for a while while Rivers executed perfect precise shot after perfect precise shot. Once they were all significantly sweaty and exhausted, they called it a night. 

 

Harry saw a couple of figures on the side of the pitch. Squinting, he could make out Draco’s blond hair, reflecting the light. He nodded goodnight to Rivers and Brocklehurst and circled lazily down towards his boyfriend. The other two eighth years drifted off towards the castle. 

 

Clark was standing beside Malfoy in a thin jumper, trying not to shiver. 

 

“Where’s your winter cloak?” Harry demanded. 

 

Clark shrugged, “They're expensive. And where would I even wear it anyway?”

 

“To the quidditch pitch on December evenings,” Harry informed him. “Accio cloak,” Harry called out, summoning the one he’d worn on his way to the pitch but had soon discarded as practice warmed him up. He draped it over the skinny boy, Malfoy casting a tidy hemming charm. Tiering looked irritated but still burrowed into the thing.

 

“Hello, love,” Harry greeted Draco then, kissing his cheek. 

 

Draco grimaced, watching Harry’s sweat evaporate in the frigid night air, “You’re a bit ripe, Potter.”

 

“Don’t know what you expected coming down here,” Harry shrugged cheerfully, “Everything alright?”

 

“Just wanted to see how you were getting on,” Draco drawled, “plus you are rather devastating on that thing.” He motioned to Harry’s Talaria

 

“Uergh,” Clark cringed, turning and striding towards the castle.

 

Harry cast Lumos on his wand as Draco switched off Rivers' charm on the hoops.

 

“Disgust from the boy who reads zines!” Draco chided as he and Harry easily caught up.

 

“It’s not that,” Clark argued, “it’s just like thinking about my professors shagging, basically, so no thanks.”

 

Harry chuckled appreciatively, tapping Clark affectionately on the back of the head. Clark grinned shyly, looking down at his trainers. 

 

“Alright, Tiering?” Harry asked.

 

“Just thought it might be cool to watch,” he shrugged, “you lot are pretty much all anyone talks about these days. Thought maybe I’d learn how to get a quaffle through the hoop at some point.”

 

Clark had managed a couple more shots over the last few games, but had yet to make a goal. 

 

“It’ll happen,” Harry promised. 

 

“Heading home for the holidays, Tiering?” Malfoy asked. 

 

“Yeah,” Clark agreed, “To see my mum and brother. Mum hasn’t exactly been in touch; she can’t adjust to the owl post thing, I don’t think.”

 

“They in London?” Draco prompted.

 

“Newham, yeah,” Clark agreed. 

 

“Looking forward to seeing them?” Harry asked.

 

Clark gave a non-committal roll of his shoulders, “You’ve seen the worst of it,” he said, “but there’s normal times, too. So hopefully we’re more on that end of things.”

 

“You’ll get in touch if they're not,” Draco decided, “Be sure to address any communication to me, not Harry, he never checks his post.”

 

“Sure,” Clark scoffed, “because although I couldn’t afford a damn winter cloak, I’ve no problem doling out galleons for an owl of my own.”

 

“Then I’ll get you an owl,” Draco replied, as though Clark was being purposefully obtuse. 

 

“That’s not what I meant!” Clark protested quickly. 

 

“It’s a simple problem with a simple solution,” Draco advised, “there are few of those in life; enjoy them when you can.”

 

“Money’s only ever simple when you have it,” grumbled Clark. 

 

“How old’s your brother, then?” Harry asked, deliberately changing the subject.

 

“Five,” Clark said, “You think he’ll be magic?”

 

“Depends,” Draco said, “Both your parents muggles?”

 

“Neither of us know who our dads are," Clark said.

 

“Has he shown any signs of magic?” 

 

Clark rolled his eyes, “I have barely seen him since I learned about magic, so I didn’t exactly know what to look for.”

 

“Scare him a couple of times, see how he reacts,” Draco instructed.

 

“Draco!” Harry laughed, “That’s horrid advice!”

 

“Has the desired effect,” Draco sniffed. They reached the castle doors, and Harry opened one for the other two. Then, just before they stepped inside, Harry noticed a strange sight. 

 

Against the wall of the entrance hall, was a small group of young Slytherins, including Hiram Fantyl and Ada Lum. Merlin they looked young, young and terrified. Only children. Panic shone from their faces as they stared ahead, not noticing the movement of the door. Draco lifted a hand to the door, eyes on Harry, silently ordering him to not reveal his position. Harry yanked Clark back behind him.

 

“It’s not fair,” a female voice was saying from inside, out of eye shot of Harry, but not, apparently of Malfoy, who had his wand raised, “All you little Death Eater spawn free to walk these halls, living your meaningless little lives, ugly little vermin. As if you deserve to be here, well you don’t, you understand? And I will expunge my school, it is my—oh, but who do we have here?" The woman's voice quickened in maniacal delight, "A much bigger fish, or should I say snake. Come in, Draco Malfoy, come join your little friends.”

 

“Let them go,” Draco said, voice steady and commanding, not dropping his wand. 

 

Crucio,” the voice said, almost flippant, and a little Slytherin girl buckled over, screaming.

 

Draco dropped his wand and swept in front of children. Harry had no choice but to let the door close, lest he give up their advantage. 

 

Adrenaline coursed through him, but Harry was all too familiar with that feeling. 

 

“Another entrance, Clark, now. Go. Find McGonagall, or any professor. Quickly.”

 

Clark nodded, face pale and lip trembling, but he still had that determined jut to his chin. 

 

Once Clark was a safe distance away, Harry cast a disillusionment charm on himself, arching at that ever disconcerting feeling of something slimy dripping down from his neck. He stashed his broom alongside the exterior wall of the castle and took a steadying breath, opened the door, and slipped inside.

 

Malfoy was on his knees, face contorted but Harry couldn’t look at him, couldn’t focus on that, nor the whimpers of the children or the fact that poor Hiram was standing in a puddle of his own wee. Instead, he crept along the wall, keeping his eyes on the small, round-faced figure of Wilma Brown. 

 

She was looking towards the door, she’d seen it open, but her eyes kept skirting over Harry under the cover of the spell. Her wand arm was outstretched and her eyes were wild, tears streaming.

 

“Who’s there!” She demanded, "Show yourself!"

 

Draco cried out, still suffering the effects of whatever curse had been thrown his way, and right, Harry thought, that’s quite enough. 

 

Stupefy!” he roared. 

 

His spell was sure and true, and Mrs. Brown collapsed to the floor, unconscious, her wand rolling away. 

 

Harry cast an Incarcerous for good measure, watching the thin restraints weave themselves around the pale witch, before dissolving his disillusionment spell and pitching himself towards Draco and the Slytherins. As if on cue, Professor McGonagall, flanked by Professor Haberdash-Pewter and Professor Flitwick burst into the hall. 

 

Draco was still on his knees, his hands extended. Harry felt deep revulsion as he discerned the damage done. It was as though every bone from Draco's fingers to his shoulders had been snapped. Each digit was crimped like a crinkle-cut chips, his arms were bent in awful, disturbing angles. They looked more like gnarled branches of a tree than anything human. He was shaking. 

 

“Oh Merlin, Draco,” Harry breathed, kneeling before him. 

 

“Knock me out, Potter,” Draco hissed, “Please, I can’t fucking bear it.”


Crowding close to brace for a fall, Harry cast a second Stupefy, letting Draco faint, senseless, into his arms.

Chapter Text

Harry swept past the headmistress and professors standing in the doorway, leaving them to see to the children and Wilma Brown. Draco was unconscious in his arms, head and mangled arms dangling unnaturally. 

 

Clark was crouched outside the entrance to the hall and he gasped when he saw Harry with Draco’s body. 

 

“He’ll be okay,” Harry said, shortly, “He’s just unconscious. Madam Pomfrey will fix him right up.” He hoped he spoke the truth. 

 

“Go check on Hiram,” Harry directed, jerking his head towards the entrance hall, “think he could use a friend.”

 

Clark gave a short nod and scampered off.

 

***

 

“Sounds like Break Bone Bewitchment,” Madam Pomfrey said, standing grimly over Malfoy’s body. “It’s a nasty, archaic spell. Requires an immense amount of spite.”

 

“She had plenty of spite to go round,” Harry replied, darkly. 

 

The matron used a precise shearing spell along the sides of Draco’s cloak and shirt, cutting the fabric so it could be lifted off him without her having to rearrange his limbs. 

 

Harry felt his vision tunneling as he focused on Draco’s distorted hands. He thought he might be sweating. 

 

“Take a seat, Potter,” insisted Madam Pomfrey, “you’re no use to me unconscious.”

 

“Can you fix him?” Harry rasped, falling heavily into a chair and reaching out for, but not touching, Draco. 

 

“Can I mend broken bones in a school full of reckless young witches and wizards?” the matron chided, “Honestly, Mr. Potter, what do you think of me? Don’t you worry, we’ll get him shipshape.”

 

Her confidence was reassuring and Harry felt himself nodding. Good, that was good. 

 

“Can you show me how?” He heard himself asking in a low, desperate voice, “Can I help? Please?”

 

She gave him a searching look, then gave a curt nod, “Very well, we’ll do it together. Take his hand.”

 

Harry did, shuddering viscerally at the wrongness of its positioning. The way the bones felt like they were slipping apart where they should be solid. 

 

“Break Bone Bewitchment works directionally, from distal—that’s farthest away from the centre of the body—to proximal, making a neat fracture in every bone as it goes. Start with his littlest finger there, Harry. The tip of it, that’s called the distal phalanx. Hold it between your thumb and for forefinger and place your wand along his skin and send your magic out, it might help to close your eyes at the beginning. See if you can find the crease, it feels darker, out of place.”

 

Harry was dubious, but he followed the instructions, squeezing his eyes shut and focusing on the slender bone beneath the pad of Draco’s fingerprint. It was as though his magic was scanning along it, millimetre by millimetre, distal to proximal, like Madam Pomfrey said. And all at once, he felt it dip, like an unseen pothole on a freshly paved road. 

 

“There!” He cried out, “I’ve found it!”

 

“Well done, Mr. Potter,” Madam Pomfrey congratulated him, now the spell that you’ll want is "Epidiorthóste ostó" and glide your wand along the fissure, soothing it.”

 

The vowels felt unusual and awkward on Harry’s tongue. “That’s not Latin, is it?” He asked, surprised. 

 

“Greek, and likely a cobbled together bit of Greek at that. Bone setting is a prehistoric tradition, as are many of the healing arts. Not that the Greeks were the first, but you know how we British love our Classics. There are Latin spells, of course, but they are just bastardizations. Why veer from Hippocrates until you have to, hm?”

 

Harry didn’t have a good answer for that, so he just practiced the spell aloud several times until he felt comfortable with it, and then gave it a try. He felt the hairline crack in Draco's fingertip fill and disappear. 

 

“I did it!” He marveled, “I mean, I think I did it.”

 

“You’ll know,” she assured him, “do the same to the rest of the distal phalanges and then the middle, proximal, and the metacarpals.” She illustrated the areas she was referencing, pointing to Draco’s fingers with her wand, just past the junction of each joint and into his hand, “You’ll have to leave the wrist to me, too many little bones, and difficult  to visualise if you don’t know the anatomy, but let me know when you’re done and you can do the long bones of his arm.”

 

Harry doggedly worked his way along Draco’s broken hand, feeling so much relief that he was able to aid in this. Madam Pomfrey had completed Draco’s whole other side before Harry even finished his hand. 

 

“Sorry,” he said, “You’re quicker.”

 

“I should hope so,” she remarked, “but you’re doing good work.”

 

Harry finished the last metacarpal and stood back to let the matron work through Draco’s wrist. She then showed him the ulna, the radius, the epicondyles and the humerus. And then they were done. Draco was healed. 

 

“Thank you,” Harry murmured, “for letting me...do that.”

 

“It is a blessing to be useful, I’ve always felt,” Madam Pomfrey said, “It helps quell the panic when you have something you can do.”

 

Harry nodded, “Draco wants to be a healer,” he found himself saying, “I think he’s about done with feeling helpless.”

 

She squeezed his shoulder, “I suspect that is true of a lot of you, dear.”

 

“Can we wake him up?” Harry asked, “Now that he won’t be in as much pain? I just used a stunning spell—he asked me to—I tried to keep it gentle.”

 

“I think that would be alright,” Madam Pomfrey agreed, “Rennervate! ” she cast.

 

Draco’s blond eyelashes fluttered and he opened his eyes. He looked down his bare chest towards his arms, and he wriggled his fingers. 

 

“Oh, thank fuck,” he sighed, then, catching sight of Madam Pomfrey, “Sorry, Matron.”

 

“How are you feeling?” She asked. 

 

“Better than I was, thanks,” he replied.

 

“That was quite the curse, Mr. Malfoy, I'd prefer not to see you in here again." Madam Pomfrey sighed, her expression softer than usual, "You needn’t stay in the infirmary, though, if you’re otherwise well. Do keep an eye on your left hand, however, it was Potter’s first real stab at healing. I don’t anticipate problems, but just go easy.”

 

Draco turned his head, his eyes finding Harry’s, “You helped?”

 

Harry shrugged, bashfully, “Felt better than doing nothing.”

 

“Hardly think stunning Mrs. Brown and rescuing a whole group of first years is nothing, Potter,” Draco contradicted, “but if you’re feeling obliging, mend my clothes so I don’t have to walk out of here half naked, would you?”

 

***

 

Harry hurried to shower, needing to rid himself of the dried sweat from the evening before sneaking into Malfoy’s bed. It wasn’t as early as he had hoped it would be; he’d been trapped in the common room to update the eight years on the events of the evening. After that he also had to listen for the boys’ dormitory to settle. The wait was too long; he begrudged it. 

 

Finally, though, they were together. Draco wasn’t reading like he usually was. He was lying on his back, staring up at the canopy. Harry lay beside him, and Draco’s hand sought out his. Harry held the newly healed digits tenderly. He couldn’t get the vision of Draco kneeling in the great hall out of his head in the dark like this. He lit up his wand. Malfoy threw a forearm across his eyes

 

“Alright, Potter?” Draco murmured. 

 

Harry took off his glasses and stored them away before rolling over and burying his face in Draco’s stomach. He pushed at Draco’s vest, moving it out of the way, he wanted to be skin-to-skin. Malfoy stripped off the shirt, and began to stroke Harry’s hair. 

 

“I didn’t like that,” Harry admitted. He felt guilty. He should be comforting Draco right now and not vice versa. “Sorry,” he whispered, turning his head so his cheek rested on Draco’s belly, “Are you okay? Merlin, that must have been awful.”

 

“I think I’m alright,” Draco said, arm still slung over his eyes, “it hurt a lot, more than being Crucio ’d even, maybe. Or at least it was different, slower and more precise, more dread about what would happen next instead of simply all consuming pain. But I knew you were coming, I knew I only had to bear it for a minute. And it was good to know I was actually bearing it for a reason, for once. A reason beyond the humiliation of me or my parents. That if I was taking it, it meant she would leave those kids alone.” 

 

Harry kissed the expanse of skin between Draco’s scar and his navel. He drew his thumb along the bottom of his ribcage. It rose and fell with every breath. Draco was warm and alive. 

 

“I’m okay, Harry,” Draco promised. 

 

“It’s just a lot, isn’t it?” Harry muttered, “Knowing that everyone we love is going to die and we don’t know if it is soon or a long ways off, or if it will be painful or peaceful. And we all know that but we still just go through our days like it isn’t true, like we aren’t all just waiting for death.”

 

Draco kept petting his hair. “Welcome to the human condition, love,” he chuckled, “a bit bollocks, isn’t it?”

 

“I think I see the allure of the philosopher’s stone. Would probably make me feel better to know you were immortal, honestly.”

 

“I’m sure immortality is dreadfully dull,” Draco assured him. 

 

Harry didn't know. If he could wrap Draco and Ron and Hermione and everyone else he cared about in a magic spell that would keep them safe, he'd probably do it. Even if it were for selfish reasons, so he didn't have to feel like this, surrounded by echoes. Never knowing what could have been. For Sirius, for Lupin, for Tonks and Fred and even Lavender Brown. And all the rest. Just blinked out, and that was it, that was all they got. And he was left behind to think about them every time he set foot in Grimmauld Place, or watched a beater hit a bludger, or looked at pictures of Teddy. He felt tangled up in it, like a fish those plastic pop rings on environmental adverts. “I’m tired of grieving," he said, after a while, "I’m tired remembering and re-remembering people we’ve lost every time I do anything that reminds me of anyone. Which feels like always. It’s just there. And I feel like an arsehole for forgetting it, but even worse when I remember it. I want to put it away, but then feel as though I owe it to them to remember, so I shouldn't do that even if I could.”

 

“No one would be displeased with you for living your life, I don’t think,” Draco reflected, “Except for the bit about me, I suppose.”

 

“Can’t live according to the wishes of ghosts, I guess,” Harry conceded.

 

“Did people you lose not cross over?” Draco inquired, surprised. 

 

“No, sorry, no. More the muggle idea of ghosts, I meant.”

 

“Doesn’t seem to matter how many times you and Granger explain it, the muggle conception of ghosts makes no bloody sense.”

 

Harry laughed, “It is a bit nebulous. Doesn’t matter. I’m glad you’re alright. Please stay alright, if you could.”

 

“Self-preservation is typically in my nature,” Draco reminded him, “tonight was an exception, not the rule.”

 

Harry smiled, shifting upwards so his face was in the crook between Draco’s chest and neck. “Keep it that way,” he insisted.

 

Draco's arms folded over his back and his lips pressed against Harry's hair. “I intend on it," he said.

Chapter Text

Harry woke up the next morning furious. They had warned McGonagall, they had trusted the authorities, despite all the times those same bloody authorities had let them down. This year was supposed to be different. They were supposed to be allowed to just be students this year. His mood didn't improve over breakfast.

 

“I’m going to talk to her,” he growled, tearing off a piece of toast with his incisors, “as soon as I finish.”

 

“We have class,” Hermione reminded him. 

 

“Fuck class,” Harry spat, “Draco could have been killed.”

 

“Need I remind you that I wasn’t?” Draco offered. 

 

“I’ll go with you, mate,” Ron offered. 

 

Hermione threw up her hands, “Oh perfect, because what makes one fired-up teenager better is throwing another fired-up teenager into the mix.”

 

“We told her,” Harry snapped, “she was supposed to take care of it!”

 

“We don’t know the whole story, Harry,” Hermione attempted to placate him, “you can’t go charging in there assuming the worst.” 

 

Harry would not be placated. 

 

“Oh, hell,” Hermione sighed, “fine, we’ll all go.”

 

***

 

“I suspected I might be hearing from you four,” Headmistress McGongall greeted them, “I had hoped to speak with you after class, but you’re here now. Please, take a seat.”

 

Harry felt his jaw clench, maybe Hermione was right, maybe he was too angry for this. He sat down, Hermione reaching over and giving his forearm a warning squeeze. 

 

“As you’ve no doubt discerned,” Professor McGonagall started, “Wilma Brown does indeed seem to be at the centre of this whole ordeal.”

 

“Information which we brought to you before Malfoy here had dozens of bones broken,” Harry snarled.

 

McGonagall held up a hand, “I understand and appreciate your anger, Mr. Potter, and Mr. Malfoy, my deepest regrets for what you went through.”

 

Draco gave a dismissive shake of his head.

“The information you brought forth about the Browns was solid. Others had felt Wilma Brown had been somewhat off, and when I questioned her myself some days ago, she admitted to sabotaging the Centre Tower in a fit of grief. She had surrendered to the aurors who had released her to the care of a mind healer to determine if she was fit to stand trial.”

 

“Why weren’t we informed?” Demanded Harry. 

 

McGonagall leveled him with a glance, “While I appreciate all you’ve done for us, Mr. Potter, I am still running a school. I have various pressing concerns, as you can imagine. Informing you four of your successful sleuthing was certainly on my list and I had intended on getting to it this weekend. This was not some devious plot to keep you in the dark, I can assure you.”

 

Harry felt a little of his wrath fizzle out, like a leaking balloon. “Right. Sorry, Professor,” he mumbled. 

 

She pursed her lips, then continued, “Wilma Brown denied any participation in the attacks on the students, claiming her only intention was destruction of property. She insists she was not aware that classes were occurring in area of the castle. Artemis Brown had similarly been asked to leave school grounds for failing to report his wife's involvement.”

 

Harry felt a bit foolish, his chest buzzing with angry energy and now he had no one at which to direct it. 

 

“So, she’s lying,” Ron acknowledged, “I mean, she’s clearly lying. Can’t they give her some Veritaserum?”

 

“We all know the limitations of the potion,” McGonagall stated, “and a grief-addled mind is more difficult to parse. She might not be able to reconcile her actions with her identity.”

 

“She did seem really kind,” Harry offered uncomfortably, “at the memorial. She seemed to want to do right. It doesn’t make any sense.”

 

“Is it possible there is another actor at play?” Hermione asked, “Someone who was responsible for the Legilimency?”

 

“It seems unlikely, but it is certainly not impossible,” McGonagall supposed, “Wars leave all sorts of intense feelings in their wake.”

 

“How did she get back in? Why weren’t you alerted when she escaped?” Hermione asked. 

 

“The mind healer was apparently not alerted to her disappearance due to a faulty ward. We are uncertain of how she re-entered Hogwarts, the wards should have forbade it,” McGonagall replied, “It is concerning to say the least. I do wish I had more satisfying answers for you. I hope more will be illuminated over the break, now that she has been returned to auror custody. Speaking of which, the aurors would like to speak with the two of you more about last night’s events when you have finished classes for the day.” She gestured to Harry and Draco, who nodded.

 

“Are the first years bearing up alright?” Harry asked. 

 

“They were unharmed save for one who was tortured briefly, which you witnessed, I understand. They all spoke most highly of Mr. Malfoy’s bravery. I suspect a lot more ill would have befallen them if it were not for you.” She gave Draco a thoughtful, searching gaze. Harry realised it was one of pride. 

 

Draco blushed minutely at the attention and looked away, “They were just kids,” he muttered, “it wasn’t right.”

 

“Indeed,” McGonagall agreed, “but there are plenty who would not have been so selfless.”

 

Draco gave a brief nod and was rewarded with a rare smile from the headmistress.

 

“Well, that is about all I have to report. I will ask the students to keep their aversion amulets on at all times, and Mrs. Brown is to be kept under strict security.”

 

***

 

“It doesn’t make sense,” Ron groused, as they walked towards the charms classroom, “she obviously is behind this, but can they somehow determine if she is a Legilimens? I thought they were awfully rare.”

 

“They are,” Draco agreed, “I'm certain we’re missing something.”

 

Hermione sighed, “Whatever it is, I hope it doesn’t follow us out of here. All I want is a pleasant Christmas with my parents.”

 

Ron took her hand, “Oh, no one’s coming for your Christmas without getting through me first.”

 

Hermione squeezed his hand and gave him a weak smile, “I would rather just see everyone healthy and happy come January.”

 

***

 

“Tasteful as always,” Hermione huffed, passing over her copy of The Daily Prophet the following morning. 

 

Harry and Draco leaned in to scan the article.

 

‘Deranged, Grieving Mother Attacks School Children! Harry Potter to the Rescue Once Again!’  blared the headline. It went on to detail the attack, devoting several flowery paragraphs to Harry’s participation in the event, as well as recapping past achievements, just in case anyone had forgotten them. Harry blushed miserably and kept skimming.

 

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the entire event was the rise of an unlikely hero. Former Death Eater Draco Malfoy is cited by many of the children as stepping in to protect them.  “My Ada says that the Malfoy boy stood in front of the younger of them and goaded that evil woman into attacking them,” says Ji Lum, mother of one of the affected students. Others, however, remain unconvinced, “How do we know that the Malfoy heir didn’t orchestrate the whole thing? His father was very manipulative at school,” claims Natalia Pushbottom, aunt to a Slytherin first year caught in the crossfire, and frequent contributor to the Society pages here at the Prophet. “It is often said that a kneazle can’t change his spots.”

 

Harry groaned, “One step forward two steps back with this damn paper. I thought with Rita Skeeter focusing on her ridiculous ‘independent investigations’ we wouldn’t have to contend with this nonsense.”

 

“Rita Skeeters are like hydras,” Ron grumbled, “and this Pushbottom isn’t one we have any dirt on. Pity.”

 

“Could be worse, I suppose,” Hermione remarked, “but this does rather leave it open for people to believe what they want to believe. It would be nice if, just once, they were more interested in what actually happened.”

 

***

 

Days later, the four found themselves on the Hogwarts’ Express heading into King’s Cross. 

 

“You know you know how to apparate,” Draco had said, “You’re an adult wizard, I’ve seen you do it.”

 

Harry had shrugged, “I’m going to miss it.”

 

“You’re going to miss...a train?”

 

“The first time I took it, it was taking me away from everything, it was promising something new. I still get just a hint of that now, like scent memory.”

 

Draco had just tossed his head, “Very well, you sentimental sod.”

 

Ron and Harry sat together on a bench, scouring quidditch stats for the Appleby Arrows. Trial day was less than a week away and Ron had declared that Harry needed to appear knowledgeable about the team’s history. Whether that was true, Harry didn’t know, but it was turning out to be fascinating in it’s own way. 

 

“Winslow went six straight games without catching the snitch last season,” Ron said with a low whistle, “you’re a shoe-in. I’m surprised he hasn’t resigned already.”

 

“Feels a bit weird to think about just taking someone’s job like that,” Harry grimaced. 

 

“Nature of the sport, mate, no one’s going to hold grudges. Teams can’t be worried about hurting people’s feelings or the league would be made up of seniors! Look,” Ron shuffled back through Seeker’s Weekly: A Historical Review, “Winslow took over from a witch named Karen Yeats, who took over from someone else. And someday, someone will replace you. Let’s just hope you have the grace to bow out when that time comes and not drag your feet like Winslow.”

 

***

 

It felt odd to arrive at King’s Cross without the Weasleys waiting for him. Harry was used to being hugged breathless and being told how much he’d grown. He found he missed it a little. So instead he hugged Ron and Hermione. 

 

“I’ll see you in a week,” he promised, “Your mum and dad will be at The Burrow?” Harry directed the question at Hermione. 

 

Hermione grinned. “They arrive Tuesday, and I think they are quite excited, and only a bit nervous” she confirmed, “My dad’s asked me about a hundred questions.”

 

Beside them, Harry saw Ron and Malfoy shake hands. Hermione, to Harry’s surprise—and from his expression, to Draco’s also—wrapped the blond in a warm hug. 

 

“Happy Christmas, Draco,” she said. 

 

“You too,” he replied, tentatively returning the gesture. 

 

Ron and Hermione apparated away. 

 

Harry and Draco were about to do the same when Harry caught sight of Clark Tiering leaning against the platform wall. He had the sole of one trainer pressed against the bricks, his trunk by his side. He was wearing a black zip-up jumper and no coat. He was trying for casual, but his face looked strained and anxious. Harry nudged Draco, whose expression grew serious. 

 

Draco walked over. “Your mum not here yet, Tiering?” He inquired  directly. 

 

Clark looked stuck between ashamed and relieved. 

 

“She gets distracted," Clark admitted, "but she'll be here. I finally got an owl from her a few days back, and she said she'd come and we'd take a cab home on account of my trunk. She seemed excited to see me.”

 

“I’m sure she’s just running late,” Harry agreed, “We’ll wait with you.”

 

***

 

An hour bled into ninety minutes and it became apparent that Clark’s mum was not going to arrive. 

 

“She’s probably just gotten the day wrong,” Harry said, “We'll hail a cab."

 

“S’alright,” Clark replied, “I've only got enough money for the tube and I can get there on my own.”

 

“It’s getting late,” Draco said, “It will be dark soon.”

 

“I’ve got some muggle money for emergencies,” Harry said, “we'll go with you, make sure you get in alright."

 

"If...if you want," Clark said, his voice gravelly with suppressed emotion, "You don't have to."

 

"Sorry, Tiering," Draco pronounced, "you're just going to have to put up with us for a little while longer."

Chapter Text

Draco had very evidently never been in an automobile. Harry had to reach over Clark, who was seated in the middle, to show his boyfriend how the seat belt buckled. 

 

“Are you sure this is quite safe?” hissed Draco. 

 

“Not entirely, no,” Harry confessed, “but it’s what we’ve got.” 

 

Draco glared at him, his eyes darting around the cab, suspicious eyes locking on the radio panel.

 

Clark pointed to the handle coming from the roof. “My mom sometimes holds that,” he offered helpfully. 

 

Draco gave them both a look saying he would certainly be doing no such thing. 

 

***

 

Ten minutes later and Draco was clinging to the handle, looking more than a little green in the evening light. The trip to Newham took over three quarters of an hour in the waning rush hour traffic. Harry paid the cabbie while Draco swayed on the sidewalk outside of Clark’s tenement. The blond looked severely out of place in his posh woolen cloak. Merlin, he was just such a...wizard, Harry found himself thinking with bemused affection. He shrunk their trunks down to pocket size and the three entered the building and started up the stairs. 

 

Clark lived at the end of the hall on the third floor. He fit his key into the lock and opened the door. 

 

“Mum?” he called out.

 

The apartment was dark and had a faint smell of spoiling food. He flushed in humiliation as Harry and Draco followed him in. 

 

The flat was neat enough, if run-down, but it was also quiet. Harry examined the peeling linoleum and chipped walls. Dusty drapes failed to completely obscure the streetlights. Draco poked around the kitchen scowling at small appliances while Clark checked the bedrooms. He came out shaking his head. 

 

“We must have just got our wires crossed,” he explained, still forcing that casual affect that made Harry’s heart ache,” She’s probably at King’s Cross now, just freaking out. I’m sure she’ll be home soon. So. You can, ah, go. I’ll be fine.”

 

“No, we’re alright,” Harry said, “We don’t mind waiting until she gets home. You friendly with your neighbours at all, could you ask them if they’ve seen her? Or does your mum have a mobile?”

 

Clark shook his head, evidently too upset to make any snide remarks about the cost of mobiles. 

 

“You know, Clark,” Harry said, trying to sound cheerful, “I bet Draco here has never seen anything on telly. Why don’t we watch something.”

 

“Never?” Said Clark, sounding genuinely shocked. 

 

Draco held up his empty hands, “Never. My mother said it rots muggles’ brains.”

 

“Pretty sure most mums say that,” Clark laughed, “Well, maybe not the bit about muggles. Come on, I’ll show you. Probably plenty of Christmas movies on these days, or, I dunno, what do you like Harry?”

 

Harry didn’t have much to offer, it had been so long since he’d watched television, but Clark didn’t wait for his response. He seemed excited to be introducing Draco to it, and for his part Malfoy showed genuine, if dubious, interest. Clark showed the older boy the remote control and laughed when Draco almost jumped out of his seat when the thing turned on with a static ping. 

 

An American woman’s face occupied the entirety of the screen. She has big hair and was crying prettily, while giving a heartfelt speech about loneliness to someone currently off screen.

 

“Can she see us? Is she real?” Draco whispered furtively.

 

Harry chuckled. “They’re not like portraits,” he assured him, “She is a real person, but she’s not doing this right now. It’s a recording.”

 

“What do you mean, a recording?” Draco demanded, “How does it get in here to Clark’s sitting room? Where does it go when you switch it off?” Draco bombarded them with questions and Harry swiftly realised he didn’t really know much about how televisions operated, exactly. 

 

“I’ve been going to wizarding school, not muggle school, you’ll remember,” he said defensively.

 

“Useless,” Draco declared. 

 

***

 

Two hours of rubbish reality TV—a trend to promote a neoconservative agenda, Clark informed them—and still Clark’s mother hadn’t appeared. Not even showing Draco muggle things seemed to cheer Clark up any more. 

 

“I don’t know where she could have gotten to,” he muttered, “it’s Jared’s bed time. She should be home by now.”

 

“Look,” Harry said, gently, “Leave her a note, say you were here and you’re going to spend the night at a friend’s. You can call her in the morning. I’m sure there’s a telephone box near my place. You can come stay with us. I’ve got plenty of space.”

 

“You’ve done more than enough already,” Clark replied, stiffly. He was pink-faced and on the edge of tears. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.”

 

“No point in telling Potter not to worry about something,” Malfoy said, smoothly, “trust me on that front. Come along.”

 

Harry was grateful for Draco’s manner, as though the course of action was obvious and there was no need for discussion. He knew it must salvage Clark’s pride to take the choice out of his hands.

 

***

 

Their travel occurred through a complicated arrangement of Harry doing back-to-back side-along apparitions to Grimmauld Place itself, first Draco, then Clark. Tiering looked equal parts terrified and exhausted with the transportation following the days’ events.

 

Harry enlarged his trunk, dug out a quill, and wrote down the address for Clark and Draco to see, and then watched their startled expressions as the front of the dingy house seemed to spring up before their eyes. 

 

“There’s a bit of an ornery portrait in the hall,” Harry warned them, “it’s best to keep quiet until we get to the kitchen. Oh, and Clark, you might see Kreacher, he’s a  house-elf. Er...try not to stare.”

 

Harry found himself feeling strangely self-conscious. He didn’t have warm feelings towards Number 12, Grimmauld Place. It had never really felt like a home. As such, he’d never invested much time or money into its appearance. Much of the furniture, while once rather fine, was now just old. Malfoy would undoubtedly have opinions

 

Oh well, he supposed, nothing doing. He unlocked the door and let the other boys in. 

 

He used his wand to illuminate a few ensconced torches in the hallways and led Draco and Clark down the dingy hall to the kitchen. 

 

“Er, take a seat,” he said, lighting a few candles “I’ll see if I can scrounge up some tea.”

 

He turned around and then cried out, startled. Kreacher was gazing up at him, holding a small lantern. 

 

“Merlin,” Harry exhaled, “Ah, hullo Kreature. Nice to, er, see you.”

 

“Master,” croaked Kreacher, giving a slow sort of bow, so far as his ancient body would let him. 

 

“How’ve you been?” Harry asked awkwardly, “Sorry for not letting you know I was coming.”

 

“Master is not required to keep Kreacher informed of his comings and goings,” the old elf informed him dourly, “Kreacher knows when children come home from school.”

 

“Ah, right, guess you were around for a lot of Christmas holidays. Oh, these are my friends, Draco and Clark.”

 

“Master is too gracious to introduce Kreacher so.”

 

Harry didn’t know how to respond to that, Hermione’s voice sounding in his head about the wrongness of indentured servitude and it wasn't as though Harry disagreed with her, but it also wasn’t like he could just ask Kreacher to retire, either. He didn't think Kreacher would ever forgive him for that. 

 

“I was just going to make us some tea. Is there anything to eat? We’ve not had supper, but I can probably run out for eggs or something.”

 

Kreacher looked offended, “Sit, Master,” he insisted, “Kreacher will see to tea and heat a steak and kidney pie he has prepared for this occasion.”

 

“Oh, that's very decent of you, if you're sure. I can do it too, it’s no bother, I don’t mind,” Harry babbled weakly. Malfoy was looking at him like he’d absolutely lost his mind. Clark’s eyes were darting around the room, back and forth from Kreacher to the wood burning stove. He was trying not to stare, Harry realised.

 

Kreacher gave him a dark, irritated look, “Do not shame me, so, Master, I beseech you. Kreacher so rarely gets to be useful.”

 

Harry gave in, “Alright, that...that would be nice, thanks. I’ll go prepare a spare room for Clark, where do we keep the linens?”

 

“Master thinks Kreacher did not prepare for this contingency? All rooms are clean and tidy, ready for guests.”

 

“Oh,” Harry said, stupidly, “Er, wow, Kreacher, that’s great. Thanks, truly.”

 

***

 

Harry felt he had lived a hundred days without sleep by the time he collapsed onto his bed. He didn’t sleep in the master bedroom, it felt too weird. He chose instead a corner room that looked out onto the street. It wasn’t too big or intimidating but it still had a bed large enough to fit him and Draco comfortably. He had set Clark up in a room a few doors down. 

 

Harry hadn’t even prepared for bed yet. He still needed to brush his teeth and change. He wasn’t sure he had the strength.

 

“You really live here?” Draco said, looking around at ornate and tarnished furnishings. The walls had a greenish mildewing wallpaper and the bedposts were carved into the faces of creatures Harry couldn’t even name. 

 

“Not really,” Harry sighed, “I spent summers with my aunt and uncle, or at The Burrow when I could. I don’t really live anywhere, save Hogwarts. But it’s mine.”

 

“It’s a disaster, and why on earth do you defer to your house elf like that? It's embarrassing,” Draco informed him, stripping down to his pants. He was neatly folding his clothes and placing them into his trunk. It felt oddly intimate to get to observe Draco’s routine, without a dozen plus other boys around them—a little awkward perhaps, getting used to each other in this new space, but Harry savoured it.  

 

“Ta,” Harry replied, too exhausted to take the bait, “Merlin, have I done the right thing? Bringing Clark here? I know this was just supposed to be time for us, for once. I'm sorry.”

 

“We could hardly leave him,” Draco responded crisply, “You’ve done the right thing, Potter, as always. Where do you suppose his mother’s got to?”

 

Harry shook his head, “I wish I knew, maybe she did just forget the dates, she does come across as a bit scattered. My guess is she is having an episode of sorts, but I don’t know enough about it. If we can’t reach her tomorrow, we’ll have to call social services, they should at least look into the welfare of his brother. But what if then Clark has to spend Christmas in some sort of muggle foster situation? Merlin, it would be better for him to just go back to school than that.”

 

“I can take him with me,” Draco offered, “Mother wouldn’t mind. I think she might even enjoy it.” The blond sat on the bed beside Harry. “But let’s not worry about it now, hm? We’ve had a long day.” He put a hand on Harry’s chest, and Harry covered it with his own. For a moment they stayed like that, Harry sprawled out on his back, holding Draco’s hand.

 

The silence was interrupted by a couple of quiet sobs from down the corridor. 

 

“Clark,” Harry observed, sadly, “Should have expected this. Should I go to him, do you think, or will he want to cry it out on his own?”

 

Draco paused to think, “Go to him,” he said finally, “if he doesn’t want you there, he’ll tell you. Or I can go, if you’d rather. I know you’re beat.”

 

Harry shook his head, “I think he still half-worships you. He won’t want you to see him like this. I’ll go.”

 

***

 

“Clark?” Harry called out quietly from the closed door. He heard the muffled sobs stop suddenly. He knocked softly, “Can I come in?”

 

There was no response. Harry tried the door. It wasn’t locked. He entered slowly, giving Tiering time to tell him to fuck off, but he didn’t. The boy looked impossibly small, limbs tucked into himself so he was folded into a small ball leaning against the headboard. 

 

Clark’s eyes were red and his face was wet. He looked like he was struggling to stop crying, but all his efforts just made his lip wobble. 

 

“May I sit?” Harry asked. 

 

Clark gave a tiny nod. 

 

“I’m sorry today didn’t go as you’d hoped,” Harry murmured, tentatively. He sat down on the side of the bed, one leg on the floor, the other curled up in front of him. 

 

“Not your fault,” was the bitter reply.

 

“I know, but I hate for you to have to be disappointed like this. And worried.”

 

“Sh-she said she’d be there. God, I'm so stupid, I can't believe I still get upset when she lets me down. I never fucking learn,” whimpered Clark and apparently that was about all the restraint the poor kid had left because he was sobbing in earnest again. Harry wrapped an arm around his shoulders and Clark allowed himself to be drawn in for a hug, weeping into Harry’s jumper. Harry patted the boy’s back and made what he hoped were kind and comforting sorts of noises. 

 

“I’m sure it has nothing to do with what she thinks of you,” Harry assured him, “I know your mum can be a bit unwell.”

 

“I thought maybe me going away would help her,” Clark sniffled into Harry’s chest, once his sobs subsided a little, “I always seem to stress her out, I thought it would be better. She really sounded like she wanted to see me this time.”

 

“I’m certain she did,” Harry said, “Maybe she just got confused. Maybe we’ll call her tomorrow and she’ll explain everything.”

 

“What if she doesn’t?” Clark breathed, “What if she is just gone?”

 

“Then we’ll deal with that, too.”

 

“I don’t want to go with fosters. I won’t. I’ll run away first.”

 

“We won’t let that happen. You can go with Draco to see his mum, or go with me to Ron’s, or even back to Hogwarts, if you like. But there’s still more of a chance your mum will show up and we’re just borrowing trouble worrying about all this.”

 

“I don’t think social services work that way,” replied Clark glumly.

 

“Well, if we have to use a little confounding charm to ease things, we will. Don’t worry about it.”

 

“You can do that?”

 

“We can, yes.”

 

“Whoa,” Clark said, “That’s some jedi shit.”  He sighed, “Look, I know it probably seems like she’s a bad mum,” Clark attempted to explain, pulling away from Harry and wiping his nose with the back of his hand, “but she does love us, I know she does. She just...loses reality sometimes. She doesn’t mean to. Some things mess her up. Especially like changes in routine. Me coming home probably set her off.”

 

“That sounds awfully difficult,” Harry said, “I’m sorry it’s been like that.”

 

Clark just nodded and gave an ugly, wet snort. “I think I’m okay. You can probably go to bed now.”

 

Harry chuckled, “Alright. Well, you know where to find me. We’re just in the room at the end of the hall. Knock if you need anything.”

 

“Just promise you won’t answer the door naked,” Clark grumbled.

 

Harry nudged him. “Brat,” he said affectionately, “Wizard’s honour, I’ll be decent. Now get some sleep, hm?”

 

Clark nodded and crawled under the covers. Harry stood and Nox ’ed the lamp, walking towards the door. 

 

“Harry?” Tiering called out, just as Harry was about to shut it behind him. 

 

“Yes?”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“It's nothing, Clark, truly. Sleep well. We’ll see you in the morning.”

Chapter Text

Harry woke up the next morning with dim sunlight shining through the pale grey curtains. He was curled around Draco and Merlin, it felt liberating to wake up with him instead of having to slink away to his own bed in the early hours of the morning. He pulled Draco closer and kissed him behind his ear. The blond grumbled wordlessly, but shifted back, letting Harry hold him. 

 

Only then did Harry see the wide, buggy eyes of Kreacher peering at him from over the side of the bed. 

 

“Fuck,” Harry sighed, sitting up. He ran a hand through his tousled hair. “Er, good morning, Kreacher.”

 

Draco startled awake fully at that. 

 

“Potter, why is your elf in the bedroom?” He demanded, unhappily. 

 

“Do Master and his lover require breakfast?”

 

Harry cringed at the word. “Draco’s my boyfriend,” he explained, blushing furiously and feeling uncomfortable and foolish, “not my...er, lover.”

 

“Do Master and his boyfriend require breakfast?” Kreacher amended. 

 

“Huh," Harry remarked, more to himself than to anybody, "No rant about unnatural behaviour? That's...unexpected."

 

Kreacher gave him an unimpressed look. “Kreacher has lived a great many years. Young masters are always sneaking into each others’ beds. It is what humans do, at an age. Kreacher is always discrete.”

 

“Right,” said Harry, “And I appreciate your continued discretion,”—not that Harry suspected Kreacher had anyone to dish gossip to, exactly—“But I don’t think this is really a phase. Probably a more...permanent thing.” 

 

“Potter, are you really explaining your sexuality to your house elf right now? I truly hope this is a steak and kidney pie inspired nightmare,” contributed Draco. Harry swatted his arm. Draco pulled the blankets over his head.

 

“Breakfast would be nice, thank you, Kreacher," Harry tried to smile, "and tea. Please.”

 

“Do Master and his boyfriend want breakfast in bed?” 

 

Harry cringed. He could think of few things less romantic that Kreacher in his tea towel toga serving him up beans on toast in the drab little room that looked even more bedraggled in the light of day. 

 

“No!” He exclaimed, horrified, “I mean, no. Thank you. Er, we’ll be down shortly. Will you cook some up for Clark, too, please?”

 

“Young Master Clark has already eaten, and read his strange newspaper over tea,” Kreacher informed him, "cursed muggle thing. The pictures don't move at all."

 

“Shit,” Harry remarked, “has he been awake long?”

 

Kreacher nodded. “Kreacher thought the boy might prefer for Master to be roused. He is a restless one."

 

“I see,” Harry said, “Well, tell him we’ll just be a few minutes.”

 

“Speak for yourself,” groused Draco from under the bedspread, “I’m going back to sleep until I forget this entire exchange ever happened.”

 

“Certainly, Master,” Kreacher said, bowing and finally leaving. 

 

Harry flopped back down and pulled a pillow over his face. “Fucking hell,” he groaned miserably. 

 

Draco surfaced from beneath the blankets and rolled over to face him. He tugged at the pillow and Harry let him have it. 

 

“What’s the matter, Potter?” He inquired, almost kindly.

 

“This was not how I wanted our first night to go. Or our first morning,” Harry grumbled. He felt the loss more acutely than he wanted. 

 

He felt the long edge of Draco’s finger against his jaw. The blond turned Harry’s face to his. 

 

“Do I look upset?” Draco asked. 

 

Harry studied his boyfriend’s face. Raised blond eyebrows, that straight, aristocratic nose, those unearthly cheekbones. One side of Draco’s mouth was quirked upwards. If anything, the boy was amused. 

 

“No,” allowed Harry. 

 

“That’s because I’m not upset,” he reached out and pressed his palm flat against Harry’s bare chest and kissing his shoulder. “We have time. Hell, if I have my way, we’ll have so many nights and mornings you’ll tire of me, should such a thing be possible—I assure you, it's not—and, what's more, we'll have those night and mornings in much more pleasant surroundings than this. Honestly, Potter, if you think I won't be making drastic changes to this abysmal decor, you're in for a shock. I'll likely have to burn it all to ash and start afresh. It really is that bad. Right now, however, we seem to have a stray, and that stray needs some care. So, come shower and then we’ll see to the puppy.”

 

***

 

The puppy, as it happened, was in the sitting room, staring out a grubby window. 

 

“Fetch us some tea, Harry,” Malfoy directed. 

 

Harry didn't argue, just left for the kitchen, where Kreacher was busying preparing a proper breakfast which smelled surprisingly delicious. A tea tray was made up with yellowed china tea cups and a polished silver tea set. Kreacher really was making an effort; Harry found himself feeling strangely touched. Maybe the old elf did get a little lonely.

 

“Thank you,” he said, “this looks lovely.”

 

Kreacher only nodded, standing on a stool and monitoring the eggs. 

 

When he returned to the sitting room, he found Malfoy sitting across from Clark in a brocaded wing-back chair, one long leg neatly crossed over the other. He was wearing a bottle green smoking jacket over some linen trousers, and there were fine dragon-hide slippers on his bare feet. He looked like something out of a yachting magazine. All he needed was a pipe. 

 

Harry set down the tray on a coffee table. 

 

“Milk, love?” he asked Draco.

 

Draco extended a graceful hand for a cup, which Harry dutifully passed him. Draco sipped the tea suspiciously. 

 

“No,” he decided, “it would seem your elf, at least, has taste.”

 

Harry ignored that, “Clark?”

 

“Milk and sugar, please.”

 

Harry fixed his and Clark’s tea and passed the younger boy a cup before taking a seat at the other end of the sofa. 

 

“Malfoy said we might go to Diagon Alley,” Clark all but burst out, as soon as Harry sat down.

 

“Did he now?” Harry asked, raising an eyebrow at Draco, who sipped his tea, impervious to Harry’s disapproval.

 

“If we get a hold of my mum, and if she says it’s okay,” Clark assured him. 

 

“Let’s get through our tea first, and go from there.”

 

***

 

Harry and Draco stood outside the phone box waiting for Clark to make the call. They both knew before he exited that it wasn’t good news. Or, rather, it wasn’t any news at all. 

 

“No answer,” Clark said, “and the machine’s full.”

 

“Oh, Clark,” Harry said. He reached out to put an arm around the boy’s shoulders, but Tiering ducked away. Huddling into himself, the lanky boy quickly made his way the few blocks back to Number 12. 

 

Harry and Draco found him sitting on the cold stone steps a few minutes later, wiping at his face with angry, balled up hands. To Harry’s surprise, Draco didn’t hesitate. He simply dropped down beside the boy. 

 

“I imagine you have some people to floo, Harry,” he said, “Clark and I will be fine here.”

 

***

 

“Clark Tiering? At Grimmauld Place?” Ron and Hermione echoed, almost in unison. 

 

“I know,” Harry sighed, trying to ignore the unnerving tickle of the emerald flames in which his head was suspended, “and now we can’t track down his mum and his little brother and I don’t have a phone, or a phone book, and I don’t know what to do or who to call. If I call muggle services, they won’t be able to find my house, and if I call wizard services, who knows if they will be able to find his mum.”

 

“There must be some sort of cooperation when it comes to child welfare," Hermione mused, "He can’t be the first young person in this situation. Let me go ask the Weasleys.”

 

“What have you gone and done now,” Ron asked him with a friendly smirk, “You and Draco starting a family already?”

 

“Oh shove off,” Harry said, tiredly, but he found himself repressing a smile. It was admittedly, a bit ludicrous.

 

“Got yourself a child in need, have you, Harry?” Mrs. Weasley entered the room, her warm expression offering Harry solace he hadn't realised he needed.

 

“I’m afraid so,” Harry confessed.

 

“Where is the poor boy?”

 

“He’s out with—” Harry caught himself just in time, “He’s out getting some air. Do you have any idea what I should do? I just don’t know how these things work.”

 

“Of course, dear, it is a bit of a tricky situation. I would start with the Ministry of Child Welfare,” Molly said, “They’ll at least they should have some ideas.”

 

***

 

And that was how Harry and Clark ended up at the Ministry of Magic.

 

Draco stayed behind, citing he wouldn’t help their case any, while Harry and Clark flooed there together. Clark liked traveling by floo just about as much as Harry did, which was to say, not at all. 

 

“Why couldn’t we just do that loud crack-y thing you did last night?” He demanded, when he caught his breath inside the main foyer. 

 

“They’ve only just reinstated the floo network, apparition wards are still up,” Harry explained. 

 

They approached a bored looking young wizard at a wicket. Clark was still examining the busy entrance with wide-eyed surprise.

 

“Sorry,” Harry said, “could you direct us to the Ministry for Child Welfare?”

 

“Level 5: Department of International Cooperation,” yawned the man, “Oi, you’re—”

 

“Thank you!” Harry cut him off, firmly grasping Clark by the bicep and yanking him towards the lifts at the far end of the atrium. 

 

“So it’s not just at school then?” Clark hissed, “People get like that about you everywhere you go?”

 

“Mm,” Harry agreed. A lift arrived and he ushered Clark into it. There were pastel-coloured paper airplanes bobbing about their heads and a solemn faced old witch in ministry robes. 

 

“Fifth floor, please,” Harry said. 

 

***

 

The social services witch who greeted Harry and Clark after an hour of waiting was a petite, wispy-haired middle-aged woman with tortoiseshell glasses that hung on a chain around her neck. She waved them into a little office that was piled high with parchment stuffed into folders. There were two wooden chairs across from a desk, well, more a table, really, that had at least seven or eight mugs half full of cooled or cooling tea. 

 

She managed to maneuver herself to the far side of the desk, coming precariously close to disturbing a particularly high pile of paper, “Now, what can I do for you, Mr…?”

 

“Potter,” Harry said. 

 

The witch blinked several times in a row and then pulled her glasses onto her nose. 

 

“Oh. Oh yes of course, Mr. Potter, such a pleasure to meet you. I’m Georgina Provincel, a case worker here.” She extended a hand and Harry shook it, motioning for Clark to sit. 

 

“This is Clark,” Harry introduced. 

 

“Nice to meet you, Clark,” the witch repeated, “What can I do for you two?”

 

Harry gave a brief outline of their dilemma. 

 

“I wasn’t sure who to contact,” he concluded, “what with Clark being a wizard and his mum being a muggle.”

 

“We have a handful of muggle liaisons,” Ms. Provincel responded, “you’ve come to the right place.”

 

“She has my brother,” Clark piped in for the first time, “Or at least I hope she does. He’s only five, I’m not sure if he’s a wizard or not. You’ll still look for him? Even if he’s not?”

 

“We’ll look for your mother, and if she is not with him, we will be sure to make any further necessary referrals for investigation. Your mother has a history of erratic behaviour, Clark, is that correct?”

 

“She gets paranoid sometimes,” Clark explained, “I don’t know exactly what she has, but I know she gets psychotic. I don’t mean that is like the way everyone says it, like she actually gets that way. She takes anti-psychotics and that usually helps, but sometimes when she is stressed, she forgets. I stress her out. Me coming home probably stressed her out.”

 

Ms. Provincel looked at him sharply. “This is not your fault, dear,” she informed him directly.

 

“It’s not her fault either,” Clark muttered, “She doesn’t want to be like this.”

 

“No one is blaming anyone,” the case worker assured him, “we all just want to know where she is. Now, we have some lovely families who look after children—”

 

Clark’s hand clamped down on Harry’s sleeve, his face a storm of anger and anxiety.

 

“No,” Harry heard himself interrupt her, “he’ll be staying with me.”

 

“That’s very generous, Mr. Potter, but I’m afraid families must be thoroughly screened—”

 

“What do you need? A home visit? A character witness? Go call in the Minister of Magic, he’ll vouch for me.”

“I don’t doubt anyone in this building would vouch for you, Mr. Potter, but that is not how these things are done. If something were to happen to Clark while under your care, that would be on us, it would be our failure to have properly ensured he was safe there.”

 

“I swear I'll keep him safe,” Harry said, trying to keep his anger from rising like bile, to keep from grabbing Clark’s hand and making a run for it. 

 

“I’m sure you would,” Ms. Provincel said kindly, smoothing some frizzy hair down distractedly, “but promises are just promises.”

 

“I mean I'll make unbreakable vow,” Harry clarified, “to take care of him until his mother is able. That no harm will come to him under my care.”

 

That silenced her. She looked at him very seriously. 

 

“I’m his quidditch coach,” Harry said, “he feels safe with me. Why would you send him off to strangers? I care for him and I’m willing to take him in, and what’s more I’m willing to swear to it.”

 

Ms. Provincel set her jaw and examined him for a long moment, “May I have a moment alone with Clark, please, Mr. Potter?”

 

“Of course,” Harry strode out of the room. 

 

He paced in the waiting room, surrounded by squabbling kids and haranged parents, who thankfully were too caught up in their own personal narratives to place him. It probably also helped that this was an unlikely place for him to be. Another ministry witch walked by Ms. Provincel’s office and was summoned inside. The door was closed behind her. A few minutes later she left, and then, a few minutes later, she reappeared with Kingsley Shacklebolt. 

 

“Harry!” Shacklebolt said, and Harry found himself wrapped in a warm, reassuring hug. 

 

“Hello, er, Minister,” he said, returning the hug. Everyone in the waiting room who had been ignoring him before certainly wasn’t ignoring him now. 

 

“Oh, I think you can afford to skip the formalities, I think, Harry,” he looked like he was about to say more, but then, noticing the eyes on them, motioned Harry towards Ms. Provincel’s office. Kingsley knocked briskly once, and then they entered. 

 

“Hello there, young man,” the Minister said, upon seeing Clark. He stuck out his hand. 

 

Clark looked up from his chair nonplussed, but he nonetheless shook the man’s hand. 

 

“Clark, this is Kingsley Shacklebolt, he’s the Minister for Magic. Kind of like our PM.”

 

“Oh,” Clark said, “Hope you weren’t involved in that mess this morning. I saw it in the muggle newspaper. Over a hundred soldiers killed from an airstrike, did you know?”

 

“Clark's, um, a bit of a radical,” Harry explained, pinching the bridge of his nose. 

 

“Better than being a bootlicker,” Clark fired back with a glare. Harry found himself resting his palms on Clark's shoulders. 

 

"I'm sure you're right, Clark," Harry said, "and that's certainly a conversation we can pursue. Later."

 

“Well," Shacklebolt offered, "I’m happy to say that no, we were most certainly not involved. I’m hardly keen to lead wizarding Britain into any more wars just now.”

 

There was an awkward beat. 

 

“So,” Kingsley said, finally, “Harry. I understand you are wanting to take on guardianship of Clark here until we are able to track down his mother?”

 

“That’s right,” Harry stated. 

 

“And you’re willing to swear to see to his safety through an unbreakable vow?”

 

“Insofar as I am reasonably able,” Harry agreed. 

 

“Ms. Provincel?” The minister deferred. 

 

“It is unusual,” she said, “but not without precedent. I’ve spoken with Clark alone and I have no reason to doubt Mr. Potter’s intentions or abilities.”

 

“Then all that is left," the Minister declared, "is for me to cast the spell.”

 

***

 

“Well?” demanded Draco, when Harry and Clark hurtled out of the hearth in the sitting room. 

 

“Well,” Harry shook his head, still a little stunned, “Let’s go to Diagon Alley.”

Chapter Text

“What’s this place?” Clark asked, looking up at the crisp white exterior of Gringotts. 

 

“The bank,” Harry said, “I should get some spending money for Christmas gifts, and I’ll maybe get some more cab fare as well.”

 

“I hope you don’t think I’ll be getting in another one of those death machines,” Draco sniffed, “I don’t see why muggles haven’t come up with teleportation.”

 

Harry didn’t dignify that idiocy with an answer, instead just heading towards the bank doors. 

 

Clark paused to read the engraving, “Are these bankers communists?” He asked, confused. 

 

“What?” Harry said. 

 

“For those who take, but do not earn/must pay dearly in their turn,” Clark recited, “Like landlords, do they mean?”

 

“I’m sure like any group, the goblins are not homogenous in their politics,” Draco informed him, smartly, "Haven't you been listening to Professor Haberdash-Pewter?". 

 

“Goblins?” Clark asked, sidetracked. Harry opened the door and they entered. “Oh. Goblins.”

 

The bank was bustling with holiday shoppers queuing up to access their vaults. The three joined a line. 

 

“They’re watching you,” Clark whispered, “Harry, the goblins, there’s got to be half a dozen watching you.”

 

Harry cleared his throat, uncomfortably. “Thing is, I’m not very popular at Gringotts,” he admitted. 

 

“Why not?” Clark demanded. 

 

“I...didn’t heed the warning on the door, exactly.”

 

“You nicked something?”

 

“You could say that.” 

 

“In a bank? Harry, you robbed a bank? Why aren’t you in prison? Does the minister know he just handed me off to a criminal?”

 

“Ah, yes, I would say that he is aware.” 

 

“I don’t believe it,” Clark marveled, “Well, what did you find? The rhyme on the door said you would find something other than treasure? I thought they just meant death, but apparently not.”

 

“I don’t think the Gringotts goblins would particularly appreciate me discussing their additional security measures with an 11 year old Marxist,” Harry retorted, trying to shrug off the heavy guilt that was rolling in. He saw Draco register his reaction with concern.

 

“I'm not a Marxist,” Clark corrected him, “I don’t think. I’m still deciding. I might be an anarchist. I mean I was leaning towards transhumanism but magic has really messed me up on that front. Maybe I'll be something new that no one's every been before. Like I'll invent a new system. But you've gotten me off subject! Just tell me, Harry, I'll keep it a secret! And why on earth do they even still let you bank here?”

 

“It’s a long story, Clark, without a happy ending,” Harry tried to dissuade him. 

 

“Tell meeeeee,” whinged the boy. 

 

“Tiering, that’s enough of that,” Draco interrupted up, his voice firm, “Harry is watering down the events for your consumption. He did what he had to do to end the war, and others paid for his actions with their lives. The Dark Lord was not pleased about the break-in. I saw him enact his wrath myself. This is not an adventure story for your amusement, it is a war story. If you would like to discuss it more thoroughly, we can do so in a private setting. Until then, may I suggest you find another topic of conversation.”

 

Clark swallowed, looking cowed. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, scuffing the toes of his trainers against the polished tiles, “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

 

“I know you didn’t,” Harry said kindly, “Draco’s just being protective.”

 

“Someone has to be,” Malfoy declared, airily, “Merlin knows you won’t protect yourself.”

 

Harry bit his lip. Maybe Draco was right. He would have told Clark whatever he wanted to know because that was just his response to questions he knew the answer to. And then he'd be yolked to that creeping sadness that would more likely than not spoil his day, like it spoiled so many days, especially in the summer. Maybe it was alright to only talk about these things on his own terms.

 

***

 

Clark went with Harry to his vault, despite Clark’s protestations that he was old enough to wait above ground alone. 

 

“Wow,” Clark shouted as they rushed along, “I’m really glad you didn’t listen to me and leave me in the foyer, this is wicked!”

 

Harry couldn’t help but keep a vice grip on the boy’s arm, preventing him from leaning too far out of the speeding cart. He wasn't sure if it was the unbreakable vow or just his own conscience motivating the action, but either way, he wasn't letting go.

 

“Vault 687,” Announced the goblin at the head of the cart. Clark’s eyes grew wide at the sight of Harry’s fortune. 

 

“I thought it was Malfoy who was rich,” he wondered aloud, as Harry added some galleons to a drawstring bag. 

 

“Oh, I’m sure this doesn’t compare to the Malfoy vault,” Harry assured him, “Malfoys are aristocracy.”

 

“I thought we didn’t even have an aristocracy any more.”

 

“Merlin, you are full of questions today. You’ll have to ask Draco, I honestly don’t know much about it,” Harry said distractedly. To the goblin he said, “That’s all I needed, thanks.”

 

The goblin scowled and nodded and soon they were zooming along again. 

 

“How does an 18 year old get to be rich as you, then?” Clark demanded, over the thrum of the cart wheels and the rush of cold air, “You get all that from the war? Do you get paid for being a war hero?”

 

“My parental figures have an unfortunate habit of dying young,” Harry told him.

 

“Shit,” said Clark, “Jesus, I really keep putting my foot in it today. I’m sorry, Harry, I should have thought.”

 

Harry just reached out and mussed Clark’s faded pink hair. He felt so much damn affection for the boy, who, despite plenty of suffering, still maintained such endearing innocence. 

 

“You’re fine,” Harry said, squeezing Clark’s shoulder.

 

“Please don’t tell Draco I said that,” Clark said, “He’s already mad at me.”

 

“He’s not mad at you,” Harry consoled him, “he just worries.”

 

*** 

 

“Madam Malkin’s or Twilfitt and Tatting’s?” Inquired Malfoy, when they met again outside the bank. 

 

Harry shook his head in disbelief, “After Gladrags, I don’t think I’ll need another jumper for several years, Draco, honestly.”

 

“Firstly, that is entirely untrue, your wardrobe still requires a great deal of effort on my part, and secondly, this isn’t about you. I’m tired of watching the stray here shiver his life away every time we step foot outside due to his inane lack of appropriate outerwear.”

 

“Pretty sure you’re not supposed to call me names,” Clark protested, but he looked a bit chuffed about it. 

 

“Madam Malkin’s then?” Harry said, not caring either way. 

 

“Very well,” Draco said in a voice that suggested that Harry was yet again exposing his criminally poor taste. 

 

“You guys know I don’t have any money, right?” Clark reminded them. 

 

“And you know we have plenty,” Draco responded, “Stop fussing. I won’t hear any more about it.”

 

***

 

Madam Malkin’s expression warred between pleasure and shocked disdain when Harry and Malfoy entered the shop together with Clark in tow. 

 

“Mr. Potter,” she exclaimed, opting for ignoring Draco, “Oh, dear, how lovely to see you.” To Harry’s embarrassment, the stout little witch stood up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. “We merchants are all so grateful for all you have done. You’ve saved our livelihoods, and for many of us, our lives.”

“Oh,” Harry said, Merlin, how did he not have a good answer for this yet, “Er, not a problem.”

 

Draco scoffed from behind him. 

 

Madam Malkin’s eyes narrowed bitterly, “Mr. Malfoy, I’m surprised to see you darkening my doorway.”

 

Clark's interest was evidently piqued, as he watched the interaction with wide eyes.

 

To Harry’s relief, instead of a haughty comment, Draco gave a brief sort of bow. 

 

“I should like to offer an apology, Madam Malkin, for my and my mother’s behaviour two years ago. I’ve no intention of repeating such egregious sentiments. I understand, however, if you do not wish for my patronage.”

 

He sounded truly sincere, Harry could hardly believe it. 

 

Madam Malkin examined Harry, who tried to give her his best 'we’re all friends here!' smile. 

 

“Very well,” she decided, “What can I do for you gentlemen?”

 

***

 

Clark was standing on a fitting block wearing a wool-lined bomber jacket. Draco had approved the choice and was now poking around the little shop.

 

“Just a bit longer, I think,” Madam Malkin was saying, flicking a precise charm at the garment, “Hm, yes, I think that should do it.”

 

“Don’t get service like this at the ASDA,” Clark marveled. 

 

“What’s that dear?” Madam Malkin said, as Draco circled back holding two longer woolen coats.

 

“Which one?” Draco asked the boy. 

 

“Is that thing double breasted?” Clark recoiled, horrified. “What do I need one of those posh coats for anyway?”

 

“In case you want to go somewhere posh,” was Draco’s response, “now, grey or black?”

 

“I don’t. And neither. And why aren’t boys allowed to wear colours in this damn country.”

 

“Language,” Harry and Draco said as one. 

 

“You know, dear, I might have just the thing!” Exclaimed Madam Malkin, obviously pleased, if her own peacock blue robes were anything to gauge her style preferences by.  She scurried off to the back room.

 

“You know, I first met Draco right where you are standing now,” Harry told Clark. 

 

“Really?” the boy crinkled his nose. 

 

“Mm,” Harry agreed, “I was your age and we were both getting fitted for school robes.”

 

“And was love at first sight or some shit?”

 

Harry laughed, “Hardly. I thought he was a conceited arse with a face like a weasel.”

 

Clark looked delighted. “What did you think of Harry?” He directed his question at Draco.

 

“Clueless and common.”

 

Harry grinned, “Pretty accurate first impressions, actually.”

 

***

 

“Anything else?” Harry said, as the afternoon drew to a close. He felt satisfied with most of his Christmas purchases, and Clark was still preening in his brilliant orange buffalo plaid wool coat and a freshly cut mohawk of a similar shade. Draco actively winced every time he saw the boy. 

 

“Just the Emporium,” Draco said. 

 

“What’s that?” Clark asked, “Sounds like a junk shop, is it a junk shop?”

 

Harry shot him a smile, “I think someone promised you an owl.”

 

***

 

The shop was dim and quiet, a fluttery sound like hundreds of pages being turned sounding as the trio entered. A brown-skinned one-eyed man greeted them with a grunt when they entered, but Clark was bursting with so much excitement he didn’t even acknowledge the attendant. 

 

“Oh my God,” Clark kept whispering fervently as he hopped from cage to cage, “Harry, come look at this one, look, it has ears! Oh my God, this one looks so disturbed, it’s hilarious, oh my God!”

 

Clark whirled on them in a narrow aisle, “How do I know what’s a good kind to get? What kind do you have?”

 

“Eagle owls are by far the most superior specimens," Draco answered directly.

 

Harry elbowed him, “Oh, don’t tell him that, then he’ll just get one to please you. I had a snowy owl, and she was, well, a bit ornery, actually, but wonderful.”

 

“What happened to her?” asked Clark, “Shit, actually, probably don’t answer that.”

 

“She took a killing curse meant for me,” Harry shrugged. 

 

Both Draco and Clark looked stricken.

 

“Anyway,” Harry tried to smile, “pick whatever owl you like. It’s not about what’s best.”

 

Clark nodded solemnly and went back to scouring the cages. Draco glanced quickly up and down the aisle before putting a hand on Harry’s waist and leaning in to kiss him briefly. 

 

“I’m sorry everything’s been shit, love,” he said quietly. 

 

Harry knocked their foreheads together gently, kissing Draco again. “Not everything,” he replied. They stood for a minute, unmoving in each other's space. 

 

“Oh my God!” Clark hissed, for the millionth time, interrupting the momentary serenity, “Harry, I’ve found him.”

 

Harry  gave Draco an amused look and Draco's eyes rolled skyward in exasperation. Together the rounded the corner to find Clark gazing up at a tawny barn owl with a black ringed face. 

 

“Look at him,” Clark insisted, “It’s Hiram! In owl form!”

 

Harry had to admit that the acutely anxious expression on the owl’s heart shaped face certainly did remind him of the young Slytherin. 

 

“He’s perfect,” Clark gaped, “Oh my God. Do you think Hiram would be mad if I got an owl that looked like him and then named it Hiram?”

 

Harry chuckled, “Do you want to go through the next seven years having to differentiate between ‘bird Hiram’ and ‘wizard Hiram’?”

 

“Might be worth it,” Clark pondered. 

 

“If it wouldn’t hurt his feelings,” Harry said. 

 

“Do you think it would?”

 

“He’s your friend,” Harry reminded him. 

 

Clark sighed, “You might be right. Well, I am still going to get him, but I’ll have to think more about what to call him.”

 

Clark picked up the cage and carried it to the front counter. Harry wandered the aisles while the boy peppered the employee with questions. Draco followed along behind to pay.

 

In the far corner of the shop, Harry caught sight of an unusually large cage. He stepped closer. A soft hoot went up as a gigantic grey owl cowered into the top corner. 

 

“Hullo there,” Harry said to the owl, who turned its head halfway around and sunk into its collar of feathers, “Bit shy are we?”

 

Harry looked at the tag fastened to the bars: “Great Grey Owl. Female. 5 galleons.”

 

It was a dreadfully low rate for an owl; Harry wondered what was wrong with her. 

 

“I see you’ve met our teakettler,” a witch emerging from a back room said by way of greeting. 

 

“Your what?” Harry asked.

 

The young woman laughed, “Oh that’s just what we call her on account of her being so timid, but always enthusiastic about tea time. Loves her nibbles, this one.”

 

“Why’s she so discounted?” 

 

“Costs a fortune to feed, and frankly, I’m not convinced she’ll ever deliver post. Afraid of her own shadow, some days.”

 

Malfoy and Clark appeared on Harry’s other side. 

 

“Let me guess, Potter,” Draco said, shaking his head, but giving Harry a soft smile, “another stray for your collection?”

Chapter Text

Clark had accidentally startled the portrait of Walburga Black when they’d returned back to Number 12. 

 

“Filthy mudblood spawn!” she’d shrieked, “Leave this house, you don’t belong!” Her tirade had left Clark in tears and he'd retreated to his bedroom. Harry suspected he was more tired than anything. It had been a long day. 

 

All the upset upon arrival also seemed to traumatise Harry's massive owl. He'd released her from her cage and she was now gawking at him with pitiful yellow eyes from her hiding place in the exposed beams of the sitting room.

 

“Sorry,” he told her from the sofa where he’d collapsed, but she didn’t respond other than to ruffle her feathers and sink her head part way into her body. 

 

Draco entered the sitting room with a huff, “Well, there’s no talking to him. I, apparently, will never understand because I’m, and I quote, ‘a great rich tosser who was born into this stupid fucking magical world and reek of privilege’ end quote.”

 

Harry cracked a smile, “Poor kid.”

 

Draco sank into the sofa beside Harry, then stretched out, his head in Harry’s lap and his ankles crossed up on the armrest. 

 

“Poor kid? Poor me. That was a completely unnecessary and unprovoked attack,” Draco whinged haughtily.

 

“And you know his lashing out has nothing at all to do with you,” Harry prompted.

 

“And everything to do with his mother and brother and the uncertainty, et cetera. Yes, Potter, I’m aware.”

 

“And now he’s going to feel like rubbish for mouthing off to you as well.” Harry dropped his head back onto the sofa, carding his fingers through Draco’s hair. 

 

“I eagerly await his contrition. Merlin, what is that owl doing?” 

 

“I think we scared her.”

 

“You do know I was planning on spoiling you with the most sophisticated bird money could buy. It was supposed to be your Christmas gift,” Draco complained.

 

“She’s a wonderful gift, love, I’m very happy with her.”

 

“Merlin, Potter, we are going to have to do something about your standards.”

 

Smiling to himself, Harry sought out Draco’s hand and he linked their fingers, resting them on the other boy’s chest, his other hand still stroking the sleek blond hair.

 

“Thank you for today,” he said, ‘It meant a lot to me, and to Clark.”

 

Draco harumphed lightly, leaning into Harry’s touch. “I must love you an obscene amount to be going along with this outrageous scheme of yours.”

 

“Yes,” agreed Harry, “you must.”

 

***

 

That was how Clark found them an hour later, when he emerged from his room. Draco was now absorbed in the muggle newspaper Clark subscribed to, and Harry was simply resting his eyes, fingers still sliding along Draco’s scalp meditatively. 

 

Draco gave the newspaper a crisp snap, folding it. 

 

“Feeling better, Tiering?” He said, without sitting up. Harry couldn’t help but summon to mind Alexander the Great, sprawled out on a divan, surveying his troops. 

 

Clark couldn’t maintain eye contact, he looked instead at his socked feet, scrunching and unscrunching his toes in the faded olive rug. 

 

“I’m sorry for acting out,” he murmured, “especially after you’ve been so generous all day. I don’t know why I got so mad about that painting, but I shouldn’t have let it make me act all ungrateful. Thank you for the lovely coats and the new quills, and the haircut, and my owl, I love him.”

 

Clark was blushing miserably and his voice sounded like he was close to tears again. 

 

At last, Draco swung his feet around, placing them on the floor, and stood up. He strode across the room to Tiering, placing both his hands on the boy's shoulders. Clark flinched and looked up at him. 

 

“Apology accepted,” Draco said, “thank you. It was very big of you to recognise all that. It has been a challenging day, and things are difficult right now. No one is expecting you not to have feelings about it, understood?”

 

Clark nodded. Draco raised a hand to the boy’s jaw, ran a thumb over his cheek in a gesture so tender Harry thought his chest might crack right open. 

 

 “And Clark, it is my pleasure to get you things you need. I don’t want you to worry about that. I don’t expect endless gratitude in return. I like knowing you’re taken care of, hm?”

 

Clark threw his arms around Draco’s waist, pressing his face into his chest. 

 

This time, Draco didn’t need instructions on hugging the boy back. 

 

***

 

“What are you going to call your owl, Harry?” Clark asked over dinner. A good cry and some food seemed to have perked him up. The owl in question was perched atop an ancient china cabinet in the dinner room, staring at the three of them with twitchy concern. 

 

“Constance,” Harry said and Malfoy snorted. 

 

“Going for a bit of irony?”

 

Harry grinned ruefully, “Motivational naming. I think she’ll come round. How about you, Clark, have you settled on a name?”

 

“I’m not sure yet. I’ve just been calling him Bird Hiram and I’m worried it’s sticking.”

 

Harry chuckled, “Well, plenty of time to come up with something else.”

 

“Suppose so. Pass me the potatoes would you?” Clark asked. 

 

“Manners, Tiering,” Draco warned. 

 

Clark scoffed, “Bit rich coming from you. All you do is order Harry around and I don’t think I’ve ever heard you once say please. Get the tea, Potter. Get the door, Potter. Carry my bag, Potter.”

 

“It doesn’t bother me,” Harry shrugged, passing the potatoes. 

 

“See?” Clark motioned at Harry with his fork, “Harry doesn’t care. And if you don’t do it, why should I?”

 

“Because,” Draco countered, “I know I’m not going to take advantage of Harry’s good nature.”

 

“And you think I am?” Clark protested, “That’s hardly fair!”

 

“Fine,” decided Malfoy, “We’ll both work on our manners.” 

 

“Fine,” agreed Clark. 

 

“Harry, love,” Draco said sweetly,  "would you be so kind as to please pass the salt?”

 

*****

 

“Clothes off, Potter,” Draco demanded, once they were alone in their room.

 

“What’s happened to your charming manners?” Harry raised an eyebrow. 

 

“Those are for Clark’s benefit only, and he isn’t here right now, thank the stars.”

 

Harry laughed, and began undressing, “I hope you’ve set some wards.”

 

“A proximity ward and your silencing charm. We’ll hear him if he needs us, he won’t hear us. And now, I’m placing a moratorium on any and all Tiering-related content because we’re finally alone and I’ve been waiting actual weeks for you to fuck me and I don’t intend on waiting any longer.”

 

Harry bit his lip, “You’re sure?”

 

“I am sure, I’ve been sure, I’m prepped and I’m absolutely fucking gagging for it, Potter, so for Merlin’s sake, please turn off your lovely, considerate brain and turn on your devastating brutish one.”

 

“You are such a bossy git,” Harry laughed, wrapping a hand around the back of Malfoy’s neck and drawing him in for a kiss. Draco kissed back with a furtive energy and Harry realised that the other boy was nervous. Good, Harry thought, because he was nervous, too. Somehow he knew it would be easier for Draco if he pretended not to be. He grabbed a rough handful of Malfoy’s arse, kissing him harder and pressing into him. Draco practically purred against him, as predicted, he knew how much the slighter boy liked being man-handled. He gave Draco a shove, not so much hard as unexpected and the blond tripped backwards, falling on the bed. Harry was on him in an instant like a predator, teeth against his neck. 

 

“You say you want to be fucked, sweetheart, and yet you’re still wearing all these clothes.” He didn’t wait for a response, just started in on Draco’s clothes, yanking at buttons and sleeves and pants until he had him sprawled naked on the bedspread. “Better,” Harry observed, again trapping the pale body under his and reclaiming his mouth. It wasn’t long before they were both hard, rutting against each other. 

 

“Come on, Harry,” Draco whispered, hitching his legs up around Harry’s waist, “I want to do it. Please.”

 

Harry ran a hand down along the back of Draco’s thigh, over the swell of his arse, along the cleft. He cast a wandless Inlitus, feeling the warm oil coat his fingers. Kissing Draco again, he eased a finger forward. Draco nodded fervently against his lips, and Harry experimented, pushing deeper. 

 

“More,” insisted Draco, “need more.”

 

Harry obliged, adding another finger. 

 

“Curl them forward a little,” Draco instructed, and Harry did and it was remarkable. Draco’s head fell back with a cry, neck exposed, pelvis rocking upwards. 

 

“Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, yes, Merlin, Harry, please.”

 

Harry toyed with the spot, watching mesmerised as Draco keened in pleasure. 

 

“Want you,” Draco breathed, “Want you to fuck me.”

 

Harry withdrew and Draco whimpered.

 

“On your knees,” Harry demanded, “head down.” Draco raced to comply, his pert arse jutted upwards. Harry gave it a smart smack. “You want to be fucked?” asked. 

 

Draco nodded into the bedspread. 

 

“Show me,” 

 

“I...what?” 

 

“If you need to be fucked so badly, show me where.”

 

“Oh fuck,” Draco said, catching his meaning.

 

“Hurry up,” Harry ordered with another smack and Draco reached back with trembling hands, spreading himself. Merlin, Harry exhaled, it was so breathtakingly obscene. 

 

“You desperate for it?” Harry asked. 

 

“Yes,” whimpered Malfoy, rolling his hips. 

 

“Ask.”

 

“Please.”

 

Another smack, “You can do better.”

 

“Please, Harry, please fuck me, I fucking need it, alright? Please.”

 

Harry fucked into him with his fingers again, Malfoy gasped and ground back against him. 

 

“Maybe fingers are enough,” Harry mused, cruelly, “I bet I could bring you off just like this.”

 

“No,” Draco wailed, gripping the bedspread, “It’s not enough, I need you, Harry, please!”

 

“Oh, I think it’s enough if I say it’s enough. Let go of your arse, grab your cock. Spread your legs, let me see." 

 

Malfoy shifted his knees apart, wrapping his hand around himself. Harry found that spot within him again and Malfoy yelped. 

 

“Oh fuck,” Draco hissed, “Harry, I can’t, I’ll come, please.”

 

“Come,” Harry ordered. 

 

“But I want—”

 

“Not a discussion. Come. Now.”

 

Draco arched and climaxed, spilling over his hands and the bed cover, Harry’s fingers still moving and pressing inside him. 

 

Harry cast a wandless Scourgify and then pressed Malfoy down into the bed rolling him onto his side and curling around him. He was so hard it hurt. The anticipation was blisteringly intense. 

 

“I wanted to come with you inside me,” muttered Draco peevishly. Harry nipped at his ear, a hand coming to Draco’s throat.  

 

“Want to try that again?”

 

“Thank you,” Draco amended.

 

“Do you know how much I like that?” Harry asked, pressing the evidence against Draco’s arse, “When you give me what I want just because I tell you to?”

 

“No,” murmured Draco, wriggling back against Harry.

 

“So much, babe,” Harry promised him, squeezing his neck, kissing his shoulders, “Sometimes I want your orgasms all to myself. I think about not even letting you get yourself off. Making you entirely dependent on me for your pleasure.” Draco shuddered against him. 

 

“Yeah?” he whispered. 

 

“Mmhm.”

 

“Why don’t you then?” 

 

Harry ran his knuckles along Draco’s low belly, along his semi soft cock. 

 

“Think of it. Waking up early. Hard with plenty of time for a wank, but you can’t. You’re not allowed; you need permission. Maybe if I had my way, you wouldn’t even be able to touch without asking. No release, no working yourself up, nothing without my say so.”

 

“Fuck, Harry,” murmured the blond, his voice catching. 

 

Harry ran a fingertip along the border of Draco’s hole, “Is it sensitive?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“A little sore?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Harry took Draco’s cock in his hand, squeezing it, feeling it come to life anew beneath his touch. “Do you think that’s going to stop me from fucking you?”

 

“No,” Draco breathed, sounding absolutely wrecked.

 

“Such a smart boy,” Harry acknowledged, “My brilliant boy.”

 

He entered him then, and Draco moaned a harsh, ragged noise. 

 

Draco felt impossibly warm, slick and tight around him. Harry stilled and bit into the pale shoulder before him, willing himself to hold on a little while longer. 

 

“Fucking hell, sweetheart,” Harry spoke the words against Draco’s skin, “You’re fucking perfect, you know that?”

 

Draco was taking deep breaths, and Harry thought it might be veering towards too much. He stroked down Draco’s arm, over his flank. 

 

“It’s alright,” he said, “Do you need a minute? ”

 

“No!” Draco insisted, “Stay, please, stay. It’s good, it’s really good. Just. Big. Intense.”

 

Harry kissed shushing noises to Draco’s neck, stroking his cock slowly.

 

Harry re-positioned slightly and Draco gave a sharp inhale. 

 

“Again,” the blond demanded. 

 

Harry gave an experimental thrust at that same angle. 

 

“More.”

 

“I’m not going to last,” Harry told him. 

 

“I don’t want you to last.” Draco assured him, “I just want you to fuck me.”

 

Harry growled, rolling Draco over onto his belly, still thrusting into him, harder now, hand on Malfoy’s cock. Merlin, it was so inconceivably good, the pressure and the heat of it, Draco’s short, staccato breaths rising up out of him like yearning. 

 

Draco batted Harry’s hand away, took himself in hand, “I’m fucking close, Harry, please. Want to come with you, fuck—”

 

That was all it took before Harry went crashing over the precipice, coming hard and clinging to Draco, who came again himself with a cry, turning his head, needing to be kissed. Harry obliged, realizing he would always oblige, because Draco was his or maybe he was Draco's or most likely they belonged to each other. And then their hungry mouths met, and it was everything. 

Chapter Text

“Kreacher, you can’t keep doing this,” Harry hissed, waking up in very much the same configuration as the day before.

 

“Many apologies, Master,” Kreacher said, bowing deeply so that he disappeared from Harry's line of vision and then bobbed back up, “but Master has visitors.”

 

“Who?” Harry demanded over Malfoy's sleeping body.

 

“Mr. Weasley and Ms. Granger.”

 

“Shit, er, alright. Can you tell them we’ll be down shortly, please?”

 

“As Master wishes.”

 

Another bow and Kreacher was gone. 

 

***

 

“What’s happened?” Harry asked, as he and Draco met with Hermione and Ron in the sitting room. They’d arrived by floo and Kreacher had already set them up with tea. Clark was evidently still asleep.

 

“It’s not terrible,” Hermione assured him, but it does require a bit of mitigation.” She held out a copy of The Daily Prophet. 

 

An Unlikely Friendship: Harry Potter Spends Day with Former Death Eater.

 

Harry rolled his eyes so hard it physically hurt, but read on.

 

Harry Potter enjoyed his first day of holidays shopping in Diagon Alley. His companions for the day were an unlikely duo: a young boy (identity as of yet unknown), and former Death Eater, Draco Malfoy. Malfoy recently made news for his intervention of an attack on students at Hogwarts. The three visited several shops, including Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, Flourish and Blotts, and Eeylops Owl Emporium. They also enjoyed a leisurely lunch at The Cork and Kraken.

 

“Potter and Malfoy are great friends,” confided eighth year Hogwarts student Megan Jones, “they are together practically all the time! I think us all coaching quidditch has really brought us all a lot closer! If I’m being totally honest, however, I’ve always thought Draco Malfoy was really rather rude, and then with all that Death Eater stuff, well, I really can’t think why Harry enjoys his company so much.”

 

The question remains, Draco Malfoy: reformed or scheming? All we can do is hope Potter is entering this friendship with eyes wide open and a healthy dash of skepticism. 

 

Harry sank into the couch, rubbing a hand over his morning stubble, “Fucking hell, don’t these people have lives? How is this even news?” He passed the paper to Draco. “And don’t get me started on Jones, that insufferable, big-mouthed Hufflepuff.”

 

“At least they didn’t see anything untoward,” Draco said, looking up from the article. 

 

“Even if they did, it’s no one’s fucking business. Haven’t I a right to privacy like anyone else?”

 

“You should, but you don’t, Harry,” Hermione said, softly. 

 

“I can’t believe I didn’t notice some reporter just following us around. And the post, it is going to be out of control.”

 

“I doubt whoever it was actually followed you into the shops. They probably watched at a safe distance. Is your post still going to Hogsmeade?” Hermione asked. Harry nodded. “Perhaps you should have it rerouted. We will need to be on higher alert for threats. Though those will also likely be coming straight to you, Draco.”

 

Malfoy nodded glumly, “No surprises, we knew that was a possibility.”

 

“Am I expected to...comment on this?” Harry asked, bewildered, “Or is silence the best policy in this case?”

 

“If you two are ever going to be out fully, we’ve got to start somewhere,” Hermione considered, “So, in view of that, I’ve drafted something up,” she handed him a roll of parchment. 

 

“Of course you have,” Harry said, awestruck, “Hermione, where would any of us be without you?”

 

He unfurled the parchment to find a letter to the editor in Hermione’s neat script. Draco read along over his shoulder. 

 

Dear Mr. Cuffe,

 

Several weeks ago, Draco Malfoy approached me regarding his and his mother’s wishes to establish a charitable fund for low-income and orphaned witches and wizards. Their plan was to establish a fund which would provide tuition and supplies for underprivileged students, and they granted a more than generous initial sum. In exchange, the Malfoys requested that I keep their identities anonymous, which I was more than happy to do. 

 

Yesterday, after much organizing, I was at last able to access the fund and provide galleons and supplies to the charity’s first beneficiary. To protect his privacy, I will not name the student in question, but suffice to say, he was very pleased. I wanted Mr. Malfoy to glimpse the joy he was bringing to the student and as such, I invited him to spend the day shopping with us, as my friend, with the student none the wiser about the true source of his funding. 

 

Following your paper’s report of my spending the day with Draco Malfoy, and the aspersions cast by such an article, the Malfoys have allowed me, with great reticence, to expose their identities and publicly acknowledge the fund.

 

I know that the war has caused a great many scars, some that feel like they shall never heal. I ask each of us to look instead to a forward path, where cooperation and hope may serve as a balm for our grief. I should like to take this opportunity to request and encourage others touched by the war to donate to what I believe is a truly valuable cause, serving the needs of magical children from all walks of life.

 

Donations and requests for funding may be submitted via the organization’s secretary, Ms. Hermione Granger. 

 

Regards,

 

Harry Potter

 

“Are you absolutely certain you’re a Gryffindor?” Draco asked Hermione, giving her an incredulous look. 

 

Hermione blushed. “I intend for you and your mother to make good on this,” she insisted. 

 

“Obviously,” Draco agreed, “I’ll floo home and instruct Mother to open an account for you today. What were you thinking? Fifty thousand? Seventy-five? I’m sure she can free up more with a bit of time”

 

Hermione blinked a few times, “I’m sure whatever your mother feels inclined to give will suffice.”

 

Draco chuckled, “Might have to work on your bargaining skills, there, Granger.”

 

“Hermione, this…” Harry sighed, “It’s brilliant, obviously, you’re brilliant. A couple of things, though, one, are you sure you want to just take on an entire charitable enterprise like this?”

 

“Oh, I expect you three to contribute to the work significantly,” Hermione assured him. 

 

“Of course,” Harry said, “but I don’t want you overrun with N.E.W.T.s coming.”

 

“I appreciate that, Harry, but I suspect I can also rally the faculty to help determine which students are in need. And you'll now have to go on a lot of ceremonial shopping trips to keep our cover, but I will be sure not to get in over my head. What’s the second thing?”

 

“Clark,” Harry said, “I don’t want him to feel used, and I don’t want him to think everyone else thinks he’s a charity case.”

 

“Everyone already knows I’m a charity case, Harry,” Clark yawned, padding into the sitting room in a pair of Harry’s old pajamas. “What’s all this about? Is there tea?”

 

As if on cue, Kreacher pushed in a rickety old trolley taller than he was. Harry was not even aware that particular piece of furniture existed. It was steeped high with tea and breakfast goods. 

 

“What’s got you in such a helpful mood?” Ron asked the elf, flabbergasted. 

 

Kreacher ignored Ron in favour of serving Malfoy. He dropped great thick strips of bacon onto a plate, along with a mountain of eggs and generously butter toast. 

 

“I think,” Harry realised, “that Kreacher is happy to have a Black heir in the house again.” 

 

“I was wondering why it is your house but his name’s on the family tree in the drawing room,” Clark said thoughtfully, “But can we go back to the bit about me being used, because I feel like that’s something I should know about.”

 

“Eat your breakfast,” Draco instructed, “and then we’ll discuss it.”

 

As Kreacher wheeled the cart out, Constance swooped in with a series of low, urgent hoots. She careened directly towards Harry's breakfast tray.

 

"Oi!" Harry shouted, shifting his tray to the side. Ron and Hermione startled at the sight of the large bird. 

 

Constance stole a full two strips of bacon before Harry was able to nudge her off. As quickly as she appeared, she soared away, her unwieldy wing clipping an ugly brown vase. It teetered and fell, shattering on the floor. 

 

"What was that thing?" Ron asked, as Hermione cast a quick Reparo.  

 

"Ah, Constance. Draco got me a new owl," Harry explained. 

 

"He chose it," Draco insisted, not wanting the purchase to be a reflection on him. 

 

"She's gigantic!" Ron said, "More like an albatross than an owl!"

 

"And she ate half your breakfast," Hermione observed. 

 

"She's still, er, adjusting," Harry said, "I'm sure we'll get used to each other soon."

 

***

 

After the meal, Draco took the floo to The Manor to discuss the charity idea with his mother, while Hermione, Ron and Harry explained the situation and the proposed solution in full to Clark. The boy listened, his feet curled up on the brocade chair, eyebrows furrowed. 

 

“If all this makes you at all uncomfortable, Clark, we won’t do it,” Harry assured him, “We’ll come up with something else, it’s not a problem, I mean that.”

 

“I don’t mind, exactly,” Clark said, handing the letter and the Prophet back over, “I guess I just don’t understand. Why can’t you just tell the truth? Rip off the plaster?”

 

“We have to convince people that Draco’s reformed,” Harry said, “And unfortunately until people are willing to believe that, they won’t accept us.”

 

“But Malfoy, he's not bad,” Clark said, “I mean he can be bossy and a bit stuck up, but he’s good at teaching, and he’s smart, and generous, and he’s really nice to you and even to me, mostly. I could tell the newspaper people that, if you wanted?”

 

“He’s all of those things,” Harry agreed, “but unfortunately, he’s also been a bully, and he’s been cruel. People got hurt, people died. Not at his hands, maybe, but he was there, he didn’t stop it.”

 

“Oh, and all them are just so good at standing up to bullies, like it’s easy as that?" Clark questioned, "Especially if that bully has a gun? Or a wand or whatever? Because it’s not. There were loads of times at my old school where I probably should have said something, you know, when some poor kid was getting shoved around, but I didn’t, just because I didn’t want the arseholes hassling me, instead. And I feel shitty about it now, and I like to think I would stick up for them now, too. I mean, I would definitely stick up for Hiram if he needed it, but then I was too scared."

 

Clark was chewing on his lip pensively, his unstyled hair flopped over to one side. "And, like, another thing?" He burst out, "When I was little I stuck a jelly bean up my nose. And learned the hard way that that was a bad idea. So, I didn't do it again.  Like doesn't anyone get that people change, people grow up? Isn't that sort of what happened with Draco?”

 

“I think the real problem here is that you are smarter than nine tenths of the general public,” Hermione permitted, “I agree, I don’t think right and wrong are so easily executed in the moment, and I think Draco has changed. But they don’t all get to have occlumency lessons or lunches or days watching quidditch with him. So we have to find other ways to convince them he’s trying.

 

“The stakes here,” Hermione continued, “might not feel terribly high, but I suspect they are. People are protective of Harry. They see him as theirs. No one else gets the minor details of social life smeared across the front pages of The Daily Prophet, not even quidditch stars or music icons. I think it is very possible that if we expose Draco as Harry’s boyfriend too early, it could get ugly, violent even, and that is what I am trying to prevent. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that attempts could be made on Draco's life.”

 

“Alright,” Clark said, simply. “Like I said, everyone already knows I’m a charity case, anyway, it doesn’t bother me. And it doesn’t make me feel used. More like I’m part of a secret mission, really.”

 

“That’s the spirit,” Ron beamed at the boy.

 

The fire turned green and Draco stepped out. He never sputtered or pitched forward like Harry always seemed to at the end of a floo journey. He passed Hermione a large Gringott’s key.

 

“Madam Secretary,” he said. 

Chapter Text

“How did your parents take it?” Harry asked Ron, as he sat transcribing Hermione’s letter. She had left for Hogsmeade to sort out Harry’s post, and Draco had taken Clark to the Manor to do some enforced flying, since the boy had complained about being bored one time too many. 

 

“I don’t think it was entirely a surprise,” Ron replied, “Malfoy comes up often enough in conversation just because we are around him more lately. And when Mum expressed doubt over the saving-the-first-years thing, we convinced her of the truth. I can’t say she is thrilled about it, but she’s not about to disown you, either.”

 

Harry sighed, putting down his quill and rubbing his eyes beneath the lenses of his glasses. 

 

“I know I have to tell them,” he acknowledged, “but honestly, I’m fucking terrified.”

 

“Hey,” Ron reminded him, “you’re family, mate.”

 

“Some family I am. Fucking hell, how am I supposed to face George? Might as well just slap him in the face directly.”

 

Ron chuckled darkly, “Is it my turn to convince you that Malfoy’s changed?”

 

“No, no, I know he has,” Harry said tiredly. 

 

“He has, and even if they’re miffed, I know they want you to be happy; you really do deserve some happiness, after everything. They’ll come around. Oh, and Hermione thinks we should all meet at the pub tonight. Neville and Ginny are game, and Pansy, Greg, and Daphne.”

 

“I can’t just leave Clark,” Harry protested. 

 

“We’re adults now,” Ron reminded him, “we can accompany him.”

 

“Merlin, that’s surreal.” 

 

***

 

The afternoon was not a pleasant one. It was spent sorting through mail and what felt like an endless stream of howlers. Clark was barred entry to the sitting room because Harry didn’t want some terrible curse to explode out of an envelope and injure him. 

 

“It’s the vow,” Harry told him, “It’s not that I don’t trust you not to do something stupid. I just promised to protect you and this feels like potential danger.”

 

“It’s just trolls,” Clark had yelled from the doorway, over the screech of the latest howler which was ordering Draco to “leave poor Harry alone.” Ron set it ablaze—his aim for the flapping, yapping scrolls was getting quite excellent.  

 

They all looked at Clark blankly. 

 

“Have none of you used the Internet?” He inquired.

 

“Sorry, mate” Ron shrugged. 

 

“Useless,” he’d announced, stomping off to his bedroom to complain to a sympathetic Bird Hiram. 

 

Harry watched in concern as Draco’s face became more pinched and withdrawn as the hours marched on. The howlers had finally slowed to a trickle, but they’d taken an obvious toll. They had only caught the first few lines before Ron turned them to ash, but the first few lines were horrible enough. Draco has been called despicable things, accused of worse: manipulator, monster, murderer. 

 

“Come help me with tea,” Harry instructed, and he asked for Draco’s help so rarely that the blond came along without argument, leaving Ron and Hermione to the last of the post.

 

Harry put the kettle on to boil and then stepped in close, trapping Malfoy against a counter. He took Draco’s face in his hands and kissed him. It was slow and sure. He pulled back. Draco was looking down, a section of silver blond hair falling over his face. Harry swept it back. 

 

“You’d better not be thinking anything stupid,” Harry told him, “like that I’d be better off without you, or it would be easier for me if you were just to walk away.”

 

Draco gave a dry, humourless laugh, sliding his hands under the edge of Harry’s tee to rest on the warm skin of his hips. 

 

“Hardly,” Draco retorted, the familiar bite of his words somewhat muted, "I’m thinking that’s what I should be thinking. That’s what a wholesome, noble Gryffindor-type would be thinking. But I'm neither wholesome nor noble. No, Potter, I’m far too selfish to ever give you up.”

 

“Good,” Harry affirmed, “Today is just the first day of the storm. With any luck the letter I sent will be published tomorrow. There will be another flood of letters, but some will be in our favour. It will peter out, or at least slow down. We’ll never win over everyone, but I have hope we will win over enough people for it not to matter. Either way, I love you. I’m in this.” He kissed Draco again, and this time the other boy kissed back fully, lips parting, allowing Harry close. Harry held the fine lines of Draco’s jaw, tongue sliding between those lovely lips. Malfoy leveraged himself onto the counter without breaking the kiss. He looped his arms around Harry’s neck, knees falling open. Harry crowded in, an arm sliding to Draco’s arse, pushing their bodies flush against each other. 

 

Someone cleared their throat. 

 

Harry broke away from Draco and turned to find Ron, flame-red and shifting uncomfortably in the doorway. 

 

“Er, sorry to interrupt,” he said, “but a woman’s floo calling you.”

 

“Right,” said Harry, his own blush rising to match Ron’s. 

 

Draco didn’t bother looking ashamed, likely because he wasn’t. Harry loved him for it. 

 

The kettle whistled. 

 

***

 

The social services witch, Ms. Provencal, or, more accurately, her head, bobbed in the green flames of the sitting room. 

 

“Hullo,” Harry greeted her, then awkwardly introduced Ron, Hermione, and Draco, since he thought he should. The other three then departed for the drawing room, leaving Harry alone with the witch.

 

“Right, well, I'll get to the point,” Ms. Provencal said, “I have fairly good news. Our muggle liaisons have located Clark’s mother. She admitted herself to a muggle hospital not too long ago, and surrendered her younger son to temporary foster care. She was having a paranoid episode, and should be released some time tomorrow. We will do a brief assessment to ensure she is stable, but we expect Clark should be able to return home for the holidays.”

 

Harry exhaled, thrilled the situation wasn’t more dire. 

 

“That’s excellent,” he said, “I know Clark will be so relieved to hear that. Thanks for contacting me, and for sorting it out so quickly.”

 

“You’re very welcome,” she said. She scanned his face thoughtfully for a long moment, the green flames flickering and dancing around her wispy hair, “This was a very generous thing you did, Mr. Potter. I wish more of the children I see had people like you in their lives.”

 

***

 

Harry knocked at Clark’s door. Hermione and Ron had left for The Burrow, promising to see him and Draco that night at the pub. Kreacher was cooking what smelled like a rather heavenly roast. Harry thought he might just have to have Draco come round more often, if this was the treatment he was going to receive. 

 

Clark was stretched out on his belly, ankles crossed in the air, a massive tome resting on his pillow. One hand was under his chin and the other was knuckling Bird Hiram’s neck affectionately. 

 

“What have you got there?” Harry asked, sitting beside Clark on the bed and motioning to the book. 

 

“Racist rubbish,” Clark said, “The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black: A Family History. Toujours pur? Are you fucking kidding me? This is some eugenics shit.”

 

Harry winced, “Yeah, my godfather didn’t think much of all that bigotry either.”

 

“Which one’s he?” 

 

“Sirius,” Harry said, “but he’s been expunged from the tree, I doubt he’s in there.”

 

Clark flipped to the table of contents, running a finger down the column, then flipped to the back of the book. 

 

“They must have forgotten about this book. He’s one of the last entries, him and Regulus,” Clark said the unusual name slowly. “Here, is this him? Your godfather, I mean?”

 

Harry was shocked to be confronted with two pages of photos.  The first showed a stern and beautiful Walburga holding a squalling, dark-haired infant wriggling in her arms. Next to it was a portrait of a young Sirius, maybe seven or eight, a defiant tilt to his chin, wavy hair gelled into place. He was wearing plaid trousers and balling his fists, eyes flickering from side to side, as if to determine if he could make a break for it. On the page opposite was Sirius in his Hogwarts robes, a smirk on his face. Below, the portrait description read, “Sirius Black, Christmas holidays, 1971. Orion and Walburga’s son was the first Black to have been sorted into the Gryffindor House at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

 

It was not the man Harry had known, but certain features were familiar. The jut of the head, the intensity of the gaze. Grief filled Harry’s throat as thick as bile. 

 

“He was going to take me in,” Harry said softly, “if only for a few summers. Let me have something like a childhood. But, ah...It didn’t work out.”

 

Clark sat up, his mouth twisting. “I’m sorry, Harry,” he said solemnly, “I shouldn’t have shown you these.”

 

“No, no, not at all,” Harry corrected, “These are incredible, really. Thank you.”

 

He swallowed hard, blinking back tears. 

 

“I’ve news,” he smiled, once he felt he could speak without his voice breaking. “Your mum, she’s okay.”

 

Clark’s lips parted in surprise and his eyebrows shot up towards his orange spikes, “Yeah?”

 

“Yes,” Harry reaffirmed, explaining what he’d learned from Ms. Provencal. 

 

“She did the right thing,” Clark said, but he looked unbearably sad, “For Jared and for her. Just wish she’d not forgotten about me in the process. Guess she knew I'd sort myself out.”

 

Harry dropped an arm around Clark’s shoulders and gave him a sideways squeeze. 

 

“You’re such a caring, considerate and generous kid,” Harry told him, “I mean that.”

 

Clark shrugged, “I can either resent her or I can forgive her. She usually is doing her best, I think. I just wish I knew this would be the last time, but it never is. It’s a cycle and it goes and goes.”

 

“You have a home here, Clark,” Harry found himself saying, “You and your brother. Anytime you need it. I know your mum loves you and I’m positive she wants to have you both with her, but when she can’t, we’re here. Draco and me.”

 

“Malfoy know you’re promising he'll take custody of a five-year old a couple of times a year?”

 

Harry laughed and kissed the shorn side of Clark’s head, “He’ll adjust.”

 

“Yeah,” Clark agreed, “pretty sure he’d do any damn thing you wanted.”

Chapter Text

The morning was a flurry of activity: breakfast and Hermione popping over to give Harry a copy of The Prophet. Harry’s letter was printed in full  below the ridiculous headline Potter Puts Malfoy Money Where his Mouth Is. 

 

A note from the editor followed the text, remarking on Harry's courage and philanthropy. It barely made mention of the Malfoys at all, as if the charity had been entirely Harry's idea. To be fair, he supposed, it was actually Hermione's, and she wasn't exactly getting any credit, either.

 

"Well, not quite what we hoped for," Harry said, "but at least it didn't condemn them entirely."

 

"It's promising," Hermione agreed, "and I'm sure we were all spotted last night, having a lovely time. They won't want to outright scorn him if so many of us who were in the actual fray are accepting of him."

 

"I feel...manipulative," Harry sighed, "I don't fancy us having to concoct story after story like this."

 

"They've forced your hand. If they'd treat you with decency and allow you your privacy, you wouldn't have to do this song and dance. But they don't, so you do. Hopefully just in the short term, though, Harry. They'll surely find juicier gossip on someone else at some point."

 

“Tiering,” Draco called out from the hall, knocking on Clark’s door, “Are you packed?”

 

“It's not as though I unpacked,” Clark grumbled, coming out into the hall, “It wasn’t exactly a long stay. Oh, hi Hermione, did it work? The plan?”

 

“Yes, I think so,” Hermione answered, waving. 

 

“Who dares pollute the immaculate halls of my ancestral home!” screeched Walburga, making them all jump.

 

Constance screeched loudly and soared down the hall into Harry and Draco’s room. 

 

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Harry cried out. 

 

“HALF-BLOODS! MUDBLOODS! BESMIRCHING MY GOOD HOUSE!”

 

“Shut it, Walburga,” Harry grumbled. “Come on, let’s go call a cab. Thanks for coming by Hermione, I owe you, truly.”

 

Hermione kissed his cheek and hopped in the floo, "Happy Christmas, Clark!" she called out.

 

“MY OWN GREAT NEPHEW A CATAMITE BLOOD TRAITOR!”

 

“What's a catamite?” Clark asked, then blushed, "Oh, wait, nevermind. Got it."

 

"Hrm," Draco muttered, firing a freezing hex at the portrait. It had no effect.

 

***

 

“What a fucking zoo,” Harry muttered as they waited for a cab. 

 

“Why aren’t we just using magic?” Clark demanded. 

 

“I’m not apparating you to a busy muggle street in broad daylight,” Harry signed, “And I don’t want to apparate straight into your sitting room and give your poor mother a heart attack.”

 

“Fine,” sighed Clark. 

 

“Do you have everything?” Harry demanded, “Do you have money?” 

 

“Malfoy already gave me more galleons than I could possibly spend,” Clark flushed, “Stop worrying.”

 

“But do you have pounds?”

 

“I’ll be fine, Harry, honestly.”

 

Harry shoved some notes into Clark’s pocket. “Cab fare,” he insisted, “for getting back to school. And so you can buy your brother a Christmas gift. And your mum—she’ll have lost work, might need help with groceries.”

 

Clark shook his head, as if irritated, but he didn’t reject it outright. 

 

“And you’ll let us know if you need anything?” Harry reiterated for what was probably the twentieth time that morning. 

 

“Yes,” Clark sighed, “I’ll let you know if I need anything.”

 

“I should have got you a mobile,” Harry muttered.

 

“I don’t need a mobile for two bloody weeks!” Clark retorted, “Besides, then you would have had to get a mobile as well. And they would be utterly useless once we got back to school. I’m going to be fine, Harry, I promise. Will you calm down, now, please?”

 

Before Harry could answer, the cab pulled up and Draco glared at it. He was hungover from the night at the pub, and not pleased with Harry's lack of hangover draughts. He was not thrilled about another car ride.  

 

“You don’t have to come with us, love,” Harry reminded him, but Draco just glared harder and Harry gave up, loading Clark’s trunk into the boot. 

 

Clark arranged his long limbs in the middle seat of the cab, Bird Hiram's cage on his lap, Harry and Draco flanking him. 

 

“Look out the window,” Harry instructed Draco, “it’ll help.”

 

***

 

Draco vomited in an alley beside Clark’s tenement. 

 

Harry was about to offer some sympathy, but Draco’s scowl made it clear that that would not be appreciated, so instead he busied himself with shrinking Clark’s trunk down to save them from having to lug it up three flights of stairs. 

 

“Let’s go.”

 

“I don't need chaperones,” Clark said. 

 

“You do if you want your trunk back to regular size,” Harry pointed out, “Besides, I’d like to make sure you get in okay. Just in case. If that’s alright.”

 

Clark shrugged his assent and they entered the building climbed the stairs, Draco trailing behind.

 

Clark knocked first, then used his key to enter. To Harry’s relief, the lights were on. 

 

“Clark, love, is that you?” The voice was familiar as Harry had heard it many times in the boy’s memories. 

 

Peering in from the doorway, Harry saw a tired-looking woman in jeans and a plain tee come into view. 

 

“Hey, Mum,” Clark said quietly, placing the birdcage by the door. 

 

“Oh, love,” she stepped forward and then Clark fell into her arms, hugging her tightly. She kissed his head, “I’m so sorry. I lost track of the days and I went off, and—”

 

“It’s okay, Mum, don’t worry about it. I’m just glad you’re alright.” He broke away from the embrace and motioned towards the other two. “These are my, er, these are some blokes I go to school with. This is Harry and that’s Draco. I’ve been staying at Harry’s in Islington the last couple of days. Um, this is my mum, Crystal.”

 

The woman stepped forward, her expression warm. She shook both their hands. 

 

“Thank you so much for looking out for Clark,” she said earnestly, “you must think I’m an awful mother–”

 

“Mum,” Clark warned. 

 

"Of course not," Harry assured her, "Everyone gets their wires crossed. I was more than happy to have him."

 

She gave them a nervous smile. She was younger than Harry realised, maybe just thirty, but with deep circles under her eyes. She wore her light brown hair in a high ponytail, strands of it falling out of place around her neck and ears. A little boy appeared in the hallway and, when he saw Clark, he ran towards him.

 

“Hello, Jer,” Clark murmured, scooping up the golden haired child and kissing him on his cheek. 

 

“Right,” said Harry “Oh, your trunk.”

 

Clark put his brother down, who went straight over to examine Bird Hiram, and took his trunk out of his new jacket pocket. 

 

Draco enlarged it for him, making Crystal Tiering start. 

 

Harry stood in the doorway uncomfortably for a moment. 

 

“For Merlin’s sake,” Draco said under his breath, stepping round Harry breezily and hugging Clark. 

 

“Send your owl if you need anything,” he instructed, “and we’ll see you in the new year.”

 

Clark hugged him back, then hugged Harry also. 

 

“Happy Christmas,” Harry said to Clark’s mum, and then they left, footfalls creaking against the old floors. 

 

“We’re going to the alley and apparating home,” Malfoy told him as they descended the stairs, “then I’m taking a nap. After that, I intend on doing nothing but eating, sleeping and shagging for two days solid, understood? There’s a reason I’m in no hurry to have children.”

 

***

 

Trial day arrived far sooner than Harry felt prepared for. 

 

He woke up as nervous as he had been before his first quidditch game ever, back when he'd been Clark's age. Draco had to all but force him to eat a couple strips of bacon and some toast. 

 

“You need fuel, Potter,” he reminded him, “Won’t be very impressive if you are too weak to stay astride your broom.”

 

Harry did as he was told and then suited up. 

 

“Your hair’s getting long,” Draco remarked, fussing with the fringe that fell over Harry’s forehead, “do you want me to pin it back?”

 

“Not as long as yours,” Harry responded. Draco’s now fell almost to his chin, with a neat side part and a voluminous, sleek sweep of hair which framed his face. Harry thought it looked quite smart, even though he was pretty sure Draco used something so it didn’t lie too flat. Draco had a lot of grooming tinctures and ointments that Harry didn't recognise, actually. He'd noticed them lining the sink in their shared bathroom. “And no, it’s fine, I...I don’t like feeling like I am advertising who I am.”

 

Malfoy studied him thoughtfully, “Everyone already knows who you are,” he said, “you shouldn’t feel like you have to hide your scar for other people's comfort.”

 

“I just always have,” Harry said, “Ever since I was a kid. My aunt hated the sight of it.”

 

Malfoy’s face flickered with disapproval, but he simply kissed him, first on the forehead and then on the mouth.

 

“You look very fit all geared up,” Draco observed, “I rather like the idea of you in blue and black. How are you feeling?”

 

“Like I’m going to be sick,” Harry confessed. 

 

“You won’t be,” Malfoy declared, “You’ll be brilliant. I’m terribly pleased for you, I hope you know that.”

 

“Yeah?” 

 

“Mm,” Draco confirmed, “My boyfriend: saviour, philanthropist, athlete. Desired by all, in my bed every night. I can live with that quite comfortably.”

 

Harry laughed, “All about the status with you.”

 

“Quite,” Draco agreed, imperiously, kissing him one final time, “Off you go, now. Remember, decimate the competition so you can keep me in the jewels and furs I deserve.”

Chapter Text

Harry found the portkey the Appleby Arrows administration had stashed in the phonebox near his house. It was an old can of tuna fish in the phone book slot that he was not thrilled about having to reach inside. He felt the familiar but unsettling sensation behind his navel, and arrived at the front gates of a large, professional quidditch pitch in North Lincolnshire. Harry knew from all his and Ron’s ‘research’, that it was somewhere near Trent Falls, but from the ground all he could see were the massive elevated spectator stands, striped in broad swaths of pale blue and black. Ahead of him was a registration table with a young, sharp-nosed witch seated behind it. 

 

“Hullo,” he said, “I’m—”

 

“Yeah, I think I know who you are, Mr. Potter,” she interrupted, giving him a friendly smile, “you’re all anyone around here's been talking about for the last month, since you accepted the invitation. And you’re in The Prophet every other day, kind of hard to forget. Welcome to Fletcher’s Field, I’m Shanna, the director of operations, and I’ll get you signed in.”

 

She handed him a few slips of parchment. 

 

“First off, standard waivers against litigation. We do have trained healers on sight, but there are risks to the trial including bodily harm, dismemberment, magical befuddlement, and death.”

 

“Right,” Harry said, “that happen often?”

 

“Not on my watch,” Shanna winked, “I’m very good at my job.”

 

Harry signed. 

 

“Lovely,” she continued, silver bangles tinkling on her wrist as she pointed a quill at the next form, “and this one is your solemn affirmation that you haven’t imbibed any enhancement or distorting potions, including but not limited to Felix Felicis, Polyjuice Potion, Draught of Peace, Reflexus Abruptus, Connection Cordial, Strength Spirits, or any muggle equivalents.”

 

Harry signed where he was instructed. 

 

“And a drop of blood, here,” she indicated, “for detection.”

 

She handed Harry a small lancet. He pricked his finger and let a drop of blood fall to the page. A bright chime sounded after a moment. 

 

“All clear,” Shanna informed him, “This is a standard non-disclosure agreement to prevent you from sharing the details of the trial course with non-participants.”

 

Harry signed that, too. 

 

“Thank you. Now, your wand, please. And any other magical items on your person.”

 

Harry reluctantly surrendered his wand, relieved he had as much wandless magic as he did. He felt a bit naked without it. 

 

“And your watch? Is that a muggle creation or otherwise?”

 

Harry looked at his watch. Draco’s little golden hand was pointing to Visiting, which Harry knew was its interpretation of Grimmauld Place. 

 

“Er,” he said, taking it off and handing it to her, “It’s a little magic.”

 

“Your glasses?”

 

“Just glasses,” Harry assured her.

 

She placed his wand and watch in a slender wooden case. 

 

“As you, Harry Potter, are my witness, I vow to keep these items in my safekeeping,” she recited, “Sponsum Fidus.” The box shone purple for a brief moment, the seal between the two halves disappearing entirely. “Should misfortune come to your belongings, the Appleby Arrows takes responsibility for the replacement or recuperation of said items,” she explained. 

 

“I’ll just complete a brief examination of your broom, if I may?” Harry passed her his Talaria, thankful at least that he would be getting that back. Shanna muttered a few spells under her breath. A puff of chartreuse smoke darted along the length of the broom, spinning in intricate little patterns as it ran its course. “All clear,” Shanna said again.

 

“Alright,” Harry agreed, not  really knowing what else to say.

 

“Perfect. Well, Mr. Potter, welcome to our Trial Day! We are very honoured to have you. Head on it, you can put your change of clothes in the locker room to the right." She extended a hand to the gates behind her. Harry took a deep breath, and proceeded. 

 

***

 

Harry had never been so relieved to see Mandy Brocklehurst in his life. She stood to one side of the pitch, arms crossed over her chest, her stance broad, her polished leather pads strapped to long, muscular arms. Merlin, he always seemed to forget how tall she was. Over six feet, easy, he'd venture. Her thick, brown hair was coiled in a neat braid that hung down her back. Even the brawny girl was looking a little peaked. She gave him a weak smile as they shook hands. 

 

“Alright?” he asked. 

 

“Not even a little bit,” she confessed, her voice low. She was looking around at a huddle of other hopefuls a ways down the pitch, “I tried to figure out what to expect, but I’m understanding why I couldn’t after signing that NDA.”

 

“Right? They said something about a course?” 

 

“Probably different for beaters than it is for seekers,” she surmised, “I almost wish Rivers was here. I could use some of his unflappable energy.”

 

“Same,” Harry admitted, “why can’t I be infuriatingly rational at all times?”

 

“Wrong house, Potter,” Brocklehurst chided. A whistle sounded and they gave each other nervous grins. 

 

“Luck,” Harry murmured, giving her arm a gentle nudge.

 

Mandy swallowed and returned the gesture. “Good luck, Harry.”

 

***

 

Harry and three other seekers were rounded up and marched to the far side of the pitch. 

 

Harry felt like a bit of a giant. The other three: Thorpe, O’Shea and Criton, were all petite and compact as muggle jockeys. O’Shea, an auburn haired woman a few years older than Harry, was friendly enough, but Thorpe and Criton didn’t say a word to Harry, fixing him instead with sidelong glances through narrowed eyes. He knew what they were thinking: he was only here because of his name, because of his damn scar and the crowds he could draw. Harry ground his molars and thought about Malfoy back in September: his haughty, dismissive look, and those certain words that had taken Harry so aback, “No one who has seen you play could ever, ever think that.” 

 

Fuck them, Harry thought, and it sounded more like Draco’s voice than his own, let them think what they want. It will be you catching the snitch at the end of the day, your team competing for the Cup, while they whinge over pints about your fame. You can’t care about other people’s feelings all the time, you know, Potter. 

 

“Right,” the stout wizard leading their little group announced, coming to a stop, “The seeker trial consists of an obstacle course. You will not be able to see the elements of the course beforehand, nor watch the other hopefuls proceed through it. Each element will only be made visible to you only as you progress. The order was determined at random and is as follows: Criton, O’Shea, Potter, and Thorpe. Our panel will be watching you, although you will not be able to see them. Upon completion of the course, you may gather your belongings; you will know our decision come February.”

 

Harry was a bit surprised that there would be such a lag, but the other three didn’t seem to think this was news, causing Harry to suspect this was not any of their first trial days. Harry wondered if that gave them an advantage on the course. Can’t worry about that, Potter, the pseudo-Draco in his head, said, Focus on yourself. I know that’s difficult for you, but do try. 

 

Their start times were staggered by a half hour each, which left Harry just seated on the pitch for ninety minutes, waiting his turn. The constant thrum of his nerves was more irritating than anything. He was desperate to distract himself with small talk, but the other seekers didn't seem interested.

 

Finally, his name was called. 

 

Harry stood up and walked over to the wizard who was organizing things. The man tapped him with his wand on the middle of his forehead, “Occultatum Video!"

 

Before him arose a dark tunnel, about his height. 

 

“You may begin.” The wizard instructed.

 

Harry mounted his Talaria, and embarked.

 

***

 

He hovered in the dark atrium of the tunnel for a suspended moment, when the astute, bright voice of Shanna sounded, “This first section of our seeker course measures your ability to keep a tight turning radius. Please follow the yellow line.”

 

Before Harry had a chance to think, what yellow line? A bright linear stretch of sunshine appeared before him, leading the way. Harry followed it. 

 

Despite his nerves, it felt wonderful to be on his broom again, after sitting for so long. Harry found himself enjoying the challenge, zipping along the track, zigging and veering and zagging at a moment’s notice, never knowing what direction he would be expected to go in until the very last second. He could vaguely see the colours of the pitch—the blue and black blur of the stands and the bright green of the grass below—but it was as if his vision was obscured by a wrinkled film of cellophane. He didn’t focus on that, though, just the sudden dips and whorls of the yellow light spurring him forward. 

 

Just as Harry felt he was really sinking into the groove of the exercise, the yellow light shut off and Harry found himself in another clear-walled waiting chamber. “Congratulations on completing the first segment of the course,"' Shanna's voice rang out, "The next objective is to avoid projectiles. Please remain within this atrium.”

 

Harry felt his confidence grow. This, at least, he had spent evenings practicing with Rivers and Brocklehurst.  Harry floated his Talaria upwards, scanning his environment, senses piqued for any sights or sounds of movement.

 

It began with a single bludger barreling towards his chest. Harry dodged it with little effort. It ricocheted off a translucent wall, back towards him. Another bludger appeared. Harry was now maneuvering neatly as the bludgers rebounded time and again. Another showed up, and Harry took his first hit to the shoulder. It wasn’t forceful, but Harry became frustrated with himself, which broke his concentration. Another bludger smacked against his calf. 

 

Focus, Potter, he reminded himself in Draco’s voice. 

 

He bent close against his broom, dipping below the bludgers that shot along like high speed bumper cars, trying to conceptualise their rhythm. They seemed to slow down until they hit the wall which imbued them with a new energy. The trend was for them to angle downwards, not upwards. 

 

Show off a little, suggested the voice in his head, don’t be stupid, but don’t hold back. You deserve to be here. Prove it.  

 

Harry watched for another moment and it was as though he could suddenly see the pattern, that swing of multiple metronomes all lined up. He went for it, darting upward, from unoccupied space to unoccupied space. He neatly fitted between bludgers like avoiding arms of a windwill in motion. Another bludger appeared and Harry just incorporated it into this strange dance. He entered the fray again. He felt so graceful and alive, the cool air rushing past his ears as he dodged his way through the milieu. 

 

The bludgers all fell to the ground. 

 

“You have now completed the second section. Our next section measures raw speed. At the green light, you may proceed in a forward direction. Stop when you see the light change to red.” Shanna’s voice instructed.

 

Harry watched the air around him, waiting. A lime green light blinked on, and he took off. He was fearless, tearing off in the direction of the light, legs kicked up towards the tail end of his broom and body hunched down. His blood was singing with the thrill of momentum as he hurtled forward. The air past his ears went from a rushing to a booming, it was almost painful, but he loved it, he was free, unrestricted, wild, he was the king of this domain. 

 

You’re the king of my domain, too, if you take my meaning, Draco’s voice sounded in his ear so hot and filthy and crisp it was as if he was there beside him. For a long moment, Harry thought he might be losing his mind, but no, it was just his subconscious, borrowing Draco’s unquenchable cockiness, spurring him onward. Harry let out a loud, victorious whoop and the light turned red. 

 

He stopped in an instant, the change in velocity pitching him backwards, but Harry held on, gripping his Talaria securely. 

 

“Your next task is simple,” Shanna spoke from somewhere beyond his view, “catch as many as you can.”

 

Harry didn’t have to wait long to realise what this meant. A fuchsia droplet fell from the blurred dome above him. Harry reached out; it evaporated as it landed in his palm. Another fell, followed by another. At first they fell close together, each disappearing as he made contact, but soon they were far apart, not just dripping down now, but also shooting up and across, from below and beside him. Harry flitted nimbly about the space, reaching out with both hands, confident in the hold he managed with his ankles and his thighs. 

 

Wouldn’t mind being crushed between those myself,  Draco’s voice murmured in his head and Harry almost blushed. 

 

“Not the time, Malfoy,” he muttered, trying desperately not to picture Draco writhing beneath him, hands braced against Harry’s unrelenting thighs. The image made Harry breathless and the momentary distraction left him overcome. The fuchsia pearls were coming too fast and numerous, he had no hope of catching them all now. They splattered across him like rain and Harry grunted in irritation.

 

“Take heart,” Shanna's echoing voice assured him, “that was a challenge designed to make you fail. We need to know you can navigate feelings of disappointment and frustration, and focus on the object at hand.”

 

“Those are not the feelings giving me trouble,” Harry muttered under his breath, banishing thoughts of a naked and willing Draco. Maybe two days and nights doing nothing save indulgent, intermittent fucking perhaps wasn’t a strategy for quidditch sucess, but Merlin, it had been incredible. Harry couldn’t convince himself to regret it. 

 

“Your last challenge is upon you,” Shanna’s voice broke through his thoughts, “capture the snitch.”

 

Harry’s surroundings changed from solitude to an open stadium, the illusion of a crowd roaring below him. It was a simulated game, he realised at once, surrounded by players in a metallic blue, opposing a team in a forest green. They all had a hazy gleam to them that made them seem not quite real.

 

Focus, Harry told himself, and this time, it was his own voice. 

 

He skimmed the field of play, eyes scanning the horizon. He could see the rapids of Trent Falls from here but he couldn’t linger on the sight. He thought he saw a flicker of gold to his left, but it was just the mirage of one of his ‘teammates’ broom bristles. 

 

Harry braved a wide, soaring loop, changing his perspective, keeping the other seeker in his periphery, looking for tells. 

 

The illusory seeker for the opposing team was a woman with short cropped hair and light brown skin. Harry recognised her as Glory Ito, a former Harpy from decades earlier. One of Ron’s Seeker Weekly digests had ranked her as history’s greatest seeker. Her movements were confident and precise. She caught him watching her and winked. It took Harry off guard. Ito’s body was relaxed and she idled along slowly towards the opposite end of the pitch. That sudden change in style Harry gave pause. Harry shifted only his eyes towards the direction she was heading and then he saw it, that familiar glimmer. Ito saw him register it, despite his attempted subtlety, and then she was off like a shot, Harry on her tail, cursing. Harry’s only saving grace was she was flying a few feet below the space the snitch occupied, she would have to veer upwards at some point, whereas Harry was right on its level. Then, to Harry’s consternation, the snitch dropped down, closer to the Ito, it was within her grasp—but then it dropped again, for a moment disappearing from view, then flickering teasingly metres below them.

 

Harry set his teeth, ducked his head in, chin almost at the level of his broom, and dove, plummeting and spiraling towards the earth, shoulder to shoulder with the small and sinewy Ito. Harry’s body gave more resistance, his speed didn’t feel quite a match for hers. He nevertheless stretch out an arm and it was here that he realised his advantage. Ito didn’t have the reach he had, nor the strength to push him away, his fingers closed around snitch. Harry tipped his broom up, tiny wings fluttering furiously in his palm, joy, pride, and exhilaration coursing through him like brilliant white light. Even the mock crowd seemed thrilled with his success, bounding to their feet, and shrieking their delight. 

 

A whistle sounded. The crowd disappeared. Shanna stood below him, motioning him to join her. He felt the snitch in his hand evaporate with a pop. He circled down towards the director, still smiling. 

 

“Well done, Mr. Potter,” she said, “I take it you bested our simulated Ito? Doesn’t happen too often, I can tell you that. Shower and change and then come find me and I'll give you your things back.”

 

***

 

Harry waited outside the pitch gates for Brocklehurst to appear. 

 

Her cheeks were flushed red from exertion, her hair still wet from her own shower. 

 

“Well?” Said Harry. 

 

“Well,” she repeated, “well, wow. Like...just wow.”

 

“Wow.” Harry agreed, beaming. Brocklehurst beamed back. 

 

“Look," Harry started, "There’s a large chance it’ll be printed in The Prophet tomorrow and everyone will make all sorts of assumptions about you, but if you’re game, would you fancy a pint? I’ve simply got to talk about it, and since we both signed the NDA, I suspect it’s alright?”

 

“I’m sure the magic will let us know soon enough if we can’t!” Brocklehurst grinned, “And I can handle a little gossip. Might give my mum a bit of false hope, though. She’s still clinging to the idea that if I just meet the right bloke…”

 

Harry laughed, and Mandy laughed, too, and Merlin, Harry thought, maybe he was getting better at this interhouse friendship thing after all.

Chapter Text

Harry returned to Grimmauld Place later that afternoon. He found Draco at the dining room table, studying, his head resting on the knuckles of one hand.

 

“Shouldn’t be looking at homework over the break,” Harry scolded, darting in to press a kiss to the exposed skin of Draco’s neck. 

 

Draco ignored his words, instead turning to face Harry properly, “Well? How was it?”

 

Harry’s face broke into a grin, the exhilaration of the morning pouring out of him. “It was fucking fantastic. I physically can’t say anything about it because of a damn magical NDA, but Merlin, it was just so, so wicked. It was challenging, but, well, I think I did alright, and I just desperately want to do it all over again so I can fix the mistakes I made, fuck, it was all such a rush, so bloody brilliant. I don’t even care if they don’t pick me—well, I care a little—but I am just so glad I did it. And Brocklehurst and I went for lunch after and sounds like her portion sounds like it just as thrilling. Merlin, I wish I could tell you simply everything! I had no idea it would be like that, but I loved it, Draco, truly.”

 

Draco watched him with a soft smile. 

 

“What?” Harry asked, feeling suddenly self-conscious. 

 

“You should play quidditch,” Draco said, simply, “I’ve never seen you like this, so chuffed, effusive. Looks good on you. They’ll choose you, and if they don’t, someone else will, I've no doubt.”

 

“You don’t think it’s terribly selfish?” Harry asked, falling into a chair beside the blond.

 

“I’m not the best chap to ask about what is and is not terribly selfish,” Draco replied, a small smirk playing on his mouth.

 

Harry laughed, then his face fell more solemn, “A lot of the post that’s been coming in has been going on about Harry Potter the auror, Harry Potter the politician, the spokesman. I wonder if I’m walking away from my responsibility by doing something as frivolous as sport.”

 

Draco pressed a palm to Harry’s face, his thumb trailing over Harry's cheekbone. He wore an unusually serious expression. “So far as I can tell, you’ve been shackled to responsibility since the night your parents were murdered. If there is something in the world that makes you this fantastically happy, then you should pursue it for as long as this feeling lasts. People are always going to have opinions about what you do with your life, darling, but you’re not theirs. You sacrificed yourself for them once already. You don’t have to do that again.”

 

Harry couldn’t think of words to respond, so he pressed a kiss to the corner of Draco’s mouth, sliding his forehead against the blond’s temple.

 

“Besides,” Draco continued, his voice tinged with a teasing exasperation, “knowing you, even as a professional athlete, you’ll start another community outreach for penniless orphans, take in fourscore strays, and give myriad public speeches which bolster the spirits of the mourning. Everyone who glimpses you will want to be just a fraction as noble, and good, and true as you are.”

 

“I’d say that all sounds rather lovely, except the speeches. Merlin, I would love to never have to give another speech again.” Harry planted his face in the crook of the other boy's neck. Draco's hand slid over the back of his head, smoothing down unruly locks.

 

“Well, if you ever convince the wizarding world, that besides from being a terrible coward, I’m not so bad, really, I’ll happily take on the speeches for you. This will shock you, but I actually quite enjoy the limelight, provided that the illumination is flattering.”

 

Harry laughed against Draco’s skin, “Is that what you want? To give my speeches and reap heaps of praise and flattery?”

 

“Mm,” Draco considered, fingers sifting through the hair at the base of Harry’s neck, “No, that’s just a convenient side benefit of my primary agenda.”

 

“Oh yeah, and what’s that?”

 

“This, Potter,” Malfoy said, planting a kiss above Harry's ear, “obviously.”

 

***

 

It was their last night together at Grimmauld Place. Malfoy was leaving the next morning for the Manor and Harry was off to The Burrow to visit with the Weasleys. Draco was straddling Harry’s lap and kissing his neck in the most intoxicating manner when Harry finally worked up his courage. 

 

“I have something for you,” he whispered. 

 

Draco ground against his lap, “Oh, I know you do.”

 

“Not that!” Harry protested, swatting Malfoy's thigh.

 

The blond pulled back, pouting, “You’re going to deny me on my last night? That seems terribly cruel.”

 

“No!” Harry reassured him, “Of course not, that’s not what I meant. I mean I have, like, a sort of…Christmas gift. For you.”

 

“Is it like a Christmas gift? Or is it a Christmas gift?” Draco prompted. 

 

Harry slapped his arse, which only made Draco grind harder. 

 

“Merlin, you’re a nuisance,” Harry groused, “It is a Christmas gift.” He reached into his pocket which was trapped between his own thigh and Draco’s calf. He awkwardly extracted a small brass key and pressed it into Draco’s hand. “Look, I know it’s largely symbolic since you’ll basically always use magic to get here, but, I thought when school’s ended, if you wanted, you could come stay here, with me.”

 

Draco stared at the house key in his hand, and Harry felt his heart race. Fuck, it had been too soon. He’d thought it would be alright, especially after what Draco had said this afternoon...but maybe he’d misread it. He just... wanted—

 

“Do you mean it?” Draco asked, very quietly. 

 

“Yes,” Harry dared to breathe, “But only if you want to, of course. I know it’s fast, and also months away. If you want we could get a flat somewhere else, instead, I—”

 

Draco pressed one hand to Harry’s mouth, grey eyes flashing, leveled right at him. His other hand, the one with the key, reclaimed Harry's, fingers lacing. 

 

“Yes, I want to, of course I want to, you idiot Gryffindor.”

 

“Yeah?” Harry murmured, through Draco’s fingers.

 

“Yes,” Draco dropped his hand and kissed him, hard. “And we’ll stay here. The privacy charms on this place are excellent, not easy to replicate, and exactly what you require. But I will be renovating. Well, paying people to renovate,” he informed Harry.

 

“I don’t believe you could actually resist," Harry grinned, "But I don't mind. It would be nice to breathe some new life into this place. Just check with Kreacher before you throw anything out, he gets attached.”

 

“The way you indulge that elf,” Malfoy shook his head, squeezing Harry's hand and glancing down to where their palms met around the key. His expression changed to one Harry couldn't quite interpret. "Potter, your watch."

 

Harry followed his gaze. The tiny golden hand had spun round and landed somewhere new: Home.

 

***

 

Harry was too exhilarated to even make it to the bedroom. In a fit of foolishness, he cornered Draco against a wall in the corridor, kissing him deeply. 

 

It was a mistake. 

 

“Filthy, foul, half-blood boy, thinking he can corrupt the halls of this house," Walburga growled from behind her curtain. 

 

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Harry sighed, stepping back, “Sorry, sweetheart, I wasn’t thinking, let’s just go to the bed, she’ll shut up eventually." 

 

“No, I’m about done with her,” Draco announced, “Let’s deal with it.”

 

“There is no dealing with that blasted portrait,” Harry explained, “We’ve tried every possible spell. It’s immune to fire, to ice, to sharp objects.”

 

Draco drew back the ratty old curtain so Walburga was in full view. 

 

“Good evening, Aunt,” Draco addressed her. 

 

The fine-boned, austere woman in the painting glared at him, “How dare you call me that? Catamite blood traitor, you’re no family of mine, I would burn you from the tree myself if I could.”

 

“Mm, but you can’t now, can you?” Drawled Draco, “because you're dead.”

 

“Ill-mannered, disrespectful, ignorant boy! I knew the Malfoy line would bring nothing good to bear on this family. Filthy French—”

 

“Also dead is the Black name," Draco interrupted, tone one of bored irritation, "and the Black bloodline has narrowed to a mere trickle. Only myself and your disowned great grandson remain to propagate it. Remind me again of your great legacy, Aunt? The poisonous ideals of the House of Black have left you all dead and buried.”

 

“Don’t speak to me of that abominable child," Walburga spat, but then she paused to consider him. Her expression changed and almost softened, although her eyes stayed hard. Her voice when she spoke again was sweet and beguiling, "Come now, Draco, you won't deny me, won't deny your family, the heir it deserves. There's still time, boy, time to turn away from this despicable, filthy lechery. Little lost nephew, your mother was a good girl. There's a chance for you, yet. You won't deny her a grandchild. Forget this unsavoury business. Leave the half-blood behind. Retain our purity.”

 

“Why, precisely, should I want to pass along my genes?” Malfoy inquired, intensity radiating from him, “My family line has bred hate into me from the moment I could speak. It has brought me very little joy. If I could, I would excise my very DNA.”

 

“Family is not about joy, child! It is about responsibility, honour, duty!”

 

“My family has no honour, my father made sure of that. And there are very few in this world I feel responsibility towards, save this half-blood you insist on railing against.” He gripped Harry’s hand and Walburga recoiled in revulsion. 

 

“Leave off, you repulsive disappointment,” she hissed. 

 

Malfoy grinned cruelly, “Kiss me, Harry.”

 

“Er…”

 

“Now.”

 

Harry took Malfoy’s face with his free hand, pressed their lips together. Walburga shrieked, a blood-curdling noise that sent Constance to hooting miserably from the sitting room. 

 

“You will desist this behaviour at once, Nephew—”

 

“Will I?” Draco questioned, a bare breath away from Harry’s mouth. “Let me assure you that nothing you can say or do will alter my actions.”

 

“Can’t you see how this so-called wizard has corrupted you…” she pleaded with him.

 

“Corrupted me?” Draco laughed, kissing Harry again, licking his way between his lips, filthy and demanding. “He saved me.”

 

Harry clasped his hands around Draco’s waist, tugging him close. 

 

“Deviant boy…” seethed Walburga. 

 

Draco replaced his mouth on Harry’s with a thumb, the last joint sliding between his lips, while the blond turned his head, fiery gaze intent on the portrait. Harry played his part, suckling the digit with obscene gusto.

 

“Oh yes,” crooned Draco, “more deviant than you could dare to imagine. And if you don’t fuck off, right now, you’ll watch the near last of your blood line deviantly suck some deviant half-blood cock in this very hallway, don’t think that I won’t. Or maybe I should take it up my arse, Aunt. I love when Harry fucks me, did you know? I love being his desperate, groveling, submissive little bitch.

 

Walburga’s rage overwhelmed her, she burst forward against her frame, an ugly, blotchy red colouring her fine features, her face distorted with a furious passion. For a moment, Harry thought the strength of her emotion might make her materialise, spring forth from the afterlife into the decaying halls of Grimmauld Place. 

 

But she didn’t. With a final anguished cry, she was gone, leaving only the brocade chair sitting benignly in her frame.

 

With a shaky laugh, Harry looked at Draco, who leaped at him, legs wrapped tight around Harry’s waist, fingers twisted in his hair, mouth fastening over Harry’s bottom lip. Harry slammed Draco against a wall, cradling his arse. 

 

“You’re fucking brilliant,” he muttered, between frantic, ravenous kisses.

 

***

 

In the stillness that followed a rather spectacular fuck, Harry drew a finger over the exquisite angles of Draco's face. They were curled up, turned towards each other on top of the bedcovers, legs tangled.

 

"What is it, Potter?" Malfoy yawned, arm creeping around Harry's waist. "I can tell you're letting some ridiculous idea or another worry away at your brain. It's no wonder you never learned Occlumency; I'm surprised they even tried with you."

 

"What..." Harry started then stopped, and cleared his throat, "Did you mean what you said earlier? About your genes?"

 

Draco shrugged, "Haven't done me much good, have they?"

 

"Oh."

 

"Oh, for fuck's—what is it, Harry? Spit it out, I'm far too comfortable to go running off presently, you can count on that."

 

"I just...I suspect I might fancy having kids one day," he managed, the words tripping out like a confession. 

 

Draco sighed heartily, "Oh, is that all? Well, yes, Potter, knowing you, I rather reckoned that. I'm not opposed. I was mostly just trying to get under the old bat's skin. But I'm thinking right now, at eighteen, when we still have years of an empty house and plenty of fucking to do, we don't quite have to sort out whose sperm will be going Merlin-knows-where to make that happen, do we?"

 

"Oh," Harry breathed, heart swelling so hard he thought it might just crack a rib, "Well then. Right."

 

"Mm," Draco agreed, "I often am."

Chapter Text

The Burrow was all bustle and baked goods. Everyone was home for the holidays, and the house was full of voices. Arthur Weasley had magicked some precarious-looking bunkbeds in the bedrooms—no one had a room to themselves—and Hermione and her parents had pitched Perkins’ tent in the yard and were sharing it with Bill and Fleur. Despite all the holiday biscuits and good cheer, nothing could quite mask the wound that was Fred’s absence. More than once, Harry had walked in to the kitchen to find Mrs. Weasley dabbing her eyes and staring out the window. He’d try to console her only to get an affectionate pat to his cheek and the reassurance that she was fine, and that she better check on the mincemeat tarts, or shortbread, or whatever her most recent offering was. 

 

“I can’t believe you won’t tell us about the trial,” Ginny whinged for the third time in as many evenings. She and Harry were seated with Charlie, George, and Ron at the dining room table. 

 

“It’s not that I don’t want to, Gin, I’m dying to tell you, it’s that I can’t!” Harry insisted. 

 

“What if we just guess around it and you can tell us whether we’re getting close?” Ginny bartered. 

 

“Blink if the quidditch trial involved riding a broomstick,” George whispered conspiratorially. 

 

Charlie laughed and took a sip of ale. “Well, what’s this game, then?” He asked George, who had recruited the lot of them to test out his most recent prototype. 

 

“It’s a simple amalgam of various drinking games, but with higher stakes," George explain, "These cards have been dipped in Intuition Unction. You have two choices, complete the instruction on the card, or take a drink and let the card reveal something about you. No specifics, of course, just a little read on your energy that the rest of the room will be subject to. Now some cards you read aloud, some you won’t, some you’ll do right away, some you have a round to complete. You can outwit the cards, or take your own interpretation, but you cannot outright lie or cheat.”

 

“Charles, do the honours?” George said, placing the stack of cards in the centre of their little circle

 

With a grin, Charlie selected a card. Without missing a beat, the stocky Weasley—who was a few ales in already—let out a earsplitting screech and leaped up onto the table. Everyone was cackling in confused amusement, while Charlie stuck his hands into his armpits and starting flapping his elbows. He was crouched down and wriggling his arse and making the most awful noises. Percy gave them all a filthy look from above the pages of some report he was reading in the living room. Charlie then started grunting and shaking one leg out to the side.

 

He strained his face and squawked loudly and Ron shouted out, “Oh, blimey, he’s laying an egg.”

 

Charlie grabbed the salt shaker and slipped it behind him, transfiguring it into a golden speckled egg which he proudly nudged forward with an elbow. Then he simply hopped off the table and took a sip of ale, throwing his card down face up on the table.

 

“That was a deadly accurate depiction,” he assured them. Harry craned his neck to read the card: Give us a demonstration of a Swedish Short-Snout laying an egg.

 

“Think you might need a little refresher on the differences between Swedish Short-Snouts and the common chicken,” George surmised, “Ron, you’re up!”

 

Ron drew a card and, after glancing at it briefly, read it allowed "'Tell us, would you rather transfigure your bollocks to your nose, or your nose to your bollocks?'”

 

“A true philosophical quandary,” Charlie mused, blue eyes twinkling. Harry suddenly had the realization that Charlie Weasley was quite fit. Harry had always just thought he was cool, but in retrospect, maybe his admiration had been tinged with something else. 

 

“Easy,” said Ron, “Let those beauties shine in the fresh air.” He tapped his nose, “I’ve got a lovely saddle for them right here.”

 

Ginny gave him a horrified grimace, but she was laughing. 

 

It was George’s turn next. “I’ll pass on this one,” he said breezily, dropping a card face up on the table that read Tell us an embarrassing story, “Have to have shame to feel embarrassed, and I can assure you, I’m fresh out of that.”

 

A warm chime sounded from the card, and an ethereal voice sounded. 

 

“The well of sorrow will not run dry,” the card sang out.

 

The Weasley faces around the table grew suddenly sombre, but George only snorted. “Some intuition. Anyone and their kneazle could tell you that one.” He dashed down a few ideas into a notebook he had on hand to record alterations he wanted to make. “You’re up, Gin.”

 

Ginny drew a card, then her face flashed red. “Pass,” she said. 

 

“Show us the card, then,” Ron instructed.

 

“I passed, I don’t have to show it!” Ginny argued. 

 

“Course you do,” George urged, “where’s the fun otherwise?”

 

Ginny threw the card down the table: Name the last person you snogged. She crossed her arms and glowered as the voice rang out for a second time:

 

“A stony path walks one with a heart so divided.”

 

“What about Neville?” Ron cried out. 

 

“I love Neville,” Ginny said, miserably, taking a long gulp of cider, “but I’m also seventeen. I don’t know why everyone thinks I have to commit to a fucking lifetime of someone right now. I’m not you or Hermione, alright? I’m still sorting it out.”

 

George let out a low whistle, “Heartbreaker Ginerva, that’s what they call her.”

 

Charlie fixed her with a serious look from across the table, “You don’t have to, Gin,” he said, softly, “You’ve got all the time you want. But you ought to be honest with people who care about you.”

 

“I know,” she sighed, “Harry, take a turn, please, I don’t want to talk about this any longer.”

 

Harry took a card. It said: Don’t read this out loud. You have one round to steal something from the player to your left. He placed the card face down and gave everyone what he hoped was an enigmatic look. 

 

“Alright, Potter, you sly bastard,” George said, 

 

Harry looked across the table at Charlie, who was technically the player to his left. The opportunity presented itself nearly right away, when Charlie sprang up to dance a jig, as instructed by his card. Why George was clapping out a rhythm and Charlie was flinging his ropey, scarred arms about, Harry slid Charlie’s ale across the table, helping himself to a long swallow. 

 

“Oi, get your own!” Charlie laughed, spotting Harry, who tossed his card up on the table. 

 

“Well played, mate,” Ron applauded. 

 

Ron scrunched up his features in revulsion at the next card, “George, you twat, maybe remove these types of cards at family events!”

 

He tossed it face up on the table. It read: Name the player you’d most like to snog

 

George cackled while Ron muttered, “Harry, then, since he’s the only one here not a blood relative. Though I suspect laying one on him might get me killed.”

 

Harry flashed him a warning look; he still hadn’t found the courage to tell the Weasleys about Draco.

 

Ginny only tossed her head. “Homicide isn’t Hermione’s style,” she exclaimed, misunderstanding Ron’s meaning, “Her revenge would be much more mentally painful and emotionally exacting.”

 

George nodded, “Agreed, I would avoid fucking things up, if I were you, Ronnie. Especially for someone with a mug like Harry’s.”

 

Harry laughed at the good-natured ribbing as George drew another card, which he placed face down in front of him. Then Ginny had to invent a jingle about the player across the table. 

 

“Good thing plenty of things rhyme with Ron,” she muttered, as she burst into an off-key tune about her brother on the lawn at dawn.  

 

It was Harry’s turn again and he dropped the card he drew like it was on fire. Reveal  the co-star of your last dream. Yes, we mean that sort of dream

 

“Pass!” he cried out with a strangled sound. 

 

“Must be someone at this table to make Harry turn that particular shade of eggplant,” Charlie remarked, as the chime sounded and the voice rose up. 

 

“Your love is pure as morning dew...and filthy as a tar pit.” 

 

George whooped in delight, “Potter, you dog!”

 

“Who!” Demanded Ginny. 

 

“You tell us, Gin,” Charlie said, “You go to school with him.”

 

“Unless he’s a third for Ron and Hermione, I haven’t the foggiest,” she said. 

 

“Come on, Potter, give us her name,” George prodded. 

 

“It’s a bloke,” Harry heard himself mutter, “and I’m not ready to talk about it.”

 

He saw the moment the penny dropped for Ginny, her calculated expression going from confusion to understanding. She seemed to be warring between anger and hurt, but she thankfully didn’t say anything.

 

“We’re talking about this later, Harry,” she growled. He only nodded. 

 

“Ahhhh, Potter, you devil,” beamed Charlie, “welcome to the dark side, we’re much more fun.”

 

Ron spit out a mouthful of beer across the table, “Charlie, you’re—”

 

“Oh, keep your shirt on,” Charlie smirked, “things like that are just more fluid in the desert. No time for British prudery.”

 

***

 

By the morning of Christmas Eve, the entire household was aware of Harry’s mystery boyfriend. It was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, Harry felt so loved and supported: everyone seemed so pleased; they kept telling him how glad they were that he'd have found someone. On the other hand, it just made Harry feel like he had that much more to lose when they learned just who he’d found.

 

“We’re going flying, Harry, now,” Ginny announced after a hearty breakfast, courtesy of Mr. Granger. Harry didn’t bother arguing, just went to fetch his Talaria. They crunched through the frosty grass together, out towards the moorlands, not speaking. 

 

Only once they were aloft did Ginny fix him with a steady gaze and say, “Harry, you’re in love with Draco Malfoy, aren’t you?”

 

Harry could only nod, dread coiling in his lungs like smog. 

 

“Not ideal, is it?” She commented, and Harry was surprised to hear something like understanding in her voice.

 

“It’s really not,” he agreed. 

 

It was Ginny’s turn to nod and they flew swiftly onwards for several more minutes in silence. 

 

“Daphne kissed me,” Ginny said, when they next slowed, skimming over the coarse scrublands. 

 

Harry stared at her, “Come again?”

 

“The last day of school, just before I left.”

 

“Whoa,” said Harry. 

 

“Yeah. Whoa,” agreed the witch. 

 

“How...did you feel about that?”

 

Ginny tugged on the end of her braid, thoughtfully, “I think I felt rather good about it, is the problem. I just...I’ve always liked blokes. I really like blokes.”

 

Harry chuckled, “I’ve always liked girls. But then Draco happened and now I’m noticing boys more as well. Maybe it’s like Charlie said, things are more fluid than that.”

 

“I suppose,” Ginny replied, “And Neville, he’s so fit and lovely, but I know he’d propose tomorrow if he didn’t think it would send me running for the hills.”

 

“What’s got you scared?”

 

Ginny bit her lip, “Hermione and I were talking the other day, and it’s just...it’s a bit different now, isn’t it? I mean, Hermione’s mum always worked so it’s easy for her to picture her life that way, but she and Ron have had to talk about it. Hermione’s not going to leave Hogwarts and suddenly take up baking and housework and tidying up after Ron. She’s refusing to even live with him for a full year, did you know? She says he has to prove he can take care of himself, first.”

 

Harry laughed, “Of course she is,”

 

“And I’m the same. I’m afraid if I stay with Neville, I’ll just fall into that role. He never had a mum, not one who could care for him, and I feel for him there, I do, but I don’t want to fill that space for him. Merlin, I feel so ungrateful. Like, how lucky were we all to have Mum there, whenever we needed her. Three square meals a day, a warm and loving home, endless encouragement. I feel like by rejecting her lifestyle, I’m rejecting her. And I know providing for us all makes her proud, and it's was what she wanted. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s what she wanted because it was what she was raised to want. Pureblooded witches manage the home. Sure, there are plenty of exceptions, but it’s still there, that expectation. 

 

“It just used to make me so mad, growing up,” Ginny continued, when Harry didn’t say anything, “It was always “Ginerva, help your mother in the kitchen,” and then Hermione showed up, and Mum expected the same of her, and she was a guest! Oh, the boys had to help with cleaning up, but I can count the number of times I’ve seen Ron help cook on one hand. It was an unspoken rule, witches in the kitchen, wizards waiting to be served. I don’t want that for myself.”

 

Harry chewed his lip. He’d not really thought about all that before. Though he’d been expected to shoulder a lot of the cooking and cleaning at Privet Drive, Aunt Petunia had been the head homemaker, and after that he’d been seen to by house elves and Mrs. Weasley.  “I think I understand what you mean,” he offered, then swallowed hard as a realization hit him. “Oh,” he said, “shit. I did that, too, a bit, didn’t I? I think even if I never said it exactly, I wanted that with you, assumed it a little.”

 

Ginny nodded, “Yeah, I think you did. I mean, I understand, Mum is amazing, everyone wants a Mum like mine.”

 

“But I don’t expect that of Draco. I never once thought about him waiting at home for me with dinner.”

 

Ginny snorted, “Oh Merlin, Malfoy in an apron and pearls, serving you up some porkchops, now there’s an image.” 

 

Harry had to grin, not bloody likely. Well, pearls, maybe. Harry had a vision of a single pearl droplet on Draco’s perfect earlobe and gulped. That certainly was an image. 

 

“I’m just not sure I want to take care of anyone right now,” Ginny was saying, “maybe not ever. It will take a lot of work to train Neville out of those expectations. I just know I’ll be constantly having to remind him to pick up after himself. His Gran was strict, but she still did everything for you, him know? I doubt he’ll do things without me having to ask. It feels like a lot of work. Daphne has no such ideas. She’s been raised with house elves, so she’ll go that route, or hire help; she’s not interested in domesticity. She’s brilliant with maths and charms and makes such clever little inventions. I feel like I could live a life alongside hers, that we could be independent in a way I’m not sure Neville and I could. I don’t even think Daphne would be fussed if I saw other people.”

 

Harry considered her: her fire red hair and her thick braid, her strong and capable hands, and the face he still found so striking and beautiful,  “Sounds like you already know the answer, Gin.”

 

“Is that what it’s like with Malfoy? You both have your own thing?” She asked. 

 

“You know me,” Harry smiled, “independence has never really had much appeal. I like a comfortable, er, codependence sounds wrong, but it’s probably not far off.”

 

“Interdependence!” She proclaimed, “Saw that one in a column in one of Mum’s Witch Weekly mags.” 

 

“Yeah,” Harry decided, “interdependence. I like that. I want him involved in most parts of my life; that appeals to me. You’re not angry, about it being him? I’m scared to death to tell everyone.”

 

“I’m not thrilled about it, and I’m certain I don’t know what you see in him, other than looks, I'll give you that,” she admitted, “but Hermione gave me the spiel, and Merlin knows that girl can spiel. I’ve seen you four together, and no one ever looks upset. And he did save those kids. If you and Ron and Hermione are willing to trust him, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Plus, I’m not sure you’d be bearing up as well as you have been without him. You’ve every right to drown yourself in Ogden’s Finest and sleep for a year, you know.”

 

Harry only shrugged, “Caring for someone helps. Coaching quidditch helps, and same with trying to sort out that mess at school. I just can’t…think too much about things. For you, I suppose, It helps to focus on yourself, not in a bad way, I don’t mean. You just know your own mind. For me, it’s different. I have goals, sure, but it's sometimes better if I avoid introspection.  I'm not saying I'm some selfless saint, I just need to keep my mind busy that way, you know, externally. And, well, Draco loves to be focused on, so, it works.”

 

“Then I’m happy for you, Harry,” Ginny said, “truly.”

Chapter Text

Christmas Eve at The Burrow made Harry feel more like a kid than he ever did at Privet Drive. Contributing to that feeling was the lack of sofas and chairs in the living room that left Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny seated crossed-legged on the floor. They were all wearing their new holiday jumpers and crowded near the Christmas tree decorated with aging children’s craft projects, glowing baubles, and heatless flaming candles. Gifts were spilling out in an unwieldy mess and Fleur was playing a festive melody on a violin. Even Constance seemed to be lulled into complacency, nestled atop a large grandfather clock. It was late, and everyone was sated on biscuits, eggnog, and cocoa.

 

The peaceful atmosphere made it only more shocking when there was a sudden loud crack and Draco Malfoy apparated onto the sparse expanse of rug between Harry and the Christmas tree, unconscious and wearing only his pants. His face, Harry registered in the suspended moment of shocked silence, was wet with tears and the bared muscles in his arms were twitching as if he was trying to fight. 

 

It was Bill who reacted first, but before the Stupefy had left his mouth, Harry erected a Protego Duo around the blond and leaped to his feet. The living room was chaos: half the Weasleys had their wands trained on the shimmering, translucent, kelly green dome wobbling over Draco’s body. Ginny, Hermione and Ron had their palms up, screaming “wait,” and “it’s okay,” and “don’t”. The Grangers cowered on a loveseat looking alarmed. 

 

“Potter,” George’s voice was cold as steel and he didn’t take his eyes off Malfoy. “Care to explain why you’re protecting the half-naked Death Eater who’s landed in our living room?”

 

Before Harry could even find the saliva necessary to speak, Draco woke up. 

 

“Harry?” He said, sounding bewildered. He observed the larger picture, “Oh. Fuck.”

 

“Oh fuck is right,” hissed George, “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing here? Talk, scum.”

 

Draco scrambled to his feet, wiping his face hastily. The protection spell morphed with his movement, wrapping him in a green cocoon. He was shaking with adrenaline and he didn’t have his wand. He scanned the furious faces in the candlelight, crossing his arms defensively over his scarred abdomen. 

 

“It was a dream,” he muttered. 

 

“Speak up,” insisted Percy, who was red-faced and nearly vibrating with indignation. 

 

“I was having a dream,” Draco repeated, and Merlin if he couldn’t quite rid himself of that snobbish drawl. Harry gritted his teeth. Malfoy certainly wasn’t doing himself any favours. “My best guess is that I cast a spell in my sleep. It brought me here.”

 

“Our apparation wards wouldn’t let swine like you in, even if you did know how to visualise our living room—which is another thing I’d like to know about,” spat George. 

 

“It wasn’t just an apparation spell,” Draco grumbled. 

 

“Then what was it? I swear, Malfoy, if you don’t start making sense...”

 

Salvus Securus,” it was Hermione’s voice. Her expression was sombre with a note of wonder. 

 

“What’s that?” Demanded George. 

 

“It takes ze caster to safety in times of danger.” Fleur explained, “Ze poor boy must ‘ave been ‘aving a nightmare, non?”

 

“A house full of Order members is hardly a safe place for a Death Eater,” Bill considered.

 

“I don’t expect it is so much The Burrow that brought him here as it is Harry. Sorry, mate, I think the jig is up,” Ron said.

 

Harry bit his lip and nodded. He wondered if he wouldn’t rather be facing Voldemort all over again than this. At least he didn’t give a fuck about disappointing Voldemort. 

 

“We’re together,” Harry said softly, scanning the array of disamyed faced, “me and Draco. I’m sorry. I should have told you. I just didn’t want to lose…all this.” He waved at the Christmas tree, the sprawl of redheads, the platters of tarts. He swallowed hard. There was no blinking back the tears, they just came, overflowing. “Let me just go get my things, and we’ll go. Just...don’t hurt him alright?” He shot a meaningful, pleading look at Hermione and padded out of the room, his Protego falling as he left.

 

***

 

Harry went to the room he was sharing with Ron, George, and Percy and threw his few things into his duffel. He grabbed Constance’s cumbersome cage as well as his toothbrush from the bathroom, and headed for the stairs. Halfway down and he ran into George, who slammed him against the banister. He grabbed the neck of his jumper, and Harry expected a fist to connect with his head any moment. 

 

“You’re dead, Potter,” growled George.

 

“Enough, son.” It was Arthur Weasley’s quiet, clear voice. He was watching them sadly from the foot of the stairs. 

 

George banged Harry up against the banister once more, and then released him, disappearing up the stairs. Harry closed his eyes and exhaled. He walked by Arthur, head down, unable to look him in the eye. 

 

Harry was initially confused when he re-entered the living room. Draco was standing between Ron and Hermione. Draco seemed to be wearing Ron’s overlarge jumper, a golden R knitted proudly across his chest. His pale skinny legs and bare feet shone in the light from the tree and he was holding Hermione's mug of cocoa. 

 

“What...?” Was all Harry could really manage. 

 

Arthur Weasley’s hands landed on Harry’s shoulders from behind, giving him a light squeeze. 

 

Bill and Percy had matching crossed arms, and were staring at him expectantly. Mrs. Weasley was crying, maybe harder than Harry himself had been. The Grangers continued to look completely bewildered. 

 

“I’m sorry,” Harry said again, at an utter loss. 

 

"Salvus Securus is a very particular spell, Harry,” Charlie remarked, almost conversationally, “it requires the caster to have a very earnest desire for, and a very clear sense of, safety. It says something that the place Draco Malfoy’s subconscious feels the safest is with you.”

 

Harry shrugged, Mr. Weasley’s hands were still on his shoulders. “He knows I’d keep him safe,” he replied, his voice low. 

 

“Despite everything he’s done?” Percy decried.  

 

Harry’s eyes snapped to him, “I should hope you would know a thing or two about second chances, Percy.”

 

Percy looked caught between cowed and irate. 

 

No one said anything. Harry stepped away from the warmth and comfort of Arthur’s hands, clicking at Constance. 

 

The preposterous, infuriatingly useless bird made no movement towards her cage. If anything, she bunched herself up and waddled backwards.

 

“Come on, Constance,” Harry pleaded, “We have to go.”

 

“You don’t,” it was Molly Weasley who spoke this time, her voice cracking. “Harry, this is your home, you don’t have to leave.”

 

“I can’t make you choose between me and your family, Mrs. Weasley,” Harry said, “I wouldn’t do that.”

 

“You are family,” she insisted, more steady this time. “You don’t choose between family and family. You find a way.”

 

Harry felt a new batch of tears well up in his eyes. “I won’t give him up.”

 

“We’re not asking you to,” Mrs. Weasley said, “You’re right. This family believes in second chances. And we believe in you. And if this boy is who you have chosen to love, then we would like the opportunity to get to know him, to see him as you do.” She wiped her eyes with a corner of her ever-present apron, “Maybe not tonight, since it’s late and we’ve all had a bit of a shock, and I’m sure Draco’s mother won’t want to wake up to find him missing on Christmas morning, but soon. New Year’s Day. We’ll all have a nice meal together, a fresh start on a day meant for fresh starts, how’s that?”

 

***

 

Harry led Draco to the garden, just somewhere they could have a minute alone. He’d lent Malfoy some trousers and socks and shoes. They were too big, and he looked more slender and fragile than usual wearing them.

 

“Alright?” Harry whispered. Draco didn’t answer. He looked up at the dark December sky. Harry took the pale face in his hands. “Sweetheart,” Harry breathed, “it’s okay. We’re okay.” 

 

Draco closed his eyes, his hands rising to cover Harry’s wrists. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, “Merlin, Potter, I can’t believe I made such a mess of things.”

 

“You didn’t,” Harry countered, “It was never going to be easy, and I’m almost relieved it’s out in the open. The Weasleys mean more to me than any living people, besides you and Hermione. It was eating away at me, their not knowing. And now they do. And they didn’t disown me and they didn’t kill you, that’s best case scenario, really.”

 

Draco gave the barest hint of a smile, “Ever the optimist.”

 

“What was your dream about?” Harry asked, “It must have been pretty terrible for you to cast so powerful of a spell while not even conscious.”

 

“I didn’t think it would be so hard, being home." Draco replied, after a moment, "I lived there this summer, I thought I’d pushed all the bad memories aside. We'd cleaned up, redecorated. Mum put her own touches on things. I thought it could maybe be a home for me still. Little things, though, they're hard to shake. A lot of déjà vu. I thought that was all it was."

 

He swallowed and continued, "I went to bed early tonight, just to escape it, and I dreamt of that day, you know, when you three were caught by the snatchers. Your face was so disfigured it hurt to look at, but I still knew it was you. I’d know you anywhere. When they asked if I knew you, I went to deny it, but that's not what came out. I couldn't lie this time. ‘That’s Harry Potter,’ I said, ‘The Dark Lord will be so pleased.’ Everyone was so excited. I could feel it radiating off them, and all I could feel was dread, twisting away inside me as they brought to him. He was finally happy with me. My father was standing by his side; he was happy with me, also. And the...reward for my betrayal was getting to stand there while he, while he…”

 

Draco’s voice cut off in a sob and Harry wrapped his arms around the other boy, pulling him close. “I don’t know why I did that, Harry,” Draco cried, “I didn’t want to, I just heard the words coming out and I was screaming at myself to shut up, but I couldn’t, I just served you up to him like some sacrificial lamb. How could I do that? I’m a fucking monster.”

 

“Hush,” Harry soothed, “You didn’t, you’re not. It was just a dream, love. Dreams show the exact shit we're scared of. But that's not what happened, remember? You protected me, risked your neck for me because that's who you are, even if you don't always believe that.”

 

“I wouldn’t do that,” Draco said, almost frantic, as if he hadn't heard Harry at all. He gripped Harry's jumper, and looked up at him, “You believe me, don’t you? I know I’m a coward, but I’d rather die than watch that again, watch him take you from me again.”

 

“I know, sweetheart, I know that. And I also know that's not something you'll ever have to face. He's dead and gone and we don't have to live in that world any longer,” Harry said, rubbing Draco's upper arms. He saw movement in his periphery and glanced up towards the house. The lean figure of George was peering out at them from their makeshift bedroom. The window was open and the older boy had his wand resting on the wooden sill. Harry wondered if he was going to hurt them. He turned, so Draco was shielded from George by the broad stretch of Harry’s back. He waited for a curse to fall, but it never did. The window shut with a heavy thud. 

 

Harry held the blond for a long time. The moonlight reflected off Draco’s pale hair. They weren’t dressed for the weather, and the cold seemed to bring Draco back to him, eventually. 

 

“I...I think I’m alright now,” Draco murmured, mopping up his face with the sleeve of Ron's jumper. "Well. Humiliated. Exhausted. Wishing to be home with you in that hideous bedroom."

 

“We can go there if you want."

 

"No, it's Christmas, and this is your family. You should be here."

 

"If you're sure," Harry relented, "You safe to apparate home, or do you want me to take you?”

 

“I’m alright.”

 

“I love you,” Harry reminded him, “nothing you do awake or asleep will change that.”

 

Draco pressed his lips to Harry’s, softly. “Love you, too.”

 

“Still game to try the Connection Cordial?" Harry remembered the silly experiment they'd dreamt up one of those long afternoons in bed a few days prior. "Tomorrow at midnight?” 

 

“And not a second later,” Draco instructed him, “won’t work, otherwise.”

 

“I'm aware.”

 

“You need a little prodding when it comes to potions.”

 

“Yes, thanks for that.”

 

“I’ll talk to you then. Happy Christmas, darling.”

 

Another kiss, and then Draco stepped back, and with a loud crack, he was gone.

Chapter Text

Draco? Harry thought tentatively, a few seconds after midnight. He was lying on his bunkbed in the room he shared with Percy, Ron, and now Charlie, who had swapped out with George. Probably for the best, Harry supposed, but it still hurt. 

 

Potter, came the response.

 

Oh! It worked! Harry just caught himself from saying it out. Only Percy was in the room with him, currently. Ron and Charlie were still downstairs, celebrating. Well, not celebrating exactly, but certainly drinking. No one had been in a particularly celebratory mood for all of Christmas Day, despite Mrs. Weasley's best attempts at cheer. 

 

Potions tend to do that when you brew them correctly.  

 

Ha bloody ha. Merlin, this is strange, isn't it?  Can you hear my other thoughts or only the things I am specficially thinking?

 

I expect just what you want me to. It feels like a conversation. Not so different. 

 

It's nice to hear your voice

 

Don't be mawkish. I saw you yesterday.

 

Yeah, well. It's been a strange day. How was your Christmas? Harry stretched out and put his hands behind his head. He preferred to have Draco within reach, but this was a surprisingly comforting substitute. 

 

Fine. 

 

Oh goody, I'm glad we used our only phials of Connection Cordial for you to spin such a compelling narrative

 

It was fine, Potter. Quiet, mostly. 

 

How's your mum?

 

Oh, so it is preferable to utilise the Cordial to discuss my mother?

 

Snappish today, aren't you, Merlin's tits.

 

She's fine. We're fine

 

What? Harry wrinkled his brow. The more Draco insisted there was nothing to discuss, the less Harry believed him.

 

What?

 

Something's happened, tell me what.

 

Oh, you're a Seer now, are you?

 

What the hell are we doing this for if you're just going to be all tetchy and evasive?

 

It's nothing. Just the post. 

 

Shit. Sorry, love.

 

Not your fault. We knew this would happen.

 

Is it unbearable? How many howlers?

 

Could be worse. A couple dozen per day, give or take. Today was particularly bad.

 

It's Christmas! Don't people have better things to do?

 

No, I suspect not, and so they spent time reflecting on those they've lost. Seeing as we're not in Azkaban—something for which we are obviously grateful—we're accessible. They have someone they know will receive their vitriol, unchecked by guards.

 

Fuck. That's awful.

 

It's not terribly pleasant. 

 

Any curses? Is your mum bearing up alright?

 

Nothing we couldn't handle. A few ink fountains that soiled a rug and a stinging hex, but we both avoided it. Mum's fine, really. Takes more than some nasty mail to rile her. I think she thought it might be worse. There have been some kind letters, too, and that helps. She said to thank you again for the charity idea, well, Granger's charity idea. While many think we're just trying to buy ourselves some penance, which I suppose we are, some do believe us to be sincere. 

 

Hermione said there's heaps of money coming in, and plenty of messages of encouragement and support. I suspect she's more approachable than you is all. I can send you some if you think your Mum would like them

 

Wouldn't hurt. How was your day? How are things at The...Warren? The Coop?

 

The Burrow, you mean?  They are...uncomfortable. George isn't speaking to me. Which I suppose is better than beating the stuffing out of me, but part of me wonders if I wouldn't prefer that. As though that way maybe we could get all his feelings out of the way and go back to how it was. 

 

Which one's that, again?

 

Surviving twin. One of the Gryffindor beaters?

 

Right. Sorry, for once I'm not trying to be obnoxious. You have to admit there are a lot of them. 

 

Harry smiled to himself. I know, you're not wrong. Things are simply tense. Mostly we just aren't talking about it, and Mrs. Weasley is hugging me a lot. Percy's being a right prick, but he's always a right prick. He's the other one we were at school with for a time. 

 

Oh, yes, intolerable prat, if I remember. 

 

That's the one. I feel badly for wrecking the holidays. Usually I love it here, now I can't wait to leave. Everyone's tiptoeing around it. As soon as I leave the room, I know they are all discussing it. I shouldn't be relying on Hermione and Ron to defend and explain us, but I'm pretty sure that's exactly what I'm doing. They are much too good to me. Charlie and Ginny having taken it in stride, but everyone else is still shaken. I guess there was no world in which this wouldn't feel like a betrayal. 

 

It's on me and my damned runaway subconcious, Potter. And my unsavoury history. The memories are all so much closer in this house, but Mum can't sell it; it belongs to my father. The laws prevent him from kicking her out, but she can't get rid of it. He says it's my inheritance, not that I fucking want it. In the meantime, Mother's given me some Potion for Dreamless Sleep, just until we're back at school. And she's, ah, she's made an appointment for me to see someone. A mind healer. Not out of St. Mungo's—a witch with a private practice who didn't seem shocked at the idea of treating a Death Eater, so I suppose I should be grateful.

 

Oh! Harry was surprised. He knew Hermione had spoken with a mind healer over the summer. She'd tried to encourage Ron and Harry to do so as well, but they'd opted for Ogden's finest, plenty of messing about on broomsticks, and not really mentioning the events of the past year if they could avoid it. Er, that's good, I hope it helps. What do mind healers even do exactly? Is it just talk?

 

Depends on the healer. This woman...oh, what's she do, I've got her card somewhere. Here it is. "Reconciling the past: Coping and healing for survivors of violence through pensieve reflection." Guess that fits. Though I hardly know if I am more of a survivor or a perpetrator. Hope it doesn't mean just hopping into pensieves to relive the worst of it time and again. Wish I could find someone to just scrub it away altogether.

 

Do you really?

 

Yes. No. I don't know, Harry. If someone muddling about it my brain didn't make me feel physically ill, maybe. Honestly don't know how Tiering lets you do it, week after week. 

 

Draco sounded listless and irritable; Harry wished that he could hold him. How is Clark? Has he contacted you?

 

Yes, he's sent some post, mostly just to try out his owl, I think. No news, just Happy Christmas and such. Speaking of, I haven't noticed your owl approaching the manor. 

 

She doesn't like the outdoors, she goes out as little as she can manage without making a mess inside.

 

Fucking hell, Harry, what incredibly useless purchase. You ought to euthanise her.

 

Draco!

 

What? How much will she cost you not only in owl feed but also in bacon, biscuits, and cakes over the next decade or two?

 

She's good company.

 

How?

 

Harry looked at the overgrown bird precariously perched on the narrow ledge at the end of his bed, her head tilted affectionately, studying him. 

 

I don't know. I just feel like she's watching out for me.

 

Watching out for falling table scraps, more like. 

 

Not when I'm in bed, she's not

 

Is that where you are? In bed?

 

Where else would I be? In the living room having a conversation in my head while everyone's milling about and pretending everything isn't terrible?

 

Is it really that bad?

 

I'm sorry, sweetheart. I'm not trying to make you feel like shit. But yes, it's...difficult. And I don't know what to do or what to say to make things okay again. I suspect only time will do that. George was always very good to me, like an older brother, really, what with being in the same house at school, and quidditch, and holidays at The Burrow. It's getting to me, his anger. It makes me almost nauseous. I can't stop thinking of it. 

 

Draco didn't say anything which only made Harry feel like an arse. He knew how much the boy was taking all this to heart already. 

 

I don't regret it, though, in case that's what you're thinking. I could never regret being with you. 

 

If you say so.

 

Draco. I mean it. 

 

The blond remained silent for another minute.

 

I wish you were here.

 

Aren't you sharing a room with an entire battalion? I don't expect they would enjoy being spectators in what we get up to. Why don't you just apparate home?

 

Just three others, it's fine. For the record, I wouldn't enjoy it either. I hope you aren't disappointed to learn I'm not an exhibitionist. And I don't like being at Grimmauld Place alone. I don't much like being anywhere alone. 

 

Is that why you asked me to come live with you?

 

The words hurt for some reason, like Draco suspected Harry of using him. Harry tried to consider the question honestly. No, I don't think so. I just couldn't imagine going to bed without you, after we leave school, I mean. Or not spending my days with you. Harry awaited a comment about his being a sentimental fool. 

 

Me neither

 

Yeah?

 

Yes, Potter. There was a shift in tone, to something softer, more vulnerable. You do know I'm terrified of...being without.

 

What?

 

Be sure to leave an anthropologist your skull when you kick it, will you? The thickness of your cranium is sure to amaze and astound future generations. You, Harry. I'm scared of being without you

 

Oh.

 

Oh, he says. Merlin. 

 

No, it's just...that's an irrational fear, isn't it?

 

I hope so. 

 

I know so. Trust me, alright?

 

Merlin help me, Potter, I do. 

Chapter Text

George left the evening of Boxing Day. Everyone told Harry that he needed to get back to the shop to give his assistants some relief. Harry knew they were just being kind. He offered to be the one to leave several times. He was almost willing to spend the remainder of the holiday alone at Grimmauld Place if it meant a reprieve from the endless tension, but Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t hear of it. He hid in the living room with Constance while everyone said their goodbyes. He held out some fancy owl treats that Draco’s eagle owl had delivered that morning with a note:

 

Sorry for being tetchy and evasive and for recommending euthansia.

Yours,

DLM

 

Constance took them up in her beak, gently, and made soft, grateful little noises as she gobbled them down.

 

There were more hushed murmurs from the kitchen. The whole Burrow had been fraught for two days now and it was all Harry’s fault. He heard the front door close, signifying George’s departure, and then Molly Weasley was crying again.

 

“Oh, Mum,” he heard Ginny say. 

 

Charlie entered the living room and sat down on the sofa across from Harry. He had two pints in hand and slid one over. The movement startled Constance and she flapped her massive wings, resuming her perch atop the clock. 

 

“Sorry for making your Mum cry,” Harry said, glumly. To his surprise, Charlie’s expression broke out into a grin. 

 

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that. If she’s not crying because she’s sad, she’s crying because she’s happy. That’s Mum. Percy said she cried for a week when I left for Romania.”

 

“How do you handle the…” Harry trailed off, scrubbing a hand over his face, then letting it fall to his chest, where that feeling seemed to be pressing. 

 

Charlie laughed, “The guilt?”

 

Harry nodded. 

 

“I try not to interpret it that way. Mum doesn’t want us at home, hiding behind her skirts and afraid of the world. She’s proud to have her kids out in the world, pursuing their interests. Even dull, bureaucratic interests, like Percy’s. She just worries because she loves us. So when she gets all worked up and sends me mad letters about the dangers of dragon fire, or includes newspaper clippings of magical beasts devouring wizards in Peru, instead of being like, oh no, I’m a terrible, horrid, rotten son, I try to think how nice it is to have a family like mine.”

 

Harry considered the words. He thought how lucky he was to have been co-opted into this loving, bustling family, as well. 

 

“And she loves you, too, Harry,” Charlie continued, “even before you and Ginny were together, you were already a son to her, and that didn’t end just because you two broke up.”

 

“Feel like a bit of a crap son,” Harry muttered. 

 

“The secret is we’re all crap sons in our own unique ways, but we all redeem ourselves in others. She’s not crying because you fell for Malfoy or even because it has upset George so. She’s crying because she knows being with him won’t be an easy path for you.”

 

Harry sipped his beer. 

 

“Then again, corralling dragons isn’t an easy path for me,” Charlie winked, “but I love it.”

 

***

 

Charlie, Percy, Bill and Fleur left a few days after that. Percy shook Harry’s hand, but Bill and Charlie hugged him. Fleur for her part embraced him about six times, and peppered his face with affectionate kisses, “I’m ‘appy zat sad boy ‘as you, ‘Arry,” she said. 

 

“Er, thanks,” Harry said, clumsily kissing one cheek and then the other as she presented them. 

 

***

 

“I’m going flying,” Ginny said, once the farewells were done and only the youngest two Weasleys remained, “Harry? Ron?”

 

Ron was game, but Harry had a few letters to write so he declined. He sat down at the kitchen table with a fresh cup of tea, and scribbled Happy Christmas missives to Hagrid, Andromeda, Dudley and Clark. He fastened one to Constance’s leg. Her round eyes swiveled towards him, incredulous, and then she hopped under the table. He sighed, crawled down after her, and untied twine. 

 

He then scrawled a quick note to Draco. 

 

Hullo, 

Mrs. Weasley said to remind you that you’re still invited for lunch at 12:30 on New Year’s Day. Most of Ron's brothers have gone home, so it shouldn’t be too overwhelming, I hope. Please, please don’t dress too posh and don’t bring a gift, especially not something expensive. 

Love,

H.

PS.Thank you for the owl treats. Constance thoroughly enjoyed them

 

Harry cornered the hyperactive Pigwidgeon in the attic, and sent off the letter to Malfoy. The others could wait a bit, Harry supposed. 

 

A reply arrived that afternoon:

 

“Enjoyed?” Oh dear. A bag that size lasts Metatron a month at least. I notice the glutton is still not delivering your post. Do I need to get you a back-up owl that actually performs the function for which it was bred?

See you 1 January, collar unstarched, sans gifts. 

Yours,

DLM

 

***

 

Harry barely slept the night of New Year’s Eve. He awoke that morning wired with anxiety. Malfoy, making a social call to The Burrow, eurgh—it made his stomach turn. Thankfully, Mrs. Weasley heaped him, Ginny, Ron and Hermione with household chores immediately after breakfast. The Burrow might not be upscale, but Merlin, it would be clean. 

 

Draco arrived promptly by floo at 12:30. He glided out of the fireplace, in jeans. High-end jeans, no doubt—they fit him marvelously—but still. Harry appreciated the effort and the view, or he would have if the panic wasn’t rising in him like thermometer mercury in the afternoon sun. 

 

Draco, for his part, was unflappable. 

 

“Good afternoon,” he greeted the Weasleys politely, “Thanks ever so much for having me.” 

 

Mrs. Weasley seemed to make up her mind about something, and all of the sudden was stepping in with her arms outstretched. Harry was half-afraid Malfoy would do something terrible like recoil, but the blond simply returned the embrace, only a little stiffly. 

 

Then he looked to Harry, who felt frozen to the spot. 

 

“Hello, love,” Draco said smoothly, stepping in to kiss Harry’s cheek. He took that opportunity to murmur “For Merlin’s sake, relax, it’s lunch, not a breaking wheel,” in Harry’s ear. 

 

He also hugged Ron and Hermione and shook Mr. Weasley’s hand, and turned to the Grangers.

 

“You must be Hermione’s parents,” he said, “I’m afraid we didn’t get properly introduced the other night. My apologies for my poorly timed, and even more poorly appareled, appearance,” He indulged in a self-deprecating smile, “Pleasure to meet you both. I’m Harry’s boyfriend, obviously. Draco.”

 

He made the strange situation seem terribly easy. 

 

“Ginny, dear, come help me with the punch,” Mrs. Weasley said. 

 

“I can help,” Harry blurted out, thinking about Ginny’s frustration with always being the first to be called on. 

 

“No, no, you stay here with Draco,” Mrs. Weasley assured him. 

 

Harry lowered himself onto a loveseat beside Draco, who took his hand casually, all while continuing small talk with Mr. Granger. Harry realised he was self-conscious about the contact, even as he craved it. He saw Mr. Weasley's eyes flick to the touch, and then away again, expression remaining neutral. No one else seemed to even register it.

 

Mrs. Weasley returned, followed by a hovering crystal punch bowl and several matching glasses. The dishes came to rest gently on the coffee table, which had been covered with a freshly-ironed tablecloth and two trays of baking. The crystal was too flowery and ornate to be of this decade, but if Malfoy noticed, he didn’t remark on it. 

 

“Punch, Draco?” Asked Ginny. 

 

“Please.” 

 

Ginny ladled some into a delicate glass, and handed it to him. Draco politely took a sip. 

 

“Lovely, is that rosehip?”

 

Mrs. Weasley smiled broadly, “Yes, with juniper and a bit of soda. I found the recipe in Witch Weekly.”

 

“Very refreshing,” Draco replied.

 

Harry took a sip from the glass Ginny handed him. Tasted a bit like perfume to him, but Draco seemed genuine in his praise. Maybe the other boy just had a more refined palate.

 

They meandered through the usual chitchat—Draco seemed particularly interested in the Grangers’ explanations of muggle dentistry—and then they were all summoned by Mrs. Weasley to the dining room table. 

 

“How is your mother doing, dear?” Molly asked as she served small portions of soup and salad to precede the meal. 

 

It took a moment for Draco to realise the “dear” she was addressing was him. 

 

“Oh, quite well, thank you. Her and Hermione have been in touch a great deal about the foundation, and I think she’s rather happy to have a project.”

 

“She’s incredibly organised,” Hermione contributed with a note of admiration in her voice, “She’s already reached out to Professor McGonagall and written a statement for The Daily Prophet and devised criteria for student grants. I've hardly had to do anything at all.”

 

“Has the divorce gone through?” Ron asked, through a mouthful of lettuce. 

 

“Ronald!” Mrs. Weasley admonished, but Malfoy didn’t even blink. 

 

“She wouldn’t mind my discussing it,” he assured them, “It has, yes, and Mother’s reverted her surname to Black. Were you at school with her?” he asked the Weasleys.

 

“For a couple of years, perhaps,” Mr. Weasley remarked, “We were closer to your Aunt Bellatrix’s age."

 

Draco flinched very slightly, and Harry gripped his leg under the table. 

 

“Of course,” was all Draco said, then turned to Harry, “Have you seen anything of my Aunt Andromeda and Teddy over the break?”

 

“Not yet,” Harry said, “hopefully will get out to see them and my cousin in the next few days.”

 

Draco nodded and complimented Mrs. Weasley on the soup. 

 

The main course was served: garlic roasted chicken with veg and potatoes. It was delicious as ever, but Harry was having a difficult time eating anything. The tentative small talk had given way to uncomfortable silence, despite everyone’s best efforts. 

 

“How did you and Harry fall in together?” Mrs. Granger asked Draco courteously, just as Harry thought the silence might consume them all. 

 

“I injured my knee early in the term,” Draco supplied, “and Harry was helping me with that.”

 

Ron snorted. Harry glared at him. 

 

“Oh, come off it, you two,” Ron challenged, “it’s a far more outrageous and salacious story than that! If Draco’s going to be coming around here in future and we’re only going to discuss quidditch, teeth, and the weather, I might have to drown myself in the punchbowl.”

 

To Harry’s dismay, and without asking permission, Ron launched into a very lively retelling of Harry and Draco’s bizarre agreement and the mysterious events of the school term. Harry looked over at Draco to signal his silent apology, but to his surprise, his boyfriend was grinning ruefully, cheeks flushed. When Ron got to the bit about Harry being injured in the quidditch field and Malfoy’s feral, protective reaction, Harry saw Mrs. Weasley tear up, dabbing at her eyes with the cloth napkins she’d brought out for the special occasion. Draco brazenly wrapped an arm around the back of Harry's chair and Merlin, it felt good just to sit there, allowed to have this. 

 

“I can’t believe none of you said a word about this ordeal to me!” Mrs. Weasley scolded them, once Ron had finished his tale. His audience had certainly been attentive, Harry had to give him that. 

 

“You know those three, Mum,” Ginny rolled her eyes, “always keep the action to themselves, even when their very talented friend and sister could have helped. Can’t believe I don’t get even a year outside of Ron’s obnoxious shadow.” She eyed Hermione, Harry and Draco, “Hope you three know how lucky you are not to have scads of older siblings. They always insist they know better.”

 

Ron and Ginny’s candidness seemed to relax everyone and the rest of the lunch was not just bearable, but actually pleasant. When it came time for Draco to leave, he hugged Mrs. Weasley fully, thanking her graciously, and he kissed Harry squarely on the mouth as if it were the most normal thing in the world. He threw a handful of floo, stepped into the fire, and said “Malfoy Manor.” With that, he was gone. 

 

Mrs. Weasley turned to him, beaming, “Why, Harry,” she declard, “he’s turned into such a lovely young man! Those beautiful manners, and he cares for you so much! I can scarcely believe the change in him.”

 

Harry could only mutter a thank-you, feeling strangely pleased and embarrassed all at once. 

 

Ginny giggled, “Oh, Merlin, I just thought of poor Neville trying to make it through lunch with my parents now that we're dating. Do you think he could complete one sentence without blushing and stuttering?”

 

“Oh, come on, Gin, he’s gotten better,” Ron said. 

 

“I’m not saying he’s not made great strides,” Ginny remarked, “but this sort of thing would devolve him right to primordial ooze. Few are as irritatingly charming as Malfoy, when he sets his mind to it, Harry, I’ll give you that.”

 

***

 

When Pig returned that evening from delivering the last of Harry’s Christmas notes, he sent the tiny owl off on one more mission:

 

Thank you for all that. Truly. 

Love,

Harry

 

The response came back just as Harry was falling off to sleep:

 

My pleasure. Truly. 

Yours,

Draco

Chapter Text

Draco, unsurprisingly, did not keep his feelings about the Tube to himself.

 

“This is an airless tin can of certain death,” he hissed, glaring at Harry like he had somehow tricked him into this.

 

“We’re not apparating into Surrey in the middle of the day, especially during the holidays when half the neighbourhood will be peering out their windows instead of going to work,” Harry reminded him. “Besides, I told you you would hate it and that you didn’t have to come with me.”

 

“You could have arranged a portkey.”

 

“That would still involve us just materializing in front of a muggle pub! And besides, I didn’t think of it when I knew we could just take the Underground.”

 

"I could have Obliviated any spectators."

 

"No, love, we try not to Obliviate muggles if we can help it, remember?"

 

"Some new world order you're ushering in," Draco sniffed, unimpressed, then scrunched his delicate features in distaste. “There are some smells I just could have lived my whole life without smelling, Potter, and this undulating milieu of the unwashed was high on that list.”

 

“You’re an unbelievable snob,” Harry marveled. 

 

“I hope this isn’t news to you,” Malfoy retorted, emitting a little shriek as the tube lurched forward away from the platform. He jostled into Harry, who put a steadying hand on his arm. Harry chuckled, badly wanting to keep his hand there, or better yet, reel Draco in, but he felt uncertain in muggle London, especially as they drew closer to the suburbs. He didn’t want unnecessary attention, and he certainly didn’t trust himself not to lash out should someone threaten Draco. 

 

“Alright there?” He asked. 

 

Draco was torn between losing his balance and actually having to touch the handrail above him. Another lurch, and he settled unhappily for the latter and Harry reluctantly let his hand fall away. “Never again,” Malfoy vowed, “your cousin better be an absolutely fucking delight.”

 

***

 

Dudley was loitering outside the agreed upon pub. His hair was cut close to his scalp, and Merlin, he no longer looked like a boy, but a great towering wall of a man. There was an extremely thin girl in a lot of make-up with a nervous expression hovering at his elbow. 

 

“Hullo,” Harry greeted them, as they came closer. Harry went in for a handshake just as Dudley went for a hug and then there was the awkward laugh and rearranging of limbs that ended in a truncated, stilted embrace. “Er, Dudley, this is Draco; Draco, Dudley.”

 

Harry had thought it best to warn Dudley beforehand about the dating a bloke thing. He figured if Dudley was going to be a wanker about it, then he wouldn’t bother meeting up with him. To his surprise, the note Pigwidgeon had reappeared with simply said, “Cheers, Harry, I look forward to meeting him, then.” The two blonds shook hands, and then Dudley cleared his throat and introduced the girl, Tanya, as his girlfriend. Harry and Draco shook her hand as well, and then they entered the pub and found a table. 

 

“So, er, how’s things? What are you up to this year? Still at school or have you finished up?” Dudley asked, after they’d ordered pints.

 

“Hm, I can see you two are close,” Draco muttered, and Harry elbowed him. 

 

“Erm,” Harry said, glancing meaningfully at Tanya. 

 

“It’s alright,” Dudley said quickly, “Tanya knows about all that.”

 

“My step-sisters are all witchy,” the girl explained.

 

Harry was nonplussed, “Like...Wiccan, or…?”

 

The girl laughed, “No, no, magical. Like you. Dudley and I met at a support group.”

 

“Sorry, what?” 

 

“For non-magical people who love magic users.”

 

This was the first Harry had ever heard of Dudley loving a magic user. 

 

“Not easy for us to be close to people as kids only for them to be taken off to school at eleven,” Tanya continued, “my step-sisters are twins and I was right jealous, and also lonely. Suddenly my two best mates were gone and I had to tell everyone at school that my parents had decided to send them to boarding school and not me!”

 

“Which school?” Draco demanded, fastening on to what was the least important part of Tanya's words, in Harry's view.

 

“Oh, I can never remember the name, but it’s on the continent. My step-dad’s Polish.”

 

Draco started rattling off names of magic schools Harry had never even heard of, but Tanya just started looking overwhelmed, so Harry put a hand on his forearm to get him to leave off. 

 

“I just started going to meetings in June,” Dudley said, as their pints arrived. “Cheers,” he thanked the server, “and honestly, I think if I had had it as a kid, or Mum especially, it would have done us worlds of good.”

 

“Is that so?” Harry asked, trying to mask his befuddlement. 

 

“Oh definitely,” Dudley assured him, “it has really taught me to celebrate our differences.”

 

“Has it?” Harry choked out, trying to keep his eyes from bugging out and landing in the froth of his beer. 

 

“And what sorts of topics do you discuss at…” Draco started.

 

“We just call it LMU,” Tanya informed him, “Loving-Magic Users.”

 

“At LMU?” Malfoy repeated, dubiously. 

 

“Oh loads of things,” Dudley said, excitedly, “All the ways the magic world and the regular world are interconnected, and the areas of collaboration. Mostly we just talk about our, you know, our journeys.”

 

“Your...journeys?” Harry could hardly recognise the boy sitting across from him. 

 

“Oh, it all sounds a bit soppy, but just dealing with those reactions: jealousy, resentment, isolation and uncertainty. Learning there is a whole world out there that you don’t get to be a part of.”

 

“I...I can see how that would have been strange for you,” Harry considered. 

 

“It was," Dudley agreed, "But it really helps having Tanya and all the LMU mates I’ve made. Just knowing other people like me are out there, people who had to deal with the shame, the stigma of having a magic-user in the family, it means a lot. Mum and Dad were especially bad for that,” Dudley stated gravely. “I’ve tried to get Mum to go with me, but...well, you know how she is.”

 

Harry laughed bitterly into his pint, “Bit of a stretch to say your Mum had anything resembling affection towards me.”

 

He felt Draco’s hand on his leg, giving him warm reassurance just as Dudley reached a mammoth gorilla arm across the table, and squeezed Harry’s shoulder. “I’m sorry for it,” he said, seriously, “I’ve learned a bit more about why we had to go into hiding last year. You didn’t have to keep an eye out for us, you had no reason to want to protect us, but you made sure it was taken care of, anyway.”

 

Harry shrugged, dropping his hand to Draco’s, needing something to hold on to. “Well, you were an obvious target.”

 

“It was right decent of you,” Dudley insisted, “especially after, well. Everything. We didn’t give you much of a home.”

 

“It’s actually pretty common,” Tanya piped up, “magic can really divide families. Magical children are shunned, or normal children are, depending on the dynamics. It can really be a bit of a kick in the teeth. I’m not sure I’d even talk to my step-sisters if it wasn’t for the LMU, but we actually have a wonderful relationship now. They even got me an owl for my last birthday so I can write to them!”

 

“It is a pain to have to use public owls,” Draco sympathised politely. 

 

“Forgive Draco,” Harry said, “he’s, er, still learning."

 

“What am I still learning?” Draco insisted, appalled.

 

“Muggles don’t use owls,” Harry said. 

 

“Why not? Owls aren’t magic, they’re birds.”

 

“Er…” Tanya interrupted before Harry could get to an explanation about the postal service, “We actually don’t love that word.”

 

“Sorry?” Harry asked. 

 

“The M word?” Tanya said, giving him a strange, friendly sort of grimace, “We prefer the term ‘normal’ or ‘non-magical’”

 

“Why do you lot get to be normal?” Draco retorted.

 

“Draco,” Harry warned, “It doesn’t matter. We’re happy to use whatever terms make Dudley and Tanya comfortable.”

 

“That’s actually a really good point, Draco,” Tanya said contemplatively. She started to nod slowly, her voice sincere. “You know what, I’m going to bring that up at our next meeting. It really paints magic users as abnormal, doesn’t it, and that is just the sort of stigmatization we’re hoping to avoid.”

 

Harry gave her a bland smile, completely at a loss of what to make of all of this, and then changed the subject. 

 

***

 

Harry and Draco spent that night, their last of the break, together at Grimmauld Place. The rest of the visit with Dudley had been odd, but not unpleasant. Dudley was looking at unis and keeping up with his boxing, Tanya seemed keen to get involved with LMU administration upon her graduation. Harry hadn’t asked after his aunt and uncle.

 

Draco had quoted Tanya all the way home. "It's actually such a blessing to live without magic, you know," he had parrotted with mock-earnestness, "it shows the ingenuity of the human spirit, just look at what we have created without magic!" Draco had waved an enthusiastic hand at the interior of the Tube, his derision apparent.

 

Harry had laughed affectionately, but then admitted, "I thought she was kind of sweet. Well meaning, and I really did never think much of what it is like for siblings at home. It filled my aunt with such rancor, I think it's tainted her whole life. She treated magic like it was, not a disease as much as a moral failing, a corruption she wanted to yank out by the roots."

 

"Sounds like a lovely woman," Draco had remarked sarcastically. 

 

"Ignorance and spite," Harry had observed, "it's a dangerous combination."

 

Draco insisted they shower upon returning home, convinced that exsponging the filth of the Tube was a matter in need of urgent attention. Harry was happy enough to be corralled into the shower if it meant Draco was with him. Under the hot spray, he wrapped his arms around the blond and drew him close. 

 

“Merlin, I’ve missed you,” he admitted. 

 

“You saw me loads over the break,” Draco reminded him, lazily scrubbing some citrusy smelling shampoo into Harry’s hair. Harry didn’t recognise it. He suspected replacement might be the fate of most of his stock toiletries, but he found didn’t mind. “More than either of us was expecting.”

 

“Wasn’t enough,” grumbled Harry. 

 

Draco slicked Harry’s wet hair back from his face, studying him. He kissed him then, his hands falling to Harry’s waist, pulling him closer. Harry savoured the proximity, the familiar touch of their bodies. Draco broke the kiss, air ghosting over Harry's lips, the sweet smell of grapefruit enveloping them. “No," he agreed, "It never is."

Chapter Text

Harry awoke early that last morning in Grimmauld Place, curled close to Draco. Pale winter light seeped in through the cracks around curtains in the ugly little room, illuminating the overwrought furniture and musty carpet. He tightened the arm he had slung over Draco’s waist and nuzzled his face into the blond’s neck, inhaling the sweet smell of his shampoo.

 

“Everything alright?” Draco murmured, groggily. 

 

“Just going to miss this,” Harry admitted, “waking up with you.”

 

“Hm,” Malfoy acknowledged, “glad you appreciate the privilege.”

 

Harry snorted and shoved the other boy forward, rolling him onto his front and trapping him there, straddling his thighs, pressing his chest against the flat of Draco’s back. 

 

“May I help you?” Draco asked, his voice muffled by the pillow. 

 

Harry rolled his hips meaningfully, his morning erection grinding against the thin cotton of Draco’s pants. He nipped at Draco’s earlobe. “Wanker.”

 

“What are you doing?” Draco yawned, turning his head so he could be heard more clearly. 

 

Harry wasted no time in pressing two fingers between the newly exposed lips. “Get these nice and wet for me, you mouthy little prat,” Harry instructed, “I’ve a lot of privilege to appreciate this morning, and finite time to do so.”

 

***

 

The return Hogwarts and the first few weeks of the new year were blessedly uneventful. Harry tentatively let himself believe that perhaps Wilma Brown was the lone culprit for the attacks in the autumn. Quidditch, the DA, and Occlumency lessons with Clark resumed without issue and Professor Haberdash-Pewter’s lectures returned to their customary omphaloskeptic tone. Hermione continued to collect funds for the Magical Children’s Equity Fund (she’d had to be talked down from the Fund for Under-served Kids). The M.C.E.F. was expanding, and Narcissa Malfoy was proving to be an astute administrator, building a board of directors for transparency and recruiting Harry for pleasant, personalised responses to major donors, which Draco insisted on editing. 

 

Harry was pleased to see Clark in good spirits after the holidays. Hiram (the boy, not the owl) was a near-constant shadow by his side and seemed to now admire the non-conformity that had so appalled him in September. Evenings not spent with him, the DA, or Wyvern practices, were filled with studying. N.E.W.T.s, as both Hermione and Draco were quick to remind him, were looming. Harry found he didn’t much mind the hours in the library, brightened by the occasional brush of Draco’s hand over his thigh beneath the long, communal tables crowded with eighth years and their endless quills and scrolls. Harry felt settled in their relationship in a way he hadn’t before, knowing a key to Grimmauld Place was stowed away in Draco’s chest. It soothed the irritation that came with slinking back to his own bed at four each morning so as not to be found out. 

 

It was shortly after falling back asleep in his own bed early one morning that he had the dream. 

 

In it, Wilma Brown stood in the entrance hall, just as she had that horrific evening. Draco was there, but instead of protecting first years, behind him was the entire Weasley family, cowering and wandless. Fenrir Greyback was hunched over at Mrs. Brown's feet, feasting on the remains of her daughter. The slick, viscous sounds of Lavender's viscera sliding down the werewolf’s gullet made Harry queasy. Draco’s bones were breaking again, only this time, Harry was watching it happen. He realised all at once he was immobile under his invisibility cloak, Draco’s voice raw with screaming as she snapped each fragile bone in his body. Not just his hands and arms this time, but his feet, his knees. The blond dissolved to the floor as his frame was shattered. The Weasleys’ eyes were on him, George’s gaze cold and unmoved, a thin-lipped smile tugging at his lips as Draco convulsed with pain, a frothy white mess dribbling over his chin. 

 

Over the noises of Greyback, Harry could still hear the wet crunch of Draco’s bones and the unnatural shifting of marrow as Wilma Brown popped his vertebra like ripe cherries. 

 

The rage and devastation somehow shook Harry in place, and despite the spell, he found his voice and soon he was howling. His sounds were brutal and wordless at first and then, as Draco’s eyes somehow found his, he called out the boy’s name. 

 

“Draco!” he roared, his helplessness tearing through him like shrapnel as he stood rooted to the stone floor. He repeated the blond’s name like a desperate mantra, sobbing and shrieking as that final, vital vertebra was collapsed with a flick of Mrs. Brown's pitiless wand. Draco lips parted soundlessly as he struggled to draw breath into a paralyzed cavity. All Harry could do was wail, call out for the boy he loved, and despair.

 

Then, in a macabre sort of farce, the crisp, competent voice of Draco Malfoy sounded from those lifeless lips. “Everyone get out, this instant; I don’t care what state you’re in, Longbottom, out.”

 

From the wall of the great entrance, Ron’s voice piped in, “You heard him, lads, move out. We’ve got this. A word about this to anyone and you’d best believe you’ll be hearing from me.”

 

Confused, Harry heard the clamour of footsteps, and in his dream, the Weasleys plodded out, grumbling their way to safety. Only it wasn't the Weasleys, it was the other boys in the dormitory, he somehow knew, although in the sudden darkness, he couldn't see them. Harry blinked awake. 

 

“Is he alright?” And that was Seamus’ voice, only Seamus wasn’t here and Harry couldn’t place him. 

 

“He’ll be fine,” Draco said, words clipped. He followed up the harsh response with a sincere, “We’ve got him, Finnegan, but thank you.”

 

“Hurry up, you lot!” Seamus urged the others.

 

The curtain of Harry’s four post bed was pulled back just as the realization that it had all been a miserable dream hit him with a wave of relief so intense he thought he might vomit. The concerned faces of Ron and Draco looked down at him. Ron was wearing only his striped pajama bottoms, and Draco was in his customary black pants and vest and seeing him whole and unbroken made Harry shiver against his sweat-soggy sheets. He sat up, observing the natural swell and fall of Draco’s chest as he breathed, unaided. Harry reached out, pressing a palm to the ribs that caged those healthy, functional lungs and that sturdy, capable diaphragm.

 

He started to cry. 

 

He started to cry and he couldn’t stop. 

 

Ron looked panicked but Draco fixed him with a sharp glance. “Find Granger and a calming draught. Now, Weasley.”

 

Relieved to have been assigned a task, Ron nodded and disappeared. Draco flung Harry’s soaked eiderdown off him and crawled in beside him. Harry felt petrified again, save for several violent tremors that coursed through him as Draco swept him up into his arms and pressed him against his chest. 

 

“I’m here, baby,” Draco said, voice softer and sweeter than Harry had ever heard it, “I’m right here, it’s okay. I’m not hurt. It was just a nasty dream, darling, it wasn’t real. I’m here now.”

 

Harry couldn’t speak, he only clung to the dark fabric of Draco’s undershirt, weeping breathlessly against Malfoy’s prominent collarbone. Draco clucked and fussed over him, petting his hair and kissing his head, but Harry couldn’t seem to calm down. He couldn’t get the image out of his head. 

 

“Sh-Sh-She killed you,” he gasped between tremulous sobs, turning his face towards Draco’s, “she killed you and I watched.”

 

Draco slicked the wet hair back from Harry’s forehead, looking down at him. He pressed his lips against Harry’s scar, then his eyebrow. 

 

“She didn’t, sweetheart, I’m right here, and I’m just fine. You and I, we're just a bit of a mess, that's all. Our brains are too full of memories that sometimes they overflow when we're not looking.”

 

Ron and Hermione appeared at the side of the bed then, and if Draco was embarrassed to be found cradling Harry and speaking so tenderly, he didn’t show it. Harry could only shake his head, emotions still rattling through him. He couldn’t catch his breath. 

 

“Do you have the draught?” Draco demanded and Hermione handed it to him, her face pale, but her jaw set.

 

Draco uncorked the little phial with his thumb, ignoring the stopper as it toppled to the sheets below. 

 

“Can you drink this for me, Harry?” he asked, “You don’t have to have it all, I’m just worried for you. Can you take a sip, darling, please?”

 

Not letting go of Draco, Harry gave a single nod. Draco tipped the phial between his lips and Harry swallowed down the smoky grey liquid. It was as if at once he was wrung dry. The overwhelming despair pulsed a final time and dispersed as if taken by a sudden breeze. 

 

“Better?” Draco asked, wiping Harry’s face with a handkerchief Hermione must have passed him, and pressing a quick, reassuring kiss to his lips. 

 

“I think so,” Harry spoke, surprised to hear his voice sounded calm and far away. 

 

“Right,” Hermione said, matter-of-fact, “why don’t you take him and get him showered, Draco. Ron and I will strip the sheets and let the rest of the boys back in. We’ll keep them out of the bathroom for twenty minutes or so.”

 

Harry reached out for his glasses and put them on, searching between the serious expressions of his friends. 

 

“I’m alright,” he said, wanting to reassure them. 

 

“We know, Harry,” Hermione said, her face full of tenderness, “it was just a nightmare. I suspect some damage control will be required; I’m not sure how we’ll keep twenty mouths shut. Might have to get ahead of it in the press, Merlin, I’m not sure.”

 

“Don’t worry, Hermione,” Harry told her, not liking to see his friend bothered and wishing he could share the lovely bloom of serenity in his chest, “Everything will work out.”

 

Ron chuckled darkly, “Better not let him get near that stuff too often, seems pretty potent.”

 

“This was an emergency dose. What he really needs a mind-healer,” Hermione replied grimly, “I thought the nightmares had eased off since this summer, but I should have guessed that incident in the autumn would bring things back up. I’ve never seen him this bad. I don't like it.”

 

“I’m not bad,” Harry offered, “I’m feeling ever so much better.”

 

“You’re blitzed off your nut, sweetheart,” Draco informed him. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”

 

***

 

Draco gathered towels, toiletries and fresh clothes and then shepherded Harry down the corridor of eighth year boys who all stared curiously. Harry kept a hold of Draco's hand, even as everyone looked at them. He didn't mind being looked at. He just liked the feeling of Draco's fingers slotted neatly between his like they belonged.

 

“He alright?” Dean asked Malfoy, “You need a hand?”

 

“He’s fine now,” Draco confirmed, “Thanks, Thomas. Just give us a bit of time alone in there, yeah?”

 

“You heard the man,” Finnegan announced from beside his boyfriend and taking over in that exuberant, dictatorial way of his, “Leave off, keep your eyes in your own head. If anyone deserves a fecking breakdown, it’s Potter.”

 

Harry didn’t suppose that was exactly what Draco had had in mind, but it didn’t matter. Nothing really mattered, he found, and that was quite nice. 

 

In the bathroom, Draco undressed Harry and himself, putting Harry’s glasses on a cubby shelf and pulling him in under the spray. Draco’s expression was solemn as he washed both their bodies, so Harry brought him close and kissed him. “Nothing to worry about,” he insisted.

 

Draco gave him a wry smile, “Funny feeling you won’t be saying that in a few hours when this potion wears off, Potter.”

 

“Potter,” Harry echoed dreamily, “Not what you called me earlier.”

 

“Hm, suppose not,” Draco said as he turned off the shower and toweled Harry and himself off. “Can’t baby you all the time, though, can I?”

 

“Why can’t you?” Harry asked as Draco knelt, directing Harry’s foot to the leg hole of his pants like he was a child. “You’re doing it now.”

 

“I am,” Draco conceded, “because you need it. How's this, I'll always do it when you need it.”

 

“Will you go with me to breakfast?” Harry wondered out loud, thoughts flitting away as he felt sweetness float through him like candy floss melting on his tongue.

 

“I always go with you to breakfast,” Draco reminded him, pulling Harry’s trousers up and fastening the flies before guiding Harry’s heavy arms through the openings in his shirt. 

 

“Will you hold my hand again?”

 

“Probably best not to, today, love,” Draco said softly, “but tomorrow, if you’re sober and you still want me to, I’ll hold your hand any time you like."

Chapter Text

By the end of classes that afternoon, the effects of the calming draught had dispersed, leaving Harry with a mildewing sense of dread seeping through him. He could barely face dinner, feeling a permanent, miserable ruddiness to his cheeks. His head was pounding and he couldn’t meet anyone’s eyes. They all must know by now, he thought. They all must despise him. Draco’s hand on his thigh under the table made him jump and tense up. Malfoy jerked his hand away at his reaction and that somehow made Harry feel even worse. 

 

“I’ve got to—” he cut himself off, unable to come up with a convincing lie. He just clamoured off the bench and strode away, alone.  

 

He found himself standing in the great entrance. The Hufflepuff quidditch team burst through the castle doors, making Harry jump. 

 

A few greeted him with friendly shouts of “Hello, Harry!” and “Evening, Potter!”. He gave them what he hoped was a grin as they clomped snowy boots on the floor and headed for their dormitory. Harry’s feet led him to where he had been standing in his dream. He looked around the empty hall. Nothing but warm stone walls and the flickering of torches in secure metal sconces. His eyes fell to the floor where Lavender’s body had lain, torn open and feasted upon. For a moment, he thought he thought he saw her blood oozing out from between the slabs. 

 

He shook his head. No, that was only where she had been in his dream. His eyes shifted over to the other side of the marble staircase. There. She’d died there. A feverish chill skipped along his spine and Harry leaned back against the wall, feeling dizzy. All he could hear were the grunts and screams of battle, the thump of bodies tossed carelessly over the banister. And Draco. Bones broken. Suffocating as that vital nerve was severed. But no, that hadn’t been that night either. That hadn’t happened at all. Or it had. In part. Harry couldn’t remember, couldn’t track what was real and what was just a dream, because so much of what was real had been a nightmare. 

 

“Harry?” He opened his eyes and turned his head at Hermione’s voice. She was standing between Ron and Draco at the entrance that led towards the great hall. “What are you doing here?”

 

The two boys wore twin expressions of thin-lipped concern. 

 

“You’re alive,” Harry said to Draco. “Aren’t you?”

 

The blond head nodded carefully, he always looked so beautiful in torchlight. He could have been an angel, Harry thought, maybe he was. 

 

“Yes, love,” Draco replied tentatively, “I’m alive, remember? It was just a dream.”

 

Harry nodded and closed his eyes again, but he didn’t remember. He only remembered death. Lavender and some other student whose name he didn’t even know, thrown onto these stones, and Draco. 

 

“Ron, go fetch McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey,” Hermione said, her voice still pleasant and calm, “Harry’s unwell.”

 

Harry felt as though he stood now where Lavender had lain dying, watching himself from the outside like a scene from a play. Draco and Hermione were approaching, timidly, as though he could startle like a spotted fawn. Didn’t they know they couldn’t reach him? He was all the way over here, and that was only his body. Draco’s hesitant touch jarred Harry back into himself with a violent gasp. The other boy leaped back in surprise. 

 

“Sorry, Harry, sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you,” Draco said quickly, “are you alright?” His expression was pained.

 

“I wasn’t there,” Harry tried to explain. “You brought me back.”

 

“I'm not sure I understand,” Draco said, “Let's get you sitting down, hey, sweetheart? How's that?"

 

Harry let himself slide along the wall, reaching out for Hermione. She sat with him, gripping his hand tightly and she felt good: solid and real. Draco was at Harry’s other side and Harry was terrified that the press of his body would radiate the icy coldness of death, but as their arms touched he exhaled, relieved that it didn't. Draco's fingers were warm and comforting as he took Harry’s free hand in his own. 

 

“I can’t look,” he told them, “If I open my eyes they’ll all be there. The dead. And I thought you were one of them. I thought they’d killed you, too.” 

 

“It was just a dream,” Draco repeated, "I'm right here. Can't get rid of me that easily."

 

“How can you tell the difference?” Harry whispered, “I’ve forgotten.”

 

“It’s okay,” Hermione told him, squeezing his hand. “You’ll remember.”

 

Footsteps sounded and Harry forced himself to look, relieved to see just the entrance hall, Professor McGonagall, Madam Pomfrey, and Ron standing over him, where he sat guarded by Hermione and Draco. 

 

“What’s happened?” the headmistress asked and Harry faded out as Hermione began to speak. The sounds threatened to begin again: the blasts of magic and the shatter of glass, the spill of the Slytherin hourglass and emeralds skittering across hard ground. 

 

“Harry?” he looked around, catching McGonagall’s sharp eyes on him. 

 

“S-Sorry?” he said. 

 

“I asked how you were feeling.”

 

“A bit confused,” he admitted, “I’m not sure what I’m doing here.”

 

“Can you tell me what you remember?” She asked. 

 

“I don't think I can.”

 

“I see.”

 

“Professor,” Harry said, tightening his grip on Malfoy’s hand, “I think something’s wrong with me.”

 

“Not wrong, Harry, never wrong," she corrected him, kindly, "but I think it would be best if we got you some help, how does that sound?”

 

Harry felt himself nodding. He released the hands that held his and hoisted himself to his feet, Draco at his elbow.

 

“Would you allow me to accompany you to St. Mungo’s, Harry?” McGonagall asked. “Discreetly, of course.”

 

“St. Mungo’s!” Ron exclaimed, “Is that really necessary?”

 

“I think it is, Mr. Weasley, yes.”

 

***

 

Harry sat in the headmistress’ office alone with Draco while Ron and Hermione went and packed him a few things and McGonagall conferred with Madam Pomfrey outside the door. There was a cup of tea in front of him that Harry didn’t remember receiving. 

 

“Will you take care of Constance?” Harry said suddenly, “She gets lonely and hungry and she sometimes hides in the canopy of my bed. I think the other owls bully her.”

 

“You’re only leaving for a day or two, love, not being deployed overseas," Draco chided, but the tease lacked its usual edge.

 

“Will you?” Harry pressed. 

 

“Yes, of course," Draco promised, "I’ll look after your buffoon of an owl.”

 

“She’s really quite sweet. And you got her for me. She's important.”

 

“You don’t need to convince me,” Draco assured him, his voice gentling, fingertips feathering over Harry’s jaw, “You know I’d do anything you asked.”

 

Harry turned his head to kiss Draco’s palm. “I don’t want to leave you,” he whispered.

 

“You’re not,” Draco insisted, “You just need some care that I can’t give you. Hell, we probably all need some bloody care, but let’s fall apart one at a time, easier that way. And if you're worried about me, you can always just check your watch, right?"

 

Harry felt the ghost of a smile on his lips. He rolled his wrist over in his lap, the golden hand poised firmly on "school". He traced the line with his finger. There was no mortal peril and he should have remembered to just look it earlier, that was the express reason for the gift, after all. But it had felt so real, the certainty that Draco had been taken from him. “I’m sorry, everything’s so muddy, I can’t sort it.” 

 

“You don’t need to sort it just now, and you absolutely don’t need to apologise,” Draco declared, sliding his fingers through Harry’s hair. Harry leaned forward, then, and pressed his mouth to Draco’s, relieved to find the lips familiar, warm, and tasting of tea. 

 

The door to the study opened, but if Professor McGonagall was surprised to see two boys kissing in her office, she certainly didn’t show it. 

 

“Right then,” she said, standing beside her desk, “St. Mungo’s is aware of our arrival and will take the precautions necessary to protect your identity, Harry. Say your goodbyes now, and we’ll be off.”

 

Harry rose and took the duffel that Ron held out, hugging him and then Hermione. 

 

“We love you, Harry,” Hermione said, “and we’ll see you very soon.”

 

Harry turned back towards Draco, who took him smoothly into his arms. “You’re alright, Potter,” he said, hugging him hard and giving him a final, deliberate kiss, “Go get better. I love you.”

 

Harry couldn’t speak for fear of dissolving all over again, so instead he gave them a weak wave, and followed the headmistress towards the floo. 

 

***

 

Professor McGonagall remained by his side while he completed registration at St. Mungo’s. She'd cast a disillusionment charm over him for their arrival, that she only lifted once they were alone in a single room. The room was small but cozy, with warm yellow walls and an enchanted painting of orange poppies waving gently in morning sunlight. Instead of an exam table or gurney, there was a sofa and two large, inviting chairs. Harry took a seat on the sofa, Professor McGonagall across from him. A young wizard, perhaps in his thirties, appeared almost immediately.

 

“Hello, Professor, hello Harry,” he greeted them, “I’m Healer Xerxes Hughes, but most folks just call me Zerk, and I hope you both will as well."

 

Professor McGonagall raised an eyebrow that said she most certainly would not be calling him any such thing. The facial flicker gave even the self-assured healer slight pause. 

 

"Or Healer Hughes, whatever you prefer. Harry, I understand you’ve had a bit of a difficult evening.” He had black skin and warm brown eyes and a bit of a Welsh rhythm to his words. He carried no clipboard and he didn’t wear the eyesore green robes of most medi-witches and wizards. Save for the crossed wand and bone stitched onto the pocket of his shirt, and his easy, competent tone, Harry wouldn’t have known he was in the hospital’s employ. Healer Hughes had an air about him as though he had all the time in the world to simply sit and chat. 

 

“Er, hello,” Harry said, not convinced he could call the man by his nickname just yet. He didn’t know what else to say. 

 

“I’ll leave you two to talk,” the headmistress said, and suddenly Harry didn’t want her to go. 

 

“Wait!” He cried out. 

 

She looked at him, alarmed. He sprung up from the sofa and went to her. “Will you come get me? How do I get back to school? Can I get post here? My post goes to Hogsmeade and I can’t fix that just now and…”

 

McGonagall wrapped him into an unexpected hug. 

 

“I’ll just be outside, Harry,” she assured him, “I’ll not go back to the castle until I’ve spoken with Healer Hughes here and we’ve made a plan.”

 

“Oh,” Harry said, feeling foolish, “Right. That sounds good then.”

 

He stepped back and she put her hands on his shoulders, examining his face for a long moment. “I’m very proud of you,” she told him. “Merlin knows, it isn’t easy to ask for what one needs.” She cupped his face with a hand for one brief second, then left. 

 

The door closed behind her and Harry turned back to the healer, an uncomfortable sensation of shame seating itself somewhere between his shoulder blades. 

Chapter Text

“Sorry,” Harry muttered, sitting down again on the sofa and wiping his newly sweaty palms on his jeans. 

 

“What on earth for?” the other wizard asked, looking genuinely confused, “It’s a hospital, Harry. Affection is commonplace around here.”

 

“Right.” Harry studied the healer—Zerk—again. He was also in jeans with some dark trainers that were sleek, and soft and fitted. He was compact, probably Draco’s height, but more muscular, and he had one ankle propped up on his knee. “Are you a mind healer?” Harry asked. 

 

“I am,” Zerk told him, leaning forward and letting his hands curl around his shin casually, “Does that bother you?”

 

Harry shook his head, “No, suspected I might need a mind healer.”

 

“Because of what happened tonight?”

 

Harry nodded. 

 

“How are you now?”

 

“Better,” Harry assessed, “I know where I am and how I got here. Things feel like they are making sense again.”

 

“But they weren’t earlier?”

 

“No,” Harry agreed, “I had a nightmare. Last night. And tonight I went to the great entrance at school—a lot of combat occurred there, during the war, and there was a bit of violence more recently—and suddenly I couldn’t tell what was my dream and what was memories and what was happening for real in the moment.”

 

“That sounds rather disconcerting."

 

Harry shrugged, “It was. But I’m feeling loads better now. Just a little embarrassed for putting everyone through that and wasting your time. So, er, sorry.”

 

“You’re not wasting my time," Zerk said, his voice sincere.

 

“I am a bit, though,” Harry retorted, uncomfortably, “Crisis seems to have passed.”

 

“Well, good thing I’m not just here for acute crises.”

 

“Oh. Well. What else do you do then?” 

 

Zerk smiled at him, “Very good question. We talk, mostly. For my part, I’ll try to listen more than I talk. Figure out what’s happened, what’s working, what’s maybe not working, come up with some ideas about what might help.”

 

“Like potions?” Harry asked. 

 

“Potions are certainly an option.”

 

“I was on a Calming Draught all day and then when it wore off, the thing tonight happened. I didn’t like being on it. My—” Harry cut himself off, considering his words before resuming, “My friends had to do everything for me, I kept drifting off somewhere during class, I was perfectly useless. I mean, I didn’t feel anything, which was sort of nice, but I also, you know, didn’t feel anything. I’d rather care about things if I had the choice.”

 

“Well, a Calming Draught can be great in a pinch, but more often than not it is overkill.”

 

“Yeah?” Harry asked.

 

“Oh, definitely,” Zerk assured him, “there are much milder ones, if that’s a route you want to pursue.”

 

“Somehow doubt it’s just, oh, here’s a potion, take it daily and that’s that, done and dusted.”

 

“No flies on you, eh, Harry?”

 

Harry gave a weak half-smile and rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. Merlin, he was tired. 

 

“Do you want to tell me more about what happened this evening?” Zerk asked, “‘No’ is a valid response, for the record.”

 

“I don’t know,” Harry replied, honestly. “Like I said, it was...disorienting. I was kind of out of it, like oustide of myself, and I wasn't making sense. It scared my friends. I’d rather not do that to them again, if I can help it.”

 

“If I may, Harry, it doesn’t sound like you ‘did’ anything to your friends. It sounds more like something happened to you, something frightening and stressful and quite profound, and you’re worried about how that came across to others, instead of what it was like for you.”

 

“Yes, well, that’s sort of what I do, isn’t it? Merlin, that’s not what I mean, that makes me sound like some beacon of conscientiousness, which I’m certain I’m not, Hermione will attest to that. I’ve just...I’ve put people who love me through a lot. Like years in mortal peril, a lot. And now, against all odds, I’m still alive. Shouldn’t we all just be able to enjoy that without me screaming the dormitory awake at five am?”

 

“I think we would all prefer if we could survive horrific experiences and not suffer any fallout.”

 

“Guess that’s not how it works.”

 

Zerk nodded in commiseration. “Not how it works,” he echoed. “I take it that is what happened to you this morning? With your nightmare? Do you want to tell me about it? Just broad strokes is fine, if it's easier.”

 

“Yeah. Could do. But, I mean, I don’t think I really need a mind healer to tell me I’m worried about losing people I love because I’ve lost a lot of people I loved.”

 

To Harry’s surprise, Zerk laughed. It was a rich laugh, deep, appreciative and a little contagious. Harry felt himself returning it with a little grin. 

 

“I’d say you’re spot on with that assessment,” the healer agreed, “So, what are we going to do to keep that very reasonable fear from disrupting your days?”

 

“I guess that's why I came here. I was hoping I could maybe just keep busy, drown it out with school and studying and quidditch, but it must not be enough. ”

 

“Are you playing quidditch?” Zerk asked. Surprised by the question, but a bit pleased, Harry launched into an explanation of the inter-house quidditch league. He was proud of it, and of the Wyverns, and it was certainly a more pleasant topic of conversation than the mess that had been the day. Curiously, Zerk seemed truly interested in it, asking lots of questions and responding with genuine enthusiasm. Harry even told him about his having a trial day with the Arrows, and Zerk was really thrilled for him. 

 

Their conversation seemed to wind down naturally until Zerk was just smiling softly at him. Harry was a bit confused. He’d been expecting to have to dredge up things about his childhood, or violent war stories, or Sirius, or any number of subjects so raw they made him recoil with bone-deep dread, but the healer didn't make him go there.

 

“I’m obviously not going to pretend I don’t know a little of your story, Harry,” Zerk said thoughtfully, after a pause. “I expect it doesn’t hold a candle to all there is to know, and I will do my best not to make assumptions based on what I think I know, because I also suspect a lot of your story has been lost in the retelling. Even with the thimbleful I’m privy to, I know you’ve been through a hell of a lot. And it bears reminding you that nightmares, and those feelings you had tonight, those are all normal experiences for people who’ve been through a lot. I hope you’re not feeling any shame about those reactions, because I really doubt your friends are out there thinking less of you.”

 

Harry sat with the words for a while, mulling them over. He didn't really think Draco, Hermione, or Ron's feelings towards him had changed. He certainly wouldn't have thought less of any of them for the same. He didn't think that was what was ultimately bothering him. It was their concern, their needing to run out and fetch an adult to see to him that niggled at him. The idea that anything could have happened and he couldn't have stopped it because he was too busy falling to pieces.

 

“I just want..." he started, carefully, the shook his head and tried again. "I think I just want to take care of them, you know, protect them, but how can I when they’re always having to take care of me?” His voice was low and he found himself pulling on his knuckles which wasn’t even a habit he had, but Merlin, he needed to do something other than look into Zerk’s kind, open face.

 

“Or you could consider there’s more than just those two options,” Zerk offered gently, “you could all just take care of each other.”

 

Harry’s lips twitched, thinking of Ginny over the break. “Interdependence,” he said with a dry laugh. “A friend told me about it. She read about it in Witch Weekly.”

 

“It sounds like you have some good friends,” Zerk observed and Harry looked up. 

 

“I do. I really do.”

 

“There’s nothing I can do for you that will replace that, but hopefully, we can supplement it a bit. Maybe help relieve you of some of the undue responsibility you seem to have decided to shoulder, now that you have that as a choice.”

 

Harry sunk his teeth into his bottom lip, wondering if it was as easy as all that. If he would still feel like him without that oddly comforting burden. “Yeah,” he said, finally, “Yeah, that might be alright.”

 

“Good man. You were right to come here tonight, I hope you know that. I’d like you to spend the night here, we’ll get you a private room—I know you’re in the public eye much more than anyone would like. I’d also like to give you a Potion for Dreamless Sleep, just for tonight. Poor sleep, stress, and being overtired can make nightmares worse, and I think it would be good for you to be able to rest without worrying about that. We’ll talk again tomorrow, but I suspect I can just keep seeing you as an outpatient. I’ll speak with your headmistress about your coming here every week or two and we’ll see how things go. How does that all sound to you?”

 

Harry stared, “You’re not going to have to, er, whatsit, section me?”

 

“Gracious, no! Harry, I know you had a difficult day and I most certainly don’t want to diminish that, but please recognise that you are doing remarkably well. I have no interest in removing you from a school where you are flourishing, and from friends who love you, to make you stare at four blank walls and talk to me all day. If you’re feeling safe and able, then by all means, I would like you to return to Hogwarts.”

 

“Oh,” was all Harry could think to say. He thought about being able to crawl into Draco’s bed tomorrow and cuddle up with him, about going for breakfast with the eighth years, the usual chatter, classes, Clark, and quidditch. He wasn’t sure why he’d assumed he’d have to give it all up, at least temporarily. He suddenly felt very much relieved.

 

“Is that alright?" Zerk asked earnestly, "If there is something else going on, or school feels overwhelming, then of course, you can let me know.”

 

“No,” Harry said, “It doesn’t. I like it there. Except maybe the entrance hall, but that is easy enough to avoid. I think I just thought getting help meant I’d be put away for days and everything would fall apart.” He flushed, it did sound stupid, now that he said it out loud, “I even made my boyfriend promise to take care of my owl.”

 

Zerk laughed again, but in a kind way, “There was no reason for you to know what to expect,” he assured him, “And it was extra courageous for you to reach out if you thought you were sacrificing all that. No, Harry, we’re here to support your life and your future, not to dampen it.”

 

Harry felt shaky but a precious kernel of hope was taking root. “I think it’s still...a bit of a novelty,” he admitted.

 

“What is?”

 

“Knowing I’ve got, you know, a future.”

 

***

 

Arrangements were made with Headmistress McGonagall for Harry to floo back to Hogwarts the following day. She hugged him again before departing, which Harry suspected was more sentimentality than she’d shown in any two hour period in perhaps her whole lifetime. Under another disillusionment charm, Harry was led to a small, neat room with an adjoining bathroom. He undressed and brushed his teeth and sat on the bed. He felt hideously lonely already, wishing he had a Connection Cordial or a mobile or something that would let him just talk to Draco, if only for a few minutes. 

 

As if summoned by his very thoughts, Draco’s regal owl, Metatron, clinked his beak against the glass of the window. 

 

Harry scrambled to let him in. 

 

“Metatron, you absolute angel!” He cried out, effusively stroking the eagle owl’s mottled neck feathers. Metatron appeared indifferent, but Harry suspected it was just an act. “Stay here, please? Just for a minute. I’ll read what he’s written and I’ll send one back with you.”

 

Harry hurried to unravel the bit of parchment fastened near Metatron’s not unimposing talons and read:

 

Dearest, 

Well, I am not sure there is any putting of the proverbial cat back into the proverbial bag, seeing as you did wake up the entire boys’ dormitory screaming my name. The eighth year blokes have been shockingly decent and Granger and Weasley have made a valiant plea to them to keep it from the press. Unfortunately, I am not holding out hope that such a salacious secret will remain as such for long and for that I’m terribly sorry. I know this is hardly an ideal time for you to confront all that, just as I know it would be easier for you not to have me in your life. To that I say, tough luck, darling, I’m not going anywhere. 

Your utter hippo of an owl ate six cold bangers that I very bravely poached from the kitchens, and seems to think she is of a size to perch on a shoulder—she’s not. Weasley, in all his wisdom, announced to the dormitory this evening that you were off to St. Mungo’s on account of accidental ingestion of gaseous globe thistle and you can take that up with him when no one wants to sit near you upon your return. 

I hope they treated you alright there tonight and you got some of what you needed. 

Thinking of you until you are back here with me. 

Yours,

DLM

 

Grim but resigned at the idea of being exposed to the world, Harry swallowed. He’d not told Zerk about Draco specifically during their conversation earlier, but perhaps tomorrow he would, if it was all about to come out, anyway. He didn’t get the feeling the healer was quick to judge. Harry noticed then that there was a second piece of parchment behind the first—from Clark. It was a Tuesday, Harry realised guiltily, he would have missed their Occlumency lesson. Clark's penmanship was slanted, and difficult to read, although he made no attempt at cursive. 

 

Harry,

I don’t believe the shit about the gaseous globe whatsit. It’s alright, you don’t have to tell me and Jesus knows Malfoy won’t let slip a fucking thing, but he did say he would send this along to you if I was quick about it. I am sorry you’re ill, though, and I hope you feel better soon. Don’t worry, I’ll keep the Wyverns in check for you. (That’s a joke, we both know I’m bloody terrified of Awling, all that staring silence is very intimidating, not to mention I’ve still not made a goal this season, and likely never will). Wizard Hiram says to say hi. He also says I shouldn’t have to specify ‘wizard’ in this case because owls can’t speak, but I like to think Bird Hiram would say hi too, if he could. Wizard Hiram, you could also stop reading over my shoulder, and then you wouldn’t be getting your knickers in a

HELLO HARRY! FEEL BETTER! - HIRAM 

I think he meant to say ‘Wizard Hiram’

NO, I DIDN’T!

Well, I wouldn’t believe him, if I were you. See you soon.

Love,

Clark

 

Grinning madly at the thought of the two boys scuffling over the quill and parchment, Harry tore a chunk off the bottom of the letter and scrawled a quick note:

 

Draco, 

I’m alright, should be back tomorrow. If all this gets out (and I think you’re right in thinking it will), do what you can to make sure you stay safe. Don’t go wandering halls by yourself again and please be careful with your post. After speaking with the mind healer tonight, I’m beginning to think it’s okay to stop giving a fuck about what everyone and their kneazle thinks about me. At least beyond the people who are really important.  What I’m trying to say is, I’m not going anywhere, either.

Thank you for looking out for me today and I’m sorry if I frightened you. I really am feeling much better and already miss you something terrible. 

Be nice to Constance. 

I love you. 

Harry

 

He sent the note off with the vainglorious Metatron before extinguishing the lamp and climbing into the small bed. He read his letters again, wondering if it made him pathetic to feel so incredibly alone, when he’d only been gone a few hours. He wanted the snores of the dormitory, the solid warmth of Draco wriggling back into him, and the reassuring stones of Hogwarts surrounding him. It was too quiet here, too sterile and plain.

 

He only realised once he was tucked in and on the very edge of sleep that he had forgotten to close the window. Sighing, he reached for his wand and was about to fire off a spell when a vast shadow appeared there. For a moment, he thought it was Metatron returning, but the profile was wrong: leaner and longer, with an impressive crest glinting red in the moonlight. 

 

“Fawkes?” Harry breathed, and to his delight, the phoenix hopped off the ledge and into the small room, fluttering up to perch on the footboard. "What are you doing here?"

 

The beautiful bird only looked at him, then seemed to settle into a relaxed roost. With his presence came a sense of certain peace, and Harry allowed himself to drift off into darkness.

Chapter Text

“Let’s see it, then,” Harry said, resigned. It was morning and he’d been escorted to the same room he had met Zerk in the evening prior by a very stony-faced administrator. Even Zerk’s expression lacked the calm of the night before. 

 

“Hm?” the mind healer said, perhaps surprised by Harry’s lack of a hello, or by the giant red bird that settled on the arm of the sofa.

 

"The Prophet," Harry sighed, “I suspect that’s why no one would look me in the eye this morning?” He’d known it at once, when a very quiet young witch had pushed in a breakfast tray for him. She’d not acknowledged his “good morning” or “thank you” and neither had the wizard who’d come to wheel it away. 

 

“Not my place to keep it from you,” Zerk admitted. He was dressed more formally today, and Harry wondered if he’d been called in from home the evening before. He reached into the inner pocket of a dark grey blazer and pulled out the morning’s edition of The Daily Prophet and handed it over to Harry.

 

‘POISONED LOVE: TRYST WITH DEATH EATER LANDS POTTER IN HOSPITAL’ screamed the headline and Harry snorted. 

 

“Good to see their journalistic integrity has not wavered,” Harry quipped, dryly, “It remains as its typical baseline of utter and absolute rubbish.”

 

He looked over the article below:

 

The peaceful serenity of the Hogwarts’ eighth year dormitory was shattered early yesterday morning by Harry Potter, evidently under some sort of attack. “I heard he was screaming at Draco Malfoy,” says a source close to the hero, who did not wish to reveal their name. “He sounded like he was in horrible pain, we think maybe Malfoy was conducting some sort of mental torture.” While Ronald Weasley, long term companion of Potter, was quick to act and remove many from the scene, witnesses remarked that known Death Eater, Draco Malfoy, remained by Potter’s side throughout the day, with no faculty intervention. 

“Rumour has it they were holding hands,” stated our source, “and honestly, I’m not surprised. Malfoy’s been sticking closer and closer to Harry since the autumn, we’ve all seen it. Harry even pours his tea in the mornings. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s manipulating Harry somehow. We all know Malfoy has used unforgivables in the past to control fellow students, who’s to say he’s not using them again? Maybe now that he’s had his fun with Potter, he is attempting to destroy Harry in the most devastating way possible, and to finish what You-Know-Who started!” Indeed, all does not seem well with Harry Potter, who was taken from school to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries last evening. When questioned, Hogwarts Headmistress Minerva McGonagall had this to say: “I do not, nor will I ever, comment on the health or personal information of any of my students. Do not floo me again.” Telling words! 

What do these mysterious circumstances reveal? Could it be that Malfoy has seduced Potter through magical subterfuge? What does this mean for Potter’s charity, the Magical Children’s Equity Fund, which he recently spearheaded alongside Narcissa Malfoy and Hermione Granger? Who will save our saviour?

 

“What a load of bunk,” Harry grumbled, passing the paper back to Zerk and plopping down on the sofa. He could feel that old anger coiling low in his belly. He would bet anything that Megan Jones was the unnamed source. It sounded just like her. 

 

“Would you like to talk about it?” the mind healer asked, tucking the paper back into his jacket. 

 

“That depends,” Harry said, taking off his glasses to rub his eyes, “do you think my boyfriend has drugged, Imperioed, or otherwise ensorceled me?” Fawkes pressed his feathery tuft into Harry’s shoulder, and Harry reached out to give the phoenix some gentle pats. 

 

“No,” Zerk replied firmly, “I don’t. You’re not showing any symptoms relating to love potions: obsession, endless praise, or distraction. And an Imperius spanning this distance would be quite the feat for a teenager.”

 

“I can throw them off, anyway,” Harry growled, agitation growing, “If I could resist Voldemort’s, you best believe I could resist Draco’s. Not that he would.”

 

Zerk’s eyebrows rose, “You’re impervious to the Imperius spell?”

 

Harry shrugged, looking away. His intention hadn't been to boast so much as ensure Zerk knew he was in his right mind about this. “I can be pig-headed. Don’t like being told what to do. Well. Typically. It’s a bit different with Draco. Oh Merlin, that probably sounded like innuendo but that's really not what I meant.”

 

Zerk cocked his head and for some bizarre reason, Harry found the whole origin story for he and Draco’s relationship pouring out: their bargain at the beginning of the year, and the stupid little errands he would run, how they ended up living in each other’s pockets and just sort of fell together. “Anyway,” Harry trailed off, embarrassed, “not the point. I’ve not been magicked into anything, is all I’m trying to get at.”

 

“It’s a lovely story,” Zerk said quietly. “Thank you for sharing it.”

 

Harry chewed on the inside of his cheek for a minute. “It was...nice to tell someone who I wasn’t worried was going to disown me. Ron and Hermione, they’re my best mates—you probably know that, Merlin, it is strange having the whole bloody world know these things—well, they’ve been wonderful. Ron’s family, too, save for his brother, who has good reason to be cross. It's not as though I don't know why everyone’s upset. I know Draco did really terrible things, I can’t pretend that he didn’t. He just did some brave things, too. And his circumstances were...less than ideal. Merlin, I don’t want to have to justify him for the rest of my fucking life like this.”

 

“How’s this, then,” Zerk offered, kindly, “you don’t have to justify him to me. People end up in relationships for all sorts of reasons, but usually, it’s because they care about the other person. Doesn’t sound any different for you.”

 

“It’s not,” Harry agreed, relieved. “Thank you.”

 

“So,” Zerk said. 

 

“So,” Harry echoed, tossing his hair off his forehead and petting Fawkes some more.

 

“I can’t help but notice you have a new companion. I’ve never seen a phoenix before. He’s striking.”

 

“Fawkes has always looked out for me. Think he knew I needed some company last night.”

 

Zerk just observed them for a long moment. Harry felt his discomfort growing again. He really didn’t know what he was supposed to even do with a mind healer. 

 

“What?” he said, finally, the eyes on him making him itch.

 

“I’m just thinking it must be quite the challenge to be as remarkable as you are, Harry.”

 

Harry scuffed a shoe against the ground. He watched the poppies blowing in an imaginary wind in the painting mounted behind Zerk’s head. “It’s just what I’ve known. I thought I was a freak as a child because I kept doing magic in a world where magic didn’t exist, and then I came to school and I was Harry Potter and everyone knew me and I didn’t understand why, not really. I didn’t know what it meant to defeat Voldemort until he came back.”

 

“And then you defeated him again.”

 

“Not much choice. He wasn’t going to leave me alive.”

 

“You had a choice. You could have resigned yourself to it, you could have run.”

 

“I’ve never been good at knowing when to back down.”

 

“And we owe you our lives and our freedom because of it.”

 

“Don’t,” Harry said, “Please don’t.”

 

“I’m sorry, it wasn’t my intention to upset you. Does recognition make you uncomfortable?” Zerk asked. 

 

“I just...don’t know what to do with it. I didn’t do what I did so people would celebrate and adore me and shower me in gratitude. Hell, the first time, I was a baby, I had no say in the matter. And like, I know my mum and dad sacrificed themselves for a worthy cause, I know that, but sometimes I almost selfishly wish they hadn’t because at least then I would have got to know them. The second time, well, I had to get through the fucking prophesy, didn’t I? Couldn’t live my damn life while he was alive and now he’s dead and apparently I still can’t.” 

 

He waved irritatedly at Zerk’s pocket. “I just got written up in the national bloody paper for having a nightmare and holding my boyfriend’s hand. The howlers will come pouring in, the curse-spewing letters. The suspicious students will be up in arms, he’ll be in danger all over again from vigilante fifth years, it never fucking ends. I’m desperate to play quidditch because I love it, but if I do, I know I’m accepting taking all this on all over again. If they'll even have me after this horse shit's come out. It's not just having very move I make watched and analyzed, but also that what gets published is the most ludicrous version of things. I’m tired of it, so very tired. Draco says I’m not theirs, but it still feels like I am.”

 

“Theirs?” 

 

“The grieving and the public and The Prophet's. I tell myself I don’t owe them anything but I can’t make myself believe it.”

 

“What do you feel like you owe them?” Zerk inquired. 

 

“A good example, a voice against injustice, choices that won't make them think they lost their loved ones for ungrateful arsehole, all that.”

 

“You can maybe see why I said you shoulder an impossible burden, Harry,” the healer said quietly, “You’re allowed to just be you, as well. No matter how hard you try, there is no pleasing everyone. I know you can’t escape the public eye, and I’m sorry for that, because I know you didn’t ask for it, but I think there are ways of letting all that pressure go. You can speak out as needed, but you can also rest.”

 

“It’s a bit stupid, isn’t it,” Harry remarked, “I mean, I should probably be dealing with the shit that causes the nightmares and the, whatever they were, flashbacks. And yet instead I’m all worried over an outrageous article in the world’s worst paper."

 

“I don’t think it’s stupid,” Zerk replied. “For you, this article has very real consequences. It directly threatens someone you care for deeply, and you take your responsibility to those you care for very seriously. No, I don’t think it’s stupid at all.”

 

“Merlin, what am I going to do?” Harry exhaled, exhausted by the day already and it wasn't yet lunch time. 

 

“You’re going to do what you already do. You’re going to rely on your friends and professors and the people you trust to watch out for you, and you’ll watch out for them in return. You remind yourself as needed that these things can and do blow over, and while that doesn’t negate the immediate consequences, it does mean that this heightened alertness won’t have to last forever. You’ll keep focusing on things you can control, things you have a say in, and you’ll remember your priorities.”

 

“Yeah. I...I think I can do that,” Harry nodded, somehow feeling better having a bit of a plan, even if it was not concrete. “Can I go? I hate being away from Draco right now, it must be awful for him.”

 

“Yes, of course,” Zerk said, “Let’s meet a week today when you’re done classes. In the meantime, you can owl me before that if things get worse or you need to talk sooner. Or you can come directly to the hospital and we’ll see to you. And The Prophet won’t be getting any information out of us, we take our patients’ confidentiality very seriously."

 

***

 

Fawkes left through the open window he'd flown in through before Harry returned to school. It was bittersweet; Harry had been glad to see him, but knew he wouldn’t stay. He watched the broad fiery wingspan in the faint morning sun until Fawkes was out of sight. 

 

Harry arrived back at school over the lunch hour, and was surprised to see Dean Thomas and Olivier Rivers waiting for him outside Professor McGonagall’s office. 

 

“Hullo, Harry,” Dean said, “We’ve all just organised a little escort for you and Malfoy, just for the next few days, until things settle down.”

 

Harry was both shocked and touched. “You all?”

 

“The eighth year blokes,” Rivers asserted, in his ever reasonable tone, “Two assigned to each of you at all times. Save Goldstein, who is the idiot who blabbed to Jones and got you into this mess. He feels terribly, if it’s any consolation. Too bloody friendly and assumes the best about everyone. He never dreamed Jones would run to The Prophet with her ‘concerns’. I mean, I’m sure Goldstein would be happy to be on security detail to assuage his conscience, but Seamus is right pissed at him and won’t hear of it.”

 

“Decent of you,” Harry said, still in disbelief that they were doing all this for him. “Really. Thank you.”

 

Rivers just shrugged, “Finnegan and Weasley did the bulk of the scheduling, we’re just carrying it out.”

 

“Have there been any difficulties? No one’s tried anything, have they?”

 

“No,” Dean said, “I think most of us eighth years have been pretty vocal that that article was a heap of rubbish. We’ve all been living with Malfoy for months now, and if he was the same scum he used to be—sorry, Harry, you know what I mean—I think we’d know. So far as I can tell, he’d been good to you, good to his quidditch team, and well rid of all his purist rhetoric. Honestly, Harry, maybe you should date more bigots, seems to make them change their tune in a hurry, like you fuck the hate right out of them.”

 

“Merlin, Dean!” Harry gulped, giving the boy a friendly shove with his shoulder. He was flushed red, still not used to talking about his sex life openly, but he felt a hopeful sense of solidarity, also.

 

***

 

They met up with Draco in the entrance of the great hall, Ron and Greg beside him. Goyle was gripping his wand and scanning their surroundings as if an attack might occur at any moment.  

 

“Harry!” Ron bellowed, drawing glances from the students filing in for lunch. He grabbed Harry into an exuberant hug, “Alright?”

 

“'Course,” Harry reassured him with a grin, “Thanks for arranging all this.” He gestured to Dean and Olivier.

 

Draco rolled his eyes, “It’s a bit much,” he stated, then stepped in neatly, and in front of anyone who cared to see, planted a brief, firm kiss on Harry’s mouth. “Hello, darling.”

 

For a moment, Harry stood there, frozen, hearing the murmurs begin almost at once: the stares and the hurried whispers, the press of so many eyes. And yet, the only eyes Harry cared about, he realised, were the haughty, familiar grey ones right in front of him. 

 

“Hello, yourself,” he said, taking Draco’s hand and turning towards the eighth year table, their friends fanning out beside them, “Fancy some lunch?”

Chapter Text

It didn’t take long for the first ax to fall. Claire Gibbens descended on Harry at dinner that evening with her usual posse. 

 

“Harry, I’ve something to tell you,” she announced, sacrificially. 

 

Harry looked up from his soup. 

 

“Er, alright then, Claire, what’s that?”

 

“While I’ve enjoyed playing for the Wyverns a great deal, I can no longer in good conscience remain on the team, at least until you’ve sought help and separated yourself from that boy.”

 

“I presume you mean me?” Draco asked from where he was seated beside Harry. He was clearly amused in a way Harry couldn’t quite share. Claire simply sniffed and refused to answer. Malfoy looked like he had more to say on the matter, but Harry put a hand on his forearm to warn him off. 

 

“I see,” Harry said, “Well, I’m sorry to hear that, Gibbens. I’m sure the team will miss you, and if you change your mind, you’re always welcome back.”

 

“That’s it?” Demanded Claire. 

 

“Sorry?” Replied Harry, nonplussed. 

 

“You’re just going to let me walk away?”

 

“I’m not in the habit of forcing participation,” Harry explained. “I’m certainly sad to see you go, but it is clear you have made up your mind and far be it for me to coerce or cajole you.”

 

“Right,” said Claire, a blush creeping along her cheeks and the bridge of her nose, “Well then. I guess I...won’t see you at practice this weekend.”

 

“Like I said, you’re welcome if you change your mind.” Harry repeated. The girl blinked furiously and then stormed off, and Harry had a funny feeling she was going to cry, although he couldn’t quite think why. 

 

“The first casualty,” Draco remarked dryly. 

 

“Did I handle that poorly?” Harry mused aloud, “I don’t see how else I was supposed to react, but she seemed awfully upset with me.”

 

“I suspect that what the unfortunate girl wanted was for you to denounce me and run away with her, or at least beg for her to stay," Draco explained.

 

“Oh, Merlin, I hope not.”

 

“Oh, almost certainly,” Ginny contributed from across the table. Harry groaned unhappily. 

 

Hermione appeared then, sliding in between Ron and Ginny. 

 

“Where’ve you been?” Ron asked. 

 

“A meeting with McGonagall and Narcissa to discuss the post situation.”

 

“The post situation?” Harry clarified just as Draco queried, “My mother?”

 

“Well, what with you two deciding to go public, something had to be done. Narcissa’s hired an experienced hexbreaker from Latvia. She’s putting him up in the Hog’s Head and he’ll be dealing with the post. I’ve changed the wards so your mail ends up in the same spot at Harry’s for now, Draco. I’ll just need to have you both sign waivers so Raulo can collect it for you.”

 

Harry and Draco just stared at her for a moment, stunned. 

 

“Is there anything you don’t think of, Granger?” Draco asked admiringly. 

 

Hermione blushed, obviously pleased, “I reckoned you two would be dealing with issues cropping up at school, and I simply haven’t the time to sort your post any more, Harry, I’m sorry.”

 

“It was never your job in the first place,” Harry assured her, “and I shouldn’t have let you take on as much as you did. Thank you for taking care of this, Hermione, truly. Speaking of post, Metatron found me at St. Mungo’s last night. Are the wards properly in place?”

 

“You mean you’ve let Hermione arrange all this on your behalf and you never took the time to know the mechanism?” Ginny demanded, horrified. Harry sort of shrugged. 

 

“Classic,” Ginny sighed, “Honestly, Harry. If Hermione’s not cleaning up after Ron, she’s certainly not going to spend her life cleaning up after you, either! You ought to be paying her a retainer.” 

 

“It’s fine, Ginny,” Hermione assured her. “I’m happy to help. And the board of the M.C.E.F. has agreed to give me a wage for my role in the organization, so my labour is no longer free, although I suppose dealing with your post is not technically foundation business.”

 

“It’s not fine,” Harry corrected her, “as much as I do appreciate your help, I suspect I also take you for granted. If you could show me the ward later, I’d like to take responsibility for it.”

 

“If you like, Harry,” Hermione smiled. “And it’s pretty simple. The ward is just set for the airspace near Hogwarts. When you’re not at Hogwarts, you’re easy enough to find, especially if an owl knows you. Most people who don’t know you send their owls to Hogwarts, and those owls get redirected to your post-box in Hogsmeade.”

 

“You’re marvelous,” Ron admired. 

 

“Thanks, love,” Hermione smiled, then looked back at Draco and Harry. “Raulo will destroy and record any dangerous post and send pertinent information and your actual letters to you both via Metatron, and, ostensibly, Constance, but I’m not holding my breath.”

 

Draco sniggered appreciatively and Harry shot him a disappointed glare, which was entirely ineffective. 

 

***

 

The next, more significant ax, came later that evening. Professor McGonagall entered the eighth year common room with a drawn expression. She came upon Harry and Draco studying at their usual table. 

 

“Evening, Headmistress,” Draco greeted her, making no hint that it was strange to see her there. “Can we help?”

 

“Unfortunately, Mr. Malfoy. If you could accompany me to my office, please?”

 

“Why?” Harry urged, “What’s going on? I’m coming with you.”

 

McGonagall looked at him like she was about to stop him, but she only nodded said, “Very well. Come along.”

 

***

 

Waiting in McGonagall’s office were two uniformed, grim-faced aurors. They balked a bit when they saw Harry, who crossed his arms over his chest, leveling them with a dubious look. 

 

“Evening, Mr. Malfoy,” said the first auror, a pale, middle-aged man with thinning blond hair. 

 

“Good evening,” Draco replied smoothly, in his most cut-glass accent. “I’m sure I can’t imagine what this is about.”

 

The auror grimaced. “I’m Auror Travis Hewstone and this is my partner, Drusilla Andrews.” The other auror, a short woman with ruddy cheeks and spots gave them a nod. “We’ve been asked to meet with you to discuss certain allegations regarding the misuse of potions and/or mind-control magics.”

 

Draco curled a dispassionate lip. “I didn’t realise aurors were taken to indulging in gossip pages. How very pedestrian.”

 

Auror Andrews grew suddenly ruddier and puffed up her chest. “It is our duty to protect, I’ll remind you, Mr. Malfoy.”

 

“Am I to assume it is me you are attempting to protect?” Harry interrupted, coldly. 

 

Auror Hewstone looked around uncomfortably, and gave a cough. “Well, yes, Mr. Potter. Some are concerned…”

 

“Who?” Harry demanded, “My friends, my professors, and my healer have all deemed me well, as I know myself to be. Who else’s opinion could possibly be relevant?”

 

“We have our orders,” Hewstone muttered. 

 

“Well, you can take your orders and put them straight in the bin,” Harry offered. 

 

“Mr. Potter!” Andrews protested, “We’ve only got your best interests at heart; the boy was a Death Eater, after all.”

 

“My best interests?” Harry snarled. “Did you have my best interests in mind when I announced Voldemort’s return, and the Ministry dismissed me as deluded? I don’t remember seeing either of you at Order meetings, or the final battle. I don’t recall you hunting down horcruxes or imprisoning murderers. Seems to me the both of you were in the background somewhere, just following orders, regardless of whose, and ignoring the core of what your job should have been. And now when that’s all over and done with, with no thanks to either of you, you crawl out of the woodwork making ridiculous claims, the source of which is teenage gossip? Merlin, you should be ashamed of yourselves. I know I am.”

 

Andrews looked adequately cowed, and Hewstone flushed and guilty. The latter cleared his throat again and muttered, “So, am I to take it that Mr. Malfoy has not magically beguiled or otherwise seduced you?”

 

Harry felt the fury storming inside of him, but he bottled it, instead quirking an unimpressed eyebrow at the auror. 

 

“Oh, he’s seduced me alright, just look at him." Professor McGonagall made a strangled noise from behind him that she attempted to cover with a cough.  Harry ignored her, ploughing onwards. "No magical means were required to get me into Draco's bed. And you’re welcome to take that back to your supervisor. We’re done here. Don’t bother us again.”

 

Draco gave them both a deeply smug smile, and turned on his heels, Harry beside him with a protective palm pressed to the small of his back. 

 

*****

 

They barely made it out into a corridor before Draco yanked Harry into an empty classroom, slamming him up against the wall, mouth fixed to his. 

 

“That,” Draco gasped breathlessly between kisses, tugging at Harry’s shirt, “was the most brilliant fucking thing I’ve ever seen.”

 

Harry remembered to Colloportus the door before allowing himself to be consumed by Draco’s enthusiastic lips pressing against his own. 

 

“Need you fucking in me. Right now,” Draco growled, yanking his own shirt off his head. “So fucking hot, so gorgeous, laying into them like that. Telling them you’re mine, the whole fucking world knows it now, Harry, and Merlin help me, I want them to.”

 

Harry threaded a hand through Draco’s hair, pulling back on it to slow the rapid kisses, taking over, and the enjoying the approving moan that came as he did so. 

 

“So possessive, sweetheart,” Harry chided, dipping to press a kiss in the hollow above Draco’s collarbone. He could feel the other boy wickedly hard against him already. He ran a teasing knuckle along the obvious length.

 

“Need you,” the blonde hissed again, scrambling out of the rest of his clothes, before kneeling to strip Harry, too. 

 

“I’ll suck you, then you can take me, yeah?” Draco said, energy still frenetic, hands clutching at Harry’s bare thighs.

 

“No,” Harry said sternly, though Merlin knew he wanted that sweet fucking mouth on his cock. He took Draco’s eager face in one firm hand, looking down at him. Those pale grey eyes flashed with needy agitation and Harry gave him a knowing grin. “Seems as though you’re forgetting how this works.”

 

Draco bit his lip, nuzzling into Harry’s palm, eyes closed. He seemed to force his breathing to slow a bit. “Sorry, Harry,” he murmured. Fucking hell, he had to know how getting all demure like that went right to Harry’s cock. 

 

“Better,” Harry said. “Now ask for what you want, baby, and I’ll decide if you can have it.”

 

Draco’s eyes snapped open. “Please may I suck your cock?” he whispered, voice husky, gaze fixated on what he wanted. 

 

“No,” Harry said simply, and Malfoy whined as if he’d been kicked. 

 

“Please, Harry,” he begged, “I’ll make it good for you, I promise.”

 

“I’m sure you would,” Harry acknowledged. “Doesn’t change my answer. You’re mine. Mine to use and deny as I please. You know that. Ask for something else.”

 

Draco cowered in close, his forehead leaning into Harry’s thigh, pressing small kisses to his quad before looking back up at him. 

 

“Will you fuck me? Please?”

 

“Hm, maybe,” Harry considered, forcing his voice to remain nonchalant and measured, belying his desire. “Open yourself up for me and then I’ll decide.”

 

“Fuck,” Draco breathed, face staining pink as he wriggled with an anxious, aroused sort of shame. Harry loved taking apart the poised, unflappable boy, loved finding those vulnerabilities and tearing into them. “How do you want me?”

 

“On your back on the big desk over there.” Harry informed him at once, “Knees up; I want a clear view. Don’t even think about touching your cock.”

 

Draco hurried to obey, arranging himself into the prescribed position, one arm trapped under him and his fingertip tentatively stroking over the corrugated ridge. A silent, wandless Inlitus— a spell they were both remarkably adept at, by this point—and his middle digit pressed in. 

 

Harry looked on, rapt, as Draco fucked himself open. The tentative press soon gave way to the forceful sliding of fingers.

 

“Please, Harry,” the blond boy whinged, “I can’t get deep enough, I fucking need you.”

 

“Enough,” Harry said and Draco withdrew with a cry. He pulled his arm out from under him, gripping the sides of the desk and panting. Harry watched the rapid rise and fall of his scarred chest, leaving Draco suspended, unfulfilled.

 

Harry stepped in closer, his own cock slicked and brutally hard. He brought the other boy’s ankles to rest on his shoulders.

 

"Is this what you want?" Harry asked, sliding the thick head of his cock against the waiting hole.

 

“Yes,” was the hissed reply, a whistled sibilance stretching the sound deliciously.

 

Harry fucked into him slowly, enjoying the ragged breaths as the entry stretched to accommodate him and the tight, welcoming pressure. They hadn’t tried it like this, exactly, and Harry kept a close eye on Draco’s face, testing the angle. The blond’s features were screwed inwards, as if the intensity was overwhelming, so Harry waited until that tension eased and Draco gave a hesitant cant of his hips. 

 

“Fuck,” Draco whispered, lips parting for a rapid inhale, “This...It’s so good, Harry.”

 

Harry reached forward, “Hands,” he ordered. 

 

Draco released the sides of the desk and slid his palms over Harry’s until they were clutching each other’s wrists. Harry gave a sharp, experimental tug, seating the other boy impossibly deeper on his cock. Draco’s eyes widened, “Holy shit, yes, you’re so deep, so perfect, please, fuck me just like that, Merlin, please.”

 

Harry pressed a kiss to the inside of Draco’s knee. 

 

“Think you could come from just this?” He asked, finding a short, staccato rhythm that kept him deep inside, “Just from me fucking you?”

 

“I don’t know,” was the hushed reply, “Probably if you tell me I won’t come at all otherwise, it’ll do the trick.”

 

Harry chuckled, “Mm, you get so worked up thinking about not getting off, don't you?”

 

Draco grit his teeth, pushing back to meet Harry’s thrusts, “Your fault. Wasn’t a thing for me until you always started threatening it when I’m close like this.”

 

“Mm, conditioned just for me. Getting off to thoughts of not getting off. My own little paradox. I’m close, sweetheart. Soon I’m going to come in your lovely arse, and then we’re going to get dressed and head back to the dormitory, and I won’t be touching your prick tonight, and neither will you. So if you want to get off, you’d better make it quick, and you better make it just like this, with just my cock inside of you. Otherwise, you’ll be tucked into bed aching and wanting, until I decide to—”

 

“Fuck!” Draco grunted and just like that his untouched cock spasmed hard, jetting over his chest. The sight was too gorgeous and took Harry over as well, a blinding jolt of pleasure as he unloaded in that tightly gripping arse. 

 

“Merlin, yes, Draco,” he managed to cry out as he came, loving the vision of the panting, come-smeared satiated boy below him. 

 

After a long moment of steadying himself against the desk so as not to lose his footing altogether, Harry gently pulled out. He liked the small gape left behind, the drooling come, so filthy it almost turned him on all over again. But it had been a long day, so instead, he cleaned them both quickly with a spell and drew Draco up, wrapping his arms around him. 

 

“You’re fucking obsessed,” grumbled Draco, his hands tangling in Harry’s hair and pressing their cheeks close, kissing Harry’s face wherever his lips landed. “Don’t know why you like torturing me, making me think I won’t get to finish.”

 

Harry laughed, squeezing him closer, “I wouldn’t do it if the results weren’t so fucking spectacular. Was it as good, without touching I mean?”

 

“Mm,” Draco agreed, sleepily, “It was...unexpected. I don’t know if it was from you fucking me or the shit you said, and I wasn't actually sure it would happen. And then it just did.  Didn’t feel very differently, I don’t think. Really rather excellent, if I'm being honest.”

 

“I'd hope you're always honest about this stuff," Harry murmured, kissing him. "Bed?”

 

“Yes.”

 

They dressed and Harry unlocked the door and stepped out into the hallway. He nearly jumped out of his skin. 

 

Seamus was there with a very reluctant, red-raced Ron. Seamus had an innocent fist pushed up under his chin and was giving Harry a grin as wide as the sea. 

 

“Merlin, what are you doing here?” Harry gulped.

 

“You two tried to ditch your security detail! Luckily, Ron found you on that delightful map of yours, so we were able to track you down.”

 

“I’m so sorry, mate,” Ron grumbled, “We didn’t hear much, I swear.”

 

“Just enough to identify the finale and know we didn’t have to break the door down to rescue you,” Seamus obliged.

 

"You're a menace and perv, Finnegan." Harry informed him. He felt Draco take his hand and he pulled him close. 

 

"Why Harry, you sound just like Dean." Seamus laughed, winking at Draco, "Only kidding, Malfoy, no need for jealousy."

 

"Benefit of dating a bloke known for his unwavering integrity," Draco drawled, "He'll never give me cause for concern on that front."

 

Seamus clapped Malfoy on the back, jovially and the four made their way back towards the common room. "Oh, definitely. Just one of the perks of shagging a Gryffindor!"

Chapter Text

Dear Mr. Potter,

Thank you for attending the trial day of the Appleby Arrows and for your interest in our organisation. Many talented players were competing for select openings, and regrettably, we are unable to make you an offer at this time. 

We wish you all the best in your future endeavours. 

Sable S. Skinkton,

President, Appleby Arrows

 

Harry read the brush-off for the third time, then crumpled it in his pocket. The note had come via Metatron that morning and Harry felt a deep burning shame knowing that Raulo had read it before him. At least the hex breaker had had the decency to forward it without any Appleby Arrows blue stationery, so Harry had been able to keep the news to himself, at least for now. Not that he’d been particularly successful at shielding his emotions. He snapped at Ron for accidentally trodding on the back of his foot on the way to Transfiguration and he’d barely spoken to Draco. Professor McGonagall had had to call on him three times just to get his attention. 

 

He knew he’d have to tell them. Merlin, he’d have to tell the whole school, eventually. Another disappointment to add to the pile. Zerk said it was good for Harry to disappoint his peers if the alternative was disappointing himself. This didn’t feel quite the same as  when the news of him and Draco had broken, though.

 

It had been two weeks. Draco’s quidditch team was down to only seven players, but his star player, Viola McCracken, was still diligently attending practices and the Occamies were winning game after game. Rumour had it the Ravenclaw team had offered her a spot and she’d turned them down in favour of the rec league. Only Claire had walked from Harry’s team, and he suspected she might make an excuse for returning, from the way she always happened to be walking the grounds during practices. 

 

The student body seemed to take the lead of the eighth years, who had rallied round them in a way that left Harry feeling truly touched. Megan Jones was being iced out by all but a few Hufflepuff girls, and Harry couldn’t bring himself to feel badly for her. Of course there were continued whispers and stares, but no one dared say anything outright, at least not to him. The eighth year blokes still insisted on accompanying him and Draco everywhere, and honestly Harry was just relieved to know their protective eyes were on the blond when his couldn’t be. 

 

True to form, The Prophet continued to crank out bizarre headlines: Psychic Infiltration: Is Potter a Victim of Malfoy Legilimency? And Silent Saviour: Potter Refuses to Comment and even A New Leaf: Has the Malfoy Family Truly Changed? But things largely felt just as they were before, with the added benefit of being able to touch Draco casually in the corridors and wrap an arm around him in the evenings in front of the common room hearth. Malfoy was surprisingly amenable to public affection, provided it wasn’t crass, and Harry savoured the newfound freedom. He was also sleeping better, now that he didn't have to scarper back to his own bed early in the mornings. 

 

He should have known it had all been too easy. 

 

The crumpled rejection in his pocket sent ice water spurting through his arteries; bracing and vexatious. The let down was humiliating but also unanticipated. Harry truly, if only privately, thought he’d had a real shot. Maybe he’d let the well-wishers talk him up, or else Ron and Seamus’ exuberance had made him overconfident. Maybe his skills were rustier than he’d realised—he’d lost a year, after all, and had not played a proper game in longer than that. He tried to tell himself another player was just quicker or more talented. He couldn’t always be remarkable, and he hadn’t attended any fancy camps like Olivier Rivers. But the timing was lousy. It was hard not to wonder if the news played a role. Had they simply decided against having such a high profile player? It probably wasn't worth the risk, especially if the The Prophet hadn't settled on their judgment of him one way or the other. Then again, maybe that was just him trying to salvage his own ego. 

 

He shook his head. He needed to tell Draco, but he didn’t want to. He was afraid the other boy would take it too much to heart, that the rejection would wedge its way between them. It was as if all a sudden, the future he’d let himself imagine had been nabbed from him, and he was staring down the barrel of...what? A year training, he supposed, but was there any point? Would any team take him, especially once he and Draco were living at the same address? Or did he have to start looking around for some other profession he might enjoy? There were worse things than not having it all sorted at eighteen, he supposed, but it still felt like a void where there’d previously been light. 

 

It was the dinner hour now, and Harry had snuck away from his guard of Neville and Terry Boot to escape to the common room so he could, well, mope, he supposed. 

 

That, apparently, was not on. He’d not heard the footsteps, but he looked up from where he was slouched on a sofa to see Draco standing over him, hands on his hips and glowering. Behind him were the flushed and uncomfortable faces of Ernie MacMillan and Michael Corner. They’d obviously had to rush to keep up with the furious Draco and weren’t keen to now be witnessing a domestic.

 

“Out with it,” Draco demanded. “And it better be good.  You've been an incredible twat all day, and now you're wandering off on your own? If I'm not afforded that luxury, then you certainly aren't.”

 

“Fine," Harry muttered, "Just...later, alright?" He turned to MacMillan and Corner. "Everything's fine,” he said. “We’re plenty safe in here. You two can go finish your meals. Sorry for the bother.”

 

“You sure, Harry?” Ernie queried, and Harry caught the momentary suspicious glance he directed towards Malfoy.

 

“Oh, honestly,” Harry sighed. “I appreciate the concern, Ernie, but I’m not in any danger, least of all from Draco. I’ve just had some bad news and need to discuss it with him. Alone. If that’s alright with you.”

 

Harry saw Draco’s expression flick from irritation to worry as the Hufflepuff blushed deeper. “Right-o, Potter,” blustered Ernie, “Of course. Sorry. Er. Come along, Corner. We’ll be in the hall, and we’ll make sure everyone gives you two some space.”

 

“Ta, Ernie,” Harry said, as the two retreated. With the door securely fastened behind them, Harry scrubbed a palm over his face, then fished out the letter from his pocket and passed it to Draco.

 

He watched the other boy scan the note. The muscle in Draco’s cheek tensed and his lips flattened. Then, without hesitation, he tossed the parchment in the fire.

 

“Cowards,” he announced. “Cowards and imbeciles. They don’t know what they’ve done.”

 

“Avoided some nightmare press, I suppose,” Harry shrugged, “or found a better seeker.”

 

“They didn’t find a better seeker,” Draco replied with stony certainty. “They got wind of me and they panicked. I’m so sorry, darling.” He sat down on the sofa and Harry reached for his hand out of habit. Draco's thumb traced the length of his, and Harry kept his eyes on their joined hands. 

 

“You don’t know that,” He muttered. “They didn’t say anything to that effect.”

 

“Because they didn’t want you to call your solicitor.”

 

“I haven’t got a solicitor.”

 

“Oh please,” Draco remarked. “Any attorney would pay you to be your representation in a civil dispute.”

 

“Hm,” Harry agreed without enthusiasm. He sunk down lower and pressed his face against Draco’s bicep. The other boy shifted the arm away, letting Harry fall against his ribs instead. Draco’s hand came down on Harry’s shoulder, which he gave a gentle squeeze. 

 

“I’m sorry,” he said again. “Merlin, we'd only needed to have held out a few more weeks, then they would have offered you a spot and once it was signed...well. Nevermind.”

 

They sat there quietly for a long time. Harry listening to the crackle of the fire and the measured lub-dub of Draco’s heart. The blond's hand carded through Harry's hair, but he felt numb to the comfort it provided. 

 

“I don’t blame you,” Harry murmured. “In case you’re thinking that.”

 

“Of course you don’t, this is on the publicity agents at Appleby headquarters, not me. I’m the pinnacle of decency, for once in my life.”

 

“I know. I just don’t want you to think you’re messing things up for me.”

 

“Merlin, one maudlin night of indulgent, intoxicated self-pity, and you’ll never let me live it down,” Draco replied dryly, then added in a much more solemn tone, “What are you going to do?”

 

Harry gave a quiet groan. “Not think about it for a bit, I suspect. Go from there.”

 

***

 

Harry couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t shake the cold sting of the letter. Hermione’s sympathy or Ron’s outrage when he’d told them the news that evening hadn't done anything to brighten his glum spirits. And there’d be more of that tomorrow, or whenever the official line of the Arrows was announced, from all directions. Merlin, what had he been thinking, telling everyone about the trial. Better to have kept it a secret, then he wouldn’t be mired in this hideous, discomfiting shame

 

Draco curled tighter to Harry’s back but even the reassuring press of their bodies didn’t soothe the frayed, persevering thoughts. He sat up. 

 

“What's the matter?” Draco grumbled, stirred awake by the movement. 

 

“Just going to get some water,” Harry told him, “Go back to sleep, babe.”

 

***

 

Harry drank a full glass from the small kitchenette in the common room, but he was still restless and couldn’t face a sleeping Malfoy. He checked his watch. 3 am. Not likely to be anyone wandering the halls, and really, what would they do, expell him? He was irritated and belligerent. He went back to the dorm to pull on some clothes and his trainers, then exited the common room, striding down the corridor with no particular direction in mind. 

 

He was surprised when he entered the great hall and found a lone figure sitting at the eighth year table. The figure was seated facing outwards, elbows resting on the table and leaning back as if to stare at the starry ceiling. Harry was about to turn away and go back the way he came when his eyes adjusted. 

 

“Neville?” Harry said, and the other boy jumped. 

 

“Merlin, Harry, you’re startled me.”

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

Neville gave a non-committal gesture. 

 

“Sorry,” Harry replied, “None of my business. Couldn’t sleep, I presume?”

 

“Yeah,” the other boy replied, curling his long legs in from where they sprawled on the stones and sitting up. He ran a hand along his narrow face. Harry almost couldn’t see the boy he used to be. 

 

“Ginny,” he confessed. “She, er, she wants to take a break, she reckons.”

 

“Fuck, mate, I’m sorry,” Harry said. 

 

“Nothing doing. Got to let her go. Stupid thing is, I’ve gone and made her my entire world.” He let out a brittle laugh. “Not sure I even have mates any more. Or if I ever did. I don’t miss the war, obviously, but...I wonder if I miss having a purpose, feeling like I was a part of something.”

 

“You’ve still got mates,” Harry assured him, sitting down at the bench across the aisle. “Though I’m just as guilty. New relationships have a way of...sucking you in. I'm sorry if I've not been much of a friend to you this year.”

 

“Oh, I'm certain I haven't made it easy. I centred everything on Ginny, and I think I lost what she was attracted to in me along the way.”

 

“Ginny’s got too many siblings to enjoy that much attention on her,” Harry agreed. “She wants to make her own way for a while.”

 

“Do you think there’s someone else?”

 

Harry thought about what Ginny had said over the holidays, about Daphne, but he hadn’t noticed the two girls together more than usual. He thought perhaps the quiet Slytherin girl more opened a door, than anything.

 

“I think Ginny might need a bit more time on her own is all.”

 

Neville nodded, “Those were her words, almost exactly. Still fucking hurts.”

 

“All of us left winded and bewildered by Hurricane Ginerva can agree with that,” Harry gave him a soft smile and Neville half returned it. “Well, misery loves company. I got rejected by the Arrows. I’m stomping around the castle until exhaustion takes me, if you want to join?”

 

Neville let out a low whistle, "Merlin, Harry, I'm sorry. What a blow. A good stomp might be just what we need, then, let's.”

 

***

 

They took to the dungeons, since Harry felt like he could always get lost in those labyrinthine passages, and maybe getting unlost would distract the both of them from their heartache. So far, it was ineffective.

 

“It’s not even like I can hate her!” Neville exclaimed for maybe the fifth time, and Harry nodded sympathetically. “She was decent, honest, listened to my feelings about it, but was firm. Couldn’t ask for a better break up, but it is still a blood break up and I’ve practically forgotten what it’s like to go to sleep alone and I can’t face it. Merlin, I’ve stared down a lot of things, but life without her might be the hardest.”

 

“She might come back to you yet,” Harry said, “but she’ll have to do it on her own.”

 

“I know,” Neville sighed, “And likely wait a fucking decade while she determines she not missing anything at home. Maybe we are wrong for each other. She’s so adventurous and I’d like nothing more than a quiet house with a nice garden to putter about in.”

 

Harry was about to reply when he caught the faint whiff of something. 

 

“Do you smell that?”

 

“No,” Neville said automatically, then inhaled. “Wait, is that smoke?”

 

“Yes. Down here, that’s certainly odd.” Harry quickened his pace, noticing a curl of smoke appearing from one of the corridors ahead. 

 

“Neville, let’s move.”

 

They both took off and Harry realised in horror the origin point, as smoke eased its way between stones in a bare stretch of hallway. 

 

He summoned his Patronus as soon as it hit him, shouting “Fire! Slytherin dormitories!” and “Go! Find professors, anyone who can help! Now!” The stag turned and darted off in a dash of silvery light. 

 

Neville was looking at the wall, “These are the dormitories?”

 

“Yes, and we’ve got to get in, but I haven’t got a bloody password, fuck.”

 

“Stand back, and, er, cover your face,” Neville commanded, and Harry shot him a confused look. “Now, please, Harry. I’ve only done this a few times, and I don't want you to get hurt!”

 

Harry obliged, back up against the opposite wall, readying his hands to shield himself. Neville planted his feet, wand arm extended, a look of grim determination on his features. 

 

Bombarda Maxima! ” He cried out. 

 

There was a moment of nothing, and then a deafening boom, as the wall to the Slytherin dormitory burst inward like a house of straw, bricks crumbling in and out onto the stone floor of the common room. 

 

The sight that greeted them made little sense to Harry. A faint white figure stood before a pudgy little girl in checked pajamas. Around them on the floor, were several pups, barking and chasing their tails, only the pups were made of golden fire. Upon seeing them, the white figure faded, like it had risen with the smoke, and left was only Ada Lum—the hapless first year who’d Crucio’d Harry at that DA meeting so long ago—surrounded by flaming mongrels. The pups morphed into dogs, then wolves, growing larger and spreading flames to the nearby draperies and furniture as they tore through the open space. 

 

Ada looked up in horror, as if awakening from a dream. 

 

Aguamenti! ” hollered Harry, his wanding pointing at the wolf closest to the girl. It snapped at the hem of her pajamas with flaming teeth, then hissed as the violent spray of water from Harry’s wand doused it. It scampered off, alighting a burning trail in its wake. 

 

“Ada,” Harry called out, “This way, quickly.” The little girl dashed towards them and Neville scooped her up, running back towards the hall from which they had entered to take her to safety.

 

The wolves circled farther, and seemed to multiply, a whole pack of them, and they were making for the halls that led to the sleeping students. All those innocent kids, and Clark. Panic caught Harry like a punch to the throat. 

 

He froze. He needed the charm to end the fiendfyre. It was a charm he knew, one he'd made damn well sure he knew now, but he all he could see was Draco’s terrified face strangely superimposed on Clark’s, swimming in his mind. Harry was paralyzed, and his inaction would leave them both to this hideous fate and he would be alone to sweep up nothing but ashes. He blinked in the blackened air and suddenly he was flying again, but Draco’s fingers were slipping from his hand and he was falling into the fire, falling infinitely. Smoke was billowing around him and Harry's eyes were watering as crackles and snapping beams sounded loud and vicious in his ears.

 

And then, without his noticing, McGonagall was there, along Flitwick and Haberdash-Pewter, and others. Together they were casting out the fiendfyre, and Neville’s hand fell on Harry’s shoulder. All at once, it was as though Harry snapped to, bolting into the present. He looked at his watch. Draco's hand pointed firmly to 'School'. Harry swallowed, feeling his feet become unstuck. Draco was alive and safe.

 

Clark, his mind prodded, and without another thought, he was sprinting through the common room and down the hall towards the first year dormitory.

Chapter Text

Harry charged forward. The corridor branching off the common room was an odd mix of bright flashes of light and the oppressive darkness of smoke. He gasped for air, which was a terrible mistake, the smoke burning its way down to his lungs. He had to stop and cough and then cast a bubble head charm, cursing himself for not thinking of it sooner. The wolves had torn through the hallway and Harry was grateful for the thick, sturdy doors on the student rooms that seemed to take even fiendfyre some effort to destroy. The professors and some DA students were fanning out, smothering the flames with shouts of “Praefoco!” between bouts of coughing. Harry followed suit, using the counterspell to snuff out the fiendish creatures in his path. 

 

One of the dormitories ahead of him, still untouched by the fire, burst open, and Marcia Awling and the other seventh year girls spilled out, looking distressed and disoriented. 

 

“Bubble heads on and up the great hall!” Harry ordered, and the students were quick to obey. “Awling,” he stopped her, with a hand on her shoulder, “Which one is Clark’s dormitory?”

 

“You’re in the girls’ hall,” she explained, “Boys are in the left corridor, first years will be the first door on your right.”

 

Harry cursed and jogged back towards the common room; he'd not even seen the other hall. Looking round, he realised why. That half of the common room was reduced to large columns of flame shooting up like spires, the fiery wolves racing round them with guttural, otherworldly howls.

 

Harry joined in with the others combatting the flames, stamping out a tunnel for him to race through. 

 

“Harry, wait!” someone shrieked, but he didn’t heed the warning, feeling the flames close back over the hollow he’d created as he went. The heat was singeing his skin and clothes, but he sped onwards to the first doorway. The flames were licking at it and he dashed them out with the suppressing charm, still beating back the uncontrolled flames that threatened the hallway. The door was nearly burnt through and it crumbled half to ash when Harry kicked it. 

 

The room inside was dark, lit only by the flames behind him. Oppressive smoke clung to the air, and there was silence. The boys were all unconscious, Harry realised, the smoke having gotten to them. Unconscious, or worse, his thoughts threatened. He swallowed hard, moving from child to child, and encasing each with a bubble of clean oxygen. Some were in bed, some on the floor as if crawling to escape. Hiram was there, a small lump in a bed near the door, passed out with the covers up over his head, and huddled into a tiny ball. His breathing was raspy and shallow but seemed to get a bit better with the charm. Merlin, where was Clark? Harry whirled round, casting another couple smothering spells at the flames that approached the entrance. He heard coughing and shouts from down the hall. 

 

Looking back at the dormitory, Harry caughts sight of a pale foot reflecting orange light, sticking out from behind the bed at the end of the row. He ran for it, skirting the footboard and finding the lanky boy facedown on the ground. 

 

Harry cast another Bubble Head charm immediately and rolled the boy over. His lips were tinged blue and Harry was reminded of the memory of Clark's little brother, suffocating in the kitchen, the sirens and Crystal sobbing. 

 

“No,” he cried out, “No!” With shaking fingers he found the boy’s wrist, pressing against the radial hollow. A thready pulse fluttered against his fingertips and Harry took a breath. Thank Merlin. 

 

The light in the hallway died out, plunging them into darkness. The fire must be contained, Harry realised with relief.

 

Lumos!” came a voice, and Harry looked up to see Professor Haberdash-Pewter in the doorway, surveying the boys in their bubbles. 

 

“Smart thinking, Mr. Potter,” she said, voice even more like ground glass than usual. 

 

Harry lit up his own wand.

 

“We need to get them help, they were all unconscious from the smoke, but I think they’re all breathing.”

 

The professor nodded, “The second year boys were across the hall, and it was the same story. They will be seen to. Let’s get them up to the great hall.”

 

Harry levitated the three boys closest to him, save for Clark, and Professor Haberdash-Pewter muttered a spell in a language Harry couldn't place. The bobbing bodies started a macabre exodus through the door, heads lolling at awkward angles as they floated lifelessly through the doorway. Harry slid an arm under Clark’s knees and shoulders, picking him up. He knew he should just levitate him like the rest, but he needed to feel the warmth of the boy’s body, and hear the rasps of his breath to know he was still with him. 

 

He followed the DADA instructor back towards the common room, scanning the space for any recurrences of fiendfyre. A throng of professors and older students was there, shepherding pajama-clad Slytherins out of the scorched area. 

 

His eyes fell on Draco, who came to him at once. 

 

“Give him here, Harry,” Malfoy demanded, when he reached him, “You need to see to yourself.”

 

Harry went to protest but the adrenaline was slipping away and he became achingly aware of the rough, charred lining of his trachea, the burning rub of his lungs, how he was struggling to fill them. In his haste, he’d not cast the bubble head charm for himself soon enough and the smoke had done its damage. He transferred the child into’s Draco’s arms and then Ron was at his elbow, supporting him. 

 

“Easy there, mate,” Ron said, “we’ll get you some help.”

 

***

 

It took Harry and Ron quite some time to reach the great hall. Harry had to stop every dozen steps to catch breath that wouldn’t be caught. When they did arrive, Madam Pomfrey had things well in hand. The whole hall was transformed into a field hospital: ordered cots occupied by first and second year boys still cocooned in their bubbles took the place of tables and benches. There a queue of older Slytherins and other students who had helped with combating the fiendfyre forming to be checked over. 

 

Harry saw Professor McGonagall enter from the direction of her office with six lime-green cloaked St. Mungo’s healers, stepping briskly and carrying bags. Harry doubled over coughing again and Ron gave his back a tentative pat. 

 

“S’alright, Harry, you’ve made it, and look, the healers are here, they’ll take care of you. Now, take a seat and don’t try to talk.”

 

Harry could only do what he was told. His eyes were streaming, trying to flush out ash and debris and his whole chest seemed to rattle in his effort to get air. Ron trotted off and reappeared with a wet rag and a cup of water. Harry mopped at his filthy, sooty face and glasses. 

 

When his eyes stopped watering long enough for him to look around, he saw the bright blond head of Malfoy seated beside a cot near the professors’ usual table. Draco’s eyes were intent on an unconscious Clark and he was holding a limp hand in a death grip between his own. His face was pale, even for him, and he looked young and maybe even terrified. Harry wanted to go to them, but he didn't have the strength at the moment. A healer approached Clark, blocking Harry’s view, and he felt relieved knowing the boy was getting care.

 

“Harry, are you alright?” Hermione had found them. She had a soot stain on her chin and her hair was a mass of singed bedhead that Harry found very endearing. Neville was beside her, looking similarly disheveled. 

 

He nodded and Hermione squeezed his arm. “I’m sure they will get to you once they’ve sorted out the younger students. Merlin, what happened?”

 

He went to speak but Ron smacked him, “Oi, not you, you shouldn’t be speaking right now.” He looked to Neville, “I heard you were there, too?”

 

Neville nodded, “Neither of us could sleep, so we were just wandering the dungeons having a chat when we saw the smoke. Somehow Harry knew it was the Slytherin dormitories and so I...got in.”

 

“Got in?” Ron echoed, “Is that what we call blowing a massive hole in a castle wall these days, Longbottom? Merlin, man, have some pride in your talents!”

 

Neville grinned ruefully, “Not much reason to use that spell these days. Have to admit, made me feel alive.”

 

Ron laughed and Harry tried to join in, too, only to erupt into another spasmodic coughing fit. 

 

A short healer with a long grey braid approached. 

 

“Easy now,” she said, propping her healer’s kit up on the table beside them and pulling out a syringe, “gobbled down a bit too much smoke, did we?”

 

“Being rash and stupid, as usual,” Hermione affirmed. 

 

A strange pinkish goo bubbled away inside the syringe and Harry eyed it warily, trying to stifle his cough. 

 

“Believe me,” said the healer, catching his glance, “It would be much more cruel to make you try to swallow something other than water right now.”

 

She pinched his deltoid and slide the needle in. 

 

“What’s it do?” Harry whispered, voice hoarse. 

 

“Repairs the mucous lining in your respiratory tract, but it’s not instant, so give it a few hours.”

 

“Thanks. Are they all going to be okay?” He motioned toward the row of Slytherin boys. He was pleased to see that some, including Hiram, were now sitting up and taking small sips of water while healers buzzed about assessing them.

 

The witch pursed her lips, “Difficult to say. The ones who aren't awake are at least breathing on their own, which is a good sign. Depends how long they were unconscious for, really. It’s the brain we worry about in situations like this.”

 

“It can’t have been very long,” Harry replied, but it sounded more like he was trying to convince himself. He mentally played back the time it took him to find the right hallway, what had it been? Seconds or minutes? “How long is too long?”

 

“Hard to say,” the healer said, “Usually a matter of minutes, we’ll have to wait and see.”

 

“Can’t you wake them up?” Harry demanded, panic rising in his croaking voice. 

 

Hermione put a placating hand on his arm.

 

“We don’t typically do that any more,” the healer explained. “The best thing for an injured brain is rest, I’m sorry. We’ll do our best, though, you can depend on that. We'll transfer them to St. Mungo's if we have to.”

 

“How long until they wake up?”

 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Potter,” the healer said. “We just don’t know.”

 

***

 

“Any change?” Harry asked quietly, drawing up a seat next to Draco. He looked down at Clark. The boy wore flannel, plaid pajama bottoms that were too short for his gangly legs and a faded grey t-shirt. Harry made a note to pick up the kid some new pajamas on his next Hogsmeade visit.  Of course, his brain supplied unhelpfully, the boy wouldn’t fucking need them if he never woke up. Harry felt a shudder run through him and Draco’s hand came to the back of his neck reflexively to gentle him. Clark was still in the bubble head charm Harry had placed, and his features were distended strangely through the fishbowl lens. He hated it, wanting to reach out and touch the boy’s face.

 

“No,” Draco replied. His worried gaze didn’t leave Clark, even as his thumb found a balled muscle at the base of Harry’s skull and dug in. Harry relaxed into the pressure, feeling the coiled knot unravel, before Draco shifted his attention to the other side. “What the fuck were you doing down there? And what on earth happened? Your Patronus very nearly gave us all heart attacks, exploding into the dormitory like that.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Harry croaked, “I just couldn’t sleep.”

 

“So you went walking the halls alone?” Draco hissed, “Anything could have happened to you. Harry, we don’t know how people have taken all this, you’re potentially in danger, you can’t afford to be so stupid.”

 

Harry was surprised at the intensity of the other boy’s words. 

 

“I’m alright, you don’t have to worry,” he offered, trying to calm him.

 

“I worry,” Draco replied, his hand dropping away from Harry’s neck. His voice was quiet and furious. “I worry when I wake up in the middle of the night to find you not in my bed and your voice shouting fire. I worry when I watch you dash into a wall of flames, not caring about your own well-being, and when I hear you cough up a bloody lung afterwards. I know it's second nature for you to sacrifice yourself, but please, Harry, I need you to find a way to, at the very least, wait for reinforcement.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Harry murmured, reaching out to wipe a smudge of ash from Draco’s cheek. The blond pressed back into his touch, reluctantly, as if he didn't like that he wanted to. “I just needed to get to Clark. If he’s in trouble, I’m going to go to him, I think that might always be true. I feel responsible for him.”

 

“Well, you won't be much good to him burnt to a crisp!” Draco admonished.

 

"I'm still here, aren't I?" Harry pointed out. "I know it was a risk, but he was all I could think about. I couldn't leave him."

 

“Merlin knows I was thinking about him, too," Draco admitted with a sigh, "Specifically, that I was going to lose you both and I...Harry, honestly, I couldn’t fucking bear it. Sometimes it feels like you and he are very nearly all I’ve got.” 

 

“Oh, sweetheart.” Harry leaned in and pressed his cracked lips to Draco’s. He propped their foreheads against one another, throat still burning. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think. I just needed to get to him and I knew that I could. I know it looked reckless, but I was careful, wizard's honour.”

 

Draco snorted, but gave Harry another kiss. “I saw you dash into the damn flames through a pinhole, Potter. Do not try to tell me you were careful. But for Clark's sake, I’m glad you did. I’m somewhat attached to our odd little family, you know.”

 

The words soothed Harry right through.

 

There was a weak cough from beside them and Harry turned to see Clark’s eyes were fluttering open. Draco disbanded the bubble, “Merlin, Tiering, are you alright?”

 

Clark whispered something that Harry couldn’t make out. 

 

“What?” He said, leaning closer. 

 

“I said,” rasped Clark, “On this week’s episode of My Two Sad Dads…”

 

Harry coughed out a dry chuckle, “No brain damage, then, that’s a relief. How are you feeling, love, are you alright?”

 

Clarked shrugged, then winced. “Throat and chest hurt, but I kind of thought I wouldn’t wake up at all, so this is a pleasant surprise, really. What happened?”

 

Harry reached out to smooth the hair from Clark’s forehead. It was filthy with soot and debris, mottled an unflattering grey colour. “We’re not sure yet, but my guess it was the same problem as last semester. Mrs. Brown must not have been working alone.”

 

“What makes you say that?” Draco demanded. 

 

“Later,” Harry promised, “I’ll brief you and McGonagall and Ron and Hermione all at once. Throat’s too sore to repeat myself. I’ll go get a healer, someone should look over Clark, now that he’s awake.”

 

“Will you get an update on Hiram, please, too, Harry?” Clark requested, making an effort to sit up. Draco quickly kiboshed that idea with a firm hand to the boy’s chest and a gentle shove.

 

“You need rest,” Draco warned.

 

“I’ll check in on Hiram,” Harry promised.

 

Halfway to the other boy, Harry hazarded a quick glance back at them. Draco's hand was on Clark's shoulder and the two seemed to be chatting. The heightened concern that had occupied Draco's features earlier had disippated into his usual unflappable conceit.  His gaze, however, hinted at a disguised tenderness that Harry suspected only he could recognise. 

Chapter Text

Harry stood nearby as a healer examined the newly conscious Clark. A sunrise from the enchanted was sending streaks of bright morning light into the great hall as a full moon disappeared from view. The lack of sleep was starting to get to him, but he wanted confirmation that Clark was alright. 

 

“And can you hear this?” The healer rubbed two fingertips together beside Clark’s ear. 

 

“Yes,” Clark said. 

 

“And this?” The healer repeated the gesture in front of the other ear and again, Clark assented. 

 

“And does it sound the same on both sides?”

 

“Yes,” Clark confirmed. 

 

“What’s that assess?” Draco asked suddenly, as if trying to work out the logic, then added, looking embarrassed, “Sorry, you’re busy.”

 

The healer, a moon-faced man with big cherry cheeks and a scrubby orange beard, looked over at him. “Far be it for me to deny curious minds,” he said kindly. “The temporal lobes of the brain,” he tapped Clark’s head just above the ear, “Are sensitive to damage during periods of oxygen deprivation. The auditory cortex is housed within the temporal lobe, and that is a very quick test that lets me know those centres are intact.”

 

“That makes sense,” Draco nodded. 

 

“What else?” Clark demanded, “Like when I followed your wand up and down and back and forth and such.”

 

“All part of a neurological exam,” explained the healer, looking rather pleased with his attentive audience of two. “Different cranial nerves innervate different eye muscles. If there was a deficit in one of those movements, it would mean damage to a nerve, and thus to the certain part of your brain that nerve stems from.”

 

“And my brain checks out?” 

 

“Well, that was cranial nerve eight out of twelve, so we have a few more to go, but so far, yes, you’re passing with flying colours.”

 

“What’s next then?” Clark asked and Draco leaned in, his finger tapping against his bottom lip thoughtfully. 

 

“Number nine,” the healer said, “requires me to take a peek at the back of your throat.”

 

“Really?” Said Clark. 

 

“Wizard’s honour,” agreed the healer, setting his wand alight. Clark opened his mouth. “Do you mind if I show your friend here what I’m looking for?”

 

Clark made an unintelligible sound, since his lips were still spread wide, but he nodded encouragingly. Draco stepped in close, peering into the boy’s mouth from beside the healer’s shoulder.

 

“You’re looking now to ensure the arches on either side of Clark’s uvula are equal,” lectured the healer, and Harry’s attention drifted off as Professor McGonagall approached him.

 

“Harry, a word?” she asked. 

 

“Of course,” he said, then turned to Draco, “Do you want to stay here?”

 

“Do you mind?” Draco asked, looking up from Clark’s tonsils. 

 

“Not at all,” Harry replied, “Just am not repeating this story again until I’ve had some sleep.”

 

“Understood. I can wait until tomorrow. I’ll stay with Clark.”

 

Malfoy lifted his face expectantly and Harry dropped a brief kiss to his mouth. It still surprised him how frightfully unabashed the other boy was. Draco not only tolerated PDA but enforced it, despite Harry's occasional blushes. He thought about Draco’s comments after Harry had torn a strip off the aurors, the possessive, frantic ramblings about wanting the world to know, and in that light, maybe his actions made sense after all. Harry ruffled Clark’s hair gently and followed the headmistress across the hall.

 

***

 

McGonagall led him to a table in the corner of the great hall, where she could still be available to the healers and could keep an eye on the proceedings. Ron and Hermione were already seated there. 

 

Ada Lum, McGongall explained, had forgotten to transfer her Aversion Amulet to her pajamas, and that voice had appeared in her head again, convincing her to cast the fiendfyre spell. 

 

“But she can’t have been the first student to have forgotten her amulet,” Ron mused, “I’m sure even I’ve forgotten it a time or two, especially since Mrs. Brown was taken in.”

 

“Ron, you haven’t!” Hermione scolded. 

 

“I’m just as guilty,” Harry confessed, “I’ve not even taken it out of my trunk since we got back to school.”

 

Hermione looked about ready to clap their heads together. 

 

“Then why did it take until now?” she muttered, brow furrowing. “If you two are forgetting, surely plenty of students are.”

 

“Maybe whoever it is stopped trying after being blocked by the amulets for so long. Then she just happened to try again.”

 

“The attacks,” Harry considered, “The big ones, the violent ones, not just the voices in heads, the ones with magic, when did they happen?”

 

Hermione dug through her bag for her notes and started reading off dates, “...and then tonight," she concluded, "February 1st.”

 

“Full moon tonight,” Harry said slowly, “and seems like there has been one major attack per month. We weren’t back at school yet for the January full moon. Mrs. Brown’s attack was early December. The walls crumbling in on Draco was a month before. The quidditch pick a month before that. The DA meeting fiasco was September. There were other incidents, yes, but mostly just voices in heads. Could just be coincidence but it has never added up that there are so many lulls.”

 

“I don’t have a lunar calendar on me,” Hermione said, “but that sounds about right. What does it, mean, though?”

 

“Merlin’s tits,” Ron breathed, shaking his head slowly. “Sorry, Professor. It’s just...I think I know who it is.”

 

Hermione and Harry swiveled to look at him, mouths gaped. 

 

“Think about it,” Ron continued. “Who did we know who has, er, big feelings, was staunchly on our side during the war, and was murdered by a bloody werewolf?”

 

“No,” Hermione murmured, “She wouldn’t.”

 

“Not…” Harry choked out, “Not Lavender?”

 

“Not Lavender, exactly,” Ron shrugged, “but maybe some sort of corrupted echo of her. Maybe she can enter students' heads at any time, but she can really only channel magic when she’s at her most powerful, around the full moon.”

 

Harry grabbed Hermione’s satchel and started rifling through it. 

 

“What are you doing?” Hermione hissed, but Harry ignored her until he found what he was looking for: Historica Medieval Magica by Balbina Bloodstone. He flipped madly through the pages until he found what he was looking for. He slapped the book open onto the table for them all to see. 

 

“She’s a cwalus,” he declared, “Or like, a cwalus werewolf hybrid, from the sounds of things.”

 

Professor McGonagall, Ron, and Hermione leaned in, skimming the passage. A bloody death, metaphysical means, repeating violent ends, it all fit. 

 

“Merlin, Harry,” Hermione gasped, “You’re right. I didn’t believe they existed. Professor Binns said Ms. Bloodstone was really out to lunch for believing in them; and he’s a ghost, he should know.”

 

“It was her voice,” Harry determined, “In Clark’s memories. It was similar enough to Mrs. Brown’s that I didn’t put it together. It was all sickly sweet like she used to talk to you, Ron.”

 

Ron grimaced as if remembering his awkward first relationship. “She must have convinced her mum to do her dirty work when she couldn't find a vessel among the students,” he added thoughtfully. “So, how do we kill a cwalus?”

 

McGonagall looked at them stony-faced. “I was also under the impression they didn't truly exist” she admitted. “But if they do, well, they’re already dead. So far as I know, you don’t kill something like that, you simply take a different path.”

 

“Except Hogwarts isn’t a trail through a swamp somewhere. We can’t just go around her,” Harry interjected. 

 

“I’m aware,” McGonagall acknowledged. “Hopefully we have a month to arrive at an alternative.”

 

***

 

Classes were canceled for the day and Harry scrubbed the ash and soot off in the shower before collapsing into Draco’s bed. The blond joined him shortly after, smelling like fresh grapefruit and his wet hair tickling Harry’s nose. Harry smoothed it down with a lazy hand. 

 

“Clark alright?”

 

“They’ve taken him for observation, just to make sure his lung function returns to normal.”

 

“Hm.”

 

“We’ll go collect him tomorrow, after your appointment with your healer.”

 

“Oh will we?” Harry remarked. "I'm perfectly capable of getting him on my own. If he'll even let me. He might want to come back alone.  We shouldn't smother the kid."

 

Draco’s arm tightened around Harry’s middle in response. “Sometimes, a hurt child needs a bit of smothering, I suspect. Preferable to the alternative."

 

Harry went to argue but Draco pressed stern fingers to his lips. "Go to sleep, Potter. Your decision-making rights have been revoked until further notice.”

 

Despite his best efforts, Harry obeyed.

 

***

 

Harry slept fitfully, his dreams a mess of smoke and visions of Draco falling, always falling, into jetting flames. Each time he went to call out, though, there was a cool hand on his cheek and gentling words, and reassurances that he was dreaming.  When he awoke late that afternoon, he was alone. His lungs felt less like overcooked crackling and his lips had stopped burning. His arm was sore from where he’d had the injection and his muscles ached from all his panicked exertion, but he felt better than he had done.

 

He showered again to try and shake off the groggy, headachey feeling that came with sleeping during the day, and made his way to the common room. Hermione, Ron and Draco were at their usual table. The couple were obviously explaining their newfound suspicion to the Slytherin, so Harry puttered around making himself some tea. 

 

Draco offered his cheek, and Harry obediently kissed it before joining them. Ron didn’t even blink, and Harry felt strangely proud. 

 

“Not a moonlighter as a cwalus-hunter, are you?” Harry asked, sipping his tea.

 

"Sadly, no,” Draco replied, “But I think you lot are right. The theory fits. We’ll have to look into various methods of banishment or containment. A little ashamed it took us this long to recognize her for what she is. What tipped you off, Weasley?”

 

Ron shrugged, “They were some awfully overwrought reactions. Took things to a bit of an extreme, didn’t she? Reminded me of when I dated her.” He scrunched up his nose, “Just a bit much, you know?”

 

“Not that she was violent or vindictive like this in life,” Hermione was quick to correct him, “but it was a bit of her essence so I can sort of, er, see it, I suppose.”

 

“McGonagall said she’ll have the aurors question Mrs. Brown about it, see what they can get out of her,” Ron explained to Harry. “We didn’t want to wake you.”

 

“Thanks. I doubt she’ll talk. I think she’s hell-bent on protecting Lavender, or at least what Lavender’s become. Has anyone talked to Haberdash-Pewter? She’s the Defense instructor after all. Should be her forte.”

 

“Not yet,” Hermione said, “Well, maybe McGonagall has. There will be a faculty meeting this evening and I’m sure we’ll get the highlights tomorrow.”

 

“Are they going to close the school?” Harry asked, “We obviously can’t keep them safe.”

 

He thought again about Clark’s limp body in his arms and shuddered. 

 

“Harry,” the blond reprimanded, and Harry’s eyes jumped to Draco’s icy grey ones. “That is exactly what you and Longbottom did.”

 

“It was a fluke, though,” Harry said. “We just happened to be down there.”

 

“Fluke or not, those students owe you their lives.”

 

“I’m tired of people owing me their lives,” Harry grumbled. 

 

“Then you’ll have to do what I’ve said,” Draco replied, “And stop being so ridiculously reckless.”

Chapter Text

“And I’m worried that I’m more worked up over losing out on quidditch than I am about a murderous cwalus attacking the student body, because honestly, that feels pretty par for the course, by now. That’s pretty fucked up, isn’t it?” Harry sighed, looking at his hands. 

 

He was seated across from Zerk in the poppy room at St. Mungo’s. 

 

“Harry,” Zerk said kindly, because he was always damn kind even when Harry confessed petty and horrible things, “You do know that it is possible to simultaneously feel different things about separate events, right?”

 

Harry bit his lip. “When the fire was happening it was more important. I was terribly worried about Clark, I couldn’t think of anything else but him. But he’s fine and the rest of the Slytherins are alright, too. But the quidditch situation isn’t fine, and I can't seem to just push past it. I didn’t make the fucking team and I don’t know if it’s because of a lack of skill or because I’m with Draco. I’ve taken this lovely, rosy future I’ve dreamed up and I’ve had to toss it in the bin. What if I can either have Draco or I can have quidditch but I can’t have both?”

 

“You tell me.”

 

“Draco. I’ll always choose Draco. But I think he’s worried I’ll resent him.”

 

“Do you?”

 

“Of course not. I resent The Prophet and I resent the fucking publicity team at the Arrows and I resent my relentless nightmares for wrecking this for me in the first place. And I resent Lavender’s bloody ghost and her spineless mother, and I resent Fenrir Greyback and Voldemort and the whole damn war.”

 

“Those sound like reasonable things to level one’s resentment at,” Zerk observed.

 

Harry flung his head back on the sofa, “I sound like a child, whinging about not getting my own way.”

 

“People don’t turn a certain age and just outgrow disappointment. I think your suspicions aren’t without basis, and no one enjoys being treated unjustly.”

 

Harry considered that. “When I was a kid, Draco was always accusing me of receiving special treatment. It chafed at Ron a bit, too. I used to get so mad, because it didn’t feel like I was getting special treatment, but in retrospect, I suppose it was. It just was rarely as welcome as they seemed to think.”

 

“That’s not the case now?”

 

“Merlin, not at all. If anything, they are my most staunch supporters; they’d more likely demand I get special treatment than resent me for it.”

 

“You inspire loyalty,” Zerk commented.

 

“Stop," Harry said tersely. 

 

“Why is it so difficult for you to accept honest praise?” Zerk asked, voice as serene as ever. The question was curious, not accusatory.

 

“I can accept it from people I trust. I believe it when Ron or Hermione says something, or Professor McGonagall. Sorry, not trying to say I don’t trust you—”

 

Zerk raised a dismissive hand, “You never have to worry about hurting my feelings in here, Harry. I understand that trust-building is a process, and we’ve not known each other for long. So, the value of praise depends on the person delivering it. From what little you’ve told me, I gather your childhood was lacking in kindness.”

 

Harry snorted derisively, but didn't respond. He didn't want to talk about the Dursleys. 

 

Zerk didn't push him on it, he just continued his assessment. “And then you entered the wizarding world, where everyone was telling you that you were exceptional. But you didn’t feel exceptional, so I think it follows that you would therefore be suspicious of praise, since it seemed undue.”

 

“Maybe. What does it matter, though? Learning to take a compliment isn't going to change The Arrows' minds.”

 

“No," Zerk agreed, "But you’re very hard on yourself. How you were speaking before, berating yourself for having feelings about a significant event. I’m just wondering what it might be like if, instead of rejecting praise right away, you considered it. You’re welcome to reject it, of course, but evaluate it a bit first; see if maybe it doesn’t fit.”

 

***

 

Their session ended. Draco was outside the room, waiting and perusing an Arithmancy textbook. He stood when he saw Harry. 

 

“Er, Zerk, this is my boyfriend, Draco. Draco, Zerk.”

 

“Pleasure to meet you, Draco,” Zerk said smoothly, and Harry thought he actually meant it.

 

“Likewise,” Draco replied, “McGonagall’s let me come along just so we can pick up Clark.”

 

“So I understand. I won’t keep you. See you next week, Harry.”

 

Zerk strode off down the hallway. 

 

“Well, what did you talk about, then?” Draco demanded, returning his book to his bag and slinging it over his shoulder. He cast disillusionment spells on them both before they left the quiet alcove. 

 

“Pretty sure you’re not supposed to ask that,” Harry said. 

 

“Why not?”

 

“I don’t know. It's supposed to be private.”

 

“Was it something you don’t want me to know?”

 

Harry considered the question. He was a little ashamed about his reaction to the Appleby dismissal, but Zerk seemed to think it was valid. “I...we talked about the fire, obviously. But, I’m still upset about quidditch. So we talked about that, too.”

 

“You didn’t tell me that was bothering you.” Draco said, linking their fingers as they walked unnoticed down the bustling corridor. 

 

“It felt trivial, after everything else.”

 

Draco stopped and turned to him, fingers trailing down his cheek. “Darling, you put hours and hours of training in, the way you move and fly—you’re exquisite, and you got massively fucked over. It’s not trivial at all.”

 

Harry found himself rejecting the praise outright. Exquisite was never a word he’d applied to himself. Draco was just fond of him, Harry told himself, but the comment itself was meaningless. Then he thought about Zerk’s words only minutes earlier and he forced a moment of consideration. 

 

“Do you really think that?” Harry asked quietly. 

 

“Potter, do I strike you as someone prone to flattery?” 

 

“No.”

 

“That’s because I’m not. Next year, when this has blown over, another team will snap you up and The Appleby Arrows will bemoan their stupidity for a decade. What's all this about, hm? You've hardly needed reassurance about quidditch in the past.”

 

Harry swallowed. “Just a blow to the ego, I expect. I thought I had a chance. And I fucking wanted it."

 

Draco's thumb came up to trace the line of Harry's jaw. "You deserved a proper chance. They're cowards. Don't doubt yourself on their accord."

 

"Thank you,” Harry murmured, “for saying that, I mean.”

 

Draco's lips were a solid, reassuring press against his, and Harry believed him.

 

***

 

Harry dismissed his disillusionment charm long enough to inquire after Clark’s location. He was shepherded into Clark’s little room and Draco, still disguised, slipped in behind him. The boy was seated on the bed, with his satchel beside him. He looked up expectantly when Harry entered. 

 

“Harry!” He said, “They said someone would be round to get me.”

 

“I was here for an appointment myself,” Harry explained, “So it made sense.”

 

“Are you sick?” Clark asked. 

 

“No,” Harry said. Hermione was always on about normalizing mental health and Harry didn’t want Clark to think it was something to be ashamed of. “I’ve been seeing a mind healer.”

 

Clark just nodded, “I had to see a school counselor a few times after the thing with Jared almost dying. They’re alright.”

 

 Harry gave him a smile and squeezed his arm. “You’re looking alright, also. Draco’s here, too, he’s just—”

 

Draco dissolved the charm on himself as well and Clark jumped. 

 

“Wicked!” he deemed the sudden appearance, “When do I get to learn that?”

 

“One absurdly over-difficult spell at a time,” Draco insisted, stepping towards the lanky child and apprising him. “Master Occlumency, and we will consider teaching you disillusionment. Now, how are you Tiering, and be honest.”

 

The red-faced, red-bearded healer who they’d met at Hogwarts arrived before Clark had a chance to reply. 

 

“Mr. Potter!” He said, shaking Harry’s hand, “Good to see you again, sans soot. And Mr. Malfoy. Your headmistress said you would both be here. Clark’s done famously, reacting as hoped to the regenerative potion. No neurological or pulmonary deficits that we can determine, thanks largely to your quick efforts, I understand, Mr. Potter. I’ll ask that you be on lookout for cough and any muzzy-headedness, but Clark should be ready to return to life as usual. The circumstances were, of course, unusual and quite dramatic. It is possible that Clark here will have an emotional response to them, as well. Him and I have talked about what to do should that be the case.”

 

“He’ll come to Harry or myself,” Draco said, his tone brooking no argument, “and we’ll discuss it.”

 

“That was the conclusion Clark arrived at, as well.