"Bloody buggering hell!" The cursing was mixed with the sound of whimpering and the thuds of fists against the brick wall.
Harry stood still, unable to decide if he should turn around the corner and see who was in such agony or move forward, minding his own business. His inclination to meddle took the better of him.
"You?" Harry stopped in his track.
"Well, isn't it just my lucky day?" The young blond man wiped his hand under his nose and raised his pointy chin defiantly and snarled, "Of all the wizards in the bloody world, Harry Potter just happens to pass by."
"I've been to Diagon for some errends. You must pass the Leaky to get there. It's not my fault you're lurking out here in the backyard." Harry couldn't stop his tone from being snappish. "What's happened?" he added much calmer.
Malfoy gave a him a dark look. "Oh, nothing much, the usual. They won't serve me; not here nor anywhere. I'm allowed to pass through, but that's all." He resumed to kick at the bricks in the wall, who were quite innocent about how Malfoy was treated. "I can't even get thoroughly pissed when I want to."
"I'm sure there's plenty to drink at the Manor," Harry grunted. "The finest Fire-whiskey and snobbish elf-made wine. Why didn't you stay there?"
"I Apparated away only minutes ago. I have no desire to go back to them right now, thank you very much," Malfoy snorted.
Harry shoved his hands deep down in his jeans-pockets and inclined his head out towards the busy street. "There's thousands of pubs and bars all over London."
Malfoy gave a short laugh, but it bore no trace of humour. "Muggle pubs? Gladly. I'm quite over the pathetic prejudice teachings my father bestowed upon me, but you see, I don't have any Muggle money. And on top of that, I wouldn't know what to order once I got there."
Harry looked at him. His curiosity grew. It's been three years since the war and since then their paths had only crossed a couple of times. The Malfoys were cleared at the trials, mostly because of Harry's testimony about Narcissa's and Draco's part in the outcome of Harry's own fate, and the last-minute turn of alliances they all made. Lucius Malfoy had to pay an enormous fee and a year at Azkaban, but after his release everything seemed to be back as they once were. Almost.
It wasn't as if he was especially keen on knowing what Malfoy's been up to, but there was something about insufferable git that always made Harry's toes curl and his mind lose all reason.
Harry had heard of Malfoy's difficulties, sure he had, and that he'd been abroad for a while, but Malfoy had returned and sat for his N.E.W.T.s at Hogwarts along with Hermione and a few others, who had been allowed an extra year of studies. According to Hermione, he did very well on his exams. But apart from that… He studied Malfoy, who leaned against the wall with his eyes shut and a strain set at his jaws. Malfoy wasn't in robes; he was dressed in a pair of black trousers and a light-blue jumper. On a whim Harry said, "Come on, Malfoy, I'll buy you a drink." He made an effort to keep his voice even and uninterested.
"Why, in Merlin's name, would you do that?" Malfoy gave Harry a dubious glare.
"Isn't that what you wanted?"
Malfoy swallowed hard. "You offer to help me?"
Harry shrugged. "It's Friday, and as it happens, I have nothing planned for the evening. I have Muggle money and I could use a pint. There's a perfectly decent pub a few blocks from here."
He started to walk towards the backdoor of the Leaky Cauldron, but turned when he sensed that Malfoy wasn't following. "It'll be fun, Malfoy. For old times sake and for the hell of it."
The pub was a bit crowded, but they managed to squeeze themselves in at a table with three men in business suits, discretely enlarging the seat with a few inches. Harry returned from the bar with two pints of lager. Malfoy was making wide eyes at the other patrons and he winced when he took a sip from his glass.
"You've never tasted beer before?" Harry smirked.
Malfoy shook his head. "Only Butterbeer, of course. This isn't as sweet at all."
"Maybe you'd prefer something girly, like cider or a glass of shandy?" Harry teased.
"I don't know what any of that is," Malfoy scowled. "but I can assure you this is perfectly fine, once you get used to the taste. I was hoping for something with a little more bite in it, though."
Harry took a drink from his beer and looked at Malfoy. "You're really set out to get drunk, aren't you? What's the matter? Except for the obvious ordeal of being a first-class prat. Has anything happened?"
"You ask too many fucking questions, Potty," Malfoy seethed and turned his face away. "I'm not here to indulge your curiosity."
"Well, since I'm paying for it," Harry said. He stood and made his way over to the bar. When he returned he carried a tray filled with six small glasses of clear liquid. "One shot for one question truthfully answered. What do you say?"
Malfoy grunted. "I'd say you're the most infuriating wizard of our time."
"You could start, if you want."
"You're saying I can ask you anything and you will answer?"
"Yeah, why not? Don't you think it's time you and I talked about all the crap that's between us?"
Malfoy leaned closer over the table and lowered his voice. "In here? At a Muggle establishment?" His eyes flickered nervously around. "About the war and the Dark Lord?" he added in a hoarse whisper.
"In this raucous," Harry waved his hands around. "Who will hear? Or care, for that matter?"
Malfoy lifted his beer to his lips and let his eyes survey the room. The three men next to them were involved in a wild discussion about something work-related and their new boss. The two women at the table on their other side were obviously gossiping about a friend's divorce, and at the bar a big screen showed a football-game on full volume. No-one was paying them any attention.
"All right," Malfoy said and put his glass down. "Give me one of those potions and ask your question."
Harry smiled and pushed one of the shots over to Malfoy and put one in front of himself. "I'll start easy. Did you really know it was me that time at the Manor?"
Malfoy sniffed. "Of course, I did. I would have known you if you were disguised as a Hippogriff." His cheeks pinked a little and he didn't meet Harry's eyes. "That was a stupid question to ask. You know I recognised you the moment they brought you in. At least that's what you said at my trial."
Harry huffed a laugh. "Yeah, I guess I did. It still shocked me at the time, though. That you didn't give me away."
Malfoy let his fingers trail a crack on the surfice of the table, avoiding Harry's eyes. "Well, let's just say that I wasn't that eager on our side winning."
"That didn't stop you from doing all that other stuff, though," Harry jabbed his finger at him. "Poisoning my best friend, letting Death Eaters into our school, almost killing the most important wizard in the fight against Voldemort."
"I didn't have much choice, did I?" Malfoy gritted his teeth. "It was all very confusing."
Harry looked at him in silence. "I can imagine." He took a swig from his beer. "Your go."
Malfoy straightened up and met his gaze. "All right. Why aren't you in Auror training anymore?"
Harry blushed. Of all sodding questions. Malfoy must have read it in the papers. Harry had tried to stop them writing about it when he left, he wasn't at all happy that it got so much publicity, but he had promised to go with the truth. "I guess it wasn't as heroic as I thought it would be when I was younger."
Malfoy snorted. "What did you expect? For everyone to fall on their faces in awe as soon as you raised a wand, Oh Chosen One?"
Harry shrugged his shoulders and sighed. "I felt I was fed up with Dark wizards and Dark magic," he said. "Then Ron dropped out to help George at the shop and Neville got an apprenticeship in Herbology, and it all started to feel awkward and poinless. Being an Auror turned out to be mostly policies and red tape, and that's never been my strong side."
"So, what are you doing now?"
Harry shook his head. "Not your turn. Now we drink." He lifted his glass and knocked it back in one gulp. The vodka burned pleasantly in his throat and spread warmth. Harry watched Malfoy do the same and cough a little as he swallowed. Harry laughed.
"So, Malfoy," Harry started. "Do you miss playing Quidditch?"
"Immensely!" Malfoy plastered a wide smirk on his face. His grey eyes glistened as he added. "What I wouldn't give to have a go at the Snitch against you again."
Harry chuckled. "That can be arranged. I don't mind beating you to it one more time." Harry paused and rested his chin on his propped-up hands. The sudden memory-flash of Malfoy in Quidditch leathers, grinning cockily at Harry as he hovered on his broom made the inside of Harry's stomach do an unexpected flip. "That was brilliant, wasn't it? Rivalling for our House-teams out on the pitch."
Malfoy lounged back and held Harry's gaze. "Best days of my life. It would've been even better," he added sulkily, "if I'd actually caught the sodding thing, at least once, instead of you." He frowned and crossed his arms. "Now, tell me what you're doing instead of becoming the world's most famous Auror?"
Harry squirmed. "Nothing," he muttered.
Harry reached out to grab his second shot, but Malfoy took hold of his wrist and stopped him. "That's not a very enlightening answer."
"S'not fair!" Harry could hear the light whining in his own voice. "I ask easy questions and you go for the hard ones all at once."
Malfoy's eyebrows shot up and Harry heaved a sigh. "All right. I have no idea of what I want to do with my life, now that I won't become an Auror, so right now I'm doing nothing. I spend most of my days sleeping late, then I go pestering my friends while they work or study. I go over to Andromeda Tonks a lot to play with little Teddy. There, happy? Can I have my shot now, please?"
Harry pushed his glasses up and rubbed his eyes as the alcohol tingled on its way down. "Now I want you to tell me why you're here and what made you run away from your parents?" he said.
"Who says I ran away?" Malfoy scowled.
"Well, didn't you?"
Malfoy bit his lip. "Fair enough. If you must know, there was a lot of heated words and I left quite suddenly." He exhaled and seemed to brace himself. "It turned out my father has completed the negotiations regarding my marriage to the Greengrass girl."
"You're getting married?"
"The engagement-ad will be in the Sunday edition of the Daily Prophet."
"But that great. Congratulations."
"It's not great!" Malfoy spat and finished his beer in one long draught. He looked intensely at the moist on the outside of the glass and followed a watery pearl with his forefinger before he met Harry's gaze from under his fringe. "Astoria's decent enough, I guess. I'm sure we'll learn to get along."
"But… you don't love each other?" Harry asked confounded.
Malfoy smirked. "It's an arranged marriage, Potter. It's how it's done."
"But surely..." Harry began, but he was interrupted by a loud roar from the crowd at the bar watching the game.
Malfoy shook his head at him. "I've answered your question," he shouted. "You're next, if you can hear me at all."
Harry looked around and was pushed in the back by one of the over-exalted football fans. "I don't dare cast a silencing charm in here, it's too crowded," he yelled and lifted the last shot. "Let's finish these and go somewhere else."
In the pub next door there was a quiz-game going on, so they decided to remain standing at the bar. They only gotten their pints, though, until an elderly lady in one of the quiz-groups started waving at them to summon them over.
"You're new here, aren't you? Oh, do join us, loves, we could use a bit of rejuvenating in our team," she said and made space beside her. "We're on a losing streak here since Martha's nephew got himself a girlfriend and stopped coming."
"Yes, do." A man with thick wavy grey hair stood and offered Malfoy his chair. "We get all sorts of questions about Hip-Hop artists, blogging and Sci-fi films and could really do with some help."
"Just because you haven't been to the pictures since they ran The Bridge on the River Kwan," one of the other grey-haired ladies snapped and a roar of laughter errupted. Harry saw this as their chance to evade.
"Thanks," he said. There was a warm hearty feeling in the group, and under other circumstances Harry might have sat down for a while, and obviously disappoint them with his lack of knowledge in young Muggle culture. "I'd love to, but you see, me and my friend, we have some things to discuss, so I think we'll just stay at the bar."
"That means they're going to talk about girls," one of the other men said with a wink at the woman beside him. "What could be more important than that?"
"We'll just have to lose as spectacularly as last week, then," the first man chuckled.
"I'm sure you're more than all right without us," Malfoy said to the woman who'd waved them over, "when there's such obvious display here of both beauty and intelligence." He took her hand and bowed over it in his poshest manner. She made a swooning sound and fanned her face ith her hands, and they all cracked out laughing again.
"Tosser," Harry scoffed at Malfoy on their way back to the bar. Malfoy turned and gave him a shit-eating grin.
They found two barstools and ordered two more shots.
"Your time to ask, I reckon," Harry told Malfoy.
"What is this strange Muggle currency you've been handing out?" He was fingering Harry's Master Card. "I've seen Muggle money before, you know, and it looks nothing like this."
"It's called a credit-card. You can use it almost anywhere in the Muggle world and it's connected to my vault at Gringott's through some Muggle bank account. Bill, Ron's older brother, has been working on this for a while now to make it easier for people, like me, who only have Wizarding gold, to interact in the Muggle world. It helps building bridges for... erm… purebloods and such. It was Hermione's idea, of course."
"Of course." Malfoy handed Harry the card.
"You ought to get one," Harry said and put it back into his breast-pocket. "It would certainly help the next time you want to have a night out. Hasn't any of your friends got it yet?"
"I wouldn't know. I hardly see them anymore."
"Well, Pansy's in New York with that dashing American husband of hers. She's very happy, I suppose. We Floo-call occasionally, but that's it, and I was never close to any of the other girls. Blaise is currently on some devious gigolo-tour around the continent, wooing witches with more gold than brains. I haven't heard from him since we met up in Switzerland last year. Greg never leaves his house, doesn't talk to anyone but me, and you know, he wasn't that much of a conversationalist in his best days. And you must have heard what happened to Theo."
Malfoy gave a short humouless laugh. "You see, I'm all that's left of our once so glorious Slytherin gang." There was a strained set at his jaw.
"I'm sorry to hear that." It struck Harry that Malfoy must be very lonley. He lifted his glass. "Time to drink, then," he said.
"Hold on, there. I haven't asked my question yet."
"Yes, you did. You asked about my credit-card."
"That doesn't count," Malfoy huffed. "That was only some trivial information I wanted."
"I asked you about Quidditch!" Harry shouted laughing.
"It's not my fault you wasted your opportunity." Malfoy lifted his shot and clinked it against Harry's. "But drink up, Potter, and order us one more round." He banged down his empty glass. "Now, a real question." He wiggled his forefinger at Harry's face. "Why haven't you returned my wand? You said you would at the Wizengamot."
Why indeed? Harry certainly had intended to do so, but somehow never got around to it. The hawthorn wand still stayed in his bedside drawer, alonside some other memorabilia, like the piece from the two-way mirror he got from Sirius, a lock of shiny red hair Ginny had laughingly given him after she cut it short before her first real match with the Harpies, and the picture of his Mum and Dad at their wedding. He took the wand out sometimes and let his fingers slide over the smooth surface.
"I dunno. I think I lost it," Harry murmured.
"That was very reckless of you, Potter. That wand belonged to me, and I liked it," Malfoy said with a bit of a slur. "By the way, do you think we could change location again?" He hunched down a little. "I knew it was a mistake to flirt with that old biddy, she's been giving me eyes at me like forever now. I think it's only a matter of time until she makes another attempt at luring us over."
Harry felt slightly dizzy when he stepped out on the pavement. The noice from the pub lifted from him in the relative silence that was the busy London street. Malfoy beside him turned his face up and closed his eyes as he inhaled deeply. The light from the lamppost behind him turned his hair to gold.
"You wanna go on or shall we call it a night?" Harry asked and blinked at the sight of him.
Malfoy lowered his chin and bore his silvery eyes into Harry's. "Oh, I'm far from drunk yet. And you still have one more question to answer. I will never admit that card thing counted."
He started walking, his long legs taking one stride while Harry almost had to take two to keep up. They found a bar where more smartly dressed people were talking low and soft music was played at a piano.
"This is much better," Malfoy said and reclined in a plush brown leather chair. A blond girl in a black apron appeared. "What can I get you gentlemen?"
Malfoy lifted his pointy nose. "Could we have a bottle of Chablis with two glasses?" he asked in his haughtiest tone.
"Certainly," the girl said.
Harry shifted awkwardly in his seat opposite him. He felt out of place and under-dressed in his jeans. At least he wore a button-down shirt over his tee. "Do you have any crisps or peanuts?" he asked. His belly growled as he hadn't had anything to eat since the lunch-sandwich he had together with Ron and George at the shop.
"We have both. What would you prefer?" the girl smiled at him.
Harry exchanged a glance with Malfoy, who shrugged one shoulder and looked away. "Crisps, please," Harry said. "But not the ones with vinegar," he added quickly.
The wine was golden, cold and served in an ice-bucket. It tasted quite nice. Harry relaxed a little. Malfoy looked as if he was in his right element. Harry scoffed at him when he twirled the high-stemmed glass between his fingers, held it up to the light and took a miniature sip. The wanker.
"I thought you aimed to get drunk, not participate in a wine-tasting," Harry mused.
"No reason not to enjoy oneself while at it." Malfoy smiled. A genuine bloody smile, and he winked at Harry.
Harry felt his face flush and took a big gulp of his wine. "So, you know wine. That's a Muggle drink."
"No, it's not. Wizards drink wine, and make it."
Harry thought it must be a sure sign of Malfoy getting slightly inebriated, the way he started ranting on about some wine-tasing he'd done while in France, of the villa the family owned near Montpellier and how the wine tasted there in the sunny afternoons on the patio. His voice drawled on and on and the melodic sound made Harry sink into his soft chair and close his eyes and...
Malfoy's boot hit his leg. "Are you even listening to me?" He put his glass down and reached for the bag of crisps. "Back to business, Potter. What about you and girl-Weasley? Do we hear the sound of wedding bells anywhere in the near future?"
"No." Harry immediately turned away; his mouth suddenly dry. "We broke it off." Malfoy seemed to have a knack at pinpionting all his sore places.
"The Prophet was making such a big fuss about it, I remember." Malfoy tilted his head and watched Harry. "How you and your childhood sweetheart were oh-so-cosy and very much in love. The perfect match between Our Saviour and the Heroine of the Final Battle."
"You know what kind of muck they always print. They don't know a thing," Harry said sullenly.
"Yes," Malfoy smirked. "I suspect it must feel ghastly to see all that praise in the papers."
"Don't be a prick."
"Well, then?" Malfoy searched and found Harry's eyes again.
"It wasn't the same after everything was over. Ginny… well, she wanted to move on, leave it all behind and... live, I guess. It wasn't that easy for me," Hary mumbled.
Malfoy lowered his voice. "Do you still have dreams about Him?"
Harry nodded. "Do you?"
"More often then I'd like to think about."
They drank their wine in silence.
"Tell me again," Harry said after a while, "why you have to marry a girl you don't like? What's the rush? In a few year's time you might find a nice pureblood witch you fall in love with and want to have a dozen pasty pale Malfoy-babies with."
"Oh, ha ha!" Malfoy made a mock shove in the air at Harry, and then he sighed. "My father is dead set at forging friendships with the old families that didn't participate in the Revolution. Well,not on our side anyway; Smith, MacMillan and Greengrass are some of them. I think he even attempted to be civil to Arthur Weasley the other day at the Ministry. I can't imagine that turned out well." He snorted. "Anyway, what better way than through marriage. And since I am an only child, I am bound to produce an heir at some point. So, that's that."
"Yes, but surely…" Harry started but Malfoy cut him off.
"Potter, I'm queer."
Harry closed his mouth with a snap. "Oh!"
"You see, I won't fall in love with some pureblood witch. There wouldn't be any pale Malfoy-babies."
There was a long silence, except for the piano-player, who crooned something about everlasting love.
"You'll have to tell your parents this." Harry sat up.
"Oh, they know," Malfoy snapped. "They do now, anyway, after that awful row we had today." He took the bottle out of the bucket and refilled his and Harry's glasses. "But I guess it's more important to them that we form beneficial alliances than their son's happiness. That's what made me want to blow this bloody thing out of my mind, if only for a night. Before I go back and continue to be the obedient son, and smile at Astoria and the whole world at my engagement-party." Malfoy rubbed his temples. "It would have been nice, though, to know what it was like," he mumbled.
Harry knotted his brows and pushed up his glasses. "Know what?"
"To be with another man, I guess. How it would feel."
Harry's eyes went wide. "You're saying... that you never been with anyone?"
"Not even a kiss." Malfoy had his eyes closed.
"But, then… How do you know?"
Malfoy looked up again and laughed. "Oh, trust me, Potter, you know this."
Harry cleared his throat. "But surely there must have been someone else at Hogwarts, someone like you?"
"Are you mad?" Malfoy almost shouted. "My father would have known the second I'd let it slip, and I couldn't have that. The comradeship in Slytherin wasn't based on trust exactly. There was no-one I could tell."
He sighed and added tentatively. "Later, after... everything... dating was the last thing on my mid. I wasn't well. I spent some time at a specialist Mind-Healer in Bern." He gave Harry a furtive glance. "It helped a lot, but I still have trouble using the Floo. Reminds me too much of Vincent and... you know, the fire."
Harry sat aghast and felt his old Gryffindor recklessness roar inside of him. Something had to be done. He looked around the premises. They were in some kind of hotel bar, and there ought to be some kind of reception desk. And there was the mandatory rack of flyers and magazines. Harry got to his feet, told Malfoy to wait and set off towards it. He stumbled a little on his way back, but the latest issue of Time Out was clutched in his hand, and he flung it in Malfoy's lap and grinned as he sat down again.
"What's this?" Malfoy asked. He looked suspiciously at the glossy cover with its un-moving Muggle pictures.
"This, you twat," Harry couldn't wipe the wide grin from his face, "is your ticket to get laid. You're not married yet, are you?"
Malfoy shook his head but still looked sceptical.
"Well, we're in London." Harry snatched it back and flipped among the pages. "There's bound to be hundreds of gay bars and clubs. Right?"
"I couldn't do that. My father..."
"Is not here, is he? It'll be with a Muggle. How would he ever know?"
"I couldn't possibly go to a place like that alone. I wouldn't know what to do." Malfoy shook his head and strands of his blond hair fell in front of his face.
"Don't be daft. I'm coming with you."
"You'd do that for me?" Malfoy's eyes shot up and met Harry's.
"Why not?" Harry shrugged his shoulders.
"We're not friends, you know, Potter."
"Maybe we ought to be." Harry reached out and put his hand over Malfoy's at the table. "The war is over, and even if you were a total prick at school, I can tell you're not really as intolerable as then. Hermione told me you apologised very sincerely when you met her at Hogwarts. But if you don't want to," Harry trailed off.
"But I do." The honesty in the snappy retort made something inside Harry preform a somersault. "I want that very much."
"All right," Harry said. "Let's go then. As friends." He smiled at Malfoy. "Choose a bar and we'll have a couple of drinks and see what happens. What about this one? The name doesn't leave you in any doubt, does it?" He pointed at an ad for a club called G.A.Y. "Or this one, it's not far from where we are now."
Malfoy rubbed his face with slightly shaky hands. "For Salazar's sake, Potter, just pick one. I wouldn't know one from the other."
They grabbed a cab not to get lost, as they were a bit out of focus when they'd finished the wine and Harry had paid the bill.
They passed a dimly lit entrance and Harry screwed up his eyes at the colourful lights that hit him in the face as they entered the club. A heavy bass assaulted his ears in the loud surrounding music. As it was relatively early in the evening it wasn't too crowded, and by a miracle a small booth became vacant when two men decided to leave.
"Buy some more of that shotty stuff, will you." Malfoy shoved Harry over to the bar and sat down.
"Let's continue our little game," he said as Harry returned with the drinks. "I've looked around this place and I think we have plenty of time before the real action begins, and I can easily come up with a few more things I want to ask you."
"All right, then, ask away."
"What are we going to do about your non-existing career choice?" Malfoy lifted his shot and peeked at Harry. "I'm sure you can pick whatever you want and they'll all cheer and applaud."
"Promise you won't laugh." Harry almost whispered, but since they both decided it was safe to have the booth under a mild Muffliato, Malfoy could clearly hear him.
"I'll do no such thing, Potty," he snorted.
"I miss Hogwarts." Harry drowned his shot in one go and reached for another. "It's my real home, my first home, and I did some stuff in fifth year, showing the others some spells, and I was good at it. I liked it and I've been thinking that… I-think-I'd-like-to-become-a-teacher." He swallowed the second shot with the speed of lightning.
Malfoy's eyebrows shot up. "Come again?"
"Teach, I'd like to teach."
"I assume you're talking about something like Defence and not Potions?" Malfoy smeared.
"I'd like to work with kids," Harry said, trying to hide the embarrassed flush that didn't seem to leave his face. "Showing them their first true spells, helping them getting it right, see the joy in their faces when they start managing their magic."
"In that case, I believe you have more than half a chance of making a decent job at it." Malfoy looked very solemnly at him.
Harry sighed. "It's no use. I never took my N.E.W.T.s. Hermione was right, of course. She tried to persuade Ron and I to go back with her for our last year, but the feeling of finally being free was so overwhelming, and everyone was hurling opportunities at me wherever I went, and I thought being an Auror was the best thing there was, the coolest thing. To fight like my dad and Sirius and Tonks."
Malfoy held his gaze. There was a warmth in his grey eyes that Harry had never seen before, not hard as steel or slate, but soft silvery and deep as the Ocean. "If teaching is what you want, then do it. I'm sure you can afford hiring a tutor and finish your exams." He laughed a little. "Circe, if I'm allowed a second chance, then I'm certain you of all people can have as many as you like." He knocked back his own shot. Harry watched his Adam's apple work on the long slender neck.
"What do you do, then? I mean, you work, don't you?"
"I've got a small position at the Ministry, the Department of Magical Artefacts. It's not much, but it's a start."
"Do you like working there?"
"I've dealt with magical heirlooms and objects all my life, and it seems I have some knowledge."
"Like the Vanishing cabinet?"
"Nobody thought it could be mended. It was pretty amazing when it was." He smiled.
"It wasn't that amazing what you did with it." Harry glowered.
"You think I don't know that?" Malfoy spat, but calmed down and added much lower. "It's not what I pictured myself doing, to have as an occupation, when I was at Hogwart, but I can make myself useful there. I like that."
He pulled a little nervously at the sleeve of his left arm.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up," Harry said, regretting killing the good mood he'd been having with Malfoy. It really was a wonder how well they got on together, how easy it felt talking to him.
"You shouldn't." Malfoy glared a little and sighed. "But the things I did, the consequences it had, it's something I have to live with for the rest of my life, so I better get used talking about it. Especially to someone like you."
"So, what now? More shots?" Harry asked after a while, trying to lighten the moment. He looked around the now more crowded place. His head buzzed pleasantly of the alcohol and he felt relaxed and anxious at the same time. Malfoy took out his new pale wand and discreetly removed the silencing spell. They were immediately hit by the pounding music. Harry squinted at the throbbing lights that flickered in red, green and yellow, illuminating the throng of the hopping writhing mass on the dancefloor.
"Not right now." Malfoy leaned over the table and shouted. "We're in this club, aren't we? I want to dance."
Harry slumped back in his seat and waved him off. "Go ahead, I'll be alright."
But Malfoy laughed and grabbed his arm to pull him up. "Oh no, Potter, you're coming with me." He shoved and pushed Harry up on the dancefloor.
Harry had never been any good at dancing. He'd tried, with his friends and with Ginny, but he'd never been able to see the facination in shuffling about, feeling stupid and having a whack at finding the beat.
He closed his eyes. There wasn't much space to move in, and the pushes from the bodies around him got Harry in a decent enough rhythm. It was incredibly hot and whiffs of sweat, musky and masculine, filled his nostrils. The beat of the bass hammered in his gut and slowly his breathing adjusted and his heartbeat sped up. He looked up, and he saw Malfoy.
Draco Malfoy was dancing.
There was something etherial, almost Veela-like over the way he moved. The stoboscope-light that pulsed behind him made it hypnotic to watch. His white-blond hair flicked over his eyes with each jerk of the neck, his hips swivelled and rotated. He had pulled the sleeves up over the elbows and thrown his hands up in the air. Against the pale skin the bluish mark on his arm stood out, dark and ugly, marring the perfection of this breathtakingly beautiful man, making him real and human. Harry gasped and felt his cock swell in his pants.
Bloody hell, Malfoy was gorgeous.
Suddenly, moving beside someone like this didn't seem pointless at all.
They danced, and as Malfoy's silver eyes bore into his, Harry could feel something erupt inside of him, liberating him, setting him free.
When Malfoy pulled him aside and up to the bar again, and they laughingly had consumed large glasses of water before drowning their next shots, Harry's skin tinged with anticipation. He moved a little closer.
"Malfoy, I've been thinking. We're in a gay-bar, right, and I'm a bloke." Harry's tongue wasn't cooperating properly. It felt oddly large in his mouth. They were probably truly sloshed right now.
"Congratulations, Potter, on your excellent observation skills. That was spot on." Malfoy slurred a bit too, the sharp posh consonants not as precise as they usually were.
"I thought..." Harry went on. A million thoughts and feelings were clashing inside of him. "Since you haven't done it, you could kiss me. If you like."
Time stood still and Harry held his breath, waiting. Then Malfoy jerked back, a furious expression on his face.
"Fuck you, Potter!" he spat and smacked Harry's hand off his arm. "So much for being friends, huh," he scowled. "You think I'd want someone to kiss me out of pity? I don't need a sodding consolation-prize."
"I didn't... I mean..."
"Fuck off, Scarhead. Thanks for the condescending offer, but I can manage on my own from now."
With a facial expression contorted with pain and rage, Malfoy took off back into the crowd on the dancefloor and Harry watched him disappear.
The bright lights kept blinking and the music kept pounding and Harry felt something significant dawn on him. With a loud groan he ploughed his way after him.
Slowly Draco woke in the rays of the morning sun. It spashed across his face and made him close his eyes firmly shut again. His head hurt and his mouth was dry like sawdust, and he had the most disturbing notion of not being in his own bed. The smell of the sheets was different.
He didn't know where he was or how he got there.
He wiggled his toes a little to see if he was in one piece, and thankfully they obeyed. As he did so, something stirred behind his back. There was someone there in bed with him.
Salazar's beard, had he really followed someone home last night? Had he finally had sex with another man and no recollection of it?
Just his bloody luck, wasn't it. His own fault, naturally, but it felt better to blame some unknown deity or fate or whatever.
He remembered the club, of course. He remembered dancing, he remembered being circled by men, men who were touching. Fingers touching his hair, arms coming around his waist, hands touching his arse, hands groping him. It had felt wonderful, like he was something desireble.
He rememberd Potter. Potter's eyes following him, glaring, and something... else. He remembered them arguing. Well, nothing new there. After that, nothing.
A tanned muscular arm, sprinkled with fine black hair, slung over his chest and pulled Draco closer to the someone who's bed he lay in.
"You awake?" a raspy voice mumbled, and someone nuzzled his face into Draco's neck.
Something, definitively naked and definitively male, pressed against his own naked thigh. Draco felt his head spin and a wave of nausea ripped through him.
Years of training in how not to show weakness kicked in. First at home with his father, later in Slytherin House, where your position as a leader could be overturned by a blink of an eye, and finally, staying under the same roof as the Dark Lord and his horrendous snake had made him an expert. He evened out his breathing and willed his heart to slow down. He forced himself to collect his thoughts and memories, but this time, it was no use. A tremor shook him and to his embarrassment he could feel a sweat break on his back.
"There's a Hangover-potion on your side of the bed, it'll make you feel better."
This was no Muggle!
Draco rapidly turned his head and met the most intense green eyes in the world. They even sparkled when sleepy.
"I tried to give it to you last night, but you'd already passsed out."
Draco didn't know what to say. What do you say when you wake up naked in bed with Harry bloody Potter?
"How did I get here?" Draco tried stalling. It sometimes helped, while he forced his brain to start working again.
Potter laughed. "Oh, well, let's see. First we ran, then you tried to Apparate, which I stopped, naturally, you can thank me later. Then, after a lot of fuss, I managed to get you into a cab, but you threw up in the seat, so we had to walk the last bit. But we made it here."
Draco groaned. "I gather this is your house."
"Grimmauld Place, yes."
"The Black's home?" He should have known, felt it. Like all ancient magical houses there was a low thrum, a pulsing rhythm. Hogwarts had it, and the Manor, and it was obviously present in this room as well, like a heartbeat.
"It's where I live." Potter squinted at him. "Sirius left it to me." The magic in Potter was obvious too. Draco would never have mistaken him for a Muggle if his head had been clear, though Potter's magic wasn't anything like that steady buzz. Potter's magic was like a murmuring storm, like cascading waves, omnipresent and slightly intimidating.
"Some night it turned out to be, eh?" Potter's grin was jittery and a little shy.
"Yeah." Draco's hand shook as he reached for the small phial.
"Before you take that one last shot," Potter's hand came up to stop him, "and promise to give me a truthful answer about this." His vivid eyes bore into Draco's. "Are you very disappointed to wake up with me, when you had so many other offers?"
Draco's jaws clenched.
"I'm sorry if I spoiled the evening for you." Potter swallowed hard. "I guess I got a bit... possessive."
Draco drained the potion. It was the expensive potent kind with a mouth re-freshener. His head cleared, and the nausea subsided, but he felt more and more confuseed over the situation. This was more than he could handle right now. He rubbed his temples. "I'm not sure, since I don't recall much from last night," he mumbled. "Did we...?" He gestured explicitly between them.
Potter shook his head. "Oh no, nothing like that. Not after the alley. You were really drunk and fell asleep as soon as we got home." He gave a stifled laugh and wiped his face with his hands. Draco realized it was the first time he'd truly seen him without the glasses obscuring his eyes. Except for that time when his face was all swollen.
"It was hell getting you up the stairs," Potter continued. "If you got any bumps and bruises, they're from then."
"Oh!" Draco couldn't help feeling a little embarrassed at the thought of Potter... carrying him? Levitating him?
"Speaking of promises." Potter sat up and leaned over to the bedside table on Draco's side. The warm naked skin of his chest pressed against Draco's torso and made Draco bite his lip not to gasp. Potter pulled out a drawer and took out something very familiar and gave it to him. His old wand.
"So, you didn't lose it."
"No, I lied about that. I'm sorry." Potter looked rather sheepish. "I don't really know why I kept it. It meant something to me, it was a reminder of… many things. But it's yours and you should have it back."
The recognizable ting in his hand was immediate, the grip on the ebony hilt perfect. Hawthorn with a core of unicorn-hair. For some reason he had always cherished unicorns. Not that he had told anyone, of course, but the delicate skittish creatures had always meant something to him, like they belonged.
"Thank you," he croaked out. The new birch wand he had got after the trials had never felt the same when he used it.
"Don't thank me," Potter said. "It was wrong of me to keep it. But as I said, it meant a great deal to me, without it I could never have defeated Voldemort."
Draco swallowed hard and placed the wand carefully beside him on the bed and pulled the sheets up. "Why are we naked if nothing happened?"
"It was easier to vanish all our clothes than only some. I wasn't entirely sober myself. And since we'd… You really don't remember anything?"
Draco shook his head. "Not much. I remember dancing, I remember being treated to a lot more shots, that somehow involved salt and lime." He blushed at the sudden memory-flash of a stranger's tongue licking his collarbone. "I remember us fighting." Potter's eyes, blazing with fury, his face coloured by the pulsing red and green light.
"You were very angry at me."
Draco shut his eyes. "I guess I don't care much for straight boys pretending to be open-minded and wanting to experiment with their sexuality."
"So, you don't remember this?" Potter said and his lips were over Draco's.
Soft, warm and somehow, strangely familiar.
"We've kissed before," Draco said, when Potter withdrew after the short kiss.
"You do remember."
Draco shook his head.
Potter leaned back and rested his head on the pillow. "I haven't been exactly honest with you," he said, his gaze up at the ceiling. "I guess I find blokes attractive too, I just wasn't sure, since I never acted on it before, never felt anything like this before."
He turned to face Draco again. "When I saw you dancing in that club... You looked so bloody hot, and all those men were pushing and trying to get close to you, to touch you, and I..." He inhaled deeply. "I guess I've always had a bit of a problem controlling my anger. We were lucky I didn't blow the place up by accident. Anyway, you ran out and I followed you into that alley."
"Yes?" Draco felt his mouth go dry.
"You stopped. You turned on me, you pushed me." This close up Potter's eyes were too big for his face, and surprisingly held flecks of gold buried in the green. Draco bit his lip. He knew exactly how he used to react to displays of Potter's magic. He guessed he'd always be a sucker for powerful wizards.
"I kissed you?" Draco asked. His voice was thin and wavered.
"More. We did more. And it was brilliant."
Salazar's mouldy pants!
Draco hesitated, but only for a moment. Then he sneaked his hand out and put it on Potter's flat, toned, slightly hairy stomach. "Show me."
"Well," Potter swallowed, "you shouted at me and I shouted at you. You grabbed me and shoved me, really hard, against the wall."
"Sounds like Hogwarts sixth year to me," Draco sniggered. He suddenly felt very nervous.
"You had your hands on my shoulders," Potter continued. "Like this." His hands were warm and pressed Draco down on the mattress. The wight of his body upon Draco's made him involuntarily whimper. "Of corse," Potter said hoarsely, "there were layers of clothes between us then. Nothing like this."
"No?" Draco could hear his own voice high pitched and insecure. Why did Potter always have this effect on him? When he was at his weakest, with all his defences down?
"No," Potter moaned, "this is so much better." His mouth was on Draco's again, hot, wet and demanding. It was messy and glorious.
Draco needed an anchor, something to hold on to, and Potter's hips were right there, on top of him, gyrating slightly. Draco didn't know if he'd ever been this turned on in his entire life. He lifted his pelvis and his throbbing cock pressed against Potter's. He was equally hard.
With a gasp Potter released his mouth and his eyes met Draco's. His goddamned bright green eyes, blown wide and black with lust, his perfect thick eyebrows drawn up in astonishment and a light sheen of sweat covering his forehead, where his famous scar stood out, shaped as a lightning bolt and slightly darker against the colour of his skin. "I want..." Potter said and licked his lips. Then he freed one of his hands from Draco's shoulders, mumbled a spell, and slipped it in between them.
Potter put his strong wide hand, now slick with lube, over both their pricks and made a circle around them. Then he started to move. Draco dug his fingers into the soft flesh at Potter's hips, he was sure there'd be a mark there later, and buried his face in the crook of his neck. He breathed in the scent that was in every sense masculine, enhanced by sandalwood from the aftershave and a little sweat. The morning-stubble on Potter's cheek scratched the side of Draco's brow and Draco gave a long whimpering sigh. This felt even better than all his imagination. This felt truly right.
He opened his mouth and bit and licked at the pulse-point right under Potter's ear, making him moan and draw ragged breaths. Draco could feel his release coming closer, fast and unstoppable, as Potter sped up the tugging of his hand over the two throbbing cocks, gliding next to each other and leaking pre-cum. Draco withdrew from Potter's neck and looked at the face of the man on top of him, a face he knew so well he could picture it anytime he closed his eyes, the face of his childhood enemy, his nemesis, his rival. The face he'd had so many fantasies and dreams about. Potter had his eyes shut and his mouth half-open, lips red and swollen since their kissing earlier, with a spot of saliva in the corner. "Oh, Draco," he moaned, and that was that for Draco.
He came suddenly and violently, unable to hold back the cry that escaped him as he orgasmed, clutching his arms around Potter and shaking. A warm wet patch on his stomach told him Potter had not been far behind.
They rolled apart and panted. For a long time they just lay there, looking at the ceiling.
"Damn you, Potter, I can't marry Astoria now." Draco was still quite out of breath and his heart hammered like mad in his chest.
"I don't think you should." Potter reached out his hand and put it over Draco's at his side. Almost as of their own free will, their fingers intertwined.
Something cold took hold in the pit of Draco's stomach. "I don't know what to do," he said. He heard how weak he sounded. "My father…"
"Send an owl, stop the Prophet from publishing." Potter sat up and looked at him. "Then explain to Astoria. I'm sure she doesn't want this any more than you if she knew. Your father on the other hand..."
"Will never understand," Draco finished the sentence. "He will never give up, he will keep forcing me until I'm bound to someone who will help restore the family name. He can be very persuasive and completely unyielding. You know how he's like. I'll have no say in the matter, never."
Draco rolled over and buried his face in the pillows. Potter came up on his knees and grabbed Draco's hand again. Draco lifted his head and peered at him. His ridiculous hair stood right up on his head and he had this over-excited look, like a puppy wainting for someone to throw a ball at him.
"Then, give him what he wants. Change the advertisment, put my name in there instead of Astoria's."
"What? Are you absolutely insane, Potter?"
"Maybe you should call me Harry," Potter grinned. "It is my name after all, if we're about to be engaged." He pushed Draco's shoulder, forcing him to lay on his side so their eyes met. "Think about it, Draco, it would get you off the hook. Your father might not be overly pleased with a son-in-law that's not a pureblood, but I am from one of the oldest families. He doesn't like me, and I sure don't like him, but the Minister of Magic is a close friend of mine, and I guess all the Saviour-bullshit could count for something, even to him."
He got very red in the face when he continued. "I'm not saying we should get married, but being engaged means we could see more of each other and maybe do what we just did a bit more. I sure would like that." He stopped and bit his lip. "Can you, please, say something."
Draco swallowed. He looked down on his hand clutching Potter's, no Harry's. It was still a little sticky from the dried cum and that was actually pretty didgusting, but also proof of how close they were in this moment. Draco took the wand he had placed at his side and cast a Scourgify over them both before he spoke.
"That's the craziest bloody thing I've ever heard of. You would want that?"
"I know it's a bit mad," Harry giggled. Giggled! "But I'm not attached to anyone else and I really would like to explore this thing between us, see how it goes, and I couldn't do that if you were married to someone else. Who knows what will happen? We can figure it out along the way. An engagement can be broken, or maybe we will get married."
Draco plucked a little on the top of the sheet. "By doing this, the whole world will assume that you're gay." In the statement was the underlaying question Draco didn't dare to ask.
Harry frowned and seemed to think. "Bisexual, I guess. I still like witches too. You know they will think the same about you."
"Ah, but I'm not very liked as it is, am I?"
With a snorting laugh Draco gave Harry a long wondering look before he continued. "You know the old school-joke about the dating habits in the different Houses?"
"No." Harry shook his head.
"Well," Draco tugged Harry's hand closer and graced his teeth over the knuckles. "Ravenclaws has stress-relief sex to improve their grades. Hufflepuffs does everything in group, nobody's left out. We Slytherins pride ourselves with having calculated relations, always looking at what a person could gain from the date. Guess what the Gryffindors are famous of?"
"Tell me," Harry smiled.
"They all marry their childhood crushes."
"You think I had a childhood crush on you?" Harry's eyes glinted of mischief under his long dark eyelashes.
"Well, didn't you?" Draco tilted up his chin.
"No, Did you?"
Draco squirmed and refused to meet Harry's gaze. "Maybe just the tiniest," he admitted.
Harry paused. Then he got up and ran stark naked down the stairs. When he returned he had a quill and parchment in his hand. "Then, write," he said, a little out of breath. "I'll make us breakfast. I could use a shower and a good strong coffee right now."
They sent away Harry's owl and had breakfast. After a very long shower, where Harry scraped his knee on something sharp on the floor.
"You're such a halfwit, Potter," Draco huffed. "No one cleans the gravel from their trainers in the shower. Did you momentarily forget how to use your magic?"
Harry grinned and snogged him fiercely, just because he could, then popped a piece of toast into his mouth. His jaws ached a little when he chewed, and that made him blush.
He listened to Draco complain about the inferior brand of tea in the larder, of how a hundered little things were arranged the wrong way in Harry's kitchen and on the mantlepiece, where the Floo-powder was. Harry saw how on edge and nervous he was when he finally threw a pinch in the hearth and called out for the Greengrass estate.
They'd decided to tell three people before the papers got out. Draco had to tell Astoria, anything else was downright cruel. And Harry needed to explain to his two best friends. He wasn't at all sure they would take it well.
With a sigh he took the quill and scratched down a message on a scrap of parchment to send when the owl returned from the Prophet. Harry hadn't named him yet, trying not to get too attached, but it was a good strong barn owl, who served him well. Maybe he could ask Draco to come up with a name for him. The thought made Harry smile and he started on the letter to Ron and Hermione.
I've got news. If you don't want to read about it in the paper tomorrow, Floo over and be prepared for a shock. Draco Malfoy's here. Harry
Lucius Malfoy decended the marble staircase at precisely six-thirty in the morning, as he did every day, weekday or Sunday didn't matter. He was dressed in well-fitted robes and his hair was perfectly in place. He was ready to meet whatever the world would bestow on him this day. The only thing that gave away that he wasn't as in control as he once had been, was the ache in his right hip, where the Azkaban guards had once kicked him and his slightly shaking hands.
He walked into the breakfast-room and paused. The sun poured through the high window, that faced the east, framed with soft green curtains. He closed his eyes and let the warmth wash over him. He could never get enough of sunlight these days.
The table was set for one, and he frowned as he pulled out his chair and sat down. His wife always had breakfast in bed, but Draco should be there. The fact that the elves hadn't laid the table for him, today as well as yesterday, was evidence that he hadn't come home yet.
A bolt of anger shot through him. What nuisance that boy could be. The quarrel three days ago had been ridiculous, and the things Draco had shouted at him. Preposterous!
It was high time that the boy took hold of his role as a leader in the Wizarding society, and the best way to start doing that was to form connections. A marriage was necessary. Nothing Draco had said could change that.
A light tap was heard on the windowsill and Lucius waved his hand to wandlessly open the window for the majestic-looking bird that perched there. She flew in and delivered the morning papers beside the steaming teacup. Lucius patted the tawny head and she ruffled her feathers for him before she gracefully accepted the the treat that was offered.
Then Lucius Malfoy took a sip from his cup and opened the Daily Prophet.
Tea sputtered all over the silver toast-rack, the white linen cloth and the paper. Heloise flapped her wings indignantly to get herself into safty at the other end of the room.
The headline, that flashed in bold black letters, read:
Golden Boy Marries Death Eater
Our beloved Saviour, the Boy Who Lived, Harry Potter, announces that he is engaged to be married to former Death Eater, Draco Malfoy, son of the convicted associate of You-Know-Who Lucius Malfoy. Mr Draco Malfoy, today a reformed Ministry-employee, was cleared of all charges against him as a result of the testimony from said Saviour at the trials after the war (see page 13-17 for a short resume on the trials of the Malfoy-family). This surprised many in our society indeed, as it was well known that the two, though in the same year at Hogwarts school, were sworn ememies. It seems they had us all fooled and, as our most highly valued reported Rita Skeeter found out when she looked for confirmation on this spectacular news, they are very much in love. The famous green eyes of Harry Potter shone with a happiness we haven't seen in them since his former girlfriend, Ginerva Weasley, so coldheartedly left him two years ago. As the Chosen One looked at his husband-to-be, he confessed that he had had his eyes on Mr Malfoy for a long time, and that he hoped that they would set up a home together in the old townhouse Mr Potter inherited from his godfather Sirius Black, second cousin to Mr Malfoy (see page 5-8 for the complete family-tree of Malfoy, Black and Potter). "We also hope that sometime in the future it might be possibly for us to start a family," Harry Potter says and affectionally squeezes the hand of Draco Malfoy. "We both want children. Maybe we will adopt."
Lucius let his head fall on the wet soggy page and sobbed. He wasn't at all sure if it was from relief or despair.