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Draco slumps on the pale ivory and blue tufted wool of his favorite Kashmiri carpet, not giving a fuck about the fibres working their way into the wool of his trousers that will be nigh impossible to remove later. Who cares about later anyway, when one's world is crashing down in fiery chunks of utter shit? He leans his head back against the leather of his office sofa for more neck support. The light fixture on the ceiling seems very far away the more he stares at it. Spots begin to form in his vision. He sits up and takes another swallow from the bottle of prosecco, wiping his mouth inelegantly with the back of his hand. Today he cannot be arsed to meet the usual standards of social delicacy. Today he has been betrayed, and it is beyond him to care about etiquette with the metaphorical knife lodged firmly in his back.

"Draco, please open up. You know sulking won't change a thing." A muffled voice comes from the spell-locked door to his right. Blaise, by the sound of it. "Not to mention it makes your complexion splotchy. You'll look like a plucked guineafowl for the rest of the day."

"Go away," Draco says bitterly. "Leave me here to die."

Blaise swears, then leans against the door. Draco can see his suited form through the frosted glass. "You aren't going to die, you utter queen. It's not that much of a change."

"Not that much of a change!" Draco's voice rises in the repeating. He can practically hear the shrill in it; his mother would be horrified. Draco doesn't care--he learnt it from her. "That cow who claims to be my closest friend--ha! I doubt that!--hired the Saviour of the fucking Wizarding World onto the oldest Slytherin rag in the country. Not that much of a change, my arse."

"Since when did you care about following the old ways?" Blaise's voice is mocking through the seam of the glass. "I thought it was all out with the old anti-nostrils campaign and in with new cooperation between the houses that won't cause genocide, the destruction of the Manor, and massive facial distortion?"

Draco just huffs. He had objected terribly to the Dark Lord's lack of a nose. I mean, really. If one could bring oneself back from the dead multiple times, wouldn't it be easy to shape a bit of cartilage and skin? To be honest, he'd always suspected there was something a bit too cosy between that psychopath and his bloody bitch of a snake.

He can hear Blaise pound his head against the doorframe. The glass in the door rattles with each thud. "Listen, you twat. It's going to bring new readership. Besides, his record with the Wasps is not bad at all. And he's really fit in Quidditch leathers, you know."

"I've not the slightest idea why I should care about that." Draco puts the cool glass to his lips. When he tips it, nothing comes out. "Shitweasel." He reaches over to the open hamper beside him replete with a mostly untouched carafe of fresh peach juice, champers glasses, and food. He pulls out another bottle of prosecco and, after waving his wand savagely to open it, he takes a long sip, the bubbles in the wine tickling and burning. He needs more comfort if all of his friends are going to turn on him.

When he'd got peckish after the first hour locked in his office, he'd owled the Manor for nourishment. That'd been while Pans was still at the door alternately pleading with him and cursing at him. She'd since retreated in a huff, and most of the magazine's senior staff seem to have gone off to lunch. That suits him fine. He would obviously much rather nurse his wounds in private. That's why he's barricaded himself in his office, after all. He's quite alone in the world save for his mother and the elves. (Father doesn't count; he spends most of his days in the bottom of a firewhisky bottle now.) And Draco doesn't want to live in sodding Wiltshire, ta ever so. He can only handle the country whilst drinking or shagging to excess and preferably both.

"Draco." Blaise's tone has taken on that wheedling whine that always indicates he's nearly at his wit's end with Draco.

"I can see that my opinion belongs to the opposition." Draco shifts. His legs are growing a bit numb from sitting on the carpet. He should probably sprawl on the sofa, but he can't be arsed to get up. "Sic transit gloria et cetera, et cetera."

"Draco, you prat, open the damned door. It's hard to hear you through the glass, and you sound properly sozzled."

"I'm not at all sozzled, Blaise. I'm vexed." Draco takes another swallow of prosecco. "There's an enormous difference." Still, he flicks his wand towards the door, dropping the spell for Blaise. Draco's getting a bit bored with his own company, truth be told, and he still has a thousand biting words about last week's Ministry Ball ahead of him to write before he can leave the office today. If he tarries too long in his tantrum, he might have to miss the party at Terry Boot's new Diagon club tonight, and he needs to be there to cover the event for the Side-Along section. There are people across Britain and beyond counting on him to bring his brilliant, if he does say so himself, combination of snark and style to the pages of wizardom's finest social publication.

Blaise stumbles into the office, not having realised that the spell binding the door had been lifted. He regains his balance in the center of the floor. Skirting Draco's seated form, he walks to the open basket. "I see that Flimsy has been here. Are those strawberries?"

Draco waves a hand. "They're yours. Fresh from Mother's enchanted glasshouses."

After regarding Draco for a moment, then peering closely at the berries--Mrs Zabini came from a long line of poisoners and one could never be too careful--Blaise pops one into his mouth. "Drinking from the bottle, Draco? Really?"

"I started with bellinis," Draco says, raising the bottle. "Then it seemed more prudent to skip the fruit and go straight to the alcohol. Fucking Pansy Nicola Alys Parkinson." He raises his voice so it echoes out in the hall. "Traitor!"

The leather next to Draco's head depresses as Blaise sits down, the bowl of strawberries in his lap. Draco begins to think about the cold salmon and mayonnaise he'd seen in the hamper and whether he shouldn't perhaps add food to his prosecco intake.

"I don't know why you're carrying on like this. It makes so much sense from a publicity angle. And he's available. In so many senses of the word." Blaise selects another strawberry and bites, juice running from the corner of his mouth.

Draco resists the momentary urge to wipe the trail with his thumb or kiss it away. Were he and Blaise lovers still, or had they been more recently again, he might have done. But this is neither the time nor the place for such things. Not to mention he's angry with his old friend. He focuses on his rage. "It's Potter, you ninny. It's not any old washed-up Quidditch player in need of a journo job. It's Harry bloody Potter, and he's ruining my life."

Blaise grins at him. "Is he, now? By existing? Or by making a cabal with Pansy to get hired and torture you into an early grave with that fit arse of his and those muscular thighs?"

Draco huffs, blowing a tendril of hair from his forehead. He'll have to do a feature soon on receding hairline charms and potions for the discerning wizard. He's certainly become something of an expert recently. "Nothing of the sort. And you know I do not find him attractive in the least."

"You do so." Blaise raises his eyebrows and looks down at him. "You've been wanking to fantasies of Potter shagging you since fifth year, if not earlier."

"Have not! It was at least sixth year." Draco suddenly realises that he hasn't won this one. He drinks from the bottle again, then sets it down with a thump. "I loathe you."

Blaise snorts and stretches out a hand. "At least you're honest. Now go apologise to Pansy."

Draco takes Blaise's hand and lets himself be pulled up onto the sofa. "Absolutely not. I've nothing to apologise for to that traitorous cow. If she were going to do this properly, she would have at least warned me, instead of springing it on me in the middle of editorial meeting when she knew I couldn't argue her out of it."

"No, only storm out in an epic snit." Blaise pulls Draco against his chest, pillowing his head against his shoulder. "She did warn you before he arrived at least."

Draco lets himself be soothed, and even hands the bottle of prosecco to Blaise. It's getting warm anyhow. "It's still an outrage. And not fair! Why should my stupid Gryffindor nemesis follow me? Can't he go find his own life?"

"A nemesis is he now?" Blaise sets the bottle aside. "Pash is much easier to spell."

"Don't care." Draco closes his eyes. "He's a bloody bother. And he probably writes like a troll. It'll serve our evil overlord right. Even if she does still have nostrils in that pug nose of hers."

"What'll serve me right?" Pansy's arch tones come from the doorway. Without opening his eyes, Draco can see the ironic curve of her eyebrow. He feels a bit guilty about the nostrils crack: she's quite sensitive about the shape of her nose.

Blaise laughs, rich and low. Draco's sleepy and warm and too tired to be angry much longer. Also Blaise has his hand in his hair, and it's lovely. "Draco thinks that Potter will lower the tone of our august literary endeavour. And evidently he's too fit for his own good. Potter, that is. Not Draco."

Draco makes a half-hearted attempt to swat him.

Pansy comes into Draco's office and perches on the edge of his desk. He opens one eye, giving her a baleful glare. She snorts and tugs at the hem of her skirt. It's entirely too short and utterly inappropriate officewear, which means it looks brilliant on her, showing off her long legs to their best advantage. Draco's not surprised; Granger's just got back from her latest assignment as features editor, this time in Oslo, after all. And there was a horrifying thought. Were it not bad enough that the frizzy-haired one had been added to the staff, thus bringing Draco one step closer to Potter's stupid pretty face and his stupid fit arse, Pansy'd also decided to take Granger to her bed a few months back--much to the horror of the human resources department, who have bunkered down and begun drafting responses to a harassment complaint from Granger in the not-so-distant future--and frankly Draco's bloody done with hearing about how brilliant and thorough Gryffindors are at cunnilingus. To be honest, he thinks that, despite HR's fears, the two of them might even be in what passes for love these days.

"Is this really just about a stupid pash, Draco?" Pansy glowers at him. "Honestly, this is a new low, even for you. And that's including your trying to gatecrash a Ministry party Polyjuiced as a Romanian house-elf."

"It was a brilliant disguise. Not my fault they had a full list at the door and an active Foe Glass."

"And you couldn't do the elf magic properly," Blaise says.

Pansy snorts. "You mean at all."

Draco shifts against Blaise. "That too. But I almost got away with it."

Pansy's crup, Octavian, pushes past his mistress's ankles and trots into the room, making a beeline for the hamper basket. Blaise pulls him back by his collar just as he's about to get into the salmon. He retreats to the far end of the sofa with a snort and stretches out on the carpet.

"Oooh, a hamper." Pans sits down in the chair opposite the sofa and looks into the offerings. "And there's pâté." She doesn't even ask, but spreads a thick layer on crusty bread and takes a bite. "Sinfully good. Your mother's elves really do do it better than mine."

Draco bites back a retort about the advantages of old money. Even if it's true, it would hurt Pans. She's come very far in social acceptance given the fact that her great-grandfather came from practically nothing. Draco's even heard whispers that her great-great-grandmother was Muggle, an actress or a dancehall performer or something like that. It's very hush-hush, but he'd believe that's where she gets her charisma. Instead of reply, he selects a new, chilled bottle of prosecco. "Bellini?"

Later, as they're sprawled across Draco's office, Blaise and Draco on the sofa and Pansy in the chair, the hamper a scene of devastation between them, all of the prosecco gone and most of the salmon and pâté consumed with Octavian licking at a little plate of leftovers, Draco looks over to Pans who is dangling one high heel from her foot and has her arms wrapped around her. "So, Potter," he says. "Nothing I can do to stop it, is there?"

She shakes her head. "It's settled. He's coming on tomorrow. De Blois insisted."

Their publisher, Geoffrey de Blois, doesn't typically concern himself with the day-to-day of the magazine operations, but when he does voice an opinion it's usually final.

"Very well." Draco sighs. He knows when he's beaten.

Pans brushes a few dark strands of hair out of her eyes. "This was actually milder than I expected. You haven't actually Incendioed anything." She pouts at him. "And I had money down that you'd set the fire wards off."

Draco scowls at her. "I really do wish you lot would stop wagering on me behind my back." Still, he glances around for something small that might be set alight with a minimum of fuss. He's cleaned his desk recently, so there's nothing ready at hand. Perhaps the holiday cards he'd pulled for a piece on holiday parties. The archivist would have his balls, but it might be worth it.

"Anyway, we know all this is just show," Pansy says, a wicked smile curving her bright red lips. "You just want to get into Potter's pants. This has been obvious since fifth year, darling. I know it's crossing over house lines, but you should think about scratching that itch. Sexual tension causes so many wrinkles."

The pile of cards catches fire with gratifying speed.

***

Somehow--whether down to excellent planning or that phial of Felix Felicis he's stored away in the back of his desk drawer for years, he'll never tell--Draco manages to avoid Potter for weeks after his official hire date. He invents excuses for two of the staff meetings, sends an elf to another to record for him, and conveniently schedules an interview with a notoriously reclusive tailor in Naples during the fourth. He pays Pansy's assistant, Bianca, to keep him updated on office proceedings and he sets a charm on his door that will alert him immediately to Potter's presence in the building.

His net of surveillance finally fails, and it's all Blaise's fault. Draco is scheduled to be in the studio space for a photo on chic gifts for babies. There's been a recent birth boom in the wizarding world--it seems to Draco as though he's being summoned to a christening or naming ceremony at least once a month, and he'd really appreciate it if his circle could stop breeding. Nothing against ankle-biters, but he prefers them when they can actually carry on an amusing conversation. Babies in and of themselves are terribly dull and terribly messy, even his godson, but really, what could you expect from the Goyle scion?

Still, Draco'd assumed if he were having a difficult time finding the best gifts to bestow on infants and their besotted parents, the rest of the wizarding society must be as well. He has impeccable taste, after all. So he's asked many of the best vendors from Diagon and also select merchants from Paris and Vienna to bring their wares to the studio in order to flog them elegantly within the pages of a Sortilegus special feature. However, when Draco arrives in the large space, expecting baby wares to be in the process of being unpacked by high-strung merchants and a sullen intern or two, Blaise is running late with his previous shoot.

The white space is well lit, and the bright light has been shielded with diffusion charms. In the center of the draped platform, Harry James Potter stands, holding a mallet and a leather saddle, and clothed in the white trousers worn by players of wizarding polo and tall cordovan boots with knee pads. To Draco's horror, there's no sign of Potter's shirt. Instead, Potter's broad, muscled torso is bare and has clearly been subtly oiled. His trademark black curls are tousled, and he's grinning at the photographer's camera with an insouciance that runs through Draco like a lance. His hip is cocked saucily; his v-shaped torso tapers to a gorgeously flat abdomen and lovely hipbones, the muscles of his upper arms put perfectly on display. The damnable trousers are slouchy in just the right way, showing the astonishingly lovely dip of Potter's arse.

Draco stops breathing. He can see the children's merchants in the corner, setting up on tables and cataloging their wares. Several assistants are running around coordinating the display space and itemising. The pony they'd ordered for the shoot is outside, as are the small glow lizards, Puffskeins, and the gnomes. Draco knows he should go talk to his people and start planning with the art director; instead, he's transfixed in front of the active shoot, watching a bead of water drip from Potter's shoulder blade. Blaise directs the camera and gives subtle cues to Potter for changes in posture. It's possibly the most gorgeous thing Draco's ever seen, and the fact that it is Potter in bloody fucking polo leathers is absolutely destroying his willpower. He didn't even know he had this kink, but he evidently does.

"Like what you see?" Pansy surprises Draco, and he stumbles, knocking over a stack of large wooden boxes painted like alphabet blocks. They fall with a loud, echoing thud, scattering across the wooden floor of the studio before Draco can catch a single one.

The shoot stops and Blaise looks over, scowling slightly. When he sees Draco, he raises an eyebrow. And is he smirking? Draco wants to smack the smug off his face.

But then all is lost because Potter himself turns around and his eyes are so much greener than Draco remembers, and his lips curving into a smile with that questioning tilt of his head are the most stunning thing in the room. Draco drops literally everything in his hands--mobile, file jackets, drawing plans--and turns on his heel, ignoring the voices behind him as he walks purposefully, almost mechanically out of the studio space and into the nearest loo where he locks himself in a stall, puts his head between his knees and breathes until he no longer feels like he's going to die.

Fucking Blaise. Fucking Pansy. Fucking Potter. This is all their fault.

***

Draco slinks into the next staff meeting after it's already begun, hoping beyond all hope that Pansy won't notice him take the seat beside the door.

The one next to Potter.

Damn that bloody woman and her wretched and shockingly effective machinations. He slides into the seat, doing his best to ignore both Potter's presence and Blaise's amused smirk across from him.

"Hey," Potter says under his breath. He's sprawled in his chair like a common ruffian. Draco sits up straighter, eyes fixed ahead.

"So lovely of you to join us at last, Draco," Pansy drawls from down the gleaming white table. Her diary and the magazine's planner are spread out in front of her, and in her tight red dress and perfect black bob, with sunlight glowing through the two narrow paned windows set into pristine white walls behind her, she looks for all the world like a queen of tarts holding court. Draco loathes her at the moment. The smile she gives him is feral and bright: Draco'd swear at the moment she had pointed teeth. "The focus numbers for the current issue are excellent: we've projected a fifteen percent increase in subscribers since it was announced that Harry was joining us, and we expect the next issue with the Abraxan polo feature to sell out."

Harry has the grace to blush as the rest of the staff, save Draco, clap in acknowledgment. Draco gives him a scornful curl of his lip before turning his attention back to Pansy. She flips a page in her meeting notes. "Geoffrey is most pleased and has just increased our operating budget for features. I've also been told Christmas bonuses might be more lavish this year." The news is greeted with enthusiastic cheers. Draco sighs and claps once, then twice, sinking lower into his chair, all too aware of Potter's elbow pressed against his. Draco shifts, leaning into Dicky Pucey on his other side. Dicky gives Draco an alarmed look and pushes him back towards Potter, the bastard.

"Now, for our next feature, we're going to do something very different and exciting." Pansy pauses dramatically. "Hermione, darling? Will you give us an overview?"

Granger is practically chewing off the end of a quill. She has her sexy librarian glasses on, a skirt so short that he's certain she's nicked it from Pansy's closet, and her hair’s twisted up into a loose knot. Draco supposes he sees why Pansy's so arse over tit for the woman. If Draco were in any way inclined in that direction, he might fancy Granger as well.

"We're going to introduce a Young Hogwarts Issue early next year," Granger says, beaming around the table. "Geoffrey wants us to include more youth-friendly content to bump up our standing in that demographic, so we'll go to Hogwarts to profile the next generation of wizarding society. I've a freelancer or two lined up as well; we'll use them to write features on youth style and society."

Draco is mildly horrified, and he has a sneaking suspicion he's not going to like this new issue one bit. With any luck, Pansy will task him with maintaining the traditional features whilst the others go traipsing off to Scotland or wherever the fuck youth style can be found. Please. As if there's an over-thirty at this table. Well. There's Dicky, of course. But he's only forty-five and that's hardly ancient. Draco lets himself feel an indignant flare of annoyance that youth these days has to be capped at Hogwarts age. Honestly. What do those little snots know about style and flair?

He snorts, and the whole table turns to look at him.

"All right, Malfoy?" Potter asks, and oh dear God, there's a furrow of concern in that stupid perfect forehead of his. Draco wishes a plague of spots on the bastard.

"I'm fine," he says, and he pretends to scrawl a note across the pristine surface of his parchment. In reality, he's just writing bloody fucking bloody fucking fucking fuckity fuck fuck fuck over and over.

Pansy gives him a stern look, then turns back to the rest of the staff. "Hermione will coordinate our visit on site at Hogwarts and run editing in the field. Blaise, I'd like you to go for photography and we'll plan set shoots and also Side-Along content. I can give you an intern or two for support." Blaise had been about to protest, but looks mollified at the notion of interns plus assistants. Pansy glances over at Padma Patil, the magazine's fashion editor, perfect as always in a tailored blue robe with gold trim. "Pads, we'll need you and Dicky to pull together some of the samples from Gladrag's FitWitch line. Minimal styling; we'll let the kids pull together their own looks, maybe even mix in some of their own clothing, yeah?"

Padma nods and makes a note. "On it."

"You missed one of the o's in bloody," Potter murmurs, leaning over Draco's shoulder. His breath is a warm huff against Draco's skin.

Draco glares at him and puts one hand over his notepad. "Fuck off," he snaps, and Pansy sighs.

"Is there something you'd like to share, Draco?" Her eyes narrow at him.

"No." Draco sinks into his seat. He'll hear about this later, he's certain. Ten Galleons says he'll have to walk that gassy Crup of hers. He doesn't mind animals, really. He likes most of them, and he has a Kneazle at home that his mother is fairly certain is her only shot at a grandchild, given how much Draco spoils Antigone. But Octavian is a foul creature, filled with noxious fumes and an utter inability to piss anywhere but his own feet. Draco heaves a heavy sigh.

Pansy just eyes him, then continues. "Speaking of you, Draco, I'll want you to write a piece on interhouse cooperation."

Draco gives her a horrified look. "Sorry?"

Pansy breezes right over his objection. "In-ter-house co-op-er-a-tion. Look it up if you're unsure. You'll also support Hermione's work on profiling the next generation. We'll definitely have the Shacklebolt girls and Winston Chang to interview. I've owled other parents and will share the names with you once we've got more confirmations."

Draco wants very much to put his head in his hands. He has no desire to go back to that old, drafty pile where so many events of terror and humiliation transpired. There is a fugitive joy in his heart at the prospect of seeing the Quidditch pitch and the Slytherin dungeon and the Great Hall decorated for Yule, but then he remembers the sodding Forest and his heart sinks. Still, it could have been worse. She could have sent---

"Potter, you'll go along to do Quidditch, of course."

Draco blanches. At his side, Potter shifts and sits up straighter, leaning forward with his muscled forearms on the table. Draco's nose catches notes of leather and citrus and something scrummy and wonders who does his scent--Potter smells positively edible. But this is a disaster, the non-impressed side of his brain yells into his consciousness. You're going to have to go back to Hogwarts with Potter, of all people.

"Sure." Potter says from next to Draco, his voice far too chipper. Circe's tits, Draco despises Gryffindors. And their Supreme Leader. "I'm sure it'll be loads of fun to be back at Hogwarts together."

Draco gives in and covers his eyes with his hands, wondering if it's too late to give notice. Mother could certainly find him a new position with one her friends in France. They couldn't be any more mad than his. Just old and dull. He peers through his fingers at Blaise, who looks far too delighted with the current circumstances for Draco's comfort. There's a bloody betting pool again, he'd lay good Galleons on it.

"Any thoughts, Draco?" Pansy asks. She sounds terribly smug. Cow. She'll pay at Yule this year. No vintage champers for her. It'll be shit shiraz from Sainsbury's instead.

"What Potter said," Draco says through clenched teeth. "Loads of fun."

This is going to be an utter nightmare.

***

Draco has to admit, they've been given unprecedented access to Hogwarts. Minerva's let the Sortilegus have the old Divination rooms in the North Tower to use as a base--Trelawney's finally retired and Firenze prefers to teach out of his own classroom. Hermione, grateful for Draco's grudging assistance with interior charms, has managed to transfigure the tiny rooms into suites large enough for most of the editors, although there has been some grumbling about the need to share baths. The interns are staying in a set of rooms in the dungeons (with warming charms, of course), and Padma has a gentleman friend in Hogsmeade who Draco's certain is thrilled to share his flat.

Trelawney's classroom is now Hermione's staging ground for the special issue. She's transformed the old overstuffed furniture into modern, functional pieces reminiscent of Danish design. There's a surprising amount of light from the mirrored fixture on the ceiling and the geometric sconces on the walls. Draco presumes it's Hermione's hatred of the subject that drove the energy to transform this space: she'd had a look of vengeful glee on her face every time she waved her wand.

They've been at the castle a week, and, to be honest, the close quarters aren't as bad as Draco had feared. He sees Potter here and there, of course, and tries to be civil, but there's loads of work to be done, and the castle is large enough to easily lose oneself in. Also, Minerva's invited them to dine at the staff table each evening, so the social atmosphere is more encompassing: Draco's managed to ensconce himself between Firenze and Flitwick, leaving Potter down the table beside Longbottom.

To Draco's surprise, he's rather enjoyed scouting out Ravenclaw tower and the Hufflepuff common room for photo locations. The Slytherin dungeons are wonderful, of course, if a bit smaller and perhaps shabbier than he remembered. Still, Miles Bletchley is the new Head of Slytherin, and the house games are much more fun than in Draco's time. He does have to remind himself that there was a war on as well, and, although it feels traitorous to admit it, Bletchley's far more engaging a Head of House than Snape had ever been.

Today, the team are presenting status updates on their work at the school. They've got another week before they go back to London and the Sortilegus Young Hogwarts Ball on their last night. Although two weeks had seemed like plenty of time while planning their schedule in the office, it's really not been as much as anyone would have liked. There's so much to do and see and capture of the life of the school and the new attempts at a youth-centred educational framework--which somehow still involves copious amounts of schoolwork, so it can't be all that youth-centred in Draco's opinion.

If he's pressed to admit it, one of Draco's favorite moments at Hogwarts thus far has been watching Harry Potter get interviewed in an impromptu chat by a passel of younger students, mostly first and second years, just outside the Great Hall after breakfast the day before. They hadn't known Draco was watching, nor did Potter, but he transcribed it all onto a parchment and got Blaise to take a quick photo as he was passing by. It might run as a little sidebar, Draco thinks, if they can get permissions from the parents.

The students'd asked Potter shyly about what the Dark Lord was like (not as scary as some films these days, Harry'd answered, but Draco'd seen the flinch he'd suppressed and felt a pang of sympathy) and his favorite thing about Hogwarts (treacle tart, for Christ's sake). He'd also answered questions about Quidditch and flying vehicles (Draco hadn't known that Potter has a flying motorcycle, and he wonders if the Ministry are similarly ignorant). Finally, a small, first year girl with red plaits had asked Harry what he most wished he could change, and, as if on cue, Potter had bent down until his face was even with hers and said that he'd like to come back to Hogwarts now so that it could be just a school and not a scary place as he remembered it.

Draco had been left with his throat tight, watching Potter talking to the children and seeing how very small and very new they were to the world. He never thought he'd feel ancient at only twenty-nine, but he also never thought he'd understand how young he'd been at eleven. Something in him clicks as he realises suddenly: eleven was when he had sworn lifelong enmity to Potter. That was how old they'd both been when it had all begun on the train, when Potter had first refused his hand and his friendship. It seems a lifetime ago now, but seeing the children, Draco understands just how young the ghosts of his former past are.

Hermione presides over the morning's status meeting, and Draco shows his progress right after her briefing. His profiling work and interhouse cooperation feature are both coming along nicely. He's focussing right now on siblings in different houses and children from families of different houses who sort into a third, and he reads out some excerpts from his notes to great laughter from around the table. Potter presents material on Quidditch players from each of the houses that even Draco has to admit is intriguing; he's arranged for famous players to return for a showcase game next Saturday against some of Hogwarts' current crop of Quidditch stars. Padma's been running herself ragged in the halls trying to capture youth fashion and its vagaries and has hired a consultant: her niece Geeta. The quality of material they have is very high, Draco thinks privately, and having a youthful guest editor helps immensely with deciphering the current fashion codes, particularly in regards to the myriad inventive ways in which house ties are currently being worn to circumvent the dress code. Blaise's photos are still in process, but the few he selects to show are brilliant.

After the meeting, Draco asks Hermione if she can stay for a moment. He watches the other members disperse before he pulls out the material he's worked up on the interview between Potter and the children.

He hands it to her, oddly nervous. "I thought this might make a nice little boxed item or something."

Hermione looks at the photos and the write-up he has drafted, then the transcript of the conversation itself. A curl of hair escapes the knot at the back of her head and flutters over her glasses as she reads. She brushes it away impatiently, leaving a smear of ink on her cheek.

When she looks at Draco, he wants to tell her about the ink smudge, but the expression on her face is so serious he daren't interrupt her. "He has no idea, you know," she says.

Draco blinks. "I don't think he'd mind having a conversation published, if that's what you mean."

"That's not it." Hermione shakes her head, looking back down at the words on the parchment. "He has no idea how you feel about him. You've been a little less of an Ice Queen this week, but I know Harry still thinks you don't like him."

Draco draws himself up and scowls at her. "That's good, as I actually don't like the speccy bastard."

The parchment and photos are brandished in his face. Hermione's fond smile behind them is maddening, if unknowingly presented on a face smudged with ink. "Yes, you do. And the sooner you admit, the sooner I get a tenner from each of your friends."

"Wait, Gryffindors bet too?" Draco's whole world shifts. "Does this count as the defilement of a Slytherin tradition?"

Hermione waves her hand as if to brush away his prejudices. "When in Rome."

Draco narrows his eyes. "This is all Pansy's bad influence on you."

"Probably," Hermione says easily. She watches him in that way that he always finds discomfitting, as if she's seeing past the sarcastic veneer he presents to the world around him. Her gaze softens, and she reaches out to squeeze his hand before he can pull away. "You should talk to him, you know. You're not the only one who's lonely."

He doesn't know what to say. Instead he looks away, his heart tight and heavy. "I'm not," he says after a moment, but they both know he's lying. He's been alone for a very long time, lost behind a mask he's not certain he can remove any longer.

"Draco," Hermione says, but he shakes his head fiercely.

"Don't." If she's kind, he won't be able to take it.

Hermione gives him a long look, then shuffles the papers on the table she's commandeered for a desk. She sighs. "I want your profiles by tomorrow night, or I'll put Our Fearless Leader onto you."

"They'll be done." The ache in his chest lessens some.

"Get out of here then." She waves a hand at him, and Draco sees Pansy in that dismissal. "I've work to do."

Draco gathers his papers and leaves, stopping in the hall to lean against the cool stone wall. He feels flushed and shaken, his mind drifting to Potter and the ridiculous way he'd smiled throughout the meeting every time he'd glanced over at Draco. He's reading something into it, he knows, fueled by Granger and her mad Gryffindor imaginings.

He pushes himself off the wall, shoulders straightening. He has work to do, work that has no space for foolish daydreams about broad shoulders and bright green eyes.

There's nothing between him and Potter. There never has been. And there never will be.

***

The theme of the Sortilegus Young Hogwarts Ball is Wizard Punk as deemed by Pansy, who Draco knows full well has a long-standing anti-authoritarian streak. The children have all been issued charms for mohicans and multiple (temporary) piercings, much to McGonagall's horror, and encouraged to bring in clothing from their parents' closets or from the Hogsmeade Oxwiz shop benefitting families who lost relatives in the war--or as Blaise puts it, the whole bloody wizarding world at large, rolling his eyes when Draco points out that their charity only extends to those on the victors' side of the conflict. Blaise has never given a damn about the political. His photography department, however, have had a grand time decorating the Great Hall in tartan life-size deer, suits of armor that look like members of the Unforgiveables, and dancing skeletons clad with icy Yule crowns and evergreen garlands, holding anarchy signs. There's a full size graffiti wall with spray paint charmed glow wands for drawing on it, and all of the ghosts seemed to have sprouted extra safety pins. The Sortilegus has a gift table to the side with a treats bag for every student: the contents are a mixture of cool (glow in the dark lip balms and temporary tattoos), disgusting (a special dungeon-themed bag of Bertie Botts All-Flavour Beans with new flavors like Spider and Mould) and fun (dangling crystal wand charms that shine in the dark and Hogwarts troll dolls with lifelike neon bogies). Draco even thinks he'd seen Nearly Headless Nick hovering around a wizarding skateboard.

Pansy's come up from London for the party, wearing a gorgeous Alexander McQueen Wizarding bespoke tartan gown with a barely there miniskirt and what look to be bondage heels and a very fine Italian leather dog collar. That ridiculous tattoo of her Crup is visible above the edge of her elbow length black kidskin gloves; Draco's tempted to have Blaise take a photo of it and send it directly to her mother. Every time Eugenia's reminded of her daughter's artistically marred body, she goes into a fit of irritation that lasts a full day, to Draco's amusement and Pansy's annoyance once the Howlers start arriving. At the moment Draco can see Pansy across the room, speaking with Flitwick, who seems very taken with her as Professor Sinistra eyes the milling crowd of students in front of them.

Hermione's at the Sortilegus table with the interns, who are dressed as punk house elves (each sporting a SPEW button, of course, fastening their stylishly ragged tea towels). She's positively demure in full length Alaia, except that the prim collar gives way to so many straps and buckles that Draco wonders she can still stand. Blaise is taking photographs at a special FCUK OFF photobooth against a manicured wall of graffiti and what looks like a giant neon pile of Hippogriff poo. He's wearing what looks like a chainmail kilt and full stockings and looks bloody fabulous, as always. His cameras are charmed to capture the most ludicrous faces that the children are making, and, to Draco's surprise, the ghosts are joining in the fun. Even the normally dour Bloody Baron is taking his turn scaring the children just as their photos are being taken. The results are being posted on a Live Photo Scroll next to the booth.

The music is a selection of dance hits, hardcore, and insane electronica being spun by the WWN's most popular DJ, Vik Scrimshaw. His manic, quiff-topped form can be seen bouncing around behind an enormous, elevated deck of turntables--literally dancing on air in the latest Hover-rites from the Gateway shop in Diagon who have prominent advertising in the logo of his giant headphones. There's a roiling mosh-pit of students in front of his stage on a day-glo orange and yellow dancefloor that nearly burns through Draco's corneas, and which has secret, moving traps which, if the students land on the wrong square, immobilise them for a moment or turn their hair pink or send their voice up or down an octave. Bletchley is supposed to be keeping an eye on the proceedings, but he's currently under the influence of Padma in a tiny green minidress and enormous Doc Martens and, by the looks of it, is one step away from skiving off his chaperoning duties to join the couples in the garden who are engaged in more primal encounters.

Draco's a bit self-conscious about his own choice of a short jacket in black watch tartan and dangling silver chains, skinny trousers, heavy black calf-leather boots, and a somewhat translucent black lace shirt. He can't figure out whether he's under or overdressed for this raucous occasion, and he's really not very sure about the lace. It itches and doesn't seem quite decent, but Geeta'd assured him that it was bulk ace when she'd given it to him, so that must be good--he hopes. He's written all of his interhouse cooperation piece and is keeping an eye on the proceedings for juicy gossip and party details to sprinkle in the captions for the pictures, a ghostwrite for Pansy of the editor's column, and a few last-minute profile tweaks if anything good happens.

When Harry Potter walks into the ballroom with rumpled, bedroom hair and wearing a leather jacket, worn and gorgeously ripped jeans, a black t-shirt with a skull and crossbones, and studded Chucks, Draco has an unfortunate flashback to his tongue-tied, third-year, spotty-faced, just-beginning-to-question-his-sexuality self. He despises Potter; he truly does. They've reached a common if unspoken agreement that allows them to fraternise without constantly asserting what Draco insists to Pansy's rolled eyes is mutual loathing, but must the man be so bloody gorgeous? It's enough to make a vestal virgin weep. A cheer goes up from the children as they swarm Potter, and a small boy with a purple--no, now it's turquoise--mohican darts forward and drags him by the sleeve to the photobooth. Draco cranes his neck to see. That must be young Teddy Lupin, his own cousin and Harry's godson, who's a first-year now. The last time Draco'd seen Teddy had been at the disastrous Christmas four years back Mother had hosted at the Manor, making the mistake of mixing Father, spirits, and Aunt Dromeda with her then-fiancé Kingsley Shacklebolt on her arm. To say it hadn't gone well would be an understatement. Mother meets Aunt Dromeda outside the house now, leaving Father tucked away in his study with as much firewhisky as the elves can carry up from the cellar.

Draco watches Harry hoist a laughing Teddy up onto a stool for the photo. They're both pulling ridiculous faces, and the Grey Lady joins them for a few of the shots, smiling fondly at them both. Draco purses his lips and shakes his head. They're utterly mad, the both of them. A few more children from the different houses join them--Teddy's friends, obviously. Draco notes Phineas Weatherfall, Ravenclaw second-year, Helvetia Maartenvoort, Gryffindor first-year, and Merlin Kim, Slytherin first-year, among the other faces in the group. There are studded foreheads, shaved heads with dragon tattoos, and loads of ripped clothing on display. Draco's certain the children's parents will be ever so proud of their terrifying sprogs, but it'll make for great layouts in the special Side-Along party section.

At the end of the next track, Pansy gets up onto the stage with a little help from Vik Scrimshaw. She says an Audible spell on a slim black megaphone he hands her. "Hello Hogwarts!"

The crowd of children roars, and the adults clap politely from their vantage points along the perimeter of the room.

Pansy beams at them all. She's in her element now, all eyes focussed on her. "We at the Sortilegus are so happy you're enjoying the first ever Young Hogwarts party. You've been so very kind to welcome us into your school and your classrooms. We've loved getting to know you."

Draco's eyes scan the crowd. Mostly they seem to be paying attention. One or two seem to be sidling out to the garden in pairs.

"I always hated long speeches at these sorts of do's when I was at Hogwarts," Pansy says. "So I'll end here with my thanks to all of you and especially to Headmaster McGonagall and the professors for allowing us to visit in the first place. Many thanks and Happy Yule to everyone!"

A small explosion occurs behind the stage and a golden bird zigs-zags through the air, spelling out "Sortilegus" over the heads of the crowd before bursting into sparkling gold glitter that tumbles down, coating everything and everyone, to the delight of the students. Draco sighs and casts a discreet cleaning spell. The last thing he wants is to spend the rest of the evening shaking gold dust from his hair.

The cheers are loud as Pansy carefully descends from the stage. Her skirt is very, very tight, and Draco's impressed that she can move at all.

"Right." Vik Scrimshaw comes back onto the megaphone. "We're going to have a nostalgia dance for the witches and wizards here who remember the old Yule Balls. If you were at Hogwarts before 2000, please come out onto the dance floor for a good old-fashioned waltz. That means you profs out there! We want to see you shake those moves of yours, don't we, kids?"

The students roar their approval, the whole crowd of them leaping up and down in unison, and honestly, someone really should write a strongly worded letter to the WWN about this sort of idiotic pandering to the youth of today, Draco thinks.

As the music strikes up, Draco contemplates hiding, but Hermione shows up by his side, strong-arming him onto the floor as the cheering students make way for them. When they get there, Pansy is waltzing with Sinistra, and Padma has dragged Bletchley into the middle to dance, although her hand is most certainly not quite in proper waltz position on his arse and he's a bit closer to her breasts than strictly conventional waltzing would allow. Hermione tries to lead until Draco gives her a look, and they settle on a prim, correct, and technically sound waltz together. Granger's quite a good dancer, but Draco's not going to tell her unless pressed. One more thing that she does perfectly; he's becoming ridiculously fond of her despite his best intentions to maintain house rivalries.

Potter has Minerva McGonagall, who's holding her tartan skirt with one hand and blushing, her upright black hat firmly anchored on her head. Neville is patrolling the crowd, where Elísabet Thorsdottir, the new Runes teacher who'd taken over from Professor Babbling, intercepts him. He blushes and then leads her by the offered hand to join the others. The children are laughing and catcalling, and Hagrid is cheering from his chair in the corner. Blaise is madly dancing around the edge of the floor, snapping candids and calling out for attention.

Hermione leans into Draco's ear. "This went well, don't you think?"

"I've wanted to flee surprisingly less often than I predicted," Draco says in return.

"Good." Hermione's head turns as she catches Pansy and Sinistra out of the corner of her eye. Sinistra's hand slides down Pansy's hip in a far too familiar manner. "Would you mind if I retrieved my girlfriend from that calculating harpy?"

Draco smirks. "Not at all. I'm so glad to know you're officially girlfriends now."

Hermione gives him a saucy look as he twirls them in an arc. "Hush, or I'll tell Harry that you want to be his girlfriend."

He's blushing. Draco's sure of it; he can feel the warmth suffuse his face, which means Hermione must see. Dammit. "I do not. Go retrieve your bit of editorial trim, and leave me out of it."

"You're not half-bad, Draco Malfoy." Hermione kisses him softly on the cheek. "Even if you are a terrible liar."

He flips two fingers at her as she leaves him on the floor, then watches her cut in on Pansy and Sinistra with a vaguely friendly look on her face that has ice in it. Pansy might be in trouble tonight, although he's sure the makeup sex will be brilliant.

Sinistra leaves the floor after hovering for a moment for good form, and then Minerva gently exits to the right of the floor. Potter is left standing about ten paces from Draco. The music is still playing, and this can't be happening, Draco thinks as Potter looks at him from beneath his mussed curls. Draco gives a hesitant curve of his lips, trapped in the greenness of Potter's gaze.

"Care to dance, Malfoy?" Potter approaches him casually, somehow slouching with all the ridiculous grace of his teenage self; to his utter dismay, Draco finds it unbearably attractive.

Draco cocks his head, trying to hold on to what few shreds of his dignity remain. "Here? Do you think it's appropriate with this audience?" He gestures to the schoolchildren crowding the edge of the floor, whispering and nudging each other as they point towards Potter.

"Yeah. I think they'll be fine." Potter moves in closer, a sleepy grin on his face. He holds out his hand, and Draco swears the entire room stills, a swath of faces turned towards the both of them. "So, what do you say?"

Draco says the only thing that comes to mind, which is "Yes."

A loud cry goes up from the crowd, and the cheers start. Draco is a bit alarmed by the noise, until he realises that it's not at all hostile, and, despite sounding like the audience at some sort of Hippogriff cage fight, is in fact meant to be supportive. Harry waltzes him (and yes, Draco lets him lead; it's easier than arguing) decorously around the floor, showing himself to be far more nimble-footed as an adult than he'd been as a young man.

And oh, Draco has a nearly crippling wave of nostalgia and horror at this thought, that they had been here only fifteen years before--had it really been that long? Merlin, he feels ancient--and if only they could have danced then. Or if only his fourteen-year-old self could have known that this dance was coming. It might have given him more courage to face what was next.

But no matter. Draco's mind returns to the present, the look on Potter's face, and the too close warmth of Potter's hands at his shoulder and waist.

"Would you care to go outside?" Potter asks, his voice soft.

The music is winding down, and Draco is sure that Vik Scrimshaw has something teeth-rattling lined up next. "Why not?"

As the first chords of "Hands Off My Broom" by Which Direction start up, Potter is already waltzing them across the threshold of the Great Hall and into the garden which is thankfully warmed by charms.

Draco is reluctant to let go of Potter once they're out of the noise and the heat of the crowded hall. They stand close together, shaded by a large rosebush with faintly quivering yellow and blue blossoms. Potter's eyes are so much greener without his trademark glasses, and much larger than Draco had ever realised.

Potter licks his lip, hips canted in close to Draco's. He's coiled with wiry strength and his grace is exciting. Draco finds Potter's sheer physicality almost overwhelming at close distance.

Draco brushes a lock of hair out of his face. He's tongue-tied like a fourth-year girl at her first Yule Ball. Their breath leaves puffs of steam in the air, although the charms are staving off the worst of the snowy Scottish chill. Draco thinks that the staff likely do not want anyone to get too comfortable out here. He looks over Potter's shoulder and only then twigs that there are many, many other couples hiding between the bushes, based on the familiar, if faint, sounds of teenage pawing and lip locking.

"Wait, Potter, did you bring me to the snogging corner?" He arches an eyebrow, almost laughing despite himself. This is too good.

Potter grins at him. "That was the general idea." He gives Draco a look through that stupidly messy fringe of his. "It's just that Hermione thought you might be keen."

A shiver runs through Draco. He doesn't know whether to shake Granger senseless or thank her for being her usual interfering busybody self. "Did she?"

"She might have done." Potter licks his bottom lip, so plush it should be illegal. "But we don't have to. Snog, I mean. Not if you don't want to." He starts to step back, but Draco grabs his arm, almost without thinking. Potter glances down at Draco's fingers, pale against Potter's leather jacket. "Is that a yes?"

In for a Sickle, in for a Galleon, Draco thinks. He lets his hand slide away, giving in to a rare burst of honesty. Fuck it all. Maybe Hermione's right, for once. "Circe's tits, Potter. I've wanted to snog you since we were twelve years old. And kick the shit out of you. And then snog you again." He's gesturing a bit wildly now, and he can't find it in himself to care.

That seems to surprise Potter. "Me?" he asks. "You've wanted to snog me? I mean, you did kick the shit out of me. And stomp on my face. But snog me?"

Good. He's not running away screaming yet. Draco has a shot at this still. He draws in a deep breath. "Yes, you, you utter prat. If not for how you look in Quidditch leathers, then for how you look in polo leathers. If not for your utterly fucking unfair biceps, then for your atrociously uncouth table manners. You break every fucking rule that I hold sacred, and I would shag you right here if you asked."

Potter blinks, almost stunned. He moves his lips very, very close to Draco's own, then pauses. "So that is a yes then."

Draco closes the distance between them, balling two fists in the front of Potter's ridiculous, amazing leather jacket and pulling him to him. Draco overbalances a bit as their lips crash awkwardly, and Potter catches him, leaning in and locking his lips onto Draco's, moving him backwards until Draco's shoulder blades meet stone. And then all of Potter's considerable physical talents are concentrated on Draco, and Draco decides he would definitely let Potter ride him like a broom.

Their mouths touch and part and touch, breathlessly seeking and finding warmth, tongues coiling together and seeking the inmost part of each other's mouths. Draco is blindingly hard, and the length that Potter is rubbing against his hip suggests that Potter must be in similar circumstances. They settle into a rhythm of deep, eager kissing, mouths joined breathlessly and hands gripping, holding each other close and pressing against each other shamelessly. Draco yields to Potter like inevitability itself. Of course, this is amazing. How could it be otherwise? He's at Hogwarts again (although far wiser now), and Harry Potter is (finally!) his.

A burst of light and a muffled curse interrupt what was turning into some fairly satisfying frotting. "All right. Stop that right now." It's Longbottom. "You know the rule: students are not supposed to be wrapping themselves around each other in the shrubbery. It's bad for the roses. Come out where I can see you both."

Sheepishly, Potter and Draco emerge from the dark corner. A hush falls over the similarly discovered students who've been routed out of the garden en masse. Longbottom's mouth is open, and no words are coming out. One student seizes the opportunity to take out a bloody camera and snap a quick picture, muffling her giggles into her boyfriend's shoulder. The flash wakes Draco up. He's so very fucked.

Potter reaches out a hand, his fingers entwining with Draco's, holding him steady. "Hi, Nev. Sorry about breaking the rules." He gives Longbottom that inane grin that's landed him on the cover of every bloody wizarding publication and then some.

"Harry. Right. Okay." Longbottom is bright red and speechless, even though by all rights those responses should historically belong to Potter, who apparently has become completely self-possessed in the eleven years since they'd left Hogwarts. Meanwhile, Draco is petrified at Potter's side, literally made out of stone. The only thing in the universe keeping him sane is Potter's thumb stroking over the inside of his wrist. He wants nothing more than to burst out into hysterical laughter. Somehow he manages not to. At least not at the moment.

"We'll come inside with you." Potter pulls Draco beside him, and then they are reentering the madness of a dance in full swing, light and heat and people everywhere.

Draco thinks this is where they'll separate, and he'll escape to drown his shame in a vat of spirits and change his name and go live in Mongolia or Wales, undiscoverable to wizardkind, but Potter doesn't let go. They are jostled close together by the teenagers surrounding them, Potter against Draco's back, his lips against Draco's ear.

"Let's find somewhere else," Potter says, and like that, Draco is passing by an oblivious Pansy and moderately suspicious Hermione, pulled forward by Potter past Blaise who is now teasing the interns, past Padma who sticking as close to Bletchley as a sticking charm, until they are in the main hallway and Potter veers to the left, bringing them up a small staircase into a side hall.

Draco is panting. He takes his hand, wiping it surreptitiously on his trousers. His mind is blank.

"Do you want to snog in the hall?" Potter asks, amusement tingeing his voice. "Or would you rather come back to mine?"

"I think back to yours is also back to mine. Or at least another door or two down." Draco doesn't have it in him to be shrill. He's too astonished by the turn this evening has taken. A little voice in his head tells him he should have been aware, but he plans to find it and turf it out as soon as he can stop looking at Potter. "So let's go there."

He walks forward, not looking at Potter, and Potter's hand comes to the small of Draco's back. They walk together, side-by-side, not looking, not touching except for the light pressure of Potter's hand. When they reach the old Divination tower and climb the enormous stairs, Potter opens a side door that Draco didn't even know was there.

The small door leads to a large room with mullioned windows. By the moonlight, Draco can see the Whomping Willow below and the dark of the fields leading to the Quidditch pitch, rings gleaming faintly in the silver light.

There is a large, low bed covered in Gryffindor scarlet with yellow embroidered lions, a windowseat, a tiny desk, and no space for much else. Potter's clothes must be in the wardrobe, and his cloak is hanging on the peg on the wall. But the old carpet keeps the space from being too cold, and the windows are breathtaking.

Potter casts a quick warming charm and moves to charm the light.

"No. Wait. Leave it," Draco says. "The moon is enough."

Without looking at Potter, he takes off his jacket and hangs it on a peg, tucking his wand in the inside pocket, then sits on a low bench to remove his boots. After a few moments, Potter follows his lead, shucking his boots and leather jacket.

Draco's undone the top button of his trousers when a shadow is cast across him and hands cover his.

"Let me," Potter says, and he opens Draco's trousers slowly, stroking his fingers over Draco's hip. When the wool pools at Draco's ankles, he moves Draco to the side then bends to retrieve the trousers and place them carefully over the back of a chair. Potter's already removed his shirt, so Draco drinks in the sight of his muscled torso as he turns. Potter unbuttons Draco's shirt from the bottom, fingers grazing his skin, his nipples, his neck, as the sheer lace is pushed aside. "I should leave this on you. You look so fucking sexy in black lace."

As Potter mouths at his neck, raising a bloom of a bruise, Draco resolves to give Geeta her weight in Honeydukes for the fashion advice.

Potter pulls Draco against him then, jeans still on, and snogs him hard. His hands rove over Draco's back, cupping his arse, and Draco writhes against him, a moan escaping as Potter manhandles him into place and grazes his teeth along his jaw.

"What do you want?" Potter's voice rumbles against Draco's cheek.

Draco draws in a ragged breath. "Perhaps the bed would be less whorish."

"So you don't want me to take you standing up then?" Draco hears rather than sees Potter's wicked grin.

Draco steps back, letting himself fall back onto the soft coverlet and spreading his legs, shirt loose around his shoulders. "Maybe next time."

Potter catches himself on his palms over Draco. He's so fit, it's ludicrous, Draco thinks, as Potter rolls to the side, stroking a line down Draco's chest, from collarbone to nipple, from nipple to rib, from rib to hipbone, from hipbone trailing deliciously just under the waistband of Draco's pants. "And now?"

Draco spreads himself out. "Just fuck me."

Potter gets off the bed, and Draco is momentarily furious, but he returns with lube and his wand, naked now and bloody gorgeous in the half-light. "Keep the shirt on," he says as Draco moves to shrug it off.

When Potter nips at Draco's hip, pulling his pants down and licking him, inhaling his scent, but staying just too far away from his cock, Draco whines, and Potter laughs and strokes a finger just below Draco's balls. Draco is just about to complain when there is wet and warmth and his brain explodes into the lushest sensation of bliss. Potter's mouth covers Draco's prick, wet lips stretched around the swollen head. Draco can't fully process the gorgeousness of Harry Potter, on his knees, blowing him in the Divination tower, but luckily his cock takes charge. He moans and thrusts, Potter's arm coming to pin his hips down while his mouth does wicked, wicked things. Potter keeps him like this, stretched out and wanting, everything so good and not quite enough.

Potter's fingers are soft and sleek when they find the softness of Draco's arse, pushing in when he gasps and stretching him further. Patiently, Potter opens Draco while he's anything less than patient, a gasping, begging wreck on the bed. It takes eons, and Draco may have cursed that he'll grow old before Potter has his way with him, and he wants to enjoy Potter's cock before he's thirty, but then Draco's knees are coming up and Potter is bending him double, his prick nestled against Draco's slick arsehole, then pushing in, green eyes fixed on Draco's face, so slow it's maddening but so, so good.

Draco opens to the slick and the burn and the surprising girth of Potter. He howls when Potter begins to move and wantonly wraps his legs around him, whispering filth into his ear to made Potter fuck him harder. The lace of the shirt is rough against Draco's back as Potter complies and the bed thumps repeatedly against the wall. Draco knows they forgot a Muffliato and he wants to tell Potter to stop but he can't because it feels brilliant. He balls his fist up so he won't shout, biting at his knuckles and then nearly sobbing as Potter brings him to completion, a hand wrapped around Draco's prick and his own prick buried deep inside of Draco.

With a cry and a shudder, Potter falls onto Draco, his face pressed against the curve of Draco's throat. "Christ," he murmurs after a long moment. "Please tell me we can do this again. And again. And again?"

Draco smiles, his hands tangling in Potter's hair. "I think we can manage that." He hesitates. "Harry."

Potter raises his head, eyes soft and bright. "Draco," he says, and it's imbued with a warmth that makes Draco's toes curl and his heart swell.

He's glad he waited for this, even if it took half a lifetime.

***

Draco slips into the staff meeting late, Octavian trotting behind him on tiny feet, both of them still shivering from the bitter January air. Harry gives him a sympathetic look as he shifts his chair to let Draco slide in beside him. Draco's still annoyed that Octavian duty'd only been foisted upon him; he'd pointed out to Pansy that the photo that the Prophet had run of a rumpled and obviously love-bitten Draco in the Hogwarts garden had also included Potter in the foreground, his hand firmly on Draco's hip, but Pansy hadn't cared. As she pointed out, it was utterly humiliating to be scooped by the Prophet, of all publications, on a particularly titbit of gossip that involved two of her staff, for Circe's sake, and somehow that was his fault. There'd been a rationale given at one point, but by then Draco had tuned her out, preferring to dwell not on whatever sodding student who had sold the photo but rather the way Harry's hands had felt on his hips that morning when he'd shagged Draco into the mattress, hard and fast and rough. Exactly the way Harry knew he liked it.

So Draco'd gracefully accepted his two weeks of walking the bloody Crup as punishment. One more day and Octavian would be returned to the care of whichever intern annoyed Pansy the most on a given morning, and good riddance, Draco thinks. The Crup breaks more wind than a small creature should be able to produce.

"Hey," Harry says under his breath, and Draco's smile is wide and bright. He can see the small bruise his mouth had left on Harry's neck this morning, peeking out from beneath the collar of his shirt. Draco wants nothing more than to drag him into the nearest supply closet and press his lips against Harry's skin again, widening the mark, claiming Harry bloody Potter as his for every sodding witch and wizard in London to see.

"Draco." Pansy's voice interrupts his lovely fantasy. "Oi. Arsehole."

He looks over at her. "Yes?" He doesn't even bother to keep the irritation from his voice.

Pansy arches a perfectly plucked eyebrow at him. "As I was saying, before you stumbled in, late as usual--" Draco doesn't bother to point out his valid reason for his tardiness is currently crouched in the corner, eyeing a fern with suspicion. "That little escapade you and Potter indulged in at the Young Hogwarts Ball and which Geoffrey gave me a bollocking over, has, albeit indirectly, lead to a spike in circulation." She points a crimson fingernail at the both of them. "I would encourage you to wreak more havoc, but I'm afraid you'd actually take me at my word, so please don't. Not unless you plan to give Blaise exclusive photographic access--"

"Not my fault," Blaise says for the umpteenth time. He doesn't even bother to look up from his meeting notes. "I was doing my damned job, not following those randy bastards around hoping for a scandalous photo. After all, it was a bloody school assignment."

Pansy humphs. "I don't know what you remember of Hogwarts, darling, but I seem to remember a fair amount of heavy breathing in the corridors. Draco and Harry were merely engaging in a bit of..."

The entire staff (with the obvious exception of Draco and Harry) chime in. "In-ter-house co-op-er-ation."

Harry grins at Draco, then kisses him on the nose to lots of disgusted noises and sounds of sicking up from Blaise.

"My apologies for the unexpected profit from our shagging." Draco's voice is a bit arch, but he doesn't want to push Pans too far. She already has a wicked gleam in her eye. "We'd be glad to give you a piece on the joys of interhouse whatsit."

Pansy shakes her head, examining her perfect blood-red nails. "Not good enough, darling. I have a special task for you."

Draco clutches Harry's hand for support.

"Valentine's Day feature. Wizarding couples under thirty. With photo shoot."

This time it's Draco making sicking up noises. But he's fooling no one, judging by the rolled eyeballs and the fond smile from Harry.

"Fine," he says, annoyed. "But I want a budget to go to the Caribbean."

"Absolutely not," Pansy says.

"Morocco?" Harry suggests, and Draco gives him a speculative look. Harry bites back a laugh, reaching over to squeeze Draco's hand.

Pansy eyes the two of them, then glances over at Hermione, who raises an eyebrow at her. "Maybe."

Draco settles back into his chair with a smug smile. As assignments go, this one is pretty much perfect. As long as he gets to keep Potter, Draco'll write whatever his mad best friend wants. Perhaps this isn't the life to which he'd been raised, shagging Gryffindors and writing society gossip, but for the first time in years, he's happy. Truly, honestly and sickeningly happy.

Merlin help the world.