It snowed heavily the third night at the Burrow, and Harry woke to the sun blaring off the white surfaces of everything as though the world meant to blind him permanently. The sun shot through the window of Ron's room and bounced off Harry's recently charmed Wailing Warner. He covered his eyes and rolled away, groaning.
At least he'd been able to make the bloody thing. He had been so distracted in class, trying to see Draco's face, to know what he was thinking.
Defence had been even worse. They'd all unveiled their wandless spells that day, and it brought back all the sensory memories of messing about with Draco in the clearing. When Harry had been called upon to demonstrate his spell, he'd borrowed Neville's Remembrall and chosen Wingardium Leviosa to levitate it. He'd meant it as a hidden message to Draco. Since the arsehole wouldn't speak to him, Harry tried to say it with magic: that this was what was real between them. What they'd shared mattered, not some barmy interview.
But Draco had gone up in front of the class next, his eyes hard as stones. Harry should have guessed he'd have his own message: he Depulso'd the still-floating Remembrall, smashing it to bits against the wall.
"Not again," Neville had groaned.
Harry had sighed, his heart heavy as he watched Draco stalk back to his place among his friends.
He hadn't seen Draco again before they left for the break.
The glaring sunlight finally won in Harry's battle for more sleep, and when he trudged downstairs to find Neville and Ginny groping in a hallway, he wished it really had blinded him. But he could see them all too well. They broke apart when they noticed him, but he just murmured a good morning and proceeded to the kitchen, uncaring that they were madly in love except that their hands all over each other reminded him of what he was pretty sure he'd lost.
And he didn't even know if it was his fault.
Ron insisted it wasn't.
Hermione wasn't as sure.
Ron didn't know why he cared so much.
Harry didn't feel like explaining.
Mrs Weasley greeted him for breakfast, and he ate heartily, as he had the last three days, and then he rode his broom around the garden with Ron, George, Ginny, and Charlie until lunch.
There was a pervasive comfort to the familiarity, the undaunted stoicism of this family. His family. He knew they were all worried about the morose walks he'd take for hours in the snowy countryside every day between lunch and dinner. But they let him have his space and never failed to be there for him upon his return, when he was freezing and starving and ready to smile about something again.
It felt good to be around Hermione and Ron at the same time. It wasn't until now that he realised how often he'd chosen Draco over them all these weeks, yet also how often they had chosen each other as well. Not that any of them harboured any hard feelings about it. Now that they were all at the Burrow, it felt like old times. They sat around together and talked and laughed late into each dreadfully cold night.
They were doing just that the evening of the third day, the next day being Christmas Eve, when a regal-looking eagle owl landed on the outside ledge of the window of Ron's room and tapped. Harry recognised the bird instantly, and the muscles between his ribs all seemed to tighten.
They let the bird in on a gust of blowing snow.
It flew directly to Ron and held out its leg, looking at none of them, as if it wouldn't deign.
"What do you reckon?" Ron asked. He opened the letter and read:
I must sincerely apologise for the 'red-haired freak family' remark. I didn't mean it. I was just angry at Potter.
Have a nice Christmas.
"Is he serious?" Ron asked, agape.
Hermione took the parchment from him and read it over herself. "Seems to be. Harry?" She handed the note to him.
He took it reluctantly. "Why are you asking me?"
"Okay, are you serious?" Ron asked. "You've only spent half your time this year hanging out with him. I thought you two were friends now. Or... well... were." He scratched the back of his neck sheepishly.
"We were," Harry said, his eyes drinking in Draco's careful script.
"Are you going to accept his apology, Ron? The bird's waiting," Hermione said.
"What kind of a git would I be if I didn't?"
Hermione's face softened into a smile, and she leaned over and bestowed a lingering kiss on his lips.
"What about you, Harry?" she asked when she sat back again, leaning against the side of Ron's bed with him.
"He didn't apologise to me."
"Oh, come on."
He blinked at her. "What?"
"You really don't see?"
"See what?" Ron appeared as confused as Harry felt.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Well, he obviously sent this note to apologise to Ron because he wants to talk to Harry. Not that his apology to you isn't sincere," she added, touching Ron's elbow.
"But why would he apologise to me if he really wants to talk to Harry?"
"Don't be daft, Ron."
Ron simply blinked at her.
Hermione shot Harry a look. "I'm not sure Harry wants to talk about it. Why don't you compose your owl, and then let's go down to the kitchen. I heard Fleur telling Bill she was going to make her grandmother's apple brandy recipe tonight."
While Ron composed (a succinct "Apology accepted. Happy Christmas."), Hermione gave Harry another one of her speaking looks. Harry gulped and dropped his gaze, hoping like hell that she didn't actually know what her look hinted at.
Once Draco's owl had flown off into the blurry wall of grey-white, they went downstairs and joined the others in imbibing and listening to Celestina Warbeck on the Wireless.
Except that Harry didn't hear a word she sang. He was too busy remembering the last time he and Draco kissed.
On Christmas Eve, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Ginny, and Harry all went shopping in Diagon Alley for some last-minute presents. Technically, Harry had finished all his Weasley (and Hermione and Neville) holiday shopping, so that's not why he was in Diagon Alley with the rest of them.
No, he was there because, despite their falling out, and despite his complete certainty that he would never actually give it to him, Harry needed -- like he needed his wand -- to buy something for Draco, too.
It didn't matter if Draco was being an irrational dick. Harry still liked him. Harry'd still kissed him, touched him.
He was still the first boy Harry had had sex with.
And though it had only been a few days, the fact remained that Harry missed him.
He wondered what Draco was doing -- if he'd taken his holiday with his mother, if he'd stayed at the school, if he felt alone.
If he did, it was entirely his own fault, of course. But...
Harry browsed Flourish and Blotts, picking up and putting back books on Quidditch, advanced spellwork, about all sorts of subjects he had no idea if Draco Malfoy would be interested in.
He ran his hands over the brooms and Snitches at Quality Quidditch Supplies.
He perused the big boxes of chocolates at Sugarplum's.
Someone tapped his shoulder while, with some last minute desperation, he priced a sterling silver cauldron. He turned to see Ginny smiling softly at him.
"Hey," he said.
"You're not buying me a cauldron for Christmas, are you, Harry?"
"Oh. Er, no."
"Why? Stupid gift, is it?"
"Depends on who it's for," she said, moving to stand beside him. She looked at the tag. "That's a pretty expensive cauldron. I'm guessing that would be for a particular Slytherin?"
"Well, former Slytherin." He could feel her peering at his profile, but he couldn't manage to turn his gaze and look back.
"It's on sale," he said.
"Harry." She reached out and took his hand. "It's okay."
He let out a nervous laugh but was shocked to find some pre-tearful thing tightening his throat. "What are you on about, Gin?"
"You know exactly what I'm on about. It's okay that you like him." She squeezed his sweating hand. "It's okay that you love him."
He jumped back as though she's tried to jinx him. "I do not love him!"
Her eyebrow went up. "But you're at least willing to admit that we're talking about the same person, right?"
Harry swallowed. Something wild and horrible felt ready to gnaw its way out of him, starting inside his stomach. "I--"
Ginny lifted her free hand and cupped his cheek. Her expression was deeply understanding. "He must have changed a lot to get you to feel like this."
He flinched. "I don't feel like anything. He's my friend maybe... was my friend... I don't know." He looked at the floor. It blurred.
"Maybe it's time to quit lying to yourself." When his jaw hardened under her hand, she stepped in closer and lowered her voice. "Harry, you deserve to be happy. And Malfoy," she laughed, "though not my favourite person, deserves better than a barmy old cauldron. I mean, Merlin, Harry."
Harry laughed around the emotion thick in his throat. "You think?" His heart pounded. Just continuing this conversation without correcting her felt like an admission.
She pulled him to her and held him close. Her arms felt good, like they'd never not be friends. He held her back, and they stayed like that for a long while.
When he pulled back, he sighed. "So what are you doing here?"
She gave him a wan smile. "My boyfriend actually wants a cauldron. Well, not wants but needs. He goes through them quite quickly." She frowned, releasing him.
They held hands for a moment, her smaller soft ones in his. "Ginny..."
"Could you forgive him?"
"I trust you," she said. "I'll follow your lead." She gave his hands a squeeze and then turned away, running discriminating fingers over the new bronze cauldrons down the aisle.
"Does that mean you'll start teaching Shelton my moves?" he called after her.
"Oh, hardly. She's got her own." She gave him a warm smile, picked up a medium-sized cauldron, and was gone.
Minutes later, Harry found himself in Twilfitt and Tattings holding a tie the same grey of Draco's eyes and with thin Slytherin-green stripes. The thing cost about half what Harry's car had.
He felt like a wanker, pushing it across the counter for the sales person to ring up.
"Would you like this wrapped, sirHarryPotterohmygod!" She'd only looked up to address him at the last moment, and Harry cringed a bit.
"Sorry! Right. One moment." She blushed.
Harry watched her wrap Draco's tie with a wobbly wand.
He shoved his own hands into his pockets and tried not to think of all the reasons why he shouldn't be doing what he was doing.
Thinking what he was thinking.
Feeling what he was feeling.
Harry didn't know what he'd been expecting. When he returned to school, the first sight that greeted him upon entering the common room was Draco's snidely laughing face. He sat with his Slytherin friends in front of the hearth, and the laugh that rang out of him sparkled with nastiness.
At least that's how it sounded to Harry.
When Draco's gaze landed on him, though, all humour drained out of him, he blanched, and he looked away as quickly as possible.
For just a moment, seeing him, Harry couldn't breathe.
It wasn't until he achieved the relative privacy of his dormitory that he exhaled.
"Hey, Harry, Happy Christmas," Dean said.
Gordon scampered over and made a rather painful run up Harry's legs and then his back, settling himself in scarf-mode around his neck. "Happy, ow, Christmas. Was he good?"
"Oh yeah. Smartest ferret I've ever seen, too. Though I don't guess I know that many." Dean frowned.
Harry deposited his things in his trunk. When he came to the shiny silver box, he took great care to bury it beneath his socks.
Having extricated Gordon and given him his special Christmas treats, Harry returned to the common room to find Draco gone from his group and an intensely glowing Ron and Hermione entering.
They'd gone off on their own Christmas night to who knows where and... Well, they'd obviously executed their "plans", and that's all Harry really wanted to know about it. That and they were stupid happy. Emphasis on the stupid.
Harry hated them.
And he adored them.
And he hated them some more.
"I love snow," Ron said to no-one.
"It is magnificent... how it glistens on the trees like diamonds," Hermione added.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Look, I could really use a game of wizard's chess." He sounded a bit unhinged and dramatic even to his own ears.
"Oh. Yeah, mate. Sounds good." Ron kissed Hermione briefly before he sat down to play.
They'd been at it for a couple of hours when Ron nudged Harry's foot under the table. "Hey, what's with you? You usually don't lose that badly to me."
"Hmm?" Harry had sort of drifted off into his own thoughts. And yes, he'd been keeping an eye on the common room to see if Draco came back. "Sorry. I guess I'm just tired."
They played an hour more, and still Draco didn't show. Finally, Harry trudged off to bed. He made sure the hole in the wall was unobstructed, and he lay there facing it, waiting, listening, frustrated as hell.
He waited for words that never came.
He slept badly and dreamed of Grindylows trying to drown him.
The next day, though he had atrocious dark circles under his eyes, he went down to breakfast like everything was normal.
He'd decided to give Draco a week to get over being an arsehole and to come apologise. One week. That ought to be sufficient, he thought.
He went to his classes, did his wall-mending detention with Snape, went to Quidditch practices, studied, hung out with Ron and Hermione (who became much more themselves and therefore more tolerable after a few days back).
Yet at the end of the week, Draco had not sought him out. He hadn't even met Harry's eyes once. It was as though Harry no longer existed for him.
Just go have your fun at the Burrow with your red-headed freak family and leave me the fuck alone, Potter.
He'd bloody apologised to Ron for fuck's sake. But apparently the 'leave me the fuck alone' still stood. Harry felt an irrational hatred of him boil beneath the surface of his skin. So much that he'd thought was gone came rushing up: memories of Draco's cruelty, his indifference, his elitist ignorance.
Not as accessible, or maybe just not as satisfying to his bruised ego, were the pictures in his mind of Draco scared for his life and that of his family, Draco unwilling to name Harry, Draco fighting feebly over his own wand, Draco looking ashen and defeated, terrified.
No, it served to fuel Harry's rage at him to remember the worst, to think that maybe this was who Draco really was and had been all along. That he, Harry, had been a fool -- a sex-sniffing ridiculous tosser -- to ever believe differently.
But Draco had apologised to Ron. He could have just let that insult stand. In fact, it must have taken enormous courage to write what he had, to send it, to drop all defence and wait for forgiveness that might not ever come -- that might, instead, come back as recrimination and a renewed grudge.
And then there was what Hermione had said about it -- that he'd done that because the person he really wanted to apologise to was Harry. But that was obviously a load of crap, being that Draco wouldn't even look at him now, couldn't suffer being in the same room with him.
After all that they'd done.
After one bloody week of touching each other, kissing each other, not being able to wait to get one another alone, of panting in the dark and Draco letting him hear those aching sounds of pleasure....
Now this shit.
One week turned into two weeks, which turned into a month, which turned into two.
Eight weeks their silence went on.
Harry didn't seek him out in his Patronus clearing, and he doubted Draco would still use it anyway. Winter melted away to the first Spring rains. N.E.W.T.s were fast approaching.
They'd be leaving Hogwarts soon.
Their lives were almost ready to start.
Harry hated Draco for being okay with this rift between them. God, it had been better when they were enemies and at least Draco would uninhibitedly snark at him!
To make matters worse, Snape, again, asked Harry what he wanted out of life. Harry, again, had no answer. He supposed he'd go ahead and join Auror training. Ron seemed reasonably excited for it, even more so when he found out that the Ministry Floos were linked with those of the Griselda Marchbanks School of Wizarding Law. Harry reckoned they could have a lot of fun together, catch some bad wizards, live out their lives as heroes, best friends, crime-fighting buddies.
It could be brilliant.
And yet, he felt no actual fire for the idea, and he could tell Snape wasn't buying his crap either.
"What would make you happy?"
There was that bloody word again. Such a strange word on Snape's cold lips.
"I don't know." He levitated a stone block.
"What would make you happy?"
"I don't KNOW!"
"I don't bloody know!" Harry shouted. "All I do know is that I fucking DON'T KNOW and the year's almost over and everybody expects me to do whatever it is they expect me to do, and Draco Malfoy won't fucking talk to me, all right?" He was panting by the time he finished.
"Set the block down."
"What?" Too late, Harry realised his magic was thrumming, faltering. He lost his grip, and the block fell several stories before Harry thrust out his wand, stopped its descent, and laid it down carefully. "I'm sorry, Professor."
"Stow your wand and take a drink of water."
Harry followed the orders, not realising how thirsty he was until he gulped it and drained the glass.
"Good," Snape said. "Now. Have you tried talking to him?"
"Well... er... no?"
Snape rolled his eyes.
"Well, what am I supposed to say? 'It's time you apologised for being a total dick, Malfoy?'"
"I'm sure just about anything is better than nothing, Mr Potter. Though perhaps you could work on your opening remarks."
Harry swallowed, ducking his head. He hadn't really considered that it might be his place to go to Draco. Not to apologise anyway. But... Well, maybe Snape had a point. He'd often had enlightening things to say during their detentions together, and when he wasn't giving Harry good advice (like how to get an Outstanding on his next Potions exam), he was a really good listener, Harry had discovered.
And... he cared. He affected the same cool stand-offishness he'd been infamous for in life, but Harry saw through it now. Harry saw what he hid underneath.
He felt the years, the decades, of Severus Snape's commitment to the cause and the love he'd had to sacrifice for it all. And Harry knew he could not have done the same.
"Perhaps it was unwise of me to pair you with Abbott in duelling," Snape mused. "But she does need toughening up if she's going to enter Auror tr--"
"No! I mean, yes. Abbott. I mean..."
Snape raised an oily eyebrow at him. "So you'd rather I not pit you against Mr Malfoy again."
"No. Not yet," Harry felt the need to qualify.
Snape frowned but nodded. Then he seemed to drop the subject altogether. "Very well. Back to work. You have half an hour more, Mr Potter."
Harry worked diligently. He was almost to the top of the staircase, and he wondered if, when he was finished, he'd get to rebuild the boys' dormitory. He felt sure he could do it from memory alone; the shape and shade of the stone walls, the placement of the windows, the warm lighting...
This, more than any other place, was Harry's home.
"Next week will be your last detention with me, Mr Potter. We'll meet in my office, same time."
"Okay... But why--?"
"My office. Do not be late." The professor left his frame quickly, his black robes snapping.
The only thing to happen of any consequence the week following was that Harry ran into Draco coming out of the shower the next Monday morning. Well, Draco wasn't coming out the shower. Harry was the one who, having forgotten to grab his shirt, came out of the bathroom in only trousers, his hair dripping down the back of his neck, to find Draco, crouched in the hall and, of all things, harassing Harry's ferret.
Or, at least, Harry had thought it was harassment. If harassment could take the form of luxuriant petting and covert whispers.
Harry stopped short in the hallway, for a moment unable to breathe. Again.
Draco saw him and abruptly stood, his face going hard and cold in an instant.
"What were you doing luring Gordon out of my room?" Harry asked.
"I didn't lure him out. He was already in the bloody hall, Potter."
"Well, what were you saying to him? You didn't... You wouldn't h-hurt..."
"No!" Draco shouted. "I wasn't saying anything!"
And that was a bald-faced lie. Harry had heard him. A bead of water dropped onto Harry's chest and ran down his body. Draco's gaze went right to it. He swallowed.
"Malfoy," Harry said, not knowing what words would follow, only knowing he felt compelled to say something, to say anything. That hearing the git's voice felt stupidly amazing after so very long without even a 'Sod off, Potter,' much less feeling his breathy whining right in Harry's ear as he came.
And though he appeared tired and the shadows under his eyes rivalled those he sported sixth year, Draco still looked good. Merlin, he looked so good. Harry clenched his hands into fists to keep from running them all over Malfoy's unwilling body.
Draco's gaze took in Harry's stance, and he firmed his jaw in response, mistaking it for anger. "I'm late." He strode away quickly.
"Malfoy!" Harry ran after him.
"No, Potter!" Draco moved fast through the common room. "You fucking can't have everything you want!"
Luna dropped her books right in front of Harry, barring his way. "Whoopsie."
Millicent bent down to retrieve them for her.
Draco had disappeared out the door before Harry could side-step them, and by the time Harry wrenched the door open himself, the hallway was empty.
"Blast!" Harry leaned his forehead against the doorframe.
A dainty hand came down on his shoulder. "It'll be okay, Harry."
He looked up to see Luna standing there with Millicent's arm around her. He blinked at them. Merlin, when had that happened? He remembered the Spin-the-Bottle game and supposed he already knew the answer. He just hadn't been paying good attention. Not having to fight a Dark Lord had possibly rotted his brain a bit. He hadn't stayed sharp.
Or maybe they'd been hiding it -- like he and Draco had before...
Well, before there was nothing left to hide.
"Cheer up, Potter," Millicent said. "You'll just have to wear him down." She looked at Luna who gazed up into her face so lovingly it was like the room was suddenly filled with sunlight.
Then it dawned on him what Bulstrode had said. "Wait, what?"
She laughed. "You heard me. Now don't make us late for breakfast."
"Yes, Harry, please do practice your brooding in a different doorway if you would," Luna said sweetly.
He jumped to the side and watched them wander down the hall, now holding hands.
Harry blinked. He looked down at himself, realising he was still half naked, and went to get dressed for the day.
The next evening, he dutifully arrived at Snape's office -- on time -- and knocked on the door. Again, it swung inward, but this time the professor greeted him promptly.
"You will take yourself immediately to the Quidditch pitch where you will await further instructions," he said from the large portrait behind his unused desk.
"But, Professor, I--"
"We will not be finishing the tower tonight. If the completion of the task has become important to you, come see me during my office hours, and we can set a time to continue. Now, go."
"Quidditch pitch. Further instructions." Snape waved his hand at Harry in dismissal and then wandered out of his frame to Merlin knows where.
Harry sighed. He thought about hiking back up to the dormitories to get his broom, just in case. But Snape had left little room for error in his orders, and they'd been to take himself to the pitch right away, no detours.
So Harry turned and left, shutting the door behind himself.
The evening was cloudy but not as cold as it had been, the winter chill finally giving way to spring balm. In fact, it looked like it might very well rain soon. Harry eyed the thunderheads as he walked down the path to the stadium.
There were two tiny people standing in the middle of the pitch when he arrived. Harry squinted. He recognised the hat as Professor McGonagall's, and...
And that bowed blond head could be no-one else's.
Harry marshalled his resources -- because suddenly his mouth was dry, his hands shook, he felt simultaneously enraged and ecstatic. He strode forward, making his legs take him there at a reasonable pace. He half wanted to run toward the prat. The other half of him would have been happy to Disapparate on the spot. If only that were possible.
As he drew nearer, he saw that McGonagall held two brooms and a Snitch.
Draco lifted only his eyes, not his pointy chin, and glared at Harry.
Harry swallowed. He could so easily remember those hard eyes softening for him, those lips parting in arousal. He could remember the feel of Draco's hair getting caught between his fingers.
No. It was no use thinking those things. He could see by Draco's eyes that that time was well and truly over.
Harry tried with all his might to put his own mask on, to not show Draco his thoughts or what seeing Draco was doing to him. But he could still feel it there, and he doubted his ability to hide it all.
There was just so bloody much.
"Gentlemen," McGonagall said when Harry stood before them. "This is your last detention." She thrust a broom at each of them. "For the next hour, you'll fly. You'll search for the Snitch. If one of you catches it before the hour is out, you release it and catch it again. It does not matter who catches it. No house points will be awarded to anyone. There is no tangible merit to catching it. Any questions?"
Draco simply hung his head, so Harry asked the obvious one. "Why?"
"Because Professor Snape and I say so." She raised an eyebrow at him.
Harry took his broom reluctantly. It smelled brand new, all sandalwood oil, twine, and magic. "Is this the new Shooting Star, 'Vector'?"
"Indeed it is, Mr Potter. Mrs Malfoy made a generous donation: one for every Quidditch player in the school."
Harry glanced at Draco, whose ears shone berry-red in the dusk.
"So... we just fly around for an hour," Harry said.
"Yes, and try to catch the Snitch. If neither one of you has caught it when the hour is up, send your Patronus to me, Harry, and I'll come fetch it down. Though with how highly skilled -- yet out of practice -- you both are, I find that scenario quite an unlikely one. Enjoy, gentlemen."
With that, she strode away, chin held high.
Harry watched her go until she disappeared into the tunnel leading out of the stadium. Then he turned to Draco, who she'd left holding the Snitch.
"What do you suppose they've got Ned doing?" Harry asked for something to say.
"Let's just get this over with, Potter." Draco didn't meet his eyes as he tossed the Snitch into the air where it hovered for a split second and then shot off at great speed into the sky. In the next moment, the stadium lights came on, illuminating the pitch. Draco mounted his broom and kicked off.
Belatedly, Harry followed. He rose up into the air. A nearly full moon was just rising, its buttery light diffuse through the mist that had begun. The moist air felt good against his face as he began circling.
At first it was hard to concentrate. He keep wondering what in Merlin's name they were even supposed to be doing. He could make no rational sense of it. Fly around for an hour? What good would that do? How was this a more valuable use of their time than rebuilding the castle? Not that he knew what McGonagall had been having Draco do, but Harry had come to feel proud of his work with Snape. This... Well, it was just flying. And the fact that he had to do it with his former-nemesis-turned-former-lover...
Merlin's beard, had he really just thought that word?
Had that been what they were?
Could it be that he'd lost something so frustratingly incalculable? So infuriatingly... perfect?
After a few minutes soaring over the goal posts, diving slowly and surveying this place that was so utterly familiar to him, Harry began to shed his thoughts, even the freshly painful ones. They flitted from his mind one by one, joining the fast-moving clouds as they sped by the bright moon.
Harry watched Draco circle opposite him, sometimes taking a higher vantage point and sometimes dipping below to get a better view of the ground. As ever, he was graceful, efficient, his body leaning over the broom as he narrowed his eyes or leaned back arrogantly while he hovered, fixing the fit of a glove.
The way Draco flew was mesmerising. He had a natural ability to find and ride thermals, and the effect was that he glided effortlessly, his long fingers gripping the broomstick with confidence, the lean of his body fluid and at ease, until--
Draco went into a shallow dive toward the far side of the pitch. A moment later, Harry saw it, too, twinkling in front of the stands. He hugged his broom, leaned down strong, and felt the combination of his own magic and that embedded in the broom itself.
It was as fast as his Firebolt had been but possessed even more fine control so that the turns he took were immediate with little to no skid.
Draco made it to the Snitch before him, but it took off up toward the goal posts just before he could swipe it, and Harry, seeing this, cut him off quickly, pulling in front of Draco on the rise back up.
The laugh came out of him unbidden. And just like that, Harry was bloody flying again.
He resisted the temptation to check behind to gauge Draco's positioning and if he had a chance of overtaking him. Harry kept his eyes glued to the Snitch now bopping through the goals and weaving this way and that, careening toward the sky and making Harry pull up on his broom abruptly.
Which was when Draco flew by him like he was sitting still. Merlin, he was going so fast, his wind shear nearly knocked Harry's glasses from his face.
Harry flattened himself to his broom and charged after him, up and up and up, farther from the lights of the stadium, up into the night, into the rain as it started to hammer the pitch.
The Snitch shone ahead of them, veering left sharply. They turned at the same time, and Harry came up on Draco's left, close enough to hear him breathe.
Harry chanced a sideways look at him. Draco's face was intent. He seemed to be turning his anger at Harry, misplaced though it was, toward the Snitch itself. His eyes sparkled dangerously, and he met Harry's gaze briefly, careening to the side on purpose and driving Harry's broom away from himself.
But that aggressive move cost him when the Snitch dropped out of sight.
"Fuck!" Draco yelled, pulling up to a slow stop.
Harry followed suit. "Where did it go? Did you see it?"
"No, you git, I was too busy trying to keep you from running me aground!"
"I did no such thing, Malfoy! You're the one who--" But then it shimmered, close to the ground, near the centre of the pitch. Harry leaned hard, took a hair-raisingly sharp dive, and felt his stomach stay in the sky somewhere.
Draco was on his tail; Harry could hear him cursing back there. Harry smiled, his whole body alight with it.
He missed the Snitch that time, too, though, and so did Draco. He gave Harry a withering look, like losing it had been entirely Harry's fault, then they both rose once more to get their bearings.
It rained harder still, and soon they were soaked to the bone, but still they flew. Harry couldn't feel the cold at all. His body seemed to be generating extra heat along with the adrenaline. He'd forgotten how intoxicating it was, how engrossing, how it took all of him: every muscle, every thought, every breath.
They found and chased the Snitch three more times. It had probably been close to an hour, maybe more, but Harry wasn't ready or willing to pack it in and confess failure to McGonagall. Draco didn't appear to be ready to back down either.
They'd each taken to hovering over an opposing goal post while they watched. Harry saw Draco see it first. He leaned over his broom, shook water from his eyes, and then took off hard toward one of the tunnels.
Harry glimpsed it halfway there. It was just flitting about, fluttering its little wings as though taunting them.
When they came within a few feet, it zigged straight up, and they followed. They chased it hard, each of them pushing their brooms beyond their limits. When the Snitch dove right, so did they, in sync, perfection. Harry felt the high of it. He could smell Draco's sweat, the forest-wet scent of their brooms. Everything was him, Draco, or the Snitch.
"You, me, and the Snitch?"
And after arguably the most tumultuous year of their crazy relationship, here they finally were.
They were both so close. Harry let go of his broom to stretch his fingers toward it. So did Draco. Their brooms were so close, they nearly collided. Harry gritted his teeth and growled, his broom surging forward, almost incomprehensibly fast. But it was that very move that cost him. Because the Snitch swerved slightly right, and Draco had only to stick his hand out as it flew right into his palm. He closed his fingers around it tightly, and Harry saw the triumphant smile burst radiant onto his face when a moment before it had seemed nothing like that would ever be possible again. Something inside Harry lit up at the sight of it.
"Harry, look out!"
He turned his head quickly, but the ground came up too fast. Harry pulled up hard, losing control of the broom, barrel-turning, and then half-crashing into the muddy pitch, rolling once with a loud, "Oof!"
It took him a few seconds to get his bearings, to check that he'd not broken any bones. His side was sore, but other than that he thought he was pretty much all right. Due to Draco's warning. If it hadn't been for that, he'd likely have spent a few nights in the hospital wing. Maybe even St. Mungo's.
Harry rolled onto his hands and knees, muddy as hell. He slowly stood. A few feet away stood Draco Malfoy, holding the Snitch and forgetting to hate him. The smile on his face was beautiful: warm and intensely alive. Nothing of the past in it. Nothing of the future. Just right now, in the hard rain, holding the Snitch, and smiling at Harry.
"Cast your Patronus, Draco," Harry said, shocked to hear the words tumble from his own lips.
Harry shouted over the rain pounding the ground at their feet. "Pull your wand and cast your Patronus!"
Draco blinked at him. Then, holding the Snitch in one hand, he drew his wand with the other. He breathed heavily, the wet dripping off his chin, his lashes. He whipped his hair out of his face. He raised his wand. Harry saw it in his eyes, and he knew.
The thing leapt from his wand, huge and brilliant. It's four legs spindly and fast, its eyes large.
Its antlers, majestic.
It was a stag.
It was a stag, just like Harry's.
Oh my God...
For a moment, Harry thought Draco was going to be all right. He looked a little faint, but that was to be expected. Harry gave him a reassuring smile. Seeing it, Draco's own face fell. Happiness wore down to disbelief, to something like disgust. To rage.
"What have you done to me?" Draco wailed. "What have you...?" The Patronus diminished.
Draco shoved his wand away, threw down his broom, and ran.
"Have you seen Draco?" Harry had burst into the common room, eyes wild as he searched it for Slytherins. Luna was almost as good. "Luna! Have you seen him?"
"He came through, but then he went back out again," she said. "You should ask Blaise."
"Right. Thanks." He ran down the hall and banged on the dormitory door. After three seconds, he banged on it again, this time harder.
"Oi!" he heard Ron shout, but it was Zabini who flung open the door, frowning.
"I need to find Draco. Have you seen him?" Harry panted.
Blaise sighed. He stepped out into the hall and shut the door on the others. He looked this way and that.
"What? What is it? Do you know where he's gone?"
Blaise nodded, still frowning.
"Where? Blaise! I-- I need to talk to him."
"You can't tell him I told you."
"Why? Did he tell you not to tell me?"
Blaise nodded again. "But I told him he should stay and have it out with you. For the record, I've tried to get him to talk to you. I've told him he can trust you with it, but..."
"You have? Trust me with what? Why--?"
"The article. It really upset him, Potter."
"I realise that, but why? I mean, for Merlin's sake, I said good things."
Blaise nodded again. "I know. Look, Potter, you have to understand. He's done everything he can to try to disappear into the woodwork this year. He's trying so hard to..."
Blaise sighed. "To not be him."
"You can't tell him I told you all this. He's very private. It's complicated. He both loves and hates Lucius." A muscle in Blaise's jaw twitched. "You don't know what that's like."
Harry remembered what he'd seen in Snape's mind -- the cruelty, the sick enjoyment his own father had got out of torturing another weaker kid. It wasn't the same -- Blaise was right -- but...
"Where is he, Blaise?"
Blaise looked between his eyes as though weighing it all. Then he exhaled. "Astronomy Tower."
Harry took off at a run.
Harry turned back to find Blaise frowning at him.
"You do know what the stag means, don't you?"
Harry hesitated. "He told you?"
"He told me."
He nodded slowly. "Yeah." Harry swallowed. "Yeah, I think I do know."
"Good," Blaise said. Then he turned and went back into his room.
Harry ran out of the common room, down the hall, around corners. He hit and took the stairs to the Astronomy Tower two at a time.
He rounded the corner to find Draco sitting with his back to the wall, knees drawn up. When he lifted his face, Harry saw red-rimmed eyes and wet cheeks. Draco sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve like a child. "Come to gloat, have you?"
Harry thought of a million and one things he could say, half of them true. Nothing so true as how badly he wanted to kiss him, though.
"You're the one that caught the Snitch, not me."
Draco gave a sick little laugh. "Why are you here then?"
"Oh, I don't know, Draco. Maybe because I give a shit." Harry fought the desire to gnash his teeth. God, how could he feel so many conflicting feelings for this one balled-up person, crying in a corner. This one horrid, beautiful soul. He sighed. "Why was it so important that your Patronus be a bird?"
"It's not. It's not important." Draco wouldn't meet his gaze.
"So what if it was, Potter?" Draco shouted. "It's not! It's over!"
"What's over? What are you talking about?"
"Do you think I'm up here because I'm playing a game of hide and seek? That I wanted you to find me like this?" Draco stood suddenly, throwing his arms out. His shirt was untucked on one side, his hair still damp from the rain. "Do you think I should be just so sodding happy? Do you think I wanted a bloody great gay stag, you bastard? Do you?"
Harry blinked. ...a bloody great gay stag... His heart was pounding. Lightning crackled through the sky, the thunder booming off the castle walls. But then, because Draco Malfoy got under his skin like no other wizard or witch alive or Muggle for that matter, he found himself shouting back, shouting over the rain that still came down in sheets. "No. No, I don't. With the way you've been acting the past several weeks, I imagine it's got to piss you off beyond measure for your Patronus to have anything to do with me. Never mind that it was fucking beautiful, Malfoy! Never mind that you bloody DID IT! Now tell me, damn it! Why did you need it to be a bird?"
"I just did, all right!"
"Because I needed to get a message to him!" Draco spun away, his hands going over his face as he shook.
Just as quickly as he'd turned away, Draco turned back, now enraged. "It was supposed to be a bird! It was supposed to be a bird! Something small enough to get in! Something to fly to... I haven't seen him! Don't you understand, they won't even let me SEE HIM!"
Harry swallowed. "Your father."
Draco broke into new sobs, falling back against the wall again, and as if too exhausted to stand, he slid down.
"You wanted to send your Patronus to your father in Azkaban."
Draco buried his face in his knees.
Harry exhaled. He didn't know what he'd been expecting. It just wasn't this. The futility... the loneliness of it... the near hopelessness... That Draco had worked all year long for something so far beyond his reach, so out of his control.
That his heart had held onto that hope against all the odds.
Tears filled Harry's eyes, and such compassion as he'd never felt made his heart positively ache. He walked forward slowly and crouched in front of Draco, not daring to touch him. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Draco dried his eyes once more with his sleeve and then lifted his face, his expression full of false pride.
Harry frowned. "Did you think I wouldn't want to help you?"
"Contact my Death Eater father? Why ever not?"
"Draco, you were a Death Eater, and I've bloody snogged you stupid."
Draco's face split into an almost insane and most definitely involuntary smile. "Why, Potter, are you saying you want to snog my father?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "May I sit next to you?"
Draco turned his face away, which Harry took for grudging assent. He sat down with his back to the wall, his whole left side touching Draco's right.
"What could you have done?" Draco asked, his voice so small.
"Well, I don't know, but... Bloody something, Malfoy."
To Harry's immense surprise, Draco turned his gaze on him, and he smiled, genuinely smiled at him, though it was a sad and broken smile. "You would. Wouldn't you have?" He gave a quiet laugh. "Saviour Potter."
"You can make fun of me all you like but--"
"I'm not making fun of you, Harry."
Their gazes met. Draco's grey eyes were almost blue from the tears. Almost, almost blue. Harry felt like he could fall straight into them and never emerge. Except that Draco's gaze dropped to his lips, his eyelids grown heavy. For a moment it felt like Draco wanted to lean into Harry's body, to fall against him and let himself be held.
Harry asked, "Want to get out of here?"
Not taking his eyes off Harry's lips, Draco nodded.
Harry's heart beat hard through his whole body. He stood and offered Draco his hand. Draco took it. Harry pulled him to his feet.
"Let's go, then."
They hadn't even stopped back at the dormitories. Harry spelled their clothes clean and dry, then he took Draco's hand. "Come on."
Outside the gates of the school, Draco asked, "Where are we going?"
"You'll see. Take my arm."
All the enmity from the last several weeks seemed to melt away as Draco looked at Harry and wrapped their arms together, once again taking Harry's hand. Harry closed his eyes and concentrated on where he wanted to go, breathing out, and then--
They landed in the parking lot at King's Cross.
Draco looked around. "Why...?"
Harry pulled his wand and removed the Disillusionment charm from his car. "This is why."
"Is that...? Potter, is this your car?" Draco walked forward slowly, extricating himself from Harry and reaching out a hand, not quite touching the car as though it might bite him.
Harry jogged over and opened the passenger side door for him. "I thought we could both use a bit of a break."
When Draco hesitated, Harry tried again.
"Do you...? Would you like to, Draco? Go on a drive with me, that is?"
Draco frowned for a moment. He swallowed and gave the car a worried look. Then all of that cleared from his face. His whole body seemed to relax the death grip he'd had on it. He nodded. "Yes. I'd like that."
Harry gestured toward the seat, giving him an encouraging smile, and Draco sat cautiously.
"Watch your fingers."
Draco quickly folded his hands into his lap with wide eyes. Harry smiled as he shut the door and then jogged around the back to the driver's side. He fit the key into the ignition, but when he realised Draco had made no move to buckle his seatbelt, Harry hesitated and then leaned over him, taking the belt and pulling it across Draco's body.
"You attach this here, like so," he said. "It's a Muggle contraption that keeps them safe if they crash."
Draco turned even wider eyes on him. "There's to be crashing?"
Harry huffed a laugh. "Don't worry. Crashes don't happen a lot." At Draco's continued wariness, Harry said, "I've never crashed. And I put wards on my car, too."
At this, Draco visibly relaxed. He ran his hands over the dash, explored the visor, pulled at the seatbelt, testing it. This car was to Draco Malfoy what Harry's first flying broom had been to him.
Harry started the car, and Draco startled.
"Don't worry. That's supposed to happen. It has an engine that runs on gasoline."
Draco wrinkled his nose. "How atrocious."
"Yes, well, when you're head of the Muggle Liaison Office, you can work on introducing magic to Muggle transportation systems." Harry backed out of the parking space, resting his hand on the headrest of Draco's seat to look behind.
"What the--?" Draco braced against the dash as Harry switched into 'drive' and manoeuvered out of the parking lot.
Harry explained the mechanics of cars to him all the way out of London, and Draco half-listened and half-tensed.
It wasn't until they got out on the country road Harry'd discovered last summer and he opened it up and sped along that Draco started to relax again. It seemed to have been the congestion of London traffic -- the stopping and starting -- that had him on edge. Once they were really driving, he let go of the dash entirely. He even rolled down his window, as the rain had slowed back to a mist again -- and Harry took surreptitious glances at his lifted chin, his nearly closed eyes.
"What do you think?" Harry asked.
"Mmm. It's a bit like flying low to the ground, isn't it?"
Draco turned his head against the headrest and looked at him. "So, Potter. Do you have a destination in mind?"
Harry shrugged. "Not really. Sometimes I just drive up and down this road."
"Where does it go?"
"I dunno. All over?"
The rain began again, striking the windshield in a quickening cadence. Draco rolled his window back up. "Is it safe to keep going forward now?"
Harry chuckled. "Yeah. It's safe. I promise not to do anything reckless."
"Must take great restraint on your Gryffindor heart to make such a promise." A soft smile graced Draco's lips, and he closed his eyes.
Harry turned the radio on, and they drove on without speaking, listening only to the tapping of the rain on the hood and some Muggle music playing softly.
He wasn't sure how far they'd gone when Draco sighed. At least, Harry had thought it was a sigh. When he peeked over, he saw the thin track of a fresh tear on his face.
"Could we, um, stop for a bit, Potter?"
"Oh. Yeah. Sure." Harry bit his lip and looked for some kind of turn out. It was very dark now, and the rain was coming down hard. It was the countryside, and though farm houses dotted the landscape in the distance, Harry didn't think they'd take too kindly to a couple of teenaged wizards stopping for a while along their drives.
"There," Draco said, pointing. "That tree."
"Okay, I'll try," Harry said. And at first it seemed impossible to get to, this big beautiful tree standing on its own in a vast field. But as he slowed the car, Harry saw the tire tracks through the grass and in between a break in the fence leading off to the left of the lane. He signalled, though there were no other cars in sight. He looked for a 'No Trespassing' sign but saw none. There was no house on the horizon here, only hills rolling away to a very distant forest.
Harry pulled in near the tree, putting the car in park and then cutting the engine and the headlights. He didn't take the key out, though, leaving it turned in the ignition enough that the radio and the dash lights remained on. If he ran the battery down, he could always jump it with his wand. He'd had to do that after he learned the hard way not to leave the headlights on overnight.
Draco unbuckled his seatbelt, and Harry followed suit. The rain pelted the car, obscuring the view in moments.
"I hate him, you know." Draco said the words to his hands, tangled together in his lap.
Harry's lips parted, but no sound came out. He had no idea what to say to the confession.
Draco shot him a wry smile, a few stubborn tears stuck in his lashes. "Don't worry. I know you hate him, too." He looked back down. "I just wish that's all I felt."
"Why won't they let you see him?"
Draco shrugged. "I guess they think he could be a bad influence on my development into a respectable wizard. They don't know that nothing he does could make me want to be like him anymore." He shook his head. "And still I can't bloody stand the idea of him in there."
Harry almost couldn't believe that Draco was telling him all this. It felt like an extraordinary occurrence, like an eclipse or the passing of a comet. The last thing he wanted was to cock it up. "Maybe I can help."
"With which part?"
He'd have to tread carefully here. He wasn't entirely sure he'd want Lucius Malfoy's sentence commuted after all. "Maybe if we talk to McGonagall, she can work out a way for you to visit."
"Maybe," Draco said, but he didn't sound like he believed it.
They sat in the loud kind of quiet only a hard rain could produce. A new song, slow and sad, started on the radio.
"I'm sorry." Draco's lip trembled.
They were the only two words Harry had ever longed to hear from him, yet now that Draco had said them, all Harry wanted to do was tell him it was okay. Even about the things that weren't.
But Draco wasn't finished. The words began pouring out of him, unstoppable as the deluge. "I'm sorry I was a bastard to you for so many years. I'm sorry that I didn't know any better, and that once I did know better, I just kept being a bastard.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you why I wanted a Patronus. And I'm sorry I got angry at you for saying nice things about me in the paper. I'm sorry I wasted your time, and I'm fucking sorry I've been too scared and ashamed and bloody stupid to even talk to you when all I've wanted these past few weeks was to--"
He turned his frightened gaze on Harry as though he'd said too much.
Every word ripped through Harry. Every word dissolved a little more of the barrier he didn't even realise he'd fortified in order not to feel the loss of him -- to be okay with the fact that Draco didn't want him anymore.
Yet there he sat. Wanting Harry.
"I'm sorry, too," Harry said. He looked at his own hands, fingers tracing the bottom of the steering wheel above his thighs. He shook his head. "I should have come to you. I mean, I bloody knew I needed to talk to you, but fuck, Draco, you piss me off so much sometimes, and--"
His words were cut short as suddenly Draco's lips pressed to his, his hand cupping Harry's jaw, and as Harry gasped, Draco's tongue sought entrance, and Harry gave it. Harry grabbed him up, pulling Draco's body close. They kissed, hard and deep. When Harry plunged his tongue into Draco's mouth, Draco made one of those sounds, the ones that Harry had so missed, and Harry answered it, pulling him even closer until Draco straddled his lap.
Draco cupped his face and changed the fit of their lips. He smelled like hot rain, like Quidditch and ozone. Without thinking, Harry ripped the jumper over Draco's head and then dropped trembling fingers to his shirt and fought to get it open. Once he had, Draco helped, shrugging it off his shoulders and tossing it aside while still they kissed.
Harry's arms came around Draco's naked torso. He gripped at his wiry muscles and soft skin, running hungry hands up and down Draco's back.
Draco gasped out of the kiss and looked into Harry's eyes as he tenderly removed Harry's glasses, folded the arms, and set them behind on the dash. When he turned back, he pulled Harry's jumper off, too, and then worked on his shirt and tie. Harry drank in the sight of Draco's chest, his stomach as he breathed quick and warm in Harry's face. Draco slipped the tie free of Harry's collar and flung it behind himself where it draped over the steering wheel. He pushed Harry's shirt off his shoulders. They kissed again, but then Draco's mouth moved to beneath Harry's ear, the side of his neck, his throat, licking and humming and sucking softly. He bent and bit along Harry's collarbone. Harry let his head drop back against the seat. "God, Malfoy..."
At the sound of his name, Draco pulled back slightly. His eyes held a question, a hesitation. He unfastened his own trousers. Harry stroked a hand through Draco's hair before he rose up enough to shove his trousers and pants down around his thighs, his neck bent at an odd angle from the low roof of the car.
Draco climbed off him, plopping his naked arse back down on the passenger seat to kick off his shoes and finish with his trousers. Harry went to remove his own and accidentally leaned on the horn.
Draco beamed a bright smile at him. Harry's gaze dropped to his hard cock, the way it stood out from its dark blond nest of hair and bobbed as Draco moved to strip off his socks. Merlin, he'd honestly thought he'd never see Draco naked again unless it was to walk in on him in the showers.
And now he was voluntarily stripping for Harry.
He was smiling.
He was ethereal and so very solid and human all at once.
"Do you want to...?" Harry glanced at the back seat, swallowing past the nervous lump in his throat.
Draco nodded silently. He started to crawl over the back of the seat while Harry ditched his shoes in the foot well. Harry unapologetically gawped at Draco's arse as he went. Draco grabbed Harry's jumper at the last moment, and Harry frowned a question at him. But Draco was already folding it, then lying back, his head on it like a pillow, hand loosely grasping his own cock as if to reassure it while he waited for Harry to join him.
Bloody fucking hell...
Harry finished with his own clothes and crawled into the backseat, too. Draco smiled at him shyly. He bent a knee, resting it against the back of the seat, and opened his other leg.
Overwhelmed, Harry ran both hands through his own hair. "Fuck, you're beautiful."
Draco's lips curved up slowly, his eyes alight. The tips of his ears blushed. His own gaze fell to Harry's stomach, then his cock, which was leaning to one side, heavy and dark.
The rain pattered on the roof overhead as Harry took Draco's legs in a tentative grip. He swallowed, licking his lips. "I want..." he whispered. Draco tilted his head at him, waiting. "Fuck, I want..." He slid his hands up Draco's thighs and leaned down over him. He pressed a kiss to the underside of Draco's dick and heard him inhale sharply.
"Is this okay?" Harry murmured against the warm cock brushing his lips.
Draco whined, high and tight in the back of his throat. Harry guided Draco's cock into his mouth and sucked.
He could hardly take any of the length, not even half, but Draco seemed not to mind. He seemed not to mind in the least. He whined some more and thrashed his head as Harry moved on him, let it fill his mouth, meeting his stretched lips with his own hand.
Draco made these little "nn, nn, nnnn" sounds that thrilled Harry endlessly. He ran the fingers of one hand up to flick and rub at Draco's nipple while he sucked, just to see if that changed the sounds he made. It did. Draco's neck arched as he pressed up into Harry's fingers, and he whimpered.
"Potter," he gasped.
Harry hummed around the thick cock in his mouth and bobbed his head faster. Fuck, it was good. It was so good. The slick, warm taste, the impossibly soft skin, how he could feel it throbbing with life on his tongue... The whole thing was marvellous, and Harry didn't want to stop.
"Potter!" Even as Draco pressed his chest into Harry's pinching fingers, he dropped a hand into Harry's hair and pushed. "Harry, stop, I'm going to come!"
Harry reluctantly lifted his mouth. It felt swollen, like the first time they'd kissed.
Draco had said his name.
Harry smiled at him, still playing with the sensitive nub of his nipple under the rough pad of his thumb. "Isn't that the point, Draco?"
"I have to tell you something."
"Was I not good? You can tell me what to do... what you like..."
"No, it's not that. Bloody hell, what part of 'I'm going to come' makes you think it wasn't good, you idiot? Could you just come up here for a minute?"
Harry crawled up his body. Their cocks touched and nestled together as Harry came to rest between Draco's legs. They gasped, one right after the other. Harry laughed a little. He couldn't help it. That this was happening -- his naked skin against Draco Malfoy's... He could feel the blood pumping through Draco's body as if it were his own.
Draco's eyes shifted between his. "I want you to do it." As he breathed, his stomach would touch Harry's only to retract on his exhale. It felt so utterly intimate. Harry could have gotten lost in the sensation of it, except...
"You know what. I want you to do it."
Harry's eyes widened. "You...? You do?"
Draco nodded. "Do you want to?"
"Are you kidding?"
Draco blushed, his gaze dropping to Harry's lips. He whispered it: "I want you inside me."
Harry swallowed nervously. His cock ached for it so badly it nearly hurt. "You're sure?"
"You do know I've never done this."
"I haven't either." He wrapped his hand around the back of Harry's neck. He tilted his hips up, rubbing their pricks together.
"Oh fuck," Harry moaned.
Draco exerted a gentle pressure at the back of his neck, pulling him down. He placed his lips at Harry's ear. "I want you to fuck me, Harry."
Harry dropped his head to Draco's shoulder. "Shit, Draco, don't say it again or I'll come."
He felt Draco smile against the shell of his ear. He felt the tremors in his body, the fear and the excitement combining until they were interchangeable, wound up tight together... Until Harry didn't know if Draco was the one shaking or if it was him.
He pulled back only enough to find Draco's lips and kiss him. He did it slow, opening Draco's mouth under his own and dipping his tongue barely inside. Draco met him, mewled, shifted his hips again. Harry groaned and kissed him harder. He held out his hand and focused on the glove compartment, pulling with his magic until it popped open and the little jar of lube he kept there flew to him.
Draco broke the kiss and raised an eyebrow at it.
Harry shrugged. "I have a wank here and there."
Draco smiled at him. "That's hot, Potter -- you beating off in your car."
"Really? I'd thought it was more, I dunno, pathetic."
Draco shook his head. "No. It's hot." His hand trailed down Harry's body. His fingers sifted over the trail of hair on his abdomen, up and down... up and down. Harry's cock jerked toward the touch. Draco's eyes twinkled as he looked up at Harry. He left off touching him to take the jar, opening it while Harry's breath went ragged. He slicked up Harry's cock, the loose circle of his fingers moving up and down the length.
Harry closed his eyes and stopped breathing altogether. He braced against the seat and over Draco's head and rocked his hips. Draco went back to stroking his stomach while he wanked him and Harry thrust. "Yeah," Draco whispered. "Merlin, that's so hot."
Harry opened his eyes to see Draco there beneath him, smiling. He'd have appeared relaxed if not for the faint trembling, the hint of anxiety in his eyes.
"I mean, if that's how hot you look fucking my fist, Potter..."
Seeing the smile that lit Draco's face, all Harry could do was growl -- and snog the shit out of him.
He could have kissed him all night, too, even though he was beyond ready to fuck. But Draco started doing something between their bodies, letting go of Harry's bobbing dick and picking up the lube again. Harry pulled back to watch him as he slathered a goodly amount on his fingers and then reached down and...
"Holy hell," Harry breathed as he watched Draco slowly work a finger into his own arsehole.
Draco's mouth opened on a soft sigh as he pushed it in and pulled it out. Harry squeezed around the base of his cock for a few moments just to get a hold on himself. He'd never seen anything so provocative in his whole life. Draco's body rippled as he did it, his stomach muscles tensing so he could reach, his neck arching and exposing the long column of his throat.
He added a second finger more slowly, but soon he'd widened his leg as far as it would go, pulling his knee in toward his shoulder, and Harry felt like the luckiest bloke alive getting to see this.
"I think..." Draco gasped. "I think I'm r-ready."
Draco nodded. Harry got a hand under his knee and pushed up. Draco scooted down a little more. He draped his other leg over Harry's shoulder, and the gesture was so sweet and dirty, Harry could hardly stand it -- the feel of the hair along Draco's leg brushing his shoulder and back...
Harry took his cock in hand and aimed it. He had to feel around quite a lot to get himself lined up with Draco's arse. But then he found what he wanted, that slickened whorl, so warm and pliant. He nudged. "Yeah?"
"Mm-hmm." Draco bit his lip, his brows knit. He waited, heel tense against Harry's back.
The rain ran down the windows, the roar of it drowning everything else out. Harry looked down into Draco's eyes... and he pushed.
It took a couple of tries, but then--
Draco gasped as Harry felt himself pop inside, just like that.
"Does it hurt?" Harry managed.
Draco shook his head. "Keep going."
Harry braced as best he could. He watched Draco's face for signs of pain. He drove forward slowly, slipping in an inch at a time. Draco's hands came around his upper arms and held tight. His eyes widened.
Harry licked his lips and pushed until he was all the way in and he felt Draco's arse against his pelvis. "Draco... Merlin..."
"What?" Draco asked. "Do I feel okay?"
"Okay?" Harry wanted to laugh at the dolt. "You feel bloody amazing! You're so tight, though. Am I hurting you?"
There were tears caught in Draco's lashes again, but he smiled up at Harry. He shook his head. "I feel..."
Harry adjusted his position, and Draco gasped again.
"No... It's not bad. I feel..." His eyes blazed with arousal. "I feel so full." He rocked his hips and bit his lip.
Harry took the hint and rolled his hips, pushing his cock into Draco's arse gently.
"Oh God..." Draco sighed. He let go of Harry's arms to brace his hands over his head.
Harry thrust into him a little harder, feeling the way relax a little. He closed his eyes for a moment, nearly overcome. He swallowed thickly and opened his eyes again, peering down at Draco's transformed face, the almost-bliss he saw there.
Harry went faster. It felt so bloody good to go faster. The friction, the wet slap. He tensed his buttocks and whipped into him, and Draco just groaned, his brow creased again, his cock going all the way hard once more between their bodies.
Merlin, Draco liked it. He liked it maybe as much as Harry liked doing it to him. Loved it, even.
Draco dropped a hand down and started fondling his own cock. His clever hand slipped over the glistening head time and again. Harry's name fell from his lips -- a mantra or a spell. When he came, he mewled those little throat sounds and arched, and the way his arse clamped down on Harry's cock, the way it fluttered...
"Oh God," Harry said. And even as Draco's sated body relaxed, Harry tensed. He started fucking into him hard, gritting his teeth as Draco sighed and smiled up at him and whispered to him, encouraging him, bringing him off as much with his words as his body: "That's it, Potter. God, yes, fuck me. Fuck me, damn you. Come in me. Harry, come in me."
Harry threw his head back as it happened, as he filled Draco Malfoy's arse with his warm semen, and Draco's hands roamed his body, his leg sliding off Harry's shoulder so he could pull him down, rest Harry's forehead against his own, the both of them shuddering... shuddering... as the rain continued to fall.
They weren't that late. Frankly, Harry was shocked that it was a quarter past eleven when they walked through the castle gates. Almost as shocked as he was by the three Aurors standing there with Headmistress McGonagall.
Fear flashed hot through his body. Draco tensed beside him. Harry looked at him, but before he could voice the words, "It'll be okay," the group descended on them in a flurry of robes.
Harry caught phrases here and there: breakout attempt... unknown suspect... Lucius Malfoy...
They separated him from Draco, and the fear inside him turned deathly cold. "Wait, what? What are you saying?" Harry struggled with the Auror pulling him to one side.
"There was a breakout attempt on Lucius Malfoy's cell tonight," the Auror said. "We need to take your friend in for questioning."
"What?!" Harry watched as the other two Aurors took an intimidating stance facing Draco. Professor McGonagall raised her hands in front of her, as if to try to slow things down.
Draco's wild eyes found Harry's.
One of the Aurors stalking him pulled her wand.
"No!" Harry shouted. He struggled against the man holding his arms. "You can't do this! Let him go! He's innocent! He didn't do anything!"
"Mr Potter, calm down," McGonagall said sternly. Her gaze held a strong warning, but Harry simply couldn't obey it.
"Wait! If you need to question him, do it here! You don't need to take him away, do you hear me? I'll tell you everything you need to know! Let go of him!"
"Mr Potter, this is Ministry protocol," the Auror holding his arms said. "Now quit fighting me or we'll have to arrest you, too."
"Fine! Great! Arrest me, too," Harry said. "Draco was with me all night, so if he did anything wrong, he must have had my help, because he never left my sight!"
At least that stopped them manhandling Draco toward the gates. The witch frowned at him. "You were with him all night?"
Harry took a deep breath. "Yes."
"And where were you?"
Harry caught Draco's frightened gaze and swallowed. "We were in my car. Parked off the A12 just north of Eye."
"You were in a... car? A Muggle car?"
"Yes, I own a 1961 Morris Minor sedan. Fog-coloured." Harry raised his chin in defiance. "It's in the King's Cross lot now if you want to check it for magical signatures." And holy fuck would they get them if they checked! Harry had no doubt they'd be strong, pulsing even, with what he and Draco had done.
"So..." the third Auror finally piped up. "You were in a parked car, with Mr Malfoy, all evening?"
"Is this true?" the witch asked Draco.
He nodded. "Yes. It's true." And of course his ears went red. Better than going to Azkaban, Harry thought.
Their grip loosened on Draco, and Harry felt like it might almost be safe to breathe again.
"Headmistress McGonagall, under light of these new, er, circumstances, we'll need to ask that you prevent Mr Malfoy from leaving the school grounds until we've investigated this matter fully."
"I assure you that won't be a problem." She gave both Draco and Harry death glares.
Harry lifted his chin in response.
They let Draco go and began to walk toward the castle gates.
They all turned at the sound of Draco's voice.
"My father! What's happened to my father? Is he-- Is he all right?"
Harry's heart broke for the agony in his voice.
The witch stepped forward. "Lucius Malfoy is safe and secure in a new cell. If your alibi checks out and we find the person responsible, you'll be free to move about as you wish." She turned to go again.
"Will I be able to see him?" Draco pleaded. His voice softened when she turned back once more. "I just want to see him."
She looked at the other Aurors and then back at Draco. She sighed and turned her gaze on McGonagall. "I think we can probably arrange something. If your story checks out."
Harry was surprised when it was McGonagall who answered. "It most certainly will." She placed her hand on Draco's shoulder.
"Very well, ma'am. Thank you for your time. We'll contact you with any further questions." The Auror nodded. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight." The headmistress waited until they were through the castle gates then drew her wand and cast five warding spells in quick succession. She turned on both of them. "You are not, either one of you, allowed off school grounds until the end of the year, do you understand me?"
"Yes, Professor," they answered.
"If three Aurors show up here again, I'm punishing the both of you before they even say two words! I don't care if you did anything wrong or not!"
"Mr Malfoy, go to your dormitory at once and don't come out for anything but breakfast."
Draco cast Harry a loaded look. "Yes, Professor." He turned and strode through the courtyard and into the castle.
"Harry." McGonagall said his name on a frustrated exhale. "Walk with me, please."
They strolled without haste over to a garden bench where she gestured for him to sit and then joined him.
"Please don't punish Draco. It's my fault we were late."
She shook her head as though every word from his mouth increased the likelihood of a nasty headache. "Harry," she said. "I know it's your fault. Have you any idea how hard that boy is trying to be good?"
"Yes, Professor. I have."
"Then I must implore you to help him last the rest of this year. I know he wasn't the one to break into Azkaban, of course, but he's really just one perceived injustice away from trying it himself."
"Well, if you know that... With all due respect, why aren't you doing more to help him?"
She just smiled at him. "Do you assume that while you've been mending the castle with Professor Snape, Draco has been made to write lines in my office? Is that what you think?"
Harry simply blinked at her.
She sighed. "Mr Malfoy has not been sitting his detentions with me. He's been sitting them with Albus Dumbledore."
Harry's mouth went dry. "What?"
"Draco Malfoy's education at this school is of utmost importance, Harry. Not only because of the conditions of his probation but because..." She faltered and seemed to find it difficult to keep looking Harry in the eye. "Because we failed him."
"Professor?" Harry frowned.
"It was our responsibility to teach him properly, to help him become a good wizard and a good person." To Harry's surprise, tears filled her eyes. "We were supposed to keep him safe. We failed. On all counts."
"So his detention..."
She smiled, but the sadness was still there. "That boy needs more good people to simply talk to. You're one of those people, you know, Harry." After a moment, she cleared her throat. "Although, I doubt you'd need to run off in your Muggle car to just talk."
Harry could feel how wide his eyes were. Words stuck in his throat when he parted his lips to say something. She beat him to it regardless.
"By the way, if you and your friends want to use the Room of Requirement for one last party before school lets out, I'll allow it -- so long as you can keep Mr Odgen from supplying any more of his family's wares."
"Mr... Ogden? Do you mean Ned? Ned's an Ogden? Like... the Ogdens?"
"Yes, as in the Firewhisky, Harry. There's to be no more of that on school grounds. Can I trust you and your friends to abide by this simple stipulation?"
"Er, of course. Absolutely, Professor."
"Good. Then I shall ask only one more thing of you."
She placed a gentle hand on his leg. "You and Mr Malfoy have every right to pursue your feelings for one another. Just, please. Don't encourage him to break any more rules. I've already had to pull teeth at the Ministry as it is to get them to agree to discuss his visitation rights. Don't give them any reason to deny him that. No matter how big of bastards they are."
Harry's eyes widened again.
"Oh, not Arthur or Kingsley," she amended. "But he can only sack so many people at once, you know." She sat back. "So? Do you think you can be good for the rest of the year? Or do I need to transfer you to Durmstrang to keep you from abducting Mr Malfoy away in your sex car?"
"No," he said hastily. "No, I'll be good." He felt the blush seep down his neck.
She smiled at him. Her eyes twinkled. "Thank you, Mr Potter."
"Er, you're welcome, Professor."
"N.E.W.T.s are in a few weeks, Harry. I know you're more than qualified, but make sure you don't snog your evenings away entirely. Follow Ms Granger's example and study even though you're already brilliant have a perfectly fit boyfriend, yes?"
"And Professor Snape would like a word with you in his office after you've taken your N.E.W.T.s"
"Okay. Thank you, Professor."
She started to stand up and then stopped. "Can you keep a secret, Mr Potter?"
He gulped. "I suppose so."
"I'm meeting with Gringotts tomorrow on Mr Malfoy's behalf. They're training new curse-breakers starting next Fall. With his Defence and Arithmancy marks, I think he'd be brilliant. Don't you?"
Harry smiled. "You're helping him find work?"
"Well, I'm only steering him in that direction. Three Quidditch teams already have their eye on him, too."
"They do?" Harry scanned himself for the jealousy he thought he'd feel hearing that, but all he encountered was... profound happiness. It bordered on joy.
"Oh yes. They'll likely be after you, too, you know. But," she said, a warning tone coming into her voice. Then she seemed to second-guess herself. "Well, just don't sign with any teams until after you've spoken with Professor Snape."
"Er, okay?" Was Snape starting his own Quidditch team or something? Harry found himself both amused and intrigued by the thought. What would they be called? The Surly Gits. The Oily Occlumencers. Total Bastard Heroes. Harry smiled to himself.
McGonagall stood. "Well," she said. "I promised Professor Sinistra I'd play her a game of witch's chess if she'd brew her famous blueberry tea for me. You may say your goodnights to Mr Malfoy, but he is not to come out of that room, do you hear me?"
"Very good, Mr Potter. Very, very good indeed." She smiled warmly at him and then took herself at a brisk walk back toward the castle.
"Professor!" Harry called after her, jogging to catch up.
"Yes, Mr Potter."
"Lucius Malfoy," he said. "Do you have any idea who'd want to break him out? It wouldn't have been..." Merlin, he didn't even want to suggest it. But he had to. "Mrs Malfoy?"
"No, I don't think so," McGonagall said readily, prompting Harry to exhale his relief. "Do you know what's truly interesting about it, Harry?"
He shook his head.
"There were no magic markers whatsoever. Not Dark. Not anything. What do you suppose that means?"
"I don't know, Professor."
"Neither do I." She gave him a curt smile this time. "Goodnight."
Harry climbed the steps of the castle slowly. The rain had completely stopped now, but the stone was still wet and dark under his shoes. As he walked across the entrance hall to the stairs, his mind was filled with questions about what had happened tonight in Azkaban. If the curfew hadn't been in effect, he felt sure he would have gone to the Ministry himself to investigate.
Maybe he really ought to become an Auror.
And yet, if he were to become one... Merlin, he'd be one of the people tasked with apprehending and imprisoning people like Draco's father.
Who he'd had sex with.
Who he'd fucked.
Oh, who was he kidding?
Who he'd made love to.
Would he risk whatever this was between Draco and himself for an old dream he wasn't even sure he wanted anymore?
As he took the stairs slowly, he frowned at the fact that the year was almost over and he still had no idea what he wanted to do with himself.
McGonagall had said the Quidditch teams would try to recruit him. And he had felt something akin to joy flying with Draco again tonight.
Yet how much of that was flying?
And how much was it flying with Draco?
"Bugger," he muttered to himself, no closer to an answer now that he'd reached the third floor landing.
He smiled to himself. Merlin, he'd done that word tonight. He'd buggered someone. He'd been deep inside Draco's arse. They'd fucked. It seemed both an obscenity to think about it like that and some sort of indescribable bliss. His smile grew bigger, and he had the insane desire to dance rather than walk down the hall to the common room door.
N.E.W.Ts could wait. Jobs could wait. Even getting to the bottom of the breakout attempt could wait.
Harry had made love to his boyfriend, and all he wanted was to kiss him one last time before falling into his own bed and passing out cold.
He reached Draco's dormitory door and gave a soft knock. Bloody hell, he could hear Neville snoring from all the way in the hall.
It was only a few seconds before the door cracked open, and Draco's face appeared. He looked completely conflicted. "Potter, what are you doing here? I can't leave the room, remember?"
"I know," Harry said, an irrepressible smile tugging at the corners of his lips. "She said I could say goodnight to you as long as you stay inside."
Harry nodded. "And I wanted to tell you that..." He knew the words he wanted to say only a moment before he said them. And he meant them. "I'm glad your father's all right."
Draco blinked. His brows knit. "You are?"
Harry peered past him to see Blaise reading on his bed (studiously not looking up) and Ron and Neville (obviously) both already asleep. He reached out and took Draco's hand in his. "Yeah. I am. And they'll find out what happened. Don't worry."
"Do you really think it'll be okay?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I do." He gave Draco's hand a squeeze.
"Yeah?" Harry's heart did a freaky little flip.
"I'd really like to kiss you."
Harry leaned in. "I'd really like to kiss you, too."
Their lips brushed. They brushed again. Harry touched his tongue to Draco's bottom lip and marvelled that it was the very thing he'd thought it would never be.
Merlin, but kissing Draco Malfoy was the easiest thing in the world.
When their lips parted on a soft, moist sound, Draco whispered to him, so close their lips touched, "I can still feel you. Inside me."
"Oh my God. You just made me hard, you bastard." Harry laughed quietly.
Draco smiled back at him in delight, his gaze dark with arousal.
Harry squeezed his hand. He wanted to touch him everywhere.
They kissed again -- once, twice, three more times, rough and happy.
Neville snorted like some sort of ungulate.
"Bloody hell, how do you live with him?"
"I really don't know."
Blaise suddenly put down his book and pulled his wand. "Silencio." He went back to reading in the new silence.
"Merlin," Harry said. "It's a wonder I can't hear him through the hole in the wall."
"Through the what?"
Harry blinked. "Er... I guess I should have... There's a... There's a, er... There's a bloody hole in the wall between our rooms, okay?"
He'd expected Draco to get all uppity pissed off about it -- like he irrationally did most things it seemed -- but the slow smile that spread across his face surprised Harry. "Do you mean I really did hear you? Wanking? I didn't just imagine it?"
Harry smiled. "Yeah. I sort of... wanked when you did."
Draco's ears went adorably pink. "Oh fuck, I said your name." He dropped his gaze, embarrassed. "Shit. I said your name."
Harry glanced over his shoulder to check that Blaise was still reading, then he slid his hand into Draco's hair. Draco lifted his gaze once more.
"Draco," Harry whispered. "I bloody loved it."
Draco gave him a bright, shy smile. He looked over his shoulder in Blaise's direction, too. When he turned back, he said, "I, er, need to go."
"Yeah. Me, too."
"See you at breakfast?"
"Yeah, of course."
Draco leaned in and kissed him quickly one last time. Harry backed away with an absurdly goofy grin on his face; he could feel it.
He'd turned to his own door and was about to open it when something important rang out in his mind. "Draco!" he whispered.
Draco, halfway to closing himself inside his dormitory once more, peeked back out, eyebrows raised and hopeful. "Yes?"
"Do you still... hate your Patronus?"
Draco's face relaxed. Something shone in his eyes that Harry didn't think he'd ever seen there before. "I never hated it, Harry."
"Even though it's a 'great gay stag'?"
Draco smiled tenderly at him. "I cast a Patronus," he said. "I think I deserve to be fucking proud of that."
Harry smiled. "I--" God, the words that almost came out of his mouth! Those words... Harry swallowed. "I'm proud of you, too."
Harry closed himself inside his room before he could cock things up completely. He checked that Gordon had food and water, and he changed into his pyjamas. He crawled into bed, his body suddenly weighted down with invisible bricks. Merlin, he was exhausted.
He got under the covers, the spring night still cool and crisp.
Harry turned on his side and smiled.
"Goodnight, Draco," he said.
"Goodnight, Harry," came the reply.
Harry shut his eyes.
The weeks leading up to N.E.W.T.s were positively mad. Harry felt like he didn't get to see Draco nearly enough. Which wasn't exactly true. They'd managed a couple of stolen mutual wanks in forbidden places. They'd chatted each other up on the common room sofa. Harry had gone to bed achingly hard more times than he cared to count just from Draco's smooth voice telling him the things he wanted to do next time he got Harry alone. The only plus side to that was the hole in the wall. And Merlin, was that a pretty big plus.
But most of the time had been spent deep in their books.
To Harry's delight, Hermione had happily included Draco in their library jaunts. Ron had even joined in, fearful of Trolling out of Potions. They'd studied amicably together, the four of them, and though he and Draco never kissed or held hands or showed any overt affection to one another in their presence, Harry felt the looks Ron and Hermione exchanged with one another, and he knew it likely wouldn't be long before they cornered him about it.
Still, they were being really decent to Draco, and Draco, for his part, was pretty decent back. He helped Ron finally understand what was missing from his Pepperup Potion, even if he did sneak in a snide comment or two in the process.
The day of N.E.W.Ts, everyone was a bit of a wreck. Including Draco. Harry noticed him scowling more than he had in months, checking his parchments for answers compulsively, barely eating at breakfast, and avoiding Harry's gaze as though this were somehow vital to his success.
Harry finally caught up with him in the entrance hall between their Defence exam and Charms, the last N.E.W.T. of the day.
"Hey. You all right? You've avoided me all day."
"Of course I have, you daft git." Draco leaned in and whispered in Harry's ear. "I'd rather not have to take my N.E.W.T.s with a raging hard-on, thanks."
Harry blushed and nodded. "Okay. Just as long as we're all right."
Draco shot him a private smile. "We're brilliant." Then, "You did beautifully in Defence, didn't you? I did, of course. Charms won't be a challenge. I'm not anticipating anything less than an Exceeds Expectations from either of us." Then he lifted his chin toward Hermione. "It's her you should be worried about."
"Hermione? But she'll ace it. She always aces everything."
Draco shrugged. "She looks pretty green to me."
"Okay, well, if you're good..."
"Yeah, I'm fine," Draco insisted. "Totally flaccid and likely to throw up. Just how I like my N.E.W.T.s."
Harry laughed, gave his hand a surreptitious squeeze, and then made his way over to Hermione, who, indeed, looked practically frantic with fear.
"What's up?" Harry asked.
She immediately whirled on him and seized his shoulders in her hands. "What if I don't want to go to law school, Harry? What if I want to become an Auror? Or work for Gringotts? Or raise and care for blast-ended skrewts? Or have seven babies? Or become Headmistress of Hogwarts? Harry, what am I doing with my life?"
"I know, right?" Ron said, coming up next to her. "She's gone 'round the twist. What do you reckon?"
Suddenly she shrieked, "Oh my God, I've forgotten my Wailing Warner! The one Professor Flitwick said to bring because we'd be asked to remove the charm and change it back into a toy top!" She patted her robes as though they were on fire.
"Hey," Ron said gently, extracting it from his own robes. "Your arms and pockets were so full of your notes this morning that you asked me to hold onto it for you. Remember?"
Hermione slumped. "Oh, Ron. Thank you."
He nudged her chin up with his knuckle. "Listen to me, Hermione. You can be anything you want. Anything at all. Me, I've got about three or four decent options. And that's fine by me."
"Ronald Bilius Weasley, you're a first rate wizard, and you--!"
He cut her off. "No, hear me out." He took both of her hands in his. Harry couldn't help sneaking a peek at Draco, who was frowning and reciting something under his breath. Draco raised his gaze and saw Harry looking at him. He gave Harry a smile and a wink before going back to it. Harry smiled back and then focused on his friends once more.
Ron went on. "I could probably get hired on by a Quidditch team to sit their bench for the season. I could go into Auror training and bust my arse and never feel quite good enough. I could do some cool shit. But do you know what I really want?"
Hermione shook her head.
"I want to help George run the shop. What would you think of that?"
"Are you sure?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I'm pretty sure."
"Oh, Ron, I think if that would make you happy then it's absolutely brilliant!"
She palmed his cheek and nodded.
Ron smiled, and Harry felt like he was watching something that ought to have been private. But he was grateful nonetheless.
Ron turned to him. "What about you, mate? Are you going to take a Bludger bat to me if I don't want to become an Auror or a Quidditch star with you?"
Harry squeezed his friend's shoulder. "What potions are you on, you plonker?"
Ron smiled back at him.
"Besides," Harry said. "I don't have a bloody clue what I want. At least you're sure about something, right?"
"Thanks, mate." Ron turned his attention to Hermione again. "Now, I've got something to ask you, but I don't want you to give me an answer yet, all right?"
"Oh God..." Hermione went back to looking green.
"Oh, not that. At least, not yet anyway. I, er... Well, George and Angelina are moving out of the flat over the shop. They're building a cottage close to Mum and Dad. If you think you might like to... Well, that is... Just think about it, okay, but we could try it, you and me... Living together? If you wanted to! But--"
Hermione shut him up with a long, deep kiss.
It went on forever and was becoming a bit embarrassing when Professor McGonagall announced, "All seventh and eighth year Charms students! Please proceed into the Great Hall to sit your last N.E.W.T."
Harry and Draco were seated quite far from one another, a fact which Harry knew Draco would appreciate (and that appreciation did wonders for Harry's self-esteem, so it was fine). The essay part of the exam was brutal, but thanks in large part to Hermione's library drills, Harry felt he did well.
The practical application was where he wasn't sure what went wrong. He did fine casting charms and charming the objects given him during the exam. He'd known they'd be surprises in order to truly test their spur-of-the-moment abilities.
It was the Wailing Warner that flummoxed him. Try as he might, Harry couldn't remove the charm and revert it back into a top. It stayed stubbornly a Wailing Warner until Harry was forced to give up when time ran out.
He shook it as he made his way to the double doors.
"What's the matter, Harry?" Neville asked him.
"I couldn't remove the charm from it."
"Blimey. Why do you think?"
Harry shrugged. "I don't know, but I promised Teddy he could have the top. I mean, not that he even understood me or anything, but..."
"You can give him mine," Neville offered. But when he held it out, Harry saw that it was now square-shaped instead of round.
"Er, thanks, Neville, but he's probably way too young for it anyway, come to think of it."
"Right. Plus... yeah... it's square and all."
"Yeah. There is that." Harry nodded. He thrust the damnable Wailing Warner into his pocket, and they made their way out of the Great Hall slowly.
A palpable sense of relief pervaded the air. Everyone seemed to exhale all at once. The talk was lively, and giddy laughter erupted here and there as they all collectively realised that they were truly finished.
Harry saw Draco's blond head near the stairs where he was talking to the Patil twins. Harry was more than ready to talk to his boyfriend about how he'd fared, but before he could take three steps in that direction, a familiar voice stopped him.
"Mr Potter! Oh, Mr Potter!"
"Oh. Hello, Mr Creevey." Harry put on a polite smile. He supposed he should since the man hadn't twisted his words in the article he'd written despite Harry's fears that he might.
Mr Creevey shook his hand hard. He was sweating even though it was cool for a late Spring day. "Good to see you, Mr Potter. How did you like the article?"
"Oh, it was... It was good. Thanks."
"My boy, you're quite welcome." His eyes darted to and fro.
When he said nothing more and continued to absently shake Harry's hand, Harry cleared his throat. "Was there something I could help you with, sir? Are you looking for someone?"
"Oh. Why, yes I am, actually. Clever boy!"
Harry gave him a wan smile. All he wanted was to extricate himself and see Draco. Plus, there was a party planned for that night in the Room of Requirement, then tomorrow evening Professor McGonagall was throwing an end-of-the-year Ball. And he really needed to pack.
"Anyone I can help you locate?" Harry asked.
"Yes, yes... I'm looking for... for Draco Malfoy."
"Oh, er... Are you looking to interview him?"
"Yes, precisely. I'm looking to interview him." A bead of sweat rolled down Mr Creevey's cheek from his temple.
"Well..." A tight feeling developed in Harry's stomach. "He's quite private. I don't know if--"
"It would only be for a moment. For a short piece. You know..." Mr Creevey's eyes scanned the room rapaciously. His grip on Harry's hand had grown nearly painful.
Harry frowned. The feeling in his gut intensified. "Well, I don't know if the timing is right. We just finished our N.E.W.T.s, you see, and--"
Creevey's eyes lit up for a moment, seeing something -- or someone -- over Harry's shoulder. He walked past Harry without excusing himself, muttering under his breath. Something like '...look so like your father...'
Harry's breath caught.
In the next instance, his pocket let out a piercing cry. Harry's hand went to it automatically.
The Wailing Warner.
"Oh my God..."
Creevey's hand went to the pocket of his brown tweed jacket.
"DRACO!" Harry yelled.
Draco turned at the sound of his voice, eyes wide but unafraid.
Creevey was close, within steps of him. He withdrew his hand from his pocket...
Harry thrust his palm out. "Incarcerous!"
The ropes caught Creevey's arms, pinning them to his sides. They wrapped around his legs from thighs to ankles, and he went toppling to the floor. Several students skittered out of the way. Someone shrieked.
Harry fumbled into his robes and pulled out his wand. He stood over Creevey. "Don't you bloody move. Someone get McGonagall!"
Creevey rolled at his feet, turning face up. He was crying. "I can't," he sobbed. "I can't... I can't... I'm sorry, Colin. I'm sorry!"
Draco came to stand beside Harry, frowning down intensely. "What's going on?"
"I think he came here to attack you."
Draco looked at him. "What?"
"I think he's the one."
"The one what?" Comprehension dawned in the next moment. "The one that... tried to break my father out of Azkaban?"
Creevey simply cried at their feet as Harry nodded. "But I don't think he was trying to free him. I think he was going to kill him."
Draco peered down at the man rolling on the floor. "Is that... is that true?"
Creevey wept. "I'm sorry, Colin. I couldn't. I couldn't do it. I thought--"
"Why?" Harry asked. His throat constricted, and he thought he might be sick. "Why Lucius Malfoy? Why Draco?"
Creevey turned red-rimmed, wet eyes to him. "Someone... had to..."
"Had to what?"
Creevey gulped. "Pay."
"Voldemort paid!" Harry shouted, and several people around him gasped.
Creevey shook his head. "I--"
"Draco did nothing to your son," Harry said, teeth grit.
Draco put a hand on Harry's arm, as though he should stop. Harry frowned at him.
"I was... powerless. The death of He Who Must Not Be Named..." Creevey's lips parted, and his mouth worked, as though there were words he couldn't speak. "I... It still hurts," he cried. "I needed to make it stop hurting. How do you make it stop hurting? I'm so sorry...."
He dissolved into wretched, soundless weeping, and Harry didn't know who he was sorry to: his son, Draco, himself.... It was a tragic and horrible sight, this man transfigured by pain and bewilderment. No Imperius. Just the depth of his own grief.
Professor McGonagall arrived on the scene. "Mr Potter, is it true that you believe he was about to attack Mr Malfoy?"
"Yes, Professor. He was reaching for something in his pocket."
The headmistress knelt down, reached into Mr Creevey's pocket, and pulled out what Harry readily recognised as a gun.
Shocked murmurs went up around the entrance hall.
"Stand back, students. Please stand back."
At that, Ron and Hermione showed up and started ushering people back away from Creevey. Bulstrode and Zabini joined them, and together they created a perimeter around the man on the floor.
McGonagall pulled her wand and immediately Transfigured the gun into a bouquet of flowers, which she handed to Seamus Finnigan. His eyes went wide as Quaffles. Then she whipped her wand overhead, produced her Patronus, and sent it directly to the Auror Office.
She took down the spells protecting the castle gates, and within minutes -- enough time in which to ask Creevey every question under the sun -- booted steps rang out against the flagstones, and ten Aurors charged up the steps and into the castle.
"Merlin's beard," Seamus said.
"Finnigan," McGonagall said to him. "Give them the flowers." She turned her attention to the Head Auror. "They can easily be Transfigured back. He had a gun."
"He was here to kill Draco Malfoy," Harry said, his wand still steadfastly trained on the man.
Creevey had stopped rolling on the ground, but his whispering was incessant. "I couldn't do it. I wanted to do it. I couldn't do it. Forgive me. Please forgive me!"
Two Aurors knelt to haul him up and cart him away, but a quiet yet strong voice from Harry's side stopped them. "Wait."
Draco stepped forward.
"What is it, Draco?" McGonagall asked.
"I just... I need to say something. If I may."
"Just a moment," she said to the Aurors bearing down on their perpetrator.
Draco came to stand at Mr Creevey's feet. He blinked down at him. Silence filled the room except for the sound of Creevey's ragged breath.
Draco licked his lips. "I'm sorry for your son's death."
"Draco," McGonagall said. "You were not responsible--"
"I need to say this." He looked at her with perfectly calm eyes. Harry's heart pounded so hard, he could feel it moving his robes.
Draco knelt next to Mr Creevey. "My family did horrible things before and during the war. I don't blame you for hating us. And I'm sorry you lost someone you love. I just need you to know that."
Mr Creevey broke into horrible sobs of grief.
Draco stood slowly, and the Aurors moved in and helped Mr Creevey to stand. They removed Harry's spell and secured ones of their own and then escorted Mr Creevey out the doors while they all looked on.
Except Harry could only look at Draco. "Why did you do that?"
Draco swallowed, his expression resolute. "Because it needed to be done."
McGonagall called on Flitwick and Sprout to help the students disperse while she went with the Aurors to the gate. She instructed Sinistra to watch Draco until she could get back.
Harry stood by his side, awed by him. They looked into each other's eyes.
Ron walked over. To Harry's shock, he patted Draco's shoulder. "You've really changed, mate."
Draco gave him a nod of thanks, his confused smile-frown in place. Ron removed his hand, and Harry acted on instinct alone. He took Draco's face in his hands and kissed him in the middle of the entrance hall, soft and lingering.
The world nearly dissolved as Draco parted his lips and Harry wrapped his arms around him.
But Harry still heard Ron sigh dramatically, "I knew it."
While they awaited Professor McGonagall's return, Harry and Draco sat on the bottom stairs. Their friends crowded around them before Sinistra ordered them to their dormitories.
"Are you all right, Draco?" Padma had asked.
"If I were you, I would have clobbered that old git," Seamus had said.
"Oh, bollocks!" Pansy scoffed. "He who looked terrified to be holding a bunch of flowers."
They proceeded to make out.
Luna hugged Draco; Parvati told him she was glad he hadn't been hurt.
Ginny came over and smiled at them both. "I heard what you said, Draco. It was nice of you. But the past is the past. All right?"
"All right," Draco said quietly.
"See you two at the party tonight? Eleven o'clock?"
"Oh, um..." Harry began, looking at Draco to see how he felt about that.
But before he could answer, McGonagall returned. And she had an Auror with her.
"Mr Malfoy," she said.
"This is Auror Cassandra Browning. She's going to escort you to visit your father now. If you'd like to go see him, that is."
She smiled down at him. "Really."
Harry slid his hand into Draco's and squeezed.
"Thank you," Draco said to McGonagall, then to Auror Browning. He looked at Harry, hesitating.
"I'll see you later," Harry said with a small smile.
Draco nodded. He stood, slipping his hand out of Harry's. He went with the Auror but turned at the door. He gave Harry a short nod and a tremulous smile.
Once they'd gone, McGonagall said, "I believe you have an appointment with Professor Snape."
"Oh! That's right. With all the commotion... Thank you, Professor."
He stood quickly and set off down the hall.
He turned. "Yes?"
"Brilliant work today." She smiled at him and then turned to enter the Great Hall once more.
Harry made his way to Snape's office. But when he saw the door, a sense of dread skittered up his spine, and he wasn't sure why. It wasn't as though he was afraid of Snape -- not anymore. He'd come to think of him as a sort of mentor, actually. He'd come to think of him as... human, kind, strangely thoughtful. And just a bit grouchy.
Harry told himself he was being daft and knocked. He opened the door a hair. "Professor?" He stepped into the room.
Gone were the potions jars.
Gone were most of the books.
Gone were the quill stand and the severe chairs, though the latter had been replaced with squishy ones instead.
The feeling of dread increased as Harry slowly walked into the room. "Professor? It's Harry. I--"
"Yes, please do sit," Professor Snape said from the frame to the left.
"Hi." Harry smiled to see him there. He'd almost got the sense that Snape was gone what with the change in scenery. It was a relief -- and a pretty profound one -- to see him moving from his homey frame into the large canvas behind his desk as Harry sat.
"Hello, Mr Potter, and my, have we been busy today."
"Bit of a disturbance, was there?"
"Yeah, Mr Creevey, Colin Creevey's dad, he--"
"Yes, he went a bit 'round the twist, didn't he?"
"You could say that."
"Came here to kill Mr Malfoy?"
"And you stopped him, did you?"
"Well, I had a hand in it."
Snape waved his hand and rolled his eyes. "False modesty. I have no desire for this. In fact, it too closely resembles lying."
Harry swallowed. "Yes. I stopped him."
"And did I hear correctly that you also had an issue in your Charms exam?"
"Well, I couldn't get my Wailing Warner to go back to being a toy top. I don't know what's wrong with it. Or me," he hastened to add.
"Hmm. One would think it knew."
"That you would benefit more from its staying the same than you would an Outstanding on your Charms N.E.W.T."
"You... think it malfunctioned on purpose?"
Snape raised bored eyebrows.
Harry sighed. "Sir, if I may... The headmistress said you wanted to see me specifically after my exams. She said not to sign with any Quidditch teams before I spoke to you. Could you tell me why that is?"
"Which teams have you heard from?" Snape asked, ignoring his question.
"Er, I've got owls from the Falmouth Falcons and the Tutshill Tornadoes."
"For Seeker, I assume?"
"I believe so."
"Impressive, Mr Potter."
Harry cleared his throat, unprepared for a compliment from this man who, even now, seemed too enigmatic to predict. "Er, thank you."
"Has the Auror department contacted you yet?"
Snape waved his hand again. "They will. I give them until tomorrow morning. So what of being an Auror, Mr Potter?"
"Surely stepping in and saving Mr Malfoy's life both confirmed how suited you are to it and that you'd be fulfilled by such a career path?"
Harry opened his mouth but then found he had no idea what he wanted to say. He shut it again and frowned. "I don't know. I guess all I felt was... relieved. Maybe it just hasn't sunk in yet."
"Or maybe you're meant for something else."
"Do you mean Quidditch?"
Snape made a face like Harry was being purposefully obtuse.
"Well, what?" Harry snapped.
At this, the corner of Snape's mouth lifted in a smile. "Why don't you scan your two-track mind for all the myriad things the Saviour of the World might do with himself? Tell me, Harry. When you look back on this year of your life... what made you the happiest?"
"Yes. Forget about everything else -- your marks, the expectations of others... Close your eyes and tell me when you were happy."
"Merlin, all right!" But though he was frustrated with Snape's caginess and eye-rolling, when he shut his eyes, he was almost immediately more relaxed.
Harry took a deep breath and let his mind go with the question.
What had made him happy?
What had made him truly happy?
It took only one inhale, and he went straight there: into the clearing, wand drawn, Draco by his side.
"All right, well, the hardest part of producing a Patronus – and the easiest part, once you get it – is that you have to feel it."
As though it was happening right there in Snape's office, Harry's heart swelled; the fire of anticipation raced through him.
To his surprise, he went back even further -- to fifth year and the Room of Requirement, to Dumbledore's Army. He remembered everything: correcting Cho's flick when she set her friend's robes on fire, congratulating Neville on his Expelliarmus, watching Hermione pummel Ron with a hex...
The smile curved his lips before he recalled where he was and opened his eyes.
"That," Snape said, "is what you're meant to be doing."
Harry frowned. "But you don't even know what--"
"Now that the school year is over, I'm going to be retiring."
"Wh-what?" The frisson of dread was back. "What does that mean?" Harry sat forward in his chair.
His squishy chair.
No potions. No quill stand...
"What do you mean 'retiring'? If you don't mind me stating the obvious, sir... you're... deceased."
"Yes, thank you, Mr Potter. I am, indeed, aware."
"Then..." Harry shook his head. "Why would you have to retire? I mean... don't you sort of have eternity to do whatever you want?"
"I do," Snape answered quietly. "And I'd like to go home."
Harry blinked. "Home? Where is that?"
Snape smiled at him, something in it sad and lonely and yearning. "Beyond the Veil, Harry. My home is beyond the Veil."
The sharp jolt of emotion came from deep inside, where Harry had stuffed the pain of the war, of all he'd lost. "But... But you wouldn't have to. You... You could stay, if you wanted to. You could stay and teach, right? Why would you only stay for this one year? What's the point of that?" Harry cursed the tears that rose and blurred his vision. "Why wouldn't you stay?"
"Have you really not guessed, Harry?" Then he rolled his eyes. "Merlin, you really shouldn't be an Auror, should you? Deduction is not your strong suit."
"Quit insulting me and tell me what you mean!" Harry stood abruptly, the chair scraping along the floor.
"What I mean, Harry, is that I came back to teach you. I came back here to..." His eyes held grief and longing and... Love. Impossible though it was. Harry saw love shining from him.
And then, suddenly, a glow appeared around the canvas of the painting in which he stood. Snape closed his eyes, there was a brief flash of pearly light, and then the portrait was empty... And, instead, Snape's ghost hovered behind the desk. He opened his eyes once more. "I came back to be on your side for once."
Harry couldn't stop the gasped breath that he then held. "You're... a ghost?"
"I am what I have needed to be at any given time."
Harry blinked, and a tear fell down his face. "So... classes? Why--"
"I've found it advantageous to remain two-dimensional a majority of the time."
An abrupt, nervous laugh left Harry's lips. He swallowed. Snape was right there -- right before him, shimmering and nearly real. His words finally sank in. Harry's bottom lip quivered horribly. "Professor," Harry said. "You were always on my side." He looked into Snape's intense gaze and lifted his chin. "I never... There's no way I could ever..."
"Your mother," Snape interrupted him. "Your parents... would be so proud of you, Harry."
Harry broke at that. He dropped his chin to his chest and cried. "I don't want you to go." He felt eleven years-old all over again. He felt miniscule. Insignificant. He looked at his open hands, empty once again. Like always.
"They'll keep a canvas for me. And if you stay on and take my place as Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, you may just see me again someday."
"If I what?" Harry lifted his watery gaze once more. He sniffed.
Snape smiled at him. "Can you think of anyone better? Professor McGonagall and I have spoken, and she's ready to hire you day after tomorrow. If you want the job. If you think it might make you happy."
"No need to answer now. Just because she would hire you in a heartbeat doesn't mean you can't enjoy your last hours as a student at this school." Snape waved his hand again, as if he was simply finished being emotional about it, and Harry should be, too. "Go to your party. Dance at the dreadful ball your headmistress is so gleefully putting on tomorrow night. Enjoy the fact that despite your Charms exam marks you can take any job anywhere you like. Go be Draco Malfoy's... whatever you want to call yourselves."
"Will I see you again?" Harry's heart squeezed inside his chest.
Snape sighed. "You don't need me anymore, Harry."
"We haven't finished the tower."
"You don't need me to do that. You're perfectly capable, and if you wanted to I'm sure Professor McGonagall would be happy to--"
"It would make me happy to finish it with you. You keep going on about what would make me happy. Well, that would." He stubbornly swallowed down his remaining tears, even though they threatened to overwhelm him. If Snape had been solidly physical rather than a floating phantasm, Harry would have held onto him and not let him go. That or punched him.
"Forgive me, Harry, but there is somewhere else I need to be." The glimmer in Snape's eyes said everything he'd never put into words. Harry wondered what it must be like on the other side. Could Snape reunite with his mother? Is that who he missed so terribly? Was there any such thing as jealousy beyond the Veil? Would Severus Snape befriend James Potter? Sirius? Professor Lupin?
Harry thought about what had happened for him this year: being taught by Snape; seeing bonds form, friendships, between his old friends and his new ones, some of them Slytherins...
Falling in love with one of them.
He thought he'd feel fear thinking those words. They opened him up for new worlds of hurt, after all. But he wasn't afraid. Something settled in him that until now he'd merely worn like a cloak.
It felt real now. It felt a part of him.
He supposed if that could happen here in this physical life of duality, polarities, wars, and feuds -- that he could love Draco Malfoy -- well, then why couldn't Snape be welcomed into a place he'd defined as home by the very people who had rejected and reviled him but whose hearts Harry knew to be true and good? Maybe that explained Snape's longing to return. Maybe that's what heaven was. Maybe it was reuniting with everything this world had torn away.
Snape had watched Harry's thoughts, and now he said, "You're ready. Aren't you?"
Harry nodded. "I'm ready."
Snape smiled at him. "There's always him, you know. Albus Dumbledore. I don't think he'll ever leave this school."
Harry smiled. It was, indeed, a consoling thought. "I'll miss you," he said before he let himself think about it too much.
"Harry..." Snape said. Then he turned and floated through the portrait behind the desk, through the wall, and out of Hogwarts for good.
Harry stood in the silence. He stood in the room that might become his, two remaining tears sliding warm down his face.
He spent the rest of the day in a quiet mood. Not sullen exactly, but nothing he could really share.
Except with Ron and Hermione. They'd gone down to the Great Lake together to hang out. None of them talked about how close they were to leaving, how much their lives might change. They didn't talk about Ron working with George, about he and Hermione shacking up... Harry did tell them what Snape said, though, about him becoming Defence professor.
"Oh, brilliant!" Ron said.
"Harry! Oh my God, congratulations!" Hermione threw her arms around him and hugged him only to pull back and interrogate him soundly. "You are going to take it, aren't you? Oh, you'll be perfect! But there are so many options, and this is just one. But there's nobody more qualified or better suited--"
"Merlin's saggy arse, Hermione," Ron said.
"Maybe a bit."
They'd enjoyed the dying day, skittering stones across the surface of the mirror of water. Ron joked, and Harry and Hermione laughed. They talked of their good memories. And when it was time for supper, they rose, dusted themselves off, and went inside.
Harry, of course, scanned their table eagerly, but Draco had still not returned. He tried not to be worried. He only failed a little bit.
After the meal, Professor McGonagall kept their table. "I have a deal for all of you."
They looked at one another.
"Er, yes, ma'am?" Seamus asked.
"You may use the Room of Requirement for your festivities, but you must be back in your dormitories by midnight, so I should think you'd like to get things started a little earlier than curfew. Say ten o'clock?"
Murmurs and smiles and nods of agreement abounded.
"Very well. Also, under absolutely no circumstances will there be any alcohol consumption on school grounds. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Professor," Ned said guiltily.
"Now, now, Mr Ogden, there is no need for further remorse. You've done your time with Professor Sprout. Besides, I've taken it upon myself to supply you with refreshments for your engagement. I hope they will suffice."
"Thank you, Professor!"
"Good!" She clapped her hands together. "Then have a lovely time, and don't forget to be back in your dormitories by midnight. I've instructed the portraits and the House ghosts to inform on you all if this rule is broken by even a minute. You're dismissed. Oh! And do air out your dress robes for tomorrow evening's ball!" She looked rather ecstatic at the prospect.
Ten o'clock rolled around, and still Draco had not returned.
"I'm sure he's fine," Hermione said, a supportive hand on his shoulder.
"Yeah, I'm sure they haven't gone and locked up your boyfriend, Harry," Ron added before Hermione slapped him quite hard on the arm. "Ow." He rubbed it. "Sorry."
"Oi! Let's go!" Dean shouted.
Murmurs of enthusiastic assent went up from everyone.
They were halfway down the hall when Harry called, "Hey, wait a minute!" He dug in his pockets and found a manky piece of parchment. "Anybody got a quill?"
Hermione rolled her eyes, reached into her bottomless bag, and produced a crisp, clean parchment and fancy eagle-owl feather quill, self-inking.
"Thanks." Harry gave her a smile and quickly composed his note against a wall.
Before he could tack it up, Pansy snatched it from his hands.
She read aloud, "Draco. Gone to RoR. Ask for 'eighth year party'. See you soon. Harry p.s. I hope it went well."
Luna, Parvati, and Hannah aww'd in unison.
Pansy smiled, less demonically than usual, and let him snatch the parchment back without having to Stupefy her. "It's nice, Potter," she said with a smirk and then walked off, arm in arm with Seamus.
Dean and his new best friend, Blaise, along with Ron, Neville, and all the other boys it seemed shoved, chuckled at, and wrestled with Harry. He fought them off, annoyed and embarrassed, his cheeks and the back of his neck hot.
"Go on now, honey buns, tack up your note," Dean said, smiling.
"Go on, Harry," Ron joined.
Harry pasted the parchment to the door with a Sticking charm and then suffered renewed teasing, wrestling, hair tousling, ribald remarks, as his friends manhandled him down the hallway.
And he had to be honest with himself that... Well, it felt really good. He knew if Draco had been there he might have hexed them all into the hospital wing, but, though it was a touch humiliating, Harry understood what it meant: they accepted him. They accepted them, him and Draco, and Harry felt his heart warm as much as, if not more than, his cheeks.
They entered the Room of Requirement to find that McGonagall had gone all out. There were tables lined with scrumptious snacks of all kinds, a punch bowl that automatically refilled with pumpkin juice as it emptied, Chinese lanterns hung all about, and a Wireless already playing some new punk band Harry had never heard of but found he liked.
Plus there were cushions, chairs, sofas, rugs...
Everybody got whatever drinks or food they wanted and took seats around the sumptuous space.
"You know we could have just done this in the common room," Padma said.
"Yeah, but this is all illicit," Millicent replied, earning her an ear nibble from Luna, who had draped herself on Millicent's lap in a big, soft armchair.
"Hardly," Ginny said. "I mean, McGonagall set this whole thing up, didn't she?"
"Yeah, but we can pretend," Goldstein said.
Harry sighed, resigned to the fact that perhaps Draco wasn't coming at all. He could only hope that meant good news rather than dismal. He started to take a seat on a cushion -- when the door opened again behind him. He swivelled around quickly and all his breath left him.
"Draco!" Pansy called.
A chorus of 'Hey, Draco!' and the like went up around the room as Harry stood and walked over to him. He stopped just short of throwing his arms around him, though, instead just squeezing his hand for a second.
"I didn't know if you'd come."
Draco smirked. "I got your note. Must have just missed you."
"How did it go?"
Draco squeezed his hand back. "Good." His eyes shone a warm blue-grey, more relaxed and unclouded than Harry had seen in a while. "Tell you later?"
Harry smiled and let go of his hand. "Yeah. Sure."
They walked over to the seating area, and Draco joined Blaise, speaking quietly with him.
"So, what are we playing this time?" Ned asked between bites of cauldron cake.
Silence met him for a moment, and Harry was surprised when it was Hermione who flung out the first suggestion. "Truth or Dare?"
Ron turned to her. "Brilliant."
Everyone else seemed to like that idea, too, and they all took their seats accordingly. Ron and Hermione took the sofa behind Harry's cushion. Draco sat in a chair across from him, his gaze finding Harry's and going dark and meaningful. Harry's body responded, blood moving faster and directly toward the one place that seemed to like Draco the most. Harry cleared his throat and looked away just as Draco's smirk became truly filthy.
"Who starts?" Dean asked. When everyone, again, just stared at him, he rolled his eyes. "Oh, bollocks."
"Shouldn't have opened your big mouth, Thomas," Blaise said with a smile.
"Sod off, plonker. Okay, you! You, then. Truth or dare, Zabini?"
Blaise's eyes went wide as the tables were turned on him. "Er... Dare?"
Dean rubbed his hands together. "Show them," he said. "Go on. Do the thing."
"Bastard!" Blaise said. "No!"
"Okay, but anyone who refuses both a truth and a dare gets jinxed or hexed."
"Yep," Ron agreed. "That's how we've always played. Taken a fair few Bat Bogeys to the face." He nodded. Ginny appeared rather proud.
"Fine," Blaise groused. Then, disgruntled, he stripped off his shirt.
"Salazar's shorts, what's 'the thing'?" Pansy laughed.
Blaise stood. He sighed. Then he made his chest muscles jump and dance.
Everyone whooped and laughed and clapped, including Harry who'd had no idea Blaise was gifted in this manner. Hermione snorted in her mirth and promptly fell into Ron's side giggling.
"Bloody fantastic!" Goldstein yelled. "Say, can you teach me that?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Blaise said, yanking his t-shirt back over his head. When the laughter and talk died down, he asked, "So, what? Now I ask someone?"
"Yep," Pansy said, shoving him in the shoulder.
Blaise sighed. "All right." He looked down at the floor for a moment, and when he looked up again, his gaze seemed to beseech Parvati Patil. "Truth or dare?"
She gulped and looked around. "Uh, dare?"
Pansy shoved his shoulder again.
"Bloody hell, would you stop that?" He cleared his throat. He was sweating. "Parvati," he said. "I dare you to go to the Ball with me tomorrow night."
She blinked wide eyes at him. "You mean as your... date?"
She smiled. "Well, after that display of unbridled masculinity..." Blaise ducked his head, so she continued quickly. "Yeah. Er, okay. I'll go with you."
Murmuring abounded, and Padma hugged her sister gleefully while Parvati blushed and avoided Blaise's very relieved gaze.
"My turn then?" she asked. "Okay. Erm... Ron Weasley."
"Yes?" Ron's head jerked up.
"Truth or dare?" Parvati hugged her knees to her chest and waggled her eyebrows at him. The Weird Sisters came on the Wireless.
And to be honest, Harry didn't hear the question. He'd stopped listening, because he knew all of Ron's truths already, and Draco was across the way, his legs arrogantly spread. He looked like he wouldn't turn down a blow job if Harry offered. Harry couldn't help eyeing the inseam of his trousers where he knew a beautiful, thick cock waited, and maybe someday soon he'd have to see what it felt like to take it up his--
"Harry!" Ron shouted near his ear.
"Fuck, Ron, what?"
"I said, 'truth or dare'."
"Oh. You did?"
"He did," Luna said.
"Oh. Okay, then. Er, dare?"
Ron grinned at him, his arm around Hermione's shoulders. He lifted his chin toward Draco. "Go and kiss Malfoy like we all know you want to."
Harry's jaw dropped.
"Come on, mate. Hermione and I missed your epic Spin-the-Bottle snog."
And there his two best friends sat, smiling at him like they'd planned this.
Holy hell, they'd planned this.
Harry clamped his mouth shut again. "I'll get you for this," he said quietly.
"Oh, as if you're not dying to!" Ron said plenty loud enough for Draco and everyone else to hear. He gave Harry a gentle shove with his foot, not bothering to extract himself from Hermione's vicinity.
Harry's gaze fell on Draco, whose ears were tipped pink but who also had not tired of his scandalous smirking. Harry's heart thudded against his breastbone.
"Want to take the jinx?" Ron asked sweetly.
Harry slapped at the foot that kept shoving him. "Hell no." He allowed a small smile. Then he proceeded to get up and walk over to Draco's side of the room. Draco watched him as he neared.
"Let 'im have it, Harry!" Seamus goaded.
Draco smirked up at him. Harry placed a hand on either side of Draco's head on the armchair in which he sat. He leaned forward. Their eyes closed as their parted lips met.
"Whoo!" Dean yelled, and Goldstein joined him.
Harry smiled against Draco's lips. Then he deepened the kiss. He took it slow, licking into Draco's mouth and feeling him lick back. Draco exhaled a soft moan. Harry's cock went hard while they kissed. Draco's hands wrapped around his wrists, and he tilted his head to take it deeper. And it was fucking brilliant.
They kissed until Pansy groaned, "Enough already," and then Harry pulled back. Draco's eyes were hooded, his lips slightly swollen.
Harry pushed off the chair and smiled. Everyone clapped again, and he gave a few eye-rolling nods and a cheesy bow before pinning Draco with one last look and taking himself back to his cushion, aching erection and all.
When he sat, Ron patted him on the shoulder. Harry shot him two fingers.
Hermione smiled at him like he'd just got married. "Your turn."
Harry looked across the room at Draco, who was taking his own ribbing from his friends.
"Malfoy," Harry said.
There were some oohs.
"Truth or dare?"
Draco's gaze was unwavering. He thought for a few moments, then said, "Truth."
Harry took a deep breath before asking something he'd wanted to know for months. "Did you use wandless magic to make the bottle point at me that night?"
"Oh, you are so busted!" Millicent exclaimed.
Draco didn't open his mouth to speak. He simply pointed his graceful finger at Harry, aimed it at his crotch, and then made a downward swipe. Harry's fly inched open, and he gasped. Harry's hands went to it immediately, fastening himself back up again. "Arrogant prick," he said, a little embarrassed, a lot thrilled by it.
Draco just gave a shrug.
Harry wanted to shag him so badly he had to ball his hands into fists. He shook his head at him. But he couldn't quit smiling.
"If we can all agree that that was a yes?" Blaise looked around the room, and everyone nodded. "Your turn, Draco."
Harry wrapped his arms around his knees, his lips still tingling, as Draco turned his attention on Luna. "Truth or dare?"
"Oh, it's me? How nice! Truth, please, Draco." She smiled at him.
"Top or bottom, Lovegood?"
"Why, Draco," she said. But it was Millicent who turned all rosy and couldn't meet anyone's eyes. Luna whispered to her, Millicent nodded, and then Luna declared, "Top mostly. You?"
"Not your turn," Draco said. "But thanks for not making me hex you."
Draco slanted a look at Harry briefly, and it was like they were in the backseat of the car together again in that moment.
The game went on. Hannah Abbott had to sing all the words to the latest Celestina Warbeck ballad at the top of her lungs; Neville had to tell everyone that he'd never measured his dick and so didn't know how long it was (while Ginny surreptitiously held up seven fingers); Pansy flashed her tits; Padma admitted she'd never had an orgasm, and Goldstein looked like he'd do anything to take that dare.
It came Ned's turn, and he chose dare. But when Padma requested that he kiss Pansy, he begged off.
"It's not that you're not... You're really quite..." He swallowed. "But I think I have a... a girlfriend now. She's agreed to go to the Ball with me, at least." He shrugged.
Pansy grinned, but just like in the hallway with Harry, there was something almost human in it. "Do tell, Ogden. Anyone we'd know?"
"Er, Astoria Greengrass?"
Pansy sat forward. "Brilliant. But Ned. Do you think she'd mind if I gave you a kiss on the cheek?"
"I'd mind!" Seamus blurted.
She waved her hand back at him in dismissal.
"Er, no, I guess not," Ned said.
Pansy stood and went over to his cushion. She leaned down and pressed a long, sweet kiss to Ned's cheek. He closed his eyes and exhaled. When she leaned back, Harry thought he whispered, "Thank you," but wasn't sure.
Harry heard a little hum behind him and turned to see Ron and Hermione snogging one another. He smiled, even as Ned asked, "Draco, truth or dare?"
Harry turned back to the game with renewed interest. If Draco was going to have to flash his nine inches (give or take), Harry wanted to see it, even though he'd already seen it. You couldn't really see that enough.
But Draco chose truth. Which was probably just as well, as Ned might have asked him to make out with someone else or something.
Yet what came out of Ned's mouth was nearly as shocking. "How do you feel about Harry?"
Harry gulped and looked to Draco to respond.
"How do I feel about Harry, hmm?" Draco slouched in his chair, looking as relaxed and posh as ever. He fiddled with the arm, picking at the fabric with apparent distaste. A mischievous smile curved his lips as he looked at Harry then. "Well, he's a complete git, isn't he? Why do you think I hated him all through school?" He took a deep inhale, and the warmth in his gaze made Harry's own breath nearly stop. "I mean, Saviour of the World... Who needs it? Especially one so infuriating, annoying, infuriating--"
"You already said that one," Pansy said.
"Yes, well, it bears repeating." He smiled at Harry, sending tendrils of magic through Harry's whole body. "Anyway. He's a prat, right? Anyone who knows him knows this. He's insufferable... drives you straight out of your head. Which is why it helps that he's so fit."
A few of the girls laughed.
But Draco's expression turned serious as he went on, and it was as though there was a tunnel between them, everything else fading away.
"Harry Potter is the most intolerable, frustrating, and incomprehensible bloke I know. Which I suppose is why I've fallen so bloody hard for the ponce." Draco sighed like this annoyed him, yet Harry felt tears spring up behind his eyes and hurt his throat. "Does that answer your question, Ned?" he asked, gaze boring into Harry's.
Ned only nodded urgently.
"So it's my turn, then?"
"Your turn," Blaise told him, squeezing Draco's shoulder.
"Very well. Potter. Truth or dare?"
All that came out of him was a strangled whisper. "Truth."
For the first time since he began his little speech, Draco's mask of calm faltered. He blinked and licked his lips. "How do you feel about me, then?"
At this, Harry smiled. "Malfoy," he said. "I feel exactly the same."
They shared a look that Harry felt through every cell in his body.
Then the game continued. They all shared and laughed, and sometimes things got quite sombre. Luna asked Neville what he'd lost in the war that had been the hardest.
He thought for a long while, and the room went silent in respect. After several moments he said, "What I lost, I lost before the war. I lost my parents." He looked at Ginny. "The war didn't take anything from me. The war gave me everything." He took her hand, and a tear fell down Ginny's face.
It went like that. Several people shared things that Harry never thought he'd be privileged enough to hear: how Blaise had refused to torture a young Hufflepuff when ordered to by the Carrows... and how he'd been tortured instead; how Millicent had been responsible for the rebuilding of the greenhouses over the summer, practically by herself. Hermione shared what it was like to Obliviate her own parents into not remembering they had a daughter... and about travelling to Australia over the summer to reverse the spell, not even knowing if she could. Ron held her, his chin atop her bushy head.
"Did you do it?" Pansy asked, sitting forward, elbows on her knees.
Hermione nodded. "Yeah. I did."
Pansy nodded to her. Hermione nodded back.
Then just when things got heavy and too dark, Seamus did his best Professor Binns impersonation, and the room erupted in gales of laughter, until Hermione had tears rolling down her cheeks, and Blaise and Dean collapsed against each other in fits.
At exactly ten to twelve, a voice interrupted them, and everyone gasped.
"Good evening, students," Dumbledore said from a portrait on the wall that before had stood empty. "I've taken it upon myself to be the one to remind you that you must return to your dormitories before midnight."
"Professor Dumbledore!" Luna said.
"Hello, Ms Lovegood." Dumbledore smiled. "Very good to see you. In fact, it's very good to see you all."
They got up more or less en masse and crowded around the portrait.
"We don't have time to chat," Dumbledore warned them. "Suffice to say, I'm very proud of the work you've all done this year. Now, don't ruin it by being late back to your various common rooms, yes?"
"Thank you, Professor."
"We miss you, Professor."
They began to file out, but Harry hung back.
"Hello, Harry," Dumbledore said.
"Don't be late, Harry. Not to stay and talk to an old codger like me."
Dumbledore shook his head. "Not to worry, my boy. I suspect we'll be seeing quite a lot of each other next year. Perhaps?"
Harry smiled. "Yeah. I think so."
"Very well. Off with you. And you, too, Mr Malfoy. Thank you for keeping an old portrait company this year and calling it detention." He winked. "Goodnight to you both." And with that he opened a catalogue of knitting patterns and began to read.
Their group, minus Luna and Ginny, arrived at the eighth year common room with two minutes to spare. Dean yawned and stretched while he said his goodnights. Seamus and Pansy made out in a corner. Padma curled up with a book in front of the hearth.
Ron said, "Sweet dreams, love," to Hermione, and Harry realised he'd never heard them use endearments before. It was so... adult and... real. Ron then slung his arm around Harry as they made their way down the men's hall, Draco walking ahead of them. "I guess his arse is sort of... perky," Ron whispered in Harry's ear.
Harry laughed and fake-punched him in the ribs.
Draco turned and gave them a sly smile over his shoulder.
"Look at him. Fancy git knows."
"Goodnight, Ron," Harry said, extricating himself.
"Night, Harry. Night, ferret boy."
"Don't call him that," Harry sighed.
"Why not? He's got your ferret all tucked away asleep on his pillow." With that Ron made his way inside their dormitory.
Sure enough, Gordon lay curled up on Draco's bed in complete disobedience to Harry's instructions that he stay in Harry's dormitory if not his own enclosure, which Harry had taken pains to fill with top-notch... ferret things.
"Do you have anything to do with this?" Harry asked.
Draco smirked at him. "I have silk sheets, Potter. What do you think?"
"I think I like the sound of that myself," Harry said, snaking his arms around Draco and settling them just above his "perky" arse.
"I thought you might." He leaned forward and pressed a long, chaste kiss to Harry's lips.
"Mmm." Harry pulled back. "Hey, do you want to find someplace to talk? I wanted to hear about you seeing your father."
Draco fiddled with a wayward (weren't they all?) strand of Harry's hair. "Can we talk tomorrow? I'm so tired, Harry."
"Yeah, sure. Tomorrow's fine. Before the Ball?"
"Yeah. Sounds good." He frowned. "So which robes did you get finally? Not the red ones."
Harry laughed. "Good Merlin, no, not the red ones. I guess you'll have to wait and see them tomorrow night."
"I guess I will." Draco grabbed Harry's arse in one hand and squeezed. "Bet they look good on you, though."
Heat rushed to Harry's face. "Not as good as yours. Now give me back my ferret."
"Gordon!" Draco called, releasing Harry and crouching when the little vermin ran to him. Draco scooped him up, smiling, then seemed to realise he was smiling and stopped, clearing his throat and handing him over. "Speaking of tomorrow. Maybe you can help me decide which Quidditch team to sign with."
Harry's eyes widened, and the smile that took over his face actually hurt a little bit. "You're going to play professionally?"
Draco shrugged. "What do you think?"
"I think I'm going to have the fittest, hottest, most sought after boyfriend in the bloody world. Merlin, I'll be beating them off you with a bludger bat!" Harry laughed.
Draco's eyes sparkled. Probably at his casual use of the inflammatory word "boyfriend". He sobered, though. "Do you really think I should? That I can?"
"Would flying make you happy?"
Draco blinked. "Yeah. I think it might."
"Well, you're certainly brilliant enough at it. So there's your answer."
"And you'll make a bloody amazing Defence teacher."
"Everybody's heard." Draco smirked.
Harry sighed. "It's scary. Isn't it?"
"I just keep reminding myself that it's not happening tomorrow. That we still have one more day to be students. It's our first year just being that, you know?"
Draco nodded. "One more day."
"One more day."
"I think we should make the best of it," Draco mused.
"What do you mean?"
Draco's eyes lit up, and he smiled a slow, mischievous smile the likes of which had Harry hard in moments.
The likes of which he thought he'd never see on that pointy face... and that Harry wanted to melt into for the rest of his life.
Hermione stepped into the Great Hall arm in arm with Ron. She wore a raspberry-coloured gown she'd picked out over Christmas, and Ron looked brilliant in his new dress robes -- which she'd also picked out (unbeknownst to Mrs Weasley). There were zero ruffles of old lace in sight. Thank Merlin.
"Hey!" Dean called, waving them over to where he stood sipping a Butterbeer with Seamus, Pansy, Blaise, and Parvati.
Hermione waved, Ron followed suit, and they made their way over.
"McGonagall sure loves a fancy party," Ron said, looking all around.
Hermione had to admit that the professor had truly outdone herself this time. The charmed sky was indigo night with brilliant lavender and green stars. Streamers rained slowly down in all the House colours. Candles levitated and danced warm light all around. She'd even hired Bloodroot as the band. Not that they would have been Hermione's first choice, but one couldn't be so picky.
It was all so beautiful and extravagant and... final.
"I can't believe this is our last night here," she sighed. Ron's arm tightened around her waist, and they shared a sad smile.
"Butterbeer?" Blaise offered, and they each took one.
Hermione stood and took it all in for a few minutes, watching Ned dance with Astoria Greengrass in the middle of the floor. A few moments later, Luna and Millicent floated by. Padma, Goldstein, Hannah, and a host of others had formed a circle in which some atrocious dancing took place. Hermione smiled.
"So, Weasley," Pansy shouted over the music, leaning in. "Is it true you're going to work with your brother?"
Hermione's stomach immediately tightened. The sound of Pansy's voice still had that effect on her, even if she hadn't been significantly horrid in weeks.
"Yeah. I start in a month." Ron nodded. Hermione reached down and laced her fingers through his.
"And you, Granger? What did you decide on?"
"Oh, erm, I received a scholarship," she confided against her better judgement. "To the Griselda Marchbanks School of Wizarding Law." She waited for the snide remark.
"Holy fuck, Granger! Good for you!"
"Thanks!" Hermione said, relieved. Perhaps it was safe to talk with Pansy Parkinson without fear of either spontaneous cruel humour or hexes flying about after all. "And you, Pansy? What are your plans?"
She shrugged. "Shag the life out of this one all summer," she said, nudging Seamus so hard he spilled his drink. "Then... Well, I'm not sure. Maybe travel. I've always wanted to see America."
"Yeah, baby, let's go learn to surf in California!"
"It's Kansas, you idiot. And don't call me that!"
A moderate row broke out. Hermione tugged on Ron's hand, and they inched away.
Neville and Ginny came off the dance floor panting.
"Gin!" Ron said. "Congrats on the Quidditch Cup!"
"Thank you!" She beamed. "I owe it all to Cordelia or else Ravenclaw would have taken it easily."
"Good Keepers are hard to find." Ron nodded.
Ginny punched him in the arm. "Yeah, but you were all right."
"You're more than all right, newest Chaser for the Hollyhead Harpies." He nudged her with his elbow.
"Yes, that's brilliant, Ginny!" Hermione said. "And you look amazing, by the way." Ginny wore a strapless dress that showed off her dauntingly strong arms, and it was clear she was more than ready to handle any Quaffle thrown at her. "And Neville," Hermione added. "Congratulations on becoming Herbology apprentice professor!"
He nodded and shuffled his feet. Ginny beamed even brighter.
"I guess you and Harry will be seeing a lot of each other next year." Hermione sipped her Butterbeer.
"Yeah, that's so cool he'll be teaching, too! Where is he? Have you seen him?"
Hermione scanned the room. Ron peered around as well, and Hermione checked her watch. "What do you suppose is taking him so long?"
"I don't know. He was still getting dressed when I came down," Ron said.
Hermione frowned. "And the other one? Where was he?"
"Uh, come to think of it, I don't know."
They looked at each other. The dawning comprehension made Hermione smirk. She saw the same recognition in Ron's eyes.
"Those tossers," he said.
"What?" Neville asked.
But Hermione just smiled. "I'm sure they'll make it eventually." She hugged Ron to her tightly and stared up into the magical night sky. Ron pressed a warm kiss to the shell of her ear, and she shivered.
A silver comet passed overheard.
Draco's hair whipped back with the wind, and Harry clutched his seat and shouted over the rushing noise of it. "Merlin, fuck, Draco, how fast are you going?" Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Draco's foot press down further on the pedal.
"Do you really care, Potter? Merlin's tits, we're flying!"
Draco slowed just enough to take a corner, and then the trees fell away on the ocean side of the car. All of a sudden there was only water, rising in cresting waves and washing ashore with a booming crash. The setting sun glinted orange and pink off the spindrift, and Draco gunned the engine, taking Harry's car fast down a shallow hill.
"You're mad!" Harry shouted at him.
Draco only grinned and bit his lip, hands tight on the wheel.
Seagulls winged overhead, and Harry let himself relax, leaning his head back against the seat. He'd put nearly a dozen charms on the car this time. They were perfectly safe, even though Draco seemed to think he could treat the vehicle like a broom despite having never driven before.
Harry turned his head on the seat and looked at his boyfriend, smiling, an easy laugh ready on his lips. He let his gaze wander Draco's body, lingering on how his arms looked tensed like that, the muscles hard. Harry'd got him to wear one of his t-shirts and a pair of his jeans, and he looked indecently hot to say the least.
He was also wearing the expensive tie Harry had bought him for Christmas and finally presented to him before they'd decided to bugger off the Ball. It was knotted perfectly at his throat, absurd with his casual attire -- and bloody sexy.
But more than that, Draco looked happy.
Harry rested an arm behind Draco's seat and watched his profile.
Draco turned his head and saw Harry staring. "Want to find a good tree?" he asked, smirking.
Harry nodded, breaking into his own smile. "We have a couple of hours before they send out a search party, I think."
Draco waggled his eyebrows.
Harry's robe, his dress robe, which he'd discarded to the backseat before they'd taken off on their little impromptu adventure, got picked up by the wind and tossed around for a moment. Harry turned to grab it, but before he could get his hands on it, it went flying right out the window.
"Shit," Harry said, watching it float and tumble away.
Then he laughed -- because everything was fine. It was all fine.
He rested his head back again as Draco sped them down the road. He played with the ends of Draco's soft hair.
Harry closed his eyes.