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Truth or Dare

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Disclaimer: Harry Potter is © J. K. Rowling, Warner Brothers, Scholastic Books, Bloomsbury Books, and all other entities involved in the Potterverse. I don't own them, I only wish I did.

Truth or Dare

When Harry Potter moved into the house next door, Draco almost packed up and moved out.

He’d been happy in this neighbourhood; the people were nice and pleasant – except for that old bitch in number seventeen, the one with all the Kneazles, but she was mad as a hatter anyway, and who cared about her? – and none of them seemed in any way perturbed that Draco Malfoy, ex-Death Eater and son of Lucius Malfoy to boot, was living amongst them. Granted, most of them probably didn’t even know their own names, never mind his, since not a single one of them was under the age of a hundred. But at least none of them spat on him when he walked past, or talked about him in ridiculously loud whispers, as had happened in his Camden flat almost on a daily basis. And now Potter had to come along and ruin it all, with his stupid scar, and his ever-present entourage of the bloody paparazzi, and disrupt the quiet little bubble of peace Draco had been building up since the end of his father’s trial a few years ago.

And as if having Potter in the vicinity wasn’t bad enough, the fucking Chosen One had the nerve to host party after all-night party, so that Draco often woke up at night with music blasting through the thin wall adjoining his house to Potter’s, trying in vain to ignore the sounds of obvious revelry and get back to sleep.

If Draco was honest, the only reason those parties pissed him off something awful was because he wasn’t invited. And that wouldn’t have bothered him one bit … if he hadn’t seen Blaise Zabini staggering from Potter’s place, hand wrapped around a can of lager, emphatically telling Potter that it was the best party he’d ever been to, and Potter replying that he was welcome any time. Draco had been incensed at that. Potter had no doubt despised Blaise as much as he had Draco when they were at school, and yet here they were, acting like Hogwarts had never happened and having the time of their lives, and there Draco was, holed up in his house, stuck in a job he resented, reduced to listening at windows just so he could feel included in the celebratory mood that still gripped the country, even now, several years after the Dark Lord’s death – and he was as miserable as sin.

It wasn’t bloody fair, damn it; he’d suffered as much as anyone had – when was he allowed to just relax and enjoy himself? But Draco had been on the ‘wrong side’ during the war, and no one, no one, would ever let him forget it.

The parties died down after about a month or so, for which Draco was eternally grateful, although every couple of weeks, thereabouts, Potter’s house would fairly jump with loud music and hysterical laughter. Draco had thought about complaining to Potter directly, but most likely he’d just get yet another door slammed in his face, and things would continue as they were now. Besides, it just wasn’t worth the humiliation that would surely descend on Draco the minute Potter and his groupies found out he was living next door.

And then … oh God, it must have been some sort of sick, cosmic joke, but Draco had gone outside to get the paper one morning – because the boy who delivered it was a sodding lazy little git and could never be bothered to drop it off inside the gate – and there was Potter, wearing nothing but a pair of grey boxer shorts and a navy-blue dressing-gown open to the waist, standing on his own doorstep. They’d stared at each other for a total of thirty seconds, and then Potter had given a nod and a sleepy sort of smile and gone back inside, leaving Draco standing in the early morning sun, staring at the place Potter had just been.

Ever since then, of course, Draco had, for some bizarre reason unbeknownst even to himself, kept picturing the v of pale skin that Potter’s open dressing-gown had exposed and imagining all the delightfully wicked things he could do to it … and really quite despising himself for thinking them in the first place.

Fact was, he was twenty-five and hadn’t got laid in a year, so even a glimpse of Potter’s – rather impressive, it had to be admitted – torso in broad daylight was bound to make him sweat and think dirty, dirty thoughts. But as if it wasn’t bad enough that he kept wanking off to the image of fucking Potter senseless, he eventually started to dream about it too, which was just not on. This was Potter, paragon of virtue and bane of Draco’s existence, and wasn’t it just so disgustingly ironic that Draco would develop this – this absolutely nauseating obsession with the man after catching only a glimpse of bared flesh. What was he, some kind of blushing virgin? It was ridiculous, and Draco found himself wishing for the days when Potter had been just a distant annoyance, miles away from Draco and his peaceful little life.

***

Draco returned from his job at St Mungo’s – a cushy little number in the Experimental Potions division, and while he might like the work, his colleagues were right bastards who never let him forget he and his family’s fall from grace – one Thursday evening, a month or so later, expecting yet another night in front of the telly (marvellous invention, even if it was made by Muggles), eating whatever he could dig out of the freezer because he was too shattered to do any serious cooking, and falling into bed fully-clothed because getting undressed was too much of an effort. He was about sit down and eat, planning to watch an old House re-run – alright so he had a soft spot for Wilson, so what? – when the throbbing bass of the Weird Sisters’ new song thundered through the house.

Draco closed his eyes, counted to ten … Actually, he only managed to get to five before he slammed his knife and fork down, jumped out of his seat, and was hammering on Potter’s door before he even realised he’d moved.

This was the third time this week that he’d been disturbed by one of Potter’s parties; was it really too much to ask just for a bit of peace and quiet? It wouldn’t usually bother him, but he’d had an extremely harrowing day, putting up with more of his co-workers’ shite, and he was damned if he was going to handle another long, sleepless night just because Potter fancied a bit of booze and music. He pounded a fist against the door again.

Not that he expected anyone to hear him, so he was surprised when the door swung open, and Potter himself was standing there.

He wasn’t wearing a shirt. Draco considered just offing himself now and saving himself the embarrassment of being caught drooling on Potter’s doorstep. Honestly, didn’t the fucker ever get dressed? Or did he just spend his days in various states of half-nakedness, giving innocent people an eyeful of that rather delectable chest, and biceps you could bounce a Galleon off?

“Malfoy,” Potter said, and he had to be drunk because the Potter Draco knew would never be able to say his name in such calm, even welcoming tones. “What can I do for you?”

“I was wondering if I could have a word with you,” Draco said, which wasn’t at all what he really wanted to say in regards to Potter’s question. “It’s about your music. Can you –”

“Damn, is it too loud?” Potter asked suddenly, worrying his bottom lip with his teeth. Draco wished he would stop. It wasn’t a turn on at all. Really. “Christ, sorry, Malfoy, I’ll turn it down. I had no idea –”

“Whatever, Potter,” Draco cut in, not particularly interested in the man’s explanation. “Just keep in mind that there are other people living in this street.”

“Yeah, yeah I will. Sorry,” Potter said again, and even managed to sound like he meant it.

A shout from inside Potter’s house made Potter turn, and Draco thought about slipping away now while the other man was distracted, but then Potter faced him again, a smile in his eyes.

“Hey, Malfoy,” he said, “fancy joining the party?”

“Tempting, Potter. But a night spent with you and the Weasley horde is not exactly what I had in mind.” Draco said it, hoping to get a rise from Potter, one that would remind them both that they were archrivals and that inviting each other to parties wasn’t quite the way to keep that up.

But Potter just gave him a slow smile that clearly said, What did you have in mind, then?, and said, “Daphne Greengrass, remember her? She works with Hermione; she and her younger sister are here. And Blaise as well, he’s a regular guest, and Neville, Hannah and Susan are here too,” Potter added, tilting his head to one side. “So it’s not just me and 'the Weasley horde.'" He grinned. “Fancy it?”

And Draco knew he should have said no, knew the best thing to do would be to fob Potter off with an excuse, turn around, and go back to his own home. Alone. Again.

No.

He couldn’t, just couldn’t, spend one more night the same way he’d been spending them ever since he’d moved in. A solitary meal. A couple of hours either watching TV or reading. Then bed, and up for work at six-thirty. Even the idea of it was pure torture, and Draco knew there was no way he was going to refuse Potter’s offer, so he resigned himself to the fact that a) he wasn’t going to get any sleep tonight, b) he had to spend several hours in forced company with a bunch of Gryffindors, and c) Potter and his naked self was going to be right there with him.

Suddenly, the prospect of Weasleys, sleep deprivation, and loud music didn’t seem quite so bad.

***

When Potter led Draco into his living room – by the wrist as well, was he completely shit-faced drunk or just insane? – there was an instant hush in the loud conversation filling the room. The lead singer of the Weird Sisters warbled on into the void from the radio, but all eyes fell upon Draco, standing in the doorway, now extremely uncomfortable and wishing Potter would do something that he’d find a complete turn-off.

Not that that was likely.

Meanwhile, Potter dropped onto the sofa, pulling his legs up so that Draco would have somewhere to sit. Draco took the seat hesitantly – it was unfortunately located next to Granger, and he had to resist the urge to shy away from her and her Mudblooded self – and tried to stare down the curious and slightly hostile looks he was getting from Potter’s mates.

Blaise waved at him from where he was sprawled out over a cushion before the fire, and Daphne gave him a smile as she handed him a drink. Astoria, on the other hand, jumped up and hugged him, squealing, “Draco! Good to see you!” into his ear. Bugger. The girl had always had an unfortunate fondness for him, but at least she was glad to see him. Time was he would have held her at arms length and favoured her with a vague smile, but now he hugged her back and exchanged a few pleasantries with her – how their mothers were doing, how long he’d been living next door to Potter, and how they each were faring now after the war was done.

Shortly after Draco’s arrival, the tension in the room started to ease a bit, and he found himself relaxing as the alcohol and general easiness of those around him started to work its magic. At first he said little and only half-listened to the various Weasley family anecdotes that seemed to be in full flow and had the others in stitches, and then Potter glanced over at him and smiled, and Draco was suddenly hyperaware of the fact that Potter’s foot was just inches from his thigh, and that he still wasn’t wearing a shirt. After that, Draco began to join the conversation, saying almost anything and everything in his head just so he didn’t have to think about the man sitting right next to him, and blaming his sudden looseness of tongue on the alcohol.

About an hour later, inebriated inspiration struck Susan Bones as she reclined in her seat, legs dangling over one arm of the chair, her head pillowed by the other. She sat up suddenly – almost toppling out of the chair as she did so – and said, “I know!”

It was during a lull in conversation, so her voice rang clearly through the room, catching everyone’s attention. Ron Weasley glanced lazily up at her and asked what the hell she was on about.

“I’ve got an idea,” Susan said, eyes sparkling somewhat glassily. “Let’s play Truth or Dare.”

At once, half of the room’s occupants agreed loudly that this was a good idea, and the other half vehemently protested that Truth or Dare was a stupid game, and anyway they were all a bit too drunk to do anything requiring much effort.

They were overruled. In Draco’s experience, Truth or Dare had a life of its own; once invoked, it had to be played, spreading embarrassment and shame, and spawning hundreds of domestic arguments as people were dared to do the most outrageous things.

It probably went without saying that Draco was one hundred percent up for playing it.

In any usual situation – not that anything in the past few years had been usual – he wouldn’t have bothered, but now … he’d spent so long living day to day, just going through the motions that, for once, and with alcohol zinging around in his bloodstream, he just wanted to let go of every inhibition and anxiety and play the goddamn game. The minute he voiced his opinion, Potter sat up and agreed with him, which pretty much sealed the deal. Potter’s house, Potter’s rules, after all.

And that, as they say, was that.

***

They seated themselves in a circle, pushing the sofa and armchairs out of the way so they’d have enough room. Cushions and drinks were handed around, and everyone made themselves comfortable on the carpeted floor, Draco leaning against the sofa, with Potter still sitting by his side. It was starting to unnerve him.

Granger started, as Draco had known she would, and picked Hannah Abbott, who chose Truth immediately. He hoped he wasn’t surrounded by those boring people who always picked Truth because they were embarrassed by the dares other people gave them. He personally usually chose Dare.

“Alright, Hannah,” Granger said, and paused while she thought of a question. “Okay, where’s the weirdest place you and Neville have had sex?”

Hannah blushed bright red, Longbottom almost purple, and mumbled, “Hogwarts, behind the greenhouses.”

There was a chorus of catcalls and whistles, though Draco privately marvelled at the fact that she and Longbottom had actually had the nerve to have sex full stop. Then Hannah, cheeks still faintly pink, chose Astoria, who also picked Truth. She was a Slytherin, though, so Draco knew her Truth would probably be as interesting as a dare.

“What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever done it?” Hannah said, which Draco had expected. They’d all get this one, sooner or later. It was the standard question of the game.

Astoria thought for a minute, absent-mindedly taking a drink from her glass. “I think,” she said eventually, “I think it was at our Hogwarts leaving party. With Alexander Belmont, he was in Ravenclaw.”

“What, you just did it? Right in front of everyone?” Ron asked, staring at Astoria like he’d never seen anything so awe-inspiring.

She shook her head, though still managed to look slightly pleased with herself. “In the toilets, which isn’t much better. But he was a bit of an exhibitionist and I was willing to give it a go.” She smiled, cat-like. “Fancy it, Weasley?”

Weasley nodded fervently; Draco glanced over at Granger, who looked merely amused, which was a surprise. Hadn’t the two of them been absolutely mad for each other at school? What had changed between then and now? Potter noticed him looking and murmured, “They haven’t dated in three years. All that time they bickered and we thought it was sexual tension. Turns out it was just regular tension and they were completely incompatible.”

He grinned as he pulled away from Draco – and when had he got so close? Draco wondered – and went back to the game. Astoria had asked the same question of her sister, and Daphne had replied and gone on to ask one of the other Weasleys lounging underneath the window. Once everyone had answered the question, including Draco, they went round the circle once more.

Daphne was dared to flash the rest of the group, which she did with considerable relish, and which caused Weasley’s jaw to drop to the floor. Blaise chose Truth and Susan asked him what his sexuality actually was, since no one seemed to know; Blaise just smirked and said he refused to label himself with such restrictive categories, to which everyone had looked at each other and said, “Bi,” at the same time. Then someone dared Potter to wear women’s clothing for the rest of the night, which Potter accepted more readily than was strictly necessary, and Granger conjured up a truly hideous pink, flowery dress that Potter donned immediately.

When he came back from the bathroom, Draco almost bit his tongue in half trying to keep from licking his lips. Against all the laws of nature, Potter looked fucking hot in a dress. It clung in all the wrong places and should have looked completely ridiculous, and yet … Draco couldn’t stop staring.

He was dwelling so deeply on this oddity that he didn’t realise it was his turn until Granger nudged him sharply with her elbow and he turned to glare at her, finding the eyes of everyone in the room fixed on him again.

“What?” he snapped, and Granger jerked her head in the direction of Weaselette.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “I asked you, Truth or Dare, Malfoy?” she said, her tone a spot-on imitation of Draco’s drawl.

“Dare,” Draco said at once, and then regretted it immediately when Ginny’s smile turned sly.

“I dare you,” she said slowly, “to knock on the door of number seventeen and ask the cow who lives there for a … a cup of sugar. And you have to be naked,” she added, with the air of a magician revealing the finale of her act.

Draco’s first thought was, Oh, so you’ve met the old bitch too, have you?, and then her words actually permeated his alcohol-fogged brain, and he quickly wondered whether he could off the Weaselette and make it look like an accident.

And then he smiled. This was more like it. If this didn’t shake off the torpid boredom that had been plaguing him for at least the last year, then nothing would. Hell, he could already feel the hot curl of anticipation in the pit of his stomach, and he hadn’t even started.

“Gonna do it then, Malfoy?” One of the other Weasleys, whose name Draco had never bothered learning, spoke up, sounding thoroughly doubtful that he would.

Draco set down his glass and stood up. “Naturally,” he smirked, and started unbuttoning his shirt.

He was extremely gratified when Potter let out an odd, choked squeaking sound as the material fell from his shoulders, and Ginny leaned across Ron to whisper to Hermione, “Christ, if I’d known he looked like that under his clothes, I’d never have ignored him at school.” Putting that revolting thought firmly to the back of his mind, Draco started on his jeans, toeing off his shoes and socks and then sliding the denim from his legs. There were a few more admiring murmurs, which Draco was thrilled to hear; he knew he was no troll, but living alone for five years would make anyone doubt their appearance, even one such as his own.

God, this was fantastic. Adrenalin was making his whole body sing and his heart beat twice its normal rate, and Draco felt more alive than he had in a very long time. If he’d known all it would take was a few drinks and a party to make him feel this good, he would’ve insinuated himself into Potter’s life ages ago. He was about to take off his boxers when Potter suddenly coughed and sat up poker-straight.

“Er, Gin?” he said, and Draco was pleased to hear his voice was all hoarse and croaky. “Does Malfoy have to be … um, completely naked to do this?”

“Well yeah, Harry,” Ginny said in surprise. “Truth or Dare, you know?”

Potter just closed his eyes for a second, took a deep breath, and nodded. “Right, right, Truth or Dare,” he said weakly, and leaned back against the sofa.

“Carry on then, Malfoy,” Ginny said, sounding breathless with excitement, and Draco, just this once, obliged her and tugged off his underwear.

Longbottom and Weasley both gagged and turned away quickly from the sight of a naked Draco Malfoy, but almost everyone else leaned forward interestedly. There was a smug, “Told you,” from Blaise, which made Draco roll his eyes and smirk even wider, and then he glanced down at Potter and …

Oh. Holy. Fuck.

Potter’s face was flushed and his eyes held the most unashamedly hungry look Draco had ever seen. They raked over his body with obscene slowness and lingered slightly on his cock, which, surprise, surprise twitched under the scrutiny. Then their gazes met, and the green of Potter’s was almost obscured by the black of his dilated pupils, and it was quite possibly the most erotic moment of Draco’s life. Intense? Wasn’t even in the vicinity of being able to describe it …

And then, as Draco somehow managed to get his breath back, the moment passed, and the others were urging him on with his dare, practically dragging him outside and pushing him in the direction of number seventeen.

***

“Well. I wasn’t expecting that reaction.”

“Yeah …”

“I mean, I always knew Kneazles were vicious little buggers, but bloody hell …”

“I know …”

“It’s all your fault, Ginny,” Ron spoke up, nudging his sister in the ribs.

My fault? How come?” Ginny said hotly. “I never said he had to do the dare, did I?”

This was the conversation Draco heard upon re-entering the living room, wincing a bit; fucking Kneazles deserved to be rounded up, shoved in a sack, and subjected to a thousand Cruciatus curses. And Mrs Number Seventeen should be made to join them … honestly, that woman was insane.

He’d gone along to her house, completely starkers still, and knocked on her door. About twenty bloody minutes after he’d knocked, she’d shuffled her way to the door, opened it as slowly as she possibly could, and then just stared at him, standing on the doorstep, freezing his balls off. And then, when he’d asked for the cup of bloody sugar – sugar! What had the Weaselette been thinking of? – the old bitch had gone fucking berserk and started setting her pet Kneazles on him! Bastards had tried to scratch every inch of flesh from his bones. The only reason he hadn’t been ripped to shreds was because he’d run like hell back to Potter’s the minute she’d grabbed the nearest Kneazle.

The others hadn’t said a word as he’d staggered back into the house and straight into the bathroom. Someone had silently handed him his clothes while he had cleaned himself up, and everyone very kindly kept their laughter to a minimum. Now he walked back into the living room, took his seat, and downed two shots of Firewhisky without saying anything, and the game soon resumed as normal.

As more and more alcohol was consumed, the group started picking Truth simply because it was easier than trying to gear their heavy limbs into action for a dare. Some truly astonishing truths were revealed as well, some that Draco could quite happily have lived without knowing: Susan had once had a crush on Snape, (“It was the hands! I have a thing about hands!”), and Granger was kinky, apparently, which was the icing on the cake of Too Much Information.

And then they came to Potter, who also chose truth, and Astoria asked him: “Who in this room do you want to get off with most?”

“Blaise,” Potter said immediately, and there was an outburst of drunken giggling and catcalling until he added, “And Ginny, and Susan. Oh, and Malfoy of course.”

There was instant silence, and then everybody started talking at once. One of the Weasleys exclaimed, “Malfoy, Harry? Why the hell would you want to kiss that ferret-faced git?” and Astoria, smirking widely, asked Potter what his reasons were for wanting to kiss the four people he’d just named.

“Well,” Potter began slowly. “Blaise because he has a nice mouth. Ginny because she’s a good kisser –” someone laughed at that, and Weaselette flushed hotly, though she was grinning smugly “– Susan because I’m curious. And Malfoy …” the room went deadly silent again, “... Malfoy because I want to see what else that mouth can do besides smirk.”

Draco vaguely wondered if this was what a heart attack felt like. There were many loud shouts of laughter around him, but he couldn’t for the life of him see what was so funny. Perhaps they thought Potter was joking, though one look into those green, lust-filled eyes was enough to give Draco hope that he really wasn’t.

It was too much to take. He couldn’t sit in the room another minute with Potter staring at him like that, not without spontaneously combusting or something equally ridiculous. Draco jumped up and practically flew to the bathroom, where he slammed the door closed and locked it firmly before leaning against the wood and sliding down to the floor.

He wasn’t sure why he was acting like this. He’d been lusting after Potter for quite a while now; surely the reassurance that Potter had been doing the same should come as a relief? And yet relief was about the only thing he wasn’t feeling at that precise moment. It was just … the thought of Harry Potter fancying him, Draco Malfoy, wasn’t just completely and totally insane. It was also completely and totally right. It made absolute sense.

And it scared the absolute shit out of him.

It shouldn’t be right; it should be utterly abhorrent to him, but his entire mind and body seemed to be very keen on the idea. It should make him want to hex Potter into a thousand tiny little bits, but it just made him want to shag the man senseless. And it didn’t look as though the feeling was going away any time soon.

But do you want it to?

A voice had woken up in the back of his head, making Draco want to beat it repeatedly against a brick wall. It was bad enough that his emotions were in complete disarray, but did his own mind have to turn on him too? He’d only ever suffered such introspection twice before in his life – once, funnily enough, when Potter had turned him down for Weasley. That had been a bit of a black day in Draco’s life because, up until then, he’d always got everything he’d wanted. That was the first time anyone had ever turned him down, and it had opened his eyes to the world beyond the little microcosm that had been built for him at Malfoy Manor. The second time he’d probed his own thoughts so deeply had been the day after he’d first met the Dark Lord, the day he’d been given the despicable task of murdering Dumbledore. He’d spent every waking moment dwelling on the problem, even going so far as to question the life that was being laid out before him, when he’d previously never given it a thought.

Maybe he was analysing it too much. Maybe he was acting as he had every day until now, so careful and cautious that he’d cocooned himself in a web of false security that was now being ripped to shreds before his very eyes. Maybe he should just give his mind a break and let the rest of him take over.

Maybe he should just stop being so damn afraid all the time, and actually get on with life.

What have I got to lose? he asked himself.

Your dignity, self-respect and reputation, his brain answered immediately.

Oh well. He hadn’t had those in a long time anyway. Besides, at least this way he went out with a bang.

Smiling to himself, he stood up and opened the door.

***

Potter was outside, fist raised as though about to knock on the door. They stood there for the longest ten seconds of Draco’s life, and then Potter dropped his hand and took a step back.

And there it was. Tension. Thick enough to cut with a knife and choking the very breath out of him. The tension he only ever got with Potter, because Potter was the only one who ever got to him enough that he could feel it. It made him want to simultaneously dash from the house and snog the life out of the dark-haired man before him, and yet he couldn’t get his limbs to coordinate to do either.

“What I said in there –” Potter began uncertainly, drifting closer, but Draco cut him off.

“Potter, just shut up,” he said, suddenly overwhelmingly tired. “If you meant it, that’s fucking brilliant. If not, well … I really hope you meant it.”

Potter stared at him blankly, and for a second Draco was afraid he’d said too much; then Potter hesitantly hooked a finger in Draco’s collar and, half pulling and half leaning forward, tugged him across the foot-wide gap between them and …

At that moment, Weasley stumbled from the living room and completely broke the charged silence that had descended on the hallway outside the bathroom. Draco and Potter jumped apart like they were same-sided magnets being forced together, while Weasley stared at them, dumbfounded (which was very similar to his usual expression, and therefore not at all unexpected).

“Er … I was just wondering if you were coming back to the game, Harry,” he said, at least having the grace to look embarrassed.

Potter threw him an extremely irritated look, but said, “Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.”

Weasley nodded and went back into the living room, throwing curious looks over his shoulder every now and then, as though wondering what Potter and Draco were doing. Which was a whole lot of nothing, Draco realised; they were just standing there again, trying very hard to pretend everything was still perfectly normal, despite the fact that they were avoiding each other’s gazes and blushing like it was going out of fashion.

“So, erm …” Draco began, and then coughed, appalled that his voice had gone horribly croaky. “I should really get going,” he went on, in a slightly less nervous tone.

“No!” Potter said loudly, causing Draco to raise an eyebrow. Potter flushed an even deeper shade of red and said, his voice calmer, “No, you don’t have to leave.”

“But I probably should. I have work tomorrow, and I …” Draco trailed off at the utterly crushed look on Potter’s face.

“It’s not even midnight yet; you’ll have plenty of time for sleep … Come on, just a little bit longer? You get to see me make an even bigger prat of myself.”

Draco felt his mouth twitch upwards in a smirk. “I’m not sure that’s possible,” he said, gesturing to the flowery pink dress, which Potter was still wearing

Potter grinned sheepishly, and Draco cursed himself for finding it endearing. “Yeah, I look like a complete arse in this, don’t I?” he said, tugging at the collar, exposing yet more of that amazing collarbone.

“No,” Draco said quietly, wrenching his gaze away. “That’s the problem.”

Potter blinked at him a bit. Then his mouth stretched into a smile and he took just one step forward, towards Draco, who felt his heart jump up to somewhere in the region of his throat.

“Well then,” Potter said in a low voice, leaning close to Draco. “I’d better keep it on then, hadn’t I?”

Draco found himself nodding before he’d even thought about it. And then he thought, Keep it on? Fuck that, and said, “No, I think I’d better stay a bit longer and figure out how to get you out of it.”

“Oh really?” Potter was grinning again, and they were gravitating towards each other as though they couldn’t help it – which was true, Draco realised. He could no more stop this than cease breathing, and he had about as much inclination to, as well. “I reckon you’ll be here for a while then.”

“Promises, promises,” Draco teased, and, smirking widely at the hungry look on Potter’s face, turned around and sauntered back into the living room.

He could tell at once that the others had been talking about himself and Potter. It was in their faces as they glanced at him and then hurriedly looked away as Potter came up behind him. For a second, Draco felt Potter’s hand at the small of his back, sliding under his shirt, and then the dark-haired man had retaken his seat in front of the dying fire and was staring back at him, almost daring Draco to take his own seat, and smirking in that predatory, seductive way that made the hairs on Draco’s arms stand up.

When he’d sat down, making sure to lean against Potter’s entire left side in the process, a short silence ensued, and then, in a would-be casual voice, Weasley said, “So, shall we get back to the game?” A murmur of assent followed, and then once again, Truth or Dare began.

If Draco had thought it had been difficult to concentrate before, it was nothing compared to how he felt now. He couldn’t move without experiencing little jolts of pleasure as his skin and Potter’s came into contact, and every time that happened, he’d have to close his eyes at the sheer electricity of it and he’d lose his focus and forget whose turn it was. Potter looked like he was suffering a similar fate, if the occasional twitching and throat-clearings were anything to go by.

One of them was going to snap, and soon, if they carried on for much longer. Draco was entertained for a few minutes by the image of himself shoving Potter to the floor and just jumping him, but then Susan said his name and that made him glance up.

She dared him to kiss Blaise. As far as dares went, it was hardly exciting stuff, but it was infinitely preferable to kissing, say, Longbottom or Weasley, or, dear Merlin forbid, Granger, so he shrugged and didn’t argue. After all, he and Blaise had kissed a few times when they were younger, once more would hardly be torture, so he leaned across the circle as Blaise did the same.

A sudden hand on his arm stopped him. He glanced back to find Potter holding him back and glaring at Blaise.

“That’s not a proper dare,” he protested, ignoring Draco’s increasingly irritated attempts to remove his arm. “That’s boring. I mean, Malfoy and Blaise actually like each other. It’d be much better if he kissed … oh, I dunno, Ron or Hermione, or someone.”

Jealousy was not something Draco found attractive, partly because it was petty, but mostly because he could get jealous enough for two people, so he wasn’t looking for the same quality in others. And alright so he fancied the arse off Potter – that didn’t mean Potter had any right to turn into a possessive bastard and try to stop him having a bit of harmless fun.

Thus, when he next spoke, it was to retort, “Satan will ice-skate down the road of the damned before I kiss Weasley or Granger, Potter.” He paused to send Potter a look that was as far as possible from the heated, lusty gazes they’d exchanged earlier. “So unless you have someone else in mind, I suggest you bugger off and keep your nose out.”

He leaned towards Blaise, only to be stopped again, this time by Granger’s voice.

“Well,” she said, in a reasonable sort of tone, and Draco decided right then and there that she should share the same fate as Mrs Number Seventeen and her psycho pets. “Why don’t you kiss Harry?”

The silence in the room was absolute. No one moved, not even Draco, who was considering leaving now while he still had his dignity. And then all at once people started agreeing with this idea as though they’d never heard anything quite so thrilling.

“Brilliant!” Susan said gleefully.

“Why didn’t we think of that?” Daphne moaned, nudging her sister in the ribs.

“Should be worth a watch,” said Longbottom, causing several people to glance at him in surprise.

“Not quite as good as kissing me, but I’m all for it.” This was from Blaise, and Draco shot him a look of utmost betrayal. “Sorry, Draco --” Blaise grinned, not looking in the least bit apologetic, “-- but I’ve been wondering.”

Draco wanted to know what he meant by that, but then Potter started protesting and Draco’s anger and hurt quite drowned out what he’d been about to say. Considering this was all Potter’s fault in the first place, the fucker could at least have the courage to face up to the challenge. And his vehement arguments weren’t exactly flattering either; not ten minutes ago, Potter had practically been drooling at the thought of snogging Draco, and here he was, saying he really didn’t want to. As much as Draco wished it wasn’t, it was painful. It was the recognition of this pain that finally made him snap.

He whirled on Potter so ferociously that everyone in the room started in surprise. “You’re a cowardly son of bitch, aren’t you, Potter?” He sneered, gleaning a small amount of satisfaction at the scowl that appeared on the Chosen One’s face. “What’s wrong, can’t handle the thought of kissing me? Or maybe … maybe you’re jealous,” he purred, “jealous that Blaise gets to kiss me and you don’t.”

Potter spluttered incoherently, which was not a good look for him, Draco noticed offhandedly, and then managed to say, “Fuck off, Malfoy; I’m not – jealous.”

The slight waver in his voice said otherwise, however.

Draco just smirked, and there wasn’t a trace of desire in it now. “Oh, come on, Potter. Didn’t you say earlier you, and I quote, ‘wanted to see what else that mouth can do’?”

Green fire scorched Draco’s face, but he was too incensed to care. All around them, the others had fallen silent, watching with rapt, wary expressions at the scene unfolding before them. Currently, all eyes were on Potter, whose face showed quite clearly his internal battle between anger and the challenge Draco was throwing at him.

He’d never been able to resist a challenge from Draco before.

“Fuck it,” Potter whispered, and took a deep breath. “I’ll do it.”

It seemed he wasn’t about to start now.

Draco turned away from Blaise without another word. Blaise, though slightly disappointed, nevertheless stayed silent as Draco faced Potter fully and they stared at each other for a bit longer, driving everyone else mad with the unresolved tension in the process.

And then something very strange happened: Potter glanced over at Granger and a fleeting smirk took over his face before he looked back at Draco and became serious once again. And Draco suddenly realised something.

He'd planned it. He'd planned the whole goddamn thing. The party, the dares … everything.

***

Draco was seething.

Potter had orchestrated the entire night. He’d turned his music up too loud in order to get Draco to complain about it. He’d invited Draco to this party because he’d known a night of booze and relaxation was exactly what he’d needed. He’d agreed to play Truth or Dare because he’d wanted to know a bit about Draco. He’d also known that Draco was ridiculously infatuated with him, and he’d taken advantage of that so he could get his kicks out of trying to seduce him. The whole damn evening he’d been unwittingly playing into Potter’s hands, and Granger had been helping him!

That, Draco decided, was really not on. How dare Potter try to use him like this, as though he was some kind of weak-willed pushover who needed to be controlled and manipulated into doing what other people wanted! He didn’t let his fury show, though, partly because he wanted revenge, and partly because … well, he hadn’t thought how he was going to get it yet. He was hoping for some divine inspiration, and to his delight, he got some a few seconds after his epiphany.

Potter didn’t know he’d figured out his clever little plan; he was still blissfully under the impression that Draco was completely naïve of his intentions, which suited Draco just fine – for now. He surmised that Potter wasn’t really interested in him, or was only interested in the thrill of seducing him, the chase as it were, and that both enraged and pained him more than the fact that he’d been manipulated. But it also gave him the perfect chance to get a little of his own back.

Potter hesitated a bit. Draco realised he was going to have to take this one into his own hands, figuratively speaking, and shuffled forwards, so that he was now kneeling in front of Potter, who had coloured slightly and whose hands were, oddly enough, shaking. Then, before either of them could bottle it, Draco roughly grabbed Potter’s collar, pulled him forwards and, just before their mouths met, pushed hard so that Potter toppled backwards, his head inches from the stone fireplace.

Without waiting for Potter to protest, Draco clambered over his body, straddled his hips, leaned down, whispered harshly: “Didn’t plan for this, did you, you bastard?” and then kissed him.

It started out savage and brutal, Draco crushing his mouth against Potter’s so hard he could taste blood. Then Potter let out a gasp – it might have been of pain, it might have been of pleasure, he couldn’t tell – and his mouth fell open, and before Draco slipped his tongue inside, he smoothed it over Potter’s lips in a show of gentleness that surprised himself just as much as everyone else. Potter’s hands came up to grab onto Draco’s hair, but Draco pulled away with a growl, seized his wrists, and pinned them to the floor before returning to the kiss.

The world narrowed to just the two of them, lying on the floor, limbs entwined, bodies pressed close. For several blissful seconds, Draco forgot his anger, forgot his humiliation, forgot where he was, and just lost himself in the slide of Potter’s lips and the blistering heat of his mouth. He could hear a tide of blood in his ears, along with the pounding of his heart, and he was utterly breathless but he wasn’t about to come up for air, not now, not for anything.

Potter broke the kiss first, but Draco didn’t miss a beat; he simply trailed his mouth down to Potter’s throat, fiercely delighted at the breathy, whimpering moans that escaped from the other’s man’s lips, and the thrusting, rutting motion of their hips as they discovered the brain-meltingly wonderful effects of friction on erections. In a rush of hot air that caused Potter’s spine to arch upwards in a universal gesture of pleasure, Draco whispered, “You’re going to remember this, and you’re going to regret it,” in Potter’s ear, just seconds before he pulled away, untangled himself from that pink-flowery-dress-clad body, and stood up.

Dead silence greeted him, the first non-Potter-related thing that Draco actually registered. He glanced around at the circle of people around him, and saw …

Arousal, confusion, disbelief, anxiety, and sheer bloody shock – and that was just on Granger’s face. Everyone else wore a veritable facsimile of her expression, though typically, several of the Weasleys’ faces housed a tinge of disgust. What he would see on Potter’s face Draco didn’t know, and wasn’t sticking around to find out. The whole night had been the single most embarrassing event of his life, even including his fourth-year enforced stint as a ferret, and he wanted to get away from it as fast as possible.

Running from the house probably wasn’t the most diplomatic of reactions, and probably wouldn’t help his dignity – if indeed he actually had any dignity left after this night – but Draco was too … well, pick an emotion, any emotion, and he was most likely feeling it. In any case, he dashed from Potter’s house without looking back, because he knew that if he did glance back and search out Potter’s eyes, he might never actually leave.

***

When he got home, he knew immediately he couldn’t stay there. The thought of being alone made the lead weight in his stomach ten times heavier, and the dead silence of his house made the shadows seem darker, the spaces seem infinitely bigger. He thought of looking some of his old Slytherin friends up, but discarded the idea as being ridiculously over-sentimental – a result, no doubt, of the tumultuous journey his emotions had been dragged through that night. Besides, Blaise and the Greengrass sisters looked to be very much in Potter’s pocket; Theo was keeping a low profile in case the Ministry investigated his father’s past Death Eater dealings in more detail; and Pansy … God, he hadn’t seen Pansy since the end of the war, since she’d done the very Slytherin thing of trying to convince the students and staff of Hogwarts to give Potter up to the Dark Lord.

No, none of his old friends would welcome Draco with open arms, should he make the mistake of appearing on their doorstep. The only option he had now was the Manor, where his father spent his days barricaded in the study, and his mother tried to keep up appearances that had faded long ago. But however depressing it was there, it had to be better than what he was facing here, so he grabbed quill, parchment, and ink and scribbled a quick letter to his mother. It might be best if he didn’t arrive unannounced.

Mother,

Am coming to the Manor for a few days. Everything’s fine, just need to get away for a while. Owl me as soon as you get this.

Love, Draco.

He hoped it sounded vague, but airy enough that his mother wouldn’t badger him too much. He’d just give her the excuse of too much work and not enough sleep, his usual defence when she got all concerned and started to pry in things he didn’t want to talk about.

While he waited for her reply, Draco busied himself with packing and writing another letter, this one to his boss at St Mungo’s. He hadn’t claimed a day off since he’d started so he was damned well owed a bit of leave. He apologised for leaving at such short notice, claimed there was a family emergency – those being one of the few personal events that didn’t require evidence to corroborate with the individual’s excuse – and said he’d be back in about a week’s time. He knew they’d be able to spare him, even if there was a sudden shortage of Experimental Potioneers; the whole of the department didn’t much like him, they’d probably be glad to get rid of him for a while. He’d probably get a disciplinary letter and a fine or something, but that was small price to pay to get away for a while.

He sent the second letter off the minute his mother’s reply arrived. His owl gave what Draco had come to recognise as the ‘not-another-fucking-letter’ hoot, scratching his hand roughly as she took flight. Draco rolled his eyes at the avian theatrics, but nevertheless called after her that he’d be at the Manor when she’d delivered the message to his boss. He briefly considered how desperately lonely one would have to be to attempt a conversation with an animal whose only redeeming features were that it could rotate its head three hundred and sixty degrees and deliver mail, before he ripped open the letter from his mother and thanked whoever was listening that she hadn’t asked any awkward questions.

He tucked the parchment into his trunk, shrank the trunk until it was the size of a briefcase and more comfortable to carry, and headed downstairs to the fireplace in the living room. Wards prevented any Apparition within five hundred yards of the Manor, and Draco didn’t fancy an early-morning trek through the misty, boggy fields that surrounded his childhood home; Flooing was quicker and preferable, even if it wouldn’t mix well with the alcohol he’d consumed just a few hours ago. But he wasn’t going to think about that. It would invariably bring up thoughts about Potter, and that would lead to thinking about green eyes and a red mouth … pale skin skimming over light brown … ngh, a white hand tugging black hair – down, down, all the way down …

No, he wasn’t going to think about any of those things at all.

He’d just tossed a handful of glittering green Floo Powder into the fire when the sound of someone banging on his front door could be heard from the hallway. Draco slowly crossed the room, peeked out into the hall, and saw Potter’s unmistakeable silhouette through the door’s frosted glass panes. He whipped his head back into the living room immediately, knowing there was no logical way Potter could have seen him, but still apprehensive anyway. The knocking stopped then abruptly began again a few seconds later, Potter accompanying the knocks with a shout of, “I know you’re in there, Malfoy! We need to talk!”

Draco gave an angry, but unfortunately unseen, two-fingered salute, and then dived into the fire before he could cave and let Potter in.

***

His mother was wide awake and waiting for him at the other end. She took his trunk, thrust it without looking at the house-elf standing beside her, and then helped her son out of the fireplace, brushing dust and ash from his hair.

“A little late for a social call, don’t you think?” she said mildly, but there was concern in her eyes as she continued to stroke his hair clean.

“Sorry. I just needed a break.” Draco avoided her gaze as he spoke, and managed to extricate himself from her arms. “Can we talk about it in the morning?”

“It is morning,” Narcissa said, smiling gently. “But yes, we can leave it until later. Come, Muggy should have your room prepared by now.”

She swept out of the Floo room, indigo-silk dressing gown fanning out around her ankles as she did so, along the hall and up the curving white marble staircase towards the third floor. Draco had had this room at the easternmost side of the Manor since birth; on summer mornings he’d be awoken at ridiculously early hours by the obnoxiously bright sunlight spilling in through the bay window, and during the winter he could sit by the fire and look out onto the snow-laden grounds, if he were so inclined. It was decorated in shades of blue and silver, blue being his favourite colour – not that he’d told his Slytherin housemates during school, of course – and a four-poster similar to the one he’d had at Hogwarts sat against the back wall, decorated in similar colours.

“Join me for breakfast, darling, and we can talk then,” his mother said, pressing a kiss to his cheek, having been unable to reach his forehead since he’d turned seventeen and had shot up like a weed. “Sort out whatever’s troubling you, yes?”

Draco gave a noncommittal noise – really, how could he ever explain this thing with Potter to his mother? – and almost smiled when she fixed him with a pointed stare that told him he had no choice in the matter. “We’ll see,” he said eventually, shrugging. “Goodnight, Mother.”

“Goodnight, Draco, dear.” She gave his cheek a soft pat, then turned around and went off down the corridor towards the stairs and the top floor, where her own room was situated.

Once she’d gone, Draco entered his bedroom; letting the door close behind him with a quiet click, he collapsed onto his bed without undressing and fell asleep almost at once.

***

He woke up the next morning with his face smushed into the pillows and his right arm twisted into a most uncomfortable position. That obnoxious sunlight was shining through the gap in the heavy velvet curtains, right into his eyes when he turned over onto his back, but it was some time before he could be bothered to get up and do anything about it.

He took a shower and had just finished dressing when there came a timid tap on the door.

“T’is me, sir. Tippy, sir,” said a high-pitched voice, and Draco relaxed as he realised it was just one of the house-elves. Probably here on his mother’s orders, a theory that was proved correct when Tippy went on, “Mistress is wishing you to join her, sir, in the breakfast room.”

Draco sighed, knew he wasn’t getting away with it, and answered, “Alright, tell her I’ll be down in five minutes.”

The house-elf gave an affirmative squeak and presumably went off to give Narcissa the message, and Draco sighed again and lowered himself into a chair by the cold fireplace. He was exhausted already and he’d only been awake three hours; he gathered his sudden attack of weariness had more to do with the quick and dirty wank he’d had in the shower, trying desperately not to come with Potter’s name on his lips and failing so very miserably.

His mother was waiting with a thin veneer of composure over her quickly waning patience. The warm, sunny breakfast room had once been just a conservatory, but Narcissa had enjoyed sipping tea in here so much that she and her husband had graduated simply to eating breakfast in there most mornings, Draco joining them during the school holidays.

It was a very pretty room, decorated in pale, pastel colours – though not pink; his mother despised pink beyond all reason – with white wicker furniture, and almost an entire forest of ever-blossoming flowers and creeping green ivy left to its own devices, but never allowed to encroach on the room’s inhabitants. Sunlight streamed down in gold-coloured lances, dappled where it fell on the plants, and created shadows, but elsewhere causing a soft yellow glow to emanate around the room.

“Good morning, dear,” Narcissa said, voice and manner suggesting she was more than a little ticked off at being kept waiting.

“Morning,” Draco said, and took the seat opposite her, reaching for the sugar when she passed him a delicate porcelain cup full of tea. Remembering who he was talking to, he added, “Sleep well?”

“Fairly well, thank you. And you?” His mother sipped at her tea, made a pleased sound at the taste, and then reached for a slice of toast.

“I dropped off pretty quickly after you left,” Draco said, also taking a piece of toast from the rack in the centre of the table. He spread it liberally with both butter and marmalade, and then munched on it in the ensuing silence.

At long length, his mother had eaten her fill and settled back to finish another cup of tea. She eyed him over the rim, making him decidedly uneasy.

“Well,” she said eventually, and Draco accidentally dropped a teaspoon. “As pleasant as this is,” Narcissa went on, once the clattering had ceased, “I’d really rather move past the niceties and get down to why you’re really here.”

“I told you,” Draco muttered, avoiding her gaze, “I just needed a break.”

“Hmm.” His mother’s lips pursed themselves into a frown. She tapped a long crimson nail on the edge of her saucer, staring at him appraisingly, one eyebrow raised. “Alright. I certainly can’t force the truth out of you, dear, but I do think I deserve a more satisfactory explanation, especially after being raised out of bed at such a disgraceful hour.” She rang the little silver bell on the edge of the table, and at once an eager house-elf popped into existence at her side and began to clear away the breakfast things. “When you feel you can tell me, do so at once. I will be ready to listen.”

With that, she stood up and swept magisterially out of the breakfast room-cum-conservatory. Draco stared after her, feeling both irritated and guilty, but still unable to deny that telling her about Potter would be just about the most embarrassing moment in his life. One just didn’t speak of such things to one’s mother, after all, especially when that mother was Narcissa Malfoy.

He sat a little longer in the warm sun, until it became stifling, and then he moved into the library. He’d intended to while the rest of the day away with a book or two, but this plan was scuppered when he came across his father poring over a stack of parchment.

Lucius glanced up as Draco opened the door, hesitating on the threshold as their eyes met. Lucius said nothing, merely motioned his son to carry on and enter the library, which Draco did, also without saying anything. There was several seconds of silence, filled with the occasional scratch of Lucius’ quill as he made a note here and there, and Draco’s soft footsteps as he searched for a book to occupy him.

Eventually, Lucius set aside the parchment and spent a few seconds massaging his right hand, which seemed to have cramped up in his last bout of furious scribbling; he looked over at Draco again, who glanced up from his book, using his thumb so he’d remember where he’d got to.

“Your mother said you’d arrived this morning,” Lucius said finally, dropping his hands and resting the right one on the desk, the left on his knee. “A sabbatical from St Mungo’s, is it?”

“Something like that,” Draco said evasively, but didn’t hope to get away with it. His father could spot a lie from fifty yards, having done a great deal of it himself.

“That isn’t all though, my boy, is it?” Lucius said, in one of his dratted moments of uncanny perception. “You haven’t told your mother.”

It wasn’t a question, but Draco answered it anyway. “No. I’m not sure that I should – or that I can.”

Lucius eyed him, ironically enough in the exact same way Narcissa had just half an hour ago. Unlike his mother though, Draco’s father didn’t say anything; he simply shrugged and stood up. He was almost at the door when he turned and looked back at his son.

“I have every confidence you’ll sort it out sooner or later,” he said, and the casual assurance in his voice made Draco’s stomach sink just that little bit lower. “But tell your mother, Draco. She worries too much about you. Tell her, if only to lessen her anxiety and give me an easier time of things.”

With a quick smile and a nod, Lucius exited the library. Draco sat back and let out a breath. He almost wanted to tear his hair out, but didn’t because he had rather lovely hair – unlike a certain person whom he wasn’t going to mention or think about in any capacity at all.

You’re joking, right? said a voice in his head. Draco swore quietly and told his mind to shut the hell up.

***

The next four days were nothing short of torture. He couldn’t sit in a room with either of his parents without them shooting him pointed, go-on-and-tell-us looks, and even trying to strike up a conversation with them was a complete no-go area. To top it all off, he spent every waking minute trying not to think about Potter, which eventually he could manage for a couple of hours at a time. It was his non-waking hours that he came to dread, especially when he woke up at six on Tuesday morning, jolted from a shockingly real dream wherein Potter had somehow managed to get into the Manor and had crept into bed with him, slid a hand over the swell of Draco’s arse, and pressed his finger right there

“Fuck!” Draco gasped, swallowing a mouthful of water as he came fast and hard under the suddenly boiling jets of the shower. “Harry – God – fuck!

Wednesday was turning out to be quite as bad as the previous two days.

What was wrong with him? He hadn’t needed to get off this much since his sixth-year whilst trying think of something other than killing Dumbledore for a few blissful seconds – which was something of a mood-killer, and had to be balanced out by the image of Blaise spread out naked on his bed, which generally did the trick. All too well, actually. It was like being back at school again, and considering how his last two years at Hogwarts had gone, this was not exactly a comforting thought.

By the time breakfast came around, on a breezy Wednesday morning in July, Draco was a complete wreck. Both his right hand and his cock were chafed raw from the near-constant wanking; his parents were becoming extremely huffy with him as the days went by and he still refused to tell them what was going on with him; he couldn’t concentrate on anything that wasn’t Harry-related for more than an hour, and it was getting so bad that Draco was this close to screaming out the truth before he cracked with the weight of it.

He eventually decided it was just too much, and he arrived at high tea at four on the Thursday afternoon almost fifteen minutes before his mother got there. She seemed surprised to see him already seated at the table, clutching a cup of tea in his hand, and frowned when she saw the bottle of Firewhisky standing next to his saucer. Draco paid no attention to this, reasoning that he’d be needing all the courage he could scrape together for this conversation, and if some of that courage had to be artificial, then so be it. He took a huge gulp of tea, grimaced at the harsh burn in his throat, and gestured for his mother to take a seat.

She sat, intrigue imprinted on her usually impassive features, poured herself a cup of tea, and waved away the offer of a smoked salmon and spinach sandwich. There was a long, long silence, and eventually, Narcissa seemed unable to bear it, for she burst into speech.

“Is there something you want to tell me, dear?” she asked, trying to keep her voice calm and casual but unable to stop the little quiver.

Draco smiled at that, oddly amused that his mother was incapable of containing her excitement for once. He nodded, took a sandwich for himself, and ate it with painstaking slowness. Narcissa let her irritation get the best of her and began to drum her fingers on the edge of the table.

Well?” she eventually bit out, noticeably annoyed now.

Brushing his fingers clean of sandwich crumbs, Draco took a deep breath. Now or never, he thought, and gave himself a mental shake.

“I –” he began, but the words stuck in his throat. He coughed and tried again. “It’s – complicated,” he managed feebly, and ran his hand through his hair in frustration at being unable to articulate even a fraction of what he wanted to say.

“Are you in some kind of trouble?” Narcissa demanded when it became clear that her son could say no more. “Do you need gold, darling, is that it?”

Draco buried his face in his hands, silently castigating himself for being such a coward, trying to pull himself together. He removed his hands to find his mother looking at him, distinctly perturbed, and he smiled again, feeling weirdly reassured. Maybe she could help, if only to tell him what an infantile fool he was being.

“You remember I told you that the house next door to mine had been sold?” he said, glad that he was able to speak in full sentences again.

His mother nodded uncertainly, and then understanding dawned on her face. She relaxed visibly, even managed a wide, slightly incredulous smile in his direction.

“Oh, Draco,” she said, and had to stifle a laugh. “This is going to be about Harry Potter, isn’t it?”

Draco frowned, completely nonplussed. “Well, yes, but how did you –”

Narcissa couldn’t help it; she burst into laughter that seemed more relieved than anything, amused by the utterly confused look on her son’s face.

“With you, dear, it generally always ends up being about Harry Potter,” she said, smiling fondly at him. “Tell me what happened, then.”

Giving her a highly affronted look, but choosing not acknowledge her first comment, Draco launched into the story of last week’s impromptu invitation to Harry’s little gathering. He briefly mentioned the truly terrible day at work he’d had last Thursday, spent an inordinate amount of time verbally abusing Harry – wait, when did I start calling him that? Draco found himself wondering – to his mother, and tried very hard not to sound like a lovesick schoolgirl when he skimmed over the details of that rather incredible kiss. Narcissa sat through it, rapt with attention, and by the end of his tale, had completely forgotten the bottle of elf-made wine she’d had brought to the table in favour of his story.

“So,” Draco said, taking a hearty gulp of wine himself, “not only did he humiliate me, but he had Granger in on it as well.”

It was something of a relief finally to be unburdened with the weight of the whole thing, which was perhaps why he seemed unable to stop speaking now that he’d got started. Thankfully, his mother held up her hand before he could babble on any further and embarrass them both.

“And you came here to – what? Escape?” she said, frowning now. “Well, that was rather silly of you, wasn’t it?”

Draco actually felt his mouth drop open. He hadn’t expected complete understanding from his mother, but he had hoped for at least little bit of sympathy. Moreover, he particularly resented being spoken to as though he was five years old again and had spilled pumpkin juice on the cream carpet in the living room.

He stared at her for a moment longer, then managed to gather his faculties enough to gape. “What?

Sighing, Narcissa set aside her glass and leaned forwards, hands folded demurely on the table in front of her. “Really, Draco, you’re usually quicker than this. Has it even occurred to you that Potter did not orchestrate the whole incident merely to embarrass you?”

“Well why else would he do it?” Draco demanded, suddenly aware that his mother had taken a vested interest in Potter ever since she’d saved his life at the end of the war, and wondering if this was perhaps why she was currently playing the part of his advocate.

“Don’t be so obtuse, dear. I think you know exactly why he did it.”

And it hit Draco in one instantaneous lightning bolt of understanding, which was rather appropriate, all things considered. Pot – I really need to stop calling him that, Draco thought to himself – Harry hadn’t organised a party, played a game of Truth or Dare, had a fit over Draco kissing Blaise, surrendered to an assault of Draco’s own, and involved Granger purely for his own amusement: he’d done it because he wanted Draco quite as much as Draco wanted him. And in light of this realisation, Draco’s reaction suddenly seemed … way beyond petty and straight into completely bloody ridiculous.

He fell back in his chair, staring at his mother with shock written over every feature. Narcissa smiled gently at him and said nothing, simply waiting for the revelation to sink in.

***

He might have sat there for the rest of the day, and well into the night, if high tea hadn’t been interrupted by the arrival of Tippy carrying a small envelope.

“Letter for Mister Draco,” she squeaked, and handed it over. Draco took it without really registering what he was doing, and set it on the table beside his plate. Tippy bowed low once and left discreetly, as Narcissa frowned at the envelope and then at her son, who still looked completely shell-shocked.

“May I?” she said eventually, unable to contain her curiosity. Draco nodded dumbly and pushed the envelope over to her. She flicked it open with a fingernail – today a peachy, coral-colour – and pulled out the single sheet of parchment that lay inside.

She skimmed through the letter quickly, eyebrows almost losing themselves in her hairline as she read. When she got to the end she let out a soft gasp of, “Outrageous!” that made her son jump in his seat and snatch the parchment from her unresisting fingers.

“What? What is it?” he said urgently, but didn’t need her to answer as he scanned the letter quickly.

Mr Malfoy,

It has come to my attention that you have taken a week’s paid leave without sufficient notice. For this misdemeanour, you will be suspended indefinitely and will not receive wages for the week in question. In addition, you are required to attend a disciplinary hearing where your conduct will be discussed and further punitive action considered.

Happy holidays,

Ernest Belby
Chief Potioneer
Experimental Potions Department
St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.

It took several read-throughs before the words finally made any sense. When that happened, Draco crushed the flimsy, St Mungo’s-issue parchment in his fist and swore so vehemently and colourfully that his mother stopped looking so worried and started frowning. Before she could reprimand him on his language, Draco stood up, almost sending his chair skidding across the tiled floor in his anger, and stormed into the Floo room.

This was fucking ridiculous! Belby had been trying to get rid of him ever since he’d been promoted to Chief Potioneer, the previous incumbent – and the man who’d hired Draco in the first place – having recently retired. Draco wasn’t sure what he’d done to make Belby despise him, but he had good idea that it probably hadn’t taken much – perhaps just one look at his name on the department’s list of employees had sealed it. ‘… have taken leave without sufficient notice ...’ Well that was complete and utter bollocks. He knew people who didn’t even bother to notify the department until someone remarked upon their absence, and even then it was a quick, two-line affair with an excuse as lame as a one-legged Crup. But did any of them have to suffer a disciplinary hearing? Of course not!

Well he was going to show them where they could stick their disciplinary hearing, and indeed his hand was already halfway to the pot of Floo Powder beside the fireplace. His mother’s voice stopped him, however, and he turned to face her as she entered the room behind him.

“Draco, you are not going to St Mungo’s in this state,” she said firmly, and tried to move the Floo Powder out of reach. “You’re too angry; you’ll end up making things worse.”

“I don’t care,” Draco spat. “I don’t fucking care. Mother, they can’t do this, it isn’t –” He bit his tongue before the next word could tumble out, but his mother knew what he’d been about to say.

“Fair?” she said, a bitter smile twisting her mouth. “Of course not, dear, when have they ever acted fairly towards us?

“That’s not the point!” her son shouted, throwing up his hands in frustration. “We’ve suffered enough already; why can’t we be left alone!”

In the ensuing silence, he drew a deep breath and made a visible effort to control himself, running a hand through his hair again and tugging at his clothing. When he’d stopped fussing, he looked at his mother and said, trying to smile, “I never liked the job in the first place. It might be nice to try something different.”

Narcissa nodded, handed him the Floo Powder, and took his hand. “It might,” she agreed. “Go on, then. Ernest-bloody-Belby will be waiting for your reply. Give it to him.”

She didn’t swear often, and it made Draco’s weak smile grow wider as he hugged her. “Thanks, Mum,” he said softly, and felt her laugh. He only called her that in moments of extreme affection as she preferred the rather more formal ‘Mother’ to ‘Mum’.

He let her go, and she stepped back as he threw the Floo Powder into the fire and stepped into the ensuing green flames, shouting, “St Mungo’s!” As he was spinning wildly, it occurred to him that he hadn’t thought about Harry in over thirty minutes, which must surely be a record for these past few days. He’d have to deal with that later, as well, he thought, and realised he had no idea exactly how he was going to do that.

Behind him, on the Malfoy Manor end of the Floo, Narcissa watched the emerald fire slowly die out. All was silent for a few minutes, and then Lucius strolled in.

“Was that Draco just leaving?” he asked, frowning at the distracted way his wife replaced the pot of Floo Powder on the mantelpiece.

“Yes,” she replied, and turned to him.

“Where’s he off to?”

Narcissa glanced back at the fireplace. Smile turning into a smirk, she said, “To take care of business.”

***

He strode through St Mungo’s with a surprisingly effective get-the-fuck-out-of-my-way look on his face, brushing aside the various welcomewitches and Healers who tried to waylay him, managing to secure an entire lift to himself just by glaring at anyone who made to get in with him. To the general public, the St Mungo’s lifts only travelled between six floors, but if you worked there and possessed a special key-card – as Draco currently did, but might not for much longer – you’d find another button had popped into existence, labelled ‘Basement’, and it was here in which the Experimental Potions department resided. Couldn’t have ordinary people stumbling upon all sorts of foul and potentially lethal potions, now, could you, and the lift trick managed to keep out any curious, spell-damaged, or just plain trouble-seeking wizards who might wander off the beaten path now and then.

Belby’s office lay at the other end of the floor, but that just gave Draco’s anger time to boil up into fury, and by the time he wrenched open the door with, Chief Potioneer, Ernest Belby, written on it in a rather florid gold script, he’d decided he didn’t give a damn what happened to him from here on in.

Belby was there, sitting behind his desk, still in his lime-green potions lab robes, his three chins covered in more pewter-grey bristle than the top of his entire massive, gleaming head. He looked up, startled, when the door burst open and bounced off the wall behind it, and then glowered when he saw Draco standing in the doorway. Draco thought, fuck it, and glowered right back, striding across the room to stand before the man’s desk.

“Malfoy,” Belby said in clipped, irritated tones. “Aren’t you supposed to be suspended?”

The nasty smirk that followed the sentence was the most infuriating thing Draco had ever seen. He wanted so very badly to strangle the man with his own tie, but managed to resist the urge enough to speak.

“You had no right to suspend me,” he snapped, fists clenching and unclenching by his sides. Belby noticed and smirked ever more widely. “No bloody right, and certainly no cause to.”

“Terribly sorry you feel that way, Malfoy,” Belby said, in a patronisingly lofty tone, “but you’ve no one to blame but yourself. The rules clearly state that –”

“Fuck the fucking rules, Belby. You know I’m not the only one in this department who’s taken time off this month. Why are you pulling me up on it when you’ve got people here who sometimes can’t even be bothered to get their arses in on time in the morning?”

“Examples have to be made,” Belby said, his already ruddy face turning an admirable shade of puce as he spoke. “That’s the way it is, son. You don’t like it, you can fu – hand in your resignation,” he amended quickly.

Draco smirked. Alright. He too could do infuriating, and do it better than this second-rate fuck. “You know, Belby, sometimes I get the feeling there’s another reason you want me out of here.”

“Is that so?” Belby’s eyes were narrowed almost to slits, and there was an unmistakeable note of contempt in his voice as he went on with, “Well, you’d be right about that, Malfoy. Want to know what it is?”

“Oh, do enlighten me, please.”

Belby snarled at the sarcasm. “I hate the way you dare to show your fucking rat face in public after all the things you and yours did in the war. You sicken me, you pointy-faced albino cunt, with the way you swan around thinking you’re better than the whole lot of us in this 'ere department, when yer nothing but a snotty little brat who stayed out of Azkaban because you’ve got plenty of money behind yeh!” Spit flecked his chin after this venomous tirade, and his appalling Cockney accent became more pronounced with every malicious word.

Even though he was burning with rage inside, Draco somehow managed another smirk and leaned forwards, resting both hands on Belby’s desk.

“Oh, Ern,” he said, shaking his head sorrowfully, “now you’ve really hurt my feelings. But that’s okay,” he added as Belby snorted in response, “because, my sweaty, disgusting, fat-arsed, racist friend, I’m going to make your life a living hell.”

Racist?” Belby spluttered.

“You think I don’t remember your … highly colourful attack on Rashid last month? Or the interesting opinion you expressed regarding the various Muggle-born Healers in this building a couple of weeks ago? Oh, Ernie,” Draco said, sighing theatrically, “not only are you a pure-blood supremacist, but you’re a white pure-blood supremacist.”

“Oh yeah? What are you gonna do about it? Can’t prove nothin’,” Belby said, satisfied that he’d avoided trouble for the moment.

Au contraire, Ernie; I have all the proof I need right here.” And he tapped the side of his head, winking genially and feeling his anger drain away to be replaced by triumph as the blood left Belby’s face.

“You wouldn’t,” he whispered, fear lighting his small, piggy eyes.

“I. Would,” Draco said, each word slamming into place like falling rocks.

Belby let out a nervous, high-pitched treble of laughter. “C’mon, Malfoy. It was just a joke, mate, just a joke. You’re not really suspended you know, I was just –”

In an instant, Draco had seized the other man’s collar, bringing them nose-to-nose. “I,” he hissed, “am not your fucking mate.” He let go of Belby, so that the fat bastard fell heavily into his chair, and straightened up, moving to the door, pausing only to say, “And you can fucking stick your job, mate, right where the sun doesn’t shine.”

He’d release the memories of this, ah, meeting to the Ministry anyway. Belby didn’t deserve to keep his face the way it was, never mind his job. Not that Draco cared about his racist leanings; he happened to agree with Belby on his opinion of the Mudbloods, but the difference was, Draco didn’t shout his views out for all and sundry to hear them, which might be decidedly underhanded of him but at least kept him out of trouble. So yes, he’d stop off at the Ministry tomorrow, request a meeting with – hah, yes, Granger. She was all for equal rights, wasn’t she? Perfect – and give her the memories of the conversation, and leave the rest in her filthy but competent hands.

With a slightly unpleasant smile, he hopped back on the lift and pressed the button for the ground floor, whistling as it began to rise. He hadn’t expected the confrontation with Belby to go quite so well, or to feel quite so good about it afterwards. He was literally singing by the time he reached the main foyer of St Mungo’s and strode out into the fading sunlight.

After all, if he could do that, he could do anything.

And that included Harry-fucking-Potter.

***

He Apparated to the house in London, materialising on the bottommost step before his front door. He paused for a moment, wondered if he actually had a plan or whether he was just going to wing it, decided on the latter, and vaulted over the low wall separating his house from Harry’s.

He knocked on the door three times in quick succession, and waited, with increasing fear and decreasing courage, for someone to answer. Draco was on the verge of jumping back over the wall and diving into his house, when the sound of the chain being pulled back on the door in front of him rooted him to the spot.

Draco got the strangest sense of déjà-vu when Harry opened the door, but was distinctly disappointed to see that he was wearing a shirt this time. Pot – Harry’s eyes widened almost comically behind his glasses before he checked himself and became the picture of aloof indifference. They had another of their weird staring competitions that nevertheless managed to send a slow shudder up Draco’s spine, making the sudden butterflies in his stomach dance like crazy, and then Harry spoke.

“Malfoy, what –”

That was as far as he got, since Draco leapt up the last step, slammed Harry against the wall, and kissed him with the all the pent-up hunger of the last seven days. Harry’s mouth opened almost immediately, hot and eager and desperate, meeting Draco’s kiss. For a few seconds, nothing could be heard except a muffled groan here, a quiet whimper there, and then, panting as though he’d just run a marathon, Harry pulled away.

His lips were delightfully kiss-bruised and his eyes were positively burning with lust, and the thought that Draco was the cause of it was gratifying and more than a little scary. They just sort of blinked at each other for a bit, both a little flustered, and the silence that went with it was the most beautiful sound Draco had heard in weeks because it was the sound of things going bloody right for a change.

“That was –” Harry began quietly.

“I know,” Draco said, just as quietly. Then he grinned. “Wanna try it again?”

Hell yes,” Harry said vehemently, and dragged him back into another kiss.

And with that kind of encouragement, how could Draco refuse him? He wrapped both arms around Harry’s shoulders and let himself sink into the heat, the passion, the sheer rightness of it, until Draco could feel his heart hammering in his chest and the kiss had become more of an open-mouthed, panting effort and all they were really doing was breathing each other’s air. Draco pulled away when he could no longer keep it up, and, the words coming in short, sharp gasps, said, “I have just one question?”

“Hmm?” Harry said, mouth at Draco’s neck, where it was currently sucking hard on the blond’s pulse point, and hand sliding inexorably to the front of Draco’s jeans.

Draco heard a whimper and was ashamed to realise it had come from him. He really couldn’t concentrate under this sort of attack, but he made the effort and asked, “Why did you have to involve Granger?”

Instantly, Harry’s head came up, and his hand stilled from where it had been trying pop open the button on Draco’s jeans. He grinned sheepishly. “Er, yeah, about that,” he said. “See, what happened was, I told Hermione that you were living next door, and that Ikindoffanciedyou,” he added in a rush, and went red at Draco’s raised eyebrow. “And she sort of took it upon herself to … set us up, I s’pose. I didn’t have any choice but to go along with it, and when she dared you to kiss me, I thought it had worked. Sorry,” he added, and it was so astonishing how sincere he sounded that Draco figured holding a grudge now would be all kinds of petty.

“I should have known it was all Granger’s idea,” he said instead. “Being that devious requires serious brains. Not exactly your area, is it?” He smiled patronisingly at Harry as the brunet pretended to glare at him.

“You know,” he said, rolling his eyes, “insulting me is hardly the best way to get into my pants.”

“What makes you think I want to?” Draco scoffed, and then choked when Harry pressed the heel of his hand to the front of Draco’s trousers.

“This was a bit of a giveaway, to be honest,” Harry said sweetly, then lowered his voice to a soft growl. “Shall we take this inside?”

Draco nodded, unable to articulate any kind of verbal agreement, and swallowed hard as Harry kicked the front door shut behind them.