Draco knew ignoring the persistent knocking on his bedroom door wasn't going to make it stop, but he hid underneath his blankets anyway. It was no use yelling at her to go away. His mother wasn't pleased when she didn't get what she wanted. He took after her in that sense, apparently.
Just as he expected, the handle clicked from the unlocking charm and the door creaked open. Footsteps were coming closer and closer to his bed.
"Are you asleep?" his mother asked.
"Would it matter?" Draco snipped, though the snippiness was rather lost by the pillow muffling his voice.
The edge of the bed dipped, and her weight made his body shift. Draco exhaled hard through his nose. There was nothing to it. He resigned himself to the fact that she was staying and turned his head to look at her. The sunlight streaming through his windows blinded him.
"What?" he asked, squinting.
She frowned. "Don't grimace, Draco. " She lightly swatted his legs.
"It's the sun," he mumbled, reaching out to the nightstand and feeling around for his wand. He had to draw the bloody curtains, but he was damned if he was getting up to do it.
"Look what I've got," she sang, interrupting him in his search.
Unable to see what she was waving around, Draco turned his body so he was lying on his back. When he'd plopped down onto the pillow and his eyes adjusted to the daylight, he saw she was holding a piece of white parchment.
"What is it?"
"It's a letter from the Greengrass's."
Oh, no. He opened his mouth, but she cut him off before he could verbalize his objection.
"What's wrong with the Greengrass girl?" she asked, her pale blue eyes boring into him. He could see the thinly masked desperation there, and he almost didn't have the heart to disappoint her yet again.
"I won't hear another word about not wanting to," she said, suddenly stern.
"Oh, Mother…" He rolled his eyes and began to turn away again. "Let me go back to bed."
She pulled his arm until he faced her again, and he sighed, batting his fringe from his eyes. Her grip was like steel on his arm.
"I…" He closed his mouth again, because what was he going to say? The thing wrong with her was that she was a girl? He spoke much more softly that before. "I can choose someone for myself."
She finally released him, folding her hands in her lap and tilting her chin down to stare pointedly at him. "And is that what you're doing while you're gallivanting around at all hours of the night? I am sure," she said sarcastically, raising her eyebrows, "that you, Gregory, and Theodore are meeting perfect ladies at whatever seedy places you're going to. Getting drunk out of your minds and sleeping until eleven in the afternoon?"
"Eleven is hardly aftern -"
"It's time to stop these childish antics."
"Mother." For her sake, Draco tried to control his tone, but it ran away from him regardless. "It's only been, what, five months since the... trials?" He said trials in a whisper, as if the word itself was profane. "And a month at most since Father went away. Forgive me if I don't quite feel like going out with anyone at the moment."
"No one said anything about girlfriends, dear."
"Right. No, of course not. Straight to betrothals, how silly of me."
"Well, we can't mope forever. We've got to…" She threw her arms out in a sweeping gesture. "...move on. Go only forward."
"I want to stand still."
She looked at him for a moment, quiet. Studying him. She wasn't frowning, but the creases between her brows were visible. Suddenly, all he saw were the lines of her face, jumping out at him.
"I need tea," he said quietly. He looked away from her and yelled, "Dipsy."
The elf appeared at the foot of his bed. "Yes, Master Draco? Shall Dipsy be getting your breakfast now?"
"Yes, and lots of water" he said, closing his eyes as a headache came over him. "And some strong tea," he added quickly, before she left.
The elf nodded and disappeared with a pop.
"You're going to waste your day again," his mother said, shaking her head at him. "Don't you want to do anything but lie here until six, when your friends arrive n?"
"We shouldn't have moved to London," she said, though it sounded like she was mostly berating herself.
"What should we have done? Stayed at the Manor?" He huffed a laugh, because that was a sick joke if he ever heard one.
"You're closer to the pubs here."
"I like this flat." It was actually the whole building; less a flat than a townhome. But it was minutes to the city, and Nott's family had a their own place nearby. Many of his schoolmates had second homes in London, where the fathers could retreat to when they were bored of the country and of their families. At least now, Draco was old enough to know how Father had spent his time here.
"We should have gone to Sweden with the Zabinis."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "I'm sure they have pubs in Sweden too, Mother." Dear lord, when was she going to go away?
"Why don't you do something different tonight," she said, tapping his legs with the letter, "and take the Greengrass girl out for a drink?"
He snorted. "No."
"Oh, come now…"
The tapping persisted, and he fliched his leg to make her to stop.
"And why not?"
"Give me one good reason-"
"I don't like her! I don't like her." Oh, no, the words were coming faster than he could control. He was sitting up. His mother looked bewildered. "I don't like her, or any other girl you showed me, because they're all girls, and I hate girls."
His mother blinked her surprise at his outburst. "What are you talking about? Lower your voice and settle -."
"I will not settle down! I'm not just being dramatic. I don't. Like. Girls."
By the time he'd got it out, it was hard to control his breathing. His headache raged at him, pounding from the back of skull and radiating out. He hadn't meant to just come out and say it like this. But he was tired, and going to be ill from last night's drink, and she had just kept nagging.
"Oh." She looked down at the letter, now crinkled from the tight grip of her shock, and slowly folded it into a neat little rectangle.
Draco scowled. "Oh? That's all?"
"I told you, don't grimace," she reprimanded.
"Mother, I just said… Did you hear me?"
"I did." With that, she stood up from the bed.
"Wait… Now you're leaving?"
"Yes," she said lightly. "I've got my explanation."
"Well you can't just leave now!"
She raised her eyebrows at him. "Is there something else?"
Draco was at a loss for words, which was just as well, because Dipsy chose that moment to appear with the food and tea. The aroma grounded him, if only for a moment.
It seemed even the elf could sense the tension. Her big, watery eyes darted from Draco to his mother, and back.
With his eyes closed, Harry ran his hands up the soft skin of Ginny's back. She rolled her hips on top of him. Harry really enjoyed the friction. His whole body was already hot, and he shut his eyes more tightly. He tried to concentrate on the press of her tongue and the softness of her lips.
His arms were tugged, and Harry's mind flashed white with panic. He knew where she was taking his hands. He stiffened just a bit, but he knew better than to resist.
Then his palms were being pressed over her small, soft breasts. He didn't move. Just let his hands rest there, like she wanted. Soon he realized he was holding his breath as well, and exhaled hard through his nose. She pushed her chest into him, squishing herself into his hands as if to say for the hundredth time, Take me, I'm yours to do with as you will! Problem was, Harry didn't want to do anything to her breasts at all, and he was content just letting them be.
Suddenly, she stopped. Harry felt his heart in his chest, and a rather sick sort of feeling, because he knew what was coming next.
She sat up and sat down heavily on his hips, making him grunt.
"I honestly can't… I just need to…." She sighed and pulled her hair behind her ears, looking down at him sharply. "Oh, I'll just come right out and say it. What the fuck is wrong?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You don't want…" She sighed again, her eyes roaming the room as she tried to put words together to explain what Harry in all honesty already knew. "Do you even like me?"
Harry laughed. "Ginny, of course I like you."
"I don't know." Now she was frowning, and Harry felt awful.
The crease of her brow made him feel like shit. She was so pretty, even in her disappointment. And he didn't want to be the cause of that sadness. Maybe he really was being completely unfair to her. Maybe he should try harder. He could learn to love her breasts, all he had to do was do it. Take them in his hands and show her he wanted her completely. Show her he wanted every inch of her body, because she deserved that. It really wasn't that hard, all he had to do was reach out and take her in his arms, and touch her. Like, right now.
He pushed himself up to a sitting position, jostling her a bit, although she never once looked up. He reached for her.
"Harry, we should just end this now."
Harry's mouth fell open.
She looked at him with a concerned expression. "Shouldn't we?"
"What?" he shouted. Ginny blinked and sat back, clearly shocked. "I mean…" He frowned. "Why? What do you mean, end this?"
"I think you know what I mean… and why," she said, raising her eyebrows at him in a way Hermione would.
"No, not at all, actually."
"I just don't feel it, Harry. It doesn't feel right."
"Are you kidding?" His mind started to whirl, and he tried hard to focus on her next words.
"It's not as if you didn't see this coming."
"Ginny, I honestly have no idea what you're talking about. What was coming?" Harry's confusion started to fade, only to be replaced by the beginning sparks of anger. "Have you wanted to break up with me for a while? Have you been thinking about it? Planning it?" He tried not to even let his mind go there, but it was useless.
"How long?" He pulled his legs out from under her, making her almost fall off the bed.
She righted herself just in time and glared at him, a stray piece of hair falling over her face. "Harry…" she said again, this time through gritted teeth.
He crossed his legs, suddenly not wanting any part of himself to touch her. How could she have been thinking about breaking up with him? "How long did you want to do it? Did you want to break up last week, when I slept at the Burrow?"
Ginny looked away and frowned.
"You did, didn't you?" Harry asked.
"I was only considering it!"
"Oh!" Harry let out a breathy laugh. "All right then. My mistake, you hadn't fully decided quite yet. It's fine, then."
"Why do you care so much, anyway?" she asked, now looking angry herself. "It's not like you're burning with passion for me," she said, using her hands in some sort of bizarre, melodramatic gesture.
Harry couldn't close his mouth, because he couldn't figure out how the hell to reply to that. Finally, his mind settled on, "What?"
"You wouldn't even touch me last weekend when you stayed over. I had to practically beg you to put your hands on me."
"I'm pretty sure we were snogging all night. At least, as far as I can remember!"
Ginny huffed. "That's not what I mean." She swung her legs off the bed, looking a bit pouty again, but also still quite pissed off. When she had reached the door to his bedroom, she twirled around in a fan of long, red hair and said, "Let's just take a break? See if we cool down in the next couple weeks."
"I was always very cool, tha— Wait, a couple weeks?"
Ginny just stared at him for a long moment, looking up and down his body as though considering what she was potentially giving up. Then she looked him in the eyes once more and, setting her jaw, disappeared out the door. Harry heard his Floo roar a few seconds later.
The pub was packed, and Harry could hardly push his way through the throng of people. He elbowed a path to the bar, looking around. When he finally reached the bar, a bit jostled and aching for a pint, sighed in relief at seeing Ron was already there.
"There you are," Harry said. "I was afraid I wouldn't find you in this mess." He nodded to all the people behind him.
Ron raised his eyebrows upon seeing him. "I thought you weren't coming."
"Yeah, well…" Harry shrugged and avoided Ron's eyes - it was the perfect time to attempt to signal the bartender.
"Missed me too much. I knew it."
Harry grinned as he raised his arm to get the bloke's attention. "Always. So you're here with Neville?"
Ron rolled his eyes and tipped his mug to his lips. "He's in the loo… Claims the crowd made him sweaty. I reckon he's applying some poncy cologne, or powdering his face or something."
Something about that made Harry's gut sting, the bartender was already in his face shouting for his drink order. When he'd put in for his beer, Harry turned back to Ron with a half-smile. "Neville's never been much of a crowd person."
Ron shook his head. "You can say that again."
Harry set his jaw and prepared to just come out with it, because Ron would find out sooner or later. Everyone would.
"Ginny broke it off with me."
Ron's mouth fell open. "What?"
"She's probably telling your mum even as we speak, so I didn't want it to be a surprise to you or anything." He twirled the cool mug in his hands, feeling the condensation pool of on his fingertips. He stared at the wet streaks… Anything not to have to look at Rons face right then and see his reaction.
"So you're only telling me because you thought I'd be miffed finding out from Mum?"
Well, not quite, but close enough, so Harry shrugged.
"Harry, how many times do I have to tell you that it pisses me right off when you do that?"
Harry did look at him then, his chest tightening and his fist clenching hard over his mug. "I don't want to fight, all right? Not right now."
Ron's eyes were wide with disbelief, and he scowled. It was worse than if he'd punched Harry in the face. Harry's gut twisted painfully, and suddenly it felt much too hot in the pub. Too stuffy with people he didn't know, crowding him, brushing past him, and choking him.
"Look, I'm not trying to shut you out!" He didn't intend to yell, but it had already come out like that, and there was no taking it back; Ron's expression was already darkening. He was making this night go from bad to worse, and Harry fleetingly thought that maybe he should have just stayed the fuck home.
"You always do, and you know it! You always shut me out right when things get hard for you to deal with."
Harry rolled his eyes.
"Even after everything we've been through, you still —"
"If I were shutting you out, why would I have come here to tell you, then?" Harry snapped. "Why is that?"
Ron's lips thinned and he exhaled hard through his nose, looking away toward the bar.
"Can we not fight? It's bloody fucked up, the whole thing. And it's awkward, because she's your sister, but I'm still telling you all about it, aren't I?"
"What's it all about then?" Ron challenged. Harry swallowed, his heart quickening. "Tell me why you broke up. Go on."
He bit his lip. "She broke it off; I had nothing to do with it."
At that, Ron snorted, and much of the tension magically eased away. Harry found himself instantly relieved.
His mug was half full, and Harry decided to empty it completely at that moment. It burned as he continued to swallow it all down without pause, and by the time he'd drained it, his eyes were watery and he panted for breath. Ron stared at him.
Harry inhaled deeply, and he already felt the wave of light headedness that came from alcohol, and it was pure relief. He blinked to clear his vision. "You know the… the… thing that's been on my mind."
Ron's eyes widened, and it seemed like full understanding had finally dawned on him. "Oh, fuck. That thing?"
Harry nodded. His face was hot, and he couldn't tell if it was from the conversation, the crowd, or the drink.
"I thought you said that thing was over."
"I did say that."
"So that thing… those feelings… they're not over?"
"No, they are. Definitely." Harry nodded firmly. "Definitely over."
Ron wrinkled his brow, his lips parted in confusion as he looked Harry in the eye. "I don't get it."
Harry heaved a sigh and had to refrain from pouting into his empty mug. "I don't either."
He felt the weight of an arm fall over his shoulders. Ron was hugging him. If he weren't momentarily shocked, Harry was sure he'd have a lump in his throat.
Ron pulled back and held him by both shoulders, at arm's length. His hands dug into Harry's muscles. He looked at Harry with such resolve, his forehead wrinkled. "Those feelings are okay; and they always will be with me."
Harry averted his eyes and twisted his body out of Ron's grasp, trying with all his might not to let his lip tremble. God damn Ron. Harry lifted his hand at the bartender and signalled another drink.
"Really, Harry," said Ron, close to his ear.
"I know," Harry mumbled. He dug into his pocket for money to pay his tab for both drinks, distracting himself from having to look at Ron.
"You're my best mate."
Harry bit his bottom lip, because that one simple, honest confession broke him; always did. He turned around and grabbed Ron around the neck and pulled him close. He didn't care anymore that they were in a pub.
"Well, look at this," said a very unwelcome voice from next to them, and they jumped off each other immediately.
Harry's pulse spiked. He'd know that voice anywhere.
He found himself unprepared to deal with Malfoy. Not ever, really, but most certainly not now.
"What do you want, Malfoy?" Harry asked, rounding on him.
"Well, hello to you, too." Malfoy's pale eyes narrowed as he glanced between Harry and Ron. He stood loftily, shoulders back and drink dangling from his fingers, but his usual sense of smugness was nowhere to be found.
"Can't say it's very nice to see you," Harry said, and Malfoy raised an eyebrow, frowning. "Besides, I never thought I would see you in a place like this."
Malfoy smirked then, and shrugged one shoulder. "It is a bit of a dump," he said with a sniff. "But Nott's fond of it."
It was then Harry noticed Theodore Nott standing to Malfoy's left. A few feet behind him, Blaise Zabini was letting a rather pissed looking girl flirt with him. He, and really their whole lot, looked completely out of place.
"All the bints come round here," Nott said with a seedy sort of grin.
Harry snorted. So Malfoy had found a new crew to follow him around and worship him. He wondered how many drinks Malfoy bought them and how many parties he got them into before they agreed to be his friends.
"Well, have fun with that," Harry said, turning away from them.
"Get out of here, Malfoy," Ron said. "Go back to the dank corner you came from, with your creepy friends."
Malfoy scowled. "I wasn't planning on staying long," he said. "Just came over when I saw you two about to snog."
"We weren't about to snog!" Harry said, his pulse quickening again.
"What are you on about?" Ron said, stepping closer to Malfoy.
Malfoy stood his ground, his smirk more indulgent than ever. He fed off the reaction he managed to rile out of him, and Harry wanted to punch that self-satisfied expression straight off Malfoy's face.
"Looked like maybe the rumours going around are true," Malfoy said, "and I just came over to check."
"Rumours?" Ron asked, and Harry felt like he was about to be sick. "What rumours?"
Harry pulled Ron's arm by the bicep. "Just leave it. He's just being a wanker, leave it."
Ron wouldn't budge and ignored Harry's pulling.
"No, he needs to answer for himself. Go on, Malfoy. You brought it up, so tell me what you mean."
Malfoy laughed. "You mean you haven't heard the rumours?"
"Malfoy, fuck off!" Harry said, wishing Malfoy would just drop it and go away, go hit on some girls like he'd come here to do, anything but bring up those stupid rumours. This was literally the worst time Harry could think of; tonight was already fucked up enough without Malfoy adding to the mix.
"What rumours?" Ron demanded, and Harry groaned inwardly.
Malfoy's grinned in a way that made Harry nervous. "You don't know, do you? What everyone's saying?"
Ron stepped closer, his face turning red. "What?!"
"I'm bent!" Harry said, slamming his mug down on the bar. "All right? Happy? I'm bent. I like blokes. I can't help it, but I do. And if you've got a fucking problem with that, Malfoy," Harry said, walking right up to Malfoy's chest, his head light from his beating pulse, or maybe from the drink, "then you can shove it up your arse, because I don't care."
Malfoy's mouth hung open, as did Nott's right next to him. Ron also looked particularly shocked at Harry's outburst, his eyebrows raised high.
"And you can go tell whoever you want," Harry continued, pushing Malfoy in the chest, "because I don't care who knows anymore. So go on. Go -" He pushed Malfoy again, and Malfoy slightly lost his footing. "Go!" He pushed him again, and this time Malfoy stumbled.
He scowled. "Don't touch me!" Malfoy pushed Harry back with such force, Harry fell backward and his back hit the bar.
"Fight!" Nott yelled. "Fight, everyone! There's a fight!"
The people directly in their vicinity glanced around, and upon seeing Malfoy lunge at Harry and grab him by the collar, they turned fully to face the fight and started cheering and clapping.
"It's Harry Potter," said a voice from somewhere. Another loud voice yelled, "FIGHT!" and then a throng surrounded him and Malfoy, screaming various things.
Malfoy tried to pull Harry by the collar and slam him back into the bar, but he was sloppy, and Harry lunged back. He grabbed Malfoy's posh shirt in a firm a grip, and he attempted to shove Malfoy to the ground.
Harry was so blinded with anger, he didn't even care about the people watching and hollering. He felt someone pull on his t-shirt, maybe Ron trying to hold him back, but he ripped himself free and jumped on Malfoy.
This time, they did fall to the ground - both of them - and an area cleared for them as people stood in a circle around them. Harry straddled Malfoy's hips, using his full weight to hold him down, and grabbed Malfoy's hair.
"I'm gonna beat your head into the floor, you arsehole!"
Malfoy was pink in the face, and he kept trying to grab Harry's forearms. His hands kept slipping from Harry's t-shirt, so he reached underneath is and held Harry's bare waist. He was stronger than Harry expected him to be, and he almost managed to jostle Harry off. But Harry had more bulk, and he gripped with his thighs and stayed on, now fully throwing punches. Malfoy's nose was bleeding. The sound of the crowd was deafening.
A flash of light blinded Harry until his vision was all white, and he let go of Malfoy and felt himself fall over and roll onto his back. He panicked, not able to see a thing, but then the blank whiteness started to change and shapes appeared in grey blotches… until he blinked and refocused, and there was the pub again.
The circle of people around them broke up, and everyone seemed to be looking at the man who had cast the spell that had broken Harry and Malfoy up.
"All right, that's enough," the man said. Harry looked up at him and saw it was the bartender. "No fighting in my pub. Get up, lads. Let's go."
Ron reached down and offered Harry his hand, which he took. After Ron helped haul him to his feet, Harry looked around for Malfoy.
"Where'd he go?" Harry asked.
"Ran off with his mates," Ron said. "Good riddance, too."
Harry frowned, unsure why it bugged him Malfoy had gone so quickly. "Fucking coward," he mumbled. "He couldn't even stay and face me."
Ron raised his eyebrows. "I think that bloke basically chased him out, mate." Then quickly added, "Not that he's not a whimp… because he is."
Just then, Harry spotted the door of the loo open and out walked Neville, looking as flustered as Harry usually saw him. Neville walked straight over to them.
"Hiya, Harry," he said. "God, I hate crowds. Make me nervous as all hell." He said to Ron, "Not sure how you drag me out to these things."
Ron stared at Neville in disbelief.
"What?" Neville asked, looking at Harry. "Did I miss something?"
Harry awoke to the sound loud knocking on his door. He groaned and cursed whoever it was, and then strained to open his eyes. It was painful to have to wake up.
That was Hermione's voice. He should really get out of bed before she got annoyed.
"Coming!" He sighed and resigned himself to the matter, sitting up and throwing his legs over the edge of the bed.
"Nevermind. I've undone your locking charm."
"Oh," Harry said to himself. He padded into the sitting room, rubbing his eyes. "Heya," he said, spotting Hermione in the kitchen. She already had his teapot in hand and was filling it with water from the sink.
"Good morning," she said, turning back to look at him with a weak smile, and then continued to prepare for tea. She put the pot on the burner and put on the fire with a flick of her wand. Then she reached into the cupboard next to the stove and pulled out two white mugs. "Did you move your tea?" she asked.
"It's in the drawer," Harry said, ignoring her frown, because truthfully that wasn't very helpful. She began looking through drawers at random. He sat down at the small kitchen island, on one of the high stools, and sighed. His eyes caught the paper laying folded up on the edge of the counter.
"Is this mine, or did you bring it?" he asked, snatching up the paper and opening it up to the front page. His mouth dropped.
"Mine," Hermione said.
Right under the words, The Daily Prophet, was emblazoned - in wriggly bold letters that moved around, no less - the phrase:
POTTER A SELF-CONFIRMED POUF!
"Oh, my God." Harry felt the strength drain from his arms, and he sagged onto the counter, leaning heavily on his elbows. He couldn't take his eyes off the headline, which shimmied in front of him, mocking him. "Are you fucking kidding me?"
Hermione gave him a sad little tight-lipped smile. "What happened, Harry?"
When Harry didn't reply right away, she added, "I asked Ron, but he just started ranting about what a prick Malfoy is, and then Ginny walked in, and he sort of froze. I thought, well, I'd better come over here."
"God, I forgot about Ginny."
"What happened? Why would they write about this?" Hermione asked, tapping the cover of the paper.
"I'm scared to read it."
"Don't. It's all bollocks anyway. Something about you snogging your best mate in full view of the pub, which is obviously a load of made up rubbish."
Harry's eyes flew wide open and he snatched the paper up again, skimming the article. "Oh, bloody hell. Really? They went and wrote I was 'gay for my best mate'?"
Hermione hummed. "I wonder who that anonymous source is." She raised an eyebrow.
"Source?" Harry skimmed some more, until he found the quote.
"He was all over Weasley," says our source, a young man who was at the pub and witnessed the whole thing with his own eyes. "They were hugging and hanging all over each other. It was obscene really, in public like that. And then he started yelling about how he was a proud bender and how he wanted everyone to know it."
Harry felt like he was going to be sick. "Are you fucking kidding me?"
We thank this young man for his honesty and his bravery in coming forward and accounting the scene. He had these final words to say:
"Potter made quite a spectacle of himself. At least now we know why he and Weasley have been so close over the years."
Harry felt like his head was about to explode from the sheer fury rising in his chest. His ears rang deafeningly, and then he realized it was just the teapot, which had started to whistle.
Hermione got up and started pouring tea into the mugs. She brought one over to Harry, and the aroma of the tea wafted his senses… and made him feel nauseated.
"Please take that away," he gritted out.
Hermione wrinkled her brow, but thinned her lips and said nothing. She took the mug back and put it down on the kitchen counter behind her.
"I know exactly who this so-called source is," Harry said.
"It's Malfoy. Obviously. It has to be him." Harry exhaled through his nose. "He's probably pissed off that I beat him up and he went to the press. He was pretty interested in me and Ron last night, too, for some reason."
"Yeah, well…" Harry tried to think of the best way to explain this. He was sure Hermione already knew the 'rumours' of his being gay were true. She probably already knew that Ginny had broken it off with him, and the reason why as well. She probably already knew that Harry and Malfoy had fought. Hell, Hermione knew everything. The sequence of events wasn't the issue. She was here for one thing: his feelings.
"Harry? Were you and Ron… er…"
Harry's cheeks burned. "We were just talking! We may have… yeah, we… embraced like, maybe once…" He looked up into Hermione's expectant face. "It was a very private conversation," he insisted.
"Was it about your recent struggle with you know what?"
"Yes," he hissed, wanting to sink into the floorboards. "I don't really want to talk about that, though. Anyway, Malfoy came over and started shit, and then I hit him."
"And that's why he went to the press with this ridiculous story."
"Malfoy would do that. I wouldn't be surprised if that anonymous source is actually him."
"He's done it before, hasn't he?" Harry said, referring to all those times Malfoy spoke to the Prophet during hogwarts. "He hasn't changed at all. I'll bet he wet himself coming up with this bollocks. It's definitely him, Hermione, no doubt about it."
Hermione nodded, and then something caught her eye behind Harry's head. She tilted her chin up to have a look, squinting, and said, "Harry. There's an owl at your window."
Harry turned around and saw that there was indeed a big black Eagle Owl with angry yellow eyes flying in place just outside his window. It tapped its talon-like claws against the pane of glass, and Harry got up to let it in.
The owl flew one lap around the room, hooting a couple of times, before coming down to land on the counter between Harry and Hermione. It stuck it's leg out, and when Hermione reached over to untie the letter from its ankle, it hooted and bounced away from her on one foot, directing it instead to Harry.
"Well, fine…" Hermione muttered, crossing her arms.
Harry couldn't help his smile, and he took the letter from the owl. When it didn't make a motion to leave, Harry asked, "You waiting to take back a response?"
The owl ignored him and fluffed it's shiny, black feathers, but remained put. Harry had his answer, and began unrolling the parchment. Now to see who was writing to him…
He frowned at the name signed at the bottom. He stared at it for a bit, wondering if he was reading it correctly.
"Hermione, you'll never believe who this is from."
"Who?" she asked, leaning over the counter and trying to peek.
Harry started from the beginning, eager to find out what this was all about. It was a tiny note.
I am writing to ask you over for tea this Saturday at noon at our home in the city. Please RSVP as soon as you get this. Draco and I would be happy to have you call.
Our address is written below.
Harry blinked at the note and read it over twice. What was this all about? He couldn't think of one possible reason for Narcissa Malfoy to invite him over to her house. And the fact that Draco was okay with it blew Harry's mind.
His heart was beating so quickly, his breathing had become shallow.
"Malfoy wants me to come round his house."
He let Hermione take the letter from his hands. Her brow wrinkled as she read.
"It sounds very strange," she said thoughtfully.
Harry bit his lip as he tried to think. He couldn't imagine Narcissa Malfoy inviting him over just to scold him for beating up her precious son. The thought did make him want to laugh, though, as he imagined Draco pouting like a child behind his mother, who was shaking her finger in Harry's face.
"I mean, it just doesn't make very much sense, does it?" Hermione said. "First you get into a bar fight with Malfoy, then he runs to the paper and outs you for being gay - oh, sorry, I mean…" She winced at Harry's dark expression. "... and now, Narcissa Malfoy is inviting you over for tea. At their city home? It's all very bizarre."
'I'm going," Harry said, resolutely.
Hermione's eyes widened. "You are?"
"Yes, I want to go. I want to go see Malfoy and ask him why the hell he would do something so miserably shitty, after all I've done for him and his family. It really pisses me off, Hermione. He could at least be nice to me once in a while!" He realized that last bit came out whinier than he'd intended it to.
She gave him a peculiar look. "Okay," she said, lightly.
Harry went into the sitting room and rummaged around in an old desk, looking for a spare quill. "I'm going to reply right now and accept."
The owl hooted and flapped its wings.
"Draco, our guest will be here any moment. Get up!"
With his face shoved into the plush, comfortable softness of his pillows, Draco let a frustrated growl rumble through his chest. "What did I tell you about noontime?" he demanded, cocooning himself more tightly in his duvet.
"What was that?" his mother asked in mock sarcasm. He could hear her ripping the curtains wide open, the rings sliding over the rod.
He huffed and threw the duvet off himself, sitting up and frowning at the influx of light to his senses. "Don't wake me before noon!"
His mother looked over at him from over her shoulder. "Well, now you're up, so you might as well get out of bed."
His mother proceeded to his dresser, opening it and staring into it's contents. "Hmm… I think blue for today. It does suit you so…"
"What are you talking about?" Draco groaned, pushing his fringe away from his eyes.
"We have a guest calling for tea soon, and I need you up and ready for him."
"A guest?" He had to admit, he was curious to know who would come for tea besides his mother's friends. "A him?" Then something gripped his chest and made his stomach feel a bit queasy. "Mother…" he started, staring at her. "You're not trying to..." His voice dropped to a whisper, "... leave father, are you?"
His mother looked back at him, and then threw her head back and let out a peal of laughter. "Oh, Draco, don't make me laugh." She wheezed as she carried blue robes in her arms and laid them down at the end of his bed.
"Yes," he said, his heart slowing to normal pace. "It's very funny…"
"No, this isn't my guest." She looked at him from the corner of her eye, and he didn't like the mischief he saw. "This is more your guest."
"I didn't invite anyone over."
"I know. Now put this on and go make yourself look nice."
Draco frowned. What the buggering fuck?
"And get your hair out of your face, please." She sighed dramatically, looking at him as if he were utterly hopeless. "There's no time for a haircut now, but you'll do."
By the time Draco dragged himself downstairs, he could already hear the clinking of china. Precious teacups on their little saucers. The smell of sweet rose tea and freshly baked biscuits wafted through the air. He was nearing the glass french doors to the big, bright sitting room, when he heard the timbre of his mother's voice… followed by the lower voice of a male.
There were two figures obscured through glint of sun on the glass doors. Intrigued despite himself, he made sure his robes hung evenly over his shirt and pants. These were the robes his mother had previously chided him for purchasing because they were just that little bit too tight. In fact, it was a wonder she chose these specific ones now.
He strolled into the room... only to stop short as soon as he crossed the threshold, his mouth falling open.
His mother lifted her head to look at him. "Oh, there you are," she said in a calm, soft voice. It was her ready-to-charm persona. Soft and feminine and hospitable. He felt a wave of resentment that she was turning it on for Potter.
"What is this?" he asked abruptly.
"Draco, don't be rude." She grinned pleasantly. "Come and sit down." With an outstretched arm, she indicated the spot next to Potter on the chaise lounge. Convenient of her to rearrange the room so that there was only a chaise and a chair available, which she herself occupied.
Potter looked up at him and grinned. It was the most evil thing he'd ever seen on Potter's face.
"Hello, Draco," Potter said. "It's so nice to see you."
Draco scoffed and ignored Potter's sarcasm. "This is a joke," he said as he sauntered over to the chaise, plopping down unceremoniously and sinking down to a slouch. "What's he doing here?" he asked his mother, crossing his arms in front of him. He felt Potter's presence acutely, so near that he'd press against Draco if he moved even an inch closer.
"I was invited," Potter snapped. Draco raised an eyebrow at him. "You didn't know?"
"Potter," Draco said in a drawl, "why would I invite you over my house? For what possible reason would I do that?"
Potter appeared surprised. "Well, the note clearly said you were having me over."
"Note?" Draco's gaze snapped away from Potter. "Mother…?"
His mother had the nerve to smile deviously.
Potter cleared his throat. "You mean this was all a mistake? Perhaps I should go." He made to get up.
Draco saw his mother blanche.
"No, please do sit down, Mr Potter. Don't mind Draco. He's never been very good with receiving company."
Draco glared at her. What the fuck?
"No, it's quite all right." Potter glanced quickly at him before looking away. "I don't want to make Draco uncomfortable."
Draco rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath, "Good, go on, then." Potter seemed to have heard him, because he paused, and so did his mother.
"Draco, sit up straight at once," she snapped.
"No." Draco pouted, looking away with a heated face. He hated when she talked to him like a child; though he knew he certainly wasn't helping his case by snapping back with such a petty response.
Dipsy came waltzing through the door carrying a tray which looked positively enormous in her tiny arms, and they all became distracted by her in that moment. It was a strange, uneasy silence in which the three of them watched the tray teeter left and right as the elf bounced over to the sitting area. Draco realized he'd been raising a judging eyebrow at it the whole time; he was surprised the elf made it all the way without dropping anything.
"Here are the sandwiches," his mother said, sounding relieved. "Mr Potter, you can't leave now."
Draco snorted. "No, you can't miss out on cucumber sandwiches. Who could, really?" He reached over and made to grab one, when his mother all but shrieked.
"Draco! Don't be rude, and offer one to our guest first." She stared at him pointedly.
The thing was, Potter was still standing.
"He doesn't want a bloody sandwich," Draco said. "He's about to leave… as he should be."
"Actually, no," Potter said, because of course, he couldn't make anything easy. Of course now he was going to stay, because he was too stubborn to leave a place where he was clearly unwanted. Potter threw Draco a challenging look and sat his arse back down on the sofa. "I'll have a sandwich," he said.
"Are you fucking kidding me?"
"Draco," his mother
Maybe because he was partially in shock, if decidedly aggravated, Draco made a noise of disbelief and reached for one of the stupid flowered plates stacked up on the table. He used the tongs to pick up one, thin cucumber sandwich, dropped it on the plate so unceremoniously that a bit of cucumber fell out, and held it out to Potter. Draco didn't look at him. In fact, his face was feeling warm.
Potter took the plate from him and muttered, "Thanks."
Draco's eyes fell on his mother, who was still looking at him expectantly.
"And the tea," she urged, raising her eyebrows as if to say, 'What are you bloody waiting for?'
Draco's glared at her, but still, he couldn't find it in himself to argue. This was all so bizarre, he didn't know what to make of it.
He concentrated on the tea table, aware of both sets of eyes on him as he performed his task. He grabbed the empty cup in front of Potter, keeping his eyes strictly averted.
"Sugar?" he asked, his voice barely audible, as though his lips were loathe to form the words.
"Sure," Potter said.
Draco's whole body burned up with embarrassment as he forced himself to serve Potter his tea. He used a little spoon to pick up a little cube of sugar, plopped it into the china cup, then put it back in its little saucer in front of Potter's place setting. Draco then lifted the teapot and carefully poured tea over the sugar cube, until the cup was filled and the sugar was already partially dissolved.
"Ask him if he wants a biscuit!"
Draco exhaled hard through his nose. He felt paralyzed, unable and unwilling to bring himself to look at Potter.
"Would you like a biscuit?" he gritted out.
He heard Potter clear his throat. "Yeah, sure."
Forcing his arms to move, Draco used the sandwich tongs to grab a biscuit and threw it onto Potter's plate.
Finally, he sat back in his seat and crossed his arms again.
His mother sipped her own tea, looking from one of them to the other from behind the rim of her cup. Draco wanted to strangle her. He had no idea what she was playing at.
He narrowed his eyes at her.
Setting her cup down, she folded her hands primly in her lap and smiled at Potter. "So, Mr Potter," she began, "what have you been doing with yourself all these months?"
"Er…" Potter cleared his throat again and straightened in his seat. "I'm in the Auror program. The training program," he added quickly, with a flutter of blinking. His eyes briefly darted to Draco, probably to ascertain Draco's impression and rub it in his face. Draco schooled his eyes on the tea table, not giving him the satisfaction.
"Ooh," his mother cooed, "that must be exciting work."
"Heh… Well, it's a lot of practice. So we're not doing anything greatly exciting at the moment. Just a lot of… well, learning."
"I wish Draco would choose a career path as well. He's so aimless these days."
Draco glared at her with all his might.
She wasn't even looking at him.
"No sense of direction at all," she continued, oblivious of his mental urging to shut the hell up! "I keep telling him, you can't just drink your problems away, but does he listen? Of course not…"
Potter's eyes were wide, and he was biting his lip so hard, Draco thought he might burst out laughing any moment.
His mother went on, of course. "Maybe you could take Draco out one evening and tell him all about the Auror program." She grinned as though this was the most brilliant idea anyone had ever had since self-polishing broomsticks. "Convince him how much fun it is." Then she had the nerve to wink ever so conspiratorily at Potter, who was practically going red in the face trying to control his urge to laugh. "He should do something with his life, and it sounds like a great program. And besides, it would be a lovely opportunity for you two to catch up."
"Mother. Have you completely lost your bloody mind?" Draco's skin was hot with rage. "Have you gone off your medicine?" At that, she blanched and returned his venomous look. "Potter. Ignore her. Obviously, you don't have to take me anywhere or suffer my company any longer than you already have. In fact, you should probably just leave. Now."
His mother jumped at this. "No, Mr Potter, do not go … Oh!" She looked behind her, for no reason at all. "I just heard Dipsy drop something in the other room!"
"No you didn't," Draco said. "There was no noise."
"She's so clumsy… I'd better go see what's wrong!" She got to her feet and nearly ran out of the room. But just as she was about to pass through double doors, she turned back and said brightly, "Now you two will have some alone time to chat!" And then dashed out.
Draco stared after her in disbelief.
The clock in the room ticked the seconds going by. Eventually, he looked to his side, and saw Potter was staring at the door as well.
"Your mother's deranged," Potter said.
"Oh, shut up, Potter!" Draco rounded on him. "What are you even doing here? Hm? Not enough to assault me at the pub, but then you come here and pretend to be a complete saint in front of my mother -"
"What?" Potter looked like he was going to start another fight. "First of all, how dare you go to the paper about that!"
"Yes, bloody you, Malfoy. You! Who else?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You went to the paper and told them about me being…" At this, Potter swallowed, and he appeared to really be struggling with the words.
"I haven't seen the paper, so I have no idea what you're on about."
"Right. Like I'm going to just believe that. You probably jumped at the chance to humiliate me."
"Give it up, Malfoy!"
"I don't know what you're talking about!"
"You told the paper I'm gay! You told them all those things I said to you, and now it's out there and everyone knows. I know I said I didn't care if people knew, but I do, all right? I don't want it broadcasted to the entire wizarding Britain! It's my personal business and - What are you looking like that for?"
Draco realized his mouth was hanging open. "It's in the paper that you're bent?"
"Yes!" Harry said, a full blush across his face now.
Draco found himself distracted by that blush, but made himself focus. "Well even so, I didn't go to the press."
Harry snorted. "Like I said, that's a bit hard to believe."
"It's true! I wouldn't do that."
"Of course you would."
"No, Potter," Draco said, holding Potter's gaze and trying to implore wordlessly just how serious he was. "I wouldn't."
He might have done similar things when he was younger, but not now, and not for this. This hit very close to home, and Draco needed Potter to believe him.
Even though Potter didn't say anything, his anger was still clearly painted across his face. Draco sighed, and braced himself.
"Look, I wouldn't tell the press about what you told me because… because, well… see, the thing is…" The room became very interesting. The flowery teacups were suddenly a much prefered thing to stare at than Potter's eyes. Oh, blast, he might as well just come out with it. "I'm also of that... persuasion."
Draco chanced a look at Potter's face, and when he saw some of the anger had already drained, he sagged with relief.
"Then why'd you start saying all that crap to me and Ron?"
"Hm? Oh… That crap. Er… Because you were hanging all over each other, that's why." He scoffed, for good measure.
Potter raised an eyebrow. "And that offends you, because…?"
"Why? You have to ask why? Because… well… Because it's you and Weasley, that's why! Your presence always offends me." In fact, the memory of seeing Potter with Weasley already started making Draco's pulse race.
"So what you're telling me is that you were just being your generally prattish self, and you were just skeeved off by seeing me and Ron that night, and not being a homophobic arse."
Potter's lip twitched into an almost-smile. Draco had the dark feeling Potter had somehow gotten one over on him.
He narrowed his eyes. "Whatever, Potter. Just don't tell anyone."
Potter did smile. "I won't tell anyone, Malfoy."
"Good." Draco nodded, crossing his arms. "Better not." They sat in silence for a moment which was surprisingly not as uncomfortable as it should have been, and then Draco spotted the cucumber sandwiches. He leaned to the table and snatched one up. "I'm sure my mum saw the paper this morning," he said before popping the entire tiny sandwich into his mouth. It was crunchy.
"I'm sure all of Britain did," Potter grumbled, staring morosely at the tea table.
Draco looked at him from the corner of his eye. Potter had the loveliest jaw line, he noticed, and a straight nose, and bright eyes. His lashes were long and full, and his lips were slightly pouty - on account of the paper business. His clothes had always been a tad large on him, but Draco would be lying if he pretended he'd never noticed Potter's body in his Quidditch gear. He was probably just as fit now, what with Auror training. Oh, dear…
"Potter… What do you think of my robes?"
Potter glanced, scanned Draco's body once, and shrugged. "They're all right."
Draco smirked. "I don't think Mother is coming back anytime soon, as she's trying to give us loads of time to ourselves, so you're free to bugger off if you'd like. Now that she's not bound to notice and try to stop you."
"Oh," said Potter, glancing at the double doors like he'd forgotten all about Draco's mum. "Right, yeah."
He got up and made his way to the doors, stopping before pushing them open. "See ya, then, Malfoy."
"I thought that was going to be the end of it," Harry said, staring at the shiny ticket that had fallen out of the rolled up piece of parchment.
"She sent you a ticket?" Ron asked.
They sat at the wide and worn kitchen table at the Burrow, a plate of Mrs Weasley's irresistible bacon sandwiches between them.
"She's mad, his mum. She really is. I always thought she was just stuck up, but she's mad, too."
"It doesn't surprise me. I mean, where do you think he gets it from?"
"Draco's not mad," Harry said.
Ron looked at him askance, but said nothing as he bit off a mouthful of his sandwich.
Harry cleared his throat, ignoring Ron and going back to reading the letter. "She said it's a gift of thanks. 'I've never properly thanked you for all the kind things you said about my family at those horrid trials.'," he read. He raised his eyebrows at Ron. "I wouldn't say I'd said kind things about them. More like, just didn't say anything truly horrible."
"I reckon anything not horrible counts as kind when you're talking about the Malfoys," Ron said.
Harry shrugged and picked up the ticket. The shiny paper gleamed where the candlelight hit it. It was gold and flashy, like a piece of precious treasure. And to many witches and wizards, it was. The finals of the European Quidditch League were no small match… Everyone knew that the winners of this game got top pickings for a team for the World Cup. It was Ginny's dream to one day make it into the European Cup.
Harry wondered how she would feel if she knew he were going. His gut stung with guilt, and he didn't know why. It wasn't his fault she wasn't going to see the match, but the fact that he was going without her - and on tickets bought my Mrs Malfoy, of all people - felt wrong. It felt like some horrible betrayal.
"I can't go," he said, setting the ticket down.
Ron eyed it, something passing over his eyes. He could never have afforded that ticket.
Again, Harry's gut clenched almost painfully.
"You should go… Er, with Hermione."
Ron looked at him like he'd suddenly said he was planning to adopt a Blast-Ended Skrewt.
"Hermione hates Quidditch," Ron said.
"No, she doesn't."
"Well, she'd hate going to watch it. I think think that one time at the World Cup in fourth year was enough for her for life. And besides, where would we get another ticket?"
Oh, there was that, wasn't there? "I'll buy her one, it's really no problem."
Ron narrowed his eyes at him, his ears going just the slightest shade of pink. "No," he said evenly.
Harry knew to drop it. "Fine, then I'll return it, because I can't go."
"Oh, I don't know… Maybe because it's from Malfoy's mum, that's why."
"I do wonder what she's playing at, especially since it's only the one ticket and all. I mean, did she really expect you to do by yourself?"
At that moment, Harry felt like the biggest idiot. "Oh, of course not! She's planning on me going with them!"
Ron winced, and his whole body pulled away from the table. "Oh…That's really… That's horrible."
"Tell me about it!"
"Can you even imagine spending a whole match with the Malfoys? It's probably some huge publicity stunt - them trying to get photos in your company or something. It's a really bad idea, Harry, don't go."
"Oh, I'm not. Definitely not going."
"Not going where?" asked Ginny, who had just come practically skipping into the kitchen.
Harry nearly jumped out of his seat. "Oh, hello."
"Hi, Harry," she said, as though this wasn't the first time she'd seen him since she broke it off with him. She reached over him, even! To get a bloody bacon sandwich! He could smell the lavender in her hair. "Where are you definitely not going?" she asked again.
"Oh, er… Nowhere," he stammered. Then he remembered the ticket on the table - bright gold and impossible she'd missed it - and snatched it up, stuffing it into his pocket.
Ron looked like he was seriously enjoying that sandwich.
"That wouldn't happen to be a Euro Cup ticket?" she asked, though the mock innocence was more than clear.
"Oh, Harry," she sighed, exasperated, "yes it is!"
She was definitely not feigning innocence now.
"Yeah," he mumbled, "yeah, it is."
"Are you going to the match, then?"
"No, definitely not. In fact, this isn't even my ticket. I bought it for, uhm, for Ron."
"Uhh…" Ron swallowed his bite. "Yeah, for my birthday."
Ginny scoffed. "Your birthday isn't till next March."
"Yeah, which means I wouldn't get a chance to see the Euro Cup on my actual birthday, now would I?" he retorted. "Ginny, get out of here, you weren't invited. And stop eating our food!"
She rolled her eyes and flipped her hair, turning back and taking a large bite of sandwich just to spite Ron. "Mm, so good…" she teased as she walked out.
Ron turned right back to Harry in a beat. "So, are you going to give the ticket back?"
"Absolutely. I'll just tell her, I'm sorry Mrs Malfoy but I don't have time to go to the match, because unfortunately, I'm working."
"Quite right," Ron said, nodding.
As soon as Harry got home, he started to write the letter, just as he'd said. But the words didn't want to form that way, and before he knew it, he was RSVPing to a Saturday in the Malfoy's private viewing box at the Euro Cup.
Well, it was the Euro Cup. Or at least he told himself over and over that week.
"What?!" Draco yelped as soon as he saw Potter. "No. You? No, she told me she had invited Nott. That vile woman, how dare she?"
Potter continued to walk up to him, wearing an increasingly annoyed expression. "I'm beginning to wonder why I came."
"Yeah, well, why did you come?" Draco snapped.
He really shouldn't have asked, because it became stark as daylight that there were really only two good reasons for Potter to actually agree to this and come to a match with Draco. Either Potter had been viciously lied to and he'd been expecting someone else — which didn't actually seem to be the case, since Potter seemed completely aware that Draco would be there — or Potter genuinely did want to attend the match with Draco. Which would mean he didn't loath Draco's company. Which would mean this situation was uncharted and awkward, because since when did Potter like him enough to hang out with him?
Potter appeared to be aware of all of this, and the discomfort was clearly written on his pinched face. He stared somewhere in the distance, hands in pockets.
He did paint such a nice figure in that jacket and those faded jeans.
Draco swallowed and reminded himself to behave, because Potter was not on the list of acceptable males to fuck, no matter what deranged ideas his mother might have. Actually, her list was probably titled, "Eligible Bachelors for Newly Queer Son," or more likely, "Famous or Powerful Men Whom Draco Should Date."
"Let's just go," Draco said. "I mean, we can't just stand here."
Potter nodded, still avoiding Draco's eyes.
But it was just so bizarre, him and Potter walking through the crowd, past the vendors and food tents. They barely looked at each other, let alone spoke, and Potter basically followed him soundlessly toward the direction of the stands. Draco wanted to punch the bloke who suddenly spotted Potter and made them stop, only to attract a throng of people asking for Potter's autograph. Draco might as well have been invisible, which didn't sit well for him and never had, so he gave up scowling next to Potter long enough to find his way to the closest tent and buy a pastry.
When Potter finally dodged the last of them, he looked red in the face and even more uncomfortable than when he'd been simply walking with Draco. He was frowning, and he hadn't been frowning before.
Draco raised an eyebrow at him, while picking off a piece of pastry and eating it. The icing was perfectly sweet. "What, didn't enjoy seeing your fans?"
Potter's frown deepened, and Draco was actually sad for it.
"No, actually, I don't live for attention."
"Could've fooled anyone," Draco said. Again, he wished he hadn't. He wondered fleetingly why all these things simply sprang past his lips, and decided to shove most of the pastry into his mouth just to stop himself.
Potter was sneering at him now. Sneering! Draco felt a bit heavy in the chest.
"Want some pastry?" he asked, holding it out.
Potter eyed it strangely, like he had just noticed it, and then visibly relaxed. To Draco's surprise, he reached out and actually took it. He picked off a piece from the opposite end and popped it into his mouth.
"Don't like it. I want something else."
"Well, fine, then give it back." Draco stepped close to him and snatched the now-falling-to-pieces pastry from Potter's hand. "There are plenty of other things."
Draco sighed. "I don't know, Potter. Look."
That led them to meander through the tents and various sweet carts sprinkled between, finding all sorts of festival food and non-festival food alike. One tent even served spaghetti and meatballs in a paper container that could be eaten while watching the match.
"Too messy," Potter, declared, and Draco found that he agreed. "Ah, they have chips there!" Potter basically beelined for the chips tent.
They were thick-cut and browned to a golden crisp, and they smelled so good, Draco's mouth watered. They bought some Butterbeers to go with it, and finally made their way up to the stands.
"We're going up here," Draco said, leading the way through a side staircase. It was a private stair up to the top boxes. He couldn't remember a time he'd sat in the regular stands besides Hogwarts. It was behind the stands, a bit away from the huge public entrance. Potter's face was more relaxed, and Draco realized he might actually be enjoying being away from all his shouting fans and getting a bit of privacy. Draco was strangely glad he could give that to him.
It was a steep flight, but when they got to the top, they were higher than the rest, and the view was astounding. The top boxes were the best, where one could see almost eye-level with the field of play, and only the experience was really something else entirely. Matches became private shows for the wealthiest viewers - politicians, celebrities, and old, influential families...
Each seat had its own set of omnioculars. Considering he and Potter were the only occupants of this particular box, it felt roomier than normal. Which made it even stranger that Potter sat unnecessarily close to him. Not that Draco was going to say anything. He simply glanced at their thighs almost touching, and Potter's shoulders almost bumping into his… and tried to quell the excited feeling bubbling up in his stomach.
Draco swallowed his nerves. His voice came out less confident than he'd have liked. "Its a shame England didn't make it to the finals," he said.
"Yeah, well," Potter said, popping a chip in his mouth. "the way McBitten was playing, I was surprised they made it as far as they did."
"McBitten is a prime Keeper, Potter," he said, scoffing a little at Potter's accusation. "His family are renowned Quidditch players. I don't suppose next you'll say Merlin himself was no better than a Squib?"
"You only like him because he's a Pureblood."
Draco sniffed, raising his chin. "There's nothing wrong with his being a Pureblood."
"Not saying there is. But he's a shit Keeper." Potter's eyes brightened, and his lips quirked into an almost smile.
"He's brilliant!" Draco fired back, and began listing off the ways on his fingers. Potter wore a stupid, smug grin at getting him all riled up, but Draco ignored the infuriating git and just continued making his point. Eventually, he threw a chip at Potter, which hit Potter right in nose and made him nearly topple out of his seat in a sad effort to block it. Draco smirked, feeling much better.
As they continued to argue about England's various players, Draco forgot this should be very awkward and found himself having quite a good time. He even jumped at the booming voice of the host through his Sonorous charm, signalling the start of the match.
It was a roaring victory for Romania. Germany lost by a landslide, almost 300 points behind. Draco was thrumming with energy by the time they were running down the steps of the stand. They approached the Portkeys station before it got too packed, and luckily there was no queue.
"Where to, lads?" said the Portkey operator.
"London," said Potter.
"One for both of yeh?"
"Yes," Potter said with a nod.
The man put an empty tin can onto the tall table. "Both of yeh hold onto this, or hold onto each other."
Potter reached out, not yet touched the can, and held one arm open for Draco. "Come on, Malfoy, we can't both get a good grip on it."
Draco sneered at the man. "Got anything a bit smaller for us to Portkey with?"
"In fact, I do," the man said, obviously unintimidated.
"No, this is fine," Potter insisted. "Thanks very much." He glared at Draco. "Come on, Malfoy."
Draco's stomach fluttered as he stepped closer to Potter. He reached around Potter's waist. His eyes fluttered shut at the faint waft of shampoo and Potter's unique scent.
Potter's arm came around him, warm around his body. Draco exhaled slowly.
"You all right?" Potter asked. "I won't lose you?"
Draco shook his head stiffy. He watched Potter finally touch the tin can.
His stomach felt queasy when they landed with a thud, shaking his ankles from the impact on the concrete.
"Don't let go," Potter said close to his ear, and without even questioning, Draco wrapped his hands into Potter's jacket and held on tighter.
Potter Apparated them. When Draco looked around, he recognized where they were.
He was still snugged into Potter's side, and when Potter slowly started loosening his grip on Draco's waist, Draco coughed and did the same.
Potter led them up to the townhouse, through the little iron gate. He followed Draco up the stairs. They stood on the landing, in front of the polished black door.
"Well," Potter said, shoving his hands in his pockets.
"That was a good match."
"Yes. I'm glad I came."
"You weren't too bad to be around." Draco smirked.
"You weren't bad, yourself, Malfoy."
"I'm always a laugh."
"Yeah, to laugh at."
Draco was about to reach for the doorknob when Potter took a step closer.
"You know," Potter said, "what I said in the pub was true."
He was too close again, and Draco couldn't think. "What?" He wanted to touch that jacket again and pull Potter to him. He quickly banished those thoughts.
"That I like blokes."
Draco's pulse jumped. "Congratulations," he murmured, unsure he was able to form words more coherent than that. Not when Potter was staring so intently at his lips.
"Thanks," Potter said, and suddenly grinned. "It's really great to finally let it out."
Draco blinked at him. "Yeah… Great."
Potter gave him one last smile, and then turned and walked down the steps.
Draco tried not to feel so disappointed. The sun was about to set, and Potter was almost past his gate, from where he could safely Disapparate. Draco watched him disappear in the dim light of dusk.
Harry arrived at the Burrow by Floo — which he still absolutely hated — and practically fell out of the fireplace, stumbling over himself as he coughed through the ash. He looked around the sitting room and saw it was empty. Everyone must be in the kitchen already, sitting around the table and fighting over croissants. Harry's stomach gave a loud rumble as he thought about the large breakfast he was soon to have. He looked forward to Mrs Weasley's Sunday breakfasts all week.
The smell of eggs, freshly grilled sausage, and fried beans led him to the warm, bustling kitchen. He spotted pans of apple-crisp muffins cooling on the counter, and a wooden spoon stirred the pot of beans on its own. Mrs Weasley seemed to have abandoned the cooking to magic so as to join everyone around the table. They were all huddled over something in the center, completely engrossed, and no one noticed that Harry had come in.
"Good morning," Harry said.
Nearly each person jumped at the sound of his voice.
"Harry," Mrs Weasley said, running her hands over her apron. "We were all quite shock to see the paper this morning."
"Paper?" Harry's heart sank to his stomach.
"Don't you read the paper anymore?" Hermione asked, hands on her hips.
Harry shot her a look. "I haven't had time to look at the paper; I got out of bed and came straight here."
Well, you certainly look it, said a little voice in Harry's head that sounded suspiciously like Malfoy's, and it didn't even bother Harry, for once. He just knew if Malfoy were here, he would take one look at him and raise an eyebrow at the state of Harry's clothing, which he'd found randomly on the floor of his bedroom and thrown on, and his mussed up hair from having simply rolled out of bed. And why was he thinking about what Malfoy would say, anyway?
"What were you doing with Malfoy yesterday at the match?" George asked.
Harry tried to form words, but nothing came out. Everyone knew about that? "Let me see that paper!" He ran to the table to look, and upon seeing that morning's headline, his mouth fell open. "Why?" he groaned.
HARRY POTTER & DEATH EATER DRACO MALFOY AN ITEM, SEEN HOLDING HANDS AT EURO CUP
"We didn't hold hands!"
But right there under the headline was a moving photograph of Harry and Draco, taken from behind as if someone had snuck up to their box without them noticing and snapped a picture. Their picture-selves were turning their heads toward one another so their profiles were visible, and it was clear the people in the photo were indeed Harry and Malfoy. And the way they moved, Harry had to admit it did look like they were holding hands.
"It's just because we're sitting so close!" he cried indignantly. "But I wasn't actually holding his hand." He frowned. "And he's not a Death Eater anymore, and that was complicated."
"Why were you sitting so close?" Ron asked, pulling a face.
"It was loud, and we were talking…" Harry floundered.
Ginny decided to take that moment to walk out of the kitchen. Everyone stared at her until she disappeared, and then only the sound of her footsteps was heard barrelling up the stairs.
"Oh, bother," Mrs Weasley said, reaching behind herself as if to untie her apron.
"No," Harry said, putting a hand up. "I'll go."
He got the base of the stairs and heard Mr Weasley's hushed and confused voice from the kitchen.
"What's going on?"
"I'll explain, Mr. Weasley," said Hermione.
Harry closed his eyes, sighed, and braced himself. Then he made his way up the stairs to Ginny's bedroom, wondering if he should expect shouting, tears, or something else. He felt the world's biggest jerk as he reached her door, wanting to be anywhere else at the moment.
Ginny's room was small, but still quite cosy, in Harry's opinion, like most of the rooms at the Burrow. It was full of her childhood, girly things, like old dolls that were way past their prime, and faded posters of pop stars. There was also a racing broom and Quidditch gear strewn over the floor at the end of her bed, and a map of the world posted over her headboard. On it were little dots that Harry knew were Ginny's favorite Quidditch teams, and the locations of their matches. She wanted to follow them around Europe and watch all the matches, and Harry had said once that he'd go with her. He still would, if she'd let him, but not as a boyfriend. Not anymore.
Ginny sat on her windowsill, looking out.
"Ginny, can we talk about that article in the paper?"
Ginny's shoulders stiffened, and she turned to look at him with a tight-lipped smile that made Harry's heart ache. "There's nothing to talk about," she said.
"Come on," Harry said, sitting heavily on her unmade bed. He remembered kissing her while they both perched nervously on these flowered bedsheets with the yellow daisies. Those nerves he'd felt were gone now, and he only felt tremendous guilt.
"What do you want?" she snapped, her false civility gone. Beyond the visible anger, her frown was pouty.
"I never wanted to hurt you," Harry said, letting it spill out. It was the truth, at least.
"Well, you did."
"I know, and I'm so, so sorry."
"So, what, you're with Malfoy now?"
Harry shook his head at the idea. "No, not at all! That's ridiculous."
"Don't lie to me on top of everything, Harry. Please!"
Harry sighed. "All right, it's just… We aren't together. I swear."
She considered him for a moment, pulling her knees up to her chest and hugging them tightly. "Do you want to be?"
Harry opened his mouth to say, No, of course not! But all that came out was a lame little squeakish sound, and he wasn't capable of forming words.
Ginny nodded. "All right. I get it. And I'm not going to pretend it doesn't bother me, because it does, and I have a right to be bothered. And not because you're gay - although that stings a bit."
"It's not you!" Harry rushed to say, but stopped when Ginny put her hand up to silence him.
"I know it's not me, and that's why I said it's not the queer thing that bothers me as much. It's the Malfoy thing."
She stared into his eyes, challenging him to come up with any reason to contradict her, but he couldn't. She was right: Malfoy was a bad, bad idea. Not only was he horrible - or, had been, and had done some truly horrible things - but it was no secret that his family had always been viciously cruel to Ginny's.
"How could you?" she asked. Harry felt like he was going to be sick just looking at her. "And what does Ron say?"
"He didn't say anything," Harry said weakly. "He thinks it's weird that Draco's mum has been trying to set us up."
Ginny's eyebrows flew up. "What?"
Her shoulders started to shake, and a grin broke out over her face. Before Harry knew what was happening, she had thrown her head back and was howling with laughter. Harry just sat there in shock, because this was a stark change he hadn't expected.
"What do you mean setting you up?"
"Er… His mum keeps writing me, and trying to get to me to hang out with Draco."
Ginny's eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets.
"The first time, she invited me round for tea."
This set Ginny off on another round of laughter.
"Heh..." Harry said, not feeling quite comfortable enough to laugh along. "Ron and I think she's a bit mental. It's not Malfoy's fault - usually he's really surprised to see me."
"Oh, Merlin! That is absolutely hilarious! Is this for real?"
"I wish it weren't…"
"Do you?" Ginny pinned him with an accusatory look.
"What do you mean?"
"To be completely honest, I don't think you would have gone along with anything you didn't actually want to do, Harry. I think you like Malfoy."
Harry looked away, trying to hide the flush in his cheeks.
"Oh, there's no use denying it. I know you do, and you know you do… and now the whole Wizarding population of Britain knows you do after seeing that photo!"
Harry prickled at this. "I want to find out who took that!"
"Oh, just give it up." She waved her hand, as though it was useless. "First you're with Ron, then you're with Malfoy… Who will they pair you with next, I wonder?" She looked a lot less angry. Harry knew her enough to know that when she was amused by something, that frequently trumped any other feelings about it. Humour was king. She was like the twins in that sense. "You know, it's kind of fitting that Malfoy's gay."
Harry narrowed his eyes at her, and she noticed.
"Not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with being gay, but just that it's Malfoy. Oh, you know!"
"Well, I never knew he was gay either."
"Usually I can tell these things."
"You can? Since when?"
"Since always. I've always had a great sense about it."
"Then how come you couldn't tell that I was gay?"
Harry immediately wished he could take that back.
Ginny lost a bit of her newfound zeal, but she still didn't look as upset as she'd been before. Her smile was sort of sad. "Because I had on rose-coloured glasses when it came to you."
Harry offered her a smile. "Ginny, I liked you a lot, you know that. Right? I still do!"
"Just not in that way, I know."
"It took a long time for me to admit it to myself. I was so confused… and obviously you could tell. I just wish I'd never dragged you along in my mess while I figured it out."
"Actually, Harry... I'm sort of glad you did."
He looked up at her. "What?"
Ginny bit her lip. "I wouldn't trade what we had for anything."
Harry felt his chest tighten. "Me neither. Ginny," he said sincerely, "you're amazing."
She smiled, and the color back in her face. Harry felt like everything was going to be fine. In fact, there was a little twinkle in her eye.
"Are you going to see him again?" She grinned mischievously.
"Malfoy?" He raised his eyebrows. "No," he said, shaking his head vehemently. "No, I don't think so."
"But you're an item now, that Prophet says so."
"I can't go over there. Besides, I haven't been invited for tea again or been given free tickets to anything else."
Ginny rolled her eyes and scoffed. "So invite yourself over for tea!"
When he heard Potter's voice downstairs, Draco immediately recognized it. His mother's voice was much higher, and the cadence of her speech familiar. Draco jumped down the stairs two by two and slid to a stop just before entering the foyer. Potter and his mother were standing there, talking. Potter had just arrived, it seemed, and she was ushering him in.
Draco felt every impulse in his body telling him to run back upstairs and hide, but he clenched his fists and set his jaw, and marched into the foyer.
They both stopped talking immediately, hearing his footsteps, and Potter straightened up upon seeing him.
"Potter," Draco began, "if you think I had anything to do with the paper this morning, you can just turn around and head back home, because I can assure you I have no idea who took that picture." Potter was about to interrupt him, so Draco raised his voice. "In fact, I resent the fact that you think you can waltz into my house and make such accusations without any proof... and hassle my mother about it, no less!" Draco made a gesture toward his mother, who was looking at him like he was mad.
"Draco, what on earth are you going on about?" she asked.
Potter cleared his throat. His cheeks were bright pink, and he licked his lip before saying, "Malfoy, I'm not here about that."
"The paper," Draco continued. "You're here to blame me for the paper. Like last time."
"No," Potter insisted. "I'm telling you, I'm not here for that."
Draco scrunched up his brow. "Then why are you here?"
"Er…" Potter looked from him to his mother. "I wanted to thank your mum - Mrs Malfoy," he nodded at her, "for the tickets to yesterday's match. As I was saying just now, it was a very good match. I enjoyed it, thank you, again."
His mother beamed at Potter. "Oh, it was nothing at all. Draco had a lovely time as well."
Draco hoped the floor would swallow him up. He loved his mother, but in that moment, he could crucify her. She was a most conniving woman, there was no doubt about that. Not to mention, Potter's blush was spreading alarmingly.
"Potter," he said, needing desperately to get away from his mother, "come with me, let's go upstairs. We can talk there, in peace," he added, looking at his mother pointedly.
He grabbed Potter by the arm and pulled him toward the direction of the stairs.
"Where are we going?" Potter asked.
"To my room." We'll be safe there, he wanted to add.
"Oh. All right."
Potter let himself be dragged the rest of the way. Draco didn't let go of the sleeve of his jumper until they got through the doorway of his room. Draco kicked it shut, and only then did he let Potter go.
"Here we are."
Potter looked around, taking it in. "Nice," he offered.
"That's your bed," Potter said with a nod, looking past Draco.
"Yeah. It's where I sleep."
For some reason, those words hung in the air, making the room feel hot. Potter licked his lips unconsciously, but seeing it make Draco's knees weak.
"It's not a bad bed," he added, wanting to say something instead of standing there in silence.
Potter walked around Draco and made his way to the bed. He turned and sat down on the edge, bouncing a bit as if testing it out. Then he smiled at Draco as innocent as ever.
Draco shook his head and followed Potter's example. He sat down next to the pillows, his legs close to Potter's legs but not touching.
Potter looked ahead of him as he spoke. "I really did have a good time at the match."
Draco's heart seemed to want to pound out of his chest.
Potter turned his head to look at Draco. "Did you?"
"Yeah, Potter," he said, his voice too breathy for his liking. He didn't want Potter to know he could hardly breathe.
Potter was staring at his mouth.
Draco's lips parted of their own accord. His brain was signaling his body to stop responding this way, but it just wasn't listening.
Potter was leaning in, eyes glued to Draco's mouth. Potter's own lips were slightly parted, and pink and full. Draco's body felt hot all over. His eyes began to droop shut, and he swayed closer.
Their lips met, and Draco's stomach erupted in glorious fluttering. He felt lightheaded as he pressed their lips together more, feeling how soft Potter's mouth was, and how rough his chin was when Draco moved. Draco reached up to grab Potter's jaw, feeling the stubble underneath his hand and letting that fuel his desire. He wanted more of this.
The best part was, Potter wanted more as well, which was obvious in the way he gripped Draco's waist in a strong, firm grip. Draco let out a strange noise from his throat, which made Potter grunt and lean over him, until Draco was leaning further and further back. Draco fell against the pillows, disoriented, and Potter climbed on top of him. The weight of Potter's body pressed him into the mattress.
Draco did groan then, pulling Potter closer. Potter's tongue was in his mouth, and Draco let Potter kiss him as hard and as deeply as he wanted. Every swipe of Potter's tongue against his, wet and needy, went directly to Draco's groin. Draco wanted him badly, and he bit Potter's bottom lip.
Potter whimpered and lifted his head. "This is brilliant," he said.
Draco couldn't help himself and let out a laugh.
Potter grinned. "What?"
"I really like it, too, Potter," he said, carding his fingers through Potter's hair, tracing the shells of his ears with both hands. Carefully, he lifted Potter's glasses off his face, and laid them easily on the night stand.
"Well, I shouldn't actually admit this, but…" Potter bit his lip, which was red and puffy from kissing Draco so hard. "I've never actually kissed a bloke before."
Draco raised his eyebrows. "Never kissed a bloke?"
Potter shook his head.
"So you like it?"
Potter groaned and leaned in to press a quick kiss to Draco's jaw. Draco's grin wouldn't quit.
"So you're definitely bent, then, you think?"
"Oh, definitely," Potter said in a guttural voice, sending chills through Draco's body. Potter moved his hands lower, grabbing Draco's hips. His fingers found their way under Draco's shirt and traced the line of Draco's jeans. "There's something else I want to try," Potter said. "Just to make completely sure."
"Take them off," Draco urged.
Potter wasted no time unzipping Draco's trousers and pulling them down Draco's thighs. All the while, he stared down, watching Draco's skin come slowly into view, inch by inch. Potter's was parted almost in reverence of Draco's body.
Draco bit his lip and smirked. He thrust his hips up, making Potter look at his erection. "So, you like that, Potter?"
"Oh, fuck." Potter's hands traced up Draco's thigh, stopping right before the hem of his boxer briefs.
"I want to see yours." When Potter looked at him - and Merlin, his pupils were dark - Draco nodded. "Take your trousers off."
Potter did, leaning on one elbow as he unbuttoned his own jeans. His red boxers came into view, and he kicked to get his jeans the rest of the way down his legs.
Draco swallowed. The outline of Potter's cock was obvious. And fuck, it was thick.
"I want it," he said, only then realizing he'd said it out loud.
Potter grunted and leaned in, kissing him fiercely. He ran his hands up and down Draco's thighs, and it drove Draco mad with lust. He thrust up into Potter, feeling Potter's hardness against his own. They moved together, hips grinding, hard cocks rubbing over each other, until their kisses turned into open-mouthed panting.
Draco closed his eyes and lost himself, not caring one bit what kind of moans were pouring out of him. His whole body was tingling with delicious nerves. He felt the tension build and build, deep in his groin, until finally he tensed, gripping Potter tightly, thrusting once, twice against him, and letting his orgasm take hold of him.
Draco let out a long exhale, relaxing into the pillows. Potter's sweaty mop of hair was tickling his cheek as Potter's head sagged into the crook of Draco's shoulder and neck. Potter had come, too. They lied there catching their breaths, chests heaving against each other.
"Malfoy," Potter croaked eventually.
"Mm?" Draco's eyes were closed. He felt limp and sated with Potter lying heavily atop of him. It was bliss.
Draco grinned and laughed. "I should hope so, after that."
Potter got up on his elbows, looking down at Draco with a stupid grin. Draco tried not to smile back, but it was hard.
"I want to take you out for real," Potter said.
Draco's heart did that thuddy, jumpy thing it seemed to do around Potter.
"People already think we're together," Potter said. "It's all over the paper." He wriggled his eyebrows. "What do you say?"
"Boys!" sounded shrilly from downstairs.
"Are you kidding me?" Draco muttered, cursing the sound of his mother's voice.
"Is she going to come up here?" Potter asked, his body tensing.
"I can't be sure," he said honestly, knowing his mother. "We'd better get dressed, just in case."
They scrambled off one another and off the bed, pulling their pants and jeans back on. Draco was buttoning up when his mother called again.
"Come on down! Tea is ready. It's nearly noontime."
Draco looked at Potter, eyebrows raised. "I'm sorry about her."
"What are you talking about?" Potter asked, grinning widely. "I could go for some tea right about now. And I still haven't forgotten about those sandwiches."
Draco rolled his eyes.
"But what about what I asked you?"
"Going out together?"
"You mean, you don't enjoy my mother setting it up?"
Potter laughed. "I was thinking we could do that ourselves."
Draco grinned. "Sounds great, Potter."