He's alive, everyone who had seen the body kept reassuring him. But for how long, no one seemed to know.

Apparently, although the Minister and the Auror Office knew Sirius was innocent of murder (and attempted murder), appearances had forced the Ministry to detain him rather than take him directly to St. Mungo's.

Harry hadn't planned on sleeping as he waited, but Mrs. Weasley insisted everyone take a Sleeping Draught to help them get at least a few hours shut-eye. Once it wore off, the trio headed to the Ministry, wired from the previous night's battle, each humming in a state of restrained hope as the sun pushed against the last bit of night.

Everything Harry had felt for Sirius—the surrogate connection to James, the potential to have a guardian who cared about him—rushed back before he could put up enough walls. Since the summer of his third year, Harry's heart would ache to the point of physical pain when enough time went by without seeing Sirius, sometimes more intensely than he felt with Ron or Hermione.

Everyone Harry had spoken with over the years—Dumbledore and Hermione in particular—told him death was irreversible in the magical world. One of the hard rules of magic. But death was featured in the Department of Mysteries for a reason. Why should people assume the only way to avoid death was to split the soul? It took Harry over a year to figure out the magic of the time loop, which even the curse's originator didn't fully understand. The veil, meanwhile, had remained a mystery for presumably centuries.

The trio joined Tonks and Remus in the corridor, sitting as close to where Sirius was being detained as they were allowed. It was difficult to tell if Remus had stayed there overnight or if he hadn't considered the rumpled state of his clothes when dressing that morning. Tonks had washed and changed, her dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. Her affectionate nature was exaggerated by her distress, and she took a break in holding Remus' arm to embrace each of them in turn.

As soon as he felt his grip on his emotions was strong enough, Harry asked them, "What happened?"

The question took a long time to reach Remus, who seemed to register it in slow motion. When he finally opened his mouth to speak, his voice was rough with weariness. "I knocked Bellatrix Lestrange into the Veil. I stood a moment too long looking after where she'd gone, and Sirius fell out as though he'd just been standing on the other side. I was close enough to catch him before he fell and carried him to the edge of the battle. It was hardly two minutes later when the Death Eaters left."

Hermione was as intent to work through the magical explanation as she had been with the time loop. "No one came out when Sirius initially fell through two years ago."

"I know. The Unspeakables have been researching the Veil for years, but seeing as they can't speak about it . . . What the Order believes is that the Death Eaters were attempting to pull someone out of the Veil. There was the residue of ritual magic around the dais. Obviously Voldemort would be the someone they attempted to resurrect. We captured a few Death Eaters, hopefully they will provide more information. Bellatrix led the group, so there is a chance their knowledge is limited. This has to stay between the Order and Ministry higher-ups—the Prophet is going to report that Sirius and Raven were in hiding."

Before anyone chimed in to ask who Raven was or discuss how someone could be pulled from the Veil, Harry asked, "How is he?"

Remus' face darkened. "I haven't seen him yet."

"According to Kingsley," said Tonks, "he's just the same as he was before he died. He doesn't remember anything since."

"Just the same . . . so not a ghost?"

"As far as anyone can tell, he's fully alive." Remus ran a hand through his graying hair. "I'm sorry, Harry, we will have to wait and see."

By the early afternoon, they were still unable to see Sirius between the steady stream of government officials and advisors. Harry was itching to do something useful, so he, Tonks, and Hermione left to pick up lunch. On their brief journey, Hermione did most of the talking, as Harry and Tonks were both too distracted to say much.

As soon as they came into view back in the waiting area, Remus told them, "The Malfoys have been brought in for questioning."

"What?" Harry nearly dropped the bag of sandwiches.

"The Ministry thinks they may have been involved in the Veil, despite everything."

Tonks let out a mirthless laugh. "Merlin's sake, they're slowing all of this down. They should at least release Sirius, he hasn't done anything, and I'm sure he just wants to be home."

Harry knew he wanted to see Sirius, but he wasn't ready to decide whether or not he wanted to see Draco. "Okay. What should we do? Where is he—are they?"

"Next to where Sirius is being held. Unfortunately, there's nothing to do but wait. I told the Minister you would like to speak with him, so in a few hours, assuming the initial interrogation determines he poses no immediate threat . . ."

Harry's furious look quelled Remus, who diverted the conversation by helping distribute their meal.

In a low tone between bites of her sandwich, Hermione said to Harry, "They may find out the Malfoys are connected."

He scowled at her. "Thanks for that."

"I'm only saying you should be prepared. You haven't heard from Draco in a long time—maybe this is why. You don't know what to expect."

"Yeah." Dread set in the pit of Harry's stomach. It made sense; Draco wouldn't write if he was busy working for the Death Eaters.

"Are you nervous to see him again?"

"Should I be? I dunno. I have no idea if he's prepared to see me, or if he would refuse to speak to me. By now he probably regrets everything, would rather forget, even though I thought—argh, I can't think about it. I just want it to be over with."

Half an hour later, Kingsley Shacklebolt stepped into the corridor, his solemnity uninterpretable. "Who would like to see Sirius first? No more than two at a time. He's the first room on the right."

Ron and Hermione looked at Harry, but Kingsley and Tonks looked at Remus. Harry noticed Tonks' hand tighten in Remus', eyes a bit unfocused and darker than they had been earlier that morning.

"You go, Harry." Remus reached into his pocket and pulled out a bar of chocolate.

"Are you sure? But . . ."

Before Harry could protest further, Remus handed him the chocolate. "I'll go in after you. Don't want to overwhelm him."

Harry nodded, feeling considerably less steady than he had felt sitting down. The center of him burned with nerves, and his eyes began to prickle. Even if this return was temporary and Sirius would slip into death again, at least he could have closure. He had naively assumed he'd have a lifetime to say everything he wanted to.

The cell door was plain and white, as was the room beyond. Sirius was standing facing away from the door, stretching, his dark hair and clothing setting him apart from the unnatural walls.

"Sirius?" Harry waited with bated breath for Sirius to turn around.

"Harry."

It was not like seeing a ghost. Sirius wasn't transparent, or even translucent: he was solid. He looked just as he had before he died: same clothes, same grin, same hug.

"It's so good to see you, Harry."

Harry squeezed his eyes shut, tightening his hold. "It's good to see you, too."

After a minute, they let go, teary-eyed.

"So, you defeated Voldemort?" Sirius beamed, sitting back down. "Lily and James would be so proud of you. I'm proud of you."

Harry nodded, face still frozen with shock, already wet with tears. "I think the Death Eaters were trying to resurrect him, though."

"And that's how I came back?"

"Maybe. I don't know—I don't know how long this'll last."

Sirius shook his head. "I suppose I should make the most of every minute until we figure it out."

"Do you feel any different?"

"I feel normal." He sat down on the cot, and Harry followed suit. "There was someone else—do you know who else came back?"

"Er, I forget her name, I didn't recognize it."

"And . . . who has died since the last Ministry attack? They've kept me in the dark until now."

"Dumbledore, Mad-Eye Moody. Everyone else is still alive."

"Remus is still alive? Kingsley wanted to tell me, but he was under orders not to . . ."

"He's alive."

Sirius let out a half-sob, half-laugh. He ran his hands over his face, overcome with emotion. After a minute, he met Harry's gaze, and his face drained of color. "What's wrong? Is he okay?"

"Yes, he's fine. But . . ." Harry grappled with how to tell him.

"You can tell me. I was dead, after all; it's enough to be alive and have my name cleared, and you're here, too."

"Right. So . . . Remus and Tonks are together now." At Sirius' expression, Harry wished he could take it back, and on second thought, it would probably have been better for Remus to deliver the news.

"How long did he wait? Er, what I mean is, after I died, when did he . . . ?"

"A year or so. I should explain that I found out—well, Remus told me—that you and him were together."

Sirius blinked, mouth opening and closing with no words coming out. He studied Harry's face, looking for a sign of his feelings about it. "Why did he tell you?"

"It's a long story. And I promise I'll tell you all of it. But it's okay, I'm okay with it, I mean—I like blokes, too. And girls. Er, both."

Sirius had drifted off, staring blankly at the wall next to him. It took a few moments for him to snap back and look at Harry. "Oh! Well, I appreciate you telling me. Do your friends know? You don't have to tell them, but I have a feeling they'll be accepting."

Harry wanted hours more to tell Sirius everything that had happened, how much longer he'd actually lived. "Yeah, they know, and they are." He glanced at the small one-way window in the door. "I'm sure they won't keep you much longer, especially not when it's nearly Christmas."

"Where's Christmas?"

"The Burrow. I don't want to put anyone in danger, so I'm going to stay in the Leaky Cauldron for a couple nights."

"Come to Grimmauld Place instead. You'll be safer there."

"I've actually been living there part time. But—I might have someone with me, and I don't know if I can trust him, yet."

"Don't worry about that. You know more than I do about what has happened in the past year, so I trust you will make the right choice. Your safety is my priority, as I assume you're one of the Death Eaters' main targets."

"The thing is . . . it's Draco Malfoy."

"I thought he was one of them, unless he changed sides . . . ?"

"He has changed. Er, I think. We haven't been in touch for a while, actually. But he and I . . . we used to be together. Sort of. It's a long story."

Sirius' expression cleared. "Ah. Really?"

"I'm talking to him next."

Sirius rubbed his chin. "Let me stay at Grimmauld Place alone tonight. I'll see what state the place is in, hide anything that I would rather him not see, and keep an eye out for any Death Eaters lurking about. Meet me at the corner of Grimmauld and Sterling at 9 am tomorrow, with or without him."

"Thank you." A possible future flashed before Harry's eyes: visiting Sirius on the weekend; having Christmases at Grimmauld Place; listening to stories about the Marauders' Hogwarts years; asking for advice as he would ask his father, had James not died . . .

Reaching into his pocket, Harry said, "Oh, right, Remus gave us chocolate. To help with the shock, I guess." He broke off a piece and handed it to Sirius, who took it and ate it in one bite before smiling a bit sheepishly.

"I've got an appetite, so that's a good sign. Merlin, I missed that taste. Remus used to carry around . . ." He trailed off.

Harry hurried to fill in the silence. "It's a lot to process."

There was a knock on the door, and a Ministry official entered. "Right, it's time for the next visitor. If you would return to the waiting area, Mr. Potter."

He embraced Sirius again, then left the room and headed straight for the lavatory. A few dry sobs later, he got a grip on himself and concentrated hard on his reflection in the mirror. He probably looked the same as when Draco last saw him, except he had to shave more regularly now, sometimes leaving a scruff around his jaw. His new glasses made him look older, too—thicker tortoiseshell frames, still circular, as he couldn't abandon the look completely.

Splashing his face with cold water did nothing to shock him out of his anxiety. Because he couldn't see Draco until his questioning concluded, he paced down a nearby corridor, swearing under his breath, his nerves worsening by the minute. The thought of seeing Draco again caused Harry to lose total control over himself. His heart raced sporadically, calmed, then raced again—he broke out into a sweat, and whenever there was a lull in conversation with the others, he picked at the skin around his fingernails. Finally, after what must have been an hour, a Ministry official passed him, nodding once to signal he could go ahead.

Harry steeled himself, then looked through the window in the door, which appeared to have been enchanted so anyone inside the room could not see through. With apparently no one to see him, Draco let himself hunch slightly forward in his chair, face white. His hands were folded on the table in front of him, knee jumping. It was more than his expression that made him look different; his fine blond hair now fell just past his ears, and the unhealthy sallowness in his face had brightened. Luminescent was the word that came to Harry's mind, as but he did look inhuman, an apparition on which his eyes had difficulty focusing.

Harry opened the door, hyperaware of his own movements, then shut it. "Hi. How are you?" He studied Draco, who had straightened, watching him intently in turn.

"Could be better." With an effort, he added, "You?"

"Same." Harry bit his lip, unsure of where to begin. Draco was more three-dimensional than he remembered, his face sharper and more animated. "You'd no idea about any of this, had you?"

Draco scoffed. "Of course not. Why would I—or my family, for that matter—wish for the Dark Lord's return? No. The others hadn't wished to involve us at all; we could no longer be trusted. In fact, they tried to attack the manor more than once, but failed due to the strength of our defenses."

"Oh. What about your mum and Bellatrix Lestrange? Weren't they still in contact?"

"I am certain Aunt Bellatrix wanted nothing to do with my mother after we betrayed the Dark Lord, which was difficult for her to process. We've no extended family left now. As a result, my mother became rather clingy," added Draco as an afterthought, then let out a long sigh. "Can't you have me released? The lights in this blasted cell gave me a headache, and all I want is to lie in bed."

"Yeah, I'm sure that's the point." Harry wanted to reach for one of his hands, but Draco kept them in his lap. "Anyhow, they're releasing you soon."

"Thank Merlin for that."

"They're not releasing your parents, though. Not until tonight or tomorrow, I imagine."

Draco looked as though he had been slapped. "Why not?"

"Can you blame them? Your parents were key supporters of Voldemort, and if the Death Eaters really were trying to resurrect him, maybe they knew about it from a while back. And nearly all the Death Eaters wore masks in the attack." Before Draco could protest, he added, "I believe you that they no longer want anything to do with the Death Eaters. Look, the Ministry kept Sirius, if that helps."

"It doesn't. I mean, they shouldn't keep anyone, they should focus on finding the Death Eaters involved in the attack."

Harry nodded, unwilling to start a row. The table between them seemed to stretch for miles. "You should stay with me for a few days."

"And where would that be?"

"Sirius' apartment. He left it to me when he died. But in case the Death Eaters know about it, perhaps we should stay at the Leaky Cauldron for a night."

Draco scrunched up his nose. "To start, I would prefer the Damarion Hotel. My family has connections there. Also, they provide much better protection."

Harry rubbed his temple. "Fine, I suppose." He blinked. "Actually, I have an idea. You check into the Damarion, I'm sure people would suspect you'd stay there, and really I'll sneak you into the Leaky Cauldron. We'll use disguises and false names. It's likely the Death Eaters will come after you at the Damarion—"

"But I haven't done anything. We haven't taken sides." Fear clouded Draco's face for the first time in the conversation.

"They might not see it that way. And if you stay with me, the Ministry will protect the both of us." The longer Harry looked at Draco, the more he wanted to find an opening, to get Draco to really look back. "Hey. You've been through much worse before. If you can make it through a hippogriff attack, you can make it through a day with me."

Draco glowered at him. "I nearly forgot how annoying you are, Potter." Still, he relaxed slightly.

"Well, you won't have to put up with it for very long. Once this is all over, you'll be free to go, and we can go back to not speaking."

"And if I don't want to?"

"You don't want to be released?"

"Obviously I mean I don't want to go back to not speaking."

There was a knock on the door, and a Ministry official entered the room. "If you could wait outside, Mr. Potter, it should be less than half an hour for us to finish talking with Mr. Malfoy."

"And he'll be able to leave?"

"Most likely." To Draco, he said, "Your parents will have a Ministry official assigned to their home for the next week. Do you have somewhere to stay in the meantime?"

"He does," said Harry quickly.

"Okay." She searched them briefly for a clue as to why they were talking, then added, "Please finish your conversation in the next two minutes so we can wrap this up."

They nodded, and waited until the door closed to say anything more.

Draco swore and crossed his arms. His nails were chewed short. Driven by impulse, Harry stood and put a hand on his shoulder. "It'll be okay. I'll wait for you outside."

They looked at each other until Draco's lip trembled. Giving his shoulder a brief squeeze, Harry left the room.

He told Ron and Hermione to head back to the Burrow without him and that he'd send an owl to update them tomorrow. Left alone, he conjured sparks from his wand to pass the time, absently watching them dance on the tiled floor.

"Enjoying the wait?" asked a voice from down the hall.

The sparks landed on his cloak, nearly catching Harry's clothes on fire. If his heart kept this up, he would surely faint. For Merlin's sake, he'd faced more frightening creatures than Draco Malfoy. "Er, so you're all set, you've been released?"

"Yes, finally. I'm afraid they didn't let me pack before dragging me here, so I'm entirely at your mercy."

This odd choice of words made Harry even more disoriented, so he was taken aback when Draco slipped his arm under his own.

"I'm licensed to Apparate, are you?" asked Draco, far too close.

"Yeah. Er, first—" He reached in his cloak and placed a hat on Draco's head, which changed some of his facial features and darkened his hair. "That will have to do . . ." He put on his own hat, which still had a few hours of use left from when he'd gone out with Ron and Hermione. "I thought you were checking into the Damarion?"

Draco kept his eyes trained on the floor. "I'd rather not . . . well. The Leaky Cauldron is fine."

To his relief, they succeeded in Apparating without being splinched and—they assumed—without any of the bar's patrons recognizing them. Once upstairs and in their room, Harry went directly to the bed and collapsed on the bed, exhausted. Remembering himself, he sat up. "Er, looks like there's only the one bed. It's a double, but there's probably a spell to expand it, or something . . . ?"

"No, that won't be necessary." Still, Draco exhaled dramatically. "Also, I haven't any spare clothes in my satchel, so tomorrow I'll purchase some. Have you got any pajamas I could wear until then? You're shorter than me, but that can't be helped."

"Not that much shorter," muttered Harry, but his words went unheard. After receiving no acknowledgement of his comment, he added, "Sure."

Draco glanced at Harry as he hung up his coat. "So, is there anyone who wouldn't appreciate us sharing a room?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, are you seeing someone at the moment? Are you with the Weasley girl, or another boy, perhaps . . . ?"

"No." Harry stared at Draco, baffled. "But I didn't think you would care. It's been months since I heard anything from you, I figured you'd moved on."

Draco rubbed his neck. "I couldn't bring myself to respond. I was working up the courage."

"What's there to be afraid of?"

"Our lives became even more different after the Dark Lord's death." He seemed prepared for this speech. "You had your friends, you were living life to the fullest . . . I failed to see how I could relate anymore, and certainly not by writing. Maybe to you, letters are enough. But they aren't to me. I did check on you, though. The other night, at the Leaky Cauldron."

"On Tuesday? What, were you invisible? Stalking me?"

"No, and who would you be to judge if I did? Stalking me is your specialty. No, I only stayed a few minutes. I considered telling you who I was . . . but you were with Weasley and Granger, the three of you were better off—"

"How could you just assume everything was fine? You could've arranged to meet honestly, without any smoke and mirrors. You left me thinking you no longer wanted anything to do with me!"

"It's more complicated than that . . . I convinced myself to wait until the timing was better."

"How long were you willing to wait?"

"I don't know. A year, at least. Five, maybe, once you were out of the limelight and we'd both had chances to see other people."

"Why didn't you just bloody tell me that?"

"I wanted to see if you would find someone else. A girl."

Rage bubbled up in Harry's throat, coming out as a laugh. "Is that what this is about? Me being bisexual? Bloody hell!"

Draco's face was getting redder and redder. "You say that as though it's irrational to think you'd want to be with the opposite sex!Merlin's sake, can you stop twisting my words around? This—us—we were never meant to happen, you have a choice, you have choices—you can be with whomever you bloody well please, and I didn't think it was fair—"

"I know where you're going with this. You felt like you were doing me a favor when really it was just your own damn insecurity. Figures. And I spent months . . . I wasted so much time thinking . . . God! That's it, then? If I had found someone else, you would've given up?"

"It would have given me a rather good excuse to do so. I doubted you'd been thinking clearly when you chose to pursue me, considering everything that was going on. You realize, Potter, life would be a lot easier if we were not . . . involved."

"For you or me? My life's already been quite hard, if you hadn't realized." Harry struggled to keep his voice steady. "I don't think you understand how much you hurt me! I'm not going to forgive you just like that, if at all. In the end, I hoped you could be better than the person I used to hate. Obviously you haven't changed."

Tears sprung up in Draco's eyes, and he turned his face away. "Whoever you want me to be, you will be disappointed. If you hated me for my family, I can't change that. If you hated me because I am not chivalrous or courageous like the Gryffindors you're so bloody fond of, then you will be disappointed when I fail to handle what you find so easy."

Despite Draco's quavering voice, Harry dug in his heels and pressed forward. "Can you let me be angry? If you're crying, how am I supposed to—"

"I'm not doing it for show!" Draco swore as he ran a hand over his face. "I-I've been afraid that when I saw you again, you w-would blow up at me like you always have." He scoffed quietly, then added, "I knew you'd look at me like that."

Harry was taken aback by this outburst, although he was unsurprised that Draco knew he'd be angry, of course he would be angry! And yet, he knew he would have to change his tone or else he would push Draco away before he could say everything he needed to say.

"You assumed I would be better off without you. Is that it?"

"It's true—"

"And you're the one who decides that, are you? My entire life has —ever since I was a kid, my life has been controlled by what other people decided for me. Voldemort chose me instead of Neville, Dumbledore left me with the Dursleys instead of my godfather or even Snape, who I'm not even sure wouldn't have bloody abused me, too; after all that, I was hunted down, I was stuck in time, I had to die . . . !" He was getting sidetracked. "And I understand that there was a reason for some of that. I only hoped once Voldemort was out of the picture, I'd be free to make my own choices."

"It's something I have to choose, too," said Draco.

"Obviously. Frankly, though, your reasons for choosing to leave were stupid. And the way you did it was cruel."

"I . . . know." Draco's voice cracked on "know," so he gulped before continuing. "T-tell me you weren't surprised. You had to have su-suspected that I cou-couldn't change for you."

"Merlin's sake, Draco, just because I had doubts doesn't mean you have to give up and run off! All I'm asking is for you to talk to me and not keep things to yourself. Maybe you're used to that, if last year is any indication, but for your own sake you have to try to be better. I would rather know why you do something upsetting than have to agonize over the reason for months." He paused to watch Draco wipe his eyes with his sleeve. "Look, we still don't really know each other that well. I may be confused about you at times. But I do know you're not a bad person, deep down."

It was hard to tell through Draco's teary-eyed expression if he was happy at this or dismayed. "Okay. Give me a m-moment." He went into the bathroom, allowing Harry to compose himself privately as well.

Telling him off—really telling him off, should have been so much easier. The number of times Harry had fumed silently to himself, planning what to say or trying to recapture pleasant memories before they were tainted by Draco's choice . . . now, as he sat down on the bed, his anger was ebbing. At this rate, shame at being so angry would take over his lingering resentment.

After a few minutes, Draco emerged, composed, then crossed the room slowly and sat next to Harry. "I'm sorry," he said simply, gray eyes now red-rimmed.

"I know. And I should have said—I'm sorry, too. For assuming I knew what you were feeling and moving too fast. Today was stressful, to say the least; we can talk about everything later."

Draco nodded, then tilted Harry's wrist to read his watch. "It's already eleven. I've been on my parents' schedule, and they go to bed at nine . . ."

Harry placed his hand over Draco's. "I'm sorry about your parents."

Draco glanced at his hand, turning pink. "It cannot be helped."

Harry shrugged. "Still."

"At least my parents are still alive, so I ought to be grateful."

"Right."

"Do you remember yours at all?"

"Not really. I was barely a year old when they were killed."

"Killed by the Dark Lord."

"Voldemort, yeah." Harry suddenly wanted to wrench his hand away.

"I hadn't truly considered everything he did to you. And I hadn't supported him because he killed your parents, it was merely something in the back of my mind."

Harry was taken aback. Maybe the time apart had been necessary after all, as much as it had hurt him. "So what would you tell your past self, if you could? Would you do it all again?"

"'Don't follow the Dark Lord, he'll destroy your family and make the world worse.' I'd convince my parents to abandon him. Except—if I had not followed him, would the time loop have happened? If so, more people would have died. And you and I . . ." Draco ran his thumb over Harry's thumb, slowly.

Harry's blood shot through his body. Was that all it would take? Far too often he had imagined being this close to Draco again, what their reunion would be like. He touched Draco's cheek, ignited by the longing in his gaze, and kissed him. After months without contact, he was overwhelmed by the intimacy of the kiss, the feeling of hot skin beneath his fingertips, his soft blond hair, feathery without hair gel; the small sound Draco made when they started kissing, as though he had forgotten until that point how natural it felt—

Draco tilted his head away, so Harry couldn't see his expression properly. "I'm tired." He stood. "I think I'll have a shower."

"Alright." Harry bit back his disappointment and tried to get a grip on himself. The dragon in his stomach that had remained dormant throughout the last few cold months had returned, exhaling thick smoke that constricted his chest, stinging his eyes. He could hardly expect to jump back into things with Draco; they had a lot to work through before things could be normal. Well, as normal as a relationship between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy could be.

The bathroom door opened a crack either two or twenty minutes later, jolting Harry from his trance. "Potter, where are those clothes you said I could borrow?"

"Ah, sorry, hang on." He rummaged among his things and pulled out a pair of pants and pajamas.

"Just hand them through the door."

Harry did so, feeling rather ridiculous at Draco's pretense of privacy. After Draco emerged, Harry took his turn showering, thinking about Draco waiting for him, wearing his clothes, and the bed they would share. He sighed loudly, frustrated with himself for already falling back into the fevered thoughts from their brief time together the previous spring.

He considered egging Draco on by only wearing his towel when he came out of the bathroom, but decided to avoid provoking him. Or, he assumed he was avoiding it, until—

"You only sleep in your pants?" Draco blinked, appalled at Harry's bare torso and legs.

"It's not as scandalous as you're making it out to be, and before you ask me to change, I only brought one pair of pajamas, and you're wearing them. Is that going to be a problem?"

"I suppose not," said Draco with difficulty, watching as Harry climbed into bed. Moving with a deliberate slowness, he turned off the lights with a quick wave of his hand. The glow of the city through the curtains cast the room in a dull, shadowed yellow.

"Goodnight."

"Goodnight." Harry turned to his side and closed his eyes.

The covers strained over him as Draco slid in on the opposite end of the bed, exposing a bit of Harry's front to the cool bedroom air. He tugged the duvet to cover himself properly, but it wouldn't give. "You're hogging the covers, Malfoy."

"I need the duvet because I have a low body temperature. You don't."
Harry sighed and turned back to face him. "You're not even under the sheets!"

"I can't sleep under the sheets and the duvet. It's too stifling."

"You're impossible." Harry wondered if sharing a bed with someone was always this difficult. "I'll just move over, and before you complain about that,"—Draco had opened his mouth—"it's not a big deal. And besides . . . this won't be a one-time thing, I assume, so we should get used to it."

"Not a one-time thing . . ." Draco stared at him, gray eyes luminous and huge as Harry moved closer.

"It sounded like you wanted to try again." Harry waited for a sign, and after a moment's contemplation, Draco tilted his head slightly up, then down, lips ajar. Harry closed the distance between them, body trembling a bit with the release of nerves. The threat of Death Eaters capturing them grew distant in their minds.

"Mm, I waited so long for this . . ." whispered Draco as Harry kissed his neck. His hands were in fact cold as they gripped Harry's back, brusquely, as though he were desperately trying to keep himself from falling off a cliff.

Overwhelmed by Draco's desperation, Harry pulled back and said, teasing, "If you're not opposed to the indecency of it, can I take off your shirt? Er, my shirt, that you're wearing."

Draco nodded, entwining himself once again after Harry had tossed his shirt aside.

Every inch of Harry was ablaze, so that only when the fire burned out could he think properly again. Unable to fully separate, Harry ran his fingers down Draco's side, making him shiver. "I promise we'll figure everything out. Voldemort, and . . . us."

"You're making it very hard to be cynical, Potter," murmured Draco, breath catching.

"You're making it very hard to be rational, Malfoy."

They could only manage these two lines of banter before they were kissing again, though this time much more restrained and gentle than before.

After a few minutes, Harry stopped to kiss Draco's nose, his forehead, his jawline. "Did you try not to think about me?"

"Yes." Draco brushed Harry's hair out of his eyes, and they gazed at each other. "I tried to distract myself with other matters, but it was difficult. I realized, if the time loop had not happened . . . I would never have sorted out my feelings in time. Certainly I would not have discovered how I am."

"Gay?"

Draco recoiled. "Please don't use that word. Don't call it anything." He recovered. "So you still like both sexes?"

"Yeah, I suppose so."

"You're not certain?"

"I haven't fancied any specific person since you left. I know that I can be attracted to girls, still. Does it really bother you that much?"

"Well . . . a little bit." He didn't elaborate, just chewed his lip. "I suppose it's better I am only attracted to men instead of both sexes, or I would never have . . ." He faltered. "I would have suppressed the part of me that was attracted to men."

Harry fell silent, unsatisfied with Draco's response, knowing that if he pressed the matter he would only start an argument.

"Have you told Granger and Weasley? You're still friends . . ."

"Hermione and Ron know about my feelings and what happened between us, but they don't approve, at least Ron doesn't."

"So Granger—Hermione approves?"

"She was more empathetic. She never, er, hated you as much as Ron and I had." Harry paused. "You know, it would be a lot easier for you all to get on if you apologized."

"Apologized?"

"If you plan on continuing this, you'll have to at least explain yourself."

"By continuing this, do you mean seeing each other in secret? Because if you are expecting more . . . I cannot be in the open."

Harry studied him. Draco's peace with himself mattered immensely, though he wished it didn't. If Draco could get over his shame, it would make things easier. "What would change your mind?"

Draco closed his eyes. "If no one cared. If my parents were fine with me seeing a bloke, let alone the Chosen One."

"I can't fix everything for you, you know."

"I hadn't expected you to, Potter." He flipped over onto his back. "Besides, I'm not sure if I even want you to fix this, let alone if it's possible."

"Everyone loved Snape and Regulus' stories. Right now, the wizarding world wants to hear people can change, to hear about the secret heroes of the war."

"I'm no hero."

"You're not a villain, either."

"And you have poor eyesight."

"Fine, then, I suppose I can't judge your character when at the moment you're just a mix of colors and shapes."

"That's too bad. Thanks to my impeccable eyesight, I can see you clearly; your wild hair in all of its glory." Draco reached up and ran a hand through the mop on Harry's head.

"Very funny." His smirk faltered. Draco was running his finger along the lightning scar on Harry's forehead.

"You should hate me."

"But I don't. I don't hate you."

"Then . . . what if you change your mind about me?" Draco drew his finger back.

"I trust you. I was willing to trust you before I fancied you." Sensing Draco did not believe him, Harry pulled back Draco's sleeve, revealing the black, coiling tattoo underneath. He touched the delicate skin, appreciative that Draco's obvious discomfort paralleled his own. "I won't pretend you never joined them, if you don't want me to. But I don't want you to resent me for remembering."

Draco was silent, watching Harry's finger trace the skull, the serpent, the blue vein beneath his skin that raised the ink. There was a fine white ridge outlining the tattoo, and Harry wondered why he hadn't noticed it before.

"I want to give you a reason to forget. To redeem myself." Draco yawned.

Harry copied him, yawn so wide it left his cheeks stinging. "Okay." He tucked his hands against his chest. "We'll find a way. For now, though, we should get some sleep. Goodnight."

"Goodnight," replied Draco, turning back onto his side. But neither of them closed their eyes, instead, they just stared at each other.

After a couple seconds, Draco huffed in impatience. "Okay, Potter, how are we going to do this?"

"Er, what d'you mean?"

"I mean," he struggled to get the words out, "which do you want to be?"

Harry's face burned. "I'm not following."

"For Merlin's sake, I hate saying this aloud, but—will you be the big spoon or little spoon?" Draco nearly writhed with embarrassment.

Harry was unable to stifle what could only be considered a giggle. "Oh, I suppose I should be the . . ." He thought back to himself as Pansy, the tickling of the baby hairs on his neck, how it felt to be held. " . . . little spoon. You know, because I'm shorter."

"Yes, right. Turn over, then."

Draco moved closer to Harry and reached over him, arm steadfast. As Harry focused more and more on the feeling of Draco's breath stirring the ends of his hair, just as he'd experienced in Pansy's body, he started to cry. "Can I hold you instead?" he whispered, managing to keep his voice steady.

"Alright."

Lying like this, holding Draco, Harry imagined he was stoking a dying fire, and he just had to find the right position to set his embers ablaze again. "I thought you had a 'low body temperature.'"

"Sod off, Potter."

Harry chuckled and kissed the nape of Draco's neck, tasting his own tears as he did so. Draco exhaled, breath slowing, then began to run his fingers up and down over the arm with which Harry held him. Eventually, they fell asleep.