Author's Note: Here, as promised, is the sequel to Thicker than Blood (well, the first two parts of it, anyway…). This story stands mostly on its own plot-wise, but there are lots of details that won't make much sense if you haven't read the first one. This is also, like it's predecessor, a Slash romance. There isn't much actual romance in it – it's mostly action/adventure and angst – but consider yourself warned. There be snogging boys here!
I've been asked by a couple of people where these stories fit with The Order of the Phoenix, and the answer is, they don't really. I wrote all of TTB before the latest book was released, and I outlined this one pretty thoroughly. Since TTB is based on the pre-OotP canon, and this fic is part of that same larger story, this one will also ignore some rather huge plot developments from OotP. As you'll discover, if you read on, OotP contributed a lot of useful background material for places and things that I had already decided to use, and I've gratefully mined it for details. But for the purposes of this story, Certain People are still alive, the Centaurs are not openly hostile to the wizards, Lucius is not under arrest, etc.
So here we go… The prologue is just a bit of fluff to give you an idea of how Harry and Draco spend their time. Chapter One gets things started in earnest. Enjoy!
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The sky had darkened to indigo, and a scattering of pale stars were beginning to show. In the failing light, the gaily-colored stands and rings of the Quidditch Pitch were nothing but looming shadows, painted in shades of grey, and the two figures flying among them merely a blur of movement. They flew with the speed and grace of natural skill, reveling in their freedom, whipping through the chill air until their faces glowed and their hands grew numb, untroubled by the gathering night.
Harry pulled his Firebolt to a halt and turned to find Draco. He carried his school bag slung over one shoulder, stuffed with pine cones, and he pulled one out as Draco sped toward him. A flick of his wand sent the cone flying toward the other boy, then made it break into a series of spectacular aerobatics.
Draco took off after it like a shot. He chased it twice around the pitch on an erratic course and caught it just before it dived under the stands, snatching it out of the air with flashing, adamant fingers. Then he spiraled upward, his hand raised in triumph.
As he flew past Harry in a wide, graceful arc, he tossed the pine cone to him and called, "Satisfied, Potter?"
"So you caught one," Harry shouted back. "Big deal! You destroyed the last three!"
In the month or more that Harry had been helping Draco train, they had tried a number of different Snitches. The first and simplest were small rocks, but when Draco grabbed one out of the air and accidentally crushed it to powder, Harry decided that they needed to work on control as much as accuracy. He didn't know it for a fact, but he suspected that there was some kind of rule against squashing the Snitch into a winged cufflink. It would be frowned upon, at the very least. So they had looked for objects that required some delicacy on Draco's part - ping-pong balls (very hard to come by in the wizarding world), dung bombs (very messy when handled roughly), and on one memorable occasion, ink bottles.
Harry had finally settled on pine cones when he stumbled across a pile of them in the trees behind Hagrid's cabin. Relatively clean, easy to find in bulk, delicate enough to require careful handling, and light enough not to hurt if they hit something they shouldn't. Under Harry's guidance, they made very respectable practice Snitches, and the sap wiped right off of Draco's adamant fingers when he, inevitably, smashed them.
"Pay attention, this time," Harry scolded, as he readied another pine cone.
But Draco wasn't paying attention. He was idling along on his broom, staring upward, watching a shooting star draw a bright streak across the sky.
"Draco!" He still got no response. "Hey, you Slytherin git, pay attention!"
"You have no poetry in your soul, Potter. How can you sit there, shouting insults at me, when the stars are falling?"
In answer to this, Harry sent his pine cone flying straight at the other boy. It struck Draco smartly in the head, then bounced away. Draco, with the lightning reflexes of an experienced Seeker, snatched the pine cone out of the air and deliberately crushed it. As he held up his hand and let the bits of wood fall from between his glittering fingers, he grinned at Harry, his teeth a flash of white in the darkness.
"You asked for it, Gryffindor!"
Harry gave a derisive hoot and sent his Firebolt into a screaming dive, a split second after Draco launched himself in Harry's direction.
"You'll never catch me!" Harry shouted, waving to the other boy over his shoulder. "That broom is sooo slooooow..."
Draco could not possibly keep up with the Firebolt, and they both knew it, so he pulled out his wand and pointed it at the rapidly retreating form of the Gryffindor. "Come back here, or I'll hex you!"
Harry obediently swept around and sped back to where Draco sat on his Nimbus, fuming. "I'll bet I could have outrun your hex, too."
Draco grinned at him. "Why do you think I'm letting you train me? I'm going to learn all your secrets, 'til I can out-fly, out-think and out-class you. And then I'll kill you, slowly and painfully. Death by pine cones."
"I thought you were training to get your position on the team back, before that slug they have playing Seeker destroys Slytherin's chances at the Cup."
His smile twisted into a sneer. "She already has. Besides, you don't think they'd actually take me back, do you?"
Harry heard the very real bitterness in Draco's voice and let the banter drop. He knew that Draco desperately wanted to regain his place on the Slytherin team - almost as badly as he wanted to beat Harry - and that he stood little chance of succeeding. It wasn't that he couldn't play anymore. He could. But even if he were to hone his skills 'til he could trounce the famous Harry Potter into the ground, his fellow Slytherins would never willingly take him back. They would rather suffer humiliating defeat in front of the entire school than win just one game thanks to Potter's Plaything.
"Let's try one more round," Harry suggested, reaching for another pine cone.
"It's too dark to see the Snitch!" Draco protested. Talk of the Slytherin team had clearly spoiled his good mood, and he sounded petulant.
More as a way of amusing Draco than because he thought it would work, Harry held up the pine cone and tapped it with his wand, muttering, "Incendio."
The cone burst into merry flame. Harry, unprepared for the eagerness with which it burned, gave a shout of pain and jerked his hand away. The flaming cone dropped toward the grass with Draco in hot pursuit, while Harry sucked his singed fingers and glared at them both. Draco caught the small fireball just before it hit the ground, nipping it out of the air with crystalline fingers that did not feel the flames. Then he soared back up to where Harry sat, cradling it in his palm.
"Do you have to burn down the stands?" he asked, as he casually crushed out the fire.
"Sorry," Harry muttered.
Draco wiped the soot and hot sap off his hand on his trousers, grimacing at the sticky mess. He was only a few feet away from Harry, close enough that the Gryffindor could see him clearly. His hair, eyes and skin were so pale that they seemed to collect the last glimmers of light, to shine with the mingled gold and silver of sunset and moonrise. As always, Harry found that he could not take his eyes from the other boy's face or hide the infatuation in his own.
Draco glanced over at him and read his expression easily. His smile flashed again, and he lifted his head to gaze at the stars now burning more brightly above them. "Are we done?"
"With what?" Harry asked, his body suddenly too warm for comfort and his face flushed.
"Do you have something better to do?"
"Look at the stars." His eyes turned on Harry, so intent that he could feel their touch like hot breath on his skin. "Ever since Christmas Eve, I love looking at the stars."
Harry swallowed once and stated, firmly, "We're done.
He brought his broom around in a tight curve, circling Draco and pulling up to his left, so close that their knees brushed together. Then he headed for the stands and the grounds beyond with Draco beside him.
They landed side-by-side, and almost before their feet had touched the ground, Harry's arm was around Draco's waist. The Slytherin moved willingly into the Gryffindor's embrace and lifted his lips to meet his kiss. Harry was, as always, forceful and generous at the same time, taking what Draco offered without hesitation, giving back the heat his partner never asked for openly. But Draco's delight in his touch was plain in the way he melted into the taller boy's body, leaning all his weight trustingly against the support of Harry's arms across his back, and losing himself in the hungry kiss.
Harry pulled away, not because he had any desire to end the kiss, but because he wanted to take it somewhere more private, where he could finish what he had started. Draco did not move, but still leaned against his arms with his head back, his lips slightly parted, and his eyes nearly closed. Only the tell-tale gleam from beneath his lashes betrayed that he was watching Harry's face.
"You're not looking in the right place for stars," Harry murmured.
"You always make me see stars, Potter."
"You silver-tongued devil, you." Harry slid a hand up his back to cradle his head and bent to claim another lingering kiss. "I'm thinking the top of the North Tower would be a nice spot for stargazing..."
"Eleven o'clock? Bring your own butterbeer?"
"Oh, no. I'm not waiting 'til eleven, and I can do without the butterbeer." He reached for the broomstick that still hovered beside him, poised at just the proper height, and said, "We came out here to fly, so let's fly."
He did not let go of Draco, but swung his leg over the Firebolt while holding the other boy firmly to his side. When Draco stretched out a hand for his own broomstick, Harry protested, "Leave it! We'll fetch it later." He gave a suggestive tug with his arm and added, "Climb on."
Draco grinned and mounted the Firebolt nimbly, in spite of the fact that it hung too high in the air for him. Sliding tightly against Harry, he wrapped his arms around the Gryffindor's waist and commented, "Do you know, I've never ridden a Firebolt?"
"Really? Then we'll have to do this more often. Hang on!"
The Firebolt soared abruptly away from the ground, swooping and turning under Harry's expert guidance. Draco gave a whoop of excitement and let go of him, spreading his hands wide to feel the wind against his body as they flew. The North Tower loomed ahead of them, but Harry did not take a direct path to its top, choosing to put his broom through its paces and show off for Draco a bit. They circled the tower, moving so fast that the many windows were a liquid blur, then swept over the courtyard and out toward the lake. Finally, Harry headed back for the Tower, spiraling up and up in lazy curves, until he brought them to a precise stop on the parapet.
Stepping off the broom to the stone rooftop, Draco flung himself down on his back, arms wide, eyes shining up at the stars beginning to thicken in the sky. "That was brilliant, Harry! God, I love to fly!"
"So do I." Harry knelt beside him, gazing down into his face with an admiration he made no effort to conceal. "I love it even more when you're with me."
"Sentimental drip," Draco remarked, pleasantly. He eyed Harry for a moment, then asked, "How is it we always end up in the same place?"
"On the Tower?"
"No, with me flat on my back and you looking at me like I'd make a tasty meal."
"I wasn't exactly thinking about food..."
"What are you thinking about?"
"I'm not going to tell you. You're in too prickly a mood tonight."
"Prickly! You're the one who hit me with a pine cone, then lit another one on fire. All I've done is fall for your lines... again. A good place for stargazing..." he mocked, in a fair imitation of Harry's voice. "Give me a break!"
"Well, isn't it?"
"That's not the point."
"The point is that I need some new pick-up lines."
"No. The point is that I'm wise to you, Perfect Bloody Potter. You're nothing but a low-rent Romeo with a really fast broom."
Harry cocked his head to one side, his smile turned wistful. "And you are a puffer fish."
"A puffer fish. One of those, funny-looking, flat fish that blows itself up like a porcupine when anything gets too close to it."
"You're making that up. There's no such thing."
"Is, too. The Muggles call them puffer fish, but I think I'll have them renamed malfoys."
"Oh! Just have them renamed, will you?"
"I have connections at the Ministry of Magic," Harry said, haughtily.
"Connections, as in, lots of enemies?"
Harry did not dignify this with a response. "When I'm a fat, balding, middle-aged wizard with seven kids, I'm going to take them to the aquarium and show them the tank full of malfoys. 'Look at that, Harry Jr.,' I'll say. 'See that funny-looking fish there, that's got all those pointy things lying down flat against its body? That's a malfoy.' And Harry Jr. will say, 'Why do they call it that, Dad?'"
"And you'll say, 'Because I'm the prat who told them to, son!'"
"And I'll say, 'Because there was once a famous wizard...'"
"'...who slunk around looking flat and sleek and slimy, just like a fish. But when he got scared or mad... Poof! He'd blow up like a balloon with spines sticking out every which way.' Then I'll tap the glass and scare one of the fish, and it'll puff itself up into a spiky balloon. 'See that, son? That's just what he did, that fishy wizard. And his name was Malfoy.'"
"And Junior will say, 'Wow, Dad, that's the dumbest story I ever heard!'"
"'Maybe, son, but it's the truth. I knew that wizard at Hogwarts, and I've got the puncture wounds to prove it. His prickles were poisonous, but I eventually developed a tolerance for Malfoy poison...'"
"Not to mention a taste for prickles."
"Oh, yes." Harry unfastened his cloak and tossed it aside. Then he lay down next to Draco, propped on one elbow. "I've become a glutton for punishment."
"Now who's a silver-tongued devil?"
Draco opened his mouth to answer, but Harry quickly leaned in for a kiss, stifling whatever caustic remark hovered on the tip of that silver tongue. Draco was eager for him, warmed by the excitement of flying and the laughter of their shared jokes, primed by the heat of his touch. And Harry needed only the taste of passion on Draco's lips to reach the same fever pitch in an instant.
"My beautiful, poisonous Malfoy-puffer fish..." he mumbled, lovingly, as his hands moved to open the other boy's clothing.
Draco did not bother to respond to this flagrant bit of sentimental drivel. Instead, he concentrated on helping Harry with the various clasps and hooks on his clothing that all seemed to stick when he was in a hurry. Harry nibbled lightly along his jaw, making him squirm in an agonizing, enchanting way, then whispered, "Some day, I'll make you say it... that you love me..."
"Shut up, Potter!" Draco groaned, as Harry's hands finally reached bare flesh.
Harry laughed, nipped his ear teasingly, then took that marvelous, fascinating, incendiary body in his arms and pulled it tightly against him. For once, he was happy to let Draco have the last word, since all he wanted in this world was to kiss him. To kiss him, and kiss him, and go on kissing him... To make love to him until he set whole constellations burning in those ice-grey eyes...
His gaze locked with Draco's, and both of them knew that the games were finished. The heat thickened in the air between them. A telltale sheen of gold fire flickered over the planes of Draco's face. And Harry moved with tormenting slowness to capture the Draco's mouth with his.