By the age of seventeen, and in the aftermath of the war, Harry Potter was convinced that there was little left in his life that could actually surprise him. In fact, during moments of profound self-honesty, Harry admitted that he was entirely jaded. Considering the sheer amount of death, pain, and sacrifice he had faced during his short life, he figured he had license to be a bit bitter. Just a tad, mind - not enough to make him 'Snape-esque' unpleasant, per se, but enough where he felt somewhat comfortable in his hard-earned indifference.
The problem, however, with being jaded, bitter and all other adjectives used to describe reluctant teenage heroes who had battled snakes, dragons and overtly bipolar wizards during their tenure, was interacting with normal people.
People who, not one week following Voldemort's defeat, had the audacity to cheer, party, and revert to their 'pre-war, life is a constant source of merriment, mankind is innately good, my cup surely runneth over' type of way.
It was enough to make him want to bang his head against the wall - repeatedly. Particularly since his own best friends had succumbed to this, this…'optimism' that seemed to be spreading through the wizarding world as fast as the bubonic plague.
In fact, the only thing more maddening than this sudden bout of cheerfulness all wizards save him were busily enjoying, was everyone's reaction to Harry's steadfast refusal to view the world through similarly rose colored glasses.
'Poor boy has been scarred for life from that 'war-thing' we're busily forgetting ever happened - what a poor, tragic, fallen, little man'… their looks seemed to say. Which only served to fuel his desire to succumb to the 'weary warrior' cliché and become a hermit. Yes, he mourned his lost childhood, resented his public persona, and detested his 'destiny' as the wizarding world's own messiah, but he was a fully functional and competent human being—thank you very much—capable as any of smiling, laughing, and living life as it came.
He simply refused to lie to himself.
People weren't innately good- they were a downright sadistic bastards with an obligatory 'good will towards men' thrown in just to create a cosmic balance of sorts. And if his cup runneth over, it was only because Voldemort had killed everyone remotely close to him and he didn't have anyone left with whom to share this proverbial cup.
But, like any self-sacrificing hero, he realized there was little he could do about the current state of affairs. If most minds could only deal with the mass destruction and violence the war had caused by categorizing it as an abstract memory, more power to them. In fact, there were times when he wished he could be equally oblivious.
However, that particular futile wish didn't prevent him from standing along the sidelines of said merriment in the form of yet another party with detached horror and slight distain thrown in for good measure.
"Disgusting, isn't it? The way they're carrying on," a familiar voice interrupted his reverie.
"Absolutely vile," Harry agreed while hiding a grin and turning to acknowledge Draco Malfoy with a slight nod.
Somewhere between losing his godfather and confronting Voldemort for the last time, Harry had lost all energy to keep up a schoolyard rivalry with his Slytherin nemesis. After all, what's the shallow taunt of a teenager when your only family had died, and your world had fallen out from under you? Not even the verbal assault of Hogwart's seasoned bully had been able to permeate Harry's grief, and when the Gryffindor's apathy became startlingly apparent, Draco had backed off.
In retrospect, that might have had something to do with Draco's own losses, for his parents had both fallen victim to the war, leaving their only son well and truly alone, with neither his fortune nor his name to hide behind.
In truth, Harry had been overjoyed when Lucius Malfoy had died. Hell, he would have stood up and danced the fucking mamba in celebration if in he'd known 'how'. But Draco had loved Lucius, and that was all that had mattered, really. After all, Harry knew through personal experience that losing someone beloved was just about the worst pain on earth.
So they traded barbs for brief looks of understanding in passing - Draco choosing to remain neutral during the last vestiges of war, alleviating Harry's need to face off with him, thus creating a sort of symmetry between them, in an odd sort 'life's a bitch and we're two of the few who seem to get that' type of commonality.
"Nice that they can come out so unaffected, isn't it?" Harry continued, not bothering to hide his scowl. He doubted Draco would care one way or the other if Harry's 'hero' mask slipped, after all, Malfoy had never really had him on much of a pedestal to begin with and Harry was very tired of maintaining it.
"Yeah, makes me want to hex the idiots. People 'died', you imbeciles, they're not coming back, why the hell are you 'celebrating'!"
"Not worth expending the energy to hex them," Harry replied shrugging, "it won't do any good or bring anyone back. We've made our sacrifices, and now they have their world. Just means we've earned our right to be fucked up about it, that's all," he finished, shooting his companion a small grin.
Draco smiled back, his gray eyes lighting in a way that left Harry temporarily transfixed, he'd never seen Draco grin like that before, at him or… anyone, really. And while he basked in the novelty of that, that he could make someone beam despite having experienced great tragedy, and without having to risk his neck and life in order to do it, Draco's expression changed once again.
Altered to something focused, something intense, new and impious, geared directly at Harry in a way that left him shivering slightly - mildly excited.
"Malfoy?" Harry asked, his voice betraying his uncertainty while his mind was too confused to feel chagrin about it.
"It's you and me against the world, Potter, just you and me," Draco said in response, as if that somehow answered everything, regarding Harry wholly once more before turning and leaving just as suddenly as he'd come.
And while he watched Malfoy walk away, Harry wondered what in the hell that had just been.
Ron and Hermione planned to get married immediately upon finishing their schooling.
Harry supposed a normal person would be thrilled for his two best friends - wherein lay his problem. After all, he was pretty sure that a 'normal' individual (if there really was such an animal) didn't harbor secret fantasies about being someone, anyone, other than who they were. So in that he supposed that it wasn't necessarily abnormal, for him, considering his track record with deviation, to resent the hell out of his friends' announcement.
In fact, it was all he could do to force a smile and hold back a sarcastic retort about the statistical chances of a young marriage working out for the long haul, followed by a derisive 'so good luck with that'.
The truth was that, deep down, he knew if anyone was stable enough to pull off holding a family together and maintaining a secure home life, no matter the age, it would be Ron, and Harry envied that in a way he couldn't even begin to articulate.
Ron and his loving, nurturing, loyal and enriching home life – the type of home life that existed in those cheesy sitcoms Dudley used to watch while Harry was preoccupied with his list of a thousand and one chores - the irony of which wasn't lost on him.
For after wading through his own mangled childhood, and having to deal with the aftereffects of Tom Riddle's, he was pretty sure that most families, aside from those with the surname of Weasley, were entirely fucked up.
And fucked up families usually went on to produce fucked up people with just enough emotional trauma to know that their chances of finding their own fairy tale were somewhat if not drastically diminished.
Particularly if that someone was gay, as he was, which cut down the list of potential partners exponentially.
After all, what person, man or woman, would honestly want to deal with a partner with enough emotional baggage to fill a novel? And what could be said of a person who did want to willingly subject themselves to that?
Harry resented himself for recognizing the crutch of his situation, wondering if ignorance would truly be bliss, or if it would at least allow his heart to be more open, while also wondering if harboring those resentments in the wake of his friends' announcement made him evil. More so than Tom Riddle, who at least had the foresight to admit that he didn't love anybody, whereas Harry really, truly did love his friends… ninety percent of the time.
It was that other ten percent that worried him.
And considering that that other ten percent of the time usually flared in the wake of a happy or triumphant moment, and Harry wondered just what kind of friend he made at all.
Or what kind of lover he would make, assuming anyone was brave enough to take that chance.
If Draco Malfoy were smart he'd run fast and swift in the other direction; instead of frequently shooting lust filled glances at Harry, as he had openly ever since that 'smile' incident at the post war fête, and in a way that Harry could no longer ignore without looking like a complete idiot.
Naivety only got one so far, and while Harry would admit he had very little (very, very little) experience in relationships, he wasn't oblivious to the fact that sex existed and as a general rule people wanted it, and now, seemingly, someone wanted it with him.
But no, if Harry was truly the hero that everyone believed him to be, he would warn Draco away now, wishing better for him. However, a small part of him, the part no amount of cynicism would squelch, still sought love, and despite it all, still wanted to be loved, most desperately. Even if it meant being loved by someone he had, at one point long ago, wished would contact a terminal disease and die.
But that had only been on really bad days.
Now he wasn't exactly sure where he wanted Draco, but that 'sex' thing did sound quite nice, as, of course, did the 'love' thing. In addition, this new, grownup Draco really did seem like someone Harry could actually get along with, and he was, for all intents and purposes, really easy on the eyes. And Harry knew that Draco knew that Harry was a little bit, just slightly now, perturbed by his life experiences. If Draco really was pursuing Harry earnestly, it was his own fault.
However, none of the more pleasant thoughts of potentially being loved, finally, took the sting out of the fact that Ron and Hermione were on the cusp of complete happiness and fulfillment, while his own future was so drastically uncertain - the bastards.
In fact, taking a walk to throw rocks at the lake while pretending he was aiming at the posts to Ron and Hermione's future white picket fence seemed as good a plan as any.
"Now, what did that lake ever do to you?" a now familiar voice behind him inquired in the middle of Harry's hard-earned morose moment, though he should be thoroughly used to it by now. Draco was developing a habit of popping up whenever Harry was alone and sulking, which, to be fair, was quite a lot.
And Harry, thoughts of love still circling prominently through his head, could only shrug, though his heart race did increase dramatically at the sound of that voice.
"It's not a lake, it's a house, with a dog, a cat, and a million kids in it," Harry corrected without any real rancor, although he did pick up another stone and throw it, just for good measure.
"Ah, so this is the fallout of Granger and Weasel's little announcement then, is it?" Draco asked, shooting Harry an amused grin as he came to stand directly beside him.
"Of course not," Harry replied, feigning to the best of his ability, indifference. "I couldn't be happier for Ron and Hermione. I wish them all the best. They're my best friends, how could I be anything but pleased?"
Draco sighed dramatically, clearly exasperated, although the tips of his lips were still quirking in a grin he was busily trying to hide. "Honestly Potter, if you insist on channeling one of your many personalities in my presence, does it have to be the 'Golden Boy of Gryffindor', I mean, I just ate…"
And Harry couldn't help it, he laughed, throwing Draco a look he hoped passed for dually reprimanded.
"Alright, you asked for it. They're leaving me behind, attaining something that I'll probably never have… a normal, happy life. In fact, they're so freaking normal and happy that I want to gag. There, satisfied?" Harry finished, his own amusement: at himself, and at the world at large, growing in the company of someone who seemingly understood.
"Yes, much better. I can now keep my lunch," Draco assured with a wink, while adopting that trademark 'look' that Harry had been the recipient of a lot as of late; a look that said 'I see right through you and I actually like what I see, so what say you to fucking like animals? Right here, right now?'… at least to Harry's mindset.
"Besides, I think that whole normalcy thing is far overrated. If you ask me Granger and Weasley deserve each other, they're both so dreadfully boring. Me? I'd much prefer someone exciting. A realist. A survivor. Someone passionate, and fierce, and powerful… know anyone like that Potter?"
The entire time Draco continued his diatribe he moved closer and closer to Harry, finally reaching a point where Harry could examine each curve and crevice of Draco's face. As a result, the most peculiar thing happened: fear, like he'd had little experience with before, welled up within him.
It was one thing to long for love and closeness in theory; it was a whole other matter to face it directly.
In fact, Harry's heart was now pounding so hard and fast he could hear it resounding through his ears. And all the while his mind was working in overdrive: '… he's in my personal space … I hope my breath smells okay… please, don't let me screw up… do not think of the Cho incident under any circumstances… if Draco cries I give up on the whole business; seriously.'
And then… contact: euphoria, dizziness, lightness, joy and this rush of blood to the head that left Harry's equilibrium completely out of wrack. In fact, if Draco moved away just then, Harry was certain he'd fall forward into a dark abyss of some sort.
And that would be bad.
Everything that happened after the initial meeting of lips seemed to be instinctive: the closing of his eyes; the smells and heat of Draco that surrounded him, filling his senses; the opening of his mouth; the welcoming of silky, soft tongue… and this kiss was wet, as was Harry's only other memory of a kiss, but in a much, much more pleasurable way.
Even if the power of the feelings it stirred within him shocked him a little silly.
"Draco and I are seeing each other…" Harry announced to his friends through kiss-crushed, thoroughly chapped, lips - giving them little to no forewarning as to the reason why he had pulled them both aside so abruptly after dinner that day … "as in dating, you know, in that wet-kissy kind of way."
Although he would never admit it out loud, a part of Harry was morbidly anticipating their reaction; almost daring them to throw a fit.
He supposed a part of it was just his innate rebelliousness; the same rebelliousness he felt whenever he was in the same room as Snape - they did have it coming for placing him in the position as the proverbial third wheel, after all. But another part of it was much, much more spiteful and not something he was exactly proud of… he was unintentionally/intentionally testing them. Testing the limits of their love. Wanting to see just how far their friendship extended, as if he needed to validate it somehow.
They obviously loved each other, was there any of that love left over for him? And did nearly getting killed together, with over a dozen death-defying stunts, over the course of seven memorable years, mean so little to them?
And while he got that it was a bit insane, and insecure, and about a thousand other little psychotic jaunts into complete madness, but he couldn't talk himself out of it. It was there, festering inside him, like a vindictive disease of some sort.
He supposed he could chalk it up to a childhood deprived of love, or maybe it was in his genes courtesy of some truly messed-up ancestor somewhere. But none of the aforementioned excuses made it go away, and he was slightly disturbed to find that he was already formulating his defiant response to their (sure to be angry) outburst in his head.
He was resolute that he wasn't going to give Draco up; of this he was certain. Because now that the opportunity had presented itself, he found he rather liked the idea, a lot. In fact, he couldn't wait to try the whole 'love thing' with Draco some more. So Ron and Hermione could take their unfriend-like, preoccupied-with-only-each-other, opinions and…
His mental tirade was cut short by a snort from Ron, and one of those piercing, penetrating 'I know you better than you know yourself therefore I'm going to psychoanalyze you to death' looks from Hermione.
Gods how he hated that look: when she had it he could never get away with anything.
He really quite sucked at manipulating reassurances from people, he realized.
"Why?" Hermione asked, taking charge of the conversation before her fiancé could, startling them all with her inquiry.
Harry could understand angry, he was prepared for angry… but could he handle her desire to understand him?
Though in that question lay his answer: She loved him still; loved him as that special, cherished childhood friend of old. If she didn't she wouldn't have asked for his reasoning, wouldn't have cared to hear his thoughts on the matter.
Warmth surrounded him like an old blanket, and he couldn't help but grin and answer honestly. "Because, after all that has happened to both of us, we just really seem to get each other. That and he's really quite funny, once you get to know him."
Hermione smiled and said, simply, "good," while Ron just stepped out to pat Harry on the back.
"I must admit I saw this one coming, mate. What with Malfoy discovering his humanity somewhere during the war and the way he's been stalking you lately..."
"Are you kidding?" Hermione interjected, eyeing her boyfriend with amusement, "Malfoy has always stalked Harry, and there is no 'lately' about it. True, he did try, and badly at that, to hide his interest behind antagonism but there is no way someone could work so hard to get someone else's attention without there being deep feelings involved. The difference is that now he knows he has a chance. Now he feels he has something to offer in the wake of this new found maturity - a way to connect with Harry. They've both experienced horrifying things, and lived to tell the tale. They're survivors and in that a link was forged."
The impulsive part of Harry's brain that habitually tuned Hermione out whenever she got on one of her Ron-coined 'know it all, I'm of such superior intellect' spiels, no matter the topic at hand, was immediately suppressed by the larger part of his brain that really, really liked what she said, and couldn't prevent the goofy grin from spreading across his face.
Who didn't want to be sought? Loved? Adored? Who didn't want to be wanted? And who didn't want such a strong force of nature after their affections, especially when they had done very little, in their own opinion, to deserve it?
He and Malfoy had a link. Hermione understood it, as Hermione tends to do, and Ron had his hand on Harry's shoulder, despite his history of vast distaste for Harry's newly acquired boyfriend… life was pretty good, just then.
So maybe he could be a bit insecure sometimes, and maybe he occasionally had evil, uncharitable thoughts. But there were moments when happiness could hit in such a pure, unhampered way that left all thoughts of morosity to the wayside, and here, amongst his friends, with thoughts of a new lover on the forefront of his mind, was one of those moments.
He was a fool to have doubted them, but then, he was pretty sure that doubting fools made up the world.
He couldn't be the only one.
Sex between two passive aggressive people created this great big well of foreboding tabooness specifically meant to drive Harry mad… at least that was what he was starting to believe.
And while Harry knew without a doubt that no one in their right (or left) mind with a minimal amount of sense would ever accuse either Harry or Draco of being passive aggressive when it came to curses, hexes, Quidditch or stating their opinions (and pretty much everything else) when it came to sex they had seemingly hit a wall.
He was pretty sure he wanted it… oh how he wanted it. With the war gone, his life no longer consistently threatened, and deep within the thrall of a new relationship, he found he had all of these new, intense feelings circulating through his system. And these feelings seemed directly tied, in some mystical, magical way, to the production of hormones. A lot of them. In fact, he was quite convinced, based upon the amount of times in one day his mind went completely to the gutter, that he had more than what could remotely be considered healthy.
The annoying part of it was that they would surface out of no where, with little to no provocation. He would be sitting in the middle of a History of Magic class, which had to be the most unstimulating environment on the planet, save perhaps Divination, and his body would awaken from a slumber and cry out 'we, your various bodily functions, all want Draco now. Could you go find him, please? Immediately if possible? Thanks.'
And if dealing with that sort of problem wasn't bad enough, monsieur Draco, the very crux of Harry's frustration, was obstinately refusing to 'scare Harry 'away' by going 'too far, too fast' and pushing Harry beyond what Harry was 'prepared to accept', and though Draco never actually said any of these things out loud, the implication was there.
For that Harry wanted to choke him… well, he wanted to fuck him first, then he'd choke him.
It dawned on Harry that in a few short months he was going to turn eighteen, an incident that would surely mark him as the oldest male virgin ever to have existed anywhere, excluding, of course, priests and men who wanted to get their ears surgically altered to look like Spock, spoke fluent Klingon, and lived in their mother's basement - kind of like his cousin.
Harry was pushing a time clock here. And he was ready. In fact, he was more than ready. Hell, he'd been ready since practically birth; war and Voldemort be damned.
The problem was that he didn't exactly know how to go about it, having absolutely no experience. And his desire to not look like a fumbling idiot in front of his partner for his first time was almost as strong as his desire to do the act itself.
Which thereby left it up to Draco to make the first move… an incident that clearly wasn't going to happen soon enough for Harry's liking.
It was a well known fact throughout all of Hogwarts that Gryffindors were chosen by the Sorting Hat based upon their above average levels of bravery. And while Harry loved his house wholeheartedly, there were days when he resented the hell out of that particular reputation.
So fine, he'd take his courage into his own hands and make the first move. But if Draco laughed, smirked, or became patronizing even to the slightest degree then he was positive that no judge in the world could feasibly hold him accountable for his actions and that homicide, in this case, would be entirely justifiable.
"Draco, I want to have sex. When two people are attracted to each other, isn't it a foregone conclusion that sex is involved? Is there a reason you haven't asked me yet?"
Try as he might he couldn't stop his grin from spreading once Draco's stunned expression made itself apparent.
He lived for shocking Draco, he truly did, and the fact that it was rather hard to do made this particular moment that much sweeter.
"Well, I didn't want to scare you away just yet by going too far. I didn't want to push you beyond what you were prepared to accept…" Draco replied quickly, much to Harry's growing annoyance.
Oh, he had fucking known it.
Why was it that everyone in Harry's life thought that they knew what was best for him? Had it ever dawned on anyone to ask him? Had it! Just how hard was it to say 'Harry, let's have sex. Because in case you haven't noticed it we're both seventeen-year-old hormonally driven males and well, we have certain needs...'
But, whatever. At least the topic was out there now. Indeed his own penis didn't seem to care that Draco was nobly trying to protect him or why, it just knew that his brain was having a conversation with the word 'sex' in it and decided to rise to the occasion in a very 'History of Magic' type way.
"Well, I am. So, do you wanna?"
Hours later Harry would marvel at just how quickly the situation had gone out of his immediate control, though he should have figured that asking Draco if he wanted sex was like asking Dudley if he wanted a side of fries. One minute he was the brave Gryffindor, taking the matter of his hormonal desires firmly into his own hands, and the next moment he was naked with an arm full of Slytherin, and an unending wealth of sensation.
The intensity in which Draco had looked at Harry throughout the act had had Harry's body on edge as Draco gazed at him through lust-laden silver eyes. The way he had trailed his hands down Harry's chest, across his pelvis and to his groin. Grabbed his cock with both hands. The way his nails dug into Harry's shoulder blades as he later ground, pounded, dug, pushed and pulled above and against Harry's stomach, desperately searching for a crescendo of release. The way their sweat-sheen bodies slipped and slid against each other, and the way the air smelled pungently of 'them' - their sweat, their soap, their essence - all around the room. But mostly the way Harry's body felt like it was going to explode in a way that he wanted so, so, so, so much, yet at the same time feared, because he had no control whatsoever during this great expanse of feeling, and if he lost himself entirely to this pleasure, the way he needed to, would he be able to put himself back together again in one piece afterwards?
But explode he did and…it…was…bloody…fantastic.
Truly, having sex was a zen-like experience and Harry definitely understood, without question, what all the hype surrounding it was about.
In fact, there were quite a few people he knew that should probably look into getting some themselves, the bulk of his teachers and a few well-known Ministry employees included… it would definitely help to make them far less uptight.
Ron was excited about leaving Hogwarts - a fact he made known by dancing around the Gryffindor common room chanting "Freedom, freedom… hello great big world, it's so nice to finally greet you."
And while Ron was busy preoccupying himself with his own Weasley version of 'no more homework, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks' Harry was wondering if chaining himself to his dormitory bed would make a bold enough statement.
Hogwarts was home.
A haven from reporters, gawking fans, judgmental ministry officials, and pig-like relations. The place he had spent the past seven years fighting for his life, but at the same time, truly living it. And, most importantly of all, it was the place where he had discovered magic.
So yeah, he figured he had justifiable cause to be in a bit of a snit about leaving it, especially with the great big world out there, threatening to eat him alive.
It was definitely intimidating: to think about the future, and what lay ahead. To think about a life without Dumbledore and thick castle walls to protect him from prying eyes. But at the same time, though he loathed admitting it, there was some amount of excitement there as well. He was awfully tired: of classes, of homework… of Filch. And soon, almost too soon, was the chance to go out and live life by his rules, and his own desires. That, in itself, was dramatically appealing.
He wondered just how weird he was to be so happy and depressed all at once; it couldn't be normal, could it? Especially since Ron was making such a big show of exhilaration? But then, he had never been the least bit ordinary in anything else, so he figured his funk over completing his education was just something he'd have to suck up and deal with, much like everything else.
At least Draco seemed to understand his trepidation. Draco who, because of the open knowledge of his parents' allegiances during the war, faced a much more hostile big, wide world than Harry did, and a rather unforgiving public.
He had this fantasy of finding a cave somewhere, Draco in tow, and just sort of living like a nomad, only with magic and modern conveniences. It made a nice daydream, at least, and he wondered just how close he could make it, or at least something like it, a reality.
"So you've completely given up on the idea of becoming an auror then?" Draco asked one sunny summer afternoon that found them both throwing rocks at the lake, exorcising numerous demons.
"Yeah, there's only so much fighting bad guys I can take. I'm tired of always having to see the worst in people," Harry stated darkly, meaning it, wholeheartedly.
He was, in fact, absolutely sick of it. Literally.
"I can understand that," Draco said with a derisive snort that indicated that not only did he understand it, but he had written the fucking manifesto.
So there it was, Harry's chance. An opportunity to face his future not so much alone. A chance to still be jaded, and confused, and slightly disturbed, but also happy, free, and paving the road towards healing.
His chance to be brave, one last time, no matter how frightening the prospect.
"I've been thinking. My godfather, Sirius Black, left me his entire estate. And you, yourself, are a Black by blood. I mean, by rights, you should have a say to some of it. So it wouldn't be charity, exactly, if you were to join me in spending it. Around the world, that is. It's just, I want to travel the world with you, get away for a bit. I've never been out of Britain…."
Right, so with all the stumbling and hesitating it hadn't come out as well as he had hoped. Damn his mouth for not performing exactly as he had rehearsed over and over in his brain. But he was earnest, he hoped Draco saw that, at least.
Oh please, let Draco see that he was earnest. It may not be the traditional, idealistic family home-life, but the world and himself was the best that Harry had to offer.
It turned out that Draco did, in fact, get it, for Harry felt his heart clench and then speed up again, so, so entirely fast, at the look of utter delight the blonde Slytherin gave him just then.
"You've never been out of Britain! Well then, of course I will accompany you. There's so many places I have to show you…"
And just like that, the future didn't seem like such an intimidating thing after all; he had found his solution... He was bringing a piece of home with him.