Author's Note: This fic has been edited to comply with posting guidelines. The NC-17 version of the story can be found on my livejournal. If you're interested in reading the unedited version click on the author link (Jaylee1) above to get to my user profile page, and then click on the link provided in the header information. As ever, thank you for reading. :-)

It was a combination of posture and overall demeanor that gave the cloaked figure away.

After all, there were very few men Harry considered haughty. Of those, there were even fewer who would be shadowing him in the middle of a rather humid summer day, covered head to feet in cloth.

Harry wondered just how stupid the bulk of Voldemort's followers actually believed him to be… as if they thought he wouldn't be able to pick Malfoy out of a crowd, as if disguising golden hair and sharp features within the shadowy confines of a hood actually obscured the owner from recognition.

As it was Harry could scarcely refrain from rolling his eyes. Despite his personal grievances toward the man, his faith in Dumbledore's efforts to win the war was growing, particularly if the opposition thought that this – following Harry from a distance throughout all of Diagon Alley, in a hooded cloak of all things – was subtlety.

And while it was quite fun to toy around with Malfoy by visiting every possible store in every feasible direction, Harry was quickly growing tired of the charade. Perhaps it was time to reunite with Ron and Hermione in whatever hidden corner of the alley they had found to grope each other in… or perhaps not. He still hadn't recovered from the disturbing images he had been subjected to the last time he unwittingly interrupted them.

Unfortunately, as sad as the concept was - considering that the two rabid heterosexuals in question were his best friends - Malfoy really was the better source of amusement, in spite of the blatant 'I'm so evil, hear me roar' attitude that the Death Eaters exuded... Or maybe because of it.

In Harry's opinion, committed anarchists, such as Malfoy, tended to take themselves far too seriously. So really, it was their own fault if that made them available targets for Harry's overall boredom and dissatisfaction with life.

After all, Malfoy may glory in his air of superior badness, but Harry had the 'disgruntled, teenager, hesitant war hero, and I'm-so-angry-at-the-world' persona to uphold… a role that, on the cusp of his seventh and final year at Hogwarts, he had grown to relish more and more. In fact, sometimes it truly was the only thing that kept him sane.

"Hey you, back there! All this 'Simon says' follow Harry into Flourish and Blotts ' nonsense has me feeling a bit peaky… fancy a drink?" Harry called out, glancing back to flash his shadow a sly grin before turning and heading into the nearest and most thoroughly crowded establishment.

Because no matter how up for a game of snake and lion he actually was, and contrary to what Snape always professed, he wasn't dumb.

Harry didn't know how he expected Malfoy to act once the older wizard caught up with him, though he supposed it was something along the lines of…

"Ah ha, foul creature, I have caught thee! If you would refrain from making too big of a fuss while I kidnap you in front of numerous witnesses, and journey on to my evil master's lair of darkness and doom," in that very Renfield meets Professor Moriarty kind of way.

Or maybe a simple, yet effective: "Now that I have caught up to you, Potter, I will kill you where you stand (again with witnesses)," with perhaps an evil laugh thrown in for effect… Thus proving once and for all that Malfoys really were a few apples and oranges short of a fruit basket, no matter how good they seemed to be at choosing lawyers. And they had to have some pretty damn good lawyers for Lucius Malfoy to be out on the streets again…

But instead what he got was a snooty, "Severus is entirely right, you are an impertinent brat," followed by the arching of one perfectly groomed eyebrow, and the brisk, irritated tapping of gloved fingertips against a polished tablecloth.

Right. So obviously Malfoy wanted to forgo the standard and overly cliché song and dance of 'brazen young hero meets villainous evil henchman', which left the ever startling question of what exactly Malfoy did want and why had he been following Harry so obviously.

"What, didn't feel like getting some cardiovascular in this fine afternoon? Or are Malfoys too good for walking?" Harry couldn't help but taunt – though Malfoy's lack of glaring, hexing or cursing, even despite the obvious crowd, was actually kind of unnerving.

"What I am, Mr. Potter, is impatient. And I must say, it did take you long enough… I would have pegged your Gryffindor curiosity into questioning my actions much sooner. In fact, were I anyone but myself and you anyone but Harry Potter, I might have even been impressed by your restraint."

Oh, so Malfoy had wanted to be found, had he? That was just… Well, Harry didn't quite know what that was. He did know, however, that with each new revelation his unease at the situation was growing by leaps and bounds.

"Well, it's no wonder you're such a popular sadist. You continue to compliment me like that and it's likely to go straight to my head," Harry snorted, becoming increasingly annoyed by the vague amusement that was just starting to gleam in Malfoy's eyes.

Just what in bloody hell was going on here? Malfoy was amused by him. He and Malfoy were somehow having a conversation that hadn't yet included 'Death to Dumbledore,' 'My leader could kick your leader's butt,' or 'I will not deign to talk to you but here is yet another diary that will release hell on earth, kindly use it, please' within it…even in insinuation.

It wasn't right.

"Clever, Potter, very clever…but you are a bit young to be so delightfully cynical, don't you think? Tell me, Mr. Potter, at what point did you develop a personality of your very own?"

It was on the tip of Harry's tongue to respond: 'look who's talking about developing a personality, Mr. Dark-Lord-Kiss-Arse-Extraordinaire,' but then Harry figured…what the hell. There was more than one way to skin a, er, snake. In for a knut, in for a galleon and all that. Sure Malfoy was acting weird, and sure he was long time nemesis, but Harry didn't see the harm in being honest with the bastard. It could, after all, turn out to be interesting.

"Oh I don't know, probably about the same time that I realized the boogeyman was real, and that he came with a snake face, red eyes, and the mental stability of a troll. And about the same time that I realized that the rest of the world was naïve enough, lazy enough to expect a child to do the dirty work of taking that insane bastard out."

"Touché, Mr. Potter," Lucius responded, sinking primly into a chair at Harry's table while eyeing the Gryffindor in a way Harry would have never associated with a Malfoy, young or old: he looked as if he were impressed, interested, even curious.

For Harry, it was the final straw; this whole thing had become just too bizarre.

"Just what is it that you want, Malfoy?" Harry asked. And even though his voice sounded quite cross - and he was - he couldn't help but feel wildly intrigued. It wasn't every day one's nemesis sought them out, exchanged pleasantries - some of which included bits of conversation that could almost pass as compliments - all the while defying all the commonly accepted stereotypes and generalizations regarding Death Eaters.

"Ah, well, that's the crux of it, isn't it…" Malfoy replied, leaning back in his chair to eye Harry wholly.

It was all Harry could do not to squirm under the scrutiny. The way Malfoy was looking at him was more than assessing, more than simply sizing - it was invasive, consuming… hypnotizing.

For some unfathomable reason, and despite his rather limited experience when dealing with such things, Harry read in Malfoy's expression a bewildering progression of desires: Malfoy wanted something. Malfoy wanted Harry to be the person to give it to him. And, while he was at it, Malfoy rather wanted Harry, too.

And that last revelation was almost too much for his teenage, hormone-driven, mystery-seeking, masochistic-relationship-finding, always-ending-up-in-situations-way-over-his-head, brain to wrap around just then.

Surely he had to be mistaken.

"The crux of what, exactly?" Harry inquired, confused now, and rapidly losing what little control over the conversation he had once thought he had.

Again Malfoy's eyes betrayed his intentions, and Harry finally realized that Malfoy was allowing it to happen, that he wanted Harry to see what was in his eyes, and that he now knew that Harry knew precisely what he wanted from him…

"The crux of our relationship, Mr. Potter."

Okay, now that was a blatant innuendo if Harry had ever heard one, and he wasn't going to let it pass without finding out just what in the hell was going on.

He just wasn't.

"Um, in case it escaped your attention, you and I don't really have a relationship… unless you mean the one with you as a villain, me playing the role of Lancelot, and shall we duel now or wait until the fucking Dark Lord can watch before we go at it?"

If Malfoy was stunned by Harry's stark bluntness, he didn't show it. In fact, he scarcely reacted at all - aside from a slight twist of the very edges of his mouth - a fact that disappointed Harry greatly. He had been vying for more of a reaction. At least that way, if he had gotten it, he wouldn't feel as… lost, as he was now.

He didn't like being unable to anticipate Malfoy's reactions… it threw him off-kilter.

"Ah, but you see, we do have a relationship," Lucius corrected, leaning forward with a knowing grin, "and it's about to get a lot more complicated."

After six years of actively being hunted by a madman and his band of merry murderers, Harry knew what it was to feel like prey. What he didn't quite know how to deal with, however, was feeling like that kind of prey: allured and coveted, and for more pleasurable reasons - at least he assumed - than simple do or die.

Yet even more maddening than that was the betrayal of his body. After all, he was pretty certain that England's overall climate hadn't just risen 20 degrees, so the sudden increase in temperature had to be him. He was also almost equally positive that his cheeks were now bordering on a vibrant shade of red - as they tended to do whenever he found himself so brazenly sought. Plus, he really couldn't help that his breath hitched, no matter how hard he tried to prevent it.

So Malfoy must know the full extent of his influence, and Harry had little choice but to concede the point and move forward.

Perhaps it hadn't been wise to mess with Malfoy after all.

That, and the fact that there may actually have been something behind that unspoken rule at Hogwarts: good little Gryffindors should never, under any circumstances, converse with big, bad Slytherins.

"What is it that you want, Malfoy?" Harry repeated, off-balance.

"I would think I have made my intentions abundantly clear, my dear Gryffindor, particular since I have followed you into a location where all and sundry can see us together… An occurrence that will likely make it onto the front page of tomorrow's paper, I'm certain. I want to help you - and in helping you, help myself," Malfoy announced with a smirk, enjoying his effect… the bastard.

Harry could only stare. Whatever he was expecting from Malfoy - and it wasn't a lot - this definitely wasn't it.

"Why?" Harry managed to choke out through his shock.

"Don't you know?" the former Death Eater asked, again with one eyebrow neatly raised. "How was it you so quaintly referred to the Dark Lord? Someone with 'the mental stability of a troll' I believe you said. I happen to agree with you. The Dark Lord's greatness has significantly deteriorated upon his return, and his only motivation these days is, well… you. He has reduced his loyal subjects to the mindless followers of a manhunt for but a single individual, not heeding the fact that most of us have ended up imprisoned or worse because of this rather pointless pursuit. And despite my highly warranted release from Azkaban, the damage has already been done, and my reputation in the public eye has been compromised beyond repair. The only feasible way of redeeming it is to assist you."

"Although I must admit, Mr. Potter," Malfoy continued with a wily smile, "that that option is looking tremendously more appealing now that we've had the time to play catch up. You've surprised me."

Harry didn't quite know what to say in response to that, but Malfoy didn't look all that surprised to him. In fact, he had serious doubts that Malfoy actually did surprised.

And the fact that he wasn't as repulsed by Malfoy's flirtations as he should be had him feeling a bit uncomfortable. Any sane reluctant-hero would be utterly repulsed, Harry was certain. Yet it felt almost… exciting to have the sexy, older bad guy flirt with him. Even if he didn't quite know what to do with it. In fact, if his pulse would just slow down a little, any second now, he would be highly appreciative.

But all of that really played second fiddle to the predominant point behind this whole… whatever the hell this was. Although he supposed it was some Malfoy version of a truce. And Harry, caught in the throes of his rapidly heightening hormonal state, had to recognize the importance of that. So he forced himself to brush aside the latter part of Malfoy's proclamations, for now, and focus instead on the former.

"Leave it to you to make an alliance with your sworn enemies merely to save your reputation. You couldn't do it for more noble reasons, could you… You know, having a change of heart, recognizing the error of your immoral ways, developing a new feeling of brotherhood towards your fellow man…"Harry trailed off, though beneath the sarcasm was genuine amusement. In all honesty, if Lucius Malfoy had professed any of those things Harry would have screamed his head off for the nearest auror passing by to promptly come and take the lying bastard away. A blunt Malfoy, however, he could deal with… it was actually kind of refreshing to have someone be straight with him, for once.

"Of course not Potter, don't be ridiculous - I could never engage in anything that cliché," Malfoy scoffed, though Harry could tell that he, too, was amused. "This isn't a fairy tale and that is not how the real world works. I do, however, believe that there are more diplomatic ways of achieving an end to a means. And that, Mr. Potter, is the only concession I'll make for the sake of our alliance."

Right. Well, that certainly answered that, but there was another question tickling Harry's subconscious...

"Why come to me, why not Dumbledore?" he asked curiously.

"I wanted to see if you were ready," the blonde replied, simply, holding Harry's gaze firmly within his own.

Harry didn't need to ask what he was supposed to be ready for, and he wouldn't test Malfoy's patience by inquiring. Instead he requested, simply…

"And am I?"

"No, but you will be," Malfoy responded, leaning forward, the closer proximity of his face even more arresting than it had been from a distance, "you're almost there. With the rest, I can help you."

Dumbledore didn't act the least bit surprised by Lucius Malfoy's proposition, a fact Harry found mildly condescending… But then, there was very little the Headmaster could do these days that didn't annoy the hell out of him; every action, look, or deed since that one fateful encounter at the end of fifth year, sent Harry's hackles rising.

He may have agreed with the bastard's politics, but that didn't mean he wasn't thoroughly disgusted by the Headmaster's vague truths or his never-ending secrets.

He supposed, though, that if Lucius Malfoy was going to be unpredictable - offering help, and screwing with Harry's worldview - that it was good to have some kind of constant…. It was just a shame that his particular constant came in the form of all-knowing Headmasters.

The thing with working closely with Malfoy was that, despite Harry's rather in-depth knowledge of some of Lucius' dastardly deeds, and many of his rather untoward personality traits, he couldn't help but be awed by him: by his arrogant attitude; by his charm... by his experience.

He recognized that it was just all kinds of wrong, but the more time he spent around Lucius, the more he became thoroughly besotted with the guy.

It was weird to comprehend that it was probably some warped part of his psyche that allowed it; to know, undoubtedly, that something was bad for you, but not to care.

His friends would most likely have him committed if they ever found out… especially Ginny. And what's more, he wouldn't hold it against them if they did. But there was something there, some inexplicable pheromone that caused his heart rate to speed up a bit whenever the older wizard came close.

He rather liked it. It was a bit of a rush.

Harry wondered what it was in his personality that found him always, always craving danger, but supposed that it really didn't matter because he couldn't stop it, and what's more, he didn't want to.

So if Malfoy wanted to subtly covet him in that dark, conniving, bad-boy, gigolo kind of way, Harry was game for flirting back to the best of his limited ability to do so.

And if Malfoy and Harry's Potions Professor were going to have conversations in the middle of an admittedly deserted hallway, where any other occupant of Grimmauld Place (namely him) could wander by (perhaps deliberately), hide behind a corner, and overhear, well then, he really had no problem with that, either.

After all, all was fair in love and burgeoning hormones.

"I see the way that you continue to look at him, Lucius, and I recognize that look…I've seen it aimed at a variety of people throughout the years. But the boy isn't here to be one of your amorous dalliances, Lucius, this is Harry Potter we are talking about. The endlessly aggravating boy-who-lived, the boy who defeated our previous dark lord…in case you've conveniently forgotten. Our fate depends on his already limited ability to focus. The best course of action would be to show some restraint with the boy, and not continue as you have been."

"I know exactly who we're talking about, Severus, and I could care less. I will have him. The boy is ripe for the taking. You've been so preoccupied with my expressions that you've failed to notice Potter's… he wants it. It would take far more restraint than I possess not to be thoroughly enticed by such stark opportunity. Such passion. Such inquisitiveness. Such raw energy. It's very alluring."

Harry felt his body burn when hearing this - a slow fire that built from his stomach and then spread throughout the rest of his body with the speed of a raging inferno. He wondered what it was about being thoroughly consumed with lust that had his senses so incredibly heightened: his heart pounding so loudly it was as if the organ had jumped to his ears, and his skin pebbling with goose bumps; the slightest winter breeze stirring his flesh like the tentative caress of a lover.

Harry supposed that normal people would walk away from overhearing a conversation such as this, pretending to be none the wiser for it - more than likely embarrassed for having eavesdropped. But he wasn't going to walk away, and he wasn't embarrassed. Nothing had ever conjured such a violently shameless urge within him before, and he was desperate to explore it further; ever curious as to how much further this feeling would go. Needing it, because it felt so good, and feeling things: wild things, burning things; showed him that he was alive.

It may have been impulsive and thoroughly insane, but he loved the uncontrolled racing of his pulse that the thought of giving in caused; gloried in the adrenaline that pumped through his system with the potency of a drug.

And so he came out from hiding… One step, than another, until he stood directly in front of Lucius Malfoy, watching as the elder blonde's eyes dilated with their own awareness, Harry's body a mere breath away from Lucius' own tightly coiled sensuality.

Completely ignoring Snape's gasp of shock, he huskily stated, in a voice he scarcely recognized as his own...

"What's keeping you?"

Harry didn't mind that Lucius never promised him anything beyond mutual gratification, never professed his undying devotion and wouldn't have known how to deal with the words if they had come.

He hated talking about his feelings, regardless of Hermione's best efforts to the contrary – her attempts only made him embarrassed and uncomfortable. He supposed that all the stereotypical trappings of love – the books, songs, poetry – weren't all bad, really… as long as he was alone, behind closed doors, and nobody knew what he was doing. However, when it came to committing blatant displays of public sappiness, or even simply witnessing them secondhand, he felt mortified at the very idea.

Though he did concede that it would be nice to know with some degree of certainty that he mattered to someone. He wouldn't mind that at all.

But he wasn't about to bring it up.


No force on the earth could drag it out of him.

The possibility of being shot down, of winding up with nothing left at all – no more exciting, experienced lover, no more passionate sex – was just too depressing to contemplate. The very idea just sucked…though not literally; at least, not literally any longer, at that rate.

It was common knowledge amongst the Order members that Lucius Malfoy had recently separated from his wife, Narcissa, who didn't seem to agree with her husband's change of affiliation - siding, instead, with her psychotic sister.

Harry decided not to bring this particular topic up with his lover either, despite the fact that Lucius didn't seem particularly disturbed at any accidental reminders – a fact that Harry secretly delighted in.

Instead, the only noticeable changes brought on by the Malfoy's marital woes were more visits from Lucius to Grimmauld Place, and more nights spent sliding, twisting, and tangling together between satin sheets and shadowed walls.

Which, in turn, left little time for other things.

"Go to sleep, Harry," a disgruntled voice commanded as Harry ran his fingertips up and down his lover's smooth stomach, loving the heat it radiated, and enjoying the opportunity for a quiet moment together… though he wouldn't exactly be opposed to unquiet things.

"Sleep! Are you kidding? I'm seventeen. I'd much rather get laid… again," he responded, bending down to place a wet kiss just above Lucius' navel before grinning up at him cheekily.

"Insatiable, are we?" the Slytherin responded with a grin, waking fully as he turned over to trap his young charge beneath him, clasping Harry's wrists over his head.

"Confucius say he who go to bed with sex on mind, wake up with snake in hand," Harry deadpanned, eyeing his lover up and down with a look he hoped passed as leering, but most likely just came off as cute and overly eager… it was something he needed a bit of work on.

And then, one of the oddest things that Harry could ever recall experiencing occurred…

Lucius Malfoy laughed.

Neither loudly, nor with an overabundance of joy – no, that would have been expecting too much. But quietly, and filled the brink with actual, legitimate amusement.

The sound was so foreign Harry was certain that Hogwarts' supply of bacon and pork chops would be flying through the Great Hall by morning.

Amusement shined clearly out of silver eyes, along with appreciation for the person who inspired his enjoyment.

And inexplicably, Harry felt his breath catch in his throat. While Lucius' expressions had often bordered on appreciative for a variety of reasons (usually involving Harry's body and/or sex) the type he exhibited now was somehow… different.

"I neglected to mention earlier that I've talked with Dumbledore recently," Lucius began, between bites and kisses to Harry's neck, "about your coming to stay with me at the Manor. The wards there are more intricate than they are here, and you'd be significantly safer. It goes without mention that this move would facilitate your continued training with me – until fall term at Hogwarts, at least."

There was no hint of nerves in Lucius' voice, nothing out of the ordinary to signify hesitancy or elevated emotional levels, but the kisses pressed to Harry's skin were hard, insistent, and possessive, and and he could hear the frantic pace of his heart being matched by Lucius'..

Lucius wanted Harry to move in with him now that his wife was out of the picture… Harry could definitely live with that.

It was the knowledge he had secretly been longing for: an acknowledgement that he mattered. And, contrary to his previous thoughts on the topic, it really wasn't the least bit mortifying...

As a matter of fact, it really was quite perfect.

"That sounds… convenient. Good idea," Harry agreed, pushing down the ball of emotions in his throat. With only the briefest of pauses he continued, gathering his dignity, "can I be the one to tell Draco? I can't wait to see the look on his face!"

Quiet laughter escaped his lover once more.

Getting rid of Voldemort turned out to be startlingly anticlimactic.

Lucius had cautioned Harry – in words startlingly similar to those previously shrieked at him by Bellatrix Lestrange - that in order to successfully cast the Unforgivable necessary to kill Voldemort, or to perform any Unforgivable, for that matter, Harry needed to truly mean it...a feat that both his lover and the Order members thought him entirely incapable of handling.

As it turned out, he was not.

Even after it was all over, he didn't really fancy himself a murderer, because in his mind Voldemort wasn't a person...

He was a monster.

An evil fiend who went around killing peoples' parents. Something that had already died, but then had inexplicably came back - like one of those zombies in the cheesy black and white horror films he used to watch from his hiding place behind the couch while growing up.

So when the opportunity finally came, he really, really meant it.

And when it was over he didn't want accolades, didn't want parties, and didn't want professions of undying devotion from utter strangers, what he wanted was about two weeks worth of sleep and an intricately woven web of denial freshly constructed to wipe the first seventeen years of his life from his memory. Excluding, of course, the more pleasant parts.

Pleasant, like the tall, aristocratic blonde man standing proudly by his side: fate's single reward for the entirety of his otherwise fucked up life.

"Come, Harry, let's go home. You've done your part, the rest is for another time."

With a tired, appreciative smile, and a nod, Harry Potter followed his lover home.