TITLE: My Hero
RATING: A bit of groping and fantasizing, but nothing too serious.
DISCLAIMER: Belongs to J.K. Rowling, etc.
SUMMARY: Harry has defeated Voldemort and retreated from the magical world. When he comes across the one person who used to idolize him, it will either tear him apart, or be just what he needed to mend.

My Hero

Harry wandered down the street, sighing slightly. It was a beautiful day, and he had absolutely no one to share it with. The sun was shining, summer had officially begun, Voldemort was finally dead and gone…and Harry was miserable. Ron and Hermione were due to be married in just over a month. He supposed that was what was really bothering him—his life wasn't that bad; he had his own flat in the Muggle world, he had plenty of money, he had good friends—he was just lonely and a little envious.

It really didn't help things that he was gay. Harry figured that if he'd been straight, he'd have it made by now. He'd be with Ginny Weasley, ready to settle down, living a normal life. On the other hand, how did he know he'd be attracted to Ginny even if he were straight? One thing didn't automatically lead to the other. Besides, even if he were straight, he knew he'd have…issues.

Harry's footsteps slowed at he came to the river, where all the gay youths hung about, half-naked and draped around the waterfront like delicious works of art. Harry liked to come here in the warmer days, and ogle the pretty boys. Sometimes he even went home with one of them, if he liked him enough, or it had been awhile.

There were scores of men here, laughing and flirting, posed seductively on lawn chairs, wearing swim trunks or speedos, or any number of other outfits designed to catch the eye. They were shameless, not because they were rampant whores or anything, but because they didn't do anything they felt they needed to be ashamed of. They were young and strong and revelled in each other's glory and beauty, and Harry loved them for that.

They accepted him.

They were Muggles, of course, but they treated him like one of their own. They knew what it was like to be different. Harry liked spending time with Muggles. He surrounded himself with them. He'd made Muggle friends, moved to a Muggle city, and even held a Muggle job. It was easier that way. No one pointed or stared. No one accused him of anything. Nobody looked at him with cold fear in their eyes, as if he'd attack and kill them the way he had Voldemort, for no reason at all.

No cameras. No fame. No autographs or mobs of squealing girls. It was so much easier here.

He approached a young man on a yellow blanket, casually drinking in the sight. The guy was flopped out on his stomach, his cut-off shorts cut much too short, so that his cute little ass poked out. Harry felt tendrils of lust reach out from around his stomach, sliding down into his groin, slipping up into his chest and making his breath quicken.

The boy was absorbed in a book. Harry cleared his throat. "Hi," he said tentatively.

The boy looked up. "Oh! Oh! H—Hiya, Harry." The surprised, rather embarrassed face of Colin Creevey stared up at him.

Harry willed his mouth to work, to say something—anything—but the only thing going through his mind at the moment was, Oh, my God, I just checked out Colin Creevey's arse. And it's a really nice arse. "Colin!" he said, gulping in air. "What—what are you doing here?"

Colin flushed, looking down. "I was just reading. We—we bought a house near here. After the…you know. After everything. Dad wanted to start over. Um. Sometimes I like to come here. To read." He brandished the book as if in self-defence.

"Oh," Harry replied stupidly. Of course, Colin must live nearby to come here. Not many people knew about it. And he remembered how hard Mr. Creevey had taken the loss of his wife, one of the first Muggle parents to die in the war.

"W—What are you doing here?" Colin returned, looking…Harry couldn't really tell. Perplexed? Worried? Hopeful?

"I'm…I live near here. I was out for a walk, and saw you. I thought I'd stop and say hello."

Colin smiled then, that same brilliant smile that Harry remembered. "Wow. Really? That's awfully nice of you," he said, and Harry flinched, thinking that he'd rarely been all that nice to Colin in the past. If anything, he could remember really letting loose on him once or twice, particularly in the tense days before the final battle. But then, Colin had always been so annoying, trailing after Harry and embarrassing him, and getting in the way at the most inconvenient times. He'd improved by the end of it all, though, calming down and thinking ahead, and anyway…who knew he had legs like those hidden under his robes?

"You look…really good," Harry told him, his mouth suddenly dry.

Colin was standing up, brushing himself off, and Harry was staring again. Colin had grown since they'd graduated, and while he wasn't exactly tall—not even as tall as Harry, who wasn't a giant—he had legs up to his neck. Harry supposed it was because of the shorts, but admired the effect, in any case. They were still rather pale despite the laying out, but well toned, and they worked with a dancer's grace.

"Thanks!" Colin replied, his voice a bit squeaky. "So do you." He smiled. "Really great, actually. I like your hair that way."

Harry flushed, automatically trying to smooth it with his hand. It was as messy and wayward as ever, although he was now paying more money for someone to style it that way. "Thanks."

"Um. Well. I guess I'd better be getting home," Colin told him, although it was hardly late.

Harry felt an odd stirring of disappointment. "Right," he said. "Take care. Maybe I'll see you around?"

The smile Colin gave him in response warmed Harry to his toes, washing the disappointment away. "Sure," he said, gathering his things. "'Bye!"

"'Bye," Harry returned, ambling back up the grass to the walk. He paused and turned to see Colin struggling under the weight of his chair and book bag, tottering up the little hill, and a muscular man approached the boy, offering to help. Colin shook his head, smiling, but the man persisted, following, leering. Harry felt a twinge of unease. The man nudged Colin, knocking his water bottle from under his arm, and Harry sprinted back towards his old classmate.

"Who are you?" the man sneered when Harry came up to them, stepping protectively in front of Colin.

"Harry," he said shortly. "Is there a problem?"

"Just trying to be friendly," the brawny stranger said evenly.

"Well, go be friendly somewhere else," Harry advised him, picking up the water bottle, and taking the chair from Colin. He gave the youth a tight smile. "Come on, I'll walk you home."

Colin's face was tinged with pink. "Thanks, Harry," he said once they'd gotten out of earshot of the stranger. "I don't mind the attention, but 'no' means 'no.' It was lucky you were there." He flashed Harry a mischievous smile. "My hero, right?"

Harry laughed. "Yes, able to ward off all kinds of friendliness, amiability, and affability," he joked.

When they reached Colin's house—a small, ivy-covered cottage—he smiled up at Harry again, that same light in his eyes that Harry remembered; only now Harry was seeing it from a different perspective. "Thanks again, Harry. For helping me out with that creep, but also for helping me lug all this junk home. It didn't seem that heavy when I carried it over there! Anyway, you're a real life saver."

Harry flinched at the turn of phrase, and Colin's face grew serious, and he turned it away guiltily. "Well, maybe you could make it up to me," Harry said in a rush.

Colin looked up, astonished. "Sure, Harry. Anything!"

Harry scuffed his sneaker against the wood of the front porch, debating. It wouldn't be taking advantage, would it? Because Colin likely would do anything for him, and Harry didn't want him to do it because he felt obligated. Still, it would be an opportunity to talk more, and find out how Colin really felt. "You could let me take you out to dinner sometime," he offered quickly, hoping his words weren't too jumbled or fast.

If Harry thought Colin's smile had been sunny before, he was blinded by the one he was treated to now. "Gosh, Harry. I'd love to go to dinner with you!"

"Really? Um. How about Friday? I know this…er, this little Italian place. It's really good." Harry wiped sweaty palms on his jeans.

"Sounds wonderful," Colin chirped. "What time? Seven o'clock? Eight o'clock? Better make it eight. Dad doesn't get off work until after six, and I have to make sure he eats something first. He won't remember to if I don't force him. Wow, Harry. This is really nice of you! I can't wait!" Colin dug his key out of his too-short shorts, turning the lock. Harry was surprised to hear him sounding more like himself—hyper and talkative—but he was oddly comforted by it, too. Too many things had changed during the war. Too many people had grown cynical and bitter, Harry not the least of them. It was nice that Colin could still be so cheerful.

"Right, then, eight o'clock," Harry affirmed as Colin lugged his junk inside.

"Right. See you then, Harry!" With a final joyous smile and wave, Colin shut the door.

Harry felt lighter as he walked home, like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, even though he hadn't really accomplished anything that afternoon. Was Colin Creevey gay? Was that why he was down by the river? And did he like Harry? Had he liked Harry, all those years ago, and had Harry merely been too thick to see it?

Smiling a little, Harry realized there was a bounce in his step that hadn't been there before. Before he'd run into Colin, he'd been dragging his feet. Very little had changed; the only thing he'd gained were questions. All the same, Harry was looking forward to finding the answers.


Harry found he was so excited on Friday that he could barely sit still. When was the last time he'd been this nervous? When was the last time he'd looked forward to something this much? He couldn't even remember. He sat at his desk, toying with his pen and smiling slightly, remembering Colin's smile. It really was a nice smile. He wondered why he'd never noticed that before.

By eight o'clock, Harry was a wreck. He'd picked out and changed his outfit at least a dozen times, finally deciding to go with dark slacks and a blazer, and a dress shirt with no tie. He wanted to look cool, casual, but not too casual, and still…good. He was slightly embarrassed that he had no idea what he looked 'good' in. He felt that as a gay, dressing himself should just come naturally, but it didn't. Particularly not now, not when he was going on his first date in at least six months.

Harry leaned on the doorbell, then straightened up. He tried not to fidget. An older gentleman opened the door. "Harry, it's nice to see you again," he said. He had a few wisps of brown hair falling over his forehead, and shadowed eyes, but gave Harry a civil smile.

Harry swallowed, shaking the hand that was offered him. "Thank you, Mister Creevey."

Mr. Creevey smiled at Harry. "My wife always loved a man in a blazer. Please, come in."

Harry nodded, following the man. "My…my condolences on your wife," he said earnestly. A dread was gripping his heart now, suffocating him, and he closed his eyes, trying to calm down. This was always the worst.

"You've offered them already, though I appreciate it," the man assured him. "Why don't you have a seat?" He gestured towards the couch, and Harry moved to it and folded himself down obediently, watching the man settle in an armchair across from him. "Colin should be ready any moment. I'm sorry for the wait—it's my fault; Colin worries needlessly sometimes, and I know I'm his top concern."

Harry smiled at his knees. "That's all right," he said awkwardly. He hated this. He hated small talk. He hated uncomfortable silences. He hated the antimacassars on the backs of the chairs that spoke of a woman who would never see them again.

"So, Harry. What are you and Colin doing tonight? He said something about a restaurant…" Mr. Creevey leaned back and lit a pipe, and Harry had to stifle a nervous laugh at how much the man resembled a father on an old television show, so courteous and upright and taking such an interest in his son's activities.

"Er…yeah," Harry told him.

"That's fine. What have you been up to the past few years? Do you have a decent job?"

Harry stared, wondering if this was leading into, 'And how will you support my son after your marriage?' He firmly quashed the thought. "Um. Yes, I have a job. I work for a small advertising firm. Er. With Muggles, of course."

"Of course. I suppose you needed a change of scene as much as anyone."

Harry gave him a small, grateful smile. So few people had understood that. Ron certainly hadn't, and Hermione seemed to think he'd snap out of it someday and come back, which was something he never planned to do. "I won't keep Colin out too late, I promise."

"Oh, stuff and nonsense," Mr. Creevey said gruffly, damping his pipe. "You two take your time and have some fun. And if it wouldn't be too much trouble, take his mind off of me for a while, would you? I'm actually going out to play bridge with a nice lady down the street and her friends, so there isn't any need for Colin to fret. He will anyway, of course, but you of all people would have the best chance of keeping him from it."

Harry blushed brightly, but Colin's voice interrupted before he could respond. "Dad! Harry's here already? Why didn't you tell me? You weren't going on at him about the time I froze Aunt Gladys' swimming pool, were you?"

His father chuckled a bit. "No, we were just having a nice, man to man chat. Although it was an amusing incident. You see, before we knew Colin had magical abilities, he and his—"

"Da-ad," Colin moaned, voice tinged with exasperation and embarrassment. "That 'incident' is ancient history. I'm sure Harry doesn't want to hear about it. He probably wants to be going."

Harry grinned at him. As earlier, Colin seemed to be a balm to Harry's frayed nerves, and the atmosphere had lightened considerably at his arrival. "I don't mind hearing about it," Harry assured him, amused by the way Colin's ears turned pink in response.

"It was no big deal. When my brother was really little, he fell in my aunt's pool—from the diving board—and I panicked and apparently froze the water. Only when Dennis landed, he hit his head on the ice and started bleeding, and I got so flustered that I unfroze the ice, and he fell in anyway. Then I jumped in and pulled him out, only when I told everyone what happened, they didn't believe me, and Dennis had a concussion so he didn't even remember. So that was my big moment as a hero," Colin finished in a rush, clearly discomfited.

Harry stood, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Well, it's rough being a hero. I know that better than anyone," he assured the youth, who gave him a wan smile.

"You're better at it than I was," Colin stated.

Harry felt his own smile fade. That was what he'd hated about Colin—the hero worship. "Not really," he said brusquely.

Colin seemed to sense he'd said something wrong, and answered slowly. "But you handled that man the other day really easily, and you carried that chair home like it was nothing. Really, I was dead impressed with your chair-handling abilities."

Harry had to laugh at that, and Colin beamed, happy to be back in Harry's good graces.

"Well, you kids have fun," Mr. Creevey said, walking them to the door. "Be careful…and don't worry about me. I won't wait up."

Harry waved goodbye to the man before heading down to his car, feeling his throat constrict at Mr. Creevey's words. He wouldn't wait up. Did that mean more than it meant? Was he giving Harry his implicit permission to…?

"Wow, Harry. Neat car," Colin remarked.

Harry shook his head, coming back to earth. There was nothing special about the car, really. "Right. Here, I'll get the door." When Colin looked at him quizzically, he broke out in a bit of a sweat. "It sticks," he explained feebly. It was so much harder to date men than it was women—particularly when he couldn't tell if he was really on a date.


"This is great, Harry!" Colin was saying excitedly, swivelling on his barstool like a little kid. "I've never sat at a bar before." While they waited for their table to be ready, Harry had suggested they get a couple of drinks, mostly to calm his nerves. Unfortunately, Colin wasn't drinking much, and Harry'd had two martinis and was getting a bit of a buzz.

"You look cute tonight," his mouth informed Colin without his permission.

Colin stared at him. "Um. All right. Wow, maybe you should drink more slowly. You usually don't say things like that. Are you okay?"

I'm fine, Harry wanted to say, but the waitress called for 'Potter,' and he motioned Colin to follow her. Harry slouched, bringing up the rear, wishing he could stop and beat his head against something for a second. He couldn't believe he'd just said that. Even worse, Colin didn't seem the least bit pleased to hear it.

They sat in a tiny corner booth, near a window that looked out on a cool summer's evening. Harry stared at the red-chequered tablecloth and listened to Colin order him a coffee. "Thanks," he said when the waitress left. "I'm really sorry about that. I must really need to eat something. Shouldn't drink on an empty stomach."

Colin laughed. "That's all right, Harry. You can say anything you want and I wouldn't hold it against you. You can hardly help it if you're drunk."

Harry's face turned red. "I'm not drunk," he groused, glancing at the other patrons and hoping they hadn't heard Colin's all-too-voluble comments about his sobriety. And it's hardly my fault that you're cute, he wanted to add. He thought Colin looked great in his grey suit, sort of soft and ethereal, but obviously Colin didn't want to hear it. "I was only trying to pay you a compliment on your…outfit and everything, but I guess…it just didn't come out right," Harry explained morosely.

Colin kicked him under the table. "Whoops. Sorry." He gave Harry an adorably contrite grin, and Harry melted despite himself. How long had it been since someone smiled at him like that? "And I'm sorry I didn't take your compliment more gracefully. They're just…kind of rare for me, and I thought maybe you were teasing."

Harry frowned. "I wouldn't do that."

Colin lifted his shoulders briefly. "It's been awhile since I last saw you. I don't know you as well anymore. And to tell the truth, we were never exactly close at school. You were never purposely mean, but…how was I supposed to know it wasn't a joke, or a mistake or something? It just didn't sound like something you'd say."

"I guess that's true," Harry admitted reluctantly. "And it really has been awhile since we've seen each other. How have you been doing? How's Dennis?"

The waitress brought Harry's coffee, and after she'd taken their order, Colin sipped his wine and gave Harry a thoughtful look. "Dennis is good," he said. "He married a Ravenclaw. Can you believe that? He hasn't even graduated yet. I'm hoping she's smart enough to find both of them employment before they start having kids."

"Oh? What about you? Are you…er. Seeing anyone? Do you want kids?" Harry tried not to sound too interested, but he couldn't figure Colin out.

Colin's eyes sparkled. "I like kids, but I haven't…um, you know. Found the right person to settle down with, yet. And there's Dad, of course. He needs me, and that takes time away from my social life."

"Don't you have a job or something, though?" Harry inquired. "Your own responsibilities?"

"You forget that I'm a year behind you. I graduated myself this just this year, so I have time to look around. I've gotten offers, though. Maybe I'll take one of them." He gave a strangely unhappy sort of shrug. "We'll have to see."

Harry was interested in this. "What sort of offers? What do you want to do?"

"Well…" Colin replied slowly. "The Daily Prophet needs a photographer, and I do still enjoy messing about with my camera. It pays decent money, too."

That rag, Harry thought, but all he said was, "Then why haven't you taken the job?"

Colin wouldn't meet his eyes. "Well. Um. Because I'm pretty sure a large part of it would entail stalking the Man Who Saved Us All, and taking candid photos of him doing things like buying groceries and going to restaurants, and plastering his picture everywhere, and I think I know him well enough to reckon he'd pure out hate me for it, and…and I really don't want that," he finished quietly.

Harry gawked at him as the food arrived, the aroma of oregano shaking him from his wonder. "I…well, I guess you do know me pretty well, then, because I would hate that. But…I wouldn't hate you. Not really. You have to live, too."

Colin gave a jaded smile, cutting into his veal parmegiana. "There are other ways," was all he would say.

They changed the subject after that, eating and talking of lighter things, laughing and reminiscing a little. "Why did you ask me out?" Colin questioned at one point, looking Harry boldly in the eye.

Harry thought about it for a few moments. "I think I missed you," he said simply.

Colin smiled, reaching over to squeeze one of Harry's hands. "I missed you, too. It's so good to see you again. It's almost like finding a piece of my childhood; some bit of myself that's still young and hopeful and starry-eyed, like I was when I knew you. I miss that, too."

Harry felt a prickling in his eyes, and blinked it away. "It's funny, but that's kind of the way I feel, too. You remind me of back when my biggest problem was a little chatterbox that snapped my picture nearly every time he saw me, until I was dazzled by the flash." He grinned, and Colin grinned back.

"Well, too bad for you. With me, at least it was just the flash. You dazzled me with just about everything; your daring Quidditch moves, your various heroics, your charm."

Harry scoffed, though he was secretly pleased. How many people even remembered what an excellent Seeker he'd been? "I never had charm," he insisted.

"I thought you were charming, at any rate. And I just loved the D.A. I know it was serious and everything, but you were a brilliant teacher, and getting praise from you was like winning the lottery. It meant so much to me."

Harry stirred his risotto, feeling uneasy. "I wasn't that great, Colin," he muttered. "And it…it really bothers me when you do that."

"Do what?" Colin looked genuinely perplexed.

Harry swallowed a bite of his meal, not tasting it. "The Harry Potter Fan Club bit. The hero worship. The whole, 'I want to be just like Harry Potter when I grow up,' thing. I'm just…I'm not. Not all that great. I'm just another human being. I'm a person, and it feels terrible when you blow me up larger than life. I feel like…I can't be normal. I can't be real, because you have these standards and expectations that I can't hope to meet. I hate that."

Colin looked shocked. "Harry! Is that what you thought I was doing? I didn't…I…I never meant to make you feel that way. I'm really sorry. I like you a lot, but I don't want to be you; I'm happy being me. I just always thought you were one of the neatest people I knew; the things you'd done, and seen, and how you were still…normal, as you put it. You never got a big head or anything. And I…um. I sort of…" he trailed off, blushing furiously.

"You what, Colin?"

Colin shook his head. "I liked you. That's all. I'm sorry I put you on a pedestal."

Harry shrugged. "The only thing wrong with it is that I'll fall off. I already have, loads of times. I've yelled at you, and nearly cost us all our lives with my stupidity, and ran away when it was all over and I couldn't handle anything else, and—"

Colin squeezed his hand. "You never fell off, Harry," he said sincerely. "I understood why you yelled. We were all under terrible pressure. And what happened that day wasn't your fault. Everyone knew you didn't draw up the plan. And you didn't run away. You just went to find something that suited you better. You don't owe them anything, Harry. You don't owe me anything. I'd still adore you even if you were chipped and cracked and cruel and horrible. You'll always be my hero, Harry. I'm sorry if you feel that puts pressure on you, because it really ought to be taking it off. I'm one of those people who will love you no matter what you do."

Harry raised his hand a bit, interlacing his fingers with Colin's. Such kind words, he thought. Harry had never been good with words. Words were elusive, beautiful otherworldly creatures that always evaded him, stayed just out of his reach. "Thanks," was all he said. "I like you, too. I really do."

Colin rested his chin in his other hand, giving Harry an oddly dreamy smile. "Share a crème brulee with me?" he asked.

"Love to," Harry grinned.


When they'd paid and left the restaurant, Harry watched Colin out of the corner of his eye. It really didn't seem like Colin was interested in him, but some of the things he said were…well, ambiguous, at best. Was he traumatized by the fact that Harry'd called him cute, or was he just worried that Harry didn't mean it? Was he declining the Daily Prophet position out of sensitivity to Harry's feelings, or was he just worried that Harry would become angry and violent? Did he put Harry on a pedestal because he had romantic feelings towards him, or was he just really, incredibly naïve?

"Colin," Harry said abruptly. "Why were you reading at a gay hangout?" There. If nothing else, that should get some kind of answer.

"Gay hangout? Oh, you mean the river." Colin laughed. "Maybe I was waiting for some dark, handsome stranger to sweep me off my feet."

That was flirting. That was definitely flirting. Either that, or he's got a wicked sense of humour. Shit. "Uh. Really?"

Colin didn't respond. He merely gave Harry a wink, twirling a funny little dance down the sidewalk. Harry watched, admiring his coltish legs. He wondered what it would be like to have those long legs wrapped around him, or pressed double to Colin's chest. "I had fun tonight, Harry," Colin said. "Ever so much fun. I never have fun anymore. I don't think I've had fun since you left, d'you realize that? You took all my fun with you."

Well, that was certainly vague enough. Stupid Colin and his mind games. Harry was becoming frustrated. "Well, that just means you'll have to take it back from me," Harry shot back.

Colin looked back at him with wide eyes. "Take what back? My fun? Where are you keeping it?" he nearly purred, eyes glinting with mischief.

"In my trouser pocket," Harry retorted. If Colin wanted to be coy, he'd find that Harry could play games, too.

Instead of the shock, confusion, or even disgust Harry expected, Colin reacted by letting out peals of delighted laughter. "Are you sure that's my fun, and not your own?" he replied, astounding Harry. Not so coy, then.

"Pretty sure," Harry told him, trying to keep his voice even. "It isn't any fun for me unless you put your hand in there." He flinched. When had he become such a pervert? To say things like that to a kid like Colin…and right out in public, too.

Colin merely laughed some more. "I try not to grope on the first date," he teased. "I tend to get carried away."

Harry gulped. "What counts as 'carried away?'"

"Oh, you know. Stripping you before we've got past your front door…pouncing on you…whispering all sorts of dirty things in your ear as I nibbled on it…pulling you to the floor, knowing I couldn't wait to reach the bed…writhing beneath you…the two of us so completely, utterly obsessed with each other that we can't think of anything else, too intent on riding an orgasmic wave to completion…"

Harry, gaping at Colin, not watching his feet, stumbled over a crack. Colin laughed again, and Harry shook himself. "Holy Mother of God, Colin," he said in a breathless voice. "Are you trying to kill me?"

Colin giggled. "It's not my fault you can't keep your mind on what you're doing. What are we doing, anyhow? I should probably get home. I hate to leave Dad alone."

Harry felt his shoulders droop as he realized Colin had been teasing him again. The brat was sure getting back for all the times Harry'd been rude to him when they were kids. "Aw, already? I thought we could see a film or something."

Colin's brow wrinkled. "I'd like that…it's just my dad…"

"All right," Harry said resignedly. He shrugged. This was not the way he'd wanted the evening to end. Not that he was trying to get into Colin's trousers, since it really was too soon, but he'd hoped to at least get some answers, and Colin was as much of an enigma as ever. As Harry eyes focused, he realized he'd been staring at a familiar figure for the last several moments. "Hey…isn't that Blaise Zabini? What's he doing in a Muggle city?"

Colin peered at him, too. "I think you're right. Blaise! Hey, Blaise!"

Harry winced as Colin waved the Slytherin over. "Potter," Blaise said a shade coldly, nodding at Harry. "Who's your friend?"

"This is Colin Creevey. He was a year behind us, so you probably don't remember him. What are you doing here?"

The elegant young man gave a languid shrug. "Some friends called me up and wanted to…slum it, sort of. See what the Muggle world is all about. We were supposed to meet here, but it looks like they stood me up."

Harry frowned. He'd always been neutral as far as Blaise was concerned. He wasn't in league with Voldemort, and he wasn't one of Draco's fawning fans. He wasn't one of Harry's fawning fans, either, but that really only inclined Harry to be grateful. "That's too bad. Hey, listen; I was going to see a flick, but Colin doesn't want to. If you don't mind 'slumming it' with me, I could show you a bit of the Muggle world. I grew up in it." Harry felt Colin stiffen beside him, and glanced over, confused. Did Colin dislike Blaise? But that didn't make sense; he was the one who'd waved him over.

Blaise stared at Harry's face for a long moment before slowly sweeping his eyes up and down Harry's body appraisingly. "Well…"

"I changed my mind, Harry. I want to see a film. Please take me to see a film, Harry. Would you? Please?" Colin was suddenly clinging to Harry's arm like a limpet, his pale blue eyes pleading.

"Are you sure? What about your dad?"

"He's all right. He's playing bridge. Having the time of his life. Please, Harry?"

Somewhere nearby, a car honked, and Blaise turned, smiling and nodding at it. "Well, looks like my ride's finally here. My goodness; I can't believe Muggles travel in those strange little boxes. I'll have to take a rain check, Potter. Maybe some other time?" Before he turned to leave, Blaise blew Harry a kiss, causing Harry to flush.

Harry turned to look at Colin, who was shooting Blaise a rather uncharacteristic glare. Harry hid a smile. Blaise might be a cad, but he might have helped to answer one of the questions that had been plaguing Harry. It seemed Colin was a mite possessive.


"What should we see, Harry?" They were looking up at the bright marquee, trying to decide. "'Sundown Slasher?' I heard that was really bloody, and I don't like movies like that. What about 'Your Mama?' That's one of those American comedies. I love comedies."

Harry shrugged, feeling dubious about that particular film. It looked rather stupid to him, but he wanted Colin to have fun, too. "Anything you want, Colin."

"What about a romantic comedy? I love romantic comedies. 'Not So Shining Armour?' Doesn't it sound fun? Oh, and it's a fantasy, too!"

Harry gazed at him for a long time, trying to gauge what he meant by it. Did he want to see something romantic with Harry? "Sure. Sounds great," Harry said.

"Do you want anything to eat?" Colin asked once they got in. "You've been so sweet to pay for everything; at least let me buy the concessions. What would you like?"

Harry shifted from one foot to the other "Um. Whatever you're having," he suggested.

"Excellent," Colin said, lighting up with an all-too-knowing, almost Dumbledorian smile. "We'll get some Poppets before we go in." Harry flushed, thinking that they would make Colin's mouth taste lovely, of peppermint and chocolate. Harry wondered if that's what Colin planned. He allowed himself to be dragged over to get the food, and then led into the darkened theatre.

"Where should we sit?" Harry whispered.

"In the back," Colin responded immediately. He glanced slyly at Harry. "You know how I have trouble keeping my mouth shut. I wouldn't want to disturb anyone."

"Er. Right. Sure," Harry said, following him to the very back. There was a couple in one corner, a young man and woman, lost in each other's mouths, and the film hadn't even started yet. Harry tried to pretend he didn't notice, and tried to pretend Colin didn't grin at his discomfort.

Near the middle of the film, Harry casually stretched out and put his arm around Colin, who merely glanced up at Harry from beneath his lashes, before leaning into him just a little. Harry smiled. It was kind of nice. A nice…first date, if that's what this was.

Even though the picture was a romantic comedy, there was fighting as well, and a few battles with swords and dragons and gore spewing from severed limbs, and…Harry shut his eyes, only half-aware that the film wasn't that bloody, that the scenes had begun to be replaced by memories…

Ron running up to him, covered in blood, his breath ragged, informing everyone that Dumbledore was dead.

The botched defence, where Harry had nothing to go on but Dumbledore's plan, outdated and, as it turned out, completely wrong for the job.

The students running, screaming, as Voldemort entered the castle.

Hogwarts trembling.

Snape's lifeless body swinging—

"Harry? Harry? Are you all right?" Colin's whisper ached with concern, and Harry turned his head, slipped his glasses off to press his hands to his eyes.

"Sure, Colin. Sure. I'm fine."

A hand sticky from sweet popcorn found its way into Harry's, palm lightly pressed against palm. It was an anchor. A reminder of now, rather than then, because Harry had never held Colin's hand then. It was enough to make Harry take a deep breath, and try again. He wouldn't give up on learning to live, learning to enjoy himself again.

"Aw, I love this part," Colin whispered as the heroine was swept off her feet onto the hero's white horse. "That's always my favourite bit. It's so romantic, how he just pulls her into his arms. I've always wished that would happen to me. I wanted a knight in shining armour, too."

Harry was becoming uncomfortable once more. On the one hand, Colin had pretty much just told him that he was gay. On the other hand, there he went with the idolization again, and Harry couldn't deal with that. "Wanted?" he said. "Did you change your mind?"

Colin looked up at him, his peaches and cream complexion pale in the darkness of the theatre. "Not exactly," he said softly. "It's just that I found out that when you love a hero, you have to share him with the rest of the world. And then they use him, and he doesn't want to be anybody's hero anymore. Sometimes he needs a bit of a break. Sometimes it takes him awhile to get around to riding back on his white horse. Sometimes he forgets to find his happily ever after."

"Is that right?" Harry whispered, bending his head.

"Sometimes you have to show him the way," Colin breathed, and reached an arm around Harry's neck, pulling him down into the softest, most heartfelt kiss Harry had ever tasted.

Harry pulled back for a moment, smiling sadly. "Sometimes the hero is a blind ruddy prat that ought to be knocked upside the head for not seeing what was in front of him all along," he said truthfully.

Colin smiled a soft little smile, his eyes big and soft, his lashes soft, his hair, haloed by the footlights, tinged with a soft glow. "Not at all. Heroes are only human, you know. It's rude to expect them to be more than that."

Harry grinned, giddy with a sudden realization. "You really did like me back then. You did, didn't you?"

Colin rolled his eyes. "Harry. I had the world's biggest crush on you for nearly half my life," he said. "I was madly in love. You didn't even notice?"

"Sorry," Harry said. "But I'm noticing now." He pressed his lips to Colin's again, heart thudding when he slipped his tongue inside that warm, wet mouth. Colin gave a whimper of delight, and Harry's arms twined round him, fingers grasping, clutching at his clothes. He rolled, already half on top of Colin, feeling the youth's cool hand on the back of his neck, his leg creeping up to hook around Harry's.

Harry pulled away and took a breath, kissing his way down the side of Colin's throat. "Thought you didn't grope on the first date," he teased, as one of Colin's hands found his backside and began kneading it.

"You're…right…carried—away," Colin gasped, jerking the offending hand back.

"Wait," Harry said. "I was joking. Don't stop."

"No, I promised. I didn't make you promise, though," the young man responded, giving Harry a wicked grin.

Harry launched himself at Colin again, awkwardly manoeuvring around the armrest, and the boy groaned loudly, undulating his hips, rolling himself against Harry's thigh, which had crept up between Colin's legs. Harry was grunting with need, driving to desperation by the sweet, breathy noises Colin was making in his ear. He worried Colin's skin gently between his teeth, eliciting a small cry.

Harry covered Colin's mouth with his own once more. Colin hadn't been joking; he did have trouble keeping his mouth shut. He was very vocal, and Harry wished they were at his flat, where he could experiment with how his touch corresponded to the wonderful sounds his young lover made made. The feeling of Colin's length against his leg was blissful, and every time Harry rocked against his body, the youth's moans became louder, more urgent.

Colin wrenched his mouth away, staring at Harry with wild eyes. "God…Harry…"

"Excuse me. I'm afraid you're going to have to leave."

A sudden light was flooding their space, blinding Harry, and he flinched, blinking rapidly, and bringing his arm up to shield himself. "Wh…what? What's going on? Who're you?"

"Security. You're disturbing the patrons, and this could be considered an indecent act in a public place. If you leave now, we won't file charges." The man lowered his flashlight, giving them a disapproving glare.

Harry sat bolt upright in horror, Colin's fingers still tangled in his blazer. "I—I—okay. We'll leave."

They were ushered outside, faces burning. "Oh, Colin, I'm so sorry," Harry gasped when they were alone. "I don't know what I was thinking—I just got carried away—"

Colin shook his head. "I think I finally understand that there's such a thing as too much attention," he said. "That was really mortifying." Then he started to giggle. "This always happens when I grope someone. I have the grope of bad luck. The grope of doom."

Harry laughed weakly. "It was my fault, not the grope's. It was a good grope, really."

Colin really broke down at this, sounding a little hysterical. "Cripes, Harry, that was a memorable first date. We got thrown out of a movie theatre for public indecency. That's going to be hard to top."

Harry walked Colin back to his car, smiling a bit now. "We could probably top it," he said as he drove. "We could make it significant, if not especially wild or public. I'd like to pass on the public part, if you don't mind."

Colin continued to giggle. "Yeah, me, too. I think that was as much exposure as I could ever want, as far as my sex life goes. Did you really want to do this again? Did you…do you…like me?"

Harry's smile widened. "I really do. When I walked to the river the other day, I thought I'd found a boy that I could have a tryst with; someone with a great body, someone anonymous. I was blown away when I realized it was you. I wasn't looking to sweep anyone off their feet and carry them away. I wasn't looking for…happily ever after. I think I'm really lucky that that's what I found."

Colin leaned up, kissing Harry at the corner of his mouth. "Happily ever after," he whispered. "As close as I can make it. And we can start a new story; our very own Once Upon a Time…"

"Do I have to be the hero?"

"Yes," said Colin. "But in my book, the hero does the washing up and is polite to my father. All other qualifications are secondary."

Harry chuckled. "I think I'll take the job."