A/N: Hey there, readers! Thanks again for your wonderful reviews – to those who bother to review. I find myself wondering at the small number of people that is, sometimes. And to that small number – thank you very much, I appreciate each comment and re-read them until they're tattered and torn on my screen.

This chapter was written and re-written, because the first attempt was lost in the debris of other documents and files and is now, most probably, in a virtual dustbin, somewhere. But since I've fallen sick this week, I've had time to write it all up again.

Well…on with this chapter, then. Enjoy!

Chapter 9


As a budding artist, Draco had visited plenty exhibitions in his life – ranging from abstractionism to feminist art, from modern to renaissance paintings…and so on. He clearly knew what to expect, as the Gallery's doors opened that early evening, the lights flickered on to illuminate his paintings and the wine glasses stocked up on a buffet table, awaiting the thirsty. Or the alcoholic. He even knew what face to compose when individuals came searching for him, asking him the same question of, "Are you the artist?", as if he had been some lookalike alien exported from Venus. What he didn't expect was what really happened.

Sure, he could recognize the occasional art student popping in with a curious and hungry look upon his face, and those would be the ones feasting on the buffet generally – but he could have sworn the rest of the Gallery was a swarm of businessmen and their wives and God knew who else in ridiculously expensive suits. As he watched them, half-dreading and half-wondering, he had to ask himself whether he'd made a mistake at extending invitations to his father's colleagues. He didn't know if they came to see him or his father – if their lingering was any indication – and some of them seemed to appear just for the sake of appearing at an evening with Malfoy's name behind it. They surely looked interested enough, asking enough questions to make his brains dribble, but whether it was genuine or not…he really couldn't answer.

"Who cares?" shrugged Hermione, as she eyed the Hall. "As long as people keep coming. Maybe somebody's taking pictures of businessmen and politicians gathering at a gallery for a nice civil chat and their wives drinking themselves to a stupor – hey, maybe you'll make the tabloids."

Draco pretended not to feel insulted by what she was saying. Hell, she was probably right and anyway, having this many people gawk at his work was far better than sulking in isolation. Only why did it have to be this bloody serious? It was like another of Lucius's charity galas.

Oh yes. They all thought it was some bloody charity gala, where you were obliged to buy a painting to seem magnanimous – as though the flash of their credit cards was a gesture of heroism. Draco wasn't very surprised to see several of his paintings acquire a small stick-on beside them, proclaiming they were sold. Totkim and the rest of the manager crew would be ecstatic, of course.

Cedric was talking up someone on the other side of the Hall – which was bigger than a bloody football field, for Christ's sake – and Draco felt he was in desperate need of friendly company. The pair of youngsters, with hoodies and shabby art-supply bags slung over their shoulders, standing beside the buffet looked appealing enough – ah, yes, except there were about five pairs of businessmen waiting to interrogate him about why his father wasn't here and, oh wait, where was his beautiful mother?

He couldn't believe he was hiding in the bathroom on the night of his own exhibition.

"Nice exhibition, isn't it?" a man said, adjusting his hair in the mirror. When no response came, he eyed Draco with a little bit more than dislike.

"I'm glad you're enjoying it," he smiled. And pretended that scrubbing his fingers was the most intriguing part of his existence. He didn't want nice. He wanted great.

"Say, you aren't a Malfoy yourself, boy?"

"I am," he smiled again. Uh, it hurt to smile. "Draco Malfoy, sir, enchanté."

He wondered why he was being pleasant to a man he didn't even know – someone who was definitely younger than any of Lucius's partners, since he looked barely older than thirty.

"I see," he uttered, wiping his hands slowly. "You have talent."

"Thank you."

"You do, you do," he repeated, more to himself than otherwise. He was frowning. Thinking.

Awkward.

"Are you acquainted with my parents?"

The man shook his head, "No. I didn't come here for…parents. More like scouting for art."

A first.

"What exactly is it that you do?"

"I own a restaurant about five blocks from here. We're looking for decoration." He looked apologetically at Draco, as though regretful at the cost of his Armani suit. "The prices are a little staggering, I'd say, but the work is perhaps the most suitable to my tastes."

"What are you looking for?" he asked.

"Large. Overwhelming. Dramatic." He crooked a grin. "I'm summarizing your exhibition, it seems."

Well, he did disagree – not all of his work was large, to begin with. And the overwhelming bit really depended on the audience. Indeed, Draco sometimes drew paintings startling in their intensity and color, but he would forever lack the impact of reality that was behind photography or movies. It was overwhelming on a purely intellectual or visionary way.

"What kind of stomach would digest well in a dramatic interior?" Draco smiled in return.

"One that appreciates art, I suppose. One who has seen the immensity of my restaurant, too."

"That big, really?"

"Yes." The man moved towards the exit. "Why don't we get a drink outside? This bathroom talk is a little awkward, you'll have to admit."

They got their wine – despite Draco's previous promise of not drinking under any circumstances, primarily to avoid tripping over his legs by the end of the evening – and the man extended a card to him.

Thomas Dainty

Draco cocked his head. "I suppose if we're still talking, you're either interested or simply bored. Or wondering how to tell me you have to leave," he finished with a smile, and it was entirely returned.

"I have a proposition you absolutely won't dismiss bubbling up in my head. How would you like to hear it?"

Draco quirked a brow – because he could. He could abandon courtesy if he wished too, because Lucius's shadow wasn't hanging over this guest, for sure.

"Why don't you come along to my restaurant sometime this week and see how you like it. I'll show you what I want to do with it, and maybe we'll be able to find some sort of agreement – what do you say? Now I hope you're the type that can't decline a challenge, Draco, and maybe I shouldn't scare you off beforehand, but it's not an easy task for a nascent artist. But don't worry, it's a threat that hasn't a meaning if you're truly as good as this exhibition shows."

This young man was a lot of talk and very, very persuasive. And yet despite this nagging thought, Draco was still intrigued.

"Good is a subjective word. I trust you know that, working in the food industry."

"What is good for me, is good for my business. I have to say, I've been through more exhibitions than my crew of stupid managers and still we haven't a piece we're completely in harmony with. And to believe I wasn't sure about coming tonight, well what a horror!"

By the end of his speech, Draco was flattered twice more and completely, without a meager doubt, persuaded to draw for him. When he strolled to the snacks-end of the buffet, he was asking himself if he was perhaps a little too quick at accepting unknown deals.

Cedric poked him in the elbow, "And what's with the…passionate bloke you've been talking up?"

Draco snorted. "Passionate?"

"He looked like he was about to ravish you on this table."

"Pretty sure he's straight, Cedric. He was offering me a deal. A pretty good one, it seems, too."

"A deal," Cedric leered suggestively. "Is that what you call it these days…"

Draco laughed "Get your head out of the gutter at last. You're insufferable!"

The auburn-haired toasted him with his wineglass and watched the Hall from above the glass rim with amused eyes.

Draco sighed. "I wonder if Lucius will die of mortification when he'll hear of this. I can almost hear it already: our dearest politicians babying the youngest Malfoy, no evil Father in sight. Return of the evil Father, who murders his son with an axe and dispatches his body to the northern coasts of Antarctica."

"Very original," Cedric muttered. "I told you, looking like you don't give a shit will give you a reputation. Stop sucking up to those arses who think they came to honor your father. And if you father does murder you, then at least you would have some sort of name in the artistic world."

"More like a permanent place in the tabloids."

"A teenage hero," Cedric grinned. "Yes, if you defy this shit, you'll become the new prodigal son, but with a twisted ending."

"Totkim would be mortified if I ruined the evening."

Cedric laughed, "Listen, I'm not asking you to get pissed and strip on the tables. God knows you've done enough of that in your innocent age – ow! okay, okay, stop batting me!"

Draco lowered his hand and Cedric had the decency to look sheepish for a second.

"Well, what do you suggest I do?"

"Do something – fuck knows, maybe stripping is a good idea after all."

Draco grinned.

Then he shooed off a waiter standing on the other side of the buffet, tipped a dustbin on the side and, stepping on its top, jumped onto the table. Several of the hands reaching for glasses snatched back in surprise. The table rocked dangerously for a few shocking moments.

Cedric stared at him with his mouth open in a huge grin, disbelieving. Draco could almost feel the gapes with his skin and it made him feel itchy with attention.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!"

He laughed. Even though it wasn't returned. Mostly because they were all staring, mouths open at his inadequacy and, quite possibly, scandalous insolence.

"Thank you for coming! Thank you for buying! Your attention is very flattering and I must say, I haven't anticipated so much of it. It feels good to be out of the shadow after all. You wouldn't believe how good it feels to do it by myself this time. It feels great to know that you came just for me this evening, to appreciate the beauty of art and my love for it. Again, thank you very much! I love you all!"

He bent down and grabbed a glass of scarlet wine. With it, he toasted to the crowd.

"Enjoy!"

Then he leaped down from the table and suddenly, he was amidst the people who stared. As if they could stare him down to his knees.

Cedric circled his arm around his shoulders from behind and pulled him to his chest. He simply dropped a kiss on his head.

"You imbecile," he whispered.

Draco broke free with a laugh. Now he could head to the men and women waiting for him. And if they really had something to say to him, they would stay. And if they didn't – well, he knew that those definitely had little interest in him apart from his last name.

Draco woke with a woolen head the next morning. He felt as though a pack of mammoths decided to stomp along his skull. He could barely remember last night's events. Well, he could remember Hermione jumping on his neck after his speech and nearly strangling him to oblivion. He had never seen her so flushed with happiness for anybody but Ron; breathlessly, she said that any illusion that Lucius was behind the evening was dissipated. Of course, some of the guests had promptly left, but with enough graciousness as to not seem too disinterested in Draco.

Honestly, the blond was just glad how last night turned out, after all.

Yes, Father your lesson has been learnt. Any publicity is good publicity. Take that.

Ron had called a cab after the Gallery's closing at eleven thirty that night and Cedric had a table ready for them at one of his favorite clubs. After that he remembered bits and threads of last nights' events: toasting to his success, Cedric trying to pull Draco away from the bar, Hermione and Ron kissing on the dancefloor, Cedric laughing, him laughing – lots of laughing, that's for sure. As he stared in the mirror, he saw a mark saying on his shoulder blade in blue permanent ink, saying: "just married" and snorted with laughter. It was very much like a Cedric joke.

He left his toothbrush and forgetting to comb his hair, set out to murder Cedric in his sleep.

But Cedric wasn't in his room – the bed was empty, albeit undone. Now that he concentrated on the noise in the apartment – he could hear someone talking. He frowned and headed towards the kitchen.

The voice was male, that was for sure. He poked his head into the corridor just before the kitchen entrance and quickly ducked back – Cedric was walking with a pot of coffee towards a table, his companion unseen. Maybe it was someone he brought home for the night?

Draco grinned, evilly.

"It's his choice to tell you why he wanted – or needed – to live here. Whether he chooses to tell you, is entirely your own problem." It was Cedric's voice.

Draco frowned. Apart from the fact that Cedric didn't seem too romantically interested in his companion, it seemed like they were talking about him. He nearly fainted in the next moment.

"And why did you want – or need – for him to be here? Maybe you're interested?"

It was Potter.

Holy fuck.

It was Potter.

Harry bloody Potter. What a fucking surprise.

Draco caught his breath and told himself to calm down. If his heartbeat didn't subside, he'd be nursing a bad case of a nervous breakdown. And he could barely hear their conversation now – that's how loud his heart's battering was.

He heard Cedric's laughter and the clank of a fork against a porcelain plate. "Harry, you surprise me. Of course I'm interested. Who isn't, with Draco? He's like a cake that everybody wants a piece of."

Draco resisted a snort for the sake of camouflage.

"I'm not kidding, Diggory," Potter said, quietly.

"I know." A sigh. "Listen, I'm not going to lie. Yes, I would like to be with Draco, even though…I have a boyfriend. And you can hardly blame me."

"Have you and he…?"

There was silence. Cedric was – should be, anyway – shaking his head. Draco listened, in disbelief. He didn't like this, the way they were discussing him. Like he was somebody's to own. Like a piece of cake, in fact. Like a girl they were wooing.

He heard another clink and imagined how strained their shared breakfast should be. Why were they even having a civil breakfast? Why had Potter come anyway, and how had he known where to find Cedric? Or was he here for Draco? Wasn't it a bit early?

Draco's watch told him it was past noon. Well, fuck.

"Don't underestimate Draco," Cedric continued. "I don't think he'll be overjoyed at your appearance. You aren't exactly a knight in shining armor and if you've come thinking to win him over just because – well, just because you came – then you might just have to face disappointment."

"He's not seeing anyone, is he?"

"That's his bit of info to share."

"Listen…Cedric. I know he's not easy. We've both got weird personalities and, even now, I think we're a shitty match."

"Then why did you come?"

Thanks, Cedric. Finally some answers.

"Because the thought that I might be too late messes with my head."

"Hm," Cedric prolonged the sound. There was a pause.

"I think you may be messing with his head too, Harry, to be honest."

Oh, shit. Great.

It was as though Cedric heard his plea – he scraped his chair against the floor and stood up. "Maybe you should come back later. Looks like Draco's sleeping in today."

"Yeah. I will. Thanks-"

"It's okay. You're welcome."

They were coming out of the kitchen now and Draco panicked, stunned into stillness. Then, as Cedric and Harry's shadows moved along the opposite wall, Draco took a breath and stepped forward to meet them. He purposely rubbed his arms into warmth – noticing belatedly that he was only wearing his pajama pants and absolutely no top – to seem as though he had just woken up. He yawned theatrically too and pretended shock as he saw Harry.

He didn't really need to pretend, after all. Harry was stunning, he really was – he was tanned, and so good-looking that it hurt to watch; and he was wearing his glasses again, as if he knew they knocked Draco out. He had a Harry-in-stylish-glasses kink. Bloody wonderful. Why couldn't Potter stop tormenting him indie-out already?

"Hey," Harry breathed, eyes glued to face – before, of course, they dropped to stare at his naked chest.

"Sleeping beauty is up!" Cedric chuckled. His smile was barely returned. He took one look at the pair, snorted and didn't even say anything as he strolled back into the kitchen and shut the door.

"You look good," Harry remarked, in that breathy voice that was doing strange things to Draco's libido.

"Thank you."

My face is up here, he wanted to point out, even though, secretly, he delighted in the way Harry's eyes glued to his body with obvious admiration.

"Why are you here?"

Oh God, Harry actually reddened. This was interesting. "Just came to see you. Congratulations for your exhibition. It's really…great work."

Draco blinked. "You were there last night?"

"Yeah."

"I didn't see you."

"I know. You had a lot of people there."

"That's an underestimation."

Harry laughed, nervously.

"Draco," he said, after they've stared at each other for another while. "Would you like to go out with me tonight?"

Draco's heart melted. "Come to ask the star out now that I'm popular?"

Harry's slow grin was charming. "Of course. Draco Malfoy, aren't you?"

Draco considered him for a moment, with critical eyes, until two brows were raised at him in question. "You've been such an arsehole, Potter. Still are, as far as I'm aware. Give me one good reason why I should go out with you."

Obviously taken aback, Harry took his time to answer. There was his famous mirthful spark in his eyes now. "I cook well," he finally said.

Draco blinked at him.

"I could take care of you. I'm interested, very much so."

Draco stood strong, despite his softening heart. "Why now?"

"You seduced me last night."

Draco opened his mouth in indignation. "So you've come for a one-night stand after my success. Well, you can go fuck yourself."

"You're still a wonderful conversationalist, I see," Harry actually laughed. "No, not a one-night stand. I don't know for how long. I don't know if at all – that…depends on you. It depends on tonight. If you're willing to come."

For once, Draco didn't have an answer.

"I have plans tonight," he stammered. He hoped he wasn't too bad at lying, yet.

"Tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow…" He swallowed at Harry's hopeful expression. "I…I'll call you."

No. He'll ruin you.

"Don't forget," Harry answered and because of his mind-boggling, slow smile Draco couldn't even understand what he was referring to. Only when Harry turned and headed for the exit like he owned the damned place, did he seem to get that Harry was talking about the call.

It's a yes. It's always been a yes. Who in the hell cares anymore.

Draco decided to give Cedric a rest after what he'd said that morning. He decided he won't even ask if his feelings were really of the yearning texture – mostly because he didn't quite know what to feel himself when it came to Cedric. He was good-looking, and so incredibly funny that the blond sometimes feared for his ribs when laughing. But most of all, he genuinely cared for Draco. He felt it – even without the silly declarations. And the offer was omnipresent, lingering like the scent of a faint perfume – sometimes he would volunteer to massage Draco's shoulders and his hands would linger a little longer than necessary; and Draco would be left to laugh it off. And then the moment would pass and Cedric was just a friend again.

Sometimes Draco reveled in the quick way they've become friends. It was the same with Harry. Only this time, with Cedric, he definitely wasn't fucking anything up.

He'd also given Thomas a try: the next afternoon he checked out the restaurant. It was still under reconstruction, most of it, but the halls Draco did see left him with a good first impression. It wasn't all marble and ancient. Nor was it the usual light, Italian pizzeria. Rather, it was large and in need of deepness and the overwhelming décor Thomas mentioned at the exhibition, and a contrast of light and silky texture at the sides, as to avoid engulfing the ordinary visitor at once. If he understood correctly, Thomas opened this place with very ambitious aims, considering his slightly peculiar character - and indeed, it looked good even on the designers' blueprints, so there was little doubt of its future success.

Of course, Draco was convinced. He sat with the designers and Thomas himself, drawing everything up for four hours before he finally got the exact picture of everything. He knew he only had a month before he would have to leave for Hogwarts and no art workshop to use for this job. But the designers were just as persuasive as their chef and assured they'd provide him with the necessary.

Apart from those minor reservations, he was overjoyed. He could barely believe his luck. Everything seemed to be working out for him this summer – if he ignored his major brawl with his father. But then again, as they say: everything's for the best. After all, had he not left Biarritz in such a hurry, he would still be wallowing in France and his name wouldn't appear in the paper the morning after the exhibition, along with pictures of several businessmen and even one or two politicians. If payback wasn't such a pleasant activity, Draco might have even offered his father a call or a visit – but as he saw it, he was doing well on his own two feet. For once, without his father.

Otherwise, he refrained from calling Harry. He didn't know if he was being silly or whether a good chase would finally reassure him of Harry's interest, he couldn't quite decide. He was supposed to call two nights ago and if Cedric wasn't lying when he announced it, laughing – Harry had contacted Ron to ensure that Draco was indeed alive and well. When his doubts of his sudden death weren't satisfied, he left, puzzled. As if there was absolutely no other reason in the world for making him wait, other than something lethal.

Well, good, Draco thought. It's his turn to run after me.

Hermione told him he was being a girl, but at least a seductive one at that. But then she also said she'd seen Harry looking very perturbed about something the other day. He wasn't too surprised to learn that Harry took a job at Starbucks over the last few weeks, after all he probably needed the rent. Apparently after his eighteenth birthday in the end of July – which Draco didn't quite know what to do with, since he hadn't gotten a present – he had rented a small flat just out of the center and settled in, away from his family. No wonder.

Five days after Harry's impromptu visit, Draco decided he was done with the teasing – he was too curious himself now. So he decided he'd get a drink at Starbucks after passing by Thomas's to discuss the issue of payment – which incidentally turned out quite the sensitive topic. Draco accepted with little bargaining, though – after all, he didn't really care about the money when such opportunities came knocking so early in his career.

He hoped that it was indeed Harry's shift, as he popped in, several bags with schoolwork and art supplies flung over his shoulder. He tried to look busy – after all, work would be his principal alibi. But he found it hard not to stare once he noticed Harry at the counter – weathering some pretty girl's flagrant flirting. He had to try to forget that Harry wasn't even gay and that he knew, were a more tempting female offer appear, Draco would probably be shifted to second roles in the black-haired boy's love life. Under the tide of his own sudden and rather depressive thoughts, Draco even exercised the idea of leaving. The notion of Harry deserting him – hell, just being with someone else and screwing someone else, was something he hadn't even thought of before and it hit him full force right then. He was achingly jealous. It made him regret the five days he'd waited before approaching Harry. Had he reconsidered, perhaps, his interest in the blond? He did, he must have. Perhaps it'd be better if Draco just left.

But then leaving, too, would be very cowardly.

So he endured watching as the girl pouted and tried getting Harry's number written on her take-away cup – while he told himself not to scowl.

What a bitch. Excuse my fucking French.

Harry smiled at her and – oh, that arsehole! – wrote down the number neatly on the cup. She promptly giggled, along with two of her all too pretty friends.

And as another pair of girls moved to the counter, he saw Harry saying something to the other boy behind him and then barking a laugh. It seemed as though Harry was gloating. The other boy just looked very satisfied with himself.

What gits. I should just leave.

But then it was too late, it was his turn and for a second, he panicked – he hadn't even picked anything to order! How he dreaded that split second before Harry turned and-

"Draco!"

The blond smiled. Well, perhaps Harry was an arsehole and perhaps he didn't deserve Draco – that's what his faithful head told him, not his aching chest – but Draco knew he looked good and screw everything else. He could see Harry responding like a bird lured with a handful of seed, as he took in Draco's half-transparent silky black shirt hugging his torso and light white jeans and the neat set of bags over his shoulder. He probably looked gay. Well, nothing new there.

"Coffee?" Harry recovered, albeit not at all smoothly - he sounded as though someone just tried to choke a lemon down his throat. He cleared his throat rapidly.

Draco bared his teeth elegantly in another smile and scanned the menu sheets above Harry's head, letting the boy get another eyeful before he was caught staring.

"Yeah, a caramel frapuccino. And get me your number on the cup," he smirked.

Harry's reaction was slowed down – probably by his hard-on – but he laughed anyway. "That's not my domain, to be honest. David back there gets all the calls," he explained, gesturing towards the boy who was busy pouring foamy cream into a drink. He glanced at Draco curiously, over his shoulder.

"Oh, so the Casanova here isn't interested," Draco concluded slowly, with another growing smirk. "I suppose David will be getting another call then."

David looked half horrified, half amused and it was obvious he would be cornering Harry for an explanation later on. But for now, this was too fun: Harry was grinning as he leant closer to the blond across the counter, his eyes glimmering with pure, green mirth. Suddenly, Draco's conviction that he was the tantalizing butterfly seducing the man before him – reversed – and he was pinned beneath that intense gaze, under a net of emotions he couldn't even distinguish.

"Someone owes me a call first," Harry said, in a silky voice. He was leaning fully against the counter now, along with his crotch, and Draco wanted to be the one he leant on instead. The desire was so sudden and so sweet, that he had to take a few breaths before replying, in fear of revealing himself.

"I don't owe you a thing, Potter," Draco challenged, leaning forwards as well. Harry looked surprised, and then even hungrier, eyes darting between his. "I was busy, is all."

Harry's grin extended, like honey from a spoon. "Should I be getting worried, Malfoy?"

"Maybe."

"Will we be gettin' our soddin' coffee any time soon?" muttered a man behind Draco.

"Sorry," Harry offered distractedly, not even breaking his stare. "So, what was it, Malfoy, a camarel frapuccino and my number on a cup?"

Draco offered him a dazzling smile and dropped a few pounds into Harry's palm – trying in vain to cover the shiver that ran up his spine at the touch of their skin. Harry licked his lips.

"I would've given you one on the house, but I'm not exactly the owner around here," he said, without looking apologetic at all. His skillful fingers counted the money and gave back the change just as rapidly.

Ah yes, that's where his mathematical brains kick in.

Then he took an empty cup and wrote a number on it – and Draco damn well hoped it was a different one than Harry had given the girl from before.

He didn't even need the number – he already had it. But the symbolic gesture was…sweet. He wouldn't have ever pictured Harry capable of flirting with him, a guy, in an open café, with people gawking at them.

The moment he started walking towards the exit, he could feel Harry's eyes glued to his back and arse, and he gladly basked in this feeling for the rest of the afternoon.

Draco waited another day before calling Harry and he nearly drove himself to insanity, just waiting. Cedric said he looked like a damsel in distress and that if he didn't get laid anytime soon, he'd lose it. Draco fully agreed with him, for that matter. And Gosh, did he want to get laid, and kissed and sucked-

-and all the beautiful things he'd imagined Harry doing to him between the bed-sheets.

He had to complete a breathing exercise before dialing to calm his cock, because it wouldn't rid him of distracting images.

"Hey, Harry," he drawled as the other picked up. There was a pause.

"Draco?"

"Yeah, it's me," he said and winced. He should've said something witty, like: "why, your observation skills astound me!" and made a grant impression, except his fingers were shaking and so was his voice and he was at a catastrophic loss for words.

There was a laugh. "I was thinking of giving up hope here," Harry confessed. "Hold on a sec, Draco, I'll be back – actually can I call you in two minutes? There are a couple of people at the counter-"

"Yeah, whatever," he answered, making sure to keep his voice cold. He hung up and waited, with more anxiety than he would've liked to admit.

The ring of his telephone sounded shrill against the silence of his bedroom and he picked up, with another cold "hey".

"Sorry," Harry said – typically not sounding sorry at all. Draco heard shouting in the background and Harry's amused reply of "shut the fuck up, David and do your job!" and he had to wonder whether Harry was now earning teasing remarks on his newly revealed orientation. Or how they say: the fact that he swung both ways.

"There, now will you go out with me tonight?"

Draco started at the sudden offensive – and he was silently glad he didn't have to trudge through asking Harry out himself, because he still thought Harry needed to do the asking and the doubting and the chasing.

"You know, I think I'll give you a try," he answered instead.

"That's great-"

-about time-

"How about nine this evening? We can just hang out. Do you have any plans?"

Not one damn plan, since he and Cedric were only planning to be loners with beer tonight. But Cedric will have to find Chris, his boyfriend, and get laid, it seemed.

"Perhaps I can clear the evening for you."

"Sounds good - how about nine, then, and I'll pick you up?"

Draco laughed in agreement, "Driving a chic cabriolet?"

There was a short silence. "No, actually. Um, by foot."

Did I hit a nerve? Or does he seriously think I'm so much of a snob to care about a goddamn car?

Draco chuckled, "I know, Harry, I'm not some silly stuck-up girl. And nine will do."

And at nine he came.

As Harry greeted him, looking delicious in a pair of jeans and a charcoal button up, Draco suddenly remembered that he knew nothing of their date. Button-up or not, Harry didn't exactly look formal and so the blond was relieved he'd also picked something casual for their rendezvous. He wondered where they were going. And what Harry really meant by hanging out.

Maybe taking me to his flat and fucking the daylights out of me? I don't think I'd mind much at this point.

Harry kept the elevator door open with his foot as Draco locked the door of the apartment. "You look good," he said.

"So you've said last week."

"You look even better tonight."

Draco rolled his eyes, but couldn't help a grin. "So where are you taking me, Potter? This isn't some obscure plot to murder the son of a wealthy businessman, is it?"

"I hardly look like a criminal – at least I've been hoping I don't look like one."

"Could've fooled me," muttered the blond and had to avoid a swat. "Alright, and now seriously, where are we going?"

"It's just a place – though nothing special," Harry explained, waving a hand around. He didn't seem the least bit shy now. "I thought it'd be nice if we had some private space."

Alright, so maybe Draco did fear Harry still being very touchy about the nature of their unnatural relationship – unnatural in its orientation, of course – and even though the incident at the café did soothe his worry, it didn't completely destroy the memory of Harry's previous rejection.

"Because you wouldn't like people to know that you like a guy?" Draco asked, as innocently as he could. He hated how accusatory that sounded – after all, he was supposed to be chilled about that sort of thing.

"No," he replied. He urged Draco to walk alongside with him on the pavement, with a hand poised on his lower back. Then he suddenly stopped, bringing the blond to a halt too. "No," he repeated, sounding serious. "That's not it at all."

Draco shrugged and continued walking, deciding to ignore the fact that Harry's hand left his back in order to shove into one of his pockets.

"Forgive me for being curious. You seemed really bothered about that sort of thing back at school."

"But that's the thing," Harry exclaimed and pulled at his arm again, stopping him. "Back at school. But in this world, it's all bullshit."

"What's bullshit?" Draco snapped.

"The homophobia, it's all bullshit here. Nobody cares."

"Well, bravo!" the blond resisted a theatrical clap of his palms. "And it took you how long to get it?"

"Longer than it should have, probably."

Draco looked at him, at his direct and definitely guiltless gaze, and sighed. Of course Potter probably thought himself a hero for overcoming his status quo views and finally understanding that homosexuality was fine as long as it hurt no one. Draco certainly wasn't about to congratulate him, although it really was about bloody time for that epiphany.

"So now you're fine with holding hands in public? With fucking a man and looking at yourself in the mirror without the urge to claw your skin off in shame?"

Let him know that I won't stand any disgust anymore. Not this time.

Harry actually looked thoughtful for a minute. "I don't know. So violently put. But yes."

"And what made you think so?"

Harry averted his gaze and looked onto the street – along the narrow parking lots and onto the park in front of the building for a while, before his eyes settled on Draco's. "Listen, I was a shit back at school and I know it. I realized too late."

Just say sorry, you poor sod. I'll forgive you.

But he didn't. He just stood there, as though waiting for Draco to read his mind and forgive him by some miracle.

"So now you want me to forget and forgive."

Harry smiled, for some reason. "I don't know. I don't know if you can do that and… I don't think I can ask you to. I don't even know if it's fair asking you out after what I've done, but I'm only human to hope."

Coupled with Harry's determined expression, the words melted Draco's façade almost to its ruins.

"It depends whether you'll be able to give me a new you to remember. To make me forget."

"I'll try."

Draco allowed himself a small, slow smile.

"Come on then," Harry tugged on his hand this time. "We'll hail a cab and get there faster."

Harry took him to the highest floor of a building and before opening the only door of the corridor, asked him to tightly shut his eyes. When he was gone Draco felt stupid standing in the middle of nowhere with his eyes closed and thinking of a possible vindictive plot to hurl him off the building roof.

But then Harry was back, and asking him to keep his eyes closed, led him towards the door with a hand on his lower back. When he was allowed to look, Draco actually stumbled in shock.

It was indeed a rooftop, small and shabby looking, but with a view on the roads and parks and buildings surrounding it – it seemed as though this was one of the tallest in sight. But the most beautiful thing was the candles on the edges, their tips lighted and quivering in the evening breeze, but standing solid against the chill. There were carpets and blankets strewn across the stone floor and various drinks and snacks and – if his eyes weren't lying – bowls of dessert on a low table nearby. It looked as if Harry had tried to stuff the entire world into the one corner of the rooftop, surrounded by a set of safety candles – like a fortress, and cocooned in their warmth. It was perfect.

By now, of course, Harry was a little agitated with the lack of response. So Draco turned around and smiled, hoping to convey what words couldn't.

He couldn't even remember the small talk that kept them occupied for the first half hour. He must have eaten something sweet because the taste of syrup and cream lingered on his tongue, and he was sitting with his back propped up against the wall, facing Harry, who sat cross-legged and watchful.

Somehow Draco ended up telling him a story about growing up at the Manor, something about Lucius teaching him to shoot at ravens in their gardens. It was then that Harry's expression turned wistful.

"I don't have many good memories of my childhood," he confessed, arms coming to rest on his knees, and knuckles whitening. "I can mostly remember starting school and even, if I'm not mistaken, driving my first bike. But then the rest is eclipsed by my parents' deaths and all the mess that came with it."

He sat, nursing his thoughts silently for a moment and Draco thought he'd change the topic when he spoke up next. But to his surprise, he didn't and his voice remained wistful as he went on,

"I was blamed and I was a stupid kid at the time. I couldn't even say anything in my defense because I was so shock-driven. And the neighbors couldn't tell much either – they hated our family." He looked straight at Draco and smiled. "My parents were both doctors and worked for the criminology sector – you know, defining death causes and such. Our neighbors always said they spoke more with the dead than with the living – and partly it was true: my dad gave up talking altogether by the time I turned six. Probably because of the horrors he had seen. My mom…she gave up work instead. Tried to bake something out of me," he chuckled, urging a polite smile out of Draco in response. "You get a lot of threats doing this job. It's ungrateful business. On one side, you've got the police – that's if you aren't a separate agent altogether. On the other – you've got the gangs of criminals doing hell knows what and then deciding it's easier murdering another handful of people than being thrown behind jail bars."

"Like a movie," Draco muttered.

"Yeah, like a goddamn horror movie. And then one day they were just dead – like a magic trick. All the mess and accusations - everything had gone pear shaped in one day for me. And I had nobody to turn to – who needed a kid whose parents had been so wound up in crime business that their lives ended up depending on it? It didn't even matter that they never committed one themselves. Just the fact. Some ungrateful business, it is." He bit his lips and blinked for several moments. "Then I was shipped off to my relatives, because the court saw a full family package more fit to raise a mourning, supposedly depressed adolescent than an already loving but single godfather. A fucked up family, the Dursleys, even worse than anything I've seen before. And still are, to be honest – I've tried to run away twice during that time and each time the police was on my back."

"Eloping, or just getting away?"

Harry's strained laugh sounded almost regretful, and lacking any humor. "No, just running really. Not eloping – not for a second, I don't think I even knew what sex was before I arrived at Hogwarts."

"Hm," Draco smiled. He was careful. And mesmerized.

"So that's my fucked up past. I…I've sort of been deprived of normality since birth. And you can see how I'm…adapting. To every wicked turn life hurls at me."

Draco blinked absentmindedly, his mind still stuck on the story and the intensity with which Harry recounted it. And now, even past the usual confidence, there was a gleam of uncertainty in his green eyes. A vulnerability Draco dreamt off, dreamt of seeing, dreamt of being exposed to, because it would show that Harry was human after all. And while his past explained a lot of things – or it must have if he sat down and thought about it more thoroughly – he couldn't believe Harry had been with this heavy load weighing down his shoulders for so long. He hadn't even said a word to anyone in the four years he spent at Hogwarts.

The blond found himself standing up and dropping unceremoniously into Harry's lap, with his legs on either side of his torso and face inches higher than the raven mane. This love-deprived, strange and mourning child, in contrast to the coldhearted adult he'd grown to become was so alluring to both the maternal instinct somewhere very deep within him and his sexual appetite. For some reason the shift in history, the childhood tragedy and Harry's power to overcome it, albeit somberly, was appealing to the power-hungry beast within him that craved to straddle this creature, to soothe it and to take control of its poisons before they could be aimed in his direction, to care and satisfy it, to pleasure, to please. To be what the rest of the world couldn't be for Harry, because they haven't seen him like this: breaking and mourning. They haven't gotten past his defense. And now that Draco had, he certainly wasn't going to let Harry withdraw ever again.

He didn't even know if he was talking about love; but it certainly felt like it.

"I know this will sound cheesy, but…" Draco murmured against Harry's face, their noses touching. He traced his hands along his jaw, his neck, his ears, his cheeks and into his hair, slowly, firmly. "You're not alone, Harry. I want to be with you. I want to soothe you when you remember and make you forget if you wish to."

"Yes. I want you," Harry whispered, eyes flickering between grey eyes and full lips. "I don't know if I deserve you-"

"Shut up," chuckled Draco, feeling Harry's breath mingling with his.

"No, I don't. But I'm happy I wasn't too late," he whispered again. He wasn't smiling. "If you let me-"

"Yes," Draco answered, not even knowing what he was agreeing to. Between the strange emotions that filled him, the desire to be Harry's and Harry to be his – only his – he was truly lost. He had never wanted to belong to someone so intense, so powerful, so heart-wrenchinglybeautifulbefore – it felt like stepping off a cliff into a shady gulf. But then Harry's hands came to rest on his waist and caressed his hips and Draco felt his body burn with need.

Harry lifted his hips to readjust his position and, as their erections brushed, Draco hissed out his breath. He tangled his hand in Harry's tresses and, mindlessly, pulled and caressed, trying in vain to keep his desire at bay.

"So what next," Draco whispered against Harry's lips and was surprised when he felt lips on his own, pressing, licking. Breathlessly, he opened his mouth and felt the wetness of Harry's tongue against the soft flesh of the inside of his lips, moving slowly, tantalizingly. Draco waited with bated breath, eager, excited, for the final move and the final kiss, but it didn't come. Harry abandoned his lips and murmured,

"I don't know. Whatever you want. What do you want?"

Draco touched Harry's lips – they were wet and hot from his own kisses. "This."

"Good," breathed Harry and began licking his mouth again. Their tongues met and slid against each other and Draco sucked in full, swollen lips into his mouth, hearing Harry moan. This was sex, liquefied into kisses, burning with small touches and breathy whispers and Draco feared he would come in his trousers before Harry could even get down to stroking his cock.

He anticipated what was to come – perhaps not tonight, and maybe much, much later – but he permitted himself to fantasize over what was eventually going to happen. He imagined Harry taking him, legs thrown wide open, taking him to the full, all his length, with his manhood pushing deep within his body and Harry towering above him, sweaty, whispering, pleasuring, licking, until the blond cried and trashed and came. He wanted to be wrapped in those muscled arms and pulled close and made love to and fucked until his mind went blank.

"Would you accept me courting you," Harry whispered and had his lips not been occupied in the next moment, Draco would've probably laughed at the formality of his wording.

"Maybe," he challenged, shifting so that Harry's head was titled back and Draco was looking down at him. Now it looked as if Harry was begging and the blond was in control. He ground his hips to emphasize the point and earned a low hiss in response.

"But no one else. Just me."

"I can't promise you that," Draco said, even though in truth he was able to swear thousands of times. But Harry didn't need to know that.

Harry tightened his hands around his waist possessively. "Eventually. You'll have to."

"Can you?"

"I can now."

"Don't lie to me," Draco said, upset. He sat back and stared at Harry through a fading veil of lust.

Harry scrambled to get a hold on him again and shook his head, "I'm not. I've been thinking about it. I want this to be just you and I."

"I don't believe you."

"Let me prove to you," Harry said, seriously. He took Draco's hand in his. "I don't want anybody else."

"Liar," Draco whispered and tried to wrench his hand away. He didn't even know why he was reacting that way – but memories of Chang and school and his coldhearted remarks after they've had simultaneous orgasms in the hallway – he couldn't get away from the onslaught of those memories. Suddenly he suspected Harry might be playing him again. It upset him.

Harry grasped his wrist and kept him from moving, using the force of his body. It made Draco both annoyed, because he was overpowered, but at the same time seduced by his strength all over again.

"You don't have to believe me. I know I'm asking too much, too early. But I'll make it worth your while if you try to believe me."

"I'm not that easy," Draco snapped, ashamed that he had indeed just demonstrated the opposite, by nearly coming in his pants from Harry's kisses. "You'll have to try harder if you want me to believe."

"I'll try."

Draco watched him watching him, barely blinking, barely breathing. He wanted Harry to kiss him again, but he didn't want to let him think everything was alright between them just because he'd shown a feeble initiative. So he gently pried his hand away and dropped on his arse, against the stack of duvets.

"It's late," Draco muttered. "I'll go home."

"I'll take you home," Harry volunteered, his gaze promising lots of kissing and licking on the way, perhaps in the cab.

"No," Draco winced internally. His mind battled his body. "It's okay, I'll take a taxi. Thanks for tonight."

Harry looked at a loss for words, but he nodded nonetheless.

"Can I expect a call from you anytime soon?"

"Maybe," Draco murmured, standing up. "I'll see how busy my schedule is."

Harry had the decency to look offended for a moment. But he nodded his head, resigned.

He'll just have to get used to it, Draco decided, as he was escorted back to the stairs, an innocent, gentle and warm hand guiding him by his lower back again. Because I'm the prize he wants and one he won't obtain without a bit of effort.

And he can shove all his lies up his arse if he thinks these will get him into my pants. Because this time we're playing by my rules.