Title: Love and a Peanut Butter Sandwich

Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.

Rating: R/M.

Pairing: Harry/Draco, past Harry/Ginny.

Word Length: 8200 words.

Warnings: EWE, DH SPOILERS. Sex, profanity, mild violence in a few scenes. Non-linear timeline.

Summary: Ginny said it was just one of those rough patches all couples went through. Harry, though, knew its source was Draco acting stupid. And he had no patience anymore with people acting stupid.

Author's Notes: Happy birthday, byaghro! I hope this fits your requests: an established relationship, reminiscing, romance, sex, snark, and a peanut butter sandwich.

Love and a Peanut Butter Sandwich

"What do I care about the date?"

"You bloody well should! You were the one who wanted the big announcement in the Prophet about how you were dating Harry Potter, and you ought to remember that it was the twelfth of March—"

"Really? You must be misremembering. I think it was you who was proud to be seen with me, since you already knew that I'd be the best-looking person you'd ever date."

"Don't act like this, I'm begging you—"

"Funny, last night we had a fight over your refusal to beg."

"Draco, just—you know it wasn't like that, why are you doing this? It's stupid, and—"

"Oh, so my feelings are stupid now."

"That's not what I said!"

"It sure as hell looked like it from where I'm sitting!"

The front door of their house flew back and banged into the wall as Harry stormed through it. He could hear Draco yelling about the dent it would put in the plaster.

He didn't care. He could have broken through six dozen doors and not cared. Bristling, he Apparated to the place he always went when he and Draco had idiotic arguments like this, trying to pretend he didn't care about Draco's shout of "Coward!" behind him.

This point, high above the waves that curled around Cornwall, was rocky. Littered with boulders, it also had thousands of smaller pebbles between the bigger stones, and scree, and piles of dust that looked innocently the same as stretches of solid ground. Harry could slip here and plummet into the sea with broken bones, and no one would ever know or recover his body.

It would have been stupid to climb the cliff. So Harry Apparated directly onto one of the largest boulders, one he had made sure was locked in its bed before he chose it. He'd been coming here a lot lately. This was the third time this week, for instance.

Harry locked his hands behind his neck, stared at the leaping ocean—wilder and more furious than he'd ever be—and tried to calm down.

It didn't happen, though. The boiling indignation made his wand hand tremble, and finally he had to tuck his wand in between his knee and the stone so he wouldn't constantly stare at its shaking. Then he bent his head between his knees, but that seemed to only help with hyperventilating. It wouldn't help him calm from a great and overwhelming rage.

Draco was acting like—

Like a twit.In the past year since they'd got together, there'd been an awful lot of times when he acted like a prat. Harry had got used to that, even learned to value it. If Draco had changed his behavior completely, he wouldn't be the man whom Harry had taken to bed in exasperation and fallen in love with many protests along the way.

But their arguments this past week sprang out of unusually obtuse statements and determinations to take innocent actions in exactly the wrong way, even for Draco.

Harry slumped back against the boulder, his eyes on the sea, and remembered the day—a year and two months ago—when he had finally given in, gone for broke, and tried to address the Draco problem. They hadn't been dating or even fucking then, but Draco had still been acting like an absolute idiot. Perhaps memories of that time would help him address this issue.

Harry yawned and picked up his empty teacup, glancing around the table. "Anyone else want more tea? I'm going to need it if we'll be up all night working on this case."

Weary nods answered him. Harry Levitated their cups after him and turned down the corridor that led to the room containing the tea, left open all night by compassionate trainees who understood that someday they would be the overworked, underpaid Aurors who needed it.

He wasn't at all surprised to hear a single set of footsteps following him. Malfoy had been exasperating him for weeks, and had taken every opportunity to harass him when they were alone. Harry had offered to get the tea in part to set a trap the other man couldn't resist; when they were alone, they could…


Malfoy came around the corner, his mouth already open for some snide remark that would exactly replicate the atmosphere between them when they had been at Hogwarts—but more serious, because this time they were Aurors trying to save lives, and Malfoy was wasting precious concentration and energy on a feud that should have been settled long ago. Harry whirled, moved the teacups out of the way, seized Malfoy's left arm, and twisted it up behind his back. Malfoy opened his mouth on a gasp of pain, so surprised he couldn't actually scream.

Harry bent down to whisper harshly into his ear.

"Now. I don't know what your problem is, Malfoy, but I can think of only two ways to solve it. I've tried sweet reason. That didn't work. I've tried ignoring you. That doesn't work, and it only annoys the others, since they get tired of listening to you run the team leader down without his responding. It lessens their respect for me, which we can't afford. I've tried binding spells on your mouth. That got me a reprimand."

Malfoy sniggered. Harry shook him roughly, which made him flinch and gasp.

"Yes, don't forget about your arm," Harry whispered. "So. There are two solutions. The first is that I cast a permanent curse which will cause your bollocks to burst if you so much as speak an insulting word about me again."

Malfoy sagged in his grip. Then he whispered, "You wouldn't—it's Dark Arts, and you could be sacked—"

"Yes," Harry said, savoring the word. "But you'd still be left a eunuch. I promise you, Malfoy, no Healer will be able to fix that little problem." He paused. "And I'm sure it's little."

"What's the other option?" Malfoy said. This time, his voice was perilously close to whinging. Harry rolled his eyes and hurried ahead.

"We fuck."

Malfoy sagged again, but this time for so long that Harry truly feared he'd fainted. When he was standing under his own power again, Malfoy squeaked, "What?"

"We have all this energy between us," Harry said. "Or at least you have all this energy directed towards me. It has to go somewhere. And I've been admiring you out of the corner of my eye. You're not such a bad bloke, really—when you can keep your mouth shut. At least you're fit."

"H-how do you know I think the same thing?" Malfoy was drawing himself up by now, as haughty as he could be with one arm twisted behind his back. "You're still the same scrawny, bespectacled git you were in school, just a little taller."

Harry laughed into his ear. "Yes, Malfoy, all those half-erections you get whenever you see me casting a spell or speaking harshly to someone else are very convincing denials."

Malfoy sucked in his breath. Harry could see the corners of his jaw and ears turning pink. If Harry revealed that little detail to the rest of the team, Malfoy had to know his own level of respect would fall into negative numbers.

And Malfoy had worked hard enough to become an Auror not to want that to happen. God knew why he wanted to be an Auror, but Harry knew he did, and that could be used against him.

A few more moments of silence. Harry waited patiently. He wasn't worried about someone from the team coming after them; they were all engaged in yet another desultory argument about where the kidnapper would strike next, and they'd all been up for more than twenty-four hours. They were unlikely to notice the passage of time.

Finally Malfoy whispered, "I can't—this isn't the kind of thing Harry Potter does. Why?"

"Well," Harry said, "let's just say that sacrificing my life to save the wizarding world has made me intolerant of stupidity. I put in my best effort then, and I've tried to put in my best effort since. If I can do that, other people can bloody well do their best, too. Incompetence can't be cured, maybe, but stupidity can be stopped."

He bent closer to Malfoy's neck and breathed into his ear, "And let's say that maybe I've been watching you for a while, too, and trying to understand why in the world I'd like to go to bed with you when you only seem intent on cutting me down."

Malfoy began to struggle furiously. Harry let him go, supposing he'd made his decision, and lifted his wand to cast the bollocks-bursting spell.

Malfoy waved his hands frantically. "No, no! Potter, wait!"

Harry raised an eyebrow.

"I—" Malfoy cleared his throat. "Let's say that I've, um, been watching you, and maybe some of my insults were frustration at knowing you'd never look twice at me."

"Some of them?"

"Of course, only some of them." Malfoy was quickly recovering his composure, if the way he put his nose in the air was any indication. "The rest you deserved."

Harry laughed. He could appreciate Malfoy's taunts when he could hope that they wouldn't disrupt the smooth working of the Auror team anymore. "All right. Come home with me when this shift is done." He reached out and let his fingers brush Malfoy's for a moment.

"Your house?" Malfoy wrinkled his nose. "The Manor is much nicer."

"And your mother's there," Harry pointed out patiently. "I don't know about you, but I'd find her presence a mood-killer."

Malfoy shuddered. "Point."

Harry exhaled hard and tilted his head back against the stone behind him, then winced as a sharp corner poked into his neck. He rubbed his fingers over the sting and came back with a bit of blood. He smeared it absently on his robes as he stared at the waves. All of them were as gray as Draco's eyes.

Yes, that had been the way it started, but so much had changed since then that Harry thought the memory useless for figuring out Draco's current behavior.

It had quickly become much more than an arrangement of convenience or physical attraction—at least on Harry's side. There were times he thought hunting for proof that it was more on Draco's side was like trying to find a single twig in a forest.

He closed his eyes and recalled the argument from last night. Perhaps there would be a clue there.

Harry laughed and tossed his head to avoid letting it slam into the edge of the bed; Draco loved to play such tricks when they were wrestling, as they were right now. Harry locked his fingers around Draco's arms, maneuvered his legs into position, and kicked once. In moments, Draco was on his back, blinking and gaping up at him, whilst Harry loomed and leered down at him.

Harry was panting, as exhilarated as he would be after a good chase down the middle of Diagon Alley with people scattering out of the way and obstacles to be leaped over. This was what Draco did to him, even after a year. Making love to him was exciting, in more than just the physical sense.

Draco tensed. Harry expected the hand that rose, flailing, and clawed for his eyes, and shifted a little to pin it down with his elbow.

A groan told him Draco had given up. He laid his head back and panted quietly. Harry lowered his own head and licked a trail up the side of the exposed neck. Draco went still and quivered. He had a sensitive sport there, about an inch of skin, which had taken Harry an age to find.

Harry looked to the right and met Draco's eyes, softer and more unguarded than normal—though never completely open, never that—and smiled. He and Draco rarely said anything tender to one another, even when alone, but at the moment, Harry wanted to.

"Draco," he breathed, lowering his head so that their lips nearly but not quite met, "I—"

And Draco brought a knee up into the middle of his groin.

Swearing, Harry rolled to the side and curled up around the sensitive, aching area. Of course they used all sorts of blows on one another, but Draco had never done something like that to him in bed—especially when he would have a use for Harry's erection in a moment.

"Son of a bitch!" Harry said, when he could speak. He clawed himself back onto his knees and stared at Draco disbelievingly. Of course, Draco being Draco, he had sat up already and was fiddling with his hair, looking bored. "What the fuck was that about?"

"That was for laughing at the robes I wanted to wear to the restaurant earlier," Draco said, and yawned.

"It was a chuckle," Harry muttered. "Quickly smothered, I might add. And that—" He could feel his anger growing, as had happened so many times in the last few weeks. No, months, really, if he counted from the first thoroughly stupid argument Draco and he had had. It wasn't about the inherent differences in behavior and morals between them anymore; it was about Draco seizing something and exaggerating it, and Harry responding helplessly because it was so stupid he couldn't believe Draco actually meant it. "You know that was a response out of all proportion to the crime, Draco," he said, his voice deepening.

"I'm glad that you've recognized it for the crime it is," Draco said, his tone utterly icy. He stood up, snatched the shirt he'd dropped at the foot of the bed, and stormed into the loo. The door slammed behind him. A moment later, still blinking, Harry heard it lock.

What surprised him most of all was that Draco usually used that icy voice only when he was struggling to hide grief or hurt. Had he really been sorrowful that Harry snickered at his dress robes with lace on the sleeves? But he'd never felt such a thing before. He'd always disdained Harry's taste in clothes, and accepted Harry's disdain right back.

Harry opened his eyes and stared at the sea again. Of course he hadn't left it there. He'd gone over and thumped on the door, and Draco had screamed at him to go away, and Harry had screamed something back—he couldn't even remember what it had been now—and things had degenerated into another stupid fight.

Everything did, these days, to the point where the fairly relaxed state of last night was actually rare for Harry. He tensed up around Draco instead, and not with the good kind of tension.

Had they somehow slipped back into their previous pattern of interacting, the kind they'd had when they first started dating each other, and he just hadn't noticed?

He once again sought an earlier memory, this time of the day exactly a year ago that Draco had permitted an announcement to be placed in the paper concerning his being Harry Potter's boyfriend.

The moment they entered the restaurant, half-a-dozen cameras went off. Harry had been prepared for it, and simply nodded in resignation to the comments that came at him as fast as the camera flashes did.

"How does it feel to be dating a Malfoy, Mr. Potter?"

"Do you think this will cause trouble in the Auror Department?"

"What about all the disappointed young witches of Great Britain, Mr. Potter? Do you have any message for them?"

Draco, of course, preened and fluttered at the attention, turning his head to be sure some of the cameras caught him in profile, striking several poses. Harry watched him with a half-smile. If such antics really bothered him, he never would have started dating Draco, and he certainly wouldn't have let Draco notify the public in such an elaborate fashion, no matter how much he whined.

A waiter came to rescue them just then, and led them to a neat, round wooden table behind a privacy ward. Draco took forever to duck behind the ward, blowing several kisses to the photographers. He was very smug when he took his seat opposite Harry and snapped the linen napkin across his lap with a practiced motion.

"Someone fainted when I blew her a kiss," he said. "Did you see that, Harry?"

"Maybe I would have noticed it if it happened," Harry retorted, and scanned the menu.

"Maybe you would have seen it if your sight wasn't so poor," Draco said. When Harry peeked at him, his eyes were brilliant. Now that they no longer snapped at each other as true enemies, he seemed to enjoy the interplay of their insults at each other's expense.

"Maybe I would at that," Harry said amiably, just for the pleasure of throwing Draco off, and then laughed as his expression changed. Draco rolled his eyes and began to peruse the menu, giving the waiter a lofty glance when he came up, as if inviting him to ponder on the mystery that was Draco Malfoy agreeing to date a cretin, no matter how famous.

The waiter responded to the glances by attempting to flirt with Draco. Harry leaned back in his chair, sipped the drink he'd ordered—a butterbeer with a spell cast on it to up the alcohol content—and watched as Draco stamped his foot and redoubled his own attempts at flirtation.

His calculated little offer to fuck Draco to get rid of their tension had unexpectedly worked out well from all involved. Draco seemed to do a better job as an Auror when he was getting attention from Harry. The rest of the team no longer had to listen to the constant sniping. And Harry found that any anger roused from Draco's doing a stupid thing—for example, last night, when he'd walked right through one of the enemy's wards in his attempt to be first at the capture—was mitigated by a good, rough tumble in bed.

Of course, it was more than that, Harry thought absently, watching the way Draco leaned too close to the waiter (obviously and slavishly, which of course lessened the seductiveness of the move as well as its effectiveness in pissing Harry off—not that he would tell Draco that). He'd come to find that he enjoyed looking at Draco during moments when he was absorbed in his own little world and didn't notice Harry's eyes on him. Even if he was showing off for other people, he did it with a whole-hearted conviction that made it charming rather than obnoxious. The war had at least cured Draco of his dithering even if it hadn't made him more intelligent.

Harry was coming to like Draco Malfoy, something he never would have thought was possible, once.

Draco glanced up. Harry gave him a small smile. He thought Draco would toss his head, grateful to be appreciated, and go back to flirting with the waiter.

Instead, Draco narrowed his eyes and leaned back in his seat. "For God's sake, Potter," he said, tone deliberately cutting. "Whilst I realize you didn't have a mother to teach you manners, you ought to have been able to figure out by now that staring is rude."

Harry snarled; insults to his family could still touch him to the quick. "Fuck you, Malfoy."

"You did," Draco said, drawing his hands down his arms. "And yet, I still seem to be in one piece. Not much of a threat anymore, is it?"

The waiter was backing away with his hands in the air and eyes darting between them in uneasy fascination. Harry snapped at him, "We'll both have the lobster," but couldn't watch as he fled. It was too important to make Draco understand that he'd crossed a line.

He reached across the table and squeezed Draco's hand in a motion that probably looked affectionate to anyone trying to peer around the privacy ward. You'd have to be near to see Draco pale and hear his short, pained gasp.

"No mentioning my mother again," Harry said. "Or I will walk away from you here and now, and issue my own statement to the papers tomorrow, telling them I only pretended to date you on a dare. Is that clear?"

Draco bowed his head the way he often did at moments like this, using his fringe to conceal his eyes. Harry thought he hid the beginnings of angry or frustrated tears like that. "Yes," he muttered.

"You won't mention my mother again?"

"No." A whisper this time, and Harry finally realized how hard he was squeezing Draco's wrist. He took his hand away and barely resisted the urge to wipe it on his trousers.

Why did he want to date Draco?

Hermione thought it had something to do with working out the tension that had prevailed between them at school and resolving the guilt Harry felt for not being able to protect Draco after he'd killed Dumbledore. Ron was convinced Harry had hit his head the day before he started to date Draco and hadn't recovered his true personality yet. Ginny, whom Harry had broken up amiably with two years after Hogwarts, seven years ago now, was wont to make double-edged remarks about Harry's very odd sexual taste. (It was one time Harry had wanted to play with handcuffs. One time. And yet she still couldn't let him forget it).

Harry disregarded their explanations. The truth was that Draco made him feel interested and frustrated and challenged and tense and happy.

And it was really no one's business but theirs why they dated.

So long as Draco doesn't mention my parents. Harry had already had a silent agreement with Draco never to mention Lucius, serving a life sentence in Azkaban. He'd thought it prevailed the other way, too. Apparently not.

But he did keep his promise after that, Harry thought, opening his eyes and blinking as spray broke across his face. The waves were leaping high now, wetting his boots and the bottom of his robes thoroughly. He might have to move soon. He never mentioned my family again.

And no. As tense as their relationship was right now, it didn't have the same merciless edge that Draco had sometimes employed during their early months together.

So what is it?

Harry reached for another memory, one that was probably the first of their really stupid fights, on New Year's Day.

"What is this?"

Harry winced and touched his head. He'd been up late the night before drinking Firewhiskey with Ron; they had a private tradition of ringing in the New Year with three bottles at midnight, celebrating the occasion four years before when they'd caught a Dark wizard who'd been murdering children at exactly that time. It had been their toughest case and the first that really tested them as partners.

Right now, of course, Harry's head was pounding, and he only wanted the hangover potion. He opened the cabinet where they usually kept it, ignoring Draco's question. He had that sharp, annoyed rasp to his tone, but he got that rasp about practically everything, including perfectly harmless things.

The cabinet was empty.

Harry stared. He knew there had been at least three vials there yesterday; he'd checked on them before he left for Ron and Hermione's house, knowing he'd stumble home late and roaring drunk and too tired to take them before he went to sleep. But now they were gone.

"Where's the hangover potion?" he demanded, turning around.

Draco narrowed his eyes. He was holding something between thumb and forefinger, but Harry found it a little hard to focus on at the moment. It was small, anyway.

"Blaise and his new girlfriend, Greg and his new boyfriend, and Marcus came over last night," Draco said. "I told you that. And of course Blaise and the boyfriend and Marcus drank too much, so they had to use the potions." He extended the thing he held towards Harry, and rattled it with a sound even more annoying than the rasp in his voice. "Now. Maybe you can answer my question, since I actually asked it first. What is this?"

Harry squinted, and managed to focus. Draco was holding a crisps bag. Harry blinked. He occasionally bought the crisps as a treat on the way home from the Ministry, but he hadn't worked for a week now due to the holidays, and so the bag must have been lying about the house for at least that long.

"A crisps bag," he said slowly.

"I know what it is," Draco began, voice rising dangerously.

"Then why did you ask?" Harry knew Draco liked their fights on occasion, but the sheer strangeness of starting one about a piece of rubbish that it would have taken exactly three seconds to Vanish or put in the bin mystified him.

Draco snarled at him. "Of course you would say something like that," he told the ceiling, or perhaps the empty potions cabinet. "What I want, what I think, my opinions, are all stupid just because they're my wants and my thoughts and my opinions."

"I never said that." Harry folded his arms. Then he winced and clutched at his head.

"Oh, does poor ickle Harry-kins need a potion-wotion?"

"Do you have one or not?" Harry snapped from between clenched teeth.

"I told you, Blaise and—"

"Yes, yes, I heard your stupid story the first time," Harry muttered, and went off to fetch his cloak so he could Apparate to Diagon Alley and fetch one. Small apothecaries did a brisk trade in such business even on New Year's Day.

"See? I know that you thought my story was stupid just because it was my story."

Harry uttered a short, frustrated scream between his teeth, snatched his cloak, his wand, and one of the small bags of Galleons he made a point of bringing home each weekend, and left the house in a swirl of righteous indignation.

Snow was coming down, starring the streets and creating glittering webs of ice. Harry trod carefully to the corner, where his scowl caused several Muggle children to drop packed snowballs and run away.

Happy fucking New Year, Harry thought morosely, and Apparated. He was thinking of the superstition that said whatever you did on New Year's was what you would do for the rest of the year. At least he hadn't actually been with Draco at midnight.

Harry's eyes snapped open, and he frowned. The memory felt incomplete, now that he thought about it. He had believed he hadn't remembered anything after one of his drinks at Ron's. He must have stumbled in absolutely pissed and collapsed on the couch to sleep it off right away.

But no, there was something else, wasn't there?

Cool hands patting at his hair and face. A voice whispering, "Idiot," in his ear. Someone stripping off his robes and then holding a basin under his face as Harry turned his head to the side and vomited.

And he had rolled over, and grinned in the direction of the voice, and murmured, "Thanks. I love you."

And the next moment, the basin had vanished. And the next morning, Draco had been irritating beyond belief.

Harry sucked fiercely at his bottom lip. He didn't say he loved Draco often—and Draco never said it—but he didn't know why in the world it would cause such a furious, hurt reaction. Draco couldn't have thought Harry was saying it to someone else, since Harry hadn't mentioned names.


Harry thought he was onto something, with that memory. Picking a fight over a crisps bag that had stayed in the house for a week was rather pathetic even for Draco. It smacked of desperation, Harry thought now—as if he had seized on the first excuse for an argument he could find.


Harry shifted to a higher rock so he wouldn't get wet and cold through, and sought out another memory. This was the first time he had ever made love to Draco, instead of fucking him—or that was the way he thought of it, even though he'd never said as much to Draco.

Harry had teased and teased him. For once, he and Draco both had a week off, and they had it together. Harry usually took time off around his birthday, anyway—otherwise the Ministry was inundated with a flood of owls and gifts for the "Savior"—and this time he had decided he deserved a week after months of hard work on grueling cases. Unexpectedly, Draco had selected the same week for his own holiday, snorting at Harry when he asked why.

"I've just moved in," he said. "Do you think we've broken your bed in sufficiently?"

So Harry had taken Draco for a long, seductive dinner during which they sat side by side and he "accidentally" let his leg brush Draco's or his hand glance along his arm. He probably fed Draco more food from his fork than the other man actually ate off his plate. By the end of the meal, Draco was flushed and panting, his voice soft with need. It was the kind of state Harry loved to reduce him to, but usually didn't have the time for due to their schedules.

He'd pinned Draco against the door the moment they got inside the house and kissed him with slow, leisurely, tongue-fucking motions until Draco was whimpering and pulling at his hair. Then Harry had dropped down to his knees and given Draco the blowjob of his life. He'd murmured and sucked and hummed and licked and chuckled and swallowed. Draco came and then literally slumped down the wall, his skin so flushed Harry would have worried about his being ill if he hadn't been there to see how it happened.

Then he took Draco to bed and undressed him slowly, letting his hands linger in every place he touched. Then he lay down on top of him and licked every single inch of his chest, spending at least five minutes each on his nipples. By the time he got around to tending thoughtfully to Draco's navel, Draco was hard again and all but screaming.

Finally he lifted his hips high and hard enough to poke Harry in the collarbone with his erection. Harry had laughed and looked up at him, then nipped down on the edge of Draco's navel and worried it with gentle teeth.

"Please," Draco said. Harry thought he would have shouted it, but his voice was gone, his throat thick with helpless desire.

Harry had laughed again, and reached slowly for the lubrication. He admired the shine of it in the bedroom light. He slid his fingers into the jar as if he were making love to it. He slicked his cock with slow, thoughtful pulls. He pushed two fingers into Draco, then one, then two again, and made observations aloud on the expressions and noises Draco made when certain sensitive spots inside him were touched.

"Let's see, a little to the left and a groan. Yes, very nice. Against the prostate and we get a lovely arch of the neck, combined with a small whimper. A second rub and there go his eyes rolling back in his head, although silent this time, unfortunately. Mr. Malfoy, would you care to look away from the inside of your skull and comment on this stimulation?"

"If you don't get inside me right now, you bastard," came Draco's strained whisper, "I'm going to push myself off the bed, and aim. And I won't be responsible for the consequences."

Harry grinned, set the jar of lubrication down, and aligned himself neatly with Draco's entrance. Draco let his legs fall open in encouragement, groaning and gasping even before Harry pushed himself inside.

When he was penetrated, Draco always went absolutely still even as he relaxed, and absolutely silent. But this time he smacked his lips in a sound of greed and locked his ankles behind Harry's thighs. Harry wriggled a little as he went deeper, and Draco wailed.

"Lovely," Harry complimented him, and bent over him, nearly folding him in half, to lick his neck. Draco mouthed agreement, and Harry began to move.

He took his time even with that, though he knew by now Draco was primed and would have been pleased if he went fast. But this wasn't about quick gratification, especially since Draco had already come once; it was about making the experience unforgettable. Harry made slow, sinuous rolls of his hips, angled himself to the left and right of Draco's prostate long after Draco was clenching his fists impatiently, and bent down to lick the sweat off Draco's belly and navel and ribs, depending on which he could reach at the moment. Only when Draco released a long babble of nonsense words did Harry's hand close around Draco's cock.

The pace became faster then, of necessity, but Harry held Draco's gaze now and refused to let this diminish in intensity. Draco shivered, his eyes opening wide, fat drops of sweat or tears rolling down his cheeks, and then he tossed back his head and whispered what sounded like a prayer as he came.

Harry's orgasm built from his balls and his belly and the base of his spine. He rolled one more time into Draco, then dropped to the side, still joined to him. He lay with one slick arm across Draco's chest whilst he breathed, turning his wrist one way and then another in the extra wetness there.

Then he raised himself on one elbow, shifted out, and reached to caress Draco's cheek. He knew his eyes were as open and vulnerable as they'd ever been, and he murmured half an endearment.

Draco's jaw and eyes snapped shut, and he rolled stubbornly away, presenting Harry with his cold back and shoulder. Harry stared in disbelief, his hand dropping. For long moments, they simply lay there in silence.

"I'm going to take a shower," Draco announced abruptly. "After that, I think I need one." And he stood up and padded to the loo. Harry heard the door lock a moment later.

Harry curled into himself and shivered. It was not his nakedness that made him do so.

Harry popped his eyes open, nodding. Yes, that was the common thread that connected the moments when Draco pulled away from him and slammed the metaphorical door shut in Harry's face. That was the reason he started stupid arguments now, too. Each time, Harry was about to speak words of love—or actually had spoken them—or reach out to him with affection.

And Draco cowered away from that, acting as though the words or the gestures would sting.


The answer came from another memory, this one a month old. Harry had gone to Ginny to complain about Draco, since talking to Ron was out of the question—Ron did his best to pretend that the Malfoys didn't exist—he wasn't in the mood for Hermione's analytical approach, and talking about it to Draco would only result in a fight. Ginny was a good choice for another reason, since she'd just ended her on-again, off-again liaison with Michael Corner. Harry intended, and thought he needed, nothing more than a mutual venting situation.

Ginny had provided him with much more.

"Thanks, Ginny." Harry accepted the cup of tea gratefully. He'd already started munching on the chocolate biscuits Ginny always had ready for him whenever he visited.

"You're welcome," Ginny said, and dropped into the chair across the table with a long, luxurious sigh. She flipped her hair absently over her shoulder. It had grown down to the middle of her back now, Harry noticed with a thrill of the sexual interest with which he would always contemplate her, and blazed in the light falling through the open window. Ginny had confessed Michael hadn't liked her hair long. Harry thought he was crazy. Even with his commitment to Draco, Ginny's hair tempted him to gather up handfuls.

Of course, thinking of Draco darkened Harry's mood again, and made him remember what he'd come here for.

"I just can't tell what it is," he muttered, staring into his cup. "Until New Year's, we were rattling along the way we always do, with occasional bad fights but nothing that lasted more than a few days. Now we can be mad at each other for a week over the stupidest things." He transferred his stare to her. "What do you think it means?"

"Every couple goes through rough patches." Ginny stole a biscuit from his plate, since Harry had claimed the majority of them. As she nibbled, she stared meditatively out the window. Harry thought he recognized words she had spoken to herself in the middle of the night. "This is just one of them." She transferred her gaze back to Harry, a small, amused smile playing around her mouth. "Frankly, I suspect you two had so many big, serious, overwhelming issues to work out that it kept you from concentrating on the small and stupid things until now. And because you haven't faced them yet, they seem enormous."

"But they are," Harry said. He realized he was whinging, but Ginny still looked interested, so he continued. "Draco's bothered by things now that he never was before—too much water in the shower in the mornings, crumbs on the carpet, how much time I spend with Ron and Hermione. I've tried ignoring him, making love to him with extra strength, showering attention on him. Nothing works."

"Well," Ginny said, "he's self-absorbed."

"Then why doesn't giving him attention work? It's what he wants."

Ginny put up a warning hand, and Harry subsided with a little grumble. "Drink your tea," Ginny said.

Harry drank his tea, and listened.

"He's self-absorbed," Ginny repeated, "but he's not stupid. He knows that he can't cross certain lines, or you'll leave." Harry nodded; he'd told Ginny about the time when Draco insulted his mother. "What he mostly wants, I think, is reassurance. He doesn't like it when you behave unpredictably. He doesn't like it when things change. If they change, then he can't be sure what you think anymore."

"You think he reads what I think from my actions?" Harry said, baffled.

"Of course." Ginny chuckled a little. "I told you he was self-absorbed. He reads you from your actions because he has trouble understanding people otherwise." She shrugged. "So have you changed anything lately? Hinted you'd like to move out of your house? Talked like you'd met someone?"

"No. Nothing's changed." Harry shook his head. "Besides, you're making him sound like a cat, instead of a wizard."

"He's very like one sometimes," Ginny said. "Just don't tell me if he leaves dead mice on your pillow as a sign of affection, please. There are some things about your sex life I don't need to know."

Harry opened his eyes and sighed in wonder. So that was it. Draco didn't want Harry saying he loved him because that signaled, at least to Draco, a huge change. Maybe Harry would become more romantic and they'd lose the sharp, stinging edge to their relationship that Draco seemed to like. Maybe he thought—

Maybe he thought Harry wanted him to say it back.

Harry blinked a little and sat up. Can he really be that blind?

But he'd had enormous experience with Draco's blindness by now. He knew exactly how many misinterpretations Draco could put on a simple action, how he could construe innocent words to mean something else, and how he seemed to see any and all happenings in the world in terms of how they affected him first. Not him only, or Harry would have left him long ago.

But he didn't want to change, and he didn't want Harry to make him change, and if he retorted with bitterness against affection, he probably hoped he could keep the bond between them exactly the same way it'd been in the past.

Harry rose briskly to his feet. He had certain misunderstandings to correct.

And to make sure Draco would listen…

Harry grinned. Just because he understood the cause of the stupid arguments now didn't mean he'd forgiven Draco for all of them. This would be the perfect way to get Draco to listen and take a little well-deserved revenge at the same time.

"A picnic?" Draco spoke the word as if it were the name of a species of carrion, eying the heavy basket Harry held out askance.

"Come on," Harry coaxed softly. "I've packed peanut butter sandwiches." Draco's eyes lit up, though he ducked his head and used his fringe to hide that. He'd never had peanut butter sandwiches as a child, since his mother thought they were too common to order the house-elves to make, and he ate them furtively as an adult. "And pumpkin juice, and kippers, and hot bread with butter, and—"

"Oh, all right," Draco muttered, in the tone of someone conveying a great favor. "So the food won't go to waste."

"Of course not," Harry said, swallowing laughter, and held out his arm. "Come on, I'll take you Side-Along."

Draco hesitated, watching him, then shrugged and stepped up to Harry. Harry clasped his arm firmly and drew Draco against him. Draco rubbed his chin briefly against Harry's shoulder, also very cat-like.

And he's always making those little gestures when he thinks I won't notice or won't remember them, Harry thought, recalling the cool touch and the basin that New Year's night when he'd been drunk.

He didn't call attention to it now, as he closed his eyes and concentrated on their destination. On the other hand, he wondered how in the world Draco could have thought Harry would want to change him.

Harry liked him just the way he was. Yes, the moments of liking were mixed with moments of extreme exasperation and moments of wanting to tear someone's hair out—Draco's, for preference—but again, that was Harry's business if he wanted to live with it. And he did.

They appeared in the Forest of Dean, a place Harry had often come to walk alone and think in the past few years. In the middle of March, it was cold and windy, but the snow stayed piles of slush under the trees, and Harry had transported them to the middle of a clearing filled with early flowers. Draco blinked, then smiled reluctantly at the bright gold of dandelions scattered in vivid clumps here and there.

He acts like it would kill him to take pleasure in anything, Harry thought, as he cast warming and drying charms and spread out the white blanket he'd brought along to eat the picnic on. Maybe he thinks it would. If he's not contending against someone for his happiness, he thinks it's a weakness and about to be snatched away.

Draco had already helped himself to the pumpkin juice, a cup, and one of the peanut butter sandwiches by the time Harry finished spreading the blanket. He sat down, chewing. Harry settled down in front of him and waited patiently.

It happened on the second bite. Draco's jaws stuck together as the enchanted peanut butter in the sandwich took effect. He gasped indignantly, and his eyebrows flew up. Then he pointed at Harry and stomped his foot. Harry nodded.

"I did that so you would listen to me for once," he said. "I know why we've been fighting so much."

Draco froze. He looked close to panic. Harry palmed his wand just in case Draco took off and he had to cast Incarcerous, and went on calmly talking.

"I know you don't like it when I say I love you, or make love to you instead of fuck you, or reach out and touch you softly," Harry said. "What you've got to understand is that I want to be romantic and soppy sometimes. Call me a hopeless Gryffindor if you want, or claim that I've stolen those romance novels of Ginny's. It doesn't matter. I want to feel free to express my affection and not have you shut me out."

Draco started edging towards the trees. Harry raised his wand warningly. Draco stopped moving, but he looked absolutely miserable.

"I don't expect you to say it back," Harry said.

Draco stared at him. Harry thought his jaw would have fallen open, but the enchanted peanut butter had taken care of that possibility rather handily.

"I really don't," Harry repeated. "I've never once doubted that you feel as strongly for me—in your own way. I don't think you need to be improved, or changed,or made over. Insult me as much as you like, but keep away from the things we've discussed. Share my bed and my home and whinge about both if you want to. Fight with me over stupid things that genuinely irritate you. Just don't shut me out." Harry smiled. "Why not accept the silly little things I want to do as what you deserve? It's just one more kind of attention."

Draco swallowed. Then he blinked and pointed at his mouth. Harry read the message without needing words: At the moment, this is one of those things that irritate me.

Harry snapped his fingers, releasing the charm in the peanut butter with a small flicker of wandless magic. Draco swallowed, then muttered, "Show-off."

"That's me." Harry leaned back on the picnic basket. "So what about it? Will you let me be romantic when I want to?"

Draco shook his head, but Harry didn't think it was a denial. He waited, one elbow propped on the basket.

"I just never imagined that this could last, and turn into what it seems to have turned into," Draco whispered. "We began fucking because it was a better use for our energy than quarreling, and now—now you love me."

"Quite a bit longer than just now," Harry interposed.

Draco nodded again, uncomfortably this time. "Okay, fine. But I thought you had to have someone who'd say the words aloud. So long as neither of us said them, it was fine. If neither of us felt that way, it was fine too. But for one of us to say them and the other one not to—" He shook his head and stared at Harry. "Why do you put up with that? Your friends would ask you, you know."

But Harry read the tone of vulnerability behind Draco's voice well enough. It was Draco's question, too.

"I get irritated by stupid things," Harry said quietly. "My own stupid behavior, too." He paused, seeing how intently Draco was listening. "But falling in love with you is the smartest thing I've ever done, because you make me happy and—and you make me feel other things. If I wanted the picture-perfect relationship, don't you think I could go and find one?"

Draco shivered a little. Then he sat down quite suddenly on the blanket and announced loftily, "If you want to act like an idiot, I suppose I can't stop you. Besides, you do it so often it would be hard to know where to start." He paused. "I want another sandwich."

"The charm is gone from the peanut butter on that one," Harry felt compelled to point out.

"I want another one anyway."

Harry rolled his eyes and leaned over the picnic basket.

Whilst he was searching for another sandwich, he felt it. Draco's hand brushed over the small of his back in a quick, reverent motion.

Harry grinned like an idiot, but kept his head bowed, so they could both pretend it hadn't happened. When he turned around with the sandwich in hand, Draco leaned back on his elbows and opened his mouth, clearly intimating that he expected to be fed.

Harry leaned over and slid the sandwich into his mouth, indulging himself in a few light kisses on the side of Draco's throat. Draco graciously moved his head to permit it.

It was on the way home that Draco announced, "The crisps bags on the carpet really do irritate me, you know."

"Hmm," said Harry, slinging one arm around his shoulders to pull him close for the Side-Along.

"Harry, are you listening to me?"


"Shouldn't you promise not to do it any more? A good boyfriend would."


"Keeping the house cleaner than a pack-rat's nest would be a nice romantic thing to do."

As they vanished, Harry suspected that, new understanding or not, they would still have the chance for many more stupid arguments and rough patches in the future.

He intended to enjoy every one.