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This is the last chapter of Hephaestus. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Nine—The Eye of the Beholder

Harry shook the rain out of his hair as he stepped through Ron and Hermione's front door. An unexpected thunderstorm had rolled up as he left Morningswood, and Harry had Apparated into a heavier downpour still. He called out his friends' names as he shut the door, curious why Rose hadn't already run forwards to welcome him.

Hermione stepped out a small room off the entrance hall. Her face was so grave that Harry started when he saw her. "Are you all right?" he asked, taking an incautious step forwards and grimacing when a wave of pain ran up his right leg. "Has Rose got sick? Where's Ron?"

Hermione's face softened. "Everyone's all right, Harry," she murmured, and held out a hand so he could take it. "Ron's taken Rose to the Burrow to visit her grandmother, that's all. But I wanted to talk to you about Malfoy."

Here it comes. Harry doubted his best friends would understand his resolution at first; he had a hard time understanding it himself, sometimes, or at least putting it into the right words. It didn't fit the philosophy he'd built into his mind over the past three years. Was he giving in too much to Draco? Was he demanding too much? Did this actually let him have the full life and the appreciative friends he had decided to embrace after Draco left him?

All he knew was that he wanted Draco. Justifying the desire was harder.

He clasped Hermione's hand and said, "I want you to know that I've decided to start dating Draco again."

Hermione didn't change her expression. "That's your choice, Harry," she said. "And even Ron will support you, although he probably won't understand it. But it's going to be a lot harder to keep us from taking revenge this time if Malfoy disappoints you." And for a moment her eyes acquired a hard edge and a sharp gleam that made Harry think, startled, of the planes of metal that the dwarves took off the fires and consigned to him for metal-dancing.

"But that's part of the point," Harry said. "We don't know if it'll work yet. We aren't talking about permanent commitments the way we were when we first started dating." Of course, part of the reason they'd talked about permanency then was to convince skeptical reporters and Draco's parents that this wasn't a lustful fling they could easily disrupt. Harry wondered for a moment how the older Malfoys would react this time, then put it out of his mind. Hermione was the one he had to convince. "We're—just going to go on into the future. I want to be Draco's friend, and stay with him, for as long as I can stand to be only friends. And Draco wants to be my lover again, but he doesn't know if he'll be able to get past the way I look yet. If, at some point, one of us decides we've had enough or wants something better, we can walk away. And that might happen. I can't ask Draco to just change everything about himself, and I wouldn't want him to. And he can't ask me to be a patient martyr waiting for the day when he'll consent to sleep with me, and he doesn't want me to."

He stopped. Hermione's face had grown pale with concern.

"That doesn't sound healthy, Harry," she whispered. "A marriage is a greater commitment than that. It doesn't break apart when someone gets bored or decides they can't stand it anymore."

Harry blinked. "Yes, it does," he said. "I know a lot of people who got divorced because they couldn't stand it anymore. Dean, when he decided that he didn't like his wife pushing him towards a 'real' career instead of accepting that he was an artist. Lavender, when she discovered that her husband wanted her to have babies all the time instead of waiting a few years between each one. Daphne Greengrass, because—"

Hermione made an exasperated noise. "But that's not the ideal," she said. "A marriage isn't supposed to be breakable. Yes, people get divorced over things like that, but it's not meant to happen."

Harry looked at her thoughtfully. "I think my ideals and Draco's have cost us a lot," he said slowly. "I refused to compromise and cover my face with a glamour at all, and I gave up on finding cures for my scars and my leg before that was necessary. And Draco refused to see anything less than perfect beauty as worthwhile. We still want to hold on to those ideals, but the edges of them were too sharp, and we think we can soften them." He touched one of the ridges on his face absent-mindedly, thinking of the spell without which it would rip his flesh to shreds. "Just like people have to change their definition of marriage when they find out it's not the ideal. The real thing should be more important."

Hermione blinked at him like a lizard, and then said, "That's very thoughtful, Harry. I'm impressed."

Harry grinned a little, and heard his skin crackle as he did. It seemed to be in one of the moods where it stretched and flexed as if newly shaped. He ignored that for the moment. Yes, it was another thing Draco would have to get used to if they stayed together, but they had the time now. "I don't know if it's thoughtful," he said. "I don't know if it will work out. I don't really know anything, except that both Draco and I are going to move through life together as long as we can."

Hermione sighed. "Yes, that is the rub," she said. "I don't want to see you unhappy because you can't have something permanent. I always thought you were the kind of person who would want a long-lasting marriage and a family—"

"I have that now," Harry said pointedly, "with Draco and Scorpius."

"He's still not your blood child, Harry. And Draco might take him away if things don't work out." Hermione looked miserable, but there was a tightness to her mouth that Harry knew would lead her to press forwards mercilessly, in the name of causing him pain now so that he wouldn't suffer it later.

"I know that," Harry said. "I accept the risk."

"It's mad," Hermione said, "what you're willing to do."

"For love?" Harry smiled, thinking of his walk through the Forbidden Forest to face Voldemort, and how he had risked his body and heart with Ginny in order to learn how to laugh and make love again—he had not been completely able to trust her at the time, stinging as he was from Draco's rejection—and how he had felt the moment he met Draco face-to-face in the Metal-dancers' shed. "I don't think so."

"I don't feel the same," Hermione said, "but it's your life and your responsibility what to do with it. We'll be here when you need us." She reached out and clasped Harry's cheeks, bringing his forehead to her lips to kiss it without hesitation. Other than Ginny, Hermione was the one who had done the least amount of flinching from Harry's scars. She could see the beauty in house-elves, though, so Harry didn't find that surprising. "I'll tell Ron, and I'm sure he'll take it better coming from me, once he sees I'm convinced."

"Partially convinced?" Harry teased, hearing the way her voice wavered on the last word.

"Yes, that." Hermione smiled at him.

Harry slipped out the door and Apparated to Ginny's flat, feeling happier than he had in a long time.

"So I can't set boggarts on him?"

Harry laughed and wrapped an arm around Ginny's shoulder, swinging her in a circle. She went along with him, laughing, her head tilted back and her arms coming up to embrace him.

"I'm glad you're happy," she said, when they stopped swinging. "You deserve to be. And Malfoy will make some mistake in the future, I'm certain, so the chance to set boggarts on him isn't altogether lost."

"Send them into Morningswood," Harry said dryly, "and they'd probably meet Scorpius and kill themselves from sheer fear."

"I reckoned a Malfoy would have a child like that," Ginny said, rolling her eyes. Harry didn't correct her; he thought that the secret of the intelligence-enhancing spells the Malfoys had cast on Scorpius shouldn't be his to give away. "But I just hope this works out for you, Harry." She smiled up at him and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Her one eye shone so brilliantly that Harry thought it would have to be a poor man indeed who could object to the loss of the other. "And if he tries to touch someone else whilst he's dating you, I'll cut his fingers off."

Harry knew better than to scold her. He kissed her one more time and left to go back to Morningswood.

His step was bouncing and his leg felt better and the sky looked bluer than it should. He knew all of that was the pure artificial effect of joy that might or might not last.

He didn't care.

Draco frowned at the owl that had bowled towards him and landed aggressively on his windowsill, leaping and hooting in place until he took the letter. He didn't recognize the bird, and he didn't think he had any acquaintances that would buy one so rude. But who else would have reason to write to him? If the Malfoys had not become social outcasts since the war, they also had no new popularity.

The paper itself was of low quality, and the handwriting that had scrawled his name a scribbled dash, and Draco's eyebrows rose higher still as he read the message inside.


I'm Harry's friend. I used to be his lover. I helped him get back some sense of his own self-worth after he left your worthless arse. And now I work with Dark creatures.

If you hurt him again, look forwards to a house infested with pogrebins, boggarts, banshees, and the occasional Dementor.

Not at all insincerely,

Ginny Weasley.

They were still cautious with each other, Harry realized one morning a month later, and he wondered if they always would be.

He looked thoughtfully at Draco across the breakfast table. Draco was currently coaxing Scorpius to swallow a banana, on the pretext that he would get sweets afterwards. Scorpius was peering intently into his father's eyes to determine if this was a lie.

Morning after morning, he had watched scenes like this, and he had smiled and tried to offer Scorpius healthier food himself. Scorpius seemed more inclined to accept it from him, though why that should be, Harry didn't know. And Draco would smile at him, and Harry would feel as though he had won a victory and choose his words more carefully.

They had begun to bid each other good night with touches on the arms and shoulders as well as handshakes. Harry had refused to touch Draco that intimately, though, until Draco had stepped closer to him with a noise of frustration one evening and brushed a finger swiftly across the knuckles of his right hand.

"You can touch me, too," he said, but he moved away before Harry could do more than give a quick clasp on his shoulder.

Harry felt himself hovering in limbo, between one choice and another, always concerned that he might make the wrong one. If he embraced Draco the way he wanted to, Draco might stiffen, or patiently endure it only so that he wouldn't hurt Harry's feelings. Harry wanted an honest reaction, but also an affectionate one.

"Scorpius, please," Draco said, voice worn threadbare with exasperation.

Scorpius eyed the strings hanging off the banana's sides resignedly, and then tore loose a small slice and swallowed it at a gulp.

He has confidence that Draco loves him no matter what, Harry thought, clenching his hands around the sides of his teacup to hide his feelings. He heard Draco say so in hospital, when he declared him beautiful. But what guarantee do I have?

Then he shook his head at himself and smiled wryly. No guarantees was exactly what he had agreed to when he decided to live with Draco as a friend for the present, and anyway, what good would a promise have been unless it was made of Draco's own free will?

Maybe I want the impossible. But there's nothing wrong with wanting.

Draco looked up, as if aware that Harry was watching him. He couldn't have sensed the emotion behind the regard, though, because he gave Harry a sly smile and rolled his eyes at Scorpius, as much to say that, between the two of them, they might be able to handle one active two-year-old.

And yes, Harry thought, as he smiled back and felt his tension, for the moment, glow and melt like strands of sunlight caught in a spiderweb. I want him, and for now, I'm willing to wait.

He saluted Draco with his teacup.

"What are you planning?" demanded Scorpius, glaring from one of them to the other.

Draco reached out, then hesitated. Despite the reassurances he had received from Harry, he still didn't know if he could touch the protective sigils that hung around Morningswood without receiving either an electric shock or a line of blood razed along his finger.

They only affect Muggles, Harry says.

Ha, yes, snapped a different part of his memory. That was why one of them managed to throw you five feet when you so much as looked at it.

Draco shook his head. He was getting distracted. He had come out to look at these sigils, because, if he found it hard to look at Harry still, he thought he might be able to see the beauty in the things Harry had created.

And the more days passed—it had been almost six weeks since the dwarves had managed to heal Scorpius's hand now—the more Draco craved that beauty, longed to touch Harry freely, and became irritated with the stupid prejudices and hesitations that held him back.

This was a good start, he decided stubbornly, and began to pace along the wall that encircled Morningswood, now made of bent branches and glistening webs of light behind the sigils. Draco had wanted a look that would combine nature and magic, both of which wizards were closer to than Muggles were.

Silver, copper, platinum, nickel. Each one, Draco thought, had a basic pattern of loops centered around a thin spine, but he could only see that by squinting until his eyes watered—and even then, he wasn't sure that he was right. It seemed more likely that the loops were fooling him, dissolving into one another and multiplying themselves until he was lost.

He knew, because he had watched Harry bring one to life, that none of these patterns were conscious. Instead, they were what came out of the fusion of fire and hammer and dwarf magic, first, and then Harry's song and magic and intuition. Somehow, he learned as he made them what shape they should be.

It was a concept alien to Draco, who had spent part of the last month waking up in a cold sweat because he couldn't yet pinpoint a day when he would be ready to make love with Harry. But the more he thought about the way Harry worked, the more it appealed to him.

There was a kind of wild beauty in it, the notion of springing up to meet a challenge and flying in partnership with one's magic, dancing with it, letting it guide one's movements even as one guided it in return. Draco knew his own magic as something he needed to control, strictly, unless he wanted countless accidental and embarrassing bursts of power following him about. He recoiled in distaste from the mere memory of the things he had sometimes done before he acquired his wand. His parents had been disappointed in him for Apparating himself from his bed into theirs during a thunderstorm. It was a double loss of control, over his magic and over his fear.

But Harry walked, fearless, up to a dragon that might destroy him, and instead trusted the dragon to carry him. And the dragon, not tame but willing to be persuaded, lowered its head and let him ride it.

Draco would not want that kind of life for himself, but he could see admiring it and longing to be close to it.

He hesitated, then managed to reach out and touch one of the copper sigils. Warmth struck up his arm, but settled down to a steady glow between his shoulder and his wrist. Draco shivered. It was like standing with his hand in a flame that he knew would not burn him. He gazed, absorbed, and watched the webs of light that hung around the sigil skip and spark from its surface.

He had always thought copper a dull metal. Now he saw it could awaken with the hues of fire.

The way that Harry's eyes still awaken with beauty despite the ravages of the face that surrounds them.

The pattern drew in his eye, absorbed his attention. Draco could see, now, that he had been wrong about the thin spine in this particular sigil. Instead, it had a figure eight, an infinity symbol, as the base, and from that hung other infinity symbols, and delicate, airy bells, and shapes like blossoming, triumphant flowers. Draco's mind raced outwards, around in spirals and down in lines, to encompass them all, and he bit his tongue and felt blood drip down his chin from trying to see, from trying to understand-

The whole shimmered before him for a single, simple, inexpressible moment, and his mind was attached to all the four corners of creation like a spiderweb itself, and he understood them all.

And then it collapsed, falling apart like a pool of water or a pile of ice crystals, and Draco made a soft keening noise.

He turned away, setting his back to the fence and trying to forget about what he had seen. But he couldn't. No, he didn't remember the details anymore, but the organic vision had burned itself into his mind, and he couldn't let it go. He found himself tracing it over and over again, his hands making helpless motions in front of him. If he could connect this corner to this corner, if he could tangle two of the lines that ran through the center, then maybe—

And then he saw Harry himself, walking towards Morningswood. He seemed to like Apparating in from a distance and then taking a slow pace. Or maybe he had to take a slow pace because of that wounded leg, Draco thought absently.

He gazed steadily at Harry's figure for long moments. Harry moved with his head bowed, his black hair blowing in a tangled mess around it, his strong leg leading and his bad leg dragging. Draco knew he had gone to view a new commission this morning, a large estate that might need as many as a hundred protective sigils. He had probably dealt with people who wanted to gape at him, thanks to his fame and his face, and he had had to maintain a cheerful and pleasant demeanor in front of them.

But he wouldn't show his weakness. Not then. He only showed it on the way home, with his old injuries aching and, as he thought, alone.

And he makes beauty like this.

Draco swallowed something that felt like desire, and then turned and slipped away into the house. He wasn't yet ready to see Harry see Draco watching him.

Harry had almost managed to forget about his leg; he'd sat so long in the library, absorbed in one of the wizarding novels he'd never had enough time to read in Hogwarts. The words darted across the page, changing the kind of story it was as the reader's mind changed, but keeping the same characters and some of the same phrasing. At the moment, Harry was deeply interested in the story of a young Muggleborn woman who had ridden into a tangled wood to confront Grindelwald's half-brother and the Queen of the Veelas. It seemed natural to shift his position so that he could stay longer in the same chair and keep reading in more comfort.

But he had left his leg unattended too long, and pain tore up his scars and to his hip as though someone were opening the wound again. Harry bent over, breathless with agony, his vision graying out. His heartbeat sounded like it belonged to someone else, so frantic and thready was it. Harry took one breath, then another, and felt as though someone had jammed knives into his thigh and foot.

He had a discipline for moments like this, but it took him some moments of scrambling before he found it. Breathe in. Breathe out. You can do this. It's only a wound, and you've walked on it and limped on it and danced on it for the last three years. Are you going to let a moment of pain undo everything you've worked for?

"For God's sake," said someone from a distance, and Harry felt panic strike him almost as sharply as the pain, because he had never wanted Scorpius to see him like this. The boy had known enough suffering; Harry wanted to show him strength. But then a wand tapped his shoulder, and Harry knew it was Draco instead. No matter how smart Scorpius was, he didn't have perfect control of his magic at two years old.

Then he realized he could think about other things, and that some of his pain had ceased. His leg still twitched warningly, and he knew he wouldn't want to stand anytime soon, but he could breathe. He leaned back in the chair and blinked at Draco, who was staring at him with a look of pure disgust Harry hadn't seen in a while.

"What spell was that?" Harry asked. "I have to learn it."

"That," Draco said, voice flat, "was a simple relaxation and warming charm that the Healers teach any patient who's ever injured. I know that, because I had to go to St. Mungo's for some wounds of my own. You must know it, Harry. They would have given this to you, along with more powerful charms, when you were in there for treatment." He paused for a moment. "In fact, I think I was there the day the mediwitch taught it to you. Why haven't you been using it?"

Harry cleared his throat and lowered his eyes to the book, which was now more fascinating than ever.

"Harry?" Draco leaned towards him, his voice grown dangerous. "I thought it was odd that you were in so much pain, but I didn't think that you were resisting using the charms. Why were you?"

"I just—I should be able to live with the pain," Harry muttered, still staring at the book. He welcomed Draco's company ninety percent of the time, but now he could only wonder why in the world Draco had come into the library. This was the time of the evening he usually settled Scorpius into bed, and Scorpius had been imperious about requesting only his father's help today. "No charm cures everything, and I didn't want to become dependent on them. And that charm really didn't help much when they first taught it to me."

"But it helped somewhat," Draco said, and then stopped speaking. Harry looked up to see him shaking his head again and again, as if tormented by buzzing flies. "Dear Merlin," he muttered at last. "Your stupidity has rendered me speechless."

"I don't want anyone to think I'm weak," Harry began angrily.

Draco collapsed into the chair across from him and burst into helpless laughter.

Harry bristled. When Draco's laughter didn't stop, he hauled himself to his feet, keeping a tight hold on the back of the chair.

Bad mistake. The pain raced up his leg and exploded like a firework in his chest again. Harry groaned, but Draco growled the charm a second time, and the spasming muscles fell limp and compliant.

"No one could ever think you were weak," said Draco, with a heaviness in the back of his voice that made Harry think he was about to spit flame. "You know that, Harry. How in the world could you think otherwise? I never thought you were weak. Stupid, yes. Ugly, yes. Determined to hold onto your principles to the point of sacrificing the love we shared, oh bloody fuck yes. But not this. You're telling me that one reason you've limped around the past two months has been your pride, and nothing else?"

"I saw some other patients become addicted to the pain-blocking charms when I was researching a cure with Hermione two years ago," Harry retorted, face turned away. He could at least give thanks for the color of his skin and the malformation of it now; it rarely revealed when he was blushing anymore. "I didn't want that to happen to me."

"Then use them in private, and sparingly, and get other people to help you look up alternatives," Draco said. He jumped up from the chair and crossed the distance between their chairs in a few strides. The hand he laid against Harry's chest felt like a cross between a caress and a shove. "But don't suffer needless pain for the sake of looking strong."

Harry nodded. He wasn't sure what he was feeling at the moment, though curdled shame was part of it.

And a small part of it was warmth. Draco did care enough about him to notice when he was in pain, and to push him into doing something about it, the same way Harry had tried to ease the pain that both Draco and Scorpius suffered after Scorpius's accident. Granted, he did it in a typically Draco way, but Harry still valued it.

"Now," Draco said, "you are going to bed, and I'm going to levitate you there. And then a pain potion to make you sleep, I think. The last thing you need is the leg keeping you up all night, which I think has happened at times. You often have a light on under your door."

Harry looked up, startled. "But I don't want to get addicted to the pain potions, either," he began.

"You gave Scorpius a damn good lecture about coming off them," Draco replied calmly. "I still remember that, and I'll do the same thing if you are addicted. But you're going to stop worrying about imaginary fears and deal with what's actually happening in front of you, Harry bloody Potter."

He pointed his wand at Harry, and Harry floated off the ground and towards his bedroom. Draco cupped one hand casually under Harry's eye as he passed, rubbing a thumb along Harry's cheek and all its ridges.

It was the first time he had touched Harry like that without bracing himself and taking several heavy breaths first. And this time, to do it so casually, turning away the next moment and barking for the house-elves as if he didn't realize that he'd done something significant…

Harry yawned as if more tired than he really was and closed his eyes, to hide the stinging wetness at the corners of them.

Draco stared down at Harry, now firmly asleep thanks to one of the pain potions from Draco's own store (which Draco would have given him gladly all along if he'd only
known that Harry's suffering was this intense) and shook his head.

He had thought it was stubbornness alone that drove Harry not to wear a glamour in public and to limp around on that leg instead of creating a floating vehicle for himself, the way that some rich wizards in the past had done. Now he understood that it also had to do with pride.

And Draco knew what pride was like from the inside.

He sat down in a chair next to Harry's bed and stared at him broodingly. Scorpius was settled and asleep, the man Draco was in love with wasn't going anywhere for the moment or basking in unrelieved pain, and Draco had time to think.

He had felt his own chest constrict when he stepped into the library to fetch a book of bedtime stories for Scorpius and realized that Harry was bent over and wheezing with pain. And then his reasons had made no sense—

Except that they did, if Draco looked back on their original relationship.

Harry had wanted to show that he was good enough for Draco as well as Draco being good enough for him. He had tried politeness, even friendliness, with Draco's parents until he realized it would never work. He had made an effort to befriend Draco's friends and learn pure-blood customs, such as the proper way to celebrate important birthdays. He had released his magic in ways that might have made him uncomfortable if he was displaying before an audience, but with only Draco to see, he had done it because he knew it thrilled Draco.

And if he thought Draco thought he was weak, of course he would keep up the pretense of stoic strength even after they had parted.

"I never thought you were weak," Draco told him. "You were the strong one, and that was why I was so afraid. Because you could be strong enough to live with what happened to you; I never doubted that. But I knew I couldn't be, and I knew I'd fall short of you, and then you'd get bored of me and leave and find someone else better. Someone who was your equal."

Voicing the real reasons he had been so hostile to Harry's lack of glamours years ago made him lean bonelessly against the back of the chair. Even then, he thought, part of him had recognized his obsession with beauty as a weakness. But anything was better than Harry leaving him because he thought that way, including his leaving for other reasons.

And Draco had thought he could never overcome that prejudice.

And now?

Now, it was easier because he had seen that Harry had his own stupid prejudices.

Draco brushed his fingers along his cheeks. He kept learning new things about himself, at such a pace that he would have suspected Harry had buried these revelations in his mind just so that he could learn about them, if it were possible to believe something like that. He had never known that he dreaded so much falling short of Harry's expectations.

I struggled to be with him. I knew I wanted him. Why wasn't that enough to make me sure that I would always be with him?

And it was possible that his own desire for and confidence in and envy of Harry had blinded him to the faults that were always there.

Draco opened his eyes. Harry lay with his closed, disguising the one feature that had previously made his face tolerable for Draco to look at. And he even lay with his head partially turned away, so that Draco couldn't see the undamaged curve of his mouth.

For the first time since Harry had told him the story, he thought, deliberately, of Fenrir Greyback reaching down, melting that flesh, gathering it up in his hands, and reshaping it.

He felt a shiver run along his back, and this time, it was a shiver of grief and hatred and disgust. If Harry's magic hadn't torn the insane werewolf apart, then Draco would have had no choice but to finish the job himself, even if it meant breaking into Azkaban.

The wonder isn't that he looks the way he does, but that he has a face left at all.

Draco's hands tingled. He rubbed them together, wondering if that would ease the odd feeling. But they went on tingling, and Draco thought he knew what his flesh wanted—the one thing he would not have believed they could want only a few weeks ago.

He inched a hand out, then stopped. And then he remembered that he had touched Harry's face in the library earlier, and it hadn't burned him, or dirtied him, or given him any strange diseases.

He smiled—at his own fears or the way Harry had survived, he didn't know—and reached out to lay his hand on Harry's cheek.

It was just skin, he thought. Hardened skin, yes; he would never stroke Harry's cheek as easily as he had before his capture. But even if it flaked under his touch, it wasn't a weapon. It couldn't harm him. It wasn't any more disgusting than Potions ingredients that he sometimes worked with on a daily basis.

Then he imagined it distorted in another way, gray and rippled like elephant flesh, and a shudder ran down his spine.

So I do still hate ugly things. But I've had time to get used to the way Harry looks, and so I think it's—not so bad.

Draco smiled again. Yes, he had changed, but not that much. He was still himself, and so he was still Harry's equal in the way that mattered; neither of them was about to become a sacrifice for the sake of the other.

Now his lips were tingling.

Not giving himself time to think about what he was doing, Draco bent down and brushed his lips across the same ridge he had stroked a moment ago. The skin flexed under his lips, and Harry moaned and stirred. Draco sat back, fighting the urge to lick his lips, and instead gingerly touched them. No, nothing black and spiky had broken off on his mouth, or grown there.

And now his groin was aching in a way that it hadn't since he'd broken up with Harry, but that was his own fault, and he would simply have to soothe himself this evening. He wouldn't wake Harry up for anything.

He had kissed Harry. He had kissed the face he thought so ugly at first, but which he'd got used to.

And survived.

He couldn't stop smiling, or wishing for a mirror. This was a legitimate reason to be proud of himself.

He touched his lips to Harry's face once more, this time on the mouth, and then left for a rather urgent wanking session in his own room.

Harry glanced up from his book. Draco was sitting in the chair next to him, to all appearances attentively reading a tome of Healing spells. He had explained to Harry that they would, at the very least, find charms that would ease the ache in his leg for long periods without addicting him to the magic.

But that was only what he was doing at the moment. All day, and the day before that, and the day before that, he had acted—very oddly.

He brushed Harry's shoulder when he didn't have to. Sometimes he deliberately forced himself into narrow doorways or corridors at the same moment Harry entered them, so he would have an excuse to brush his body alongside Harry's.

He'd developed a habit of leaning close when he talked, even when they rowed about whether the Healing spells were advanced enough to handle Harry's pain. That puzzled Harry in particular because Draco had always preferred some distance between himself and his opponent when he argued. But now—a constant leaning-in, a constant softness to his smile that made Harry think his anger wasn't serious, and more unnecessary brushes of his hand against Harry's arm.

And then he had touched Harry's arse when they entered the library.

Harry knew what it looked like to him. He knew what he wanted it to be. But it had only been a bit more than two months since he and Draco had made the decision to live together as well as they could, and he had thought it would take a few years for Draco to get over his prejudice.

Just then, Draco looked up at him, ran his tongue along his lips in a slow and extremely lascivious manner, and winked. Then he looked down at his book and went on reading again as if nothing had happened.

"Draco?" Harry asked, unable to keep the concern out of his voice. "Are you all right?"

"Of course," Draco said, glancing up again. There was genuine curiosity in his face and voice, and Harry wondered absurdly for a moment if Voldemort had come back to life, possessed Draco, and was manipulating him into acting as if he wanted to be Harry's lover without Draco's conscious knowledge. "I'm not the one attacked by dwarf magic or tortured by Death Eaters until it's a miracle I'm alive. Why wouldn't I be all right?"

"You—er, you're touching me all the time and you wink at me and you touched my arse earlier," Harry mumbled.

As Draco's face refashioned itself in a scowl, Harry pressed against the back of his chair. Shit, he meant something else and now he'll be angry I misinterpreted his signals—

"It's called flirting," Draco said. "Idiot."

"Er," Harry said, and followed that up with the most intelligible word he could think of at the moment. "What?"

Draco laid down his book carefully and leaned forwards. He resembled Scorpius more at that moment than Harry had ever seen him do. "You see," he said in a mock-simple voice, "sometimes when one man wants another man very much, he might indicate that by touching him and making small gestures which are sexual in nature."

"I know that," Harry said. "But—I don't know—" He fought a battle with hope harder than any he'd fought in the last three years, and finally blurted out, "Do you really want me now? Or is this a pity fuck or something similar?"

"If I pitied you," Draco said lowly, "I would have stayed with you in the first place, because who could have brought themselves to leave someone suffering that much?"

"You did."

"You left me," Draco said, "but I'm not interested in semantics. I'm interested in a good, hard fucking. An intense lovemaking session. A few hours where all we do is spend time in bed with your cock in me. A—"

Harry lunged to his feet and limped towards Draco. Draco stood up, his mouth half-open in a snarl, as if to say that Harry wasn't about to catch him off-guard or sitting down.

Harry bent down, watching Draco's eyes all the while. He half-wanted to see a flinch, he had to admit to himself. That would give him an excuse to back down and away from a process that he feared would disappoint Draco, with the careful maneuvering that would be necessary to cushion his bad leg and give Draco some relief from his face.

But instead Draco rose to meet him, and his eyes were defiantly open.

And Harry sobbed in relief and acceptance, and desire he had given up being able to feel flooded him again.

Draco had forgotten what it was like to have a Gryffindor in his bed, or a man who really wanted to fuck him.

So he thought at first, until Harry backed him up into the edge and then spent five minutes lying on top of him, licking Draco's throat until he was writhing and arching his hips and begging under his breath.

No, he had forgotten what it was like to have Harry in his bed.

Harry had never been perfect. He writhed around on top of Draco like a perfect demon of elbows. He got attached to one place—Draco's neck, his nipples, the contours of his chest—and forgot to go anywhere else. He dazed Draco with his breath, his warmth, his hands that could sidle in unexpected directions and pinch and twist. He got Draco naked long before he thought to remove his own robes, never mind his shirt and trousers. And then he left his pants on for no apparent reason, unless he had remembered how much Draco liked the sight of his cock outlined against wet cloth.

But he was always, undeniably present. He never let Draco forget what they were doing or get bored, although Draco was impatient, wild half the time for Harry to touch his cock and the other half for him to simply continue doing whatever he was doing at the moment. He scraped with his teeth and probed with his fingers and conjured lubricant wandlessly, the oil shimmering into place on his hand the same way that the metal rose and danced to his song. And he leaned back in the middle of a couch of cushions he'd conjured to cradle his bad leg and gave Draco a smile that made his tongue shrivel in his mouth.

He tried to whimper when Harry slid a finger into his body, but couldn't manage a credible sound.

There was a feeling of fullness. Of course there was. And there was the moment when Harry, after fumbling for it the way he always did, finally located his prostate and rubbed it. Draco bucked up, his tongue loosening as he made a hoarse, indecent sound. Harry chuckled smugly. For some reason, he liked it when Draco made indecent sounds.

All that, and more. Draco had never realized how much he could miss this, what his life was like when he didn't have it.

He reached up, snaked one hand through Harry's hair, and pulled him down until that ruined mask of a face stooped above his. And yes, it was still a ruined mask of a face. Harry would never again look the way he had before his scarring. The more Draco read about Healing spells and the theory behind them, the more he understood why that had to be.

But his spirit burned as brightly as ever, and it was the spirit guiding the body that Draco wanted to make love to him, not the face.

"Now," he said, and Harry smiled agreeably and shifted himself so that Draco—who lay flat on the bed so that Harry could achieve a comfortable kneeling posture with his bad leg—actually felt the touch of his cock against his entrance.

"Now?" Harry asked, dragging himself up and down, until Draco's skin grew slick with his come and the warm smell of them both filled the room and Draco drove himself backwards and sobbed with frustration. "Or now?"

Draco babbled agreement, and Harry eased inside him.

As always, he pushed too fast and then halted with a wordless murmur of apology at Draco's pained gasp. But the expression of exultation on his face made it worth it.

Not ecstasy, Draco thought, bucking himself onto Harry's cock in a way that made Harry's eyes flutter shut and his head tilt back. Harry never deigned to wear any look of simple physical pleasure. It had to be exultation or exhilaration, supreme joy, or it was too mundane an expression for him.

And Draco realized, dimly, that he had learned to read expressions on Harry's face, rough, ridged skin and all.

Harry gave a shout and began to push. His movements had changed, a bit; they were more restricted than Draco remembered, because of the necessity not to interrupt the lovemaking with a blinding cry of pain. But he had learned something about finesse—Draco would not ask who had taught him—and located Draco's prostate in three thrusts instead of ten.

And his hand had crept back to Draco's cock, and he had opened his eyes and was staring down, as greedy of Draco's pleasure as always.

Draco's stomach quivered. His body rocked, surged, shoved, rose and fell. He never remembered this much exertion—sweat spangled his forehead and his chest—or this much sheer determination to chase down an orgasm or die trying.

Up, down. The room blurred. Directions blurred. Everything blurred but the sight of Harry's face above him and the feel of his cock inside Draco and the coaxing tug of his hand around Draco's erection.

Streaks of cloudy flame embraced Draco as they had his son when the dwarf healed him. Unlike Scorpius, he descended into the midst of the racing fire and rejoiced through it, until the moment—fleeting, always fleeting—surged past and left him behind, panting, in the middle of the bed.

He opened his eyes. Harry was shaking above him, fallen forwards so that his hands gripped the bed on either side of Draco's shoulders, his eyes open and his mouth devouring the air as he spent himself inside Draco's body.

Draco waited, patiently, for Harry to return from his own climax, and then reached a hand up and stroked his face, deliberately, down from his left eye to his left cheek and his neck.

Harry opened his eyes. "I love you," he said, with the force of someone declaring a religious conversion.

Draco kissed him under the ear by way of answer.

Harry opened his eyes slowly. He knew that he lay in bed with Draco—and that was a revelation in itself that made him want to lie still and bask in the amazingness—and he knew he was warm and content and didn't have a full bladder, but still, something had woken him up.

He turned his head slowly. He saw Draco, flat on his back with one arm flung over Harry's chest, his mouth open and his snore fluttering a strand of blond hair above his mouth. He saw the glittering green curtains on Draco's window, the soft but rumpled and sticky sheets of the bed, the open door.

He saw Scorpius standing at the edge of the bed, blinking at them in frank awe, his thumb in his mouth. His other hand was open, and on his palm perched a small figure with wings, which stared at Harry in a hostile manner.

"You stink," said Scorpius. That dispensed with, he held up his hand. "Look what Ginny sent me! It's a doxie. It flies really fast and bites a lot and lays lots of eggs."

Harry cleared his throat gingerly. He didn't mind Scorpius's intrusion, but he didn't think Draco would want his son seeing the residue of their sex. And besides, Scorpius might not mean his words literally. "Scorpius? Are you—upset?"

"You made lots of noise and kept me up," said Scorpius. "That's all. And now you stink. You should go take a shower." He paused. "After Lucy gets to know you," he said, and flung the doxie at Harry.

It bit him on the nose with great force. Then it flew back to Scorpius, and they ran madly out of the room together, as Harry shouted and clapped a hand to his nose, and Draco demanded sleepily to know what was going on.

Our son just found us sleeping together and ran off to cause trouble, Harry thought, turning to look at Draco. Draco was blinking at him, displeased on the surface, but with a shy, determined smile that curved his lips the moment he looked at Harry. He wasn't past all his prejudices, but he was getting there.

"I do love you," Draco said, half-laughing, "but I wish you would tell me why you've got such a silly expression on your face."

"In other words," Harry whispered as he bent down to kiss Draco, "a normal morning."