Thank you for all the reviews!

St. Mungo's had improved in quality of care since the last time Draco had been there. Of course, perhaps it helped matters to have a scowling Chosen One hovering over you and scrutinizing everyone who came near the bed with a narrow-eyed gaze, as if he could see their relationship to Elise Sanders at a glance.

"Mr. Potter, it really is inconvenient for you to be in the way like this," Draco heard one Healer say as he lay on the bed, his eyes closed and an expression of angelic weakness draped across his face.

"I can cause greater inconvenience at any time," Harry said, in a voice that made Draco start to harden. He rather liked listening to Harry to threaten people, provided Harry didn't direct that voice at him.

The Healer scuttled away. Draco gave a faint smile and kept his eyes closed, sighing as if in sleep. Harry's hand came down, the palm barely skimming his forehead.

Sometimes Harry talked to him, voice rambling as though he were alone. Draco magnanimously forgave him for his shameful lack of attention. Of course Harry would be fooled into thinking he was asleep and not really listening. It was not his fault Draco was such a good actor.

"It feels as though I turned the corner one day and saw my parents standing there. It was so sudden. When I saw you lying on the floor like that after Sanders hurt you, I knew that—I cared more for you than I thought I did." Harry chuckled under his breath. "Wouldn't Hermione be surprised if she knew this turn of events?"

Granger has a little more foresight than you give her credit for, Draco wanted to say, but didn't, because far be it from him to praise Granger. Besides, he had arranged his mouth in a "natural" pout as he "slept," and he could feel Harry looking at his lips from time to time. Give him enough such silent staring moments and he would do something about them.

"I can't believe how lucky you were," Harry said at another point, his hand stroking Draco's hair with a hypnotic, rhythmic motion that made Draco instantly jealous of everyone who had touched Harry's hands in the past. They might know that those hands had the power to do this. Worse, they might know what it felt like, and that meant Draco would be fending off challengers for the rest of their natural lives. "The Healers say they've never seen anything like it. That curse usually—burns straight to the other side of the body." His voice faltered on the last words.

Draco wanted to roll his eyes. Of course, he had known that, and that was why he had cast the countercharm before he leaped in front of Harry. If he hadn't known the countercharm, then he would have cast a shield. He wanted Harry to fall in love with him as deeply as Draco had with Harry, but he also wanted to live to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

"I can't bear to think about that," Harry whispered. "I had nightmares after the Healers told me. I can't believe—I can't bear—" His hand crushed down on Draco's for a moment, and Draco heard the faint rustle of hair against cloth that meant Harry was shaking his head. "I had nightmares," he repeated, instead of finishing what he was going to say.

Draco sighed and rolled over as if starting to wake up, and then opened his eyes a cautious slit before looking full into Harry's face. Harry was staring at him with a hungry expression that satisfied Draco. It didn't fulfill all his expectations, not yet, but he would have been stupid indeed if he had started pressing Harry into things he wasn't ready for this close to the goal.

He "awakened" fully and asked around a yawn, "What's for breakfast?"

Harry stared a moment longer before he replied, his eyes open wider than normal and his pupils slightly dilated. The hand in Draco's hair trembled before it was withdrawn.

Seeing the future—the inevitability of that future—in Harry's eyes, Draco did not mind the withdrawal.


And then Harry vanished.

Draco had to admit that he didn't notice at first. He was out of St. Mungo's in three days, and then dealing with the consequences of Sanders's attack on him and all the very polite questions Kingsley Shacklebolt kept asking that did not involve anything that was any of his business. Draco had never uttered "I really don't know, sir," so many times in his life, even when he had tried unsuccessfully to lie to Snape, and he had never performed a cleverer dance around the main point, which was that Sanders's jealousy of him had some basis in fact.

When that was dealt with and Draco looked around his house and at Gamaliel violently preening himself on his perch, he realized that Harry had neither seen him or tried to contact him in five days.

Draco leaned back against the wall, because that was where he did his best thinking, and sipped the cup of tea that one of his house-elves had thoughtfully provided him. Expert as he was in reading all of Harry's behavior, he had to admit this puzzled him. Harry had as good as admitted to himself that he was in love with Draco. Why would he retreat now, instead of charging forwards the way he had when he decided that he wanted to date Ginny Weasley again?

Draco considered and rejected the idea of friends' interference. Harry had made it clear that he wouldn't let his friends' ideas of who he should date dictate his love life.

He would have heard if Harry had been sent off on an emergency mission with another partner. That was the kind of thing Kingsley was considerate about, and for another, he knew that Harry and Draco were better in emergencies than any other Auror team, so splitting them up wasn't worth the fuss.

Could he have blamed himself somehow for Draco's wound, and be brooding? Or perhaps he felt he had hit Sanders too hard? Draco also rejected that possibility. Harry left the intricacies of battle behind in battle. He no longer had the ridiculous guilt complex that he had possessed when he was an adolescent, though it was still overdeveloped. He would have come to Draco blurting out excessive apologies if he really felt that way, not withdrawn and sat staring at the wall, or whatever he was doing at the moment.

He had better not have tried to return to Ginny Weasley.

Draco allowed a snarl to distort his face for exactly one moment. Then he rolled his eyes and dropped the expression. Of course Harry hadn't. Draco prided himself on how well he knew Harry, and a pathetic attempt to get back with the girl who had broken up with him, lo these many months later, was not in his nature.

No, Draco decided at last, the most likely reason for Harry's absence was that his unexpected passion for Draco had scared him, and he had decided to retreat and think about it. If he hadn't wanted to date anyone else, he must be thinking now, why would he want to date Draco? He had already confessed in hospital that his desire had taken him by surprise.

It was hard, Draco decided philosophically as he finished his tea, to stand here while the man he loved was perhaps making up his mind not to date him after all. But if Draco hadn't enticed Harry sufficiently at this point to make him overcome his reservations, then he didn't deserve Harry's love. Only someone who was clever and beautiful did.

He would pursue the same course he had so far, and wait, and trust Harry to come to his senses and see what was best for him.

And he would serenely ignore the doubts that plagued him, because his decision was based on his knowledge of Harry, and that knowledge had never failed him.


Harry didn't return to work the next day. Or the day after that. Or for the entire week.

Draco did paperwork, and smiled blandly when Granger came to visit and turned a triumphant smile on him. Granger hovered about and made non-remarks about the color of the office walls, then said directly, "Do you know where Harry is now?"

"No," Draco said. "But he's been through a lot, and quite often someone who hurts a fellow Auror the way he had to hurt Sanders needs a holiday from the Ministry."

This was completely true, so that Granger frowned at him in baffled silence for a moment. But then she said, "He's been visiting Ron, and seeing Ginny."

"Oh," Draco said. He hid the quietness of his voice with a glance at his report and a scribble a moment later, so that Granger would attribute it to a lack of interest in her words rather than pain. "Are they dating again? I'm glad for Harry. I did wonder, when Weasley broke up with him, if she would hold his job against him forever. I don't think he'll quit, so—"

"Stop, Malfoy. Just stop."

Draco folded his hands in front of him and looked up at Granger, who had her hands on her hips, and hope crept back into his heart. Because someone who had got what she wanted—that is, her best friend dating her fiancé's sister—would have looked happier than she looked at the moment.

"I know that you don't want him to get back together with Ginny," Granger said. "I know that you want him for yourself."

"I want him to have what he wants," Draco said calmly. "That is all I have wanted for years, and I would be willing to swear to it under Veritaserum."

"But you want it to be you he wants." Granger made that statement as if she were talking about a crime worthy of being punished with a sentence in Azkaban.

"If he wants Weasley," Draco went on, pretending to take no notice of her remark, "then he should have her. I wish them a long and happy life together. And at least it means that I won't have to deal with sudden flying visits from you and your Weasley accusing me vaguely of sins without names."

"He sees Ginny, but he won'tget back together with her!" Granger burst out suddenly. "You've done something to him, Malfoy! Manipulated him somehow, made him see you as more than a partner!" She stepped towards him, and although she wasn't visibly armed, Draco let his wand fall into his hand under the desk. "I don't like my friends being manipulated, Malfoy," she continued, and her voice had grown drastically soft. "Harry's had enough of it to last a lifetime. I actually thought he could trust you as a partner, but you want to be more than just an Auror partner, like all the rest of them."

"I've done nothing but spend time with him," said Draco, "and nearly sacrifice my life for his."

"You were faking," Granger whispered. "You must have been."

Draco drew out a fresh piece of parchment and began to write.

"What are you doing?" Granger demanded.

"Giving you the names and Floo addresses of the Healers who treated me for my wound." Draco looked up with a bland smile. "You can ask them whether I managed to fake an injury, and whether I actually persuaded Sanders to sacrifice her freedom and her job for—what? A paltry payment of Galleons? Since you seem to think that's all I'm good for."

Granger's eyes narrowed. Then she said, "If I went with my suspicions to Harry, what would you do?"

"Leave it up to him," said Draco. The way I always have done. And that was the truth, so he could speak it with a calm face and honest heart.

Granger shook her head. "Perhaps it's not traditional manipulation, but it's manipulation nonetheless," she said. "You want him to like you?"

"I think," Draco said judiciously, "that the answer to that question should be given to him, and not to you. Why don't you ask Harry what he wants?"

"I think I will," said Granger, with less bark in her voice than before, and perhaps even less suspicion. She turned and left the room.

The successful predator doesn't spend time wearing himself out with a race, Draco thought, as he put the parchment away. He only has to strike once.


Draco smiled and tossed a gobbet of venison to Gamaliel. He twisted his head, snapped it out of the air, and swallowed it. Then he opened his beak again in a hungry scream. It would be a hunting scream soon, Draco supposed. He hadn't been able to identify what kind of hawk Gamaliel was yet, but the bird was growing fast, his plumage changing color in the direction of a purer white. Draco should be able to tell soon.

Someone knocked on the door. Draco looked up with a half-raised eyebrow, but he didn't feel like getting up and leaving the darkened room where he was feeding Gamaliel. The house-elves would bring in the visitor if it was someone important.

And then he heard the voice say, "Draco," and he allowed himself to scramble to his feet and turn around, moving swiftly at last.

Harry stood there, his eyes drowning and enormous in his face, his pupils dilated the way they had been in hospital. He swallowed and laid his cloak down on the back of the chair he stood next to. "I'm here," he said uselessly.

Draco crossed the room to him, forcing himself to move more slowly than he wanted to. He knew his desire was plain on his face, but that was all right; by now, Harry had the right to know that Draco would welcome his advances. Still, he wanted Harry to initiate the final move, so he could say with perfect truth that this was what Harry wanted, rather than what Draco had forced him into, if Granger or anyone else ever asked him again.

All right, he admitted, as his gaze roamed over Harry's face. And maybe I really do want him to want me for myself, without having to coax and manipulate him into everything.

"Yes, you are," Draco said, and whether he allowed or added a breathy tone to his voice he never knew, because his attention was rather distracted when Harry pounced.

Harry almost flattened him to the wall, his lips insistent on Draco's, his hands scrabbling wildly up and down his body, fisting in his hair and then curving around his hips and arse as if he couldn't decide what to touch first. Draco decided against laughing—he rather thought it would be misunderstood—and settled for curving a leg around Harry's hip instead, so that he could hook him closer.

"God, I love you," Harry breathed, yanking his mouth briefly away from Draco's to speak near his lips. His eyes were still dark with lust, but his words were clear and precise, as if he'd been thinking about them for a long time. "Love the way you handle yourself, always so collected. Love knowing I can count on you to be calm and come up with suggestions when I've lost my temper. Love the way you share your vulnerabilities with me and don't flinch away. You're braver than I am."

Draco opened his mouth to deny that—Harry's courage was one of the things he most admired about him, and disputing with one's lover over objects of admiration was rather pleasant—but Harry had apparently finished all he wanted to say and kissed Draco fiercely enough for a long moment to let him taste teeth. Then Harry seemed to decide where he wanted his hands to go, and unbuckled Draco's belt and knelt to take Draco's cock in his mouth in one delicious slide.

It came dimly to Draco that he was going to enjoy this more than he had any other blowjob in his life, because it was the man he had loved and wanted for so long who was doing this, and because he had the right to enjoy it, after the way his care and patience and cleverness had delivered Harry to him—

But mostly because Harry was damn talented with his mouth.

He sucked Draco's cock with such determination that Draco nearly came immediately, and then Harry somehow managed a long pull and swallow that made it seem as if he had no need to breathe left. Draco groaned and let his head fall back against the wall. His hips were making little involuntary jerks, something that had never happened before and which he might have tried to stop if he could have, because—

Because it wasn't dignified, and if he was going to lose it so soon then he would at least like to warn Harry—

But then Harry cupped his tongue and dragged it from the middle of Draco's cock to the head, and Draco gasped and forgot how to breathe in turn.

He gripped Harry's hair simply to anchor himself to the earth as Harry snarled in satisfaction and dug his fingers into Draco's hips, maybe to hold him still, maybe to find a place for his hands. Another suck, and another lick, and Draco bucked again and would probably have slid down the wall if not for Harry's grasp. He gasped and squeaked and kept trying to tell Harry how good he felt, as warmth and wetness and enthusiasm surrounded him, but he could never get the breath for words.

He kept trying to look, too, but his eyes shut themselves with the force of his pleasure. And really, feeling the motion of Harry's head was enough for long minutes. But finally he had to see. Yes, with all luck he would get to see Harry doing this many more times, but the first time was special.

He looked down, and saw Harry's head bobbing, his mouth working, his throat contracting around Draco's cock in easy swallows, his hair swishing messily back and forth like the tail of a broom in flight—

And then he peered up at Draco, and his eyes were drowning in black again and his mouth was curved in a smug grin.

Draco came hard, his body almost spasming up from the wall, his bottled-up voice finally emerging in a broken groan. Harry made a gagging noise, but then managed to swallow, and drew away from Draco licking his lips rather than wiping them with a hand. He stared up at him for some time, eyes as devouring as his mouth had been, his hands idly stroking behind Draco's cock and up to his balls.

Draco finally moved away, since he was oversensitive, and because he needed to return the favor. He had accepted that Harry was his, rightfully and without any more need for hesitation, and that made his hands shake with desperation as he took up his wand and neatly slit Harry's clothing away.

"Those were good robes," Harry said, but his voice was threaded with desire, and he lay back and splayed his legs, his eyes fixed on Draco's face.

Draco smiled back, and knelt down between Harry's legs, his hands gently stroking Harry's knees while he looked admiringly at his chest. Then he leaned in and gravely blew over one of Harry's nipples, making Harry groan and arch invitingly towards his mouth.

But though Harry was his now, that didn't mean the need for slowness had been done away with altogether.

"You're not perfect," he told Harry, his fingers tracing circles around Harry's nipples. He blew on other patches of skin on Harry's chest and nuzzled into his armpits and down along his ribs to investigate his sensitivity there. Harry tried to encourage him with breathy little gasps, but Draco refused to be hurried. "You have scars, and you look as though you didn't eat enough." He paused and probed thoughtfully at Harry's belly, which had begun to protrude a little in a way not consistent with his work as an Auror. "Except here."

"Are you going to talk to me or—"

Draco fastened his mouth in earnest on a nipple this time, and Harry's voice cut off in favor of a gasped mouthful of air, which was exactly what Draco wanted and expected. He went back to his monologue while Harry was still trying to recover from the novelty of someone doing that to him (quite clearly, Weasley had been a poor study in what Harry liked).

"And you don't take care of your hair the way you should, and I'm sure some men would have fantasies of someone with more hair on your chest, or less." He worked his thigh between Harry's legs and rubbed it against his erection, all the time looking Harry in the eye and talking as if he were utterly unconscious of what his lower body was doing. "There would be some who would want you to change the color of your eyes—though they're simply misguided, lost souls who have never realized what true beauty was in the first place."

Harry raised an eyebrow, and somehow managed to look cross and amused and lustful all at once.

"But none of that matters," said Draco, and bowed his head to lick Harry's erection, craning his neck past his own thigh, "because I find you beautiful, and my good opinion should be all anyone in the world needs."

He sucked Harry into his mouth before Harry could retort, and Harry uttered a shivering, rising gasp that sounded like he didn't know how to contend with so much pleasure.

Draco built that pleasure in rising waves, retreating at times so that the head of Harry's cock was resting just within his mouth and he had to keep his lips carefully folded over his teeth, and then moving forwards again so that Harry was fully on his tongue, almost down his throat, and saliva was rolling from the corners of his lower lip down his face. Harry opened his own mouth in unconscious imitation. He couldn't place his hands, or his legs, with spasmed and kicked restlessly. His eyes fluttered open and closed as rapidly as if Draco were too splendid to look on.

It was all Draco had wanted. He gave a long, slow, luxurious suck, and then let Harry rest on his tongue again, closed his mouth all the way around him, and swallowed.

Harry came at once, necessitating more swallowing. Draco didn't mind. He kept up his slow, lazy, dreamy petting of Harry's knees while he listened in satisfaction to the hiccoughs and whispers of his name from above him. Harry had compensated for not speaking his given name at all earlier with a lot of "DracoDracoDracoDraco" now.

That's the most musical sound in the world, Draco realized, sitting up and licking carefully at the corners of his mouth. He draped himself artistically over Harry's body and smiled into his face. I always did wonder what was.

It took a gratifyingly long time for Harry to recover, but at last he slung his arm over Draco's shoulders and brought their mouths violently together. Draco didn't mind, given the interesting mixture of tastes and what the movement demonstrated about Harry's need of him, though he decided he would have to teach Harry about the virtues of slowness.

"You have your robes on," Harry said slowly, as thickly as though he still had a cock in his throat. "I—didn't see that."

"They're only robes, and can be cleaned," Draco said, and rested his head on Harry's shoulder.

"I was scared to come to you," Harry whispered, his fingers tracing the line of Draco's neck. "I knew how I felt, but I hadn't seen a corresponding sign from you, and what if I was wrong?"

Draco regarded him mildly. "Well, I know you want me, and we've quite nicely established that that's mutual, but I would be interested in hearing what you feel other than that."

Harry flushed, which Draco thought was an odd time for it, but said staunchly, "I want you. I need you. I love you. Is that clear enough?"

"And I love you," said Draco, with his heart almost still in perfect bliss, rather than beating fast, and reached up to kiss Harry's face. "And need you. I think the want was already clear, unless you have short term memory loss and forgot the statement I made just a moment ago."

Harry laughed breathlessly. "You say it just like that," he said, and then tangled his tongue around Draco's and seemed to forget the rest of the sentence. When he pulled back, he mumbled, his eyes never leaving Draco's lips, "As if you'd felt it for a long time."

"I have," Draco said, and Harry blinked comically and stared at him.

"You never said anything!"

Draco smiled at him, enjoying the long slow stretch of the moment, like molasses, and the ever-more-rapid blinking of the eyes that he intended to look into for the rest of his life.

"Well," he said amiably, "I had to wait for you to catch up, didn't I?"