Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers. No copyright infringement intended.
Author: Faith Wood
Beta: Cheryl Dyson (the second half of the story only)
Title: One Harry Potter, Please (If Possible, Seduced and Ready)
Pairing: Harry/Draco
Rating: NC-17 (overall) Rated for sexual content
Word Count: ~60 000 overall
Status: Completed. Five parts, 12K each.
Summary: All Draco wants is Harry Potter's friendship, just to make his new Auror job more bearable. However, after Harry stubbornly pays more attention to everyone else — including his secret admirer — Draco is forced to resort to drastic measures. And get more than he's bargained for.
Warnings: Post-DH, EWE, Flangst.

One Harry Potter, Please

(If Possible, Seduced and Ready)


To go in or not to go in was the question that troubled Draco Malfoy. He was standing in front of a small diner, located right across the Ministry visitor's entrance. Above it, a huge unreadable sign glimmered red, casting shadows and light on the snow-covered pavement, giving the illusion of a cheerful atmosphere.

Draco, however, was not cheerful. He was cold and shivery because he had been standing at the same spot for a while now. He had to wriggle his toes a few times, just to make sure they were still attached to his body. Hopping would have helped as well, but Malfoys did not hop, especially not in public. Standing around like an idiot and doing nothing but staring at the crowded diner was embarrassing enough.

Draco had been in this diner a thousand times before; various Ministry officials favoured this place that served great wine and acceptable food, and, more to the point, was owned by a wizard. There was nothing odd about coming in, finding a familiar colleague, and sitting down at their table for a late dinner and a spot of gossip. Nothing odd at all. So theoretically, Draco could simply enter, stride towards Harry Potter's table, and sit down.

Potter and Draco were partners for a month now; ever since Draco had officially become an Auror. He was the only one who had qualified this year, and therefore, was the only rookie in the department. It had been a long month, filled with tension and reluctant acceptance. Fortunately, Potter and he never tried to kill each other. That had to count for something. Why, Draco would classify their current relationship as friendship. A close friendship even, since he had a couple of so-called friends whose necks he'd like to snap. However, his murdering intentions towards Potter seemed to have evaporated. Granted, they were replaced by even more disturbing thoughts that Draco tried to ignore, but they liked to creep up on him at the most unlikely and inconvenient times. Draco regretted the simplicity of those days when all he wanted was to punch Potter's face and cheer as Potter collapsed into a heap. Lately, he'd been too worried his punch would mess up Potter's handsome features to contemplate hitting him when the bastard annoyed him.

Oh yes, this was one of those disturbing thoughts. Draco believed such feelings were merely the result of his innate appreciation of all things visually appealing. It was irritating that, somehow, Potter was suddenly included in this category.

Draco gritted his teeth, glaring at the black-haired wizard who sat alone inside the diner, sipping wine and reading some papers, waiting for his dinner to arrive. Potter wasn't even that handsome, Draco told himself. Sure, he looked a lot better than he did at school, but he was a scrawny little thing back then, so the improvement shouldn't have been so impressive. He definitely wasn't worth staring at for long minutes, contemplating the two lines that appeared above his nose when he frowned, and waiting for that hint of dimples that materialised only when Potter smiled widely enough. Though, Potter rarely smiled widely enough. At least not in Draco's presence. Which was why looking at Potter from afar was more satisfying than looking at Potter when he sat right across the table.

"Hey, Draco!" someone greeted cheerfully, walking past Draco and entering the diner.

Draco scowled, uninterested. He wasn't in the mood to socialise. Potter had just looked up and smiled at the waitress who had brought him food.

He had nice teeth, Draco admitted. And nice lips. Full, but not too full; as likely to be pressed together into a tight line when Potter was angry, as they were likely to purse when Potter was merely annoyed. Potter usually pursed his lips a little when Draco was around, though Draco supposed he ought to be grateful he didn't receive the tight line treatment, which seemed to be reserved for criminals.

Potter was pursing his lips now, staring at his dinner, clearly annoyed by something on his plate. He stared at it with such fervent scrutiny, Draco had decided to burst inside and demand that Potter explain himself and tell him what was wrong. Maybe Potter didn't mind his dinner, but was simply upset over his own solitude. That made sense to Draco; perhaps Potter could use a friend. But just as Draco stepped forward, intending to offer him his charming presence, Potter looked over, his lips stretching into a wide smile. Wide enough for dimples. For a moment, Draco had stopped breathing, positive that Potter was looking at him, beckoning him with his hand and warmth in his eyes to come in and sit beside him, but then, his heart sinking, Draco realised that Potter's gaze was directed a little to Draco's left.

Frowning, Draco followed Potter's line of sight, spotting Derek Hogan, a young Unspeakable with a boyish face, an oddly big mouth, and a small nose, who must have been the person who greeted Draco just a second before.

He should have known. Hogan was the only person in the Ministry who had been addressing Draco in such an overly cheerful and friendly manner. The aforementioned cheerfulness always made Draco want to rip the man's lungs out. Though, that wasn't the only thing that annoyed him about Hogan. Several months ago, and only two weeks after Harry Potter's sexual orientation had been disclosed to the press, Hogan had happily announced that he, too, was gay. Wretched copycat. He had probably said that just so it would be easier for him to get into Harry Potter's pants. Which, of course, made him gay anyway, but it still annoyed Draco to no end. Hogan acted as if he had some special right to be very close to Potter; as though straight people — such as Draco, for example — had no right to be Potter's confidants. The worst part of it was that Potter didn't seem to mind Hogan's interest. Even now, Potter smiled as he gave Hogan his undivided attention, listening and nodding as Hogan launched into an undoubtedly exciting retelling of his day spent staring at various reports and forms. This merely reminded Draco that Potter always seemed to look somewhere else when speaking to him. He never focused on Draco, as though actively trying not to look at him.

But Potter looked at him then. He frowned as he peered through the window, trying to see outside, which must have been difficult since the light was brighter in the diner. But Draco knew Potter had spotted him when Potter's lips pursed, then slowly stretched into a thin line, indicating that Potter suspected him of criminal behaviour.

Draco scowled and turned around. He was starting to freeze, and Potter's gaze was chillier than the night's air. Besides, stalking a colleague probably was criminal behaviour; it was time for Draco to go home.

He decided to walk. From London to Wiltshire. The distance couldn't have been greater than hundred miles. He could no longer feel his feet anyway, he thought sulkily.

However, Draco did not walk home. He made it to the corner when he sneezed audibly, and then, worried he'd catch a cold, he ducked into a nearby alley and Disapparated. He aimed for the front door, but his mind was elsewhere so he ended up in the bathroom, directly under the shower. Sighing, he decided to have a shower, since he was already there and all; though, having a shower meant he should probably take off his clothes. Originally, he had planned to collapse on his bed and sleep with his boots on. Annoyed that he was moping around because Harry Potter didn't like him — really, now that Potter wasn't around and Draco thought about it, he remembered he didn't like Potter either — Draco turned the shower on and let the water soak his clothes. Then he sulked over his destroyed clothes, which seemed healthier than sulking over Potter's continuous rejection.

Then he wanked. But half-heartedly. He had to reach for his deepest kinkiest fantasies to finish off successfully. Those fantasies usually involved Potter. Draco presumed they were caused by some strange psychological trauma he had unknowingly suffered during the war. He promised himself he'd seek appropriate treatment one of these days.

He went to bed shivering, predicting to wake up with a nasty cold. That was, if he ever fell asleep. He was plagued by his odd desire to see Potter's dimpled smile directed at him. He spent minutes trying to banish the thought, and hours trying to come up with a plan that would make Potter pay attention.

In the morning, his prediction turned out to be true. Draco woke up with a clogged nose, a headache, and the desire to stay in bed and never get up. At times like these, he wished he had a house-elf. But a year ago, his parents picked up their belongings, including their one remaining house-elf, and left to France, giving up on trying to regain their position on the Wizarding social scale. They had offered — embarrassingly, even begged — Draco to come with them, but Draco couldn't do it. That had felt like giving up; like admitting defeat and running with your tail between your legs. He knew he'd regret that decision. He regretted it now; he really needed a house-elf to serve him breakfast and warm the manor. He wasn't used to doing these things alone. Honestly, what he really needed was his mother.

Disturbed and even scandalised by this thought, Draco sprang out of bed and purposely ignored his runny nose and sore throat. He needed nothing and no one. He didn't even need to stay in bed and wait for this cold to go away.

He showered and got dressed in record speed. Then, thinking he should eat something, he went to the large empty kitchen on the opposite side of the manor, and was already holding two eggs in his hand when his stomach growled, then lurched.

"Urgh," Draco decided, put the eggs away, and simply drank some tea before he rushed to the Ministry.

Potter was already there when Draco arrived. He was sitting in their spacious but bleak cubical, shuffling through papers, looking extremely busy. Draco always suspected Potter was merely pretending to be busy, just so he wouldn't have to talk to Draco.

Already in a sour mood, Draco plopped down onto his chair and did what he did best. He stuck out his bottom lip and scowled at Potter.

"You're late," Potter said, not looking up.

Draco sniffed wetly. "I've been thinking of not coming in at all today. I have a dreadful cold."

Potter looked up, peering suspiciously at Draco above the rim of his glasses. This made him look oddly like a teacher who had just been informed by his student that his hippogriff ate his homework. "Really?" Potter's lips pursed.

"Achooo!" was Draco's reply.

"Hmm." Potter looked down again and Draco had to stop himself from sticking out his tongue at him. "Well don't settle in; we have to go."

Why did Potter have to make everything sound like an order?

"I just arrived. Give me a moment, will you?"

Potter shrugged, picked up some files, and stood up. "Fine. I can go alone."

At once, Draco sprang up from his chair, seething. Curse Potter and his reverse psychology methods! "I never said I won't go. But . . . achooo!"

Draco sighed. He should have stayed at home.

Potter shrugged again and turned to leave, clearly expecting Draco to follow. Irritated, Draco stalked after him, displeased by Potter's hurried stride. Did Potter believe that if he walked fast enough, Draco would give up and not follow him?

They made their way to the Atrium with Draco sneezing and coughing continuously. That was horrible, but it clearly annoyed Potter so Draco felt a little better about his current predicament.

"What happened?" he asked, remembering he had no idea where they were going.

"Domestic dispute."

Draco groaned and Potter's lips actually twitched.

"A woman cursed her husband's favourite teapot. It grew teeth and attacked him this morning while he was making tea. Went straight for his balls, apparently. I presume he's not in a good shape." Potter shoved a piece of paper into Draco's hand, somehow managing not to touch Draco's skin as he did that.

Draco stared at the address written on the paper, not thrilled with this assignment. "We're called to rescue some bloke's balls? Isn't that a medical problem?"

"St Mungo's team called us. They can't get into the house. The woman warded it. Pretty heavily, from what they told me."

Draco automatically perked up, struggling to keep up with Potter as they reached the Atrium. The place was crowded, as it usually was in the morning; Draco had to manoeuvre carefully to avoid unnecessary physical contact with strangers. "We'll have to burst inside?" he asked, hopeful. "With our wands out, yelling, 'Everybody freeze'?" That was always fun. Draco particularly liked to yell, "Stay where you are, you wretched Dark Wizards!"

Harry walked over to the Apparition spot, then turned around to give Draco a withering look. "I thought we might first try to persuade her to lower the wards."

As Potter Disapparated, Draco shook his head sadly. "Of course you did."

How did he end up partnered with the most non-confrontational Auror ever? And since when was Potter so non-confrontational anyway? And could his assignments be more ridiculous?

Draco looked at the piece of paper Potter had given him. Three more addresses were written there, which meant not only they'd have to visit all these places today, but that those assignments were even more tedious than the first one since a biting teapot and a balls-rescue were their priorities.

This wasn't what Draco had expected when he decided to be an Auror.


Draco groaned and Conjured a tissue, stepping onto the Apparition spot.

This was going to be another long day.


He should really learn how to choose his destinations better, Draco thought as he Disapparated and appeared pressed snugly to Potter's side. One hard muscled thigh had ended up between Draco's legs; its solid presence there unnerving. Surprised and temporarily disoriented, Draco nearly fell, but Potter's hands shot out, one of them grabbing Draco's elbow and the other pressing onto Draco's chest. Draco barely had the time to appreciate how very warm Potter's palm was, before Potter snatched his hand away. The grip on Draco's arm became painful, but then Potter jumped back as though burned, leaving Draco feeling slightly breathless.

Potter glared at him reproachfully, as though Draco did this on purpose.

"Watch where you stand, Potter," Draco snapped, annoyed.

Potter's mouth fell open, forming a perfect o, but Draco had no chance to hear Potter's half-witty comeback, because a tiny squeal of delight distracted them both.

Reluctantly looking away from Potter's mouth and remembering their assignment, Draco took in his surroundings. Two Mediwizards stood not far ahead, in front of a handsome but old house, while the young Mediwitch — presumably the cause of the squeal — hurried towards Potter and Draco.

"Mr Potter, I'm so pleased you're here," she gushed, undoubtedly surprised the Ministry had sent this particular Auror on such an assignment. "This woman is crazy," she informed Potter breathlessly. "She wanted to curse us all!"

"Isn't she warded inside?" Draco asked before Potter had a chance to say anything. The Mediwitch's gaze snapped towards Draco. She seemed lost for words. "Did she come out?" Draco persisted.

"Well, no —"

"Showed up on a window?"

"Um, no." The girl looked defensive. "But we know she's in there. We heard her. And she's dangerous," she finished lamely.

Potter nodded, looking unimpressed, then moved towards the house. The Mediwitch threw Draco a nasty glare and addressed Potter again while walking backwards, trying to keep up with him.

"Don't let me bother you, Mr Potter. Do what you do best. I won't be in your way," she claimed, almost blocking Potter's path.

Potter gave her a nod and a clipped smile. "Thank you," he said, stepping around her and approaching the front door. Draco appeared behind him a few seconds later, because he had been too busy sneering at the scowling girl. Disappointed, she stomped off to join her bored looking colleagues.

Potter wasted no time, knocking sharply and saying in a clear, authoritative voice, "Mrs Herbert? I'm Auror Harry Potter. Please open the door. I wish to speak with you."

Crazily, Draco's thoughts veered off into a strange direction, and he found himself wondering whether this was the tone of voice Potter used during sex. It was an odd tone, a flawless mix of politeness and command, clear enough to be heard from afar, but not at all loud. Did he command his partners like this? Saying, "Please spread your legs. I wish to fuck you silly."

A shiver passed down Draco's spine, making the hair on the back of his neck stand out. He frowned. What an unappealing thought.

Mrs Herbert, however, seemed to have found Potter's voice appealing. The front door opened promptly, revealing a stout elderly woman, with grey hair and beady eyes. However, the grin she gave to Potter was positively charming.

"Oh do come in, dear," she said kindly, as though she and Potter were old friends and she was inviting him for tea.

Potter thanked her politely and smiled back, then walked inside, looking curiously around. Rolling his eyes, Draco moved to follow him; however, the woman promptly raised her wand and stopped smiling. "Just him, blondie," she said sharply and slammed the door in front of Draco's shocked face.

Blinking, Draco stared at the door, trying to understand what had just happened. He half-expected that Potter would reappear, having Disarmed and Stunned the woman, but no such thing occurred. Panicking, Draco realised that Potter was now technically a hostage. What if the woman was crazy? She certainly looked crazy. And what if — Draco gasped — what if the teapot went after Potter next?

Working himself into a frenzy, Draco tried to bring down the wards with various spells and charms, and even an illegal curse or two, but nothing worked. Sniffing miserably, he was forced to give up. He leaned against the doorway, helplessly worrying about the safety of Potter's balls.

A few feet away, the St Mungo's team formed a tight knot, whispering into each other's ears and pointing rudely at Draco.

Draco scowled and sighed, sneezed and blew his nose, and he knew he must look truly pathetic when the Mediwitch addressed him kindly.

"You have a nasty cold," she informed him, pointing her wand at his throat. "I could —"

"Point your wand at me again and I'll arrest you for obstruction of justice," Draco growled, and the woman took a hasty step back. She did not speak to him again. It was a small comfort, but threatening people with arrest always made Draco fell a little better.

An eternity passed before the front door opened again, but finally, they did, and Draco nearly collapsed from relief to see Potter, seemingly unharmed — Draco could not see whether his balls had survived — signalling the team they could come in now.

"Idiot," Draco accused after the St Mungo's team went in, all of them giving Potter displeased looks, but saying nothing.

Potter was unperturbed, if a little sad. "We had a lovely chat. She is a nice lady who makes great tea," he said fondly, as Draco shuddered. He could hardly believe Potter let her make him tea. "She had a miserable life, though," Potter continued. "And now her husband cheated on her. Bastard."

"Regretful, but still illegal." Draco narrowed his eyes. "Please tell me she's Disarmed and bound? Aren't we bringing her in?"

"Nah." Potter waved him off, moving away. "Maybe if the husband presses charges. But at this point his voice is too high-pitched for me to hear."

Draco hadn't moved. "But what if she runs?"

"She won't," Potter said, confident. He turned around and looked at Draco expectantly. "Come on, we have places to go."

Draco stubbornly remained where he was — a person was injured and they should arrest someone.

Potter cocked his head and gave Draco a small smile. "I have a possible suspect for that recent Apothecary break in." Potter's tone and his appearance were entirely too tempting.

Draco's sore throat went dry, his voice rough when he asked, "We'll have to chase him?"

Potter smiled a little wider. The look he was giving Draco seemed almost . . . affectionate. Or patronizing. Draco wasn't sure.

"Maybe," Potter said brightly.

His interest piqued, Draco quickly forgot about the teapot lady, and stepped away from the house. Finally, he might actually see some action. He tried to mask his excitement, but judging by Potter's exasperated expression, he had failed to hide it completely. But Draco didn't care; he wanted to do what he was paid for: hunting down criminals, not teapots.

Of course, Draco should have known better than to expect too much. First, they had to speak to a couple of eyewitnesses to make sure Potter's possible suspect was indeed a suspect. And that part consisted of talking to people, so naturally, Draco had been bored to tears. By the time they had appeared in front of the robber's apartment, Draco was exhausted and his vision had blurred dangerously.

"Are you all right? Do you want to go to St Mungo's?" Potter asked suddenly, his voice so soft and gentle, Draco's eyes focused at once. Potter was looking at him, truly looking at him, his green eyes brimming with concern. He looked so caring, Draco was possessed with a crazy urge to whine at Potter and tell him that yes, he felt horrible and his throat hurt and his head pounded and he'd really like to go to the hospital.

Draco blinked rapidly a few times. No wonder Mrs Herbert had unloaded her worries on Potter and did what he wanted, he thought. Potter did nothing more than looked worried and offered the obvious solution, but Draco suddenly felt as though he was the sole centre of Potter's world. And he liked that feeling.

It made him want to . . . sneeze.

His nose tickling, Draco jumped back, sneezing into his hand and quickly reaching for a tissue.

"I'm fine, Potter!" he said too sharply, angry at himself for ruining the moment, and at his cold for making him seem weak.

"Good." Potter no longer sounded concerned, and Draco wondered if he had imagined it in the first place. When he looked back up, Potter's jaw was clenched. "I need a partner I can count on to watch my back," Potter said coldly, turning away and raising his hand to knock on the door.

Ah. So Potter was merely concerned about his own safety. Of course.

Angrily taking out his wand, Draco aimed it at the door, trying in vain to keep his hand steady. It shook, though not from fear. After Potter repeated his "I'm Auror Harry Potter" speech, Draco was ready to blow up the door into tiny little splinters. He was furious enough to feel pleased when faced with the prospect of unnecessary violence.

Just as Draco chose a spell that could cause the most damage, the door burst open and a short balding man appeared in the doorway, shivering with his hands held high in the air.

"I confess! I confess!" he cried, staring at Potter, completely horrified.

Deflating, Draco relaxed his stance and pouted. Honestly, walking around with Potter was like waking around with a Chimera. Or were criminals so easily frightened these days?

Draco ceased to pout only after Potter told him he could bind the man's hands and arrest him. Moderately appeased, he happily showed the man's face against the wall, yelled, "Spread them!" and read him his rights.

"You enjoy this too much," Potter commented, leaning against the wall, with a box of confiscated potions in his hands.

Bristling, Draco bound the robber a little too tightly, though fortunately, the man didn't dare to complain. "I think you're enjoying the view too much," he shot back, checking the bindings on the man's wrists. "Is this doing something for you, Potter? Giving you queer thoughts, I imagine." Draco leered, grabbing his prisoner's hands, intending to Disapparate with him.

Potter's eyes darkened and Draco winced inwardly. Perhaps he shouldn't have said that.

"We should go," Potter whispered, his voice chilling.

Feeling guilty, but not inclined to show it, Draco avoided Potter's gaze by Apparating with his prisoner back to the Ministry.

Potter appeared beside him instantly, but had apparently stopped speaking to him, so they took the man down to the cells in silence. They had only minimal amount of trouble along the way. The man didn't fight them at all, but Draco still manhandled him, pleased he could take out his sour mood on someone.

Afterwards, when they finally reached their cubical, Draco had collapsed onto his chair and fought to keep his eyes opened. His head was pounding and he knew he wasn't capable of filling out the necessary paperwork. Still, he grabbed a quill and pretended he was doing something useful. Just as he contemplated the possibility of telling Potter that he was terribly unwell and should be escorted to St Mungo's because he knew he'd die if he Apparated there alone, an awful sound disturbed his thoughts.

"Hey, Harry!" Derek Hogan appeared next to their table.

Draco looked up through his lowered eyelashes to see Potter smile almost affectionately.

"Derek," Potter said, looking unexpectedly at Draco. He blinked once as though startled by something and then quickly turned toward his young friend.

"You look like you could use some late lunch." Hogan sounded concerned, carefully examining Potter's face. "Or early dinner. Want to go grab a bite?"

Draco gripped his quill, wondering whether anyone would notice if he jabbed it into Hogan's eye.

"You could come too, Draco," Hogan said pleasantly, grinning his boyish smile.

Draco broke his quill and glared.

"Or not." Derek's smile was still firmly in place.

"Three's a crowd," Draco said in an odd low tone he could barely recognize as his own voice. "I don't want to intrude."

"You wouldn't intrude," Harry growled, as though angry he had to say this obvious lie.

"I'm not hungry." Draco reached for another quill, cursing his stomach that growled loudly. He mourned those two eggs he had so vainly cast aside in the morning. "You two go on and be merry and gay."

Potter's chair screeched in protest as Potter brutally shoved it away and stood up. "Whatever you want. Come on, Derek. I'm starving."

"Bye, Draco!" Hogan said cheerfully.


Draco growled, breaking another quill and cursing his upbringing that forced him to automatically cover his mouth and bow his head when he sneezed so he wouldn't spread germs everywhere. He wished he could have sneezed all over Hogan's face.

Potter and Hogan walked away, the annoying Unspeakable speaking and gesticulating ceaselessly.

How could a person be so bloody cheerful all the time? It was criminal. Not to mention he was the only person in the Ministry who was friendly to Draco. Clearly, there was something seriously wrong with that man. Why didn't Potter see it? And more importantly, how could Hogan be better company than Draco? Though, Draco reconsidered, it actually made sense. Potter was an idiot and Derek was a psycho; those two deserved each other.

Draco felt cold shivers rake through his body, his headache intensifying. He pressed his palm to his forehead and concluded he had a fever.

Fuck this, he snapped, shoving the papers away. He was sick and starving and he was going home.

With any luck, maybe he really would die Apparating, and then Potter would be sorry.


To his great disappointment, Draco arrived home safely. He had collapsed on his bed and slept, getting up only once to eat those wretched eggs. They were horrible as they always were when he prepared them, but he didn't want to order in his dinner, mainly because that involved using the Floo and talking to people.

For the next three days, he had no desire to go to work, so he called in sick and stayed at home. He spent the first day staring at the ceiling and the second day planning to have a shower. The third day, already healthy though headachy because of too much lying around, he charmed several tissues into funny looking birds and made them fly around from one end of the room to another. They fluttered and whooshed, making complicated loops, directed by Draco's wand.

His mother used to make these birds when he was very young and was afraid to stay alone in his dark room. She made them glow and fly above his head, high enough so Draco couldn't catch them, but low enough to cast flickering lights over his face. Draco always appreciated their company; their gentle rustling never failed to lull him to sleep.

He truly did miss his mother. He wondered what people would say if he quit his job and left for France to live with his parents. Would it be perceived as defeat? Would everyone gloat? Would Potter shake his head and say, "I knew he'd give up."

Draco felt like giving up. Not because Potter didn't like him. It wasn't just Potter; it was everyone in the Ministry. Before Draco applied for the Auror job, things hadn't been so bad. He didn't have to deal with these people then. He had kept his head down for three years after the war and for the most part, everyone left him alone. Or more specifically, everyone ignored him. At that point, the lack of attention seemed like the worse thing that could have happened to him. He had resolved to do something that would make people remember the name Malfoy. Aurors had more respect than ever after the Dark Lord had been defeated, so Draco decided to become one of them. His application for the Auror Academy had been headline news. The article hadn't been sympathetic, but it put a smile on Draco's face nonetheless. He had been shocked when the Ministry approved his application; he hadn't expected that. They must have thought he'd fail the final test, and planned to laugh at him for wasting three years of his life.

The final test was a test every aspiring Auror had to pass before he or she could take their oath. They took it at the end of their schooling to demonstrate they had learned what it meant to be an Auror. They had to prove that they planned to be dedicated to their job, that they had a natural sense of right and wrong, and that they valued justice above everything else. Everyone thought Draco would fail that test. Honestly, Draco thought he'd fail. No one was more surprised than Draco when he passed. But then again, he was the only one who knew for certain that he hadn't cheated. Of course, everyone was convinced that he had. They believed him to be a fraud and an intruder who should have lowered his head like a good little ex-Death Eater instead of trying to cheat his way into a place he didn't belong.

The test had been horrid. They drugged him with potions, Veritaserum being one of them, and asked him ridiculous questions ("No, sir, I wouldn't help an old lady across the street. If she knew she was in a bad shape, but still managed to reach the street, then she could bloody well cross it!") and showed him odd inkblots ("Yes, that's a picture of people screaming in agony. No, it's not a pretty flower. Or a bat.") and, at times, they were just trying to confuse him. At least it seemed that way to Draco when they had asked the most ridiculous question possible: When in a life-threatening situation, would you pause to consider whether the person you're attempting to save along with yourself is a Muggleborn or a Pureblood, and would this have any bearing on your decision to save this person?

What an absurd thing to ask. As though Draco hadn't been in a life-threatening situation before and he didn't know what that was like. When faced with an all consuming fire that threatens to burn you and all around you to a crisp, you don't pause to consider. Even if the person next to you is someone who has stopped being your friend and you know they'd hand you to the Dark Lord if you make a single wrong move; and even if that someone is impossibly heavy because he spends his days stuffing his face and now he can't even climb up on the high pile of desks where you have found refuge; and even if you know that if he does climb up next to you, you would both surely fall into the fiery chasm below; and even if you know that you're choosing between saving yourself and killing you both, you don't pause to consider. You grab and you pull. And you hold on with the last remnants of your strength, until a scrawny boy that always have and always will hate you appears to take your hand.

Disturbed by his memories, Draco's concentration wavered and his wand shook. The paper birds hit the wall sharply and several of them crashed to the ground. Only three remained, looking a little battered, but flying around madly as though frightened they'd be next to face the wrath of their creator.

Funny, Draco thought, that the Ministry was so worried about Muggleborns they didn't see what they were doing. The feeling that they had managed to create in him was the exact feeling he always wanted the Muggleborns to suffer. He wanted them to feel so out of place, so sure that everyone hated them that they would have no choice but to give up and leave the Wizarding World alone. Now, the Ministry had turned the tables on him, as a form of some painful cosmic punishment. A punishment Draco knew he deserved, though it hadn't prevented him from being furious at the Ministry. He had told them as much. Told them it wasn't fair to slight him just as the Muggleborns were slighted by the Purebloods. He thought that they'd throw him out after that little rant. But they hadn't. Despite of everything, they had given him a chance. And now Draco was ready to cast it all away.

The birds crashed into a vase, barely surviving and no longer looking like birds, but resembling three lumps of paper that flew around drunkenly. The vase didn't make it.

Draco lowered his wand, letting the paper lumps fall on the floor.

What the hell was he doing? Was he really here sulking and wasting his days? Was he really hiding after he promised himself he wouldn't? His parents were hiding, many of his friends were hiding; they scattered around, keeping a low profile out of fear that the Ministry would come down on them the moment they put one toe out of line. But Draco swore he'd tread that bloody line; with pride, with dignity. Why was he even considering running to his Mummy? Was this Potter's fault after all?

Draco tried to figure out why it bothered him so much. Why did he care about that pompous prick who could barely stand the sight of him? Potter's face appeared in front of his eyes. In his mind, Potter looked pleased, undoubtedly because Draco wasn't around to bother him for three whole days. Draco's heart began hammering, as it always did when he thought about Potter. Out of anger, surely. Potter was at the Ministry, gloating and celebrating Draco's absence, possibly already contemplating Draco's replacement. Possibly gossiping with Hogan. Hogan, who was definitely there, though he had his own bloody job, but he was there taking Draco's place. Draco gasped. Possibly sitting in his chair! Flirting with Potter and touching Draco's stuff.

Draco sprang out of bed as though burned. He couldn't allow this. Why hadn't he considered this before? If he left, Hogan would be free to do as he wished. And who knew what awful things Hogan wished. Draco believed him capable of anything. Hogan was clearly a maniac. Potter didn't see it, oh but Draco did. It was his duty to protect his partner whether said partner was a complete arse or not.

Draco checked the old grandfather's clock on the wall. It was late, but it was Friday, and Potter always stayed late on Fridays, doing the paperwork he neglected during the week. It was the perfect time for Hogan to swoop in and seduce his stupid, oblivious Pot—partner.

Draco scowled at his pyjamas and took them off quickly. He hurried to the bathroom, and was showered and dressed in less than ten minutes. He didn't even comb his hair, so it fell wildly into his eyes as he hopped — he could hop in his own house — down the stairs, simultaneously putting his boots on. Which was something he'd never do again, Draco promised himself as he nursed his knee, injured in his sudden but unsurprising fall.

By the time he had arrived to the Ministry, the place was practically deserted, but sure enough, when Draco walked into the Auror Headquarters, Potter was there at their desk, scribbling dutifully. Hogan was nowhere to be seen.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Draco sat down on his chair, pleased when Potter jumped in fright. He looked at Draco wildly; his gaze raking over his face with such keen interest, Draco felt his cheeks grow hot. Potter frowned and looked left and right and then at Draco again, appearing almost frightened, as though he had seen a particularly nasty poltergeist.

"Malfoy?" he said at last.

"Yes. And no, I'm not dead. Sorry to disappoint you." Draco studied Potter's face to determine whether Potter was disappointed or not.

Potter looked merely shocked, excessively so, and . . . nervous? As though Draco had interrupted him during a nefarious act.

Potter blinked a couple of times and then seemed to come to his senses. "You look horrible," he said, his gaze flickering towards Draco's hair.

Draco found himself wishing he had combed it. He ran his fingers through it, Merlin knew to what result. Potter looked away.

"Well, I feel fine," Draco said, wincing at the sound of his own voice. It sounded hoarse, which wasn't surprising since he hadn't spoken a word for three days. "I thought I should come here and help you out with this." Draco pointed at piles of papers on the desk, feeling completely silly all of a sudden. Why did he come here?

He felt even worse when Potter said, "Good," and shoved a large pile towards Draco.

"No need to thank me or anything." Draco glowered. Honestly, when a man comes in to help you out even though he should be at home lying on his deathbed, the least you could do is say thank you. Granted, Draco wasn't sick anymore, but Potter didn't know that.

Potter was scribbling again. "I know. This is your job."

Regretting his impulsive decision, Draco took a quill, angrily snatched the topmost file and opened it. Mrs Herbert, the lady of charmed ball-eating teapots, winked at him from a large picture with red letters written over her face, proclaiming: WANTED.

Draco scowled at Potter accusingly. "I told you she'd run."

Potter hastily took the file from Draco's hands and shoved it into a drawer. "We'll find her. Eventually," he said, unconcerned, though he did shift in his chair, looking uncomfortable.

Draco shook his head and sighed, taking another file.

Paperwork was a tedious job, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Draco amused himself by observing Potter who wrote carefully as though he wasn't really sure how to write. Their Head of Department yelled at him several times, and the last time, she did so in public, informing Potter that she couldn't read his awful scrawl, so he should bloody learn how to write before he handed her another report. That was the one time Draco actually liked the woman. Potter had blushed and nodded meekly, as the rest of them laughed themselves silly at the sight of the petit but still intimidating woman shaking her fist at the Defeater of the Dark Lord. After that, Potter was ridiculously slow with his reports, avoiding them as long as he could, and on Fridays, he filled them out carefully to avoid another incident.

That was why Draco finished much sooner than Potter. He would have been even faster if he hadn't been sneaking glances at his partner's deeply concentrated expression. Growing bored, he considered offering Potter to help him finish his half, but saw no reason to make such a suggestion. He had done too much already. Instead, he stared at Potter's bowed head, contemplating the sharp contrast of Potter's dark hair and his pale face. He was an odd one, Draco concluded. His hair was too dark for his skin, his eyes too bright for his eyelashes, and he looked too boyish for someone with such a strong jaw and high cheekbones. Nature had screwed up royally while making Potter, turning him into something that ought to be impossible.

"Want to have dinner with me later?"

The question hung in the air, and Draco was too terrified to wonder who had made it. He feared it had been him. Potter said nothing, and Draco was beginning to hope he had merely imagined asking Potter out, but then Potter looked up.

"Sure," he said, and looked down again. Draco stared, as Potter continued, "Go on ahead. I'll be here for a while longer. I'll join you when I finish this." Potter groaned as he splattered some ink over the papers and had to use his wand to soak it up.

Draco nodded mutely, but then, realising Potter couldn't see him, forced himself to say, "All right."

This wasn't a big deal. So they'd go and have dinner. Partners did that all the time. He could stay and help Potter finish, so they could go sooner. Draco grabbed a quill and opened his mouth to suggest this, but his hand shook.

This wasn't a big deal.

Draco stood up suddenly and tossed the quill on the desk. He needed air. Now.

"I'll go then," he said, not leaving.

Potter looked up and grimaced. It could have been a smile. "Okay." He jerked his head in the vague direction of the paperwork Draco had filled out. "Thanks."

"I was just doing my job," Draco said modestly, and then after a short nod, he turned around and fled.

Air didn't help at all. The reality of asking Potter to dinner and having Potter say yes was too much for Draco to handle.

Though he could not remember walking there, somehow he reached the diner. He found a secluded booth easily; the place was all but empty. The waitress smiled at him, took his order, and brought him a glass of wine quickly enough, leaving him to his thoughts.

This was easier than Draco had expected. If he had asked Potter to dinner a few weeks ago, would the result be the same? Did he merely imagine Potter's unfriendliness?

Draco's heart was hammering again, so he forced himself to sip his wine slowly as he waited for Potter, thinking about possible topics they could discuss. There were quite a few things Draco wanted to ask him, though most of them seemed silly and irrelevant. He hoped he could sneak in a silly question or two to satiate his curiosity. Would it be rude to ask him whether he was seeing someone? Just to make sure it wasn't Hogan. Or that silly Auror with a big nose. Or that strange man who examined Ministry visitors' wands. Draco had his suspicions about that bloke.

He finished his wine too quickly and asked for a refill, his mind still busy with thoughts of Potter.

It took him two hours to realise that Potter wasn't coming.

It took him another half an hour to realise he was drunk.

And it took him three more glasses of wine to realise he was a puppy. Harry Potter's own personal puppy, begging his master to pet him and tell him he had been a good boy. Disgusted, he tossed a random amount of Sickles on the table and hurried outside.

He stumbled drunkenly away in a random direction, kicking the snow with his boots, and trying in vain to clear his head. He knew he was being ridiculous; he shouldn't have expected Potter to join him for dinner. Potter had just said that to get rid of him.

He wandered for a while and when he looked around, he found himself in a vaguely familiar location — he was standing in front of Potter's building. That was an interesting coincidence. Draco looked up at the second floor window, noting that Potter's apartment was dark. He was sleeping peacefully, the bastard. Draco considered throwing things at the window and then running away, but he decided that would have been a little too immature. The mature thing would be to go and talk to Potter. Though, not right now. Not in the middle of the night. And of course, Draco couldn't ask Potter to explain why he hadn't showed up. That would sound pathetic and needy. Draco required a more sensible reason to knock on Potter's door.

He rummaged in his pocket, his hand closing around a small object. He took it out, staring at his open palm, and decided this was as good reason as any for a late night visit. He would go in, and then subtly extract an explanation from Potter.

Satisfied with this plan, Draco walked into the building and headed for Potter's apartment. He needed to know: Did Potter have a reason for being such a prick, or was he born one?


It was well past midnight when Harry arrived home. He was so tired he failed to find the light switch, so he bent down and picked up his mail blindly. He tossed it onto the coffee table next to his favourite sofa, with vague plans to go through it at some point that wasn't now. He considered trying to find something to eat in the kitchen, but the thought of food made his stomach queasy — bed sounded much more appealing. However, he had no fireplace in his bedroom, and he was bloody cold.

Sofa it was then.

A quick flick of his wand lit the fire in the large fireplace, bathing the living room in yellowish light. Only then did Harry take off his cloak and shoes, and all but collapsed on the sofa, grabbing an extra cushion to put under his head.

It was eerily quiet; the only sound coming from the crackling fire, playing a perfect lullaby that should have helped Harry drift off to sleep. However, though tired, Harry remained wide awake. His head had barely touched the cushion before his thoughts turned into a familiar direction. He spent his days pushing these thoughts away, but at night they'd come back to haunt him.

Today had been especially hard. His colleagues had left, some of them early, and Harry, as always, stayed late. Alone with nothing but tedious paperwork to distract him, it was hard to keep his fantasies at bay. Especially since it wasn't hard to imagine the object of his fantasies sitting in the empty chair in front of Harry. It was different; more intense somehow to imagine what he could do to Draco Malfoy on their desk than to think about what he could do to him if he had him in his bed. It was too hard to even envision Malfoy in his bed. Though that had never dissuaded Harry; he had to think about Malfoy at some point; it was important not to do that at work, but he could do what he wished at home. This evening, however, Harry had let his mind wander and remember how Malfoy looked sitting across the table, scowling, with his hair falling into his eyes, white blond strands touching his high cheeks. Harry could visualise him so clearly he could see his lips twisting into a sneer and he could see himself wiping it off his face with a kiss.

And then just as Harry had pressed Malfoy on the desk, ripping Malfoy's shirt off in a way that was possible only in silly fantasies, Malfoy had appeared in front of him. Simply materialized in his chair as though Harry had Summoned him. Or Conjured him with his fantasies. It took him two whole minutes to realise that Malfoy really was there and that this had nothing to do with Harry's imaginings. Malfoy's uncharacteristically messy hair didn't help matters; usually, the blond strands only looked like that in Harry's mind after a particularly vigorous shag. He even had dark circles under his eyes, proving that he hadn't been sleeping but was engaged in some energetic activities. Maybe he was with a girl — a girlfriend — shagging all day. Or maybe he really was sick and spent the night and day tossing and turning in his bed. Harry honestly didn't know which thought disturbed him more. The thought of Malfoy enjoying himself with someone else, or the thought of him alone in bed, sick and miserable. Both possibilities made his chest clench painfully, especially because he was well aware that either way, Malfoy's joy or pain wasn't his business.

Why did it have to be Malfoy? Harry asked himself for the umpteenth time. These feelings sneaked up on him, shocking him to the core when he became aware of them. It started out simple. At first, Harry had merely been impressed when Kingsley let it slip that Malfoy had applied for the Auror Academy. The Ministry was not inclined to accept the application; Harry had to yell at quite a few people to have it approved. It seemed unfair to Harry that the Ministry would purposely want to sabotage a man who was trying to make things right and find his place in the world. It was more than Malfoy's friends had done. Harry had been pleased to see that Malfoy was trying; back then, he actually thought that they could become friends, that that was some sort of turning point, mainly because Malfoy seemed almost friendly. Well, friendly for Malfoy.

Though that had been then — things had changed since. Still, Harry hadn't regretted his interference. Especially after Malfoy had completed his schooling successfully. What he did regret had nothing to do with Malfoy. Directly, at least. Indirectly, it was all about Malfoy. It was Draco Malfoy that stirred feelings in Harry; feelings and desires he hadn't recognised before. They made Harry want to do things he didn't even dare to think about when he was younger.

But last summer he had kissed the wrong man, at the wrong time, in the wrong location, and the pictures of that encounter appeared everywhere. Yet again, Harry had been the main target of gossip. After he had been left with no choice but to confirm his sexual orientation to the press, some people were supportive, some indifferent, and some downright hostile. He had never thought about it, but looking back, he had been sure that Malfoy would be in the indifferent category. He had never expected him to end up in the hostile one. He honestly thought that after Malfoy had seen what it was like to be looked down upon, he'd be more understanding, more ready to accept people who were slighted by others. Harry thought he had changed. But ever since that article was published, Malfoy had been looking at him as though Harry had grown an extra head. Harry thought he had imagined it; when Malfoy was still in training, Harry rarely saw him, but for a month now since they were working together, Harry had a chance to observe Malfoy closely and make his conclusions.

That Malfoy hated working with him was obvious. He barely said a word to him, and when he did, it was a jab of some sort, usually involving words such as queer and gay to remind Harry he was different, but mostly he just glared at Harry and scowled. Those glares hurt Harry the most; it was painful to see them. Initially, Harry thought that Malfoy was simply being a Malfoy and hated Harry because he was Harry, but that didn't explain why Malfoy treated Derek the way he did. Derek, who never said a bad word about anyone, and who claimed that Malfoy would come around after he realises they were just people like everyone else, and who believed that if they were nice to him, eventually, Malfoy would stop giving them these disgusted little looks. That hadn't worked at all. Harry could see Malfoy having a nervous breakdown every time Derek went near him, despite the fact that Derek was the only person in the Ministry who was polite to him.

Harry reluctantly remembered the other night when he spotted Malfoy outside the diner, glaring at them. Malfoy's expression was full of nothing but pure disgust. Harry knew that look. He had seen it directed at him more than once in the last few months. He had noticed that Aurors he used to train with liked to suddenly leave the showers when Harry appeared. Some had jokingly, or not so jokingly, suggested Harry should use the girls' showers. Some had recoiled when Harry came too near. Did they think he'd try to do something to them, or did they think they'd catch the gay? Harry didn't know. What he did know was that he would never allow himself to see Malfoy recoil from his touch. That would hurt more than Harry could bear. And if it meant not touching him, then so be it. He had even avoided training with other Aurors, but kept in shape by visiting a Muggle gym where no one knew him. He didn't want to face the pain of seeing Malfoy abandoning the showers with the worst of them when Harry entered.

And today while Harry had a hard time keeping his hands still to write the stupid reports (something that happened to him lot when Malfoy was near) and while he tried desperately to make his stupid hard-on go away, Malfoy had so nonchalantly asked him to dinner. It took Harry a long moment to collect himself enough to refuse. Except he hadn't refused; despite trying to say no, he had ended up saying yes. He could hear Malfoy take in a sharp breath of surprise. He probably hadn't expected Harry would agree; he must have thought it was safe to ask him to dinner because Harry would be polite enough to refuse. Harry had been surprised to see Malfoy trying to be polite. But it hurt. It hurt when Harry decided to give Malfoy a chance to take his invitation back, telling him to go on ahead, and spilling the ink over his papers because he managed to keep his voice steady but his hands were still shaking; it had hurt terribly when Malfoy leapt out of his chair, pale and shocked, clearly regretting his invitation and turning around to run. Because he did run; he had flown out of the room as though someone was chasing him. Harry hadn't imagined Malfoy's stunned expression and desire to be as far away from Harry as he possibly could.

Well, that at least made Harry's erection subside, he thought darkly. He had successfully disgusted himself when he almost hit his head against the desk and wept. It hit him particularly hard this evening. When Malfoy appeared to help, acting almost politely, it made Harry realise that he was holding Malfoy back. If Malfoy had a different partner, one that didn't disgust him, then his path towards acceptance would have been easier. He was trying, and Harry was the one in the way. Harry was the unforeseen obstacle that Malfoy wasn't ready to cross.

If someone asked him, Harry would have never agreed to have Malfoy as a partner; they were both clearly suffering. But his Head of Department called him in and told him flatly that he had to accept working with Malfoy because everyone else had refused. Not to mention that some of them weren't very keen on working with Harry either. Harry had refused as well. He had begged and pleaded and whined, "Why me?" but his superior remained adamant. She looked at him and said, "Potter, you are a born martyr. So do what you do best — suffer."

And so Harry suffered. Even his job wasn't as fun as it used to be. Harry took care to pick the stupidest assignments, leaving the exciting but dangerous ones to the others. It wasn't as though he thought Malfoy couldn't handle something dangerous, and he knew one wasn't supposed to coddle rookies, but he was well aware that he couldn't handle it. How could he? When he had to worry about not getting Malfoy hurt, because the possibility scared him to death; he had to worry about not looking at him because every look overwhelmed him with joy of seeing his beautiful but unattainable partner and pain at seeing said partner scowl at him with all his might; and he had to worry about not touching him, never touching him. Not only that he was afraid to offend Malfoy by his touch but he feared that once he did touch him he'd never be able to stop.

Closing his eyes, Harry pressed his hands to his stomach, crazily trying to ease the knot that had formed there the day he had realised what Malfoy meant to him. Why couldn't he fell in love with Derek? Why did it have to be the straight guy who had always hated him? How could he fall in love with Malfoy after admiring his strength, his desire to hold his head high while he tried to make things right, and then not fall out of love with him after he realised that Malfoy hadn't learned anything and was still ready to shun people that were shunned by others? He felt cheated, stupid for thinking he saw something in Malfoy when there was nothing to be seen. And why did Malfoy have to be so damn beautiful? Even today, when Harry's eyes had shown him that Malfoy's face was too pale and sickly looking and his hair a mess and his scowl ugly, his fingers still itched from the desire to reach out and tuck one pale lock of Malfoy's hair behind his ear, his mind rapidly cataloguing the drained, tired appearance so Harry could more clearly envision how Malfoy would look in his arms after a long night of shagging. Something Harry planned to envision now. At least when alone in his apartment, he could let himself think about what it would be like; to be with Malfoy, to touch him and caress him and make him smile. If that was at all possible. He had never seen Malfoy smile.

Harry knew this was unhealthy, that he should be trying to suppress these thoughts and learn to not yearn for something he couldn't have. It does not do to dwell on dreams, wasn't that what Dumbledore had told him? He had been right, and back then, Harry had managed it, so he hoped he would mange it now. On the other hand, back then Dumbledore had hidden the Mirror of Erised; he had removed the temptation from Harry, but Malfoy was here all the time. And he wasn't leaving. Would Harry have to be the one to leave?

Just as that thought made him panic, a sharp knock on the door resounded in the room. Harry jumped, startled for the second time that day. It was late, and Harry had no idea who would visit him at this hour. Ron and Hermione were away on their honeymoon, Ginny was on a tour with the Harpies, and Molly and Arthur wouldn't visit so late, of course. It could be George, Harry thought as he got up and walked to the door. Sometimes George would drop in when he was miserable, probably because misery loved company and all that. Harry was pants at comforting people; mostly, he was quiet and made some hot chocolate, but this seemed to suit George just fine.

But it wasn't George. Harry looked through the peephole, blinked a few times and then looked again.

This was getting insane. Was Malfoy hoping that if he scared Harry enough times he'd have a heart attack and die? If that was Malfoy's intention, Harry feared he would succeed. Or was Harry going crazy and imagining all this? Maybe Malfoy hadn't come in today at all, that had been too strange anyway. Maybe Harry was hallucinating.

Malfoy knocked again, and Harry stared at the door, afraid he was losing his mind. But if Malfoy was a part of his imagination, Harry had to confront it. Steeling himself, Harry turned the knob and opened the door.

Malfoy was still there, looking just as he had back at the office. He was still pale and tired and perfect.

"Malfoy?" Harry asked tentatively, thinking that perhaps this was someone else but Harry was unable to see it.

But then Malfoy scowled him, and Harry figured no one else could look at him with that much revulsion. It had to be Malfoy.

"What are you doing here?" Harry looked around, not knowing what he was looking for. Perhaps, if they weren't wizards, he'd expect someone to jump out and cry, "Smile, you're on Candid Camera!"

Malfoy cleared his throat, looking confused for a moment, but then he seemed to remember why he was here. "I brought you this." Malfoy extended his hand, the long pale fingers reaching towards Harry, making Harry want to grab and clutch them, and not let go. "You forgot this at the office," Malfoy said, waiting.

Bemused, Harry extended his arm, and let Malfoy drop something in his hand. He frowned, staring incredulously at the object on his palm.

It was a paperclip.

"Er." Harry looked up at Malfoy's scowling face. Was there such a thing as Wizarding Candid Camera? "Thank you," Harry said at last, trying to keep a straight face. "I was afraid I'd lost it forever."

Malfoy waved his hand dismissively as though to say, "Don't mention it."

Then he swayed.

Harry looked at the paperclip in his hand and then at Malfoy again. "Are you drunk?"

Malfoy laughed uproariously. "Yes?" he said slowly, as though speaking to a small child. He leaned in, his pupils large, the hostile look in his eyes making Harry shiver.

"Where were you?" Harry gasped, his breath catching. Malfoy was too close.

"Where was I?" Malfoy leaned in even closer, glaring so viciously that for a moment, Harry was sure Malfoy would punch him.

Harry nodded, trying not to take a step back. If Malfoy wanted to punch him, he could punch him. Maybe Harry would like him a little less after that.

"Partying!" Malfoy spat the word, almost shaking. From anger. Or sheer insanity. Great. Malfoy was a crazy maniac who hated him, and still, all Harry wanted was to pull him inside, lock and barricade the door, and live happily ever after.

Harry mulled over Malfoy's response. Was that sarcasm? Harry's brain worked furiously, trying to think of a reason why Malfoy would be so angry with him. What had Harry done? Ludicrously, a strange thought occurred to him. He tried to stop it from forming, tried desperately to bury it deep in his mind, not daring to even contemplate the impossible possibility that Malfoy was waiting for him? That he had truly gone to the diner and waited for Harry. That he had wanted to dine with him. That Harry had merely imagined Malfoy's terrified flight. But once he thought of it, Harry could no longer stop the hope that bubbled within him. Not that Malfoy would be interested in something more, but maybe he wanted to try to get along. Maybe he would be willing to accept Harry for who he was.

"You weren't—" Harry's voice broke. His throat was dry and he struggled to swallow, then tried to speak again. "You weren't waiting for me, in the diner?" Harry breathed, terrified. Why had he even asked that?

Malfoy blinked at him, his gaze focused on Harry's eyes for a long moment, but then his eye twitched and he jerked his head. "No. Of course not. I had dinner and left. To visit friends. Who live somewhere"— Malfoy waved his hand wildly around, as Harry's shaking hands clenched into fists, his disappointment overwhelming—"near. Here. They got me drunk. Evil bastards."

"Of course." Harry nodded, feeling like the most stupid idiot that lived.

"You weren't waiting for me, I hope." Malfoy's hair was in his eyes. One thin white lock quivered each time he blinked, but Malfoy didn't try to move it away.

"No, I . . . I finished late and went straight home."

"Brilliant." Malfoy bared his teeth, looking insane for a moment. He finally rose his hand and impatiently batted away the lock of hair that mingled with his eyelashes. It fell right back over his eye again. Harry moved his hands behind his back and intertwined his fingers, still carefully holding the paperclip between his thumb and palm. "Why . . ." Malfoy began, but it took him a moment to find the words. "Why would you . . . Why are you dressed?"

"Er . . ."

"You should be in bed." Malfoy sniffed, yet again trying and failing to move the hair out of his eyes. Harry clenched his hands even tighter behind his back.

"I was just going . . ."

Malfoy wasn't really listening, but looking past Harry and the small hallway, into the living room. "That's a nice sofa," he said.

Harry was struggling to breathe. Surely Malfoy didn't want to stay here.

"Do you . . ." He doesn't! Harry's mind screamed, but he asked the question anyway. "Do you want to sleep he—"

"If you insist." Malfoy shoved past him and in two seconds he was collapsing onto Harry's favourite sofa.

By the time Harry had recovered from his shock, closed the door and hurried into the living room, Malfoy was already struggling to take off his boots.

He couldn't sleep here, Harry panicked, not in his apartment, not on his sofa. How could Harry ever look at that sofa again without seeing Draco Malfoy sleeping there?

"Don't you want me to take you home?" Harry asked desperately as Malfoy unclasped his cloak and proved how very drunk he was by tossing it on the floor.

"Take me home," Malfoy imitated grumpily. "Like an abandoned puppy." Malfoy kept on grumbling something unintelligible though Harry did understand "Apparating would make me sick."

Malfoy lay down dressed and without a blanket, placing his head on the hard cushions, looking half asleep already. Harry stared at him for a moment longer, and then, realising that Malfoy — a figment of Harry's imagination or not — was not leaving, he hurried to his bedroom. He quickly grabbed his pillow, the softest one he owned, and his blanket and hurried back to the living room.

"The cushions are uncomfortable," he said, breathless, staring at Malfoy's blond hair that had spilled into a halo. His eyes were closed and he was breathing deeply. Was he asleep? Harry came closer, not knowing what to do. He set the blanket aside and tried to pull the cushion from beneath Malfoy's head. The cushions were really uncomfortable; Harry could not let Malfoy sleep on them.

Malfoy jumped up, almost giving Harry a heart attack again, then he squinted at him drunkenly. "I can't even have a cushion," he sniffed. "Why are you so mean?"

Harry quickly grabbed the cushion and put the pillow in its place. "I just . . ." He waved at the pillow. "It's more comfortable."

"I bet that was your special cushion," Malfoy mumbled, and lay back down again, his bottom lip stuck out, the sight of that making Harry's cock twitch despite the confusing situation. Malfoy had demonstratively turned on his stomach and buried his head in the pillow, ordering in a muffled voice, "Turn off the lights."

Harry looked around at the fire lit room and shrugged helplessly.

Malfoy was wriggling, trying to find a good spot, and Harry had to stop himself from looking down at the place where Malfoy's shirt rode up, revealing a thin line of pale skin, lit by the light of the flames, begging Harry to bend his head and lick it.

He quickly picked up the blanket and carefully covered Malfoy's wriggling body, hoping Malfoy wouldn't feel the soft touch of fabric. Malfoy settled, breathing deeply again, so Harry knelt down about a foot away from the sofa, staring at the small part of the pale face that wasn't hidden by Malfoy's hair and the pillow. That disobedient lock of hair was still mixed up with his eyelashes, and Harry could no longer hold himself back. He leaned forward and reached out, carefully grabbing the soft strands between his fingertips and moving them gently away. They stayed put, making Harry feel very proud of himself.

"I think I'll vomit."

Harry quickly snatched his hand away. Malfoy's eyes were still closed, his face turning a little green. Taking a deep breath, Harry got up and Conjured a bucket, placing it next to the sofa.

"Here," he said quietly, but Malfoy made no response.

Harry grabbed a fistful of his own hair and pulled viciously. That made him feel a little better. Then he picked up Malfoy's cloak, placing it over the armchair nearby. It took him awhile to realise that he had remained standing there, stroking the fabric of Malfoy's cloak, and contemplating the possibility of burying his face in it. Horrified, he jumped away, nervously looking at Malfoy's sleeping form. What would Malfoy say if he saw Harry stroking his cloak? What if he saw him smell it? Something that Harry desperately wanted. And what would he say if Harry snuck beneath Malfoy's blanket and snuggled closer? Would that be considered molesting?

Disturbed by his thoughts, Harry allowed himself one last longing glance in Malfoy's direction, before he ran away to his bedroom.

He sat on his bed, trying to figure out whether he had dreamt all this, while tenderly stroking the paperclip in his hand, proof that Malfoy was really here. It made Harry terrified and delighted all at once. It also made him dread the morning.

He climbed onto his bed, pulled his knees to his chest, and waited.

This would be a long night.