Dawn found him already mounted and riding determinedly toward London. He had half-expected to be overtaken by Ron and a party of his men during the night, but it was possible he had veered from the path the night before. They might have bypassed him entirely.
Sometime near midday, Harry was surprised to see a rider approaching. He was even more surprised to discover it was Draco. He spurred Dobby forward with a glad cry, but his excitement died a swift death at the sight of Draco's angry face.
"Tensbury!" Draco yelled, snarling the name. "Or should I call you Harry, since you are nothing but a wretched commoner?"
"I am Harry," he admitted. "Just Harry."
"Well, then, just Harry, dismount and face the wrath of a prince." With that, Draco leaped off of Kreacher and drew his sword.
Harry had a sick feeling of inevitability, as though everything in his life had been destined to lead to this moment. Perhaps it was fated that he should die by Draco's hand, and perhaps he deserved it for what he had done.
He dismounted carefully, trying not to favour his left side, knowing Draco would use it to his advantage, regardless. They stepped away from the horses and Harry drew his own blade.
Draco lunged forward quickly and Harry countered his attack. Even the gentlest movement pulled at his side.
"I hate you!" Draco snarled.
"I know," Harry said. "I don't blame you."
The statement did not seem to appease Draco. "Why did you come after me? Hoping to silence me? Do you really think my father won't discover all of your little secrets?"
"Of course he will," Harry replied. "If you don't kill me, I plan to send a letter to him myself, confessing all."
Draco sneered, obviously rejecting his words as lies. Their blades clashed again, several times, and Harry found it increasingly difficult to counter the thrusts and blows. It was hard to retaliate when he had no desire to hurt Draco—his movements were defensive only.
"You are ever so noble," Draco snarled, stepping back for a moment to catch his breath. Harry gave up on subtlety and pressed his left arm closely to his side, trying to minimize the bleeding. "Why did you come after me, then, Harry?"
"I wanted to apologize. I want you to know how I feel about you."
"Obviously the same as you feel about that wretched bard!" Draco yelled. "Anything with a pretty arse, eh?" He leaped forward again. By the time the attack ended, Harry bled from a nick on his cheek and panted with exertion.
"Absolutely not!" Harry snapped through gasping breaths. "Zabini forced me to act as though I had betrayed you and I was foolish enough to give in to his coercion. I allowed my own fear--and shame--to rule my actions."
Draco sneered again. "He forced you? How did he manage that? What sort of coercion did he use?"
"He recognized me," Harry admitted. His knees trembled and he fought the urge to let them buckle. He knew chasing after Draco had not been the wisest course of action and fighting him had been even more foolish, but the prince was likely going to run him through, anyway. "He saw me at a tournament, years ago, with my master."
The angry expression on Draco's face faltered and then changed to puzzlement as awareness dawned. "He recognized you as a commoner?"
"Yes, and he threatened to expose me."
"To my father?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, and I have more to consider than merely myself. There is Ron and Hermione and Neville. They have been part of my duplicity from the beginning and will suffer the consequences with me unless I manage to spare them somehow. And yet, despite that, I was motivated by selfishness."
Draco's blade had lowered and he no longer seemed quite as willing to skewer Harry. "Go on," he said.
"I foolishly hoped that although you might hate me for pretending to dally with your feelings, you might yet remain with me as my squire, because then you would still be near me." Harry laughed self-deprecatingly. "I know you have to leave, eventually. I just wanted to put that day off as long as possible." Harry sighed at Draco's blank demeanor, once again the stolid mask of a prince, giving away nothing. He plunged on, needing to get the words out regardless of their reception. "I will never be worthy of you, Draco. Even if I were a true noble, you are far above my station. As a simple commoner, I am even less so."
Harry sank to one knee, trying to make it look intentional rather than allowing that he was ready to collapse entirely. He planted the tip of his sword into the ground and gripped the hilt tightly for support. His other hand held tightly to his bleeding injury.
"I don't know why I came after you," he said finally. "To clear my conscience, I suppose, and let you know the truth." He raised his eyes wearily and looked into Draco's visage. He smiled ruefully and added, "But I would rather die by your hand than any other way. I won't fight you again, my prince. My Draco."
He pulled his blade from the ground and tossed it at Draco's feet before bowing his head to await Draco's decision, be it acceptance or the final blow.
He heard Draco approach and then strong arms enfolded him, drawing him close.
"Harry," Draco said against his temple. "My stupid Harry."
Draco felt Harry sag in his arms for a moment, and then he was wrapped in a crushing embrace.
"Draco. Oh god. Draco."
"I can't believe I thought you and Zabini were..." Draco started.
"There is no one but you," Harry said. "Not ever." He buried his face in Draco's neck and Draco felt soft lips press a kiss to his pulse point. Harry trembled and Draco suddenly remembered his tunic was wet with blood. Fuck, Harry had opened his wound coming after him and had doubtless made it worse fighting him.
"Come; we need to get you sorted before you bleed to death."
He caught the horses and helped Harry mount Dobby. Draco was alarmed at Harry's pallor and hoped he did not faint before they reached the woodsman's cabin. Luckily, it wasn't far.
By the time the cabin came into view, Harry was slumped over his saddle, obviously hanging on by willpower alone.
Draco helped him inside. Harry leaned against the wall while Draco spread blankets on the hard cot after removing the items from Harry's horse. He was slightly puzzled at how the man had managed to rush after him and yet still bring provisions.
When the bed was remotely less uncomfortable, Draco guided Harry to it and then helped peel off his tunic. Harry sprawled on the bed while Draco unwrapped the blood-soaked bandages.
"Damn it, why did you do this to yourself?" Draco demanded when the wound was exposed.
Luckily, a small spring outside that had been dammed to provide plenty of fresh water. Draco built a fire and heated some water in an earthenware bowl that lay near the fire pit. He bathed Harry's wound and then re-applied more of the salve that Molly had apparently thrust upon Harry prior to his departure—which would also explain the food and bedding.
Draco made a mental note to do something special for that woman when they returned. He bandaged the wound with strips torn from the woolen blankets after packing some fresh St. John's Wort atop it to ward off fever. Harry definitely did not need his fever to return.
When Draco finished, he sat back on his haunches with a sigh and then gnawed his lip for a moment. If he had not been so impulsive, Harry would not be in this state.
Harry's hand dropped to the edge of the bed, palm up. His fingers stretched as though in entreaty. Draco spared a glance at Harry's face and was ensnared by the intensity of the green eyes. Wordlessly, he lifted his hand and placed it over Harry's open palm. Warm fingers closed around his and tugged gently.
Draco allowed himself to be pulled forward until he leaned over Harry and touched their lips together. It was a tentative pressure, almost a tease, although teasing was the last thing on Draco's mind. Apparently, Harry agreed, for he pushed one hand into Draco's hair and deepened the kiss in the same motion. Draco's lips opened and he allowed Harry's tongue inside, welcoming it with his own.
The kiss changed, becoming something Draco had never experienced, something intense and beyond imagining. Harry moaned and panted against his lips, never quite breaking the kiss as they gasped for air before diving in once more.
The wooden edge of the cot dug painfully into Draco's ribs and his contorted position began to give him a muscle twinge. He levered himself upward and half-straddled Harry without breaking the kiss. The new position also allowed one hand to roam free over Harry's bare chest, caressing soft skin he had longed to touch during nights of mutual wanking.
"Draco," Harry murmured. "More."
Draco shut his eyes at the very thought of more, but he quickly moved his hand downward to tug at Harry's belt. Harry had taken off his boots while waiting for Draco to prepare the bed, so there was no resistance when Draco pushed away the woolen hosen to expose Harry's legs and--oh dear god--his cock. It jutted proudly from a thicket of dark curls, fully erect and livid.
Draco stared at it far longer than he should have, transfixed, but Harry did not move. He seemed to be holding his breath. The thought made Draco glance up quickly, to find Harry watching him with a worry line forming between his brows.
Draco forced a smile and then reached out to wrap his fingers around it. Harry made a guttural sound that was purely wondrous and Draco's smile stretched into one of genuine pleasure. Harry's cock was quite nice, not terrifying in the slightest, and they had not been struck dead at the touch. It felt nearly identical to his own, actually, similar in length and a bit thicker.
Draco suddenly wanted to taste it. The very idea gave him a heady rush and before he could think it over, he leaned down and swiped his tongue over the head.
Harry's reaction was astounding. He inhaled raggedly and a shiver seemed to travel through his entire body. Draco gave him a wicked grin and repeated the motion, with the same effect. Emboldened, he opened wide and took the whole of it into his mouth.
Harry arched almost completely off of the cot. "Lord!" he cried out.
Draco released his cock and licked his lips. The hint of salt was not unpleasant. "Praying, Harry? At a time like this?"
"I thought it fitting," Harry replied. "Your mouth feels like a gift from heaven."
Draco chuckled throatily and enveloped it once more. He had a grand time eliciting a wide variety of responses from Harry as he lapped and sucked at it, but soon Harry said, "Wait!" He tugged at Draco's hair gently.
Draco paused in his efforts with a cocked brow.
"You," Harry said. "You are being neglected. I want to touch you."
His voice was husky and full of emotion and Draco quickly shed his own clothing before sprawling next to Harry on the tiny cot. He wished briefly for Harry's large bed back at Tensbury, but such mundane thoughts fled the moment Harry's hand closed around his erection.
Bloody hell, it was amazing. Better than any woman's touch, surely. There was no timidity in Harry's grasp; his was a man's hand and he used it with practiced skill, stroking Draco while their panting breaths mingled before their lips met in another kiss.
Draco basked in the blissful hand movements for quite some time, until a thought occurred to him and he put his hand over Harry's to still the motion. Harry looked at him in puzzlement.
"There is more we can do, is there not?" Draco asked in a hushed tone. "I have heard… Well, servants are a rough lot. I have heard tales."
Harry swallowed hard, eyes wide. "I have, also. Would you allow me to…?"
Draco nodded, scarcely able to accept what he suggested. He had thought of it, often, however. He wanted Harry's lovely cock inside of him, as deep as it would go, even though such an admission would never pass his lips on threat of being drawn and quartered.
"We have to mind your wound," Draco said, eyeing the bandage worriedly.
"I'll be fine," Harry said. "We could… lie on our sides?"
Draco breathed a sigh of relief. He detested the thought of lying on his back like a woman, and it was equally disturbing to envision kneeling on all fours like a dog, or a slave. Harry was brilliant, he decided.
He immediately turned around to face the wall, spooning against Harry's warm length as the pretender knight coiled around him and drew him close with an arm around his waist. Harry placed soft kisses on the back of Draco's neck. "You're a fucking pagan god, you are," Harry murmured. "Like the forbidden statues in Rome, some of them so beautiful they take your breath away."
The sentiment warmed Draco far more than it should have and he twined his fingers through Harry's for a moment and squeezed.
Harry held his grip for a moment and then let go to slide his hand down Draco's side to curve over his hip and cup one buttock. He paused only a moment before slipping his fingers between Draco's crack and touching the place that should have felt utterly wrong, but instead it sent a jolt of pleasure galloping through Draco's flesh.
"It's too tight," Harry murmured. "I don't want to hurt you."
Draco didn't care. His need had grown beyond his control.
"We just need something slick. Butter," he said hoarsely. Harry gasped, but quickly reached round to the floor where the provisions packet lay open. Lovely Molly had wrapped a generous square of sweet butter in oilcloth, no doubt intending for Harry to spread it upon his bread. Draco nearly laughed, picturing her face if she discovered the use to which they were about to put it.
His amusement dissipated when Harry's buttery slick fingers touched him again. Merciful heavens, it was incredible. Draco's legs parted and he pushed himself into a better position, hoping to make it easier for Harry to continue the delicious motions.
Draco gasped as Harry pushed one finger inside. His muscles clenched at the unfamiliar sensation, but Harry refused to move, pressing gentle kisses on Draco's nape until he relaxed. He moved it slowly in and out, getting Draco used to the motion. It felt odd, to say the least, but not unpleasant.
"More," Draco said brusquely.
Harry obediently pressed in another digit. It was almost painful, but Harry was gentle, easing his fingers in and out, preparing him, until Draco could stand it no longer.
"Now," he ordered in a hoarse whisper.
Harry's fingers withdrew and then he paused. "Draco, are you sure?"
Draco shut his eyes, overwhelmed by Harry's very nature. How had Draco ever doubted him? Any other man would have taken what Draco offered without question, with barely a concern for the pain he might inflict. Even now, Harry was more concerned with Draco's feelings.
He reached back and touched Harry's wrist lightly. He was far from certain. In fact, he was nearly terrified, but he kept his voice steady. "Yes, Harry. Yes."
Lips pressed into the back of his neck, almost reverently, and then a smooth hardness pushed gently against Draco's entrance. He relaxed as much as possible, leaning back into Harry's embrace.
The pressure was intense, and then painful. He gasped at the sensation as Harry filled him completely, moving slowly but inexorably. Draco quivered in Harry's grasp, and felt a hand soothing his hip in a circular motion.
"Oh," Harry murmured. "Oh, Draco."
Harry barely moved, pulling out the tiniest bit and then rocking forward. Draco forced himself to relax. He trusted Harry implicitly, which made it easier. It was, however, a far cry from the lovely sensation he had envisioned in his fantasies.
At least, at first.
Harry did not stop moving after his few initial, tentative thrusts, as if to stop would cause physical pain. His pace increased and Draco found the discomfort lessening and changing to something quite… pleasant.
Draco braced his hands against the wall and arched back into Harry, who moaned at the altered position. His butter-slick hand left Draco's hip and reached around to grasp his cock, squeezing gently.
Oh god, it was bliss. He stroked the length of it and Draco groaned his name, basking in the delicious sensation. Harry kept up his movements, timing each thrust with a tug on Draco's aching cock while he pressed biting kisses into the curve of Draco's neck.
Draco murmured his name with every brilliant stroke, which seemed to spur Harry to an even greater frenzy. The impending climax was incredible—like nothing Draco had ever felt. He actually screamed when he came, unable to contain the explosive sensation.
He vaguely felt Harry quiver around him as shudders rocked them both. Harry's arm moved up and wrapped around Draco's chest, pulling him closer while he murmured incomprehensible phrases against Draco's neck. They were both drenched with sweat and Draco worried suddenly that Harry had started his wound bleeding again, yet he felt too drained to move.
"Are you all right?" Harry asked in a concerned tone, and that did cause Draco to move. He rolled over, feeling Harry's length slide out in a not-unpleasant way. He rolled over to face the black-haired man and smoothed the worry lines from his forehead with a gentle touch of his fingers.
"If I tell you it was the best thing I've ever felt, you will get a swollen ego," Draco admitted.
Harry's smile was pure brilliance.
Harry chuckled at Draco's words. "I already have a swollen ego just because you are here with me," he admitted.
Draco snorted, but his grey eyes were soft. "Romantic idiot."
"Aye," Harry replied with a laugh.
Draco kissed him. Their tongues twined pleasantly for some time as they tasted fully of one another. Harry thought he would never tire of doing so, but eventually Draco pulled away with a worried look.
"How is your injury?" He moved a hand down to touch Harry's dressing.
Harry grinned. "Our activities don't seem to have affected it, thankfully. I should hate to swear off of that for any length of time."
Draco snorted, but then nodded in agreement. He crawled over Harry and cleaned them both up with the remaining tepid water.
"We should go back to Tensbury where you can rest properly," Draco said as he dressed.
"I prefer to stay here," Harry replied. "Come back to bed for a bit."
Draco rolled his eyes. "No. I, for one, refuse to spend another night on that rock-hard monstrosity. I never thought I would find myself missing my pallet at home…" He trailed off and his eyes widened.
Harry nearly forgot to breathe.
"I… I mean… at Tensbury," Draco said lamely.
Harry sat up gingerly and reached for Draco's hand. "Draco," he said earnestly. "I know it is presumptuous of me to ask you this, especially as you are a prince of the blood and I am just an unworthy commoner…" Harry swallowed hard and then dropped Draco's hand with an oath. "What am I asking? I am going to be arrested and beheaded by your father when he finds out I've lied. I am nothing!"
He snared his clothing and began to pull it on angrily.
Draco sat next to him and cupped his jaw with one hand. "No, Harry."
Harry's hurried movements stilled and he looked into Draco's placid gaze.
Draco said, "We will deal with Blaise Zabini when we return. If I have to pay him off, I shall. It took me some time to accept that nobility does not come with a bloodline, Harry, but I have found that quality in you. What were you going to ask?"
Harry swallowed hard and covered Draco's hand with his own before sliding it over to press a soft kiss to Draco's fingertips. "I was going to ask you to stay with me. Not as my squire, but as my companion. My lover. My everything."
Surprisingly, Draco laughed. "I don't know, Harry. The priesthood is full of virile young men, you know."
Harry bit his fingertips in mock anger and Draco laughed again, dragging a grin from Harry's lips. They chuckled together for a moment and then the mirth left Draco's handsome face.
"I think I would like that, Harry," Draco said softly.
Harry's answering kiss contained all of his hope for their future.
They met Ron, Neville, and a contingent of soldiers from Tensbury shortly after departing the woodsman's cabin. Ron galloped forward with a shout of glee.
"Harry! Thank heavens! We lost your trail last night and had to make camp! I see you found the hot-tempered brat."
"Shut it, you," Draco growled.
Ron sneered at him, but then grinned. "Well, I hate to admit it, but I would have missed having your sorry arse around to torment. You're coming back with us, yeah?"
Harry smiled as Draco nodded. "How can I resist the lure of seeing your face each day? It reminds me of a lovely meadow studded with cow droppings."
Ron gave him a rude gesture and Harry laughed. "Enough!" he said. "Let us go home. I am more than ready for Molly's cooking."
Harry leaned on Draco as they made their way into the hall where Molly scolded and fussed over him appropriately, but was quickly sidetracked by Harry's request for a decent meal.
They had all eaten and the soldiers returned to their duties before Draco commented, "I haven't seen Zabini since our return. Where do you suppose he's gone?"
Harry frowned, having wondered the same. "I don't know, but his absence is almost ominous. You don't suppose he left to report to your father, do you?"
Draco shrugged. "If so, then we shall deal with whatever comes. Fear not, Harry, I will not allow you to be taken away from me. Not even by my own father."
Harry felt a jolt of worry. "I won't let you risk treason, Draco."
Draco snorted. "Don't be overly dramatic, Harry. I'll knight you myself, and that will be the end of it."
Harry blinked at him, having completely forgotten that Draco possessed the power to do so. It would not erase Harry's lies, but at least he would feel better about his position amongst his people.
The Weasley twins sauntered in and sat down on either side of Draco with a familiarity that surprised Harry. He had thought Draco and the twins to be archenemies.
"Fred. George. Have you seen Zabini?" Draco asked carefully.
"Aye," Fred replied. "Dark skinned fellow, wa'nt 'e?"
"Liked to sing?" George added.
"Rather obnoxious prat?"
"Yes, that one," Draco said dryly.
"We've seen him," the twins answered in unison.
"Recently?" Harry asked before Draco's stormy expression could induce violence.
Fred and George looked at each other as though trying to recall the exact time. They both shook their heads.
"No, not really. Early this morning, I believe," George said.
"Yeah, 'bout the time 'e left, I'd say," Fred added.
"Left? He left?" Harry asked with a frisson of panic.
Fred nodded. "Yeah. 'Course, 'e was a bit upset, at first."
"Upset." Harry often felt like a parrot around the twins, but it always seemed to speed up the tale.
"Aye. Viktor Krum stopped in right after you lot left. You know, that Romanian trader?"
Harry nodded. Krum was a wanderer who travelled far and wide collecting and trading bizarre odds and ends. He had stopped in on his way to Scotland just before Draco's arrival.
"Well, 'e was on 'is way to Arabia. Can you imagine? Arabia!"
"And?" Harry prodded.
"And 'e 'ad a very fine cow to trade. Didn't want to drag the thing all the way to Arabia, now did 'e?"
"We did 'im a favour, takin' the cow off 'is 'ands like that." The twins nodded solemnly.
Harry rubbed his temples. "I'm assuming Zabini plays into this tale, somehow?"
"Oh, yeah! We traded Zabini for the cow."
Draco spewed the wine he'd been drinking across the table. Harry should have warned him about drinking liquid while talking to the twins. It could be life-threatening.
The twins waited expectantly, so Harry asked, "Traded?"
Fred nodded. "Krum wanted an outlandish sum for the cow. We didn't 'ave no money, so we told 'im about Zabini."
"Krum said 'e wouldn't mind some company on 'is journey."
Fred snickered. "We mentioned that Zabini'd be a good companion in more ways than one." He nudged Draco with an elbow and earned a glare.
"Zabini was resistant, at first."
"We think 'e was upset about bein' tied up."
"Cursed us somethin' fierce, 'e did," George said in a disapproving tone.
"Amazin' 'ow many curse words 'e knows."
"Must be all the travellin'."
"Can you get on with this?" Draco demanded.
Fred gave him a hurt look. "Patience is a virtue, Draco."
Harry suppressed a chuckle, but Draco's upraised hand prompted George to continue the tale. "Well, Krum said 'e didn't want to 'ave to keep the bloke tied the 'ole way, so we suggested that Krum 'ave a little chat with Zabini and show off 'is… merchandise."
Both twins erupted into gales of laughter. Harry was perplexed until Fred said, "You know 'ow Romanians are. They'll sleep with anythin'."
"Rumour 'as it they even go for the sheep."
"Anyway, Krum took our advice and spent a bit o' time with Zabini inside 'is tent. When they came out, Zabini gave us both a coin, thanked us, and packed 'is belongings." Fred frowned. "Seemed right 'appy, actually."
George nodded and smirked. "That 'e did. Oh, 'e left a message for you, Sir Blackfell. What was it, Fred?"
"Cor, George, you never remember nuthin'. A poem, it was. 'Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, bygones be bygones, let 'em lay where they must.' I think it's stupid."
Harry drew in a surprised breath and met Draco's gaze. Bygones? Did that mean Zabini was willing to let it lie?
"Well, 'e told me 'e was off to Arabia to play in the palaces o' the Sultans," George added. "You can remember the damn poem. I recall that bit."
Harry felt a huge smile split his lips and he suddenly felt like dancing. His eyes held Draco's, suddenly full of promise. "I need to go lie down," he said softly. "Draco, will you accompany me?"
Draco helped him to his feet and they went upstairs, ignoring the amused chatter of the twins behind them. Unfortunately, they were interrupted before Draco could do more than undress Harry and tuck him into bed with some judicious fondling, but when night fell they made up for many nights of solitary wanking.
And then some.
Author's Note: (*faints* OMG, this fic was torture to write. Absolute and utter torture and I really don't know why. I took extreme liberties with the time period, especially the easy acceptance of homosexuality--mostly because making that subject as taboo as it was in our own history would have made this ridiculously long and I was having issues finishing it as it was. It this fic wasn't completely Alternate Universe, one or both of them would certainly have been killed for their love, a sad and disgusting fact about our own brutal past. Anyway, this is the end and writing a sequel would destroy my brain and probably take two years and more sanity than I have to spare. I hope you enjoyed it, anyway! *hugs to all*)