Harry had never known a time like those days after he and Draco had decided on admitting their attraction. It flowed past as if they were immersed in sunlit water, happy and busy.
He could see, sometimes, this becoming the pattern of the rest of his life—
Except that he always ran up against the fact that he needed something to do; he couldn't simply sit in Malfoy Manor.
For now, though, he could. And Draco felt the same way, if his gentle touches to Harry's hand and the way he leaned over to breathe on his neck when he went past him were any indication.
They took it carefully. There were kisses for what seemed like a long time before there was anything else, drugging, honey-slow kisses that left Harry feeling as though he had danced on a carousel for minutes afterwards. There were those glancing touches Draco was so much a master of that he made Harry feel clumsy and heavy in comparison. Once Draco held Harry against the wall of the library and simply breathed into his mouth from a distance of three inches, until Harry was fighting his grip and surging forwards with black streaks exploding in front of his eyes—and then Draco let him go, smiled, and walked away.
But Harry knew what he ultimately wanted, and he thought he could have it, with a quiet confidence that was new to him.
Things had still changed. Draco still had to be there to translate for him he wanted to speak to Narcissa, his friends, or, on the rare occasions when he was obliged to have such interaction, Lucius. Harry found himself less and less interested in those things that had been his life before the curse, like Auror work. Because it wasn't possible for him anymore, he seemed to have narrowed his sights and set his mind on something that was.
Ron, he knew, didn't like that. He cast Draco distrustful glances every time they were together, even though they didn't argue. And he kept talking as if Harry could still be an Auror, and ignored the way Harry tried to remind him, gently, that it was impossible for someone to be in the field who couldn't communicate quickly with his partner or interrogate witnesses.
But there were other things that had changed, things Harry barely noticed until Ron brought them to his attention.
"You read more than Hermione does."
Harry started and put down his book. He and Draco had been sitting on a couch in one of the numerous studies in Malfoy Manor, trading conversational French back and forth. Draco had as smooth a voice in that language as he did in English or Latin, and Harry had tried to concentrate on the difficult sounds instead of letting himself be captured by the way Draco's tongue lapped around his lips. He had known Ron was going to drop by soon, but he hadn't heard him come in.
"Mrs. Malfoy let me through the wards," Ron added, in response to Draco's hard stare. "I think it was better that she did."
Considering Lucius's latest experiments had involved rabbits which still twitched when he carried them, impaled on spikes, through the drawing room, Harry could only agree. He put his book down in his lap and said, "How are you?"
Ron listened to the translation, but without taking his eyes from Harry. His gaze was bleak. Harry blinked and looked harder at him. Had something happened to someone in his family? That was the only reason Harry could think of why Ron would look so upset.
"I'm fine," Ron said, which seemed to get rid of that theory. Ron actually wasn't a very good liar. He leaned forwards the moment he finished speaking, his hands clenched in front of him. "How much do you read in a day, Harry?"
Harry blinked again. He hadn't thought about it, and anyway, the reading varied, since sometimes he read about magical brain damage and sometimes he read more French and sometimes he read the wizarding novels and fairy tales he hadn't had a chance to read growing up. He just knew that it was a lot.
"Probably one and a half books," he said, after thinking about it. "Or it might come out to that. But I don't know how to count grammar lessons in there."
"You never used to do that," Ron said after the translation, in the firm tones of someone proving a conclusion. But Harry had no idea what the argument was supposed to be, so he ended up staring at Ron stupidly.
"Of course not," he said. "But then I was in hospital for a month and couldn't speak, but I could still read. And then I came here and started learning how to cope with my condition. And that's really the only way to learn more." He smiled and tried to make a joke, because now Ron was staring at him fixedly, as if he could understand some of the Latin words without Draco's intervention. "I reckon I should be glad that I didn't lose the ability to read English, as well, or someone would have had to read to me. Imagine how long that would take."
Ron waited until Draco had spoken the last word, and then spun around and paced to the other side of the room, his fists locked tightly together behind his back. Harry glanced at Draco, but Draco seemed as baffled as he was, though more inclined to be angry about it. His look at Ron was grim, and he tapped his fingers together on the book he held as if he wanted to rip out the pages.
Ron spun around. "You've changed, Harry," he said. "You told me once that you wanted to be an Auror because you wanted to save other people. Perhaps you were trying to make up for what happened during the war, perhaps you weren't, but either way, it was important to you. What do you feel about that now?"
Harry opened his mouth, and then realized that Ron was right. He had helped Mrs. Malfoy since he came here, and maybe he had helped Draco by being present, but he hadn't felt the drive to save the world that had once been the central fact of his life, even after Voldemort was killed. He frowned and tugged at his hair.
Ron nodded, apparently realizing he had no answer. "You haven't felt it," he said quietly. "You've stayed here and never once come to visit us. You're happy to see us when we come, but you don't appear to miss us much from one time you see us to the next." He looked at Draco and then away. "And don't think I haven't noticed the way that you smile at him. You never would have considered being with another man before your accident, Harry, let alone him."
Harry opened his mouth to snap that he had considered sleeping with a man before he got cursed, and then paused. Was that true? It seemed that he could remember dreams about men and the desire to date them before his curse, and it seemed that that was the reason he had broken up with Ginny.
But the one time she had come to visit, he had hinted something to that effect, and she had looked at him with puzzled eyes and shaken her head.
"We bored each other to death, Harry, remember?" she'd asked with a little laugh. "We knew each other too well after all those years in Gryffindor and especially since we spent time together after the war." She'd paused, and then added softly, "Don't you remember?"
Harry wondered now if Ginny had told Ron about that conversation, and if that was the reason he was here now.
"You're suggesting that the curse changed Harry in more ways than the obvious," Draco said flatly.
Harry was grateful to him for putting it so baldly. It kept him from having to think about the words in other ways.
"Yes," Ron said. "What if it gave him thoughts and desires that he didn't have before? It's changed his personality and his regard for us. It might have changed his memories." He looked at Harry, and there was an appealing, yearning pity in his face that stunned Harry. "We miss you so much, mate," he whispered. "But it's like you moved to another country, and you never invite us to visit you there."
Harry lowered his head. He wanted to deny what Ron was saying, but what if he was right, and Harry had never noticed because he was just too used to coping with the effects of his brain injury?
He touched one hand to his temple. I thought I got off lightly. I thought everything was all right in there. Was I wrong?
A hand covered his. He glanced to the side and saw Draco rising to his feet, though he never took his hand from Harry's. That gave him an odd, half-stooping posture as he confronted Ron, but he didn't seem to notice—which made it graceful.
"If you are right," Draco asked, in a calm, grave voice, "what then? We have researched carefully, and the Healers at St. Mungo's did their part—" Harry wondered if Ron would notice the minor sneer in Draco's voice "—but no one could find a way to reverse the effects of the combined spells. Do you want Harry to live in misery because of something that he can't change? Or will you accept the consequences of it and help him live with it?"
Harry blinked again. That wasn't at all something he would have thought to say.
And, to his surprise, Ron reacted to it with calmness instead of blustering or drawing his wand and trying to destroy Draco's house. He cocked his head to the side and said, "If it's an inevitable part of him, then of course I would want to help him live with it. I want Harry to be happy, and at least we do get to see him sometimes. But what if you're exacerbating the effects by always keeping him with you? Shouldn't he stay with us for a while and see if that brings him back to his former self?"
"That assumes that bringing him back to his former self is an essential or desirable goal," Draco retorted without hesitation.
Ron's face turned red then, and Harry got ready to move between them if he needed to. "Of course you would say that," Ron muttered, "when you get to enjoy his company every day."
Draco twisted to the side, as if he was thinking the same thing about getting between people, but assumed that it was Harry who needed the protection. "I'm trying to defend him," Draco said, and his voice had become as cold as light snowfall, "to help him. And I brought him here in the first place because I could speak Latin. Can you do that? Or even French, the language that he's endeavoring to learn?"
Ron leaned around Draco and spoke directly to Harry as if Draco didn't exist. "I just want my best mate back," he said.
Harry looked into his eyes and wished he knew what to say—and wished that he could say something Ron would understand directly, since he seemed to distrust Draco's translations so much.
Then the memory of what Draco had said to him when he first came to Harry in hospital returned to him. Harry sat up straighter and gave Ron a smile, so he would know Harry wasn't angry with him.
"I have to live with what happened to me," Harry said quietly. "I can't ignore it. The Healers were trying to make me 'normal' again, and they made me feel inadequate because I couldn't master what they saw as simple tasks. I'll try to visit from the different country, mate, but I can't move back."
Draco promptly translated, his voice quiet and without any extra inflection of his own. Harry knew that meant he approved.
Well, he knew it from that and the way Draco's hand closed in a tight squeeze on his own.
Ron folded his arms. "I can't believe that you don't care about saving people anymore," he said flatly. "That was your whole life, mate. Don't you remember? Don't you care about all the people who are suffering now that you aren't there?"
"Aren't these people who would suffer when any Auror absents himself from the job?" Draco retorted without hesitation. "Why should all the responsibility be on Harry? It sounds like you're trying to guilt him for something that he can't help, and I don't like your tone, Weasel."
Harry rolled his eyes and squeezed Draco's wrist more tightly than was comfortable as he stood up. Draco was angry on Harry's behalf, yes, but that didn't give him the right to use insults to Ron.
This time, he moved forwards so that he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Draco, but slightly in front of him, leaning more towards Ron. If either one of them could appreciate symbolism, Harry hoped they would think about what that meant.
"You're right," he said to Ron. No matter how angry Draco was, Harry knew he could count on him to translate. "You're right that I don't think any more about saving people, or at least I only think about it when I regret that I can't be an Auror now. But I'm resigned to that. I know it mattered to me, but it doesn't now. I'll have to live with that, and if I've lost something precious—well, that's not the only thing I've lost."
Ron folded his arms during the translation, and stared at Harry as if he thought that he could make him back down. Harry looked back, sad and a bit angry and a bit wistful, but determined.
I have to live with what exists, and not what I wish existed. Draco taught me that lesson. I would have had to live with it if he hadn't wanted me back. It's one thing to struggle to change things, and another thing to try to change gravity and the other realities of the world.
"You haven't lost us," Ron said. "But you're close to that."
Harry rolled his eyes. He'd thought Ron was past this. "Why? Because I've changed? I would have thought that you could put up with that, Ron."
Ron half-turned away when that was translated, then said, "If you spend so much time with Malfoy that you don't want to spend any with us, then yeah, I think we're lost to each other. I told you, it doesn't matter how far away you live, we'll visit you, but it's hard to do that without an invitation."
"What other invitation can I give you?" Harry snapped, stepping towards him. "I've told you I can't talk to you directly unless you learn Latin or French, but I've visited with you, and I've talked with you, and I've agreed that it's a shame that I can't be an Auror anymore. I don't know what you want other than that."
Ron turned his back as Draco's voice died into silence and stared out the window for a minute. Draco opened his mouth to add something else, but Harry touched his wrist and held him silent. He'd seen that particular stillness from Ron before. It meant he was considering something deeply, and he would probably make up his mind to do the right thing if no one interfered. The last time Harry had seen him like that, it was right before they arrested a Dark wizard who had been responsible for the deaths of several Aurors.
Ron had arrested him rather than destroying him. His best friend was a good person at heart. Harry kept that in mind, the way he always had, no matter how exasperated he got with him.
Ron finally turned back around and said, "It really bothers me that we can't talk without him overhearing." He jerked his head at Draco, his eyes narrowed.
Again Draco looked as if he wanted to add something, but Harry bore down on his wrist. Ron usually offered a complaint before a concession. It let him keep his pride, which, in many ways, was just as strong and pure as Draco's. "I know," Harry said. "But I trust him. Deeply. It's no different than Hermione overhearing everything we say." Draco translated with one eye on him and one eyebrow raised, as much to say that he thought Harry was mad.
"I don't like that either," Ron muttered, but the complaint was practically formal.
"I wouldn't say that to her," Harry said, and something, maybe the tone in his voice or the way his eye sparked, made Ron understand it before the translation. He grinned back and then sighed, a sigh that seemed to come from his toes and expel a year's worth of frustration and grief instead of only a few months'.
"As long as you're happy, mate," he said. "I wish you were still the same person, but then, I might as well wish for Greyback not to have cursed you."
"That would be much the more useful thing," Draco said. Harry permitted it, because he understood some things about Draco just as he did about Ron now, and Draco would probably have exploded if he'd tried to hold in the remark any longer. To Ron, he offered the same shrug and headshake he had to Draco.
Ron clenched his teeth, but repeated, "As long as you're happy."
Harry settled for a nod and a wide smile, because he thought that Ron deserved an answer he could understand without interposition.
Ron smiled back. It was small and reluctant, but it was a step in the right direction, and before he left, Harry could clasp his hand with no regrets.
Isn't he worried? I would have been worried if someone had told me how much my behavior had changed without my noticing.
But from what Draco could observe, Harry was mostly interested, these days, in studying and kissing, not necessarily in that order. Days slid by like fingers of sunlight sliding across the carpet, and Draco was so busy during them that it was only at night, lying in his bed, for the moment without Harry's presence, that he realized how happy he had been.
Draco had encouraged Harry to act like that, of course. If he couldn't change the existence of the curse—and none of the research they did had so far shown them how to counteract a wisdom curse or even anything similar to it—then he might as well accept it and learn to cope with its effects.
Somehow, though, he hadn't expected Harry to take his advice quite so much to heart.
A hand dropped onto his shoulder. Draco tilted his head back and blinked up at Harry, who was looking down at him with a quizzical expression. "A Sickle for your thoughts," he said. "I called your name twice and you didn't hear me."
Draco shook his head. "Just thinking." He stretched his neck up for a kiss, and Harry reached down and obliged, then loped around the couch to take up a grammar book that lay on the opposite side of the table.
Draco bit his lip and studied him. Harry shifted a bit, but otherwise didn't show that he felt the gaze. He had apparently decided that Draco should be allowed to look at him if he wanted to.
Not only did Harry never talk about saving people anymore or seem to miss his friends much, even though he was always glad when they visited the Manor, but he didn't seem to object to the Dark magic Lucius was performing to find Narcissa's attackers, either. Draco was glad, since it made his life easier, but—
"Do you really not want to go back?" he asked.
Harry smiled, but didn't look away from the book. "Would it do any good if I did?"
"I don't think so," Draco said quietly. He had not been without hope, when Harry came to the Manor, that they would find some way to reverse the combined spells. But once again, Harry Potter seemed to be the center of a unique magical event. Draco knew no reason why the love magic of one mother, and not all the other mothers who had loved their children and would have died for them, should have defeated the Killing Curse. He knew no reason why a combination of a defensive shield and a curse should have changed Harry's mind in such odd directions. Perhaps he should be glad that it had been no worse.
Harry nodded and looked up, his eyes so bright and direct that Draco found it impossible to feel sad himself. "Then I won't brood on it," he said calmly. "Yes, I've changed. But I don't think change has to be a bad thing, as long as it doesn't cause me to hurt others." He eyed Draco sideways. "You don't think it's made me do that?"
"I'm not one of those who feel slighted by you," Draco had to answer. On the one hand, he didn't really care about the Weasley family's feelings, but on the other, he knew that their being unhappy would contribute to their storming the Manor eventually.
"I'd hate it if you felt slighted," Harry breathed, and laid aside the grammar book. The movement he made over the small table in Draco's direction could only be called stalking. Draco let his eyes flutter shut and released the moan that wanted to work its way out of his throat.
"Before I've even touched you," Harry murmured into his ear. "That's quite a compliment." The next moment, his hand skimmed over Draco's chest, poking and tapping in places that stirred a frisson of fire along his nerves, and Draco didn't have to feel as embarrassed.
He covered Harry's wrist with one hand and leaned forwards to kiss him. Harry submitted to the kiss for a moment, then tangled his fingers in Draco's hair and yanked his head back. Draco yielded, conscious of his own deeper breathing and the rising erection between his legs.
They had always stopped at kissing before. He doubted they would now.
"I want," Harry said into his ear, stopping every few words to lick and kiss and nip, "very badly, to have you on a bed and be able to do whatever I want with you."
"Nothing stopping you," Draco whispered, moving a hand to Harry's hip, "except your own discretion, and mine."
There was no response for a time, and Draco opened his eyes.
The brilliant shine of Harry's eyes needed no translation.
Harry's hands shook when he laid Draco down on his bed. They had gone to his rooms, and not Draco's. Harry didn't know if that was deliberate. He couldn't remember who had made the decision.
He couldn't remember much about the last few minutes, to tell the truth.
He laughed at himself for the shaking of his hands, and saw Draco's eyes narrow in on his face. He shook his head helplessly and lowered his head to bury his mouth in the hair at Draco's nape. "I can't help it," he whispered. "I want you so much. It's making me dizzy and I feel like my body's buzzing with lightning."
Draco raised a hand that clamped down on the back of his neck with far more possessiveness than he had shown so far. "Well," he whispered back. "Then I can excuse it."
Harry began to move again, with hands and lips made clumsy by desire and shock. Not fear, he thought as he kissed his way down Draco's chest towards his groin; at least, he didn't think so. What was there to be afraid of? Draco had done so many things to help him in the last month that it was silly to be afraid of him now. He would definitely tell Harry if Harry was doing something he didn't like.
The last month.
Perhaps that was it. Harry's life had changed completely in one month, after the casting of the curse, and now it had changed again, and he didn't think his senses or his brain had quite caught up.
Especially my brain.
Draco arched his head back and cried out when Harry sucked at the skin above his navel, and again when Harry breathed on his cock. Harry had so far been shoving his shirt and trousers out of the way as needed, but now he took the chance to strip them off, followed by his own clothing. It didn't help that his hands were shaking, or that Draco lay there, breathing heavily, and watched him with eyes that had gone dark like black suns and let him do what he liked.
Harry kissed his chest again, rubbed his cheek against it, and then slid down and took Draco's cock in his mouth.
He had never done this before, but once again, the dizzy surge of excitement caught him up and carried him over any possible fear. He had never learned to speak French or lived in Malfoy Manor before, either, but that didn't matter. He had done them, and failing at them didn't mean the end of the world.
Draco closed his eyes, his lashes soft streaks of light against his face, and breathed in tandem with the licks and caresses of Harry's tongue up his shaft. Harry wondered if it was an accomplishment to cause that, or if it was something that everyone could manage the first time they sucked cock. He wondered if Draco was noticing, if it mattered, if there was something wrong with him that he had noticed that response of all Draco's possible responses, and then the questions broke apart into mental laughter again.
He loved this. It let him fly without a broom. He never wanted it to end.
Draco's back arched and his brow furrowed and he made a soft little sound in the back of his throat. The soft little sound built to a sob and a cry, and then he was clawing at the blanket as he came.
Harry opened his mouth wider and tried to relax his throat. He had heard that people should do that.
It didn't help much. Draco's cock bounced off his tongue and the roof of his mouth, and he ended up choking and dripping semen onto the bedspread anyway. He comforted himself with the memory that house-elves were responsible for cleaning this up, and then reared back on his heels and looked at Draco.
Draco looked—happy. Soft and flushed and half-sleepy, but also half-predatory, he folded himself forwards in a long, slow motion and gave Harry the warmest kiss he'd ever had.
"Lie back," he whispered.
Harry did, and gasped as Draco melted down his body and then took Harry's cock in his mouth in return. It was no more than Harry had expected, after what he did for Draco, but somehow it had the specialness and intensity that he'd wanted and thought he would never experience.
And was it conceited to expect it in return?
Again Harry's thoughts broke when they got too moral, and he closed his eyes so as to better concentrate on the way that Draco's tongue worked up and down, the way it lashed at the end of each stroke—how is he managing the level of concentration that requires?—the soft breath puffing over him, the sudden firm suction when Draco drew him further into his throat, the hands rising to stroke his thighs and reach back to fondle his balls, the sensation of increasing fullness and tightness and warmth—
He came without warning, but it seemed that Draco didn't mind it any more than he did. He had more experience swallowing than Harry did, though. He pulled back and let his tongue curl around his lips as he caught the last drops, and Harry opened his eyes just in time to see that happen. He shuddered, his body stirring as if it could come again.
"Good?" Draco asked softly, crawling up beside him.
Harry looked up. There was a flicker of uncertainty, hidden but visible, like fire behind a grate, in Draco's eyes. It heartened Harry in an odd way. Draco had seemed so perfect and self-contained, most of the time, it was a relief to find out that there was one thing he wasn't sure he was good at.
And he had helped Harry so much. Harry had only helped him a little in return, mostly by helping his mother.
It was a pleasure to be able to reach up, bring Draco in for a kiss, and murmur against his lips, "Better than I ever dreamed."
Draco dropped his head forwards to rest on Harry's shoulder, but Harry saw his smile before he did so.
Draco woke slowly, disoriented with the combination of discomfort that came from sleeping in a strange bed and the comfort that someone else was with him. He blinked over Harry's shoulder at the window for a long time before he recognized it. Then he sat up and rubbed at his forehead. No one was there to see him, so he indulged in a good long yawn.
Of course, when he closed his mouth and looked again, a house-elf was watching him. It bowed solemnly and said, "Master Draco Malfoy is to be excusing me, but Master Lucius is wanting to speak with him."
"Of course," Draco murmured, and looked around for his shirt and trousers before he gave up and borrowed Harry's. He couldn't remember how they had come off Harry, which might be a bit worrying, but wasn't.
Harry isn't like anyone else, he thought, pausing to look back at him once before he opened the door of the bedroom.
Harry was curled up with one arm over his head. Defiant bits of black hair still stuck up around his hand, of course. His breath was light and easy, and it ruffled the hair. Draco could see the corner of one eye, sticky with sleep, and the expanse of bare chest, marked with more red bites than he remembered leaving. Sheets smothered the rest of his body.
Draco shuddered in deep satisfaction and turned to go find his father.
To his surprise, Lucius already stood outside the door. He stared Draco in the eye and lifted a cage of iron above his head. Draco, squinting, managed to make out what looked like two shrunken human heads in it.
"I found them," Lucius said simply.
Draco looked quickly at his father for permission, then reached out to touch the side of the cage. Agonized screams promptly sounded in his ears. The cage itself contained the memories of their deaths, and would for anyone who touched it.
Draco pulled his hand back. His love and longing was different—he would not wreak such a revenge if someone hurt Harry, because Harry would not want him to—but he did not wish to cast aspersions on his parents' bond. What Lucius had done, Narcissa would want and understand and approve. And it had been what his father needed to do.
"Good," he said. "I trust they paid in full?"
His father's eyes flashed, with one more glimpse of the mad look they had shown all summer. "More than in full." That made sense to Draco, since cutting off his wife's arm would necessitate a debt so great Lucius would be anxious to show his victims the interest that had accrued, as well.
Then Lucius turned and walked away with the cage, and his strides looked like the strides of a sane man. Draco nodded, knowing that his father would join them for breakfast later that morning and look perfectly normal. He had accomplished his revenge. It was now done and past, and it would not linger in his mind.
Draco stepped back into the bedroom and studied Harry for a moment. Yes, he has changed. I think he'll accept what Father did, and once he never would have.
But if Harry accepted it, Draco saw no reason why it had to change. He had been a champion of Harry's making his own decisions about his mind and preferences from the time he had seen him in hospital.
Was it really only a month ago?
Well, why not? A month was enough time to make up one's mind to live well with a disability. A month was enough time to find love, to give up a hobby, to seek for and close in on murderers. (Lucius's hunt had taken two months, but then, he had had two to find).
Enough time to come to another country.
Harry rolled over and stretched out a hand, automatically seeking him.
Draco walked towards the bed, enjoying the fall of sunlight on his skin from the enchanted window, the roll of his muscles, the firm steps of his feet. Then he bent over Harry and began to whisper.
"Vivamus, meus Harry, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
Soles occidere et redire possunt;
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dorimienda."
Harry's eyes opened and fastened on him with perfect understanding.
Draco smiled and continued.
"Da mi basia mille, deinde centum;
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum;
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum—"
He didn't get to finish, as Harry rose, wrapped an arm around his neck, flipped him to the bed, and set about making the poem a reality.