Title: Not Less of Love
Word Count: 36 000 overall
Summary: The war changed everyone. Harry comes back to eighth year knowing exactly what he wants, and unfortunately for him, so does Draco. Is it just Harry's imagination, or is his worst enemy harbouring a secret? Harry finds out about Draco's new side and definitely doesn't want to help. But it's not really up to him.
Warning(s): veela!fic, eighth year EWE, explicit sex
Betas: rainien, snarkyscorp, and Krystle Lynne—Thank you all so much. I hope you each have some idea of how much you are needed and appreciated. Thanks as well to keppiehed, as always. Your notes and thoughts made this infinitely better.
Not less of love, but expanding
Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
From the future as well as the past.
—T. S. Eliot
Eighth fucking year.
It would almost be laughable if it weren't so pitiful.
Harry Potter, afraid to enter the real world. Of course, he wouldn't say it out loud—hell, this was the first time he'd even admitted it himself. But it was true.
When Hermione had said she was going back to Hogwarts to get her NEWTs—even though McGonagall said it wasn't necessary and that for most, a make-up course was the only necessity—Harry had looked to Ron and laughed.
Stupid Ron. Not picking up on the obvious best mate cues.
His so-called best mate had stared at his other so-called best mate with bloody stars in his eyes.
"Good idea," Ron had said as if it hadn't been a mere week before that they'd been discussing applying for Auror training.
Arseholes, the lot of them. He hadn't been able to convince a single one of his friends to continue with their real lives; everyone had claimed that getting the best possible NEWTs was the only way to go on. Harry had even tried to convince Ron that it would be more difficult trying to get a job once they finished school because they would be doing so against the seventh years—twice as many students trying to find jobs at the same time.
Ron had just got that dreamy look in his eye, obviously picturing fireside snogging with Hermione. Prat.
Of course Harry could have gone on alone. It even made sense. He didn't want to go back to Hogwarts, as he had no desire to learn; he just wanted his life to start.
But he was scared. And not a small part of him, either. Not so much scared of having to find a job or live on his own—those things he could handle—but what if he was wrong? What if everyone else came out of Hogwarts with a sense of self, a satisfaction he'd never been able to gain from schooling? What if they were all closer and better for the experience? What if they didn't need him anymore?
Harry shook his head—he knew he was being ridiculous. Need him. They didn't need him now! They wanted him around, sure. But the war was over. There was nothing left to fight for. There was no need for a hero and no need for Harry Potter.
With a start, Harry suddenly realised the crux of his problem. If he went back to Hogwarts, there would be nothing to do. He'd be a normal student for the first time. Nothing to fight, nothing to vanquish, just a normal boy. No pressure, no trying to fit into moulds made before he'd even known he was a wizard. Wasn't that what he'd always wanted?
But if he became an Auror, there'd be plenty to do. He'd be needed, helpful. He'd save lives and capture bad guys.
Didn't he want a break? Didn't he deserve one?
Harry had no idea why he was contemplating all this now. After all, he was already back in Hogwarts, eighth fucking year.
It was, however, better than staring at Malfoy's stupid face. King of the fucking Slytherins—what a short memory that house had. Malfoy was currently eating his breakfast with a disinterested air, as if he didn't care whether he ever ate again. What a pompous arse.
Becoming aware that he was glaring—and without provocation except that Malfoy was clearly an idiot—Harry crossed his arms over his chest and turned his glare to Ron, instead.
It was an embarrassingly long time before Ron noticed, and it was probably only because Hermione was nudging him and jerking her head toward Harry. Harry levelled Hermione with the glare for a moment before giving it back to Ron.
"Er… what's up, Harry?"
"Like you don't know," he snapped. Then he immediately felt bad and relinquished his defensive position, leaning his elbows on the table and propping his head on his hands. "Can you believe Malfoy came back?"
All three turned their heads toward the Slytherin in question, who noticed—why hadn't he noticed Harry's continued staring, then? Probably had selective staring radar—and gave them a sneer and a quirked eyebrow. Arse.
"Where else would he go?" Hermione asked when they turned back to face each other.
"Oh, I don't know, how about his gigantic manor filled with riches and diamonds and prize poodles and shite?"
Even Ron looked askance at Harry for that. "Poodles?"
Harry shrugged. Not his best. "Still, it's weird that he's here."
"I don't think so," Hermione said, always the devil's advocate—and never had that phrase seemed more accurate than when she defended Malfoy. "He's a student, he was exonerated in court thanks, in part, to your testimony, and he deserves a second chance."
Harry glanced over at the Slytherin table again. Malfoy's head was down, but his entire body was oddly stiff, as if he was waiting for something to happen.
"Hey, Hermione," Harry whispered, leaning over the table. "Does Malfoy look different to you?"
Hermione took a look. "Er, in what way?"
"I can't place it. Less angry? Or did he get, you know, taller or something?"
Ron and Hermione were both looking at him strangely, but Harry shrugged it off. It was probably just having his freedom that made Malfoy look different. Not happy, just… sure.
"Maybe a little tall—oi, Finnegan, watch it!"
Harry cried out and jumped up as someone fell hard against him, an elbow jolting his ribs and pumpkin juice spilling over the back of his robes.
Seamus corrected his stumble, holding up both hands in defence and dropping his empty glass at the same time.
"Sorry, mate!" he cried. "Got caught up in Ron's robe. No harm, just let me—" He pulled out his wand.
Harry only had a moment to turn before he was slammed against the tabletop. His already messy robes were likely beyond repair, having become intimately acquainted—most tragically—with his treacle tart.
"What the fuck are you doing?" a voice behind Harry hissed at Seamus. Harry struggled to get up, but a hand between his shoulder blades kept him down.
"What the fuck are you doing, Malfoy?" Ron cried, pulling his wand on the person pinning Harry.
"Just an accident," Seamus said quickly.
Harry saw the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor rise from his seat and approach them. Harry hadn't met the man, but even Kingsley Shacklebolt had had good things to say about him. Though sideways—to Harry—it was obvious he was fit and formidable. His thick, dark blond brow was drawn as he eyed the kerfuffle.
"Mr. Malfoy, I presume?" the professor said in a light voice that contradicted his demeanour.
Malfoy grunted in response, which Harry thought was rather odd. He tried to lever himself off the table, but the hand holding him seemed preternaturally strong, and he couldn't reach his wand.
"If you please, let Mr. Potter up from the table. There seems to be a misunderstanding."
In the interim, during which Harry assumed Malfoy was plotting how to get out unscathed, Harry realised the entire Great Hall was silent and all eyes were on them. He looked up to see Hermione staring between Malfoy and the professor.
"Any time!" Harry snapped, not appreciating the position or the lack of help from the professor.
Malfoy's hand finally let up, and Harry stood up quickly, whirling to face him. "What is your problem? Can't figure out how to play nice with others—oh, wait, that's something your parents would have taught you."
Knowing that Malfoy's father was in prison and his mother under house arrest, Harry knew the comment would hit home. But he regretted the jibe as soon as he saw Malfoy's face. It didn't crumble or even so much as twitch. But his eyes went strangely hollow, and it was as if he looked right through Harry. Malfoy blinked once and the look was gone, replaced with the more familiar derision.
"Fuck you, Potter."
"Now, now," the professor tutted, ushering Malfoy from the hall.
Harry grabbed his books—splattered with treacle tart—and looked up at the head table. McGonagall looked confused, but only for a moment. When she met Harry's eyes, she gave a disapproving frown as if he'd done something wrong.
"What happened?" Harry demanded as the three walked toward Potions class.
"Well, you were there, you saw—"
"Actually, Ron, all I really saw was my pudding get demolished. Care to fill me in on the other details?"
Hermione obliged. "Seamus stumbled and spilled his drink on you and Ron." As an afterthought, Hermione spelled away the mess on Harry's robes, leaving only a faint smell of treacle, which Harry didn't altogether mind. "Then suddenly Malfoy was there."
"Suddenly?" Harry asked.
"Yeah, Harry, I didn't even see him get up and then he was there," Ron confirmed.
"And then he had his wand on Seamus and had you against the table. Without any real effort, even—no offense, Harry."
"None taken," he grumbled. So much for his reputation.
"Then Professor Sturn came over and took Malfoy away. That's it."
"Why would Malfoy pull his wand on Seamus?" Harry wondered aloud. They entered the Potions classroom, with more than a little unease. It was almost easy to imagine Snape barging in and demanding silence.
Taking seats near the front for Hermione, Ron and Harry shared a table and began unloading their supplies.
"Maybe he didn't like the way Seamus wasted his drink."
"Yeah, Malfoy seems like the type to care about wastage." Harry shook his head. He didn't like not knowing what was happening. How dare Malfoy just push him around like that for no reason? And why hadn't anyone stopped him?
"Ron…" Harry paused. What was he missing? "Why didn't you, you know, pull Malfoy off of me?"
For a moment, Ron looked confused. "I dunno. It was weird, like I really couldn't…" He trailed off for a moment, but then said, "I guess it all just happened so fast."
Deciding to just write it off as a freak occurrence, Harry changed the subject to girls and let Ron run away with it.
The classroom door opened and Slughorn walked in, giving Harry a hefty pat on the shoulder on his way to the front of the class. With Snape-like efficiency, he wrote directions on the board and clapped his hands for them to get started. Apparently there wasn't to be even a day of catch-up. Harry had been hoping for an easy first week.
Halfway through a rather simple fracture tincture, the door opened once again, slamming against the wall and startling Ron so much that he dropped his beetle eyes.
Malfoy strode into the room and took the only empty seat—the one beside Hermione. The Slytherins hissed but Malfoy just glared around the room until his eyes fell on Harry.
Harry wanted to demand who the hell Malfoy thought he was, barging into Potions in the middle of class, but he didn't want to lose points on the first day if Slughorn decided to dock him for talking out of turn—though the professor certainly didn't make a move to chastise Malfoy. Harry contented himself with glaring back.
The noise level returned to normal and Ron dumped in his handful of gritty beetle eyes. Harry looked away from Malfoy to grab up the ladle and stir. When he looked back, Malfoy was staring at his book. He didn't once offer to help Hermione with the potion, not even to put away the ingredients at the end. Harry hoped Slughorn had noticed and wouldn't give him a completed mark.
When Slughorn dismissed the class, Malfoy shot from his seat and was out of the room before most people had even risen from their seats.
Without thinking, Harry handed the completed tincture to Ron and made an excuse about getting to his next class early. He left the Potions classroom just in time to see a shock of pale hair turn the corner. Running after Malfoy, Harry didn't even bother asking himself what the hell he was doing. He had been chasing Malfoy for so long that he'd become quite adept at ignoring that little voice that asked him if he was mental.
Around the corner, Harry stopped when he saw Malfoy leaning against the wall, bent double as if he'd run a marathon. There were a few students walking past, but no one took any note of Malfoy, who ran a hand through his hair and seemed to rally himself.
"Malfoy!" Harry shouted as he straightened and looked ready to walk away. Harry closed the distance between them, but stayed far enough away that he felt safe. His hand was on his wand, and he knew Malfoy noticed.
"What do you want?" Malfoy's voice was wary, and he looked behind Harry as if afraid that Harry had back-up waiting.
"What was that about earlier, in the Great Hall? What's your problem?"
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "I was walking by and that Irish git spilled some of his drink on me. You were already covered in it, and I didn't want it getting on my robes. They're couture, you know."
"You weren't walking by, though. You were sitting down just seconds before."
Malfoy stepped away from the wall and closer to Harry. "Oh, keeping an eye on me, were you?"
"It's proved necessary before," Harry said darkly, looking around to make sure the conversation was still private.
For a moment, Harry thought he saw real regret on Malfoy's features, but it shifted quickly—probably indigestion.
"Listen, Potter. Things are different now, okay? I get it. You won. You're the hero; I'm the villain. I don't care about all that. I've got enough to think about without trying to maintain this little war. So consider this my surrender."
Harry wasn't sure why he liked the sound of that so much. The idea of Malfoy with a white flag made his stomach squirm. "I don't want to fight, either," Harry admitted. "But I don't want you pushing me around just because you've gained a few inches."
Malfoy smirked and Harry flushed—with anger.
"Noticed, have you? Anything else strike you as… odd?"
For a long, strange moment, Malfoy seemed to concentrate on something. His eyes narrowed and his fingers fanned out. Harry looked around to see if Malfoy was trying some sort of wandless magic, but he couldn't see anything different.
He did notice, however, that the students walking past had all stopped to watch them.
"Er… Did you do something to me?" Harry patted himself down, checking his hair and glasses.
Malfoy seemed to shrink a little. He took a step back, and when he did, the students started to move again. It was almost as though Malfoy had paused the entire hallway.
"Did you not…?" Malfoy trailed off, looking confused.
Harry had had enough. "Whatever. Listen, Malfoy. Just stay away from me and my friends and we'll get along just fine. And don't try any more of that crazy slow-motion stuff, either. You looked like a right ponce."
Malfoy sneered, but it was weak, and Harry walked away, triumphant.
"Yeah, and everyone just stared at us. And then he relaxed and they went back to normal."
"That's very strange," Hermione said. But she was looking at her Transfiguration text and not at Harry.
"He was probably just making a stupid face, and you didn't notice because you've seen it so much that it didn't look very stupid to you."
"Ron, saying things like that is why people think you're not very bright," Harry said with a smile. "Malfoy's face is always stupid."
They laughed, Hermione rolled her eyes, and everything was normal.
Still, Harry wondered what Malfoy had wanted him to see when he'd asked if anything was odd. The truth was, everything Malfoy did lately was odd, and Harry didn't like it. He'd figure it out one way or another.
It was good to have a project, Hermione always said. And Harry had worried about eighth year being boring.
For the next week, Harry kept a very close eye on Malfoy. Nothing else out of the ordinary happened, however. Harry was glad for that, of course. He didn't want Malfoy pushing him into food or putting people on pause.
Harry just wanted to know what was going on.
To make matters worse, it was turning into a repeat of sixth year, with Hermione and Ron ignoring Harry's concerns. It didn't seem to matter that he'd been right the last time—Malfoy had been up to something.
Now, though, except for generally being a prat, Malfoy wasn't giving Harry anything to work with.
Only once had Malfoy said anything to Harry since the odd confrontation after Potions. Harry'd been walking to lunch with Neville, talking about their herbology project, and Malfoy had been leaving the Great Hall. Malfoy had slammed his shoulder into Neville, who stumbled and almost fell. Harry had been expecting something and quickly helped Neville regain his balance.
"What now?" Harry'd asked in a tired voice.
"Nothing to do with you, Potter," Malfoy had said, almost snarling. He'd turned to Neville, snapping, "Watch yourself, Longbottom."
Malfoy had stridden away, leaving Harry and Neville confounded as to what had provoked the move. Not that Malfoy needed provocation; he was just a berk.
Despite not speaking to Harry, Malfoy seemed to do his fair share of watching. Harry was starting to feel a little paranoid with how often he caught Malfoy staring at him. It was unnerving, to say the least—and annoying because Ron and Hermione both claimed to not have noticed.
Now Harry was sitting in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. No one else was there; Harry'd arrived quite early, wanting to read up on the wand movements of the spells they were practising that day. The syllabus contained a lot of what Harry had been forced to learn during the year they'd been searching for Horcruxes, but there were methods he'd never even heard of.
During the last class, Professor Sturn had treated Harry like any other student, which he appreciated, until the professor had given him a detention for talking to Ron. He'd known how to cast the spell and hadn't seen the point in pretending to listen. Sturn hadn't agreed, and Harry had written lines on his second day back to class.
Just as Harry heaved a sigh, the door opened. Turning automatically, Harry locked eyes with Malfoy, who looked paler than usual. After an interminable amount of eye contact, Harry turned back to his book. The door closed.
Harry waited for Malfoy to take a seat, but there was no sound of movement, and when Harry turned to look, Malfoy was gone.
"That's more like it," he muttered to himself. It was better that Malfoy just keep his distance. Still, Harry didn't like being the reason a person couldn't be in a room. He'd thought he and Malfoy had agreed to end the animosity—could Malfoy only do that by staying away completely?
After a moment, the fact that Malfoy couldn't be in the same room as him really started to get to Harry. Was Malfoy afraid of him? Was he worried one of them would be hurt? Did he think he was doing Harry a favour with this dramatic measure?
Before he knew it, Harry was opening the door and looking around. Just as after Potions, Malfoy had his back to the wall and was leaning over, elbows on his knees.
"Are you all right?" Harry asked. He didn't approach—he wasn't sure if Malfoy was sick or dangerous or about to go all weird on him again.
"Fine," Malfoy said through gritted teeth. He looked up and gave what he might have thought was a reassuring smile but was really just a twisted grimace and not the least bit convincing.
"You look pretty bad, Malfoy. Maybe you should go see Pomfrey—"
"And what do you care, anyway?" Malfoy demanded, rearing up and striding closer.
Harry held up his hands, warding Malfoy off. "I don't," he said. "But I wouldn't think it'd be good for your reputation to pass out on the floor, you know?"
"The idea that you care about my reputation is laughable." Malfoy shook his head.
Now that he was closer, Harry could see more small changes in him. Malfoy's hair looked a little lanker, his eyelids were drooping like sleep was just a fond memory, and his hands were twitching strangely. "Yeah, you should definitely see someone."
Harry turned to re-enter the classroom, but Malfoy grabbed his arm and turned him. For a long moment, nothing was said. Harry waited for an explanation, but when none seemed forthcoming, he tried to pull away.
Malfoy held tight.
"Listen, this is getting really fucking creepy—"
"Thanks for your concern, Potter," Malfoy said, sarcasm curling from his lips. "But I've got this under control."
Still, he didn't let go of Harry until Harry jerked his arm away. Malfoy's grip had been tight enough to bruise, and he rubbed the soreness away. "Somehow I doubt that."
"Just go." Malfoy looked away.
Something seemed very wrong with the entire picture. "What—"
"Go!" Malfoy roared, falling back against the wall and glaring at Harry.
"Oh, fuck you," Harry snapped, tired and confused by Malfoy's mercurial temperament. He walked back into the DADA room, slamming the door behind him.
It was an easy class. They learned about defensive fire and water spells.
Malfoy seemed to sleep at his desk. Harry got lines again.
"Wow, this is awkward." Harry tried to laugh away the silence, but it only seemed to make things worse.
"You're sure?" Ron asked, hope all too apparent in his voice. Hope that Harry wasn't sure.
"Ron! Of course Harry's sure. He wouldn't have said anything, otherwise."
"I think it's great, Harry," Neville chimed in, though he didn't quite meet Harry's eyes.
"Definitely," Seamus agreed, and he did meet Harry's eyes, a little too firmly, really.
"Thanks, guys," Harry said.
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," Ginny said. "We kissed. "
"Yes, I remember—"
"But things aren't always black and white, Ginny," Hermione said gently. "Right, Harry?"
"That's right. And I'm only telling you lot in case, you know… In case, later, there's a reason to."
"Like you wanting to bring a guy back to our dorm? You can't do that, Harry. It's not fair! If we can't have girls up, you can't have guys!"
Ron's objection was seconded around the room.
Harry was just glad that Ron wasn't having a total breakdown, the way Ginny said he had when Charlie came out. "I don't plan on having anyone over. I just wanted you guys to know, that's all."
The truth was, Harry hadn't wanted everyone to know. Not even close. But with Ginny always trying to sit on his lap and 'work on things', and Ron trying to show him magazines that simply did not appeal, Harry's cauldron had boiled over, so to speak. And he'd just… blurted it out.
Hermione had instantly corrected him, of course. He wasn't gay—he was bisexual. She knew this because she saw him looking at girls from time to time. Ginny had objected to that until Harry reminded her that she had no reason to object—he'd made that very clear, he thought.
Hermione was right, anyway. He did like girls. Some girls. Sometimes. Mostly not, though. He liked the ways girls looked and the way he imagined they would feel, but he couldn't picture himself with a girl, and not just sex. When he thought about dating, it was with guys. Not that he expected to ever find another bloke with those inclinations at Hogwarts. It was only… ten months until school ended for good. Then he'd… find other gay or bisexual men, somehow. There had to be networks or something for things like that.
Hermione would help.
Harry looked around the room. Dean was back to his sketchbook, Neville was pretending to study, Ginny was gone—when had that happened? Ron and Hermione were talking in hushed voices, and Seamus was… suddenly beside him.
"That must have been really hard," he commiserated. He patted Harry's thigh lightly.
"Er, yeah, but I've got a great group of friends, you know?"
"That we do," Seamus said, chuckling. "Still, if you ever need to talk, or… whatever. I'm here for you, mate."
"Seamus! Get away from him, you great pervert," Ron yelled, sending Seamus running to their dorm room.
"How come it's no big deal that Seamus likes guys?" Harry asked. He felt like pouting.
"Because Seamus likes everyone. Scratch that. Everything. And he's always been like that."
"Oi!" Seamus shouted from the top of the stairs. "Keep that up and I'll be having a go at you!" He raised his fists threateningly, but Ron just laughed.
Seamus gave a wink and one more exaggerated nod to Harry before disappearing for good.
Harry dropped his head into his hands. He hoped his friends could practise a little discretion with the news. He didn't want to end up on the cover of the Daily Prophet.