Draco smiled and whistled in approval as Harry emerged from his bedroom; freshly showered and dressed in dark denim jeans with a black jumper that really highlighted the bright jewel green of his eyes.
Harry looked embarrassed but pleased. "Thanks. I'm sure you look great too."
Draco laughed. "But of course."
The two left the flat, laughing and talking easily. A severe contrast to that very morning when Harry had been in real danger.
The weather outside was crisp and cool, the sky overhead a deep purple as evening set in. The lights of Godric's Hollow came to life and twinkled at them from every window.
"Oh, by the way," Harry said, tucking his cold hands into the thick woollen pockets of his winter cloak. "I got a new job."
Draco turned to him in surprise as they walked. "Really?"
"I uh... ran into Oliver Wood and I kinda told him that I was bored," Harry said hesitantly.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Draco asked. "I could've found you something else."
"I felt bad after all the trouble you went to for me..."
"Don't be stupid, that doesn't matter, it was no trouble at all. I just want you to find something you enjoy. What were you doing? The manager said he'd find you something to do but never mentioned what it could be. I just assumed anything in a broom shop would be interesting."
Harry smiled wryly. "That's what I thought too. They had me polishing the plaques on the broom handles."
"Yep." Harry nodded.
"That wanker!" Draco exclaimed angrily.
Harry chuckled. "It's alright, Oliver decided I could test fly brooms for them instead."
"Wow... that's an awesome job," Draco said, impressed.
"Yeah, I can't wait to start. Oliver was really nice about it."
Draco's eyes narrowed. "Yeah I'll bet he was."
Harry frowned at Draco's tone then broke into a smile. "Are you jealous Malfoy?"
"No," he answered a little too quickly.
Harry smirked and bumped Draco's shoulder with his own. "Liar."
"Prat," Draco countered with a smile, bumping Harry's shoulder in return.
Harry smiled and sighed in contentment, breathing the fresh cool air into his lungs and enjoying the freedom of it all. He had forgotten how wonderful it was to walk out the front door and go anywhere you pleased. His life at the Inn seemed so long ago, as though it had never happened, or as though it had been some terrible nightmare that he'd awoken from.
He couldn't remember ever having had this sort of freedom before. His safety had always been a concern when Voldemort had been alive, and now perhaps he was truly free for the first time. Not just free from being confined, but free from the anger and resentment that he had lived with for so long after the war had ended.
"What are you thinking about?" Draco asked, interrupting his silent musing.
"About how I've never had any real freedom until now," Harry replied honestly. "My whole life something or somebody always had me locked in a cage - or a cupboard," he added ruefully, "and now I can do whatever I want. It feels strange."
Draco nodded, absently watching the frozen footpath pass beneath their feet. "I guess I've been taking it for granted these past few years. Once I'd switched sides and Voldemort was dead - as well as my father - I suddenly didn't have to hide anymore. I suddenly had an actual life of my own." He paused and slipped his right hand into Harry's pocket, linking their fingers together and pulling their clasped hands out into the open.
Harry smiled at the contact, his cold hand warming within Draco's.
"I always focused on the future without really paying attention to what was happening in the present."
Harry nodded in understanding. "It's easy to do."
"What do you want from your life Harry?" Draco asked, feeling oddly introspective.
Harry exhaled, mulling over such a heavy question. "I guess I just want happiness, and contentment - in everything. I don't want to regret, and I... I don't want to be alone."
Draco squeezed his hand. "You won't be. Ever," he promised fervently.
Harry felt his heart jump and a tingling in his stomach at the blond's words. "Really?" he asked, trying not to sound overly excited.
Draco smiled and gave his hand another squeeze. "Yes really."
Harry smiled to himself for a moment before adding lightly, "You're only saying that cause you'll die without me - literally."
Draco stopped and faced towards him earnestly, taking Harry's words seriously. "I wouldn't have made that choice if I didn't want to be with you Harry."
Harry smiled softly. "I know. And I wouldn't have agreed if I didn't want the same thing. And hey, we haven't killed each other yet."
Draco smiled in response and started walking again. "Snape thinks we're crazy."
"Impetuous children?" Harry chuckled.
"Yeah, something like that," Draco smirked.
"I really care about you, you know," Harry suddenly said after a moment of silence.
Draco glanced sideways at him in surprise.
"When you went after Lachlan on your own like that, I was so scared. I've never worried about someone like that before, like their life mattered above all else. Even more than my own."
Draco felt a warmth in his chest at Harry's words. "I've never felt that way before either. There aren't many people I'd risk my own life for."
Harry smiled and he felt more connected to Draco in that moment than ever before, like perhaps they were meant for each other. He wanted to voice that last thought out loud but was afraid that it would come off sounding sentimental and juvenile.
The two boys walked in easy silence, marvelling at their own feelings for the other and the thought of being cared for in return with such depth and sincerity, neither one having had much of that in their lives thus far.
"So where are we going?" Harry asked.
"Here," Draco announced, stopping them outside a cozy Italian restaurant in the quaint little centre of Godric's Hollow. "I hope you like Italian."
Harry grinned and nodded, his empty stomach rumbling in response.
Draco pushed open the door and led Harry inside.
The smell of garlic and the warm homey atmosphere washed over them immediately as they stepped in from the cold.
A cheery maitre de led them to a private candle-lit table near the window up against the far wall.
Draco directed Harry to his seat as though it was second nature. He seated himself close beside his boyfriend and began to read to him from the menu.
Harry leaned against Draco's shoulder as the blond quietly read through all the tempting dishes.
Harry smiled to himself, tilting his head to catch every word while at the same time inhaling Draco's unique and utterly addictive scent. It was a scent that had suddenly become synonymous with home and safety.
Harry couldn't believe how attached he had become to the Slytherin. Maybe it was a side-effect of Draco rescuing him from his self-destructing life, but it had developed into something so much more than just a compulsive need to repay him for it. Draco had proven that he would be there for him, regardless of knowing that Harry had at one time sold his body for money, regardless of the fact that he was blind and not entirely self-sufficient. Harry knew he didn't ever want to lose him. Draco had become an inexplicable part of him, of his life. In a way, he always had been.
Harry blinked and suddenly realized that Draco had stopped talking some time ago.
"Were you dozing off?" Draco asked in concern. "I'm sorry, you're probably tired, we should've postponed-"
Harry smiled and shook his head. "I'm fine, really. I was just thinking about something."
"Good things I hope..." Draco replied, still looking concerned. "How's your cheek? Has it healed fully?"
Harry reached up and touched his face where the gash had been from Lachlan's wand. Only smooth skin met his fingers and not even the ghost of a bruise lingered.
"It's fine, perfect. Thanks again for healing me," Harry said sincerely. "You seem to do that a lot."
"Yes well, I really don't want to make a habit of it," Draco replied darkly, having had enough of seeing his partner being abused to last a lifetime.
"So... what are you having?" Harry asked, wanting to talk about lighter things.
Draco took it for the diversion tactic that it was. "Fettuccini Alfredo with all you can eat garlic bread."
Harry licked his lips. "Yum, I'll have the same."
"Guess there won't be any kissing tonight," Draco added slyly, thinking about all the garlic they were about to ingest.
Harry laughed and leaned his elbow on the table, cupping his chin in one hand and facing towards Draco.
Draco tenderly reached out and brushed Harry's wayward fringe back from his forehead. He didn't usually approve of silly little displays of affection in public, but with Harry he seemed to want to break the rules.
And Harry's responding smile was well worth it.
The waiter returned then to take their orders and collect the menus.
"I'm starving," Harry said, once he had gone. "I hope they bring the bread out straight away."
"Me too," Draco agreed, hunger pangs pulling at his own stomach.
"I wonder what happened to Lachlan?" Harry said, absently spinning the fork on the table in front of him.
"Azkaban I would imagine," Draco replied.
"Good," Harry said firmly, fingers clenching the cool metal silverware. "Lachlan told me that he was there, just after Voldemort cursed me... watching..."
Draco watched Harry closely, and he could see the pain in the other's expression, obviously reliving the moment.
Harry shook his head, his dark expression clearing. "Let's not talk about him now."
"Alright," Draco agreed readily. He glanced up and saw their waiter heading towards their table with a basket of steaming garlic bread and two glasses of water.
"Will you sleep with me tonight?"
Draco let out a bark of laughter. Harry, oblivious to the fact that the waiter was standing over them, frowned angrily.
"What's so funny-"
"Thanks," Draco smiled at the amused waiter and took the warm basket of bread from him.
Harry flushed red as the waiter said 'no problem' before retreating back to the kitchen.
Draco bit his lip but couldn't hold the laughter in. He hadn't laughed so hard in quite some time.
Harry narrowed his eyes and sat back in his chair, arms folded over his chest, clearly not amused.
Draco finally got a hold of himself and wiped the tears from his eyes with the white cloth napkin.
"Sorry," he apologized, still smiling. "But that was fucking priceless Potter."
Harry's lips twitched, his pouty expression clearing slightly. "Yes well, glad my blindness amuses you so much."
Draco was happy to see that Harry could joke about such things. "I am sorry, please ask me again."
Harry huffed and unfolded his arms. "Fine," he muttered. "Will you-"
"What now?" Harry exclaimed in exasperation.
"Our dinner is coming," Draco smirked.
Harry couldn't help but smile as he heard two plates being set down in front of them.
"Okay go," Draco said as the waiter finally left them on their own.
Harry laughed and grabbed a slice of garlic bread. He tore off a piece of the soft warm bread and popped it into his mouth. "Forget it."
Draco swirled his fork through his pasta, twirling the creamy noodles onto the prongs. "Please ask again, I promise I'll say yes."
Harry frowned a little as he chewed. "I didn't mean... I don't want..."
Draco quickly placed a consolatory hand over Harry's. "It's okay, I didn't think you meant it that way."
Harry nodded in relief. He swallowed and picked up his fork, holding it in mid-air for a moment. "I really want to share a bed with you," he said quietly. "I'm sorry it's not more."
Draco thought his heart would break. Harry was so strong and yet so fragile and insecure at the same time.
"Don't be sorry, it's not supposed to be more until you actually want it. There's no set time line for intimacy Harry."
"It seems so stupid because we've already slept together!" Harry said vehemently, self-loathing clearly evident. "And I enjoyed it, it felt good... I just think I need some time to forget. I'm sorry."
"Stop apologizing," Draco commanded firmly. "I should be the one to apologize for pushing you when you weren't ready."
Harry shook his head with a smile and placed a hand on Draco's thigh. "No, I don't regret that night, I thought I did because I wasn't sure of the motives behind it but... now I know it was real. Plus, now I know what I have to look forward to."
Draco smiled and covered Harry's hand with his own. "I don't regret it either."
Harry's shy smile widened.
The two returned to eating their meals in silence, the only sound was the pleasant tinkling of plates and glasses, and the restaurant's string music playing softly in the background.
Once they had finished, Harry pushed his empty plate away and sat back in his chair with a groan. "That was delicious but I don't think I can walk now."
Draco smirked and set down his own cutlery, having eaten just enough to satisfy his hunger cravings but not so much that he was feeling as sick as Harry.
Draco signalled for the cheque and left a healthy tip for their waiter along with the payment.
"Come on let's go," Draco said, touching Harry's elbow.
The two linked hands after slipping on their heavy cloaks and walked back outside together.
It was noticeably colder and Harry unconsciously pressed closer to Draco's side, shivering. Draco smiled and wrapped one arm around him.
They slowly made their way back up the street towards home, tiny snowflakes just beginning to fall from the night sky.
"So when do you start your new job?" Draco asked.
Harry blinked, distracted from his thoughts of the wonderful feeling of being tucked in against Draco's warm body. "Huh? Oh, I'm not sure. I'll have to ask Oliver."
"Mind if I watch your first day?"
Harry smiled. "I was hoping you would," he said in relief. "I'll probably need some help, and I think I'd feel better if you were there. Just for the first few times anyway."
Draco smiled. "I wouldn't miss it." No need to mention that he also wanted to keep an eye on Oliver around his boyfriend. When Draco had spoken to Oliver about getting Harry a job, Oliver had said to him that he'd always thought Harry was a good looking guy and how lucky Draco was.
"What is it you do?" Harry suddenly asked curiously.
"I work for Severus."
"Really?" Harry blurted in surprise. "Doing what?"
"I attend meetings and travel to learn more on the fascinating art of potion making," he drawled sarcastically.
"You don't enjoy it?"
Draco smiled. "No I do, not that I'd ever admit it to Sev. He just wanted me to do something with my life. It can be really interesting, and I like traveling."
Harry was quiet.
Draco glanced at him. "What is it?"
Harry sighed. "It's nothing."
Draco stopped and placed a finger under his chin, tilting Harry's head up and looking into his eyes. "Harry?" he prompted firmly.
Harry turned his head away, his expression sad. "I'd like to do some traveling..."
Draco frowned. "You can, you can come with me any time you want."
Harry swallowed. "What would be the point? I wouldn't see any of it, I can't... Everywhere is the same to me."
It was the first time Draco had seen such self-pity from him regarding his eyesight. Again he was struck by Harry's two conflicting personalities; the self-doubting boy and the strong heroic defender.
He resisted the urge to pull Harry into his arms, wanting to wipe that lost look off of his face, but not wanting Harry to think he pitied him.
"Harry, you would still enjoy it, I'm sure of it," he said instead. He wasn't sure at all but he wanted to convince Harry, he wanted his partner to experience everything in life. "Maybe you won't see the Great Wall of China, but you'll feel it and hear it and smell it. You'll still have an experience worth having."
Harry smiled ruefully. "I don't want to smell it, I want to see it. See it twisting across the hilly landscape for miles and miles..."
Draco couldn't argue with that. "I'll just lend you my sight for the wonders of the world," he promised.
Harry nodded, looking slightly cheered. "At least I have that option," he said. "I must be the only blind wizard in the world who does."
Draco slipped his hand into Harry's and they began heading for home again. It was too cold to linger outside.
"Speaking of that," Harry said, "I had an idea, for a second job."
"Another career?" Draco said in amusement.
Harry grinned. "Yeah, I thought maybe I could bring Braille to the wizarding world. Start translating Hogwarts textbooks for blind students. Then maybe moving on to other useful texts and maybe fictional novels as well."
Draco was impressed. "That's a brilliant idea," he said honestly. "A hell of a lot of work, but can you imagine how sought after your translations would be? There's nothing like it in our world, only magical books that speak aloud. Braille is so much more inconspicuous."
Harry nodded, feeling a little excited. "I know, it gives you such a feeling of independence, of normalcy."
"You'll have to get a teaching position so people can learn from you as well."
"I hadn't thought of that," Harry realized. "You should be my business partner," he joked.
"Okay," Draco readily agreed.
"Really?" Harry laughed.
"Seriously Harry, your idea is fantastic, it's going to change lives. I'd be a fool not to jump on it - even if it is my boyfriend's idea," he added with a smirk.
Harry snorted. "Boyfriend," he repeated in amusement.
"Alright partner," Harry smiled and lifted their clasped hands to give Draco's hand a formal shake.
Draco laughed and returned the gesture.
They had arrived back at their building but Draco suddenly didn't want to go inside, it was such a beautiful night; with the dark sky and fluttering snowflakes...
Sadly Harry was missing it.
"Harry?" he said, stopping them on the footpath before heading to the front doors. "There's something I need to tell you."
Harry's emerald eyes gained a hint of fear. "Yes?"
Draco licked his lips and held onto Harry's warm hand. "Severus and I have been working on a cure for you. A potion."
Harry's eyes widened.
"We don't know if it will work, it's just a shot in the dark since we don't know which curse was used, but I thought you should know."
"What?" Draco frowned.
"That's the curse Voldemort used," Harry replied.
Draco's heart rate increased suddenly and his jaw dropped in shock. "How...?"
"Lachlan let it slip."
Draco practically beamed. "Do you know what this means? This gives us a real lead on finding the antidote!"
Harry smiled a little. "Forgive me if I don't get too excited, I don't hold out much hope on finding records of an ancient Dark curse that only Voldemort seems to know. For all we know, he could've created the curse himself."
Draco tried to swallow his excitement. "You're right," he said, "but at least it's something to go on."
Harry nodded, releasing Draco's hand and shoving it into his pocket.
Draco watched him intently. "This doesn't mean that I don't want you if we never find a cure."
Draco sighed. "I know it's a fine line I'm walking, between wanting to cure your blindness and convincing you that I'm happy with you the way that you are. I just want you to be happy and I know you want your vision back more than anything."
Harry nodded mutely and wrapped his arms around his body, turning away slightly.
"After all, you are the Harry that I fell in love with."
Harry's lips parted in shock and he turned back towards him. "What did you say?"
Draco could feel his heart beating wildly in his chest, unsure of how deeply Harry felt for him in return but wanting to tell him what he'd only just realized that day.
"Do you mean that?" Harry spoke into the waiting silence, his voice hushed.
"Is it so hard to believe?" Draco asked, stalling, wanting to know what Harry thought and felt.
Harry paused, thinking. "How do you know?"
Draco smiled a little. "I just do."
"Have you been in love before?"
"Then how do you know?" Harry persisted.
Draco tried not to feel exasperated. Instead, he thought seriously about the question. "I guess I know because I don't want to live without you, because I'd risk my life for you, because I am insanely attracted to you, because I feel something each time I think of you, and because you challenge me and make life so very interesting. Is that a good enough answer for you Potter?"
One corner of Harry's mouth curved upwards in a smile. "Yeah... I suppose. I just don't understand why me?"
Draco reached out and tugged Harry into his arms with a smirk. "Because you're fucking gorgeous."
Harry laughed and wrapped his arms around Draco's waist, laying his head on the taller boy's shoulder and closing his eyes.
"You smell good," Harry murmured contentedly, his heart swelling as Draco's scent invaded his senses again, wrapping him in pleasure and giving him that wonderfully warm safe feeling. "I don't want to live without you either," he said quietly, lips pressed into Draco's dark cloak.
Draco smiled. Maybe Harry wasn't ready to say those three words yet, or maybe he didn't know what he felt, but if the Gryffindor didn't want to be without him then the rest would come.
"Come on, let's get inside, it's freezing."
Harry pulled back and nodded.
"That bed invitation still open?" Draco asked as they walked up the footpath to the front doors.
Harry chuckled. "Yeah, if you need me to protect you."
"Hey, you're the one who just said that you can't live without me," Draco smirked.
"Yeah, but only because you're hot."
Draco laughed. "I can live with that."
Harry snorted as the two entered the building, leaving the swirling snowflakes for the comfort of their flat and Harry's large warm bed.
Serious conversations regarding Lachlan and Voldemort and curses could wait until tomorrow, tonight was just for the two of them.
One day there will be a one shot sequel to this to tidy it up – when I'm not wholly obsessed with another new plot bunny.