oOo

Harry walked down the lane towards the Hogwarts Gate with brisk steps. Over at the shore of the lake, Dumbledore's grave glistened in the sun, and Harry promised himself to visit it later. Perhaps he will come with me ... But Malfoy couldn't come, it was too dangerous. There was a good reason why neither Goyle nor Parkinson finished their education at Hogwarts. Some Slytherins had returned, notably Nott, whose father was one of the main witnesses for the prosecution of Voldemort's followers. Parkinson was at Durmstrang, Goyle at Beauxbaton. Nobody knew about the whereabouts of the Malfoys, both Narcissa and Draco had seemingly disappeared from the surface of the earth. Lucius Malfoy? There were rumours, which never made it into the Prophet, but Harry had heard them from Shacklebolt and Ron's dad. Rumours of a body found in a railroad tunnel near Litttle Hangleton (Imperiused into self-suffocation, some of the more gossipy rumours said). The Auror Office suspected vigilante Death Eaters taking care of a traitor, but Harry wasn't so certain anymore. Fudge's new rule of "laissez-faire" was not so laissez-faire when it came to the Death Eaters' Most Wanted List. Names were crossed out one after the other, without the wizarding world noticing any of it. Death Eaters didn't make headlines anymore. Instead the cells in Azkaban were filling up again, and old pure-blood families were selling their estates and leaving for Estonia, Transylvania, Malta or any of the other places of the ancient magical commonwealth.

The orchards before the Hogwarts Gate stood in bloom, and Harry walked for a bit under their cool shade. A public place, he felt, more than knew as he looked up into the leaves dotted with tiny pink buds. Malfoy was waiting in a public place, a store, a bar, perhaps. The invisible ribbon around his wrist contracted at the thought of seeing Malfoy again, after an entire year, and Harry closed his eyes. He had felt the pressure mounting during the last weeks, had seen the silver shimmer on his wrist grow more visible each night. His dreams had told him, too – all of them erotic, memories meshing with half-acknowledged desires, of Malfoy's lips on his mouth, his teeth biting Harry's hot skin, the pain a release almost as strong as when he'd come in Malfoy's hands. For a moment Harry leaned against a tree, brought his face close to the bark. That woody smell … Fresher, cleaner and yet oddly similar to the inky dustiness between the shelves full of ancient books in the library –

It had been the twelfth of February, in their fourth year. Malfoy had been studying in the library, which was odd in itself, because the Slytherins as a rule studied in the dungeons, in the gardens or not at all. He had been sitting close to their table, too, which was even odder, because all year Malfoy had done nothing but make Harry's life miserable with his "Potter stinks"-badges and the insidious interviews given to Rita Skeeter.

All year but at Christmas, Harry thought, as he looked over to Malfoy. Hermione was going on and on about how all Malfoy wanted was to ruin Harry's meagre chances to accomplish the second task: to stay underwater for an hour to recover whatever it was the merpeople would take from him that he'd sorely miss.

Harry rubbed at his wrist. It had been bothering him more and more since Christmas. Not in a painful way, just a light squeeze, like someone was pulling him towards … towards Malfoy, grown all tall and lanky in the last two years, emerging from the dungeons when Harry was on the way to breakfast, towards Malfoy, so focussed on crunching scarab beetles that the tip of his tongue touched his lips. God, Harry missed him. Not his stupid bloody badges, not his daily insults … no, he missed the other Malfoy. The one who'd held him in that night-time corridor in second year, the one who'd danced with him in the darkness of the Great Hall. Who'd kissed him so shyly first, and then so wildly that Harry still wanked to the memory of those kisses.

Malfoy turned a page with long fingers, slowly, with deliberation, Harry thought. He had to hear them whispering, and there was no way he could not feel Harry's gaze on him. Sometimes, when Harry sensed that Malfoy was watching him, it was as if he touched him with hot, desperate hands. If Harry imagined missing anything sorely, then it was those hand touching his face, pressing against his back, pulling him closer. Again that sickening fear flared up in his chest – that the magic of the Goblet of Fire somehow let Dumbledore, Karkaroff and Madame Maxine know what was going on between him and Malfoy. But it couldn't be. Nobody knew.

"I've seen him stare at you," Hermione said softly. "He's up to something."

Harry shook his head. "He must be working on a study project for Hagrid. All these books are about wild beasts of the forest. Unicorns."

Malfoy had books piled up on his table – The Unicorn and the Lake, The Lore of the Unicorn, Forest Wonders and the Order of Nature – on and on, a whole stack of them, topped by the standard edition of Fantastic Beasts. Harry and Ron had had a look at them a couple of days ago, when Malfoy had left the library early.

"A project for Hagrid? On unicorns?" Hermione laughed which was a rare occurrence these days. When they were not in classes or reading up on underwater breathing in the library, she was biting her nails and touching Harry nervously as if to make sure he was okay. "Harry, the day Malfoy volunteers to do a project in Magical Creatures, is the day when I predict your future in a pile of sodden tea leaves. I am telling you, he knows we're researching for your second task, and he's here to make sure you're drowning in the lake."

"He doesn't even know it's going to take place at the lake," Harry muttered, but he didn't press the point. He suddenly realised that Hermione started to pack her things and was about to leave.

"Are you coming?" she asked.

"I'll just finish this chapter of Madcap Magic." Harry tried to sound as if he was all immersed in the pages of the book. "I'll be up shortly."

Hermione motioned her head towards Malfoy. "It's just going to be you and him in the library," she whispered.

Her words made the invisible ribbon around Harry's wrist tighten. Behind her back Malfoy was looking at him. "It's all right," Harry said, trying not to rub his wrist, trying not to let Hermione know that he wanted to stay behind, that it was his one chance to get Malfoy alone for a couple of minutes before the library closed.

Hermione gave him an odd look, then took her school bag from the chair. "Bring a couple of the books, so we can read some more in the common room," she said, put her hand on his shoulder for a moment and then walked to the door. She never looked at Malfoy, just said "Good night" to Madame Pince at her desk in the front.

The moment the heavy door closed behind Hermione, Malfoy started packing his things, too. Harry watched him straighten the stack of books, then, when Malfoy caught him watching, buried his head in Madcap Magic again. The next time Harry looked up, Malfoy was gone. No "Good night" to Madam Pince or, God forbid, to Harry, no creaking of the old huge door. Simply gone. If Harry didn't know better, he would have thought Malfoy had somehow managed to soundlessly Disapparate from the library. But they would only get their licence in two years, and even if Malfoy had secretly learned to Apparate, illegal as it was, Apparition was just not possible within the bounds of Hogwarts Castle. Harry looked around, searched the vicinity of the desk, the bookshelves behind it, but there was no trace of Malfoy. Shit, he couldn't just –

"The Library will be closing in five minutes." The terse voice of Madam Pince resounded from the rows of bookshelves.

Harry didn't wait. He threw rolls of parchment and his quill into his bag, added Dreadful Denizens of the Deep to Madcap Magic for good measure and disappeared into the aisle just behind Malfoy's desk, choosing by pure instinct the fourth row to the left to hide himself. They had done it before: a Shield Charm protected him against Madam Pince's simple tracking spells to make sure the library was indeed emptied of students. The librarian was moving around in front of the Restricted Section, mumbling, "Now, when did those two leave?"

Harry had the Charm up when the lights went out, and he found himself in pitch-black darkness. A quick flicker of magic made sparks bounce of his Protego, but they were too tiny to be seen by anyone who was not standing in the aisle. There was the sound of quick light steps, the rustle of clothes, the heavy door opened and was shut, then a key turned. Harry was locked in the library.

"Shield Charm, huh?" a voice behind him whispered, and Harry jumped so hard, he almost knocked several books down from the shelf next to him.

"Shit, Malfoy," he gasped, holding on to a dusty tome which threatened to topple to the floor. "Can you fucking not scare me to death?"

Warm hands wrapped around his waist and drew him back, deeper into the row of books.

"Like this?" Malfoy still whispered, even though there was only Harry to hear him. His body was so close that Harry could feel how fast his breath was coming, and he thought that Malfoy was keeping his voice down to not betray how hoarse it was, and shaking. He remembered that trembling voice from the last times they had met like this, in the utter dark, just lips and hands guiding them. It didn't make sense, none of it. How could this be same boy who'd been taunting him with Skeeter's phoney articles all school year? Not since Christmas, though. No bloody badge-flashing, either … The ribbon on his wrist had loosened its hold, and when he looked to his hand he saw it floating in the darkness, a shimmering band of muted silver, the patterns in it swirling and reaching out for Malfoy's hand that was pressed firmly against Harry's stomach.

"What are we doing?" he asked into the darkness, his body already giving in as Malfoy pulled him closer to the wall.

"What does it look like to you, Potter?" Malfoy's drawl was tainted with impatience and something else that Harry couldn't put a name to.

"I don't know," he managed and let his head fall back, "I don't …," and he hadn't known his voice could sound so raw, so … hungry, hadn't known that the mere touch of Malfoy's cheek against his face made him want to slam Malfoy against the wall and kiss that stupid mouth of his. It was like Christmas in the Great Hall, only so much stronger. And there it was, that woody smell, of the shelving, the floorboards, even the books seemed to have retained a trace of scent from the trees they were made of. Harry was harder than he'd ever been, his groin aching painfully for Malfoy's hands to slip lower and just touch him. He moved back with force and smashed into Malfoy's body. They had reached the wall. Malfoy didn't seem to care that he was just about to be crushed by Harry, but wrapped his arms even tighter to him. Harry felt Malfoy's lips on his neck, on his throat, and he arched back even more, his head on Malfoy's shoulder. There was no question about how excited Malfoy was. The feeling of his cock against Harry's arse was intoxicating, making Harry move in ways he would have considered shameless and lewd only moments ago.

"We can't do this," he moaned, as Malfoy turned him around, already searching his mouth. Memories of Cho flashed through Harry's mind as he responded eagerly to Malfoy's lips, to Malfoy's tongue demanding entrance, and Harry couldn't stop sucking at it and twirling his own tongue around it, tasting it, tasting Malfoy, tasting of tea and fire and magic. All that agonising about Cho, sweet, soft Cho, had never been like this. He'd imagined kissing her so often, but not like this, when Harry was drowning in spit and warm breath, and wanting it so badly, he had to go on kissing Malfoy or go mental.

They moved apart a fraction, for air, breathing fast, with their faces so close that Harry felt Malfoy's hair falling into his eyes. Harry's hands had somehow found their way around Malfoy's neck, holding on to him as much as keeping him from moving away. The cold stone of the wall was grazing his knuckles, and he pulled Malfoy towards him, letting his hands glide down his back.

"Fuck, Potter," Malfoy whispered, "can you stop it? I've been going crazy. I've wanted you ever since that stupid Yule Ball." He sounded desperate, and Harry felt Malfoy's hands beneath his robes, tracing the waistband of his trousers.

"It's just this … this spell." Harry was keenly aware of Malfoy's finger pushing underneath the fabric, reaching for skin. He moved back a bit, brought space between them, to unzip his trousers. Really, he couldn't help it. They'd never touched like this, never before. But now he needed those hands on his skin.

Malfoy gasped as he felt the movement. "Just a spell, you say?" He yanked Harry's trousers and pants down with both hands, had them pool around Harry's ankles

The cold air on his naked skin made Harry shiver and he moved closer, trying to get as much contact as possible. Malfoy was shaking all over. But he knew what he wanted. His palms were sliding up from Harry's thighs to his arse, and he moaned softly as he was kneading Harry's buttocks. Somehow their hips had fallen in a rhythm that made their groins rub against each other. It almost hurt, the way Harry's naked cock was crushing against the front of Malfoy's straining trousers.

He put both hands on Malfoy's shoulder and pushed himself away. For a couple of seconds there was only the sound of their ragged breathing in the dark. And perhaps a wheezy, papery crackling from the Restricted Section.

"I don't want …" Harry started, but desire all of a sudden surged through his body, and he arched against Malfoy. This was not right, this shouldn't feel so bloody good, not so – Harry felt pre-come seep from his cock, when Malfoy's fingers were tracing the length of him.

"But you do want it, Potter. And don't dare stop now." Malfoy's lips ghosted over Harry's ear, he was licking Harry's skin. "Come on, let's … let's figure this out later. Come on." Harry felt him straddle his legs more, push his hips forward. A clear invitation, and there was no way Harry could resist. He moved his hands down Malfoy's chest, felt the sharp coolness of the mother-of-pearl buttons of his shirt, moved lower over muscle and flesh, the firm warmth of Malfoy's belly. He was wearing trousers with old-fashioned fastenings, damn those pure-blood traditions, that had Harry fumbling at strings and clasps.

"Just tear them open," Malfoy groaned, and Harry tore and felt the cloth give. Something hit the floor, a clink like fine silver, and Malfoy's cock sprang free. Harry never had touched anyone intimately before, and he suddenly felt shy. It was one thing to have Malfoy touch him all over, but was it okay to stroke Malfoy's cock like Harry did himself when wanking? And it was so full, so different than Harry's. He gently wrapped thumb and forefinger around the head of Malfoy's cock and moved the foreskin that was much tighter than his own.

He must be doing something right, because Malfoy jerked forward and hissed, like he was in pain, but Harry recognised the sound. Pain laced with pleasure, pleasure with pain – his most intense wanks were like that, the need almost unbearable, having him come with a force that scared him, as if it was a sickness to have his body so out of control. God, what if it was like this with Malfoy? Would he laugh at him? Tell Skeeter in another one of those bloody interviews that the Boy Who Lived was a sex maniac? Harry had read that word in a magazine that Charlie Weasley had left in the kitchen of the Burrow, and the thought of it made him sweat with embarrassment.

"Is it … is it okay like this?" The moment the words left his mouth, Harry knew he shouldn't have asked. Malfoy would know at once that this was his first time.

And he knew, of course, and laughed softly, still with that hissing edge of pain. "Never touched cock before, Potter?"

Harry bit down Sure, my own, merely shook his head. What did he care that Malfoy could not see him in the dark? But Malfoy must have felt him move, for he brought one hand to Harry's face and touched his cheek.

"You're doing fine," he muttered with a tenderness that took Harry by surprise. "You can go harder," he added. His hand on Harry's arse dug into the flesh, and he groaned as if just feeling up Harry's butt gave him as much pleasure as having Harry touch him. He did as he'd been told and took Malfoy's cock in a firmer grip. Wanking like this would have been painful for him, and not in a good way, but he could tell Malfoy liked it, the way he thrust into Harry's fist, wanting more. Harry was tossing him off now for real. He was rewarded with a sharp intake of breath, and the sound made him search for Malfoy's mouth and he caught his lips, couldn't help but bite into that wet softness.

Malfoy's hand moved from Harry's face to his cock, he was touching it with uncontrolled, jittery strokes. Harry thought Malfoy had to be close, the way he was bucking into Harry's fist and moaning breathlessly into his mouth. It was the strangest feeling, thrilling like nothing else, to have Malfoy respond to his touch like this, and Harry focused all on him, the way his hips jerked forward wildly, all rhythm lost, how he seemed to need Harry to go easier on the tip of his cock, with strings of pre-come oozing from it. "Let go," Harry muttered, "just let go," with no idea what Malfoy should let go of or why he even felt that Malfoy was holding back. But he wanted Malfoy to lose it, wanted to break through that sneer and drawl, see him split open, for once. To make up for all those bloody insults, the taunting, for almost getting Hagrid fired.

And Malfoy did let go. Harry felt a shudder ripple through Malfoy's body, and he pressed himself so close that Harry was barely able to continue stroking him. His body was trembling hard, it felt like he could shatter at any moment. Then he arched back against the wall, his head hitting stone, with a deep groan.

He came with Harry's name on his lips, hissing through clenched teeth, as he would a mad curse. The feel of sudden heat splattering onto his hands and groin startled Harry, it was so different than having his own spunk all over him. Malfoy came in spurts, his entire body wracked in spasms. He was holding on to Harry, who found himself putting one arm around Malfoy's waist and resting his face against Malfoy's cheek in the dark, as if it was important that Malfoy could feel him close. Malfoy's cock had gone soft and was warm and slick, covered in come. He was still leaning against the wall, his breathing fast and laboured. His hands were back on Harry's butt, stroking and kneading it.

Mixed in with the smell of long seasoned wood was the unfamiliar scent of sex, and Harry was sure he could smell himself, embarrassing, but so arousing, too, that he just had to kiss Malfoy again. He kissed him back sloppily, his lips all tender and relaxed. They went on like this for minutes which seemed even longer in the lightless, book-filled room, just their lips touching, and Malfoy's hands drawing slow circles on Harry's bare skin.

Malfoy finally broke the silence, saying, "This is insane, Potter. We hate each other." His body had gone stiff, as if he was pulling himself together.

"I don't hate you," Harry said, and it was true, for how could he, with Malfoy's spunk on his hands and the taste of Malfoy's kiss on his lips?

But Malfoy let out that cruel laugh of his, the one that was reserved for people he thought beneath him, like Hagrid or any of the Muggle-born students. His hands were pushing into the crack of Harry's arse, pulling Harry towards him, as he spread his buttocks apart and began rubbing his fingers against Harry's hole. It didn't feel right, none of it, Malfoy's tone of voice, his probing fingers, the way he kept on with it, even when Harry clenched his arse. He was too shocked, really, to say anything but a muttered, "don't," and "not there," when Malfoy wouldn't stop.

Malfoy's voice was soft, but the tenderness from before was gone. "You'll like it, Potter," he drawled. "You're exactly the kind of stuck-up little shite who likes to have it shoved up his arse." With that last word he pushed a finger into Harry's hole, and it hurt badly, and Harry wanted none of that. He'd heard dirty jokes, of course, of men doing it like dogs, but he and Malfoy had just been kissing and tossing each other off. They were nothing like those men. Or perhaps Malfoy was, the way he was thrusting his finger into Harry's arse. But not Harry. It hurt, and fuck the spell, it couldn't make him want that. He grabbed Malfoy's arms, shoved them back and tried to move away. Good thing it was so dark, for his dick was still painfully hard, and even as he was disentangling himself from Malfoy's hold, Harry couldn't help but rub against his thigh. And Malfoy wouldn't let him go. He caught Harry with one arm around the waist and held him tight, while he tried to push another finger into him. It really hurt, and Harry could barely stifle a scream of pain. He clenched his buttocks and fought to break Malfoy's hold now for real.

"Let go of me," he said, and something about his words, or his tone, or perhaps the way he had his forearm wedged against Malfoy's throat, seemed to get through to the git. He withdrew his fingers, but still held Harry tight. It was then that Harry noticed how fast Malfoy was breathing, how hard he had got already again in the last minutes. He leaned against him deliberately, moved his cock against Malfoy's rising erection, and Malfoy gasped with need. He let go of Harry for a moment, and he could have bolted, could have left Malfoy to his sick needs, left the aisle, left the library. But there were these soft slurping noises in the dark, and Harry touched Malfoy's face and found him sucking hard at his own fingers.

"Spit," he explained and lightly prodded Harry's lips with wet fingertips. Harry moved his tongue around those fingers, trying hard not to think where they just had been, but licking them, adding his spit to Malfoy's. There was a hint of something dark and musky which had to be the taste of his own arse, but somehow, because Malfoy had tasted it, too, Harry found it strangely arousing. After a while Malfoy replaced his spit-covered fingers with his lips and kissed Harry, while his hands were sliding back into Harry's crack, exploring it gingerly now.

Harry held all still. His cock was throbbing with need, but there were these fingers sliding up and down his crack, hovering over his hole, and Malfoy whispered hoarsely, "Let me … let me … inside …" Malfoy wanted this, wanted it badly. Harry felt his face grow hot, with shame, but something else, too, something that made him push his arse backwards, into Malfoy's fingers, giving him permission to explore. Malfoy exhaled sharply, and he put one fingertip on Harry's hole, pressing inward, but not breeching it. He made slow circles, moving the tight muscle back and forth. How can he be so gentle now when he hurt me before? Harry thought, and God, I hope I wiped myself all clean, and Would I like to do that to him? But mostly he felt an overpowering need to relax and have Malfoy shove his finger into him. He slumped against Malfoy without really meaning to, and Malfoy whispered, "Yes," his voice raw, yes, nothing more. Still the word reached down to Harry's cock, crushed between their bodies, and made it twitch and seep more. He rocked back and forth, eager to reach anything to rub his cock against when his hands were wrapped around Malfoy's neck, twisting his fingers into his soft hair. Malfoy rocked with him, and it was the most amazing feeling, like dancing in the Great Hall had felt, without thought, just movement and friction and waves of heat flooding his body again and again …

Malfoy's finger slid into Harry's arsehole on one of those back thrust, almost as if by accident. There was no pain, just the feel of something giving, and it was familiar to Harry, a sign of imminent orgasm. Then Malfoy thrust into him again, in a different angle this time. And suddenly nothing was familiar anymore. For a second Harry didn't know whether he wanted more of that delicious friction when his cock rubbed against Malfoy's, or whether he needed Malfoy to touch that, that place again. His body decided, pushing back, clenching and unclenching, wiggling, writhing – anything to make Malfoy's finger slide into him again, and deep. He felt himself lift one foot, wrap it around Malfoy's thigh, to allow him easier access, grinding out, "Do that again," gravely and low, nothing like his voice ever sounded. Malfoy moved into him, and this time it hurt, a painful burn, but it didn't matter, didn't even make Harry flinch, because, yes, this was it, this fullness, stretching him, opening him up. He buried his face in Malfoy's neck, licked his sweaty skin, thinking how bloody good it would feel to have Malfoy's cock up his arse. Malfoy's fingers reached that place again, and Harry cried out, he needed to come so badly. He was panting like a dog now, and Malfoy was pulling him even closer. His mouth was on Harry's throat, his teeth grazing the soft skin there, and Harry threw his head back, because really, anything, anything so he could come now, now … The pain was sharp as Malfoy bit into his skin, sucked at him with choked, needy moans – and to hear that sound, Malfoy's voice so broken, pushed Harry over the edge.

His knees buckled under him, and Malfoy couldn't hold him up, either. They crumpled to the floor, and Harry found himself in Malfoy's lap, Malfoy's fingers thrusting furiously into him, his own hand on his cock, stroking himself so hard, while he was already coming. He grabbed for Malfoy's shirt while the last of his load spilled out of him, not caring that he was touching his own spunk. He barely registered that Malfoy was frotting against him still, hot and frantic, and was coming only moments after Harry had finished.

The darkness had turned velvety, crimson-tinged all around them. It seemed to expand in ripples, stretching further from the narrow row, out into the aisle, flooding the library. Malfoy was warm and solid against Harry, he was breathing heavily. When Harry moved, he slowly pulled his fingers out of him. The soft, wet noise brought Harry back to reality. He pushed himself up to his knees. Malfoy was slumped against the wall, his head bowed. Only when Harry started stroking his spent cock, did he move, gathered up his trousers and pulled his robes around him.

"Don't touch me," he said, trying to make it sound like some threat, but failing. There was exhaustion in his voice, and something else, something like defeat.

Harry edged closer, grabbed Malfoy's wrists in the dark, stopped him from straightening his clothes (a hopeless chore, anyway) and searched for his mouth. When he tried to kiss him, Malfoy turned away. Not fast or angry, but with a determined jerk of his head.

Bloody, stupid git, Harry wanted to say, but he couldn't. His whole body ached in tenderness for Malfoy. He wanted nothing as much as to wrap him in his arms and curl up, here, on the dusty library floor, and fall asleep with him. He tried again, stroked Malfoy's hands, his wrists, moved his lips along Malfoy's jaw, telling him as best as he could how he felt about him.

It was the wrong thing to do, obviously. Malfoy hissed and yanked his hands away. "I mean it, Potter," he spat. "Don't touch me again." He got up, using the wall for support, and stepped away from Harry. "Merlin, what a mess," he said, his words punctuated by the sound of clasps snapping shut. "Fuck, Potter, did you have to come all over my clothes?"

Harry rose to his feet. He felt numb, a painful emptiness in his chest. Still, he silently moved closer to where Malfoy was standing. He needed to touch him again before he got away. How could he not feel what Harry was feeling?

From the darkness came Malfoy's tired voice. "The spell – it's got something to do with those bloody unicorns. Some fucking bonding spell. Or more likely, a beguiled lovers' curse." He let out a mirthless laugh, then Harry felt him step towards the aisle.

"You can't just leave like this." Harry's voice was trembling so hard, betraying how shaken he still was from the sex, how much he needed Malfoy. And Malfoy had to know where he was standing, because Harry had spoken loudly. Still he took another step and walked right into Harry who caught him, by instinct, in a tight embrace.

"Let go of me, Potter." Malfoy struggled ferociously for a few moments, then he stopped abruptly. He stood motionless, Harry's arms around him. "I hate you," he whispered when Harry pulled him close. "Hate you."

His hands were trapped between their bodies which was why Harry saw the faint shimmer only when it lit Malfoy's face from below. The muted light seemed bright after they had been in darkness for so long, and Harry was so startled that he let go. Malfoy stepped back, but was staring at his arm, too. Strangely, it was Malfoy who reached for Harry's hand where the ribbon glimmered with a corresponding silver light. All that time Harry had not felt or seen the ribbon but for that moment which seemed hours ago, when Malfoy had dragged him towards the wall. The ribbons were still loosely wrapped around their wrists, moving towards each other, when their hands touched. Their shimmer seemed to grow ever brighter, and there were flowery circles within them, twirling around each other.

"The same patterns are on unicorn horns." Malfoy was speaking softly, his body taut, as if he was afraid of the magic between them. "Ground unicorn horn cures blindness and hallucination, everybody will tell you that." He shook his head, staring at the ribbons. "But what does it do to us?"

Harry put his left hand on Malfoy's waist. Malfoy turned his head, but he did not move away. The ribbons were now spiralling around each other. Soon it was hard to tell which was one, which the other, as they slithered down Malfoy's arm, over their hands and up Harry's arm, wrapping themselves around his skin. It reminded Harry of nothing so much as the albino cobra which he had seen dancing to a snake charmer's flute on Diagon Alley last summer. He looked up at Malfoy, his face illuminated by the silver light, and he felt the tenderness well up again. It was insane, but he wanted this, wanted to feel the way Malfoy made him feel, so furious, so happy. The ribbons snaked around their forearms and hands, and Harry leaned against Malfoy, put his head lightly on his shoulder, wishing Malfoy would relax so he could kiss him. He stared at the ribbons when he told Malfoy, in the only words he knew. And it shouldn't be so hard to wrap his lips around those simple three words, should it?

But Malfoy jerked away from him, almost yanking the ribbons apart. They squeezed tightly around their wrists at once, and Harry yelled, "What? What?" shattering the library's dark silence.

Malfoy's eyes were wide open, shining with fear in the silver light, or with awe. Harry listened for the echo of his words and recalled oddly distorted, hissing sounds coming from his throat.

"Say that again," Malfoy said breathlessly, his grip on Harry's hand painfully hard. He stood close all of a sudden, his erection pressing against Harry's thigh.

And Harry had said the words again in plain English, his eyes on Malfoy, head turned away from the ribbons slithering up his arm.

Malfoy's reaction had made Harry realise that he really did love him. And it wasn't about the spell, or even about the sex. It was about the way Malfoy had looked at him in utter disbelief, then thrown his head back, the faint light emphasising the sharp line of his chin, and he had laughed, like Harry had never heard him laugh before, pleased, amused, so free … And then he had kissed Harry, the last time for another two years.

Harry took a deep breath and blinked into the afternoon sun. A light breeze was blowing through the leaves, making shadows dance on Harry's face. He moved his hand over the bark of the tree, inhaling again its fresh smell.

All those times they'd always met as if by chance, even if it never had been chance. Harry knew that now. He didn't know about Malfoy, but he had never sought him out, had never consciously followed the ribbon's Call. Even now Harry thought, too dangerous, it was too dangerous, Malfoy wouldn't, God, he shouldn't even come into the country. But he was here, so much closer than all year. Harry felt it with a certainty that should no longer surprise him, but it did. He touched his wrist, which looked ordinary in the sunlight, like it belonged to any seventeen year old, too bony and slender yet to be mistaken for the wrist of a fully grown man. Only the tenderness of the skin betrayed that something was different, and Harry found himself mouthing, Wait for me.

Which, really, was too sappy for words, and he closed his eyes, concentrating on the row of dilapidated shacks on the entrance of Hogsmeade. Like always, Apparition made him feel like he had been stuffed into a tight rubber tube. Seconds later, he stood, gulping for air, before the wooden sign with the weathered letters saying Village of Hogsmeade

High Street lay deserted in the afternoon sunshine but for two witches who were standing in front of Scrivenshaft's. They wore small, sky-blue hats to identical summer robes. Harry watched them from the corner of his eye. They had obviously noticed his arrival on High Street. Something spelled Auror about them, but Harry couldn't be sure. Perhaps it was the colour of those odd hats. Fudge had been insistent that Aurors be clad in uniform robes, and since then the light azure had become the trademark of the Office, much to the annoyance of Shacklebolt and the older hounds.

He walked over to Dervish and Banges. Malfoy would never wait there for him; he'd not go anywhere near where there was a chance someone might recognise him. And he had been quite a frequent customer to Dervish and Banges all through their sixth year. The Hog's Head was a much likelier choice. But if the Aurors were already aware that the young Malfoy had entered the country, then Harry would not be the one leading them to him. He peeked into the window of the store where a variety of travellers' pensieves were on display. The witches over at Scrivenshaft's seemed still immersed in their talk. One had her back to him, and Harry took the chance to sneak into the shadow underneath the low roof, then turn into a side alley which cut over to the street where the Hog's Head was located. He walked quickly through the tangle of back alleys, cutting through a garden path running alongside small stables where the villagers kept their chickens and rabbits.

Not even the bright May sun was able to penetrate the age-old smear on the windows of the Hog's Head. It took Harry a couple of moments before he could make out the guests in the murky room: a lone wizard, nursing a glass of firewhiskey, and a house-elf, busily polishing the bottles of butterbeer on the table before him with the dirty towel which covered his body. Harry moved to the bar looking for Aberforth, but there was only a black-haired fellow, pouring water from a rusty kettle into a teapot which seemed too fragile and clean for a place like the Hog. Over the curling steam, he nodded a welcome towards Harry.

"Is he here?" Harry asked. There was no need to explain who he was looking for, not when it was Aberforth and his magic, which held even the floorboards of the Hog in place.

The barman pointed with a flat thumb over his shoulder. "He's up in the office. Takin' a nap, I guess." He glanced at Harry curiously, but then just shrugged and moved his chin towards the stairs.

It was all the invitation Harry would get, and he quickly stumbled up the rickety staircase to the sitting area with the stuffed chairs and the fireplace. He could hear Aberforth moving around behind the closed door of an adjacent room, ripping paper, it seemed like, and mumbling to himself. Harry stood, not sure what to do, when suddenly the door opened, and the face of the thin, grey-bearded wizard peeked down at him.

"Harry!" he exclaimed, taking in Harry's dress robes in one quick glance from underneath his glasses. "Why aren't you up in the castle, giving your speech?"

"I … need to go someplace." Harry wondered if he could just ask if Malfoy had been here. The Hog's Head had always been a place where the dark and the light mingled, where one could meet a lonely, drunken Auror as soon as find a Death Eater on the run. Aberforth served them all, their secrets were safe with him. He had brought Nott's offer to Shacklebolt, but at the same time he'd made sure the Goyles had safely left the country before the Aurors came for Greg's father. Fudge had tried to arrest Aberforth, force him to reveal all that he knew under Veritaserum. But the memory of Albus Dumbledore still held power. As did the magic protecting the Hog's Head and its clientele. Aberforth Dumbledore was untouchable. For now.

"So, so. Someplace." The old wizard turned quickly, and Harry caught a glimpse of his wand. Did he have Malfoy hidden in there? Harry stepped closer, tried to peek inside the room, but Aberforth wouldn't budge. "What d'you want from me?" he asked tersely, his eyes still on whatever was going on in the room.

"I have to know if Malfoy is here. Draco Malfoy." The name felt strange on Harry's lips, like he hadn't said it aloud for a very long time. He and Ron would mention Fred and Creevey and Remus and Tonks ever so often – Fred would have laughed so hard about thisRemember Tonks' hair, it'd gone green at that –, but they rarely spoke about the ones who were missing.

Aberforth turned to him, a look of surprise in his eyes. "You're looking for the young Malfoy?"

He nodded, but before he could say another word, Aberforth slammed the door shut in his face. Harry immediately pressed his ear against the wood. There was loud cursing, then Aberforth spelling Aguamenti, followed by a whoosh of magic blasting against the inside of the door. Harry stepped back at once, just in time for Aberforth to open the door again. The entire front of his beer-stained shirt was dripping wet, but he had a broad grin on his gaunt face.

"So you're looking for Malfoy," he said, clapping Harry so hard on the shoulder that he stumbled against one of the stuffed chairs.

"Rip," Aberforth hollered down to the bar. "Heard from Tom lately?"

The black-haired barman was looking over a row of sparkling butterbeer bottles that were lined up before him. The house-elf stood at the bar, his head barely reaching up to the counter. He followed the barman's gaze anxiously. After a moment or two this odd inspection seemed finished. Rip nodded to the elf who clutched his towel and scrambled for the kitchen door. Only then did he look up to the gallery to where Aberforth and Harry were waiting.

"Venison's been hard to get, Tom says." He started to put the bottles away underneath the counter. "He's had turnip and chicken stew on the menu all week, he says. And then today comes a whole crate of fish, fresh like you picked it from the ocean with your own hands, he says. He'll be making you an offer, seein' as he can't use it all himself." With a clank the last bottle was stored away.

Aberforth mumbled something like, "That'll be the day, that old fart selling me his leftovers."

Harry's inquiring look was met by a piercing blue gaze, so like his old headmaster's, it made his heart skip a beat. "Um," he managed. "So, fish … ?"

Aberforth smiled at him. "A pure-blood visitor from the continent arrived at the Leaky today. That'll be your boy."

oOo

Rennes, Paimpont, Le Canné – Apparition made the journey so much faster, but when in exile it was not a good idea to Apparate straight to one's home. It took Draco two hours and five jumps to arrive here, at the Muggle road leading into the forest and onto the path that wound all the way up to Chalêt Belvina. The muted light of dusk streamed through the leaves of the young beech trees lining the path. He passed the old oak at the Pont de Secret which marked the border to the wizarding lands.

It was so different here from Wiltshire, no rolling downs and meadows, no elms guarding the sandy footpaths. Brécélien was dark and old like its massive oak trees, a forest that would never part with the secrets entrusted to it.

On the other side of the lake pale golden globes of candlelight shimmered in the windows of the Chalêt. Mother was waiting for him. They would have dinner, and then he would be waiting up, if needs must all night, for Harry.

The Leaky's grey delivery Owl would have surely swooped down into the kitchen and delivered the letter to Tom Abbot. It read:

Dear Sir -
may I kindly request that you lead my companion, who will be arriving shortly, up to the room I rented for the week-end? He will pay for whatever expenses my untimely departure may have cost you. And please give my regards to the kitchen: the fish stew was excellent.

Yours respectfully,
Kite Bonnecroire

Potter (blasted fool that he was) had hopefully skirted the Aurors, to come back later and climb up the narrow stairs. Room number nine and three eighths held only one secret, and it was lying open for all to see on top of the secretary: a blank sheet of paper with the address of the Leaky printed in the upper right corner. Only to Potter it would spell the words:

H -
you bloody took your sweet time coming. Looks like your mates from the Auror Office got here first. Now it's your turn. Meet me in the old Forest of Brécélien. You'll find the place. And do come. We figure this out now or never. I shall not wait another two years for you.
D

Draco stepped between the two moss-grown boulders, the gate to the Chalêt's grounds. He drew his wand, knelt and changed the wards to let Potter through. When he cast the spell, the ribbon on his forearm tightened so forcefully, he almost dropped the wand in pain. Potter had to be close. He rubbed his wrist, then stared at it in wonder. The bluish-silver light shimmered as strongly as never before; he could barely make out the lines of the Dark Mark underneath.

A bird was chirping sleepily in the trees beside the path. On the Southern horizon the full moon was rising, and further to the left, the red tinged silver of Mars was shining bright.

From underneath the trees came a noise so foreign to the Forest of Brécélien, that for a moment even the leaves stopped their endless rustling. It made Draco turn and look back to the path he'd come from Le Canné. A shadowy figure was walking briskly towards him, the right hand wrapped in a soft light, as if the person was carrying a magical lantern to guide the way. Draco felt something well up in him, a feeling like joy that made him want to run and shout, to climb on top of the boulder and wave, like a fool. But he didn't give in to the urge. He allowed himself a small smile, a quick twirl of the wand. Potter was here.

the end