Title: Awakening

Summary: Draco and Harry have a forced bond. Draco and Harry have trouble getting along. Draco and Harry want freedom from the bond-no, wait, that's only Harry.

Rating: R

Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione

Warnings: Forced bond, flangst, sex, swearing.

Word Count: 29.400

Author's Notes: This was written for winterstorrm at the dracotops_harry fest; her prompt was a forced bond that Harry wanted to end while Draco kept secretly thwarting him. Thanks to my betas Linda and Christine.


"Ah, young Mr. Malfoy."

Draco winced. There was a world of loathing in that voice, but he couldn't really blame the bloke, could he? Being held prisoner in a dungeon made out of the cellars of your house would do that to someone.

On the other hand, it would be beneath his dignity for him to take notice of the nastiness, or let it force him out of the shop. Draco straightened his shoulders, brushed the snow off his cloak as though he was brushing off the other's emotion, and strode forwards between the high shelves.

"Good morning, Mr. Ollivander," he said, voice and nod both cool and regal. "I'm looking for a new wand."

Ollivander paused. He looked positively skeletal, but Draco didn't know if that came from the changes over the war or from the large, baggy grey robe he wore. Since I have a choice, robe it is. "I remember the one you had," he said quietly. "Hawthorn and unicorn hair-"

Draco waved aside the list of his wand's specifications and leaned forwards. "Yes, but Harry Potter stole it, and it served him." Potter's name tasted bright and strange in his mouth, the way it had since the moment Draco had looked up and seen Potter standing in front of him in the Great Hall, wand held out. Potter was covered with dust and sweat and had leaves in his hair, and looked like someone who had wanted nothing more than to have the wand-trading over with, so that he could go have a nice lie-down.

It was the first time Draco had ever seen him look ordinary. He hadn't actually known Potter could.

And it was the first time he had ever felt the quickening interest that Potter always stirred in him as desire.

Draco shook off his thoughts when he realized that Ollivander was patiently waiting for him to go on. There were rumors that the old man was a Legilimens, which might explain how he knew and remembered so much about his clients. Draco wasn't anxious to let an enemy get hold of that particular thought. "Since then, it's served him, and not me." He took the hawthorn wand out of his pocket and set it solidly down on the counter. "I want a new wand that will pay its first allegiance to me."

Ollivander picked up the hawthorn, running his fingers gently over the shaft and sighting down it as though he intended to curse Draco. Draco braced himself, ready and wary. He had thought that Ollivander might do that when he handed it back, and he didn't really like anyone touching his wand, but he'd also known that Ollivander would have to do so to diagnose the problem.

"Yes," Ollivander murmured. "Well. It's no surprise that it prefers a different master."

Draco winced, then hoped it didn't show. Probably not, since Ollivander had already turned his back and was searching among the boxes on the shelves just above his head.

"Given the problematic issue with the Elder Wand, I mean," Ollivander added over his shoulder, making Draco wonder if that previous comment had been as nasty as it sounded. "Your wand is confused as to who it should serve, and would give no clear allegiance to any owner now." He paused, scrabbled, and then turned around with a box out of which he pulled a bright, slender, pale wand.

Draco caught his breath. He thought the wood was birch, but he couldn't tell the core from a glance, which was a skill his father had picked up.

His father. Draco wasn't going to think about him right now, thank you. Lucius Malfoy still had six months to go on his year-long sentence in Azkaban, but Draco was a young, nineteen-year-old wizard who'd left Hogwarts just a few months ago and should have the world at his feet. And would, as soon as he got his hands on a new wand.

"Yes, it's birch," Ollivander said, hopefully answering the expression on his face rather than the thought in his mind. "Veela hair core. A bit experimental for me, and it's proved hard to match. But this is a wand that will only serve one master, you may be certain." For a moment, a smile gleamed on his mouth, or so Draco thought, but when he dragged his glance away from the wand, it was gone again.

Draco hesitated one moment longer, wondering about a trap, but he didn't sense the telltale tingle of harmful Dark magic, which he'd become accustomed to over the few months in Malfoy Manor when the Dark Lord dwelt there. He finally reached out and picked the wand up.

The tip began to glow silver. The wood was smooth against his palm, fluid where Draco gripped it, but not slippery. Ollivander nodded encouragingly, and Draco lifted the wand and said softly, "Wingardium Leviosa." One of the first spells he remembered learning in Hogwarts. He thought it would be fitting if it was also one of the first spells he performed with his new wand.

The tip glowed again, and the wand-box sprang into the air and drifted back and forth above the desk. Ollivander looked as proud as a parent celebrating their child's first burst of accidental magic.

"Yes, it's matched, all right," he chuckled. "Proud, temperamental thing that it is."

Draco gave him another look, but he only stood there beaming as if he had made the wand specifically for Draco after all, so Draco took the hawthorn wand back and walked out.

Ollivander whispered something else, something that made Draco pause on the threshold of the shop and strain his ears. But the only thing he picked up out of the mess of sibilants was "...most unsuitable person."

"What?" Draco asked.

"Was I muttering to myself?" Ollivander cocked his head and apparently tried to look wise, something that Draco didn't think he was good at. "I apologize. A problem of the very aged, I fear."

Draco wasn't at all sure. But given that it had ended in English, he knew that it couldn't have been an incantation. He nodded as graciously back to the wandmaker as he was capable of and walked away.

Only much, much later would it occur to him that he hadn't ever paid for that wand.

And that might be one reason, although not the only one, why he'd had so much trouble.

Harry lunged forwards, ducking frantically beneath the burning rope that swung over his head while also trying to avoid the redcaps that grabbed at his legs. The rope went past, and Harry jumped, casting a charm at the same time that should keep his robe safe from flames.

Should have. Instead, the edge of his cloak glowed and then started to blaze. Harry swore and caught the edge of it beneath his boot as he landed, stamping the fire out (and, not entirely incidentally, breaking the fingers of one of the redcaps that was reaching for him).

"Bloody cheats," he informed the world in general, or at least all the world that consisted of this dismal, smoky, swampy place lost in a curtain of glittering silver mist, and began to slog forwards.

The mist abruptly faded, along with the water, the redcaps, and the rope as it came back for a second strike. Instead, Harry stood on a bare wooden floor in the midst of the Particularly Advanced Initiation and Near-encounters Room, which everyone except the Aurors themselves called by its appropriate acronym. Harry would never be convinced that the person who'd named the room didn't know exactly what he was doing.

"That's enough for today, Trainee Potter." The Auror who approached him, Gavriel Robinson, measured him with an expert eye and then shook his head. "You're still out of breath, after only twenty minutes' struggle against illusions. You'll have to do better than that in the real world."

Harry sneered at him. "Flames that burn through anti-flame charms? No partner? Random burning ropes with nothing to swing them? Those are the conditions of the real world?"

Robinson, as always, was unaffected by his sarcasm. "Be back here tomorrow at ten," he said, and turned away.

Harry slogged off much as he would have slogged through the swamp, muttering away to himself all the while. Yes, he understood that Auror training had to be difficult, and Robinson had a particular reputation for being a hard-arse, but they didn't have to cheat.

He managed to put the mood aside as he came out of the Ministry. He was going to meet Ron and Hermione at George's shop in half-an-hour, so that they could have a quiet dinner celebrating George coming out with a new product of some kind. What kind it was, Harry didn't remember exactly, but he knew it was supposed to be a brand new way to embarrass and humiliate your enemies. And probably your friends, too, knowing George.

Ginny might be there, too.

Harry hesitated for a moment, then huffed and forced himself on. He couldn't believe how childish he got sometimes where Ginny was concerned. They hadn't ever got back together after the war, although Ginny had clearly wanted to, because of Harry's commitment issues. Hermione had sat him down one day and taught him all the terminology, all the symptoms, and made him agree that he had it.

That still didn't mean Harry was willing to date or marry Ginny, though (or whatever else they expected him to do with her. Sometimes he thought Molly was expecting them to spend the rest of their lives on permanent honeymoon). And yes, he knew why. He wasn't ready to settle down yet. He felt like he wanted to have adventures, or at least the adventure of being an Auror and capturing a few ordinary criminals, so people would stop thinking of him as a Savior for the sake of one thing he had done.

Harry just didn't feel like his life was meant to be over yet, but that it would be if he married Ginny. But he had no grounds for that feeling, either. It was just the way things were. He would probably marry her in the end, because he did want that safe and secure home. Just not yet.


Harry yelped as he abruptly tangled himself with a set of long limbs and ungainly feet (or, well, they seemed ungainly to him, at least, since he was currently stumbling over them). He tried to stand back up, and went sprawling flat. At least they were in an alley close to the Ministry that wasn't much traveled, he thought.

Things got worse when he turned his head and saw Draco Malfoy staring back at him.

"Malfoy?" Harry asked. "What the fuck are you doing here?"

"I wasn't exiled from London," Malfoy said, his voice suddenly cool. Well, maybe it had been before, too, Harry thought. It was hard to tell when someone had only spoken one word to you. "I have as much right to be near the Ministry as you do."

"You're not an Auror," Harry said. "You don't work for the Department of Mysteries, or anywhere else in the Ministry." He tried to remind himself that Malfoy had probably changed since the war-he certainly had in their last year at Hogwarts, when he had constantly stared at Harry but otherwise ignored him-and wasn't up to anything, but meeting him like this was quite the coincidence.

Malfoy turned pink, and then pale. "None of your business," he said tightly, and started to stand.

Harry decided that it probably wasn't, looked around, and saw Malfoy's wand at a short distance from his hand, in the corner of the alley. Malfoy was facing the opposite way and hadn't seen it roll. Deciding that he could owe Malfoy something because he'd been the one to bump into him and then antagonize him, Harry reached for the wand.

The moment his hand touched it, it felt as though someone had jabbed a thousand needles into his palm. Harry screamed and recoiled, but the wand came with him, attached to his hand. His wrist was burning now, and a thin beam of silver light came out of the wand and stabbed into Malfoy's back.

He fell. Harry, wobbling, bit his tongue and tried to stand, his mind occupied with dim thoughts of fetching help.

Then the silver light stabbed into him, and Harry reeled, staring dizzily into the sky, and fell, too. Coldness chased him into dreams.

Draco woke so slowly that he knew at once that something was wrong. His head throbbed, and his eyelids seemed to be held shut with a sort of sticky gum. He worked them up and down until they parted enough to allow in some faint light.

He was staring at a pale blue ceiling. When he managed to turn his head, he saw that he was looking at a chair. His mother started and came to her feet from it an instant later, reaching out to him with a concerned look on her face.

"Darling," she whispered. "What happened to you?"

"I don't know," Draco whispered back, his heart squeezing. He hated seeing that look on his mother's face. She had enough of it now that his father was in prison. "I-didn't the Healers tell you?" An unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar place probably meant St. Mungo's, and Draco had the impression he'd been out for several hours, time for someone to find out what was wrong.

Narcissa shook her head and settled back into the chair. She'd pulled away before she touched him, Draco couldn't help but notice, and his heart gave a single, uncoordinated thump. "No. They firecalled me and said that you had collapsed near the Ministry and been brought in. With Potter."

Draco swore, which made his mother look steadily at him. "Sorry," he muttered, groping after the few fluttering memories he had. "I-think I remember what happened. Sort of. I bumped into Potter and dropped my wand. When he touched it, I remember feeling this awful pain. And then I don't remember anything more." He held out his hand and looked at it, wondering if he would see it covered with scaly growths acquired from between Potter's horrid toenails.

Not so horrid that you didn't want to spend time around the place where he works, whispered the voice of what Draco had called his almost-conscience since the war. It told him embarrassing truths sometimes, but nothing so bad that he couldn't deal with it.

Draco scowled. Whether he had been near the Ministry for a legitimate reason didn't matter as much as the pain.

"The Healers told me not to touch you," his mother said, in her lowest and most forceful voice. "They suspect something, Draco. They won't tell me what."

Draco swallowed to deal with both his rising panic and his rising nausea. What in the world could have happened? Would he transmit a disease to his mother? Did this amount to a curse? Had Potter drained him of his magic? What-

The door opened then, and a middle-aged woman with shoulder-length grey hair who looked as if she never smiled stepped into the room. She nodded to Draco and said, "Mr. Malfoy. No one has touched you since you woke?"

"No." Draco leaned forwards. "What happened?"

"As near as we can determine," the Healer said, flicking her head to the side to keep one eye on her notes and one on him, "a crossing of your magic with Mr. Potter's." Draco listened, but he didn't hear the same hushed tone of reverence in her voice when she mentioned Potter's name that he did in most people's. Good. Maybe she's sensible. "It passed through your wand core and tied you together. It resulted in a magical bond calling on eros."

Draco hadn't had his education for nothing. He could translate from the Greek, and it made his eyes cross and his head fall back against the pillows.

"Oh," he said, very softly.

"Mere crossing of magic does not cause this," his mother said. Draco smiled at her, as much as he could when his mouth wanted to hang open. "I know something about it, and while it might cause the fainting fit, it would not cause a bond."

"I know that," the Healer said, in the tone of someone who understood that people get distressed at times. "But as I said, it passed through the wand core. Mr. Malfoy, can you tell me if you and Mr. Potter at any time used each other's wands? It would still not give us a complete answer," she added, probably to stave off Narcissa's attempt to say the same thing, "but it would give us a start."

Draco chuckled. Then he laughed. Then he cut it off, seeing the Healer's intense look. "Didn't we just," he said. "Or rather, Potter stole my original wand and stole its allegiance so thoroughly that it didn't come back to me. And it turned out that I'd once held the Elder Wand, but he stole its allegiance at the same time that he stole mine. But this is a new wand," he added, raising his head from the pillow with some difficulty. "I don't know why it would tie us together."

The Healer peered at him sternly. Draco thought she should have had glasses to peer over. "You were aware, Mr. Malfoy, that your wand core is a Veela hair?"

"What does that have to do with anything?" Draco asked, but he thought he knew, particularly when the Healer stared at the ceiling and blew air hard through her lips.

"The Veela are creatures of connection," she said. "Their hairs are valuable ingredients in lust philters and so-called 'love' potions, which of course are only a more sophisticated version of the lust philter." Draco opened his mouth to protest that he knew that, but the Healer was living in her own little lecture-world by now. "In a wand core, they have been known to create the crossing of the magic. And, rarely, bonds." She lowered her head and stared at Draco. "You do understand what this means, Mr. Malfoy?"

Draco nodded. "It means-bonds with eros components demand that the partners touch each other."

"And shag, yes," the Healer said, thereby ruining Draco's attempt to be delicate in front of his mother. "That part of the genesis of the bond, we understand. What we do not yet know the reason for is the blistering that happened under our hands when we touched your bare skin, as well as Mr. Potter's. Such bonds do not, ordinarily, react badly to the touch of someone else."

"You suspected this," his mother said.

"Suspected which part of it, Mrs. Malfoy?" The Healer glanced at her briefly before turning back to Draco. "We understand the basic reason behind the formation of the bond, yes. That does not mean that we know all its subtleties yet. I must ask your son questions to determine that."

And she did-ruthless, invasive questions that Draco was still reeling from a few minutes after she left. His mother didn't have that disadvantage, and paced back and forth across the room, her robes flying behind her.

"I do wish that ordinary things happened to you once in a while, Draco," she murmured.

Draco was about to defend himself-it wasn't as though he had asked for this bond to Potter, after all-when he had a new thought, one that all the Healer's questioning hadn't pulled from him. He sat up in bed and glared. His mother noticed and turned towards him, placing one hand at the hollow of her throat.

"Ollivander," Draco whispered. "He was saying something when I left his shop with my new wand. It might have been a curse."

"But why-" His mother went white to the lips. "Our treatment of him during the war. I should have insisted that you choose a wand from a different wandmaker."

Draco sighed. "It's not your fault, Mother. I would have expected him to refuse to see me at all if he didn't want to give me a real wand, not take revenge on me like this." He licked his lips. It ought to be easy to break the bond if it had such a simple cause.

A pity.

But Draco refused to examine all his motives for not wanting to break the bond. He started to stand up from the bed, ignoring the way his legs shook. "Come, Mother. We need to find a Floo connection. I'm sure that Blaise or Pansy would be willing to delay Ollivander for me, or at least report on his movements."

Before he could stand or his mother expostulate, the door of the room flew open. Draco looked up, half-expecting to see Ollivander there with a gloating expression on his face.

It was Potter instead. He let the door fall shut behind him, glaring at Draco with heated eyes that made Draco suddenly glad he was sitting down.

He could have done with being in a different room from Potter's voice, too, which rasped and hissed around corners. "Malfoy, what the fuck did you do to me?"

Harry had needed the Healers to explain the bond twice, because the first time he'd felt faint with shock. But once he understood, there was no reason to delay; of course he would seek Malfoy out and demand that the bastard remove this prank. A bond that kept Harry from touching other people and required him to-to fuck Malfoy was not on.

But Malfoy didn't react the way Harry had expected him to, either with taunts or apologies. He shook his head and said, "I didn't do it, Potter. If I'm right, then it was Ollivander, who cast a curse on my new wand when he gave it to me. He's our best hope to remove it."

Harry blinked, then nodded. It was unexpected that Malfoy wasn't the cause of the problem, for once, but for reasons that he didn't feel like going into right now, also a relief. Well, it would have been boring if the people Harry had thought were villains in school were to be the villains for the rest of his life. "Right! Well, let's go."

He turned his back to march out the door, and then found he couldn't. His feet had locked in place. Straining, he turned his head back over his shoulder to glare at Malfoy. "Do you mind?"

"It isn't me." Malfoy looked as though he was about to vomit. He closed his eyes, teeth chattering, but said through them anyway, "It's the bond, Potter. We've been apart from each other too long, and worse, other people have touched us in the meantime. It wants us to-touch and reestablish the connection."

"The fuck?" Harry said. Mrs. Malfoy gave him a quelling glance, but Harry had been quelled by Aunt Petunia and Professor Snape in his time, and she just wasn't in their league. "How do you know that if you didn't cause the bond?"

"I've read about bonds like them, okay?" Malfoy jackknifed to his feet and stretched out an unsteady hand. "Come here, Potter. Come on."

"Can't," Harry said in triumph. "I'm stuck to the floor." He tugged at one leg to prove his point.

Of course, then, it came loose easily in his hand, and he found himself turning back to Malfoy as though it was the most natural thing in the world to have done.

"I don't think you are," Malfoy said, smiling at him in a way that made Harry wonder if he was going to be sick. The expression on his face was slow and heavy, and he leaned forwards as if encouraging a reluctant animal, and his voice had gone breathy. "You might want to leave, Mother."

Mrs. Malfoy stood still a moment longer, then nodded and made her way towards the door. "Tell me when you are done, Draco."

"What do you mean?" Harry asked. His voice was slow and heavy, too. He shook his head and came to a stop, swaying, but his legs kept twitching as though someone had infected them with an electrical current that pointed straight towards Malfoy. "What do we have to do?"

Malfoy sighed. "What do you think we have to do? The bond needs to be reestablished. Touch me." He held out his hand, and Harry was bobbing forwards to touch it, as though he was a bird who was going to peck food out of Malfoy's palm, before he consciously considered it.

Their palms brushed. A spark flared to life between them, visibly blue and stinging, before it zipped up Harry's arm and towards his neck. He tried to pull back, but Malfoy had closed both his hands down over Harry's single one, and it was impossible. Harry panted, his eyes half-shutting, his neck arching as he fought to keep from feeling what that spark induced in him.

Pleasure. Slow and heavy, of course, and mind-numbing, stirring in his groin and rising towards his chest.

"Feel that?" Malfoy asked, voice shaky. "Oh, yes, I thought so." His hand fluttered gently across Harry's cheek, then down across his neck, fingers splayed and stroking. Harry felt his head droop forwards. He'd never known that the back of his neck was sensitive, but it seemed it was. He grunted.

"Oh, yes," Malfoy said, with a choke in the back of his voice that Harry didn't need to translate. He drew Harry forwards into an embrace, and Harry felt his chin brush Malfoy's neck. Malfoy swallowed and turned his head so that his lips, and then his tongue, touched Harry's cheek.

He didn't say anything about that kind of touching! Harry jerked backwards and nearly fell on his arse. Malfoy released him and stared at him with a bright flush on his face. Harry shook his head several times. It took longer to find his voice, and he tried to ignore the feeling of warm, rich purring in the back of his head, as though their bond was a living thing or a machine that was now functioning properly.

"We don't have to snog, Malfoy."

Draco raised one eyebrow. He could feel his confidence returning like a vine that wrapped him up and supported him. He hadn't known how he would feel when he touched Potter, beyond momentarily satisfied that the bond was getting what it needed to survive.

Now he knew. He felt fucking wonderful, as if he had taken a warm bath that energized him instead of relaxing him to the point that he fell asleep. He laughed, and watched Potter's face twist in confusion.

The half-formed way he had felt about Potter until then-liking the way he looked in the Great Hall when he handed Draco's wand back, taking the off-chance that he might be coming out of the Ministry at a certain time if Draco was going that way-twisted in his chest and became something different. All right, it was deeper than he had expected. Well, he could work with that. It would certainly make the bond more pleasant to experience than otherwise.

"Poor, poor Harry," he said. "If you thought that was a snog, you're more sheltered than I ever suspected you were."

Potter opened his mouth, and then left it dangling. Draco looked speculatively at his tongue. "Now," he added, "if you wanted to give me a closer look at that, then I reckon that could qualify as a snog."

Potter bit his tongue, and then shook his head. "We have to focus on the best way to end this bond, Malfoy. And not have sex."

"We'll need to, eventually," Draco said peacefully, and reached out to touch his knuckles to Potter's shoulder, the nearest part of him right now. Potter shuddered, twisting, and Draco sighed. Pleasure flowed back and forth between them, and he knew it would increase the longer they touched, as the bond deepened and sealed itself. There were some eros bonds that were meant to quickly establish a marriage and then grow less intense over time, but Draco didn't know when this would end, and that excited him. "That's the way with this kind of bond."

"We don't need to," Potter said, his eyes so very wide that Draco thought he could see light through them. "Are you mad? You're probably engaged to be married."

Draco laughed. "Not yet. What about you? Oh, no, I don't need to ask," he added, when Potter made a soft, strangled sound. "The Prophet would have reported that."

"The Prophet has been wrong before." Potter forced himself to straighten up, glaring at Draco. Draco wondered when he would notice that his hand had reached out to grip Draco's arm, and started a silent count.

"Not with deafening silence," Draco said. "They might be wrong about the timing of the marriage, or the reason for the marriage, or who you were marrying, but they wouldn't just remain quiet with something to say. You're not committed to-Ginevra." He would at least say it that way, since references to weasels would probably upset Potter, and then he would be more tiresome than ever. "That means you can make me your first priority for a little while."

Potter looked as though Draco was asking him to swallow a worm. "I can't," he said. "Of course I can't. I have a job, Malfoy, and people who depend on me."

"Well, you don't have to spend every spare moment with me," Draco conceded graciously. "Just long enough to snog and shag. And oh, going on dates would be good sometimes, too." He smiled as Potter's face turned a number of interesting shades.

"I want to get married someday," Potter said in a voice that made him sound like a bull about to charge. "And I don't want to be married to you. So piss off."

Draco shrugged. "I was trying to offer you an option that would let you preserve some dignity. Do you really want to be dragged to me by the bond acting like a rope around your waist? Or do you want to come in, do what needs to be done, and then leave again?"

Potter stared at him. Draco could understand why. Since the end of the war, he had decided that Potter wasn't as stupid as he'd once thought him, and he should have noticed the contradiction between Draco saying that they would only do what needed to be done and the enthusiastic reception he'd given the bond earlier.

But too much enthusiasm too fast would only make Potter fight the bond, and ensure that his kisses were short and reluctant when Draco did get them. Draco didn't want that.

He had thought that he might fancy Potter when he saw him standing there in the sunlight that came through the shattered windows of the Great Hall, holding out the useless hawthorn wand. He had allowed himself to indulge in some daydreams, and some wank fantasies, and sometimes passing by the Ministry as Potter walked home, but no more than that, because he knew it never would be more than that. It was the end of the war, and he wouldn't waste time yearning for things he couldn't have.

But now...

Now he had a chance, and he was going to hold onto it with both hands.

If he could.

Harry wanted to reply that the mere thought of kissing Malfoy made him want to put his wand against his temple and utter the Killing Curse.

But that wasn't true. And he had acquired an allergy, in the course of the months since the war, to making generalizations about people who had been mere rivals during his school years. He had faced pure evil, in the form of Voldemort, and heard about more since, when the Aurors training him divulged stories of past cases. That was what Harry wanted to face and fight.

Not Malfoy, who had looked so lost at his trial, as though he didn't understand why Harry would speak up for him. Not Parkinson, who had scuttled away from Harry with her head turned aside during that last year of school, as if she assumed that meeting his eyes would cause her to fall dead. (It had taken Harry months to corner her and assure her that he understood why she would have wanted to throw him to Voldemort, and even then, he didn't think she believed him). Not Zabini, who would regularly eye Ginny and then glare at Harry.

There were some people it wasn't worth hating.

Still, he couldn't let this stupid bond take him away from all his responsibilities. So he straightened, glared at Malfoy, and said, "Watch me."

"You would rather be hauled around like a puppet?" Malfoy examined him from head to foot. "Funny, I thought you were more sensible than that."

You probably think I'm fit enough for you, that's what, Harry decided. "I can fight it," he said. "The temptation to have sex with you, I mean. Watch me." He turned to face the door out of the room.

"Really? I don't think you understand the nature of this bond." Malfoy had a smile in his voice, Harry could hear that much. "I forbid you to leave the room."

Harry's feet once more stuck to the floor. He tried to lift one, and it was like lifting a boot out of heavy mud. He bent down and tugged on it, swearing.

"So you could tell me to have sex with you, and I would?" Harry glared over his shoulder at Malfoy, half his good thoughts about the git withering. "So the bond legalizes rape?"

Malfoy's eyes widened, and he shook his head. "You don't understand. Both of us can give orders to the other-and those orders can only relate to the fulfillment of the bond. So I can't order you to stop seeing your friends, or writing to people complaining about this, or even hexing me. I can order you to stay with me when moving away would ensure that the bond wouldn't be fulfilled otherwise. And you can do the same thing to me."

"I order you to let me go," Harry countered instantly.

Malfoy grimaced, and Harry's feet loosened. "Wanker," Malfoy muttered. "I should have known you would figure that out right away."

"You'll get better cooperation out of me if you don't treat me like a slave," Harry snapped, and surged towards the door.

"Harry." Malfoy's voice was gentle in a way that Harry hadn't known it could be, which was all that made him pause with a hand on the door instead of hurrying out. "I don't particularly want to. But the bond will. That's what I mean when I say that you can choose to come to me, and we can have sex of our own free will. Believe me when I say that you won't regret it." His voice deepened. "I know how to please a partner."

Harry flinched as a memory he would rather forget bobbed up in front of him. He'd been a prefect that last year, McGonagall trying to make up for lost time and honors, and he'd come around a corner one night to see Malfoy standing in front of a dark-haired Ravenclaw bloke in an alcove, touching his shoulders and his face. Just touching.

But his gaze was intense, burningly so, and the Ravenclaw had gasped and moaned and breathed like he was running a race, all from those simple little glancing caresses of Malfoy's fingertips.

Harry pushed the memory away again. He would rather not think about that, and he didn't have to. The Ravenclaw had probably been Malfoy's long-term partner, and so Malfoy knew how to handle him (so to speak) in all the important ways. There was a difference between thinking that Malfoy wasn't horribly evil and thinking that he was a good-lover, whatever-for Harry's future.

"You said that Ollivander did this," he said. "So let's go there and get him to remove the curse on your wand."

Malfoy's face fell. Did he really think that I wouldn't think of something so simple? Harry wondered in irritation, and then he shook his head. A lot of what Malfoy was saying was incomprehensible to him at the moment. He wanted to get this over and done with so that he could return to his normal life. The normal life he had been carefully building since the war, when he had decided that he was done with strange things happening to him.

"I don't think it'll be as easy as that," Malfoy cautioned.

Harry fixed him with his best stare from Auror training, which he used on Aurors who tried to trick him with old jokes about Defense spells that he knew weren't true. It made Malfoy squirm, too. "Do you have a better idea?"

"I've told all of them to you already, alas," Malfoy murmured.

Harry stomped out the door. Malfoy paused behind him for a moment, probably to say something to his mother, and then followed.

"I don't believe it."

Potter's voice was confident and ringing, as if by saying that he would cause the shut-up little shop to change its CLOSED sign, or the handwriting on the glass immediately below it:



Potter peered in the dim window, and then thumped on the glass, beneath the letters. They didn't move, but brightened, as if they had been enchanted to do so when someone touched them.

Draco covered his mouth with one hand, because he didn't know whether he was going to grin or laugh. He cocked his head to the side, wondering if Ollivander hadn't left yet and this sign was just up as a blind, but if it was, then the wandmaker had carefully left him no way to see beyond it. The shelves were empty. Draco didn't think it was just a good glamour, either.

"He left," Potter whispered. "And he did that just as revenge? I didn't think that was like him."

Draco snorted. "People don't go into wandmaking because of their innate goodness, Harry. It takes a certain kind of person who wants a certain kind of power, because they'll know which each wizard is capable of, magically, before they actually manage it. Not all their predictions may come true, but enough that it gives their hands and souls something to aspire to."

Potter whipped back towards him, his holly wand tight in his hand. "Don't call me Harry!"

"That's what you're upset about?" Draco leaned against the wall, ignoring the glances that people passing in Diagon Alley tossed at him. "Not about this bond, not about the fact that we've probably just lost the best chance to find out how to reverse it?"

"I thought you wanted to keep the bond the way it was." Potter eyed him and then glanced around at the corners of the shop, quick, darting glances that Draco would nevertheless have had to be drunk to miss.

"I think that, since we have an excuse, we might as well relax and enjoy ourselves," Draco said. And that this will give me the chance to find out whether I really fancy you or not. "Overall, yes, I'd like to find a way to reduce the bond. But Ollivander was only the most obvious choice to do so. We can find others. I'm sure Granger would like to have something new to research."

He'd thought he'd spoken neutrally, but Potter turned another glare on him that made him feel like he was standing in the desert at noon. "I won't have you making fun of her, Malfoy," he said, dangerously.

"A bargain," Draco said, his heart accelerating in response. God, this bond is probably going to kill me. One way or the other. "I don't make fun of your friends, and we call each other by our first names."

Potter opened his mouth as if to laugh, closed it again, and then said, "You think you have the standing to make bargains like that? You think you can?"

"I think I'm the only one who can, since I'm in the bond with you," Draco said, suddenly wondering if Potter had spent some time studying pure-blood customs. People used to act as representatives of their families in alliances or offers of marriage, and would have to make clear which promises came from the entire family and which came from them as individuals.

"This is a stupid, mistaken, childish bond that should never have happened," Potter said, lowering his voice. "I'm going to find a way to break it, and I'll share the information with you. Other than that, I suggest that you stay away from me, and I'll do the same." He turned and Apparated away.

Draco rubbed his jaw in consideration. He could have told Potter it didn't work like that, that a bond of eros would demand the presence of one partner next to the other sooner or later.

But he thought it might be more fun to let Potter find that out on his own.

"Why do all the bloody weird things happen to you, mate?"

Harry shook his head in response to Ron's statement and stood up to fetch another Firewhisky. He'd already had two, and Hermione had taken to poking him as well as glaring at him. But he didn't care. He had got through the day without killing Malfoy or fainting again. Surely that deserved a reward.

"I don't know," he said, when he returned to the table and found Ron still peering at him. "Because that's the way I am. Because some evil fairy cursed me when I was in the cradle to have bad things happen to me, like in those Muggle stories."

Ron shook his head. "Evil fairies? No, it would have to be at least a goddess, for something like this."

Harry smiled and tossed half the Firewhisky down his throat. When he lowered his mug, he realized that George sat on the other side of the table, leaning forwards as he regarded Harry thoughtfully.

Harry looked back, not sure what George would say next. Sometimes it seemed as if, since Fred's death, he had been twice as manic, twice as cheerful, making up for one person who couldn't do it anymore. Other times he would be quiet and brooding, hardly speaking for days at a time. Harry knew Ron was worried about his brother, which was one reason they often met here at the joke shop.

Now, George swirled a finger in his own Firewhisky, then put it on the table and scrawled a line. Harry didn't see his wand or his lips move in an incantation, but the line of moisture blazed to life with a coruscation of gold and red. Harry jerked back from it, then made himself relax when he realized there was no heat coming from it. He snorted. "Good illusion."

George bent towards the fire, holding out one strand of red hair. It caught fire, and this time Harry could smell the singeing. George put it out and then looked at him with one eyebrow raised.

Harry shook his head. "I don't know what you're trying to say to me, mate."

George opened his hand, and Harry saw a sparkle of red powder on his fingers. "Drop this in Firewhisky, and it starts burning," George said. "A hotmouth. Astonish your friends! Burn your enemies! We're calling it A Taste of Muggle." He closed his hand, and when he opened it again, the dust had vanished. "But it only works on Firewhisky, on something that has the nature of fire in the first place. It wouldn't work on butterbeer, or water. Things only burn if that's their nature." He stood up and sauntered towards the kitchen.

Harry turned and focused on Ron. Ron didn't do it perfectly, but he still understood George better than the rest of them. "Do you know what he means?"

Ron's eyes were unexpectedly clear. "I do, mate," he said. "This bond happened because of Ollivander and because you shared wands before and because of the Elder Wand-" Ron shuddered the way he usually did when he mentioned the Deathly Hallows "-but also because you and Malfoy have something between you that can burn."

"I don't understand," Harry said. He discovered his fingers rapping on the edge of the table and made them stop.

"Oh, for goodness's sake, Harry," Hermione broke in. "He means that there's something sexual between you and Malfoy."

Harry was glad that he hadn't had a mouthful of Firewhisky at that moment. As it was, his hand shook when he reached out for his napkin and dabbed at the side of his mouth. "What? Hermione, you can't mean that. George can't mean that. Ron especially can't mean that." He turned towards Ron and crossed his eyes in a silent, desperate signal that Hermione must have lost her mind.

Ron just looked stolidly back at him. "That's the way it is," he said. "A bond of eros, the way you describe it, wouldn't have formed otherwise."

Harry tried to laugh. It came out sounding like a dying cat's last shout, so he cut himself off. "But that's ridiculous," he said. "I haven't even had anything to do with Malfoy since the war, so how would I be attracted to him?" The word stuck in his throat so much he had to force it out. "And anyway, there's a way to break the bond. There has to be, or he wouldn't have had hope in Ollivander."

"I can try to help you with that," Hermione said. "But most of the solutions I've already thought of involve having clear knowledge of yourself, Harry. You have to know what you want from the bond and what you want from your life."

"Nothing," Harry said instantly. "And marriage with Ginny."

Ron had an extensive coughing fit that required his mug and his fist to cover. Harry glared at him. "All right," he said, in what he hoped were suitably withering tones, "tell me what's wrong with that."

Ron took a long swallow of Firewhisky as if to fortify himself, and then shrugged. "No offense, mate, but you haven't exactly been in a hurry to make a move since the war, even when Ginny was still pining after you. And now she's not. And Malfoy was the exception to all the rules. He was the one you decided was innocent first, he was the one you defended from other people when they said that he'd wanted to hand you over to Voldemort-even though he did-"

Harry opened his mouth to argue that, and then shut it, his face feeling painful from the extent of his blush.

"And he was the one you told me you expected to see in Auror training, even though he had no reason in the world to be there." Ron shook his head. "Exactly what does all this point to? I thought you had a thing for Malfoy last year, but nothing happened, so I put that aside. And then you just kept on talking about marrying Gin like it was a foregone conclusion, even though she's dating someone else now, and even though you never referred to her like you loved her. Sorry, Harry, but you've treated it like this dream that can protect you. And you resent Malfoy for waking you up."

Harry shook his head. His breath came in what felt like the puffs he would use to try and blow out a fire, and his body wanted to fall off the chair. He kept it sitting upright by sheer force of will.

"Even if you're right," he said hoarsely, "and I was dreaming, and Malfoy is here to wake me up-even if you're right-that doesn't mean that I need to have sex with him, or whatever it is that you think I need to have because I won't marry Ginny." Those last words made him huff again. It was like being hit in the solar plexus to hear that he would never do that at all. Sure, he had thought he might have to wait, he had known sometimes that he wasn't really serious, but it was like-

Letting go of a cherished dream. Harry suddenly wished he could be alone.

"Oh, right, right," Ron said, bobbing his head. "No one's saying that." He paused and looked keenly at Harry. "Except that the bond will make you."

"But that would be illegal," Harry said, and stopped. That sounded a bit pathetic even to him.

"Bonds don't care about illegal or legal, Harry, only magical right and wrong," Hermione broke in. She was giving Ron an admiring glance, which Harry thought was the only reason that she hadn't interrupted before. "And this bond has decided that it's right that you and Malfoy have sex with each other. Now, you might have decided that the last thing in the world you want to do is sleep with Malfoy-"

"You've got that bloody right!"

"But you'll probably have to, at least once." Hermione whipped a scroll of parchment briskly out of her pocket and spread it across the table, starting to write notes on it. Harry knew she carried the scroll around with her everywhere so she would never be at a loss for writing material, but it still made him a bit dizzy, knowing the subject she was working on. "I think I can break the bond with one quick method, but it would involve a lot of meditation so that you can know yourself better than you do now. Or we can go with some slower methods so that you can take a few months. But it means that you'll have to have sex with Malfoy probably five or six times." She paused, head cocked as if consulting a mental calendar, and then added, "Even the shorter method, you'd need to be with him at least once."

"But-why?" Harry felt as if someone had tied him to a mass of exploding fireworks. "What difference does the kind of bond make, or the time, or how well I know myself? And why aren't you more upset that I have this kind of bond with him?"

Hermione shrugged. "I decided that he wasn't the worst person who ever attacked me. Although he might have been the most annoying," she added reflectively. "And he hasn't done anything to me since Hogwarts, or even, really, since before the war. That was the last time he insulted me. I don't like that you have a bond with him because I know that it'll be hard for you. But it would be hard for you no matter what, unless it was Ginny, so-"

"Even if it was Ginny," Ron interrupted. "I told you, mate, you don't think of her as a real person. She's just a daydream to you, just an image you can use to keep other people away. I don't know why you think of her that way, but you do."

"All right, so why aren't you more upset about the fact that I might have to fuck Malfoy?" Harry winced. Said aloud, he had thought the words would sound silly, but they didn't. "Your family hates him."

"Malfoys in general, not him." Ron nodded with the kind of wisdom that Harry thought only Firewhisky could produc. "There's a difference."

"But he was the one who let the Death Eaters into the school and made sure Greyback scarred Bill." Harry knew he was whining, but he just didn't see any other way to get his point across. Was he the only one who remembered all the awful things that Malfoy had done?

"A bond is important," Ron said, reaching out and squeezing Harry's hand. "We'll support you, Harry, don't worry. And if you're concerned about the rest of my family, then I wish you wouldn't be. Everyone will understand once you explain the situation. They'll make sure that you can put up with any shite from above or the sides." He grimaced. "Bound to find someone who'll object, once word of it gets out."

"Yes, and I'll support you even though I'm researching to find ways to break the bond." Hermione gave him an anxious little smile. "I hope I didn't sound as though I thought you should do anything rather than be with Malfoy, Harry! That's not the way I meant to come across."

Harry had known the world didn't make sense, but he had never realized just how much sense it didn't make. He sat back, shook his head, and didn't speak another word even when George came back from the kitchen and set out glasses of Firewhisky along with several enticing new jokes from his shop that he was looking for "testers" for.

He would go to bed drunk. If the bond worked the way Harry hoped it would, then Malfoy might be able to feel Harry waking up with a headache in the morning, which would serve him right.

Draco opened his eyes. A sharp noise had echoed through his bedroom, like someone breaking a piece of wood. He rolled over, mind still fuzzy, and saw someone draped over the foot of the bed.

His mind grew icier and clearer, and he sat up with a smile. Ah, so it begins.

The figure groaned and shifted. His eyes blinked, those long lashes that Draco had started thinking Potter must enhance with charms going up and down. He put a hand to his head and groaned, then turned as if he would scramble away from Draco and throw up in the corner. "What happened?" he was whispering. "What-how did I get here?"

Draco reached out one hand and snagged the back of Potter's cloak, dragging him inwards. When he came close enough, Draco could smell the fumes of Firewhisky, and wrinkled his nose. Well. That explained why the bond had taken advantage of Potter's Apparition to bring him here, so soon, instead of simply forcing him to Apparate when the need grew strong enough. He might have Splinched himself otherwise, and the bond would interfere in cases of obvious physical danger.

Draco rolled him over. Potter stared up at him, his chest heaving, his eyes glazed and unfocused.

Well, we can't have that, can we? Draco thought cheerfully, and pressed down with one hand at the same time as he leaned in towards Potter and whispered, "I order you to sober up."

Potter made a complicated sound like someone throwing up backwards, and then knifed himself away from Draco and landed on the edge of the rug around his bed, swearing in shock. Draco took his time sitting up and pushing the edges of his sleeping robe back from his shoulders. He added, "I order you to have clean breath and a settled stomach. I don't want to have to deal with you vomiting in my face as we rut together." He shuddered at the image that provoked.

"What-Malfoy?" Potter had forced himself up to his elbows. "This isn't some kind of weird dream?" He looked as though he imagined that Draco had dragged him here to steal his Galleons.

"I told you the bond wouldn't let you stay away from me," Draco whispered, and then leaned down and kissed him.

"Mrrgle!" Potter said against his lips, which Draco took for a noise of assent, since he wasn't about to take it for anything else. He rolled Potter over, onto the bed, and skimmed one hand down his side, making sure that he brushed first across the shirt and then across the bare skin beneath.

Potter gasped. Draco knew what he was feeling, since the same sensation had just jumped up his arm. A shower of golden sparks, a lightning bolt of pleasure, a storm of feeling that made him want to squirm closer to it and feel it again. It was inevitable, Draco thought, panting and pushing against Potter, his cock full in his pants. It felt so good to touch like this that not even Potter could fail to see and acknowledge what was between them.

Or so Draco thought, until he found himself shoved onto the floor.

"You're insane," Potter rasped, pushing himself away from Draco on his elbows. His hair and his eyes were both wild, and his face looked as though he'd spent a long time pushing it into a vat of spaghetti sauce. "Must be. You have to know that you can't just-can't just overwhelm people like that!"

"I don't know it, no," Draco said simply, drawing back and again touching Potter's shirt, then his skin, to show him the difference. This time, it felt so good that he moaned, and saw the reflection of that sound on Potter's face.

"I can't do this," Potter said, with a pathetic sort of dignity that he gathered around him like a tattered cloak. "I'm going to get married."

"Sometime in the far future, no doubt," Draco said comfortably, rolling them over so that he was pinning Potter to the bed in a more comfortable position. "Somewhere in dreamland."

"Stop it!" Potter pushed at his shoulders. "You can't just overwhelm people, I told you! It's rape otherwise."

Draco was irritated enough that he decided to give Potter what he wanted. He sat back and spread his hands wide. "There, I'm not touching you," he said. "Now push me away and storm out of the bedroom."

Potter eyed him suspiciously. Draco bent down and breathed on his ear.

"If," he added tenderly, "that's what you really want. If it's what you really desire."

Unfortunately sober, and somehow having ended up in Malfoy's bedroom, where he was not supposed to be, Harry didn't exactly know what was supposed to happen next.

Malfoy had kissed him and touched him like no one had ever kissed him or touched him. And it was true that when he'd spoken his commands, Harry had heard a buzzing in his head that seemed an awful lot like magic enforcing that command. And he could feel the bond pulling taut like a cord between them when he moved a certain distance away. There was even a decided anxiety in the back of his head, as though it was important that he kiss Malfoy and he shouldn't have stopped.

But that couldn't be allowed to matter. Of course it couldn't. Harry had a normal life to get back to leading, and Malfoy wasn't part of it.

"All right," he said. "I will. When you move off me."

Malfoy shifted neatly to the side and sat on the bed. Only then did Harry realize that he hadn't really been pinned down and ravished, although it had felt like that. Malfoy had been holding Harry in place with his breath and his eyes. Harry felt his flush worsen, and sat up.

"I'm going," he said.

"Do that," Malfoy said. "So I can get back to sleep." He cast a longing glance at his pillows and reached out to fondle one of them. Harry stared at the slender palm and fingers and remembered what it had felt like when they traveled from the edge of his shirt down onto his bare skin.

Suddenly he had slipped from cold water into perfect heat. It had felt as good as being in a warm bed on a morning when he didn't have to get up and go to training. Except sharper, of course. And more centered on his groin.

"I'm leaving," he said.

"We all await you," Malfoy said, with a perfectly disdainful tone in his voice that made Harry burn to get rid of it. He leaned forwards, caught himself, and then edged away again. The invisible cord between then pulled unpleasantly taut, and he shook his head. He couldn't allow the bond to dictate his movements.

"We do all await your leaving," Malfoy said, while Harry hovered and wondered why he didn't immediately leap up and go. Could it just be the memory of what Ron had said earlier that night, that Harry treated Ginny like a daydream instead of a real person? "If you're not going to give me sex, you might as well give me a pleasant night's sleep."

Harry felt his ears burn, and that decided his next move. It wasn't the most adult thing to do, but still. He wanted to show Malfoy that he wasn't an obliging little toy like most of Malfoy's lovers probably were, and he would do it by giving him neither object he wanted.

He leaned in enough that Malfoy's eyes widened and his breathing stuttered, and breathed delicately across Malfoy's lips. Malfoy opened his mouth with a moan. Harry watched the flush working its way down his throat and leaned in to follow it with his tongue and teeth.

Malfoy wrapped his hands around Harry's shoulders and held him there, moaning again while Harry pressed their groins together. The ache was steady, now, and Harry could feel that the thrumming of the bond between them had become nothing but a steady golden hum, delicious to feel.

If not give into.

He had to take several deep breaths and not yield to the temptation to just rock with Malfoy and let their movements carry him along until he came. That wasn't the plan. Instead, he bit Malfoy on the shoulder and urged him back, making him lie on the pillows and caressing his neck and chest until Malfoy's protests became quiet whispered pleas instead. Then Harry pulled back and tried to look at Malfoy the way a conqueror would look at a conquest.

The problem was that he didn't know exactly what that look was like, because he had never had the huge bloody lot of partners that the Daily Prophet attributed to him. He tried to fix that expression on his face anyway, though, and watched the shining edges of Malfoy's hair and the way that his eyelids fluttered, open and shut and then open again, as if he couldn't decide which way he wanted to have them.

"Ohhhh," Malfoy whispered. "Please, make up your mind."

A hard edge was creeping back into his tone again, meaning that he was coming to some awareness of the situation, and Harry couldn't have that. He sucked a new purple mark into appearing on Malfoy's chest, then moved over and sucked on one nipple. The taste of warm skin filled his mouth, and he bit down before he thought about it, reacting to it as he would to the taste of a sweet.

Malfoy yowled, a cat with a boot flung at it, and reached up, scrabbling along the side of Harry's head, trying to find an ear, a hold on his hair, the back of his head. Harry didn't know which, and he didn't care. It was all intensely satisfying, he thought as he pressed down, harder and harder, with his mouth against Malfoy's nipple, with his cock against Malfoy's.

Then he thought to add a little back-and-forth motion, and Malfoy went wild, grasping him and losing him in the same moment, his mouth drawing breath and rasping it out again. Harry could see all the way to his tonsils one moment, and then to the back of his eyes and mind in the next.

"That's good, that's good," Malfoy said, and he sounded surprised, and Harry felt smug, and it was wonderful, back and forth, back and forth, side to side with their hips bumping each other's, and he would get up in a minute-

Malfoy hunched as if he would come or get up, but when he moved, it was to roll them over again. Then he was crouched above Harry, back and forth, back and forth, and Harry could feel his own eyes opening very wide and rolling, his voice choking in the back of his throat, his hands flying open as if he would gouge out Malfoy's eyes. Malfoy gave a wordless explanation of his pleasure to someone and kissed Harry again, tongue caressing his gums.

He was going to do something. He was going to move, wasn't he? Oh, yes, that was right. And left. Back and forth, back and forth, back-

Wildness burst out of Harry: a cry from his throat, movements from his hands, come from his cock. He arched up, pleased when Malfoy didn't move except for his trembling above Harry, but pushing anyway, wanting him off, wanting to draw in a deep breath, and wanting to keep him there so that he could do other things, hold Malfoy's back and be pinned and driven into and-

Malfoy came, a thick splash, and they lay there panting in the sudden silence.

Harry closed his eyes. His throat ached. Malfoy stroked it absently, his fingernails catching in the hairs on Harry's chin. When was the last time he had shaved? Unremembered, unimportant. Harry rolled his head over, and Malfoy stuck his tongue in again, but this time thoughtfully, leisurely, scraping it up and down the way a dog might lick someone's face. Not at all the way Harry and Ginny had kissed.


The fuck.

Harry shoved.

Malfoy fell over, or fell off the bed, from the sudden wave of startled cursing that floated up to Harry. Harry found that he didn't care. He couldn't believe that he had been so careless, so stupid, to just go on like that. Yes, it had felt good when Malfoy touched him, but it wasn't as though someone had held him down, and made him kiss Malfoy, touch him, rock with him, and suck Malfoy's nipple. For some reason, it was that last one he felt most embarrassed about.

"Get off me," he told the air, perhaps, or at least he thought he did. His mouth was so thick with self-disgust that he didn't think he could speak. "I hope that you never come near me again, you-"

He left the sentence unfinished, because there were no words for what Malfoy was. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and not even bothering to see if he had collected all his clothes, Harry Apparated.

"You look as though you spent the night with a storm, darling."

That was his mother's cool assessment as Draco slipped into a chair at the table the next morning. Draco nodded apologetically to her and picked up a plate decorated with delicate slices of fruit, from which he chose two, a peach and an orange. He felt like sweet things this morning, to complement his dreams.

"Yes," he said. "I know." He had fixed his hair and brushed his teeth before he joined her, of course, but he could do nothing about the bruises on his wrists or the purple patch on his neck. He found that he didn't particularly want to.

"Does Mr. Potter know anything about bonds with an eros component?" his mother asked, apparently addressing the air. "From the way he has conducted himself so far, I would say that he does not."

Draco held back the impulse to laugh. His mother had moved from half-despairing at the existence of the bond to sounding as though she deplored Potter's lack of manners about it. "No, I don't think so," he said. "He was pulled to my room by the bond last night, but then he wanted to blame what happened next on me."

His mother's nod conveyed both understanding of the situation and approval that he had not chosen to burden her with the details. "Very well. Then he ought to accept an effort to break it."

"Yes, he ought to," Draco said, becoming very involved in eating his orange without spurting juice everywhere. Having touched Harry last night filled him with a marvelous sense of well-being, and he didn't think it was just the bond, which tended to act so sated at moments like this that there was no telling it was even there. "And I should do what I can. I'm sure that Father wouldn't approve of my being bound to someone like Potter, especially since there are ways in which any bond can be broken."

His mother reached across the table and laid her hand on his. Startled, Draco looked up and found that her eyes were the color of an early spring day, which he had almost never seen them be.

"You should think about what you want," she said softly, "rather than what your father does."

"Or what Potter does?" Draco had to ask. "It wouldn't be very fun to share the bond with an unwilling partner."

"I hold faith in your powers to convince him of the truth," Narcissa murmured, "that any Malfoy is a desirable partner, and that he might never have another chance like this."

Or that I might not, Draco thought, but he knew that showing that to Potter would be fatal. Potter would think he had an ally in Draco's reluctance to be bonded to him-reluctance he was drawing entirely from the reflection of his own soul that he saw everywhere-and he was more likely to include Draco in his plans as long as he thought that. Draco would have a chance to foil those plans, and fool Potter, only and as long as Potter kept him close.

"Be confident, then?" he asked his mother, his voice rising into a question although he tried to keep it down. "Is that the extent of your advice to me?"

His mother smiled, a bright flash of an expression that Draco had seen more often when he was a child. "Yes," she said. "You have never needed anything else."

And Draco did feel better when he thought about that, and the triumphs he had achieved in the past just because he acted like he knew exactly what he was doing and proceeded to do something decisive.

Granted, those had been minor triumphs next to the one he now pursued. But that didn't matter, not if the confidence was great enough.

"I just don't know why you're not horrified."

Ron and Hermione exchanged a speaking glance, although what they were speaking about Harry didn't know. He hated that he was the one with a headache, although Ron had drunk as heavily as Harry had last night and Malfoy had spelled him sober. He hated that Ron and Hermione apparently gave each other some complicated message with their eyebrows, because Hermione sighed and turned towards him.

"Because this is the way that these bonds are supposed to work," she said. "The magic does things like this sometimes, and so the pure-bloods have learned to make allowances for them. Your life would be easier if you did, too."

"Made allowances?" Harry laughed bitterly, and then held his head as it ached. "Not likely."

"Why not, mate?" Ron leaned forwards. "You're not dating someone right now, so it's not a question of being unfaithful. And it's not like you're sleeping with V-V-V-"

"Oh, Ron," Hermione said, with affection in her voice that made Harry's teeth ache with envy. "Just say it."

"Voldemort," Ron produced, with a groan of effort that made Hermione applaud. Then he turned towards Harry and went on with more enthusiasm. "Sometimes, things like this just happen. So, yeah, you should try to break the bond if you're not going to be happy, and Hermione's already found several ways to do that." He looked adoringly at her in turn, making Hermione bow her head and blush, and Harry wondered if he should leave the room. "But it's not as though this taints you somehow, or makes you less of a person. Malfoy is annoying, but he's not going to rape you."

"How do you know that?" Harry asked. That was the one point he really couldn't understand. "If the bond can Apparate me to him whenever it likes-"

"No, only when the bond is strained because you haven't had sex with him for a while," Hermione told him. Since she was already flushed, Harry couldn't see if she was blushing the way she ought to when she talked about two blokes having sex.

"Fine," Harry said. "But no matter when it happens, I don't want it."

This time, Ron and Hermione turned and gave him a message with their eyes that he could read. Harry tugged his shirt higher so that he could hide some of the damage Malfoy had done to him. "Well, anyway, I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for the bond," he said.

"You're so fixated on that," Ron said. "Why?"

"Because I don't like blokes!" Harry said. "And I don't like Malfoy! And I want to marry someone-well, it doesn't have to be Ginny." He was starting to think that Ron had been right about that, since he really never had missed her too much after Hogwarts, or wanted to get back together with her during his last year there after the war. "How can I do that if I'm bonded to that git?"

"You're going to break the bond," Ron said, in the manner Hermione used to explain small words to an idiot. Of all the things he could have picked up from her, Harry thought, of course it would have to be that. "It's not a question of staying bonded to him forever, or getting married to him. In the meantime, why not have some fun?"

"Because it's not fun?" Harry said. "Because he's slimy?"

Ron sniffed, far too loudly for Harry's comfort. "It doesn't smell as though you showered before you came here," he said. "And you don't look all covered with slime."

"You're impossible," Harry snapped, and whirled away from Ron, feeling betrayed and used by the whole world.

Hermione caught up with him as he started down the steps of their house. "Look, Harry, I'm sorry," she whispered earnestly. "I can tell how annoying this must be for you." Harry nodded to her, glad that he had one understanding friend. Hermione patted him on the back, and then ruined it all. "But to break the bond, you have to know yourself well. I told you that. The spells won't work if you don't, because you need to look into your heart and renounce the desires that led to the bond in the first place-"

"I don't have any bloody desires for Malfoy-"

Hermione raised her voice slightly. "Or you have to come up with some other means to fulfill those desires, ones that will satisfy you more than the bond does."

Harry stared blankly at her. Hermione beamed back as though she had just said the most helpful thing in the universe. Around them were the small sounds of Hogsmeade coming to life, including the sound of a broom on the neighbor's back porch and the humming purr of a Kneazle dozing on the wall.

"You mean," Harry said, "I have to find someone else to fuck?"

The broom stopped sweeping. The Kneazle opened one eye.

"I wouldn't have put it so crudely," Hermione said, glaring at him. Apparently only Ron was to be approved of for saying difficult things with a great deal of force, Harry thought in irritation. "But yes, you could think of it that way. And things would be easier if you had Malfoy's help, you know."

"I could not agree more, Granger."

Harry whipped around. The bond should have given him some sort of warning, he thought, not just left him to stand there like an idiot while Malfoy strolled up to them. He looked far more polished and clean than Harry, and Harry looked in vain for the marks he had left on him.

Malfoy noticed him looking. He smiled, and Harry hated that he could already tell the difference between that and an ordinary smirk. He looked away. Malfoy continued talking, apparently to Hermione. "The bond might wear down over time, but I doubt it, not when it's this intense in the beginning. And things will go faster if we're both there to perform the necessary spells."

"That's what I thought," Hermione said, sounding pleased to have been right. When is she not? Harry thought. He knew he was being unfair, and he intended to keep on being that way. "I assume you have a better knowledge of your innermost heart than Harry does, so-"

"How can you think that?" Harry asked loudly. He turned to Malfoy, who still smiled at him, but this time with a touch of the smirk. "He probably doesn't even know what an innermost heart is, except something that he'll try to poison."

"Because I accept this bond for what it is," Malfoy said calmly. "I don't try to pretend that it came from anyone else-"

Harry pointed an accusing finger at him, which Hermione gently pressed down. "You told me that it came from Ollivander!"

Malfoy laughed. Harry tried not to notice the way that the sound seemed to compete with the Kneazle's purr for warmth. "He cast the curse, yes, but it couldn't have taken the form it does if I hadn't wanted you. He might have cursed us only to spend time together, or undergo a form of trial and initiation together, or of friendship. This bond manifested because we shared wands, and because we both had desires that the other person could answer."

"We shared wands, and that was an accident," Harry said. "The fortunes of war."

Malfoy gave him a quick, wondering glance, shaking his head. "I would think that you'd be glad for that, really," he murmured. "After having so much of your life shaped by fate and prophecy, a bond based on sheer chance should seem a blessing."

"I still want to choose it," Harry said. "I didn't get to choose this one." He turned away from Malfoy, because he got the feeling that he wasn't going to get to choose the git's help, either, and looked at Hermione. "Is it really going to be easier with him along?" he mouthed.

Hermione nodded, eyes big and face set with an expression that made Harry wince. He knew that expression. It had most often appeared right before marathon study sessions for the NEWTs or before Hermione made Harry apologize for some stupid mistake that he'd committed.

"Yes," she said. "He can show you what to do, Harry, and these spells are complicated. That will leave me more free time to do the research and hopefully keep you from having to wait months."

Harry closed his eyes and tried to ignore the way that the bond had started to life again, humming because they were standing so close to each other. Already he could feel the warmth beneath his palms as if he was touching Malfoy's skin right now, and he hated the idea of that.

To get rid of it would be worth paying any price, even that of staying around Malfoy for long enough to "learn himself."

"All right," he muttered.

It would have been more flattering if Potter could have shown the tiniest trace of being grateful for his presence.

Instead, Potter kept his back stolidly turned and worked with Granger only: reading the passages in the books that she told him to read, addressing his remarks only to her, taking notes with a grim readiness when she told him to. Draco sat on the floor beside him-Granger having decided that the room covered with cushions and rugs in her house would be more comfortable than any of the couches or chairs-and tried to catch Potter's eye. He remembered the way those eyes had shone last night when he was on the verge of orgasm, and the bond brightened and grew tighter between them, the humming becoming audible enough that Granger looked curiously back and forth.

Potter clenched his teeth and kept on working. Draco sighed, leaned back, and closed his eyes, trying to "see" the bond.

It took him a few tries, but at last he thought he had fixed it in his mind: a thick cord of energy that ran from his heart and groin to Potter's. Its color was mostly gold, the usual color of a bond with an eros component, but there were hints and additions of silver and scarlet. Draco wasn't surprised, since silver was his favorite color and scarlet was probably Potter's. All those unfortunate Gryffindor tendencies.

He reached out and plucked the bond with a finger. A twang filled his ears, and Potter swore.

"Stop it, Malfoy," he muttered, teeth clenched down so far that Draco's ears rang with that sound, this time. "What we're doing is hard enough without your interference."

Hearing that Potter suspected interference made Draco resolve to keep his fingers to himself. He didn't want to panic Potter into backing away. He folded his hands in his lap and maintained his air of perfect innocence as much as he could. Potter grunted and returned to his work.

Draco began to listen to their conversation, though now that he had located the bond he saw it constantly, as a streak of color, behind his eyelids. Granger was explaining the basics of meditation and studying one's own soul, and Potter made constant doubtful noises, sat still for a minute or two, and then started squirming around and saying that he would never understand.

"It's simple, Harry," Granger said. Someone had added steel to her voice and her backbone since Hogwarts. Draco approved. "Much simpler than you're making it appear. Listen-no, listen-just adopt this pattern of breathing-"

"I can't do anything with it," Potter snapped. "You know I couldn't do anything with Occlumency at Hogwarts either, Hermione. Telling me to clear my mind and not how to do it is useless."

Draco turned his head and opened his eyes, wondering where in the world Potter would have had occasion to learn that Occlumency didn't work for him. It wasn't a discipline that Draco could see him taking up on his own.

"If you focus on the breathing, then it gives you a way to clear out your thoughts." Granger was so patient Draco wondered how many times they'd had this argument, or if she'd simply expected it. "That becomes your world, rather than the things you're usually wondering about."

"No," Potter said. "Because the bond or the war or my training always comes back to mind. So it doesn't matter what I concentrate on. I just can't concentrate on it for very long."

Draco couldn't hide his smile. Potter, turning towards him, noticed it, but then again, that was exactly what Draco wanted him to do, so he kept it up. Potter bristled, as expected, and looked for a moment as though he would rise to his feet and pound Draco with his fists.

"What are you staring at?" he demanded.

"Nothing," Draco said, still grinning madly.

"Tell me." Potter rocked forwards on his heels, and the bond grew tighter still. Draco reached out and placed one hand on Potter's wrist, but carefully did it on the sleeve only, so that Potter couldn't accuse him of wanting to "take advantage" of the bond's presence by touching skin.

"I was only wondering how in the world you could never have learned the simplest technique for meditating that exists." Draco widened his eyes and looked past Potter at Granger, who only frowned at him. Draco decided that she was intelligent enough to figure out what he was doing, so this practically counted as giving the situation her blessing.

"The simplest?" Potter leaned closer to him, so that Draco could feel his soft huffs of breath across his lips. "What is it, then?"

Draco had to swallow. The bond had tightened again, and he seriously doubted they could move more than a foot from each other right now. Right now, the tightness meant simple closeness, but give it another minute and that would change.

"Focus on a door in your mind," he said. "It can be made of anything you want. Imagine that you're placing your thoughts, your problems, your irritations, behind it. Then shut the door and let your mind drift. What emerges is your essential self, and then you can know your own motivations in the way that Granger already suggested you should."

Potter frowned into the distance as though consulting someone in his head about Draco's proposal. Draco smiled some more.

"I haven't heard of this technique," Granger said abruptly. "Where did you learn it?"

"It's in some books on Occlumency," Draco said, which was perfectly true. That only made her frown more, but she didn't leave the room to begin research as Draco had suspected she might. Well, that made his task a bit more difficult, but as long as he sat close to Potter's side with one hand on his wrist, he could make it hard for her to see.

"I'll try it," Potter said, with the same rapidity of speech that he might use to plunge headlong over a cliff.

"Are you sure you should, Harry?" Granger glanced at Draco. "I mean, this is-"

"Only another technique that might or might not work," Draco said. "Weren't you the one who said that this would set you free, Granger, because I could teach Harry and you could research the spells? But you haven't left me alone with him yet." He leaned his leg into Harry's, shuddering as the bond hummed a jangling discord in his ears. Harry must have felt the same thing, though perhaps without knowing the cause, because he sat still instead of banging Draco's leg away.

"That's true enough," Granger said. She left the room with several backwards glances, however, so Draco waited until he heard her footsteps going down the corridor before he faced Harry.

"Now," he whispered, and paused, because his voice was husky. He wouldn't get Harry to trust him that way. He shook his head and smiled. "Imagine the door. See every detail of it in your mind."

"That's at least easier than being told to think of nothing," Harry muttered, closing his eyes. "Nothing doesn't have a shape."

"No, it doesn't," Draco agreed, delighted beyond what he should be by such a simple comment, because it was something he would never have thought to say for himself. "Now. Imagine that the door is open wide enough-"

"Shhh, I'm still imagining the door," Harry said, and took a few deep breaths that Draco thought exaggerated, but he was hardly about to say so at the moment, when they were getting along so well.

Harry seemed to sink further and further into the imagining, his brow wrinkling, his hands clenching at his sides. Draco wondered what sort of door he saw, stone or wood or a curtain of beads or something else, but didn't ask. Instead, he began to run a thumb very gently along Harry's knee.

This technique was indeed recommended in Occlumency books, but as a means to relax someone before he began the more difficult steps in mastering the mind-shields. Until the teacher directed the student to begin imagining barriers, it increased the sensations one felt and the hyper-awareness of one's body. An open door facilitated communication and passage, not keeping someone out.

Draco leaned in, stage by stage and pausing every time Harry let out his breath with enough of a hiccough, to breathe on Harry's ear. Harry squirmed, his leg rubbing against Draco's, his knee rubbing against Draco's hand. He stopped abruptly, and Draco prepared to leap back to a safe distance. If he had to, then he would content himself with ruining Harry's concentration for the day.

Instead, Harry's breath emerged this time into a quiet moan.

Draco smiled, turning his head and brushing his cheek across Harry's. His skin and his stubble, carefully trimmed down but not away, made Harry press closer still, snuffling like a puppy. Draco kissed him on the ear where he'd blown once before, and Harry tensed, then moaned again.

The bond encircled them now, a golden ring visible from the corner of Draco's eye, buzzing and bouncing in place, and drawing them in until Draco wondered if Harry was responsible for his actions. Well, it didn't much matter. The bond couldn't have existed in the first place if they didn't both want it.

Whether the desire is expressed or unexpressed.

"What did you do to me?" Harry whispered. "I feel...drunk."

"Really?" Draco whispered back, so softly that he didn't think Harry could have heard him at all if not for the open door in his mind lending strength to his hearing. "Because when I'm drunk, I'm muffled and held away from the world. This feels like we're skin to skin, doesn't it?" And he pressed his hand down over Harry's wrist, on the cloth, in the same position as before.

"Yeah," Harry said, and then abruptly leaned forwards and squirmed his way into Draco's lap, knocking him back onto the carpet. "Please. I. Touch me."

Draco did him one better, sliding his hands down Harry's arms to cup his elbows and kissing him instead.

Harry knew he was kissing Malfoy. It was kind of hard not to know that he was kissing Malfoy. No one else had a tongue that eager, or hands that could slip between every fold of cloth draping Harry's body and find the skin that was waiting there. Yearning, Harry thought, although that was the kind of thing that he'd heard Lavender and Parvati say and not what he'd ever thought he would say himself.

But the bond had given him a yearning for Malfoy's touch. Harry turned his head to the side and tongued at the corner of Malfoy's mouth, and still it was barely enough.

"Let's make this a little more private, shall we?" Malfoy's voice had the tone that Harry had already learned to recognize from his bedroom last night, lazy and slow like winding river water. He aimed his wand at something, and Harry heard a click. He knew that Malfoy had probably locked the door, and that Ron or Hermione might notice and think something was wrong.

No, they won't, Harry decided, hazily, suddenly. They're not going to decide that when they both want me to go ahead with this bond anyway...

He locked his mouth on Malfoy's again and scrabbled with his fingers beneath Malfoy's clothes, so filled with pleasure at every touch that he kept pausing and shuddering, letting the fire play through him. Malfoy laughed softly and waved his wand again. Their clothing vanished.

Malfoy abruptly stopped moving. Harry opened his eyes, impatient and shaking with the bond and wondering whether he should be relieved to have the chance to change his mind.

But Malfoy was staring at him as though he was going to drop his jaw at any second, or his pants, except that they were already off. He reached out with a hand that shook, and Harry arched into his touch, asking wordless questions with snaps and nips at his face. Malfoy kept moving back out of reach, though, which made Harry wonder if at first he hadn't wanted this, which made him wonder if he should back up, too. He glanced about with one slitted eye and spotted his wand. He could reach it if he tried.

"Holy fuck," Malfoy whispered, and now he looked at Harry with lion's eyes. "You're glorious."

He drew Harry into a kiss that dropped Harry's stomach straight through the floor and beyond, and drew him down. Once again Harry was on top of him, and again Malfoy rolled so that he was on top, the one holding down, biting at Harry's shoulders and rolling his cock in one hand.

"Oh, God," Harry said, strangled. "Dr-" He swallowed Malfoy's first name. There were some concessions that he couldn't make to the bond no matter how good it felt.

Malfoy hummed and took Harry's cock in his mouth, gently, as if he knew that no one had ever done this for Harry before. Harry hadn't been together with Ginny long enough, and there hadn't been many people since then, because he had always hoped that there would be Ginny again.

Fantasies and daydreams shattered and flew apart in the face of the reality. Harry moaned and bit his lips and the insides of his cheeks trying to control himself, and lost it when he moaned again.

"Yes," Malfoy said. "Fuck. Gorgeous." He nudged at Harry's legs with his nose, and then opened them wider with his hands. He said more words, muffled by the licks and sucks he was giving Harry in succession, but Harry didn't hear them.

Harry was too weak to stand, too weak to push Malfoy away, just like last night. But it felt so good. If a touch to bare skin filled him with fire, this was like dropping him into the middle of pure pleasure, so wonderful that it seemed to simply pass straight into the center of his being without needing his skin.

He groaned and hissed and looked at his wand and knew all the while that he could throw Malfoy off. He would, any moment. He just chose, for a minute and then another minute as Malfoy licked at him, curling his tongue and lashing it and tracing the vein, not to do so.

And then Harry realized he was going to come. Like this. With Malfoy between his legs, his feet pushing flat against the floor, his hips arching urgently, and with no more protection than a locked door.

"Watch out!" he yelped, and thought later that it was a ridiculous thing to say. But he reached down and pushed at Malfoy's head with feeble fingers, because it wasn't good to come in someone's mouth, it was bad manners, he was sure one of the multiple books Hermione had pushed at him in the last few days had something about that in it-

Malfoy laughed around him, a deep, warm mass of vibrations that hooked into his gut and pulled the orgasm out of him. Harry wailed, a horrible sound, a tearing, painful one that seemed to well out of his throat and end there, and ended up panting on the floor, his arm around his head, his voice frozen as he felt the pumping shudders of his buttocks.

Malfoy continued to hold him in his mouth, licking occasionally, until Harry squirmed in protest. Then Malfoy sat up and leaned over him, pinning Harry with his hands on his shoulders, but bringing his mouth closer and closer, giving Harry plenty of time to understand what was happening and avoid him if he wanted to.

Harry didn't understand himself. He wanted to, but more than that, he didn't want Malfoy to think he was scared. Or he wanted to, but not enough. He stared back with narrowed eyes, and then Malfoy's mouth was on his and his tongue was dipping in and a foreign taste was on Harry's tongue.

He grimaced. "I don't like that taste," he said when Malfoy pulled back. "Is that-does everyone taste like that?"

Malfoy grinned at him. "It's nice, in one way, that you assume I'm so much more experienced than you are, and insulting in another," he said, and one of his hands dipped between his legs, fondling his balls as he leaned above Harry.

Harry would have launched another insult, but just then he looked down and saw Malfoy's cock for the first time.

It wasn't that it was so strange or different from his cock that it was worth a stare. It was just that it was the only one he had ever seen in right in front of him that wasn't his. Harry reached out a helpless hand and smoothed it down Malfoy's shaft, pausing at the head because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Malfoy leaned his neck back and groaned. The sound was so shameless that Harry flushed and cleared his throat. But he didn't back away because it seemed a bit pointless, now. Malfoy opened his eyes and smiled at him.

"You saw the way I sucked you?" he asked conversationally. "That's the way you're going to do it to me."

"I didn't see much of anything!" Harry yelped, his mind going back to the taste on his tongue and how foreign it had been. "I can-I mean, I can wank you or something, but I can't suck you off! I don't want my mouth full of that taste!"

Malfoy met and held his eyes. He showed no more than faint disappointment, as if Harry had told him that he was going to have to wait a day for a promised treat, but when he shrugged, the smile that tugged at his lips was sinister. Harry watched him with wide eyes, waiting for the moment when he would say something to match the smile.

The dread moment came. "Well," Malfoy said. "I won't suck you in the future, then." His own hand gripped the base of his cock, smoothing up towards the top and slowly but inexorably forcing Harry's hand off.

A shudder rippled down Harry's spine. "I don't want you to," he said.

"Oh, that's too bad," Malfoy responded. "I thought I had done a better job." He tweaked the head, and now Harry's hand was completely off and Malfoy was arching his back, lost in pleasure.

"I-look," Harry said, and then just watched the way that Malfoy's fingers cupped and curved around his cock for a moment, while his other hand wandered towards his hole.

"What?" Malfoy gasped, and then let his eyes flutter shut in such a way that Harry doubted Malfoy could have seen him even if he wanted to. "I'm rather busy here, as you can imagine."

"I didn't mean that you did a horrible job," Harry said. "It was fine. The best blowjob I ever had." Damn it, there was no reason that he should be the one squirming over the warmth in his groin when he'd just come and he was only watching Malfoy touch himself.

"The only one you've ever had, I would imagine." Malfoy pinched something, some fold of skin hidden from Harry's eyes by the way he sat, that made him jolt as though he'd stepped on a hot coal. "That's it," he breathed to an invisible lover, and turned his head to the side so that Harry could see the length of his eyelashes and the way his chin rested on his own shoulder. The pulse in his throat fluttered to the point that Harry thought he had to be in pain.

"Yes, but," Harry said. "I would. It's just the taste." He hesitated again, watching the blood pump through Malfoy's body and hearing the hum of the bond in his ears. I'd do a lot to make that shut up. "Can I spit?"

"If I swallow, I expect my partner to do the same thing-ah!" This time, whatever he had pinched made Malfoy rise onto his knees and shake all over. Harry thought he saw Malfoy's cock swell as though he was going to come.

He couldn't stand it anymore. The bond pulled at him, and he wanted to, and he had to show Malfoy that he wasn't someone who wouldn't return the favors that people gave him. He slid down, arched his neck to the side so that there was a chance he wouldn't bump his chin against Malfoy's knee, and then took his cock in his mouth.

For a moment, he tasted Malfoy's fingers, too, rough and salty. Then Malfoy willingly slid them out of the way, and Harry's tongue curled deep around them, licking flat nails, licking jagged edges of skin, and then finding the cock itself, warm and thick and filling his mouth and not like anything else.

He sucked. Malfoy groaned. He traced the tip of Malfoy's cock with his tongue. Malfoy sighed and bowed his head, bracing himself on the floor with his palms. Harry licked twice, then sucked.

Malfoy cried out and came.

The flood of come was just as disgusting as Harry had imagined. He felt his mouth swelling with it and tried to swallow, but it was hot and thick and horrid. But then Malfoy swayed to the side, his cock brushing against Harry's cheek, and Harry realized it was swallow the come or spit Malfoy's cock out along with it.

He chose to swallow.

He grimaced and grunted about it, but all Malfoy did was fall over on his side and release a gusty breath, his body rising and jerking, his shoulders shifting as if he would dig his way into Hermione's carpet and never move again.

"Stop being so dramatic," Malfoy said, voice stretched thin with satisfied desire. "You'll get used to it."

The hum of the bond had fallen silent. Harry was once again sane. He folded his arms and stared down at Malfoy. "What makes you think this will ever happen again?" he demanded. "We'll find a way to break the bond, and it should be soon."

"We've had sex twice already in less than a day," Malfoy said, opening one eye to look at him. "Both times, I gave you the chance to say no, and both times, you decided not to. Yes, yes, virtuously insist that the bond compelled you each time we're done, if you want. I'm going to sleep."

And he did, rolling over and pressing his face into his arm, which he stretched out beneath him, as if it were a blanket. Harry spluttered and glared at him, but Malfoy didn't wake back up for all his spluttering. He chose to begin deeply and quietly breathing, instead, now and then releasing a gusty sigh that sounded like a snore.

"You can't have fallen asleep that fast," Harry said in a loud voice. "I refuse to believe it."

Malfoy didn't move. His snoring didn't pause. Only when Harry had been staring at him for a few minutes did he open one languid eyelid and murmur, "Did you say something? Only I was having a rather good dream, and I'd like it better if you lay down beside me so that we could share it."

"Hermione's going to come back any minute," Harry hissed, trying not to think about that himself. He was going to be horribly embarrassed just by the way she rattled the doorknob, he was certain, never mind the way she looked at him with one eyebrow raised.

"Sure she is," Malfoy said drowsily. "If you thought that she didn't know this was going to happen, you're stupid. And I hope you're not. I don't want to share my life with an idiot."

"It's not going to be life. You're the idiot—"

Malfoy reached up and grabbed him around the neck, dragging him down. Harry tensed to kick, but Malfoy turned his head and breathed into his face.

And that should have been disgusting, too, considering where Malfoy's mouth had so recently been. Even if it hadn't been there, Harry wouldn't have been surprised if Malfoys had naturally bad breath and had to cast Freshening Charms every morning. But instead, the warmth passing over his lips and cheeks weakened Harry's resolve. He lay down beside Malfoy so that Hermione, who was certainly capable of breaking the locking charm on the door, didn't walk in and see them struggling on the floor like two-year-olds.

Once he was there, Malfoy rolled closer and flung an arm over him so that it would be hard for Harry to stand back up. That was why he stayed in place for the first few seconds. By the time those had passed and Harry's brain started coming up with escape plans, Malfoy had started "snoring" again.

And it would take a lot of effort to get free, and Harry had never particularly wanted to walk away indignantly from someone who looked to be enjoying himself. So he lay there to think what he would do about it.

His eyelids drooped. He yawned. Malfoy's breath went in and out in the most ridiculously soothing way.

This is ridiculous, Harry reminded himself. I can't be considering this. I have Auror training, and I do want to get married even if it isn't to Ginny. I have a life out there that isn't waiting for me, and that can't tolerate my bond with Malfoy. I didn't want this bond in the first place. Malfoy can say what he likes about having something that happened by accident for once, instead of prophecy, but at least I always knew where I was with prophecy. I never know what's going to happen next with Malfoy.

It occurred to him, his mind shifting glacially, that there was something wrong with his thoughts. He frowned, trying to pinpoint it.

It didn't work, because the next moment, he was asleep.

Draco returned home quietly pleased with himself. His first attempt at foiling Harry from breaking the bond had gone quite well. Harry had never realized, or at least hadn't said, that Draco's "Occlumency" made him more open to sex. And he so rarely had thoughts that he didn't express aloud, Draco wasn't much worried.

He had to reconsider matters when he found Weasley standing on his doorstep, though. He might have been there for hours, if he was capable of letting hours pass while he examined the carvings on the front door. When he turned around, he nodded at Draco as though Draco was only another visitor here.

"Very nice," Weasley said. "For things paid for with blood money. What do you think you're doing with Harry?"

Draco swallowed, and hesitated. From what Harry had said, he hadn't thought Weasley opposed the bond. They were both pure-bloods, and they understood that sometimes magic worked in random ways and had to be put up with. Besides, though Draco considered Weasley unforgivably poor, red-haired, and arrogant because of his luck in winning the friendship of the Chosen One, he had never thought he was particularly stupid. On the other hand, he was a blood traitor.

"I intend to remain in the bond with him," he said at last, because he still trusted in Weasley's blood to prevail over any illusions he might have acquired from Granger and Harry. And knowing Draco's general strategy didn't mean he would know Draco's tactics for individual situations.

Weasley nodded with no special expression on his face. "You know how he feels about that?"

"He doesn't want it," Draco said. "Is that because he's upset about being bonded to someone, or about being bonded to a bloke, or about being bonded to me?" He felt a sharp sliver of ice enter under his breastbone as he said that, and the bond hummed in his ears, as if protectively.

Draco shook his head. He had to remember that he and Harry were the ones who protected and promoted the bond, not the other way around. The ways it could actively interfere in their lives were actually limited, no matter how annoying Harry found them.

"All three, I think." Weasley leaned forwards and peered at him. "And you can have a bit of fun. But I saw the expression on your face when you came into the house, Malfoy. This means more than that to you, doesn't it?"

Draco hated the feeling of being helpless in front of an enemy. He hadn't experienced it since the last time he stared into the Dark Lord's eyes. He lifted his shoulders in a faint shrug and didn't look down or away, because that much dignity, he could retain. "It sounds as though I should be the one begging for protection, rather than Potter," he said.

Weasley tapped his wand against the heel of his hand. "I just wonder what your plans are," he said. "Do you mean to hurt Harry if he doesn't come around to your way of thinking and decide that he wants the bond?"

Of course he would think of violence. Gryffindor. But Draco was glad that Weasley's mind had gone there, and not to the idea that he might try to interfere in the tactics that Granger was looking up for weakening the bond. He shook his head. "I'm hoping to persuade him otherwise."

Weasley snorted. "I can tolerate the mere existence of this sort of bond better than Harry, but you're mental if you think that I'd want him living with you."

"He's the one who has to make that decision, doesn't he?" Draco stepped neatly around Weasley and up to his front door. "And if I can persuade him to do so, then it doesn't matter what you think."

Weasley raised one eyebrow at him. "You ought to know that you're not that good a fuck, especially for someone who's never had a male lover before."

Draco shivered. He liked hearing the words spoken aloud, and not just for the disgusted expression on Weasley's face as he said them. He shrugged. "Give me the chance to persuade him, that's all I'm asking for."

"I'm going to tell him about this conversation," Weasley warned him. "I don't keep secrets from my friends."

"But you're too noble to actually threaten me, or hex me," Draco said. "I never would have reckoned."

"Some of us grew up," Weasley said. "Unfortunately, that number doesn't include Harry, and I'm not sure it includes you. If it turns out that you're only trying to play some sort of prank on Harry by convincing him that you have deeper feelings, then I'll be there with wand blazing."

The calm certainty of that declaration shook Draco more than a yell would have. He shook his head. "If you don't interfere, you're still giving me a fair chance at persuasion."

"One that I'm only giving you in the first place because I don't think it'll work," Weasley retorted, and then turned and walked down Draco's steps, towards the gates. Draco watched him and thought that he would strengthen the wards next time to keep him out.

Then he remembered the Ministry no longer permitted the Malfoys to have wards that strong, and grimaced.

He decided that he practically had Weasley's blessing, as it was, or the closest thing to it, and shut the door firmly behind him. It was up to Harry if he really wanted a way out of the bond. It would be nothing new for the Gryffindor Hero to talk as if he desired one thing and then take actions that contradicted his words.

Horror after the fact is practically its own kind of permission, Draco decided cheerfully, and went upstairs to think about his next plan.

"How could you sleep with him? I was only gone for an hour!"

Harry winced and glanced away from Hermione. He didn't think she was upset about him sleeping with Malfoy, from what she'd said earlier, as much as she was that he was making a mockery of her attempts to help him.

"I don't know," he told the snow beyond the window, which was drifting down in light flakes and melting almost as soon as it touched the ground. "It just—seemed like a good idea at the time."

Hermione's snort told him that she didn't buy it, and she folded her arms. Harry wasn't looking at her, but he could tell from that small rustling of cloth and his knowledge of her. "You have to decide, Harry. Do you want to be free or not? Constant sex strengthens the bond."

Harry whirled around to face her. "What? No one told me that!"

"I assumed it wouldn't apply." Hermione dropped her arms and gave him a look of pity. Harry must have been more distressed than he'd realized. He hoped that he hadn't looked as though he was about to cry. "Harry, are you that inexperienced with bonds and bonding magic? I thought everyone studied that during our last year at Hogwarts! It was all I heard anyone talk about—"

"In Arithmancy," Ron supplied, stepping into the room. "And that's only because there's always someone who thinks they can use equations to make someone else fall in love with them. Harry didn't take Arithmancy, and he didn't grow up with the stories about the strange things that magic can do sometimes. Give him a chance to think about it instead of react, Hermione."

Hermione huffed and turned towards her husband. "I thought I was," she said. "But he slept with Malfoy again."

Ron stared at Harry. Harry stared back, flushing, and wished he could think about anything other than how good it had felt.

"Twice in one day?" Ron asked.

"No!" Harry snapped. "The first time was last night."

Ron shook his head slowly. "That's still twice in one twenty-four-hour period, mate." Then he smiled, although the smile had a self-deprecating twist to it that Harry didn't understand. "And to think I just told Malfoy off for trying too hard to get close to you and enchant you."

"You did what?" Harry asked, and then saw the way Hermione was staring at Ron. At least he hadn't been left out of an important decision this time, he thought, the last one to know about it.

"I went and talked to Malfoy, because I thought I should." Ron shrugged. "He implied that he wants this bond and that's going to persuade you to want it, too." He grinned. "Of course he won't be able to do that."

Harry stared at the wall. He thought of the way that Malfoy's arm had draped over him as they slept together, really slept, and how it felt natural when he woke up and realized that his nose was pressed into a warm shoulder. The nightmares hadn't bothered him when he was with Malfoy. He hadn't woken up and immediately started worrying about the future and the next test in Auror training. It had been a holiday from the world, and it had been…nice.

"Harry?" That was Hermione, and she had one hand raised in front of his eyes as though she'd waved it there a few times. "You don't think he'll be able to persuade you to have sex with him all the time, will he?"

"Even if he could," Harry said, wrenching himself back to the present, "he wouldn't be able to make me want the bond."

Ron nodded. "That's what I said. This is something that happens, but also something that you get over. I don't know anyone who's let a bond control their lives." He paused thoughtfully. "I think Mum was bonded when she was seventeen to someone, but I don't know who it was. Obviously she broke it so she could marry Dad. Do you want me to ask her about it?"

"No!" Harry said frantically. He didn't want to imagine what Molly Weasley would say about this, or, worse, the advice she might give. "Anyway, she probably still thinks that I'm marrying Ginny."

Ron rolled his eyes. "No one but you has thought that for the past six months. Gin isn't pining over you, you know?"

"Fine, not her," Harry said. "But someone else. Someone I can marry, instead of just bond with."

"I don't know," Hermione said, and now she looked as though she was thinking about something else. "Bonds are said to be very intense, even more intense than the passion that comes from fancying someone. I've sometimes wondered whether it would be preferable to experience both of them, and not just marriage—"

"Oi!" Ron said.

Hermione smiled at him. "Oh, I would never want it for myself, Ron," she said. Harry, watching the way her eyes briefly darted to the side, wasn't sure about that. "I'm married to you, and happy. I'm only trying to point out to Harry that he doesn't have to choose between them, bond or marriage. This experience could be something to treasure when he's done with it."

Harry and Ron traded a familiar look. Hermione was smart, but she was also mental at times. It went with all that reading of books.

"Just—don't give up on it too soon, Harry," Hermione finished, with another look at Ron as though to make sure that he wasn't angry at her still. "I think it's much richer as an experience than you like to think it is."

Harry snorted, but didn't respond. Yes, Malfoy had been warm when Harry curled up beside him, and had sucked his cock like an expert, and had made him feel good and unstrung without laughing at him—

But was that really enough? Couldn't someone else do the same thing? Perhaps he should try dating blokes instead of women, but he didn't want to be stuck with Malfoy for the rest of his life.

Then resist the notion to have sex with him, he thought, and stiffened his spine. He needed to go to Auror training, anyway. Since he had gone to hospital, he had been excused for a few days, but he knew he would fall behind if he let it wait too long.

And his resolve held firm until that night, when he woke from a sound sleep with the bond buzzing along his skin and tugging on his waist, and an owl waiting patiently on the windowsill with a note from Malfoy saying that he thought he might know another solution for getting rid of the bond.

Draco stood waiting in front of the Manor gates, gazing at the light snow that had fallen earlier that day. He'd tuned the wards around the house to let it stay without melting, but also without getting thick enough to be troublesome. Here and there was the curled shape of a sleeping peacock, and the moonlight, refracted and strengthened by the wards until it could cast shadows, made them further white and silver. He heard Harry Apparate in behind him, but didn't turn.

"What's this solution of yours, then?" Harry's voice was abrupt.

Draco reached out and took his hand, drawing him nearer. As he had thought would happen, Harry gave a token shrug, but didn't actually struggle. The bond, winding like thread between their fingers and filling their hands with warmth, felt too good for that.

"Stay here a minute," Draco whispered. "Look at the gardens. It ought to get you calm enough for the solution to work."

"Is this meditation again?" Harry muttered, but Draco shook their joined hands, and Harry was silent. Draco felt him lean against his own shoulder a moment later, as if he wanted to get a better look at the shapes the peacocks made. Or perhaps the humped, ice-dusted rosebushes were the target of his gaze. Draco sighed, enjoying the view more now that the bond didn't create a gnawing loneliness at the bottom of his stomach.

"Fine," Harry said a timeless time later, his voice without heat now. "Is that long enough?"

"Yes, I think so," Draco said, and straightened up and turned around to face Harry, pushing his hair back from his face. Harry stared at him, and Draco couldn't help himself. He bowed his head and tried for a kiss.

Harry shuddered and turned his face away, which Draco had to admit hurt his feelings. He wasn't some disgusting thing. He was Harry's bonded, and no matter how many times he tried to prove, or Weasley and Granger argued, that it was the natural result of magic, Harry turned away.

Draco chided himself for his impatience a moment later. He had known how Harry would likely react, and had no one but himself to blame for his impetuosity. He took Harry's hand instead and said, "There are other ways of getting to know yourself than meditation, or Occlumency for that matter. I brought you out here because there are so few distractions. Tell me, Harry, what do you really, truly want?"

"Freedom," Harry said at once, and then blinked, as if surprised at the word, although it was no more than what Draco had expected.

"What kind of freedom?" Draco asked. He didn't think Harry had noticed that Draco still had hold of his hand.

"Freedom to be myself," Harry said, the words dripping off his tongue as slowly as honey. "To have the kind of life I want, to do what I want. To fall in love with someone I want," he added, staring at Draco defiantly.

Draco smiled. "Well, I don't know about falling in love quite yet, but you do have that last part. You're free to be with someone you want."

Harry's brows puckered up, but luckily, he didn't take the stupid tactic of denying that he wanted Draco, again. He placed a hand in the center of his chest and shoved lightly, instead, making Draco sway on his feet. "I still want to choose."

"The first part?" Draco asked. "The part where you choose to touch someone, to watch them, to stumble after them and make embarrassing noises and feel like you want to sick up all over their shoes from embarrassment when you ask them on a date?"

Harry flushed, but to his credit, he maintained a steady stare and an even steadier nod. "Yeah. That part."

Draco sighed. "You know I want to stay bonded, Harry. And part of it is because I fear I'll never have something like that." He turned his face away as his voice dipped, although part of his mind kept thinking about the way that it might manipulate Harry to know about his fear. He was trying to be honest, true to Harry and true to himself, at the same time. "No one wants to date a Death Eater in the wake of the war, much less marry one or experience a bond with him. Yeah, my dreams about you were pathetic, and I knew that even when I had them, but they were all I had."

Harry cleared his throat. "The bond will break, and you can find someone. You're handsome and—and good in bed. That has to count for something."

Draco turned to him and grinned. This might not be working out quite the way he'd envisioned, but there were some benefits. "You think I'm handsome?"

Harry stared at him. "Yes," he said. "Was I not supposed to say that?"

Draco clasped Harry's hands and raised them, one by one, to kiss the backs. The bond surged through him at the renewed contact, the hum that was usually no more than a buzz singing now. "It's nice to hear," he said. "But I didn't expect it from someone who's made it perfectly clear that he resents being with me."

Harry stirred uneasily. What the fuck was he supposed to say? He didn't want to hurt Draco's feelings. He didn't want to make him feel that no one would ever want to be with him. Harry was quite fervently sure, after the memory of Draco's tongue on his cock, that that wasn't true.

But he had to have the bond dissolved, he thought. There was no other way for this to be real and true, for him to decide whether he liked blokes or only liked what they did to him, and for him to have what he wanted most.

Well, except that I want freedom more, I suppose. And to feel good. That had become a much higher priority after Draco had taught him how it felt.

"I can't have children with you," he said. "And I do want a family, Draco."

Draco tilted his head meditatively to the side. His hair shone in the moonlight, which Harry felt embarrassed for thinking but which was true. "You can't have children of your blood with me, no," he said. "But is that the important thing? Do you want to give your parents grandchildren, pass on your blood and create someone whom you could leave the Potter vault to?"

Harry frowned. "No. I want people I could love." He was definite about that. After the Dursleys and watching the Weasleys for so many years, he wanted to be surrounded by people he could love and who would—hopefully—love him in return.

"Well, then." Draco smiled at him. "Then I could offer you a family as much as anyone else could. You have a godson we could easily adopt, if and when he wants to be adopted, with his grandmother's permission. There's also other children who need a home, ones who always will. There are also sometimes arrangements between pure-bloods where a woman agrees to have children for a man who doesn't want to marry, or for a couple who can't have children of their own, perhaps because it would endanger the mother's health. Those children are accepted as part of the family when they're born. I think Muggles do something similar, don't they?"

"Yes, sometimes," Harry muttered, more bewildered by the moment. "But your parents wouldn't like that either, would they?"

"They might prefer that I be the one to father the child in that case, so that it would be of Malfoy blood," Draco said calmly. "But I don't think they would object." He paused, then added softly, "My mother, at least. My father is a different matter. But Harry, every day after the war is a gift. My mother realizes that."

Harry stared again. He knew he was doing that a lot, but he couldn't help himself. Malfoy should be less bewildering if he wanted Harry to do something else. "I hadn't thought you would feel that way," he said. "After all, the war cost you more than it did almost anyone else."

Malfoy abruptly shifted, but whatever gesture he was going to make it, he seemed to stop it at the last moment. He bent close instead, letting his breath tickle over Harry's cheeks and lips. Harry had to close his eyes to control his reaction to that. "More than anyone else?" Malfoy whispered. "How can you say that, when you're the one who walked into that forest to save us all?"

"Yes, but," Harry began. Then he had to stop and search for words. "I always knew that things would be all right with me after that," he said. "I mean—not that they'd be perfect, but that they'd mostly be—fine. People would accept me. They wouldn't take away my money or throw me in Azkaban. You didn't know that."

"I thought I would die," Malfoy said. "Anything after that is good. Yes, I was afraid while the trials still happened. But after that, when I knew that I would be free, even if people didn't accept me yet, I knew I could work to make it happen. I can try to persuade them that I'm really not the evil bastard some of them still me as. And I can fight for what I want. The war taught me to do that, instead of giving in passively and going along with what someone else says."

His gaze locked on Harry's face, fierce and wild. Harry shuddered. "I want a family," he said again, but his voice was weak.

"I've explained the ways we can have one," Malfoy said calmly. "Do you need me to explain again?"

"No," Harry said, and because he wanted to see what would happen as well as stop having this conversation, he lifted his head and kissed Malfoy's mouth.

Malfoy made a soft sound, but his hands clamped down on Harry's shoulders, holding him captive as he kissed back. The cloth beneath his fingers rustled and shifted, and he leaned closer and closer, bearing Harry back until Harry thought they would both fall to the ground.

And then they did, the earth impacting roughly against Harry's back. Malfoy sprawled over him for a long, stunned second, then began to laugh. Harry squirmed back up, face stinging, and stared again, but this time, he didn't think Malfoy was laughing at him.

"Come in," Malfoy said, holding a hand out to him. "Obviously we can't be trusted to have our fights out in the open."

Harry hesitated a long moment, and Malfoy's face turned serious. "If you think I'm going to hurt you," he began.

"Not that," Harry said. "I—don't think that." And he caught hold of Malfoy's hand and pulled, hard. Malfoy stumbled towards him, almost falling again, but then they were both up, and Harry was holding his hand firmly, feeling up his arm to his shoulder with the other hand.

Malfoy licked his lips. Harry leaned closer. His belly churned. His mind spun. Thoughts of what Ron and Hermione would say, what they had said, what Ginny would do if she knew, what he wanted and didn't want and how he could know, stirred and whirled through him.

He seized one of the whirling thoughts and rode it down into silence. He kissed Malfoy's lips a second time, and murmured, "This time, I'm going to go with what I want and see what happens."

"You didn't do that the other two times?" Malfoy's eyelids fluttered and his voice shook.

"I told myself I just got caught up in the moment," Harry said. The bond sang around them, so thin and sharp-edged that he couldn't hear the sound unless he concentrated. He hesitated one more time. He would have preferred this to happen when they were both free of the bond. It would mean more.

But if not for the bond, they wouldn't have this, or a chance of this, in the first place, because Malfoy wouldn't have tried to fight for him and Harry wouldn't have known that he could want that. He kissed Malfoy again, curling his hand aggressively around the nape of his neck so Malfoy couldn't back away. Malfoy stood rigid a moment longer, then kissed back, tongue hot and darting.

"Let's go inside," Harry whispered, and let Malfoy lead him away from the garden where peacocks slept in the moonlight on the snow.

Draco hadn't ever envisioned this, because if he had, he knew it would have done no good. He preferred fantasies that were closer to reality, because then he could lose himself in them and continue believing they had a chance of happening, at least until he reached the end of his wank.

But now it was here, the thought he had only dared to touch with the corner of his mind a few times, like a tongue touching a loose tooth.

Harry Potter, undressing in the midst of his bedroom.

Harry's face was still bright red, and he kept looking at Draco and then looking away, as his courage flooded him and then drew back. Draco didn't flinch or encourage him to do something he was so obviously uncomfortable with, though. He looked his fill, and watched Harry's arse and cock and chest emerge, now and then making a noise that, although he consciously decided to make it, sounded torn out of him.

Harry's flush finally began to die, and then he started grinning at Draco, as though he couldn't believe that they were here or that Draco was so aroused by him. He reached up, hand hesitating as though he didn't know what to do with it, and tweaked one of his own nipples. He cried out, though he managed to turn it into a somewhat more manly grunt a moment later, and Draco groaned along with him.

"Well, that's interesting," Harry said a moment later, when he'd stopped panting. "So I'm the one who gets touched, but you're the one who reacts."

"Shut it," Draco muttered, hanging off the bed as he stared at Harry's cock. He'd seen it before, of course, but then, he'd been scrambling to finish sucking him off before Harry changed his mind or Granger came back. It wasn't the same as being able to admire the way it canted slightly off to the left or the way the blood made it swell.

"Of course," Harry said. "But I think you might not want me to do that if we're going to suck each other off again."

He sounded so hopeful that Draco smiled and dragged his eyes away from Harry's groin, lying back on his bed as he studied Harry. "We can do that later, if you like," he said. "Right now, I was thinking about something else."

Harry studied him thoughtfully. "Really," he said, when a few minutes had passed and Draco still hadn't looked away or done whatever it was Harry was expecting. "What, then?"

"Let me fuck you," Draco whispered. The bond was a series of tight rings of sound pressing against his chest and the base of his throat. He wondered if Harry didn't feel it, too. Perhaps he did and had a higher tolerance for pain. "I want that more than anything else in the world right now."

Harry's throat bobbed as he swallowed. His eyes were dark, but Draco hadn't seen that shade of darkness before and didn't know what it meant. He waited, digging his fingers into the bedsheets beneath him. They were out of Harry's sight; hopefully they wouldn't reveal what he felt.

"I—I might want it, too," Harry said. "Maybe."

Draco grinned despite himself. "Well, make up your mind soon," he said. "Or I'll just wank myself off and go to sleep." He rolled over and snaked his hand down his chest, touching the head of his cock and then running two fingers back down the shaft towards his groin. It hurt where the bond was—he would much rather have been touching Harry—but it was worth it to watch the darkness increase, spreading over Harry's eyes and then into his face in a deep red wave.

Draco leaned his head back on the bed and gave himself up to the pleasures of his own hand, teasing Harry, tempting him, and the bond sang approvingly in his ears.


When Harry had agreed to come here, this wasn't exactly how he'd pictured things. A bit of mutual sucking, and he had also envisioned kneeling behind Malfoy and rutting up and down the crack of his arse. God knew where that image came from. But Harry had wanted to do it.

But he wanted to do this, too. It just wasn't an image that had entered his head before. He studied Malfoy's cock and wondered whether he wanted it inside him, something that long and thick.

The answer rushed back to him, weakening his knees and making him have to lick a long line of saliva from his lips.


"Stop it, and budge over," he snapped, striding towards the bed. "I want in."

Malfoy rolled over to receive him, arms wide and face lifted upwards. Harry knew what he wanted—a kiss—and gave it to him with abandon, his tongue plunging into Malfoy's mouth and rubbing furiously along the sides of his cheeks. Then he shifted them around so that Malfoy's head was lying on the pillow and muttered into him, "So do you have something you can use to ease the pressure?"

Malfoy chuckled, long and loud and deep, and rolled over. Harry didn't see exactly what he reached into—Malfoy's room had more furniture than one person could ever need—but he came back with a long, slender tube that he flipped open. When he squeezed a drizzling stream of blue liquid onto his finger, Harry couldn't help wrinkling his nose. The extremely strong scent of apples had just filled the room.

"I know," Malfoy said sympathetically. "It's a bit much. But I use this for wanking, and it makes for a smooth—entrance." He reached down and back, never taking his eyes from Harry.

At least partially because there was a challenge in those eyes, Harry lifted his chin and never looked away, even lifting his hips so that Malfoy would have an easier time getting the finger in. He had to grunt when it went in, though. Once again, the image of someone touching him like that wasn't one that had ever entered his head.

"Oh, do tell me that you've had something up there before," Malfoy muttered, working the finger deeper, until Harry could feel the dry skin at the knuckle teasing his own nerves. Harry would have teased him about having dry skin anywhere, but he was a bit busy at the moment. "Why wouldn't you?"

Harry glared at him out of the corner of one eye that kept wanting to close. "I fought a war and—and thought I was straight, remember?" He had to hitch himself up on his heels a moment later, panting, as Malfoy worked himself deeper and deeper.

"That's no excuse," Malfoy said, and then laughed again, that sound so beautiful Harry couldn't even mind if it was directed at him. Well, he thought it wasn't, anyway. "Not that I'm not going to enjoy introducing a new source of pleasure to you, you poor, deprived child." He dug deeper.

"Should you be—fucking me if you think of me that way?" Harry wriggled his hips, and even he couldn't have said whether he was pushing closer or trying to get further away. "Given that you're such a man and all."

"I am a man," Malfoy murmured, close to his ear. "I'm going to see that you don't forget that."

The retort dried the spit out of Harry's mouth, and by the time he'd thought of a reply, Malfoy was kneeling above him, easing his way in with another finger this time. His eyes were so bright that Harry found it hard to look into them, the same way he would a magnifying glass with the sun behind it.

He focused on the sensation of the fingers instead, wondering if he liked it. Didn't you have to like it to date blokes? Maybe not. That was a question Hermione would probably know the answer to, if he ever got over his embarrassment enough to ask her—

He gasped as Malfoy viciously twisted his finger, digging into what felt like Harry's insides, rather than just his arse. "Bastard!" Harry hissed, glaring up at him.

"You'll pay attention to me," Malfoy said, and all the soothing reassurance had disappeared out of his voice and face. He shifted towards Harry as if he thought that his cock was going to disappear if he didn't get it inside Harry soon. "I'm the one you'll beg for reassurance from, got it? I'm the one you'll be thinking about, because no one else is here and fucking you."

Harry responded the only way he could. He wasn't going to back down from someone who only had him at his mercy because Harry had said he could. Choice was a double-edged weapon. "Right now," he said.

"Excuse me?" Malfoy paused and stared at him.

"I mean, no one else is here and fucking me right now," Harry said, and gave Malfoy a condescending smile. "But someone else might be someday. I can imagine it, the way I'd have to sneak him into the Manor—"

Malfoy stole his breath and his words with a furious kiss, his hand settling on Harry's throat as if he meant to grip and squeeze and drag his life out of him. Harry laughed back into his mouth, and shoved down onto the fingers in his arse again. Yes, he thought, he could like this, at least if Malfoy always had that flare of possessive heat in his eyes and worked his cock back and forth against Harry's arse as if he was testing the length and smoothness of it.

"You're ready," Malfoy whispered, and there was wonder in his voice. "You're ready."

"As ready as I'll get until it happens, I reckon," Harry snapped back, and spread his legs. Reckless excitement charged and flashed through his veins like light on a tidal wave. This was something new, and even if he came out of this night deciding that he couldn't stand having a bloke fuck him, it was still going to be different from anything he'd experienced before.

"I'm sure," Malfoy said, with a sneer somewhere in the back of his voice, but he began to slide into Harry before Harry could confront it.

Harry's eyes crossed, and he whimpered before he remembered that Malfoy would be listening for sounds like that and he should really repress them.

Yes, he thought he could learn to like this.

His arse opened to welcome Malfoy's cock, or was forced open, and Harry thought he had never felt a more uncomfortable sensation in his life. His limbs tingled with the restraint that was necessary not to reach up and tear Malfoy out of him. Then Malfoy probed deeper and he realized that he didn't know if he wanted to do that.

I don't know. I don't know anything.

Well, except that the bond was singing in his ears and that was beautiful, notes like a harp made of silk played with the fingers of spiders. Harry felt Malfoy's hands burning against his skin, almost sinking into it. He arched his neck and grunted and took Malfoy deeper, and then—

There was a burst of pleasure that bounded through the bond and ended up in both of them. Malfoy moaned it out, his voice a complement to the music of the bond, and then richer and deeper than it was. Harry laughed back at him, the way that Malfoy had laughed at him so many times since this began.

"I do feel good," he said conversationally, when Malfoy opened his eyes to stare at him. "So make me feel even better, or else I'll take care of myself." And he reached for his erection, full of blood and resting on his stomach, to prove to Malfoy that the threat was serious.

Fucking Potter!

Draco could hardly believe this was real, with the song in his ears and the clenching warmth around him and the shared pleasure that made him want to shiver and fly into pieces. And Harry still spoke as though he was completely unimpressed, as though he thought that Draco couldn't fuck him into orgasm.

Draco snapped his hips forwards, and watched in satisfaction as Harry's mouth dropped open and he afforded Draco a glimpse of slick and gleaming tongue, of his teeth as he gasped. Draco smiled and screwed sideways then, nudging his cock further and further into Harry so that he could find his prostate.

That was one good thing about Harry never having done this with anyone before, though Draco had got thoroughly exasperated by his hesitations and denials. He didn't know anything about what Draco was going to show him, and so Draco could take him by surprise. Impress him. Make himself stand out in Harry's mind.

Make Harry want to do this again.

Draco's breath escaped his lungs in a rattling hiss as he realized how much he wanted a second chance at this, and then a third, and then another, for as long as the bond would last or Harry would permit it.

"Ah," Harry said, his hands fingering air restlessly as his head moved back and forth. Draco could have wished his eyes were open and fixed on Draco's face and, if he did say it himself, his marvelously moving body, but as long as Harry's hands were away from his cock, that was a good beginning.

"Going—to—fuck you," Draco said, though the words didn't come out as a coherent, connected sentence the way he would have liked them to. He bowed his head and shuddered. His mouth dripped its own saliva. He tried to imagine what it would be like to leave this warmth clenching around him, and his mind recoiled at the thought.

"You already were, I thought," Harry said, and somehow he was still coherent, despite the way he looked, and a thread of laughter ran through his voice. "A bit behind on current events, aren't you?"

Draco grabbed him beneath the legs and bent him until Harry gasped, hands flying to his solar plexus as if he assumed that he would need to hold it in his body. Draco smiled sweetly at him. "You were saying?" he asked around the harsh gasps that seemed likely to cut his voice out of his body.

Harry grunted and shoved himself down again, and Draco's rapidly changing emotions turned over into pride. He was the one who had done this to Harry. He was the one who was teaching him everything over again.

Everything new.

The problem was, Harry was teaching him new things, too. Draco had never known that he could feel this good, and his fantasies paled into ashes and then burned away. He never would have imagined the way that Harry's eyelids fluttered, or how his hands flexed around in the blankets and then let them go again in no discernible pattern, or how he gave soft cries when Draco's cock went in straight, although Draco didn't think he was brushing Harry's prostate just then.

The orgasm gathered a long way beneath Draco's notice at first, then coiled up into his throat, and he said, "Going to come." Or gasped it, if you wanted to be more accurate. Draco didn't value accuracy much right now.

Harry again reached a shaking hand down to his cock. Draco batted it away and aimed his hips precisely, thrusting once, twice, thrice in a way that made his legs burn.

But it did the trick.

Harry's cries rose to a pitch that reminded Draco of birdsong. He rushed through his orgasm, tightening around Draco, riding it out, squirming greedily after it, his hips snapping and his mouth parting as though he had to let out more and more sound in order to feel more and more pleasure. His cry faded at last into gasping little sighs. A red flush lay on his throat. Draco nearly forgot the pleasure building in his own groin as he watched him.

But then the pleasure was there, and Draco stiffened, then pumped into his fully satisfied partner, bowing his head, trying to look at Harry even as his eyes insistently closed.

It was the best moment of his life. Or the second best, because he really did think that the best was to have made Harry come without the benefit of touch.

By the time that he dropped over Harry's body, breathless and dizzy, and rolled to the side so he could take him in his arms, his head was reeling steadily, and his breath was coming in labored pants. He'd done more work than he realized, he thought dimly, as his arms burned and his legs felt as if he'd been lifting rocks with them. And he still mourned when his cock slipped out of Harry.


Harry rolled towards him. His eyes and hair were both wild in the moonlight coming through the window, and only then did Draco see that the fire had gone out sometime during their fucking. He lit it again with a flash from his wand, and tugged his hand back to Harry's side. He didn't want to get too far away from Harry's warmth, he'd found, and the best way to stay there was to keep his hand in place.

"That was more than I ever expected," Harry whispered.

"Low expectations, then?" Draco teased, burying his nose in Harry's hair for the pleasure of the scent, and speaking the words for the pleasure of knowing they would be contradicted.

"Hardly." Harry flung his head up, nearly caving in Draco's nose with his skull. He muttered an apology and then stared into Draco's eyes as if he were willing him to understand, which Draco could certainly appreciate. "I—I never knew that it could be like that, but I was waiting for you to do something wrong or for it to hurt more than it felt good. I was looking for an excuse to hate you and get away from what you were doing to me as soon as possible. I was looking for a way to blame it on the bond."

"And now?" Draco asked, throat tight. He had entirely forgotten about the bond in the moments of his most intense pleasure. It had seemed as though he and Harry were the only ones in the universe, and that they had freely chosen each other. For the first time, he felt something like Harry's resentment against the magical accident that had forced them together.

"It was a lot better than I thought it could be," Harry whispered. "I reckon I have to consider the fact that I'm obviously into blokes, even if I wanted to be into Ginny."

Draco felt jealousy sleet across his brain like falling stars. He pressed himself close to Harry and hissed, "It'll be enough if you're into me. That's the only thing I want. You're never going anywhere else, to anyone else."

"We could still break the bond," Harry said.

The calmness in his voice irritated Draco, and he drew away a little, then decided the cold was worse and went back. "Yeah," he said shortly. "But do you want to?"

Harry was silent. Draco stroked his hair and tried to keep calm, but he could feel the tremble in his hands and suspected that he wasn't especially fooling Harry, who was perceptive all the time in exactly the wrong ways.

Harry knew what he wanted to say. It was just that it would sound stupid, and that meant he would make Malfoy laugh, and while he didn't mind listening to Malfoy laugh, he preferred it when it wasn't at him.

He wanted to break the bond, but he also didn't, because that would mean Malfoy would be hurt, and that was something Harry didn't want to see or deal with in any way at all.

The bond was humming around them in lazy rings of sound now. Harry wondered how long it would be before it tightened again, though, and that would mean they had to have sex again, and…

He was tired of it. If he was going to choose Malfoy, it ought to be a free choice, not one compelled by the bond whenever he couldn't fight against the need to fuck.

"Let me think about it," he said. "And in the meantime, we should get some sleep."

Malfoy curled up stiffly on the far side of the bed, at least until Harry huffed a sigh and dragged him closer. Even then, he remained resistant, so Harry treated him like the uncomfortable bed he'd had in the cupboard and manhandled him around until he found a position—his head resting on Malfoy's shoulder, his leg curled around Malfoy's, his arms arranged one above and one below Malfoy's side—where he could sleep. He closed his eyes and began to breathe deeply.

"Harry?" Malfoy whispered.

Harry kept on breathing as though he'd already fallen asleep, and heard Malfoy swear. But he did turn, slowly, gingerly, as though he assumed any motion would be enough to wake Harry up. His arm crept out and around Harry's shoulder.

Harry smiled into the cloth near his face, waited until Malfoy squirmed into position around him like a snake defending her eggs, and then slept.

"Are you happy, dear?"

Draco started and nearly dropped his spoon. When he looked up, his mother's eyes were fastened on him, gentle but no less intimidating for all that.

He coughed and played with his spoon again before he continued to eat the porridge, the combinations of honey and spices that the house-elves added to it making his tongue curl with the taste. "Um," he said.

"Oh, I know what happened," Narcissa said. "Not the details, you understand. I don't need all the details. But I felt the wards part when you brought Potter into your bedroom. Is that enough for you? Do you need something else to be happy, or is the bond on the way to being fulfilled?"

"I think it's been fulfilled," Draco said. "But Potter still doesn't want to be in the bond with me." He moved his tongue around, tasting the bitterness in his mouth that not even the wonderful porridge could precisely get rid of. When he woke up this morning, Harry had been gone. Draco had spent some time lying in the bed, pretending that he had just gone to the bathroom and would be back soon, but it hadn't happened. Harry had faded away with the morning, as though they could only matter to each other by moonlight.

That thought sounded paranoid even to Draco, and he bowed his head with a little grimace and began to eat.

"Well, we must make allowances for someone raised by Muggles," his mother murmured, in the kind of tone that said she wouldn't be making that many allowances, no matter how understandable Harry's differences were. "But I think I agree with Mr. Potter on this one."

Draco stared at her. "That the bond is an unnatural thing to have happened, and he still doesn't know if he prefers blokes?"

His mother gave a faint shudder and helped herself to a scone. "I told you, dear, that I didn't need the details," she said firmly. "No. What I meant was that the bond was the first thing that brought you together, but if he dislikes it so much, it can't remain. I should think his sleeping with you would be sign enough that he's willing to give you a chance without the bond."

Draco shook his head, wordless. That hadn't occurred to him, perhaps because he had slept with Harry twice before that.

"Oh, I cannot be certain, of course," Narcissa said seriously, apparently reading his headshake as doubt. "But I think so, Draco. I really do think so. Mr. Potter is not one to date around or to give copiously of himself, whatever the papers say. In fact, whenever I have met him, I have been struck by a certain…reserve beneath the celebrated hero persona. I think he will sacrifice himself for a world, but not very often for a single person."

"That's true," Draco muttered, wondering if part of the reason he had been so irritated by Harry's refusal to accept the bond was that he had assumed Harry would sleep with him out of nobility.

"If you do have him giving of himself to you willingly, then you are perhaps closer to winning his heart than you thought you were," Narcissa said, by all appearances addressing the scone. "Or at least his consideration." She looked up and smiled at him. "You might as well investigate the methods of breaking the bond, and either your insecurity or his frustration will grow less in time."

Draco reached across the table and claimed her hand, which she looked at with one eyebrow raised as if she couldn't imagine why he would want to do that. "Thank you, Mother," he said. "You're much cleverer than I am."

"Of course I am," Narcissa said. "I am a woman, older than you, and your mother. I would be worried if you did have delusions of grandeur."

"It's official, then, I take it."

Hermione had barely nodded when Harry came into breakfast that morning. She'd gone on eating until Harry sat down, loaded his plate, and had time to feel safe, and then looked up and fixed him with a stare that made Harry feel as if he'd turned into an ice statue filled with steel pins.

"Um." Harry steered the toast around in the marmalade on his plate and wondered if he would look ridiculous if he attempted to eat it now. Ron had already gone to Auror training, but looking ridiculous in front of Hermione was bad enough. "I don't know what you mean," he said, deciding that he might as well strike out for the high ground.

"You went to Malfoy's house last night," Hermione said. "That's perfectly obvious. That shirt doesn't really hide all the bite marks on your neck, you know."

Harry tugged at his shirt, and then saw the smug smile on her face and realized that she'd tricked him. He scowled back and said, "I could have gone there to break the bond and come back without him."

"You don't know how to break the bond," Hermione said.

Harry hated the way she kept coming up with reasonable ways to get around his statements. He sighed and began lifting forkfuls of bangers to his mouth. "Fine, I went," he said. "But I still want to break the bond."

"I've decided that I'm not listening to anyone who talks with a full mouth anymore," Hermione said serenely, rising to her feet and cleaning her dishes with a few flicks of her wand. "I'll be in the library when you want to find me and talk to me like a civilized person." She went, leaving Harry to gape at her back.

Well, he thought as he swallowed. I didn't know that she would take it this calmly. I might have been more open from the beginning if she had.

Then he shook his head. Neither Ron nor Hermione had been horrified by the bond and the situation with Malfoy. Most of that emotion had been Harry's, and he'd made up for all three of them with his constant references to it.

He—wasn't horrified anymore.

But he did still want the bond gone. He knew Malfoy hadn't really understood when Harry attempted to explain it, but it was like a collar around his neck. He wanted the ability to choose when he went to Malfoy and when he spent time alone, no matter whether it fulfilled the bond or not.

Then he paused, with his cup of tea halfway to his lips. When he swallowed, it was too fast, scalding his throat.

He had made the decision, then. The reference to going back to Malfoy seemed to seal it. He wanted to be with Malfoy, but he didn't want the bond dictating how he did it.

Harry leaned back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling. Was that the end to all his dreams of a family? Did he want to stay with Malfoy for the rest of his life, or only until he got bored of him? Did this mean that he liked being fucked?

The questions were so numerous that he still hadn't left the chair and gone in search of Hermione when someone knocked on the front door. Then the person let herself in before Harry could stand up to answer it.

"Oh, hi, Harry. Don't mind me." Ginny pushed past him and went for the teapot still sitting on the special tripod that Hermione had bought for it. The tripod was an ugly thing, Harry thought, to keep from thinking about the obvious. Hermione claimed that a house-elf had made it, which would fit. "I only stopped by for a quick breakfast before I go to practice."

Harry stared at her as she put together a swift plate of toast, butter, and chocolate biscuits that she swiped from the high shelf which Hermione used to hide them from Ron. Her long red hair bounced behind her, shimmered around her. She wrote Harpies robes already, and she sipped and gulped in a way that Harry would have expected to affect him strongly only a few months before.

But he could only think that he was surprised to see her, and that he kept waiting to feel more than he did…

And feeling nothing.

"It's strange," he blurted suddenly. Ginny looked up at him, mouth closed around a biscuit, so that she raised an eyebrow in inquiry instead. "Seeing you again. I mean, it's been an age, hasn't it?"

Ginny nodded to him in a friendly way. "Yeah, it has." She finished her breakfast by cramming three biscuits into her mouth at once and then licking the butter from her fingers. "I hope that you get this bond with Malfoy resolved soon," she added over her shoulder as she headed for the front door again.

Harry winced. "Hermione told you about that?"

Ginny laughed. "She was over at the Burrow asking Mum about magical bonds when I was there. She kept trying to hint around the people it involved, but since it was obviously not her and Ron, there were only a few people it could be."

"Were you surprised to hear that I'd been bonded to Malfoy?" Harry asked, and then held his breath. A moment later, he felt stupid for doing so and then let it out again.

Ginny blinked at him. "Not really," she said, with a simplicity of manner that convinced Harry she was telling the truth. "I mean, you paid a lot of attention to him at school. He paid a lot of attention to you. I was surprised by the way the bond had formed, but it's fairly common for things like this to happen."

"I had no idea," Harry said. "It's not something anyone ever talked about when we were in school."

Ginny snapped her fingers. "I was thinking it was strange that you didn't know about it, but of course, you grew up with those awful Muggles." She stepped up to him and patted his shoulder. "You've handled it as well as anyone could, to hear Hermione tell it," she said gently. "You deserve a holiday from all the magic. Why don't you take one, when the bond is broken? Go some place, and don't tell anyone. That way, no one can find you to curse you."

Harry dug up a smile for her, and she waved at him and exited the house, humming under his breath as she went. Harry leaned his cheek against his hand and watched her go.

Yes, he wished her well and was glad to see her; it made him happy that she was doing well and had talked to him like a friend.

But he felt no excitement looking at her, and the dreams of children and a life with her had finally faded into the mist that they should have been sent into, Harry thought, long ago.

Draco stared at the bittern preening itself on the table, and then at the letter that rested next to it. He didn't want to believe that it had really come from Madagascar, but who else would have used a bittern to send him post? He picked up the letter, checked it a few times for charms, and then opened it.

Out fell two pieces of paper. One was a list of what looked like Potions ingredients, although Draco recognized the names of some woods and a paragraph he was familiar with from a book on Veela. The other was a letter, and Draco grimaced and settled down to read it, certain Ollivander would be gloating.

Dear Mr. Malfoy:

By now you should know what my final curse on you was, and my revenge for the time that I spent in the cellars of your charming establishment.

You may plead that the war was an extenuating circumstance, but you were crueler to me than my mere imprisonment deserved. I can still remember your sneer when I was being tortured, and the way that you looked away from me when I asked for a crust or a cup of water. You have a streak of thoughtlessness which is worse than deliberate malice. I wanted to do something to teach you a lesson, and to force you to feel strongly for someone besides yourself.

The curse matched you with the least suitable person possible. Though I cannot predict the outcome for certain, I think it highly likely that you will find yourself at the mercy of Harry Potter. And at the mercy of certain strong feelings for him, which the curse allows and encourages.

Draco swallowed, wondering if the heat that coiled through his belly when he watched Harry could be strictly magical. He didn't think so, but then again, he would have said that the kind of curse Ollivander had implanted in his wand was impossible if someone had asked him.

I would enjoy being there to watch you beg and Potter refuse you. He is a strict young man, that one, focused on his goals and not one to let anyone deter him. He will put his training in the Auror program and his girlfriend above you.

Draco blinked. He knew that Harry hadn't dated Ginny Weasley for years, and certainly hadn't cheated on her with Draco. He paused, wondering if Ollivander was mental, but the rest of the letter drew him on.

Allow an old man to be crude and suggest that you persuade him to fuck you. The curse can be broken, but not until then.

Draco began to smile. He began to wish that Ollivander could be in England, too, but for a rather different reason.

I have sent the list of materials that you will need when you prepare to break the curse. I hope that you will abandon fantasies of avenging yourself on me for this; you will never find the place I hide, and I might suggest that your wand would turn against you if you did.

Draco tossed his head back and laughed. The bittern bobbed its head up and down, excited. Draco chuckled at it and then sat back in his chair, regarding the letter almost fondly.

He had fucked Harry, not the other way around. Ollivander had obviously seen those articles in the paper that said Harry and Ginny Weasley were dating and believed them. And he had thought that Harry would be able to resist the pull of the bond and that Draco had no previous feelings for Harry. He had smugly believed that he was creating a bond that would cause chaos and hatred in all their lives.

Draco laughed again. He would break the bond, yes, because Harry wished it so, but he would also show him Ollivander's letter to dispel any doubts he might be feeling about whether or not the bond had created the situation between them.

"Yes, old man, I wish you were here," he whispered, and toasted the ceiling with a flick of his wand that caused crackers to shower down for the bittern.

"I think this can be done without much trouble." Hermione was scanning the list with bright eyes and nodding. "Yes, the wood's readily available, and we don't even have to go to a wandmaker to have it done, because all it requires is the making of a dummy wand, not the real thing."

"Good," Harry said. He rubbed the back of his neck and stared out the window of Ron and Hermione's house.

"Harry?" Hermione was coming nearer, from the sound of her footsteps and voice, but Harry didn't look at her. "Are you all right? I would have thought you would be ecstatic about this."

"I am," Harry said, giving her a quick smile. "Or happy, at least."

Hermione nodded. "Because you don't want to spend the rest of your life bonded to Draco Malfoy?"

Harry took a deep breath. Perhaps the words would sound less terrifying outside his brain than inside it. "Because I don't want to spend the rest of my life with him if only the bond connects us."

Hermione was quiet for long moments, and Harry wondered if she would react badly. Even Ron, as accepting as he'd been, might feel differently if he knew that Harry was planning on spending a lot of time with Draco, not just the few months that Ron seemed to have expected the bond to last.

"If that's what you want," Hermione said gently, "then of course I'm happy for you."

Harry exhaled. "Yeah, I think that's what I want. But—I don't know how I'm going to tell him."

"Why not?" Hermione sat down across the table and stared at him. "I'd think he would be happy. He does care for you, you know."

Harry shrugged helplessly. "He likes the bond. He likes the way it makes us feel and the way it makes us have to spend time together. I don't know if he'll want it gone. But I can't have it around."

Hermione, much to his surprise, laughed. She went on laughing as she bent her head down and placed it between her hands, and then went on laughing even though she was obviously trying to muffle the sound against the table. Harry stared at her, nervous and a little offended. Maybe very offended.

"What?" he demanded.

Hermione lifted her head and smiled at him. "It's just nice to see you having some romantic anxieties like everyone else," she said cheerfully. "I used to wonder if you would ever have normal problems, like wondering if a girl—I mean, a lover—liked you. Rather than saving the world and whether you would become an Auror who would manage to save the world again."

Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm glad that you find it so amusing. Draco might not."

Hermione reached across the table and took his hand. "I think that you mean more to him than you realize yet."

I hope so, Harry thought, and had to swallow back both laughter at how his position had changed and desperate anxiety that, no matter what Hermione said, Draco wouldn't want him without the bond.

"That's it."

Granger's words resounded in the quiet library. Draco clutched the edges of the book he'd been pretending to read all morning so that Harry wouldn't see how anxious he was. But when the words really registered, he set the book aside and stood up to face her, his mouth dry.

"You mean that you made the dummy wand?" he demanded. He knew Ollivander's instructions hadn't been complex; the only reason he hadn't followed them himself had been because the bond couldn't be broken by a direct participant in it. But that Granger could make a wand in so short a time, when she'd never done it before, was a miracle.

Harry looked up with a shadowed face, and a moment later rose and sauntered across the library to join them. Draco glanced at him and then away. He'd shown Harry the list of ingredients for the dummy wand and Ollivander's letter before Granger began to work on the breaking of the bond, but Harry had said little. He had looked pale and then thoughtful, and retreated to the other side of the library with a nod when Granger demanded that they stop hovering around her. Draco didn't know if Ollivander's letter had actually changed Harry's mind or not.

He hoped, if it had, it had only changed it in a good way.

"Now," Granger said, holding up the birch wand with a core of Veela hair, "I need you to stand close together and stretch out your hands to each other. Hold onto one another and stare into each other's eyes. You need to be in a classic handfasting posture to give the bond something to focus on."

"Even though we're not handfasted," Draco muttered, although he reached out his hand. "Never mind that that's a custom no one has used for a hundred years and desperately old-fashioned."

"I know some witches who've used it," Granger said in a stiff voice.

"Then they're old-fashioned," Draco said, waiting for the moment when Harry's hand touched his. He didn't know what would happen now if Harry rejected him again the way he had when they were both children, although Draco didn't think he would, not when he was the one who had wanted the bond broken in the first place. "Obviously."

Granger ground her teeth, but said in the kind of patient tone Draco had heard his mother direct at him on occasion, "Harry?"

Harry gave a little hop and said, "Right." This time, his hand grasped Draco's without hesitation. That reassured Draco—almost—that he did want to participate in the ritual and touch Draco for what might be the last time, but that he'd been lost in a world of his own and hadn't even heard Granger's instructions.


Harry's hand was warm with sweat. Draco moved his fingers lightly against the back of it and remembered that the last time they'd touched, Harry's hand had been flailing between his shoulder and hair, looking for a good grip—

"Mutatione," Granger's voice said clearly.

The dummy wand rang as though it was a gong someone had struck. Draco felt a shivering vibration go through him, too, perfectly touching and answering the note of the bond. A sharp, harpstring-like note came from behind Harry's head, and they staggered away from each other, even though their hands remained joined. Draco sighed. That shock had been the last dissolution of the physical bond.

He glanced at Harry, wondering if he would take the chance to retreat. It seemed he would, since he was staring at their entwined hands as if he couldn't believe Draco was still holding onto him. Draco winced and started to drop his hand back to his side.

Then Harry looked up at him, smiled, and moved his fingers over the back of Draco's hand. Answering his gesture of soothing and reassurance.

After the bond was gone, and he couldn't feel any physical pleasure from doing so.

Draco's breath caught, and he stood straighter. I think—I think it's going to be all right.

Harry hadn't said much after reading Ollivander's letter because he couldn't think of what to say. And the bond would be broken soon, anyway. He had repeated that to himself over and over, to defeat any anxiety he might have about the rest of his life being determined by it.

But what the letter had revealed to him—

He had been free, in a way, even when the bond forced him to be close to Draco. He wasn't disgusted, the way that the bond should have made him by Ollivander's reckoning, and able to deny the yearning for touch. He'd been as affected, as helpless in the rush of physical need, as desiring of the closeness.

Ron had been right. Harry had been dreaming about Ginny and a family, and although he might not have chosen Draco to be the one who woke him up, at least he was awake now, and could choose his own course.

Draco was smiling in a tentative way, as if he had been the one with the right to be nervous. Harry stroked his hand and then drew him closer as the smile grew firmer, wrapping one arm around his neck to plant a chaste kiss on his lips.

Hermione cleared her throat loudly, but from the feel of Draco's answering arm clamped around his shoulders, he wasn't going to heed her wordless protests. He deepened the kiss past chaste, and Harry moaned. The library door slammed open and shut, with Hermione shouting some last admonition not to ruin the carpets.

Draco watched him with flushed cheeks and shining eyes when Harry thought to draw back from the kiss, and Harry answered by clasping both his hands this time.

"You want to?" Draco whispered. "Even though you don't have to? Even though you didn't choose me in the first place?"

"I choose you now," Harry answered. "You're—less unpleasant than I thought you were—" Draco rolled his eyes "—and the sex is utterly brilliant. I want to try."

"Then I choose you, too," Draco whispered back, and there was another kiss, and another, and another, until Harry's knees weakened and he thought Hermione's warning about the carpet might be needed after all.

He was free, and bound at the same time, by his own choice.

Harry thought he could get used to this.

The End.