Title: Lover There By Lover
Summary: A magical accident brought Harry here. It might take only Draco to keep him.
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, as well as past Harry-from-the-AU/Draco; Ron/Hermione and mentions of Snape/Lily.
Warnings: AU, flangst, sexual activity, romanticism.
Word Count: 28,200
Author's Notes: Written for alexis_sd in the dracotops_harry fest. The prompt involved Harry going to an alternate universe where the other Harry had been Draco's lover and had died, and Draco fighting to persuade him to stay. The title comes from the W. B. Yeats poem "The Man Who Dreamed of Faeryland." Thanks to my betas, Kandy and Linda.
Lover There By Lover
Harry woke to a golden whirlwind.
It surrounded his bed and was closing in, visible winds coursing in circular patterns, roaring steadily enough that Harry winced even as he grabbed for his wand and glasses and tried to Apparate. He couldn't. The whirlwind was acting like wards, he realized a moment later, surrounding and shielding him from magic outside itself—which meant that he couldn't get out of it, either. He cursed and leaped off the bed, intending to roll under it and come out beneath the whirlwind if he could.
The golden winds surged closer, and passed through him. Harry shivered, and his limbs lost their strength; he could barely hold onto his wand. His eyelids drooped, but he forced them up grimly and studied the corners of the whirlwind, looking for gaps and weak places in it.
He didn't see any. Harry scowled and clenched his hand on the wand. He had done harder things than this, he ought to be able to get out of a bloody magical trap!
The whirlwind sliced through him again, and this time Harry felt it as warmth, not cold, but it made him lose even more strength. He rolled over to keep his wand close to his chest and shut his eyes. He murmured a Rennervate, but other than bringing a brief tingle of warmth to his arms that soon faded, it didn't seem to help.
As the whirlwind closed in, Harry's mind went abruptly back to the Potions book he'd been working with to improve his miserable skills so he could get into the Auror program.
It is not unknown for the brewing of the Draught of Peace to have strange magical side-effects, including the creation of holes, gates, and portals to other dimensions, new houses, and new breeds of magical creatures. However, the trick to avoid this is relatively simple: do not leave the potion brewing in its final stage longer than three hours.
And he had left it brewing longer than three hours, he must have, because he'd fallen asleep.
Harry grabbed his wand more tightly as the whirlwind closed in on him like a cocoon. He was going somewhere, no doubt, and he would ride with it. He would hope that it wouldn't kill him. So far, he'd had good luck with surviving.
The only thing I've had good luck with, maybe, he thought as his eyes closed all the way in spite of himself and he snored for the first time, although his mind was still awake. Let's hope it holds again.
Draco sighed and pushed a hank of hair away from his eyes as he examined the Wolfsbane still simmering in its cauldron. No, it hadn't changed since the last time he checked it. He was sure that Severus would have said something about a watched cauldron, but Draco hadn't seen the portrait for days. When he went visiting at Hogwarts, that was to be expected.
Draco cast an impatient glance out the door of the potions lab. It was a beautiful day, spring leaves jutting out from the trees as if they held handfuls of gifts they couldn't wait to give away and the sunlight falling around them in gentle beams. Howls came from beyond the edges of Draco's enchanted clearing in the Forbidden Forest, and now and then something put a foot or paw or wing out to test the edges of his wards, but, well, one couldn't have everything. Draco liked the privacy enough to accept the danger.
He could have gone walking if he wanted to. The Wolfsbane would wait, under a Preservation Charm if necessary.
But his steps would inevitably have led him to Harry's grave, and especially on a day like this, a day Harry would have loved, he—couldn't.
He turned back as the potion made a soft noise, his eyebrows rising. Perhaps he would have a new modification to make, which he hadn't had in months. He brewed Wolfsbane because it was by far the most popular and profitable potion he could sell, but it didn't lend itself readily to experimentation. He might use this batch for that, though. He still had three days to brew the next cargo destined for the Ministry—
The potion lifted up and exploded into his face. Draco's wand was moving before he thought about it, flicking back and forth as he created a shield for his eyes. He could live without some skin on his cheeks and nose for months, if necessary, but not his sight.
The air around him turned warm and hummed like someone running their finger along the edge of a wineglass. Draco had reached the floor, and he rolled behind a table that he thought could survive a worse explosion, peering around the edge of the leg. This was a strange situation, and he wanted to observe it.
A golden gyre was dancing above his cauldron, circling back and forth and wobbling on its axis as though it was uncertain which way it wanted to go. Draco stared. He had no idea what it was or how it had emerged from his unpolluted Wolfsbane. He wished Severus was here to lend the benefit of his expertise.
Abruptly, the gyre flickered out to the sides and seemed to melt into pure light. When Draco could see again, it had faded entirely—and taken his Wolfsbane with it. In its place lay a motionless body. Draco had risen and taken a step towards it, wand out and a Protego on his lips, before he thought about it.
Then he saw the messy dark hair, the familiar shape of mouth and nose and chin, the contours of hands and arms he had touched and worshipped countless times.
His heart dropped. His vision whitened around the edges, and he had to balance himself heavily, with a hand on the edge of the table.
Oh, no. It can't be.
"Harry?" he still whispered aloud.
The figure moaned and turned its head to the side, then reached out as though expecting a bar to be within reach. Standing so still that his legs hurt, Draco saw the boy's fingers moving on his chest. They clutched a wand, he realized a second later. A wand with the bright sheen of holly wood, a wand he had seen countless times.
It was Harry. Younger than his Harry had been when he died; Draco estimated that he was about nineteen from his face and his memories of Harry just after Hogwarts, while they had reached twenty-three this year. But unmistakably, indisputably him, from the lightning bolt scar visible on his forehead when he looked up to the fiery flash of panic in the green eyes. In a second, Harry was aiming the wand at Draco, his knuckles white and his mouth worked into a snarl.
"What the fuck did you do, Malfoy?" he demanded. "Did you suspend me in time? Where is this?"
Draco had to close his eyes. God, the harmonics that voice rang in his body were so familiar, so painfully familiar, that he wanted to weep. But that wouldn't be the best way of understanding the situation.
He knew, of course, that this couldn't be his Harry. He had laid that one, the one he loved, tenderly under the earth, his Invisibility Cloak wrapped around him to hide the terrible injuries from the broom crash. Draco had investigated assiduously, but there was never any proof that anyone had killed Harry, either by cursing him as he flew or attacking him in the air. It was a simple, stupid, mindless accident.
"Where did the Draught of Peace bring me?" Harry demanded.
Draco had to smile. Of course it would a similar simple accident that brought Harry to him. He was from another world, then, another universe, where time ran more slowly than it did here. That would explain both the similarities and the great differences.
His mind rushed and expanded through the next few moments as if that faster universe were all inside his skull. By the time that Draco opened his eyes, ready to explain the situation and comfort Harry as best he could, he had made his decision.
He had buried the man he loved, and tried his best to live on after. He could do it, yes, but it would never be anything more than half a life, the brightest sun no more than a shadow after Harry's light.
And now, through accident that operated like a gift, the universes had given him a second chance.
This time, Draco wasn't going to let Harry go.
"Where did the Draught of Peace bring me?" Harry asked a second time, because he didn't think that Malfoy had heard him the first time.
Malfoy. That's Malfoy!
It was ridiculous, the incredulous voice in his head that wanted to repeat the same sentence over and over. Harry banished it with a flick of his hand and focused on Malfoy instead. Yes, he wasn't the same one Harry had left behind, unless he was using a glamour or several years had passed while Harry went through the gate. This one was taller, his face thinner than Harry had thought it would be even when he was an adult, and he had a different wand in his hand than the hawthorn one Harry had returned to Malfoy right after the war.
And he was smiling at Harry. That was the really bloody strange thing, Harry thought uneasily. He would expect Malfoy to smirk or stare or sneer at him, but not—not smile. And not watch him as though Harry was a whole bag of Every-Flavour Beans that had none that tasted like earwax or vomit.
"This is another universe than your own," Malfoy said. "But I suspect you must have already divined that. You're intelligent enough for it."
"Yeah, it's another universe, all right," Harry said in a daze. "Because I know you, and you would never have said that."
A ripple seemed to travel over Malfoy's face. For a moment, Harry hoped that meant he was going to wake up now. But Malfoy shook his head and murmured, "Truth to tell, I'd been with my Harry for so long that I'd almost forgotten we used to be enemies."
"Used to be," Harry said flatly. Been with? his mind repeated, but he didn't know if he wanted to know the answer to that particular question.
"Yes." Malfoy said, and then glanced about with a distracted expression, as though he was waiting for someone else to drop in. Or looking for a house-elf, Harry thought, though when he looked around the room, which seemed to be a potions lab, it was cluttered and didn't look as though an elf had ever visited it. "Won't you sit down? I forgot that you would be dazed by your passage through the gate."
Harry grunted in response and took a seat on the chair that Malfoy pulled out for him; it'd been half-hidden beneath a pile of books and papers. Malfoy sat across from him, in a chair with easy access to the charred cauldron. That was another thing, Harry thought, casting a brief glance at the mass of twisted metal and embers that he'd apparently come out of. Malfoy ought to have been screaming at him for what he'd done, for the mess he'd caused. Instead, he seemed perfectly prepared to sit there and devour Harry with his eyes.
"Look," Harry said, "you're being nice and all, but what I really want to do is go home."
Instead of nodding eagerly in agreement, Malfoy dipped his head and gave Harry that sidelong look Harry had seen a lot of in sixth year. "Of course," he murmured.
"Look, if you're not my enemy, you ought to want to help me do that," Harry said. He knew he said it too abruptly, but he was just beginning to think about what could happen to him, lost in another universe without his friends and without the ability to get home. He wiped his hands dry of the clammy sweat on his trousers.
"I'm not your enemy," Malfoy said, and then went on watching him.
Harry stared at him, then looked aside again. There was something disturbing about Malfoy being this much older than him, though it was only by a few years. It made Harry feel as if he didn't know him, as if Malfoy had hidden depths and might do unpredictable, un-Malfoy things any second.
He reckoned that was true as far as it went, that Malfoy wasn't the same person he had left behind. But it was still unreal and frightening.
"Then you're going to help me go home," Harry said. Use simple declarative sentences when you want someone to help you solve a problem, Hermione had told him once, when she'd just begun her training as a force of destruction and purification, also known as "an officer in the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures." It gives people less chance to resist or think up reasons to refuse you.
Malfoy took a deep breath as if he were gearing up for a charge or casting a difficult spell. For some reason, Harry's lungs tightened in response. I do that, he wanted to protest. You stole that gesture from me!
"The Harry I knew became my friend first, and then my lover," Malfoy said, and if these words contained an answer to his request, Harry couldn't see it. He opened his mouth to protest, but Malfoy rolled smoothly on. "I know you might not see how that's possible; Harry's friends didn't, either, at first. But they gave in when they realized how deeply he cared for me."
"Um, good," Harry said, unsure what other words Malfoy might have expected to fill the silence. He was hardly going to say that it wasn't good when it was a whole other universe and nothing to do with him, when he would be leaving it in a few hours.
Malfoy brought his head up and looked at him. His eyes had a clear, burning, feral intensity that Harry associated mostly with images of lions and tigers. Well, no, wait, he'd also seen Death Eaters with eyes like that. "I lost my Harry in a broom accident," Malfoy said. "There was no reason for it to happen, except that the laws of chance mandated that it do so. I grieved for months. I wouldn't say that I'm happy even now."
Harry frowned, still unable to see where he came into it. "I'm sorry," he said, because that seemed a safe choice. "But I don't see what it has to do with me."
"The universe gave you back to me," Malfoy said.
"No, it didn't," Harry said, his voice rising despite himself. "I'm not the same person. I don't know you. I wasn't in love with you. There's nothing between us. Help me get back home."
Malfoy moved. Harry would have sworn no one could cross the space between them so fast, but Malfoy did, kneeling down abruptly next to Harry and staring into his face with a yearning that made Harry flinch. One of Malfoy's hands, delicate and fine-boned and not something Harry had ever touched, brushed his wrist and then retreated. Malfoy's fingers spread as if he would span Harry's hand.
"I know all about you, everything about you." Malfoy's voice was rich and hypnotic, insistent, rising and falling. "I know that you were abused by the Dursleys, and I know that you sometimes lie awake at night wondering if you should have taken revenge or if you deserved it." The words froze Harry enough that he sat there and listened to the rest instead of trying to escape. "I know that you had to die to free the world from Voldemort, and that you walked to your death in the company of shades from the Resurrection Stone. I know you had to destroy a Horcrux in your second year, and that you thought you would die right before you did it. I know that Weasley seemed poised to abandon you during the Tournament and during your quest, but he always came back and proved himself a good friend. I know that Granger's cat was chasing the rat that turned out to be Peter Pettigrew. I know you still mourn your godfather and curse my aunt for killing him. I know, I know you. I know all the memories that shaped you, all the ones that are important." His hand closed down hard enough that Harry winced, and Malfoy immediately retreated, stroking his knuckles in apology. "I know you can love me, and that you opened your heart and shared yourself with me when I was at the lowest point in my life and thought I would go insane. All that. That's what lies between us. Everything."
He leaned forwards further and brushed his lips across Harry's. Harry would have expected to recoil a day ago, if someone told him he would be kissed by Draco Malfoy, but he sat still now and let it happen. Fingers stroked his shoulders, his legs, his mouth. Malfoy was bending him back in the chair, murmuring to him in a voice that sounded like the countless voices of birds Harry had heard outside his window some mornings.
With an effort, he pulled himself away from the whirlpool of pleasure and wonder—wonder that anyone would ever care for him like this—that threatened to drown him. He drew back and gasped, "You—how would your Harry feel about you betraying him like that?"
Malfoy's eyes were as large as moons. "He would understand. I know he would understand. He always wanted me to be happy. That was the most generous thing about him."
Harry had to shake his head. There was still a taste on his tongue that he'd never felt before, and no matter how he worked his tongue against the roof of his mouth, it didn't seem to be coming out. "Fine. But—I think you're underestimating how much I would want you."
"No, I'm not." Malfoy gave him a glance so confident that it shattered the comfortable picture of him Harry had been building, as someone who had grown so insecure and desperate since Hogwarts that he would do anything for attention. "I know more about you than I did when Harry and I first got together. I know what you need. We won't have as many arguments, and you can trust me more."
Harry swallowed and stood up, pushing to move Malfoy back so he could do so. Malfoy went slowly, gaze fixed so steadily on him that Harry reckoned he'd moved of his own free will, rather than because of Harry's shove.
The realization made him ball his fists and speak more sharply than he normally would have. "This is mental. You know I'm not the same person, but you want to treat me like him anyway. You don't know anything about me, whether I'm in a relationship back home or hate the other Malfoy or would ever consider dating a bloke. I'm sorry you lost him. It sounds hard. But this isn't the way to make up for that loss."
Malfoy regarded him thoughtfully. Harry stared back, trying not to pant, and wished he had a clue what the bastard was thinking.
Every word Harry spoke burst like a hot candy in Draco's mouth, filling his throat and his lungs and his senses with the taste and touch of fire.
Yes. That's him. That's the way he would talk.
His Harry had argued that it was mental for them to date, too, at first, even though he was the one who'd approached Draco with the invitation and intention of doing so. He had made angry objections even when they woke up in the same bed together. He had turned his back on Draco during arguments and shouted about how he should have married Ginny Weasley.
If Harry had given in without an argument, without a murmur, then Draco would have had to reject him in disgust, because that wasn't Harry. But here was the warmth he had missed, the fire he had wanted to be close to and thought he would never find again. He reached out and caressed Harry's hair, needing the solidity to hold him here so he couldn't spiral off into a world of dreams.
Harry ducked his head and watched him with bright, suspicious eyes. Draco's groin ached. He swallowed and said, more huskily than he meant to, "I'll ask you those questions. I'll let you volunteer the answers. But what I want you to know is that you'll have to make the decision to stand apart from me because of them. I don't care."
"All right," Harry said, looking as though he expected Draco to shoot the bolt across the door in the next moment. "I'm making it."
Draco nodded. "So you don't want my help?"
"I didn't say that." Harry stared around as if he hoped that someone else would materialize out of the walls, then turned back with a sigh. "I don't see anyone else who can help," he said, with an undertone in his voice that Draco also recognized. Harry had used the same voice to admit his nightmares, to talk about his past, and to admit that he was still suffering from the war. He expected to have to stand on his own or else burden Draco with it.
Although this was small compared to Harry telling him about the Dursleys, Draco still felt the same hollow eagerness he'd felt then. "I will," he said firmly. "If you still want to go back to your own time, or universe, when I'm done helping you, that's fine. I won't stand in your way."
Harry stared at him. Draco stared back, trying not to look too much at Harry's mouth and reimagine the taste.
"The Draco Malfoy I know would never say something like that unless there was a catch somewhere." Harry ran his hand through his hair, and Draco's fingers itched. He had finally got Harry to break that habit just a few months before he died. He'd really never thought he would have to teach him over again.
"I'm not the Draco Malfoy you knew," Draco said easily. "Now who's blurring people together in his mind?"
Harry studied him, with a reluctant smile that faded quickly. "You're going to try to convince me to stay here at the same time," he said.
"But—it's weird, don't you think?" Harry abruptly burst out. "I mean, you'd never have the bond with me that you had with him. You'd always have an empty space in your soul. And I don't know that I like being valued only because of what you had with him. I'd rather that someone fall in love with me for my own sake."
"I know all that," Draco said. "And I'm going to try and show you that I can be in love with you and with the memory of him at the same time. I know he's not coming back. I'll accept the differences between the two of you because I don't have any choice. I'm moving on."
But only now, Draco was honest enough to admit to himself, was that really true. He had drifted between dreamland and reality for long enough. Harry—his Harry—was in the grave. What had rearisen was a chance, an opportunity, rather than his dead lover. Draco wasn't monster enough to force Harry to stay here if he really didn't want to.
But I am enough of one to seduce the fuck out of him.
Harry had never felt so comfortable with another person before. Of course he had to be suspicious of that comfort, knowing that Malfoy would use it to make Harry stay there if he could, but it still existed.
Malfoy knew exactly what he needed before he needed it. He knew how Harry took his tea, that he would want to know about Ron and Hermione before he could ask the questions, and that he would need a pillow for one hip that had got injured last year in an assassination attempt from a Death Eater. (Well, last year for Harry; obviously some years ago for the version of him who had died here). He followed Harry's gaze to the portrait frame and said, "That's Severus's picture. Do you want me to cover it up so that he can't see you here?"
"If he's your friend," Harry began.
Malfoy laughed. "It took a long time for him to approve of my relationship with Harry, too. I don't blame you at all for wanting to avoid him." He rose to his feet and cast a dark cloth neatly over the portrait frame. "He can still hear us, but we could be doing almost anything, and he'll wait to ask me about it until I want to talk."
"You don't have to do that for me," Harry said.
"Oh, I know that," Malfoy said, with a promptitude that made Harry wonder if he had changed his mind about trying to keep him here. But then he smiled, and the smile transformed his face in the way that meant he was still thinking about it. "I want to."
Harry looked at the floor in some embarrassment and cleared his throat. "Since I came here as part of a Potions accident, I might be able to go back the same way. What do you think?"
Malfoy shook his head and sat down in the chair across from Harry again, leaning forwards with his clasped hands resting against the corner of his mouth. Harry told himself sternly that the gesture was not familiar. All it meant was that he had seen Malfoy do the same thing sometime in school, which he couldn't consciously remember right now, and his mind was bringing it up for him.
"I don't think it would be wise to attempt that," Malfoy said. "For one thing, we can't recreate all the parameters of your experiment exactly as they were."
"Of course," Harry said, attempting to act as though he understood what Malfoy was talking about.
Malfoy gave him a faint smile that said he wasn't fooled, and continued. "The wildness of the magic says that it's a strange reaction." He held up a hand when Harry would have opened his mouth to complain and said, "I know you were brewing the Draught of Peace, but that shouldn't have made my potion react the way it did, blowing up in my face. No, there were other factors involved, including the ones that brought you here instead of somewhere else and to a world that's several years ahead of your own instead of one that's the same."
"So we can't know what those factors were?" Harry had assumed without thinking that of course Malfoy could find out, because he was a Potions master.
"We could, but it would take years of research," Malfoy said. "It would involve brewing potions that would allow us to see into the past, and then more that would allow us to understand what we saw when we did so. And I don't think that you want that."
"No," Harry said. "Staying here for years isn't in the plan."
Malfoy showed him the same faint smile in response and said, "So the best bet is to brew a potion that will simply send you straight home, rather than riding the accident. But I'll need your memories and recollections to do that."
"I thought you already knew everything important about me?" Harry felt his suspicion bristle. He didn't really distrust this Malfoy, but it still seemed unbelievable to him that his other self would ever have relaxed around Malfoy enough to take him to bed.
"I do," Malfoy said. "But not in your own words, and not in your perspective. Just because the same things happened to you as happened to my Harry doesn't mean that you think the same things about them."
That made sense to Harry, which surprised him, because he couldn't remember the Slytherins ever making sense in school. Maybe Malfoy had learned how to talk to Gryffindors from living with the previous version of Harry, though. He nodded and cleared his throat. "All right. I didn't know what the wizarding world was or who I really was until I was eleven years old…"
Draco listened intently, hungrily. The words weren't as important as the tone of Harry's voice, the sound, flowing over him and soothing hidden wounds like a salve rubbed into them.
He's here again.
The tone and timber of his Harry's voice were there exactly, the way that his eyes flashed with wonder when he talked about fighting the troll with Granger and Weasley, or how he flinched when speaking of the debacle in the graveyard. Yes, Draco had known all this, but to hear it over again was like reliving those nights when Harry had lain in his arms and whispered his secrets into Draco's ear.
He's here again.
When Harry reached the end of his story, or the current end, Draco listened more carefully. He was curious about how far "behind" him Harry was, whether he had left his world in the course of his relationship with that Draco or whether he had done something different that meant he would never meet up with his Draco—
No. I'm his Draco.
It did no good to simply state that, though, when he had no idea what was going on outside of Harry's words. Draco bit his lip and continued to listen.
"No, I was brewing the Draught of Peace because I wanted to get into the Ministry's Auror program," Harry said, in response to one of Draco's questions. "They already rejected me once because I didn't know how to brew well enough." He had relaxed by then, leaning back in his chair and sipping his tea as though the taste of it really contented him. Draco hoped it did. He had worked hard to learn how to make tea the way Harry liked it, because for most of his life the chore had been left up to house-elves. "But I left it cooking too long, obviously, and then I ended up here." He looked around the lab as if he'd like a tour of the rest of the house.
Draco exhaled hard, surprised and then not surprised to realize that he was shaking. So. His Harry had mentioned that he'd done that, too, but in his case, he remembered and ran back in time to drain out the ruined Draught of Peace harmlessly.
That was the difference. His Harry might have gone elsewhere, too, if he had let the water boil too long, perhaps even to this other Harry's world.
But Draco would never know, and he didn't care to think about it any longer. It was enough to know that he hadn't broken up a forming relationship and wouldn't have to struggle against more than schoolboy memories of himself.
"Well," he said. "That should help with the brewing of a potion."
Abruptly, Harry's eyes turned flat in a way that made Draco flinch. He had grown accustomed to being rid of that look years ago. "But why should I trust you to actually make it? Someone else would be better, someone who doesn't have an investment in keeping me here."
"You should trust me because I love you," Draco said.
"The Hermione who lives here probably loved the me who was born here, too," Harry muttered, finishing his tea. "And I can't believe she'd be unwilling to help me."
"Your appearance would hurt her, though," Draco said, when he could work his way around the pain enough to speak. He reminded himself that it had been like this in the early days of their relationship; he and Harry had hurt each other constantly, sometimes on purpose, because they had both been wary of letting their guard down first. And Harry thought that Draco wanted to kidnap him, in a way, which meant he would be extra-defensive. "I can accept it because I feel that my Harry was taken away from me unfairly, and because I know the behavior of the potion involved so well. She doesn't have any reason to think that. She's moved on since Harry's death."
Harry frowned and turned his head to the side as if it would help his problems to see them from a literally new angle. Draco's heart seized with longing. He remembered Harry doing that so many times. He forced down that new source of pain, though, and attended to what Harry was saying, since it was important.
"If I stayed here, then you'd have to introduce me to your friends eventually. Unless you wanted to hide me away in the house for the rest of my life."
Draco smiled. "It's temping." As Harry flushed and opened his mouth to say something angry about the Dursleys, though, Draco held up one hand. "But I would never actually do it. I just don't see a reason to hurt Granger and Weasley right now, to give them hope, if you're really not going to stay."
"Yeah," Harry said, downcast in a moment. "Yeah. I can see that."
God, so responsive. It made something in Draco ache, lower than his heart and higher than his groin. He reacts so much to what's happening around him.
"So what's the first step in brewing this potion?" Harry looked up at him, his eyes still narrow and his mouth turned down at the corners, but his voice showed his strength.
Draco had to duck his head for a moment to control his own delight. It felt half-shameful to him that he was enjoying this so much, but, well, he had had the love of his life taken from him when Harry died. He thought he was permitted to enjoy this second chance.
"We'll need flowers first," he said, standing. "The accident that brought you here came from the Draught of Peace, and traditionally, that involves several poisonous plants or ingredients that have to substitute for them. Flowers are considered, symbolically, the opposite of plants like the deadly nightshade. They still grow in the earth and feed on water and sunlight, but they smell pleasant and aren't poisonous to most people."
"You made that make sense," Harry said, his voice flat. "How did you do that? All the years I spent in class with Snape and Slughorn, and all the books I've read, and it never made that much sense."
Draco smiled at him, pleased and flattered. His Harry had insisted on finding his way through Potions books and even the tests that he was given in the Auror program by himself; it was rare that Draco got to offer a bit of needful advice. "I could try and teach you at the same time that you're helping me with the potion," he offered.
"I'd like that," Harry said, and smiled at him.
Draco only hoped he would be able to control his responses while he was brewing.
Then he remembered that there were steps that needed to be taken before the brewing could begin—like the trips to gather flowers and other ingredients—and smiled the more.
"Why did you choose to live in the Forbidden Forest?" Harry held his breath as he picked his way over the leaves that lay on the Forest floor in front of him. Any one of them could conceal a hole that would break his foot, he thought, or a snake just waiting to bite him before he could show it that he spoke Parseltongue still. He was probably being paranoid, but then, it was the Forbidden Forest.
Malfoy laughed behind him. He had a pleasant voice, Harry thought, and then damned himself for thinking that way. "Because it was private," he said. "Because it contains many of the Potions ingredients that I need, and because the animals aren't as dangerous when you have magic that you know how to properly wield. The Forest is mostly forbidden to students because they don't know enough defensive spells as yet." His voice lowered. "And because Harry's grave is here."
Harry paused to stare over his shoulder at him. Malfoy had his head half-bowed, his eyes fixed on the ground. His body had gone so still that Harry found it uncomfortable to look at him. Until that point, he hadn't realized how much Malfoy was always gesturing moving his hands and arms about and flicking his hair out of his face and telling Harry stories about Potions ingredients with his head cocked to one side.
"I'm sorry," Harry said. He didn't know if he'd been as sympathetic to Malfoy as he ought to over the death of—well, himself—and he felt a little guilty. He would have been much more careful with a Hermione who'd lost Ron or something like that.
On the other hand, Hermione was a friend no matter what the universe, and Harry still wondered how in the world his other self had ever come to like Malfoy.
"I am moving past it now," Malfoy said, raising his head finally and smiling at Harry. "I told you why."
Harry flushed, and cleared his throat. "All right. What kind of flowers are we looking for?" He probably should have asked more about the other Harry or how Malfoy had met him, but he didn't want to right now.
Malfoy gave him a faint, pointed smile that said he knew the conversation Harry was avoiding and all the reasons why. For some reason, Harry didn't resent it. Perhaps Malfoy had learned the expressions that wouldn't provoke angry responses after years with his Harry.
"Love-breathes-its-last, first," Malfoy said. He laughed when Harry made a face. "Yes, I agree, it's not the best name. But it will help us the most in the potion to send you home." His voice sank for a moment, but he had shaken his head and gone on briskly by the time that Harry looked at him again. "It's powerful as a symbol of both mourning and rebirth."
Harry nodded. "What does it look like?"
Malfoy raised his wand and waved it up and down twice, creating an image in the air in front of Harry. Harry squinted at it, wondering in the back of his mind why Snape couldn't ever have done something that simple. It would have helped a lot more than some of the bewildering descriptions in their textbooks.
The flower was tall, a drooping white flower like the narcissus that Harry had finally learned to recognize through educating himself, and the leaves that surrounded it were long and green and shaped like cloaks. Or shrouds, Harry reckoned. It trembled as though it was breathing.
"Does the wind blow it around a lot?" Harry asked, though he was secretly impressed that Malfoy had added such a touch to the image.
Malfoy shook his head. "That's why it has its name. The flower actually moves and trembles like that. Breathing."
Harry nodded. "At least that ought to make it easy to find," he said, and looked around, hoping that the plant would present itself immediately so that they could finish the task and leave the woods.
No such luck. The trees stretched in every direction, dappled with sunlight, their roots ramming the earth in a silent battle. Harry could see tiny hills and numerous clearings and places where faint paths started and then seemed to simply stop. He frowned and rubbed at his arms, wishing that he could shed this stupid fear of the Forest. It was daylight, and he had someone with him.
"Should we split up to look for it?" he asked over his shoulder.
"Absolutely not," Malfoy said. "It usually grows in shade, though, close to water, so we'll need to seek out the ponds and streams." He struck out on one of the paths that looked the same as all the others to Harry, and he followed while trying to look in all directions at once.
There were still no sounds of attacking werewolves, centaurs, or Acromantulas, and Harry grimaced and told himself to calm down. Since Malfoy was here, he had a better chance of surviving even if they did attack.
It's not that, he admitted to himself a moment later. The last time he had been here, he had been walking to his death.
He sped up until he was walking right behind Malfoy, who glanced at him with a raised eyebrow. "While I appreciate the company, Harry," he said, "I told you I have an objection to sending you away. You're not going to get lost."
Harry took a deep breath and forced space to open up between them. "Sorry," he said. "I just don't have good memories of this place."
Malfoy's face softened at once. "Of course," he whispered. "It was only a year ago that you died to spare them."
Harry nodded. Malfoy shook his head. "I would have gone by myself if I'd been thinking—"
"And left me alone in your lab to explain who I was to anyone who visited?" Harry shook his head. "No, I want to be with you."
"You have no idea how much I want to hear those words with more emotion behind them," Malfoy said, his voice low and rich with meaning. Harry raised his eyebrows back. He could understand why Malfoy wanted to, yes, but he still thought it was a mistake for Malfoy to try and make him into a replacement for the lover he'd lost. Malfoy watched him with a face gone soft with longing for a moment, then shook his head sharply. "Yes. Anyway. I think it best if you pay attention to the flowers around you. It might not only teach you something about Potions, it'll keep your mind away from the last time you were here."
"Do you have bad memories of the Forest, too?" Harry asked curiously as he began to look into the shade for water and the pale gleam of the flower. "Since he's buried here."
"Not really?" Malfoy said, in a sort of tone that made it sound as if it were a question even for him. He bent down and dug into the earth with the small shovel he was carrying, although Harry hadn't seen a sign of the flower so far. "Not really," Malfoy repeated, and this time, his voice carried conviction. "I wouldn't have chosen this place just because it was the site of his grave. It had to have some resonance for me while I was among the living as well."
Harry blinked and looked at him, thinking of the way that it was still hard for him to visit the Tonks house, even more than a year after Remus and Tonks had died. "You're smart."
"Am I?" Malfoy gave him another one of those faint smiles, as though they were the only ones in the world who shared a secret. "I was afraid that you didn't think so from the way you've reacted to my suggestions."
"You can be smart about yourself without being smart about other people," Harry pointed out.
"So you can." Malfoy paused, then reached down and gathered up a wet, green handful of what looked like weeds to Harry. They must have meant something to Malfoy, though, because he held them to his nostrils and took a deep whiff. Moments later, he nodded and bounced to his feet. "The earth smells moist enough for love-breathes-its-last to grow near here. Come with me."
"Haven't I been doing that all along?" Harry muttered, as he followed Malfoy.
"You've done it many times, yes," Malfoy said, and then curled a smile back over his shoulder. "Come with me, that is."
If he'd expected to make Harry splutter, he was mistaken. Harry held his gaze, raised one eyebrow, and said, "That wasn't me."
Malfoy's face changed fast. He bowed and said, "You're right. And if I haven't said or implied it yet, let me note that you're quite clever yourself."
That did make Harry flush, but mostly in wonder. "Why didn't I get along with the Malfoy in my world the way your Harry did with you?" he asked.
"It could be many reasons," Malfoy said. "Would you like to hear the story of how we met and got together?"
"Yes," Harry said, surprising himself with the greed that flared up inside him. Maybe it was just that he was eager to know something about a different version of himself, about the kind of life that he'd had here and might have in the future. So far, everything seemed exactly the same except that more years had passed here.
Or has coming here altered my life in some ways?
Harry crushed the thought like the distraction like it was, and watched Malfoy's face, keeping only enough attention for the Forest around him so that he wouldn't stumble over the flowers they'd come to harvest at the edge of the pond. Well, and he paid attention when Malfoy taught him how to cut the flowers in such a way that he could harvest them without them losing vital pith and petals all over the grass. That was important.
But not as important as this.
It occurred to Draco, though only for a fleeting moment, that this would be the perfect moment to lie and make their story more romantic than it was. He could snare this Harry if he did that, he thought. This Harry was younger than his other one, more innocent, more likely to believe a story with enough emotion behind it.
But not stupid, and Draco had never been one of those—at least not past the age of seventeen—who mistook Harry's ignorance of the world for stupidity. No, he would stick with the truth and see what happened. He thought it deep and passionate enough that Harry would be impressed, if not persuaded by that alone.
"I'd known more about what he was doing since the war than he'd known about me," Draco began, swinging his knife in a long arc that cut the love-breathes-its-last flower he held precisely above the roots. Harry watched him out of the corner of his eye and tried to imitate him. His cut was a little ragged, but sharp. Draco nodded his approval, and Harry nodded back, slow and regal. It made Draco smile. "How could anyone not know about the Chosen One, who was flying through the Auror program even though he had trouble with the brewing?"
"He got into the Auror program when I didn't, then." No mistaking the envy in Harry's voice. Draco thought for a moment, He's so young, and then remembered that his Harry had never learned to hide his emotions, either, no matter how old he got.
"No," Draco said. "They struck an arrangement with him where he would work on the subjects of the classes on his own, but he would have to improve his Potions skills before—"
"Before they'd admit him," Harry said, and looked up, blinking. "Just like me."
Draco nodded back to him. "This world isn't different," he said softly, "except that it's a little more into its future."
Harry paused, cocking his head. "I wonder if that means the Malfoy at home is going to turn out like you?"
Suddenly taking on a mouthful of boiling jealousy was not an experience Draco particularly enjoyed. He worked his jaw for a moment, until he was sure that he wouldn't snap without meaning to, and said, "It's possible. If you go back home, then perhaps you should offer him a chance."
Harry frowned at him and turned back to the flower he was working with. "What persuaded the me here to give you a chance?"
Draco smiled. "We went to the same Ministry party," he said. "I was jealous, at first, of all the attention he was receiving. I stood along the wall, and no one talked to me. But he had to beat off admirers within the first five minutes."
"I bet he hated it," Harry muttered.
Draco nodded. He could see the scene in his memory, shining like a Galleon unexpectedly discovered in a pile of dust. "Eventually, I started to see that. I wondered why in the world he hated something I would have enjoyed so much. I waited until he'd roared at a few of them enough to chase them away for some time and started to drift towards me. I came up to him and asked him right out."
Harry had stopped chopping to stare at him. "That's not something I would have thought you'd do."
"He didn't expect it, either," Draco said. "I think it charmed him, this honesty from someone who wasn't pretending that he was the greatest thing alive. So he answered, and we talked, and we didn't finish the conversation. I suggested that we meet up against the next morning to finish it."
Memories flashed and darted through his mind: Harry's eyes narrowed and fixed on him as if he could see Draco's true intentions beneath the surface of his skin; a wildly gesturing hand spilling Firewhisky from an open glass; Harry's words rushing around him like a stream that Draco had to grasp at the rocks to survive. But those words had destroyed the rocks that would have supported him best, the unshakable convictions that Potter was an arrogant git who reveled in attention.
He would never have thought that Harry had opinions on politics, rather than reflections of the thoughts in the Minister's head or the Gryffindor party line. But he did, and Draco had seen that evening that Harry was a frustrated young man, rather like himself, still in the shadow of the war and wondering if what he wanted to do to change the world would effect anything real and lasting.
Harry had taught Draco to come out of the shadows and care more about what he did. Draco had taught Harry that he could care, sometimes, more about himself than the rest of the world, and that his every action wasn't a failure simply because he would never do anything as great and vivid as defeating Voldemort again.
"What did you talk about?"
Draco started, and returned to the present, turning to look at Harry. Harry watched him with the knife in his hand poised above the roots he was supposed to cut, so intensely focused on Draco that Draco's mouth dried out.
That was the way Harry used to look when they had their conversations that most changed Draco's mind and altered the way he used to look at the world. Exactly like that.
"Anything," Draco said, blinking and starting the conversation again when Harry gestured with the knife, and he remembered that some of his memories weren't shared with the young man in front of him. That perhaps should have discouraged him, but instead it just propelled his heart faster in his chest. The mixture of old and new. It can never be exactly like it was with Harry, but I wouldn't want it to be. I want what he can offer me. "Everything. The Ministry, his friends, pure-blood marriage customs, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts and why no one cared that we didn't have a competent professor, tactics for discouraging Dark Lords, the stupid requirements of the Auror program, the way he felt about women and men, methods of seducing someone, which Quidditch team was best—"
He broke off, because Harry was looking at him oddly. "What?" he asked.
"Some of those are subjects that I've never discussed with anyone, let alone you," Harry said. "I wouldn't even know what to think about them. Are you sure that we're the same people, he and I?"
"We taught each other," Draco said softly. "I wouldn't have thought that it was important to consider Defense when we were out of the classroom, either, and I wouldn't have cared about the Auror requirements because I never planned to be one. But you taught me better. Or he taught me, rather," he corrected, watching the way that the wrinkles around Harry's eyes folded together. "I taught him. We expanded each other's worlds, and for that alone, I'm never going to forget him."
Harry looked down again, quickly, at the flower in his hands, but Draco was experienced to reading that beloved face and those bright eyes for any and all kinds of emotion, and he knew which one he had seen this time. His mouth dried to the point where he had to smack his lips rather loudly to bring saliva back to it.
It was longing.
"I wish…" Harry said, and no more. He went back to cutting hard at the love-breathes-its-last, and if his hands shook, he had the excuse of the chopping for that.
"You wish you had someone to teach you like that?" Draco asked delicately, when enough time had passed that he suspected Harry wouldn't feel so vulnerable.
Harry stopped and stared at him, anyway, running one finger around the petals as if to gentle them. Draco waited patiently. This Harry wasn't his Harry. He didn't know that he could talk about anything with Draco and be fine.
"Yes," Harry said at last, and then cleared his throat, as if embarrassed to have made such a bald statement.
"I do know someone who can teach you," Draco said.
"One of your friends?" Harry grimaced and scratched the back of his neck. Draco made a mental note to ask him if he wanted a healing potion later. Any small break in the skin there could get infected with the sap from the love-breathes-its-last flower, and would swell up and drip pus in a way that Draco found less than attractive. Harry wouldn't know that if he'd never handled these flowers before. "With respect, I don't think that would work. I have to learn from you what the other Harry was like. If it'll even matter before I go back," he added belatedly, as though realizing what his words could be taken for.
Draco smiled at him, not bothering to hide the delight in his expression, and Harry flushed and turned away. "No," Draco said. "I meant me. If Harry and I taught each other in the past, you and I can teach each other in the present."
Harry made a quick gesture with one hand as though to push away a food that he didn't like. "That's not a good idea," he said.
Draco turned away with a shrug and surveyed the pile of cut flowers he and Harry had tossed into the center of the clearing. "I think this is enough for right now," he said. "We can go out for the other flowers tomorrow."
Harry cast a glance over his shoulder as though he expected to see a centaur charging out of the woods, then nodded and cut one last time at the flower he held. "Yeah," he muttered. "I want to get back before it gets dark."
Draco made sure that he cast Warming Charms and a single alarm ward on the way back, one that floated around them in an insubstantial cluster of red lights but would brighten and scream if a dangerous creature came near it. Harry watched it with his brow furrowed at first, then abruptly flushed and looked at Draco.
"Thank you," he said softly. "That was really nice of you."
Draco smiled back, inclined his head, and let it be. He would persuade Harry to stay here best if he wasn't constantly pushing all the time.
Harry stepped out of the shower and squeezed his hair dry onto the mat that Draco had set out for him, then reached for the towel. There were still signs that this bathroom was meant for two people, he thought. The number and different kinds of towels. The clear division in half of the sink area, even though the left half was empty. The way that Draco hadn't needed to move anything before Harry went into the bathroom; in Harry's experience, his friends who had stopped dating someone and stayed single for a while tended to expand in multiple directions and take over storage space they hadn't used before.
Although maybe he doesn't do that. And I know that he didn't stop dating the other Harry by choice.
Harry paused abruptly and stared at himself in the mirror. His eyes were enormous and blinked rapidly, and he passed a hand over his face, wondering if he was drugged or dazed.
And I called him Draco.
But it was hard not to call someone who was anxious for his comfort by his first name. Draco had known the way he took his tea. He had known that Harry would be nervous in the Forbidden Forest without needing all the details of the story (well, all right, so he had heard them already when he had Harry explain what was different between his own world and this one). He had said that he would cook dinner, and Harry hadn't realized until he was in the shower that he hadn't told Draco what he'd like. He had just assumed Draco would know.
If this is a problem, I'm just as much a part of it as he is.
Harry rubbed vigorously at his hair, not much caring about the way it looked because it would do what it liked anyway, and then tossed the towel aside and reached for the nearest comb. He paused as the towel, instead of falling on the floor like he had intended, hovered in the air for a moment and then flew over to a hook on the wall, draping itself neatly across it. Obviously it was a spell, but he hadn't seen or sensed the spell, and it was strange to watch it happen like that.
He had that spell for Harry. He must have done the same thing I do, and Draco—Malfoy—left the spell in place.
For some reason, that made his eyes come closer to stinging than anything in Draco's original story had. Harry cleared his throat and combed his hair just enough that it was no longer falling into his eyes, then cast a Drying Charm on it. When he opened the bathroom door, shrugging into a set of robes that Draco had told him the other Harry hadn't worn for months before he died, he stopped in his tracks immediately.
"What is that?" he demanded, staring at the plates of something that Malfoy was setting in the middle of the table.
Draco gave him an amused glance and stood up, stretching as if he'd cramped his muscles in the cooking. Harry's eyes followed his motions for a moment, and then he winced. I shouldn't be looking if I'm not interested.
He paid attention to the table instead, wrinkling his nose. "I don't think I've ever had this." It looked like a fish that was covered with whiskers.
"No, you haven't," Draco said peacefully. "This is something I got my lover to try a few years ago. He liked it so well that I can't imagine you'll dislike it." He took the chair on the other side of the table and smiled encouragingly at Harry.
Harry had to smile back. He had thought that Malfoy would prepare a food he liked in order to make him feel welcome. And so he had, but there was an element of challenge to it, too. He wanted to see exactly what Harry would do when faced with something unfamiliar, whether he would still trust Draco to judge for him.
Harry sat down and sniffed cautiously at the plate. He just smelled—fish, really. Nothing more. He picked up his fork, watching Draco out of the corner of his eye to see if he would object. For all Harry knew, this Draco and this Harry had archaic pure-blood manners in their house that rivaled the Muggle ones Aunt Petunia had tried to teach him.
But Draco smiled, so Harry cut into the fish and watched as a slow dribble of clear juice rolled out of it. When he prodded the fish with his fork, it was as thick as a steak, and the flesh was white and flaky and nothing more. Moving more slowly than he wanted to when he knew Draco might take offense, he speared a piece of the flesh and brought it to his mouth.
His eyes crossed, and he swallowed convulsively around where it rested on his tongue a moment later.
"Good, isn't it?" Draco asked his plate. "I knew that you would like it the first time you tried it."
Harry had to shake his head at first, his mouth too full to answer, of both meat and saliva. God, it was good. The fish seemed to be tart and cool at the same time, like a piece of fruit, but with an undertaste that let Harry know he wasn't eating an orange. The taste kept on building, growing new complexities of flavor in a way that nothing he had tasted before did. This was probably supposed to be what wine could do, he thought, but the one time he had tasted real wine, with Ron and Hermione on the night that they had celebrated finally leaving Hogwarts behind, he hadn't been impressed. It made him cough more than anything else.
"This is good," he mumbled, and immediately grabbed the next piece of fish and ate it.
Draco had to close his eyes. Of all the possible sights that he could have now that this Harry had come to his world, he wouldn't have thought that Harry eating would be the one to affect him. But his fingers stung with the desire to reach across the table and grab Harry's head; his mouth ached with the desire for Harry's mouth, rather than the fish that filled it quite acceptably. He ate a bit to steady himself before he responded.
"Yes," he said. "It's a magical fish. It can swim deeper than any other one of comparable size and shape, and it haunts the trenches that the Muggles can't reach because they're too deep. They think they know the deepest places in the ocean, but they have no idea," he added, with milder scorn than he would usually show. His Harry had known that Draco didn't mean most of his taunts against Muggles, that they were just habit, but Harry might not. "Called by a long name in its original language that I can't translate, but we just called it goodfish."
Harry nodded. "'S a good name," he mumbled, and swallowed more as fast as he could.
Draco felt a deep sense of calm settle over him. This was what meals in his home should feel like. This was what they had felt like until his Harry's accident.
If things can change…
Oh, please. I would do anything. I would even send Harry back to his home if he wanted to go, if he would only think about staying with me.
Draco hid those feelings skillfully. The last thing Harry needed right now was to feel like he was pressing too close. Draco let most of the meal pass in silence, answering Harry's questions about his Harry's food preferences now and then. Harry enjoyed everything, from the goodfish to the slices of mango and orange in thick cream to the bowl of softly steaming vegetables.
And he ate the way Draco would expect from someone who had been starved half his childhood. He felt a faint impulse of regret that he and his Harry had already taken revenge on the Dursleys. It would have made a fitting punishment for them to suffer again, since Draco doubted he would ever get his hands on the bastards who had raised his Harry.
Harry leaned back in his chair with a happy sigh, swirled the butterbeer in his cup around, burped, and said, "Why do you suppose the magic brought me to this universe?"
Draco propped his chin on one hand and smiled at him. Harry shone back, his face filled with contentment. Draco decided that he would put this evening in a Pensieve the first moment he could, to keep forever if he couldn't persuade Harry to stay with him.
"It could be that it was the only one where I was brewing a potion at the moment to collide with the Draught of Peace and open the gate," he answered.
Harry cocked his head and stared hard at Draco, his eyes losing some of the glaze they'd attained. "But you don't believe that."
Draco hesitated, then shrugged. "No. I think it was a combination of my brewing the potion at the time and my intense need of you, the way that I missed my Harry who died."
"You miss him that much? I thought you were over it and beginning to move on."
Draco hesitated one more time, then set aside his own glass of white wine and rose to his feet. He had known better than to try the wine on Harry, who rarely drank it, and then only red. He stepped around the table, while Harry sat up to meet him and put down his cup.
Sometimes you have to take a risk to get what you want.
"I still miss him," he said quietly. Then he reached out and drew Harry into a kiss, as he had once before, wondering if the taste of his mouth would be the same as the first time, or the same as memory.
Neither. Harry's mouth was sweetly and softly flavored with the butterbeer, and it had been so long since Draco had drunk that himself that he'd forgotten it, and gasped as the first warm savor traveled across his tongue. Then he moaned, because Harry had answered as if he didn't know what fear was, scratching his fingers slightly against Draco's skin as he reached up to clasp at his arm.
Draco shuddered. My Harry didn't know what fear was, either.
Draco moved forwards another step, pressing Harry back into the chair, although Harry never let go of the kiss. He seemed determined not to, Draco thought, as though it would be dishonorable. Draco couldn't tell how much he was enjoying it, though.
Well, that can easily change. Draco took his mouth from Harry's, despite Harry's attempts to keep him there with moving lips, and fastened it gently at the base of Harry's neck. He sucked once, and then lashed out with his tongue and moved it in a swift sideways swipe of the kind that he would have used on Harry's cock, if things had got that far yet.
Harry shuddered and sagged, as he always had, and leaned back in Draco's arms to recover. Draco didn't intend to let him. He pressed his tongue home in Harry's mouth again and trailed one hand down beneath Harry's shirt, catching and playing with a nipple. He did it gently—Harry had never cared for sharp pinching there—but even that was enough to make Harry's eyes widen.
A single shot of pure triumph traveled through Draco, a brightly-colored beam of violet lust. I knew it. I knew that no one had ever done this for him before, and he has no defenses against it.
He braced one knee on the chair and leaned further in. He could taste Harry now, over and behind and beneath the butterbeer. His mouth ached with the force of his kiss, and his lips smarted with it, and his hands made sharp, ineffectual grasping motions that he struggled to stabilize without much effect. Harry wasn't the only one affected by the kiss.
God, this is like coming home. And drowning. It's like that, too.
Harry wrenched his head backwards so suddenly that Draco was caught by surprise, and just gasped for a moment instead of trying to resume the kiss right away. Draco stared at him, and Harry stared back, eyes narrowed.
"So you do this to all your guests?" Harry's voice was low and hoarse, but Draco could make out the anger, and he doubted that the flush that mantled Harry's cheeks was all passion.
"Of course not," Draco said, his own anger hardening in a moment into haughtiness. He wasn't going to let Harry drive him away or shame him. He had done this knowing it would be a risk, and he was prepared to put up with the consequences of his actions. "Only the ones who are variations of the man I love and my second chance with him." He leaned closer to Harry's ear and spoke into it, making Harry shiver the way that he always did when he aimed his warm breath just right. "Only you."
"I'm not staying," Harry warned him, voice hoarser than ever.
"I know that," Draco said, and didn't say, But I'm going to try my best to keep it from happening.
"Then why do this?" Harry blinked up at him. Draco bent a bit at the waist so that his erection poked into Harry's groin and met the waiting hardness. Harry groaned, and then laughed. "I mean, yeah, there's the obvious. But why start a relationship with someone you can't keep?"
"I didn't know that I would get to keep my Harry forever, either," Draco said. "And I didn't. Should I have not done anything because he might have died in a few years, as he did? Wouldn't looking ahead and brooding like that, if I had known the death would happen, have marred my happiness?"
"Yeah, maybe." Harry didn't look happy about admitting that. "But I'm not him, Draco. We didn't get to know each other slowly."
"I know you," Draco said. "Not slowly, but that doesn't matter right now, when it was slow the first time." He slid an arm behind Harry's neck, bringing his head up. "And you can get to know me. Ask me, Harry. I'll tell you anything you want to know."
Harry swallowed as if afraid of the answers, but never looked away. "Why are you really doing this?"
"Because you're beautiful," Draco said, "and I love you." And he bent his head before Harry could protest to snatch another kiss. It might be the only other one he ever got, if Harry followed what looked to be his inclinations and really did push Draco away.
Harry's body shivered beneath his, and then Harry reached up, latched his fingers into the fine curls at the ends of Draco's hair, and tugged.
Draco cried out, but not from pain. That single gesture had brought a flood of desire raging through him, and if he'd been hard before, now he was drunk with need. He pressed further home, erection to erection, and drew back to watch Harry's lips part and his color deepen until it hurt not to kiss him.
"Come with me," Draco whispered. "If only once."
Harry licked his lips and looked to the side as if he expected to see a rescuer standing there. Draco looked with him, just in case someone had opened up a door from the world where Harry had been born and was peering at them. Stranger things had happened, including the Draught of Peace bringing Harry to him when Draco had been sure he'd lost him forever.
Then Harry turned back to him and said, "Once."
Draco's hands shook as he stepped out of the chair and reached out to help Harry rise.
Harry had never felt so warm.
That was the real sensation, he thought, the one that kept him moving and stumbling behind Draco, trying to find places to touch his skin and excuses to mouth at his ear and reasons to embrace him long before they got into the bedroom. Draco didn't help. He kept biting at Harry's fingers and licking at his ears and turning back to trail a hand casually over his neck or his shoulder or some other place that made Harry have to struggle to keep his feet.
They could have lain down on the floor and fucked right there, Harry thought. But when Draco seized his shoulders and arms and spun him around so that he struck the bed, he understood why they couldn't have. The bed was warm.
Harry lay back and started working on the buttons of his shirt. Draco was above him, eyes never wavering from Harry as he began to strip.
Harry's mouth was filled with saliva. He didn't know if it should be, and no intention of stopping for long enough to ask. He reached up and swiped his hand across his lips once, then swallowed. His shirt was off, and he shrugged it to the pillows. A slight, chill breath of air blew across his skin, but it was gone in moments, and then he was back to blazing, beating warmth as he wondered what Draco would think.
Draco moaned. Harry looked up, wondering if he was stroking himself and wondering if he should ask to suck Draco instead, but then he realized that it was nothing of the sort. Draco had his eyes fixed on Harry. His hands shook with lust and longing and wonder as he reached out and planted a finger in the center of his chest. Harry folded his hand around the finger. It was warm.
"I've missed you so much," Draco said. He leaned forwards and crushed Harry's lips in a messy kiss.
Harry would have worried about the wording for several minutes if he was in a sane frame of mind. But he wasn't, with the heat eating at him, so he reached up, circled his arms around Draco's neck, and kissed back, drowningly, devouringly, absolutely, and Draco made a choked noise and fell on the bed with him.
He was even warmer with someone on top of him, Harry discovered, as no one had been but Ginny for brief whiles. Draco pulled his own shirt out of the way and kissed Harry's neck. His fingers circled Harry's right nipple, and it tightened. Harry had never had anyone do that before, though he'd sometimes done it to himself. He turned his head to the side and kissed Draco desperately, then drew back to mutter, "Tell me."
"Tell you what?" Draco's words slurred, and a thin line of drool crept down the corner of his cheek. Harry was grateful for that, at least. If he was going to act like a complete idiot around Draco, then he'd at least like it to be mutual.
"Tell me what places on your body are sensitive," Harry hissed at him. The warmth was transforming, becoming more intense, whirling in place like a top. "I want to make you melt the way you're making me melt."
"You're doing a good job of that without my instructions," Draco said, and laughed drunkenly in his ear.
"Tell me," Harry said, and Draco licked at him with a tongue slick and smooth as oranges and gave in.
"All right," he said. "The back of my neck. Various places on my back, and behind my knees. My toes."
Harry smiled and set his hands to work on Draco's back, looking for those mythical spots. Draco sagged atop him, then began to move in slow, careful thrusts, rubbing his cock against Harry's hip. Harry laughed and pressed down harder in that spot, then brought his fingers to his mouth to lick them and rubbed wetness into it.
"Oh, not faaaair…" Draco said, letting the word trail out so much that Harry laughed again. He couldn't imagine the Malfoy from his world acting like this, and that meant the shreds of guilt and worry blew away and he thought only of the man in front of him, the Draco he had come to know here, the Draco of this world.
The Draco who loved him, or someone like him.
"Just for that, then," Draco said, and squirmed down Harry's body before Harry knew what he was doing. His mouth was on Harry's cock in the next instant, not moving, not sucking, just holding.
Surrounding it with warmth.
Harry's body arched. He didn't tell it to, and it didn't come back to the bed to rest there when he tried to control it. It just happened, and then he was so racked with shudders that he couldn't do anything but lie there and feel it.
"Draco," he whispered.
"Harry?" Draco pulled back enough to say the word, which meant that Harry's cock was cold, and then leaned in again and opened his mouth like a hole. Harry looked down and felt his head spin. The head of his cock was less than an inch from Draco's tongue and open lips, but Draco wasn't moving.
"Please," Harry said. He would have said more, but the words inside him fountained and broke around his gasping mouth, filling him with sticky sweetness. He edged down the bed, pointing himself at Draco, trying to get inside.
Draco looked up at him, eyes bright with amusement that Harry thought might kill him. Then he gave in and sucked hard enough to make Harry's vision blur as his breath hitched and he cried out.
Draco was mumbling something around his erection, but Harry didn't know what it was. His vision darkened, and he reached out with one groping hand. In the back of his head, he knew that he wanted to find Draco's hair and tug on it, to hurry him up or make him pull back. It was one or the other, and sometimes he thought he wanted one and sometimes the other.
He knew that Draco laughed, because that sudden strange pressure and lack of warmth as his teeth parted around Harry's cock couldn't be anything else. Then there came a suck so hard that Harry simply gave in. He came, his body thrumming, the heat dancing around his heart and through his fingers, as though he could set things he touched on fire.
He felt so good. He felt so warm.
When he returned to his body, Draco was sprawled alongside him, smiling at him as he traced a finger lightly over Harry's breastbone. His expression was gentle, except for his eyes. Harry knew what devastating need looked like, having just seen it himself. He reached out and pulled Draco into a harsh kiss, then rolled over, opening his legs.
"You can stay on your back," Draco whispered against the nape of his neck, lips barely moving. The hand he tangled in Harry's hair shook hard enough to make Harry's head tremble in turn. "You don't need to—face away."
"I heard once that this is easier," Harry said, "your first time."
Draco's hand stopped moving. Then he said, "I thought—I thought you'd already had a relationship with someone by this point in your life. I'm sure that I remember Harry telling me that."
Harry found that he had to laugh at the dazed tremble in Draco's voice, and that eased some of his own crowding, clamoring nervousness. "Well, yeah," he said. "But that was with Ginny. We were a bit adventurous, but the one time I asked her to fuck me with a dildo, she admitted that she didn't find it sexy enough to try. So that was the end of that." He leaned back up and kissed Draco. "And I was with a few blokes, but we sucked each other off. That was it."
"Enough to be experienced," Draco said. "But not with this." His hands were firm now, cupping Harry's shoulders and traveling down to his arse as though he was measuring Harry for the size of his cock. Harry would have found it insulting if he could have felt the touch of Draco's fingers, but they were light enough that they just barely skimmed above his back. That reassured him.
"Yes, exactly," Harry said, and rested his cheek against the pillow while Draco came to terms with whatever he needed to come to terms with.
"I'll need to put a cushion under your hips," he said at last.
"That'll be fine," Harry murmured, and raised his hips so that Draco could do it. His heart was beating fast, but he was still warm, and he trusted Draco in a way that he wouldn't have trusted many other people. The man knew everything about him, claimed to love him, and knew how to touch him. He'd take good care of Harry.
If he'd thought about it, Draco would have remembered that he and Harry were each other's first long-lasting male relationship. But it wasn't something he'd been dwelling about or thinking on. Harry had given him plenty of other things to think about in the seven hours since he'd landed here.
Not long for a life to change. But then, Draco had known that since watching his Harry die in a matter of minutes.
He dipped his fingers into the cool lube and moved them gently over Harry's arse, stroking his hole. Harry clenched once and then relaxed again. Draco pulled his cheeks apart and slid his finger inside.
Harry's breath caught, but when Draco paused, he said nothing, which Draco thought was a good sign. He wondered if Harry's body would respond to him as well as his Harry's body had, and then shook his head. Of course not. I was Harry's lover for four years; he's different.
Different and the same, and I don't know what to think about it.
So he stopped thinking about it. He was here to enjoy himself, and to make sure that Harry did. He stroked a few times more than normal, working Harry open and giving him time to get hard again, blowing gently on his arse now and then to watch the gooseflesh spring up, before he pulled back and lined his cock up with Harry's entrance.
"Ready?" he asked, staring at the glistening sheen of the lube and listening to Harry's mixture of deep, slow breaths and quick, panted ones.
"Yes," Harry said, his voice almost dreamy. Draco nudged him once with his cock, companionably, before he pushed in.
He closed his eyes from the beginning and kept them closed, though a few minutes before he hadn't known how he would ever look away from Harry's arse. The—tightness. It gripped him. It held him in ways that made his heart beat fit to break, because he had had this once and believed that he would never have it again.
How can I let him go back?
Well, make it good enough for him and Harry might stop thinking about that so much. Draco continued inching forwards little by little, and he was inside Harry, and Harry was trembling but also making soft, muted gasps of enjoyment, and Draco felt so good that sweat and tears slicked his face.
He bent over Harry's back and kissed him as he pushed deeper. Harry arched up his skin to meet Draco's touch, silent for a few minutes before another gasp broke from him.
"I didn't know—it makes sense, but still," he said. "So full. I never thought about that."
Draco closed his eyes and smiled. "Yes, I remember," he said.
"Remember what?" Harry twisted around and yelped as he evidently touched something in himself in a way that he hadn't known he wanted to be touched. His eyes clouded and he fell back again, mouth open as he breathed. Draco smoothed a hand through his hair and pushed him gently into the pillow, murmuring nonsense words.
"Remember that you felt like that the first time I fucked you, although you didn't use exactly the same words," he whispered, and then he shoved his hips forwards hard enough that Harry forgot about that particular subject and cried out.
"Not so," he said, and then he moaned as Draco shifted again, and Draco pushed in and closed his eyes and kept on pushing.
It was so good—better than it had ever been. The thought that that was betrayal flickered through his head and was gone. It wasn't. This was now, the goodness and the warmth and the soft mattress beneath them that cushioned his knees and Harry's hips—with the pillow—and made Harry splutter and groan and grunt and make incoherent promises of vengeance, and this was Harry.
Draco bent down and kissed his back again, tasting sweat as a counterpoint to the semen that Harry had left in his mouth. Ah, it ached and it was good and if he was the one who filled Harry, his feelings filled him to the backteeth.
Perhaps the way he bent, perhaps something else, made Harry stiffen and shriek, gasp and jerk. Draco held still for a few moments, as much to feel Harry's orgasm as to hold off his own, and Harry shook and new sweat sprang out on his shoulder blades and along his collarbone. Draco kissed all the droplets away.
"Bloody hell," Harry whispered.
Draco let himself go, his body moving in ragged thrusts, trying to get closer and failing—they couldn't get closer than they were right now—running his hands over Harry's back and his fingers along the curves of the muscle, sighing when he couldn't contain himself, talking in broken words when he could. And all the while, it was wonderful.
No other word for it, then, just wonderful, that seized him and made him spiral through a tornado and into pleasure.
When he came to consciousness again, he was lying on the bed beside Harry, who had curled up as though he wanted to stand and then had fallen back again. His face had such a satisfied flush that Draco leaned forwards and kissed him. He couldn't help himself.
"Is it always that good?" Harry asked drowsily.
"Not always," Draco said. "But you're the one it's the best with." He combed Harry's fringe out of his face and looked at the scar. Faded, too, the way it had been faded on his Harry's forehead. But there were old lines of tension in Harry's face that Draco had smoothed out over their years together in this world. He would do that for Harry this time, too, he thought. He would make things better.
"I didn't know," Harry said, but he didn't say what he didn't know, only turning his head to the side and closing his lips around Draco's finger. Draco groaned and shook his head, his eyes falling shut.
"I can't get it up right now, Harry," he whispered. "Although I would try, for you."
"Git, not asking for that," Harry said, and fell asleep with Draco's finger in his mouth. Draco memorized three of the curls of his hair before he followed. Sleep pulled at him like a vast undertow, but he didn't think he ever stopped feeling Harry at his side, snuggled into him, cuddled against him.
Back where he should be again.
"Who are you?"
Harry had been joking, yesterday, when he told Draco it was a good thing Draco had taken Harry with him to collect the flowers, so that he wouldn't be left to confront one of Draco's mad friends.
But it had happened anyway, he thought, as he lifted his bare, defenseless hands in front of the wand pointed at him. At least he had on pyjama bottoms, ones that Draco had told him were his. They fit perfectly, which Harry had taken as sad confirmation yesterday that he'd never grow taller. "I came from another world, through a gate, because of a mistake I made in brewing the Draught of Peace," he said. "You can ask Draco."
The woman who stood on the other end of the wand, a tall one with long brown hair that curled up at the ends, narrowed her eyes at him. Harry tried on several faces that he thought fit, and in the end decided it was probably Pansy Parkinson. He didn't know it for sure, however. She'd changed a lot.
"We're going to stay here until Draco wakes up," Parkinson said. "I would rather that he had some rest before he goes through heartbreak again."
She gestured, and Harry took the chair that he'd sat in yesterday. So she didn't believe him, and probably thought he was someone using Polyjuice to imitate Harry Potter. Well, Harry couldn't blame her. He wouldn't have believed it either when he'd first come through the gate.
He especially wouldn't have believed that he would have been walking out of Draco Malfoy's bedroom only half-dressed.
He had to bite his lip when he thought about that, because it made him want Draco again, and he didn't want the stirring of his erection to become visible to Parkinson. She only stared at him, however, and gave no sign that she knew what he was thinking, so Harry decided to keep quiet.
It seemed like forever, and was probably only ten minutes, before they heard the sounds of Draco moving around his bedroom. Parkinson's face took on a faint smile, and she shook her head. "You'll wish you hadn't done this now," she said softly. "I could almost find it within me to feel sorry for you."
Harry shrugged and sat still, and waited until Draco stalked out of the bedroom, wrapped in a robe that looked more like a clinging sheet than anything else. He didn't notice Parkinson at first. His gaze locked on Harry, and he gave him the sort of achingly private smile that Harry had only seen shared between long-time lovers, like Ron and Hermione, or Bill and Fleur.
Well, he and I are sort of long-term, Harry thought, with a gulp that made his heart beat painfully. Perhaps he'll change his mind now that he's got what he wants from me.
He was still thinking that when Draco turned around and his eyes fell on Parkinson. They chilled so fast that Harry shivered a little. Then Draco's wand was out in turn, and he said with politeness that made Harry wince, "Pansy. Exactly what do you think you're doing, threatening my Harry?"
That was what he was calling the other Harry yesterday. But Harry felt he had to give up at the moment on all the confusions of the situation. For one thing, there was a far more immediate threat, and for another, he didn't know that he could sort it out. If he talked with Draco for a long time, maybe, but Draco would have answers to all his questions that were biased. Harry needed to speak with someone unbiased.
He highly suspected there wasn't anyone.
"Draco, darling," Parkinson said, after staring back and forth between them for so long that Harry had begun to believe she wouldn't answer at all, "this is clearly someone using Polyjuice to trick you. Harry is dead, remember?" Her voice gentled, and Harry could see the long friendship between them practically written on the air.
Draco relaxed his stance, but otherwise, there was no sign her tone had touched him. "Polyjuice that would make him look four years younger?" he asked dryly. "Unless you think that he'd been hoarding the hairs for some random day six months after Harry died."
Parkinson turned back towards him, her eyes so wide that they looked smudged, and Harry was willing to believe that she honestly hadn't noticed the difference in his age, due to her fears for Draco. "I—no," she said at last. "But, Draco, how in the world do you know that this is him? Can someone really come back from the grave?" Her voice descended into a murmur, and Harry could see her belatedly considering that, after all, someone who could defeat the Dark Lord might manage that.
As much to get rid of too much reverence as for any other reason, Harry stood up and Summoned a shirt that he tugged over his head. Draco smiled at him as his head emerged from the collar; Harry smiled back and walked across the room to join him, slinging an arm around his waist. Draco put an arm about his shoulders and ducked his head to take a deep breath of Harry's scent from his hair. Harry waited, but he said nothing, so Harry reckoned this conversation was left up to him. No problem. "He knows that it isn't me—him—the other Harry—because I'm not from this world. A magical accident brought me here. I left the Draught of Peace brewing too long."
Parkinson snorted. "Of course you did." Then she put her hands on her hips. "And already? Draco."
"It was my choice," Draco said, his muscles stiffening. Harry stroked his back, but that relaxed him only a bit. "I gave him every chance to refuse. I explained what the relationship between me and Harry was like." He smiled, but Harry only knew that because he could feel the movement of Draco's lips against his head. "He agreed to sleep with me anyway."
"The relationship between you and your own Draco would suffer, I should think," said Parkinson. When Harry glanced at her, she'd at least put her wand away, but she peered at him in a way that said it could come out again, any time.
"I don't have a relationship to 'my Draco' to speak of," Harry said. "As far as we can tell, I come from a world that's the same, but four years behind. At least," he added, because he didn't have firm dates for things that had happened to the other Harry in his head. "It seems that I'm at the point before the Harry who lived here met Draco."
"Then I'm even more surprised." Parkinson folded her arms. "You can hardly have good memories of him."
"Not of the Draco I knew, no," Harry said. "But of the man I slept with last night? Yeah, I do."
Parkinson clenched one of her hands into a fist, and Harry wondered if she was going to hit him. But she just turned away with a disgusted shake of her head. "I'll hope that this works out," she told, seemingly, the ceiling and the door. "Because I know how high the chances are of it not."
"We'll enjoy your good wishes, I'm sure," Draco said.
Parkinson gave a very loud sigh and marched through the door without waiting for another hint to go. Harry shook his head and stepped away from Draco in turn, only to find that Draco wasn't letting him go. His arm had wandered down from Harry's shoulders to his waist, and he was rubbing slow, delicious circles with his palm on Harry's groin.
Harry caught a laugh that turned into a moan. "Should we—prepare for attack from the rest of your friends?" he asked. "Because—if that's—what's going to await us—ah!" Draco's rubbing had taken on a firmer and faster pace. "Then I think we should—talk."
"No talking," Draco said, his eyes bright and feral. "Not right now. Pansy meant well, but she was still trying to frighten you away, or at least it felt like that. I want you." He kissed Harry so fiercely that Harry felt blood break from his lips.
But, well, if Draco wanted possessive, then Harry could give him that. He slung an arm around Draco's neck and kissed back as hard as he could, and Draco gave a pleased grunt and worked his hand faster. Harry's half-erection from before was a full one now, and he lifted one leg and slung it around Draco's waist so that he could feel Draco's cock rubbing against his inner thigh. Draco moaned in turn, swaying as he leaned back, his arm nearly slipping from its tight clutch on Harry. Harry laughed.
It ended up with them leaning against one of the tables scattered around the room while Draco panted into Harry's hair and came hard, first, before he brought both hands into play along with his breath. Harry tossed his head back in orgasm as Draco whispered barely recognizable variants of his name and fuck, while his fingers moved so gently and independently that ten different hands might have held Harry.
Might have. Because when he returned to his body and looked up into the passion-clear grey eyes above him, Harry knew there was only one lover who understood him this well, only one person who would love him at once so tenderly and so strongly.
How can I leave him?
Harry wrapped his arms around Draco and kissed him again, blood-tinged lips and all, to get rid of that thought.
How can I let him go?
That question had occurred to Draco yesterday, but now he felt it with more force. He and Harry had showered, dressed, eaten, and gone back out into the Forbidden Forest to look for more of the ingredients that Draco would need for the potion. Harry had scowled carefully at the drawings in his books, then nodded and marched out in the lead, though now and then he glanced back at Draco for directions. He was bending over a tall reed now, cutting it competently in half with neat strokes of his wand, his tongue sticking out from between his teeth with his concentration.
Draco wanted to melt and purr and sigh with helpless need. The curve of Harry's arm or arse as he bent over was filling him with an ache, a love, like pain.
He knew that some of this was to do with grief. It had to be. If he hadn't missed Harry so violently, if it had been longer since his Harry died or he'd really moved on, he could have stood back like a sane man, smiled at the resemblances, and sent this Harry back home to where his Draco would be waiting.
Except that he hadn't met that Draco yet. And although Draco hadn't had time to work out the calculations yet—he would need exact dates—he thought, it was possible, that the date of the party where this Harry should have met that Draco had already passed in his world, and Harry hadn't gone, being preoccupied with his intense self-education that would get him into the Auror program.
If Draco was right, he wasn't stealing Harry from anybody. His world had had the chance to put him with someone else, and it hadn't. It had brought him to Draco instead.
An accident. But we can make the best of accidents if we want to.
Harry glanced up and smiled at him. "Keep your mind on your work," he said. "I think I already have more reeds than you do."
Draco blinked and glanced at the ground, and realized that Harry was right. He shook his head. "It doesn't matter," he said haughtily. "You still need me to brew the potion and send you back to your own world."
A shadow seemed to dim Harry's steady smile. "Yeah, I do," he said shortly, and bent over the reeds again.
Draco watched him from the corner of his eye as he kept cutting. Harry was slicing with unnecessary force, now, and he cursed quietly when the knife slipped and neatly caught his finger. Draco had to shut his eyes when Harry stuck the finger in his mouth, because the stimulation was too much.
He was in love.
I never really stopped being in love, he thought, as he opened his eyes and looked at Harry again, now taking the opportunity to stretch in a beam of sunlight that had worked its way through the trees. His face shone, his green eyes blazed, and his hair blustered all over, dancing in the slight breeze. I can go on like this. I can be happy with him. Yes, it's bound to be awkward sometimes, such as when he meets my friends and his friends for the first time, but everything doesn't have to be exactly the same, can't be exactly the same. I can outface it, and if some people abandon us, at least I'll have him back, which matters more to me than the kind of sympathy I got when my Harry died.
Harry caught Draco looking, and gave him a faint smile, both shy and weary. Draco laid his knife down and walked over, as if compelled across the grass by the sunlight and the wind, to take Harry in his arms.
Harry responded to his kiss effortlessly, and for a moment twisted as if he'd be the one to throw Draco to the grass and initiate sex. Draco tried to show how very ready he was for it with a suggestive arch of his hips, but Harry broke away, gasping.
"Okay," he said, running a hand through his hair and tugging at it in what seemed to be an attempt at some perspective. "So we have to talk about this. Sooner than I thought we'd have to," he added, looking at Draco with a puzzled brilliance in his face. "Because I never counted on feeling this way about you."
Draco licked his lips, tense with the same kind of painful hope that had attended him when he first asked Harry out for a date, instead of the other way around. "What way do you feel?" he asked, sitting in the grass and motioning for Harry to sit beside him.
Harry sat across from him instead, balanced on his heels, staring at Draco still. "Swept off my feet," he said. "Dazzled. Dazed." He hesitated. "Loved."
Draco reached out and took his hand, throat too full to speak.
"But I don't know if I'm loving," Harry hastened to explain. "Not as much as you need. Not as much as you deserve."
"Could you let me make my mind up about that?" Draco smiled at him and squeezed down on Harry's wrist. "I'm the one who has to decide if you're loving enough, if I feel lonely, if the differences between you and the Harry I loved first are too great or too close. You don't have to do anything but lean back and let me love you."
Harry shut his eyes and caught his breath. Draco traced one finger around and around the circle of his wrist, waiting.
"I wish I could believe that," Harry whispered at last. "It's so tempting."
"Why can't you?" Draco blinked. That would have been the last objection he expected to his words. Of course, he reminded himself, this was a Harry who had never had his tendency to think strange things tempered by Draco's handsome good sense. "If I say that I'm willing, and you're willing, who else has to be consulted?"
Harry sighed and opened his eyes. "I'm thinking about my friends back home, and what it would mean to them if I vanished," he explained. "And I do think that you wouldn't be satisfied with someone who couldn't love you back in the long run, however happy you might be at first."
Draco rolled his eyes. Harry had a habit of peering into the future and trying to estimate what they would be like years from now. Draco understood the habit when it came to practical things like money, but he didn't believe in telling the fortunes of relationships. "Let me worry about that," he said. "Besides, I do know that you can love me in the long run. I've seen it once before."
"We seem to be the same person as far as history goes, your Harry and me," Harry said. He had his eyes on the ground and was speaking with great concentration, as though he had to fight to get the words clear in his head. Draco was tempted to remark that anything he needed to dredge up from the depths of his mind like that couldn't be worth the struggle, but he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut. "But I don't think we're the same person in personality. He grew to love you. I haven't yet. I might never do it." He looked slowly up at Draco. "And I think you're doing all three of us—including him—a disservice by trying to pretend that we're the same."
Draco shook his head. "I know what I'm doing," he said. "I know what I'm risking. Harry, any heartbreak you inflict on me isn't going to be as bad as what I went through before."
"But I don't want to inflict any heartbreak on anyone if I can help it." Harry tugged hard at his hair, one hand rooted so firmly in it that Draco was afraid he would simply pull out all the strands at once. "Can you understand that, Draco? I at least like you, admire you, and like the fact that you're looking after me. I want to not hurt you. Tell me how."
No reward without some risk, Draco reminded himself. He locked his hands on Harry's wrists. "Stay with me," he said quietly. "Find out what it's going to be, what it's really like, this second adventure after death. Be with me."
Harry's eyes widened, his pupils dilated, and he exhaled as though he was trying to find breathable air in a room full of flames. His hands opened, turned over, and gripped Draco's in return. Draco let him do it, never taking his gaze from Harry's face. He thought that was where he would see the real struggle. If Harry was amenable to staying with him, he would see the terrible gentleness there, too.
"How can you ask me to do that?" Harry asked quietly. "After one day? How can you be sure—"
"Because I am," Draco cut him off. "I was sure of you four years ago, and I haven't changed my mind. On this, I never will."
"You were sure of someone who wasn't me," Harry said.
"I'm willing to take the risk that I was wrong," Draco said. "Willing to take the risk that you'd stay with me for a while and then want to leave. Willing to take the risk that you'll never feel the same about me. At least you're honest enough to tell me if that's the case." He shook his head, overwhelmed by the emotions that crowded in him, all the words that wanted to be let of his mouth and throat at once. "Give me the chance. Will you?"
Harry stared at their joined hands as if the answer was there. Draco waited, holding his breath until he could no longer, and then trying to release it as quietly as possible. He didn't want Harry to think him stupid, or childish, or anything else that could possibly result in Harry refusing him.
Harry felt multiple wants and needs pulling him in all directions. He didn't want to abandon his friends at home. He had a life to go back to. Perhaps he would have the same friends here, but they wouldn't be exactly the same; they had four years of memories that he never would. The people he knew would be sad and frightened if he disappeared without a word to them.
If you can travel home, you can get a message between the words, too, said the most seductive voice he had ever heard, except for Draco's voice last night.
But he wanted to stay with Draco. He had never—he had never had someone who loved him in that exact special way, that way he had seen Hermione love Ron, to distraction. Draco knew things about Harry that he didn't know, such as that he liked strange kinds of fish. He knew the sensitive places on his body and the sensitive places in his heart. He knew how to make even gathering Potions ingredients something that Harry could look forward to doing, rather than a dreaded and hated chore.
Harry just didn't think it was enough, and yet, he didn't know why.
He had to come to a few conclusions as he sat there, Draco's question buzzing in his ears, unanswered. Draco didn't seem impatient. He sat still, his fingers smoothing continually over Harry's skin in a manner that was soothing, rather than distracting. His eyes never wavered, but that was dedication, too, and Harry had a lot of unfriendly stares to compare it to.
He had always wanted someone who would love him like that, without ever quite acknowledging it. It was part of the reason he had broken up with Ginny. She could love him, but not enough, and he couldn't devote himself wholeheartedly to her, either. So he had gone through the pain and the loneliness of stopping their dating. He had sought and not found his perfect lover in other places, though he'd had some fun.
Hermione would probably say that the perfect lover was a fantasy, a pleasant one, but an overwhelming one, and not someone Harry would really like to meet outside his head.
Except that now I've met him, Harry thought, glancing up at Draco, and if I can make the decision to stay with him, then I know I'll be happy.
He rolled the thought around in his head, shivering. Draco's hands tightened briefly on his, and he opened his mouth as if he would speak, but Harry shook his head. Draco fell silent again, staring at him with such love shining in his eyes that Harry had to swallow back a number of inappropriate words.
Was it selfish, to want to be happy so badly, even if it was at someone else's expense? The expense of his friends, at least, and maybe ultimately Draco. Harry didn't worry about himself. He knew he would be happy.
He licked his lips. He shivered again. He felt as though he was standing on top of a building that leaned out over a precipice and staring at a river that rushed so far below he could barely see it.
Draco had spoken about taking risks. Harry could do the same thing, with the same kind of allowance. If Draco was willing to put his heart and happiness on the line, then Harry thought he could do the same thing.
"Yes," he said.
Draco seemed to have forgotten the question he'd asked, the one that still echoed so clearly to Harry. He frowned. "Yes, what?"
"Yes, I'll stay with you," Harry said. His voice bubbled and creaked in his own ears, and he held up one of his hands as though it could prevent happiness from descending on him the way it wanted to. "But I want to make sure that I get a chance to talk to my friends from my own world, and that they know what happened. And could you brew a potion that would let me go back and forth, so I could visit them? That way—"
Draco buried him. He attacked and bore Harry to the earth, his arms wrapped around his body hard enough that Harry heard his ribs give warning creaks. He buried his face in Harry's neck, the way he had a habit of doing—Harry thought he was searching for Harry's scent—and sniffed luxuriously, deliciously. Then he found his mouth, and stuck his tongue inside with a moan. Harry caressed the back of his neck when he could work a hand free, feeling the fine, and not-so-fine, tremors that shook him.
They stayed that way for a long time, the smell of crushed grass around and beneath them, the sunshine above.
Draco's life made sense again.
He could brew a potion that would send messages across the barrier between worlds or allow Harry to visit. Of course he could. He emphasized that he wouldn't be able to do it for a casual visit, because the ingredients were too expensive and taking them too often could damage Harry's health. He lectured on the brewing procedure. He explained that Harry would be able to pay him, because Draco had inherited most of Harry's money with the exception of some that he'd left to the Weasleys, and there were very old legal precedents that covered odd cases like this one. They would be able to establish Gringotts vaults in Harry's name again, but it would take a while, and Harry would have to spend a day under goblin custody so they could prove that he hadn't taken Polyjuice—
Harry sat through all of it and watched him with a smile. Draco had the impression that he wasn't really paying attention, but it was hard for him to care. His mouth still tingled as though he'd swallowed orange juice, and he could glance at the wall and see the years laid out in a crystalline pattern of reality, a gift that he'd thought he'd lost with Harry's death.
This was the world. This was happiness. Draco had known happy moments since Harry's death, of course he had, but they hadn't been as clear, or intense. This one was.
"When are we going to see my friends again?" Harry asked quietly.
It took Draco a moment to process the question, given that he'd been thinking about four or five entirely different things. He shook his head for a moment, said blankly, "Your friends," and then said, "Of course, you can't see them for the first time until the potion has been properly brewed and we can get across the barrier between worlds to contact them. Do you want me to come with you that first time? I can only imagine that it's going to be hard, deciding what you'll tell them and what to keep and what to leave behind, and once we have a lock on your world, then the potion isn't difficult to modify so that two can go instead of one. The truly hard thing is reaching out into the distance with nothing but an accidental gate to guide you and having no idea where you'll end up—"
"You do talk a lot," Harry said, but he said it without anger, and when Draco took a quick look at his eyes, he could see they were shining. "I meant, when are we going to visit my friends in this world? Ron and Hermione?"
Draco rubbed his hands together and didn't answer. Of course Harry noticed his silence, but he didn't immediately try to interrupt it, instead leaning back in the chair and watching him.
"Well?" he asked, when several minutes had passed.
"I wanted to wait," Draco admitted. "I was afraid what they would say to you. They'll—accept you in the end, I'm sure of that. But do you want to do it right away? It might—shake your commitment."
Harry rolled his eyes. "You're that worried about me changing my mind? Draco, the way I feel right now, I won't. Yes, it might happen sometime in the far future, but just watching looks of shock on Ron's face or Hermione's won't do it. I know they'll be shocked if I come back from the dead. I would be, with them." He hesitated, then added, "Are you waiting for them or for me? If you think it would be better to let them get used to the idea before they see me—"
"They would never forgive me for not bringing you right away," Draco said, and sighed. He was being stupid, yes, but he also wouldn't blame himself for being overprotective when he'd lost his first Harry so recently. "We'll go over there this afternoon, after we gather some of the ingredients and conduct some of the business we need to with Gringotts."
There was nothing in the world that would compare with the smile Harry gave him at that announcement, Draco decided—nothing that would dim his memory of it, even if Harry chose to go back to his own world in the end. And Draco doubted that would happen.
At least, he thought it unlikely.
He would probably always have the fear in the back of his mind, though, just as he had sometimes feared that Harry would be hunted down by a rogue Death Eater that the Aurors had missed. He turned away from the worry to concentrate on the glory of the smile.
Harry blinked as they Apparated into a large front garden, filled with so many lazily twining vines that it was hard to see the flowers, and Harry wasn't sure if the garden was overgrown or not. It was the kind of place that would have made Aunt Petunia have a fit, though, which caused Harry to like it instinctively. There was green everywhere, and blue and red and yellow from bright flowers, and noise from the chattering of a hidden bird in a bush.
Hermione opened the door and stood on the step, staring out at them. In one arm she cradled a small girl with bright red hair, but Harry could only look at the baby once before his eyes locked on his friend's face.
She looked not that much different from Hermione back home, he thought with surprise. Somehow, he had thought four years would change her as much as they appeared to have changed Draco. But she still had frizzy hair and the scowl lines that had come from all her years of frowning at him and Ron in Hogwarts when they didn't finish their essays on time. She was a little taller, maybe, a little more self-confident. And that was all.
But her eyes filled with tears when she saw him, and she handed the baby to someone in the doorway behind her and flew down the steps to meet them.
Harry stepped forwards into her open arms, and felt some of his concern melt. If this was any sign, Hermione wasn't going to reject him and be upset that he was here and alive instead of the other Harry. Draco had owled them several hour ago; that had probably been enough time for Hermione to look up several theories of different worlds and accept that someone who had come across the barriers into a place like this could be the same person, just several years behind.
"Oh, Harry, Harry, Harry," she was murmuring into his ear. Harry could feel her warm tears splashing on the cloth at his shoulder. He patted her back and looked up at the person in the door who'd taken the baby.
It was Ron, his eyes so big that Harry thought for a minute he'd faint at first. He, in turn, handed the baby to someone else and walked towards them more slowly. Harry swallowed as he watched him. Ron might be a bit more hard-headed than Hermione. He might have heard more stories than theories about things like this, and his best friend was still dead. Maybe—
But halfway there Ron swore under his breath, shook his head the way he always did when he faced something incomprehensible, and then broke into a run. He grabbed both Hermione and Harry into a big six-armed hug, the way that they'd done right after the war, and if he wasn't crying, well, the curses he kept muttering made up for it.
Harry closed his eyes. He would go back to visit his friends, he knew. And part of him still thought it was fucking strange that he was here, and that Draco, never mind anyone else, was so desperate to accept him.
But if they chose to do it, then who was he to keep contradicting them and saying they couldn't?
Ron pulled back at last, his face red and wet—though probably with Hermione's tears, Harry thought in the privacy of his own head. Or at least he would pretend to believe that if Ron asked him. He reached out and put his hand on Harry's shoulder, still gazing searchingly into his eyes. Then he shook his head.
"What?" Harry asked, a bit panicked, because he had thought that Ron was doing a good job of accepting him until then.
"You're exactly like him," Ron whispered. For a moment, his eyes flickered up to the scar on Harry's forehead, as if that would be hard to fake, and then returned to his face. "Sometimes you hear about someone coming from another world, but usually different things happen there. They have scars or marks they don't have in your world, or they look different, or they speak differently. You don't. You really could have been him four years ago, when he was trying so hard to be an Auror."
"That's because this is Harry from a world exactly like ours, only more slowly-moving," Draco said impatiently from behind his head. "I told you that in the owl."
"It's one thing to hear about it, Malfoy," Ron responded, "and another thing to see it for yourself." He still hadn't looked away from Harry.
"Oh, Harry, I'm so glad." Hermione had pulled back too, now, and was rubbing her nose with one hand. Ron put his free hand on her shoulder, and she leaned gratefully on him, but neither of them let go of Harry to do it. "You can't know," she whispered. "You can't know how awful it was around here, after he died."
"But I'm not him," Harry said. "I don't know much about what happened in the last four years, except that Draco and him started dating, of course." Draco pressed protectively close behind his shoulder, as if to make sure that Harry didn't forget about him in all this touching. Harry wanted to roll his eyes and ask how in the world he could, but they weren't alone and Draco's answer might have been inappropriate for a public place. "Is that going to bother you? I mean, I plan to stay here with Draco and visit my own world sometimes, but—if it's going to bother you, then I can just not see you."
Ron and Hermione exchanged amazed glances and then both looked at Draco. "You didn't tell him," Hermione said.
"I didn't think I could explain it." Draco's voice was gentler now than Harry had heard it except during the moments when Draco was begging him to stay. "You're the ones who should have the chance."
"What are you talking about?" Harry asked, staring back and forth between them and wondering if the other Harry had done something awful or wonderful before he died. He hadn't thought so, with the way that Draco talked about him, but he could have been leaving an awful thing out so Harry wouldn't be shocked by it. "I thought you said this world was the same."
"It is," Hermione said, "and you can understand what we feel if you think about what your friends would feel if they lost you. If you died suddenly, four years from now, in a broom-riding accident, and they were left to stand there with that gap in their lives, and try to move forwards after it."
Harry winced. Then he thought about what he would feel if Ron or Hermione died, and winced even more.
"It was like that for us," Hermione went on. "A huge absence. This gap where there had always been someone. We—we don't want to feel that again, Harry, and we would if we rejected you as a stranger, when you aren't, not in all the ways that matter, and lost you again. Yes, it won't be the same. Sometimes we'll refer to something you won't know, and you'll have to ask for details. But you can always ask us." Her face lit with a smile Harry didn't think he'd ever seen her wear before, mischievous and young and shy. "It would be—wonderful to talk about them again."
"Isn't anyone going to introduce him to Rose?"
The third person in the doorway had come down the walk. Harry turned to her. It was Ginny, and she had changed the most. She had thicker hair than he remembered, and a bright, content smile, and a golden wedding ring on her left hand.
"Yes, of course," Hermione said. "Harry, this is our daughter Rose." She lifted the baby into her arms and held her out to Harry.
Harry's first instinct was to protest that he didn't know the first thing about holding babies. But Rose reached out for him with trusting arms, grinning, and it was really no trouble to swing her around and settle her on his hip. Rose looked up at him with big eyes, and tried to pull one of his hairs out. Harry spluttered and shook his head. "How old is she?"
"Eight months now," Hermione said, and swallowed. "He barely got to know her before he died. I—Harry, this is going to be different." She was saying it mostly to herself, Harry thought, rather than him. "But so wonderful."
Her voice had a depth of feeling, Harry thought, that he'd heard in Draco's. And Ron leaned forwards, wordless, and now Ginny said that it was her bloody turn to get a hug, and they stood there chattering and half-laughing and, in Hermione's case, half-crying, in the middle of Ron and Hermione's garden, and Harry felt the strange new life open around him like a flower.
And behind him was the solid strength of Draco, something, someone, he could always count on.
Granger and Weasley hadn't stopped talking to Harry since they got inside the house. Their daughter was still in his lap. Ginny Weasley—although Draco suspected he ought to call her Thomas now, since her marriage—stayed with them for almost half an-hour and then stood up, holding out her hand, and said that her husband was expecting her. Harry clasped her wrist with a lingering look.
But not too much of one, Draco decided after a moment. He had been tensing in jealousy, ready to rise from the couch and say something if it continued too long. But Harry was already turning back to his friends, so occupied with photographs and comparing memories from this world and his other one that he honestly didn't seem to remember Thomas an instant after she was gone. Draco relaxed. Of course, Harry's relationships with his friends always had been the strongest ones outside of his relationship with Draco; Draco had sometimes wondered, in the way of idle speculation, if the three of them would have matched in some way if he hadn't come along and stolen Harry away.
It was impossible to feel jealous of the time that Harry was spending with them, though. Not with the way his eyes shone and his head moved back and forth, his gaze devouring the photographs in front of him. Now and then he asked a question, and Weasley and Granger fell over themselves and each other in their rush to answer.
But Draco wasn't forgotten. Harry sat next to him on the couch, with his friends on the other side, and kept one hand on Draco's arm or shoulder at all times, except when he had to handle both the baby and the pictures at once. Even then, he would lean close enough that Draco could feel the warmth beating through his clothes.
It was a wonderful sensation. Time seemed to slow, and the turning of the earth to do the same thing. Draco began to wish that nothing would change, that he could still be sitting here in Weasley and Granger's house and sharing Harry's time and company when the world turned into ashes.
Finally, though, Granger pushed herself to her feet with a grimace and a flex of her back, touching the middle of it as though she feared she'd sprained something. Her ever-nervous husband rose right behind her, putting his hand out in turn. "Are you all right, Hermione?"
"Spending hours in the same position will do that even to someone who's only twenty-four," Granger said, and smiled at him with a reflection of the starriness that she'd shown Harry. "And it's my turn to cook tonight, since you did it last night." She turned to Harry. "You still like treacle tart?"
That startled Harry into laughter. "Of course, but I hope that's not the whole dinner," he said, chuckling. Draco bent towards him and silently absorbed the vibration of that sound, one he remembered from so many different times over their four years together.
This is the first time that Harry's laughed like this with me, and the latest, he thought. He would try not to mix the two Harrys he had known up, not to treat them like the same person, but this was a unique and wonderful situation, and he didn't think relying on memory was a horrible idea, not when Harry had said that so much of his childhood and his years in school were the same.
Granger was saying something indignant about how most of the dishes she made had vegetables in them, while Weasley pulled horrible faces as a way of reassuring Harry, and perhaps his daughter, that indeed they did. Harry kept laughing, but then he leaned over and rested his head on Draco's shoulder, and Draco lost track of what people were saying around him.
So good, so warm. Even the sharpness of Harry's jawbone when he shifted, the uncomfortable shape of his ear, didn't matter. Draco reached out and stroked the side of Harry's face with gentle fingertips.
Granger and Weasley fell silent to watch them. The tenderness of the gesture probably surprised them, Draco thought. It had taken him years to feel easy with showing affection at all in front of them; he still didn't often call them by their first names. But they could understand, they had to understand, the difference between what had been and what was, the difference in his life that recovering the lost made for him.
"I'll get dinner started," Granger said abruptly, and swished away. Draco dug his fingers into Harry's hair and began to massage his scalp. Harry gave a surprised little moan. Perhaps he didn't know he liked that. There were so many things that he didn't know he liked, Draco reflected, at least based on his reaction to the fish the other night, and Draco was going to teach him all of them.
He looked up to find Weasley watching him solemnly. Draco scowled at him. If Weasley intended to threaten him with bodily harm if he hurt Harry, he could save his breath. Draco would be more tender, more gentle, more slow with Harry than anyone else could be. Harry was precious to him.
If Weasley had been going to say something like that, he didn't in the end. He just nodded to Draco, as if he understood all of Draco's thoughts and hoped to agree with them, and then slinked away. Harry sighed.
"I could fall asleep, right here," he said.
"Well, then, do it," Draco said, and glanced down at Rose. She was sound asleep, a small bubble rising and falling at the corner of her mouth, and he relaxed. He knew that she usually slept for hours once she got there, a blessing that Weasley and Granger in no way deserved.
"I should help Hermione," Harry muttered, but he stayed in place, his cheek burrowing further into Draco's shoulder.
"No one expects you to help," Draco whispered. "You're their guest. Their friend. My lover, come back from the grave. Relax, Harry, and enjoy yourself."
Whether it was the tone of his voice or something else, Harry believed him and fell asleep. Draco sat there listening to his soft snores and feeling his warmth and listening to the slow, dazed beat of his heart, his joy deep and still within him.
Harry kept waiting to wake up from his dream.
Well, in a way, he knew that he'd have to, because he knew that he would have to go back to his own world soon and visit his friends there. But at the moment, it was like a dream. He knew Ron and Hermione in a way that he couldn't have if their friendship with their Harry hadn't been like his with his friends, and the memories they told him about—the arguments and adventures and big events of four years that the other Harry would have known about and he didn't—made so much sense, seemed to fall smoothly and seamlessly into his mind and stick there. Harry didn't think he'd have any trouble remembering how many hours Hermione had been in labor with Rose, or the way that Ginny's mother-in-law and sister-in-law had got into an argument at her wedding that embarrassed Hermione so much she couldn't tell the story, leaving that up to Ron.
He wouldn't forget the dinner, which was a vegetable soup—he thought Hermione had made that on purpose, just to show she could—and a salad with tiny slivers of chicken scattered among leaves of lettuce and slices of fruit. And there was treacle tart for dessert, thick enough that Harry arched his eyebrows at Hermione, who blushed and then laughed, as if she didn't understand exactly what she was laughing at.
And he wouldn't forget the way that both Ron and Hermione had stood back and not raised an eyebrow when he and Draco left the drawing room at the same time, heading for bed.
The single bed, in the single bedroom.
Of course Harry believed that Ron and Hermione had accepted his—and the other Harry's—relationship with Draco, simply from the lack of fuss they'd made about Draco being there in the first place. But standing in front of that bed was the first time that it hit him as powerfully as the sense of homecoming from seeing his friends' house had.
Draco wrapped an arm around his waist and nuzzled against the back of his neck. "I'm not tired yet," he whispered, his tongue flicking out to touch the small curls that grew at the very edge of Harry's hair. Harry leaned back against him and shivered with the very smallest, finest tremors.
"Neither am I," he said.
Draco turned him around and kissed him. He did it with his eyes open, which was more than Harry could have done. He surrendered soon enough, feeling as though he'd swallowed the summer heat outside, laying back on the bed as Draco moved over him.
He did start to open his eyes and sit up, feeling, as he had when Hermione was making dinner, that he should help. But Draco whispered, "No," and touched him with gentle hands, and then whispered, "Not yet."
So Harry lay there and let himself be seduced.
Draco used his tongue everywhere. The corners of Harry's mouth, his gums, the points of his teeth. He worshipped Harry's neck, lavishing attention on his collarbone until Harry squirmed in what was almost embarrassment, his hips arching off the bed, his voice escaping in breathless little whines. He wanted a firmer touch, but Draco kept pinning his hand to the pillow above his head when he tried and holding it there, until Harry accepted that he was serious about this, for whatever reason, and forced himself to be still.
Then Draco moved down his chest, drawing his tongue in circles around Harry's nipples, around the patches of sparse hair that grew widely separated from one another, around a freckle and a mole that Harry hadn't even known he had, and woke shivers everywhere. Harry thrashed his head and made every effort to keep his hands raised because Draco had said so. He was half-sorry that he had missed out on the exploration stages of how this Harry and Draco had learned about each other and half-delirious with gratitude about the state of the end process.
Draco laid his cheek on Harry's knee and breathed lightly over his cock, not making any special effort, just using his mouth without using it. Harry turned his head, incoherent with need, and Draco smiled at him and moved on.
He ran his tongue along the sole of Harry's foot, along the underside of his toes, and then back up to his anklebone. Then he cradled Harry's feet in his hands and watched him from between them. Harry had to swallow twice through a fever-hot throat before he could say what he wanted to say.
"Come here," he whispered.
Draco rose gracefully and came to him, took him, filled him. Harry leaned back, still incoherent, his flush of arousal a permanent thing, so imprinted beneath his skin that it seemed to flash and fill him like a rising sun. He had a second sunrise inside him, Harry thought dreamily, dropping warmth into his arse and then withdrawing and dragging the warmth with it, but always coming back.
Or maybe there were three sunrises, because the third one was in Draco's eyes, watching him intensely, brilliantly, sleeplessly, until Harry succumbed and came, cries spiraling out of him as the come did the same thing. And Draco rocked above him with tender brutality for long moments more before he surrendered in turn. Harry had no doubt it was a surrender, although Draco was the one who had done most of the work and the one driving into him. The way his head drooped and his lips parted in a helpless movement couldn't mean anything else.
Then Draco lay beside him and they went to sleep, enfolded in each other, Harry's skin still shuddering from pleasure and wonder.
It was the happiest day of his life.
It had been the happiest day of his life.
And now Severus was trying to tell him it shouldn't be.
"You do not really know him," Severus said in a quiet, firm voice, the same he had used when he was trying to persuade Draco to depend on him for help with the Vanishing Cabinet and the murder of Dumbledore. Draco had no doubt that he'd selected that voice deliberately. He knew that Draco would remember his interference then, would remember that he should have listened to Severus, and would be predisposed to do the same thing now. Draco bit the inside of his cheek and concentrated on the potion in the cauldron, the one that would permit Harry to send a message across the barrier between worlds. A message was their first concern, before a visit. Draco would have to work on perfecting the potion that would let Harry visit so it could take two along. "It seems like you do because you share the memories of an alternate of his. But that alternate is dead, Draco, and will not be returning. You are sharing your heart, your life, your space, at the moment, with someone torn from his own world."
"He had the choice to go back, if he wanted," Draco said calmly, holding up the vial he'd just dipped into the cauldron in front of his eyes and then shaking his head. The potion didn't have the consistency he wanted yet, or the color; it was still a series of spreading golden rings in a circle of blue, rather than the other way around. "He said that he wanted to stay here with me." Harry was with the Weasleys this morning, being reintroduced to them. Draco knew he would have been welcome to come along, but he had thought they needed some time apart.
Well, and you wanted to show that you don't have to cling to him every moment he's around. Though I'm not sure who you're showing.
Draco bit his lip to drive away that thought and poured the liquid in the vial back into the cauldron, then had to step smartly away as the cauldron puffed at him. Severus leaned on the portrait frame and shook his head; Draco wasn't looking directly at him, but he caught that motion out of the corner of his eye.
"You would never make such a mistake in a potion ordinarily, Draco," he said. "Have you thought about what you are doing? That is all I ask. The short-term consequences of having Potter back to sleep with again may indeed be pleasant. But the long-term ones? Can that pleasure make up for, among other things, knowing that you were in love with two men, both distinct, although it may not seem so?"
Draco sighed and turned around. "Were you ever faced with such a situation as this, sir?" he asked.
Severus hesitated once, and then plunged ahead with a stiff little shrug of his shoulders. He was watching Draco in the same way, as if wondering what he was up to. Draco remained still, leaning his elbow on the cauldron. It might encourage Severus to underestimate him.
"You know I was not," Severus said. "I was in love with one person, and one person only. When she died, I gave up the thought of any such companionship for myself."
Draco hid his emotions behind a bland nod. He knew that he would have gone mad if he'd had to think about things like that, if he had decided that, once having had Harry, he'd had all he deserved. The way that Harry had died was an accident, and a stupid one. It didn't mean Draco was to blame for wanting someone else, or, if he could get him, Harry back.
"Then you can't know what the conditions of morality, or righteousness, are, surrounding this," Draco said. "I'll put this as politely as I can, sir: fuck off." He turned around and looked at the potion again, considering. He could add more rose petals, but he doubted the potion needed them. More oak leaves were at hand, though, and before he could question the surge of rightness that descended on him when he thought about that, Draco picked up a handful of them and crumbled them into the potion.
Severus's voice was low, commanding, and it wouldn't do to ignore him forever. Draco sighed and turned around, leaning against the cauldron again and asking the fates for patience. Once Severus got on a topic, he didn't tend to let it go until long past the point when it should have rotted his teeth.
"I have done enough for you that you are foolish to speak to me in such a manner," Severus said. "And the matter has been preying on your mind; I know it has, or you would not have spoken to me so brusquely." He paused at that, watching Draco intently, as if the mere mention of his tone should make Draco reconsider and fall on the floor babbling his apologies.
"It might have been foolish," Draco agreed. "It might mean I should apologize. But, sir—and I do mean this with all respect—nothing you can say is going to make me stop believing that being with Harry is the right thing for me. I know you disapprove. You've done all you can in making me aware of your opinion." Especially since you're a portrait, and unable to influence the physical world, he added in his thoughts. He didn't see the need to say it aloud when Severus would already have thought of that for himself. "I'll take it into consideration."
"Being with him will only bring more pain to you," Severus said in a thick voice. "Draco, you do not understand—I saw you consumed with love when Potter was alive, and with grief at his death. And he was someone who grew up in this world, someone you knew. You know nothing about this boy except that he has a superficial resemblance to Potter—"
"If it was only looks, do you think I would love him as I do?" Draco asked impatiently. "His memories are the same. His feelings, The strength of his emotions. His deeds before the past four years. He is Harry when he was nineteen."
"But you are no longer nineteen yourself, and you cannot fall in love with someone who is only mentally and emotionally that age," Severus said.
Draco shook his head. "You think me as mature as all that? You think me beyond emotions?" Of course you do, he added in his head a moment later, a part of that other conversation he could never have with Severus, interwoven with the numerous other silent exchanges that he had had with the portrait since he hung it in his lab. Because that was the way you were.
Severus's admiration had sustained him during the year after his death and before Draco properly met Harry, the period that Draco sometimes thought was the darkest in his life. But that didn't mean that Draco should start listening to him for no good reason, giving in and giving up his happiness.
Severus admired Draco, but Draco was not him, despite their similar skills in Potions. Draco stood still and watched Severus stare at him, as if seeking the boy that he wanted to be there and not finding him.
"Not beyond emotions," Severus said. "But beyond falling in love as easily as you did with Potter. The original Potter," he added, as though he feared that Draco would have no idea who he meant.
But that's part of the problem, of course, Draco thought, rolling his head restlessly against the arm he put behind himself as he stretched. He doesn't realize I think of them as different people and the same all at once.
"This love is a continuation of my other love," he said quietly. "That makes it easier."
Severus pointed one finger at him, an action Draco had never seen him take before. "Then you admit that you love this Potter not for himself, but because he is a continuation of what you had and lost!" he crowed.
"It's impossible to get away from the implication," Draco said flatly. "What's different from your idea is that I don't believe that invalidates my love, and I won't give it up."
"It could be dangerous—"
"In what way?" Draco asked. "You think me more mature than Harry is. That should render me safe from the traps that someone inexperienced might stumble into. What is it you fear, Severus?"
"That you will find some unsuspected difference in this Potter and realize, too late, that you have lost yours and cannot replace him," Severus answered harshly. "That you will go through the process of grieving all over again, just when you should have been past it. You are not healing yourself, you are hiding in the past and refusing to move on." He paused, then forced a deep, painful breath through his nose and said, "If anyone should recognize such actions when he sees them, then I think I should."
Draco smiled gently at Severus, dipping his head in admiration of the fact that Severus had managed to say that much. But he shook his head in the next second. "I know about that fear," he said. "If anything could have held me back, it would be that." Or the specter of unfaithfulness to Harry—but I know he was too generous to feel unhappy that I would be able to start over again with someone else. "I've got over it. I'll take the chance, just as I'll take the chance that someday Harry will miss his friends so much that he'll decide to go back to his own world permanently. I'm prepared for difficulties."
"You cannot be prepared for them until they happen." Severus sounded exasperated again, with relief behind it; this was much more familiar territory for them than the open confession of emotions that it seemed Severus had nearly started on.
"I don't see why not," Draco said. "You taught me that half the art of Potions is preparing for the future in such a way that the next explosion wouldn't destroy all your work, even if it destroyed your cauldron."
"Potter is not a potion."
Draco let his lips twitch. "No, he's far more volatile than that," he agreed. "But I spent four years learning how to cope with him. It would be a shame to waste that education now."
"You insist on treating him the same," Severus said. "He is not the same."
"No," Draco said. "But similar enough that I'm in love with him, too, and I can't let him go. If I could have, don't you think I would have? I know what sort of things people might say of me. Call me so desperate for contact that I'll fuck anyone, claim that I wouldn't do this if it weren't for some depravity on my part, or decide that I must have kidnapped Harry from his world against his will. But, Severus, we put up with bad publicity before, including those lunatics who assumed that I'd murdered Harry. I outfaced them all. And it'll be much more pleasant to do so with Harry by my side."
"The pain should outweigh the pleasure."
"For some people, I'm sure it would," Draco said. "But you taught me, and my father taught me. I'm not one of those people."
Severus eyed him broodingly. Draco smiled back, and wished that he could offer reassurance with just that smile. But Severus had still expected his and Harry's relationship to break up violently under his nose even after observing it for four years. If a smile could take care of his doubts, it would have happened long before now; Draco had smiled more during the four years with Harry than through the nineteen years before that.
"It seems that I cannot sway you from this insane notion." Severus's voice was low, and he made a disgusted gesture with one hand, as though he was scooping up and throwing away a ruined potion.
"You can't." Draco's voice was low, too, but he knew that Severus, seeing his eyes, wouldn't mistake that for faltering or weakness. He held the rim of the cauldron for a moment, ready to move if he needed to, although since Severus was a portrait, Draco wasn't sure what he might do.
Severus turned abruptly away and moved beyond the frame. Draco watched him go and then relaxed back against the cauldron. He'd removed the cloth he'd hung in front of the portrait yesterday; Severus was part of his life, and Harry needed to become accustomed to him.
But equally, Severus needed to become accustomed to Harry, and to stop thinking that Draco would suddenly change his mind. Draco had gone through the most profound change he'd needed to make four years ago, when he and Harry had begun teaching each other.
Perhaps he and Harry, this time, weren't quite equal teachers; he might know more than Harry did, both about life in general and about the life they'd shared before his Harry died. But this was the way it was, and Draco would embrace it, tolerate it, run towards it with his arms and his eyes wide open.
Harry stared at the daffodil-colored potion in his hand, a vial of it that bubbled and boiled and stank of rotten eggs. "Is it some kind of rule that you can't make a potion that smells nice and does what it's supposed to?" he asked.
Draco chuckled and reached out with one hand to stroke down Harry's cheek. Harry leaned towards him and resisted the temptation to keep on leaning, to draw on his strength. They were going back to his world right now, or at least soon, if the potion worked as it was supposed to, and there, he would have to be the strong one, standing up for Draco against people he didn't know. They'd sent a message with the earlier potion, yes, but Harry knew that wouldn't be enough to completely prepare Ron and Hermione.
"Potions masters are a tolerant lot, at least as far as smells and tastes go," Draco said, and flashed him one of those brilliant smiles that Harry would burn the world for. "And for other things." His voice deepened, and for a moment, he looked to be the one who would set aside this trip for a bout of shagging instead.
Harry smiled back nervously and then tilted the vial down his throat, gulping. The potion tasted less unpleasant than it smelled, but it was thick, and it felt as if he were choking on chalk to get it down. Draco drank his with a slight grimace, but perfect aplomb otherwise, and then set down the vial on the table beside him and reached out to grasp Harry's hands.
"Now it begins," he whispered, and the world around them clouded and ripped apart, showing something beyond it that was as lovely, and as strange, as the golden whirlwind that had brought Harry here. Harry thought he saw marble walls, but they were moving, whipping smoothly around him, wrapping him round, making him tilt his head back to try and see the top of them. He couldn't, because they kept moving. He shivered in vague excitement and tightened his hold on Draco's hands. Draco was murmuring reassurances, apparently under the impression that he needed them.
"It's beautiful," Harry whispered, as patterns of white and blue and milk exploded in the whirl around them and dropped and faded and opened again, like flowers blooming in one of those Muggle movies Harry had seen once or twice, to show time speeding up.
"Yes, it is," Draco said a moment later, and moved closer, kissing Harry. Harry laughed and tilted his head up; he couldn't believe that Draco was jealous of magic, but it seemed he was, and Harry was willing to indulge that jealousy.
If there was anything he was unwilling to do for Draco, then he hadn't discovered it yet.
They landed with a jarring bump in the middle of a large room—Harry could feel it stretching away all around them—but he couldn't turn from Draco's tight grip and greedy mouth yet, and didn't want to. Only a loud gasp made him turn around and stare into the eyes of someone he had seen just yesterday.
Well, no, wait, he had seen her yesterday with baby Rose on her hip and a smile as she watched Bill and Fleur's youngest dashing around the room at high speed. He hadn't seen her pale and tired and looking as if she'd spent days crying, her hand pressed to her mouth and her eyes wide.
"Harry?" Hermione whispered.
"Hey," Harry said, and tried to move forwards. Draco kept his arm around his shoulders, restraining him. Harry rolled his eyes at Draco. "This is my home," he said, since they were in the drawing room of his house. "And there are my friends. You must recognize them."
"I haven't seen them look like that in four years." Draco's voice had an undertone, a resonance, to it that Harry didn't quite understand, but he thought it came from Draco's half-disbelief that the potion had worked the way it was supposed to, even though he was the one who had brewed it. "Give me a moment to catch up with my memories."
"Harry, mate?" That was Ron, edging forwards with caution in his face and one hand on his wand. Harry thought he might have attacked already, except that he was obviously confused by Harry standing arm-in-arm with Draco Malfoy and liking it. No, the message didn't do that much good. "What's going on?"
Harry opened his mouth, and paused. "Is there any way to talk about this that doesn't sound completely mad?" he asked Draco.
Draco's eye glinted at him. "I suspect not."
"Harry?" Ron asked again. He had taken his hand off his wand for now, but it hovered in such a way that Harry knew he would put it right back again at the slightest excuse. He really didn't look happy. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Harry gestured for them to sit down in the two nearest chairs, which both were close to the fireplace and the large windows. The room was filled with light, which reminded him that it was high summer here, too, like the season in Draco's world. They really were exactly four years behind each other, he thought. Ron and Hermione did as he suggested, but Hermione was biting her lip and Ron was shaking his head. Harry sat down on the couch that faced them, since he didn't want to be separated from Draco, and took a deep breath.
"I was brewing the Draught of Peace," he said. "I let it go too long, and it—well, it exploded into a gate that brought me between worlds. In the world I went to, Draco had been—well, my lover, but that version of me died in a broom accident a while ago."
"Six months," Draco said, his voice calm and polished, another tone that Harry hadn't heard before. He threw Draco a curious look, but Draco was watching Ron and Hermione with a veiled expression on his face, and running his thumb over the skin between Harry's fingers. Harry thought he understood, then. Draco was drawing himself back mentally and emotionally from Harry's friends, distancing himself in case they attacked him.
Harry nodded and leaned closer to Draco, although he didn't yet put his head on his shoulder because it would look strange to his friends and be hard to explain, and they were having enough trouble already. "I—the world was exactly the same, except four years in the future. Draco knows all about me—all about my history—because the other Harry's past was the same as mine. They fell in love. And Draco's—in love with me, and I'm going to stay with him, but visit here." The last words rushed out faster than he liked, but that had partially to do with Ron's dazed expression and Hermione's shaking head.
"I've heard of situations like this," Hermione said softly. "But never any situation where someone chose to stay in the other world."
"If you're going to tell me that there are magical laws forbidding it," Draco said strongly, "I'll tell you you're wrong. I've spent the last few days researching that when I wasn't researching potions to bring us here, and I know that it's not the case."
"No one's done it before because it's bloody mad," Ron said. "Mate, why do you want to stay with him? It wasn't you he was in love with."
"It is now," Draco said, and glared.
Harry moved forwards, both coming closer to Ron and doing what he could to put himself between Draco and his best friend. One of my best friends. Strange to think about that, that he knew Ron both in this world and in the other. "It might be too hard for us," he said. "I'm willing to accept that. But I will come back here to visit. And—I want to stay with Draco. I like him a lot. I think I might be in love with him, but I'm not entirely sure. I want to be with him."
"Are you really sure?" Hermione whispered. She sounded as if she was coming to the brink of some revelation, but Harry wasn't sure she was. "Or did he change your mind because—because he knows you, and because you had sex?"
Harry squirmed, and heard Draco snicker. It seemed that he still had a bit of the berk left in him, after all, Harry thought, and resisted the temptation to push an elbow into his ribs. That wouldn't really convince his friends that Harry wanted to stay in Draco's world.
"That was part of it," Harry said. "If he hadn't known me and showed that he—he knew my body as well, I might not have wanted to stay." He lifted his head and damned the embarrassment. It wasn't embarrassment that his friends knew he'd had sex so much as the fact that he was discussing this with Hermione. "But it's not the whole thing. It's hard to explain the whole thing. I wanted you to know about my decision, too."
"We thought you were dead," Ron said. "Or at least kidnapped. The way you vanished out of your bed like that, with no sign of violence." He swallowed loudly. "We thought Greyback might have got in."
Harry felt his face soften. Greyback was the most dangerous of the Death Eaters who still remained free, and he could see why the mere suggestion that he might be the werewolf's prisoner would make Ron hysterical.
"I know," he said. "I'm sorry that I didn't try to get a message to you earlier, but at that point, I really did think that I would come straight back. And it's only been a few days, if time passes at the same rate in this world as in ours?" He glanced at Draco.
Draco beamed at him instead of answering the question, and Harry realized why. He'd called that world "ours." He touched Draco's hand and pressed down, hard, on his wrist, then turned back to his friends.
"It's been a few days," Hermione agreed reluctantly. "Are you sure you want to do this, Harry? Really? It's just—I know that you want to be with someone who loves you, but there are people like that here, even if they don't love you in the same way."
Harry licked his lips. "It's complicated, Hermione," he said. "There's no one here who knows me like Draco."
"And there never will be," Draco said unexpectedly. "I told you before that I wasn't letting you go."
"I'm amazed you let him visit us, then," Ron muttered. His voice was already less hostile, though. Harry relaxed a bit and told himself that maybe, just maybe, Draco could come to terms with his friends in this world the way he had in the other.
"He wanted to," Draco said, as if that settled things, and Harry thought it probably did, for him. His hand tightened on Harry's, and he looked from face to face as if he expected someone to challenge him. Harry laid his head on Draco's shoulder this time, and felt Draco's hand come up to stroke through his hair.
"And you'll always do something if Harry wants to do it?" Ron sounded as if he had tried for disapproving and hadn't got there. Harry suspected he was in shock that Malfoy would ever consult the wishes of someone besides himself.
"Not always," Draco said. Ron sat up and leaned forwards, but Draco took no notice of that and simply continued. "If it threatened his life, or if it took up too much time for something useless like trying to persuade Rita Skeeter not to write a column about him, then no. I do have a life to lead. But that life is largely shared with Harry."
Ron sagged back in his chair. Hermione said, "Harry, it sounds too good to be true. Are you sure that you've checked that this world isn't—isn't just a dream?"
Harry smiled. "Do you want to cast spells that detect the Imperius Curse and illusion charms on me? And you can do the same to Draco, for that matter, to check if he's wearing a glamour." He turned to Draco, who nodded.
Hermione, looking a bit dazed to be given permission, stood up and started casting spells. Harry didn't recognize most of the incantations she muttered, which he thought was a good thing in some ways. It meant that Hermione was using spells he didn't know, checking for spells he didn't know, and if anything could convince her that Draco's interest in Harry was legitimate, it would be trying all the known spells that could make someone behave this way and coming up with nothing.
Hermione sat down hard on the couch when she was done and shook her head. "It does appear to be real," she said. "But, Harry—it still seems odd that you would decide to change your life in a day for someone you've never really known before."
Harry hesitated. He'd worked out this morning, lying in bed beside Draco, some of the reasons he had wanted to stay with him, but they were private and he wasn't sure he could share them with his friends yet. Hell, it would be hard to share them with Draco.
That was Draco, his voice low and calm and kind. He sat with his hand on the back of Harry's neck and smiled at him. Harry drank strength from that smile, and finally nodded and turned to face Ron and Hermione again.
"I do want someone to care for me," he said, his gaze traveling back and forth between Ron and Hermione's faces. It was hard to look at Draco right now, but to feel his hand on Harry's shoulder was enough. "I want someone who will help me brave the world, rather than me having to brave it alone. I know that you'd help," he added hastily, as Hermione opened her mouth. "You helped me more than I could say during the Horcrux quest and the rest of the war. But—I want someone who will help during the private moments, and understand that sometimes I don't want to save the world. Sometimes, I want someone to take care of me, instead of me having to take care of everyone.
"And then there are times when I enjoy being the hero," he added, with a grin in Draco's direction. Draco was smiling now, and that managed to make Harry relax. "So I need a partner who can put up with that and won't seek to control or take care of me all the time. I think Draco's shown that he's like that. If it doesn't work out, I can come back here." He had started to say "come home," but he was no longer certain which world felt more like home to him; it seemed to change from moment to moment. "This isn't the ending of anything—not our friendships, not my life here, not my life. It's a beginning."
Hermione struggled silently with that for long moments before she got up and came over to him, leaning down to kiss his cheek. "I'm happy for you, Harry," she said. "If he makes you happy, then I don't have a word to say against him."
"Unless he hurts you," Ron added.
"Well, obviously," Hermione said, and gave Draco a dubious glance that Harry bit his lip so he wouldn't chuckle at. "But I doubt that Malfoy's that stupid, in the first place, or that he would sit here in front of us with Harry if he were."
"I'll try as hard as I can to live up to Harry's expectations of me, and yours," Draco said in a solemn voice, holding out his hand. After a moment, Hermione shook it. "And when Harry wants to come back to visit, he can. The potion's complicated and we can't use it too often for fear of becoming addicted or damaging our stomachs, but we will use it and visit. I promise."
Even Ron nodded at that, and Harry felt his eyes shut in something close to bliss. He had such understanding friends.
There would be problems. Of course there would. He couldn't see them right now because he was in the middle of the bliss and the happiness, but they would come later.
He felt he had a right to his confidence that he could meet them, though.
Draco restrained himself in front of Harry's friends, because they were trying but he knew they still found the thought of Harry being with him incredibly strange, but the moment they got back to his lab, he pinned Harry up against the wall and kissed him, keeping a hand sliding through his hair and down the side of his face for much longer than he really needed to, simply so he would have the pleasure of feeling Harry's reality and solid presence under his hands.
Harry, flushed and laughing, kissed him back enthusiastically. Severus made a disgusted sound and left his portrait frame.
Draco didn't look up. He would have to come to terms with Severus, and with his friends, who, like Pansy, didn't understand what had happened to bring Harry back to him again.
But he could do that. He was sure he could. He had survived the loss of his Harry, which he had thought would kill him, and the shock of suddenly having Harry back again.
But he was willing to take the risks. If they didn't work out, he would still have cursed himself more for never trying than for trying and failing.
But Harry was by his side.
And that was all he needed to try, to hope, to dream, to plan, to love, to live.