Title: The Consequences of Contradiction, Or: We Won't Say 'We Told you So'
Pairing: Harry/Draco, past implied Harry/Charlie & Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, etc.
Word count: ~14,700
Summary: Harry Potter is tired of his friends constantly getting the wrong idea about his relationship with Draco no matter how hard he protests, so he decides to take matters into his own hands.
Warnings: flangst, silly plots, crap writing, no beta, stuff & things, drama?, insecure!Auror!Harry, Unspeakable!Draco, crap humour.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Harry snatched the fairly abused piece of parchment in front of him and, in one smooth motion, crumpled it into a ball before tossing it haphazardly over his shoulder while running a hand roughly through his untamed hair. His irritated sigh was drowned out by the soothing mezzo-soprano of Celestina Warbeck drifting from the WWN and soft, deep chuckles floating across the room. He whirled around and glared.
"Don't laugh you twat! It's not funny!" he snarled, then turned back to the cluttered desk in front of him. "God – who even comes up with this bollocks? This has got to be the most ridiculous assignment by far. I'm in Auror training! 'M not fourteen bloody years old! Homework my arse!" he seethed, grudgingly grabbing a fresh sheet of parchment from a small stack to his left and beginning to gnaw on the tip of his quill, his brow furrowed in annoyance.
"Harry…Harry, it's not about the homework you know? That bit is probably just to get you used to disgusting amounts of dreary paperwork. But I think the design of these assignments are meant to get you in the habit of learning to use spells creatively, so when you're in a pinch you have a better chance of doing something so miraculously idiotic that it just might work to your advantage. I do suppose it's a bit of a laugh trying to teach the man who defeated the Dark Lord with Expelliarmus anything about creative spell-work, though. Though, if they're trying to ingrain some 'by-the-seat-of-your-pants' creative genius into you, I would assume the best way to do it would be in a situation where you need to think on your feet."
Harry sent another glare over his shoulder.
"If you're not going to bloody help me, Draco, you can stop being a prat and let me concentrate. Honestly, who's ever going to need to know how to reproduce the miracles of Jesus Christ using 3 different spells each? I didn't even know wizards knew who Jesus Christ was!" He let out a frustrated moan and his head thumped down onto the desk.
"Don't be ridiculous, Potter, of course we know who Jesus Christ is. Pretty strange bloke, wasn't he, but by all accounts one of the greatest masters of Charms in history."
"Right. Jesus Christ. Charms master. Naturally."
Frustrated silence filled the room with an awkward kind of tension only mildly reduced by the WWN and the scratching of Harry's quill. After his fifteenth gusty sigh, Draco rolled his eyes and jammed his bookmark into place with a dull thunk.
"Do you need some help, then, Potter?"
Harry sat up and whirled around again to face Draco's small smirk peeking out from the half-closed tome before him.
"YES! Would you?"
"Hmm, I dunno Harry. That might be considered cheating."
"I'll buy you a peppermint sundae from Fortescue's after I finish!"
"One a day for a week."
Draco sighed and closed the book completely, placing it gently on the small table beside the armchair he'd curled up on. He heaved himself to his feet and strode purposefully towards his friend and housemate.
"Which one are you stuck on, then?"
"The water-walking. I mean, you couldn't use Levicorpus, right? You can't target yourself, and you'd be hanging upside-down anyway."
"Wingardium Leviosa would probably work, depending on how far you had to travel. You could cast it on your shoes or something, though it would probably take a lot of effort to keep it going. Not that that would be a problem in your case, I'm sure. What about a Penna Gravitas Charm?"
"That just seems too simple to me." Harry pouted, and Draco rolled his eyes.
"Well if you're not going to take my advice –"
"No, no, that's fine. Wingardium Leviosa…and…Penna...Gravitas…" He scribbled the spells roughly on the parchment, tongue pressed between his teeth. Draco sighed, the sound muffled by the sudden chime of the small clock on the mantle of the room they occupied indicating three o'clock.
"If you're just going to copy down everything I say, Potter, you're not going to learn anything from this," he drawled with an almost imperceptible smirk.
"I've been here for at least five hours trying to figure this out, Draco. I don't fucking care anymore! It's not like I'm going to be forced to take a time-turner back to ancient Israel anytime soon, and I'm pretty sure if I have to be dealing with water the bubble-head charm would do in a pinch." He whinged, screwing up his face into a look of pure indignation and annoyance.
"Alright, alright. Let's take a break and get that ice cream now, then. A change of scenery might do you some good, and we can brainstorm ideas just as easily there. Grab your cloak. Come on."
Harry posed no objections as he was gently hauled to his feet – the chair scraping back loudly behind him – then allowed himself to be man-handled in the general direction of the front door with Draco following silently.
A month after the end of the War, Florean Fortescue had miraculously re-appeared – having been on the run from Death Eaters – and promptly re-opened the parlour. Harry hadn't gone at the time, but he knew the place had been mobbed almost every day from its grand re-opening until September when Hogwarts re-opened a year later.
He didn't remember there being so many people the past few years, though. While it was going on the end of May and the weather had been quite fair the past few days, the amount of people, compared to that on an average Saturday night when Hogwarts was in session, was enough to raise his hackles; he was always the centre of attention in public.
"It's been six bloody years since the end of the War; you'd think people would be over seeing 'the Boy-Who-Lived' or whatever bloody epithet they want to call me by now." He grumbled to nobody in particular as the occupants of the ice cream parlour hushed upon his entrance then exploded into a flurry of excited whispers and gestures. He didn't have to look beside him to know that Draco was probably biting back a snigger since he always was whenever they went anywhere he'd be recognised together.
It had surprised Harry, at first, to see Draco Malfoy in Romania; and startled him even more when the boy had seemed almost a completely different person – had changed so much that Harry had actually been proud to call him a friend even after their return to England. It wasn't right away, of course, and definitely not easy, but they'd struck a strong friendship.
He'd spent a tumultuous year after the War back at Hogwarts and had been unpleasantly surprised to find it, in ways, even more aggravating and terrifying than all the years previous. With the threat of impending death no longer over his head, and Ron and Hermione often needing "alone" time together, he'd been able to spend longer than he cared to think about on what he might do now. His first move had been to try to re-start his relationship with Ginny, but had been promptly (though kindly) dumped after she realised that he was spending much too much time ogling Seamus Finnegan's ass as opposed to her own.
Which had (of course) led to his own questioning of his sexuality – something that had terrified him (and secretly intrigued him). After realising it was easier (and felt better) to wank to pictures of sweaty men in uniforms from Quidditch Quarterly than to the voluptuous, naked tarts in Wicked Witches he concluded that he was probably (at least) bisexual, though preferred men – then spent the rest of the school year worrying about it and barely passing enough NEWTS to qualify for Auror training.
So he'd taken a break.
A long, 4-year break in Romania handling dragons with Charlie (who proved to be an enlightening teacher in many more ways than one).
It was there that he met Draco.
The New Draco, at least.
Draco hadn't returned to Hogwarts for their last year, and Harry had only seen him twice since the final battle – to speak at his hearing with the Wizengamot and to – after he'd been released – return his hawthorn wand. He'd been civil; quiet and sullen and a little unhealthy looking, but seemed better than Harry had thought he would. He had figured at the time that that would most likely be one of the last times he saw him, unless they'd happen to bump into each other sending their respective children off at Platform 9 ¾. So when he arrived at Harry's bedside one day after a particularly nasty (and large) Ukrainian Ironbelly female had escaped and had put nearly half the Reserve's staff in the Medi-tent (Harry included) trying to get her under control, he was shocked.
Well, shocked was probably an understatement. Floored and flabbergasted was probably more accurate (though Harry didn't complain since his ex-rival was trying to heal a few particularly nasty burns on his arm and back that hurt, quite frankly, like a bitch).
They'd begun a tentative friendship after that, which – nurtured by the happiness and contentment that comes with finding familiarity in foreign lands, as well as the close living quarters and intensity of caring for dragons – had grown. Soon enough he wasn't Malfoy any longer, but Draco. Well, most of the time anyway. And when his apprenticeship with a local Potion Master (who supplied the healing potions and salves to the Reserve) was over, Harry had tagged along with the blond back to England. It seemed natural at the time (despite much sputtering from Ron, a constant stream of 'are you sure, Harry?'s from Hermione, and more letters of outrage and caution from strangers than he could count) that they move in together – which is how they came to find themselves occupying a small townhouse that the Malfoy family had owned in Bath since the 18th century.
It'd been a bit over a year since then, though, and everything was smashing so far…except for one little problem they'd come up against recently.
"I heard they were together! You know, like a couple!"
"Do you think it's true?"
"Merlin just look at the two of them together – I don't care if he was a Death Eater, they're bloody gorgeous –"
Harry sent a scathing glare across the room and crossed his arms in front of his chest as he stalked foreword towards the counter. He could hear Draco's near silent laughter behind him.
"Do you want ice cream, Draco? Then shut up." He whispered furiously, not meeting his friend's eyes in favour of scanning the myriad of available flavours. After a moment he let out a harsh sigh. "Doesn't it bother you at all?"
The blond scoffed. "Of course, Potter. I'll never get a date if people continue to spread rumours that I'm shagging the Boy-Who-Lived. What I find amusing is just how much it irks you."
"You love me."
Harry glared. "You know, it's saying things like that in public that just feeds the fucking rumour-mill – even our friends are starting in on it at this point! Did I tell you what Kingsley gave me last week as an early birthday present?" he raged quietly.
"I assume you're going to tell me."
"A bloody economy-sized tub of Muggle condoms!"
"Perhaps he thinks you're into one-offs."
Harry gave his friend a pointed look.
"Draco…they were charmed to flash green and silver or red and gold and to taste like pepper imps and treacle tart. I refuse to believe that is a coincidence."
Draco snorted. "How does Kingsley know my favourite sweet?"
Harry shrugged. "I think I ran into him buying you a box for your birthday a few months ago." Draco hummed.
After a long pause the blond bent down, his lips mere centimetre's from Harry's ear. The brunet shivered a little as his warm breath tickled the sensitive area.
"Those condoms…do you still have them?" he whispered silkily.
Harry turned bright red and sputtered. "DRACO!"
Draco just laughed.
Harry sighed, slumped against the thick oak table in front of him, his elbow gently nudging a perspiring pint of lager. It was Friday (finally) which meant pub-night with his friends – something he'd come to anticipate more and more each passing week of training.
It's not that he didn't want to be an Auror…it's just that nobody ever told him that training was so mind-numbingly dull. He blamed Ron. The least his so-called best mate could have done when he joined was warn him somehow.
…and speak of the devil.
"Long day, mate?"
Harry jerked up at the familiar voice and felt the cushion on the booth dip slightly off to his side.
"Torture." He mumbled and took a deep breath then scrubbed his face with his palm, sighing. "'Mione coming later or does she have to work late?"
Ron patted his shoulder. "She'll be here in a few minutes. Neville can't make it though – said he was too busy with some…new variation of aco…nittle blooming or something – anyway, he went off on a tangent and I didn't feel like paying attention. Oi!" He flagged down a wandering barmaid and ordered himself a pint before eyeing Harry.
"Where's your boyfriend?"
Harry sighed internally. Then out loud.
"Draco – who is coincidentally not my boyfriend – was still in the lab when I flooed about 20 minutes ago. Said he'd be here soon." He gave the red-haired man a sour look. "I don't know why everyone seems to think we're dating."
"It's because you're practically married to each other, Harry."
"But –" He was cut off by Hermione's arrival at their booth, sliding in beside her husband and unconsciously resting a hand on his thigh before giving him a gentle kiss.
"Ron, Harry…where's Draco? Is he coming?" Harry let out an irritated groan. Hermione frowned. "What?"
"Harry's still in denial, love."
"Who's in denial?" A curious Seamus Finnegan joined them, plonking himself directly across from Harry. He was followed almost instantly by Dean Thomas and Luna, arriving almost all at once, who somehow managed to squeeze themselves in.
"Are we talking about Draco and Harry again?" Luna asked in a light, sing-song voice.
"Do you talk about us often?" Harry asked through clenched teeth, his hands gripping the sides of his glass like a vice.
"Of course, Harry. We're only worried you know – it was a bit of a shock that you came home from Romania with Draco, but you know that we'll accept you no matter who you date." She replied airily. He sputtered.
"We're not dating! Look –" He raised a hand and jabbed a finger down angrily on the table-top. " – just because I'm bi and he's gay and we're housemates does not mean we're dating or, or kissing or –"
"Shagging?" drawled an amused voice to his right.
"Yes! Shagging – we're not – Draco! You're here! Go on, tell them then."
The blonde smirked at him a little, one perfectly arched eyebrow raised. "We're not dating. Now, move the bloody hell over, Potter."
He roughly shoved Harry over a little and squeezed himself into the booth.
"Look, Harry, we're just worried about you mate. We want you to be happy you know…and frankly the Ferret isn't exactly my first choice either –"
"I'm hurt, Weasel."
Harry had had enough. He slammed his palm down on the table with a resounding smack and glared at his friends over his lager.
"Look guys, it's not that I don't appreciate it, but for the last time – Draco and I are only friends! That's all there is to it, and that's all there will ever be. Now, can we talk about something else please?"
Ron shot him a strange look and Hermione eyed Draco carefully before sighing.
"Fine, Harry. What do you want to do for your birthday? We should have a party or something – you never really had a proper party here without some death-threat hanging over your head…"
Harry was pleased to hear the turn of conversation as his friends began throwing out ideas for party venues and dates, arguing about what the best would be amongst themselves. A barmaid came to take drinks orders, then disappeared quickly and he lost himself in discussion for a while before turning with a small smile to an uncharacteristically quiet Draco. The discussion seemed to melt away in the face of the man's stony expression.
"Alright?" he whispered, frowning and nudging the blond's shoulder.
Draco sighed a little, his gaze fixated on a fresh glass of Butterbeer the barmaid had just placed in front of him. "Peachy, Potter. Just peachy."
Harry hated Wednesday's.
Wednesday's meant tea at Malfoy Manor with Draco and his mother. Sometimes he was able to skive off, especially if he had an assignment he had to complete, but he'd already missed the past two times and felt a little guilty missing a third one in a row. It's not that he minded the company – Narcissa Malfoy had become extremely pleasant to be around now that Harry had taken the time to get to know her a little more. She was a haughtier version of Andromeda in some cases, but the likeness was there enough that he'd grown to have somewhat of a soft spot for the older woman.
No, Narcissa was fine. It was Lucius that Harry had a difficult time with; though the man had joined them only a handful of times and had been mostly silent, Harry wasn't sure he would ever be able to feel comfortable around him. He always sat rigidly in his chair, his eyes narrowed and darting from Harry to his wife to Draco then back to Harry with an icy glare. And of course this made Harry fidget like a seven year old about to get a talking-to, which only made him more nervous. He could never be sure when Lucius would be at tea, and for this reason alone he avoided it as much as possible.
When they stepped out of the floo into the family drawing room, as always, Harry stumbled a bit on his feet just behind Draco who steadied him with waiting arms. (Harry counted it a blessing that at least he didn't come shooting out like a rocket as he had when he was younger). He was relieved to see only Narcissa sitting elegantly under a white umbrella on the patio just outside the windows. She sipped at a bone china tea cup that probably cost more than a month's salary, her glorious hair pulled in a loose (but not untidy) bun and a calm sense of ease about her.
"Don't you seem relieved." Draco teased, catching sight of Harry's sagging shoulders.
"Your dad scares the shit out of me, Draco. You know this."
The blond chuckled. "That's what he wants, you know. You're playing directly into his power-trip."
They strode to the French doors along the far side of the wall leading to the garden and exited the Manor. Narcissa rose when she saw them, a gentle smile on her face.
"Draco, Harry – so good of you to join me." She pulled Draco into a hug and he kissed each cheek gently before backing away. To Harry's surprise he was given the same treatment and was thankful he managed to get over his obvious flushing embarrassment fast enough to respond in kind. "Please, sit." She motioned towards two white wicker chairs that appeared instantly around the small table holding a white and silver filigreed china teapot with matching cups, saucers, sugar jar, and creamer.
Once situated, Harry cradled his cup gently taking a few small sips of the warm, milky, slightly bitter liquid.
"So, Harry, I haven't seen you in a few weeks. Is everything going well in training?"
"Erm…well, yes. Been a bit busy, though, sorry about that." He replied awkwardly, blushing and resisting the urge to pull at the hair at the nape of his neck.
Narcissa chuckled. "No need to apologise, dear. I'm glad to hear you're doing well."
"Oh, um…yes. Thank you for inviting me."
"Nonsense, Harry. You're always welcome to the Manor." She smiled and turned to Draco. "How is work going, my darling?"
The blond sighed and put his cup down gently on a saucer with a tiny clank.
"Everything is going well, mother. I've just finished my last project with some success – really, a decent tasting Pepper-up Potion was long overdue in my opinion."
Narcissa sipped her tea and set it down, smiling. They all knew Draco hadn't really been working on something so simple, but being an Unspeakable made it impossible to answer work-related questions and Harry fancied his friend had become quite adept at lying about it on the spot so as not to seem awkward or creepy like the majority of his co-workers.
"Quite." She paused, watching a large white peacock strut across the garden towards a thriving clump of roses. "I've been hearing some rather interesting rumours as of late." She added; her eyes focused away from them, a knowing smirk playing across her lips.
Draco raised a brow. "Oh?"
"Yes. Tell me, Harry, when was the last time Draco took you on a proper date?"
Harry saved himself from spitting a large mouthful of tea over his lap, but it was a near thing. He saw Draco's eyes bug out.
"What? Aren't you two an item?"
Harry choked a bit on his tea and flushed beet red, almost doubling over in an overwhelming coughing fit.
"No, of course not! Whoever gave you that idea? My relationship with Harry is strictly platonic." He exclaimed loudly, reaching over and slapping Harry's back gently to help the rest of the tea out of his throat.
"Is that so? Pity…"
Draco glared at her, rubbing Harry's back in lazy, comforting circles and Harry sighed internally.
This might even be worse than tea with Lucius. He thought bitterly, then resigned himself to listening to a long, uncomfortable argument between Draco and Narcissa about their relationship – or lack-thereof.
They arrived home at around 7:30; a little later than normal for tea. Narcissa had taken time to scold Draco about his lack of partner (he wasn't getting any younger) and gone on an hour-long tangent about how, when she was his age, she was already married with a child.
Harry cringed a little as he recalled it.
The drawing room was dark, tinged a light blue from the evening sky pouring in through the windows. Draco didn't look at him after they'd gotten in, instead choosing to turn on the WWN. It was a half hour into Witching Hour, the blond's favourite programme and one he listened to every day almost religiously. Harry could hear Celestina Warbeck's rich voice emanating softly from the corner of the room and flopped down on the couch with a sigh.
"This is so obnoxious." He moaned, rubbing his face with his hands. "Why is everyone so obsessed with the thought of us being a couple?" He asked, not really expecting an answer.
Draco moved to sit beside him leaving a good amount of room. He flicked a wand towards the candles and brass sconces which lit suddenly, and Harry could see a thick magenta book cradled in the crook of his friend's arm.
"They're just worried about your happiness, Harry. And mine, I suppose." Harry saw him wince. "Anyway, you haven't had a boyfriend since we've moved in together – or at least you've never told me about them. I understand they just want to see you settled. Didn't you tell me once that all you really wanted after the War was a family?"
Harry frowned and crossed his arms across his chest like a petulant child.
"Yes, well, I don't know – I'm happy how I am right now. I don't want to rush into a relationship just because my friends are all pairing themselves off and they want everyone else to do the same thing." He sighed. "I just want them to shut up about it. I'll find someone, someday, but right now I just want to keep doing what I've been doing. And anyway, it's not like Auror training leaves much spare time for dating and all that rubbish."
Draco shot him a strange, searching look then tossed his book between them, pulling up a leg and resting the weight of his body gently against the corner of the sofa.
"Well if you want them to shut up about it, you should do something."
"But I've been trying, Draco! You're the one who doesn't protest enough –"
The blond sent him a withering look. "You protest enough for the both of us, Harry. They're not going to stop until you've either announced our relationship officially or started dating someone else."
Harry snapped his head towards his friend, his eyes widening a little.
"What did you just say?"
Draco frowned, his brow furrowed. "You protest enough for –"
"No, no, no. That last bit…" He grinned, a rough plan already beginning to form. "Draco, you're a genius!"
The blond scoffed. "You're just figuring this out now?"
"Shut it you wanker. It's perfect!"
Draco frowned. "Explain."
Harry sat forward, eyes sparkling. "Well, it's like you said – the only way everyone is going to get off my back is if I start dating someone or we officially announce our relationship and I really don't feel like finding some random stranger…"
"You want to…date me?" his voice was quiet, unbelieving, and with some other emotion that Harry couldn't place.
"Not really. I'm quite happy being single, you know…but that's the thing! We pretend to date each other! It's perfect, actually – this way people will leave us alone until we're ready to go off and meet people and start dating and whatnot." He sighed in contentment and leaned back in his seat, still grinning.
"Not to burst your bubble, Potter, but if we start acting like a couple after constantly and vehemently denying it everyone will become suspicious."
Harry frowned. "You're right…hmm…" He said, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice. He ran a hand through his hair to help him think. "Well…what if we, um, pretended to hide it?"
Draco arched a brow at him. "We pretend to date, but pretend to hide it as well?"
"Erm, well, yeah…I mean think about it – as you said, if we came right out and said that we were a couple people would instantly think that we're just saying that so they'll leave us alone. So if we pretend to hide the fact that we're officially dating, it will seem a lot less suspicious when we 'announce' it to them later."
Draco gave him a long, strange look before smiling a little. It seemed almost brittle. "Alright. This sounds like fun…but you're paying for everything."
"Paying?" Harry asked, confused. Draco rolled his eyes.
"Of course paying, Harry. If I'm to go on dates and whatnot with you and follow this silly plan of yours there might as well be something in it for me. I'm an expensive boyfriend, you know, and even if it's fake we should be as genuine as possible. If we go out anywhere, it will be on your Sickle."
"Doesn't that make you the girl in the relationship, Draco? And besides, it's benefiting you as well." the blond flushed scarlet which produced a fresh round of giggles from Harry.
"Shut up you ignorant tosser, nobody is the girl – that's the whole bloody point, isn't it? Anyway, this was your idea in the first place – if you expect me to go along with it, those are my terms; take it or leave it."
"Fine, fine." Harry said, waving it off. Draco sighed a little, grabbing his book and turning away.
"We can talk about the finer details later, but for now I want to read and listen to Witching Hour. Don't you have an assignment to finish?"
Harry groaned. He'd almost forgotten. "Yeah. Fucking hell."
Bracing himself for a moment he rose and strode across the room to his desk. Twenty inches on how to properly incapacitate a Graphorn should it wander too far out of a forest was no laughing matter. He'd have to get started soon if he wanted to get any sleep tonight.
"I'm going… to murder you… Potter." Draco swore, his chest heaving with exertion. "Bloody…fuck…slow down…"
Harry laughed a little.
"We have to make this as believable as possible, Draco, and the best way to look like you've just been shagged senseless is to run about and mess up your hair a bit. It's not my fault you have no stamina."
The force of Draco's glare would have made a lesser man soil himself, but Harry just grinned.
"I'll have you know…I have…excellent…stamina in bed!" He panted then let out a low moan. "Merlin…we've been…running for hours! Can't we…stop now?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "It's only been three minutes you clotpole…but I guess it's enough."
"Salivating…Salazar…finally!" He halted abruptly on the path, bending over at the waist and panting to catch his breath. Harry turned and slowed, stopping before the irate man with a small grin.
"You're really out of shape. You should come jogging with me in the mornings."
Draco glared at him again, then stood and tilted his face upward in a snotty gesture. Harry's chest suddenly felt tight, momentarily stunned by the look on the man's face – his cheeks were red and flushed, his nostrils flared a little as he breathed, his eyes sparkling from the exercise. He looked…different.
"No thank you. Not everyone looks decent with thighs as round as tree trunks."
Harry chuckled then quickly reached up and tousled the blonde's hair. Draco jumped away, gasping, with a look of absolute horror.
"WHAT THE BLOODY FUCK, POTTER?" he screeched, immediately raking his hands through his locks in an attempt to straighten it back out.
Harry quirked a brow at him, grinning. "You didn't look rumpled 'nough. Come on, stop hissing and clawing at yourself; you're not a bloody Kneazle. We're already later than we should be." He scolded, holding out his hand for Draco to take. The blond eyed it suspiciously for a moment before reluctantly, and awkwardly, grabbing it.
"You're going to pay for this, Potter. I've never gone out looking so disgusting. EUCH! MY ROBES ARE ALL SWEA–"
Harry apparated them to the pub before he could finish the thought.
The pub was more crowded than usual for a Friday. Draco immediately snatched his hand away as soon as they'd arrived and replaced his scowl with a small, insincere smile then stalked towards the door. It took Harry a moment to catch up – he ran his hands through his hair roughly to make it look even more dishevelled (if that were possible) and they entered.
A radio played a Quidditch game loudly at the bar and quite a few people had gathered around it, listening eagerly and clutching pints of Butterbeer and scrumpy and old-fashioned glasses brimming with Firewhiskey. Harry searched the room and finally spotting his friends over in a large corner table, laughing at something Seamus was saying.
"Let's go." He gestured towards the table, one hand resting gently on the small of Draco's back and guiding him through the excited throng. His eyes caught Hermione's narrowed gaze for a second and he instantly dropped his arm to his side; a smug, giddy sort of smile forced its way onto his face.
"Harry! Draco!" Luna exclaimed with child-like enthusiasm. Harry grinned at her and shoved Draco into a freshly vacated spot in the booth, then scooted in after him.
"Finally, mate! What took you so long!" Ron asked with a grumpy frown.
"Why Draco, you look like you've just had a shag!" a teetering Dean teased with a sloppy grin.
Draco sent him a warning glare then smiled a little, though Harry could see it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Not as such, no." Harry kicked him gently, before he could go off on a tangent about how horrible his housemate treated him and grinned to the group. "We were, er, jogging if you must know."
Seamus raised an eyebrow.
"Erm, yeah." Harry agreed.
"At half eight. In the dark. In your robes."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Yes."
"Er…I'm a bit peckish… anyone else up for some chips?" Harry asked loudly, receiving excited nods and agreements all around. His eyes landed on Hermione's yet again, but she wasn't smiling. He quirked an eyebrow at her and she looked away hastily, whispering something in Ron's ear. The red-head turned to look at them, grinned, and whispered back.
Harry internally smirked.
After they'd received their drinks (Harry had been worried when Draco had ordered bubbly instead of his regular drink) Draco cleared his throat loudly. Everyone stopped talking and watched him curiously. He flushed a bit and held up his glass, the wine looking extremely out of place mixed with the large pints of frothing amber spread around the table.
"I propose a toast!" Everyone copied the gesture, raising their glasses high in the air (or as high as they could considering their various stages of inebriation) "To…to friendship!"
"To friendship!" they echoed, clanking their glasses together as best they could and drinking. Draco's eyes squeezed closed, and Harry watched in mild horror over the brim of his lager as the lanky blonde chugged the entire thing and slammed it down. Draco rarely drank anything stronger than Butterbeer and always got a horrible hangover after drinking more than a glass or two of wine or champagne. When he drank like that, though, Harry knew he wasn't finished – not by a long shot. Everyone else chatted away merrily, almost completely ignoring them as they returned to their interrupted conversations and only occasionally turning to the two latecomers.
His suspicions were proved right when his housemate managed to flag down a bar hag and ordered another.
"Draco…are you… alright?" He whispered in the blond's ear and got even more worried when he saw him shudder a little.
"I'm fine, Potter. Just…celebrating a little."
Harry frowned. "Celebrating? Celebrating what?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "Our relationship, of course." He purred, a seductive smirk playing at the corners of his mouth that made Harry's stomach flutter. "After all… you're buying." He added with a wink. Harry grinned.
Harry usually met Draco, Ron, Hermione, Susan Bones, Hannah Abbott and (strangely) Gregory Goyle for lunch at the Ministry – they all hated canteen food but never had enough time to go anywhere decent and Harry figured that, hopefully, the excellent company would make up for ingesting whatever disgusting slop was on the menu. He was usually right. It helped that Goyle would eat just about anything and didn't mind trading the better parts of his meal with everyone for things they refused to touch.
That Saturday he'd had stayed up late discussing potential ways to go about his plan with Draco. They'd come to a decision – the next step would be at lunch at the Ministry on Monday…and for some bewildering, inexplicable reason, Harry was nervous.
The canteen was crowded, as per usual, with stuffy looking men and women in various Ministry-designated robes. Usually the large, drab space was separated into different cliques – Aurors, Hit Wizards and MLE patrolmen would sit in the far corner, closest to the door but with their backs to the walls; all the other office workers within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement would surround them. The people from the Department of Games and Sports usually sat in the centre of the room, Control of Magical Creatures opposite from Law Enforcement, Accidents and Catastrophes sat in the back right, mingling a little with members of the Department of Magical Cooperation. Unspeakables and other members of the Department of Mysteries sat in the back but more towards the middle (they never spoke to one another – something that gave Harry chills) and the Department of Transportation often mingled with Magical Maintenance in the only remaining corner of the room. Harry had learned about this unspoken agreement the first day of Auror training and, after finally spotting Draco looking extremely uncomfortable and out of place with his eerily silent peers in the Department of Mysteries, he'd promptly extended a permanent invitation for the man to join him and his friends in the DMLE area. It'd been awkward as arse the first few days (nobody had really had time to process that Harry and Draco were now inseparable), but finally Draco had broken the ice by saying something so funny it made Ron squirt pumpkin juice from his nose in his laughter, spraying nearly everyone in the face.
He was a little late today (which Harry realised worked out even better for their plan than they had even planned for) so he shook his head to rid himself of nervous thoughts about meeting Draco and hurried towards their usual table as quickly as he could. Susan and Ron were arguing animatedly and Hermione seemed to be deep in discussion with Hannah; Goyle was shovelling food in his mouth so fast Harry wondered if he never even paused to swallow, but had instead found a spell to keep his gullet open as wide as possible thereby making it unnecessary.
The man caught his eye and Harry saw his face light up with a small, fond smile. Suddenly he was more than nervous – he could feel that strange fluttering in his stomach from Friday night returning at the sight of it.
Really, Harry, you're just playing footsie…you're not shagging him on the table for Merlin's sake! He scolded, but smiled anyway and picked up the pace. Draco had saved him a seat across the table beside Ron, as per their usual arrangement, so he pulled out the chair and flopped into it haphazardly.
"Hey, sorry I'm late." He said with a sheepish grin.
"Hey Harry." Susan greeted with a smile.
"What took you so long, mate?" Ron asked curiously, a massive forkful of what appeared to be shepherd's pie (though he couldn't be too certain) precariously threatening to spill while moving towards his mouth. Harry sighed.
"Bloody Melinda Spellman accosted me on my way out the door – I don't understand why she can't just take a bleeding hint. I prefer to bugger men. Unless it has bollocks, I'm probably not touching it."
"I thought you were, er, bisexual. Didn't you shag my sister? She said you were her first."
Harry blushed. He hated having these kinds of conversations with Ron – it hurt a little, actually. He hated having to face the fact that he wasn't actually a member of the Weasley family and talking about shagging Molly Weasley's youngest (and only daughter) usually made that distinct line very clear to him.
It was true, what Draco had said before – that all he really wanted was a family.
Now isn't the time to think about stuff like this! He chastised himself then sent Ron a wary smile.
"Er, yeah…but it was only the one time and, um, well Ginny is – was – special – "
Much to his delight, Draco saved him.
"Oh disgusting you two, I don't want to hear about your virginal exploits with the Weaselette while I'm in the middle of eating, Potter. The food is bad enough to make me want to vomit besides." He complained with an exaggerated grimace.
"Hey, that's my sister!"
"He's kind of right, Ron. Can we talk about something else?" Susan said, already looking a little green.
And then Harry felt it. A slight pressure at the base of his ankle and slowly working its way up; it took nearly all of his training not to jump at the simple touch. He stared at Draco then, which turned out to be a huge mistake; the slightly heated silvery gaze locked onto his eyes and made it almost impossible to turn away. As the foot travelled upward slowly in a pattern of small circles, Harry's stomach exploded with butterflies and a rush of blood made his ears roar. He jerked his eyes away, unwilling (or unable) to meet Draco's "innocent" smile at the moment.
His heart thudding in his chest, Harry focused his attention on Hermione who was looking at him strangely. The whole table had fallen silent.
"Erm, sorry, what was that?"
"I just asked if you were alright – you seem a little…out of it, or something."
"Er, no, I'm um, fine." He shifted backwards, remembering their plan suddenly and clearing his throat. He felt Draco pull away from his leg – the absence of warmth causing something deep down to whine pitifully – then spread his legs a bit wider so his foot rested just beside Ron's.
"Are you sure?"
"Erm, yeah. No worries. I should, um, probably go get food before the hour's up, yeah?" He made to leave but felt a hand tug gently on the sleeve of his robe that pulled him back down.
"No need, Potter. I got you something." Draco stated, grabbing a small brown sack from beside his tray and shoving it towards his housemate. Harry frowned a little, curious, and peered inside. His eyebrows shot up in surprise.
"Is that a kebab? How in Godric's girdle did you manage to get one?"
Draco shrugged and looked away. "I had a case in Muggle London and walked by a place that sold some. I know how much you like them on the super-rare occasion we go out on the piss outside of Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. Personally, I don't know how you can stand the stuff – the smell burns my nostrils it's so strong and the GREASE, Potter! Disgusting!"
Harry gave him a sloppy grin and dug into the bag, gripping the greasy pita in a greedy fist. Everyone began their conversations once more.
"Thanks, Draco! Bloody hell, I haven't had one of these in ages!"
As he took the first bite of luscious seasoned lamb and pita and veggies he noticed a light pink tinge to the man's cheeks, though his expression was one of schooled indifference. It made his heart beat a little faster.
Suddenly, Ron yelped.
"Malfoy! That's my bloody leg you're feeling up with your bloody shoes!" He bellowed, his face immediately flushing crimson. Draco paused for a moment before laughing a bit hysterically (Harry did have to commend him on his acting skills when they got home – he was doing his part almost perfectly).
"So sorry, Ronald. I was just…er…shifting. In my seat. An accident, of course. I apologise."
Harry saw everyone's eyes narrow at the blond and forced himself to hold back a grin.
Things were going swimmingly, if he did say so himself.
The next few weeks almost flew by for Harry. He met with Draco and his other friends to plan out his party; they'd chosen the Burrow since it was well-equipped to handle large crowds of people and the proper wards were already in place to keep out any unwanted visitors but that was really the only thing he'd been able to decide on for himself. Draco and Hermione – always the planners – had joined forces surprisingly quickly, promising to make this birthday unforgettable.
Harry didn't mind – it's not that he didn't want a fabulous party; he just had no idea what a "fabulous party" was really supposed to entail. He'd never really celebrated his birthday until the age of 11, and even then the only person who'd really congratulated him was Hagrid…with Hedwig; his twelfth birthday had been an absolute disaster when Dobby had tried to save him by dumping Aunt Petunia's pudding over Uncle Vernon's client's wife. His thirteenth birthday had started decently (besides Hagrid sending him the Monster Book of Monsters, of course, which had nearly torn up everything in his room) but then Vernon's sister had shown up and just had to ruin it (though he did wonder for a while afterwards how exactly he had managed to blow her up as such…it might be a good new product for George to try out). His fourteenth and fifteenth years were spent miserable at the Dursley's. His sixteenth birthday party – though he had hardly felt like celebrating at the time with Sirius' soul-shattering absence – had been interrupted by Remus with news of Dementor attacks. His seventeenth, despite being overshadowed by his impending battle with Voldemort, would have been the best to date if Scrimegour hadn't gate-crashed it causing Remus and Tonks to flee then threatening him and his friends.
After the war, it hadn't seemed prudent to throw a party. Instead, he locked himself in Grimmauld place all day, deep under Sirius' quilt, despite how desperately his friends attempted to contact him.
And then he'd been in Romania. With Charlie and Draco.
This was his first REAL birthday party – one where he didn't have to worry about Dementors or Dark Lords, only that he not somehow end up with alcohol poisoning or with his skin semi-permanently turned an awkward colour of fuchsia…or tattoos of flies on his todger that grew as it did.
The party meetings had been a great opportunity to slip in a few "surreptitious" moon-eyed glances and lingering "casual" touches Draco's way. He could tell people were getting suspicious about them – nobody said anything to either of their faces, but Harry had seen more than one furiously whispered conversation between Hermione and Ron as they looked their way.
It was odd, though, when they were alone. Draco had been quieter as of late – curling up by himself in an armchair with a book and almost pointedly ignoring him, locking himself in his room when it was time for Witching Hour on the radio, leaving for the Ministry before Harry woke or coming home much later than normal. At first, Harry thought he might have a boyfriend (the thought had caused an odd wrenching sensation in his gut, much like the feeling of apparation but a little more…hollow) but when questioned about it, the man had simply chuckled and brushed it off as being ridiculous.
It was still puzzling, though. After their last pub night (they'd actually held hands until they were in eye-shot of the table) Draco had locked himself in his room as soon as they got home and hadn't come out until late Sunday evening looking rumpled, tired, and a little depressed.
He seemed a bit better now, though. They sat together at the small table in the kitchen eating dinner after returning from tea with Narcissa and holding normal conversation; something that Harry found he'd missed quite a bit in the past few weeks.
"Did you see his face? It was priceless, Harry." The blond exclaimed, punctuating with a few jabs of his fork; a rare sloppy grin plastered on his face.
Harry pulled a fake pout.
"I must've missed it." He said wistfully, but knew that it was impossible to hide the sparkle of laughter in his eyes.
His eyes had always been especially telling to people who knew him well. He knew this about himself.
"We can do it again, then. At your party. I'm telling you, when Ron caught sight of our hands he nearly fainted!" He paused for a second in his re-telling, giving Harry a curious look. "You were in front of me, though…how could you have not seen? He fell into Finnegan's lap and nearly knocked over half the lagers on the table."
Harry's heart gave a fearful jolt.
He had been in front of Draco, so technically he should have seen…but how could he explain that he'd been so nervous and excited holding his friend's hand that he hadn't been able to pay attention to anything else?
He grinned instead and shrugged.
"Was looking towards the loo. I thought I saw Addison Poynter and Rob Turpin from work snogging their way into the back."
It wasn't a lie – he had seen them – but he'd only noticed because he was trained to notice little details that other people might not. He hadn't actually paid them any mind. Draco looked shocked.
"But…but they hate each other! They're always bickering at lunch…and in the halls…and everywhere else I've spotted them together."
"You know," Harry said, his grin turned into a sort of sad smile, "there was a time when we hated each other."
It was something they never talked about – not really. Their Hogwarts rivalry had always been a closed topic of discussion and they avoided it when they could. Draco's face immediately turned expressionless, a mask that Harry was sadly familiar with suddenly blocked him out.
The man began to absently shove his remaining meal around on his plate with his cutlery, watching the bright red madras curry leave vibrant streaks in its wake.
"No, er…you're right, Harry. Absolutely, I –"
Harry set down his fork and placed his free hand over Draco's fidgeting one, stilling him. He felt the blond tense. He sighed. Time for a little damage control.
"Draco…hey…do you…do you want to go get some ice cream?"
The look of relief that washed over the Draco's face made something ease in him a little.
"Alright…" He acquiesced, sending Harry a playful glare. "But you're buying. And I want a big one. A sundae. With at least 3 scoops. And whipped cream. And cherries. And pepper imp crumbles."
Harry grinned and rolled his eyes, pulling his hand away and scooting out from the table. He stacked the dishes, but left them to be washed later. "Of course, princess. Anything else?"
Draco sputtered in indignation, his cheeks flushing pink.
"I am – well I never – don't…don't call me princess you minger! Just because you prefer to dress like a…a…bloody chav doesn't mean presenting yourself well –"
Harry's loud, ringing laughter cut out anything else he could have said. When he felt he could breathe again, Draco was looking at him curiously; his face still flushed pink, his eyes wide.
"You quite finished insulting me, then? Right…let's go. We can make it a date." He grinned and threw the blond a wink, exiting the kitchen and heading towards the floo.
Fortescue's was surprisingly devoid of people, much to Harry's warring emotions. He'd promised Draco ice cream and he intended to make due, but he was a little disappointed that the normally busy shop was so empty during the summer hols so there wasn't much opportunity to be spotted together. At the same time, though, he felt something nearing giddiness that he would be able to spend a while free from hassle, in public, with Draco.
After they'd ordered they claimed a table in a quieter corner of the room – Harry with his back to the wall and Draco to his left, staring out into the parlour.
"There's not too many people here…should we still go along with it?" He asked, a bit nervous. Draco frowned.
"Go along with what?"
"Erm…you know, pretend to be on a…um…date."
"Hmmm…" the blond furrowed his brow and looked about the room, a long silver spoon hovering over the giant sundae in front of him. He turned back to Harry, suddenly attacking his treat with the gusto of a five-year-old. "Well, it's up to you, but it's still a bit early yet. People will probably come in." He shovelled a mountain of the icy mix of confections in his mouth, his eyes fluttering a little at the taste. "Merlin this is divine! Anyway, we should just be patient, Harry. The paparazzi always come a-sniffing when they get wind that you're around and about."
Harry frowned, stealing a small bite of his housemate's treat with a spoon he'd grabbed from the front and hidden up his sleeve. Draco blinked in shock.
"Hey! That's mine you pillock! You didn't want ice cream!"
"We're on a date, remember? Date's share…and besides –" He jerked a hand forward, swiping at a large heap of whipped cream on the side of the dish and bringing it to his mouth. "– it's very good." He smiled rakishly, his eyes half-lidded as he sucked the sweet white substance from his finger.
He didn't know why he'd done that – it was more flirtatious than he'd ever been with his housemate, plan or no plan. Draco didn't respond right away; staring at Harry's mouth wide-eyed and gaping just as he had been before. The flashing grey eyes dragged themselves slowly upward until they met his and the swirl of emotions seemed to be so intense that he had to hold his breath to keep from gasping. And suddenly something flashed across the man's aristocratic features and a slow smirk spread across his face.
"Playing dirty, are we Harry? Want my ice cream that badly do you?"
Harry felt a light, lingering touch where his hip met his thigh and he jerked a little, almost choking on his finger. He was pretty sure his heart was about to fly out of his throat and the way his stomach twisted seemed reminiscent of someone tickling his gut with feathers. The spot on his leg where Draco touched him lead an invisible trail of fire straight to his groin.
"Shall I feed you, Harry?" the blonde asked, his voice dripping pure sex.
Only the tinkling of the door opening and closing hid Harry's near silent whimper. Draco laughed, moving his hand away.
"Hey! Who's playing dirty?" he growled, nabbing another, larger bite of the sundae and shoving it in his mouth with a scowl. "Bloody tease." He grumbled quietly. Draco laughed again.
"Ahh, so sorry!" he gasped between chuckles. "Serves you right, though."
They shared the rest of the treat amicably, teasing and flirting despite the lack of attention from the rest of the patrons. Once they had finished and left, walking side by side through Diagon Alley towards the pub to floo home, Harry snuck a glance at his companion. The dim lights from the shops lit his pale, smooth skin gently, highlighting his handsome features and made his white-blond hair shimmer.
He jerked back to reality quickly when he realised the man was speaking.
Draco gave him a stern look.
"I said, I think we should use your party to come out to our friends."
Harry frowned. "Come out?"
Draco rolled his eyes.
"Yes, come out…you know…as a 'couple'? I think we've sufficiently built everything up to this point…and the party is in two days. It'd be the perfect time – loads of people milling about, drinking…we could use the influence of alcohol to, you know, 'slip-up' or some such nonsense."
Harry shoved his hands in his pockets and looked away, contemplating.
"Hmm, that sounds good. How should we go about it, though? Should we slip out the back and make people think we've gone to shag or something?"
Draco raised a brow and scoffed.
"Please, Potter. Nothing short of a public display will do the job."
He frowned, his heart suddenly lodged in his throat. "You want me to shag you in public?"
The blond stopped short for a moment, sputtering.
"What? NO, that's not – Honestly! A simple kiss should suffice."
"You want me to snog you…in front of all our friends?"
Harry saw Draco flush.
"Not as such you berk. Snogging and kissing are two totally separate things."
"Yes, they are! Snogging implies…well…it implies a little more…intimacy. Or something. Kissing is just…kissing…well…Salazar, just shut up and trust me on this."
Harry shrugged, grinning.
"Alright…so you want me to kiss you at my birthday party?"
"I think that should work. It doesn't have to be, you know…hot and heavy. Just a simple peck, really."
They entered the Leaky Cauldron then, ignoring the quiet inane chatter from the customers and meandering over to the fireplace where they headed home.
The next day passed somewhat like a blur. After work, Draco and Hermione rushed around preparing last-minute decorations and details and floo-calling people who hadn't RSVP'd to see if they were coming. Harry had worked for hours on a new assignment he'd been given so he could spend his weekend free from worry, pausing only to inhale a quick dinner of fish and chips Draco had picked up for everyone on his way back from an errand. He'd contemplated taking the day off tomorrow, but decided against it though Draco, Hermione and Ron all had. They needed the time to set up the Burrow, and Harry knew they would chase him away until everything was absolutely perfect – plus work would take his mind off of it for a while and (hopefully) make the day go a little faster.
He lay naked save pants on his bed, staring at the ceiling. It was too hot for covers so he rested on top of them, but he couldn't be bothered to cast a Cooling Charm on the room, preferring to keep the window open and using his charmed Muggle fan to blow air around. Draco hated this method and always complained that it made the room too stuffy, but Harry enjoyed listening to the gentle whirr of the blades slicing through the air. It helped him think.
And now, he needed to think.
'Alright…so you want me to kiss you at my birthday party?'
'…kiss you at my birthday party?'
His heart raced at the thought, pounding in his ears. He groaned, closing his eyes and rubbing his face roughly.
Draco is my friend! Honestly…why do I feel this way?
He rolled on his side, facing the wall. A constant stream of cool air beat against his sweaty back.
Is it really such a bad thing that I feel this way? He's an attractive guy…smart, witty, snarky, loyal, devastatingly gorgeous…
"…but he doesn't want you, Harry. You have nothing to offer him as a lover."
He frowned, rolling off the bed and padding over to the corner of the room near the window where he'd propped up a long, full-length mirror. He stared at himself.
Short, muscle-y – too muscle-y, knobbly knees, skin too dark, insecure, a bit dim with nerdy glasses and messy, sloppy hair and an overabundance of scars…can't dress yourself…awkward in social situations…not to mention the hounding press every time you step outside the bloody house…why would anyone want you? How could someone so…perfect ever want you?
He scowled at himself, his shoulders slumping a little and roughly turning the mirror around to face the wall.
"You can't have him. Best leave it at that and be done with it. There's no use wasting away over something you can't have; if there's anything the Dursley's taught you, it's that." He muttered to himself.
He shuffled back over to the bed, flopping down unceremoniously and letting out a drawn out, defeated sigh.
It was a long time before he managed to drift off to sleep, his mind plagued by the snarky blond man currently sleeping in the adjacent room.
Harry awoke quickly, and immediately wished he hadn't. He groaned then winced as the tiny bit of sound rang loudly in his ears. His stomach churned violently.
"Fuck!" He whispered, stumbling to his feet clumsily and throwing his eyes open.
Ginny's…I'm in Ginny's room.
Was his first and only thought before racing as quickly as possible out the door in the general direction of the nearest toilet, clamping his hand over his mouth as if it might somehow prevent the bile rising in his throat from escaping the confines of his body.
No such luck, as it happens, but he was relieved to at least make it to the sink before almost violently emptying the contents of his stomach. Multiple times.
When he felt a little bit better, he moaned, running the faucet to drain the mess he'd made with his eyes deliberately focused on a tattered pink shower curtain to his left. He wasn't really in the mood to look at what he had (or hadn't, in this case) eaten last night.
After he had cleaned up the last of his sick he rinsed out his mouth with water and gently scrubbed at his face with his wet hands.
His pounding headache, momentarily forgotten in his rush not to soil Ginny's bedspread, came back with a vengeance. He groaned and slid slowly to the floor; the cool temperature of the floorboards soothing the pounding in his temples.
A loud series of banging knocks made him wince.
"Harry? Harry, are you in there?" Hermione's shrill voice grated against his eardrums like razors.
"'Mione, go 'way." He begged, his voice deep and raspy.
There was silence for a moment but Harry didn't hear her walk away. He heard her sigh loudly and immediately felt like crying.
"I'm coming in…unless you don't want a hangover potion?"
He jerked up a little, then gasped and let his head fall back on the floor. The door clicked open and banged against Harry's thigh. He yelped.
"I thought so." Came her knowing voice. He heard her shuffle into the room and closed the door behind her. He cracked one eye open and internally winced. She looked…stern. And unhappy. Her arms were folded across her chest as she glared down at him. He could see the end of an acid green vial poking out from behind one elbow, but made no move to give it to him.
"'Mione…as much as I'd love to lay about on the floor all day feeling like I've just been run over by a herd of hippogryphs…"
If anything her glare became harsher.
"I ought to just leave you like this, you know, after what you did last night."
Harry frowned, trying to delve up memories. He remembered…he remembered toasting with everyone…Seamus' band playing Happy Birthday…seeing Oliver Wood and dancing with him a bit. And drinking. He remembered drinking. Everything else was pretty fuzzy.
Her nose scrunched up in anger.
"No. Nothing happened with Oliver, though you two were all over each other when you were dancing. After that."
He tried to think – what the hell had he done to make her so angry with him? Had he started a fight with someone? Tried to do a strip tease? snogged Ron?
Wait…snogging. It had something to do with snogging. He'd had a plan. With Draco.
She sneered at him.
"Yes, Draco! How could you DO that, Harry? Honestly!"
Harry furrowed his brow.
"I don't…I don't actually remember what I did." He gave her a pleading look. "Can't you just…give me the potion and you can remind me, or something? My head feels like a bad construction zone."
She snorted and handed him the potion which he drank greedily, despite the foul taste. Hangover potions, Hermione had told him, would always leave the taste of old gym socks and sour milk in your mouth just to make sure you learned some kind of lesson from drinking so much the night before.
Immediately his stomach quelled its angry movement and his headache vanished. He knew he'd still have a bit of vertigo if he stood too fast, but it was nothing he couldn't handle. He rose slowly, clutching the edge of the sink for support, and realised for the first time that the only thing he was wearing was a tight pair of pants Charlie had bought him in Romania that, when worn, made him look like a crappy imitation of Adam in the Garden of Eden complete with bright green fig leaf.
He flushed crimson, but made no move to step past her and try to retrieve his clothes.
That was the only push she needed.
"Do you honestly not remember anything, Harry?" Her tone was low and dangerous and he knew to watch his tongue and not argue.
She let out a defeated sigh, but still looked angry.
"Well I suppose that's to be expected – you did consume your weight and a half in alcohol last night and I didn't notice you eating anything." She studied him. He hated it when she did that – she was probably the best at reading him and he always felt so naked under her scrutinising gaze. Not that he wasn't pretty much naked anyway, at the moment.
He shrugged, staring at his curling toes.
"I was a little…nervous, I suppose. Didn't feel like eating." He mumbled, knowing she'd somehow manage to wheedle it out of him, even though she never asked why.
She tensed a little then softened. He darted his eyes to meet hers for a moment, confused by her sad look.
"Why were you nervous, Harry?"
Damn. He couldn't tell her.
"Because you've been trying to fool everyone into thinking you and Draco are in a relationship and you were going to use the birthday party to tell everyone in a way they would understand? Because you were going to kiss him?"
He jerked his head upward, eyes wide.
"How did you –"
She glared again, even more fierce than before if possible.
"Honestly, Harry, what kind of a fool do you take me for? It was obvious from the beginning."
"Er…right. Obvious." He muttered, scratching the back of his head gently, then paused, frowning at her. "Then why are you so upset about it? If you knew from the beginning why are you so angry with me?"
"Because sometimes your idiocy astounds me! Don't you realise why everyone was hounding on you and Draco to become a couple? God, you're so fucking…dim sometimes – I just want to smack you!"
But she was in full rant-mode and ignored him.
"– and poor Draco, having to go along with your idiotic plan and flirt and touch you knowing it means nothing to you then you go and make a fool of yourself and him at your party, dragging him to the front of the fucking room and getting everyone's attention – falling all over yourself drunk – and announcing that you're in fucking LOVE with him and then practically snogging his face off in front of everybody! How do you think that made him feel knowing it's a fucking lie; having to put up with it because he doesn't want to ruin your first birthday with everyone and wanting to help you because you felt annoyed by a few friends teasing you and knowing he can't bloody push you away because he's so madly in love with you – and has been for so long – that he's happy to get anything he can from you?"
She looked absolutely wild with anger and Harry stared at her in shock.
…can't bloody push you away because he's so madly in love with you…
…because he's so madly in love with you…
…madly in love with you…
"W-What?" he squeaked.
"Harry James Potter you are the biggest idiot I've ever bloody met – and I work in POLITICS! I MARRIED RONALD!"
"He…he loves me?"
"HONESTLY! Before you two started this ridiculous scheme did you even bother asking him how he felt about you? Have you ever? He's been in love with you for near on five years!"
Harry was sure, if it were physically possible, his heart would be plummeting to the floor.
"No BUTS, Harry! After we finally managed to get you to bed he spilled the whole bloody thing – crying, as it were! How could you be so dense about this?
Harry gasped, his mouth strangely dry.
"You're joking. You must be. It's not…Draco…he doesn't –"
"Why is this so difficult for you to understand?" She threw up her hands, her face red with fury.
"Where is he?" He asked, his voice low and steady despite the raging emotions battling in his chest.
"Leave him alone, Harry. Just for a few days – he just needs some time –"
"I wasn't joking, you know. If that's really what I said…I wasn't kidding when I said I loved him."
It was Hermione's turn to be shocked. She gaped at him, all traces of anger seemingly disappearing.
"You heard me! I only…I only just figured it out –"
"No! Listen! I've been thinking – this whole time we've been doing this…and I realised a few days ago that I…I love him." He paused, searching her incredulous face. Agitation and the need to escape making him shake a little. "I need to find him, Hermione…if that's really what I did…if that's really what he thinks – that this whole thing was just some ploy to get people to stop harassing me, even if it was in the beginning – that I'll never feel the same way about him, then I need to find him and tell him."
She was silent, her mouth pursed into a thin, angry line.
"Please, 'Mione…" he begged. She let out a long, anguished sigh and rubbed her face in her hands.
"Alright…alright. Let's…let's look together, okay? It'll be faster that way. Where do you think he'll have gone? I doubt he's back at your house…"
They checked everywhere they could think of – their house, the Ministry, Malfoy Manor, Andromeda's, Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, Goyle's, Pansy and Theo's (even though Draco hadn't spoken to them in over a year) and Hogwarts. They'd even floo-called Charlie and had him check Draco's old haunts in Romania to no avail.
As 2:30 the next day rolled around, Harry was starting to panic but trying his damnedest not to show it.
"He must be somewhere, Hermione!" He cried, pacing around the kitchen in the Burrow in frustration. She sat at the table, her head in her hands and Ron across from her looking worried.
"I'm sure he'll turn up, mate…"
"I have to find him!"
Hermione sighed. "Okay…well obviously this isn't working. Can you think of anything else, Harry? Is there somewhere he goes…I dunno…when he's upset or anything he does…oh, Harry, that's it!"
"What?" He cried, barely holding himself back from shaking her for not telling him fast enough.
"Draco – he listens to the radio every day, right? He always listens to Witching Hour on the WWN!"
Harry felt himself deflate.
"Yeah, so what? It's not like I can…" He paused, scanning her excited face then frowned. "No. Absolutely not. I'm not going on the bloody radio."
Her face fell.
"No, Hermione! I'm not –"
"She's got a point, actually. If he's upset he listens to the radio…and you've refused interviews and media attention ever since you've been back, I bet you could get on no problem."
Harry stared at Ron incredulously.
"I'm not going to use my bloody popularity to find him –"
"Look, it's only this one time…and it's important, Harry."
"Fine." He threw up his hands in defeat. "Fine. I'll do it. What do you suggest, though? Witching Hour is a bloody music programme. They're not going to want to do an interview then, and that's the only time I know he'll most likely be listening."
Ron shrugged. "Sing him a song."
'That's brilliant, Ronald!" Hermione exclaimed.
"What?" Harry snapped. "No. Absolutely bloody not – I can't – Merlin, I can't bloody sing, Ron! I don't know how!"
Hermione levelled her gaze on him, her face pinched.
"Do you love him, Harry? Really…truly love him?"
"Then scrounge up the last bit of your bloody Gryffindor courage and sing him a fucking song."
Harry knew absolutely nothing about music. Besides being able to hum a few different tunes by the Weird Sisters out of key and recognising the low, smooth voice of Celestina Warbeck he had no idea what he was doing. When he was younger he'd often hear popular Muggle bands playing upbeat pop-y songs when Dudley watched MTV UK or, later, the loud angry wailing of various rock bands from Dudley's state of the art stereo.
…but Harry seriously doubted he'd be able to learn any of those by the time 7:00 rolled around. He also felt extremely uncomfortable singing any Wizarding music – he wasn't really sure why.
Plus Muggle music had a much larger variety to choose from.
After rushing to Hogsmeade and pleading desperately to get just a few minutes during Witching Hour to perform – Marcus Belby, the new station director who Harry remembered from school, had agreed on the terms that Harry would come on WWN News for an exclusive interview sometime later that week – they'd rushed to a giant record store in Muggle London called HMV and perused the aisles, sampling CD after CD. Hermione had cast notice-me-not Charms on them in the hallway to the toilets about half hour into their visit since they were getting such strange looks. It had been only then that Harry realised he was still wearing his robes from the party.
They were only on 'M'.
"How about this one, mate? This one's pretty catchy." Ron said, his head bobbing up and down to an inaudible beat as he pushed a pair of headphones against his ears.
"Let me listen –" Hermione said, grabbing them from his head and sticking her ear to the earpiece. She winced then scowled at him. "Ron, this is garbage."
He pouted. "What? I like it."
"Straight men don't usually listen to Madonna. Honestly…the song name is 'Like A Virgin', Ronald. Does that not give you a clue? Why did you even choose this anyway?"
"It was the shortest track on the CD. I was curious."
Harry ignored them, flipping through artists as quickly as possible.
Mac Blagick…ugh no. Macabre? No. I don't want to terrify him. Macbeth, no, Macc Lads…hmm…maybe…wait – From Beer to Eternity? No. The Maccabees…
He paused, picking up a CD with simply drawn cartoon people crowded in front of a pure black background and flipping it over. The songs didn't seem too terrifying – he thought back to a few of Ron's choices and shuddered – and most of them were pretty short as well.
He shoved Ron and Hermione back to digging through CD's and scanned the record into the sampler. He skipped the six shortest songs – he highly doubted Draco would feel loved if Harry sang a song about a man named Bill or said anything about Draco wearing a dress and he was positive the pureblood had no idea what a bicycle was (and as much as he would like singing a song that was under 2 minutes long he was sure Hermione would smack him for suggesting it) – and chose the next one.
"She collects medicines in the box
Where once he had kept his
And holds out hope the year old worries
Will be gone
Long before she goes –"
He frowned and moved to the next.
"Never cry on your own, never cry
But when you cry
Just try and find some perfect stranger with the tissue shoulders on
'Cos I know the score and it's hard when it's her you're crying –"
He moved onto the next one, feeling irritated. Why was it so difficult to find a song?
"So its stars and crosses
Reasoning for losses
You learn right from wrong
Then you write the book yourself –"
He was about to toss the bloody CD across the room, but the title of the next song intrigued him. He skipped to it. It started slow and soft; a kind of happy melody that made him relax.
The more he listened, the bigger his grin became, and by the end of two minutes and 36 seconds he knew he'd found it.
Despite there being only 10 lines to the song it had taken him nearly the remaining time before 7 to memorise and rehearse it properly. Hermione had had some trouble trying to Charm the CD to play it instrumental only – so Harry's voice could be heard instead – but they were saved by Glenda Chittock (Witching Hour's hostess) who had, after the War, procured some Muggle station equipment and had Charmed it for just such an occasion.
Harry hated the cold pit of terror that rested in the bottom of his stomach like a Bezoar. It helped that he couldn't see anyone besides his friends and Glenda, but he was still absolutely out of his element. He also couldn't shake the fear that Draco wasn't even listening – that he was somewhere without a radio and he was doing this for nothing.
His palms began to sweat and he wrung at his robes nervously.
"Hello and good evening listeners. This is Glenda Chittock, your host for Witching Hour here on Wizarding Wireless Network. Before we begin, however, we have a very…special guest here today who'd like to sing something for someone very special to him. Mr. Potter?" Harry wondered how she could seem so calm. He was almost shaking. He leaned into the microphone.
"Y-yes?" He winced as his voice cracked a little and cleared his throat. "Er…yes…um…Ms. Chittock. I…I'd like to, erm, sing something."
"Could you tell us a little bit about why you're here? Who the song is for?"
Harry let out a shaky breath.
"Erm, alright…well…i-it's a Muggle song. I found it. In the store, today, with Hermione and Ron and um…well…I thought it, uh, really…really fit what I wanted to say. I-if I could, erm, maybe…sing it first and um…tell you about it after? I'm a little…uh…nervous."
"Quite alright, Mr. Potter. Go ahead."
"Thanks…erm…this song is for Draco."
On the okay, Hermione pressed a large blue button and Harry heard the song begin through his headset. He took another shaky breath.
You can do this, Harry…you won't even be singing a full minute.
And he sang.
"Cradle me, I'll cradle you;
I'll win your heart with a woop-a-woo…
pulling shapes just for your eyes.
So with toothpaste kisses and lines…
I'll be yours and you'll be…
Lay with me, I'll lay with you.
We'll do the things that lovers do.
Put the stars in our eyes
And with heart shaped bruises
and late-night kisses, divine"
It wasn't great – he was too nervous and had no idea what he was doing – but the people in the studio clapped anyway. He smiled, despite himself; most of his nerves drained away. He was a little awkward speaking in public, but it was something he was more used to. Better than singing.
"That was wonderful, Mr. Potter. What's it called?"
"Erm…Toothpaste Kisses by the Maccabees." He paused for a moment. "Um…if you're listening, Draco, I just wanted to, uh, say…to say I'm sorry for what happened…erm…well…no, actually, I'm sorry it happened that way. I meant what I said. At the party…I love you. I'm…I'm in love with you – I just thought…I figured someone so perfect and wonderful – well anyway, I didn't say anything and I'm sorry that I didn't tell you sooner…and…and I wanted to say that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the plan. I'm…erm…I'm being honest now…bloody hell this is embarrassing…but you…you're worth it. I love you. I want to be with you. So…if, erm, you think you'll give me a chance…please come home? I…I miss you. I'm worried…just…please?"
The studio was silent for a few moments and Glenda cleared her throat loudly.
"Ah, well…thank you for joining us tonight, Mr. Potter. I wish you luck on getting your man – we hope to see you here at WWN in the nearby future."
"Thanks, Glen– er… Ms. Chittock."
"Alright folks, onto our regular scheduled programming. On the theme of romance tonight, let's hear a classic by Celestina Warbeck – this is A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love."
Harry removed the headset and stood, he felt like he was made of cotton – light and easily swept away by a heavy wind. Hermione dragged him from the studio down into the lobby where Ron waited with a huge smile.
"Harry, that was great! You should take up a spot in Seamus' band!"
Harry scowled. "Yeah, coming from the guy who likes Madonna."
They thanked the Welcoming Witch and left the building, wandering slowly through Hogsmeade. Harry wasn't sure if he was up to apparating – he felt dazed – and decided to floo home from the Three Broomsticks.
In the warm tavern, Harry turned to his friends and tried to smile.
"I think I should probably go home by myself, yeah? If he does come back…I want to talk to him in private."
Ron looked concerned, but nodded.
"Prolly for the best, mate." He said, clapping a hand on Harry's arm. "He'll be there. Don't worry." Hermione smiled.
"Make sure you keep us updated, alright?"
"I will, 'Mione." She leaned in and kissed his cheek.
"Just be honest. You'll be fine."
He grabbed a handful of floo powder and walked into the fireplace.
"See you later, guys…and thanks. Gay Street House!" he shouted simultaneously casting the powder at his feet. Swirls of green fire erupted from the charred stone and surrounded him, and he was off.
Harry had questioned, many times, why any self-respecting Wizard architect would build a fireplace that's main utility was floo-travel so close to a parallel wall. Tonight was no exception. In all his years of using the floo network his skills for landing correctly were still a bit dodgy and could even be considered absolutely dreadful when he was under duress.
He stumbled wildly into the drawing room upon landing, knocking over a lamp on a side-table to his left when he slammed into the opposite wall. Mumbling a few choice words about architects and interior decorators he quickly vanished the spilt oil and put the article back in its proper place before he scanned the room.
It was dark, and empty. His heart sank a little.
"Harry?" A familiar, cautious voice called from the kitchen. He froze.
In the filtered moonlight from the windows he saw his housemate step through a small doorway to his right, only a foot away. His heart began pounding madly.
"Look, Harry, I –"
"I LOVE YOU!" He shouted, his fists clenched tightly at his sides. "Draco, I…I love you…and if…I mean…erm…oh bugger all!" He marched forward and grabbed the front of Draco's robes, dragging him down roughly and slamming their lips together.
The kiss was fantastic – at least for Harry. A bit rough, and not very elegant, but that didn't matter. Raw electricity and magic made his lips tingle and his hands shake and Draco's lips were soft and pliant and he was sure if this were some kind of Muggle romance movie his foot would be popping right now. He wanted this feeling forever – wanted it to never end – but for some reason he'd forgotten how to breathe and knew that, if he didn't pull away in the next few moments, he'd probably run out of oxygen and that would be a bit of a problem. So he did, albeit reluctantly.
His hand still held the front of Draco's robes gently and his breath washed over his face smelling like coffee and curry mingled with the man's distinctive cologne. He flicked his gaze across the blond's slightly shocked face – his wide gray eyes that seemed almost black in the dim light and his sharp nose and his slightly parted lips that suddenly grinned.
"Well…thank you, Harry, for the wonderful welcome, but I'm curious…just what did Hermione tell you happened at the party?"
Harry frowned and pulled back, releasing him.
"Um, well…she just told me how I, er, dragged you in front of the room and um…declared my love for you and, well, snogged you senseless."
Draco laughed. Harry's brow furrowed in confusion. That small pit of terror was back.
"That…that's what happened, right?"
"No, Harry. Well…we did kiss, but you passed out in the middle and I don't know if many people really noticed. It was in a back corner of the tent, and there was no declaration of anything."
Harry froze. The pit had become a ravine in the course of 2 seconds. His gut clenched painfully. Draco's smile fell.
"So you…you don't love…you didn't…"
Harry had faced many things in his life – girls, boys, nutters, Dementors, idiots, dragons, tests, Occlumency with Snape, and even his own death – and never before had he wanted to run as much as he did in this moment. But that feeling was almost immediately replaced with fury.
"Harry no, wait –"
"Was this a trick? Some twisted joke you cooked up with my friends to have a laugh at my expense? Where were you, Draco? I was so fucking worried – Merlin I've been trying to find you since I knew you'd gone!"
"I got a call from the Ministry – an emergency arose with some of my latest research that required my immediate attention – I left early Saturday morning; only got back a few hours ago. Look –"
"No, I don't want to bloody hear it; I went on the goddamn Radio for you – whored myself out using my fucking fame to get a spot on your fucking favourite programme –"
"Shut up, Potter, and LISTEN to me!"
Harry flinched, his anger taken over by a rush of sadness so overwhelming he almost fell down.
"Harry…" Draco began, his face just as calm and collected as before. "I don't know why Hermione told you that – she knew I had an emergency and that I had to go; I figured she would tell you…but I'm not sorry she did, because…well…I love you too."
Harry said nothing – his brain felt a bit fuzzy and blank and his limbs were strangely numb.
"I've loved you a very long time – maybe even from the beginning of our relationship, as crazy as that sounds." Draco let out a shaky breath and ran his hands through his hair. "I remember meeting you at Madam Malkin's and thinking I wanted to be your friend…then when you turned me away at Hogwarts I was so angry with you and felt hurt, you know? To be rejected when you didn't even know anything about me…it stung.
"I was a spoilt kid – always got everything I wanted…well, anything money and power could buy, at least – and to be outright refused something that I really wanted was a blow that my pride couldn't take. I was a bit of a spoiled snot, if you didn't notice…" when Harry didn't so much as smile at the self-depreciating joke Draco winced but continued doggedly. "So I took out my anger and hurt feelings on you and your friends. I'm sorry I did, now. Despite being a Death Eater – even though I only joined the ranks to save my family – I never wanted you killed. I hated torturing people…I hated watching people die. And when you saved me in the Room of Requirement my anger was gone. I was grateful to you, for saving me...for giving me a second chance at…at life and happiness. I figured that maybe…if I changed a little…you might even give our friendship another shot. So I went to Romania.
"I was so surprised to see you there, actually…" He chuckled a little, nervously. "My original plan was to study under Ioan researching Wolfsbane. I felt so incredibly guilty for letting Greyback into the school during 6th year…and well…that was my plan. After my apprenticeship I would return to England and open an Apothecary, or something, I hadn't really decided at that point…but I was sure of one thing – that as soon as I was re-established in England I would try to contact you. Become your friend by proving myself to be worthy as your friend." He paused, breathing in sharply and closing his eyes. Harry was stunned.
"And then…and then you were there. It was like fate or something…and then…and then I fell in love with you." He took another deep breath then smiled. "If…if you'll have me?"
That feeling was back again – the same one from Fortescue's – and Harry was pretty sure that his feet weren't touching the floor. He grinned and swept forward once more, wrapping his arms around Draco's shoulders and pulling him down into another mind-melting kiss.
A tiny part of his brain, however – one as far away from anything involving emotion as possible – began plotting Hermione's humiliating revenge.
But he was glad that didn't mean he had to stop kissing.
A/N: I love you, you love me, we're one big happy fa-mi-ly... with a great big hug and a kiss from me to you, won't you please review this too?
Please? Pretty please? With sugar and icing and chocolate frogs on top? And strawberries - must not forget the strawberries.