Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the recognisable characters or content. JKR does and I'm not making any money.
Warnings: Dodgy perspective and tense? Mature sexual content. Harry being a prat. Draco also being a prat.
A/N: Had this nearly finished for a long time, and thought I'd work on this as a mini-break from Mental. I liked writing this one, but found it a bit difficult to get it to behave. Feedback would be greatly appreciated on the style and any plot-holes/inconsistencies that crop up. Huge thanks to NutsAndBerries for the wonderful feedback and beta-help (and pointing out the original plot holes, eep). I've majorly edited and played since she had it, so any mistakes are mine :)
"If you insist on talking in metaphors, then throwing rocks in glass houses isn't half as dangerous as starting fires that you don't know how to put out."
I'm not good at this, but thank you. And I'm sorry. For everything.
First time he writes to you, you throw the letter away without opening it, filled with irrational rage that disconcerts you and worries your friends. You don't want to talk to him. For Merlin's sake, the war is barely over and he's already bothering you all over again? It's not fair. You just want things to be uncomplicated, and as normal as possible.
Second time, you burn the letter. Full of grim satisfaction, you watch the flames licking at the parchment, twisting and curling black smoke, like it's some sort of ritual. Burning away your ties to Draco Malfoy, cleansing your life of his presence.
Your room reeks of smoke for ages afterwards. Charms won't shift it, not even Hermione's. You're not sure if you're half imagining it after a while. It annoys you, because every time you catch the edge of the scent of smoke, you can't help but wonder what he had to say.
It's too late, now. The words are gone. It's over. Done.
It's not like you should care anyway, right?
Third time, you go to incendio the envelope, but don't. Instead - mindful of the fact the smell has only just gone from your curtains - you put it aside on your desk, where it forms a place mark, a spot reserved for the next four letters that he sends. You don't open them though. You don't dare.
Ginny offers to throw them away when you accidentally knock a cup of coffee all over your desk. An inevitable result of sitting in your chair with your feet on the desk to read the Quidditch scores in the Prophet, really. You decline, taking the letters back, drying them off with your wand then slipping them into a drawer. Ginny raises her eyebrows but doesn't say anything.
One more letter joins the rest. On the day it arrives, you hold it in your hands and flick your thumb over the plain green wax seal, staring despondently down at the envelope. You shake your head and open your desk drawer, carefully sliding the letter in with its fellows.
Six months pass by since the date of his first letter, and then he stops writing.
You wait for eight more months but no more green-sealed letters arrive at your window.
Inexplicably, you miss them, even though you never read any of them. It was nice to have a constant in a life like yours; hectic, busy, still in the spotlight. Even if the constant is an almost monthly letter from someone you hate, it still counts.
You double check with Hermione how your excessive amount of fan mail is being sorted. Maybe they've stopped giving you letters from Malfoy because he might have hexed them. She frowns and tells you it's the same as always. "Unknown senders go straight to storage, anyone you've approved or people you know get sent onto you once they've been checked."
"So, if someone from school was to send me a letter?"
"It'd get sent to you, if it was someone we were friends with," Hermione says, one eye on her book like she never left school.
"Like…Ernie MacMillan for example?"
"It'd get sent to you."
You pause, wondering how long she'll be patient with you.
She looks up away from the book, sharp, and you shift from foot to foot. "He's not written to you since September," she says, frowning. "You never wrote back."
"I know," you shrug, scratching the back of your head. Hermione winces and you know your hair looks a right state. "I just thought…"
"Thought he'd keep on writing to you even though you've never once spoken to him since the battle?"
You scowl at the floor. "I sent his wand back."
"Yes," she says quietly and you're not sure you like the way she's looking at you. "You did."
I don't know if you got my first letter. I never got anything back. I don't know. I meant it though, that I'm sorry. I never wanted anyone to get hurt, especially you, it was just complicated. Writing it down like that doesn't make it seem good enough, really. Sorry.
And thank you. For saving me.
It's one of the biggest shocks of your life when you finally finish training and get your job as an Obliviator in the Ministry to find Draco Malfoy has beaten you there. He's a curse breaker and works as an apprentice, with Bill Weasley of all people.
You think you're mistaken at first, not quite awake when you spot that shock of white-blond hair at Bill's shoulder, next to the newly installed fountain in the Atrium. People jostle past you, annoyed, as you stop and stare. Bill's new accomplice turns and your heart stops; it is him, Draco Malfoy, stood with someone who is as good as a brother to you-
He spots you and his eyes widen visibly and then he ducks his head. You can see the pink staining his cheekbones from where you are, and you see Bill frown and turn around, finally spotting you.
'I'll explain later,' he mouths, and then he and Draco are gone, Bill's hand on his shoulder, guiding him through the crowd.
When you appear at Shell Cottage that evening, barely able to articulate words, Bill sighs, shoves you into a chair and passes you a glass of Firewhisky.
"Calm down," he says tiredly, pouring himself a glass.
"Malfoy. You – but he – why?" you manage hoarsely. You found out that morning that Bill had hired Draco a while ago, but that day had been Draco's first in the Ministry.
Bill nods towards the untouched glass in your hand. "Drink."
You obey but don't take your eyes off him. You want an explanation, and soon, before your brain decides to short circuit.
"He came to see me about a year ago," Bill says as you take a sip. "Wanting to apologise. I threw him out, but he just kept coming back. Obsessed with this saying sorry thing, I have to tell you."
Your mind flicks to the pile of unopened letters in your desk at home and you feel something like guilt twine its way up and around your spine.
"And?" you ask, leaning forwards in your seat and then promptly hating yourself for caring so much.
"It must have been the sixth time he'd turned up. The Ministry security were arguing with him when I got into work, trying to get him to leave, and he looked right at me, shaking head to foot, and said he wasn't going anywhere until I listened. So I did."
"Just like that?" You ask, taken aback.
Bill nods. "It was the first time I'd ever seen or heard of that kid showing any spine. With three of the Ministry's finest pointing wands at him, no less. So I decided to hear him out."
You're almost afraid of the answer. It's turned your world upside-down, this revelation. It's almost like Malfoy was your ongoing pain in the arse, and now he's appeared smack bang in the middle of your social circle – your family – without so much as a hello. Fucking Slytherin.
"He said sorry," Bill says simply. "For that night. Explained as best he could what had happened. Said he'd never meant for anyone to get hurt. A lot of stuff." Bill waves his hand as if that can encapsulate what 'a lot of stuff' is supposed to mean. He turns his head and the light from the fire flickers over his skin, making the scars on his face look deeper and more pronounced. "And then I asked him about the Vanishing Cabinet and how he'd fixed it, and I was impressed."
"So you hired him?" You ask weakly. You need more Firewhisky.
"Yeah. He's good. Bloody good," Bill says unapologetically. "A pain in the arse, but worth having around."
"I don't believe it."
Bill chuckles. "That's what Ron said when I told him."
Your attention snaps back into focus. "Ron knew?"
"Yeah," Bill scratches his chin.
"Why didn't he tell me?"
Bill eyes you thoughtfully as you try and push down the annoyance and indignation of not being told stuff, again. "Well…everyone knows you and Malfoy are a bit…I don't know. He's your thing, isn't he? Maybe they don't know how to mention him."
You stare at Bill and then shake your head. You want to throw the damn whiskey tumbler at the wall but you don't. Instead, you place it on the table and leave for home. The moment you're in you run up to your desk and wrench the drawer open, clenching the letters in your hands. You pause for a second before throwing them back into the drawer, pushing it shut and locking it with as many spells as you know.
I think these letters aren't getting to you. Probably getting lost in all of your fanmail or something.
Anyway, if you get this – I wondered if you'd meet me to talk face to face. Not for anything serious, just so I can apologise properly and it can all be over and done with.
I saw you in the paper today. Good luck Obliviating. I thought you'd be an Auror. I suppose I won't have to worry about you arresting me anymore.
PS – the bit about your fanmail wasn't meant to sound mean.
You manage a whole three weeks working in the same building before you come face to face with him. You're not sure if he's been avoiding you or trying to find you. Either way, he's here now, stood in front of you in the bathroom on the third floor, practically quivering with nerves.
He stares at you like you're a ghost and makes no effort to move towards the urinals or the sinks. You finish drying your hands and then fold your arms across your chest, waiting for him to speak. He's gotten taller. Annoyingly, the added height looks good on him.
You nod and he swallows thickly, his adam's apple bobbing in his throat. "I wrote to you," he blurts out and then looks down at his feet, miserable and looking like he wishes he'd kept his mouth shut.
"I know," you reply cautiously.
"Never wrote back though, did you," he mutters, his expression clouding over in an instant. "Too much effort for the Chosen One to pick up a pen and write his own letters."
"Don't call me that."
"Why not?" he asks, his face twisting. "It's what you are, right? The Chosen One."
It sounds he's sixteen all over again, and the tone of his voice is taunting and cruel. Bill's lecture flashes back to you, and you know he's just lashing out in defence because he's insecure and scared, but you don't care.
"You know what, fuck off, Malfoy," you say before you can stop yourself. "I'm sure you're having fun bothering all of my mates, yeah? So stop bothering me."
You push past him and hate yourself when you hear the pathetic mumble of 'I'm not trying to bother,' drift through the not quite closed door.
The next day you bump into him again, this time in the bathrooms at the opposite end of the Ministry. You curse under your breath as you walk in to see him slowly running his hands under the taps, and contemplate making a Marauder's Map of the Ministry to avoid this happening again.
"Malfoy," you say evenly, and his head jerks up. He looks at you, and then back down to his hands. You falter internally as his grey eyes flicker over you and something new and interesting crawls up your spine. You push it away, feeling alarmed.
"Shove off, Potter. Go back to your adoring fans. Oh, I'm sorry, you try to call them your colleagues, don't you?"
"Oh that's polite," you reply. Anger replaces your previous alarm at finding Malfoy's bloody eyes attractive, and you're somewhat relieved. It's simple to be angry at him, at the fact he's just there. He's in your face every day, but the thing is that he's not there for you. He's there to work, and to work with Bill for Gods sake. He technically has nothing to do with you any more. The last time he did have any connection to you was with those damn letters, which he's stopped sending anyway.
"You told me to fuck off," he mutters. "What am I supposed to do with that?"
"You didn't give in when Bill told you to fuck off!" You're suddenly shouting, and his face drains of the little colour it had. "How come you try and try and try to talk to everyone else but me?"
"Everyone but you?" he repeats, his face twisting into an ugly scowl. "I wrote to you for months, waiting for something, and you never wrote back!"
"You think letters are enough?"
He has his wand drawn quicker than you can blink and points it straight at you. "Don't you dare tell me I didn't do enough-"
"You didn't!" You draw your own wand. "You took on three Security Wizards to talk to Bill-"
"What is your obsession with Bill?" Draco shouts, and the name sounds foreign on his lips. "Are you really competing for how much I have to beg for forgiveness?"
As soon as you realise that he's hit the nail on the head, you hex him. A stinger that hits him on the side of his pale neck. He cries out and claps his free hand to the reddening mark, and when he looks at you, his eyes are bright with tears.
Without another word, he storms out, shoving you hard with one of his bony shoulders. You don't stop him. As soon as the door stops swinging, you lean against the sink, breathing deeply.
You wonder if he'll ever try to talk to you again.
I just wanted to tell you, you might be seeing me a bit more in future.
"Bill, he's a fucking nightmare, I can't stand it-"
"Well then don't talk to him," Bill says, not looking up from his report. He sounds weary, like he's already had this conversation.
"I can't help it. He just turns up in my face."
Bill sighs loudly enough to cut you off and tosses the report onto his desk, rubbing the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. "Harry, it's half six. I should have gone home an hour ago. And I'm not sure what I can do to help."
"Tell him to get out of my face," you say fiercely, but your confidence wavers as he stares at you, looking like he knows something you don't.
"Are you sure that's what you want?" he asks evenly. "Because Malfoy seemed to think you were upset because he hasn't tried hard enough to talk to you."
"So you two are like best mates now or something?" you ask petulantly.
"No," he says with a roll of his eyes. He flicks his wand and the fire roars to life in the hearth behind you. "We just talk. And he seemed pretty upset today because someone had hexed him."
You flush and look at your feet. "I'm sorry, he's just…"
"I know," Bill says. He heaves himself up out of his chair and then claps you on the shoulder. "There's been more than one occasion when I've hexed him myself. On a work based note though, please don't hex him any more when he's here. He couldn't put a quill to paper this afternoon."
"I didn't hex him that badly," you defend as Bill heads towards the fireplace.
"I know you didn't. He was upset," Bill says and then abruptly stops talking. He sighs and stops, turning back to you and folding his arms across his chest. "Work out what you want from him, Harry. He's a good kid, and doesn't need anyone else screwing about with his head."
You shake your head, open mouthed and wide eyed. "I can't believe I'm hearing this."
"He was just a scared kid, Harry. Still is, for Christ's sake. One falling out with you and he's full of tears and swearing every other word. He's trying, so if you can't work out what's going on between you two, leave well alone."
You nod your head jerkily, confused and torn.
Bill nods at you in return and then grabs a handful of floo powder and tosses it into the hearth, quickly following. You're left alone and you hate his soft unspoken assumption that you'll do the right thing. You don't know what the right thing is when Draco Malfoy is concerned.
You turn to see the desk on the other side of the room, full of papers and boxes but tidy, quite unlike your own. You walk over close enough to see the name badge that is perched at the front, which says 'Draco Malfoy – apprentice curse breaker.' Underneath someone has scrawled 'and pain in the arse.'
You wonder who wrote it, and feel suddenly very much on the outside.
I take it my last letter didn't capture your interest. I hoped it would.
I wanted you to know that I've got myself a job. Its hard work, and long hours but I like it. I don't want to hide in the Manor and live off the family gold. I want to do something good, and maybe help set the last few bits straight after the war. I'm not asking you to be impressed, or anything. I just thought you'd like to know.
The job is meant to be based in the Ministry but my boss has been very understanding. He's letting me work from home for now. Says there's still too many people who want to curse me.
Sorry for how vague this letter has ended up. Sometimes I'm very good at missing the point.
"Well of course Bill likes him. He's been working very hard. And apparently he's very good at curse-breaking. Bill says he's got a different perspective on some things, which is helpful."
"But," you protest, waving your half empty pint glass about to stop Hermione expounding on reasons as to why Malfoy is brilliant. "He's responsible for Bill's-" you gesture to your face. "You know."
Hermione sighs and picks up her own pint glass, tucking a stray curl of hair behind her ear and crossing her legs, shifting on her barstool. "Well, I hate to say this, Harry…but you're responsible for the-" she points to her chest in the same manner you pointed to your face.
"Eh? How am I responsible for breasts?" you ask, flummoxed.
"No," Hermione insists with a laugh, and then sobers up. She runs her finger down a scratch in the worn varnish of the table that sits between you. "Scars. Malfoy's."
She gestures across her chest again and you understand.
"Oh, bloody hell."
Hermione puts her pint of cider back on the worn tabletop and reaches out to put her hand over yours. "I know it's hard," she says quietly, her voice just audible over the chatter in the Phoenix and Dragon. "He still wants to talk to you. It's just hard for him."
You sigh, running your fingers through your fringe, tugging at it awkwardly. "It's hard for me. Having him back, worming his way into everything, being all nice-"
Hermione cuts you off, looking reproachful. "We're not idiots, you realise. We're all well aware of Malfoy's faults. He's not going to be able to lie or worm his way in anywhere."
"I just…he was always my pain in the arse, you know? And now he's someone else's. I'm just not ready to talk to him," you flush, not liking how your mouth is apparently working without consent from your brain. "I just- feel like I should be keeping an eye on him, but at the same time, I hate him-"
"You don't hate him," Hermione says, nearly rolling her eyes as she picks up her drink again. "If you hated him you wouldn't be so jealous that he's friends with Bill."
"I am not jealous," you insist, and then pause. You groan, leaning forwards, elbows on the table with your face in your hands. "I don't even bloody know."
Hermione's smile is understanding. "You'll get there, I'm sure. But you've got to stop worrying about everyone else and just think about what you want. He just works for Bill. That's it. I think you and him are something else entirely, even if you've not worked it out yet."
You're not sure if that's a comforting thing or not.
You don't turn around. You know that voice and you've done a good job at avoiding it the past couple of weeks. Grudgingly you've admitted that maybe Bill and Hermione are a bit right. You don't exactly know what's going on inside your own head in regards to Malfoy.
"What brings you to the Obliviation department?" You finally ask calmly, still without turning around.
"Just going for some interdepartmental co-operation," he says and you twist around in your chair, raising your eyebrows. He's wearing a smart Muggle suit, all in black, and it suits his frame more than traditional wizarding robes do. Something in your chest skips as your eyes meet for a fraction, before he looks away.
"What did you have in mind?"
Draco makes a show of examining his fingernails. "Well. I was going to start with asking what your departmental policy on mail is. I mean, do all of you refuse to reply to post, or are you just special?"
You recognise the underlying tone of bitterness and anger, and you sigh. "Can we not do this now, please?"
"Oh, right," he says, and crosses his arms tightly across his chest. "Of course. So, can you tell me what the policy is on people from your department only dealing with things when they fucking feel like it? Oh no, that's just you again, isn't it."
You grit your teeth, your hands balling into fists involuntarily. "Bugger off."
"Now do you actually mean that, or is this one of your ridiculous hoops I have to jump through?"
You stand up quickly and he takes a step backwards. His chin is lifted defiantly, although his eyes are wary, darting around and flickering over you as you stand.
"Is this your backbone finally making an appearance?" you ask quietly. "Not quite as impressive as Bill made me believe."
You sigh, pushing your glasses up out of the way, pinching the bridge of your nose between your fingers. "Malfoy…I honestly don't know about this at the moment, so maybe you should just stay out of my way for a while?"
"Well will you fucking work it out?"
You're shocked at the outburst for a fraction but then you're moving quicker than you can process, grabbing Draco by the collar and pushing him backwards. His back hits the wall of your cubicle with a dull thud.
"Just back off," you say, voice fierce. "Stop coming and winding me up. It won't get you your answers any quicker. Leave me alone."
He clenches his jaw and looks you right in the eye. "No."
Your jaw drops. You can't look away. He's trembling and a flush is rising on his neck, but he's still standing, still holding firm.
"I won't," he repeats and you suddenly understand what Bill saw, that day Draco refused to leave until he'd had his say. "You ignore me when I write to you. You can't ignore me when I'm this close."
You suddenly realising just how close Draco is. You've still got him pinned to the wall of your cubicle and you're practically chest to chest with him. His fingers are clutching the sleeves of your robes; whether to keep you close or stop you throttling him, you don't know.
"Get off of me," he says when you don't reply, his voice low. He struggles to prise your fingers off of his collar. "Are you really that inept at talking that you- you have to resort to physical violence? No wonder they wouldn't let you be an Auror."
He shifts slightly, moving his feet to keep his balance and you feel his whole body flex against yours.
Your body likes that way too much to be appropriate. You drop him like he's hot and stagger backwards, unable to break his gaze. He's breathing heavily and looking as stunned as you feel.
"Get out," you say hoarsely. "Get out."
He steps forwards towards you, and his expression is determined. He's doesn't look scared anymore. His eyes are fixed on you.
"What am I supposed to do? I can't read your bloody mind, so if you'd mind telling me what's going on in that thick skull of yours-"
"Everyone calls me a coward," he breathes, his face twisting into a scowl. "At least I'm not hiding from everything. At least I had the guts to try and fix things, to try and sort out what I owe-"
"By harassing me?"
"Well, you're the problem!" he shouts at you. "The only problem left and I won't let anyone else tell me this is my fault! You're just jealous, and stupid, and acting like you're still in school, and talking about me to everyone but me. It's pathetic. You're never going to grow up, are you? You're just going to sit and dwell about all the things you fucked up, all the people that died because of you-"
The punch sends Draco staggering back into your desk. When he rights himself, he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. It comes away streaked with crimson.
"How predictable," he manages, his voice shaking and his eyes bright. You can't believe you've just punched him. He's looking shell-shocked and hurt and his lip is still bleeding, his collar is askew and he's having to lean back against your desk to support himself.
He looks incredible.
You can't hide it any more, or ignore the little voice in your head that's been rather annoying as of late. You might still have issues with Malfoy's personality, attitude and behaviour, but you can't deny that the package it all comes in is more than attractive.
"One of these days I'll stop thinking you're worth the effort," he says tightly.
You're breathing heavily. "One of these days I'll stop thinking you actually mean that you're sorry. If you were sorry, I don't think you'd be quite such a prick about the past."
He stares at you for long seconds, and then he pushes himself up and storms past you, out of your cubicle.
You stay exactly where you are, trembling as much as Malfoy.
I'm sorry I ever mentioned your parents - that I said the things that I did. I don't know how many times I can keep saying sorry, until you know I mean it. I'm sorry about your godfather. I still miss mine.
My mother never regretted saving you, and not just because of me. She said you had a good soul, despite your temper and the fact that you hate me.
I don't hate you any more. I haven't for a long, long time. I just wish it had been different, that I hadn't cared so much about all the wrong things. Every time I've written to you I've hoped that you'll write back or agree to see me so I can talk to you and explain things. I'm awful at writing things down. I always think that what I've written looks wrong. Most of what I seem to say comes out wrong as well, but the least I can do is try.
I wanted to apologise for my Father and everything he did. I doubt he would apologise if he was alive, even if he wanted to. Too much pride. When I was growing up I didn't know anything other than what he told me. My mother didn't want me to be lonely, so she insisted I go to school when I turned six. It was a small private school, and there was me, Theo Nott and some Muggles. I loved it. I loved that me and Theo had a secret that we had to keep from everyone, it made us such good friends. I didn't dislike the Muggles, though, not at first. They were nice to me, except one boy. One day he pulled some of my hair out. He said it was a stupid colour. I was so upset and Father said he'd done it because he knew I was magic, and he wanted to hurt me because of it. Ridiculous, really. But who else are you going to believe when you're six?
He'd say it was weak to apologise to you, and he'd probably curse me if he knew how many letters I've sent you. But I don't mind.
In the midst of all this mess, Ginny leaves you. You were never quite right after the war, and it's not really that much of a surprise when you come home nursing swollen knuckles to see her stood by the fireplace, a small bag of possessions by her feet.
"Should I ask?" she asks calmly as she reaches for your hand. She taps her wand against it and you hiss at the sting, breathing out between your teeth. The swelling has gone already, and you flex your fingers experimentally.
"Malfoy," you say quietly and she nods.
"Always was, wasn't it?"
She picks up the bag and kisses your cheek. "You're an idiot, Harry. I'm expecting dinner and a full explanation at some point. And telling Hermione to tell me doesn't count."
You nod dumbly and she sighs, shaking her head. "Some days you're infuriating."
Her jaw clenches almost imperceptibly, but before you can speak she leaves in a swirl of glittering flames and floo powder.
You're back at work the day after, straight in with business. You give a cursory knock on the door to Bill's office and then open it, intending just to nip in and ask him a couple of questions about a case that both of your departments are involved in. The question dies on your lips when laughter reaches your ears.
Draco is in the office, lounging around behind his desk with his feet on it, grinning across at Bill.
Jealously twists in your stomach. You were resigned to anticipate it, but what you can't work out is what you're jealous of. Originally, it would have been that Bill, a man as good as your brother, was having fun with Malfoy. Now you think it might be because Malfoy has never smiled at you like that. He looks even better when he's smiling.
It's not fair. Why does such a git have to look that good? It's frustrating as hell. Disconcertingly, you're staring to suspect that some of your animosity towards Draco might be exacerbated because you want to be able to like his inside as much as you appear to appreciate his outside.
"Harry! You alright?" Bill asks, standing up.
"Yes," you say awkwardly, still hovering in the doorway. You don't know how Malfoy is going to react to you today, considering you punched him last time you tried to talk. Aside from that, you feel left out and annoyed, and even more annoyed at yourself that you're still feeling like this. You're not fifteen anymore. You don't have time for that or this ridiculous crush. "Just wanted to ask some questions about the gallery. Some things I'm not clear on."
Your fingers clench around the door handle as Draco's snide remark slides under your skin. You ignore him, and so does Bill. You step into the room, folding your arms across your chest and turning towards Bill.
"You can have the report if you like," Bill says helpfully. "It's got the two basic plans of action in, and we'll decide which route we'll go for after the meeting on Thursday."
"I don't see why we can't just go in, steal the painting and be done with it."
Bill turns to roll his eyes at Draco. "Sometimes, the depths of your helpfulness astounds me," he deadpans.
Draco shoots him another cheeky grin and you look away, trying to keep calm. If you said anything like that he'd hex you, not smile.
"First of all, if we tried to just steal it, we'd probably get cursed by the damn thing, too. And it's not just a regular gallery on a high street," Bill says with a frown at Draco. "It's the Castle Gallery so we need to be discreet. If we go in and cause any damage or kick up a fuss it'll be more than a shopkeeper we have to deal with."
"What I don't understand is why we need the Obliviators," Draco says with a small curl of his lip.
"Draco," Bill says sternly. A warning.
Draco pulls a face and reaches for a blank sheet of parchment from his desk. He starts to fold it between his fingers, deftly turning the sheet with nimble hands.
"We think we'll send the Obliviators in first, anyway," Bill says to you, back on track. "Stage something in the grounds of the castle so security are pulled away. Then anyone else left inside, we can Obliviate. Then we can come in and see about getting the painting off of the wall."
"Aren't the Muggles going to notice if one of their favourite paintings goes missing?"
"Well hopefully we can remove the curse and just put it back," Bill says. "If not we'll replace it with a replica."
"Very Mission Impossible," you comment, and are met with a blank stare.
"Well, it's got to very discreet."
"Well then I'd leave Potter behind," a voice drawls from the other side of the room. "He doesn't do discreet. He does manhandling and punching."
"Draco, you know when I said you were being helpful?" Bill cuts him off, exasperated. "I lied. Behave."
"I will if he will," Draco replies. You turn to glare at him but he's not looking at you. He's still turning the parchment in his hands, which is slowly being folded into the shape of an animal, possibly a dragon.
Bill looks between you both, unimpressed. "Am I going to have to leave one of you behind?"
You flare up instantly. "This is his problem, not mine. Bill, you're not my boss, you can't drop me from this case."
Bill nods slowly. "That's a fair point."
"Don't you dare leave me behind," Draco snaps from across the room. He pulls his feet down off of his desk. "Bill-"
"Nothings decided yet," Bill says evenly. "But Harry's right. If you two can't get along, I only have the authority to replace you."
"Oh, I'm sure," Draco says bitterly. He raises the finished origami dragon up to his face and pulls on its tail. Its wings slowly move up and down. If you didn't hate him quite so much today, you'd be impressed. "What do you think, hmm?" he asks the dragon, sarcasm dripping from his tone. Bill's sigh and his reprimand of 'Draco,' go unheard or ignored.
"Oh I don't know, Draco," Draco continues in a voice an octave higher than his usual, pretending it's the dragon replying. He moves the dragon about animatedly as if it's really talking. "It might be that Potter is being showed blatant favouritism again, because he's the Chosen One, you know. Can do no wrong even if he does punch people in the face at work. Not to mention he's banging your boss's sister-"
Your wand is out and pointed at Draco quicker than Bill can move to stop you.
The paper dragon bursts into flames. Draco screams and drops it, looking terrified. He scrambles to get out of his chair and away from it, staggering and stumbling. The chair falls over and his back hits the wall and he still tries to move away, his eyes wide and panicked, staring at the gently flickering flames of the ruined paper that sits in the middle of his desk.
Bill rushes forwards and extinguishes the flames. He walks around the desk and grabs Draco by his upper arm, pulling him further away.
"Are you alright?" he asks, his voice rough. Draco doesn't reply, he's shaking violently and staring blankly at the charred remains on his desk. Bill shakes him by the shoulder. "Draco."
He blinks and then seems to refocus. He nods and Bill lets him go.
"Good. Go home."
Draco doesn't argue. He nods dumbly again and leaves the office without collecting his jacket, and without looking at you.
"What the hell?" you ask unsteadily as the door clicks shut.
"Think about it," Bill says, vanishing the remnants of the mess. Frustration laces his voice. "Merlin, Harry, are you two going to end up in Saint Mungo's before you sort out this pissing contest you've got going on?"
"It's not a pissing contest-" you try.
"Just go back to work, Harry," Bill says firmly. "But I swear, if you and Draco don't sit down and talk and sort this out, you'll both find yourselves on the wrong end of a suspension."
"Bill!" you protest. "I didn't start this-"
"I don't care who started it," he says loudly, and then stops himself and sighs. "Sorry. Just go back to work. I'll see you for a pint this weekend and we can talk about everything then, yes?"
You nod and leave the office, shutting the door carefully, and then it hits you.
You're an idiot, an absolute fucking idiot. Setting something on fire in front of Malfoy? How tactless can you bloody be? Christ, it's like payback for his Dementor trick in third year. Even you have some bad dreams about the fire in the Room of Requirement. God knows how bad it must be for Draco.
Without pausing to think any more, you break into a run, hurtling through the corridors of the Ministry. He's not allowed to leave through Bill's floo port so you can only guess he's headed to the Atrium.
This has got to stop, you think desperately. You and Draco can't keep this up, or you'll never work it out.
Your heart leaps into your chest as you spot white-blond hair at the end of the corridor. Apologies aren't on your agenda as you shove past everyone, dodging and weaving until you find your target. There are several grumbles and indignant shouts in your direction. At the end of the corridor, Draco slows and then turns, frowning, wondering at the commotion.
At the sound of your voice he turns in the corridor, face pale and drawn. He's not quick enough though, despite trying to leg it the minute he spots you tearing down the corridor after him. He barely makes three steps before you grab him by his sleeve and yank him back towards you.
You ignore everyone around you and instead grab Malfoy's other sleeve with your other hand to make sure he can't run off. There's wild fear in his expression and you briefly wonder if he's going to start screaming again. You hope he won't; you have enough bad memories of Malfoy's screams.
He shakes his head violently and his chin trembles, and the still terrified expression flips something in your mind. Your whole perspective lurches and suddenly, you're seeing things differently. All the petty arguments and pointless walls that you'd built in you mind crumble away, and you're left with nothing but a clear picture of the man in front of you.
Anything he did doesn't matter anymore. Anything at all from the past doesn't matter any more. All that matters is here and now, and the people around you at this point in your life. You're stunned you didn't realise that until now.
It seems that refusing to think about the war hasn't helped your cause. It hasn't let you move on. It's held you back, left you blinkered as to how everyone around you has grown and changed. Draco was right; you are the only problem left, the last person to make peace with yourself.
Everyone else has done it. Built bridges and formed new friendships. You're ready to bet your last Galleon that they're weren't leaving you out at all, but waiting for you to grow up and join them.
You've been a complete and utter selfish prat.
"I'm sorry," you say before he can make a sound. "I'm so sorry."
"Let me go," he says, trying to pull his arms free. "Let me go."
"I didn't think-"
"Of course you didn't," he says, his voice a lot higher than it normally is. He's shaking. "You never think."
"Malfoy please talk to me," you plead, your voice low. "This is so out of hand. I'm sorry, I really didn't do it to hurt you."
You fall silent, desperately waiting for him to say something. He's staring down at a spot on the floor near his feet, his jaw clenched tightly. You don't know what to say. You want to tell him it's all okay and that you've forgiven him and you don't mind that he stole all of your friends because now you can be a part of it too.
You want to tell him you can't stop thinking about him. Want to tell him that your newest plan to shut him up is to kiss him rather than hex him.
But at the same time, he's still an infuriating bugger, and you don't trust that not to come out of your mouth instead of the contrite explanation your mind has constructed.
"Why did you stop writing?" you ask quietly.
His eyes snap up to meet yours and he wrenches his arms out of your grip, pushing you back with both palms flat on your chest.
"Leave me alone. This is over."
He storms away. Again.
You swear your heart breaks a little as he does. But what were you really expecting? You fucking lit a fire in front of him, for God's sake. He'll be angry. Terrified. Humiliated. You rub your face hard with both hands, wishing that you'd had your epiphany before you cast that damn Incendio.
You think you might be in over your head here. But there's no way in this world or the next you're going to give up on him now.
Its four o clock in the stupid morning and I can't sleep because you won't accept my stupid apology. I said I was sorry, alright? I mean it, too. I'm so sorry. I'll bet you that's not good enough though. Not good enough should be my middle fucking name.
I'm starting to think this isn't about me though, is it? It's you – it's always been you, it's always going to be you.
It always was in that stupid war, and I remember always praying I could go back in time and not make such a fuck up of being your friend. I never knew anything else, and I wish I'd been able to talk to you. Maybe if I'd been nicer I would have had more friends and a better view of everything. Fuck it. I'm sorry. It's not an excuse.
I used to wonder how you'd possibly managed to grow up without any parents. I don't care what anyone says. I loved my parents, more than anything else. It all just got twisted up somewhere, and I didn't realise that what I was doing was more than just trying to please my Father.
I know it's not an excuse, but I was scared. I still am, really. Every day someone would make a comment about killing me. Aunt Bella used to say she'd give me to the new recruits to play with. I know its nothing on what you had to fear, but it's hard. Especially when it's people who are meant to love you that are threatening you. The stupidest thing is that I kept on loving my family, you know? I just hoped they'd turn around one day and change their minds. Ridiculous.
You ever get the feeling that your life is just one big joke?
Someone told me I was a joke. They asked why me and Bill worked in the Ministry now instead of staying at the bank. It's because the goblins still only care about money. The Ministry wants to put things right. Another joke right there. But yes, Bill always said that it felt better breaking curses to stop people being hurt rather than breaking curses just for greed.
I never told you about my job, did I? I assume you've heard all about it by now. Bill's great. Teaches me a lot. And he doesn't take any of my shit, either. A bit like you really, but I'm past the stage of thinking Bill is going to murder me on sight.
Bill Weasley is the first face you see when you get into work on Friday morning. He looks serious and before you can ask what's wrong, he's grabbed you by your upper arm and is marching you through the building.
"Bill?" You ask uncertainly. "Erm- my department is the other way."
"We have a problem, and you need to fix it," he growls, the shadow of a wolf in his expression. You blanch.
"Why me?" you ask, trying to – unsuccessfully - prise Bill's fingers off of your arm. Comprehension dawns as you head towards the curse breakers division. "Christ, has this got something to do with Malfoy?"
"Yes," Bill says, and looks around before speaking in an undertone. "He's drunk. I need you to take him home."
"Don't look so shocked. He told me about you grabbing him yesterday," Bill looks furious and it's hard not to wince. Small wonder he's so cross; he's been trying to warn you about this for weeks. "And that's after your little stunt with that Incendio. It's set him off something chronic. He's in my office and can barely get up."
"Oh, fuck," you breathe, and suddenly you're outside their office, staring at the closed door.
"Take him home, lock him in and force feed him any sobriety potions if he's got them. And apologise, for Merlin's sake."
You shake your head, panicking, but Bill has opened the office door and bundled you inside without even looking directly at you.
It's a pitiful sight. Draco is possibly as smashed as a person can get before they pass out. How he made it into work is a mystery to you.
"Go 'way," he mutters and curls himself into a tighter ball, leant against the side of Bill's desk. His shoes are discarded in the middle of the carpet and his toes scrunch up as you approach, swallowing thickly.
You thought you might feel angry. Annoyed at him. You don't. You cant forget the look on Draco's face when you set fire to that note, can't brush away the guilt that bubbles back, thick and cloying in your veins.
You feel like crying.
"Come on," you say, your voice wavering. You kneel down beside him. "Let's get you home."
He's quiet and pliant as you stand and pull him to his feet, holding him to you with an arm around his waist as he wobbles.
"Harry-" Bill begins, sounding resigned.
"Don't," you reply tightly. "I know, alright. I know."
"You know he likes you?" Bill continues quietly, and your eyes snap up to his. "Likes you in a way that's probably not good for him."
"Good," you say shortly. "Because the feeling's bloody mutual."
"It is?" Bill sounds cautious, surprised.
"According to Hermione," you mutter. "Its okay, Bill. I've got him."
"And you'll tell him what you just told me?" Bill asks bluntly.
You swallow, wondering how on Earth your life has ended up at this point. "Yes."
Relief is Bill's expression of choice as you haul Draco bodily across the room to the fireplace. It annoys you somewhat, but you manage to push the feeling aside. You bloody well know that Draco wouldn't have been in this state if you hadn't been so mean, but then again you wouldn't have been so mean if Draco hadn't been such a dick. Swings and fucking roundabouts.
And apparently you've both been dancing around some feelings you didn't want to admit to. Maybe if you do finally swallow your pride and get it all out in the open, things will start to make sense.
It takes you forever to get Draco back to his flat. He's not awkward or difficult as such, but he's pathetic and lolling around, not quite able to hold his own weight. Or walk in a straight bloody line.
"Go 'way," he mutters again as you prop him up next to the door of his flat. It's in a nice enough block, you suppose. Muggle, not too far from the Ministry. But still, not where you'd expect Malfoy to be.
"S'my flat," he slurs, reaching out as you slide his key into the lock. "Give."
"Stay still - Christ," you dive over to grab him as he slips down the wall, but he's a lot heavier than he looks, so ends up on his arse in the corridor.
You look down at him for a fraction of a second longer and then shake your head, turning back to the door and clicking it open. The moment the door is open, something bumps against your calves and you look down to see Malfoy crawling past you into his flat.
You follow him in, waiting patiently as he clambers awkwardly to his feet, using the sofa to help. The flat is small but nice and you can't help but glance around as Draco takes his time with standing up. There's minimal furniture and decoration: a sofa, a coffee table with a few magazines on. There's a desk by the window which is as tidy as his desk at work, all right angles and neat stacks. The most personalised part of the room is a large bookshelf which is crammed full of volumes. A few small ornaments – dragons, you note - are visible, perched between the books.
"Go home, Potter," Draco slurs, drawing your attention back. "Can't have you here being blemished by my presence."
"Malfoy," you start, exasperated, and then attempt to channel calm from somewhere. He's drunk, you tell yourself. Not in his right mind.
Still being an absolute prat.
"Go on, get out," he says, brandishing a hand to point nowhere near the door.
"No," you tell him quietly. "Not this time."
He looks up at you with a glower. "Oh don't start pretending you care now. Just because Bill put you up to this. You wouldn't-"
"Calm down," you cut him off, resisting the urge to catch his wilding gesticulating hand in your fingers. "Come on. Lets get you into bed and then we can talk when you've sobered up a bit."
"Oh go away, P-Potter. You don't want to talk to me."
Before you can argue to the negative, he lurches over to his desk, hauls open a drawer and then slams it shut. He opens the next one haphazardly and grabs something out of it. He turns and you see him clutching a wrinkled, battered edition of the Prophet. The headline screams Malfoy Junior Spared Azkaban. The article heading is barely any better, hinting at Draco's mistakes: Minerva McGonagall's testimony gives Draco Malfoy extended probation instead of jail term.
"See?" he demands, holding it out and expecting you to take it. "Irredeemably bad, remember?"
You stare down at the picture on the front page and Draco stares back at you, his black and white form sullen. You've not read the story before, and you don't want to now. "You're not irredeemable-"
"It says so," he insists, jabbing at the paper with a finger. "I'm terrible, apparently."
"Well maybe you shouldn't have gotten than stupid Dark Mark," you snap back, wishing the git would stop dragging up the past and just get into bed. "You did it. End of. Now move on."
You immediately regret snapping at him as his face falls. You genuinely didn't mean to. You just wish down to your very core that he'd never been branded with that damn Mark, and it upsets you to know that it's still there. You want him to stop worrying about it, so he can catch up with your new and improved way of thinking about things. If he does, you can start to sort things out. Maybe even see where things between you could lead, if there's anything more than a truce and being civil.
You bloody hope so. You still want to kiss that frown right off his face, even though he's a complete state and being a pain.
His right hand moves convulsively to cover his left forearm. His face twists, and you again remember how he used to be; angry and scared and annoying and bitter and a coward. He's not like that anymore, not really, but all it takes is a misplaced word from you and he's sixteen all over again.
"You," he tries, stepping back. He stumbles and trips over his own feet and ends up sprawled on his back on the carpet, the back of his head narrowly missing the coffee table. He looks up at you, jaw clenched and eyes bright. "You're mean."
You gape at him, feeling incredulous. "You're calling me mean?"
His jaw unclenches slightly and wobbles, and you panic. Jesus Christ, you've no idea what to do if he cries-
"No one ever loves me back," he suddenly blurts out and you freeze, feeling winded. "I try, I really do, but it just never works."
You watch as the tears finally spill over, running down pale cheeks. He's not making a sound and he's staring at you, eyes brighter than you've ever seen them.
It's the final nail in the coffin belonging to your anger at Malfoy. You see exactly what Bill and the others have seen; a man who is scared and just trying to make things right. He's been stupid and he's angry, and he's just craving love from somewhere.
Something seizes inside your chest and you really hope that it can be from you. You recall how he looks when he smiles, and suddenly, it all makes sense.
No more shouting at Malfoy. No more hexing, punching or setting fire to his fingers.
As he clambers to his feet again, unsteady and unstable, you hope that it's not too late to make things right.
You don't say anything, because apparently your mouth doesn't want to behave itself today. You reach out, and brush some of his tears away with your knuckles.
"Don't," he says and tries to push your hand away, looking scared.
"Stop fighting me all the time you silly git," you whisper, feeling a lump in your own throat. "I'm not going to fight you any more."
He blinks at you and wobbles on his feet, one arm flinging out into nothingness to try and keep his balance. You catch his arm at his elbow, trying to steady him but he sinks to the floor again, sitting awkwardly with limbs bent and crossed. At least you manage to steer him away from the coffee table.
You kneel down beside him, not letting go of his arm. "I'm not going to fight anymore."
He's quiet for a moment, and then hiccups. "Or set my things on fire?" he finally asks, and you're thrilled because he's finally stopped fighting you.
You shake your head with a small laugh that's thick with tears. "Or that."
He nods slowly, and reaches out towards you. Your breath hitches but his fingers never touch your skin. Halfway there they draw back and he rubs at his face instead.
"I'm meant to be at work."
"You're not going anywhere," you tell him. "Bill says you've got the day off. I'm just making sure you're okay."
You half expect him to scoff and scorn, or to make some horrible comment about you never caring about him before. He doesn't. He just nods and rubs at his eye sockets with his knuckles.
"Not going to be sick are you?" you ask cautiously as he sways slightly.
"No," he says thickly. "I just don't know- I don't know what to do about you. You were horrible yesterday."
"So were you."
He nods, looking miserable. "I know. I was trying to wind you up because you punched me."
"Maybe we should just stop trying to wind each other up?"
He laughs, the sound laced with a sob. He looks back up at you, his eyes hazy. "You should have just done it, you know. I wouldn't have minded. I thought – you wanted to for a bit which made sense, and then you didn't, so, so I figured you just hated me."
"Should have done what?" you ask him, your voice a whisper.
He blinks repeatedly at you. "You should have just kissed me."
Blood is rushing in your ears and you're sure that you're blushing violently. Draco seemed unperturbed. He looks away, his head lolling on his shoulders.
You wish you were drunk. Maybe this situation would be easier if you were.
"You'd want me to kiss you?" you opt for asking.
He looks up again with effort, his head tipping back too far before he manages to keep it held upright and level. He does reach out then, with both hands, fingers brushing haphazardly against your cheeks. His eyes widen slightly and he tries again, and this time he manages to cup your face in his hands.
"You," he breathes, and somehow he's moving closer even though it's practically impossible. Your knees are in the way and his own bent and tangled limbs are pushing against you, awkward and sharp and wonderful.
He gets so close that you can smell whiskey on his breath, and his eyes are open and wide and making you shiver. God, he's too close. Is he really going to kiss you? Is this what everything means, every argument and hex suddenly put into place when his lips touch yours-
His hands slip away and a frown flickers across his face, uncertain and worried. There's a small line between his eyebrows, indicating a new problem.
"You didn't read any of my letters did you?"
You open your mouth and then close it again uselessly. As you sit there without replying, his countenance falls even further. He stares down at the floor and pulls his knees up to his chest, leaning forwards and hiding his face behind them. His shoulders shake.
"Please don't cry," you plead. It was going so well. He doesn't move.
You're helplessly, unbelievably lost, and somewhere in your mind you're conscious enough to make a mental reminder to hex Bill bloody Weasley.
Or send him a bottle of Firewhisky as a thank you.
"This is hard," Draco says, his voice muffled by his knees.
"I know," you say, and then you reach out to run your fingers through the hair on the top of his head. It's bay soft and feels brilliant.
He looks up, and his cheeks are streaked with fresh tears. "You never read them."
It's not a question, and you feel a lump in your throat as you shake your head. More tears course their way down his pale cheeks, even though he doesn't make a sound.
"I wish you had."
His fingers reach out and curl around your wrist. You don't push them away. They're reassuring somehow, in some primal, instinctive way. Another person touching you; it's something you missed.
You missed him. You didn't realise it until now, what part he played in your life.
And suddenly you know you have to read those letters.
"Come on," you say, your voice shaking. "Let's get you to bed."
He doesn't argue, doesn't kick up a fuss. You suppose it's because he's completely trollied and finally exhausted. You stand up, your legs shaking violently, and haul Malfoy to his feet. When you're both vertical, he clings onto you with strong fingers curled around your hipbones, and buries his face in your neck.
It feels right.
You manage to find and guide him into his bedroom, which is as bare as the rest of his flat. A large, neatly-made bed is the centrepiece, covered in plain black sheets. You suddenly wonder how he'd look, all that pale skin spread out on black cotton, and you shiver.
Recognising that now is not the time for inappropriate thoughts, you leave him fully clothed and simply guide him clumsily so he's laid atop the duvet. He whimpers as you pull your arms out from under him, fingers reaching out and flexing in air.
This time you give into temptation and take hold of his fingers. They clench briefly around yours and he struggles a little, as if he wants to sit up.
"Shush, it's okay," you say. "Go to sleep, git."
His body relaxes, and thankfully he sleeps. You forgo the sobriety potions, and instead tug his socks off and pull a blanket over him. He's calm and breathing evenly, and you don't have the heart to ruin it.
Besides, maybe a hangover will teach him not to turn up to work drunk.
Strange how he looks so peaceful. His hair is messed and he looks a state, and you laugh weakly as you realise it's only just nine 'o clock in the morning. Cautiously, you sit on the edge of his bed and run your fingers through his hair again. He doesn't move.
You should have kissed him.
You race home and spend thirty minutes cursing all and sundry because you can't remember all of the bloody locking charms you put on your desk drawer when you last locked it all away.
When it finally clicks open you hesitate, your fingers curled around the wooden edge. Are you ready for this? Do you really want to know what Malfoy has wanted to say to you for nearly a year?
You remember his tears and how he looked when he was asleep, and you decide.
You read the letters one by one.
When you finish the last letter, you're crying again without even noticing. You were never ready to hear any of what he had to say, weren't ready to accept or forgive.
Maybe you are now.
You read the letters again and again, until the sun sets and there isn't enough light to read by. Then you still don't move out of your chair; you hold the letters close to your chest and think. You think hard about somebody else for the first time since the end of the war. He's right, and he's wrong, and he's infuriating.
And you think you love him just as much as he loves you.
Alright, that's it. You're a selfish tosspot and I'm not writing to you anymore because it's not fair. There are so many things about you that get under my skin, and you drive me insane, but I can't bring myself to hate you properly because I love your stupid face.
You saved my life when you didn't have to, and you're brave and kind and ridiculous but you're also the biggest arse I've ever met. I mean, I know I can be an arse, but you just go ahead and beat me at that was well.
I know I was a little shit when I was younger. I was horrible. I still feel sick when I remember some of the things I said. I've even apologised to Weasley and Granger and I think they believed me. Granger sat down and talked to me and said I probably needed therapy. I told her that anyone giving me therapy would then need therapy themselves and she laughed. Weasley punched me and charmed my hair pink. I left it like that for a week until I saw him again and he took it off. Said it was a start.
I want to hex myself though when I admit I'd rather that you forgave me than those two. Everyone is being brilliant to me and I'm grateful but you're still on my mind constantly.
Thank you for saving me. I'm sorry for every wrong I did, and even if you never know it, I'll be making up for them for as long as I have to.
This is my last letter, because I'm going to completely lose the plot if I keep wondering if you've got them or read them or care about them. Fuck, you're infuriating, but I love you.
"Malfoy, open the bloody door!"
You've been banging on the door to Malfoy's flat for the past ten minutes. You can only assume he's in; he's not turned up to work today, according to Bill. And anyway, you suspect he's still nursing a monster hangover from his drinking binge yesterday.
Or doing his very best to avoid you, if he at all remembers what he said whilst pissed.
"Fucks sake! I know you're in there! Open the door!"
When he finally does, he looks like shit. His eyes are ringed by black circles and he's shivering. He's in plan grey pyjamas which make him look even paler than normal, and he looks so pathetic you just want to look after him. Or maybe punch him. Probably both.
"What?" he asks, his voice hoarse. "You can't arrest me for missing work."
"I can't arrest you anyway, I'm only an Obliviator," you say. "I want to talk to you."
He rubs his eyes with his knuckles, looking miserable. "I'm not feeling well."
You roll your eyes at him. "I know. It's called a hangover."
"Please just leave me alone," he says flatly. "I'm not playing these ridiculous games with you anymore. You don't know what you want and it's not fair. I don't care anymore. I'm not running in circles to try and do whatever it is you want-"
"I read your letters."
Draco abruptly stops ranting and stares at you, suddenly looking scared.
"All of them?"
You shift from foot to foot, uncomfortable. "Not the first two. I, erm, threw them away. I kept all the others though. I didn't read them until yesterday."
"Oh," he says weakly. "I didn't actually know if you had or not."
"Can I come in?"
He hesitates and then takes a deep breath. As he slowly exhales, he seems to steel himself and then nods. He keeps nodding as he steps back and lets you into his flat.
You pause by his bookshelf and turn to face him. He stands the other side of the coffee table, rubbing his arms with his hands. His feet are bare, and he has them so close together that he's practically standing on his own toes.
He looks tired with everything. Not just from lack of sleep. You feel a teensy bit guilty, and also quite panicked that he's finally fed up with you.
"You don't need to apologise anymore," you blurt out. "It's okay."
He doesn't look at you. "So glad you've finally decided to forgive me," he says, tone slightly petulant. "I can now get on with my life because the Chosen One has granted me permission-"
"Do you decide how much of an arse you're going to be prior to a conversation, or does it just come naturally?"
"Naturally," he replies with hesitating.
"You're a prat."
He shrugs. "That definitely comes naturally."
"You know you asked me to kiss you yesterday."
You regret the words the second they slip out of your mouth. Draco's face shutters into a glare.
"Shut up, Potter."
"I wouldn't mind."
Christ, what is wrong with you? Why won't these stupid words stop coming out of your mouth? Draco is now gaping at you unashamedly. His hair is a mess and you want to run your fingers through it.
"Potter will you please start making sense?" he asks faintly. "You hate me, you stalk me, you punch me, you hex me, you bloody set fire to me and then you're looking after me and being all nice, and saying stuff like that," he shakes his head. "I don't get it."
He looks forlorn and bewildered and it's a nice change to his scowl.
"Erm, I had a little bit of an epiphany," you say, scratching the back of your head. "Figured I had to chill out about this all, stop being so mad at you. And stop letting you get to me."
Draco blinks. "And did this epiphany come after you set fire to me?"
"Yes, but I think it was a multi-stage epiphany. The letters finalised it."
He's not saying a lot but he's not scowling or being mean, so that has to be a good thing.
He doesn't argue when you tell him you're going to make you both a cup of tea. He just looks suspicious but grateful at the same time. Mostly suspicious, though. It takes ages because you don't know your way around his kitchen, but you get there eventually. You can't help but smile as you stir the milk into your tea. You bet no-one else makes Draco tea when he's hungover.
You expect him to be sat in the living room when you return, walking slowly so you don't spill tea everywhere, but he's not. Cautiously, you edge towards his bedroom.
The door's open, and you pause in the doorway, your eyes wide and your heart somewhere in the base of your throat.
He's tugged off his pyjama top and has a towel in hand. There's so much pale skin on show that you nearly break your eyes trying to take it all in at once. Much to your mortification, he turns to see you standing there before you can quit staring.
He blushes. "You took so long I thought I might as well shower," he says, holding the towel defensively over his bare chest. "Wasn't expecting you to come nosing."
You clear your throat. "Didn't want your tea to get cold."
"You could have put a warming charm on it," Draco says and your heart sinks.
He shuffles from foot to foot and then slowly moves towards you to take the cup of tea from you, still holding the towel up to his collarbones with his free hand. His eyes flicker up to yours. "Thank you."
He sits on the edge of his bed, draping the towel across his knees. You can't help but steal more glances. He's so bloody pale. And bugger, Hermione was right. You can see the Sectumsempra scars from where you're standing.
"Sit down, you're making me nervous," he finally says quietly and you hasten to comply, slipping onto the edge of the bed next to him.
"You make me nervous," you mutter as you wrap both your hands around your mug of tea, staring down at it.
You nod slowly. "You're unpredictable."
"You're not. You're predictably mad. And stubborn."
You frown slightly. "Isn't madness the state of mental unpredictability?"
"Right. When did you get so clever?"
"I'm not clever," you say, ruefully. "I do things without thinking about it. And I don't do things because I don't want to think about them."
"Hiding away from things won't help," he says carefully.
You nod again. "I know."
There's a moment of silence, in which you both simultaneously sip your tea. He hasn't complained about it so you assume it tastes fine.
"Did Ron really turn your hair pink?" you finally ask.
"Yes," he says. "The bastard."
Silence falls again, and it's awkward. It stretches out and out and out until you can bear it no more and you finally snap, words tumbling from your mouth with no permission.
"Look, if you're going to let me kiss you can you let me know? Otherwise I'll make a mess of it and annoy you, and I'd rather go home before that happens."
When you finally turn to look at him, he's staring at you again, all wide eyed and open mouthed. "That was the most ridiculous proposition I've ever had."
"Get a lot of them, do you?"
He shakes his head and puts his mug of tea on the small table next to his bed. The gesture sets your nerves on fire.
"No," he says, although you've completely forgotten what you said anyway, because he's turning to face you properly and he's still not wearing a shirt and his hair is messy and he's still not scowling at you. He looks at you for a second, and you wish you could just lunge at him and capture his mouth and then pin him to the bed and do all sorts of dirty things to him.
You can't though, because you've got a mug of tea in your hands-
-which promptly skips out of your grip and floods over the carpet as Draco lunges at you, skinny arms around your neck and mouth crashing against yours, desperate and off-centre.
"Fuck! Draco- tea!"
He pulls back, arms still around your neck. He glares at you. "Will you just shut up," he says, his voice tight and nervous, and then he kisses you again.
It's fantastic and messy and not quite what you expected, but with Malfoy it never really is. You forget the spilt tea and every past argument and kiss him back with equal enthusiasm.
He tastes of tea, and he's so very warm, pressed up close. It feels wonderful. He's all sharp elbows and taut muscle under your hands, which you can't seem to stop moving across as much of him as you can reach. He's driving you mad, but thankfully in a good way this time around. Sexual arousal is an infinitely better option than childish bickering and jealousy over having to share friends.
"Fuck, Potter," he gasps as your thread both your hands into his hair. "Trust you to be fucking brilliant at this as well."
You laugh into his mouth and move closer. This is all a bit mad really; first decent conversation and you've got him on his bed with his shirt off. You suppress a grin, wondering how your first date will end up. With him on his knees under the table in a restaurant, you hope.
"Moving quickly?" he pants as you push him further and further back, and he has to fling out a hand backwards to prop himself up.
"Making up for lost time. We've been dancing around this for ages."
He must agree because he gives up on trying to stop you from pushing him onto his back and instead wraps his arms around your neck. When you finally get him there, you don't hesitate to climb on top of him, pinning his limbs under your weight to make sure he doesn't run off again. You really must have subconsciously wanted him for forever, because the strength of the desire that rushes through you as you kiss is overwhelming.
You vow to do this again another time, because at present he's hungover and knackered and he's still bloody brilliant at it, and it would be off-the-map fantastic if he were fresh and awake.
A gasp slips from your lips and you flush as nimble fingers find their way to your belt. You push up onto your knees and elbows to make it easier, and he's kissing your neck, open mouthed and hot and your whole body is shaking. The thought of what he might do overrides your rationality and you stop thinking about anything but him and those damn fingers.
Your belt falls apart, the buckle jangling, and your trousers are open four seconds later. You're uncomfortably, desperately, hard. You've always known that your prick was just as interested in blokes as it was in women, but it's far more interested in Malfoy than it has ever been anyone else.
You keen as his hand slips inside your boxers, but can't care about the embarrassing sound. He's panting too, his body shifting and moving constantly under yours as he wraps his fingers around you, tight and sure.
He's wanking you slowly but steadily and it's not enough. All the tension from forever is pulled together at this moment, and you want the hand on your cock to match the frantic pace of your earlier kisses.
A thumb slides over the head of your prick, pushing the foreskin back just enough and you shudder. Your hips start to jerk back and forth, trying to push harder and quicker into that sinful hand.
One of your own hands starts to wander, slipping down Draco's shoulder, across his ribs and chest, down his side. You're determined to feel all that skin, to map out his body in your mind. Your fingers have barely brushed against his crotch when he moans and stops – bloody stops – tossing you off.
"No," you plead, trying to get him to move his hand back, but he's tugging your jeans further open and pushing at your boxers so that your cock is completely free, and then he kicks at your knees, indicating you to spread them wider.
Obliging is the best idea you've ever head because the minute he can, he wriggles down the bed between your knees, further and further until you're straddling his face. You can feel his breath panting on your prick, warm and excited, and then you feel a tongue slowly slide up the underside, fingers pressing against you just right.
"Oh fuck," you choke, wanting to bury your face in your forearms as he takes the head of your prick in his mouth and gently suckles. It's maddening, infuriating, just like Draco, and you want to shove your cock further into that tantalising heat and wetness.
It's all happening so quickly. You haven't even discussed anything properly. You can't bring yourself to care.
You wonder if he's had a personality transplant brought about by recent excessive alcohol consumption, because he doesn't tease for long. He takes more of you into his mouth, tongue swirling around the head and dipping into your slit, driving you mindless. If you knew how good he was at this, you would have offered to shut his mouth by putting your dick in it back in school.
Heat pulls low in your belly and twists around your spine. He's sucking you like his life depends on it, moaning deep in his throat. Your hips twitch forwards and he groans again, the fingers of one hand coming up to curl around one of your hipbones, digging in tight. Your resolve crumbles and you look down between your legs. You have about three seconds of watching him crane his neck up to bury his face in your crotch, taking you as deep as he can, before you're coming violently into that perfect mouth.
Hands push at your trembling hips and you force yourself to roll sideways, collapsing back onto the bed as sparks of colour dance across your vision.
"Don't say anything," a hoarse voice says, and then a body flops down next to yours. "You'll only say something stupid."
You barely have enough breath to laugh. You turn your head sideways to see Draco looking at you, eyes fixed on yours.
"What about you?" you ask vaguely, hand gesturing down towards his crotch, and he smirks tiredly.
"Only paying attention to yourself I see. You really think I'd do that without getting myself off, too? I'm not that generous."
You blush, pulse quickening again at the thought of Draco sucking you off whilst wanking himself, a hand shoved inside his own pyjama bottoms. You blink, trying to get your mind out of the gutter, and reach down to tug your underwear and jeans back into some semblance of order.
Silence falls but this time it's not uncomfortable. Your eyes drift shut and you allow yourself to drift in post-orgasmic bliss for a while, before you have to talk and sort the important things out. To your surprise, you feel Draco edge closer, and hesitant fingers touch your wrist. Your move your hand and wrap the fingers in yours.
"Bill said you fancied me but couldn't work it out," Draco says quietly, so you can barely hear him. "I didn't know."
"Neither did I," you say honestly, keeping your eyes shut for the exchange. It'll be easier that way, you think. "Not at first. I never know if I should be angry or forgiving and I complicate things."
"So you don't know about me."
It's not a question. His voice is flat and disappointed and somewhat accusing.
"You're one thing that I do know about now," you say, tightening your fingers around his lest he try and pull away. "That should have been past tense, I think. I meant…I hadn't thought about anything properly. You made me think."
"So what do you think you know about me now?"
"That you're great at giving head?"
He makes an indignant noise and shoves at you. You laugh and grab his hands, turning onto your side and opening your eyes to look at him. Inwardly, you're delighted at the almost playful gesture, that you're apparently at the point where you can joke without causing a tantrum.
"You are officially forgiven, for everything," you say and he flushes pink, looking down at your entwined hands. "You're still a prat, but I don't mind as much as long as you're my prat."
"Possessive much?" he asks.
"Probably," you sigh, and wait till he looks back at you.
"You're forgiven, too. Except for setting me on fire. I'm still cross about that."
You nod ruefully. "I know. I am sorry for that, though. I could have kicked myself when I realised."
"It's a start," he says, and then goes straight for the jugular with his next question. "So, what now?"
"I want you to be mine," you blurt out a little awkwardly, thanking your inner-Gryffindor that you were brave enough to say it out loud. "If I know that, I think everything else will be easy."
"Your fuck-buddy? Or something else?"
"My pain in the arse," you reply and he suddenly smiles at you. Your heart skips.
"I can do that."
You smile back. It's all so awkwardly perfect, the pair of you ending up here. You think it could really work, now you've both started talking and listening. When it comes down to it, who else can be as ridiculous as you?
It won't be easy, you know that for sure. You anticipate screaming matches and fights and lots of make up sex. Holding hands under tables. Having to talk about things that hurt. Making him cups of tea when he's moody. Ducking books thrown at your head. Kissing him when he's fast asleep. And snogging in front of Bill Weasley, the git.
Draco's tried bloody hard to make things right in the past year. Making amends and new friends, even apologising and breaking curses to keep people safe.
You finally feel like following his example. Ron and Hermione will be bloody thrilled, seeing as they've been telling you to deal with stuff for forever. You feel a bit silly that it's taken a snarky blond idiot to get you there.
You pull him close so that he's nestled into your side and his head is on your shoulder. He throws a leg over yours, relaxing. He breathes quietly and evenly and you don't want to disturb him. Not much anyway.
"You owe me a new cuppa, git."
"Make your own, arsehole."
You grin and kiss his temple. As long as you actually listen to what's being said and remember not to start any fires, you'll be just fine.