Harry threw a few Sickles onto the table, hoping that they would be enough to cover the cost of his drinks, and Malfoy's treacle tart.
After another quick glance in Madam Rosmerta's direction, he decided that it would perhaps be a good idea to offer some sort of tip as a way of compensating for her moment of shock, and also the broken glass. Hurriedly, he added a few Galleons to the pile of Sickles.
He stood up, almost knocking his chair over as he did so.
He was somewhat surprised by his eagerness to get outside. He was only mildly surprised, however, to note that the room still appeared to be spinning around, and his vision was slightly blurred.
He managed to focus his eyes on Malfoy, who looked as dazed and confused as Harry felt. "Outside," he repeated, trying to fight off another flush of embarrassment as his voice shook, perhaps with excitement, but more likely with a hint of fear.
Harry had no desire to hold Malfoy's hand, but he wasn't above tugging insistently on the sleeve of his robes as he started to move away from the table.
As he practically ran towards the pub door, trying his best not to trip over his robes, Harry was momentarily grateful for his current state of tipsiness, as he was certain that he would have felt even more nervous and embarrassed without a little support from one too many glasses of Butterbeer.
It was only when he stepped outside and felt the chill of the cool night air on his face that Harry was finally able to sober up ever so slightly and really start to think about what he was doing.
As he shivered with cold and took a few deep breaths, he realised that he hadn't even asked Malfoy if he had liked the kiss, or if he had felt anything, or if he wanted to kiss again. Harry had barely asked himself the same questions. He also realised, with a wave of something that felt like disappointment, that Malfoy hadn't even followed him outside, and he had definitely remained seated when Harry left the table.
Harry's feeling of disappointment didn't last for long. In fact, it went away altogether when he heard the sound of footsteps behind him.
He turned around slowly, even though he already knew who would be standing behind him. Harry had recognised the sound of his footsteps and his breathing, and even the faint smell of treacle tart. He had always been able to sense Malfoy's presence back at Hogwarts, and now, after spending most of the evening with him, he felt like he was starting to develop this skill all over again.
The two of them stood still, staring intently at one other.
In a matter of seconds, Harry found himself pinned against the nearest wall, and before he could ask himself any more questions, his lips were on Malfoy's again, both of them sharing almost frantic kisses, as though they were afraid that one of them would suddenly Apparate away and end this strange moment between the two of them.
Their kisses might have been more passionate and more heated than their first kiss indoors, but the moment was by no means any less awkward. Sometimes, their teeth clashed instead of their tongues, and Harry, unused to having somebody pressed so tightly against him after being out of practice for a few years, stumbled a few times and was forced to grab hold of the wall behind him to steady himself, and eventually, he decided that he was no longer comfortable with his glasses being pushed up against his face, so he had to pause briefly to remove them and stuff them into the pocket of his robes, trying his best not to blush.
Yet he couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of relief at the fact that it didn't have to be perfect. There was no pressure for whatever they were doing to last forever, or to lead to a happy ending, and he no longer felt obliged to find happiness with the perfect person in order to help the Daily Prophet journalists to sell more newspapers. In fact, Harry was fairly certain that he never wanted to talk to any journalists ever again. For once, he was free to enjoy a kiss and to make mistakes without anybody watching from a distance, waiting to see what the outcome would be. He had never felt more free in his life.
It definitely wasn't the same as any of his kisses with women. Everything was different, from the feel of Malfoy's lips on his, to the feel of his body against his, and even the texture of the skin on Malfoy's hands every time they brushed against Harry's. Yet in spite of the obvious differences, the whole thing felt strangely familiar, from the rush of adrenaline to the challenge that hung in the air with every movement or discreet glance when they both opened their eyes at the same time. This feeling of familiarity was enough to temporarily prevent Harry from asking himself all sorts of confusing questions about his feelings and his preferences.
After several minutes of being pinned against the wall by Malfoy, Harry decided that he didn't want him to have full control of the situation, so he pushed himself away from the wall and out of Malfoy's grip, and reversed their positions.
Malfoy seemed happy with this change of position for a while, but after a couple of minutes, he pushed Harry away and moved him back against the wall.
They carried on in this way for several more minutes, pushing and shoving and fighting to be in control, barely breaking their kiss for more than a few seconds as they moved around.
Harry felt the unique rush of adrenaline that he had only ever felt during the Gryffindor versus Slytherin matches, when the two of them had been soaring through the air on their broomsticks, battling each other to get to the Snitch first. It was a thrill that Harry had never really been able to feel again after he left Hogwarts, up until this moment outside the Three Broomsticks.
In the end, Malfoy appeared to grow tired of their pushing and shoving, because he grabbed hold of Harry's hand and held it against the wall, momentarily preventing Harry from moving away from the wall again.
Harry squeezed Malfoy's hand tightly, feeling strangely comforted by the feeling of holding Malfoy's hand firmly in his. He knew that now that he had finally allowed Malfoy to take his hand, he didn't want to let him go. He didn't want Malfoy to walk out of his life again, the way that he had done after the Battle of Hogwarts.
In spite of this realisation that he didn't want to let go of Malfoy's hand, Harry was still fairly certain that it wasn't love. Malfoy was a good kisser, but he didn't really like him any more than he had liked him at the start of the evening, even though he felt that maybe they understood each other better now.
More importantly, if they decided to stay in each other's lives, Harry already understood that there would be many serious issues that they would have to discuss. He knew what he would find under Malfoy's robes, on his chest and on his left arm, and he would have to be prepared for that. Their rivalry would always be there, no matter what. There would be arguments, accusations, friends and families, and their behaviour in the past would no doubt be brought up in every single argument.
Harry knew all of this, but for now, he simply wanted to live in the present and enjoy the moment, without having to worry about what would happen in the future.
Deciding that if he really wanted to get a sense of how much he liked it, it would perhaps be a good idea to take things a bit further, Harry finally let go of Malfoy's hand and used his now free hand to touch Malfoy's hair, overcome with curiosity as to whether it felt as soft as it looked. He quickly decided that it was even softer. Then, he used both hands to touch as much of Malfoy as he could, from his face to the back of his neck to his arms.
Malfoy seemed to catch on fairly quickly, because he used his own hands to explore Harry's body, before moving his lips away from Harry's so that he could kiss along his jaw line and then his neck.
There was no question as to whether Harry liked it, because he could actually hear himself groaning in appreciation, and his body was responding accordingly.
He felt like a teenager again, young and inexperienced, but determined to compete against the object of his teenage obsession.
When he first left his job at the Ministry of Magic, Harry had been convinced that he had simply been missing Hogwarts, and that by returning to teach there, he would find everything that he needed. But now, he was sure that really, he had been missing the Gryffindor versus Slytherin Quidditch games, the smell of treacle tart and broomstick handles, the sense of competition. He had missed having somebody there to challenge him, to disagree with him, to remind him that he was only human, rather than the perfect, untouchable Saviour of the wizarding world. He had missed having somebody to obsess over, somebody to follow around, somebody unpredictable and mysterious who he could attempt to understand.
In his own strange way, he had missed Draco Malfoy.
And, if everybody in the wizarding world had somehow managed to work this out long before Harry had, then maybe they had been right all along.
"You know," Harry heard himself mutter, "perhaps everybody has a point."
"A point about what?" Malfoy asked him, sounding like he couldn't care less.
"About us having secret feelings for each other?" Harry explained, wondering why he was even bothering to talk, when the feeling of Malfoy's lips on his neck felt so good.
"Potter, nobody thinks that."
It actually took Harry several moments to process what he had just heard. "What?" he eventually asked Malfoy, sounding completely out of breath.
When Malfoy didn't respond, Harry grabbed hold of his arms and pushed him away slightly, preventing him from continuing with kissing his neck.
Malfoy sighed heavily, looking disappointed that their kissing and groping session had been interrupted.
Harry was almost tempted to simply release his grip on Malfoy's arms and go back to kissing him, but in the end, curiosity (and the vague suspicion that he might have walked himself into another trap) got the better of him, and he decided that he needed an answer. "What did you just say?" he demanded, trying to sound more authoritative this time.
"Nobody thinks that," Malfoy repeated with a casual shrug, as though this were the most obvious fact in the world. "I made it up."
"What…nobody?" Harry asked slowly, in the unlikely event that he had misheard.
Malfoy nodded. "Nobody."
Harry stared at him with his eyes wide. "No bands sing songs about our apparent secret love?"
"Not that I know of. Unless you count a few lyrics written and performed by a drunken Theodore Nott at the end of our nights out in Hogsmeade..."
"No elderly witches talk about us over tea at Madam Puddifoot's?"
"Not even the young witches and wizards at the Leaky Cauldron?"
Malfoy attempted to move his body closer to Harry's again, but Harry continued to hold his arms in a firm grip, waiting for a further explanation.
Malfoy sighed in apparent exasperation. "Nott and Zabini bought every volume of your official biography for my birthday, no doubt thinking that it would be some sort of hilarious joke birthday present," he explained with a roll of his eyes, looking like he hadn't found the joke funny at all. "As I said before, Potter, I really don't think that my friends hate you as much as you think. Anyway, in the end, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to read your story…I think a part of me was hoping that I would be able to report you to the Ministry of Magic if I found that you had said something awful about my family. But, as I was reading about the two of us, I started to come up with a few theories of my own, or perhaps it was simply one important theory that I had subconsciously been thinking about for a while, and your biography forced me to admit it. So, I decided to find you to discuss it, but I didn't think that you'd believe me if I said that it was just my own personal theory, so I had to invent a few details…
Harry continued to stare at Malfoy, trying his best to understand his explanation, and wondering why he hadn't worked everything out at the beginning of their conversation. It all seemed so obvious now.
"And," Malfoy continued, "Pansy and Goyle were sitting on the other side of the pub when I first approached your table. They were convinced that you would try to hex me the moment I attempted to talk to you, so I asked them to come along for some…moral support. They left as soon as you invited me to sit down."
As he finished speaking, Malfoy definitely looked smug. The more Harry's eyes widened in shock, the more he smirked triumphantly, looking thrilled that he had got one over on him. It was as though he had wrestled Harry to the ground and snatched the Golden Snitch right out of his hand before Harry had even realised what was going on.
Eventually, Harry was able to talk again. "You haven't changed one bit," he practically growled.
"Neither have you," Malfoy responded.
With that, their bodies were pressed up together again, with Harry taking out his anger at Malfoy's deception through the increased intensity of their kisses.
"Honestly, Potter," he heard Malfoy sigh between kisses, "nobody goes to the Leaky Cauldron to discuss your love life."
Malfoy definitely hadn't changed. This was the only conclusion that Harry was able to reach as he felt his rival's arms wrap tightly around his waist. He was still the smug, arrogant Slytherin who thought nothing of manipulating a situation to achieve his ends. He still took pleasure in Harry's anger and embarrassment. He still loved arguing with Harry. The insults still fell easily from his lips.
Malfoy hadn't changed, and neither had Harry. And yet, they were still standing together outside the pub, kissing each other, holding on to each other, unable to leave each other alone.
As Malfoy whispered something about how he didn't live too far from Hogsmeade, and Harry nodded in understanding, deciding that in spite of his anger, it might be interesting to continue to prove this imaginary theory in a more private place, he also decided that the younger members of the wizarding world were definitely wrong about one thing: there was no perfect person for Draco Malfoy who would help him to change for the better. Malfoy would never really change. He would always be who he was, with all of his flaws and his insults and his sneers.
But then, in spite of many idealistic newspaper articles claiming otherwise, perhaps there was no perfect person for Harry, either. Because in reality, Harry was far from perfect himself, and, like Malfoy, he would never really change, either.
Perhaps perfect partners and happy endings simply didn't exist. Perhaps happiness could instead be found in games of Quidditch, slices of treacle tart, rushes of adrenaline, challenges, victories, Hogwarts and passionate kisses at the Three Broomsticks.
Neither of them was perfect, Harry thought as Malfoy prepared to Apparate them away; so perhaps they could just enjoy not being perfect, together.
Perhaps nobody had really come up with any theories, but on Monday morning, when Harry arrived late for work with dishevelled hair, his robes fastened incorrectly and what he was sure was a very Hufflepuff-like grin plastered on his face, and he then had to endure a whole day of raised eyebrows and knowing smirks from Cecelia, all of her friends and even Neville Longbottom, he had a strange feeling that fairly soon, everybody in the wizarding world would be coming up with a whole lot of new theories about Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.