Title: As Beautiful As the Day
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairing: Harry/Draco, past Harry/Ginny
Warnings: Some angst, introspective piece, epilogue-compliant
Summary: Seeing Draco Malfoy aloft on his broom, illuminated from behind by sunlight, turns out to be a defining moment in Harry's life, and awakens parts of himself he never knew were there.
Author's Notes: This is a little piece that came to me title-first, and which I simply decided to write.
As Beautiful As the Day
"You want to leave the game early? You must not love me anymore."
It had been long enough since his divorce from Ginny that Harry could laugh at the words, but to his own ears, the chuckle sounded awkward and forced. Maybe to Ginny, too, given the way her eyebrows crept up.
"Sorry," Harry murmured, kissing her neck under her ear. "Auror business."
"It always is," Ginny said, and there were depths there that were practically shark-infested. Harry winced, but Ginny was already turning back towards the pitch, as the call went up to reassemble after the Falmouth Falcons' injured Seeker had been carried off the field. Their reserve Seeker would come on now, Harry remembered.
And that reserve Seeker was Draco Malfoy.
Harry walked to the Apparition point outside the Quidditch Pitch, and then turned around as a shadow swept over him. The summons from Kingsley had been urgent, but not overwhelmingly so, and he thought he could spare a moment to see if Malfoy still flew as well as he remembered.
He tilted his head back, and—
There was Malfoy, dancing on his broom opposite from Ginny, his head tilted slightly to the side. Harry could see the sun catch and gleam on his gloves, which looked to be made of some bright leather, probably to make his hands show up more easily to the fans straining and screaming with breathless excitement from below. The sun caught in his hair, too, turning it into a mass of bright shadow.
That was it. That was all. But the vision landed in the middle of Harry's heart, a flaming arrow, and stuck there burning for a moment before it exploded.
Harry pressed a hand to his chest, wondering for a moment whether one of his enemies had used a curse on him, and he'd been too busy gaping like a fool at Malfoy and his ex-wife to notice him Apparating in. But he knew, he knew, that his Auror-trained sense of hearing would have picked something like that up, and his hands shook, now, and his throat was so dry with his gulping that it hurt. His body shuddered with shock, but it was the shock of realization, not magic.
Unless you can call realization a kind of magic. It had been, two years ago, when he and Ginny had realized within a few days of each other that their marriage was comfortable, but no longer passionate.
But that hadn't touched him like this, hadn't burned him like this. Neither had he ever burned for Ginny like this, or the one or two women he'd tried to date after her before he gave it up as a bad job. It hadn't mattered so much to him that he might never have someone else to spend his life with. He had his friends, and that made up for a lot.
But this…but this.
Harry swallowed, and yanked his gaze away from the sky as he came to another realization, that he was staring at empty air and the swirling battle between Malfoy and Ginny had passed to another part of the Pitch. He hastily made his way to his Apparition point and vanished. Never before had he been so glad to focus his mind on work.
But then, never before had work been a distraction, instead one of the two things, besides his children, that he lived for.
"And you know that Lily probably just needs a little more time to adjust to being Sorted into Ravenclaw…"
Harry smiled weakly back at Hermione and let her chatter flow around him. She could come up with reasons for everything, and at this point in their lives, they were usually soothing reasons, rather than the sinister ones that had driven their hunt for Hogwarts's mysteries. In this case, she explained Lily's lack of letters in the past few days, and Harry found himself believing it.
But his mind had gone back to the glimpse of Malfoy in the sun a fortnight ago. It had stayed with him, and he had sat up at night trying to imagine explanations why. Twice he had written owls to Hermione in which he asked her to come up with the reasons, and twice he had torn them up. What was he going to say, exactly?
He just didn't know why it mattered so much, what it meant. He didn't like blokes. At least, he never had liked them up to this point. When he wanked, it was to thoughts of women, first Ginny and then others. He had never—felt like that. That was the point.
"Harry? Are you paying attention?"
That was the danger with having a friend who could come up with lots of reasons, Harry thought, returning abruptly to the conversation. She would notice when you weren't listening and invent possibly worrying ideas why.
"Of course," he said, and leaned forwards across the oak table that Ron and Hermione kept in the middle of their dining room to pick up his glass of pumpkin juice and salute her. The pumpkin juice was what they always drank during their evenings together, in deference to ancient tradition. "You said that Lily might still have trouble adjusting to Ravenclaw. I can see why. No one ever really praised her for her intelligence."
Hermione nodded, and beamed at him, and clinked her glass against his, while Ron leaned across the table to do the same thing. "Exactly. I know you're worried about her, it's natural to be. But she'll be fine." And away she went again, this time into a happy, curious fantasy about all the great things Lily would get to do now that she was in Ravenclaw and out of one Gryffindor and one Slytherin brother's shadow.
Ron, settling back into his seat, fixed Harry with a thoughtful gaze, and Harry remembered that Hermione was great at reading reactions, but Ron was great at seeing them. Harry ducked his head and shrugged a little, and Ron grinned and downed his glass.
Another thing Ron was great at was realizing when he needed to leave things alone for the time being, and allow them time to come to flower.
I just hope this one's not an ugly bloom, Harry thought, and swallowed around the taste of pumpkin that seemed to pierce straight to the back of his tongue.
He lay awake in bed that night and thought about it, his arms folded behind his head, because since Ginny stopped picking his pillows for him, he never seemed able to find one that would actually be comfortable with his neck.
All right, so seeing Malfoy as beautiful was unusual, but it didn't mean that everything about him had suddenly changed, did it? Not really. He still ate and breathed and drank and talked and walked the same. He had spent the same amount of time at his job today. He still owled his kids and firecalled Ginny to ask which days she wanted them for Christmas. It was all normal. Nothing had changed.
Except the way I feel, here, he thought, and laid his hand over his heart.
It remained to be seen whether that was a lasting change, or one that mattered in any important way, Harry thought.
With that, he rolled over and shut his eyes, relaxing in the way he'd learned when he had to spend a long time waiting in ambush. He was tired, no matter how many circles his mind chose to run in, and he had work in the morning.
"Watch where you're going."
Harry blinked and looked up. He actually hadn't run up against Pansy Parkinson, but he supposed he might have. She stood five feet away with a full tray of food in her hands, her eyes and her nostrils both narrow and pointing at him. Harry shrugged at her, said, "Sorry," because it was more trouble if he didn't, and stepped aside with exaggerated care before continuing his way both down the corridor and through the case file.
The incident gave him heart when he remembered it later. It meant his attitude towards former Slytherins in general hadn't changed, then. He still thought of Parkinson as annoying and pushy. In her post as Undersecretary to the Minister, she earned praise from people because she wasn't as bad as Umbridge, but that was a shitty standard to measure anyone against.
So, no, he hadn't suddenly changed his mind about people who had become mildly irritating since the war. He didn't want to see Parkinson play Quidditch, or spend time chatting with her, or even give her the time of day.
But when he thought again of Malfoy, as a test, to see if the memory had faded at all and would leave him in peace, his chest still constricted around the fire, and all he could see was light.
Harry leaned back in the stands and tried to cross his legs nonchalantly. Then he thought that might not be nonchalant enough and tried to unfold them and put both his feet flat on the ground. That caused one of them to slip off his knee and make a thump loud enough to startle several people into looking at him.
Harry cleared his throat and ducked his head, glad that he'd cast glamours to hide his glasses and his scar. Without those iconic things, no one except his friends would recognize him. The glasses and the scar were the Boy-Who-Lived, by this point, they appeared so often in photos about his cases and anniversary stories on the war. He would never make the spy that some of his fellow Aurors did, but he could attend a Quidditch game without being mobbed.
If you don't draw attention by trying not to draw attention.
Harry shook his head and aimed his gaze at the field. This was just an ordinary Quidditch game, between the Chudley Cannons and the Falmouth Falcons. Nothing to get excited about. He knew who would win. This was a diversion, that was all, just a bit of a holiday.
A game so normal that you took a day off work to attend it.
Harry shrugged at himself again. He was sure no one would notice that was unusual except his friends, the same way no one would know who he was here. The Head Auror thought he deserved more holidays than he took, and often sent him memos complete with suggestions for places he could visit. He had probably granted this request in a daze of relief.
Harry smiled, and looked up as the players came flying out, circling the pitch in their distinctive colors, their robes whipping around them.
Sometimes Harry regretted that he hadn't played professional Quidditch, hadn't even gone for any training or answered the owls that had tried to recruit him before he'd stepped into the Ministry and gone for the Auror program. The players rose like birds, and they left behind them all the fire and the light and the questions that Harry had asked himself today as irrelevant. Why should it matter, when they had the wind and the future before them?
Harry watched as the game unfolded, spotting the Snitch off to the side long before the Cannons' Seeker appeared to. He was sure that Malfoy-promoted, now, to permanent Seeker-had, too, from the slight jerk of his head, but he held off and chased gusts of wind down the other side of the pitch to give his team a chance to build up a decent amount of points with the Quaffle. The Cannons' Seeker followed him like a shadow.
Harry wasn't sure that he could have, at this point. Malfoy ascended as smoothly as a skylark, and came back down the same way. It had been a long time since Harry was on a broom.
Watching him this way could make the squeezing fist in Harry's chest loosen its grip, a little. He was beautiful, yes, but it was an ordinary kind of beauty, one that Harry had seen in him before when he flew.
Then Malfoy turned to the side and abruptly swept towards the Snitch, bent over his broom and trailing his fellow Seeker like a startled fish.
Harry's hands twitched. He closed them into fists on his knees, and didn't even manage to clap when Malfoy rolled and darted his hand out to the side, smoothly seizing the Snitch. The stands around him exploded with applause and cheers and curses from the Cannon fans, all ten of them, but he couldn't take his eyes from Malfoy.
He was doing an ordinary Seeker thing, really, holding the Snitch up so that the sunlight caught on the wings beating pathetically from the sides of his fist. He bowed to the other Seeker, smirked, and turned to the side so that cameras could catch his profile.
That was disgusting, Harry told himself firmly. Sure, he'd shown some good sportsmanship when he bowed to the other Seeker, but Harry should be disgusted by the way he still showed off and preened for the press.
But he wasn't. He just thought…
Harry stood up abruptly and began to force his way out of the stands. No one else wanted to leave, and his main problem was in getting past motionless bodies and hands raised to wave frantically at the players, trying to attract their attention. Once he reached level ground, he strode away, and didn't permit himself to stare upwards again.
He just thought Malfoy deserved the attention, for being a good flyer and being beautiful. And that was not on.
Once again, he tore up the letter and flung it into the bin. Then Harry leaned back in his chair and pressed his hands over his eyes, swearing softly. He was glad that Ron had chosen to go home early tonight. It was the anniversary of the first time that he and Hermione had kissed or something, and he wanted to spend the evening with her.
Harry lowered his hands and glared at the bin again. It contained the crumpled remains of five letters, including this one. He had been trying to write to witches he'd dated, asking if they'd like to meet him for a drink.
And he couldn't go through with it. Because he knew that he was only intent on asking them because they weren't Malfoy, and that wasn't a good enough reason to go on a date with someone. It was even a deceptive reason.
Sometimes I wish I didn't care so much about shit like that, Harry thought, rubbing his forehead. Honestly, who would it hurt? There were plenty of people who would be happy to date him even if they knew that it wasn't heading towards marriage and a constant click and whirl of cameras. There were even people who had told him they would be happy to spend a night or two with him after his marriage ended, just a single night, no questions asked, no strings attached.
He couldn't do it.
Because none of them made the heat and the light flare in his chest the way Malfoy did, and he didn't want to settle for anything less, now that he'd found that.
Harry draped his head over the back of his chair and groaned aloud. So what the fuck did this mean? That he was gay? That he was susceptible to Seekers with sunlight in their hair and no one else? He couldn't recall ever seeing Ginny that way, and he had lived happily with her for years.
He didn't know.
Harry stood up and rapidly snatched his cloak, so rapidly it almost tore. He hadn't counted on having a sexuality crisis when he was forty years old. He might as well go home, where he could do it with a drink in hand.
Harry folded his arms and glared at the letter in front of him, and not because he was hungover. He hadn't ended up drinking much last night. Too much alcohol blurred and softened the golden feeling that the image of Malfoy in the sunlight gave him, and he didn't want that.
Even though he should want that. Even though the image had plagued him and made no sense for a month now.
Why hadn't he blurred it?
Harry shook his head and glared at the letter again. He had written a stupid, fumbling attempt to ask Malfoy out for a drink, because he'd thought he might as well, after all the failed attempts to make the same proposal to any women, and it had seemed like a good idea when he had two glasses of Firewhisky inside him.
So maybe I was drunk enough to embarrass myself after all, he thought, and seized the letter, crumpling it up and throwing it away before he could change his mind. He had never meant to send it, after all. And now he never would.
I mean, honestly, Harry thought, swinging his chair back and thanking Merlin for the ninetieth time that Hermione had bought him one of the Muggle chairs that could swivel. Someone who's in good enough shape to play professional Quidditch at his age must receive hundreds of propositions a year. A month, even. What would make mine stand out, except for who it was from?
And Harry didn't want that. He had never wanted someone who would date him for his fame, but he also didn't want someone who would reject him because of it. It was why his marriage with Ginny had seemed so perfect, because she saw him the way he was.
But she never noticed I was gay?
Looking at one man didn't make him gay, Harry told himself firmly, the way Hermione would have. It might mean he'd never paid enough attention to that side of himself before, and that it needed attention now. But sending this letter to Malfoy was the wrong way to go about it.
He incinerated the letter before he could change his mind, and went to work.
The image of Malfoy that burned in his mind didn't go away, but Harry was learning to live with it, the same way he lived with the scar that curved around his right arm and made lifting heavy burdens hard sometimes. He had got the scar in a fight when he was careless and raised his arm into the path of an opponent's curse without putting a Shield Charm on it first.
He had lived with that. He would live with this.
In a way, he had got this mental scar because he was careless and had looked up when he shouldn't have, he thought sometimes. It was understandable that it had happened, especially when he was lonely without Ginny and looking for someone who could fill a hole in his life. But that didn't make it excusable if he acted on it.
Days passed. The owls came from school. Albus passed a test in Potions with high marks. James was put in detention for an incident that terrified several first-years, and which he continued to insist in all his letters wasn't his fault, in a way that almost made Harry believe him. Lily settled into Ravenclaw, the way Hermione predicted she would, and soon was bragging about her marks even more than Albus.
This was his life. This was the way it had to be.
If Malfoy's image remained with him, as beautiful as those days, well. That was the way it was, sometimes.
"…I don't think you'll mind attending, right, Harry?"
Harry stared at Ginny, and listened to the slow, deep blood-beat of his heart in his ears. The way his skin shuddered was noticeable, too, but not as noisy as his heart. "What?" he repeated stupidly.
"It's essential that someone be at this party to represent the Harpies," Ginny was saying, staring into the mirror in front of her and casting a few spells that might smooth out the wind-wild mane of her hair. "But all of us are busy with that extra training session Branwen wants us to have tonight, except Matilda, and she's in hospital with her sister who's having a baby. You won't mind going, will you?" She spun around on her stool and smiled up at him, the winsome expression that once would have made him agree to do anything.
But that "once" was years ago. Harry folded his arms and glared down at her. "Ginny, I'm not a member of your team. I'm not even married to you now."
Ginny fluttered her eyelashes at him. "But you were a good Seeker yourself, and this is a function, like the Ministry ones that you attend all the time. It's symbolic, that's all. The Seekers will brag at each other about how many points we scored in the past year, and that's—"
"I have no idea how many points you scored in the past year," Harry interrupted, while he tried to keep his throat wet enough to produce words. Seekers bragging to you. That means Malfoy will be there. Bragging.
And being beautiful, too.
Ginny leaned back against the wall of her flat and gave him a long, steady stare. "Why so reluctant, Harry? You've been before, I know. That year before we got divorced, and that year I was getting that special award, and—"
"In other words, when there was some special reason or when we were trying to save our marriage," Harry interrupted her again. "Neither reason applies now."
"What is it?" Ginny stood up and watched him with her eyes narrowed to snake-like slits. "It's more than just being busy, isn't it? Why don't you want to go?"
Harry winced away from the way her gaze probed at him. It wasn't that Ginny would make fun of him for having a crush on Malfoy—
It's not a crush, anyway. What a ridiculous notion. It's just being unable to forget him and wanking to the image of him and thinking I might be gay.
But Harry might make fun of himself, and he didn't know what would happen if he came around Malfoy, not really. He might reveal his crush, and then Malfoy would make fun of him enough to make up for twenty of Ginny.
"I don't want to, that's all," he said.
Ginny shook her head. "But someone from the team or a representative has never failed to be there, Harry. Just like the Falmouth Falcons always send someone, and the Chudley Cannons, and—"
"Fine, fine!" Harry lifted his hands and flapped them vaguely at her. "If you insist on me going, then I'll go."
Ginny would have apologized for the inconvenience at one time, but this time, she just kissed his cheek and shoved him in the direction of the fireplace. "Thanks, Harry! It's in the same place as always, that ballroom the Ministry likes to hold the anniversary of the war speeches in."
Harry rolled his eyes at the ceiling, but went obediently with the shove. He had agreed. He might as well go make a fool of himself and get it over with.
Harry stared down into the glass of champagne he'd nursed all evening, and shook his head a little. He'd made the round of greetings that were expected of every representative of a team, but when it became clear that he didn't know much about the way they'd actually played in the last few games, most people had decided to ignore him. He'd retreated to his own corner with the champagne and the happy conviction that they would go right on ignoring him all evening.
Of course not.
Harry sighed and turned to face his fate.
Malfoy looked different on the ground, but no less overwhelming, as Harry had dared to hope he would. He was still tall, still arrow-straight, his head turned slightly to the side and his blond hair swishing around his face to lightly brush his jaw. He still seemed to gather all the light in the room, and blaze with it. Harry bit his lips and waited for Malfoy to speak, because his voice would sound hoarse and distorted if he tried it right now.
"Why are you here?" Malfoy asked, and his hand reached out and plucked a champagne glass from a tray that a house-elf held. Harry swallowed, glad that he could answer in a relatively normal tone of voice.
"Because Ginny asked me to come. She and all the rest of the Harpies were busy tonight."
"And you still run and bow and scrape exactly as she asks you to," Malfoy murmured, looking at him under pale eyebrows and cradling the glass he'd taken in his hand as if he intended to nurse it like Harry was doing. "Even though you aren't married anymore."
Harry took a deep, grateful breath of air. Maybe that would be the saving of him, the fact that Malfoy still had a nasty mouth. He couldn't love someone who would speak ill of anyone he already loved.
And when did love come into it?
Of course, he knew the answer to that question—when the image of Malfoy had lingered in his head and refused to leave it—and he didn't think it was an interesting one. At least he knew he could answer normally. "It has to do with being friends, Malfoy. Not something you understand." He turned his back, ready to stalk away. Malfoy wouldn't come after him. It had never been his policy to seek out those who insulted him.
Then Malfoy's hand closed on his shoulder, as heavy and dangerous as a lion's paw, and Harry remembered the one exception to Malfoy's rules. Him. Always him.
"I was trying to make friendly conversation, Potter," Malfoy said, stopping him and turning him around. Harry knew he didn't really want to get away, and he raged at his own stupidity in silence. "And you choose to snap back at me as though—"
"Yes, implying that Ginny uses me is such a friendly gesture," Harry muttered at him. "I stand by what I said before." He pulled away.
"Fuck, Potter." Malfoy followed him, glaring at him, his head hunched over his shoulders enough to make him look like a stalking leopard. "I only wanted—"
"You might want a lot of things, but how can any of them have anything to do with me?" Harry pointed out, and continued moving, retreating towards the back of the room, making Malfoy follow him if he wanted to be heard.
"More of them do than you might think."
Harry could feel the quiver that shot up through his neck and seemed to paralyze his eyeballs, could feel the way that he wanted to snap to attention. And he fought it. Because if Malfoy once sensed how much control he could have over Harry if he wanted it, then Harry knew he would press in and take ruthless advantage. And Harry had better things to do than be the slave of a hopeless passion.
"I'm sure," he said, liking that it came out in a drawl, because that made Malfoy grimace, and Harry found him a lot less attractive when he grimaced. Maybe Malfoy doesn't like it when someone sounds too much like him, which means the right thing to do is to sound as much like him as possible. Harry set down the glass on a nearby table, and nodded a little to Malfoy, and turned to the back of the room of his free will this time. "You won't want to tell me what they are, though. You'll hint and riddle and hum around the subject, and I get enough of that in my job."
"Did you know that I saw you at my last game?"
Harry froze, and then snorted. He'd already given himself away. He would have said, "So what?" and walked on if it hadn't mattered.
And, well, he had never liked living a life of retreat. A lot of things had changed from the time he was a boy in Hogwarts, but that never had.
He turned around and said, "Yes, I was there. I wanted to see if you were as beautiful when you flew as I remembered."
Harry had to admit that there was a little thrill of power passing through his body as Malfoy's jaw dropped and his hold loosened on his glass of champagne, too. Harry cast a spell that would keep the glass from smashing on the floor, clucking his tongue. "What, Malfoy? Compliments rarer than they used to be?" It was remarkable that Malfoy could still play like that at his age, but he had to be feeling the way his body had begun to slow down, the same way Harry did when his muscles ached and bitched at him in the morning.
"You've never called me beautiful before."
Malfoy's eyes were radiant as they fixed on him, as radiant as his flight. Harry blamed it on the light in the room, and kept talking. "Of course I didn't. I was your enemy at school, because you were challenging me, and then we were on opposite sides of a bloody war. I only noticed how beautiful you were a few months ago."
Well, at least he had one advantage, Harry had to concede as he watched Malfoy. Malfoy stood still, and there was a vivid blush spreading down his cheeks, staining his neck. Harry's frontal assault, the reckless flinging open of doors, left Malfoy with no weakness to cling to, because Harry had already exposed them all himself.
"Why did you think me beautiful then?" Malfoy whispered, hand extended towards Harry as if he was cupping something precious and fragile and wanted Harry to take it. Or perhaps didn't want to take Harry to take it, considering the way he pulled his hand back to his chest and cradled it there a moment later.
"Who the hell knows?" Harry shrugged and turned to the side, to make sure that no one was watching the conversation. They weren't. Good. Harry had willingly laid himself open to Malfoy, but not to the rest of the people at the party, and Quidditch players gossiped worse than Hogwarts professors did. "Not me. My life would have been a lot simpler these past months if I did."
"So you saw me, and you found me beautiful," Malfoy said. His head was already up again, and Harry knew, as if he were among them, the way the machinery of his mind shifted, trying to fit Harry's words into some comfortable compartment at the back of his thoughts. "That's it? What then?"
"Then I started trying to figure out if I was gay or not."
Malfoy's face turned bright red. "Potter…" He was cradling that precious invisible thing against his chest again. "You can't be gay. You have three children."
Harry opened his mouth, but the only thing that would come out was, "Wow, do you need to talk to Hermione."
Malfoy's blush went on spilling down his chest, Harry was sure, although he couldn't see it because of the shirt that was in the way. "But you can't," he whispered. "You can't have been all along, at least. And why would you be attracted to someone like me?"
Harry snapped his fingers in front of Malfoy's face. Malfoy leaped and looked at him, eyelashes still trembling. Harry had to concede that Malfoy was less stupid than he'd thought, seeing that. Malfoy didn't mean to sound stupid and young, Harry decided generously. He just couldn't help it. This had taken him off-balance, the way it had Harry the first time he found it out. Despite the truth Harry had just laid on the table, he was the one who had the advantage here.
"Because you're beautiful," Harry said. "Because you fly well." He paused, because he had never thought the next thing that occurred to him before, but then he shrugged and said it; it was probably true. "Because you survived the war and went on to make something of yourself instead of just retreating into the Manor and cowering all the time."
"Almost no one did that." Malfoy lifted his head again, and there was a proud quiver to his very nostrils now.
"Among the people you know, at least," Harry muttered, thinking of his futile attempts to interview people who had long since shut the doors between themselves and the world. The war hadn't caused it for everyone, but for lots of wizards, it had been the final crack break with reality for them. "I've met them."
Malfoy just looked at him without speaking, without replying. Harry could see the smile that curved his lips. He wondered if Malfoy could feel it. It might be a mocking smile, Malfoy finally rejoicing in having got one over on the Great Harry Potter and basking in the adoration that Harry had granted him, but Harry didn't think so.
This was—this was probably related to the pleasure he himself had felt at getting a reaction out of Malfoy. It wasn't much of one, to make him blush, but it went deeper after so many years of not seeing each other. And now Malfoy had to wonder about the things Harry was describing, how he had managed to affect Harry so profoundly even though this was so new.
"You admire me for strange reasons," Malfoy said. "But let's get back to something more important." He had gripped his glass of champagne firmly again, Harry saw, and was even swirling the glass delicately around, as though he wanted the liquid inside to overlap his hand and flow down the sides.
"What's that?" Harry wondered if Malfoy was going to fling the champagne in his face and call for a duel. But he didn't think even Malfoy would be that ridiculous.
He didn't think.
"That you admire me." And Malfoy put his drink down on the same table that Harry had used for his own glass and leaned forwards demandingly. "I want to know more about that."
Harry swallowed. "I've really told you all there is to know. I told you, I don't understand it much myself."
"You've told me," Malfoy said, in a tone that made it sound like a contradiction instead of agreement. If there was anyone who could make it that way, of course, it was Malfoy, Harry thought. "But I want to experience it." He reached out and grabbed Harry's wrist, then paused. Harry half-thought he would change his mind and forget the whole thing, but it seemed only the sight of his hand on Harry that had enthralled him. A few seconds later, he lifted his head.
He grinned like he flew, Harry thought, when he was in the right mood.
"Come on," Malfoy said. "We can't do it here." He tugged Harry along again, this time towards the front of the huge room and the doors that led out into the hall where everyone had gathered before the party started.
"Do what here?" Harry complained, but he was stumbling along after Malfoy and he doubted the man was paying him the slightest bit of attention.
"Malfoy," he tried again, when they were in the gold-and-chestnut-decorated entrance hall and Malfoy had herded him into a small alcove.
He turned around, because he was a free man and Malfoy could only get away with so much based on being beautiful, but Malfoy had leaned in and was breathing close enough to him that Harry could smell champagne. He didn't know where the glass of it had gone this time. He froze, because Malfoy might be about to kiss him and he didn't want to ruin that, but—on the other hand, Malfoy might be about to kiss him.
"Oh, yes," Malfoy breathed. "That's it."
He wants to experience my admiration for him? Harry shoved him away with a single stiff arm and tried to step out of the alcove. All Malfoy had wanted to see was him looking silly, the way he supposedly did when he "admired" Malfoy. It was a stupid thing to want, and Harry intended to clear out as soon as he could.
Malfoy caught his shoulder and swung him back around. Harry opened his mouth to snarl in outrage, but Malfoy swooped down and kissed him before he could. Harry gasped aloud.
That made it easier for Malfoy's tongue to get in, of course. Harry reached up and gripped Malfoy's shoulders in retaliation, to show how easy it was for someone to touch Malfoy anywhere they wanted.
Maybe because Harry's fingers had dug into Malfoy's skin through the cloth, maybe for some other reason, but Malfoy gave a great rippling shudder and a sigh. The sigh passed into Harry's mouth, and he felt the same thrill of power he had earlier, making Malfoy react to him, forcing him to see that he was as vulnerable to the effect Harry had on him as Harry was to the way Malfoy flew.
Malfoy didn't seem displeased, though. If anything, he leaned in, closer, closer, to the point that he nearly overbalanced. Harry started and pressed his back against the wall of the alcove, holding Malfoy's shoulders so he wouldn't fall. That was important, he knew. Because he didn't want Malfoy to fall.
Not on his broom. Not in anything.
Malfoy shifted around and balanced himself, and then went straight back to the kiss, as though nearly hitting his head on marble was only a distraction. Harry suspected maybe it was. He combed his hand through Malfoy's hair, twitching and gathering some strands at the nape of his neck, murmuring wordless pleas.
He would have liked them to be condolences on Malfoy's lack of balance, or congratulations on still being a fit Quidditch player at forty. But it was pleas instead. Harry reckoned they would both have to live with that.
Malfoy lifted his head, eyes gone brilliant. Once again he seized Harry and tugged him along. Harry was pathetically grateful that Malfoy hadn't left him yet. The feel of Malfoy's skin burning against his made him close his eyes.
Which meant he stumbled when Malfoy suddenly seized him and spun around, Apparating them. Harry flung out his arms as they landed, half-wondering if Malfoy had brought him somewhere private to dispose of a person who had seen a weakness. It seemed weird that Malfoy would have thought they needed more privacy than that alcove.
But then he realized where they stood—in a sleek, dusky chamber, decorated in shades of rose and gloom that were only intensified by the dim fire burning on the hearth—and realized that, nearby, was a bed. Harry swallowed a little and let his arms drop back to his sides.
Malfoy reached towards him. It was a slow, almost delicate gesture, the kind that Harry could have easily blocked if he wanted to. He didn't want to. He stood there and let Malfoy pluck the wand out of the pocket on the chest of his robes.
Malfoy smiled. It was a smile as dim as the walls around him, and he stepped back and laid his own wand beside Harry's, on a little table of dark wood that probably cost more than Harry made in a year. Quidditch playing paid extremely well, Harry understood, although Ginny and he had spent most of her money on the children.
Malfoy started to undress. He stepped to the side as he did, so that he stood more in front of the fire than he needed to. Harry blinked, wondering if Malfoy enjoyed the thought of himself being mostly a dark silhouette surrounded by the outline of the light.
A moment later, he realized that it was more than that. Malfoy was leaving him a clear path to the door. Harry could retreat if he wanted to.
Without my wand. But it wouldn't take much to use a nonverbal Summoning Charm, or even just lunge out and topple the table over if he wanted. Malfoy knew that. He watched Harry with silent, blazing eyes, and he knew that.
Harry swallowed, and stayed.
Malfoy gave a little shake of his hair as his robes slithered down his shoulders. He was incredibly fit, more so than Harry had thought. Of course, he wasn't as strong as some of the Aurors Harry regularly trained beside, but that didn't matter. He was more than enough to make Harry's mouth go dry.
From the slight, sly twitch of his eyebrows, that was what Malfoy wanted. He took his shirt off with slow hands, and turned around so Harry could see his arse. It was better than his fantasies, even though Malfoy still wore his trousers and so more than half of it was covered. Harry knew the click of his throat was audible in the quiet; the fire had settled down to simply muttering to itself.
Malfoy smiled at Harry over his shoulder, a bright gesture, not a mocking one, and shook his hair again. This time, it seemed that, more than his hands, helped to get the trousers off.
Still wearing his pants, he turned around one more time and jutted his hips a little, so there was no way Harry could miss his heavy erection beneath the simple white cloth.
"Wow," Harry whispered, and then wanted to shake himself, to get rid of the mood of dusty sunlight that was settling over him. Malfoy would mock him for that exclamation, and that was really the last thing Harry wanted.
But Malfoy smiled, and wandered towards him, and Harry realized there would be no mockery here, that, for some reason, Malfoy seemed as set on having Harry as Harry was on wanting Malfoy. He reached up and wound his fingers into Harry's hair, at least, and kissed him as hard as he had when they were in the alcove together, and it was wonderful to feel Malfoy's hardness between his legs, pressing into his crotch, and Malfoy making small noises into the midst of his mouth.
"Get naked," Malfoy said into his ear.
Harry nodded and stepped back, only to find that Malfoy was following him and biting his lips and kissing his shoulder when Harry did manage to pull his shirt down enough to free some skin. "Hard to get naked with you holding onto me," Harry said.
"You'll do it," Malfoy said, and went on kissing him.
And Harry did, although he had to lean back numerous times and work his arms in all sorts of direction and kick and kick and kick until his socks and trousers more or less gave up. Malfoy kept his mouth busy, especially since he clucked his tongue when Harry dared to move his head away. It might have reminded Harry of the times that Aunt Petunia and various professors and various superior Aurors had done it, and made him upset, but it only made him appreciate it that much more when Malfoy got his head back in line and kissed him again, his fingers digging into Harry's neck.
When Harry had hopped and fumbled and earned his way free of his clothing, Malfoy guided him towards the bed. Even that took longer than it should have, and Harry didn't think it had anything to do with the size of the room. Malfoy kept stopping to kiss him, heart-stopping kisses that sent wetness running down Harry's chin. Then he lay on the bed and languidly spread his legs, thrusting his hips into the air and his head back against the pillows.
He was still wearing his pants, Harry realized. Now that his hands and lips were free, he could bend down, tear them off, and start sucking Malfoy all in one go—which, from the way Malfoy's mouth flew open and a startled gasp flew out of his throat, wasn't what he had expected.
"Oh," he said, while Harry licked up and around him and then fastened his mouth into place and gave Malfoy a taste of what he was capable of.
"Then," he said, a sentence that was never born, as Harry knelt down on the bed and slipped his fingers into his own mouth, along with Malfoy's cock. That really made him buck, and Harry caressed his erection and balls and the insides of his thighs as he reached back.
"Yes," he said, when Harry's fingers slipped inside him.
Harry, burning as he was with the remembrance of Malfoy on his broom, and Malfoy standing in front of him, and Malfoy turning to let Harry have a glimpse of him, thrust harder with his fingers, and with his mouth, and Malfoy's own mouth tumbled open and his sides heaved.
Harry eased his touch, but had to pull his mouth back, because Malfoy's own thrusts had become rough and careless. Malfoy's eyes opened at once. He only gave Harry a gentle smile, though, and widened his legs enough that Harry could kneel between them.
"I think that I'm going to enjoy this," he said, his hands curving around his knees as though he luxuriated in the feeling of his own skin.
"That's the point," Harry said.
Malfoy's eyes widened slowly, still watching him. And then he raised himself, although it caused Harry's fingers to slip out of him, and kissed Harry, his mouth as wide open as his eyes. It was almost uncomfortable, how intently he studied Harry as they kissed this time.
But Harry had come to the point where he would fulfill his crush, or his lust, or whatever it was, and backing away was unthinkable. So he kissed back, and in the end, Malfoy was the one who let his eyes flutter shut, a grumbling moan making its way out of his throat. He flung his head back and canted down onto the pillow again like a tumbling snowflake.
Harry kissed and touched and slid inside between one moment and the next, it seemed to him, conscious of beauty and heat and the need to go slowly.
Malfoy was groaning and sighing beneath him, never silent. Harry would have been afraid they were sounds of pain, but despite his lack of experience with any partner except Ginny, he knew what arousal sounded like. So he braced his hands on Malfoy's shoulders and rocked hesitantly forwards. This was the only part that really felt strange, like it could go wrong, since he hadn't been with a man before.
In the end, though, it was more than right. It was Malfoy wriggling closer, hitching his legs up in a way that made Harry think his knees would crack, until his heels rested on Harry's shoulders. It was Harry reaching up to secure them and then reaching back down because Malfoy's hips were rocking furiously and Harry thought he would slip out.
It was Malfoy grinning at him, his head turning back and forth on the pillow in a slow enjoyment, his fingers touching here and there and poking and stroking, and Harry bowed his head to conceal as much of his face as he could in Malfoy's hair when he came.
Malfoy followed him, languidly enough that Harry almost wondered if he was awake. He did wear a smile wide enough to satisfy any fantasies, though, as he shuddered and spent himself, and he touched Harry's chin and then kissed his way up to Harry's eyelids as if he had forgotten the way.
"That was wonderful," he whispered.
Harry whispered back things that he didn't think were words as he pulled gently out. He was wondering if his crush would be gone now. Had he just wanted to sleep with Malfoy? Had it been curiosity, that would disappear now it was satisfied and he knew what it was like?
But no, his heart still burned in his chest as he watched Malfoy turn towards him, one hand beneath his cheek, his face sleepily smug. He still wanted to reach out and feel Malfoy's hair, and he did. Malfoy yawned like a cat and stuck his tongue out to lick the center of Harry's palm.
Harry could feel himself trembling a little. Malfoy arched one eyebrow as high as it would go when all the muscles in his face seemed relaxed. "Am I that intimidating?" he asked, around the middle of another yawn.
"No," Harry said. "I thought things would change, though."
"I think they have." Malfoy's voice was gentle, his hands flexing as though he wanted to touch Harry but wasn't sure whether Harry would permit that. To Harry, that gave all the lie he needed to whether Malfoy was really confident.
"No, I meant," Harry said, and decided that he had to say it. "I thought maybe I was just lusting after you and it would end once the lust was satiated."
Malfoy stared at him for a second. Harry prepared to be thrown out of bed, which seemed like it would be the normal response to a declaration like that.
Instead, Malfoy laughed, and looped his arms around Harry's neck, drawing him down and near, kissing him. Harry went with it, although he didn't understand. Malfoy's mouth tasted more than good enough for him to accept the invitation.
"That's because there is no satiation with me," Malfoy whispered into his ear. "And from what you told me about really seeing me for the first time…" His fingers trailed down Harry's chest. "Do you really think that you could walk away from a light shining that brightly?"
Little by little, Harry relaxed. It was true that Malfoy still shone, to him, in the dusky light that pervaded the room; he was the brightest thing there. And Malfoy hadn't changed all that much if he could be this arrogant.
But his trembling fingers on Harry's chest said he had changed a little. Maybe enough. And there was still a sweet ache in Harry's muscles, and the fact remained that he had lived through forty years of life and somehow survived them. This wouldn't be the worst thing he had ever done, the worst mistake he had ever made, if it didn't work out.
The idea that it might…
It was enough of a risk for Harry to lean down and kiss Malfoy again, leaning close to that shining heat, the daylight beauty, and whisper, "I know it won't be easy."
The words were the answer to Malfoy's question and a warning. But Malfoy's hands tangled and tightened in his hair, and he said, "Neither is playing Quidditch. Or being an Auror, I would imagine."
Neither is anything worthwhile.
Those words might as well have followed.
And now Harry could lean in, and kiss, and Malfoy's smile was more beautiful even than the vision of him on his broom with the sun behind him.