Out of respect for those who had died during the War, Hogwarts had no Leaving Ball the year Draco Malfoy graduated. Instead, at the final banquet of the year, the honours were announced—Malfoy was second in his class, a fact that stunned most of his fellow students, who seemed to have gotten it into their heads that being in Slytherin automatically disqualified one from having any kind of academic staying power—the congratulations were offered in sombre tones—special thanks devoted, naturally, to Harry Potter, without whom they would all have been in slavery to the forces of darkness, et cetera, et cetera—and everyone was dismissed.
At the banquet Malfoy took his place at the head of the table, the place reserved for the heads of the four houses. Granger should have been sitting at the head of the Gryffindor table; instead, in a bitter irony he found he both liked and detested, Potter was there, opposite him, gazing over the Great Hall with the unrelenting, expressionless stare he had acquired sometime during the past six months. The room was speckled with silver wormwood and asphodel, entwined together and pinned on robes: wormwood, to remember the wounded; asphodel, in memory of the dead. Even most of the Slytherins wore them, since most had lost relatives or friends in the war, and the process of mourning seemed to engage them far more than the process of fighting. Malfoy did not, but then he had lost no one. His father’s Azkaban sentence he did not really consider a loss. He wasn’t the only one who didn’t wear it: in place of the corsage, he saw that Potter wore a single five-point flower pinned to his robes. After a moment of trying to figure out what it meant, he nudged Millicent, the Slytherin Herbology expert who sat on his right.
“It’s a Star of Bethlehem.”
Her gaze lingered reflectively on Potter. “For atonement,” she said. Potter glanced over at them then, his eyes finding Malfoy’s at once. Malfoy wasn’t sure which of them raised his glass first—perhaps they did it at the same time. With a slight curl of the lip Potter toasted him, and he nodded curtly before doing likewise, satisfied that the wine was suitably bitter.
Graduation wasn’t eventful.
Afterwards the students adjourned to their respective houses. Ostensibly all students were to prepare for their departure, say their goodbyes, and go to bed early. All this really meant was that the graduating students had to take their parties into their dorm rooms after a certain hour. Malfoy had organised a Slytherin party that would rival a Bacchanalian festival. He also had no desire to participate in it. After the feast had ended and the children had been sent scurrying back to their rooms to pack for the journey home, the rest of his class of Slytherins made their way to an empty dungeon room where he and Goyle had hidden keg after keg of highly illegal booze. The room had been enchanted with several of the most complex soundproofing charms, so that no matter how loud it got inside, outside no one would be the wiser. The plan was to get utterly drunk and then crash the Gryffindor party, where everyone knew Harry Potter would be lording it, drinking beer from the Quidditch house cup, which he had won, incidentally, the day before he had defeated Voldemort.
Malfoy left the common room with the others, but fell back a few paces, and turned a different corner when they were all well ahead, content to wander. He had no desire to party and even less desire to drink. Unlike many of his housemates, for whom the War’s end was the beginning of a new era of worry-free irresponsibility, he still had to deal with hard facts. His future was as uncertain as all their yesterdays. The Wizarding World knew him as a failed Death-Eater, and a member of a fallen family whose connection with Lord Voldemort now tainted them irrevocably. Of course he was still rich, but money, and other kinds of external power, only went so far. As he grew up his family name, previously one of the only things about himself in which he took pride, had gradually become one of the only things about himself in which he did not. Now the name of Malfoy could earn him little more than having his shoes spat upon. With his father exiled to Azkaban, his mother had retreated into a private world of dinner parties and glitz and weekends on the continent with younger men, wherein she tried to pretend that nothing had changed, and that she was still a respected and revered member of a powerful family. Malfoy had little use for her these days.
In fact he had little use for anything. However immoral it may have been, before the War he had always had goals, a purpose, something to be working towards: if it wasn’t the persecution of Muggles, it was the mastery of all of the most difficult potions Snape had tried to teach them in their sixth and seventh years at Hogwarts; if it wasn’t the mastery of potions, then it was the defeat of the Gryffindor Quidditch team; more specifically, of Harry Potter, the nadir and the zenith of his existence.
But with the War something had shifted. His father stopped writing to him, and, after a harmless mention in a letter about a planned trip to London resulted in his being taken from school and interrogated for two days by the Ministry of Magic for knowledge of the whereabouts of his father and other Death Eaters, his mother did too. His housemates spoke in hushed voices around them, as if they were afraid of him; classes were tepid and tense, with everyone going through the motions and all interest gone in anything save Defence Against the Dark Arts, everyone’s new favourite class; in Quidditch matches he caught the Snitch twice as easily as before, and his opponents shrugged it off as though it didn’t really matter.
He had played Potter two weeks after the Dark Lord had sent an owl to him telling him where he could find Sirius Black. The Daily Prophet had announced the death as a victory for the ministry against a known criminal and ally of You-Know-Who, and the Trio had worn black every day. Potter had flown like an automaton. His eyes had remained glassy and opaque even when the Snitch fluttered in front of them both like a seductive hummingbird, and when Malfoy had realised that Potter was just sitting on his broom instead of following him into the dive he had spiralled back to Potter’s level and shrieked obscenities at him. Potter had only looked at him blankly, so Malfoy had punched him as hard as he possibly could. Potter’s eyes had surged with hatred, and he all but leapt onto Malfoy’s broom when he swung back. They had had to be separated in mid-air, and the game had been forfeited as a result of Malfoy’s attack on Potter, but he hadn’t really cared, especially since the violent hatred had stayed in Potter’s eyes after they were on the ground again.
He realised shortly thereafter that he didn’t care about anything, and it had stayed that way. He had nothing to do beyond graduation. Predictably, the best professional Quidditch teams wouldn’t go near him because of his connections to Voldemort, and he had no intention of playing for anyone if he couldn’t play for the best. His actual professional prospects were slim to none, much for the same reasons, and as everyone seemed to think he would be perfectly happy living as an exiled wizard away in Malfoy Manor, nobody thought it fitting to approach him with any possible job opportunities. In the back of his mind Malfoy knew that all he had to do go to Dumbledore, and ask. But he was a Malfoy. Malfoys never asked. And besides, he didn’t care much either way.
He wandered through the castle, eventually straying outside where the full moon was bright and sterling behind a bank of thin clouds. He thought of wandering over the Quidditch pitch one last time, but he was not sentimental and didn’t really see the point. He thought of flying, but he never enjoyed flying by himself. Finally he headed towards the lake and walked around the edge, watching the moonlight shimmer, squinting now and then for a glimpse of the giant squid. He came eventually to the gazebo, one of his favourite places to go to be alone, primarily because it was a good distance from the castle and less likely to be inhabited at any given time; and also because its position, on the bank opposite the Forbidden Forest, provided it with a stunning view of the lake, and of the castle turrets looming on the hill above.
However at this particular moment it was less than ideal, for as he stepped inside the gazebo Malfoy was greeted by the sight of Harry Potter, sitting by himself on a bench, hoisting a near-empty bottle of chardonnay to his lips.
Potter was in his spot. His favourite spot to go to be alone.
He thought about telling Potter this, but given the somewhat muzzy look on Potter’s face as he swigged down the alcohol, he highly doubted it would make a dent.
Potter looked up and saw him and said nothing for a moment, only settling back against the gazebo wall, setting the bottle down, and observing him. “Well, then,” after a long moment. “Congratulations, Malfoy. You’ve made it through without getting killed after all.”
“Yes, I imagine you’re quite torn up about that,” Malfoy replied easily. “No wonder you’ve taken to drink.”
Perhaps it was his imagination, but he thought for a moment that Potter smiled. “Sit down,” said Potter, motioning to the empty bench next to him. “Maybe you can help me finish this off.”
Malfoy did not sit down, but instead moved closer, leaning against the opposite wall. “What are you doing out here alone, Potter?” He asked, not spitefully. Potter looked at him, shrugged, then looked down at the bottle and out over the lake. He laughed suddenly, the force of his volume slightly disconcerting to Malfoy in the cool quiet around them. “Looks as though I’ve left you with the bottom of the bottle, haven’t I?”
Malfoy looked at him curiously. There was something self-deprecating in his tone he’d never caught before. “Don’t worry, Potter, I’ve gotten used to it by now.”
Potter smirked, still looking over the lake, and Malfoy crossed the floor and sat down beside him. Potter turned as Malfoy pried the bottle from his grip, and watched him drink, still smirking. “Does suck to be you, though, doesn’t it?” he commented, very cheerfully, as if he were reporting a sunny forecast with no clouds. “Sorry I don’t have more alcohol, but then—” he laughed the same dry laugh again—“I doubt there’s enough whiskey in Ireland to get as drunk as you’d probably like to be.”
“That’s all right, Potter,” responded Malfoy flatly. “There isn’t enough alcohol in the bloody kingdom to allow you to drink enough to be a decent individual.”
“Yes, Potter, you. Are you deaf, or did fighting Voldemort rob you of your ability to comprehend rational thought?”
“Sorry,” Potter sneered, an over-exaggerated sneer. “I was just in shock at being given a lecture on decency from the resident Bastard of Hogwarts.”
“Were you?” Malfoy tossed his head. “With your manners I’d take advice wherever I could find it.” His voice, he noted, held none of its usual rancour.
Potter frowned at him. “You know, you can stop playing the same stupid games, I think. We’re out of here in a matter of hours.”
“Whoever said there was a game, Potter?”
“You’re sitting here, aren’t you?”
“You’re in my spot and I’m waiting for you to move.”
Potter merely smiled at him, a rather mysterious smile.
Malfoy drained the bottle. Potter watched as he set it down beside him with a soft clunk, then tilted his head and gave Malfoy a quizzical look. “There’s a rumour going around that you applied for Auror Training with the Ministry,” he said.
“Who told you that?—oh, let me guess, the same person who started the rumour about Trelawney letting you divine the mystery of her bloomers.”
Potter’s rather thick eyebrows flew up, and he froze in surprise before letting out a very loud laugh. It turned into another, then another, and Malfoy found to his dismay that each laugh grew more contagious than the next. He shifted on the bench and pursed his lips together, but fell victim to the natural law that attempting to conceal laughter only makes the need to laugh that much stronger. Potter noticed this and tilted his head expectantly; Malfoy felt his lips quiver and then he exploded in a laugh that first startled Potter, then choked him with giggles.
“What’s the matter, Potter, didn’t you enjoy mapping her charts?”
“Well, I was—” Potter was giggling uncontrollably—“too caught up in rubbing her crystal ball.” He cackled, and so did Malfoy. “You laugh like a girl,” wheezed Potter, completely ignoring the fact that he sounded a bit like a choir boy himself at the moment.
“You drink like one.”
The sound of their laughter reverberated off the ceiling and the pillars around them.
Potter gave him a shrewd look—as shrewd as he could look with the effects of the wine lingering in his hazy expression. “You realise we need more alcohol.”
Malfoy smirked. “You’re letting the wine get to you.”
“I am?” Potter appeared to be trying to ascertain the logic of this statement, with some difficulty. Malfoy found the way his brow was all furrowed up with the effort very funny, and he laughed, softly this time.
“Yes, Potter, you are.”
“Right,” said Potter very seriously. “I must be if I’m sharing a drink with a…” He trailed off and looked down at Malfoy’s shirt for no apparent reason at all that Malfoy could see.
“Yes?” Malfoy was bemused.
“You’re not wearing your robes.”
“We’ve graduated, Potter.”
“Oh.” Potter considered. “Oh.” He looked down at his own, his nose momentarily buried in the flower that still hung lopsidedly on his lapel. “I hate these things,” he mumbled. He stood and fumbled with the flower, whose five points were starting to wilt. Malfoy watched as he pulled it free of his robes and looked at it. He seemed to look past it, unseeing, for a moment, before turning and flinging the flower out over the lake. It landed, its petals relaxing into the water, and began to drift away.
Potter turned peremptorily back toward Malfoy and began to remove his robes. The grace he had as a Seeker was nowhere near him now; the thick heavy material swallowed him, and he somehow managed to get his elbow caught in the folds of one sleeve. Malfoy laughed, and helpfully gave his sleeve a yank. Potter’s robe slid smoothly off of him. “Thanks,” he murmured, flexing and stretching and fighting off the drowsiness of the wine. Underneath his robes he was, as always, dressed with about as much fashion sense as a house-elf, in a cheap, thin undershirt and shorts that bunched up in weird places. His shoulders were much thinner and bonier than Malfoy had remembered them; not that he spent time thinking about Harry Potter’s bone structure, but he was always mildly alarmed to see Potter shirtless or such because, despite the fact that he ate well and got more exercise due to Quidditch than just about anybody in the school, Potter always seemed to be just this side short of anorexia, just one gust of wind away from being knocked over.
Malfoy had developed considerably—he was, unfortunately, still half a head shorter than Potter, but his chest had filled out with muscle, while the pointed, angular features of his face had softened. He filled out his Quidditch uniform nicely these days—not that it would matter, as he would not be playing Quidditch again. Potter, he knew, was playing for England in the World Quidditch Cup that summer. After that, however, he’d been completely closed-mouth about his plans. No one knew what he had planned to do, or which professional Quidditch team he had signed with.
The mystery was one of the biggest news items around—everybody had tried one way or other to find out the secret but no one had. Malfoy knew from overheard snippets of conversation that not even the Weasel knew Harry’s plans. This was not as much of a surprise to him: he had his suspicions that the friendship between Potter and Weasley had soured and grown bitter over the years. It was just like that red-headed twit, he thought now, studying the waiflike and utterly inebriated form in front of him, to look at Potter and see only what the rest of the world wanted him to see—the suffering hero. If Weasley had ever wanted Potter’s friendship for his own sake and not because he was Potter, Malfoy would eat his own broomstick.
“What is it you’re looking at?” Potter asked him suddenly, not suspiciously, as he sat back down on the bench. “You’re thinking about something.”
“I’m just wondering…”
Potter quirked an eyebrow.
“Who are you playing Quidditch for?”
Potter seemed to sober up a little at this. “Oh,” he said, rising unsteadily to his feet. His long, gangly legs wobbled a bit. “What makes you think I’m playing Quidditch?”
“Oh,” said Malfoy. This thought had not occurred to him. “Why wouldn’t you?”
Potter cast him an odd look but said nothing. He stretched again, and Malfoy was surprised and strangely pleased to see that he was mistaken: Potter’s waif-thin scrawniness was deceptive—there was definite sinew in those long arms and in the ripple of muscles under his t-shirt.
“You’ll have to get me drunker than that, Malfoy,” he said lazily. “Speaking of which.” He held up the empty bottle of chardonnay. “Damn. We need more alcohol.”
Malfoy chuckled. “Where did you get a bottle of that stuff anyway?”
“Dean and Seamus bootlegged a whole caseload into the tower. I just snatched a bottle before I came down here.” Potter appeared to consider, and a petulant look crossed his face. “I don’t want to go back there. Dammit.” He sounded strangely adamant about this—even, if Malfoy were inclined to think about it, bitter. Malfoy stood. Potter glanced at him. “What about Slytherin? Crabbe and Goyle aren’t—whoa…” He swayed on his feet. Malfoy grasped his elbow to steady him. Potter righted himself, made sure he was on two feet, and pulled away. “…They aren’t doing Butterbeer runs to the dungeons?”
Malfoy wasn’t quite sure how to answer this. He had no desire to go back to the dungeons, and even less desire to send a drunk Harry Potter down there to the mercy of a bunch of drunk disgruntled sons of Death-Eaters. It wasn’t that any of them were dangerous—Snape would probably be there with them enjoying the alcohol by this point, if he knew anything about Snape, and Snape would never let any harm befall Potter, even if Zabini or Goyle could manage to cast a spell in their soused condition.
Still, the situation would be… uncomfortable. Might as well be avoided altogether.
He settled for a shrug. “They might be.”
Potter was definitely sobering up. “Why aren’t you down there with them?” Malfoy shrugged again and looked away. Potter’s gaze was piercing, even though he was sodding drunk, and Malfoy didn’t like that one bit. “Why, Malfoy,” said Potter easily, “Did I strike a nerve?”
It was Potter’s turn to chuckle. Malfoy said defensively, “I just don’t fancy getting beer spilt all on my shoes.”
Potter looked down. “They are nice shoes,” he said matter-of-factly.
For some reason Malfoy found this funny. He smiled a begrudging half-smile and looked down at them. Italian leather and impeccably clean. How completely Malfoy-esque, he thought. He suddenly had an urge to scuff them up.
Potter looked up at him. His eyes were bright. “Let’s go get more,” he said.
It didn’t occur to Malfoy to remind Potter that they were the last two people in Hogwarts who should be sharing a drink with one another. Potter was smiling and excited, and so instead of dampening what Malfoy suspected would probably be his only post-graduation celebration, Malfoy replied, “Just where do you think you’re going to get more?”
“Filch, of course.”
Malfoy stared at him and then burst into laughter. “And yet Slytherins are the ones with the reputation for breaking the rules.”
Potter grinned cheekily. “He keeps a stash in his supply closet behind the mops. I know—I’ve seen it enough times doing detention with him.”
Malfoy smirked appreciatively. “And you propose to get inside it how?”
Potter smiled archly. “I’ll show you.”
Malfoy forgot to protest until they were halfway to the castle, and then figured it was hardly worth the effort. Potter was strangely talkative and excited as they snuck back to the dorms. Malfoy grumbled all the way back, but he was interested in whatever it was Potter had to show him, mostly because the way Potter’s cheeks held a faint crimson flush of excitement told him that, whatever it was, it was probably quite forbidden per the school rules. In general, Malfoy felt he obeyed far too many rules.
He hadn’t realised that they would be going to the Gryffindor common room until he was, well, outside the Gryffindor common room. Somehow the seven flights upstairs had passed unnoticed, probably because he and Potter had gotten into a very heated argument about the merits of introducing Quodpot to England. Potter was entirely and firmly against it, opposed on the merits that it would detract from the sacred art of Quidditch; Malfoy just thought it would be an excellent pastime, watching all those idiots tossing around exploding balls right and left. “Why, Malfoy,” sniggered Potter at Malfoy’s very heated declaration, “you’re quite pervy, really.”
“You’re quite the ponce yourself, Potter.”
Potter sniggered. Malfoy raised his eyebrows. Then they were in the common room and his eyebrows furrowed themselves into knots, because the Gryffindor House party they’d interrupted had just fallen silent. The music still blared but in a moment every eye was on them, every jaw slack in simmering, immediate tension. Malfoy expected this, naturally—what he didn’t expect was that the smouldering, vaguely hostile stares were turned, not towards him, but towards Potter. In the corner, the Weasel, who had one hand on Granger’s arse and the other on a huge piece of cake, regarded them both with a cold, curious stare. “I see you’ve brought a date, Harry,” he said, and Malfoy was honestly shocked at the bitterness of his tone. He looked back at Potter, and was even more shocked to see the defiance mingled with sadness that rested in the lifted chin, the flint-spark in his eyes, the tightening of his lips. Without a word he passed through the room to a door at the opposite end. Malfoy followed him, and Potter held the door open for him wordlessly.
“Might have known you’d get lucky with him of all people,” muttered Dean Thomas in the background. Malfoy rolled his eyes and headed upstairs. He didn’t see whether or not Potter looked back.
“I should have known.”
Potter looked pleased.
Malfoy stared at the invisibility cloak. It was beautiful. “Do you know how rare these are, Potter?”
“I know mine is the only one I’ve ever seen.”
“I always thought you’d used some kind of concealing spell.”
“When, at the—oh!” Potter dissolved into shrill laughter. “The look on your face when you saw me...”
“What would you know about it? You were too busy covering me with mud to pay attention to my face.”
“Malfoy, I don’t have to see your face to know what that expression looks like.”
Potter smirked at him, and Malfoy realised that he sounded supremely petulant. “That one,” said Potter mildly, and threw the cloak about himself.
In the middle of forming the breath to ask just what he meant, Malfoy lost his bearings. It was just so odd, seeing a disembodied head just appear like that, as if the body had never been there at all—and even more odd when the head belonged to Harry Potter. Taking the rest of him away made his head look like a strangely foreign object, somehow; it was like taking something familiar and turning it into a jigsaw puzzle: you noticed details you’d never seen before. Like the way one of Harry’s ear lobes was just longer than the other. Also how smudged his glasses were. Malfoy thought back and realised he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Potter clean them. He had a sudden urge to do it for him, but he ignored it and instead asked the git what he meant by ‘That expression.’
Potter just smirked more. “The one where you look like you’ve just swallowed a mouthful of grass-flavoured Bertie Bott’s.”
Malfoy began to protest, but Harry threw the cloak around him instead and he was engulfed by fabric and distracted as his nose wound up smushed against Potter’s bare shoulder. He grunted in surprise and inhaled.
“Right, then—you know where we’re going?” Potter whispered, turning to face him just as Malfoy lifted his head away from the scent of bare flesh and sweat. His cheek brushed Potter’s nose. He stepped back impulsively, but Potter stopped him by placing his hand on Malfoy’s arm. “No, stay close,” he said as if he were talking to a small child, “or you’ll be seen. The cloak’s not that big.”
“What do you want me to do, ride on your shoulders?” Malfoy grumbled.
He thought he saw a flicker of laughter in Potter’s countenance for a moment. The light in the room was dim, as Potter hadn’t bothered to light all the torches, and only the one in the corner nearest the door was giving off any kind of glow. Under the cloak, Potter’s eyes had a quality that was almost feral—they shimmered in the dark like water on a moonless night; and when he chuckled his voice rumbled in the enclosed space like the faint growl of something predatory.
“Come off it, Malfoy,” he said, his lips curving up into something that was not quite a smile, not quite a smirk. “Knowing you, you’d probably enjoy it.”
Malfoy sneered at him and scooted closer. He forgot to utter a retort until they were halfway down the stairs to the common room, and by then, he figured, it was probably too late.
They snuck easily out of the tower; the party was still in full swing, and no one noticed as they passed out of the common room into the hallway. Malfoy was behind Potter, and in their caution to keep from tripping over one another as they descended the steps to the lower level, he had grabbed onto Harry’s arm. He didn’t realise until after they had bypassed Seamus Finnigan’s drunken attempts to sing “That Old Black Magic” to Parvati Patil that he still held onto it, his hand encircling Potter’s bony forearm just below the elbow, where he thought he could feel Potter’s pulse surging beneath his fingertips. He wondered briefly if he ought to let go of it, and if Potter minded the way they were huddled close together under the cloak; he was just unfamiliar enough with the corridors of Gryffindor Tower, however, to need something to hang on to as they stumbled their way through the dark, and he figured that Potter fit that description as well as anything else. He hadn’t taken a torch from one of the walls because he seemed to know his way perfectly well in the dark without any kind of guide. Malfoy wanted to ask him to stop and grab a light, but he remembered that this was Potter, and he could keep up with Potter in the dark or daylight as surely as he could any man. So he kept hold of Potter’s elbow, faintly relieved that Potter didn’t seem to care one way or the other.
“There’s a raised cobblestone coming up here—it’ll trip you up if you aren’t careful,” whispered Potter, turning his head halfway round as they moved together. He seemed to be fully sober now, but Malfoy had a hunch he could find his way around the castle stoned, drunk, and blindfolded.
“How many times have you done this, Potter?” he whispered back, keeping an eye out for the bumpy surface.
“Hundreds,” Potter replied, his voice coarse and gravelly from the effort it took to both whisper and still project over his shoulder. Malfoy shivered. “I got this cloak when I was a first-year.”
“You’ve had it that long?” Potter nodded and guided him around a corner, down a short flight of steps. Malfoy muttered and steadied himself against Potter’s shoulder, still holding fast to his arm. “All this time you’ve been wondering around Hogwarts, doing whatever you please?”
Potter’s voice held blatant satisfaction. “Pretty much.”
Malfoy stiffened. “Dumbledore knew about this?” he seethed. “He did, didn’t he?” his voice was sharp, and an emotion that should have been familiar anger, or familiar jealousy, surged through him. It was neither of those, however; he could not identify it, and it lingered for a while in the pit of his stomach. Potter turned and regarded him with eyes that seemed to glow even though no light was nearby to cause them to do so.
“Yes, of course,” he said, and while his voice was without smugness, it also carried a certain note of self-satisfaction.
Malfoy opened his mouth to throw an insult at Potter, for being Dumbledore’s favourite son, for being allowed to break the rules time and again while everyone else turned a blind eye and praised him to the skies for being the hero of Hogwarts; but just as the words were leaving his lips, he remembered that he just. Didn’t. Care. Why waste his breath saying things Potter already knew—knew and expected him to say? Why even waste the effort now when, thanks to actions as yet undisclosed, Voldemort was dead at the hands of this wizard whose worst fault when you got right down to it was that he always got his own way?
He blinked and said instead, “He’s crazy for letting you. You could have gotten yourself killed.”
He and Potter stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, and Potter seemed to be on the brink of asking him a question. But he didn’t; instead, he reached up and pulled the cloak off of their heads and stepped back so that Malfoy’s fingertips slid over the soft underside of his forearm, then fell away. “It’s too dark to use this,” he announced in his normal voice. “Besides, everyone else is all out celebrating.” He swung the cloak off Malfoy’s shoulders and folded it under his arm. Without it Malfoy could see much better, and there was no need to stick quite as close to Potter as before, especially not when his eyes adjusted, as they did gradually, to this new vaguely shape-filled darkness.
They moved silently down the stairs together, until they reached a landing that opened on a hallway to three different wings of the castle and Potter touched his arm indicating which way he was to follow. Malfoy nodded and let him lead, keeping his eyes on the peculiar, tousled shape of Potter’s head. Potter seemed to glide down the hallway, moving with intrinsic grace, sensing his way around corners and over bumpy surfaces. Watching him Malfoy suddenly realised that Potter was the better Quidditch player of the two of them because he felt his way around the pitch, the way he was instinctively feeling his way through the thick darkness of the corridor now. Malfoys always strategised, planned, calculated, predicted, tried to stay two steps ahead of everyone and everything around them. Potter didn’t: no matter what life threw at him, he winged it like the bird—the phoenix—that he was.
Potter had come to a stop in front of a small door at the end of the hallway. He turned to face Malfoy so abruptly Malfoy nearly ran into him. “Sorry,” they muttered in unison, and Potter added, “You’re giving me an odd look.”
“It’s only the light,” Malfoy answered easily.
“There isn’t any,” Potter responded almost pleasantly.
“That’s the odd part,” replied Malfoy.
In the darkness he heard Potter’s stifled laughter; then his teeth flashed white in a quicksilver smile, and were gone again. “That must be it,” he said, and turned to the door. It was unlocked easily, and Malfoy saw that they were in fact in front of Filch’s storage closet. “Pathetic, isn’t it?” murmured Potter.
“What is?” Malfoy said, glancing at him. He looked either bemused or bored, it was tough to tell—though if Potter were truly bored by his presence, he had a feeling it would be the first time in their long and tempestuous acquaintance.
“It’s so easy to get to. Filch likes to think he has eyes in the back of his head but he’s really just as clueless as anyone in Hogwarts, when it comes to protecting his own stash.” Harry reached in and fumbled around till he found what he was looking for on a shelf that was nearly out of his reach.
Potter’ stood on tiptoe, his shirt crinkling where his ribs caught and stretched the fabric, and bunching together where a taut, muscled stomach curved inward towards his abdomen. He wobbled a little, and Malfoy steadied him, placing a hand over the concave of his waist. “You really like breaking rules, don’t you, Potter?”
Potter relaxed and returned with two huge bottles of Fire Brandy, his eyes glittering with mischief and anticipation, of what Malfoy wasn’t exactly sure. “We’re graduates, remember, Malfoy?” He handed Malfoy one of the bottles. “They aren’t our rules anymore.”
Before Malfoy could reply, something very close by them let out a hissing, eerily-pitched whine that nearly made them drop their loot. They spun together and found Mrs. Norris grimacing at them as effectively as if she were human. “Bugger,” Potter murmured, and flipped the cloak over them directly.
Malfoy laughed. “I thought we weren’t breaking rules, Potter.”
“Sod off, Malfoy—close the door.” Potter’s voice was light, and the flash of his smile was visible under the cloak again. Malfoy smirked and began to close the door, but quick as a shadow Mrs. Norris darted between him and the doorjamb, settling herself there with a look as menacing as the grimaces with which Professor Snape liked to favour Potter.
“Now what?” hissed Malfoy.
“Kick her!” asserted Potter fervently.
“So she’ll wake the whole castle?”
“We can lock her in,” insisted Potter.
“You bloody idiot, if we lock her in Filch’ll know someone broke in.”
“Right.” Potter took a deep breath. “I suggest we make a run for it, then.”
They tucked the brandy bottles under their arms and started to run down the corridor, back the way they came They got approximately fifteen feet when suddenly Potter stopped and jerked Malfoy back against him, hard. Malfoy was so surprised he dropped the bottle he was holding. He made an effort to catch it and succeeded only in blunting its fall, so that it didn’t break, but instead rolled halfway across the floor. “What was that for?” he seethed, glowering at Potter, but Potter only blurted that he was sorry, clamped a hand over Malfoy’s mouth, and yanked him flat against the wall of the hallway.
Not a second later Argus Filch himself rounded the corridor, his fisheye as firmly in place as ever. Mrs. Norris let out a welcoming mew and hissed, running to where the bottle lay and sitting pointedly on the stones beside it. Filch gazed at her uncomprehendingly for a moment, then murmured, “Well, my sweet, what is this?”
Beside him Malfoy felt Potter shift closer and wrap the cloak around them as tightly as he could. Instinctively he moved back against the wall and against Potter. They were both attempting to steady their breathing as quietly as they could. As Filch bent to pick up the bottle Malfoy suddenly felt Potter’s mouth right against his ear. “Don’t move yet,” he said in a barely audible whisper. Malfoy gave an imperceptible nod and shivered as the warmth of the whisper travelled over the nape of his neck. The cape rippled just slightly, and Potter put his hand on Malfoy’s arm, holding him firmly at his side.
Mrs. Norris was holding Malfoy’s gaze. She had a very level and menacing stare, and through the fabric of the cloak Malfoy attempted to return it as best he could. The fact that he was staring down a cat would in any other circumstance have been surreal, but somehow the novelty of it didn’t register with him as much as the fact that Harry Potter was grasping his right wrist and mingling silent, hot breaths with his own beneath the cape. They both stood still as possible, as Filch, realising what the bottle was, let out a snarl and levelled his gaze at Mrs. Norris. “Where are they, my lovely?” he said in his most vitriolic growl. “I’ll teach the likes o’ them grubby students to mess with my stash.”
The cat complied by letting out a long and protracted yowl, its fur standing on end, as she glared at the two boys where they stood. Potter’s grip on his arm tightened involuntarily, and Malfoy winced. Filch’s gaze slowly moved from the cat to the direction in which it was staring. As he watched the hulking blur of the man move closer, Malfoy’s brain raced through all the possible outcomes of their current situation. He suddenly had an impulse to step out from under the cape and give Potter a chance to make a run for it. Underage drinking for wizards was considered shocking behaviour, and while Malfoy’s reputation, for obvious reasons, would never be tarnished by something so silly, Potter could get a good deal of flack for it, being Wizardry’s poster child for all that was moral and upright. Something like this could ruin Potter with the public, especially if Rita Skeeter and the Daily Prophet found out about it. And there was Potter’s Quidditch career to think about. Yes, he would just step forward, and—
He and Potter both moved at once. He felt the warm grasp encircling his wrist leave him, and he looked up to see Potter about to lift the cape just as he was. He blanched and grabbed Potter’s hand, and they gaped at one another before mouthing at once, “What are you doing?”
“Run!” mouthed Potter.
“Me? Why?” mouthed Malfoy.
He saw the answer in the bright urgency of Potter’s wide-eyed stare, and he glared sullenly back, holding Potter firmly in place beneath the cloak. Potter looked put out but stayed still, which was much more important to Malfoy at the moment then the unsettling way Potter’s gaze was searching his face, as if he’d discovered something there he didn’t want to let go.
They were locked in this position, staring at one another, Malfoy’s hand clenched around Potter’s own, when Filch, with a dogged and focused determination that suggested he was literally sniffing them out, made contact with the cloak. He had sensed his way across the room, and abruptly, as though he were Mrs. Norris pouncing on a rat, lunged forward and grabbed the front of the cloak. The two of them jumped and impulsively pressed closer together since they were already huddled as tightly against the wall as they could go. “Aha!” Filch’s voice held a glee that was almost unearthly. “What have we here?”
Malfoy winced. Potter clutched Malfoy’s robes and shoved the bottle of brandy behind them. Filch lifted the cloak.
His surprise at seeing the two of them together was inexpressible. He looked at the two of them where they stood holding onto one another, scrunched as compactly as they could scrunch against the wall, with a look of blank incomprehension for a moment. They stared back at him. Eventually, astonishment replaced confusion, and suddenly, and completely without warning, the most bizarre thing Draco Malfoy had ever seen occurred:
Argus Filch began to laugh.
Not a tiny chuckle of a laugh, but a loud, raucous guffawing that rang through the corridor around them. His lips curled up into a death’s head grimace, and he threw his head back to reveal a yellowing, uneven row of teeth as he assailed them both with howl after howl. Potter flinched and looked at Malfoy uncertainly. Malfoy shook his head, and they both stared, as the groundskeeper clutched his stomach and pointed at them, by this time wheezing helplessly.
Malfoy, at an utter loss, focused on Potter, whose look of wide-eyed bewilderment mirrored his own. The light from Filch’s lantern was shaking, along with Filch’s entire body: it sent shadows rippling over Potter’s face and made his hair gleam like stained glass under candlelight. He looked for a moment like something cherubic, a figure Malfoy would expect to see in a cathedral alcove somewhere, not standing right beside him trying to unsuccessfully hide a bottle of booze from a custodian. He was so close Malfoy could see the shadows around his eyes and the lines crevassing his forehead. He could see the way his eyelashes stuck together and the way the veins in his neck throbbed. He could see how pale and thin Potter’s lips were, how sharply his nose ended, in a way that was not-quite-pug enough to make it a fine sort of a nose, how his chin, which had for so long been round and weak, now jutted rather abruptly, as if it had forgotten to be a chin and were trying to remember at the last minute to form a decent point. The tiniest of dimples was etched there for a cleft, a faint apostrophe on the faded, too-smooth parchment of his skin.
Filch was still laughing but all at once the sound was far, far away from Malfoy. In the end it was Potter’s voice that cut through his thoughts. “Um, sir?” he ventured tentatively, and Malfoy wrenched his gaze back to the custodian. Filch, mid-wheeze, attempted to speak, could not find his voice, and responded instead by handing the confiscated bottle of brandy to an astonished Malfoy, pulling the cloak back down, over their stunned faces, and turning away again. He laughed, and laughed, and kept laughing, all the way down the hallway from which he’d come, while Mrs. Norris glared at them one last time, then turned and strutted indignantly after him.
The two of them remained silent for a full moment after his voice had died away, and finally, with a single glance between them, they broke spontaneously into peals of relieved laughter that matched the caretaker’s own.
They sat together on one of the benches that lined the framework of the gazebo. Potter’s robes were still lying where he had flung them carelessly on the ground. He had his knee bent and his leg propped up on the bench beside him. He was leaning against Malfoy, whose arm was slung around his shoulder, holding a bottle that Potter was intently hoisting to his lips. It had been a half hour, and their laughter, with the help of the brandy was finally, finally starting to subside.
“Why would I be kidding?”
“Christ, Potter, you’re out of your mind if you think the Tornadoes are going to be the team to beat next season. They’re so twentieth-century.”
“We’re still in the twentieth century, you git.”
Well, it’ll be the twenty-second before that team provides any kind of—” a hiccup—“formidable opposition.”
“Oh, and that game against Montrose wasn’t formidor—forrimbo—for… you know—you’re saying that wasn’t opposition?“ Potter took a drink from the bottle Malfoy held over his shoulder. Malfoy kept holding it lest Potter’s grip prove too slippery—a wise choice, since a moment later Harry’s fingers slid down the neck and over his own, where they lingered a moment before fluttering down to his lap again.
“The Montrose match was a fluke. They Magpies pitted Sexton against Pramberton. You can’t do that, you can’t put the Magpies in against Pramberton, he’s too much for their beaters. You can’t knock that man off a broom.”
“Yes, but you can’t put Pramberton against anybody who’s faster than he is because he only knows how to play defensively.”
“Right, which is why the Montrose match was a fluke.”
“But—oh. No fair, Malfoy, I’m drunker than you are.”
Malfoy chuckled. “Better save some of the bottle for me, then.”
Beside him Potter shivered, and his fingers closed over Malfoy’s as he took another swallow. “Not on your life, Malfoy,” he purred, and Malfoy noted that Potter’s fingertips were warm.
“Oh, come on, Malfoy. Nobody really believes that but you. Everybody knows it was Verbal.”
“I’m telling you, Potter, Verbal was a front.”
“But Keaton bloody sodded off at the pier.”
“Not for Keaton, for Kobayashi.”
“What? Cobrayoshi was jush the lawyer!”
“You don’t know anything about criminal masterminds, do you?”
“I do,” said Potter with concentrated seriousness. “I killed one. I think. Yeah. He was a mastermind.”
“Think back. You know, when he was just whasisname…”
He sat up and leaned his elbow on Malfoy’s shoulder, and Malfoy leaned back against the gazebo railing, looking at him. “He was smart and studious and sociable—and don’t you think he’d’ve made an excellent lawyer?”
Potter nodded. Malfoy hiccupped again, and the jolt of his shoulders lurched Potter’s elbow from its prop. His hand came to rest on the back of Malfoy’s neck. He left it there as he stretched luxuriously, finally settling back against the railing, still leaning into Malfoy ever so slightly. Malfoy leaned ever so slightly into him as well, grateful for the prop that was Potter’s body, much softer than the rough wood of the lattice behind them.
“And didn’t he have a gimp that did all his stooge-work for him?” Malfoy continued, watching the hazy expression on Potter’s face as it attempted to give way to something more focused and intelligent. “A fall-guy, a spy no one would suspect because he was so unassuming and harmless?”
“Wormtail,” Potter responded after some deliberation. He gave Malfoy a dark look. “But Wormtail was jush—just a pawn.”
“Right. And Verbal was just the red herring.”
Potter looked at him, his eyes suddenly crystalline with clarity. The moon, which earlier had failed to infiltrate the windowless corridors of the castle, had shrouded itself in a haze of light that was reflected in each of two pinpricks of silver in the centre of Potter’s green eyes. Perhaps it was this, or perhaps it was the tightening of his jaw line, or perhaps the way his gaze probed Malfoy’s as if seeking an entrance to some forbidden part of him, that made him seem suddenly almost frighteningly Slytherin.
His hand was still on Malfoy’s neck. In the middle of studying him Potter suddenly, and without any warning, ran his hand slowly, just once, through Malfoy’s hair, curving up over his scalp and letting his fingers follow the locks to where they feathered into nothingness around his chin. The touch chilled Malfoy, then chilled him again, and again, and left heat tingling against his skin where Potter’s fingertips barely brushed his cheek. Potter lowered his hand and rested it on Malfoy’s forearm, which oddly enough had come to rest on Potter’s thigh, just below his shorts.
“You know what I think?” Potter asked him, in a low, surprisingly sober voice.
Malfoy looked at him and smiled. “No, Potter, what do you think?”
“I think you think too much about this sort of thing,” Potter said.
“And you don’t?”
“I never said that, but what’s your excuse?”
“That my mind has been poisoned by too much exposure to Muggle cinema.”
“Fat chance,” Potter said, chuckling as he shifted closer. “I also think letting it be known you watch Muggle movies would damage your reputation.” His knee was knobby, and had crevices in surprising places. Malfoy’s fingers traversed the lines of it over and over again, like a maze he couldn’t find his way out of.
“You’re in luck, Potter,” he answered smoothly, leaning his head against Potter’s. “The Malfoy family views blackmail as one of life’s great adventures.”
Potter laughed, a fluid peal of laughter like before, only his voice was deeper and richer, smooth and golden like the brandy coating his throat. His body relaxed under the sound, and Malfoy could feel Potter’s side pressing into his own, fitting against the lines and curves of his body as if they were a set of matching tectonic plates previously an ocean apart.
“They’re afraid of you, aren’t they?”
Potter’s back was once more tucked into the curve of Malfoy’s side, one hand lazily running back and forth over Malfoy’s forearm, which was slung across Potter’s chest. Malfoy’s head still rested on Potter’s shoulder, since it was currently feeling very heavy and immobile, and especially since Potter seemed disinclined to ask him to move it. Potter’s scent of Quidditch brooms, of straw and sweat and flesh, had grown more pungent: Malfoy thought he could detect the vague aroma of cranberries, or perhaps it was fresh rain, or both. Every now and again he would lift his head long enough to run the tip of his nose over the back of Potter’s neck, inhaling the scent, trying to decipher it, feeling Potter tense and shiver beside him under the touch.
“I’m not afraid of you.”
“You’re not everyone.” Potter turned his head in Malfoy’s direction, ostensibly to look at him, but Malfoy was too close for the attempt to be successful, and he wound up instead with his nose pressed against Malfoy’s jaw. His breath was hot, tickling Malfoy’s ear all over again, and Malfoy sighed unthinkingly into the hollow of Potter’s throat. Potter shifted in his arms and turned halfway around to face him.
“I’m not everyone,” Malfoy repeated solemnly. “Are we out of brandy yet?”
Potter produced the bottle from somewhere. “There’s enough for us to have a toast, if you like,” he said. His voice was wobbly and uncertain, as if it were a matter of great concern that Malfoy might dislike this idea. Malfoy sat up and put his hand over Potter’s where it held the bottle. Potter’s breath caught, and then he exhaled on a sigh so powerful it was almost a shudder.
“Let’s toast,” Malfoy said, rather distractedly. “To graduation and to this bloody school and to—”
“To Voldemort,” said Potter abruptly.
Malfoy slid his hand away from the bottle, and, not knowing what else to do with it, wound up using it to pull Potter a little closer to him. “Why?”
Potter’s tone was dead. “Don’t you think he’s the reason we’re where we are? Who we are?”
“I don’t know. I’d like to think we’re who we are because it’s who we chose to become.”
“You didn’t have your whole life—”
“Yes, I fucking well did, Potter.”
Potter had opened his mouth to utter a retort but at this his lips closed abruptly, and he looked genuinely startled, first, then sorry.
“Besides,” Malfoy said softly, “that was the life before this.” He took the hand that wasn’t around Potter’s waist and pulled the bottle down between their lips. “To life after Voldemort,” he said.
Potter’s eyes drank him in while the brandy burned his throat. They stayed on him when he shoved it over to Potter’s lips, and as he swigged the last contents of the bottle. They scorched him more than the alcohol, and left him feeling suddenly thirsty.
Silence fell between them at that, and they sat for some time, motionless, Potter with his back to Malfoy, looking out across the grounds of the school. Malfoy, for his part, was looking at Potter, wondering any number of things and making sense out of only a very few of them. He wondered what Potter did on weekends, if he had a messy room, if he liked or hated thunderstorms, if the rest of his body had the same deceptive composition of lean muscle under thin-as-parchment skin.
“Where are you going after this, Malfoy?” His voice wavered, a brief, uncertain slicing of silence.
Malfoy turned in towards him and spoke against his ear, letting his lips press against it, caressing it as he whispered. “I don’t know.”
Potter closed his eyes. “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t really care.”
“I don’t really blame you.” He sighed again, that same half-sigh, half-shudder, and as he did he arched slightly up and away from Malfoy, so that Malfoy’s lips slid over his earlobe down the curve of his neck.
“You’re not going to play Quidditch, are you?” he mumbled against Potter’s skin.
In response Potter released a tiny moan from clenched lips and shook his head. “I’m going to work for the Ministry,” he said. “They need Aurors.”
“Are you going to them because that’s what you want to do or because that’s what you feel you’re supposed to do?”
“I don’t know. Malfoy—” he stopped abruptly.
“…I couldn’t play Quidditch without you.”
Malfoy shivered. “Me either, Potter,” he whispered, his hand feverishly warm as he lifted Potter’s shirt and ran his hand over the firm stomach he had been subconsciously admiring all night.
Potter drew in his breath, sharply. “Is it true about the Auror training?” he asked, squirming closer and arching his neck again. Malfoy closed his eyes and parted his lips, and kissed the hollow of Potter’s throat. Potter emitted the most extraordinary half-hiss, half-gasp and tilted his head back, as far back as he could go, until he was leaning completely into Malfoy’s arms. Obligingly Malfoy pulled him closer, and began to kiss his way up along Potter’s neck, until he reached the corner of Potter’s mouth.
“I applied but they didn’t accept me,” he murmured, nipping the side of Potter’s lips gently.
“What?” Potter’s voice broke the silence and the moment, and he jerked his head around to face Malfoy, his eyes brilliant with surprise. “You’d be the best bloody Auror they could get,” he said fervently. He leaned forward and began to nibble Malfoy’s neck with a fierce determination.
Malfoy was almost too shocked to respond. “You’re drunk,” he replied at last, caressing Potter’s side, letting his fingers trail down over his hip, between the fabric of Potter’s shorts and pants.
“Yes, but I’m not stupid,” Potter muttered fiercely, brushing his lips against Malfoy’s ear lobe. Malfoy gasped and arched off the bench, partly in pleasure, partly in surprise.
“They’ve got you, they don’t need me.” He swallowed and tried to remember to focus on the task of ridding Potter of the shirt that had taunted him all evening long.
“Bullshit, Malfoy.” Potter licked a swathe over his ear, and slid his arms around Malfoy’s waist. “Bullshit.” And he began assailing Malfoy’s ear with bites and flicks of the tongue that increased in fervour with each moan they summoned. He broke away at last, to allow Malfoy to pull his shirt over his head and fling it to god knew where. Malfoy steadied his breathing, and Potter leaned back on his haunches, flinging back his shoulders and regarding him like a sacrificial virgin watching a high priestess. His chest was smooth and glistening with a light sheen of sweat, every curve and muscle tightening with each erratic breath he took; his nipples were rigid even though the night air was warm and muggy around them.
Their eyes met and held for a long time in an unbroken, unblinking stare. Finally, somehow, Potter’s hands found their way to his stomach, unbuttoning his shirt while his mouth worked miracles against Malfoy’s neck, his tongue trailing rivulets of warmth over his skin. They gasped together when flesh met flesh, when their nipples grazed and groin tightened against groin. Potter’s eyes fastened on his face, his throat and cheeks flushed with things Malfoy wasn’t certain he could name. “We’re really doing this,” he murmured, running his hand over Malfoy’s chest and down over his waist. “What do you want?”
Malfoy twisted, arching his erection towards Potter’s hand. “I don’t care,” he said automatically, sliding open the top button of Potter’s fly.
Potter pulled back a little, his eyes flashing. “If you don’t care, then—”
“That’s not what I meant.” And abruptly, with a burst of great clarity, Malfoy realised that in fact he did care.
Potter’s gaze held and softened, and Malfoy swam in it, slowly unbuttoning his trousers and slithering out of them, letting his pants fall to the floor of the gazebo. Potter stood up and moved close to him, shinnying out of his clothes and encircling his arms around Malfoy in a light embrace. His body was lean and curved, tight and soft in all the right places, and Malfoy, once he placed his hands on Potter’s skin, couldn’t seem to stop touching him, mapping him out, memorising the shape and the feel of Potter’s flesh like a blind man creating an identity.
“You’ve done this before.” Potter’s voice was a stilled murmur, his head bent over Malfoy’s collarbone, licking and tasting it, his hair tickling Malfoy’s chin.
“No. Have you?”
“Not… not exactly. I’ve never…” and Potter sighed and scooted closer and did not finish. Malfoy sighed a little too, and slid his hand over the small of Potter’s back. The skin there was soft as down, cool as marble beneath his touch, and his fingers seemed to flow over it, conforming to the shape of him like rivers smoothing stone. Potter arched his hips forward, his shoulders back, and Malfoy caressed his way down to one of Potter’s buttocks, cupping and squeezing it, gauging Potter’s reaction and overjoyed when he received a moan in response. He shivered and felt his erection burgeoning, and a moment later felt Potter’s own hardening against his.
He never did things on impulse, yet it was impulse that brought him to his knees before Potter, and impulse that made him hungry to taste Potter inside of him—impulse born of an inexpressible longing. Potter must have seen it inside of his eyes because when he looked up at him the other boy had slid unsteadily to the bench, his breath coming in hasty gulps. “Wait a moment,” he said unevenly.
Malfoy waited, his lips parted, hands running uncertainly and unthinkingly over Potter’s thighs, down over his calves, hardened from so many hours of Quidditch practice into bronzed and implacable muscle. Potter’s cock quivered in front of him, hard and strong, stretched out before him, and Malfoy wanted it, wanted it so much he felt his yearning for it crumbling walls, crushing vague notions of ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ that had been in place since time immemorial, and stretching forth into consciousness, aching for this, this and only this, if he never knew pleasure again.
This, the revelation began to dawn on him, had very little to do with being drunk.
Potter found his robes and stretched them onto the floor below him, spreading a thick blanket where his knees ought to be. “I don’t want you to get bruised,” he said, studying Malfoy. Malfoy looked back, and then, without warning, Potter lifted his hand to Malfoy’s face and pushed his hair away from his forehead, letting his fingers linger, caressing his cheek, running over his jaw-line, down to the nape of his neck, where he cradled Malfoy’s head in his hand, looking at him without words.
Malfoy didn’t know how long he stayed locked inside Harry Potter’s gaze—a second, a minute, an hour, were all the same eternity passing through him. When he spoke at last his voice was hushed, and he could not make himself speak louder. “Potter, we’ve had a lot to drink.”
“It took a lot, don’t you think?” He noticed Potter’s voice was as quiet as his own.
“That depends on what you want.”
“You said there wasn’t enough liquor in Ireland to make me decent company,” Potter said slowly. “Maybe it doesn’t take as much to make a decent fuck—if a fuck is what you want.”
“I don’t know what I want.”
“Do you want to stop?”
As if seeing himself through images of bevelled glass, walking through a dream in slow motion, Malfoy bowed his head and moved to kiss Potter’s fingertips as they rested on his thigh. Potter closed his eyes and parted his lips in a noiseless sigh, his other hand weaving and tightening a gentle grasp on Malfoy’s hair. Malfoy traced the crevice of Potter’s fingers with his tongue, running over calloused knuckles and short fingernails, nails that held more irresistible traces of Quidditch matches and grass stains and fresh water and life. He sucked one knuckle lightly into his mouth, feeling the heaviness that had weighed him down earlier dissipate with each flick of his tongue. He glanced up at Potter, and then couldn’t look away, and Potter held his gaze, sighed again, deeply, and offered Malfoy his fingertips, letting Malfoy take them into his mouth, swathing, claiming each one.
While his tongue slow-danced patterns over Potter’s hand, Malfoy slipped his own over the inside of Potter’s thigh, stroking it gently, slowly, watching as the muscles tightened in pleasure, as Potter’s erection stiffened and pled for attention. Potter sat with his shoulders back against the latticework, his eyes on Malfoy, his fingers alternately grasping and feathering Malfoy’s hair. Their occasional involuntary clench was the only other notable reaction he gave to Malfoy’s touches.
The night around them was still and silent, the fog thickening and moving in from the lake; patches of it would drift between them every now and again and conceal a part of Potter’s lucent skin from Malfoy, and he would feel a burning desire to taste and claim and possess it and keep it somewhere out of reach of fog and men and life alike, away where only he could touch and view and know it. And in the alcoholic haze of his brain, he did not know what to do with this searing want, except to keep his eyes on Potter’s at all costs and never wrench his gaze away.
He kissed the underside of Potter’s wrist, and Potter shivered. He turned his head and feathered tiny bites over the soft underside of Potter’s arm, the one that cradled his head. His skin was so smooth, soft where it should have been coursed and calloused, tinged pale where it should have been tanned from the sun—and the scars from his battle with Voldemort stood out vividly, stark red gashes where no gashes should ever be, as if his body had suffered a terrible earthquake and left the marks as fault lines. Malfoy ran his tongue over each scar, each incision, and Potter’s gaze seared him with its intensity, daring him to look away. Malfoy didn’t—he couldn’t. His lips were glued to the skin, determined to taste and lick and caress what they could of Harry Potter, and when he nibbled lightly at the inside of Potter’s elbow, Potter shuddered and said one word, “Malfoy,” and his tone said much, much more.
Malfoy couldn’t restrain himself, and he buried his face between Potter’s thighs, inhaling his scent and moaning. Potter spread his legs and shivered and moved to the edge of the bench until his shoulders barely touched the railing and Malfoy had access to every bit of him. He was giddy—he felt six years old, and this, all this, was his candy store, and he left teeth marks in Potter’s flesh in his hastiness to sample every sweet thing he could. Potter’s hands moved over his back, pulling his head in towards his thighs, roving over his shoulders, digging nails into his skin when a moan didn’t go far enough. Malfoy licked and bit his way over the inside of Potter’s thigh, up to the thin line of dark hair below his abdomen. He plunged his nose into the trail and kissed Potter there, inhaling, feeling Potter’s cries of pleasure surging through both of them. Potter bucked towards him, nearly off the bench, his voice a strained plea now. Malfoy was so aroused he found it difficult to move. Potter’s cock brushed his cheek and Malfoy ran his hand over it, feeling its weight, its chiselled strength beneath his palm. He kissed his way over the shaft, not caring how sloppy his kisses were, only caring about the moans Potter was releasing every five seconds, about the way his dick bobbed in mid-air, glistening with precome, about the hazy glory in Potter’s eyes whenever Malfoy looked up at him—especially about that.
“Malfoy—” Potter’s voice was weak—“please…” and finally, finally, Malfoy slid his lips over the end of Harry Potter’s cock.
The hot slickness of it invaded him, and in all of his life he had never felt such an immediate onslaught of feelings—writhing pleasure, comfort, intimacy, and euphoria surging through him en masse, but most of all, a feeling of intrinsic rightness. His eyes flew up to Potter’s, and he knew, suddenly and unforgettably, that whatever this was, it was something they both felt, something they wanted equally; and with that he was lost. He moaned around Potter’s cock, wetting his lips on the thick, warm head, feathering light kisses over it that sent Potter into a spasm of moans. He lapped up the salty fluid that ran down the shaft and pooled at the base, exploring the ridges and veins of Potter’s cock with his tongue. The head tickled the roof of his mouth and scraped the back of his throat, and he slid his lips slowly over more of it, eager to take in as much as he could. His mouth closed once again over the salty-sweet length, and he began to tongue and suckle, drunk all over again on this new kind of addiction.
Potter cried out and automatically began to fuck his mouth, and the expression on his face was so sublime that Malfoy nearly came the second he saw it. Something about the way Potter’s hips moved, the way his dick felt stroking Malfoy’s tongue, the fact that this was Potter, Potter who didn’t want him to stop, made Malfoy dizzy, unbearably light. It was over so soon: he tilted his head back and let his mouth be fucked by Harry Potter’s cock, and it was wonderful—and Potter came with a curse and a yell and an impulsive jerking back of Malfoy’s head so that their eyes met and held the whole time Potter’s come was coursing into his mouth.
Malfoy knew nothing about the art of swallowing but nothing could have stopped him from drinking his fill of Harry Potter just then, nothing could keep him from lapping up every drop and pumping his tongue against the bone-hard shaft, moaning crazily for more. Potter gasped and gasped for air, squirming his pleasure and managing a half-desperate, “God, Malfoy,” as he emptied himself. That was all Malfoy needed, with his eyes hungry for the longing in Potter’s gaze, to come on his own, before he even knew he could come untouched. As Malfoy spurted come over his own stomach Potter reached down and spooled the hot liquid around his fingers, drawing it into his own mouth; and something, some new emotion, shattered out of its hidden cage, drawing from Malfoy’s mouth a single sob of pleasure before he sank back onto his knees, spent and overwhelmed.
For many long moments they did nothing but catch their breath, panting, letting the brisk night air bring them slowly back to coherence. It was Potter who spoke first, his voice parched and lower than usual. “Christ, Malfoy,” he murmured, as Malfoy lay back on the robes, willing his eyes to focus on Potter’s own. “That was fucking unbelievable.”
Malfoy blinked up at him for a moment. “Thanks,” was the first best thing he could muster.
Potter began to stand slowly, his legs obviously still weak, which may have been why he changed his mind and slumped down beside Malfoy on the floor. “I mean—that was—I mean… bloody hell.”
Malfoy tucked his hands behind his head and studied Potter, chuckling. “You’re drunk, Potter.”
Potter shook his head and ran his hands over Malfoy’s chest. “Not any more.”
“That’s not likely,” said Malfoy, closing his eyes contentedly.
“No, no,” said Potter reflectively, one hand trailing over Malfoy’s hip while the other played with his nipples. “I feel quite sober.”
Malfoy smiled grandly. “I feel quite drunk,” he said, a contented moan escaping him.
“You’ve hardly had anything.” Potter shifted closer.
“I had you, didn’t I?” Malfoy reached up and ran his hand over Potter’s thigh. It was so smooth, and soft, and tight with muscle, tensing under his fingertips. Potter lowered his mouth to Malfoy’s chest and took his nipple with his teeth, worrying it.
“You certainly did.”
Malfoy moaned again and let his palm slide down over Potter’s ass. It was the most incredible ass he had ever seen: perfectly sculpted, the skin gloriously tanned and supple and smooth; yet while the rest of Potter’s body was lean and muscular, his cheeks were round and full, begging to be squeezed and caressed, claimed and fondled and stroked and slapped. He bit his lip to suppress a groan, and placed his other hand on the other buttock. Slowly, unhurriedly, he kneaded Potter’s arse, petting it, smoothing the skin, watching Potter’s breathing grow shallow. Finally Potter’s breath caught, and Malfoy chuckled. “Do you like this?”
“What do you think?” Potter straddled his hips, and instantly they were both hard again.
“I think you do.” Malfoy gave his ass a hard squeeze, and Potter moaned and sunk his lips against Malfoy’s neck. They were warm and soft and perfect, and his dark hair tickled Malfoy’s nose. Draco felt a pang of disappointment that in order to reach up and brush it out of Potter’s beautiful eyes he would have to give up touching his ass; this was followed by a giddy rush of joy at the remembrance that Potter’s ass would still be there, and that there was nothing to keep him from touching it as much as he wanted.
He slid his hands over Potter’s back, pressing down, pulling him closer without realising it until he felt their heartbeats against one another, skin tight on skin. In the back of his mind he realised Potter was giving him a hickey, but he felt only a rush of glee, and maybe pride, at the thought. Even if he had thought to protest being branded this way by Harry Potter, it felt too good to think about stopping.
Harry nipped at his throat. Draco whimpered and touched his hand to Harry’s cheek, pushing his dark hair away from his face. Harry’s kisses grew more feverish, and Draco stretched his neck, arching into them and inadvertently grinding his erection into Harry’s, sending jolted cries of pleasure through them both. Harry gripped his shoulders and held him in place even though he had no intention of moving. The urgency felt good, so good, and he responded in turn, digging his fingers into Harry’s flesh, hungry for contact. Harry shivered and moaned, and kissed his way up to the underside of Draco’s jaw, nipping and nibbling, grinding his cock into Draco’s thigh. Draco arched off the floor, and Harry chuckled.
“Do you like that?” A groan. Harry kissed his jaw. “Want it inside of you?”
Draco’s eyes flew open and found Harry’s. “Inside me how, Potter?”
“Buried in your arse, Malfoy.”
“Then—” Draco couldn’t contain a gasp—“then yes.”
“Mmmm.” Harry grinned and began to kiss his chest hungrily, reaching down to stroke him while Draco’s hands massaged his back. Harry was focused, determinedly devouring Draco, who felt more and more light-headed with each touch. After a while they gave up talking and communicated only through moans and occasional gasped cries of “more.” Draco would never know what they used for lubricant—probably a mix of drying come, precome, and saliva, as Harry’s tongue licked and sucked and nipped at his body and his fingers began to explore Draco’s opening. It was Harry who moaned when the first finger nudged past Draco’s entrance, the look in his eyes half-amazed, half-giddy. “Malfoy,” he murmured, sweeping his lips across Draco’s forehead. “You feel so good.” His finger moved in a slow circle inside of Draco, stretching him gently. “You feel hot and tight and wet,” Harry continued, running his hand over Draco’s chest. “Does it hurt?”
Draco shook his head and lost himself in Harry’s eyes. Harry tentatively added a second finger and called forth a gasp from Draco’s lips, a gasp that ended abruptly when Harry scissored the two fingers inside of him and turned into a moan of pleasure and pain. Harry shushed him and smoothed his forehead, playing with his hair and smiling down at him like—like a lover, Draco realised with a jolt.
“Tell me if it hurts,” Harry whispered.
“It doesn’t hurt,” Draco responded truthfully, riveted to him.
“I can’t wait to be inside of you,” Harry murmured, kissing the hollow of his throat.
“I can’t wait to feel you,” he blurted back, and instantly he felt vulnerable, as if he’d crossed some unspoken line and there was no going back.
Harry must have noticed, because he said nothing. He loosened and stretched Draco until Draco’s breath caught and his cock twitched in pleasure under the touch. “Ready?” he whispered.
At first, when Harry nudged the head of his cock past his entrance, Draco felt as if he were splitting apart at the seams. He tensed, then forced himself to relax, and concentrated on the look of pure pleasure creasing Harry Potter’s face as he pushed himself into Draco. His muscles were taut and his eyes were starred with a brilliancy that made Draco suddenly shudder with the yearning to take him in, be taken over by him, to be in him, to be, to, to a thousand things at once.
He gasped as the same cock he had had in his mouth slid into him and claimed him that way, too, and he felt every bit, every ridge and line of its length inside of him. “Potter,” he whispered weakly.
Harry’s only response was a high-pitched whimper and a shudder that wracked his body as he buried himself in Draco and wrapped his arms around him, clutching him close. Draco could feel him trembling, could feel the tremor inside his own body, so connected were they, so tight and deep and full was this. Harry began to move slowly, tediously, quivering from the effort, and Draco lay back in his arms, adjusting to the feeling of being held and fucked and bathed in warmth from Harry’s gaze.
“This feels so good,” murmured Harry, nuzzling his neck.
“Were you a virgin?”
“No. I mean—with girls. You?”
Draco smirked up at him. “Of course not.”
Harry chuckled, a shallow chuckle since his breath was coming in gasps. “Right.”
“You feel good,” Draco said, and it was true. He let his eyes fall shut, and his heart cart wheeled when Harry kissed his eyelids a moment later, light kisses that left him a little breathless. In response he impulsively clenched his muscles around Harry, wanting to draw him into him even farther, as much as he could. He was totally unprepared for Harry’s squeal of pleasure, and the way his cock, already stiff and hard and filling him completely, spasmed inside of him, brushing his prostate and making his own dick throb in need and want and pleasure.
“Fuck.” Harry began to move faster inside of Draco, sweat forming on his shoulders, as their eyes locked and Draco tightened his arms around Harry’s waist, wanting more and more and more. “Malfoy,” Harry murmured, and he gasped while he tasted Draco’s throat, plundering his skin of its sweetness and leaving the hot wet tingle of his kisses everywhere he touched. Draco gave himself up to the tremors forming deep in him and leaving him in guttural, animalistic sounds he never knew he could make. Harry reached down and wrapped his hand around Draco’s cock and stroked it frantically, and Draco’s vision exploded in light. He contracted around Harry’s dick and came, spurting hot liquid over his own stomach and Harry’s, grasping Harry like a lifeline, crying out something unintelligible; Harry came too, almost the moment Draco’s muscles contracted, and their cries blended together and cut through the night, dissolving at last into gasps and murmurs and moans.
“Malfoy, that was fucking incredible…”
“Incredible fucking, Potter.”
They clung to another recklessly, still feverishly, Harry nuzzling him everywhere and anywhere he could reach, Draco strangely moved, fighting a sudden impulse to hold Harry closer. Harry sighed contentedly and kissed a line over Draco’s forehead. “I’ve wanted to fuck you all night, Malfoy,” he purred.
Draco tangled his hand in Harry’s hair. “Since when?”
“Since you were staring at me at dinner.”
Draco gasped involuntarily and dropped his hand. Harry blinked. “What?”
“But that was before—before…”
“Before…what?” Harry’s eyes narrowed, then widened in sudden comprehension. “Oh. Before I was drunk.”
Fighting a strange tightening in his chest Draco nodded.
“Right.” Harry, wearing an odd expression, slid out of Draco slowly, leaving Draco feeling suddenly very empty. “Then… you thought… I just wanted a shag because I was drunk and horny?”
Draco stared at him, the earlier dizziness summarily vanquished by a tumbling heaviness in and around him. Even the air suddenly seemed thicker. “I mean,” Harry continued as if trying to figure it all out while he spoke, sliding off of Draco and lying back beside him on their robes, “that must be what we both want, since we’re both, a, two people who hate each other, and, b, straight. Right.” He looked over at Draco, a foreign, haunted longing in his eyes. “Is that how you’d put it?”
Draco sat up. “Well, I think we might ought to rethink the straight part,” he said hoarsely, rolling over and cupping Harry’s chin in his palm. Harry looked at him warily.
“And what about the hating each other part?” he said softly.
A surge of emotion clenched Draco’s throat and made it difficult for him to breathe as he looked at Harry. Suddenly, without knowing what he was doing, he was bending his head and he was kissing Harry, kissing him fully, on the mouth, and he knew the moment their lips met that he had been waiting for this kiss for hours, months, maybe even years.
After a surprised second or two Harry’s lips parted and he responded with a moan, and suddenly they were kissing even more hungrily than they had fucked, drawing each other close, moaning into each other’s mouths, tasting and stroking one another’s tongues, trying to make up for seven years with one kiss.
And doing a very, oh so very good job of it.
“Malfoy, I’m sorry,” Harry murmured against Draco’s lips.
“Then so am I.”
“I like kissing you,” said Harry earnestly.
“You’re not drunk?” Draco was dizzy all over again.
“No.” Harry sighed and pulled him closer. “No way.” He kissed his way over Draco’s jaw line.
“Thank you for not getting killed,” Draco murmured muzzily. He turned his head and sought Harry’s lips once again.
“Did you think I would give up and let Voldemort take over?” Harry hummed into the kiss, pulling Draco on top of him.
Draco ran his tongue over Harry’s lips. “Screw Voldemort. I just didn’t want to see you give up on everything else.”
“But I haven’t. I’m here.” Harry nuzzled Draco’s neck. “What are you going to do tomorrow?”
Draco didn’t want to think about tomorrow, so he sought to distract Harry by kissing his way across his collarbone.
“Malfoy…” Harry sighed deeply and ran his hands through Draco’s hair. “Are you going back to the Manor?”
“I’m not sure.”
“What were you going to do, wander the streets?”
Draco flushed slightly. “I thought of taking a flat in London.”
Harry blinked at him serenely. “You could take a flat near me.”
“Are you sure that’s smart?”
“Is it smarter than letting you hide away in the Manor after we’ve only just—” Harry looked consternated, then ended, “begun?” on a supremely indignant note.
Draco laughed, then found himself being thoroughly snogged.
“You’d make an excellent Auror,” said Harry breathlessly when their lips parted. “Everyone knows that. If you talked to Dumbledore—you’d just have to do the training, pass the exam, and then name your position.”
“I shouldn’t have to talk to Dumbledore.”
“No, but it’s a compliment to your skill that one talk is all it would take.” Draco started to balk, and Harry looked put out. “Malfoy, if you don’t talk to him, I will. You should be an Auror.” He hesitated and then pouted beautifully. “Besides, I’d rather work with you than anyone. If you aren’t there they’ll likely pair me up with Neville Longbottom. You don’t want me paired with Neville Longbottom, do you?”
Draco smiled at this, then considered, and finally let out an exasperated sigh. “Potter, are you sure this is such a good idea? I mean—you won’t wake up in the morning and decide you just made the biggest mistake of your life?”
“Do you think you will?”
“That’s not the question, git.”
Harry’s expression grew very serious. “I won’t, Malfoy.” He reached up and ran his hand tenderly over Draco’s cheek, tracing his features. “I think this is the best decision I’ve made in a while.”
“It’s not morning, yet.”
“Then ask me again when it is.”
“I like kissing you, too.”
“Then I think you’d better do it again,” murmured Harry. Draco obliged.
It was the kind of kiss that could change plans.
Notes: Thanks to Anna and to Rach for pep-talking me through writing this. The significance of Wormwood and Asphodel has nothing to do, oddly enough, with the draught of living death. Wormwood represents absence, Asphodel a memorial sorrow. The Tea Party is a Canadian band. “Apathy” is from their album Interzone Mantras. The reference to Verbal, Keaton, and Kobayashi is from the movie The Usual Suspects.