Renaissance

December 6th, 2004

Harry woke up. At least, he thought he was awake. It was hard to tell, because everything was strange. Waking up had been like pushing through layers of stifling cloth, as if sleep tried to keep him in its grip by using brute force, making him struggle to shake off its greedy hands.

When he opened his eyes his sense of the bizarre only increased. Everything was fuzzy and he could not quite focus. After blinking for a few minutes, he decided it was because his glasses were off, although things had never been quite so blurry before.

At least the blurry images that met his eyes were familiar. He recognized the curtains surrounding his bed. The red was patterned with a gold fleur-de-lis design and tied back with braided golden cords. He and Ginny had picked them out. He smiled at the memory and his face felt stiff at the movement, as though he had not smiled in a long time.

He focused on the light beyond the curtains, trying to determine the time of day. Early morning? He lifted a hand—or tried to lift a hand. Panic set in immediately when his fingers barely twitched. What the hell was wrong with him? He tried to lift his hand in earnest, concentrating hard, and managed to raise his palm off the mattress. He let it drop, shaking with effort.

Was it a spell? What had happened? He cast his mind back to the night before, combing his memory. For some reason his memory seemed as unclear as his vision. It finally came to him, sluggishly, like a dream. He had been with Ginny. Merlin! He had married Ginny! The thought would have made him bolt upright, except that he could barely move. His body only shivered slightly and a moan burst from his throat.

He remembered saying I do, and then a burst of light had exploded around him—or in him. So. A spell then. But who had cast it, and why?

A face appeared in his vision and he blinked several times, trying to focus.

Harry?” a voice cried, tinged with astonished disbelief. “Merlin, you’re awake! You’re actually awake!” Arms enveloped him right when the face began to swim into view. Harry shut his eyes in frustration, trying to place the voice. Male, obviously, and familiar… but not completely. Not Ron, at any rate.

The man pulled back quickly with a cough. “Sorry, I forgot myself for a moment. Let me fetch Muddy and Pans. Bloody hell, the damn thing worked!” Harry blinked again, but only caught a glimpse of blond hair and dark robes as the man fled. Blond? It was none of the Weasleys, then. Was it a medi-wizard? Why was he at number 12, Grimmauld Place if he had been hit with a spell? And why was he too weak to move?

Harry struggled to sit up to no avail. The best he managed was to scoot nearer the edge of the bed and wear himself out in the process. He heard a loud shriek and then pounding footsteps down the hall before a woman burst through the door and leaped upon him.

“Harry! Oh my god, I can’t believe it! Harry, it’s really you, you’re awake!” It was Hermione’s voice. Harry could not see her through the smothering embrace, but he recognized the scent of lavender that surrounded her.

“He won’t be awake for long, Muddy, if you asphyxiate him,” a dry tone commented.

“Oh, shut up, Draco,” she said, but sat back. Harry gaped at her and not merely because of her words, although those caused Harry’s gaze to snap to the blond man beyond her shoulder. Draco Malfoy?

“What…” he began and was shocked at the sound of his voice. It was raspy and barely audible. “What is going on?” He started to cough and Malfoy snapped his fingers. A house-elf appeared next to the bed.

“Ibby, fetch Harry some water. Bring a pitcher,” Malfoy ordered.

Harry looked at Hermione and wondered if he had awakened in an alternate universe. Bloody hell, what had she done to her hair? The normally frizzy mass had been hacked to near shoulder-length and coiled into neat ringlets. She looked… utterly grown up and almost beautiful. She noticed his perusal and smiled, raising a hand to touch her hair.

“Like it?” she asked. “I finally gave in to Draco’s bloody nagging and went to see Madame Shirer last year. I think she did a fabulous job, even though I hate to give credit to the Walking Ego for directing me to her.”

Harry shut his eyes and gave more credence to the alternate universe theory, considering she had mentioned Malfoy’s given name more than once, and spoke as if they were old friends. A pop announced the return of the house-elf and Harry opened his eyes to see Malfoy taking the glass. The blond moved forward and knelt on the edge of the bed before sliding an arm beneath Harry to raise him into a sitting position.

“Malfoy? What the hell—?” he managed before the glass was placed against his lower lip and liquid trickled into his mouth.

“Hush now,” Malfoy said in a soothing tone. “Drink. It will take you a while to get used to speaking again, not to mention moving your limbs.”

Harry gave up worrying about the incongruity of Draco Malfoy being nice to him and concentrated on the water. It felt delightfully cool and soothing and he realized he was parched. He drank greedily.

“Easy,” Malfoy said gently. “It’s been a long time. You might feel nauseous if you drink too much.”

Harry reluctantly stopped when the glass was nearly drained and allowed Malfoy to lower him back to the pillow. “A long time? What do you mean?” His voice was still rough and he thought he saw Malfoy send a glance to Hermione, but he wasn’t sure. “Where are my glasses?”

“Glasses? Where are those, Muddy? I haven’t seen them in years,” Malfoy’s voice was serious and Harry’s brow furrowed at the bizarre quality, not to mention the words themselves.

Hermione said, “They are in the bedside stand, Draco, please. Have you never looked in there?”

“Why would I?” he said with a sniff, but got to his feet and pulled out the drawer. He reached in and acquired Harry’s glasses, which he handed to him. “A bit outdated, but they never were attractive, were they?” The drawling tone sounded much more familiar and Harry began to believe it was really Malfoy, rather than George Weasley or Ron having him on.

Harry slid the glasses into place and drew in a gasp when he focused on Hermione. It was not only her hair that was different. She simply looked more… mature. His eyes narrowed and he turned his attention to Malfoy. The git looked the same and yet… not. He seemed taller and less thin and pointy. His hair was glorious, no longer slicked back against his skull, but cut attractively to fall over his brow and cascade in gentle waves to his shoulders. If he had been anyone but Malfoy, Harry might have described him as devastatingly handsome.

Hermione reached out and grabbed Malfoy’s hand suddenly, as though seeking reassurance. Rather than pull away or make some snide comment, Malfoy squeezed her hand and stepped closer to her.

“What the hell is going on?” Harry demanded. “Where’s Ginny?”

The glance that passed between Hermione and Malfoy was anything but reassuring. Harry closed his eyes, suddenly terrified to hear it.

“All right, out of the way. Did my patient actually wake up? I don’t believe it.” Harry cringed inwardly. The voice was also familiar, but in no way welcome. He reluctantly opened his eyes to see Malfoy being shoved aside by a dark-haired woman. Oh, Merlin, please no. Not Pansy Parkinson.

But Pansy it was. She leaned over him with a wand and began to cast a series of spells. Harry made a terrified squeak and looked at Hermione for assistance, but other than watching Pansy warily, she seemed undisturbed.

“Are you trying to make sure he’s awake?” Hermione asked caustically.

“Shut up, Granger, and let me do my job.”

“You haven’t done your job in five years. Do you still remember how?”

“You were never amusing at Hogwarts and that hasn’t changed, Granger.”

“How is he, then?” Hermione asked archly.

“If you would stop mooing long enough for me to concentrate, perhaps we will both know,” Pansy snapped.

“Do I need to spray you both down with ice water?” Malfoy asked sharply and both women pursed their lips, but stopped the verbal sniping. Harry wished to know what the hell was going on. Why was Pansy Parkinson acting like a medi-witch?

“Hermione, what is she doing?” he asked.

“Here’s the thing, Potter,” Pansy said briskly. “You’ve been in a coma for five years and just woke up today, thanks to someone in this room acting like a complete imbe—”

“You bloody heartless bitch!” Hermione shrieked. “You can’t just blurt it out like that!”

Pansy rolled her eyes. “I just did.”

“OUT! Both of you!” Malfoy bellowed. Both women glared at him, but the blond Slytherin looked furious. “Let me talk to Potter. Alone.”

Harry tried to reach out and grab Hermione’s hand as she got to her feet, but his limbs refused to obey his orders. His fingers brushed against hers as she rose and stepped away. “I’ll be back soon, Harry. I need to go tell the others you’ve awakened. And to try and keep it out of the media for as long as possible.”

“See that you do,” Malfoy said in a warning tone.

Pansy sighed and rolled her eyes. “He seems fine with the limited spells I cast.”

“Just go.”

“All right, but I’ll be back.” Pansy stalked after Hermione and the door slammed behind them, leaving Harry alone with Draco Malfoy.

~~*~~

Draco pressed his fingers into one aching temple when the girls departed, fighting another stellar headache. He massaged the ache for an instant, prolonging the moment when he would have to face the Saviour. Potter said nothing, making it easier for him to collect his thoughts.

He finally dropped his hand and forced a pleasant smile as he turned to face the terrified looking Gryffindor. Draco felt a wrench of pity despite himself.

“What did she mean?” Potter asked softly. “Is this some sort of horrible joke?”

Draco sat gingerly on the edge of the bed. He had done so a thousand times in the past, but it felt markedly different with Potter awake. He shook his head. “Pansy was telling the truth in her less than subtle way. You have been sleeping, in a manner of speaking, for just over five years. What is the last thing you remember?”

Potter’s eyes were astoundingly green, Draco noticed. They had been closed so long that he had forgotten, but now the green was startling in its brilliance as Potter’s eyes widened and widened… Oh shit, he was panicking. The emerald began to roll up into Potter’s head and Draco leaned forward to grip his shoulders.

“Oh fuck, stay with me, Potter! Stay with me, come on, you can deal with this! Compared to the Dark Lord, this little period of senselessness is nothing!”

Draco shook Potter and then slapped him sharply on one cheek. To his surprise, the green returned as Potter focused. Draco nearly sagged in relief.

“It can’t be true,” Potter whispered. “It can’t.”

Draco’s grip loosened slightly and he sighed. “You married Ginny Weasley on June 17th, 1999. As soon as you uttered your wedding vows, you collapsed and fell into a comatose state. Today’s date is December 6th, 2004. It’s all true, Potter. I’m sure Muddy… I mean, Granger will validate it all when she returns.”

“Not Granger,” Potter said. His voice was still a barely audible murmur and Draco reached for the glass of water. “She married Ron, so it’s Weasley.”

“Well, technically, I suppose, but she generally goes by Granger since the divorce.”

Potter goggled at him and Draco frowned, wondering if the man would survive the information Draco had yet to impart.

“Divorce? They divorced?”

Draco nodded. “Would you like all the bad news at once or do you prefer that we dole it out in small doses?”

Potter’s lips thinned into a grim line. “Tell me. I most likely won’t believe you, anyway. Why did Hermione leave you here with me? Why does she even…?” The last question trailed off into a fit of coughing and Draco slid back onto the bed to raise Potter back to a sitting position. He held the glass and allowed Potter to drain it before setting it aside and brushing the hair out of Potter’s eyes. He was overdue for a haircut, Draco noted absently.

“Quite a lot has happened in the past few years. I’m certain your primary concern is your former wife.” Potter stiffened at the word former and Draco continued, “According to Wizarding Law, if a marriage has not been consummated within three years, the vows are dissolved and the marriage is annulled. Muddy—Granger—says it hearkens back to the Crusades, when girls would marry a knight before they rode off to fight in the Holy Land. If the knight did not return within three years, she would be free to marry another.” Draco spoke in a soothing tone, hoping the brief history lesson would give Potter something to focus on besides his loss.

“I would have wanted her to get on with her life,” Potter said roughly. “In case I never woke up.”

“That’s what she said.” Draco’s grip tightened briefly on Potter’s shoulders. “And so she did. Ginevra Weasley married a medi-wizard named John Silverstein last year.”

“I think you can let go of me,” Potter said dryly, acting as if he had not heard Draco’s words at all. “I don’t plan to commit suicide, especially since I can barely move. Why are you here, anyway? Are you the designated bearer of bad tidings?”

“Partially, I suppose. You already hate me, so if you decide to take out your rage on the messenger… Well, let’s just say I would not exactly be missed.” He removed himself from Potter and eased the dark-head back onto the pillow, avoiding his green eyes.

“So, I’m not married,” Potter said quietly. “And neither are Ron and Hermione.”

“Correct. I will let Muddy regale you with that tale. I’m sure you would prefer to hear it from her.”

Potter turned his head away as if examining the wallpaper on the far wall. “Five years,” he murmured. “Merlin. And Ginny… remarried.” Something resembling a sob startled Draco and he took a step forward, but Potter’s face turned back to fix him with an intense gaze. The green was bright with unshed tears, but burned with fierce determination. “You said I fell into a comatose state. Why? Was it a spell?”

Draco nodded. “We determined that it was a very old spell. Rather tricky to cast, actually. The spell could have been cast upon you at any time in the past decade and was something like a latent virus, waiting in your system until certain conditions were met. Muddy believes your wedding vows were the trigger.”

“Why do you keep calling her that?” Potter snapped, sounding very much like his old self for the first time.

Draco laughed. “That is a story for another time. I believe your well-wishers are about to arrive.” He stepped away from the bed as the door banged open once more to disclose an explosion of Weasleys.

“Harry!” George cried. “I can’t believe you’re awake!” Molly and Arthur were next, and Molly sobbed brokenly while cradling Harry’s near-lifeless body. For once, she seemed at a loss for words.

“Harry, my boy!” Arthur said in a hushed tone. “Oh, Harry, it’s so wonderful. Ron is on his way. He dropped everything as soon as he heard the news.”

Draco hung back near the window, uncomfortable as always with the bustle and boisterousness of the Weasley family. He felt a tug on his sleeve and looked down into an earnest face beneath a tumble of dark auburn locks. “Unca Draco, why’s everyone crying?” He smiled and knelt down to pick up the only tolerable Weasley—Hugo Draco Weasley. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the chit carried his name.

“Hugo, those are just happy tears. Your Uncle Harry just woke up from his long long sleep. Would you like to meet him?”

Blue eyes widened in terror and Hugo shook his head vehemently. Draco grinned and hugged the boy. “All right, then. How about we go downstairs and hit up Kreacher for some fruit tarts?”

Hugo nodded and buried his face in Draco’s neck. Glad for the excuse to escape, Draco headed for the door with his four-year-old burden and nearly bumped into Hermione.

“Oh! Draco, do you want me to take him?” she asked, but her gaze was already leaping toward the bed.

“We’re fine. Hugo and I have a craving. Where is Rose?”

“Still shopping with Fleur.”

“That’s right. Call me if you need me.” Draco bypassed Hermione and went out.

“Bye, Mummy!” Hugo called as they passed her.

“Don’t eat too many sweets!” she admonished as they reached the stairs and descended.

Draco made a scoffing sound. “As if there is such a thing as too many sweets.” Hugo giggled and held him more tightly, almost assuaging Draco’s incumbent feeling of loneliness.

~~*~~

Harry felt his world steady into a more normal rhythm as the Weasley’s crowded around him, overwhelming the bizarre presence of Draco Malfoy and the words Harry still hoped were fables. He scanned the faces around him, searching for Ginny, but Molly Weasley all but stifled him with a gigantic hug before bursting into tears.

George and Arthur spoke, uttering words of gratitude and amazement that Harry barely registered. His attention was snared by Malfoy picking up a redheaded boy and snuggling him tightly. Harry frowned. Was it Malfoy’s child? The blond started out the door and paused to speak to Hermione. Their conversation seemed relaxed and casual, as though they talked to each other on a regular basis.

Malfoy departed with the child and Hermione hurried forward to join the others surrounding Harry’s bed.

“I’m so glad you’re finally awake, Harry. What did Draco tell you?”

Harry’s lips thinned. “He told me that my marriage was annulled and that Ginny wed someone else. A medi-wizard.”

Molly threw herself forward again, sobbing in earnest. “Oh, Harry! She never would have done it, except that she gave up hope! You were out so long and no one could even determine the cause! The Ministry gave up and we… Please forgive us, Harry. Everyone but Ron and Hermione stopped believing.”

“And Draco,” Hermione said quietly. “Draco never quit.”

Molly’s head rose and she wiped her tears away. “Yes, of course,” she said, but Harry thought she did not sound convinced. He wondered when Hermione had turned into a staunch ferret supporter. Thankfully, the others still seemed to have their heads on straight.

“It’s true, then?” Harry asked quietly. “She’s moved on?”

Molly made as if to envelop him again, but Arthur thankfully wrestled her away to make room for Hermione, who sat on the edge of his bed. “It’s true, Harry. I’m so sorry, but I think you’ll like John. He was assigned to you for almost a year, which is how he and Ginny became so close.”

Harry scowled, in no mood at all to hear what a wonderful man his wife had married. “Malfoy also said you and Ron divorced.”

Hermione blanched and Molly frowned. There was obviously tension between the two women and Harry thought back to the time Molly had snubbed Hermione because of a story in the Daily Prophet. How much worse would it be if Hermione had tossed aside one of her sons?

“It’s true, but we’re still fast friends. I think we get on much better now that he doesn’t have to listen to my nagging.” She laughed in a self-deprecating fashion. “Of course, we have to behave like adults for Hugo and Rose.”

Harry was not quite ready to deal with any new names. “Malfoy said I was in a coma because of a spell. Who cast it?”

Hermione’s eyes met Arthur’s and he answered, “We don’t know, Harry. The Auror Department is mystified. Every clue we thought we had turned into a dead end.”

Five years?” Harry said. “My life is ruined and you don’t even know who did this to me, or why?”

“Your life is not ruined, Harry. It will just be different than you expected,” Hermione said pragmatically.

George smacked him on the shoulder. “And you’re still rich, Harry. I kept you on as part owner and we’re rolling in it now. I even opened a branch in Hogsmeade last spring. Took over Zonko’s actually, after nearly putting them out of business.”

“I… I have a lot to take in right now. I’m feeling really tired. Do you mind…?” Harry knew he was probably being rude, but he wanted to leap to his feet and scream in rage. His inability to do so would probably cause him to weep hysterically and he wanted no witnesses to that sort of weakness.

“Of course, Harry. I’ll send Ron in as soon as he arrives. I’m sure Pansy will want to check you out more thoroughly before you rest.”

“Pansy? She is…?” Harry had no intention of allowing the Slytherin woman near him with a wand again.

“She is your medi-witch, Harry. She has been for three years, actually. As much as I despise her as a person, I have to admit she is a decent medi-witch.”

George snorted a laugh. “From Death Eater wannabe to Healer. I still think she went into the profession to learn sneakier ways of killing people.”

“George!” Arthur said in a shocked tone, but Hermione chuckled.

“And Malfoy?” Harry asked reluctantly, although he was almost afraid to ask. “Is he a Healer, too?”

“Didn’t he mention it?” Hermione asked. “He is the Ministry’s prize Curse-Breaker. He is the one responsible for bringing you back.”

After tearful hugs, the others promised to drop in daily. George left a small parcel for Harry, filled with “goodies” that Harry was almost afraid to open. He knew George would find it amusing to welcome him back with something bizarre or revolting.

Pansy returned as the three Weasleys departed. He found it hard to believe that the pug-faced girl was now in the business of helping people. Her lips were set in a thin line as she cast what seemed an endless series of spells.

At last she sat back and looked at Hermione. “As far as I can tell, he should make a full recovery, after physical therapy, of course. His organs are all responding well and his heart seems to have withstood the shock of learning his dearest love tossed him aside for another.”

“Pansy!” Hermione admonished angrily.

The black-haired woman rolled her eyes. “I thought you damned Gryffindors were supposed to be faithful unto death and all that. She should have known the Chosen One would come out ahead in the end. He always does.”

“Ginny had her reasons!” Hermione snapped.

“Yes, I suppose a handsome walking, talking man is far better than a vegetable, even if he is the Saviour.”

“That’s enough!”

“Fine,” Pansy said with a sneer as she got to her feet. “But I’m sure Potter agrees with me.” She flounced out with a swirl of sapphire robes and Harry wondered what Malfoy ever saw in the unpleasant girl. He drew in a breath. Were she and Malfoy still together? Had they gotten married?

“Ignore her, Harry. She’s just bitter and rude beyond imagining. Why we’ve put up with her this long I’ll never know.”

“Are Pansy and Malfoy…?”

Hermione blinked at him. “Draco?” She laughed. “Heavens no!”

A house-elf popped in with a tray full of food. The instant he saw it, Harry realized he was famished. “Ibby is bringing food for Master Harry. Master Draco says Master Harry is to be eating it all, especially the red meats and the broth.”

“Thank you, Ibby,” Hermione said and took the tray. The elf disappeared.

“Malfoy brought his own house-elf? Here? Where is Kreacher?”

“Kreacher is still here, but you know he is nigh unto useless. Ibby keeps the place spotless and she can prepare edible meals.”

“What about S.P.E.W.?” Harry asked before Hermione shoved a bit of roast beef into his mouth.

“Believe me, I fought Draco tooth and nail for months over it. Sometimes I think he lives merely to annoy me. Now, however, he needs Ibby…” She trailed off and shoved another forkful of food at him, preventing questions. “Never mind. Enough about Draco. Let’s concentrate on making you well.”

Harry sighed and concentrated on his food, knowing he had years worth of questions yet to be answered. Hermione refused to say anything more. She fed him until he could eat no more and then shut the bed curtains and let him sleep.

~~*~~

Draco stood over the bed and watched the moonlight play over the features of the risen hero. Potter was dreadfully thin. They had only managed to keep him alive for the past half decade, it was impossible to keep him healthy.

He brushed the hair out of Potter’s eyes with a grimace.

“What’s wrong?” Hermione asked.

“I can’t cut his hair any more,” he said softly. Her hand reached out and gripped his arm sympathetically. He shrugged. “No matter. You’ll just have to learn to do it.”

She snorted. “I think I’ll Apparate him to the hairdresser. I doubt any of us would like the results of my attempt.”

“Are you still irritated that I cast the spell?” Draco asked smugly.

She sighed. “It’s nice to have Harry back, I admit. But the cost, Draco. Damn it, you still should have waited until we found the book.”

“We’ve been looking for it for months and Harry would not have lasted much longer. You know his time was running out.”

“It could have killed you!” she snapped. “It was stupid of you to risk your life when I was not even here.”

“You would have argued me out of doing it. Besides, his life is worth more than mine. He has people to save and kittens to rescue. I’m just an ex-Curse-Breaker and Death Eater.”

“You were never a Death Eater.”

“My Dark Mark begs to differ.”

“Enforced servitude is nothing but slavery!” she snapped and Draco laughed at her. “What?”

“Potter will not be amused to find that you are my biggest supporter. Or, my only supporter aside from Pans.”

“Harry will get used to it, especially after he learns about your sacrifice.”

“He will never learn about that,” Draco snapped.

She rolled her eyes. “How do you plan to keep it from him?”

“By the time he learns of it, he will be well and back in the Auror Department, regaining his life and forgetting all about me. Until then, your Unbreakable Vow should keep you quiet.”

“I think you should just tell him,” she growled.

“He will heal faster if he continues to hate me. He needs a focus for his anger and I have no problem providing that focus.” Draco grinned at her wickedly.

She punched him in the arm and he glared at her. She had always been a physical little bint. “Men are utterly stupid,” she said.

“I believe you mention that at least ten times a day.”

“Because you keep proving it correct.”

“Shut up, Muddy. Go get some sleep. I’ll watch over the Chosen One.”

She planted a kiss on his temple and gave him a quick hug before he could wave her away in annoyance. “Goodnight, Draco.”

~~*~~

December 9th, 2004

Harry glared at Malfoy and suppressed a cry of pain as the blond’s fingers dug into his thigh muscles and squeezed.

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” he snapped.

The grey eyes flicked to his, glowing with amusement. “Of course not. I’m just a Curse Breaker. Would you rather have Pansy do this?”

Harry’s glare grew even more venomous. “She hates me more than you do,” he muttered. It was just his luck to have two hateful Slytherins as his medi-witch and physical therapist, although why Malfoy volunteered for the job was something he had yet to determine.

“Pansy is good at her job because she knows how to delegate,” Malfoy explained. “Besides, my hands are stronger. I’ve managed to keep your muscles supple this long. If not for me, you would not have nearly as much movement as you do now.”

Which is still next to nothing, Harry thought, but he made no comment. He knew Malfoy was right and any negative commentary would only make the blond find another knot of pain to twist. Besides, it did feel good when Malfoy massaged him. He might be a ruddy bastard, but his hands were magical. After three days, Harry was nearly past feeling awkward at Malfoy’s touch.

“When do I get to try magic?” he asked. “I know you and Hermione have been whispering about it behind my back. Just let me try it and get it over with. Where is my wand?”

Malfoy squeezed the muscles above Harry’s knee, nearly making him jump out of his skin. He cursed and Malfoy chuckled. “I don’t know. Muddy tucked your wand away for safekeeping ages ago. It’s probably in your vault at Gringott’s to keep it safe from souvenir hunters.”

“I’ll send Kreacher to fetch it for me,” Harry suggested obstinately.

Malfoy rolled his eyes, an expression Harry saw at least a dozen times a day. He had started a game of seeing how many times he could force the blond to make the gesture. Seven, he tallied with a mental grin.

“Ibby!” Malfoy called suddenly and the female house-elf popped in obediently. “Fetch my wand.”

She disappeared and Harry barely had time to wonder why Malfoy wasn’t carrying his wand before she reappeared. Malfoy handed the hawthorn stick to Harry, who looked at it in surprise.

“This is your old wand!” he said.

Malfoy coughed. “Yes, well, I found it sometime during my first week here. I reclaimed it.”

Harry grinned. “Well, I always planned to give it back to you.”

Malfoy blinked at him. “You did?”

Harry scowled. “Of course. You think I planned to keep it out of spite?”

“I would have.”

“I’m not an evil Slytherin git,” Harry snapped.

“No, you’re a helpless Gryffindor who can’t move.”

Harry cast a Stinging Hex. The words came sluggishly from his memory, but the magic coursed through him and sang through the wand. He did not remember Malfoy’s wand being so responsive. The blond yelped and leaped away from the bed, rubbing his arm.

“Fuck! That hurt!”

Harry laughed as relief flooded through him. He had been terrified that the spell and the coma had affected his magic. He cast a Lumos and then sent a shower of bubbles spraying from the end of the wand. Malfoy batted them away and then snatched the wand from him.

“Enough. Apparently you are still the most powerful wizard that ever lived,” Malfoy drawled and tossed the wand on the bedside table. “You still can’t move.”

Harry lay back as the blond attacked his calves, feeling better than he had since he revived from the coma. He could already move his arms and now he could do magic. Soon he would be walking and then he could reclaim his place in the world.

Kreacher appeared at that moment. “Master Draco, Ginny Silverstein is being downstairs wanting to see Master Harry.”

Harry frowned, not only at the news, but at Kreacher’s disturbing tendency to defer to Malfoy as the master of the house, rather than Harry. He supposed it was only natural after taking orders for so many years, but it was still annoying. Grimmauld Place belonged to Harry, after all.

Malfoy sighed. “I suppose we can’t put the tearful reunion off forever. Are you ready for her, Potter?”

Harry nodded, even though he was not completely certain how he felt about seeing Ginny again. He had wrestled through his emotions in the last few days, running the gamut from anger to sorrow and back again. He didn’t blame her for moving on… and yet, he did. It was perplexing.

She appeared in the doorway and took a tentative step inside. “Harry?” she asked quietly. He looked at her in surprise. For some reason, he had not expected her to change, but she most definitely had. Harry realized she had still been a girl of barely eighteen when their vows were spoken. Now, at twenty-three, she was most definitely a woman. She had also chopped off her long auburn hair. It hung in layers around her face, making her look like someone else completely.

“Ginny?” he asked.

“Oh, Harry!” She rushed forward and embraced him, burying her face in his neck. “Harry, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”

Harry lifted his arms and held her gently, feeling a curious sense of detachment. He supposed he had gotten used to the idea that she was forever out of reach. Oddly, he also felt a bizarre relief at not being married. At the time, it had seemed like the right decision, but after seeing what happened to Ron and Hermione, he was not as certain. What if he and Ginny had gone the same route, arguing and sniping at each other until it all became too much?

Ron had stopped in for a brief reunion and explained the situation. He had gotten a job offer from the Chudley Cannons and Hermione had wanted him to be more responsible. They had fought long and hard about Ron’s desire to quit his job at the Ministry, until he had finally taken the bull by the horns and fled to join his beloved Quidditch team. They had divorced soon after, but gradually rebuilt a semblance of trust and friendship.

“Can you forgive me, Harry?” Ginny begged, dragging his mind back to the present.

“Um… yes, of course,” he said and looked over her shoulder, seeking some sort of help from Malfoy, but the Slytherin was gone.

~~*~~

Draco walked slowly down the stairs, wondering why the presence of Harry’s former paramour disturbed him. Did he expect Harry to win her back from her new husband? He supposed it was more than likely.

John Silverstein waited in the living room, looking as nervous as Draco felt. He smiled shakily at Draco as he lifted a hand in greeting.

“Draco. How goes it… up there?” He jerked a head toward the upper reaches of the house. “Do you think Harry will try to… you know, kill me, or something?”

Draco grinned at the thought of Potter flying into a killing rage and taking out someone as nice as John. “I think you’re safe enough from Potter at the moment. He can’t even walk yet and I took away his wand. If you hear him crawling his way down the stairs I’m sure you’ll have time to Apparate to safety.”

John’s brown eyes narrowed. “You’re not funny, Draco.”

“Don’t worry about Potter. He’s far too noble to blame you for stealing his fiancée. Or wife, or whatever she was.”

John sank down on the couch and buried his face in his hands. “She still loves him. I’m sure of it.”

Draco sighed and walked over to put a hand on John’s shoulder. He had to admit, the Healer was an apt substitute for Potter. He was friendly and honourable to a fault. “How about a drink?” Without waiting for a response, Draco poured two shots of Firewhiskey over ice. He and John made small talk until Ginny returned. She looked pale, but composed, and hurried over to hug John tightly. Draco heaved a mental sigh of relief.

“Let’s go home,” she said firmly. John nodded and gave Draco a feeble grin before they Disapparated. Draco restrained himself from running back up the stairs to see how Potter fared. Barely. Instead he walked up sedately and hovered in the doorway for a moment.

Potter looked fine. No tears, no histrionics, nothing but the glare Draco saw nearly every time he looked at the Gryffindor. He smiled. “Happy reunion?”

“Fuck you, Malfoy. Let’s get on with this idiotic physical therapy so I can get the hell out of this bed.”

“As you wish, Potter.” Draco flexed his fingers and prepared for his new favourite hobby—torturing Potter in the name of wellness.

~~*~~

December 15, 2004

Harry clenched his jaw as Malfoy bent his leg back until his heel pressed hard into his right arse cheek. He had learned early on that complaining about any treatment caused Malfoy to gleefully repeat it until Harry wanted to scream from the pain. Today was not a particularly excruciating exercise, it was mainly embarrassing, since he was currently covered in mud from neck to ankles.

“Are you sure this is beneficial, or do you just want to humiliate me?” Harry asked as Malfoy released his leg and reached out to bend the other one in the same pattern.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I have nearly as much mud on me,” Malfoy drawled. Harry craned his head to look over his shoulder. It was true, Malfoy had mud nearly up to both elbows. He also had a huge streak on one cheek where he must have swiped his hair away from his eyes. Harry faced forward again so the blond would not see him smirk.

“What are you doing for Christmas, Malfoy?” Harry asked and suppressed a sigh when the stretching portion of the torture ended and his favourite part began—the massaging. Now that his muscles were growing and strengthening, it no longer felt like Malfoy was rubbing raw tendon against bone with his massages. Instead, every stroke soothed the aches and pains caused by Harry struggling to force his body to obey.

“Probably spending the day with Pansy at some expensive chalet in Switzerland.” Malfoy sounded perfectly bored with the idea.

“I thought you two were no longer an item.”

Malfoy snorted. “An item? Heavens, no. How stupid do you think I am? In case you haven’t noticed, there is not exactly a queue of men lined up to subject themselves to the endless torment of Pansy’s love. Ergo, I tend to spend the holidays soothing her wounded ego.”

And his own, Harry thought sagely, wondering that he had heard nothing about Malfoy’s love life since his awakening. At first he had thought the blond was merely being close-mouthed, but now it seemed there was really no one special in Malfoy’s life. Harry thought it was strange, considering how handsome he was. And he was even almost nice once in a while, sometimes.

And he had the hands of an angel.

“How about you, Potter?” he asked, shaking Harry from his reverie, which was an excellent idea, considering he had been thinking of the blond in a positive light, something to avoid at all costs.

“I’ve been invited to the Weasleys,” he said and then realized he sounded just as unenthused as Malfoy had.

“That should be fun,” Malfoy said blandly.

“Yes, it should!” Harry retorted defensively.

They maintained a tense silence while Malfoy’s hands worked over the muscles of Harry’s back, pressing out the knots he had accumulated while trying to stand—a waste of effort, as it turned out. Malfoy had informed him that it would likely be months before he could walk again.

A crash sounded from downstairs and Malfoy sighed. He got to his feet and walked to a nearby wash basin just as loud shrieking began. “I’ll be right back, Potter.” The blond scrubbed his hands and departed, despite Harry’s protests.

“Damn it, Malfoy! What about all this mud?” He dropped his head to the pillow with a groan, knowing he was going to become stiff as a statue before Malfoy returned. Luckily, he was spared turning into a statue when Hermione bustled into the room.

“Bloody Hugo!” she cried. “That boy can get into ten times more trouble than any child alive. I swear I need to keep him away from George forever. Thank Merlin for Draco or I might hex the little monster into a turnip until he’s twenty.”

“What did he do now?” Harry asked with a grin. Hermione’s children were adorable, except that they spent most of their waking hours trying to destroy one another. Rose pelted into the room and hid behind Hermione’s skirts.

“Mummy! Hugo mean!”

Hermione sighed heavily. “Yes, dear. I’m certain Uncle Draco is punishing Hugo appropriately. By now he has rescued your stuffed kitten from the noose. You might want to fetch Fluffers and return him to your bedroom where he will be safe from your brother.”

“Harry dirty,” Rose said seriously, staring at Harry with wide eyes.

“Very dirty, which is why he is going to take a bath. Would you like a bath, Rose, darling?”

“Gonna get Fluffers!” Rose said quickly and scampered from the room.

Harry chuckled, not envying Hermione her boisterous children. It was interesting how they both deferred to Draco. They actually obeyed the blond better than their own father. Ron tended to act like one of their siblings whenever he showed up.

Hermione Levitated Harry from the massage table to the heated tub. It was much faster than Malfoy’s preferred method of wrestling Harry from place to place with his own two hands. For a pureblood, the blond had developed a strange habit of using no magic whatsoever. Whenever Harry asked him about it, he always replied with, “Shut up, Potter.”

Harry soaked in the bubbling hot water and sighed as the mud sloughed away. He admitted that it might have had some medicinal value—his skin always felt tingly whenever Malfoy applied the stuff.

“Would you like to go Christmas shopping, Harry? Or do you prefer that I pick something up for you when I’m out?”

Harry’s eyes widened in panic. Other than his conversation with Malfoy, he had barely thought about the upcoming holiday. Now he had to think about purchasing gifts for people he no longer knew. “I don’t think I’m quite ready to go out in public, Hermione,” he admitted.

“We can go places that you won’t be recognized,” she suggested.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Where would that be? Morocco?”

“Well, Morocco is nice this time of year and the shopping would be very exotic.”

“How about if I just make you a list? In fact, maybe you could just do some shopping for me and withdraw the Galleons from my account?” He suggested the last hopefully.

“Harry, you have to let the world know you’re back sooner or later.”

“Later,” he said flatly. “When I can stand on my own two feet.”

~~*~~

Draco hated the holidays. He missed his parents on occasion, but during the holidays the packages he received from Brazil only made him remember the times when his mother would shower him with gifts and his father would chide the house-elves until the Christmas decorations glittered from the tree in gleaming perfection.

This holiday was even worse than usual. Pansy had jaunted off to Paris with some new fling she had picked up while shopping. The boy was barely nineteen years old! Draco thought about warning him, but he supposed all people had to grow up sometime. The poor lad would be jaded unto death after a week with Parkinson.

Draco sighed and knocked back the rest of his drink. He supposed he was just jealous. Her little boy toy had been gorgeous, except that he was far too pale. Draco preferred them darker and not quite so waifish. He thought about sliding his hands over corded muscles and tucking them into thick black hair… and shut that idea down before it got started.

He was not about to start thinking about Harry Potter in that way. Just because the Gryffindor was beginning to look less like a skeletal refugee from a third world nation and more like the fit Auror-in-training he had been prior to his brush with death, well it was no reason to start pining for the heterosexual hero of the world.

Kreacher popped up at Draco’s elbow with the Firewhiskey bottle. “You’re a damned fine elf, Kreacher,” Draco said and tried to hold the glass steady while the house-elf poured. The fairy lights from the Christmas tree gleamed, turning the ice cubes in Draco’s glass into tiny prisms. “Happy Christmas.”

“Happy Christmas to you, Master Draco,” Kreacher said morosely and disappeared.

Potter was gone, at any rate. Off to join the Weasley clan and leave Draco in the empty house. He wondered why he even stayed here. At first it had only been practical, as he and Granger spent more and more time researching the curse and tending to Potter. Granger owned a house somewhere in the country, even though she never went there. She and the children and Draco lived at Grimmauld Place with Potter. Pansy, of course, refused to spend one moment longer in the dusty old house than necessary. She owned a flat in a higher class area of London.

When the glass had been properly topped off, Draco took another sip and looked at the collective gifts stacked beneath the tree. Most of them were for the children. Draco spoiled them mercilessly, mainly to annoy Granger, but also because he had grown rather insanely fond of them.

They always spent the holidays with their father and the other collective Weasleys, returning sometime nearer New Year’s Day in order to open Draco’s gifts and run through the house banging their new toys and gizmos until the adults’ heads were ready to split open.

Draco realized he missed them terribly. He even missed that idiot Potter and his constant complaining about Draco’s treatments. He set the glass on the tea table and picked up Potter’s wand. Hermione had retrieved it from Potter’s vault, much to Draco’s annoyance.

“He’s been asking about it!” she had protested.

“He’s using my wand just fine!”

“When are you going to tell him why?”

Draco waved Potter’s wand toward the tree. “Wingardium Leviosa!” he cried and laughed bitterly. It was just as well nothing happened. Ibby and Kreacher would not have been pleased to clean up broken ornaments. Draco tossed the wand back on the table. His wand, Potter’s wand… they were all useless to him now.

He sank back into the cushions to wait out another lonely Christmas. Stupid holidays.

~~*~~

Harry tried to suppress his nervous tension for the fiftieth time as Hermione patted his hand. These people were practically his family, why was he so edgy? He decided it was mainly due to the fact that it was his first visit out of the house.

“You look fabulous, Harry.” Despite her words, she reached out and smoothed the hair out of his eyes with a frown. “It’s too bad Draco is not able to cut your hair. He used to do such a wonderful job of it…” Her mouth closed so sharply that her teeth clicked together and she straightened. “Hugo! Rose! It’s time to go.”

The children bounded down the stairs and Hermione tsked over a smudge on Hugo’s arm and adjusted Rose’s dress robes. “All right, now you two will be on your best behaviour, is that correct?”

“Yes, Mummy,” they intoned in unison and then Rose’s eyes widened. “Floaty chair! Floaty chair! I wanna floaty chair!” She hurried toward Harry and began to climb up his legs, but Hermione snatched the girl.

“Rose! You will not climb on Harry. He needs the chair because he cannot walk quite yet.”

“I’ll give you a ride when we get to your grandmother’s house, okay?” Harry offered with a grin. Rose beamed and bounced in place.

“Into the Floo with you, Harry. I’ll toss the powder when you’re ready.”

After one last look into the interior of the house, Harry guided the chair toward the flames. He frowned and wondered what sort of plans Malfoy’s evening included. Harry knew Pansy had jaunted off to France with her recent plaything, but Malfoy had refused the idea of accompanying them to the Weasleys’.

“Please, Potter, drowning in Weasleys is not a pleasant way to spend a holiday. Run along and try not to miss me too much.”

“The Burrow!” Harry said loudly as the red powder swirled around him. He refused to admit that he missed Malfoy already.

The evening was both better and worse than Harry had anticipated. Ron and George were there already. Ron greeted him enthusiastically and George thrust a cup of mulled wine into his hand. Hoards of children overran the place and Rose immediately forgot her intent to ride Harry’s floaty chair.

Harry was unprepared for his first sight of Teddy. His godson was accompanied by Andromeda Tonks and looked almost like a young adult in his proper robes. His hair was a sedate brown, although Harry caught him turning it bright green for Hugo when his grandmother was not watching.

Teddy shook Harry’s hand as he was introduced and the first bout of crushing sadness gripped him. He had missed his godson’s childhood almost completely. The six-year-old had no idea who he was. Harry should have been there for his first lost tooth, his first broom ride, and his first foray into Diagon Alley.

Ron rescued him from encroaching depression by pushing his chair toward the newly arriving Weasley’s, namely Bill and Charlie. Fleur greeted Harry by kissing both cheeks and introducing Victoire, who was a lovely wraithlike child with long golden hair. A younger boy toddled after Victoire and Harry thought his name was Etienne or something similar. Bill held a baby that he thrust into Harry’s arms.

“Better watch out, Harry,” Bill said with a laugh. “You’re a bit of a stationary target. You could be up to your eyes in children by the end of the evening.”

Harry held the baby awkwardly, hoping he didn’t drop her. His arms were not yet reliable. Fleur threw Bill an annoyed look. “Come to Mama, Aimee. Your fazher did not mean to drop you on poor ‘arry like zat. Welcome back to us, ‘arry. We ‘ave missed you.” She took the baby girl and joined the female Weasleys in the kitchen.

Harry relaxed somewhat and tried to remember the names of George and Angelina’s brood, but there were at least six thanks to a double set of twins, and they all spent so much time running amok that it was impossible to grab one for more than a moment or two. He was introduced to Charlie’s Romanian girlfriend, a devastatingly pretty blond who looked like she could take down a dragon with a glare and spoke barely a word of English.

Ginny appeared after Harry had thankfully downed two more cups of wine, so he felt relaxed enough to finally meet John Silverstein, who shook his hand almost reverently and apologized profusely. He seemed to be a nice enough fellow, after all.

The meal was excellent, as always, and Molly beamed from the head of the table. Harry tried to feel like a part of the huge family, but a slow sweep of his eyes around the table only left him empty. Molly and Arthur exchanged smiles of pride as they surveyed their brood. Bill and Fleur canoodled like newlyweds, George and Angelina exchanged secret smiles and had their heads together almost constantly, and Ginny and John seemed to be truly in love, although they seemed afraid to display their affection too obviously. Charlie’s girlfriend hung on his every word as if the sun rose and set at his command. Even Ron and Hermione snuggled together like lovebirds and giggled at the antics of their children. Surrounded by friends, Harry suddenly felt more alone than ever.

After dessert was consumed and the adults sat around sipping coffee, Ginny suddenly got to her feet and made delicate throat-clearing noises until George stood up and banged on his water glass with a spoon. “Oi!” he yelled. “Baby sister has something to say!”

“Thank you, George,” Ginny said with a wan smile. “I want to announce…” She looked at John and gripped his hand. “We want to announce… Well, I’m going to have a baby.”

Molly’s shriek drowned out every other reaction at the table and Harry was grateful for the distraction. It was as if the bottom had dropped out of his world again. Hermione’s fingers dug into his arm almost painfully, but she said nothing. Harry could feel Ginny’s eyes on him and he forced a smile.

“Congratulations,” he said and raised his glass, attempting a normal tone. Her smile faltered and then broadened as she was enveloped in her mother’s hug. She’s lost to me. Ginny is lost to me forever. Harry supposed he had not actually accepted it until that very moment. He watched her bask in the excited adulation of her family. The room was suddenly suffocating.

Harry could not remember how he survived another hour, although excessive consumption of alcohol helped. He forced smiles, shook John’s hand, accepted a tearful kiss from Ginny and sympathetic handshakes from her brothers. All the while he wanted nothing more than to go home. He wanted to see Malfoy. He wanted to scream at the blond and throw things and cast hexes and make a huge petulant nuisance of himself.

“Are you all right, Harry?” Hermione asked worriedly.

“I think I’m celebrated out,” he admitted. “Do you mind if I go home? I’m exhausted.”

“I’ll Floo you home. Do you want to say goodbyes?”

“That would take an hour. Can you just let everyone know?” he begged. Secretly, he suspected no one would notice he was gone. She nodded.

“All right. Do you want me to stay with you?”

“No. I’ll be fine.”

The fireplace expelled him into the living room at Grimmauld Place and he saw Malfoy lounging on the couch with his bare feet propped on the tea table. A glass dangled from his fingers. It looked nearly empty.

“Potter!” Malfoy cried. “How wasser evening?”

He’s drunk, Harry thought in amazement. It was confirmed when a pale hand patted the couch cushions.

“Come si’ with me, Potter. Hava drink. Celebrate the fucking holiday.”

Harry propelled the chair closer and Malfoy’s overly bright grin widened.

“Ah shit. You can’t join me, eh? Prolly don’t want to, anyway.”

“I’ll join you,” Harry said quietly. “If you can help me out of the chair.”

Malfoy’s glass slammed against the table, making Harry jump as the blond got to his feet. “Don’t worry, Potter, we’ll have you outta that chair in no time.” Malfoy rounded the table, banged his knee on the edge, and sprawled over Harry, who gripped Malfoy’s sombre black robes to keep him from toppling.

Malfoy chuckled against Harry’s shoulder. “Are you okay?” Harry asked.

“Fine. Fine fine fine fine. You’re sorta soft for a bony, underfed git.”

Harry shoved him away weakly, but Malfoy only regained his feet and then stooped to haul Harry bodily to his feet before dragging him over the table to the couch. This time it was Harry who sprawled over the blond.

“There ya go, Potter. Comfy?”

“Not really, no,” Harry admitted into Malfoy’s collarbone. His pelvis rode uncomfortably high on Malfoy’s thigh and his arms held onto the blond’s ribs lest he slide sideways onto the floor.

“Oh all right,” Malfoy said and laughed. He spent a few minutes arranging Harry in a proper sitting position and then snapped his fingers and demanded Ibby obtain fresh drinks for them, especially since their antics had knocked Malfoy’s partially empty glass onto the rug.

“Hey! My wand!” Harry cried, spotting his wand on the edge of the table. He leaned forward to snatch it up, but instead lost his balance and bashed his forehead into the table. Malfoy tsked and eased him back into place.

“Are you all right?”

Harry nodded, even though it hurt like the devil and he saw dark spots before his eyes. When he could focus again, he lifted his wand and cast a Levitation Charm on the Tea Table. The wand almost seemed to fight him and the table lifted mere inches before dropping with a thud. Harry stared at his wand in surprise. “What the hell?”

“Try it with my wand,” Malfoy suggested. Harry pulled out the hawthorn wand and cast the same spell. Energy exploded from the wand and sent the table soaring nearly to the ceiling. Harry gasped. He turned to Malfoy only to find the blond watching him with the oddest expression. Harry’s question faltered and died. “What?” he whispered instead.

A smile curved Malfoy’s lips and Harry noticed the fairy lights from the tree made Malfoy’s hair gleam like a multicoloured halo. His eyes were half-lidded and a faint blush seemed to tint his cheeks, likely an after-effect of the alcohol. “You’re really rather cute, Harry.”

“Oh bloody hell, you must be drunk,” Harry muttered and looked away. He felt heat suffuse his face and idly stroked the wand with his fingers before he realized what he was doing and jammed it away with a gulp.

Malfoy’s fingers trailed over his scar. “Does it hurt?” the blond asked in a low tone that sent tendrils of heat sliding through Harry.

“My scar?” Harry asked in confusion. Malfoy removed Harry’s glasses and tossed them on the table.

“Your head, dumbkins, where you hit it on the table.”

Harry found it difficult to speak with Malfoy still looking at him that way and now with his fingers touching him in a soothing manner. “Um… no.”

“I’ll kiss it better, anyway,” Malfoy said and leaned forward to press his lips against Harry’s scar. Harry forgot to breathe. Malfoy’s mouth was cold from the ice in his drink and actually felt quite soothing on Harry’s bruised forehead. Malfoy’s fingertips touched the edge of his jaw and manoeuvred Harry’s face around. Their eyes locked for an instant and then Malfoy’s lips touched his.

It was a soft kiss, gentle and non-threatening, something Harry would never have expected of Malfoy. Not that he ever would have expected a kiss from Malfoy! He must really be drunk, Harry thought in bemusement. And I am, too.

Harry closed his eyes and sank into the kiss, curiosity driving him to evaluate and compare it to other kisses he had known. With a frisson of shock, he realized it had been five years since his last kiss and that one had been with Ginny on their wedding day. The thought nearly shocked him away, but Malfoy’s fingers tightened and guided him onward even as his tongue trailed over Harry’s lips, inviting them to open.

Harry let them part and his pulse leaped with confusion. I shouldn’t do this, he thought, and then rationality deserted him as Malfoy’s tongue played over his in a teasing fashion, gliding over erogenous zones and setting fire to his nerve endings. Malfoy tasted of Firewhiskey and chocolate. Harry drank him in, allowing the bliss of being kissed to override his reservations. After a few minutes, he decided that Malfoy was a brilliant kisser. Absolutely brilliant.

Harry broke away suddenly, finding it hard to breathe. Malfoy’s half-lidded eyes were shining brightly and his lips were wet and looked almost bruised in the twinkling light. Harry acknowledged that the blond was incredibly beautiful. He also knew it would be a huge mistake to keep kissing him, particularly since Malfoy would not remember a moment of it in the morning.

“Why does your wand work better than mine?” Harry asked.

Malfoy’s predatory smile widened and then he guffawed. He buried his face in Harry’s shoulder and started to shake with laughter. Harry frowned for a moment and then realized what he had asked. About to protest, he grinned instead and soon he was giggling insanely with the Slytherin.

“When did you stop hating me?” Harry asked when their laughter had subsided.

“I still hate you, Harry,” Draco said and yawned. He looped an arm around Harry’s shoulder and pulled him close. Harry sighed and rested his head on Malfoy’s shoulder. They watched the tree in silence for a time. Malfoy’s chest began to rise and fall in a slow, even rhythm and Harry realized he was asleep. He snuggled closer to the blond and shut his eyes, knowing he was stuck where he was for the evening. For some reason, he didn’t mind.

~~ * ~~

Draco woke up with a blinding headache. He also felt like a twelve-stone weight perched on his chest. He opened his eyes reluctantly and saw a dark ceiling high above, which was spectacularly unhelpful. And what was that irritating flashing light? He lifted a hand and was surprised to discover he was still dressed. His other hand was tangled in something. He pulled, trying to untangle it, and someone shifted over him. Draco blinked. Apparently the twelve-stone weigh was a person.

Draco’s hand was caught in that someone’s hair, so Draco used it to pull the head up. Green eyes opened and met his sleepily. Oh shit. He had fallen asleep with Harry Potter. How the hell had that happened?

Potter grinned and closed his eyes. “Morning,” he mumbled. “I think.” Draco’s hand relaxed and Potter’s head snuggled back into its place on his chest. Draco realized his headache had just increased a hundredfold and now nausea was beginning to set in.

“Ibby,” he croaked. The house-elf appeared with two potions already in hand. Smart house-elf. Draco had chosen well. He opened his mouth and Ibby poured the anti-nausea potion down his throat, followed by the worst-tasting potion ever invented—the hangover remedy.

After a moment, the worst of the effects passed. Draco’s headache remained, but it had dulled to bearable levels. Time for him to backtrack. He remembered sitting in front of the tree, drinking heavily, and feeling sorry for himself. He did not remember Potter appearing at any time during the evening.

“Um… why are you sleeping on me, Potter?” he asked politely while wondering how to move the man.

“Can’t walk,” Potter mumbled.

Well, yes, there was that, he supposed. “And why are you here?”

“You made me sit with you last night. Don’t you remember?” Potter shifted once more and Draco realized he made a rather nice blanket.

Draco tried to remember. The night seemed to be nothing but a dark blur with moments of coherency. “You hit your head?”

“Um hum,” Potter agreed.

Draco had a vague recollection of that. He drew in a sudden breath as he thought about soft lips pressing against his. Had he kissed Potter? Or had that been a dream? Draco’s brow wrinkled. He debated asking Potter, but decided that would be an infinitely bad idea. If he had done something abysmally stupid the night before, it would be obvious enough by Potter’s behaviour.

“Do you want to get up now?” Draco asked, striving for a normal tone of voice.

“I guess,” Potter mumbled. Draco rolled over and deposited Potter on the floor. “Hey!” The green eyes snapped open and fixed Draco with a glare.

“Sorry. Fastest way to get you up.”

“I’m not up. I’m down.”

“All right. Let’s get you back into your chair. Do you need a hangover remedy?” Draco asked the last hopefully, thinking if Potter had been as drunk as him he probably would not remember anything, either.

“I don’t think so. I didn’t have a headache until I landed on the floor.”

Draco frowned and reached down to slide his hands beneath Potter’s shoulders. He hefted the Gryffindor into a sitting position.

“Why don’t you ever Levitate me like Hermione does?” Potter asked grumpily. “Wouldn’t it be easier?”

“Do I criticize the way you do things?” Draco countered.

“All the time!”

Draco hoisted Potter partially over his shoulder and climbed unsteadily to his feet. The Gryffindor was definitely heavier than when he had first awakened twenty days prior. He was no longer a skeletal waif. Draco deposited Harry into the floating chair with a sigh of relief.

As Draco made certain all of Potter’s limbs were positioned properly to avoid cramping, Potter asked, “Are you taking me up to bed?”

Draco’s eyebrows shot upward and his gaze snapped to Potter’s face, but the oblivious man was rubbing his eyes and yawning. Draco felt his heart drop back down into his chest where it belonged. For sleep. Potter was tired and wanted to sleep. Draco’s relief wrestled down his disappointment and squashed it into oblivion.

He retrieved Potter’s glasses and then guided the chair back to Potter’s room. Luckily stairs were no obstacle for the spelled chair. Potter allowed Draco to heft him into bed, but Draco felt far too awkward to undress him. Potter frowned when Draco called Kreacher in to help him.

“Sorry, Potter, I’ve got a bit of a headache at the moment. I’m going to go lie down.”

“Malfoy?”

Draco paused in the doorway without looking back. “Yes?”

“Happy Christmas.”

“Happy Christmas, Potter,” he said softly. With that Draco escaped.

January 17th, 2005

“You aren’t ready to walk,” Draco said.

“I want to walk,” Harry said obstinately.

“And I want to live in Malfoy Manor instead of here, but that isn’t going to happen, now is it?”

Harry scowled. He was tired of the blond constantly twisting his words into a play for sympathy. “That has nothing to do with the subject at hand.”

“Of course it does. Wishing for something will never make it happen.”

“I know that!” Harry snapped. “You have to work for it. Well, I’ve been working for it and I want to walk!”

“Your muscles are not strong enough.” Malfoy’s face was taut. They sat in what Malfoy referred to as the Torture Chamber and Harry had yet to refute the title. It contained his most favourite and least favourite items. The best was the massage table, followed by the soaking tub. The worst was the set of ropes attached to magical pulleys and weights. Those and the iron bars were Harry’s nemeses.

He glared at Malfoy and tightened his grip on the bars. It would be much easier to attempt if Malfoy would help him, but the blond’s lips were set in a thin line of disapproval. He knew there would be no help from that quarter. Setting his jaw stubbornly, Harry dragged himself to his feet using every available muscle.

He began to shake uncontrollably after his arse lifted barely two handspans from the seat. The fact that Malfoy was right made Harry even angrier and more determined to prove him wrong. He strained harder, using arm muscles he had thought were back to normal. Long minutes of struggling brought him only a thumb width higher.

“Harry, stop,” Malfoy said calmly.

“I have to do this,” Harry snarled through clenched teeth. His sweaty hands began to lose their grip on the bar and he felt himself slipping backward. He released it in defeat and sagged back into the chair. He wanted to weep in frustration.

“Give it time, Potter. It’s only been a month. You were out for five years.”

Harry hated the sympathetic tone in Malfoy’s voice. He hated showing such weakness before the blond. He hated that Malfoy had no memory of their drunken Christmas kiss, and he especially hated that he could not seem to forget it.

“Fuck you, Malfoy,” he said venomously, but the blond seemed to be in no mood for fighting.

“Come on, you probably strained something acting like an imbecile. Ibby, please put Potter on the table.”

Harry glared at him again. “Why don’t you ever do it?”

“I’ve put you there dozens of times, Potter,” Malfoy said with a sigh and pretended to ignore him by checking the bottles on the wall rack. Harry was snapped into the air and deposited lightly on the massage table. Harry fairly gnashed his teeth in annoyance. There were too many questions that had no answers. Why did he never see Malfoy using magic? Why did his old wand barely work for him, while Malfoy’s old wand worked famously? Why did Hermione allow Malfoy a house-elf? Why were they even friends?

Harry bit his lip to stop the queries from bursting forth. He did not dare irritate the blond now, not when—oh, Merlin, yes. He barely repressed a sigh of delight when Malfoy’s hands slid over his back, covered in soothing oil.

“Bloody hell, Harry, your idiocy is still intact, I see.” Malfoy’s long fingers moved to Harry’s shoulders and dug expertly into the tender areas, loosening knots. “You nearly tore something. Can you feel this?” Harry winced when Malfoy pressed a particularly painful spot. “If you insist on acting like a Gryffindor and letting your determination override your intelligence, I will have nothing further to do with you.”

Harry’s eyes flew open. “What do you mean?”

“I have no intention of wasting my time trying to heal you if you insist on destroying yourself.”

“I’m not trying to destroy myself! I just want to walk again.”

“Understandable. But you must acknowledge your limitations and accept that it will take some time.”

Harry sighed and relaxed further under Malfoy’s glorious touch. He nearly moaned when the blond started on the muscles of Harry’s lower back. Malfoy was a bloody god at times like this.

“Why are you wasting your time trying to heal me?” Harry asked, giving voice to a question that had been puzzling him. Malfoy was a Curse-Breaker, not a medi-wizard. He should have no further interest in Harry now that the spell had been broken.

Malfoy’s hands froze and Harry almost regretted asking. He nearly swore aloud when Pansy breezed in.

“How is my least favourite patient today?” she asked airily.

“Obstinate and foolish,” Malfoy replied, but his hands resumed their movement.

Pansy performed cursory diagnostic spells, sniped verbally at both he and Malfoy, and generally made Harry want to get up from the table and throttle her. Instead he tried to block out her voice and eventually fell asleep under Malfoy’s ministrations.

February 14th, 2005

February’s dreary weather suited Draco just fine. As Valentine’s Day rolled around, Draco found himself growing morose and borderline depressed. Hermione tried to cheer him up, but she had never been very good in the cheer department.

“Look!” she said brightly. “Your mother sent you a huge box of ridiculously expensive chocolates.”

“Merlin, hide those from Pansy,” Draco muttered from his post on the window seat. The rain hammered against the panes, making visibility impossible, but he was not seeing the vague London skyline anyway.

“And my children,” she added. “And probably Harry, as well.”

Draco grimaced at the name. As if called, Potter the Prat glided into the room and asked, “Talking about me behind my back?”

Draco rolled his eyes and thought, not for the first time, about putting some sort of warning bells on Potter’s chair. He would have abandoned his post if he had known the irritating man was going to disturb his brooding.

“Of course, Harry. You are our favourite subject, you know,” Draco said dryly. “We seldom talk about anything else.”

Harry’s venomous glare gave Draco a warm feeling inside and he smirked before dismissing the Gryffindor and staring back out the window once more.

“Narcissa sent Draco some chocolates, Harry. I think Molly sent something for you, also. There are a couple of packages on the hall table. I believe Ibby has planned a special dinner for this evening, so I hope you’ll humour her.”

“Of course I’ll… Wait, that makes it sound like you won’t be here,” Harry said and Draco’s head snapped around curiously. Hermione blushed.

“Well, I have a date, of sorts,” she admitted.

“A date?” Draco asked in surprise.

“With who?” Harry asked.

“With Ron. But don’t tell the kids! I don’t want them to get their hopes up! It’s just… well, we’ve been corresponding by owl for a while now and we’re getting along better than we have in a long time.”

Harry beamed. “That’s great!”

Draco made a scoffing noise. “Great,” he said dryly.

“Oh, shush.” Hermione threw a grin his way and Draco sighed heavily before turning back to the window once more. “You know Ron’s not that bad.”

“Highly debatable,” Draco muttered.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Harry gushed. Draco’s jaw clenched. Of course he would. Potter would be more than thrilled to have his two best friends back together again. They could be the happy little trio once more and Draco could go fuck himself. He scowled, realizing his grim mood was growing worse. Bloody Valentine’s Day.

He pushed himself to his feet and stalked by the two peppy Gryffindors. “I’m going out,” he snapped. “With any luck I won’t be back this evening. Have a good time, Muddy.” He ignored Harry completely as he strode through the door.

~~ * ~~

Harry heard the front door slam and felt his heart constrict.

Hermione sighed. “Poor thing. He always says that and yet he always comes home alone. I personally think his standards are too bloody high.”

Harry concealed a sigh of relief at her words and tried not to think too much about why he hoped Malfoy was luckless once again. “Why does he call you Muddy?” He had meant to ask the question a dozen times, but the timing had never been fortuitous.

Hermione grimaced and then laughed. “You would never guess. We went hunting for potion ingredients in the forest one day and I fell straight into a puddle of mud. I didn’t dare cast a Cleaning Charm because we had collected trillium nectar—you know it has to remain isolated from magic or the essence will change. Draco called me Muddy the entire day. By the time we got home the name had stuck.”

“I thought the origin would be much worse,” Harry commented.

She grinned. “That’s why it amuses him.”

Harry looked at the door and wondered why Malfoy had stormed off. Not for the first time, he wondered if Malfoy had designs on Hermione. They got on so famously these days, sometimes they even completed each other’s sentences. It would explain Malfoy’s dark-cloud mood swings. Harry supposed he ought to feel sympathetic at the thought of Hermione and Malfoy together. The children already adored him. He nearly asked if she had ever felt romantically inclined toward Malfoy, but he choked off the question, not wanting to spoil her evening with Ron.

Instead he asked, "When did you become so close? You used to hate him. Remember when you punched him in fourth year?"

Hermione laughed. "He was such a prat in school. It wasn't easy to get over that, let me tell you." She sat down in the window seat that Malfoy had vacated and looked pensively out the window. "I hated that the Ministry assigned him to your case. We fought bitterly at first, over everything. He wanted to 'put you out of your misery' and I wanted to do anything to keep you alive. When he couldn't break the curse, or even find the spell, I became even more livid. I thought we might kill each other."

She was silent for a long time, so long that Harry wondered if she would continue. Just when he made to speak, she said, "I was pregnant at the time. Seven months I fought with him, argued with him, goaded him and hexed him. It was awful. And then came the terrible night when Hugo was born. It was so unexpected; he was weeks early. I was at home alone, because Ron was working at the Ministry. I was supposed to meet Draco for another round of yelling at each other over our inability to determine why you could not be awakened. When I did not show up on time, he Apparated straight to the house, intending to berate me. Instead he found me unconscious in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor."

Harry gasped and she nodded. "He managed to stop the bleeding and get me to St. Mungo's. I still don't know how he did it—Apparating could have killed me and Hugo for certain." She smiled softly. "After that, things were different between us. He was so much kinder and he doted on Hugo."

"It didn't hurt that you named Hugo after him, eh?"

Hermione laughed. "Yeah, I'm sure that made things easier."

After their rather enlightening conversation, Hermione went off on her date-of-sorts with her ex-husband and Harry went to bed early. He did not sleep a jot until he heard footsteps on the stairs. He thought he heard them pause outside his door, and then the portal to Malfoy’s room opened and closed down the hall. Harry cast a Tempus Charm and noted clinically that it was just after 10:00. Surely if Malfoy had met someone he would not have left them so soon? Although he told himself he didn’t care one way or the other, Harry breathed a sigh of relief and let himself drift off to sleep.

March 8th, 2005

“I think I’ve found a copy of the book!” Hermione said happily and flung her arms around Draco’s neck.

“Bully for you, Muddy,” he said dryly and patted her arse in a friendly fashion.

She yelped and smacked his hand. “Stop that,” she said. “I’m almost in kind of a relationship now.”

“You’re not my type.”

“I know that,” she said with a grin. “Tell me; what is your type, Draco? I’ve been looking and so far you seem too choosey to ever settle down.”

“Why would I want to settle down?” He scoffed and adjusted one of the bars to make it slightly more difficult for Harry to lever himself from his chair.

“Perhaps not settle down, then, but at least find a special someone.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, Muddy, there are not a lot of people willing to even entertain the possibility of a relationship with a former Death Eater. Why do you think my parents fled to South America?”

“Yes, but—”

Draco held up a hand. “Combine that with my adorable new status of—”

“Don’t say it!” she cried. “You must have faith that we can help you. I mean, after what you did for Harry, we have to. We just have to!”

She looked near to tears and Draco relented. “All right.” He sighed. “Where is this book you think you found?”

“It’s in Pakistan, of all places. I’ve sent letters to every professor I can think of trying to locate a copy. The fact that the damned thing is Dark Magic has not impressed a few of them, I can tell you. Did you know I received six Howlers last month alone?”

Draco smirked. “Yes, the one you received from Leona Lee Hammond was rather creative.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “Pretentious bitch! Imagine her calling me a Dabbler in the Dark Arts. Me!”

Draco made a shocked noise. “Indeed? The presumption! Does she not know you are the very Psion of Gryffindor Morality? The rock upon which Potter the Perfect stood during his defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? The absolute model of womanly—”

A small fist punched him painfully on the arm before Hermione doubled nearly over with giggles. “You are simply wretched. Although it is a dreadful shame that I’m not your type.”

“Why, Muddy, I’m flattered.”

“I’ll pretend you are serious for the sake of my ego. Anyway, the Pakistani archaeologist has promised to try and dig up his copy of the book. He is almost certain he has it locked away somewhere, although the old dear seems a bit scattered.”

“Whatever.” Draco shrugged.

“Are you all right?” she asked, watching him closely. He forced a smile.

“Never better,” he lied.

She threw her arms around his neck in a habit that was a disturbing cross between endearing and irritating. “I do love you, you know,” she said.

A gasp near the door made them both start. Potter looked positively ill. “What’s wrong?” Draco asked him sharply.

“Nothing. Sorry, I’ll um… be in my room.”

Hermione frowned when Potter disappeared down the hall. “Perhaps I should talk with him.”

“Leave him alone. If he wants to jump to ridiculous conclusions, let him.”

She looked concerned, but he asked a question about the elusive book and she quickly forgot about Potter in her excitement about the lost tome.

April 21st, 2005

Harry tried to forget about the scene he had witnessed between Draco and Hermione, which became easier when he threw himself into rehabilitation. Oddly, his favourite part of the therapy routine had become his least favourite—Malfoy had largely turned over massage therapy to Hermione without explanation. Her skill left much to be desired; sometimes Harry felt she did more harm than good.

He knew his sense of loss was foolish, but admonishing himself did nothing to quell the anger. He and Malfoy could seldom be in the same room for more than half an hour without engaging in a shouting match. Even so, Harry was thankful that be blond never let his rage propel him from the house. He seemed determined to see Harry well, no matter the cost.

Hermione’s fingers dug into his bicep and he winced, thinking longingly of Malfoy’s sure touch.

“You seem down, lately,” Harry commented, hoping to take his mind off the torture. “What’s wrong? It is Ron?”

“Hmmm? Oh no! Ron and I have been fabulous. I finally realized I was wrong to keep him from fulfilling his dream. It was wretchedly selfish of me—he is so happy playing Quidditch.”

Harry frowned. “What is it, then?” Could she be in love with Ron and Malfoy? Was she upset because Malfoy did not return her feelings? Harry had witnessed her confession and it was plain to see the affection between them, even if Malfoy did not love her in the same way.

“To be honest, I have been searching for an old book. I thought I finally located it last month, but it turned out to be a dead end.”

Harry nearly laughed, but he rolled over and stared at her. “A book?”

She scowled at him. “It’s a very important book, Harry.”

“Why?”

Her eyes slid away from his. “Just research.” He looked at her searchingly. Everything about her screamed that she was lying.

“Research for what?” he asked suspiciously.

“Oh my, was that Hugo?” she countered. “I’ll be right back.” With that, she bolted. Harry groaned and dropped his head, wondering how long he would have to wait before she returned. He was not tired enough to fall asleep.

Surprisingly, he heard footsteps only a few moments later. He smiled, intending to pursue his line of questioning. “Research for what?” he repeated.

Strong hands gripped the muscles below Harry’s neck and his eyes flew open. “What are you prattling about?” Malfoy asked.

Harry tensed, but relaxed almost immediately when Malfoy took over where Hermione had left off. He groaned involuntarily when the blond’s strong fingers pressed into a tender spot.

“Bloody hell, what has she been doing? You are knotted up like ship’s rigging.” With that, Malfoy set to work in earnest, kneading, pushing, and pulling Harry’s flesh into an exquisitely pliant bundle of languid heat. He relished every moment of Malfoy’s ministrations and nearly bit his lip in half to quell the moan of pleasure when the blond began to work on his buttocks and upper thighs. Harry had seldom felt self-conscious when Malfoy worked on him in the past, but something had markedly changed since that damned Christmas kiss. Now it seemed that every errant touch was a caress and that Malfoy’s digits lingered too long in between strokes. Harry knew it was nothing more than wishful thinking, and stupidly wishful thinking, but it did nothing to stop the tendrils of delight that wormed their way through his midsection and made his cock ache uncomfortably from where it compressed between his pelvis and the table.

“Shall I do the front?” Malfoy asked.

Harry drew in a shocked breath. “Merlin, no!” he said and then tried to cover his outburst. “I mean, I’m far too comfortable to move at the moment. Can you give me a few minutes?” Harry’s panic helped to deflate his erection, but one of Malfoy’s hands still rested on the curve of his lower back, countering the hysteria. He struggled to think unsexy thoughts. And why the hell did he want Malfoy to touch him, anyway? The question was counterproductive; apparently linking the words Malfoy and touch together in any fashion caused erotic impulses to careen through his blood. Harry thought he might start to hyperventilate.

“Fine. Would you like to try the bars again?” Malfoy’s tone was level and even. He removed his hand from Harry’s skin, thankfully, and Harry’s heart began to beat at a more normal rate. He pictured his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon coupling to produce the wonder that was Dudley—an image that destroyed his erection immediately and possibly permanently. He let out a shaky breath and pushed himself into a sitting position, dragging the sheet over his lap in the process.

~~ * ~~

Draco pretended to check the bars and ran a shaky hand over his forehead, brushing the hair back from his face in what he hoped was not a nervous gesture. He had largely stopped giving Harry massages because his libido neared the breaking point every time. Harry had filled out in the past few months, growing toned and muscular. Every touch of his hands over Harry’s skin was fresh torment. Draco wanted to follow his fingers with his tongue and explore every inch of Harry’s body. He could barely sleep, knowing his dreams would be filled with images of Harry, waking him in a cold sweat more often than not.

Behind him, Harry spelled himself into the chair. The Gryffindor was becoming more self-sufficient these days. Soon he would not need Draco at all. He frowned at the maudlin thought.

“Do you know what book Hermione is searching for?” Harry asked and Draco turned an amused gaze on him. Potter had spelled on a pair of trousers, but nothing else. Draco frowned at the continuation of his torment.

“She is always searching for some book or another.”

“I know, but she seems particularly upset about this one. Do you happen to know what she is researching?”

“I’ve no idea,” Draco lied smoothly. “Are you ready for another go?” He indicated the bars to keep Harry from doggedly following his path of questioning.

Harry nodded and manoeuvred his chair over to the bars. He braced himself and lifted his weight from the chair without much difficulty. His arms had become quite strong, although he still tended to lose his grip at unexpected moments. Harry held the bars tightly and his shoulder muscles flexed as his arms supported his entire weight. As Draco watched, Harry’s thighs grew taut and strained against the dark fabric of his trousers.

“You can do it,” he murmured. Harry’s gaze rose and locked with Draco’s. His arms slowly relaxed as more and more of his weight centred on his legs. Draco moved closer in order to catch Harry should he fall.

Soon Harry’s legs supported his entire weight and he shifted his hands slowly forward along the bar as a prelude to taking a step. Draco grinned encouragingly and tried to remember to breathe, although why he was so tense was beyond him. They had been in this position dozens of times in the past month—Harry standing and then taking a tentative step only to collapse in frustration and climb up to try it again. Each time it was nerve-wracking for Draco.

Impulsively, he held out his hands, something he had never done before. “You can do it,” he repeated. “Come on.”

A familiar look of determination crossed Harry’s handsome features and he shifted all his weight to one leg before sliding his left foot forward a handspan. His right thigh began to tremble, but not as much as yesterday, Draco thought.

With Harry’s left foot planted, the dangerous shift from one foot to another began with gravity fighting to pull him down. You can do it, Draco chanted silently, willing Harry onward. Draco stretched out his hands a bit farther, not quite close enough yet to touch Harry’s fingers still grasping the bars.

Draco held his breath completely as Harry’s right foot shuffled forward. Merlin! He had made a full step! With agonizing slowness, Harry’s weight shifted again and then the left foot dragged forward again, never quite leaving the floor, but gaining a step nevertheless. Sweat beaded the Gryffindor’s forehead and his legs were visibly aquiver. Draco knew it was nothing but sheer stubbornness that held Harry upright for the third and final step. Three steps to triumph before his body gave out and he collapsed in Draco’s arms.

Draco held his dead weight and actually bounced his slightly as he laughed in delight. “Harry! You walked! You did it! You bloody well did it, you crazy, stubborn, incredibly lucky prat! You actually did it!”

Harry’s arms tightened around his neck and hot breath panted into his hair as Harry laughed with him. “Thanks to you.”

Draco froze at the words and walked Harry backward a few steps to ease him back into the chair. As the black-haired man settled into the seat, Harry’s green eyes met his seriously. His hand rose to touch the side of Draco’s face as though he were a skittish horse that needed taming. “Thank you,” Harry said quietly and Draco could think of nothing to say, lost in green and the incredible feeling of Harry Potter expressing thanks with a sombre gaze and a soft touch.

He grinned to cover his confusion and said, “We should celebrate.”

Harry laughed. “How?” His hand fell away as Draco stepped back, not trusting himself to lean so close to Harry when he was in such a giddy mood.

“Let’s go out.”

Harry drew in a shocked breath. “Out? Out where?”

“You’ve been trapped in this bloody house for months. You need some fresh air and so do I. Leave the details to me.”

“Wait, I don’t want to be recognized yet! Not until I can walk more than two bloody steps!”

Draco straightened. “I said leave the details to me. Get your arse into the tub and soak for a bit. I’ll fetch you when you’re dressed.”

~~ * ~~

Harry looked at himself critically and then glared at Malfoy, who burst into yet another round of chuckles.

“It’s not that funny,” he said defensively.

“I suppose it’s just odd,” Malfoy said through a huge grin. “You were never meant to be a blond.”

Harry ran a hand through his blond locks and had to admit he looked strange, albeit quite a lot handsomer than expected. Ibby had cast a Glamour Charm on him that would apparently last a day or so. Another Charm concealed the scar on his forehead. Malfoy had replaced his dark spectacles with a lightweight silver pair that Harry liked so well he thought he might keep them. All in all, he was completely unrecognizable.

“Time to go,” Malfoy said and picked up a nearby statuette of a troll. It was so battered that it was almost unrecognizable and looked as though it had not quite survived a fire. “Grab hold.”

Harry did as bid, even though he wrinkled his nose in confusion. “What is it?”

“Portkey. Four, three, two, one,” Malfoy replied and they were swept away. They appeared in the dimly lit entryway of a restaurant and Harry reflected that travelling by Portkey in a chair was definitely the way to go.

“Why didn’t we just Apparate?” he asked suspiciously.

“Gaston!” Malfoy called with a lifted hand.

“Mr Malfoy, right on time. Come this way, I have the perfect table for you.” A thin, moustached man led the way through a somewhat crowded dining room to a private corner mostly obscured from view. Malfoy slid into a chair and Harry manoeuvred his way up to the table. He was somewhat self-conscious about being in public for the first time in months—well, in years, apparently, but his excitement far outweighed his nervousness.

A man appeared at Harry’s elbow. “Greetings, fine sirs. I am Paolo and I will be your server this evening. Would you like to start with a lovely bottle of wine?” Harry looked up and saw the man beaming down at him with a bright smile. He had curly brown hair pulled back into a ponytail and was almost startlingly handsome with either tanned or naturally dark skin.

Malfoy smoothly ordered a bottle of wine that Harry would not have been able to pronounce and the waiter’s eyes skimmed over him before returning to Harry. “Do let me know if there will be anything else you require.” The man’s voice was surprisingly seductive and as he sauntered away Malfoy laughed out loud.

“Why, Harry, that man was flirting with you!” His head cocked and he looked penetratingly at Harry, who gaped at him in disbelief. “Hmmm, you are rather cute as a blond, I suppose.”

“You told me I wasn’t meant to be a blond!” Harry protested, although he blushed furiously and shot an incredulous look toward the waiter, who approached with their wine and two glasses.

“Maybe I was a tiny bit hasty,” Malfoy muttered. Paolo’s gaze was penetrating as he poured Harry’s wine and Harry looked away in confusion. He had never been ogled by a man before.

“Is the wine to your liking, sir?” he asked. Malfoy cleared his throat and the waiter hastily poured his wine almost as an afterthought. Harry caught Malfoy’s glare and quickly took a gulp of wine that set him to coughing immediately.

Paolo patted him on the back and cooed over him, kneeling down so that his face was near enough to make out the bright blue of his eyes. “I am terribly sorry, sir.” The hand on Harry’s back stopped patting and moved into a caress. Harry glanced at Malfoy only to meet a frigid glare. He straightened abruptly.

“I’m fine!” he choked. “Really! Thank you.”

Paolo straightened with obvious reluctance and departed after promising to return for their food orders.

Harry sipped his wine while an uncomfortable silence crept between him and Malfoy, who looked fixedly at the menu even though he did not seem to be reading it. “Shall I order for you?” Malfoy asked quietly. Harry nodded, not quite sure why the waiter’s interest had thrown the blond into a dark mood.

Paolo returned and behaved in a more subdued manner, only smiling at Harry once before leaving. When he was gone, the atmosphere relaxed slightly and Malfoy made small talk, beginning with changes at the Ministry during Harry’s long sleep and touching briefly on the anti-Voldemort-supporter sentiment that had sprung up in the past few years. Most everyone bearing a Dark Mark had fled, migrating to the Continent or points beyond.

“Why did you stay?” Harry asked.

Malfoy shrugged and drank his wine, leaving a wet tint behind before his tongue flicked out to erase it. Harry felt a lurch and looked away. “This is where I live. Even without the Manor, I never had any interest in living elsewhere. I own a small flat in Camden, even though I haven’t been there in months. It was easier to care for you at Grimmauld Place, so Muddy convinced me to move in there.” A frown twisted Malfoy’s perfect lips. “You don’t mind, do you?”

Harry blinked at him. “Mind? Why would I mind? The bloody place is huge and dark. I would hate to live there alone. I’m… glad you’re there, actually.” Harry cleared his throat and added, “And Hermione and the children, too, of course.”

Malfoy looked away and nodded. “Of course.”

Paulo brought their food and cast another longing gaze at Harry before sidling away. Harry dove into the cannelloni and tried to concentrate on nothing more than the food, which was exquisite. He tried not to watch Malfoy eat, although his impeccable table manners were fascinating.

Harry bypassed dessert and could not look away when Malfoy ordered tiramisu and ate it with a nearly obscene expression of delight.

“Why don’t you use magic any more?” Harry blurted out of the blue. The spoon clattered into Malfoy’s dish as he stared at Harry.

“What do you mean?” he asked evasively.

“You know what I mean. I have your wand and I haven’t seen you cast the simplest spell in months. Or at all. I don’t remember seeing you with a wand since I woke up. Did something happen?”

Malfoy signalled Paolo for the check and the waiter came over and gushed at them once more before accepting the coins Malfoy piled onto the table. Harry smiled wanly at the flirtatious man and guided his chair after the obviously agitated blond. They made their way outside.

“Did you have a good time, Harry?” Malfoy asked when they reached the street. Harry glanced around and noted they were in a quaint village that resembled Hogsmeade.

“Yes, of course I did. Will you answer my question?”

“Will you Apparate us back?” Malfoy countered. “You haven’t practiced much at home and I have yet to see you Side-along.”

“Not until you answer my question,” Harry said adamantly. Platinum eyes glared at him and then Malfoy turned and marched back into the restaurant, leaving Harry staring at the closed door in bewilderment. After long minutes, he wondered if Malfoy planned to leave him there. Just when he was about to re-enter the place in search of the blond, a crack split the air and Hermione stood next to Harry’s chair.

“Oh for pity’s sake,” she snapped. “Can’t you two ever get along?” She reached out and snagged Harry’s wrist before Apparating them back to number 12, Grimmauld Place. Harry yanked his arm out of her grip with a scowl.

“Where is Malfoy?”

“Upstairs. He Floo-called and said you irritated him and for me to go and fetch you.”

“I only asked why he never does magic! Why didn’t he Apparate us back here? Something is wrong and no one will tell me what!”

Hermione’s expression was stricken. At that moment a crash sounded from upstairs and a shriek from Rose split the quiet.

“I didn’t do it!” Hugo yelled. Hermione sighed and turned away, but not before Harry caught the relief that flooded her features.

“We’ll discuss this later, Harry,” she said and hurried away.

Harry fruitlessly searched the house for Malfoy and finally returned to his room in defeat. The annoying blond had obviously gone out. Harry vowed to confront the bastard at the earliest opportunity.

As he readied himself for bed he found Paolo’s Floo-address tucked into his shirt pocket.

May 10th, 2005

Draco was out of sorts. He had been not-so-subtly avoiding Harry since the incident at the restaurant. Unfortunately, the Gryffindor was not as stupid as Draco liked to pretend and he refused to be put off by Draco’s refusal to talk about his “problem”. Draco was not worried about Hermione as she had been sworn to silence. Literally.

Pansy, however, was another matter.

Harry had developed quite the snit and made no bones about his annoyance with Draco. To make matters worse, he was nearly walking on his own and he had taken to wearing the light-framed spectacles Draco had procured for him. The prat was getting more handsome by the day and it was driving Draco insane. He had wanted to Crucio the waiter at the restaurant for flirting so openly with Harry, but he could understand the man’s motivation.

“Well, well, well, nearly as good as new, aren’t we, Potter?” Pansy asked after giving Harry a thorough examination. Draco always hovered nearby during her visits, ostensibly to hear the results firsthand, but mostly to keep an eye on the bitch and make sure she didn’t torment Harry needlessly, or worse, open her bloody mouth and say the wrong thing.

“Nearly,” Harry agreed.

“And your magic is working fine?” she asked and Draco glared at her as his intuition began to chime in warning.

“Why wouldn’t it be?” Harry demanded. His eyes narrowed and shot immediately to Draco, who looked away quickly and pretended to check the potion bottles arrayed on a nearby table.

“No reason,” Pansy said mildly, but her tone was ambiguous enough that Draco would have hexed her if he had the ability.

“Do you know something about…?” Harry demanded. Draco waited for the rest of the question, but apparently Potter was not quite willing to divulge his suspicions to the Slytherin woman. Green eyes touched on his for a moment and then Harry’s shoulders sagged in defeat.

“You’re an idiot, Potter,” Pansy said flatly. “And a selfish bastard, to boot.”

Hermione walked into the room in time to catch Pansy’s words. “I think you should watch your mouth, Parkinson,” she warned.

Pansy flung a hand out toward Harry. “He’s completely blind! And a fucking idiot!”

“That’s enough!” Hermione yelled. “Leave Harry alone! It’s none of your bloody business, anyway!”

“None of my business?” Pansy growled. “Of course it’s my business! Nursing your damned Saviour back to health is my business! But when his fucking health affects someone I care deeply about, I refuse to sit back and let it happen, Granger! Not like you seem willing to do!”

“I have not been sitting on my arse!” Hermione shrieked. “You don’t know anything! You breeze in here once in a bloody blue moon and act like an authority on everything, but you know nothing!”

“I know Potter is an idiot!” Pansy shouted.

“Enough!” Draco bellowed. “Both of you—out!”

The women both looked at him in surprise, but he pointed a shaking finger toward the door. Pansy lifted her chin and breezed past him. “Goodnight, Draco. Goodnight, Potter… Idiot.”

Hermione glared at him and followed her out. Shortly Draco heard them begin to shout at each other, although luckily the words were inaudible.

“What was that all about?” Harry asked. Draco glanced at him to find Harry’s eyes watching him warily, as if he expected more dissembling. Draco flushed and looked away, hating to lie to the Gryffindor, but knowing Harry’s inherent nobility made it a necessity.

“Ignore Pansy. You know how she enjoys provoking people.”

“Does she know what happened to your magic?” Harry asked.

Draco smiled grimly. “I’ll go see Pansy out. Keep practicing, Harry.” With that, Draco fled.

June 6th, 2005

Harry pattered around the house, hating the sound of his footsteps echoing emptily. He entered the kitchen to find Ibby sitting forlornly in a chair kicking her feet idly. She looked up hopefully when Harry entered and then sighed and looked away. “Today is being Master Draco’s birthday,” she said. “Ibby is wishing Master Draco was being here to be eating the nice cake Ibby baked.”

“I wish he was here, too,” Harry admitted and sat across from her. A six tiered cake sat on the table, dripping with green and silver icing.

“Ibby is not knowing why Master Draco is being gone so long.”

Harry sighed. Unfortunately, Harry was knowing why Master Draco was being gone so long. Harry had driven him away with his constant questions. Draco’s loss of magic had seemed important at the time, but now he wished he had simply let it go. The Slytherin might have brought Harry into his confidence in due time, but Harry had not been content to wait. He had grown more and more demanding, until Draco had issued an ultimatum. “Ask me one more time, Harry, and I’m leaving.” Harry had thought the prat was joking. Now he wondered if Draco would ever return.

“Maybe we should eat some cake for Master Draco?” Harry suggested. “To wish him happy birthday wherever he is?”

“Master Draco is being with Master Lucius and Mistress Narcissa.”

“I know that, Ibby. I hope he comes home soon.”

“Ibby is hoping so, too. Master Harry can be having some cake.” Although the house-elf did not move, slices appeared all over the confection and one piece lifted itself off and wafted onto a plate.

Harry gamely ate a bite, since Ibby had gone to the trouble to make it. The sound of his chewing sounded overly loud in the kitchen. Hermione had left days ago, dumping the kids on Molly Weasley and heading for Singapore or Thailand or some such place, looking for the bloody mysterious book.

“Happy birthday, Draco,” he said quietly.

July 15th, 2005

Draco departed the Muggle cab and made his way toward number 12. He was still somewhat surprised that he could still find the place, now that he was practically a Squib. Perhaps it was merely a case of familiarity—he expected to see the building and therefore it appeared for him. He wondered for a moment if Muggles would be able to find the place if a wizard showed it to them, but he shook off the thought and decided to drive Hermione crazy with the notion at a later date.

He opened the front door and dropped his valise near the umbrella stand, smirking for a moment at the former painting of Mrs. Black. After listening to her ranting for a week, Draco had purchased a gallon of black paint and completely covered her portrait, much to the astonished admiration of everyone else in the house.

A gasp drew Draco’s attention away from the dark expanse and he caught only a glimpse of Harry before the man launched forward and clung to Draco in a heartfelt embrace, nearly knocking them both into the door.

“Draco!” Harry cried. “You’re back!”

After Draco’s six week desertion, he had not expected such a welcome; he was too shocked to respond for a moment, until he felt Harry’s hands loosen and start to pull away. He quickly dragged the Gryffindor into a tighter embrace, dimly noting that Harry wore no shirt and was obviously padding around the house clad only in jeans again.

“You’re walking,” Draco murmured.

“I didn’t think you’d come back,” Harry said against his neck.

“Of course I came back. Bloody hell, you’re tighter than a damned drumhead!” Draco’s hands moved over Harry’s back, feeling the tense muscles in what he hoped was a professional manner. “Who has been massaging you?”

Harry stepped back and Draco’s hands fell away reluctantly. Harry tucked at his forelock. “Well, no one, actually. Hermione doesn’t do it right and she was gone for weeks looking for that stupid book, anyway. Since her return, she’s been in her room day and night trying to read it. And you know I refuse to let that evil bint Pansy touch me…”

Draco scowled. He would have to have a word with Granger. How dare she leave Harry to his own devices? She should know as well as he that Harry’s muscles had to remain limber or it would take twice as long for him to regain full use of them.

“Where is she?” Draco demanded, but a patter of footsteps on the stairs announced Hermione’s arrival an instant before she flung herself into his arms.

“Godric, Draco! It’s about time you returned! I was about to go to Brazil and drag you back here, myself!”

Draco disentangled himself and glared at her. “Harry tells me you have been neglecting his therapy.”

She glanced at Harry guiltily. “Yes, but I found the book. I found the stupid thing in Paris, of all places, even though I had to track it through hell’s half acre in order to locate it. Unfortunately, this version is written in French, which I have been trying to translate, but you know my French is shite and it’s taking me forever!”

Draco sighed. “All right, Muddy. I’ll look at the damned thing, but not until I take care of Harry. Potter, get yourself upstairs. I should have known this bloody place would fall apart without me here.”

Harry cocked his head and looked at him critically for a moment. “You look like hell, Draco.”

He nodded even as he thrilled a bit at the use of his first name. He could not remember Harry using it before and wondered at the change. “Yes, I know. Apparently the sun is anathema to Malfoys and actually makes us look worse instead of better. And for the record, beaches are overrated. Sand is revolting and sea water dries out your skin and hair.”

Harry laughed and then reached out to touch Draco’s hair, shocking him again. “It feels soft to me,” Harry said.

Draco’s brain took a moment to restart, because Harry had touched him of his own volition. Twice. The knowledge set up a dangerous fluttering in his midsection and he batted Harry’s hand away, feigning irritation. “Upstairs with you. Now.”

Harry grinned, saluted smartly, and obeyed. Draco studied his gait as the Gryffindor headed for the stairs. He walked slowly and carefully, keeping close to the wall and occasionally reaching out to it for support, but he was clearly under his own power.

“Amazing, isn’t he?” Hermione asked.

Draco shrugged. “I always knew he would do it.”

She put a hand on his arm and squeezed. “He’s missed you, even though he’ll never admit it. When you’re finishing reacquainting yourself, come to my study. I think you’ll be interested in what I’ve found.”

Draco nodded and went to give Harry a supportive arm as they walked up the stairs.

~~ * ~~

Harry tried to mask his confusion as he disrobed. Draco had disappeared to greet an excited Ibby and lackadaisical Kreacher. He should have been angry that Draco had disappeared for so long. He had been for quite a while; he had even written dozens of letters demanding the Slytherin return home and finish what he started. He had never sent them. In truth, his feelings of abandonment and anger had abated the instant he had clapped eyes on Draco’s face. Harry frowned. That was another thing. When had the prat become Draco in his thoughts and no longer Malfoy? After he had spent dozens of hours mooning over his departure?

He stepped out of his pants and climbed on the table, lying face down. He dragged a sheet over his buttocks and realized his cock was already getting hard. It would have to be a back massage only today. Strange that the mere thought of Draco touching him would have that effect, but he had stopped worrying about that after his twentieth wank to the memory of Draco’s massages.

“Are we decent?” Draco called in a singsong tone, stepping in to the room.

“Well, I am, but I’ve always had doubts about you,” Harry quipped.

“Oh, how I missed your sense of humour, Potter. Or lack thereof.”

“Whatever. Just get your hands over here.”

Draco complied, removing the stopper from an earthenware jug and coating his hands with warm oil before pressing his fingertips into Harry’s shoulder blades.

“You only want me for my talented hands,” Draco chided and Harry nearly choked as he bit back the urge to blurt out a few dozen other things that came to mind. Even though he had come to accept the bizarre fact that he wanted Draco Malfoy—his talented hands, his lips, his eyes, his legs, his perfect arse, and everything else about him—he doubted Draco would be quite so understanding.

“I certainly didn’t miss you for your sterling personality,” he managed finally.

“Ah, then you only missed my hands?” Draco asked in such a teasing tone that Harry’s hard cock twitched uncomfortably as he blushed.

“No,” he admitted. “I missed other things, too.” He groaned loudly as the slender fingers kneaded a knot that took long minutes to loosen.

Draco appeared not to have heard him as he worked diligently on the spot, but eventually he asked quietly, “What else did you miss?”

Harry thought about the question. He had missed the way Draco’s lips curved when he smiled. He had missed the tiny line that appeared between Draco’s pale brows when he was deep in thought. He had missed the piercing platinum gaze that bored into him moments before an insult flew his way. He had missed the casual flick of Draco’s hand as he brushed the gossamer fine strands out of his face. He had missed…

“As if I would tell you and stroke your tremendous ego,” Harry retorted. “Let’s just say I sort of missed you and leave it at that, eh?”

“Have it your way, Harry. And for the record I sort of missed you, too.”

Harry smiled dreamily and allowed Draco’s angelic hands to soothe him off to sleep.

~~ * ~~

Draco’s hands gentled when he realized Harry had gone to sleep again. He smiled and shook his head; it nearly always happened that way. He continued his massage, however. It was true that Harry’s muscles were almost ridiculously tight. Hermione was definitely going to get a piece of his mind.

When he finished the back, he gently rolled Harry over. The damned Gryffindor must have been working himself extra hard again; he did not even stir at the movement. The sheet slid away and Draco’s eyes widened when he beheld Harry in all his naked glory. It had been a very long time since he had seen the Chosen One without some sort of draping, even though he had fantasized about him every night for months.

Reality was so much better than his fantasies. Harry had filled out remarkably even in the past month since Draco’s departure. His abdomen was a chiselled wonder, rippling from mouth-watering chest muscles. Draco reached out and splayed a hand over Harry’s navel before sliding his hand upward over the smooth skin to rest his palm over one flat nipple. Merlin, to be able to lick that body…

Swallowing hard, he allowed his gaze to move downward, following the line of fine dark hair between the corded muscles, past the navel, and into a mass of black curls. Harry’s flaccid cock was perfect. Draco had seen it before, hundreds of times, but it had been attached to Harry’s comatose form, then. Now it seemed somehow more vibrant, alive with the potential to awaken and grow. He itched to touch it, to taste it, to take it in completely…

“Ogling the sleeping beauty?” Hermione asked from the doorway, causing Draco to nearly jump out of his skin. He quickly reached down and jerked the sheet over Harry’s loins before glaring at her.

“I’m entitled,” Draco snapped.

“Yes, you are,” she said quietly. “Did you ever think of telling him how you feel?”

Draco snorted and got to work on Harry’s calves. He needed to finish Potter’s front before he could get on with Hermione’s pet project. At least he didn’t have to worry about sprouting an embarrassing erection with her standing by haranguing him. “Please. I realize you’re an arrow-straight soon-to-be Wonder Auror with the Ministry, but I have a ridiculous crush on you.”

“Do you?” she asked.

Draco nodded curtly. “Much good it does me. Don’t worry, once Harry resumes his public life, I will get a job and forget all about him, as he will forget about me.”

“It might not be that simple.”

Draco flicked a gaze to her and wondered why that sounded ominous. He was about to find out.

Draco trailed a finger down the page, skimming the French words with ease. “This is the counterspell?”

She nodded. “The spell you cast without fully understanding what it did,” she said accusingly.

“We were out of time and you know it. Have you translated all of this?”

“Most of it. Enough to get the gist. You understand how it works, right?”

Draco nodded curtly. He understood too well. They had located the spell used on Harry, which was fairly straightforward Dark Magic except for the trigger—in Harry’s case it had been his wedding vows that had initiated the latent spell. The curse was supposed to have drained the victim of magic instantly, leaving them physically sound but without magic. Due to the Chosen One’s unusual history—infusion with part of Voldemort’s soul, actually dying, and possibly something uniquely Harry—the spell instead had started to drain the magic from him slowly. His body’s effort to fight it had plunged him into a coma, but the spell had been irreversible. They had been unable to find a way to keep Harry’s magic from slipping away. Instead, Draco had tried a different spell.

“This dates back to the 1300s?” Draco asked.

“Yes. Apparently it was primarily used by women whose husbands or lovers had been badly injured in battle, especially in cases of spell damage when the men were left with little or no magic. The woman could effectively give her magic to the wounded man, giving him strength until he was fully healed.”

“Until he was fully healed,” Draco repeated.

“As you know, combining magic can be a dangerous proposition, generally leading to magical Bonding.”

Draco read faster even though he feared to read onward. “Are Harry and I Bonded?”

“From what I can tell, the Bond is incomplete. The spell seems to have a sort of failsafe—in the event the injured man did not recover, the magic would return to the giver.”

Draco’s blood froze when he reached a particular line. Unless the Bond was consummated. He shot a stricken gaze to Hermione, who nodded with a grim frown.

“So what will happen to Harry when this Bond is not consummated?”

“The magic will gradually return to you, I assume. It looks as though you are already feeling the effects—you look pale and far too thin, especially for someone who just returned from a tropical vacation. Your body is crying out for your magic. Soon Harry will start to feel it, also, when the magic begins to leave him and return to you.”

“So I will have my magic back and he will be the Squib,” Draco said bitterly. “Will he remain the same, or will he return to a comatose state?”

Hermione was silent and Draco stared at her. Her hands were clenched together tightly. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “There are no written records of the Bond failing to be consummated. Either the injured party died and the magic returned to the giver, or the Bond was solidified. I’m afraid we will be back to square one—when your magic departs, Harry will slide back into a coma. And this time I don’t know how we would get him back.”

Draco slammed a hand down on the open book with a frustrated laugh. “I should not have been surprised. Everything I do turns out like this. Even when I make a bloody sacrifice to save the Great Hero.” He paused. “What happens if I die? The magic will stay in Harry, right? Because there would be nowhere for it to return to.”

“Don’t even think it,” Hermione whispered in a panicked tone.

He already knew the answer.

August 11th, 2005

Harry sifted through the pile of papers spread out before him and glared at Draco, who lounged in a chair across from him sipping at an emerald green drink. Draco swore it was merely liqueur with absinthe, but Harry suspected it contained some sort of potion. Draco looked excessively pale these days and never seemed to sleep. Harry worried about him to the point where he often got up at night and padded to Draco’s room to make sure he was alive. Usually Draco was awake, reading one of Hermione’s endless spellbooks or simply staring at the ceiling with his hands clasped behind his platinum head.

At those times, Harry would wordlessly fetch the chessboard and sit cross-legged on the bed across from the Slytherin, pretending that insomnia had dragged him from sleep. They would play chess until dawn’s faint light peeked through the curtains, or until Draco sprawled back in the cushions awaiting Harry’s next move, which he tried to draw out until the Slytherin’s eyes closed and his chest rose and fell regularly.

Draco’s health seemed to be failing and Harry knew it had something to do with him, but Draco refused to say a word about it. Even Hermione had turned traitor. Harry knew she was just as worried, but she only muttered something about an Unbreakable Vow and snapped her lips closed. Harry wanted to shake them both with frustration.

Instead he had thrown himself into his own research, demanding to know what spells had been used on him, ostensibly with his desire to locate the culprit that had hexed him. He had finally revealed himself to the public in what turned out to be a media frenzy, especially when he had dragged Draco in to the limelight and given him full credit for Harry’s restoration. The Ministry had immediately begged Harry to return to Auror training, but he put them off, claiming he was not fully healed. In truth, he wanted to spend more time with Draco.

Due to Draco’s mysterious lack of magic, he had left his job as a Ministry Curse-Breaker and now worked—bizarrely enough—for George at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Most of the ingredients used in George’s products needed to be cut, chopped, or prepared without the benefit of magic, and Draco had always been talented at potion preparation. Harry missed him terribly during the day and paced anxiously until Draco appeared each night. Several times Draco had mentioned moving out of Grimmauld Place and back to his own flat, but Harry refused to hear it.

“You’re saying this spell could have been cast any time, even back to when I attended Hogwarts?” Harry asked.

Draco nodded and shut his eyes. He looked exhausted. Harry wondered if Draco would notice if he cast a Sleep Charm on him. Probably, and then he would be angry. Possibly even angry enough to move out.

“It seems likely. Logically, you had more enemies during your Hogwarts years; any Death Eater would have jumped at an opportunity to do you harm. After the war, most of the prime suspects were either dead or in Azkaban.”

“But why would my wedding vows be the trigger? How would anyone know I would even marry Ginny?”

Draco snorted and flicked his eyes open briefly. “Potter, your entire life was fairly predictable. You were sorted into Gryffindor, you became a hero, you eradicated evil, you married the girl and no doubt you would have popped out the requisite two to four offspring within a year of marriage.”

Harry scowled and opened his mouth to protest, but he couldn’t think of a valid argument. Still, it bothered him to think that any two-Knut bastard with a wand could foresee how his life would turn out. It was a sobering thought.

“Frankly, Romilda Vane was one of our first suspects. We alleged she had cast the spell as revenge when you rejected her in favour of the She-Weasel. She had proven herself fairly unscrupulous when she utilized the love potion to try and ensnare you. Unfortunately, she agreed to a series of questions under Veritaserum and was proven innocent.” Draco paused. “Can you think of anyone with motive to cast such a hex?”

Harry barked a laugh. “Everyone in Slytherin House? Half the Hufflepuffs? Everyone related to Cedric Diggory? Zacharias Smith? Severus Snape? Your family?”

“I can vouch for my own family,” Draco said dryly. “Why Smith?”

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know. The prat always hated me.”

“Why? Did you reject him like you did Romilda?”

Harry blinked at him, not quite understanding. “What?”

Draco laughed. “Never mind, Potter. You’re so straitlaced I didn’t expect you to catch that one. We checked out the Diggorys, as well. It’s possible Muddy looked into Smith if she knew of his animosity. Did you make any specific enemies after Hogwarts?”

“Not that I can think of. Everyone at the Ministry seemed to like me well enough.”

“Of course they liked you, Potter. You are the Chosen One.”

Harry threw a pillow at the blond and laughed when it pinged off of the blond head and caused Draco to spill his drink.

The blond cursed and got to his feet. “I’ll get you for that, Potter,” he growled.

Harry put his muscles to the test and ran for the stairs. To his disappointment, Draco did not follow.

September 2nd, 2005

Harry forced a smile as the tiny bundle was thrust into his hands.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Mr Potter. I know it means a lot to Ginny.” John sounded sincere and Harry almost wished the damned man weren’t so likeable. It was impossible to hate him, even on a day like today. Harry looked down into the wrinkled face and almost recoiled. Bloody hell, were all newborns so unattractive? “We named her Frederica.”

“She’s lovely,” Harry lied and bounced the baby somewhat awkwardly. John must have expected him to drop the child, for he quickly recovered her from Harry’s arms.

“I know Ginny wants to see you,” John said as he tucked the blanket more closely around his daughter and then handed her off to a sobbing Molly Weasley. Tears of joy, Harry assumed.

“Do you want me to come in with you, Harry?” Draco asked. Harry met the grey gaze and shook his head. Draco’s hand squeezed his shoulder for a moment and then fell away as Harry entered the room to congratulate his former wife.

His meeting with Ginny was thankfully short and he escaped the room only to be trapped by a gaggle of gleeful Weasleys. It was nearly thirty minutes before Draco dragged him through the hospital lobby and into a quiet alcove outside. Harry sagged against the wall.

“Merlin, I need a drink.”

Draco nodded. “Apparate us to the Pale Pony. Do you remember where it is?”

Harry did, although he hadn’t been there since before his Incident. It was a small tavern off the beaten path with semi-private tables. Harry shouldn’t be mobbed by the press if he appeared there out of the blue. He pushed himself away from the wall and wrapped an arm around Draco’s shoulders.

OOoOO

Draco ran a wet finger around the rim of his glass and watched as Harry turned maudlin. The Hero of the World had a very low tolerance for alcohol.

“There’s no going back now,” Harry mumbled.

“Did you really plan to go back?” Draco asked.

“No. No, probably not. I mean, I haven’t really thought of Ginny in months. I guess it just puts such finality to it, you know?”

Draco sniffed and sipped at his wine. He had no intention of getting drunk with Harry in this state. He had no idea how he planned to get the drunken Auror home. Last time they had gone out, Draco had been lucky enough to use to the fireplace at the restaurant to Floo-call Hermione. The Pale Pony had one, but it was unlit due to the warm weather. Alcohol was also not the best thing to mix with the array of potions Draco took to stave off the illness caused by the unconsummated spell.

“You have every right to be depressed, Harry. After all, the bint should have waited for you.”

Harry blinked at him owlishly through too-bright green eyes. “Don’t call her that,” he slurred.

Draco rolled his eyes. “Still defending her? I would have waited for you.”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked.

“Oh come on, Harry! Don’t you know what a catch you were?” Draco demanded. And still are, he nearly said, but bit it back just in time. “You defeated the Dark Lord, you had piles of Galleons in the bank, you were—” Stupidly handsome. “Fair to look at. With everything you had been through she should have had faith that you would beat this, also. She just got impatient.”

Harry was gaping at him. Draco thought he might speak, but the alcohol seemed to have finally settled into Harry’s brain and disrupted coherent thought.

“Oh, just finish your drink, Harry. I’m going to talk to the bartender and see if someone would be willing to Apparate us home for a coin or two.”

“Wish it was you,” Harry mumbled in a morose tone.

“Yes, I wish I could Apparate, also, but we’ll just have to make the best of it. I’ll be right back.”

He got up and heard a thunk as Harry’s forehead hit the table. Hermione was going to kill him for letting Harry drink so much. Oh well, it wouldn’t be Draco’s first mistake in her eyes.

October 5th, 2005

Harry stalked through the halls of Hogwarts, glad he had waited until evening to visit the school. His presence drew stares and whispers from the few students still roaming the halls. Harry had finally become fed up with Hermione’s close-mouthed silence and Draco’s obvious decline. A month ago the blond had been prone to insomnia; now he slept fourteen hours a day. Harry knew it was a direct result of all the potions he consumed. A screaming row with Hermione had changed nothing.

“I can’t tell you anything, Harry! All I can say is that I’m working on it!” she had yelled.

“You’re not working fast enough!” Harry had bellowed in return. “Can’t you see he’s dying?”

“You can stop it, Harry,” she had said miserably.

“HOW?”

“I can’t tell you.” She had burst into tears and fled, leaving Harry to destroy half of his study in frustration, until the combined dismay of Ibby and Kreacher had forced him to stop. He had Apparated directly to Hogsmeade and marched straight to the school.

Without pausing even to visit Hagrid or McGonagall, Harry took to the stairs, pausing only once on the fifth floor to regain his breath and rest his trembling thighs. He was nearly back to peak condition, but overexertion always reminded him that his invalid state was not long past.

Harry only had to bang, yell, and cast hexes on the repaired gargoyle statue for twenty minutes before McGonagall rushed up and demanded to know Harry’s business. And then she embraced him happily and told him how glad she was that he had recovered. Harry smiled painfully and asked to see Dumbledore’s portrait.

An array of Headmaster’s occupied their portraits tonight, including ill-fated Severus Snape, who glared at Harry in a poignant reminder of the old days. Harry tried to remember that Snape had died on the side of Light, and was only an arse to him because he loved Harry’s mother. Still, the bastard had made his school life hell and it was hard to forget it.

Harry nodded to Snape curtly and then dragged a chair before Dumbledore’s portrait. He sat down and began to explain the scenario to the twinkle-eyed old man.

“…so they never discovered who cast the spell on me to begin with and then Draco cast some other spell to save me, although they won’t tell me what and act like it’s some gigantic secret that will kill me if I discover it. I even looked for Hermione’s thrice-damned book, which she keeps in an iron box with so many spells on it a team of crack Auror’s couldn’t dig it out, damn her prowess to hell. And now Draco is sick and seems to be on the verge of death and I know it’s because of this fucking spell and Hermione tells me I can save him but she won’t say how!”

Harry was pacing and thrashing his arms wildly by the time the story was finished. “Draco saved you?” Snape demanded. “Draco Malfoy?”

“I don’t know any other Dracos,” Harry snapped.

“Why?” Snape asked sharply.

“How the hell should I know? Didn’t I just get done saying they don’t tell me anything?”

“I always knew the Malfoy boy had a good heart,” Dumbledore said with a chuckle.

“There is no counter-curse for the hex that took you down,” Snape growled. “What spell could Draco have used? You say he’s dying?”

“How do you know what hex took me down?” Harry asked curiously.

Snape rolled his dark eyes. “That’s not the spell we’re interested in, is it Potter? I thought you were here to save Draco.”

“I am.” Harry glared at the former Potion’s Master.

“And yet you have no information on this counter-spell?”

“Hermione took an Unbreakable Vow never to reveal it! I’ve tried everything to get Draco to release her from the stupid vow!”

Snape sneered. “I’ll bet you’ve tried very hard.”

Harry actually leaped toward the portrait, but stopped in confusion. What could he do, tear the frame from the wall and stomp on it? Although it was a tempting idea…

“Well, Harry, it seems you have no recourse other than to use your powers of persuasion on Mr Malfoy,” Dumbledore said mildly.

“My… what? Do you mean Occlumency?”

Snape barked a laugh. “Potter could not perform Occlumency on a squirrel to determine where it stuffed the nuts currently residing in its cheeks.”

“Severus,” Dumbledore said disapprovingly. He turned his bright gaze back to Harry. “I meant your normal powers of persuasion, Harry. Talk to the lad. Surely he will see that you only want what is best for him. That is what you want, is it not?”

Harry nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, it is.” Harry would do whatever it took to save Draco, even up to pouring all of his recovered magic back into the blond, if that’s what it took. Draco had brought him back to life; if Harry had to sacrifice that life in order to repay him, then he would do so. He frowned as he realized it had nothing to do with repayment. He simply refused to imagine a world without Draco Malfoy in it.

October 31st, 2005

Draco adjusted Hugo’s collar while the boy squirmed like a giant squid. George Weasley had invited both of Hermione’s children to a “grown-up” costume party to celebrate Halloween and the boy was a veritable Firebolt of excitement.

“Unca Draco, I look good!” Hugo protested.

“Yes, you do,” Draco agreed with a smile. He was dressed as Godric Gryffindor, much to Hermione’s amusement, complete with a replica sword that he had brandished wildly for several days until a careless whack at his sister had resulted in it being placed on a high shelf for safekeeping.

“I look good, too!” Rose yelled and bounced up and down next to Hugo with a cacophony of bells. She was dressed as a miniature harlequin; Draco had to admit she was utterly adorable.

“You look gorgeous, Rose,” Draco assured her.

“Gorgeous, gorgeous, I’m so gorgeous!” she screamed excitedly. The noise seemed to set off Hugo, who banged his sword on his shield loudly.

“Gryffindor rules! Gryffindor rules!” he shouted.

Harry laughed and joined in. “Gryffindor rules! Gryffindor rules!”

“Please don’t encourage him,” Hermione said with a frown as she tugged on the bodice of her French Renaissance gown. Draco assumed she had worn it mostly for the opportunity of causing Ron Weasley’s tongue to fall out of his head at the sight of her generous breasts spilling from the top of the gown. They had been dating regularly and Draco fully expected the idiot redhead to propose again any day. If he didn’t, Draco planned to have words with the moron. “All right, children. Let’s go. Draco, Harry, are you sure you won’t come?” Her eyes flicked worriedly to Harry. Draco remembered that Halloween was a difficult time for him—the anniversary of his parents’ death and the acquisition of his scar.

“I’m not in the mood for a party,” Draco said and blinked when Harry echoed his words. They looked at each other and laughed. “Don’t worry, Muddy. I’ll take care of him.”

Harry rolled his eyes and Hermione laughed and gathered her brood together. “All right. We’ll be back in the morning.” She and the children Disapparated.

Draco looked at Harry, who smiled. “Wizard chess?”

“I always destroy you.”

“Not this time,” Harry said grimly.

“Bring it.”

OOoOO

Harry studied the board and knew there were only a few moves left before Draco slaughtered him yet again. One day he would love to see a match between Draco and Ron, although they would probably come to blows before the game ended.

He had briefly considered getting Draco drunk, but he suspected alcohol would not be the best thing for the Slytherin at this point.

“If I lose, how about I give you a massage, for once?” Harry suggested.

“What?”

“Hey, I think I’ve learned a lot from the master and you look like you could use one. You seem tense lately.”

“You know you’re about to lose, right?”

“That’s what you think. Maybe I’m just setting you up for the kill.”

Draco smirked. “If you say so. All right, I accept your wager. Idiot Gryffindor.”

Twelve minutes later, Harry watched as Draco’s queen mauled his king with her sceptre and sent the chess piece scurrying around the board wailing in defeat.

“Setting me up for the kill, eh?” Draco said dryly.

“Shut up. Go choose your oil.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Draco sounded slightly nervous.

“Afraid, Malfoy?”

Draco snorted. “You wish.” He stalked upstairs and Harry followed more slowly. Truth be told, he was less than calm at the thought of putting his hands all over Draco Malfoy, but he was determined to put his plan into effect.

He allowed plenty of time for Draco to undress and get on the table before he entered the room. He tried to keep his manner brisk and professional. “Are you ready for the massage of your life, Draco?”

“Or the torture session of my life. Is this some sort of twisted act of revenge?”

Harry poured a dab of the oil Draco had chosen into the palm of his hand. It had a pungent juniper-like scent that Harry knew would tingle pleasantly. He rubbed his hands together to spread it and then touched his fingertips to the small of Draco’s back. He pressed gently, trying to remember every touch and stroke that Draco had ever used on him. Draco said nothing for long minutes and when he finally made a small noise of approval, Harry relaxed and his movements became more confident.

He worked diligently, smoothing out knots and pressing the warm oil into Draco’s pliable flesh. It was more rewarding than he would have expected, especially when minute sounds of pleasure escaped the blond. The occasional moan nearly made Harry come undone. He tried to focus on the task at hand in order to stave off an impending erection. Still, he was half hard by the time he finished Draco’s back side.

“Turn over?” Harry asked after clearing his throat in an effort to speak normally.

Draco paused so long that Harry thought he might have fallen asleep. He was about to nudge the blond when Draco replied, “Can you get me a glass of water? I’m parched.”

“Water? Or tea?” Harry was thankful for the respite; a trip downstairs might help him bring his libido under control.

“Tea would be lovely,” Draco muttered.

“All right. I’ll finish when I return. How is the torture so far?”

Draco chuckled. “I must be a phenomenal teacher.”

Harry laughed. “Yeah. I’ll be right back.”

Harry took his time making tea in order to regain control. Kreacher watched him do it without offering to help. It had taken the house-elf time to even accept orders from Harry again; apparently he now saw Draco as the master of the house. He acted like Hermione was invisible, which was better than constantly muttering insults.

When he returned to the therapy room, Draco lay on his back with his hands clasped behind his head. “Did you go to China to fetch the pekoe?”

“Very funny. I made it myself instead of letting Ibby magic it for me. She’s upstairs cleaning the children’s rooms while they are out.”

They drank their tea and nibbled at some ginger biscuits before Draco stretched out again and Harry began to work on his calves. He decided it was the safest route. It seemed to work well enough and Harry kept his desire in check while he kneaded Draco’s thighs. He tried to keep his eyes away from the bulge covered by the thin sheet and he absolutely refused to entertain the notion of tearing the sheet away and doing something that would send Draco out of his life forever. Concentrate, he reminded himself angrily.

His good intentions were destroyed when his hands moved higher and slid gently over Draco’s pectorals. The feel of his taut nipples beneath Harry’s questing hands seemed to short-circuit rational thought. He glanced up and saw Draco’s eyes fixed on him with brilliant silver intensity. Only Avada Kedavra could have stopped him from leaning down and pressing his lips against Draco’s.

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. The words ran though his head in a crazy litany. The memory of Draco’s flavour came back to him in a rush. Fuck, that Christmas kiss seemed a lifetime ago. Harry’s tongue brushed over Draco’s lips and then slipped though a tiny gap to tease the tip of his tongue. Draco’s mouth opened wider and Harry’s restraint evaporated. He plundered Draco’s wet orifice with a need that bordered on insanity. He suddenly knew that whatever happened, he couldn’t give this up—not for anything.

Draco broke the kiss abruptly with a gasp. “What are you doing, Harry?”

“Draco,” Harry said around a moan as he placed soft kisses against the edges of Draco’s lips. “Draco, please, you have to release Hermione from her Unbreakable Vow. Please. Merlin, please, you must.”

Draco’s hands pressed against Harry’s chest and thrust him back sharply. His eyes were stormy. “That’s what this is about? That damned vow?”

Harry blinked, trying to clear the fog from his mind and process Draco’s words. “What?” he asked stupidly.

Draco shoved him away and got to his feet, dragging the sheet around him like a mantle. “Fuck you, Harry! I can’t believe you would stoop so low. Some days I’m sorry I ever brought you back.”

Harry stared at him and then ran after him. “Wait! That’s not it!” The door to Draco’s room slammed in his face and he heard the lock click. By the time Harry spelled it open, Draco had utilized one of his dozen Portkeys. Harry sank down on Draco’s bed with the realization that he had royally fucked up.

November 1st, 2005

Draco threw his glass weakly toward the fireplace. It missed the interior by a long shot, but smashed quite nicely on the marble tile, anyway. He had been drinking Firewhiskey all night and had finally finished the last drop in the bottle. A staggering search turned up no further consumable beverages, so Draco sprawled on his bed. That would teach him to stay away from his flat for months on end and not see to properly stocking it with necessities. Items such as strong liquor that could help him drown the memory of traitorous Harry Potter and his soft lips and heavenly tongue and excellent hands.

Draco pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes with a curse. Harry had kissed him. It had been a moment of stunning brilliance, utterly destroyed with the realization that Harry had only done it to get him to release Hermione’s vow. The Gryffindor bastard had a core of pure Slytherin cunning, but Draco had never expected him to go that far. When had he discovered Draco’s preference for men? And when had he grown unscrupulous enough to use it against him without a second thought?

A chill shuddered through him and he realized he had left all of his potions at Grimmauld Place. He threw back the blankets and crawled beneath them. He wore only a pair of silk pyjama bottoms he had found in his abandoned wardrobe. Even with blankets, he was still cold, and he had no idea how to light a fire without magic. The house-elves always did it for him.

Draco shivered and shut his eyes. He cast his mind back to the minutes before Harry had destroyed everything. The feel of his hands had been amazing; his touch had been firm and confident, sliding over Draco’s skin and calling up emotions Draco had tried to bury for months. And then the fucking kiss, that incredible, wonderful kiss… He wished he had a Time-Turner just to go back and freeze that moment for eternity.

Instead he played it over and over in his mind until darkness claimed him.

OOoOO

Harry was frantic. He had searched everywhere for Draco and had finally Apparated to the Burrow at the crack of dawn to awaken Hermione. She groggily informed him that she had only been to Draco’s flat once and would likely Splinch herself if she tried to Apparate there. A lump next to her stirred and Ron poked his head out to blink at Harry.

“Hey, mate. We missed you last night. Quite a party.”

Harry tried to smile, but the fact that his life had become a massive pile of shite made it difficult. “I have to find him. He left all of his potions behind and you know he’s looked like walking death lately! If anything happens to him I will never forgive myself.” His breath hitched in a near-sob and Hermione heaved herself out of bed. Ignoring her nakedness, she snatched a nearby dressing gown and pulled it on.

“Hermione!” Ron yelped.

“Ron, can you watch the kids for a while? I need to help Harry. And he’s in love with Draco, so you have nothing to worry about.”

Ron sagged into his pillows. “Oh. All right, then. Wait—what?”

“Come on, Harry,” she said and grabbed his hands. They Apparated back to Grimmauld Place and searched the house fruitlessly one more time. Even the house-elves had no idea where Draco had gone.

Harry sank onto the couch cushions and buried his face in his hands. “I’ve fucked up everything.” He glared at Hermione, who sat down across from him, looking pale. “And why didn’t you tell me I was in love with him? Was it that bloody obvious?”

She rolled her eyes. “I thought you would figure it out, eventually. At first I worried that it was simply one of those doctor/patient things that you would grow out of.”

Harry looked at her with stricken eyes. “I’ll give him up, Hermione. I’ll gladly never see him again as long as I know he’s okay. You said I have the power to help him. Can’t you tell me how?” He knew his tone was pleading, but he simply didn’t care. He knew time was running out; he could feel it.

“All right, Harry,” she said with quiet finality. She nervously twisted a ring on her finger and Harry absently noted it was a bright new diamond. “All right, I’ll tell you.” She drew a shuddering breath.

Before she could speak, Harry leaped across the table and clamped his hand over her mouth. “No!” he yelled. “Damn it, are you trying to kill yourself?”

She shook him off and he sat next to her, intent on wrestling her down if she tried something so ludicrously stupid again. He was not willing to lose Draco, but if the cost was losing Hermione… well, there had to be another option. He needed them both.

“I could throttle him for making you take that stupid vow,” Harry growled. “And why did you agree to it?”

Hermione sighed. “I thought he would come to his senses and tell you himself. At the time, we didn’t even know if the spell had worked. It seemed a harmless vow to hide Draco’s ‘foolish burst of nobility’ as he called it.”

“Last night he said he was sorry he had brought me back.”

She gasped, but then shook her head. “I’m sure he didn’t mean it,” she said lamely.

“You can’t tell me anything at all without breaking the vow?”

She shook her head. “I’ve gone over this a thousand times. If I mention the spell, how it was cast, what Draco did, or anything closely related to it… well, you know. I can’t even ‘accidentally’ leave the book out for you to find. The devil even thought of that, which is why I have to keep it under bloody lock and key. Damn him! Sometimes I think he’s determined to die just to spite us both!”

“But there is a way for me to save him?” Harry asked quietly. She nodded. Harry sighed heavily. “All right. I’ll just have to figure it out on my own. But first I need to find him.”

Hermione snapped her fingers suddenly. “Parkinson! She’s been to his flat before! I’ll bet she helped him move in!”

Harry’s brow furrowed. He hadn’t seen Pansy in months… not since early August, actually. She had decided Harry was well enough that he didn’t need her services any longer. “How do we find her?”

“St. Mungo’s, of course.”

“I’ll go,” Harry said quickly. “You keep looking and send me a Patronus if you find him.” She nodded and Harry Apparated to St. Mungo’s.

It took all of Harry’s skill to pry information out of the receptionist at the hospital. He ended up giving her several autographs and promising to send her a dozen photos before she would relent and look up Pansy’s current assignment, and only then after he assured her it was a matter of utmost importance, possibly concerning an evil plot against the Ministry. The best she could do was a Floo-address to a place in Greece.

Harry went back to Grimmauld Place to find Hermione missing. Harry sighed and stuck his head into the fireplace. It took a ludicrously long conversation with a grumpy house-elf before Pansy’s face appeared in the flames.

“This had better be important, Potter,” she snapped.

“It’s about Draco,” he said quickly. “I need to know where his flat is.”

“Which one? He has one in Zurich, Versailles, Rome—”

“The one in Camden!” Harry growled and thanked Merlin he had remembered the city, at least.

“If he didn’t tell you, it’s possible he doesn’t want you to know.”

“He could be dying, damn it! I have to find him as soon as possible.”

She rolled her eyes, which made her look more evil that usual with the flame effect. “You are still an idiot, aren’t you, Potter?”

“Yes!” he yelled. “Yes, I fucking admit it, all right? I am a complete idiot! Will you just, please, help me?”

She fairly gaped at him for a moment and then said, “Salazar, Potter. Just wait a minute while I tell Christophe I’m leaving. I’ll be right there.”

Harry left the fireplace and paced for long minutes until the flames rose and disgorged the black-haired woman. She wore a white dress so short it would have been called a shirt in several countries and a black belt cinched it tightly around her waist. Her long legs were bronzed and stood out in sharp contrast to the white dress. Strappy high heels enclosed her feet. The ensemble did nothing for Harry.

“Have you figured anything out yet, Potter?” Pansy asked dryly.

“I’m in love with Draco,” he said flatly.

She grinned in a way that reminded Harry of a hungry python. “Perhaps you aren’t quite as stupid as I thought. Come on; let’s go find the other idiot.”

Pansy dug her black-tipped claws into Harry’s bicep and Apparated them away.

Draco’s flat reminded him utterly of Draco—layers of cool colours offset with fiery bursts of unexpected brilliance. For a moment he wondered that Draco lived at Grimmauld Place; it seemed dark and depressing compared to the airy, elegant flat. The only problem seemed to be the lack of heat—the bloody place was frigid.

“Draco!” he called loudly and began to search the place. Pansy went into the kitchen and opened the pantry.

“Well, if he’s been here he certainly did not purchase any food,” she commented.

Harry checked the empty study and then hurried down a long hall to throw open the bedroom door. A lump on the bed and pale hair spread over the pillow nearly made him sag against the doorframe in relief. He rushed forward and perched on the edge of the bed. He reached out gently to touch Draco’s cheek and recoiled in shock.

“Pansy!” he bellowed.

She made surprisingly good time, considering her heels were high enough to snap a bone if she fell. Harry felt Draco’s throat with fear closing up his own airway. “Oh god, he’s dead, I know it, I’m too late…”

Pansy dragged him aside by his hair. “Shut up, Potter. I’m the medi-witch, remember?” She pulled out her wand and cast several spells over Draco’s still form while Harry stood by wringing his hands and cursing himself.

She sat back with a sigh. “He’s alive, but barely.”

Tears obscured Harry’s vision. He was both grateful and petrified. “Potions,” he choked. “He was taking potions… they’re at home.”

“Bloody hell,” she said. “I’ll go have a look at them. You build a damn fire and try to keep him warm. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Harry spelled the fire into a near-inferno and wondered how else to warm Draco. His skin felt cold as ice and his beautiful face had a bluish pallor. Harry set his jaw and stripped down to his boxers and set his glasses on the table before climbing beneath the covers and tucking himself along Draco’s length. His entire body felt ice cold and Harry held him tightly as he pressed his lips into the back of Draco’s neck.

“Come back, Draco,” he begged in a whisper.

Draco had not stirred by the time Pansy returned. Harry only raised his head to look at her when she entered. Draco felt noticeably warmer and Harry thought some colour had returned to his face.

“Granger was there,” Pansy commented. “She gave me several potions for him to take, although the bint still won’t tell me what’s wrong with him; besides the obvious.”

“The obvious?” Harry questioned.

“Surely you’ve noticed by now that his magic is gone?” she snapped.

“Yes, I’m not that stupid. I also know that it’s because of me. I think Draco somehow gave me his magic in order to pull me out of the comatose state. I just don’t know what to do about it.”

She sighed. “Very good, Potter. It only took you a year to figure it out.”

Harry wanted to protest, but in truth he felt rather guilty about taking so long to understand. Looking back, it seemed obvious.

“Hold him up so that I can give these to him,” she said and Harry complied. Pansy cast a Charm to make Draco swallow as she dumped a succession of potions into his mouth. Harry lay him gently back against the pillows when she finished.

“All right. That’s all I can do for him. The rest is up to you. I suggest you figure it out quickly. If he dies you’ll be extremely sorry. I can’t believe you haven’t figured out a way to reverse whatever counter-spell he used on you.”

“It wasn’t a counter-spell,” Harry muttered. “Snape said there was no counter-spell.”

“What?”

Harry looked at her, surprised at her tone. “Snape said there was no counter-spell.”

“How would Snape know? We never told him what spell was used on you. Only Draco, Granger, and I knew. Neither Draco nor I ever went back to Hogwarts and Granger was the one who swore us to silence.”

Harry shrugged. “Maybe she told Dumbledore, looking for advice, and Snape overheard.”

“I’ll go have a chat with Granger,” she said grimly. “Keep him warm. I’ll be back later.”

Harry eased back into the bed and resumed his place holding the blond. The room was warming quickly thanks to the roaring fire. Harry let his hands roam over Draco’s flat stomach and ribs, noting that he had grown almost too thin. After a while, a small sound made Harry freeze, but long minutes passed without noise or motion, so he resumed stroking. His caresses grew longer, moving over Draco’s bare flesh from collarbone to hipbone.

OOoOO

Someone was touching him. Draco sighed with pleasure and enjoyed the sensation of a lovely hand sweeping slowly over his skin, gliding over chest and abdomen down to brush lightly into the hollow of his pelvic bone before creeping upward again. Draco gloried in the feeling for a long time before rolling over to face his benefactor.

“Harry,” he said blissfully and looked at the gorgeous face in adoration.

“Draco,” Harry said in a husky tone. His green eyes were soft.

“Best dream so far,” Draco murmured and curled his hand into the black hair to pull Harry into a kiss. The dream-Gryffindor gasped slightly before relaxing under Draco’s assault. Draco could not remember the last time a fantasy felt so real. His hands were everywhere, sliding over Harry’s skin with an intensity he had leashed during Harry’s massages. He mapped Harry’s mouth with his tongue, tracing every curve and ridge of tongue and teeth, depriving them of oxygen until the need became too great. Just when he thought he might pass out, Draco pulled away, panting heavily. He pressed his lips against Harry’s forehead.

“Beautiful Harry. I should be mad at you, but you’re not real, so I’ll just fuck you, instead.”

Harry made a squeaking noise that sounded out of place in a dream and caused Draco to frown.

“Draco,” Harry said in a serious tone. Draco’s tongue flicked out and touched the scar on Harry’s brow and grinned when the Gryffindor drew in a shuddering breath.

“Draco, this is not a dream.”

“You’re not being cooperative, Harry. You’re supposed to say, ‘Fuck me, Draco’ and then make appreciative moaning sounds.”

Harry’s green eyes widened almost impossibly and it seemed to take him a moment to remember his larynx. This dream Harry was very cute. “I’d love to,” Harry said in a breathless tone. “But you seem to think I’m not really here. I had to fetch Pansy all the way from Greece to bring me to your flat. You were cold as bloody death and terrified me out of half my remaining lifespan.”

Draco pulled back slightly and frowned at him. “You talk a lot more than usual.”

“Damn it, Draco, this is not a dream!” Harry snapped.

Draco froze and his pleasant lethargy was slashed by a knife edge of panic. Not a dream? What had he just revealed?

He tried to pull away, but Harry’s grip tightened. “Listen to me,” Harry said quickly. “Listen, I didn’t kiss you before out of some twisted ulterior motive. I kissed you because I wanted to.”

Draco tried to twist away, but Harry moved quickly, flinging himself atop Draco and grabbing both wrists to press them into the pillow on either side of his head. “Hermione told you about the spell,” Draco said flatly.

“She hasn’t told me anything about the bloody spell,” Harry snapped. “This is not about the spell, and it’s not about Hermione, and it’s not about the Unbreakable Vow, and it’s not about anything other than the fact that I don’t want to live without you. I never said anything before because at first I thought it was just a stupid doctor-patient type thing and that I only wanted you because you took care of me. When I realized that wasn’t the case, I tried to deny it because you’re a man, and I’m a man, and it’s ridiculous because we’re both straight.”

Draco made a face; how little Harry actually knew! He wanted to comment, but the sincere green eyes held him captive.

“Or I was straight until I got to know you, because you’re amazing, Draco. You’re abrasive and sarcastic and snobbish and rude,” Harry said and Draco blinked at his incredible ability to try and link the word amazing with a series of insults, but the Gryffindor continued. “But underneath those things you’re warm and kind and generous and honest.”

Draco stilled, unable to accept Harry’s words and the gentle tone in which they were delivered. Harry pressed closer to Draco’s body, wriggling in a delightful fashion on his torso. “And after what you just said to me, I’m hoping to hell you’re not quite as straight as I thought. What was it you wanted me to say?” Harry purred. “’Fuck me, Draco?’

Draco thought for a moment that he must have died. Either that or slipped into an alternate reality. Harry said it again and tipped his head back, offering his lips for a kiss, offering himself to Draco.

“Are you…?” Draco began and licked his dry lips in an effort to produce words. “Are you sure?”

“I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life,” Harry said earnestly.

Draco’s disbelief slowly melted away, but trust was a harder thing to locate. “About the Unbreakable Vow…”

Harry leaned down and kissed him. “We’ll discuss that later. Right now I only want to talk about how much I want you. Bloody hell, if you only knew how many times I had to wank before every one of your massages. Just thinking of these hands…” Harry’s fingertips, which had been drawing delicate circles over the bones of Draco’s wrists, moved into Draco’s palms for a ticklish caress. “…touching me.” He groaned.

Draco gaped at him. “How many?” he asked stupidly.

“One memorable day it was six,” Harry admitted. “Six times before I could trust myself to let you touch me.”

Draco smiled brilliantly. Somehow, the revelation made it all seem real. That and the fact of Harry’s obvious erection pressing into his groin, reawakening his own partially hard cock with a shiver of anticipation. He leaned up and touched his lips to Harry’s, nearly overcome with emotion. He had never expected anything like this, not really, despite his fantasies.

Harry moaned against his lips and parted his mouth to deepen the kiss. Draco sucked lightly at his tongue, envisioning sucking something else, and Harry’s answering twitch made his heart leap. Harry’s fingers were still touching his palms, but he needed to feel him, so he slipped his hands free; they roamed over the Gryffindor’s back on a path so familiar, and yet somehow new. His fingers glided over the ridges formed by Harry’s ribs, counting them until they disappeared into smoothness, until his fingers touched fabric and slipped beneath.

Harry’s hands were in Draco’s hair, caressing the strands as though he’d never felt anything so soft. Draco tried to concentrate on his own hands. He had touched Harry’s arse before, kneading away stiffness, but he never touched like this, exploring… dipping into the crack and gliding his fingertips along the hot edges, feeling Harry’s legs part as a whimper escaped, thrumming into Draco’s mouth.

Harry rocked downward with the press of Draco’s hands, grinding his erection into Draco’s groin; he felt his own hard cock push into Harry’s abdomen. The silk was in the way, even though the fabric was slippery and provided delicious friction for an instant. Harry shifted forward again with a gasping sound of need even though his mouth never left Draco’s.

Draco curled his fingers deeper, cupping the curves of Harry’s arse and gliding his fingers over the edge of Harry’s testicles—the Gryffindor broke away then with a sharp intake of breath. He quivered and for a moment Draco thought Harry might come—he stared into the wide green eyes and watched them flutter shut as Harry bit his lip, obviously fighting the urge. Draco nearly stroked his balls again, teasingly evil, but he waited.

“Draco. Fuck, it’s been…” Harry stopped and then laughed sharply. “Hell, it’s been six years, apparently.”

“You didn’t—?” Draco asked in confusion and then swallowed heavily when he realized Harry had not touched anyone since his awakening. “Not even that pretty fucking waiter who slipped his number into your pocket?”

“You knew about that?” Harry asked and jerked when Draco’s fingers moved after all, but Harry had regained control and only rocked into Draco again.

“He was not very subtle,” Draco said dryly.

Harry grinned. “I threw it out. I told you I thought I was straight. Besides, you’re the only one I’ve wanted since you woke me up.”

“Like Sleeping Beauty,” Draco said stupidly, but his heart was soaring and the words didn’t sound quite so stupid after all.

Harry kissed him again. “Yeah, like that,” he said. “Mmmm. What about you? Anyone special I should know about?”

“Special? There’s never been anyone special, Harry.” His right hand left off tickling Harry’s testicles and curved up and over his buttock and hip to slide between them, seeking the hardness that currently gouged him.

“Oh… wait,” Harry said and pressed down harder to trap Draco’s fingers before they reached their destination. “If you do that, I’ll lose it. I’m too close right now; I want to touch you first. Merlin, I’ve wanted to touch you so many times.” Harry untangled his hands from Draco’s hair, but only enough to move them forward slightly, cupping his face. Harry’s thumbs moved over Draco’s cheeks and up either side of his nose before gliding over his eyebrows delicately. Draco stared at him in amazement—no one had ever touched his face before—and Harry gazed at him as though mesmerized.

Fingers grazed Draco’s lips and he parted them to flick his tongue at the digits as they passed, earning a smile. Harry’s breath hitched and he whispered, “Draco. You’re so…”

“Perfect?” Draco asked, trying to ease the strange ache in his chest.

Harry’s grin widened. “Yeah.”

Fuck. Draco pulled both hands free and used them to drag Harry’s head down for a bruising kiss. With a sudden movement of his legs, he twisted them both so that Harry lay beneath him. He snogged the black-haired man until he was dizzy with the need for air, and then he panted into Harry’s neck in an effort to recover. “Maybe touching me was a bad idea,” Draco commented.

“I’m not complaining,” Harry replied breathlessly.

“Can you spell these clothes away?” Draco asked and Harry nodded. He reached beneath the pillow and pulled out the hawthorn wand before casting a quick spell. Suddenly there were no more barriers between them and Draco groaned at the feel of Harry’s bare cock next to his own. He raised his head and looked into the Gryffindor’s green eyes. “Do you know… Lubrication Charms?”

Harry nodded and a look of concern crossed his features for a moment.

“If you don’t want to, it’s okay,” Draco assured him quickly.

“No, I want to! I just don’t know quite… how.”

“Well, it’s been a while for me, too, but I’ll do my best to make it good for you.” His tone was teasing, but he meant every word. He planned to make Harry scream with ecstasy by the time he finished.

The Gryffindor blushed prettily and then cast another Charm. Rather than producing a handful of lube, as Draco expected, Harry actually conjured a jar of the massage oil Draco frequently used. It was one of his favourites with a distinctly tropical scent and it immediately brought back memories of hundreds of touches. Draco took the jar and unscrewed the cap. “Make sure the door is locked,” he rasped. “I don’t want anyone interrupting us.”

OOoOO

Harry’s breath caught at the look in Draco’s eyes. He thought he might melt into their liquid depths and the sharp nervousness he felt began to dissipate. Draco had taken care of him since the moment he had awakened. Hell, Draco had given up his magic for Harry, something he thought no pureblood would ever do. Harry still wanted to know why Draco had done it, but now was not the time. He watched as Draco’s perfect, pale fingers opened the jar and then dipped inside.

“How long?” Harry asked, unable to stop himself.

“How long what?”

“You said it’s been a while for you…”

Draco smiled and Harry was glad to see it wasn’t a smirk. “I wanted to forget you in Brazil. There were gorgeous, tanned opportunities everywhere, but none of them were you, Harry. So, yes, it’s been a while. Since before I woke you up, actually. I suppose we were both idiots, eh?”

Harry swallowed through the lump in his throat. “Not idiots, maybe, but perhaps a little slow?”

“Sometimes slow is good,” Draco said. “Let me show you.” With that, his oil-slick fingers moved beneath the covers and Harry gasped when they glazed over his cock in deliciously slow strokes.

“Ohhhh, your hands. I adore your hands.”

Draco did smirk at that, but rewarded Harry by gripping his cock and fisting it rapidly a few times, causing Harry to arch his back in response and a cry escaped his lips. He nearly yelped in frustration when Draco let go, but the blond sat back on his haunches and gazed at Harry with an expression of such naked hunger that Harry would have forgiven him anything. His fingers touched the oil again and then returned to skate lightly over Harry’s cock before moving lower.

Draco kept his platinum eyes fixed on Harry’s as he traced gentle circles around his hole until he thought he might die of anticipation. The sensation was incredible and his aching erection leaked fluid onto his abdomen. His legs unconsciously opened wider, begging for more, and Draco obliged by pressing the tip of one finger inside.

Harry drew in a sharp breath, but forced himself to stay loose and relaxed—he fully trusted that Draco would not hurt him. The single finger pushed in and in until it halted at the knuckle, and then it worked slowly in and out until Harry was ready, oh so ready, for more. A second one joined the first and it was tight enough that Harry winced and kept his muscles relaxed only through sheer Gryffindor willpower. Draco helped by coating his other hand with oil and rubbing it over Harry’s cock again. Harry alternated his attention between the two building sensations.

Draco’s fingers moved rhythmically, pulling, pushing, opening him. A third finger joined the second, stretching him wider than Harry thought possible, and the stroking on his cock became almost more than he could bear. He was getting close again, so incredibly close. His panting gasps sounded loud in the room, audible even over the crackle of the fire.

And then Draco’s fingers pulled out, leaving him strangely empty, until something large and hot touched his loosened hole. Another quick coating of oil slicked the entry and then Harry felt himself stretching, stretching, widening impossibly to take in Draco’s suddenly gigantic-seeming prick. Fucking Merlin, he couldn’t possibly fit!

But he did. Harry shook, covered in sweat, with his fingers twisted in the sheets so tightly that his joints protested. Draco didn’t move, pausing with only his cock head buried. His eyes were intense and dark with passion. “Are you okay?” he asked huskily.

Harry nodded sharply, not feeling okay at all, but still wanting more.

“This is the rough part,” Draco warned and then pushed into Harry with a steady thrust that ripped a shout from Harry’s throat as his world went white with pain. The rough part? He felt like a burning firebrand had been shoved up his arse! He whimpered, wanting to throw Draco off and escape the pain, but he slowly became aware that Draco held him tightly and murmured nonsense against his lips while pressing soft kisses there. Slowly, holy fuck, so damned slowly, the burning subsided and reduced itself to an almost bearable ache.

“Ouch,” Harry managed though lungs barely able to process air.

“Sorry,” Draco replied. “I wish I could make it easier, but it will be like that the first few times… until you get used to it.” He sounded worried and rightly so, because Harry wasn’t sure there would be more times if he had to go through that wretched experience again.

Draco’s wonderful hands were soothing, however, stroking over every bit of Harry’s skin they could touch and wrapping around his cock to keep his erection from deflating. It was a feeling of awesome relief when Draco pulled nearly out, leaving him shaking.

And then Draco pushed back in. This time the burn was not as noticeable and when he dragged back and pressed forward again, Harry thought he might be able to bear it. He sighed slightly in relief and relaxed without too much effort. His hands moved up and touched Draco’s hips, holding lightly and loving the feel of the ridges beneath his thumbs as he stroked gently.

Apparently satisfied with Harry’s response, Draco set up a pace that Harry found tolerable if not quite pleasurable. Not quite, until Draco discovered that.

Harry stiffened with a gasp and his fingers clenched hard into Draco’s hips, stilling his motion. “What?” Draco asked in concern.

“What was that?” Harry breathed. He experimentally lifted his hips and rocked forward onto Draco’s cock, drawing a sharp intake of breath from the blond.

“Fuck, Harry, warn me before you do that… but damn, do it again!”

Harry did, trying to find that magical sensation again, but nothing happened except that he felt rather good about having some control, especially when Draco threw his head back with a gorgeous moan. Harry bit his lip and thrust upward sharply.

“Merlin! I was trying to keep it gentle for you!” Draco’s voice was strained. His hands wrapped around Harry’s hips, forcing Harry to release Draco’s and clutch at his thighs instead. “Tell me… fuck, tell me if I’m being too rough.”

With that, Draco thrust forward sharply and Harry arched nearly off of the bed. “Bloody hell, yes!” he cried. Draco took Harry’s new enthusiasm to heart and began to slam into him roughly, causing Harry’s hands to slide against his thighs until he finally twisted his fingers back into the bedclothes to gain some leverage. He matched Draco stoke for stroke and every thrust pounded over something absolutely brilliant that was turning Harry to molten jelly.

“Draco, oh yes, Draco, yes, fuck!” Harry chanted mindlessly, nearly sobbing each word. A hand suddenly fastened around his throbbing cock, stroked twice, and Harry screamed aloud as he came.

“Harry, you… are so…so… Oh, Merlin!” Draco’s head fell back and a sharp cry escaped his lips. Harry, nearly lost in his own orgasm, found it an incredible sight—Draco almost seemed enveloped in a golden glow for a moment. He collapsed over Harry with a sharp gasp and his teeth sank gently into Harry’s shoulder. Harry wrapped his arms tightly around Draco’s waist and felt his body quake against him, mirroring his own quivers of release. As Draco slumped over him in a limp heap, Harry gripped him more tightly and pressed soft kisses into the salty flesh of Draco’s neck. As the orgasmic high began to dissipate, Harry felt none of the awkwardness he had feared. Instead, he wanted to stay where he was, sliding his hands gently over the smooth skin and holding the Slytherin until they both fell asleep.

Draco rolled off suddenly and looked at him through strangely bright eyes. “Did you know?”

Harry reached up to trace the edge of Draco’s jaw, “Did I know what? That you would be amazing in bed? I admit I suspected it.”

Annoyance crossed the fine features, but it was tempered with softness. Draco’s hand grabbed Harry’s and he placed a kiss in into the palm.

“Give me your wand,” Draco said. Harry frowned, but reached behind himself to locate the forgotten bit of wood. His questing fingers touched it and he handed it to Draco.

Accio Harry’s glasses,” Draco said and the silver-frames scraped across the bedside table and sailed into his outstretched hand. Harry gaped at him in wonder.

“How—?” He took the spectacles and put them on before staring at Draco again. “How did you do that? I thought surely… Could you do magic all along?”

Draco frowned. “You really didn’t know?”

“Know what? Why do you keep asking me that?”

OOoOO

Draco looked at Harry in confusion. It took him a moment to process the idea that Harry was innocent—that he had actually slept with him without the intention of “saving” him. It was nearly overwhelming. Draco conjured a warm, wet cloth, thrilling at the feel of magic coursing through him again. He was surprised at how easily it came back to him; he had always thought it would be sluggish if it returned. Draco finally felt wonderfully whole.

“Let me clean you up,” he said and Harry lay back obediently with a slight blush tinting his cheeks as Draco’s eyes roamed over the slick mess on his abdomen. Draco cast a Cleaning Charm and then leaned down to press a kiss on Harry’s flat stomach. Despite the spell, he tasted a hint of saltiness and lapped at it, nearly growing hard again at the faint remnant of Harry’s come.

“Draco,” Harry gasped and then twisted his hands in Draco’s hair, not ungently. “Tell me.”

“All right.” Draco moved back until he lay next to Harry and looked into his placid green eyes. “But, I don’t know if you’re going to like this.”

“Is my magic gone now? Did it return to you?”

“No, I…” Draco paused. “I don’t think so. Here.” He handed the wand back to Harry.

Lumos!” Harry said and the tip glowed brightly. A knot loosened itself in Draco’s chest. Thank Merlin, Harry still had magic. The Gryffindor’s brow crinkled and Draco smiled.

“Harry, it’s possible that… Well, no, it’s probable, actually. Maybe more than probable…”

Harry grinned broadly and reached out to stroke his fingers across Draco’s jaw. “I’ve never seen you babble before. It’s so cute.”

Draco snapped his jaw shut with a scowl. “I’m not babbling,” he snapped. “I’m trying to tell you that we could be Bonded. Are Bonded. We are magically Bonded, Harry.”

Harry’s grin widened. “Bonded. Like in married or something?”

“Yes. Like in married or something.” Draco tried to keep the sarcasm out of his voice and failed. What was it about the Gryffindor that prevented any sort of normal conversation? “Okay. If you say so,” Harry said and then yawned widely and shut his eyes before scooting forward and snuggling into Draco’s body.

“Harry, this is serious.”

“Mmmm hmmm. I’m sure. Sleep now.” With that, Harry yawned and nuzzled at the hollow of Draco’s throat. Draco sighed and buried his face in Harry’s impossibly thick hair. Maybe the Gryffindor would be properly upset after a nap.

Draco pulled him closer and drifted off to sleep.

OOoOO

A loud banging roused Harry from the best sleep of his life. He remembered why when he opened his eyes and found himself staring into the sculpted features of Draco Malfoy. A smile tugged at his lips as he thought about awakening the blond by touching something… His hand moved from the curve of Draco’s lower back over the smooth skin of his arse cheek—until a hammering startled him.

“Harry James Potter! You had better open this door right now or so help me I’ll come through the wall!”

Harry sat up with a start. It was Hermione. They had forgotten to cancel the Locking Charms on the door. Harry sought for the wand in the bedcovers.

“I don’t think it’s down there, Harry,” Draco said in a teasing tone and Harry looked up to find the silver eyes watching him. Harry continued the grope with a different purpose and Draco’s eyes darkened in an especially nice way. Fuck the door, he thought.

At that moment the door blasted completely off the hinges and flew into the room where it bounced off the nearest bedpost and ended with one corner in the fire. Harry gaped at Hermione as she stalked into the room, but she gasped and halted at the sight of them. Harry guiltily snatched his hand away just as Draco yanked the sheet up to partially cover them.

Behind Hermione, Pansy smirked. “I didn’t think you’d last long once he woke up, Potter.”

Harry thought his blush might burn the flesh from his face, but he moved closer to Draco and tucked a possessive arm around his shoulders. The blond stiffened, but Harry pressed on in typical Gryffindor fashion. “Draco says we’re married now.”

His breath left in a whoof as a fist smacked into his midsection. “I didn’t say that, you idiot. I said we were Bonded.”

Harry scowled at him, but refused to let him go, not that Draco seemed to be pulling away. In fact, he tucked his head against Harry’s shoulder. “What’s the difference?”

“A ridiculous legal ceremony and some paperwork.”

“Oh. Well, we can do that later, right?”

Draco did pull away at that, in order to stare at him with an expression bordering on horrified. “You… You want to marry me?”

Hermione made a squealing sound and rushed forward to throw herself on the bed atop them, squeezing them both mercilessly. “Oh, I’m so happy! I can’t believe it! I can’t believe Harry finally did it! I thought I was imagining the way you practically drooled every time Draco walked into a room. And Draco, I knew he couldn’t resist you if he even looked at you properly for five minutes…”

“Muddy.” Draco’s voice was muffled by her large breasts. “Need air.”

Harry agreed. She was practically strangling him. She sat back, but her face was beaming.

“So they shagged. Why is that so spectacular?” Pansy asked in a bored tone. “Not that Potter doesn’t have a nice, shaggable arse.”

“Hey!” Harry and Draco said in unison. Harry looked at him in surprise and Draco leaned close to whisper, “She is right, though.”

“The spell is complete, right?” Hermione asked. “Draco? Your magic?”

Draco looked at her and nodded. “It’s back. You didn’t tell Potter about the spell?”

She scowled. “How could I? That damned Unbreakable Vow I took nearly got you killed!”

“How could you do that to Hermione?” Harry asked him indignantly. “I thought you liked her.”

Draco’s arms tightened and he looked almost sheepish. It was such an odd expression on him that Harry wished he had a camera, because he doubted he would ever see it again. “I lied,” he said.

“You lied about liking her?”

“No, idiot, about the Vow. It wasn’t a real Unbreakable Vow. Well, it was, but I used Blaise as our Bonder, remember? He helped me cast a Nullification Field before you came over. Every spell cast within the field was nullified.”

“I would have noticed!” Hermione protested.

Draco grinned wickedly. “You didn’t notice. The spell worked exactly as it was supposed to, for the period of six seconds until the Nullification Charm took effect. You just thought it was a normal part of the Vow. You had never taken one before, right?”

She shook her head, clearly disgruntled. “And I never will again. Why did you do that? You are a complete and total bastard!”

Draco shrugged. “You’re a Gryffindor. I wanted a guarantee that you wouldn’t go all noble and tell everything to the Boy Wonder here, which you would have done! But I also did not want you to die from an inability to keep your mouth shut.”

“But if I had told him it wouldn’t have taken nearly a year to make things right!”

Draco looked at Harry speculatively. “He would have Bonded with me just to save me. I think I prefer it this way.”

Harry looked pointedly at Hermione, hoping she would take the hint and leave him alone with his newfound lover. She coughed and actually blushed slightly. “Well. Now that I know you two are okay, I suppose we can go.”

“Can’t we stay and watch?” Pansy asked. Harry stared at her aghast. She rolled her eyes. “I was only kidding. You might have to break him of his modesty, Draco. I know how much you like sex in public.”

She sauntered out with Hermione in tow and Harry looked at Draco with narrowed eyes. “How would she know that?”

December 15th, 2005

Harry normally hated shopping. He blamed the Dursleys, of course, for never teaching him the finer skills of seeking out proper shops, searching for merchandise, weighing items with a critical eye, and bargaining. Normally Harry would go to any store that caught his fancy, pick out whatever random item caught his eye and pay for it without question. Most of the time he allowed himself to be coerced into buying several items he didn’t need, thanks to the persistent haggling skills of crafty clerks.

Shopping with Draco was an eye opening experience. The blond bypassed several Addition Alley shops, declaring them unworthy. He dragged Harry into a ludicrous amount of clothiers and insisted he purchase an entirely new wardrobe—for them both. Harry could hardly complain when Draco took such pleasure in modelling the clothing for him. He was reluctant to do the same, until the first outfit he tried on caused Draco’s platinum eyes to warm like molten silver.

Not that it was all sunshine and roses, of course. The prat was utterly insatiable. He demanded chocolates and hot tea; he insisted on buttery croissants; he spent so many hours in the Apothecary that Harry checked himself for spider webs, in case he had sprouted some during his bored wait by the door. Draco was a tireless shopper, visiting more stores in one afternoon than Harry frequented in six months.

Still, everything he did was a joy to watch. His thick black robes were buttoned tightly around his lean frame and a dark scarf nearly obscured his face whenever they were outdoors. Harry had picked up the scarf once and had to smile at the dark green snakes twining their way through the black wool, nearly invisible except on close examination.

Draco held up a slinky bit of green satin and lace for his perusal. “Do you think Muddy would like this?”

“I think Ron would adore you. I think Hermione might strangle you with it.”

“Maybe I’ll give it to the Weasel, then.”

“Only if you want him to have heart failure when he opens it.”

“A bonus! I’ll do it.”

Harry punched him half-heartedly on the arm, but he laughed at the very thought of Ron’s eyes bugging out in panic when he viewed the lingerie.

Draco had purchased an insane number of noisemaking, exploding, and borderline dangerous toys for Hugo and Rose. Harry thought they might have to spend the entire month of January at Draco’s flat to avoid Hermione’s wrath. At the thought of staying at the quiet flat alone with the blond, Harry licked his lips and looked at Draco speculatively.

“No, Harry. We have to finish our shopping. It’s only ten days until Christmas and we still have Pansy’s gift.”

Harry moved close enough to touch the blond. “Just snatch some fit lad off the streets and ship him off to her. That will keep her happy for a bit.”

“Harry James Potter, are you advocating kidnapping? The shame. Besides, I think Pansy is smitten with her Greek lover. She’s never stayed anywhere so long. I might have to buy her a condo.”

“Can we go home now?” Harry begged, plucking the fabric from Draco’s fingers and leaning in to press a kiss on Draco’s neck.

“I promise to shag you properly later, Harry. Right now it is serious shopping time. What do you plan to get for the Weasel clan?” Despite his words, Draco raised a hand and caressed Harry’s cheek gently.

“Hermione is picking something up for me,” Harry murmured as his eyes fluttered shut.

“You scheming little Gryffindor! How dare you shirk your shopping duties?”

“I wanted more time to spend with you,” Harry breathed and felt a thrill of victory when Draco sighed and touched his lips to Harry’s. The kiss deepened out of control, as it usually did, and only a throat-clearing noise from the nearby clerk drew them out of a lust-induced haze.

“Let’s go outside,” Draco said thickly and Harry nodded. They escaped the clothiers and Harry welcomed the cold winter air on his cheeks. The sky was leaden and seemed ready to spit snowflakes at any moment. Draco marched across the street where a small café sat with fairy lights twinkling in the window. Harry thought he would go inside for another cup or tea or some sweets, but Draco continued into a small evergreen garden bordering the café. In the summer, the wrought iron tables set amid the greenery would be filled with people—now it was abandoned.

Harry entered the space, ducking under the dangling branches of a weeping cherry tree, barren of leaves. Draco indicated a chair. “Sit.”

Harry obediently settled into a cold metal seat, wincing as the chill seeped into his buttocks despite his warm robes. Draco seemed suddenly nervous and Harry frowned, wondering what his lover was about.

Draco sighed heavily. “Harry, I meant to wait, but you’re forcing me to do this.”

Panic suddenly scrambled with mad claws in Harry’s brain. He clutched at the iron table with one hand, barely noticing the knife-edged cold that lanced into his fingers. Oh god, he’s dumping me, he thought wildly.

“I know you’ve joked about our Bond and about being married,” Draco continued, stressing the last two words with a sarcasm that seemed forced. Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Draco put two warm fingers against his lips. “Hush. This is hard enough.”

Harry thought his heart might actually stop beating. He wanted to run into the street, to hurry away from whatever Draco would say next. Instead, he knew he would abandon his Gryffindor pride and cling to the blond, begging, pleading for another chance. The past month with Draco had been more incredible than he could have imagined. Had he been stifling the Slytherin?

He forced his hysterical thoughts into a more rational pattern and made himself listen to Draco, who spoke in a quiet, serious tone.

“I know you think the Bond was forced on me and that I had little to say in the matter. I want you to know that I willingly cast the spell that stripped my magic and gave it to you, even without knowing the full effects. At the time, I had little reason to live and you… well; you had the potential that I lacked, Harry. You had friends and fans and the potential to become even more than you were.”

Harry frowned, but Draco went on. “I want you to know that I would do it again. I would do it even if the outcome were different. I would have died for you then without really knowing you. And now… well, now I would die for you just because you’re you.”

Harry’s eyes widened. He strove to speak, but Draco dropped to his knees. Both pale hands took up the hand in Harry’s lap, the one that had been plucking nervously at the edge of his Gryffindor scarf, the one he purposely wore to annoy the beautiful blond kneeling before him.

“Harry, the Bond might have been an unexpected consequence, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You seem oddly content to be with me, putting up with my tantrums and moods and general inability to properly communicate. And fuck, this is not at all coming out the way I had planned. I meant to wait until Christmas, but…”

One of Draco’s hands left Harry’s and slipped inside of his robe. He withdrew a tiny box and flicked it open with a click to expose a platinum band set with tiny green stones.

“Harry, will you marry me?”

Time seemed to stand still as Harry stared at the ring, barely able to reconcile Draco’s words with his panicked musings of moments before. Silence stretched between them and Draco’s fingers, still clutching Harry’s hand in his lap, began to tremble slightly. The ring box pulled away minutely and the barely perceptible movement snapped Harry’s stasis.

He threw himself on the blond with a cry of joy, knocking him to the ground with a sharp exhale. Harry planted kisses over Draco’s face while dragging in sobbing breaths. He realized he was crying and did not care a jot, especially when Draco laughed.

“Does this ridiculous display equate to a yes?” he asked dryly.

Harry laughed through his tears. “Yes! Hell, yes! I thought you were going to leave me!”

Draco’s hands rose to brush the wetness from Harry’s face. The ring box was crushed between them and Harry recovered it with reverence. He flipped it open and gazed at the circlet, feeling his throat close up again.

“Hufflepuff,” Draco chided. “You’re ruining my robes.”

“I know,” Harry acknowledged, but he made no move to rise. He plucked the ring from the black velvet and slipped it on. “I love you.”

Draco’s smile could have rivalled the sun for brilliance. He dragged Harry down into a heady kiss, obviously no longer mindful of his destroyed robes. Harry kissed him as though his life depended on it, pouring every bit of emotion he possessed into it, breaking away only when his lungs screamed for oxygen.

The result was lovely to behold—Draco Malfoy with gorgeously flushed cheeks, mussed hair, and eyes the colour of bottomless pools, dazed and slightly unfocused.

“Draco, I want you right now.”

The silver eyes refocused and widened perceptively. “What? Here?”

Harry’s fingers were already unfastening the buttons on Draco’s black robes, frantic with eagerness. Halfway down, he yanked off his Gryffindor scarf and placed it beneath Draco’s head as a cushion.

Harry had never been quite bold enough to put Pansy’s statement about Draco enjoying public sex to the test, but now it seemed the most natural thing in the world. The fact that anyone could walk by the garden entry and see them gave him a curious thrill. He saw the though mirrored in Draco’s eyes and in the smiled that curved his kiss-reddened lips.

Draco gasped when Harry’s cold hand breached the open robes and slipped into his pants to grip his already-hardening cock. Harry smiled wolfishly. “Oh yes, right here. Right now. You are mine and I am yours and I want the world to know it, so if a photographer from the Daily Prophet happens to walk by and snap a photo, well then, I shall request a dozen copies.”

He stroked as he spoke and Draco arched beneath him even as his hands fumbled with Harry’s outerwear. When Draco’s fingers reached flesh, Harry wondered how he always managed to keep his hands so warm, not that he was complaining, especially when those wonderful, warm fingers wrapped around his stiff cock and twisted in a way that always made Harry growl in the back of his throat.

Their hands bumped together and their breath mingled and fogged the air as they celebrated their mutual adoration with eagerness. Harry wanted nothing more than to bury himself deep in Draco’s heat, but he was too close to the edge to wait. There would be time for that later, time for hot drinks and thick blankets spread before the fire. The flames would make a halo of Draco’s hair and Harry would bury his hands in it while slowly drinking in the knowledge that he would wake up next to the blond not only tomorrow, but tomorrow’s tomorrows.

But now all was urgency and need, stroking hands and banging knuckles, hurried kisses and whispered, incoherent sounds. Harry came with a rush and a strangled cry, followed closely by Draco. Fuck, Harry would never tire of feeling Draco shivering against him, whether over, under, or beside. Their fingers kept moving until the last drop of release milked out, marring their clothing with wetness and smearing over their abdomens and hands.

“Are you boys all right?” a voice called and Harry’s head snapped up to see an elderly witch peering at them from near the hedge.

“Ah… yes, ma’am,” Harry replied. “Better than all right, actually.”

She must have caught sight of Harry’s bare chest—and possibly more—because she made a squeaking noise and turned away. Her heels clicked rapidly on the walk as she disappeared and Harry laughed aloud.

“Pervert,” Draco said in an amused tone.

“You should have seen her face,” Harry said and chuckled as he buried his face in the scent of Draco’s hair. “We must do this more often.”

“Come on, you. My backside is frozen and I’ll thank you to warm it for me.”

“With my tongue?” Harry suggested.

“Fuck, Harry, if I’d known a silly marriage proposal would turn you into a sex-crazed fiend I would have done it long ago.”

“We will just have to make up for lost time then, won’t we?” he said and felt in Draco’s robes for the hawthorn wand. Harry used his own wand now, but their shared magic made Draco’s wand easier to use. They often shared it at home.

Shopping postponed for the day, Harry Apparated them to Draco’s flat and set about fulfilling his promise. It was shaping up to be their best Christmas ever.

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