Cupid’s Choice: Snake Bite & Black

*

"Stupefyingly dull speech, Potter. You excelled yourself."

Head dipped, presiding at an empty table festooned with the gaudy remnants of a Weasley family celebration, Harry stared harder into his pint glass and wished for the power of invisibility.

"Go ‘way, Malfoy."

"What sort of friend would I be if I left you sitting here on your own, depressed, and clearly on the verge of suicide?"

Ron and Hermione were too far away, and too busy waltzing around the crowded dance floor, to hear a cry for help. "You are not my friend, and I was sitting here quite happily thankyouverymuch until you interrupted me."

"Nonsense, Potter. You're pining. It's understandable: the love of your life has married another and you are inconsolable." The chair beside Harry's scraped noisily on the floor as Draco drew it out. "Anyone sitting here?"

"Yes," Harry said irritably, finally lifting his head to glare at the other man.

Draco seemed oblivious to Harry’s hostility as he slid his lean frame onto the chair. A small shrug barely caused a ripple in the elegant cut of his grey suit. "No matter, I'll move when they return."

Aside from physically pushing Draco off the seat – a childish temptation only tempered by the thought of Molly Weasley’s reaction if he started a fight at the reception – Harry had little choice than accept Draco's presence. And given how the large ballroom was ever so slightly tipping from side to side, standing and leaving with any dignity was not an option either.

He was trapped.

Draco was carefully hanging his suit jacket on the back of the chair, revealing a beautifully embroidered silver waistcoat.

As usual, Draco made Harry feel scruffy. Maybe if he was wearing his cravat rather than it poking out from the top pocket of the jacket slung carelessly over the back of his own chair. Or if his shirt wasn't untucked. He should have know better than to race around the tables carrying little Teddy Lupin on his shoulders; victory against George and his niece, Victoire, had come at a cost of dishevellement and a severely bruised kneecap.

Since it was becoming clear that Draco had no intention of leaving, he only had one recourse.

Harry lifted his glass and tipped his head back, noisily gulping down several mouthfuls. A trickle of the reddish liquid slid down the side of his chin and he wiped it of with the back of his hand as he set the glass down.

"What in Merlin’s name are you drinking?" Draco's grey eyes were staring at the garish contents of the glass in fascinated horror.

"It’s called a Snake Bite somethingorother. Yeah, a Snake Bite and Black," Harry remembered triumphantly. "Charlie told me about them."

"Charlie Weasley?"

"Yeah. Tastes nice."

"But what on earth is in it?"

A new voice startled them both. "Cider, lager and some blackcurrant cordial, sir. Would you care for one?" The source of the question was a smartly dressed waiter who’d appeared beside their table, tray in hand and clearly waiting for a reply.

"He keeps doing that," Harry observed, then pointed a wavering finger at the man, raised his voice. "You keep doing that. It’s annoying."

"Many apologies, sir. I am but here to serve."

Draco held up a neatly manicured hand. "Give me a moment." He reached out and drew Harry’s glass from the cradle of his hands, leaning forwards to sniff the contents, his nose wrinkling in disgust. "Potter, if you insist on ingesting Muggle alcohol, there are many far more palatable than this." Ignoring Harry’s splutter of indignation, he turned to the waiter. "Champagne, if you please. Dom Perignon, if you have it."

"Certainly, sir." The waiter clicked his fingers and a flute of golden liquid appeared on his tray. He placed the glass in front of Draco with a flourish. "Enjoy," he said, and was gone.

"That’s a girl’s drink."

"Says the man who is drinking something the colour of lipstick," Draco countered. "And at least mine doesn’t stain your clothes."

Harry frowned, following Draco’s gaze to the pink smear on his cuff. "Bloody hell," he muttered, grabbing a napkin from the table and dipping it in a glass of water, dabbing at the stain. "This was hired. Ginny’s going to kill me."

Soft laughter made him look up. "What?"

"You never cease to amuse me, Potter. Always thinking like a Muggle." His glee was irritating. "They’ll charm it clean in the shop." The napkin fluttered to the floor at Harry’s feet. "You’re not funny."

Draco retrieved the napkin, pausing to look up at Harry, hair flicking into his eyes. He brushed the errant strands back. "I am absolutely hilarious. You just lack the wit to appreciate my sense of humour."

"You’re so right," Harry agreed. "I’m sure there are loads of people way better than me to annoy."

"But none quite so adorable."

If looks could kill then Draco would have been rotting alongside Voldemort at that moment; to make matters worse, he looked amused by Harry’s outrage.

Sighing, Harry gave up. "What are you doing here, Malfoy?"

"You looked so lonely, Potter, I couldn’t…"

"No, no." Harry shook his head. "Not here here. Here." He twirled a finger around the room. "Ginny and Neville’s wedding."

"Clearly, I was invited."

"Yeah, right."

"I would hardly gatecrash a Weasley wedding. I do have some standards, you know."

"Who would invite you?"

Draco clapped a hand to his chest. "That hurts, Potter. Truly." When Harry’s expression remained sceptical, he continued. "I came with Astoria. She plays on the Weaslette’s team and for some reason desired to attend this function. Who am I to deny a woman’s foibles?"

"Ah-hah! I knew you weren’t invited."

Draco took a sip of champagne and cast his eye disparagingly around the room, settling his gaze on Molly Weasley sitting by the door, as far away from the band as she could manage, rocking a flame-haired baby in her arms. "A guest, Potter, a guest. I am Astoria’s ‘plus one’ and she assures me the Weaslette agreed. I can only assume she was correct since I have not been chased from the building by fork-toting Weasleys."

Draco’s partner finally registered with Harry. "You’re here with Astoria? But I thought…"

Draco looked back at Harry, vaguely amused. "My sexual proclivities do not bar me from social events."

Embarrassed, Harry stuttered, "No, no, I didn’t mean…I was just…"

"Relax, Potter. I know what you meant. Astoria required an escort for the evening, and I was available. Keeps my mother happy," he added mildly, eyes sliding away.

For once, Harry showed a modicum of tact and changed the subject. "Um, yeah…so Astoria’s a Chaser, isn’t she? Ron thinks she’s not bad."

"Not bad? She’s world class. Almost as good as me, but then again, I have taught her everything she knows."

Harry snorted. "Yeah, someone told me you were playing Quidditch for a living." He pretended to think "You’re a Chaser as well, aren’t you? What happened to being a Seeker? Not good enough?"

It was a cruel jibe and Harry knew it. Draco was one of Quidditch’s rising stars, tipped for the national team in the next World Cup and continually plastered throughout the pages of Quidditch Weekly. The poster boy for a legion of wizards and witches alike, but, as the press frequently reported and Draco had just confirmed, only wizards had any chance.

Draco smiled lazily and slid a finger down the side of his glass, collecting moisture on his fingertip. "Unlike you, I was fortunate enough to gain some muscle and height," he said, licking the moisture away. Harry tried not to stare. "And discovered that other positions are infinitely more pleasing. I’d recommend it but I don’t think you have the experience."

"I’m experienced," Harry protested – a little too loudly judging from the stare he got from a passing reveller.

"I’m sure you are, Potter." The patronising tone indicated otherwise.

"I am. I change positions in Weasley games all the time."

"What you and Charlie get up to is no concern of mine."

Harry’s cheeks reddened and he stuttered, "That…That’s not what I meant and you know it."

"Do I?" A crocodile couldn’t have smiled any wider. "Perhaps I have been misinformed. You just can’t believe anything in print these days, can you?"

"Not all of it, no," Harry said.

Draco was clearly amused by Harry’s discomfort and he said nothing for a few minutes, the smile never leaving his lips.

Harry looked away, watching a swarm of red-headed children race around the outskirts of the dance floor. Arthur Weasley, red-faced and puffing, was running after them, and Harry wasn’t sure if he was playing or trying to catch the little terrors.

Adults were thumping back and forth the in a grotesque parody of Scottish dancing. Arms flailing and feet bouncing as if on hot coals, seemed to be the general theme, and Harry saw Hermione dragging Ron alongside her, his staggering steps testament to how many whiskies he’d had during the meal.

There was no sign of the happy couple, though, and Harry envied them. They’d managed to sneak off with no one noticing. Lucky sods.

He took another mouthful of his drink.

"Since we are on the topic of illustrious careers, Potter," Draco said, snapping Harry back to the conversation. "What is it you do again? Auror? Work for the Ministry? Ah, no, I remember now – you work in a joke shop."

Business partner in the highly successful chain of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes was hardly ‘working in a joke shop’ but Harry knew he deserved the quip. George, had he not disappeared with Angelina to their hotel room upstairs, would, however, have flattened Draco. Harry felt obliged to retort.

"And you sit your arse on a broom."

"Touché." Draco raised his glass, still smiling. "To us, the undisputed layabouts of the wizarding world."

Harry couldn’t help but smile back. "To us," he agreed and swallowed the remnants of his drink. "I need another one of these."

*

Draco watched as Harry worked his way through several pints of his vivid concoction, progressing from tipsy to drunk in less than an hour. And with each pint Harry edged his seat closer to Draco’s so that by the third he might as well have been sitting on Draco’s lap.

"You know," Harry said loudly, poking a finger into Draco’s chest. "I hated you at school."

"The feeling was mutual."

"Was it?"

Harry’s hand had dropped on to Draco’s thigh and squeezed. "Potter," Draco stared at his hand, "what do you think you are doing?"

"Nothing."

"Well, I’d be grateful if you did nothing with your hand elsewhere."

Harry ignored him, leaning closer and flicking buttons the buttons of Draco’s waistcoat open, one by one. "But now I’m thinking you’re not so bad. Not bad at all."

Draco shifted uncomfortably in his chair, the warmth radiating from Harry’s body caressing his skin. "I’m flattered, Potter, but I suspect that in this state you’d even say that to Filch."

"Nah," Harry attempted to shake his head but clearly thought better of it and only managed a half-wiggle. "You’re much better than Filch. You," the finger stabbed again and harder, "Draco Weasley, are very hot."

Malfoy froze. "Malfoy, Potter, it’s Draco Malfoy."

"Tha’s what I said."

"No. It wasn’t." Draco managed to draw his chair back sharply, leaving Harry clutching at the air and on the verge of toppling to the floor. Righting himself, Harry blinked owlishly. "Wha’ did I do?"

Draco just shook his head in annoyance, trying not to react when Harry tugged the cravat from his jacket pocket and waved it in the air.

"Truce."

"Truce flags are generally white, Potter."

"Pffft. This is a special flag." The ‘special’ flag was waved more viciously, and Draco wondered just how much it would take for Harry to fall off the chair. Amusing as the thought was, he snatched Harry’s cravat from his fingers and shoved it in his own coat pocket.

"You should think about sobering up, Potter, or going home, before you do yourself an injury."

"Can’t go home, Ginny said not to. She thought we’d all get too drunk to Appa…Appa…to swish home, so she booked us all rooms in the hotel. Upstairs. But not you though, ‘cause you," with Draco out of reach, the pointing finger stabbed the air, "weren’t best man like me."

"I did tragically miss out on that honour, yes."

"You’re being sarcastical." Harry’s bottom lip jutted out as he considered what he’d just said. Draco found, to his horror, that he thought the expression was rather adorable.

"Sarcastic," he corrected quickly. "And I’m never that, Potter."

"Hermione! Ron! You’re back!" Harry bellowed, startling Draco, who turned to look at the approaching couple. They looked like they’d just stumbled back from the battlefield at Hogwarts; Ron was clinging to Hermione for support, wide eyes trying to focus on Draco.

"You’re Draco Miffloy," he slurred. "Tha’s my seat you’re shittin’ in."

Harry giggled and Hermione smacked the side of Ron’s head with her free hand. "Ron!"

"Wha’ did I say?" He winked at Harry in pantomime of subtlety and looked enormously pleased with himself.

"You promised your mum you would be nice."

"I am…" he belched and Hermione leaned back, tutting, "I am always, always, always…what am I always?"

"Nice," Harry finished.

"And I thought Harry on his own was bad enough," Draco said, feeling a surprising moment of affinity with Hermione Weasley.

"You have no idea," she agreed, guiding Ron to another chair and depositing him none-too-gently in it. As she took a seat beside Draco, the waiter popped into existence, and before Hermione could stop him, Ron had ordered them all whiskies. Doubles.

"Ron," she scolded, watching him down his in one swallow.

"Is jus’ one drink, ‘Mione."

"Sometimes I don’t know why I married you, Ron Weasley. I feel like I’ve two children and not just one."

"Come ‘ere." Ron reached out to try and pull Hermione in for a kiss, and she swivelled away from him, leaving him flailing.

"Draco," she said brightly, tucking some loose curls behind her ear. Draco had to admit that unlike her slovenly husband, she looked rather attractive that evening, and her attempts at civility were refreshing. "Are you having a nice time?"

"It’s most definitely been entertaining," he replied. "Potter, here, has been enlightening me about his love life."

"Really?" Hermione said, surprised.

"He was admitting his undying love for me, isn’t that right, Potter?" Draco said, expecting a flurry of slurring denials, but instead saw that Harry had fallen asleep, his head lolling against his chest.

"Harry’s drunk," Ron declared. "Can’t hold ‘is whisky."

"Merlin’s beard," Draco looked at the unconscious man, shaking his head. "He’s going to regret that tomorrow. Whisky on top of the swill he’s been drinking."

Hermione sighed heavily. "And now I’ve got to get him upstairs to bed. And him," she bobbed her head at Ron, "and retrieve Rose from Molly. She’ll be needing a feed soon."

Draco heard the words come out of his mouth before he could stop them. "I’ll make sure Potter gets to his room safely."

Hermione looked relieved. "Could you, Draco? That would be extremely helpful."

"I seem to have no other obligations this evening; my date appears to have absconded with Oliver Wood."

"Just make sure you get him there in one piece," she said and looked despairingly at her own inebriated husband. "Try to resist the temptation to strangle him."

Ron was peering into his empty glass and sensed her looking. "I think I’m jus’ going to have another for the road, love." He focused on the full glass in front of Draco. "Miffloy, you wanting tha’?"

Draco slid the glass to Ron’s open hand. "Knock yourself out, Weasley."

"Thank you so much, Draco. And there was me thinking I’d misjudged you."

Draco took the key to Harry’s room that Hermione was holding out to him. "I can’t have you actually liking me, Granger," he said. "It would upset the balance of the Universe."

"It’sWeasley now. Or you even try out ‘Hermione’ if you liked."

"You’ll always be Granger to me."

*

Negotiating the corridors was tricky, the stairs even more so, and Draco cursed the hotel’s malfunctioning lift. On several occasions he nearly resorted to magic, but the penalties for unauthorised use of the Obliviation charm were high and he couldn’t take the risk of a Muggle seeing him. Not for the first time did he curse the new Muggle-protection laws.

So he had to half-carry an increasingly tactile Harry Potter up five flights of stairs, and by the time he reached the room, he was sure no part of him had remained unfondled. At any other time he would have been flattered, but Harry was slurring out an assortment of names and not one of them was Draco Malfoy. It was guaranteed to kill any twinges he might have been feeling.

"Watch it, Charlie," Harry gasped as Draco propped him against the wall to unlock the door.

"It’s Draco." The key slid into the lock but Harry’s fingers wrapped clumsily around his and stopped him from turning the key.

Harry’s other hand pawed at the front of his shirt. "Are you comin’ in for a night cap?" Harry giggled and his hand slid lower to the front of Draco’s trousers only to be stopped by tight grip.

"No, Potter, you’re going to bed."

"Yeah, with you."

"No." Draco finally managed to get the key turned and pushed the door inwards, taking advantage of Harry’s lack of co-ordination to bundle him into the room.

Harry stumbled into the small hallway, his stunned expression brightening when Draco held out a hand. He reached out and Draco pressed the room key into his damp palm.

"Drink lots of water and go to bed, Potter," he said, and to Harry’s obvious surprise, he pulled the door closed.

Draco’s heart was thudding in his chest and he rested a palm against the closed door to centre himself. Inside the room he could hear the receding sound of staggered footsteps and a door closing.

It was a relief, now that Harry was inside he could stop pretending and admit just how hard pushing him away had been. Being called ‘Charlie’ dampened the fire, but didn’t quench it. It was too well entrenched.

He let out a breath and pushed away from the door, straightening his tie and smoothing his suit jacket. A bulge in the inner pocket made him frown, and he pulled out Harry’s cravat.

His lips quirked. "Well, well, well, Potter, looks like you haven’t got rid of me that easily."

*

When Draco strolled into Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes to return Harry’s crinkled cravat a couple of days later, Harry was surprised and embarrassed.

But Draco didn’t mention the events of the wedding, and Harry, relieved, played along. Feeling defensive and proud, he gave Draco a tour, thankful that George was over at the old Zonko’s shop doing a stock take.

Draco made a good pretence of being interested, even when Harry began to babble, and insisted on buying some Skiving Snackboxes and, with a smirk, an edible Dark Mark.

They went for a drink – giving George much fuel for a week’s worth of ridicule. And arranged to meet the following Sunday for lunch.

Draco, Harry quickly realised – although still an arrogantly pompous prat – was actually fun to be with. Whether Draco thought the same of Harry, Harry couldn’t be sure, but what was a couple of lunches soon became a regular Sunday engagement much to Ron’s horror.

"You’re mates with that prick?"

"Yeah, sort of."

"But it’s Malfoy!"

"Ron, leave him alone and finish your dinner." Hermione effectively silenced Ron’s arguments.

So, every Sunday Harry and Draco would meet in Hogsmeade, and Harry, only slightly tipsy because he had to work the next day, would Apparate back to Grimmauld Place and spend the rest of his evening with Kreacher. As far as Harry could tell, Draco went back to Malfoy Manor.

Occasionally, Harry considered inviting Draco back to his home, but he didn’t. It might have given Draco the wrong impression. Not that Harry necessarily minded Draco having the wrong impression, but it didn’t seem to be reciprocated. Draco had made it perfectly clear they were friends and that suited Harry fine. Absolutely fine, he assured himself.

When Harry had to attend a christening, interrupting their weekly lunch, Harry was disturbed by how disappointed he was. Draco, however, when Harry told him he’d have to cancel, didn’t seem too bothered.

If Harry were to be completely honest, it stung.

*

"What’s he doing here?" Harry heard Ron not-so-subtly hiss at Hermione, a few pairs of eyes glaring at him as the Minister droned on at the front of the church.

Harry turned and was surprised to see Draco Malfoy sitting in the back row of the church, looking ridiculously out of place amongst the ragtaggle assortment of Weasleys and their extended family.

As surprised and interested in her response as Ron, Harry leaned as close as he could without suffocating his newly christened goddaughter, Rose. She was nestled in the cradle of his arms and sucking at the sleeve of his jacket.

"I invited him," Hermione hissed back.

"What the bloody hell for?" Ron said, earning a disapproving ‘shush’ from a woman in the row behind.

"I thought he’d be good company for Harry."

What? Harry thought. Me?

"Harry?" Ron said, eyes shooting to Harry for an explanation.

Harry shrugged. "Don’t look at me," he said. "I didn’t know he was coming."

"’Mione?"

"Just leave it, Ron. Pay attention to the service."

Ron settled into a grumpy silence, flicking his eyes back to Draco Malfoy occasionally as though expecting the other to attack at any moment.

Harry caught Draco looking at him and waved Rose’s hand up and down. Draco smiled when Rose took the opportunity to vomit milk down the front of Harry’s suit and her ornately frilled, and centuries old, christening gown.

*

It wasn’t until they were settled in an upstairs room of the pub along the road, doors enchanted against Muggles, plates filled with sandwiches and tea cups filled to the brim, that Harry had a chance to speak to Draco.

"You never said you were coming," he challenged, taking a seat at the table Draco had found in the corner.

Draco pointed a finger across the crowded room at Hermione, who had been accosted by both sets of grandparents, both intent on doting on Rose. "She swore me to secrecy. Said it would be a nice surprise. Merlin knows why."

"She’s a woman," Harry said sagely, as though that was all the explanation required.

Draco nodded.

"Do we have to sit at a table with him," Ron’s voice boomed out. He had stopped at the empty chair beside Harry and was scowling.

"Ron, leave off would you, and sit down."

"Yes, Weasley, please take a seat beside us. I do so love your intellectual conversation. We can discuss bottoms and farting."

Harry groaned. "Draco, pack it in."

"But why? It’s fun. And it’s such a novelty to see him sober. Look at his forehead; I swear that blood vessel is going to rupture any second. You might want to cover your tea cup."

"What do you do, Malfoy, read a dictionary when you go to bed?"

"Yes, but you wouldn’t like it, Weasley: no pictures."

"You’re not that clever."

"But I am and you know it." Draco cocked his head to the side. "Are you just going to hover at our table all day or sit down? Or here’s an insane thought: you could go sit with your wife and daughter."

Ron looked genuinely puzzled, glancing over at Hermione. "What for? She’s managing fine on her own and she knows where I am." His heaped plate landed heavily on the table and Ron seated himself, stuffing a sandwich in his mouth as he said, "She’s loving it, really."

Harry looked over at Hermione and thought she looked far from ‘loving it’; she looked harassed and tired, surrounded now by a mass of cuckolding Weasleys; even her own parents had been pushed to the side.

"She looks thrilled," Draco said dryly, sharing a look with Harry.

"Uncle Harry! Uncle Ron!" two excited voices screamed. Teddy Lupin and Victoire Weasley barrelled in their direction from the midst of the throng. "Auntie Hermione said you’d keep us entertained."

"Oh, she did, did she?" Harry grinned, and scooped Teddy up off the ground, tipping him upside down as the boy squealed in delight. "What do you think, Vicky, should I drop him?"

Victoire, a year younger than Teddy but infinitely more sensible, nodded briskly, her red pigtails bouncing. "Drop him," she agreed.

"Nooooo!" Teddy yelled as Harry loosened his grip and let the little boy plunge a few inches. The giggling reached crescendo pitch and by the time Harry set Teddy on his feet again both he and Victoire were breathless and wheezing.

"More! More!"

"No, way. I’m old and knackered," Harry said. "Draco, you’re not doing anything, why don’t you give him a swing?"

The look of horror on Draco’s face was priceless. "I do not swing children, Potter."

"Aw, come on, Malfoy, you’d love it." Ron spoke around a mouthful of crisps, spitting some onto the table.

"No, no and no. Have I made myself clear enough?"

Victoire was tugging hard at Harry’s sleeve and he looked down. "What is it?"

Her bright blue eyes were staring at Draco. "Who is he, Uncle Harry?"

"That’s your Uncle Draco."

"I am not her Uncle Draco," Draco said loudly. "We are barely related. I am no more family to her than I am to this uncouth cretin, here."

Ron scowled. "I don’ want to be related to you either, Malfoy. You’re a prat."

"Uncle Ron said a swear," Teddy exclaimed. "He’s gonna get in so much trouble."

"Aw, shite, I’ll get an earful from Hermione now."

"You did another." Teddy poked Ron’s shoulder. "Gran says your hair will fall out if you use swears."

"Would be a good look for you, Weasley."

"Push off, Malfoy." Ron pushed his chair away from the table. "I need a drink. You want anything, Harry?"

"Could you get me a Snake Bite and Black?"

"A what?"

"It’s a Muggle drink, Weasley, don’t you know anything?"

Ron ignored him. "Come and ask for it yourself. It sounds like a girl’s drink."

Harry looked apologetically at Draco as he got to his feet. "We’ll be back in a minute. Do you want anything?"

"No, thank you, Potter. I think I’ll just stick with tea."

"Keep an eye on the kids, would you?"

"You’d better just be a minute."

Ron snorted. "Not scared of a couple of kids, are you?"

Harry pushed Ron in the direction of the bar before Draco lynched him. As he looked back at the table and saw the discomfort on Draco’s face, he thought maybe the answer to Ron’s question was ‘yes’.

*

Draco was finding the little monsters amusing. Swinging them around had been less unpleasant than he’d thought, and the discovery that they believed everything they were told was far too much of a temptation to resist.

"What do we call you?"

"You can call me Your Highness. And if you want to bow or curtsey then that is acceptable."

Victoire and Teddy stared at him, their eyes as huge as saucers. Exchanging glances, and in a flurry of limbs, they both bowed, then curtsied, then giggled.

"Adequate for a first attempt," Draco said seriously. "Although it is preferable for ladies to curtsey and gentlemen to bow."

"Why?" Teddy demanded. Draco frowned and he hastily added, "Your Highness."

"Decorum."

Victoire slowly repeated the word. "Dec-cor-im."

"Decorum," Draco corrected. "A word not often heard amongst the Weasleys."

"Draco," Hermione chastised, overhearing his last remark. She's managed to escape the clutches of the Weasley hordes and had Rose balanced in one arm, the other holding a bag filled with gaily wrapped gifts.

That reminded Draco he hadn’t passed along his present and he pulled it from the inside of his jacket: a small box neatly wrapped in tissue paper. "For Rose," he said, showing the box to Hermione and slipping it into the bag with the others.

"Thank you," she said. "But that doesn’t get you off the hook. You were terrorising the kids."

"If I am reluctantly abandoned with the offspring of your family, then I think I am allowed the pleasure of taunting them, don't you?"

"Abandoned?" she said, her face tightening. "Where're Ron and Harry?" "I believe Harry is introducing your husband to a Muggle concoction called a Snake Bite and Black."

"They're at the bar?"

"That was where they were headed," Draco agreed, "with the promise to return swiftly and relieve me of babysitting duties. That was half an hour ago."

Hermione looked thunderous. "I’ve just about had it with those two," she muttered and with an abrupt, "Here, take Rose for a minute," Draco suddenly found his arms full of squirming child.

"I don't want..."

His protestations fell on deaf ears; Hermione was already marching off across the room in search of her errant husband.

Rose was happily gurgling to herself, fascinated with the buttons on Draco's shirt. A slither of mucous was leaking from one nostril and Draco eyed it, and Rose, with disfavour. "One mark on my shirt and your mother will be changing nappies on an orang-utan," he threatened. Rose's fat little fingers tugged at one of the buttons and she burped in response.

"Your Highness?" Teddy said, forcing Draco's attention away from Rose.

"Yes?"

"Me and Vicky want to go to the buffet."

"And?"

"We aren't allowed without an adult. Auntie Hermione said." Victoire nudged him and he bowed.

She rolled her eyes and said, "No, you idiot, you need to say Your Highness at the end."

"Oh, yeah, right. Forgot. Your Highness," Teddy finished and bowed again just to make sure.

Rising carefully from the chair, awkwardly positioning Rose so her grubby fingers were removed from his shirt, Draco nodded. "Right then, minions, to the buffet. And only fill your plates with as much as you can eat."

Teddy and Victoire yelped in delight and raced off in the direction of the food.

"Your Uncle Harry is going to owe me for this," he informed Rose, who was staring at the long strands of his hair brushing the top of his jacket with devious intent, and followed after them.

*

"You a'right?" Harry asked for the third time, his alcohol-laden breath huffing in Draco's face.

"Yes, Potter, I'm exceptional. I would be even more exceptional if you refrained from leaning on me."

"I’m not leanin’, I’m just tired is all."

"If tired is another way of saying drunk, then yes, you are. Very drunk. Is this becoming a habit for you these days?"

"Nah, only when I can get Muggle drinks."

"I still don’t see what the attraction is. The stuff smells like fruit juice."

"Ribena," Harry corrected. "The blackcurrant stuff that’s in it. Makes it sweet. You should try it, you’d like it."

"Maybe another time."

"Muggles say that it gets you drunk fast." Harry’s hand rested on Draco’s arm. "But I don’t think so."

"Absolutely not. You are as sober as a judge."

Nimble fingers trailed down Draco’s sleeve and stroked against the back of his wrist. Draco cleared his throat and pulled his hand away, reaching out for the half-full wine glass that a few hours before had replaced the tea. It was a mistake; Harry’s hand dropped directly onto Draco’s thigh and continued caressing.

"Potter, stop that. There are children present."

"They aren’t watching. Nobody’s watching. We’re all by ourselves." Each stroke shot straight to Draco’s groin.

What Harry said was true. Once Hermione had found her errant husband and Harry, she’d relieved Draco of his growing entourage of adoring children in exchange for the latter. There was a flurry of curtseys and bows as Draco led Harry back to their corner table; he remembered to wave regally, entertained by the surrounding adults’ confusion as they collected their offspring.

Most of the children had long gone, only adults remained, and some couples with sleeping tots in baskets at their sides.

Hermione was chattering to Ginny Weasley, rocking Rose gently in her arms, while they both ignored Ron’s snores. He was stretched out along the bench seat opposite them, several empty pint glasses on the table with the dregs of reddish liquid in them.

It had been a long day, but a pleasant one, and Draco was too tired to summon the energy to fend off Harry’s not unwanted advances. He was not, however, accustomed to being groped so blatantly in public.

Harry’s hand cupped against the bulge in his trousers and he let out a groan. "Potter, please. Not here."

"Why not?" Harry whispered against his neck, fondling Draco’s balls through the fabric.

"Because…" It sounded too much like a squeak and Draco tried again. "Because I’m asking you to …sweet Merlin…stop it, Potter." Sweat was beading on his forehead, and he was pressing into Harry’s hand. His voice was saying no, but his body was screaming ‘yes, right now, right here’.

They were at a Weasley christening. It wasn’t right. "No," he managed with a little more conviction. "No, Potter, no."

Something in his tone must have got through to Harry because the hand lifted. He almost asked for Harry to put it back, but he saw people were beginning to move. The bar staff were sliding down the shutters and encouraging the guests to vacate the room.

"Everybody’s leaving," he said, hearing the strain in his voice. He was still achingly hard and it was taking all of his will power not to reach down and finish what Harry started. Filch, he thought, Ron Weasley. Charlie Weasley. He let out a breath of relief as the tension abruptly lessened.

"Let them." Harry sounded sleepy and his head was growing heavier on Draco’s shoulder.

Draco shrugged it off, forcing Harry to sit upright, and for a moment Draco thought Harry was going to vomit. His face bleached of colour and he dropped his head.

"I’m going to be sick."

"No wonder," Draco said unsympathetically, watching normal colour return to Harry’s cheeks. A waitress was heading in their direction and he nodded his understanding at her. "We’re just going."

She smiled and turned to another cluster of bleary-eyed guests.

"Get up, Potter."

"Do I have to?"

"Unfortunately for me, yes you do. Come on, up you get."

With Draco’s help, Harry staggered to his feet. "Don’t let me drink like this again."

"As if anything I said would have stopped you."

"’Course it would. I trust you."

Draco paused in their weaving path, shocked by what Harry had just said. He opened his mouth to question the statement when Hermione’s voice interrupted him.

"I’m feeling a sense of déjà vu," Hermione said, smiling at him and bobbing her head at Harry, and then in Ron’s recumbent direction.

"A most unpleasant one. I don’t suppose there are convenient hotel rooms booked this time?"

"No, I didn’t expect the two of them to drink so much."

"Aren’t you the optimist?"

"I used to be." Hermione said. "Look, Draco, I know it’s a lot to ask but is there any chance you could…?"

"I’ll get Potter home."

She smiled her thanks. "That takes a load of my mind."

"Do you have a portkey or is there a Floo nearby?"

"Harry’s house isn’t connected to the network – the Ministry thought it was too dangerous after…you know… It’s bad enough the Fidelius charm was broken."

Draco didn’t want to be drawn into a discussion of the past. "I could Apparate us somewhere nearby if you gave me his address."

She looked appalled at the notion. "But you’ve been drinking."

"Not that much."

"You’d still be over the limit to Apparate you both. Take a taxi."

"A taxi? I am not getting in a taxi."

"You don’t have to. Just pop Harry in one and then you can break the law if you like without risking Harry’s life."

Draco glared at her. "These new laws are a damned nuisance. Forcing us to resort to Muggle transport rather than Apparate home."

"The Anti-drink Apparition laws are there for our protection, Draco," Hermione said starchly. "As well you know. Can you imagine what state these two would arrive home in if they Apparated?"

"In several liquefied pieces," Draco agreed.

Hermione’s expression was calculating. "You could always get the Knight bus."

"Take this," Draco jerked a thumb towards Harry, "on that lurching monstrosity? I don’t see how he’s going to stand without regurgitating his meal, never mind travel. The house-elves are good with laundry but they can’t perform miracles, and this suit cost me more than your yearly salary."

"Are you just going to spend all night arguing with me, Draco, or are you going to admit I’m right?"

"I would never deign to admit you were correct, Granger, but I concede that a taxi might be the most convenient solution."

"I’m right."

"Smugness is not an attractive character trait." Draco nudged Harry towards the door.

"I’m still right."

*

"Grimmauld Place, please," Draco said, repeating Hermione’s instructions as he settled Harry into the back seat.

"He's not going to be sick in my cab, is 'e?" The driver eyed Harry warily.

"Absolutely not."

"I'm not taking 'im if he's going to puke. And I ain't no babysitter neither."

Draco flinched at the butchered vocabulary. "No one’s asking you to babysit."

"If you leave ‘im in my cab, who’s gonna get him to his front door, eh? I’m not taking ‘im."

Draco mentally cursed Hermione; she must have known this was going to happen. "If I accompanied him on the journey would that be acceptable?"

"You what?"

For someone so obviously dim-witted, the driver looked surprisingly average. There should have been a protruding brow at the very least, Draco thought. "If," he began, speaking very slowly, "I. Go. With. Him. Would. That. Work?"

"You a'right, mate? You been smoking something? On downers or summat?"

Oh, for Merlin's sake. "A hundred pounds. Would that make you more amenable?" Bribery would not have been his first option, not with his wand in his pocket, but Hermione was watching him from the door of the pub and the reprisals just weren't worth it.

The driver’s face cleared. "Mate, for a hundred quid I'd drive you to the moon."

"Grimmauld Place is far enough, thank you."

"You are still coming with 'im though? I don't want the cab messed up."

Draco climbed wearily into the car, pointedly ignoring Hermione’s cheerful wave as the drove away.

*

It was a long drive, and in the day time would have been fascinating, trundling through the streets of Muggle London, but at night it was seedy and foreboding. The driver took them along streets where dented lights illuminated the detritus of the day. Refuse littered the streets, kicked aside by staggering figures who blended into the shadows as the car sped past.

"A Muggle taxi, Potter, look at what you've reduced me to. Travelling by Muggle transport," muttered Draco to the tousled head of Harry Potter, his soft snores drifting lazily in the back of the cab.

When the taxi pulled into Grimmauld Place, Draco peered out of the window fascinated to see the infamous House of Black. It was his family’s home after all, his mother’s legacy, and a tiny part of him resented Harry for owning it.

He was disappointed to see a normal row of townhouses, elegantly banal in appearance. "Number twelve," he said when the driver opened his mouth to ask.

"Righty-ho."

Draco nudged Harry awake as the cab pulled to a stop at the pavement in front of Number twelve. It looked completely unremarkable. A blue door, silver knocker. It could have been anyone’s home.

"Come on, Potter, you’re home."

"Just five more minutes."

"No, get up now." Draco gripped his shoulder and gave him a shake, which had Harry grumbling but sitting up and rubbing his eyes.

"You’ve got yourself a handful there," the taxi driver informed him, arm resting on the sill of the partition window.

"I do indeed." Draco pulled out a handful of Muggle notes from his inner pocket and thrust them in the driver’s direction.

"Here, mate, that’s more than a hundred quid," he protested.

"Consider it a tip," Draco replied, herding Harry out of the cab and onto the street.

The driver rolled down his window. "Want me to wait?" he asked.

"No, thank you," Draco waved him away.

He missed the driver’s knowing grin as the car sped off into the night.

Harry allowed Draco to propel him to the door of the house, and was content to be propped against the door jamb as Draco sorted through his bundle of keys to find the one for the front door.

"I thought this house was hidden from Muggles, Potter?" Draco asked as he tried a key in the lock.

"Not anymore." Harry’s eyes were closed. "I got some wizard renovators in and they made the house Muggle friendly. Cost a bloody fortune for the glamour."

"I bet it did." The third key slid in and turned, and Draco eased the door open. "Here you go. Home sweet home."

Harry opened his eyes, looking tired but distinctly more sober. "Are you coming in?" he asked.

"I really should be heading home."

Harry looked disappointed. "Oh, okay." He pushed himself upright. "Oh, yeah, I forgot to say: it’s my birthday next week and…um…I’m having a party. You can come if you want."

"A most gracious invitation, Potter, how could I possibly refuse."

"You don’t have to come if you don’t want to…"

"And miss an evening of potential Weasley baiting? I think not, Potter. And besides, I know you’d be devastated if I didn’t attend."

Harry smiled. "I’ll send you an invite."

"Master Potter, sir, are you all right?" An ancient house-elf was peering at them from the far end of the hall, silhouetted in the light leaching around the edge of the door behind him.

"I’m fine, Kreacher. Draco, here, was just making sure I got home safely. You’ve met Draco, haven’t you?"

"Master Malfoy!" Kreacher scuttled towards them, his gnarled features twisted into a smile. "It’s an honour to have you here."

"Thank you, Kreacher, it’s nice to know someone is glad to see me. Take care of Master Potter, he should be in his bed."

"Of course, sir."

Harry chuckled. "See you at the party, Malfoy."

"I wouldn’t miss it."

Draco pulled out his wand and Apparated home.

*

As promised, Harry sent Draco a formal party invitation, and, after some internal debate, added a scrawled post script inviting Draco to come earlier so he could get a tour of the house.

He wasn’t sure why he was so nervous about spending time with Draco, it wasn’t as though they didn't spent any time together, but it seemed like something had fundamentally changed and he wasn’t sure what.

On Saturday night, looking stunningly handsome in a pair of black trousers and a white silk shirt, Draco Malfoy was standing in the hallway of Number twelve, Grimmauld Place and flinching at the sounds of muffled screams coming from a curtained portrait on the wall.

Harry picked at his jeans nervously and wished he’d thought to wear something more formal.

Draco was staring at the closed curtain. "What in Merlin’s name is that?" The shrieks were becoming more insistent.

"Sirius’s mum. She doesn’t like me very much," Harry said, shrugging. Draco’s hand hovered at the edge of the curtains and he hastily added, "Gets worse if you open them."

"So why don’t you get rid of her?"

"Can’t. There’s some sort of Sticking Charm and she won’t-"

Ignoring Harry’s warning Draco had flicked open the curtains. "Mudblood filth! Desecrators! You defile the House of…"

"Now you’ve done it," Harry muttered, backing away from the portrait before the wizened old woman spotted him and focused her tirade.

Draco, however, took a step forwards, a haughty smile on his face. "Good evening, Great Aunt Walburga," he said loudly.

"…Black and I…" She paused and peered out of the frame. "You’re a Malfoy," she said with surprise.

"Indeed I am. Draco, son of Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Black, and I am most honoured to meet you."

"You’re a pureblood, a Black," she said. "In this house. Oh joyful stars of Salazar, the rightful heirs have returned to the family home."

Draco dipped his head apologetically. "I regret to say I am only visiting."

Her narrowed eyes slid from him to Harry, fixing Harry with a venomous stare. "You mean to say that you are consorting with this half-blood? This piece of filth borne of a Muggle?"

Harry scowled, fists clenching at his sides. He’d heard the slurs before but it made them no less hurtful. It was hard to stay silent as Draco replied. "This piece of filth saved my life, and as painful as it is, our family owes him a debt of gratitude. I’m sure you know what that means."

Walburga Black, for the first time since Harry had encountered her, was speechless. She looked from Harry to Draco and back again, her face contorting into a multitude of distasteful expressions. "You mean," she said finally, "I have to be civil to him?"

"I’m afraid I do, Great Aunt," Draco agreed.

"Impossible," she said.

"Difficult, certainly, but the Blacks relish a challenge, do they not?"

"Are you sure he saved you? Was it not some accidental incident?" Her eyes suddenly sparked with optimism. "Or perhaps something that he conjured. Yes, that does seem much more likely: the half-blood engineered the event so our family would be beholden to him."

Harry remembered the terrifying flight across the room, Draco’s damp hand clinging to his, and he almost missed Draco’s reply.

"I’m sorry but he risked his life for me in the most honourable way possible. If anyone was to blame, it was me."

Harry stared at the back of Draco’s head incredulously, Draco was still as stone, and Walburga Black eyed Harry with supreme distrust.

"I will accede to your request, young Malfoy, but only with the half-blood. I refuse to allow the presence of Muggles and their traitorous associates to enter this house without voicing my opinions. This is still the House of Black."

"Hmmm." Draco looked troubled and Mrs Black leaned closer, almost pressing against the frame.

"What is it, boy?"

"I have no wish to offend you."

"I fear nothing can offend me more than that abomination standing behind you." Harry slunk farther away from her. "Speak your mind."

"It’s just I hate to see someone so noble forced to lower themselves in front of their subordinates."

"Whatever do you mean?"

"I had always thought you a woman of great elegance and beauty, but I fear your arduous battle with these interlopers is taking its toll. You look tired, Great Aunt."

"Whatever do you mean?"

"You mean you don’t know?" He flicked a hand in Harry’s direction. "A mirror, Potter, a mirror. Why did you not think to let my aunt see what hardships you have been wreaking on her beauty?"

Screaming at me is a hardship? Harry thought as he lifted a mirror off the wall further down the hall. "Will this do?"

Draco nodded curtly and took the mirror from Harry, holding it up so it reflected his great aunt’s portrait. She let out a shriek of despair. "My hair, what has happened to my glorious hair? And my skin – it’s wizened. How could this happen? How could you let this happen?" She glared at Harry.

"You were like that when we…ow!" Draco had kicked him sharply in the ankle.

"It is nothing that a bit of rest won’t repair," Draco assured her. "And I‘m sure Kreacher could conjure some beauty products for you."

"I do miss my vanity set," she said wistfully.

Draco wasn’t finished yet. "There’s going to be a houseful of Muggles here tonight and you would be driven to your wit’s end. It hardly seems fair. Maybe you would prefer a quieter space so you wouldn’t have to upset yourself?"

"But she’s stuck there. You can’t move her," Harry blurted out.

The shrill laughter echoed in the hall. "Of course my portrait can be moved, you imbecile, if I will it. The charm is easily dissolved – it would make no sense to condemn a portrait to an eternity on one wall unless they wished it. And to spite you, I wished it."

Harry tried not to react; it was what she was wanting. He looked to Draco for help. The other man had been thinking.

"Perhaps you would find it more restful in another part of the house? Your old room? I’m sure it has been untouched." Draco glanced back to Harry for confirmation.

"Only Kreacher’s been in there to clean," Harry confirmed. "It’s the only room we haven’t redecorated."

Still upset, Mrs Black looked uncertain. "But I don’t want to be shut away from everyone."

"Can’t you go into other portraits?" Harry asked, confused.

The beady eyes focused on him. "No, you ignorant boy, I cannot. Our family always charms the portraits so they do not mingle; I, for one, would be horrified to find a stranger inside my frame."

Harry tried not to laugh, relieved when Draco drew her attention away. "May I suggest a compromise?"

"You may."

"What if Harry agreed to let all visiting pure-bloods have access to your room? To have that room if they stay over night? Would that be acceptable?"

What visiting pure-bloods? Harry wondered even as Mrs Black considered the offer. She was clearly thinking along the same lines when she finally responded, "But he never has any pure-bloods in this house. None that I would wish to consort with, anyway. You are the first."

"Well, then, perhaps at some point I would stay over."

"You can stay tonight if you like," Harry said quickly. "After the party."

"Agreed," Mrs Black said instantly.

"But I don’t have anything to sleep in. My toiletries…"

"Kreacher could go and get them for you; he’d love to."

"I’m not sure that I…"

"I thought you wanted Mrs Black to have the luxury of her old room? It’s not fair to say you’d stay and then take it back."

"Blacks do not make promises they do not keep," Mrs Black agreed, in a rare moment of solidarity with Harry.

Draco was clearly trying to remember his words and if he had actually promised anything. He had been backed into a corner and Harry was determined to keep him there.

"So you’re going to stay then? Great, I’ll tell Kreacher. Then you can give me a hand shifting Mrs Black’s portrait upstairs and get her settled."

Draco hadn’t uttered a word.

*

A few hours later, Draco was wondering why he’d agreed to come and regretting his forced decision to stay. Everyone was pleasant enough, but none of these people were his friends. For Harry’s benefit they treated him politely, but he was very aware that it was all a veneer and without Harry’s presence smiles would quickly become sneers. From the anonymity of the Quidditch stands, he heard the words of truth that people wanted to voice: how they really felt about the cowardly Slytherin saved by Harry Potter. Not even the finest of goals was ever going to eradicate that legacy, and sometimes he wondered why he tried.

Sitting by himself on a couch in a small ante-room, working his way through a bottle of wine, was not his idea of a fun evening. Maybe he should go home. His drunken Harry shepherding duties would certainly not be required.

"What are you up to?" Draco almost let out a shout as Harry thudded down on the couch beside him, bumping his arm with an elbow and sending wine sloshing onto Draco’s shirt.

"Merlin, Potter, don’t sneak up on me like that." A quick wand swish and the spilled wine was gone. It was only then that he noticed. "Are you still sober?"

"Yeah," Harry said despondently. "No Ribena, so I’m stuck with lager." He held up the can. "S’not the same at all."

"But infinitely preferable for the rest of us."

"Eh?" Harry took a drink of lager and Draco found his eyes lingering on the Adam’s apple bobbing with each swallow. He was still distracted when the bespectacled gaze turned on him. "What do you mean?"

"Sorry? What?" Pay attention, Malfoy.

"Why’s it preferable?"

"Ah…well, it means the rest of us do not have to put up with your deplorable behaviour whilst intoxicated."

"I’m not that bad." Harry sounded uncertain, and Draco felt a devilish urge to push.

"Depends on your point of view. Some may say your behaviour is acceptable, others might agree that it borders on sexual harassment."

"What?" Harry twisted on the couch to stare at Draco. "What are you talking about?"

"Your drunken hands wander somewhat, Potter, into entirely inappropriate places."

"Give over."

"I think that’s my point: I didn’t want to give anything over." Another sip of wine and he met Harry’s wide-eyed stare. "Despite your best efforts."

It was hard not to smile, but he was relishing the flush on Harry’s cheeks and managed to keep his face impassive.

"I didn’t do anything too…er…too…?"

"Nothing to get yourself in a panic about." The flush was receding; a situation that had to be remedied. "I’ve been groped before, and by much less attractive men than you."

"Oh, bloody hell," Harry said, blushing more than ever.

"Cheer up, Potter, and drink your lager."

Harry complied, sipping slowly. A charged silence settled between them; something was brewing. Draco could feel that Harry was building up to something.

"You think I’m attractive?"

"What?" Draco said, the wine glass trembling in his hand.

"You said ‘much less attractive men than you’."

He had, hadn’t he? Bloody hell, he had definitely had too much wine. "Are you looking for an ego boost? Because I’m not the man for that. I’m sure Longbottom would be more than willing to…"

"Just answer the bloody question, Draco. Do you think I’m attractive?"

"Yes, I do," Draco snapped, glaring at Harry. "You’re the great Harry Potter; you’ve got to know you’re someone most people would give their right arm to be with."

"Does that include you?"

Where was the stuttering drunk that Draco felt more comfortable dealing with? This assertive Harry was something new. "Not my arm, no. I’m quite partial to my limbs," he said evasively

"I’m quite partial to your limbs as well," Harry murmured, fingers wrapping around Draco’s wine glass and taking it out of his trembling fingers. The glass clinked as Harry set it down.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be, Draco thought. Harry should be the one that was nervous and out of place. Had Harry always been sitting this close? What was he doing? Why wasn’t he doing anything? Merlin’s beard, Malfoy, when have you ever behaved like such a girl?

Enough.

He turned abruptly and slid his hand in Harry’s hair, capturing the opening mouth in a kiss full of teeth and tongue. Fingers fumbled with the buttons of Harry’s jeans and he felt Harry helping him, the zip going down, and then Draco had him free and throbbing in his palm, and arching back into the couch with kiss-muffled groans. Their limbs tangled and Draco's practiced hand stroked and squeezed as Harry squirmed deliciously.

"But what about you…" Harry gasped. "Oh god, don’t bloody stop." His knee bounced up and suddenly Draco had purchase to grind against, his teeth finding Harry’s neck and nipping hard to hold Harry back from the edge. But it pushed him over and Draco felt his hand grow sticky with warmth as Harry growled out his name; and then he came hard and fast, bucking against Harry’s knee, spluttering nonsense words as his brain melted into a pile of insensible sex-sated sludge.

Harry’s t-shirt was damp under his forehead, the slowing thud-thud of Harry’s heart echoing in his ear. There was movement as Harry tucked himself away and collapsed back on the couch with a contented sigh.

"Harry, are you…? Oh fuckin’ hell." The voice and the curse that followed had both men looking up.

Ron was staring at them in absolute horror, in no doubt at all about what he was seeing. "I think I’ve just gone blind," he spluttered, backing away. "Sorry, sorry, I’ll just go…go somewhere else very fast." And he was gone.

There was an awkward pause, broken by Harry’s laugher. "Maybe we should take this upstairs?" he said.

"I think that might be a good idea, unless you want more of your friends to have a heart attack. I don’t care, but you might mmmphhh–" Harry cut off his words with a kiss, tugging him to his feet.

They darted through the room towards the door. Draco noticed Harry acknowledge the stares, some shocked, some amused, with a cheerful grin, and he felt himself grinning stupidly.

What the hell are you doing? a little voice in the back of his head whispered. This is Harry Potter, your lifelong enemy, the one who destroyed all your dreams.

The one you’ve wanted since the first moment you saw him.

Draco tightened his grip of Harry’s hand and followed behind, not letting go.

*

They were breathless as they stumbled into Draco’s room, laughing and hard and tugging at each others clothes with fingers so desperate they were ripping cloth.

Harry’s shoes thudded against the sideboard as he kicked them off.

"IT’S A SIN," Mrs Black bellowed. "A MORTAL SIN!"

Harry fell back from Draco, scrabbling for his wand, thinking for a moment they were under some sort of attack.

"You dare to cavort in my bed, my room. You are disgusting perverts, the two of you." She pointed a bony finger at Draco. "You are no family of mine; we do not acknowledge filth like you in our noble line. Your name will be struck from the family tree."

"Leave him alone, you old bag," Harry snapped, seeing Draco quail under her spiteful attack.

"Silence, filth. It is bad enough that he debases himself with men, but to choose you, a Potter, the destroyer of all that was right in our world. He should be ashamed."

Harry was furious, angrier than he had been in years. "I've just about had enough of you. This is my house, my room – you’ve no bloody right to be here and speak to anyone like that, and I promise the minute I find a way to destroy you, you’re gone."

The laughter chilled Harry. "I’d like to see you try. I will be here long after you are the fodder of worms in the ground."

"Don’t bet on it."

"I should go."

Harry and Mrs Black were so busy glaring at one another that Draco’s voice almost went unheeded.

Harry blinked. "What? No. No, Draco, come on. Ignore her. Come up to my room and we can–"

Draco, his face ghost-like and shaking his head viciously. "No, she’s right…" Harry started to argue but he held up a hand, "…about us. This would destroy my family. And no one, not one single person, would approve. I wasn’t thinking straight, I’m sorry."

"I don’t give a monkey’s shite what anyone else thinks about us. I don’t want you to go."

"Not everything is about you, Potter."

"This bloody well is."

Draco straightened, busying himself tucking his ripped shirt into his trousers. "You’ll get over it." His voice was regaining the hateful arrogant drawl that Harry hadn’t heard in a long time. "It will be difficult, I know, but you’ll be able to move on."

"Cut it out, Draco, stop doing this. You don’t need to leave just because she said so."

The grey eyes were emotionless when they finally looked at him. "I am leaving because I want to, Potter. This was a mistake." One final glance around the room and he seemed satisfied he had everything he came in with. "I’m sorry if this has spoiled your birthday." He paused, reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a small, neatly wrapped gift. "I forgot to give you this."

Harry’s mind was reeling, and he accepted the parcel automatically. "Thanks." Draco seemed to be waiting for him to open it, so he did, unwrapping the layers to find a stoppered glass vial filled with a viscous purple liquid. Harry held it up to the light. "What is it?" he asked.

"Pure essence of blackcurrants: the finest in the world. A tiny droplet of that will make your Muggle drinks palatable at the very least."

Harry could hardly speak past the lump in his throat. "Thanks," he said again, slipping the bottle into his pocket. "It’s perfect."

"I know," Draco replied, the mere ghost of a smile gone before Harry could even be assured it was there. "I should go."

"You don’t have to."

"I do. You know this never could have worked."

No, I bloody well don’t, Harry’s mind screamed, but his lips stayed stubbornly pressed shut.

Draco nodded once and pulled out his wand. "Happy birthday, Harry," he said, the words trailing off with the echoes of the Apparition ‘pop’.

Harry stood, staring at the spot where Draco had been and felt like his heart had been yanked apart.

When the cackling began, he swirled on the portrait and pointed his wand, hissing out, "Incendio!" before he could even register that he’d done it.

Fire engulfed the portrait for a moment and then abruptly snuffed out. Walburga Black’s laughter grew stronger and she gleefully waved her hands in the air. "I’m not going anywhere, you miserable little half-blood. I will make sure you never have a moment’s happiness in this house. I will never give you a moment’s peace."

Harry very carefully returned his wand to his pocket and took a breath. "I’m not sure how you intend to do that, Mrs Black. I can’t hear you screaming through solid walls."

Harry walked to the door and rested a hand on the handle. "The next time I see you will be to rid your spitefulness from the world once and for all."

She had her hands flat against the front of the portrait as though trying to push her way out.

"Enjoy yourself, Mrs Black, you’re going to be very bloody lonely in here by yourself."

Her rising wail was cut off when he slammed the door.

*

It took Harry a day to realise he wasn’t going to give Draco up. It took two to find out that he had the support of his friends behind him. That had come as a surprise, particularly in Ron’s case, but he was assured that they had ‘seen it coming for ages, mate’ and ‘it took the two of you long enough’.

But the problem was convincing Draco. Or trying to find him to convince him.

Owls returned with shredded parchments, questions were met with shrugs of ignorance. No one knew where Draco Malfoy was.

Harry even summoned the courage to Floo call Malfoy Manor, and a frosty Narcissa Black informed him that Draco had not resided there for many years and had a flat in London, but he had gone abroad for some Quidditch training. No, she wouldn’t tell him where – Draco had asked her not to.

Months passed and the Quidditch season continued without Draco Malfoy; some papers reported him in top secret training for the World Cup, others claimed he had fled Britain after a love affair had gone wrong, none knew where he was.

Rather than the months lessening Harry’s determination, the more time passed, the more he was sure that he didn’t want to let Draco go. Not until he’d had a chance to talk to him and make him see sense.

His single-minded dedication to the search worried his friends, but they did all they could to support him, and even the Weasleys rallied together to search for the elusive Malfoy.

*

Harry was sitting in Ron and Hermione’s kitchen, making aeroplane noises and attempting to get Rose to eat a bowl of porridge, when he heard Ginny’s voice shouting out from the front room.

"I’ve found him!"

Rose’s spoon clattered to the floor as Harry jumped to his feet. He ran to the door, ran back, scooped up Rose who giggled in delight, and ran back to the door again, almost slamming into Ginny as she came in from the other side.

"Where is he?" Harry asked.

"I don’t know." The brief surge of euphoria plummeted in Harry’s gut. She saw his expression and hastily corrected, "I don’t where he is now, but I know where he’ll be on Christmas Eve."

Christmas Eve was less than a week away. "Where?"

"At Astoria’s. She’s having a Christmas party and he said he would go."

Harry could feel his legs trembling, and he stumbled over to a seat and sat down, Rose settling herself happily against his chest. "How did you find out?"

"I asked her to tell me." Ginny pulled a chair out on the other side of the table. "She wasn’t going to, at first, but apparently she went to see Draco last week and he looks awful." She grinned. "Depressed, apparently."

"Ginny…" he said warningly.

"What? I can gloat about the git a little after all the trouble he’s caused."

"Are you sure he’s going?"

"Yes, I’m positive. And what’s even better is that Astoria’s agreed to keep him there until you arrive."

Harry leaned across the table and planted a kiss on Ginny’s cheek, kissing Rose when she stuck out her arms and gurgled. "Ginny, I love you."

Ginny’s freckles shone on her pink cheeks. "I know, Harry, but try to hide it when Neville’s around, eh? He might get a bit cross."

*

It was the longest week in Harry’s life. And yet, standing outside the row of Edwardian townhouses and mustering the courage to walk to the front door, it seemed like only moments had passed.

He was standing in an expensive suburb of London; the whole area was immaculately clean and decorated with a frosting of winter snow. It was hard to tell if it was inhabited only by wizards or if it was a mixed community; the tasteful decorations garnishing house fronts and lampposts reeked of magic, but Harry had seen many Muggle displays just as enchanting.

The sky was laden with white, swollen clouds, and as Harry walked slowly to the front door of Astoria’s house, giant snowflakes began to fall.

His footsteps were muffled, everything seemed to hang in a cocoon of soft silence, and when he rang the doorbell, even it sounded like distant church bells chiming.

The door opened suddenly and he blinked in surprise to see Astoria Greengrass standing before him in a shimmering silver party dress. He’d expected a butler. "Hello, I–"

"You’re late," she hissed, grabbing his jacket sleeve and tugging him into the house. "He was on the verge of leaving. You have no idea how difficult it was to convince him to come, never mind linger."

"Sorry," Harry said, completely thrown by her abruptness, and he followed her obediently as she led him up an elegant staircase.

"I resorted to stealing his wand, and he thinks he lost it in my room. He’s been searching for it for quite a while." Her porcelain face almost broke into a smile, but she tamed it in time. "I think he’s getting quite irritated."

"Great," Harry groaned. "That’s all I need: an irritated Malfoy."

He stumbled to a halt when she whirled on him, backing up a few steps at the intensity on her face. "I’m doing this, against my better judgement, because he looks so bloody unhappy and apparently not being with you is the cause of it." She was deadly serious when she said, "If you do anything, anything to hurt him, I will personally make it my mission to ruin your life. If you thought Voldemort was bad, you have never dealt with me."

"I’m not going to hurt him."

"You had better not."

He didn’t know what else to say so he waited, and it seemed the right thing to do because she nodded once and turned, pointing to a closed door at the end of the hall. "That’s my room," she said and held out a wand. "And this is his. You might want to wait until he’s calmed down to give it back to him."

"Thank you," Harry said, taking the wand. "Thank you so much."

"Don’t thank me, just get in there and make him happy."

Harry grinned. "That’s exactly what I intend to do."

*

Draco was peering under the bed for the umpteenth time when he heard the door open. "I still can’t find the thing, Astoria. Are you positively sure this was where you saw it last?"

"It’s not there."

Draco froze, hearing the voice but equally dreading and praying he’d misheard. It had been a while, after all.

He placed a hand on top of the divan and pulled himself up, seeing Harry appear inch by delicious inch. He’d thought he’d be able to deal with seeing Harry again, but he was wrong.

"Potter," he said. "What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you."

Draco swallowed and ran a hand across his chin, wishing he’d shaved, or at least made an attempt to look presentable. "Well, here I am. And now that you’ve seen me you can go."

"I’m not going anywhere. Not until you listen to me."

"I’m tired, Potter, it’s been a long day and I do not need this. If you won’t go then I will." He started towards the door, stuttering to a halt when he heard Harry charming the lock shut. "Clever, very clever," he said. "So now you have a captive audience, what is it you want?"

"You."

Draco made the mistake of looking at Harry then, saw the certainty in his eyes and his voice cracked.

"Me?"

"Yeah, you."

"I don’t think I’m available, Potter."

"That’s fine," Harry said, strangely intense, taking a step forwards. "I don’t really care what you think. Because what you think is a load of shite."

"That’s you argument, is it? That what I think is a load of shite?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"I’ve had quite a few months to think about it, Potter, and I came to a conclusion myself. It’s why I came back, actually."

"And what was that?"

"That’s you are absolutely correct: I do talk a load of shite."

Harry stared at him. "You mean you were going to…"

"…come and find you, yes. But it looks like you saved me the trip."

Harry seemed lost, all his surety thrown by Draco’s revelation. He fumbled in his back pocket and held out a familiar looking wand. "I think this is yours," he said.

The implications were not lost on Draco. "You all set me up. You, Astoria," his lips pursed, "and I suspect Granger and the Weaselette had something to do with it as well?"

"Yeah, sorry. I needed to talk to you. But if you want to hex me into next week then I’d understand."

Draco took a step and slid his fingers around the wand, drawing it slowly from Harry’s grip. Harry tensed.

"So," the wand pirouetted in Draco’s fingers, the tip aiming at Harry. "If I was to curse you now are you telling me you wouldn’t do anything to stop me?"

Harry nodded nervously.

"And that stupid recklessness is exactly why you shouldn’t be allowed out unsupervised. Why you need me around at all times."

The wand pointed upwards and with a whispered word a kaleidoscope of lights circled the air above their heads. The kaleidoscope slowly manifested itself into a plant. A familiar plant with white berries.

"Mistletoe," Harry said, smiling beatifically up at the hovering shrub. Draco thought he’s never seen anything quite so appealing in his life.

"And you know what traditionally is meant to happen under mistletoe, don’t you?"

"I get to shag you senseless."

Draco’s cock supported the idea wholeheartedly. "Astoria would kill us."

"So I’d settle for a snog, then, until we get home."

"I think I can manage that."

Harry was the first to reach out, fingers tightening in Draco’s shirt to pull him close. His lips hovered a breath away from Draco’s, almost as if he were afraid Draco was going to vanish again.

"Get on with it; Potter, I don’t have all day," Draco whispered, and Harry obeyed, stealing his words away with warm lips.

Around them the world spun to a halt, all that existed was the bubble under the mistletoe, the entwined souls of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. When they finally parted, and the world began to spin, Harry rested his head against Draco’s shoulder.

"You, Draco Weasley, are very hot," he murmured, breath tickling Draco’s ear.

Draco’s hands froze and he pulled away from Harry, his face clouded with suspicion. "I believe I’ve heard you use that expression before," he said slowly.

A mischievous smile tickled the corners of Harry’s mouth and he shrugged one shoulder. "It’s amazing what you can get away with if people think you are more drunk than you are."

"Remind me never to let you drink again."

"But it’s Christmas, Draco, you can’t not have a Snake Bite and Black at Christmas."

"Yes, you can, Harry. I’m right here."

Outside church bells heralded Christmas Day, or else someone was at the front door, but right at that moment neither Harry nor Draco cared.

The mistletoe was calling.

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