I need more than this.

Meet me tonight, at Midnight.

You know where.

~ H.

When night fell, he was pacing up and down a narrow, dimly lit corridor. Across the hallway, swathed in shadow, hung the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy. A long-fingered, pale hand brushed carefully against the cold stone of the wall, tentative in the hope of something other than tiny marks and gaps appearing at his request. What was he doing here? This room, one he had once relied on so much, could not possibly hold the answers to his current problems…

A flash of blood red eyes gleamed in the darkness. You can’t avoid them forever, a voice hissed, and then it emerged, a snake-like face with slits for nostrils and vertical pupils, bearing a name none should speak lest it give substance to this nightmare, a boggart to which he was forever bound a slave until he could master his worst fear. He-who-must-not-be-named extended a large, pearly white hand, as if obedience was the test of whether he had the right to live or die. He had thought that he would at least feel intimidated, exposed under the savagery of the gaze, that he was merely a worthless pawn in the man’s deep scheming.

The boggart had an appearance so formidable that it should be locked in the most awful abyss of time and space, never to be let out again. And yet, he felt… unfazed. Whatever control the man had over him was long gone, dispelled into obscurity before the blackness had a chance to swallow his soul. Suddenly he flew into a rage, largely at himself: Why had he never before resisted?

Was he so terrified by this man with the translucent skin that his brain ceased all function each time he heard his voice? I am no longer afraid. He held his chin high and forced himself to meet the cold, deadly gaze head on. Unerringly and rapidly, the man conjured by his most inner, unspeakable fear had begun to dissolve. The boggart swayed from side to side, feet trembling on the ground as though trying to hold on to the last bit of its earthly presence.

Deep in the dungeons, where the onset of the dawn excused itself, little did the young man know he emitted an abrupt wheeze, white-blond lashes fluttered swiftly and briefly in an unconscious effort against his imagination – the devils of a guilty heart held its hell within. To the dark, prying spirits, he was a glowing beauty amid sin and repentance, no lines hardening around soft lips, brows not clouded by a single disdainful scorn. There was no eruptive explosion, no blinding light jetting from the tip of a wand, only a silent battle behind the neat shield of his closed eyelids.

What a remarkable moment it was, when the last trace of those evil, blood-red eyes blinked out! Though there would be no satisfaction left in his wake, this had been his earliest aspiration, and still, perhaps, a dream of the fondest kind, one shared by every other little boy who longed to become a hero one day. While in reality some boys grew to fulfil their dreams, others were left to carry on dreaming, but in this shadowy world, on this night, he ruled and protected his own personal kingdom from despair and terror, like a true hero whose triumph had stunned the silent crowds to awe. 

With a newfound sense of freedom came a need to explore. He followed the illuminating ball of white light and proceeded forward. It was difficult to tell where he was heading; his surroundings seemed disorderly and inconsistent. A thick black mass framed everything, as though the mind had no active strength to process beyond seeing. He kept losing pockets of time; one minute he was staring at large piles of rubble and broken glass scattered over the floor, the next a repaired hall, neat and intact. And then the visions rippled and vanished.

The stony silence was broken by what sounded like the gathering of a wave near the shoreline, louder and louder as it rushed closer. For a second he panicked. His eyes snapped open: a few feet away Goyle was snoring like a disgruntled boar, which strangely eased his anxiety. The room was still dark and within the frame of his four-poster bed, it was gloomy at best. Clutching fistfuls of linen in his hand and taking deep breaths, he sank back into the comfort of his own bed. 

Yesterday’s fatigue weighed heavily on his eyelids, still too drowsy to stay awake. So he pressed his head into the pillow and let his mind relax. Life was full of irony. How angry would people be if they ever found out that Draco Malfoy, whose parents housed the Dark Lord for the better part of a year, did not have nightmares? Since the dreams he had could hardly be qualified as distressing. Not your fault, Draco told himself, now sleep

The next thing Draco knew, he was walking alone towards a castle on a hill, with its medieval-styled towers and turrets. A gentle breeze rustled leaves along the path, the sun dancing on the great windows.

A flowing fountain drew his attention as he passed through the courtyard. He could not help thinking how odd it was that it had a mouth which represented the maw of a serpent, instead of something more appropriate such as a fish. Tiny droplets of water trickled and meandered into larger streams, then fell with a splash into the basin. The longer he stood and watched, the more confused he became: there wasn't even a trickling sound.

He noticed a movement from the corner of his eye and looked up. High above, tiny blurred figures soared through the sky on broomsticks. Was that a pitch? He watched them attentively, wishing and hoping that everything would start to make sense. Maybe if he moved closer...

His vision swam and snapped into focus, and he found himself staring at the back of a boy dressed in scarlet Quidditch robes, black hair whipped and tousled by the wind. He hung there, his limbs pulled tight around the broomstick, his back bent low as though he was getting ready for a long dive any moment now…

Am I suspended in mid-air? Too terrified to think, he risked a peek and suddenly the angle had changed: he was looking down on a boy and girl in what seemed to be a close embrace, huddled together on a window sill. On the other side of the giant window there was an enormous tree full of green leaves, and the boy was hugging the girl, the same boy with the same messy, longer than appropriate black hair.

A feeling of awkwardness clung to him as the purpose of his existence was reduced to prying on some lovebirds’ private moment… but yet he could not look away. He did not have faintest idea who those people could be, neither could he hear their conversation. It was likely the most comforting aspect out of the whole, sad, voyeuristic situation. He wondered what they were talking about. The boy was probably saying to the girl that he would be devastated to lose her, but it was time for her to be freed, because even though their love was pure and precious, there were journeys they needed to take alone. Or some other tawdry nonsense boys told girls just to be rid of them.

He was definitely not prepared to witness the girl, whose hair shone red and gold in the sun, shove a hand down the boy’s pants. Oh Merlin, his eyes! He should leave now, but why did this horrible scene suddenly freeze on him, trapping him? And since when was the boy’s fly open? There were so many things not right about what he was seeing, way too many. The boy appeared to be distressed, and even cried out –

‘No!’

‘Draco!’

He sat up, panting, his heart racing. His sheets had pooled in his lap and he bowed over, pressing his clammy forehead into them. In a moment like this, most people would have started encapsulating their dream by questioning what they had seen, how different it was from reality, and why these disconnected events made a lasting impression only in the realm of illusion. There was always a genuine curiosity to satisfy, and the reflection right afterwards was often involuntary.

In the case of Draco Malfoy, he remained in this position thinking none of the above. He knew why he had dreamed: the note he had received two days ago was driving him to distraction.

Without context, dreams were nothing more than a series of random, meaningless thoughts and illusions impelled by the mind when it possessed the least perfect control and could not hence direct them into a less arbitrary channel. By connected the dots he would subsequently supply his dream the power over his judgement, which he was not going to do. Mostly he was annoyed, for he could not get away from the business of the day even in his slumber. Before he settled down, Zabini spoke in a sleepy voice from the depths of the room.

‘Draco, are you all right?’

‘Had a dream,’ he said, lying back down. ‘It’s nothing, go back to sleep.’

‘My sweet Salazar, if you need to wank, at least use a Silencing Charm,’ said Nott serenely.

Great! He had roused everyone except Goyle it seemed, who emitted a timely snore as if to give his two Knuts on the subject. Exactly how loud had he cried out?

‘Shut it!’ Draco demanded.

‘He’s haunted by Pansy and her red garter,’ said Zabini. ‘The one she claimed she had ordered from France and then to have it vanished when Aurors went through her parent’s house… Yes, that one... I’d scream too if I was dreaming about that – ’

But Draco was not interested in Pansy and the red garter; he did not want to discuss Pansy and the damned red garter at this time of the night. Or ever.

‘Shut up! Shut up!’

Zabini and Nott, who must be determined to avenge their early awakening, roared with laughter. Draco groaned, silently going over all the blackmail material he had on the pair of loathsome degenerates in his head. Unsurprisingly, Goyle had slept through all the noise and showed no signs of participation.

‘Draco?’

‘Yes?’

‘Have you talked to Pansy lately?’ said Nott, in a tone that attempted casualness. ‘I know it’s none of my business, but she seems to be rather convinced that you would be going with her once the N.E.W.T.s is over.’

In general, Draco felt resentful at being questioned for things that could escalate quicker than he could think of well-fabricated replies to. His first instinct was to stall, but then he remembered the looks exchanged by his parents when the news came up, and the empty bottles found in the study belied his father’s reaction to the Parkinsons' exile plans. Perhaps he needed to talk about some of his problems.

‘I don’t know what else I can say,’ drawled Draco. ‘I have already tried – politely… she knows my parents can’t leave the country without permission… in all fairness she has no reason to behave in such a manner. Besides, not all of us want to go away. I don’t even suppose the Ministry would let us if we did.’

‘Well, you could have told her you weren’t always straight.’

With that, the conversation had gone from potentially incriminating to extremely personal in the space of a few breaths. Draco twisted uncomfortably under the duvet, a hand reaching out to where his old wand lay. It took heat from his fingers as though it was feeding on his magic. Except it was never going to function like a part of him again. It belonged to another wizard, who had returned it to Draco as a peace offering, a gesture of kindness. Still, he kept it by his pillow.

‘Since we haven’t heard her going out on a hunt,’ said Nott, after a minute or two. ‘I’m guessing whoever you have been sneaking to meet every week is off-limits – ’

‘I haven’t been meeting anyone!’ said Draco, defensively. ‘It’s nice to be alone, and I enjoy a late-night walk from time to time. It doesn’t mean there is anything sinister about it!’

From Zabini’s general direction there came a scathing noise that sounded suspiciously like a snort.

‘ – and in any case, that’s not my point,’ Nott went on, as though he had not heard a word of what Draco had said. ‘She is so enthralled with you because she always thought you would give her a ring someday.  Her little head is too wrapped around it to notice anything else. Otherwise she would have realised what she wants might not be… what you want. If you had told her, and she still decided to stick with you, at least she would know not to expect so much attention – ’

‘Have you met Pansy?’ interrupted Zabini. ‘Did you miss the times she told everyone she had planned their wedding when she was five years old? I wouldn’t count on a quick acceptance. Draco might end up having a venom-spitting, testicle-breaking vixen on his hands. Mark my words, you DO NOT want to mess with a witch scorned – ’

‘That’s enough, the both of you – ’

‘ – which is precisely why she should be let down gently – ’

‘ – and being told “No offence, but it would be better if you lose all the bosom pads” is supposed to be reassuring?’

‘ – but – ’

‘Stop it! Stop it THIS INSTANT!’ exclaimed Draco, unable to contain himself. ‘Stop talking about me like I’m not in the room! Can this not wait? I doubt Pansy is in such a hurry to find out my disposition that this conversation has to happen in the middle of the night.’

There was a strained silence, and then the loud thud from a heavy object landing on to the floor, followed by a voice muttering: ‘Tin fer brookfest?’

‘No, Greg, it’s too early for breakfast,’ Nott explained patiently. ‘Go back to bed.’

It was difficult to plot his dorm mates’ demise with Goyle struggling with the bedframe, the drape, the pillow and the duvet, as if the fiends were anything but his own clumsiness. Luckily for Zabini and Nott, he had calmed down significantly by the time Goyle’s blunt sniffles resumed.

‘Draco?’

‘Yes, Blaise,’ said Draco, still a little grumpy. ‘What’s the matter now?’

‘Before you flip,’ said Zabini, rather quickly. ‘I have your best interest at heart. Yours and all of ours. Whatever you’re fighting with that person about, sort it out – and I DON’T mean Pansy. There is only three months left before the school year ends. And I wish to sit my N.E.W.T.s in peace. Don’t make it into something that might turn everyone against us more than they already are, if you could?’

Draco looked up at the dark canopy ceiling and wondered if he was still dreaming.

‘Wait! You know who Draco has been seeing?’ crackled Nott.

Zabini said nothing.

So what do you know? was burning on Draco’s tongue, but he did not want to hand out an admission of guilt on a silver platter. His mind raced. It seemed too much of a coincidence – Zabini was not the type to act on unfounded suspicions – particularly in light of the note. Had he been reckless of late? And how many other people knew?  Granger had not been throwing dirty looks at him and now Draco came to think of it, he had not been subjected to a full body bind and left somewhere in the cold, considering that Weasley had more than one reason to react. Gryffindors should be predictable, but this time Draco was left without cues.

His insides tingled with anxiety. He thought of Potter, who sent the note on Friday and had yet to see Draco. Would Potter check his map first or would he wait for Draco in the Room of Requirement night after night? Try as he might, and Draco could tell himself otherwise for all he wanted, it was too late to deny that he had been stringing Potter along, and that he allowed Potter to court him with gifts and postcards, or by meeting him one night a week for anything from talking to flying on Potter’s Firebolt. When he was alone, he wondered if this was all because Potter had suddenly discovered his interest in pricks, and Draco was a choice of convenience. Not that he ever told anyone.

Vanity was his original sin. It had been fun, not having to hole up with other Slytherins in the dungeons. He had a place to go. There were windows to see the stars if he concentrated hard enough, and always a willing ear to listen to his rants and tremors. The best part was the secrecy, like a scorching temptation sealed inside his chest. Draco was not some naïve, green lad who never had admirers. Potter’s little crush was all over his face if you knew where to look.

He was playing with fire. Every minute of it he knew that one day people might be outraged; had not doubted since the beginning as to whom would be held accountable if this got out of hand. Obviously not Harry Potter, the great Saviour. Now it was a restraint around his neck, and for a moment he forgot to breathe. Suddenly he felt red eyes fastening upon him, a voice cold and high, his hair standing on end: ‘Always bite more than you can chew… you are a foolish boy, are you not?’ and gazed wildly about his bed to make sure that nothing was there. With a sense of emerging from deep water, Draco counted to ten and piped up, ‘firstly, I’m not fighting with anyone, secondly, what’s all this interest about me and some imaginary person?’

‘If you say so,’ said Zabini, knowingly. ‘Look, I don’t want to speculate, but think about benefits and consequences before you do anything, okay? Something tells me the stake is high with what you’re doing, or rather with whom…’

‘Don’t concern yourself,’ sneered Draco, repressing a strong urge to cast an Obliviate then and there. Or Truth Serum. Maybe he could slip some into Zabini’s tea.

‘Aren’t you going to tell us anything?’ asked Nott, quelling.

‘There is nothing for you to worry about,’ said Draco, with an air of finality. His mind, already overstretched to an immeasurable limit, had wandered a long way from the present, back to several different moments in time. They swarmed together in his head, buzzing and tingling all the while, with the sole intention to wear him like an oyster inside its shell. And his consciousness, helpless against the burden of memories, sank beneath and watched them crash over him. 

‘Do you want a drink?’

Seven years of animosity had left Draco in no doubt why Potter felt compelled to chase him down like a hawk; nevertheless, he did not have to comply. He stuck his neck out and waited for a response. Shocked by the offhand invitation, Potter gasped loudly and stared at the bottle on the floor, his hand twitching as if he was not sure whether to reach for the bottle or punch Draco square in the face. ‘Either drink or you leave,’ added Draco, heedless to Potter’s obvious bewilderment, even though it was somewhat amusing to watch.

‘No… thanks,’ Potter muttered. By the look on his face, Draco could tell that he had forgotten what he came here to say. Running around the castle for half an hour and finally catching Draco alone could be such a grail. ‘I’ve been meaning to talk to you – we… I need a word, the other night, when you saw me and… then you were dragged away by Filch and…’

Draco regarded him long-sufferingly.

‘Hell, I don’t know why you haven’t reported me,’ snapped Potter, colour rising in his cheeks. ‘And sorry about the detention, but I need you to keep quiet.’

‘I didn’t see anything,’ said Draco evasively.

‘You were there, I saw you. I know I should have done something when Filch and his scrawny cat showed up, but I couldn’t have…’

Draco grabbed the bottle. It seemed the babbling could go on for a while, and a beverage with numbing effect would be much appreciated.

‘Oh, is this your way of saying you won’t tell?’ said Potter, cottoning on. Now he was more confused than ever, and cried out, ‘but why?’

‘For Salazar’s sake,’ said Draco, aghast, as he eyed the bottle miserably. ‘Are you honestly this dense or do I really have to spell it out for you? I didn’t report you because there is nothing worth reporting. What will you get apart from a pathetic detention? How am I to tell the headmistress that “Dear Professor McGonagall, you should know that Harry Potter – who is of age and a war hero – had his girlfriend – who is probably not of age but not far from it – blowing him after curfew”? Oh yeah, that piece of information is so inflammatory! The founders are rolling in their graves!’

Potter’s expression hardened when he heard ‘war hero’, then his face went from flushed to stained crimson during the course of Draco’s speech. Gryffindors were nothing if not predictable, even the self-sacrificing, I-am-just-an-ordinary-man in the end deed was consistent. Why did he act like he hated fame so much? Maybe Potter would talk once he tried the Firewhisky Draco had taken from his father’s personal supply. It did wonders.

‘So, drink or leave,’ drawled Draco, his eyes twinkling.

Their first encounter was an unmitigated disaster. As was the second, the third, the fourth… all the way from what could have been a difference of opinion, to the opposite sides of the war. In Draco’s defence, if he had known that the slight boy he met at Madame Malkin’s was once the country’s most celebrated hero toddler, he might have behaved differently. Would he indeed? Who knew what could happen in the event of ‘what’ and ‘if’? The fact remained that he saw the Muggle clothes when the boy had entered the store, and carried on running his mouth despite the less-than-impressed tone of his future schoolmate – this seemed a severe oversight in his eleven-year-old judgement. 

Draco was not completely oblivious. He just did not think what he said could be wrong. However, seven years onwards, Harry Potter was not once, but twice the hero because the Greatest Dark Lord of all times was so wicked that he had to be killed not once, but twice. Standing gloomily in contrast, Draco Malfoy had a probation service suspended until his graduation for participating in war crimes.

On the great scale of things, voluntary house arrest and probation service sounded almost tranquil in the face of a lifetime imprisonment. His aunt and her husband went crazy in Azkaban, thank you very much. Since then, life had continued in a surreal kind of stability. The Daily Prophet called it ‘the calm after a storm’. On second thought, if the universe was a glass-ball ornamented by fanciful spellwork, each dimension presenting something like a different parallel, different Dracos and different Luciuses and Narcissas could have suffered worse fates, much worse. It was not an idea that he liked to contemplate at midnight.

What if his mother had not saved Harry Potter’s life by chance? What if Harry Potter had failed to mention this at Wizengamot? What if the Ministry had decided on harsher punishments for him and his family? There was a time when he could not wait to get out of Hogwarts for the real business of life, but look at where it got him. A narrow escape from Azkaban, and a lengthy stay on the Ministry’s watch list.

Back in this parallel, dreadful hypotheses aside, apparently even young war criminals were entitled to their N.E.W.T.s. A decree by the new Minister insisted upon equal rights of education and employment in addition to appropriate measures of rehabilitation. Ordered out of the Manor to complete his education, Draco found himself before Hogwarts gates for the eighth time on the first day of September. But who was he to complain? The Dark Lord would have been far less merciful in his dealings with the opposition, as he had proven on more than one occasion.

The journey to redemption was surprisingly uneventful. Were Hufflepuffs ever going to learn how ridiculous pointing fingers and sneers were? Did Ravenclaws think that their narrowed stares could cause bodily harm? Gryffindors had kept their distance, and it seemed to Draco that they were busy celebrating their victory with a full-blown mating season. In other words, embracing their natural tendency to place their heart over the head, as though the lot of them had finally found time to indulge in open handholding around the castle and frisky adventures in abandoned corridors like the rest of school did. At one point the air was so overly sugary Draco thought he might choke on his own vomit if he was not careful.

‘She’s not my girlfriend anymore.’

‘Shouldn’t you be talking to your friends about this?’ Draco said to Potter two weeks later. However, there was something decidedly odd about finding Potter in the Room of Requirement moments after he arrived. ‘Why do I get the honour? Oh, I forgot you can’t talk to your friends about that?!’

Potter rolled his eyes and wrenched the bottle from Draco’s hand.

‘Should you be drinking this much?’

‘I’m making provision for two,’ said Draco, poking the liquor-snatcher for more room. ‘I like to be prepared. Transfigure your own stool next time – ’

As far as juicy gossip went, Potter’s fiery witch problem was drier than Bordeaux Blanc. Draco was struggling with the follow-through, ‘oh, I thought I’d be elated but I was not’, ‘it’s rather soon after the war’, ‘she wants to do everything together’… he worked his best indulgent smile, one of which he would offer to great grand aunt Arise, on the rare occasions she visited and Draco could not hence understand what had come of her slack mouth that had about five teeth left.

But... he owed the man for not being locked up in Azkaban. What was a little rambling compared to that?

They did not shoulder each other in public for all eyes to see, or laugh across their dinner tables at tasteless jokes, which would be unbecoming of a Slytherin and Gryffindor. In a more exclusive setting, they met on Friday night for a quick drink, have a look at each other’s notes, and sometimes, a recount on the week. Nothing more, nothing less.

It was a mutually beneficial arrangement: he could tell that Potter sometimes copied Granger’s notes beforehand since the difference in wording was noticeably evident. And he did not ask if Potter was avoiding all his hand-holding, hips-joined friends on weekends, a sort-of-ex-girlfriend on his tail. Had they not broken it off and made up again before? Draco could not keep track with these things.

Not always on a Friday though, Potter had to spend some time with his friends after all. Draco could overhear their plans as he passed them in potions classes and at dinner tables, on staircases or in corridors. There could be times when Potter sought out Draco’s glance and shook his head apologetically, by then Draco would know to bring his own devices. He never told Potter that on some of the lone nights, he thought of what he might hear from Potter when they met next.

‘What’s this then?’ asked Potter suspiciously.

‘Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe,’ said Draco, breathing in the rich forest scent. ‘First blush.’

A few minutes later Potter, who hummed happily into his cup, had added too much sugar to spoil the unique bittersweet undertone. Hardly the way to appreciate tea brewed from leaves that cost considerably more than its weight in gold, but Draco said nothing when he heard Potter muttering ‘a nice cuppa.’

‘It seems a lot of hassle to prepare tea here. Milk and water. Cups and teapot… We can have butterbeer. I wouldn’t mind.’

‘In case you haven’t noticed,’ Draco informed his companion, taking care not to sound bitter, ‘I am not allowed to go to Hogsmeade. And I can’t ask my mother to owl me alcohol.’

‘I didn’t know – ’ said Potter, his eyes wide. The silence was awkward. It was one of those moments when they realised who they were. Not just two people who compared notes and shared random conversations about Quidditch and school, but also who were too different in their ways. He could feel it now. Potter would say something silly and Draco would tell him to piss off. Because they would end up biting each other’s head off. Because that was simply the story of their lives…

Potter grabbed him and Draco startled as he stared. He was not sure what to make of it. The grip was not hard enough to cause alarm. Holding on to Draco’s arm firmly, Potter grinned, ‘don’t worry. I’ll figure something out – ’

By that Potter meant turning up late the next time with a basket full of beverages and chocolates in his hand. They were getting close to Christmas and Honeydukes had put on a wonderful display, Potter explained. As it turned out, Slytherins could be easy to please too if you gave them enough sweets for their time. 

‘Professor McGonagall said we could have a party as long as we only serve butterbeer and call it a night before twelve,’ whistled Potter excitedly, nodding his head for emphasis. ‘It’s in our common room but all the other houses are welcome. You can bring your friends. The train leaves tomorrow and the exams are finished – ’

Draco looked around and saw only a few heads raised in their direction. The hall was emptied quickly after dinner; students off packing, staff heading back to their quarters to grade papers. Draco told Blaise and Pansy to go ahead when he saw Potter coming his way.

‘I am afraid I can’t,’ he said to Potter, once they were out of earshot. ‘My parents are expecting me tonight. But I will tell the others. See if they want to go.’ 

‘You’re not leaving with everyone else tomorrow?’ asked Potter, looking disappointed.

‘They don’t want me to arrive at King’s Cross by myself,’ said Draco curtly.

‘Because they… can’t come to fetch you?’

Potter shifted awkwardly and Draco knew that he thought he was referring to his parents.

‘No, the Ministry did not want me there for my own protection,’ he clarified, turning on his heels. ‘So I'll see you after Christmas.’

Behind him, Potter heaved what sounded like a sigh.

Professor McGonagall had remained silent on their way to the Apparition Point. Draco walked on the frozen ground, with his luggage floating two inches off the icy path. For a very brief moment, he glanced back at Gryffindor Tower from afar and wondered if the party had started, whether his fellow Slytherins had braved the lion's den as they had said they would. Pansy had pouted at the notion, and Blaise had smirked so it was anyone's guess really. 

‘I trust no one has misbehaved around you,’ said McGonagall, her lips parting only a fraction as she addressed him. ‘But you would report to me if there is any wrongdoing, wouldn’t you?’

‘Yes, Professor,’ muttered Draco in response. The snow crunched under his feet.

‘Off you go, then, Mister Malfoy,’ McGonagall gave Draco a little wave of her hand, not unkindly. ‘Have a good holiday.’

‘Merry Christmas, Professor.’

The last time festive spirit had descended upon the Manor seemed so long ago. Though it had not changed much since he left, except for it being colder and perhaps not as richly decorated as he had remembered around this time of the year, Draco thought that it was nice to have their home to themselves again. Besides, his mother had already gone to the trouble to order as many favourites as possible through the mail. The least he could do was to put on a happy face and have more mulled wine and food than his stomach would care for.

His parents looked older. There were, however, fewer lines around their eyes as they watched Draco starting a mightily sumptuous feast on one quiet Christmas Eve. Followed by a lazy Christmas day, during which he spent the whole day on things he could barely recall later, bully filled and blissfully silly. And then the following week, Draco went for a walk in the garden and caught a Scopes owl with a small, rectangular parcel tied to its legs, evidently too heavy for the bird’s miniature frame.

The handwriting was a giveaway. Draco watched the wrenched bird take wing, very likely fleeing for its life from Hercules – who could be touchy about incoming posts. He returned to his room and opened the parcel to find a book wrapped up in plain brown paper and a note. He picked up the note first.

I never said Merry Christmas. Here is a belated present. A little late for Christmas but nevertheless! On top of Potter’s signature there were words scuffled together as though the line was added at the last minute: Pass your mother my regards. Draco put it down and considered. Did this mean he should get Potter a present too? How was he going to do that with only a few days before school started again?

‘You got me a sex book?!’ said Potter under his breath, flinging his Invisibility Cloak over the two of them. ‘Good thing I didn’t open it in front of everyone. I had to hide it in my trunk afterwards. What were you thinking?’

‘Why can’t you open a plain covered journal in front of people?’ asked Draco, keeping his voice low and watching out for Filch and Mrs. Norris. It was their first night back at Hogwarts and he had only a few minutes to spare.

‘But a sex book?’ repeated Potter, incredulously.

‘You sent me a book titled “Secrets To Taming a Mystical Dragon”. That’s your idea of a joke?’

‘What? I bought you a book for N.E.W.T.s preparations,’ said Potter, in a rather anxious voice. ‘Oh good god, that means Charlie has your book. I can’t believe it. I should have wrapped them in different coloured paper. You see, Charlie – Ron’s brother – he works with dragons. He didn’t come back this year so I sent his present along with the rest of the family's… I had no idea – ’

A burning torch made a whiny sizzling noise nearby. Under a layer of invisible veil Draco could see Potter’s mouth opening and closing within an arm’s length, breaking down how the mishap had come about in the first place. And the gloomy part of things was, he had heard of the older Weasley brother before. Now he was kicking himself. Why he failed to make the connection sooner?

‘Never mind,’ said Draco, his hand in a fist. ‘Keep the journal. It’s not a sex book though. It’s a book of protection spells and whatnots. Might come in handy for you one day… should you need to use it. Let me know if you want Charlie’s present back. I have to go, Blaise and Theo will ask questions – ’

‘Wait, hold on,’ interrupted Potter, hastily removing a long, thin box from the inside of his robes. There was so little space between them Draco felt it pressed into his chest instantly. ‘I didn’t call you out to talk about the book. Well, that’s me swerved off topic… Anyway, I wanted to give you this.’

‘What is it?’ asked Draco, hesitantly.

‘Your wand. I didn’t have it with me last term. Over the holiday… it’s not something I could entrust Pig with. Besides, I wanted to return this to you in person.’

‘You didn’t have to,’ Draco heard himself reply breathlessly, sparing a brief moment to wonder who the hell pig was. ‘It’s not mine anymore.’

‘But I want you to have it,’ said Potter, his eyes on Draco as though he was trying to make a point that was greater than what he was actually saying. ‘You should have it. I couldn’t have won without you.’

The Christmas present incident had passed but not been forgotten. For weeks and weeks they spoke nothing of it, neither Charlie Weasley’s present nor the journal that appeared to have stayed unopened at the bottom of Potter’s trunk. Draco kept an eye out all the same. Even though he only conveyed basic stuff, it was not unheard of for inexperience wizards to cock up embarrassing accidents. He really did not need to be on the receiving end of an onslaught from Potter’s friends, or the Weasley girl, who probably had her mother’s temper. Having his bogeys turned into large bats one time was humiliating enough.

Speaking of which, there would come a point in their amity when the subject of copulation had to be discussed. Back in his days on the Slytherin Quidditch Team, older boys often gathered in the locker room, loudly discussing their bawdy advances and leaving no name unmentioned. The puzzle could not be completed without it, and as a part of the male bonding process, you were not to be trusted until the others let you in on these private, fruity details of their lives.

Like standing under a rolling cloud Draco awaited the moment unenthusiastically. For one thing, Potter’s entire copulative history consisted of one person and one person only, of whom Draco dreaded to get an up close and personal for the aforementioned reason and sheer unpleasantness. For another, Draco had always been particular in his ways of gratification. While he enjoyed sexual release as much as any other eighteen year old boy, and appreciated a fine physique regardless of its sex, he was never physically interested in another body.

These sexual revelations did not have to be awful. Over the years he had developed a dispassionate fortitude similar to pain tolerance, which would become more endurable after repeated experience. He could spin a few yarns if the situation demanded. No one had ever doubted any of his stories. There was not much to be done except accept the inevitability and act with grace.

In the event of Potter’s personal crisis, Draco, who was capable of bestowing honour, thought that Potter might want a drink and a good old bash, bean spilling to be expected. It worked like a charm whenever Blaise was quarrelling with Tracy. He might even lend Potter a shoulder to cry on, only if Draco was feeling extremely charitable though.

‘Can we not talk about it?’ said Potter, dropping his full weight on to the huge, half-stuffed bag of something unknown he had just transfigured with a rather significant thump. He let out an exaggerated sigh and said: ‘Really, I’m fine. I’ve been getting nothing but pitiful eyes the whole day. Neville can’t even look me in the face at the minute. It’s not necessary. She’s not my girlfriend – hasn’t been for all of six months. It’s not like they did anything while we were dating – ’

‘Ah, you do sound fine,’ said Draco, non-committally.

Scratching his neck in frustration Potter’s snarled at Draco, pulled his jumper over his head and tossed it to his schoolbag carelessly, a plaid undershirt in sight. The spring was remarkably sly in her steps this year and the room was hardly balmy. Draco began to wonder if Potter was putting up a brave front, but anger was good. Anger was better than sorrow on any given day.

‘All I am saying is,’ Potter went on, ‘there is no need for people to treat me like I’m a fragile flower or something. I’m not going to break down and cry – ’

‘Would you prefer them to overlook your feelings?’ Draco looked at him sceptically. ‘You are all in the same house, after all. This could get awkward – ’

‘Oh yeah, like it’s not awkward now?’ asked Potter, pouring Firewhisky down his throat.

‘Easy, easy there,’ Draco retrieved the bottle with ease. The bag-lookalike object was far from spacious for two people. Maybe he should transfigure something else.  ‘At this rate you’ll be off your face before the hour is out. I don’t fancy carrying you back to your tower.’

‘Blimey,’ said Potter, though he chuckled. ‘You said I could be a soak today. Remember?’

‘Yes, but not blindly drunk,’ said Draco shrewdly. ‘The whole point is to get whatever it is you have bottled up – ’ he made a gesture toward Potter’s chest, which was right at his fingertips. ‘ – out and let it be gone. You can’t do that if you’re seeing stars within ten minutes, can you? It defeats the purpose. Then I will have to start again.’

‘Why do you look like you’re enjoying my misery?’ asked Potter, looking dubious.

‘But you said you weren’t miserable,’ retorted Draco sharply.

Potter laughed. Several moments later, Draco was on his back watching all the little light bubbles Potter had conjured float up to the ceiling. Once burst, they faltered and wove into a golden light, which reminded Draco of the lighting used at events like Quidditch World Cup. On a much smaller scale, though nevertheless brilliant. He was a pureblood wizard of the purest blood, but his family needed to hire witches and wizards to decorate their drawing room. Feeling more than a little inadequate, Draco grunted into the bottle. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that Potter was good with his wand.

‘Wait, you weren’t angry?’ repeated Draco, picking up the last thread of conversation.

‘I’m not angry with anyone but myself, in a way... I don’t know anymore. It seemed like a good thing back when there was a war, something to look forward to… but when it was all over, when it was time to really get down to it, I just couldn’t do it. It’s like I had to exert myself for the effort…’

‘How unfortunate,’ said Draco, with a feigned innocence, ‘her mouth that bad?’

Potter gave him a look that could only be described as positively scandalised. Draco shrugged.

‘You know I wasn’t talking about that.’

‘Well, it seemed a good time to talk outside the box. What was the problem? You prefer a bigger chest? She made noises you didn’t like? Or maybe you finally realised there was an ocean of people out there willing to throw themselves at you?’

Draco stopped, fully expecting a disgusted expression that fitted a Gryffindor's sensitive morality. Potter merely titled his head and appeared lost in thoughts.

‘It was just dramatic, rather than anything. To be fair, I think Ginny… well, she probably felt pressured too. The summer was not so bad since her mum was always there. But once we were back in school, and everyone seemed to be thinking about it… I think I flipped.’

‘How so? Did she not know where to put her teeth?’

‘You don’t give up, do you?’ croaked Potter, bracing on his elbow to face Draco. ‘Is Parkinson so good with her mouth that you feel the need to show off?’

They glanced at each other, both horrified, then burst out laughing.

‘I wouldn’t know,’ said Draco, after he caught his breath again. ‘And I can’t say I am that eager to find out.’

‘But you and she have been dating for how long?’ said Potter, and for some reason, his voice sounded tense.

‘I wouldn’t call it dating,’ said Draco, smirking. ‘I’ve known her for a long time. She’s always been like that around me. Besides, it would be foolish. If I so much as looked at her in the wrong way, her father would owl mine a marriage contract, drawn up and ready to be sealed. All it would need is my signature and my father’s.’

‘That sounds so… old-fashioned,’ muttered Potter.

‘What? The marriage contract? It’s less common now. But I wouldn’t put it past her father.’

Potter looked taken aback, dark brows furrowed as though he was pondering life’s great mystery. But then they relaxed and widened, Potter enquired, ‘is there someone else for you?’

‘Why would I need anyone else?’ said Draco, feeling light-headed and merry. ‘Have you seen my hands?’ With his palms opened flat before Potter’s eyes, he wittered on, ‘smooth, long fingers, not even one callous, why do you need anyone else if you have hands like mine?’

Utterly astonished, Potter shook his head and lay back down. Draco sniggered, gazing up at the yellow glow across the tainted, blackened ceiling. After a minute or two, he heard Potter ask brusquely, ‘How is that the same? I mean, hands and mouth are not the same thing. I’m… just pointing out the obvious.’

‘Oh that,’ said Draco, complacently. ‘There is a spell on page five of the journal. To relax your spine. Don’t overdo it though, unless you want your spine to feel like it belongs to someone else the next day.’

‘It’s not a sport, you know,’ said Potter. ‘What’s wrong with plain and simple? Why do you need spells and whistles for sex?

‘Because they make you feel good?!’ Draco snapped, now regretting why he did not laugh it off when the subject had come up. He had thought that Potter, given his recent lapse in affinity, should be able to relate to the fact that things could be easier without all the fuss involving another human being. If he had known he was going to be patronised, he would not have bothered. 

‘But you’re not having sex, according to you,’ breathed Potter, sitting up again and giving Draco an open view of his back, as though it agitated him to lie next to Draco and talk about sex at the same time.

‘But I am,’ said Draco, indignantly. ‘Just not with another person.’

‘Do you not think about it, though?’ Potter growled, after a long infuriating pause. ‘Are you not curious? You don’t like to be touched? I can’t imagine that – ’ at which point, Potter had the gall to laugh, ‘ – after all the fist fights in the past.’

‘What are you getting at?’ Draco began, annoyed that Potter had no respect for his particularity. ‘This isn’t about me. We are drinking because you had… problems. Why are you turning something that doesn’t affect anyone besides me against me? If you would rather be alone, I can always leave.’

Everything was explained at the moment Potter had swung around. The way his eyes widened behind his round spectacles, lips tightening as if he was suppressing pain, and the forceful hands on Draco’s upper arms to stop him from getting up. Realisation in its most triumphant scale had hit Draco so hard that he had an immediate impulse to run away without looking back, though he had known it all along.

What else could have made Potter always insist upon flying on one broomstick when they could have easily taken turns; or produced the vacant expression on Potter's face as he stared at Draco across the Great Hall? No wonder Zabini had noticed. Most people were too accustomed to their old ways to think otherwise, but now Draco had put all the pieces together, he could see how his dorm mate had caught on to his secret.

Draco was irritated… irritated beyond belief that someone had poked through the thin shroud of his privacy before he was ready for it to come out into the open. The most famous man in the Wizarding World was probably having a crush. Once Potter made it into the real world, he would have far too many admirers, ones he had not spend years loathing, and Draco would fade into the background like white noise. That was, if Draco had not already been abducted and stoned to death for corrupting Harry Potter.

‘Oh’ was all Draco managed to get out after what felt like an eternity of silence. Potter, who was watching Draco intensely, seemed to pull himself together and loosened his grip.

‘Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you,’ Potter muttered feebly. ‘You probably hate… being grabbed.’

Draco attempted a humourless laugh. With all the buzzing in his head, he was at a loss to know what to say. Potter had misunderstood him grossly, but Draco was still in awe as he had never realised how much he affected Potter until tonight. There were accidental touches, and intentional nearness that was made to look accidental. Many a time he said scandalous things to Potter because Gryffindors made it so easy. But in that split second, Potter looked as if he could not handle Draco; every single part of him was too much for the man who had overthrown the Dark Lord.

‘If you want to go back,’ whispered Potter. ‘I can walk you to your dorm.’

Just like that, Draco was excluded again. Shut off and shoved into a compartment somewhere, probably at the back of Potter’s head, until he found himself drooling over Draco the next time, if there was a next time. The thought made Draco angry, and brash.

‘Whatever you think I meant,’ said Draco, in a small, strained voice, ‘is not true. I didn’t choose not to have sex with another person because I don’t like sex, or I can’t tolerate being touched. I just haven’t been in a situation with someone who makes me want to go further.’

‘You always tease me,’ Potter exploded. ‘You don’t ever stop! You get me thinking and then you back off, every single time! I’m not sure if you know the meaning of boundary. But you weren’t like this before. So it’s either I didn’t know you well enough or... I’m guessing you know how I feel about you. I like you, okay? Stupidly I do! It’s fine if you don’t want it, I can deal with that… but don’t play with my mind just because you can!’

‘You’re one to talk!’ shouted Draco. ‘Let’s not forget the part where you grabbed me and offered to walk me to my dorm like I’m a bloody girl!’

‘What should I have done? You just told me you don’t want sex with another person – ’

The rest of his speech was lost; Draco had heard enough, too much, frankly. He could not force his view on Potter any more than Potter could on him, but he could put an end to all this nonsense. He launched himself on Potter, writhing in his attempt to pin Potter down to the stupid bag thing. His blood was boiling, his vision blurred.

‘If sex is your problem,’ Draco bellowed, ‘sex I can give.’

Potter stared at him, shocked and uncomprehending, as though Draco was speaking a foreign language. Draco bit the inside of his cheek and ploughed on. He had hands and a mouth that knew every trick that was ever invented. He could make a cock – although admittedly no one’s but his own until now – spill in mere minutes. He could make Potter beg and scream. He would see it through to the wondrous end.

There came a sound of glass hitting the floor, followed by Potter’s pained groans. But Draco was preoccupied. He attacked Potter’s clothes with a fierce endeavour. They offended him anyway: baggy, worn Muggle abominations that did nothing for Potter’s physique. He was so furious that he forgot he could have Vanished those loathsome excuses of garments.

Then he had it, in his hands: how long had Potter been hard? How many times had Draco thought about this very moment before tonight? Though he did not get a proper look last time, there was no stopping now. Some part of him knew that he was always a little odd; he did not even know if Potter had showered before he turned up here, but Draco could not have cared less.

‘Draco,’ panted Potter.

With his mouth stretched, Draco nodded an acknowledgement and sucked in a gentle, drawing in-and-out motion. It was never about the intensity of pressure but the building of a rhythm. He looked at Potter, his tongue sliding up and down with every movement of his head. He wanted to give Potter the best he had, to wow him because Draco was so good, having had years of practice on himself to perfect his technique. And Potter tasted like want, sour and bitter yet with a hollowed sweetness. Draco drove his mouth down, his lips wet with saliva, swallowing Harry Potter in his entirety.

Beneath him Potter let out a series of short, hoarse grunts, as if in agony. His hand, however, reached to Draco’s head, fingers tugging the strands lightly. Draco hummed in approval; he wanted Potter to pull his hair, but Potter did not seem to have understood him. Draco was so overcome with frustration that he shut his eyes. When he opened them he saw Potter gazing helplessly at him, fixing Draco with his bright, emerald eyes, his mouth open, his undershirt half destroyed, revealing a light patch of chest hair and two rosy, small buds.  Draco breathed out, rolling his tongue at the taut skin between Potter’s cock and balls.

‘Stop, stop,’ pleaded Potter. ‘If you keep going, I won’t last long, Draco, please stop – ’

Draco did not particularly want to but he stopped anyway, hands still wrapped around the base of the shaft with a solid display of stubbornness. ‘Isn’t that the point?’ he asked huskily. ‘I want to make you come.’

‘If you keep going, that’ll only take three more seconds – ’

Draco pouted.

‘Can I touch you?’ Potter's voice was hoarse, too. ‘Will you let me try?’

Draco peeked down. He was still fully clothed. His gaze fell on the bulge in his crotch, where his cock felt caged beneath two layers of cotton. Draco bit his lip and began to unbutton his shirt.

‘No, let me – let me – ’

Potter, who had bounced up and come to a halt, his trousers open and his cock leaking at the tip, pulled Draco’s head down and kissed him. Draco felt his lips parting, letting Potter in. His hands held on to what was left of Potter’s undershirt. He reciprocated, sucking on Potter’s tongue, thrusting his own into Potter’s mouth because he wanted more.  In fact, he wanted so much more than just a taste.

They broke apart eventually. Potter studied Draco’s face and neck with his hands lazily, as though he was drunk, but Draco had seen Potter drunk before: his eyes would not be this bright, he would not gasp this excitedly as though he had won a Quidditch match. Draco had known the expression so well because he had spent years looking at it. Only never this closely.

‘D’you know how much of a tease you are? Sucking on spoons and licking the cup’s rim. Putting a hand under your chin, and when you see me looking, you lower your hand and look down. I thought I was going to go mad… I really thought I was… ’

‘Stop talking before I change my mind,’ Draco growled, with intent.

For a moment Potter almost looked hurt. But he had always talked to Potter this way. They bickered and bantered with malice and mockery. Draco panicked. It was not his intention to affront Potter minutes after he had sucked Potter’s cock. And Potter had not even come.

‘I’m not going to,’ said Draco at once. ‘Not tonight. That was a figure of speech – an old habit.’

Potter did not respond. Instead he pulled Draco close, pressing a soft kiss to Draco’s lips before he worked on Draco’s clothes. Draco assisted him, hoping that actions spoke louder than words.

Once he had both of them naked and Draco laid down on the bag. Potter began to kiss him. It felt like teasing, with Potter’s lips and tongue all over his chest, licking from one spot to another, but Draco had heard that word used negatively too many times for one night. He stretched out under Potter’s tongue, his breath heaving when Potter gave his torso a tingling bite.

‘Do you want to fuck me?’ Potter moved up to whisper into his ear, in a voice that made Draco’s insides tickle. ‘You don’t have to. I can blow you. But I… I think I want you to. I’ve thought about it – when I’m alone.’

Draco, however, was too startled by the full-body, skin-to-skin contact and how good it was to be fully paying attention. Absentmindedly he nestled his head on Potter’s shoulder. The prickly feel of Potter’s stubble against his skin gave him a mellowed sense of finality. Nothing had really seemed real up until this point, but now they were doing this for sure. Their faces rubbed together. They continued to kiss for a while, chasing each other’s lips as though they needed to be attached this way for the foreseeable future. Draco told himself to stop thinking. He had no idea that his thoughts could be so soppy during sex.

 ‘So, is that not a “no”?

‘I’ve never done it before,’ said Draco, suddenly apprehensive.

‘Worrying about your performance?’ whispered Potter, whose hand was drawing circles on Draco’s back. ‘It’s my first time too, so you can’t be bad.’

That was a valid point, it seemed, and the sight of Potter pleased him: the glasses had gone missing, Draco could not recall when. They must have been knocked off in some untraceable, incoherent moment. Potter was looking back at Draco, his face flushed a shade of deep red, his eyes slightly out of focus. Draco moved closer, his bare thigh straddling Potter’s legs. Potter, who was a radiant of warmth and energy, was proven to be impossible to resist.

‘Okay,’ said Draco, placidly. ‘Let me find my wand. And don’t you dare show off your wandless magic.’

Potter roared with laughter, which Draco ignored. By the time he had located his wand, he had already discarded the idea of using it. He had a better way to get Potter ready. There were numerous options, as a matter of fact, but this was the one that fascinated him the most.

‘How do we do this?’ asked Potter, no hands on himself as he waited.

‘Stand up,' Draco instructed, to which Potter complied. Potter did not know what was about to come. He probably thought that Draco was going to put his mouth on his cock again, which could be arranged. Too many things he needed to be doing at the same time, and could be doing at the same time. One night seemed hardly sufficient. Seated behind Potter’s legs, Draco repressed the urge to sigh, stuck his neck forward and probed two round butt cheeks with his tongue.

He had always wondered what it felt like, since he could not do it to himself without causing serious spinal damage. Draco dug his tongue in and pulled out immediately, a prelude that informed Potter of his inclination. Then Draco started licking – the back of Potter’s balls, his crack, rolling his tongue over Potter’s hole again and again without intruding, feeling the hot folds of skin quivering and at the same time, Potter’s knees were dropping like they could not support his weight.

Draco held him in place, now pushing his tongue inside. Greedily he wanted to go as deep as he could. And the idea of filling Potter’s arse with his slip was tempting. Potter moaned loudly, chanting Draco on. He decided that he would not mind if Potter came from his tongue alone. Because he could always make Potter come again.

But Potter lived to surprise. He twitched and grinded his arse on to Draco’s face, propelling himself back and forth, his cock heavy between his legs, yet he gave Draco no sign of climax. Draco reached around to his cock, only to find Potter’s hand blocking the way. There was a quick struggle, and then Potter managed to break away. Draco glowered at him.

‘If I had known I was going to get this lucky tonight, I wouldn’t have wanked in the shower earlier,’ Potter confessed, as though Draco’s mind was an open book.

‘You did?’ asked Draco, now blinking.

‘Yeah… to take off the edge,’ Potter sighed. ‘Come here.’

Beyond the four walls of this room, even as little as an hour ago, he would have said something smug, but none of that seemed important while Potter’s eyes sparkled in his direction. There was a curl at the corner of Potter’s mouth. So Draco kissed it.

‘I need you to fuck me now,’ Potter told him, somewhere between Draco's tongue in his mouth and his tongue in Draco's mouth.

‘Like this?’ Draco questioned, bemused.

‘Any way you want.’

‘Lie down then. I want you to lie down,’

The body under his hands, for once, belonged to another person, not himself. Draco would have to pick up cues by seeing and touching, yet there was no strangeness, no awkward moments. It was as though they had done this before, which was strange in itself, Draco would have certainly remembered if they had! And then he was side-tracked again when Potter produced a very small amount of lube using his wand.

‘You read my journal,’ said Draco, impressed.

‘I wanted to know what you liked,’ Potter grinned, ‘“A river of lube is as unsound as completely dry. While one kills friction and the other kills pleasure, neither is essentially productive.” That one sticks in my head. What else did you write?’ The breath caught in his throat as Draco pressed a lube-coated finger against his entrance, warming up and working the moisture into the skin. ‘And you sound like an old man:  “A confused derivation from lust to affection is no different than buying a cow just for its milk”. Honestly, do you even live in this century?’

‘Now is not a good time for literary debates,’ Draco admonished, and Potter just had to press his point by raising his eyebrows, his hair plastered to his forehead. It was the making of a mockery minus the contempt.  ‘All right, all right. If you must know, most of the spells were from my ancestor’s diary. So when I was copying them, I may have written down comments to the stories he recorded.’

‘Your ancestor kept a sex diary?’

Draco only smiled wickedly in response. Since Potter was not as inexperienced as he had thought, maybe he could speed things up a fraction. Talking with hard-ons was all fun and game, but he needed to see some progress soon. Draco tapped two fingers at Potter’s hole while deliberating whether he should push them in at once. The ring of muscles was just a barrier, a setback that once he got through, this arise would be all his. A man can dream, he told himself as he felt the smallest parting, enough for one finger to slide in but two seemed improbable.

‘Would have let you shove right in,’ Potter began, his hand touching his own cock leisurely, as if to remind Draco that one of them had already had their fix for the night. His voice was clear, although it sounded like he was talking more to himself than Draco. ‘Christ,’ he laughed, ‘that sounds like some awful line straight from a Quidditch broom closet.’

‘Feeling adventurous?’ asked Draco, after a very short pause.

‘I played around for a bit earlier,’ said Potter, apparently not abashed. ‘And you tongued me… should be okay.’

‘By played, you mean fingers?’

‘Yes. You… wrote about fucking someone open,’ said Potter. ‘When I saw that bit it was a toss up between getting hard or… going mad. I thought you’d done it on someone. I thought you were speaking from experience.’

‘Did I? I have a vivid imagination,’ Draco replied instinctively. At this point he was beyond surprise: Potter had read his journal, and Potter had put his fingers in his arse before coming to see Draco. What else was going to happen? If he did not get on with it, would Potter throw him on to his back and ride him like a banshee out of hell? He gasped. His already painful erection appeared to like the mental image more than it should.

With his head fell back on to the stuffed bag, Potter was letting Draco do as he pleased, pushing his fingers in, forcing his way through the barrier to find Potter still slick from his spit, twisting and rubbing because Potter was good for it. And Draco wanted to sure. He wanted to know how badly Potter wanted him, so much so that he was willing to share those private, secret details.

Potter was ready, a tight fit but ready. He drew sharp, hasty breaths while he watched Draco, as though he had been waiting for this moment his whole life. Draco had to oblige. He would be the biggest imbecile ever lived if he had to be asked twice. Clearing his throat Draco laughed nervously and lined himself up, a hand at the tip of his cock, about to guild it in: this was new territory, even for him. Especially for him.

‘Here goes.’

‘I guess “break a leg” would be a weird thing to say now,’ Potter exhaled and wrapped his legs around Draco in readiness.

‘You don’t say,’ muttered Draco shakily.

His head felt empty, yet heavy, dropping towards Potter of its own accord. He pushed. His body knew exactly what he should be doing without his mind needing to control all his limbs and bones. He just melted on to Potter, slid in, banished the initial resistance and pressed forward inexorably. No matter what happened from then on, this moment would always be his, his to keep, his to savour, his to remember. And Potter, who moaned into his mouth, blissfully in awe but more than responsive, in this moment was also his.

Draco arched his back and tried to withdraw. He should start a steady pace somehow, if he could spare two seconds to think. Immediately Potter clutched at him, using his entire body to pull Draco back in, his arms on Draco’s neck, his feet at Draco’s back. Fuck “try a different angle if you need to, to find his prostate” – there was no fucking room for any other angle.

‘Don’t go, don’t go,’ panted Potter, sounding distressed. ‘You feel wonderful.’

‘I need to – I need to move in order to come back,’ Draco spat between gritted teeth. ‘Harry, you’re so good and tight – just the way I thought you would be. Let me give it to you – let me fuck you good – ’

The bloody textbook dirty talk had not worked. He was on his own here, with Potter, who seemed to be determined to either overpower Draco from underneath or suffocate Draco with his hair and his arms. Did Potter know what he was doing? Draco made a few attempts to rotate his hips, which was not a small undertaking, seeing that he was being seized within every inch of his life.

‘ – darling,’ whispered Draco. It was the first thing that came to his mind. ‘Don’t fight me.’

‘Wow,’ Potter – Harry gasped at last, and his eyes widened, his body stiffened, obviously in a state of wonder at the tender words. ‘Wow.’

Draco did not care. He did not want to make a big deal out of what he had said. Having never responded well to stress, Draco racked his brain – of which only a small part was working – to think of something. Clearly, he was not good at this. His face wanted to simper, his body in the middle of thrusting, and yet his mouth had gotten him into trouble. Maybe he should leave it.

‘What did you just call me?’

There was no easy save after all.

‘Harry?’ deadpanned Draco, hoping that Harry would take it as his cue and let him carry on.

The expression of disappointment on Harry’s face made Draco’s chest burn. Sensing that his nightmare had come true, Draco mopped the invisible perspiration off his forehead, in a perhaps-not-so-discreet effort to break from Harry’s gaze. He had gone ahead and done it: his cock buried inside Harry Potter, yet they were about to lose their erection, it was tactless of him, and ironically, that little endearment was going to laugh in his face and haunt his dreams.

Well done! For all these time you thought you weren’t some unschooled virgin who knew next to nothing about sex, whose biggest worry was whether they could find something to rut and hold it together for longer than three minutes when they fisted their pricks and came hopelessly over their sheets at night – Draco Malfoy should have known better.

‘Oh, don’t frown,’ muttered Draco, desperately, afraid that he had ruined it for both of them. Harry swallowed hard. His eyes were sad. Not mopey, just… like a light had been switched off. Already Draco could not bear it. It was as though his chest had been opened and his heart stolen, and then when it was returned, there was a blunt needle pitched through it. He knew the feeling though, it was the feeling of loss – something very important was about to be taken away from him. He could not let it end on this note. Equally he could not uproot from Harry’s body and run. There was only one thing left to do, if this was what it took to turn the light back on.

‘Harry,’ Draco gave in, after taking a deep breath, ‘Harry, darling.’

His darling was searching Draco’s face for something incomprehensible, but Draco had flapped his card and gone all in, as he was fairly certain that he had never fucked anyone else and called them ‘darling’. Draco bit his lip. It took all his willpower not to resolve to moving, not channelling his thoughts on why he had not slept with anyone, although to certain extent he very much doubted that there was another person who could make his eyes feel like they were thrusting from inside during sex. He was failing in front of Harry Potter, which should not be a news flash but was nonetheless humiliating.

The rest of his body was cold, and the one place Draco had made room for himself was still responsive and warm. He had wanted to get some fucking done at some point tonight, if it was not too much to ask. If Harry and his own stupid mouth had not thrown him completely off-balance. Harry’s cock lay flat against his stomach, and though it did not look all that different from ten minutes ago, Draco had a sneaky suspicion that it was not quite as hard. He knew it like he needed the friction now, to have Harry shuddering around him and letting him go and then shuddering again, like how he was supposed to make Harry come on his cock, and how he would fuck Harry through his orgasm, to make it last longer, more intense, to leave Harry drenched in cum and utterly spent.

‘I could fuck you and blow you… if you want,’ Draco paused, crouching down and using his mouth and hands to get Harry’s attention in the way he knew best. Harry kissed him back, fervently and exultantly. The next minute it seemed that he had worked himself up for nothing. ‘It might be tricky, but I can try.’

‘You don’t have to try so hard,’ said Harry, biting Draco’s ear playfully. Between their torsos his cock jerked, muscles contracting and flexing in places where neither could see. This was not good news for Draco, since he felt the convulsion both inside and outside while trapped in a very confined place.

‘Are you all right?’ he muttered, only barely audible. ‘Can we continue?’

‘Great, fantastic,’ squirmed Harry. ‘Now move – fuck me like you said you would – ’

‘Then keep still… good grief,’ wheezed Draco, his hands digging into Harry’s flesh. ‘Don’t push back – not yet – ah – ’

‘ Can’t – ’nd don’t want to – ’ growled Harry, happily ravaging his own arse along Draco’s cock.

This has got to stop, Draco thought in annoyance. Without warning, he pitched backwards to break from Harry, who instantly followed. A lot could happen in a few seconds. When they fell back down again, Draco had hefted Harry’s legs on to his shoulder, his toes pushing against the disgusting floor for leverage. And then he ploughed on, albeit with less finesse and ease than he would have liked.

‘Aw – ’

‘That's it,’ Draco piped up, his voice softer than he had anticipated. ‘Go on, give me all the noise.’

He was not being particularly gentle. Somehow he figured that Harry would not care. Because Harry had asked for this, Harry wanted him this bad. Only this time Harry was at a loss for words, spread out on their sex hut panting like he was desperately in need of water, shivering like he was experiencing some kind of bodily chill. Except he could not have been freezing, his hole was gripping and setting Draco on fire. Draco struggled to keep his thrusts long and deep. His body wanted to pound, to drive Harry into the squeezy bag thing again and keep him there but his rhythm was nowhere near perfect.

Draco had to try. He grasped Harry’s knees and bent him double, knowing that he probably should not have done it, that it might have been too much for Harry. Apparently not, judging by Harry’s response, as his hands reached to the undersides of his own knees and held them close to his chest for Draco. With each slap of their thighs there came a reward, a pure utterance of pleasure, not a breathy moan but ones which seemed to have reverberated in Harry’s lungs before they were forced from his mouth.

It was an impossible task, and Draco was exhausted to the bone. He had been hard for too long tonight, too many interludes and setbacks. The muscles in his stomach trembled: he needed to come like hours ago. His insides had turned into soft pulp that was about to be extracted, his hands flailing across Harry’s body until he finally had the inkling to touch his cock, even though it was throbbing right under his eyes the whole time. He could not keep going like this for much longer, he needed to come –

Draco let out a helpless grunt. He would have been devastated if coming inside Harry Potter was not the most exquisite thing he ever felt. This was not over. He continued to thrust, pumping every last drop of his cum into Harry, who looked back at him in a daze, mouth open.

His orgasm gave him clarity, and a bit more control over his brain and body. Against his will Draco pulled out, even though he would have preferred later rather than sooner. But he did, kneeling down to take Harry’s cock into his mouth. There was nothing on his mind when Harry’s cum hit his throat, other than how much he needed for Harry to climax, like he needed his ability to breathe.

Should he return Harry’s affection? How long had passed in this indecision? All he felt as he stared into the darkness above, which offered him no succour, was worry about what might happen next. What if he had made a fretful mess? Hid cowardly in his dorm and had his meals sent up over the weekend, and secretly hoped that Harry would sneak in and shove him out of his shell. Because Draco was a spineless prick who could not deny Harry Potter and who, though shorn of the courage to either accept or reject an ultimatum, still dipped his toe into the water.

But he had dipped more than his toe alright, Draco thought grimly. Harry Potter, whose name Draco had first heard in a storybook, and who had remained the bane of his existence for seven long years, was the most complicated simple man he had ever known. He did not understand why Harry wanted him as a lover. Did he possess qualities that Harry looked for in another but were not found until him? What could Draco Malfoy possibly offer to Harry Potter? 

In principle, the law of attraction worked both ways and the delusion granted would not last. For Harry could be as enthralled as any other fool in love, then one day open his eyes and see Draco clearly. On the other hand, there were moments in which they were invincible: after an exceptionally long night, Harry’s lips warm and tender along the small of his back, and arms tightened around his waist as though Harry would never let him go, their fingers laced together as they lay inseparable in their afterglow.

His heart thumped at the back of his throat. Draco began to think that perhaps he gave Harry something others could not, whatever it might be. And more importantly, although he would never allow himself to admit it, perhaps he had wanted Harry before Harry had wanted him. None of his previous objections could hold up once he had unpicked the carcass. It was the way of the mind. Shrewd insights and good sense so rarely succeeded in the matters of an enamoured heart, since it had the power to invalidate the feelings of misgiving.

Outside the castle, the moon had begun to fade, followed by the stars, shying away as the night had passed its present. The future had yet to emerge. From above the horizon the first rays of light sped out of the darkness, resilient, glorious, scattered in the eyes of the morning dew, onto the castle and the world beyond, over those who slept, amongst the shadows the past, and those who dwelt, in the land of hope. It seemed that we should all count ourselves lucky if we were allowed more than one chance at life.

The upside about coming through a long war was that there would be a tomorrow, another day to make things right. Tomorrow was in his hands, he could make it his own: Draco Malfoy could go to Harry Potter and kiss him senseless. He would do it in front of the whole school if he needed to. Unaware that his tomorrow had already arrived, Draco smiled joyfully and decided. Now came the distant sounds of a clock chiming, to which his heart sang, as he would soon rise to find a late spring at his doorstep. 

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