It was hard to believe it had already been ten years.

A decade since Voldemort's defeat, and Harry could still remember just how he'd felt at that moment. He gazed up at the ceiling of Hogwart's Great Hall, picturing the red glow that had infused the room as the Elder Wand flew into his waiting hand. The Ministry had decided to hold a gala to celebrate the anniversary of the end of the war, and, as the staging ground of the final battle, Hogwarts had been the logical place to hold it. Overwhelmed with memories, part of him wished he wasn’t expected to be there.

"All right there, mate?" Ron asked under his breath; Harry noticed that he and Hermione were observing him with concern.

He plastered a smile on his face and nodded. "I'm fine. Just…" Shrugging awkwardly, he tried to ignore the reporters scattered throughout the throng.

Hermione rested a hand on his arm. "Neville's just over there. Shall we go talk to him?"

Harry trailed along as he shook himself out of his funk. He was determined to at least try to enjoy this gathering of his friends and former comrades. Neville was out of his work robes for once, though Harry thought he still detected dirt under the other man's fingernails when they shook hands. After Pomona Sprout had retired, Neville had happily taken her place as Herbology professor. Word had it that he was a marvellous teacher, patient and kind to everyone, regardless of year or house. In fact, Hermione said that even the Slytherins had warmed up to him. Harry's mouth twisted on a scowl before he pulled his thoughts away from the one house that was conspicuously lacking in representatives at the celebration gala. Good riddance, he scoffed inwardly.

Of course, he should have known it wouldn't be that simple.

"Oi," Ron whispered, nudging Harry. "Look who's skulking in the shadows over there."

Harry groaned inwardly, knowing who it had to be. Only one person could inspire that dark glee in Ron's voice. Glancing to the side, he saw that his supposition had been correct, though Ron's analysis of the situation was a bit off. Draco Malfoy wasn't skulking in the shadows at all; instead, he was schmoozing his way through the crowd, acting like he was bestowing a great favour on everyone whose hand he shook.

"Leave it," Harry said, longing to pretend he didn't even know Malfoy was there.

"Honestly," Hermione huffed, dropping Ron's hand. "Will you two ever grow up?"

"Hermione…" Ron started.

"You two feel free to stay here and act like children. I'm going to go say hello to Malfoy. You know how hard it must have been for him to come here tonight?"

"I hardly think Draco Malfoy needs you to take up his cause for him," Harry muttered, ignoring the exasperated look she gave him.

Harry was really quite pleased with the fact that he hadn't had to deal with Malfoy since leaving Hogwarts, and was determined to keep it that way. After all, things were complex enough without that added trouble.

After the final battle, he and many others had gone back to Hogwarts to finish their final year and take their NEWTs. By the time they were done, Ron had finally wised up and proposed to Hermione. They were married not even a full year later.

Despite her criticism of the Ministry, or perhaps because of it, Hermione got involved in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, where she was able to put her S.P.E.W. ideals into action. Since the Ministry was going through quite the overhaul after Voldemort's infiltration, she was finally able to find people who were willing to listen to what she had to say, and, consequently, she effected great change in the treatment of non-humans in the wizarding world.

As for Ron, he'd joined George at Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes. It turned out that Ron had a pretty good business sense, and the two had accumulated a ridiculous amount of money. Ron and Hermione were able to buy a beautiful home of their own, and had even started talking about children.

Things hadn't gone quite as smoothly for Harry. He'd been accepted into the Auror program right out of Hogwarts, which was great, and quickly progressed to one of the heads of his department, which dealt with renegade Death Eaters. He and Ginny dated for several years, even though she was in Wales much of the time as Seeker for the Holyhead Harpies, and he worked more than was probably healthy. Eventually she broke it off, claiming that they spent too much time apart, and that the spark had long since passed.

Harry soon accepted that she was right. He just didn't have the time or patience for a relationship. Last year, Ginny had married a husky Scotsman named Iain, who seemed to enjoy the challenge of dealing with the fiery girl and often travelled with her on Quidditch tours. Harry was happy for them both, and still spent his holidays with her and the rest of her family.

Occasionally, Harry couldn't help feeling a twinge of loneliness now that so many of his friends were settled down. George had married Angelina, Ginny had Iain, Ron and Hermione were married, even Percy was dating a girl from work. Even though Harry dated off and on, there hadn't been anyone special since Ginny.

There was always work, though, and he supposed maybe that was part of the problem. Being an Auror was a demanding job, and one that he enjoyed, despite its difficulties. His schedule was seldom what anyone could consider "normal", and he could expect to be called in at any time. Still, it would have been nice to have someone to come home to after a shitty day, someone to comfort him after he saw something terrible, as happened all too often. Instead, it was just him most nights – or mornings, as it had been recently since he'd been working graveyard shifts.

Since Kingsley Shacklebolt had been named as permanent Minister for Magic a little over a month ago, the Aurors had been on high alert. There had been violent protests almost every day, and the Powers That Be had them staking out every person who had ever even whispered favour for the Death Eaters, convinced that one of them was behind the chaos.

"What do you think they're talking about?" Ron asked, leaning in and startling Harry, who realised he'd been staring fixedly at Malfoy and Hermione.

He turned his head quickly, scowling. "I just hope she finishes with him soon. Kingsley's speech is coming up."

"Yeah," Ron said. "I guess he'll have things to do, anyway…"

Harry made a non-committal sound, hoping Ron would stop talking about Malfoy. His friend took the hint and fell silent, forlornly watching his wife chatting with the enemy. She finally made her way back to them when Professor McGonagall came out. Although she glared at them reproachfully, she didn't get a chance to lecture them about their rudeness before the Headmistress started talking.

It was almost like being back in school. Harry tried to pay attention to what McGonagall had to say, really, but he was quickly distracted by Malfoy again, who was standing at the edge of the crowd, a supercilious expression pasted on his face. Harry watched as the other man's eyes roamed the room; occasionally the person they lit upon would make a sneer grow, and Harry would want to go over there and just hit him.

Hermione elbowed him as everyone started applauding. "Could you at least pretend you're paying attention?" she whispered peevishly.

"We're not in class," Harry muttered, though he still clapped obediently.

Kingsley was just walking out on stage, proud and congenial, nodding to those he recognized and smiling all around. Harry wondered what face Malfoy was making, now. Despite his best intentions, he glanced in that direction. Later, he would try to convince himself that's why he missed the threat.

"Watch out!" Ron suddenly shouted, sounding panicked.

Harry knew that tone of voice; he went for his wand, immediately searching for the threat. There was an unmistakable flash of green, then a loud crack. Kingsley hit the ground.

"Fuck!" Harry bolted towards the stage, heart racing, head pounding, and filled with a certainty that he prayed was wrong.

It wasn't.

Mr Weasley was already within the ring of bodyguards that had appeared from nowhere, checking Kingsley's body. Arthur shook his head, and Harry knew it was too late.

He had little doubt who was to blame; there was only one ex-Death Eater in the room, after all.

"Malfoy!" he snarled, turning in mid-stride, ready to kill.

White-blond hair led him through the throng of people. He barely had the chance to register another body lying on the ground before he tackled Malfoy. People scattered, screaming, trying to get out of their way as the two of them toppled to the ground.

"Potter, what the hell!" Malfoy's usually suave voice was a grunt of surprise.

"Harry, get off of him! Arthur, help me!" Molly Weasley was tugging at him, trying to stop him, but Harry was determined to get his hits in. Only once Arthur and Ron joined her was he able to be pulled away.

"What do you think you're doing, Harry?" Hermione hissed, kneeling down beside Malfoy, who was trying to staunch a bloody nose with what appeared to be a silk handkerchief.

"Who else do you think did that?" He hissed right back, thrusting an accusing finger at the stage. "Who else could?"

"Don't be more of an idiot than you have to, Harry. Draco's on our side."

Harry gestured to the still form on the floor. "Then why is he standing over another dead body?"

"That, Potter, would be your murderer." Malfoy stood, nodding courteously at Hermione before beckoning through the crowd. Three people came over, people who seemed vaguely familiar.

"Prachett?" Harry asked, finally recognizing the face. Steve Pratchett worked at the Ministry, although Harry wasn't really sure what he did. They'd always got on well when they ran into each other, before; this time, the look he received was anything but friendly.

"Pay attention, Pratchett," Malfoy said softly. "I need you to clear the room. D, head off the reporters; don't let them get back in. Jara, get the rest of our people in here, now."

The three quickly fanned out. Steve's wand was already moving, and people were herding out, albeit reluctantly. The girl Malfoy had called "D" was heading straight toward Rita Skeeter and her cronies with an expression that said she was ready to do battle if need be. Knowing Rita, it just might be. Jara, a tall skinny guy in a Muggle tux and rainboots, was speaking rapidly into what appeared to be a hair comb. Kingsley's body had already been carried out of the room, and official-looking people were swarming the stage.

Malfoy dropped to his knees again, much more gracefully than the last time. Harry wanted to protest when he started to roll over the body, but snapped his mouth shut when he thought Hermione was going to swat him. He was distracted moments later, when the body on the floor turned out to be Padma Patil.

"What the hell?" he breathed, kneeling down beside Malfoy. It had been a long time since he'd had to see someone he knew lying dead.

"She killed herself," Malfoy said, carefully sliding her eyes shut. "Right after she cast the Killing Curse."

"What?" Harry demanded, wincing when it came out louder than he meant. He lowered his voice, but could do nothing about the fury filling it. "How dare you say that?"

Malfoy lifted an eyebrow. "Because it's what happened. Plenty of people saw it, Potter, and unless you think I've managed to cast a room-wide Obliviate without anyone noticing, I'm afraid you're not going to get to pin this one on me."

He stood, leaving Harry to gape up at him. "Jara," he snapped into his comb, which Harry had decided was some form of communication device. "Can you handle this lot?" He was silent for a moment. "All right. We're going back. I'll let you know what's decided."

Harry was shocked at his authoritative demeanour. Granted, he'd always bossed people around, but there was something different about this.

"Potter. I believe you'll find your notifier is flashing."

Sure enough, when Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out the charm that notified him of an emergency Auror meeting, it was glowing a bright, urgent red.

"Right then," Malfoy continued calmly. "I'll see you there."

Before Harry could even open his mouth to question that, Malfoy had Disapparated, leaving Harry to wonder if he was going mad.

"What the fuck is going on?" he asked his friends plaintively.

Hermione tsked at him. "Really, Harry, I've tried to tell you before! Draco's an Unspeakable; has been for years, now."

He knew he must have heard wrong. No one corrected her, though; actually, they were all looking at him in a decidedly impatient manner.

"Harry, you need to go." Arthur patted his arm. "We'll take care of things here, but you're needed at that meeting."

Right. The meeting. Harry took a deep breath; it wasn't like him to get this flustered. "Yeah, thanks." He took in the turmoil raging through the Great Hall. As if this room didn't have enough bad memories. "I'll talk to you all later, then."

Hermione came forward to hug him. "We're adults, now," she whispered fiercely into his ear. "Draco's changed."

"Fine," Harry sighed as he activated his Portkey. Somehow he didn't think this night was going to get any better.

When Harry walked into the office, he was appalled to see everybody gathered around Malfoy, listening to him speak as if the sun shone out of his arse. Although, considering that Malfoy was an Unspeakable, Harry was forced to admit, if only to himself, that apparently he was doing rather well for himself.

All attention turned to Harry as he strode toward the group, and he had to struggle to keep his expression from going hostile when Malfoy inclined his head coolly at him.

"Where's Robards?" Harry asked, not seeing the Head Auror in the group.

"He's in a conference," Savage said, motioning towards a closed door at the end of the room.

Of course, Harry thought, feeling like an idiot. The Minister for Magic was just assassinated; he didn't even want to think about the ramifications this was going to have on the Wizarding world.

Malfoy cleared his throat subtly. "As I was saying," he drawled, making Harry's hackles rise, "we knew that there was a threat against the Minister, which is why my team was stationed at the celebration. Unfortunately, we were all on the lookout for someone more obvious than Ms Patil, as most of us were convinced that the danger would come from former Death Eaters or Death Eater sympathisers." There seemed to be real regret in his voice.

"How do we know she wasn't one?" Williamson asked in his deep voice.

"We don't," Malfoy said. "But we will soon. Dawlish should be arriving at the Patil home shortly to interview the family."

Poor Parvati. How would it feel to find out that your sister was a murderer? And dead, on top of that.

"I speculate," Malfoy continued, "that Ms Patil was being manipulated by someone else, in which case we're after for a Dark Art practitioner, Death Eater sympathizer or not. This investigation is to take priority over everything else. Any questions or theories are to come directly to me or one of my team."

Harry opened his mouth to protest that; Draco Malfoy was not the Head Auror. When Malfoy challengingly arched an eyebrow at him, though, he sighed. He knew the way these things worked, even though the situation had never arisen in the six years he'd been on the force: in a major case, the Unspeakables could usurp basic Auror authority. Talk about galling.

Everyone started to wander back to their cubicles when Malfoy indicated he was finished, but Harry only got two steps before Malfoy stopped him.

"Potter, a word?"

Impatiently, Harry turned back. "What?"

Malfoy seemed to be fighting a smirk, the bastard. He gestured to one of the small interrogation rooms, shutting the door behind them.

"You've been an Auror for, what, six years, Potter?" He didn't wait for an answer. "How is it that you had no idea we were working together after all that time?"

Harry narrowed his eyes. "We're not working together. Besides, why should I care what you were doing, Malfoy? I heard your name about the office occasionally, but I assumed you were being investigated. To be honest, I figured you were out there spending all mummy and daddy's money like the spoiled git you are. Either that or trying to rally all the little Death Eater children to your cause."

"My cause?" Malfoy scoffed. "You know, Potter, some of us do mature beyond the age of sixteen."

"Is that so?" Harry looked him up and down. "Tell me, how ever did you manage to get this position with that Mark on you? Buy your way in, as usual?"

"Fuck you," Malfoy snapped. "Snape had the Mark, and you've done nothing but sing his praises for the last ten years."

"Snape actually did something to try to atone for his actions, Malfoy." Harry almost stepped back when Malfoy shoved his sleeve up and stuck his arm in Harry's face.

"No Mark," Malfoy growled. "Not that I would be ashamed if I did have one. You talk about Snape working to atone for his actions? What the hell do you think I'm doing?"

Harry stared, first at the pale, unmarked forearm in front of him, then at Malfoy's bitter expression. He wasn't sure what to say.

Lowering his arm, Malfoy moved back, hands clenching by his sides. "I apologise; I shouldn't have baited you. We have history, I know, but I'm afraid you're just going to have to work with me on this case." His eyes flickered to Harry's for a moment. "After that, you can go back to pretending I don't exist."

A brief nod, and Malfoy was gone.


With nothing for him to do at the moment except fill out paperwork and wait for Dawlish's report, Harry left the office to go talk to Hermione.

"He's worked hard to get where he is," she told him when he broached the subject of Malfoy. "Harder than any of us, since no one wanted to even give him a chance after the war."

"That's pretty understandable," Harry reminded her.

"You think I don't know that?" she said, sighing. "And he knew it, too. Still, he tried for years to get into the Auror program, and even left the country so he could get the training that no one here would give him."

"Hermione, why are you even on his side?" Harry asked. "He stood there and let you be tortured! He almost killed Katie Bell and let Death Eaters into Hogwarts. Ever since we've met him, he's done nothing but act like a spoiled little arse."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Harry, you were the one who saved his life in the Room of Requirement. Twice, even!"

"Keeping someone from dying and caring what the hell they do after that are two totally different things," Harry argued petulantly. He knew he sounded like he was twelve, but couldn't help it.

"And what about Snape? How many awful things did he do as a Death Eater? He gave your parents up to Voldemort. Yet you've campaigned tirelessly to have his name cleared and see that he's remembered as a hero."

"Snape was a hero!" Harry yelled, waving his arms around. "All Malfoy did was ride the fence through the whole war."

Hermione got close, poking Harry in the chest. "Snape was a hero because Dumbledore believed in him. He was a hero because he had someone to turn to when he needed it, and wasn't putting anybody but himself at risk in doing so."

Harry tried to interject, but Hermione just kept going.

"You know that Malfoy's parents would have been killed if he had tried to get away from Voldemort. How would you have acted, in that position?"

"This is ridiculous!" Harry said, shaking his head furiously, grabbing his cloak and yanking open the front door. "You know what, just forget I ever brought it up." He made sure to let the door slam behind him as he stormed out.

The next day, Harry tried to sneak into work early, hoping to avoid another confrontation with Malfoy. Apparently his luck wasn't in, though, as Draco was busily pacing the corridor between the cubicles, muttering under his breath and looking like he hadn't slept a wink.

Determined to be polite, Harry stopped when Malfoy glanced up at him.

"Oh, Potter. Good."

Well, those weren't words Harry had ever expected to hear from Malfoy.

"Dawlish didn't have much luck with the Patils, last night, and there wasn't anything in Padma's flat to indicate why she did it."

"Kind of lends credence to the manipulation theory," Harry commented.

"It does," Malfoy agreed, running a hand through his hair.

Harry had never thought to see the other man look anything less than perfect, but the rumpled shirt, dark-circled eyes and unwashed hair made him think that maybe Malfoy was human, after all. Slightly.

"Anyway, we need you to try to talk to the sister, Parvati. Since you were in the same year and House, hopefully she'll open up to you; she would hardly talk to Dawlish."

"All right," Harry agreed. He wavered for a moment, but curiosity got the better of him. "Listen, I know it's none of my business, but…why don't you have the Mark?"

Malfoy stared at him disbelievingly. "Potter, for fuck sake. You really think the Dark Lord would Mark a sixteen year old whose family was in disgrace?"

"It's just that – well, I followed you, back before sixth year, when we ran into each other in Diagon Alley. And you went to Borgin and Burkes and showed him something on your arm. I thought…"

"Why, you stalker you!" Malfoy laughed. "I knew you followed me around the whole year, but even before school started?"

Harry felt his cheeks heating at the insinuation in the other man's words, and retreated into defensiveness. "Well, I was right, wasn't I? You were up to something."

"Up to something? Do people really say that?" Malfoy was still chuckling and shaking his head.

Flushing more, Harry scowled. "Obviously. I'm sorry, let's dispense with the euphemisms, then. You were trying to kill innocent people and let Death Eaters and werewolves into a school filled with children."

Malfoy's laughter abruptly ceased at Harry's words. "I was trying to protect my family, as you well know," he replied through gritted teeth.

Harry waited for the inevitable comment about him not being able to understand, since he didn't have a family, but, surprisingly, it never came. Instead, Malfoy took a deep breath before continuing in a rush of words.

"But, of course, a narrow-minded bigot like yourself would never even try to comprehend that, would you? No, Snape had to die before you would even consider that maybe there was a fucking reason he was the way he was. All you've ever seen when you looked at us was dirty Slytherins, cheats and liars and worms beneath your oh so holy feet." Another deep breath. "Get the fuck out."

"Gladly," Harry ground out. He'd be damned if he was going to stand there and listen to a lecture from Malfoy, of all people. As if he and his Slytherin friends had ever been willing to give the Gryffindors any kind of a chance. Fucking hypocrite.

"Are you going to talk to Parvati?" Malfoy asked as Harry hit the lift button.

Swallowing all the things he wanted to say, Harry nodded tightly and said, "Yes."

There were reporters everywhere around the Patils' house, of course. Harry had no sooner arrived than he was surrounded, Rita Skeeter and her Quick Quotes pen leading the attack. Thankfully, Harry didn't have to try to reign in his temper with these people, and had them scattering within moments.

Parvati answered the door when he knocked.

"Harry!" She glanced over her shoulder before beckoning him to come in. "My parents, they're not doing too well." Her voice was soft, softer than it had been in school.

"I understand," he said quietly. "I'm so sorry for your loss."

Tears filled her eyes at his words. "Thank you," she managed to choke out.

Harry looked around. The house was small and ordinary, with dust layered on most flat surfaces and pictures of Padma and Parvati everywhere.

"It's my parents' home," Parvati sniffed, noticing his gaze. "Lavender and I have our own flat in London."

"What about your sister?"

"She lives – lived – in Norwich. I don't know why she moved there, to be honest."

"Did she live alone?" Harry asked, picking up a photograph of the twins at a beach somewhere, waving happily at the camera.

"I think so," Parvati said. "I mean – I don't really know."

"Didn't you ever visit her?"

"Of course."

Harry set the picture back in its place and moved closer to Parvati. "I know you don't want to answer these questions," he said sympathetically. "I know you probably don't even want to see me…"

"Oh no! It's – I'm glad you're here, actually. That Dawlish said something about Draco Malfoy being in charge; as if I would let that Death Eater into my parent's home. I told him I wouldn't talk to anybody unless I thought that I could trust them, but you – I can trust you!" She rested her hand on his arm and gazed up at him like he was her own personal saviour.

Harry was disturbed by her behaviour, but told himself she was just distraught and seeking comfort. Malfoy had obviously been right to send him. Inwardly sighing, Harry took Parvati's hand off his arm and used it to lead her to the couch.

"I'm glad you know you can trust me," he said honestly, sitting beside her. "Will you tell me what you know? We want to understand exactly what happened, and who to blame for it."

"My sister would never do such a terrible thing!" Parvati declared.

"I know," he said soothingly. "Actually, we think she may have been being used by someone else."

"You mean like Imperius?"

Harry nodded. Technically, he shouldn't tell her that, but if doing so got her to spill what she knew, it would be well worth the security breach in the long run. "So you understand we need to know about the people she was associating with."

Parvati looked away, fidgeting while she processed that. "All right," she finally said. "I'll tell you what I know."

Breathing a sigh of relief, Harry started taking notes. Padma had moved to Norwich last year, and taken a little flat in the more rundown part of town. She wouldn't tell her parents why she was moving, but she'd mentioned a man to Parvati.

"Do you remember his name?" Harry asked, pen poised eagerly.

"She never told me," Parvati admitted. "I never met him, either."

"How often did you visit?"

"A couple of times a month, up until March."

"What happened in March?"

Parvati shrugged. "She kept cancelling when I was supposed to go see her; said there was too much going on."

"What did she mean by that?"

"I have no idea. She only worked part-time, as far as I know."

"Did she ever come home to visit?"

"Just last week."

"And did anything seem different? Did she act strange or confused?"

"Actually, she was acting kind of strange."

Harry prayed that this was it; Parvati had been scooting closer throughout the questioning, and he was starting to wonder if she intended to climb in his lap.

"She gave me something," Parvati continued.

"What was it?" Harry asked, trying to conceal his excitement.

She paused, staring at the floor, before saying, "I promised I would never show anyone."

Harry wanted to groan, but instead let her lean her head against his shoulder for a minute. "I know," he murmured, before carefully pulling away to give her the most sincere look he could muster. "But, whatever it is, it could be the thing that proves your sister's innocence."

Parvati was quiet for a minute, finally rising. "All right; wait here."

Despite her seeming uncertainty, she came back quickly, carrying a small, metal box. "It's some kind of safety box," she explained, handing it over to him. "I don't know how to open it, though."

A cursory examination showed that there were no obvious catches or keyholes anywhere. Harry assumed the latch was disguised by magic, as was the norm with this kind of wizard storage box.

"Just – just use it to prove that my sister was innocent," Parvati begged, tears welling up again.

"I'll do my best."

The office was buzzing when Harry arrived back. Robards directed him to the Unspeakables with his findings, and Steve Pratchett led him to Malfoy's office.

"Draco," Steve said, sticking his head in the door. "Potter's back."

Harry couldn't understand Malfoy's low response, but didn't appreciate the smirk Pratchett gave him as he opened the door wide.

"You can go in," Steve said, a mocking tone in his voice.

Scowling, Harry stomped into the office. "Am I disturbing you, O Great One?" he asked snidely.

Malfoy appeared startled for a moment, then his eyes slid to the now closed door. "Ah. Don't mind Steve," he said. "He tends to get a little protective when he thinks I'm being treated badly."

Blinking, Harry tried to process that. He'd always thought Steve was smarter than the type that usually fell in line as Malfoy-minions.

"Never mind," Draco continued, smiling faintly. "Did you have any luck?"

Harry plunked the box down on Draco's immaculately organised desk. "Apparently Padma gave this to her sister about a week ago. Parvati claims she doesn't know how to open it."

Draco reached for the box immediately. "We found a key in Ms Patil's flat," he explained, delicately running his fingers over the edges of the container. "Ah, there it is." He pressed gently, muttering under his breath, and a keyhole suddenly materialized on the side facing Harry, who had to admit he was impressed; surely it would have taken him longer to figure out the pattern. Of course, Malfoy probably grew up with things like this, little puzzle boxes and secret containers all over the Malfoy Manor, probably being used to store dark artefacts and other evil things. Still…

"Malfoy," he blurted, suddenly feeling a little bit childish for the way he'd been behaving. "I'm sorry. For the way I've been acting, I mean."

For a moment, Malfoy just stared at him in surprise. "I must be hearing things," he murmured, lips twitching. "Did Harry Potter just apologize to me? There must be Polyjuice at work, here."

"Oh, fuck you, Malfoy." Harry felt his cheeks colouring. Trust Malfoy to make a joke out of him trying to do the right thing. The arse was actually grinning, now. "What the hell's so funny?"

"This. Us."

"There is no us," Harry snapped.

"Deny it all you want, Potter."

Harry gaped, trying to figure out if Malfoy was mocking him. While the other man's expression was still amused, it didn't seem to be malicious, as it always had been before when he made fun of Harry. It made Harry feel strange to even think about the idea of him and Malfoy as an "us", but he supposed that, in the broadest sense, it was true. He and Draco had always meant something to each other, and, until Malfoy was out of his sight, they had certainly never been able to ignore each other. Harry suddenly thought of Draco's wand, sitting in Harry's Gringott's vault for all these years; he had considered getting rid of it countless times, but had never been able to bring himself to do it.

Stammering, Harry asked, "Are you finished?"

Malfoy snorted. "Potter, we'll never be finished. You made sure of that when you saved my life back at Hogwarts." There was a hint of bitterness in the way he said that. Before Harry could respond, he shrugged. "But back to the box."

His manner grew businesslike again as he pulled out a small, silver key. The box opened easily, and Harry leaned forward to view its contents. Directly on top lay a clipping of Kingsley from The Daily Prophet; there was a dark black "X" scrawled over his face. Harry exchanged a startled glance with Malfoy, who quickly began laying out the rest of the contents. Inside were numerous clippings about Kingsley's appointment as permanent Minister for Magic, as well as articles and letters about the protests that had raged after the announcement. One of the articles, stating that "a permanent Minister is only a step below a tyrannical lord", had been published in what was clearly an underground paper. It had also been written by Parvati.

There was a scrap of parchment at the very bottom that seemed to pulse with magic.

"Warded," Harry said. Malfoy gestured to him, as if to say, "Well, then, break it." Minutes later, the parchment still lay there, having repelled all of Harry's efforts at disarming the wards. He wiped sweat from his forehead and glared.

"Watch," Malfoy murmured before performing what was one of the most complicated curse-breaking spells Harry had ever seen. The wards fizzled out, and Malfoy winked at him, looking altogether too pleased with himself.

Harry rolled his eyes, tempted to say something about Draco's experience with curse-breaking being related to his Dark Arts training as a child. He managed to resist, though. After all, it was becoming increasingly obvious that Draco was very good at what he did. If that talent came as a result of his early exposure to the Dark Arts, well, at least he was putting that to an honourable use.

Malfoy finished reading the letter and passed it to Harry, eyes shuttered. A quick read-through made Harry blanch. Padma had compared her upcoming assassination of the Minister with Harry killing Voldemort, stating that that was why she chose the ten year celebration to strike. She claimed that she couldn't be considered a murderer, because she was saving the world from having to suffer through another reign of terror.

Horror washed over Harry at the thought of this woman using his actions against Voldemort to justify killing Kingsley, who may have been a politician, but who had also been a man. He had had family, and friends, and had never done anything to indicate any intention of becoming a despot other than to accept the position that had been foisted on him.

"All right?"

Harry shook his head. "It's just…hard to believe, I guess." Draco sighed. "Yes." He glanced at Harry. "It's not your fault, you know."

"I know," Harry replied honestly.

"Good," Draco said. "Well, we'll have to do some more work here, but I think this case is just about solved." He rose, holding out his hand. "Thank you for your assistance, Potter."

Harry got to his own feet, eyeing Malfoy's hand before taking it. What could he say to that? "It's my job," he finally mumbled, feeling like an arse as soon as the words left his mouth. But Malfoy's hand was soft and firm, and Harry felt strangely transported by clasping it.

The corner of Malfoy's mouth lifted, and he nodded. "Of course." He released Harry. "We'll contact you if we need anything else"

It felt strange, leaving Malfoy's office, knowing that he could go back to pretending he didn't care about what Malfoy did, that he didn't have to see him or even think about him anymore. It had only been two days, after all. Somehow, Harry still didn't think it was going to be as easy as before.

The case was settled quickly, and several of Padma's comrades were rounded up. After examining the complaints, and with Hermione's insistence, the Ministry decided that maybe a permanent Minister wasn't such a good idea, after all. As much as Hermione had liked Kingsley, she had been adamantly opposed to the plan from the beginning. It infuriated her that Kingsley had had to die before the Ministry would see sense.

As for Harry, he felt like he was channelling his sixteen year old self again, as obsessed as he had become with Malfoy. He only saw him occasionally, always on business, but he thought about him far too often over the next few months. Eventually, in desperation, he turned to Hermione.

"I always thought you had a thing for him," was her extremely unhelpful response.

"What?" Harry squeaked. "I'm not even gay!"

"Human sexuality can't simply be divided into straight and gay, or even straight, gay, and bisexual. There are ambiguities to love and attraction that none of us understand."

"Please, Hermione, can you stop lecturing and get to the point!"

Hermione laughed. "Fine. Maybe you're bisexual, or maybe you're straight, but just happen to be attracted to Draco. The gender of the person you're interested in is really one of the least important aspects of compatibility, if you ask me. And really, your relationships with women have hardly been indicative of your overwhelming heterosexuality. Hardly any of them, other than Ginny, even warranted a second date."

"I'm a bit busy with work, Hermione. A relationship just hasn't been at the top of my list of priorities." When she made a doubtful sound, he went on. "Besides which, I'm not attracted to Malfoy. I just can't stop thinking about him."

"Have you ever considered Draco in a sexual manner?"


She shrugged. "Maybe you should just try being friends with him, then."

Harry considered that. "Maybe," he said. The idea was bizarre to him, but if it would help him get his focus back, it might just be worth it.

He didn't stay much longer, since Hermione wanted to get back to work, but, as he was leaving, another thought came to him. "Is Malfoy gay?" he asked.

Hermione looked at him like was crazy. "Well, obviously."

Malfoy had started creeping into his dreams.

The day after talking to Hermione, Harry woke up feeling peaceful and well-rested. It wasn't until halfway through his morning coffee that he remembered the dream. Although it hadn't been anything profound, it was disturbing enough that the other man had made his way that deep into Harry's subconscious. In the hopes of distraction, Harry finally accepted Ron's standing invite to go out and get drunk. They had a good time, although Harry could have done without Ron trying to get him to talk to every pretty girl they saw.

When Harry got home, he was feeling rather tipsy. He stumbled his way into the kitchen to make himself a sandwich in the hopes of killing some of the room-spinning buzz, only to find that there was no bread. Flopping into a chair and staring off into the distance, he found himself pondering the things that Hermione had said. She thought he was attracted to Malfoy? Harry couldn't even imagine that.

As an experiment, he tried picturing Malfoy, tall and slender, with what seemed to be perfectly formed limbs. Almost unbidden, the image of that body with no clothes seemed to pop into Harry's mind, filling him with…with lust? Oh god. Surely Hermione couldn't be right! He pondered touching that body, running his hands over that smooth skin, covering those smirking lips with angry kisses. The words, "We'll never be finished, Potter" echoed through his mind.

Harry gasped at the intensity of the arousal that surged through him, pressing the heel of his hand against his erection before he could stop himself. Fuck. It seemed almost impossible to believe, but maybe he was attracted to Malfoy.

Could he really be bi? Or even gay? He'd never even considered it, though he had no problem with gay people. Seamus and Dean had got married last year, after all, and Harry had gone to their bonding and the reception afterwards, watching them grope each other on the dance floor and rolling his eyes and laughing with the rest of their friends. But then, he'd never really thought about being straight, either; rather, he had just always assumed that he was.

Nervously, he tried thinking of other men in a sexual way. Despite the fact that Harry couldn't really imagine doing anything with another man, it was easy enough to figure out that he could get aroused at wondering if he could.

Groaning, he got up and snatched the bottle of firewhiskey from the cabinet, pouring himself a shot and tossing it back irritably. His cock was aching like it hadn't in a long time. Frustrated and confused, he leaned against the kitchen counter, pressing against the front of his jeans and gasping. Shower.

Harry hadn't wanked in months. It wasn't that he didn't think about sex, he just didn't think about it often. He was always busy with work, and no one seemed to inspire him to the kind of passion that made him feel like he had to touch himself or explode. The moment he wrapped his hand around his throbbing cock this time, though, he knew he wasn't going to last long. He swallowed and looked down at himself, trying to picture long, pale fingers wrapped around him instead of his own. Moments later, he was coming harder than he had since he was a teenager, shouting as he stumbled back against the shower wall.

Oh shit.

Morning came far too early; the sunlight streaming through Harry's curtains made him bury his face in the pillows. It had been a long time since he'd woken up with a hangover. Muttering, he stumbled into the bathroom, hoping he still had some hangover potion in the medicine cabinet. Thankfully, he did, and quickly began to feel well enough to consider staying up. He was halfway through his breakfast cereal when he remembered his epiphany from the night before; what the hell he was supposed to do now? Going back to bed was seeming more and more like the most attractive option. Instead, he moped around, picking up the house and trying not to think.

Finally, he judged that Hermione and Ron should be up and ready for company, and fire-called to see if he could visit.

"Hi, Harry!" Ron said when he sees him. "Feeling all right after last night?"

Harry cringed, even though he knew Ron meant from drinking, not…other stuff. "Er, better after I took a hangover potion."

Ron laughed. "Yeah, me too. Hermione wasn't too thrilled with me when I got home last night."

"I'm sure," Harry said, grinning a little. "Is she home, now?" he asked, trying to sound casual.

"She's doing something in the kitchen, I think. Do you want to come over for lunch?"

"That would be great," Harry said, relieved.

He grabbed some floo powder and stepped into the fire, emerging into Ron and Hermione's modern living room. Even after the hangover remedy, flooing was a bit more than his stomach felt up to. He stumbled to the couch, sharing a rueful look with Ron.

"I hate the floo."

"You relax, I'll go tell Hermione you're here.

When Ron left to find Hermione, Harry let his head drop against the back of the couch. God, what a fucking mess. He couldn’t help but feel a bit resentful of Hermione's meddling.

"Glad to see you were able to drag yourself out of bed, Harry." He opened his eyes to see Hermione holding a glass of water out to him with an amused expression.

"Oh, I definitely considered the alternative," he laughed, taking the drink gratefully and gulping it down.

"You'd think you two would know by now that drinking isn't worth the hangover the next day."

"Speak for yourself. Besides, it's not like we often drink that much."

"True," Hermione admitted, sitting down beside him. "I sent Ron to make the tea. Are you here for something in particular, or just to chat?"

Harry made a face. "I have no idea. All I know is that I don't know what to do."

"What do you mean?" she asked. "Oh, the Draco thing? Have you asked him to be friends, yet?"

"I…well, I kind of had a realisation, last night."

Hermione smiled at him knowingly. "That you're interested in men?"

Harry glanced quickly at the door, hoping Ron wasn't standing right outside of it. "Shh, I don't want Ron to know!"

"Why on earth not? It's not something to be ashamed of!"

"I know that," Harry protested.

"Then why are you? For goodness sake, Harry, you went to Seamus and Dean's wedding with the rest of us and certainly didn't seem to have a problem with them being together."

"Of course I don't! I mean, it's all well and good for other people, but... I just never thought that I might be…you know."

"Harry, I love you like a brother, but you're being ridiculous. If you don't have a problem with homosexuality, then why are you so scared to admit that you might be? We can't help who we're attracted to; all we can decide is what we do about it."

Sighing, Harry slumped, resting his elbows on his knees. "I know that. Really. It's just weird."

Hermione put her hand between his shoulder blades, rubbing small, comforting circles. "It doesn't have to be."

The room was quiet save for the clock ticking while Harry tried to gather his composure and Hermione let him have his space.

"Thanks," Harry finally said.

Hermione smiled. "So what are you going to do about Draco?" she asked mischievously.

Harry groaned. "God, I have no idea! Why did it have to be him, of all fucking people?"

"Language," she said, although without her usual firmness. "Why does it matter that it's him?" she asked. "After all, you two have a very interesting history together. He's grown up, and done some wonderful things in the process. Not to mention the fact that he's gorgeous."

"Ugh," Harry said, laughing a little. "I mean…yeah, I guess he is, but…"

"No buts," Hermione insisted, rolling her eyes when Harry blushed and snickered. "Honestly, Harry, are you and Ron ever going to grow up?"

Harry shrugged. "Probably not."

She laughed. "Obviously. Seriously, though; what's the point of trying to deny this? You're clearly interested. Just ask him out for dinner or something. If it goes well, and you continue to be interested, go with it. If not, then maybe you'll at least have a new friend. One who works in the same kind of job as you, and who would understand what you deal with all the time. Plus, he still loves Quidditch."

As usual, she had a good point. "I suppose it couldn't hurt to have dinner."

Satisfied, Hermione stood. "I should probably check on Ron. How much do you want to bet he's eaten at least half of the biscuits?"

Almost a week later, Harry still hadn't done anything. Draco showed up to talk to him about the Patil case on Thursday, making the simple act of smirking and leaning against the edge of Harry's desk look like the prelude to a wet dream.

It was Friday, now, and Harry had decided to finally make his move. He rode the lift down to the ninth floor, palms sweating and stomach turning nervously. It turned out that there was nothing to be nervous about, since Draco had apparently taken the day off for personal reasons. Harry was getting ready to leave dejectedly, when the secretary offered Draco's fire address. At that point, of course, his stomach decided to drop again, subtly reminding him that, at least without the address, he had an excuse not to take the first step.

After a minute of waffling, he took it anyway.

Placing the firecall to Draco may have been one of the hardest things Harry had ever done. Well, other than walking up to Voldemort knowing he was going to die, anyway.

"Potter? Is everything all right?" There was a little worry line on Malfoy's brow.

Harry had to swallow hard before answering. "Yeah, everything's fine."

Draco's expression relaxed into a smile. "Oh, good. Well, I hate to be rude, but my mum and dad are here, right now. Can I contact you later?"

"Yeah. Sure. That's fine." Harry bit his tongue to keep from babbling on. As soon as the fire died back down, he slumped against the wall, letting his head thud against the stone. It was going to be a long fucking night.

Even though he'd been waiting all night for the chime that indicated an incoming firecall, when it finally came, Harry almost didn't answer. The clock read 10:23, though, surely too late to go out. Maybe he could not answer, and claim that he'd been sleeping. No, that would seem pathetic. He could say he'd been at a party.

Damn it. Taking nerve in hand, he answered the call.

"Hi, Potter; I wasn't sure you'd still be in."

"Er, yeah, I am. I mean…er…" Harry squeezed his eyes shut, cursing his clumsiness.

"Right." Draco looked like he was trying to stifle a laugh. "Anyway, my parents just left."

"That's nice. How are they?" As soon as he said it, Harry wished he could take the words back. Surely asking about Draco's parents was a failproof way to start a fight.

Surprisingly, though, Draco just shrugged. "They're fine, thanks. So, what did you need?"

And just like that, Harry had to make his decision. "I was just wondering…I mean, maybe…would you like to get dinner sometime…or something?"

Draco arched an eyebrow at him, tilting his head a little. "Dinner?"

Harry nodded, glancing off to the side, unable to watch the play of emotions across Draco's face.

"Potter, are you asking me on a date?" Draco sounded absolutely stunned.

Oh god, Harry thought he might be about to die. "Maybe," he mumbled.

"Hm." He tipped his head to the side, staring at Harry for a minute before looking away. Some of the openness left his face. "I'll think about it," he said in a cool voice.

Harry's heart sank. So much for that plan. Although Draco wasn't being snide, the way Harry had been afraid he would, he certainly didn't sound interested. Harry was going to kill Hermione.

Instead of heading straight to Hermione the next day, Harry went to his favourite café down the road. He felt desperately in need of one of their blueberry scones and some espresso. He wandered the shopping centre after fortifying himself, making his way toward the park while he sipped at his cappuccino.

The conversation with Draco from the night before turned over and over in his head. Part of him wished he could get hold of a Time Turner so he could go back and change it all. He kicked grouchily at a discarded cup on the ground before bending to pick it up and toss it in the bin. Unfortunately, there was no real way to make it so last night never happened, and he supposed he wouldn't even if he could. What he really wanted was to figure Draco out. For a minute there, he had actually let himself believe that he had a chance.

"Potter, are you asking me on a date?" Under the shock in Draco's voice had been something else, some hint of interest. The look he'd given Harry had been appraising, curious. But then…

Harry leaned against the park fence, rubbing his forehead. What was he going to do? This obsession of his had gone too far to ignore, it seemed. He'd hardly slept last night, and his brain just wouldn't stop churning through all the same arguments and questions. Sometime, he finally understood, he had gone and fallen for Draco fucking Malfoy, of all people. He supposed this was what he got for having that kind of obviously masochistic taste. Snorting, he started walking again, needing to keep moving.

When it came right down to it, there were really only two options: either he gives up, or he tries again. He wasn't quite ready to give up, yet.

Hermione let him in with a smile. "You seem to be spending an awful lot of time here, recently," she teased.

"I know, I'm sorry."

"Don't be silly," she said, hugging him. "I'm glad you know you can come to me for advice."

Harry shifted nervously before blurting, "Do you think I'm attractive?"

"What? Of course you are, Harry! Although I only think of you as a brother, you know."

"There goes my plan to win you away from Ron," he joked, earning himself a smack. "You didn't know about my deep and abiding love for you?"

She giggled. "Of course; how could I miss it? All right," she continued, "why are you asking me if you're attractive?"

Harry sighed. "I…asked Draco to dinner, last night."

"I gather he said no?"

"He said he'd think about it, but it was pretty obvious that the answer was really no."

"Well," she said thoughtfully, "there is an awful lot of baggage between you two. Maybe he didn't think you were serious."

Harry considered that for a minute. "I don't know," he said. "He asked if I was asking him on a date, and I said yes. It doesn't seem like there could be any confusion there." "How did you ask him, though?"

"I just asked if he wanted to go to dinner or something."

Hermione shook her head. "Is that the best you could do?" she teased. "Listen, Harry, you're a very handsome man," Hermione assured him. "What you need to do is seduce him."

Harry gaped at her. "I don't know if I'm quite up to that, yet," he finally squeaked. Not that he didn't want to, he just wouldn't even know where to begin.

"Well, then try again," Hermione said. She paused before going on. "If it helps, I'm almost positive that the feeling's mutual," she finally said. "He's…well, long before Kingsley was killed, Draco asked me about you."

"He did?"

"That's actually how we started talking," Hermione explained. "He came up one day at work, and said, 'You Gryffindors never get tired of saving the world, do you? Speaking of, what's Potter up to these days?'"

Despite himself, Harry laughed at her imitation of Draco's haughty tones.

"Harry," she said, taking his hand, "try again. As long as you're interested, keep trying. You are a Gryffindor, after all." She gave him a cheeky grin before patting his hand. "Now get out of here; I have cleaning to do and you have a Draco to catch."

Composing a letter to Draco took Harry the better part of the day, and he still wasn't sure that he'd got it just right. If he wanted there to be a chance of Draco responding before the weekend was over, though, he had to get it sent. He tied the missive to his owl's leg. Circe was a beautiful Hawk Owl he'd finally purchased after getting over the loss of Hedwig. She trilled at him softly before soaring out the window.

The time between sending the letter out and receiving an answer seemed to drag on forever, even though it was only about an hour, in reality. Harry took the response from Circe with shaking fingers, almost forgetting to give her a treat until she flapped her wings at him.


Meet me at Chenez tonight at 7:00.


That was it? Oh fuck, it was already after six. Chenez. Was that French? Harry had never been there. Frantic, he firecalled Hermione; Ron answered.

"Ron, have you and Hermione ever been to a restaurant called Chenez?" he asked as soon as he saw his friend.

"Never heard of it, mate." Ron sounded confused, but turned to beckon to Hermione. "Something about a restaurant," he muttered as they traded places.

"He answered?" Hermione asked shrewdly.

"Yeah, but he wants to meet at a restaurant called Chenez in…" He looked at the clock. "…Fifty-three minutes!"

"Chenez is a formal French restaurant," she told him. "Wizarding, but in a Muggle area, so wear a smart suit."

Harry nodded, already trying to figure out where he'd stored those. "I hope they still fit," he said.

"You know how to magically alter them, if they don't," Hermione reminded him.

"Right." Harry was already turning toward his bedroom when Ron stuck his head back in the fire.

"Oi, Harry, who do you have a date with?"

"Draco Malfoy!" Harry called back over his shoulder, grinning at the sound of Ron's conniption.

Harry made it to the restaurant with five minutes to spare. Even though his mirror had told him he looked smashing, he smoothed a hand down the front of his robes self-consciously as he glanced inside the stained-glass windows in the front. He couldn't help but wonder if Draco would even show up.

As soon as he stepped through the front door, a maitre d' stepped toward him with a polite smile.

"Mr Potter, a pleasure. You're table is ready, if you'd like to follow me."

Attempting to act like he knew how to behave, Harry nodded and let the man lead him to a table toward the back. Draco was already there, apparently relaxed and indolently twirling a glass of wine.

"Potter." Draco's tone was casual; the look he swept Harry with was not.

"Draco." Trying to hide his uncertainty, Harry smiled and returned the look, settling into his chair with a nod to the maitre d', who moved away as soon as he was sure Harry was comfortable.

"Are we on a first name basis, now?" Draco asked, sounding amused. "I ordered wine, Harry; I hope it's something you like."

Something in his stomach twisted when Draco used his given name. No question about it, Harry was smitten. Needing to break the tension, he took a sip of his wine, a white of some sort. Harry knew next to nothing about wines, but, whatever this one was, it was delicious.

"Mmm, it's good."

Draco smirked. "You sound surprised. If there's one useful thing my father taught me, it was picking wines."

"I'm sure he taught you plenty of useful things, considering how well you're doing for yourself these days."

An awkward silence fell as Draco seemed to ponder how to take that. "Yes, well, I suppose he did, at that," he finally said, relaxing a bit. "You seem to be doing just fine, yourself. I heard that you received another promotion."

Harry heaved an inner sigh of relief; he had been worried for a minute, there. "Yeah, things are going well. It's been quiet since the anniversary; of course, you probably know that better than I do."

"My department is generally quite different from yours," Draco said, shrugging.

"I've always wondered – don't get me wrong, I know you can't tell me, and I'm not asking – but I've always wondered what exactly your department does."

"Everyone wonders," Draco replied enigmatically.

"I suppose so." Harry glanced around, feeling completely out of his element. He'd eaten in fancy restaurants before, but never anything like this, and never with anyone like Draco. A shiver ran down his spine when Draco leaned toward him, tapping his fingers lightly on the table.

"I've been thinking about this," he said cautiously.

Harry blinked. "About what?"


"Oh," Harry gulped.

"Yes. Potter – Harry." Draco sighed. "While I'm flattered by your interest, I just don't think this is a good idea."

"And why's that?" Harry asked, feeling as though his heart had hit his feet.

Draco looked pained. "It's not that I'm not attracted to you," he explained softly, "but there's far too much history between us to be able to make anything work."

Harry chewed his bottom lip. "So you are attracted to me?" he asked at last.

A slight pink stained Draco's cheeks. "Yes," he said.

Harry hummed, taking a sip of his wine. "Do you still dislike me?"

"That's not the point," Draco huffed.

"It kind of is."

They glared at each other for a minute, soft piano music forming the background to their contest of wills.

Draco finally glanced away. "No, I don't dislike you; I haven't for a long time. That doesn't make this any better of an idea, though. We scarcely even know each other, you realise."

"Not anymore," Harry agreed. "So we start with a fresh slate." He held his hand out over the table. "I'm Harry Potter; nice to meet you." He almost laughed at the confusion on Draco's face. "This is the part where you shake my hand," he prompted.

"Potter…" Draco shook his head, not reaching for Harry's hand. "It won't work. I'm sorry."

Harry slowly pulled his hand back, uncertain if Draco was simply playing hard to get or if he was being completely honest. He was a Slytherin, after all. But Draco didn’t seem like he was trying to be coy; he looked regretful, but serious. Staring down at the table, Harry couldn't decide whether to be hurt or angry. Maybe a little of both. Either way, right now he just wanted to get away.

"Well, thank you for the wine," he blurted, getting up and stumbling out. He thought he heard Draco call out after him, but he didn't stop. He couldn't stop.

The boulevard outside the restaurant was in a Muggle area of town, and was full of people, so Harry couldn't just Apparate from out front. There was an apparition point back in the restaurant, but he wasn't going back there.

"Potter. Harry!" Apparently Draco hadn't finished having his fun.

Harry turned wearily. "What, Malfoy?"

The other man stopped in front of him, hands in his pockets. "It's a bit rude to run out on the cheque, you know," Draco said lightly.

"I didn't run out," Harry snapped. "I quietly left in an effort to salvage some modicum of dignity."

Draco rolled his eyes. "You're being ridiculous," he scoffed.

"Fuck you," Harry ground out, starting to walk away. Unfortunately, Draco couldn't even be courteous enough to let Harry depart in peace.

"This is what I meant," Draco said, following him. "We couldn't even make it through one dinner; do you really believe there's any chance for us to make anything more than a polite association work?"

Harry felt something in him snap. He turned and grabbed the lapels of Draco's jacket, using the handhold to push him up against the wall. People walking by gasped and stopped, but Harry didn't care; he pressed his lips to Draco's, determined to prove that they had long since moved beyond "polite association".

Draco responded almost immediately. Kissing him was everything Harry had imagined it would be: hot, wet, and furious. They were just getting into it when Draco suddenly tried to pull away. Harry laced his fingers through his hair, tugging his mouth back down insistently. Fuck trying to talk things out; this was a much better way of dealing with the situation. Draco groaned, grasping Harry's hips and pulling him closer.

Oh. Harry had never felt another man's body pressed to his, all hard planes and taut muscles, no softness to disguise the passion. He broke the kiss, breathing hard. Draco peered at him warily, his hands loosening their grip.

Harry raised up on his toes to whisper, "Come home with me." His lips brushed Draco's earlobe.

Draco jerked his head back, almost cracking it on the wall behind him. "Harry, no. We…It will never work."

"Please," Harry said, trailing his mouth up and down Draco's neck, darting his tongue out to trace the rapidly beating pulse.

Shivering, Draco turned his head to allow Harry greater access. "All right," he finally whispered hoarsely.

Harry could hardly believe what he'd heard, but he sure as hell wasn't going to miss his chance. Grabbing Draco's hand, he pulled him down a dark alley, ignoring the stares and frowns they received from nearby people. As soon as they were hidden, he wrapped his arms around Draco's neck and Disapparated them to his home.

When they popped into Harry's sitting room, Draco took full control of the situation. He stripped both their jackets off and pushed Harry down onto the couch, lining their bodies up and kissing him until thought became next to impossible. Their hips took up a quickening rhythm that had Harry gasping desperate, almost-words into Draco's mouth; unable to stop himself, his hands moved down to grasp Draco's arse. Harry had no idea what they were doing, but he knew it felt fucking amazing. Draco caught Harry's tongue, sucking gently on it. Clinging to him, Harry gasped at the sensations ripping through him as he came, still fully clothed.

"Harry." Draco's whisper brought Harry back to himself.

He blushed, embarrassed beyond words at his lack of restraint. Draco rested his forehead against Harry's, their breath mingling.

"Do you want me to leave?" Draco asked, still in almost a whisper.

Harry pushed him back sharply. "No!" he said. "Why would I?"

Draco shrugged, expression closed off. "Forgive me," he said. "I'm at a bit of a loss, here." He pressed his lips to Harry's temple. "If you mean it, I'll stay."

There was something there, Harry thought, confused. "I do," he murmured, pushing Draco off and back, climbing onto his lap. "But only if you want to."

"If I want to?" Draco let out a hoarse laugh. Taking Harry's hand, he placed it on the hard bulge at the front of his trousers. "I want to," he said assuredly. "I have for awhile."

"How long? And why didn't you want to have dinner with me, then?" Harry asked.

Draco smiled faintly. "Let's save that conversation for another day," he murmured. "Do you have a bed somewhere in this house?"

Eagerly, Harry led Draco to his bedroom, letting the other man push him onto the bed first. Even though he'd just had the best orgasm of his life, Harry could feel himself already beginning to respond to Draco's touch again. Despite his desire for whatever was coming next, though, Harry thought he should probably be open about his experience – or lack thereof. He ran his hands down Draco's back, tugging his shirt loose.

"I've never been with a man before," he blurted, blushing.

"Are you serious?" Draco asked. When Harry just nodded, he pulled back a little bit. "Why now?"

Harry thought for a minute before answering. "Because I couldn't stop thinking about you," he said honestly. "Not just – not just recently. It was always you."

Heat filled him at the hungry expression that crossed Draco's face. "Was it, now?" Draco asked. Harry could only assume it was a rhetorical question, since Draco's mouth covered his as soon as he'd asked it.

Draco made quick work of Harry's clothes, tweaking a nipple before he stood to remove his own. Harry felt like he should help, but found that all he could do was lay there and watch as Draco undressed slowly, baring more and more of that perfect body until, finally, he stood there naked. Harry was sure he would be ready to come if he hadn't already before; as it was, he reached down and tugged at his cock, drinking in the sight before him. Draco's gaze travelled over Harry's body, watching him touch himself. There was a proprietary glint in his eyes that made Harry shiver and tighten his grasp. Draco was there in a moment, pushing Harry's hand out of the way to make room for his own.

"How often have you thought about this?" Draco asked, tracing his fingers over the sensitive flesh.

Harry arched up, moaning. "I – I don't know. A lot."

"Do you know what I'm going to do to you?" Draco's voice was husky. He wrapped one hand around Harry's leaking cock; the other one toyed with his balls before dipping further to press behind them.

"Please…" Harry begged, not even sure what he was asking for.

Draco smirked, shifting to lie in between Harry's legs. "Please what?" he teased, lapping at the head of Harry's prick. Harry just moaned, making Draco chuckle. He moved back up Harry's body, licking and nipping. "I want to fuck you," he finally whispered into Harry's ear. Somehow he'd managed to get both of their cocks into his hand and was rubbing them together.

Harry nodded hastily, throwing his head back when Draco bit gently at his throat. He heard Draco mutter something, but didn't catch the words. All he knew was that his arse suddenly felt strange: tingly and wet. His passion waned just a little bit; was this going to hurt? What if he hated it?

"Relax," Draco said, lifting Harry's knees and settling back between them. "Trust me." A warm mouth descended, enveloping Harry's cock in wet heat.

"Oh god," Harry groaned, feeling Draco smile around him. A finger worked its way between his arsecheeks, circling around the pucker before delving gradually past. It was a decidedly weird feeling, to have something being pushed up his bum, but, when Draco curled his finger up, brushing something, Harry became quite sure that it was a feeling he could get used to.

"More," he demanded, and Draco complied by adding another finger and pressing his tongue against the throbbing vein on the underside of Harry's shaft. Much more of that, and Harry was going to humiliate himself again. "Wait, wait, stop!"

Draco halted immediately, looking worried. "Are you all right?"

Harry tugged him up. "Fuck me," he hissed, watching Draco's pupils contract. "Please."

Before he knew it, Harry's legs were over Draco's shoulders. He breathed deep, still a little nervous. When he felt the blunt head of Draco's cock pushing into him, he pulled him into a messy kiss, wincing just a little bit at the burning pain. Draco penetrated him little by little, sweat beading on his forehead. When he was fully seated, he paused, nibbling at Harry's bottom lip.

"Ok?" he asked breathlessly.

Harry nodded. "I think so."

Draco started out carefully, just small motions in and out. When he brushed against that spot again, Harry moaned loudly enough that he might have been embarrassed if Draco hadn't hit it again, and again. Every thrust, now, was making Harry gasp and groan; the bed was shaking with the force of their rocking. He reached his hand between them to his cock, desperate for even more friction.

"Harry," Draco said. "Look at me."

Harry did, feeling something in him burst as their eyes met. He came with a shout, his body arching up. Draco's pounding rhythm grew ragged and his hips jerked when he came a moment later.

They rode their orgasms out, clinging tightly to each other. Harry's eyelids were already drooping, but he forced himself to stay awake long enough to make sure Draco curled up next to him after casting a cleaning spell.

"Don't go," he mumbled, wanting to move closer, but not sure about the protocols.

Draco rolled toward him, running a hand down Harry's chest. "I'll stay," he said, before lying down and pulling Harry into his arms. "As long as you'll let me, I'll stay."