Title: After Eden
Author: Rickey_A
Rating:  NC-17
Pairing: Harry/Draco
Genre:  Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Warnings: None
Word count: ~15,000

Summary:  Life threatening injuries are an occupational hazard even for a seasoned Auror, but Harry Potter never considered the possibility of life altering injury.  And why is it that Draco Malfoy has to be the one to help him?


A/N:  Huge thanks to Thevina and Newshound for the prelim beta work and then to my whole EWE team from HD-Worldcup. The EWE locker room was an awesome place.  My story notes regarding the tarot prompts and HDcup experience are here:  After Eden-HDcup story notes (Dreamwidth)
Original posting: HDworldcup  After Eden - Team EWE - Judgment




After Eden

Harry groggily opened his eyes to stark white walls and the concerned faces of Ron and Hermione.  He instantly recognized that he was in one of the rooms at St. Mungo's.

"Hey there," Hermione said softly.  "You gave us quite a scare."

"What happened?" Harry croaked, which only made him start to cough. 

"Let me help you there, mate."  Ron helped him to sit up while Hermione poured a glass of water. 

Harry went to reach for it with his right hand only to realize that it was thickly wrapped in bandages up to his elbow.  Hermione gently took Harry's left hand and placed the cup into it.  Ron fetched Harry's glasses for him.  Once Harry had drunk some water and was fully awake, he looked to Ron for answers.

"What do you remember?" asked Ron.

"We were outside Leeds, tracking down Petrovick," Harry said, trying hard to remember. "We caught up with him.  Right?"

"Yeah, we caught up with him," Ron said, sounding bitter.  "He had somebody with him.  He shot off some sort of Slicing Hex at your wand hand."

"Did you catch them?"

"You kidding?  I dove for your hand then Apparated us the hell out of there."

"Oh," said Harry, lifting and studying his bandaged hand.

"It was pretty weird.  Your wand was still clutched in it.  Lot of blood too."

"Thanks mate," Harry said with the utmost sincerity.  "I owe you one."

Ron laughed.  "Please, we trade IOUs on a weekly basis.  As far as I’m concerned, we're even."

"Harry," Hermione said in a very serious tone, "there's something you should know.  The hex was very Dark.  They reattached your hand, but…"

"What?"

"Maybe the Healers should tell you.  I'll tell them you're awake on my way out."  Hermione kissed him on his forehead.  "I'd better get going.  Molly has the kids and it's getting late."

"What time is it?" Harry asked.

"Ten o'clock."

"How long have I been out?  We set off for Leeds pretty early this morning."

"About ten hours," Hermione answered.  "The Healers gave you something to keep you asleep for a while to begin the healing process.  I'll come by tomorrow."  She went over to Ron and kissed him goodbye as well.  "I'll see you at home later."

"Yeah, I won't stay too late."

After Hermione left the room, Harry asked Ron, "Is Ginny here?"

"Nah, she went home, but she was on the day shift and stopped by.  Pimlington did the actual re-attachment."

"Oh, he's good.  He healed those burns I got last year from that fight we got into out at Moreton Corbet."

"Still, he made me nervous.  I mean the guy's gotta be over a hundred years old."

"Lots of experience," Harry replied with a smile.

Just then Healer Pimlington walked in the room.  "Glad to see you awake, Mr. Potter."

"Harry, please."

"I'll get out of your way," Ron said to the Healer as he stood to leave.  "Rest up, Harry.  I'll come by in the morning.  Goodnight."

"Night, Ron, and thanks again."

*************************************************************

Harry was precariously drinking a hot cup of tea with his left hand when Ginny entered the room.  As always, she had kind eyes and a big smile for him.

"So how's my favorite homosexual ex-boyfriend today?" 

"A little sore, but Pimlington was just here and ordered me up a pain potion."

Ginny placed a kiss to his temple and then sat in the chair next to the bed.  "You gave us quite a scare yesterday."

"That's what I hear."  Harry awkwardly tried to set the teacup down.  Ginny took it from him.

"You know, I think you've been in here more times than the infirmary at Hogwarts, and that's saying something."

"I only do it so I get to see more of you.  Since the kids, I hardly see you and Nev at all."

"Well you could come to more Sunday dinners at the Burrow."

"I could."

"So what else did Pimlington say this morning?" Ginny asked with a serious look.

"The bandages can come off tomorrow, but he thinks it could be a long recovery."

Ginny nodded.  "I assisted him.  It was a very Dark hex, Harry.  It was touch and go for a while."

Harry chewed on his bottom lip before responding.  "He mentioned that."

"Well we'll know more tomorrow when the bandages come off."  Ginny stood to leave.  "I have rounds, but I'll stop by later.  Oh, Mum sent me an owl this morning.  She's cooking all your favorites and will be by around lunchtime.  She can't bear to think of you eating hospital food."

Besides Molly Weasley, Hermione, Ron, and three other Aurors stopped by to check on him.  Ginny came by three more times, and Neville stopped by with flowers from his greenhouse.  Harry began to think that maybe he was the most social when he was laid up in St. Mungo's.
*************************************************************

Pimlington unwrapped Harry's hand and waved his wand over it several times.  "Try and move it now, Harry."

Harry concentrated on moving his fingers, but nothing happened.  He frowned at the Healer and looked to him for answers.

"That's to be expected.  It could take weeks, maybe even months."

Harry nodded.

"But if I'm to be honest, there's a good chance it will never be the same."

"I'll work at it," Harry replied, trying to maintain a positive outlook.

"Well, I do have someone that I can recommend.  He's worked with several of my patients before."

"Another Healer?"

"No, he just has some experience with precision wand movements, that sort of thing."

"Oh."

"He's quite good.  He's even worked with the Ministry as well.  Perhaps you know him, Draco Malfoy?"

The mention of Malfoy's name seemed incongruous to Harry.  It took him a moment to absorb the information and reply.  "Yes, I know him.  I'm sure I'll be able to work just fine without him.  I'm no slouch myself, you know."

Pimlington laughed.  The man was ancient and Harry, at thirty-one, probably seemed like a child.  The Healer had probably seen a lot of powerful wizards in his day.  Harry couldn't help but feel a bit embarrassed by his outburst of bravado.

Harry smiled back and said, "And my friends said that they'd help me as well.  I'm sure I'll be able to use my wand in no time."

Later that day, Ron and Hermione helped Harry back to his flat and got him settled.  Molly had obviously shopped, cooked, and straightened things out for him.  Sometimes he really appreciated her coddling.  He also appreciated that Ron was going to take a few days off to help him practice using his left hand.

The appreciation became tension on the second day and full on arguments on the third day, as Harry's frustration grew over his inability to cast spells with his left hand.  He made no progress with his right.  On the fourth day, Ron went back to work and Ginny stopped by to check up on him.

"I'm sorry," Harry apologized after yelling at Ginny.  "It's just so bloody annoying.  I can't even Apparate, and I don't have to move my wand for that."

"It's not just the hand, Harry," she explained. "It's sort of like you need to start using the other half of your brain.  You need to focus your magic on your other hand.  How's your right hand doing?  Feeling coming back?"

"Yeah, a little.  I can't grip the wand firmly, but I think I'm starting to get use of it again."

"That's good.  Maybe you should consider working with someone, a consultant of sorts."

"If you say Draco Malfoy, I'm going to—"
 
"He's worked with several of my patients."

"Draco Malfoy?"

"Yes, Harry.  People think he's quite good.  He's changed a lot over the years.  He's not so bad, really."

"Draco Malfoy?" Harry gaped at her.

"I'm going to send him an owl."

"Ginny…"

"Harry."

"I can do this on my own."

"You're obviously having a tough time of it.  Ron told me what happened."

"Ron has a big mouth."

"And you have a big chip on your shoulder."  Ginny folded her arms and stared him down.

She could always get her way with him.  Even after Harry came out to her and they had broken up, she still knew just how to handle him.  He often wondered if Neville was just as easily pushed around, but then decided probably not.

"Fine," Harry conceded.  "But let's be clear that it's your fault when it all goes balls up."

"Just as long as you give me full credit when it works out."

*************************************************************

The knock on the door came at eleven o'clock sharp.  Harry took a deep breath and opened the door for his old school rival.  Malfoy stood there looking impatient in his fine business robes.  They were a deep navy blue, almost black, with a crisp white shirt buttoned to the collar.  It seemed far too heavy for such an unseasonably hot day in late September.  Malfoy looked over Harry in his t-shirt, track pants, and trainers with disdain.

"Hello, Potter," said Malfoy.  His drawl was still familiar, even though Harry hadn't heard it much over the past decade.

"Malfoy.  Won't you come in?" Harry asked with uncomfortable formality.

Malfoy entered Harry's flat and took in the décor. 

"Would you like something to drink?" Harry offered, thinking hospitality might help the awkwardness of the situation.

"No thank you, I'm fine."

"Okay.  Umm… how should we do this?"

Malfoy walked through Harry's sitting room and ran his hand over the fireplace mantle.  "We could sit down and you could tell me about your injury."

"Oh, I thought Ginny said she—"

"Yes, her letter was fairly detailed.  I simply thought it might be a way to break the ice."

"Good idea."

Taking a seat in Harry's favorite wingback chair, Malfoy looked up at him and waited.

Harry took a seat on the couch and held out his right arm for Malfoy to see.  "I was hit with a pretty nasty Slicing Hex.  Took the hand clean off just above the wrist.  They re-attached it, but I don't have much use of it yet."

"What can you do with it?"

"Umm, not much really.  It's still swollen and pretty stiff."

"What about your left hand?"

"What about it?"

"Are you ambidextrous to any degree?"

"No, not really.  My left side is pretty weak in general."

"Have you tried using your wand yet?"

"I've been practicing since I got home five days ago.  I couldn't get too many spells to work; that's why I agreed to meet with you," Harry said, feeling his anxiety level rising.  Malfoy knew all this.  He had seen the note before Ginny sent it.

"Is that your wand?" Malfoy gestured to the wand on the coffee table.

"Yes."

"Pick it up and try to Summon something."

"All right."  Harry picked up the wand in his left hand.  "Accio newspaper." 

Nothing happened.

"Accio newspaper."  Harry said it a little more forcefully the second time as Malfoy studied him intently.  "See I told you, nothing."

"That's fine, but I needed to see it."

"Why?"

"I need to see what you're doing.  Try it again and stiffen your wrist a little."

"Is that some sort of limp-wrist joke?" Harry asked defensively.

"No.  What?"

"If you're just here for a laugh, Malfoy, I swear—"

"Are you sure you weren't hexed in the head as well?  Oh that's right, you were always an obnoxious, paranoid prat."

"And you're still the same spoiled brat that I met in Madam Malkin's."

Malfoy gaped at him.  "That was twenty years ago!  It's quite obvious that it's you who hasn't grown up since then.  You know what?  I don't need this!"  Malfoy stood up.  "I've got my own life to deal with.  Good luck with the hand," he said sarcastically before turning on his heels towards the door.

Harry let out a deep breath.  "Malfoy, wait."

Malfoy turned his head to look back.

"I'm sorry."  Harry forced the words out and lifted his right hand to his temple.  He winced at the contact and dropped it back down in frustration.

Malfoy's cold stare softened, and he took a step back towards Harry.  "Look, Potter, I'll help you if you want, but you have to listen and do what I say without questioning every last thing.  I have done this before."

"I know.  Ginny told me."

"And she told me that you're in rough shape."

"Sure, rub it in."

"I'm not, and you have to stop thinking that I am.  I'm going to have to meet with you daily, and frankly, I don't need the headache."

"How much is your fee?"

"Twenty Galleons per session."

"You're kidding!"

"No.  This isn't my business, Potter.  I occasionally take on a client at the request of the Ministry or St. Mungo's, but I don't do this for my health and my time is valuable."

"Fine," Harry acquiesced and rolled his eyes.

"Good.  Now why don't you tell me what you can do with both your injured hand and your other hand, and we can get started."

"All right."

Malfoy resumed his seat.  "Potter, just to have things clear between us, the limp wrist thing was not a joke."

"Okay," Harry replied skeptically.

"I happen to be gay as well.  I assumed you knew."

"Oh."  Harry was genuinely surprised.  "Umm, I didn't know."  Of course, as he thought about it, it made sense.  Malfoy had never married and was not known for being a ladies man.  They certainly didn't travel in the same social circles, but Harry did remember seeing him at various formal functions and he almost always came alone.

They managed not to fight for the next hour and agreed that Malfoy would come by daily at eleven, spend some time working with Harry, and give him exercises to practice before the next session.

*************************************************************

Malfoy arrived promptly at eleven and handed Harry a list of things that he would need for his therapy. 

"I had a last minute lunch meeting come up, so I only have about twenty minutes today.  I'll try and change my schedule a bit to find a better time to meet."

"Well squeeze me in where you can into your oh so busy schedule," Harry teased.

"I already told you, this isn't my—"

"Yeah, yeah, I know.  Still, you're being well paid."

"Indeed, and as an act of good faith, today's short session will be gratis."

"How generous."

"Shall we begin?"

"Go right ahead."

"First, I'd like to talk about your daily routine."

"Okay."

"Have you been trying to use your wand?"

"A little, but nothing works."

"So you give up."

"I have not given up!"

"Potter," Malfoy said in warning.  "We had an agreement, remember?  You hired me."

"I didn't give up," Harry said more calmly.

"I didn't say you gave up in the philosophical sense.  I said that you gave up on using typical daily spells."

"Yes."

"You need to start using spells for everything.  Alternate your left and right hands, since you're trying to strengthen both of them."

"Fine."

"Everything, Potter.  You need to use a spell for every last little thing, even things that you typically don't use a spell for."

"Fine."

"Seriously, Summon your toothbrush, levitate your toast, transfigure your socks, every silly inconsequential thing, and you need to keep a log."

"A log?"

"Yes, a daily log.  Every day write down all the spells you've tried and note any that worked."

"Fine."

"As part of your homework, you need to begin writing.  You'll need parchment and a quill.  Where is the most comfortable place for you to write?"

"Writing?  I need help performing spells.  I can't use a wand, that's my problem."

"No," Malfoy snapped, "your problem is that you don't listen, you don't trust, you lack vision, and have a limited ability to see the big picture."

Harry scowled back as he tried to process what Malfoy had just said.

"The writing," Malfoy explained as if to a child, "is to strengthen your hands and your coordination, not to mention another necessary life skill besides wand work.  Why don't you try and Summon a piece of parchment and a quill?"

Harry tried with his left hand.  After three tries, he gave up and went into his small office to retrieve them.  He decided that the kitchen table would be most comfortable.  Malfoy followed him there, and Harry set up the parchment, quill, and ink on the table.

"Now for your homework assignment."  Malfoy took the quill and wrote a single sentence at the top of the page.

The bright wizard, Draco Malfoy, quells anxious oppressive jerks.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Harry asked.

"It's a pangram."

Harry didn't understand any better.

"It's a sentence containing every letter of the alphabet," explained Malfoy with a smug look on his face.

Harry stared at it a while.  "There must be plenty of sentences like that."

"You come up with one."

Harry frowned.

"One hundred lines, each hand, every day.  Don't do it all at once.  Spread it out throughout the day.  Now let me see you write one."

With a loud sigh, Harry sat at the table and began to write with his left hand.  It was barely legible, and the ink smudged against the side of his hand.

"You can show me the rest of your work tomorrow.  Oh, and make sure you procure everything on that list that I gave you.  Goodbye, Potter."

Harry gave a vague wave without looking up and heard the sound of Malfoy 's Apparition.

"So fucking full of himself," Harry muttered, but continued to write his lines.

*************************************************************

The next day, Malfoy showed at eleven again.  Harry had parchment and quills set up at the kitchen table and a large box of many of the items from Draco's list.  Draco carefully inspected the contents.

"You're still missing several items."

"I took the Floo network to Diagon Alley yesterday, but I didn't find everything.  I have a few things on order," Harry replied.

"We'll start with what you have.  Also, is five o'clock all right for you?  It'll be easier on my schedule to simply come here at the end of the day."

"Yeah, that's fine.  What else do we need?"

"Tea, Earl Grey preferably."

"Tea?  What do we need tea for?"

"You can make me tea.  Consider it part of the therapy."

Harry grunted, but started to make the tea.

"Use your wand.  You're supposed to be using it for everything."

Gritting his teeth, Harry picked up his wand in his left hand.  It took several tries to get the water hot, and even longer to Summon everything, but eventually he served Malfoy a steaming cup of tea.

Malfoy took a tentative sip.  "Not bad.  Now where's your homework?"

Harry pushed the parchment towards him.

"What's this?  There are certainly less than a hundred lines here, barely legible at that."

"I did about eighty with my left hand, but it got tired.  Besides, it's not like I really believe that The bright wizard, Draco Malfoy, quells anxious oppressive jerks." 

"You don't have to believe it.  Besides, I told you to break it up over the day.  What about your right hand?"

"It's still too stiff.  I'll try the right in a few days."

"Then write one line today, two tomorrow, and build from there."  Malfoy picked up the quill and handed it to him.

Harry took it in his right hand, but couldn't grip it.

"You can't even hold it, can you?" Malfoy accused him.

The quill fell from Harry's loose hold and he kicked the table leg in frustration.  Malfoy studied him for a moment and then pulled out the Boomerang Ball from the box.

"Hold this."  Malfoy held the ball out to Harry, who took it with his left hand.

"Put it in your right hand," instructed Malfoy.

Harry gently placed the ball on top of his right palm.

"Squeeze it."

Nothing.

"You need to level with me, Potter.  You're not doing yourself any favors."

"Shut up."

"Put your hand on the table."  When Harry didn't move, Draco yelled, "Do it!"

Harry let the ball roll out of his hand and rested it atop the table.

"Palm up."

Harry complied.

"Close your eyes."

Untrusting, Harry scowled at Malfoy.

"Potter, cooperate."

Harry closed his eyes and waited.

"Tell me when you can feel something."   Malfoy touched the middle of Potter's palm with his finger, but Harry didn't react.  Malfoy pressed down harder.  "Open your eyes," he said softly.

Harry opened his eyes and looked at Malfoy's index finger pressing firmly into the middle of his palm.

"You've been lying," said Malfoy.

Harry shrugged.

"You can't feel a fucking thing!"

"Fuck off."

"Why the fuck are you telling everyone that you're starting to get feeling back?"

"I didn't."

"That's not what your Healer pal, Mrs. Longbottom, said."

"Stay out of this."

"Gladly, only you've hired me to work with you."  Malfoy took a deep breath, calmed down, and then said, "Maybe you should just concentrate on your left hand."

"I'm an Auror.  I need to be able to use my wand hand."

"I've got news for you, Potter.  Your right hand is no longer your wand hand."

"Fuck off."

"I have no idea what you've been telling your other friends or the Ministry or your Healers, or what they've been telling you, but that's the cold hard truth.  The sooner you accept that and start thinking of your left hand as your dominant hand, the sooner it will become your dominant hand."

There was nothing that Harry could say to that.  He had been lying to his friends and the Ministry.  He'd told them that he'd need a thirty-day medical leave for recovery.  Each day, that seemed less and less likely.

Malfoy picked up the Boomerang Ball and handed it back to Harry.  "You throw it a few feet out, then it returns to you.  Catch it.  Throw it again, a hundred times every day."

Harry nodded.

"And tonight do the full one hundred lines with your left hand."

"Fine."

The following days, Malfoy showed up at five o'clock.  He reviewed Harry's log, homework and watched Harry's futile attempt at everyday spells.  Dutifully, Harry performed all of Malfoy's assignments, but his frustration grew exponentially each day.  He tried to keep it from his friends and colleagues and instead took out his anger on Malfoy, who only rose to the challenge and gave him more work to do.

*************************************************************

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

"What's this?" asked Malfoy, staring at the parchment.

"Another sentence with all the letters of the alphabet."

Malfoy glowered at him.  "I like mine better."

Harry smiled.  "Hermione looked it up on the Internet for me.  I think I'll use hers."

"The inter-what?"

"Muggle computer network."

Draco waved him off.  "Never mind.  I have no time for such nonsense.  Use whatever you like.  Maybe it'll help.  I've seen little improvement in your penmanship."

"So what's on the agenda today?"

"I want to watch you practice your household charms."

*************************************************************

Andromeda came by with a chocolate cake.

"Thanks," Harry said as they sat down to tea.

"I thought you could use some cheering up," Andromeda said, setting a large piece of cake in front of Harry.  "I wrote to Teddy and told him what happened.  He saw the Prophet and sent me an owl that day."

"Ahh, I'm such a prat.  I totally forgot.  I'll send him a short note tonight.  I can't really write too well yet."

"Would you like me to pick up a Quick-Quotes Quill for you?"

"Nah, Malfoy's convinced that writing will strengthen my hand."

"Yes, Narcissa told me that he was helping you."

"Oh.  What else did she say?"

"Just that he was nervous about it."

"Malfoy?  Nervous?"

"Well you haven't exactly been too nice to him in the past," Andromeda said. 

Harry was surprised to hear sadness in her voice.  She and Narcissa had reconciled after the war, and he was pretty sure that she was in contact with all the Malfoys, even if she never mentioned it.   He found himself remembering Teddy's second birthday party.  Malfoy had been there with his mother.  Harry had waited to catch Malfoy alone and then told him to stay away from Teddy.  Malfoy hadn't made a scene; he'd quietly said goodbye to Andromeda and his mother and then left the party.

"Are you in contact with Draco?" asked Harry.

"He is my nephew," she said quietly.  "I do see him occasionally."

"Wow, um, we really never talked about him all these years."

"I thought it best not to.  I didn't want anything to come between you and Teddy.  I know what he means to you, but I also didn't want anything to come between Teddy and the rest of his family.  He has so little, you know."

Ouch, that hurt.  Harry had never picked a fight with Andromeda and he wasn’t about to start, but he could hardly believe that she thought so little of him.  He quickly changed the subject to asking Teddy to meet him at the first Hogsmeade weekend.

*************************************************************

"So how did you get into this wand-work business?" Harry asked as he levitated a cup of Earl Grey over to Malfoy.

"Do you know Carmichael Nott?"

"Yeah, he's an Auror; few years behind me."

"Well he's Theo's first cousin.  Cam failed his practical the first time around, and Theo asked me to tutor him."

"Why you?"

Draco raised his eyebrows.  "You've been working with me for a week and still doubt my skill level?"

"Pompous arse," Harry muttered good-naturedly, and dropped the sugar bowl next to Malfoy with a thud.

"Maybe I should leave?" teased Malfoy.

"Just tell me what happened after that."

"Well one of your senior Aurors, Dawlish, he was awfully impressed with Cam's turnaround.  Cam told him about me and Dawlish paid me a visit."

"Really?"  None of this was even remotely familiar to Harry.

"There was an Auror, Biddles, who had his wand hand injured and Dawlish asked me if I'd work with him, so I did.  Pimlington was his Healer."

"Oh, that was quite a few years back."

"At least seven or eight years I think.  After that, Dawlish paid me to consult with them on some of my teaching techniques.  I helped him train some Aurors who wanted to be able to perform some spells with their non-dominant hand, mostly defensive and protection.  I also started to get an occasional call from St. Mungo's to work with a patient with a wand hand injury."

"Anyone who ever lost a hand?"

"No," Draco said softly.  "Potter, no one's really able to be completely competent with their opposite hand, not even me."

"What about you?"

"Well, that's sort of how Theo knew to ask me in the first place.  After the war, I did a lot of training with my left hand."

"Why?"

"Why do you think?" Malfoy challenged.

"I have no idea."

"I wasn't exactly welcome in Wizard society.  There was more than one stray hex thrown my way."

"You were cleared."  Harry remembered testifying at the Malfoys' Wizengamot inquiry.  That was the main reason that all three of them got off with minor Ministry monitoring the first few years. 

"Not to everyone," Malfoy said bitterly.

"Oh."

"I wanted to be able to defend myself.  I knew that being able to use my left hand would be an insurance policy, so I made damn sure that I could cast defensive shields and Apparate with my left hand.  That's what most of the people I worked with from the Ministry wanted, just the minimum in an emergency situation."

"Well, I'm going to have to be able to do everything, won't I?"

"And if you can't?"

"I have no choice.  I have to."

*************************************************************

The following week, Harry stopped by the Ministry to change his status from a 30-day to a 90-day leave.  The last thing he wanted to do was come back just to do some cushy desk job.  He stopped by Ron's office to see if he was in.

"Hey there," Harry called out while softly knocking on Ron's open door.

"Hey, what are you doing here?"

Harry took a seat in Ron's guest chair.  "Changing my leave status.  I think my recovery is going to be much longer than a few weeks."

Ron nodded.  "Yeah, Ginny was talking about it the other night.   I'm really sorry."

The silence hung like a noose for a minute.  "Oh, I had a question for you.  I stopped by the file room to look at Draco Malfoy's file and they said that you had it checked out."

Ron smiled and pushed a large file towards Harry.  "I pulled it the day you hired him."

"Oh?" Harry opened the file and began to look at it.

"He's clean, or at least on paper he is."

Harry pulled out a memo from Dawlish and skimmed it.  "Looks like he even consulted for the Auror Department."

"Yeah, hard to imagine, but he did.  How's it working out with you?"

"It's strange, but he's good.  He pushes me."

Ron laughed.  "Just like old times."

"Maybe.  Maybe that's what I need."

"A right kick in the arse."

Harry smirked and then spent the next ten minutes looking through the file.  Pretty much everything that Malfoy had told him about was in there.

*************************************************************

"Lift your arm higher," Malfoy commanded as Harry failed to Apparate to the hoop a mere three feet away.

"I did lift it."

"Not high enough, and you're still not channeling your magic to your left side.  Extend your arm and let your intent and magic flow."

Harry tried again and failed.  In frustration, he flung his wand across the room.

"Oh that's brilliant.  Is that what they teach Aurors?  If at first you don't succeed, throw your wand."

"Fuck you."  Harry started to stomp towards his wand.

"Summon it."

"Wandlessly?"

"You can't?"

"Can you?"

Malfoy tossed his wand across the room and then Summoned his wand back.

"That was your right hand," Harry said with a pout.

Malfoy tossed it again and then Summoned it back with his left hand outstretched.

Harry felt his temper fade and then asked, "How did you do that?"

"It's one of the first things I taught myself after the war.  It would have helped me out of a few spots, don't you think?"

Harry knew that Malfoy was talking about the day he won over his wand and probably the Room of Requirement as well.  "Good thing you couldn't then."

Harry's response made Malfoy pause and study him.  They remained locked in a deep stare for several moments.

"'What if' is a horrible game to play," Malfoy finally stated.  "No one wins."

"I suppose not."

"Try Summoning your wand."

*************************************************************

"Now boil the water for the pasta," Malfoy instructed.

"Why am I doing this?"

"We're working on household spells."

"I didn't realize that included cooking dinner for you."

"I'm hungry.  I was busy and didn't get to eat the entire day.  The least you can do is feed me."

Harry finished up the penne with garlic and butter at six o'clock.  They sat down to dinner together for the first time in their entire lives.

"Not bad," Malfoy said after a few mouthfuls.

"I'm a confirmed bachelor.  I had to learn to cook."

"I figured that you probably survived on take-away."

"Sometimes, but I actually like to cook.  What about you?  I pegged you for either a house-elf or dining out guy."

"My parents have a cook, no more house-elves.  I eat with them sometimes, but mostly I cook for myself."

"Really." Harry was surprised.  "I'd have guessed they know you at every fancy wizard restaurant."

"They know me, all right.  They just don't serve me.  Bunch of hypocrites."

"Why?" Harry asked, genuinely confused by the turn in the conversation.

"These are the same people who supported the Ministry when the Dark Lord was in control.  They had no problem with my family then.  After the war, however, they liked to make sure they closed their doors to anyone of questionable ties.  It's not like they were fighting for the light.  It's all the people who did nothing.  They didn't take a side.  People on the other side— that I could understand.  Only they're not the ones on their high horses.  Hell, even Ollivander agreed to sell me a wand after the war.  Can you imagine anyone having more of a score to settle with my family?"

"Umm," Harry muttered, and ran his hand through his hair.

"Besides you," Malfoy added, acting as if he had made a mistake.  "It's just so fucking ridiculous, like it's fashionable to hate Death Eaters."

Malfoy was pretty worked up by the end of his tirade.  Harry studied him carefully and took it all in.  It wasn't something he had thought too much about.

"I'm sorry," Malfoy said after a deep breath.  "It's a sore spot with me."

"That's okay.  I'd be pretty upset about it too.  People like that always bugged the hell out of me."

After that night, Malfoy started to stay for dinner at least twice a week.  Sometimes he even brought a bottle of wine with him.

*************************************************************

"So what do you do, Malfoy?"

"You mean when I'm not babysitting you?" Malfoy said, looking up from Harry's spell log. 

"Ha, ha."

"I keep myself occupied."

"That's specific."

"I do a lot of different things, really.  Some of it is managing various business interests.  Father likes to keep me in the family business, but it doesn't take too much of my time.  I like to brew a potion or two a week."

"Snape would be so proud," Harry teased.

"It reminds me that I should have you start brewing as well.  Did you get that new cauldron like I told you to?"

"Yes, but I still don't see why I need to brew."

"It's good for helping you channel your magic through your left side.  The chopping is also good practice."

"I thought that's what all the cooking was for."

"Are you questioning my methods again?"

"No, sir," Harry said, his tone reeking of sarcasm.

Malfoy rolled his eyes.  "I also do a fair amount of charity work."

"Really?"

"Really.  It keeps me busy and it's good for the family name."

Somehow Harry thought that Malfoy wasn't being completely honest about that.  "What charities?"

"Well I'm on the fundraising board at St. Mungo's.  Speaking of which, I have a meeting tonight about the upcoming benefit and need to get going."

"Oh, you're not staying for dinner?"

"Potter, you sound disappointed."

"No, just getting used to your whinging and complaining."

*************************************************************

"I can't do it," groaned Harry after six failed attempts at Transfiguring his cup into a mouse.

"Take it easy," commanded Malfoy. 

Harry scowled at him.

"Here, let's do this the old fashioned way."  Malfoy walked behind Harry and reached around for his wrist.  Harry stiffened at the contact.  "Relax, Potter.  Let me have control."

"Like that's gonna happen."

Malfoy shook his wrist out.  "Loosen up.  That's it."

Harry felt the warmth of Malfoy's breath on his neck and his firm chest pressed against his back.  He closed his eyes at the sensation and took a deep breath.

"There you go.  Okay, up on one, flick on two, to the side on three.  Let me guide it. One.  Two.  Three.  One.  Two.  Three.  One.  Two.  Three.  Now this time with the spell."

The cup became a mouse and skittered across the table.  Malfoy raised Harry's wrist again.  "Now change it back.  On three."

Harry spent the last ten minutes of their session allowing Malfoy to guide his wand movements.  It felt strangely intimate. 

When it was over, Malfoy awkwardly pulled himself away and cleared his throat.  "See?  You're getting it."

"Thanks."

*************************************************************

Thursdays after lunch, Harry had his weekly appointment with Healer Pimlington.  The Healer felt that the re-attachment was a success in that his hand had good vascularization, but he was somewhat discouraged regarding the significant lack of nerve regeneration. 

Harry stopped by Ginny's office afterwards.  "Hey, Gin."

Her face lit up.  "Harry, how are you?"

"Good."

"Did you just see Pimlington?"

"Yeah."

"And?"

Ginny's expression turned sad in response to Harry's non-committal shrug.

"Tell me something," Harry said softly.  "You said that you've had patients who worked with Malfoy."

"Yes."

"How did they do?"

"Oh, Harry, most of those were minor injuries, nothing like with your hand."

"No, I meant how did they get on with him?"

"Good, I suppose."

"It's just really strange.  Malfoy.  He said he's on the St. Mungo's fundraising board."

"He is.  He's still as arrogant as ever, but I think he tries to do well by the hospital."

"For the last what— twelve, thirteen years— I haven't kept tabs on him.  He isn't what I imagined at all."

"You've been spending a lot of time with him."

"Yeah, it's like we're dating, only without the sex."

Ginny laughed.

"It's not funny," Harry protested.

"It's hysterical.  Oh god, you should see your face right now."

"Shut up."

*************************************************************

"Is it all right if I come at four tomorrow?" Malfoy asked on his way out for the evening.

"Hot date?" Harry said jokingly.

"Actually, not that it's any of your business, but I do have a date."

"Oh.  Who with?"

"Pansy's set me up with someone."

Harry winced.  "Ooh, blind date.  Good luck with that.  Yeah, four is fine."

*************************************************************

"So how was your date?" Harry asked as he handed over his homework parchment.

"Disaster.  I'm never listening to Pansy ever again," Malfoy said somewhat distracted by looking over Harry's lines.  "Your writing is improving.  I think one hundred fifty lines from now on."

"More?"

"Yes, more."

"So what was wrong with your date?"  Harry asked, trying not to take too much pleasure in the failure.

"Besides being an obnoxious twit, the man was old.  He had to be at least fifty."

"I don't know.  Older men can be very attractive."

Malfoy raised his eyebrows as if to ask Harry to elaborate.

"Your father's kinda sexy."

"Now I've lost my appetite for the next month.  Please never mention my father and sexy in the same sentence again."

Harry laughed.

"You don't really find him attractive?" Draco asked.

"No, actually I don't.  I just said that to rattle your cage, but let's stay off the subject of how I feel about your father."

"Fair enough."

"But I will say that I'm beginning to realize that you're not your father."

"You're just realizing that now?"

"Among other things."  Harry gave Malfoy a friendly smile.

"I've thought about growing my hair longer but don't because people will say that I look just like him."

Harry studied Malfoy's hair.  It was a very handsome style, cut short on the sides and a few inches long on the top.  "People have always told me that I look just like my dad.  Well, people who knew him anyway.  It gets a bit tiring, I suppose."

"Imagine if he were alive."

Harry was startled by the comment.

"I'm sorry," Malfoy said quickly.  "I didn't mean that the way it came out."

"It's all right.  I know."

"Well that's enough of that.  I want to work on your Transfiguration spells today."

*************************************************************

"So how come Pansy's setting you up with old men?" asked Harry as he practiced levitating paper airplanes around the flat. 

"Why do you want to know?"  Malfoy shot a small fireball from the end of his wand and Harry had to make his airplane dive to avoid it.

"Curious.  Wondering why you need Pansy to be your pimp."

"Pansy is not my pimp," Malfoy said with utter disdain and launched three more fireballs.  One of them hit and destroyed one of Harry's five planes.  "I can get dates.  I can get laid, Potter."

Harry laughed.  "No need to get shirty about it."

"Maybe I'm looking for a relationship.  Maybe I'm looking for a good match."

"So what's your ideal man like?"

"Are we really having this conversation?" Malfoy asked, then sent a full barrage of fireballs, decimating Harry's remaining planes.

Harry frowned at the carnage and then sat next to Malfoy on the couch.  "Yes, let's have this conversation.  We're adults now."

Draco snorted at that.  "Fine.  I'm looking for someone attractive, intelligent, and someone with magical talent.  I want to find someone who appreciates the finer things in life but isn't possessed by money.  I want to find someone who gets me."

"Gets you?"

"I'm a complex individual.  I want someone who understands."

"Understands what?"

"Me.  Life.  Everything."

"Not asking for much are you?" Harry teased.

"I'm a Malfoy; I want it all."

"You're not so different.  That's what everybody wants.  Isn't it?"

"I wouldn't know."

"I would."

"Well, I also want someone who isn't intimidated or put off by my past."  Draco pushed up his sleeve to display the Dark Mark, so stark and striking against his pale skin.  "This tends to narrow down the dating pool."

Harry studied the Dark Mark for a moment then did something that he rarely ever did.  He pushed back the hair from his forehead to show Draco his scar.  He looked deep into the other man's eyes.  "I think I know something about that."

"I bet you do."

Surprised, Harry realized that Draco had said it not focused on his scar but meeting his eyes instead. 

*************************************************************

Weeks went by.  Harry only made moderate progress.  As September rolled into October, the first Hogwarts visit to Hogsmeade approached.  Harry sent an owl to Teddy to confirm that they'd meet for lunch at the Three Broomsticks.

Harry greeted Teddy with a big hug.  He hadn't seen him since the end of August and the boy seemed inches taller already.

"So your first year on the Hogsmeade trip," Harry stated.  "Thanks for humoring me.  I won't keep you too long and let you get back to your friends."

"That's okay, Harry.  I missed you.  I'm glad you're all right," Teddy said with a genuine smile.

They had lunch and talked about Teddy's classes and Quidditch.  They were getting ready to go when Teddy brought up Harry's injury.

"Is it getting any better?"

"Not really, but I am getting better at using my left hand."

"Gran wrote to me that cousin Draco was helping you.  That's good."

"He is helping."  Harry studied Teddy for a moment and wondered something, finally articulating his question, "Are you in contact with Draco?"

Teddy looked embarrassed.  "Umm, yeah.  Gran told me years ago that you didn't get along with him, so I shouldn't talk to you about him.  I guess it's okay now, right?"

Harry nodded.

"I see him from time to time.  Mostly just holidays since I left for Hogwarts.  He used to come by with Aunt Narcissa.  Sometimes he'd take me flying or to a Quidditch match."

Harry was in shock.  "Since when?"

"Don't really know.  Since I was pretty young.  I guess he's always been around."

As Harry hugged Teddy goodbye, he couldn't help but wonder how much Andromeda had kept from him and how little he really knew about Draco Malfoy.

*************************************************************

Over the next few weeks, Harry found himself looking forward to Malfoy's daily visit.  Half of the time the visit was usually followed by dinner and friendly conversation.  Harry learned much about various Malfoy family business holdings and magical heritage, while he often regaled Malfoy with his exploits as an Auror.  Harry's left hand usage was progressing steadily but slowly.  He tried to keep his frustration to a minimum, but it was becoming increasingly difficult. 

One Saturday evening, Malfoy was trolling through Harry's kitchen cupboards.  "You have nothing in here.  Did you go shopping this week?"

"Nah, I really haven't gone out much lately, not in the mood."

"Well there's nothing for dinner," Malfoy said as he threw up his hands in disgust.

"Let's go out.  I need to get out of here anyway.  I think I'm getting a bit of cabin fever."

"Out to dinner?  You and I?"

"Sure.  Why not?"

"We've never done that."

"First time for everything.  You know what?  I haven't been to Camelot in forever.  I know most people usually go there for the night life, but the food's real good too."

"I wouldn't know," Malfoy said with obvious disdain.

"Oh come on, it's a nice place.  It may not be up to the highest Malfoy standards of fine dining, but—"

"I said I wouldn't know.  I've never been there."

"Oh.  I bet you'll like it."

Malfoy let out a long sigh as he closed his eyes for a moment.  "I've never been, because it was made quite clear that I wasn't welcome."

"Ernesto wouldn't let you in?" Harry asked, completely gobsmacked.

"You would be correct."

"But he wasn't even involved in either side, and he's a pure-blood."

"I believe I've told you that it's not the people who actually have a reason to hold a grudge."

"That's absurd.  Oh, now we have to go."

"Excuse me?"

"He always fusses over me whenever I go.  It's time he—"

"Potter, please don't play the hero."

"Don't give me that.  I know you.  You'd love nothing more than to go in there and make them eat a cauldron of crow."  Harry tilted his head and raised his eyebrows.  "Come on.  I know you want to."

"Fine, but don't make a big deal out of it."

"I can be subtle."

Draco snorted.  "You’re as subtle as a dragon in a crystal shop."

Ten minutes later, they entered Camelot.  The place was about half full since it was fairly early for a Saturday night.  Although there were secluded booths available against the wall, Harry chose a square table in the center of the dining area.  Harry gave a slight wave to Ernesto, who was behind the bar.  Ernesto wore a confused expression that awkwardly morphed into a forced smile.

"Nothing by halves, huh, Potter?" Draco said quietly as he took the seat on the side to Harry's right.

The waitress was about to walk over with two menus when Ernesto waved her over.  He took the menus from her and then came to their tableside.  "Good evening, Mr. Potter, so nice to see you again."

"Thanks, Ernesto.  I haven't been here in a while, and I had a real craving for your mango chicken."

"It's always a pleasure to have you here." Ernesto's gaze never left Harry.

"Ernesto, this is my good friend, Draco Malfoy."

"Good evening, sir, and welcome," Ernesto said blandly, making only the briefest eye contact with Malfoy before turning his attention back to Harry.

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Malfoy's smirk and savored it.

"Thank you.  I hear you have a wonderful establishment," Malfoy replied with utmost formality.

"Any special drinks tonight?" Harry asked with glee.

"Our sour apple martini is new.  It's a Muggle drink, quite fashionable."

"Sounds great," said Harry, wondering if Ernesto had suggested the Muggle drink to get a rise out of Draco.

"Make it two," said Malfoy amicably.  Harry cheered in his head.

"Very good," Ernesto replied and headed off for the bar.

"You're laying it on a bit thick, don't you think?" Malfoy asked as he looked over his menu.

"Don't tell me you're not loving every minute of it."

"I won't," replied Malfoy, not looking up from his menu.

"So what shall we have tonight, Draco?" Harry said deliberately loud as Ernesto approached with their drinks. 

The owner gently set them down.  "Take your time deciding, gentlemen.  Just wave me over when you're ready."

"Draco?" Draco asked as soon as Ernesto was back behind the bar.

Harry liked the way a small smile tugged at Draco's lips.  "Admit it; you're enjoying sticking it to that sycophant."

"Why, Potter, I had no idea you knew what the word sycophant meant."

Harry couldn't help but smile in return.  "Well, since I'm calling you Draco, you should probably call me Harry."

"Harry," Draco said as if trying it out on his tongue.  "Sounds foreign."

"Cheers, Draco," Harry said as he lifted his martini glass in a toast.

"Cheers, Harry."  Draco lifted his glass to Harry's with a soft clink.

The martinis segued into a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc with dinner and it loosened their tongues.  Their conversation was far more personal than it had ever been.  They talked about what they wanted from life and the mistakes of their past.  They talked about old lovers and failed relationships.  The tables filled around them and the band began to set up on the stage on the far side of the room.  When the wine was gone, they ordered two snifters of the finest Goblin cognac and even discussed their school-days friends and where were they now. 

It was sheer coincidence that Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan walked into Camelot that night.  Harry caught the flabbergasted look between Dean and Seamus.  He smiled and waved them over.

They all exchanged terse greetings, including Draco, and Harry invited them to sit down.  Dean looked about the crowded room and gave a questioning look to Seamus.

"Now this is a sight I never thought I'd ever see in a bar and I've seen some pretty strange sights in bars," Seamus said as he took the seat next to Malfoy, leaving the other one for Dean.

Dean looked downright uncomfortable.  It took a split second for Harry to remember that Dean had been captured and taken to Malfoy Manor with him.  He started to feel bad about the situation but took consolation in the fact that Malfoy was looking rather uncomfortable and possibly even embarrassed.

"I think there's a joke about this," Seamus continued.

"Shay," Dean said as if a warning.

"No, really, I think there is.  Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy walk into a bar…" Seamus winked.

Harry couldn't help himself; he laughed.  Shortly after he started, Dean joined him.  Malfoy looked away and toyed with the rim of his empty glass.

"So, Malfoy, I hear you're helping out Harry with recovery," Seamus started a conversation after several painfully quiet moments.

"Yes, I am," Draco answered.

"How are you doing, Harry?" Dean asked with genuine concern.

"It's slow going, but thanks to Draco, I'm getting better with my left hand."

Seamus and Dean exchanged a quick look at the mention of Malfoy's given name.

"So what are you doing here tonight?" Seamus asked.

"I just felt like getting out for a change," Harry replied.  "Who told you about Draco?"

"We went out with Neville last week.  Boys night, ya know," Seamus answered.

Another silent minute passed.

"The Caterwaulers are playing tonight," Dean said excitedly, breaking the tension.  "They're great."

"Not to mention that they bring in the best looking witches," Seamus said with a wink and a smile.  "Not that that would interest you."

Harry snorted.  The waitress came by and Dean and Seamus ordered two Screaming Banshees. 

"So what's new?" Harry asked.

"I have the St. Mungo's charity auction in two weeks," Dean said.  "I'm donating three pieces."

"That's great," Harry said.

"Oh," Dean said as he realized something.  "You're probably going, aren't you, Malfoy?"

"I'm on the committee.  They expect me to attend.  If you'll excuse me, gentlemen."  Draco stood up.  The other three nodded, and Draco headed towards the loo.

"Harry?" Dean asked tentatively.  "What are you doing here with Malfoy?"

"I've been spending a lot of time with him because of my hand.  He's really helped a lot."

"And you're out for dinner and drinks?" asked Dean.

"Yeah."  Harry shrugged. 

"Well if anyone has a right to hold a grudge against Malfoy, it's you," Dean said solemnly.  "So if you think he's changed, then I guess—"

"I'm sorry, Dean.  If this is too uncomfortable for you, we can leave," offered Harry.

"No, that's silly," Dean answered.  "I can deal with it."

"And how about you?" Harry asked of Seamus.

"Hey, I've never cared what you bloody poofs get up to," Seamus teased.

"It's not… it's not like that," Harry said flustered.  "We sometimes have dinner or a drink after my session.  In fact, tonight's the first night we've ever gone out."

"Sorry, don't get your knickers in a twist," Seamus said.  "Just jokin' around."

Harry smiled in relief, and the three old friends fell into a casual conversation about the latest gossip.  Draco returned and was politely quiet for the rest of the evening.  They stayed for several rounds of drinks and the band's opening set.

Too drunk to Apparate, Harry took the Floo Network home.  Draco, who was only slightly less intoxicated, insisted on seeing Harry home safely. 

"Uh-oh," Draco said as Harry handed him a glass of water.

Harry took several big gulps of his own water and then asked, "What?"

"I shouldn't have sat down," Draco answered, leaning back on Harry's couch.

"It's fine.  Spend the night here."

"You sure?" Draco asked, and seemed to be considering something far more serious than kipping on a friend's couch.

"Yeah, it's no trouble."

"All right," Draco replied after a moment of hesitation.  "Harry?"

"What?" Harry asked, suddenly feeling uncomfortable as he caught Draco's gaze.  He chalked it up to the alcohol.

"I had a nice time tonight," Draco mumbled with a soft smile, and then took a sip of his water.

"Me too.  I'll grab you a spare pillow and blanket."  Harry made sure Draco was settled before taking off his shoes and collapsing on his bed.  He slept with his clothes on.

Late the next morning, Harry found Draco in his kitchen making tea.

"About time you did something yourself," Harry teased.

"I make you do it because you need the practice," Draco whispered hoarsely and then made a sour face.  "It feels like dead animals in my mouth."

"Feel free to Transfigure yourself a toothbrush."

*************************************************************

"I stopped by Gringotts today," Harry said as he handed over his two hundred lines.

"Oh?"

"It seems that although I authorized you to charge against my vault, there haven't been any claims sent in."

"I'm not much for paperwork."

"It's been over eight weeks."

Draco shrugged, not looking up from Harry's writing homework.  "Your legibility has improved."

"Why aren't you charging me?" pressed Harry.

With a deep sigh, Draco looked up at him.  "I don't usually charge the people I help.  It's more of a … a… hobby."

"You charged the Ministry."

"That was different."

"You said it was twenty Galleons a session and then asked me to set up my Gringotts account to receive charges."

"I was going to charge you, but then… I don't know… it felt like we were friends or something."

"Oh.  Yeah, I guess we are friends now.  Funny how the world works."

"Yeah, funny."  Although Draco didn't look like he thought it funny at all.

"Still, you should be compensated for your time.  I suppose since I was injured on the job, the Ministry should really be handling the cost of my recovery.  I mean how else would they expect to get me back on the job?"

Draco shook his head.  "You still don't get it."

"What?"

"Stand over there."

"Huh?"

"Just do it.  Wand at the ready."  With a determined look in his eye, Draco stood and faced Harry. 

Harry prepared himself.  For what, he had no idea.

"Expelliarmus!" Draco shouted unexpectedly. 

Harry was thrown back as his wand flew from his hand.  Draco lunged forward and tackled him to the floor.  He straddled Harry's thighs and pressed his wand into Harry's throat.

"Now tell me in what universe should I be able to do that?" Draco asked through labored breaths.

Harry gritted his teeth and bucked his hips in a futile effort to throw Draco off of him.  "Get off!"

"No.  You listen up.  I'm trying to help you.  You need to be able to use your magic, cast spells, Apparate.  You're still a wizard, but you will not be able to do everything you used to.  Your reaction time will always be slower.  You will not be as powerful.  There are spells you simply won't be able to perform.  How can you possibly expect to be an Auror?  If you go back out there chasing dark wizards, you're only going to get yourself killed or even worse, someone else killed.  Don't you understand?  It's over."

"It can't be."  Harry's anger dissipated and was replaced by a profound sense of loss.  "It's the only dream I ever had."

"I'm sorry," Draco said quietly.

Harry felt the warm weight of Draco on top of him.  His body yearned to respond.  Fearing that possibility, he looked away.  For a split second he felt Draco's hand cup the side of his face, only to be hastily withdrawn.  With a loud sigh, Draco rolled off of him. 

What the hell just happened? Harry thought to himself.  He kept his eyes trained on Draco as he stood and retrieved his wand. 

"I can't give up, not yet," said Harry.

Draco nodded but Harry could tell that he didn't agree.

*************************************************************

Things seemed different between them.  Harry couldn't put his finger on it.  In some ways he felt closer to Draco, but in other ways, there was some kind of barricade of caution casting a wide shadow.  Harry tried not to worry about it and concentrated on preparing himself to return to the Ministry before the end of his 90-day leave.  Only the days seemed as if they were passing more quickly and time was slipping through his inept fingers.

"I need to move up our appointment to two tomorrow," Draco said while watching Harry levitate his living room furniture.

"Yeah, I'm going to the auction too."

"Oh?"

"Ginny and Neville insisted I go.  Well, mostly Ginny insisted and Neville seemed to be laughing at me.  Anyway, it is for charity."

"That it is."

"You bringing anyone?"  Harry wanted to kick himself the instant that the words flew from his mouth.

"No, I hadn't planned on staying too long, just put in an appearance and leave."

"Oh, well, I could meet you there," Harry said hesitantly.

"It's formal robes, you know?"

"I have dress robes."

"Alright, I'll see you there."

The art show and silent auction for St. Mungo's was packed.  Harry wasn't a big fan of crowds and was relieved to find Ginny and Neville fairly quickly.  He latched on to them as they made their way through the exhibits.  Each piece had a charmed parchment and quill in front of it.  A bidder would make a bid, sign their name and then the bid would vanish.  At the end of the evening the highest bid would be the one revealed. 

Neville found a vase that he thought his Gran would love and placed a bid.  The three of them were quite taken with Dean's offering of the Hogwarts castle and stayed for some time looking at the large painting.  A note on the side explained that the piece was charmed to show the time of day and current weather.  The sun would rise and set, as would the moon.  It would rain or snow accordingly.

"It's quite remarkable," a low and drawling voice said behind them.

Harry turned to see Draco dressed impeccably and looking even more debonair than usual.  "It's wonderful.  I think it’s the best thing he's ever done," said Harry.

"Good evening," Draco said and nodded at the three of them.

They stayed for another ten minutes chatting and admiring Dean's work.  Neville headed off to check on his Gran and Ginny excused herself as well with an odd smile for Harry.

"You have that painting of Thestrals; that's Thomas' too, isn't it?" asked Draco.

"Yeah, it was a gift when I completed my Auror training."  Harry turned his gaze back to the Hogwarts painting.

"You really like it, don't you?" Draco asked Harry, who was unwilling to leave the view of Hogwarts just yet.

"Yeah.  Hogwarts is really the only place I ever felt at home," said Harry with a touch of longing in his voice.

"That was a long time ago.  Where have you lived since then?"

"After the war, I lived at Grimmauld Place for a short time.  It made more sense to give it to Andromeda."

"I don't think I knew that."

"Sirius left it to me, but I was never comfortable there," explained Harry.  "Besides it should belong to a Black."

Draco nodded.

"I rented a flat for a few years then bought the place I'm in about eight years ago."

"And you don't think of it as your home?"

"Not really.  I work a lot or I'm at the Weasleys' or Andromeda's.  I guess I never thought about it much."

"You should bid on it," Draco urged him.

"I dunno.  I'd feel funny, bidding on a friend's work."

"I wouldn't," said Draco, and then he picked up the pen and wrote down a bid. 

Harry tried to hide his disappointment.  "Let's get a drink," he said, wishing that he had put in a bid on the painting.

The evening was considered a great success and Harry truly enjoyed himself.   He had only planned to stay for a short while, but stayed until the very end of the evening looking at wonderful art, basking in the light conversation with the man in his company.  Draco bid on three more pieces while Harry simply made a straight donation to St. Mungo's.  As the last of the lingering guests checked the auction results, Harry and Draco stood in the entryway to the exhibition hall.

"I had a great time tonight," said Harry, still feeling the warmth of alcohol in his cheeks.

"Me too," Draco replied with heavily lidded eyes and the faintest trace of a smile.

Suddenly, Harry felt awkward and unsure, much like his first days at Hogwarts.  There was something strange and unsaid between them, only Harry hadn't the faintest idea what it might be.  Certainly, they had overcome many of their differences and much of their past.

"Well good night then," said Harry, grabbing a handful of Floo powder.

Draco nodded once.  "Goodnight, Harry." 

For the first time that evening, Harry thought that Draco looked sad, disappointed even.  Pausing for a moment to get one last look at Draco, Harry stepped into the Floo and returned home to his flat.

*************************************************************

Draco came by Sunday evening at the regular time carrying a large flat rectangular package wrapped in brown paper.  He set it against the wall in Harry's living room.  "Hello."

"Hey, Draco.  Looks like you won something," Harry said, after Draco had hung his traveling cloak.

"Just one piece.  I picked it up on my way here."

"You were outbid on the others?"

"My other bids weren't particularly high.  This was the one I wanted and I was not going to be outbid on it," Draco said full of confidence.

Harry was curious as to which piece it was but didn't ask.  He was rather preoccupied with the horrible gossip that Rita Skeeter had decided to fabricate and publish.

"Did you see the paper today?" Harry asked nervously.

"No, actually, I was quite busy.  I had brunch with my parents and spent the day at the Manor.  I assume there must be a write up about the auction."

Harry handed the Daily Prophet to Draco.  "Page three."

Draco turned to the page and looked it over with a scrutinizing eye.   In the middle of the page was a large picture of the two of them standing close and talking.  It was a loop of about five seconds showing Draco leaning over to say something in Harry's ear and casually touching his arm.

The caption read: Are two of Wizarding Britain's most eligible bachelors taking each other off the market?

"Well at least it's not a bad picture.  I think they caught both of our good sides," Draco said jovially.

"Can you believe she made that up?  Us?  I mean, can you imagine?  Ridiculous!"  Harry nervously played it off as a joke, but when he looked over at Draco, all he saw was anger and disgust.

"You're an arse," Draco stated plainly, and then drew his wand and Disapparated.

"What the—?" Harry asked of the empty room.  He shook his head and then walked over to the large brown wrapped package left behind.  "I guess he'll come back for this when he cools off," Harry thought to himself, but then he noticed a small piece of parchment stuck to the top corner.  It was addressed to him.

Feeling like an absolute git, Harry was almost afraid to read it.  Warily, he flipped up the note.

Harry,
I thought this would help to make your flat feel like home.
Draco

His heart pounding fiercely in his chest, Harry ripped the paper open.  It was Dean's painting of Hogwarts.  As he took in the meaning of the gift, his stomach clenched and his heart ached.

"Fuck," he whispered and collapsed on the floor next to the painting. 

*************************************************************

Harry figured that Draco simply needed some time to cool down.  Only the next day, he didn't show up for their appointment.

That night, Harry sat down and wrote five hundred lines:
The bright wizard, Draco Malfoy, quells anxious oppressive jerks.

It was well past midnight when he finished so he waited until the next morning to owl it to Draco.

There was no reply and Draco did not show up that evening either.  Harry sent an owl with another five hundred lines and signed I'm sorry.  Please talk to me. at the end.

The next evening, when Draco still hadn't shown by five-fifteen, Harry Apparated to Wiltshire.  He knew that Draco lived in a small cottage that he had built on the Malfoy property.  He just didn't know exactly where.  Armed with his Auror tracking skills, he set off to find Draco.  Having to cast every spell multiple times in order to get it right, it took him almost an hour to find Draco's home.

Harry could feel the adrenalin coursing through his veins as he knocked on the front door.  After three sets of vigorous knocks, Draco still hadn't answered.

"Come on, Draco.  Open the door, please?" Harry called out.

He waited a moment.  When nothing happened, he yelled, "I had to Apparate to just outside the Manor and walk here using my wand to point me.  Two miles.  Please, Draco, let me explain.  I didn't mean it."  Again Harry waited.  He could sense that Draco was just on the other side of the door.

"What I said— I don't feel that way at all.  Actually, I feel the opposite.  Draco?  Open the—"

The door swung open to reveal a stiff and cold looking Draco Malfoy.  The man took two steps back and allowed Harry entry and then slammed the door shut behind him. 

Feeling bare and exposed, Harry stood in front of the other man and continued his heartfelt plea.  "I'm sorry.  I didn’t think you were feeling what I was feeling.  I didn't even understand what I was feeling.  I was being stupid."

"You are stupid."  It was said as a statement of fact, not an accusation.

"Can I make it up to you?"

"There's really no point, is there?"

"Of course there's a point."

"The point being?"

"That I like you.  That I'm attracted to you and think that, maybe, you're attracted to me."

"I was."

"Oh."  Harry noted the use of past tense.  "Could you be again?"

"I don't know," Draco said, looking at his fingernails.

"How about dinner?  At the snootiest, stuck up place that won't let you in anymore?  No limit.  Champagne?  Caviar?"

"I don't like caviar."

"Really?"  Somehow that struck Harry as impossible.

"Foie gras and oysters."

"That's the spirit."  Harry smiled.  He knew he had him.

"Send an owl to Pierre's.  Tell them you want a quiet corner booth for eight o'clock.  Tell them it's a special celebration.  Tell them— oh never mind, I'll write it all down." 

Harry followed Draco to his study, where Draco crafted a letter full of dinner instructions, champagne vintage, and special menu items.

"Here."  Draco handed him the letter.  "Now sign that all powerful 'Harry Potter' and send it off."

"Wow, that's a lot," said Harry as he looked over the list.

"You have a lot of stupid to make up for.  Now go.  You can use my Floo.  I'll meet you at your flat at seven forty-five."

Acting on impulse, Harry reached for Draco's hand and pulled it to his lips.  He gave it a gentle kiss and then held on to it as he said, "Until then." 

The stunned look on Draco's face was worth the overtly saccharin romantic gesture.

*************************************************************

Pierre's was an exercise in decadent self-indulgence.  From the moment they entered the front door, Harry made it clear that Draco Malfoy was his date for the evening and no expense would be spared.  Draco appeared somewhat apprehensive as they took their seats and the champagne was immediately uncorked; however, by the time the hors d'oeuvres arrived, Draco was relaxed and obviously thrilled with the shocked and nervous reactions of the maître d', wait staff, and Pierre, himself.  They all seemed to have difficulty believing that Draco Malfoy could be dating Harry Potter.  It was the same mistaken assumption that Harry had made himself and he was determined to correct that.

Harry was acutely aware of how important this evening was to Draco.  He made sure that he was demonstrative at any chance: an occasional brush of their fingers, a press of their knees under the table or a quick kiss to the cheek, not to mention a good thorough eye-fucking, and Harry didn't give a damn who present in Pierre's that night saw it.  He also made certain that Draco knew that as well.

Dessert was a sinful chocolate mousse that they decided to share since they were already bursting at the seams.  Harry fed the rich chocolate to Draco, who mercilessly sucked on the spoon and fixed Harry with a provocative stare.  Harry was half hard in his trousers and needed to adjust himself twice: once before and once after the check.

They took a walk down the street and to a nearby park.  Harry took Draco's right hand in his left and allowed the cool autumn wind on his face to sober him up some.

"Thank you," Draco said with a quick squeeze to Harry's hand.  "Dinner was absolutely lovely."

"So was the company and you're very welcome."

"It was worth it to see the looks on their faces."

"How about the rest of it?" Harry asked.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, was having dinner with me such horrid torture?"

"Depends on your definition of horrid," Draco replied with a sly smile.

Harry stopped walking and turned to face Draco.  He brought his free hand up to cup the side of Draco's face.  "I meant it when I said that I was sorry.  I was being utterly, inanely, and unconscionably foolish." 

Harry leaned forward to kiss Draco, only to be stopped by a finger pressed to his lips.  He pulled back to get a good look at Draco's indecipherable expression.

"Not on the first date."

"You're kidding?"  Harry wanted to scream.

"A little," Draco replied cheekily as he started walking, pulling Harry along with him.

"A walk under the moonlight then."

"Harry, it's not always going to be posh dinners and moonlight strolls."

"I know that."

"Do you?"

Abruptly, Harry came to a halt.  "Yes, and I know you, Draco.  I see you."

"All right."

"All right what?"

"You may kiss me goodnight," Draco said, his eyes bright and daring.

So Harry kissed him, gently at first, but then it became passionate and there was no doubt in Harry's mind that the feeling was mutual.  Regrettably, Draco ended it far too quickly. 

Draco took a step back and pulled his wand from his pocket.  "Goodnight, Harry.  I'll see you tomorrow, two o'clock."

Harry opened his mouth to tell Draco to wait, but it was too late.  Draco had already Disapparated.

*************************************************************

Harry had nearly gone mad waiting for two o'clock.  Draco arrived on time and immediately noticed Dean's painting of Hogwarts hanging over the fireplace.

"It looks great there," said Draco, admiring it.

Slowly, Harry approached Draco until he was a mere few inches in front of him.  "I don't believe I properly thanked you.  It was an incredibly thoughtful gift."

"I like grand gestures.  Besides, you need a decorator," Draco said softly, keeping his eyes locked with Harry's.

"I love it.  Thank you."  Harry leaned forward and covered Draco's mouth with his own.  The kiss quickly progressed with tongues, arms and hands reaching out, and touching anything within reach. 

When they finally broke for air, Harry said, "Last night was torture."

"Last night was about making you realize how much you want me."

"It worked."

"Excellent," Draco replied with a predatory stare.

"I had to take a cold shower, a very long cold shower.  I can't even wank properly."

Draco raised an eyebrow at that.

"Wrong hand," Harry muttered with sad puppy-dog-eyes as he held up his left hand.

A devious smile formed on Draco's lips.  "I see.  You do realize that most men can wank with their opposing hand."

"I can wank," Harry said sheepishly.  "I just can't get off."

"Perhaps you need some instruction.  I am your wand technique consultant, after all."

Harry was about to protest, but realized that it would be counterproductive.  "Yes, you'd better take a look and see what I’m doing wrong."

"I'm here to help."

Harry walked to the bedroom and could sense Draco following behind him.  He closed the curtains and started to undress, when Draco called out, "You're supposed to be using spells for everything."

"Oh, yeah." Harry pulled out his wand and banished his clothing.  He stood bare and met Draco's approving stare.  "What about you?"

"I'm just here to watch.  I need to remain professional about this."

"I'm going to make you regret that decision," Harry said in challenge and then seductively climbed onto his bed.

"It's very white in here," Draco said casually as he took a seat at the foot of the bed.  Harry enjoyed the sight of his old nemesis sitting, watching him and waiting for him.  He pushed back the white cotton duvet and his crisp, clean white sheets.  He was about to reach for his lube in the nightstand, but then remembered the 'all magic' clause of his training program.   He cast a warming charm on the room and then settled himself comfortable on his pillows and spread his legs.  It took three tries, but then he ultimately conjured some lube.  He kept his eyes locked with Draco's as he slid his hand over his semi-erect cock.  First, gently pushing back the foreskin, and then tugging firmly on the upstroke.  He built up a slow and methodical rhythm and never let his gaze falter from Draco.

"You're doing well so far," Draco said, all breathy and quite seductive.

"This is the easy part."  Harry picked up the pace and his breathing became erratic.  He bent his knees and his hips began to cant off the bed.  Harry tried desperately to bring himself off.  He closed his eyes and tossed his head back.  He cried out in frustration.  He couldn't go any faster and it just felt 'off' from how he usually brought himself to orgasm.  At first the idea of Draco watching excited him, but now he was second-guessing that decision.  This was horribly embarrassing.  He took deep breaths.  He wanted to come.  Then he felt Draco creep up next to him on the bed and heard his voice in his ear.

"You're gorgeous like that, so gorgeous.  I want to watch you come."

"I can't."

"Come for me, Harry."

"Fuck, so close," Harry whimpered and then felt Draco's hand lightly stroking the inside of his thighs.

Harry squeezed his eyes tight and stroked as hard and as fast as he could.  He cried out and came hard, releasing over his hand.  He caught his breath and as he turned his head to the side, Draco's lips covered his own.  He moaned into the kiss and then felt the press of Draco's flesh against his own. 

"You decided to take off your clothes after all," Harry mumbled over Draco's lips and chin.

"I couldn't let you have all the fun." 

"Do I get to watch you now?"

"I was hoping that you'd want to do more than watch."

"You might persuade me."

It was that devilish smile that reappeared on Draco's face when Harry conjured some more lube onto Draco's left hand.

"You do know I'm right handed?"

"No unfair advantage."

"Very well," Draco conceded before laying back into the pillows and stroking the length of his cock.

It was a lovely cock, as far as Harry was concerned.  It wasn't too big or too small and jutted out regally from a thin patch of blond curls.  It was just right and he truly enjoyed watching it grow and pink up from Draco's ministrations. 

Harry watched on as Draco got worked up and began to thrust into his fist.  Just when he thought Draco might race to the finish, the other man slid his hand over his balls and in between his arse cheeks. 

Absentmindedly, Harry began to stroke his own cock again as Draco fingered himself.  "Fuck, you're so hot."

"Mmmm," was Draco's response as he gripped himself with his right hand and fucked himself with two fingers. 

A minute or two later, Draco looked over at Harry and asked, "You tired of watching?"

"Yeah, but I don't know if I can…" Harry held up his right hand.

"Not to worry.  Leave it to me."  Pushing Harry onto his back, Draco climbed on top.  The warmth of his body spread over Harry's.  Harry fervently kissed him, stroking Draco's arm with his left hand and resting his right over the small of Draco's back.

Draco kissed a trail down Harry's neck and chest before sitting up and straddling his waist.  Draco simply looked down and smiled.  It was a smile that Harry had never seen before and he most assuredly liked the fact that it was for him.

As Harry stared up at Draco, he was drawn to the faded Dark Mark on his forearm.

"Does this bother you?" Draco asked sincerely, and focused on Harry's eyes as if trying to figure out the answer.

"No, but this does," Harry replied and reached up to trace the thin scars that criss-crossed Draco's chest.

"Good."  Draco leaned over and proceeded to kiss him breathless.  When he was finished with Harry's mouth, he slinked down Harry's body and under the covers, dispensing kisses along the way. 

"Oh, fuck," Harry moaned as Draco sucked his prick back to full hardness.  The man gave great head, but soon after he wanted more.  "Want you, now," Harry gritted out.

Giving one final suck, Draco climbed back atop Harry's body.  He lifted himself up and then carefully took hold of Harry's cock to position it.  In some ways, Harry thought that this moment had come way too fast, but in other ways it had taken forever.  Slowly, carefully, Draco lowered himself over Harry's shaft and let out a soft sigh when he was fully seated.

In amazement, Harry looked up at Draco, who now had the white sheet pulled up over his shoulders.  The soft cotton draped with gentle folds over his elegant naked torso.  A sliver of sunlight stole through the part in the curtains and lit up the stray hairs from Draco’s blond mane.  Although Harry had never given much thought to the nature of God, in that moment he believed that one must exist and sent Draco to him.

Draco gently rocked, finding the right angle, finding the right rhythm and in those minutes, Harry found something beyond the constructs of flesh and blood.

"You’re an angel," Harry whispered.

Draco responded by gracefully lifting himself up to the tip of Harry’s cock and then gliding back down in one long smooth motion.  The sheet fell from Draco’s shoulders and gathered at his waist.

Desperate for completion, Harry reached for Draco’s hips and thrust up into that sublime body with increasing pace and intensity.  Draco gripped his own cock to join in the sprint to the finish as well.

It took every last drop of self-control for Harry to delay his orgasm as he waited for Draco to come first.  The instant that Draco cried out his climax, Harry gave one last brutal thrust and joined him.

"I never knew it could be like this," Harry confessed once they were cleaned and Draco was settled in his arms.

"What?"

"Being with another person.  Being with you.  Feeling so… connected."

"Let’s see if you feel the same after you tell your friends."

"My friends will be happy for me."  Harry kissed the side of Draco's face.

"Somehow I'm quite skeptical."

"You get along with Ginny."

"We shall see."

"You're such a pessimist."

"I'm a realist.  You could take lessons."

"I am."

Draco chuckled.  Harry kissed him again, emphatically.

"Enough pillow talk," Draco murmured.  "I need a nap."

*************************************************************

The next few days were much like the beginning of many a budding romance.  Draco canceled all his other appointments and the two of them hibernated inside— talking, laughing, eating and exploring the contours of each other's bodies.   Draco, of course, still insisted that Harry make time for his rehabilitation routine.  While voicing his protests, Harry did his lines and practiced his spells. 

One thing became clearer every day: that despite his progress, he was going to have to accept that his days as an Auror were over.  His newfound relationship with Draco seemed like a fair consolation if not a fantastic diversion.

After twenty minutes of practicing his Shield Charm and only defending himself against Draco's Stinging Hex half of the time, Harry sought out the comfort of Draco's arms.  They cuddled up on the couch and Harry rested his head against Draco's chest, watching the gentle rise and fall of his steady breathing.

"I can't be an Auror anymore," Harry admitted out loud.

Draco nodded and kissed the top of Harry's head.  "But you are still a powerful wizard, and I'm going to make sure that there will be no doubt of that.  I promise you."

"Thank you.  For everything."

Despite being a focused taskmaster, Draco was also a wonderful lover.  So much so that it surprised Harry.  Harry never would have thought Draco a demonstrative person, but he was.  The man seemed to love tender kisses, soft caresses, and being in close physical contact.  Harry found himself bathed in affection and relished the attention.

Harry was sitting on the couch reading Quidditch Weekly while Draco rested his head on his lap.  There was a sharp crack as Ron appeared in front of them.

His best friend studied them seriously for a moment before shaking his head and letting out a big sigh.  "There are things that I should see coming, and I think that this is one of those things."

Harry put down his magazine and nudged Draco up to a sitting position.  "Hey there, mate."

"Weasley," Draco drawled as a greeting.

Ron took a seat in the wingback chair and continued to stare at them.  "So I suppose you're bringing him to dinner tonight?  That's why I stopped by."

"Oh, I forgot."

"I knew you'd forget.  You have to come now."

Turning to Draco, Harry asked, "I'm supposed to have dinner with Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville tonight.  Would you like to come?"

"Is that a trick question?"  Draco looked annoyed.

"Come on," Harry urged.  "It'll be fine.  Besides, you're the one who wants to know what my friends will think."

"Yeah, you have to come," Ron said mischievously.  "I can't wait to see everyone's faces."

"Well…" Harry said softly, "I'm guessing Ginny sort of already knows, so Neville must too."

"Brilliant."  Ron seemed far too happy about the subject than Harry would have anticipated.  "Even better.  Hermione hates to be the last one to know something."

Draco and Harry both laughed out loud at Ron's one-upmanship on his wife.

Then Ron continued in a more serious tone.  "Just so you know, Malfoy, I never thought I'd be having this conversation with you of all people, but I have three simple rules for the men who date Harry."

Draco looked over to Harry with a questioning look.

Harry put up his hands in mock surrender.  "Not my rules, his, but yes, they've been enforced for several years now.  I wouldn't test him."

"You're kidding, right?" Draco looked back and forth between them.

Harry shrugged and Ron gave a fiendish smile.

"Rule number one," Ron began, "limit the public displays of affection.  I can handle casual touching and even closed mouth kissing, but no deep snogging and absolutely nothing below the belt.  This has nothing to do with being gay.  Ginny and Neville have the same rule."

Draco looked over at Harry, who only shrugged again.

"Rule number two, no talking about what you get up to in private.  Harry doesn't like to hear about Hermione and me.  I don't want to hear about the two of you.  And no clever euphemisms either— broomstick rides, wand-work, sucking on sugar quills— nothing."

"He's serious, isn't he?" Draco asked Harry.

"Wait 'til rule three."

"Rule number three, now this is the most important one, hurt Harry and I will 'AK' your arse and feed you to the giant squid.  No one will ever find the body," Ron said ominously, and stared down Draco with what could only be described as 'I'm a powerful Auror; don't fuck with me' stare.

"You're just taking the piss," Draco said defiantly to Ron.

"Remember that guy, Hobbes, who sold that tell-all to the Prophet?" Ron asked.

"Yeah, he moved to the United States or something like that," replied Draco.

"Did he now?" Ron said with a smug grin.

Draco remained silent.

In the blink of an eye, Ron switched his demeanor to friendly. "I'll see you guys at seven."  He stood to leave and Harry walked him over to the door.

"Thanks, mate," Harry said as he draped his arm around Ron's back.

"I guess this means I can't Apparate directly inside anymore."

"Probably a good idea."

"You sure you know what you're doing?" asked Ron, his voice full of concern.

"No more than usual, but I like him.  I may even love him."

"Malfoy," Ron stated softy and seemed to consider the idea for a moment.  "As long as he understands that I wasn't kidding about the giant squid."

"I think you made your point."

*************************************************************

With two loud cracks, Draco and Harry Apparated into Harry's flat.  Instinctively, Harry checked that he hadn't splinched himself.  He still wasn't that confident with Apparition while holding his wand in his left hand.

"Okay?" asked Draco.

"Yep, I'm all here."

"Good," Draco replied with a confident smile.

Harry approached Draco and gently leaned into the other man's embrace.  "You staying?" he whispered.

"Am I invited?"

"You're very invited."

Draco chuckled.  Harry took his hand and led him to the bedroom.  They slowly undressed each other, taking breaks to kiss or caress newly exposed skin.  Taking their time, it was more like playful affection than foreplay.  Still, they both acted as if they knew where it would lead.  They settled under the covers and Harry rested his head on Draco's chest with Draco's arms wrapped snuggly around him.

"I think they took it well," Harry said.

"Were you worried?"

"I guess not.  I think they knew.  You knew.  They just wanted to spare my feelings.  Let me figure it out for myself."

Harry could feel Draco nodding.

"I suppose I should thank you for making me face the facts."

"I know it's hard for you," Draco said kindly.

"I don’t think I've ever thought about being anything besides an Auror."

Draco pressed a kiss to the top of Harry's head.

Harry continued with his thoughts of the evening.  "They also seemed fine with our— what are we doing?  Dating?"

"That sounds like we're fifteen."

"I hated you when I was fifteen," stated Harry without emotion.

"I hated you too," countered Draco, before pulling Harry up for a long smoldering kiss. 

After the kiss had run its course, they smiled at each other contentedly.

"Weasley was finally right about something," Draco said, interrupting the tender moment.

"What's that?"

"Granger hates to be the last to know."

Harry laughed.  "Yes, Hermione Weasley, hates to be the last to know."

"She did have a good idea though."

"Hermione is full of good ideas.  Which one?"

"The one where you accept McGonagall's offer to serve on the Hogwarts Board and stretch those philanthropist legs of yours with some charitable organizations."

"I'll need some tutoring from someone with experience in the field," Harry teased.

"I might know someone with some consulting time to spare.  He doesn't come cheap though," Draco replied playfully.

"I'm sure we could come to some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement."

Harry waited for Draco's response, but it never came.  Instead, Draco rolled him over onto his back and captured his mouth in another steamy kiss.

Leaning up on his elbow, Draco smiled and said, "I think this arrangement is going to work out just fine."

"Somehow I think I caved in negotiations."  Harry ran his left hand along the line of Draco's shoulder and bicep.

"Don't feel bad; you're dealing with a master." 

Harry looked away as he felt his emotions crowding the levity of the moment.

"What is it?" Draco asked, his voice full of concern.

"I'm scared," Harry replied evenly, and turned his head back to look at Draco.  "I don't think that I know who I am, if I'm not fighting the good fight anymore."

"You're Harry Potter, and no matter what, you will always be fighting the good fight."

"But—"

"No, Harry, there is no 'but'.  Listen to me.  This is something that I've had to deal with, something I know a lot about.  No matter the world and circumstances around you, you are still you.  You are more than the sum total of your experiences."

"Thank you," Harry said simply, and kissed Draco on the nose.  "I really am going to have to keep you on retainer."

"Just try getting rid of me.  I'm a Malfoy after all.  I get what I want, and Merlin help me, I want you."

Somehow Harry felt as if a weight was being lifted off of him; even as Draco rolled on top of him and pressed him into the mattress.  Harry gladly opened his mouth and welcomed Draco's reassuring kiss.


The End




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