Title: Something More
Summary: After a night of drinking, Harry Potter has a love bite the size of Wales on his neck and an unsigned note from the man who gave it to him in his pocket. The only problem? He can't quite remember who he brought home with him the night before. And what's got Draco Malfoy in such a strop?
Rating: R for language and concepts.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? Nope.
Word Count: 9k
Author's Notes: I cannot express how sad I am to see H/D Hols come to an end, but I am thrilled to have been able to participate in the final round. Thanks to sonata_de_morte for her beta work, and to tiffanykuo801 for her wonderful prompts. I tried to include as many of her wishes as I could, and hope that she enjoys this fic. And special thanks to the mods for all the work they've put into organizing this amazing fest. Happy Holidays, one and all!
There was an uncharacteristic spring in Harry's step as he made his way down the Ministry corridor. The ancient witch who pushed the tea trolley through the fourth floor offices passed, and for the first time in his ten years as an Auror, Harry smiled at her. He gave Gawain Robards a casual salute and tipped an invisible hat to the surly intern in reception, who rolled her eyes and buried herself deeper into her copy of Witch Weekly.
He was in such a good mood he felt like whistling. Why not? Harry thought, and began to do just that. Still whistling his jaunty tune, Harry reached the small office he shared with Draco.
It had been rough beginnings for the pair, but after almost ten years as colleagues and six as partners, Harry felt that they'd come to understand one another. And one of the many things he understood about Draco Malfoy was that the man was emphatically not a morning person. On any other day, Harry would have taken this into consideration and tried to temper his brilliant mood, but today he just couldn't help himself. He had a love bite the size of Wales on his neck and a note from the man who'd given it to him in his pocket. Even the threat of a patented level-three Draco Malfoy temper tantrum couldn't put a damper on his mood.
Harry was surprised then, when he entered their office and Draco looked up at him over that morning's edition of The Daily Prophet with a grin.
“You seem quite chipper this morning, Harry,” Draco said, putting the paper aside. “Good night, I take it?”
Harry blushed at the private knowledge of just how good his night had been. “I suppose you could say that. You?”
Draco smiled at Harry over the top of his coffee mug. “I suppose I could say the same.”
The previous evening, the entire Auror Department and half of MLE had gone out for post-work drinks to celebrate the bust of an illegal potions ring that had taken almost two years to bring down. Post-work drinks had turned into dinner-and-drinks, which had quickly become after-dinner-drinks, which then morphed into regular, no-excuse-for-it drinking. By the time the bartender turned up the lights and ushered everyone out, Harry had consumed half the lager in Britain and had done something he hadn't done in almost two years: he had pulled.
Harry wasn't quite sure if it was appropriate talk for the workplace, but he was dying to tell someone. He expected that Draco would congratulate him with sly wink and a slap on the back, the way that mates do. They didn't talk about their love lives often, but that was because neither had much to tell. Besides being partners, they spent most of their free time together. Between ten-hour workdays, after-work trips to the pub, dinner on Fridays with Ron and Hermione, and Sunday brunch with Pansy Parkinson and whatever poor wizard had caught her fancy the night before, neither Harry nor Draco had much time left over for awkward first dates and messy relationships.
“If I tell you something, will you promise not to laugh?” Harry asked.
Draco pretended to think for a moment. “No. But I'll try not to do it in your face.”
“Hah bloody hah,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. He ignored his partner's lame attempt at humor and continued, “ Well, I took someone home last night.”
“Oh, really?” Draco asked, though he looked more amused than surprised. “And does this lucky fellow have a name?”
“That's the thing,” Harry said, pulling the letter from his pocket. “I'm sure he does, but I have no clue what it is.”
Draco's face fell.“Come again?”
Harry read the note once more, just to confirm it was real, and thrust the letter towards his partner.
Draco glanced at the note and looked back at Harry. “You really don't remember who went home with you last night? You've honestly got no clue?”
Harry shook his head. “I was so pissed, I don't even remember going home, let alone how I got there or who came with me. I remember flashes, here and there, but I really don't know who he was. There are images, certain memories...” he trailed off, blushing as a rather explicit memory of a sweat-soaked back rushed to the front of his mind.“I'm pretty sure he was brilliant though. Merlin,” he laughed as plopped into the chair behind his desk, “I haven't picked someone up in ages. I must sound like a total tosser.”
Draco began to shuffle the papers on his desk. “No,” he said sharply. “You sound like an arsehole.”
Harry was surprised by Draco's response. What had happened to the sly grins and back slapping? “Don't act like you've never gone home with someone you met at a pub,” he said. “Remember that bloke when we were undercover in Cardiff?”
“Never said I hadn't,” Draco snipped. “But at least I have the decency to remember the names of the people I fuck. The man in Cardiff was named Wyn, by the way.”
Harry decided to change the subject. Six years of experience had taught him that anytime Draco got too prickly, you could just redirect the conversation so that it was about him. Talking about himself always perked Draco up. “You said you had a good night too?” he asked. “Did you meet someone?”
Draco's response was reticent. “In a manner of speaking...”
Harry cast his mind back and tried to remember if he'd seen anyone talking to Draco the night before, but his memories weren't proving to be very reliable. He recalled that Draco had spent much of the earlier portion of the evening chatting with a rookie who was barely out of Auror Training. He couldn't imagine Draco being interested in someone so young and inexperienced, not to mention the huge taboo against dating within the Department. It must not have been him, but then, who? “Anyone I know?” he asked.
Draco slammed one of his desk drawers. “No.”
Harry made a noise of surprise in his throat. Who knew that Wednesdays at The Leaky Cauldron was such a hotspot for eligible gay wizards? “Planning to see him again?”
“No. He's an arsehole.”
“Yeah, but so are you,” Harry pointed out, trying to lighten the mood with some lighthearted ribbing. When Draco fixed him with an unamused expression, Harry sighed. “Well, if he's an arsehole, why'd you hook up with him?”
“Because I was drunk and stupid, and of course, I am an emotional masochist,” Draco said quickly. “Now if you'll excuse me, Harry, I've just remembered that I have a very important meeting with the Unspeakables' liaison, and I am running terribly late.”
Before Harry had a chance to remind Draco that the meeting had been rescheduled to next week, the office door was rattling on its hinges. Harry cringed. It hadn't quite been a patented level-three Draco Malfoy temper tantrum, but it wasn't a great way to start the day either.
When Draco returned to their office forty-five minutes later, he was cold, but perfectly polite. He passed each file that Harry needed without comment and answered all of Harry's questions without the tiniest hint of sarcasm. Naturally, it made Harry miserable.
Come lunchtime, Ron's friendly, freckled face poking around the door was a welcome sight. “Heard about last night,” he beamed. “You lot nearly tore down the Leaky. Up for lunch?”
Harry agreed, eager for an escape from the unexpected tension of the past three hours. Draco's taciturn attitude hadn't completely killed Harry's good humor, but it was beginning to wear him down.
Unfortunately, Ron – loveable, likeable, friendly Ron – wasn't nearly as adept as Harry at reading Malfoy's nonverbal cues. “What about you, Draco? Coming?”
Draco looked up from his work. He appeared as though he was about to decline when his stomach let out a low grumble, as if to remind him that he couldn't exist on spite alone. “Fine.” He sighed as he shoved the parchment on which he was writing into a drawer.
Draco trailed a few paces behind Harry and Ron as the three of them made their through the Ministry towards the Floo queue. As they walked, Harry told Ron a few choice stories about the previous night's festivities, but decided to leave out his big news until they were somewhere more private.
“Almost makes you wish you hadn't transferred to Magical Games and Sports, eh?”
“Almost,” Ron laughed. “But then I think about the parties we have during the World Cup, and I'm suddenly not so bothered.”
Draco groaned when they stepped out of the Floo and into the Leaky Cauldron. “Again?” he asked with a huff.
Ron shot him a puzzled look and made his way to their usual booth. “We always come here for lunch.”
Before they'd even settled in their seats, Hannah Abbot was at their table with three pints of butterbeer and a cheeky grin. “Back already, boys?”
After taking their orders, Hannah disappeared into the kitchen, and Harry began to look around the familiar barroom, hoping that something might jog his memory about the night before. He remembered playing darts with Auror Wilkins and chatting by the bar with Auror Ripley about their respective plans for the holidays. He remembered the chugging contest between himself and Seamus Finnegan, who – while not an Auror – always seemed to always show up wherever people were gathered to drink. He remembered nipping out for a fag with the miserable intern and taking a slash in the alley next to the pub.
That was about the time his memories started to become fuzzy. He remember coming back inside and sitting at the bar with Draco, chatting amicably as their friends and colleagues began to settle their tabs and leave. He remembered Draco's slurred voice and the wild gesticulations he used as he spoke. But what he couldn't remember was how on earth had he gone from talking with Draco to having sex with a total stranger. How much time had he lost?
Ron's voice brought him back to the present. “Oi, mate. What's that on your neck?”
Harry felt his face heat. “Nothing,” he lied, pulling up the collar of his robes.
Ron raised an expectant eyebrow. When Harry didn't reply, he turned to Draco. “What do you know about this?”
Draco, who had been in the middle of sipping his butterbeer, choked on his drink. “Nothing,” he said hastily, looking away.
“Nothing? You're supposed to be Harry's partner, to watch his back and all. You're telling me you that let someone suck on his neck like a bloody vampire last night and didn't even bother to check the guy out? What if it had been some crazed fan or a neo-Death Eater?”
“I left before Harry did,” Draco said, affecting an air of casual disinterest that Harry could tell was quite transparent. “How was I supposed to know that he was going to go cruising? I'm not his keeper.”
It was Harry's turn to choke on his drink. “I did not go cruising.”
“You went in search of anonymous sex with a person whose name and face you can't even recall. That is the very definition of cruising, Potter.”
“I didn't go in search of anything,” Harry insisted. “Christ, Draco.”
Draco crossed his arms and looked away.
Ron watched the exchange with a confused smile. He caught Harry's eyes and mouthed, “What's his problem?”
Not caring if he upset Draco more – because honestly, Draco was being impossible today – Harry answered loud enough for him to hear. “Probably just jealous that the bloke he ended up with last night was a total arse, and mine was amazing.”
“Amazing?” Draco laughed, a high, hysterical sound of disbelief. “How would you even know? You can't remember anything about him.”
“That's not true,” Harry argued. “I remember...things.” And Harry did remember things: the curve of his lover's arse, the width of his pale back, the spread of blonde, sweat-soaked hair against his pillow, the incredible rush of affection and post-orgasmic peace he felt before sleep overtook him. That was about it, though.
“Just not his name,” Draco pointed out.
“Merlin's balls, will you give it a rest?” Harry snapped, slamming his pint against the table. Although the details were a bit hazy, he was pretty sure he'd had a wonderful evening and didn't understand why Draco insisted on ruining the memory for him. Weren't mates supposed to be happy for each other when things like this happened? “You act like having sex is a crime.”
Harry was taken aback by the sharp, focused anger in Draco's eyes. “The only crime I see is that hideous mark on your neck,” Draco hissed. He whipped out his wand, and with an Auror's speed and precision, healed the bruise before Harry could object. “Tell your future lovers to try not to maul you, Potter. It's tacky and offensive to those of us with taste.”
Normally, he agreed with Draco and thought that visible love bites were a bit trashy. But it'd been so long since he'd had one, he hadn't been able to bring himself to magic it away that morning. The small bruise and the note on the pillow next to his were the only evidence he had that the night before had actually happened. Harry rubbed his healed neck and scowled. “You're a real arsehole, Malfoy. You know that?”
Draco turned back to his drink. “So are you.”
Hannah brought their lunch out. Harry ate in a confused, angry silence as Ron rambled on about The Chudley Cannon's newest keeper, making more than enough conversation for the three of them.
When they were back at the Ministry, Harry checked to make sure Draco's attentions were otherwise occupied. His ornery partner was bent low over his desk, scribbling furiously on old case files that were due to be archived. Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out the note, spreading it across his desk in an attempt to smooth out the folds of the parchment. He knew the man's identity was hidden somewhere within.
His paramour had tidy, neat penmanship. The air of familiarity in the phrasing puzzled Harry. The lack of signature didn't seem to be an attempt to mask his identity; the author took for granted that he was already known. But the “see you soon” was the most troubling bit, indeed. Had they made plans to meet again? Or was this perfect stranger not a stranger after all? Perhaps a passing acquaintance, one of those people you know by sight, but not name...
Harry tried to cast a discreet tracing charm on the letter, hoping in vain that there would be some magical residue or signature stuck to the fibers of the parchment. It was a desperate, fruitless effort, he knew, but he needed to do something to narrow down his search.
“Do not tell me you're trying a tracking charm on that letter,” came Malfoy's voice from across the office, dripping with disdain.
Harry shrugged and slipped the note back into his pocket, lest Draco decide to Incendio it. “I want to find him, but I don't know how.”
“Why bother?” Draco asked with a heavy sigh. “Maybe it's better this way. It can't have meant that much to you, if you don't even remember.”
“No,” Harry said without hesitation. He didn't do one-offs, he was certain of that. When he'd first come out, he'd had a string of brief, unfulfilling affairs that often ended in the same loo in which they'd started. But he'd grown bored with that lifestyle, and it'd been two years since he'd been with anyone. He couldn't imagine he'd take someone home, to his own bed, if he hadn't felt a genuine connection with them. He'd resisted the temptation of drunken, meaningless shags for this long, he knew this man just had to be special.
“I really think you should just drop it, Harry,” Draco said quietly. “You may not like what you find out.”
“Is there something you're not telling me?” Harry asked, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. “Do you know who it is?”
“No, no, of course not. I just know how you tend to build things up and...” Draco trailed off. He turned his attention back to his desk and began to arrange his papers once more. “I just don't want to see you disappointed.”
Harry watched him for a few moments, then shook his head. Draco was wrong. The only chance for disappointment Harry had was if he never saw the man again. He pulled the parchment out with a renewed determination. He would
It was a brisk, winter night. Snow was in the forecast for the following week, and a secret, childish part of Harry desperately wished for a White Christmas. Diagon Alley was bustling as he made his way through the crowded streets, dodging running children who were home on break from Hogwarts. The shops were done up for the season, festooned with twinkling fairy lights and boughs of holly. He stopped to admire the brooms in the window of Quality Quidditch, thinking he might want to spoil Teddy rotten this year. He was thinking fondly of his time playing Quidditch at Hogwarts when he spotted, through the glass window of the cafe next door, someone whom his school-day memories of were slightly less than fond.
Startled by the sharp knock on the window, Pansy Parkinson spilled her tea. She looked up from her stained papers and scowled at Harry through the glass.
The air inside the cafe was warm and filled with welcoming, winter spices. Harry made his way to Pansy's table and plopped into the seat across from her, setting his bags of shopping on the floor. “Your best friend is being a real git today, just so you know,” he said as he stole a biscuit from her plate.
Pansy slapped his hand away and returned her attention to drying her yellowing papers. “Trouble in paradise already?” she asked with blithe unconcern.
“Already?” Harry snorted. “Draco has been more trouble to me than he's worth for going on twenty years now.”
“Ah, yes,” Pansy said, her voice taking on the deeper, slower tones of a woman much wiser and older than she. “There's nearly twenty years of unresolved sexual tension between the two of you, isn't there? We can't expect it to all be resolved in one evening, now can we?”
Harry didn't know what she was on about, but then again, he rarely did. Pansy always had weird theories about people. It came with her job, he supposed. He took another bite of the biscuit he'd stolen and shrugged. “Yeah, well, he's been a bloody nightmare all day.”
Pansy set her wand aside and raised a single eyebrow. “Potter, don't think that you can finagle free therapy sessions out of me just because you're shagging Draco all of a sudden. If you want to talk about your inability to build a lasting relationship, you can make an appointment and pay like all the rest. The only reason Draco gets free sessions is because he's fascinatingly damaged, and I'm thinking about writing a book on him.” She shook her head and added with a laugh, “How so much self-loathing can co-exist with that sort of ego, I'll never know.”
Harry, who usually tuned Pansy out when she started in on the mind-healer psychobabble, hadn't heard half of what she'd just said, but not because he wasn't paying attention for once. He was stuck on her first sentence. “Um, sorry,” he said, “but what did you just say?”
“I said, you can make an appointment with my assistant if you'd like. Although that's probably a conflict of interest and highly unethical, but...” she took a moment to ponder this ethical quandary, before shrugging dismissively and declaring, “whatever.”
“No, before that,” Harry leaned in and dropped his voice to a whisper. “You said that I'm – I'm shagging Draco?”
Pansy gave him a confused look that said she very much thought he was in desperate need of a mind-healer. “Yes. You,” she pointed at Harry, “are shagging,” she illustrated by making a circle with the fingers of one hand and penetrating it with the index finger of the other, “Draco Malfoy,” she sat back in her seat and schooled her features into a very convincing impression of Draco's long faced scowl.
Harry's stomach dropped like a lead weight as the realization hit.
Pansy snorted and took a sip of her tea. “I was leaving for work when he dragged himself back to our flat this morning. Impressive work, by the way. I had to spell away at least three love bites from his neck, though he kept the ones in the more intimate locations,” she added with a wink. “About time, too. If I had had to sit through one more Sunday with Draco making cow eyes at you over his eggs, I would have had to swear off brunch forever.”
Harry couldn't move, couldn't think, couldn't listen to whatever inanity she was nattering on about. His mind replayed the fragmented images he had of the previous night, filling in the blanks. He had shagged Draco, he realized with a start. Draco, his partner and friend, was his mystery lover. Suddenly, Draco's irritated reactions to Harry all day made much more sense.
“Oh my god,” he repeated, the hard reality of his monumental cock-up hitting him full in the face. “Oh my fucking god.”
“Harry, what the hell's wrong with you? Why do you keep – ” Pansy stopped. Her eyes narrowed. “Please don't tell me what I think you're going to tell me.” When Harry winced, she picked up the stack of papers she'd been reading and hit him with them. “You complete fucking idiot!” she yelled. “I know you two were pissed off your arses, but Merlin's bloody ball sac!”
Harry dodged her next blow and cradled his head in his hands, feeling utterly daft. Beside the overwhelming feeling of nausea and guilt, Harry felt terribly, terribly cruel. “He's going to hate me,” he said.
“Going to?” Pansy asked with a bitter laugh. “Understatement of the century, Potter. Quite honestly, I'm surprised you're still walking around with all your bits in place.” She began to collect her things, shoving her papers into her smart leather briefcase without care. “I'd better go and check on him, make sure he hasn't destroyed the flat. He does love to smash things when he's in a temper.”
Harry called as she stood to leave. “Wait, Pansy! Don't tell him I know, all right? Not yet. Just, give me time to fix this?”
“Fix this?” she asked, a bitter humor in her voice. She shifted on her feet, her eyes narrowing to shrewd, accusing daggers. “You know what, Potter, I've changed my mind. Draco's sessions are no longer free; I'm charging you for them.”
She turned and stormed through the door, muttering something about “emotionally immature men” under her breath as she went.
The rest of the week was the worst of Harry's life. Draco was at the office first every morning and greeted Harry courteously when he arrived. They settled into an uncomfortable silence as the morning wore on. In department meetings, Draco was cool and professional, giving no hint to the others that a deep, unspeakable chasm had formed between them. But Harry could feel that it had, and he had no clue how to bridge the gap.
He missed Draco. Overcoming their differences had been difficult at first. It had been tiresome, but it had been worth it. Now, he felt as close to Draco as he ever had with Ron or Hermione, maybe closer even, considering how deep their history took them. He'd seen Draco at his worst, and at his best. He knew his every flaw, but also every charm. He had seen him naked, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually. He had seen Draco stripped down, reduced to nothing by the war, and then he had watched Draco as he rose and rebuilt, defying those who doubted him and becoming one of the most talented Aurors in the department.
He missed their friendly banter, the challenge that a simple conversation with Draco always posed. He missed their post-work trips to the pub and the cups of tea that Draco fixed for him throughout the day. He missed the fond smiles and the casual touches, the air of familiarity and friendship that had slowly grown between them in the past decade. Draco sat only a few feet away, yet it felt like there were miles between them. It wasn't until he could feel Draco slipping away that Harry realized just how integral Draco had become to his life.
Harry remembered the first day they were partnered together. He'd been suspicious of Malfoy and asked, rather accusingly, why he'd wanted to join the Aurors to begin with. Malfoy had just laughed, a cheeky, Cheshire grin spreading across his face. “Because everyone loves irony, Potter. Even former Death Eaters.”
Harry cursed himself; he should never be allowed near alcohol again. Why else would he have taken one of his best mates to bed? It wasn't that Harry was repulsed by the idea; in fact, he was acutely aware of his physical attraction to Draco. There had been moments over the years when Harry had caught himself looking at his partner with an interest that was more than friendly. In those moments, he often wondered what it would be like to know Draco in another, less complicated context. But whenever those silly, fluttering thoughts had invaded his mind, he'd promptly shut them down. There was no way he was willing to risk their friendship and his career on an unrequited crush.
With each passing day, Harry could feel Draco pulling away from him further. If Robards noticed and they were assigned new partners, any chance to regain Draco's trust and friendship would be lost forever. The idea that they would pass through the same halls and sit in the same meetings, yet be nothing more to each other than co-workers, hurt Harry just to think about. He didn't want to imagine his life without Draco Malfoy as a central figure. He couldn't believe he'd thrown all that over for a quick shag that he couldn't even remember. He was never drinking again.
Sighing, Harry cast a Tempus Charm. Fifteen minutes until the end of the day and the beginning of the holidays. He looked over at Draco, who was bent over his workspace, a line of concentration furrowing his brow as he absently sucked on the tip of his quill. A terribly forbidden and wonderfully erotic image flashed in Harry's mind. But he quickly pushed the thought away and chided himself. Even if they had slept together, he couldn't allow himself to start thinking about Draco that way. It would ruin what was already so fragile.
Harry cradled his head in his hands. Those last fifteen minutes stretched out like an eternity.
Harry felt, more than saw, Pansy sidle up to him. He could make out the dark shine of her black hair just out of his peripheral vision, but couldn't tear his gaze away from the nauseating sight across the ballroom. Draco was posed artfully, leaning against the wall with his hips canted forward, while Blaise Zabini towered over him, one hand against the wall behind Draco and the other playing with the buttons of Draco's robes.
“Look what you've done,” Pansy sighed. “He only goes to Blaise when he's feeling particularly rotten. Well done, Potter.”
At that, Harry looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“Blaise is terrible for him, and he knows it,” Pansy explained, “but Draco's a self-destructive masochist and keeps going back, no matter what I tell him.” She shook her head and took a sip of her champagne. “He goes to Blaise when he hates himself most, because he knows Blaise will treat him like shit. He thinks he deserves it, or maybe he thinks he doesn't deserve any better. I don't know. Either way, it's always painful to watch.”
Draco had dated Zabini on-and-off for almost as long as Harry had worked with him, but he had sworn off the handsome dark-skinned man after their last break up. Draco had shown up at Zabini's flat unannounced and caught his wayward boyfriend in bed with a beater from Puddlemere United. Draco had been so livid, his magic had gone wild and caught the bed on fire. Harry remembered that night clearly, Draco Flooing into his flat at half past one in the morning and raving for nearly twenty minutes straight before Harry could decipher through his incoherent rants what had happened.
There was something about seeing Zabini now – in his elegant dress robes, with his condescending smile – that enraged Harry. Zabini had had his chance with Draco. Hell, he'd had more than his fair share of chances, and had fucked them all up. He had no right to be looking at Draco like that anymore. Harry wanted to storm over there and rip him away from the wall, to hear the satisfying crunch of his fist against the smooth, dark planes of the adulterous bastard's face. He didn't care if he made a scene. Let them throw him out; he hadn't wanted to come the Ministry's Christmas Eve Ball anyway. All he cared about was protecting Draco, keeping him safe, making sure he was happy. He didn't want that twat Zabini anywhere near him.
“What do you mean 'treat him like shit'?” Harry asked, his fingers clenching automatically. “He doesn't hurt him, does he?”
“Oh, gods no!” Pansy laughed. “Nothing like that. Blaise isn't a monster, he's just... how do I explain it?” she asked herself quietly. “He cares for Draco, I believe that, but he's not the sort to commit. And trust me, Harry, if you knew his mother, you'd understand. And even if Draco knows that Blaise will never be faithful, he always fools himself into thinking that this time it might be different. But it never is, and it never will be. Same story, different day, another broken heart.”
“Do you think he...” Harry trailed off. “Is he in love with Zabini then?” he asked, as casually as he could.
He could see Pansy's head turn slightly and knew she was looking at him from the corner of her eye. “Would that bother you?”
“No,” Harry lied through clenched teeth. The truth was that it would; it would bother him very much.
“A shame,” Pansy said. A house elf carrying a tray of champagne flutes passed, and she exchanged her empty glass for a fresh one. She handed a drink to Harry. “He's not, to answer your question. He's just lonely and Zabini is an easy distraction.”
“A distraction? From what?”
“From the person he really wants, but thinks he can never have.”
“And who is that?” Harry asked around the growing lump in his throat, although he wasn't sure he really wanted to know the answer. The idea of Draco being in love with someone else hurt him, even if he knew it wasn't fair. They'd had one drunken encounter that he couldn't even remember properly. They'd made no commitments, exchanged no vows. Yet, he couldn't deny the pit he felt in his stomach at the thought of Draco giving his heart to another.
“You really are thick aren't you?” Pansy asked with a bemused laugh, then shook her head and said, “You should be asking Draco that, not me.”
“Yeah, well, he's not really talking to me right now.”
Pansy's tone was light, the kind that Harry imagined she used with her patients. “And why is that, do you think?”
Harry gave her a flat look. “Because we slept together, and I don't remember it.”
“And how do you think he feels about that?”
Sometimes he hated talking to Parkinson; she was always going on about feelings. In lieu of answering, Harry just frowned.
“Oh, Merlin, Potter,” she sighed, her impatience beginning to show. “You don't have clue, do you?”
She rolled her eyes. “Let me try to put this into words someone of your intelligence can understand. Imagine all you've ever wanted was this specific broom. Let's assume its a Firebolt. You've had other brooms before and they've been all right, but you've had your heart set on this Firebolt for a long time. It's Christmas morning and lo and behold, at the foot of your bed is your coveted broom. You go out for a fly and its the best, most fulfilling experience you've ever had on a broom. It's everything you'd ever dreamed and so much more.
“But once you land someone tells you that you can't keep it. You've had your go, and now it's over. But you've still got to see that broom every day and watch as other people take that broom out for a fly. And the worst thing? The broom doesn't even care that you're arse over tits for it, it can't even be bothered to remember that you flew together.” She stopped and wrinkled her nose. “Well, it's not a perfect analogy, but I'm sure you follow.”
“Wait,” Harry said as he processed Pansy's incoherent ramble. “In this analogy... am I supposed to be a broom?”
Pansy threw her head back and made a frustrated noise. “Yes, Potter, you are a fucking broom. I was trying to be discreet as possible while still being perfectly obvious, but if you need it spelled out for you: Draco's practically in love with you, you great idiot. He's had a bloody obvious and annoying crush on you for going on three years and thought that something was finally going to happen between the two of you. But then you made it perfectly clear that all he's worth to you is a down and dirty shag. So now he's heartbroken, Potter. Absolutely crushed. And of course, he hates himself because he keeps falling into bed with men like you and Blaise. All pretty, empty words and nothing behind them.”
Harry could do nothing but stare at Pansy helplessly. “Wait, he, what? No, no, you're – you can't be serious. And besides, I'm nothing anything like Zabini!” He took a breath to calm himself and dropped his voice. “And he's not – Draco's worth more to me than a down and dirty shag.”
“Is he really?” Pansy asked, raising an eyebrow. “Have you ever told him that? Because he's noticed that you've stopped searching for the identity of the man you went home with. He knows you know it was him. But you haven't said anything about it to him, have you? No. In fact, you've shut him out. He says you haven't looked him in the eye all week. He thinks you're ashamed and disgusted with yourself for sleeping with him, and that, in turn, makes him feel ashamed and disgusting. Hence, here he is, throwing himself at Blaise for some quick validation.”
Harry cast a desperate look back at Draco and Zabini, who were leaning close and whispering. Draco's cheeks were pink and Zabini's hand was resting on his belt. “I haven't said anything because I don't know what to say! I feel like I've fucked it all up, and I don't know how to fix it.” He ran his hands through his hair, pulling on the ends. “It's not like that. It's not how you say it is. I like Draco; I care for him.” Pansy looked unimpressed and Harry felt like crying with frustration. Instead, he sighed with defeat. “I don't want to lose him,” he added quietly.
“Harry Potter, you are a coward.”
Harry looked up in surprise; no one had ever called him a coward. “What do I do?”
“Go and talk to him, you enormous prat. Be honest, tell him the truth. It's not advanced Arithmancy. I swear to Morgana, you men.”
Harry drank his champagne in one long gulp and handed her the empty glass. He could do this. He just had to go over there and tell Draco how he felt. He wasn't exactly sure what it was he felt, but he knew that he was feeling it rather strongly. “Right. I'm off then.”
He didn't move, just stood in place and stared. A small Stinging Hex hit his legs. He jumped and turned to glare at Pansy, who smirked and shooed him away with her hands. “Go on, Harry. And I better not see either of you for the rest of the evening. Have a Happy Christmas.” She winked.
Harry couldn't see Draco, hidden from view behind the broad expanse of Zabini's back. He cleared his throat. “Um, excuse me, Draco, can I have a word?”
Zabini pulled back to reveal Draco, who wore an unreadable expression. “It's Christmas Eve and I'm off the clock. Ministry business can wait until after the holidays,” he said tersely. “Now if you don't mind, I'm a bit busy.”
“It's not about work,” Harry blurted. “It's, uh... it's something personal.”
“I have zero interest in your personal life. If you need a wingman to help you cruise, go find your Weasel.”
“I'm not – ” Harry made a frustrated noise in the back of his throat. “I don't cruise. Please, Draco. Just five minutes.”
Zabini turned and scrutinized Harry with sharp, inquisitive eyes. “Perhaps you should go with him, Draco, hear what he has to say.” Draco moved to argue, but Zabini held a hand up to stop him. “I'll be right here when you come back.”
Draco looked as though he were going to object, but then pushed himself from the wall. “Fine,” he spat. “You can have five minutes.”
The air outside was bitter cold, but Harry didn't bother to cast a Warming Charm as he followed Draco out of the Minister's estate and down to the gardens. When they were a good distance from the house, Draco stopped abruptly and turned. “What did you want to tell me?” he asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
“I, uh,” Harry stammered. He knew he had to talk to Draco, but found himself at a loss for words. “I know it was you. Last week, at the Leaky. I figured it out.”
Draco's face was set in a stone mask that revealed nothing, but his gaze was fixed pointedly at a spot beyond Harry's shoulder. “I –” he began, but cut himself off. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I'm sorry.”
Harry stared. “What are you sorry for?”
“I told you to drop it, Harry. I told you that you would be disappointed.”
“Draco, no!” Harry said quickly, rushing towards him. Oh god, how could he think that? “You've got the wrong impression. It's not – I'm not –”
Before Harry could finish his sentence, Draco interrupted. “I've already put in a request for a new partner. It will take a few days for the paperwork to be processed because of the holidays, but you should be rid of me come New Year's.”
“No!” That was exactly what he hadn't wanted to happen. “Draco, don't do this. Please.”
“I've got to go back inside,” Draco said woodenly, his eyes still fixed on a point in the distance. “Have a happy Christmas, Harry.”
Draco tried to sidestep him, but Harry couldn't let him go like that. He grabbed Draco's arm. He could feel Draco tense at the contact, but he felt desperate to stop Draco from walking out of his life back to Zabini. “Please, don't do this,” he pleaded. He didn't care that he was begging, he'd get down on his knees if he had to. “I don't want to lose you, Draco.”
It was dark in the garden, with only cool moonlight to help him see. Draco's face was cast in shadow, but his mask was gone.
“You could have had me,” Draco said, so softly that Harry almost didn't hear him. “I would have given you everything, Harry.” He snatched his arm out of Harry's grip and turned.
Too dumbstruck to respond, Harry let him go. He stood in the barren garden and watched Draco make his way back to the party just as the first flakes of winter's inaugural snow began to fall. He laughed bitterly. At least he'd gotten his wish for a White Christmas.
Pansy found him an hour later, sitting on a stone bench not far from where Draco had departed. Harry still hadn't bothered with the Warming Charm, and there was now snow stuck to his robes and hair. She settled next to him and squeezed his knee.
“I've been summoned,” she said finally, holding up a small envelope with the ripped wax of the Malfoy family seal. “It's just arrived by owl. I take it your little talk didn't go so well?”
Harry's laugh was mirthless. “You could say that.”
“Did you tell him how you feel?”
“He didn't give me the chance, said he already put in the request for a new partner.”
“Oh, Draco.” Pansy sighed and shook her head. “That boy's pride will be the death of him.”
Harry didn't respond, just ground the sole of his boot into the freshly fallen snow.
“Go home, Harry,” she said kindly, patting him on the shoulder. “Get some rest. I have to go home and console the drama queen, but at least one of us should get some sleep tonight.”
Although he was bone tired, Harry wasn't sure he'd be getting much sleep either way. “What will you say to him?”
Pansy looked out into the garden. “What I always tell him: that he's being an idiot. I'll tell him that due to your complete lack of proper socialization during childhood, you're rubbish at expressing your feelings, but you're obviously mad for him. And then I'll remind him that because of his father's callous habit of withholding love during his childhood, he's terrible at recognizing the affection of others. I'll tell him that if he doesn't come to you and apologize for being a stubborn, uncommunicative prat within the fortnight, I'll hex his prick off.” She pursed her lips, and Harry saw a hint of a tight smile. “Or something along those lines.”
“Do you think he'll listen?”
Pansy shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. I can give him advice until I'm blue in the face, but it's down to him in the end.”
Draco was stubborn and proud. Harry feared he'd already wounded Draco too deeply to ever be forgiven. He followed Pansy's gaze and looked out over the bleak winter garden. It didn't appear any more hopeful than he felt.
The grey light of morning spread through Harry's room, diffused by the thin curtains on his window. There was a quiet, but insistent knocking at his front door. “Hang on,” he yelled as he threw back the covers and felt blindly on his nightstand for his glasses.
The clock on the micro told him it was only half eight. He wasn't due at The Burrow until noon. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and hurried to the door, curious to see who would be calling so early on Christmas morning.
Draco stood, looking awkward in the hallway outside of Harry's flat. He'd been there countless times before, but had never looked so out of place. There was a deep, unhappy scowl on his face and his pale eyes was fixed on the floor.
“Draco? I – what are you doing here?” Harry asked.
“I needed to talk to you.” Draco shifted uncomfortably and kept his gaze averted. “May I come in?”
Harry stood back and let Draco enter. He shut the door behind him as quietly as he could, worried that any loud noise or sudden movement might scare his soon-to-be ex-partner away. “Can I get you some tea?” he offered, not quite sure what else to do or say.
“Thank you, but no. I can't stay long. Mother's expecting me at the Manor. I just came to apologize.” He continued to avoid Harry's gaze and traced his fingers along the carved woodwork of the mantle over the fireplace. He paused when he reached a framed photograph in the middle.
Harry knew which photograph Draco was studying. It had been taken two years earlier, when he and Draco had gone on holiday to Greece with Ron and Hermione. Harry was stood between Ron and Draco, one arm around each of their shoulders. They were all smiling, squinting against the bright glare of the sun. The breeze from the sea whipped their hair above their heads and Harry knew that in that photograph, his photo-self turned to smooth back Draco's downy blond strands, tucking a stray piece behind his ear. He didn't need to watch the photo to remember the smile that Draco had given him then, brighter even than the Grecian sun.
Harry cleared his throat and Draco jumped slightly. “That was a good holiday,” he said.
Draco blinked in surprise, as if he'd forgotten anyone else was in the room with him. “Yes,” he agreed, turning to face Harry slowly. “Look, I shouldn't have put in that request without talking to you first, or at least telling you about it. It wasn't fair and after six years as partners, I owed you that much.”
“Can't you cancel it?” Harry asked. “I really don't want another partner.”
Draco looked up and smiled sadly. “I can, but I'm not going to. I don't think I can work with you anymore.”
“Draco, please,” Harry pleaded. “Please, tell me what I can do to make it up to you. We can't throw everything away because of this.”
Draco's small laugh was humorless. “You talk as though we have something together to throw away, but we don't. Not really. We're colleagues and friends, yes, but...” he trailed off, his eyes wandering back to the photograph. “I thought we could be something more; I wanted us to be something more. And like a fool, I believed you when you said you wanted that too.” He looked at Harry for the first time since he'd entered the flat, his sad eyes searching. “But you didn't mean it, did you, Harry? You were drunk and talking shit, and I was so unbelievably stupid to have thought that you meant it.”
Harry's heart threatened to pound through his chest. He felt the urge to rush to Draco, but his feet stayed firmly planted on the floor as he waited for Draco to continue.
“It should be quite apparent by now that I have been harboring certain feelings for you,” Draco said, struggling to keep his shaky voice even. He picked nervously at an invisible piece of lint on his robes. “They were easy to ignore before, but I don't think I can do it any longer. Not after admitting them out loud and hearing them parroted back to me as though they were your secret longings as well.” Harry could see that Draco was struggling to hold himself together. “But it hurts too much, Harry. It hurts to even look at you right now.”
Draco attempted a small, watery laugh, but his voice cracked and his tight smile broke. He turned away quickly, but not before Harry saw the bright glistening in his eyes that betrayed tears. Harry thought that Draco was going to push him away when he went to him, but Draco's fingers dug into his shoulders as he wrapped his arms around him.
“Please, don't cry,” Harry whispered into Draco's hair. “I didn't mean to hurt you. I'd never want to hurt you.”
“I know,” Draco said, his face pressed against Harry's shoulder and voice muffled. “I know that, Harry. But it happened anyway.” And then Harry was crying too. A fat tear slipped down his face.
Harry had never allowed his feelings for Draco to grow beyond what was strictly appropriate. He'd never allowed himself to indulge in the idle fantasy of what-could-be that sometimes popped into his mind unsolicited. But that didn't mean the seeds weren't planted, that those thoughts weren't there, lingering just beneath the surface, just waiting to be coaxed out of darkness and into the sun. “Look at me, Draco. Please,” he begged, “look at me.”
Harry took Draco's face in his hands, tilting his chin and making him look. “Just because I don't remember what I said, doesn't mean they were lies. Just because I don't remember everything that happened, doesn't mean I regret it. I regret that it happened like that, that I was so pissed I can't remember, and I regret that I hurt you. But I don't regret that it was you. I am not disappointed it was you.”
Draco made a choked, sobbing sound and tried to pull away, but Harry held him tight. He rested his forehead against Draco's. He needed him to listen, to know the truth behind his words. “I know this has changed everything,” he whispered, “but it doesn't have to be the end for us.”
“I can't go back,” Draco said, shaking his head and making their noses bump. “I can't go back to just being your friend.”
“Then don't,” Harry said softly, his lips brushing Draco's as he spoke. “Be something more than that, then.”
“Harry, don't,” Draco protested weakly. He made a feeble attempt to pull away, but Harry strengthened his grip around Draco's waist.
He could feel the warmth of Draco's shallow breath against his lips, and god, his blood was boiling and his gut was yelling, screaming at him to close the distance, but he held back and waited. “Pansy thinks I'm mad for you,” he said instead.
Draco gave a tiny snort. “Pansy says a lot of things.”
“She's usually right about this kind of stuff, though, isn't she?”
Draco pulled his head back and looked at Harry. His eyes were alive, riddled with confusion and wariness, but edged with a sliver of hope. He nodded slowly. “Yes, usually.”
Harry leaned in and pressed his lips against Draco's in a soft whisper of a kiss. He could barely feel Draco's lips against his own, yet he felt as though his senses were in overdrive. His heart pounded in his throat and his lungs ached for fresh air, but it seemed as though he'd forgotten how to breath. Time drew out, each passing second felt like infinity as he held still, fighting between his desire to claim Draco in a brutal kiss and his fear that one wrong move would destroy this delicate moment.
But then the most miraculous thing happened. Draco returned the kiss. Time came unfrozen as Draco's lips slid slowly over his. Harry opened his mouth to the timid intrusion of Draco's tongue and felt the world bottom out beneath him. He held onto Draco desperately as he drank down his kiss like the sweetest ambrosia. Draco clung to him like he was a lifeline.
Harry knew in that moment that he couldn't let this go either. He'd only just found it; he hadn't even known he was looking for it either, but now that it was there, now that he knew Draco could be his like this, he couldn't go back to just friends either.
When they pulled apart a few moments later they were both breathless, and they rested their foreheads together. Draco relaxed his death grip on Harry's shoulders, but didn't move away. Harry could feel a smile stretching wide across his face.
“Mother is expecting me,” Draco said quietly. “She gets very cross when I'm tardy.”
Harry sighed. He didn't want Draco to leave already, not when everything was still so unsure. That kiss, intoxicating as it may have been, was merely a question, a prelude to a larger conversation. But it was Christmas Day, and they both had obligations to attend. He didn't know how he'd manage an afternoon with the Weasley's with the heat of Draco's lips on his mind, but he didn't have a choice. “Will you come back?” he asked in a whisper.
Draco released his hold on Harry's shoulders and dropped his arms, lacing their fingers together. “If you'll have me.”
The lingering guilt and anxiety that had plagued Harry for the past week melted and was replaced by the light, bubbly sensation of giddiness. He pressed forward and caught Draco's lips with his own again, swallowing Draco's happy sigh and reaching up to cup his cheek. “I want this,” Harry said firmly, so there could be no doubt. “I want you.”
“You can have me,” Draco whispered as he stole another kiss. “You can have all of me, Harry.”
When Draco left, Harry leaned back against the door to his apartment for support. He smiled to himself, content for the moment with the knowledge that he and Draco had something, something real, something more.