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05 December 2008 @ 07:05 pm
HAPPY H/D HOLIDAYS, SOFTLY_SWEETLY!  
Author: rurounihime
Recipient: softly_sweetly
Title: Yuletide Treasure
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, mention of D/OMCs
Summary: Harry finds he has a lot to lose this Christmas.
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): none
Epilogue compliant? This fic is EWE. Just some good old fashioned H/D.
Word Count: 10500
Author's Notes: softly_sweetly, I hope you enjoy this flashback to the type of fic that popped up before book 7 came out… I was in the mood for some Auror fic. :)


Yuletide Treasure


It was dark. Harry’s eyes had adjusted to the lack of lighting spells, and he could see in the faint natural light that Draco was shaking. Harry began to unbutton his topcoat, aiming for one of the dry sweaters underneath. “Here, take those off and put this on.”

Draco’s eyes glimmered as he watched Harry shed his jacket and yank the jumper over his head. The cold bit into Harry’s torso even through the other sweater he wore, and he shivered as he handed the jumper to his partner and struggled back into his coat before the heat wisped away.

Then it was his turn to watch as Draco removed his lengthy wool overcoat and set about pulling his arms free of the two drenched layers underneath. The fabric had sucked tight to Draco’s skin; Harry could hear the uncontrolled chattering of Draco’s teeth as he tugged the soaked garments off his arms and over his head. His shirt rode up, caught in the wet clothing, briefly baring the intensely pale skin of Draco’s chest and sides. Harry saw the silver sheen of scar tissue crossing upwards from Draco’s hip and disappearing on its way toward his opposite shoulder. He winced and looked down at the floor between his shoes.

Draco gave a muffled grunt and finally freed himself of his top layers. He flung them aside, hustled his arms into Harry’s dry jumper, and pulled his coat back on over it, then sat with his arms clutched around his middle, rubbing his sides with both hands.

It was Christmas Eve.

“Been a lousy night,” Harry said.

“Yeah.” The sullen tone of Draco’s voice spoke of layers and layers of understatement.

It was a good hour after their scheduled time of departure. The dampening shield had risen early by Harry’s watch, and without their magic, they’d had no choice but to walk their way out through the woods surrounding the massive Derringsby estate. Harry wasn’t sure exactly how he had missed stepping into the concealed hole under the snow, seeing as he was right in front of Draco, but Draco definitely had not missed it. His fall hadn’t hurt him, but the snow’s quick soak through his outer layers had been alarming. Not to mention the fact that Harry’s knees were aching horribly and most likely bleeding from the constant running into fallen branches and tree trunks in the thick darkness. Draco’s annoyed hiss of “This is bloody useless!” had sealed the deal. And now they sat, in one of the outlying decrepit sheds on an estate that was supposed to be abandoned, waiting for the sky to clear enough for the moon to light their path out from under the dampening shield.

And it was Christmas Eve. Harry rubbed his knees and winced again.

“Can’t heal you, you know,” Draco grumbled. He lifted his head. Harry could see that his shivering had lessened, and now Draco was wearing a sour frown. “Can’t do anything. Can’t even dry my bloody clothes.”

Harry sighed. “Draco, how was I to know that they’d raise the shield early? It wasn’t supposed to go up until half seven, when they all leave for the night!”

“You might have thought of the holiday!” Draco snapped. His cheeks darkened; Harry imagined they would have been deeply pink if the light were right. “Even criminals have families to go home to!”

“Look, the moon will come out, and then we’ll just walk out of here, all right?” Harry hunched his shoulders, feeling frustrated under that fiery stare. “An hour more, tops.”

“Or a sudden storm, with our luck,” Draco grumbled.

Harry fought not to respond in kind. It wouldn’t fix anything, and it would just make them even more likely to strangle each other. Half a year ago, they would have revelled in the time together, trapped as they were. There would have been joking instead of snappish commentary. Funny how much a friendship could lose in a few months.

Harry nearly took out his wand, but then realised that fiddling with it was his only immediate future, and pushed it into his pocket again. The night outside was quiet, though there was definitely wind higher up; the light shimmered swiftly from bright to dark as the cloud layer passed overhead. The shed was nearly silent. Harry felt as though he were underwater, what with the way the light rippled and the quiet pressed on his ears. Good enough, anyway; he didn’t have anything to say.

Abruptly, Draco let out an irritated sound and slumped over, his elbows on his knees and his head hanging.

“What’s the matter now?” Harry asked.

“Nothing’s the matter. Nothing I can do anything about, anyway.”

“Obviously something’s wrong,” Harry snapped. “Why don’t you rant a little and get it out of your system so we can both have some peace?”

“Excuse me for having somewhere to be tonight,” Draco returned in an exasperated tone. He didn’t look at Harry. There was a downward tilt to his mouth, and his eyes had taken on a hard glaze, fixed on the splintered wall of the shack.

Harry blinked. “Thought you weren’t going to the Manor this Christmas.”

Draco did finally shoot him a glare that was several layers deep in aggravation. “I had a date, Potter! I’m missing my date.”

Harry’s mouth went a little dry. He opened and closed it without saying anything. Draco was still looking at him, watching him gape. Finally, Harry turned away, frowning. He fixed his eyes on the same wall Draco had been looking at. “Fine.”

The silence that took over was not really silent at all. Harry felt wired, like he might have to leap up and start pacing if something else didn’t present itself soon. Draco was fidgeting, his hands moving unceasingly, a steady turn, turn, turn of fingers around fingers. It hiked up Harry’s irritation very unexpectedly.

“Would you stop?”

Draco’s hands halted. Harry could feel his partner staring at him. Draco’s breathing was soft and shallow, and Harry gritted his teeth against another wave of impatience.

But instead of responding, Draco sighed and stood up. He took a few steps across the small room and then came back. Harry met his eyes for long enough to witness Draco’s gaze cutting smoothly away, as if he’d been surveying the room and Harry had merely been in his line of sight. Harry felt his cheeks heat. He looked back down again.

“Could really use a Firewhisky right now,” he muttered, more to himself than to Draco.

Draco sniffed. “I’d be having a Firewhisky right now.”

Oh, yes. On that date. Harry frowned. Off to a pub then, or maybe to his companion’s flat with his personal store of liquor. A sharp sense of satisfaction lit fire in Harry’s chest— Draco was here, not there— before fading away and letting the pervading chill rush in again. Harry clenched his hands around either arm and rubbed briskly up and down, trying to work some heat back into the tingling mass of muscle and skin. He watched Draco walk, from their ramshackle bench to the far wall and along it to the corner, then back his direction. Draco’s booted feet made soft thunks as they touched down on the wooden floor. Steady steps, circling the room. The finely embroidered hem of Draco’s long coat brushed across the dark leather near his ankles, and the material of the boots shifted as he moved, curving and smoothing with each step. Harry tried to picture the pub Draco was missing, but all he could see was a deep yellow glow along uneven walls, the dark timbers of a too-low ceiling, and a well-worn but still gleaming bar top marked here and there with rings of cool liquid. The bartender was young even though his hair was graying, and he’d learned the fine art of placing drinks in front of patrons without being noticed. He kept his establishment neat and filled with loud laughter, soaked in a pleasant cidery smell. Lit by merry firelight.

It was the last pub Harry had been to with Draco, a facet of retrospective clarity that turned vague and foggy as often as it shone.

They’d gone immediately after work, in good spirits from a stellar day not stuck behind their desks. Draco had a ringing laugh, the sort that made strangers turn and smile in spite of the fact that they had no idea what the joke was. Harry felt as if he might have already had a few, the way he was walking, his adrenaline and general happiness making him unsteady on his feet. He was exhausted. The last high before the crash, he’d said, and Draco had nodded like he’d crashed before.

Draco could have gone home to Steven Shores, his boyfriend of a month or two. Steven had a flat of his own somewhere in Ealing, but they might as well have both resided in Draco’s flat on the Islington side of Bloomsbury. Steven’s not coming, Draco said in response to Harry’s question, he’s working late.

Surprisingly enough, not much alcohol was consumed in the pub. Just enough to force the use of the public Floo instead of Apparition. Harry had been over to Draco’s often enough to know about his expert collection of dry wines and savory ales. It was a marvelous evening, devoid of the vague awkwardness that Harry had been catching glimpses of between them for about a week.

By the end of the evening, both of them were respectably tipsy. Harry remembered falling into a snooze on the couch beside Draco, who was still waxing on in a muddled voice about the benefits of cherries in rhubarb pie. And, as often occurred with respectably tipsy people, they managed to lean into each other, legs and arms flung about and heads tilted onto shoulders by the time they woke up. Unfortunately, they woke with pounding heads to find Steven looking down at them both with a shocked expression.

The oncoming argument had coiled itself tightly between Steven and Draco during the time it took for Harry to figure out his shoes and decide that Flooing home would be the safer choice than Apparating. Steven started in before he’d fully vanished into the flames. But Harry hadn’t thought it anything major: their position had not been terribly compromising, and they were obviously clothed. An exasperated explanation from Draco about friendly nights at the pub should have put it all into the proper perspective.

Only Harry wasn’t sure what happened after that. All he knew was that Draco was suddenly single again, tight-lipped and gloomy-faced, and certainly not willing to talk about it. When Harry asked, Draco only looked him in the eye, shrugged, and said that it had been coming for a while anyway.

And then, when it should have got better, it just got more awkward. Harry was still having a hell of a time figuring out just where it had all turned around and gone pear-shaped.

It could have been the immense workload that ensued, or the possibility that Draco didn’t take break-ups as well as he claimed to. But Draco’s vocabulary narrowed to a spectacular ten words whenever he spoke to Harry, and his presence after hours— indeed, after the instant the clock in their office clicked to “off work”— diminished to a low goodnight and a set of quick steps out the door before Harry could even begin to gather his things. Draco was no huge talker, but mumbling was definitely not his style either. Nor was ignoring Harry. Even when they’d hated each other, ignoring one another had never been an issue.

It wasn’t until it occurred to Harry that he could remember very clearly how warm Draco’s side had been, pressed up against his, that he himself began to fumble his words. Draco was a handsome man; Harry had told him so many times when they were drunk, mostly in agreement to Draco’s conceited claims of unrivalled gorgeousness. Draco was a very talkative drunk, all the more so because he was otherwise so reserved. The unfortunate fact, though, was that Draco rarely talked sense when he was drunk. Or he talked too much sense. Harry was usually just as drunk, and therefore a little unclear about it all later.

But there was nothing unclear about his memory of Draco’s body heat. A strange thing to strike so deeply. Usually smell was the most telling memory-sense, and he could faintly remember Draco’s aftershave, and the tang of sourness where Draco’s third pint had dripped a little onto his collar. But the heat was vivid; Harry became distinctly aware of a void against his side where Draco had leaned; that next morning, and for days after, Harry could feel that he was gone.

It was, and had always been, particularly hard not talking to a friend. Harry suppressed a sigh and made himself focus on something other than his own hands. His shoes, perhaps. He remembered his rows with Ron when they were younger, and how the days had felt especially endless and ugly to him as a result. And maybe he’d forgotten just how painful and depressive it had been, but the recent weeks had been desperately stressful: barely speaking to his partner when they shared a single office, and unable to find any way of bridging the gap by getting together outside of work… Everything he suggested went down as if sucked into a swamp. He knew Draco considered the offers, but he didn’t really answer either way anymore, and Harry was beginning to doubt that they’d ever been all that close. He felt like he barely knew the man anymore; Draco wasn’t allowing him to.

Harry did know that he was feeling some level of relief with respect to not having to deal with Steven’s presence any longer. But it was a small comfort in the face of everything else that had followed.

We used to just talk, Harry wanted to say. Maybe he could just say it. Maybe that was the key to opening that side of the relationship again. Then again, Harry had no idea just how volatile Draco’s present mood was.

What he needed was sturdy ground, something they could both be happy about. Harry searched his mind for several seconds, and then found it. “Supposed to get some clear weather tomorrow. Christmas Day.”

Draco mumbled something in response, but it wasn’t quite hostile. Harry continued. “It’s nice to be able to think of Christmas as a good thing.”

Draco glanced at him, but didn’t answer immediately. Harry felt his cheeks heat a bit. Draco knew about his Muggle relatives, knew almost all of it, in fact. There were things Harry had said in the dark and damp of stakeouts, waiting for their target to act, things he’d told Draco that he hadn’t voiced aloud even to Ron and Hermione. They weren’t particularly secretive or embarrassing, just… things he’d never felt like speaking aloud to friendly company. Ron was a talker, Hermione a doer, but Draco most definitely had a listening talent that wasn’t nearly as present in the others. It was almost easier to talk to him.

Harry wanted that back.

Draco looked at him for a few seconds longer and then cleared his throat softly. “I’ve always loved Christmas.”

Harry smiled and met his partner’s eyes. “What do you think you’ll get under your tree?”

Draco blinked. His brows knit. “Hadn’t thought about it.”

The answer was less than deep, but Harry practiced a little bit of patience. “I’m hoping for a set of mock Quidditch robes for that new Seeker from Ballycastle. Don’t know if I’ll get it. But it’s what I want most. What do you really want?”

Draco made a sound somewhere between a snort and a grunt. “I asked for a set of emerald encrusted silverware and matching wine flutes.”

Harry chuckled. “Oh, come on. That’s not what you really wanted! Silverware and wine glasses?”

Something changed visibly in Draco’s entire body, a tightening of every muscle, a rigidity to his very skin. “I shouldn’t have to tell you what I really want,” Draco hissed, naked bitterness seething in his voice.

“What?” Harry snapped back, angry all over again at the razors in the other man’s words. He stood up, glaring down at Draco. “I’ll just read your mind then, shall I? Obviously it’s something that’s made you hate me, so it must be my fault!”

“Oh, that’s it,” Draco scoffed, “that’s absolutely it. Congratulations to the heroic martyr.”

“You know what?” Harry shot back. “I’ve had it with you, tonight and every other night. What the hell is your problem? I’ve only tried to be pleasant, in spite of you—”

“In spite of me?” Draco’s face had gone red, and he spit the words out, jabbing a finger at his own chest. “Me, Potter? This is none of my doing!”

“You’ve been a right bastard all month!” Harry exploded. Draco jerked back, looking much like a serpent about to strike. But Harry was ready for it, shielded by a frustration so pungent that he felt anything Draco said would skitter right off of it. “You barely look me in the eye anymore, and every time I try to fix whatever I did, you look at me like I’ve suddenly turned into a Jobberknoll!”

“That’s because every time I try to act friendly, you act like I’ve caught some sort of contagious fever!” Draco cried.

Harry felt himself redden. He hardly felt the biting cold anymore. But Draco wasn’t done. He jumped up from the bench and threw his hands up. “I don’t understand you anymore, Potter! Half the time, it’s like you can’t wait to get away from me. Do I really offend you that much?”

“Come off it, Draco! You’re the one who’s been avoiding me! I would like nothing better than to be around you, but you act like I’ve said something… untoward, or whatever that word is you’re always using!”

Draco stalked up to him and leaned over, pushing into his space. “You have, as far as I’m concerned. Make up your bloody mind!”

“You make up yours!” Harry said stubbornly. “Be my friend, or don’t, but do one or the other because you are driving me absolutely insane.”

“How can I be your friend?” Draco shouted. He sat down, still too close, still in Harry’s face. “One day you bloody well want friendship, the next day you’re confusing the hell out of me with your flirting, and the next, you’re so far away I can barely see you!”

“Flirting?” Harry’s stomach gave a swift, decisive churn. He clenched his jaw, feeling the roll in his gut. “You think I was flirting with you?”

“I don’t know! I have no idea what you’re doing at all anymore! Do you even know what you’re doing?”

“I know I’m not trying to ruin our friendship like you seem to be!”

“There’s not a whole lot left to ruin, is there?” Draco’s anger was tangible now. “Salazar! First I think you’re bumbling around trying to change things, but then you backtrack like nobody’s business. You’ve completely left me out of the loop!”

“If I even knew what loop you were talking about—”

“It’s obvious that I don’t even know what loop I’m talking about!” Draco cut in. “Do you want things to change? Oh, no, maybe you just want them to end. Just commit either way, Harry!”

Harry’s stomach began to ache. He flushed hotly. “I do not want things to end, what on earth are you on about? When have I ever said I didn’t want to be friends anymore?”

“Bloody— Potter, you say it every time you avoid me!”

“I’m not the one avoiding you!” Harry cried. “Draco, I’m not trying to avoid you! I—I invite you to the pub, I offer to buy lunch… You’re the one who’s avoiding me!”

Draco’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t you dare act like you’re the innocent here!”

Harry’s face was very hot. “I never said I was! I don’t know what you want from me, Draco!”

“I just want an explanation!” Draco shouted. “An apology for treating me like someone you barely know, for being so damned fickle about absolutely everything you do! I want you to say you’re sorry!”

“Then I am sorry!” The words were out in a yell he wasn’t sure he was really responsible for. “I’m sorry I’m so confused about how I feel about you!”

Draco froze. His grey eyes dilated so much that they were nearly as black as the night sky. As Harry watched, numb over what he’d just heard himself say, Draco’s lips parted very slowly, an unconscious slackening of his jaw. He looked like a statue there on the rotting bench, given away only by the gooseflesh climbing rapidly up his throat.

He swallowed; Harry heard the sound of it like a hammer’s blow in his own shocked ears. Merlin, was he just going to say everything on his mind tonight? Surely he hadn’t just said—

“You do want me.” It was a statement, hushed into a near murmur. Draco blinked furiously. His mouth opened again, but he didn’t speak, and eventually pursed his lips together.

A nod would seal it, a word. Harry hung between the two options, half shattered to find that they were his only choices, half excited. Gods, he’d held that in for months. But this wasn’t how he’d wanted to reveal it, not some blurted desire for Draco’s body before he himself had even figured out just how deep that desire went! Or if it even truly existed— but it did, on some level, or he wouldn’t be getting so worked up about who Draco dated, he was sure of that.

In the end, a bob of his chin was all it took, just a jerk of reaction. But Harry knew he was agreeing, and he could see in the colour of Draco’s face that his interpretation was the same.

“You could have just said so,” Draco finally croaked. It was absolutely anticlimactic and Harry spit out a “what?” before he could process. Draco stared at him, looking so damned naïve, so shaken, that Harry couldn’t keep still.

“What?” he said again. “What the— Just walk up and tell you I’m attracted to you?”

A frown began to form on Draco’s face. He drew back as if pulling away from the abrasion in Harry’s tone. “Yes,” he said.

“You are out of your mind!” Harry cried, cringing inwardly as Draco visibly winced. “How on earth was I supposed to do that? To my friend, my co-worker? You act like it’s nothing but a bloody Summoning spell!”

“Harry,” Draco grated out between his teeth, “you knew. You bloody well knew who I really liked.”

Harry began to shake his head, back and forth while the words jumbled up. “I did not know. You never said anything, did you?”

Draco’s jaw tightened even more. “You are the most oblivious person I’ve ever met, Potter. If you’d given it half the attention that you give to your job, it would have smacked you in the face!”

“Oh, so dating all those men was your way of showing me how you felt? Excellent plan, Draco, I think I got it.”

“Harry.” It was a sigh of utter loss. “You… My god, I tried. I did. And every time, you just went the other way.”

“Well, you pushed too hard, then.”

“There’s nothing to push, Harry.” Draco’s voice was unsettlingly bland. “If you like men…” He let the sentence drift; as the silence poured in, he raised his eyes to meet Harry’s, and Harry’s throat promptly closed.

“I’ve only ever had girlfriends, Draco!” he cried. He forced his fingers through his hair roughly enough to hurt his scalp. “Merlin. It’s not such an easy transition, all right?”

Draco gave a snort. “Either you know you are, or you know you aren’t. It’s that simple.”

“That’s not how it is.” Harry shook his head. Maybe for Draco it was, maybe Draco had always been certain of himself either way. Harry knew for a fact that Draco had dated girls a few times. And then he’d switched to men, and as far as Harry was aware, he’d never gone back. Draco’s approach was all or nothing nowadays, Harry thought bitterly. But it had been that way when they were younger, too, just about different things.

Harry was not like Draco. His own “all or nothing” was full of indecisive staggering this way and that, little uncertainties that often weren’t enough to stop him, but sometimes… sometimes they piled up. Sometimes they immobilised him. Founders, if he’d allowed them to do that during the war—

“That’s not how it is for me, Draco,” Harry finished stubbornly. Draco’s expression was disbelieving. But there was also a measure of resentment there, too. It could almost have been contempt, only Harry knew Draco did not find him contemptible anymore.

Did he?

Whatever the case, Draco was not done with his side of the argument. Before Harry could react, the other man was facing him on the bench, very close to Harry, and speaking in a torrent, his forefinger stabbing between them.

“Look, Harry,” Draco snapped, “I am sure. I’ve been sure for ages. I was pretty sure about you for a long while, and then you started pulling your punches, and I’ve got no fucking clue what it is that you want anymore. You act like there might be something, but as soon as I approach, you back up! You’ve confused the hell out of me, and I’m through with it. I’m not waiting around to see what happens. I want to live, Harry. Live and love, find the person who makes me happy. You don’t. All right? You don’t do that anymore.”

With that, Draco slumped away from Harry and went very still, as if he’d not spoken at all. Harry could still hear the ringing of the words. He wasn’t sure if he was more angry or astonished, or irritated.

It wasn’t— Merlin, he couldn’t explain it. It was a great big clutter of thoughts and emotions, turning in a continuous circle. Certainty wasn’t the issue, not really. The issue was that the things he was certain about kept changing. It wasn’t enough to be absolutely certain that he wanted to see Draco naked one night, if the next day he was just as certain that he’d not been thinking clearly. Then another day or two would pass and he’d find himself thinking of Draco when he was in the shower or lying in bed with his hand between his legs, and he was so curious he could explode, but… that wasn’t a good enough reason to do it, to propose it. Hell, if he put it that way to Draco, strictly curiosity, Draco might even agree to it. Or Harry had thought he might.

He was beginning to think he’d been a total fool now, though, on the verge of making a very serious mistake.

One thing he was sure about was that he sincerely enjoyed the idea of making Draco happy. The statement that he was now doing the opposite was crushing.

“What would make you happy, Draco?” he asked softly. Draco glanced at him, and then a weird smile lit his face. He shook his head.

“Oh, no, Harry. You are not backing us into that corner.”

Harry wanted to ask what corner Draco was talking about. But he had a feeling Draco might understand at least part of his problem better than he’d thought. Draco was not one to appreciate pity, or anything that ultimately resembled that emotion. And being used to alleviate a curiosity was right up there with pity. So that left one question: Was he using Draco, or was there more to this confused bundle of feelings?

Harry wished he already had all the answers sorted out in his head. All those times spent ignoring it, revelling in the brief excitement of feeling such things for someone he knew so well, and then pushing it off of him before it could really begin to nag…

“I don’t know what I want,” he muttered at last. Draco looked slowly round at him, Harry could feel it. But he wasn’t going to be able to speak if he was facing Draco, so he kept his eyes ahead and took a deep breath. “I know I feel differently about you than the rest of my friends. I don’t know what all that involves yet. But I’d—”

He coughed; his throat had gone a little dry. Draco’s fingers tapped against the bench.

“What?” Draco pressed, relentless.

Wasn’t he going too far already? Harry sighed. The change he’d been trying to avoid was already there, warping their relationship. “All I’m saying is I wouldn’t be averse to giving it a… try.”

What in all hells was he doing? He felt like he’d cut every stable cord free except one, and now he was swinging in the wind. Draco straightened just a bit.

“What?” he said again. Harry’s irritation flared.

“I don’t want to make you unhappy,” he said sharply. “I don’t— Come on, Draco, are you trying to make this hard?”

“I don’t know.”

Harry hadn’t expected a response at all. “You—”

“You’ve certainly made it hard on me,” Draco murmured.

He wasn’t looking for a fight. Harry knew what Draco sounded like when he was itching to argue, to dominate a discussion until it spiralled into insults and injured feelings. This sounded more along the lines of tired and confused, and just sick of it all. For the first time, Harry wondered if Draco was sick of himself, too.

“I didn’t mean to,” Harry answered. He looked at his partner. “I didn’t.”

Draco nodded, and after a moment, his gaze fell away.

“I don’t think I can promise you anything,” Harry went on, needing Draco to look at him again. “I just… I’m confused. But I’ll try.”

“You’ll try anything once,” Draco said.

“And I think that’s a strength,” Harry answered firmly. Draco’s eyes locked on his again, and this time they held. They stared at each other for a long time, and it was the bright white glow against Draco’s cheeks that finally drew Harry’s attention away from the other man’s face.

He got up. Draco was still watching him, and now his mouth turned down curiously. Harry crossed the small floor space, tugging his coat tightly around him, and shoved the flimsy door open against the snow. The moon’s unhampered light turned the clearing and surrounding trees starry white, day-bright and glittering. Specks of crystal-gleam shone individually as Harry looked around at the undisturbed snow and then up at the sky. The colour was icy black, stuck through with shining stars; the nearest cloud was a good distance away.

“Sky’s clear,” he said, and turned, only to find that Draco was already behind him, looking over his shoulder at the shimmering field beyond the door. Harry’s breath caught, they were so close. Draco stared up at him for a moment and then looked away. His shoulders lifted and dropped.

“Lead us out,” he said.

Harry was slow to react. He buttoned his coat tightly up to his neck, straightened his gloves, and stepped out onto the snow with a resounding crunch. He heard Draco crunch out behind him as he put distance between himself and the shed, and looked back once before moving out, in the direction away from the estate proper.

The walk was slow and careful, but steady. Harry’s boots bit deeply into each drift, but the snow was powdery, easy to push now that he could see. Draco came along behind him through the drifts, and when Harry glanced back, it was to find his partner with both hands deep in the pockets of his wool coat, gazing down at the white track he was navigating. His wet clothing was slung over one shoulder. He didn’t make any verbal sound. They just trudged on, and the snow shuffed up in piles around their shins.

Harry felt it when they cleared the barrier, as if a cloying, overpowering scent had been cleaned away. He shook himself. Draco’s eyes gleamed across the few yards between them, silently watching. Then one hand withdrew from a pocket, pulling his wand with it. Draco dried himself and his sweaters off with a murmured spell, and then cast a general warming charm. Harry did the same. Not for the first time, he felt the distinct shiver of Draco’s magic as opposed to his own. He wasn’t sure when he’d first noticed the difference. Perhaps he was imagining it, but he didn’t think so.

“Are you all right?” Harry asked.

Draco’s eyes crept up to meet his. His expression twisted and he shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re thinking,” he answered softly.

No immediate response occurred to Harry. He stood there listening to himself breathe, watching Draco’s shoulders twitch uncomfortably under his coat.

“It’s Christmas Eve,” Harry finally said. “I…” He looked up and found the moon bright, the sky ghostly with cloud remnants, and the starlight crisp and cold. When he looked at Draco again, he knew he was witnessing the tension before some wild movement. Physical or mental, one direction or the other… When the tension did snap, the motion would be final.

“I don’t have anyone visiting,” Harry said. “If you want… If you don’t want to spend Christmas alone…”

Draco looked at him. High cheekbones and forehead were ridged in moonlight, the rest of his face smooth with shadows. Harry heard his own incredible presumption in that instant, but he couldn’t erase what he’d said. Draco was silent for so long that Harry’s throat began to ache.

“All right.”

Draco didn’t say anything more than that, and Harry stared at him mutely for several seconds too long, until Draco’s eyes flicked quickly away and the twitch of his shoulders became an outright shrug of dismissal. Harry jolted into movement instead, reaching out, not touching his partner’s arm, but gaining his attention anyway.

“We can side-along. You won’t have to deal with the wards that way.”

Draco nodded slowly. He fell into step beside Harry as they found their way into the shadow of a group of closely growing trees, just in case there happened to be anyone else out there, walking in the snow. Once in the darkness, they stopped, and the chill bit into Harry’s body all over again. Draco’s thin shoulders hunched up under his coat, and he turned his body toward Harry, but his head didn’t quite follow. The lingering awkwardness felt very invasive, and Harry wouldn’t have raised his arm if Draco had not lifted his. Just a small extension, a loosening of that tight frame enough for Harry to slip his arm around the small of Draco’s back and pull them together. Layers of clothing made the contact strange. Harry raised his wand, pictured his flat, and Apparated quickly.

The still warmth of his flat was almost stifling, it was so sudden. Harry blinked into the dim sitting room where they’d appeared. His little Christmas tree glowed gently in the corner, white and gold lighting the walls. He felt Draco’s arm tense very slightly against his hip, and he stepped back, releasing the other man. He worried about what sort of response that might receive from his partner, but Draco still wasn’t exactly looking at him.

Draco backed away a couple of steps, returning his hands to his pockets, and looked around. Harry cleared his throat.

“Here we are,” he said unnecessarily. But Draco nodded and finally looked at him.

“Yeah.”

Harry cursed himself for being nervous. Draco had been in his flat loads of times. He knew where just about everything was, knew where to find the stash of Honeydukes fudge Harry kept for when he came over, even knew how to smack Harry’s microwave into submission when it made that irritating rumbling sound. But now it was different; now Draco was seeing the place with new eyes. Hell, Harry was seeing the place with new eyes, because he’d just brought a man back to his flat, a man that he had intentions of being intimate with at some point, the same man he’d indulged in mild fantasies about in the bedroom that sat directly over their heads. And here, a single stretch of his hand away, the idea of touching Draco, of kissing him on the mouth, punched Harry low in the gut yet again and left him short of breath. In an instant, the idea seemed like a terrible one from across the bright and sober expanse of his thoughts. He almost physically recoiled, so strong was the reaction. Kissing Draco like that, kissing his friend, his colleague… dear gods, it didn’t feel right, and surely it would ruin it, ruin them.

Hold it, his mind whispered, wait and it will pass. Harry bit his lip and drew a deep breath. As it had many times before, the dread seeped away, leaving warmth and jangled nerves behind. Harry blinked and turned to find Draco watching him out of the corner of one eye.

“You all right?” Draco asked doubtfully.

This time Harry spoke immediately: his thoughts tumbled from him in a low stream of words. “I want to keep our friendship and I’m not sure if we will.”

Draco’s gaze tracked around like he was seeking something. “Harry, do you want me that way?”

Funny how he’d never been sure about that before, but now he was, in a gripping sense that made him feel like he was falling sideways. He did want Draco. But there was more to it than bodies. He didn’t want to confuse this.

“Yeah,” he said quietly.

Draco swallowed. Harry saw it, a shift of shadow over his throat. Draco’s gaze skittered a little wildly. “Because I’m not sure if you do. Like I said, I don’t… Can’t read you.”

Can’t read you anymore was the implication, and Harry knew it. He’d never felt the barrier between them so strongly until now, but it had been there for weeks, a few months, all told. The man he used to read so easily had been closed off, and Harry knew that it had been just as much his doing as Draco’s, probably more.

“Still sorting things out,” Harry answered after a lengthy pause.

“It makes you nervous.” There was a tick in Draco’s voice, something falling slowly into place, falling over something else on its way to shutting it out completely.

Harry’s blood heated. “Of course it does!” he cried, and Draco blinked in surprise. “How could it not? For Merlin’s sake, Draco—”

“I’m your friend,” Draco interrupted hurriedly. “First, foremost. After. I… Harry?”

“This is why friends don’t get together,” Harry snapped, and Draco’s eyes narrowed.

“And this is why friends can’t just let each other be!” He swept a hand out, and Harry wasn’t sure what he was gesturing at, but the point was made anyway. “I have someone, Harry! I— You couldn’t just let me have him, though, and now we’re stuck in this fucking limbo!”

“He is not your boyfriend!” Harry hissed. He saw the heat rise in Draco’s face but didn’t let him speak. He strode right up to Draco and jabbed a finger at him. “He is not your boyfriend, Draco. He’s a date, a couple of dates and that’s all!”

“Well, how exactly do you think people get boyfriends, Harry?” Draco snapped back. “Through dates. First one, then another, then a few more, and then it finally starts clicking together or it doesn’t! But that’s how it works, that’s how it’s going to work for me, and if you can’t let that happen, then maybe it’s better if we aren’t friends first and foremost!”

“Not him,” Harry growled. Draco glowered at him, his face a red flush. “You are not giving this— you aren’t giving us up over him!”

“You don’t get a say in it anymore, Potter!” Draco shouted. He flung his hands up. “You know what, you never had a say, do you know that? I gave you a say, and that was my choice, but you do not get to dictate my life! I have tried with you, Harry! I have. And every time, it’s a battle that wears me out and leaves me sick, and—”

“What about all those times you pulled back, Draco?” Harry seethed. “Look at me, you are giving just as many mixed signals as I am!”

“What, you push and I stumble, is that it?” The ring in his tone shocked the argument out of Harry’s mind. Draco went on, his eyes dark and fixed. “You push, I lose my balance, and by the time I get back up and reach out, you’ve backed so far away that I can’t even tell where you are. You bloody well make up your mind, because I’m about to do it for both of us!”

“It’s not that simple, Draco! Merlin, you act like it’s this easy switch, but I don’t even know if it would be the right or the wrong thing to do. Half the time I feel one way, and the rest of the time I feel the other, but there’s no middle ground! I don’t want it to be wrong, to feel wrong, and then to have risked it all on something that shouldn’t exist anyway!”

“Well, why don’t you bloody well find out if it feels wrong?” Draco’s hands had clenched into white fists that shook, just as his entire body was shaking. He glowered at Harry, lips tightening, parting to allow the quick breaths that were assaulting his frame. “Just figure it out!”

And if we can’t connect afterward? Are you really that willing to throw it all into one cauldron like that? He wanted to say it, wanted to yell it into Draco’s face, because Draco was talking about acting like none of the tension existed, not the sexual tension, but the tension of a breaking friendship, the discomfort that was slowly becoming their reality. What in the world was Draco planning to do if it all fell apart?

What was he, Harry, planning to do?

He wanted to kiss Draco. Right there, right then. Wanted to act like they really did have nothing to lose, and not like he might be using his friend, taking advantage of an obvious attraction. But here was Draco, pulling away and heading readily into the arms of another man, and Harry did not want that. Gods, he’d never felt so impotent as when he knew Draco was out with another man. Whatever they were really doing, his imagination made it so much bigger, so much worse, until it might not have mattered what Draco said after.

For just an instant, the desire to kiss Draco, to lay claim to him, was more powerful than everything else. Harry shut his eyes and ground his teeth together. Waited for it to fade. It did, but the queer feeling it left was hollow and jittery, and at the end of its rope.

He opened his eyes and looked at Draco. “Okay.”

Draco swallowed again. “Okay?” His shoulders were tense, his hands now hanging limply at his sides. He stared at Harry, and Harry’s stomach churned once more. “Harry,” Draco said, and then stopped.

Harry stepped closer, his shoes almost on top of Draco’s. The other man looked like he’d been caught in a trap, not moving but shivering like he desperately wanted to move. Harry reached out and slid his fingers around one of Draco’s wrists. He could feel the pulse jumping beneath his fingertips. He raised Draco’s hand, pulling him just a little closer. “Okay,” and this time, his voice shook and Draco’s eyes widened.

Harry bent his head, hesitantly, halting when he felt a quick exhalation against his lips. Draco’s eyes skipped over his face, a panicked movement. He leaned forward and stopped as well. Harry could hear them both breathing. He could feel his thoughts catching up to them. Before they could reach him and make him reconsider, Harry tipped his chin up and met Draco’s mouth with his own.

It was more of a gasp than a kiss. Draco’s hiss was immediate, and then there was no sound except the thud of Harry’s heartbeat in his ears. Draco’s lips were a little chapped. They moved against his tentatively, slightly parted. Harry waited for some sort of inner signal, but nothing came: just a gentle, clumsy brushing of mouths in his sitting room. He felt his own fingers tighten around Draco’s wrist, felt Draco’s hand come up to cup his other elbow. Harry’s head was strangely silent; no bursts of static or thrums of dizziness. It… There was…

Harry pulled away. His mouth felt cold, the skin of Draco’s arm hot under his fingers. Everything was stark, too much. He shook his head, the disappointment creeping inexorably over him.

“Oh, no, that is not my only chance,” Draco breathed. His fingers clasped Harry’s nape more firmly, and then he was angling his head and pulling Harry in, and they were kissing again, and this time it was heavy and frantic and deep.

Harry’s mind went quiet for several seconds, a void of nothingness. Nothing he could make sense of. His body remembered to breathe and he gasped against Draco’s lips. Draco gave them both enough time to inhale, and then brought them together again, lips moving over each other’s, tongue tips meeting in continuous touches. Harry’s hand clenched around Draco’s wrist, the other around Draco’s upper arm, and he pressed back into the kiss, forcing more, not really thinking but just wanting to see where he could take it, where Draco was willing to go now that the roller coaster had begun its inevitable descent.

Draco’s willingness was evident instantly. His mouth was a pliant, parted haven for Harry’s, drawing him much further into the kiss than he’d anticipated. Something in Harry’s gut whirled over and upside down, and it was not unpleasant. Draco’s shudder was contagious; Harry’s whole body trembled as he kissed Draco, as if every muscle were jumping on its own. If Draco were still, Harry might have been able to make sense of it. But Draco was moving too, his hands curling to cup Harry’s face, to slide into his hair, to flicker down Harry’s throat as if simple touch was not enough. His reaction was too quick to ponder. Draco’s hands slipped down his chest and finally slid inside his coat where they came to rest, arms clasped around Harry’s torso, fingers clutching the back of his sweater in little spasmodic shivers.

This felt right, so much more so than he’d imagined. Their fit was obvious; Harry searched and could no longer locate his nervousness, just a sense of calm, a taste he liked and a mouth that kissed him very well. A fleeting thought licked at his mind, that Draco was awfully urgent about this. It meant more to Draco than it did to him, the feeling behind it went deeper. It was enough to make him pull back.

But then he didn’t know what to say.

“What about your date?” Harry managed. He could hear their quick breaths, a tandem of give and take between them. “What do you want to do?”

Draco’s eyes were clear and fixed on his own. Harry saw his throat ripple. “I want to tell him I’m taken,” Draco whispered.

It was so clear, the depths of Draco’s investment in this kiss. It ought to have scared Harry, and maybe it did, a little. He didn’t know if he returned such a flood of emotion, if there was any giving where there was so much being received. He’d never seen his friend’s face so open— never known him like this. It was evocative, that knowledge, and addictive.

Draco took Harry’s nape in one hand, affirming his grip and touching their mouths lightly together again. It should have ended there, but it didn’t: the small kisses lingered, turned into longer, deeper kisses. Tongues and teeth in imperfect tandem. Harry snugged his arm around Draco, wanting to bring him closer, to feel the new angle of their mouths, and it was there, sharp and seductive, the curve of Draco’s lips, all the better for the heated movement of Draco’s body pressed to his. He didn’t think he’d been kissed like this in his life. Draco’s hand rose to his chest and slid upward, climbing to his shoulder and slipping back down again. The material against Harry’s thumb rode up, Draco shifted his weight, and there was the low curve of Draco’s bare side. Harry gripped it with his hand, raising Draco’s jumper some more, and there was new desperation in the kiss, flooding into his mouth in a soft, tortured moan.

Something marred the flow of Draco’s hip, a slickness of skin that made Harry pause. He pressed fingertips there, then followed it up. It took only an inch or two before he knew what he was feeling. The line rose diagonally and unevenly across Draco’s abdomen, curving up over his chest into a wide stripe under Harry’s fingers. It narrowed at his shoulder, and Harry let his hand slide back to the middle of Draco’s chest.

He broke the kiss.

“You can’t feel this,” he whispered sadly. The over-smooth skin under his fingers felt waxy and warm, the scar of deep injury that had exacted its price. He looked up without meaning to and found Draco’s eyes on him, large and searching.

“Pressure,” Draco whispered back. He pressed his fingers over Harry’s, over the fabric of his jumper. “That’s all.”

Harry shut his eyes, overcome by what he’d done all over again, by the permanence of that blemish on Draco’s body. Severed nerves. Life-changing. He felt Draco lean forward only an instant before a warm mouth pressed to his, and Harry’s lips parted helplessly.

He found the couch more by memory than by sight, and dropped onto it, shaking, pulling Draco with him. They sagged together, full-bodied and off balance. Draco wrapped a hand in Harry’s hair, cradling his head with his wrist, leaning fully into him. Harry pushed back, twisting his fingers in Draco’s jumper and tugging him in. The reality of their embrace was a clear, iridescent vision in his head, he and Draco wrapped in a kiss he couldn’t get enough of. There wasn’t enough in a simple kiss, and not in a complicated one. Kisses only went so far.

Harry found Draco’s waist and pulled him even closer.

He’d never touched a man before, but that did not present an insurmountable problem. He’d touched women before. He’d touched himself. Draco was reacting to his kiss alone, returning an assault on Harry’s mouth that he’d never experienced before, but… he knew Draco. He knew his personality, and he knew his temperament. Harry pushed Draco’s jumper hem up and found the top of his trousers, hooked his fingers there, and kissed Draco back. Draco’s stomach was very hot, heaving with each breath, and as his fingers dipped beneath his beltline, Draco let out a muffled moan, pulling free of the kiss. Almost a word. His head gave a tiny, unsteady bob.

But Harry could see, beyond the worried warning, that Draco could feel this. No scar tissue there, just tender, living skin and pulsing blood and firing nerves. His face was alight with feeling, pinked and slack, his eyes fevered. Harry wanted, needed to see that Draco was feeling him and what he was doing. The little voice inside him spoke up, a tiny wonderment, too soon? A tiny fear. But the larger fear had departed; for once, Harry was sure of something, that he wanted to be here, doing this to this person, with this person, and it was okay.

Harry moved his fingers further down. Draco gave a sudden arch, a simultaneous grunt, pushing his groin into Harry’s with his hand trapped between them.

It was distressing when he lost the kiss, and then when he found it again, desperate and different, giving way to the rest— Harry loved it. Draco kissed differently when someone’s hand was on him, inside his trousers and stroking, kneading, encircling. Draco’s hips gave tiny, helpless bucks against Harry; Draco wasn’t in control of himself, and the realisation made Harry’s breath catch. He hitched his free hand under Draco’s thigh and urged him nearer, closer, until he felt the squeeze of Draco’s inner leg around his hip, the chafing rub of jeans together. Draco felt so warm in his hand, the rest of his body trembling, his mouth touching again and again to Harry’s face and lips. Harry saw Draco’ teeth clamp down on his lower lip, felt his hips give a long, sinuous rub against him, felt Draco pulse in his grip— and then the shudder of relaxation, the first exhausted aftermath. Harry felt unbearably hot, as if his sweat just would not break. He hung right on the verge, itching for the end, the riddling of unsatisfied lust climbing through him. Draco’s hand clenched tightly at his thigh, and it sent him over, made him hiss as he came, long waves of orgasm sliding over him. Never quite like this.

When Harry got his thoughts back, the two of them were tangled together, one of his legs over Draco’s, one of Draco’s over his. Their chests came into contact over and over as they breathed. Harry found himself wondering dazedly about his couch, thinking he should clean them both up somehow, but not able to determine how. He felt washed out, pulled free of himself and waiting to be pieced together again.

If he thought about it… Harry inhaled and pushed his thoughts down, afraid of what immediate changes thought might force on them. Draco’s taste remained on his lips, faint and savory with salt. He realised that Draco’s coat was brushing the top of his hand, the hand on Draco’s leg. Draco still wore his coat. He, Harry, hadn’t even made it out of his own jacket, and here they were, wrapped around each other on his couch.

He wanted that warmth again, because he knew it was still there. He slipped his hand from Draco’s jeans slowly, drawing the concentration for a simplistic cleaning spell. It worked better than he’d hoped. He doubted Draco even heard him. The heat of his partially bared stomach was comforting; Harry’s hands rose under Draco’s jumper and came to rest on soft, hot skin, skin that felt so fragile over the curve of ribs and the audible heave of breath. Draco’s body gave a weak shiver, and Harry looked down. He was momentarily startled by the familiar red of the jumper he’d put on that afternoon, his own jumper, large and loose over Draco’s thinner frame.

Harry loved how it looked on him.

He splayed his fingers about Draco’s sides, sliding further up and drawing Draco to him bodily. He felt the hitch of Draco’s sigh just before he kissed him, urging their mouths together, tonguing Draco’s lips gently open and slipping inside, folding himself into Draco’s taste and warmth.

* * *

He woke on his own couch, and this time, his head was clear. Harry drew a long breath without opening his eyes, and sank back into the unbroken warmth that surrounded him. He was sitting up; he could feel the lazy curve of the couch supporting his neck, and his feet were settled comfortably on the sitting room rug. The darkness beyond his eyelids indicated an hour still early. Harry finally let his eyes drift open, and saw the gently lit room, everything still, comfortably warm and lit by the Christmas tree and that unearthly light of early dawn. The soft inhale and exhale of sleep drew his attention, and Harry looked downward.

Draco rested against his side, his head angled on Harry’s chest, one arm slung low around his waist. The warmth emanated endlessly from Draco’s body, and his eyes were closed. Harry found himself unwilling to move his own arm, wrapped as it was around Draco’s side.

Their coats were still on, though their shoes were not. Harry wiggled his toes, stretching one leg until he could watch the movement. Such silence; he was the only one witnessing the motion of his foot. The knowledge that no one else knew was nicely conspiratorial.

He wondered if everything just hadn’t hit him yet.

Harry forced himself to consider his real thoughts. Draco was asleep, literally in his arms, almost exactly where they’d been when they drifted off. Harry’s eyes dropped unintentionally, but not unexpectedly, to the cup of shadow between Draco’s thighs. His jeans were still open, the bottom-most button closed, but the rest parted, baring a small sliver of his briefs. Darkly coloured; Harry gazed down, his mind emptied of everything but his own heartbeat.

He lifted a hand and rubbed his face, and then looked at his fingers. That hand had been down his friend’s trousers, wrapped around him, bringing him off just as Harry had brought himself off often enough. And the memory was so much more vivid to him, a series of sharp colours and breathy sounds. He could recall the exact tremble of Draco’s body when he’d first touched him, and the entirely different shiver just as he was drawing near the end.

Something in him recoiled. Harry recognised it, the fear of having thrown his entire hand down at once, all his money before him on the table. He swallowed, waiting for the residual nerves to fade away. It was just memory-fear, what he had become used to feeling around Draco. Of course he would feel it now, when he’d changed so much about them.

It was the tiny voice that stopped him again: When we have changed so much about us. Harry pulse slowed. Whatever this was, whatever they’d done a short time ago, they were in it together.

It was a little too disorienting to ponder just how deep Draco’s feelings went. Harry gave it an effort and then found himself grimacing, and pushed it away for later on, perhaps when they’d had a chance to sort things out verbally. Merlin, he wasn’t sure how to have that conversation. He was just sure that he already meant an awful lot to Draco, more than he’d expected.

Draco’s steady breathing made way for a deep sigh, in and then out through his nose. Harry found himself holding his own breath as he watched his friend stir, afraid of what expression Draco’s face might fall into when he came to and realised where he was. Who he was with, and what they’d done together. Harry had never had sex with a former friend before, unless one counted Ginny, but the truth was that he hadn’t really got to know her until they were actually dating. He already knew Draco, knew him well enough to have predictions about how he’d react. This time, though, he found himself uncertain, wish-washing back and forth and simply not knowing what would happen to them when Draco opened his eyes.

He did, all too soon.

The surface recognition was immediate. Harry witnessed what followed less than a second later, the deeper recognition, the knowledge of a changed relationship, physicality that hadn’t been there before and hands, mouths, thoughts having gone places they previously hadn’t. He looked at Draco’s dilated pupils, so black the grey was a mere ring, and wondered if Draco regretted giving in to something he’d fought against for so long. A stab of anxiety lanced through Harry, and for a moment he feared he’d gone too far, that he’d ended up using Draco instead of deepening what they had.

His mind’s near-instantaneous rebellion was what saved him. Harry forced his muscles to relax, watching Draco watch him., and recognising anger… at himself. That was not what he’d done. There was curiosity, yes, he reminded himself, but there was more than that in what they’d done. There was need, and there was nervousness, and there was tenderness. And they weren’t mutually exclusive things.

“Hi,” Draco whispered composedly. His eyes flicked back and forth over Harry’s face. Harry could feel the heat radiating between their bodies. Draco’s tongue slipped out to moisten his lips. “What time is it?”

Harry cleared his throat, peering at the clock on his wall. “Just after five.”

Draco’s gaze went to the windows. “It’s dark.”

Harry nodded. Draco returned to looking at him. Neither of them had moved, and Harry became very conscious of that fact. He reached down without thinking and fingered the buttons of Draco’s trousers, slipping another one into its hole. Draco jumped a little; his hand dropped to cover Harry’s, and Harry eased away, allowing Draco to take up the task. It was as Draco did up his fly, fingertips twitching a little too much for the simple motion, that Harry had his epiphany.

He could make this hard, or he could make it normal. He could see Draco’s vulnerability there in the state of his clothes, a vulnerability that the man was rapidly covering up, and knew that it was in his hands just as much as it was in Draco’s: this would be the awkward morning after… or it wouldn’t be. It was a possible beginning that could easily become an early ending. It depended on what he did next.

He waited until Draco was finished, and was surprised to feel the other man pull away, straightening there on the couch and tugging his coat closer around himself. Harry felt inordinately cold, and before he knew it, he was following the angle of Draco’s body, sitting up with him until their sides touched again. Draco looked at him without speaking.

Harry smiled. “You hungry?”

“I…” Draco closed his mouth and drew a little bit back, tracking Harry’s face with his eyes. “Famished,” he said at last.

“Good.” Harry felt his face flushing again, just a bit, but didn’t look away. “I know a Muggle place that’ll be open, even today. Danish. Croissants and the like.”

Draco nodded. Harry stood, reaching a hand down, and saw his friend draw himself together. Draco’s expression didn’t change, but something intangible was dropping from him. He reached up slowly and took Harry’s hand. The first touch of their fingers brought another word to Harry’s thoughts, the word ‘lover,’ in place of ‘friend.’ Harry suppressed a weak shiver. It would take getting used to. He hoped those two words were not mutually exclusive either. He pulled Draco up from the couch, expecting to let go, and was pleasantly gratified to find that Draco only fixed their grip more firmly, angled until their fingers entwined and their palms pressed together. This time, Harry knew his flush was visible. He looked down at their hands, remembering the feel of Draco in his palm, so different from the cool fingers he now held. Draco’s hand tightened slightly, and Harry looked up, meeting his gaze.

He squeezed back.

~fin~
 
 
 
drachenmina: Snowy Hogwartsdrachenmina on December 6th, 2008 12:38 am (UTC)
Wow. That was powerful stuff.
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this comment! I'm sorry my response is so darn after-the-fact. I'm so glad you liked the fic!
jamie2109: Harry/Draco - A stranger Gardenjamie2109 on December 6th, 2008 12:40 am (UTC)
Beautiful language and evocative imagery. Just a gorgeous exploration of the transition from one to the other. Frustrating at times but immensely satisfying. Thank you.
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your review, dear! I'm sorry I haven't responded sooner. I read these as soon as they were posted, and your review made me feel so good. Thank you!
I have an Illudium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator: harry/dracosimons_flower on December 6th, 2008 01:08 am (UTC)
Very nice and a lovely payoff to the tension.
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so happy you enjoyed the fic!
lisa3353lisa3353 on December 6th, 2008 01:11 am (UTC)
That was a lovely throwback to old time H/D, just as you said. I really enjoyed it.
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, I was REALLY in the mood to get less complicated, canon-wise. Thank you for reading! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
Rev. Keri: luna tatzephre on December 6th, 2008 01:13 am (UTC)
wow, what gorgeous prose! really a lovely story.
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your review of my fic! I'm sorry it took me so long to respond. :(
randomidiot: star clusterorions_stars on December 6th, 2008 02:28 am (UTC)
“What do you want to do?”

“I want to tell him I’m taken.”


This was awesome. Thanks for the great read!
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
Awww, thank you! Those are personal favorite lines of mine, and it makes me so happy that you quoted them. Thanks for reading!
parallel parking prodigyempress_jae on December 6th, 2008 02:42 am (UTC)
oh my GOD. that just knocked me over. so passionate. so powerful. just...unbelievable.

i think i know who you are mystery writer... :)
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! Thanks for reading, and for being patient with my incredible slowness at responding.

And out of curiosity, was your guess about me right? ^__^
mahaliemmahaliem on December 6th, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
Beautiful! You have a true gift for words.
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
Aww, thank you so MUCH, dear! You always leave me the best comments, even when I am so slow to respond. I really appreciate it, and I'm sorry for my slacking.
the girl with kaleidoscope eyes: deathly hallowspandoras_chaos on December 6th, 2008 03:56 am (UTC)
that was amazing. well done!
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! ^__^
tflktflk on December 6th, 2008 03:57 am (UTC)
This was wonderful--I really loved it!

Thank you!
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this comment, and thank you for being patient with my slowness in responding properly. I apologize.
KiMjasngurl88 on December 6th, 2008 03:58 am (UTC)
That was such a lovely read. Thank you!
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading! I really appreciate your comment.
stellamoonstellamoon on December 6th, 2008 04:04 am (UTC)
Wonderful imagery and I really like how all the little details are described in just the way you tend to notice them in stressful situations. I know of a couple of people I admire greatly, who tend to write this way - and I'm betting you are one of them. But it's even better if you aren't, because that means one more person for me stalk!
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
Stella, I really love your review here. I'm sorry it's taken me so darn long to get back to you about it. I am a major slacker this year and I'm working to change that. Thank you so much for reading!

Were you right about the author? :)
(no subject) - stellamoon on May 11th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Spikemoxie574 on December 6th, 2008 04:08 am (UTC)
So amazing!
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
Frayach ni Cuill: Tolkiens Father Xmas Lettersfrayach on December 6th, 2008 04:35 am (UTC)
This is fantastic! I loved it from the very first word to the last. Such a perfect portrait of that moment when a friend becomes a lover. The depth of detail and the layering of detail - it brought this alive for me in a way that few fics do. I could have read this forever, although I think where you ended it was just right.

There are many parts that I love, but this is my favorite because it's so original and so perfect:

Their coats were still on, though their shoes were not. Harry wiggled his toes, stretching one leg until he could watch the movement. Such silence; he was the only one witnessing the motion of his foot. The knowledge that no one else knew was nicely conspiratorial.

He wondered if everything just hadn’t hit him yet.


I really loved this story - definitely one to read and reread. Thank you, anon :)
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
Arg, I am again incredibly late in responding. I need to stop being such a slacker, seriously. Thank you for being patient with me, dear... :(

I was working with a few things I've experienced in this fic, and it was a little bit cathartic for me to write in some ways, and more confusing in others. It's so wonderful to hear just how it affected you as you read. Thank you SO MUCH for this review!

Incidentally, have you tried the BBC's Merlin fandom? I really think you would enjoy that series, and the slash that's coming out of it. ^_^ *tries surreptitiously to drag you into the Noo Fandum*

Edited at 2009-05-11 09:25 pm (UTC)
woldywoldy on December 6th, 2008 05:21 am (UTC)
Very nice - a progression that is slow, uncertain & invested with significance.
rurounihime on May 11th, 2009 09:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you, woldy! I apologize for not responding until now. I have been a terrible, terrible slacker this year. :( I'm sorry.

Thank you for this lovely review, and for reading!