Title: Be-loved and Be-elved, Part 3/3.
Draco had arrived home from the Healer’s the night before angry and suspicious. He’d hardly heard Twinky as the elf went into a small tirade about the state of his clothing and shoes and how it would be impossible to clean them.
Instead, Draco had just sat down on his bed and stared into space as Twinky pulled his shoes off, climbed up next to him to tug his shirt off, then finally blew up at him for not having the good sense to remove the dirty garments before sitting down on the bed, the sheets and duvet having just been laundered that very day.
There was no reason why that potion should have been volatile like that, he’d thought, even as Twinky tried to pull him to his feet, screeching “Master’s trousers! Twinky must have Master’s trousers off the bed, and off Master’s body!”
Draco stood then and had put his arms out. He’d been in no mood to argue with a house-elf. After all, there should have been nothing wrong with that potion. None of the ingredients were known to be explosive at all and the Whoot’s potion itself was completely benign. It hadn’t even irritated his skin when it had sprayed over him... Just made him smell.
“What is this! Why, Master no longer smells at all. It’s as if Master’s very soul has been sprayed with Poppy Pippin’s Pine-Petal All Purpose Cleaning Potion!”
Draco looked down to find that he was standing now in his underpants in front of his house-elf, who stood just tall enough to place his eyes at a very uncomfortable level.
“Yes, Master?” The house-elf stared up at him, a smile on his face.
“Why are you still standing there? Why aren’t you off cleaning something, anything, instead of...” But Draco hadn’t continued that sentence, because, as much as it might be called for, vulgarities such as what could have tumbled from his mouth were never proper.
“Would Master like Twinky to draw him a bath?”
Draco had flopped down on his bed, then crossed his legs as he felt, in a paranoid way, that his boxers were being unusually gappy.
“Sure, whatever. Just, make yourself scarce in that way that only house-elves can.”
A few minutes later Draco heard the water turn off and the pop of Twinky disappearing. He’d slipped into the bath and stayed there until the water cooled, then went to bed without eating. He wasn’t hungry anyway.
The next morning he dressed and was out the door before Twinky could appear to insist on making him breakfast.
It didn’t matter that he arrived at the factory before most everyone else, as a great mess of cleaning wizards and witches were still going at the Potions Division with industrial strength potions and charmed scrub brushes. Their presence more than anything else suggested that Harry was probably in the building. He didn’t know how many hours they’d been at it, but everything still looked sooty. Frowning, Draco turned and quickly made his way to and up the stairs to stand before Harry’s office door. The lights were on inside... and suddenly Draco didn’t want to knock, didn’t want to be there. Maybe he could go back to the Healer and... well, no, not anymore. Maybe back when being a Malfoy either frightened others into submission or set them up to be easy targets for bribery, but now it just wasn’t possible. Draco alone was not a scary man, not after having been figuratively knocked from the pedestal of his family’s name and literally humiliated within public view; and he just didn’t have the money for bribery.
But there was nothing that said he couldn’t quit. After all... could have seriously been hurt in that explosion. Would it mar his name any more to simply tell Harry Potter he didn’t think he was cut out for this job? That he wasn’t cut out, in fact, to work with people who would be constantly sabotaging him? That’s what it came down to, after all. A night spent sleeping on it had turned up no revelations at dawn’s light, just the stony knowledge that the counter-potion should not have blown up.
Unless of course, someone had tampered with some of his potion ingredients. He’d left them out while he’d taken a lunch break during a particularly long stewing period for the Whoots. Anyone had access to them, anyone walking by, anyone in Potions. Harry Potter himself could have walked down from his office and.... Draco had nearly died! That’s what it all came down to. This wasn’t just some devilish little school yard prank. They were trying to destroy him utterly, perhaps kill him.
Draco bit his lip, raised a hand, and knocked. “Come in,” followed by a deep yawn, came from the other side of the door.
On the other hand, if he barged right in yelling “I quit!” what did that make him look like? A coward? An arse? The biggest fool on the face of the planet for taking the job in the first place? Could he live with any of that? Draco chewed a little on his lip. Definitely, since he’d live.
He didn’t open the door so much as throw it out of his way. It knocked against the wall, which made him cringe, but it was too late now and if he was going to do this, then why not do it, with all the force and presence that, say, his father would give it.
Harry seemed to be a bit shocked by the entrance, but as his eyes were bloodshot and heavily shadowed, he probably would have been shocked by most anything. A set of four pieces of foul-scented parchment were placed before him in a row. Draco paused for a moment, they looked familiar... even smelled familiar. But he couldn’t really place them, and pausing was just killing the momentum so...
“Potter. I have something to say and you are going to hear me out, because it is of vital importance that this be understood from here...”
“Honestly, Draco, after what happened last night, I don’t know if I am ready to hear this speech. Couldn’t you make an... well, an appointment? Maybe we can do this over lunch. Actually, the way my nerves are now, maybe tomorrow night over a pint or a dozen at the pub of your choice. How does that sound?”
Draco blinked but decided that Potter was definitely speaking from a semi-unconscious state.
“This needs to be understood from here on out,” he continued, right where he left off. “You and I have a long history...”
“You don’t listen very well, do you Malfoy?” Harry cut him off, more than a trace of anger starting to lace his words.
“And no matter what has happened in the past, I don’t think it should colour our present rela— ”
“If you drop the R word, I’m going to fire you.”
“—tionship.” Draco paused. Had Harry really just said he’d fire him?
Yes. Indeed. He had just said he’d fire him. Actually, he’d just said he was fired.
“What?” Draco found his legs propelling him to the other side of Harry’s desk to stand over the other man. “Why!”
“I could site a certain blowing up of the Potions Division!”
“But! But that’s...”
Harry slapped a hand down on his desk as he jumped up from his chair like a rocket. He seemed very awake, and his sudden anger had turned his face as red as his eyes.
“That’s what, Malfoy? Good business sense? Do you know how much your... your stunt is going to cost us?”
“You didn’t call it a stunt last night!”
“You didn’t rush into my office half cocked last night with some dirty little revelation about your... your...” Harry stuttered so badly on the second “your” that his jaw just went limp before he frowned and shut his mouth with a sharp clack of teeth.
“Yes, but I found the counter-potion, that’s not a stunt! That’s...” Draco waved a hand, “progress!”
“Property damage! Your counter-potion is explosive!”
“Insurance! And it is not! I think someone tampered with my ingredients.”
“Have any proof?”
“Maybe. I don’t know! Are your cleaning people saving samples?”
Harry shook his head, but continued to try to stare Draco down. Finally Draco huffed, then screamed, “I can’t believe you’re taking their side!”
Draco reached forward and poked Harry in the chest. The other man’s eyes narrowed.
“I don’t know what the bloody hell that is supposed to mean,” he said quietly, his hand snapping out to catch Draco’s as fast as Draco had ever seen his hand move. And he’d been a Seeker. Harry’s grip, however, tightened imperceptibly into a steel-like, if not particularly painful, hold. Draco felt his eyebrow quiver but other than that he felt he was doing a tolerable job of not revealing just exactly what Harry’s touch was doing to him.
Did it surprise Draco that Harry had taken their side? Of course not. Of course he wouldn’t listen to anything Draco had to say. It was pointless thinking that Precious Potter would ever change.
Draco bit his lip again and continued to stare Harry down. Harry squeezed a little harder. Still, nothing painful, but Draco felt his body break out in cold chills. Draco decided that whatever point he was trying to make by not pulling his hand away wasn’t nearly as important as getting his hand out of Harry’s before... bad things happened.
“I quit,” he growled, twisting his arm to the right and leaning forward to throw the other man off balance.
“I fired you— ” Harry started to say, but his words were cut off by a gasp and a grunt as he fell back. His chair, instead of catching him, was knocked away, and Harry’s grip involuntarily tightened painfully on Draco’s arm as the other man, seemingly unintentionally, pulled Draco down on top of him. Harry landed heavily on his backside before the rest of his body slammed against the floor, his head landing with a clunk against one of the feet of his roller chair.
He moaned and his fingers fell away from Draco’s hand.
Draco felt his own eyes go wide. His body was against Harry’s, he could feel the way they... If he just leaned down, just the tiniest bit... Then he was doing it, even as he was distantly thinking it, he was doing it: Leaning down over Harry until their lips were just inches away. So close.
Harry reached out, blindly since his eyes were skewed shut, and put a hand on the back of Draco’s shoulder, as if he’d pull him closer. As if he’d open his eyes and there would be no walls left between them, just inches of air and the insane fluttering of Draco’s heart and stomach and... everything else.
Draco scrambled up and started to back away, just to find himself scuttling forward again to grab Harry’s hand, and gently pull him up before pulling his chair under Harry with a foot. The other man didn’t spare a single glance at him as Draco helped. His hand gripped Draco’s firmly and he seemed unsteady, but he kept his head turned away. When he was finally seated, he grunted something that sounded like “thank you” and Draco let him go.
“Well, then... I’m leaving,” Draco said, all his anger gone. Harry cracked his eyes open and frowned.
“Pay Mary in payroll a visit. She’ll work up your compensation for this week.”
“I wish I could say it was a pleasure seeing you again, Potter,” Draco said, trying to gain back some measure of the righteous indignation that had propelled him so smoothly into the office. He had moved to the door and now, with a flourish, took up the knob. “But I’d say this has been one of the worst bloody weeks of my life.”
He almost regretted saying it like that. After all, it wasn’t exactly Harry that had made it the worst week. Unless he was to hold Harry responsible simply by being the man who hired him and foisted him on a whole factory of imbeciles and lunatics, who he likewise hired.
Harry met his eyes, blinked, then frowned. They held each other’s gaze for a long pause, but this time, the look didn’t make Draco’s knees feel in any way different. His heart didn’t speed up; his stomach didn’t do any of the silly nonsense it had done just a few seconds before. Instead, he was able to stand perfectly poised. This, more than anything, seemed to bring about a change in Harry. His frown softened into an almost painful expression before tightening up once again into something nasty and completely un-smile-like. As Draco watched, he slowly picked up each piece of purple-parchment on his desk and made a great show of crumpling them up — as if the action would somehow matter to Draco — before tossing them, one after the other, into the rubbish bin.
“Good bye, Malfoy,” he said, chucking the last one in.
Draco raised an eyebrow, but didn’t respond. Instead he turned and let the door slam behind him.
Harry went home once Edwards arrived at the office. He’d been told by just about everyone to go to a Healer, that the injury to his head might be serious, but he doubted it very much. Once home he put some ice in a plastic bag and sat with it against the back of his head. Trickles of cold water slowly slid down his neck, chilling him, but not taking away the hot, hard core of nerves that had settled into his stomach.
Before long his head began to hurt. He took a potion for it, then decided to lay down. The pain didn’t go away, and he didn’t feel sleepy. Wasn’t a person supposed to feel somewhat woozy or sleepy if he had a head injury? Harry simply felt agitated and irritable.
And nervous. So very nervous. He didn’t want to say why, but it was becoming more and more apparent as the day went on why he was nervous and that the reasoning behind the reason that he was nervous was completely and despicably faulty.
Which is why he found himself popping back to the office just as soon as he was sure that everyone had left. Thankfully, his letters were still there, floating atop all the rest of his trash, crumpled and dejected but not yet taken away to be tossed into some great pile of refuse where they’d be lost forever.
They were so bloody awful they were offal! And yet, Harry sat down at his desk and straightened them out, one by one, before folding them all together and tucking them away.
At home again, he ate, but nothing tasted like anything. When he finally slept, it wasn’t well: His dreams were filled with sharp gray eyes and pale blond hair, softly falling to brush his cheek even as he felt a warm, heavy weight over him, clutching to him...
He took a cold shower in the morning, which did nothing to settle the strange feeling that had seemed to unsettle the entirety of his being. Every nerve was on edge, and he felt like his blood was burning as it ran through his body.
At least it was Saturday, which meant that besides him and a perhaps one or two other wizards or witches, the factory would be empty.
And it mostly was. Except for the Potions Division. But that didn’t surprise Harry, after all, they’d gotten behind because of the explosion. When Harry went down to check in with Edwards, he found everyone standing around, grinning nastily, except the older man. He was going over a couple of trays of burnt pieces of parchment.
“I fired him,” Harry said softly before anything else.
“I wouldn’t have done it, but I’m not the foreman for a reason I suspect.”
“And the counter-potion?”
“He took careful notes, that lad.” Edwards looked up. His eyes seemed baggy and tired. He looked even older, if it was possible. “But they were all blown sky-high. Even so, I think I know what went wrong.” Edwards jerked a thumb at his small band of employees. “I doubt I’d be able to reproduce what went right... It was lost to the explosion.”
“What will you do?”
“What would you do?”
“Lewis over there should already have been suspended. I guess that memo got lost in the mess. He’s due for a firing now.”
“You’re sure it was him?”
“I’d be willing to wager my entire life savings on it. Bennet there may have helped, and Griffin. And Griffin always talks.”
“Handle things at your discretion, Edwards. Leave any paperwork regarding terminations on my desk.”
“You’re bringing Malfoy back then? He’s worth three Lewises.”
“I’m going to try.”
Edwards looked around at his younger employees, a sad and exasperated look on his face. They didn’t seem to notice. They were celebrating, maybe not in an obvious balloons and streamers manner, but they thought they had won. Harry could see it in the way they moved, in their smiles. And he felt guilty. He hadn’t fired Draco because of their antics; he hadn’t fired Draco for anything job related.
He should have been ashamed of himself. He was guilty of firing Draco for all the wrong reasons and he was surrounded by people who were celebrating Draco’s termination.
The next sigh Edwards let go of was enough to chase Harry away from the older man. It chased him home, where he pulled out the letters. It chased him all the way to Draco’s flat, right up to the door. But he was pretty sure it was something else that gave him the courage to actually knock.
The blond opened the door slowly, his eyes narrowed. “What?”
“I was wrong. I shouldn’t have fired you.”
“Oh, marvellous epiphany there, Potter. Go sell it somewhere else, I don’t give a shite. I was going to quit, remember?”
“Yes, but, I don’t want you to quit. I don’t want to fire you. I want you to come back Monday.”
“I blew up Potions. You said so yourself: Property damage.”
“Yes, but that’s not why I fired you,” Harry said. His hand was down in his pocket, fingering the purple parchment.
Draco opened the door wider to reveal that he was standing in a pair of boxers and a somewhat wrinkled and dirty-looking tank-style undershirt. A golden ring of hair was already glowingly solidly on his chin, and Harry wondered if the other man had bothered to bathe that day. Not that Harry could smell him at all. The soft, pleasurable smell of freshly crushed pine needles was still gently wafting off of him.
“I...” Harry started. His fingers clutched the parchment in his pocket. “It was... I mean, I was...”
Draco sighed and started to close the door. Harry rushed forward and pushed against it. The other man yanked it away and Harry felt himself stumble into Draco’s flat.
“Nice,” he found himself saying distantly, looking around. “You’ve done the place up quite well considering...”
“My house-elf should be given all the credit. I don’t know shite about interior design and I don’t want to learn.”
Harry saw that three whole bottles of wine were open, strewn across a short, glass-topped table sitting before Draco’s couch. Two were tipped over, empty.
“Don’t start with me, Potter.” Harry could hear the slur then. He wasn’t sure if Draco was still drunk, or if it was only the leftover effect of the mighty binge he’d been on. “I don’t bloody care why you fired me. Best then I could have... Best thing you could have done.” Draco was grabbing him by the arm and dragging him back to the door. Harry let himself be ushered back out into the hall, but he used his foot to block Draco from getting the door closed.
“I want you to come back. Please?”
“No. I don’t... fucking care. That’s right. I said it. I don’t fucking care.”
Harry pulled out the purple pieces of parchment and handed them over. Draco took them distantly and stared at them with narrowed eyes.
““Draco, we should talk about these.”
“Get lost, Potter. I don’t want to talk to you any longer.” His hand fell away and his eyes met Harry’s. He looked utterly defeated. And red-eyed. Utterly and defeatedly red-eyed. The blond started to close the door on him, again.
“Be gone with you! I banish you! I... wait, no, I’ll just sick my house-elf on you! Twinky! Get your little possibly-poof-elf arse in here! Twi...”
Draco turned and his eyes went wide. “That little bugger,” he muttered, scrambling to open one of the letters. “Where did you get these?”
“They were delivered to my flat!”
“No! These were delivered to you?”
“Oh, no. Nonononono.” Draco stumbled farther into his flat, leaving the door open. Harry followed him in tentatively. He watched as Draco flopped on the couch, picked up one of his wine bottles and started to chug it down, all the while reading one of the letters with one eye.
And then he was spitting the liquid out in a great, startled burst that sprayed his pale coloured-carpet and Harry’s trousers with flecks of the dark red vintage.
“That little arse! That little arse-licking... arse! Effulgent! He’s been using me to help him write love-letters to my bloody... my bloody...” But what Harry was to Draco now, Draco didn’t seem to be able to determine. Harry watched as his lips shook, before he sighed and closed his mouth.
“What? You mean...” Harry felt lighter then, but soon it was the sort of lightness that left one adrift. Before he realized it, his head was so empty and buzzing it felt like it would detach from his shoulders and float away.
“Your house-elf is in love with me?”
“My house-elf is in love with you.”
Silence. Dead silence over the room. Now that it was said and confirmed, Harry felt better. It wasn’t surprising. Dobby had always been more than a little obsessed over Harry. So why not... well, whatever Draco’s house-elf’s name was.
Of course, it was still absolutely disgusting. Interspecies dating. Yes, if Harry thought the looks he got now were bad... Harry frowned.
“Twinky!” Draco screamed, storming into the kitchen and throwing open each of his cupboards to empty them of their contents. “Twinky, Master calls, so uh, appear before me. Right now!”
Nothing. No poof. No squeaks. Nothing. Harry picked up the letter Draco had discarded. Scanning it again, he realized... Well, it didn’t make any sense. The only house-elf Harry had seen in months was Dobby. In years, in fact. If this Twinky was really spying him, waiting around to confess his feelings, then why hadn’t Harry noticed him at all? It gave him a shudder to think it. Twinky, the last surviving Malfoy house-elf, had been stalking him.
He dropped the letter and cringed.
“Well, then, Draco. You know. This has all been a terrible misunderstanding. If, once you’ve sobered up, if you can see it, ahem, in your heart to forgive me for my... um, mistake here, then know that your job is still waiting for you at the plant, with a pay raise.” Harry backed toward the door. Draco had moved from his upper cabinets to his lower. “And as I think you are right in your belief that you are not responsible for that explosion, then I will do everything in my power to try to determine who is and sack them. Good day to you. Hope to see you — ”
“Hold it right there!” Draco turned and pointed a shaking finger at him. “You go nowhere, Potter. Not until I’ve seen him look at you. I need to know for sure. I need to see the look in his eyes. The backstabber! The betrayer! Under my own roof, my own nose! With Mummy’s bloody fancy letter parchment! When I find you, Twinky, the pain you will feel!”
Draco tore off down what appeared to be the only hallway in his home. Harry followed him. It wasn’t a long trip. The hall was lined with more cupboards, and Draco was now ripping into these, pulling out nicely scented and folded piles of linens.
After finishing off the top set, he opened up the bottom set and started pulling out boxes. Harry knew he would never find the house-elf there. Mostly because he could hear something behind and above them. He looked up and suddenly realized that there was a pull-down door in the ceiling, closer to where the hall opened into the living area than where they stood. It was the sort of door one would find in a normal house with a normal attic. So what it was doing in an apartment building was beyond Harry’s... unless...
“Draco, did a wizard, by any chance, design these flats?”
“Yes. Can’t you tell by the accoutrements?”
Harry glanced around again and found that, indeed, everything was slightly different, slightly geared to a more magical life than in his own home. He moved back into the main living room and glanced at the kitchen. That especially seemed different from his own. He wondered about the bath. Of course, what he noticed this time around more than anything else was that the hallway had the lowest ceiling in the place: The kitchen and living area ceilings were much higher. Harry could almost visualize the amount of room behind that little trap door. It was more than enough for one house-elf to live in. He went back to Draco, who was still ripping through boxes.
“What’s up there then?” he asked, pointing.
“Up there?” Draco looked up at the little door, and his face took on a frowning, confused expression. “There’s an up there?”
“Right there,” Harry pointed at the door.
Draco stood up straight and tilted most of his body back, throwing his hand out against the wall to catch himself when he lost his balance and listed backward. After recovering he sniffed, then said, “I don’t know what’s up there. I didn’t know there was supposed to be an up there!”
“You never noticed that there was an up there? It wasn’t pitched to you as some benefit to these flats? That’s absurd, Draco. You really are wrapped up in your own little world, aren’t you?”
“Don’t take that attitude with me, just because I don’t go about my home finding reasons to walk with my head tilted back, Potter!”
“Fine. The door. Looks like the entrance to a crawl space, doesn’t it?”
Draco’s eyes widened and then a vicious grin spread across his face. “Twinky!” he screamed, jumping up and yanking at the little handle imbedded in the door. The door flung open, and a great mass of different coloured socks, as well as a couple of strange looking garments, fell to the floor.
Harry looked up from the floor to Draco, who was staring up into the semi-darkness above. Aside from the mass of elvan laundry that had come raining down, there was no sign of Twinky. Funny, Harry thought to himself, kicking a sock by his foot, Draco’s elf is obsessed with socks just like Dobby.
“Get down here, this minute. I know you can hear me, Twinky!”
“Twinky has a problem, Master. Twinky no longer has any clothing, Master, sir.”
“Could that be because your rags are down here on the floor by my feet?”
“Twinky believes that statement is correct.”
Draco bent down and extracted the pile of green velvet from the lot. Which, of course, was lying next to another smaller pile of elvan garments, these much more standard. Like children’s clothes. And there were all the socks... And then it clicked in Harry’s head.
“Dobby?” he gasped.
“‘Dobby’?” Draco snapped, looking over at him. “What do you mean ‘Dobby’?”
“I bloody mean... Dobby!” Harry jerked a finger up.
“Twinky, do you have another house-elf up there? I demand you both come down this instant.”
“But Twinky and... Twinky’s guest are naked, Master!”
“Why are you both naked?” There was a long pause during which Draco crossed his arms over his chest and stared up at the ceiling with a look that should have made it all cave in about their heads.
“Master is old enough by now that Master should be able to guess why Twinky and Dobby are both naked.”
“No!” Harry cried, turning away from the hallway. “No, no, no! It’s not right! Elf sex!”
“Begging Master Potter’s pardon,” came Twinky’s voice, “but Twinky wonders how Master Potter thought elves came into being, if there is no elf sex?”
“But you’re male! And Dobby’s male!”
“And so are Harry Potter, sir, and muh-muh-muh,” Harry heard a second squeak then. “And Master! Is it different for Harry Potter than for Dobby?”
Harry turned and found two pairs of bright, jewel-like eyes and floppy ears both hanging upside down from the ceiling. One pair of eyes were the perfect crystal-bright blue of Caribbean seas. The other were the exact green of limes.
“Twinky,” Draco gasped.
“Dobby.” Harry said, deciding that it was best he give up on the shock-and-appall-ment. After all, he’d come here to confront Draco directly about the idea that Draco was in love with him. Dobby was right. If Harry could get the courage to ask Draco that, then was it any more offensive to think that Twinky had finally confronted his “dearest, sweetest, truest heart,” and that Dobby, having never been forced to stare intently at Twinky’s horrible, sickly-sweet sentiments, had been completely receptive to the pretty faced, bright-eyed elf, with his single lock of shockingly-blond hair, who now hung upside down between Draco and Harry?
The fact that Draco’s elf and his were having sex in a crawl space right above Draco’s hall, a hall that he’d probably walked down while they were having sex above it, was really nothing Harry need concern himself with. After all, they weren’t having sex right then.
The mystery, at least, was solved. Harry felt relieved. Twinky had been courting Dobby with the letters, that’s why they went to Harry’s house, conveniently, when the other elf was present to re-deliver them to Harry. The fact that Dobby himself had foolishly thought they were for Harry wasn’t either his or Draco’s fault.
Draco, however, was staring in a way that made Harry alarmed. Quickly pulling the letters from his pocket, Harry handed them off to Dobby, who took them with bug-eyed wonder.
“These belong to you. Now, Draco,” he turned to the other man, “maybe we ought to just leave. I know a great pub. How does a pint or ten sound to you?”
“I hate beer, ale and lagers. Can’t stand the whole hops-based alcoholic family. Too bloody plebeian.” All this was delivered in a monotone whisper.
“They’ve got mouth-watering chips there.”
“You like hard cider? They’ve got hard cider.”
“Never had it.”
“Oh, well then put some trousers on, Draco. Because you’ve never had a fermented fruit beverage if you’ve never had hard cider.”
“There are house-elves shagging in my flat, Harry. My house-elf is snogging and humping my father’s favourite torture victim under my very roof. And you think cider and chips are going to fix this?”
“Couldn’t hurt.” The two heads disappeared. Draco was still clutching at Twinky’s clothing. Harry pulled it from his hand, then started to gather up the rest of the socks and what-have-you from the floor. Reaching up, he shoved them into the door in the ceiling. He felt little, pointy-fingered hands reach out and pull all the clothes out of his. They waited until his arms were out of the way, and then the door closed with a bang.
“Come on, Draco. Throw on some trousers, and we’ll get pissed.”
The man turned and looked at him and said absently, “I’m already pissed.”
Harry sighed and pushed him into what he supposed was Draco’s bedroom before closing the door on him. “I’m sure that by the time we come back, Twinky and Dobby will have your flat all clean and tidy and it will be like nothing ever happened.”
“Clean!” Harry heard a shriek above him. There was a poof and Harry found himself staring at Twinky, who, in his velvet robes, looked exactly like a somewhat butch girl-elf. Twinky, however, was not looking at him. He was looking around at the towels and boxes strewn across the floor. “Mess! Messes! Master has made messes! Master messes!”
Dobby popped into existence beside him, and a second later, the prettier house-elf’s head flew gently to the side as Dobby popped him a light slap on the cheek. “Dobby insists that Twinky stop it! Twinky is criticizing Master! Twinky must never say anything bad about Master!”
Harry watched, as one might watch a train wreck, Twinky stare up into Dobby’s face for a moment, amazed and slightly hurt, his hand rubbing at his cheek. And then he was throwing himself against the other elf, wrapping his arms around Dobby, and his lips were opening to...
Harry shivered and turned away, throwing his hands up over his ears before calling out, “Draco. I’ll just be waiting for you outside your flat, in the hall. Do, hur —” But he didn’t even need to finish the sentence, because Draco was opening the door and rushing past him wearing a wrinkled pair of blue jeans, the tattiest pair of trainers that Harry had even seen (which was a miracle since all the trainers he’d ever owned were Dudley-hand-me-downs) and, incongruously, a very nice, soft-looking brushed cotton polo shirt in dark green.
Draco grabbed his arm and they were rushing from the apartment. Once Draco’s front door was closed, the other man flattened them both against one of the walls outside, seemingly to catch his breath. Then he turned and looked at Harry.
“Why did you really come here, Potter?” His gray eyes were intense. “And will you ever tell me now that you know your house-elf is shagging mine?”
Harry felt his lip quiver. But he didn’t respond. Draco didn’t even give him a chance. Before Harry knew it, he was being pulled from the building and out onto the street.
“Take me to your pub,” Draco said when he finally released him. And so, Harry did.
Draco was conscious. He didn’t want to be. His head was pounding in a way that no mortal should have to endure. He was afraid to open his eyes.
Distantly, Harry was trying to very quietly fix them breakfast. The smell of bangers and waffles had woken Draco up and now his stomach was turning, churning and growling. He wasn’t sure what was stronger, the impulse to eat everything in Harry’s kitchen or the one to throw up the nothing that still lingered in his belly. He supposed he’d find out once Harry came over to wake him up. For now, he was content to lie on Harry’s couch and listen to the other man bump around and curse softly each time he did it. It was rather amusing.
Then again, the fact that he was waking up on Harry Potter’s couch was amusing. The fact that he could barely remember why he was waking up on Harry Potter’s couch was scary. And the fact that what he didn’t remember of the night before was muddled, confused and yet burnt onto his mind all at once, filled him with a multitude of emotions he didn’t have a name for.
After waking, the first thing he did was nonchalantly run a hand over his belly and down his leg in his best imitation of a random, sleep induced twitch: He was still dressed as he was before. Good. They apparently hadn’t done anything serious, or else he’d be naked and, he hoped, lying in a bed, if Potter had any class at all.
He remembered meeting Harry at his door in his underpants, a circumstance that was embarrassing now although it hadn’t been the night before. He remembered trashing his flat and finding his house-elf and Harry’s up in the ceiling, apparently post-intimate. Horrible, but true. He remembered the three mostly empty bottles of a fine dark elvan vintage, the last remaining survivors of his mother and father’s fine wine collection. He’d chugged them down like they were the pints of cider that Harry had ordered him later at the pub. Harry had ordered twice as much alcohol in the form of a dark ale than he’d ordered Draco in cider. The quantities made Draco’s stomach turn as he watched Harry swig it down. Instead of getting real food, they had ordered a double plate of chips and sat there eating them and drinking until they were out of chips. Once out, they ordered more. Their conversation within the pub was a blur, as were the faces of their fellow patrons and the girl that kept flowing by their table gracefully to swap empty glasses for full.
The clearest part of the night was the fight they’d had right outside the pub door. They were leaning against each other like only two drunks could do. Draco remembered clearly that he had been thinking he shouldn’t have been leaning against the man next to him, because he was Harry fucking Potter, of all people, when Harry started up his diatribe on why Draco should come back to work. Draco had countered with something about everyone else hating him. Harry went off on how they just didn’t know him like Harry did and once they knew him, they’d like him, throwing in that Edwards liked him and wanted him to return as well. Draco had scoffed at that, stopping to look Harry in the eye as he asked when Harry had actually decided to “like” him. Harry mumbled something about purple parchment and the way his ass looked and Draco had felt his eyes widening. Then Harry burped and rubbed his eyes. They had seemed overly wet, even for a drunk. It was at that moment that Harry started to beg, strange little spots of water flowing down his cheeks as he grabbed Draco by his shirt. Draco had pushed the other man back, started to stagger away alone. Harry followed, begging all the way.
Until, of course, he started mocking Draco.
“Afraid of a bunch of bullies then, Malfoy? Going to let your whole life pass you by because people don’t like you anymore, because you no longer have two big stupid arses tagging along behind you to protect you from the world? What a pansy! What a... a... pansy! You’re pathetic.”
Draco turned, grabbed Harry, and threw him up against the side of the nearest building. The other man had laughed, even though his head had knocked against the wall. He kept laughing, until Draco let him go. And then Harry had lurched forward — and Draco was sure this memory would be burned upon his mind forever — threw his arms around Draco, and kissed him.
Full on the mouth with a little tongue toward the end. Draco had allowed the tongue, had opened up his mouth so Harry could sink it right in.
Draco shuddered on the couch and tried to stop remembering. He heard the piece of furniture creak below him as Harry sat down on the armrest at Draco’s feet.
“I know you’re awake,” Draco heard Harry say, his voice hovering above Draco’s toes.
“You’ve been awake for nearly an hour now.”
“Nuh-uh.” Draco rolled into the back of the couch to pretend that he was going back to sleep. As if it would have been possible. He knew his bum was hanging over edge of the couch. He knew that his polo shirt had ridden up his stomach and that a small expanse of his back and side were now revealed to Harry. He knew all these things. It was best to ignore them. If he did, Harry would leave, and Draco could scurry back to his flat and never leave it again.
“You should get up. Your hangover won’t go away if you lie on my couch all day.”
“It’s Sunday,” Draco hissed in response, as if that would really prove anything. But maybe if he hissed at Harry enough, the git would leave him be.
“Come on, Draco. I’ve got a nice glass of orange juice here with the perfect little potion for hangovers mixed into it.”
“I wanna sleep,” Draco mumbled.
“I made waffles.”
Draco opened an eye to see that Harry was smiling down at him, wearing nothing but a pair of pyjama bottoms and a soft grin.
“Well, aren’t you just bloody comfortable?” Draco hissed, swallowing heavily past a bulge in his throat.
“It’s my flat.”
“You kissed me last night,” Draco narrowed his eyes.
“You wanted me to kiss you.”
“Bullshite.” Draco bit his lip. He was cursing an awful lot lately. It was Harry’s fault.
He sat up quickly, just to fall back against the couch when his brain decided to dive into his stomach.
“Come get something to eat.” Harry slipped off the arm of the chair onto the cushion next to Draco. Draco scooted back, away from the other, barely clothed man.
“I don’t feel like it. My breath tastes horrible. Besides. Your breath probably reeks to, of all that piss you swilled last night. Wretched stuff.”
“It would be funny if it did, as I’ve already I brushed my teeth today. I’ve got a spare toothbrush next to the sink.” Harry pointed to his darkened hallway. In fact, his whole apartment was dim. He had blinds instead of curtains, and a bright midday light filtered through in narrow lines, leaving everything cloaked in a dusky aspect. It was a nice place, Draco noticed. Slightly larger than his, but not by much.
“You always keep a spare toothbrush, Potter?”
“As a matter of fact, yes, ever since I accidentally dropped mine in the toilet. What sort of syrup do you want?”
“I don’t like syrup. Real butter, cinnamon and powdered sugar if you please.”
“Dobby thinks real butter is bad for me. I’ve got fake butter, however, and cinnamon and powdered sugar. And tea if you like.”
“Cream. No sugar.”
“That’s how I take it, too.”
Harry got up and headed back into the kitchen. Draco went in the opposite direction, finding his way toward the promised bathroom. There he quickly brushed his teeth with Harry’s spare, used the toilet, then stood over the sink to splash his grizzled face with water. He looked horrid. He looked horrid, yet Potter was still acting... Well, was he not, in fact, coming on to Draco like some horny chimp in a zoo? Even more startling, was the fact that Draco wasn’t running out Potter’s door. He was going to sit down and have waffles and bangers with Harry, drink a nice cup of whatever tea Harry had decided to serve him... and then...
Draco filled his hands with water from the tap and drink it down, handful after handful until the thick cottony feeling at the back of his throat lessened. His head was still pounding, but it was better. He realized that he didn’t smell at all, except of pine. His beard was as long as it had been in ages, and he couldn’t remember showering at all the day before. Bloody explosive potions. Even the counter-potion left a permanent reek behind. Perhaps a woodsy-fresh funk but a funk nonetheless.
Draco turned and looked at the shower. A second later, he was pulling off his clothes and slipping under a hot spray of water. He didn’t stay in very long, just long enough, he was sure, to rinse the top layer of crud from his skin with Harry’s bar of soap.
When he stepped out, he heard a knock on the door. A second later it slipped open a crack, and Draco found himself staring at Harry’s hand, holding a towel.
“You don’t mind? That I used your shower, that is?”
“Perfectly fine. You can borrow a robe for a while if you want me to put your clothes in the wash?”
“And walk around mostly naked when you seem to be in such a randy mood? Hardly, Potter. I don’t plan on being taken advantage of.”
The other man laughed. When Draco finally dressed and joined Harry at his table, Harry himself had put on a T-shirt.
Draco grabbed up the glass of orange juice on the table and chugged it down first thing. And then they were eating waffles and sausage and drinking cream-lightened tea and not talking. In the back of Draco’s mind, he wondered what Harry was thinking. The other man didn’t look at him at all. Was he picturing them snogging?. Was he imagining rubbing his hands up and down Draco’s frame? If that was what Harry was thinking, what was Draco really thinking? After all, he could practically feel Harry’s hands doing the rubbing, could almost feel the other man, naked on top of...
Draco swallowed the last of his tea. Wiping his hands on the cloth napkin Harry had produced for him, Draco tossed it onto the table and stretched back in his chair.
“Well, I should get home and make sure those two... elves haven’t turned my house into a complete love nest,” he started, but he didn’t stand up.
“I’m sure they haven’t. I can’t imagine them ever doing something like that.”
“I can’t imagine them together.”
Harry looked up. “You can’t?”
And then Draco realized this was going to be another one of those stares. They’d had many. The first look, even, had been one. Well, practically. And why had Harry even hired him in the first place? Was it the way he looked in his clothes when he’d showed up to retrieve his resume? Had Harry wanted him from the beginning?
But then again, hadn’t Draco sort of wanted Harry from the beginning? Just a little bit. Hadn’t it been there, a thought floating at the back of his mind?
“Is it really so inconceivable? Two elves falling in love. I don’t think so. And if it’s not totally preposterous for them to feel it, then what about us?”
“What are you talking about, Potter?”
“I’m talking about you and me. You like me, I think. I’ve come to the conclusion, now that I know you weren’t sending me horrible letters filled with bad love imagery, that I like you. I really like you... a lot. I want you to come back to the factory, Draco. I want to see you every day.”
“Why would I ever willingly choose to return to a job where I was guaranteed sexual harassment on top of everything else? Besides, you can’t just like me a lot! It doesn’t work like that! You can’t suddenly be attracted to somebody you used to hate for years! You can’t just suddenly jump sexes and decide, oh yes, actually, as a matter of fact, I want to be a poof!”
“Maybe I always was attracted to you. Maybe I just didn’t know any better as a boy.”
Draco turned his head away and crossed his arms over his chest.
“I kissed you last night,” Harry continued, “and you let me. The question is, what do we want to do now? Do you just want to disappear again, Malfoy? Then, at some future point, if we saw each other on the street, we could pretend like none of this ever happened. We’d keep up the perfect appearance of old enemies. Nobody would ever question it. Or you can kiss me again right now, come back to work at the factory Monday, and maybe we can start going to nice restaurants and eating things, together. I’ve already met your elf. I’m sure Dobby can convince him to approve of me.”
“You are a sick man, Potter.” Draco stood up. “And I should leave.”
“They why haven’t you? Don’t you realize, Draco, that we are more the same than we are different, especially now?”
“Of course I’ve realized,” Draco snapped. And he had. Somewhere between the pints and the chips and the fight and the waffles... Or maybe even before. Maybe it had been when he’d knocked Harry down and had seen the pinched look on the other man’s face. Or when Harry had leaned over him to check if he was still alive after the explosion. Or maybe he realized they were the same when Harry had looked up and met his eyes for the first time, and it became apparent that neither of them were the children they had been.
The fact that it had taken them years and distance to come to be in exactly the same place at the same time, often thinking the same thoughts, seemed now to be impossibly conceivable. Like fate or... something.
Harry took him by the wrist and pulled him down. Draco sat without argument.
“Do you want some more tea?” Harry asked, taking up his mug before he answered and standing. Draco stood too, stopped Harry with a hand on his upper arm.
Harry turned and faced him. Draco leaned closer...
“See you on Monday, then?” Harry breathed. Draco felt the words flow across his face, the softest of exhalations.
“You’ll reprimand all those other prats in Potions? They caused the explosion. Not me.”
“Of course, Draco. Edwards is all over it.”
“You still offering that raise?”
“Ha...” Harry frowned at the look on Draco’s face. “Do I have to?”
“No. Worth a try, though.”
“You’ll come back?”
Draco leaned in closer until his face was the barest of breaths away from Harry’s. “Yes. But do you think it is right, the boss and one of his employees dating?”
“Will we be dating?”
“If you are paying.”
“Yes. I’m busted, Potter. Nearly Knutless.”
Harry’s eyes grew wide and bright. His cheeks coloured and he looked away from Draco.
“What are you thinking, Potter?”
“Only that if I’m going to have to pay, you’re going to have to put out.”
“Oh ho. I see how it is.” Draco grabbed Harry’s chin and kissed him. It wasn’t very hard. A tilt of his head down, but only a small one. Their noses didn’t bump at all. Their lips seemed to be perfectly paired, as if their mouths were the exact same size.
Draco didn’t wrap his arms around Harry, didn’t try to slip him tongue. The fact that it didn’t take Harry long to fill that void was gratifying: The other man put down the mug and threw himself into it. Draco found himself pushed up against Harry’s kitchen counter, found hands in his hair, then running down his back.
Draco still pulled away first.
“So, you came to my apartment to tell me you are in love with me, is that it, Potter?”
Harry swallowed. “Or that you’re an awful poet. One or the other.”
“You realize that we are snogging because of that poetry, right? That the only reason why I am in your apartment as this very moment is because my poof of a house-elf decided to wax on, dreadfully?”
“Almost romantic, isn’t it?” Harry asked softly. “That they found each other, over years and distances and... You don’t think so?”
“No. It makes me feel, well, I don’t have a word for it.” Why were the words so hard to find? “They’re... It makes me feel sort of...”
Draco felt his eye twitch. The other man chuckled, but reached out to draw a soothing finger over his brow. It was such a familiar gesture that Draco found part of himself wanting to pull away. The other part just wanted Harry to continue rubbing: His eyebrow, his neck. Whatever, just as long as he could indulge in that comforting touch.
“Brought together by queer elves. That’s what we’ll tell the grandchildren,” Harry said softly.
Harry shrugged, and a wry smile spread across his face. Draco narrowed his eyes. Some things would probably never change. But at least Draco had a new way of shutting Harry Potter up.
Somehow, he didn’t think the novelty of snogging Harry speechless would wear off anytime soon.