Summary: Everything is different but nothing has changed.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Depression, hints of past child abuse, dirty talk, parselsmut, indecisive!genre, gratuitous!sex and no!plot.
Deathly Hallows compliant? [EWE] Completely disregards the epilogue.
Word Count: 8,365
Author's Notes: Once again, this couldn't have been done without the emotional support of my beta. *hugs* I don't know if this "demonstrates why Harry and Draco could be good for each other" but that was my intention. This may not have been what you were expecting but I hope you like it anyway, lettered! Happy HD Holidays! :-)
"It's raining," Harry murmurs.
The sky hastens to back him up, darkening and thickening as he stares gloomily down at his plate. He pushes one of the potatoes round and round through the thick, brown sauce, shoving his untouched carrots out of the way. He hasn't eaten all day but nothing on the plate looks at all appetising and he's not sure he can blame it all on the establishment. He doesn't even feel like drinking, even though he thinks he'd rather be lying in an intoxicated stupour in the gutter than spend another moment having a staring competition with his peas.
"Cheer up," Ron says awkwardly. He throws his napkin on the table and grabs his glass of Butterbeer with forced nonchalance, taking a large swig. "Clear up soon enough, won't it? Just a bit of summer drizzle."
Harry clears his throat. "Guess so." He lets his fork drop from his hand and clatter onto the plate. "I really can't eat this," he admits, leaning back in his chair.
Harry shakes his head. "Not really." He glances up, trying to look earnest. "Thanks, though. For bringing me here."
Ron shrugs, his eyes flicking from Harry's face to scour the bar for a moment. "Can't have you lying at home feeling sorry for yourself on your birthday," he says. "Can we?"
Harry allows himself only a moment to think of lying face down on his bed at home, then forces a smile. "Guess not." He runs his fingers along the edge of the table, collecting up dust and dirt under his nails. He's not really the type of person to complain about that sort of thing, but he finds it irritates him a lot more than it should.
"Wonder if we'll get any summer this time around?"
Harry turns his head and stares out to window to the bleak sky. "Doesn't look like it." The rain pelts bullets of water down onto the slushy mud of the Hogsmeade streets.
"Ah, well." Ron chuckles uneasily. "It'd just make me freckle, anyway."
Harry smiles thinly. "Yeah." He can feel that expectancy in the air again, that feeling where he's supposed to crack a joke and they're supposed to laugh and jostle each other and make lewd comments. It isn't that he doesn't feel like it, exactly; it's just that as soon as he starts to consider what he might want to say, the moment has passed. He almost feels as if he can see Ron's disappointment leaking across the table.
"Got any plans for tonight?" his former best friend asks valiantly. He's eyeing the brandy snaps on the table behind them with considerable interest and Harry doesn't have the heart to tell him he doesn't feel like anything else.
"Not really," he mutters, thinking of the seedy little establishment on the corner of his street. Every time he walks past he imagines slipping in there and finally having all of his nighttime fantasies fulfilled, and he's thinking tonight may be the night. "I was thinking about a quiet night in."
Ron nods seriously. "Good for the soul."
Not something Ron would have said if he'd known Harry is planning on a ten-galleon night with a male whore. "So I've heard."
They sit a while in silence, listening to the general hustle and bustle of the small inn. Listening to the low murmur of conversation, the clinking of cups and plates, the occasional scraping of chairs and footsteps, Harry feels strangely at ease. There's something to be said for sitting in the middle of all the action but somehow being apart from it, somehow being one step removed. Having been at the center of everything his entire life, he decides he likes this new feeling. Knowing he can stand up and leave and no one will die, no one will burst into tears, no one will be at risk. They'll just continue with chewing their bacon, slurping their beer, and their lives.
"So listen," Ron says, wiping his lips with his napkin, "I was talking to Hermione this morning and she'd really like to see you."
Harry considers asking why, because it's not as though they ever talk or see each other or even have anything in common anymore, but he's too tired to start an argument now. He knows it's mostly his fault, anyway. "Yeah. Yeah, that'd be great," he says tiredly. He doesn't bother pointing out that if she wanted to see him she could have come to lunch. "I haven't seen her in ages," he adds when he notices Ron's expectant expression. "Er, how's her job going?"
Ron shrugs. "Well enough. She's pretty enthusiastic about it so I don't really like asking."
Sometimes Harry wonders how Hermione copes. "How thoughtful of you," he murmurs.
"Well, I only needed to make the mistake a couple of times before I learnt never to ask again!" Ron exclaims, chuckling. "She came home from work just as the Chudley Canon's warm-ups were starting and I missed half the bloody match. She's certainly an advocate for active bloody listening. Back in the day she just used to let me hum and hah."
"How things have changed," Harry murmurs.
"Tell me about it." Ron shakes his head. "She tried to make me do the dishes the other day. Can you believe it?" Harry can just imagine how the conversation went. "Told her I wasn't the one who objected to House Elves so she could bloody well do them herself."
"And then did them, I suppose."
"Course I did. You think I want to be castrated?"
Harry chuckles for Ron's benefit, albeit stiffly, and sits back as the waitress comes and collects their plates. She's a pretty sort, save for the impressive scar running the length of her face, but that doesn't stop Ron's eyes running the length of her body. You'd be hard put to find someone without a scar these days. Harry had hoped that with their rise in frequency, his would drop in popularity, but it's no use. Even the girl with the scar that's an exact replica of Dumbledore's face can't surpass him. Sadly even Albus Dumbledore plays second fiddle to Harry Potter these days.
"So anyway, Hermione was wondering if you wouldn't mind coming down for a visit today." Ron's eyes silently plead with Harry, contradicting his casual tone. "She couldn't get away from work unfortunately but she'd love to see you. She's got you a present and everything."
Harry twists his face into a frown, trying to send out as many palpable waves of reluctance as he can. "You mean, at the Ministry?"
"Yeah. Is that -- is that a problem?"
"Well," Harry says, trying to figure out if Ron is trying to make him feel bad or if they really have grown that far apart, "the statue makes things a bit awkward." Which is the understatement of the year, as far as Harry is concerned.
Ron shakes his head emphatically. "No one even notices that it's there."
"I'll notice it." It's hard not to. Harry had refused when they'd asked him, fought viciously against the plans when they'd shown him, and declined the invitation to its unveiling. He couldn't have opposed the idea more if he'd tried, and the Ministry knew that. It's like it's gotten to the stage where he has so much respect no one gives a damn about him anymore. He wishes he still had his plate so he could stare down at it instead of having to look at his friend. The look of confusion on Ron's face is almost enough for Harry to want to end their friendship, here and now. He doesn't know how they managed to grow so far apart but the evidence is almost overwhelmingly clear.
"It's not a bad statue," says Ron. "It could have been a lot worse."
"It's embarrassing," Harry counters. He shakes his head. "I don't understand why, if they felt it absolutely necessary to have a statue, why I ... why he ... why it couldn't just have been something normal."
"Something normal?" Ron's voice is starting to sound a little tetchy, as if he can't understand why on Earth someone wouldn't want to have an enormous tacky statue of themselves taking up half the foyer of the Ministry of Magic.
"Yeah." Harry shifts uncomfortably in his chair. "I mean, the torn shirt, the rearing dragon, the tears streaming down ... it's all a bit, I don't know. A bit much."
Ron sighs. "People like that kind of thing."
"Yeah, well. It's sort of naff."
"It's supposed to be, in'nit?" Ron folds his arms across his chest. "Victory isn't supposed to be tasteful."
Harry laughs, even though he's pretty sure Ron didn't mean it as a joke. "Guess not." He drums his fingers along the table, hoping Ron will forget about Hermione and he can extricate himself and go for a long walk. It doesn't matter that it's raining; he's started to find that he rather enjoys going for walks in the rain. The water beating down on his face, the solitude. The feeling of all his sins being washed away. He'll admit it's a maudlin self-indulgence, but it's one of the few he thinks he's owed.
"So does that mean you're not coming?" asks Ron in an unmistakably accusatory tone.
Harry sighs deeply. He supposes he'll have to put off his walk for later. "No, no," he murmurs. "I'll come."
Ron beams a smile of relief. The idea of another fight with Hermione is probably as distasteful to Ron as a trip to the Ministry is to Harry. "Brilliant. Should we head off now?"
"Yeah, sure." He watches as Ron stands up and walks away. "I'll pay the bill, will I?" he says, trying to keep the edge out of his voice.
Of course not. It's your birthday, mate. My treat.
Ron is already out the door.
The air is thick with the smell of new parchment and the floors so clean you could eat off them. Everyone that passes them by bustles with their own self-importance, in exactly the same way Percy Weasley used to before he quit the Ministry altogether.
The statue is just as grotesque as Harry remembers. He can barely resist staring up at it in horror as they pass it by. He's almost glad Dumbledore and Snape aren't alive to see it; they'd be amused and disgusted, respectively, although he's having a hard time choosing who would be which.
"Harry! What a lovely surprise!" Hermione swings around in her chair as they enter into her office, clapping her hands together, and Harry knows the world would be just as bad a place if it were run by women. Especially clever women.
"Here I am," he says, thrusting out his arms on either side of him.
"Hang on, give me one second." Hermione swings around in her chair again and starts madly typing at her keyboard. Her long fingernails click against the keys and Harry feels a shudder go down his spine as he looks at them. They may be shiny and red but they're still oddly reminiscent of the chilling, bone-coloured ones Voldemort used to favour at the height of his power. "There. Done. Now." She swings back around in her chair, beaming. Harry wonders if she ever gets motion sickness. "Happy birthday!"
Harry bows his head slightly, trying not to imagine himself on a list of tasks. "Cheers."
Hermione looks around the office -- her perfectly ordered desk, the overflowing bookshelf, the sleeping cat on the chair -- and clicks her tongue. "Damn it, Ronald, I've left his present on the counter at home."
"You want me to Floo and get it?"
Hermione simpers. She's been working at the Ministry too long. "If you could."
"Be right back." Ron's body disappears with a crack and Hermione stands up and walks over to Harry, the short distance appearing almost painful in her killer heels. She wraps her arms around Harry, enveloping him in a tight hug, and with a jolt of surprise Harry realises she's put on a serious amount of weight around her stomach. He doesn't know if he should say anything. It's ridiculous that making a comment about a woman's weight is utterly forbidden yet congratulations on pregnancy are almost compulsory. How on Earth everyone is supposed to distinguish between the two, Harry will never know.
"It's alright," she laughs, standing back. "We're pregnant."
We're pregnant. Such an odd way of putting it. "Wow," Harry mutters. "Congratulations."
"Yes, well. I don't think anyone expected anything else of us." Hermione throws her head back and laughs but Harry doesn't find it all that funny. Sort of depressing to think that no one expects anything else of you but to lie back and have children. He supposes Hermione is willing to give up her feminism for the joy of having a family.
The office seems a lot fancier than Harry remembers. Law Enforcement must pay well. He supposes it isn't surprising, considering the majority of people are completely disillusioned with the idea of risking their lives for others. War usually has that effect. "How's the job?"
"Oh, it's wonderful. It really is." Hermione nods frantically. "Lovely. Just lovely."
"You look like you're doing well for yourself." Harry hates the vaguely whiny tone that edges into his voice because he knows it has no reason to be there. He has more money than half the Wizarding world put together and everyone knows it.
"Yes." Hermione's eyes narrow ever so slightly as she looks at him curiously. "I am. And I'm glad."
Harry nods, shoving his hands into his pockets. Growing up is such an odd experience. People you've known and loved your whole entire life are suddenly strangers. He wanders around the room, taking the time to gaze at the various photos, accolades and qualifications adorning the wall. Ribbons, certificates, banners -- everywhere he looks there's something more impressive than the last. Youngest Department Head Award, Hogwarts' Top Achieving Student In History, Order of Merlin, First Class. Harry is just about to comment wryly when he catches sight of a group of people striding past the door. They would be entirely unremarkable, all hustling and bustling in the usual manner, were they not headed by a man who never fails to make Harry's blood run hot and cold. His long blonde hair is streaming out behind him as he strides down the corridor with all the confidence of a Muggle film star and Harry feels his blood boil.
He narrows his eyes. "What the hell is Lucius Malfoy doing here?" He turns to look at Hermione, who is back in her chair again, stroking the cat in her lap.
She blinks. "Don't you read the paper?" she asks, as if it is a reasonable question.
"Well, of course." Obviously she has forgotten about every single instance where the papers have been utter crap. Harry had thought he and Ron were growing apart but he is entirely unfamiliar with this Hermione. She shakes her head, twirling a lock of hair around her fingers. Little strands get stuck underneath her nail and Harry feels vaguely nauseous. "Lucius Malfoy is the Minister for Magic," she says calmly, then laughs softly. "It would only make sense for him to be here."
Harry feels like the floor has just dropped a few stories below him. "Are you serious?" he hisses.
"Only for a few months while Kingsley recovers," Hermione assures him, looking entirely nonplussed. "You're sure you didn't know?"
Harry almost wants to knock Hermione's glass table over just to see if she reacts. He's finding it a little hard to breathe. "Who the fuck allowed this to happen?"
The air suddenly becomes slightly chillier as Hermione frowns. "Please don't swear in my office, Harry."
Why the fuck not? is just about to slip from Harry's lips when Ron suddenly appears in the room, clasping a large box covered in ribbons and confetti. "Sorry it took so long!" he says brightly. "It wasn't on the bench, 'Mione. You'd put it in your wardrobe." Ron looks at Hermione then looks around at Harry, sensing the tension in the air. "Something wrong?" he asks lightly.
Harry grinds his teeth. "Lucius Malfoy is the Minister for Magic?"
Ron blinks in the exact same manner as Hermione, as if he can't believe anyone would have any objection. "Only while Kingsley recovers," he points out in the exact tone of voice Hermione had used. If Harry weren't so angry, he would laugh.
"Recovers from what, exactly?"
"His injuries," Ron says, looking at Harry like he's just grown an extra head. "Don't you read the paper?"
"No, I don't read the bloody paper!" Harry snaps, looking furiously between the two. "And you're both okay with this? This doesn't bother you?"
"He switched to our side, Harry," Hermione says angrily. She laces her fingers and her nails click together oddly. "His wife saved your life. Try and remember that."
"He doesn't have any real power," Ron says quickly, stepping towards Harry as if he senses some of his fury. Harry can almost feel the heat radiating off himself in waves. "I mean, he has enough power to deal with things, of course, but not enough to change anything dramatically."
Not enough to change anything dramatically. "You know he killed people, right? Murdered them. Abused them. Tortured them. Raped them. Was instrumental in bringing Voldemort back to power."
Hermione stands up angrily and the cat jumps off her lap with an angry screech. "Severus Snape did half of those things, Harry--"
"And I wouldn't make him bloody Minister of Magic if he were alive, either!" Harry retorts loudly. "This is fucking madness! He should be in Azkaban! Just because he changed sides doesn't mean he's absolved of all his bloody guilt--"
"Everyone deserves a second chance," Hermione cuts in vehemently.
Harry shook his head. "He had his fucking chances."
"Oi," Ron snaps, "don't swear at my wife, you hear?"
"Yeah, my wife." Ron clenches his jaw. "Why don't you go somewhere and cool off for a bit, huh?"
Harry doesn't even both to reply before spinning on his heel and walking out the door.
"Lucius Malfoy is the Minister for Magic."
"Great," Harry murmurs to himself as he slowly wanders the empty halls of the Ministry. He runs his hands along the cool tiles, trying to place the feeling that is roiling up inside up him. It is angry -- that even after everything he's done people are still ready to risk their lives -- and it is sad -- that he barely recognises the two people he would have once upon a time called his best friends -- but it is also slightly numb. The same numbness that settled like a haze over him when everything was said and done and everyone was dead. When all the funerals were over and all the awards were given out and suddenly it was back to the monotony. No school, no friends, no war. Just days and nights and all the little in-betweens.
He tries to think. He tries not to think. He tries not to look out the windows, knowing the charmed glass reflecting sunshine and blue skies will do nothing for his peace of mind. He doesn't know how the workers can stand not knowing what it's really like outside. He supposes that's what government officials like -- to keep themselves in the dark about things.
Harry shakes his head softly. He doesn't know if he can go back to see Ron and Hermione. Back to Hermione trying valiantly to forgive him and Ron trying valiantly not to be angry with him and himself trying valiantly not to hate the two of them.
Lucius Malfoy. Lucius Malfoy.
Harry shakes his head. The world is insane.
He catches sight of a "Toilet" sign and veers towards the door, thinking maybe if he stares at himself in the mirror long enough and splashes his face with cold water enough times, he'll feel the same way that Ron and Hermione do. Cold acceptance. Cool, calculated enjoyment of life. Or maybe it is self-imposed naivete.
Pushing open the door to the toilet, he stops abruptly when he hears shouting. The voice sounds loud and angry and he's just about to turn back around and leave when he hears,
"...as the fucking Minister for Magic? Are they fucking crazy? What the fuck is wrong with the fucking world?"
It isn't like Harry to eavesdrop but he can't help but want to hear what the other person will say; whether he will agree or throw it back in the person's face like Ron and Hermione did. The overwhelming smell of stale piss and antiseptic fills his nostrils and he wrinkles his nose, but strains his neck just a little to hear.
"He should be dead. He should be dead! Don't they know him? Don't they know him?"
It's still the same person. Harry wonders if whoever they're talking to will get a look in.
"Why don't they talk to anyone? Why don't they ask? Why don't they bloody ask me?"
Something is strangely familiar about the voice, and Harry searches his mind frantically for the answer. He knows this person but he doesn't know from where. Their voice is low and harsh and he thinks he might be mistaken.
"They can't even see, they don't even know -- even after the war, even after everything, even when everything was supposed to change everything is STILL THE FUCKING SAME!"
There is a sudden sound of smashing glass and Harry can no longer resist.
He wrenches open the door and strides in.
Malfoy catches sight of him in the fragments of mirror on the wall. He wheels around, his anger evident in his fuming expression and clenched fists. "Potter?" Despite his anger he sounds vaguely curious and there is a slight blush staining his cheeks.
"Malfoy," Harry replies, stepping sideways over a puddle. He nods towards Malfoy's hand which is dripping blood onto the dirty tiles of the floor. "You alright there?"
The wounds disappear with a shake of his hand and Malfoy ignores his question. "What are you doing here?"
"I heard shouting." Harry looks around. "I thought there was someone else in here with you." He hasn't seen Malfoy since the Day of Victory in the Great Hall, where he'd been huddled with his family, and he's looking somewhat worse for wear. His clothes are still as luxurious as ever -- all silver and green and velvet and adornments, and his features are still smooth and handsome -- but there's something about his straining eyes and thin mouth that isn't quite what it used to be.
"Just me," Malfoy says stiffly. "Just -- venting."
"So I heard." Harry crosses his hands behind his back, leaning against one of the stalls. "I take it you're not getting along with your father."
Malfoy blinks and a strand of hair falls into his eyes. "Are you serious, Potter? Is that your way of making an innocuous remark?"
The light above them flickers but Harry barely notices. He folds his arms over his chest. "You're the one saying he should be dead."
"That was a private conversation!" Malfoy snarls. Harry can barely believe him.
"Well, maybe you shouldn't have had it in a public toilet!"
"You know what, fuck you, Potter. Fuck you."
"Fuck me? What the hell have I ever done to you?"
Malfoy lets out a growl of frustration. "For fuck's sake, Potter, can't you see I'm fucking pissed off?" He turns around and the shattered pieces of mirror crunch beneath his leather shoes. He turns on the tap and splashes his face, rubbing it vigorously, as if he is attempting to shut Harry out.
Harry waits until he turns the tap off, watching as Malfoy pulls at his tie and throws his expensive looking jacket on the floor. "About your father?"
Grabbing a paper towel, Malfoy looks at him through the mirror again. "No shit," he says lowly. He rubs the towel roughly over his face, wincing as it scratches against his cheeks. There's no reason not to be using a warming spell and Harry frowns as he watches him.
"Why?" he mutters.
There is a long pause as the tension builds up in the room. Malfoy finally looks over his shoulder. "Are you fucking serious?"
Harry shrugs. "Yeah."
The glass crunches beneath Malfoy's feet as he turns around to face Harry again. His face almost seems to have fallen in on itself, so contorted with anger and fury that his eyes are almost nothing more than tiny slits. His usually pale skin is mottled red and his lips are pinched so thin Harry can hardly see them. "Has everybody lost their minds?" It is almost a whisper but in the silence of the room it resounds as loudly as his previous shouts. "Don't you remember what he's like?"
"Don't you remember what he did?"
"WHY ARE YOU ALL SO FUCKING READY TO FORGIVE AND FORGET?!"
"By that standard--"
"I know, Potter, I know!" spits Malfoy. "By that standard half of my family should be locked up in jail. Then so fucking be it if it stops my father from getting a position of power again! How could this happen? How could this happen? Why does everyone forget, in the light of day and happiness? Why is history doomed to repeat itself, over and over again?"
Harry sighs. "It's human nature--"
"Fuck human nature!" Malfoy's voice is so molten and dripping with fury and vehemence that Harry almost takes a step backwards. "And fuck you and all your Gryffindor buddies who think that everyone deserves a second chance."
"No, they bloody well don't, Potter! Not unless they've earned it." Malfoy presses himself up against the wall, seeming to deflate right before Harry's eyes as he sinks down onto his jacket on the floor. "And my father hasn't earned anything but a hole in the ground." He closes his eyes, a pained expression on his face, and lets his head drop down.
Harry shifts slightly, wondering if he ought to point out to Malfoy that he ought not to be sitting amidst such a mess. The floor is covered in glass, blood, mould and probably a number of other foul substances. After a minute's consideration Harry decides Malfoy probably couldn't care less.
"I," Harry starts, wondering if Malfoy is silently wishing him to leave, "I've just come from an argument about the exact same thing." Malfoy doesn't reply. Harry wonders if he ought to leave, but persists anyway. "You'd think Ron and Hermione would have some objection but--"
"Your friends' brains are fried." It's somewhat muffled but unmistakable.
Harry is just about to argue but then thinks about it. Ron's ignorance concerning Harry's wants and needs, Hermione's painted nails clicking against the keyboard, their willful desire to believe that nothing will ever go wrong again. The way Ron runs around after Hermione like the House Elves she was so determined to liberate; the way Hermione works for a Ministry Ron was so determined to rebel against. "You know what? I think you're right." He sighs deeply and lets hit legs slacken, taking a leaf from Malfoy's book and sliding down to settle on the floor, which is both gritty and sticky beneath his touch. He pulls a face.
"You'll probably get a disease from sitting down without some kind of cover," Malfoy murmurs.
Harry chuckles. "Probably. Why is it so disgusting in here anyway?"
There is a short pause. "Are you trying to bond with me, Potter?"
Harry considers snarling back but finds he doesn't have the patience. "You think they could get someone in here to clean once in a while," he mutters, looking around at the flickering lights and broken pipes, ignoring Malfoy's comment. "Maintenance, or something."
Malfoy doesn't reply.
Harry shrugs, deciding not to push it, and leans his head back against the door to the toilet. He closes his eyes, feeling oddly calm. He'll probably wonder what the fuck he's doing in a few minutes, but for the moment he is content to relax. Malfoy seems strangely at ease, too.
The minutes tick by. It doesn't seem like either one of them is inclined to leave.
"I thought everything would change," Malfoy mutters suddenly. Harry looks up to see Malfoy giving him a piercing gaze. He looks grim and bitter and everything that Harry feels. "I don't know," Malfoy says, running a hand through his hair. It's a little longer than it used to be but nowhere near as long as his father's. "I guess I thought, after the war, everything would be different."
"Everything is different." Even to his own ears his voice sounds hollow.
Malfoy sighs. "Yeah, but it's still the fucking same, isn't it?"
Harry nods slowly.
"I don't know, I guess I thought -- I guess I thought if by some miracle I ever managed to survive the war I'd be free of my father." Malfoy suddenly looks down at his hands again. "I suppose that's a pretty foreign concept to you."
There's no point disagreeing.
"He's just -- he's controlled my whole life, you know?" Malfoy's voice is low and venemous and almost a mumble. Belief is held suspended in the air, and Harry knows that at any second it could break and Malfoy would snap and shut himself off again. "Every step of the way, he's been there. Forcing me to do things. Horrible, horrible things -- he's just, I don't know. He's just this evil fucking tyrant, you know?" Malfoy laughs oddly. Harry can't take his eyes off his face. "Like one of those people that could only ever be made up, only they're not. They're fucking real and they're in your life and they're ruining it and you're constantly aware of it." Malfoy lifts a hand up to rub vigorously at one of his eyes. "And the whole fucking time you're either hating them or feeling guilty. And you feel sick with yourself and them and you just can't -- you just want to be rid of them, you know? You just want them to be gone and you know that thinking about them is just letting them win but you can't -- you can't. I don't know."
Malfoy's eyes look blotchy. Harry considers for the first time what it would have been like to have Lucius Malfoy as a father.
"After the war was supposed to be mine. I was going to change," Malfoy says vehemently. "I was going to be better and even if people were dead and my life was fucking broken and nothing around me was like it was, things were going to be different, you know? Things were going to be different." Malfoy shakes his head. "But they're not. He's the fucking Minister for Magic and I'm left fucking around in a bathroom, feeling like I'm still a little fucking kid again."
Every reply seems to stick in Harry's throat.
"After everything he has done to me," Malfoy says, his voice grating, "after everything he has put me through, you'd think he could let me live my life. But he won't. And -- and I don't think he ever will." Malfoy clears his throat. "Or I ever will, I don't know."
A shiver of consciousness suddenly comes over Malfoy and his eyes snap back to Harry's face. "So there's my fucking life story. I hope you were taking notes."
"Save it, Potter. Just -- save it."
Harry cocks his head slightly, noticing Malfoy's watery eyes. He wonders if he ought to say anything, ought to offer him a tissue of some sort. Or maybe cough and look away and make an entirely unrelated comment so Malfoy can wipe his eyes in peace. "Are you--"
"I'm not going to fucking cry, if that's what you're worried about."
Harry makes himself pause. "I'm not worried about anything," he says softly.
Malfoy emits a small hum before lapsing into silence again. There is a pipe dripping somewhere in the background and Harry wonders how long they've been in there. He wonders if Ron and Hermione think he's gone home. He's surprised he doesn't care all that much. He's also surprised to find that he doesn't have a very strong urge to go home.
"So, what are you here for, anyway?" Malfoy says, interrupting his thoughts.
Harry shrugs. "You know. This and that."
Stretching out his long legs in front of him, Malfoy gives Harry a crooked smile. "Doing the rounds?" He loosens his tie again, and with a swift movement he toes off his shoes. Sitting there, with his jacket and shoes spread around him, his hair all disheveled and a hole in the toe of his sock, next to the basin amongst the dirty tiles, he looks like an advertisement for ... well. For something.
"Something like that," Harry agrees.
"Do you even have a job?" asks Malfoy, frowning.
"I don't really need one." Harry can't be bothered being modest. It isn't as if Malfoy ever was about his money. And with the way Malfoy is treating his jacket, which looks like something most families couldn't afford after a year's pay, he surmises Malfoy is still reasonably well off.
Harry smiles crookedly at Malfoy's grin. "Something like that," he repeats.
"Welcome to the club," Malfoy says wryly.
"It's not as nice as it looks from the outside."
"It never is." It's the first banter Harry's had in what feels like years and probably is. He's starting to have these odd twisting feelings in his stomach and he tries to ignore them.
"It's kind of surprising how few people actually come in here," he says, gazing around like he's actually interested in the scummy little room. "I mean, this building is full of people. And it's just after lunch -- you kind of wonder what they're all doing."
Malfoy stretches out his arms in front of him, frowning. "People generally avoid these ones if they can."
"Then why do you use them?" Harry voice comes out strangely accusatory and he regrets it a little.
It doesn't seem to have affected Malfoy at all, who brushes idly at his shirt. "People listening while you're trying to relieve yourself isn't my idea of a good time," he replies.
Harry allows a beat. "Didn't think people went to toilets to have a good time."
Malfoy looks up at him, raising an eyebrow. "We move in different circles, obviously," he says dryly.
At first Harry thinks he's just making a harmless joke about their situation. Then he catches the look in Malfoy's eyes, the smirk lingering at the corner of his lips, and a little voice inside his head goes Oh.
"Just making a crude faggot joke, Potter," Malfoy says before Harry has a chance to reply. "It doesn't matter."
There is a long pause.
"Look, I should get back to work," Malfoy says, standing up and brushing off his dark trousers. Harry gets the impression he feels uncomfortable and guesses he's embarrassed at the amount of information he's given Harry in the last five minutes. Harry gets a tugging feeling in his stomach as he watches Malfoy patting at his bum and he immediately tries to think of something to say other than, "No. Stay."
"Well, ah," he says, standing up. There is a wet patch on the back of his trousers and probably all manner of grime and foul diseases. He rubs his hands absently down them. "You, er, want to do this again sometime?" He chuckles but doesn't have enough finesse to make it seem like a joke.
Malfoy looks around the scummy toilet with a bemused expression. "Not really." He picks up his jacket, casting a quick cleaning and drying spell on it, and slings it over his shoulder. He slips his elegant feet into his shoes, tying up his shoelaces with the flick of a hand, and starts to walk out the door.
Malfoys stops, his back to Harry. He doesn't turn around but Harry knows he's listening. Harry takes a second to appreciate the fine lines of his long legs and shoulders from behind. "You, er." He clears his throat. "You busy after work?"
Malfoy looks over his shoulder with a slight frown. "I don't know, Potter. Am I?"
"Well, it's just that. I don't know." I feel alive. "I had -- fun."
A dubious expression slips onto Malfoy's features and he looks pointedly around the room. "Fun?"
"Well, not fun but..." Harry breaks off. Obviously Malfoy isn't interested in throwing him a bone. He supposes it's too much to think Malfoy would ever be interested, as a friend or otherwise. "Never mind," he mutters.
"I'll have a drink with you, if that's what you're asking," Malfoy says nonchalantly, grasping the door handle as if impatient to leave.
"Er," Harry bites his lip. This is good. "Yeah. Yeah, it is."
"It's your birthday, isn't it?"
Harry shakes his head, unable to stop a small smile from spreading across his face in surprise. "How did you know?"
Malfoy shrugs. "Your buddies were planning some kind of party. I was hoping to miss it myself."
"Oh," Harry says with a sinking feeling in his stomach at the thought of Ron and Hermione, standing around a cake with unlit candles trying to explain to a room full of colleagues why their friend Harry Potter isn't there.
Malfoy hesitates ever so slightly for a moment. "You'll still be able to catch it, if you run now. You heard of the Green Dragon?" Harry nods. "Meet you there for a -- a birthday drink around five?"
Harry nods again. "Yeah, sure. Great."
And Malfoy walks out the door.
The first thing that Harry notices when he arrives is the lack of lights and music that usually float down along the street when The Green Dragon is at its busiest, which is usually at this particular time. The windows and doors are all closed and there are no tables set out on the street like there usually are, and for a moment Harry thinks Malfoy was trying to get one up on him until he sees a familiar flash of blond hair. Malfoy is standing leaning against the door, looking like he wouldn't be out of place in a Film Noir with his dark coat and surly expression, and Harry walks through the large puddle with a small smile.
"It's closed for repairs," Malfoy says by way of explanation. Harry shrugs, wondering vaguely if this is part of Malfoy's plan or if he's as genuinely surprised as Harry is. Harry clears his throat, shoving his hands in his pockets, and stares down the street, which is more or less empty. The rain has stopped but there's still a freezing damp mist in the air. Harry was looking forward to being able to slip into the warmth and comfort of the bar.
Malfoy scuffs his foot. Their casual meeting suddenly has an awkward air of importance.
"Do you know of any other pubs in the area?" Harry tries.
"Most of them are pretty seedy these days."
"Well," Harry chews his lip. He doesn't want to just part ways, but he doesn't want Malfoy to think he's twelve again by inviting him to The Three Broomsticks or a similar sort of establishment either. They could go out for dinner -- Malfoy might think that's bit much. "I suppose you could come to my place," he says at last, trying to affect as casual an air as possible. "It's not far."
Malfoy raises an eyebrow. "On a first date?" he murmurs, a small smile playing at the corner of his lips.
"It's not..." Harry trails off because he's not sure what it is. If Malfoy thinks it's a date, he isn't sure he wants to dissuade him of that idea. "Just for a glass of wine. Or something."
"Or something?" Malfoy seems amused and not at all impressed.
Harry shrugs. "Or something."
A beat. Harry wonders momentarily if Malfoy is going to call it all off. "Yes, alright," he says finally and Harry can't help but smile.
"Mind if we walk? I rather like the atmosphere."
"What, ghost town?"
Harry smiles. "Yeah. Something like that." Malfoy inclines his head and the two of them begin to walk down the long and lonely street. Malfoy's right -- it does seem like a ghost town. Torrents of water are rushing down the gutters and there are few cars on the street and even fewer lights on in the many surrounding buildings. Harry thinks about introducing a topic until he looks sideways at Malfoy to see him strolling along with one of the calmest expressions Harry has ever seen on his face before, and he doesn't want to break the odd hush and spell that seems to have fallen over everything. It is only July so it can't possibly be contributed to anything to do with the holiday season.
After ten minutes or so of walking side by side in comfortable silence, they arrive at Harry's small apartment building. Harry tries not to act awkward as he climbs the stairs and opens the little door to his room. He suddenly has a fleeting moment of panic where he wonders if he's remembered to clean anything, but everything is spick and span as Malfoy slips in behind him.
"Not bad," Malfoy murmurs, looking around at the sparse furnishings and muted colours. "Though you could do better. Some Manor out in the country, or something."
Harry shrugs. "I'd get lonely." He takes off his coat and throws it over a chair. "So, wine?"
Malfoy casts a silent spell over his coat, which shivers and shakes off all the wetness and crinkles, then sets it down over the arm of the couch. "Have anything stronger?" he says, settling down, crossing his knees. He looks perfectly at home in Harry's apartment, moreso than Harry feels at times. He guesses some people just fit in like that.
Harry still isn't sure if this is a terrible idea but he's willing to give it a chance. Besides, a willing partner was far preferable to a night with a whore, although he had strong suspicions Malfoy wouldn't be staying the night. "I think I have a half bottle of whiskey somewhere." Harry summons it silently.
"Sounds -- wonderful," Malfoy says wryly, rubbing at his temple. Harry summons two glasses, setting them down on the box in front of the couch. He sits down next to Malfoy on the couch and opens the bottle, which hisses a little, and fills up the glasses, handing one to Malfoy and trying to ignore the fact that the liquid is emitting a faint smoke.
"To..." He clears his throat. "To victory."
Malfoy considers this for a moment. "To victory," he replies, and downs his glass, Harry following suit. Leaning back into the chair, Harry giddily lets the warm feeling pump through his veins. "Potter," Malfoy says suddenly. "Can I -- can I ask you something?"
Harry nods, shutting his eyes slightly. "If you want to." There is a long pause and Harry can almost sense the cogs turning around in Malfoy's head.
"Are you gay?"
Harry sits up suddenly. "What?"
"Well, it's just..." Malfoy shrugs. "You know I am."
"Well." Harry shifts slightly, turning to face Malfoy on the small couch. "Not for certain. I mean I sort of -- you know, when you said..." Harry trails off, unsure of how to continue.
"Well, I am," Malfoy replies. Harry is trying hard to think of something to say. "It's just --" Malfoy breaks off, frowning. "It's just that if this is all a lead up because you think we'll never do anything if we're not drunk..."
Harry feels as though his brain has stopped working. "I -- I just wanted to go out for a birthday drink."
"Oh." Malfoy's face falls. "Well, never mind then." He coughs slightly. "Another?"
"No," Harry says, shaking his head, feeling like his world was turning upside down. "You mean you thought I invited you out for a drink because I was ... because I wanted to...because--"
"Look, it doesn't matter. I apologise. I got my signals crossed."
"No," Harry insists suddenly, daringly putting his hand on Malfoy's leg. "I -- I don't think you did."
"Malfoy," Harry interrupts and Malfoy sucks a breath in sharply as Harry's hand trails up his leg. Harry doesn't know what he's doing, doesn't know if he's doing anything right. Doesn't know if this is the worst decision of his life. All he knows is that for the first time in so long he feels alive. He can feel the heat radiating from Malfoy's body, the smooth fabric of Malfoy's trousers beneath his touch, the soft breath of air that Malfoy pants onto his face.
"You don't have to do this just to prove something to me."
"I'm not trying to prove anything," Harry says, "to anyone."
Malfoy's eyes flick back and forth uncertainly before he appears to come to a decision. He sets his jaw firmly and suddenly, leaning forward, his lips are on Harry's. It's awkward and hard and their noses get in way and Harry doesn't know where to put his hands, but it's also hot and slick and needy and Malfoy makes a keening sound in the back of his throat when Harry slips his tongue into his mouth. It's wrong and it's crazy and it doesn't make any sense but suddenly, unnervingly, it feels like the first right thing he's done since he watched Voldemort hit the ground for the final time.
"I don't--" Harry tries to murmur but Malfoy silences him with his mouth, pressing a hand against his chest and pushing him slowly down onto his back. "What are we doing?"
"I don't know," Malfoy says against his lips. "But it feels good." He settles down on top of Harry, his tongue licking deliciously around Harry's mouth, and Harry groans aloud at the feel of their bodies pressed together so tightly. He rocks his hips gently, gasping into the kiss at the feel of the friction. "Do you want--"
"Yeah," Harry hisses, unsure what he's agreeing to but wanting it all the same. Malfoy slips a hand under Harry shirt, rubbing it back and forth across Harry's chest, and Harry wonders wildly if he'll hate himself in the morning. His head feels light but everything is still so real -- the harsh light of the lamp overhead, Malfoy's alcohol stained breath panting in his ear, the feel of another person on top of him, gasping and groaning hoarsely, the feel of Malfoy's heart pounding in his chest -- every sensation is magnified a million times by the fact that they're sober and it's light and they're them. Harry thinks that maybe he should have insisted they had more to drink. He thinks maybe he shouldn't be doing this in the first place; shouldn't have walked in on Malfoy in the bathroom, shouldn't have invited him back to his place, shouldn't be here on the couch with his cock hardening in his pants and Malfoy's tongue down his throat.
But he is. God, he is. "Malfoy," Harry gasps. "Oh, fuck."
Malfoy's hand is at Harry's belt, pulling it out of the loops in a single motion and ripping open the buttons. He lets out an inelegant grunt at the sight of Harry's erection tenting in his underpants, and his eyes flick up to Harry's suddenly. "You're sure you want to do this?" His voice comes out husky and low. "I mean, with me."
"As if I'm going to tell you no now," Harry murmurs, and Malfoy grins madly as he slides his hand beneath Harry's waistband to grab Harry's cock, his hand slick with something hot and wet. "Ungh," Harry says, thrusting his hips involuntarily, hardening even more. "Oh fuck, Malfoy, fuck yeah..."
"God, Potter," Malfoy says, resting his head against Harry's forehead, "you're so fucking eager, aren't you?"
"Take your pants off," Harry hisses in reply, trying not to think about how quickly he was becoming aroused, and Malfoy's whole body shudders against him.
"Holy fucking shit, Potter, you just spoke fucking Parseltongue," Malfoy growls, and suddenly the hot wet pressure around Harry's cock is gone as Malfoy sits up slightly, frantically undoing his pants with shaking hands. "I better not come in my pants," he hisses as he wrenches down his boxers with his trousers and wastes no time in pressing himself hard against Harry. They both groan as their cocks come into contact, achingly hard and rubbing deliciously. "Fuck, Potter, do it again."
"Speak it," Malfoy grunts. Harry groans as Malfoy speeds up his thrusts, the hot slick feel and friction almost becoming too much for him. He moans low in his throat.
"I--" Harry's orgasm starts to take hold, his hips thrusting forward back and forth with abandon as his muscles all begin to clench rhythmically. He tries valiantly to keep his eyes open, to keep staring straight into the depths of Draco's soul where he can just see the beginning of golden sparks.
"Fuck yeah, just f-fucking anything, Potter, just fucking anything--"
"Victory," Harry hisses, unable to conjure up any thought than their previous toast, and with a startled cry he comes, clutching Malfoy tightly as he rides out the last waves of his orgasm, Malfoy quickly following with a guttural groan.
"So," Malfoy murmurs in the glittering afterglow. "What did you say?"
The edges of the world are sort of fuzzy and Harry feels sticky in a good way.
"Nothing," he whispers back, blushing a little. "Something stupid."
Malfoy hums quietly. "Yeah?"
Harry leans his head on Malfoy's shoulder, smiling despite himself. "Yeah."