Title: Firewhiskey and Fairy Lights
Summary: It is impossible to tell whether it is a good idea whether to listen to one's ex-wife on how to recover from a separation.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Deathly Hallows compliant? Epilogue compliant
Word Count: 3297
Author's Notes: Many, eternal thanks to my dear C, who not only beta-ed this but harassed me to write when I could not and who encouraged me with ideas when none of them would come. This story is entirely thanks to her genius. And, of course, always, to A for everything. You have my eternal, complete, devotion.
Harry watches, as he has become so adept at doing. He supposes that, rather than watching, he should be participating in the twirl of dancing, laughing bodies. That's why he's here, bullied by his ex-wife and friends into attending parties with people that he is fairly sure he is meant to dislike. Lately, though, they seem to have become less 'the enemy' and more 'the other'. That glamorous, passionate, desirous half to the humbler, more family oriented society that Harry has long counted himself a part of.
Harry feels small. He cannot tell whether that is the effect of the alcohol running through his system, a vice he has not succumbed to before now, or because they all seem so very confident while he sits in his corner. He almost hopes that the shadows will swallow him up before anyone notices his presence.
He is not sure whether the people around him are simply polite or whether they are completely unobservant; he has not known them to be the former, but he sees their sideways glances and half-smiles. He tries to tell himself that they are simply amused at the wallflower, but he can't quite hide from the niggling feeling that they see everything he does not want them to: his insecurity, his surety that he is entirely out of place, and his sadness that he no longer has a guaranteed partner at these seemingly hollow displays of wealth and supposed good taste.
Occasionally one of them ventures closer to him, a small smile on their face that Harry would take as inviting if he weren't a middle-aged divorcee with three children and a career that consumes all of his time and devotion. As many of them are men as they are women, something that makes Harry want to laugh. He has long since been curious about that aspect of his sexuality, even if he is too afraid to want to expose that much of himself to what would have to be a complete stranger. Even then it is a danger; the wizarding world does not yet take kindly to "alternative relationships."
It is a woman that approaches him this time; she can't be more than 19 years old, a mere two years older than his eldest child, a half-smile on her face. She invites him to dance, and Harry laughs at the incongruity of it. He almost feels 14 again, being asked to the Yule Ball by people he barely knows, and he turns her down with a bemused smile. He's sure she has far more interesting partners than an old man who can't bring himself to interact in a room filled with interesting people.
He feels the whisper of skin against his back and hears a sarcastic voice that he supposes should be familiar and abhorrent to him, but instead has faded into, scarily, an almost fond memory of an almost-childhood. "You should be honoured, you know - that's Charlotte Zabini, and she doesn't offer her favours to just anyone. Almost anyone in this room would kill to have the opportunity to dance with her."
Harry opens his mouth to remind the speaker that he's married and his wife doesn't like it when he dances with strange teenagers, but that isn't true, not any more. He has become so used to the words that they are instinct even now, a good three years after they have become wrong. "She couldn't be a day older than twenty," Harry protests, looking around to see Malfoy's pale eyes staring at him intently. "That's almost half my age, I can't...her father would kill me."
Malfoy laughs, head tossed back in amusement. He rests a hand on the back of Harry's chair; Harry thinks that he can feel the warmth burning into his skin, and that maybe he's had enough of the Firewhiskey for now. "Closer to twenty-five, although she'd never admit the real number," Malfoy says, voice still tinted with the laughter that he had directed at Harry mere moments before. "I think Blaise has long since ceased believing that he has any ability to control what she does."
Harry was coming to know that feeling well. Just days ago he had attempted to murder the boy that Lily had decided she wanted to date, stopping only because he was reminded quite firmly by his wife (ex...ex-wife), that any such action would only result in his daughter despising him. Given how long a teenage girl could hold a grudge, Harry wanted to avoid that at all costs. Admittedly, a part of that is not wanting to lose her company, but the larger part is an inability to deal well with her yelling, something teenagers seem to do more easily than he can calmly live with.
"I doubt she'd say no if you were to ask her," Malfoy continues, eyes not leaving Harry's. He gestures with his own glass of amber liquid toward the stunningly attractive girl. Harry is shaking his head even before Malfoy finishes his sentence. He thinks that his head might be spinning far too much from the countless drinks he has consumed to be at all graceful on his feet, and even that is assuming that somewhere during the past twenty years he has absorbed the ability to dance through some form of osmosis. Malfoy's eyes examine him carefully, seeing something that Harry is not entirely sure he wants known. "Perhaps she isn't your type anymore?"
Harry opens his mouth to deny it, the words freezing in his mouth. He looks down at his drink with a glare, the betrayal cutting: he is sure that he would be able to lie properly were the effects of it not turning his head to some form of mush. "She is, I just..." He laughs at himself, unexpectedly, and the feeling of release is strangely wonderful. "I think it's this place that's not my type. I'm only here because Ginny told me to come, and I...really have no idea what I'm doing here."
Malfoy's eyebrows raise, his lips not echoing Harry's smile. He seems more perplexed than amused, and that makes Harry laugh more, although he cannot quite define why. "You often take advice on how to pick up from your ex-wife?"
Harry tries to shake his head again, but it turns into a form of nod, and he ducks his head in embarrassment. "Yeah, I guess so. I just..." he gestures out to the sea of dancing bodies, all of them managing with effortless ease the sort of pleasurable abandon that he finds himself incapable of and he smiles ruefully at the sight, even as he is even more glad of his little corner. "I don't really have anyone else to ask, I've never been good at any of this. And...Ginny and I are friends now, I guess..."
It had been a rough time getting there, as Harry was sure Malfoy knew. The papers had been filled with news of their fights, their public battles, the fact that their children had been so annoyed at the both of them that they had gone to stay with various friends and family until Harry and Ginny had decided that it was enough. There was just nothing left for them to work with anymore.
"Most bizarre break-up I've heard of," Malfoy says dryly, and Harry has to admit that he has a point. He can't quite remember the point where the tense friendship started up, but he is grateful for it. It has made the transition slightly easier. "I'm quite sure that if my wife and I decided to split, she would be the last person I would go to on matters like that."
It might be easier for Malfoy, Harry thinks rather resentfully. He was a part of this world, wife or not. He has plenty of people that he can go to for entertainment or distraction while Harry only has Ginny and his two best friends. Despite all bets to the contrary, Ron and Hermione are still happily involved in a bizarrely blissful domestic scene that was entirely unbelievable considering how much they fought for the first seven years of their friendship. Somehow Harry doubts they would have any helpful advice on how he is meant to survive the break-up of a marriage, when that is something they have never had to consider in their own.
He looks up at the sparkling, shifting fairy lights, trying to find a reply to that. The movement is entrancing for a few moments, and he feels a brief stab of wonder even now that fairy lights in this world are comprised of actual fairies. Then his stomach turns over, and he thinks that if he doesn't get to the bathroom soon he will embarrass himself even more than he thinks he may already have.
Thankfully the location of the bathroom is the one thing he knows, and he makes it there with little fanfare. He is slightly annoyed to find that he has been followed, Malfoy looking on in amusement as Harry rests his head on the sink, hoping the cool surface will bring him some relief. "Do you plan on being at all of my public humiliations?" he asks quietly, and surprised when he hears Malfoy laugh in obvious shock, blond eyebrows nearly up to his forehead as he stares unblinkingly at Harry.
"Because you haven't been at mine," Malfoy says, face contorted in what appears to be a mixture of amusement and disbelief. Harry feels his gut twist as he thinks over the many times he has 'triumphed' over Malfoy, and realises for the first time that as entertaining as he found those moments at the time, the experience would have been very different for the other man.
"I'm sorry," he says honestly, mind fixed on the image of blood in a bathroom, running down the drain and away from him, because he had not thought enough to research a spell before he used it. While it is not a mistake that he has made again, it is one that he thinks should have haunted him more than it has. Which is to say, really, that he should have thought about it at all after the initial casting.
Malfoy's eyes pierce his own and Harry has to turn his face away to try and hide the fact that he really thinks he has to be sick. The sink is perhaps not the best place to do this, but his stomach is very firmly rebelling and informing him that unless he remains entirely still, it is going to cause a scene messy enough that even Harry's selective memory will not be able to cover it up. When no reply comes, Harry forces himself to look back up, not at all surprised to find the grey eyes still searching his own, the colour so strangely familiar to him that he has to check to be sure that he's actually looking at Malfoy the younger rather than elder.
Although, with the arrival of Scorpius, he supposes that Malfoy is the Senior now. That thought is sobering, only in the fact that he is not sure what has happened to the original Malfoy Senior in the past twenty years, and for some strange reason it bothers Harry that anyone else might have lost their father as a result of one madman, however much he had disliked them.
Malfoy's mouth twists and Harry's eyes cannot help but follow the curve of it, the sneer somehow unfamiliar despite how many times he has seen it before. It freezes mid-smirk and Harry follows the path of Malfoy's face up to his eyes, seeing in them something that is so familiar and unfamiliar at the same time that he is momentarily distracted from the turning of his stomach, forgetting entirely why he came here.
"Why did you follow me?" He asks in a small voice, the vibrations of it still managing to make him want to turn his face from his companion and embarrass himself thoroughly. It is only through sheer force of will that he manages to keep the remains of his dinner down, refusing to tear his eyes from Malfoy's until he has some answer that he is satisfied with.
Satisfaction, it seems, is not going to be an easy thing, as Malfoy's answer is not in the slightest bit comforting. "It's funny," he says, a wide grin on his face. "A chance to see the saviour of the Wizarding world on his knees in front of me? Who wouldn't want that opportunity?"
Harry's eyes widen in protest, and he is about to argue when he sees something shift in Malfoy's face. It steals his breath away long enough that he doesn't notice as the other man moves closer, bending down so that his eyes are level with Harry's own.
"Stop that," Harry says, voice dropping with the authority that he has earned himself over the past years. It's a ridiculous thought, as he has no idea what he is telling Malfoy to stop doing. All he knows is that whatever has changed in these past moments is so far outside Harry's comfort zone that he is sure that any continuation will change things for him more than he is willing to live through at this moment.
Malfoy's smirk returns and he holds out a hand to help Harry to his feet. Harry complies, hoping to Merlin that his stomach cooperates and does not betray him while his situation is still this vulnerable. Although, he decides as he finds himself face to face with Malfoy, it may have been better if it did. The sight of the grey eyes staring into his, face mere millimetres away, does nothing at all for his sanity. "I mean it," he repeats, he hopes in a slightly stronger voice. "Stop it."
"Stop what?" Malfoy asks, his voice thick with the drawl that Harry has always hated so much. It is as infuriating as ever, as much for the fact that Harry has no idea whatsoever what he is meant to be stopping. He only knows that something is very different here and he does not know what it is.
Malfoy moves towards him and Harry moves instinctively moves back, the pressure of one of the stalls against his back bringing him to a quick halt. Malfoy takes advantage of this, continuing his path towards Harry until their fronts are pressed so tightly together that Harry is not entirely sure there is a difference between then.
"Stop what?" Malfoy repeats, although there is no time to answer because suddenly their lips are pressed as tightly together as the rest of them. Harry cannot for the life of him tell who moved first, but it doesn't matter. Malfoy's mouth is on his, Harry's stomach seems to be celebrating rather than protesting, and in some bizarre way he cannot enumerate, this all makes sense.
At least, it makes perfect sense up until the point where Malfoy pushes him even further against the stall, tongue sliding into Harry's mouth. Your wife," he tries to gasp and Malfoy laughs against his lips. The mirth is so bizarre to Harry that he manages to pull away, even if it involves banging his head painfully into the hard surface behind him.
"What she doesn't know..." Malfoy says darkly, and the memory of his own failed marriage hits Harry so painfully that all he can do, in the small amount of space he has, is glare. Malfoy laughs at his expression, something that surprises Harry enough that his obvious resistance fails in light of the sheer strangeness of this encounter. "Calm down, Potter. She's off with her own lover right now. I hardly think she'll care in the slightest who I take for my own."
With that, Malfoy's lips meet his own again, and Harry is shocked enough that he doesn't fight this time, allowing the strange new press of Malfoy's chest against his own distract him from the fact that kissing a man is nothing at all like kissing a woman. Even more frighteningly, Harry is not entirely sure which of the two he likes the most.
He thinks he will be amazed when he has the courage to look back on this, how easy it is to fall into the strange new pattern of movement. Malfoy's cock rubs against his own, and this friction is enough to steal the words from Harry's mouth, which Harry thinks might be a good thing. He has never been very good at expressing himself in situations such as this, and the sheer newness of this would no doubt ensure that he would be even less articulate than usual.
Instead he gasps into Malfoy's mouth, bunching his hands into Malfoy's hair as Malfoy moves against him, listening the sound of the other man panting heavily in Harry's ear. Harry tries to angle his hips properly, not sure why he is surprised that after all of these years they have ended up nearly the same height, the few extra centimetres that Malfoy has on him enough to make this experience even stranger than it would have been otherwise.
Once Harry finds the right angle, it is embarrassingly quick and Harry finds himself coming against Malfoy. He sighs in pleasure as the blond continues to move against him, tensing and then stilling, his head resting on Harry's shoulder. Harry tries to speak, not entirely sure what he is expected to say Thankfully, Malfoy eliminates the need to do this by pulling away, cleaning them both up with a whispered spell and twisting his lips back into the sneer that Harry is so familiar with.
Harry feels something inside him freeze. He is half tempted to run away before he can hear the contempt that he is so sure will come, but strangely enough the words are gentler than he had imagined they would be. "I have the feeling you'll be staying away from Firewhiskey the next time you come to one of these."
Harry stands, back straightening, and he looks Malfoy dead in the eye. He is not sure what has come over him, but rather than denying the very existence of this exceptionally surreal evening, he smiles, shrugging his shoulders. "And maybe I won't," he says, voice challenging, even as the larger part of him knows that this is ridiculous, and they would both be better off forgetting it entirely.
"Then I guess I'll see you next time," Malfoy whispers, ghosting a kiss over Harry's cheek as he turns to walk out of the bathroom. Harry is prepared to feel embarrassed, the emotion tightening at this throat, but as he examines himself, he realises that he's safe. Malfoy has cleaned them both up well enough that no one would ever know what they had been doing in here, unless one of them were willing to admit it. Harry wants to call his appreciation to the retreating figure, pausing when Malfoy looks back at him. "I'll make sure I have the Firewhiskey ready."
Although he could not say why, Harry smiles; the idea of a repeat is not as repugnant as he had once thought it would be. "I'll be waiting," he says softly, not sure he cares whether Malfoy hears or not. He will be waiting, which is really the only important part of it. And maybe, when that time comes, it will not be in an empty bathroom somewhere, but a place more comfortable; somewhere that would allow them to take longer than a few minutes. Maybe next time it will be Harry who starts it, rather than waiting, wide-eyed, for something to happen to him. "Firewhiskey or not."