Those who need, must. - Enchantment; Loss (Part 1 of 2)

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May 31st, 2009


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11:29 pm - Enchantment; Loss (Part 1 of 2)
Title: Enchantment; Loss (Part 1 of 2)
Author: dracofiend
Pairings: HP/LM, HP/DM
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Chan.
Summary: Harry wishes for one thing only.
Author's Note: Originally written for [info]hd_worldcup 2009, for the prompt of "A snitch in time saves nine hours of Quidditch." The version under the cut includes two additional scenes; the original version posted in [info]hd_worldcup is rated R for implied chan and is available here.



One

"Just go on inside there, Harry—have a good look around." Hagrid beams down at him from his tree-branch height, hoisting up the brown-paper-wrapped books higher under his arm. "Eeylops is the place ter be—you won't want a toad or summat like that, toads went out of fashion years ago. Tell yeh what, it'll be a birthday present from me, right?"

Harry, dizzy from the mine ride in Gringotts and from answering strangers' hellos and from constantly looking up at the giant man who seems to be his only friend in the world—this world—feels himself flush. He hasn't managed to eat properly ever since he read that letter and he's been a bit jumbled, and now he's thirsty as well but his thoughts are abuzz at the new robes he's just purchased, at the street he's standing on, at the cold glittering piles of coins in his (his!) vault.

"You don't have to—" he starts faintly, but Hagrid stops him with a friendly wave of a paw.

"I know I don't have to," says the big man, and he smiles through his beard. It spreads open like an oversized muskrat. "Go on now—I'll just nip down and get yer cauldron and such, won't be a tick." And he shuffles Harry in through the door, which jingles loudly as it swings open.

The smell hits Harry an instant before it happens—a rush of air and wings in his face, and he drops to the floor, gasping sawdust and droppings. On his knees, Harry begins to choke.

"It's only an owl," drawls yet another unknown voice. "It won't hurt you."

Harry tries to stifle his cough and peers up, wincing. His last swallow went wrong; it's difficult to breathe.

"Look," says a boy, pointing behind Harry. Harry rises and turns, blinking back the wetness in his eyes—and they widen. Behind him, filling the wall in a crazy ill-aligned tapestry, are owls. They perch on ledges, on swinging bars, on artificial twigs, on ceiling rafters. They are of all sizes and colors, ruffling feathers or sleeping, fluttering to and fro, calling to each other in muted croons. Never has Harry had so many eyes upon him. It unnerves him, and he turns back to the boy.

"That's…a lot of owls," Harry stutters.

The other boy gives a superior sort of laugh. "Never been here before?" He looks at Harry as piercingly as did the owls, though his eyes are light, and his hair, lighter. Harry notices that his nose and face are sharp, with points.

Harry shakes his head.

"I've been here loads of times," the pointy-nosed boy tells him. "Beautiful creatures, aren't they?" He waves at the birds as if he owns each and every one. "I've already got an eagle owl," he says, "and I was thinking of getting another, maybe a dragon owl. Or a falcon—those are kept in a different room, as they're too sensitive and valuable to be shown out here," he adds.

"Oh," Harry nods at the boy's expectant look. "A falcon would be wicked."

The boy's mouth twitches as if to laugh at that and he's about to reply, but an elderly man totters into view behind him, from a rear doorway.

"Hallo there, son," the man says, adjusting the dirty smock around his neck. "Need an owl for school?"

Harry turns to look and he can feel the other boy's gaze suddenly zoom in on his head. It's starting to make his head ache, the prolonged staring by random people focused on the one spot. He wants to slap a hand over his fringe, but instead he simply nods and answers the man.

"Yes, please," he says, and the man gives him a smile, wipes his hands on the apron and steps around the shop counter.

"Can I show you anything in particular?" the shopkeeper asks, pushing aside the empty cages hanging from the ceiling as he comes.

Harry looks back at the blond boy, whose eyes dart away.

"I suggest the snowy owl," the boy says knowledgeably, acting as if he hadn't been searching for Harry's scar. He juts his pointy chin toward the far corner, and Harry follows his eyes.

"Ah, Draco," says the shopkeeper, who has reached them at last. "Still considering that falcon? I can't hold onto her for more than a day, even for you, so put in a good word with Mrs. Malfoy, eh?" He graces the blond boy with a wrinkly wink before turning to Harry and clapping his hands together.

"Now then young sir, what can I do for you?"

Harry hardly notices the faint scowl on the other boy's face or his swift jingling departure, despite Draco's lofty explanation that he must meet his mother for a dressrobe fitting. Harry is transfixed by the sleek white feathers of the owl, perched high in the corner, amber-eyed and alone. The owl is breathtaking, quite large, quite still, and it looks not at Harry, or his scar, but over his head entirely.

"I'd like that one, please," he tells the shopkeeper, when he can speak.

+++++

It’s the weekend of the first trip to Hogsmeade when Harry meets Draco Malfoy’s dad. Harry’s leaning on the low castle wall with some others in his class, watching the lucky third years file out in a neat line and listening to the chatter about the bizarre and wonderful shops when a loud, somewhat testy voice shouts, “Potter!”

Harry swivels about, as do his friends. Most of them don’t care much for Draco because he’s in Slytherin and is rich. Harry thinks Draco shows off a bit much and can be rather bossy, but other than that, he’s all right.

“My father—” Draco begins, but his mouth shutters like a window when a white-gloved hand is laid upon his head.

“You must forgive my son’s familiarity—he forgets we haven’t yet been introduced,” says the man standing behind Draco. He’s tall and trim and broad-shouldered, and his inflection is gentle. His elegant robes match his solemn smiling face, and his silver hair is long and remarkable in the sun. His gloved hand strokes Draco once, without ruffling a hair; then it’s extended to Harry, white palm up. Harry is dazzled.

“I’m Draco’s father,” Draco’s father says. “One of the school governors. I’m delighted to meet you, Harry.”

He says this very sincerely and the lilt of his words is pleasing. Harry overcomes his diffidence more readily than usual and steps forward with a small smile to shake the man’s hand. The glove is shockingly soft, and warm, and Harry notices the supple feel of it around his cold fingers.

“I understand you’re the new Gryffindor Seeker,” Mr. Malfoy says, looking down at Harry with serious gray eyes. They look like Draco’s, only bigger. “That’s quite an achievement.”

“Er, yes sir,” Harry nods, stumbling over the words slightly. He feels his cheeks grow pink and the resulting embarrassment makes them pinker. He averts his eyes and catches Draco scowling, and hurries to correct himself. “I mean, thank you. Sir. I, um—it wasn’t expected. I wasn’t trying to—I mean I know first years aren’t supposed to—er. I really have Draco to thank for it.” He takes a breath and struggles to shut up while glancing at Draco, whose scowl deepens before clearing at the sound of Mr. Malfoy’s laugh.

“Oh yes, Draco told me about the Remembrall,” Mr. Malfoy says, his gray eyes crinkling with amusement. “Let us hope that you’ll always be around to save the day.” His smile becomes warmer, almost indulgent, and it makes Harry like him, heaps more than he’s ever liked Draco.

“We were just setting off on a little turn about the grounds,” Mr. Malfoy continues. “Would you care to join us?” He adjusts the clasp of his overcloak and Harry sees that the walking stick he’s carrying is topped by a bejeweled snake’s head. It winks a dark silver in the clean fist of his glove.

“Oh,” Harry replies, blinking. “I’d like that—but wouldn’t you and Draco rather go by yourselves? I mean, I wouldn’t want to intrude, I’m sure you’ve got plenty to catch up on—”

Draco’s chin is tilting into a nod but Mr. Malfoy shakes his head, smiling. “Aren’t you a thoughtful child? Please, I insist.” He stretches out an arm; his cloak swings from his elbow like a wide wing. “Draco and I will have more than enough time together this weekend, hm, Draco?” Harry looks at Draco, whose sullen features become agreeable under his father’s gaze. “Today I was hoping to meet some of his new friends.” He circles one arm around Draco’s shoulder and gestures slightly at Harry, and Harry can tell now that it’s not really a request. It’s something he’s only ever seen on other people’s dads, so he ducks his head, smiling back, and moves to Mr. Malfoy’s side, even though he’s not exactly Draco’s friend. Mr. Malfoy’s hand comes around his shoulder and they begin striding up the rampart.

Harry looks quickly at Draco, meaning to make some sign of apology, but Draco has a haughty expression pinned firmly to his face, and it doesn’t slip when he says, to Harry’s surprise, “Thanks.”

+++++

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather stay here with us for Christmas?” Ron asks for the tenth time as Harry pounds his robes into his trunk with flat hands. He’ll only be there for three weeks but he’s never stayed at a friend’s house before and out of an abundance of caution, he’s bringing everything he’s got. It really isn’t much, but for some reason it’s incredibly difficult to get it all to fit.

“It’s going to be wicked fun,” Ron presses on. “George and Fred have these amazing fireworks planned—you’ve never seen wizarding fireworks before, have you?”

Harry hasn’t. “I’m sure it’ll be a grand time here,” he answers in what he hopes is a reasonable tone. “You’ll have to tell me all about it when I get back, yeah?”

Ron collapses onto Harry’s bed with a hmph, and the resultant jounce gives Harry the shove he needs to cram the top layer of clothing in. He slams shut the lid with a victorious, “Got it!”

“I wouldn’t have to, if you’d just stay,” Ron says glumly. “It won’t be half as good without you. What’s so good about Malfoy, anyway? He’s a stupid git.” He sighs as Harry pulls the trunk off the bed; it falls to the carpet with a solid thud. “Okay, so he lives in a mansion,” Ron concedes unhappily. “Not like you have to go there; he talks about it enough—”

“It’s not that,” Harry interrupts. It really isn’t. It’s not that at all. “I’ve been there before, anyway.”

Ron sits up fast. “You have?! When? You didn’t tell me!”

Harry shrugs as if it’s not a big deal. “A month ago?” Recalling it makes him even more eager for his trip.

“Why?” Ron asks, still sounding incredulous, and a touch indignant. “And how come I didn’t—wait,” he says, realizing. “Was it that weekend I was at home with Fred and George? We were working on the fireworks—and you aren’t even going to see them!”

“Sorry,” Harry tells him, and he really is sorry, but he’s been looking forward to Christmas for weeks, ever since Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy asked if he’d like to stay with them for the holiday. It had been after the Quidditch match that Mr. Malfoy had taken him and Draco to. The Arrows had made quick work of the Wasps, and afterwards they’d had dinner at the Manor. Harry had met Mrs. Malfoy—a beautiful lady, quiet and kind—and Draco had shown him the best parts of the Manor.

“We don’t have time for everything,” Draco had said in boastful fashion, “but let’s go to my room first. You’ll like it!” And he’d excitedly displayed his worldly goods to Harry, who could only stand in the doorway and wonder at the sheer size of the bedroom until Draco urged him to come in already and see the cursed necklace he’d got for his last birthday.

They’d gone from Draco’s room to the flying pitch, the lake, the indoor pool, the game room and were en route to the stables when a house elf appeared to announce that dinner was being served. Harry was keen to get a closer look at the tiny creature, but Draco sent it away with a nod and swept them off to the dining room.

“This is the big one,” Draco had told him, “for when we have special company. I wonder who else will be there?”

It turned out to be just the four of them (not counting the house elfs) in a enormous hall with ceilings higher than Hogwarts’. The food was delicious, better than at school, and Mrs. Malfoy had asked about the Quidditch match.

"It was brilliant," Draco had promptly declared, "and even you would've thought so, Mum, because it was short! Too short, really; we didn't have a chance to go round to see anyone else. Normally the matches last forever," he'd said, turning to Harry, "and we go visit other people's boxes, or they come to ours. You should see the Parkinsons' box, it's got a hidden back panel where—"

"Oh, I wouldn't fault the Arrows for getting a thing done properly," Mr. Malfoy had said then, over the sound of Draco's voice. "After all, a snitch in time saves nine hours of Quidditch." He smiled at Draco, who had fallen silent. "It's a wise strategy."

"Yes, dear," Mrs. Malfoy had replied, when no one had said anything, and after another moment she had asked, "Harry, which side do you support? I'm afraid I haven't the correct attitude toward the sport, but perhaps if I familiarized myself with a proper team." She had nodded encouragingly, and when Harry said, "The Chudley Cannons," she shushed Draco, who had burst into a snort.

"Have you ever seen them play?" Draco had asked him incredulously. That had launched an exuberant discussion on the merits and demerits of each team in the league, during which Harry had found it impossible to remain cocooned in the quiet anxiety inspired by the fineness of his surroundings, especially since even Mrs. Malfoy had insights to contribute ("What's so marvelous about getting the quaffle through a silly hoop? I could do the same with my wand."). It had been capped off with Draco's huffy, "Dad, can we take Harry to a Cannons match?", at which point silence descended while Mr. Malfoy arched his brow, tilted his chin and looked across the table at Harry.

"Harry, would you care to join Draco and myself—and Narcissa? No? Ah, just Draco and myself—at a Chudley Cannons match?"

Harry had been only too happy to accept.

Then Mr. Malfoy had said there was certain to be such a match during the Christmas holidays and perhaps Harry would enjoy a lengthier visit to the Manor during that time? Harry had been so surprised he’d blinked.

“What?” he’d said, forgetting his manners.

“You can come home with Draco,” Mr. Malfoy had said. “You can stay here until winter term begins.”

“Um,” Harry said, thinking of the Dursleys and the headmaster and how much fun it would be to come back to the Manor with Draco.

“You should!” Draco said. “We can practice Seeking and build snowcastles and such—and maybe we can even go to Merchant's Square! It's far better than Diagon Alley—can we, Mum?”

Mr. Malfoy’s eyes hadn’t left Harry’s face and he seemed to know what Harry was thinking, because the next thing he said was, “I can arrange it with the school and your aunt and uncle, I’m sure.”

Harry had grinned, and now—now he is waiting at the foot of the staircase in the entrance hall, with his trunk but not Hedwig, because Draco had snickered at him for wanting to bring her ("You can't go three weeks without your owl? Anyway we've got lots of post owls at the Manor."), and Ron had promised to take care of her while he was away. Draco's blond head peeps up from the dungeon stairwell, followed by the thudding edges of his own trunk. He smiles when he sees Harry; it gives way to a cooler expression, though, when he notices Ron get up from the stair where he was sitting.

"Hey," Harry says. "That's a lot of stuff." He eyes the second, smaller trunk that hovers jerkily behind Draco and comes to rest with a clunk.

"Those are presents for my mum and dad," Draco says, in his best aristocratic tone.

Harry is stricken. "Oh no," he says, panicked. "Presents for your mum and dad."

Draco looks blankly at him. "You're coming to stay. Don't you know when you come to stay at someone's house you're to bring a gift for the hosts?"

Harry is absolutely mortified. He'd been talking about Christmas presents for Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy—he hadn't even known about a gift for the hosts. His hands are getting hot. "I've never stayed anywhere before. I've only got something for you for Christmas but I don't have—I don't have anything for your parents! Maybe if I go right now—"

"It's too late," Draco says. "The carriage will be here any minute. But not to worry—"

"If you'd told me you were going I would've known about bringing something," Ron interjects in a mutter. "My mum is always going on about that kind of thing."

Harry turns to Ron, his best friend in Gryffindor, in desperation. "I'm sorry, all right? Look, I’m going to owl you something good. On Christmas. I promise."

"Whatever," Ron mutters, at the same time Draco starts saying something imperious-sounding. They are all interrupted by the appearance of a house-elf a few yards away.

"Master Draco," it says, bowing down low, "it is time." The house-elf extends a thin arm toward the large double-doors, which begin to swing outward.

"Ah, excellent," Draco says, and he looks over at Harry. "Come on. No, just leave those behind, the elf will get them." He doesn't respond in any way to Ron's open glare, but marches off sans luggage toward the opening doors. Harry looks around and gives Ron an apologetic half-smile. "Thanks for watching Hedwig—have a good Christmas. And I know the fireworks will be really fun!"

Ron only heaves an impatient sort of sigh and doesn't smile back, which bothers Harry as he hurries after Draco, until he clears the doors and sees the carriage, stopped several paces away on the left, pulled by four silver-gray horses of great hoof and height. Draco is getting in, one foot on the footplate, hands curled about the ornamented rails. Beside him, his father stands, his cloak and hair shifting slightly in the chilling breeze.

"Hello, Harry," Lucius Malfoy says, when Harry approaches. His solemn mouth curves up; his gray eyes catch the light. Harry stammers something, his throat hitching with embarrassment, and takes the gloved hand proffered to him. Lucius Malfoy helps Harry into the carriage before seating himself, and the horses leap to life immediately. His grasp is as soft and as warm as Harry remembers.

+++++

"That does sound really fantastic," Harry says, earnestly wistful.

"It was completely fantastic," Ron affirms. He's sprawled on his stomach by the fire, playing a half-hearted game of chess with Neville, and winning. "You definitely should've been here. Definitely."

"Yeah, but you liked your present, right?" Harry grins.

Ron picks up a rook and clasps it to his heart, beaming. "It's the love of my life." He puts the rook back down on the board, where it commences pounding the living stars out of Neville's knight. "A Nimbus Two Thousand," he says dreamily. "How the bloody hell did you get it?"

Harry laughs and repeats his stock answer to this, which Ron has been asking since he owled back on Christmas day. "I have my ways," he replies, with a mysterious wave. They involved receiving a brand new Nimbus Two Thousand from Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy on Christmas morning.

"Well, I can't believe you'd give something like that to me," Ron says. "Watch your queen, Neville."

"Yeah," Neville mumbles. "Why'd you give something like that to a merciless tyrant like him? Have I lost yet?"

Harry chuckles. Draco had asked a similar question while Harry had been re-wrapping the broom. He hadn't been able to resist trying it out at least, and it had been glorious, pure happiness, whipping through cold Christmas morning air, astride nothing but magic, with Draco streaming along beside him on his own gift of the same, shouting and spinning and dipping and circling over the brazen vibrant green of the Manor's empty pitch. Oh, it had been wonderful. A strong part of Harry had wished he wasn't writing out Ron's name in big letters on the red wrapping paper—but his Gringotts vault was locked up, hundreds of miles away, and he hadn't anything else to give.

"Is it a Gryffindor thing?" Draco had asked in scorn, as Harry had attached a card to the eagle owl's leg. "Is it because all Gryffindors are stupid idiots? Or are you uncommonly stupid and idiotic?" Harry had shrugged with a simple, "Maybe," and sent the owl off. The weight of the broom had him soaring low into the sky.

"Not yet," he says to Neville as the poor boy reaches for his quivering queen, then changes his mind and goes for a bishop.

"But almost," Ron adds, making a move that causes tinny clanging to rise up from the board. "Yeah, I guess it was worth it, you going to Malfoy's house. Hey, maybe next time you go you can get Neville a broom," he jokes.

"What? Why?" Neville asks, alarmed.

Harry only laughs—and decides he might as well tell Ron now, as he's about to win the chess game and he looks like he'd take it all right. "Actually," Harry says, "I am going back. For the summer."

It's Ron's turn for alarm. "What?" he yelps, pushing himself onto his hands. "But you said you'd come to the Burrow for—"

"No, I will!" Harry insists. "First two weeks, right? I will! But after that."

"Bloody hell, why do you like Malfoy so much?" Ron almost yells. "He's an utter prick!"

Neville seems a bit stunned at the vitriolic language, but he agrees, murmuring, "It's true, he's not very nice."

"Oi, Hermione!" Ron's calling out, his deep frown deepening. "Harry's staying with Malfoy for the whole fecking summer!"

"Hey!" Harry hisses, as heads around them turn in interest. Except for Hermione's, which is still ensconced in a book, in the quiet corner. "I didn't mean to put that over the tannoy!"

Ron's angry face darkens further with confusion. "What's a tannoy? And what is it with Malfoy anyway? You're the only Gryffindor he's friends with; he hates all the rest of us! Haven't you ever thought it might be because of your—" and by the motion of his hand Harry knows he's going to say scar and he hates Ron for saying it, or nearly saying it, because Ron backpedals at the last second and chokes out, "—because you're famous?"

"And how are you any different?" Harry bites out, thinking back on how he'd considered lying about it when Ron had asked him on the train, on the first day of school, how he might've pretended not to be this incredible Harry Potter that every single person knew, but he didn't do it because of course the truth would've come out, horribly, in the end.

That shuts Ron up right quick. He snaps his mouth closed and lowers his head to the chess, where Neville and the queen are both visibly nervous.

"Checkmate," he says through a tight jaw. He moves his rook into place; all the pieces fall away, then begin clacking onto the board toward their starting squares.

The shouting may have got Hermione's attention, because she emerges behind the chair Harry's in with an abstracted, "What's the fuss? Bad game?"

"No fuss," Ron says, folding his legs under him and getting up without looking at Harry. "Harry's just being a git."

"Yeah, Ron won the game," Neville adds helpfully before he scrambles to his feet and scurries away.

"Really," Hermione says, her gaze much more alert as she glances at Harry.

"No," Harry tells her emphatically as Ron storms out of the common room. "I just told him I'm going to stay at Draco's house, after I visit the Burrow, this summer. That's all."

Hermione hmms in a knowing way.

"I don't know what's wrong with him," Harry vents. "The Manor is so much better than the Dursleys—it's not even a—it's not a question, there's absolutely no comparison, none at all. And it's not as if I could stay at the Burrow the whole summer! To hear Ron talk about it, I think I might be sleeping on the roof with about a thousand other people—I feel bad enough as it is just being there two weeks! But I really want to, you know? I really want to go and be there when you're there and meet Charlie and Phil—"

"Bill," Hermione corrects.

"—Bill, and see Ron's house and his room and his amazing backyard with the gnomes and things; I mean, I haven't seen gnomes before!"

"We're covering them next month in Defense," Hermione says briskly. "I've read ahead. And I suspect Ron might just be worried that you won't really find the Burrow interesting when you get there, now that you've seen Malfoy Manor. It's very grand, isn't it?"

Harry takes in a breath and shakes his head. "Yes, but. Yes. It's like a palace, it's got these white peacocks and fountains and its own Quidditch pitch…it's unreal, like from a storybook or something," he tells her, sagging in his chair. "But so's Hogwarts!" Harry straightens and grips the chair arms. "And I bet the Burrow is too! Does he really think I won't have fun just because it's not some giant estate? Is he that thick?"

Hermione shrugs. "He still hasn't figured out that you gave him your best Christmas present," she says. "That was really generous of you."

"Oh," Harry mumbles, the frustration sucked from his lungs, replaced by awkward gratitude. At least Hermione knows he isn't a git. "Well I promised him something good. And I knew he wanted one. A lot."

Hermione smiles at him. "Yeah, he did. He made everyone try it, even me, even though I really didn't want to. I fell off."

Harry feels better, and well before anyone can think seriously about summer, he and Ron have mended their differences. At the end of term, Harry ships off to the Burrow with Ron and Fred and George and Percy, waving good-bye to his friends at King's Cross Station. Draco is the only one who doesn't wave back, but he does do a little smirky nod, which only makes Harry's grin go wider. Then he sees Draco's father; Draco's father doesn't see him. Mr. Malfoy's slow grace and walking stick are no longer unfamiliar, and Harry's stomach flutters inexplicably. He likes it.

Two

"Is that all you've got?" Draco yells jeeringly from some distance away. His hair is askew from the wind and his face is heated—his leather-gloved left hand is closed around the snitch, so firmly that no trace of wing is visible. Harry brings his broom in closer; Draco hovers away. "How ever did you manage to win seven House Cups?" he shouts, his anger plain.

"Come on!" Harry shouts in response, kicking his broom higher. So far he has weathered bouts of guilt, fear, and extraordinary happiness in this, his seventh and most wondrous summer at the Manor, but at the moment he feels only supreme irritation at Draco's increasingly strange behavior. "What's your problem lately? Why are you being such an arsehole?" Harry calls, forcing his broom faster so comes level with Draco even as Draco pulls ahead.

"Maybe if my father had been watching you'd have caught it," Draco sneers over his shoulder. He throws the snitch at Harry; it arcs into the air and falls for an instant before the wings spring out and it jettisons off. Harry's eyes follow it for a frozen second while his broom pushes forward of its own accord, until the line of the snitch intersects with Draco's path to the ground.

"What?" Harry yells down, too late, too late. His blood has stuck to the veins that are heavy in his limbs, which feel wooden as the broomhandle between his wooden thighs. His heart beats fast, very near to the skin. "What are you talking about?" he shouts, injecting his tone and demeanor with every ounce of unknowing he can wring from his voice. His body races toward the grass; wild questions blur his vision. Had Draco seen something? How else would he have known? Lucius couldn't have—

Harry's shoes hit the turf. "What are you talking about?" he shouts again, fiercely, as he makes a hard stop and jumps from his broom. Draco's striding away, the back of his robe flaring out from his rigid shoulders, his hair shining spitefully, blindingly in the sun.

Harry runs and catches up, sick to his stomach. He must know.

"What do you mean, if your father—" Harry demands, grabbing Draco's arm roughly.

"I'm the heir," Draco growls, jerking himself free. "I know what you're doing, ingratiating yourself to my father. It's pathetic. Pathetic. I don't know how I didn't see it before but it won't gain you anything anyway, because wizarding bloodlines don't work like that. I suppose this is where proper breeding will tell"—he pauses to cast Harry a nasty smirk—"but the Manor, the grounds—including this pitch—the Gringotts vaults, the Ministry titles—everything is magically bound to be passed to a true blood heir. Blood, Potter. You might have everything else but you don't have that, so even if he wanted to my father couldn't give you anything that rightly belongs to a Malfoy."

Harry is breathing again, but only barely. He cannot believe his ears. "What?" he says faintly.

"I'm not stupid," Draco snarls, striding even more rapidly than before. Harry hustles to keep pace, despite his lightheadedness. "I know Father's always preferred you. I know about the post he's got for you in the Auror division while I'm stuck in the fucking Department of Games—what'd he tell you last night? That you're better equipped to handle real responsibility while all I'm fit for is bloody snitches and quaffles?"

Harry is confounded. "But you love Quidditch…" is all he can say.

Draco halts abruptly. "Fuck you," he replies, and turns away.

"Hang on!" Harry calls an instant later. The anxiety is whirling and whirling with his thoughts, remembrances of the prior night, of Draco's father at his door, whirling into the bottom of his chest where he is to keep them locked up if he's to have any hope. Harry runs to Draco's side. "You're—just hang on!" He spins to face Draco and they nearly collide. "You're worried that I'm trying to—what? Take your place or something?" He's gripping Draco's shoulders so he can't get away. Draco twists hard, but Harry holds harder until Draco pushes with a grunting half-swear—then Harry lets go, and Draco stumbles to the ground.

"Just—that’s mad!" Harry continues where he left off. "I don't want to be the heir for fuck's sake and anyway, I thought you wanted to work in Games!"

"What was he talking to you about?" Draco demands from where he's fallen. His hair is in his face, obscuring it, but Harry can see that Draco is deeply agitated. He rarely gets this way in front of other people and Harry feels badly about it because Draco is always self-conscious about "acting in unseemly fashion" afterwards. Draco would have cause for agitation, if he knew—but Harry shoves the thought down and serves up a right answer.

"He was telling me they needed a runner in the DMLE," Harry says. "In the Auror division. He was giving me a big speech on how they had little use for trainees straight out of Hogwarts and that I was being boneheaded for wanting to join a group of thugs like that and that he hadn't bothered to pull too many strings to get me the spot, but if I work hard, maybe in a few years—which he clarified meant anywhere from ten to twenty—he might try to call in another favor or two to get me bumped up to being a junior assistant to the assistant to the associate department administrator."

It's a true story Harry tells. He omits the details that would shatter his fragile, freshly-realized joy and settles down next to Draco on the pitch.

Draco's frown has eased; it returns as he asks, "You're—going to be a courier?"

"Yup," Harry nods. He's actually got his relief under control, and he feels fairly good about this, as his relief is immense beyond proportion.

"As in, a walking interdepartmental memo?" Draco asks.

"IDMs can't handle everything," Harry says. "Parcels, for instance."

Draco stares at him through his hair. "So much for the career ambitions of the great Harry Potter," he finally says, with a faint smile.

"Hey, you've got to start somewhere!" Harry protests, in high humor now. He's averted a crisis and the backlash is exhilarating. He elbows Draco in the side and asks, "It's not as if you're starting at the top of the food chain—what are you going to be doing for Games and Sports? Scheduling meetings for the International Gobstones Club?"

Draco ignores Harry's sniggering and answers with a prim, "No. The department secretary does that—I'll be attending the meetings and taking minutes for the official records, among other duties. Many other duties."

"Oh. So I guess you'll outrank me, then," Harry dead-pans.

"That is absolutely correct," Draco replies, looking over at Harry. "You may begin by fetching me my broom."

He holds out a waiting palm with a smug grin and Harry slaps his own palm over it, laughing, "And you may begin by fucking right off!" His laugh is shortened by surprise when Draco surges to his feet and hoists Harry's hand with him; Harry is jerked to standing and swings into Draco's chest, nearly sending them both back to the ground. Instinctively he reaches around Draco to steady them—Draco does the same and for a moment they're caught in a weird arm-lock. Then Draco lets go and steps back with a raised brow.

"You'll have to do considerably better than that to win me over," he drawls. "Honestly, that was pretty poor."

"What?" Harry half-laughs, half-chokes. "I wasn't—oh, you've got to be kidding."

Draco's other brow goes up. "Accio brooms," he says. He hands Harry's to him with a flourish and resumes his march from the pitch toward the Manor.

+++++

Interlude

His heart's already pounding in unnatural rhythm when he Apparates to the guest bedroom in the southern-most wing of the fourth floor. It's late but not unreasonably so, though the wait for this hour has been, as always, difficult to bear. Harry blinks, anticipation and apprehension flooding to his fingertips—the yellow glow of lamplight reveals full pillows and an unwrinkled bed.

The touch upon the small of his neck makes Harry jump but then it's Lucius there, Lucius, looking down at him with that soft, considered smile.

"I hadn't meant to startle you," Lucius says. The lighting in the room casts his eyes a dark gray, a shade not quite new to Harry but still he notices it every time.

It's all right, Harry means to answer, only he shakes his head and smiles a little instead, because it's too much to speak when Lucius' bare palm rests, curved at his neck. He feels Lucius' fingers curl a moment, so lightly in his skin, and Harry can't restrain his grin or the flare in his belly as he tips himself forward against Lucius' form. Lucius' chin doesn't angle so Harry angles his, striving upward toward Lucius in a dizzy closed-eyed stretch.

The mouth that awaits is neither warm nor cool; it feels like Harry's own, and it parts instantly, allowing Harry anything he will. Harry's spine is afire as he presses tongue to lip—he stops there and waits, feeling his blood pulse finely in his lowered eyelids. This is the moment for which he lives. He mustn't take what he is given, no matter how terrible his desire.

Lucius' jaw cants slightly to one side. His mouth widens and he draws Harry into a true devouring kiss.

"Did you have a pleasant evening?" he asks afterwards. His words are unruffled; his face is unflushed. His gaze, though, passes from Harry's eyes to cheeks to mouth, back up again and down, and Harry sees this and grins, out-of-breath and alive. More than alive.

"I wrote those letters you asked me to write," he replies, barely hearing himself over the roaring in his brain. "To thank the senior Aurors for giving me the clerkship."

"You mentioned your admiration of Commander Marlowe's Secrecy Statute efforts?" Lucius asks, smoothing down Harry's hair. "And of Commander Erwin's prison reform program?"

Harry spreads out his hands across the front of Lucius' waistcoat and nods, his face lifted up.

"Good boy," Lucius murmurs. With a last caress he removes Harry's glasses and sends them floating to the carved teak dresser in the corner of the room, where they fold together and settle with an almost inaudible clink. The length of Harry's body is abruptly too hot.

They're blurry now, Lucius' features, but Harry cannot mistake the permissive incline of Lucius' head, the intent in his eyes, the steady wrists emerging from finely-creased cuffs as Lucius steps back and begins unbuttoning his waistcoat. Harry forgets to swallow and starts to fumble off his robes.

Lucius' touch is gentle until he folds Harry to him, inside muscled arms that thicken as they close, enveloping Harry's narrow self with warmth, skin, musky cologne, and heavy falls of blond, blond hair. His chest beats hard against Harry, who has been laid upon the bed. Harry is crushed and Lucius' body is a pendulum, a cradle, tilting into Harry and around him, slow at first, with care. Lucius shifts his hips, his knees, bending the bed to his will with faint rustlings and creaks; he maneuvers Harry's thighs with firm and grasping hands. His prick is upright and it does not yield to Harry's buttocks—it presses, a singular point of resolute pressure, a wide weight pushing deep into Harry's gut, gradually re-making the path along raw nerve and tissue, slickened with lubricant applied with generous fingers. Harry flexes against it and Lucius sinks farther. Harry sighs out; he can't see for the silver hair in his eyes. Lucius moves in him, once, twice, more and Harry can't breathe but he tries, stretching up his neck and straining with his lungs that are pressed too tightly to the shell of his ribs. His mouth has fallen open; his fingers find the curving of Lucius' shoulder blades, impossible and large, rising like fins from the taut arc of his back. Lucius' thrusts quicken—the tears pour from Harry's eyes. He lets them streak down to his ears, where they tingle, oddly cool, distorting the sound of the headboard colliding, repeatedly, against the wall. Harry fights not to gasp—he's in disbelief at the pain again, he cannot believe the pain—but he looks long at the half-gray, half-lidded eyes, he hears the breath leaving Lucius in thin misshapen darts, and his body seizes, in wonderment, at the might of Lucius' love.

Lucius strokes him after, along the rim of his ear, across the slope of his neck. Harry smiles fuzzily and struggles not to fall asleep. His back is nestled to Lucius' broad chest; his heels are wedged to Lucius' ankles. Lucius' thumb pauses at the arch of his jaw.

"Are you dreaming?" Lucius asks quietly, his mouth near Harry's ear. The puff of his words makes Harry's arm tingle. Harry moves a shoulder in an approximation of a shrug and shifts himself more tightly into the cup of Lucius' torso.

"Almost," he murmurs truthfully. Lucius resumes petting him; Harry blinks slowly once or twice and lets his eyes close.

A moment drifts by before Lucius' voice returns. "What do you dream of?" His hand is soft on Harry's brow.

Harry awakens with a twitch—he nearly says You. He thinks it must be so, though he's so sleepy and comfortable he really has no idea if he was dreaming at all. In any case it's not what he ought to be saying so he smothers it with a little grin, pleased with himself for catching it back.

"Nothing," he replies, stifling the urge to yawn.

Lucius answers with a low chuckle; his knuckles trail from Harry's forehead to the ridge of his cheek and remain. They brush Harry's cheek gently, very gently. Harry's faint smile fades as sleep trickles back in.

"Time for bed," Lucius says, in his indulgent undertone. Harry stirs and lets slip a small noise of demurral—not strictly encouraged, but the reproach is mild. "Up, now, and away with you," Lucius commands, sitting up carefully and raising Harry with him. He summons Harry's glasses from the dresser; he runs a palm over Harry's hair. "You ought to have some proper sleep."

Harry takes his glasses with only a shadow of the reluctance that he so keenly feels. "Thank you," he murmurs, sliding slowly from the warmed sheets. Lucius has shifted across the mattress and is rising from the opposite side. "Will you—are you busy tomorrow night?" Harry asks hopefully. He watches Lucius fit his waistcoat to himself and begin with the buttons.

Lucius doesn't raise his head, but he answers with his quiet smile. "Your insistence, I think, is one of the most charming things about you—it serves you well." He smoothes his clothing down and straightens each cuff. "Flattery will get you rather far, hm?" At last he looks over—Harry's been waiting and he can't discipline the wistful upward motion of his brows. "We'll see," Lucius finishes.

He remains apart from Harry another moment, then he moves around the bed and cups Harry's chin with the edge of a hand, briefly. "I'll do my utmost to hasten our next time," he says, his hand falling back to his side. "I promise."

It will have to be enough. Harry nods, his heart beating fast with all he cannot do, and obediently Disapparates to his bedroom downstairs.

+++++

The knock comes as Harry is loosening the duvet from the bed, preparing to slip into the sheets, which have been warmed by magical house-elf means. Harry jumps a little. His head is still spinning from the silent Apparation back to his room, mere moments ago, and immediately his pulse returns to skittering high. He slides into bed, sits up against the headboard, pulls the covers to his waist, and tells himself, forcibly, to be calm.

"Come in," he says. Beneath the blanket his hand flexes wishfully; he can't help himself.

The door cracks open to reveal hallway light and a square of pale face and hair—it's Draco peeking in, and Harry's whole body relaxes.

"Hey," Draco says, leaning in. "Sorry, were you sleeping?"

"No," Harry says. He's somewhat disappointed, but Draco's not to know, and he wouldn't mind someone to talk to right now. "I mean, I wasn't asleep yet. What's up?" He scoots over to the bedside stand to retrieve his glasses.

Draco comes in and leaves the door ajar. "Just wanted to see what you were up to," he shrugs. He's in his pajamas, a Malfoy-crested affair, and he seems distracted.

"What's wrong?" Harry says. "Need a cuddle?" he adds, grinning. It's become something of a running joke between them. He fluffs one of the Malfoy-monogrammed pillows next to him and gestures at it invitingly. Draco rolls his eyes and slumps down in a tufted arm chair, giving Harry a half-hearted, "Ha."

"Sooo," Harry begins at last, when moments pass and Draco remains folded in the chair, poking idly at the upholstery. "I get the sense you have something on your mind."

Draco continues his aimless jabs. "You are very astute," he murmurs. "You'll make a fine courier."

"Thanks," Harry says. "I appreciate that."

Draco nods and shifts in the chair. He pokes at the other side of the cushion for a minute, apparently concentrating on his task, until Harry asks, "I'm guessing you don't have a chair like that in your room, judging by how fascinating you find it."

Draco lets out a hnph. "You've been in my room; have you ever seen a chair like this in there?"

Harry shrugs a shoulder. "No. But maybe you got one. Maybe you asked Dobby to put one in there. Maybe this morning. Maybe I just haven't seen it yet."

"I don't have one," Draco says shortly.

"Take mine," Harry says. "I hardly ever use it. In fact—Dobby," he calls, raising his voice slightly.

The house elf appears as Draco sighs and says, "No, I don't want it, and it's not even yours, you presumptuous—"

"Yes, Master Harry?" Dobby says, blinking his tennis-ball eyes from beside the bed.

"Hi," Harry says, sitting back up. "Hope I wasn't interrupting—can you take that chair to Draco's room? Not right now," he says quickly as Dobby looks over. "Later. After we're both asleep. Is that okay? It's not a rush, I know you're busy—"

"Oh no," Dobby beams. "House elfs is never too busy to serve. Dobby is glad to do as Master Harry commands." He nods vigorously, flapping his eartips.

"Thanks, Dobby," Harry smiles. "And, uh, if it's missing any of those little button things on the bottom, the ones Draco's fiddling with, could you fix that? That would be great," he tells Dobby, whose head is bobbing at a rate that would be frightening if Harry weren't used to it. "Thanks. That's it. G'night."

Dobby vanishes with a painfully broad smile and Harry shakes his head a little. Then he glances up to Draco, who has turned himself horizontally across the arms of the chair.

"There," Harry says. "Is that better? Or are you still stressed?"

Draco's mouth puckers and flattens. "Still stressed."

"Ah. Sorry to hear it." Harry turns onto his side and props himself up on a hand. "What about, if you don't mind me asking?"

Draco's pointy jaw tilts from side to side, slowly. His head is resting on the top of one chair arm. "A lot of things, I suppose," he says, pensively.

Harry nods, against his palm. "What's the worst one? Just curious."

Draco's mouth moves into a brief wry smile. "Potter. I retract the compliment I earlier bestowed. You are not astute at all."

Harry smiles. "I get it. I'm supposed to look into your mind like Professor Snape can do. Frankly, I think it's a bit intrusive and there ought to be a law about that sort of thing, but okay. You asked for it." He squints exaggeratedly at his friend. "Wait, you have to look at me. Eye contact is crucial, isn't it? Look at me. Hey, Draco. Over here, mate."

Through his squinting Harry can't make out the fine details, but he's relatively certain Draco is rolling his eyes when he finally eases onto a shoulder to look across at Harry. He's also smiling slightly, which means Harry is getting somewhere at least.

"Terrific. Okay. I'm reading your mind now, feel it?" Harry squints more ferociously and leans forward, leaning on both hands.

Draco snorts. "No."

"Okay, I'm getting something…you're worried…you're worried about…hmm…what? The Cannons winning the League Cup and you owing me a thousand Galleons? That can't be right—a thousand Galleons is a mere pittance to you—no, I see by your grimace that's not what concerns you…but it does have something to do with Quidditch, right? Yes…no, not Quidditch, but close, something really, really close. Okay, right…Gobstones! Almost the same thing. Gobstones…the Gobstones Club. Got it! You're worried about meetings with the International Gobstones Club. You're worried about starting at the Ministry in a couple of weeks. Am I right?" Harry blinks his squint away and takes off his glasses to rub his eyes. "Ow, that totally hurt. No wonder Snape looks so fucking old for his age; this must cause some serious fine lines and wrinkles."

This earns him a lone Hah! from Draco, a real one. "Don't insult Professor Snape. He's always been a great mentor to me, even if he finds nothing remarkable in you." He makes the wry face again. "Can't find a thing if it isn't there."

"Funny," Harry replies. "Here I am, trying to make you feel better, and this is the thanks I get. I'm going to sleep. Bye." He shuffles until he's under the covers to his bottom rim of his glasses.

"I suppose I am a little nervous about the Ministry," Draco says about five minutes later, when Harry is actually beginning to drift off. "I wouldn't say it's the main thing. But it's part of it. I mean, it'll be so different from Hogwarts." He pauses. "You're not scared though, are you. Bloody Gryffindor."

Harry thinks Draco thinks he'd fallen asleep, or else the last part wouldn't have been out loud.

"No, I am," Harry answers conversationally, imagining but not seeing Draco's twitch of surprise. "Because courage doesn't mean you have no fear; it means you're able to carry on in spite of your fear," he explains, with an overly pedantic gesture.

"Oh shut the fuck up," Draco snaps. The next thing Harry knows there are pillows bouncing on his head, and Harry is required to summon his wand in order to retaliate, and in the midst of fighting off the sheets that are attempting to strangle him and sending the tufted chair's buttons shooting out to assault Draco, Harry doesn't notice the creak of his door until the sheets have fallen limply over him and Draco is speaking in docile tones to his father.

"I was only demonstrating the importance of constant vigilance, as per Professor Moody," Draco says. Harry gropes for his glasses, summoning them wordlessly. He pushes back the rogue sheets and sits up straight, jamming his glasses on and looking directly at Lucius.

Lucius is arching a brow at his son. "I see. Well, you certainly have learnt that lesson well—you appear to have quite the advantage on Harry." Draco agrees with a polite laugh as Lucius' gaze moves slowly to Harry's face.

Lucius doesn't smile, but Harry can sense it; he can picture it there on Lucius' mouth. He has seen it; he knows its contours from near and from far and his chest rises in anticipation of seeing it once more, soft and there, a lasting curve to support his world.

"It's getting late, Draco," Lucius says, looking back to his son. Draco gets out of the chair; the buttons of the chair have replaced themselves in their sockets. "Don't forget we're meeting with some of the Games staff tomorrow at ten—and we should arrive early."

"Yes, Father," Draco replies. "Night," he says to Harry as he leaves the room. Harry can't make a sound; his lungs have abandoned him and he hasn't a thought for where they have got to. Perhaps to Lucius' palm, for Harry can feel them squeeze when Lucius grips the doorknob and begins to swing it closed, not behind him but in front of him. The disappointment pains Harry so terribly he starts to rise, the blanket falling away. Except then Lucius' mouth turns up, just slightly at one side.

"Constant vigilance," he says. He shuts the door quietly and Harry sinks down. He's unable to sleep for some time after.


Part 2

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