Desperation – 5/6 – Sunfire

Title: Desperation
Author: Sunfire (SunfireScribbles)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Drama, Family, Hurt/Comfort, Romance, First Time, Slash
Relationship(s): Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Discussion- Child Abuse, Violence- Canon Level, Explicit Sex
Author Notes: Dumbledore-bashing and Good Malfoys. And awesome art by Tiffany
Beta: NCP
Word Count: 23,766
Summary: Harry Potter was a lonely and abused boy, but he found acceptance and family within Malfoy Manor. He made his first and best friend, the heir Malfoy, within the Malfoy hedge maze. Now, as he grows old enough to take his titles and his place in the Wizarding World, he wants to find the one thing he is missing. Love. The Pure-blood mores and traditions he learned from the Malfoys will provide a script, but who will play his other half? And if he finds the right person, will romance or a future be in the cards for the future Lord Potter? Harry desperately hopes so.

Artist: Tiffany

Art by Tiffany

Art by Tiffany

Volume III: To Love


Chapter Eighteen: Try, and Try Again

As stressful as the court’s Summer Season had been, the boys had looked forward to the Fall Season with the expectation that it would be easier, or at least less stressful overall. The Season started off with the presentation and evaluation of the review that had been conducted over the recess regarding Sirius Black’s legal case. This topic, being so strongly linked with the abuses that resulted from the loss of his Godfather and subsequent placement with the Dursleys, was far from easy for the future Lord Potter.

Draco spent more or less the entire month of November keeping a wary and concerned eye on Harry. When he wasn’t doing so, he was more often than not trying to calm and reassure the brunette. He knew his friend had wanted his Godfather out of jail the moment he had first heard that the older wizard had been imprisoned without cause, but he almost wished it hadn’t come to pass, at least not as quickly.

Being on the heels of Samhain, with family and loss so close to mind, the trips to the Wizengamot Chambers and watching the trial of Sirius Black had brought with it nightmares at a greater frequency than the blond had seen since summer vacation. Being woken in the night by his best friend’s desperate cries was hauntingly familiar. As was the hour they routinely spent in the aftermath, talking, the blond attempting to distract the other boy until they could both fall back asleep.

The only real difference, besides the content of their conversations, which differed from the early years of their friendship was the furry aid he received. Excalibur was uniquely sensitive to his master’s nighttime demons and was known to forcefully wake the blond if Harry’s torment was silent and therefore did not wake the blond itself. Cal seemed to know that Draco was his ally in maintaining the smaller wizard’s mood as he also had a tendency to herd his master over to the other Slytherin if he was especially troubled, no matter the time of night or day.

Even with the Kneazle’s efforts, however, the exhausted, pained expression that lingered in the brunette’s eyes was like a window to their past. It was like they were eight all over again, back when Harry had been at the Manor for less than a year and the scrawny little boy with the too-large glasses seemed frightened of any touch or quick movement and utterly overwhelmed by any kind of positive attention.

Draco let out a long sigh as they both dressed in their uniforms and headed down to the Great Hall for breakfast, giving the scowling cat a scratch and a look of commiseration as he left the dorm. He was not the least bit hesitant to admit that he loved the memories of their childhood together, but these particular memories he could do without reliving. And yet, he thought as he watched the Potter heir struggle to focus in any of the day’s classes, green eyes continuously becoming glazed and unfocused as his thoughts drifted elsewhere, here we are, all over again.

The decline of the brunette’s mood had started after the first of the nine Fall sessions of the court. The shift had been characterized by a frustrated annoyance that was not out of line with the way his father and Lady Longbottom had often talked of the Wizengamot before the start of the boys’ first-year. He hadn’t been overly concerned at the time, but as the days passed, the blond had grown more and more worried. At first, the silences bothered him the most, and he tried his best to get the other heir to talk about what was going on. His efforts had eventually resulted in Harry ranting feverishly about how the court could have missed the fact that Sirius hadn’t been given a trial.

“Any criminal conviction requires the attendance of the full court. Every single one of them should have been there in order for him to have been legally declared guilty, and at least three quarters would have had to vote against him.”

The brunette had rubbed his eyes tiredly, leaving his glasses crooked where they rested on his nose before picking up Cal from where he kept trying to climb his legs while he paced. “How did they not question his being tried without them there? Didn’t a single one of them wonder how that had happened?”

The green eyes had been wide and disbelieving as they stared at his dorm-mate, but he hadn’t given the other boy a chance to answer. “They should have known it couldn’t have, they should have realized immediately that there hadn’t been a trial. And yet none of them did. And if any had, they certainly didn’t protest a man being sentenced to life in Azkaban without trial.”

Draco still recalled every inch of the hopeless expression. Knowing Dumbledore had circumvented the law as horribly as he had was one thing. Knowing the old man’s pathetic followers looked the other way or excused it when it happened was another. But facing the fact that almost every court member had been so blinded or distracted by their hatred and fear that they hadn’t seen such a blatant injustice? Or that they hadn’t cared to do anything about it because they either wanted the whole sordid mess of the war to go away or were too happy to see a supposed Death Eater get punished that justice didn’t matter? Or that the ones who had noticed something amiss either blindly and unreasonably trusted those who told them not to worry, or were not able or inclined to do anything about it?

That was something completely different and the Second-Time-Savior simply wasn’t sure how to take that. The young blond had gritted his teeth and done his best to get his best friend through the aftermath of the first Fall session, and then the second. When that day had ended with the official exoneration of Lord Black, Draco had expected Harry’s mood to improve. Instead, after Sirius’ release on the seventh of November, the smaller wizard had spent long hours in their dorms fretting about his Godfather’s health or how the former inmate would react to meeting him.

“He looked awful, Draco. Sick. So skinny and dirty and weak. He was pale enough to be a corpse already, but his eyes were, well,” one small hand clutched unsteadily at his disheveled hair, “they were so bright but not focused at all. Like he wasn’t entirely sure of what he was seeing. I, I don’t think he knew who I was.”

The blond wanted so badly to reach out, to place a comforting hand on the other young wizard’s shoulder, but Harry had been skittish and touch-shy all day. So instead, the taller boy listened and did his best to be there for his best friend without making physical contact. He watched rather enviously as Cal forced his way onto the boy’s lap and head-butted his master’s stomach repeatedly until he picked the Kneazle up and cuddled him to his chest. Sitting there, only watching and listening was a difficult task for Draco, made all the harder by the fact that Harry wouldn’t stop rambling long enough for his friend to get a word in edgewise.

“The Healers will help, I know, Lady Malfoy said they are optimistic about his recovery, but even if he’s like he was before… I don’t know if he’ll recognize me. Not as James Potter’s son. You know how Professor Snape has always talked about him, and my mum. They were such staunch Gryffindors. They were never fans of Pure-blood Society. Lily apparently didn’t see anything worth saving in Magical culture. James was only devoted to his House so far as his parents were concerned. They wouldn’t have taught me our culture or our laws. James only took his Lordship because it was in his father’s Will. The way Sirius talks about them all, the Marauders, they were…”

Harry’s voice dropped off, in concert with the rest of him as the boy suddenly stopped his restless pacing and slumped onto his bed, almost curling in around the purring grey mass that was Cal in cuddle mode. “They sound like… like bullies, Draco. If I had gone to school with them they probably would have picked on me. What is Sirius going to think when he’s well enough to realize I’m not at all what he expects, what he wants?”

The whispered question still rang in the blond’s ears weeks later, so loud it was painful. The thought of Harry thinking he wasn’t what Black wanted, that he might in some way be lacking, it killed him. And yet, much of what the smaller wizard had said couldn’t be argued with. Which left the taller boy with little logical ammunition to convince his friend that once well, his Godfather would love him and be as proud of him as he should be.

Harry Potter would, indisputably, have been raised much differently under the care of Lily and James Potter than he had been under the abuse of the Dursleys and the indulgence of the Malfoys. He certainly wouldn’t have learned all there was to know about their society and culture, he wouldn’t have received the guidance that had allowed him to see and to stop the manipulations of the old man whom the Potters were said to have trusted above all else.

He did his best to tell the brunette that Sirius would eventually be able to see what a fantastic and admirable wizard he was becoming. And he tried his hardest to subtly inform him that anything the remaining Black son thought was lacking in the boy was only evidence of his own shortcomings, not Harry’s. Yet it was almost like talking to no-one when he tried. The boy-hero hardly even participated in the discussion, simply looked thoughtful and sad. Within a month of Sirius’ release from Azkaban, Draco resolved to do all he could to protect his first friend from the mad wizard.

That protection started with guardianship. So long as the boy’s Godfather was legally insane, there was no possible threat to Harry’s staying with the Malfoys. But once he was well? Black was his Godfather, and his automatic legal guardian under normal circumstances. But that was hardly going to get in his way, Draco resolved every evening for a fortnight, as he huddled over his desk once Harry had drifted to sleep, reading and responding to letters from his mother. There was no way the Malfoy heir would allow his best friend to be taken from him, and Narcissa quite agreed.

A campaign of influence was swiftly begun. Harry Potter would remain the legal ward of Narcissa Malfoy, whatever it took. And Sirius Black, by the time they were finished with him, would agree with that one hundred percent. Narcissa was a highly convincing witch, and she hadn’t been Sirius’ favorite cousin for nothing. No matter how that distinction had been affected by her marriage. Their efforts were quiet, however, and so the young orphan remained completely unaware of the steps being taken on his behalf. Which was sometimes quite unfortunate, as Draco was pretty sure his continued place at the Manor was a concern for the increasingly reserved Potter heir.

Harry’s withdrawal eased somewhat as Sirius began to respond to the treatment of the private healers, but even with that improvement there remained a source of anxiety for the boy. Draco knew for a fact that Harry worried about how Sirius viewed him and how his parents would have seen him based on stories from the convalescing wizard.

“The Blacks,” Sirius had explained at one of his godson’s visits, “are known to be one of the strongest and least stable of the Arthurian families. Some say the strength of the magic has been too much for many of them to handle and that’s why they are mostly crazy. My Uncle said so. My brother believed the other argument, that the stronger connection to Wilde Magic meant that most Blacks saw things, knew things, that other weaker Magicals couldn’t and that was why there’s one or two every generation that people think are mad.”

Eventually, the former convict presented his own argument that was a strange and confusing mixture of the two that seemed routed in what the Black Lord considered Light versus Dark magic. The distinction the other man held of those two things made even less sense. Another distinction was the one that the damaged man held between the Harry Potter that had been born to James and Lily, and the one that had grown up in Malfoy Manor. That view was equally as confusing to the teen in question. The confusion was almost a blessing, however, as it allowed enough leeway for Neville and Draco to sometimes convince their friend that who he was hadn’t fallen short of who Black thought he would have been.

Watching his first and best friend struggling with self-esteem issues the blond had thought long resolved did not endear him to either his mother’s cousin or the weekly owls the older wizard exchanged with his godson. Draco was profoundly grateful when the presentation of Narcissa’s reform bill distracted her ward enough to allow for a few doses of Dreamless Sleep. Only then did the continued efforts of his friends and familiar to finally calm the Potter heir finally bear fruit.

The Conviction Reform Bill called for legal safe guards meant to ensure due process. It had been presented by the Black Proxy, Lady Malfoy, and seconded by the Longbottom Regent. Harry had returned from that session with crescent moon indentions in his palms, after clenching his fists so hard in his lap that his fingernails had almost caused bleeding.

If it hadn’t been for the sleeping draught, Draco was pretty sure his friend wouldn’t have gotten even a full hour’s sleep. As it was, worry and agitation left both young Slytherins hallow-eyed and pale only half-way through the month. Even the Bill’s passing was no relief as the debates for its implementation were sure to be long and taxing. Many laws and procedures would have to be written and organized. And every argument for and against would only draw out the process even further.


Eventually, an official request was made for the evaluation of all prisoners currently serving their sentence at Azkaban. It was agreed that four Sitting Nobles, including three from the Malfoy-Potter bloc, in addition to three high-ranking Aurors, would conduct the evaluation during the Yule Recess. And so, the month of December brought the ninth and final Fall session and an overdue respite from court drama. But it also saw a new, more enjoyable, cause for stress. Yule.

Within the first ten minutes of his holiday shopping excursion, Harry Potter had to take a moment’s pause and remind himself that he had in fact, left the castle. Shopping on the first day of the Yule break was rather reminiscent of being at Hogwarts, only on a larger scale. It also involved individuals who were as likely to mob him for an autograph or try to smother him with pity about his time in the Muggle world as they were to yell abuse about his association with Dark Wizards.

It was almost like dealing with a couple dozen Cho Changs and a handful of Gryffindor upperclassmen, only without the benefit of the privacy ward and stinging hex he and his friends had come to rely on at school. “Thank Merlin your parents are here,” he whispered to Draco when they finally made it into the first shop they planned to visit.

Grey eyes locked on his for only a second before the taller boy nodded. The brunette didn’t need to expound on what he meant. Draco knew. The presence of Lord and Lady Malfoy, after all, was perhaps the only reason they weren’t literally being mobbed. Those who didn’t respect the Noble couple for their station and wealth, half feared them for their former political affiliations. It created a much-needed buffer between the famous boy-hero and the adoring – or hateful – public.

The young wizard in question had known before they left the Manor that he would have to brave the crowds to get his shopping done, but he had not fully grasped how bad it would be. He was sure that if he didn’t have a half dozen people to buy for that meant so much to him, he would probably have floo’d back to the Manor within minutes of arriving in the shopping district.

There were several different points, however, at which he considered doing it anyway. The first was whilst shopping with Draco, Neville, and Augusta when he was distracted every other minute by the pointing and whispering of the crowds. It took so much concentration to pick out gifts for the two elder Malfoys that he was exhausted by the time the Longbottoms split off, leaving he and Draco with his parents to search for gifts for the Dowager and her grandson.

Harry felt a brief return of energy when he argued with his best friend over whether or not Sirius would appreciate the present the brunette had picked out. “There’s a stag in this forest set, and a dog in this pet set, and that mythic monster set has a werewolf in it. He’s told me about their animal alters three dozen times. I think he might like them.”

“They’re children’s toys, Harry,” Draco pointed out yet again with a faint sneer.

“You’re saying Sirius is too mature for them? Really?” Green eyes blinked several times in the resulting silence, then crinkled with the smile the young wizard couldn’t hold back at the abashed look that eventually crossed his friend’s face.

The cheerful success of finding something for his Godfather was short-lived. It didn’t take long for the cobbled side streets of Diagon, with its multitude of little Yule trees perched atop the storefront signs, to grow far too congested. The presence of the Second-Time-Savior was no doubt a contributing factor to the increased crowds so he was more than a little relived when the groups met back up and decided to floo over to Hogsmeade to complete their shopping.

The tiny Scottish town, free as it was from student traffic during the holiday, was a respite in more ways than one. Not only had word not yet spread through the snow-dusted streets that the famous boy was there, but in none of the shops that they had been in on the Alley had he been able to find the single most important gift he was looking for. Therefore, after a quick lunch in the Three Broomsticks, the small brunette eagerly, if tiredly, set off with Neville and his grandmother to begin the search for Draco’s gift.

An hour and a half later, he played musical chaperons one more time and split off with only Narcissa. He would have held his fingers crossed in his pockets if they weren’t so stiff from the cold. That cold had left his nose red and runny before he’d had any luck. The Potter heir had to fight the urge to run his gloved hand through his messy black locks for the forth time in as many minutes when they left yet another store without anything to show for it. The blonde Lady would only admonish him to straighten his hair and calm himself if he did. And she had already done that twice in the last quarter hour.

Even after he had finally been successful, the stress of picking out the perfect gift for his first ever friend was stronger than he could ever remember it. Which, of course, was unsurprising since he had spent all of his pre-Hogwarts years hidden at the Manor and his first-year confined in the castle. In the past, he had always shopped through Narcissa or owl order catalogs. This was entirely different, he came to realize.

Having to find it himself, and having far more options to choose from, had made it a daunting task indeed. The task had not been made easier by the strange looks his guardian had aimed at him several times over the afternoon as he debated with her and himself about which gift suited Draco best.

From the frazzled look on the youngest blond’s face and the curious way his father watched him as they all met up to travel back to the Longbottom estate for dinner, Harry had the impression that Draco had suffered a similar experience. The idea of someone caring about him enough to stress over picking out his gift in such a way left a warm feeling in his chest that only grew warmer as traditional Yule celebrations and rituals filled the holiday break. It lingered even as they returned to school in January, but it had faded into a vague sense of calm by the time February came.

That calm was necessary for the Wizengamot’s Winter Season, when the investigation into prisoners at Azkaban resulted in the need for three re-trials and two trials that had apparently never happened in the first place. One of the former made little difference as the original sentence was upheld, but the two other re-trials resulted in one sentence being reduced and the other extended by more than a decade. The two new trials were likewise different in their outcomes. One saw a young Muggle-born released on lack of evidence, and another ended with a Death Eater being given the Kiss.

Draco was unaware of the reason his friend managed to get through to the Wizengamot’s Ostara Recess in March without liberal use of Dreamless Sleep or stress relief draughts. But whatever it had been, the blond was very thankful for the other heir’s respite. He was even more relieved, however, when first the Winter Season, and then the school year, finally came to a close. It would be fantastic to have his best friend to himself again, Draco admitted as they boarded the Hogwarts Express only two weeks after his thirteenth birthday.

The birthday hadn’t been anything like what the boys had been used to when they were young, but knowing his parents, Malfoy Manor would host a party to celebrate the belated event within days of their arrival. Laughter and games soon prevailed on the extensive Manor grounds, leaving trials, re-trials, and reform bills behind them. If only, Harry thought the second week of summer vacation, they could leave all essays and reading assignments behind as well.

“Do you think,” the brunette asked on a sigh, “I could ask for a week without tutors for my birthday this year?”

Grey eyes darted up from the open pages of the history book they had been given to read that week. “Do not dare waste a perfectly good birthday request on that, Harry. You would be about as likely to get that as you would a week without discussion of the next reform the Malfoy/Potter bloc will be submitting next month.”

The twelve-year-old let out a heavy sigh and bent back over his own text. The vacation had so far featured as many tutors and court sessions as the one before it, so the situation was hardly a surprising one. Or an overwhelming one. More than a week or two without something to learn, whatever its subject, had been foreign to him in the years he had lived at the Manor. He was used to this, and it wasn’t so unbearable, really. But a few weeks off still sounded great.

Not that they spent all their time in the library. In fact, without the pressure or sense of a looming deadline that had characterized the previous summer, the two boys were able to enjoy what downtime they had in a way they hadn’t since before they started Hogwarts. At least a couple hours a day saw the best friends almost recounting their early years together.

They played with Polaris as they once had, though now they chased his babies rather than him. And they entertained themselves with the now elderly peacock’s attempts to intimidate some of the younger birds, including one of the few full-color versions of the albino avian. They also hid in the center of the maze as they often did when they were younger. Instead of playing fort or practicing wand movements, however, they now debated Quidditch or studied the Noble Protocols. Overall, it was far more relaxed a vacation after their second year at the castle than it had been after their first.

The start of the next school year was likewise slightly less stressful, and more hopeful considering further progress had been made by the Board and Flitwick’s new administration, that had managed to inch the school’s operation and education a few more steps closer to the version the Founders had left behind them. That wasn’t to say their third year was without drama. There was still the issue of fans and critics in the hallways, though even the first-years appeared forewarned by their older classmates, as not a single person tried to physically invade the famous boy’s personal space as they had the previous years.

The most dramatic point in the year came during its most restful. Hogwarts’ Yule break saw snowball fights and piles of presents beneath soaring trees and homework finished in record time. Draco and Harry both had taken great enjoyment from the looks on the faces of the Lord and Lady Malfoy when they had arrived at the Manor for their holiday and were able to tell the adults that they had already completed all their holiday assignments. The arched brows and suspicious glances had been worth the frantic rush between the handing out of the essays and the completion of the train ride home.

It was even more worth it when they were able to spend every moment of the break racing their brooms over snow capped trees and spending hours at a time playing with the many toys and kits and completely un-educational items they each received for Yule. Even the dinner they attended at Sirius’ temporary home in Dovetown couldn’t ruin the carefree weeks in the middle of their third year, despite the inherently tense atmosphere around the wizard who, while medically cleared, was still more than a little damaged by his time in Azkaban.

The only moment the revelry was threatened was when the Lord Black mentioned his reluctant agreement to let Harry remain at the Manor rather than move in with him. The relocation of the Potter heir had been a pall over the entire month of November, the former Marauder having been medically cleared to fully assume both his title and his guardianship of his godson on the first of that month.

Draco and his mother’s previous, and ongoing, efforts to convince Sirius that Harry would be better off staying where he was already happy and comfortable had played a large part in the man allowing the continuance of the status quo. Though the three blonds were also of the opinion that a solid year in therapy had left the Black Lord at least silently aware of the fact that parenting was neither his strong suit nor an activity he would particularly enjoy.

Whatever had ensured it, Black’s forfeiture of his guardianship was cause for further merriment over the holiday. Upon returning to the castle, both boys were able to squeeze every bit of fun out of the first month of 1993. Eventually, the reality of Noble duties and a student’s responsibilities somewhat eroded their frivolity. By the start of February, court was back in session and classes had begun to bury them in parchment. The Founders’ meeting room more often than not echoed with the furious scratching of quills instead of jokes and chess games.

There was one other activity, which occurred beneath the gazes of those four famous Magicals, and it was usually characterized by the reading and writing of letters to and from the various Potter Proxies as well as the Lord Black. For all that Sirius finally being declared mentally fit enough to take control of his title should have decreased the stress of being linked to so many House Seats on the court, the change had much less effect than predicted. Both good and bad.

The famous boy’s Godfather had healed much in the year since his release, but undertaking his Noble responsibilities was ever so slightly beyond his capabilities, no matter what officially occurred. The Potter Proxy was technically transferred to Narcissa when she gave the Black Proxiship to its rightful Lord, leaving Lucius with only the Peverell votes to manage. However, the day-to-day operations of the Malfoy/Potter voting bloc stayed more or less the same.

The largest difference was that instead of his Proxies giving recommendations to Harry, and him giving the final decision as to how his votes and the influence of his House was managed within the court, such recommendations and decisions for the Black vote now needed to be filtered, through Harry, to Sirius for the official ‘decision.’ The extra step was not a huge one, but it was one that added a fair amount of stress to the later half of the young brunette’s third year. The Black Lord was medically sane, but functionally a challenge to manage as he operated largely on his wildly fluctuating emotions.

Godric himself mitigated some of the stress. As did the culmination of another summer of Board meetings and a full year of his attentions as a Founder’s Heir, which finally managed to wake the occupants of the other Founders’ master portraits. The Founders were a deep font of priceless knowledge and advice for the overwhelmed young wizard. Stilted as the speech and movement of the newly awakening three remained. The centuries that lay between the honored Magicals and their surviving heir created a unique perspective to his actions and views that his contemporaries and opponents in the Wizengamot sometimes could not see coming. Needless to say, the coming year would see much change in the lives of the two most well-known students in the school. Though, perhaps for a different reason than many would suspect.

Chapter Nineteen: The Love of a Friend

Only weeks before they were due to board the train to Hogwarts for their fourth year, Draco and Harry found themselves growing restless in the large mansion they called home. It had been unseasonably warm for a week and the boys had spent all their time inside for days, leaving them more than a little eager to get outside, or at least somewhere different. To that end, the best friends left their usual haunts of sitting room, library, to make their way to the small private chapel attached to the Manor. It had been added when the mansion had been updated in the thirteen hundreds, a time when every wealthy landowner had had their own chapel for the use of the main family and its retainers.

After the historical practice and context had been explained to Harry, the brunette had quickly taken a liking to the building during his first year with the Malfoys. His favorite aspect of it had been, and remained, the huge stained-glass windows, which depicted various Arthurian and Magical figures from Wizarding culture and history. Not only were they expertly rendered and beautiful to look at, but the figures had helped the eight-year-old come to grips with the idea of actually, truly, possessing a family and cultural history of his own after spending years being alone and unwanted. The images still provided both those benefits to the orphan hero, but at the moment he was more concerned with the way they diffused the painfully hot sunlight. Well, that and the way that light passed through the colorful panes and splashed brilliantly across the stone floor.

Green eyes had immediately locked on the windows when they’d entered, but after a few minutes he had noticed that instead of admiring the color of light through the glass as he usually did, he was instead noticing the way the colors reflected in Draco’s pale blond hair. Not that he hadn’t noticed from time to time over the years that his best friend was often flattered by this outfit or that dress robe. But this observation felt different. Harry had the sudden and strange desire to run his fingers through the pale, light-stained strands to see if the light also warmed them to the touch. No doubt his neck and face would be warm from their trek to the chapel. How would the warm skin feel against my palm, I wonder? Would it feel different where the bright colors rest?

The train of thought derailed as it occurred to the young wizard exactly what he had been thinking about. Despite having admired his friend over the years, especially this last one, and despite having felt a particularly sharp sense of satisfaction in Draco’s single-minded attention which he distantly suspected was not the most normal reaction between friends, that particular thought struck him with an unexpected feeling of awkwardness.

The brunette felt his own face grow warmer than the exercise could account for as the previous questions echoed repeatedly through his head. Had he really just thought that? Why on earth was he wondering such a thing? That wasn’t really normal to ask about one’s friend, was it? No, of course not. They were the best of friends, and had been most of their lives, but even their closeness didn’t adequately explain such a thought. Yet why did a part of him still want to know, even after the absurdity of the questions was so clear to him? The inappropriateness.

Yes, Harry told himself, wanting to know what one’s friend’s skin felt like was a little inappropriate. Even more so than the vague observations of the blond’s general attractiveness or the indistinct pleasure he had noticed feeling when the taller boy held him or protected him from his crazy fans. He had been growing somewhat used to those things over the previous year or two. But this. What on earth was this?

Before he could come close to answering the many confusing queries, he saw Draco looking at him. Every thought was immediately replaced with a fervent hope that he hadn’t been staring. He almost shook his head. Of course he had been staring, he thought to himself with a mental sneer. He swallowed the self-deprecating thought before it began to show on his face. Maybe Draco hadn’t noticed that he was staring. That was possible. Surely.

In a desperate attempt to divert his thoughts and distract the taller boy, Harry choked out a few questions about some of the details in the images of Merlin and Arthur, which he couldn’t remember being covered in their history lessons.

With only a moment’s hesitation where grey orbs narrowed just slightly in his direction, the Malfoy heir began explaining the significance of the shield Arthur stood on, the reason Merlin was shown with a staff rather than a wand, and the reason Arthur was not depicted with any Magical focus at all. Then the blond moved on to the matching broaches each wizard wore.

“Broaches had much more meaning in the centuries during and after the Roman invasion of Britain when the use of the broach became much more wide-spread. Until the nine hundreds, matching broaches were often used instead of the now traditional promise rings when a couple had moved past the official Courting stage of a relationship.”

Harry’s thoughts stuttered to a halt even more rapidly than they had when he’d caught himself thinking about his best friend in a way he shouldn’t have. “You mean, Merlin and Arthur were… were courting?”

The other boy blinked for a moment, apparently unprepared for either the question, or the shocked tone in which it had been asked. “Well,” he answered, cocking his head slightly to the side, “no. And yes. Technically they were a couple, of course, but they couldn’t go through all the stages of a Formal Courtship. It is not wholly clear in the documents if they ever actually went through the Consideration stage. After all, Arthur had already made a very public political marriage with Gwenhwyar at that point.”

Harry was not sure if he was more surprised by fact the two famous wizards were a couple or the fact that his ancestor had such a well-known marital affair. He remained rather wrapped up in that piece of information, even as he listened to Draco explain that such arrangements were not terribly uncommon at the time the noted Magicals lived.

“Of course, they both needed heirs, and the new Queen hardly cared. Lancelot was in a political match of his own, after all, so his presence at court allowed her to be with her lover even though she was legally married to the Pendragon. Arthur was married to her for the good of the kingdom, and was in love with Merlin. Gwenhwyar was married to Arthur for the good of the kingdom and her family, and was in love with Lancelot.”

Draco shrugged at his friend’s expression before he continued. “They both were able to maintain the necessary legal ties and give the kingdom an heir while still being with the person they wanted. It wasn’t like anyone was sneaking around. They just maintained the proper connections and image in public and lived their own lives in private. Merlin fathered his own heir, though admittedly, Maeve was able to accommodate her friend and collegue without the marriage Arthur and Lancelot both had to undergo.”

Harry stuttered his way through a repeat of almost everything that had just been said, needing to make sure he understood and hadn’t read into what had been said. Not that there was much to read into. It had been a pretty straight-forward explanation. The blond certainly thought so, his expression clearly bewildered as he confirmed one piece of information after another. As he finished, however, the grey eyes grew unexpectedly guarded, his face uncertain.

“Does… does Merlin and Arthur being together, does that bother you? I mean, you don’t think there is anything wrong with that… do you?”

The nervous tone unsettled the brunette in a way he couldn’t identify, but before he could even try to do so, he found himself blurting out an emphatic “No!” without even processing what it was he meant to say.

The Potter heir didn’t notice the way Draco’s shoulders dropped in relief or the look his best friend shot him, too busy making sense of what he’d just realized. In the seconds after he had nearly yelled his denial of being bothered by Merlin and Arthur having a romantic relationship with one another, it occurred to Harry. Merlin and Arthur, two of Magical history’s most important and revered figures, had been in a relationship. They had loved each other. Romantically.

Two wizards could, and had, loved each other in the past, the brunette thought furiously. And few if any had seen a problem with it. It was possible for a wizard to have non-platonic feelings for another wizard. So it would be fairly normal, or at least acceptable, for a wizard, such as himself, to have feelings, or a crush, on another wizard. An urge to touch or hold someone he had a crush on was not shocking or inappropriate.

Half formed thoughts and images that had been floating around the back of his mind for months suddenly took a clear shape. A shape that looked exactly like Draco. He liked Draco. He noticed the things he did, felt the way he did about his friend because he liked him. As more than a friend. And there wasn’t anything wrong with that.

The revelation hit the boy-hero harder than a blasting hex, leaving him feeling rather unsteady for the rest of the day. And for a few days after that. Being aware of what he was actually feeling left said feelings hard to ignore. He had to force himself to not act on those feelings, or even allow them to show however. He was sure that as acceptable as they might be in the abstract, that didn’t mean that it would be okay for him to actually do anything about them. Draco did not feel that way about him, after all. They were just friends.

Merlin’s beard, we’re practically like brothers. That thought was as clear to him as all the others. Yet, as he had in the chapel, over the last few weeks before the new term started, Harry actively noticed things about his friend. And he noticed how they affected him in ways they hadn’t before.

Like the way the blond looked when he stumbled into the sitting room first thing in the morning, something that was happening more often as he became increasingly reticent to allow his friend to help in the same way when his nightmares crept up. The brunette had, in fact, utilized the privacy charmed items they’d used at school to project more than one silencing charm before going to bed in order to prevent the other boy from hearing him and coming to help like he usually would. He was fourteen now, after all, and he could handle what nightmares he had on his own now. Well, not completely on his own, as Excalibur was as helpful as he had always been, if not a little annoyed with his master for confining him to their room at night so as to prevent him from fetching Draco when the nightmares were more extreme.

The conflicting thoughts and impulses followed the smaller boy to school where certain things only worsened with them sharing a dorm. Keeping Excalibur with him was almost impossible and he eventually resorted to introducing him to another Kneazle that lived in the castle in order to distract him somewhat with a nocturnal partner with whom to hunt. He had also taken to putting charms on his bed hangings to block the sounds of his nightmares. Which, he determined, must have been more common than he thought because he was pretty sure Draco had started doing the same thing several months into the school year without mentioning it.

Harry thought to ask Neville about it at one point, but had put it off. His friend had been watching him with an almost suspicious air for much of their fourth year. So much so that he worried for a few days if the other boy had picked up on something odd about the way he looked at or interacted with the blond.

The idea that their friend had noticed such a thing caused the brunette a small amount of panic, his mind immediately conjuring scenes of something being said that left Draco feeling odd or uncomfortable around him afterward. He knew his best friend wouldn’t be upset on principle, the other boy’s opinion on Merlin and Arthur during the summer made that clear. But the specifics of the situation were another matter altogether. In that Harry liked Draco specifically, and knew the blond would probably feel weird to learn that his best friend saw him differently than the Malfoy heir himself saw his dorm-mate and childhood friend.

Draco’s friendship had meant too much to Harry for too long to ever allow him to risk it. The Potter heir couldn’t imagine not having him there every night before he went to bed, or joking with him as they dressed for class each day. Despite that, he had eventually decided on asking Neville something about how standard casting silencing charms on one’s bed curtains happened to be, just so he knew how worried he would need to be should Draco ever ask him why he had done so.

After all, the larger boy had been giving Draco much the same odd looks as he had Harry, which eventually convinced the brunette that said looks had to be about something else. After all, there wouldn’t be a reason for Neville to suspect Draco of the types of thoughts he himself was struggling with. Draco only saw Harry as a friend, therefore, that was not the problem and likely was not one that was even worth worrying over.

The attempt to talk with the Longbottom heir, however, was short lived and consisted mostly of an awkward attempt to form the question he needed answered before fleeing the room. Neville watched him go, smiling as Draco entered the room a few minutes later asking if he’d seen Harry. It was all the other boy could do not to laugh at the disappointed look on the blond’s face when he was told the shorter boy had left not long before. Neville held it in until Draco had uttered a halfhearted excuse about why he needed to go look for the brunette and fled with almost as much haste as the smaller wizard had.

Draco didn’t hear the sounds of mirth, too occupied looking for his best friend and wondering why he had not come to Godric’s room as they had planned. The Malfoy heir wondered if that meant Harry was upset for some reason. He steadfastly ignored the deeply buried hope that the smaller boy might be, or rather, that Harry’s being upset might give him an excuse to hold the brunette. He had rarely been able to do that so far this year. However horrible it could be to actually half wish something was bothering his best friend, it didn’t mean he wouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity when he finally tracked down the pensive looking fourth-year in their dorm room. Before he even had to think about what he was doing, the blond was across the room and holding each of the brunette’s shoulders in his hands as he asked what was bothering him.

For his part, Harry couldn’t help but savor the weight of those two hands despite keeping his gaze steadfastly away from the worried grey orbs. He had been avoiding much of any physical contact with his best friend for fear of revealing too much or making the other boy uncomfortable by reacting the wrong way. Yet now, he let the touch calm him for as long as he thought he could get away with. Then, reluctantly, he shrugged him off with what he hoped was a casual assurance that nothing was wrong, and turned back to the lecture notes he had been listlessly organizing when Draco arrived.

A few moments passed in silence before the taller boy asked about the notes. As they discussed the lectures in question, the brunette silently scolded himself for hoping his friend’s determination to check on him actually meant something more than that he was his best friend. Yet he couldn’t ignore that Draco continued to be as physically demonstrative of their friendship as they had been when they were younger, despite what he could see was a clear lack of such in their peers.

It’s just that we grew up together, he reminded himself none too gently. They had always been best friends, and being so close was perfectly normal behavior in those circumstances. Of course Draco hadn’t changed his behavior, he still saw Harry as his best friend, exactly the same way he always had. After all, the blond had had no reason for that to change. It was a ridiculous hope that the touches lingered, or lasted longer than they used to, and that was purely a result of his own change in perception, not Draco’s.

Physical contact with the Malfoy heir felt like more to him simply because such contact meant more to him. It was not because Draco in any way intended them to mean more, he was simply reading too much into it. In short, he needed to stop being such a dunderhead and forget these useless feelings. All they were doing was making things difficult and awkward between him and the first friend he had ever had. And needlessly so. He had to stop.

And yet, that was easier said than done. No matter what he promised himself about keeping some physical distance between them until he could convince his stomach not to flip about at the blond’s proximity, he still couldn’t make himself discourage such touches and closeness. He didn’t want to hurt Draco, or make him feel like anything had changed. Before the revelations of the chapel, he would have thought nothing about sitting so close, so there was no reason to make a big deal out of it now.

And he tried his very best to do so. He managed somewhat well, he was pretty sure, by the time they were studying together for end of year exams in the small garden area at the school. They had found the secluded little spot early in the year and watched it for a few weeks to make sure no one else used it before they commandeered it for their own. Every once in a while Godric’s room became too confining, after all, no matter how much they all valued the companionship and advice available from the master portraits there. The other Founders were becoming more and more active every week, their speech and movement more and more fluid and natural, and he was sure that they would be as lively as Godric by the next year.

But even so, fresh air was nice on occasion. So they had worked together over the course of a fortnight to place spells and wards discreetly to ensure they’d have the spot to themselves. And they did. No one had ever bothered them there. Perhaps that was why Harry had finally let his guard down enough to be taking entirely too much enjoyment out of the way his best friend had thoughtlessly squeezed himself onto the bench beside the brunette and pressed close enough for the both of them to read from the book he had checked out of the library to study for their upcoming Transfiguration exam.

When Neville arrived to study with them a short while later, it was to find the two boys huddled closely at stone table, sharing the text and discussing what they read in low tones. So as not to disturb the quiet of the garden, Harry insisted to himself when he noticed what they had been doing. Though even he didn’t quite believe that. With a squirming sensation in his gut and a fierce hope that his lapse in composure wasn’t obvious, Harry pulled away and managed to put a little distance between them. It was time to move on to Charms anyway, and they all had different books to look over for that.

The small brunette tried so hard to ignore his own blush and act as nonchalantly as possible while staring fixedly at the new tome he was opening that he missed entirely the knowing smile the Longbottom heir cast back and forth between the other two boys. That same knowing look made an appearance on the young wizard’s face many times over the coming summer and was so large at the three birthday celebrations that Neville himself started drawing suspicious looks from the various adults. Though Snape’s looks were more or less reserved for the blond and brunette and were less suspicious than they were suffering.

Harry, though somewhat preoccupied with taking up the reigns of his titles now that he was fifteen and could do so under the oversight of his Proxies, occasionally noticed the looks. The glances left him anxious when saw them aimed in his direction, and confused when he saw them focused on Draco. The blond seemed oblivious no matter who was the subject of the suspect attention.

Even the Malfoy heir, however, would have seen the knowing smirks or suspicious stares by the end of the summer if he weren’t so preoccupied with the topic of conversation which prompted the majority of them. Marriage. Or rather, the highly structured interaction that traditionally preceded marriage in Magical Society. With the process being so drawn out and codified, possible matches were discussed and culled through by around age fifteen or sixteen so that there was sufficient time to decide on a partner and then complete said process before they were too long out of Hogwarts.

It was a significant investment of time and effort to begin Courting, and if the first choice did not prove successful, a second attempt could stretch things out enough that the vast majority of Pure-bloods had whittled a list of possibilities down to no more than three by the end of their sixth year. It should therefore not have been a surprise to either boy when the Malfoy Lord and Lady began debating with them and each other what names might be included on a preliminary list for each young wizard.

Yet, the topic had caught them both completely off guard, and neither had participated in the discussions with any enthusiasm. That seemed to have startled the elder blondes. Then they had grown quiet. Then the looks had started to increase in frequency and duration. Not that Draco appeared to notice. He certainly took notice, however, when the smaller brunette brought up the subject at the end of the summer vacation as the two friends wandered through the maze to the other side, where it let out into a less manicured area with trees and flowering bushes on the edge of the Quidditch pitch.

“I don’t want to make a list,” Harry said without warning, his green eyes darting to and away from his best friend, then drifting restlessly over the green hedge walls around them. “I don’t think…” the boy-hero sat on the swing that was suspended from the leafy arbor overhead. “I don’t think I want to get married.”

There was a beat of silence during which Harry kept his gaze steadfastly ahead where the verdant walls ended, refusing to look at the blond. He simply swung slightly back and forth, the movement reminding Draco of all the times they had played on the swing when they were younger.

“I don’t think I do either,” the Malfoy heir admitted softly, finally drawing the other’s gaze.

The brunette swallowed noticeably before responding with a joking tone that didn’t hide the nervousness underneath. “None of the girls they want to put on your list good enough, eh?”

Draco took a deep breath, appearing to come to some kind of decision about something before he walked around the swing so he was facing the first friend he’d ever made.

“No girl would be good enough,” the blond said in complete seriousness before stepping forward and halting the other boy’s soft back and forth motion on the swing. So slowly it almost looked like he was waiting for the smaller wizard to stop him, Draco took hold of the swing’s ropes, one in either hand.

The look in the grey eyes held Harry still as much as the hands holding the swing did. He couldn’t move at all when the young wizard standing in front of him looked down into green eyes and whispered, “I- I don’t want a girl.”

There was a combination of trepidation and something else in the blond’s eyes which seemed to silently dare his friend to ask what he meant. Harry wanted to ask but he was still frozen. The only thing that he was able to move were his eyes, which dropped of their own volition to stare at the pink lips above him. Something else moved then, again without his permission as his tongue darted out to wet his own lips. Draco made a small, helpless noise and darted forward before the wizard on the swing could process that he had moved.

Harry’s brain never quite caught up with that movement. It was far too busy taking in the sensation of a set of lips pressed firmly to his. The task took almost an hour, the brunette’s mind overwhelmed as it was with continuous sensory input as the unexpected kiss was followed by another and another. When they pulled apart the first time, both were panting and wide eyed as they waited for the other to say something. Protest perhaps, or express apology or regret for what had happened.

The silence dragged on until it was Harry who darted quickly forward and up, to meet the panting lips hovering so temptingly just out of reach. In the same instant a tanned hand reached out and grasped a pale neck to pull it down towards him. Another noise escaped one of the pairs of occupied lips, though it was impossible to tell which one. The two young wizards weren’t capable of telling much of anything about anything aside from the taste they were so determinedly familiarizing themselves with.

Nothing else really mattered. Not the dropping temperature or the setting sun. Not the reading they were supposed to be doing before the summer lesson scheduled for the next day. Certainly not the list of witches’ names the Lord and Lady of the Manor had given them to think on when they had left the dinning table a few hours before. By the time they made it inside, just before full dark, they had made one decision and two very important observations.

First, they both decided that they would not be making a list to provide in a few days as Narcissa had requested. Second and third, they had noticed that the swing at the end of the maze would not sit two, but that they were both better at strengthening and repair charms than they had previously thought.

Chapter Twenty: Making it Official


If he were to be asked, Harry Potter would eventually, after much blushing and stammering, admit that he was thrilled with how things between himself and his best friend had changed after the day at the maze swing. Yet he would also admit that change had made some things harder. Since everything had happened on the second to last day of their vacation, the two boys had only remained at the Manor for a single day before boarding the train for their fifth year at Hogwarts.

And since they had both been rather overwhelmed by what had happened and what it meant for them, that twenty-four hours had been spent in their own heads and hadn’t required any real subterfuge in order to keep the change private. Though each boy’s refusal to discuss the list of witches the adults wanted to start may have raised a few eyebrows in the Manor. Narcissa had regarded the raven-haired wizard with narrowed blue eyes when she asked him the next morning if he had given any thought to his list like she had asked. Harry had cleared his throat somewhat awkwardly, his own gaze fixed pointedly on his breakfast plate.

“I had planned to wait until the new term settled down first. At least until the Summer Court Season has finished.” Pale blue orbs narrowed even further and he rushed to continue before his legal guardian could say anything in response.

“It has all been rather overwhelming, assuming my titles, even with the oversight of my Proxies. And,” the Potter heir swallowed the knot attempting to form in his throat, “I do not believe I will be able to give the matter the serious thought it deserves while I am so preoccupied with the Wizengamot and school.”

A heavy silence descended on the table as both elder Malfoys regarded the brunette for several long moments before pinning their own son with the weight of their combined stares. The young blond avoided their eyes as pointedly as his best friend had, then took a deep breath as subtly as he could. “This is the last day of summer vacation, do we really have to have this conversation now? Can we not just enjoy it? I think Harry has the best idea, waiting until we are sufficiently settled at the castle.”

The Lord Malfoy kept his attention locked on his heir as the Lady of the Manor looked back and forth between her son and the boy she had considered her son for the last eight years. Harry may technically be her ward now, but she had raised him since he was seven. With a barely notable nod, as if the witch were confirming a previous suspicion, she placed her napkin on her cleared plate.

“Perhaps we should return to this topic in a few weeks’ time,” the Lady said hesitantly. Her blue gaze caught and held her husband’s when it snapped to her face at the words. Another few seconds of silence was soon broken by the elegant blonde as she glanced from one fifteen-year-old to another. “In the mean time, I believe we can best utilize that time by considering… expanding, our lists of witches.”

The teens were so relieved that they did not notice the way Lucius’ eyes narrowed further, then widened as he took in his wife’s careful wording. He nodded to her and cleared his throat with the subtle silence neither boy had been able to manage. “Yes, there are, perhaps, a good number of… others…. which can be added if that is what suites one, or both, of you best.”

Both soon-to-be fifth-years finally looked up with a clear hint of relief on their otherwise composed features. Not waiting for any conversation to pick back up, the wizards politely excused themselves from the breakfast table and hurried with all the dignity possible to their sitting room to enjoy the last hours of their summer.

For all that they had only delayed the inevitable awkward conversation, they had still escaped the confines of Malfoy Manor without anyone else knowing what had happened at the swing, or what that occurrence had meant for their friendship. That trend, with only one short complication, continued at the school, as a late night conversation between the blond and brunette had resolved their intentions to keep their new relationship private for the foreseeable future. The one complication had been, of course, Neville Longbottom. The sandy-haired young wizard had entered their train compartment, taken one knowing look at them sitting side-by-side and refusing to meet his gaze, and asked with a smirk when they had finally gotten together.

After the shock and annoyance had faded, and a stumblingly brief answer had been given, the three boys had settled down in their privacy-warded compartment and enjoyed their ride to Hogsmeade. Though, given their appearance when Neville had returned from his prefect’s meeting, Harry and Draco had enjoyed the trip quite a bit more than their friend had. The school year did not quite follow that pattern as circumstances seemed to conspire against them to prevent the new couple from having any significant time together.

They may have used Harry’s limited assumption of his titles as an excuse to not talk about the Courtship list, but the task was in actuality a stressful and time consuming one. Upon seeing how much more time and effort the brunette was putting into his management of his Houses’ votes Draco was a little relieved that he would not be required to do the same any time soon. The nominal Lord to the Houses of Potter, Peverell, and Gryffindor, and the heir to the House of Black was often required to attend court session, though his age and status as a student allowed his Proxies to continue operating on his behalf during some of the school year.

Still, the requirements of his position as the last of three respected House lines, were more than a little inconvenient for the new couple. Yet, Draco couldn’t argue with the importance of those duties. Even the added tasks needed to continue advancing their agenda, were hard to resent, as much as he wanted to for taking his boyfriend away from him so often. The young blond wizard had known and agreed that such steps would be needed and had even been involved in much of the pre-planning over the years.

It was indisputable that the combined strength of their voting bloc would be used to force through the reforms they had agreed were so badly needed in the Wizarding World. Harry himself had agreed with that before he had really understood what all changes were to be made or why. The specifics hadn’t mattered much to him when he had first stumbled upon the Magical world. Knowing that the reforms were aimed at undoing the so-called progress that had been spearheaded and orchestrated by Albus Dumbledore had been all he had needed to know.

When the Potter heir had learned enough to grasp those specifics, he had lain awake quite a few nights discussing with Draco all the great things they would accomplish when they got older. Well, the blond told himself silently, they were older now and it was time to make those dreams a reality. So he did not complain when his boyfriend spent hours reading and writing letters and discussing strategy with the Founders’ portraits.

Often enough, the taller fifth-year sat back, homework forgotten, and simply watched the other wizard’s face grow ever more animated as the brunette did his best to help his Proxies push through an amendment that ensured not teaching Magical children the roles of Nobles and the traditional House system in Wizarding society could, under certain circumstances, be a punishable offense. Such as purposefully leaving a Noble heir completely ignorant of his role and responsibilities to his Houses. As he had been.

The day that the motion had passed, the new couple had enjoyed a very spirited celebratory snog at one end of the large table in the Founders’ room while Neville had sat at the other end and tossed a privacy charm at them with a laugh. The celebration had not lasted nearly as long as Draco would have wanted. But, again, he could not protest the next item on their agenda. That item was a new law not only allowing, but encouraging, the assimilation of Muggle-borns and the protection of Wizarding culture.

It was a more than worthy cause, and one that would never stand a chance without the direct and blatant backing of the Second-Time-Savior. Although the Malfoy heir was annoyed that it meant hours of preparation and days of preoccupation, he was extremely proud of his best friend’s showing when the bespectacled fifth-year had addressed the court for the first time.

Draco hadn’t really needed to ask how things had gone when his dorm-mate had entered their dungeon rooms that evening. The flushed cheeks and bright green eyes had told him everything he needed to know about the success of Harry’s first speech to the Wizengamot as the official, if nominal, Lord of his three Houses. The brunette hadn’t apparently felt the need to discuss whether he had managed to present himself to the other Nobles as an individual with strong opinions who would not be led by any of them. The Potter heir did not seem to want to say if he or the other members of their bloc thought that he had come across as a powerful wizard in his own right, regardless of his age.

No, he had something far more important in mind for the evening, and his boyfriend could hardly argue priorities with his mouth otherwise occupied as it was. Not even when a sweep of the growing wizard’s arm sent the open History text off the bed and onto the floor. Draco was more than amenable to taking that space on the bed, with the slight weight of the Potter heir practically on top of him as they kissed.

The occasional word or two made it past busy lips, leaving the blond with the overall impression that the Boy-Who-Lived had made a very favorable impression indeed. The sudden interruption of the pre-set alarm on Draco’s wand indicating it was time to leave for their study session with Blaise was received rather less favorably.

Harry dropped his forehead onto the chest beneath his and let out a rough sigh. Grey eyes closed as his own head fell back onto his pillow. After a few long breaths in and out, they separated reluctantly, the brunette rolling off the taller body and slowly gaining his feet. Draco took the offered arm and pulled himself up, then went looking for his shoes with a silent stream of profanity aimed at the exams that were drawing ever closer. As much as he wished it were otherwise, neither of them could afford to slack off on their classwork or studying.

It was, after all, their OWL year, which posed a notable amount of pressure despite their tutors having more than prepared them to take the exams in every subject covered at the school, and a few more besides. There could be no chance of poor scores. Showing themselves to be dedicated and intelligent wizards in their own rights was an absolute necessity to their long-term goals and responsibilities.

And if that weren’t enough, there were also the ordinary year-end exams in the newly added classes. The new, or rather old, subjects had not been on the course schedule long enough for anything more. In fact, officials were still unearthing records of the OWLs at the Ministry in order to see what the courses had once covered and what they would need to test for.

Another complication was that, with the settling of his Magical Core having begun after his fifteenth birthday, Harry was finally able to start some of the stronger growth potions. He would still, of course, have to wait on the more invasive eye repair charms, but any noticeable improvement to his still small frame was a welcome one. It had taken years for his stomach, shrunken from more than five years of near starvation, to allow him to eat decent sized meals. Without the nutrition potions he had started taking when he arrived at the Manor, Harry was sure he would be a truly scrawny thing.

The downside of the potions, however, was that they had a tendency to cause tiredness and muscle aches while the body began the changes being forced upon it.

In one way, the new regime was detrimental to the two young wizards exploring the new facet of their relationship. The Potter heir was often too tired and swamped with homework or Wizengamot matters to do more than exchange a handful of lingering kisses with his new boyfriend before bed.

In another way, Draco had to admit that it was a little bit helpful. He certainly couldn’t complain about the aching muscles providing the perfect excuse to give the growing brunette a massage or two. On those days, both Slytherins somehow managed to summon more than enough energy to explore their physical boundaries. At least somewhat briefly.

The teens, surprisingly enough, had the self-control to mostly contain their amorous activities to evenings in their dorm. But the blond could hardly let his best friend suffer when he could provide some relief by working a knot or two out of his shoulders or legs in the privacy of Godric’s room, could he? That had a downside of its’ own, though. Which was the tendency for their other friend to interrupt such moments, or the tender but occasionally steamy ones that followed.

Other than lighthearted expressions of annoyance and the insistence that such things cease upon his arrival, Neville took the change in his friends’ relationship in stride. Not willing to risk the reaction of anyone else, however, Neville remained the only one they told at the castle. Not that they had actually had to tell him, as their friend had figured it out on his own without any aid or even more than a few seconds of thought upon first seeing them on the train. A fact which the new couple still found somewhat annoying.

There had been once, however, at the end of the year when one more name had almost been added to the list of those aware of the change between them. Draco and Harry had stayed late talking to Godric about how their OWL exams were progressing and been forced to make their way back to their dorm under the invisibility cloak which had been recovered from Dumbledore’s house before his trial. The physical proximity that was required for both of them to travel under the cloak unseen, especially after months of growth potions, resulted in a different kind of closeness entirely.

“Draco!” Harry hissed as quietly as possible when the blond stepped on his heel yet again. The other wizard muttered an apology, but the tone he used made it quite clear that Draco was anything but sorry. The brunette came to a sudden halt and turned to face his boyfriend with an annoyed huff. Before the movement had been completed, the huff turned into a gasp when the blond caught hold of the smaller Slytherin as they rounded a corner into one of the largest hallways in the expansive dungeons. Any other admonishment Harry might have given was cut off when the taller fifth-year pressed his boyfriend back up against the stone dungeon wall and kept him there with the weight of his own body.

Draco continued to press against him until every breath each took landed warm and moist on the other’s face. They held perfectly still, neither attempting to speak or put any distance between them. A full minute of silence passed, during which the teens’ breaths grew increasingly labored. When the blond finally broke the stalemate by raising his hand to cup the shorter wizard’s cheek, Harry’s heavy breathing caught in his throat. The small sound served to galvanize them both and all of a sudden they were kissing.

It wasn’t the sweet and sometimes lustful kisses they routinely exchanged. It was frenzied, desperate. Lips and teeth clashed and tongues battled. Every sense was focused exclusively on the taste and feel of the mouth underneath their own. Harry found it impossible to process, let alone appreciate, the amount of sensory input he was experiencing. And yet, it wasn’t enough.

The brunette clutched at the other young wizard’s shoulders but couldn’t maintain a strong enough hold while still fully participating in the frantic snog. He kept trying, grabbing hold of the blond’s neck, then his upper arms, then wrapping both arms around Draco to practically claw at his back. Harry lost his grip again when his arms slipped down and almost off of the other Slytherin. In his attempts to regain his hold, one of the tanned hands slipped under the disheveled shirt and landed on pale skin.

The skin on skin contact froze them both and they drew back almost simultaneously with sharply indrawn breaths. Green and grey locked, and the space under the invisibility cloak grew overheated from the heavy panting. It had been several months now since they had first kissed that day on the swing, and they had taken advantage of what time they had together to kiss and hold one another. And kiss. There had been an awful lot of kissing. But their physical relationship hadn’t really progressed much beyond that, consisting mostly of light petting, which had always occurred over the top of whatever clothing they were wearing at the time.

This, having Harry’s hand on the small of his back, underneath his shirt, was somehow completely different from everything they had done before. Which, a distant part of the blond’s brain mused, was ridiculous. It was only his back. But it still felt markedly more intimate, and he wanted more of it. Draco swallowed his hesitation and moved his hands from where they rested, one against the wall, the other buried in the messy black locks. He moved slowly, as much to give himself time to process what he was doing as to allow Harry to pull back or protest if he wanted.

The Potter heir remained steadfastly silent, though his emerald gaze seemed full of enough emotion to overwhelm that silence while he waited for those pale hands to reach their destination. He was familiar with them, of course, he would recognize the sight and feel of them in an instant, but they felt different as they pulled his shirttails from his trousers and slipped beneath. They felt warmer, more slender, more… well, just more.

Draco watched his best friend, his boyfriend, as his head fell back and his eyes fell shut. The gasp the smaller heir let out made his own breath catch in his throat. He couldn’t help making a noise of his own once his hands had splayed out against the warm, slightly sweaty skin of Harry’s back. The brunette quickly mirrored him, his free hand joining the other on pale skin. Both young wizards found their grip tightening against their will, pulling them closer once again.

The quasi-Lord flexed his hands, letting them drift just a little upwards along his boyfriend’s spine. As if in retaliation, the blond grasped onto Harry’s waist, just above where his pants rested on his hips. Then his hands moved as well. Instead of going up, they traveled around to the front, flattening out and covering most of the brunette’s lower abdomen. The sound released from the other fifth-year had Draco latching onto the parted lips. This time the kiss was slower, more sensual as hands began to explore new territory.

Draco’s well-tailored shirt kept Harry from reaching the top of the pale shoulder blades, and the shorter wizard contented himself with sweeping his hands up and down the planes of his boyfriend’s back. The lack of space between them hampered the blond as well, but in addition to running his hands along the stomach and chest of his best friend, the Malfoy heir was able to reach something even more new and exciting.

The first time his fingers brushed against a small, flat nipple, Draco wasn’t sure what had prompted the brunette to press closer. The second time, he was able to connect the small sound in the back of Harry’s throat with the cause. Slender fingers quickly took advantage of the opportunity to draw out the little moans by rubbing back and forth over them. After a minute or two, when the body beneath his was nearly vibrating and the tanned hands began to clutch tighter at his back, Draco gently pinched one and then the other.

Harry wrenched his mouth away from the blond with a soft cry, briefly burying his face in the taller Slytherin’s chest. The movement brought his lips into contact with the soft skin of Draco’s neck and he promptly started pulling his own small sounds from the blond. The Potter heir attacked the exposed skin with lips and tongue, and even teeth as he made his way from the base of his boyfriend’s neck to just below his jaw, then to under and slightly behind the pale ear and back down to the crook of his shoulder.

They were immersed in sensation once again, but fortunately for them, the two young wizards were not completely oblivious to their surroundings. It took several long seconds for the sound of approaching footsteps to register, but moments before the individual came around the corner, they realized what was happening.

They froze and flattened themselves against the wall as much as possible, even crouching down slightly to ensure that the cloak covered their feet. Quieting their breathing was more difficult and they both ended up literally holding their breath as their Head of House made his way swiftly past them. Being the largest hallway in the dungeons, the black-clad wizard did not come close enough to make any kind of contact. Yet about halfway down the hall, just as the couple were about to let out the breath they were holding, the Potions Master spun sharply on his heel and swept his gaze along what seemed to be every inch of space beneath the vaulted stone ceiling.

Harry and Draco’s hearts pounded in their chests, the rush of blood echoing in their ears even as Snape’s footsteps echoed in the corridor when their childhood potions tutor turned back around and continued on his way. The couple gasped in a lungful of oxygen as quietly as they could manage, exchanged a wide-eyed glance, and swiftly made for the entrance to the common room. It wasn’t until they had made it all the way into their dorm room and removed the cloak that they dared make a sound.

“Bloody hell!” Harry cursed.

“That was far, far too close,” Draco agreed as his best friend stored the cloak and faced him. His anxiety was mirrored on the other teen’s face. They were both so anxious, in fact, that a sudden low cry caused them to jump several inches. Another cry sounded as the tension bled out of them in overly exuberant laughter. The steel-grey cat cried again, looking entirely unimpressed with the humans’ performance.

As soon as he had calmed down enough to do so, Harry picked up Excalibur and carried him over to the nearest bed. It happened to be Draco’s but the blond didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow as his best friend situated himself on the mattress and proceeded to pet the Kneazle. In the few minutes it took Cal to purr himself to sleep under his master’s hand, the taller Slytherin had finished changing into this pajamas. Leaving his familiar to his rest, Harry followed suit and readied himself for bed.

He did not stretch out on his own bed, however, but resumed his position next to the cat and only inches from where the blond was sprawled atop the covers. One last chuckle escaped as Draco began to speculate as to how Severus Snape would have reacted had he caught them snogging in the halls after curfew. The brunette shook his head, not wanting to even contemplate such an occurrence. The topic, however, started him thinking about something else.

“Draco?” ventured the smaller teen.

“Hmm?” responded the blond, already half asleep.

“Do you think, I mean, maybe we should…”

Grey eyes opened and found green. “What?”

Harry bit his lower lip, then plunged forward. “When should we tell your parents?”

Draco sat up slightly, propping his weight on his elbows as his attention focused on the worried face. “Summer, I guess. I don’t really want to do it by owl. Probably as soon as we get home. I don’t really want to spend all summer…”

The Potter heir watched the blond brows lower slightly with a tense expression. Draco didn’t need to finish the statement for him to know exactly what his best friend was going to say. It had only been a week and a half since they had returned from Yule vacation, after all. The tension and awkwardness they had both felt when around the older couple had not been forgotten, especially when they had been forced to awkwardly put off the courting list yet again. They had discussed how they might reveal their relationship for most of the train to King’s Cross, but neither had worked up the courage to broach the subject over the brief holiday. Yet the idea of going through even another week of that was more than the brunette could stand and he promptly nodded to indicate his agreement.

The blond nodded back, then fell the rest of the way back onto the bed with a loud exhale. The mattress bounced slightly at the movement, disturbing the cat, who let out an annoyed hiss and leapt onto the floor. Harry smiled just a little at the agitated feline, then smiled a little more when he saw the affronted look on his boyfriend’s face.

“I think Cal is ready for bed,” he pointed out needlessly as a plaintive yowl came from behind the half-closed bed curtains a few yards away.

“And ready for you to join him,” Draco said ruefully.

Not wanting to listen to the ruckus that would result from ignoring his familiar, Harry leaned over to exchange a brief kiss with the blond before making his way over to his own bed and slipping inside. His best friend did the same and within minutes they were both drifting off to the rumbling purr of a contented Kneazle.

Excalibur was probably the only one feeling the least bit contented a few months later when the young couple disembarked the train and said goodbye to Neville and his grandmother. The Lord Black was under the weather and wasn’t with the elder Malfoys where they waited for the two young wizards at the back of the train platform. That was probably a good thing, as Harry was sure he would be incapable of making the kind of joking small talk that the former convict favored. It was all he could do to smile as the group Portkeyed to the Manor.

Neither Harry, nor Draco, could stop smiling two and a half hours later. Having decided to tell the elder blondes, the young couple wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. So before the Manor’s occupants had sat down to dinner, they all met in the same room where Narcissa had once taught them the etiquette of a formal tea. Steaming cups were waiting at five seats when they arrived.

Before Lord Malfoy could ask whom the extra seat was for, Severus Snape swept into the room behind a house elf that eagerly popped out the second it could. Inviting their Head of House and summer tutor had been something the two young wizards had debated for days. It was finally settled when Harry explained that although they had never grown close, the dour wizard remained the only real connection he had to his mother and that was why he thought he should be there.

The arrival of the Potions Master had not only surprised the other two adults, it had significantly increased the tension the teens felt. Every lesson they had ever had in the room was needed to maintain their composure as they settled themselves at the table. Those same lessons were no-where in evidence an hour later when the couple scrambled onto a deep chaise tucked away in a nook off the ballroom.

Those living at the Manor hardly ever came into that part of the house, so it was the perfect place to go for a little privacy. To make doubly sure they would have the space to themselves, Draco released the curtains that framed the nook. They were a mostly decorative feature, but if they kept their feet up, the cloth would fully conceal them on the chaise. Once they had been hidden, Harry pulled one of the charmed items out of his robe that they often used at school, and activated the built-in privacy wards. The moment the charms had engaged, the young couple let out the breath they hadn’t realized they were still holding.

“That,” the blond stated with another sigh, “went well, I think.”

The Potter heir nodded as he finished situating himself comfortably on the chaise, lounging as much on his boyfriend as he was on the silk cushions. He let out a short, almost surprised laugh as he began to recall the tea and subsequent dinner. “It did. But the looks on their faces when we first told them…”

Green met grey as the taller Slytherin let out a small laugh of his own. “Snape looked a little disturbed at first, as if he wished he didn’t know.”

“He was probably thinking about next year. We will be two romantically involved sixteen-year old wizards, away from parental figures, after all. He might even be comparing us with the ‘hormonal miscreants’ he goes on about having to deal with on patrols.” Harry shot the other wizard a smirk, his mind momentarily on the night shortly after Yule break when they had nearly been caught by the professor. What he would have found had he seen them that night would surely have fit his definition of hormonal miscreants.

After a moment of silent humor, during which Draco pictured the same night, he turned his thoughts back to the conversation in the tea room. “My father didn’t look particularly at ease either.”

There was a slight tone of worry in the blond’s voice that prompted his best friend to almost burrow into his side with an offer of comfort. “He didn’t, at first. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so…” the brunette trailed off momentarily while searching for the right word, “ruffled.”

The word choice drew a small smile from the other Slytherin which grew a little stronger at the edges when his boyfriend pointed out that by the end of dinner, the eldest blond had been regarding them with an uncertain but overall approving, expression. The smile turned to a smirk as he thought of his mother next. “Mother did not look….ruffled.”

The young couple exchanged a laugh at the term before Harry nodded his agreement more seriously. “She did look a bit shocked, there for a moment, though.”

They exchanged another look, this time with markedly less humor as they pictured the rest of the evening. The brunette’s guardian had not looked shocked for long. In fact, by the time they had all settled around the table in the informal dinning room, the witch had a trace of tears in her blue eyes. Those eyes had featured an almost anticipatory gleam by dessert. “She looked like she was already planning something.”

Draco nodded, not missing the uncertain tone the observation had been made in. He was a little uncertain himself. “I have the feeling we do not want to know what that something is.”

Harry silently agreed, though once he was past his initial unease he found he couldn’t be too bothered by it at the moment. After all, he was pretty sure her preoccupation with whatever she had started to consider had allowed them to slip away with little notice. With that in mind, he titled his face up to look into the familiar grey gaze, doing his best to lift the taller wizard’s spirits in the face of maternal plotting.

“They all know now,” he pointed out unnecessarily. “Which means we don’t have to hide anything this summer. We can do what we want here.”

A single blond brow arched at the statement, a little distracted by the increasingly husky tone. It took him a moment to process the words themselves, but when he did, he lifted one hand to stroke the face nestled against his shoulder.

“Perhaps not everything. We wouldn’t want anything too important to be interrupted.”

Harry swallowed audibly as he sat up slightly, repositioning himself so his face was level with Draco’s. “True. Anything important should probably be kept somewhere private.”

The blond’s agreement was rather nonverbal at first, consisting of a brief sound as he sat up, forcing the other Slytherin to do the same. Harry was then forced to lean further and further backwards until the brunette was lying almost fully reclined across the chaise with the taller form stretched out above him. Grey eyes left the slowly flushing face to glance pointedly around the curtained nook. “Somewhere like here, perhaps.”

The nod he received in reply was a touch jumpy, but the look in those green eyes was far more settled as he moved close enough for the breath of his next words to ghost across the other young wizard’s lips. And more than a touch impatient. It was the blond’s impatience that cut off the words Harry began to say, however.

“Exactly like-” The Potter heir let out a quiet moan as his boyfriend claimed his lips with a long, searching kiss. The days of anxiety which had led up to the announcement of their relationship to the three adults finally began to bleed out of the brunette. A little bit more was expelled with every small sound, every gasp and moan, every sigh and sharp inhalation of breath.

Draco reveled in those noises, doing his best to wring as many out of the body beneath him as he possibly could. He had become addicted to them, and to the methods by which he could cause them. The blond plunged his tongue into the open mouth, using it to probe every corner of that wet cavern. He ran it along the rough texture of the roof and the softness of the inside of Harry’s cheeks. He touched every tooth, somehow avoiding having it bitten when the brunette jerked unexpectedly as the first of his shirt buttons was pulled free.

It took several minutes for the blond to work his way through the entire row of buttons that had been holding the formerly pressed dress shirt closed over that chest. He was far too busy twining and sliding his tongue eagerly over the one that had invaded his own mouth. That other tongue grew more and more daring, exploring his mouth the way he had been doing moments before. Draco didn’t dare pull back enough to look at what he was doing, instead tugging awkwardly on button after button while pulling more sounds out of his boyfriend.

For his part, Harry spent a few dozen frenzied heartbeats concentrating on the delicious kisses he was being given, before he realized his shirt was well on its way to being opened entirely. Once that thought hit, he fumbled determinedly at the other’s shirt in similar fashion. When they had both finally been successful, the loud gasps echoed in the enclosed space of the nook.

Their chests brushed against each other’s, causing another set of sounds and the desperate clutching of shoulders in an effort to maintain the contact. Draco found himself pressed so tightly to the smaller wizard that he was momentarily worried that he was crushing him. Harry had been taking the growth potions all year and had finally begun to close the distance in height between them, but he was still a fair bit shorter than his boyfriend.

He had filled out, as well, and the blond relished in the harder muscles beneath that tanned skin as he explored them yet again with his hands. Soon enough, that exploration was sufficiently hampered by the open shirt that he ended the kisses to pull back and remove the offending garment. A whimper of disappointment came from the brunette at the movement until the shirt had been unceremoniously tugged off of him and tossed behind the chaise. Suddenly aware of his completely shirtless state, green eyes snapped open just soon enough to watch the blond’s shirt make a similar disappearance.

The whimper that sounded then was not one of disappointment. Especially when the other Slytherin took the opportunity to attach his newly freed lips to the neck and shoulder under him. Tanned hands hastened to find purchase on the shifting back of pale skin, the raven-haired wizard feeling somewhat adrift in the sensations that rose higher with every inch those talented lips traveled southward. First they nibbled along the side and base of his neck, then they traveled onto his chest, then further down until they reached his navel.

The quick motions of a warm tongue darting out to taste the soft skin of his stomach had the Potter heir arching upwards with a cry. He only grew more animated in his movements when the mouth left a moist trail up to his left nipple where it latched on with enthusiasm. The light suction and flicking tongue that followed rivaled every memory of pinching fingers, which had recently become their favorite activity besides snogging.

Grey eyes darted up to meet green at the loud reaction. They had touched the bare chest and back and stomach of their partner many times in the last months of the school year. They had even kissed their ways down the exposed V of half-opened shirts. But this was only the third time they had completely removed that article of clothing, and the first time they had used tongue or teeth to map that territory. As he considered pulling back to make sure his boyfriend was comfortable with what he was doing, a pair of hands made fists in his white-blond locks and trapped his head in place.

Pink lips smirked slightly around their prize and devoted themselves to the newly discovered activity. After a minute or two, he managed to move his head just far enough to engulf the other nipple in wet heat and start all over again. Within moments those same hands were tugging him upward none-too gently. A spike of worry formed and was released as Harry practically yanked that busy mouth onto his own. Desperate kisses swallowed the sounds that followed.

Bare chests became pressed tightly together once more, then began to slide up and down with the aide of perspiration and saliva. The movement brought their lower bodies briefly into contact as well, and the sudden overwhelming sensation left them shocked motionless. Panting breaths mingled in the inch or two separating their mouths, the two faces so close that grey and green were barely able to meet. If they had possessed the ability to concentrate on anything else, they would have each noticed how dilated the other’s eyes happened to be, the colors they were so familiar with barely a sliver around blown pupils.

Hands tightened their grip where they lay above their heads, fingers interlaced rather desperately as they remained frozen. Neither could recall moving them there, but in the moment neither cared in the least about that short lapse. Instead, they focused exclusively on the feel of hot breath and bare skin and the noticable ache still covered with cloth.

The distant sound of the grandfather clock in the formal parlor adjoining the ballroom made its way into the small nook, however, breaking the frozen moment. The repeated gongs slowly penetrated the haze surrounding the minds of the two young wizards, forcing them to recall where they were and where they were supposed to be that time of the evening. It would hardly do for one of the Malfoys to look in on them before bed and find them missing. After the day’s announcement such an action would not be as unexpected as it might otherwise have been.

With that thought, Draco moved for the first time since that unexpected jolt of sensation had resulted from the contact of their lower bodies. He buried his face momentarily in the tanned skin he had been enjoying so much. The body beneath his shuddered slightly at the feel of the heavy exhale against his damp chest and it was with a concerted effort that the Malfoy heir forced himself to sit up. Harry took a moment longer, green eyes blinking rather dazedly for several seconds before he slowly, awkwardly, followed suit. With a bit of trouble, they agreed that it was time to head up to their sitting room and get ready for bed. Even so, another few minutes were spent making themselves presentable – and waiting for themselves to calm enough to walk without extreme embarrassment – before tying back the curtain and making their way somewhat uncomfortably upstairs.

The summer before their sixth year had the potential to be very enjoyable indeed, but at the same time, both young wizards had the distinct feeling that it would feature more than a few cold showers as well.

Chapter Twenty-One: A Traditional Exchange

Informing the adults about the relationship that had developed between them had gained them about a month’s reprieve from the Courting List discussion they had been putting off since the summer before. But slightly more than a fortnight after they returned from their fifth year, the hints began. The mentions of formal courting and the need for compiling a list of suitable candidates – or simply starting the process if a list was unnecessary – grew less and less subtle. Towards the start of July, Harry was cornered by his guardian as Draco finished his breakfast and all subtlety was abandoned entirely.

“The first stage of a Formal Courtship is Initiated by the individual who possesses the higher social status, Harry,” she had stated plainly. “There is no foreseeable situation in which you will not be acting as the Initiate when you have decided on a likely spouse. I believe it would be in your best interest for us to discuss those steps which tradition demands you take when you decide to begin your Courtship.”

Having no ready response to give, the dark-haired youth opened, then closed his mouth fruitlessly. After a moment he cleared his throat, and with a not-quite-hidden glance towards the room Draco was currently occupying, suggested a time for them to talk about the subject. Her pleased smile and gracious nod was a little too sharp for his comfort, but he was too busy berating himself for giving in so easily. Once the first wave of panic had subsided, however, he internally conceded that no stalling tactic could possibly have put off the determined matriarch of the Malfoy family. For all his discomfort, however, he did not mention the impending discussion with the other teen. Not even to complain or commiserate. Nor did he ask if his best friend had been similarly approached by either of his parents.

Instead, the Potter heir stewed in his unease without comment and used the restless hour between laying down and finally falling asleep to dissect his situation each night for more than a week with only Excalibur’s purr to break up the silence of his room or derail the manic whirl of this thoughts. After that, he spent that same time second-guessing the steps he had decided to take. He whispered his queries to the slumbering Kneazle more than once as they piled up in his mind. Was he doing the right thing? Was he acting prematurely? Would his boyfriend be at all receptive to such a thing? Would he scare Draco off by doing so? The only advice the feline was able to offer, however, as a disgruntled mrrow when he spoke loud enough or moved often enough to disturb the animal’s rest.

By the night of his sixteenth birthday, Harry was a nervous wreck, and he was pretty sure he was doing a poor job of hiding it. Draco and Neville certainly had seemed to be eyeing him suspiciously the past few days as final preparations for the upcoming celebrations were completed. He not only had his birthday to celebrate, after all, but also the full legal assumption of his titles and roles as Head of three renowned Houses. The latter was certainly a stressful thing to contemplate, which was the excuse he gave more than once when asked if anything was bothering him. Not even the cat was fooled by the assurances.

The subject most often praying on his mind was not his titles, of course. No, it was the long and awkward conversation he had shared with his guardian only weeks before. They had spent several minutes reviewing the basic stages of Formal Courtship, which had been taught to both boys when they were twelve. Then another hour going into the details of each stage, what he would be expected to do, and how he might choose to respond given the various possible reactions of his selected partner. As uncomfortable as it was, discussing with Narcissa the facts and customs of a formal romantic relationship, the thing that truly unsettled him was the amused and almost eager look in those pale blue eyes while they did so.

That discomfort was nothing, however, in comparison to what he was feeling as he attempted to mingle cheerfully with the friends and classmates who had been invited to his birthday party. There were no more than fifteen in addition to himself, so it was being held in the large parlor where he and Draco had once received dancing lessons rather than in the expansive formal ballroom. Yet even the familiar sea-green silk wallpaper and relaxed atmosphere was unable to calm his nerves.

When not in conversation with the attendees, the birthday boy gravitated to the edges of the party where he sipped a drink and recited the traditional rules of the first stage of Courtship in his mind. It was done in an attempt to prevent him from second guessing what he had done by reminding himself that he was following those traditions and acting well within their predictable confines. It was not very successful, but he carried on in the hope that repetition would sufficiently drive home the point.

The first stage of Formal Courtship was unsurprisingly, called Courting, the first step of which was the presentation of the first courting gift. That all-important gesture was called an Opening Gift and it was given by the Initiate to the Recipient. The gift was traditionally something that symbolized the Initiate’s House, as an offer for the other individual to join that House or, as Harry preferred to see it, as a request for them to evaluate that House as a suitable one to join.

Because it could make or break the entire Courtship, the Opening Gift was extremely important, almost more so than the Promise or Betrothal ring, or even the marriage contract. If the first gift was not received well by the other half of the couple – or worse, rejected outright – it may well end the entire Courtship before it even started. That fact continued to override all others in his head as the brunette silently recited the traditions. As a result, the brunette wizard was fairly certain that by the time he had finished seeing off his guests, he was actually more anxious than he had been at the start of the evening.

The prospect of what he had planned to do after the party left him nearly silent as he and Draco made their way to their rooms around one o’clock in the morning. Harry had hoped that his resulting behavior would be written off as exhaustion, but apparently not, as the blond hesitantly asked if he were all right.

As much as he wanted to assuage his boyfriend’s concerns, Harry was only capable of giving a distracted reassurance before excusing himself to his bedroom as soon as they reached their sitting room. Preoccupied with his own worries, the brunette did not notice the disappointed way grey eyes watched his departure. Having looked forward to hanging out for a while before bed, and perhaps even having their own private little celebration, the Malfoy heir couldn’t help but sigh loudly in the empty room as he dropped onto the settee.

Once sitting down, the blond could not talk himself into going to bed yet, instead running a hand over his pale features and struggling with the emotions churning in his stomach. The young aristocrat had found himself behaving in a way that could almost be considered clingy for several days now and he was far from comfortable with that. The recent conversations with his parents about his Courting List, or lack thereof, had left him rather preoccupied with the topic.

Despite his best efforts, however Draco had been unable to push aside the hopes and nerves that his boyfriend might be interested in progressing their relationship. But as a member of the lesser House within said relationship, he was considered the Recipient and therefore, he could not make the first move. Having to wait and wonder if Harry ever intended to do so was doing a remarkable job of wearing away his nerve endings day by day.

The Malfoy heir was abruptly shaken from his unpleasant thoughts when the door to Harry’s bedroom opened suddenly and the sixteen-year-old stumbled through it. The rising hope in his chest was unstoppable, but he tried his best to mitigate it by focusing on the possibility that his boyfriend might be interested in a birthday snog after all. That train of thought was somewhat derailed by the strange sight of a package in the brunette’s hands, which was placed on the coffee table in front of the other wizard a moment later. Another, more insidious hope began to grow and he shoved it down with a forced laugh.

“You do realize you’re doing it wrong, right?” A flash of fear lit the green eyes as they snapped over to the settee where the blond was still sitting, then dimmed slightly when Draco went on. “Today is your birthday, Harry. You are supposed to be getting gifts, not giving them.”

“I-” his voice cracked, forcing the birthday boy to clear his throat before trying again. The traditional offer of the Opening Gift, like the other prescribed steps to a Courtship, was rather stilted and far too formal in Harry’s opinion, but he fully intended to do this right. Squaring his shoulders, the slightly shorter wizard looked as steadily as he could at the first friend he had ever made.

“I, Harry, Lord of the Ancient and Noble House of Potter, Lord of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Peverell, Lord of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Gryffindor, and heir to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, offer this Gift in hopes of Opening with you a Formal Courtship, in accordance with tradition and with the blessing of my Houses and yours.”

Draco froze, physically incapable of making himself reach for the box, his brain trying to catch up with what was happening. It wasn’t until Harry began to shift nervously with a look of mounting panic that the blond was able to respond in some way. His first instinct was to accept the Gift immediately, but tradition dictated that the Recipient opened the Gift before accepting or declining it. He started to pick up the package, intending to sit it on his lap to open it but was stopped by an exclamation by the brunette.

“Oh! I forgot. It um, it needs to be enlarged. I shrunk it. Because it was rather large, and heavy. So you might want to enlarge it first. Or I could. Before you open it, that is. If-if you want to. You don’t have to, of course-”

In any other circumstances, the blond would have teased his boyfriend for the awkward and disjointed speech, but as his own voice refused to cooperate, he couldn’t help but find the ramble a little endearing. Clearing his throat quietly, Draco placed the box on the ground in front of him, then drew his wand and quickly enlarged the package, somewhat surprised by exactly how much it grew. The Slytherin was forced to stand just to easily reach the top so he could open it.

The moment his best friend cast Engorgio, Harry cut himself off with a choked gasp, then waited, shifting his weight from foot to foot in a manner that would have horrified Narcissa. As the blond unwrapped his Gift, a large stone statue of a dragon was revealed. The animal was almost as tall as the blond and stood on his hind legs, wings open behind it. It had a large shield clutched in his front claws. The shield was divided into four segments, each bearing a different carved image. In three sections there were the coat of arms for the Potter, Peverell, and Gryffindor Houses, and in the forth, a depiction of the Draco constellation. The last was meant to show that Draco was already connected to him and would be welcomed unreservedly into his Houses and his life. The exact species of dragon- the Welsh Green, was the one most often associated with the House of Pendragon, through which he and Draco’s ancestors were linked.

With even the sound of tearing paper having stopped, the silence in the room was deafening to the raven-haired wizard. Words began to pour out of his mouth with little to no thought other than please like it, please take it, please. “It has an animation charm. But it’s not on right now. Obviously. I thought you’d want to activate it yourself. After you figure out where you want it to go. I mean, if you want-”

It took an extreme amount of willpower to make himself stop talking but he managed. Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath to try and collect himself. He had to do this right. “D-Do you Receive this G-Gift from the Houses of Potter, Peverell, Gryffindor, and Black, and w-with it the Opening of a Formal Courtship between us?”

The urge to gather the new Lord into his arms, to comfort and reassure him as he stuttered through the traditional words was almost overwhelming. It was obvious how nervous and uncomfortable his boyfriend was. Yet his own nerves and the sensation that he was drowning in a flood of emotion held sway and kept him silent. In that silence, he could hear the other wizard swallow before he started talking again, the words tumbling over each other as they fell from his mouth.

“Th-The shield, it, it means that, I mean the image… of the constellation, it stands, I mean, it means…” the stuttering voice began to shake, the sound finally pulling wide grey eyes from the stone dragon to his best friend’s face. The familiar features were pale beneath his natural tan, the green eyes wide and glassy with a fear, a desperation, that he hadn’t seen on that face since they were seven years old and the scrawny little boy had appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the Malfoy hedge maze. The sight galvanized him in a way nothing else could, finally penetrating through the emotional fog that had enveloped him and making him realize what his lack of response was doing to the first friend he’d ever had.

“I, Draco, heir to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy, do Receive this Gift from you,” the blond’s voice broke for just moment, but he quickly continued, “with the understanding that a Formal Courtship has been Opened between myself and the Houses of Potter, Peverell, Gryffindor, and Black.”

It felt as if the words had used up every bit of energy he had and the Malfoy heir once again let silence fall between them. The green eyes had fallen shut again during the response, but after a few seconds they opened and focused on the other wizard with a glassy sheen. A weak smile curved his lips and Harry did his best to sound like he was making a joke as he asked if the Gift was really that much of a shock. The nerves beneath the humor were clear however, the doubts and questions running through his head almost audible in the air between them.

Had he not made his intentions clear? Had he not shown how he felt, or that he wanted something more serious? Was Draco not interested in taking this step? Was it too soon? Had Draco only Received it because he thought he had to? Maybe he didn’t like the statue and just didn’t want to say it? Maybe-

The internal ramble was cut off abruptly as the blond crossed the distance between them without warning. Before the movement had registered in the brunette’s frantic thoughts, he was suddenly being kissed. The lips on his were unyielding, almost violent as they laid claim to his mouth, and despite how short the kiss ended up being, they were both panting heavily when the taller Slytherin pulled away a moment later.

The glassy green eyes blinked repeatedly without any other sound or movement. Then, eventually, they focused back on that familiar face slightly above him. The kiss may have been passionate, but the look on Draco’s face was not. It was tender in a way he had never seen the blond before. Harry blinked again, this time to hold back the tears that began to burn the back of his throat. He didn’t know what to do, what to say. There were no more traditional speeches. He had given the Gift, and Draco had Received it. He had Initiated a Formal Courtship. With Draco. He was now officially Courting Draco.

A wide smile split across the brunette’s face before he turned and headed back towards his bedroom. His steps were anything but sure as he spent more time looking back over his shoulder than he did looking where he was going. Luckily he had memorized the layout of their sitting room years ago and was able to successfully reach his destination without actually falling on his face.

The moment the door closed behind Harry, the smile with which Draco had been watching his boyfriend changed slightly. Grey eyes returned briefly to the stone statue and its shield. Then they drifted to the open doorway to his room and the closet just out of sight. Tradition stated that the Recipient was required to take the next step by giving a Gift of their own. The Acceptance Gift was as important for the Recipient as the Opening Gift was for the Initiate. It was most often a specially commissioned piece that took weeks to have made. Thank Merlin he wouldn’t have to wait that long.

Even so, the twenty-four hours he did have to wait felt like they took a lifetime. He mentally thanked his father for covering for their absence that evening. After hearing about the Gift Draco had been given the night before, Narcissa Malfoy had spent the entire day with a self-satisfied smile on her pretty face. Lucius had been far more reserved in his approval and congratulations. Not that such were lacking at the family celebration they held the day after Harry turned sixteen. Rather than his birthday, this celebration was in honor of the brunette becoming a Lord in his own right.

The elaborate dinner had ended an hour before and the group had been mingling and talking over drinks in the parlor. All except Draco and Harry, who, courtesy of a subtle and cooperative Lord Malfoy, were slipping out into the Manor grounds where they would be free to talk without someone constantly interrupting to congratulate one or both of them. Though talking was certainly not the only thing Draco had planned for their evening.

No, he had something far more important in mind, for which he had impatiently waited all day, and most of a sleepless night. His father would have hardly helped them escape family or social obligations for just a little bit of privacy. But for the next step in the Courting stage? That, apparently, was worth covering for their absence. For all that he had not been effusive in his opinion of the two friends beginning a Courtship, Lucius Malfoy certainly did not want to discourage such a genuine and prestigious match for his heir.

His father had been helpful during all of the preparations for this important step, not just allowing them to sneak off for the rest of the evening. As the Opening Gift was the Initiate’s first of the three traditional Courting gifts exchanged during the first stage of Courtship, the Acceptance Gift was the Recipient’s first present. Traditionally a symbol of the Recipient’s House, it was considered a formal indication that the Receiving House was being ‘given’ to the Initiate’s. An offer for a merger of Houses through marriage and an acknowledgment that the Recipient would be giving up their birth House to take a place in the Initiate’s House, this Gift was one he had been thinking about for quite some time.

Despite being unable to make the first move to Open the Courtship, Draco was determined that his Acceptance Gift would be grand enough to match the Malfoy name. Even if he didn’t know when he would need it, or indeed if he would need it – though he had done his level best not to think about that last fact – he had been planning it since they had first decided to announce their relationship to his parents. Camouflaging it rather poorly as a birthday gift for Harry, the blond had enlisted his father’s help in having it designed and commissioned during the last Hogsmeade weekend of the school year.

He doubted the Lord Malfoy had been fooled, but the older wizard hadn’t so much as smirked at him when, after arriving home for the summer, he had picked out a different present to give Harry at his birthday. Not even that morning when they announced the news of their Courtship. He had simply nodded and gone about his business when Draco had quietly asked him if he could aid in their escape after the dinner party so that he could give the Acceptance Gift to Harry.

The blond Slytherin had not informed his father about where he would be preforming the official presentation of the Gift, nor did he tell Harry where they were going when they slipped into the gardens. The brunette was hardly surprised, however, when they continued along the paths and into the hedge maze. Draco had thought it the most secure and private spot to hide the present. It being the place where they first met was just a coincidence, though a happy one, he told himself.

Meanwhile, Harry was telling himself that their late night trek was probably happy coincidence as well, refusing to get his hopes up that his boyfriend would be advancing their Courtship so soon. Though he had thought about little else since Opening it the night before. Gifts like the one Draco would hopefully be giving him at some point usually took months to have made, so his presenting it to the brunette so soon was not at all realistic.

Pushing those hopeful thoughts aside, Harry focused on the teasing smirk being sent his way instead. It was a pleasant distraction, indeed, as would be the amorous activities the look indicated would occur once they reached their destination. Having sacrificed his birthday snog for the giving of his Gift the night before, Harry was all for catching up now. Deciding that doing a little teasing of his own would be another good distraction from his thoughts, Harry did his best to sound light-heartedly suspicious.

“Trying to get me all alone, are you?”

As successful as he might have been with the joking question – and Harry would bet it hadn’t been too terribly successful – the look of abject relief that crossed his face when there was a large wrapped box waiting for them at the center of the maze left Draco in no doubt at all as to how his boyfriend felt about continuing the Courting process so soon. With a wide smile that held a touch of his own relief at the brunette’s reaction, the Malfoy heir quickly presented the Gift.

“I, Draco, heir to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy, offer this Gift in Acceptance of the formal Courtship Opened by you, in accordance with tradition and with the blessing of my House and yours.”

The new Lord would have been annoyed that the blond’s voice held all the poise and confidence his had lacked the previous evening, but he was far too focused on opening the Gift before him with all the haste he could manage while maintaining the dignity owed the occasion. His attention was impossible to focus elsewhere as the brunette removed the wrapping to expose a polished wooden box that, upon opening, proved to be lined with velvet dyed a rich, royal purple. The opulent fabric hardly registered, however, green eyes locked instead on the item nestled within it.

With a soft sigh, the Lord Potter rested a shaking hand on the golden hilt of a full sized medieval sword. The pommel and cross guard were elaborately carved, the latter featuring what looked like a cross between a cat and a dragon. Moonlight glinted off the portion of the blade that was left exposed above the scabbard to show more intricate carving. Harry carefully lifted it from the box, only realizing as he removed the leather that covered it what the blade was made from. Mithril. The amount used to form the meter long blade would be worth a small fortune, and that was without taking into account any other aspect of the extravagant Gift.

He knew without asking, though, that the price of the sword was not nearly as important to the item’s worth as the symbolism behind it. The had joked innumerable times between them that Cal was like the sword he had been named for, a symbol of the renowned blade given by Draco’s ancestor to Harry’s for Arthur’s use in ruling his Kingdom. A reminder of the gift the blond had given him just after he turned eleven, and an opulent symbol of the existing tie between their ancestral Houses, the Acceptance gift was literally worth more than its weight in gold.

Green eyes still fixed on the sword, the shorter Slytherin stood on unsteady legs to recite the formal words in a hoarse tone.

“I, Harry, Lord of the Ancient and Noble House of Potter, Lord of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Peverell, Lord of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Gryffindor, and heir to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, do take from you this Gift, with the understanding that the formal Courtship between myself and the House of Malfoy has been Accepted and acknowledged by us both with the intention to proceed in this Courting period.”

The traditional response was barely out of his mouth before Harry was moving towards his boyfriend, overcome with the need to express his relief and excitement. That excitement had not taken into account, however, the fact that he was still holding the sword. The Gift managed to poke Draco with its sheathed blade and Harry with its pommel before the brunette was able to abort the planned embrace.

“Oh!” they both exclaimed as Harry took a hasty step backwards. The brunette was silent a moment then burst out with almost uncontrollable laughter, his overflowing emotions finding release in the humor of the situation. Once back under control, he shook his head at his own folly. “Good thing it was still in its scabbard, yeah?”

Draco, still amused from the previous outburst smirked across the short distance and returned the weak joke with the first thing that came to mind. “I wouldn’t mind taking something else out of its scabbard.”

The blond almost winced at the ridiculous innuendo and started to verbally brush off the words when his boyfriend’s half-joking response made him freeze. “Well then, why don’t you?”

Draco fumbled for a rejoinder, but the longer he took the more serious the other wizard’s face became until they were staring at each other with a blend of shocked excitement and embarrassed expectation. The Malfoy heir was at a complete and uncharacteristic loss for words, though he tried to clarify what it was his best friend had actually meant. “You mean… I mean, do you…”

The question was anything but clear, but the way Harry swallowed noticeably, then gave an almost shy nod showed that he knew what the other had been trying to say. The blond felt his heart begin to pound as he ventured a step closer to the other Slytherin. He truly hadn’t expected anything remotely serious in the response to his lame double entendre and was tempted to ask if the brunette was sure. But a temptation of another kind gripped him and he simply didn’t have the patience.

Draco had been waiting months for the opportunity to give his Acceptance Gift and was nearly overwhelmed with having done it, and it being so well received. When the short distance between them had been crossed, he slowly reached out and took the sword, then set it carefully back in its box and closed the lid. All without taking his eyes from the new Lord. After a long moment’s hesitation he decided to continue with the lame clichés and lead his boyfriend into the gazebo-like structure formed of hedges, which they had used as a fort when they were younger.

Once inside, the blond drew the unresisting body to him and slowly leaned down to cover Harry’s lips with his own. The brunette was never more grateful for the eye repair spells he had finally been able to get done, and the growth potions he had been taking, as he was when he could look at Draco now without the stupid frames getting in the way of his ability to kiss the other wizard. Or the fact that he felt at least somewhat confident that he wouldn’t look ridiculous without his clothes on.

And at this point, he was pretty sure his clothes were going to come off. He was not disappointed. Over the next few minutes, slow, tender kisses and the gentle sweep of hands left two pairs of formal robes and two neatly pressed dress shirts on the verdant grass inside the fort. Being so much taller than they had been when they had played within the structure, both young wizards spent most of that time kneeling. It wasn’t the most comfortable position, but neither one of them was the least bit concerned with comfort right then. Well, not that kind anyway.

The pale hands were whisper soft as they trailed up and down Harry’s bare back, then around to his chest and stomach. He mapped the increasingly toned muscles with his fingers, occasionally making contact with the small brown nipples he had learned to love so much. The two had fooled around more times than they could count since beginning their relationship the previous summer, and they were certainly not strangers to each other’s naked torso. But the barely-there contact of tanned hands on pale shoulders, and the almost chaste but drugging kisses being exchanged were different than all the times before. For all that they were softer and less physically enthusiastic, these kisses felt far more passionate.

That passion’s familiar energy returned upon entering unfamiliar territory. The downward slide of Draco’s right hand continued just far enough past where it always had before to let his fingers slip beneath the waistband of Harry’s trousers. The feel of warm fingers brushing the sensitive skin of his bum caused the brunette to arch forward slightly with a gasp. In doing so, his mouth was pulled free of the kiss and his front was pushed into the blond’s. The resulting contact had both moaning softly in surprised appreciation. The sound signaled a marked increase in the speed and strength of their movements.

It took less than a minute for the couple to be stretched out on the soft grass, or at least for one of them to be. The other was happily spread atop his boyfriend. And still, they continued to move faster, to push harder against each other with ever-louder moans. A particularly enthusiastic movement nearly sent the dark-haired wizard off onto the grass, forcing him to bend his legs and brace himself with his knees.

The change of position allowed Harry to sit up slightly so he could more easily see the flushed face and chest beneath him. It was certainly a sight worth seeing. Draco would have rather had the other wizard close enough to kiss, however, and tightened his grip on the firm arse cheeks, intending to pull the young Noble back down against him. The hold would not allow him to shift the upper body, though, only grind their lower regions together all the harder. Before he could even think to complain about that result, it drew a quite favorable reaction from the body above him.

The way Harry arched his back as he reached down to brace his hands against the pale chest, palms landing conveniently on the blond’s nipples, started to change the Malfoy heir’s mind about the brunette staying in that particular position. They continued moving their hips together, gasping and moaning at the repeated friction until the desire to taste returned so strongly that Draco reluctantly moved one hand up along the tanned back to gain enough leverage to pull that delectable pink mouth within range of his own. To the Slytherin’s surprise, the adjustment was resisted with a shake of the head and a breathy protest.

“No. Wanna see you. Please?” Harry whined. The slight questioning tone confused the taller wizard for a moment until two tanned hands made their way down the blond’s front until they rested on pale hip bones, the thumbs sweeping back and forth, reaching just under the waistband with each swipe.

Grey eyes widened slightly at the implication of exactly what it was that his boyfriend wanted to see, sending the pale orbs darting up to meet green. What they found there drew a long, low noise out of him as he started to frantically nod his head, short white-blond strands fanning out on the grass as he did so. The movements that followed were just as frantic as they attempted to disrobe themselves and each other without the brunette actually moving off of him. Frustrated noises soon filled the green space until Draco wrestled enough control of himself to think at least somewhat rationally.

Taking a long, deep breath, the blond stilled the other young wizard’s movements, then firmly rolled them both over. A second later their positions were successfully reversed, if a little closer to the hedge columns than he had intended. Not sparing the time or thought to recognize how much smaller the interior of their childhood fort was compared to how it had always seemed when they were younger, Draco instead focused on his task. Extracting himself sufficiently from the brunette’s hold was hastened by the fact that the smaller wizard was still a bit startled from being forced suddenly onto his back.

Extracting the slightly shorter wizard from his trousers and pants was much easier, as it gained Harry’s almost immediate cooperation as soon as he realized what was happening. Although he did resist for just a moment, as he seemed far more eager to undress his boyfriend than he was to have his boyfriend undress him. The blond was determined, however, to provide himself with a view once he stood to slip off his own remaining clothing. Shoes and socks provided a short-lived impediment before they were dealt with rather roughly. Once the fashionable barriers had been sent to the other side of the fort – and in one case, outside through a gap in the leafy columns – the rest was easily finished.

Even so, the overwhelming results of his efforts left Draco frozen for several heartbeats, standing in the warm night air, slightly hunched to avoid hitting his head on the arched hedges of the roof. Grey eyes swept up and down the tanned expanse he had revealed but the reality of what he was seeing for the first time, was difficult for his mind to process. A quiet protest from below him brought him back to himself and had him practically falling to his knees in his haste to get closer.

A corner of his mind had seen a flash of insecurity in the beloved green eyes at the delay, though the blond didn’t consciously notice that his lack of action might be causing his best friend to doubt himself or the way the blond might perceive him. The vast majority of Draco’s brain-power was taken up by the need to get closer, to feel all that tanned skin against his own. He did so with more speed than grace, nearly lunging forward to close the distance between them. A soft expulsion of breath followed the resultant crash of naked bodies as the blond was abruptly, fully, atop him and taking immediate advantage of that fact by resuming the energetic movement of hips that had preceded the disrobing.

When that had first been accomplished, Harry had been absently glad for his improved vision yet again and was pretty sure Draco wasn’t able to enjoy as great a view as he was, looking over the blond’s naked form. But from the way the heated flesh he had been admiring was suddenly covering his own, the blond hadn’t minded what he had seen.

Looking, however, was not enough. He wanted to touch, to taste. The desire soon overrode even the sensation of his arousal pressed against the equally hard length of Draco’s. As much as he wanted to keep rocking into the increasingly vocal blond in order to maintain that exquisite pressure, he wanted to get his hands on the source of the heat enveloping him. Without real thought, he reached down between them, the brush of tanned hand on pale cock stilling all movement in an instant.

For a second, Harry thought he had done something wrong and started to pull his hand away. Before he was able to complete the movement, his wrist was seized in a vice-like grip, and a white-blond head was dropping heavily onto his chest with a harsh groan. Feeling a little daring at the sound, the brunette tightened his own grip, inadvertently pressing their cocks more firmly together. This time they both let out a strained cry and the majority of all thought ceased.

Grips shifted and tightened until a single tanned hand grasped both lengths at once and pale fingers dug into shoulders that were lifting and falling rapidly with each breath. Draco let out a hoarse cry of his boyfriend’s name, the word muffled in the other’s neck as their cocks were stroked in tandem. The new Lord added a roll of his hips rather unintentionally as he became absorbed by the sensations, and the feel of sweat slicked skin sliding over the hardened flesh was stunning. So much so that he paused all movement in order to regain some semblance of control over himself.

That was clearly not to the blond’s liking as he protested with a groan and when he was not immediately headed, took advantage of his boyfriend’s stillness to roll them back towards the center of the fort. He further took advantage of the change in position to tangle the messy black strands in one hand and wrench the hovering mouth down onto his. Lips already parted on panting breaths opened further still to allow a thorough, mutual exploration of tongues. The wet duel only lasted a few minutes as the need to breathe, and the desire to taste ever more, urged Harry to drag his mouth over the blond’s jaw and down the slender column of Draco’s throat.

The Lord’s mouth left a warm, wet trail of licks and nips, green eyes closed tightly to better savor the sounds he was drawing forth. He paused occasionally to suck the warm skin into his mouth, leaving a vivid red mark behind when he moved on. Both flat, rosy nipples received attention, as did every inch of pale chest that he could reach. The stomach would have as well if it had not required the brunette to relinquish his hold further south. Nothing would convince that fist to loosen, so he kissed and licked and sucked his way back up to Draco’s straining neck.

The light pressure of teeth on the corded muscles caused the blond to reach out blindly and grasp hold of the first thing he could. To the couple’s mutual satisfaction, that happened to be Harry’s arse. The Malfoy heir could feel it flexing under his grip and he rolled his own hips in response. As lips and teeth met in a viciously sweet kiss, Draco let his hands massage the globes of flesh with increasing daring. Eventually, panting that had been interspersed with pleas not to stop was broken by a cry. The slender fingers had slipped between the firm cheeks and landed on the furled hole hidden there.

The blond head smacked against the soft ground as he drew swiftly back to look into the face above him. The brunette was in a similar position when their eyes met, his neck wrenched back to give enough room to see. Grey and green were both almost impossibly wide and Draco drew a breath to apologize. The harsh inhale was accompanied by a nervous clench of his hand, however, causing the fingertip to brush against that tender spot a second time.

Harry cried out again, eyes falling shut and his own hand, still wrapped firmly around both leaking cocks, clenching as well. That made the blond hiss and arch up off the grass even as a rather wicked smirk spread across his face. The other pair of eyes was still tightly shut against the onslaught of sensation and didn’t notice. Which left the Lord Potter completely unprepared for what followed. With another sharp tilt of his hips, Draco put pressure on the finger still touching the sensitive hole.

The blond had an instant to enjoy the look of shocked pleasure on Harry’s face before he was rapidly overwhelmed by the feel of his boyfriend’s cock pulsing against his own, the eruption of hot slick on his skin setting off a series of fireworks behind his eyes. The devious look on his pale face was replaced by something else entirely and it was long seconds before his sight cleared enough to see anything but bright bursts of light. Green eyes could see just fine, and they savored the stunned expression in the grey pools. The same could not be said of Harry’s hearing, which was drowned out entirely by the sound of his own racing heartbeat and the echo of Draco’s choked shout.

When the couple regained all their senses, they were slumped against each other, their bodies loose and their skin sticky with their release. The otherwise fastidious wizards paid no notice to the mess, however. They did eventually take the time to clean themselves up – quite thoroughly indeed – before helping one another dress. But that was some time later, and after they had exchanged long, drugged kisses. The smiles with which they left the maze still lingered long after they had snuck up to their rooms for what remained of the night.

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I have been writing fanfic since I was twelve and despite my love of the source material I have found plenty over the years to twist to my own purposes so this theme is going to be a blast. I love turning things on their head and looking at canon from a completely different direction and making it totally different without changing the core.


  1. Ok. Wow. Amazing courting gifts. Very cool. I want to run and read part six, but I don’t want it to end

  2. Love their gifts! Loving this story!

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