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Title: In The Forests Of The Night (Part I) & Dare Frame Thy Fearful Symmetry (Part II)
Author: ???
Prompt: #10
Creature: Other - animalistic humanoids, but not were-creatures
Pairing: Harry/Draco
Word Count: 17400
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: (highlight to read)*Um... sex?*
Author's Notes: Thank you, dear mods, for your patience with not one, but two extensions! I hope the result is worth it!
Disclaimer: This piece of fiction is based on characters and situations created and owned by J. K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made, no copyright or trademark infringement, or offense is intended. All characters depicted in sexual situations are above the age of consent.
Beta: anissaeure & yamimana- thank you for your feed back and encouragement!
Summary:Voldemort's revenge. His death triggered a curse that affects everyone who uses magic. Wizards are slowly beginning to take on creature characteristics, and every spell cast advances the curse for the caster.


In The Forest Of The Night (Part I)

Harry's hand hovered above the hilt of his wand at his hip, fingertips just grazing the smooth wood.

“Don't do it,” he told the man cowering against the dirty brick wall of Knockturn Alley. His hair was lank and unwashed, his face flushed and sweaty. The hand that pointed his wand at Harry shook. The whites of his eyes were stark in the dim light of the alley.

“Don't,” Harry said again, stood very still.

He could see the moment the man snapped, the desperation, the capitulation that turned his eyes flat, as that shaking hand twisted, pointed the wooden tip at the man's own throat.

“Av–”

Smooth wood in his fingers, a thought, and the wand sailed away into the darkness, another thought and it flew into Harry's free hand. It was easy. So easy.

The man made a broken, choked sound, and he started crying as Harry marched over, yanked his arms behind his back, looped the leather cord over his wrists.

“No,” he kept saying, and “Please!”, as Harry heaved him to his feet by the scruff of his neck and pushed him forward, towards the light of Diagon Alley.

When Harry marched him out into the sunlight and down towards the exit and the Ministry, people quickly averted their eyes.

He deposited the man in the Ministry holding cells, wrote up his report, and left. The Muggles on the Underground gave him a wide berth as he drove home.

***


He pulled his sunglasses off in the bathroom and studied his reflection. With the grey dusk falling outside, his eyes looked almost normal, almost human. He picked up the lighter and lit the candle next to the sink. Then he watched as his pupils contracted until they were a narrow vertical slit against the green of his irises. Not human at all.

He pulled off his gloves, flexed his fingers and watched the claws extend from the folds at the tips of his fingers, curved and translucent.

He studied his reflection again. Was there less white in his eyes? Was the shape of his face, his ears, his nose the same?

Two spells. It felt as if the magic was creeping through his body, a hot, slow, insidious burn, but he knew that was just his imagination. The curse was painless– otherwise, they would surely have noticed it was happening immediately.

Voldemort's last laugh: a curse on everyone; everyone who had fought him; everyone who had failed him; every human being on the British Isles who used magic. If he was not to rule them, it seemed, he'd decided he would destroy them– destroy their humanity.

Shimmering scales had been creeping into the grimy hairline of the man Harry had arrested. His teeth, all his teeth, had been pointed.

Harry opened his mouth, pulled back his lips. His canines, upper and lower, were a little longer than his other teeth, and a lot more pointy. Yes, he had fangs, too.

At least he didn't have a tail, unlike that poor sod– yet.

Two more spells wouldn't have much of an impact. He knew that. Two spells wouldn't give him a tail, or fur instead of hair, or... the possibilities were endless. No, two spells alone wouldn't. The problem was how often he found himself in a position where he needed to cast those two more spells.

He thought again of quitting. A lot of the Aurors already had– it was one of those professions where you had to use a lot of magic of necessity. But... Harry firmed his jaw. No, he wouldn't. He wouldn't capitulate to Voldemort, not even in this, not even after the bastard was dead and gone.

He flashed his fangs again at his reflection, and walked out of the bathroom, to find Kreacher and dinner.

So he would continue to use magic– would continue to change. At least he knew how to live his life outside of work without magic. The pure-bloods, they were the ones hit hardest by the curse. They didn't know how to exist without magic, and yet they were the ones most abhorred to be developing animal features. A lot of the Muggleborns, those who hadn't changed at all or not in any obvious way when the Wizarding world had realized that it was magic itself that was changing them, had already left, had gone back to their Muggle existences. The pure-bloods had no such option. They were the last to believe the changes were related to amount of magic use, and so those changed the soonest, the farthest. Even if they could still pass for human, they had no idea how to exist in the Muggle world, and they were too proud to learn.

What was left was a Wizarding world reluctant to do magic, a Wizarding world that didn't know itself anymore, that turned their heads in disgust at the animalistic features of their members, of their reflections, a Wizarding world that couldn't work without magic and couldn't work with magic.

It was a Wizarding world where Harry had to arrest the changing, the desperate, before they harmed themselves or others.

***


“Harry!” Hermione exclaimed with delight and wrapped him in a hug when he walked into the back room of the Leaky. Harry felt a smile on his face as he hugged her back tightly, her warm body pressed against his, her hair tickling the side of his face. He could've stayed like that for a while, but instead he chuckled and let her go.

“You'd think you hadn't seen me in ages from the way you're acting,” he teased her, and she scowled at him and smacked his arm playfully.

“Shush, you! I can be happy to see my best friend if I want to!”

“You certainly can,” he allowed and smiled at her.

She smiled back, then raised her eyebrows. “Still with the sunglasses,” she remarked.

“Hey, I had to take the Underground to get here,” Harry pointed out.

“Well, yes, but you could take them off now.”

Harry shrugged and tried to make it look casual. “Later.”

Hermione rolled her eyes at him, then hooked an arm through his and dragged him further into the room. “As you want. C'mon, help me set up the chairs.”

So they took chairs from the stacks in the corner and set them up in a circle, and Harry tacked up some paper on the Muggle whiteboard they wheeled from its place next to the chairs.

More people drifted in as the time neared half past seven, all of them regulars. Greetings were called through the room, and Harry felt himself relax further.

When Hermione had decided that it was time to set up a self-help and support group for those affected by the Curse (so, technically, everyone) he'd been appalled, for various reasons. For one, it had felt like giving up. Two years the Department of Mysteries had tried to break the curse, had pulled every resource, followed every lead, consulted every curse breaker and spell specialist and had even issued a blanket pardon over possession of any Dark Arts texts if their owners would only allow them to be consulted and searched for any useful bit of information on the Curse. Two years, and they had established that yes, it had originated from Voldemort, yes, it affected every witch and wizard on the British Isles at the moment of his death, yes, it was progressive through use of magic. Two years, and they hadn't found a single hint of a way to break it, or to reverse the transformations, or to stop its advance.

Having a support group... wasn't that admitting that they wouldn't find a way to break it? Wasn't that accepting this, this, as their new reality?

And, also, Harry didn't like the prospect of talking about his feelings with strangers. He'd never been comfortable exposing his weaknesses, a lesson too well learned in a formative decade at the Dursleys, reinforced by avid reporters and tabloid-style articles.

Hermione, of course, wiped all his concerns off the table with ruthless practicality. Whether the Curse could eventually be broken or not, this was their reality, right now, so they had to deal with it, didn't they? And while anonymity wouldn't be an option at the meetings, the Wizarding world was just too small for that, any reporter who dared take advantage of this offer would wish they had never crossed Hermione Granger-Weasley– she was an Unspeakable, after all.

So Harry went to group, and Ron, too, because Hermione said so. And it was awkward at first, but... Harry looked around the room, worn floorboards a warm brown in the light of the lanterns and two stands of candles, circle of chairs familiar, atmosphere personable, familiar, almost festive as people greeted each other and joked and shook hands or hugged.

Hermione had been right, as per usual. This was what the Wizarding world needed.

And they weren't just here to talk about their feelings, though that was a big part of it. Face The Change was as much about discussing the Curse and its properties, research, exchanged experiences and collecting data as it was about everyone's daily struggle with it.

“Oi, mate!” Ron's voice sounded from the door, and Harry stepped over to accept a slap to the back and punch Ron's arm in return.

“Oi yourself, mate. How's the little one?”

Ron grinned, broadly. “Little terror, she is! You would not believe the fight I had, getting her into bed tonight! Dark wizards have nothing on little girls, I'm telling you, mate.”

Harry chuckled. “I grew up with her mother, too, you might recall. I believe you!”

Ron puffed up a little, beaming with pride. “Oh, yeah, she'll be as fierce as Hermione ever was!”

Harry laughed outright. The longer they were married, the more smitten his best friends seemed to become with each other. Harry'd be envious, if it weren't so cute.

“Excuse me,” said a voice next to him, crisp and cultured.

“Oh, sorry,” Harry said automatically as he realized he was blocking the door. He stepped aside and turned at the same time– then blinked and stared at Draco Malfoy, who was standing in the door.

His robes were metal-grey, smooth and sleek and pressed, he held himself straight as a ruler, his mouth set in a tight line. His hair was still white-blond, his features still sharp, and he was still a good few inches taller than Harry. He wasn't sneering, though. In fact, if Harry wasn't very much mistaken, he looked a little apprehensive. Also, he smelled good, of something cool and sweet and fresh.

He also looked entirely human.

Harry realized he was being very rude, and Malfoy might at any moment take offence, considering. He also realized he'd rather not restart their schoolboy enmity. So he rallied, and inclined his head, and hoped he looked polite.

“Malfoy,” he acknowledged.

“Potter,” Malfoy replied with no inflection whatsoever, then cast a look around the room, without showing any sign of actually stepping inside.

“Come on in,” Harry invited and took another step away from the door, and Malfoy's personal space. He knew the feeling, after all. He hadn't been too eager to step into this room the first time, either, and so had many others.

Malfoy shot him a look, part doubtful and part amused. “Are you quite sure you want to invite me, Potter?” he drawled.

Harry raised his eyebrows and motioned with his head at the banner stretched under the ceiling across the front of the room. “As it says up there: Everyone is welcome. And we do mean everyone.”

“Okay!” Hermione called from the front of the room. “Are we all here? Let's get started!”

For a moment, Malfoy looked like he would bolt, and so Harry tilted his head again.

“Well, come in, then, Malfoy,” Ron's voice came from behind Harry. “You don't want to keep Hermione waiting.”

Malfoy blinked, his eyes cutting over Harry's shoulder. Then he took a slow step into the room.

“What's keeping you two over there?” Hermione called and Harry turned to see her crane her neck to look around them. “Oh, a new arrival. Welcome, come in, come in!”

Harry looked back at Malfoy, to find his eyebrows high and expression sceptical, but he did start to walk into the room. Not that he had much choice, as pretty much everyone was now turning to see who the newcomer was. It was walk in or flee, and it seemed Malfoy's dignity won out over his apprehension.

Hermione also blinked in surprise when she realized who had joined them this evening, but she only waved at a chair. “Have a seat. You, too, boys, we want to get started.”

Harry and Ron exchanged a look, rolled their eyes, grinned at each other, and followed Malfoy across the room to the chairs. Ron greeted Hermione with a kiss to the cheek and took the chair next to the one she was standing in front of, and Harry dropped himself into a free seat between two other group members, about a quarter around the circle.

Antonia, a pretty black-haired girl a few years younger than them, smiled at Malfoy and indicated the empty chair next to her. Malfoy inclined his head and sat stiffly. His face was blank, but his body language betrayed his discomfort.

That was nothing unusual for people who attended the first time, and most of them had felt similar. So they did Malfoy the favour of ignoring his presence, and everyone turned their attention to Hermione.

***


Draco couldn't help the way his eyes skipped around the room, from person to person, as Granger wished them a good evening. He felt dreadfully exposed, sitting in a circle like that. There was no table to hide his hands under, no way to shift his weight in a way that couldn't be seen by anyone who happened to look in his direction. His shoulders and legs were bare inches away from touching those of his neighbours. He couldn't fade into the background.

That was, possibly, quite intentional, he thought as he considered the other witches and wizards in the room with him.

There was a corpulent witch directly across from him whose mouth and nose was clearly morphing into the pointy features of a mouse or rat – a full set of whiskers already sprouted from under her upturned nose and her upper lip showed just the hint of a cleft. An elderly wizard to her left had grey, bristly hair sprouting down the sides of his face, which maybe could've been mistaken as a beard, but his eyes were solid brown, their shape oddly rounded, definitely not human. Weasley's face was striped like a tiger's in big, black lines, and Granger's ears were pointed, he saw when she brushed away a strand of bushy hair, pointed and furred, with a tuft of hair on top. Potter... Potter was enigmatic in black. He seemed human enough, but his eyes were hidden behind those black Muggle glasses, his body covered with a long-sleeved turtle neck sweater, trousers and boots. On his hands he wore black leather gloves.

Of course, he wasn't the only one obviously covering his change. There were hats, scarves, oddly voluminous robes and such around the circle, and he had no doubt that there were also those wearing Muggle make-up or other means of concealment. He shifted his weight slightly, tried to ease the pain in his back and shoulders a little.

He wasn't sure why he was here. Or rather, he knew why he was here, he just wasn't sure whether this was a good idea. Merlin knew, all his friends and acquaintances had nothing but scorn for Granger's “Muggle nonsense”, as his mother liked to refer to it.

Like Squib births or unfortunate Muggle blood in the family, well-bred witches and wizards preferred not to talk about the fact that they were all being twisted into a perverted mix of human and beast. Surely a solution would be found soon, they were witches and wizards after all, and then they could go back to a normal existence. It wasn't like they were Muggles, low, helpless little creatures in the face of even the most elementary of natural forces. They had magic, and centuries of knowledge, to change the world to their liking and convenience.

Draco was neither blind nor stupid. Oh, he would never admit it, but he was aware that he'd been both, that he'd cut anything but a dashing figure during the war. He hadn't ever thought about anything of importance when he was a child, he'd never questioned any of the teachings handed down to him from his father. He'd believed, and reacted, he'd obeyed and he'd run away, in his mind if not in body, but he'd never thought, not until it all came crashing down around his ears, not until his father was condemned as a criminal in front of the whole world, not until it took Harry friggin' Potter's testimony to save him from the same fate.

So when his magic, the thing that defined him more than name or money, turned on him, when his betrothal fell through, when his life came down around his ears once again, he started to question.

There was no solution in sight. Wishing for it didn't make it so. Not talking about it didn't make the Curse any less real, looking away from other wizard's faces didn't erase the inhuman features on them. Avoiding his own image in the mirror didn't negate the changes in his own body. Resenting the fact that the Muggleborns were better equipped to deal with the Curse than the pure-bloods didn't change it.

Draco felt helpless. The one thing he had always believed in more than anything else had betrayed him. He didn't know how to live without magic. He didn't know what to do, what to feel, how to cope. He needed help.

There was no help to be had in his usual circles. When he'd seen the half-page add in the Prophet for the first time, he'd been reluctantly interested, and the weeks and months went by with no news on another solution. So, he'd made up his mind and come tonight.

It was stranger than he'd expected to sit once more in a room with Potter, Granger and Weasley. He had truly not been certain of his welcome. He was, after all, still an ex-Death Eater, Potter's defence of him in front of the Wizengamot not withstanding.

He'd also somehow forgotten how short Potter was– so much so that he hadn't even realized it was Potter he was talking to until the man turned around to pause and look at him, expression impossible to read behind the reflective sheen of those dark glasses.

They'd invited him inside, though, all three of them, and no one seemed inclined to make him feel uncomfortable. It was an... odd experience.

He tried to relax a little, settle his shoulders that were stiff with tension and pain. He wasn't very successful.

“A few announcements before we start,” Granger said, and Draco forced his attention back to her.

She went on to detail an excursion to Muggle London to learn about Muggle means of transport in a few weeks time, and an introduction to Muggle money by Potter in connection with it. She also said she would put up a sign-up sheet after this night's session for a continuation of 'Every-Day Live Without Magic' classes, where anyone could sign-up, suggest topics or offer to teach.

Draco was torn between reflexive scorn and the sour realisation that he could really use help with all of that. Humiliation churned in his stomach, and he could only hope that he managed to preserve a neutral expression, that it wasn't obvious that his lips wanted to press together and his cheeks wanted to burn.

Once Granger had made her announcements and insured there were no questions, she sat back a little in her chair, brushed that strand of hair back behind her ear, and smiled.

“Okay, let's get started. I'll go first today, if you don't mind.” No one did, so she continued, folding her hands in her lap, looking down at them briefly before she swept her eyes around the circle again, and started.

She spoke, of all things, about teeth. Draco didn't know what he had expected, but it hadn't been to hear about fears this silly– this private. As she was afflicted with squirrel features, Granger worried that her teeth would start to permanently grow... like they had when he hexed her in second year. To her credit, she didn't mention any names when she related the incident, she didn't even look in his direction.

The other members of the circle didn't seem to find anything unusual or silly about Granger's fears. They were listening, nodding thoughtfully or merely watching her, and the woman with the mouse features voiced her sympathy out loud.

Granger handed off to Weasley, who, in contrast to his wife, related his concerns about his daughter, more serious and adult than Draco had ever thought the man capable of. When would the Change affect her, Weasley wondered. Would it start as soon as she manifested accidental magic, or would it only be activated when she received her first wand? Would she still be able to learn magic at Hogwarts? At the moment, Draco knew, the school was closed, awaiting a decision on how to cope with the Curse. Weasley wanted his daughter to grow up with magic, and for the first time, Draco could see him as a fellow pure-blood wizard.

Others voiced their concerns as the session moved around the circle, and the trivial seemed as welcome a contribution as that of consequence. To his relief, not everyone spoke. Some just passed the conversation on with a slight shake of their head or a wave of their hand.

Then it was Potter's turn, and he didn't wave it on. For some reason, Draco had expected he would. Maybe because he certainly didn't look entirely comfortable, slouched back in his chair, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles, arms crossed over his chest. It was the posture of someone attempting to look casual and feeling defensive.

But he sighed, sat up, stared at his hands for a moment, and then pulled off the dark glasses with one gloved hand. Draco saw him blink in the light, saw his pupils contract– and contract, until they were a nothing but a dark vertical slit. Non-human. Next he removed his gloves, tugged methodically on each finger until he could pull his hands free. He laid the gloves across his lap, rested his hands splayed on his thighs. Draco saw immediately what he was hiding. His fingertips were... odd. There was nothing but soft, pink skin on top of them. An involuntary shiver worked itself down Draco's spine, as if he were looking at an injury, as if there were open wounds where Potter's fingernails should have been. Instead, there was a slit, a fold of skin at the tip of each finger and as Potter lifted his hands and flexed them thoughtfully, pale, sickle-shaped claws emerged. He relaxed his fingers again, laid them back down on his thighs, and they vanished again.

Then he looked up, swept his eyes around the circle, and for a moment, they met Draco's, a feral green stare from between Potter's long black fringe.

For some reason, Draco found, he'd assumed Potter wouldn't be affected by the Change. For some reason he'd thought the golden Gryffindor hero would remain unsullied by that which corrupted everyone else.

“Magic saved me,” Potter said, quietly. “I'm an Auror. I have a respected, well-paid job. I have gold in my vault, I live in a house that belongs to me, I'm a productive member of society. I have friends. I have a place here. Magic gave me that. Sometimes I arrest someone, someone miserable and desperate, and I look at them and I think: That could be me.

If my Hogwarts letter hadn't come that day, what would I have? A third-rate education from a state school, if that. I doubt I would've had the sort of perfect grades that you need to compensate for that. I probably would've been bullied at school. Between that and my home situation, maybe I would've run away.” A quick, wry smile flickered across his lips. “I probably would've run away. And then? Now that I'm an Auror, I've seen what happens. It's no different in the Muggle world– living on the streets, begging, stealing. Drugs. Prostitution. Violence, abuse, prison. A vicious circle.” He shrugged. “Maybe I would've gotten lucky. Maybe an adult would've taken it upon themselves to protect me, maybe I would've found friends, maybe I would've pulled through. But the odds would've been against me.

Magic saved me from all that. And now it's betrayed me.” His eyes blazed, his fingers flexed, claws dug into the fabric stretched tight over his legs. “He made it betray me. And I think about quitting every day, but I won't. I won't.”

***


It was that which stayed most vividly with Draco after he was back home: That sentiment, that echo of his own thoughts, his own feelings. Magic had betrayed them. It was... disconcerting to have it spoken aloud by Potter of all people.

Potter was disconcerting, come to think of it. He wasn't what Draco had expected him to be, and Draco hadn't even been aware that he'd expected him to be like anything. If asked, Draco would've said that he'd barely spared a thought for the man in the years since he hadn't had to face him every day. Certainly, it was impossible to escape him all the way. The man was famous, after all, and the papers were far too prone to gush over his every minor achievement. Still... Draco had not been aware that he'd expended a lot of time or energy thinking about his old school rival.

On some level, though, he must have. How else could he explain his surprise as reality clashed with his mental image of Potter?

Potter, in his mind, had been larger and more imposing than the man he had met this evening, and yet... had his hair been always that black, that wild, his eyes always that green? Had he always moved with such purpose? Potter was intense, vibrant, and when had Draco forgotten that about him?

And Potter was Changed, was cursed just like everyone else, and was hiding it– like most everyone else. If Draco had, for some reason, thought about Potter Changed, he realized, he would've thought Potter would display it, would be all high-and-mighty Gryffindor, would wear it like battle scars.

For just a moment he had a flash of what Potter might look like, head high and proud, Change bared to the world, challenging all comers, bestial eyes blazing.

But, no, tonight's Potter had not been a heroic statue, had not been a symbol of righteousness and disproportionate pride. Tonight's Potter had been short, and polite, and uncomfortable, and... human. Yes, Draco was aware of the irony.

Nor did he know what to make of the rest of what Potter had shared. Potter was as far from the poor, the criminal underworld, the dregs of society as it was possible to be. That he would ever have been in danger of being part of that seemed utterly ludicrous. Yet... he would hardly have lied in front of his friends like that, and he had been far too vague to be exaggerating his tragic circumstances in a bid for pity. He hadn't even mentioned his dead parents, or his defeat of the Dark Lord, except in the most circumspect terms.

Draco lay awake a long time that night trying to assimilate the facts of a Granger who admitted that she didn't know everything, a Ron Weasley as a worried father, a humble Harry Potter.

***


Malfoy kept coming to group. When he showed up for the second time the week after, Harry was almost more surprised than the first time. But he kept coming, never late and never early, for two weeks, then three, then four, and hardly before Harry knew, Malfoy had become one of the regulars. He never spoke in group, never shared and never commented on what anyone else shared either, but he sat in the circle, ramrod straight and uncomfortable. His expression was always guarded, his lips tight, his head up and his shoulders back. He was always impeccably dressed, never the same set of robes twice, and always in grey, metal grey and dove grey and charcoal grey that was almost black. He was sleek and aloof, and only the visible tension in his tall frame, the discomfort nestled in the tight corners of his eyes prevented him from appearing as arrogant, kept Harry from feeling resentment at this intrusion into one of the few spaces where he himself allowed himself to let his guard down.

Most people relaxed after they'd been to a few sessions, recognized this as a safe place and started to open up. Not Malfoy. He never relaxed, not for a second. He never leaned back in his chair, he never slouched against a wall. He never revealed his own Change. It was almost impossible that he wouldn't have one. He was a pure-blood, and why else would he be there?

He never gave a sign of what it might be that he was hiding. But in his second month, he came to Harry's introduction to Muggle currency and the London Underground, smartly dressed in a grey suit and a trench coat, as uncomfortable as ever but without a single derisive comment, and soon after he started to show up for more of their classes, learned everything from cooking to sharpening your quill without a spell.

“Don't you have house elves for that?” Harry asked him as they were dicing tomatoes next to each other, pointing with his chin at the salad ingredients spread across several tables.

Malfoy tilted his head a fraction and regarded him for a moment out of one slate-grey eye.

“I might not always,” he answered finally.

His tone was heavy with unspoken words, but Harry found he understood only too well: If magic could turn on them, who knew what else might happen?

They shared that moment of understanding, then turned back to their tomatoes as one. Harry felt an odd little tingle somewhere in the centre of his body. He wasn't supposed to be sharing those sorts of moments with Draco Malfoy, he was sure, and he couldn't tell if the fact that it had happened made him uncomfortable or... something else.

And it kept happening. They would sit in group, in the circle, and someone would say something, and he would happen to glance at Malfoy, and Malfoy would happen to glance at him, and their eyes would meet across the empty space between them. Harry would walk into the room, and Malfoy would incline his head, and Harry would realize he'd nodded a greeting to him.

As weeks turned into months and the leaves turned and the fogs wreathed London Malfoy still didn't share in group, but he did start to stay around afterwards to mingle a little and he started to help out with teaching, passing on the things he'd learned just a little while ago.

Working with him, it was for the first time that Harry realized Malfoy was smart. He rarely needed anything explained a second time, and he had an incisive mind behind that expressionless face. He liked to strip any lesson, any topic, down until he reached the very smallest core of it. He listened to Harry's explanation on Muggle money, and asked “So it's all multiples of ten?” He saw Harry use a lighter once to light a candle, picked it up, regarded it, turned it around twice, and clicked it as expertly as any Muggle smoker.

And Harry was surprised by this. He'd gone to school with Malfoy for six years, shared classes most every day– how had he not known this about his old rival?

Of course, the Malfoy he remembered from school seemed to have less and less to do with the man he sat in a circle with once a week. There was no swagger, no sneering comments, no petty cruelty. Maturity, Harry thought with a wry smile to himself, suited Draco Malfoy. It made him a real person instead of a school-yard bully card-board cut-out, it made him more... human.

***


Draco knew himself well enough to know he was in trouble as he leaned against the refreshment table one evening after group and watched Potter laugh and chat with Granger and Weasley. He took a sip of tea and nibbled on a home-baked biscuit courtesy of Geraldine, the woman with the mouse features. It was the last week of September, and Draco was lingering in the warmth and candlelight of the meeting room after group.

And he was watching Potter, again. He kept doing that, catching his eye, picking work stations next to him, watching his hands as he played with Muggle gadgets.

Oh, yes, Draco knew himself well enough to recognize attraction when he felt it. Of course, the Wizarding world's heterosexual boy-hero was about the most foolish target he could have chosen.

And then Potter said to Weasley, quite clearly: “Stop trying to set me up with your brother, Ron,” and Draco almost spilled his tea down his front. Surely he had misheard that?

But then Weasley said: “We're just a little worried about you, yeah? You haven't dated anyone since you broke up with that asshole Smith ages ago. All you ever do is work. We just want you to be happy.”

Potter crossed his arms, chin jutting forward, looking extraordinarily stubborn and defensive. “I'm fine.”

Draco gripped his mug firmly, for the first time glad it was sturdy stone-ware instead of his mother's whisper-thin bone china.

Surely not. No. No, there was absolutely no reason for his stomach to twist the way it was doing, no reason for his breath to speed up, no reason for his mouth to flood with saliva, and most certainly no reason for his mind to leap and churn and conjure up possibilities.

He would not act on this. That way lay disaster, pure and simple. For six years he'd gone to school with Potter, and for six years they'd carried on a feud. That was not a good basis to start any sort of relationship on, even if they'd managed a few months of civility now. The fact that he saw Potter in quite a new light after the bits and pieces he'd been given when Potter decided to speak in group did not change that. He was an ex-Death Eater, and while the Wizarding world was preoccupied with the Curse, certainly no one had forgotten. Draco's position was precarious enough as it was. There was no need to add a failed relationship with the Boy Who Lived to it, and there was no reason to risk turning the man back into an enemy now that he had more influence than ever.

Draco was resolved. He could not stop being attracted to Potter. He might not be able to forget having learned that Potter's sexual orientation might not be so conventional, after all. He could certainly choose not to act on any of that.

***


Then the first week of October came, and with it, news that made the matter of Draco's potential love life or lack thereof seem rather trivial. Granger told them before it made it into the papers.

“We've exhausted every conceivable resource,” Granger said solemnly at the end of the session, the time usually devoted to discussing the Curse and its effects in more technical terms. “We've studied it, we've read every text we could get our hands on. Frankly, we're out of ideas. The Curse can't be broken.”

Draco felt like he'd taken a Granian's hoof to the chest.

Granger held up her hands. “That doesn't mean that it won't ever be broken. We might find some new information, make new discoveries, something. The Department of Mysteries will keep working on it. But it won't be broken any time soon, so for the time being, we'll have to learn to live with it. And in regards to that, I believe we need to take the next step. We need to push for more acceptance.”

“How do you want to do that?” Potter asked, and he sounded wary.

“A Halloween ball, for starters. One where we don't hide any of our Changes.”

The reaction to this idea was decidedly luke-warm. Draco didn't contribute much to the discussion, apart from affirming that no, he wouldn't be going if displaying the Change was mandatory for this ball. Granger gave him sad, pitying eyes, but Draco merely raised an eyebrow to ask whether she really thought that would work on him. Her lips twitched in a reluctant smile, and she turned her persuasive powers onto her next victim– Potter.

Draco did understand her reasoning. He even agreed with it. If they really did have to live with the Curse for the foreseeable future, they, everyone, would have to come to terms with it. Shunning it as most had done for the past two years was not an option if they faced decades of it. Still, Draco was not ready for this. The notion that this Curse was something he would have to deal with for the rest of his life– it was not a complete surprise. Everyone's hopes had been dwindling as time passed and there was no breakthrough. Yet it was difficult to have the last of that hope crushed, and he wasn't ready to face that yet. He certainly wasn't ready to display his own personal freakishness to the world.

He stepped up to where Potter was leaning against the wall after the meeting. Potter tilted his head to give him a questioning look. His sunglasses were tucked into the collar of his shirt and his eyes were very green. Draco handed him the second cup of tea he was carrying. Potter blinked in surprise, but accepted it with a nod of thanks and took a sip, then looked into his cup.

“Quite a lot of honey, no milk, isn't that how you like it?” Draco asked. Potter looked up at him again, something measuring in his gaze.

“It is,” he replied and took another sip without breaking the eye contact. Draco was the one who turned his head, casually, he hoped, and nodded towards Granger.

“Are you going?”

Potter snorted. “What do you think?”

“You don't want to, but you're going to let Granger bully you into it,” Draco answered, and couldn't help a small smirk. Potter rewarded him with a wry chuckle.

“Yeah, that about sums it up.”

They drank the rest of their tea in silence. It was comfortable.

***


The rest of the week brought more bad news. The Ministry had decided that Hogwarts was to stay closed indefinitely. After all, how could you expect anyone to perform magic constantly to teach it to the children? And on Friday, the Prophet ran an article confirming that children were affected, as well. A six-year-old girl in Ireland had developed an unspecified Change after she'd had a large bout of accidental magic.

Draco set the paper down next to his breakfast plate and realized his hands shook with the finest of tremors.

Accidental magic set the Curse in motion. That meant no one would be spared. By the time they reached an age where they could learn conscious control of their magic, all but the very weakest of magical children would already be Changed. And they could not learn conscious control without doing magic. Without conscious control, accidental magic would keep happening in times of stress– something which never ended well, if history served. They were, literally, cursed which ever way they turned.

There was a sliver of a chance that children born, or maybe conceived, after Voldemort's death would be free of the Curse. If it was bound to the moment of his death, then this... travesty would only affect one generation. It would be a consolation if this were a temporary phenomenon.

They wouldn't know for another several years. But this news, that children who hadn't yet come into their magic at the time of the Dark Lord's demise were subject to the Curse– it made Draco fear that his revenge had indeed destroyed the Wizarding world he couldn't conquer. The Dark Lord had been vengeful. It would be just his style.

He had a meeting that afternoon, more Muggle cooking classes. He took his place next to Potter at the table that had become their regular one.

“Hey, Draco,” Potter said, voice subdued and eyes resigned.

“Harry,” Draco returned, and was so distracted by his urge to reach out and offer him a touch of comfort that it took until several moments later before he realized that Potter had just addressed him by his given name. And he'd answered in kind.

He felt... odd, today, around Potter. He watched Potter's gloved hands as he took notes, as he tapped his thumb against his lips in thought. He watched his tongue dart out to wet those lips. Potter had a very attractive mouth. Draco's eyes lingered on the curve of his lips in profile, then on the straight slope of his nose, the decisive sweep of his eyebrows visible between the messy black strands of his fringe, the thick smudge of his eyelashes.

Draco wanted to kiss him. He wanted to push his fingers into that thick mop of hair and see whether he couldn't smooth it down some. He wanted Potter, rather badly.

It was becoming more difficult to convince himself that the risk wasn't worth it. After all, the world was not what it had been. Draco would not marry a pure-blood witch to sire an heir to the Malfoy name. His child would not grow up a pure-blood, would not attend Hogwarts, would not walk those halls certain in his or her inheritance, certain in blood and magic.

No, pure-blood that he was, Draco's humanity had already run through his fingers, fleeting in a way he had never realized it could be. And, it seemed, it would not be returned to him any time soon. Nor would he be able to find a pure-blood witch free of the Change as a wife– those who were, those from the continent or abroad, would hardly consent to marry him, tainted as he was. As for any children he might have– there was nothing certain about the shape of the world they might grow up in.

This was not the first time Draco had faced uncertainty about the future, and yet... Before, he had always had a vision of how it might look: The glorious, perfect world of pure-blood supremacy his father had painted for him as a child, a return to the golden days of the past when the world was thick with life and magic before the Muggles had started to spread across it like locusts, devouring every resource they could get their hands on, destroying everything that did not serve them, everything unique and magical and wild, leaving behind them a dead, beaten-down wasteland.

Needless to say, he had been cured of that vision, of the notion that the Dark Lord could give them a world full of life and beauty. No, the Dark Lord's vision was full of darkness and pain, servitude and suffering and death. Still, as he sat shaking at the dinner table with the monster, as he lay in his bed and attempted not to cry, he feared the future, but he knew the shape of what he feared. And as he ran and cringed and fought his way through the war, a traitorous vision grew in his mind, one where Potter returned the world to the way it had been, not a shining utopia but blessed, plain ordinariness, the imperfect every-day world of his childhood.

It seemed like an impossible dream during the war, that things could ever return to normal, to peace, that the Dark Lord could be stopped a second time. And yet it came true, an unlikely, preposterous miracle performed by a skinny seventeen-year-old boy, and after the hysteria and the trials and the celebrations Draco took a careful breath, and relaxed a little, and thought he knew the world again.

And then the miracle turned to ash in his mouth. It was somehow worse, he thought, that they had had those few months where everything seemed to return to normal, where everyone dared to feel safe again.

Was it any wonder people were trying so hard to pretend the Curse wasn't happening, not to them, not to everyone, everywhere? Was it any wonder that their usually cheerful cooking class was quiet today, subdued, everyone as lost in thought as Draco himself was?

Draco did not want to think about the impact the news were having on the rest of the witches and wizards on the British Isles. They, here, in this room, were the ones most open about the Change, most accepting of it. That did not mean they weren't angry, or helpless, or frustrated. But they were the ones facing it, actively. It was strange, Draco found, to be part of that, to consider himself part of a group he had grown to respect. Yet they were only a few, compared to the many, many people across the Isles who would wrestle with their despair on their own.

Yes, there were difficult, challenging times ahead, and for the first time Draco realized that he had no idea what the future would look like– that he had never known what the future would look like, and that he never would. For the first time, he realized how very fragile everything around him was, every belief and every assumption, every expectation and every everyday matter.

The world could change in the blink of an eye.

He looked to the side, at Potter, again.

Nothing was certain. Most of the control he thought he had over his own life was an illusion, and what was true today might be false tomorrow.

And with that in mind– was it really worth denying himself what he longed for, denying what he was? If safety was an illusion– then what was the point in not taking a risk?

***


Draco stepped outside in the evening to find Potter standing in front of the pub, breath steaming slightly in the first chill of autumn. He had his gloved hands in the pockets of his Muggle jeans, his black leather-jacket open to reveal a delicate sweep of collarbone and the dip at the base of his throat, bared as his head was tilted far back, staring up to the stars.
Draco looked upwards himself, to the thick diamond dust spattered across a velvety-black night sky. They were invisible on the other side of the wall, he knew now, the Muggle side, where the night sky over London was nothing but orange glow. But here, the magic of Diagon Alley still held sway, and the light pollution of the buzzing Muggle metropolis around them did not exist.

Draco stepped up to Potter, who didn't acknowledge him, although Draco had no doubt he was aware of his presence.

Draco studied him for a moment more, the faintest of luminescence in his eyes in the dim light, that perfect, inviting bow of his lips, the lack of tension in his stance despite Draco's proximity, the expression on his upturned face.

He looked... lonely.

Draco leaned in and kissed him.

***


Draco's kiss felt wonderful. Unexpected, but wonderful. His lips were a little cool from the night air at the very first moment, and soft and dry, and then they stayed in contact with Harry's a moment longer and warmth spread between them. Harry's eyes slid shut, and his lips parted for more, for closer.

Of course he'd started to notice Draco these last few weeks, but surely the tension he meant to feel between them wasn't mutual, was all in his head.

Well. Apparently not.

Draco pressed close, tall, shoulders solid under the arms Harry must've wrapped around them at some point, his hands large and warm on Harry's hips. Harry had to stretch, to lean up to reach, but he didn't mind, he didn't mind at all, not with Draco's tongue sliding into his mouth, curling over one fang, then the other, exploring, retreating, pushing back in, demanding.

A wave of heat travelled through Harry's body, burned in his cheeks and the tips of his ears, pooled in his chest and coiled in his groin. There were probably a million reasons why kissing Draco Malfoy back enthusiastically was a bad idea, but Harry couldn't think of a single one just at the moment.

Finally, Draco pulled back slowly and their eyes met, his hands still on Harry's hips, Harry's still on his shoulders.

“Uh...” Harry said and stared up at him. “Want to come to dinner tomorrow?” Oh, God, he'd just asked Draco Malfoy on a date.

“Yes,” Draco said, then blinked and looked vaguely surprised.

“Great!” Harry exclaimed and took half a step back, letting go of Draco's shoulders as Draco let go of his hips. “Eight o'clock? Floo address is 12 Grimmauld Place.”

Draco nodded his agreement, and Harry grinned nervously, waved, and walked away briskly.

Yes, he was running away. But his heart beat like a rabbit's, and his breath still came fast, and he felt the need for a bit of time alone to wrap his head around what had just happened.


Part II: Dare Frame Thy Fearful Symmetry

Why, oh why had he thought it was a good idea to ask Draco Malfoy to come to dinner, Harry asked himself the next evening. He should've asked him to go out. Neutral ground and all. Having Draco in his house, in his kitchen, would make this first date far more intimate than Harry was entirely comfortable with, and despite Kreacher's best efforts there was no way shabby old Grimmauld Place could live up to Malfoy Manor. Oh God, he had nothing to wear. He shouldn't've asked Draco Malfoy out at all.

Harry took a deep breath and told himself to stop being ridiculous. He was an Auror. He'd defeated a Dark Lord. He had no business having a panic attack about a date.

But this date was with Draco Malfoy, who managed to make Harry feel inadequate at the best of times. What had he been thinking? Right, nothing, his blood had all been occupied away from his brain.

He took another deep breath, and a step away from his wardrobe, which he'd been staring into in dismay.

Draco had known him for about ten years. He'd seen him as a runty little eleven-year old in his cousin's hand-me-downs. There was really nothing Harry could do or wear to make a worse impression than that.

With that in mind, Harry picked his newest pair of black jeans and a dark-red silk shirt Ginny had given him for Christmas last year. She'd told him it brought out his eyes, and he trusted her opinion on such matters more than his own.

He considered his dress robes for a moment, but he hated the things. If Draco wanted to date him, he could deal with the fact that Harry preferred Muggle dress.

***


Harry showered, shaved, took a look at his hair and let it do what it wanted, dressed, and considered himself ready for Draco's arrival. He took a quick tour through the house to make sure everything was reasonably in order. The bathrooms were clean, the drawing room tidy and the dinner table set. Harry thanked Kreacher, and settled down to wait for the Floo.

Draco arrived right on time, in a whoosh of green flame and a small cloud of soot. He stepped out of the fireplace as smooth and regal as he did everything.

He was magnificent in dark grey robes with a delicate hue of silver, his pale hair smooth and perfect. His eyes were guarded as he held out a bottle of wine.

Harry took it, and they regarded each other carefully for a long moment while silence stretched between them.

Then Harry realized that they were sharing another one of those moments as they stared mutely at each other, both completely unsure about what to do next, and his lips twitched as a rueful smile wanted to spread over his face. Draco's expression softened as one eyebrow arched a little, one corner of his lips curled in a small smirk. Harry really wanted to kiss him again.

“Harry,” he greeted with a tilt of his head, voice full of irony.

“Draco,” Harry retorted, reined in his urges, and stepped to the side. “Come on in. Dinner is this way.”

He led Draco down to the kitchen, where Kreacher had set out their plates across from each other at the head of the table. Draco looked around with interest.

“Somehow, this isn't how I imagined your home,” he informed Harry after they had taken their seats and lifted the covers of their bowls of gently-steaming soup.

“It's not a house I would've chosen,” Harry admitted. “But it belonged to my godfather. I inherited it when he died, and I stayed here during the war because of the wards.” He shrugged. “I've gotten used to it since then.”

“Ah. It's a Black property then? I thought the name sounded familiar.”

“Right,” Harry said as he recalled that Draco was half-Black himself.

They talked little during the rest of dinner. Harry had thought they would, because weren't first dates meant to get to know each other? But he didn't feel the need, and neither, it seemed, did Draco. The silence was comfortable.

They watched each other, though, openly. And as Harry dragged his gaze from Draco's mouth as he'd taken a bite of food back up to his eyes and saw the heat there he realized that, actually, they were flirting.

So he made sure to slowly and thoroughly suck the cream and custard off his spoon when it was time for desert, and saw Draco shift, eyes dark, and he really wanted the man's hands back on his body.

Harry dropped his spoon into the bowl with a clatter, rose, and marched around the table. Draco watched him come but stood as Harry leaned in for the kiss, and pulled him close. Harry's arms went around him, Draco's fingers slid into his hair, and then they were kissing again. Harry made a happy sound that started as a moan and ended as a sigh, and sidled another fraction closer.

He'd missed this. He'd missed the feel of another body, the opportunity to touch and be touched by a fellow human being. Most of his relationship with Zach Smith had been an unmitigated disaster, but the touching was why he'd put up with the prick for as long as he had.

Of course, Zach hadn't liked to kiss. He'd thought it was childish and girly. Draco, apparently, had no such compunctions. He was kissing Harry like Harry had always wanted to be kissed: Extensively and with hunger, like Harry's mouth was something he couldn't get enough of.

His hands dropped from Harry's hair to his shoulders, over his arms and down his sides to the small of his back, hot through the fabric of Harry's shirt. Harry raised his own arms to wrap them around Draco's shoulders again, anchor himself against Draco's taller frame, grab the back of his head to keep his mouth right where it was, kissing Harry. Harry wished he could feel Draco's hair, but he was wearing his gloves, and he didn't want to take the time to break the kiss and take them off. He could do that later, when he wasn't busy arching against Draco in a search for more contact, more warmth, more touch.

Draco, apparently, had similar ideas, because he pulled the back of Harry's shirt out of his trousers, and stroked his waist, his sides, the small of his back, hot bare skin against hot bare skin. Harry whimpered.

Draco groped his arse, and Harry arched his spine into the touch.

One of Draco's hands went down the back of his pants, and Harry took one hand from Draco's shoulder to pop the button and lower the zip of his trousers to give him more room to work.

Draco tore his mouth from Harry's on a strangled moan, pressed a messy kiss to the corner of his lips, then his cheek, then nuzzled into his hair, his breath panting quick and hot over Harry's ear.

“Wasn't quite what I had in mind,” he murmured.

“Nngh,” said Harry, then scraped together enough brain cells for speech. “Don't care. Don't stop.” Okay, not much speech, but there was a gorgeous, turned-on man in front of him with his hands all over Harry's body– a gorgeous, turned-on Draco Malfoy, whose perfect hair was dishevelled and whose annoyingly perfect diction was shot and whose perfect pale skin was flushed, and why weren't they kissing anymore?

With that in mind, Harry curled his fingers around Draco's chin and put his mouth back to where he could reach it and kissed him again.

Draco responded with all the passion a man could wish for, fingers digging into Harry's skin, tongue not shy at all of Harry's fangs. Harry was quite unashamedly rutting against him, but it wasn't enough.

This time, Harry was the one to break the kiss. He took a few deep breaths, while Draco watched him, eyes black with lust, one hand still down the back of Harry's underwear, tantalizing.

“Kreacher!” Harry rasped out, and the house elf popped into existence next to them. Draco's shoulders stiffened under Harry's arm. Harry ignored it. He had more important matters on his mind. “Upstairs, in my night stand. The glass bottle, could you get it for me, please?”
“As master commands, Kreacher will obey,” the old house elf croaked while he gave Harry a look that was supremely unimpressed. He vanished, and reappeared just a moment later with the requested bottle. “Kreacher will be cleaning,” he announced before he vanished once more. “In the attic.”

Draco's eyebrow was arching when Harry looked at him again. “Did you just send your house elf for lube?” he asked, the corners of his lips curling in an incredulous smile.
“Well, I wasn't going to accio it,” Harry pointed out reasonably. “And I'm in no state to walk stairs right now.” He held the bottle out to Draco and squirmed impatiently. “Now, if you wouldn't mind getting on with it...?”

Draco's eyes darkened again with intent, his nostrils flared and he leaned down to press a short, harsh kiss to Harry's lips. “Turn around and bend over,” he told Harry, their faces not even an inch apart.

If asked yesterday, Harry probably would've said that any such sentence out of Draco Malfoy's mouth would earn the man a fist in the face. Today, he shuddered in delight and hastened to obey. He'd never noticed before, but his kitchen table, right next to him, was of a very good height to grab hold of and bend over while Draco stepped close enough that Harry could feel his body heat. Harry gripped his open trousers and his underwear in one hand and dragged them down far enough to give Draco access, and himself some relief from too-tight fabric.

One of Draco's hands settled on his hips, large and warm, the other on the table as Draco leaned over. His breath brushed Harry's neck for a moment before he pressed a kiss there, then another, then nipped at the skin, and then he pushed himself back up again.

A clink of glass, and his hands were back again. Harry moaned and dropped his forehead to the table. The last time he'd had another man's hands on his body had been with Zach, and he hadn't enjoyed it. That had been the last straw– if it wasn't for the sex, there was nothing left of the relationship. At that point, Harry had only been in it for the orgasms and whatever little snatches of physical comfort he could get for a few months.

But Draco Malfoy turned out a more considerate lover than Zacharias Smith had ever been. He wasn't precisely gentle just at the moment, but Harry was surprisingly sure that he would be, if they both weren't too impatient for pleasantries just now. As it was, Draco's touch burned somewhat despite the lubricant, but Harry didn't care and pushed back against it, hurried Draco on with his body.

Draco dropped his forehead between Harry's shoulder blades, Harry could feel the weight through his shirt, and moaned. Harry panted, bucked his hips impatiently.

“Enough,” he forced out. “Get on with it.”

Draco hesitated for a fraction of a second, Harry could feel it in his body, but then he moved, a rustle of cloth and a brush of fabric against Harry's bare skin, another clink of glass. Harry spread his legs as best he could with his trousers digging into the top of his thighs, and then Draco was there, hot and hard, and Harry winced, because maybe he wasn't quite ready, but who cared?, because he was having Draco Malfoy, or Draco Malfoy was having him, and what did a little soreness in the morning matter next to that, anyway?

Draco moved, and Harry held on tightly to the edge of the table and moved with him, met him. Draco was braced over him, his harsh breath on Harry's neck and in his hair and against his shoulders, only a fraction of their bodies naked against each other, but it was the important fraction as far as Harry was concerned, intimate and searing hot and primal pleasure deep in his gut, between his legs.

This isn't going to last long, Harry realized, but he wanted more, he wanted harder, he wanted faster, and an insistent twist of his hips was all it took to communicate that to Draco, who was apparently only too happy to comply.

Harry was dimly grateful that the kitchen table was as large and sturdy as it was as he clung to the creaking wood, but then Draco reached down and around to curl his long, strong fingers around him, and Harry's world narrowed down to twin sensation of touch and pleasure, pleasure rocking through him, pleasure sharp and hot he could taste, coiling, coiling, until it expanded and raced through his veins, shook his limbs and squeezed the air from his lungs in helpless gasps.

Draco shuddered a moment later, with a moan of almost-pain. Then he slumped, head back between Harry's shoulders, his weight making the edge of the table dig into Harry's stomach. Harry couldn't bring himself to care. That living, panting weight on top of him felt far too good.

He closed his eyes for long moments, forehead resting on the table, before he turned his head and pressed his flushed cheek against the cool wood.

“You're welcome to stay the night,” he told Draco hesitantly.

He felt Draco's body tense above him.

“Thank you, but... not tonight. Maybe another time.” Draco's tone was careful, and when Harry turned his head far enough to look up at him, he saw something like regret in Draco's eyes.

He couldn't help a sigh of disappointment, but nodded against the table as his eyes slid closed again in post-orgasmic lethargy. “As you wish.”

Draco didn't reply, but his weight settled more solidly on Harry once more when he leaned down to kiss the back of Harry's neck again, lingering and gentle.

***


Eventually, Harry couldn't ignore the discomfort of half-lying on a kitchen table with edges digging into his abdomen any more.

He stirred, and Draco took the hint and levered himself off. Harry turned around and tugged his pants and trousers up while he was at it. Draco wasn't far away at all, buttoning his own robes while his eyes were on Harry's hands as Harry settled himself and zipped up. Draco's eyes darted up to meet his, and Harry saw apprehension in them. So he reached up and pulled Draco's head down again for a kiss– a long and leisurely one.

Draco's arms were around him when he pulled back again, and Draco rested the side of his face against Harry's temple.

“I really did not plan on that,” he murmured, lips close to Harry's ear.

“Mm,” said Harry, enjoying the physical contact and Draco's scent, that cool, sweet note that must be his aftershave or something, now with a tang of sweat and sex. “Neither did I,” he pointed out after a moment of hugging Draco. “But I'm not complaining.” He pressed his head against Draco's shoulder, tucked his face against Draco's neck. “Are you sure you don't want to stay?”

Draco's arms tightened around him a little, and Harry felt something happy squirm in his belly.

“I'm sure,” Draco said quietly. “Not... quite yet, okay?”

Harry just nodded, the fabric of Draco's robes soft and expensive against his cheek.

***


Draco left after two glasses of wine and plenty of kisses, and while Harry was sad to see him go, he was still in a much better mood than he had been lately as he went to bed. Of course, that could be the sex. But it could also be because he was excited as he hadn't been in a long while.

He saw Draco again on Wednesday in group, and his heart picked up when his eyes landed on Draco's tall form, broad shoulders and pale hair and an eyebrow raised at him in greeting, a half-smile sent his way that Harry was giddily certain was all for him. He made straight for Draco, took the seat next to him, enjoyed the fact that they only had to exchange a look to communicate. They'd exchanged a couple of owls for the last few days, but it was good to see him again, and Harry breathed in Draco's scent and watched his straight, prim posture, the fall of his hair and the haughty line of his profile, and fought the urge to lean against him, or take his hand, or pull him into a kiss.

He was falling hard and fast for this man, Harry realized, which after one date was frankly ridiculous.

Of course, it wasn't just one date. It was six years of fighting in school, and seeing a shaking teenager in front of a court out for blood, and more than three months' worth of weekly meetings and weekend classes and working together. They'd known each other for a long time.

And right now there were difficult times ahead and yet Harry couldn't help but feel a certain optimism. They had the Curse to deal with, but that wasn't actively killing anyone. Yes, he had been to the site of three suicides since the news hit that the Curse wouldn't be broken soon, that their children were affected as well, that things wouldn't just go back to normal. But there was this, group, their little circle of people working so hard to find ways to live with this. There was Ron, who had never hidden his Change, and there was Hermione, who would never give up, and there was even Draco, who might not be willing to so much as share his Change yet, but who was still here, who was still learning to do things the Muggle way, their first pure-blood group member.

No, Harry wasn't comfortable with his Change. But small steps counted, and so he reached up to pull off his sunglasses, tucked them into his t-shirt collar, and decided that Hermione wouldn't need to pester him any further to go to her Halloween ball. He was the Boy-Who-Lived, and his presence would make a difference in the mind of the public, and it was time he used that, however uncomfortable it made him feel.

***


He saw Draco as often as his work allowed over the next few weeks. Of course, there was group on Wednesday evenings, but their weekend classes were on hold as the preparations for the Halloween ball took precedence. Harry didn't have much to do with those. All a delighted Hermione required of him was to show up, preferably well-dressed. She was, of course, neck-deep involved in writing adds for the papers and organising a venue, and caterers and whatever else the short-notice planning of a Halloween ball entailed– Harry wasn't quite sure.

He was just as glad to be left out of it, as that meant he had more time to date Draco. They met for coffee or dinner in Muggle London, to keep it out of the papers, and one Saturday when it was a crisp bright autumn day, they went for a walk in the park, with fire-coloured leaves burning against the blue sky and swirling around their feet. The air smelled rich, of damp soil and the first bite of winter. Harry shivered a little in a particularly fierce gust of wind and Draco slung a careful arm around his waist, pulled him a little into his side. Harry smiled at him and cuddled closer, ignored the scandalized looks of an elderly couple passing them in the opposite direction.

Dating Draco Malfoy was unexpectedly wonderful. It was as if they had burned out all their conflict in their younger years, and now they rarely had a reason to get upset with each other– after all, compared to the fights they'd had, a little disagreement over whether or not Harry could pay for his own damn dinner didn't really matter all that much.

And there was the sex, of course. Draco refused to talk about his Change, refused to tell Harry what it was, and he wasn't willing to undress, either. That didn't mean he wasn't happy to get off with Harry, and while they hadn't repeated full-blown intercourse so far, they explored plenty of other options.

It wasn't perfect, but while the rest of the Wizarding world struggled with the dawning certainty that the Curse would be with them for a long time, Harry was cautiously happy.

***


Of course, their dating couldn't stay his and Draco's little secret forever. Not that they had intended it that way, but Harry hadn't gone out of his way to inform the only people he felt actually had a right to such information about his private life: Ron and Hermione.

However, both of them were far from stupid, and maybe Harry was being a tiny bit obvious about how smitten he was with Draco. In any case, Ron pulled him aside after group a week before the Halloween ball, put his sizeable bulk between Harry and the rest of the room.

“Hey, mate, what's going on between you and Malfoy these days, anyway?” he asked, curious.

“Um...” Harry said, and felt himself blush.

Ron blinked, then his eyes widened. “No!” he exclaimed. “No way! You're having me on! You're kidding!”

Harry pulled a face at his best friend. “I haven't even said anything, Ron.”

Ron snorted. “As if you need to, with your face that red. But, really, Malfoy?”

“He's different, now!” Harry protested.

Ron just shrugged. “Yeah, maybe. Not a complete git anymore, I guess.” He tilted his head, and gave Harry one of those sharp, discerning looks he always pulled out at the most inconvenient of times. His chess-player look, as Harry thought of it. “Don't get me wrong,” Ron continued more quietly, “I'm glad if you've found someone again. You spend too much time alone these days, and I know you well enough to know that you don't actually like being alone.” Ron's raised eyebrows dared Harry to contradict him. Harry opened his mouth, but then closed it again. What was the point? Ron had been his best friend since childhood– he did know him that well. Ron nodded at Harry's silence, and then a grin curled his mouth again. “I'll never get your taste in men, though,” he teased. “Blond and prattish, is that it?”

Harry pouted at him. “I'll have you know that Draco is a vast improvement over Zach. He's a gentleman.” 'Well, except for when he bends me over a kitchen table,' Harry couldn't help but amend in his thoughts while Ron's eyebrows rose sceptically.

“Yeah? So how long have you let him bugger you?” Ron's tone was blasé and his eyes danced with mischief to do George proud.

Harry choked on air and spluttered. “Wha...? How...? Ron!

Ron, the bastard, just laughed, heartily.

“Aw, c'mon, mate, we've gotten drunk together enough that, yeah, I know how you like it.”

“I thought you didn't remember that.” Harry was blushing again, the tips of his ears hot.

“Meh.” Ron waved a hand. “Not in detail, but enough. So, how long?”

Harry glared at him. “Just over two weeks, okay? And so far, only once, not that it's any of your business.”

Ron gave him a smile that was scarily indulgent.

“Yeah, okay. But you know you can come and talk to me about anything, right?”

Harry looked at him for a moment, then rolled his eyes even while his heart lifted with gratitude. “Yeah, I know that. Git.” He punched Ron in the arm, none too gently, to make sure he didn't start hugging him in an entirely unmanly display of emotion that would leave them both uncomfortable.

“Ow!” Ron complained. “Git, yourself. So... Malfoy make you happy?”

Harry scowled at him, because now he was uncomfortable, after all. But in the face of Ron's expectant sincerity, he had to smile a little.

“Yeah, he does. So far.”

Ron chuckled and clapped him on the shoulder. “Who'd'a thought, huh? You and Malfoy.” He shook his head, wondering, then looked at Harry again. “So, is he coming to the ball with you? That'd give the reporters a right fit.” He chuckled again. “Can you imagine the headlines?”

Harry shuddered dramatically. He could. “No, he's not coming. He's not ready to show everyone his Change.”

“But you know what it is, right?” Ron asked, and Harry was forced to shake his head.

“But I thought... You said 'once'...”

Harry blushed, again. “There was very little undressing involved, okay? And that's as much detail as you get.”

“That's as much detail as I want, mate, thanks all the same. But he's making you go to the ball alone? That's not very gentlemanly of him.”

“He's not making me do anything, Ron. It's not like I actually asked him to the ball or anything.” They hadn't talked about the ball at all, so far, actually. Harry frowned a little. “It's not like I need someone to go with me. I'm perfectly capable of going to a stupid ball alone.”

“But you'd like someone to go with you,” Ron pointed out. “Seeing how you don't like these sorts of things.”

“Well, you and Hermione'll be there, and plenty of people from group. It's not like it's one of those where I don't know anyone.”

“'S not the same, though.”

It wasn't, Ron was right, and Harry suddenly realized he would like it if Draco went with him. It would make the prospect of the evening a lot more appealing. Sure, it would also kick loose the mother of all shit storms in the press, but Harry had long since realized that he couldn't let fear of the tabloids rule his private life. He would avoid some of the grief they gave him when it was convenient, such as meeting Draco for coffee in Starbucks instead of Florean Fortescue's, but those were minor adjustments.

Harry also realized that he did need to talk to Draco about the whole notoriety thing soon. If they stayed together for much longer, some enterprising reporter was sure to catch a clue and Harry would rather know about Draco's expectations in the matter before that happened.

***


The next Saturday, a week before the Halloween ball, Harry had Draco sprawled across a chaise longue in Draco's drawing room at Malfoy Manor, and Draco was making the most delicious noises as he came with Harry's mouth on him. Truth be told, Harry liked giving head, even if Zach had liked to poke more-or-less good-natured fun at him for it– not that that had kept him from enjoying it when Harry went down on him. Draco was proving a far more grateful subject, though, and there was something delightfully wicked in reducing him to moans and gasps in his own fancy living room that was all brocade upholstery and fur rugs and velvet curtains over high, narrow windows.

Draco gently pushed Harry away so he could sit up again once he'd caught his breath, and Harry allowed himself to slide to the floor, legs curled under him on the thick, white rug. The chaise was low enough that he could easily rest his folded arms across Draco's lap when Draco returned his feet to the floor and put his robes back in order. Harry pillowed his head on his arms, and Draco's hand slid into his hair, cupped his skull for a moment before he started to brush Harry's fringe out of his eyes. Harry hummed, and relaxed against the chaise cushion and Draco's legs. A log popped in the fireplace, and the rain pattered against the high windows.

“I'll want to sleep with you at some point, you know,” Harry said quietly as Draco's fingers began to massage the crown of his head, and he looked up to see an eyebrow arched his way. “I actually mean sleep,” Harry shot back at Draco's unspoken but very plain comment. Then he sighed and softened his tone. “I want to spend the night with you, Draco.”

Draco answered with his own sigh and brushed his hand through Harry's hair, down to rub his thumb over the back of Harry's neck. “I...” He cleared his throat. “Not tonight, okay?”

Harry huffed, and dug his chin into Draco's thigh a little, uncharitably pleased when Draco flinched. “When, though?” he asked, then turned so he could look up at Draco, legs pressed against the chaise, hands gripping Draco's legs for balance. “I know you're hiding a Change, Draco. How bad can it be?”

Draco's mouth went tight, his eyes narrow, and then he looked away again, expression mulish.

“You can't hide it forever,” Harry pointed out, then bit his lip. “Not if you want this relationship to go anywhere,” he added softly.

Draco's eyes shot back to his, and there was pain there, and Harry instantly felt bad for pushing this.

He felt even worse when Draco brushed his knuckles down his cheek, slow and tender and full of longing.

“I know,” he said, voice not quite even, then his eyes slid away again from Harry's. “I... Just...”

Harry sighed again, and leaned his full weight into Draco's legs, tightened his fingers on Draco's thighs. “'S okay.”

Draco's fingers returned to his hair, rubbing, stroking, petting, and they sat in silence for a long while, listening to the rain.

***


“Will you come to the ball with me?” Harry finally asked into the quiet.

“If I'm not willing to show you, what makes you think I'm willing to show the rest of the world?”

Harry shook his head. “You don't need to show anyone. You could just go like this.” He waved a hand at Draco.

“The entire idea of the ball is to show off our Change,” Draco pointed out.

“Yeah, sure, but Hermione'll hardly tear your clothes off if you show up like normal. And she won't kick you out of the ballroom, either. You're far too valuable an ally for that. And you won't be the only one not showing their Change. Sure, those of us from group are strongly encouraged to do it, but she's invited tons of people, from the Ministry, from school, from other charities... Most of them won't be showing it.”

“Tons of people, hm?” Draco asked quietly, his fingers trailing through Harry's fringe again.

Harry looked up at him.

“Yeah. Do you want to keep this a secret?”

Draco sighed, shifted his weight a little. He leaned back, winced, and sat up straight again, shifting his shoulders. “Frankly, I haven't thought much about it.” He looked down at Harry, smiled wryly. “Believe it or not, I jumped into this like a Gryffindor, with neither plan nor reason.”

Harry laughed a little, then rubbed the side of his face against Draco's leg. “I'm glad you did. Even if you don't want to come to the ball with me.”

Draco flicked his head, lightly. “Stubborn, aren't you?” The question was clearly rhetorical, and sounded rather fond. Draco was quiet for a long, thoughtful moment. “Very well,” he said then. “I will come to the ball with you.”

Harry lifted his head in surprise. “Really?”

“You want me to, don't you?”

“Well, yeah, but...”

“Then I'll go,” Draco said with finality, and stroked Harry's cheek with the back of his hand. “Besides, I don't have much of a reputation to preserve, anyway. I'm already a known Death Eater, and my marriage contract has been voided. I have nothing to gain by keeping this a secret, and the notion of setting the proverbial kneazle among the snidgets does appeal.” He smiled rather like a kneazle himself, feline and self-satisfied.

The smile was too much to resist, and Harry clambered to his feet to crawl into Draco's lap and kiss him fiercely.

***


“He's coming to the ball with me,” Harry told Ron smugly the next Wednesday.

Ron's eyebrows rose. “He is?”

Harry nodded, and he knew he was smiling like a fool, but he couldn't help himself. “Yep. I asked him, and he said if I wanted him to, he'd go with me.”

Ron looked at him for a moment, then chuckled and slapped him on the back hard enough to almost knock Harry off the chair he was sitting on.

“Good on you, mate! Looks like you finally managed to land yourself a decent bloke. And, yes, I'm aware that I just called Malfoy a decent bloke. He is, though, if he treats you right, and you are more smitten with that man than I've ever seen you before, it's adorable.”

Harry scowled, Ron grinned, then Harry rolled his eyes, and then he shoved Ron of his chair and laughed at his surprised face. He had the greatest best friend in the world.

***


He flooed into the Manor on Friday evening, the day before the ball, with all his dress robes in his arms. Draco had promised to help him pick a set, and Harry would just as soon not decide what to wear on his own.

So he ended up in front of a free-standing, full-length mirror in deep-green robes edged with black, and stared into his own eyes, slitted pupil and all. The thought of walking into a room full of strangers like this, dressed up and with his eyes visible, left him as apprehensive as if he were going naked.

Draco stepped up behind him, wrapped his arms around him, hands folded over Harry's stomach. He looked at Harry in the mirror, then turned his face to press a kiss into the hair above Harry's temple.

“You're gorgeous,” he told Harry softly, and Harry blinked at himself, and Draco's mirror image, in surprise and a touch of confusion.

“Everyone's going to see,” he said unhappily.

Draco kissed the same spot again, then met his eyes in the mirror once more. “You don't have to go.”

Harry sighed, deeply. “I kind of do. It was already in the papers and everything. And I promised Hermione. And... it's important.”

Draco closed his eyes and pressed his face into Harry's hair, nodded silently.

Harry stepped out of his embrace and shrugged the robes off.

“Well, that's that settled,” he announced briskly and folded the robes carefully over the back of a chair. “Let's do something more fun.”

“Oh?” Draco's eyebrow rose. “What do you have in mind?”

Harry went to stand in front of him, pulled Draco's arms around his own waist and rested his hands on Draco's shoulders. “Kiss me,” he told Draco. Draco's arms tightened around him and he dipped his head to comply.

***


They soon ended up on the chaise longue, which apparently was one of Draco's favourite pieces of furniture, with Harry's head pillowed on Draco's stomach, Draco's fingers stroking through his hair.

Harry sighed happily, and Draco chuckled.

“Have you always liked to cuddle so much, or is that the cat?” he asked, voice full of fond amusement.

Harry thought about that for a while. “I'm not sure,” he finally answered. “Maybe. I've never really had anyone to cuddle with, and I've definitely not always been this comfortable with physical contact. But I did like it, when I had it.”

Draco was silent for a moment, then asked, quietly, “Your family?”

Harry stiffened. “What about them?”

Draco's fingers trailed soothingly through his hair. “I suppose they didn't cuddle with you? Relax. You don't have to talk about it, if you don't want to.”

Harry let out a breath and forced himself to sink more firmly against Draco again. The thought of the Dursleys ever touching him in an affectionate manner was enough to make him huff out a bitter laugh. “No, no, they didn't. And, no, I don't especially want to talk about it.”

“As you wish.” Draco hesitated, then continued: “Will you tell me, though? Some day?”

Harry sighed out a long breath, and listened to the sound of Draco's heartbeat for a few moments. “Yes,” he said then, slowly. “Yes, I will.”

It was a temptation to tag on a condition, a “if you will talk to me about your Change”, but that wasn't the way he wanted their relationship to be, debts and obligations. Hermione, with her usual thoroughness, had taught them a lot about constructive communication in group.

So he stayed quiet, and enjoyed Draco's touch, and told himself there was no reason to panic. Draco wouldn't demand he share anything he wasn't ready to.

“I think my sense of smell's changing,” he told Draco instead. “I keep noticing the way things smell. Especially you,” he admitted, and pushed his nose into Draco's stomach, inhaled deeply. “You smell nice.”

Draco laughed, ruffled his hair. “Why, thank you.”

Harry pushed himself up so they were more of a height, leaned against the back rest. “What if I grow a tail?” he asked, and Draco's eyebrows arched.

“A tail?”

Harry nodded. “Yeah. That would be weird, right?”

Draco looked at him, then his lips curled in a smile. “It would probably be adorable.”

Harry glared, then shook his head. “Sometimes, I don't get you,” he admitted. “How can you be so accepting of my Change, but you can't even talk about your own?”

Draco looked away after a moment, an unhappy little frown between his brows. “I don't know,” he answered eventually.

“It'd be okay, you know,” Harry said and reached out to rest his hand tentatively on Draco's chest. “Whatever it is, it'd... it'd be okay.”

Draco gave him a quick, pained look, then extracted himself and rose to pace over to the windows. He pulled aside a curtain and stared at the pane of glass, darkness behind the reflection of the room.

“If it were summer, you'd have the most amazing view of the gardens from here, you know?” he told Harry.

Harry got to his own feet and walked around the chaise, but stopped several steps from Draco. “Draco...”

But Draco cut him off with a sharp gesture of one hand, the other tight in the velvet of the curtain as he kept staring into the darkness.

Then he dropped the curtain and whirled around, crossed his arms over his chest.

“You were right, last week,” he bit out, tense and full of restless energy. “If I can't show you, this will go nowhere.” He looked at Harry, eyes turbulent with emotion. “And I do want this.” He hesitated for anther moment, then raised his head, tightened his jaw, narrowed his eyes. “I want you,” he said, like it was a challenge, like he was daring Harry to make something of that admission. Harry, for his part, found himself breathless with longing, only able to stare at the beautiful man before him and too scared to say the wrong thing to say anything at all.

“So,” Draco said after a long moment of silence. “Do you want to spend the night?”

Harry nodded, and reached out hesitantly, to lay his hand on Draco's arm. “Yes,” he finally said, and his voice came out a little hoarse. “Yes, I do.”

Draco's face relaxed a little, as if he had actually thought Harry would say no, and he took a step closer, hands reaching for Harry in turn. A moment later, Harry was moving, wrapping his arms around Draco's waist and hugging him fiercely, burying his face in one broad shoulder, breathing deep of Draco's scent.

“Abby!” Draco called, and Harry turned his head to see a very small house elf pop up next to them. “Please light the fire and the candles in my bedroom,” Draco told her, and she ducked a bow before disappearing again.

Draco pushed Harry away from himself a little, hands gentle on his shoulders, and gave him that half-smile he only ever had for him. “Come on, then,” he said and held a hand out for Harry to take, and then led him out of the room and up the stairs.

***


Once in Draco's bedroom, Draco let go of Harry's hand, and they stared at each other, awkwardly. Then Harry had to snicker.

“This is ridiculous,” he announced, and stepped close to kiss Draco on the cheek. Draco kissed him on the forehead in turn, then rested his head against the top of Harry's for a long moment, his breath brushing the bridge of Harry's nose. Harry felt him shaking when he put his hands on Draco's waist, a fine, tense tremor.

“It's okay,” he told Draco again. “Draco, it'll be okay.”

Draco wrapped his arms around Harry's back, gripped the back of his shirt tightly.

“Promise you won't laugh,” he told Harry, voice hoarse.

“I promise,” Harry said immediately. “Whatever it is, I won't laugh.”

Draco nodded, but still didn't move to undress.

“You're in pain, aren't you?” Harry asked, softly. “It's not just proper pure-blood posture, is it? And it's not just that you like to be on top. Whatever you're doing to hide it, you're in pain.” There had been flinches during the last few weeks, and Draco never let Harry lie on top of him, or not for long. On his lap or on his stomach, yes, but not on his chest, not with Harry's weight on his upper body.

“Yes,” Draco said quietly, and pulled himself far enough away to start to undo the buttons of his robes.

Harry took half a step back and watched as the grey fabric fell open to reveal a plain white shirt underneath, then grey dress slacks. Draco shrugged out of the robes, and from the way they stayed in form Harry realized they were lightly padded across the shoulders, very discretely. Padded to hide the faint bulge over Draco's shoulders and back, Harry saw, plain now that he was only wearing a shirt.

Draco's eyes were very grey, very unsure, as he slowly, stiffly, sat down on the bed. Harry wanted to reassure him, but didn't know how, so he just nodded, and hoped his gaze conveyed how much he wanted for Draco to be free of his pain, whatever the source.

Draco undid the shirt buttons, too, and underneath it, his chest and shoulders were wrapped in bandages, tightly enough to cut into the skin at his arms, his neck, low on his ribs.

He reached for a knot on his left side, undid it with all the signs of long practise, and started to unwrap the bandages. At first, the upper layers stayed in place, fabric held together by friction, but as Draco wound more of it into a neat roll around his fingers, they unravelled, and what they had held down, tight against his back, sprang free, still tangled with white strips of fabric– wings. A pair of white wings, not large, maybe the length of Harry's arm at full span. Draco grimaced in pain as they lifted from his skin.

“Oh, god, Draco...” Harry said, voice rough, and stepped over, sank down next to Draco on the bed to help him untangle the bandages.

There were red marks on his skin where the edges of fabric and feathers had dug in, and the feathers were ruffled, some even broken from their tight confinement.

Draco set the roll of bandages down on his night stand when they were done, and then looked at Harry, cautious grey eyes and naked chest and wings flexing slightly behind him, apparently of their own accord.

Harry found his lips twitching, and hurt flashed through Draco's eyes.

“No!” Harry exclaimed, reached out to wrap his arms around Draco's shoulders, stiff underneath him. “I'm not laughing at you. Promise, I promise I'm not laughing at you.” He sat back again a little to look into Draco's wary face. “I'm not,” he assured him again. “It's just... you look like an angel, and you're one of the least angelic people I know, and it's just ironic, okay? But I'm not laughing at you.”

Draco let out a slow breath, stared into Harry's eyes.

“I look ridiculous,” he said quietly. “I look absolutely ridiculous with these things.”

Harry looked at him, ran his eyes over Draco's bare chest and his arms and shoulders and, yes, wings, and licked his lips. “No, you really don't,” he told him quietly and leaned in for a kiss.

Draco responded readily enough, but he was clearly not in the mood to take things any further just at the moment. So Harry sat back again and nodded at the bed.

“Come on, lie down.” Draco looked sceptical, so Harry stood and knelt to start undoing the laces of Draco's boots. It took him only a minute to have them open and tug them away. “Trust me,” he told Draco as he stepped out of his own trainers. “Lie down, come on.”

Draco finally did, slowly, on his stomach. Harry climbed up on the bed next to him, straddled his hips. Before Draco could protest, he settled his hands on Draco's shoulders and started to rub, kneaded the muscles firmly to try and take some of the tension and pain away. After only a minute, Draco started to relax under the massage, sank into the bedding under Harry with a sigh. His wings fluttered a little, then settled in an elegant fan, their tips brushing Harry's skin when he worked around them and under them.

Draco's breath was slow and heavy by the time Harry was done with his shoulders and rubbing along his spine in long, firm strokes. He'd turned his head sideways on the pillow, and Harry could see one eye, almost closed, just a gleam visible between heavy lashes. Lines on his face Harry had barely realized were there were smoothing out, taking some of the sharpness out of his chin and cheekbones. He was very, very beautiful, and Harry ran a careful hand up the spine of one wing. Draco shuddered under him.

“Okay?” Harry asked quietly as he smoothed one disarrayed feather carefully into place.

Draco nodded against the pillow. “It's just... no one's ever touched them.”

“They're soft,” Harry said with quiet wonder, and straightened out one of the broken shafts.

Draco made a sound that was distinctly pleasure as Harry ran his fingertips over the spread of one wing.

“Merlin,” he panted into the pillow, “I never realized they were this sensitive. Oh, that is nice.”

So Harry turned his attention to the other wing, groomed it into as much perfection as he could manage. It flexed under his fingers, stretching as Draco moaned.

“Enough,” Draco said finally, roughly, and pushed himself up. Harry scooted backwards, and Draco turned around, pushed him down on the bed with a hand to the middle of his chest and kissed him deeply.

“You are wearing far too many clothes,” he announced when he pulled back again, eyes dark, smile feral.

Harry looked along Draco's body, to the trousers he was still wearing, and smiled back. “So are you.”

Harry sat up, and Draco helped him pull his shirt over his head and his jeans and boxer shorts away, and then he undid his own trousers while Harry got comfortable on his bed and let his eyes drink in the sight of a naked Draco Malfoy.

Best of all, he wouldn't need to leave tonight, wouldn't need to sleep alone. Harry was smiling when Draco turned to him again, and Draco raised an eyebrow in question, but Harry just pulled him over, on top of himself, stretched up for a kiss.

“Uh-uh,” Draco said, and leaned back, out of reach. “Gloves off, first.”

Harry looked at his hands. “But I don't want to scratch you,” he told Draco.

Draco just shook his head. “Don't worry about it.” He did lean down to kiss Harry's cheek, then. “No hiding tonight, yes?”

Harry sighed, and nodded. “Yeah, okay, you're right. But I'm telling you, I'll probably scratch you. I forever scratch myself if I don't wear gloves.”

“I thought cats had full control over their claws,” Draco observed, and kissed Harry's jaw.

“Well, maybe cats do,” Harry grumbled. “I just keep forgetting I have them, until it hurts.”

“Well, I have a large supply of healing salve,” Draco murmured in his ear, slid one hand into Harry's hair, and kissed him until Harry had forgotten all about conversation.

Then he sat back up, pulled Harry's gloves off, first one, then the other, kissed Harry's palm, and grabbed a bottle of lube from the night stand.

His eyes were dark, and Harry arranged his legs around him, pulled a pillow from somewhere above his head and shoved it under his own hips.

Draco crouched above him so he could kiss Harry while he prepared him, and unlike the last time, he refused to hurry, no matter how much Harry squirmed.

But his skin was warm under Harry's hands, and Harry couldn't get enough of it, the feel of it against his own bare hands as he ran them over Draco's flanks and chest and back, and into the softness of the feathers, and Draco's hair, Harry couldn't stop touching Draco's hair, sleek and silky and pale and gorgeous.

He hooked a leg over Draco's hip, felt him all warm and alive and close, and it was such a wonderful sensation that he thought it could hardly get better.

It did get better, though, because this time, there was no discomfort, not even a little bit, and there was a lot more naked skin, a lot more closeness and intimacy as he moved against Draco, with Draco, who now had a hand free to run over Harry's leg and up his side as Harry wrapped his own arms around Draco, one on his shoulder above the wings and one below them, to pull them closer together, to stretch for more kisses, sloppy now because aiming was difficult when they were both moving, searching for the perfect angle, the perfect rhythm.

Draco was beautiful, beyond beautiful, skin and hair and wings all gilded by the light of the fire and the candles as it flowed over the flex of his long body and the sweep of his shoulders and the contours of his chest. His wings were twitching and dipping and shuddering with the motions of his body, a counterpoint, a natural extension, and he was so beautiful, it would've taken Harry's breath away if he'd had any to spare.

“Harry,” Draco moaned, raw and with longing, dropped his head to rest it next to Harry's while his body moved with ever more urgency, and Harry shuddered, very, very close. He arched his back, and, yes, that was just right, that was perfect, and then he was shivering and clenching and falling apart. He heard Draco make a guttural sound, and felt him follow him over the edge.

Draco was lying next to him, propped up on one arm, when Harry caught his breath somewhat. Harry smiled at him, and rolled over to curl up against him. He yawned, widely, and then his eyes refused to open again and he fell straight asleep.

***


Draco looked down at Harry. With his eyes and mouth closed, his hand curled next to his face in sleep, he looked human.

Draco stroked his fingers through the wild, black hair, brushed his knuckles down Harry's cheek, touched his thumb to Harry's lips for a moment. Harry's skin was warm and dry and soft against his fingers.

He realized he couldn't imagine looking into Harry's eyes without the slitted pupil. He couldn't imagine kissing him without threading his tongue between his fangs. He couldn't imagine Harry's hands on his body human.

“Abby!” he called quietly, and pulled tomorrow's folded robes from the back of the chair. He handed them to the house elf when she popped into existence next to the bed. “I need these modified. They need openings for my wings.”


~~~~~~

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The Tyger William Blake



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