Summary: Harry, Hermione, and Ron work together in Godric's Hollow to find and destroy Voldemort's horcruxes. With the unexpected arrival of Draco Malfoy, Harry has the burden of both the horcruxes and new worries weighing him down.
Author's Notes: Thank you to my betas, Berne and Becca for the edits and feedback, and to Ella Bane for the help and suggestions. And as often, Ovid should get the credit for inspiring my title.
The house is silent when Harry goes back. It is the same as ever and equally as different as the last time he's seen it. Thicker cobwebs thread the cracking cornices together, more doxies scurry underneath curtains when his Lumos charm shines near their tracks. Mostly, it feels empty. Harry feels empty inside, too, because this time there is no smiling face of Sirius waiting in the drawing room to see him.
He glances down at his feet. Kreacher scowls and mutters beside him—he's worse in this house. Mrs Black's portrait starts shrieking in the hallway and Kreacher runs up to her, sniveling and pleading, "Mistress, he made me! Mistress, the half-blood scum made Kreacher take him back here!"
"Shut up, Kreacher!" Harry yells. Kreacher shuts up, but his eyes bulge out like he's choking on his tongue. Mrs Black continues to holler at him. Harry pulls out his wand and zaps the portrait. It does little more than smoke, which makes her yell louder.
The kitchen is the quietest room in the house, not even the faintest whistling from the fireplace can be heard in here. Harry walks inside and opens all the cupboards with a flick of his wand. A saucer tips onto the floor and hits it with a crash. Harry winces.
"Kreacher," he calls out, "where is the locket?"
Kreacher rushes up to Harry. His eyes shift and watch the motions of the silent clock, the arms moving with abrupt jerks against thick, black roman numerals. "Kreacher doesn't know what Master is talking about," he says sweetly, rubbing his fingers together.
Harry grits his teeth and peers around the stove pipe into a dusty corner. A broom sits neglected there, stirring particles into the air as Harry lifts it to peer behind it. "You know exactly what I'm talking about. The one with the S. The one that opened. The one we found two years ago that we tossed into a rubbish bin. I know you did something with it. Tell me where it is."
Kreacher's ears flap down over the sides of his face. His smile spreads far enough to touch them. "Kreacher does not know what Master is talking about."
The cupboard Harry has opened slams shut and the dishes rattle inside it. He turns and points his wand at Kreacher's head. "Kreacher," he says slowly, "you will tell me where the locket is."
Harry smiles when the house-elf's mouth starts to open and he clutches at his throat. The words are strangled, but Harry can hear him say "With Mistress Narcissa, you filthy half-blood..."
"Shit," Harry mutters.
Coming here was useless. So his gut feeling was right—Mundungus didn't steal it and Kreacher knows what happened to it. Kreacher pulls his hands away from his neck and smirks, before a snap of his fingers and a crack in the air tells Harry he has disappeared once more.
He'd hoped this wasn't going to happen. He had hoped that the locket would be in Kreacher's hovel under the stove. Harry bends down and looks beneath it, but he sees little more there than some straggly lint balls and shriveled doxy shells. And possibly the scurrying of billywags behind a chewed-up jumper.
Nothing shiny. No framed photographs of Bellatrix. No goblets inscribed with the Black family crest and motto. No lockets.
"Shit shit shit," Harry says louder. His words gather in the thick air, laden with floating dust motes. Number Twelve Grimmauld Place smells of dereliction. He breathes in the dust and sneezes. The damp warmth and the scent of mould are heavy. Not even the loud rush and blaring horns of mid-afternoon city traffic can penetrate the walls here.
Harry wants to get out as fast as he can. The house screams of loneliness and Sirius, something unloved and unwanted. Harry certainly doesn't want it. He walks back through the kitchen, through the long, dim corridor and into the parlour. His footsteps creak across the sagging wooden floorboards.
"Hello?" a voice calls from the hallway.
"—FILTHY SCUM SOILING THE PURITY OF THIS HOUSE—"
"Shut it, you old bag," Harry tells Mrs Black. She continues to shout, but loses her steam after a few more insults when Harry ignores her and walks by, deeper into the hallway. It is lined with fraying tapestries, cracked oil paintings and mirrors, framed with dust that reflect a muffled version of himself when his eyes glance around.
"Hello?" Harry sees Phineas Nigellus peering out of his portrait. When Harry comes into view, he nods his head slightly and says, "So terrible, for our house to come to this, don't you think?"
Harry says nothing.
"I've a message from Dumbledore," Phineas Nigellus says. Harry turns to him immediately. "I knew that would catch your attention," he says, smirking.
"From Dumbledore, but-"
"I was just having a lovely chat with his portrait at Hogwarts," Phineas Nigellus says. The portrait picks up his hat and brushes the dust off the top. "Horribly dusty in here, isn't it? Would you mind scolding the house-elves for me? And tell the last one he added too much varnish to the canvas. My face cracks in this heat and it hurts terribly."
"What about Dumbledore?" Harry insists.
"So impatient wizards are these days," Phineas Nigellus sighs heavily, "His portrait told me to tell you, if I ever did have a chance to speak with Harry Potter, that is, that he's very sorry you have decided not to come back to Hogwarts this September."
Harry starts to frown. "That's it?" Even a message about acid pops would be better than that. "That's it?"
Phineas Nigellus shrugs. "We were having a most wonderful conversation about scrying bowls, you see. I used to have one—oh it was a beautiful obsidian one, as dark as my hair was when I was younger—and Dumbledore's portrait said they were most magnificent objects if one could still buy them and that he was very sorry you weren't coming back to Hogwarts, because he could have shown you how to use one."
Harry realizes he has stopped breathing. He sucks in the dusty air and coughs. Then he stares at Phineas Nigellus, who is scratching his nose. "A scrying bowl?" he asks. "Dumbledore wanted to show me how to use one?"
"I suppose," Phineas Nigellus says. "They don't sell them anymore: they were banned, oh, what did Dippet tell me when he was in office...oh, yes, they were banned just before Grindelwald was defeated. He had a penchant for them, you see."
"Phineas Nigellus," Harry says loudly, interrupting him. Phineas Nigellus looks up as Harry says "Thanks" and rushes off back down the corridor, past Mrs Black again, who takes a long moment before she starts shouting at him.
Harry steps into the fireplace and pulls a small pouch from his trouser pocket. He unties it, takes a fistful of powder and shouts, "Godric's Hollow!" before Number Twelve Grimmauld Place is engulfed by a verdant light and he tumbles across a linoleum floor back home.
A chair scrapes across the kitchen floor and Hermione steps into the room. She offers Harry a hand and helps pull him up. Her eyes search out his, then she smiles wistfully as she says "Not there, then?"
"I didn't think I saw Mum throw it out!" Ron says, stepping into the room. "But...it was a long time ago and-"
"It's at the Malfoys'," Harry says. "It has to be there. Kreacher was going on about Narcissa Malfoy. He knows something and I'd reckon it's that the Malfoys have it now."
"Shit," Ron says, shaking his head. "Fucking hell, how do we get it now?"
"It might have been destroyed," Hermione says. Her smile is forced. Harry, for one, is not convinced. "If RAB—if he really was Regulus Black— managed to succeed, it might well be collecting dust at the Malfoys'. I don't think it was the locket Mrs Weasley found two years ago. I think the Malfoys could have had our locket all this time."
"I'm not willing to chance it," Harry says.
"How do we sneak into the Malfoys' to steal it back?" Ron asks. He flops down onto the ratty ottoman and crosses his legs. "I can ask Dad where Malfoy lives—I think he has it on record somewhere at the Ministry."
Hermione pushes Ron's legs away and sits down next to him. "We can't Apparate in, Ron," she says. "Besides, Harry isn't licensed yet."
Harry starts to smile at Hermione. "I...er...don't think that really matters, Hermione," he says. Hermione smiles back at him and shakes her head.
"Well, don't let the Ministry catch you!" she warns. "That still doesn't answer how we'd get past wards. Or find this locket—for all we know, Malfoy wears it around his neck."
"He's right poncy enough to do that," Ron mutters.
"Ron," Harry says, "Floo your Dad tonight and ask him for the information. Hermione, you look into spells to unlock house wards."
"And you, Harry?" Hermione asks as she folds her arms over her chest.
"I want to look up scrying bowls. D'you still have that indexing book on charms, Hermione?"
Hermione nods. "It's in my bedroom. On the desk."
Harry thanks Hermione and goes upstairs, taking the narrow steps two at a time. The house in Godric's Hollow is small, but with Mrs Weasley and Ginny's help cleaning it a couple weeks back, it doesn't smell much like rubbish anymore, except when it rains. Harry wonders if his parents lived in a similar house to this, all those years ago. There are hardly three streets in the village, all lined with boxy, stone cottages like this.
Harry cracks open the door to Hermione's room. He notices the pair of Ron's underpants, half-hidden under the rumpled sheets. He bites his lip on a rising smile. The room is littered with Ron's things—there, a Martin Miggs comic, there, an extendable ear from Fred and George's shop, there, a sock with more holes than Ron has toes.
It's a good thing Mrs Weasley hasn't visited since last Saturday. If she knew where Ron was sleeping—certainly not the room she cleaned out for him—Harry wonders what she would say about it. Insist Ron come home, maybe. Or worse yet, insist Harry be their chaperone.
He pushes aside some parchment scrolls Hermione has laying on the desk. He picks up the tome and carts it out of the room, closing the door most of the way behind him. It's a heavy book, the cover and pages are water-stained around the bottom, but it has been invaluable. Harry makes a note to tell Hermione to thank her parents for giving the book to her as a present for her last birthday.
Harry spreads the book across the kitchen table. He flips through to the 's' section, thumbing down the pages slowly until he finds the entry.
Scrying bowls: Used in divination. Associated with dark wizards. Commonly found in jade, moonstone and, more rarely, obsidian. Not in use since 1944 when all registered bowls were destroyed as per act 73, legislation 29b of the 1944 sitting of the Ministry of Magic War Counsel. For use, see appendix c under 'Scrying Bowls'.
Harry frowns. Hermione leans over his shoulder, reading the words along with him. "What's this about, Harry? The only scrying bowls I've ever seen were at a Renaissance Faire when I was ten. They had a 'witch' there," Hermione snorts. "And she was complete with 'love potions' and voodoo dolls, too!"
"Phineas Nigellus' portrait mentioned something about them to me," Harry says. "It's worth a shot to look them up anyway." He turns the pages to the appendix c and finds the entry.
Scrying bowls, use: Cleanse bowl appropriately. Fill with pure water and add the horsehair of a centaur, one per use. Stir deosil five times with wand to see what was while chanting three times what you wish to see. Stir widdershins three times with wand to see what may be while chanting five times what you hope to see. To close, remove wand from water and tap edge four times with Finite Incantatem.
"What a load of rubbish!" Hermione scoffs. She closes the book on Harry's fingers. "Harry, that's nothing but divination nonsense! Phineas Nigellus was pulling your leg if he was talking about scrying bowls. Besides," she says, tugging her hair from its ponytail and fixing it into a new one, "besides, everyone knows scrying bowls have been banned since the Second World War. I don't think you could find one unless you searched a dark wizard's attic!"
"Maybe the Malfoys have one," Ron says. Hermione hits him in the arm lightly and shakes her head.
"Maybe," Harry says. Or maybe dark wizards sell them still... "It was worth a look, anyway."
"Help me look up wards, Harry," Hermione says. She takes the index off the table and plunks it on an empty chair, picking another large book off the kitchen counter. "I've put sticky notes on the pages we ought to focus on. I think the Malfoys probably have a Janus Lock charm—that's one a lot of wizards have as a primary ward, as well as some others I've never heard of before, like," Hermione sticks out her tongue as she turns the pages, "hah! Like this one, here. Doesn't it sound like something they'd have?"
Harry reads something about disembowelment and setting off alarms silently. "Er...yeah, sounds like them." But he can't help but also think of when he can slip away with his Cloak and Apparate to Knockturn Alley. He doesn't like to do this to Hermione and Ron, but he's not convinced that Dumbledore and Phineas Nigellus were talking about scrying bowls for nothing.
He and Ron spend the afternoon helping Hermione, which mostly consists of nodding and agreeing when she comments about this ward or that kind of shielding spell modified for homes. "I know the Malfoys live in Wiltshire," she tells them, "so I assume it's close to Stonehenge. If that is so, then we ought to also expect some sort of ingrained natural magic, possibly arranged in cyclical layers with wards."
"Or," Ron says with a yawn, "we could just arrange to kidnap Malfoy and bribe our way in."
"Ron," Hermione says with a groan, "we could but I don't think he's stupid enough to fall for something like that."
"Not if Snape might be with him still," Harry says. The thought of Snape makes the lump in his stomach grow heavier. Under the table, he balls his fist as tight as he can. If Snape's with Malfoy, Harry will be ready. He imagines being the one this time, the one with the two words on his tongue as Snape cowers underneath him. Harry doesn't know if Dumbledore would want vengeance, but Harry reckons a great wizard like him deserves it.
"Hermione," Ron moans sometime later, "it's too hot to be thinking about this. Besides, I'm hungry."
Hermione sighs. She lifts her arm from the table and it peels off with the sound of a suction cup. She cringes. "All right." She slams the book shut and places it on the chair on top of her charms index. "Do we have any of that casserole left from Mrs Weasley?"
Harry opens the fridge. Pickles. A half-full pitcher of milk. Some cheese that looks a little green around the edges. And a pot full of something. Harry sniffs it. "Smells all right still." He puts it on the stove and turns a hob on.
"We'll have to go to the grocer's tomorrow," Hermione says.
Harry stills. Then, casually, he says, "I'll go, Hermione."
Hermione shrugs. Ron lays his head on the table and drums his fingers. Inside, Harry smiles.
In the middle of Wales, there really isn't much to do. Harry, Ron and Hermione eat dinner around the table, then pile the dishes in the sink full of stacks of plates and cups and soggy tea bags buzzing with flies. Hermione suggests that one of them do the dishes, but Ron suggests he and Harry play some wizarding chess. They leave a grumbling Hermione to it.
Harry is bored after a round of chess, Ron winning by a clear margin when his king beheads Harry's surviving knight. He wanders out of the back door and sits down on the stone porch. The sun hovers low over the surrounding mountains, streaming gold and amber onto the tops of the trees. The crickets still chirp loudly, having come out to play.
It's a perfect night, if Harry thinks about it. He can only hope that in the morning things go as well for him.
Harry dreams about a gold locket, wrapped around his wrist, coiled like a snake. He tries to look at it, to pry it away from his skin, but when he squints, the locket vanishes from his arm. He wakes come morning, and his wrist is red and sore where it had lain.
He sits up groggily and rubs his eyes before reaching for his glasses. It's early enough that the birds chirp in the bushes outside. Faint snores emanate from Hermione's room and when Harry passes by the door, open a crack, he can see Ron's feet hanging off the end of Hermione's bed.
Hermione is sitting in the kitchen, her hands wrapped around a mug of tea. "Good morning," she mumbles.
"Good morning," Harry answers, just as gravelly. He ruffles his hair at the back, where it is messiest. The insects buzz in long rhythmic hums. Harry can feel the warmth of the summer sifting through the open windows as he walks up to them. He pulls back the curtains and peers out. The street is quiet; the milkman hasn't even driven by in his lorry to drop off bottles on doorsteps.
"I've made a grocery list," Hermione says. "Just a few things." She hands Harry a list that fills a good half-page of lined paper. "Oh, and Ron was asking about peaches, too, if you can find them. I didn't know if they were out yet or not."
Harry folds the paper and tucks it into his pajama trousers pocket. He pads back up the stairs and into the bathroom. His skin has the vague reminder of a hot night of tossing and turning in his damp sheets. He's slightly clammy all over and he's glad when he steps into the shower and feels the first rush of cool water sluice across his chest.
The soap is gummy in the holder. He smears it across his skin and dips his face into the water spray. Water creeps into his nostrils, into his ears, everywhere. He thinks about scrying bowls as he lathers his chest. Maybe he's wrong about them, maybe they won't help him at all, but Harry can't but help reckon that it must mean something if Dumbledore wanted to teach him about them.
But maybe, maybe it was just another little thing Dumbledore would have liked for him to have learned. Harry wonders how much Dumbledore knew about magic, and about life, that he was never shown. He remembers the green light from Snape's wand and the echo of Dumbledore's words float across his mind. He grits his teeth.
When his hand dips down to his waist, still soapy, he tries not to think about Snape. His fingers dip along through his hair to grip his shaft. Harry leans back against the slick tiles and closes his eyes, imagining Ginny's face. She smiles at him, her eyes crinkling in the corners, the way she used to before they would kiss sometimes. Harry misses the way it felt to hold her—to wrap his arms around her back, to slide his hands down to her waist and under her shirts, to cup her breasts with his palms, to feel her nipples harden as her breath hitched.
He groans and starts to tug at his cock as it hardens. Outside, he can hear Ron talking to Hermione, but the words are lost over the sound of the water, as are his moans.
The memory of Ginny whispers in his ear, her hot breath making him shiver. He saw her just last week, when she and Mrs Weasley Flooed in with a casserole and some fresh baked rolls. She had smiled at him then, too, her eyes catching the light as she winked at Harry. Harry wanted to walk out with her behind the cottage and kiss her, maybe stick his hand under her tight-fitting t-shirt and press her body against the stone wall.
But he didn't.
Now, he is left with the ghost of her haunting his mind as he comes in his fist. Harry watches his come swirl down the drain as his cock grows limp once more. Harry misses Ginny, he thinks, but deeper still he wonders if he just misses someone to hold and to kiss and to touch, instead.
Ron has Hermione and he has no one here. He tries not to feel lonely. He does have his friends here, but sometimes in the middle of the night, when the village is still and quiet and he hasn't quite nodded off to sleep, he's envious of his friends in the bedroom next to his.
He towels himself off and wraps the damp towel around his waist before walking off into his room and closing the door. It is stuffier in the room than it was last night. Harry tries another cooling charm, but it does little more than rattle a few scrolls he has lying about on the floor. He budges the window open an inch or two and sighs.
The Invisibility Cloak lies pooled on the floor, too, amidst cast-off underpants and socks and a rumpled t-shirt, which he promptly pulls over his head. If he weren't going out, he might be tempted to walk around in his underpants like he did the day before yesterday. Ron, no doubt, is already doing that. Hermione doesn't say much to either of them about it. Harry reckons she's used to it now, and that she probably doesn't mind if Ron does it anyway.
The only pair of shorts Harry can find are the ones with the spaghetti sauce caked on the thigh. He sniffs them and they seem all right, so he pulls them on over a pair of underpants (possibly clean). He folds up his Invisibility Cloak and slips it under a fold in a dark robe he rolls up under his arm.
"Are you not having breakfast first, Harry?" Hermione asks when he has his hand on the front door doorknob.
He shrugs and picks the piece of toast off the plate she holds out to him. Hermione puts a hand on her hip and says, "You shouldn't skip breakfast, Harry."
Ron snickers from the kitchen. Hermione turns and glares at him. "Well, it's true," she says, narrowing her eyes, "it's the most important meal of the day and—Harry, are you off then? Do you have my list?"
Harry nods. "Yeah."
"I hope the grocer's in town has everything. They didn't last week when I wanted some decaf Earl Grey tea," Hermione sighs heavily. Then she stares at Harry when his eyes drift to his feet. "You're not Apparating, are you?" she warns. "Harry!"
"I just want to check something out," he says quickly. "I'll get your stuff. No one is going to attack me." Reluctantly, Harry pulls his Invisibility Cloak out to show Hermione. She frowns, but doesn't say too much more except to remind him to call her with his Patronus if he runs into anything.
Harry walks into the garden, hardly more than a step or two. He tosses his dark robes over his head and as soon as his head peeps through them, his Cloak overtop. He glances over both shoulders, making sure none of the neighbours in their gingerbread cottages can see him. No faces stare out in shock from windows.
Harry squeezes his eyes shut and wills himself to think of Diagon Alley, remembering the three D's. Destination. Determination. Deliberation. His stomach starts to heave when the invisible bars tighten around his chest, but sooner than he can gasp for air does he open his eyes to the bustle of people brushing past him in a crowded street.
Harry looks down. Ten fingers. He wiggles his toes. They all seem there. Glasses—yes, he can see. "Good," he whispers and falls into a throng of people, all rushing down the main drag of Diagon Alley. Their voices are more subdued now than ever. The attack in Scotland—wild dogs bite ten in a surburb of Glasgow—even that was reported in the Muggle newspapers. Here, everyone knows the truth—
Harry hopes Lupin is fine with Tonks. She owled him three weeks ago Friday and the parchment was delivered by something that Hermione looked up in a bird book to be a Canadian goose. If Lupin and Tonks are in Canada hiding, maybe looking for Death Eaters there too, Harry hopes the atmosphere isn't as tense as it is in England. The Ministry rounded up only one of the werewolves in the incident. Ron said his Dad heard the werewolf had never been to Scotland, let alone was there for the attacks. The man had been in St. Mungo's, having been just bitten two months past himself.
Rufus Scrimgeour's face appears on a flyer stuck to the side wall of a shop Harry walks by. He scowls at the Minister. "Bloody bastard," he mouths. Too many innocent wizards are being blamed in order to satisfy the public outcry for action.
It is hard to keep up with the wizards rushing past him, oblivious to the seemingly blank gap in the crowd that Harry squeezes into. Harry ducks into corners and alleyways and steps into a low open sewer to get past them as fast as he can. One witch even bumps into him and whips around with her wand, only to see empty space where Harry is, staring at her behind a veil of diaphanous cloth.
Everyone is paranoid. Harry, though, feels quite all right.
Fred and George's shop is nearer the end of the street, close to Gringott's. The coins Harry has with him in his money bag Bill gave him, just before the wedding last month. He hasn't spent more than a couple sickles and it is weighty on his side.
The shop door opens and closes with a regular pulse of customers. Harry slips inside past one when the door opens and he darts into a close corner behind the doorway before pulling off his cloak and stepping out proper.
George—or so Harry thinks—glances up from the till where he was chatting to a saleswitch. "Harry!" he calls out, striding up to Harry and shaking his hand firmly, "How is our favourite investor?"
"All right, thanks," Harry says. "Look, George—can I talk with you in your office?"
George's eyebrows rise as he smiles widely. "Of course, of course," he says, pushing Harry between customers, bumping into as many as he can. In the back of the shop, George opens a door, flicks his wand at a lamp, and closes the door right behind them.
He grins. "How can I help you, Harry?"
Harry glances about the room. It is stacked floor-to-ceiling with boxes. Some buzz and whistle, others sag precariously overhead. Nothing is labeled. Harry leans close and says in a low tone, "Is it you who manufactures Metamorph Medals?"
George pats Harry on the shoulder. "If you are looking to get a girlfriend, Harry, you don't need a Metamorph Medal to woo them with a disguise."
"That's not what I need it for," Harry says. His cheeks flush as George continues to waggle his eyebrows. "Do you have any that actually work?"
"For you Harry?" George sweeps his hand and a box flies out onto a table. George opens it and pulls out a shining bronze medallion on a thin cord. "This is a new model of them. Not on the market, yet, except to a few privileged customers willing to pay the extra price. But for you? Free of charge." George drops the medal into Harry's hand. It is lighter than Harry would have expected, and much smaller, hardly more than the size of a locket.
Harry looks up at George. "And does this work?"
George shrugs. "Aside from a bit of a neck rash? This model is far superior from the original version."
Harry nods. "Thanks, George. Tell Fred I said Hullo." Harry tucks the medal around his neck, then tosses his cloak on once more. Fred opens the door and hums to himself as he walks out of the room, seemingly alone.
Harry can feel his face contorting under the cloak, but he hasn't a mirror anywhere near and there are too many people in the shop to try to find one. Besides, Harry reckons Fred and George would have only gag mirrors, ones that squirted water or made him look like he had makeup on.
Whatever the guise is, Harry hopes it works.
Knockturn Alley is little more than a left turn, then a second left again away. Harry passes under a crumbling archway into a side alley. He glances around him, then steps into a dark corner between two dripping buildings. He pulls his cloak off and shrinks it, before tucking it into his pocket.
His fingers feel out his face. It feels...different, no doubt. His nose is smaller by a bit, and his cheekbones higher. The stubble on his face from a day or two of neglecting to shave feels coarser and splatters down his chin and neck more than his own. And his eyes— his eyes ache behind his glasses and the world has taken on a slightly blurred quality. He pulls them off his face and tucks the frames aside. He feels naked with his glasses there. He feels exposed. But he can see much better now.
He takes a tentative look out of the corner of his eye. He smiles, his body starting to turn as he looks, when instead he no longer has to worry about the lack of sight at the far side of his eyes where his lenses stop.
And his scar. Harry's fingertips search out the faint rise in his forehead, but nothing is there. He smoothes his fingers along his skin, double-checking before he is satisfied enough with the disguise. The medal hangs around his neck, under his robes. Harry scratches at a spot on his neck, just above the collar. He feels hotter suddenly, but the palpable damp heat in the air doesn't help matters either.
Puddles of sludge stain the flagstone road as Harry walks along the edges of buildings, trying to search out the sign for Borgin and Burke's without looking too obvious. Hags with warts and figures in heavy, shaded robes lurk and loom around him. He pulls his own hood further over his eyes and turns his mouth into a scowl for show. He's no actor; it will have to do.
The deeper he walks into Knockturn Alley, the colder and darker it becomes. No longer does the sun shine weakly through heavy London smog. Now, it has been replaced with buildings that dip and seem to touch each other, across the street. Now it has been replaced with rafters of hanging, drying, sagging furs and wriggling skins of things Harry hopes he doesn't recognize. The air smells heavily of rotten cabbage and carrion, sickly floral perfume of ladies in black veils and vulture-topped hats, musky incense of burning herbs and boiling cauldrons behind oak doors of shops and stalls.
No one speaks. A heap of rags moves across the alley, nearly bumping into Harry. A face grins up at him, teeth flashing white behind a grubby face, neither male nor female, neither alive nor dead. Rodents scurry and squeak in the blackest corners, doors open with resounding creaks as shoppers shuffle by, their robes swishing and their shoes clicking. Here, a cackle, there, a muffled voice, a squawking owl, but nothing more.
And there, right above and to the left, hangs a swinging sign with the names Harry most wants to see. He steps to the side and opens the shop door to Borgin and Burke's.
Nothing has changed here since he has last been inside, not even the dried, shriveled heads stacked behind glass cases. His footsteps trail a snaking line through the dusty grime coating the floor. The shop seems darker than in Knockturn Alley and an eerie silence drips from the walls.
Harry tries not to touch anything. There, in a velvet-lined box, an opal necklace, with huge, swirling colours than shine different ways when Harry steps by it, just like the one Malfoy passed on to Katie last year. Harry wonders if it is the same one, if it somehow found a way back here to be sold and used again. Another victim. Price, eleven hundred galleons.
It really is no more than a junk shop of Dark Arts goods. Tusks and teeth litter shelves, boxes of wood, dark and small and gilded are stacked in corners. There is a cabinet, half-open, that reveals rows of glass vials, cobalt and green and black and clear, all filled with fluids and stopped with wax seals. No labels are needed—they all seep poison.
"Hello?" Harry calls out. He knows what he wants, yes, but not what to look for.
A man pops out behind the counter, out of no where, it seems. A bell chimes and he smiles, his rotten-toothed grin as slick as his greased hair. "May I help you, sir?" he says.
Harry turns his head—there, in a dusty mirror propped against a cabinet, he can see a face staring back at him. Middle-aged, perhaps, dark hair, high cheeks and upturned nose, a bit like Sirius, maybe. A bit like a Black. No wonder Borgin wants to be of service to him. Harry can feel the disguise pulling at his skin, he can feel the magic wiggling under his flesh, all crawling of a pureblooded wizard's visage.
He leans on the counter with a burst of confidence, and tries his best smirk. "I am looking to buy a scrying bowl," he drawls. Harry thinks of how ridiculous his voice must sound, but Borgin buys it, for his eyes widen a little and he tells Harry to wait, before he vanishes behind a door in the back and the sounds of chairs scraping and boxes moving tapers out into the shop.
"We have several, sir, that might be of interest to you," Borgin says when he returns. "Some with more provenance than others. Some with far better, higher qualities..."
A bell chimes and Harry turns around in time to see the shop door open. A man steps through, his face hidden by a hood. Borgin raises his brows and his face makes another grimacing smile when he turns to Harry and says, "Sir?"
Harry watches the other man walk slowly through the shop, skirting around dark tables and glass shelving, past the poison cabinet, close enough to him that Harry can smell the damp wool of the man's cloak and the faint musk of pricey cologne. Pureblood no doubt, Harry thinks. The man stinks of it.
And the man stares at Harry from behind his hood. Harry realizes this and turns back round to Borgin quickly, willing himself to be as composed and as nonchalant as possible.
The galleons in his pocket are heavy, but probably not heavy enough for what he truly wants. Harry says, "Bring me an obsidian one, if you have it," Borgin nods vehemently and disappears as Harry taps his fingers on the glass counter, his rhythmic rap impatient and hurried.
In the mirror's reflection, he watches the other man itch his jaw under his hood, just the slightest, fastest motion, gone before Harry notices it much. His own neck starts to mimic the other man's casual motion. The skin at his collar writhes from the Metamorph Medal, pulsing with a sensation that Harry fights to keep from itching it raw. He curls his fingers into a fist and bites his lip, but his neck twitches and strains further.
Borgin sets a bowl on the counter. "This piece, as you can see, is made of a single piece of obsidian from the caves of Sumatra. A fine specimen, sir, do you see how it shines?" He waves his hand over the bowl and it tips toward the dust-speckled window. The light swirls around the smooth edges and collects in the centre. A black whirlpool.
"And how much is it?" Harry asks. He tips his head and looks vaguely at his fingernails.
"Seven hundred, sir. But for you, six seventy five." Borgin gives Harry an oily smile. The wizard behind Harry coughs. His neck itches and his fingers ache to scratch the spot right above his collar red raw.
Harry doesn't think he has anywhere near as much in his moneybag. He unties the string and takes out a stack of galleons. Borgin's eyes shine as much as the bowl as Harry digs for more and more coins. The bag doesn't seem to end, because, there, another fistful of gold, then another and another.
Bill charmed his bag. He has a direct hand in his account at Gringott's. Harry wants to rush over to the bank and shake Bill's hand until he breaks it, he's so grateful.
"That ought to do it?" Harry asks, staring at the pile of gold on the counter. Borgin nods and smiles and wraps up the bowl in silk layers, then places it in a box, which he shrinks to the size of a jewelry box for Harry.
"A pleasure doing business with you, sir," he insists as Harry starts to back up to leave, "Always a pleasure."
As he opens the door, Harry can hear the sound of the other man speaking at long last to Borgin in a low voice. His words are muffled, but Harry can't help but think how familiar he sounds. He steps onto the alleyway and ducks off to the side, next to a rickety side stall with hanging plants suspended above a sleeping crone, whose hands are clamped tight on her wand.
Harry pushes his hood aside and scratches furiously at his neck. He sighs, relieved, and scratches at his collar some more. Skin chafes under his rough fingernails in the most refreshing way. He is eager to Apparate back to Godric's Hollow and test the scrying bowl out, to see if it was really worth the galleons paid, or if Hermione was right and it's nothing more than a worthless piece of divination hocus pocus.
Across the street, a witch in long indigo robes walks by brusquely. A house elf trails behind her, carting a basket larger than itself. The witch glares at the elf, the deep lines of her face contorting into glee as the house elf whimpers.
House elf. Kreacher. Malfoy. Brilliant! Harry knows what to do to break into Malfoy Manor now. He smiles, pleased with himself, and hurries out of Knockturn Alley, following the increasing streams of light that filter through from Diagon Alley.
Being as it is impolite to Apparate in the middle of Diagon Alley, and being that technically it's illegal for Harry to Apparate at all, he steps aside when he reaches the familiar, light-filled street into the side of a shop front. He shifts his eyes and notices the man from Borgin and Burke's skulking not too far off, scratching his neck. He holds a small box, shaped like a treasure chest, tucked under his arm. The wizard's hood falls away from his face, but Harry doesn't recognize him any more than any other wizard on the street here. The hundreds of faces blur into one unfamiliar mass.
But the man, his neck is red and pulsing, speckled with a rash that he keeps scratching with one hand. And his gaze, it shifts from left to right, then left again as he walks hurriedly down Diagon Alley off into a dip in the street past Gringott's.
A rash on his neck...
Harry follows the man, his internal Sneakoscope blaring loudly. The wizard moves fast and he moves carefully, navigating the rushing crowds with ease as Harry starts to fall behind. There are so many other wizards, all wearing dark robes like that, like Harry, that he can only pray he is still on the tail of the right wizard.
The man turns around once, very briefly, and his dark eyes flash under his shadowed hood. Harry knows the man saw him, for he starts to move faster, weaving in and out, darting to the side here, then—
Harry stands in the middle of the street. A wizard bumps into his back and growls, "Watch it!" A witch brushes his side and sends him a dirty look when he doesn't budge for her. Amazing how they act around him when there is no scar in the middle of his forehead.
"Fuck," he mutters. Harry has no idea where the other wizard has gone. There is no sign of him, and if there was, Harry wouldn't know. Throngs of wizards, constantly moving, eager to be finished here as fast as they can, they distort the world like heavy London traffic. "Fuck," he says again, and starts to turn round to find a decent spot to Apparate from.
Until he sees a small archway, hidden by a sloping roof of a stony building, tucked aside and unnoticed. He walks into the archway, which echoes the dripping damp summer and dulls the sounds of countless footsteps in the street. It is dark, here, and smells of sewage and rotten fish, like the Thames in July on a scorching day, the faint residue of mildew, too.
Harry slips up against the side of the archway, hidden by a heavy shadow. He grins to himself when, in the courtyard the archway opens onto, he sees a dark figure emerge from behind a pile of wooden crates, itching his neck.
He can practically hear the man's dark mark vibrating under his skin. Harry doesn't think the wizard can be anything but a Death Eater. And a foolish one, at that. He pulls his wand out and steps into the courtyard.
"Did you think no one would notice that you've got a disguise?" he asks the man loudly.
The man makes a noise, not quite a gasp, not quite a hiss. Something clinks to the ground at his feet. His wand is whipped out near as fast as he's standing up tall, right across from Harry, and pointing his wand right back at him.
"And you?" the man asks. "Do you think no one would notice yours?"
Harry knows that voice. He's heard it a thousand times before, he knows it, and yet he can't place it. The face isn't right. A haggard man, middling years, maybe, nothing exceptional about his appearance save for the bushy eyebrows that waggle as he speaks.
The man starts to circle the courtyard and move closer, like a cat stalking a mouse. Harry circles the man in return, determined to play the part of the hunter, too.
"Are you afraid to show yourself to anyone but your lord?" Harry asks. The wizard's face curls up into a grimace. Harry smiles. "I knew you were a Death Eater. What were you doing in Borgin and Burke's?"
The grimace on the man's face is frozen and his eyes widen slightly, revealing pupils shot with red. His eyes glance down to his left forearm, then back to Harry, whose wand is firm. The wizard's wand, however, shakes ever so slightly.
"Potter?" he asks.
Harry's mouth falls open. So does the man's when he realizes he was right.
And then, then, the man is gone in a half-moment. Harry flicks his wrist and his wand shoots sparks at the empty air where the man had stood. He swears and stomps his feet once. How did the man know him? Surely his voice was-
He shakes his head, knowing he needs to flee as soon as possible, before the wizard can return with other Death Eaters, before his trail is any warmer than a cauldron of Pepper-Up Potion. He takes a step and plants his feet, but before he closes his eyes—Destination—his trainer catches something on the ground.
He leans down and picks it up. His pulse skips a beat when he recognizes it. A heavy gold locket with an S inscribed in the middle.
The locket is warm from the other wizard's hand when Harry clenches his fist around it. He squeezes his eyes shut and feels his chest squeeze and his breathing stop, then the world rushes by like a storm, whipping his hair and robes around him. His eyes open and he's back in the yard of the house at Godric's Hollow.
Harry's hand is on the doorknob, twisting, when he realizes the voice.
Harry is sitting in his room, his feet tucked under his legs, when Hermione raps the door and walks in. He can hardly sit still, his mind and body shake with the thrill of serendipity. It can't be true that he just found the horcrux like that. It's too fateful.
"Do you want me to put the groceries in the fridge, Harry?" she asks. Her eyes search the room for bags, but when she sees Harry flush and mutter an apology, she only frowns. "I'll have Ron go get some from town, then. What were you doing, Harry? You were gone for a long time not to have bought any groceries," she says, lecturing him with a loud tone.
Harry says nothing to Hermione. He can't bring himself to tell Hermione just yet, he can barely believe it himself, even with the locket pressing through the pocket of his trousers, physical and real. He brushes past her and walks downstairs, to where Ron is tying his trainers. A twenty pound note—Hermione's, no doubt—sits on the table, along with a new list of groceries. Ron looks up at Harry.
Harry drops the locket from his fist. It dangles in the air, suspended by the chain looped between his fingers. He holds his breath as Ron and Hermione's eyes go wide.
"Is that?" Ron asks, watching the locket swing back and forth.
"How did you—oh, Harry!" Hermione gasps. "But—how?"
They sit down in the parlour and Harry tells them both. Hermione curls into Ron's arms, shaking her head and making vague exclamations of surprise and reproach when he tells her he followed someone—Malfoy. He doesn't tell Hermione or Ron just yet about the Metamorph Medal he's stashed in his trunk. Or the scrying bowl he purchased. Right now, he's thinking about horcruxes.
"Why would Malfoy drop it, though?" Ron asks. "Why would You Know Who even trust him with it?"
"Perhaps," Hermione says, "You Know Who doesn't know Malfoy had it."
"That still doesn't answer why Malfoy would have it. Or drop it."
"I don't know if he realized he dropped it," Harry says slowly. The locket sits on a table, watched by all of them. It looks as harmless and junky as the first time Harry saw it, but he can almost feel the raw power within it. His fingers hum when he touches it, and he feels a little light-headed. "But Kreacher said Narcissa Malfoy had it, so she must have been in contact with Malfoy and Snape since then. Maybe she's helping them hide out and get back to Voldemort."
Ron and Hermione wince at the name. Harry sits back, chewing on his bottom lip as he thinks about it. "They must have a good network of allies," Harry goes on. "And I'd reckon some of them know we're looking for objects, maybe not about the horcruxes themselves, but certain thinks associated with Death Eaters and Voldemort."
"Do we even know if RAB destroyed the horcrux within it?" Hermione asks.
Harry says, "We can only find out." He taps the locket with the tip of his wand and says, "Alohamora!" He wedges what little fingernails he has into the tiny slit and tries to pry the locket open, but it doesn't move. He taps it again, twice, but still nothing.
"I don't think Voldemort would have it open with a simple spell like that," Hermione says. "Though I wonder..." her eyes drifted off toward the curtains. Outside, a car whizzes by, rattling and spewing thick exhaust. "If the original location of the locket as a horcrux was in a potion, then perhaps another potion is what we need to open it again."
"I don't know where that cave is," Harry says. "Wales, somewhere, but without Dumbledore-" his voice hesitates on the name. His death is still raw, it still makes Harry's throat catch when he thinks of that night, that awful night, of forcing Dumbledore to drink that potion, of the Inferi that float in and out of his dreams still, of the flashing green light from Snape's wand. He swallows the lump forming in his throat. "Without Dumbledore I don't think I could find it again."
Hermione shakes her head. She unwraps her arms from around Ron's waist and stands up, pacing across the wooden flooring. "No, I don't think we need the same potion. There are unbreakable potions, and unlocking potions. I think that since we have the locket outside of the original binding potion—whatever it was, exactly—I think all we need is an unlocking solution. They're not too hard to make."
"How soon can you brew one?" Harry asks.
Hermione considers. "Maybe a couple days? I think I have all the ingredients here in my potions kit. It's not hard, just a lot of stirring once it thickens after the third boil."
Harry nods. Hermione rummages in the kitchen and starts to pull out a large, cast-iron cauldron. Ron, however, filches the twenty-note from the table. "You start that Hermione," he says, "and I'll get lunch. Want to come, Harry?"
Harry shrugs and says he's all right.
Hermione stays up well past midnight with the potion. It bubbles away in the kitchen as she hums and chops roots that scorch and sizzle when she drops them in, one by one. Harry watches a football match on a grainy television with Ron. It's not Quidditch, but it's more exciting than watching Hermione brew, or reading another one of the back-breaking heavy tomes she has owled to the cottage every week on Fridays. Charms this and History of Transmogrification that. "Bloody boring," Ron says, and Harry agrees.
The clock chimes one and Hermione, yawning, trudges up the stairs. Ron is close behind her, as ever. Harry is grateful that at least they wait until they're upstairs and the door is shut before he starts to hear the faintest sounds of murmured words and slippery snogging. He reaches over to the telly and turns the volume up a notch. It doesn't help much and he's tired too.
He brushes his teeth and takes a piss and shuts himself in his bedroom, after switching off all the electric lights. His wand glows bright atop his bed as he sits down next to it and peels off his clothes, balling his socks up and rolling his underpants before he tosses them all into a growing musty-smelling pile.
The night is warm, so he lies back on top of his sheets, dressed only in a pair of thin cotton pajama trousers. He tries not to think of Snape, of horcruxes and Malfoy sneaking around. Instead, he remembers the way Malfoy's wand shook, just before Dumbledore was killed, he remembers seeing Malfoy's fat tears hitting the sink basin in the boy's loo. He doesn't know why Malfoy dropped the locket— if indeed he had meant to, which Harry isn't so sure about—but now that he has, Harry can't find a reason to need to sneak into Malfoy Manor anymore.
And he thinks he regrets that. He wanted to confront Mrs Malfoy and Snape and Malfoy, too. He wanted to shout at them and whip his wand and have something happen to them all, something they all deserve for helping kill Sirius, for helping kill Dumbledore, for causing the Ministry to blame innocent witches and wizards in their stead. His belly flops over when he thinks on this. It gurgles and growls— Ron's cooking has nothing on Mrs Weasley's. He flips onto his side and balls himself, foetus-like, in the hopes the feeling will pass.
Harry dreams of Ginny, laughing at him and flipping her red hair in the wind, before leaning in to kiss him. She smells of a rose garden, of the thick, heady, woodsy scents of the greenhouse where they snuck around one night to snog in peace. He tells her he misses her, but she shakes her head and her eyes are gone, changing, morphing into pupil-less slate holes that leak red tears of anguish.
"Help me," she mouths, but it's not her mouth, and the pale, thin lips aren't hers either.
Harry wakes, covered in a sheen of sweat, panting and clutching his sheets. The room still smells of flowers and the slight summer breeze off the sea has stopped completely.
He stirs after dawn when no sleep comes back to him. He rolls out of bed, showers and pulls the least-smelliest shirt from a pile on the floor and a pair of shorts wedged beside his trunk. He fishes around inside it for some socks; the smooth wrapping of the scrying bowl calls out to him. He takes it out and unwraps it carefully, watching the light shift across the concave surface as he tilts it in his hands. It captures the sunlight from his window and smothers it within the darkness.
Not yet, he thinks. Don't these things have to be used at midnight, for best results?
Downstairs, the cottage reeks of stewing rubbish as the potion congeals on the kitchen table. Hermione, dressed in a housecoat, holds a mug of tea and drinks it with relish. She smiles at him, bleary-eyed and makes a motion to the pot of tea on the stove.
"The horcrux?" Harry asks, pouring himself a cup. The tea has steeped for some time. It is nearly black, even when he adds a good inch of milk on top.
Hermione pats the pocket of her housecoat. "Here. All safe."
"Tomorrow," she says, "two o'clock in the afternoon."
Harry is tired, but restless. The caffeine sits in his stomach, congealing like the potion. Ron will sleep until nearly noon and he's envious of that. Here, he's sitting with Hermione, silently pondering over whether or not he really feels like eating a piece of toast with her.
He's tired of the books. He's tired of the reading about this and that—it's gotten them nowhere. He thinks about yesterday; the sound of the locket hitting the stones is etched in his mind. He can see the arc of tarnished gold in his mind more clear and more there than he ever did yesterday.
Malfoy knows something. The locket is too valuable to be tossed aside, even if RAB might have destroyed the horcrux within it.
"I'm going for a walk," Harry announces as he scrapes his chair across the kitchen. Hermione nods and reminds him to be careful.
There could be Death Eaters anywhere!
His trainers are damp with dew, having been left accidentally on the front porch all night. Harry doesn't mind much, until he's as far as the main road of the village and the squelching starts to get to him, grating his ears with the slurping sounds of water under his now-wet socks that clam up between his toes in the most distracting of ways.
He itches his neck, too. The collar of his t-shirt, a long-ago cast off of Dudley's is just tight enough on his neck to rub the hem again and again over just the wrong spot where the rash from yesterday speckles his neck still. And the sun lifts over the shingled roofs of the few buildings to shine right on his neck, to the east, as he walks to the north, dipping up and down the hills of the road, taking in the green fields of the farmers where the crops are steadily growing in peace.
His feet take him off the road and into the churchyard of St. Godfrey Anglicus. He pushes open the rusty gate and walks into the dilapidated cemetery, overgrown with crabgrass and dandelions, all gone to seed. They fluff and float past him, clouds spread up and around with his shins, damp from the early morning and just as itchy as his neck.
No birds chirp here. No squirrels run out of the copses of oaks that line the road, off and on, and around the church perimeter. The church itself is a sad little ruin, all crumbling walls and a silent steeple. Harry wonders when the bell last rang in this parish, if there actually is a minister here to do Sunday service. Harry wouldn't bother to go, but he wonders.
The church seeps of sadness. Harry lets his fingers brush the tallest gravestones. They are soft where the moss grows, and smoother still where the stone has been worn away over time. The names are faded, the dates alien.
All except a wide stone marking two graves. Harry stops in front of it and shivers in the shadows.
Beloved friends and parents.
This is all that remains of them now.
Two names, two matching dates and the briefest inscription that means
nothing. Harry sinks to his knees and traces the names. Lead starts
to form in his throat. Mum and Dad. He tries
to say it aloud, but his words are choked and choppy.
He may have his Dad's hair and his Mum's eyes. He may have his Dad's height and his Mum's chin, but nothing more is left of them than this shoddy marker. Nothing to show how much they loved each other, how much they loved him, that they died for love.
Harry's eyes start to sting, but he doesn't turn away. His face feels sore, and his mouth and jaw are trembling with the effort of not allowing himself to cry the tears for his family that never was. A family that deserved to be.
Voldemort doesn't understand any of this. Harry stands up, surging with something, something that makes his bones quake deep inside with a new-found force as he watches the names fade once more into obscurity when he leaves the graveyard, swinging the rusty gate behind him.
He says nothing to Hermione when he returns. She lies on the couch, a blanket thrown onto the floor beside her, and is sleeping. The cottage smells more strongly of the potion, and the cauldron sits steaming as it cools once more, congealing for another time.
Harry spends the day lounging about. He's not the only one tired today. The summer steals the energy from all of them, even Ron, who wakes up, still yawning, at half-past one.
"We ought to do more research," Hermione says. Harry flicks through the channels on the telly, but little more than reruns of Coronation Street and stale news is broadcast in this area. Harry almost starts to envy the satellite dish Dudley insisted Uncle Vernon buy a couple years back.
"We ought to take a break," Ron suggests.
Hermione makes no effort to get up from the couch, either. All three of them have purple bags under their eyes and sweat beading on their skin. Harry casts a cooling charm, then a fanning charm in quick succession, but they never do much in this cottage. The weather seems impervious to magic.
They eat a lazy dinner off plates balanced on their laps and watch BBC1 for a few hours before bed. Hermione leans on Ron's chest and he has his arm around her. Harry's arms stay put, right at his sides, as much as he would like to have his own too-warm someone to sit with him. He forces down the envy bubbling inside, closing his eyes and trying to remain impervious.
Hermione sets the potion to boil one last time and they march up the stairs to bed. Harry can feel the heat come in waves against his face as he takes each next step, but his room is cooler and darker. He flops onto his bed, still clothed, and stares at the ceiling. His limbs are lethargic, but his mind is numbingly awake from too much primetime comedy.
The bowl beckons him.
It is a beacon, just sitting in his trunk. Harry opens it and holds the bowl up. It consumes even the faintest light from the crescent moon outside. His fingertips trail along the smooth, round lip and he can feel it almost start to hum if he holds it loosely.
The clock downstairs chimes throughout the house. Hermione and Ron's moans are muffled. Harry can hear twelve. Chimes, moans. They are all rhythmic and regular.
The water in the bathroom sink hits the bowl with a hiss as Harry holds it in place, filling it slowly. The bowl is larger and heavier the longer he stands there. The water rises, but not as fast as Harry reckons it ought to. The magic eats up the water and the scrying bowl fills with hardly so much as a bubble. Not one.
He carts it back into his room, trying to be as quiet as he can. Ron and Hermione—well, Harry hopes they're sleeping now. Hermione, at least, would not approve in the least of what he wants to do, what he wants to test.
The water splashes over the lip and stains the floor, dark patches that look as much as blood as they could water. Harry doesn't know if a bowl like this is one that you read by candlelight, or perhaps not. He remembers the instructions from Hermione's book and quickly creeps downstairs into the kitchen to pilfer a centaur hair from the tiny vial filled in a kitchen cupboard, before tiptoeing back into his room.
Harry dips the centaur hair into the water and inhales, before he dips his wand into the bowl after setting it on the top of his closed trunk.
He swirls his wand clockwise once. Show me RAB.
He swirls his wand clockwise twice. Show me RAB and the horcrux.
He swirls his wand clockwise a third time. Show them to me!
The water whirls about, carrying his wand with it. A vortex, spinning, spinning, spinning as a light forms in the centre of the bowl takes shape, growing brighter and brighter and-
Harry peers over the bowl. A man is inside it. His head is turned, Harry behind him and the light in front, eclipsing the man's identity. Harry hovers a hand over the bowl and reaches in, grabbing the picture.
Grabbing nothing. His fist is wet and the picture is gone in an instant, the light with it. Water has splashed over his chest through his t-shirt.
He leans back on his heels and squints down at the scrying bowl. It sits placidly on his trunk and the water beading along the rim slides back down into the dip, drop by drop by drop.
"There was something," he whispers. The cottage floors creak under him, the wood shifting with the passage of time. Outside, branches and leaves rattle against the windows. A slight breeze has picked up through the valley and swirls the plants around. Harry's hair flutters from a draft. He pats it down absently.
The water stills once more and Harry tries again, swirling his wand and commanding it, non-verbally, since he reckons that might work best, to show him RAB and the horcrux. The eddies start to form in the scrying bowl as his wand whips round and around, flowing with the swirls as the waters grow bright with an unnatural, bluish light that illuminates the whole room. Part of Harry wonders if the brightness will wake Hermione and Ron, but for the most part he's too busy watching the forming images to even consider doing anything about it.
Harry is careful not to touch this time to disturb the waters. This is no pensieve, he reminds himself as he holds his arms behind his back, just in case he's tempted to dip them in.
The scene is different. No longer does a greenish tinge touch the background in front of a man's turned head. Now, the waters ripple and dip and rise as something darker, something more familiar takes shape. Dots of colour fuse together in the dark ground, here peach, there scarlet and-
Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.
Harry knows it.
A hallway lined with portraits, all in wooden frames, some gilded and glittering, some cracked and moving, painted sitters standing up and stretching, others with mouths that move in silent conversations with each other that Harry cannot hear because-
The scene turns the corner.
"Mother," the voice says. The voice from where Harry is, the one whose hands, Harry can barely see when his hands reach into his pockets, then out just as quickly.
"Regulus," a voice calls from the parlour.
RAB! Harry leans closer, his nose nearly touching the bowl as he watches as the images unfold, like a program on the telly.
"Where were you all night?" Mrs Black says when she steps out of the kitchen. She looks like her portrait, just as stiff and bitter, with her dark hair pulled back tight and her wide mouth scowling, this time, though, no curses flow from her lips.
Regulus is silent. Mrs Black reaches out, close to the water's surface and touches him. "Have you been to a pub? You look ill," she says.
"Yes, Mother," Regulus says. Harry can taste the lie in the air. Mrs Black's eyes narrow, but she says nothing to him. She turns and yells, "KREACHER! Get Regulus some clean clothes." She picks at the sleeve of Regulus' shirt. He recoils and hisses. It is his left arm. But Mrs Black is not fazed.
"These are filthy, Regulus. What have you been doing? Crawling through caves all night?"
"There aren't any caves in London, Mother," he says. He turns around and for a flash, Harry can see his young face smiling. He looks like Sirius, only his chin is pointier and his eyes are bluer and maybe his mouth is a little wider. He's handsome and young and his skin has the faintly grey tinge to it that-
"-Dumbledore had before he was killed," Harry murmurs as the waters start to swirl one last time. A faint pop, a puff of smoke and the room is black, like the waters of the bowl.
Harry sits on his bed, wiping the water from the end with a section of bunched up bed sheets. This tells him at least one thing, they were right when Ron remembered about the locket at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. RAB was Regulus Black.
And Sirius was wrong about his brother, then. He was smarter than Sirius had thought, if he was the one who managed to sneak into the cave and thwart Voldemort, even if only for a few days. Harry lies back on his pillows and twiddles his wand through his fingers, back then forth and back again. The lump in his throat when he thinks about Sirius isn't as pressing now, but he still misses him and what never was. What should have been.
Damn Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry wonders if she killed her other cousin, too.
Outside, a gust of wind scrapes shuddering leaves against the window pane. Harry peers down at the scrying bowl and dips his wand in.
Show me Regulus Black's death.
Nothing happens after three stirs with his wand. He tries again. Show me Regulus Black's death! Still, nothing happens. The waters move round and carry his wand, but they are dark and impermeable until Harry pulls his wand out with a frustrated sigh.
"Bugger this," he mutters. Harry taps the bowl with his finger; the water jiggles a little over the lip, spilling onto his trunk like midnight oil. Whether the bowl is faulty or not, Harry doesn't know. Hermione is already going to give him a long lecture on divination and how it can be completely inaccurate and misleading in the morning when he tells her what he saw, but-
Harry's drawn to it, still. If it can show him the past, what was, even if it was just once-
Show me the future. MY future. He doesn't allow himself to think the obvious if. Not just now.
Divination might be a load of rubbish to Hermione, but Harry was never as adamant about it as her. Maybe the bowl works, maybe the bowl doesn't. There is no way to find out if he doesn't try it out for himself.
Besides, a test won't hurt. Hermione will never know the difference. He's not about to tell her about using it, except maybe for Regulus Black, but Hermione will understand that he did it to help them with the horcrux. And now, he's just playing with an idle curiosity, one that seems to swell in his stomach, threatening to burst out if he doesn't do something soon.
He stirs the waters counterclockwise. This way, they are stiffer and resist his wand, as though the water is thicker, heavier and less willing to give up its secrets. Secrets that may or may not come to pass, but Harry doesn't care. He feels something move through his body, like his blood pumping through his veins, expanding them all over his body, heating him from the core with magic.
The waters start to boil. Harry's wand shakes and bounces across the bowl. He grips a hand on the edge of his trunk, and watches as the bowl foams blue and white and bubbling, like it will explode all over him any second, scorch the earth with power and magic and-
The image blurs into focus, like Harry is putting his glasses on for the first time after sleeping—except when Harry reaches up to his face, his glasses are very much there.The bowl, the image still swirling in tiny, choppy waves has a dream-like fuzz about the edges, one that doesn't recede. A figure forms where once there was a dim blob.
The back of a man, half-covered by a sheet, in bed. His dark hair is messy and he's lying on his stomach, his arms holding him up, like he's about to roll over and get out of bed.
Me, Harry thinks. It's me.
Except the man—him—is not getting out of bed. His back strains and the shoulder blades move under his skin, a butterfly threatening to burst below the surface, shifting and straining and-
He's having sex. Faint noises come from the bowl, little moans and suppressed groans. Then, a whisper that sounds like a name, but is not loud enough for anyone, save himself in the scene, to catch.
Then, the image of himself in the scene shifts slightly. He's thrusting down and the sheets are slipping away, across and down his arse. It flexes and changes with each movement. There are legs wrapped around his hips, clinging to him like the hands from the woman underneath himself. She's grabbing at his back and clawing to him.
Harry desperately wants to see who it is. He thinks of Ginny, remembering the faint floral smell that clung to her hair, especially after a shower after a Quidditch practice. He seeks out the red hair in the bowl.
But he covers her completely, his body eclipsing her face. He can see her legs, yes, muscled calves that twine around his waist, and he can see her hands, short fingernails, pale and long that dig into his shoulders, pressing little red marks of claim into his skin.
It's hot, watching this. Harry is hard. His own fingers toy at his waistband and dip under his underpants, down enough to tangle them in his pubic hair. He's unwilling to touch himself just yet. It feels a bit, well, pervy, watching himself and a girl shag in a scrying bowl because he's getting off watching himself get off.
Then, his self in the scene leans a little to the side and the angle of the image shifts, like a camera. It is dim, this room with this bed, and himself and the girl are covered in greying shadows, shadows that dance as their bodies strain and the fingers grip himself in the scene's back harder. A cry rises in the air from underneath himself.
He can see her clearly. The pale hair, dark with damp, spread under across the pillow, the thin lips, the pointy face, the mouth hanging open as Draco Malfoy's face moans his name, "Harry", when his head is thrown back and his neck aches under himself in the scene.
Harry falls back against the floor, hard, with a loud thump. He freezes for a moment, worried that Ron or Hermione might have heard, but only silence lurks in the cottage. He's breathing hard and his mouth hangs open. He leans back over the bowl, but his wand has been knocked from it and the images have reverted back to black waters for the last time.
He doesn't know what to think. It was...it was Malfoy spread out under himself in the scene. Not Ginny. Not Luna—she has blonde hair. Not even Hermione or Susan Bones or Lavender Brown.
It was definitely Malfoy: the pointed face, though contorted with pleasure, the pale skin, the short, almost-white hair.
He feels ill. His innards twist like the monster in his chest when he was near Ginny last year. But this monster is—Harry doesn't know quite what it is. Disgust? Shame? His cock is still swollen in his shorts, and his hand has dropped down around it, rubbing it lazily. He wants to stop, but-
When he thinks of how Malfoy looked, flushed in the dim light, his name on his lips, Harry only pumps himself harder, tugging and pulling as a numb feeling rises between his legs faster and harder and he comes in his pants, on his knees, on the floor.
He squeezes his eyes shut and rolls over onto his back.
"Fucking ridiculous," he says. "Malfoy!" It is ridiculous, he reckons. The bowl—Harry touches it and feels it humming against his finger, the slightest of vibrations against his skin. It must still have some Dark Magic in it.
Harry feels dirty. He grabs a Kleenex and wipes his hand off, then shoves his shorts and underpants down and wipes what he can from his cock. He undresses and pulls on some pajama trousers, then lays in the dark on his bed after setting his glasses aside.
The ceiling swirls above him, inky like the scrying bowl. Harry half-expects it to start eddying and blurring and focusing into yet another scene. His guts roil, flipping around painfully like food poisoning. His mind has been poisoned. Malfoy! Good God! The bowl was playing a trick on him!
Except the more Harry tries to forget it, the more he remembers the last time he saw Malfoy, turning around, just before he fled with Snape, his eyes had the same look in them as in the scene, the same dark glow, the same almost haunted shine. That was the look that Harry could pity, that he could-
Harry tries to forget it and sleep. The air carries a heavy feeling of approaching rain and the wind smells of a coming storm, thick and damp and welcome. But instead, he lies there, awake, for some long hours until the birds start to flutter just before dawn and he is too tired to do anything but close his eyes, not forgetting.
He dreams of blond hair and rumpled sheets around his hips and gold lockets dropped in alleyways. When he wakes, all he can remember is a bright green, like the killing curse, and the bitter taste on his tongue that makes him angry. Like revenge.
Harry thinks of Snape, but reckons it is far too early to be thinking of vengeance for Dumbledore. He stumbles down the stairs and sees Hermione and Ron eating breakfast together, talking with their foreheads touching.
"'bout time you woke up," Ron says.
"We saved you some lunch, Harry," Hermione says. Harry notices the grandfather clock pushed against the wall shows sometime well past noon. It's the first time in weeks he's slept this long.
He runs his hands through his hair, trying to pat down the bedhead flyaways. "And the locket?" he asks them.
"We were waiting for you," Hermione says. "The potion is ready." She holds out her palm and the locket sitting in the middle of it. Harry nods. He isn't really all that hungry anyway.
Hermione takes a deep breath and mutters something to herself. She pulls on a white lab coat with an embroidered name that Harry thinks looks suspiciously like a "Dr. Granger" on the breast and he wonders if it is a hand-me-down from her parents' office. She is very clinical and methodical about the whole process, from pouring a weighed amount of potion from the cauldron into a glass beaker, to clamping the locket chain with forceps while wearing safety goggles.
"Put yours on, too," she tells Ron and Harry. "This potion could be extremely volatile."
"You're not sure?" Ron says.
"It has Beasonia Root in it. Better safe than sorry." Hermione flicks her wand on the table, transfiguring the salt and pepper shakers into two more sets of goggles. Harry puts the pepper pair on over his glasses. They're skewed and a bit big, but he reckons they ought to do.
Hermione counts down, holding the dangling locket over the beaker. "Ready?" she asks them. Harry and Ron step back, nodding. Harry clenches his fist, the muscles in his arm tensing with anticipation. The locket swings gently in Hermione's hand as she steadies herself with a deep breath. Harry's heart pounds in tune with the swings, back and forth, back and forth, his chest tightening uncomfortably as he waits on the precipice of something happening.
"One...two..." Hermione sucks in her breath, and drops it in. The potion splashes over the lip of the beaker and sizzles on the table, sending pungent steam into the air.
Harry takes a tentative step forward and peers into the beaker.
The brackish potion does nothing. The locket sits in calmly.
Hermione smiles widely, pulling off her own goggles. She wipes the sweat from her forehead and tosses the forceps aside. "Brilliant. That's one less horcrux we need to worry about. There's no soul in it. Because of the acidic component of the potion, if the horcrux still had a part of You Know Who's soul, it would have fizzled and bubbled like vinegar and soda."
"But...but can we open the damned thing?" Ron asks. "I thought that is what the potion was for."
Hermione looks flustered. "Well...well, yes," she says. She fishes the locket out of the beaker with the forceps and dumps the potion down the drain, before washing everything off.
The locket is split open, like a rotten peach with its core exposed. Except this locket has no core, only the empty space where a portrait or miniature might fit. Or a part of a soul.
...the curve of Malfoy's neck, arching under Harry.
Harry's cheeks flush and he pushes the thought aside. He turns to Hermione and tries not to look too...too embarrassed. "Er...that's good," he says. "Er...I found out that RAB was Regulus Black, like we thought."
"That's good too," Ron says.
"What do you mean you found out?" Hermione asks, hands on her hips.
"I used the scrying bowl—I mean, I bought one and I used it and it worked-"
"Harry, those things are full of Dark Magic. They're dangerous!"
"And your potion wasn't?" Harry shoots back at Hermione. She sniffs and says nothing, refusing to either agree or disagree.
Ron breaks the tense silence descending between the three of them. "So, how's it work? Like a pensieve?"
Harry says no. "A bit more like a telly. Only they don't always work."
"What Harry means is," Hermione cuts in, "they're like any other means of divination—flawed and open to interpretation. Honestly! Horoscopes are bad enough, now you have gone and paid galleons for a scrying bowl, Harry?"
"It was worth it," Harry says. Despite himself, he thinks of the image of himself in the scene, with Malfoy. He shudders inside and his innards start to lump like cooling lead, burning and frozen at the same time. "I saw what I wanted to see: Regulus Black with the horcrux."
And Malfoy, too.
"He'd drank the same potion as Dumbledore," Harry tells them, feeling a pang of sadness thinking about Dumbledore, about yelling at the Headmaster as he forced the potion, forced suffering, on him. "It was....it was awful."
"So we know about this horcrux now," Hermione says with resolution.
"So we know," Ron echoes.
"So now we look for the others," Harry says.
They eat lunch. Or rather, Harry eats lunch and Ron watches and tells him about the Cannons' last match against Holyhead, which Ginny owled him the scores for, a cut-out section of The Daily Prophet from last week. Hermione washes beakers, smelling of lemon-fresh soap that is a welcome change from the perpetual scent of rotting fruit peel and stale sweat that hangs over the cottage until the time Mrs Weasley will come by and help them clean up again.
"You know," Hermione says. She sits down with a damp tea towel in hand, absently rubbing the forceps dry. "I can't help but wonder if Malfoy was up to something with the locket. It's odd, anyway."
Ron snorts. "And I can't help but wonder if Zacharias Smith is related to Hepsibah Smith and if that prat's got some Hufflepuff relic with You Know Who's soul stuck in it in his attic or something."
Harry grunts and adds, "It was a cup. I saw it in Dumbledore's pensieve. A cup of Hufflepuff—I'd reckon Zacharias Smith's family might know where it is. We ought to...er...ask him," he says, watching Ron's eye twitch at the mention. Hermione's cheeks have spots of pink and she nods curtly.
"It would be easier than asking Malfoy, at any rate," she says, conceding.
"I'm not Flooing that prat!" Ron says. He leans his chair back on two legs and folds his arms. "Hermione, you do it. You were awfully friendly with him last year."
Hermione rolls her eyes at Ron, but she smiles nonetheless.
Harry doesn't want to think about Malfoy. All talk of sneaking into Malfoy Manor is abandoned when they gather around the small, drafty fireplace that whistles when the wind blows. Hermione tosses in a fistful of Floo powder and shoves her head into the green flames, calling out for Zacharias Smith's home, which she conveniently—"Suspiciously," Ron mutters to Harry—had in her address book.
Ron gnashes his teeth when he and Harry loom over Hermione's shoulders and see Zacharias Smith's face through the grate. He smiles at Hermione and says, yes, he is related to Hepsibah Smith.
"She is—was— my father's great aunt. Met a sticky end—murdered, so we were told."
Hermione smiles and nods politely. Harry can tell she is simply itching to press him further about the cup, but Smith won't shut up.
"I, of course, wasn't there. And my father was hardly born, but my grandfather, he says that Old Aunt Hepsibah had the marks of cursing on her body after they found her, weeks after her death, we think. But my grandmother says that when they found her it wasn't a curse so much as-"
"Voldemort?" Harry offers.
Smith shudders at the name. "You Know Who wasn't around then," he says. "But anyway, my grandmother thinks it might have been a left-over rogue agent of Grindelwald who did it."
"But...why?" Hermione offers, rather pathetically. She covers her mouth with her hand to keep from yawning. Or snickering, like Ron. She elbows him in the side and he stops.
"For her money!" Zacharias insists.
"Not for...er...any antiques—did she collect any? I know they're worth an awful lot," Hermione says.
Smith stops to consider. Harry wonders if there is smoke coming out his ears from the effort—Ron certainly thinks so, for he's started to snigger again.
"She had a bunch of old family stuff. Nothing really that any one else would be interested in. Mum's got some of her jewels now, and my uncle has some of her books and cauldrons."
"Anything really old?" Hermione presses. When Zacharias' eyes start to narrow, she adds, "It's just I was doing some research, you see, on old wizarding artifacts and was wondering if your family might have any because...er....they're all so terribly fascinating, you know, the older they get. Especially ritual goblets."
"Yes," Hermione insists, "Professor Binns was mentioning them one lesson and I couldn't help but be enraptured by them-"
"Enraptured?" Ron mouths to Harry. Harry's eyebrows shoot up to his scar and he bites down on his lip to keep from rolling on the floor and laughing at Hermione.
"I'll—I can check with my Dad," Smith offers.
"Thanks," Hermione says. "That would be super." She and Smith say goodbye and she pulls her head out from the dying flames. Hermione brushes grey ash off her shoulders and turns around, glaring at Ron.
"Do you mind?" she whispers, her voice low but full of dread.
Ron laughs loudly. "Enraptured? Super? 'Oh, Zacharias, why don't we get married because that would be superbly enrapturing!'"
Harry laughs, too. Hermione stands there, glaring and glowering until her own lip starts to tremble and she laughs along with them.
"All right," she concedes. "But, honestly, I was trying to get some information out of him. He's awfully-"
"A prat?" Ron says.
"I was thinking more enrapturingly annoying," she says with a grin. "But, yes, a prat too, I suppose. Hopefully he can give us some leads about the cup. It'd be a place to start, anyway."
They play a game of Exploding Snap in the afternoon when it has become too hot and too muggy to do anything but lounge around in the most cave-like areas of the cottage. Even the locals are inside. No one gardens. No lawns hum with the sound of a lawn mower or permeate with the scent of fresh-cut grass. The insects appear to be the only things alive, but even they are lethargic and sporadic come late afternoon when the summer is hottest.
Harry toys with the locket. It seems so innocent in his hand as he weaves the chain through his fingers. Ugly and bulky, if innocent. He wonders if Aunt Petunia would ever wear a piece of jewelry like this. He doesn't know what to do with it, nor does he care. He opens the back door and tosses it onto the patio. The squawking magpies can cart it off. They like shiny things, don't they?
They pass the days waiting for Zacharias Smith's return floo in a blur of research. It hangs over them like the haze in the mountain valleys at dawn—cloudy and damp and far too warm. Hermione charms a cheap electric fan she recently bought into running non-stop with a cooling charm. It helps the kitchen, but in the afternoons they sometimes open a window, letting in the hot sunshine that peeps through grey clouds and bakes the earth.
"This is so bloody boring," Ron moans, slamming a tome shut on the third day. "I can't read this rubbish anymore. Let's Apparate to the beach and have a swim in the sea."
Hermione opens the curtains and peers outside. "No, it'll rain later today." Harry can see black clouds roiling in the distant south on the horizon.
"We only need a couple hours-"
"Ron! I'm at a good part in Enquiring Minds, Transfiguring Bodies and I think it could really help us about how to use tracking charms on the horcruxes. We can go some other time."
There is a rapping at the door. Like all of the stories and books and fairy tales—three sharp sounds. Harry glances to Ron and Hermione, who shrug, and walks over to the door, opening it wide.
A man stands on the porch, wearing a worn cap and wellies. He clears his throat and asks, "Does Harry Potter live 'ere?"
Harry wonders if maybe Hermione had asked her parents to post them something. Like more Earl Grey or new white socks. He nods. "Yeah, it's me."
The man nods in return and turns to the side. "Says he lives here, like what Mrs Faulkner down the road thought," he says to someone who must be standing around the hedgerow, out of Harry's vision.
Malfoy steps out. Harry stares at him. And grabs his wand from his pocket.
The man blinks. "What do you have that for?" he says, gesturing to the wand.
"What do you want, Malfoy?" Harry hisses. The man, standing between them, looks completely flustered. Malfoy, in a tight voice, mumbles something that Harry thinks sounds like a thanks, then the man tips his hat and walks off down the row of cottages.
Malfoy, however, says nothing. His face is tight and white and his lips drawn. His hair hangs limp and a little greasy, not unlike Snape's. And his robes, maybe once they were dark and pristine, but now they are covered in mud and dirt is smudged on the knees and elbows.
Hermione walks up behind Harry and starts to say "Harry, what-" then she stops and glares, her own wand drawn and pointing at Malfoy.
Malfoy's throat bobs and he glances around over his shoulder. "You-" his words are thick and forced, "you've got to help me, Potter."
Harry doesn't think he has heard him right. "Excuse me?" He shoves his wand closer to Malfoy's throat. His chin rises and his eyes widen, but they don't leave Harry's gaze. Harry can see that Malfoy looks as awful and as pitiable as last year—red-rimmed eyes of watery grey. God knows what Malfoy has gotten himself into now.
Malfoy doesn't have a wand out, not even in his hands, which are empty and hang limp at his sides. He is outnumbered and he knows it, and yet, he's not spouting curses and hexes with a sneer and upturned nose. "I—" He is breathing very shallowly, but Harry can hear the whistling in his chest, like he's run miles and miles. "I need help," he whispers.
"Help with what?" Ron asks, coming up behind Harry, his own wand pointing straight at Malfoy's chest. "Lost Snape? You Know Who tell you to kill another wizard?"
Malfoy's eye twitches and Harry can see him swallow a lump in his throat. Malfoy tries to sneer, but it comes off as more of a weak grimace.
"Get in before the neighbours start to stare!" Hermione warns. Malfoy shifts his eyes and tentatively walks over the threshold, Harry and Ron parting for him to pass. Hermione slams the door shut. "That's better," she says, then she whips her head around and—"
Long, thin ropes snap out of Hermione's wand and whip around Malfoy's arms and legs, knocking him to the floor with a loud thump. He lays there, as stiff as a Mobilicorpus. Harry peers over him. Malfoy spits up at his face.
"Erugh—that was disgusting, Malfoy," Harry snaps, wiping his face with the hem of his t-shirt. What rising sense of pity he had for Malfoy has been squashed with Malfoy's saliva.
"Do you really think this was necessary?" he snarls. Malfoy struggles in the ropes, but does little more than wiggle himself a couple inches on the hardwood flooring.
"What are you here for, Malfoy?" Ron asks. He stands over Malfoy with his foot at just the right angle to-
"Don't, Ron," Hermione warns. "Who sent you?" she asks, turning to Malfoy, making sure her wand is in full sight of his face, making sure he knows she's not joking. Her tone makes Harry wonder just what she might be capable of.
"Why'd you drop that locket?" Harry asks, stepping over Malfoy to his other side. Malfoy turns his head and narrows his eyes.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he says.
"Yes, you do," Harry tells him. "The locket. What do you know about it?" He waits for Malfoy to answer, but instead Malfoy just grunts and wriggles and tries to escape the bonds.
"D'you mind loosening these a little, Granger?" he finally says. "If you want me to talk, I'd like to be able to feel my hands and feet."
Harry nods to Hermione. She flicks her wand and the ropes rub a little, loosening enough for Malfoy to wiggle his fingers. They prop Malfoy up against the back of the couch and pull up three chairs.
"So," Harry says.
Malfoy is silent. His glare is weakening by the second and that look of almost-fear that he had when the man in the hat was speaking with Harry returns to his watery eyes.
"What are you here for, Malfoy?" he asks.
"Aren't you going to force-feed me Veritaserum?" Malfoy counters.
Ron looks at Hermione, raising an eyebrow. Hermione says, "We don't have any" and Malfoy smirks at her. Harry wants to box the satisfaction from Malfoy's face, but instead he says, "You came to us. You tell us why you're here."
They wait for an answer. Malfoy's foot moves a little toward Harry. He's wearing shoes that might have once been shiny and black and expensive, if it weren't for being covered in something that looks like a suspicious combination of horseshit and mud from farmer's fields.
"I need help," he says in a quiet voice.
"I thought that was what Snape was for?" Ron says. Harry twitches at the name, as does Malfoy.
"This has nothing to do with you, Weasley," Malfoy says. "I need Potty's help, not yours."
"And if you call me that, you won't get anything," Harry tells him. "Except maybe a few curses."
Malfoy's eyes darken. His breathing starts to wheeze faintly once more. "You'd know about that, wouldn't you?" he whispers to Harry. He cocks his head a little to the side, enough for the line of his neck to show a smooth outline against the dim contours of the room.
...the curve of Malfoy's neck, arching under Harry, his lips forming a round word as he moans...
Harry flushes. "It's all right," he says to Ron and Hermione. "I can handle this." He nods them off and they, or at least Hermione anyway, get the hint and walk upstairs, mentioning something casually about another book.
"Off to go shag, right under your nose, eh, Potty?" Malfoy asks.
"Shut up, Malfoy," he says. Oddly, Malfoy does.
"Why are you really here?" Harry asks him. This, too, is odd. He's never so much as spoken this much with Malfoy without a curse being tossed or a hex thrown, or even an insult or a punch to the gut. He thinks about the Malfoy in the scrying scene, the one who was writhing underneath that other Harry Potter. His insides wither at the thought that maybe he's one and the same person.
He wonders if Malfoy can sense it—the dirtiness he feels, sitting here near Malfoy, thinking about that scene that wasn't real and yet he can't stop wondering if Malfoy's neck really would arch that way. He wants to crush this feeling, to make it stop, but it only swells the more and more he thinks about it, the more because Malfoy is tied to a chair right in front of him, not some intangible thought in his mind.
Malfoy stares at him. Harry doesn't realize he has been staring at Malfoy until Malfoy starts to smile a little.
"Why do you think I'm here?" he says. "I said I need—" he starts to shake his head, "I need help."
"Help with what? I hate you."
"You're no prize, either," Malfoy says. Then, he turns away and glares at the wall, where Ron's trainers are pushed against the doorway. "I—I can't—it's Snape, he—" Malfoy turns to Harry and says through his teeth, "He's a fucking traitor. He ruined everything."
Dumbledore's pleading echoes in Harry's mind. Please, Severus. The look in his blue eyes, once twinkling with life, now glazed over as the green light flashes from Snape's wand. "Yeah, he did," Harry agrees.
"It was supposed to be me," Malfoy says, "but he did it instead."
"You couldn't do it, Malfoy," Harry says. "If there was one thing—" He stops and tries again after a pause, "Dumbledore offered you mercy."
Malfoy is quiet. He has stopped rubbing the robes on his wrists and his hands sit placidly in his lap, his legs spread out before him, his ankles wrapped tight too. "That's why I'm here," he whispers. His voice is strained, and thick and his words are slurred. Regret, maybe. Shame, probably. He closes his eyes and says, "My wand is in my pocket."
Harry reaches into Malfoy's pocket. The fabric is warm from his body and damp with sweat. He pulls out the wand and tucks it into his own pocket after tapping it with his own, checking for jinxes.
"I didn't do anything to it!" Malfoy snaps.
"Good, then." It weighs heavily in Harry's pocket. It's smaller, but thicker than his own wand. And the wood is a lighter, honey colour. Nothing out of the ordinary, but Harry remembers Madam Rosmerta—Malfoy practically admitted to Dumbledore he'd used the Imperius on her. Malfoy might be pitiable, but he is not innocent.
"So talk Malfoy," Harry says.
"So untie me, Potter," he replies.
Harry hesitates on the spell for a moment, then casts it. Malfoy rubs his wrists after the ropes coil back up into his wand. He has the upper hand. And Malfoy's wand.
"Snape fucked me over," Malfoy says. He glances around the room and sniffs. "What is this place? Some sort of Muggle dump? What is that?" he asks, gesturing to the telly.
Harry ignores him and taps his foot. Malfoy scowls, but adds after a long while in a voice that Harry isn't all that sure he actually did hear, "And I couldn't do it again."
"What—" Malfoy eyes are wide and he glances around the room, over his shoulders. "This place isn't bugged with spying charms, is it?" Harry shakes his head, so Malfoy says, "I couldn't do what He asked me to. Not—not again."
"And what was that?" Harry asks, slow and steady. He wants to know what Malfoy was up to this time. He needs to know. Bugger the Order and all they do—Harry hasn't heard from any of them, except the Weasleys and Tonks, in nearly two months. Not even Lupin, he thinks, bitterness stinging his mind.
"To—" Malfoy takes a deep breath, then shakes his head, muttering something about how he can't. Harry reaches out and places a hand on Malfoy's shoulder. Malfoy stares at his hand, then his eyes lift to Harry's. Harry recoils, like his hand is on fire. He hadn't meant anything by it. But Malfoy doesn't seem to take much notice.
"To kill a witch, Hestia Jones. He said she knows something, too much—I—I didn't know, but—I—I couldn't." The tremble in Malfoy's voice is visible in his hands. He's shaking again, like that day that Harry found him talking with Myrtle.
This is the Malfoy he pities. The one sitting on the floor of the parlour of a cottage in Godric's Hollow, Wales. The one who can't kill.
"Snape," Malfoy adds, a little offhand after what he has just admitted, "Snape made a vow to my mother that if I can't fulfill what I'm supposed to, he will. And I think he wants me to fail so that he can have all the glory. But my mother..." Malfoy says nothing more.
"So you can't kill," Harry says. "And now Voldemort is going to kill you because you're a traitor to him."
"No!" Malfoy says hotly. "No, Snape's going to rat me out to the Dark Lord, then I'll be—" his voice falters, "I'll be killed."
"No you won't," Harry says.
"That's why I came to you. Because you were there when Dumbledore died and you heard what he told me. I thought..."
Harry smiles, just a little, just enough for Malfoy to believe him. "All right," he says.
When Ron and Hermione come downstairs again, suspiciously soon after Harry has stopped talking with Malfoy, they grill him with questions. Malfoy clams up and sits on the couch, sometimes glaring at Ron and muttering things under his breath, sometimes staring out at the fireplace, as if he's really not sure this was such a good idea after all and he ought to just Apparate back to Snape.
Hermione stalks the room, pacing across the floor, sometimes scratching her chin for more questions. Ron calls Malfoy a "coward" and says that his father is a fucking loser.
"Shut up!" Malfoy shouts. "Don't you dare talk about my father like that!" That is the only thing Malfoy says before he stands up, his hands shaking slightly, and stomps off, slamming the bathroom door behind him, as though this were his home, not theirs.
"We'll never get answers now," Hermione lectures Ron.
"Not as though he was talking," Ron says. "Except to Harry."
"I've got his wand," Harry says. "He can't do anything. And I don't think he will." Harry doesn't know why he believes this, but he can feel it inside, like the monster starting to swell in his chest again.
Hermione frowns. "Don't you think it's a bit odd that Malfoy shows up here when we were planning on sneaking into his home? I mean, if he was able to track you, Harry, what about other Death Eaters? Or You Know Who?"
The bathroom door creaks open and Malfoy pops his head out. He narrows his eyes and says, "In case you're wondering Granger, I reckoned that Potter would have come back to his parents' home. Nostalgia and all that. It doesn't take a genius to track you lot."
Ron says, in a low voice when Malfoy has disappeared once more, "I think we need a secret keeper."
"Or to move."
Harry shakes his head. "We've got our own wards here. They would have gone off if Malfoy was perceived as a threat. And there is still the residual magic in the village. I reckon that's why my parents lived here. It's all right—safe and all."
Hermione sighs, but Harry can tell she is worried from the sad smile she gives him.
They eat supper, transfiguring a chesterfield pillow into a tacky, if comfortable-looking fourth chair for Malfoy. Malfoy sniffs the chicken Hermione has fried and grimaces. "What is this?" he drawls. "You expect me to eat this?" he asks, holding up a section of chicken with his fork and peering under it.
Hermione's cooking is, Harry can admit, a far cry from even Aunt Petunia's, but, "It tastes fine, Malfoy," he says. The sides of the chicken are a little black and the vegetables a little too mushy, but Hermione can cook mashed potatoes, even if they are a little soupy.
"I think it's brilliant," Ron says, glaring across the table at Malfoy. Hermione beams at him. "Near as good as Mum's."
Harry bites his lip to keep from snickering at Ron's fibs. Hermione doesn't seem to notice, or if she does she does a decent impression of being pleased with herself. She scoops an extra spoonful of limp beans onto Ron's plate for him.
Despite his complaining, Malfoy grows silent soon and is busy shoveling heaps of food into his mouth in amounts that would make Hagrid flush. His skin is almost translucent in places on his neck and face, the thin blue veins showing through, as grey as his eyes. His cheeks are gaunt and his eyes a little sunken. He looks thin, dirty, and, well, plain awful.
Malfoy ends up eating over twice as much as even Ron. And he finishes every last piece of fried chicken in the pan.
"Does Snape not know how to cook?" Harry asks.
Malfoy starts to say "He has Worm—" but he stops and simply says, "Not very well."
Harry eyes him and passes Hermione his plate to be cleared from the table. "Is Peter Pettigrew with Snape, then?" he says, slow and steady. Under the table, his curls his fist tight around his wand. His guts roil, angrily tossing his supper around inside.
Malfoy nods, just as slowly.
"So the traitors stick together, do they?" Harry spits. "Good. Easier to kill them both."
If Hermione and Ron might have once held him back, they don't now. Ron leans back in his chair and belches. Hermione raises her eyebrows, seemingly with approval, and turns on the tap to do the dishes.
"Where does Snape live?" she asks Malfoy, snatching his plate away from him as though he might do something to their last extra place setting.
"I'm not the secret keeper," Malfoy says.
"Who is?" Harry asks.
"I don't know," Malfoy says. "And no," he says sharply, when Harry starts to ask another question, "it's not my parents and even if it were, they wouldn't tell me. It might be someone like Rabastan Lestrange. Maybe—I don't know."
"And he's rotting in Azkaban," Ron says.
"I don't know if it's him!" Malfoy says hotly. "I don't know who it is!"
"What's on the telly tonight?" Hermione interrupts, faking some sort of pleasant intervention.
Ron shrugs. "Dunno. Is it Tuesday or Wednesday?"
"I forget," Harry says. "Wednesday, I think. So there's the match with Birmingham and West Ham—unless that was two nights ago."
Malfoy looks completely out of place, sitting in the middle of the conversation like this. His brow scrunches with confusion. Ron turns on the television and the visage that forms on Malfoy's face is brilliant, even better than Ron's when he first saw what was on a telly.
Malfoy watches the match with Harry and Ron in the living room. He sits off by himself in an oversized chair, so old the springs don't work and he falls into the low seat. His eyes are glued to the little figures running around, after each other and the ball. He is like a cat, watching a clock tick—eyes moving left and right and left and right. His mouth hangs open a little. The lights from the screen flicker in his eyes, just like on the wide window in the front of the cottage.
West Ham wins. Harry smiles, thinking that Dean ought to be pleased. Hermione nurses the last of the tea she drinks, then announces she is going to bed, sending a pointed look to Ron, who says goodnight to Harry not too long after.
"What are you doing with Malfoy?" he asks.
Malfoy glowers. "I'm right here, Weasel," he says.
Harry and Ron both ignore him. Harry says, "Don't worry about him" as Ron leaves, probably eager to crawl under the sheets with Hermione before too long.
"That's disgusting," Malfoy drawls, "to let them just go off and shag like that."
"Shut up, Malfoy," Harry says. He has turned off the television, and the lights in the kitchen. The house is dark now, save for a sliver of light emanating from under the doorway to Hermione's room that bounces down the stairs and falls in a puddle at the base.
"Malfoy," Harry says, "why are you really here?"
Malfoy stiffens, sitting up straight in the chair. His hands clench on his knees. "I already told you," he says.
Harry leans back, propping his feet up on the table. He knocks over an empty plastic glass with his toes and wiggles them. "Look, Malfoy, I'm not stupid. I know you can't kill anyone, but that's not the real reason you're here, is it?"
Malfoy says nothing. Harry goes on.
"It's about your family, isn't it?" Harry knows this. Malfoy eyes dart around to his. In the shadows, he has the look of a deer in the headlights, wide-eyed and afraid.
"That's none of your business—" he says, but Harry cuts him off.
"Don't bullshit me, Malfoy. If you want help, I want real answers." Harry pulls out his wand and taps it impatiently on his thigh.
The clock chimes eleven times in the background. The light in Hermione's room goes out and the cottage is cast completely in long shadows. Malfoy stands out, though, sitting in the room in just the right place that the streetlamps outside shine through the wide window, making his pale hair and paler skin a sort of murky grey amongst the ink.
Malfoy sighs, finally. "If you breathe a word of this to the Weasel or Granger—"
"I won't," Harry lies.
He sighs again. "I—my mother, she— she made a vow with Snape, all right?"
Harry knows this already. He nods.
"And—Snape's blackmailing her with it. I heard them one night talking—and she said she owed him for it, for helping me, and then..." Malfoy swallows, "...and then I heard them."
"Heard them what?"
Malfoy's nostrils flare slightly, and his left eye twitches. He turns away a little, and if Harry isn't mistaken, his face looks pinker, though the shadows may well be playing tricks on him, until Malfoy whispers, "Snape—having sex with my mother!"
Harry laughs, even under Malfoy's glaring. "That's—"
"She fucking betrayed me!" Malfoy moans. "And my father! And Snape manipulated her—how could she not, she's a woman, she doesn't understand these things—"
"So that's why you're here," Harry says with finality. He crosses his arms and shakes his head at Malfoy. Malfoy's head hangs as he mumbles something in agreement. He looks completely dejected and miserable, sitting in the chair with his head in his hands, his elbows on his knees.
"It's late," Harry says. He glances at the clock when an uncomfortable silence falls. It's hardly more than a little past eleven. He stands up and stretches out his arms above his head, but Malfoy remains seated.
"Er...aren't you tired?" he asks.
Malfoy glances over his shoulder. His eyes hang with puffy bags underneath, distorting them into small slits.
"I guess you can...er...sleep upstairs," Harry says. "I'll transfigure something." There is no way he's letting Malfoy sleep downstairs, or anywhere that's not within sight. He doesn't trust Malfoy and Malfoy knows it well enough, so he follows Harry hesitantly up the stairs, which creak under their feet.
Malfoy steps over the threshold into his room and curls his lip up when Harry uses a Lumos and every bit of dirty laundry is shown splayed across his floor in all its glory. He steps over a pile and stands in a small bare patch where the carpet shows through. "Don't you have all those house elves you freed, Potter?" he drawls.
"They're not here," Harry says. He rolls his eyes and kicks a couple shirts into a small pile. "They're—" he stops himself before he tells Malfoy where Kreacher is. "I don't want them here."
"Then you ought to have Granger do some cleaning," Malfoy says.
"Fuck off," Harry says. He's a bit tired—the heat, the boredom of summer nights, the lethargy. He wants to sleep away his night and wake up in the morning and know something more about the horcruxes. But Malfoy—he doesn't seem to know much. Or if he does, he hasn't let on that he does.
Harry reckons he'll try again in the morning. When he has more energy, perhaps. Malfoy yawns widely and blinks his eyes quickly, struggling to stay awake. Perhaps Malfoy will have more energy in the morning, too.
His trunk transfigured into a narrow bed doesn't leave much room to maneuver. Malfoy sits down and bounces a little, testing it out. He doesn't say much, but Harry thinks that the one pillow that appeared after he'd flicked his wand looks suspiciously dark and shiny, like the bowl he'd left inside his trunk.
Harry pulls off his t-shirt. Malfoy stares at him. He feels a blush creep across his cheeks and remembers the way Malfoy's body looked, long and lean and pale, when he arched under him in that scene.
"Er...I can scourgify some pajamas, I guess," Harry says when Malfoy simply sits there, watching him with slow-blinking eyes.
"Touch your clothes?" Malfoy says with a sneer.
"It's too hot for those robes," Harry says. He nods to Malfoy, who is sweating profusely at his temple and down the sides of his jaw.
"Its fine," Malfoy says through his teeth.
"Malfoy, I can smell your sweat from here," Harry says. He doesn't think about how he doesn't mind it—it reminds him of the salty sea near the beaches of Brighton, where the waves lap at the shore like tongues-
...the arch of Malfoy's neck...
Malfoy's is sweating at his neck too. He pulls at the collar of his robes discretely, as if he is trying to adjust it, but Harry can see he's more like letting some air in under the tight vicar's collar. Malfoy's right hand drops down to his left forearm and rests there. His face is a pale mask.
"I bloody well know what's on your arm," Harry hisses. He picks up a pair of pajamas off the floor and uses a fast cleaning spell. He throws them at Malfoy's lap. Malfoy recoils when they touch him; his nose twitches, but he eventually starts to unbutton the rows of snaps down his front.
"They'd better not have...lice or mites," he says with distaste.
Harry snorts. It feels strange standing in his bedroom, with Malfoy, who is slowly shrugging off his robes to put on a pair of Harry's pajamas. Something inside swells at the thought of this. Something Harry thinks might be a sort of possessive quality. He doesn't know what to make of it. He pulls off his own trousers and underpants quickly, and pulls on a pair of pajama trousers. He's no prude, but...
He can't forget that scene in the scrying bowl. The more he thinks about it with Malfoy being just a couple feet away, the more it makes his guts sink with embarrassment.
His eyes shift to Malfoy. He's turned around so Harry can only see his back—white in the light filtering in from his small window, and his ribs are outlined on his sides. Harry didn't think he was quite this skinny before—Malfoy does look like shit. He wonders how much Malfoy has been eating at Snape's. He wonders how much Malfoy has been worrying, struggling over orders from Voldemort.
And he can see, in one flash, the outline of something dark on Malfoy's left arm. He doesn't cringe at it, but Malfoy, who notices Harry watching him, does, just a bit.
Malfoy crawls under the transfigured sheets as Harry climbs into his own bed. He says, "Nox," quietly and lays in the dark, on his back, listening to the sounds of Malfoy's breathing. When Malfoy's breathing deepens into slower, louder snores of sleep, Harry turns onto his side and watches him sleep, watches him lie there, a blurry form in the blurry, dim light of streetlamps and stars.
Harry dreams of making love to an unknown face. He rubs his hips against theirs. He can smell flowers and the salty sea. When he wakes, the rushing roar of the ocean dims from his ears and he realizes he is lying on his stomach, humping the mattress with a morning stiffy.
Under the cold spray of the shower, Harry plants his feet, braces one hand of the slippery tile wall and jerks himself off, hard and fast. He sighs under the water as it washes down his face and washes away the flush he has—shame at thinking of the way Malfoy's mouth hung open, slightly, as he slept, how his lips glistened stickily.
Malfoy, however, doesn't know these things. Malfoy sleeps in until noon—even later than Ron. He stumbles downstairs and blinks at Harry, Hermione and Ron, then, recognizing them all, he blinks again and stands stiffly, rooted to the spot.
"We saved you some food, Malfoy," Harry says, toeing out a chair beside him at the table. Malfoy sits down and starts to pick at the toast.
"What I want to know," Hermione says, as though Malfoy is not there at all, "is how Regulus Black destroyed the horcrux. I think that if we can determine how he did that, we might have some sort of idea as to what the other ones might be."
"Besides the cup," Ron says.
"Besides the cup," Hermione repeats, nodding firmly.
"I can use the scrying bowl," Harry says. He notices Malfoy's eyebrows rise at him when he says that, then his face returns almost immediately to a look of nonchalance.
"Harry I don't trust that thing— they're rooted in Dark magic!"
"But pensieves aren't!" Harry says hotly.
"It's not a pensieve, Harry. Pensieves have fragments of memories floating in them. Wizards put them in willingly. Scrying bowls—from what I recall reading over that one paragraph in the Defence textbook once—they," Hermione frowns and pauses to think for a moment, "They tap into the innate magic of wizards and witches with some sort of Dark force in order to access things—the past, the future. It's almost like a form of rape, I suppose."
"Like Legilimency?" Harry offers. He catches sight in the corner of his eye: Malfoy has stopped chewing and holds the toast out in the air with his hand, not moving.
"In a way, I'd say yes. Except that using tools like that for Divination can cause dependence."
"Like the Mirror of Erised?" Ron asks.
"Yes, like that. The magic we use is rooted in the present. Dark magic is rooted in something entirely different—manipulating innate magic."
"I don't think so," Harry says, shaking his head. "Dark magic is dark only because it is used for bad purposes. Veritaserum isn't bad—it's used to get confessions out of criminals, like Barty Crouch."
"Don't play with fire, Harry. Please don't use that bowl anymore," Hermione pleads. Harry nods reluctantly and says all right as he turns to Malfoy, who is watching him through slitted eyes and a neutral expression on his face.
He doesn't like lying to Hermione, he really doesn't, but Harry thinks about it constantly, all afternoon. He and Ron and Hermione pull out more tomes from Hermione's seemingly endless stacks of research books she's bought (or possibly stolen from the Hogwarts library, too—Harry wonders this when he seems the tell-tale signs of a vaguely square-shaped marker ripped from the inside cover of one).
Malfoy sits in the living room, watching the telly. At least he is quiet this way. And generally harmless. His wand is burning a hole in Harry's pocket—he's eager to use a Priori Incantatem, but worried about the possibilities of the Ministry with such a powerful charm in these troubles times. That is the only thing that keeps him awake as he flips through the texts, one page at a time.
Ron has fallen asleep and snores softly. His mouth hangs open and a tiny trail of drool darkens a page of his tome. When Hermione finally glances up, face flushed and about to say something important, she sees Ron and scowls. "Ronald!" she hisses, poking him sharply in the back. "Stop sleeping and start researching!"
"What are we even researching anymore?" Ron asks.
Hermione, huffing, says, "Potential soul receptacles! Links to You Know Who! Links to material objects of the Hogwarts founders! Honestly!" Then, spitefully, she pushes the largest tome of the lot on the table in front of Ron. "Here, you peruse Hogwarts, A History." She smiles at him, a sort of self-satisfied grin of a cat.
Harry hasn't seen Crookshanks in nearly a week. The only signs that he's not dead, lying on the side of some country road after a lorry ran him over, are the chewed up, slimed little robins and voles that Harry finds on the front doorstep. They come with the regularity of the milk man. Not long after supper, he finds another and chucks it out the back door, where it bounces off the patio and lands not far from the scrappy locket.
He walks outside and picks the locket up, placing it in his empty shorts pocket. He tiptoes up to his bedroom and takes the shiny black pillow from Malfoy's cot and shoves it inside a musty hallway closet. The cobwebs and shadows are so thick in there, he doubts anyone will notice.
When they all go to bed, Harry is torn. The lure of the bowl flows through his veins, like a craving he needs to satisfy, rather like Hermione and chocolate on three days of the month. But there is no way he's leaving Malfoy, alone and awake, in his bedroom and there's no way he's using the bowl in front of Malfoy either.
First, he follows Malfoy upstairs and shuts the door behind the both of them. The room is stuffy, the window has inched its way down in the sill and is nearly closed. Harry jacks it up, though the air outside isn't much cooler than in. He sits on his bed and tries to wait as casually as he can.
Malfoy narrows his eyes. "Are you watching me?" he asks, when he has started to peel off his long robes, but stopped once he had freed one arm from a sleeve.
Harry says "No" and half-turns. It is Malfoy's turn to watch him as he undresses, always careful to make sure his left forearm is hidden. Harry remembers, after Malfoy sits still, watching him back, that he ought to get changed too.
He waits until Malfoy is asleep before he cracks his door open and sneaks out. He takes the pillow from the closet, and checking one last to make sure Hermione and Ron are asleep, or doing other things in the dark, he creeps downstairs, unlocks the backdoor and steps onto the patio.
The pillow is not easy to reverse transfigure. It takes Harry a good five minutes of wand pointing and limp wrists before it finally resembles something like the bowl again, albeit with a tassel on the side. He hopes that doesn't affect it.
"Aguamenti!" he intones quietly, wishing the bowl would fill less loudly with water splashing all over the sink. It shouldn't matter, though. The water ought to dry by morning, and if not, well, Harry hopes the puddle isn't that large. He doesn't want Hermione to suspect anything, to know what he's doing. She doesn't trust the scrying bowl, but she's not willing to investigate the possibility of using one either.
Harry takes the locket from his clammy hand and plops it into the bowl. It is lost in the darkness as he swirls his wand three times clockwise and says out loud this time: "Show me how Regulus destroyed the horcrux!"
The waters whirl and wave up the sides of the bowl, starting to glow with a bright, azure light, faster and faster and faster until the blobs of colour start to form-
Then the bowl explodes.
Harry falls back on the patio, some five feet away. He scrambles back to the bowl, sighing when he sees that the bowl itself is still intact, though the images are not. He takes it and chucks it into the scrubby grass of the yard and prays that Ron and Hermione didn't hear him. He waits for them to come downstairs-
But no one comes. He sighs with true relief this time and wanders out into the yard, looking for the bowl with a "Lumos Minima!"
The scrying bowl sits in a bush, the locket lying next to it. Harry shoves the locket in his only pajama pocket and carts the bowl back to the flagstone of the patio. The water splashes against his hands over the lip and gets his skin wet, pleasantly so, with the cool water.
Then he realizes something.
The bowl ought to be empty. He chucked it across the lawn.
"Hah! I knew you'd be getting into something!" a voice calls out behind him. Malfoy steps through the back door, closing it softly behind himself and smiles smugly. He takes a step closer and his eyebrows rise appraisingly. "Is that it, then?" he asks, more curious than smug now.
Harry glares at him. "If you tell—"
"Consider us even," Malfoy says. He starts to hold out his hand to Harry, then pulls it back and sneers. "For now," he adds.
Harry nods once, seemingly enough to satisfy Malfoy. His own hand dips into his pocket, only to remember that he's left Malfoy's wand under his pillow in his haste to use the bowl again. Shit.
"I don't see what Granger was going on about. Those things are harmless. We had one at home," Malfoy says offhand.
"Did it work?"
Malfoy shrugs. "My d—my father kept it hidden away, but I know he had one. Until..." Malfoy's eyes narrow. "Never mind."
Harry's nose starts to throb, a phantom pang from Malfoy stomping on his face last year on the train. His own eyes narrow too. He picks the bowl up and cradles it with one arm, leaving the other free to open the door for Malfoy. He raises an eyebrow and says, "Guess we'd better go back."
Malfoy doesn't move. "Does that work?" he says suddenly, nodding to Harry's bowl. Harry hesitates to answer, thinking only Oh God, what if Malfoy sees that scene, which only seems to egg Malfoy on. "Let's see it, then, Potter. Do you save the world or not? Actually, no, I don't care about. My family—let's see it."
Harry feels the invisible burden fall off his shoulders. He would still rather not show Malfoy anything with the scrying bowl—but Hermione's probably right, it's nothing but divination rubbish.
"Don't touch anything, then," Harry says at last. He sets the bowl down and stirs it three times, counterclockwise, saying loudly (enough that he hopes Ron and Hermione don't hear), "Show me Draco Malfoy's family!"
The waters start to boil, but there is no swirling blackness with lights in the obsidian depths. Bubbles rise and pop at the surface, the whole bowl gurgling and beginning to shake. Harry reaches out to steady it, but it shakes so much that water spills and it splashes on his hands, burning them. He recoils with a yelp and crawls back, waiting for yet another explosion.
"You bloody break this thing, Potter?" Malfoy asks. "Do you know how much they're worth?" Malfoy only leans closer to the bowl as it rumbles on the flagstone pavement, a thunderstorm in miniature. His expression changes and his mouth starts to hang open as the bowl slowly simmers down. He glances up to Harry, red-faced in the hazy night sky and says, "Is this some kind of a fucking joke, Potter?"
The blood drains from Harry's face. He snatches his wand out of the bowl because he knows what Malfoy has seen. There is no other explanation for the look of dawning horror in Malfoy's eyes.
"It doesn't work properly," Harry says stiffly. "It—it did that to me. It's rubbish." He picks the bowl up, the waters whirling gently inside and moves to toss it into the bushes, when Malfoy stops him.
"Don't. You'll mess something up that way, Potter," he snarls. "The only way to make—to make that stop is to dump the water, idiot." Harry can hear Malfoy breathing very shallowly, that whistling sound has returned to his lungs. Malfoy's jaw is set, he's tense, and looks ready to either burst into tears or start spewing hexes.
Harry doesn't trust him. "Accio Malfoy's wand!" he shouts. A wand zips through the house, shattering a window upstairs and falling into Harry's hands.
"What the fuck did you do that for?" Malfoy sneers. "That—that thing is a load of fucking lies. Didn't you ever read Edward Garrish's bestseller, Divination is a Load of Rubbish?"
"No," Harry spits. But he reckons Hermione has. The bowl is still in his hands and it is getting heavier. Baring his teeth, Harry steps back, leans over and tips it upside down.
The water doesn't come out. It doesn't splash him, not so much as a drip. Harry shakes it hard, but still nothing pours.
Malfoy simply stares at him. Harry sets it on the ground, where it sits, just as full as before. "Ignis!" he shouts at it, pointing his wand. Flames lick the sides of the bowl and skirt across the surface of the water, but still, nothing.
And in the middle of it all, Harry can see the fleshy shapes of two forms, writhing.
"That's—" Malfoy curls his lip in disgust.
"It's not true. It's not the future." Harry says. "I'm not—"
"I'm not!" Malfoy says louder.
Harry nods and Malfoy nods in return. He flicks his wrist and mutters the transfiguration codes at the pensieve, which finally does something right and turns back into a pillow, albeit one a little larger and a little rounder than the last time around.
"Here," Harry says as he passes the pillow to Malfoy when they walk through the house back upstairs, albeit very slowly, "this belongs on your bed."
Malfoy pushes it back to Harry. "That? Don't be disgusting, Potter. I'm not going anywhere near that thing not after those perversions it showed me. I wanted to see my family, not some sick joke."
Harry can't help but think Hermione is right. The bowl really must have been infused with Dark magic. He regrets that he won't be able to see how Regulus Black destroyed the horcrux in the locket. It's another dead end for them and another small victory for Voldemort.
In his bedroom, Harry shoves the pillow under a pile of dirty clothes and crawls under his sheets. Malfoy does the same, even though it is much too warm out to sleep like this. He doesn't want Malfoy to look at him, to think he thinks of Malfoy that way—because he doesn't! It was just that once. And now he knows.
Now he knows.
"You—you keep to your bed, Potter," Malfoy whispers.
"Oh, I will, Malfoy," Harry replies. A bug flies by his ear, buzzing loudly, the only sound in the room other than Malfoy's own wheezing breaths. Harry listens to the insect for a while, until it flies too close for comfort and he swats it away.
He rolls over later—much, much later— and watches Malfoy sleep. This is as close as they'll get and Harry tells himself that this is the way he wants it to be.
Come morning, once Malfoy is awake, Harry corners him in the kitchen. Malfoy backs into the counter, trying to get away.
"The locket—why'd you have it?" Harry asks. "And why'd you drop it?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Malfoy says haughtily.
Harry leans in close, enough to make Malfoy squirm uncomfortably. "If you don't tell me, I'll tell Ron and Hermione about the scrying bowl," he whispers. Harry knows he is chancing it—Malfoy could blackmail him as much as he can blackmail Malfoy—but it's worth a shot.
And it pays off. Malfoy's nostrils flare and he shoves Harry aside to sit down at the table. "All right," he says, sneering for good measure, "I stole it from Snape."
Hermione looks up. "And why did Snape have it?"
"I don't know!" Malfoy says. "Maybe he bought it at a junk shop in Knockturn Alley. He seemed to think it was awfully important. I thought I'd fuck him over like he—" Malfoy stops himself. "I stole it from him and thought I'd sell it, but that damned bastard Borgin wouldn't pay me a galleon for it. Piece of junk," he mutters.
"Huh," Hermione says.
"Huh," Ron and Harry echo.
"Snape knows," Harry says.
"That bloody murderer is everywhere. Probably plotting as we speak," Ron adds.
"Well, we have to plot faster then," Hermione says. "Which shouldn't be too hard because Zacharias Smith is Flooing over this afternoon." She smiles when Ron's ears start to turn pink as he sputters something about a "prat".
"If he's captured and his Floo is traced—" Harry protests.
"He won't," Hermione assures him. "I've used some spells to deactivate the Floo locator here. If anything shows up, it'll be registered for a campground fire pit in Nottinghamshire."
"Always ahead of us, Hermione is." Ron beams.
Even Malfoy has raised his brows, impressed it seems.
Hermione piles up the stacks of books and charms them up to her room. She cleans up the kitchen and wipes the table down, throwing out crusts and scrubbing off jam stains from breakfast. She hands Ron a rag and says "Dust" and she hands a broom to Harry and says, "Sweep". Malfoy, she ignores.
"Er...why are we cleaning?" Ron asks.
"Zacharias is coming," Hermione says. "Don't you want it to look nice for our guest?"
"Guest my arse," Ron grumbles. He half-heartedly swishes the cloth across one of the tables in the living room, then gives up and sits on the couch, watching Hermione, bent over the sink and washing dishes. Harry reckons it's more because Ron has a decent view of Hermione's breasts jiggling a little as she scrubs. Even he can see the sweat dribbling down Hermione's chest and underneath her shirt.
She's not the only one sweating.
In the corner of the living room, Malfoy sits, still in his long, dark robes, fanning himself with a ratty magazine. He's pink in the face and he's sweating enough that Harry can see the stains around his armpits and chest. He sighs and yanks Malfoy's arm. The fabric is damp, all the way through.
"Come with me," he says.
Malfoy stumbles into Harry's room. Harry shuts the door behind them and he spits at Harry, "Keep your filthy hands off me, Potter!"
"Put on a fucking t-shirt, Malfoy," Harry tells him, throwing him one he scourgifies from a crumpled pile on the floor, "I'm sick of smelling your sweat." It reminds him too much of the scrying bowl for comfort, seeing the sweat beaded across Malfoy's body, knowing that the image of himself caused that.
Malfoy narrows his eyes and tosses the shirt back on the floor. "No."
Harry wants to punch him. "We know about the Dark Mark already. We've known for a year."
Malfoy's face pales a little, but the red splotches on his cheeks remain. "Oh do you?" he asks in a strangled voice.
Harry rolls his eyes. He refuses to argue with Malfoy like a first year. "Fine, if you want to sweat and stink in those sodding robes, be my guest. I couldn't care less, Malfoy," he says and stomps out of his bedroom.
When Malfoy comes downstairs, some while later, wearing Harry's shirt, as well as a pair of shorts, Harry smiles to himself. Malfoy glowers.
"Just because I'm wearing your clothes does not mean I like you, Potter," he hisses into Harry's ear.
"What was that Malfoy?" Ron asks loudly.
Before Malfoy can answer, though, the fireplace roars with green flames and Zacharias Smith pops through, holding a small bag in his hands.
Hermione serves him tea (which he declines, because it really is too hot today) and insists he sit in the living room with her to chat.
"They seem awfully friendly," Ron mutters.
Harry shrugs and grunts. Zacharias doesn't seem to be as prat-like as usual until he starts to go on about how he can't stay long because his father is really worried about him going out for very long these days.
"Is that Draco Malfoy?" he asks, nodding to Malfoy, who has been lurking in the kitchen, carefully holding his left arm so that the forearm is tucked against his side.
"Er...yeah," Harry admits.
"I thought he was working for You Know Who," Zacharias says, his eyes widening and his wand drawn. He starts to stand up, but Hermione places a hand on his arm and tells him it's all right. Ron's jaw tenses as his eyes follow Hermione's hand back to her lap.
"He's...er...under our protection now," Harry says. Zacharias doesn't seem convinced as he keeps his wand in his clenched fist.
Hermione breaks the tension by saying, "About that cup..." and nodding to Zacharias' bag.
He pulls out a small golden egg cup, or that's what it looks like to Harry at any rate. It has little pieces of jet inlay that shine in the bright light of mid-afternoon in the living room. It rather reminds Harry of a tacky souvenir Aunt Petunia bought at a car boot sale once.
"Is that—" he starts to say.
"Yes," Smith says, holding the cup out. "It belonged to Helga Hufflepuff herself once, or so my father says. We don't know how much it's worth—grandfather had it insured, you see. It was stolen—"
Hermione gasps and covers a grin with her hands.
"-from my great Aunt Hepsibah and my grandfather found it in a skip near her home a couple months after she was murdered."
"That's it," Harry says.
Hermione takes the cup from Smith's hands, gingerly. Her eyes are shimmering. "This is...number two."
"Right then, we'll get this back to you sometime later," Ron announces and pushes Smith toward the fireplace. "Nice seeing you, but bye."
"Wait!" Smith insists. "You can't have that! It's a priceless family heirloom."
"That piece of junk," Malfoy says at last, pushing himself off one of the kitchen walls and into the living room. "You call that priceless?" He sniffs and looks down his nose, a look that Harry thinks reminds him exactly of Narcissa Malfoy.
"At least it's not dark junk like your family has!" Smith retorts.
"I wouldn't bet on that," Malfoy snarls.
Before Harry can whip his own wand out of his pocket, Smith has hit Malfoy with a Jelly-Legs Jinx. Malfoy wobbles across the kitchen and grabs onto a chair to steady himself, his legs wiggling under himself as Smith laughs.
"Shouldn't have taught him that in the DA," Ron says.
"Zacharias," Hermione says sweetly, "we want to examine this cup—just for a couple days," she says when he starts to protest, "because we think You Know Who is after it."
Smith's eyes go as wide as a house elf's. "You—you do?"
Hermione sighs. "Unfortunately, yes."
"All right then," Smith says quickly. "I'll—er, don't give it back until you know that You Know Who isn't after it for certain."
"Not a problem," Hermione says. Smith floos home leaving Hermione standing in the parlour with the cup, triumphant.
"Nice lie," Harry says.
"Sometimes one needs a little white lie to help the greater good," Hermione tells him. Then, she turns to Malfoy who is still struggling to stand up, glaring and swearing and muttering that he'd get Smith as soon as he has wand back. She sighs and casts the anti-jinx. Malfoy tumbles to the floor in an ungainly heap.
"What do you need that piece of Hufflepuff junk for?" he asks, brushing himself off. Harry can see the edges of Malfoy's Dark Mark, the black snake curling around the edge of a jaw bone. Malfoy hugs his arm close to his stomach and turns away from Harry.
"It's a horcrux," Harry says.
"And what is a horcrux?" Malfoy asks.
Harry tells him. Malfoy doesn't say much except "Oh". His fingers touch the edge of his forearm, stroking the skin as his arm sits on his lap. Harry leans over slightly, feigning a stretch and tries to get a better look, but Malfoy has turned his arm over once more.
They do some research. Malfoy wanders off in the house upstairs. Harry starts to wonder what he's doing when he doesn't return, until he hears the toilet flush and the shower starts to drip through the ceiling.
"We ought to fix that leak," Hermione mutters, not bothering to glance up from her book.
Ron points his wand and seals it with a charm. Hermione doesn't glance up for that either.
Harry doesn't let Helga Hufflepuff's cup out of his sight. It sits in the middle of the table during supper, on the mantle of the fireplace afterwards, and when he finally carts it up to bed, he places it under his mattress, on the side closest to the wall. If anyone—namely, Malfoy—tries to steal it, they'd have to wake him first by crawling over his body.
He sleeps with his wand and Malfoy's under his pillow.
Mrs Weasley comes by in the morning, with pots of casseroles and fresh salad and rolls for lunch. She marches through the kitchen like she owns it and insists that Harry, Ron and Hermione all bring down their laundry so she can wash it in a bucket she pulls out of a closet Harry didn't know existed.
Harry is glad that Malfoy likes to sleep late. He doesn't want to have to explain Malfoy and no one brings him up. Harry trudges upstairs with Ron and Hermione (who has quickly tossed Ron's clothes into his empty bedroom for him) and picks his own clothes off his floor. Malfoy snores softly on his bed. He rolls onto his back and murmurs something as he breathes. Harry walks around him and picks up a stray t-shirt.
"That should be it," he says to himself. Malfoy rolls back onto his side and Harry notices, half-hidden under his pillow, and half-hidden by his white blond hair is his t-shirt. Harry tries to tug it gently from under Malfoy, but for being that thin, Malfoy certainly weighs enough.
Sleepy hands reach out and feel blindly across the sheets. Malfoy touches Harry's hands, but doesn't wake. Instead, his mouth moves as his fingers curl around the back of Harry's hand, sticky with sweat and possibly saliva. Harry doesn't want to know.
Harry thinks he sees Malfoy smiling. But when he squints for a better look, Malfoy's mouth has opened again and he breathes slow and steady with warm, stale exhaling.
Malfoy is completely unconscious. Harry bites his lip. His doorway is open just a crack, enough to see Ron and Hermione's shadows move down the stairs with piles of clothes in their arms.
He leans down and touches his lips to Malfoy's. Harry freezes with fear and the monster in his chest twists anxiously, but Malfoy doesn't wake, he doesn't do anything, except breathe, sour-tasting onto Harry's lips, warm and moist from the summer heat.
Harry pulls back just as suddenly and thoughtlessly as he leaned down and he rushes out of the room, tripping over a pair of trousers that dangles from his arms.
"Is that everything?" Mrs Weasley asks him, taking the pile away to wash. Harry nods.
"We can wash our own clothes, Mum," Ron says.
"Yes, but you haven't yet, Ronald," she says. "And I doubt you're about to start anytime soon."
They eat a late lunch. Harry watches the clocks compulsively. It's past one and Malfoy hasn't gotten up yet. Mrs Weasley doesn't seem to be making any moves to leave faster— she cooks up steaks in the pan to eat with lunch and sits down at the table with the three of them.
"Harry, dear, you're looking a bit thin still. Have another," she says, shoving another steak onto his plate. Harry is busy chewing and can't tell her no. The clock chimes two and he starts to sweat. If Mrs Weasley doesn't leave soon— if Malfoy wakes up and saunters downstairs—he does not want to have to explain all this.
She does all the dishes for them, though Hermione offers to help dry. "Thank you," Mrs Weasley says stiffly. Ron's ears turn a bit pink at the tips. Harry leans close and asks him, "Does your mum know about you guys?"
"Er..." Ron doesn't say much. Harry smiles and shakes his head.
"Mate, I think she has to by now. She's not an idiot."
Then, Harry sees something out of the corner of his eye. Malfoy is standing at the top of the stairs. His hair is mussed from sleeping and he yawns widely, scratching at his temple. He starts to walk down the stairs. Mrs Weasley is finishing up the last of the dishes in the sink.
"I'll hang up the clothes on the line and be off. You probably don't want an old coot around much, do you Ron?" she asks. But she doesn't move fast enough for Harry.
He rushes out of the kitchen and takes the steps two at a time, making sure he stands right in the middle so that no one can see who's in front of him.
"Get back up," he hisses to Malfoy. He waves his arms up the stairs, "Get up get up get up!"
Malfoy blinks slowly. "What?" he asks loudly, yawning again.
"Mrs Weasley!" Harry mouths.
Malfoy's eyes follow Harry's down the stairs and into the kitchen, where the back door swings open behind Mrs Weasley as she steps outside. Hermione and Ron follow her, Ron glancing back to Harry and glaring at Malfoy silently.
"Ashamed of my presence, Potter?" Malfoy asks with a smirk.
"No!" Harry says hotly. "I think you ought to be more ashamed than I am!"
Malfoy clenches his hands. "Don't you think," he says through his teeth, spitting saliva onto Harry's face, "I already am enough?"
"Just—get inside my room!" Harry says frantically when he hears the door start to creak open again.
Malfoy does. Harry follows and closes his door. His mind echoes what he just told Malfoy and he thinks about how stupid, how stupid it sounded. He can feel his face on fire with embarrassment. Malfoy doesn't say anything, but he does stare at Harry as he breathes very, very shallowly, before he looks away, equally uncomfortable.
They're alone, Harry realizes. Malfoy sits with his back turned, at just the angle that Harry can see his chest still, his ribs underneath his thin skin and his nipples the only bit of colour to him that's not white blond and pale or watery grey eyes. His cock starts to twitch in his trousers. Harry wriggles a little and tries to cross his legs as discretely as he can.
Malfoy's breathing has turned to heavier sighs, like whispered words that the faint summer breeze catches when it wafts through the window. Harry wonders what it would be like to hear his own name on Malfoy's sighs, and whether his neck really would arch like in the scene. His face flames hotter at the thought, but the thoughts don't stop coming.
Malfoy, writhing underneath him. Malfoy, his lips bruised from kissing. Malfoy, his—
Malfoy's voice catches him for a moment. Harry swallows and says, "Yes?"
"Stop staring at me," he warns.
"I wasn't!" he replies.
Malfoy shrugs. "Right then." But he sounds more amused than convinced.
Harry wonders if he's honestly becoming obsessed with Malfoy this time around. This isn't about Voldemort, this isn't about Malfoy's family or about Death Eaters, no, this time it is purely about Draco Malfoy.
He doesn't like the way his stomach flips around, like when he was with Ginny. "Bugger this," he mutters, and walks out if his room, shutting the door behind him as loud as possible. The hinges are too well-oiled, though and the emotion is lost.
Mrs Weasley leaves sometime in the late afternoon, leaving behind a clothes line with shirts and shorts fluttering in the breeze that comes from the south, around the mountain and whistles through the valley. It is nice and cool, off the sea in the distance. Harry stands in the garden and lets it whip his hair around his ears, lets it flap his shirt sleeves close to his skin, again and again, a natural fan.
He pointedly ignores Malfoy all evening, sitting in the corner with a piece of parchment and a quill, to write to Ginny.
I miss you. Will your mum let you visit for a few days? A week? I want to see you again
—Smell your hair, the way it smells like the patch of passionflowers in the greenhouses at school. Touch you, your lips, your hips, your breasts. I want to hold you close again and chase all this rubbish about Malfoy away.
Harry scratches out his letter and by bedtime, his fingertips are black with ink and four discarded letters lie crumpled in the rubbish bin. He wanders up to his room slowly, almost dreading to sleep in the same room as Malfoy.
Except this is ridiculous, because it's his room, not Malfoy's.
Harry knocks on the door softly. The only light in the house is his wand. No noise comes from Hermione's bedroom, though when Harry notices the shadowy shapes of folded clothes of both Ron's and Hermione's outside her door, he smiles and shakes his head at them.
There is no reply from Malfoy, so Harry lets himself in and shuts the door just as quickly. A lump lies on Malfoy's bed sleeping, with a hand drooped lazily off the side. Harry skirts around it carefully to get to his own bed and making sure to not wake him.
His clean pajamas are crisp and cool, a welcome change from the sweaty, limp ones of before. He climbs into bed on top of the sheets and sighs into the dark night. Biting his lip, he slips a hand under his waistband so slowly that even a sleeping wizard wouldn't be able to hear him. He's hard, thinking about this all day, and his skin nearly buzzes with anticipation that he can finally wank in peace.
"Malfoy?" he whispers, checking. But Malfoy only makes shallow whistling noises as he sleeps. He must have allergies, or asthma or something. Typical, Harry thinks.
He starts to tug at his cock slowly, the way he likes it best, with his eyes closed and lying on his back. He sighs happily as he swells harder and spits into his left hand, switching for a little variety—and sometimes, if he can hit that sweet spot with his left, it's all the more sweeter because he's not as steady with his left.
Harry starts to dig his toes into the sheets and spread his legs, slapping his left faster, then switching back to his right when it gets tired. He can hear himself breathing harder.
He freezes when he realizes that that is the only noise he is listening to. "M-Malfoy?" he chokes, pulling his hand from his pajamas. There's no mistaking what he has been doing. His hand smells musky in the stuffy room. Harry squeezes his eyes shut and prays-
"I know what you did the other night," Malfoy says.
"Did what Malfoy?" Harry asks, trying to keep his words calm and collected. Instead, they come out in a strangled jumble that ties his tongue. He can think of several things Malfoy might mean—kissing him, staring at him, and he tries not to flush.
"You know what I'm talking about, Potter," Malfoy says in a low voice. His sheets rustle as he turns onto his side to face Harry. He props himself up on his elbow. Harry can see, even in the dim light that streams through his grimy window, how Malfoy's eyes slant into cat-like slits.
"Are you threatening me, Malfoy?" Harry counters. He pulls his wand out from under his pillow.
"No," Malfoy says quickly, "but I ought to. I'm not a poof," he says, forcefully.
"Neither am I," Harry says.
"Then what was that?" he hisses.
"I don't know," Harry says. He doesn't have anything else to offer. He doesn't know, honestly.
Malfoy sniffs. "Keep your paws to yourself, then," he adds after a long moment. "And if you have to, go wank elsewhere. That's disgusting."
Harry rolls over and flings himself off his bed. He throws himself on top of Malfoy and, glaring says, "You fucking shut up!" while he holds his wand at Malfoy's neck. Malfoy lifts his chin a little higher and swallows. "Just—shut up!"
"There's something wrong with you," Malfoy says through his teeth. "You're fucking obsessed or something. Get off me!"
The rational part of Harry reckons he ought to either hex Malfoy with a Corn-Flakes Skin Jinx or punch his sneering face. The other part of Harry reckons something else.
The other part wins.
Harry leans down and kisses Malfoy hard on the mouth. Malfoy tries to shove Harry away with his hands, but Harry grabs them and holds them above his head, sitting down harder on Malfoy's stomach so he can't move.
"Fuck you," he snarls against Malfoy's lips. "You don't know anything about me!"
"Except what you saw in that bowl was the same thing I did—I'm not like that, Potter! If that's a sick fantasy of yours—"
Harry kisses him again to shut him up. He's tired of hearing Malfoy talk. Even when Malfoy tries to bite his tongue that he shoves through Malfoy's lips—even that is better. Harry likes the feeling of Malfoy struggling underneath his body, as he tries to kick his legs and twist and wrench his hands out from Harry's grip. Harry kisses him harder and harder until he forgets to breathe through his nose and he kisses Malfoy so hard he feels like a human Dementor.
He pulls away, breathing hard. Malfoy's chest rises and falls in tandem underneath him. His lips are dark against his pale skin, the only bit of him with any colour, save for his glaring eyes and the Dark Mark, splashed across his forearm. Harry's fingers touch the bottom of it, but it doesn't feel any different than the rest of his warm, slightly clammy skin.
"If you attack people like that, no wonder Cho Chink left you, Potter," Malfoy snarls.
Harry shuts him up with another kiss, shoving his tongue into Malfoy's mouth before he can protest. He tastes better at night—a bit like mint toothpaste, a bit like stale, sweet tea from dessert. Harry slides his tongue along Malfoy's, tasting him as deep as he can, not wanting to slowly savour him. Malfoy is like a poison—he wants to stop this but he can't.
When Malfoy's tongue starts to slide back along his, fat and hot and wet, Harry groans. "God," he says, but the words are lost in Malfoy's mouth. He shifts along Malfoy's body and lies down on the bed, a little awkwardly, to not break the kiss with Malfoy.
They lie there, on Malfoy's bed, kissing for a long while. Harry's hands move tentatively up Malfoy's sides, holding him loosely, but not willing to slip under his borrowed pajama shirt. The sheets are hot and sweaty under their bodies, though they have hardly moved much, except to lean a little closer, their noses bumping.
Malfoy is the one to pull back. He is still close enough that Harry can lick the saliva from him lips, but he shakes his head and says, "Stop, Potter." He sits up and pushes Harry off the bed. "I'm not a poof," he says, sneering.
"Neither am I," Harry says emphatically.
"Then don't touch me!"
"You liked it!"
Malfoy stares at Harry, a look of horror crossing his face, then fading, then returning when he opens his mouth, but no denial comes. "Shut up!"
Harry eventually climbs back onto his bed from the floor. He lies on his bed, feeling somewhat colder and much more alone. He glances over to Malfoy, then back again several times. Malfoy is staring at the ceiling, too, until he rolls over and is turned away from Harry completely. Harry can't see him very well in the dark at this distance. He's a blur of pale hair and cotton pajamas blended into one uniform colour.
Harry reaches over to his little bedside table, as quietly as he can, and puts his glasses on. Malfoy is eerily quiet, and when he comes into focus through Harry's lenses, Harry can see his back shaking, almost imperceptibly, every other beat. He is rooted to his bed for a moment, as he realizes Malfoy must be crying, or upset, or-
"Malfoy?" he whispers.
Malfoy's back stops shaking. He stiffens, like he's expecting a curse. Harry leaves his wand under his pillow, though, and climbs over to Malfoy's bed. He is suddenly overcome with the foolish urge to kiss Malfoy again, so he pulls on Malfoy's shoulder to roll him onto his back. Harry leans on his elbow and stares down at Malfoy.
There's something wrong with me, he wants to say, but he holds back. Malfoy's cheeks shine like patches of petrol after the rain. And outside, it has started to rain, the leaves rustling with the beginnings of a shower that rushes to the ground as Harry sets his glasses aside once more, wraps his arms around Malfoy's back and kisses him.
Harry doesn't remember when they stop kissing this time and fall asleep. He wakes to a grayish din lighting the room and a miserable drizzle wetting his window pane and blurring the neighbourhood outside. Malfoy's mouth is warm and wet on his neck and his fine hair tickles Harry's face.
Their legs are twined; Harry extricates himself carefully, lest Malfoy wake up and feel Harry's swollen cock pressing into his hip. If Malfoy was awake, Harry might think about kissing him some more, maybe trying out to rub himself against Malfoy, to see what it was like, if Malfoy didn't mind it. But the hour is early when he hears the seven-tuned chime of the clock downstairs, so he stumbles into the bathroom for a shower.
This time, Harry thinks of Malfoy first and Ginny second. He imagines what it might be like to stand here with Malfoy, to see his hair grow dark as the cold water wets it, to see the water run down his pale skin, to see what he smells like, under all the sweat and dirty clothes and musty robes. He is no floral-scented girl with, well Harry is not loath to admit it, but he liked Ginny's breasts. He thinks he still does. But with Malfoy...
He thinks of that scene, with himself and Malfoy in bed, doing whatever they were doing, and he comes in his fist with a grunt.
The house is still dark with the early morning pre-dawn light. Or rather, it might be well after dawn, but the spitting rain has blotted out the sky with rolling grey clouds. Harry remembers about the sausages Mrs Weasley brought yesterday and reckons he'll fry a few up for breakfast. The thought makes his stomach growl loudly and his mouth water in anticipation of salty meat.
"Good morning, Harry," Hermione says cheerfully, startling Harry as he walks by her. "You're up early."
Harry grunts a hello to Hermione and scratches at his damp hair before scratching another itch at his side.
"I had a thought last night in bed," she says.
"Er...shouldn't you tell Ron that, then?" he asks. They both flush uncomfortably.
"Not that, Harry! Honestly! Anyway, so I was testing out the cup this morning to confirm it—"
Harry pales. "You—you walked into my room?"
"No," Hermione says, narrowing her eyes with suspicion, "you left it on the mantle last night. Anyway, I found that the bottom of the cup inside is a little different in composition to the rest of the cup. I think that You Know Who's soul is lodged within the metal itself."
"Er...okay," Harry says, not sure of where Hermione is going with all of this. Plus, it's early and he just wants to eat breakfast first. He opens the fridge to pull out a package of sausages, then pulls a clean pan from the cupboard.
"I think that in order to destroy this horcrux we have to melt the cup entirely."
"So much for Zacharias getting it back," Harry says, smiling wryly.
"Oh, there's ways to copy the cup and recast it—don't worry." Hermione sighs heavily. "But in order to melt this thing, we need a blue flame. Wizards in those days like to cast metal objects with what they called 'the blue forge', that is—"
"They used a blue fire? Like the Goblet of Fire had?"
"Precisely. So we have to build a blue fire like they did. Only they are not easy to do. I doubt I have a quarter of the supplies here with me."
"Are the ingredients rare?" Harry wonders if he needs to go to Diagon Alley again. The Metamorph Medal sits unused somewhere in his room, likely transfigured into part of Malfoy's bed.
Hermione shakes her head. "Not really— most of them I can pick locally from gardens and the forests, like woad and iris root. But they have to steep in infusions for probably close to a week—" she opens a book, reads for a moment and nods, "-almost a week. Some though—I don't have waning mandrake heads, Dutch yew spores or sphinx claws. Those are awfully expensive..."
"If we need them, I'll buy them," Harry says.
"I won't need them for a few days." Hermione pulls out a pair of PVC gloves from the pocket of her dressing gown. "In the meantime, I'm going out flower picking later today."
"Hopefully the rain'll clear." Harry peeks through the curtains, but the rain has picked up a little and splashes into growing puddles on the village road.
The rain, however, does not clear up. It comes in spurts throughout the rest of the morning, here a drizzle, there a downpour. Everything is grey and a bit miserable, but Harry is at least glad that the weather has cooled a little. When he hears Malfoy wander into the kitchen, Harry gets up and leaves. He doesn't think he wants to deal with him right now, not yet, not like this.
He sits on the front porch, where the overhang covers a mostly dry patch of stone, and he watches the rain. Harry tucks his knees to his chest when the rain starts to come down harder and bounce off the steps onto his bare shins.
"Nice day out, isn't it?" Ron says behind him, sarcastically.
"Yeah," Harry mutters. "Hermione still planning on going out?"
"She's putting on her mac and wellies," Ron says. "And she's got a huge silver knife, too. I didn't know she had something like that hidden away with all her books."
Harry smiles. "Me neither."
Malfoy walks out onto the porch. He leans against the house wall, his arms crossed. Ron scowls at him, but he doesn't leave. "This is boring," he grumbles. "Up for a game of Quidditch, Potter?" he asks, without so much as turning to Harry.
"We don't have enough brooms, Malfoy," Ron says.
Hermione pops her head outside, already tied up under the hood of her yellow mac. "Yes, we do. In the closet, we've actually got five brooms. And an old Quaffle Ginny forgot to take home from when she was here."
"Right," Ron says stiffly.
"I guess so," Harry tells Malfoy, also without looking his way. He doesn't want Malfoy to see the flush in his face, as much as he wants to see if Malfoy himself is flushing. It's made all the more awkward with Ron and Hermione there.
"You can help me pick some of these," Hermione waves a long parchment list in their faces, "then we'll play. I'm tired of research," she says.
"Hell has frozen over," Ron says.
Hermione transfigures a watch, a cap and a table chair into three more macs and hands them each one. It is not without a half-smile that she hands the orange Burberry one to Malfoy, who curls his lip in horror, but grudgingly puts it on over his t-shirt and shorts.
Harry's insides twist—Malfoy is wearing his t-shirt and his shorts. He can almost feel that he is touching Malfoy, right here, right now, by proxy.
"Get the brooms, too, Harry. And the cup. I don't trust it being left alone here." He rushes inside, grabs four brooms, charms them smaller and tucks the cup into the front pocket of his mac. Malfoy's wand sits in his shorts pocket, close to his skin. It pokes through his pocket sometimes as he steps. He reckons he'll have to ask Hermione for a mending spell soon to close the hole up.
They walk down the village street, the only ones out in the rain, except for an elderly woman sitting at the open train platform under a large, black umbrella. Harry's trainers soak through his socks to his skin in no time. He's never been one to watch out for puddles, like Malfoy, who skirts around each one, except for a shallow puddle here and there that he purposely splashes in behind Ron and Hermione.
He smirks when Ron glares at him and swears. Harry rolls his eyes at Malfoy.
"This is so undignified," Malfoy complains, pulling at the mac. "These things look ridiculous."
"Shut up, Malfoy!" all three tell him.
Malfoy shuts up after that, but he doesn't stop splashing the muddy puddles onto the backs of Ron and Hermione's calves.
They walk a mile or so past the village, where the hills slope up toward the mountain base and a thick forest covers the areas across a stretch of farmers' fields. They hop the split-rail fence and trudge through a wet field. The rows of plants brush up against Harry's sides, but luckily the stalks are tall enough to hide them, though their feet leave four pairs of footprints behind. They hop another fence at the field's edge into the forest.
"All right," Hermione says with a sharp nod, "Harry, you and Malfoy go off for some mistletoe. About this much," she gestures with her palms. "Use a tracking spell if you must, but I'd prefer not because the spell might alter the plant properties. Also, a couple of decent-sized oak branches that we can dry out to burn."
"To melt this cup thing?" Malfoy asks.
"That's right," Hermione tells him. "Ron and I can get the other things. Let's try to be back at the house within—an hour or two? Hopefully the rain will have cleared up for Quidditch by then."
Considering the amount of rain that trickles through the tall canopy of branches, Harry wonders if the rain will ever clear. He nods and Hermione and Ron wander off into the woods in one direction, while he and Malfoy walk the other way. Malfoy is muttering things under his breath, but Harry can't quite hear what he is talking about.
Malfoy casts Harry a sidelong glare. "This is rubbish. Trudging around the woods looking for things—why don't you send a slave or a house elf to do this?"
"And what would you rather do?" Harry snaps. "Lounge around until lunch? You don't do anything else! You don't help us with research. You don't tell us anything that might help! You don't help Hermione with the chores—"
"Oh, and you do?" Malfoy says hotly.
Harry flushes. "You don't bloody do anything!"
"No, I don't," Malfoy drawls. He steps over a rotting log that crumbles under Harry's feet when he walks over it. "But you like keeping me around, don't you, Potter? Convenient for attacking at night, all defenseless and such, aren't I?"
"You wish," Harry grumbles. He snorts. Malfoy purses his lips and glowers and keeps walking ahead of Harry, fast, like he's late for something in the middle of the woods.
"Do you even know where you're going?" Harry calls out to him when he's far enough ahead that Harry can see little more than a bright orange flash between ever-thickening pine trees.
"Getting away from you!" Malfoy shouts back. His voice is dulled under the sounds of the rain, trickling through the leaves, and the chirping birds that are hidden among them. Harry tracks through the woods, collecting wet leaves all over his trainers and snapping twigs every other step. He catches up to Malfoy, who has stopped and leans against a tree trunk, casually staring at him.
"I'll make you a deal," Malfoy says. Harry waits for him to go on. "I'll tell you where to find this mistletoe if you let me use your owl."
"My owl—Hedwig?" Harry blinks. "No!" he says automatically. "I mean—no, you can't. Why do you want to use her?"
Malfoy sneers. It is a pathetic attempt to look menacing. Mostly Malfoy just looks too-thin still and pale, with the faintest orange sheen to his skin from the shine of the mac. "My mother will be worried about me."
"And you're worried about her."
"Yes," Malfoy spits. "I want to send her a letter."
Harry thinks about this for a moment. Tracking charm with Hedwig. Surely Malfoy has to know I'd try it! "And you're sure she'd be safe?"
Malfoy nods, looking offended. "My mother doesn't just go around killing animals. That's my—" He stops and corrects himself, "My mother would never. Unless it was a rabid dog or something."
Malfoy might seem honest, but Harry isn't convinced. "Your who kills animals?" he asks through his teeth.
Malfoy's nostrils flare as he exhales through his nose. "My aunt, all right? Not my mother. We have a cat at home. And owls. And my mother takes care of them herself."
"All by herself?" Harry raises an eyebrow.
"She tells the house elves how to take care of them," Malfoy says, narrowing his eyes. "Do you honestly think she'd feed them herself? Clean out their litter?"
Harry doesn't think so, but he doesn't say that. "All right," he says after a long pause. "One letter."
"All right," Malfoy says. He looks up. "Your Mistletoe."
Harry looks up, too. There, about ten or so feet up in the crook of a large branch, a ball sits, half-hidden by large oak leaves.
"Bugger. Malfoy—what was the Latin name we learned in Herbology?"
Malfoy shrugs. "Do you think I care about things like that?"
Harry sighs. He should have known better than to bother asking. He casts a simple floating charm on the mistletoe. It's hard to see over the lip of his mac, so he pulls the hood back and casts it again. The mistletoe pulls up from the oak branch a few inches, but not much more. He ends up using a cutting spell and hopes it doesn't affect the properties too much for Hermione to use it.
"Now we have it," Harry says, tucking a large chunk of the plant into his pocket. The rest he leaves on the ground. "That was quick." He picks up a few more oak twigs, adding them to his pockets too.
"If you know where to look," Malfoy drawls.
Harry pushes past Malfoy. "You're such an arsehole," he says.
"That's what you want, isn't it?" Malfoy says quietly. "That's what all poofs want."
"I'm not," Harry says, "a poof. I have had girlfriends and I liked them a lot. I do like them a lot."
"Then why'd you go and break Weasley girl's heart?" Malfoy sighs dramatically and in a high-pitched voice says, "Oh, Potter! I am crushed without you!" He chuckles, but no one is around to laugh with him. He stops soon enough and glares at Harry.
"I just—I couldn't be with her. It's none of your business why," Harry says shortly.
"Good." Malfoy brushes past Harry this time, making sure to hit him in the shoulder as hard as he can. "Then you can go back to her and leave me alone."
Harry grabs Malfoy's arm. The mac slips out from under his finger, so he reaches again and yanks Malfoy by the shoulder to face him. "That's not—" Harry is furious. He wants to slap Malfoy's face. He wants to yell at him and call him a fucking shit and a coward and a poof, for good measure. But he says nothing as Malfoy stands there with his brow raised.
"You can just let go of me now, Potter," he says, trying to wiggle away. Harry pulls him closer, his eyes flitting down to Malfoy's mouth as he speaks. "I said," Malfoy pulls harder, "let go."
Harry shoves Malfoy against the tree trunk. Malfoy stands stiff, stunned before he starts to scowl. "That fucking hurt," he snarls.
"I don't care," Harry says. He leans forward and kisses Malfoy, hard. Malfoy is stiff under him: when Harry's tongue tries to slip between Malfoy's lips, he doesn't move. Harry licks his lips instead, running his tongue along his lower lip, then taking Malfoy's lip between his teeth, the way Ginny used to do to him. He liked it then. Malfoy ought to like it too.
Malfoy pushes him away finally. Harry relents and steps back, wiping the saliva from his mouth.
"Are you fucking obsessed, Potter?" Malfoy snaps. "You keep attacking me like that and I'll think you've come down with rabies!"
"Something like that," Harry mutters, stung. He pulls the hood of his mac as far over his face as it will go, to hide the embarrassed flush. Obsessed he might be, but Malfoy wasn't refusing his tongue last night. His cock twitches under his shorts, remembering the way it felt to lie on top of Malfoy, to have his bony hips press into his thighs, to feel the soft squish of his stomach, albeit through their pajama shirts.
Harry wonders what Malfoy would feel like without clothes. Without that hideous orange Burberry mac, without Harry's shorts and t-shirt. Malfoy, however, doesn't do much besides scowl at him and say, "Aren't we going back?"
They arrive first and sit on the split rail fence, waiting for Ron and Hermione. It is uncomfortable, both sitting on the old wood, complete with knots and nails striating through the rails, and the silence that ensues. A fine mist has risen up over the fields, though the rain has stopped. It is still as warm as ever, but combined with the humidity from the rain, it feels even hotter. Harry bakes under his mac; he peels it off and lets the valley mist coat his skin instead.
"Got the mistletoe then, Harry?" Hermione's voice shouts through the trees. He yells back to say yes as she and Ron walk through a thick copse. Hermione picks cobwebs and pine twigs from her hair—it seems even bushier than usual. It must be the heat, Harry reckons.
Hermione's face is flushed bright red, as is Ron's. She bites her lip and smiles. "Find it all right?"
She smiles wider, though her eyes drift to Ron. "All right." Harry wonders what they were up to in the trees. Considering Hermione's knees look a little dirty, he really doesn't want to think about that, especially as seeing Ron has a sloppy grin plastered to his face.
Malfoy doesn't seem to want to know either. Harry swears he hears Malfoy say "Disgusting Weasleys, shagging like bunnies in the woods". The crashing of a lorry rambling by distorts the words as they walk along the edge of the field toward the road, though.
Hermione drops off a small rucksack smelling heavily of fungus and fresh pine, along with Harry's mistletoe, and they pick up the brooms.
"I'd say that the best place for Quidditch is in the churchyard—the field just behind it, behind those trees," Hermione says. "We can risk a game or two. I doubt anyone will be out today."
"Probably not," Ron echoes, leaning on his broom with one arm. The broom starts to tip to the one side and Ron topples over, still grinning.
"Have a good time in the woods then, mate?" Harry asks Ron quietly as they walk down a side pathway, behind some shrubberies and across an overgrown lot behind some cottages.
"It was all right," he answers, though Harry can't help but join him as he grins, the two of them watching Hermione pick more pine needles from her hair.
It is a lazy game as they more or less play pass the Quaffle. Hermione offers to be on a team with Ron, leaving Harry with Malfoy. Hermione has always been rubbish at Quidditch, rubbish at flying in general, so she makes lazy loops low to the ground as Harry and Ron toss the Quaffle to each other and try to hit one of the highest branches of an elm bordering the cemetery.
If Harry squints, he can almost make out the tombstone of his parents among the haphazard rows below him.
Malfoy, on the other hand...he refuses to do anything. Harry throws the Quaffle at him once, but he ducks out of the way, shouting, "Do I look like a Chaser?" and instead floats around, high above Harry. Harry can't concentrate much on the Quaffle, even when Ron throws him easy pitches—he keeps his eyes on Malfoy, worried that he'll try to fly away. Yes, he has Malfoy's wand in his pocket, yes, it is held there with a gluing charm, but if Malfoy knows some sort of extra-strength summoning charm, his shorts will give and Malfoy will have his wand once more.
Except he doesn't.
Every time Harry thinks that Malfoy is going to run away, that Malfoy is going to steal his wand back (though he did give it to Harry willingly, more or less), he doesn't. It doesn't make Harry trust him anymore, though.
But it does make Harry want him more.
You're getting a bit obsessed with Malfoy. Ron's voice is fresh in his head, every time he glances over to Malfoy watching the telly in the evening, every time he watches Malfoy drink tea out of a shabby mug from Hermione's parents' office—I Love Dentists, or whatever silly logo it has. Malfoy sneers at it and asks what a dentist is. Ron laughs at him, but when Hermione asks him if he knows what a dentist is, he doesn't say anything more, so she proceeds to tell them both about teeth and tartar and gingivitis.
With both dread and desire, Harry treads up the stairs sometime after Ron and Hermione and Malfoy, too, in turn. He's been waiting all evening to catch Malfoy alone again. He wants to kiss him again. He wants to touch him again, but this time, Harry wants to touch his skin, with his hands, his lips, his tongue. He has a quick shower before wandering back to his room, where Malfoy has closed the door. His hands wander down his belly and he tosses himself off, thinking of the arch of Malfoy's neck, imagining the noises Malfoy might make—if he'd gasp or if he'd moan or if he'd scream Harry's name.
"This is ridiculous," Harry mutters as he brushes his teeth, spraying toothpaste across the mirror. "It's fucking Malfoy."
You're obsessed. And it was the scrying bowl that did it. It planted the idea in your head and now you can't stop thinking about it.
The mirror scowls at him. "That's right. It is disgusting. What happened to Ginny? What happened to wanting to be with her?"
Harry doesn't want to answer that just now. "I had my reasons and she knew them too," he says quietly. The mirror continues to scowl until Harry flicks the light switch and walks off into his room. He turns the knob slowly, so that Malfoy won't hear him come in.
Malfoy does, however, see him. He's sitting on Harry's bed. The light from the streetlamps and the few stars that shine through illuminate the window behind him, outlining his profile in a silvery shadow.
"You going to attack me again?" he asks haughtily, raising his chin at Harry.
"I—" Harry bites his lip and sits down on the bed, next to Malfoy but not close enough to touch him. "I want to," he says. Then he turns to Malfoy and looks him in the eyes. "I want to touch you, Malfoy."
Malfoy's breathing is the only sound in the room, before the mattress creaks as Harry leans across the bed to touch his cheek with his fingertips. Malfoy squeezes his eyes shut and his mouth opens, but he doesn't make a noise.
"You saw it, too," Harry tells him. "If that's the future, then—"
"That is not my future!" Malfoy hisses. He cringes as Harry continues to stroke his cheek bone, very slowly and lightly, enough to make Malfoy shiver and the pearly light from the window dances over his body. "I am not like that."
"You did in the scene," Harry insists.
"Those things are rubbish!"
"You like this," Harry says, whispering into Malfoy's ear. He licks the shell of Malfoy's ear with his tongue. He can taste the faint salt on the smooth, thin skin as he dips his tongue along the contours.
In a shaking voice, Malfoy says "No" but when he turns his head to Harry's, his hair brushing across Harry's cheeks feathery fine, Harry doesn't believe him. His weak protest is caught with Harry's mouth as they start to kiss.
Harry pushes Malfoy to the bed and lies on his side, kissing slowly. Malfoy's mouth is unresponsive for a long while before his lips start to move very carefully against his. Harry kisses him harder, stretching a hand across his shoulders and pulling him closer. Their noses brush as Harry dips his head, kissing the side of Malfoy's lips, slowly opening them with his tongue that he slips through, sliding across his teeth, tasting the mint of his toothpaste and tea and sweet heat that seeps from the corners of Malfoy's soft mouth and even softer tongue.
Then Malfoy slides his own tongue against his, slick and hot and wet, curling it along his, curling his body closer, but so achingly slow that Harry can't help but groan against Malfoy and push his hips against Malfoy's. This slow progression makes him hard, harder than in the afternoon when he had pushed Malfoy against that tree. He wants Malfoy to know he wants him.
Instead it only makes him frigid. He pulls back, his mouth glistening with saliva. He wipes the back of his hand along his mouth and sits up, frowning and staring at his hands, as though he has never seen them before.
"Malfoy?" Harry places a hand on his shoulder. Malfoy shrugs it away sharply.
"Don't touch me, Potter. What part of 'I'm not like that' do you not understand, Scarhead?" he spits.
"The part that says I think you liked it," Harry says. "I'm not going to tell anyone. I—want to touch you." Harry swallows and for a moment, hesitates before he says fiercely, "I want to make you come."
Malfoy inhales sharply. Harry blushes at his words, instantly regretting them until Malfoy murmurs, without turning around, but clear enough that there is no mistaking his words at all, "You do?"
"Yes." I can't stop thinking about it. Harry can't stop blushing, either.
Malfoy turns to him, staring blankly ahead. He nods down to his arm. "Even...?"
"I don't care. I know you're not evil." Harry wants to say that he thinks Malfoy is more a scared kid, but he reckons Malfoy doesn't need to hear that. "If Dumbledore believed in you, then I can too." Thinking of Dumbledore makes his chest tighten uncomfortably, but he's willing to do so if it means he can get closer to Malfoy.
"I—" Malfoy sighs heavily. "I don't know what to do." He says this in a voice Harry has never heard before, except maybe that once, when he was spying on Malfoy in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. This time, though, Malfoy isn't hunched over a sink crying, he's sitting on Harry's bed breathing very, very carefully.
"Well, what did you do with Pansy?" Harry asks.
"That doesn't concern you!" Malfoy scowls. Then he adds, "She liked me and did what I wanted her to do."
"Like I'd tell you."
"I'd do it to you, too," Harry blurts out. He realizes what Malfoy means when he raises his eyebrows and smirks at Harry.
"Well, well—" Harry thinks on this for a split second, before he says, "Yeah, I think I would."
Malfoy smirks at him for a long while until his face starts to fall into an impassive expression once more. "I'm not ready for that," he says. "I've never—"
"I haven't either," Harry says.
"No—I've never with Pansy—that," Malfoy says as darker splotches form on his cheeks. "Going down—she didn't, actually."
"Oh." Harry reaches out to touch Malfoy's cheeks. They are hot to the touch, far hotter than the weather, than the rest of his skin. With a burst from inside his belly, Harry leans over and runs his tongue along Malfoy's cheeks, tasting the heat and allowing his fingers to dance along Malfoy's jaw, tipping his face toward him. "I'd still do it," Harry mutters.
Malfoy can't seem to find any words to say. He sort of grunts at Harry. Harry takes this as a sign that it's all right, so his hands slowly move down the front of the pajama shirt Malfoy wears. He wants to go further than Malfoy's collar, but for now his fingers move across Malfoy's collar bone, seeing how thin the skin is, how much his bones protrude.
Malfoy sighs heavily and dips his face toward Harry. Harry catches the sigh on his lips and licks them, tasting his hot breath before kissing him, just barely ghosting his lips across Malfoy's as his fingers skitter along Malfoy's chest, searching out the nipples that harden under the thin fabric.
Malfoy doesn't stop him this time when he pushes Malfoy onto his back. Malfoy doesn't stop him when he lies on top of him, carefully adjusting his weight. He doesn't complain. He doesn't open his mouth, except when Harry kisses him harder, their tongues sliding together as their legs start to twine in tandem. Harry rubs himself against Malfoy, making sure that he knows how hard he is. His hands move along Malfoy's sides, and finally, finally, slip under his pajama shirt.
Malfoy's hands are limp at his sides until Harry takes them and places them on his back. Then his fingers start to claw through his t-shirt, pressing his skin softly.
Harry wants to tell Malfoy how much he likes this, but Malfoy is the first. It comes as a vibration in his mouth, against his lips, as Malfoy, moaning, starts to rub his own hips against Harry's thighs. He can feel a foreign swell, a hardness between them that is new.
His own cock hardens at the sounds that come to his ears. He wants to make Malfoy moan even more. His fingers splay across Malfoy's stomach, exploring the skin there, testing the soft spots, the hollows, the dips and the contours. Malfoy shifts under him and his legs squeeze Harry's thighs, always rubbing, always a little bit more than before.
He peels Malfoy's pajama shirt off and sits up, looking down at him, as he lies there, on Harry's bed, panting softly. His eyes are huge and glassy in the dim light, his mouth shines after he licks his lips. The line of his neck across Harry's pillow—Harry doesn't think he could want Malfoy this much before until something flickers across Malfoy's face and he sits up, too, a gasping, almost pitiable sigh catching in his throat. "Potter?" he whispers.
Harry wants to whisper "Shut up" but the words come out wrong because he pushes Malfoy down to the bed and crawls over his body before dipping his head down. His tongue snakes along Malfoy's chest, swirling across his nipples, tasting the salty sweat. Malfoy mewls as Harry nibbles them. He doesn't know what he is doing. He never got this far with Ginny, but when he sucks them harder and runs his hands up and down Malfoy's sides, where the ribs ripple like waves, he keeps going because Malfoy shifts on his bed, moaning under him, writhing on the sheets in a way that makes Harry start to think with his cock and only with that.
Harry feels the hands that twist in hair, yanking on his head as he licks, kisses, tastes down Malfoy's stomach. Malfoy sucks in his breathing when Harry stops at his trouser waistband, where a line of hair has grown thicker than the rest of his chest. He's rather like a girl, all hairless, until now.
"Potter..." Malfoy's eyes are closed when Harry looks up at him. He is panting; his heart thumps in his chest. Harry can feel the pulse under his tongue, the rush of blood over Malfoy's body, he can see the flush of his skin, he can feel the hardness of Malfoy's cock through his pajama trousers, right under Harry's chest. And he can feel Malfoy's legs, clamped around his body, quaking. "Potter—stop, I—"
And that is the last thing Malfoy says because he gasps like he's been punched or hexed, and his legs are a vice around Harry's middle as he comes, his back arching off the bed as Harry's tongue toys with the waistband, almost expecting this to have happened.
After, Malfoy lies in the dark, silent and unmoving, except for his eyes. "I didn't mean to—that early, I—"
"It's all right," Harry says. He's still hard, achingly so. He presses his legs against Malfoy's thigh so that he realizes it too. His eyes widen on Harry.
"And you haven't—"
"Not yet," Harry says thickly.
"If I asked you to do it—in front of me—would you?"
Snitches swarm in Harry's belly, but not as thickly as the blood running to his cock. "All right," he says slowly, swallowing hard. Slowly, he starts to tug his shorts down, unable to look at Malfoy. Then, his fingers freeze on the band of his underpants. He glances at Malfoy.
"I didn't think you wanted this," Harry says, trying to joke.
It is Malfoy who glances away this time. "I want to watch. Fair's fair," he drawls, but his confidence of tone is marred by the shake in his voice, and the way he clutches at the sheets of Harry's bed, wringing them in his hands.
Harry pulls his underpants down. He looks at Malfoy and gets off his bed, to stand up. Malfoy starts to recoil back when Harry gets too close, but stops when Harry just stands in front of him. His fingers wrap around the shaft. "Do you want to watch like this?" he asks, every word trying.
"That's fine—Potter," Malfoy murmurs.
Harry touches himself the way he would if he were alone; he reckons maybe that's what Malfoy means for him to do. Except he's embarrassed at this, it's not like those casual times in the dorm showers because no one was looking then the way Malfoy watches him now, his eyes constantly searching Harry's out, his face flushed and sometimes, even, his tongue will dart out to the side of his mouth.
He's so hard and Malfoy is watching and Harry never thought he'd be this turned on and—"Oh God" he gasps and his legs give and he comes, shuddering in his hands, hot and sticky until he collapses onto the side of his bed, trying to steady himself as he rides the last pulsing waves.
He crawls in beside Malfoy after, both of them just lying there, on their backs, staring at the cracks in the ceiling plaster. Until Malfoy reaches out and takes one of Harry's hands, hastily wiped off, and takes one of his fingers and with the very tip of his tongue touches Harry's palm before dropping his hand just as fast, back between them.
"I was just testing!" Malfoy insists. "I'm not a poof!"
"Disgusting, if you want to know."
Harry snorts. "It probably tastes like yours."
"Wouldn't you want to know?" Malfoy drawls.
"Maybe," Harry says. They say nothing more until sleep takes them, but the word echoes in Harry's mind long after.
It must have rained during the night. When Harry wakes and peels himself from Malfoy's sticky arms, Malfoy murmurs something and rolls over into a ball on Harry's bed. Harry stretches, yawning and looks out his window, as he is wont to do most mornings. The air is cooler, fresher and the grass looks greener still, though the lawns of the cottages that dot the street are near as manicured as Aunt Petunia's was.
He showers and pads back to his room, leaving wet footprints across the hallway flooring, wearing nothing but a towel slung around his waist. Harry closes his bedroom door and drops it, then wanders around naked, since Malfoy is asleep, picking out the first t-shirt and underpants and shorts he can find in his closet. He pulls them out of a pile, and something tumbles with them from a shelf.
A black pillow. Harry runs his fingers along the fringe—it is smooth and leathery and shines like glass. Something on the taffeta catches his eye. Harry squints—his morning vision, even after putting on his glasses, is blurred with sleep. He holds it up to the rosy-fingered dawn that filters through the window. It's early and he doesn't know why he is awake already, except for the fact he had to piss something awful and his stomach roils with hunger.
He watches the pillow sheen in the pinkish glow that rises over the surrounding mountains outside. In the stitching, clear, but only at certain angles, figures are outlined, moving. He watches them kissing, like a cartoon in a way, and touching and he doesn't have to guess who they are, not when he can see the way the one figure's hair moves, much finer and straighter, not when he can see the arm of glasses on the other.
"Finite Incantatem," Harry says softly, pointing his wand. He holds the bowl in his cupped hands for a moment, then replaces it on the shelf. Tonight, at midnight perhaps, the witching hour, he'll try again to remove the scene and stir it clockwise, to see the past, not this uncertain maybe-future.
He glances to Malfoy's hunched form on the bed. The waistband of the pajama trousers he wears is drawn low across his hips, enough that Harry can see the shadow of an erection between his legs.
He doesn't know if that is what he really wants, or if he wants to prove the bowl right, somehow, to know that in the future he's not dead, that he's still well enough and healthy enough to be making love. To be loved. He doesn't know if that Malfoy in the scene loves him or not, but the glances he makes in the bowl to himself in the scene give him more certainty than doubt.
Harry likes the warm feeling that settles inside when he thinks about it. It's better than the straining monster he had with Ginny, as much as he really did like her. As much as he really does still like her.
He sighs and turns to the clothes he has tossed on the end of his bed. He picks up his underpants and steps into one leg, when he notices something else staring at him.
"Not very observant, are you?" Malfoy says, his voice thick with waking.
Harry tugs on his underpants quickly. Malfoy's eyes wander down his body, then up again, settling on his underpants. The tips of Harry's ears tinge red. "How long have you been awake?"
Malfoy sits up and yawns theatrically, stretching his arms out. His armpits and patches of his elbows and chest of the pajamas he wears are darker with sweat and cling to his skin. "Long enough to see you flap yourself in the breeze."
Harry's ears burn hotter. And to make things worse, his cock twitches in his pants and Malfoy knows it because he raises an eyebrow and smirks.
"And did you like seeing me—er, flap myself in the breeze?"
Malfoy's ears turn pink. "How could I see anything but you, Potter, waltzing around starkers? Enough to make anyone wake up!"
Harry lets his eyes wander down Malfoy's body. He leans on his elbow on his side, looking all the casual arrogant bastard as ever, except for the way he's crossing his legs to hide, not very well, a swell beneath his pajama trousers. Harry's eyes search the folds and the fall of the trousers, desperately looking for the contours of Malfoy's cock, but he can't make it out. He sighs aloud in frustration.
"What?" Malfoy says, starting to scowl.
Harry shakes his head, and sits down on his bed. Malfoy swings his legs over the edge to move away, but it only makes Harry inch closer. "I could...er..." he falters on his offer when, realizing what he means, Malfoy's eyes go as wide as Dobby's. He flushes, then his face goes wraith-pale again before he nods, once, blink and Harry would have missed it.
"Just don't talk, Potter," Malfoy chokes when Harry's hands finger his waistband, unsure. Malfoy seems just as unsure; he sucks in his stomach with a gasp when Harry starts to tug the trousers down, slow enough to catch on Malfoy's erection.
He's never seen another cock up this close before, especially Malfoy's. Harry always reckoned him to be bigger than this, studly, something to be resented even more. But really, he's just average. Harry feels something inside him loosen. Relief, maybe, that he doesn't have to hate Malfoy for being better hung than himself.
Malfoy winces when Harry touches him, the engorged prick hot in his hands. He freezes, too, and his eyes fly to Malfoy's in a sudden panic. "What—"
Malfoy makes a strangled gurgle and sobs when his hips start to buck and he pounds himself in Harry's hand, his body shaking as he comes in hot, wet spurts. Harry is too shocked to move until Malfoy stops and slumps back on the pillow, pulling himself away and reaching to pull up the trousers.
"I—er..." Harry doesn't quite know what to say. Malfoy stumbles over something equally as intelligible before Harry says, "It's all right."
"What is?" Malfoy spits. "Coming before you even have a chance to—" He waves his hands around, gesturing wildly. "Fuck off, Potter. Leave me alone," he adds, sounding more pitiful.
"I mean it," Harry says, more forceful, louder, until Malfoy hisses a "Shhh!" and nods at the wall closest to Hermione's right. Harry says, more quietly, "It's all right. I wanted to make you come." He bites his lip and stands up, turning around briefly before dressing in silence. "I like it when I make you come, even if it is...early".
"If you say so," Malfoy says. His face is scattered with pink and amber light from the early morning. Harry leaves and shuts the door behind himself, using a quick Scourgify on his hands. Noises from Hermione's room filter down the hallway. He can hear her voice, quietly talking to someone, herself or Ron, and the sounds of shuffling before she locks herself in the bathroom for a good half hour.
Harry fries bacon and eggs for breakfast. Hermione comes down and eats with him, and Ron, too, wakes up not too much later. Harry likes the way the three of them sit at the table, slowly chewing and waking up, groggily passing the ketchup and butter around and grunting their hullos and good mornings. When Malfoy is with them it is never this relaxed. Part of him wishes it weren't true, but part of him yearns for this platonic threesome more of the time.
When Malfoy stumbles into the kitchen, wide-eyed and dressed already, in Harry's clothes, he passes him the bowl of eggs and gets up to help Hermione with the dishes. Malfoy stares at him for a moment, a look of hurt fluttering across his eyes, soon replaced with narrowed eyes and a curt, "Hello, Potter."
Ron glares at Malfoy. "Shouldn't you still be sleeping?"
Malfoy's glaring at Harry hardens. "Someone woke me up early this morning."
Harry freezes. After a beat, he continues to wipe dry a plate as Hermione watches him. She chews her lip and sits down next to Malfoy, her brow scrunched as she taps her finger on the table. Harry's insides wither and he feels ill. Malfoy, though, is smirking now.
"All right, mate?" Ron asks.
"All right," Harry says, forcing a smile.
"So, Potter," Malfoy says loudly, "where is that owl of yours?"
"What's it matter to you?" Ron snaps.
"Can't a bloke ask a question?" Malfoy drawls. "I don't see why you would be so concerned about Potter's owl."
"Only that you'd be sending your mother information about Harry so she can—"
"DON'T YOU DARE TALK ABOUT MY MOTHER LIKE THAT!"
The plate in Harry's hand crashes to the floor as he and Hermione rush to separate Malfoy and Ron, who have fallen to the floor in a fury of punches from Malfoy and hexes from Ron. Harry grabs Malfoy's arms and pulls at him, forcing him to stay back by sitting on his legs. Hermione has wrestled Ron away, but he pulls out from her grip and lunges again, pointing his wand and yelling curses, here and there until Hermione finally shouts "EXPELLIARMUS!" and his wand flies into her hand.
Harry touches the side of his jaw, feeling where one of the jinxes grazed his face. Blood stains his fingertips. Ron, breathing hard, says after a moment, "Sorry, mate" as he takes in Harry's slash.
"Ronald Weasley!" Hermione shouts, lording over him with her hands on her hips and a look that rivals Mrs Weasly, "After being civil to Malfoy for days you start doing THIS to him," she waves her hands wildly, "I know you hate him and I don't blame you but, honestly, it is not worth it! Malfoy is too valuable to us to curse him silly like that! Don't say things about his mother—"
Under Harry, Malfoy starts to snicker. Hermione whirls around and her eyes bulge wider, "AND YOU!" she points her finger. "If you don't start being a bit more helpful and civil to us when we have taken you in out of the GOODNESS OF OUR HEARTS, then I suggest you crawl right back to Snape and let HIM DEAL WITH YOU!"
Malfoy looks down, pink spots appearing on his cheeks. "Fine, Granger," he spits.
"Good," Hermione says. She cocks an eyebrow at Ron, who grudgingly mutters the same answer. Hermione smiles. "Now you can all help me start that tincture for the blue fire."
Harry gets up off Malfoy, accidentally brushing over his hips. He stiffens when he feels Malfoy's erection underneath himself. Malfoy stiffens too, and pushes Harry off him. "Do you—do you...er...have everything you need for it?"
"For now—I won't need the oak branches until after the potion tincture is finished. But I have a list of things I need from the apothecary's in Diagon Alley."
"No, I'll go. And—Ron, you can come with me."
Ron hangs his head. "Should we really be—"
"Harry will be fine here. Besides, I need him to go to the cemetery and look for deadly nightshade. And nettles and fluxweed—"
"It's no good if it's not picked under the full moon. And I believe that was last week," Malfoy drawls. "Or have you forgotten all of that after skiving off school, Granger?"
Hermione rolls her eyes and says, "No, Malfoy. You see, I'm not making a Polyjuice Potion and I need the fluxweed specifically picked under the waning moon phase. Which is, I believe, right now."
"Do you want to take my Metamorph Medal?" Harry asks them, ignoring Malfoy's snort.
"That'll be a good idea, Harry. And we'll stop by the twins and buy another off them, too—just in case."
"They'll give us one that's rubbish," Ron says.
"No," Hermione says pointedly, "they'll give you one that's rubbish, Ron. You use Harry's and I'll buy a new one for me."
Hermione and Ron leave before lunchtime, since Hermione wants to eat lunch on London rather than the leftovers they have in the fridge in the cottage. Harry sniffs them and reckons Hermione might be right, but he eats them anyway. Malfoy sniffs them and flat-out refuses.
"You'll poison me with that rubbish. It's practically rotting," Malfoy says with a sneer.
Harry changes the topic. "Why don't you use your eagle owl, Malfoy? Where is it?"
"Snape would recognize it, Potter. And he put a tracking charm on her last year. Jocasta was moulting for months after that."
"My owl," Malfoy snarls. "Think her name is funny, do you?"
Harry shrugs. "No." He sighs and says, "When Hedwig comes back next, I'll have her send your letter."
"Are you going to trace it too?"
"It won't work. The wards at Snape's house will detect them. I saw an owl explode there." Malfoy sweeps his hands wide demonstrating. "It was cool."
"That's sick!" Harry spits. "If Hedwig—"
"Just don't use a tracing charm. Keep your owl clean."
"And you keep your letter clean, Malfoy!"
"Are you going to read it over? It could be private!"
"Do you want to send it or not?" Harry threatens. Malfoy concedes and agrees, albeit with much grumbling. "Write it tonight," Harry says, "I'll call for Hedwig after dusk."
"Just collect all those disgusting mice on the doorstep and lure the owl here," Malfoy says. "There was another one this morning."
Crookshanks strikes again, Harry thinks. "She doesn't eat half-chewed mice," Harry says. "She'd rather hunt her own."
Malfoy looks at his fingernails lazily. Harry can see that he's chewed them to near the quick, but he's never seen Malfoy actually bite them. "So, Potter," he drawls, "should we go off looking for more plants or are you going to attack me again like you did this morning?"
"I didn't attack you! I jerked you off." Harry realizes how foolish he sounds and flushes. "I mean—I—"
"I know what you mean," Malfoy whispers. "No one's here."
Malfoy hasn't moved from the couch where he is sitting with his legs crossed. Harry shoves over—he wants to, his cock is swelling at the way Malfoy is staring at him, his eyes dark, the colour of rolling clouds. Malfoy has leaned back and cocked his head just the way that Harry can see his Adam's Apple bobbing, and his neck is long and stretched out, just waiting to be touched, or arched back in climax.
Harry gets up. "Let's go get Hermione's plants first. The horcrux is more important than this."
They walk to the cemetery. It's a nice day, unlike yesterday, though cooler than last week. Some of the neighbours are outside in the gardens, trimming privet hedges and mowing lawns. Malfoy stares at the lawnmowers a bit like he stared at the telly the first time. Harry waves to the neighbours and then rounds the bend in the road, turns left at the fork and walks up the slight rise in the road toward the churchyard.
Malfoy walks close to Harry. He can smell Malfoy's sweat mixing with the antiperspirant of his he knows Malfoy has filched, as well as his toothpaste. Malfoy has moved into his clothes and his toiletries like he has moved into the cottage, a bit like the mould growing on the bottom of the bathroom door.
Once or twice, Malfoy walks close enough to brush up against Harry's arm or his hand. Harry shivers and mutters "Sorry", even though it's not his fault. Malfoy says nothing. He's wearing one of Harry's long-sleeved shirts and sweating more and more the further they walk. He thinks of how Malfoy sweated last night, underneath him, how his chest was slick and salty under Harry's tongue. Desire ripples through his belly and settles between his legs. He glances ahead and nods.
"There it is," he says. Harry unlatches the iron gate and lets them into the yard at the side of the church. They walk through the grass, which has grown too long and nips the top of Harry's trainers. "Deadly nightshade and nettles and fluxweed," Harry reminds himself.
"There's your nettles," Malfoy points to a clump near the base of a large tree. "Under that yew." Voldemort's wand. Harry wonders if Malfoy knows this. He doubts it. He slices a plant with a quick charm and places it in the plastic sack he has brought.
"And there's some fluxweed behind the tower, I think," Harry says. He walks over near the tower and Malfoy follows. The sun is brighter here, bouncing off the limestone tower's south side. Harry feels it warming his face as he wanders around, searching for the tell-tale eight-pronged leaves of the fluxweed plant.
"There," Malfoy says, kicking at a patch of dirt rubbed bare as a path, "in that patch of violets. There's some."
Malfoy is right. Under the rich purple violet flowers are small fluxweed shoots. Harry uproots half a dozen or so and adds them to his bag. It crinkles against his arm.
"How do you know where to look?"
"Some of us are observant, Potter," Malfoy says. The light catches his smirk and makes his face brighter. Harry smiles back at him.
"I'm observant!" he says.
"My mother likes flowers," Malfoy says, off-hand. "And plants and such. We had—we have big gardens at home."
"Sure," Harry agrees. "You'll see them again, Malfoy."
"I'd better," Malfoy says darkly. His tone doesn't hide the slight catch in his throat, though. Harry feels a stab of pity for him, but doesn't know what to say about that, so he doesn't say anything.
"I guess that leaves the deadly nightshade," he says.
"They grow over the top of tombs and gravesites," Malfoy says. "But I didn't really see any back there." He nods to the cemetery. "But..." His lips curl.
"There might be some inside the church. If there are tombs in there," Malfoy runs a hand along the wall of the tower, tapping the stones with his long, pale fingers.
"The church might be abandoned, but I don't think there are plants inside of it—"
"Inside the tombs, Potter," Malfoy says, sighing. "The plants grow out of the corpses."
Harry doesn't really want to try to pry off the lids of sarcophagi and tombs. "Let's check the cemetery again and make sure."
"If you wish," Malfoy says.
"Well I do," Harry says firmly. "I don't need to desecrate the dead like Voldemort—" Malfoy winces, "like Voldemort in order to get what I need."
"Fine!" Malfoy hisses. "I was only suggesting." He mutters something that Harry doesn't catch. Harry ignores him.
"You take those rows," he points to the section of the cemetery closest to the gate, "and I'll take these". The cemetery might have been arranged in rows once, nice and even, but now it is a haphazard assortment of crumbling stone and chipped names, all faded.
He walks among them, trying to focus on searching for the plants. His heart feels heavy here. The air smells stale and still, of death, of blood, of sadness. Even the birds don't chirp here.
"All right, Potter, you were right. There's some here..." Malfoy's voice trails off. He stands over a grave, reading the names, his lips moving silently.
It is his parents' grave. Harry recognizes it immediately from the last time he was here. Above the left side, on the ground, struggling up along the smooth stone is a haggard deadly nightshade plant. Harry picks it carefully with his hand. He imagines, for a very brief moment, what it would have been like to pick these things and instead of chopping them up into a potion to destroy a horcrux, if he gave them to his Mum, if he lived here with his parents, if he-
"So those are your parents," Malfoy says in a hollow voice.
"Yeah," Harry places the plant in the bag, but he continues to kneel beside his parents' grave. The way Malfoy's eyes flicker, the way he stands with his mouth open slightly, he's thinking, Harry knows, about his own parents.
"Thanks, Mum," he whispers. Then he turns to Malfoy. "Let's go back. We've got everything now."
Harry washes the plants off in the kitchen sink for Hermione and leaves them on a towel to dry. Malfoy watches him, with folded arms, and makes snide comments and as usual, doesn't offer to help.
"Do you want something, Malfoy?" Harry asks him.
Malfoy sneers and says, "There's nothing you have that I want," but when Harry's eyes trail down his body, he can see the swell between Malfoy's legs. Malfoy is still sweating and plucking at the hems and collars of Harry's shirt he wears, but it's not all from the heat.
They end up tangled on the couch, with Harry lying on top of him. Harry has peeled all of Malfoy's clothes off and he looks at Malfoy, completely nude, for the first time, a glance here and there between slow, sticky kisses. Malfoy's face is pink and he is warm and sweaty and bony, but Harry likes this. And he likes seeing Malfoy in more than just weak wandlight at night. He holds Malfoy's hands above his head, draping them over the arm of the couch as he kisses Malfoy fiercely. His mouth is tired, his tongue too, but he can't stop kissing Malfoy, even though Malfoy keeps pulling back to catch his breath.
"Breathe through your nose," Harry mutters against Malfoy's throat, licking his salty skin.
"You keep bumping my nose," Malfoy whines. He reaches down and pulls Harry's glasses off none too gently. The arms twist over his ears, then Malfoy flings them across the room.
Malfoy moans when Harry's cock slips between his thighs. He's come once already, and Harry is so close himself then when Malfoy starts to move his hips and his toes curl and his legs shudder and he throws his head back as he comes again, the tightening of his thighs squeezing Harry's throbbing cock pulls him to climax. He gasps and holds Malfoy tight as he spills himself on Malfoy.
"Ron and Hermione ought to be back soon," Harry says awkwardly when Malfoy doesn't speak for a long while.
"Shut up about them. I don't care," Malfoy says. He digs his fingers into Harry's shoulders, the rough nails scraping his skin. He presses his lips to Harry's neck, then across his shoulders, then his arms wrap around Harry's neck as he hoists himself closer to Harry.
Harry lets himself succumb once more, writhing with Malfoy, licking the shell of Malfoy's ear, biting the lobe, biting his lip, grazing his teeth over Malfoy's neck. He lies next to Malfoy, the couch suddenly far less comfortable and far smaller than it was before. Malfoy's fingertips dance down Harry's back, touching his vertebrae one by one. He smirks at Harry, in a self-satisfied way, as though it was always his idea they do this.
Malfoy pulls his arm away and winces. It takes Harry a moment to realize why. He takes Malfoy's arm back, holding it up and looking at it. Malfoy tries to jerk it away, but Harry holds it firmly in his hands.
The mark is ugly and black, a stain on Malfoy's forearm. Harry has never seen a dark mark this close before, he'd always reckoned they were more like a tattoo than this living, pulsing, slightly raised brand Malfoy has taken.
Harry looks at him, hard, and says, "Do you regret it?"
Malfoy winces and seems to crawl into the couch cushions. "What do you think?" he snaps.
"I want to hear from your mouth what you think," Harry tells him. "Do you?"
Malfoy stares at Harry like he has swallowed his tongue. He bites his lip and his eyes bulge, but he finally admits, "Of course I regret it" in the smallest voice, most pathetic voice Harry has heard from him yet.
Harry holds the arm up over Malfoy's head, this time exposing the mark to the light, this time it is not hidden and Malfoy doesn't twist it away. He kisses Malfoy, slipping his tongue into Malfoy's mouth to the point where he knows Malfoy must almost be gagging, but he doesn't care. He wants to claim Malfoy the way the Dark Mark has. "Good," he says.
They dress in silence after the sun has dropped out of view when heavy clouds roll in with a dribbling mist off the sea. The rain swirls around the mountain and collects in the valley, hitting the town slowly, then with fatter drops of rain as the sky darkens to a colour that Harry thinks looks like Malfoy's eyes. Or maybe Malfoy has the chameleon eyes, changing with the colours of water. He wonders if they might ever be bright blue, but he doubts it, not even if the light hit them in the right way.
Ron and Hermione come back through the Floo, flushed and dripping wet. "Get everything?" Harry asks, nodding to the large brown package Ron holds.
"Did you?" he asks, with a nod.
"We also got curry for supper, Harry. Sorry we're so late—I thought we'd be back hours ago, but I figured that we ought to have some real food for once rather than leftovers—"
"Oi!" Ron shouts at Hermione. "I like my Mum's leftovers."
"Yes, but you were the one who told me you fancied London Muggle fare." Hermione hands Harry a second large paper bag, greasy at the bottom, smelling thickly of spices and hot buttered rice. He sticks it in the fridge for later.
Hermione puts on a pot of tea and pours herself and Ron large mugs. They sit around the table as she pours the bundled herbs and jars of pickled who-knows-whats out of the bag. Malfoy hangs around in the doorway until Harry catches his eye and nods to the chair beside himself, which Malfoy reluctantly fills.
"So we have it all now?" Harry asks.
"Including the special coating for the cauldron when we have the fire itself, yes," Hermione says, holding up a small vial she purchased. "We will need more than those couple of oak sticks I got the other day, but beyond that, I have everything we need to melt that cup and destroy the horcrux."
Hermione saying those words is a burden off Harry's chest. They're so close to this next one being ticked off the list, that he can't help but feel anxious to start, and elated to having come this far with the cup.
"Thank you, Zacharias Smith," he murmurs.
Ron coughs. "Can't wait to see the look on the prat's face when we tell him we melted his aunt's cup."
"Ron!" Hermione scolds, but her smile takes the bite of her tone and Harry laughs at the two of them.
Three days pass in a fury of potions lessons at school revisited. Hermione is as harsh as Snape, constantly lording over Harry and Ron as they chop, dice and julienne roots and herbs and even something Harry swears is still alive, though Hermione tells him that is impossible as whatever it was has been pickled for three years in the juice of a augury's intestine. On the third day, Hermione even insists Malfoy do some work rather than watching the telly and doing nothing.
"Feel sorry for you, mate," Harry says to Ron, whose eyes sting as he cuts something pungent, "for wanting to put up with this."
"I can hear you," Hermione warns them, though her back is turned as she stirs the potion in the smoking cauldron.
Ron mutters something in agreement with Hermione and his ears turn pink. Malfoy smirks at him as he slowly slices a head off a dried mandrake, then chops it into fine cubes.
Three nights pass in fury of passion. Malfoy doesn't sleep in his own bed once. The mattress squeaks and groans underneath their sweating, pulsing, shuddering bodies. Harry can't keep his hands off Malfoy, or his lips or tongue. He wants to taste every bit of his body and on the third night, Malfoy finally relents his hands from Harry's hair when he dips his mouth below Malfoy's hips. He runs his tongue up and down Malfoy's cock, tasting and teasing as his hands squeeze Malfoy's thighs, as they handle his balls, rubbing the thin skin with his fingertips, making Malfoy moan and buck until he comes in Harry's mouth, groaning, collapsing from pleasure after.
It is only at night they touch. Harry wants to have clandestine trysts with Malfoy in the bathroom at lunchtime, but instead he pulls his hard cock until he comes, one hand bracing the toilet for balance. He wants to meet with Malfoy, pushed up on the back wall of the house, when Ron goes out for milk every second morning, or when Hermione calls for Crookshanks. Instead, he sits at the table, chopping plants and hoping he doesn't come in his trousers, hoping no one can see the beaded sweat on his forehead as he tries in vain to think of anything except where Malfoy's own hands were the night before.
On the fourth morning, Harry wanders upstairs after breakfast to have a shower, since Hermione was using it when he first woke. They have started to chop the last of the ingredients for the potion and should have the potion completed in a day or two, if Hermione can successfully bring the tincture to a boil long enough to produce the tell-tale curls of whispy green vapours they are supposed to have.
He searches for his grey t-shirt to wear, since he reckons it is the one that is cleanest. Harry throws out a pile of clothes from his closet and paws through his trunk, but he can't find it. He rummages through his sheets, just in case it was one Malfoy had peeled off him one of these past nights—he can't recall.
He flips his pillow over and something falls to the floor.
Harry picks it up and stares at it. It is a box of condoms. He drops it on the floor, disbelieving, then he feels his face burn with the flames of a thousand suns and he hastily shoves it under his mattress, not wanting a soul to see it.
He corners Hermione after lunch. "Er...did you..." he starts to say, but he can't say the words and he can't look her in the eyes because he doesn't want to know if she does know something and—"I mean, under my pillow—"
Hermione blinks, then her mouth curls into a smile. "Ah, that. Yes, I did put those there for you—"
"What?" Ron shouts from the living room, where he has propped himself up on the couch with a plate of lunch.
"Nothing!" Hermione shouts back. Harry doesn't think his face can get any redder, so he pulls Hermione's arm and drags her out the back door.
"I thought that if you were," Hermione nods to the door and mouths 'Malfoy' and raises a brow when Harry tries to deny it. "I thought that if you were doing things, you at least ought to be safe about it, Harry Potter."
"I heard you two. I have heard you two for a couple nights. Besides, you'd have to be blind, or Ron, to not notice the marks on Malfoy's neck."
"His neck...?" Harry didn't notice them, but now that he is reminded, Malfoy might have had a mark or two...He hangs his head low and mutters, "You won't tell anyone, will you?"
"I could care less what you do in the privacy of your bedroom," Hermione says firmly. "Though, honestly, Malfoy?" She shakes her head and says "I don't want to know. Just—be safe, Harry."
"He's not going to go snitching to Voldemort on me," Harry snaps.
"I mean safe sexually," Hermione hisses.
"Er...right," Harry doesn't think he can get any more embarrassed speaking with Hermione than he is now. "Er...should we go chop some more—"
"Yes," Hermione says. But she doesn't stop smiling that little knowing smirk all afternoon. Malfoy starts to watch Harry carefully when he notices Hermione's raised brows at him. They don't touch, they aren't even sitting next to each other right now, and yet she must find this all so terribly amusing.
Malfoy is the one to corner him in the evening. Ron and Hermione are walking into town to buy some more milk. The evening is fresh and cool and the trees sway with an impending rain. Everything smells thickly of earth and nitrogen, but nothing has fallen yet. The sun sets in a streaking array of crimsons and violets and the bugs have started to buzz and hum by the lamps in the cottage. Harry curls on the couch and flicks the telly to find something other than Coupling to watch. Malfoy sits close to him and once Hermione and Ron shut the door behind them, he stands up and folds his arms.
"So, Potter," he drawls, "what were you talking with Granger about?"
"What—nothing," Harry says quickly.
Malfoy clucks his tongue. "I heard you. You were talking to her, all secretive and such, and I heard stuff about sex. You shagging her behind the Weasel's back? God, isn't that like incest, you three?"
"I wasn't!" Harry insists. "I'm not! If you want to know, it was about you."
Malfoy recoils as though Harry has slapped his face. Harry turns down the volume on the telly and stands up, close enough to Malfoy to take his hands and pry them apart. "Yes, you," he says. "She—"
"Knows..." Malfoy finishes, his voice weak and shaking.
Malfoy pushes Harry away, with his hands firm on Harry's chest. Harry stumbles backward and falls onto the couch. "Don't touch me!" Malfoy seethes, his saliva flying. "Get away from me!" he yells when Harry tries to stand up. He runs up the stairs and Harry can hear the bathroom door slam shut.
He pounds on the door. "Let me in, Malfoy!" he insists. Malfoy doesn't respond. The only sound is the tap water running and the occasional muffled, "Fuck off". He gives up reasoning with Malfoy and uses an Alohamora.
"I was wondering how long it would take you to do that," Malfoy mutters as Harry opens the door. He hangs his head over the sink, his hair falling limp over his face. Harry can't see his face in the mirror. He is reminded heavily of that time in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom and his stomach knots with pity.
"Malfoy, I—" Harry sighs. "I'm sorry. I didn't know she knew. I thought we—"
"We were what? Quiet, Potter?" Malfoy spins around. His eyes are rimmed with red and he's sniffling and wiping his eyes with the back of his hands. He narrows his eyes and snarls, "Like to see me cry, do you? You going to hex me again?" He tries to look angry and menacing, with his chest all puffed up, but Malfoy's shoulders twitch and his hands shake.
"No," Harry says. He steps up to Malfoy and tucks a lock of hair behind his ear. Malfoy's scowl falters a little. Harry kisses him, at the side of his mouth, just barely skimming his lips. "But-" he swallows and pulls the box out of his pockets, "But she did give me these."
"What are they?" Malfoy asks, warily eyeing the box.
"Er...condoms. They're...er...for protection."
Malfoy is silent. For a very long time, he simply stares at the box in Harry's hands. "We don't have sex," he whispers in a hollow voice.
"I know," Harry says. The door opens downstairs and Ron is calling out to Harry, asking where he is and if he wants Hermione to make him a cuppa too. Harry shouts "All right" before leaning in close to Malfoy and adding, "I want to, though," before he goes downstairs.
He, Ron and Hermione drink tea late into the evening as Hermione watches the cauldron boil, stirring every ten minutes or so to prevent sticking. Malfoy doesn't come downstairs, not even when Hermione serves the pound cake she bought at the grocer's for dessert.
When he goes upstairs, Harry finds Malfoy hunched over his small desk. He clears his throat softly and closes his doorway behind himself. His cock is already starting to swell with the expectation of touching Malfoy soon. His body shakes with anticipation. Malfoy doesn't turn around, so Harry squeezes by the narrow cot and stands behind him. He runs his fingers along Malfoy's arm, where the hem of his t-shirt stops. Malfoy stops writing.
He flinches when Harry tries to stroke his arm with the back of his hand. "I've written a letter to my mother," he says.
"I'll read it over in the morning," Harry tells him. "Come to bed," he whispers roughly. I want you so much.
The condoms are heavy in his pocket. Harry wonders if he should have practiced using one earlier in the day, but right now, he doesn't care about. He starts to pull at the bottom of the t-shirt Malfoy is wearing.
"Is that all you think about? Fucking me?" Malfoy snarls.
"No," Harry says. He drops his hands and walks away from Malfoy. He leans on his window sill, letting the cooling air float over his skin. "I just want to—to touch you, is all. You've been all stiff today—"
"Well if you hadn't let Granger know, then—"
Harry hisses "Shh!" It is Malfoy's turn to flush when he realizes how loud he has been.
"Fine," Malfoy says, sticking his chin up haughtily. "You can touch. You can fuck my mouth all you want. But you are not fucking my arse. I am not a poof. And you aren't using those—those Muggle things!"
"Those. We're not having sex so you don't need them. You can tell Granger to sod off and mind her own business."
His insides twist a little and maybe his cock goes a little flaccid at the tone of Malfoy's words because he sounds so...this is not the Malfoy who has been wantonly writhing with him of days late, but Harry reckons he'll take what he's offered. He says "Fine" and holds his hand out. "Come to bed, Malfoy," he whispers, lying down on his bed.
Only when Malfoy lies down next to him, stripped to the core, naked and flushed in the dim light of streetlamps outside, does Harry relax. He peels his own clothes off and stretches out beside Malfoy, holding his chin in his hands and kissing him hard on the mouth, making Malfoy's body start to arch toward his.
He lays hot kisses over Malfoy's body, leaving bruised claims on his neck and arms and belly, places where no one else but him will see, places where Ron and Hermione might see. He wants to suck the poison from Malfoy's arm, but instead he brings his lips to it and bites the flesh hard enough to make Malfoy squirm and moan and if he's in pain at being claimed by him, Harry reckons it is all the better. He'd rather Malfoy be his than Voldemort's.
He wraps his lips around Malfoy's cock and spells YOU ARE MINE with his tongue. He wants to spell NOT VOLDEMORT'S, but Malfoy's thighs quiver and his hands pulls at Harry's scalp and he comes, moaning and groaning and panting before Harry has the chance.
Harry holds Malfoy with loose limbs after. Malfoy doesn't notice when he slides his cock between Malfoy's legs, where it is slick with come and sweat, but he does clench his arse and thighs when Harry starts to thrust his hips absently.
"No fucking," Malfoy mutters.
"No fucking," Harry echoes. His forehead rests on Malfoy's chest and he heaves himself onto his elbows and if he can't fuck Malfoy proper, then at least he'll come here, between Malfoy's legs, like this. Harry spills himself with a shuddering sob. The condoms, long forgotten, lie on the floor under his shorts.
The potion doesn't have much longer left before they can test it out. Harry wakes to find his bed empty and his arms cold. He shivers and pulls the sheets around himself until Malfoy crawls back into his bed, and the toilet flushes in the background.
"It's not dawn yet," Harry murmurs. He might be blind as a bat without glasses, but he's not blind enough to not see how dark his bedroom still is.
Malfoy grunts and settles down into the crook of Harry's armpit. "Then go back to sleep, Potter," he slurs, his voice laced with slumber. Harry opens his mouth to answer, but Malfoy is lost before he has the chance.
Harry and Ron spend their day in the woods, collecting more fallen oak branches and the occasional twisted yew twigs. Harry feels a bit awkward leaving Malfoy behind with Hermione, but he's more grateful to be alone with Ron, just as mates. They haven't had much time alone together in weeks, Hermione is always there, or the shadow of Malfoy lurks in the doorway. It is nice, Harry thinks, to stomp through the wood, crunching on mildewed leaves and talk to Ron about the Cannons' season this year and speculate on what they'll do in Auror training.
Harry doesn't like to think about the if. If he can defeat Voldemort. If he can survive. If he's even able to get into Auror school since he skived off his last year at Hogwarts.
"It's weird to think we're not going back," he says.
"We'd be buying textbooks about now," Ron says. He picks up a forked branch and adds it to the pile in his arms. "Going to Diagon Alley with Mum and Ginny."
"It wouldn't be the same now, anyway," Harry says. "Half the shops are closed. People are all afraid that they'll be the next to disappear. I bet Hogwarts will be half-full, at most."
"Reckon so," Ron mutters.
In the evening, a lull has fallen over the village. Harry hasn't heard so much as a car drive by in an hour and while the neighbouring cottages have lights on inside, he doesn't think he's seen the shadows of people inside. It is eerily calm inside here, too, except for the monotonous voice of a BBC broadcaster repeating the day's headlines on the news. Malfoy watches intently. Hermione and Ron and Harry all lounge around.
They can test the potion in two days, Hermione tells them. She has added the unstable and expensive last few ingredients and now, they wait.
"Tomorrow," she announces, "let's go to the beach. I've heard there's a nice sandy one if we take the motorway directly south from here, then turn left at St. Mary's Head."
"Er...but we haven't got a car," Harry says.
"And if we did, none of us have our licenses either," Hermione replies. "No, I think we should Apparate tomorrow morning and have a picnic. It would be nice to take a break from the potion for a while and get away from this village. I'm going stir crazy with nothing to read!"
"Nothing new, she means," Ron says, grinning. Hermione smacks him on the head lightly, but she can't hide her smile either.
Beside them, Malfoy gasps loudly. He blinks and his mouth hangs open lower than usual. On the telly, images of army aircraft and helicopters in some deployment overseas move across the sky and soldiers dart across the rubble on the ground.
"So that's...what a helicopter looks like, is it?" Malfoy drawls. He tries to sound casual, but the way he can't take his eyes off the screen betrays him.
"Yeah," Harry says.
"Hm," Malfoy grunts. "Not how I pictured them."
For the first time in a long while, it is Harry who walks up the stairs first to go to bed. His eyes have been drooping all evening. He's been up too long and he's been slow and sluggish since supper. It's half-past ten, maybe, since last he heard the clock chiming but eager to fall asleep. He shouts "Good night" to Ron and Hermione, who are snuggling on the couch still. They hardly look up to notice him, but Hermione mutters something about "Good night".
Malfoy walks up the steps behind Harry.
"For someone who was so paranoid about others finding out, you're not very subtle, are you, Malfoy?" Harry whispers, when they round the corner of the hallway. Ron and Hermione are out of sight. And hopefully earshot.
"Shut up," Malfoy hisses. "I was just coming upstairs. I wasn't following you, Potter. Unlike you, I don't think about shagging every time I see you."
"What do you think about, then?" Harry counters. He leans close to Malfoy, who takes a step back, against the wall. Malfoy has narrowed his eyes, but they are heavy-lidded and dark. He tilts his head to Harry and Harry has a feeling Malfoy knows that doing that makes him hard because he smiles when he feels Harry's cock twitching through his shorts.
"You never read my letter," Malfoy says. "You said you would today."
Harry groans. "I don't want to think about your letter when we're—when we're like this."
"Well I do," Malfoy snaps. "I care about my family and if you want anything before bed, you'll damn well read it, Potter, and find your ruddy owl and send it off to my mother!" He clenches his fist and curls his lip. The telly echoes downstairs, but Harry can also hear the wet, sloppy sounds of kissing too.
"All right," he says, trying to stifle a yawn. "I'll read it now. But I haven't seen Hedwig yet."
"Use an owl whistle then," Malfoy says. "Or a summoning charm."
"She'd hate that. She's not an object!"
"Jocasta doesn't mind."
"I doubt it," Harry mutters. They shut the door to Harry's room and he flicks on a dim lamp to read the letter Malfoy pulls from his pocket. He really doesn't want to— he's tired, he wouldn't mind a shag (or, whatever it is they do) from Malfoy then a nice, long sleep. Instead, he sits there as the words blur in front of him.
It is a short letter, written in small, choppy letters as though Malfoy has tried to disguise his printing.
I am fine. Please don't search for me. The raven has not eaten your songbird, but his tune is warbled and all the pet food I can find is awful. I am doing what I can. Don't listen to him—wait until the jay flies home for the winter.
"What is this?" Harry asks slowly, waving the letter in front of Malfoy's face. "If this is in some sort of bird code, it's not very secret." He starts to laugh, but Malfoy cuts him off.
"Well—what am I supposed to say?" Malfoy shouts. "That I'm happy here? That I enjoy walking around this place without a wand just to prove that I'm not—not evil— so I can get protection?! Do you think I enjoy being humiliated like this?" Malfoy's nostrils flare and he breathes loudly. "Do you, Potter?" he whispers in such a low tone that Harry wonders if he should just rip up the letter and toss Malfoy out the window rather than try to deal with him.
"No," Harry says. He licks an envelope off his desk and seals the letter inside. "I know you hate this place. I know you hate my friends. But I don't think you hate me—"
"I damn well do—"
Harry ignores him and doesn't stop talking, "-because you let me touch you and I know you like it because..." He stops and flushes. He shifts his weight onto his left foot and tries to look casual; except for the fact his cock is harder than before thinking about him.
"Because what?" Malfoy demands, whining like a child.
"Because when you come, you...you have this look," Harry says, stumbling over his words. He doesn't know quite how to say it and Malfoy just stands there, looking furious and confused and blushing red all at once. "You look like...like you never want it to end."
"No, this. Whatever it is we have."
Malfoy shakes his head. "I think the Dark Lord hit you a bit too hard with a curse, Potter. You're off your rocker."
Harry smiles at Malfoy and rolls his eyes. "Come to bed," he repeats. He lies on his side on top of the mattress and holds his hand out for Malfoy. "Actually, no," he says, taking his hand away right when Malfoy starts to reach for it. "Take off your clothes so I can see."
"See what?" Malfoy snaps.
"You," Harry says. "I mean, we've never really, well, looked. All at once."
"As if I want to look at your body!"
Harry wants to say that if Malfoy does strip for him, he'll—well, he doesn't know, maybe suck Malfoy's cock. But he doesn't want to give Malfoy any more bait so he says nothing, but skims his fingers across the front of Malfoy's trousers, grasping through the fabric just enough to feel the outline of Malfoy's cock.
Malfoy bites his lip, but it doesn't stop his moan. Harry closes his eyes at the sound, which hums through his ears. He sighs and scowls but starts to pull off his t-shirt slowly, raising it above his navel and half-way up his chest. Harry's eyes trail along the line of blond hair from under his waistband, up up up, bisecting his belly in two. He brings his eyes to Malfoy's.
"Like that?" Malfoy asks with a smirk.
Harry's hand moves across his own waistband. He doesn't say anything, but watches as Malfoy pulls the t-shirt off languidly and stands before him, with his hands on his hips. The only movement between the two is the rise and fall of their chests as they breathe.
In the light from the lamp on his desk, Harry has a good view of Malfoy. He can see the dark shadows striping his sides, where his ribs still stretch the skin. He can see the colour of Malfoy's nipples and his tongue swirls behind his teeth, remembering the way they grew hard in his mouth when he sucked them. He nods for Malfoy to keep going.
Malfoy closes his eyes briefly and his exhale is a husky whistle between them. His cheeks flush, the wine colour of embarrassment, or prudishness or exactly what Harry doesn't know stains his cheeks and his ears, but his fingers hook inside the trouser waistband and he tugs them down in one jerky motion.
He steps out of the trousers and stands there, staring blankly ahead at the wall behind Harry's shoulder. Malfoy is shaking slightly, his legs wobble and his hands tremble, but he doesn't seem to notice that, or the fine hairs all over his body, standing on end. "Is this what you want?" he whispers.
"Yeah," Harry says. He can't bring his eyes to Malfoy's face. He looks at Malfoy's cock, which is half-hard and as flushed as his face. The blond hair around it doesn't look as dark now as the few glimpses Harry has seen of it before in dim light. His heart pounds inside his chest. He's still dressed. He doesn't know why Malfoy doesn't try to cover himself, or try to run, or even try to say something.
It's like he's scared.
So is Harry. He may be clothed, but he feels just as exposed as Malfoy. Any sense of tiredness from the evening has vanished and all he can think about is how much he wants this person in front of him, how much he wants to touch Malfoy and make him shiver with pleasure.
He swallows the lump in his throat and sinks to the floor, awkwardly throwing aside a dirty t-shirt from under his knees and pushing back the untouched cot bed.
"Sit down," Harry tells him, pointing to the cot. Malfoy blinks and narrows his eyes, but does it. Harry crawls up to him, feeling utterly foolish and a bit embarrassed, but when he pushes Malfoy's legs apart with his hands, the look of pure shock on Malfoy's face makes it worth it.
He takes Malfoy's cock into his mouth, opening his lips around the head, slowly using his tongue, trying to be as gentle as he can, which isn't all that easy because Malfoy pulls his hair and gasps and thrusts blindly into Harry's mouth and he nearly gags more than once, but when his eyes lift up to Malfoy's and see that frozen look of peace, for the briefest moment, as he comes in hot, bitter spurts, it makes it worth it to Harry.
He pulls back and spits onto the carpet, wincing at the aftertaste. Malfoy lies on the cot, boneless and replete as his breathing softens. "Well," he says, turning his head, "aren't you going to strip for me, too?"
Harry raises an eyebrow and Malfoy mirrors him. He sighs and pulls his own clothes off, standing there, starkers, as Malfoy stands up and appraises his body, lifting his arms and poking his sides before grinning and going down onto his own knees in front of Harry and making him gasp and groan and buck his hips in return.
Come morning, Harry's bed is empty and he fishes blindly for his glasses, which have fallen to the floor. Malfoy sits downstairs in the kitchen with his back to Harry. His hair is dark and damp from a shower and it curls at the edges as it drips onto the t-shirt he's filched from Harry's closet. Harry snorts to himself, but really he doesn't mind. All of his clothes smell faintly like Malfoy now and he likes imagining that it's not the fabric touching his body, but Malfoy instead.
Hedwig sits on the table. She coos as Malfoy scratches the top of her head and she clicks when he digs his fingers in behind her ears.
"What are you doing?" Harry asks.
Malfoy half-turns. "Bonding with your bird so she'll post my letter," he drawls. "That's a good bird," he says, smirking as Hedwig jerks away from Harry's own attempt to pet her. "I guess I just have a way with animals that you don't."
"Whatever," Harry says, rolling his eyes. He glances out the front door, but Crookshanks hasn't left anything this morning. Malfoy continues to pet Hedwig, who flaps her wings. Dander and feathers float in the air loosely around them. "Don't let her on the table, Malfoy. She's getting feathers everywhere and Hermione will be angry if they get into the potion."
Harry, does, finally post Malfoy's letter, though with much trepidation. Hedwig seems pleased that she has something to do after a month or more of flying around in the woods nearby and she flies off a little too quickly to comfort Harry's worries about her.
"If anything happens—"
"Nothing will," Malfoy says. "I just want to talk to my mother!" He doesn't say anything more to Harry again until Ron and Hermione wake up. They eat breakfast and Hermione announces that she has to pack a bag with her bathing suit and towel and make sandwiches with the last of the stale bread in the house.
"Well, Potter," Malfoy says, "you'd better charm me something to wear in the water, too, or else I'll have to go starkers." He smirks and adds, "Bet you'd like that, after what we did last night."
Ron pops his head into Harry's room. Malfoy's face goes white. "Ready, mate?" he asks Harry. "Hermione wants to Apparate soon."
"You know, Malfoy, for someone who doesn't want very many people to know, you're really not very quiet about all this." Harry smiles when Malfoy's cheeks turn pink and he sputters something about not being a poof. In a spur of the moment, Harry drops his own swimming trunks and pushes Malfoy into the wall, kissing him firm on the mouth.
"Keep that in mind until we get back," he says. He remembers to charm a pair of shorts for Malfoy, but the colours are off and he ends up with something rather red and rather small which Malfoy stares at and says he won't wear, but Harry is not about to give him his wand any time soon.
Then Malfoy's face clouds over and his eyes darken. Seriously, he says, "Potter, I—my arm. If I go into the sea, then if someone sees my arm—" He glances down at the mark on his arm. Harry's used to seeing it now, and neither Ron or Hermione really bring it up (besides Ron telling Harry one night that he knew Malfoy had the dark mark all along), but it's always been a lurking presence, like Voldemort himself.
Harry waves his wand, but the mark doesn't disappear. "Didn't think that would work," he mutters and waves his wand again, with a concealing spell, but still nothing.
"Are you ready yet, Harry?" Hermione calls from the hallway. She wanders into the room, all dressed in a sundress and wide hat. "Ah," she says, seeing Malfoy's upturned inner arm. "Hmm..." Hermione frowns for a moment, her eyes rising to meet Harry's as she takes in the mark on Malfoy's arm. Hermione mouths, "I knew it" but then she reaches for her wand and says "Max Factor!"
Malfoy pokes at his arm, cringing slightly in pain. "Is that—makeup?"
"Yes," Hermione says. "The Max Factor spell usually lasts about eight hours, sometimes twelve. One of the few useful things I learned from Lavender and Parvati, actually. How to cover up spots with a waterproof spell." She smiles and marches out of the room. "Coming?" she asks, glancing over her shoulder. "I have money for ice cream if we can find a place there and also for some pop. I've beendying for a decent coke all summer."
"Doesn't that, er, rot your teeth or something?" Harry asks.
Hermione doesn't answer, but her knowing smile gives it away. "The grocer's in town only carries Pepsi, anyway."
"What's Pepsi?" Malfoy asks.
"A Muggle drink."
His lip curls. "Well, I won't be touching that," he says. Harry doesn't believe him, because he mouths Pepsi to himself, as if to remember. He smiles to himself and follows Hermione out to the back patio.
"Where are we Apparating to?"
"It's called Bloody Bay Beach," Hermione tells them.
"That sounds lovely," Ron says cheerfully. "I'm rubbish at treading water, so when my body floats to shore, that'll be another one for the beach."
"No, no," Hermione says. "It's called Bloody Bay Beach because it's a mistranslation of the original Welsh name. Or so I read in my parents' tour book. I haven't been there in a couple years, but it's really a lovely place. All right, I'm ready," she says pointedly at Ron, then she disappears. Ron squeezes his eyes shut and does the same.
"Let's go, then," Harry says to Malfoy, holding his arm out.
"Do I look like I need an escort?" Malfoy snaps. "You might have my wand, but I can bloody well Apparate on my own." Harry is about to tell Malfoy off, when he disappears too.
"Shit," he mutters. Harry can only hope that Malfoy hasn't buggered off. Considering what swimming trunks he's wearing, Harry reckons he wouldn't have much of a chance if he met up with Death Eaters or his friends anyway. He murmurs the name of the beach under his breath, chanting, then concentrates. His chest tightens, but when he opens his eyes, he's standing beside a sand dune, covered in scrubby plants. Malfoy is next to him.
"I found a spot!" Hermione's voice calls out. Harry follows the sound through a valley between short dunes and comes out onto the beach. It's a hilly expanse of sand, speckled with smooth grey stones and drift wood. The sea is calm, if dark, and there aren't too many other people around. The winds ripple over Harry's arms and he rubs them. "Bit cold for swimming, maybe," he says.
Malfoy snorts. "If you say so, Potter."
The sand is hard to walk through and his trainers slip too many times, so Harry pulls them off and carries them in his hands by the laces. The sand is smooth between his toes, and much warmer than he would have thought. He sits down beside Hermione, who spreads a towel for herself.
"This isn't bad," he says. Ron wanders by the water's edge, dipping his toes in.
"The water's not bad either," Ron shouts. He runs up to them and plunks himself on the other side of Hermione.
"Do you see anyone watching us?" Hermione asks. Ron shakes his head, and Hermione grins. She points her wand and a large, striped beach umbrella suddenly pops out overhead, large enough for all of them, even Malfoy, to sit under.
"If Muggles saw that—"
Hermione rolls her eyes at Malfoy. "Honestly. Lighten up." She sighs and stretches back on her towel, kicking up a foot of sand that flickers through the air like dust motes. "We need this break."
The sun manages to peer through the clouds once or twice in the afternoon, but for the most part the beach is nowhere near as sunny as Godric's Hollow and within a few hours, most of the other people at the beach have left. Hermione seems pleased with this and transfigures the picnic basket into a large picnic table where they eat sandwiches and drink coke from the lone café stand near the main road. Malfoy refuses to touch it, but when their backs are turned and Hermione and Ron start to toss a ball around in the sand, Harry catches Malfoy drinking his untouched coke furiously.
He turns around and Malfoy overturns his cup into the sand. "Like I'd touch this rubbish. It's not even fit for beasts to drink." What Harry doesn't say is that there is no puddle of coke in the sand under the picnic table. He shakes his head and shrugs.
Hermione lies on the sand under the umbrella, complete with sunglasses and sunscreen slathered all over her body. Except it really isn't sunny. Harry doesn't understand why, and Ron even less. He reckons it's a girl thing. Ron does, however, spend much of his time while Hermione lays there staring at her chest, which shines from the sunscreen. Harry caught a glance, and the sight of Hermione's nipples through her navy swimsuit was enough to leave a lasting impression.
They were nice, but Harry thinks about Ginny's tits, fleetingly. They were nice too and they also weren't Hermione's, who is his friend and he is quite content to leave it at that.
He, on the other hand, spends his time staring at Malfoy. Malfoy who has no chest, Malfoy who is a bloke. Malfoy who complains and shivers as he stands in knee-deep water. "It's too fucking cold," he whines. "And these trunks are absolutely god-awful, Potter. God, can you not transfigure things decently? McGonagall's pet to the end, weren't you? She bumped your marks, I can tell."
"Shut up, Malfoy," Harry tells him. For spite, he dips down low into the water and emerges with a splash and a shout that leaves Malfoy glaring from under his fringe like a drowned rat.
"I hate you," Malfoy seethes. His heart, though, isn't in it because he retorts with a decent-sized splash of his own, once he stops bitching about the water temperature.
Somehow, they end up behind a sand dune, rolling over the warm beach. Well, Harry does know how they ended up there, kissing and touching and peeling wet swimming trunks off each other. There was an awful lot of splashing, then Malfoy got out of the water and claimed he needed to take a piss in the loos, and Harry followed the glimmer in his eye, and-
"God, Potter!" Malfoy moans. His legs twine with Harry's, smooth and slick from the water, though there is sand under his hands that grasp Harry's back as Malfoy circles and swivels his hips, his cock a hot brand on Harry's thigh.
Harry plants fast, furious kisses on Malfoy's neck, tasting the sea water and sweat with his tongue as he swirls it over Malfoy's collar bone and across his nipples, hard with desire, and maybe with the cool breeze. Harry grunts when Malfoy's hands make quick work of his cock, pulling and tugging until he comes, his mouth gaping on Malfoy's skin.
"I'll never get the sand out," Malfoy mutters when they pull their swimming trunks on again. "I can feel the grit everywhere."
"This was your idea," Harry reminds him, shaking his head and scratching his scalp where the sand has ingrained itself. He doesn't admit that Malfoy is right. He can feel the sand in his arse and under his cock and all over his thighs. He brushes off what he can and leaves the rest. It sticks to his damp body like glue.
Malfoy drawls, "You didn't have to follow me. I only wanted a piss."
"And a shag."
Malfoy gives Harry a half-smile. "I'm not the sort to refuse one," he smirks.
Harry bites his tongue down to keep himself from telling Malfoy he does too refuse to have sex. Actual sex.
The sea starts to churn and the sky starts to rumble not too long after, darkening to the same slate colour as the surrounding rocky cliffs beyond the beach. The winds pick up and Harry hugs his knees to his chest, trying to keep warm. The umbrella flips up and Hermione finally relents and packs up her towel and the picnic basket and transfigures everything back. They trudge up through the sand just as it starts to spit. Harry's glasses are covered with rain drops by the time they Apparate back to Godric's Hollow, where the rain hasn't caught up with them. Yet.
"So, tomorrow," Hermione says over supper, steaming stew that, while a little bland and tasteless, is deliciously warm inside Harry's stomach by the time the clouds overhead here start to roil with distant thunder and a fresh shower.
"Tomorrow's the day," Harry says.
"Got the cup to melt?" Ron asks him.
Harry nods. "Still there in my closet. How long do you think it'll take to melt, Hermione?"
Hermione swallows a bite of food and shrugs. "I'd say maybe a half day, maybe up to two. It depends on how deep the magic is wrought. We want to make sure the horcrux is burned out of the molten metal completely, otherwise..."
"Voldemort," Harry says. Everyone at the table but him winces. He sighs and eats his supper in silence.
That evening, he and Malfoy are alone in his bedroom, long before bedtime. Harry has showered and the sand and grit from the beach is mostly gone, as is the vaguely cold, damp feeling of wearing swim trunks for hours on end. "No more shrinkage," he murmurs, cupping himself through the towel.
"Enjoying yourself?" Malfoy asks. Harry hadn't realized Malfoy was here with him. His face feels hot, but he smiles a little.
His pajamas reek something awful by now, a combination of sex and spunk and god-knows-what else, so he chucks them aside and fishes through the piles of half-folded clothes in his closet. His hands hit something hard on the floor and he sees the cup, hidden by a trouser leg.
"That's odd," he mutters. "I thought I left it on the shelf." He turns to Malfoy. "Did you...?"
"I couldn't care less about that, but if you need it for destroying to protect me and my family, then I'm not about to touch it," Malfoy says hotly.
Harry lets the thought slide, but he can't shake the vague feeling of suspicion that the cup wasn't where he had left it before. Malfoy's hands slide over his shoulders and pull him close for a hard kiss. Harry opens his mouth and groans as Malfoy's hot tongue slides in, but with his foot he fumbles around his discarded shorts, making certain his toes pick up not just one, but the feeling of two wands. Only then does he run his hands down Malfoy's sides and push him down to the bed.
A storm is brewing when Harry wakes. The sky is dark and cloudy, the house is dark, too, but there is a light on downstairs. Harry rolls off his bed and pulls on a pair of shorts before wandering downstairs. Some time during the night, Malfoy mumbled something and crawled into the cot. Something about being hot or uncomfortable or that Harry was stealing the sheets. He doesn't remember.
The clock chimes some hour past ten— Harry loses count as he sees Hermione standing in the kitchen, her mouth set in a dead line as she stares at the cauldron.
Ron glances over to him. He's dressed too, and standing close behind Hermione.
"We ready to start?" Harry asks, smiling a little.
"Extremely ready," Hermione says. "Except—"
"Except what?" Harry starts before he's cut off by Ron.
"Someone's been into this," Ron blurts.
Hermione nods. "I put a ward up over the potion, just in case. And I woke up just past five because I saw a flash of light—"
"Not lightning," she says quickly. "It was the ward. Someone tried to tamper with this."
"Malfoy," Ron hisses.
"Malfoy was—" Harry starts to flush, but he stammers the words out regardless, "Malfoy was with me all night. He..." But Harry remembers waking up to a bed by himself. Malfoy had been awake at some point and—
Harry throat swells, and his stomach plummets with realization. "It was him. Fuck—is the potion-?"
"It's fine," Hermione says fiercely.
"But Malfoy's not," Ron says, clenching his fist around his wand. "The fucking liar. I knew it all along, he—"
"Shut up," Harry snaps. His stomach has turned to molten lead. Harry doesn't know what to think. All this time, he's been doing things with Malfoy and now Malfoy has fucking tried to tamper with the potion. "He's fucking dead," Harry whispers and runs up stairs, taking the steps two or three at a time. He pushes through his bedroom door and stands there, still for a moment, glaring down at Malfoy.
Malfoy is curled on the cot, towards the side of Harry's bed. His arm hangs over the edge and the dark mark is visible on his forearm, right out in the open. It is slightly red and puffy around the edges, as though he's been called recently by Voldemort. As Malfoy starts to stir, Harry casts a Stupefy. Malfoy's body jerks once and a startled cry is caught in his throat, but Harry doesn't feel pity for him this time, only pure and unadulterated disgust.
"You fucking traitor," he snarls. "You fucking, fucking liar. I should have known this was all bullshit from you. Protection my fucking arse!" He snorts, mirthless, and floats Malfoy's body downstairs into the kitchen where Ron, quite happily, ties him to a chair with a secure roping charm. Malfoy's face still has the frozen look of startled sleep, but his eyes seem to glimmer with the knowledge of what he has done.
"We can't waste any time on him," Hermione says, "Ron—get the wood and pile it into the fireplace. The fire will cut the Floo access, too. An added bonus of sorts. Harry, get the ladle and help me carry this potion into the living room."
Ron piles logs in the fireplace, stacking them up carefully as Hermione dictates to him to layer the yew and oak. She has Harry hold the cauldron as she dips the ladle in and starts to pour the potion over the logs, dripping some on Harry's feet accidentally, and dribbling over the floor. It stings Harry's toes, but he's focused on trying to not drop the cauldron. He tries to breathe slowly, tries to not scream out loud in frustration and anger at Malfoy. They were fucking, they were practically fucking, God, they were lovers like the scrying bowl showed and now this.
Harry wants to vomit, he's so disgusted with himself, and with Malfoy, for letting this happen. For being so foolish to think Malfoy could ever be trusted.
"That's good," Hermione says finally. Harry places the cauldron on the floor, with a louder thud than he would have thought. Ron glances from him, to Malfoy, and back to him. "We'll get this going, then we'll deal with him," she says. She points her wand at the logs. "Incendio!"
The fire won't start the logs. Hermione tries three times, but nothing. Harry tries twice more and still nothing. Finally Hermione tells Ron to go and use a blocking charm on the fireplace vent when the first fat drops of rain hit the logs and threaten to bollocks the whole thing up. She follows him outside to make sure "he does it the right way this time".
Harry is alone with Malfoy. "Finite Incantatem!" he snarls, pointing his wand and flicking his wrist.
"What the fuck is this, Potter!?" Malfoy shouts. "What the hell have you done this to me for? What the—"
"You tried to sabotage the potion!" Harry seethes. "You tried to steal the cup, too, didn't you? Or hide it again on us? What are you playing at Malfoy? Protect you? I'm going to fucking kill you—"
But Harry stops himself, the memory of Malfoy's body arcing through the air, the blood splattering Harry's face. His face twitches, as if invisible blood has once more been flicked across his skin.
"You wouldn't dare," Malfoy says in a low voice, a dangerous voice. "We—I—"
"You don't know me, Malfoy," Harry says through his teeth.
"I fucking sucked you off, you idiot. I bloody well do know you and if—"
"If what? I don't let you go, you'll tell Ron and Hermione? You'll threaten to kill me?" Harry walks up to Malfoy and grabs the back of the chair, tipping it back towards him. Malfoy freezes and a flash of fear passes through his eyes, that Harry will let go, but instead he sets the chair back down. He wants to, but he hesitates, unwilling to follow through and hurt Malfoy. Yet.
"You fucking traitor. I should have known. You deserve to go back to Voldemort and Snape."
Malfoy's face goes white. "You don't know what you're saying," he whispers.
Harry ignores him. Where once he felt pity, now he looks at Malfoy and the watery glaze to his eyes, the blood drained from his face, the bluish tinge to his lips, the fear and loathing in his eyes and he doesn't care. He doesn't want to care, though his insides twist and knot inside, doubt fuzzy at the edges, but never manifest enough.
He hates himself now more than he hates Malfoy, for what he allowed himself to be fooled by. For allowing himself to touch this turncoat and promise him the protection Dumbledore couldn't give. Malfoy would have betrayed him, too.
"You disgust me," he mutters, just as Ron and Hermione walk through the front door, their hair dripping with rain and their shirts splattered from the beginnings of the storm outside.
"Fuck you, Potter!" Malfoy yells. "Fuck you and your own fucking lies, you rotten shit. I didn't fucking—"
"Linteonis!" Ron flicks his wand at Malfoy's mouth and he reels back, suddenly gagged by a rather grey-looking sock shoved into his mouth. Ron grins. "I've been waiting to do that for ages," he says, then he turns to Malfoy and says, "You shit, you deserve it."
"Ron, it's not worth it!" Hermione warns. "Besides, we have to get this fire started as soon as we can. A Death Eater might be coming for Malfoy, we don't know—"
"Not until we pry some answers out—"
"Ron!" Hermione sighs heavily. "Just—wait, okay?"
Malfoy tries to turn his head, but the ropes around his shoulders keep him more or less rooted to the spot completely. His eyes catch Harry's and his lips move around the gag. Harry looks away from him and the lump in his gut grows. His knuckles crack as he clenches his fist.
Hermione cackles as the fire starts to crackle. "We've done it!" she cheers, triumphantly kissing Ron on the mouth, hard and fast, then grabbing Harry and doing the same. "We did it!"
Harry blinks and feels his ears burn. Ron cocks an eyebrow at him and Harry does the same. Hermione doesn't notice, she's too busy grinning at the flames, slowly gathering and creeping over the logs, burning a bright azure, smelling of rotten flowers and rubbish and rotten fish and perfume and god knows what else they put into the potion because it doesn't matter now that they have the blue fire.
When they toss the cup into the flames, it screams. An unearthly shriek that ripples through the air and echoes in Harry's mind before it's finished. High-pitched and utterly, totally in agony. It cuts Harry to the core, grating at his soul, almost as much as the rising anger in his belly, that grows and grows the more he thinks of what he and Malfoy did. What he wanted to do to Malfoy, what he got off on doing to Malfoy.
Harry turns when Ron says something, seeing him wince. "I hope that shriek is a good thing," Ron says.
"I think it is," Hermione says. "You Know Who's soul—or part of it, anyway—is starting to burn away."
"Let's hope the neighbours didn't hear that," Harry says. "They'll think we committed bloody murder here, or something."
Ron steals a glance at Malfoy. He snorts and opens his mouth, but doesn't say anything. Harry can see Hermione's hand pinching his arm as Ron closes his mouth.
But the neighbours don't hear because no one comes to knock on the door and, shaking, ask if everything's all right. No one phones the police. No one does anything out of the ordinary. The only out of the ordinary thing might be that their cottage has smoke rising in puffed plumes out of the chimney in the middle of August in the middle of a summer rain storm.
The rain storm passes, but the dark clouds remain all through the day as Ron and Harry stoke the flames with yew and oak logs they dip, one end at a time, into the cauldron. The cup hasn't done much, except scream the once, though the sides seem to be sweating a little, the gold has not melted in the least. None of the encrusted gems, now blackened with soot, have shattered or popped out of their claw clasps, nothing to suggest anything has happened.
Harry sits in the sweltering parlour, eyes on the flames at all times. He can't bring himself to turn around and look at Malfoy. He can't bring himself to eat supper, as much as his stomach may growl. The nausea rises in his throat and chokes him. He digs his clammy fingers into the arm of the couch and breathes through his nose, angry and hurt, too.
Leopards never change their spots.
And neither does Draco Malfoy.
Half-past nine, Hermione starts to yawn heavily. The living room is a bloody furnace and Harry can hardly stand to be in there; it's so hot. He's sweating as much as the cup and the sweat permeates his hair so much that when he scratches his scalp, his hand comes away wet. "Go to bed," he tells Hermione and Ron, "I'll stay up with the fire tonight."
"I'll take care of it," he says.
"All right, but I'll be up at four to take over from you so you can sleep too," Hermione says, stifling another yawn behind her hand.
By the clock, Harry adds logs. On the half-hour, the oak logs are low, charred embers, so he tosses a fresh one in. On the hour, the yews stop crackling and are white with ash under the flames' base—an eerie, ultramarine, indigo tongue licking the cup lazily. Harry shoves a yew log in and smiles as the potion hisses as it evaporates and the sparks fly out into the living room, burning up in the air and floating down onto his bare arms as harmless as snowflakes in winter.
A noise like a shuffle, a scraping hits Harry's ears. Malfoy is watching him and moving his feet across the floor, trying to make noise with them as he moves them back and forth, squeaking sweaty feet on the wood. His eyes tell volumes. They reflect the light of the fire, the only light in the house now, like the blue of a telly screen when the programming has stopped. I hate you. I want to kill you. I AM evil.
"I could do it," Harry says, toying with his wand. He moves his fingers around the handle, twirling it between his knuckles. "Two words and I wouldn't have to worry about you or your family problem ever again. Tell me, Malfoy, why did you do it?"
Malfoy sits there and glares harder, if that is possible.
"I know, of course, you can't say anything, but I'd love to know. Whose idea was it that you come here— Snape's? Your bitch of a mother's? If something happens to Hedwig, well, then it was hers. Crafty fucking whore, isn't she? Is that where you get it from? Your looks from your dad, your fucking fucking people over from your mother?" Harry takes a deep breath in. Saliva wads in his mouth and he swirls it over his tongue, contemplating spitting the lot of it straight in Malfoy's eyes, but he doesn't.
"And you had to come down here in my fucking robes, didn't you?" he says, noticing finally the familiar look to Malfoy's clothes. "So you can run off and celebrate your triumph in my robes, how fucking pathetic!"
Malfoy's eyes bulge wider, shining dark like animal's in the dim, bluish light. He moves the gag around in his mouth, his jaw flexing. Harry wonders—briefly—if he ought to give Malfoy some water, but turns back to the fire, poking at it with an iron poker instead.
He doesn't want to kill Malfoy from dehydration, but he wants Malfoy to suffer like the growing lump of shame, of anger in his belly, weighing down more as he sits and seethes.
He says nothing more to Malfoy for the rest of the night. It is Ron, not Hermione, to come downstairs at four in the morning and relieve Harry. He crawls into bed, never feeling lonelier or more foolish for believing what Malfoy had told him. He tries to remember Ginny, to spite the memory of Malfoy, but the shadow of the scrying bowl looms in his closet until he buries the damned thing under a shirt on the floor and focuses on the hoot of owls outside his window.
The first thing Harry notices when he wakes in the middle of the afternoon, besides the blistering heat as he descends the stairs, is the newly purple eye Malfoy is sporting. Something twists inside, but he ignores it and meet's Ron's grin with one of his own. Hermione is too busy stoking the fire with logs to notice.
"Any progress?" he asks her.
She steps aside to show him. The top of the cup has started to melt, the metal oozing down the sides like candle wax.
"This is good," Harry says.
"This is right on schedule," Hermione corrects him. "I'd say by tomorrow evening..." her lips spread into a wide grin. "Tomorrow evening we'll have this horcrux destroyed too."
As much as Harry would rather spend more time in the kitchen, they keep to the living room, adding logs and talking in slow, ceasing conversations. It's too hot here. Harry reckons he's melting as much as the cup, a lazy path to death over the course of several days. Cooling charms do little to help and the air stifles everything, choking them with this unnatural damp heat centred in Godric's Hollow, Wales. Supper in the kitchen is a temporary paradise, where the window is open and the food is cooler than the air around them. Harry basks in the cold blast from the fridge as Ron purposely closes it as slowly as he possibly can until Hermione scowls and slams it for him.
"Don't waste electricity," she warns. "I don't want to be forking out even more for utilities than I have to."
They don't feed Malfoy. They don't talk to him. They don't talk about him. He is a bystander, a statue, a silent witness to this murder of another horcrux. Harry wants it this way. It's perfect, he tells himself. It has to be perfect this way.
Except when he takes over stoking the fire, the same shift as the night before, something nags in the back of his mind. Malfoy is unnaturally quiet. He moves closer, but Malfoy's breathing is so shallow, he nearly has to put his ear under Malfoy's nose to notice any noise coming from him.
He can smell Malfoy. For a moment, he stills, breathing in the old sweat and soap clinging to Malfoy's body. Harry catches himself and backs away, wanting to kick something— himself or Malfoy, he doesn't know who anymore.
Malfoy has stopped sweating. He's pale and clammy to the touch when Harry at long last puts a hand to his forehead to check. He closes his eyes, the memory of his hand touching Malfoy elsewhere fresh and as much as he tries to force away by murmuring "Ginny" under his breath, it doesn't leave.
He pulls the gag from Malfoy's mouth and as soon as it sits in his hand, sodden with saliva and possibly vomit, it disappears into the ether it was transfigured from. Malfoy stares at him from his good eye, glassy and dazed until he sucks in a deep breath and croaks out, "Give me some fucking water, Potter," before he droops in the chair once more, probably just as hot as Harry, but maybe even more so because he's wearing goddamned long robes in the middle of summer.
Harry stiffens his lip and gives him a glass of tap water and taps his foot, waiting for Malfoy to take it until he remembers that Malfoy's arms are tied behind the chair at the wrist and elbow. He holds the glass to Malfoy's lips and tips it in. Most of it misses Malfoy's mouth and washes down the sides of his mouth. Malfoy coughs and sputters and says, "You arsehole! I can't drink that fast!"
"So," Harry says, leaning on the wall of the kitchen, where the breeze hits his arms and makes him shiver with the sheer pleasure of not having to be in the living room right this moment, "Why'd you do it? Voldemort threaten you again?"
Malfoy winces. "I didn't fucking do it," he whispers. Then, more desperately, "You know that Potter. I didn't—I can't—"
"Just fucking tell me the truth, Malfoy," Harry spits. "I'm sick of your bullshit."
"I'll shove Veritaserum down your throat—"
The images flash inside Harry's mind faster than the realization of exactly what spell he has just cast. He sees Malfoy and himself, in his bed, writhing like snakes, and he can't tell where his limbs end and Malfoy's start, Malfoy moaning his name, the sound not of hate or of anger, but of something much more intimate, more quiet and soft and-
Then nothing. Malfoy clenches his jaw and he's sweating again, his forehead dripping slow beads down his face. His mind is a black, blank void.
"Snape teach you that, too?" Harry asks. "Or was it your bitch of an aunt?"
"Stay out of my mind," Malfoy growls.
Harry shrugs. "I'd like to see if you sweat as much when I feed you Veritaserum," he says at last. Malfoy snorts and mutters something. "What was that?" Harry asks.
"I said, 'You liked to see me sweat, didn't you?'"
Malfoy only stops smirking when Harry smacks his face with his fist. His black eye starts to weep angrily down his face and now he's a mouth to match it, bruised and beat up. He spits blood and his breath hitches, but the clock has struck half-past the hour and Harry needs to feed another oak log. I don't care about Malfoy, he tells himself. Fucking, fucking traitor.
Harry wants to go upstairs to his room and curl onto his sheets. It almost hurts him doing this to Malfoy, feeling this angry with him. His stomach churns and bile rises in his throat, but he can't let himself slip, he can't trust a traitor. He won't make the same mistake that Dumbledore did with Snape.
Before Ron comes to relieve him, Harry shoves a dirty sock of his own back into Malfoy's mouth. His eyes widen slightly and he makes a strangled noise in the back of his throat and Harry tries to smile darkly at it, but mostly, he grimaces and stomps up the stairs, too hot and tired to care, one foot now sockless.
Harry spends the morning tossing and turning, sleep fitful and sporadic. He wakes and his body still aches, his hands have splinters at the tips of his fingers, scrapes and scratches and he's developing a rash on the back of his hands where the potion splashes him.
Only when Hermione announces, "Twelve more hours. Twelve more hours and we'll have the horcrux destroyed" is any of this worth it. They're so close now that Harry's stomach flips with the anticipation and excitement of doing this all completely by themselves, three barely-of-age wizards in some backwater Welsh hamlet.
Voldemort doesn't stand a chance.
The day passes in a slow haze of sweat and grunting, drinking cold cold water from the fridge and ignoring the noises Malfoy tries to make with his feet. Time passes in the dribble of gold, puddling in the base of the flames, covered in ash, covering in something black and sticky and burning pungently like thick, thick molasses, the sugar scorching in their noses and filling the house with choking smoke.
Harry ought to feel something more. He wants to feel something more, instead, he just feels empty. The closer they get to destroying the horcrux, the more he realizes just how many more they have to find and destroy next. It takes so long, to find them, to figure them out, to destroy them.
Six, seven o'clock. Supper is a help-yourself from the fridge, eaten hastily at the table in between shoving the fireplace full of as many logs as will fit at a time. Ron burns his hand twice, Hermione's eyes are red from smoke, all Harry can smell is the thick stench of sweat from his unwashed body. The sun colours the sky an orange glow, the purple streaks across the cloud. No rosy-fingers of poetry. No red sky of the sailors.
Hedwig streaks across the yard from one tree to another. Harry sighs, thankful she's all right. When he turns to glare at Malfoy, Malfoy's squeezing his eyes shut against the smoke as tears stripe red down his ashen face covered with bruises.
The horcrux—what was the horcrux— is now a steaming pile of black slime mixing with molten gold in the smithy of the blue flames. It starts to wail, horribly, like a tea kettle on overdrive and the world collapses with the sound of a gunshot in the sky.
Harry runs to the door and opens it, nearly pulling his arm from his socket with the force. He stops dead on the steps and his mouth hangs open. In the sky above, in the gloomy dim of the southeast, is the big, bright, sickly green of a dark mark. A snake twists in the air, hissing in the inky air as it twines and writhes out of and back into a gaping skull. And down the street dark, hooded figures rush towards him. He slams the door shut and flicks a spell at the dead bolt.
"What was that?" Ron asks, running up to the door. Harry pushes him back.
"Fuck! Death Eaters!" he shouts, fear tearing at his chest. "Hermione—how much longer?"
"Two hours, I don't know—oh, God!" She throws more logs on, this, that, they could be pine for all they know. Hermione throws the logs in pairs, in threes, one bounces off the fireplace and crashes into a couch, the another hits her leg and she yelps. The fire roars up in a rush and the metal moans, sizzles, screams into the night. There is so much smoke and flickering embers in the room Harry can barely see Ron rushing around, throwing his Invisibility Cloak in his face.
"We've got to go, they're fucking going to get us—they know about this. Malfoy told them!" Ron shouts. He grabs Hermione and whirls her away from the fireplace, his hands on her hips. "We've got to go, Harry! We don't have time! We can't hold the Death Eaters back ourselves!"
Harry glances to the door. His heart pounds as he sees the shadows move across the window towards it. One, two, five, a dozen. There's so many coming, floating across the road like wraiths, any humanity hidden and suppressed under black black robes. He can't breathe anymore, he can't see, everything is blurred, blurred, blurred and pressing down and-
Malfoy sits in the chair, right beside him, frantically scraping the floor with his toenails. He's shaking his head, his lips move around the sock. Harry doesn't know what to do. He pulls the sock from Malfoy's mouth to scream at him one last time, no barriers, but instead all his heart does is beat furiously as Malfoy chokes out, "Help me, Potter..." as he sits there, shaking and sweating and looking ill enough to vomit everywhere like Harry thinks he himself is about to as well.
"Leave him!" Ron screams. "He's a fucking traitor—Harry, we don't have time!"
Harry doesn't think as he unties the ropes with his hands. The knots are stiff, there's no end, there's no ropes, they're glued together, they're magic, they're—"Finite Incantatem!" he shouts just as the front door starts to crack open with a sickening lurch.
"I'll meet up with you!" he tells them. "Get out of here, I'm fine—Go! GO!"
"Harry, no!" Hermione shouts. "You can't stay!"
"Just GO!" he shouts.
It feels like an eternity as Ron nods slowly, just once. "Hermione, come on," he says, tugging her arm and running, pulling her away. Harry doesn't watch them leave, but when the sound of the back door slamming shut reaches his ears, he sighs internally for the briefest moment.
But it can't be an eternity passing, the way time slows everything around them, the clock's hands don't move, the shadows don't flicker, because the Death Eaters haven't had time to stream in all around them, the horcrux is silent, and the ropes are loosening around Malfoy's wrists like the slow motion in movies. It's horribly clichÃ©, just before time starts again, like an hourglass turned over and Ron and Hermione have disappeared, Apparating away together.
"Give me my wand," Malfoy hisses, so fast that his words are slurred. Harry doesn't answer him. He grabs Malfoy's hand, tosses the cloak over them, as far as it'll cover and runs for the backdoor, dragging Malfoy with him. Malfoy stumbles, his legs weak and unused these past days. Harry reaches under his armpits, trying to hoist him up and pull him faster, but he slows down.
And then with a groan, a beam crashes to the floor in front of them, sending flames and smoke flying. Harry collapses, choking on the smoke, willing himself to stop and get up, but his body doesn't work except to gasp and wheeze at the poisonous air and not even the sounds of spells outside, of voices and shouts of descending Death Eaters can rouse him.
"Potter!" Malfoy shrieks. "God— Potter, get up!" His voice is hollow and distant and if it wasn't for the hand covering his mouth, cupping the smoke away from his nose and lips, Harry might forget his place, forget that the blackness swirling around them was smoke, deadly and starting to consume the cottage with faster abandon.
It is Malfoy this time who drags him along, up the rickety stairs. Harry pulls himself along a crumbling banister, his hands scorched with heat, the smoke even thicker this way. Glass shatters around them, mirrors reflect their screams as they crawl along the charred carpet, forcing themselves into Harry's bedroom.
Below, the sound of the door smashing tells Harry everything.
The Death Eaters are inside the cottage.
He glances over to Malfoy, his face dripping with sweat and dark soot and ash, breathing as heavily as Harry does. He clutches Malfoy's hand, squeezing tight and says, "We'll get out."
"We could Apparate," Malfoy says, his voice nearly lost over the roaring rush of the fire, the crunches of the falling beams, the sizzles and the pops and the echoing whooshes of Death Eater spells, poking and flying through slats of the floor, like bullets, attacking closer and closer to Harry and Malfoy as they wiggle across on their stomachs.
"I can't," Harry says, grabbing a hold of something for leverage, pulling himself across the floor. "I can't—I'd splinch us both. I can't—not like this, I'm no where near as good as Ron is—"
"You're the bloody Chosen One!" Malfoy moans. "You can't die like this! You're supposed to die fighting the Dark Lord!"
Harry is about ready to close his eyes in defeat, his limbs growing sluggish, his breathing ever more difficult in this thick cloud of descending death, the piercing spells of the Death Eaters fracturing the floor, which has started to groan under their weight, threatening to fall at any moment. His lungs ache, his body hurts. For once in his life he wants to just stop fighting.
And then Harry turns, noticing the slightest of glimmer from a window. He looks at Malfoy, who has started to stand up, crouching as he smashes the window through with his shoulder.
"Grab me," Harry says.
"We'll break something!" Malfoy yells. "It's too far! Our magic's too scattered!"
"No, it's not!" Harry shouts. He doesn't have time to hesitate; he doesn't have time to argue with himself. He sucks in a smoke-laced breath, grabs Malfoy's arms and throws the two of them through the jagged hole.
He can feel the tree branches graze his arms as they fall through the air, and then hit the ground with a flash of bright light, momentarily blinding. He can feel his body bounce back up once, the ground a stiff mattress, but one with magical springs. Malfoy bounces back against his body and they fall once more to the ground, heaped up as the flare of magic dissipates. Harry coughs, his lungs winded and collapsed, but he doesn't have time for this either.
He stumbles to stand, gripping the trunk of a tree, pulls Malfoy close and runs out into the night. He keeps running, as hard and as fast as he can until they're down the road a good ways, enough to see the flames licking the window frames of the cottage, enough to see the Dark Figures, darting across the rooms, searching, throwing, screaming, flashes of magenta, azure, green light tosses everywhere.
They stop on the side of the road and Harry pushes Malfoy into a deep ditch. He crouches down next to him, arranging the Invisibility cloak he must have grabbed in his room at some point and catches his heaving breath.
Malfoy moans, his voice ragged with smoke, and his face just as soot-covered. "I didn't—I didn't know. Harry, please--" His bad eye is oozing again, clear, sticky fluid dripping down his face. Harry doesn't know it's tears until he kisses Malfoy on the mouth, hard enough to push him back onto the damp ground and grind his mouth down, not caring until he tastes the salt he wants to over the acrid soot. "I got up that night to take a piss. I didn't tamper with anything!"
"I know," he says. Harry doesn't know why he says this. He can't trust Malfoy. This is a fucking charade, but the way Malfoy begged him just now, he knew somewhere that wasn't his brain that Malfoy didn't. It's not pity that returns, it's something new.
"It must have been Kreacher," Harry adds. "No one else could have got in undetected. He—"
There is a loud crash, like the sound of a second gunshot, and the roof of the cottage collapses over what was Harry's bedroom, the timbers groaning as scarlet flames start to lick the sky. The row of cottages is lit up, shimmering like scarlet boxes from the light. The screaming inside, though, has stopped. Harry doesn't have time to think about Kreacher or the horcrux now. He pulls Malfoy up and says, "Come on!"
They run down the road, his trainers slapping the dirt, kicking up dust into their faces. The Invisibility cloak laps at their shins and Malfoy doesn't make a noise, except panting as they run, until they're far enough away. It hurts to breathe, it hurts to move, but Harry pushes them on, unwilling and unable to stop. Harry steers them into the churchyard, empty and abandoned at this time of night. He hesitates for an instant, then pushes the door of the church open. It opens with hardly more than the faintest of creaks and they slide the ancient iron fittings as they lock it behind themselves.
Malfoy collapses on a pew, dust swirling up around him, making Harry sneeze. He moans between his panting and in the streetlamp light streaming through the variegated colours of the stained glass, the few windows that haven't been punched through, Harry can see the dark blood covering his bare feet like shoes of his own.
"Are you all right?" Harry asks him, kneeling down next to him, wincing at the pain in his limbs. He taps his wand as gently as he can at to the edge of Malfoy's eye, whispering a charm and watching some of the bruising lessen. He touches Malfoy's ankle, just above what must be deep scrapes covering his soles. He doesn't dare to use a Lumos charm in here, not with Death Eaters anywhere, everywhere, possibly right in the cemetery itself.
Malfoy stifles a pained moan. "God, my feet. They're—" he hisses sharply as Harry's wand taps his feet. The flash of the spell is brighter than Harry wished, but when Malfoy sighs, he sighs, too.
"So what now?" Malfoy asks.
"I don't know," Harry whispers.
"It wasn't me—"
"I know," Harry says fiercely. "I should have known all along."
Malfoy shifts and the pew creaks under their bodies. Harry wipes the sprinkled soot from his glasses as best he can and looks around the interior. Columns emerge from the rafters, capped with dripping leaves that dip down the shafts like vines. Everywhere are heavy shadows, drawn tight across mounds and heaps in the corners. He stands up and walks up to one, his fingertips running across the cool, rough stone, feeling the dips and curves of a tomb, feeling the work of a craftsman now long dead. The letters are familiar, but the words strange and everything speaks of death and decay.
It is easier to breathe here, even with the thick dust. The musty scent of neglected stone and an abandoned, rotting church give way to the acrid, sharp scent of burning wood, burning hair, burning god-knows-what. Harry reckons it's the cottage, the flare of flames in the distance down the road. He hopes none of the other cottages have been licked by the fire, but he doesn't know. Until he hears the blaring horns of a fire lorry, he stands, biting his lip and simply hoping.
"So what now?" Malfoy whispers. He hobbles up to Harry, and places a hand on Harry's shoulder. The touch is so light that Harry shivers and Malfoy takes it away.
"Are they gone, do you think?" he asks.
Malfoy shrugs. "I dunno."
"Well, what do Death Eaters do? How long do they stay in places doing whatever?" Harry asks, more sharply.
"I don't know!" Malfoy hisses. He sighs and glances away from Harry, out of one of the few remaining windows, a tall, thin pane with a spindly, serpentine woman shining like a beacon, staring down at them blankly, judging. "I don't know— I've never actually been on a raid," he says quietly. He rubs his arm through the sleeve of his robes. Harry takes his hand away and curls his own fingers over Malfoy's forearm, making sure to not press too hard into the tender skin, covered in bruises and soot and scratch marks. The soot combines with drying blood into dark smudges that Harry tries to brush away.
"That's good. Well, for you. But not for us knowing." Harry sighs and sits down on top of a flat sarcophagus. It is cool under his arse, but it holds his weight with less give than the pews, some of which line the church broken in pieces, shattered by winds or rains or local vandals.
"So, I guess we pray we're not seen," Malfoy says. He sinks to his knees in front of Harry. Harry stiffens and stares at Malfoy blankly.
"Not here!" he insists, clutching his shorts. "Not now!"
Harry can tell Malfoy blinks because one moment there are shining dark eyes in the dim light, then they briefly disappear before focusing back on him slightly more narrowed than before. "I didn't mean that! I mean, we pray."
Malfoy cocks his head toward the willowy woman in the glass window. She stands there, holding a dish and smiling serenely at them. Tendrils of green and ruby and bright gold patterns surround her, and in the few shattered panes, she shines pearly from the light of the moon outside. "That's St. Lucy, the patron goddess of sight," Malfoy says. What his tone means is duh.
"I didn't know you were Catholic," Harry says.
"I think in our situation, we use everything we can," Malfoy replies. "Unless—wait, Potter, do you have my wand on you?"
Harry reaches into his back pocket until he feels the thin, hard wood of a second wand there, amidst the other rubbish he's forgotten to empty from his shorts. "Yes..."
"Give it to me," Malfoy insists. He holds his hand out, palm raised and waiting.
"No," Harry says. His response is automatic and he points his own wand at Malfoy.
"Potter!" Malfoy moans. "Potter— give it to me!" His hands dart out and grab Harry's side, his arse, weaseling their way into his pocket. Harry jerks back and pushes Malfoy away, this time sticking his wand in the base of Malfoy's throat, where his Adam's Apple bobs.
"Potter!" Malfoy's eyes search his, flicking bad and forth. "If something happens, I—why don't you trust me?"
"You don't! You still fucking don't! If they come for me, I'm dead." He moans again and rocks back on his heels. Outside, Harry can still smell the smoke; it's getting thicker in the air and mixing in the dust of the church, choking the village.
He opens his mouth, trying to find an excuse, but he can't. "All right," he says, and slowly pulls the wand out. Malfoy snatches it, grinning and for the briefest moment, Harry's insides freeze with the realization he has done something horribly, horribly wrong.
But Malfoy doesn't point the wand at him, he doesn't rush off, laughing and hexing his way back to Voldemort, instead he simply flicks his wrist a couple times and smiles.
"Thought it'd be covered in bedbugs?" Harry asks.
"More like billywags and lice from the weasel, but I see you've kept it decent," he answers. Malfoy walks up to one of the shattered window frames and taps his finger, lifting his head slightly to peer out down the road.
"Do you see—"
But Malfoy isn't responding. Instead, with his free hand, he's pulling something out of his pocket and dangling it in the air. "We have to leave," he whispers.
"So, we Apparate—"
"No, they'll follow us. They'll know." Malfoy steps over and feels Harry's sides. He freezes and tries to shrug Malfoy off, frantically insisting this is not the place.
"Don't you think I prayed to St. Lucy for a reason?" he asks. Something moves across Harry's thigh and out of his own front pocket. A Metamorph Medal. A match to the one Malfoy has, too. "I filched this one from Granger—yes, Potter, I was sneaking around her room once. I wanted to h—it doesn't matter."
Harry can hear voices outside the church, moving closer and growing louder. Low murmurs of men and women, then flashes of wandlight, brief and bright like lightning. There is a lurching crack, a groan and a loud, shattering crunch of stone, followed by howls of laughter.
"They're in the graveyard," Harry hisses. Malfoy doesn't have time to say anything, instead he throws the medal over Harry's neck, the other over his own and yanks Harry's arm. "We can't stay here either."
The pull in his arm catches him off guard and Harry doesn't feel the pull in his limbs, his chest, his everywhere else until he falls with an equally hard crunch like the Death Eaters' spells over the tombstones.
It takes Harry a moment to realize they have even Apparated at all, let alone where there are. He tries to stand up, but Malfoy collapses on top of him with an oomph, knocking Harry back to the ground. He gasps for breath, choking on his tongue until the rush comes cold and hard into his lungs when Malfoy rolls off his chest and the wind returns to him.
Malfoy must have done it. Harry doesn't think either one of them could have Apparated in their state, but when he pats his feet and his hands and his face, he feels whole, if soot-covered and bleeding under the charm of the medal.
It reeks of rubbish and rotting flowers in this dark, damp place. Harry stands up and glances around, nearly knocking his head on a large skip beside close beside him. He pulls off his glasses and squints—he can see without them. He scratches a spot on his neck and kneels down to give Malfoy a hand.
The hand that takes his isn't Malfoy's. It's smaller and much more delicate, and the fingers are wider, but not by much.
"Potter?" Malfoy asks, but it's not Malfoy's voice either. This is the voice of a-
"Girl?" Harry mutters.
"Oh, God," Malfoy groans, clutching his face, hiding it behind his hands. "I meant to take the other, not Granger's—fuck..." He moans, a thin feminine trill that echoes in the little alleyway they have Apparated into.
"So where are we?" Harry asks. The voice isn't his either, but at least his is a man's.
"Diagon Alley," Malfoy murmurs. "I hope."
Harry glances around. It's no dungeons in the depths of Malfoy Manor, though they are drips of slime and pale mildew streaking down the side of a wall. Harry reaches out and touches it—brick, not stone. And he can hear the rush of traffic nearby, loud honking and the zoom of cars speeding down the streets of London. He hopes.
"What do I look like?" he asks Malfoy, who still hunches in a corner, covering himself. A pair of eyes glance up behind his hand.
Malfoy mutters, "Middle-aged. Average. Boring, I don't know! Did I—did I splinch myself at all?" he adds.
Harry shakes his head. "You're fine-looking. I mean—you look fine."
He reckons that the tight pull in his shorts and not wearing a heck of a lot else besides an Invisibility Cloak still slung over his shoulder might draw attention. Harry waves his wand and a suit slithers up his body, dark and a bit thick for the summer, but fitting none too badly.
"Can you do yourself?" he asks Malfoy.
Malfoy grunts and a light flashes over him. He steps out towards Harry and says, "If you speak of this ever again..."
Harry bites back the grin at the sight, first the bright pattern of a yellow and red sundress, covered in big, bold flowers. His eyes move up the calves, the hem, the swell of a woman's hip, up to breasts and a neck covered in a fair splattering of freckles. Malfoy is scowling at him, glaring and he flares his nostrils. But he does make a pretty girl, with light hair and brownish eyes and his mouth pouts like Lavender Brown's. The Metamorph Medal falls down into the collar of the dress and he scratches his neck, none too lady-like.
"Just shut up!" Malfoy hisses. "We have to get away from this place, in case any of them follow us here."
Harry stands for a moment, thinking. He fishes around in his pocket—there's a handful of coins there and when he holds them up into the streetlamp light, he can see the galleons shining. Not many, but enough to do a little while, until they manage to meet up with Ron and Hermione. Harry doesn't want to risk Apparating back to the Burrow just yet, though he's almost certain Ron and Hermione are waiting there for him.
He crouches down and casts a Patronus. The stag is small and shines silvery, but dim in the alley. Prongs stares up at Harry and snorts. "Tell Ron and Hermione we're all right. We'll meet up with them soon," he whispers. Prongs gallops off into the night, disappearing in the garish orange glow of streetlamps on the pavement. He holds out his hand for Malfoy to take, but he refuses and slinks behind Harry as he walks out of the alley.
"Where is this?" Malfoy grumbles. "It's—god, there's Muggles-—"
"We're near Diagon Alley, I think," Harry says. A subway lurches past them, close enough that it screeches into the night sky, which over London isn't so much dark as it is a murky brown, dotted with high-rise flats and office buildings. Around here, though, it's not as bright. Harry walks slower to keep pace with Malfoy. No one looks up at them from the crowds of people walking this way and that, darting across streets between breaks in traffic. Malfoy walks very stiffly and stares blankly ahead.
Harry takes his arm to guide it down a corner, past a curry shop. He inhales the spicy smells, the butter naan and his stomach rumbles. "You hungry?"
Malfoy's eyes dart between Harry's and the shop. "I—yes," he murmurs. "But I don't want to eat with Mug—"
"We'll get take-away."
Malfoy nods. Harry reckons he hasn't got the slightest idea as to what he's just said, but since Malfoy knows almost nothing of Muggles to start with, it's to be expected. He carries the brown bag of take-away under his arm and grabs Malfoy tight with the other. They cross a couple blocks and by now, Harry remembers the way he and Hagrid walked all those years back.
"There's the Leaky Cauldron!" he says, as the dingy sign comes up into view. It's not too soon, either, because the sky has started to spit fat rain droplets on them and the bag will be soggy in no time flat. He pushes Malfoy through the door of the pub and walks in after.
Inside, Harry sighs with relief at the familiar scent of pipe smoke, spilled butterbeer and sherry, too, musky perfume of hags sitting in the corners and wet animals, too. A cat brushes across his legs, before wandering off underneath the pub counter.
"No outside food in 'ere," Tom's voice rings out. Harry mutters an apology but walks up to him anyway. Tom looks up and starts to repeat himself until Harry cuts him off.
"Got any rooms available?"
Tom's eyebrows rise slowly as he takes in the woman on Harry's arm. "Double room, you looking for?"
"That's right," Harry nods. "Er...one night. Just tonight."
As they ascend the stairs, Harry catches a view of himself in a hallway mirror. He's older than he thought Malfoy indicated, definitely over fifty, with greying hair at his temples and lines in his brow, but rather non-descript over all. He feels like a businessman, the sort of fellow Uncle Vernon might have as a higher-up. He puffs his chest up at the thought.
He turns the key to room number fourteen and swings the door open. The doorway is at the base of another flight of stairs and he can hear the sounds of guests in rooms above, walking over the ceiling. As soon as he locks the door behind himself, he pulls off the medal and flops onto the wide bed, sighing heavily as his body changes back with a slight tickling sensation all over, like the prickles of his whole body sleeping.
Malfoy pulls his medal off before Harry has a chance to see his disguise in good light. He spreads the curry boxes out across the surface of the bed and rolls onto his stomach, picking at the aloo gobi and butter chicken with his fingers. Malfoy scowls, but sits on the edge of the bed and warily starts to pick at a naan bread, ripping it up and tossing it bit by bit into his mouth, wiping his face of soot between chews. They don't speak, but sit there, simply eating for some time until every box is picked clean. Sucking the last of the curry from his fingers, Harry leans back on the pillows.
Compared to the searing heat of the cottage in Wales the room in the inn feels cold. Outside the dingy window, the winds have picked up and rubbish blows across the streets, wrappers and paper and crushed cans tinkling on the pavements and in the alleyways, the music of the city. Harry didn't miss this at all. The air is thicker here, and his nose sniffles at the smog that blankets everything.
Malfoy sits in a chair, staring at his wand. He's charmed the robes back, but they still hang wrong in places, especially at the cuffs, which need to be a couple inches longer. He picks at the singed hem, the fire having burned the edges of the robes. He sits there, not doing anything except breathing heavily.
"Malfoy?" Harry asks.
Malfoy gets up and locks himself in the bathroom. Whatever he is doing is drowned out by the sound of tap water running into the bathtub. There are no flashes of light, no spells spoken, so Harry reckons he's taking a bath. "Good," he mutters to himself. Malfoy's filthy from us having tied him up for the last few days.
So used to having the telly on in the background, or one of Hermione's books, or Ron's chats about the Cannon's new strategy, he's forgotten what it's like to have nothing to do. Only now does a vague feeling of helplessness hit. It's utterly quiet here, despite the sounds from the bathroom, despite the faint patter of rain, despite the dulled noises of traffic. His ears ring from the fire still; he can hear the flames rushing around him, he can hear the piercing shriek of the melting cup. His insides churn at the thought of it—the horcrux was so close when the Death Eaters came, what if it wasn't destroyed? What if now the Death Eaters have the cup—they'd be completely fucked! Coriander and bile burn his throat. He rolls onto his side and winces.
He waits for Malfoy to emerge, but after what feels like an hour, he doesn't. The lone clock in the room, a sad-looking cuckoo clock on the wall, has frozen on the three, but the city seems darker, the streetlamps seem brighter. Harry knocks on the bathroom door. "Malfoy?"
On the other side of the door, there is a muffled splash, but nothing more. Harry's hand rests on the doorknob for a moment before he turns it slowly, testing. The door creaks open. He peeks his head around the door to see.
Malfoy has floating candles near the ceiling that illuminate the room brighter than any natural light on the sunniest day in Wales, even the beach. His wand sits on the edge of the sink, perfectly balanced half-way on the rim. And in the bathtub, Malfoy sits, resting his arms on his knees and staring at his left arm. His hair has fallen over his eyes. He doesn't see Harry come in behind him.
Harry kneels down at the end of the tub by Malfoy's head and slides a hand down Malfoy's arm, touching his hand. Malfoy jerks up, splashing sooty water onto the floor and all over Harry. He whips his head over his shoulder and pulls his arm in tight to his chest.
"What were you thinking about?" Harry asks.
"Nothing," Malfoy mumbles. "It doesn't matter." He leans back onto the end of the bath tub, but his arms are tucked into his sides. He breathes through his nose, a slight whistling that echoes louder from the surface of the water around Malfoy. No steam rises, there are no silvery, round bubbles, bursting in the air around them. It is simply the two of them, and grayish water. Harry dips his hands in, watching the soot swirl off his own skin in turn.
He leans into Malfoy, resting his head on the back of Malfoy's neck. Harry starts slowly, barely touching with his mouth, then his lips start to move across, where the fine hairs meet the tips of Malfoy's damp hair. He presses lambent kisses across the skin, barely more than something chaste, barely more than the impression of his mouth. "Draco," he whispers.
Malfoy's breathing hitches, his back shuddering and his shoulders shifting under Harry. Harry doesn't need to see what Malfoy's doing, he doesn't need to hear the sound of tears hitting the cold bath water because he already knows.
His lips ghost over Malfoy's shoulder blades as though he is the wind and Malfoy has wings. "Aren't you cold?" he murmurs, dipping his fingers down to test the water at Malfoy's hip. His skin is tepid all over and when Harry's mouth moves kisses across the top of his neck, where his vertebrae near the thin surface of his skin, Malfoy shivers, the hairs rising all over his body.
Malfoy climbs out of the tub. When Harry offers him a towel, folded neatly by the side of the bath tub, he refuses, preferring to stand there with his back turned, and shiver until he's fully dry. Water puddles on the floor by his feet. The tiny open window, bright with the lights of London, whistles with a rising wind that flutters the curtains and Harry's damp sleeves.
When Malfoy turns to him, Harry's chest squeezes as though he's Apparating somewhere far off, a sort of choking in his throat and pressing in his ribs, like a heart attack. And his heart does stop, with the blankness in Malfoy's eyes. The way Harry can't see into them anymore, like he's so tired he can't bother to feel anything now.
You're obsessed with Malfoy, his mind tells him, but his body doesn't care. He touches Malfoy on the arm and turns him around, whispering, "Come" as he leads him into the inn room and to the bed.
There is something new, something more pliable with Malfoy, the way he lies back on the pillows, damp and cool and naked, under Harry. Harry pulls his clothes off and throws them to the floor, but Malfoy does nothing, except watch him from heavy-lidded eyes. His moans are new, too, no longer bitten back, no longer catching in his throat. Harry wants to kiss him to the core to figure out why, but inside, he reckons he knows somehow already. He's so tired of this, too, the hiding, and not just from the Death Eaters.
I want you, his tongue swirls on Malfoy's belly. I want this. I want you. Malfoy gasps and clutches Harry's hair. His glasses are knocked off and he can't see anything except the sfumato flush on Malfoy's face, and the even darker flush of his cock.
Hips buck into his face and knock into his nose. Harry pushes his fingers into the dips of Malfoy's body, pressing his body to the bed as it shakes under his mouth. "Turn over," he mutters. Malfoy makes a noise and tries to sit up. Whatever spell of peace, of desire that overcame them, it is now gone. He shakes his head, grumbling something too low for Harry to understand.
"Turn over," he insists. He doesn't want to be forceful; instead, his chin brushes Malfoy's cock as his mouth and tongue move, slowly, slowly across his lower belly. The noises Malfoy makes—the moans, the sighs, the panting, they all increase. Finally, he starts to turn around, onto his belly, hissing as his erection rubs on the bed sheets.
Over his shoulder, Malfoy watches Harry warily. Harry, though, simply sits beside Malfoy, his fingers resting lightly on the swell of Malfoy's arse. Malfoy hasn't said anything about it this time, and he hasn't brushed Harry's hands away either. He thinks about what this would be like if it were Ginny, lying here with him. Her arse would be bigger, rounder, and she might be smiling at him with mischief in her brown eyes. Maybe she'd say "Let's do it, Harry!" with the same abandon she had in her kisses—the ones that made Harry hard, so hard and nearly hump her legs when they'd kissed for some long while.
But it's not Ginny. No red hair, no girlish curves, no brown eyes, no freckles.
He thinks of how different things are. Mostly, Harry simply sees. Or, not really, because his glasses have been tossed onto the floor with his clothes. But he feels the pale skin, where it's dry and patchy, where it's still damp and cool from the bath water. He counts the vertebrae of Malfoy's spine, with his fingers, then with his tongue, licking a path down his back. The grooves hug his mouth. Malfoy arches his back. Harry pauses at the base of Malfoy's spine and climbs over him, straddling his arse for a moment.
He closes his eyes, imagining what it might be like to thrust forward, push himself inside Malfoy.
But he doesn't. He climbs off and whispers, "Get on your knees." Malfoy shudders as Harry licks the shell of his ear; his skin is feverishly hot there, red from blushing, red with passion, he hopes. He wants Malfoy to want this.
When his hand finds its way into the cleft of Malfoy's arse, Harry can feel the panic as Malfoy clenches and says "No, I—" but his words are choked off, because Harry knows this, too. He takes his hands away, but only to slide them across Malfoy's hips, to hold him in place.
He wets his lips and, with his nose in the small of Malfoy's back, he moves down, down further and deeper than he's ever gone before. Malfoy doesn't choke this time, he doesn't gasp, he simply doesn't breathe as Harry's tongue slithers down his arse. It's musky and hot and he has no idea what to do, except he knows it must be good because when Malfoy does take that first breath, it's a shuddering moan that settles in his own cock, a slow-burning fire begging to explode into sparks.
Malfoy's cock is hard in his hands. Hard and straining for release, slick with pre-cum that Harry slides across the tip with his thumb and forefinger. Malfoy's bucking, thrusting, gasping and groaning and Harry likes what he can do. Malfoy's never made this much noise before. His moans, his cries, they're delicious incentive to never stop this torture. He can only hold out himself because his hands are too busy running over Malfoy's body, Malfoy's hips, Malfoy's cock and thighs to touch himself.
The puckered hole of Malfoy's arse is what he wants, isn't it? Such a small thing, quaking under Harry's mouth and tongue, hot and a little damp with bathwater, tasting of— well, he's tasted better, he'd even take Malfoy's come splattered in his mouth over this, but the sounds, oh, God, the sounds! Malfoy's thighs shiver as Harry kneads them. He's so, so close. Harry doesn't think he can hold out this long. He never has before. He squeezes Malfoy's cock, tighter, and runs his hands up and down the shaft.
Everything tightens. Harry's tongue stops for a moment, just as the climax hits and Malfoy clenches himself, shuddering with a groan his release into Harry's hands, hot, sticky come in spurts, stretching his back like a cat's and howling just as loud.
And then Harry feels himself fall over that precipice when the name on Malfoy's tongue reaches his ears. His name. Harry. He grabs Malfoy's hips and holds them, yanks them, gasping as he thrusts blindly into the bed, again and again and again as his cock spurts, never enough, never enough, ohsogoodandenough.
The wind starts to howl above the sound of the city traffic and the rattle of the trains passing nearby the inn. It is dim and the room smells heavily of mothballs, cabbage and heady sex. Harry flicks on the lamp in the room, which bathes everything in the mossy glow of green glass. Malfoy's body looks garish beside Harry, being so pale. He's rolled onto his side, so Harry can't see his face, his eyes.
He reaches across and touches Malfoy's hair. He dips his head into the crook of Malfoy's neck and simply breathes in his vague smell—sweat, and curry from supper and something else that lingers underneath the surface. Something both bitter, and sweet. Something he finds himself craving more and more.
Malfoy turns to him and they kiss, awkwardly. He tastes of curry, too, but not aniseed or smoky cumin. Instead, it's the cinnamon and butter and smooth coconut milk and lingering bitter soot. Harry wants to eat him, but his tongue only slides along Malfoy's, who probably tastes the same thing off him as he tastes of Malfoy. Ginny tasted of cinnamon, too, the one morning when they were by the lake. There were sticky buns for breakfast, that was why. She was sweet all over. Little deposits of sugar at the corner of her mouth. And she was smooth too.
Harry doesn't want to think about Ginny, lying here and kissing Malfoy like he is, but he can't help but compare. Past, present. The scrying bowl showed him a future, too, but when he thinks of that, his insides twist and he pulls away from Malfoy, frowning in the growing gloom of the room.
Malfoy sighs heavily and sits up, dangling his feet off the bed and staring out into the room. Without his glasses, his skin blurs into one continuous colour, a blob of flesh. Harry squints and leans over, but Malfoy stands up and pads off across the room. He picks something up and the next thing Harry realizes is that he's been thrown something. He looks down and holds it up to his face, close enough to see proper.
He stops breathing for a moment. Everything he could possibly be thinking swirls down through his veins to his cock, which twitches on his leg.
"If—if you want to," Malfoy mutters. "I—" He shakes his head as he sits back on the bed, on the furthest edge from Harry, dipping the mattress and so close to the edge he's as likely to fall off as anything. "I don't know how—I've never—" Then, he bites his lip and tries to scoff, sound scathing and smarmy and casual, but instead it doesn't come out quite right to Harry when he adds, "You can use that, if you want. For protection."
Something warm and liquid uncoils in Harry's chest. The monster from last year, but something tamer. He swallows, nods and starts to open the packet, willing himself not to fumble with it. Malfoy watches him.
"How does it work?" he asks.
"Er—I..." Harry bites his lip. He's never done this before either. His eyes dart from the condom to Malfoy's face, then back to the condom. "It goes on..."
Malfoy's fingers brush his own and he takes the condom, rubbing it with his thumb for a moment, sniffing it carefully. He doesn't trust it, but when his hands shake, he drops it onto the bed and picks it back up, then helps roll it onto Harry's cock, as though he somehow knows what to do, innate knowledge maybe.
"Yes," Harry hisses. "Oh, God, yesss..." he moans as Malfoy's fingers fumble with his balls, stroking the skin as his thumbs slide along his cock for a moment, before pulling away.
Malfoy lies down on his stomach. His breathing is loud and shallow, but his voice is calm when he croaks, "Is—this what I—"
"No," Harry says, "I want to see your face."
"When I make you come." His own face flushes at his words, but surely not as brightly as Malfoy's when he lies on his back, biting his lip and looking at Harry, who hovers above him.
"You'll make sure of that?" Malfoy teases. Except his eyes, he won't meet Harry's gaze when he says it.
Fingers stroking Malfoy's chin, he leans in to kiss him, a slow, chaste motion. No tongue, no teeth, only pressing their lips together, the same way Harry starts to tentatively press his body against Malfoy's, as though they have never lain with each other like this before, as though everything, not just the sex sex is new, too.
He may know Malfoy's body. He may know Malfoy's reactions, but he doesn't know this.
"I don't want to fuck this up," he says, almost ashamed at the honesty of his words. Malfoy doesn't seem to notice.
"I trust you," he says. Harry wants to tell him not to. He wants to tell Malfoy how much he doesn't trust Malfoy himself, that it's not fair this way. He feels a prickling, nagging guilt inside for this.
But he doesn't tell Malfoy.
He is silent as he kisses Malfoy, this time taking his upper lip between his teeth and tugging gently. He is silent as he touches Malfoy's cock, easing it back to life, feeling it swell in his hands, sighing as he does so. He is silent as he takes Malfoy's legs and wraps them around his shoulders. Malfoy winces and shifts his hips. His legs are heavier than Harry would have thought, and he's slick with sweat behind the knees, his ankles kick Harry's ears. It's awkward and messy and probably going to be awful, but Harry wants it all the more.
It's spit he uses as lubricant. Malfoy groans when he sees Harry spitting onto his palm and rubbing it on his cock, down the cleft of Malfoy's arse, but neither say anything. They sigh, one here, another now, never together. Harry wonders if it means you love someone if you sigh in unison, or not. But he doesn't think too hard—he is too hard. This rocking against Malfoy, the heat between his legs, the flush in his cheeks. He rubs his cock down Malfoy's cleft, moans rising in his throat, picking up his speed. He closes his eyes, almost waiting for Malfoy to pull away and say no.
But he doesn't.
Malfoy gasps as Harry starts to finally finally push inside. He moans, pained, and Harry pulls out, nearly coming with the force of Malfoy's arse, clenching sososotight around his cock, barely inside as he whispers, "No, don't stop". Harry eases himself in, wanting to go more slow, knowing it won't happen, not with how fucking good it feels, completely surrounded by Malfoy, hottightvelvet even through the condom. He squeezes his eyelids and holding Malfoy's body for balance, starts to thrust. Malfoy's hips rise to meet him, even through the moans and the groans and the one shriek when Harry pushes too far, too fast.
It's amazing. It's not amazing. It's exactly what he wants. To see Malfoy come all over his belly, sputtering hot spunk between their bodies as Harry is the one to make him come, Harry is the one to fuck him first, best, the only one. He stops for a moment, his body coiled up before it unwinds, and he bucks his hips, grunting his release, shuddering all over, cold and hot and feverish and moaning Malfoy's name—Draco!-— as he comes.
The wind washes over their bodies as they lie replete on the bed. It's a cool, thick haze of city smog, complete with the smells of rubbish and grease made worse from the heat, and some of the fried chips served in the Leaky Cauldron pub. Mostly, Harry inhales Malfoy, his sweat, his sex. Malfoy is curled under Harry's arm. Harry sighs and pulls Malfoy closer to him.
Malfoy toys with one of the Metamorph Medals, swinging it back and forth above their heads. "You know," he says at last, when their breathing has grown quiet and regular, "I could wear this and you could—"
"Fuck a girl?" Harry finishes.
"Yeah," he says. Malfoy pushes himself onto his elbows and looks down at Harry, smirking.
Harry pulls him down, his hands around the back of Malfoy's neck. He swats the medal away and kisses Malfoy on the side of the mouth, once, twice. "I—no, thanks."
"I didn't say it was an offer!" Malfoy snaps.
"And I said no!" Harry snaps back. He exhales and the strands of Malfoy's hair fallen over his face lift and flutter, feather-like and fine. "I just—it's you, not some girl, even if it is you, I mean."
"Not a poof?"
Malfoy snorts. "I didn't say that either." He glances away, to the light of the candles in the bathroom, floating high into the rafters. The light drifts from there into the main room, where Harry has now turned off the light. The outline of Malfoy glows, like the ring of an eclipse, red-rimmed and blinding. Harry reaches for him once more.
It's not an obsession, he thinks. It just...is.
They make love twice more. Harry can't think of it as fucking. It's not some primal rutting of two bodies, straining and grunting and groaning. At least, it isn't for him. It's not perfect, either. Malfoy hisses and gasps and shrieks, "Just wait!" when Harry pushes too far, when he pushes the wrong way and when they lie, resting before slumber carries them off, he moans that his legs are cramped and his arse hurts like a bugger.
"I did bugger you," Harry says. Malfoy doesn't answer. The soft rise and fall of his chest answers everything for Harry instead.
The room has an easterly window. Unfortunately, Harry wakes far too early and realizes this as the rippled dawn sun shines through the grime of the glass pane and illuminates everything in the room in a pinkish hue, including their bodies, spread across the bed, limbs connected here, Malfoy's arm draped over Harry, Harry's arm under Malfoy. His left leg has lost consciousness at some point and when he tries to extricate it, Malfoy starts to stir and rub his eyes and grumble about the hour.
"I think we should go soon, anyway," Harry says, "before too many other people are awake yet."
"The medals won't give the same disguise," Malfoy drawls. "I could be some hag this time. Or a beautiful blonde skirt on the arm of an old pervert." He smirks and Harry smacks him in the head with his pillow. His hair is wonderfully tousled. His eyes are bright, almost bluish in the light when he turns his head just like that. And he seems younger, not as tired. Harry has never seen Malfoy like this before. He presses him to the bed, their bodies warm, fitting together with greater ease, and he kisses Malfoy on the mouth, proper.
Malfoy pushes him away, scowling. "You taste awful," he says.
Harry runs his tongue along his teeth. "I taste like you," he says, and this time Malfoy is the one to box his ear with a pillow.
The sky is a deep shade of grey by the time Harry has showered and pulled on his clothes again, still the transfigured suit from yesterday. He tosses Malfoy one of the Metamorph Medals and says, "We'd best be off, then," even though his stomach growls loudly at the smells of fried eggs and bacon wafting up from the pub below. He doesn't bother to glance in the mirror to see what disguise the medal has given him now. He scratches at the prickling in his neck, adjusts the suit (which seems to fit all right) and leads Malfoy downstairs by the arm. Malfoy moves slowly, his disguise unfamiliar, but the way he holds his weight and moves gingerly, wincing ever so slightly only intensifies the memory of last night for Harry.
He smirks a little when he sees Malfoy. He's not a hag, not really, just a dumpy old woman with a wart on her chin. Malfoy watches himself in the mirror and stops in the middle of the stairway. "God, not again!" he groans.
Tom is busy at the bar, shouting orders as witches and wizards start to come in through the door to Muggle London, from Diagon Alley, and even the fireplace flashes bright green once or twice. Harry leaves a small pile of galleons on the top of the bar and mouths, "For room fourteen," when Tom has a moment and glances over at him.
They find a dingy alleyway—not the same one as last night, but a similar one, complete with a rubbish bin, smelling of summer rubbish, hot and sickly in the damp heat.
"Do you have your cloak?" Malfoy asks, his old woman's voice gravelly and shaking. He pulls his medal off and shakes his head, stretching his arms out with a cracking of bones. "That feels better."
Harry nods and tosses it over them. He takes off his own medal and shoves it into his breast pocket before holding Malfoy's arm tight and willing himself to move, seeing the destination, feeling the jerking tug, the black whirling around him, the choking in his chest.
He opens his eyes to a sky as dingy as London's, except this one is rimmed with mountains, as grey as Malfoy's eyes. Malfoy throws the cloak off the both of them. "I thought you wanted to meet up with Weasley and Granger!" he hisses. "You're—we're, we're back in Wales!"
"I thought I was Apparating to the Burrow," Harry says.
"Well, clearly you were thinking of something else, Potter." Malfoy snorts. "God, if someone—"
"They're not here," Harry says. "There's no Dark Mark in the sky. I don't see anyone." He sighs and draws his wand. "Come on. Let's go and see how bad the cottage was damaged. Maybe—maybe the cup's still there."
He needs to know, if not later, then now. His subconscious told him to Apparate here, maybe it's right: check on the cup, then find Ron and Hermione.
They have Apparated into a farmer's field, one nearby the forest, where they collected mistletoe and oak. It feels like an era has passed since, when it has been really no more than a few days. Harry feels tired, though he's well-rested. His legs are stiff and sore and his hips even more. He smiles and remembers, fleetingly, last night, touching Malfoy, his tongue...everywhere. And finally, finally sinking into him. His step feels lighter now, too.
Rain threatens the horizon. Everything is grey, from the treetops to the fields. No golden wheat here. Malfoy kicks up dust as he walks, scuffing towards the rows of cottages where once there was one more.
Harry turns over his shoulder. The steeple of the church rises above everything in town, the local highpoint of turrets and stale roof, the bell long rusted-over, probably. There are no cars about, and no people. He doesn't remember the day of the week, either.
It's not hard to find the cottage. The blacked beams belch smoke, small puffs now and then. It looks so out of place. Every single other cottage sits as impeccably as ever, small and stony, with perfect little gardens filled with roses and bright petunias, green lawns and white shutters. And here, sandwiched between all of this, one lone ruin.
The air is hotter, drier, and the smoke is thick as Harry nears it. He walks across the grass, prickly and dead now. Malfoy crunches behind him. He walks around the perimeter of the house, trying to remember what was where. There, a beam that might have held up the kitchen, there, the shattered frame of the backdoor, there, the crumbled stone of the fireplace, there, a small slab of something.
Malfoy grabs his arm when Harry starts to walk onto the sooty mess. "Potter—"
Harry shrugs it off. "I have to see," he says. He waves his wand, gently moving a piece of beam away over to the left, then another hunk of something—the springs of the couch, emerging from white ash cinders. He walks across, his trainers sinking in. Dust stirs around him, little whirls of white and red and he coughs and wants to make this as quick as possible.
Then he sees it. A liquid puddle, shimmering like oil and as thick as pitch. It is pooled across several stone slabs, dusty and cracked. It is perfectly round. Harry thinks that this can't be it; there must be more than just this. In the middle, something glows. He leans closer, Malfoy pulling on his arm and saying, "Move back, the house is still smoking," but he doesn't listen.
He sees the faded face of Tom Riddle in the puddle, smirking at him until he raises his wand. Tom screams silently as Harry whispers, "Finite Incantatem!" and the puddle starts to bubble and boil, faster and faster until it evaporates into the air with a puff of noxious green smoke.
He and Malfoy walk into the back patio of the house, away from it all. Harry sits down on a sickly patch of grass and mutters, "So that was it. Another horcrux, gone."
Malfoy wanders back to the house. His wand is drawn, too, and this time, he is the one to lean over the burnt wooden beams, checking something out. "Potter!" he calls, "Look at this!"
He points with his wand to another section of the house. The amount of debris suggests the roof collapsed here, sending little hinges and springs and even half of the upstairs sink right into this corner of the mess. But Malfoy doesn't point to the sink, instead, he points to something shining like glass, sharp and jagged.
The scrying bowl. It sits on top of everything, as though its magic was the strongest, the best. It has been sliced in half, a nice and neat cleave down the middle. Harry reaches down to touch it, but Malfoy shakes his head. "It could burn you, idiot," he warns.
Harry thinks of the bowl, of meeting Malfoy in that alleyway, of seeing Regulus Black in the bowl, then Malfoy and himself. He remembers wondering how on earth the bowl could show him something like that, how he wanted to see if Malfoy really did arch his neck just like that when he came.
He does. Harry knows now. He reaches to Malfoy and runs his thumb down the side of Malfoy's neck. Malfoy raises an eyebrow at him, and smiles when Harry leans in to kiss him, lingering on his mouth for a long time, simply touching, just barely, just the two of them amidst the crumbling, smoking rubble.
"I didn't really believe that bowl," he admits when they pull apart. His hands twine in Malfoy's hair, combing it with his fingers. "I—I thought it was fooling with me, maybe. Dark magic, like Hermione said."
"There isn't Dark Magic," Malfoy says. "Not really."
Harry doesn't want to finish the cliché. He smiles and toes a piece of stone with his trainer. "I guess we'll never know, now, if Regulus Black knew anything else about the other horcruxes or not. No scrying bowl, no divination images. No pensieve of his, either."
Malfoy opens his mouth, then closes it again. He frowns for a moment before turning to Harry. "Potter— I...there is a pensieve in the Manor. In the room below the drawing room. It's not Mother's or Father's and I wasn't allowed to touch it when I was little, but—"
"Did you touch it?" Harry asks.
Malfoy shakes his head. "There was a child-lock ward on it. I burned my fingers a couple times trying. But—mother said it was dear to her. Something from the family. And I think she was close to her cousin."
Harry holds his breath. Malfoy lifts his eyes to his, they're bright and shining, the rumbling rain clouds rolling past his pupils. Malfoy holds his hand out, like a handshake. "I can take you there," he says quietly. "If you..."
Malfoy's hand is warm and firm as he pulls Harry close.
"I trust you," Harry says.