Draco discovered -- on climbing the stairs of St Mungo’s -- that he hadn’t been able to spell away every bruise after all. At least ten came out of the woodwork as he creaked up to Potter’s laboratory. He might have got all of Blaise’s, if only Stefano hadn’t caught him in the midst of a red-hot shower to steam away the evidence.
In the haste brought on by Draco’s limp wetness, Stefano had forgotten the danger inherent in running on slippery tiles. They were both among the walking wounded that morning. Unfortunately for Draco’s general health and mobility, almost cracking his head open on a sink had not done much to cool Stefano’s ardour.
Draco was in no mood to countenance either the sickly sweet shivers his stomach produced on spotting Potter, or to deal with any of Potter’s friends. This, he presumed, was precisely why what met his eyes was Potter, stripped down to flimsy grey boxers and embroiled in an argument with Weasley and a grey-haired man Draco didn’t recognise.
I don’t need this, I really don’t need this, chanted Draco’s inner monologue, but his eyes didn’t care. They feasted on the clean lines of Potter’s legs, his hollowed stomach, his beautiful neck, but most of all on the way the spare cloth bulged a little at his groin. Potter still looked like a boy, but where it counted he was very much a man.
“I am perfectly entitled to wear what I want, Ron!” Potter was shouting as Draco approached. “It’s not up to you to decide!”
“I’m just saying, mate, that it’s kind of inappropriate given that you’re sick --”
“I’M NOT SICK!” bellowed Potter. “If I am, no one’s told me! Oh. Er. Hello, Michel.” He looked shame-faced and immediately tried to cover himself with the dark green robes. This only allowed Draco to focus on his still exposed, coffee-coloured nipples, but he didn’t tell Potter that.
“Oh, that just puts the tin hat on it, that does,” grumbled Weasley. “He’s still here?”
“He brought me the robes, too,” said Potter, sounding defiant and forgetting his modesty. Draco used the opportunity to ogle Potter’s bottom while his back was turned. It was a bad idea, because it happened to be among the nicest Draco had ever seen, even counting magazines. “Which is more than you did!”
“I didn’t know you wanted them!” Weasley defended himself.
“God, Potter.” Draco strolled over to Weasley and stroked his sleeve. “Look at this travesty! You really wanted him dressing you? For shame. He shops with his eyes closed, I guarantee it.”
“Er.” Potter looked nonplussed. Draco smiled into Weasley’s boiling face and turned his attention to the man seated and watching the commotion with a faint smile.
“Hello. I’m Michel Rodriguez, and you are?” Draco held out his hand.
“Remus Lupin, at your service,” replied the man. He grasped Draco’s hand in a firm, dry grip. Draco winked at him and, in one swift movement, bent his head to kiss the man’s wrist.
“A Spanish custom,” he explained, waving off Weasley’s fully audible protests about contagious queerness. “If the man is worthy, that is.”
“You have insulted half the room,” Potter pointed out from behind him.
“Not at all, you have every chance to earn your stripes,” said Draco. “Assenting to be my willing slave would be a good start.”
“And what did I do to earn such an honour?” asked Remus.
“Oh, you presented me with a wonderful opportunity to piss off Weasley here,” returned Draco lightly.
“Good lord, that’s a strong reaction.” Remus sounded surprised. “Have you and Mr We -- I mean, Ron, here, got some previous history?”
“No!” Too vehement. Draco tempered it with, “No, indeed. It was simply a case of instant mutual dislike.”
“Ron, you do seem to have a knack for that,” remarked Remus. “I recall a certain Mr Malfoy to whom you took against in much the same way.”
“Malfoy was a poncy stuck-up git,” responded Weasley, with characteristic violence. “I was completely justified in hating his guts.”
“Am I to take it that Mr Rodriguez is also, ah, a poncy stuck-up git?” inquired Remus, with a delicate look at Draco. At once, Draco remembered who he was. He used to wear such a look in Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, when Draco had said something impossibly brash, or Blaise something impossibly snobby, or Pansy something impossibly stupid.
Weasley treated Draco to a long, hard stare. “Nope. He’s a gitty stuck-up ponce.”
Seeming pleased with this piece of symmetrical syntax, he beamed around at the assembled company.
In the intervening time, Potter had scrambled the dark green robes over his head, a fact that Draco hadn’t failed to notice or appreciate. Now flattening down his hair, Potter had a glint in his eye that brought back strong memories of Hogwarts -- when Potter used to put a hand to his wand as if he’d like to curse Draco into a million slimy pieces.
Not that it could happen now. Draco felt a brief shot of regret that no matter how provoking Weasley was to Potter, there was no way Potter could curse him. It was washed away by a now habitual, but nonetheless horrifying, heartbeat of sympathy for Potter’s plight.
“Ron.” Potter smiled with gritted teeth. “Mr Rodriguez will only be with us for a short time. Would it kill you to be polite to him? Or if you can’t be polite, be silent.”
Weasley gaped at him. “What’s this? Have you turned into Hermione?”
Potter did all but click his tongue. He turned to Draco. “I see you’ve met Remus. He was a friend of my father’s and a teacher at Hogwarts for a year.”
“Let me guess -- Defence Against the Dark Arts?” Draco gave his most charming smile.
“That’s amazing, how did you know?” asked Potter.
“Humph, everyone knows about the one-year curse You-Know-Who put on that job,” snorted Weasley. Draco hadn’t and longed to ask more, but he preferred to let Ron secure his alibi for him.
“So I was right?” he said. Remus nodded. “Then you knew Potter when he was at school? That’s would be an intriguing angle for our readers.”
“I’ve allowed Michel to interview me for the Spanish Daily Prophet, Remus,” intervened Potter, pulling down the sleeves of his robes. They were highly fashionable, with tight cuffs and puffy sleeves that flopped in what was meant to be a very dashing and mediaeval manner. Like most extreme fashion it mainly just looked silly; but Draco thought that if anyone could carry off the knight-at-rest look, it would be Potter.
Draco tore his gaze away from Potter’s wrists to find that Remus was regarding him with an opaque gaze. A more still man Draco had never met. Remus looked coiled up, as if he was restraining himself from leaping about like a maniac. Draco remembered that he was a confirmed werewolf and felt a little quiver of fear.
At length, Remus spoke. “I’d be willing, with Harry’s permission, to answer any questions you might have. Although I fear that I cannot give you what you are looking for.”
“How do you know that?” laughed Draco. “I haven’t asked any questions yet.”
“Newspapers always want the most scandalous and salacious information possible,” said Remus, sounding serene and lacing his fingers together. “I can tell you nothing but that Harry was a capable student, who produced a Patronus in his third year. This would be rather astonishing were it not for the fact that this is old news, given that Harry has been in training to fight Voldemort and his followers ever since he began his career at Hogwarts.”
“But,” said Draco, scraping his memory, “Potter just said that you were a friend of his father’s?”
He didn’t fail to notice how all three of the others stiffened. “Although perhaps I am being too assiduous in my investigations,” he continued smoothly. “It was merely that you seemed an attractive candidate for interview, Mr Lupin.”
For some reason this deflecting addendum seemed to aggravate Potter, for he said sharply, “Remus is married.”
“Was married,” said Remus, his tone at last taking on an inflection of sadness. “That’s what I came here to tell you, Harry; and also why I didn’t come before I was sure you were rested. Nymphodora died from the injuries she sustained in the final battle.”
“When Bellatrix --?” whispered Potter. Remus nodded, his eyes glassy. Potter compressed his lips and leaned over, grabbing Remus’ shoulder for support. It struck Draco that Remus seemed to age in a few seconds, as if he had been holding up a front for Potter that he could now lay down.
“I’m so, so sorry, Remus,” said Potter, after a moment. Weasley also came up to clap him on the shoulder and Draco shuffled his feet, feeling that he was intruding. Soon, however, Remus gave a little shake, like a flea-ridden dog, and smiled thinly.
“I have done my grieving, Harry. I fear you have yours to come. But I’m becoming used to having those I love torn from me. I’m terribly glad that you’re still around.”
“You appear to be a man who has had much grief in his life, Mr Lupin,” murmured Draco.
“Please, call me Remus,” said Remus. “‘Mr Lupin’ makes me feel old.”
“Not at all, Remus,” countered Draco. “You’re as old as you feel.”
“By your reasoning, I’m three hundred and twelve,” replied Remus, but his eyes were merry once more. “And yes, you’re right. My parents both died before I was finished my education; two of my best friends died before their twenty-third birthdays -- Harry’s parents -- and my dear friend Sirius died ten years ago.”
“Ten years?” Potter started. “Has it been that long?”
Remus nodded. Potter passed a hand over his eyes. “I’ve missed out on so much,” he murmured.
“These years are ones you can never regain, true,” agreed Remus. “But with my help, and the help of your other friends, we’ll make sure you find out what you missed. And then -- your future is before you.”
Some future, thought Draco, but he kept his peace.
“Certain people haven’t exactly been forthcoming,” said Potter, with a sly look at Weasley. Weasley took a turn at shuffling his feet. “If it wasn’t for Michel, in fact, I’d never have found out why Hermione and Ron never got married. Next thing you’ll be telling me, Remus, that you and Sirius were lovers.”
“You mean you didn’t know?” said Remus. Weasley gave a scream and leapt away.
Draco caught Potter’s eye. He looked flabbergasted, but a certain light of recognition was dawning on his face. “Oh, my God,” he said.
“Looks like you were right, Weasley.” Draco sidled up to Weasley to caress his shoulder. “Queerness is contagious.”
Potter’s eyes were wild and wide. “I still can’t take it in,” he said through a mouthful of Remus’ Honeyduke’s chocolate. “I mean, I knew he and Sirius were good friends, but Sirius and my dad were best friends."
“It’s the quiet ones you have to watch,” advised Draco.
He broke off a liberal chunk of chocolate and stuffed it in his mouth. He had let down his hackles the moment Weasley closed the door behind him, but another sort of tension was building. It was full of the sparks of shared glances and grins and was pleasurable indeed, but no less dangerous.
Potter swallowed loudly and flopped back on the bed. Almost straight away he sat back up again and scratched at his tunic. “I’m not used to wearing robes like this, they’re really tight,” he complained. “And what’s with these collars?”
“I know.” Draco puffed out his cheeks in sympathetic disgust. “I end up unbuttoning them after about an hour, otherwise I can’t breathe.”
“Good idea,” said Potter, setting to with a will. Draco made himself concentrate on breaking off a perfect cube of chocolate -- an almost impossible task, given how rich and heavy Honeyduke’s chocolate was -- and not on the arch of Potter’s throat as his fingers twisted the fiddly buttons.
“It reminded me of being in school,” added Potter, as Draco wrestled with the chocolate bar. He didn’t want to take it off the bed entirely, given that it wasn’t his.
“How so?” returned Draco, preoccupied.
“With Remus there, and me and Ron quarrelling, and you calling me by my last name,” said Potter. Draco’s head shot up, but Potter was staring cross-eyed at his own chin. “It was rather odd -- damn, these buttons are impossible!”
Draco’s heart was pounding. It was an inexcusable mistake, small enough to pass under the radar but important enough to be the crack that would bring his entire façade tumbling down. Of course he called Potter, Potter. They weren’t on friendly terms, to be calling each other by their given names.
Or rather, they hadn’t been. Until now.
“Harry,” tried Draco under his breath, as Potter wrestled with his buttons. It wasn’t that difficult. If Draco pretended that he wasn’t referring to his former enemy or to the man-boy sitting across from him, tousled and frustrated and utterly desirable … well, it worked.
It fit him less well than ‘Potter.’ Harry was such a short name, cheerful and sweet but lacking in gravitas. Bereft of the sort of weighty dignity to which the bearer of the name was subjected. In the end, the name of a hero it wasn’t. Potter, with its ring of stalwart army commanders in khakis, born to serve and clipping orders to ‘Fire!’, suited the media image.
Harry, on the other hand, was just right for someone who couldn’t even undo his robes buttons. And it made Draco smile.
“Yes, yes, it’s hilariously funny,” snapped -- Harry. “I don’t suppose you could give me a hand, though?”
“Yeah, sure.” Draco swallowed his laugh. He stood up and batted Harry’s hands away from his collar. “Let the expert work. I don’t suppose you could dress your way out of a paper bag.”
Harry harrumphed. “I don’t think paper bags have buttons. That is the charm of paper bags.”
“Just shut up and stop breathing,” commanded Draco. “Your throat is making the buttons tight.”
Harry subsided into enraged muttering. After a moment he glared at Draco and took a deep breath, which he then held. Draco tugged the cloth to squeeze the side buttons open before pushing aside the flap, exposing Harry’s bare throat, and proceeding to slide out the buttons on the inside.
Draco’s nose was pressed almost into Harry’s cheek as he performed the delicate manoeuvre, letting him inhale Harry's smell. Whatever aftershave Harry used, it was nothing fancy. In fact -- as Draco clipped the final button with his fingernail -- he decided that what he was smelling from Harry’s skin was plain soap. Nothing produced in the great perfume houses of Paris could have been as heady and intoxicating.
He got the last button free and pushed open the flaps of Harry’s collar before drawing back. Harry was making a big deal of taking deep breaths. He didn’t seem to notice that for a second Draco’s fingers had been splayed across his collarbones, Draco’s mouth next to his jaw. Draco didn’t know whether to be thankful for this or not.
“See,” he whispered into Harry’s ear, grinning. “Nothing’s impossible if you wish hard enough. Harry.”
Harry wrinkled his nose and kicked him away, so that he ended up lying flat on his back fanning his face. “If I was wishing, I don’t think I’d be wishing for you to open my collar. I’d be wishing I had my wand back so that I could just spell the stupid things open.”
“Ah.” Draco sat back on the bed, deflated. “I don’t -- I mean. Did you lose your wand in the battle?”
“I suppose so.” The shifting of the cloth suggested that Harry was shrugging. “Nobody’s told me and I haven’t asked.”
Draco felt a pressing need to turn the conversation, lest Harry ask him if Draco knew anything about his wand, or tried to ask any of the researchers. He caught sight of Peter’s salt-and-pepper mop leaning over a pestle and mortar, and asked on impulse, “Who does them up for you, considering you couldn’t unbutton them? Your robes, I mean.”
“Oh.” The small word spoke a thousand volumes. Draco twisted so that he could see Harry’s face, but it was turned away from him. One arm, with a puffed sleeve and narrow wrists, was flung across his head, effectively obscuring anything worth seeing from view. That was, if you couldn’t appreciate the sleek lines of Harry’s torso, or the way his bare toes curled up under the hem of his robes and pulled them taut across the planes of his thighs.
Draco prodded the sole of Harry’s foot to get a response, secretly wanting to tickle it until Harry was helpless with laughter. It was the only way he could imagine Harry submitting to his lechery -- by making him helpless.
Except, of course, that he was thinking as Draco. Not Michel, the man with the clean slate and Stefano’s body.
He didn’t have time to follow through on the thought, because Harry let out a sort of giggle, wrenched his knees closer to his chest and said via his arm, “Peter helped me yesterday, anyway.”
“Peter … oh, Peter.” Draco made a production of looking around the room. “Ah, the rather dashing older man with the grey hair?”
“It’s not all grey.” Potter’s tone was one of reproach.
“Ninety percent. Shall I call him over so that we can check?”
“No!” It was a thin scream. Draco caught out for Harry’s foot again, but he snatched it away in time. “Don’t call him. You’ll embarrass me.”
“Ashamed to be seen with me, are you?” The genuine affront that Draco felt coloured his tone. “Have you got a similar problem to your friend Weasley?”
“Of course not.” Harry’s face reappeared from beneath a mound of pillows and cloth and arms, his glasses skewed. “I only meant that you’ll say something to tease me and it will be unbearable.”
Draco picked up an apple from the bedside locker and started tossing it from hand to hand. “You have a crush on him.”
Harry breathed in through his nose, which was turning pink. It looked like strawberry ice cream dotted with chocolate sprinkles. Draco wondered what would happen if he just leaned over and licked it. And then if he tied Harry’s hands to the bedpost and had his wicked way with him, got him out of his system. Everything could go on as before. Like it should.
“You won’t tell?” Harry's statement somehow became a question. Draco could tell that Harry hadn’t intended for it to be so.
Bowing his head, Draco patted approximately where he thought Harry’s knee would be, underneath the billows of robes. “I can’t believe you need to ask, but no.” He polished the apple on his tunic, placed it carefully on the locker and turned to leave.
“Michel, wait -- I mean, you’re leaving? Bye.”
“See you later,” said Draco. “And, by the way, I noticed Peter’s not wearing a wedding ring.”
When he thought it was safe, Draco ducked behind a research desk and chanced a look back. Harry was pushing his glasses straight with one finger with his shoulders hunched, and rolling an apple back and forth across the bed.
A/N: 'Nothing's impossible if you wish hard enough' is a line from Peter Pan. It's meant to be read as if Draco himself is quoting it, but in case anyone thinks I came up with it -- I didn't.