Draco had learned three things throughout his years at Watford High.
The first, and most important, was that northsiders and southsiders didn't mix. They participated in class and some were civil toward one another, but otherwise they provided one another with a large berth. Draco knew southsiders thought he and his friends were snobby and materialistic, but he didn't care—southsiders were miscreants who were only a step above cavemen. It was a divide that was simply not breached.
The second was that his best friend, Baz, was hopeless. Or, rather, his situation was. Being gay for your arch nemesis was simply not done and it had no chance of ending well. It didn't matter that Simon Snow had "fucking gorgeous blue eyes" or "hair made of sunshine" because he was a southsider. Also, he was almost certainly straight, unless his friendship with Potter was a cover for more deviant behavior.
This brought Draco to his last point: he hated Harry Potter with a burning passion. He was Snow's best friend and seen as the leader of the southsiders—they looked at him as if he were untouchable, some sort of god. Granted, most people looked at him like that—Baz said it was because of "the air of confidence he carries himself with," and Draco retorted that it wasn't confidence, it was arrogance.
By the end of his senior year, he had unlearned all three claims.
Draco was jerked from his thoughts when a sharp pain struck his temple. He shot a glare toward his best friend, who merely raised an eyebrow expectantly. Baz's skin was a golden, reddish shade in the sunlight, which Draco envied immensely. Whereas Baz was dark, he was light: skin too pale, hair too pale, eyes too pale.
"Well?" Baz prompted.
"Well what?" Draco flicked Baz's ear in retaliation for the one to his temple.
"Christ, you were in your head again." Baz shook his head and sighed, raising his face to the sunlight like a flower. "I was wondering which class you had next."
They were sitting outside the school building at a bench overlooking the parking lot. He and Baz had claimed the table in freshman year and it had been theirs ever since.
"Oh." Draco pulled out his phone to glance at his schedule. "Health."
Baz groaned. "Lucky you. I have Chem."
Draco snickered at his best friend. "I heard he assigns partners on the first day. You have Snape, right?" Baz nodded. "I don't envy you."
The other boy swore beneath his breath. "Well, Health isn't any better—you have to watch an actual birth eventually."
Draco scrunched up his face in disgust. "Is that why you went home sick last semester?"
"It's not pretty." Baz shuddered dramatically. "I now hold an infinite amount of respect for my mother."
"At least I have Pansy to entertain me. You have Millie. She'll be talking to you about her teacup chihuahuas the entire period." Draco smirked.
"Don't remind me," Baz grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest. "I suspect Pansy will only want to discuss her trip to Paris over the summer. She's been texting me about it nonstop."
Commotion from the parking lot caught both Draco and Baz's attention. He recognized the southsiders instantly. Of course, Harry was in the midst of the chaos. There seemed to be some sort of argument. Squinting his eyes, he started as he recognized Pansy. She was in a heated quarrel with Harry, Simon, and Ginny, Harry's on-and-off girlfriend.
"Come on," Baz slung his bag over his shoulder and strode purposefully down the hill toward the parking lot, leaving Draco no choice but to follow.
As they approached, Draco could discern what they were shouting about. Harry and Simon were trying to calm down Ginny, who was glaring daggers at Pansy. Pansy was haughtily admiring her nails, though Draco could tell from her pale complexion that she was terrified of Harry's girlfriend.
"What's going on here?" Draco demanded, sneering at the three southsiders, Ginny especially—he had always disliked her. He wasn't sure of the exact reason why.
"Tell your friend to keep her fucking trap shut," Ginny snarled, before shaking Harry and Simon off her and storming up toward the school, most likely in search of her brother.
Now both Harry and Simon's eyes were focused on him and it was almost painful having two vibrant, intense glares piercing him—he was thankful that Harry's Ray-Ban glasses at least provided a buffer. Harry was clenching his strong jaw and he ran his fingers through his dark hair. Draco noticed that he had paled slightly over winter break and the light freckles that had dotted his straight nose were barely visible.
"Stay away from Ginny, alright?" Simon was frowning at Pansy. "She doesn't need this shit from you."
"Maybe you should keep your girlfriend on a tighter leash," Draco said smoothly.
"Maybe you should teach your girlfriend some manners," Harry drawled.
"Harry," Simon nudged his friend and shot him a meaningful look. "You heard Dumbledore. Don't risk it. Not for a northsider." Though he was speaking in a low voice, his words were barely audible. "You know what'll happen."
Harry nodded curtly before shooting Draco one last glare and stalking toward the school. Simon faltered, then turned and looked at Baz.
"Nice friends you've got, huh?"
Baz was about to say something, but Simon was already following his best friend, easily catching up to Harry's lazy lope. Draco glanced at his friend and groaned internally—he was hopeless. Baz's grey eyes were fixated on Simon.
Almost as if snapping out of a daze, Baz spun on Pansy, his eyes fierce. "What were you thinking? Ginny Weasley? She's captain of the softball team; she'll tear you apart."
"I can take care of myself, Basilton," Pansy scowled.
"You were terrified," Draco narrowed his gaze at her. "Next time I'm letting her punch you." He let out a sigh, then massaged the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. "Come on, class will start soon. I refuse to be late this early on in the semester."
Draco walked into his Health class with a pounding headache and Pansy on his heels, still moping due to her scolding from Baz. Ms. Pomfrey was writing something down on the board, her back to the classroom. The room was filled with two-person desks in three columns. He took the seat in the center column, behind Penelope and Hermione.
"What happened in the parking lot? We saw you and Ginny," Hermione turned to Pansy, a worried look on her face.
"Nothing," Pansy said coolly, pulling a nail file from her pencil case. "She was just proving how completely uncivilized she is." Pansy scowled in remembrance.
Penny frowned—Draco knew that she was close to Ginny and wondered if Pansy had forgotten. She opened her mouth to say something, but Ms. Pomfrey began speaking and she and Hermione instantly turned around and snatched up their pens.
"Welcome to period five Health. Some ground rules: I accept no late work, tardiness will not be tolerated, nor will disrespect to either me or your peers."
All eyes turned as the door to the classroom opened to reveal a bored-looking Harry. He didn't seem to care, or notice, that he was late and currently the center of attention, as he merely closed the door behind him and stifled a yawn. Ronald and Seamus, more of Harry's southside friends, waved him over to their table in the back and he took a seat in the desk beside them. Draco realized he had been watching Harry and quickly turned back to the front of the room.
Ms. Pomfrey was pursing her lips and frowning at Harry. "I presume you're Mr. Potter," she deadpanned. "The next time you arrive tardy without a note, you will be given a detention slip." Draco let a smirk slide onto his face. "Now, this semester you will not have a final exam, though you will have a final project. I will be partnering you up today with the person you will complete this project with. When I call out your name and your partner's, please move to the same table."
"I'd better not be partnered with a southsider," Pansy muttered beneath her breath. Draco couldn't help but agree.
"Hannah Abbott and Seamus Finnigan," Draco pitied Hannah—she was sweet and Finnigan was one of Harry's more obnoxious friends. He was funny, at times, but trouble. "Penelope Bunce and Neville Longbottom," Penny shot a pained smile at Hermione, who switched seats with Neville. Ms. Pomfrey continued calling out names as the seating shifted. "Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley," Draco saw Hermione clench her jaw, but hold her chin high. "Draco Malfoy," he perked up and felt his chest tighten with anticipation—he hoped he got a good partner, as he couldn't afford a bad grade, "- and Harry Potter."
Instantly Draco's jaw dropped and he wondered vaguely if Ms. Pomfrey was serious—she couldn't be. He crossed his arms over his chest and stared straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge Harry as he took the seat beside him, switching with Pansy. The other boy sat so close that Draco could smell his musk mixed with the scent of soap. He was momentarily caught off-guard—he hadn't expected Harry to smell so… clean. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he wondered when he had become Baz. Who cared what Harry smelled like?
"Very well." Ms. Pomfrey put down her seating chart and looked back up at the classroom. "Next class we will go to the library and you and your partner will discuss the project you will be completing. I fully expect you and your partner to meet outside of class to work on this. In fact, I'll give you a couple of minutes now to exchange phone numbers or email addresses. You will have no excuse if you come unprepared next class."
Draco scribbled his phone number down on the corner of his notebook, then tore it out and slid it over to Harry's side of the table. He opened his mouth to protest when Harry grabbed his wrist. The other boy pulled a Sharpie from his pocket and put it between his teeth, uncapping it, before scribbling seven digits along the length of Draco's forearm.
"Was that really necessary?" Draco grimaced.
"You won't lose it," Harry shot him a roguish grin.
Draco's stomach flopped, not uncomfortably, and he pulled his arm back toward his body. Harry scanned the sheet of paper Draco had given him, before pulling his phone out right there and inputting it. Eyes wide, Draco wondered why Ms. Pomfrey wasn't confiscating the device—it was against school rules to use it during class. Her back was turned and she was writing some terms on the board.
"Close your mouth, you'll catch flies," Harry drawled.
Draco turned, a quip on his tongue, but was met with the flash of a camera. Harry chuckled at his screen, then confirmed Draco's contact picture in his phone.
"Delete that," Draco demanded. "I look horrible."
Harry ignored him. In the picture, Draco's eyes were wide, his mouth was open slightly, and he looked utterly lost. Baz would have a laughing fit were he to see it.
"Harry, delete it," Draco repeated in a low voice.
"I'm free on Mondays and Wednesdays," Harry said, ignoring Draco. "Saturdays if you're lucky."
"What makes you think I'm free on those days?"
"You've no life outside of your little posse," Harry said bluntly.
"Hey!" Draco protested. "I have a life, thank you very much. It's much more interesting than yours."
Harry merely smirked at him. "Oh, I'm sure," he said sarcastically.
Draco wondered if he'd make it through the semester without murdering Harry. He seriously doubted it.
Simon chewed the inside of his cheek and shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans to protect them against the chilly weather, ruminating the complete misfortune that was his Chemistry partner. Despite both he and Baz's protests, Mr. Snape refused to let them switch partners or work alone. He smiled and nodded to his friends as he strode through the halls, relieved when he finally exited the building. Scanning the parking lot, he could see Harry leaning against their truck, fingers combing through his hair, speaking to Ron, Ginny, and Seamus.
When Simon approached, they all glanced up at him. "Heard about your Chem partner," Ginny patted him on the shoulder. "You have my condolences."
"Who's your partner?" Harry wondered.
"Baz Pitch," Ginny said, a sly grin on her face.
Ron laughed. "Man, both you and Harry struck out today. His Health partner's Draco Malfoy."
Simon raised his eyes at Harry, who nodded in confirmation. "Well then, we'll be suffering together, at least."
"Let's hope neither of you end up killing your partners," Ginny chuckled.
Ron glanced down at his phone. "Hey, do you guys think you could give us a ride? Fred and George got arrested again, so mom and dad are going to go pick them up. He typed back a reply on his phone.
"Yeah, of course," Simon said.
Harry grinned. "What was it this time?"
"Impersonating a cop again? Public urination? Public disturbance?" Ginny raised an eyebrow.
"Public disturbance. Apparently they were filming dares for their YouTube channel—they reached five hundred thousand subs—and the cops decided that burying themselves in the sand and screaming at passerbys wasn't exactly legal."
Both Harry and Simon chuckled.
"Hop in," Harry nodded toward the bed of he and Simon's truck.
Once they had left the parking lot and Simon was sure Ron and Ginny couldn't hear them, he turned to Harry. His best friend—practically brother—was bobbing his head to the music, drumming on the steering wheel with his thumbs.
"You'll be all right? You won't let Draco get to you?"
Harry sighed. "I'll be fine, Si."
"Dumbledore won't hesitate to kick you out, you know. You've only got three strikes. I'm not letting you work at the auto repair shop for the rest of your life."
Harry let out a sharp, humorless laugh. "What else am I gonna do?"
"Go to college."
"Right. That's a good one." Harry clenched his jaw. "We don't have the money for that."
"That's why there are scholarships. And financial aid." Harry didn't respond for a few moments. "Your grades are good enough."
"I dunno," Harry muttered. "I'll think about it some other time. Right now I just need some sleep."
"Ditto," Simon stifled a yawn. "Should've known going to Oliver's party last night was a bad idea. The Advil this morning did nothing."
"And Pansy fucking Parkinson made it worse," Harry added.
"You know, I'm pretty sure she's not dating Draco," Simon mused. "He barely even talks to her—he's always with Baz."
"Who cares?" Harry muttered. "They're all annoying, entitled brats."
"Can't deny that."
They pulled to a stop outside Ron and Ginny's house. It was narrow and looked rather run-down, but had five levels. They'd been inside numerous times because Mrs. Weasley doted on them incessantly. She was still trying to convince Harry and Simon to move out of their shared house and in with them. Simon knew she worried.
Ron and Ginny hopped out of the back and waved to them in thanks.
"I still think you and Gin's breakup is hilarious," Simon said.
"I'm glad you got some amusement from it," Harry said wryly.
"I can't imagine walking into a room with a guy for the night in tow only to find your girlfriend going to town on another girl."
Harry shrugged. "We kind of just gave each other a high five, then called it off."
"Did you still fuck what's-his-face?"
Harry shot him a wicked grin. "Like I'd pass that up."
Harry pulled into their driveway and Simon hopped out of the truck, pulling his keys from his pocket. Their house had two bedrooms, but both were tiny, their beds barely fitting. Everything in their house was tiny, which Harry complained about. Simon didn't mind, as it was cozy and it wasn't as if the two of them needed a lot of space. As soon as they'd turned sixteen, he and Harry had left foster care and combined their money to get their own place. It had been difficult at first to pay for the rent, but he and Harry eventually got it down. They both had stable jobs—he worked at a sports supply store and Harry at an auto repair shop.
Simon cursed when he realized they'd forgotten to turn off one of their lights. He let himself in, then flicked it off instantly. The windows would provide them with all the light they needed for the time being—there was no use increasing their electric bill.
The kitchen and living room were in practically one room and three doors lead to the bathroom and each of their rooms. Simon liked that he was always able to see the entire house when he stood inside it—it comforted him knowing where everything was at all times.
Harry dropped his bag by the door and let out a large yawn, kicking off his shoes and tugging at his shirt despite the cold weather. The two of them rarely used their heater, as both were used to cold temperatures and didn't see it as a necessity. It saved them a lot of money during the winter seasons.
Flinging his shirt onto the sofa, Harry ruffled his hair and checked his phone. "I'm gonna take a nap. Wake me up if you go to get food."
"Gotcha." Simon left his bag near Harry's, then headed to the kitchen to grab a snack. Harry stumbled into his bedroom and Simon heard him let out a loud yawn before his door clicked shut.
He sighed, then grabbed a bag of chips from the cupboard and settled down on their couch to watch some Netflix.
Draco sighed and glanced around the library. Hermione and Ronald were arguing over where to sit, Penny was already bossing around Neville, and Pansy was perfectly content to lean back, file her nails, and let her partner do all the work. Ms. Pomfrey had explained to them, back at the classroom, that they were to choose a topic regarding adolescent health and prominent concerns.
He moved to sit at a table, but Harry strode past him, heading toward the back of the library. He looked around helplessly, but Ms. Pomfrey merely shot him a sharp look and nodded her head toward the shelf Harry had disappeared behind. With a huff, he scowled and followed his partner.
Harry was in the back corner, leaning against a shelf containing biographies. The spines of the books were dusty and it looked as if it had been years since they had come into contact with anyone. Not quite knowing where to sit, Draco awkwardly hovered.
Pulling his pen from behind his ear and stretching his legs out in front of him, Harry smirked. "Planning on standing there all day?"
"I am not sitting on the floor," Draco sniffed.
Harry shrugged. "Suit yourself, then." He flipped open his notebook and scribbled down the header.
With an exaggerated sigh, Draco glumly lowered himself beside Harry, all the while maintaining a repulsed look upon his face—he couldn't remember the last time he sat on the floor in public. He glanced over at Harry, who was looking quite smug.
"Shuttup," he muttered, pulling out a sheet of lined paper.
"I didn't say anything."
"You were thinking it." Draco cast him another sideways glance. "Plus, your face says it all."
"Been staring at it much?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "You're so immature."
"You're the one who wouldn't sit on the floor."
"It's dirty!" Draco hissed.
It was Harry's turn to roll his eyes. "Whatever, let's focus on this." He tapped his notebook with the rear of his pen.
"The first good idea you've had."
"You know," Harry twisted his torso to face Draco, bringing up one of his knees and resting his elbow against it, "if we're going to be working together for the rest of the semester, we might as well put aside all this fucking ridiculous fighting."
Draco frowned. "Since when are you so willing to be nice to me?"
"I'm not saying I'll be nice to you," Harry stated, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "I'm simply saying that I don't have the time or energy to deal with this weird hate thing you've got going on with me."
"Weird hate thing-"
"I'm not saying we hold hands and skip off into the sunset—I'm just saying we be civil." Harry's vibrant eyes bore into his and Draco had to look away, not used to the intensity.
"Fine," Draco finally relented. "I suppose if Baz and Simon can do it, so can we."
At that, Harry chuckled. "Nice way to put it," he said dryly.
"Now," Draco swiftly switched topics, "what are we going to do for our project?"
Baz couldn't help but contemplate how ironic his situation was—he had Chemistry with Simon. Chemistry. He groaned internally at the horror that had become the last semester of his senior year. It sounded like the beginning of a clichéd romance novel.
He had his chair as far away from Simon as it could be, unwilling to torture himself unnecessarily. Sitting close to Simon had only made him realize that the other boy was like a walking heater. Waves of warmth were constantly rolling off of him and onto Baz, only serving to further muddle his brain.
The enormity of his desire infuriated him—his subconscious seemed intent on making his life as difficult as possible.
"How the hell are we supposed to do this?" Simon cursed beneath his breath and tugged at his curly hair. He kept it short on the sides and longer at the top and Baz wished he didn't like it quite so much.
"Snape just explained the lab to us. Surely your memory isn't that terrible," Baz heard himself say.
Upon realizing his crush on Simon, he had immediately gone through the five stages of grief. Swift denial had come first, causing him to date nearly every girl in his class. After throwing up following kissing one at a carnival, he had moved on to the next stage, not being able to renounce his sexuality.
Anger had hit him so forcefully that he immediately turned it upon the object of his affection: Simon himself. That was how their rivalry had begun. Baz had been awful to Simon, shooting snide remarks and scathing, sarcastic comments and Simon had fought back after Baz refused to relent. Harry and Draco had been dragged along, as their best friends.
Bargaining came next. He had pleaded with himself, with any higher being, to let him fall in love with anyone else. Hell, he concluded that even Pansy Parkinson would be a better person to love than Simon fucking Snow. This stage was the shortest, as it seemed most illogical to him and Draco had started to flick his nose every time he began to plead with the sky.
The last two stages, depression and acceptance, had seemed rather skewed. He had never truly gotten depressed over his situation—he had merely resigned himself to his unforgiving fate. He had surrendered to the incessant thoughts about Simon's moles, his torn jeans that revealed knobby knees (that really shouldn't have been hot, but were), his frown when he was confused by a lesson, the jut of his jaw when he was in deep thought. He was hopeless. He didn't need Draco to tell him so.
He knew Simon couldn't love him back—he had dated Agatha Wellbelove for years and had only ever dated girls. Baz most certainly did not fall under said category—he possessed an organ that rather contradicted any chance of him being such (and which he'd gotten rather fond of, thanks). He knew that Harry was possibly bi (rumors circulated quickly), but didn't dare hope that the southsider's best friend was—queerness wasn't contagious, after all.
Baz winced as Simon poked his arm with the tip of his pencil. He shot a seething glare at the other boy, who didn't look bothered by it in the slightest. He rubbed his arm, smoothing away the pain.
"Was that really necessary?" He spat.
"Yes," Simon said, tucking the pencil behind his ear. "You weren't listening and we do have a lab to finish." He rested his chin in the palm of his hand and drummed his fingers on the table. "Unlike you, I don't want to stay after school or meet up on the weekend to finish this. The write-up'll take forever."
"I'm not helping you with the write-up," Baz stated.
Simon shot him a look. "What do you mean? We're partners!" Baz ignored the leap in his chest. "We're supposed to work together!"
"Yes, for the lab." Baz deposited a few test tubes in the rack. "Not for the report. The report is to be done individually."
"But-" Simon looked like a lost puppy, eyes wide and mouth slightly open.
"I'm not doing your homework for you," Baz affirmed. "I'm not your tutor, I'm your lab partner."
"It's not like I'll make you do all the work," Simon scowled. "I just want to bounce ideas off of you. What if I forget something and I don't have you to ask about it?"
"You'd better take good notes, then." Baz cleared his throat. "I'm not spending any more time than necessary with you."
Simon was silent for a few moments. "Why do you have to be so mean?" He asked quietly. "What did I do to you?"
You simply were, Baz thought to himself. Out loud, he said, "I'm going to go get the chemicals. Clean out the test tubes, would you?"
Harry yawned and padded into the kitchen, grunting to Simon—his way of saying 'good morning.' Simon was sprawled on the couch, frowning at his notebook. He was still in his sweatpants and Arctic Monkeys t-shirt.
"Morning, Sleeping Beauty," Simon grinned at him over his homework. "You're up earlier than usual—it's only noon."
Harry swore and ran his fingers through his hair, grabbing a box of cereal and a bowl. "I'm supposed to meet Draco at one," he muttered, wishing he hadn't made plans so early on a Saturday.
"Draco Malfoy?" Simon raised his eyebrows.
"How many other Dracos do we know?" Harry climbed over the back of the couch and sat in the corner opposite Simon, sticking out his legs and burying his toes beneath his best friend. Simon yelped in protest at Harry's icy feet, but otherwise didn't move. Harry popped pieces of dry cereal into his mouth, ignoring Simon's bemused look.
"I still don't understand how you can eat that without milk."
"It tastes better," Harry shrugged. "Besides, you eat your sour cherry scones with, like, an entire stick of butter. You shouldn't be talking."
Simon stuck out his tongue and turned back to his notebook. "I still can't believe Baz wouldn't agree to help me with this."
"It's Baz," Harry deadpanned, as if that explained everything. After a moment, he asked, "What is it?"
Simon sighed and let his notebook drop onto his chest. "My Chem lab report. I'm crap at science and Baz knows it. He's probably hoping I'll flunk out so he'll get a new partner."
"Did you ask politely?" Harry dug around in his Fruit Loops for a green one.
"Of course I did," Simon scowled. "It's not like you and Draco. I try to be nice to him, or at least civil—he's the one who insists on acting like an asshole for no reason."
Harry mulled this over for a bit. "That is weird, isn't it?"
"What is?" Simon had his arm across his face and was burying his eyes in his elbow.
"That he's such a jerk to you."
Simon sat up slightly and shot Harry a look of disbelief, propping himself up on his elbows. "I've only been saying that for our entire high school career."
Harry shrugged. "I'm just saying—I've never actually thought about it until now."
Simon sighed and rubbed his eyes, bringing up his knees and propping his notebook up against them. Harry wiggled his toes, causing Simon to shove at his legs.
"God, they're like ice," he complained. "Wear socks or something."
"They make my feet sweaty," Harry said, wiggling his toes more and grinning at Simon. "Plus, I've got my own personal heater right here."
Simon continued shoving at Harry's legs, completely readjusting his position on the couch multiple times, until Harry finished his cereal and got up, leaving Simon upside down with his legs thrown over the back of the couch. The long, curly hair on the top of Simon's head almost reached the floor and Simon's face was getting considerably more red as he studied his notebook.
Harry left his bowl on the counter and pulled at his hoodie as he headed to his room. He was supposed to meet Draco in half an hour.
"Where are you guys meeting?" Simon wondered, his voice carrying.
Harry tossed his sweatpants and hoodie onto his bed. "Some library, I think. I have no idea where it even is."
Pulling on a pair of dark jeans and a t-shirt, Harry rumpled his hair, finger-combing it a few times. He readjusted his glasses, then frowned and cleaned them off on his shirt before putting them back on. Grabbing his keys and wallet, he shoved the former in his pocket and the latter in his backpack.
"Don't forget a jacket!" Simon reminded him.
"Yes, dear," Harry said dryly, sliding on his worn leather jacket. He slung his back over his shoulder, then stifled a yawn as he left his room and toed on his shoes. Simon glanced up at him—he was still laying upside down on the couch.
"Good luck," he said with a smirk.
"Be lucky you don't have to meet up with Baz on the weekends."
Simon groaned. "I wish I could. I need his help."
Harry chuckled, "Too bad we can't switch partners."
Harry locked the door behind him, then hurried to his car. The drive was quick and the library was fairly easy to find with the help of his GPS. As soon as he pulled into the parking lot, he caught sight of Draco's silver BMW. The blond was sitting inside, probably with the heater up, scrolling through his phone. Harry pulled into the stall beside him and cut the engine.
With a heavy sigh, he thunked his head against the headrest and closed his eyes. He was already looking forward to going back home and taking a nap before his shift at the auto repair. A tap on his window caused him to open one eye and frown. Draco was standing outside his window, hands on his hips and a bemused expression on his face. He sighed again and grabbed his bag, stepping out of the truck.
"Seven minutes late," Draco announced. "And two spent sitting in your car, motionless, like an idiot."
"What ever happened to being civil?" Harry walked past Draco, up the steps to the library, shoving his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket.
"I don't appreciate my precious time being wasted," Draco sneered.
Harry led the two of them to a table at the back of the library. He chose it due to the window overlooking the highway. It wasn't the prettiest sight, but it would do if he got bored or needed a distraction.
"Why must you always insist on sitting in the very back of the library?"
It slipped out naturally—Harry didn't even entirely mean it. "Maybe I just want you all to myself."
Draco's eyes widened and he blushed—Harry watched, fascinated, as it spread from the apples of his cheeks to the tips of his ears, all the way down his neck and below the collar of his shirt. He raised an eyebrow at Draco's reaction, but couldn't help the slight grin that took over his features. He mused that if it was so easy to make Draco blush, the semester may just pass by quicker than he had previously anticipated.
When Draco didn't say anything for more than a few moments, he spoke up. "I'm kidding, Draco."
"O-obviously," he sniffed, somewhat regaining his former haughtiness. He cleared his throat, "So, smoking."
"Smoking," Harry affirmed.
Draco shot Harry a bemused look. "Are you sure you want to do this for our project?"
Harry crossed his arms over his chest. "Why not? It's a health problem that affects teens, isn't it?"
Draco leaned against the table and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Harry, I've seen you smoking at school before. Don't you think it's a bit hypocritical?"
At this, Harry leaned against the table too, keeping his arms crossed. "And when was the last time you saw me smoke?"
Glancing up, Draco frowned. "How should I remember?"
"Exactly," Harry silently dared Draco to challenge him. "I quit back in sophomore year."
This surprised Harry. The question was simple and innocent, but he wasn't used to Draco asking him about himself, no matter the situation.
"Um, because smoking kills?" He said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Alright." Draco chuckled humorlessly. "Now, the real reason."
Harry let a slow grin slide onto his face. Draco had nerve and he decided to reward that. "Simon insisted the two of us had to quit because cigarettes were a waste of money."
Draco actually did genuinely smile at that. "What do you know? He is smart."
Harry bristled. "Of course he is. Simon's brilliant."
Draco laughed quietly. "Stand down, Fido, I'm not trying to offend him."
"Did you just call me Fido?"
The blond nodded. "I think it'll stick—I like the nickname."
Harry stared at Draco. And then he looked at him. The other boy was jotting down a brainstorm for their project in his notebook, his handwriting a precise and elegant script. Draco's hair was finer and straighter than Simon's and it was closer to silver, whereas Simon's was more yellow. If you looked at Draco's features separately, it wasn't that he was exceptionally handsome; he wasn't—his eyes were too close together, his nose was too pointy, his lips were too thin, as was his figure—but somehow, all put together, it worked.
Despite his near-translucent skin, pointy face, and pompous expression, Draco was attractive. This realization caused Harry to recoil, leaning back in his seat with his back straight and his jaw slack.
"So was it hard?"
Harry's eyes widened slightly as he met Draco's eyes. "What?" He knew northsiders didn't make innuendoes.
"Quitting," Draco said, as if it were obvious.
"Oh!" Harry relaxed in his chair. "Not really. Everyone always went off about how difficult it is and how horrible withdrawals were, but Simon and I did it cold turkey and it was fine. I missed it a bit for the first week or so, but it wasn't anything major."
"Why did you start in the first place?" Draco wondered.
"I didn't realize this was an interview," Harry said dryly.
"I'm just making conversation." Draco was fiddling with the corner of his paper, creasing it, then smoothing it down again. "Who knows? This could be helpful for our project."
Harry frowned. "I'm not having my own personal experiences put on this board for the entire class to see."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Obviously not. We'd change your name to maintain anonymity. For all they'd know, it could be one of your southsider friends." Harry narrowed his eyes at the way Draco sneered the last two words.
"Do you just assume all the people who live on the south side smoke or have smoked?" Harry asked, his voice deadly calm.
Draco raised an eyebrow at Harry's tone. "If the shoe fits. I don't see any people from the north side smoking on campus or around town, do I?"
"That's a filthy stereotype," Harry glared. "I'm sure you think we're all stupid, too. And that we all push meth and jack shit from stores." Draco said nothing and this was more than enough of an answer for Harry. He pushed his chair out and shoved his notebook back in his bag, slinging it over his shoulder.
"What- Where do you think you're going?" Draco demanded. "We have a project to work on!"
"Home," Harry said curtly, not bothering to turn back. He loped through the library and out the doors, his temper seething.
He was stupid to have thought this partnership with Draco ever could have worked.
Baz glanced up as Draco stormed outside. He raised his sunglasses and propped himself up on his lounge chair. One of his siblings must have let Draco in. Draco stomped over to the gazebo and paced beneath it, his face curled into one of frustration. With a heavy sigh, Baz pulled his t-shirt back on—he'd have to tan later—and walked over to his best friend, bringing his iced tea with him.
"You wouldn't believe Harry's nerve," Draco snarled. "He left after ten minutes!"
Baz raised his eyebrow. "Oh?"
"We had a slight argument, and he decided to just stand up and walk out!"
"And what was this argument about?" Baz sipped his drink.
Draco faltered, chewing on his thumb nail before flopping down in one of the seats. Baz took the one beside it. "Well, um, it was about… stereotypes."
Baz groaned. "Don't tell me you two argued about northsiders and southsiders."
"It wasn't like it was my fault! He was being prickly."
"Why would you even engage him, then? You know that's a sore spot for both of you."
Draco grumbled and slouched in the seat, flinging his arm over his eyes. "I know, I know, I shouldn't have said anything."
Baz narrowed his eyes. "What did you say?" Draco mumbled something unintelligible. "You know I can't understand you."
"I may have implied that I thought all southsiders were miscreants."
"You idiot," Baz sighed pitifully.
Draco made a sound of protest at Baz's statement, but said nothing. "What do I do, Baz?"
"Why do you have to do something? You and Harry don't get along—end of story."
"But for a little while we were." Draco suddenly turned red, piquing Baz's interest.
"Spill." Draco buried his face in his hands. "You'll get pimples," Baz reminded him.
Draco pulled his hands away as if they'd been burnt. Baz waited patiently as Draco thought of the best way to say whatever had transpired. "I- I think he may have flirted with me," Draco said quietly.
At this, Baz's eyebrows rose. "What?"
Draco pinched the bridge of his nose. "I asked him why he kept taking the tables in the back of the library and…" Draco reddened again, "and he said that maybe he just wanted me alone."
Baz's eyes widened, his drink sitting forgotten on the end table beside him. "He said that?" Draco nodded. "Do you think he meant it?"
"Well, he said he was kidding-"
Baz waved him off. "Of course he'd say that—you just sat there gaping at him like a fish, didn't you?"
"Of course you did." Baz smirked at his best friend. "I bet you loved it."
"Loved what?" Draco had his arms crossed over his chest.
"Him flirting with you."
"Please," Draco said haughtily.
Baz smirked, but didn't contradict Draco's tone. "Well, what are you going to do about it, then?"
Draco twisted in his chair to look at Baz. "I thought you said I didn't have to do anything about it."
Baz waved him off. "It's different now. I didn't fully understand the situation." He thought for a couple of moments. "You'll have to apologize."
"What?" Draco's eyes widened. "You can't be serious. I'm not apologizing to him."
Baz rolled his eyes and checked the time on Draco's phone. "You'll have to—Blaise and Penny will tell you the same."
"What? Why would they tell me that?"
"We're having the beach picnic with them this evening, remember?"
"That's so close to the south side, though," Draco frowned. "Plus, it'll be freezing."
"So? They have their side of the beach and we have ours. We can bring blankets." Baz stood and stretched. "Now, I need a shower."
Simon pulled the hood of his jacket up and tucked his hands in the pockets. In his bag, he had a bottle of rum to help warm up once he and Harry got to the beach. They had agreed to meet Ron, Ginny, Fred and George, Seamus, Dean, and a couple of others as a small party for getting through the first couple of weeks of school.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the pickup pull up to the curb. Harry had the heater on, thankfully.
"So? How was the study sesh?" Simon lowered his hood and put his hands in front of the air vents.
"He's such an asshole," Harry muttered.
"It went well, then."
"He's such an entitled, privileged brat, you know? It's irritating."
"You knew that going in, though." Simon took a swig of the rum.
"Yeah, yeah." Harry sighed. "So, how was work? Did you tell Ebb I said hi?"
"She invited us over to dinner again." Simon chuckled. Ebb was his boss—she and her brother owned the store and she often took on a motherly role regarding Harry and Simon. He noticed that he and his best friend seemed to evoke that maternal instinct in most women they encountered.
"Is she still trying out that vegan diet?"
Simon nodded. "She watched that video about animal cruelty or something on Facebook and now forbids any of us from bringing meat or eggs into the store."
Harry let out a low whistle. "Remember when Gin saw that? She was only vegan for a day or two."
Simon grinned. "She couldn't stand the vegan, gluten-free cupcakes. That was the turning point."
They pulled up to the beach and instantly spotted their friends. They had a small fire going, despite the sign a few feet away forbidding it.
Amongst their friends, Simon felt his stress slowly start to dissipate. He pulled the bottle of rum fully out of his bag and took a gulp before passing it to Harry. His best friend drank some before swearing.
"One of you guys is driving Si and I home," he stated, flopping down beside Fred.
"Dean's the designated driver." Seamus pressed a kiss to his boyfriend's cheek. Dean pouted and took a swig of his Mountain Dew.
Ginny pushed a bottle of beer into both he and Harry's hands, taking the rum from Simon, who had sat down beside Harry. Grinning, she took a swig and sat next to Simon. Despite the chilly weather, the fire truly did help.
"We need some music," Fred announced.
George pulled out his phone.
Draco's head was spinning. A lump had settled uncomfortably at the back of his throat and he swallowed it down with whatever drink Blaise had poured him. He sat next to Baz and closed his eyes, wrapping the fuzzy blanket tighter around his shoulders. His toes were numb and he squished them beneath the sand—he forgot where he had placed his shoes, but couldn't find it in him to care.
"You're right," Baz said glumly, his words slurring into one another, "I'm completely hopeless. Everything about my situation is."
"Your subconscious must hate you," Draco agreed.
Baz sighed. His grey eyes, just a touch darker than Draco's, were focused on the ocean. "Of all people, I just had to choose Simon Snow." He frowned in self-pity. "Why am I so mean to him? Do you think he'd like me back if I were nice?"
Penny and Hermione were walking back toward them, hand-in-hand. They had gone back to Penny's car to grab another bag of chips, but had taken a bit longer than necessary—Draco didn't have to guess what they'd been doing.
"You're lucky you're into Harry," Baz said.
"I'm not into him," Draco protested weakly, feeling the odd urge to lie down.
Baz made a pshaw sort of sound, but otherwise ignored Draco. "At least you're the right gender for him. As far as I know, Simon's completely strai-"
"What do you mean I'm the right gender?" Draco asked, turning to Baz. "He dated Ginny and god knows how many other girls."
Baz frowned. "Don't tell me you don't know he swings both ways." When Draco gaped at him, Baz closed his eyes and stifled a yawn, but explained. "Didn't you hear the rumor about how he and Ginny broke up?"
Draco shook his head.
"Well, Pansy told me that apparently there was this huge orgy at one of Seamus's parties. Like, all the rooms were filled with people doing it. Anyway, according to Daphne's cousin's friend's brother, he and Harry were looking for a room to do it in and they walked in on Ginny having a threesome with two other girls. Supposedly, Harry and Ginny just high-fived, then mutually broke up. That's why they're still friends—neither of them really cared."
Draco stared at Baz. "I don't believe you," he said finally.
"You don't have to." Baz shrugged.
Suddenly Draco groaned. "You mean today at the library, when he was flirting with me he may have been actually flirting with me?"
Baz nodded and took a sip from his red Solo cup.
Draco swore, then stood, wobbling a bit before regaining his balance. He clutched the blanket tighter around himself, then stumbled off down the beach.
"Draco!" Baz shouted. "Where the hell are you going?"
He needed to think.
Harry put down the bottle—he couldn't drink anymore or he'd hate himself the next morning. Simon, Ginny, and Fred were having a deep discussion about the probability of the Kraken roaming the ocean, as the twins had brought something a little stronger than alcohol. Seamus was rolling it as Harry put his hands in front of the fire.
"Harry boy first," Seamus passed it to Harry, who took it without hesitation. George handed him a lighter.
As Harry lit it, the pungent, skunky smell grew stronger. It still lingered from the bowl Fred, Ginny, and Simon were passing around.
"There ya go," George pat Harry on the back as he inhaled deeply.
They passed the joint amongst the three of them and once it had burned out, Harry leaned back on his elbows. Seamus crawled into Dean's lap and George moved next to Fred. Harry could feel his eyelids getting heavy and he realized he had a slight smirk on his face. He and Simon made eye contact and Simon giggled, causing Harry to grin and chuckle. He looked away before he lost control and started laughing like an idiot—he wasn't that far gone.
"Hey," Dean frowned. "Isn't that Draco?"
Harry sat up and looked down the beach, toward where Dean was pointing. He could make out a pale figure stumbling through the sand, wrapped in something—maybe a jacket or a large coat. The figure tripped, but quickly regained their balance, letting out a slew of curse words. Harry recognized that voice.
"What's he doing here?" He wondered.
"Hey, Princess!" Ron called out. "Get lost?"
Draco startled, his silver eyes wide. He seemed to notice them only then, but from the swaying of his body, Harry could tell that he wasn't entirely sober. In fact, drunk may have been an understatement.
Draco stood there, shocked and looking quite lost, and eventually Harry's friends lost interest and went back to entertaining themselves, joking around with one another, or, in Dean and Seamus's case, experimenting with foreplay that seemed less like foreplay and more like public indecency. Pitying the blond, Harry sighed.
"Draco." His voice came out in a low drawl. Silver eyes immediately snapped to him. He nodded his head, gesturing for Draco to come over.
Surprisingly, he listened, slowly making his way over to where Harry sat by the fire. Harry wondered why he wasn't still mad at him—he had been a complete asshole only several hours previous. He searched for any indication he was still bothered by the incident at the library, but found only mild irritation.
Draco tentatively lowered himself down beside Harry and up close, Harry could see that it wasn't a coat at all—it was a blanket. He chuckled—of course a northsider would bring a fuzzy blanket to a beach. That blanket was probably worth at least three of Harry's paychecks and Draco was getting sand and salt water in it like it was nothing. Like he could go out and buy another one the next day without so much as a second thought.
Harry guessed he probably could, and probably would.
"So," Harry leaned back on his elbows. "What brings you to this part of the beach?"
Draco fiddled with the threads on the blanket for a bit. "I needed to think," he said finally. "You were the last person I wanted to see." His voice was slurred, but quiet.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Funny how fate seems to work itself out, isn't it?"
Draco was quiet for a long time. Harry closed his eyes and let himself ride his gentle high. The waves, the fire crackling, and the sound of his friends laughing relaxed him. He opened his eyes when he realized he had been listening to Draco's breathing.
"Are you gay?" Draco finally blurted out. Harry could see, even in the dark, the flush of his cheeks.
"No," Harry said simply. "I'm not anything."
Draco frowned and turned to face Harry. "That doesn't make any sense."
Harry grabbed fistfuls of sand and let it fall between his fingers. "I do what I want, when I want," he made eye contact with Draco, "who I want," and glanced back down at his fingers, "if I want." Harry gave him a moment to process this. "Understand?"
The lines between Draco's brows deepened as he contemplated this, though the flush of his cheeks didn't recede. "So," he said, "you're bi."
Harry let out a soft sound of frustration in the back of his throat. "Don't label it. I don't care what it's called and I don't want to know what it's called. It just is."
Draco swallowed. "Okay," he said finally.
"Okay?" Harry raised an eyebrow, surprised at Draco's conclusion.
"Okay," he nodded.
The corners of Harry's mouth tugged upward and he tipped his head back to look up at the sky. The stars were slightly brighter here than back at home. He had never been one for astronomy, but Simon had an app on his phone that he'd use to point out constellations and he'd dragged Harry out of bed numerous times to point out certain ones. It was easy for Harry to spot Orion, then the Three Sisters.
"It reeks," Draco announced. "Makes me feel like puking."
"Don't puke on me," Harry warned.
"Fido, I need to puke," Draco said matter-of-factly.
Quickly, Harry stood and dragged Draco with him, not bothering to try and regain his balance—contrary to what seemed logical, it only made him more dizzy to try and right himself. Draco's hand was clammy in his, but he followed Harry obediently up to the parking lot. Harry pushed Draco over a trash can, counting on the putrid smell to trigger Draco's gag reflex and get it over with, helping the nausea pass faster.
Harry held back the blanket and Draco's sleek hair as he emptied the contents of his stomach into the trash can. He dry heaved twice, then abruptly turned, his mouth catching on Harry's shirt. Harry groaned as he realized he now had vomit smeared on his t-shirt.
Draco murmured a word so vulgar Harry hadn't even realized it was in the other boy's vocabulary. "I'm sorry," he muttered. It was perhaps the most genuine apology Harry had ever heard from him.
"It's fine." Harry tugged the shirt over his head, only wincing slightly at the cold. He pushed it into Draco's hands. "It's already fucked up—use it to wipe your mouth off."
Harry realized Draco had to drag his gaze from Harry's bare torso. He stored this information for sober contemplation. Draco dabbed at the corners of his mouth, causing Harry to smirk slightly—etiquette had been bred into him so thoroughly that even shit-faced, he used his manners.
"I'll buy you a new one," Draco promised.
Footsteps sounded behind them and Harry turned to see Simon, Dean, and Seamus walking up. Dean was the first to speak.
"Taking these guys home, then I'm coming back for the Weasleys. You coming, Harry?"
All of a sudden, Draco swore again. Harry raised his brows questioningly.
"I can't go home like this," he groaned. "My parents will kill me."
Harry shrugged. "Sleep on our couch. We've got room."
Simon nodded in agreement and Draco let out a breath Harry hadn't realized he'd been holding. Harry tossed the keys to he and Simon's truck to Dean. As he was more sober than the other three, he helped Dean put his motorcycle in the bed of the truck so he didn't have to walk back.
The ride was short, as Harry and Simon lived only several blocks from the beach. Draco kept dozing off, then jerking awake, which amused Harry. When they pulled up to he and Simon's two-bedroom, Harry realized that Draco had completely fallen asleep.
They all got out of the truck and Dean gave the keys back to Harry before carefully extracting his bike from the bed.
"Make sure Seam doesn't fall asleep," Harry grinned at Dean's heavy-lidded boyfriend.
"I've got him." Dean fondly ruffled Seamus's hair as the other boy buried his face in his chest. "Night, guys."
Harry nudged Draco until he groaned and opened his eyes. With a heavy sigh, Harry pulled Draco's arm over his shoulders, then helped the other boy out of the car. Simon closed and locked the door behind him, both that of the car and the house. As soon as they got inside, Simon yawned, muttered a g'night, then disappeared into his room. Harry walked Draco over to the couch and lowered him onto it, shoving a pillow beneath his head and propping him up on his side just in case he puked again.
Harry had a headache of his own, but he pushed through it. He put a bucket next to Draco, then placed two thick blankets over him—surely that would keep him warm despite the lack of a heater. He'd left the fuzzy blanket at the beach.
As he stumbled into his own bedroom, kicking off his jeans as he flopped down into bed, he could hear the steady breathing of the boy sleeping on his couch. It lulled Harry to sleep.
Draco woke with a pounding headache.
His mouth was dry and acidic, only making the throbbing in his skull worse. He sat up and put his hand to his head, wincing.
Looking around, he didn't recognize his surroundings. He was laying on an admittedly comfortable couch in the middle of a large room. From his position, he could see three doors—two open, one closed—and a small kitchen. His eyes widened when he saw Simon Snow lounging at a small table, eating cereal and scrolling through his phone. His blue eyes raised, catching Draco's movement.
"Oh, you're up."
"What am I doing here?" Draco mumbled, his mouth feeling like sandpaper. His tongue tasted awful.
Simon chuckled. "Man, you must've been shit-faced."
The curly-haired boy stood and walked over to a cabinet. Draco heard the rattling of pills. Simon poured a glass of water, then placed a pill and the water in front of Draco. Draco must have stared at them for a moment too long because he said, "Your head must hurt like a bitch."
Draco swallowed the pill, then took a small gulp of water. That only informed him of how dehydrated he was because he greedily gulped down the entire glass. Simon graciously poured him another, which he finished as well.
"Thank you," he said.
Simon waved him off. "You really don't remember how you got here?"
Draco shook his head.
"You were so fucked up you told us you couldn't go home."
Draco frowned. "And Harry was okay with me crashing here?"
Simon shot him a small smile. It was both smug and knowing. "It was Harry's idea."
Draco's pulse quickened slightly as the events of the previous night slowly came back to him. He swore quietly when he realized he had never told Baz what had happened—his best friend was probably worried sick.
"What?" Simon wondered.
Draco pulled out his phone. Sure enough, he had fourteen missed calls and sixty-four unread texts.
"Baz. I forgot to tell him what happened."
"Yeah, he called me." Simon cleared his throat slightly. "I told him you were all right and said I'd let him know when you woke up."
"Baz called you?" Draco couldn't conceal his surprise.
Simon smiled wryly. "I was shocked too. Imagine the two of us actually having a pleasant conversation."
"It was pleasant?" Draco found himself bewildered once more.
"Considering this is Baz and I, yes." Simon walked back over to the small dining table to get his phone. "Speaking of which, I'll let him know you're up."
Draco realized, quite abruptly, that he and Simon had just spoken civilly. It had been friendly, even. He had just spent the night in the house of the two most popular southsiders. Despite what his parents and older peers had always told him, there was no drug paraphernalia, no weapons, no blood. It was cozy, if not a bit cold, and it was so obviously a home that for the first time, Draco found himself slightly ashamed of his museum-like mansion.
The closed door opened and both he and Simon turned to see Harry stumble out. His hair was pressed flat on one side, obviously the side he had slept on, and he was only wearing a pair of plaid boxers. Draco's quickly averted his eyes from Harry's defined torso, hating the heat he could feel spreading up his neck and settling at the tips of his ears and the apples of his cheeks.
He didn't acknowledge either Simon or Draco. Instead, he walked over to the sink and turned it on, then put his mouth right below the faucet. Simon rolled his eyes fondly and Draco felt a prick of jealousy. He hadn't realized that Simon and Harry lived together. Alone. He wondered if there was more to their friendship than they let on. Simon must have seen something on his face because he cocked a brow. Draco glanced away.
"Morning, Sleeping Beauty," Simon mockingly cooed.
"Fuck off," Harry muttered. He sat in the chair opposite Simon and dragged the other boy's bowl over, picking up the spoon and eating where Simon had left off.
"You should put on a shirt. Or at least some pants," Simon pointed out. "I think you're making Draco uncomfortable."
Harry glanced up at toward the couch, his gaze resting upon Draco. "Oh. You're still here."
Draco felt that familiar prick in his chest. "Don't act so pleased."
"Don't be an ass." Harry waved him off. "I just hadn't noticed you. I figured you'd have left by the time I woke up."
Simon glanced down at his phone. "Baz says he's on his way to get you."
"Thanks," Draco said gratefully.
"No worries." Simon turned his phone apple side up. "I need a shower."
He disappeared into the bathroom, leaving Draco and Harry alone together. Harry cleared his throat. "You hungry?"
Despite his rumbling stomach, Draco shook his head.
Harry rolled his eyes and got up. "The fuck you're not." He pulled something from the freezer, then set it on a plate. Draco could hear the whirring of the microwave.
"I don't bite," Harry said with a smirk. He used his head to gesture toward the table. Tentatively, Draco pushed the blankets away and walked over, taking the seat Simon had vacated. He only then realized how gross he must look—he was hungover and hadn't showered since the day before.
The microwave beeped and Harry set a steaming burrito-looking thing in front of Draco, as well as a fork. Draco picked up the fork and poked at it dubiously. "What is this?" He wondered.
Harry's eyes widened. "You're kidding, right?" Draco wasn't. "It's a Hot Pocket."
"Pocket of what?"
"This one is a pizza Hot Pocket." Harry got back to work on Simon's cereal. "Hope you're not a vegetarian."
Draco took a bite after blowing on the steaming Hot Pocket for a few moments. It was greasy and delicious and made his stomach growl. Harry chuckled, but said nothing as Draco devoured it. His mother would faint were she to see him eating a microwaved meal, but at that moment he didn't care—it was the perfect hangover food.
A hesitant knock sounded on the front door.
"It must be Baz," Draco said.
Harry stood to answer it and Draco felt his chest warm upon seeing his friend. Baz's worried eyes roamed the room before settling on Draco, looking rumpled and eating with Harry. Baz's eyes widened, but he didn't mention it. Draco knew he'd be answering more than a few questions once they were alone.
"Baz," Harry nodded his head, then sat back down to eat his cereal.
Looking quite awkward, Baz closed the front door behind him, then wrung his hands. He was about to say something when the bathroom door swung open. Simon stood there, dripping, a towel wrapped around his waist. Draco feared for his best friend's heart and hoped Baz didn't go into cardiac arrest. Baz's eyes were wide and his jaw was slack as he stared, unblinking, at Simon, who had yet to notice him.
"Harry, where's the fucking-"
His eyes settled on Baz and they widened slightly too. He self-consciously readjusted his towel. "Oh. Hello, Baz. I didn't realize you were here."
Baz cleared his throat awkwardly, finally dragging his gaze elsewhere. "It's all right. Draco and I were just leaving."
"Oh. Right." Draco stood and wondered what to do with his plate.
"Leave it," Harry ordered, not unkindly.
Draco nodded and walked over to Baz. He turned around once more. "Er, thank you. For everything."
Harry had a small smile dancing at his lips. "See you tomorrow, Draco." He seemed to remember Baz was there. "You too, Baz."
"Right." Bad looked thoroughly flustered. "Bye, Harry." His gaze anxiously darted over to where Simon still stood, naked except for his towel. "Simon."
"See you, Baz."
As soon as they closed the front door behind them, Baz grabbed Draco's arm and dragged him over to the car. "Okay, we need to talk." Once they were inside and starting down the street, Baz glanced at him. "How the hell did you end up spending the night at Simon and Harry's house? Why were you eating breakfast with him? Did you see Simon? He has abs, Draco."
"We all have abs," Draco informed him unhelpfully.
"You're not allowed to be sassy. Right now, you're going to tell me exactly what happened and in return I'm telling your parents you spent the night at my place."
Draco sighed. "Is this necessary, Baz?"
So Draco did.
Simon eyed his data with a miserable look. He had no idea where to even start with the lab report. Glancing at the clock above Mr. Snape's desk, he realized there were only a few minutes left of class. Asking Baz for help was out of the question, then.
Although he had noticed that something had changed between them. A small shift in the dynamic of their… relationship. Baz was still snarky and sarcastic, but it was less harsh. His words lacked their usual bite. Simon couldn't place his finger on it, but something had definitely changed.
He couldn't say he was unhappy about it.
Deciding to take a risk, he cleared his throat and turned to Baz. The other boy was carefully putting his data into his folder, sliding that into his bag. Before he could speak, however, Baz beat him to it. Grey eyes met his, looking ethereal against his dark skin. His dark hair curled behind his ears and at the nape of his neck.
"I'll help you with the lab," Baz said quietly.
Simon's eyes widened. "Really?"
Baz swallowed down a sarcastic comment—Simon could tell. "We're supposed to be partners, aren't we?"
A grin slowly spread across Simon's face. "I thought you said reports were to be done individually. And that you didn't want to spend any more time than necessary with me."
A small huff left Baz's lips and he flicked his hair out of his face. "Do you want the help or not?"
"Yes," Simon quickly said. "Yes, I do." He smiled. "Thank you."
Baz gulped and cleared his throat. "Right." He adjusted the cuff of his shirt. "Where do you want to work?"
Simon pondered this for a moment. "My house? We have food."
A smile tugged at the corners of Baz's mouth. "Are you trying to win me over with food?"
"Only if it works." Simon realized this was playful. Almost like… almost like flirting. He didn't shy away from the prospect.
"What kind of food?" Baz wondered.
Simon thought back to what he and Harry had purchased whilst grocery shopping. "I've got Dr. Pepper and Redvines," he offered.
"Sold." Baz slung his bag over his shoulder. Perfect timing, as the bell rung just then. Simon allowed himself to marvel at this before following suit.
Deciding to take an even bigger risk, Simon fell into step beside Baz. "Do you mind if I catch a ride with you? Harry's taking the truck." He wasn't sure if this was true or not.
"I don't mind." Simon wished he could read Baz's expressions better.
The car ride was quiet, but it was a comfortable silence. The truck wasn't in the driveway when they got there, meaning Harry was either at work or possibly studying with Draco at the library.
Simon dropped his bag on the couch and went to grab the drinks and Redvines. Baz was sitting on the edge of the sofa, his back straight and eyes taking in the room. Simon couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking. He placed the packet of licorice on the coffee table right in front of the couch, then sat crosslegged on the end opposite Baz. He handed Baz the soda can and the other boy murmured a 'thank you.'
The house suddenly seemed very quiet.
Simon cleared his throat. "To be honest, the main problem I have when writing up the reports is that I don't write it properly."
Baz raised an eyebrow. "Clarify."
He popped the lid of his can, then chewed off both ends of a Redvine and plopped it inside the soda. He took a sip. "All the data's there and I mention all the right things, but it somehow comes out wrong."
Baz frowned. "Do you have an example?"
As Simon searched through his bag for their last report, he felt his chest warm as he noticed Baz copying his licorice straw. He eventually found it at the bottom of his bag. He pulled it out and straightened it the best he could, but it was still rather crumpled. Baz smirked at it, then at Simon, before flipping through to the write-up. His smoky eyes scanned it.
He asked for another and spent the next ten minutes or so skimming through Simon's barely-passing reports. Simon got more and more anxious as the minutes dragged on. He was on his third licorice straw.
"I see what the problem is."
Simon frowned. "You do?"
Baz chuckled. "You ramble. With lab reports, you have to get straight to the point. Don't use a word unless it absolutely needs to be there. There's no reason for these metaphors and rhetorical questions. It's not an essay, it's a report."
Simon gaped at his crumpled write-up in Baz's hands. "That's it? That's all I'm doing wrong?"
Baz smiled. "You're not straightforward enough."
"I am when I'm not writing up labs." Simon grinned. "We're opposites like that."
It was Baz's turn to look confused. "What do you mean?"
"You're direct when you're writing these," Simon held up one of the labs, "but not when you're actually interacting with people."
Baz looked indignant. "I'm straightforward," he insisted.
Simon shook his head.
"Prove it, then."
Gulping, Simon took a leap. He leaned forward so there was less than a foot of space between he and Baz. Baz instantly stiffened, prompting Simon to press two fingers against the side of Baz's neck. He felt the other boy's pulse thrumming erratically beneath his fingertips. His blue eyes met gray. They were filled first with vulnerability, then with anger.
"Fuck you," Baz hissed, leaning away.
Simon caught his wrist. Despite Baz's protests, he placed Baz's fingers atop his own pulse. The way Baz froze told him that the other boy noticed Simon's heartbeat too—it was beating almost as quickly Baz's.
Gray eyes widened in confusion and Simon much preferred this Baz to the cruel one that had reared as if burnt by Simon's touch.
Baz gulped. His mouth was dry and he was acutely aware that both he and Simon's heartrates were increasing.
"Now would be a good time for you to prove how direct you are, contrary to myself," Baz said evenly.
Simon didn't know what to say. He was caught in the feeling of he and Baz's heartbeats gradually syncing. His mouth opened, but words wouldn't come out. His hand was still wrapped around Baz's wrist. He wondered what he was doing.
If Simon didn't say something soon, Baz thought he may do something stupid, like kiss him.
Simon wondered if Baz noticed their hearts were now beating together.
Baz hated that he was obsessed with their single heartbeat. He was going to kiss Simon if he didn't do something about this. He was going to kiss that stupid look of wonder off of the blond's stupidly gorgeous face.
Simon let go of Baz's wrist.
Baz wondered if he was dreaming. Simon Snow was kissing him.
Simon didn't know what had pushed him to do it, but it was too late now and he didn't care that Baz seemed to be in shock. The hand that had been wrapped around Baz's wrist was now twining in the silky hair at the base of Baz's neck, cradling his jaw, and the other was still stroking his pulse. His eyes fluttered open as he pulled back for breath, then Baz seemed to snap out of whatever spell Simon had put him under. One hand twisted in the front of Simon's shirt and the other remained on his neck, stuck there like Simon's.
Their lips collided once more, but this time there was tongue. Baz tasted like licorice and mint and he smelled like cologne and Simon didn't think he could grow dizzy simply by kissing someone, but he was. Baz was intoxicating and as their tongues slid together obscenely, he kept pushing closer, wanting more of Baz.
His pulse thrummed in his ears and it seemed to be chanting more, more more, Baz, Baz, Baz.
Baz didn't care that he was probably stretching out Simon's shirt with the white-knuckle grip he had it in. He didn't care that he probably wasn't very good at kissing. He didn't care that he wasn't going to get any sleep that night because he'd be replaying this in his mind. In that moment, all he could think of was Simon and finally.
Calloused hands skirted from his neck to brush against his cheekbone, to pull him closer. Teeth latched onto his bottom lip, dragging it away before sucking on it, and Baz heard himself let out a humiliating groan. Simon didn't seem to care. If anything, this spurred him on. Simon's tongue twined with his once more before their lips parted. This allowed Baz to catch his breath as Simon trailed kisses down his jaw, down his neck, pausing to lick and suck the skin there. He gulped and his breath caught when Simon sucked at the paper-thin skin above his pulse.
His hands cradled Simon's jaw and he dragged him back up so he could kiss him again. He swore as long as he lived, he would never get tired of kissing Simon. He hoped desperately this wasn't the first and last time he would be able to.
"Is this what you meant by direct?" Simon panted between kisses.
"This is much better."
Simon made a pleased noise in the back of his throat. He kissed Simon until he was breathless, then he kissed him some more. Neither of them noticed the lock clicking or the hinges creaking.
"Christ, you wouldn't belie… well, hello there."
Both Baz and Simon spun around guiltily to see Harry standing in the doorway with wide eyes. He and Simon made eye contact, then he was backing out of the house.
"You know, I think I may have forgotten to pick something up at the store…"
He swiftly closed the door, leaving as quickly as he had come.
It was silent until Simon cleared his throat. "So, um."
Baz didn't want to hear Simon's rejection. After flying so high, he didn't know if he'd be able to bear it with dignity. He clenched his jaw and shoved his things back in his bag, quickly zipping it back up. "I should go," he said quietly.
"It's fine, okay?" He stood and slung it over his shoulder. "We can just pretend it never hap-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa." Simon stood too and crossed his arms over his chest. Despite him being slightly shorter than Baz, he made up for it with sheer presence. "What makes you think I want to pretend this never happened?"
"Don't you dare say anything just to spare my feelings," Baz sneered.
Simon frowned. "What makes you think I'm trying to spare your feelings? Have you taken the time to think about my feelings?"
Baz faltered. "You don't like me like that," he stated.
A pshaw noise left Simon's mouth. "I don't know about you, but I don't spend god-knows-how-long with my tongue down just anyone's throat."
Gulping, Baz tentatively let a small bubble of hope make itself known. "What are you saying?" He struggled to keep his face impassive.
"I don't want that to be a one-time thing." Despite the set of his jaw and brow, Baz could see the worry in Simon's tapping foot, in his pleading eyes.
Baz slowly let the tension drain from his shoulders. "Neither do I."
The smile that took over Simon's face was so easy, so genuine that Baz couldn't keep one of his own from mirroring it.
Over the past few weeks, Draco had found himself at Harry and Simon's more often than not. He spent most of his time with Baz by default and seeing as how Baz and Simon had become very close, he had no choice but to be around the other boy. The decision for all of them to spend their time at Simon and Harry's was convenient, though, as it allowed Harry and Draco to work on their Health project.
"Now we just have to add the slides, and we're done." Draco glanced up from his laptop to see Harry regarding him with an odd sort of expression. "What?"
Harry waved him off. "I hope you know if Baz does anything to hurt Simon I'll castrate him," he said casually, slumping down next to Draco on the couch.
"And I'll destroy Simon if he hurts Baz," Draco said smoothly. Harry nodded.
"I'm glad we're on the same page."
After a few moments of silence, Draco asked the question he'd been letting fester. "You and Simon. Did you ever..?"
Harry laughed. "He's like my brother, Draco."
"That doesn't answer my question."
Harry's amusement didn't fade. "We kissed once. Just so we could both get our first kiss out of the way. It was awkward and we agreed never to speak of it again." Harry chuckled. "Don't worry, I don't see Si that way."
Draco breathed a small sigh of relief, but that still didn't rid the prick of jealousy in his chest at the thought of Simon kissing Harry. He pushed it away, just as he'd been pushing away most thoughts regarding Harry as of late. "I'm just making sure." He quickly added, "Because I don't want Baz to get hurt."
Harry hummed, but his eyes were filled with mirth. "How noble of you."
Draco rolled his eyes and turned back to his computer screen. "Back to the project, Fido. What color scheme should we go with for this?" He scrolled through the options on his Keynote. "What about green and silver?"
"How fitting," Harry mused.
Oh. Right. Their eye colors. Draco gulped.
"Or we could do black and white—that's timeless. It's classic."
"I like the green and silver."
Draco's cheeks burned. "All right, then."
Simon's door opened and the golden-haired boy stepped out, yawning and stretching. He ran his fingers through his hair, then grabbed two Dr. Peppers and a pack of Redvines. Draco noticed Harry's smirk, but didn't understand it.
"We can work on this tomorrow," Harry announced, standing up. He plucked Draco's laptop from his lap and slid it into Draco's bag.
"We're going for burgers," Harry announced.
"What?" Draco stared at Harry as if he'd grown two heads. "Burgers?"
"I seem to have picked up an echo," Harry teased.
"But we have to finish-"
Harry leaned in close. "You haven't learned the signs yet. Whenever you see one of them getting Redvines and Dr. Pepper, that means things are going to get hot and heavy because both our friends are hopeless romantics. Unless you want to be here to find out just how loud our friends can be whilst getting intimate, I highly suggest you come with me for a burger."
"Burgers it is."
Draco was sitting at a desk in the library when Simon appeared in the seat across from him. Startled, Draco looked around. "Where did you even come from?"
Simon waved him off. "I need to talk to you."
"Okay." It came out sounding more like a question.
"What are your intentions with Harry?"
Draco spluttered. "I'm sorry?"
"Are you ever going to do something about it or should I start encouraging him to make a move?"
Draco's jaw dropped. It actually dropped. He had to consciously close his mouth once he realized this.
"I don't know what to say-"
"Do you think about kissing Harry?" Draco blushed. "That's a yes. Do you like Harry?" Draco reddened even more. "That's a yes. Are you jealous that I've kissed him?" Draco was bewildered—how did Simon even know Harry had told him? "That's a yes too." Simon leaned across the desk and patted Draco on the shoulder. "Take a leap of faith."
"He's a southsider." Draco's voice was barely above a whisper.
Simon's eyes hardened. "As long as you're thinking like that, stay away from him. Once you've allowed yourself to be open-minded, I doubt there's anything you could do to screw up whatever you have, and could have, with Harry." The smile was back again. "This was a good talk."
Draco gaped at him, not sure what to say. Baz walked up and sat down beside Simon. He took a deep breath. "So, Draco-"
"I already handled it, Baz."
"Oh, thank god."
Draco's eyes widened and he glared at his best friend. "Have you two been talking about Harry and I behind our backs?"
"You make it sound so awful," Baz chided. "You'll thank us later, I promise."
Draco seriously doubted that.
Harry glanced up as a box was placed in front of his face, right where his head had been laying, waking him from his nap. He sat up and stretched as Draco took his seat beside him.
"Open it," the blond prompted.
Cocking an eyebrow, Harry did as he was told. A grin spread across his face, though he quickly hid it behind a smirk. He held up the soft t-shirt—the material was stretchy and thin—and bit his lip to keep his amusement hidden. A white lettered 'FIDO' was spelled across the chest of the black shirt.
"I did promise I'd buy you another one, didn't I?" Draco looked quite pleased with himself.
"Clever," Harry grinned at Draco. "It is a bit late, though."
Draco shrugged. "Better late than never."
"What prompted this?" Harry wondered.
Draco shrugged once more. "We finished the project early. I mean, really early, so I figured I'd give it to you now since we won't be seeing as much of each other anymore."
Harry's voice remained even. "Oh?"
"Well, I mean, obviously we'll still see each other since Baz and Simon are dating, but it won't be like we'll have the project to work on."
"Right," Harry said slowly.
He couldn't read Draco and he didn't know if he wanted to.
"Well." Harry gestured toward the shirt. "Thanks."
Simon frowned as he heard the door close softly. Harry stumbled toward his bedroom, obviously far from sober.
"When was the last time you came home at three in the morning?" Simon asked.
Harry yelped and searched wildly, his eyes eventually landing on Simon. He visibly relaxed. "Fuck, that's creepy as hell. Why are you sitting in the dark?"
"I was waiting for my idiot of a best friend to come home."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm tired, Si. I'll talk to you in the morning."
"Did you fuck 'em?" Simon asked brusquely.
Simon gestured toward Harry's neck. The other boy instantly put his hand up to cover it, rubbing it as if it would make the bruises go away.
"Who was it?"
Harry shook his head. "Fuck if I know." He sighed. "And no. I didn't fuck her."
Simon pushed. "Why?"
"Because I fucking couldn't, that's why."
They were both quiet for a long time. So long, Harry looked as if he'd become a statue.
"Talk to him," Simon said.
Harry shook his head. "It's fine, Si."
"No it's not, when was the last time you partied on a school night?" Harry shrugged. "When was the last time he came over here and stayed for more than a few minutes?" Simon knew. It had been at least a month.
"Si, I'm tired."
Simon closed his eyes, then opened them. "You'll talk to me when you need to?"
Harry nodded. A promise. Simon sealed it with another nod.
Draco didn't know how long he had stared at the hickies on Harry's neck. He didn't know how long he'd spent thinking about it that night. He didn't know when he'd stop thinking of what an idiot he was to let himself believe Simon and Baz when they told him Harry had liked him.
That trail of dark bruises haunted Draco.
Harry had tried to conceal it by popping the collar of his leather jacket, but every time he stretched, every time he put his head down in an attempt to take a nap, every time he twisted his head a certain way that week, Draco saw them.
What had been a prick at the beginning was now a burn.
He didn't know who he hated: himself, Harry, or the person who left the bruises.
Maybe all three.
He was still friendly with Harry. He smirked at Harry's sly jokes during Health, he'd stop by he and Simon's sometimes after school, he'd exchange a nod in the hallways. It wasn't the same, though, and Draco didn't think it ever would be.
It pained him how even though he and Harry hadn't been a couple, hadn't even kissed, he knew they had almost been something. Or, at least, they could have been. And the knowledge of that compared to the reality of their relationship now hurt more than he could have ever imagined. It felt like he was going through a breakup, though he had no ex-boyfriend to mourn. Just an ex-Health-partner. And wasn't that pathetic.
He knew it was his fault, at least partially. He was the one who had insisted they wouldn't see each other any more. He had practically pushed Harry away by implying the only reason he had spent any time with him was because of the project. Maybe that was why at first, but he had grown fond of Harry. Perhaps too fond.
Draco found it ironic that in the span of a few months, he had become the hopeless one rather than Baz. Baz had somehow solved his dilemma, but Draco didn't even know where to start on his own. It wasn't like he could just outright ask Harry what to do to make things right again. They were both pretending things were fine and it would shatter the façade they had so desperately created.
Harry shifted in the seat beside him, twisting his neck to work out a kink. Draco's blood went cold once more at the sight of the hickies.
He looked away.
Harry stopped him after class, pulled him on the side of the hallway to talk to him. Draco couldn't help but fantasize that Harry was going to beg Draco to let things go back to the way they were. That everything would be magically fixed and everything would be normal again.
"I just," Harry faltered, but regained his confidence, "I just wanted to say it's not because I fucked someone."
It took Draco a moment to realize Harry was referring to his neck.
"Oh." Draco felt relief wash through him and hated himself for it. He cleared his throat. "You can fuck whomever you want—it's none of my business."
Harry's eyes narrowed. "Why do you do that?"
"Do what?" Draco became defensive.
"Close up like that." Harry frowned. "It's not like we were only friends because of some stupid Health project about smoking."
"But that's exactly what it's like," Draco scowled. "We can't even act normal without this Health project to give us a reason to talk to one another."
Draco huffed. "It's- it's being buddies. Pals."
Harry actually looked incredulous. "Are you insinuating you'd like to be pals?"
"Isn't that what we should be?"
Harry stepped closer, his eyes fire. "We never were and never will be just pals, Draco. You know that just as well as I do." Harry held his gaze unwaveringly. "Tell me right now you ever thought we were pals and I'll make it happen again."
Draco didn't speak. Harry had seemingly gone from being his enemy to the object of his infatuation. He didn't know how it happened and didn't know how he didn't realize it happening.
"Exactly." Harry said quietly.
"Stop messing with my head," Draco murmured.
"You're not happy."
"Neither are you."
"What do you want?"
When Draco got to Simon and Harry's house, Harry was just leaving. As Draco walked up to the front door, Harry grabbed his bicep and pulled him along.
"They're at it again," Harry informed him. "So we're going to get burgers."
The car ride was quiet. When they parked, Draco took off his seat belt and started to open his door, but realized Harry wasn't moving. He turned to the dark-haired boy and raised an eyebrow.
Harry studied Draco for a second before seemingly making up his mind. He reached into the backseat of the truck, pulling out a box almost identical to the one Draco had given him. He placed it in Draco's lap, then cut the engine.
"Just open it," Harry said.
Inside was a t-shirt identical to the one he'd gotten Harry—identical except for the words. Rather than 'FIDO,' this one said 'TO HOLDING HANDS AND SKIPPING OFF INTO THE SUNSET.' Draco understood the reference at once.
"I'm not saying we hold hands and skip off into the sunset—I'm just saying we be civil." Harry's vibrant eyes bore into his and Draco had to look away, not used to the intensity.
"Fine," Draco finally relented.
It was exactly what they had said they wouldn't do. He stared at the shirt for a long time, his heart thrumming, before he turned to Harry. The other boy raised his eyebrows and Draco nodded, not being able to say anything. Harry let out a breath of relief and thunked his head back against the headrest. He had a wide smile on his face when he faced Draco again.
Leaning into Harry's seat, Draco tangled his fingers in Harry's hair, then kissed him just as he'd imagined those past couple of months. Harry immediately responded, reaching up and cupping Draco's face.
They stayed in that car until both their stomachs were growling and the streetlights had flickered on.
Then they went and got burgers.
It was for the better, really, that Draco had unlearned his three rules of Watford High.
The first rule been broken rather quickly. The claim that northsiders and southsiders didn't mix was immediately disproven by Ms. Pomfrey and Mr. Snape, as they showed that the two groups could mix. It paved the way for peculiar friendships.
The second rule wasn't truly a rule and Baz had done a brilliant job of tossing it out the window. Even after graduation, he and Simon were going strong. Apparently, being gay for one's arch-nemesis did turn out well in some cases.
The third rule was one Draco hadn't even realized he'd broken until it was too late. Hating Harry Potter had always been exciting, had always kept him busy at school and had provided him with something other than academics to think about.
Draco had to admit, though: Loving him was even better.