A/N: Welcome to the final conclusion! I hope everyone is ready, because we have it all in this chapter—sappiness, violence, and smut! The ultimate storybook trinity :)

Like Fire and Rain

Part 9

The enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall was far too bright, in Draco's opinion. Just because the winter sun outside was shining down like a harsh, overly-vivid spotlight did not mean that the ceiling had to reflect it just as intensely. Sighing, Draco wished it was snowing, longing for the muted grey safety of an overcast sky. He wanted the wind to howl and storm, wanting the weather outside to match everything he was feeling inside.

He and Harry really were over, weren't they?

Picking up the nearest utensil, he stabbed moodily at his breakfast, wishing it was still the weekend. He had not seen Harry since their fight, spending nearly the entire weekend locked away in his dorm down in the dungeons, wishing he could fall from the world simply by willing it. He couldn't help but wonder how Potter had passed the time. Had he spent it thinking about Draco? Had he spent it in the company of his Gryffindor sidekicks? Or—Draco's stomach twisted at the thought—had he spent it in the arms of Ginevra?

Sighing, Draco attempted, for what was possibly the millionth time, to get his mind off Harry, but he already knew it was no use. Harry was all he had thought about for the entirety of the school term, he was hardly going to be able to stop thinking of him now. Especially when all he wanted was to throw himself in Potter's arms and plead with him to give Draco a second chance.

Harry had been right; how could Draco have allowed his insecurities to rip apart everything beautiful that had been building between them? Now, Draco was left with nothing but his insecurities. No Harry, no comfort, no safety, no future.

Feeling sick, Draco pushed his mostly-full plate of food away, sipping at his tea and staring down at his own reflection rippling across its dark surface, eyes narrowing as he was struck with the sudden urge to fling the cup across the room, watch it smash to pieces against the unyielding stone of the nearest wall. What had Harry ever seen in him in the first place? Someone broken and pathetic, in desperate need of saving. And saving others was what Harry Potter did; the man was a hero to his very core, sacrificing his life and everything in it for strangers. It meant nothing personal that Potter had tried to save him as well.

Fingers itching, Draco set the teacup back down, unable to resist glancing up to the Gryffindor table. The moment he did, however, he was grateful that he had already set down the cup he had been holding, for he surely would have dropped it. Harry was looking right at him, and Draco heard a soft gasp slip from his own mouth. What startled him most, though, was the expression on Potter's face. He did not look angry or disgusted like Draco would have expected him to appear when staring directly at the blond.

No, Harry looked longing. As though he wanted nothing more than to cross the Hall and gather Draco in his arms, maybe even nearly as much as Draco wanted Potter to hold him and never let go.

Draco could feel his cheeks reddening, could feel the blush spreading and staining his porcelain features, but he was completely unable to look away when Potter was looking at him like that. As though he still cared for Draco; as though Draco was somehow the most important thing in the world.

They continued to stare at one another, neither turning away. All the noise—the laughter and chatter, scraping of chairs and crunching of toast floating loudly throughout the large room, all faded away to nothing more than a distant buzzing in the background. There was nothing in the world but Harry Potter, and Draco could no longer deny that Harry Potter was his entire world.

And he always would be.

As they stared into one another's eyes, Draco was amazed that the rest of the student body was somehow still going about their normal morning business without noticing the tangible sparks that were building between the intense gazes of the two boys. It felt like a moment that should have captured the attention of every single person around them; it was a moment that should have brought the entire world to a crashing halt. There was an entire lightning storm of longing and lust brewing between Harry and Draco, and Draco had to physically hold onto the edge of the table to prevent himself from sprinting over to the brunet and pleading for a kiss.

Someone suddenly shouted Potter's name, effectively snapping the Gryffindor's attention away from Draco, the sharp, magnetic moment coming to an abrupt end, and Draco was not sure if he was more relieved or more disappointed. Exhaling a shaky breath, he rose from the table, no longer able to remain in the Great Hall. Attempting to adopt a slow, casual stride was nearly impossible to achieve, Draco's own cowardly brain frantically whispering at him to runrunrunrunrun.

As he exited the Hall, he could feel, just as certainly as if he'd been looking into them, two familiar green eyes burning a hole in the back of his head. The desire to turn around in order to check to see if Potter really was staring at him was strong enough to nearly freeze Draco in place, but he somehow managed to continue dragging his feet forward.

Once on the other side of the door, he was able to breathe easier.

Hurrying down the corridor, praying that Harry would come after him and hoping fervently that the brunet would not follow, Draco made his way to his first class of the day, dreading the upcoming Potions class at the same time he found himself eager and impatient for its arrival. He was not sure if he was more grateful or relieved that Potions was the last class of the day. What would Potter say when they had no choice but to interact? What would Draco say when he was once again face-to-face with the man he was so clearly in love with?

Draco shook his head in self-deprecation, snorting wryly. If only he had been brave enough to tell Harry how he felt when it would have made a difference; if only Draco had ever been brave enough to return the declarations of affection that Harry had constantly been spouting at him in true Gryffindor fashion.

Would it still make a difference if Draco were to tell him? Or was it too late? But even if Draco did tell him how he truly felt and Harry returned the sentiment, would it not simply put them right back where they had been before the awful fight? Harry would still want to shout their involvement from every tower in the castle, and Draco would still be a pathetic coward too weak to be seen in public with the Chosen One.

Draco's feelings for the brunet did not change the fact that Harry Potter deserved so much more than Draco Malfoy. Draco would never be able to give the brunet the things he really needed, the things he really deserved. Draco couldn't even hold his hand in public; he couldn't even tell Harry how he bloody felt.

Sighing heavily, Draco continued shuffling down the corridor. This is going to be a long Monday.

The scratching of his quill, normally a sound Draco found to be calming, was doing little to slow the racing of his heart. Harry should be arriving at the Potions room at any moment. In an effort to distract himself from his impending heart attack, Draco had allowed the thick Potions book to fall open to a random page, pulling a blank parchment from his bag and beginning to copy down the text word-for-word. It had done little so far, however, to distract him from the hammering in his chest, the sweat on his palms, the trembling of his fingers.

What would happen when Harry arrived?

But the next second, Draco no longer had to wonder. The chair next to his had been pulled out, Potter settling into it and beginning to quietly unpack his bag. It felt as though Draco's heart might either stop completely or else hammer so fast it was sure to beat its way straight through his ribcage. Fingers still shaking, Draco gripped his quill tighter, trying to force his hand to continue copying the text, but his limbs were stiff and uncooperative, and he may as well have been writing in Mermish for all he could read of his own handwriting.

"Hey, Draco," the voice next to him greeted quietly, and Draco took a deep breath before turning his head a fraction to acknowledge the brunet without actually having to look at him.

"Hello, Potter," he returned just as softly. The panic in his bloodstream began to spread outwards, slithering through his entire body until it was not blood being pumped from his heart but pure panic. What would happen now? What would Potter say? How should Draco respond? What was Potter expecting of him? What was Draco expecting of himself? The howling questions swirling through his mind refused to be silenced, making Draco feel dizzy and sick.

Dropping the quill, he lowered both hands to his lap and allowed his hair to swing forward, grateful it was long enough to act as a curtain between the two of them. He needed some sort of barrier between them if he was to have any hope of surviving the century-long class.

"Look," Harry sighed, and Draco heard a thousand different emotions buried in that single word, "I really need to talk to you. I really think we—"

His words died as a sudden clapping drew the attention of every student, a hush falling over the room. Still hidden behind his hair as much as he was able to, Draco picked up his quill with a feeling of relief, turning his full attention back to his notes. And as Slughorn announced that the class period that day would solely be a lecture period, saving the actual brewing of the potion for later in the week, Draco felt as though he could weep with silent gratitude.

Trying his hardest to keep his mind from focusing on what Harry had been about to say, Draco began taking notes, attempting to ignore everything that was not the sound of Slughorn's voice.

All he could do was pray that Harry did not notice his fingers trembling.


The sun was setting. Steps slowing, Harry crossed the corridor to the nearest window, pausing to watch the rose-colored sun sink behind the distant, dusky horizon, the wispy silver moon gradually growing more distinct in the soft, encroaching purple of the vast winter sky. It was growing dark but Harry knew it was not that late; dinner had not yet even started. Sighing, Harry tried to memorize the burnt-pink of the sunset before it faded, varying shades of honey and wine all swirling together to reflect off the lavender-colored heavens.

Standing at the window and staring out at the grounds like that, Harry couldn't help but be reminded of his and Draco's very first kiss, the two of them standing by an open window watching the rain together as they spoke in quiet voices, right before exchanging a kiss that Harry had felt throughout his entire being.

That was the moment he had fallen in love with Draco.


Harry sighed again. Immediately after Slughorn had dismissed the class, Malfoy had fled, despite Harry already having asked if they could speak. The sight of the blond practically running away from him would have seriously discouraged Harry if not for the look that Draco had briefly shot his direction before he turned and ran—the look had been one of absolute yearning, as though he longed for nothing more than to sink into Harry's embrace and never resurface. There had been sadness and a softness in Draco's eyes, giving Harry hope that things were maybe not completely destroyed between the two of them, after all.

Turning his head, Harry glanced up and down the corridor, willing to wait as long as it took. The entrance to the Great Hall was around the nearest corner, meaning that Draco would have to pass by Harry on his way to dinner, and Harry was already decided that the second he saw the blond, he would ask to speak to him again.

They were going to fix this—Harry was determined.

The only drawback to the plan was how noisy and packed the corridor was. Crowds of students were lingering in the hallway, talking and laughing in large groups. Harry heard his name called out more than once, returning the greetings half-heartedly with a frown, praying that nobody would attempt to approach him.

Feeling restless and impatient, Harry wandered further down the hall away from the other students, pacing slowly down the corridor to the staircase and peering up and down in an attempt to spot Draco. Where was he? He was planning on eating dinner, wasn't he?

Still frowning, Harry had nearly talked himself into heading down to the dungeons to check for the blond when he heard sharp laughter ring out along the corridor, snapping his attention back in the direction he had just wandered away from. Discomfort tightened his stomach—there had been something off about the sound of that laughter. It had sounded neither happy nor carefree—it had sounded cruel.

Heart pounding and limbs wary, Harry headed back the way he had come, noting a large crowd of students grouped together at the far end of the corridor, all standing in a thick circle and looking down at something on the floor. Dread settled in Harry's stomach as he quickened his stride, knowing without needing to be told that something awful had happened. More laughter rang out sharply, echoing off the cold stone walls. As he neared the group of cackling students, Harry felt his heart seize in his chest as he stumbled to a halt in dread.

Draco was sprawled across the floor, bag split and face flushed with embarrassment. The sight made Harry's blood boil, and he began glancing around wildly, desperate to find whoever it was that had attacked Malfoy.

As quietly as he was able to, Draco hastily began to pick himself up off the floor, repairing his bag and shoving his spilled belongings back inside, pushing himself to his feet and attempting to hurry away from the jeering crowd. He had only taken two steps, however, when a Trip Jinx caught him and he once more fell to the ground, landing with a heavy crash, face twisting in pain and humiliation.

Harry felt rage seize his entire being in a fierce grip, angry eyes still scanning the crowd even as he began to push his way through to Malfoy. But he was not fast enough. Before he could reach Draco, another spell was cast, and Harry cried out in horrified indignation as all of Malfoy's school books were levitated, only to throw themselves through the air at Malfoy, and Harry heard the heavy books strike Draco with hard thumps, bouncing off him before flying back to hit him again, Draco cringing in pain as the crowd of onlookers laughed.

Harry felt as though he might explode.

Eyes narrowing dangerously, he whipped out his wand and cast the strongest Finite he could, relieved when the books immediately dropped to the floor. Glancing up, Harry noticed, standing just slightly forward from the rest of the crowd, face carved grotesquely in a large smirk, stood a stocky Gryffindor sixth-year that Harry knew by sight but not by name. The boy had his wand held in a tight grip and pointed directly at Malfoy, a vicious grin stretching his face. Harry felt every ounce of self-control crumble inside him as he strode forward, shoving everybody out of his way until the sixth-year boy finally noticed Harry's furious approach. His eyes widened but the smirk never left his face.

Not until Harry punched it off, at least.

Seizing the attacker by the collar, Harry drew his arm back before snapping it forward, slamming his fist into the boy's mouth and feeling satisfied as the cruel smile finally fell from the prat's lips. The laughter that had been polluting the corridor vanished, replaced by whispers and confusion as Harry sank his knuckles into the boy's stomach.

"If I ever," Harry growled, shaking the other boy roughly, "ever!"—the next punch was on the cheekbone—"see you attack him again, I will rip your entire wand arm off your fucking body!" With one last snap of his arm, Harry smashed his fist into the other boy's nose, glaring down at him in disgust before allowing the boy to drop heavily to the floor, eyes wide and frightened as he gazed up at Harry in absolute shock.

Turning his glare onto the confused crowd of onlookers, Harry ignored the throbbing in his bruised knuckles as he moved to stand in front of Draco. "That goes for every single person here," he snarled furiously. "You all better fucking believe me when I say that the next person to hurt him or attack him or even fucking look at him wrong will not get off as easy as that piece of shit on the floor over there!" The crowd turned as one to look down at the Gryffindor sixth-year still collapsed in a whimpering heap.

Ignoring everybody else, Harry turned to face Draco, who was looking up at him in surprise, mouth slightly open and face flushed pink. Feeling the glare on his face finally melt away, Harry reached out one hand to help pull the blond to his feet. For several heart-stopping moments, he was terrified that Draco would refuse to take it, but after what felt like years but was most likely only seconds, a warm palm slid into Harry's own and he was tugging Malfoy to his feet.

"Are you okay?" he asked softly, somehow resisting the urge to comb his fingers through Draco's hair or pull him in for a hug. A sudden desperation gripped him as he hoped that Malfoy would not be angry at him for interfering so publicly.

Draco nodded hesitantly. "What are you…" the question trailed off into silence, both boys ignoring the continued whispers still hissing through the air all around them.

"Are you hurt, Draco?"

Draco shook his head. "No, but…Harry…"

"Can we please talk now?" Harry pleaded quietly, clenching his fists at his side to keep from touching the blond.

Fear crept into Malfoy's eyes as he looked around at the spectators still surrounding the two of them, and Harry's heart nearly stopped as he recognized Draco's insecurities threatening to once again rear their ugly head.

The next second, however, Harry's heart really did stop as Draco grabbed a hold of the back of Harry's neck and tugged him forward to meet him in a kiss that stole the breath straight from his lungs. The surprise lasted nearly a second before Harry felt himself melt completely, returning the kiss with everything he had, wrapping both arms around Draco's waist and holding tightly.

"Draco," Harry pulled back far enough to whisper, lifting one hand to comb through Draco's hair with his fingers. God, he had missed this the last few days. "Draco, are you sure?"

Malfoy shut his eyes as he nodded frantically. "Yes, Harry. Yes, I'm sure. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for everything."

"It's okay," Harry smiled, feeling as though he might just burst with sudden happiness, "it's okay. I'm sorry, too. I've missed you so much, you have no idea."

"I think I might," Draco chuckled, face bright red. "Can we—can we go somewhere and talk? Somewhere that's just the two of us?"

"Yes," Harry said simply, and without another word, he pulled back, slipping his hand into Draco's and tugging him away from the shocked spectators, all staring at the two of them with their mouths hanging open. Ignoring every one of them, the two boys pushed past with hardly a glance, Harry's heart pounding fiercely with joy as he peeked at Draco out of the corner of his eye.

Had any of that really just happened? Had Draco really been the one to announce their relationship to the public through a mind-melting kiss? Harry could not remember ever feeling lighter, and he clutched at Malfoy's hand to keep himself from drifting up to the ceiling and floating away, a large grin threatening to crack his face wide open.

Draco had just kissed him in public. Draco still wanted to be with him. He had finally let go of his insecurities enough to give them a real chance and Harry was determined that this time, they would do it right. Neither of them would have any more doubts about how they felt for the other or how the two of them would fit into each other's lives.

This time, everything would be perfect.


Draco was convinced that he had somehow lost his mind. Sometime during the past few minutes, his mind had slipped right out of his head like a breathless whisper, fallen through his ears to dissolve into the air like smoke, never to be found again.

Oddly enough, however, it wasn't a terrifying prospect. Not if the reward was the feeling of Harry's palm in his own, warm and steady and safe, anchoring him to the world in a way he had feared he would never again know. He wasn't quite sure what it was that had possessed him to kiss the Gryffindor in front of so large a crowd, other than the way Harry had raced to his rescue without hesitation, no matter all the terrible things Draco had said to him or the way he had fled from the Potions room without a single word. Harry had defended him, in front of everyone. He had attacked a fellow Gryffindor for Draco.

And the way Harry had looked…green eyes flashing, ebony hair crackling with anger, perfect body tensed tight with delicious rage, standing in front of Draco and threatening anybody who even looked at him wrong…it made Draco shiver just to think about. Harry really did think that Draco was worth defending. Harry had faced down his admirers for Draco, completely unafraid of them turning on the brunet.

Draco's body felt light and tingly, trapped in disbelief as he attempted to sort out everything that had happened over the past several minutes. It had all happened so quickly, he was unsure of what to make of it. He had been wandering down the crowded corridor, head ducked down as he avoided meeting anybody's gaze, when his bag had suddenly split, spilling his belongings everywhere a second before another spell had reached out to snatch at his ankles, sending him crashing to the floor to the sounds of laughter and jeers.

He remembered the way his face had burned red with shame and humiliation, feeling panic smother him like fog until he could hardly see through the thick haze of sudden fright. Desperately, he had tried to escape, only for the same spell to catch him again before he had managed to make it out of the circle of onlookers. The ringing laughter had seemed to tear straight into him, hack right through him, slicing at his insides until he was nothing but a tattered pile of pathetic embarrassment, nothing but ignominious shreds of pale skin and public disgrace.

In the safety of his own head, Draco could admit to himself that he had been terrified in that moment. His entire body had frozen in fear, staring up in alarm at the dozens of sneering faces all towering over him, cruel laughter ringing in his ears as they threw taunts and jeers just as effective at holding him in place as the spells that had sent him crashing to the floor. His own belongings had then been hexed to attack him, and Draco couldn't help but rub at one of the large bruises on his shoulder with his free hand. He would never admit to anybody just how painful and frightening the situation had been.

But then, Harry had been there. The brunet had simply appeared like the storybook hero he was, and Draco was only slightly embarrassed to admit how sexy he found Harry's protectiveness to be. Had anybody ever stood up for him like that before? Had anybody ever really defended him, ever in his life? Had anybody ever before seen him as someone worthy of being defended?

Unable to resist the solidness of the warm fingers entwined with his own, Draco gave Harry's hand a squeeze, grateful relief spreading through him when Harry turned his head to offer Draco a smile.

"My dorm will be empty," the blond said quietly, forcing the words out through his terror. Was the room Draco slept in too intimate a setting for the talk they needed to have? Would it put the wrong sort of pressure on the two of them and only confuse them further whilst they were attempting to navigate their way clear from the murky waters of the complicated relationship the two had become so entrenched in?

But Harry smiled again and nodded. "Okay," he agreed, trailing next to Draco in silence as they made their way to the dungeons. The common room was nearly empty, most students already at dinner, but Harry and Draco ignored the small number of Slytherins peppered throughout the large chamber.

Draco led the way down a stone passage, finally releasing Harry's hand before opening the door to the room he shared with Blaise. Once they were both inside the dorm, Draco cast several privacy spells before turning to Harry in apprehension, only to find that the Gryffindor had wandered over to Draco's side of the room and was studying his belongings with an intense gaze.

Without warning, he turned to fix Draco with a serious stare, pinning him in place as his eyes ran up and down Draco's body. "Are you sure you're okay?" he asked in a low voice, taking a step closer. "I'm sorry I didn't get there sooner, Draco."

With a shake of his head, Draco crossed the room to sink onto his mattress, running his fingers over the silver-and-black bedding. "You don't need to apologize, Harry. Thank you for coming to my defense. It was not something I would have expected."

"Why?" Harry wondered, voice curious but eyes narrowed. "I told you I would never let anybody hurt you and I meant it."

"Yes, you did," Draco agreed softly, staring down at his knees. "But I would hardly have blamed you for leaving me there."

"I would never do that!" Harry argued fiercely, crossing over to sink down next to Draco and taking both of his hands in a strong grip. "God, Draco! Just thinking about it,"—he tightened his hold on Draco's hands—"it makes me want to go back there and kick that stupid sod's arse even more!"

The words brought a ghostly smile to Draco's face. "Oh, Potter. You bloody prince."

Harry laughed softly. "You've definitely called me worse."

"Well," Draco felt the corners of his mouth turn up, "it was either 'bloody prince' or 'over-protective sentimental fool'. Personally, I think you're a bit of both."

"And I think you're worth protecting," Harry said softly, shifting closer.

"Harry…" Draco murmured, unsure of how to respond. They were sitting so close, closer than Draco had ever imagined they would again sit; he had thought, after everything that had happened, he would never get the chance to be close to Harry like this, had thought he would never be able to touch Harry ever again. He hadn't thought that Harry would ever again look at him the way he was at that moment—soft and unguarded, fond and affectionate and protective. If Draco was the type to hope for foolish things, he might even allow himself to believe that Harry was looking at him with love in his eyes, and Draco could feel his own face reflecting that love he so foolishly prayed Harry felt in return.

"I'm sorry for everything I said to you that day," Draco gulped, looking down at his lap. "I'm sorry, Harry, that I wasn't brave enough before. You were right when you said I was scared of everything." His voice lowered to a whisper. "I still am, you know, scared of everything. You were right, I really am a coward. I allowed my own fear to tear us apart. But I'm trying. Because you were also right about deserving someone courageous enough to be seen in public with you. You deserve so much better, Harry."

"No, Draco!" Harry tugged him into a fierce embrace. "Don't say that! You are the one that I want! I didn't mean what I said, I swear it! I was angry and I was wrong and I'm sorry!" His voice turned anguished as he clutched Draco tightly to himself. "Why can't you see yourself the way I do? Why can't you recognize that you're more than worthy of being loved, you're more than worthy of me? I'm the one who feels as though I don't deserve you, Draco. The way you make me feel…"

Draco's breath caught. Nobody had ever before told him he was worthy of love; no one had ever before told him he was worthy of anything. Ever since he could remember, it had always been Draco telling the entire world that he was the deserving one, far more deserving than most others. But Draco could now recognize that the driving force behind his arrogance had been insecurity. Had he ever truly felt deserving of anything before?

"How—how do I make you feel?" Draco could feel the fear sitting heavy in his throat, forcing the words up past his own terror at asking the question, at hearing the answer.

Harry was silent for several moments, pulling back slightly and reaching down to grasp both of Draco's hands in his own, staring down at the fingers in his grip with determination as he spoke. "You make me feel like I can be anything, like I'm more than just the role I've been forced into my entire life; you make me feel like I'm more than just the Boy-Who-Lived or the Chosen One. You make me feel like an actual person. I love you, Draco."

The words made Draco light-headed; if he hadn't already been sitting down, he would have been sure to stagger to his knees in shock. "You—you what?"

"I love you," Harry repeated, face pink.

"You do?" The moment the two words slipped from Draco's mouth, he longed to snatch them back. If Harry was willingly offering his love, why on earth would Draco ever be stupid enough to question it?

Harry nodded. "Yeah, I do," he answered softly, eyes searching Draco's face. "I think I have since the first time we kissed. Maybe even earlier."

"Harry, I…" Draco wasn't sure if he had ever had a harder time forcing a confession up his throat than he did at that moment, "I—I love you, too."

The biggest smile Draco had ever seen from Harry spread across the brunet's face only a second before he crushed their mouths together, parting Draco's lips with a passion that left the blond breathless. "You're not a coward, Draco," Harry murmured, speaking the words directly against Draco's panting mouth. "You aren't. And I'm sorry for what I said. It was stupid and unfair and I didn't mean it."

"Not exactly untrue, though," Draco disagreed in a low voice, familiar slithers of shame creeping up on him. He knew better than most just how scared of the world he truly was and, excepting the times he was in Harry's arms, the fear did not seem to be going away.

"It is untrue!" Harry argued fiercely, pinning the blond in place with a gaze full of fire. "Just you being here in this castle proves how brave you really are, Draco! When I said those things…I was so focused on what I wanted, so determined to be just another normal couple that I had forgotten that we really aren't normal people, the two of us, are we? As much as we try to be, the nation doesn't seem willing to let it happen. And I'm sorry for pressuring you and I'm sorry for everything I said, I didn't mean to get so angry." He paused to press a soft kiss to Draco's mouth. "I just—I was afraid that you not wanting to go public meant that your feelings for me weren't the same as my feelings for you. I couldn't stand the thought that you didn't think our relationship was worth fighting for."

"Oh, Harry," Draco sighed, resting their foreheads together. "Now who's the insecure one? My feelings for you have never been…" he took a deep breath, forcing himself to be as honest as Potter, "they haven't ever been the same as yours." The words caused Harry to pull away with a hurt expression, and Draco hastened to continue, "You only recently stopped hating me. You were still hating me at the start of term. You hated me right up until you found me in that corridor. But," his grey eyes searched Harry's own, who was not even blinking as he listened intently to every word Draco spoke, "I haven't felt that way toward you for a very long time. It's true that there were times when I truly did despise you, but those seemed to come and go, the vast majority of them mired in feelings of rejection and self-directed disappointment. You hated me for who I was as a person; I hated you because you were my exact antithesis. You were my opposite in every single way, everything in this world that I was not, everything I should have looked down on and yet, I still wanted to be close to you. I still craved your approval for some reason and yet knew I would never get it.

"I've always felt drawn to you, in a way," Draco admitted, unable to continue looking at Harry while the brunet's expression was so intense. "But for so many years, it seemed as though we were doomed to be enemies, two chess pieces on opposite sides of the board separated by hatred and opposing principles, constantly warring with one another simply for existing. But…" his voice lowered to a whisper, "I had always dreamt of a different reality. Perhaps that's why I threw myself so fully into my role as a teenage Death Eater when the opportunity first presented itself. If we could not ever be on the same side, then I would at least make sure that my side was the right one to be on. Perhaps I was simply trying to prove to us both that you should have been the one to most regret not taking my hand that first day on the train."

"Draco…" Harry whispered, but Draco was not finished. Now that he had given himself permission to be honest, he seemed unable to stop the confessions that poured free from his mouth like bitter-sweet wine, dripping from between his lips to form an oozing, honest puddle of personal admissions on the floor at his feet.

"I can't even tell you how much that initial rejection hurt," Draco admitted, smiling sadly at the memory. "You were the very first person I had ever truly offered friendship to, and you turned me down without hesitation. And for a Weasley, no less, whom I had been taught to scorn practically since birth. And the look on your face when I held out my hand…like you were disgusted I had even been allowed to be born. I had never felt such a fool as when you refused to accept it, standing there like an idiot with my hand stuck out waiting for something I did not know how to obtain."

"Draco, I'm sorry." Harry pulled him into a gentle embrace, laying his head on Draco's shoulder and tucking his face into his throat.

"It's all right, Potter," Draco stroked his back with tender fingers, still amazed that he was allowed to do such a thing. "I understand why you did not wish to get to know me better. I'm very aware of what type of child I was, and I can hardly blame you for disliking me from the very start."

"I definitely don't dislike you now," Harry breathed, and Draco shivered as the other boy reached up to tangle one hand in Draco's hair, fingers raking lightly over his scalp.

"I would hope not," Draco murmured, longing for Potter to tell him once more how much he loved the blond.

Harry suddenly pulled back, hand still combing through Draco's hair but eyes serious. "We're okay, aren't we? We're—I mean, everything is okay between us, isn't it? We're…together now, aren't we? Properly together, I mean? We're not going to go back to sneaking around and hiding, right?" Both his tone and eyes were pleading, and Draco leaned forward to kiss him, smiling into it when Potter melted against him.

After several moments, Draco pulled back to speak. "I would think that would be rather hard now, seeing as I was the one to kiss you in front of at least thirty other students. I'm sure by now there is not a single person in Hogwarts who does not know about it."

"Yeah, you did do that, didn't you?" Harry grinned for a moment before appearing serious once more. "And you're okay with that? You don't mind everybody knowing about us?"

Smiling softly, Draco shook his mind. "No, Harry, I don't mind. I will admit that it's a rather daunting prospect of facing the nation knowing that the only people who approve of our relationship are the two of us, but…"

"But?" Harry prodded, his hold on Draco tightening.

Draco took a deep breath. "But I love you and I trust you and I really do believe that we can weather their disapproval and make it out the other end of the storm intact. I believe that our feelings for one another are stronger than whatever ignorant comments are thrown at us from people neither of us has ever met. You're the only person whose opinion matters."

Harry stared at him for nearly a minute. "I love you so much, Draco."

Draco smiled, the expression vanishing in surprise as he suddenly found himself flat on his back, looking up at a tousle-haired Harry Potter looming over him.

"I love you," he repeated, fingers beginning to unbutton and part Draco's clothing until he found the bare skin of Draco's chest.

Draco inhaled sharply as Harry ran both hands over his skin with hungry fingers, ducking his head to kiss Draco with a passion that made the blond feel as though he was falling and floating at the exact same time, as though his insides had somehow become lighter than air.

"Christ, Draco," Harry murmured against his lips, hands still exploring his body, "Christ, I want you."

"So have me then," Draco pleaded, feeling nearly desperate. "Touch me already, Harry, fuck, I'm yours!"

"Yes, you are," Potter growled, shifting lower to spread open-mouthed kisses down his throat and across his chest, nibbling at a hip bone and sucking bruises into every inch of flesh he seemed able to find. All Draco was able to do was moan in encouragement as Harry reached down to fumble with the fastenings to Draco's trousers, tugging them down his legs and leaving him completely bare.

A sharp cry tore from Draco's throat as Harry's lips wrapped around his cock, tongue sliding wetly over the shaft as Harry bobbed his head before pulling back to the tip with a hard suck, tongue dipping into the slit and causing Draco to shudder.

"Oh, god, yes!" he moaned, both hands clenched tightly in Harry's hair. "Merlin, Harry, that feels incredible!"

Harry pulled back to catch his breath for a moment. "I won't stop then," he smirked, eyes sparkling as he lowered his head and settled his mouth back around Draco.

The pace continued as Draco groaned and thrashed, panting wildly as he stared down the length of his body at the incredibly arousing sight of Harry's dark head bobbing up and down, at the sight of his own prick disappearing over and over into Harry's wet mouth.

"Oh fuck, Harry, please don't stop, you're brilliant, you're perfect, please! Fuck, please don't stop," Draco babbled mindlessly, knowing he was only seconds away from exploding. In the next breath, he clenched his eyes shut tight as an overwhelming wave of pleasure crashed into him, swept over him, submerging him beneath its heavy weight as he twisted and moaned, Harry holding him in place as his mouth slid to the very tip of Draco's cock, sucking softly as Draco bucked his hips before finally sinking back into the mattress, panting breathlessly. "Fuck, Potter," he murmured, feeling his pulse race as he attempted to catch his breath.

Harry grinned up at him, climbing back up Draco's body to claim his mouth in a kiss. Tasting himself on Potter's tongue made the blood rush harder through his veins, and Draco wrapped himself fully around the boy in his arms, heart feeling like it might just burst from the amount of affection he felt for the brunet.

Rolling them both over, Draco began to return every favor, tugging at Harry's clothing until the Gryffindor was just as bare as Draco, grey eyes sliding up and down the other boy's body appreciatively. They had been intimate before, of course, but those had all been quick fumblings in darkened broom cupboards. Never had Draco had the chance to actually see Harry, study him in the light and follow every hardened line on his body with his fingers.

"Draco?" Harry's voice was quiet, sounding hesitant and unsure, and Draco softened as he bent down to kiss the brunet.

"I can't believe this is actually happening," he murmured, feeling Harry smile against his lips.

"Me neither," he agreed, sighing as Draco copied Harry's moves from earlier and began to kiss his way down his throat and chest, stroking the skin of the brunet's abdomen with his hands before following the trail with his tongue, licking every muscled bump on Harry's firm stomach until his hands were twisted almost painfully in Draco's hair as he groaned and flailed.

Feeling nervous—despite this being far from their first time—Draco finally shifted lower, wrapping one palm around Harry's cock before guiding the tip into his mouth and pinning Harry's hips to the bed as the other boy thrust up sharply. Feeling wicked, Draco teased him for long moments, stroking lightly along the shaft as he wrapped his tongue around the very tip, until, without warning, he took Harry in as deeply as he could, smiling internally at the grateful cry that escaped the other boy. Hollowing his cheeks, Draco began to pull back slowly, wanting to take his time to build a rhythm but speeding up when Harry's hands tightened even further in his hair. Feeling how close Potter was to coming, Draco flattened his tongue along the shaft, increasing his pace until he felt nearly dizzy with how fast his head was bobbing up and down. A shudder wracked Harry's entire body as his hips twitched desperately, head thrown back as he came with a moan.

"Fuck, Draco," he panted, gently untangling his fingers from Draco's hair before tugging the blond up the bed and wrapping him in a breathless embrace. "God, fuck, do I love you."

The words caused a smile to slip across Draco's face, one he could not have fought against even if he'd tried. "As you should, Potter," he said playfully, kissing Harry's shoulder lightly, "I don't do that for anyone else, you know."

"You better not, Malfoy," Harry warned with a grin, throwing one leg over Draco and burying his face in the crook of Draco's neck.

As if I could ever want anyone else, Draco thought to himself, stroking Harry's back with the fingers of one hand. "Nobody else," Draco promised, knowing that he hardly even needed to say the words. Nobody else wanted Draco and he did not want anybody but Potter.

Harry pressed a kiss to the skin directly above Draco's heart with a sigh. "Nobody else," he agreed, and although Draco could not see it, he could hear the smile in Potter's voice.

Returning the heartfelt sigh, Draco twisted around until he managed to tug the blanket up around the two of them before settling more comfortably beneath Potter's warmth, happy to remain there for the rest of his life.

He knew he never wanted to be anywhere else.

Part 10

The next morning found Harry standing outside the entrance to the Slytherin common room, hands in his pockets as he whistled happily. The stone passage slid open to reveal a group of Slytherin fourth-years, whose eyes all widened the moment they spotted Harry leaning casually against the opposite wall. Nodding at them, Harry craned his neck to see past them, trying to spot Draco.

Pulling the Marauder's Map from his pocket, he glanced it over, noting with a grin that Draco had just left his dorm room. Excitement mounting, he waited for the blond to appear, desperate to find out if the previous day had actually happened or if it had been nothing more than a dream. Would Draco kiss Harry when he saw him? Or would he hesitate? Would he hold Harry's hand and allow the brunet to walk him to the Great Hall for breakfast? Or would he turn away before Harry even had a chance to greet him?

The wall slid open once more and Harry felt his heart rate triple as he met the surprised gaze of Draco Malfoy. The astonishment on his face quickly melted away to be replaced by a smile, and Harry felt as though his heart might just crack from happiness at the sight.

Stepping close, Draco placed his hands on Harry's shoulders, head ducked down shyly as he murmured, "Good morning."

"Very good morning," Harry agreed, tilting Draco's face up to meet him in a kiss. The kiss was soft and chaste, not lasting more than a few seconds but seeming to snatch the air straight from Harry's lungs. "I came to walk you to breakfast."

Cheeks pink, Draco scoffed, but Harry could see the pleasure on his face. "What am I, your girlfriend, Potter?"

Harry laughed. "I'd definitely be a bit worried about your cock size if you were, Malfoy."

Shaking his head in amusement, Draco stepped back and gestured for Harry to lead the way, blushing deliciously when Harry reached out one hand to lace their fingers together. The two were chuckling quietly to one another as they reached the Great Hall, but the smiles vanished as silence descended at their entrance, every student turning to openly stare at the two boys.

Glaring, Harry tightened his hold on Draco's hand, daring anybody to make a derogatory remark. Turning to the blond, he found him pink-cheeked and staring at the floor, but with a look of determination on his face.

"Come sit with me," Harry said suddenly, tugging lightly at Draco's hand.

Draco appeared confused by the request. "What?"

"Come eat breakfast with me," Harry jerked his head in the direction of the Gryffindor table. "Please?"

Eyes wary, Draco nodded as he took a hesitant step in the direction of the Gryffindors, and Harry couldn't help the relieved smile he felt slide across his face. Leading the way, he towed Malfoy over to where Ron and Hermione already sat, the two sitting side-by-side with a plate across from them clearly meant for Harry.

Sinking down before it, he smiled up at Draco as the blond took the seat next to him, squeezing his hand before finally releasing it. As Draco sat, Harry was relieved to hear the Hall gradually begin to fill with chatter once more. He turned his head to find Draco appearing somewhat lost, staring around himself as though he did not recognize the Hall from where he was now sat.

The urge to lean over and kiss his cheek was nearly overwhelming but Harry fought against it, unsure how comfortable Draco would initially be with public displays of affection, especially considering the amount of attention they were still receiving. Ignoring the sets of eyes he could feel burning into the two of them, Harry poured some coffee out for them both, handing Draco's his first before reaching for the sugar bowl and offering it to the blond, who shook his head and proceeded to drink his coffee scalding and black.

"Good morning, Harry, Malfoy," Hermione said, nodding at the two of them.

"Granger, Weasley," Draco nodded back, but Harry noticed the way his eyes seemed unable to look at the two of them, staring down at Hermione's plate, instead.

"I won't lie," Ron took a large bite of toast as he spoke, crunching through his next words, "it's bloody weird seeing you sit here, Malfoy. I don't think I've ever seen a Slytherin even cross over to this side of the room, before."

"You don't seem to be the only one who finds it strange," Draco said pointedly, one eyebrow raised as he looked around at the large number of students still staring at the two of them, most glancing away when they saw that he had noticed them watching. "But Harry promised me sexual favors if I were to sit with him at breakfast," Draco continued unexpectedly, causing Ron to snort loudly as Harry nearly choked on his coffee.

"Did I?" he chuckled, shaking his head as he attempted to breathe air into his lungs instead of burning liquid.

"Of course," Draco responded smoothly, a tiny smile curling his mouth, "Why do you think I'm here?"

Ron snorted again, shaking his head at Harry and shrugging.

"Oh, listen, mate," Ron said suddenly, appearing serious. "I really need to talk to you about something. Warn you, more like. The both of you, really."

"Later, Ron," Hermione interrupted, shaking her head imperceptibly at him.

"What is it?" Harry asked, feeling anxiety wrap around his heart and squeeze. Warn him about what? It already sounded far too ominous for Harry's liking.

"Ginny," Ron blurted, shooting both Harry and Hermione an apologetic glance.

"What about Ginny?" Harry asked through numb lips, voice heavy with dread. He felt Malfoy stiffen next to him and was scared to look over to see what expression he would find on Draco's face.

"Well, erm," Ron sounded frazzled, raking a hand through his hand in a move almost identical to Harry's, "she's pretty well narked off at the moment, to be honest. 'Cos of what happened yesterday, with the two of you, and now the whole school knows about you, and she's just…not exactly happy about it, if you must know."

Harry felt his insides squirm with guilt. "I told her I was seeing someone, though."

"Yeah," Ron agreed, still sounding uncomfortable. "But she thought it was a girl. And—no offense, Malfoy—but she never would have guessed it would be a Slytherin. And definitely not, you know, him. And I think a part of her didn't actually believe that you were. I think she just thought you were saying that to get rid of her."

"I wouldn't lie to her like that," Harry said sharply, hoping that Ginny would not be angry enough to confront Draco about their relationship.

"I know that," Ron held up his hands placatingly. "I'm just warning you for your own sake. She barged into the dorm last night and demanded to know if it was actually true, what everybody was saying happened. And she's my sister, what was I supposed to do? So I told her that it was and she wanted to know exactly how long the two of you have been involved, so I told her it was nearly the whole term, and she kind of, um, you know…" he shrugged uneasily, "lost it a bit. She, erm, wasn't very nice about either one of you, to tell you the truth. And I think we all already know that the girl has a bit of a temper. So, I just wanted to give both of you a warning in case she tries to approach either one of you. If she does, my advice is just to run. Fast."

"Right," Harry sighed heavily. "Thanks, Ron."

"It's just a shock to her, Harry," Hermione said quietly, eyes darting between Harry and Draco. "Ron and I have had much longer to get used to the idea of the two of you together and yet I would be lying if I said I didn't still find just the thought of it strange, let alone the reality of seeing it with my own eyes. Just give her some time to get her head around the idea."

Nodding in resignation, Harry finally looked over to Draco, only to find the blond silent and half-hidden behind his hair, curled in on himself as he glared down at his lap. Hoping that Malfoy would be willing to accept his comfort in public, Harry reached out to twine their hands together, fingers interwoven and resting on Draco's thigh.

"I really am sorry, you know," said Draco suddenly, head snapping up to look directly at Ron and Hermione for the first time since sitting down. "About everything. I can understand her upset and mistrust about our relationship. I know that I don't really deserve for the two of you to accept me so readily into Harry's life, but I do want you to know how grateful I am to be given the chance."

They both stared at Malfoy in surprise, Ron's mouth hanging open in shock. "He apologized," Ron said, sounding gobsmacked. "Malfoy actually apologized for something. I've never heard him apologize for anything. Harry, did you know he could apologize?"

Hermione seemed to recover first. "Oh, Ronald, stop it, honestly." Frowning, Hermione turned a speculative gaze to Malfoy, staring at him in silence for long moments before casting a discreet privacy ward around the four of them.

"I realize this isn't the best place for this conversation," Draco said uncomfortably, fidgeting in his seat but falling silent when Hermione held up one hand.

"I think this conversation is rather overdue, considering how long the two of you have already been together," Hermione responded quietly, settling both elbows on the table and resting her chin on the backs of her intertwined fingers as she gazed at Draco.

Draco's eyes dropped as he nodded. "You're right, of course, Granger."

"She always is," Ron said fondly, nudging her arm.

"Now," she continued, sparing an affectionate glance for Ron before turning her attention back to Draco, "I'm willing to accept your apology and put everything behind us, considering that Harry here has already forgiven you and clearly cares for you very deeply, as you seem to care for him. And I can see that you're no longer the person you once were. I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that you really are a changed person, with a new perspective on the world that you did not have before. I'm willing to accept that you were raised to view certain things in a way that you no longer do, and that you really are regretful of the choices you made in the past and how you chose to behave based on who you were expected to be.

"But, Malfoy," her eyes narrowed, "my priority here is not myself or my own feelings. My main concern here is Harry. Ron and I are not at any risk of being hurt by you, but Harry is. So, I will accept your apology on this one condition," she leaned forward, pinning Draco effectively into place with both her soft tone and fierce expression, "and that is that you never, ever give Ron or me any reason to regret accepting it. Don't ever make either of us regret having given you the benefit of the doubt today, because this opportunity will not come twice."

Harry nearly rolled his eyes at her overprotectiveness but couldn't help the swoop of pleasure it sent through him to see his friends defend him so adamantly, even if he personally thought it was a bit unnecessary. He felt Draco's hand tighten around his own a second before the blond looked up to meet Hermione's gaze, nodding seriously.

"I promise, Granger."

She relaxed with a nod, canceling the privacy spell still in place around them. "Then I accept. Ron?"

Ron shrugged as he turned back to his breakfast. "I personally still think the whole thing is hilarious. And whatever gets Harry to finally stop whinging on and on about Malfoy, 'cos so far, their being together is the only thing I've ever seen make him stop."

Harry glared at the redhead, turning it on Malfoy as the blond sniggered softly.

"Like you were ever any better," Ron rolled his eyes at Draco, earning himself a second glare.

"As if I ever whinged about this one," he said in a haughty voice, jerking his chin in Harry's direction.

"Right," Ron responded sarcastically, shaking his head in amusement, "you never once complained about him or targeted him at all, did you? Please," he guffawed, "did you think everyone went to such extremes to get his attention, then?"

Malfoy's glare vanished as he blushed, ducking his head and allowing his hair to swing forward.

Harry laughed. "Well, he definitely never failed to get it, that's for damn sure."

"Must you agree with his lies, Potter?" Draco sighed in exasperation, shaking his head in embarrassed amusement.

"Only when they're true," Harry grinned, laughing when Draco snatched his hand away with a huff.

"See if I ever eat another meal with you," he muttered, succeeding in stretching Harry's smile.

"I thought I was meant to reward you with sexual favors for your being here?"

Draco shook his head in amusement. "And you most certainly will be, after subjecting me to all this."

Harry grinned widely. "I can't wait."

"Okay," Ron interrupted in a firm voice, "I think I changed my mind, it's no longer funny to me. I officially revoke my blessing unless you promise there will be no more talk of sexual favors between the two of you. Especially while I'm trying to eat."

Chuckling, Harry shrugged. "Your fault for trying to eat around us when we clearly have sexual favors to discuss. Lots of sexual favors."

"Aaand, I'm done," Ron grumbled, pushing his nearly-empty plate away from himself as he muttered under his breath.

Laughing, Harry turned to exchange a warm look with Draco, chuckling as Ron made gagging noises across from them. Draco smiled shyly at the brunet as Harry continued to stare, earning even louder gagging noises from Ron as a result. Ignoring the redhead, Harry pressed a kiss to Draco's cheek, chuckling when he blushed.

"Potter," he murmured, cheeks pinks, "We're in public, you realize. That sort of thing is hardly appropriate."

Across from them, they heard Ron snort loudly. "Aren't you the one who snogged his face off in front of half the castle only yesterday, Malfoy? But a kiss on the cheek is inappropriate?"

Flushing harder, Draco turned to him with one eyebrow raised. "Point well made, Weasley," he said smoothly, earning a confused look from Ron before suddenly tugging Harry into a deep kiss right there in the Great Hall. They heard gasps echoing around the room but they both ignored the sounds of shock rippling around them, happily sinking into the embrace. Finally, Malfoy pulled away with a smile, the expression turning into a smirk as he turned to Ron. "So, Weasley, you were saying something about appropriateness?"

"Next time, the two of you can eat at the Slytherin table," he grumbled.

Harry chuckled at the cross expression on Ron's face as the whispers throughout the Great Hall slowly began to fade.

"Harry! Oi!" a voice called loudly behind the two of them, and Harry froze as he recognized it.

Shit, he thought in sudden panic. Ginny.

They had managed to avoid her for two whole days, but it seemed like she had finally tracked them down. Heart pounding nervously, Harry considered telling Draco to make a run for it and leave him behind as a willing sacrifice so the Gryffindor could heroically and very nobly give his life in the upcoming battle with the redheaded ball of fury stalking closer with every hard footstep. Come on, Harry, he shook his head, you've faced Voldemort, for Christ's sake. You've destroyed Horcruxes. You can definitely face your ex-girlfriend. Hopefully.

Draco's hand tightened around his own as Ginny marched up to them and crossed her arms, glaring fiercely. "I need to talk to you, Harry."

"Er, hi, Ginny," Harry greeted awkwardly, reaching up with the hand not tangled with Draco's own and raking nervous fingers through his hair.

Draco said nothing, face hardened into concrete as he straightened his back and raised one eyebrow at Ginny in challenge.

"I need to talk to you, Harry," she repeated through gritted teeth. "Alone," she snapped at Draco, who still had not released his hand.

"I dunno, Gin," Harry stalled, searching for the quickest escape route. "We're meant to be meeting up with Ron and Hermione, actually, so…"

"So they can wait," she replied coolly. "They'll be fine. But if you think you can continue to just avoid me like this, Harry James Potter, you better fucking think again."

Sighing, Harry turned to Draco beseechingly, silently asking with his eyes if Draco was all right with it. Returning the sigh, Draco nodded, gesturing to the empty classroom behind them. Harry offered him a small smile, squeezing his hand before turning to Ginny, who was glaring vicious daggers at the both of them.

"Er, we can talk in here, then, I suppose," Harry told her, squeezing Draco's hand once before dropping it to step past him and open the door to the unused room.

Ginny marched in after him, back ramrod straight and seething with anger. Feeling only slightly scared for his life, Harry followed her, allowing the creaky door to swing shut behind him. He turned to find Ginny casting a silencing charm over the room.

"Don't want your boyfriend listening in," she said in a cold voice, arms folded and every vitriolic word dripping contempt. "I mean, that is what Slytherins do best, isn't it? Sneak around and eavesdrop? It's like spreading lies is its own sport to them, isn't it?"

"Did you bring me in here just to insult Draco?" Harry asked coolly, copying Ginny's stance. "Because I don't have to be here, Ginny, I can leave right now. If you think for one second that I'm going to listen to that sort of—"

"I brought you in here to ask you why you never told me!" she interrupted, face flushing red as she took an angry step closer, dropping her arms down to her sides, both hands clenched into tight fists. "Do you have any idea what it was like to hear something like this from other people? Do you have any idea what it was like to hear from about a hundred different people that he"—she spat the word—"is the one you're now with?!"

"I'm sorry," Harry said uncomfortably, shifting his weight between feet. "I didn't mean to make you feel like that or embarrass you or anything. But…I mean, I did tell you I was seeing someone…"

"Yeah, someone!" she snapped, "Not Draco fucking Malfoy! Not another bloke! You could have at least told me you were gay, Harry! You could have at least told me that, if nothing else! I would have understood that! But no, you wanted to completely knock me off my broom when it went public, didn't you?!"

"I'm not gay, though," Harry blurted, the room falling into silence as Ginny narrowed her eyes.

"Well, you sure do a damn good impression of it," she drawled sarcastically.

"That's not how it works, Gin," Harry sighed. "Do you really think I was faking our entire relationship? You think I was never actually attracted to you or ever had real feelings for you? You think I was lying every time I told you how much you meant to me? You think I was only with you to, what? Make it seem like I was straight? Make it seem like I had a girlfriend? Do you really honestly think I would ever just use you like that?"

Ginny continued to glare, but Harry could also see hurt in the brown of her eyes and he grimaced as he realized that yes, that was exactly what she had thought.

"Ginny, I would never do that to you," he said softly, risking taking one small step forward. "But those promises I made you back when we broke up…I was a different person before the end of the war," he frowned, wondering how best to explain it to Ginny in actual words, "and I'm a different person now. And I'm sorry, Ginny, I really, really am, but…" he took a deep breath, "but I can't force things that I don't feel. I just…don't see you that way anymore. I still care about you, but it's different now. It's not the same as it once was."

"So you're saying you love him?" she asked angrily, mouth trembling. "You're saying that this really is the end for us? You're choosing him?"

"Yeah, I am," Harry said, still speaking in a soft voice, "I didn't go looking for it and I sure as hell wasn't expecting it, but…"

"You should have told me!" Ginny argued, voice weakening as she tried to hold onto her anger, eyes bloodshot as the frown on her face gradually began to lessen.

"Yeah, maybe I should have," Harry agreed, scratching the back of his neck as he wondered what the next best move would be. "I still want you in my life, you know," he said truthfully, startling her as she stared at him as though trying to find any untruths in the statement. "I still want us to be friends and everything. I really do mean it when I tell you how much I still care about you. I mean, I've known you since I was twelve," he smiled, earning an eye roll from Ginny.

"You mean when I was too scared to even be in the same room with you?"

"Yeah," Harry shrugged. "Don't you count that as the first time we met, too?"

Ginny said nothing, staring away from him in the direction of the far wall. "I'll try, Harry, but I don't think I'll be ready for friendship for a while," she finally admitted in a low voice. "And I don't know how long it will take me to be able to see the two of you together, or if I'll ever even be able to."

"Just let me know when you are," he said with a sad smile, unsure of what else to say, "You know how to find me. And besides," his smile widened by a fraction, "I'm not the center of the universe, you know."

A reluctant smile flashed across her face before it was gone, replaced by a heavy sigh. "Guess you better not keep—" she seemed to struggle with words for a moment, "him waiting too long, or anything."

"Yeah," Harry murmured. Offering her another sad smile, Harry turned to leave, one hand on the knob before her voice stopped him.

"Harry," she called, and he turned back to face her, eyebrows raised in inquiry. "Are you happy?" she asked softly, face red and eyes finally devoid of the rage that had been rolling off her in waves when they had first entered the room.

"Yeah," Harry said, a sincere smile spreading across his face. "Yeah, Gin, I really am."

"Okay, then," she nodded, eyes bright with unshed tears and hands trembling as she raised her arms to wrap around herself protectively. "Okay then, Harry. As long as—as long as you're happy."

"Thank you," he said softly as he twisted the knob and stepped from the room, instantly spotting Draco leaning against the opposite wall, twisting a thick lock of hair around his index finger before letting it fall loose, repeating the action twice more before he glanced up and noticed Harry watching him.

"So," he shrugged away from the wall and strode slowly over to the brunet. "How many hexes did you have to deflect?"

"None," Harry chuckled, slipping his hand back into Draco's and beginning to lead them down the corridor once more. "We just talked. It went a lot better than I was expecting, actually."

"So are things…okay, then, between the two of you?" Draco asked cautiously, and Harry squeezed his hand in comfort.

"I think they will be one day. But when that day comes," Harry smiled and pulled them to a halt, stroking his nails through the ends of Draco's long silken hair, "it'll be friendship between us and nothing more. I meant it when I said I don't see her that way any longer. She asked me if I'm really choosing you over everything else, and I said yes. And then she asked me if I'm happy, and I said yes." He bent forward to press a kiss to Draco's mouth just as the rain outside started to fall, making Harry smile at the sound. "Just like our first kiss, hmm?" he gestured toward the window, where they could see raindrops falling in sheets around the castle, starting to slowly melt the surface of the snow still clinging to the ground far below them.

"How did I ever end up with someone as ridiculously sentimental as you?" Draco shook his head fondly as they turned to continue down the corridor.

"Luck," Harry grinned.

"Sure, if that's what you want to call it," Draco retorted.

Harry snorted but made no comment as they continued on their way, listening to their own footsteps echo back to them before Draco suddenly pulled them to a halt. Harry turned to face him curiously, surprise growing as he found Draco pink-cheeked.

"I'm happy too, you know," he blurted, glancing down at the floor before looking back up at Harry. "If anyone asked me, I would say yes too. Just so you know."

The unexpected confession earned a smile from Harry, stretching so wide he was sure his face was seconds away from breaking in half. He wrapped both arms around Draco and pulled him into his chest, smiling at him once more before leaning forward to press a kiss to his mouth. Draco returned it without hesitation, resting one hand around the back of Harry's neck and the other on Harry's shoulder. Neither of them said any words—they didn't need to. Everything they needed to say was being conveyed clearly enough, both understanding one other perfectly; knowing each other deeply, faults and all, regrets and past mistakes, hopes and expectations.

It was a long time before they moved from that spot, allowing the rest of the world to fall away as they traded kisses full of fire in an empty corridor to the gentle sounds of rain falling.

And nothing in Harry's life had ever been so perfect.