not your typical annihilatrix (furiosity) wrote,
not your typical annihilatrix
furiosity

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Fic: [HP] Ascension [Harry/Draco; R] (20)

Title: Ascension [ToC]
Chapter: XX. Undertow
Author: furiosity
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Slice-of-life/Drama/Romance
Pairing: Harry/Draco; others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Rating: Hard R
Chapter Warnings: None.
Chapter Length: 7900 words
Chapter Summary: Ginny takes a short walk, time does what it does best, Harry gets into trouble, and Draco contemplates his realm.
Beta: None. Read at your own risk.
Note: This was a CYOA fic styled after the 乙女ゲーム/Otome game genre. There was a poll at the end of each chapter, and readers' majority vote decided the POV character's actions for the following chapter.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.

[Previously, Ginny decided to investigate the shrubbery.]

Undertow


There was a soft rustling from the tall shrubs to Ginny's left.

She peered around the hedge, hoping to use the distraction as an excuse to stall for time. There was a corridor of sorts between that hedge and the next row over, and a third row was just visible over the top of the second one, like a maze. As Ginny took a hesitant step inside the corridor, a small hand reached around the second hedgerow and pulled her around. Ginny was about to call a warning when she recognised her captor as Priya. She was dressed in the team's uniform robes; the dominant dark green colour made her fade into the hedge -- from a distance, one might not even notice her.

"There's no time," Priya hissed, put a finger to her lips, and then, her other hand still gripping Ginny's wrist, she spun the Time-Turner hanging from her neck, twice. Colours and whispers swirled in Ginny's mind for a brief instant, and then she stood between the second and third rows of hedges, just as before, blinking dazedly at Priya.

"What in the world--?"

"Keep your voice down," Priya said. "If you and your friend hear us when you arrive in about ten minutes, they'll look for another spot to talk, and then we'll all be in a damned fine pickle." She let go of Ginny, pulled a small piece of parchment from her robe sleeve, and handed it over.

The bearer of this document is in the employ of the United States' Ministry of Magic. Those to whom it is presented are to co-operate under pain of prosecution to the fullest extent of wizarding law.

An embossed seal glittered beneath the letters -- a brick pyramid topped with a circle. Inside the circle was a triangle, out of which stared a human eye. The official seal of the American Ministry.

"If you knew anything about the Overseers, you'd have asked Angela Kettle for one of these," Priya said. "Except she doesn't have one."

"So she's not an Overseer?" Ginny ventured, returning the document.

"Oh, she thinks she is. That's what makes this whole thing so damned uncomfortable -- the fool girl really believes she's serving her country. Come this way, so we don't have to move later."

Ginny followed her quietly a little ways down the row of shrubs, to a spot where they broke apart again. If she walked out through the gap, she'd be just behind the swings. "I'm supposed to come out here once the other you has grabbed the other me," she said. "Right?"

"I knew you'd get it," Priya said. "We don't have much time before you get here, so let me do the talking."

Ginny nodded, crouching a little so that the top of her head wouldn't be visible even by chance, wishing she'd kept the team robes on so she could've used the hood. It was difficult to hide flame-red hair, even in the dark.

"Angela has the right of it -- the amount of money in sports betting is tremendous. What she doesn't know is that most of the money in our current economy is controlled by a small handful of large conglomerates. Oh, there's plenty of it to go around to the day-to-day work of smaller companies, no doubt, but that's peanuts, and besides, most of the small companies are constantly being quietly taken over by the big five. It started about a hundred years ago, and the US government acted too late to stop it, and now our ministers are at the mercy of the corporations in all respects but the written law. We have worked quietly to undo the damage and reverse the situation, but truth and justice only get you halfway. Money gets you everywhere."

Priya's tone was as no-nonsense as when she discussed play strategies with the team, but her dark eyes glittered with a passion Ginny had never seen before.

"The sports racket is one of the weakest links in the chains the money-grubbing bastards have around the country, and they know it. It's one hundred per cent illegal, and they are not exempt from the laws yet. So they have set up a fake Overseer force of their own to ensure the government couldn't get a foot in the door if we tried. The fake Overseers are trained at what they think are government compounds. They're trained very well, using the methods of various Muggle secret police outfits. Then they're sent to serve on the teams, to quell suspicion or quietly remove anyone who will not be quiet about their suspicions. The bastards did this long before we thought to infiltrate the teams, so even if one of ours manages inside, we usually find that the potential dissenters are either gone or too scared to say boo."

Hermione's laughter sounded in the distance -- their past selves were about to arrive. Ginny crouched lower.

"You think I didn't know you were listening outside my door after I told you about the game?" Priya asked her, dropping her voice another notch. "I knew. I started the call when I did hoping you'd stick around to listen. Part of the reason I was all for you on the team was that you are technically outside Overseer jurisdiction, and I knew enough about your past and about your friends to guess you weren't going to be quiet if you learned what was going on. You were damned lucky that the guy you asked about Bert Coury had enough sense not to blab everything into your Floo message; if he had, you'd have been sent home the next day on some bullshit pretext. I knew you weren't going to let it rest, and I was trying to figure out how to make contact without red-flagging myself. When I got word from the watchmen that you had a visitor from back home--"

"The watchmen?"

"You ever looked closely at the trees outside your building?" Priya asked. Ginny's and Hermione's past selves -- though it was difficult to think of two hours ago as the past -- had reached the swings, and Hermione was beginning the story.

"I haven't," Ginny whispered. "Not really."

"Some of them are towers housing guards on every floor, disguised as trees by magic. The guards are always watching. You already know Floo connections are watched, and all letters from home are opened and read. Starting next year, all writing desks and coffee tables will be coated with Memory Silk. That'll let them read outgoing letters. Anyway, they think I work for them, so I get reports from the watchmen whenever anyone does anything funny."

Ginny frowned, remembering -- during evening practice, just as she'd thought they were about to wrap up, a man had delivered a note to Priya. "So that's why you made us run late," she said.

"Yeah," Priya said. "I knew the fake Overseer would get a report, too -- I just didn't know who it was until I saw Angela following you two. Her note must've been waiting under her door."

Priya fell silent. After waiting for her to speak again for a long time, as Hermione's tale continued to unfold, Ginny finally whispered, "So I know how you got here and why. Now what?"

"Now you can take your time to make a decision," Priya said. "I've just added one more choice to Angela's proposal: stay and pretend you won't stir shit while helping me do just that. Will you make that choice?"

Ginny snorted softly. "You have to ask? Your research on me can't have been that great."

"My research was fucking awesome," Priya shot back. "But yeah, I do have to ask. That's what makes us different from them." She jerked her head in the direction of the oak tree behind which, Ginny knew now, Angela lurked and waited. "It won't be easy," Priya added. "You will not be safe."

"I know," Ginny said. "But you have my answer."

"Good." Priya tucked the Time Turner underneath her robes. "I'm going to go back and wait for Angela to come home. Stay here with Miss Granger until I send word. Then you can tell her what happened."

Ginny nodded, and Priya disappeared behind the third hedgerow, silent as midnight in a house of ghosts. She listened to the rest of Hermione's story again, her guts twisting into knots all over again, worse now that she had no more room for disbelief. When Angela showed up, Ginny tensed, wishing fervently to step out and throw it in her face that she was no true Overseer. But she could no longer blame Angela -- she had been unlucky enough to be fooled by those who recruited her into believing she was doing good work for the good of her own country, even for the world. If Ginny had been approached by the newly reformed Ministry of Magic and asked to serve its interests, she would have done it gladly, just like Harry had.

What if... What if she could help Angela find out the truth about her real employers? Might they not gain a formidable ally...? But she couldn't do that now. She had to have proof that Angela had been duped before she could hope for anything like that.

"Hermione is my friend," Ginny's past self said through her teeth. "Don't make it sound like she's got her own agenda. She just knows me better than you ever will."

"Fair enough. So what'll it be, freedom fighters?"

Ginny waited for the rustle that would catch her past self's attention, but the hedgerow was silent. Then she remembered Harry's story about thinking he had seen his father when it had been his own future self. Understanding, she seized a fistful of shrubbery and shook it violently, peering anxiously along the corridor. When she saw her own hair swing into view, she spun and flattened herself against the hedge's narrow end, now in plain view of anyone on the playground. She prayed that Angela would stare after her past self. If she looked to this end of the hedgerow...

Then she heard her other self's soft hiss as Priya's past self pulled her around. It was time.

Ginny put on her best suspicious frown and walked out of the shrubbery. "Was there someone else here?" she called to Angela, who had started to move towards the hedge.

"Not that I know of," Angela said, stopping. "Did you see anyone?"

"No -- if there was anyone there, they're gone now." It was one hundred per cent true. Her past self and Priya would be gone into the past by now. No, wait -- her past self went to the past? Wasn't she in the future? The present? How had Hermione handled using a Time Turner without going mad?

"Don't look at me like that," Angela said, apparently mistaking Ginny's confusion for suspicion. "I am alone. If someone else followed us, it wasn't with my knowledge." She glanced behind her doubtfully, and Ginny could see that she was itching to leave, to make her report and caution the watchers that someone may be onto her.

"Fine," Ginny said with a shrug. "Anyway, I've decided that I'm going to keep my mouth shut. I don't really care about this team or your country. I just want to play Quidditch."

Hermione gasped. "Ginny, how can you say that--?"

"Shut up, Hermione, you're not my mother!" Ginny snapped, mentally apologising, but she couldn't betray her true intentions even with so much as a brow twitch -- Angela was watching her very closely.

Hermione sat back down, clearly hurt, and Ginny willed Angela to bloody well leave already.

"Good," Angela said after a few moments of studying Ginny's face. "I'm glad you decided to be sensible. Be seeing you."

She started to make her way towards the road, and Ginny walked back to the swing and touched Hermione's arm. Hermione didn't react, and Ginny tugged on her jacket sleeve, insistent. When Hermione did look up, Ginny pointed in Angela's direction with her chin, and shook her head slightly.

Hermione's eyebrows shot up as the hurt vanished from her eyes.

"Argue with me," Ginny said in a low whisper. "She's listening."

Hermione nodded. "I can't believe you," she said. "What's happened to you since you left? Did you suddenly forget all the things we fought for?"

"Get real," Ginny said, sitting back down on the swing. "We fought against Voldemort, and he's dead. I don't see any Dark magic here, just a bunch of greedy blokes with too much time on their hands."

"We also fought against Umbridge and her ilk!" Hermione's voice had just the right amount of righteous anger in it -- if Ginny didn't know they were acting, she would've felt abashed. "People who manipulate others, who don't play fair--"

"Come on, Hermione. All that talk about fighting -- you, my brother, and Harry spent most of the bloody war camping, running from the Snatchers, while I had to watch my friends be made examples of by Death Eaters! Excuse me if I've lost my taste for war."

"Is that what you really think?" Hermione asked, and Ginny could tell she was truly asking the question.

"What do you think?" she snapped, shaking her head vehemently.

"You think it was easy for us to run?" Hermione shouted. "And don't talk to me about fighting -- we had to fight our way out of Gringotts, out of the Ministry, oh, and did you forget Malfoy Manor? But you -- no one touched a hair on your precious little pure-blood head, did they, and here you are--"

"Oh, excuse me for not having been born into a Muggle family," Ginny countered, rolling her eyes and covering her mouth to keep in the giggles threatening to burst forth. Hermione was having similar difficulty, but they had to keep it up until Priya's word came.

They carried on in a similar fashion, their arguments growing more and more inane -- more than once, Hermione collapsed against the swing's support and took huge, choking breaths with her hands over her mouth. To a listener, they might've sounded like sobs, and Ginny kept a close eye on the trees in front of her -- who was to say Angela hadn't circled around to observe them from there?

As Ginny racked her brain yet again for another pointless insult, a silvery-white eagle flew into the playground. It hovered in front of them for two wing-beats, and Priya's voice said, "It's safe." The Patronus vanished, and Ginny turned to Hermione, relieved.

-

two months later


"That is the less important part," Malfoy was saying.

Ginny -- who still hadn't quite processed that Malfoy was apparently a counsellor now, and in charge of her mother's file, no less -- shook her head, interrupting him. "Look," she said. "I just got home yesterday and I've got less than a week before I go back to the States; can you stick to the important parts?"

Malfoy sniffed. "You can't just skip over everything to get to the important parts. This isn't like Potions, Weasley. Not that you'd know anything about that."

Ginny rolled her eyes, deciding not to inform Malfoy that she had been at the top of her class in Potions even with Snape for a professor. "Fine," she said. "I'll meet you somewhere after Christmas and we'll talk about it," she said. "But now's really not a good time. Besides," she continued, "I've got something else I need to talk to you about."

Malfoy raised his pale eyebrows. "The team thing? You're still on that? It's dangerous."

Ginny glanced around frantically. She had learned the hard way that no place could be trusted, and with the Burrow mostly deserted save for her mother, who couldn't be everywhere at once, there were no guarantees no one was listening. "No," she said, nodding firmly. "I've been done with that for ages. I just don't have time to explain right now, but I'll tell you when I see you. I'll send an owl."

As much as she hated the idea of having Malfoy help her with anything, Priya was right: they needed all the help they could get, and if Malfoy was still willing to help, Ginny would take it whether she liked it or not.

"I hope you don't think this is a date, Weasley," Malfoy drawled, reaching for the Floo powder.

Ginny snorted. "Watch out for flying pigs."

Malfoy took a handful of the powder and then turned back, his expression oddly unguarded. "Ginny, I--"

Taken aback at the familiarity, Ginny just blinked at him. "What?"

"Nothing," Malfoy said, his face as pink as her mother's new lawn ornaments. "Happy Christmas. Malfoy Manor!"

"Happy Christmas?" Ginny muttered to the empty fireplace. "The world has gone quite mad."

*

Harry stood with his back pressed against the wall, praying that Ginny would choose another doorway when she exited. He had meant to say hello, but after hearing her conversation with Malfoy, his fists were so tight his knuckles were hurting, and he didn't trust himself to be even remotely polite.

Ginny and Malfoy. Ginny and Malfoy. He hadn't seen their faces, but their bantering had been so easy -- too easy, as though they'd done it for ages. He understood now what Malfoy had meant by all those sidelong glances and knowing smiles. He'd been with Ginny -- when or how, Harry could not tell. He would have gone back to the office and scoured his file for when Malfoy had managed a trip to the States with his restrictions, but the file was no longer his, and even though everyone would've gone home for Christmas break, he doubted Dawlish would appreciate Harry breaking into his files.

But it makes no sense. If that was it, why wouldn't Malfoy throw it in my face? Why not just tell me, if only to see me suffer?

Because Ginny asked him not to tell, Harry answered himself firmly. She had to have, given what she thought of me back then, and probably still does. And if he cares for her--

Of course. It made perfect sense now, why Malfoy had helped Ginny to get on the team, why he'd been so obviously worried about her when she'd uncovered that scandalous betting scheme. Hell, Ginny might have known all along that Laura Delamare was Malfoy in disguise -- she could've been with Malfoy before she'd ever left for the States. She'd been so willing to go along with his plan to have her bump into Laura and find out what she was about; maybe that had had everything to do with her knowing who Laura really was. She had agreed to help Harry because she didn't want him sending someone else after Malfoy -- after all, Malfoy hadn't been doing anything illegal.

But how? When? When would Ginny have changed her mind about Malfoy enough to let him speak to her, let alone touch her? They'd bumped into Laura scarcely a month after the Malfoys had returned to England.

He heard Ginny's voice somewhere upstairs. She must have left the drawing room another way, just as he'd hoped. He couldn't say here, not now. He went back to the kitchen, intending to Disapparate from the back garden.

"Did you find her, dear?" Mrs Weasley asked, looking up from her crossword puzzle.

Seven pots bubbled merrily on the stovetop, and the kitchen was hotter than a summer's day, so she was wearing only a light t-shirt and a kerchief to keep her hair back. He'd been so anxious to see Ginny that he hadn't realised Mrs Weasley looked -- younger, somehow, than the last time Harry had seen her.

"No," Harry said. "But I just remembered something for work, it's urgent. I'll be back in a few days. In the meantime, tell Ginny I said hello."

"Are you sure you're not going to spend Christmas here?" she asked.

"Sorry," Harry said, ducking out. "See you, Mrs Weasley!"

"At least put on a scarf -- it's cold!"

-

Harry lay in his bed, his mind still a jumbled mess. He had jumped to conclusions; he could see that readily enough, but what if he was right? And if he was, who else had known? Not Ron, certainly -- he wouldn’t have kept something like that from Harry. But could Hermione had known? And would she have kept it from Harry? No, it was ridiculous. It made no sense; he needed to speak to Ginny, not work himself up into a jealous frenzy. He'd already lost her once because of that.

The worst of it was, now he wasn't even sure why he was jealous -- because of Ginny or because of Malfoy. He hadn't seen Malfoy since the day they'd caught Rita Skeeter. Knowing that his inappropriate thoughts about Malfoy were absolutely inexcusable, and since he could not stop his mind from going to those places, he'd had to give up the Malfoy file. But since then, the tiny crush borne of curiosity had only grown, and avoiding Malfoy had helped not at all. Most nights he didn't even have to fall asleep to dream of Malfoy writhing beneath him, his cruel mouth slack and hungry for Harry's cock. Just thinking about it made his lower belly squirm as his throat dried out.

"FUCK!" Harry shouted, pounding the mattress with his fist.

Artie hopped up to join him, and the bedsprings creaked under his weight. "Yes, that would be best," Artie said. "I don't think I've ever seen you do that, and I've read it's not healthy to go without for long. In fact, I've never done it, and I should like to try."

"Artie, please, not now," Harry groaned. Artie's voice hadn't changed much, unlike his size and weight, and hearing a small boy talking about wishing to get laid was, well, it just felt all wrong. Not to mention hearing the same voice advise Harry to get laid.

"What happened? You've been beating the crap out of the bed all afternoon. Is it the bed's fault you can't boink anyone?" Artie swiped at the duvet cover experimentally. "I could teach it a lesson." He presented his paw, claws extended, for Harry's inspection.

Harry took it between his fingers and stroked the soft, shaggy fur with his thumb. "The bed is not at fault," he muttered.

Artie withdrew his paw. "Then perhaps you ought to go and beat someone who is at fault."

"Would that I could," Harry said, sliding his hands behind his head.

Artie settled against Harry's side with a mellow purr. "Say, do you think I could boink a dog?"

Harry shut his eyes, groaning inwardly. "No, Artie; that would be unwise."

"Pity. Those people we're going to see, they've got a female dog, have they not?"

"Don't remind me," Harry muttered, flopping onto his stomach and hiding his face in the pillow.

Why had he accepted the invitation? Why? Andromeda and Teddy were spending Christmas at Malfoy Manor, and Narcissa had invited Harry. A mere courtesy, he was sure; Andromeda had probably her to so Harry could spend Christmas with Teddy. Why hadn't he tried to persuade her to go to the Weasleys' instead, and to spend Boxing Days with Narcissa? But he knew why, of course -- the Weasleys weren't Andromeda's family, or Teddy's. It was not Harry's place to object. But why had he accepted?

Because you wanted to see Malfoy. Maybe even to talk to him. Maybe even--

Harry growled into his pillow and lifted it up around his head to cover his ears. "FUCK!"

"Stop shouting," Artie advised him. "And explain to me why I can't boink this female dog. Do you think she won't like me? Don't you always tell me I'm handsome?"

Harry sighed. "You are handsome. But she'll be twice your size by now, for starters. Remember that big one I brought here once, Betsy? Same breed."

"I don't see the problem," Artie said. "I'm sure it can happen somehow, if she agrees and then holds still--"

"Artie, you're not the same species. It won't work, trust me."

"But I've read that some humans boink sheep and horses and cows--"

"Oh, that's disgusting," Harry mumbled, sitting up. "Artie, those humans are ill. They're never supposed to do that to animals. And what the hell have you been reading, anyway?"

"This and that," Artie said, swishing his tail back and forth. "Just things in the cellar. You haven't bought me any books in ages."

"I'm sorry," Harry said, reflecting that it had been a most splendid idea to buy Artie that twenty-eight volume Muggle encyclopaedia for Christmas. If Harry didn't provide him with appropriate reading material, soon Artie would find a Dark Arts tome and start trying to get Harry to show him the spells.

Right now, the thought of spending Christmas here at Grimmauld Place, with just Artie for company, held infinite appeal.

But for Teddy, he wouldn't have hesitated to write to Narcissa and tell her that he wouldn't make it after all. But Teddy had been so excited about spending Christmas with Harry. If Harry didn't show up, Teddy would be heartbroken, and he would think it was his fault. Children's worlds were very small, and they didn't understand the quarrels of adults.

And if Harry were not to go to the Malfoys', Mrs Weasley would hear about it from Andromeda eventually, and she'd want to know why. What would he tell her? She certainly understood the quarrels of adults, and she had been like a mother to him. But she was more than just the likeness of a mother to Ginny, and it just wasn't Harry's place to say anything about the Malfoy thing. If it was a thing.

No, he had no choice. He would steel himself and spend Christmas at Malfoy Manor to make Teddy happy. The next morning, they'd go to the Burrow together, and by then Harry hoped he'd have calmed down enough not to do anything stupid.

-

Harry had been expecting -- dreading, really -- a large party with Malfoy and Black relatives distant and close in attendance, but it was just six of them -- Narcissa, Andromeda, Teddy, Luce, Harry, and Malfoy. When Harry had expressed his surprise, Narcissa had merely shrugged and said that not all of their relatives had made their peace with how the war had ended, and she simply had not been in the mood to negotiate those waters.

Throughout the day, Harry had made a point of spending every moment near Teddy, who was sticking close to Luce, who in turn was fascinated by Artie. For his part, Artie had apparently not quite given up on the notion of making love to the Malfoy family dog. Harry couldn't be sure, but Dorsey seemed a bit reluctant to approach their little group.

Artie was on unusually good behaviour -- he had become quite sloppy at hiding his ability in recent weeks, but tonight Harry hadn't needed to pretend like he'd spoken in a funny voice even once. Yet.

He had barely glanced at Malfoy all day and all evening, through meals and presents. Narcissa had given Harry a handsome winter cloak with a diamond-studded golden clasp shaped like the antlers of a stag, along with a thick book on Kneazle psychology. He had consulted with Andromeda and bought her Forever Flowers -- a small but dreadfully expensive box of seeds that refilled itself each spring, and there was no knowing what the flowers would be until they bloomed. Andromeda had got him a new set of Quidditch robes, and Teddy proudly presented him with a clay cupcake that said "I love you" in Teddy's own voice when shaken. Teddy had made the cupcake, and Andromeda had enchanted it, and Harry assured an anxious Teddy that it was his very favourite.

But as the kids tore into their presents -- well, Teddy tore into both of their presents, really, since Luce was not quite old enough to understand that the colourful wrappings were not the presents -- Harry had no choice but to rejoin the adults. It seemed that Andromeda had warmed up to Malfoy.

He was laughing at something she'd said as Harry took his seat at the table, and then he looked at Harry, their eyes meeting for the first time since -- Harry couldn't even remember.

And Malfoy winked.

And Harry's jovial mood evaporated, because he knew what Malfoy was winking at him about. He'd probably already seen Ginny somewhere, Harry thought sullenly as he poked at the remains of his Christmas pudding. Been with Ginny.

"What's the matter, Harry?" Andromeda asked. "You don't look well."

"I'm not," Harry said, glad of the opportunity. "I think I may be more tired than I thought."

"Oh, you don't need to stay up on our account," Narcissa put in. "Draco will show you to your room, won't you, darling?"

"With pleasure," Malfoy said, and it was almost a purr, and Harry didn't understand. He had had his share of eggnog, but he hadn't had that much. Why was Malfoy doing anything that involved Harry with pleasure? Was he so triumphant because he could finally tell Harry about his affair with Ginny now, and he just couldn't wait to see the look on Harry's face? Malfoy was saying something else to the women, but Harry only understood that Malfoy too intended to retire, and what a lovely evening it had been.

He had been following Malfoy silently through the mansion for about ten minutes when he remembered the drawings of Malfoy Manor from his file. These were not the guest quarters.

"Malfoy," Harry called. "Did you forget you were supposed to show me where to go?"

Malfoy turned around. "No, I haven't forgotten. I will do that right after I give you your Christmas present."

"My Christmas present," Harry repeated. "From you."

Malfoy opened the door to his rooms and shoved Harry inside. Before Harry could react, Malfoy locked the door with a spell and started to undo the fastenings on his dress robes. "Yeah," he said, fiddling with a stubborn clasp as he shepherded Harry into the bedroom. "Why are you so surprised? This is my home, and you are a guest at Christmas. It would be remiss of me not to give you a present."

He stripped the robes off, and Harry's face burned; Malfoy was quite naked underneath. "Why are you undressing?" He looked away, first at the wall clock, then at the Quidditch posters across from the bed; the players were whooping soundlessly and pointing at the two of them. Embarrassed, Harry returned his gaze to Malfoy.

Malfoy was looking back at him with a half-smile that was neither mocking nor sincere. "Why aren't you? If you'd like a proper blowjob, you've got to strip."

The words alone were enough to send Harry's guts twisting with equal parts rage and desire; his body responded before his mind did, and there he stood, staring at Malfoy's half-hard cock, his own cock pressing uncomfortably up against the waistband of his pants.

"Don't fuck with me, Malfoy," Harry managed finally. "I know about you and Ginny."

"Me and Ginny? What about me and Ginny?"

"You've been with her, haven't you? You've just--"

Malfoy looked genuinely puzzled. "What the fuck are you on about? I've never touched the girl." The half-smile appeared again. "Not that I didn't want to," he continued. "I did, but that's done now; don't you read the American papers? She's dating that big-shot Quidditch reporter from Boston, Mark somebody or other."

Harry just stared. "What?"

"You didn't know? I had big plans for Ginny Weasley, there, I confess. You've got me there. But someone else got there first, and by the time I'm free to go where I like, I'll have to go up against Mark somebody, and frankly I don't think I stand a fucking chance."

"You thought you stood a chance against me?"

"She left you, Potter. But no, I don't stand a fucking chance against you, do I?" Malfoy murmured, gesturing down at himself, as though it were perfectly natural for him to stand around in Harry's presence with his cock hanging out. "Look at me. Ever since you got away from me that day, I've wanted you. You're not even my type, for fuck's sake."

Harry tried to swallow, but his throat was too dry.

"I want to know what you look like when you come. I'm fucking sick of thinking about it. You want me, too. I can tell, because you're hard and I haven't even touched you yet."

Instinctively, Harry covered his crotch with his hands. How the fuck could Malfoy tell through robes? One of the reasons Harry liked wizarding clothing was that it had made his puberty a lot less embarrassing than he'd thought it would be. "That has nothing to do with anything," he said. "Ginny--"

"Potter," Malfoy said, approaching him, and his voice was almost kind. "Forget Ginny for two seconds. This isn't marriage. I'll just give you the blowjob you've so desperately wanted since you saw me sucking Blaise off. It is a gift, but you may refuse. Will you?" He was touching Harry now, just a feather-light brush of knuckles against fabric as he prised Harry's hands apart, but it sent a wave of need through Harry more powerful than he'd thought possible, like this, through clothes.

"No," Harry whispered. "I won't refuse." Why the hell would he? He'd thought of little else for the past fortnight.

Malfoy said nothing; he merely pulled Harry's robes up over his head and tossed them on the floor, then hooked his thumbs through Harry's boxers and let them fall. His fingernails scraped against Harry's skin, and he shivered, stepping mechanically out of his underpants. Malfoy stared down at him and licked his lips. "Yeah," he said unsteadily. "I might even let you put that in me." He shoved Harry hard onto the bed and climbed on top of him, covering his neck with kisses like pure fury. Harry moaned at the force of it, and then again as the meaning of Malfoy's words reached the less primitive part of his brain. He clutched at Malfoy's back, so thin he could probably play some kind of melody on his ribs if the angle was right, and wondered how someone so rail-thin could be so very strong. Or had Harry just grown weak?

"Malfoy," he tried again, and for a wonder, Malfoy got off him and walked around to the other side of the bed. With a flick of his wrist, he put his hair up with some sort of pin he'd produced from somewhere. "Gets in the way," he said, still with that half-smile Harry was growing to fear, and then knelt on the bed between Harry's legs, shoving them farther apart. Harry, mind still reeling from how incredibly fast Malfoy had gone from pure indifference to-- to this, could only watch and shiver as Malfoy took him in hand.

He stroked Harry's cock slowly, staring at it, then leaned forward and licked the very tip with the flat of his tongue.

"Wait, Malfoy -- wait," Harry said, his voice breaking. "Are you sure--"

"For fuck's sake, of course I'm sure. I wouldn't be down here if I wasn't. Sit back and enjoy yourself, Potter. I trust you can do that much." Malfoy pressed a hand to Harry's stomach and forced him back against the headboard, then took Harry's cock in his mouth.

"Oh," Harry said, and then there was nothing else he could think of saying, for Malfoy's mouth was like every fantasy he'd ever had, firm lips, soft lapping tongue, no teeth, just delicious heat and pressure that twisted Harry's insides and made him rock forward for more. He stared down at Malfoy in his lap, at the half-lidded eyes that occasionally cut to Harry's, at the way he kept brushing stray hair away from his face, as though wanting to make sure Harry saw everything -- and the seeing and the feeling, together, were just too much. He didn't know how long Malfoy had been at it; he could hardly remember where he was; the pleasure built, straining--

"Stop," Harry gasped, struggling to keep himself under control. "I-- I can't. Not yet--"

Malfoy let go of him and sat up. The cold air made Harry's cock ache sweetly, and he took a breath to steady himself, but Malfoy was moving again, straddling him and pressing close, the bare sheen of sweat on their chests first cool, then warm, and cool again as Malfoy angled back, pressing his cock against Harry's belly.

He reached down and closed his hand around Malfoy's cock; it slid against Harry's palm like damp silk. Malfoy sighed and leaned forward to kiss him, wet and slow, and began to fuck Harry's hand with an easy rhythm. Harry matched Malfoy's movements, squeezing him harder on each upstroke. Malfoy's tongue kept finding his, and Harry began to think he might come, untouched, just from tasting that heat, remembering how it felt around his cock. But coming meant this would be over, and Harry didn't want it to be over, not like this.

Harry let go of Malfoy's cock and reached back with both hands to squeeze his buttocks, hard, prising. Malfoy moaned, the sound of it reverberating through Harry's whole being. A fallen lock of Malfoy's hair tickled Harry's shoulder as he pulled away from the kiss.

"I want to fuck you," Harry breathed. It sounded wretched even to his own ears, but he could see nothing, feel nothing, taste nothing else. He wanted it so bad it almost made him dizzy.

"Are you asking permission," Malfoy whispered, leaning forward, his lips soft against Harry's ear, "or stating your intentions?"

A shudder went through Harry, and he tightened his hold on Malfoy's arse. "Both."

*

Draco woke to darkness. At first he thought he had dreamt the whole thing, which was strange, since he rarely remembered his dreams. After he reached for his wand to turn the soft evening lights on, he saw that it had been no dream.

Potter lay on his side, so bundled in the duvet cover that only the top of his head stuck out. Draco wondered how he managed to breathe with his face in the pillow like that. He looked at the wall clock. Six-thirty. He had only slept for three hours or so, yet he felt better rested than he had in weeks. He glanced at Potter again and got out of bed, wincing: whatever people said, enthusiasm did not make up for a lack of skill. He hoped no one would notice him walking funny.

Still, it had been... better than Draco had thought it would be. Maybe good enough for a next time. Or maybe not.

Quietly, Draco donned a fresh set of robes and set off for Luce's nursery. He did not want to be there when Potter woke. There would be time enough for awkward silences at breakfast. If this was to be a one-off, better to let it fade quietly. His and Potter's paths never crossed naturally; they never had. It would be easy enough to put this whole thing down to circumstance.

Did he want it to be a one-off? Potter didn't seem like the type, truthfully; but would he really want to pursue anything with Draco? Even if it were nothing but the occasional secret fuck, keeping secrets together was different from keeping secrets from one another. Shared secrets built bridges. It was frightening to contemplate coming through on the other side of years of loathing to discover it had all been a mistake. Draco wasn't at all certain he wanted that to happen to him, and he imagined Potter wouldn't want it any more than he did. But what did Draco want, really? He had expected his interest to fade once he'd had Potter, but it hadn't.

He did not find the nursery empty as he'd hoped; his mother sat by the baby's cot, watching her squirm and frown herself awake. Luce may have inherited the Black looks from her mother, but she certainly had the Malfoy morning personality: no one was to touch her after sleep until she demanded it.

"The elves tell me Harry never made it to his room," Narcissa said.

"No, he did not," Draco said, taking the seat on the other side of the cot.

Narcissa's lips tightened. "When did you plan on telling me?"

"There is nothing to tell, Mother," Draco said, staring at his sister. "Not yet. Maybe not ever."

Luce sat up ponderously and yawned, then rubbed her head with both hands, fluffing her sleep-matted hair -- very short, but thick and white-blond like her mother's. Draco still found it hard to believe that just a year ago, she had been a tiny, helpless blob of a baby, not sure what to do with her flailing limbs. Back then all that seemed to interest her were feedings, bright colours, and startling noises. Now she was every inch a tiny person.

"He's a sweet boy," Narcissa offered, her eyes still on Draco.

Draco thought back to Potter's relentless eyes as he'd kept Draco on the brink of pleasure until neither of them could stand it any longer, and decided this was not appropriate information with which to contradict his mother. "Maybe he is."

His ears burned with the memory, and he knew the answer to his question from before -- he did want more of the same, at least, if nothing else. No one but Blaise -- and now Potter -- had ever made his knees weaken with just a thought. They shared a sort of fierce passion that Draco couldn't duplicate, could only crash against helplessly as it consumed him. It was addicting. And Blaise wouldn't be forgiven for a long time yet.

"Mummy," Luce said, stretching her arms towards Narcissa, who lifted her out of the crib and stood up.

"Let's go and see the owls, shall we, dear one?" Narcissa murmured to both her children.

Draco followed them through the house and up to the owlery, making faces at Luce as she grinned at him over their mother's shoulder. A lone house-elf bowed deeply as they walked inside, and then went back to cleaning the floor.

The owls were already going to sleep on their perches, and a pile of letters lay in the corner by the window. Narcissa let Luce down to go to them, and Luce ceremoniously handed her the topmost letter, watching eagerly as Narcissa opened it.

Draco walked to stand by the window and looked out over the grounds beyond, illuminated by the Manor's watch-lights. Snow covered the yellow-brown grass like powdered sugar on a sweet bun. Only the topmost section of the window was open, too high up to affect the temperature in the room much, but Draco knew that if he were to open the lower window, the air would be the sort that got right under your skin and made a chill that only strong tea and blankets could soothe.

"We were supposed to be in Sicily," he said absently.

"You don't sound regretful," Narcissa replied.

Draco turned back to look at her. "I'm not."

And he wasn't. He was here today because of choices he had made himself. Whether these choices had been wise or not, only time would tell, but Draco had got here by thinking about his future and making his own way around -- and through -- obstacles. Before, it had always been circumstance, or interference from those more powerful, or parental whim. At some point in the last seven months, he had stopped being a child.

So why was he here now? Was it not childish to let circumstance decide this thing with Potter, whatever the hell it was supposed to be? Was it not even more childish to leave things up to Potter -- the same person Draco barely trusted to reason his way out of a broom cupboard?

"I'm going back to my room," he announced and bent down to kiss the top of Luce's head. She ignored him, shaking the fourth letter, bound in thick, oily parchment.

"Breakfast is in an hour," his mother called as he walked out.

Draco heard voices as he approached his rooms -- one was Potter's, but he couldn't place the second one. It was almost certainly a boy's voice, but Draco didn't recall Teddy getting perfect English for Christmas. He found Potter dressed and standing by the window in the sitting room. Artie perched on the windowsill near him.

"Who were you talking to?" Draco asked.

Potter turned around, not quite meeting his eyes. "No one," he said. "I was--"

"You are so rude," said the boy's voice Draco had heard earlier. It had come from no direction in particular, as though materialising within the mind. But Potter's eyes cut to the Kneazle, whose stare was quite accusatory. "I am not no-one."

"Sorry," Potter mumbled. "I thought--"

"Never mind what you thought." That was certainly Artie talking, even though his jaws were quite still. The Kneazle hopped down from the windowsill and stalked towards Draco, his tail high. "I'm not playing hide-and-seek with this fellow if you like him half as well as I can smell on you."

Potter's cheeks flamed. "Artie!"

Draco crouched down and offered a hand to the Kneazle, who sniffed it. His whiskers tickled Draco's palm. "Is that true?" he asked, not looking at Potter.

"Is what true?"

Draco glanced up. Was Potter really going to play the let's-answer-every-question-with-a-question-and-see-if-I-can-avoid-an-honest-answer game? No one was better at that game than Draco.

Artie bumped his forehead against Draco's fingers. "You humans are very strange," he said and stalked out. "I wonder if the dog knows where the food is."

"How does he do it?" Draco asked, staring after him in wonderment.

"His thoughts are broadcasted into our minds. He was the ninth in his litter," Potter said. "The ninth of a Kneazle litter--"

"--usually has special abilities, I know; I read the expanded Fantastic Beasts in seventh year like everyone else, Potter, but never mind the animal. Was it true, what he just said?" Draco stood up.

Potter clenched his jaw, then shook his head. "Not exactly. I don't... I don't hate you. Maybe. You just--"

Draco crossed the room swiftly and twined his arms round Potter's neck, pressing their bodies close together, relishing the skip in Potter's breathing and the way Potter's arms twitched to return the embrace. "In other words, you like fucking me, but you wouldn't go out with me if they paid you."

"You're making it sound worse than it is," Potter protested, but Draco backed him up against the windowsill and let go of his neck, moving back to face him.

"No, I'm not," he said. "That's how it is for me too."

"You wouldn't go out with me if they paid you?" Potter's tone was injured.

"Right," Draco agreed. "But I'll go out with you anyway."

[XIX. Overpoise | The End]
Tags: fic:hp:ascension
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