Title: Next Time Author: GatewayGirl Pairing: Harry/Remus Rating: NC-17 Canon-compliancy: Through book 5 Warnings: Mild drug use, teen/teen sex
Harry took his time. After all, time didn't matter. While Remus was in his room, he fetched his suitcase from the secret passage and moved it up to the room above Remus's. He changed into the leather, which he had thought too fragrant to wear when trying to walk unseen near a werewolf, even near the dark of the moon. His hair seemed foreign to him, as precious and exciting as the hair of a new lover. He luxuriated in brushing out the long, smooth waves.
When he felt ready, he went down to the common room. Remus was studying at the table by the grate, hearing and scent blunted by the crackling and smoke of the fire. Harry stood at the bottom of the stairs and studied him.
Remus was small and slender. Harry would have guessed him to be sixteen, or possibly even fifteen, before he guessed seventeen. His hair, without grey, was still a soft brown, and cascaded over his ears, just covering his collar. He was tapping his quill to music that Harry would have found distracting, but looking at his books with the same studious determination that Harry was familiar with in Neville -- though from what he knew of Remus, this boy did it with much better results. Still, he was clearly industrious, rather than brilliant.
There was a hint of sorrow to him, but not the overwhelming shroud of loss that he bore in Harry's time. He was clearly lonely, as Harry knew he would be, alone at school over the holidays. Harry's sixth year at school had ended that way -- he remembered how cut adrift he had felt, alone in the large, empty rooms.
The memory escaped in a soft puff of wry amusement.
The boy looked up and spotted him. His eyes widened and he jumped to his feet. His hand slipped inside his robes, but he did not draw his wand out. "Who are you?"
Harry leaned a little further into the doorway, and gave the boy a smirk worthy of Draco. "I'm James Potter's evil twin."
The boy stared incredulously at him. His voice came back carefully steady. "James Potter is not good enough to have an evil twin."
"Oh, all right. I'm a distant cousin, really, but 'evil twin' sounds so much better." Harry waved a hand. "Henrik," he said.
Remus's manners took over. "How do you do, Henrik? I'm Remus." His voice rose in amazement. "How did you get in here?"
Harry looked nonchalant. "Oh, well -- you and your friends aren't the only ones in the world who can get around where they shouldn't. I know a thing or two." He smiled slyly at Remus. "If you're very good, maybe I'll tell you."
"But ... but why?"
Harry shrugged casually and stepped forward. "Why to meet you, of course." He rolled his eyes. "I was at a boring family thing, and there was my little cousin, blabbing about his poor friend who had to stay at school. He even had a picture. So I thought I'd come and see if I could --" Harry leered at Remus -- "entertain you."
Remus's face hardened. "And am I supposed to like this? Some Potter hanger-on who dresses like a whore with a trust-fund? Scram."
Without a second look, Remus turned back to his books. After a minute, Harry found himself still without words. He left.
In the topmost dormitory, his hands shaking, he changed to the velveteen robes. When he cautiously entered the common room, Remus looked up once, then went back to his work.
Harry cleared his throat. "Um ... is this better?"
"No. Clear off."
Harry did. He went up to the room and spent a while staring out at the snow. He hadn't expected any difficulty when he actually got here -- people were always falling over him, usually. That he had only had three lovers said more about his tastes then his prospects. Of course, he reflected, it was The-Boy-Who-Defeated-Voldemort that many of them wanted, but he didn't think that was all of it. Damn it, Remus was supposed to be mad for Sirius and James! Wasn't he the best of both?
Harry's hurt dismay shifted to an embarrassed irritation. He put on his invisibility cloak and went back downstairs. Remus, himself, was dressed in brown cords and an olive-green collared shirt. He was still listening to music. Harry watched him put his books aside and get up to dance. His hips swayed enticingly side to side, and he threw his head back in abandon. Harry wondered if Remus dance like that with anyone near. Watching in secret felt inadequate, and almost dirty, but he couldn't look away. The boy, without pausing in his gyrations, began to strip off the collared shirt. Slowly, he unbuttoned it and pulled it clear of a black t-shirt with white letters on the front. He had tossed the collared shirt to the couch and turned three more times before Harry caught all the words: Ask me if I care. Harry shivered and went back upstairs.
After a long time staring out at the sparse snow and thinking, Harry took the Time Turner back one year. As soon as he tilted it, he realized he should have gone down to the tunnel first. He found himself in the Christmas holidays of 1975. The common room was a swirling mess of chaos. Dozens of adults, many of them cavorting men in tights and brocade pantaloons, and more of them playing loud martial music, filled the common room. Pipes and drums competed with the cacophony of honking geese and lowing cows. It wasn't until he saw the tiny pond full of swans that Harry realized the whole mess must be the Christmas work of the three marauders -- James Potter, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin -- within it. Sirius was lounging against the pear tree eating a pear and watching avidly as James tried to undress a milkmaid. Remus, screaming with laughter, was chasing birds through the noisy mob. The hens seemed unable to fly, and he actually succeeded in driving one under the wide brocade skirts of a lady. Sirius nodded approvingly and tossed his pear core to a swan. The lady, despite the squawking and flapping beneath her skirt, continued to dance. Harry supposed that starting life as a couch cushion, or at best, a mouse, did not foster much in the way of initiative.
Harry took a deep breath and plunged into the common room as if it was a Death Eater stronghold. He expected it to take all his Seeker reflexes and battle paranoia to make it to the hallway undetected, but the comparatively slight disturbance of his passing -- including a few shrieks and squawks -- went largely unnoticed. He had a moment of terror when James jumped back to avoid a kicking hoof and nearly fell into him, but he managed to dodge past.
Harry was in the tunnel to Hogsmeade before the giggles hit, and another ten paces along before he realized that he had passed close enough to his father to touch him. It took all of his courage and will power not turn back and look again. Instead, he flooed from the Hog's Head to the Leaky Cauldron, changed some money at Gringotts, then hiked off into Muggle London. A few hours later, he had a new wardrobe of faded jeans and dark cords, with an assortment of t-shirts and polo shirts and one brilliant green button-down shirt that showed off his eyes. The trousers were all a bit flared, and some of the colors rather bright, but other than that, the clothing was all relentlessly normal.
An hour and a year later, he was back in the common room.
"Better?" he asked tentatively.
Remus looked up. "Are you still here?"
"Back, actually. Is this better?"
"What is it with you, anyway?"
"Well, I'm dressed normally, now. Don't you like it?"
Remus snorted. "Actually, I now think you're shallow, as well as having bad taste."
Harry looked down. "Look, I ... This is much more like I usually dress."
Remus rolled his eyes. "Yes? And why do you care what I think of your clothes?"
Harry stared at the young Remus for a long time, trying to make words come out. Everything he could think of saying sounded stupid. Remus began to look like he might turn back to his books, and Harry blurted out:
"I want you to like me."
"You want to shag me, you mean."
"No! I mean, I did, or I do, but that's not important. What's important is that you like me."
"You're pathetic, aren't you?"
"Well, yes, I suppose I am. At the moment."
Remus laughed. Encouraged, Harry stepped closer. "I though you'd like the other clothes. They're like Sirius's. I thought you were taken with him."
"I got over it. I'm sorry if he neglected to tell you."
"He didn't tell me anything. I just overheard."
"Well, you overheard some old gossip." Remus's face tightened like McGonagall's in a strop. "I've outgrown him."
Harry burst out laughing.
"Is that funny?" Remus snarled.
"You're so young!"
"You're not much older!"
"But I'm not the one saying that I'm so mature."
"I'm not that mature," Remus defended. He sighed. "I'm just more mature than Sirius Black. It's not difficult."
Wearily, Harry stepped forward. "Look, I'm sorry. Can we start again?"
Remus managed a slight smile. "Apology accepted. However, I am still not interested in shagging some complete stranger. In fact, all I want to do this evening is finish my Dada homework. So unless you know something about countering the Imperius Curse, you can still go away."
"Oh." Harry bit his lip. "Dada?
"Sorry -- Defense Against the Dark Arts. And it's a Muggle joke, but don't mind that."
"Oh. Well, I do -- know about countering Imperius, I mean."
Remus looked up, intrigued. "Really?
"Yes. There are two levels to it. First, the target matters. People with sufficient will can resist it." Harry grinned involuntarily. "A properly pigheaded idiot can resist the Imperious Curse from Voldemort himself."
A catch of breath from Remus stopped him. "What?" Harry asked. He'd said the name, he realized belatedly.
Remus shrugged, pretending disinterest.
"So James is immune. Go on."
"Right, well ... um, at the countering level, you can try to enhance someone's resistance -- possibly to the point of throwing off the spell, by casting Intractable on them. Of course, if they've internalized the commands, that can also make things worse. You can also increase or decrease a person's susceptibility with potions. Sometimes, people who were suspected to be under the Imperious Curse were treated by putting them into a magical coma for several days -- which lessens the activity of the spell -- then treating them to increase resistance, then reviving them."
"Oh." Remus studied him. "Did it ever work?"
Harry shrugged. "Reputedly, but I think it was all sort of anecdotal. There's no legal, reliable way to test it."
"Hm." Remus nodded. "Well, I've got to write this up. You can stay, though, if you're not too much of a prat."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Oh, thanks."
Harry poked around while Remus studied and wrote. In the absence of other students, Remus's things had spread out around the common room. Harry found a little wooden box with mother-of-pearl inlay and opened it. Inside was a pouch of some sort of plant stuff, but he didn't recognize it. He sniffed at it. It looked like a few things they used in potions class, but didn't smell quite like anything he remembered. He waited until Remus sat back to stretch before holding it out to him.
Remus's mouth quirked in a quick smile.
"What do you think?"
"Don't know. Leaves all look the same to me -- my Potions instructor always said I was hopeless."
Remus burst out laughing.
"It's pot," he said. "James wanted to give me a Muggle present, this year."
"James...." Harry said weakly. Belatedly, he realized he was wide-eyed as a first year spotting the giant squid, and tried to moderate his reaction.
"Well, you know what he's like!" Remus frowned. "Or do you?"
"I don't, really. I see him at best-behavior type things."
"Oh." Remus rolled his eyes. "Well, forget all of that. Anyway, he knew I wouldn't have anyone to set an example to, over the holiday, so he sent me this." Remus grinned. "He thinks I should practice relaxing." He reached over. "Want some? I think it would be more fun with company."
"It's not doing anything," Harry complained, rather later.
"Oh? You usually lie on the floor and giggle?"
Harry giggled helplessly. "That's not -- this is just too silly. I can't help it with all that holding my breath and such. And then you look at me." He covered his eyes. "No -- now stop looking at me."
"Don't want to." Remus straddled him. Harry attempted to throw him off and was reminded of werewolf strength, until Remus, suddenly wide-eyed, allowed himself to be pushed over. Harry guessed he had just remembered not to betray his strength, and giggled madly as he followed him over. They wrestled and giggled and rubbed up against each other, but Harry felt no great need to get off. Remus didn't seem to care, either, or perhaps he didn't notice. In time, they lay still, gazing into each other's eyes. Harry felt oddly content. When he finally rolled to the side, Remus stretched awkwardly forward and kissed him messily. By the time Harry turned his head to give him a better angle, Remus had pulled back.
"I wish I could stay." As soon as the words were out, Harry realized they made no sense. He did want to stay, but he couldn't destroy the future for it. If he remained in 1976, he would inevitably destroy his own timeline.
"Are they expecting you home?" Remus reached up and ran a hand through Harry's hair. Harry warmed under the gentle touch.
"Not just yet, but --" He ought to leave now, Harry realized. Remus at seventeen was a captivating muddle of control and abandon. Harry wasn't certain he was still in control of the situation.
"Don't go." Remus looked panicked by his own words. He put on his best prefect-face. The serious look was exaggeratedly perfect. "You shouldn't apparate like this; you could splinch."
"I'll stay another day."
They rolled apart. Harry yawned. "Food?"
"Food!" Remus brightened. He rubbed at his face. "I ought to finish this draft."
Harry wondered if he could claim that James had told him how to get to the kitchens. Remus squirmed and pushed away.
"Tell you what -- stay here and look over what I wrote, okay? I'll go get us something."
"How are you going to do that?" Harry teased.
"I know how to get into the kitchens."
Remus was so obviously proud of this that Harry burst out giggling again. Fortunately, this was hardly notable.
"Wow," he tried.
"Oh, you wouldn't believe the things we can do," Remus said proudly. "I'll tell you some stories when I get back." He grinned widely. "Things you can use against James."
A half-hour later, they were drinking pumpkin juice and eating cold roast beef with horseradish, and treacle tart with clotted cream. Remus was telling Harry stories about James, and incidentally, Sirius and Peter. If Harry hadn't known that Remus was a werewolf and the other three animagi, he would not have realized the stories were edited at all. They talked about current events -- Voldemort, and purebloods, and the politics of fear -- and Harry managed to keep his own edits subtle. Remus asked what Harry was really doing there, and Harry confessed that he didn't get along with his family and couldn't stand spending all week with them. Remus said he wanted to be with his family, but wouldn't be able to travel, next week.
Full moon, Harry thought. Just when the Hogwarts Express would be coming back.
It was long past midnight when the left the common room fireside, and Remus's essay still lay abandoned on the table. Remus led Harry into the dormitory with the pile of books and the Black wardrobe. He told Harry he could sleep in James's bed, but then patted a spot on his own, and Harry sat down to talk more. Talk turned to cuddling, and cuddling to sleep. When Harry woke the next morning, even the horrible taste in his mouth and odd fuzziness in his head could not make him less than blissful. He brushed a soft kiss across Remus's cheek.
Remus twitched in alarm, then settled. "Henrik?"
"Oh." Remus rolled over and hugged him, then pulled away, blushing. "Look, I.... This is great, but I need a shower and breakfast, and I honestly need to outline my Herbology paper before doing anything else --"
"Didn't we take care of Herbology last night?"
"Very funny. Look, can you disappear for the morning? I'll spend some time with you after lunch, if you stay out of my way until then."
Harry shrugged. "All right."
He showered while Remus was at breakfast. Afterwards, Remus studied, and Harry took the secret passage to Honeydukes and got breakfast in Hogsmeade, then wandered about the village. In a small shop that didn't exist in his own time, he found an assortment of titanium jewelry, like rainbows caught in dark metal, and bought a twisted ring that split into two rings. He was unsure if he would give half to Remus or not -- but if not, there were always uses for that sort of thing: people who needed to find each other, for example. He wasn't sure what he had expected, but this Remus -- young, cynical, and quite capable of holding his own -- was not it. Harry remembered last night's feeling of longing, but now he wasn't sure what he had been longing for -- did he want this boy as his boyfriend, or just as a friend? Harry found himself wanting the morning to be over, so he could study Remus further. After lunch, he hurried back.
When he got to the Gryffindor common room, Remus was lying back on one of the couches, his attention somewhere up by the ceiling, listening to music. Harry stopped in his tracks, halfway to the couch. "That's ..." It was Lou Reed's Perfect Day. He had a moment of disorientation before realizing this was the original. Right. It actually is that old.
Remus sat up. "What?"
"Muggle music," Harry finished.
Remus responded with that oddly cynical smile. "Took you this long to notice?"
"Well, I recognize that one."
"Oh. Well, I told you I wasn't pureblood. My mum's a half-blood -- only one of the sisters with magic. One of my aunts gave me a cassette player."
"Oh." Harry listened to the slow, lost voice: ...made me forget myself. I thought I was someone else -- someone good. He shivered.
"It's a drug song," he said.
"I know. Heroin."
Harry wasn't sure what to think of the boy's flat tone. The pot had been kind of fun, and had, to his surprise, seemed less dangerous than whiskey. Heroin, though....
"You wouldn't do that, would you?"
"'Course not," the boy replied. The words were automatic. He thought it through afterwards, his brow furrowing. "But I understand the appeal," he said slowly. "Don't you ever want to just ... lose yourself?"
There was a genuine pain to that which wrenched at Harry's heart. Not only did he understand the desire completely, but the hurt, lost look on this boy's face suddenly made him Remus -- a person Harry knew and wanted to comfort -- rather than just a puzzle, or even a fun stranger.
He stepped very close. "Sometimes." He met Remus's eyes and tried to pour all his sincerity into the tenuous contact. "I used to feel like that a lot." Unthinking, he reached out and touched the soft brown hair. How young he looks! "It does get easier," he promised.
Remus looked down. "Not for me."
Harry wanted to cry out that he knew, that he understood. "I wish I could help," he said instead. Remus, face still down, shrugged his narrow shoulders slightly, and Harry, on impulse, reached out again and lifted his chin. Without preamble, he leaned forward and kissed Remus tenderly.
For a moment there was no response but the trembling in Remus's lips, then suddenly the younger man was latched onto him, kissing urgently through soft, hiccoughing sobs. After a moment, he pulled away.
"I'm sorry -- I don't mean to be such a baby."
"'S'alright. I seem to have that affect on people." Harry handed him a rumpled tissue. "Here, get it over with, and we'll try again." He tugged Remus down to sit beside him on the rug, then pulled him in close.
Harry stroked Remus softly while he recovered. At first, it was just a gentle, comforting touch to his back -- the sort one might give a frightened child -- but it soon changed to longer, appreciative strokes which lingered over Remus's arse and hips, then rose up his sides. Soon, Harry found himself shifting the strokes forward, as if he didn't notice, working to a casual brush of his knuckles across Remus's abdomen, seeking for -- there! -- the hard head of his cock, as if encountered accidentally. He skimmed past another two times, stretching his ears for Remus's caught gasp, before daring to make the contact clearly deliberate.
"Oh." Remus ran a warm hand down Harry's thigh. "God. You're perfect. You're so perfect, I'm frightened."
Harry leaned close and kissed that pale neck. His voice went low with lust. "I'm not perfect, but I'm not a trap either. I want you."
"Oh!" Remus leaned his head back and thrust up his hips. Harry knew submission when he saw it. He moved in with gentle bites and insistent pushes, and Remus went down onto the soft rug, eager to please. Harry pushed close and presented his distended fly, and Remus used teeth and tongue to expose his cock, then enveloped him in a warm, gripping mouth. Harry cried out in pleasure and hung on to that soft, soft hair. When Remus started to look uncomfortable, Harry rolled onto his back.
"Easier on your neck," he whispered, and Remus nodded and mumbled something around Harry's cock. Harry wriggled sideways and Remus looked up. "You want me to stop?"
"No, I want you to swing your legs over here so I can reach! I don't mind being underneath for a bit."
Remus blinked in surprise for a moment, then complied. "That okay?" he asked anxiously, as Harry stretched back to take Remus's cock in his mouth.
For answer, Harry gripped his arse and made happy, enthusiastic noises. Remus moaned and went back to what he had been doing.
Harry was blissfully happy afterwards. It took him a while to notice that Remus was staring over at the fire, looking lonely and upset. Harry tightened his arm around him. "Remus?"
"What's wrong? Was I too pushy? I didn't mean --"
"It's not you."
The reply was curt. Harry noticed then that Remus at seventeen already had the inflection of Remus at thirty-eight. He could tell Remus was depressed, though he believed a stranger would have mistaken the tone for anger.
"I ... can I help?"
Remus snorted. "You should go. You wouldn't be here with me if you knew what I really am."
"I don't think you could really shock me." Harry grinned. "I've noticed what a swot you are already."
"You don't understand."
"So tell me."
Remus shook his head. "No. Go home, Henrik."
Harry smiled fiercely back. "No."
Remus rolled his eyes. "All right. Be it on your head, then. I don't mind playing with you until you run away." He slid a covetous hand over Harry's bare hip. "Perhaps you could wear those leather trousers again."
Harry laughed. "I thought I looked like a whore."
"A very sexy one."
"Mmm." Harry mouthed the edge of Remus's ear. "Just for you."
After that, Remus was fierce -- almost predatory. Harry didn't like the looks that crossed his face, now and then, but the sex was fantastic. When Harry was perched on the back of the couch, using a levitation spell to keep from straining too much, Remus told him, with considerable admiration, that he was utterly mad. When Harry pinned Remus in a pile of pillows they had made on Remus's bed and told him he was beautiful, he moaned and said Harry had the sexiest fuck-growl he had ever heard -- then rolled him over and pinned him back, biting and thrusting against him. For a moment after Remus's climax, when he collapsed back sated and glowing, Harry felt like he'd won the World Cup. It was scarce minutes, though, before the taint of self-loathing was back in Remus's eyes.
"Dear Remus," Harry whispered. Remus replied with a contemptuous little sniff.
"Damn, but I wish I could make you happy for more than a few minutes."
That little sniff again, like a stillborn laugh. "It's not just you. James has resorted to drugs, you'll notice."
Harry settled a leg over Remus and drew him close. His throat caught with guilt at the longing in Remus's eyes. It felt wrong to make Remus want him and then leave for twenty-one years and seven months. He hadn't thought of it that way, before. He hadn't expected Remus to need someone so much.
"What's wrong with you?" Remus's question was almost a snarl.
"Nothing." Harry didn't want to look at Remus, anymore. He leaned into Remus's neck to hide his face. "Oh, Remus," he murmured. "My darling wolf."
Remus jerked to the side, sending Harry tumbling to the floor.
"James told you!"
"No!" Harry replied, panicked. He pulled himself to his feet. "No," he said again. "Not James."
"Sirius, then." Remus was standing on the far side of the bed, his hands clenched into fists at his sides. "That arsehole. I can't trust anybody."
Oh God. This is bad. I've fucked it up. This could change everything. Harry tried to think. "Remus," he said softly. "Listen. No one told me."
"Than how do you know? And is that what you're doing here? You have some weird thing for monsters?"
"Shhh." Harry reached a hand out to Remus. "Please. Trust me. And don't call--"
"Why? You came out of nowhere, down the stairs from the dorms, looking like James in Sirius's clothes, and now you're calling me ... you're saying ...."
"Who are you? Who told you?"
"Look, babe, come on...." Harry swallowed. He climbed across the bed, and Remus didn't move away. Harry was able to take his hands and tug him down to kneel on the mattress. "I'll tell you, all right? But after I tell you, I need to leave. Do you want me to tell you now, or in the morning?'
"Yes. Because I told you."
"For a long time. A very long time."
Remus leaned into him. His breath came out in long, soft shudders. "Tomorrow."
"All right, then."
For several minutes, they were both silent. Harry felt the rising and falling of Remus's breath as something precious and ephemeral. He concentrated on cherishing each light shift.
After a moment, Harry remembered that meant him. "Hm?"
"Not asking you -- I feel like Pandora or Sinbad or Orpheus. It should be such a simple thing."
"I've always thought it was the hardest thing in the world," Harry admitted. "I can never not look."
"So, I want --"
"No. You've already made your choice. I won't tell you until morning."
"But why not?"
"Because I want to sleep with you again." Harry kissed his hair. Remus lifted his face. His eyes sparkled with tears.
"You know." His voice was tremulous with awe and hope. Harry felt horrible at the thought of leaving.
"Not everyone will run away, you know," he said, trying to turn the brief tease of his presence to reassurance. "Let's get some food, all right? We're both worn out."
They fetched dinner from the kitchens, where the house elves never asked awkward questions, and ate it in front of the fire. Remus made a great show of licking his fingers, and Harry made a great show of ogling him. Afterwards, Remus took Harry's hand and pulled him gently towards the stairs.
"Oh, are we going to try it in a bed, now?"
Remus blushed. "I think I'm a bit sore...."
"Yeah, me too, actually." Some of their positions had been rather athletic, Harry reflected. At least one would have been impossible without magic. He sent a friendly thought to Luna and squeezed Remus's hand. "Just hang out then?"
"And sleep with me."
"I will need to leave."
Harry forced himself to nod. Remus didn't understand, but he would soon enough.
In the morning, Remus was still sleeping soundly when Harry slipped out of bed. He packed his suitcase, brought it downstairs, set it near the wall with the Time-Turner, and draped the invisibility cloak over both. He had to wait for Remus to wake, but when he had fixed what he could, he needed to leave right away, before he could do more damage.
With Remus's soft breathing behind him, Harry gazed out the window, over to Hagrid's hut and down to the Forbidden Forest. It was a gorgeous day, with bright sunlight sparkling on a light dusting of snow. He felt melancholy and afraid. Even if he hadn't messed things up for anyone else, had he made life harder for Remus?
The object of his thoughts padded softly up behind him and pushed insistently under his arm.
"Sorry. I was thinking." Harry slipped his hand to Remus's waist and pulled him close. His breath caught when Remus laid his head against his chest.
"It's tomorrow," Remus said.
"I know." Harry sighed. "My wolf. My dear little wolf."
Remus giggled. "No one's ever said it like that, before." He looked up. "Can you stay? If I don't ask, can you stay with me?"
Harry shook his head. "No. I've already stayed longer than I should." He kissed Remus's hair. "I'm sorry. I don't think these things through."
"Oh." The small little sound was followed by a braver reply. "So, why should I trust James? How did you find out?"
"You told me."
"I did not!"
"I'm from the future."
With an angry, disbelieving snort, Remus made a half-hearted attempt to squirm away. Harry gripped him while pulled the Time-Turner from under his cloak.
"Look. Do you know what this is?"
Remus stopped. His eyes grew wide. "A Time-Turner, but ... it's huge!"
"It's a year-class one."
Remus stared. "You really are from the future."
Remus broke into a smile. "Voldemort's gone then?"
"What makes you think that?"
"Well, you're..." Remus frowned -- "calm?"
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Perhaps I'm a pureblood, and have no objection to our lord's rule."
"You know how to turn off a cassette player!"
Harry shrugged. "Doesn't mean anything. I could have seen one in a play or a museum." He grinned. "Or maybe it's become a stable stalemate."
"Think, Remus! I can't tell you. What if your side did defeat Voldemort, but me telling you that makes you not do something that mattered? What then?"
Remus looked bitter. "I can't do anything about Voldemort."
Harry shrugged. "Who can say?"
"So why are you here, then?"
Harry took a deep breath. It came in unsteadily. "To see you."
"I know you in my time, but --"
"Something horrible happens to me."
"I think you're really hot, that's all. And I wouldn't have a chance --"
"Don't tell me I'm taken!"
"No, you just ... you think I'm too young for you."
Remus stared. "You... I...." He rubbed at his forehead. "But you're an adult."
Harry grinned. "But I'm a teenager."
Remus shook his head. "Oh, man! How much older am I?"
"I don't think I should tell you that." Harry sighed. "Look, I shouldn't tell you anything about the future --"
"You shouldn't even be here! Have you any idea how irresponsible that is? You could --"
"Mess up the flow of time, yeah. So, nice as this has been, I shouldn't stay and talk, especially now that you know." Harry took a deep breath. He stood up. "Look, you won't see me again for years. But assuming I didn't manage to end my existence, or yours, or keep us from meeting...."
Harry grinned. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"My tomorrow." Harry set the cloak loosely over his shoulders, then picked up the suitcase. "July thirtieth. Until then -- this never happened. Well, I won't know about it, anyway, since I won't have done it yet, and you can't be sure it was me -- this me, that is." A thought suddenly struck him, and he slipped the ring from his finger, and separated the pieces. He thrust one at Remus. "Here. I'll have the other half."
He lifted the Time-Turner. "I need to go back now. I'm starting to want to say things I shouldn't. Bye, Remus." He paused, the frame poised to turn, and gathered his nerve. "I love you," he said firmly. Before Remus could answer, he clicked open the lock, turned the glass, and set the sand to whirling him forward.
Harry's flat was frighteningly quiet and still, but it was there and clearly still his. The morning's Daily Prophet was still on the table, and the first letters of the lines matched up exactly with the list in his pocket. When he absently took a sip of the tea beside the paper, it was cold, but not bad. Harry guessed that he had overshot his departure time by mere hours.
He should have had Draco wait, he thought. It would have been better to have someone here, to be real and comforting -- not that Draco was a comforting sort. Hermione, with the gentle touches that had become more frequent in the last year -- once she had unambiguously chosen Ron -- would be better, except that if Hermione knew what he had done she would be shrieking her disapproval louder than a howler from Ron's mum. Harry refused to consider the idea they might not be there, or might be different.
Harry sat with his chin on his fist, thought back on his previous meetings with Remus, and wondered if his last few days had happened in his timeline. Had Remus ever recognized him? Had he suspected? Did he still want him? What if he only liked lovers his own age? Harry shivered. What if Remus, now, seemed too old to him? He felt sickly, hopelessly in love -- a much worse feeling than his previous frustrated desire -- but he didn't know if it was for Remus, or for Remus at seventeen. The day past in a dull haze of uncertainty, and the night in restless phantasms.
Harry knew where Remus lived -- certain of the Order members knew these things about each other. Since his newspaper test had been clean, and his own flat unchanged, he hoped that Remus's address would also be unchanged. Harry passed the morning stalking around Wizarding London in his invisibility cloak, making sure everything was as he remembered it. At noon, he returned home and showered. With exacting care, he dressed himself and brushed out his hair. After some thought, he had chosen the leather trousers, as the first and last thing Remus had seen him in, but he covered himself with the invisibility cloak before apparating to an alley convenient to his goal. He did not want to walk far in leather on a sunny summer afternoon, but he also did not want to commit himself to meeting Remus until he had watched him for a moment or two. The fear he might no longer want him re-emerged.
Well then, he thought grimly, I go home, cut my hair, and change -- but I will need to confess it to him.
Remus's flat was on the ground floor of an old three-story building in a run-down London neighborhood. From the pavement, Harry levitated himself up to peek in the window. To his surprise, the dreamy, low sounds of Lou Reed's Perfect Day were wafting out through the open window. Remus, dressed in tight jeans and an old faded black t-shirt -- Harry thought it might say Ask me if I care -- was swaying softly with his eyes closed. Harry was quite certain, the instant he saw him, that he still wanted him. Paradoxically, he had to consider the music and clothing a sign that Remus still wanted him -- or wanted Henrik.
Harry returned thoughtfully to the pavement. After a moment, he slipped a shimmering titanium ring onto his finger, and a moment later, he rang the bell. He didn't have to wait long before Remus opened it. His eyes widened as he saw Harry.
"Hey," Harry said. "May I come in?"
"Harry," Remus said numbly. He licked his lips. "I'd thought, at times, it might have been you, but not this year, because...." He trailed off as Harry nudged him back and pushed his way inside. They were close together in a narrow entrance hallway, and Harry could hear Remus's breath coming quick and shallow as he closed the door.
"I missed you," Harry said simply, and bent to claim a kiss. Remus turned his head and ducked, and Harry's lips just brushed his hair.
"Harry," he said fiercely, "We can't do this. I can't --"
"Of course you can." Harry smirked. "You already have."
"I was younger than you!"
"I know. You gave me my first illegal drugs, you know. Yesterday."
"Oh god! Harry, I...." Remus had a hand over his face, but was also starting to laugh. "You -- were you OUT OF YOUR MIND?"
Harry reached over and fingered Remus's hair. It was just as soft as it had been when he was seventeen. "Yes. I have been. For months." He smiled. "Have you been listening to that damn song every thirtieth of July for twenty-one years?"
"I gave up on you -- well, him -- at least a decade ago, actually. Decided you must have changed history, somehow."
"But you still play it."
Remus hesitated. "Yes." He took a deep breath. "Harry, honestly, we can't do this. What on earth would I tell people if they found out?"
"That I love you?" Harry grinned. "That I fight dirty?"
"But they'll think --"
"Fuck what they think." Harry pressed close, again. He knew Remus was actually stronger than he was, except right after the full moon, but he felt more powerful. Simply unity of purpose gave him that. "I think I've had it with being the Quaffle of destiny. I plan to get what I want."
A long sigh escaped Remus at that. Harry hoped to see him relax, but instead his face hardened, affection dropping away with the uncertainty, and Harry felt a stab of fear.
What did I do to him?
"All right, Henrik," Remus said deliberately. "Tell me what to do."
Harry pushed back his misgivings and lowered his voice to the soft growl that teenage Remus had found so sexy, and this Remus would not associate with Harry Potter. "Close your eyes."
Obediently, Remus closed his eyes. "You won't --"
"Shhh." Harry took Remus's hands and moved them up to his head. "Run your hands through my hair."
Remus's slender fingers sunk into Harry's hair and combed through it, just like Harry remembered from the day before. He let out panting breaths as his fingers tightened on the long strands.
"Call me Henrik, if it's easier. Or avoid my name. Or just ..." Harry brushed his lips over Remus's, "don't talk." He pressed in for another kiss, and this time Remus accepted it -- indeed, returned it savagely -- and let Harry back him against the corridor wall. At the first contact of their lower bodies, Harry became aware that he was desperately hard. He shifted his hips, rubbing against Remus as much as he could. The smell of warm leather filled the tight space. Even through it, Harry could feel the long line of Remus's cock as Remus shoved roughly in return.
Harry freed his mouth for a moment, even as he groped desperately for the snap of Remus's jeans.
"Oh yes, Remus, just like that. Want you. Want to make you cry out and see you all sated and happy." He took over Remus's mouth again, afraid of more protests, just as his hand got into those jeans and then ... thin, hard cock sliding through his fingers, fingers digging into his shoulders, gasps of breath shuddering into his mouth. He pushed down the jeans and rubbed harder, not caring if Remus was getting pre-come on his leathers -- no, hoping he was.
He felt a wet thread against his knuckles and pulled his head back again. "Look what you're doing to my leather," he purred. "So eager. Leaving lines down it." He took one of the hands from his shoulder and pushed it down. Remus froze in an alarmed confusion that was much like his teenage self.
"Sorry?" he tried.
"Oh no, that's all right." Harry held Remus's hand still and shoved his own hard cock against it. "'S'good. Leather should smell like sex."
Remus let out a strangled moan, which turned into a panting laugh. "God, you sound like Sirius." He started fumbling clumsily with Harry's zipper.
Harry was immediately jealous. Some distant corner of his mind was wondering that he wasn't sad, but the dark passion that shot through him left no room for it. "He ever do this to you?" Harry demanded, shoving his freed cock against Remus's stomach. He tightened his hold on the soft hair.
"Er ... once. But more in an in the dark, 'shush, don't let anyone hear, get me off now,' sort of way."
Harry bent his knees, catching his cock under Remus's arse and pumping slowly back and forth. He pointed his wand briefly to lubricate them both.
"Well, don't get me off now. I intend to get quite a bit further."
"Oh god!" Remus bit briefly at his shoulder. "Yeah, Potter ... beautiful, arrogant bastard!"
Harry froze. "I am not my father."
Remus licked at his neck. His panting whisper was harsh. "You're not Sirius either, but you're the worst of both. You'd risk the whole damn world for a good lay."
Harry kept hold of Remus's hips, but stepped back slightly. He felt awkward in his half-off trousers, with his jutting cock exposed between them.
"I didn't do it for the sex!"
"I don't care if it was for bloody true love -- not that I think you're old enough to recognize true love if it bit you on the arse. You could have killed millions of people -- maybe you did."
Harry shifted uneasily. "I ... everything checks out, so far. Before I left I thought it couldn't do much -- just seeing you." He desperately wanted to explain. "It wasn't until ... until you started to look at me the way I wanted you to that I realized I could have changed something, that way. That it might change you --" He bit his lip. "... and that might change other things."
"And deprive you of your little prize?" Remus pushed his hips forward, thrusting along Harry's softening cock.
"Remus! Please don't be so harsh." Harry reached out to stroke along the side of Remus's tense face. The sarcastic smile there was not reassuring. "I like you gentle."
"And of course, I must be what you want, because clearly the world revolves around Harry James Potter."
Harry inhaled in a slow, pained hiss, and Remus shook his head back.
"Well, you're here. You have me -- better get on with it." Remus lifted up on toes and shifted forward against Harry to trap Harry's diminishing erection between his thighs. Harry's body apparently found the quick squeezes that followed more important than his dismay.
"So I expect a fuck, boy. I suggest you make it damn good, for that price."
Harry gave up. He matched Remus's harsh manner. "All right then. Is here good?"
Remus leaned back into the wall and wiggled in arcs that rubbed the crack of his arse across and up and down the top side of Harry's cock. "I could turn around, but...."
"I haven't done it standing up since ... since...."
"Not since me, I hope?" Of course then, Harry remembered, he had been balanced on the couch, keeping himself at just the right height to receive Remus's thrusts. He pushed back the wistful memory of cuddling afterwards, instead grabbing at Remus's ass. Remus gasped.
"You're far too proper." Harry rubbed his fingers through the delightful hot mess left by his lubrication spell and crooked his hand behind Remus to reach his entrance. "Let me see if I can loosen you up a bit."
Remus opened his mouth, but all that came out was a desperate, lustful cry. Harry decided that was a worthwhile improvement.
"Well, looser in one way," Harry purred.
Remus wasn't too tight the other way, either. Harry was surprised how quickly he needed to move to a second finger. Remus's sarcastic jibes had ceased, and responded to Harry in low moans and mewing little cries, most lost in their joined mouths. Before too long, Harry lifted Remus -- strong, the werewolf might be, but he was far from massive.
"You'll break yourself if you try that!"
"Wrap your legs around me."
"I am not a girl! The angle is--"
"I need a hand free for my wand."
A whispered spell and Remus cried out and shifted. "Wha-!"
"I changed your 'down' -- just for you." Harry shifted from a whisper to a voice of command. "Stand on the wall, now, and the angle will be just fine. Spread enough that I can stand between your legs."
"Rather the idea. Back up a bit. You're too high."
The wall was too narrow for Remus to stand upright across it, even with his legs spread across Harry. He bent head and shoulders forward and leaned on Harry's chest. Harry teased him with little presses at his entrance and soft, fingertip touches against his hard cock until Remus was swearing at him and growling.
"More now! Fuck! Damned tease, can't you -- oh god!" His voice went high and wordless as Harry pressed slowly in. "Ah!"
Harry began to pump slowly. He slid his hand down to grip Remus's cock, and began to match his rhythm there. He let out his breath in a low groan. "Oh yes. You're so good. Want to stay in you forever."
"Legs'll give out," Remus managed at a pant. He shifted on and off his toes, to meet Harry's thrusts.
"Kneel?" Harry asked. He pulled out of Remus and backed against the wall that was currently Remus's floor. With a growl, Remus followed and straddled him. He settled his shoulders back with a little roll. "Oh yes -- like that. Just like ... just like...." Words failed him again. Harry wanted to kiss him, but knew he couldn't reach. He kissed his own fingers instead, and pressed them to Remus's lips, felt them licked, and shifted back. He was lost in perfect, enveloping, tight heat around his cock, fingers gripping his ribs, his own hand wrapped around Remus slicked-up cock, the smell of Remus-leather-himself-sex everywhere. Mine mine mine mine MINE.
He came with a wordless roar and a thrust hard enough to lift Remus half-off the wall, and Remus yelled in surprise, then pleasure, spilling wet heat onto Harry's stomach and chest. Harry slipped out of him to claim a real kiss, then leaned back against the wall again.
"You're a freaky boy," Remus panted, sitting back on his thighs. "Did you learn all your sex from interesting magazines?"
"And a very imaginative Ravenclaw."
"For future reference, the actual rooms in this flat contain an assortment of useful furniture."
"Oh good. Let's go try some out."
"Harry! I am not seventeen anymore! I'm not going to spend all day shagging you in interesting positions." Remus's smile dimmed, then faded altogether. He held Harry's gaze steadily. "So we got our perfect fuck." The gentle hand that extended to stroke Harry's long hair softened the harshness of the words. "And it was a perfect fuck -- so perfect, I think I'll forgive you for how you got it, because really, you're a sweet, well-meaning, arrogant bastard." That painful longing was back in his eyes, reminding Harry of when he first knew what he had done. "It doesn't need to be anything more."
Harry frowned. "What do you mean?"
Remus took a deep breath. The lines on his forehead deepened. "Harry. I know you're young enough to not always know what you want, even when you're certain. I'm old enough not to be hurt by that. Do you understand?"
Harry's mouth went dry. "You're telling me I can walk out, no offense taken."
"Yes. In fact, I think that would be the cleanest end to this."
Harry did him the courtesy of considering his response. He thought that if he screamed back a denial, Remus wouldn't believe it at all. "Understood," he said finally. "And it's a good thing for you to say, because at seventeen..." Harry grinned at the memory, "well, you were hot in a way you're not, really, now." He caught at Remus's hips, preventing him from rising. "But lots of seventeen-year-olds are hot, and there are lots of them I could have. I'm famous, I'm rich, and I'm not stupid -- all evidence to the contrary." Remus's weight had settled back down on him, and Harry dared release him to run a hand down Remus's side, which was still slick with sweat. "But what you were wasn't what attracted me. It's who you are that I want, and did dangerous things to try to get."
"I...." Remus shook his head. "You don't know me as well as you think."
"I know." Harry bit his lip. "You might not even be the person I knew; I might have changed you." He shivered. "I did, a bit, I think -- either that, or you're in quite the mood, today. But we won't find out unless we try, right? Do you want to try? Because I do."
Remus let out a long breath. For a moment, apprehension made his face as young as Harry remembered it.
"All right," he agreed. He shrugged slightly. "So what now?"
"Well, if you don't want to stress-test the furniture, I suggest we shower and change, so I can take you out to dinner."
"I hate cooking."
"Everyone will stare at us."
"Everyone will stare at me, actually. 'Look -- there's Harry Potter!'"
"'Who's that old bloke?'" Remus contributed.
"'Mmm. From the way Potter's looking at him, he must be amazing.'"
Remus burst out laughing, and the sound was actually cheerful. Harry reached out and took his hand. It had the dark colored twists of a titanium ring on it, he noticed, and that gave him courage.
"And tomorrow -- would you come with me to my birthday party?"
Remus looked suddenly afraid. Harry could see him imagining a scolding from Mrs. Weasley, and the disapproval of other attendees.
"And, if things work out," Harry plowed on, "to Ron and Hermione's wedding, next June?"
"If things work out." Remus leaned forward, till his breath tickled past Harry's ear in a long, shaky sigh. "They won't, but I can't help ... It's so good to have you back."
At dinner -- Remus insisted on a Muggle restaurant, for privacy's sake, and led Harry through fifteen minutes of confusing streets to an excellent Indian one -- they talked about members of the Order, and who was coming to Harry's birthday party. Harry said it would be his first ever, but Remus mildly noted that it would be his second, and merely the first he was old enough to remember. Remus was pleasant, but cool. Harry found himself frustrated by the lack of intimacy to the conversation. He had thought that Remus would be different once he had consented, but indeed Remus was as formal as he had been before they had worked together, the previous winter.
When they got back to the flat, Remus went straight to the kitchen.
"Whisky?" he asked. "Something else?"
"Whisky will be fine." Harry took a sip from the glass Remus handed him and forced himself not to grimace. He made a mental note to upgrade Remus's liquor selection as soon as possible. Remus knocked his own back in two swallows.
"Are you upset with me?" Harry asked.
Remus froze. After a moment, he poured himself a second whisky. "Not in any sort of immediate way." He sat down and looked across the corner of the table at Harry. "Why?"
"Well, you've been rather ... distant, tonight. I mean, not very distant, but less close than we were last spring. Was it just that there were people around?"
Remus shrugged. "I don't know."
"Look, I know you don't approve of what I did, and looking back on it, I have to agree --"
Remus gave a short bark of laughter. "What, you've matured in the last forty-eight hours?"
"Well, it was frightening, every time we talked about someone, and I had to wonder if it would be right -- what I remembered. And it was before that - when you were first looking at me like you wanted me to stay, back when you were at Hogwarts -- that I realized what I'd done."
"Ah." Remus frowned. "Harry, before you decided to spend however much that maneuver cost you --"
"Nine thousand, five hundred galleons," Harry said automatically. "Plus the clothes."
Remus winced. "And risk your freedom, and your life, and my life, and the lives of untold other people ... did you ever consider ... asking?"
Harry couldn't think of a thing to say.
"Or flirting, perhaps. That's a traditional approach." Remus took a sip of his whisky.
"But you were always ... I mean, you must have known...."
"Oddly, Harry, I am not telepathic." Remus sighed. "I do have an excellent sense of smell. I had noticed you grew angry whenever I flirted with anyone -- of course, that hardly required scent. Your anger is usually apparent, even when you restrain yourself from yells or punches."
Remus gave him his best "annoyed teacher" look. "Actually, my conclusion was that you had a problem with my sexuality and were unwilling to take it up with me. I used to flirt with men just to goad you, hoping you'd break and yell, and we could have it out and get it over with."
"And after you killed Voldemort -- when we were down at the pub -- I was drunk, and it suddenly seemed a brilliant idea to ramble on about your father and Sirius. I expected you wouldn't turn on them, and I thought it would force you to deal with me."
"And then I was just fascinated."
"And giggly. And it occurred to me that we were out celebrating, and I didn't want to go on and say where it ended...."
"Where did it end?"
Remus sighed. He rubbed at his forehead.
"When Sirius was willing to use me as a murder weapon..." Remus's shaky laugh was high and false -- "suddenly his unruly passion seemed -- much less charming."
"Oh." Harry swallowed. "But James hadn't --"
"And James used the incident to seduce Lily. He told her he'd saved Severus's life -- not how, of course -- he wouldn't have wanted to do that if he could -- but that he had. Severus's resentful deference supported his story, and she decided he was a better person than she had thought." Remus snorted. "Then James's charm also seemed much less charming. I don't think I ever would have forgiven him if he hadn't turned out to genuinely love her."
"Will you forgive me, then, if I can convince you I love you?"
"Couldn't you even say, 'Remus, I'm attracted to you?'"
"What good would that have done me? You thought of me as a child --"
"No." Remus shook his head. "At one point, yes -- you were James's child -- but once we were working together -- no."
"When you wouldn't continue about Sirius and James, I thought you didn't think I was old enough to even talk to about --"
"You're old enough." Remus finished the whisky. "Easily old enough, and that I'm a lot older doesn't bother me, when no one else is saying it." He smiled coldly. "I have a much more subtle perversion, in this case."
Harry flinched. Remus ignored him. "The disgraceful thing is ... I'm attracted to unruly, brilliant, criminally reckless men." His cynical look shook Harry to the core. "I shouldn't be anywhere near you."
"I'm getting better," Harry said plaintively.
Remus shook his head. "Sirius never did."
"I rather gathered that prison isn't a place where people grow up."
Remus lost some of his indignation. He slumped. "True." He shrugged. "I think James grew up more during your first year than the four before...."
"Sirius couldn't even have a relationship," Harry pressed. He frowned. "The question is: Can I mature to the point that you like me, and still be reckless enough that you find me hot?"
Remus didn't laugh; he groaned. "Fuck, I wish I knew."
Harry's dismay changed slowly to a smile. "Then let's find out." He grinned. "It could be a lengthy experiment."
Remus laughed slowly and leaned across the table. "I have this assortment of furniture...."
Harry and Remus flooed to the party from Remus's flat, but Remus had stepped clear of the grate by the time Harry emerged. He seemed to already be deep in conversation with Bill by the time Harry had brushed the ash from his clothes.
"Harry Potter! What on earth have you done to your hair!"
Harry turned to an indignant Molly and smiled tentatively. "A bottle of 'Lamont's Long Locks Potion' and a headache like the aftereffects of the Cruciatus Curse?"
Harry remembered a magazine article he had read in 1975 and laughed. "Dudes dig it."
Molly blanched. Bill snorted. "Oh, for Merlin's sake, Harry -- don't tell her that! Now she'll be hallucinating that I'm off pulling blokes, or something."
"Oops. Sorry, Bill." Harry smiled past Bill at Remus, who was hiding a smile behind one hand. "In my very limited experience --"
"Oh my god!" Hermione's squeal interrupted the observation. "Harry, what did you do to your hair?" She sounded a lot more pleased about it than Mrs. Weasley, and Bill smirked.
"Girls, too," he said.
"Hair," said Harry.
"Oh." Hermione seemed to pick up the idea. "Well, it depends on the hair, and the boy, I think."
"Boy?" Harry did his best to sound indignant.
"There, there -- don't offend him, dear; he thinks he's all grown up," Remus teased. He tossed a look over his shoulder as he walked off. "I'm off to see who's here -- call me back for cake."
Remus continued, throughout the party, to stay in sight, but out of reach. If Harry was talking with a group of people, Remus was often on the far side of it. Harry was uncertain whether or not to push the issue. They hadn't, he felt, adequately discussed it, and he was unsure if Remus was keeping his distance for Harry's benefit or his own.
Long after cake and presents, and just after his second glass of punch, Harry's control gave out. He had been cornered by Mrs. Weasley, whose maternal pride was coming out in an endless series of stories about the exploits of her offspring -- each, on it's own, worthwhile -- and he had caught Remus passing by and asked him to refill his glass. Molly was midway through relating Charlie's latest triumph in advances in dragon breeding, when Remus came back with the punch.
"Here you go."
Harry saw his chance and slipped an arm around Remus as he took the glass. Remus stiffened, then shivered and submitted to the touch. In mid-sentence, Molly's expression shuttered. Harry let her trail off, then smiled engagingly.
"Now that I'm out on my own, Remus has agreed to give me a chance," he volunteered. "It took a bit of persuading on my part."
Molly's voice was flat. Her eyes moved to Remus. "Did it?"
"Well, you can't blame him for being reluctant." Harry pressed briefly against Remus's side. His new lover was red with embarrassment. "I'm a callow youth and a risky prospect."
"Not to mention certifiably insane," Remus contributed shakily.
"Shush. No giving away my secrets, sweet wolf."
Remus laughed. "Well, at least I'm experienced with emotional upheavals."
"Anyway," Harry pressed, "go on. Charlie had just cast the locator spell...."
Draco pulled Harry aside a few minutes later. Harry still found it odd to see him here, in the artless, half-tamed charm of the Weasley's rambling garden, but Draco, his custom-tailored robes magically unaffected by the dust, leaves, and chicken feathers, was smiling and flushed.
"Brilliant! I can't believe you did it. Meet me tomorrow for your payout?"
"Draco -- I don't think I can take the money. I'd feel really weird about it. It was never the point, anyway."
"Obviously." Draco smirked. "Because you spent nine thousand galleons to win a hundred galleon bet, and at this point, I'm obligated to accept that you're not stupid."
Harry blushed. "Just mad."
"Well, quite possibly. Congratulations, anyway." Draco pulled a small box out of his pocket. "Of course, unbelievable or not, I thought you might manage, so I brought an extra present for you."
"Oh?" Despite a flicker of trepidation, Harry unwrapped the box eagerly. He laughed when it disclosed a silver snake brooch. The brooch, as soon as he touched it, dropped its tail from its mouth and slithered into his hand. Harry twitched, but managed not to drop it. Despite its motion, it felt just as hard and smooth as the metal it was formed from.
"Just put it at your shoulder. Here." Draco picked up the serpent between two fingers and set it on the front of Harry's shirt. The little creature attached itself and then settled back into a circle.
"There you go. My admission of your craft -- tacit, as you no doubt will prefer, now that you are mostly sober. And we should fix that, by the way. Come on -- go back to your new boyfriend; he looks like he's getting the wrong idea -- and I'll be over in a bit with another round."
Harry felt a sudden flush of panic. If Remus found out about the bet, he might misunderstand. "Don't tell!"
Draco laughed. "No worries. That's one you'd better explain yourself."