Harry took a gulp of wine, inspiration buzzing through him as strongly as the alcohol. Merlin, but he loved this. Seconds later his fingers danced along the keyboard.
"I wish my apprenticeship wasn't coming to an end," Dorloss said, leaning on his shovel. "You mean you've thoroughly enjoyed learning the finer Rohirric techniques of shovelling shit?"
Dorloss guffawed, tossed aside the shovel and
walked strode over to the laughing man of Rohan with whom he'd quite unintentionally become enamoured of. He tackled him to the floor, fists flying. Léofur
gave as good as he got, even though he had less height and wasn't as sturdily built as Dorloss. When at last they stopped, breathlessly laughing and bruised, Dorloss' mouth was a mere hand span from Léofur's. He
ached to bridge that gap with a kiss.
He clicked send without even checking the spelling. It was too marvellous of a cliffhanger, and he couldn't wait to see what his fellow storyteller would do to continue the scene.
A black cat jumped up onto his desk, missing the keyboard by an inch.
"Augh! Midnight! Over that way."
Harry pushed the curious cat away from his computer and beverage, but he stroked its tail to indicate his company didn't displease him.
"At least you don't give me grief about my creative output. You don't say the words role-playing in the same tone as Dark Arts. It really is for the best that I got my own place— Oh!"
An instant message flashed into prominence before his latest literary endeavour. It was from the person playing the role of Léofur, about whom he knew all sorts of emotional truths, and yet nothing about the
person's gender, work, or regular life. He could pass this individual on the street every day and never know it
except that she, or he, was probably a Muggle.
Dragonlover: I'm thinking about my reply. This could get hot and heavy!
Gondor4ever: Would that be so bad?
Harry typed in reply. You know Léofur is just as smitten with Dorloss. Put them out of their misery
The cursor blinked for long enough that Harry began to wonder if he'd been too brazen. Maybe he'd crossed some line he didn't know about in the land of playing someone besides yourself.
Dragonlover: I'd like to meet you. In person. Is that too bold? You might be really surprised. I just don't want it to ruin our time here
Being in this fantasy world is a
highlight of my day, as pathetic as that sounds.
Harry gawped at the screen, jolted out of his muzzy contentment and growing arousal, imagining getting to write his Gondorian character having much longed-for sex with his Rohirric companion. Meet up with
Dragonlover? In person? At some pub somewhere in Muggle London? A not unpleasant mix of anxiety and anticipation caused a shudder to go through him. Why in Hades not? He and Ginny were separated. This
person knew it all, though not who he was in the Wizarding world. That was probably why he'd been so open in the first place.
Gondor4ever: I'd love to. Tomorrow? Or the weekend? I'm up in Glasgow as you know, so I'll need you to pick a place. I'll find it.
He lifted his hands and saw that they were trembling. He pressed them firmly against the mahogany of his desk, took a deep breath, and then clicked send. The answer came back quickly. Some pub in London called
the Royal Arms. Saturday. Eight o'clock.
Gondor4ever: How will I know who you are?
Just in case it was another wizard, he wanted to be able to identify the other person first. Muggle games and computers had been modified for magical use, but wizards tended to stick to wizarding cyberspace, for
Dragonlover: My hair is distinctive. Long and almost white. Not from going grey, but blond.
Harry nodded, disappointment clouding his thoughts. He should have expected a woman, really. Though Dragonlover hadn't said so outright, nearly all of the other people who played in this shared fantasy world he'd
fallen in love with were women of various ages.
Gondor4ever: Perfect. I'll see you then.
* * * * *
Harry spent the next two days in a daze, half asleep at his job at the Ministry from having stayed up until three or four o'clock in the morning, engrossed in the land of Rohan— online, of course. Ginny would have had
plenty to say about that, and while he did miss her on some levels, their separation had been impending for quite a number of years. He didn't bother to go to Ron for sympathy, even though their relationship had
repaired faster than he'd expected.
"You're addicted to that bloody thing," Ron said over drinks Friday after work. "I reckon you ought to get rid of it. Or at least wean yourself off of it. You look like shite."
"Cheers." Harry saluted him with his pint, took a healthy swig and rubbed at his eyes. "I can sleep in tomorrow. You can't blame me for enjoying getting out of my head, though, can you? I mean,
everywhere I go, everybody knows who I am, unless I disappear into the Muggle world. What's so wrong with spending time in a fantasy world?"
"Nothing, mate, but you're staying up all night, on a regular basis. You drove Ginny away—"
"Don't start with that," Harry growled. "There was a lot more to it than that and you know it."
"Fine, fine." Ron raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. "It really is best if we don't talk about our marriages."
"Too right. Anyway, the whole thing may resolve itself tomorrow," Harry admitted. He must have had more to drink than he thought if he was going to spill about his non-date. But this was Ron; he
shared nearly everything with him.
"Really?" Ron's eyebrows rose. "What's happening tomorrow?"
"I'm meeting one of the other players."
"In real life?" Are you crazy?" Ron stared at him, incredulous. "He, she— any of them could be insane! They're all as batty as you are about being somebody they're not. So which one is
Harry felt his cheeks colour. One night he and Ron had been utterly pissed and he'd gone on and on about the person playing Léofur.
"Oh. It's Dragonlover. Fucking Hades, Harry. Why go and ruin that?"
Harry took another big drink, his forehead furrowed. "Why do you think meeting him, her, whatever, will ruin our characters?"
"Because it could be a totally dumpy old woman and that would be the end of that romance you're having. As sick as it is," he added, the comment almost but not quite swallowed as he took a swig of
Harry's defences raged to full force. "It's not sick! They're just characters! And you're a judgmental twat."
He suddenly noticed that it seemed quieter than before. As he glanced around, he saw dozens of curious eyes evaluating him before hastily returning to their own drinks.
"You should keep your voice down, Mr. I Saved the Wizarding World."
"Shut up," Harry said unconvincingly.
A few moments passed in silence, then Ron said, "Well, maybe it really is for the best for you to meet one of these people in real life. Reckon they're Muggle?"
"Sure of it."
Even as he said the words, he realised that he wasn't certain of it, and, in fact, he held a sliver of hope that whoever it was was a wizard, or witch. It would alleviate his sense of isolation, but might lead to other and
"Well, if it turns out that the person isn't all you hope for, I hope you're not too disappointed. But it might be the end of your characters'
whatever it is."
Ron would always be his best mate, but he'd gone a bit off the deep end when he found out that Harry fancied men as well as women. So it was with dark humour that Harry said, "They've been fucking like
"I don't want to think about that," Ron groaned, signalling the bartender to refill his glass.
Harry just smiled, feeling butterflies of anticipation start their movement in his stomach.
* * * * *
Saturday evening finally arrived, by which point the butterflies were legion. He poured himself a shot of firewhiskey to dampen his nervousness, marvelling at how affected he was by this meeting.
"I could stand her up," he said to Midnight, who made a figure eight around his ankles, purring. "But I'm not like that. Oh. I suppose you want some dinner. That's why you're being so clingy."
He fed the cat and looked at himself in the mirror one last time. He still had a young-looking face, and due to that and his height, he quite liked the small shock of grey that had appeared at his left temple. It couldn't
be called distinguished, but he felt it didn't look out of place. Harry had agonised over what to wear, finally deciding on his usual weekend ensemble of jeans and a button down shirt. His wand was hidden in his sock,
its presence reassuring against his calf. The bit of gel in his hair was performing admirably— for now. Doubtless the unruly waves would return to their usual chaos by the time the night was over.
"Go on," he said to his reflection. "Let's go and see who Dragonlover really is. And hope she or he isn't an axe murderer."
He'd picked an Apparating point several blocks from the pub, giving himself a chance to stretch his legs and get re-acclimated to Muggle London life. Outside of the Royal Arms he paused, a sense of déjà vu coursing
through him with the force of a mighty wave. He'd never been to this pub, but he had been obsessing about this moment since Wednesday. Their respective characters had become even more inseparable, which
now worried him. Ron could be right— it wasn't that uncommon, really— what if he didn't get along with this person?
"Only one way to find out," he said under his breath, and walked through the open door. At the bar toward the wall he saw long, nearly white hair pulled back in a ponytail. The black knit shirt and black
tightly fitting trousers revealed that Dragonlover was no woman. Harry's stomach dropped when the blond man turned and looked at him, curiosity changing to shock, then anger, and then back to confusion. Draco
Malfoy was still giving him a look of disbelief when Harry blurted out, "Are you Dragonlover?"
He held his breath, looking at the sharp features of his former nemesis, now in his mid-30s and without the air of arrogance that Harry remembered.
yes and no. I'm Draco, that should be pretty obvious. Do you mean to tell me that you're Gondor4ever? Which is a ridiculous name, by the way."
Harry's mind was spinning with the incongruity of having this conversation with Malfoy.
"So you've told me. At least a hundred times," he said, trying to keep his tone light. But you've been
you're really the person who's been playing Léofur?"
"Can I get you a drink?" the bartender said, interrupting their conversation.
"Yes. Please. The strongest bitter on tap."
Harry took a seat next to Malfoy, catching a whiff of a light, woodsy cologne. Draco still looked shell-shocked, but he was recovering his sensibilities.
"Why are—" "How on earth—" they said in tandem. Draco shook his head and took a long pull of his pint. "I can't tell you how surprised I am," he said as Harry gratefully accepted
his pint from the bartender.
"Not half as much as I am. I didn't think—" Harry lowered his voice, even though there was a fair din in the pub as it was. "You were always so anti-Muggle. I wouldn't have thought you'd have a
computer, much less be adept enough to be involved in role-playing? About a Muggle fantasy land?"
He heard his voice creeping up and forced himself to take a couple of deep breaths. If nothing else, Dragonlover was his friend. He could deal with the Draco part
"I've changed a fair amount since we were in school," Malfoy said haughtily. "That should be pretty obvious by now. Besides, after hiding away in the wizarding world for a while, I found it was
liberating to be taken at face value in the Muggle world."
Harry took another swig of his drink, trying to reconcile the late night instant message chats with the very real presence of Draco Malfoy. Who had aged well, it was worth noting, and wasn't as unappealing physically
as Harry had found him back when he was sixteen and seventeen. In fact, his face had a sharp, handsome quality, now that he had the opportunity to look at him up close for the first time in
a long time.
"Fair enough. But why role playing?"
"Same as you. I wanted to escape. But you know all about me, and my story. The question is, what now? I didn't expect Gondor4ever to turn out to be Harry Potter."
"I didn't exactly expect you to be Dragonlover. Though now the name makes perfect sense."
Malfoy's lips quirked to the side. "Ages ago I told you it had to do with my family."
"I could hardly have put two and two together, especially not back then!" Harry let out a sharp laugh. "Ron is going to absolutely piss himself."
Malfoy gave him a hard look. "I'd keep my name out of anything you discuss with Weasley," he said, his voice almost threatening.
"He's my best friend! I told him about this meeting," Harry insisted, wishing his mind wasn't filled with the images of what their characters had been getting up to in recent days. "Just because
you've turned out to be someone I know doesn't mean I can keep it a secret. Especially not from Ron."
"Here— can we talk about this somewhere else?" Malfoy took a couple of swallows to finish his pint. "My house is in London, as you know. We can Apparate near here."
well, okay," Harry said, newly flustered as he continued to reconcile the person he did know very well from the all night chats with Malfoy. He actually was easy on the eyes and filled out his snug
trousers in a way that made Harry's pulse speed up. Oh, Merlin, Harry. What have you done?
He sighed to himself.
Harry downed his pint while Malfoy paid for their drinks, then they left the noise of the pub and went out into the warm June night.
"So what was your intent?" Harry asked as they approached the Apparition point. "Before you discovered it was me, that is?"
Harry smiled when he saw Draco pull up his trouser leg, his own wand stuck in his sock as Harry's was. Malfoy gave him an evaluative look, seemed to steel himself, and said, "I'd hoped to start up a relationship.
I'd become quite attached to Gondor4ever. I'd begun— I'd started to fantasize about what you looked like. Before I let myself got off the deep end into yet another fantasy world, I decided I should try to meet
you. Do you mind going side-along?"
Harry was still catching up to the words 'relationship' and 'fantasize', so it took him a moment to realise he'd been asked a question.
"No. I mean, that's fine."
A light smile lit on Malfoy's lips and he stood next to Harry. Draco was a good half a foot taller than he was, but it didn't feel as awkward as Harry might have expected. After the wrenching sensation of Apparatition,
Harry found himself in the back yard of an ordinary looking Muggle house.
"I keep wards on it, otherwise I would have Apparated us inside," Malfoy explained before pointing his wand and murmuring the phrase to disengage the wards. "What about you?" he asked,
opening the door and waving Harry in.
"What about me what?" Harry replied, baffled.
"What was your intention in meeting Dragonlover?"
Draco had steered them into a living room and waved toward a leather sofa. Harry sat down, perched on the edge, watching Malfoy's graceful movements with an increasing admiration and desire.
"Well, I guess I wanted to know what he, or she, was like in real life. I felt like we had a really good rapport, and yes, I'd started to fantasize about you. Well, about Dragonlover, and wondering if we'd hit it off
in real life."
"And it doesn't bother you that I'm a guy? Oh, would you like a drink?"
"Sure. And no, it doesn't bother me. Dragonlover knows that I'd had a couple of experiences with guys, and I'm interested in more. Why didn't you tell me that you were male?"
"I was going to in not too long. I liked the mystique. Keeping you guessing in case you decided your experimenting was over."
Draco poured them both a tumbler of brandy and handed the glass to him, letting his fingers brush Harry's. Harry felt a tingling at the touch, and wondered what it would feel like to run his fingers through Draco's
"Well, now that we know who we are, what now?" he asked before taking a swallow of brandy.
Draco took a seat next to him so that their legs almost touched. "That's a good question. I would never have imagined knowing so much about you, but now that I know it's you, I must admit that I'm still
"That's a relief," Harry said with a laugh. "If you'd wanted to run away, I might have become paranoid."
"Maybe at seventeen or thereabouts, but I've gone through a lot. It took me a long time to recognise some key truths about myself. My sexuality was a pretty major element, but there was something else.
Despite myself, I admired you."
"Really?" Harry almost choked on his brandy. "I was just glad that you even wanted to have a conversation after I walked into the pub. It's not as though we were ever friends."
"No, but I knew Gondor4ever as a real person, as far as I could tell. And after what our characters did together in recent days, I almost felt as though we'd shagged! Or that Léofur did. I just wanked."
"Did you?" Harry felt himself flush, both from excitement of imagining Draco taking care of himself while thinking about him, but also because he'd done the same. "Must admit to having become
pretty hot and bothered myself. But you and I aren't Léofur and Dorloss."
"No, we're not. But we've flirted enough as our personas that it's almost as though
" Draco put a hand on Harry's thigh.
"Almost," Harry said, leaning over slowly so that Draco could pull back if he wished. When he didn't, and he licked his lips, Harry felt a not unpleasant buzzing in his body, a current of anticipation.
"We're Harry and Draco. May I kiss you?"
Draco responded nonverbally, bridging the short gap and kissing him until their noses bumped. Harry chuckled and put his drink down so he could put an arm around the back of Draco's neck. His arousal grew as they
kissed, Draco's mouth opening to him and their tongues sliding along in the other's mouth. After a time Harry pulled back, breathing heavily. Draco's hand was busy palming the bulge at Harry's groin and he strained
into the touch.
"You're a fabulous kisser," Harry said, letting his fingers drift along Draco's kiss-swollen lips. "It's been longer than I'd like to think since I've been that turned on by just kissing."
"I could say the same about you," Draco murmured. "You're not my usual type, that's for sure, but you're somebody I feel I know really well. You're not the tall, lanky type I usually swoon over, but
you're not unattractive."
"Oh, thanks!" Harry said, feigning indignation. "Glad to find that out before any clothes started vanishing. Nice to know I'm remotely appealing."
"I could get used to seeing your face on a regular basis, and not just in the Prophet," Draco said, his lips quirking into a smile. "I just feel strange, because usually I'd be on my computer by now,
waiting for you to show up."
"I'd like to think it's more exciting to have Gondor4ever around in person. Or I suppose I could go home and we could type to each other?"
"Not a chance. Come here." Draco pulled Harry into his lap.
That was the last coherent sentence that was said for a long time. Later, after receiving a mind-melting blowjob and Harry had reciprocated to the best of his admitted less-experienced ability, they lay side by side on
"This was my birthday gift to myself," Draco said, giving Harry a warm smile.
"I didn't know today was your birthday! Don't you think Gondor4ever would have wanted to
surprise you with something?"
"Oh, I was surprised." Draco let out a low laugh. "I didn't know who I would end up meeting tonight, but I could never have predicted it would be you. You've turned out to be very
"In a good way, I hope?"
"That should have been obvious," Draco said, nudging him gently.
"This is just so
surreal," Harry admitted, rising up onto an elbow. "That you're— you, that we're naked, that it's your birthday."
"It's certainly been memorable." He leaned up and kissed Harry, short and chaste, before lying down. "And it doesn't have to be over. Would you like to stay?"
"Well, why not? Now that I know it's your birthday, we can celebrate a bit more. You know, I don't even feel that awkward, 'what next?' kind of feeling."
"Because you know me. Intimately," Draco purred. "And if you wanted to do some of the things you so eloquently wrote on Dorloss' behalf, I'd consider this one of the best birthdays I've
"Are you sure you don't want me to write to you?" Harry joked. "I could quickly Apparate home and get my laptop—"
"Don't you dare." Draco grabbed two handfuls of Harry's arsecheeks. "It's taken me this long to find out who you are in real life. I don't want to go back to staying up until crazy-thirty in the morning
on my computer.
"You'd rather be doing something else then?" Harry said, his desire newly awakening as he felt a similar stiffening against his thigh.
"Yes. And you, of all people, know what that is."
I do know,
Harry thought, pleasure blooming in him as he imagined himself as Dorloss with Léofur. All through that passionate night, however, he kept his eyes wide open, marvelling at the very real presence
of Draco Malfoy, incredulously both lover and friend.
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