"He has got a particularly exquisite arse, hasn't he," Draco commented as he pulled a chair out and sat down next to Severus. He was rewarded with a prodigious snort.
"If you contemplate ever truly finding out, you've a greater imagination than even I ever gave you credit for," Severus replied, as they watched Harry Potter, red Auror robes over one arm, walk through the doors at the other end of the Great Hall.
"Hardly," he sniffed. "Sleeping with people you hate is a bad idea." Draco poured himself tea and looked up at one arched eyebrow. "What?"
Severus pointedly turned back to his breakfast.
"Fine," Draco muttered. "I don't hate him. But he's straight as a rail." Draco added milk to his tea and watched the cloud spread over the bottom of the mug. "It helps to keep trying. To hate him, that is." He watched Severus' mouth quirk up at one side and refocused on his tea. "What was Saint Potter doing here this morning, anyway?"
Severus' mouth flattened quickly. "One of the Gryffindor students was assaulted in Muggle London last night on a weekend trip to see her parents." Draco set his tea down, and the vast Hall suddenly seemed significantly colder. "She is in St. Mungo's, and Potter wanted to speak with the Headmistress about the announcement."
"Assaulted?" Draco asked sharply.
"Raped," Severus sliced off. "Forgive the euphemism."
"Her condition?" Draco asked quietly.
"As well as can be expected," Severus said shortly. "It was a physical attack. Her cuts and bruises have been tended to, her left zygoma reconstructed, and fractures to the right ulna reknit." His face was blank, impassive. "I imagine it will take far more work by the psych Healers than the physical ones."
Draco set his head in his hand. "Who was it?" he asked.
"Elizabeth Lordling," Severus responded. "I suggest you construct an announcement for your House, Draco," he said as he pushed his chair back from a half-empty plate and stood.
Harry stood behind his desk, photos of the girl spread out across the surface. They'd been taken when she was unconscious, given Dreamless Sleep so that the Healing and repair could be done with her body immobile and her mind unable to torture her with memory.
At a knock on his open door, Harry looked up. "Morning, Director," he said as his supervisor walked in. Harry sat heavily down in his chair and gestured to the one across the desk. Instead, the woman stood and looked at the images.
"What've we got?" she asked as she finally sat.
Harry shook his head. "Jack and shite," he said, scowling. "Can't even tell if it was a wizard or a fastidious Muggle. There was nothing on her body - no spell residue, no hair, no skin." He paused. "No semen."
"No spell residue? What about her own magic?"
Harry shook his head. "Nothing."
Director Grevling shook her head. "Why not?"
"Don't know. The Healers still had her asleep when I left for Hogwarts this morning. I'll head back over there shortly to ask her some questions, but she'll likely be too traumatized to give me much that's useful."
Grevling nodded. "Anything else I can tell the family?"
Harry shook his head, his expression pained. He reached for his Auror robe, slung over the back of the chair, and pulled out a piece of parchment. "Here's her address; I got it from Headmistress McGonagall this morning. They're Muggles, don't forget."
"Thanks ever so much, Potter," Director Grevling said dryly. "Any other directions on how I should do my job, or would you like to go in my place?"
He shuddered. "Absolutely not. I don't do parents."
"I thought as much," she said as she stalked out of his office.
Harry took a deep breath. She was a good supervisor and the Department had flourished under her administration, but in spite of having given up fieldwork, Director Grevling was still . . . formidable.
Severus Snape had a cubby in his office devoted to announcement scrolls. Several of them dealt with unpleasant issues that had arisen in the last War; attacks on students had been frequent and attacks on their families more so. Slytherin had lost more than most, and as Dumbledore had always felt that unpleasant truths were preferable to rampant morbid speculation, Severus had found himself responsible for recurring verbal bulletins to his House. He found one filed under "Alive - Injured - Stable" and went to call rouse his students from a Saturday morning lie-in. At the door of his office, his steps slowed and he sighed. Rolling his eyes for no one's benefit but his own, he pointed his wand at the announcement. "Duplicare," he muttered, tapping his wand twice on the parchment. Another scroll materialized around the first, and Severus pulled them apart and rerolled each as he turned up the stairs.
Ravenclaw was undoubtedly the furthest possible office from the dungeons. It was hardly surprising, Severus reflected, given the House mascots. Severus reminded himself of this fact on each and every occasion he had to climb the never-ending flights of ever-changing stairs. Still.
"Here," he said without preamble as he opened the door to Draco's office without so much as knocking. Startled, Draco flung the droplet of ink that had been dangling from his quill.
"Merlin, Severus! Knock, will you!" Draco set the quill carefully on its rest and took the scroll from Severus. "What's this?"
"A more brief and concise version than that tripe you've no doubt been agonizing over," Severus gestured at the paper on Draco's desk. The faintest touch of red crept over Draco's high cheekbones as Severus smirked and swept back out the door, closing it sharply behind him.
Draco shook his head and scowled as he pulled open the scroll and propped his ink bottle on the top to keep it flat. As it transpired, there wasn't much to keep flat. Three sentences left a spot for the victim's name, alluded to an injury, and advised students that the Hogwarts professors and staff were examining the matter. Draco remembered the announcement from his own school days.
He snapped the parchment out from under the ink and crushed it into a ball, then threw it towards the fire. He missed the flames, but at least it hit the hearth.
Harry hadn't grown to like St. Mungo's much more than he'd liked it as a child. Less, most likely. His job only brought him here under lousy circumstances. He felt his robe catch around his angles and lengthened his stride down the hospital corridor. He hated the robe; it perpetually hampered his movements. He'd grown an understanding of Snape's perpetually menacing stride; women could get away with shorter robes or shorter steps, but as a man of average height, average-length steps were beyond Harry. He could either mince or stride.
He strode. There was a Healer coming out of the child's room as he approached.
"Auror Potter," the woman nodded.
"How is she?" Harry asked.
The Healer sighed. "Physically, she's doing well. She's young, so she'll heal fast. The mended bones will be tender and a bit softer than usual for a while, but I doubt she'll be doing any roughhousing any time soon. Facial Skelegrow is quite painful." She frowned. "Are you any closer to finding the wretch?"
Harry shook his head. "I'm hoping that she can give me more information," he said. "I've got next to nothing to go on."
She nodded. "I haven't talked to her much; she's only been awake an hour or so. I understand her parents will be here shortly?"
Harry nodded. "Grevling's gone to talk to them; I imagine she'll bring them in herself." He shrugged as the Healer's eyebrows rose fractionally. "We don't deal with much worse than attacked kids," he said as he glanced at the door. "Especially this kind of attack."
She nodded. "Healer Lau is in with her now. She'll be able to help you with your questioning."
"Thank you," Harry sighed and moved towards the door, and the Healer continued on her way.
He knocked very lightly on the door, hoping not to startle her. "Elizabeth?" he asked as he opened it and stepped into the small room.
She shied away from him like a mistreated dog, and he tried to quiet his voice a bit more. "I'm sorry it's so soon after you've woken," he continued, staying carefully as far from the bed as he could as he paced to the unoccupied chair at the end of it. The girl took several deep breaths and Harry watched her force herself back to the center of the bed and square her rolled, tight shoulders. "I need to ask you a few questions. Will that be all right?" He tried to direct the question at both the girl and the Healer sitting in the chair next to the girl's head.
"Of course," she said, and if her voice was thin and wavered Harry wasn't going to mention it. He cleared his throat.
"Would you rather I asked specific questions, or do you want to just tell me how it happened?" Harry slid the chair from the end of the bed to the wall, and swung it around so he could sit and lean forward with his elbows on his knees.
"I don't remember," the girl whispered.
"You don't remember what happened?" Harry asked carefully. She shook her head. "Do you remember what you were doing last night?"
"I mean," she shook her head again. "I . . . I know what happened, but I don't remember it happening." She hunched one shoulder up towards her ear in what Harry took to be a slow-motion sort of exaggerated shrug. "You know?" She looked at him a bit desperately and he nodded.
"Why don't you tell me the last thing you do remember," Harry said.
"I was walking - just walking, sort of, towards this park I used to go when I was a kid. It's like - there's no magic stuff in it, just - Muggle stuff. Swings and stuff."
Harry smiled. "I used to go to a park like that when I was a kid, too," he said.
"Yeah. I love Hogwarts and stuff, but there aren't any swings," she said, her face a bit wistful for just a moment. "My parents and I - it's hard sometimes when I go home. I love my family, see, but they - " she broke off and frowned down at the bandages on her hands.
"They're both Muggles?" Harry asked, though he knew the answer.
She nodded. "They don't really understand magic," she said. "It's not like, useful to them. Or anything. And I show them stuff sometimes, like pictures from school, and it doesn't help. I mean, what good is a picture that moves? They have movies. And I can't even do, like, a Transfiguration or anything. So they kinda just think Hogwarts is about - I dunno, parlor tricks and stuff." She shrugged again. "So I'm pretty much a Muggle when I'm home, 'cause I can't do any magic. And so it takes me a little while sometimes to get back into the mindset before I come back to school."
It struck Harry that for Elizabeth, the categories of 'school' and 'home' were clearly defined. “So," he said, clearing his throat softly. "You stop in the park for a little while to swing and think about things?"
"Yeah," she smiled a tiny bit. "You like the swings too?" He nodded, allowing her a moment before he pressed further.
"So you didn't make it to the park," he said.
Elizabeth's eyes dropped back to her hands and she shook her head. "I don't really remember after that," she said.
"Were you hit by a spell?" Harry asked. She shook her head. "No, you weren't hit by a spell, or no, you don't remember?" he asked.
A tear slid down the edge of her nose and hung there for a second before falling into her lap. "No, I wasn't hit by a spell," she said, so softly that Harry leaned forward a bit to catch it.
"What did he hit you with?" Harry asked gently.
She shrugged minutely. "It was metal," she said. "Like a metal stick."
Harry frowned. "Okay," he said. "Did he hit you from behind?"
"At first." Elizabeth was still staring straight down at her hands, bandaged halfway up her forearms. She moved the fingers, one at a time, barely a twitch, in some order indiscernible to Harry.
"Did he tie you to something?" Harry asked softly. She shook her head again, and murmured something into her lap. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that?"
"Handcuffs," Elizabeth said. "He handcuffed me."
"Oh." Harry sat back in his chair. "Oh."
"He wasn't even a Wizard," she said, and tears ran down both sides of her nose to congregate on the tip. “I’m just . . . that . . . .”
"Elizabeth," Harry said. She didn't look up. Harry stood and went to the side of her bed, watching her struggle to control the way she wanted to cringe away from him. He crouched so his head was just above the side of the bed and looked up into her face, forcing her to look down at him. "Elizabeth, you know I was raised with Muggles, right?" He ducked his head a little sideways to make sure she was looking into his eyes. "When I was little, my cousin used to chase me around every day." Harry shook his head. "He was never as . . . creative as whomever attacked you, but he punched me and he kicked me and he broke my ribs several times, my wrist at least once." Her eyes widened and she straightened up a bit to stare at him. "Now," he said. "Do you think of me as weak?"
"No, sir!" She gaped at him.
"Good. Then we can move on, because neither are you." He stood and moved back to his chair. "Elizabeth, I'm sure you know that people like this almost never stop after the first time." He looked at her squarely as he sat down. "I need to know everything I can to make sure that we catch him before he has a second chance to hurt someone else. Possibly," he frowned, "someone younger and more defenseless."
"But . . ." she stared up at him for a moment, and then switched her gaze to the ceiling, as if willing the tears to seep back into her eyes. "But don't you see?" she sniffed. "I didn't defend myself at all! I tried to run, but - my hands were behind my back - I fell on my face. He laughed at me, and just wandered up and flipped me over. I was useless!"
"Why didn't you use magic?" Harry asked.
"How?" she demanded, looking at him. "What was I supposed to use? Expelliarmus?! I didn’t even have my wand!"
Harry nodded slowly. "Because he handcuffed your hands behind your back," he said. "Where was your wand?"
"Back with the rest of my stuff, at the Leaky Cauldron," she said, thumping herself back against the pillows, exasperated and defeated.
"Ah." Harry sat back in his chair and tried not to look as appalled as he felt. It certainly wouldn't help her now. "Well. At least that means it's still okay," he said, feeling like it was a lame offering.
"Awesome." she said dully, staring at the ceiling again. "Tom always Apparates me back to Hogsmeade after I visit my parents."
"We know," Harry said. "He's the one who called us when you didn't show up on time."
"He did?" She straightened up a bit.
"Yep," Harry said.
"Oh," she said. "Well, tell him thanks for me. He's always been really nice. He just hangs on to my stuff when I go home. Don't need it there anyway."
"I'm sure he'll be in himself pretty soon to say hello," Harry said as he stood. "He was nearly having fits when we brought you in last night."
Elizabeth looked up at him, panic creeping into her eyes. "He didn't see me, did he?"
"No, honey," the Healer in the other chair spoke for the first time. Harry nearly jumped as he remembered she was there. "No one saw you but the Healers."
Harry caught a pointed glance and figured now was not the time to mention the photos for the Auror division.
Elizabeth calmed a bit, and Harry felt the faintest tendril of magic as the Healer gently set a hand on Elizabeth's forearm. He glanced at Healer again and noticed that beneath her name was the emblem of the psych ward. He nodded to her, and turned toward the door.
"Your parents will be here soon, Elizabeth," Harry said. "Director Grevling has gone to escort them." He turned back as he opened the door to see her startled expression.
"The Director of the Auror division?"
"Yes?" Harry replied, wondering why that was surprising.
"Oh. But I'm not - " she shook her head. "I'm just a Muggleborn," she said, with that awkward twitch of one shoulder again.
Harry turned back to face her. "I'm not sure who you've been listening to," he said carefully, trying not to sound angry. "But there's nothing "just" about you, any more than there is about anyone else - pureblood, mixed blood, crazy or sane." Harry shook his head. "My best friend is Muggleborn, by the way." He looked at her sternly over the tops of his glasses. "So no impugning your blood."
"O-of course," she said, pressing back a bit into the pillows and looking at him.
"Grevling would be speaking to the parents of any child who had suffered such a vicious attack," Harry said, struggling for a matter-of-fact tone. "Since your parents will need to be escorted in the magical world, it made the most sense for her to do both at the same time." He glanced down at his watch, and the hand marked ‘Grevling’ popped out, pointed at London. "She'll talk to them for a little while, and give them some idea of what to expect when they come." He grinned, trying to inject a bit of levity into the moment. "You might not have seen it, actually, but the waiting room at St. Mungo's is really quite startling if you're not accustomed to it. First time I came, there were at least a couple of flying children and a few variations on the teapot-person theme."
One side of her mouth quirked up just a bit, and Harry figured it was better than panic. "I'll see you later, Elizabeth. Thanks for talking with me." He nodded to her and shut the door.
Once outside it, he leaned against the wall to his left for a moment, rubbing his forehead and the bridge of his nose. He took a deep breath and straightened up, giving himself a mental shake as he continued down the corridor back toward the Floos.
Draco looked out at the sea of inquisitive expressions arrayed across the common room. "Aah . . ." he said intelligently. They all watched him, expectantly. The tough part about heading a House that one hadn't grown up in was that sometimes the reactions caught him off guard. If this had been Slytherin, a half-dozen of the students would have approached him by now with private questions, hoping to get some information ahead of the game that they might trade for other information before the public statement the professors would inevitably be making. It would have made it worse that Draco had put off the announcement until evening, just before supper, and the other Houses no doubt had already been told.
Ravenclaw simply quieted down the moment he walked into the room, and by the time he had gained center stage, in front of the long hearth, they were all waiting patiently for whatever news he had to communicate. "I imagine many of you have heard something by now, but the Headmistress has asked us all to inform you ourselves, in an attempt to quell the no doubt rampant rumors." He paused. "Elizabeth Lordling of Gryffindor House was attacked in Muggle London last night on her way back to Hogwarts from a visit with her parents." There were a few gasps, most likely from students who hadn't surfaced from homework or other studies. Some of them had likely been mired in the library or the Ravenclaw study rooms since before the attack, much less the spread of news. Draco had found, first as a teacher and then as Ravenclaw's Head of House, that Ravenclaws may be known for their intelligence, but they were also unbelievably absent-minded. There were a few he had to check on every so often to make sure they remembered meals.
"But Professor - " Draco held up his hand and the voice fell silent. They were, he had to acknowledge, easily the most well-mannered group in the school.
"No details," Draco said. "In the first place, I don't have them, and in the second place, I imagine Miss Lordling will want to maintain what little privacy she will have left upon her return. She is recovering in St. Mungo's as we speak, and we hope to have her back in class with us by the end of the week." He watched their eyes go round as some of them worked out the depth of injury required to keep a student in hospital for more than an overnight, and a few of the more empathetically inclined frowned at the implications.
"Thank you, Professor," Dara Dougherty spoke up. Draco enjoyed the girl; she was a very competent Prefect and a likely candidate for the next Head Girl. At the moment, she was quite pale. "I'll see if I can organize a letter for her," she added, turning to include the rest of the room. "Would anyone like to draw something? Maybe we can each write a short note around it."
"Thank you, Miss Dougherty," Draco nodded, and the tableau was broken as students began to mill about and speak amongst themselves, latching onto activity in the face of a crisis. A few congregated around Miss Dougherty, and Draco paused on his way out as he overheard the artist of the group offer to draw if one of the others would cast the animation charm.
He ducked through the portrait and turned towards the staff room.
He'd not been paying a great deal of attention as he walked, mentally cataloguing his remaining grading, or he most likely would have noticed Potter's snapping footsteps behind him. As it was, he only noticed the man as Harry put a hand out to catch the door Draco had nearly let fall in his face.
"Sorry - Potter!" Draco jumped a bit backwards into the room.
"Malfoy," he replied, following Draco in.
"What are you doing here?" Draco asked before he could catch himself. "Besides impersonating a thundercloud, that is," he said, trying to recover his sneer.
Harry's face darkened a bit more. "Perhaps you haven't yet heard about my day," he said, one eyebrow raised just a bit.
"In point of fact, I had," Draco said, sounding a bit pompous even to his own ears. "I've just come from speaking with my House about it," he continued, taking a deeper breath and making an effort to settle himself. He must have succeeded at least a bit, because Harry seemed to deflate just slightly before he glanced away from Draco.
"I'm looking for the Headmistress," he said, glancing around the room, "but she doesn't seem-"
"I'm here, Harry," Minerva said as she rose from a deep chair facing away from the door and towards the fireplace. "What can I do for you?" She had a slightly worried look pinched between her eyebrows.
Harry's jaw clenched, and Minerva's frown deepened. "I'm not sure if you got the Auror report," he bit out as he strode toward the larger desk near the fireplace. He reached into his robe and brought out a file, flipping onto the table and expanding it in one motion. As he set one photograph out after another, Draco watched Minerva's face get progressively more pale and her mouth set into a narrower line. He walked up behind Harry, whose shaving potion he could smell as his body heat caused it to slowly effervesce. He was clearly angry.
Draco glanced down at the table and had no trouble seeing why. He breathed in through his nose rather abruptly, and Harry glanced at him. "She was handcuffed, Minerva," Harry said, glaring. "Her wand was in her bag, at the Leaky Cauldron." Harry's glare switched to Draco. "She was shocked when I told her that Director Grevling was going to see her parents, because she's only a Muggleborn." Draco took a half step away from Harry, who switched his glare back to Minerva. "When I asked her why she didn't use magic to protect herself, she said, 'what was I supposed to use - expelliarmus?'" Harry had puffed up like a blowfish, and some small bit of Draco's brain filed the image away to be amusing later. But when Harry's unruly hair began sparking, Draco felt it had gone on long enough.
"Potter," he said sharply, setting a hand on Harry's forearm when he didn't turn immediately to look at Draco.
"What?" he snapped.
"Control yourself!" Draco snapped back, reveling in the fleeting opportunity to touch Harry's magic, as close as it was to the surface like this. He nodded at the sparks, and Harry immediately took a deep breath and visibly calmed himself.
"Sorry," he muttered ungraciously to both Draco and Minerva. "I just cannot believe this." He dropped into the chair next to Minerva's, and gestured dramatically. "Do you know what has to be going on in her head for her own magic to not take over? What she has to believe to not defend herself reflexively with whatever means are at hand?" Draco looked down at the images.
"Are these Muggle photographs?" he asked curiously.
Harry raised his eyebrows. "We take wizarding photos of rape victims, and they hide outside of the frame," he said. Draco had the grace to wince, and Minerva made a small noise as she made her way over to the decanter on a side table.
"Sherry, anyone?" she asked with a sort of forced lightness.
Draco was glad to see Potter looking at the woman a bit askance. "Never mind, Potter. Here." He sighed as if put upon, and walked toward cabinet and removed a decent bottle of Macallan and a couple of glasses. "Severus is going to murder you," Minerva told him, still pale, but with the tiniest bit of a smirk hovering around her mouth.
"Quite likely," Draco replied, handing one to Potter.
"Thank you," he said, clearly surprised by the gesture.
Draco shrugged. "You look like you need it," he said. Potter rolled his eyes.
"Harry," Minerva began, settling into her chair again. "Part of the problem with Miss Lordling is that she isn't particularly strong magically."
"Bollocks," Harry said.
Draco sat down on the hearth.
"She - excuse me?" Minerva blinked.
"I said, bollocks," Harry repeated. "I did a bit of poking around when she was unconscious. She might not be Dumbledore, but she's certainly average."
"Her marks - "
"Are probably low," Harry jumped in, leaning forward and cradling his whiskey glass in his hands. "I imagine they're low because she doesn't really believe that she could do anything particularly great with magic. Moreover," he emphasized with one hand, "she probably feels like she shouldn't be as strong as the rest of her classmates, because someone has been telling her that Muggleborns aren't any good." Harry scowled at Draco again.
"Look, Potter," he said, straightening up as the fire warmed his spine. "We're supposed to have gotten through this. I don't believe Muggleborns are lesser witches." He rubbed his nose absently. "Hermione would never speak to me, for one thing, and for another - I know my own limitations. She will always be a more powerful witch than I am wizard." He shrugged. "I've made my peace with it. I know that you know it, so stop it with the glaring. We're trying to be on your side, here."
Harry slumped back into his chair and took a swallow of his Scotch. "I know." Hermione really was the only reason Draco and Harry spoke at all; Draco gave her a great deal of credit for allowing the past to be past when he had begun as a Professor.
Harry straightened. "Well, perhaps Hermione will have some light to shed on the subject when she gets home. Elizabeth is in her House, after all." Harry frowned.
"Oh God," Draco stared at him, aghast. "You still have to tell Hermione!"
"Thank you, Draco, for that charming reminder of the painfully obvious."
Draco stared. Harry very rarely used his given name. Never, actually, that Draco could remember. Harry evidently misinterpreted the stare. "What? I didn't think there was anything she could do before she got back anyway," he said. "She'd only have worried." There was a long pause. "She is still coming home tonight, isn't she?"
"Of course," Draco said, recovering himself. "I think I've just thought of an errand I must run." He winced. "In Tasmania."
"Pussy," Harry murmured into his glass.
"Well, really," said Minerva. "I'm sure that between the two of you and your gutter language, you can scrape up the courage." She stood, set her empty glass down on the table, and swept toward the door. "Mr. Potter, I'm sure Hermione will agree with the need for a meeting in the morning before classes. Shall we say seven o'clock in my office?"
"Of course," Harry said, standing as she left the room. He turned to see Draco do the same before resettling himself with his trademark grace into the chair McGonagall had just vacated.
"I think I've just been volunteered for a suicide mission," he groused. Harry shot him an odd look and glanced at his watch.
"Merlin," he cursed half-heartedly. "Traveling."
"I'm fairly good at cryptic, Potter, but that was beyond my ability to reconstruct."
Harry snorted. "I suppose you'd have to be, all the time you spend around Snape." Draco arched a brow in reply. "Watch says Hermione's traveling," Harry clarified. "She could be anywhere between France and the main gates, but she'll be home pretty soon."
"Your watch tells you this?" Draco drawled, hoping he came across as unconvinced.
Harry looked over at him with a vaguely perplexed expression. "Of course," he said. "Don't you have one? Or a clock, or something that keeps track of your family?"
Draco stiffened and he felt his face fall into its customary lines. "Over whom would it watch?" he asked acidly.
"Oh, bollocks," Harry said. "I'm sorry, Malfoy. You wouldn't believe how often I put my foot in it. I didn't mean to . . . anyway." He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Anyway, it doesn't have to be blood relations, obviously. Hermione did the charm work for me. The Weasleys have this great clock, see, that keeps track of all the family members, and-"
"I suppose you'd need a clock to keep track of them, the way they reproduce," Draco stuck in.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Right. Anyway, Hermione did the charms on it. She's on it, Grevling's on it, Ron's on it. You know."
Draco looked vaguely appalled. "You consider your boss family?"
"I - no, not really," Harry said, shrugging. "But you know, she was one of the people I needed to keep track of the most. So. You know."
"Hmm," said Draco, looking at Harry with a bit of a smirk.
"What?" Harry said, half-standing and tugging the armchair over towards Draco's with the most disarmingly earnest expression on his face. "Look, see?" He thrust his arm out, wristwatch glinting under Draco's nose. "Since the hands were harder to see on a watch than on a clock, Hermione charmed it to display the hand of whomever I'm concentrating on."
Draco, feeling a bit as if he were poking a firelizard, curled elegant fingers around Potter's sturdy wrist and turned it so he could examine the watch. "I can't read any of them," he said. "What if none of them stand out?"
He glanced up to see Harry's face flame before he stuttered, "Oh. Just - look now," he said, turning away from Draco and staring hard at the wall. Draco looked back down at the watch, absently noticing that Harry's pulse was racing.
"Shite," he said. "It says Hermione's home."
"Oh. Right," Harry said, jumping up and pulling his wrist out of Draco's grasp. A flick of his wand had the armchair back to its original position by the time Draco had stood. "Are you sure you want to -"
"Of course I don't want to," Draco said, pulling a put-upon sigh. He straightened up, and looked at Harry more closely. "But I'm just as interested as you are to find who did this. And frankly, I've been advocating self-defense for years. Hermione and I have kicked it around before, but the rest of the professors have always decried it as unnecessary." He tilted his chin up just the slightest.
"So this is so you can say I told you so?" Harry looked at him incredulously.
"Oh, for fuck's sake, Potter! Grow up!" Draco spun and walked out the door, barely restraining himself from slamming it on Potter's nose as he followed.
Harry trailed after Draco for most of the distance to Hermione's rooms, mincing and cursing his robe under his breath. As they reached the final staircase, he finally managed to choke down the last protest of schoolboy pride.
"Draco," he said, and cleared his throat. "Draco." He repeated it, waiting until the man ahead of him paused on the stair.
"Potter," Draco said, voice chilly. Harry winced.
Draco turned, looking unconvinced. Harry took a deep breath and started over.
"That was childish and irrational, and I apologize." Draco's face thawed from iceberg to mountain stream, and Harry continued. "I know Hermione likes and respects you as a colleague, and in the future I will do my best to form conclusions that aren't based on juvenile prejudice."
Draco laughed. "Merlin. Did you think of that on the spur of the moment, or have you been practicing that one?"
Harry felt himself flush and nearly abandoned the peace effort. "Look, I've been trying to tell you that for months, ever since I - since Hermione started talking about you and stuff. I mean, what kind of friend would I be to her if I didn't -"
Something brushed Harry's leg, and his wand was in his hand before he finished his last word. "Immobilus!" he snapped out as Draco trained his wand downwards.
"Lumos, he said, illuminating the stairwell.
The stairwell, and one seriously angry orange cat.
"Aw, fuck," Harry said. "Finite," he flicked his wand at Crookshanks and watched him streak up the stairs ahead of them, a furious yowl in his wake. "Well, now she knows we’re here," Harry grumbled. They put their wands away and tromped up the stairs together.
"Harry. Draco." Hermione answered the door, her expression amused and confused at once. It crystallized as she registered their expressions. “What is it?” she asked, stepping back from the door.
Harry cleared his throat as he followed Draco into Hermione’s study. “Hermione . . .” he stepped toward her fire, as if its warmth would stiffen his spine. “One of your students was attacked in London this weekend,” he said, opting for speed over gentility. “She’s recovering in St. Mungo’s and should be released within a day or two.”
Hermione put a hand on the arm of her sofa and Draco sent Harry an ill-concealed look that said Harry couldn’t possibly have been more uncouth.
“Elizabeth Lordling,” Hermione said. Harry nodded.
“Why? How did you know that?” Draco’s attention snapped back to Hermione. “Was someone bothering her?”
“No, no,” Hermione shook her head.
“She was the only one of Hermione’s students that had a pass to be gone for the weekend,” Harry said.
Draco looked from Hermione back to Harry and scowled.
“Right. I’ll just make some tea, then,” he said, glaring at Harry and disappearing toward Hermione’s miniature kitchen.
“Hermione?” Harry held an arm out to her and she stepped into it, staring blankly at the fire.
“What else do you know?” she asked.
Harry took a deep breath and sat down on the hearth, pulling Hermione around to sit next to him.
He cleared his throat delicately. “She was raped. There were no traces of magic on her, and we have no physical evidence.” He paused a moment. “She says he used handcuffs.”
“Handcuffs?!” Hermione sat back, appalled. “A Muggle did this?”
“Hold up a bit,” Draco said from the doorway, holding – of all things – a silver tea service. “I was lost on the handcuffs earlier. What are these things, some kind of charmed cuff link?” He set the tea service on top of the papers scattered across the low table. Hermione leaned forward robotically, pouring herself a cup of tea. Harry took the opportunity to rub his hand across her shoulders once before pouring himself a cup as she began talking.
“No, they’re Muggle – they’re – you know the police? Like Muggle Aurors?” Draco nodded uncertainly. “They use handcuffs as restraints. They go –” she made a motion of one hand around the other wrist.
“Like this,” Harry added, picking up a spoon from the tea tray. Concentrating on it, he drew his want in a neat figure eight and transfigured it into a neat pair of hinged silver handcuffs. Harry tried to open them. “Huh. Well, I’m not all that familiar with the mechanism, obviously, but they’re supposed to open here. They snap around wrists, pretty much immobilizing hands and arms.” He tossed them to Draco, who snagged them from the air and examined them.
“Quite ingenious, really,” he said, turning them over in his hands.
“But . . .” Hermione leaned back against Harry’s shoulder and he hastily switched hands with his tea. “How could a Muggle possibly do this to a witch?”
“I was rather hoping you could tell me,” he said drily. He recounted his conversation with Elizabeth, growing more tense with each sentence. As he finished, he noticed that his shoulders were encroaching on his earlobes and he consciously pulled them down, putting one hand up to rub a muscle in his neck.
Hermione was staring at him, aghast. “Expelliarmus?” she said incredulously, slamming her teacup down onto the tray as she shot to her feet. Harry sighed. He’d been waiting for the storm to break, but it looked like Draco was caught unawares, indelicately splashing tea across his fine grey trousers.
“Just a Muggleborn!” Hermione fairly shouted, pacing the room. “Her wand was in her luggage?” She snapped at Harry, who wearily nodded once. “Never heard of such foolishness. How she ever could have come out of Gryffindor is beyond me. Of all the ridiculous -” she continued her tirade, eventually loosing copious quantities of frustration on dusting charms and other housekeeping wandwork, spinning and casting with punishing fury. Harry saw Draco watch the entire proceedings with something like morbid curiosity.
“Hermione,” Harry finally called. “Hey. HEY!” She glared at him. “You can’t dust anything else. And you’re going to wear down the stone with that sweeping, for Merlin’s sake.” She looked mutinous and shot off one more cleaning charm at the tea tray. Harry was willing to bet that no Malfoy house elf could get the silver that clean, and he raised one eyebrow to Draco wordlessly. Draco eyed the tray carefully and shook his head.
“What?” Hermione snapped at them both.
“Nothing,” Harry said hastily. “Look. I need to ask you if you can think of anything Elizabeth might have mentioned about anyone or anything that might be remotely connected to this.”
Hermione took a deep breath, and thumped heavily down on the couch next to Draco. He prudently, Harry noted, held his tea out of the way.
“No,” she shook her head helplessly, tucking her feet up and throwing her head back into the corner of the cushions. “No, I have nothing. She’s quiet, doesn’t talk much.”
Draco snorted, and she pinned him with a look. He held his free hand up in surrender. “I just didn’t think they made quiet Gryffindors,” he said with a smirk.
“Please,” Harry rolled his eyes. “You just don’t hear about them ‘cause of the loud kind.”
Hermione dropped her head back and stared at the ceiling. “What did I miss?” she muttered, half to herself.
“Nothing,” Draco said softly, sliding just close enough to put a hand on her knee. “You didn’t miss anything.”
Harry stared at Draco’s hand. He didn’t remember seeing Draco touch anyone casually like that. Ever.
“We just need the random details,” he was assuring her. “Things that might not have made any sense at the time, but for some reason jump into your head now.”
Harry shook himself as Hermione set her hand on Draco’s.
“Yeah,” Harry said, wrenching his gaze up to find Draco staring at him, eyebrows raised. He felt the blood climbing up his neck and fervently hoped his cheeks wouldn’t betray him. “Yeah.” He, glanced up at the ceiling Hermione was still staring at. “You know. Things like – well, Minerva seems to think she was a relatively weak witch, but –“
“She wasn’t!” Hermione sat abruptly upright, and Draco prudently removed his hand from firing range. “She was always just – afraid of failure, I’d’ve said,” she sat forward, elbows on her knees. “She never wanted to do anything better than anyone else.” Harry frowned. “She did well enough – always well enough to pass, she was never even at the bottom of the class. But she – you know, she always did exactly average.”
Draco cleared his throat. “Far be it from me to ascribe Slytherin motives to a Gryffindor, but it sounds distinctly like she was trying not to be noticed.” Draco studied Hermione. “Do you know if she was having any problems at home?”
“No, what? Why?” Hermione frowned at him.
“Because if she drew attention at home she’d have been beaten for it,” Harry said softly. “Strive for mediocrity,” he added bitterly.
“Hey, now.” Draco leaned over to pour some more tea. “Never confuse mediocrity with anonymity.”
“Beaten?” Hermione said blankly.
“The pieces fit,” Draco said, handing her the teacup. She took it mechanically, looking at Harry.
“He’s right.” It was Harry’s turn to stand and pace the room. “How could I have missed that!” He felt like punching the wall, but reined it in, walking the room like a caged tiger.
“The same way everyone missed it with you,” Draco said softly. Harry spun on his heel, staring like a crazed animal. Draco held his eyes, and Harry was furious. Fuming. He advanced on Draco, new versions of his fist and where it belonged swimming in his vision. His shin hit the table and he stopped dead, pain bringing sharp realization.
“Or you,” he said, just as softly as Draco had.
Draco flinched, but continued to hold Harry’s eyes as he nodded slightly. “My Uncle Rodolphus.” His lips quirked in a bitter smile. “I believe you’ve met him.”
Harry deflated, and sat down heavily, on the hearth. Hermione came to sit close by him, one arm snugged around his shoulders as he dropped his head into his palms. “You’ve never said anything,” she said, sighing.
He shook his head. “No,” he said, raising it to look at her. “But you knew, didn’t you?”
She nodded. “I tried to talk to Ron about it once.” She rolled her eyes. “He told me I was batty. I think it’s just . . . that far out of his worldview.”
“I know,” Harry said, dropping his head back down. He missed the look Hermione shot Draco over his bent head.
Draco stood and began reassembling the tea tray to take it back into the kitchen. “I think this has probably been enough drama for one evening,” he said a bit drily. “I’m going to see if I can get a few hours’ sleep before we have to be functional again.”
“Oh, God.” Harry glanced at Hermione’s wall clock – the one that actually told time. “Christ, Hermione, I forgot to tell you. Minerva would like to meet with us in the morning before classes.”
“Of course,” she said, smoothing her hands over her skirt as she stood. “Seven?”
“That’s what she said,” Harry said, stifling a yawn.
“Come on, sleepybones,” she held out a hand and he took it, standing and pulling her into a hug.
“Thank you,” he whispered into her hair.
“Silly boy,” she said, smiling up at him. “That’s what friends do.” He grinned at her. “Do you want to kip on the sofa?” she asked.
“No, thanks,” he said with a shrug, just as Draco rounded the corner sans tea tray. “I think I need . . . my own bed tonight.” Harry caught a flicker of something cross Draco’s face as he headed towards the door.
“See you in the morning then, Granger?”
She leveled her wand at him and some spell Harry didn’t recognize shot out at Draco.
“Aargh!” He jumped easily a foot. “Merlin! You hideous wretch!” Draco turned downright purple, hauling for his wand with one hand and . . . Harry’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. The other hand was going down his pants . . . ?
“I swore to you that the next time you called me that I was going to give you the worst wedgie you’ve ever had,” Hermione said coolly, lowering her wand but not putting it away.
“And I told you I’d never heard of such a thing!” Draco cried, glaring at her, shooting off one minor hex after the next as Hermione deflected each effortlessly while Harry looked on in astonishment.
“Hermione!” he turned on her. “You did what?”
“She’s totally wrenched my pants up my . . . .”
“He deserved it!” Hermione shrugged. “Besides, it was just a wee wedgie.” She smirked mercilessly. “On account of the fact he’s never had one before.”
Draco finally got part of a Jelly-Legs jinx through Hermione’s defense, and she wobbled, putting a hand out for Harry.
“Oh, no, you don’t.” Harry said. “I’m all for you teaching him a lesson about your name, but you just don’t go for a bloke’s bits.”
“Fine,” she said, laughing. “Out, the lot of you,” she flicked at the door with her wand. “I’ll see you in the morning!”
Draco flung one more curse as he jumped for the door, ducking as it ricocheted past him and dissipated in the stairwell. Then he turned on Harry, still hauling at his pants. Harry was shocked at the expression on his face – it took him several seconds to identify it as a good-natured grin.
He shook his head. “You have changed,” he said.
“Hardly,” Draco snorted. “It’s just my turn now.” Harry looked a bit closer and caught the devilish gleam in his eyes.
“I take it this wasn’t the beginning?” he asked.
“Whatever do you mean?” Draco said, trying for innocent. Harry decided Draco didn’t do innocent any better than he did plebeian, but the attempt wrenched a grin from him as they trudged back down the stairs. At the landing, Draco made to turn off for his own quarters, but Harry stopped him with a light touch to the elbow.
Draco turned, startled. “Draco, I . . . .” Harry swallowed. Shrugged. “Thank you,” he said, glancing down at his feet. When Draco didn’t say anything, Harry looked back up to find grey eyes studying him.
Draco nodded once then drew in a breath and tilted his chin up slightly. Harry braced himself – and Draco held out his right hand.
Harry felt himself thrown, a curious sense of déjà vu seeping up from somewhere. He took the offered hand. In the moment he felt Draco’s release of breath, he understood that Draco’s chin was directly connected to his courage, and he understood how much the gesture had cost him.
Harry looked up into grey eyes again. “Thank you,” he said again, hoping the layers came through. Draco nodded without speaking again, and they parted in amicability for possibly the first time ever.
Draco woke Monday morning bleary eyed. It was grey and raining outside of his tower, which went well with his mood. He drank four cups of tea because he’d gotten up too early and didn’t know what else to do with himself. He’d been staring across his pillow over the cold duvet for long enough last night to encourage morose memories to follow him into a fitful sleep; by the time he’d woken, he had no urge to return to the state.
He was the first to arrive at the meeting at McGonagall’s office; no doubt the others had gone down to the Great Hall for breakfast, but on weekdays Draco generally ate toast first thing in the morning, then nicked something from the house elves after his first class.
Hermione appeared before McGonagall, and Draco smiled when she came bustling down the hall with a pile of books bopping happily along in her wake.
“Draco, you look dreadful,” she said, leaning up to give him a peck on the cheek. “Knickers in a twist?”
“Just wait, you evil little Troll spawn,” he said. “We’ll be even again. Soon,” he promised. She grinned up at him, propping herself up against the wall. “You’re looking a bit worn out yourself,” he commented.
She yawned. “I am,” she said. “It was a long weekend.” She smiled. “Great to see all the family, of course, but I with the packing and the going and the wedding, I haven’t seen a proper night’s sleep in ages.”
Draco smirked. “Sorry to deprive you of your paramour last night,” he said.
She looked at him blankly. “Who?”
“Gee, I dunno, who was in your bedchamber last night?”
“Mostly you, actually,” Hermione shot back before it caught up with her. She started giggling. “Harry? You think I’m sleeping with Harry?” She laughed harder, leaning against the wall and doubling over.
“Why is this cause for hysterics?” Draco asked, unbending just a bit as Hermione’s books started to waver and he realized she wasn’t just having a go at his expense. She straightened, wiping her eyes, and the books straightened with her.
“Oh, Draco,” she said, laying a hand on his arm. “Sometimes you are so incredibly dense.” She shook her head at him gently. “For one thing, Harry’s like my brother. I’d never see him that way. And for another . . .” she shrugged. “Harry wouldn’t be interested. I don’t have the proper bits.” She gestured.
It took a full second for Draco’s penny to drop, at which moment McGonagall swept around the corner and hustled them into her office.
The rain had begun on Harry’s walk down to the Hogwarts gates in the wee hours of Sunday night. By the time he’d apparated to his flat in London and hiked up the stairs, his thoughts made no more sense than they did at the outset and he was a great deal more wet. His Auror robes were Imperturbable, of course, but the grass was soaked and the streets were puddled and the water wicked up the legs of his trousers. He shucked them off and threw them towards the clothes chute as he fell into bed, but even curled into his down coverlet his bed was cold.
The morning dawned with in the slow progression of grey browns unique to November. Harry watched the vague sky grow vaguely brighter as he trudged up the grass at half six on a Monday morning, and felt no concomitant lightening of the spirit.
He’d foregone his usual stop at the bakery down the road from his flat in favor of Hogwarts coffee and the pastry spread the House elves left every morning in the staff lounge. It was just his luck, then, that Snape was up early as well, scowling at a new edition of Potions Weekly. Harry poured himself a cup of coffee and glanced at the clock to make sure he had a moment as he sat down near to Snape with his stuffed croissant.
“Professor,” he began.
“Potter, I know it’s likely an unfamiliar pastime to one such as yourself, but I am actually reading, at the moment.”
Harry sighed. “I’m aware, sir, and I’ve only a few minutes anyway. But I’d like to ask you a few questions, if you can spare –” he checked the clock ostentatiously “– ninety seconds or so.”
Snape’s mouth quirked up at the corner. He did so enjoy baiting Potter, now that he’d learned to hold his own and not beg others’ indulgence. He enjoyed the fact that Potter knew it, too.
“I suppose I could see fit to offer you –” he glanced at his watch – “eighty-four seconds.”
Harry offered him a tired smile, and he set his journal down. “What is it, Potter?”
“You’re aware of Miss Lordling’s case,” Potter began.
“Draco and Hermione think there’s a good chance she’s been abused,” he said bluntly. Severus’ eyebrows rose. “And I’m wondering – you’ve been here the longest, except for McGonagall, and I’m just wondering – how common is that?”
Severus sighed and reached up to cradle his coffee mug. Harry glanced into it. Black, of course.
“How common is the occurence of abuse, or how common is its acknowledgement?” he aked.
“Both, I suppose.”
Snape shrugged. “I can only speak directly for my own House, of course. But here, it is . . . perhaps more common than in the other Houses.” He glanced away. “Perhaps for that reason, I believe it is more effectively dealt with in Slytherin.”
“Oh?” Harry asked, polite disbelief plain.
Snape nodded. “Certainly. I knew of Draco’s . . . experience within his first year, of course.” Harry looked horrified. “I have seen the signs, and it is rare that two years pass together in which I have no students who flinch at the sight of a belt or tense subtly at an unfamiliar voice.”
“Why didn’t you tell his parents?”
Severus gave Harry a long, level look. “For the same reason I wouldn’t have told your aunt and uncle.”
Harry’s stomach dropped to his ankles for the second time in eight hours, and he dropped his gaze to his own mug. “They’d’ve thought it was his fault.”
“Something like that,” Severus said drily. “Particularly if you believed it so.” He looked away again, and Harry remembered his impromptu trip into Severus’ memories.
“You believed it,” Harry said.
“We all do, at some point, Potter,” he said stiffly.
Harry sighed. “I suppose so,” he said, staring into the depths of his half-drunk coffee. “At least Draco’s got Hermione to talk to about it,” he said, stabbing the croissant with one finger until it began to come unstuffed.
“Indeed,” Severus said. “They have gotten to be quite close,” he continued, watching Harry closely.
“Indeed.” Denuded of stuffing, Harry began to shred the paper-thin layers of the croissant, peeling them apart and leaving them in bits.
“Why, Potter, are we jealous?”
Harry flushed from the neck all the way to his ears, and there was no suitable response to be made when his own blood had betrayed him.
“Loath as I am to correct a misapprehension,” Severus began in a tone that suggested quite the opposite, “I do not believe they are attached in the manner you seem to believe.”
Harry glanced up. “Oh?”
Snape shook his head.
“Just a matter of time, then,” Harry muttered.
“Hardly,” Severus snorted. Harry raised an eyebrow. “Good heavens, Potter, you are truly dense when the occasion demands, can’t you?”
Harry rolled his eyes at his slain croissant and stood. “So I’ve been told. Frequently by you, actually.”
Severus picked up his Potions journal as Harry refilled his coffee mug and made to take it with him.
“Unless Miss Granger has gender-altering potions in her future – which I assure you, she does not – she is in no danger from Draco,” Severus commented.
Harry dropped the mug, and all of the blood that had crept into Harry’s face a moment before promptly deserted it.
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake, Potter,” Severus stood, abandoning his journal as he flicked his wand and dried the floor, dried Harry, and reconstructed the mug. He’d refilled it with coffee from the sideboard by the time Harry recovered enough to stammer his thanks. Severus grunted as he handed over the coffee, looking closely at Harry’s eyes. “Ah,” he said, more gently than Harry had ever heard. “Not Mr. Malfoy you were jealous of, then.”
There seemed no point in denying it. Mutely, Harry shook his head.
“If I may offer some advice,” Severus said, slowly. Harry’s eyes could no longer grow any wider, but he nodded once. “Once you have accustomed yourself to the possibility, do not let it founder.” He was no longer looking at Harry. “There always seems to be a tomorrow.”
For the second time in as many days, Harry found himself reaching out to someone he’d never have thought to touch. “Uh.” Severus’ head snapped back around.
“Eloquent as always, Mr. Potter.”
“It’s tough, around you, Professor,” Harry managed a half-smirk.
“Oh, for God’s sake, Potter, you may address me as Severus. I’d like to forget your days as a student.”
Harry nodded and put his hand out. “Thank you, Severus,” he said. Looking at him oddly, Severus shook his hand. “Please call me Harry. I’d rather be Harry than Potter to you, sir.”
“As you wish. Harry.” Severus glanced at the clock. “And now, as I do believe your ninety seconds are well up, I’m going to back to my journal in peace.”
He grumbled loudly, spinning his robes about him as he turned to retake his seat.
The meeting with McGonagall did not go well. It was depressingly brief. The only piece of information to be shared was the revelation about Elizabeth’s likely home situation, and other than that, resources were distressingly scarce. Like Hermione, McGonagall was shocked; also like Hermione, she had no notion of how common the occurrence was, nor of how to look for it. Hermione and Draco called a halt when they needed to leave for their first classes, and Harry promised to check in with them again when there was more information.
Draco and Harry managed to avoid eye contact for nearly the entire meeting without a great deal of awkwardness; Hermione and Draco occupied the chairs in front of McGonagall’s desk, and Harry leaned heavily against the one wall, his attention alternately on the file in his hand and on the conversation.
The one positive part of the experience was a determination that some sort of fundamental defense class would be incorporated into the curriculum, and now the headmistress had the proverbial ammunition to force the change through the board for the next year. In the meantime, Draco and Hermione promised to speak with the current Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and to see if she would be willing to assist with an optional evening or weekend seminar for the basics.
“Excellent,” Harry muttered, mostly to himself. “That won’t be awkward at all.”
“Come now, Harry,” Minerva said, eyes twinkling. “Certainly you and Miss Chang – I should say, Ms. MacMullen – have put your school days behind you?”
“Completely,” Harry said fervently. “I think that might be why it’s so awkward.”
Minerva and Hermione laughed, but Draco looked at him with sudden sympathy. “Too true,” he said. “It’s exactly the same way when I’m forced to interact with Pansy.”
Minerva saved them the potential embarrassment of breaking eye contact by standing. “Well, then. Harry, we will owl you with our progress if you keep us posted on yours.”
“Of course,” Harry replied moving to open the door for Hermione. “And if I need to speak with any of the students, I’ll let you know.”
The headmistress nodded as they walked out. “Though I still believe it’s very important to let her make that decision,” she cautioned. Harry nodded, as Hermione and Draco headed down the hall to their classes.
“I’m hoping to speak with some of the psych Healers in St. Mungo’s today,” he said. “I should know more by this evening.”
She nodded. “Then I’ll see you soon. Thank you, Harry.”
He smiled. “Soon. Cheers!” He ducked out of her office and headed down to the front doors, anxious to begin the day and feel like he was making some progress.
Draco looked up as Dara Doughterty knocked on his open door. “Miss Dougherty, please come in.” Draco rose as she entered, gesturing at the chair before his desk. “What brings you up here today?”
She stepped into the room and set a perfectly-tied scroll on his desk. “Our letter, sir, for Elizabeth.”
“Thank you,” he said, nodding towards it. “I’ll be sure she has it by morning.”
“Thank you, sir.” She stood for a moment, as if torn, before composing herself on the edge of the chair, still staring at the scroll. Draco sat back down.
“Ordinarily, sir, I wouldn’t break a confidence.” Dara laced her fingers together, staring down at them in her lap. “But now I think that keeping it might be more detrimental than the alternative.” She looked up at him, frowning.
“Logic dictates,” he said, encouraging her to continue.
She didn’t look much reassured. “I’ve tutored Elizabeth a few times,” she said. “First, Professor Granger asked me to, but since then because I like her.” Dara frowned. “She’s . . . really quite intelligent, for a Gryffindor.” Draco smiled faintly. “But anyway,” she went on, “I don’t think her family treats her terribly well.” She shifted in her seat. “These weekends when she goes home? It’s not because they miss her, it’s that they make her work.” Dara looked up at him, and Draco made sure his face was impassive as he nodded for her to continue. “Anyway,” she said again. “She’s asked me a couple of times to teach her healing spells.” She looked at him pointedly. “I asked her why, but she just laughed and said, ‘You know me, always clumsy.’” Dara shook her head. “But I don’t really know any healing spells all that well, we just started that unit in charms last week, so I’d learnt them from books, and so I didn’t feel comfortable teaching her. But I told her to go ask Madam Pomfrey, I was sure she would help.” Dara’s lips compressed into a line. “She wouldn’t go.”
Draco nodded. “Thank you, Miss Dougherty,” he said, standing. “We were getting to that conclusion ourselves, so I don’t think you need to mention that you’ve told anyone.” She stood as well, looking pained. “I believe Miss Lordling will need all the confidantes she can find, when she returns to school,” he said seriously. “I’d rather not take one of those away from her unless absolutely necessary.”
Dara took a deep breath and nodded. “I understand, sir.” She attempted a smile. “I hope she likes our letter.”
“I’m sure she will, Miss Dougherty,” Draco said as she left.
He sighed, staring down at the scroll as Dara’s footsteps faded down the hallway. The afternoon wasn’t getting any younger.
“Come.” Harry didn’t glance up from the papers in front of him as his door opened. The Director was out of town for the day, and he certainly owed no deference to anyone else in the department.
“What? No corner office with spelled windows for the Savior?” Draco’s voice drawled.
“Draco!” Harry stood abruptly, nearly knocking over his desk chair. “Hardly,” he said, as Draco’s mocking words caught up with him. He scowled. “Besides, what’s wrong with my office?” He looked around. It was a study in dark wood and leather, bookcases lining the walls and an unlit fireplace opposite his desk. “Besides the desk, that is,” he acknowledged, looking down at the disaster spread over eighteen square feet in front of him.
“Nothing,” Draco said, sounding faintly surprised. “It’s actually quite a nice office,” he said, turning towards the fire.
“I like it,” Harry agreed, rounding the desk. “Hold on,” he checked the Floo wards first, then lit the grate. “I should,” he said, rolling his eyes. “I spend far more time here than at home.”
“I shouldn’t wonder,” Draco murmured, wandering over towards the books. “Oy,” he said, stroking one long finger down the spine of a blood red text. “There aren’t many of these left,” he said, raising an eyebrow.
“No,” Harry agreed, holding out a glass of the Scotch he kept on his miniature mantel. Draco sniffed it cautiously, and Harry narrowed his eyes.
“Decent whisky, too,” Draco said, taking one of the chairs opposite Harry’s desk.
“You really ought to stop sounding surprised,” Harry muttered, sinking back into his desk chair. “I’m liable to start taking it personally.”
“The biggest surprise is that you haven’t yet,” Draco smirked at him.
“Nice. Did you want something, or was this a social call?” Harry was proud of his steady voice, but he could feel the red creeping into his cheeks.
“I brought something for your charge,” he said, reaching into one of the long pockets of his robe and tossing a miniaturized scroll onto Harry’s desk.
He expanded the scroll and unrolled it. “Wow,” he said. “I thought she didn’t have many friends.” He glanced up at Draco from the many goodwill messages.
Draco shrugged. “She only needed one friend in the right place,” he said. “One of my prefects knows her. Tutored her for a while, but seems to know her better than anyone else.” He sighed. “She brought this to me about an hour ago, and mentioned a few things that Miss Lordling had told her in confidence.”
“Oh?” Harry looked up, the scroll disregarded as his gaze on Draco sharpened.
Draco nodded. “Apparently, these weekends she goes home are not because she’s homesick, as she had suggested to Hermione,” he said. “Her family requires her to work in whatever . . . business establishment . . . they maintain.” His expression spoke volumes about his opinion of that. “She’s also apparently asked my prefect, Miss Dougherty, to teach her healing charms. Because she’s clumsy.” He arched one aristocratic eyebrow.
“Merlin,” Harry said, blowing out a breath. “How did Hermione miss this?” he asked Draco. “I’d never say it to her, of course – I’m sure she already feels responsible – but there has to have been some hint!”
“It never would have occurred to her, Harry,” Draco replied, leaning forward in his chair. “It will now, of course. She’ll be more careful. But –” he shrugged. “She’s no frame of reference for it.”
Harry sighed heavily. “Fuck,” he said.
Draco smirked. “Such language, Potter,” he said. “I should take points.”
“Stuff it,” Harry returned irritably. “I was going to go see her again, see if she’d remembered anything else.” He glanced down at the scroll again. “At least I can take her this,” he said, rolling it up again. Perhaps it would help. “I already talked to the psych Healers,” he said, mouth drawn. “They pretty much told me what you just did – signs of physical and emotional abuse. No sexual. Until last night,” he amended. He tied the blue ribbon back around the scroll and stood, draining the last of his whisky and staring into the depths of the glass with morosely. He was really, really not looking forward to this.
“Would you like some company?”
“What?” he asked stupidly, looking up to find Draco considering him.
“I could bring the letter,” he said as he stood, pulling it out of Harry’s hands and retying the ribbon so that it looked a bit less forlorn. “Perhaps it would help if someone slightly less . . .” he looked Harry over from head to toe, “intimidating were present?”
Harry swore the blush began at his ears, but somehow the blood began to pool elsewhere even as his cheeks flamed. “Ah,” he began.
“Unless, of course, you think she would find two men frightening,” Draco continued, frowning.
Harry shook her head. “I think she’d be less bothered by two, frankly, than she would be alone with one.” He pulled his robe from across the back of his chair and settled it around his shoulders. “Plus, you’re familiar.” He relocated some of his equilibrium. “Tough, I hear. But familiar.” He offered a small grin.
“Hey, they know that when they sign up for me,” Draco shrugged as he followed Harry out of the office. “One of the benefits of teaching only third years and up is that they’ve had two and a half years to hear the horror stories, so by the time I get them they’ve made their beds.”
Harry tried frantically to force his thoughts away from Draco and beds. He was still recovering from the once-over in his office. “So you, ah . . . have how many classes?”
“Two for each year. So ten.”
Harry shuddered dramatically. “Don’t know how you do it, mate. I’d go spare in a day,” he said.
Draco smiled. “I nearly did, my first day. I nearly did my first class, actually,” he corrected. “They gave me Gryffindor and Slytherin third-years at eight in the morning on Mondays,” he moaned, rubbing his head.
“Sounds like my first day as Deputy Director,” Harry said sympathetically.
“What, you had to deal with miniature teenagers before noon, too?” Draco scoffed.
“No,” Harry shook his head. He paused for emphasis as they approached the Ministry Floo. “I had a staff meeting with twelve new Aurors their first day out of training.”
Draco laughed, taking a handful of Floo powder and following Harry through to St. Mungo’s.
Harry gave him a lopsided smile as Draco came out of the Floo as pristine as ever. Harry was still brushing dust off his robes.
“Hate this damn robe,” he muttered, hauling it around so he could aim his wand at the hem, chasing the last bit of flue dust out of it.
“You shouldn’t,” Draco said, glancing down Harry again before could stop himself. “Where are we headed?” he asked over his shoulder, kicking himself for his lack of control as Harry moved to follow.
“Just down the hall on the ground floor,” Harry said as they followed the stream of people up the stairs from the underground Floo Room. “Towards the right.”
The hall was quiet as they turned away from the path toward the waiting room. “Here we are,” Harry said, knocking quietly on the door before pushing it open.
“Hello, Elizabeth,” Harry said as he entered. “How are you doing today?”
“Hi,” she said, pulling her blankets up a little higher. “I’m feeling better, thank you.”
Harry nodded and turned as Draco entered. “One of your professors asked if he could bring you something,” he said. Draco noted the startled expression on Elizabeth’s face as she registered her Ancient Runes professor.
“Miss Lordling,” Draco inclined his head to the girl, holding out the scroll to her. “Several of your classmates conspired to skive off their studies for a few moments to make you this,” he said.
The girl smiled. “Thank you, Professor Malfoy,” she said, blushing prettily as she took the scroll from him.
“Professor Malfoy,” Harry murmured, shaking his head. “Who’d’ve guessed?”
“Now, now, Mr. Potter. Let’s not start spreading rumors that would start the students ablaze.” Draco raised one haughty eyebrow, and Harry laughed.
Elizabeth, clearly startled, dropped her eyes to the ribbon and unrolled the scroll. “Oh!” she said. “Oh, that’s . . .” her eyes filled. “That was so . . . nice of them,” she whispered.
Draco glanced sideways at Harry, who looked completely lost. Draco rolled his eyes mentally. He was supposed to do this for a living.
“Well,” Draco commented, “if there are any lurid tales of your professors in there, I must assure you that they are patently false.” He raised an eyebrow at Potter. “Particularly if our friend Mr. Potter was the source of any such tales,” he added, staring hard at Harry.
“Nothing! I swear, nothing!” Harry held up his hands as if to ward off an attack. “I tell only the truth!” He appealed to Elizabeth, whose face bore the ghost of a smile. “The incident with the Polyjuice was absolutely pure!”
“Polyjuice? My, my, Potter, you were a busy little urchin back in the day, weren’t you?” Draco reached for the chair at the foot of Elizabeth’s bed and spun it around, straddling it backwards. “I’ll have you know, Miss Lordling,” that Mr. Potter here filched supplies from Professor Snape’s storeroom on no fewer than three occasions,” he confided.
“I did nothing of the sort,” Harry retorted, crossing his arms and leaning back against the wall. Draco was relieved that he’d finally picked up on the gambit. “Your vaunted professor, there, once stole one of his classmate’s Remembralls, and tried to leave it in a tree.”
“I was nowhere near the trees!” Draco protested.
“You were well on your way,” Harry retorted. They both looked back at Elizabeth, who looked as though she were unsure whether she should be aghast or amused. “He was,” Harry nodded. “And he made my best friend spew slugs for an hour.”
Draco shook his head. “I didn’t. That was Weasley’s own wand.” Harry thought back over that for a moment.
“That’s true, I suppose. You still started it, as I recall. Called Hermione a –” he stopped. “Nasty names.”
“You called Professor Granger a name?” Elizabeth interrupted, clearly dumbstruck.
“Yes, ah. Well.” Draco rubbed his nose. “She broke my nose in our next year. In fact, I’m pretty sure she’s spent every year since then making up for it,” he said, shifting a bit uncomfortably on his seat.
“He called her another name last night,” Harry stage whispered to Elizabeth. Her eyes grew, if possible, even rounder.
“Yes, well, I don’t really think we need to go into that, now do we, Potter?” Draco said.
But Elizabeth was beyond that already. “What did she do?” she asked, a bit breathlessly.
“She gave him a wedgie,” Harry whispered behind his hand. “Like this,” he said, tugging out his wand.
“Oh, no you don’t,” Draco snapped, wand out and at the ready.
“Aw, I wasn’t really going to,” Harry protested, lowering his wand. Draco didn’t put his away until Harry had.
“Anyway,” Draco continued. “I wouldn’t worry terribly much about Professor Granger. She can hold her own.” He rolled his eyes at Elizabeth. Who giggled.
Harry was smiling. Draco caught his breath, glancing over at him. When he turned back to Elizabeth, he saw her studying him, still smiling faintly. He realized, then, that she was an observer of people. And she knew what he’d been stridently denying to himself.
“Harry,” Draco turned towards him. “Would you mind if I talked to Miss Lordling alone for a moment?” Harry looked startled, and Draco held his gaze, willing him to trust, just this once.
“Elizabeth?” Harry asked. “Would you be comfortable with that?”
Draco let the girl nod before replying for her. “More comfortable than she is with you, you flashy undergrown lion cub,” he said good naturedly.
“Hey now,” Harry replied, straightening up from the wall and heading towards the door. “Just because some of us still make good Seekers . . .” he left and pulled the door shut behind him.
“The kicker is, he’s right,” Draco said. “I’m too tall now.” He gave Elizabeth a wry smile. “You like him,” she said softly.
“I do,” Draco admitted. He was positive Harry would have an eavesdropping charm up on the door, but he couldn’t very well deny it and retain her trust.
She peered at him a little more closely. “A lot,” she said. Draco cleared his throat.
“As it’s not likely to be returned, Miss Lordling, I believe it’s a moot point,” he said. She looked unconvinced. “At any rate,” he looked at her somberly. “I want you to know that you can speak with me about anything you need to,” he said. Her eyes dropped suddenly into her lap, and Draco set a hand gently on her foot, watching to see if she would flinch away from him. It was subtle, but it was there.
“Elizabeth,” he said softly, waiting until tear-filled eyes looked up at him. “I, too, know what it is like to love your family and to never wish to see them again.” She looked shocked.
“But of course I want to – that is to say, I –” she stuttered to a stop.
Draco nodded. “I know.” He looked at her steadily. “Now, Harry wants to know if you’ve remembered any more than you told him yesterday. You can tell him, if you’d like me to get him back in here, or you can tell me.”
He could see that she was, oddly enough, relieved to return to this topic. “I don’t remember anything else. Really,” she said, shaking her head. She looked over toward the spelled window. “I never really saw him.” Her eyes glazed over a bit. “He came up behind me, I don’t know how, and he hit me with his stick thing. I fell over, and he grabbed me and put handcuffs on me.” She started shaking, and Draco reached gently out to touch her hand, a bit startled when she clutched it like a lifeline, still staring away from him. “It hurt. He hit my head and my face and I got up and tried to run and I tripped and my hands were behind me and I couldn’t get up again and my knees hurt.” Her grip on his hand began to hurt, but Draco made no move to extricate it. “I don’t remember any more after that,” she whispered. “I remember waking up here and everything still hurting.” Her hand tightened, and Draco could have sworn he felt the bones grind. “Some things hurt more.”
Draco put a second hand on top of hers, stroking it gently. “I know,” he said softly. “I know.” He was staring at their hands when he felt her turn towards him again. He looked up into incredulous eyes. “I told you I understood what it was like to never want to see your family again,” he said.
“Oh God.” She brought her other hand to her mouth. “No, you don’t understand, my father would never – he yells at me all the time, and – when I’ve done something wrong, he sometimes loses his temper, but – but he would never –” she stopped.
“Neither would mine,” Draco said. “But my uncle had no such compunctions.” He looked at her squarely. “It was a long time ago for me, and I’ve done my healing. I’m here to tell you that you will, too.”
She looked at him for a long time before she nodded, but Draco was convinced that she’d decided that she would.
“Now,” he said. “Now we get to find the bastard that did this to you.” He looked up at her again. “Before he gets any of your classmates.”
She bit her lip as she nodded again. “I- I’m sorry I can’t tell you more,” she said, her brow wrinkling.
“No worries,” Draco smiled. “That’s what our undergrown lion cub is for, remember?” She offered a tentative smile in return. “Now. Where were you?”
“I don’t know,” she shook her head. “There’s a park by the club where I go –”
“By the club?” Draco interrupted.
“Yeah. I was on my way back to Hogwarts from work – my parents club, the Block – it was a big football weekend, see, so they called me home to work, and I was going back to school that night. I was going to stop at the park and sit on the swings for a little while before I came home.
“At midnight?” Draco said, and it was his turn for incredulity.
“It was just going to be for a couple of minutes!” she defended. “Anyway, they let me go early ‘cause people weren’t eating.” Draco must have looked confused. “I’m a waitress,” she said. “I’m not allowed to bartend ‘cause I’m too young, so they’re done with me when the kitchen closes.”
He must not have been able to quite erase the distaste from his face.
“Hey,” she defended. “It’s better than dishes, which is what I had to do before I was sixteen!”
He exaggerated his horror for her benefit. “I thought that Muggles had some sort of mechanism for that sort of cleaning.” She giggled again at his hand gesture.
“Yeah, well, it doesn’t do everything,” she said.
“I see,” Draco rolled his eyes. “I will never understand Muggle machines.” He stood, gesturing to the scroll in her lap. “I’ll let you read all of the messages from your well-wishers, then, shall I?”
He swung the chair back around and replaced it at the foot of the bed. As he reached for the door handle, her voice stopped him.
“Professor Malfoy?” she said. He turned. “Thank you, sir.”
“Of course, Miss Lordling,” he said. “We have realized that there seems to be a bit of a gap in Hogwarts’ curriculum. We’re hoping that when you get back, you might agree to help us teach some of the younger years some self-defense.”
She looked startled. “Of- of course I’ll help, if you think there’s anything I can do,” she said hesitantly. Draco rolled his eyes once more.
“Remind me to tell you what Harry Potter’s little weasel friends taught the ickle firsties some time,” he said with a wink.
“Yes, sir,” she said. “Have a good night, sir.”
“Thank you, Miss Lordling. You do the same.” He left the room.
Harry stood with his back against the opposite wall, arms folded across his chest. He knew the monitoring charm he’d set would cancel as soon as the door seal broke, and he found himself needing the support of the wall as he listened to their conversation.
Draco exited the room and shut the door gently behind him. He turned as Harry straightened, and by wordless agreement they walked down the corridor toward the Floos.
“You heard?” Draco asked in a low voice.
Harry nodded. He was having a difficult time keeping his emotions in check, and his mind was still flooded with Draco’s admission to Elizabeth.
They’d arrived at the Floo Room before Harry trusted his voice enough to speak. “Thank you, Draco,” he said, drawing up before the fireplace. “I just can’t handle kids. I don’t know how you do it,” he said, shrugging helplessly. “I can’t even talk to them!”
Draco’s mouth quirked to one side. “It’s simple enough,” he said. “I just give them what I craved at their age.” He turned to pick up a handful of Floo powder. “Attention. Trust. Approval.”
Harry had no idea how to answer that, but he didn’t want to let Draco leave just yet. “Er, it may be simple to you, but will you at least let me take you out to supper?” he blurted. “I mean, I know you have to get back, but . . .”
Draco looked up, Floo powder running through his fingers. “Supper?” he said blankly.
For one second, Harry grasped that Draco might just be as out-to-sea as Harry felt in this bizarre scenario. The thought made him feel inordinately more grounded. “You know,” Harry said. “Food? Generally consumed around sunset, give or take a few hours for the season?”
“Right. Supper.” Draco said. He considered for a moment. “Yes. As long as I get home within a couple of hours,” he cautioned, glancing at his watch. “I’ve got marking to do yet, for tomorrow’s classes.”
“Don’t remind me,” Harry grumbled. “I’ve loads of paperwork waiting for me.” He stared up at the ceiling. “Preferences?” he asked. “I like that Indian place at the south end of Diagon Alley,” he mused. “Haven’t been there for a while.”
“Done,” Draco said. “I don’t think I’ve been to that one, but I do like Indian. We used to have this Indian house elf . . . .” He seemed to notice he was babbling and stopped. “Right then. Diagon Alley!” he directed the Floo, and Harry followed him through.
“How on Earth did you acquire an Indian house elf?” Harry asked as he brushed soot off his robes again.
“I never really asked,” Draco said. “My parents liked to have elves from around the world, so that they could serve regional cuisine when the occasion arose.”
Harry stepped into Diagon Alley and turned south.
“That’s just bizarre to me,” he said. “Mostly when I was a kid, I was the house elf.” He felt his jaw clench. “Not unlike Elizabeth, it sounds like.” He saw Draco nod as they passed under a streetlamp.
“I’m sorry,” Harrye said into the darkness. “I suppose I’m not likely to be much fun tonight.” Harry missed Draco’s flush. “I’m just so angry.” His fists clenched at his sides. “I can’t believe . . . the Block, for Christ’s sake! It’s not like they need her!”
“Is there something special about this place?” Draco asked, distaste dripping from the words.
“That club pulls probably a hundred thousand quid on a slow weekend,” Harry said, shaking his head. “That’d be, I dunno, twenty thousand galleons?” Draco whistled. “Yeah. It’s even gaining an odd witch and wizard following, which is why I know. We’ve had a couple of incidents there in the last few months.”
“What kind of incidents?” Draco asked, frowning.
Harry shook his head. “Just the usual,” he said. “Kids charming the disco ball, making the sound system go a little wonky. Nothing big.”
They reached the restaurant, and Harry held the door open for Draco to enter. From the dark, cold night, the interior seemed a riot of warm colors, yellow and orange walls hung with gold ornaments. The hostess took one look at them and seated them at a table in the corner, near the front windows.
“You do rank,” Draco said as they sat. Harry’s blush deepened.
“I hate it,” he scowled down at his menu. “I’d sooner sit in the darkest corner they’ve got, so’s no one stares at me, stumbles up to chat or ask for an autograph or thank me.”
Draco stared at him, puzzled. “You really hate it,” he said.
Harry glared up at him through hair he’d flattened down over his scar.
“I mean, I used to think that the despising publicity thing was just a . . . I dunno, put on. Or something. But you really do.”
“Yes,” Harry said shortly. “I do.”
Draco went back to staring at his menu, and silence settled heavily in.
By the time the waiter came to take their orders, Harry was a bit desperate for something to say. “So, ah . . . what essay did you set your students that you have to mark for tomorrow?” he asked.
Draco shook his head. “Not an essay. Just a quiz. You know, short answer?”
“We’re in a unit on Ancient China right now, so I’ve got them memorizing some of the Chinese characters by rote for now.” He shook his head. “Merlin, if it were an essay, I’d be in serious shite for tomorrow. Do you know how long those take to grade?”
“I can only imagine,” Harry said.
The rest of supper passed in companionable, if occasionally stilted, conversation. By unspoken accord, Miss Lordling’s situation was left momentarily unmentioned.
“Thanks for supper,” Draco said as they walked out.
“Of course,” Harry replied. “Thanks for speaking with Elizabeth for me. You certainly got far more information than I would have.”
Draco shrugged. “True, I suppose.” They walked back toward the Leaky Cauldron.
“Harry,” Draco said as something occurred to him rather suddenly. “You’re not going over to that club tonight, are you?”
“No, why?” Harry asked, startled.
Draco stopped in a streetlamp and peered down at him. “Good. Because you’re angry. I think you’d get more information about these kinds of people if they didn’t know who you were, anyway.”
“Telling me how to do my job, Draco?” Harry teased.
Draco snorted. “Hardly,” he said. “I just . . . I’m glad you’re angry. He looked suddenly away. “I think it makes you a better person.”
“You’re not?” Harry asked.
“Oh, I am.” Draco said. “But my kind of angry . . .” he shook his head. “It lies in wait.”
Harry’s mouth twisted. It took a moment for Draco to realize it was a smile, a cold kind of smirk he’d never seen on Harry before. “Oh, I’ll wait,” he said. “In fact,” he said, as the cold expression turned calculating, “Draco, would you like to go to a club with me on Friday night?” he asked. “There’s this crazy new one over in London you ought to see.”
Draco stared. “Harry Potter, are you asking me on a date?”
Harry’s expression turned from calculating to innocent so fast Draco wondered if he’d imagined the smirk.
“I thought I already had,” he said, looking back at the restaurant.
“Oh.” Draco struggled to switch gears. “Oh. Well, in that case . . .” he looked down at Harry, who blinked up at him in the streetlamp’s glow. “In that case, of course.” He brought a shaking hand up to Harry’s face, stroking across one high cheekbone with his thumb. Harry turned his face in to kiss Draco’s palm, and Draco drew his breath in sharply. When Harry looked up, Draco dropped his hand slowly. “Until Friday, then,” he said.
“Friday.” Harry exhaled. “I’ll owl you with the time.” Draco nodded, and wrapped his robe around himself with one hand as he extracted his wand with the other and apparated.
Harry walked back to the Leaky Cauldron by himself, and Flooed to the Ministry. He forgot to brush the soot off his robes before he walked the empty corridors up to his office, and the memos fluttering around his head in the elevators didn’t mention it. In a sudden flurry of activity, he tidied up every stack of paper on his desk at least twice, and then sorted through them for trash. After that was done, he reorganized several piles into different piles and charmed them to float, height according to urgency.
He spent the next two hours writing more reports than he’d gotten done in the past month, and then he reorganized the piles again to account for the paperwork that could now be filed with the reports he’d finished. At midnight, he looked around his office and saw the surface of his desk for the first time in several months.
Glancing at his watch, none of the hands stuck out. He had to calm his thoughts again, pushing Draco assiduously out of his mind, before Hermione’s hand popped out. In Bed. Of course she was in bed. She had to teach in the morning. He sighed. She wasn’t asleep, of course. She’d charmed her own hand to let him know when she was asleep, so that he could Firecall her whenever she was awake. He shook his head. He’d talk to her about it tomorrow.
Standing up, he flicked his wand at his fireplace, unwarding the Floo before he lit it. He smiled a bit to himself. He may not have pulled rank to get spelled windows in his office, but he had pulled a few strings to get a private Floo hooked up to his flat. Of course, he’d pointed out that he was Deputy Director of the Auror division. If they thought his home was less secure than the Ministry, he’d told them where they could shove it.
His fireplace at home was cold as he stumbled out of it. He shrugged out of his robe as soon as he was through, and tossed it down the clothes chute still sooty. The elves wouldn’t care. Exhaustion finally hit as he walked into his bedroom, and he crawled gratefully into a bed that seemed just a bit less cold than it had the night before.
Draco had graded quizzes into the wee hours of the morning. They’d taken him at least three times as long as usual, and by the time he slunk into silk pyjamas he had very few hours before he’d be climbing back out of them. The next morning, he glanced at himself after his shower and considered a glamour, but decided it was really too much effort. He pulled on a heavy raw silk robe instead, hoping the muted blue would minimize instead of highlight the circles under his eyes.
Severus took one look at him as he entered the staff lounge and grabbed the largest coffee mug he could find, dumping some milk into it and filling the rest with tea. Draco sipped it with his eyes closed.
Severus waited a few moments before he sighed noisily. “Well?” he asked impatiently.
“Well, what?” Draco sniped back. “I was up late grading.”
Severus half-sat on the edge of the nearest desk, his arms crossed. “Grading.”
“Yes. Grading. You know. For you, slashing acerbic comments across papers in red pen; for me, correcting mistakes and realigning misconceptions?”
“Of course. Grading.” Severus gave it a moment. “With whom?” he asked snidely.
Draco’s eyes shot open. “You told him,” he accused.
“You’re waffling, Draco,” Severus raised an eyebrow. “First you tell me you were grading papers, and now you suggest I had something to do with your activities.”
“I went out for supper with Potter last night. Before grading.” He set the mug down a little harder than he meant to and winced. “And I then he asked me to go to a club with him on Friday. He said it was a date, Severus!” Draco heard and hated the panicked note in his own voice.
“Ah.” Severus settled back onto the desk and nodded. “Good for him.”
“You did tell him!”
“Tell him what?” Severus shrugged. “I told him you and Miss Granger were most certainly not as . . . attached as he seemed to think.” He raised the eyebrow again. “I told him you were never likely to be that attached, short of some inventive potions on the part of Miss Granger.” Draco looked horrified. “I hardly think I told him more than the general student populous already knows, at any rate,” he finished, shaking his head. “How that man survives as an Auror . . . .” Severus stood. “At any rate, jealousy is bad for the soul. I just couldn’t stand to see our Golden Boy suffer any more.” Draco’s expression morphed from horrified toward gobsmacked.
“Go. Take your tea,” Severus said, picking up the mug and pushing it into Draco’s hands. “Tell your students that their papers were so abysmal they’re to be redone according to your corrections.” He smirked. “That ought to give you enough time to wake up a bit, and a reason you were up so late correcting them.”
Draco shook his head as he was propelled out the door. “Sometimes I wonder about you,” he said darkly.
“Of course you do,” was Severus’ silky reply. Draco missed the rather satisfied smirk on Severus’ face as he turned up the hall.
“What did you do to Draco?” Hermione demanded on Wednesday afternoon as she swung ‘round the doorjamb and into Harry’s office.
Harry, face blazing, looked up from where he was crouched in front of the fireplace, speaking with –
“Oh,” Hermione said. “My apologies, Director Grevling.” Hermione nodded toward the hearth. “I’ll just sit – oh, I’m sorry, do you need me to leave?”
“No, no,” Grevling chuckled. “Harry and I were just winding up. Was there anything else?”
“No, Director,” Harry said, shaking his head. “I’ll keep you updated with the Lordling case, and you’ll be back Monday next.”
“I’ll see you then. Harry. Hermione.” She nodded at each of them. “Have a good evening.” Her face faded from the fireplace.
Harry turned, ears still flaming. “Honestly, Hermione!”
“I’m sorry, Harry, I didn’t know. Why on Earth didn’t you close your door?” she asked.
“Dunno,” Harry admitted, standing and rubbing one hand over his face. “Anyway, I didn’t do anything to him. Why?”
“Because he’s been wandering around in a fog, that’s why,” Hermione said, settling into the chair in front of his desk. “He made his third years correct all of their assignments in class yesterday, and the rest of his students say he’s been downright nice. He totally forgot to assign homework to his seventh years.”
Harry groaned. “Imightpossiblyhavemaybeaskedhimout,” he said, rounding his desk and slumping into his chair.
Hermione blinked. “Really?”
Harry groaned again and crossed his arms onto the desk, thumping his head down on top of them. “Really really,” came muffled from between them. He raised his head. “I don’t know what I was thinking, Hermione! It’s just that – he came here to bring a letter for Elizabeth from Ravenclaw and then he talked to her she actually talked to him and then I took him to supper to say thanks and then – I – just –”
“Harry!” Hermione scooted the chair forward and put her hands on his arms. “Harry, it’s okay!” She shook her head. “Seriously. Get. A. Grip.”
“Right. Yes. Okay.” He nodded. “Grip.”
“Good.” She looked at him. “Now. Why would this be a bad thing?”
“It – just – I – don’t know?”
“Yes, we’ll start there, then.” Hermione rolled her eyes. “Did he say yes?”
“He – he said, ‘of course.’” Hermione smirked at him.
“Did he kiss you?” she asked. Harry flushed and he took a breath. “Right, then.”
“No, he didn’t, actually,” Harry shook his head. “He just – when he said goodnight –” he shrugged, leaning across the desk to mimic Draco’s action.
“Ooo!” Hermione squealed, kicking her heels. “So when are you going out again?”
“Friday,” Harry said. “It’s not entirely a date,” he admitted. “It turns out Elizabeth’s parents work her like a house elf at the club they own – little venture downtown called the Block?”
“Elizabeth’s parents own the Block?” Hermione asked, startled. Harry nodded. “Why in Merlin’s name do they work her, then?” she fairly exploded. “They must be – oh, at least top ten in the city, don’t you think?”
Harry nodded. “Especially with the influx of the wizarding population in the past year,” he agreed.
“So what are you and Draco going to do about it?” she asked. “Please tell me you’re not planning to storm the keep,” she said, narrowing her eyes.
“With Draco? Are you kidding?” Harry shook his head. “We’ll go in, collect information, poke around,” he shrugged. “It was his suggestion, actually,” he admitted. “Well, kind of. He wanted to make sure I didn’t ‘storm the keep,’ as you so quaintly put it, last night. Suggested that we’d learn more about the owners if we weren’t there in our official capacity.”
Hermione nodded. “These seem the type to be obsequious to your face and then slide a knife in your back,” she said.
Harry sighed and sat back in his chair. “You don’t think Draco’s going to do that, do you?” he looked up at the ceiling. “I know what you think of him, and I know what I think of the person I think he is now, but – he really did some pretty horrible stuff to us as kids, and I’m trying to let that go but it’ll always be there. You know?”
He looked back down from the ceiling to Hermione’s face, solemn, resting on the heel of one hand. She nodded. “I do know,” she said. “And I’ve asked myself the same thing more than once over the years we’ve worked together.” She sighed. “And I know that I believe that the person he is now and the person he was then – even though they’re still the same person, the motivations are utterly different. Has he ever talked to you about why he’s Head of Ravenclaw?”
Harry shook his head. “I just figured it was because Snape was still kicking around as Slytherin,” he said.
“No,” Hermione said. “Apparently the sorting hat wanted to put him in Ravenclaw to begin with, but he was so completely terrified of being in anything but Slytherin that there was never any real choice.” She shrugged. “He never even knew,” she said. “Did you know that the Headmaster has a long chat with the hat after every sorting?”
Harry grinned. “I didn’t, but I suppose I should have suspected,” he replied. “I suppose it gives him – or her – some otherwise impossible insight.”
Hermione nodded. “So when Draco came back to teach,” she said, “the sorting hat finally had its say. And then when there was a vacancy for Ravenclaw’s Head, the staff all – unanimously, mind you – voted him in.” She shrugged. “I can tell you that as long as we’ve worked together, the only time I’ve ever seen tears in his eyes was at his initiation rite.”
“Huh.” Harry considered her, resting his chin on his arms.
“But then, I understand that you have more to lose in a relationship than I do in a friendship,” Hermione shrugged. “Especially you,” she rolled her eyes. “When was the last time you let yourself fall for anyone?”
Harry sat back again and stared at the ceiling. “Monday night,” he said softly.
There was a pause. “I see,” Hermione said, and Harry could hear the smile in her voice. “Then this is all rhetorical, isn’t it?”
Harry nodded without looking away from the ceiling. “I suppose it is.”
He took a deep breath and looked down again. “What were you ostensibly here about?”
“Oh. Right. I’m going to pick up Miss Lordling from St. Mungo’s and take her back to school,” she said. “Do you need anything before I do?”
“Nope. I’ve gotten all the information I can already,” he said. “Just make sure she knows how to contact me.”
“Did you want to come with me?” she asked him.
“Uh.” Harry looked about his office. “I dunno, you think I should?” She shrugged.
“You can tell her yourself how to contact you,” Hermione said. “She might be more likely to do it if you invited her.”
Harry groaned inwardly. He knew that kind of logic was femininely true.
“Fine,” he said, standing. He snagged his damned robe from the back of his chair and threw it over his shoulders once more.
It was a brief trip. Elizabeth was dressed and waiting for them, clearly itching to escape her cage.
She grinned when she saw Hermione. “Did Professor Malfoy really call you a nasty name when you were in school?” she asked.
Hermione pinned Harry with a glare before answering. “Several, as a matter of fact,” she acknowledged. “I did occasionally respond in kind,” she admitted, rubbing her knuckles absently.
“Good,” Elizabeth said decisively. Hermione tilted her head to one side. “I’m sure he wouldn’t be nearly as nice today if you hadn’t knocked some sense into him then,” she said.
Harry burst out laughing, and the rest of the trip was quite uneventful. “I’ll leave you in Professor Granger’s capable hands,” he said to Elizabeth after they’d apparated to Hogwarts’ main gates. “However, if I might say one thing.” She looked at him a bit apprehensively. “Nothing too terrible,” he smiled. “It’s just that – you may be a bit of a celebrity for a few days. The students have been told that you were attacked and have been recovering in St. Mungo’s. No doubt, those with less tact may ask for more information.”
Elizabeth went a bit pale.
“You don’t have to tell them a thing,” Harry reassured her. “Remember that. First, that you don’t owe them any information. Second, that most of the time, they mean well.” He grinned. “If you can find a balance between the two, you’ll do better than I’ve ever done.”
She smiled and started to shake her head.
“Hey, if you don’t believe me, you can ask Professor Malfoy,” he said, and she laughed.
“Thank you so much,” she said, clutching her bag in both hands.
“You’re welcome so much,” he replied. “Now, don’t hesitate to contact me like I told you, okay?” She nodded.
“Right then. Have a good night!” He backed up a step as Hermione turned towards the castle with Elizabeth and they began the long trudge up to the school.
Draco stared blankly at the armoire in his bedroom. He hadn’t the faintest scintilla of knowledge about Muggle club attire.
He was saved from his dilemma by a bushy-haired woman and a spitting orange cat. Hermione knocked on his door just as he had nearly given it up and gone for basic black from head to food.
Crookshanks shoved his way in as Draco opened the door. “Come on in, furball,” Draco said sarcastically, holding the door for Hermione. “Make yourself at home. Out of the bedroom!” Crookshanks gave him the frigid look of an annoyed monarch and settled himself onto the leather sofa instead.
“Troubles?” Hermione asked archly, taking in his bare feet and the unbuttoned shirt he’d pulled on to answer the door. She swept into his bedroom. “I’m sure you’ve got plenty of suitable clothes,” she said, pulling both doors of the armoire wide. “It’s just in how you arrange them.”
Draco leaned against the doorway, arms crossed. “I’m not sure if that was an insult or not.”
She rolled her eyes. “Hardly.”
“I hate this,” Draco said, as she pulled things out and spread them on the bed. “I really loathe going into a situation blind. I feel totally out to sea among Muggles.”
He spread his arms wide. “I don’t like social events. I don’t like dancing. I don’t even like drinking all that much.”
Hermione looked at him. “But you like Harry.”
Draco opened and closed his mouth like a fish.
“Right.” She dressed him in a blue silk shirt and black trousers, changing the tailoring of the trousers with a few deft flicks of her wand.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said, snagging a comb and dragging it though Draco’s still-damp locks. She aimed a drying charm at his head, pulling the comb through his hair gently. “Harry’s been to the club a few times, he knows the territory and he’ll keep you close.”
Draco shivered. “He’d better,” he muttered.
Hermione laughed again. “Don’t worry,” she said, stepping back and eyeing him critically. “He won’t be able to keep his hands off you.” She handed him a belt.
Draco blushed to the roots of his hair as he reached for the hair tie on the dressing table.
“Leave it,” she said, running her fingers through his hair. Draco looked at her askance.
“You don’t think I look like my father?”
“Oh, my dear,” Hermione stepped toward him and hugged him fiercely about the waist. “You look nothing like your father,” she said vehemently, looking up at him. “Your father was always cold,” she said, pulling him close again. “You look like a warm spring day.”
He rolled his eyes at her. “You’ve been into Minerva’s sherry again, I see.”
“I haven’t!” she defended. “I’m just trying to be complimentary!” She pulled away from him with a playful smack upside the head and went to see about Transfiguring one of his cloaks into a long coat.
She eyed it critically when she finished, holding it out for him to put on. With a put-upon sigh, he shrugged into it. “Marvellous,” she said, stroking the arm. “Always goes better when the material’s this fine to begin with.”
She glanced up at the clock. “Now go,” she said. “You’ll be late.”
Harry paced. He’d owled Draco to meet him at his own flat at half eight. He wasn’t quite late, but Harry’d run out of preparations and was beginning to stew when Draco finally knocked.
Harry opened the door to an impeccably dressed Muggle.
“Potter,” Draco nodded.
“Wow.” Harry backed up to let Draco in. “Hermione helped you, didn’t she?”
Draco scowled. “I’m perfectly capable of dressing myself.”
Harry grinned. “As a Muggle?”
“She might have had a hand in the finer details,” Draco admitted with a shrug.
“Well, you look –” edible. Harry struck that word and groped for another as Draco shrugged out of his coat. “Fantastic,” he finished through a suddenly dry mouth.
“Thank you,” Draco replied, hanging the coat on one of the hooks by the door and looking around the sparsely furnished room.
“It’s, ah –” Harry shrugged. “Not much, really. Kitchen,” he gestured toward one doorway, “bedroom and bath.” He gestured toward the other. “Can I get you a drink before we head out?”
Draco nodded as Harry stopped at the sideboard. Harry knew the place looked like he’d collected pieces of furniture at random and they’d ended up here by mistake. There was an Oriental rug on the floor, a glass-topped coffee table, and a Gryffindor-red sofa. In one corner, there was – “Is that a chair?” Draco asked as he accepted the whiskey and took a sip.
Harry laughed. “It is. You should sit in it,” he said, nodding and taking a sip from his own glass. “It’s far more comfortable than it looks.”
Draco gave him a look that said he was quite unconvinced. “Go on,” Harry encouraged, as Draco took a fortifying swallow of whisky and braved the Papasan chair.
He fell into it without his customary grace, and Harry laughed. “You kind of have to sprawl,” he said. “Or curl,” he demonstrated, crouching in on himself. Draco tried both. “See, it’s not so bad, is it?”
“No,” Draco said, sounding surprised. “It isn’t. I thought it would be awfully uncomfortable, and it looks like a bowl on a stand, but it’s surprisingly cozy. It’d be perfect for curling up with a book in front of the fireplace, only you don’t have a fireplace. Why don’t you have a fireplace?”
Harry’s eyes widened a bit and he bit his lip.
“The drink,” Draco whispered. “You put something in it.” Harry nodded. “But I watched you! I always watch! There wasn’t anything in the glass . . .” Harry tossed back the rest of his whisky and sat on the edge of the glass table, facing the Papasan.
“I put it in the bottle,” Harry said. “Veritaserum.”
“Why?” Draco asked, looking absolutely stricken.
“Because I didn’t want you to think I was trying to pull one over on you,” Harry said, his speech quickening. “I wanted you to feel like you have the same advantage. I didn’t even want to ask the first question, I was going to drink first but then you did and you probably weigh less than I do so it affected you faster and –”
“But why did you do it to begin with?” Draco cut him off, still looking betrayed.
“Because I wanted you to believe me,” Harry answered immediately. He looked like he was trying to hold back.
“And . . . ?” Draco prompted.
“And because we have a long history together and you weren’t ever terribly nice to me and I wanted to make sure that was in the past.” Harry paused. “Is it?”
“I thought it was,” Draco said bitterly, looking away. “But I can’t believe you tricked me like this.” White lines appeared at the sides of his nose. “When I was small, my father used to put veritaserum in my pumpkin juice and make me tell him everything I dreamed of and everything I hoped for. He’d laugh at me and mock me for everything I thought.” Draco looked down at the glass, still in his hand, and threw it across the room. It landed with a wet crash. “I still hate pumpkin juice.”
“That’s hideous,” Harry was appalled.
“That’s what you just did to me!”
“I didn’t!” Harry leaned forward on the table. He made as if to put a hand out, but thought better of it before he touched Draco’s knee. Draco looked at him coldly and drew his feet up into the chair, turning away. “When would your father have ever willingly taken veritaserum?” he asked.
“Ah, a noble Slytherin,” Draco sneered back. “Just as underhanded, but as long as you submit yourself as well, it doesn’t matter how anyone else feels? That’s bollocks.”
“Draco, please,” Harry heard himself begging. “Please, give me a chance to fix this. I’m giving you carte blanche to ask me anything you like and get an honest answer.”
Draco turned his head to look at Harry, considering. “That is true,” he said. “What are you thinking of right now?” he asked, crossing his arms.
“How that chair is really a better size for two people,” Harry said promptly. “Oh, Merlin.” Harry felt his face go as red as his couch and he stood up, turning away from Draco. “How much I’d like to be able to slide in behind you and pull you against me. How much I want to bury my head in your hair and smell you.” That last was delivered to the inside of his elbow as he propped his arm on the wall and buried his face in it.
“You know, Potter, you might be redeemable after all,” Draco said. Harry turned to watch him unfold a bit in the chair. Harry tried to look beseeching. “Were there any more reasons you wanted to give me veritaserum?” Draco asked, suspicion back in his tone.
“I wanted to make sure I could trust you before I took you into a potentially dangerous situation,” Harry said. “I don’t know if we’re going to find this guy tonight, but if we do, I want to trust you at my back.” He thought about it carefully. “I want to know with my head that I can trust you.” He looked across the room at Draco and hoped he looked a bit pathetic. “My –” his voice caught and he had to look away. “My heart already does.”
“You really meant it, earlier,” Draco said.
“Meant what?” Harry asked, confused.
“That you did this because you wanted me to believe you.”
“Apparently,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “At the time, I thought it was because I wanted to believe you, but I guess I was lying to myself.” Draco looked at him, considering.
“Can I trust you, Draco?” Harry asked softly, staring back.
“I don’t know,” Draco said, looking a bit miserable. “I hate what I did to you as a child, and I hate my parents and my classmates and the Dark Lord for making me do it.” Harry was shocked to see tears standing in his eyes as Draco stood up and turned his back to Harry, staring out the front window onto the dark London night.
“But I don’t know. If someone threatened the people I care about again, I don’t know what I’d do.” Harry could see Draco’s hands gripping his sides, and he took a few steps closer. “I don’t know what I’d do if someone threatened you,” Draco whispered.
“What would you want to do?” Harry asked, his voice low as he stopped a few feet behind Draco and to watch his reflection in the glass.
“I’d want to use the dismembering charm from Les Miserable Magnifique,” Draco hissed.
“I think that’s good enough for me,” Harry let a faint smile cross his face as Draco met his eyes in the glass. He stepped closer, tentatively, sliding his arms around Draco’s waist. If he didn’t respond, at least he didn’t pull away.
Harry turned his cheek against Draco’s shoulder blade. “I’m so sorry, Draco,” he said quietly. “I knew you’d be angry with me, but I had no idea you’d such a history with veritaserum.”
Draco shook his head. “Would it have made any difference if you’d known?”
There was a long pause as Harry fought the truth serum. “No,” he whispered.
“I thought as much.”
“It would have been a harder decision,” Harry said, slowly. “But I wouldn’t give up the chance that you’d forgive me and we’d both know where we stood with each other.” He paused. “Do you regret it?” Harry asked, bracing himself for the answer.
“I loathe that you took control away from me,” Draco snapped. He chewed over the next words for a moment as he, too, fought against the potion in his blood.
“Look how we both fight it,” Harry marveled. “It would’ve taken us months to get this far.”
“I do not regret the conversation,” Draco muttered, turning his head to one side as if to deny his admission.
Hary let it ride in silence. “It’s a very short-lived form of veritaserum,” he ventured. “It ought to only last a few more minutes.”
“In that case, Potter, you could really do the most good by continuing on about my good points,” Draco suggested.
“Mmkay,” Harry said, rubbing his face into Draco’s hair as he’d wanted to earlier. “Does everything I can feel right now count?” he asked.
“It will do as a beginning,” Draco began to thaw. “And what is your favorite?” he asked, turning his head to look over his shoulder at Harry.
“Your hands,” Harry responded immediately. “Oh, God,” he said, burying his face against Draco’s shoulder again. “I’m such a girl!”
Draco laughed out loud and turned around. “All evidence to the contrary, of course,” he said suggestively, looking Harry over. “I really could get used to Muggle clothing,” he said, hooking his fingers through the belt loops at each of Harry’s hips. “So much less in the way.”
Harry shrugged. “There’s not much to see,” he said shyly, looking down at the floor.
“Are you serious?” Draco asked, astonished.
Harry’s blush deepened and he shrugged awkwardly, crossing one arm over his chest and hunching in on himself.
“Harry,” Draco said, letting go of the belt loops and capturing Harry’s wrists instead. “You really ought to know that I would never be seen with someone I didn’t think was at least as attractive as myself,” he said haughtily, and Harry had to laugh.
“The veritaserum must have worn off, then,” he said, shaking his head.
Draco considered. “Apparently. I have no ungovernable urge to enumerate the failings in your decorative scheme.”
Harry nodded. “Am I forgiven, then?” he asked softly.
Draco looked at him carefully. “Forgiven,” he said, just as softly. “Not forgotten.”
Harry nodded. “I understand. And I won’t do it again.” He looked up earnestly, hands forgotten and imprisoned by Draco’s fingers.
“I should think not,” Draco murmured, dropping Harry’s wrists. He set one hand delicately on Harry’s waist and brought the other up to comb through the unruly black hair at Harry’s temple.
Harry felt his pulse quicken as he leaned forward. Draco’s hand stilled in his hair, guiding his head as Draco leaned down to kiss him.
It was light, delicate. Draco’s lips brushed across his, unexpectedly warm. They paused, barely touching for a moment before Draco drew back.
“We must leave shortly,” Draco said, pulling away even as the hand on Harry’s waist stroked up and down.
“Sod that,” Harry muttered, leaning forward to pin Draco against the windowsill. He reached up to pull Draco’s head down with both hands, kissing him in earnest this time. He opened his lips under Draco’s, and felt Draco’s tongue slide along his upper lip before gently dipping in to dance with Harry’s own. As it did, Harry felt the arm around his waist tighten and Draco’s other hand slip around to pull Harry close against him.
Draco made a soft noise as they broke apart to breathe.
“Okay,” Harry said, letting his forehead fall against Draco’s chest. “Okay, bad idea. We do have to make it to the club tonight.” He struggled to steady his breathing. “For Elizabeth’s sake.” He felt Draco nod above him.
Draco’s hands moved up his back and held him for a moment, and Harry felt his chin settle onto Harry’s head. “Are you mocking my height again?” he asked contentedly.
“How could I ever mock your height when you fit so perfectly in my arms?” Draco murmured into his hair.
Harry could not even begin to think of a response to that.
West Central Street in Camden was absolutely swarming with people. Most were Muggles, but the way that young wizarding folk mixed these days, Draco imagined that several of the jostling crowd were hiding wands somewhere in their admittedly scant clothing.
“Merlin,” he muttered to Harry. “If they can’t perform warming charms, how on Earth are they not freezing?”
Harry laughed. “Alcohol, the universal blood-warmer!” He grinned over at Draco. “Well, one of the universal blood-warmers,” he smirked.
Draco rolled his eyes. “Please tell me that where we’re going there are considerably fewer people,” he said.
Harry considered. “Well, some parts of it,” he said. “I’ve made sure we’re seated upstairs,” he said. “Don’t worry, we won’t be in the thick of things.”
“Why am I not reassured?” Draco muttered.
As promised, however, their table was suitably isolated from the press of bodies. Or perhaps it merely felt isolated after the gauntlet they’d run to reach it, Draco reflected. Harry hadn’t really explained what a V-I-P list was or why they were on it, but after the crush of the ground floor, Draco was infinitely glad to be watching from above.
He saw immediately why Harry had chosen this table. It was next to the railing and oversaw both the bar and the kitchen access hallway. The bench they sat on was curtained on both sides, so that each table was nominally isolated from the others on this level. He heard a whisper as Harry unobtrusively cast a privacy charm on their booth just as the waiter approached.
“Good evening, sirs, how are you doing tonight?” he enquired neutrally, setting both a wine list and an extensive whisky menu before them.
“Passable,” Harry replied drily, and Draco watched, startled, as the spoiled rich kid in front of him ignored the menu entirely. “Have you a Glenmorangie Lasanta?” he asked.
“Of course, sir,” the waiter replied. “Would you like ice?” he asked in an utterly neutral tone.
“Of course not,” Harry said, vaguely insulted. The waiter nodded and turned to Draco.
“And you, sir?” he asked.
“I’ll stick with the theme,” Draco said. “The Quinta?” The waiter nodded. “No ice,” Draco added with a barely perceptible smirk.
The waiter disappeared and Draco turned raised eyebrows to Harry.
“Just one more spoiled rich brat,” Harry shrugged. “If we blend in with everyone else, they’ll never remember us tomorrow.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “I know that,” he said. “What surprises me is that you know that.”
Harry shook his head and sighed. “I’m an Auror, Draco. I have been for nearly ten years. How did you think I survived?”
The waiter returned with their Scotch. Harry took his without a word, looking down over the crowd. Draco nodded his thanks and raised a glass and an eyebrow to Harry as the waiter discreetly disappeared. “To an evening of surprises, then,” he said.
Harry’s low laugh made his toes curl. “And to many more,” Harry added, tossing half of the glass back appreciatively.
Draco looked at him, aghast. “Surely even the brattiest of wealthy Muggles don’t shoot good Scotch,” he said, taking a delicate sip of his.
“Draco.” Harry looked at him, exasperated. “Take a look down there, and tell me what you see.”
Draco leaned over a bit to see the ground floor more carefully. He shuddered dramatically. “Touché.”
“They’re just kids,” Harry said. “And I’d be the first to fight for them to get to remain that way. Not go through the hell we did.” He frowned a bit, and Draco took the opportunity to trace one long finger along the back of Harry’s hand.
“Now, now,” Draco said. “No getting all moody on me. We’ve a job to do tonight.”
“Hopefully more than one,” Harry leered back at him just in time for their waiter to reappear.
“How is the Scotch, gentlemen?” he asked.
“Fine, thank you,” Harry spoke for both of them, lacing just a trace of haughtiness into his tone. Draco almost shook his head.
“Very good, sir. Now, our specials tonight are a beef sirloin, with glazed shallots and nut butter . . . .”
Draco listened with an attentively bored expression, watching Harry’s flawless impersonation of the class he’d grown up in. When the waiter had taken their order and left, he shook his head once again. “Did I really,” he asked, “look like that?”
Harry’s rich laughter rang out in their muffled booth. “Yes,” he said, grinning. “Yes, you did. Although I do admit that a great deal was modeled on Blaise Zabini, as well.”
Draco sighed. “I should apologize to every one who ever knew me as a teenager,” he said mournfully. “Have I mentioned how many times a week I thank Severus and Minerva for putting up with me?”
Harry laughed again. “I’ve done the same, on occasion,” he agreed. “Christ! I forgot to tell you – do you know that Severus actually invited me to call him by his given name the other day?”
Draco’s eyebrows rose. “Do tell,” he said. “That’s quite a mark of respect, for him.”
“No joke,” Harry nodded.
“Was this before or after he told you I wasn’t sleeping with Hermione?” Draco asked.
“After,” Harry said absently, his attention drawn to the ground floor. “I think he might have pitied me.”
“Never,” Draco said, following Harry’s eyes down to the bar.
“I dunno,” Harry said. “I’d just shattered a mug of coffee all over the floor of the staff lounge.”
“He repaired the mug and refilled it for me while I was still in shock,” Harry continued.
“He did.” Harry gave him a lopsided smile. “Told you he felt sorry for me,” he said.
Draco was at a loss.
“Hey, do you see that bloke down there talking to the barkeep?” Harry nodded down towards the corner.
“Yeah?” Draco looked. “One in a uniform?”
“Yeah,” Harry said. “That’s a Muggle police uniform,” he added. “See that thing on his belt?”
“Right,” Draco nodded. “Handcuffs.”
“Yeah, but to the side of them?”
Draco shook his head. “Too dark, I can’t make it out.” He looked up at Harry’s clenched jaw.
“Of course,” he pounded one fist into his hand. “It’s called an ASP,” he said, nostrils flaring. “It’s –”
Their waiter showed up with his tray held high, flourishing their meals. Harry nodded to the man with ill grace as he set each plate down.
“Thank you,” Draco acknowledged.
“And will there be anything else just now?” the waiter asked.
“No,” Harry said shortly. He looked up just in time to see the waiter’s frosty expression, and he relented just a shade. “Perhaps later.”
The man thawed just a bit as he walked away.
“An ASP,” Harry continued. “Brand name, but – like a baton?” Draco still looked blank, and Harry shook his head.
“Like a metal stick,” Harry sighed and picked up his knife to stab viciously at his steak.
Harry didn’t taste much of his supper. He maintained his wealthy façade well enough, speaking little and watching the ground floor become less of a bar and more of a dance floor as the evening wore on.
Around eleven, the floor lights dimmed and the volume rose. A general cheer went up from the dancers, who began to move as one amorphous mob. Harry watched distractedly as Draco stared down, fascinated.
When their waiter came back to ask if they’d like dessert, Harry leaned back in his seat, affecting a lounge. “Oy,” he said. “Who’s tending bar tonight downstairs?”
“I’m sure I don’t know, sir,” said the waiter with an implied sniff.
Harry considered the man for a moment, remembering Draco’s conversation with Elizabeth. He leaned forward, dropping his act completely in the safety of their private booth.
“Do you know Elizabeth Lordling?” he asked seriously.
The waiter looked taken aback for a moment, and then angry. “What’s she to you?” he asked harshly.
“A friend,” Harry said sincerely. “And at the moment, a victim.” He watched as the man became more confused, if less hostile. “Look, mate,” he said earnestly. “I’m undercover tonight, you get me?” The man nodded hesitantly. “She was attacked last weekend on her way home from work,” he said quickly.
“She doesn’t go home from work,” the man said suspiciously.
Harry smiled. “No, she goes back to school.”
The man relaxed a bit. “Yeah, some posh school up north,” he nodded. “Always floored me her da would pay for it,” he added.
“He doesn’t,” Harry said a bit coldly.
The man nodded. “Not surprised. But Elizabeth, she’s a smart one,” he said. His face darkened. “I’d like to see the bloke who hit her.”
“He didn’t just hit her,” Harry said, pausing for his meaning to sink in.
The man looked absolutely furious, nearly ready to go smashing heads in the back room. “Steady on,” Harry cautioned as the man’s fists curled.
“Here’s the thing,” Harry said. “She was handcuffed.” He glanced pointedly at the bar. “And beaten with what she called ‘a metal stick.’”
The man stared down at the policeman at the bar. Harry watched the wheels turn.
“Name’s Jeffrey Filch,” the man said finally. “He’s thick as thieves with Mr. Lordling down there,” he gestured rudely.
Harry exchanged a startled glance with Draco. “I think that’s all we need,” Harry said softly. “Thank you.”
The man turned away without a word and walked briskly back towards the staff door.
“That’s an awful risk, Potter!” Draco hissed.
Harry shook his head as the waiter came straight back with two mugs of coffee.
“Dessert will be just a moment, gents,” he said genially, setting the coffee down and departing.
Draco glanced back at Harry, who was lounging against the back of the booth again. “You Obliviated him.”
Harry nodded, a cavalier smirk on his face. He knew that Draco saw through it, though his jaw clenched anyway. “I assure you, he’ll get an excellent tip.”
“I’m sure he will,” Draco agreed, draping one long arm over the back of the seat.
“So,” Harry said casually. “Any idea whether our good friend Argus had a fellow Squib brother?”
“As it happens, I know for a fact that he did,” Draco nodded. “Never heard the name, though.” He shrugged. “Good reason to pick on a witch,” he added conversationally.
“True,” Harry agreed. “Which he’d know from her father.”
Draco nodded. “Bastard,” he hissed under his breath.
“Ah, chocolate,” Harry spoke up as their waiter reappeared. “And another whisky, perhaps? The Nectar D’”r, I believe would suit.”
“Quite,” their waiter agreed. “For you as well, sir?”
Draco nodded and he disappeared again.
They sipped whisky and ate their chocolate in silence for some time. As the waiter disappeared with the dessert cups and left them to their whisky, Harry tensed.
“He’s leaving,” he murmured to Draco, not so much as twitching a muscle. Another copper had come in and they were clearly changing positions. Both Draco and Harry watched carefully as Filch sank back into the shadows, arms crossed as he scanned the crowd.
“Fuck,” Harry said, dropping a hand casually under the table. “See that girl he’s watching?”
Draco looked closer. “She’s a witch,” he muttered, “Graduated from Hogwarts last year.”
“Fuck,” Harry repeated, dropping several hundred quid notes on the table and standing. “I thought I recognized her. Not one of the troublemakers, but one of the groupies.”
Draco stood with him and followed Harry past a couple of empty booths and down a shadowed stair. “Same profile as Elizabeth,” Harry continued, skirting several couples writhing in the darkness of the stairway as they made their way down to the dance floor. “Quiet. Shy. Tends to stay in the background.”
“Merlin,” Draco said as they emerged into the mass of humanity on the dance floor. “If they want to hump each other’s legs, why don’t they just go home?”
“Always wondered that myself,” Harry replied, turning abruptly. “Unfortunately, it’s not our night to find out.” He grinned, pulling Draco against him. “Come on, baby, I need you to move with me. Pretend you like the music,” he said into Draco’s ear. “It’s not that far off from the Weird Sisters.”
“Baby?” Draco hissed back, pressing one hand against the small of Harry’s back and a hip into his front.
“Sorry!” Harry spluttered. “Muggle form of endearment, I swear!” he pulled back so that Draco could see his eyes. He did not look mollified.
“I hate dancing, Potter,” he growled in Harry’s ear. Harry shivered, and Draco must have felt it, because the next thing he did – more or less in rhythm with the music – was take Harry’s earlobe between his teeth.
“I swear I’ll make it up to you,” Harry swallowed, settling his hands mostly on Draco’s hips and turning him, and Christ where did Draco learn to move his hips like that?
“You’d better,” Draco said, pulling away from Harry and dancing backwards. By the time they’d made it to a corner of the room they could see Filch from, however, they’d lost sight of the girl.
Falling against the wall, Harry pulled Draco on top of him. “I need to look around,” Harry said. “Give me an excuse to be against the wall . . . fuck, Draco!” he hissed as his back arched involuntarily. “Less of a reason, or I’ll never be able to find her.”
Harry felt Draco’s chuckle against his chest. “Aw, shit,” Harry muttered. “Looks like she’s having a row with a friend.” He made sure to writhe appropriately as the girl stormed straight past them towards the door.
Harry flung his head back as Draco’s lips moved on his throat, looking through his eyelashes as Filch slid past after her. He waited until the man was safely out the door – he stopped and glanced over the room once more as he left – before he pulled Draco off of him. “C’mon,” he hissed. “He just followed her out.”
The bouncers at the door smirked at them as they rushed through, but Harry didn’t much care. He followed the soft click of boots on pavement, his own steps suddenly soundless. He heard Draco follow suit, muffling his shoes with a charm.
They kept to the shadows as they followed Filch down the street, dodging tipsy patrons from the Block out for a smoke and tanked patrons from dodgier clubs out for a lark. The man walked purposefully, and the girl – clearly not nearly drunk enough to ward off the chill – wrapped her arms around herself and walked too quickly to notice.
“Where do you s’pose she’s got her wand?” Draco murmured as they paused to allow a raucous hen party to pass. Harry spared him a dark grin.
“Dunno, but if we can catch him after he’s made a move, it’ll make my paperwork loads easier,” Harry replied. “Not to mention, his punishment worlds worse.” He showed his teeth when he smiled.
Draco nodded. They picked up the trail again. As the girl walked on a few more blocks, Draco began to recognize his surroundings. “She’s heading for the Leaky Cauldron,” he muttered. Harry just nodded. The crowds were beginning to lessen, so their cover was growing thinner.
He put a hand out to stop Draco. Raising his wand hand, he cracked it down on Draco’s head. Nodding, Draco did the same to Harry and the chill trickle of a Disillusionment charm made its way down his spine. Waiting for his shoes to turn pavement-colored, Harry nodded and they continued.
“Oy, miss,” a voice rang out as they neared the corner.
“He’s getting bolder, talking to them,” Harry breathed.
They turned the corner just as the copper reached the girl. “What’re you doing out ‘round these parts alone, miss?” He asked, just enough suspicion in his voice to make the girl shift uncomfortably.
“Noth – nothing,” the girl said. “I’m just on my way home.”
“Likely story,” he sneered at her, and suddenly Harry felt like he was back in his first year and Arugus Filch was dressing him down.
“I think you’ll be coming with me,” he said roughly, and a hand clamped down over the girl’s wrist.
She gasped and began to struggle. “No, sir, really, I’m just on my way home,” she said. “Please let –” she tugged at her hand. “Please, let me go!”
“Not bloody likely,” the copper said with a twist of the lip. His other hand fell to his waist and unsnapped the handcuffs with a practiced motion. “Here now, you weren’t thinking of going anywhere, were you?” he asked, shaking her by the arm.
“No, sir. Of course not,” she shied away from him. “Right. Back this way, then,” he shoved her roughly, spinning her around and clapping one cuff on her as he caught the second arm. He’s snapped both shut and clamped a hand over her mouth before she could scream.
“Not so full of it now, are ye, witch?” he shoved her and she fell into a dark alley off the main street.
It was enough.
“Petrificus Totalus!” Harry shouted, and the Disillusionment charm shattered around him like ice. “Incarcerous,” he flicked his wand again.
“Lumos,” Draco said from behind him, and the alley lit up. He went straight for the girl, helping her stand with her hands still bound.
“Here,” Harry said, tossing a key towards him from Filch’s belt.
Draco unlocked the handcuffs and the girl, now sobbing, backed against the wall. “Miss Crewe?” Draco said gently.
“P-Professor Malfoy?” She looked up at him, wiping her face with her hands frantically.
“We meet again, Miss Crewe,” Harry said from his post near the downed man.
“Auror Potter,” the girl said in a small voice. “I didn’t do anything wrong tonight, I swear,” she was shaking her head back and forth frantically.
“We know,” Draco soothed. “He’s not here for you.”
Harry nodded as she looked at him for confirmation. “We were after this scum,” Harry said disgustedly. He glanced up at Draco. “Your professor there volunteered to help. He’s my . . . cover.” If his mouth twitched at the word, Draco didn’t mention it.
“Would you like us to take you to St. Mungo’s, Miss Crewe?” Draco asked, gesturing to her knees.
“No!” the girl jumped. “No, I think I’ll just head back and do a healing charm on them.”
“Surely you can apparate,” Draco frowned.
She nodded. “Of course I can,” she said. “I just – I don’t know why I didn’t – when he grabbed me, I just panicked.”
Draco nodded. “I’m sure you were just confused,” he said. “May I apparate you home?” he asked.
“Oh – no, I’m just staying at the Leaky,” she said. “I’ve only just come up to London for the weekend with a few of the girls, see, but I wanted to come home early and we had a bit of a row.”
“Of course,” Draco said. “I’ll just see you there, then,” he said, gesturing for her to precede him out of the alley. Harry nodded as they passed.
“I’ll just meet you at home,” he said. “I’ve got to take this garbage in to the Ministry.”
Draco nodded and rolled his eyes as the chit in front of him kept walking. “I’ll see you shortly, then.”
Draco paced Harry’s flat. He’d poured out the rest of the whisky in the crystal decanter and rinsed it with boiling water, which he knew for a fact would denature any vestiges of veritaserum left in the bottle. He’d destroyed the glasses, both the one he’d shattered against the wall and Harry’s, sitting empty on the table.
There wasn’t much else to do. Draco prowled the small flat, but there wasn’t much to occupy the mind. There was very little evidence that Harry lived here at all, actually. Draco didn’t wonder that he spent most of his time at the office.
Harry walked in the door breathlessly as Draco completed his sixth full circuit of the room. “I’m sorry it took so long,” he said hurriedly, clutching a brown paper bag in one hand. “The paperwork was a pain in the arse – I’ll finish it tomorrow – but I wanted to get you this.” He held out the bag and Draco looked at it dubiously.
“I’m not sure –” he began, but Harry looked at him pleadingly and he unwrapped a bottle of single malt Glenmorangie. “The ’71,” he nodded appreciatively. “Not bad, Potter. Not bad at all.”
Harry gave him a lopsided smile. “It was all I could find,” he said with a half-shrug. “I, ah . . . don’t want you to remember Scotch like pumpkin juice.”
Draco stiffened a bit. “As long as we’re on the subject,” he set the bottle down and stalked toward Harry, who backed up until he hit the wall. “I want you to promise me right here and now that you will never Obliviate me like the bloke in the club.”
Harry looked at Draco and set one hand on his chest. “I promise I’ll never Obliviate you unless you ask me to,” Harry said, green eyes radiating sincerity.
Draco looked at him skeptically. “I cannot imagine any circumstances under which I would do such a thing,” he said, struggling to concentrate against Harry’s hand, like a brand on his chest.
“Believe me,” Harry said. “Pensieve memories of Minerva and Flitwick, Hagrid’s drunken stories of Madam Maxine . . . .”
Draco held up his hands in surrender. “Fine!” he exclaimed.
“But seriously,” he said, appealing to Harry’s self-sacrificing nobility. “No matter where we end up, I’ll want to remember the truth.”
Harry nodded. “I promise, Draco,” he said, sliding his hand down to Draco’s waist.
Draco saw green glinting up at him through dark lashes and something broke in his chest. “Tell me, Harry,” he said, insinuating a knee between Harry’s legs as he leaned into him. “How many times have you played this game with your – partners?”
“Wha?” Harry asked, breathless, as Draco purred into his ear.
“‘I need to look around,’” Draco mimicked in his ear. “‘Give me a reason to be up against the wall, Draco.’” Harry moaned beneath him as Draco bit an earlobe, then gently traced the shell of Harry’s ear with his tongue.
“Never,” Harry gasped out. “Never done – ah! – that before,” he panted. “I swear.”
Draco retreated to examine Harry’s face.
“Did daydream about it, though,” Harry admitted breathlessly. “Not gonna lie.”
“Did you, now,” Draco said, catching the corners of Harry’s white shirt and pulling it out of the dark jeans just far enough to slide his thumbs underneath and run them over the valley just inside of Harry’s hipbones.
Harry’s head hit the wall behind him and he hissed something unintelligible.
“What was that?” Draco paused.
“I said, ‘All week.’” Harry raised his head from the wall and seemed to remember his own hands, frantically tugging at the hem of Draco’s shirt. “I’ve been dreaming about you all week, you pillock,” he said. “Asleep and awake.” He got the shirt untucked and slid hot hands underneath it and up Draco’s spine.
Draco heard a growl and realized it was his own voice. He slid his hands out from under Harry’s waistband and ran them down Harry’s bum, pulling him up and crushing him against the wall.
“Good,” Draco said, his voice harsher than he’d intended. His mouth came crashing against Harry’s; they were of a height now that Harry’s legs were wrapped around his hips. “Mine,” he growled, biting Harry’s bottom lip. Harry cried out and his hips bucked beneath Draco.
“Yours,” he agreed, and for some time there was only the intermittent sound of panting breaths taken between bruising kisses. Draco found Harry’s hands and pinned them together against the wall over his head. Harry made a downright obscene little sound and his back arched, pressing his entire torso against Draco’s. Draco’s hips moved of their own accord as his tongue thrust into Harry’s mouth, staking his territory in no uncertain terms. He could feel Harry’s hard length pressed against his own but could spare no thought for their clothing.
“Aah,” he heard from his own throat, dropping Harry’s hands and wrapping both arms about Harry’s shoulders to pull him closer. Harry wound his hands into Draco’s hair, gathering a handful of it at the base of his skull with bruising force, taking control of the kiss even as Draco thrust him against the wall.
“Mine,” Harry hissed against his mouth, rocking his hips up at just the right angle. Draco groaned helplessly and did something he’d never done in his entire life.
As Draco shuddered and came in his trousers, Harry got a hand between them and rubbed himself for one more second, following Draco with a series of hissing noises.
Draco lowered Harry slowly, giving him time to unwind his cramped legs. They stood for a moment, catching their breath. Draco lowered his forehead to rest on Harry’s. “Yours,” he acknowledged.
Harry began at the bottom of Draco’s shirt, taking his time with the buttons before pushing it off Draco’s shoulders. As it caught on Draco’s wrists he flushed, going back to the cuff buttons. Draco held his wrists out patiently, closing his eyes as Harry pulled the shirt off and trailed his fingers up Draco’s forearms.
“This cannot be your first time,” Draco said, his voice confused.
“No,” Harry admitted. “But there haven’t been many, and . . .” he trailed off.
“And?” Draco asked, trailing the backs of his fingers down Harry’s face.
“And you’ll be the first to remember,” Harry said softly.
Draco nodded. “I thought as much.” He reached out and pulled Harry against him, tilting his chin up just barely to rest on Harry’s head.
Harry’s hands moved restlessly over Draco’s back. “That doesn’t bother you?” He felt Draco’s head shake from side to side.
“I’ve a suddenly discovered possessive streak,” Draco said as his hands began to wander over Harry’s back, skating the line of skin just above Harry’s waistband.
“I think I’m okay with that,” Harry murmured, turning to kiss the skin beneath his lips. “Why don’t we . . .” he pulled back, and Draco took the opportunity to unbutton Harry’s cuffs.
Harry completely lost hold of his train of thought as Draco started in on the buttons down his chest. He stared down at Draco’s long pale fingers as they moved down his shirt, watching dazedly as they deftly pulled each button from its hole.
“Why don’t we what?” Draco asked innocently as he tugged the shirt by the cuffs and it slid to the floor.
“Ehm,” Harry said, reaching for one of Draco’s hands as he pushed away from the wall. Draco’s low laugh warmed him down to the toes even as he moved in uncomfortably sticky pants.
They reached the bedroom and Harry waved a hand to light the candles. The rest of the flat was wired for electric lights, but Harry really preferred candles in the bedroom. He slapped the hall lights off with his other hand, leaving the room dim. “Aw, bollocks,” Harry said. “I’ll be right back, I just need to reset the wards.” He walked back out to the main room and set a hand on the door, raising the perimeter wards. He returned to the bedroom to find a fire burning merrily in the hearth and the Floo wards already set.
“I found the fireplace,” Draco said from the middle of the heavy four-poster.
Harry nodded. “I had them switch it to the bedroom,” he said. “I like it better here.” He toed out of his shoes and padded over to the bed to see Draco spread out over the coverlet without a stitch on. His mouth went completely dry.
“Come here,” Draco said, his voice catching. “Far too much clothing still on you.” Harry stepped to the edge of the bed and Draco tucked a hand into his waistband and pulled, tumbling Harry down onto the bed as well. An adept roll sank them deep into the middle of the bed, and Draco’s busy fingers made quick work of Harry’s belt and button fly.
“Up,” Draco commanded, and Harry lifted his hips obediently for Draco to slide his jeans and sticky pants off. He caught Harry’s socks, too, for which Harry was eternally grateful. There was nothing quite as undignified as being naked in bed with one’s socks still on.
Draco dropped the clothing over the edge of the bed and knelt between Harry’s legs. Harry looked up to find him staring over every inch of Harry’s body, even as his hands rested featherlight on Harry’s knees. It was disconcerting, and Harry drew in a deep breath, trying not to curl in on himself. Draco must have noticed the abortive gesture, for he leaned forward, stroking his long, elegant fingers up Harry’s sides from knee to shoulder before fitting his body to Harry’s.
Harry drew in a long breath and let it out again, reveling in the warmth of Draco’s body as he buried his face against Draco’s neck. His arms snaked out to pull Draco closer, one arm around his waist and the other hand carding through the long blonde hair as Draco angled his head so that their lips met.
The desperation was gone, this time, and one kiss blended in to the next for quite some time. Harry’s brain took its own sweet time to reassert itself, and when it finally did he rolled Draco over and began to kiss a trail down Draco’s neck, tonguing that spot where he could feel the pulse beating heavily beneath the skin. Draco’s hands on his back paused and Harry continued down, brushing a thumb over Draco’s nipple.
Draco gasped and his hips came off the bed between Harry’s legs. Harry grinned and rubbed his thumb in rough circles. “Mine aren’t that sensitive,” He murmured, leaning down to capture the other nipple between his lips. Laving it with a rough tongue, he felt Draco’s hips thrust involuntarily against him, rubbing their sensitized shafts together. Draco moaned under him, and his hands clenched on Harry’s back. Harry drew away to blow a breath over the wet nipple, switching sides with his mouth.
“Aah, Merlin, Harry!” Draco writhed beneath him and Harry finally relented, leaving Draco’s nipples to bury his nose in Draco’s stomach, exploring the texture of the fine trail of white-blond hair that led down from Draco’s navel. Draco let out a noise of intense frustration as Harry ducked to one side, down Draco’s hipbones, avoiding the obvious goal as he pinned Draco’s hips down with his hands. Harry felt hands in his hair and knew Draco was struggling not to guide Harry’s mouth straight to his cock.
He grinned and gave in, licking up the twitching underside from base to tip. Draco gasped above him and the fingers in his hair tightened spasmodically as Harry took the tip in his mouth, tonguing the slit first and then around the flared head. He looked up around his mouthful and realized that Draco had pulled one arm back behind his head so he could watch.
“Fuck, Harry,” he said as Harry pushed forward and swallowed against Draco’s cock. “Do you know what you look like?” his eyes closed momentarily, and Harry pulled his lips up again, working his tongue under the ridge. “Ah, Gods,” Draco hissed, eyes opening again and fingers tightening, staring at Harry’s mouth. “That mouth,” he moaned, hips threatening to break free of Harry’s grip.
Harry realized his own hips were pumping against Draco’s shin and he closed his eyes.
Draco made an unintelligible noise and tugged at Harry’s head. “Enough,” he said, panting. “Get up here.” Harry went willingly, and as their lips met Draco rolled them again, kneeling upright between his legs. “Over,” Draco said, leaning down to kiss him again, as if he couldn’t help it. He leaned back again to tug on Harry’s hip, and Harry rolled over onto his stomach.
Harry felt the tingle of a cleaning spell even as Draco pulled his hips up with one hand, rubbing his body like a cat along Harry’s back. Harry arched, the feel of hot skin against his back totally foreign to him. Draco covered the length of his spine with his torso and Harry felt teeth at his neck and whimpered. He pushed up with his hands, throwing his head back, and Draco’s hand beneath him came up to tweak his nipples roughly. Harry rubbed back against Draco as a low chuckle came from behind him. “I guess they’re not,” Draco’s voice came in his ear. Harry shook his head.
“That’s just fine,” Draco purred, pulling his nails lightly down over Harry’s torso. “I know what is,” he said, and Harry could feel the smirk. Instead of what he’d expected, though, Draco dug his nails into the skin just inside of Harry’s hipbones.
Harry gasped and his hips bucked into Draco helplessly. “Mmm,” Draco agreed.
“How did you –” Harry struggled to string the sentence together – “how did you know that?”
“I watch carefully,” Draco said into his ear, then began nipping down Harry’s spine.
Harry remembered the cleaning spell the instant before Draco’s tongue found its destination. After that, his capacity for conscious thought fled. He dropped to his elbows, hips in the air, and his knees seemed to spread of their own accord. Draco’s tongue dipped and pushed, wet and slippery, past the tight ring of muscle. His nails dug into both sides of Harry’s hips. Harry slipped closer and closer to the pillow, his mouth moving nearly constantly, unintelligible sounds coming out. Hissing, he realized.
“Fuck,” Draco pulled back from his task a moment and Harry wanted to scream. “Parseltongue, Harry?”
Harry groaned against the pillow. “Does it bother you?” he asked, pushing up to his hands again. “I can try to stop,” he said doubtfully.
“Gods, no,” Draco said and Harry caught the catch in his voice as he bent over Harry once more, his cock feeling impossibly harder as it rested between Harry’s cheeks. Stretching his hand out towards the nightstand, Harry muttered, “Accio lube,” and the drawer flew open. A small pot smacked into his hand, and he pressed it into Draco’s fingers.
“Are you sure?” Draco asked as he took it.
Harry shot him a very, very dirty look and took it back. He popped the top off with one hand and covered two fingers, tucking his head and reaching between his own legs to press one into himself.
“Aah, Merlin,” Draco sat back on his heels, mesmerized, as Harry fucked himself with first one finger, then two.
“Have. I. Made.” Harry panted as his cock leaked, caught between his arm and his stomach. “Myself. Clear?”
Draco grabbed the lube back and added his own finger, joining the rhythm of Harry’s.
Harry pulled his hand away and fell forward onto his elbows again, tilting his hips up even further. Draco added more lube to his fingers and pressed three into Harry, twisting and turning until he found the bundle of nerves that made Harry cry out, hissing and spitting into the pillow.
“Draco,” Harry hissed, and Draco had a moment to contemplate his own name in Parseltongue before he realized Harry was struggling to form words. “Fuck me. Now!”
Draco spread lube over his own cock quickly and knelt up over Harry. Harry pushed back to his hands again as Draco entered him, and Draco stopped for a moment when he was completely inside.
Harry felt Draco’s arm around his chest like a steel band, and was grateful for the anchor as his body slowly adjusted.
Harry drew a shuddering breath and Draco pulled back out, slowly. He pressed in again, changing his angle, and Harry hissed again, head thrown back.
“Fuck,” Draco said, pulling out completely. Harry looked back over his shoulder, his eyes completely glazed.
“Down,” Draco demanded, directing Harry with his hands.
Harry rolled over, his knees falling open immediately, and Draco realigned himself. “Yes,” he growled as he shoved back inside Harry. “I want to see you. Want to watch you hiss.” As he pumped his hips forward again, he leaned down to catch Harry’s mouth. “Want to –” he thrust his tongue into Harry’s mouth and Harry’s hands came up to fist in Draco’s hair.
“Draco,” Harry begged, “Please. Please,” he writhed, wrapping his legs around Draco and crossing his ankles behind Draco’s back.
“Please what, Harry?” Draco asked, and Harry used his leverage to pull Draco down to his mouth again.
“Faster,” Harry managed, in between hisses. “Fuck,” he cried, his hips snapping up to meet every thrust as Draco increased the tempo.
Draco transferred his weight to one elbow and snaked the other hand down between them, grabbing Harry’s cock with the lube that remained on his fingers. Harry’s hissing grew faster and less controlled, his back arched, and his eyes closed. Draco watched him and his rhythm became erratic as Harry flung his head hard against the pillow, arse clenching around Draco’s prick as he pulsed into Draco’s fingers. Dropping Harry’s cock, Draco fell forward onto both arms again, pounding into Harry’s body for a few more seconds before he came, Harry’s name a shout on his lips.
Draco fell forward and Harry caught him, wrapping both arms around Draco’s waist and tucking his chin over Draco’s head, deadweight as it was against Harry’s chest.
Draco had no idea how long he’d lain on Harry’s body, but by the time he thought of moving he was getting chilled and his foot was falling asleep. “Sorry,” Draco muttered, voice husky, as he began to shift.
He looked up at sleepy green eyes. Harry winced as Draco’s cock fell out of him with a wet noise. “I hate that sound,” he said, wrinkling his nose.
Draco huffed a laugh, reaching over Harry to his wand, sitting on the nightstand, and cleaned both of them off.
“Love being a wizard,” Harry said, rolling to one side and flinging the covers back so he could climb under them, holding them back for Draco to slide in too.
“Too true,” Draco muttered, curling around Harry and closing his eyes.
“Draco?” Harry murmured, pulling Draco’s arm against his chest.
“Thank you,” Harry said softly. “For coming with me tonight, for forgiving me, for . . . for everything.”
Draco tightened his arm against Harry. “You can’t have the whisky back,” he said into Harry’s ear.
Harry laughed, low and deep. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Draco kissed Harry’s neck, just below his ear. “Go to sleep, Potter,” he murmured.
“You too, ferret-face,” Harry said, snugging closer and settling in.