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Thursday, 18 January, 2001
Draco took another long drag from the joint Li had handed him.
The club's music pounded in his chest as he blew the acrid smoke in a stream above their heads. It was the sort of music he hated as a rule, but when he was out trolling Muggle gay clubs with a friend – and this friend always had particularly good drugs of both the Muggle and Wizard variety – he found he rather liked it.
“Shit,” he rasped.
“Fucking A,” Li replied, taking the joint from his fingers. “This shit is totally sweet, dude. Marcus gets it from some Voodoo guy down in the Village, and it kicks ass.”
“Kicks ass,” Draco repeated with a grin, trying to flatten the word out in his mouth. He laughed and slung an arm around Li. “Ass. That's so fucking cute.”
Li's response was an exasperated sigh. He began moving his hips in time to the bass beat and let his head fall back against the flimsy wall of toilet stall.
“All right,” Draco said, pushing off the wall and standing. “I'm ready.”
Li sniggered and took one last hit off the joint. “Ready for what?”
“To get fucking laid. What else?”
They staggered back out to the dance floor, weaving through the crowd of scantily-clad men. Draco grabbed Li's hand and pulled him close.
“That one,” he half-shouted, nodding at a young man to their left.
Li raised an eyebrow in response. “You've been on such a twink kick lately. That one barely looks legal.”
“All the better,” Draco replied, grinning. “And you can have his little friend.”
“I hate these Mundane clubs,” Li said, wrinkling his nose. “Can we just go take a look at B-Boy, please?”
“I've had everyone there. Besides, it's seventies night. All the old queens come out.”
“My mother would be horrified if she knew I was fucking Mundanes,” Li said, wrapping his arms around Draco's neck and pouting. Li's mother was an old Chinese witch whose prejudice against Muggles made Draco's father look benevolent.
Draco laughed. “Does your mother even know you're gay?”
Li ignored the question. “You know I don't like having sex without magic, either.”
“Then go back to B-Boy and pick yourself up a grateful geezer,” Draco retorted, pushing him away. “I want this cute little twink, and I want him now.” He left Li behind and circled the boy who'd caught his eye, dancing closer and closer until the boy looked up and saw him.
“Hullo,” Draco said, stepping between the boy and the man he'd just been dancing with. The man shot Draco a glare and then turned away.
“Hi,” the boy replied with a grin. He had sandy hair and bright blue eyes, and he was hot .
Draco pulled him close, smiling. “Wanna fuck?”
The boy laughed, and his grin widened. “That's the third offer I've had tonight.”
“How lucky for you that you didn't take the first two,” Draco said, and kissed him.
:: :: :: :: ::
They stumbled up the stairs to Draco's Avenue B walk-up, giggling. The boy was 16, it turned out, and he'd snuck out for the night. He had no place to go, he'd whimpered, so if Draco wanted to fuck him, he'd have to give him a place to sleep too.
The boy was taller than Draco, and stronger too. He pushed Draco up against the door of the apartment and ground against him, already hard. Draco whispered an unlocking spell and the fly on the boy's jeans came undone, his hard dick popping forward to hit Draco in the stomach.
“Oops,” Draco muttered.
“That's why I'm here,” the boy said with a grin.
Draco wrapped his fingers around his bare cock and repeated the spell, this time managing to open the door.
The apartment was dark, so Draco had to lead the way to his small bedroom, hand still tugging on the boy's prick. They tumbled onto Draco's bed, mouths mashing together and hands roaming and squeezing. Within minutes, Draco had the boy flipped onto his stomach and a condom rolled onto his own dick.
Just as he began to press forward, the boy stiffened beneath him.
Draco groaned. “Don't tell me you're a virgin.”
“Well…” The boy's voice was strained.
Draco grimaced, thinking. A little magic would ease the way. He would just have to perform a memory charm later.
“Diffundo,” he whispered, pressing one finger against the boy's straining hole.
“What the hell was that?” the boy cried. Draco eased forward into his relaxed body, and the boy whimpered beneath him. “God, it… ohhhh…”
Draco pounded into him after that. It didn't matter at this point, since the boy's memory would be wiped in the morning. He'd have trouble walking tomorrow, but he'd probably just chalk up the memory lapse to alcohol.
The boy pulled himself off and came a full minute before Draco did, though the clenching of his anus around Draco's cock was most pleasant. Draco eased off him afterwards and spelled away the condom. The boy rolled onto his back, smiling.
“That was amazing! It hurt at first, but then it was… wow!” Even in the dim light, Draco could see the stars in his eyes.
Oh, hell, he thought. Why did I agree to let him stay?
“Look, I have to get up early tomorrow,” he said, pulling the duvet up over himself. “So get to sleep.”
“All right.” The boy turned onto his side, still staring at Draco. “God, your accent is so sexy! Are you from England ?”
“Yes,” Draco replied, closing his eyes. How the fuck had he managed to bring home another talker?
“What's your name?”
“Go to sleep,” Draco said, and turned to face the other way.
:: :: :: :: ::
Friday, 19 January, 2001
The alarm was set for 6:00, but the sound that awakened Draco at 5:45 was a shout. He sat up and poked a few buttons on his alarm clock. He must have been dreaming.
He turned to look beside him – the boy wasn't there. Draco frowned, and then jumped out of bed. He had some voracious plants in the main room, and if the stupid Muggle had touched any of them–
He froze in the doorway, mouth open in shock. On the sofa, dressed in full traveling robes and looking extremely displeased, sat his father. Draco hadn't seen the man in two years, not since he'd fled to become an Auror.
“Good morning,” Lucius said, pointedly ignoring the naked Muggle who was gaping at him from across the room.
“How did you get in here?” Draco asked. His heart was pounding, but managed to maintain his composure. His wand was back in the bedroom, of course. Why hadn't he picked it up before coming out?
“Oddly enough, the door was unlocked,” Lucius replied. “And no wards? One would think you wanted to be found.”
The boy was staring back and forth between Draco and Lucius, clearly confused about what was happening.
“Leave,” Draco told the boy. “Now.”
The boy looked as if he might argue for a moment, but he dashed back into the bedroom instead, reappearing with his clothes bundled in his arms a moment later. He disappeared through the front door, still naked.
Lucius had ignored him, keeping his eyes fixed on Draco instead. “I see you haven't changed. Muggles, Draco? Honestly.”
“Like father, like son, they say.” Did Lucius think he'd never known about his Muggle whores?
Lucius looked away. “Would you put on some clothing, at least?”
Draco snorted. “I'm your son. It's not as if you haven't seen me naked before.”
Lucius looked back, a smirk spreading across his face. “I am here to make you a very lucrative offer, and I don't discuss business under these circumstances.”
Surprised, Draco folded his arms over his chest and thought for a moment. Was Lucius serious? If he'd come to abduct Draco – or worse – surely he'd have done it by now. Draco nodded, keeping his expression neutral. “Very well. Don't touch anything.”
A few minutes later he was dressed in jeans and a black jumper, one he'd appropriated from Li's wardrobe months ago. Lucius wrinkled his nose at the blatant display of Muggle attire, but refrained from commenting on it.
This was Draco's second indication that the offer was a serious one. His stomach twisted at the idea that Lucius was really here to make him an offer, to treat him as an equal. The last time his father had offered him a job, it hadn't been a pleasant proposition, to say the least.
Draco suppressed a scowl and crossed to the apartment's small kitchen. “Coffee?” he asked. He'd grown addicted to the rush of caffeine it provided, so much stronger than tea. Lucius declined, but watched as Draco spelled the Muggle coffee machine into operation. Draco settled in a chair next to the sofa, trying to appear casual and relaxed.
“Well?” He tried his best to sound bored, even annoyed.
“I've been looking for you for nearly a month,” Lucius said. “And I've heard good things about you, I must admit. You've begun to make a name for yourself here.”
Draco raised an eyebrow in response. He thought he'd kept his more illicit activities quiet. If the FBI ever found out what he was doing–
“Don't worry,” Lucius said with a sneer. “Your secret is quite safe with me.”
Draco grimaced. He'd forgotten that his father was a fairly good Legilimens. He must be more careful.
A coffee cup nudged his hand, and he plucked it from the air. He'd made it a bit strong this morning, unfortunately, but there was nothing for it now.
“What do you want? I'm busy. I have an important meeting this morning that I–”
“I want you to return home with me to assist with a very important task,” Lucius said. “I won't be directly involved, and I'm afraid I can't give you many details at the moment. But I can assure you that the reward will be great.”
“Oh, really? It would have to be fairly astounding. I'm doing quite well for myself, you know.”
“One hundred thousand galleons.”
Draco struggled not to react. That was indeed an astounding sum. Whatever this task was, it was clearly important to Lucius.
Draco took another sip of his coffee and then met his father's gaze. “I want one hundred and fifty. And afterwards, you promise never to contact me again.”
Lucius's eyes narrowed. “You don't even know what this task is.”
“For one hundred fifty thousand galleons, I won't care.”
Lucius considered him a moment longer, and then nodded. “Very well. Agreed.” He stood, pressing his cane into the floor. “We should leave immediately.”
Draco scowled, but he wasn't surprised. He'd have to make a few phone calls, but for that much money, it wasn't a problem. “I'll need a few minutes to pack,” he said, heading to his bedroom.
Ten minutes later he emerged, rucksack slung over his shoulder. He cast a few cleaning spells in the direction of the kitchen. Lucius looked up from yesterday's copy of the Wizarding Times.
Draco fumbled for his mobile and rang Li. He apologized profusely for waking him up, and then explained that he'd be gone for a few days. Li offered to water the plants, just as Draco had hoped he would. He then called his office and left a message explaining that he had a family emergency back home and would be on leave until further notice. He hoped his new supervisor wouldn't be too hard-nosed about it. The man was hot, though – Draco wondered if a blow job might smooth things over. Even straight boys had a hard time saying no to head, he'd found.
“I'm ready,” he said to Lucius as he powered the mobile off and stuck it in a pocket.
A pecking at the window signaled the arrival of the morning mail. “Just a sec,” Draco said, crossing to open the pane. A grey pigeon flew in, a thick envelope dangling from one foot.
Draco took the package and offered the pigeon a treat from a jar on the kitchen table. He didn't recognize the return address, but it had Priority! printed all over it in blinking red letters. He didn't know how long he'd be away, so he shoved it into his rucksack.
“We have a portkey waiting for us at Kennedy,” Lucius told him. “We can apparate there if you like.”
Draco nodded, and then felt a wave of uneasiness. Where had this sudden near-respect his father was granting him come from?
“Why me?” he asked, stepping back. “I've been a non-entity in your life for more than a year. Why the confidence in me now?”
Lucius's gaze was stony. “It isn't I who desires your involvement in this operation, Draco. If it were solely up to me, our paths would likely never cross again.”
Draco frowned. “Then who requested me?”
Lucius hesitated a moment, and then said, “Harry Potter.”
:: :: :: :: ::
Draco closed the door of his childhood bedroom and stared around him. He hadn't been here in years, but everything was just as he remembered, from the pillows on his bed to the collection of Quidditch action figures displayed in a cabinet. The house-elves must have maintained it all – he wondered if Lucius had ordered them to do. He crossed to sit on his bed, feeling an odd twist in his gut as he did so.
He had only come for the money, of course. When this job was over, he would be able to go back to New York with enough money to buy himself an apartment, even a decent-sized one, and leave all of this behind for good.
Or so he'd thought before his father had filled him in on the details. He fell back onto the green embroidered coverlet, staring up at the ceiling.
“Master Draco is requiring anything?” a small voice asked.
Draco started, but didn't sit up. “A hot water bottle,” he said. “And a sleeping potion, if you can find one.” It was nearly midnight and he was wide awake, thanks to the time change. He was going to meet with Potter in the morning, and he'd prefer to be well-rested.
“Of course,” the elf replied, and disappeared with a pop.
Draco closed his eyes and sighed. He wished he'd asked the elf to bring him some cigarettes, but he doubted it would have a clue what he was talking about. He'd left an unopened pack sitting on the kitchen table back in New York . Li had probably nicked them already, the twat.
“Shit,” Draco mumbled, rubbing at his face with one hand. Here he was, back in a place he'd sworn never to return to, about to become part of an insane conspiracy to capture the Dark Lord. He snorted to himself. No wonder Lucius had agreed to his price without an argument – the man probably doubted he'd come out of it alive.
There was another popping sound: a small bottle had appeared on the bedside table. Draco sat up and drank it, smiling at the familiar taste. It was an old family recipe, one he'd never quite mastered himself.
He stripped out of his clothes and barely managed to slide under the sheets before his eyes grew too heavy to keep them open. The hot water bottle was already there, pleasant against his bare feet. He yawned, and his thoughts soon drifted into dreams.
:: :: :: :: ::
Saturday, 20 January, 2001
Breakfast at the Malfoy table had always been sumptuous when Draco's mother was alive. She'd fussed over him, ordering the house-elves to prepare ridiculous amounts of his favorite foods whenever he was home. Lucius, however, took a more spartan approach: toast, butter, and tea.
Draco stared into his teacup and sighed. He hadn't expected to feel the absence of his mother so strongly, but it was everywhere he turned. He couldn't stay here much longer – he couldn't bear it.
“What time is Potter arriving?” he asked Lucius as soon as he entered the room.
“Nine,” Lucius replied, sitting at the opposite end of the long table.
Draco pursed his lips, considering his words carefully. “While I appreciate your hospitality, I won't be staying. I'll take a hotel room in London .”
Lucius looked up from buttering his toast. “That's hardly necessary.”
“I'm sure the hours will be long, and this way I won't have to travel so far every day.”
“Don't be ridiculous, Draco. It would take no longer to apparate or floo from here than it would from a hotel.”
Draco changed tactics. “I don't wish to trouble you.”
“It's no trouble. This house is large and empty. If it's privacy you require–”
“It is,” Draco interrupted. “I'd also like to be able to walk to a café or a restaurant, to come and go as I please.” And bring boys back to my bed whenever I wish, he thought. “I'm used to living in a city. It will be easier this way.”
Lucius's eyes narrowed. “This isn't about what is easy, Draco. You understand what is at stake.”
Draco suspected Lucius wanted to keep him at the Manor so he could more easily control him, not out of any sense of duty or affection. “I do. I'll communicate with you frequently, as we discussed.”
“Master,” an elf said from the vicinity of Lucius's elbow. It stood on its toes and whispered something when he bent down.
Lucius nodded and went back to buttering his toast. “Mr. Potter is here.”
Harry Potter was waiting in a drawing room, staring out a window that looked over the snowy garden. He turned to them when they entered.
He looked different than the way Draco remembered him. His hair was long and shaggy, nearly to his shoulders, and he wore an expensive-looking dark robe. He seemed broader than Draco remembered too – bigger. His eyes narrowed as they fell on Draco, and when he straightened he looked even taller. It was extraordinarily odd to see him standing in Draco's childhood home, as if much of their past had simply not happened.
“Malfoy,” he said, with a slight nod. There was a hard set to his jaw, a dark edge to his tone, and a sense of barely-contained energy about him, as if he were ready to strike at any moment.
“Potter,” Draco replied.
Potter's eyes slid over Draco almost absently before he turned to Lucius. “I assume you've briefed him?”
“Yes,” Lucius replied, gesturing to a settee.
Potter made no move to sit. “Does he understand the details of our arrangement?”
“Of course,” Lucius said, a strange smile flitting across his face.
“Will he be staying here?”
“I'm standing here, you know,” Draco said, scowling. He waited until Potter's eyes were focused on him again. “I'll find a hotel in the city. Something close to wherever we'll be working.”
Potter nodded in response, folding his arms low across his body, his hands disappearing into the sleeves of his robe. “The location of our office is unplottable, but if you stay near Paddington you'll be close enough.” Potter stared at him for a moment more, and Draco had to struggle not to fidget.
“Should I owl you when I'm settled?”
“Not in that part of the city.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out what seemed to be a small enamel box. He released it and it floated through the air towards Draco.
Draco caught it turned it over in his hand. “What's this?”
“It's a message box. I have its brother.” Potter pulled an identical box from the same pocket. “It will send a message to me, and to me alone. Use it to contact me when you're ready.”
Draco nodded and slipped the box into his pocket. “I'll leave for London right away.”
Potter's gaze was cool. “Good. We'd like to get started as soon as possible.”
:: :: :: :: ::
It only took Draco a few minutes to repack his bag. He slung it over his shoulder and walked down to his father's library, pausing outside to knock on the door.
It opened with a creak, revealing Lucius sitting at an antique desk and studying an equally antique book. He looked up at Draco, but he didn't smile.
“I'm leaving,” Draco told him. “I suppose you'd like me to owl you when I've learned more about Potter's plans?” Of course, he hadn't figured out how he was going to acquire an owl on such short notice. He hadn't owned one since he was a child.
“I'll contact you,” Lucius replied. He settled back in his chair and steepled his fingers before him. “Remember that you are my eyes and ears in this. I do not trust Potter, and I do not trust the Ministry.”
Draco suppressed a smirk. “Then why did you agree to this arrangement in the first place?”
“I had little choice,” Lucius replied. He paused, looking almost nervous. “This will probably come as a surprise to you, Draco, but the Dark Lord has become a liability to our cause in the last year. Many of us suspect he does not, or perhaps has never intended to empower the pureblood community or protect its interests. We think he intends to destroy us in the end.”
Draco stared at his father, shocked. He knew the words were treasonous, and he was deeply impressed his father dared to speak them, even in his own home. “You're serious? Are you certain?”
Lucius's eyes did not meet Draco's. “Yes, and I cannot explain why. But I have committed myself to this path, and I suspect that the Dark Lord knows it. I may have already been marked. It is only a matter of time, unless you and Potter are successful.”
Draco swallowed. “I wish you'd told me this sooner.”
“You seemed not to be interested in asking questions. At least, not once a price had been set.”
“Touché,” Draco replied, not bothering to hide the contempt that filled him. He didn't want to be responsible for his father's life. He barely wanted to be responsible for his own.
He turned and left the room, feeling his father's gaze on him as he did.
:: :: :: :: ::
The Paddington Hilton was a large, if charmless, business hotel. The lobby was just above the train station, an easy walk to the station's pubs, restaurants, and shops. There was even a Sainsbury's, which Draco popped into to buy a sandwich before checking in.
His room was nearly as large as his apartment in New York , and definitely cleaner. The window looked out over Praed Street , a busy thoroughfare full of pedestrians and double-decker buses. The sky was grey and gloomy in that way that always reminded him of London , no matter where he was.
Draco sat on the bed, sinking into the fluffy white duvet, and pulled the enamel box Potter had given him from his bag. He scribbled a note on a piece of hotel stationary:
He nearly signed his name, and then realized it would be a silly thing to do. He folded the paper and put it in the box, then closed the lid. He stared at it, wondering if it would make a noise, or glow, or somehow indicate that it was working. After ten seconds he opened the lid to see the box was now empty. He had no idea if it would alert him when a message had been sent back. He flipped it over and saw a familiar mark etched into the underside: WWW. Another Weasley product.
He closed the box and set it aside, then ate his sandwich. He hadn't been surprised by Potter's cool reception of him back at the Manor, though he remained baffled as to why Potter had apparently requested him in the first place. Of course, that could have been for Lucius's benefit. Maybe things would change when Potter had a chance to fill him in on the plan.
He shivered at the thought – what plan could Potter possibly have to trap and incapacitate the most powerful dark wizard the world had ever seen? The very idea was ludicrous, even suicidal. He'd always thought Potter had a death wish. Of course, he'd never expected to play a supporting role.
He paused mid-chew to look at the box again. Was it his imagination, or had it just… shimmered? He reached for it and opened the lid. There was a folded piece of parchment inside. He pulled it out and read it.
Draco swallowed a flash of irritation down with the last of his sandwich. He didn't appreciate being ordered about. He wasn't working for Potter, after all.
Well, it wasn't as if he had anything better to do.
An hour later, freshly showered and dressed in casual Muggle attire, he headed down to the lobby. He studied his reflection in the lift's mirror, running his fingers through his short spiky hair. He looked tired, to his chagrin. He'd slept fine, but his body was still five hours behind.
He traced the smooth lines of his mother's silver bracelet with his fingers and felt a stab of guilt. He'd never seen her again after the night she'd given it to him, and had only heard about her death several months afterwards. He'd meant to visit her grave before coming here this morning, but he'd forgotten in his haste to get to London .
“Lobby level,” a recorded voice said in a pleasant tone. The lift doors opened and Draco stepped out into the lobby bar. The hotel was quiet since it was the weekend, but there were a few people seated at small tables, sipping tea and coffee and chatting. Draco looked to the left and saw a lone figure standing near the revolving doors.
Potter was dressed in worn jeans and a faded Ramones t-shirt, a leather jacket slung over his shoulder. With his shaggy hair and stylishly ragged appearance, he could have passed for a member of a Muggle rock band.
Draco crossed towards him, noting that several of the women who worked behind the registration desk were eyeing Potter with great interest. He stopped before him and – uncertain exactly what sort of greeting was appropriate – settled for a tight smile.
Potter didn't return it. “Let's go,” he said, pulling on his jacket and walking through the door. Draco grimaced and followed, wrapping a scarf around his neck.
They wound their way down through backstreets until Draco wasn't sure he'd be able to find his way back to the hotel. They finally stopped before what looked to be a closed green grocer's.
“The password is bowtruckle,” Potter told him, looking at the boarded up door of the shop. And then he stepped through it, leaving Draco alone on the street.
Draco looked up and down the street before stepping forward himself – and smashed right into the door. “Fuck,” he hissed, rubbing at his nose in annoyance. “All right – bowtruckle.” He stepped forward again, and this time the door allowed him through.
He was standing in a large well-lit room. A long table on one side of the room was covered with sheets of parchment, some of them displaying designs that had been charmed to move. A bookcase standing behind the table was full of worn volumes, with stacks of old newspapers on top. On the other side of the room were a few desks, a sofa, and a fireplace. One door lead to what must be the loo, judging from the humorous cartoon that had been posted on it.
Potter was hanging his jacket on a coat stand near the fireplace. He gestured to one of the uncluttered desks. “You can have that one if you like. Ron will be here in a moment and we'll explain the situation.”
“Weasley?” Draco barely suppressed a groan. It was as if one of his old school nightmares were coming true.
Potter smirked, but said nothing more. He sat at a desk and rifled through a stack of parchment.
Draco stared at him. He hadn't expected someone of Potter's ilk to have much in the way of manners, but this was beyond the pale. He was starting to think Potter didn't want him here at all, which made no sense.
Potter didn't look up as Draco removed his coat and scarf and sent them to hang themselves on the coat rack. He stood there for another full minute, but Potter didn't even acknowledge his silence. Draco finally walked across the room to look at the pieces of parchment spread over the table. Some were maps of places he didn't recognize, and others seemed to be flow charts, perhaps plans of action. He picked one up to study it more closely.
“Don't touch that,” Potter said, seeming to materialize at Draco's side. He jerked the parchment out of Draco's grasp. Draco clenched his jaw and turned to glare at Potter, but a sound caught their attention, and they both turned to look as Weasley stepped out of the fireplace.
“Malfoy,” he said, shrugging off his cloak and hanging it on the coat hook. “You've finally made it.” Weasley was larger than Draco remembered, easily over six feet. His hair was even longer than Potter's and was pulled into a tail at the nape of his neck. He didn't look like the sort of person Draco wanted to pick a fight with – not anymore.
And to Draco's great surprise, Weasley walked across the room and held out a large hand.
Draco took it, uncertain if Weasley was having him on or if he was being genuine. He risked a glance at Potter, who scowled and folded his arms over his chest. Genuine, then.
“You must be tired,” Weasley said, expression serious. “I imagine that time change is a bit rough. What is it Muggles call it… jet flab?”
“Jet lag,” Potter corrected, studying his nails.
Draco tried to keep himself from smiling. “I'm fine, thank you.”
“Good,” Weasley said, nodding. “Well, Harry, what have you told him?”
“Nothing,” Potter replied, placing the parchment he'd confiscated from Draco back on the table. Weasley looked surprised.
“I've only just arrived,” Draco said, and immediately wondered why he was defending Potter's rudeness. An awkward silence stretched about between them.
“Well, then,” Weasley said at last, turning to Potter. “Let's get started.”
Potter gestured to the sofa. Draco sat on one end and Weasley sat on the other. With a casual flick of his wand, Potter transfigured a nearby metal stool into a squishy-looking armchair and sank into it.
“So here it is,” Potter said, meeting Draco's gaze for what seemed the first time since he'd arrived in London . “We're going to lure Voldemort into a trap. And once we've captured him, we'll knock him unconscious, either with a spell or an injectible potion – we haven't decided which just yet – and then we'll turn him over to the Ministry, who have plans for him that haven't been divulged to us.” His tone was oddly flat, as if he were reciting these words from memory.
Draco turned to look at Weasley, who was watching Potter with more than a bit of amusement on his face. “Have I missed something?” Draco asked.
Weasley shrugged. “That's what we're supposed to do. The problem is, we've haven't a clue how all of this is going to work.”
Draco laughed, and then realized Weasley wasn't joking. He looked back at Potter. “So you have no plan, basically. Is that it?”
“Oh, right, of course,” Potter replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “We were waiting for you to arrive, because we just aren't clever enough to think of anything on our own.”
Draco snorted, no longer concerned with keeping his annoyance in check. “Look, you're the one who asked me to come. Do you want my help or not?”
“I didn't want to ask for you,” Potter retorted. “But I didn't have a choice. Lucius refused to cooperate with the Ministry unless one of his spineless slugs was on our team, and there was no way in hell I was going to work with one of them.”
“Ah,” Draco said, now understanding. “So my name came up, and you thought you could stand to be in my presence for more than a few hours?”
“It was Ron's idea,” Potter said, looking away.
“Harry'd said good things about you back when you were in first year Auror training,” Weasley said. “Well, you did,” he chastised when Potter's expression turned murderous. “We knew you weren't a Death Eater, at least, and we figured your father would agree to it.”
“And so he did.” Draco settled back against the sofa cushions, feeling a headache flare behind his eyes.
“And it took him a good month to find you,” Weasley continued. “That was reassuring, I have to say. He made it sound like you didn't want to be found – not by him, anyway.”
“I didn't. And after this, I plan to disappear a bit more deeply.” He caught a strange look from Potter, but he ignored it.
The three of them were silent for several seconds. At last, Potter sighed.
“So here's the thing, Malfoy. You don't want to be here, and frankly, we don't want or need your help. So you can have a little holiday, hang around your hotel room, and do whatever it is you do for fun, and we'll get on with it on our own. We know Lucius is paying you a lot, so we'll tell him you're doing a great job and all.”
Draco gaped at him for a moment, and then turned to look at Weasley, who was studying his hands. His expression was guarded, as if he'd known this was coming and didn't want to be part of it. Draco turned back to Potter. “Are you serious?”
Potter nodded, still watching Draco's face.
Draco paused, uncertain what to think. He'd spent much of the morning and a good chunk of the previous evening worrying about this task, so the idea that he might not have to do it after all made him feel a bit of relief. He could certainly use a holiday – sleeping in, spending a few hours a day in the hotel's fitness center, and hitting the clubs in Soho every night.
On the other hand, he'd come here to do a job. He'd been loathe to admit it, but he had been flattered to think that Potter had thought of him, that he'd gone to so much trouble just because he'd wanted Draco's assistance for this task. He'd had a few brief daydreams of being mentioned in the Prophet in those same tones of reverence usually reserved for the Wizarding World's Golden Boy, his name associated with something worthy for a change. .
But Potter didn't want his help at all. He'd only asked for Draco to throw Lucius off his trail, and nothing more. Draco felt an odd sinking feeling in his stomach, and was surprised when he realized it was disappointment.
And a touch of righteous anger.
He looked back up at Potter, decision made. “I came here to do a job, not just to fuck around and take my father's money. If you don't want my help, I'll go back to New York and do something useful with my time – and you can deal with my father. But if I stay here, I'm in. You won't be rid of me that easily.” He folded his arms across his chest and waited.
Potter's return stare was one of appraisal. He studied Draco for a long time, so long that Draco cleared his mind, just in case. Finally, Potter looked at Weasley.
Weasley grinned and shrugged.
Potter sighed and dug into the pocket of his jeans. He produced a handful of gold galleons, which he tossed at Weasley. Weasley caught them in one hand and laughed.
“Yeah, yeah, fuck you,” Potter said, sinking into his chair. “I was wrong.”
Draco glanced back and forth between them for a moment before realizing what had just happened. It had been a test – they'd wanted to know if he would leave if given the chance – and he'd passed. He felt a flash of irritation that they'd thought so little of him at all, but he swallowed it down.
“What was that, some sort of lame ‘Good cop, bad cop' routine?” he asked, leaning back and letting a cocky smile play across his lips.
Potter's grimace faded into something that was nearly a smile – it was the first time Draco had seen a remotely friendly expression on his face. “We wanted to be sure you weren't coerced into coming here. Welcome aboard, Malfoy.” He held out his hand.
Draco took it and felt an odd tingle as he did.
“You may regret that choice, you know,” Potter said.
“I already do,” he replied, half-meaning it.
Potter and Weasley spent the next hour bringing Draco up to date on what they'd discussed so far, ideas they'd considered and discarded, spells they'd tested and ultimately rejected. By the end, Draco's mind was spinning – he couldn't think of any possibility they hadn't already thought about. It seemed like they'd spent a lot of time planning, and had made very little progress.
“I hate to disappoint,” he said as they stared down at the plans scattered across the table, “but I have nothing to add at this point.”
“Well, it's not as if we were expecting a flash of brilliance,” Potter quipped. His smile was good-natured. “Sleep on it and let us know what you think on Monday.”
“Ah, it's getting late,” Weasley said, glancing at his watch. “I promised Hermione I'd take her out to dinner tonight.”
“Finally found a sitter?” Potter asked.
“Mum's coming over. The twins are just four months old,” he said to Draco, noting his confused expression. “We haven't had a night out since they were born.”
Draco gaped at him. “You have children?”
“Yeah,” Weasley said, brushing a stray lock of hair out of his eyes. “We didn't mean for it to happen quite so soon, but…” He shrugged.
Draco couldn't imagine having children at the age of 21. Of course, he couldn't imagine having children at all.
“You coming over for breakfast tomorrow?” Weasley asked Potter.
Potter nodded. “Of course.” His eyes lingered on Weasley's form as he retrieved his cloak and disappeared into the swirling green flames of the fireplace.
“Well,” Draco said when the room was quiet again. “Do you… I mean.” He paused, not wanting to sound as desperate for company as he actually was. He wasn't sure why he was even thinking about this. “Have you got any plans tonight?”
Potter turned to look at him. “No, I guess not.”
Draco shrugged. “It's Saturday night, and the thought of spending it in my hotel room alone is a bit depressing. I don't suppose you're hungry?”
One corner of Potter's mouth twisted upwards. “It's just now four o'clock.”
“For tea, of course,” Draco said, not missing a beat. “Oh hell, I'm on New York time. I really just want a drink.”
Potter seemed to consider the idea for a moment, hands stuffed in his pockets. Finally he shrugged. “I could use a drink, actually. There's a little pub around the corner.”
“I'll get my coat then,” Draco said. He snapped his fingers and it sprang into his hand. Potter raised an eyebow, and Draco grinned.
:: :: :: :: ::
It was somewhere in the middle of his fifth pint that Draco realized he was drunk. It was the only possible explanation.
He'd been stumbling over his words with increasing frequency, saying ridiculous things, and staring at Potter far too much. And in the last hour or so, it had occurred to him that – from a certain point of view, at least – Potter was what one might consider… hot.
He wasn't hot in the way Draco conventionally thought of hotness. He was unassumingly hot, casually hot, endearingly, adorably, clumsily, unbelievably hot.
Draco winced and pushed his pint glass to the side. He'd had enough for tonight.
“And you should have seen the expression on Fallin's face,” Potter was saying.
Draco had missed half the story, so he just nodded. Potter continued on, oblivious to the fact that he was a horrid storyteller.
Potter's shaggy hair – which Draco had dismissed at first glance as annoyingly retro – fell about his face, making Potter frequently pause to brush it out of his eyes or shake it back, revealing a stretch of pale neck as he did. His eyes were much greener than Draco remembered, and he'd exchanged his dorky schoolboy glasses for a pair that were small and stylish.
Even the rock star gear had grown on Draco over the last few hours. Potter was broad through the shoulders, and the t-shirt was just a bit too small for him, so when he reached up to brush that dark hair back from his face, the sleeve tightened enticingly around a bicep and the fabric stretched across his chest. The time he'd got up to go to the toilet, Draco's eyes had been glued to his arse as he walked away – those old jeans were worn in all the right places.
I'm drunk and desperate, Draco thought. When the alcohol wears off, I'm going to feel very silly about all of this.
“Have I got something in my teeth?” Potter asked.
Draco blinked. He'd been staring again. “No, sorry. You just… look different than I remembered.”
Potter squinted at him. “You look different too. I guess we all grew up.” He shrugged and drained his glass.
“Yeah,” Draco sighed. He eyed his own glass, half full of lager. Drinking was a double-edged sword at this point, but he'd paid for it, after all. He took another sip.
A young woman in a short skirt walked by, and Potter's eyes followed her arse across the pub. Draco felt a twinge of disappointment, then chastised himself. It wasn't as if he'd really entertained the thought – he knew Potter was straight, after all.
“Want another?” Potter asked, gesturing to his own empty glass.
Draco squinted at him. “Don't you have somewhere to be in the morning?”
“Yeah,” Potter replied with a shrug. “But I have breakfast there every Sunday morning. It's no big deal if I can't make it every now and then.”
“Do you want to go somewhere else?” Draco asked, scanning the small pub. “Maybe someplace with some music?”
Potter grimaced. “Oh, no – I should have known you'd be a dancer.”
Draco snorted, hoping he didn't look as stupid as he felt. “And you're not, I take it?”
Potter shook his head. “I'm a horrible dancer. I look a complete idiot.”
“It's a great way to pick up girls – or so I hear.” He wasn't sure if Potter knew he was gay. He wasn't going to hide it, but he was reluctant to come right out with it as well. They had to work together, after all.
“Not in my experience. They usually run the other way when I hit the dance floor.” The hint seemed to have flown right by him.
Draco glanced at an old clock that hung behind the bar. “Well, it's a bit early for the clubs anyway. How about dinner?”
He looked at Potter again, only to see him staring after a bloke who had just walked by. The man's jeans were worn and tight – not unlike Potter's own. Draco blinked a few times to force his eyes to focus. Had he just imagined that?
Potter turned back to Draco. “Sorry?”
“Dinner,” Draco repeated. “You must be hungry by now.”
Potter brushed his hair back from his face, revealing his famous scar for the briefest moment, and slid off his stool and onto the floor. He looked wobbly. “Food is probably a good idea at this point, yeah.”
Draco drained his pint of Stella, then nodded towards the door. Potter opened it for him and they stepped out into the cold, dark street. They hadn't made it twelve feet before Draco tripped over an irregular bit of pavement and stumbled right into Potter.
“Hey, careful now,” Potter said with a laugh. For a brief moment, Draco felt Potter's warm body pressed against him, and then Potter's arms were around him, pulling him upright.
Draco closed his eyes. He didn't want to see Potter's face hovering over him in the dim light, so close. Draco was just drunk enough that he might try to kiss him, and that would be a disaster.
Potter was still laughing. “You really are a lightweight, aren't you?”
Draco stepped back and straightened his coat, trying to scowl, bu not quite succeeding. “Fuck off,” he said, and shrugged away when Potter slung a friendly arm around his shoulders. “I'm starving.”
“How does Indian sound?” Potter asked, still grinning.
“Great,” Draco replied. They headed down a well-lit street, and Draco kept his eyes firmly on the pavement in front of them.
:: :: :: :: ::
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