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:: :: :: :: ::
“All I ask now is for your assistance in capturing Potter.” Lucius's eyes were hard, but there was something else behind them too, something that sent a shiver down Draco's spine. “We know where he is. We can take him easily, but we'll need your help to control him, to convince him to cooperate.”
This is a dream, Draco thought. Nothing more.
Lucius's face twisted into a sinister smile, one that reminded Draco of the way his father had always looked at him when he'd done something naughty. The sight of it paralyzed him, despite his twenty-four years.
The smile disappeared from view as Lucius leaned forward and brushed a kiss against Draco's cheek. “I'll contact you in the usual way,” he whispered, then turned and walked away.
It's a dream, Draco repeated to himself. He leaned against the alley wall and tried to focus. Why was he so tense? He felt like he should know what was coming next, but he couldn't focus on it.
A hand grasped his wrist and whirled him around in the darkness. Draco shouted, and to his surprise, he could hear his own voice. He tried to pull away from his attacker, but he found himself roughly pressed against the wall again.
His eyes were closed, though he didn't remember closing them. He opened them, something that seemed to take great effort.
Ron Weasley was standing before him. At least, Draco thought it was Weasley: he looked larger than Draco remembered from school, muscles bulging in his neck, long red hair tied back at the nape of his neck, and a menacing expression on his face. He was pinning Draco against the wall with his hands on Draco's shoulders. Draco blinked, startled, and tried to push away from the wall again.
Weasley's large hand closed around Draco's throat, pressing him back against cold brick. He stared at Draco for a long moment, blue eyes hard. “This is your doing,” he said. “And you have to fix it.”
Draco managed to squeak out the word “How?” through his constricted throat.
“He already holds the key,” Weasley replied. He opened his mouth as if to say more, but froze. His face paled visibly, and he released Draco, backing away.
Draco gasped for breath and willed his knees not to give beneath him. “What key?”
And Weasley vanished into thin air.
“No!” Draco shouted, frustrated. “What the–” He stopped, voice stuck in his throat once again – Lucius was standing at the end of the alley, watching him.
He heard a strange cry, unintelligible, from a source he couldn't place. Lucius disappeared, the alley disappeared, and he was awake.
Next to him, Harry had sat up in bed. Draco blinked a few times to focus his eyes.
“Sorry,” Harry muttered. His hands covered his face. “I didn't mean to wake you.”
“Nightmare?” Draco asked. His voice was raspy and barely sounded like his own. Was he still dreaming?
“Yeah. It's nothing, though. I have them a lot.”
“Me too,” Draco replied. He'd never told Harry that before. He'd never told anyone, for that matter.
“It's always about Ron.” Harry brushed at his forehead as if wiping a cobweb away. “Why do I keep dreaming about him?”
Draco stared at the ceiling, pushing away a strange feeling of dread. It was probably a coincidence that he'd dreamed about Ron as well. Dreams were just the way one's subconscious dealt with things, after all. He'd spent time with Hermione's children that morning, and the sight of Harley and Harry together had struck him with a memory. That was it.
He turned to look at Harry. “You miss him.”
“He was my best friend.”
“What happened to him?”
Harry was silent for a moment, then turned toward Draco and sat cross-legged on the bed. He was still naked, which struck Draco as surprising. Harry usually wore pyjamas in bed, even after they'd had sex. Maybe it was a dream after all.
“The thing is, I don't remember what happened,” Harry began, twisting the cover of the duvet around his finger. “We were… doing something, something important. He worked for the Ministry's Magical Defense department, developing spells for undercover operatives.” Harry paused to look at Draco. “I'm surprised you two never crossed paths.”
Draco shrugged and turned onto his side to face Harry.
“He had this amazing sort of charisma – I know you never really knew him, but he was so funny and smart…”
“And not gay,” Draco remarked.
“Very married, in fact. He loved Hermione more than anything.” Harry paused and looked down at his twisting fingers again. “He used to sing her little songs, you know? There was a little rhyme he sang that would go with any tune. I can't remember the words, but…” He smiled, and it was the saddest smile Draco had ever seen on his face. “And he was so happy about being a father. He said his world changed after the children were born. He had been committed to the War before, but after that, it was all about making sure Harley and Cally didn't grow up living in fear of Voldemort.”
Draco nodded, listening. This story sounded familiar somehow, but he couldn't remember hearing it before.
“And then one day I woke up in hospital, and Ron was dead,” Harry said. He was silent for a long moment.
“How did he die?”
“Killing curse, they said. I was there, apparently, but I don't remember.”
Draco was quiet for a long moment. There was another question he wanted to ask, but he was afraid of the answer. He took a deep breath, and then exhaled slowly. “So… when did it happen?”
“Three years ago, plus a few weeks. He died on the ninth of February.” He looked up at Draco and gave him a strange smile. “I suppose you were busy infiltrating the Mafia and shagging your way through the male population of New York at the time, far away and ignorant of all that.”
Draco rolled onto his back again. He had no memory of that time either – he'd realized this about a year ago and had been unnerved by it. But this bit of information was unsettling, to say the least.
This is your doing, he heard Ron's voice say.
Cho's voice followed: Harry may have forgiven you, but I haven't.
Draco felt a cold sweat break on his forehead. Had he played a role in all of this? Had he betrayed them somehow? Or worse – had he done something that had resulted in Ron Weasley's death?
“Hey,” Harry whispered. Draco opened his eyes. Harry had stretched out next to him and was propped up on one elbow, watching him.
Draco tried to smile. “Sorry,” he whispered. “I'm probably making it worse by asking questions.”
“No. Actually, I've never really talked about it.”
“Not very healthy.”
“Neither was the drugs problem I developed not long after.” Harry raised an eyebrow.
“Did they ever find out who did it?” Draco asked. His voice wobbled a bit on the word did .
“No,” Harry said, rolling onto his back. “I assume it was Voldemort.”
“Really? Do you remember something about Voldemort, then?”
“No.” Harry replied. “But those weeks I can't remember had something to do with his disappearing, right? That's the only explanation.”
Is it? Draco thought. He stared at the ceiling for another moment, then closed his eyes.
“Good night,” Harry whispered, brushing a kiss against his cheek. The tenderness of it struck Draco like a bolt, and guilt washed through him all over again.
Had he played a role in all of this? He had to find out, and he had to set things straight before Harry learned the truth. But he wasn't sure where to begin.
:: :: :: :: ::
Monday, 1 March, 2004
“I can't get the documents, sir,” Grizabella said. She was standing by Draco's desk, arms crossed over her chest. “I tried, but apparently the official list of missing persons is not” – she made quote marks in the air with her fingers – “public information. Want me to go down there and nick it?” Her eyes glimmered a bit in anticipation.
Draco grinned. “Not yet. I'll try another way first. I know someone in the Ministry who might be able to help.” He rummaged about on his desk for a piece of parchment.
“Ms. Tonks?” Grizabella asked, twirling a lock of hair about one finger.
“Yes,” Draco replied. “Go fetch an owl, would you?”
Grizabella lingered a moment longer, only leaving when Draco paused to give her a pointed stare.
When she'd gone, he dipped his quill in the ink pot.
He had it rolled up and magically sealed before Grizabella returned with an owl on her arm. Draco tied the note to its foot and gave it its instructions.
:: :: :: :: ::
An hour later, Draco was at the Ministry's IS headquarters, surreptitiously reading through a file under the table while the rest of the people in the meeting argued.
“This isn't working,” Harry said at last, leaning back in his chair. Several of the people seated around the conference room's table nodded in agreement. “We can't train people quickly enough and many of them simply aren't taking it seriously. I want to switch tactics. I think we should focus on locating the source of the smothering spell instead.”
“That should keep someone busy for a while,” one skeptical witch noted. She raised her eyebrows at a man across the table, who smirked back at her.
“Which is why I'm more than willing to take on that task myself,” Harry replied.
His tone indicated far more patience than Draco had at the moment. He settled for shooting the woman a mild glare.
“I'll help,” Hermione said, shuffling through the papers in front of her. “I have a few thoughts on where to start looking, actually.”
“Ben has some expertise in magical surveillance, so he'd be good too,” Manny added. He looked at Ben, who nodded in response.
“Sounds like we have a team,” Harry said. “We'll meet this afternoon and get started. What else?” Everyone looked around the table, but no one spoke. Harry nodded. “We're finished, then. Could the core staff stay a bit longer?”
The room cleared quickly, leaving Harry, Draco, Manny, and Hermione alone.
“I've been thinking,” Harry began, clasping his hands before him on the table.
“Wonders never cease,” Hermione muttered.
He ignored her. “I think we should send Draco to Durham after all.”
Draco's head popped up from the paper he was glancing over. “What?”
“Why?” Manny asked, casting a sidelong glance at Draco. “I thought we decided it was too dangerous.”
“His instincts are good,” Harry said. “If he thinks we could learn something there, then he should go.” He turned back to Draco. “I'll go with you, if you like.”
“I thought you were going to start uncovering the smothering spell today,” Draco replied. He paused, wondering how best to handle this. He didn't want to lie about it, but he didn't want to confess his deception in front of other people, either. He looked back at Harry and shrugged. “I don't think it's necessary right now, actually.”
Harry frowned. “You were fairly insistent on Friday.”
“Yeah, well… I had another look at those reports you sent, and it seems the Aurors and Unspeakables were fairly comprehensive in their investigation. In fact, I think we might have more luck interviewing them.”
“Good luck with that one,” Hermione said. “They're notoriously secretive about these things, even in their own ranks. What makes you think they'd give away information to an American agency?”
“Only my unflagging faith in their integrity and commitment to truth and justice,” Draco quipped. “Anyone have any contacts inside?”
“I can try to pull a few strings,” Harry replied. “But they're old strings, so I'm not sure what will turn up.”
“I have a few favors I could call in, I suppose,” Hermione said. “If you really think it will help.”
Draco nodded in response.
“Well, I suppose that's all,” Harry said, gathering up his files and stacking them neatly in front of him. He turned to Hermione. “Shall we meet this afternoon?”
Draco waited until they'd coordinated their schedules, and indicated Manny should go on without him. When they both had left, Draco stood and crossed to Harry.
“I wa– ”
“I'm sorry about the way I reacted on Friday,” Harry interrupted. “I seem to be doing nothing but apologizing to you lately, but I mean it.”
Draco smiled and leaned back against the table. “I don't mind.”
“Yes, well… I did a lot of thinking yesterday. I know I'm the world's worst boyfriend, and I'm going to try to change that.”
“I'm serious about this. I want this to work, Draco. I need this to work. And I know I'm insensitive and oblivious and I've been treating you as if you don't know what you're doing, which is ridiculous.”
“You were trying to protect me.”
“And you don't need protecting. You're a grown-up, and you're far better at all of this than I am. I can see why you'd think I don't trust you, and I don't blame you for being cross with me about that.”
Draco looked away. He should say something now, before he lost his nerve.
“But I do trust you. There are people here who don't, you know, and I try to protect you from that. I suppose that's done more harm than good.”
Draco shrugged in response, feeling his resolve melting away. Harry trusted him – so why should he destroy that over a small thing like going to Durham ? After all, there were much bigger issues on the horizon – Ron, the Death Eaters, the conspiracy, and Draco's own murky past. All of it would come out eventually, and Harry would probably hate him for it. He wanted to put that moment off for as long as possible.
Harry took his hand and squeezed it. Draco looked up to see Harry's eyes focused on his. Harry trusted him. Harry cared about him.
Draco felt something crumble inside him. He looked away. “I should go.”
“Dinner tonight?” Harry asked. Draco nodded, and Harry pulled him into a kiss. “Call me when you get home.”
:: :: :: :: ::
“There's a note from Ms. Tonks,” Grizabella told Draco as soon as he'd disapparated. “And your appointment with the Headmaster at Hogwarts is scheduled for 2:30 this afternoon.”
“Today?” He hadn't expected that to happen so soon.
“He had an opening,” she replied, handing him the note from Tonks. She returned to her desk, shoes squeaking on the concrete floor.
Draco sat at his desk and opened the note. Tonks had sealed it with a charm that responded to his touch, a typical Auror practice. Draco'd got in trouble during Auror training for asking if one could read such messages by simply incapacitating the recipient and then pressing the sealed message into the person's hand. The entire group got a lecture about ethics after that, and none of Draco's colleagues were very amused.
Draco looked at his watch and sighed. His cousin was a bit impulsive.
:: :: :: :: ::
She had short spiky blonde hair, and he didn't recognize her at first. He bought a sandwich and a cup of yoghurt, then noticed her winking at him from the corner. He settled into the seat opposite her, feeling the conversation screening spell slide over his skin as he passed through its boundary.
“Have a good weekend?” she asked.
“I suppose.” He'd had a horrible weekend, but he didn't feel like sharing the details with her. He barely knew her, after all.
“Saw the Prophet on Sunday. Ouch.” She took a bite of her sandwich and waited for him to elaborate. He didn't. “How's Harry doing?”
Draco shrugged. “Fine. He's fairly used to that sort of thing, you know.”
“Yes, but what a horrible way to be outed. And everyone knows Cho ran around on him for months before they split. I don't know who she thinks she's fooling.”
Draco took a sip of his juice, willing his voice to sound casual. “What does she do, anyway?”
Tonks's eyebrows rose, as if she were surprised by the question. “She's an Unspeakable. I don't know what sort of work she does, exactly, but it's not office work.”
Draco took a bite of his sandwich to keep himself from displaying his reaction too overtly, and nodded to indicate she should go on.
“I don't know what division she's in now – they move them around a lot. She was an Auror for years, then a translator, and she moved into the Black Hole about six months ago.”
Tonks had just taken another bite of her sandwich, so there was a bit of a pause before she could answer. “That's what we call the level the Unspeakables work on. People go in there, and they don't really come out again. I mean, they come out, of course, but they tend to stay there and don't move on to other divisions.”
“Was she in Durham ?”
Tonks nodded. “She was on the team that kicked us out. They were right obnoxious about it, too.” She took another bite of her sandwich and pushed an envelope across the table. “What did you want that for?” she asked, chewing.
“I got a tip that a Death Eater disappeared not long after the Durham incident. I have no idea who it was, and thought it might be useful information.”
Tonks swallowed and looked thoughtful for a moment. “You have a source there? Someone we haven't spoken with?”
Draco smiled. “You spoke with him. And so did I.”
“Sneaky twat. Are we helping each other here, or what?”
“Of course.” Draco smiled and slipped the envelope into his coat.
She rolled her eyes. “Anything else I can risk my neck to get for you?”
“There must be files somewhere on known Death Eaters. How can I get them?”
Tonks laughed, then realized he was serious. “Bloody hell, Malfoy! Do you know what you're asking for?”
“Of course I do. And I'll owe you one.”
“A fucking big one.” She ran a hand through her short hair and bit her lip. “I'll see what I can do, but no promises, all right? And if I can get them, you have to tell me a bit more than that we share a source.”
“Agreed.” Draco opened his yoghurt and grinned at her.
:: :: :: :: ::
Draco had left word with Grizabella that he was heading to Hogwarts that afternoon, and it was nearly 2:00 before he said goodbye to Tonks. He strolled back to his flat to get his cloak – one couldn't appear in proper wizarding society dressed like a Muggle, after all – and was thinking of stopping off for a cup of coffee when he heard someone whisper, “Malfoy!”
He froze, then looked in the direction of the voice. A cloaked figure was standing in the narrow alley between two buildings, not a street from where he lived. Draco's eyes narrowed. He looked both ways, and then stepped into the alley.
“I knew it was you,” the man said, taking a step toward him.
Draco's wand was pressed into the man's throat a split second later, followed immediately by a binding spell. The man's hands scrabbled against the wall as he gasped for breath, pinned in place. He wasn't anyone Draco recognized. Not that it would have lent the man any sympathy.
“So you can see through a glamour charm,” Draco hissed. “How convenient. What the fuck do you want?”
“I didn't… please…”
The man's eyes were bulging a bit, and Draco scowled. He must be out of practice – he didn't usually overdo these things. He released the man from the spell, but kept his wand firmly in place.
The man sucked in a breath before speaking. “I apologize… I only wanted… Avery said–”
Draco let his glare go cold, well aware how much it made him look like Lucius. “Did Avery send you?”
“No, he said–” the man gasped for another breath “–you were speaking for your father, and that you were…” He paused, and his face paled a bit.
Draco's eyes narrowed further. “What?”
“Reasonable,” the man whimpered.
Draco smirked, playing along without missing a beat. “I suppose I am reasonable. Anyone else would have killed you on sight for exposing an undercover agent like that.”
“I am foolish, and I apologize.” The man was trembling now.
Draco hated threatening someone whose immediate response was to grovel. “What do you want? I'm rather busy at the moment.”
“I speak for those who remain faithful to the cause, but are afraid. There are rumors that the Ministry of Magic is close to learning what we did. If the Dark Lord returns–”
“He won't return,” Draco said, pitching his voice low. “And your faith will be rewarded.” That sounded like something his father would have said, at least. The man blinked at him, then nodded. Draco wondered how far he could push the situation. “Do you wish to tell me something more?”
“Will you take our concerns to your father?”
“Of course. I can assure you that he shares them.” That statement might come back to bite him in the arse, but he couldn't worry about that at the moment.
The man swallowed. “Perhaps you could meet with some of us. Your presence alone would restore the faith of many.”
Draco stared at the pale face before him. He was falling deeper into this web at every turn, yet he sensed this was the right path to take. It would lead him to the truth, if he could maintain the necessary balance. That was something he'd always been good at, of course.
“I'll consider it,” he replied. “But only under the condition that all of my questions are answered. There can be no secrets.”
The man closed his eyes and nodded. “Thank you. I'll contact you soon.”
Draco stepped away, and the man slipped around the corner and out of sight. Draco stared at the spot on the wall where the man had been for a long moment. Avery had spread the word, which likely meant that Lucius knew they'd spoken. The fact that his father was content to let him continue this charade worried Draco at the same time that it relieved him.
Who was in control here? Draco couldn't be sure. He only knew he had to keep his wits about him.
When he reached the door of his flat, he looked up. The dark owl – his father's shadow owl, difficult for Muggles to see unless they knew what they were looking for – was still there, perched on a lamppost and watching the street below. It didn't matter that the owl couldn't see through the glamour charm. It was waiting there because Lucius knew where he was.
And it was only a matter of time before Draco would have to face him.
:: :: :: :: ::
Draco took another drag off the cigarette and stared up at the crest emblazoned on the gates leading up to Hogwarts castle. He hadn't thought it would be so strange to come back here. It was, after all, a place he'd spent six years of his life – six very formative years, at that.
That was many years ago, and so much had happened to him since.
The walk up the drive was long, and he was halfway there before he realized he was still holding the cigarette. He banished it with a flick of his wrist – the anti-littering charms on the Hogwarts grounds were not something to be trifled with, nor was the anti-smoking hex inside the castle. Several unfortunate Hufflepuffs had learned that the hard way in Draco's sixth year. Their welts hadn't disappeared for a month.
The main doors swung open as he climbed the steps. A group of laughing children rushed past; a few cast curious glances at him, but none stopped to stare. His glamour was unremarkable, so he didn't expect them to do. He was tempted to turn and watch them, to see if they were dashing towards the groundskeeper's hut, or off to the Quidditch pitch. His mind was momentarily flooded by memories, enough to make him pause on the top step and collect himself.
There was a time when he would have given anything to be back here, but that time was long gone. For the first time in his life, Draco Malfoy felt old.
He stepped through the doorway and was almost immediately accosted by a teacher he didn't recognize.
“Can I help you?” she asked, in that tone that really meant Just who do you think you are to walk into a school like this?
“I have an appointment with the headmaster,” Draco replied, stepping back. She was taller than him, and rather menacing.
She gave him a skeptical look. “The headmaster doesn't take appointments at this time of day. I'll have to go and check–”
“That won't be necessary, Professor Finkley,” a voice said. Draco turned to see Severus Snape standing in the shadows. He stepped forward, leaning on his cane. “Aren't you supposed to be supervising the first years' study group in the library?”
Professor Finkley frowned at him, cast Draco another suspicious glance, then turned on her heel and walked away.
Draco smiled, but Snape did not return it. “Clever disguise,” he remarked, then turned and began to walk down the corridor. Draco paused for a moment, and then followed him.
Snape's limp was barely noticeable. He'd been badly injured during the War under circumstances that were shrouded in mystery. Draco hadn't seen the man in years; he'd only heard rumors about him.
They wound their way through the school, past portraits that were mostly familiar to Draco, up a flight of stairs that started to shift position until Snape hissed a word Draco couldn't understand. The stairway snapped back into place with a groan that seemed to indicate displeasure. They walked down another corridor and stopped before a gargoyle, to which Snape said, “ Incanesco .” The gargoyle sprang aside and a door opened behind it, revealing a staircase that moved on its own, much like a Muggle escalator. Draco followed him up the spiraling staircase into the headmaster's office.
The room looked different than Draco remembered. The one time he'd been there before, the office was full of trinkets and devices. Now it was uncluttered and orderly, with only functional objects and furniture about. Most of the former headmasters in the paintings on the walls were napping, though a few awakened and squinted at Draco. Dumbledore was asleep in his portrait on the wall opposite the door, his beard ruffling with every breath.
Snape sat behind a large desk and contemplated Draco. “Could you please drop that infuriating glamour charm?”
Draco raised an eyebrow at his tone, but did so anyway. He settled back into his chair, trying his best to seem relaxed. But he wasn't – far from it. Snape's eyes narrowed, and Draco had the distinct impression the man did not approve of his appearance underneath the glamour. It made him smile, for some reason.
“Well? What was so urgent?”
Draco hadn't seen Snape in years, and he'd expected some initial pleasantries, at the very least. “Well… I haven't spoken with you recently, so I thought–”
“Get to the point,” Snape remarked.
Draco clenched his jaw. “All right. What do you know about the division in the ranks of the Death Eaters?”
Snape's lips twisted. “I'm not certain to what you're referring.”
Draco gave him a long look. “I didn't come here to play word games, Headmaster. I know my father is involved in a conspiracy of some sort, and that it involves employees of the Ministry as well. I also know that not all of those in the ranks of the Death Eaters support his actions. And I know he considers you an ally.”
Snape raised an eyebrow. “Does he?”
“Yes,” Draco replied, even though he was guessing based on information that might prove to be unreliable. “I need to find out what happened three years ago, when Voldemort disappeared. And I believe you have information about it.”
“Why do you think I know what happened then? Even if I did support your father, what information could I possibly have that you would find useful?”
“What do you mean?”
“Unlike you, I wasn't there, Mr. Malfoy.”
Draco felt his breath catch in his throat. “I was there? How is that possible? I was living in New York at the time.”
Snape was silent for a moment, staring at Draco in a way that made him increasingly nervous. After several long seconds, Snape sighed. “Why do you wish to know?”
Draco snorted, incredulous. “Do I really need to answer that? I don't remember any of it. Isn't that reason enough?”
Draco pursed his lips. “I'm working for the American government. My task is to uncover the degree to which Death Eaters control the Ministry.” He tried to close his mind, without making it look like that was what he was doing.
“To what purpose?” Snape asked, voice surprisingly calm. “There has always been a degree of tolerance and complicity between both of those parties. I'm shocked this isn't something you know already.”
Draco looked away. “I have no memory of the incident, yet it lingers in my subconscious mind. My father has been chasing me for a year, but I don't know why. His owl waits outside my flat. I believe he is even eavesdropping on my dreams.”
“You should forget this hopeless crusade and return to America . Trust me, Draco – this is more than you want to know.”
“That's not an option. I have made promises. I have… commitments.”
“You would be best advised to leave Mr. Potter alone as well.”
Draco looked up at that, surprised. “How do you–”
Snape scowled. “Who else would you become involved with but the one person you shouldn't? It will do neither of you any good to uncover what happened that day. I know that isn't what you want to hear.”
“No, it isn't,” Draco replied, resisting the urge to slump down in his chair. “I'm being approached by supporters of my father who are asking for my help. Harry and I are both tormented by dreams we don't understand. Unspeakables are threatening me, and there is a smothering spell on the Ministry of Magic that–”
“I cannot help you, Draco. My position does not allow it. But understand that even if it did, I would still be reluctant. We made a choice, all of us, and it was for the best. There is no going back now.”
“I don't even know what choice I made!” Draco spat, finally losing his composure. “How can I know it was for the best?”
“Stop thinking with your groin, boy, and consider the consequences of your actions.”
“This is ridiculous,” Draco replied, glaring. “And I'm not thinking with my groin.”
Snape smirked. “Of course not. I suppose you think you're in love, or some such rubbish.”
Draco held his chin up, defiant. “I simply need to know what happened. I need to understand what role I played in this, and what role Harry played. It may be the case that nothing will change, but I can't bear living in the dark like this. It's going to make me crazy.”
Snape considered him for a moment. “I do not have the answers you seek, Draco. But I think you know who does.”
“Your father was trained as a Legilimens, so the possibility of him eavesdropping on your dreams is nontrivial. I'd be careful, if I were you.”
Draco nodded. This wasn't the answer he'd wanted, but it was clear he had only one choice. He'd have to go to Lucius.
:: :: :: :: ::
Draco apparated to one of the local points in Soho , a phone box with a sign on it that read “out of service”. It was a few streets from his flat, so he walked home slowly, thinking. People rushed around him on the pavement as they headed home from work, not seeming to notice a mousy-haired man dressed in a black robe. Draco paused on the stoop of his flat and looked up. The owl was sitting in its usual spot, preening its feathers. The sun would soon set, and it would leave to hunt for the night.
Draco watched it for several seconds, until it stopped preening and looked down at him. It stared at him, unblinking. Draco stared back a few moments more, then whispered, “ Finite incantatum .” He felt the mild tingle of the glamour charm dissolving on his skin, leaving him bare to the owl's gaze.
It blinked then, and shifted its head to the side as if uncertain what it had just seen. Draco held its gaze, and then nodded to it. A moment later, it returned his nod in a near-human manner, launched itself from the roof, and flew away.
Draco sighed and opened the door to his flat. There was no turning back now.
:: :: :: :: ::
Draco flooed to Harry's flat at half seven, dressed nicely per Harry's request. They headed out not long after, bundled up in coats against the chill, walking towards Notting Hill Gate. Harry had written the restaurant's address on a slip of paper, but they passed it twice before they found the entrance.
Assagi was a small Italian bistro tucked up a flight of stairs on a quiet residential street. Draco took one look at the half dozen tables, all marked ‘reserved', and leaned into Harry. “This looks expensive.”
Harry smiled and touched the small of Draco's back with his fingertips. “You're worth it.”
Draco almost laughed, then realized Harry wasn't joking.
Their coats were taken and they were seated at a small table by the window, where they could look down on the dark street below. Draco watched someone walk a dog along the pavement until a menu was placed before him. He was avoiding looking at Harry, but he couldn't help it. Harry would certainly see the guilt written on his face if he looked hard enough.
“Are you trying to look like anyone in particular tonight?” Harry asked.
Draco shrugged, staring down at the Secondi Piatti section of his menu. He was running out of glamour ideas, to tell the truth. “No. Why?”
“You look like… an old friend of my father's,” Harry said, opening his own menu.
Draco frowned at him. “Who?”
Harry's lips twisted into a smile. “Want to pick the wine?” He pushed a thick leather binder across the table.
Draco shot him an annoyed glance before opening it to see a truly remarkable list of French and Italian wines, all priced at twice the market rate. “What are you having?”
“Mmmm… veal, I think.”
Draco narrowed it down to three Tuscan wines and then picked the middle-priced one. The sommelier nodded his approval as he plucked the table wine glasses up and carried them away.
Five minutes later, their food had been ordered and their wine was served, and they still hadn't really spoken about anything of substance. Draco looked up to see Harry staring at his wine glass, frowning. Draco winced: why was he doing this? Harry was trying very hard, after all.
“This is lovely,” he said. Harry looked up, almost startled. “Looks like it was a challenge to get a reservation.”
Harry smiled. “I'm starting to wonder how Peggy accomplishes these things. There may be Unforgivables involved.”
“Possibly. Special occasion?”
“Yes.” Harry blushed and twisted the stem of his wine glass between his fingers. “It's been two weeks since you… since we…” He shrugged.
“Oh,” Draco replied. He wasn't sure how to respond. It was sweet and touching, and frustrating beyond belief. Harry had been so lovely to him during the last 24 hours, after two weeks of being moody and insensitive. Why was he morphing into the perfect boyfriend now?
Harry reached across the table and took his hand. Draco stared at their clasped fingers for a moment.
A coughing sound signaled the return of their waiter. He placed a platter of antipasti between them and raised an eyebrow in a clear gesture of not here, boys . Harry squeezed Draco's hand before releasing it.
They'd agreed not to talk about work over dinner, and to seal the deal, they hadn't cast a screening spell. Draco was still paranoid, though; whenever he looked up, people at other tables were staring at them. They quickly looked back to their food, but they were staring nonetheless.
It was probably the gay thing that was attracting their attention, Draco reminded himself – nothing more. There wouldn't be any wizards here. No spies for his father. He had to relax.
“So, two weeks?” Draco said once the waiter was out of earshot. “It seems like longer.”
“I know,” Harry replied, fishing a mussel out of its shell. “I feel like I've known you for longer than a month.”
“You've known me for 13 years.”
Harry grinned. “Not really.”
Draco contemplated the olive on the end of his fork. “So this is an anniversary dinner, then? I hadn't pegged you for the romantic sort.”
“Ron used to give me no end of shit about that. Said I treated girls as if they were mates, and that's why they kept leaving after the shagging got old.”
Draco raised an eyebrow. “This from a friend ? Really, Harry. You must sort out your priorities.”
Harry blinked at him for a moment, then peered at the platter again. “Today's his… would have been his birthday, actually. I'm glad Hermione isn't alone this year.”
“His birthday?” Draco frowned.
“Yes. It's hard to believe he didn't live to be twenty-one.” Harry's voice was small.
If they'd been alone, Draco would have taken Harry into his arms, but at the moment, he wasn't even sure he should take his hand. He settled for nudging Harry's knee under the table.
In the dream, Ron had said this was his doing, and that he'd have to fix it. Draco wasn't sure he could trust that dream, but he could do something, at least. He could find out what happened.
He only hoped it didn't cost him Harry.
Two hours and two hundred quid later they strolled back to Harry's flat, down dark side streets with shadows that reminded Draco far too much of his dreams. Harry insisted on holding his hand the entire way, which was nice at first. But when Draco's hand began to sweat, he casually tugged it loose, only to have it captured by Harry again moments later. He swallowed down his annoyance. He should be grateful Harry wasn't pretending he wasn't gay any more, he reminded himself. But his tension wouldn't be so easily relieved.
They were barely in the door when Harry pressed Draco hard up against it, kissing him with a fire he hadn't possessed in a week. Draco was caught by surprise, but allowed Harry to back him to the sofa, letting himself be kissed and touched, letting Harry's hands pull his clothing away.
He was naked within minutes. Harry's unbuttoned shirt hung loosely, all that remained of his clothing, and it brushed against Draco's sides as Harry moved, tickling him in spots he normally wasn't sensitive. Draco squirmed against the sensation as Harry pressed him down into the sofa. Harry's weight on him like that was usually pleasant, but tonight it made Draco feel claustrophobic.
They hadn't made a sound since they'd come in except for the occasional groan or apology for an unintentional bump. Draco had been afraid they would come back and talk. Considering Harry's new ‘perfect boyfriend' routine, it wouldn't have surprised him.
“I've been thinking about this all afternoon,” Harry whispered against his lips. “I want to make love to you all night.”
Draco opened his eyes. He'd never been so tense about sex in his life. He pushed up against Harry's chest, and nearly toppled him onto the floor. Harry blinked at him, surprised.
He hadn't meant to push quite that hard. Draco licked his lips. “Fuck me.”
Draco sat up and tugged the collar of Harry's shirt, forcing him to kneel on the couch. “I want you to fuck me,” he repeated, brushing his lips over Harry's. “Long, and hard, and rough. Right here on this sofa.”
Harry swallowed, but Draco saw a flicker of lust in his eyes. Screw the romantic bullshit. This was what they both wanted, really.
Harry held out his hand and his wand flew to him. He contemplated Draco for a few seconds, long enough that Draco wondered if he'd made Harry angry with his request. “Turn around,” he said.
Draco smiled and turned, bracing himself against the arm of the sofa. This was more like it. No talking. Just fucking. He could deal with fucking.
Harry's hands caressed his backside before his thumbs slid down to pry the cheeks apart. They remained like that for a long moment. Draco felt strangely exposed, imagining Harry staring at his arsehole. Why hadn't they dimmed the lights first?
He realized he was feeling vulnerable. His cock hardened almost instantly at the thought, to his surprise. He felt something hard – the tip of Harry's wand – press into him, and he waited for the spell.
It didn't come. He was leaning over the arm of the sofa, with a wand up his arse, while Harry just looked . He bit his lip, wondering why the hell he found the situation so hot. Harry's fingers traced over the small of his back, lingering in odd places.
“What are you doing?”
“Playing,” Harry replied. The wand pressed into him a little further, and Draco caught his breath. “Your dragon likes me.”
“Because I like you.” Draco couldn't feel the movement of the tattoo, and he forgot it was there sometimes. He wanted Harry to get on with it, but he was enjoying this tension far more than he would have anticipated.
Something warm and wet was on his skin then – Harry's tongue.
Draco resisted the urge to turn around and look. “Are you <i> licking </i> him?”
“He likes it,” Harry murmured in response. His tongue ventured ever lower, finally dipping far below the territory the tattoo usually occupied.
Draco held his breath. Harry's tongue tickled around the wand, making Draco shudder. “This is nice, but–”
He felt a whisper against his skin, followed by the sensation of the lubrication spell spreading inside him. Then the wand was gone and Harry's hands grasped his hips.
“You wanted me to fuck you,” Harry whispered.
Thumbs pried his cheeks apart again, and Harry's cock pressed into him. The burn of it caught Draco by surprise. He clenched the sofa arm, trying to concentrate on relaxing.
“I'm hurting you,” Harry remarked. He didn't stop his slow press forward.
“No,” Draco replied, though he knew it was ridiculous to lie. He was tense, so his sphincter was tense. He'd wanted it rough, though. He deserved it. “It's good.”
Harry paused when he was balls-deep, hands sliding over Draco's skin. His touch was soothing.
Draco gritted his teeth. He didn't want soothing. He pressed back against Harry, willing him to start moving. Harry's hands moved back to Draco's hips, gripping them hard, then he started fucking Draco in earnest.
Draco kept his eyes closed, hearing himself say things like “harder” and “faster”. The rough fabric of the sofa rubbed against the skin of his prick over and over as he was jolted by the force of impact, on the verge of rubbing his dick raw. He gripped the edge of the sofa tight, trying to find some leverage to push back. He was going to pay for this in the morning.
He heard a strange sound, and it was a moment before he registered what it was. His eyes flew open, but too late – a startled gasp emerged from the fireplace. He turned to see Cho Chang standing there, hand over her mouth and eyes wide with shock.
Harry had disengaged and jumped to his feet before Draco even realized who the intruder was. He plucked his trousers from the floor and held them over his groin, glaring at Cho. “What the fuck are you doing here?!”
Cho was pale, almost shaky. “I didn't think you'd be home!”
Harry was shaking from sheer rage. “You didn't think I'd – then why are you here?”
Cho crossed her arms over her chest, regaining a bit of her composure. “I came for the quilt.”
“The quilt?” Harry's voice raised pitch. “We've already discussed this!”
“No, we didn't! You refused to listen to me. There was no discussion.”
“You don't even like that quilt! You just want it because you know I like it.”
“It was a wedding gift!” Cho shouted. “It's no more yours than mine.”
“Molly wouldn't want you to have it, anyway. She hates you!”
Draco slid to a sitting position, pulling his knees to his chest. He really didn't want to hear this.
“First of all, she doesn't hate me, and second, that's irrelevant,” Cho retorted, voice shrill now. “You thought that quilt was ugly and never even put it out unless she was coming over!”
“Oh, for–” Harry's fists were tightly clenched. “So you were just going to come here and steal it, then? What else of mine have you taken?”
“I used to live here, you know. Everything in this flat is ours , in case you've forgotten.”
“Not anymore,” Harry growled. Draco looked up at the tone of his voice – he couldn't help himself. Cho shrank back a step, though she still looked furious. “I'll give you the damn quilt, but that's all. And I'm changing the wards so you can't just floo in to steal from me whenever it strikes your fancy.” Harry stalked away, disappearing through a door.
Draco smirked at Cho and stretched his legs out before him. She glared at him.
“I'd offer you a drink,” Draco said, “but I'm sure you must be on your way.”
Cho snorted, and looked away.
“Or maybe you'd like to stay and watch?” Draco continued. He stroked his flagging erection.
Cho turned to him then, an unidentifiable expression on her face. It was somewhere between rage and disgust, and she was struggling to swallow it back down.
“Oh, I'll bet you would,” Draco whispered. “Maybe you liked what you saw before.”
“Fuck you,” she hissed, eyes as cold as his father's. “You're so pathetic, Malfoy. This is all you're good for, isn't it?”
Draco clenched his jaw. “You won't get him back, you know.”
Cho smirked. “Do you think that's what I want?”
Harry reappeared then and thrust the quilt towards her. He'd put his trousers back on. Cho took it and started for the fireplace again.
Harry held out an arm to block her. “Oh, no – you think I'd give you a chance to cast a backdoor charm on the ward? Use the door, like the unwelcome guest you are.”
Cho's expression didn't change. She turned and walked around him, heading to the door.
A minute later she was gone. Harry stood staring at the door for another minute, silent.
Draco pressed his forehead into his knees. He hated Cho Chang for more reasons than he could count. But mostly he hated her for what she did to Harry. Harry would be angry and morose for the rest of the night now, and there would be no sex.
He sighed. What had he been so tense about earlier? Harry was being wonderful and sweet, and Draco had practically pushed him away.
Harry turned around and faced the fireplace, an odd look on his face. He picked up his wand and pointed it at the grate, whispering the spells to take down the floo wards. Then he recast them, setting them so that only he and Draco could pass through.
Draco was touched by that gesture, emboldened, even. Harry collapsed onto the sofa, still staring into the fireplace. Draco stretched out on his side, head in Harry's lap. Harry petted his hair as if he were a cat.
“Hope Hermione doesn't try to floo over,” Draco remarked.
“I'll change it in the morning.” Harry's hand rested against Draco's cheek, one finger stroking his cheekbone. Draco felt something cool against his skin and realized it was the bracelet. Draco's bracelet.
The memory of it popping off his wrist weeks before flooded his mind: he'd spoken with his father in that alley and learned of Lucius's plan to capture Harry. Lucius had asked for Draco's assistance, and it never occurred to Draco to cooperate. He'd been leaning against the rough brick of the alley afterwards with his hands over face, thinking about Harry and how much he'd wanted to protect him – and the bracelet had fallen to the pavement.
He'd stared at it there on the ground for a long time, baffled. He knew what it meant, the significance of it coming off at that moment. But he didn't believe it. How could it be possible that he was in love with Harry Potter, whom he'd hated for most of his life, whom he hadn't seen in years? Who'd just popped into his very complicated life, unbidden, unwanted?
Whom he'd never even fucked, for Merlin's sake.
Draco hadn't known how he felt about Harry until that moment. And everything had fallen into place in a matter of hours, followed by a glorious night that had changed Draco enough to make him reconsider everything he'd thought he believed in.
He'd always been out for himself, available to the highest bidder. FBI, CIA, Death Eaters, Aurors – it didn't matter, as long as he was in control. As long as his own interests were served first.
But something about Harry had changed that, and he didn't know how or why. And even then, his own paranoia and insecurity had nearly derailed the whole thing.
As it would do still, if he wasn't careful. Draco caught Harry's hand and turned his head so that he could kiss the palm. Harry's fingers continued to caress his cheek.
“Besides, I don't want any more interruptions,” Harry whispered, looking down at Draco's face. “And I'm sorry, but I don't want it rough tonight either. Can we just go to bed and take it from there?”
It was sweet and slow and quiet; soothing and careful and soft – everything Draco hadn't realized he'd wanted in sex. They took their time with each other's bodies, not rushing, not racing. When Draco finally came, he was sitting astride Harry, hips rising and falling in an easy rhythm while Harry's slick hand enclosed his cock. A moment later, Harry flipped them over and pressed into him a dozen more times before collapsing against him with a groan.
Draco slid his arms around Harry's back, the dampness of their skin making contact slick and hot. Harry was utterly spent, forehead pressed into Draco's shoulder.
It felt perfect. There had never been a better moment to say the words Draco was thinking. They swelled in his mind, almost forcing their way through his lips. He squeezed his eyes shut and sighed instead.
To say it, and then to lose Harry anyway – that would be the worst thing of all.
:: :: :: :: ::
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