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:: :: :: :: ::
Draco stiffened at the sound of his father's voice before he could stop himself. He turned around to see Lucius standing in the doorway of the study, looking as elegant as always.
Draco attempted a smirk. “Father. Always a pleasure.”
Lucius smiled, and the expression was chillingly familiar. Lucius crossed to the side table and waved his hand over a flask of brandy, which obediently poured two glasses. He handed one to Draco and then gestured toward a pair of ancient-looking chairs by the stone fireplace. Draco settled into one and swirled his brandy, doing his best to look unaffected.
“It's been far too long since we saw each other last,” Lucius said, his eyes narrowing even though his expression remained cool. “Though I must say I appreciate the work you've been doing on my behalf.”
Draco raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn't say it's on your behalf.”
Lucius chuckled. “But it is for the best that everyone thinks so, is it not? We can help each other, son. The things we want are not so different.”
Want to bet? Draco thought, though he kept his face impassive. He clamped down on a strong sense of déjà vu and pulled a cigarette from the pack in his pocket. He lit it with a wave of his hand and took a long drag, then blew the smoke in his father's direction. “Took you long enough to catch on.”
“Still bent on suicide, I see.” Lucius waved the smoke away with one jeweled hand. “I want to make you an offer. I suggest you listen very carefully.”
Draco stared at hs father's face through the grey haze. “I'm listening.”
:: :: :: :: ::
Thursday, 4 March, 2004
Draco was dreaming about something pleasant, for a change. Harry was laughing about something Draco had done looked so happy, and Draco was grinning from ear to ear. Harry fell into his arms and they collapsed backwards, but the ground was soft and falling didn't hurt. Harry was smiling down at him, framed by clear blue sky. Draco closed his eyes, waiting for Harry to kiss him.
He heard a strange tapping sound.
Draco opened his eyes to see a ceiling come into focus above him. The tapping sound remained, insistent and sharp. It was coming from his right, from… the window.
Draco sat straight up. There was an owl hovering outside the window, pecking at the glass. The only owl who'd come to Draco's window like that belonged to Lucius.
“What the–?” Harry stirred beside him.
Draco felt a stab of panic. This was not the time for Harry to find out – not yet. His stomach dropped as he sprang from the bed, mind whirling. He could open the window and glare at it, send it away. He could tell Harry it had made a mistake.
Oh, that was ridiculous. Owls didn't make those sorts of mistakes.
“Hedwig?” Harry said.
Draco squinted, hand on the clasp to open the pane. Without the vision charm, he couldn't see through the window. He turned to peer at Harry. Harry was nearsighted; he couldn't possibly see that far either.
Draco turned the catch and cracked the window open. A snow-white owl glared at him from its precarious perch on the window sill, as if to say, What took you so long? Draco breathed a sigh of relief: not Lucius's owl, then. He pushed the window open.
The owl swooped past him and landed on the bed, and Harry sat up and scratched the top of its head. “Morning, Hedwig. What's this?” He peered at the note attached to the owl's leg, and his face tightened. “Take it to the office, girl.” He petted her head and she nipped his fingers, then flew back out the window. Draco pushed it closed, then exhaled before turning back to Harry.
“Work-related,” Harry sighed, flopping onto his back. “I dunno why she brought it here.”
“Yeah,” Draco said. He glanced at the clock next to the bed. “The alarm was about to go off anyway.”
Harry smiled and propped himself up on an elbow. “So we have a few extra minutes. Wanna take a shower with me?”
Draco's shower was nearly too small for two people, but they managed. The fact that their bodies kept sliding together only added to the fun. Harry was particularly mischievous with his soapy hands, washing parts of Draco that he was fairly certain didn't need quite that much cleaning.
Draco turned to face the spray, rinsing his hair, and Harry pressed his soap-slicked cock against his arse. His hands slid over Draco's chest, fingers pausing over taut nipples before heading further south. By the time one of Harry's hands wrapped around Draco's cock, Draco was panting. He pressed his hips back against Harry, grinding his arse into Harry's groin, and Harry's hand squeezed and stroked.
“Do you know how hot you are like this?” Harry whispered.
Draco came right then and there, into Harry's soapy hand.
Ten minutes later, they were dry and mostly dressed. Harry stared at his own face in the mirror. “Draco?”
“Yeah?” Draco was staring in a small mirror by the wardrobe, contemplating the styling charm he'd just cast on his hair.
“Would you… You offered to do a depilo the other day.”
Draco grinned and peeked around the corner into the bathroom to see Harry frowning at his reflection. “I thought you'd never ask.” Harry turned towards him, and Draco studied his face for a moment. The spell wasn't difficult; it simply required a bit of concentration. Harry's jaw was more square than Draco's, and his nose was broader. His lips were fuller – Draco had to pause to kiss them at that thought – and the stubble was denser on his face than it was on Draco's. All of these things were important. Draco concentrated, brows furrowed together. Harry blinked, looking nervous.
“Relax,” Draco said, picking up his wand. “But don't move, or you'll bollocks it up.” Harry closed his eyes, looking tenser than before. “Depilo.” The stubble on Harry's face disintegrated before Draco's eyes.
“Thanks,” Harry said, reaching up to touch his face. “I still can't manage that one by myself.”
It was on the tip of Draco's tongue to offer to teach Harry the spell, but he realized he rather liked the idea of doing it for him. Harry slipped through the door past him, shoulder brushing against Draco's back as he did, and Draco leaned into the mirror and pointed his wand as his own reflection. He pursed his lips, concentrating, then said, “Dispicio”. The world came into focus all around him.
“Nor that one,” Harry sighed. He was standing in the doorway, buttoning his shirt.
Draco turned to smile at him. “That's one I can't do for you.”
“I suppose. Want to have lunch with me today?”
Draco let his hand trail over Harry's stomach as he passed him in the doorway. “I have a meeting, actually.”
“Me too, now that I think about it,” Harry replied. “Dinner, then?”
Draco found his shoes and sat on the edge of the bed, pulling them on. “Sure. Where?”
“My place. I'll cook.”
“Should I be frightened?”
Harry crossed to the bed and knelt in front of Draco. “I'm not a horrible cook, you know. Besides, I… have a surprise for you.”
Draco grinned. “A surprise? Really?”
Harry moved forward until he was between Draco's thighs. “Yes.” He leaned forward to kiss Draco's throat.
“What is it?”
Harry's response was muffled against Draco's skin. “It's a surprise, silly. Can't tell you.”
Draco let his hands drift down between Harry's thighs. “How about a hint?”
“You'll like it. That's my hint.” Harry caught his hands, grinning.
Draco stood and pulled Harry up against him. “That's not a very good hint, you know.” He kissed Harry, relishing the feeling of smooth skin against his face. That charm was several days overdue.
Harry pressed his forehead against Draco's. “I won't tell you. You'll just have to wait and see.”
Draco's hands drifted downwards to cup Harry's arse. He squeezed, pulling their groins together.
“Don't start something you can't finish,” Harry teased.
“Who says I won't finish?”
Harry kissed him firmly before pushing him away, grinning. The grin faded into a strange smile.
Draco blinked at him. “What?”
Harry opened his mouth, and then closed it again. He swallowed, audibly, but said nothing.
Draco sighed and fastened a missed button on Harry's shirt. “Guess I'll have to wait, won't I?”
Harry shrugged and smiled. “Come over around seven?”
Draco nodded. “Seven.” He cast his eyes away when Harry stooped to put on his shoes. A nice view of Harry's arse was the last thing he needed before heading to work.
:: :: :: :: ::
“Sir?” Draco looked up to see Grizabella hovering over his desk. “I'm finished with the list of missing persons.” She blinked at him, as if this were all the information she needed to report.
Draco made a vague gesture with his free hand. “And…?”
“No one within a reasonable radius of Durham disappeared in the last two weeks.” She shrugged.
Draco sighed. That had been an utter waste of time. He only hoped Tonks hadn't taken too much of a risk in getting that list to him. “Thanks. Oh, and I have a meeting at 1:00, so hold any messages for me.”
Grizabella nodded, twisting her hands together. “Where is your meeting?”
“Not here,” Draco replied, turning back to his computer monitor. She was good at her job, but she was rather nosy at times.
Of course, Draco had something to hide – else it wouldn't have seemed an intrusive question.
Grizabella's shoes clopped against the concrete floor as she walked away.
:: :: :: :: ::
The building appeared to be a run-down Muggle warehouse. Faded paint indicated it had once been the property of Johnson Bros., Ltd., but there was no sign that anyone had been inside in decades. Draco pulled his wool robe more tightly around him, shivering against the damp air. His glamour charm gave him the appearance of an ordinary businessman in a suit and overcoat, but underneath, he looked like a member of a distinguished wizarding family. Appearances were quite important, of course – particularly with this crowd.
He pulled a slip of parchment from his pocket, on which was written a single word in his father's sharp handwriting. He looked around, then stared at the rusting tin of the warehouse's large bay door and said, “Resero.”
The surface shimmered and a doorway appeared before him. Draco looked up and down the street once more before pushing it open. The interior of the building was dark, so he cast a lumos before stepping forward. The door closed behind him with a loud metallic clang. It had barely subsided before the rustle of a robe caught Draco's ear.
“Who's there?” he asked.
“Mr. Malfoy – sir.” Out of the shadows stepped the man Draco had encountered in the alley days before. Draco dropped his glamour charm and nodded his head at the man in greeting. The man gave a slight bow, and turned and indicated Draco should follow him.
They walked down a dark corridor, then took a lift down several levels. The doors opened into yet another corridor, at the end of which was a closed door. The man opened it to reveal a dimly lit chamber and two dozen men in robes standing about, conversing quietly. Each group grew silent as Draco passed them on his way to the front of the room. The rush of power was exhilarating, and Draco had to take a calming breath. He'd forgotten what this was like, to be feared and respected, on the basis of his name alone.
By the time he reached the front of the room, everyone had seated themselves on chairs that seemed to have been conjured since he'd entered. Everyone stared at Draco, waiting.
Waiting for him to fix their problems, perhaps. He suppressed a shudder. He was in over his head, but there was nothing he could do about it now.
“Well,” Draco said, turning to face them. “I understand you have questions.”
A few of the men whispered to each other; otherwise there was no response.
Draco crossed his arms over his chest. “Have I wasted my time in coming here?”
“No, of course not!” the man who'd met him said, turning to look at the others. He made a gesture that clearly meant get on with it!
One of the men in the back snorted. “I'm more interested in hearing what he has to say.”
“Aye,” another said. “What of Lucius Malfoy and his promises? We've sacrificed enough, put our own necks on the line. We want to see the rewards we were promised.”
“You'll get nothing,” another voice said. “All he sends us is his shirtlifting son–”
“Enough,” Draco said. “Or I'll leave this instant and tell my father of your disturbing lack of faith.” The room quieted, but their stares were still suspicious, if not outright hostile. Draco gritted his teeth. What had he expected? He glared at the man who'd made the last comment, someone whose face he didn't recognize at all. “If you have any further personal opinions about me, you'd best keep them to yourself.” The man smirked, but didn't respond. The room was silent for a long moment.
“We… we're all being harassed by Aurors,” a man near the front said at last. “My children have been questioned at school, and my wife was approached at her place of work.”
“Yes,” another man said. “They're asking too many questions. We agreed to support this because we were afraid of the Dark Lord, afraid of what might happen if he continued to gain power.”
“There are rumors,” an older man interjected, “that the Ministry is no longer under our influence, that they are close to discovering what we have done.”
Draco held up a hand. “They are aware of the smothering spell, it's true. They are actively searching for its source.”
“No thanks to you!” someone hissed. “We all know you're working with them.”
A dozen pairs of eyes stared at Draco. He forced a smile. “The best undercover operatives are those who work with the enemy, gentlemen. I can assure you they will not uncover the source.”
“The source has been out of contact for years,” a tall dark-skinned man said. His accent was unfamiliar to Draco. “He has not been to our meetings, and he does not respond to owls. He may have abandoned our cause.”
“That's ridiculous,” Draco replied, carefully controlling his response. “He must be cautious. He cannot make a single suspicious move.”
“That is true,” a man who appeared to be near Draco's age said. “We mustn't jump to conclusions so easily.”
“And what of Mr. Malfoy's relationship with Harry Potter?” asked the same man who'd made the shirtlifting remark earlier. “What conclusions could one draw from that?” A few people near the man shot him withering glances, but no one said anything.
“Leave Mr. Potter to me,” Draco replied with a grim smile. “I can assure you he is of no concern. He will not interfere.” There was a bit of murmuring at that.
“And if the Dark Lord returns?” one man asked. “What will become of us? He will know we assisted in this conspiracy, and none of us will escape his wrath.”
“Yes,” another said. “Will Malfoy protect us, as he promised?”
“He can't!” a voice from the back replied. “They've delivered nothing that was promised, so why should we believe them when they promise us more?” There was more murmuring from the others, and several heads nodded in agreement. “When the others come to my door and demand my allegiance, why should I resist? I'll join them to protect my family. I'll claim Malfoy forced me into this.”
There was an anxious excitement in the air, one Draco was all too familiar with. All the more reason to squash it down now.
“If you believe the Dark Lord would spare you, knowing what you've done, you're far more foolish than I thought.” He stared at any individual whose eye he could catch, and the room grew quiet. He let the tension build for a moment. “Gentlemen, your faith is necessary to our cause. If any of you turns aside, it makes our task more difficult. But together, we will ensure the Dark Lord remains…” Draco paused. He didn't know how to complete that sentence. “–does not return.”
The room was silent. Several of the men nodded and waited for Draco to continue. Others looked even more anxious.
Draco swallowed down his own anxiety – he'd said it, and no one had challenged him. He'd been right. They had somehow conspired against Voldemort, and now they were all terrified.
“The smothering spell is of the utmost importance,” the dark-skinned man said. “Those of us who work in the Ministry have heard the growing rumors about its existence, and every day we fear what will happen if it is lifted.”
“Mass chaos,” the young man said. “We'll be fighting a war on two fronts!”
“And if the Dark Lord returns, it's the end of us all!”
“I'll swear that Lucius Malfoy forced me into it!” someone said. A few voices chorused “Yes!” to this.
“Enough!” Draco shouted. He waited to regain their attention before continuing. “I will tell my father that your support is unwavering , that he can count on each of you.” He let his eyes sweep around the room, hoping to give them the impression that he was committing their names and faces to memory, to report them back to his father. “Unless anyone would rather I tell him otherwise?” His question was met with silence. “Good. If there is anything further you wish to discuss with me, you know how to contact me. I have wasted my time here, apparently.” He glared at them and strode from the room, sweeping his cloak behind him in as dramatic a gesture as he could manage. He exit was met with silence, though he was certain the conversation would resume as soon as he'd gone. All of them watched him leave the room, their eyes following his form. All but one, Draco noticed – a man in an elegant cloak stood near the door in the back, apparently lost in thought.
Draco walked to the door and paused before it, waiting for someone to open it for him, as was befitting someone of his stature. Two men scrambled forward, nearly tripping over themselves in their haste, but the man by the door hadn't moved. Just as it was opened, he finally looked up at Draco, fixing him with dark eyes. There was something familiar there, something Draco couldn't place. Defiance , perhaps. Mistrust. None of them trusted him, really, and he couldn't blame them.
Draco resisted the urge to hex the man for his insolence, instead shooting a mild glare at him before walking through the door and slamming it closed behind him.
No one followed him, to his relief. Draco took the lift back to the ground level, crossed to the door, and pushed it open.
It was raining. He hated getting wet. He could apparate, though, back to the apparition room they'd established in the office. It was standard field procedure not to apparate within 100 meters of a meeting point, though, in case anyone was looking out for incidences of magic.
Draco had a feeling it no longer mattered.
:: :: :: :: ::
Manny glanced up from his desk when Draco entered the office. “Great, you're back. How did the interviews go?”
Draco shrugged. “As expected.”
“Did you learn anything new?”
Draco sat and turned on his monitor. “Not really.” He hated having to lie to Manny like this, but he couldn't see another way to go. He simply couldn't tell anyone the truth – that he'd been in contact with his father, that he'd been meeting with recalcitrant Death Eaters all week, and that each time, he'd heard the same story: They were afraid. They'd vaguely conspired against Voldemort. They feared that the Ministry investigation – which Draco happened to be leading – would have disastrous consequences, upsetting the delicate balance they'd been maintaining for years.
He was starting to wonder if they were right.
Manny was still staring at him. Draco leaned back in his chair and sighed. “Hermione was correct. Aurors are highly secretive.” That, at least, was true. He hadn't heard from Tonks since they'd last spoken on Monday. He'd owled her twice, to no avail.
“Speaking of secretive,” Manny said, turning his chair to face Draco, “Harry thinks they've made a breakthrough in the search for the source of the smothering spell. They think it's a person.”
Draco looked up from his monitor. “Really?” He felt something twist in his belly.
“Yes. Turns out the strength of the spell waxes and wanes according to the time of day and even moves around from building to building. It's stronger in the daytime and fades almost completely at night.”
Draco frowned, trying to decide how much information to reveal. “But that doesn't necessarily mean the source is one person. Couldn't it just be a function of how many people are present in the building? Perhaps it's amplified by the people it affects.”
Manny nodded. “That could still be the case, even if it's maintained by an individual. Good thinking!” He turned to his computer and began typing. “I'll email that idea to Hermione.”
Draco blinked. “Email? When did they get internet access over there?”
Manny grinned. “This morning. Apparently Hermione worked something out with a Muggle internet service, and they've been installing the wiring all week. It drove the staff crazy, since they couldn't use magic when the Muggle technicians were around. And they had to dress like Muggles for two whole days.”
Draco couldn't help but grin. “That must have been entertaining. Do any of them actually know how to use a computer?” He'd been so immersed in his own work he hadn't heard anything about this.
Manny laughed. “I'm sure Hermione is already working on that.”
On a whim, Draco opened his inbox. Sure enough, he had emails from both Hermione and Harry. “Wow,” he muttered, opening the one from Hermione.
Draco snorted. He doubted anyone else was as enthusiastic about this as Hermione. He opened the message from Harry.
Draco smiled and clicked “reply”.
He pressed send, then noticed there was another email in his inbox from Hermione. He scanned it: she'd got Manny's email and wanted to know if Draco could come to a meeting there in fifteen minutes. Draco frowned at the screen.
“We could use your help on this, you know.” Draco looked up at Manny, surprised. “She copied me on the email,” he explained. “I know you have lots of other stuff on your plate, but this is much closer to your area of expertise than mine.”
Draco shrugged. “I suppose that's true.” If things went as planned, he'd need a lot more information about the smothering spell anyway. His mind was already turning with questions he wanted to ask.
But what if they found out who the source was? What would he do? At the moment, he wasn't certain. The talk of chaos and war at the meeting hours earlier had shaken him, and he was no longer certain that eliminating the smothering spell was a good idea – at least not until they knew more about why it was there.
“Harry and Hermione have been working to develop detection spells lately,” Manny continued. “That's how they learned the source was a person.”
Draco frowned. “They think the source is a person, but they've no idea who it could be?”
“There are too many possibilities. They can't just go around casting spells on people in the Ministry of Magic, you know. They have to find ways to be discreet about it.”
Draco glanced at his schedule, but it was empty. He'd left it open, having no idea how long his early afternoon meeting would be. “I guess I'm going.”
“Thanks,” Manny said, turning back to his computer. “We can port over in a few minutes, if you want.”
Draco nodded. His inbox beeped.
Draco rolled his eyes and grinned. He glanced across the room at Manny, who was engrossed in reading something on his monitor. “I'm ready to go whenever you are.”
:: :: :: :: ::
The apparition room in the Farringdon branch of the Ministry of Magic office complex was unusually brightly lit. Draco always forgot to close his eyes when he apparated there.
“Shit,” he muttered, squinting.
Manny appeared next to him a second later, wearing a pair of Muggle sunglasses. He grinned at Draco.
“Clever,” Draco said, rolling his eyes.
Manny removed the sunglasses. “Hearing you bitch about it is half the fun of coming here.”
“And what's the other half?” Draco asked as they stepped through the door into the main corridor.
“Hi,” Manny said, looking over Draco's shoulder and grinning from ear to ear.
“Hello,” Hermione replied, stepping forward to kiss him. She was grinning too. “We're meeting in a different place, so I thought I'd come meet you. Harry's running a bit late.”
“That's a surprise,” Draco said with a snort. Harry's habitual lateness was endearing to an extent, but Draco reserved the right to take the piss out of him for it.
The conference room was on a different level than the apparition room, up two floors and across the building. Hermione smiled at Draco as they walked along. “Thanks for coming on such short notice. We could really use your help.”
Draco shrugged. “No problem. It sounds like you've made a lot of progress.”
“We have. But I should probably tell you about it in a more secure place.”
They continued in silence, Hermione and Manny brushing each other's shoulders as they walked. Draco trailed behind them, watching. Manny was completely smitten, and so was Hermione, from what Draco could tell. He had pressed Manny for details on more than one occasion, but Manny was increasingly tight-lipped about their relationship. Draco figured that was a good sign, as Manny had always been the sort to kiss and tell.
A twinge in Draco's temple interrupted his thoughts – the smothering spell. He could feel it snake around him, like tendrils of smoke filtering into his mind. It took concentration to keep it at bay. He had no idea if Hermione and Manny felt it as strongly as he did. He couldn't imagine the effect of living with it every day for years, as so many in this building had done.
The conference room they met in was the same one where Draco had seen Harry for the first time after returning to England a few weeks before. He hadn't been in it since then and it gave him a strange thrill to see the room. He sank into the same chair he'd been in that day and ran his hand over the table. Harry had sat right here and kissed him, even after Draco'd confessed to being a horribly lovesick idiot.
This was why he'd come back – because of Harry. Not because of smothering spells or his father's scheming or anything else. Because he loved Harry.
The door opened and Harry came in. He paused when he saw Draco, looking remarkably like he'd done three weeks ago when he walked through that door and saw Draco for the first time.
“What are you doing here?” Harry asked, frowning. Draco's smile faded.
“I invited him,” Hermione said, opening a folder in front of her. “I want to know what he thinks.”
“Is that all right?” Draco asked.
“Yes, of course,” Harry said, taking a seat across from Draco. “Sorry – I was just surprised to see you.” He smiled, but it seemed a bit forced.
“Harry, why don't you begin?” Hermione said. She was still shuffling through pieces of parchment.
Harry nodded and looked across the table at Manny. “We've been suspicious for a week now that the smothering spell was being implemented by an individual,” Harry said. “Today I received an anonymous tip to that effect.”
“So you're fairly certain?” Manny asked.
Hermione pulled a sheet of parchment from the stack and slid it over to Manny. “I crunched the numbers just an hour ago. The detection array we set up in the building registers fairly regular patterns of strength and weakness, consistent with the hours kept by the staff. The differences are statistically significant.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “You didn't have to go to all that trouble.”
“Yes, I did.” She gave Harry a look that Draco imagined she had been perfecting for years. “We're going to need this sort of evidence if we're going to get permission to cast a surveillance net.”
“A net?” Draco repeated, glancing at each of them in turn. “You're joking.”
Hermione turned her look to Draco. “We need to track movements of individuals in the building if we have any hope of catching the culprit.”
Draco folded his hands on the table. “You invited me here so I could give you my opinion, so I won't waste your time. This is a terrible idea, for several reasons. First, surveillance nets are very difficult spells to cast. You'd need at least six people working in tandem to cast one on a building this size. Second, it's so difficult to do that you won't be able to cast it without people finding out, and they aren't going to like it. They'll change their behavior patterns out of sheer self-consciousness. That will cloak the movements of the source and fuck your stats right up. You'll have no chance to use your original numbers as a baseline – not for a week or so at least.” Hermione was still frowning, but she was listening. Draco paused, trying to gage the others' responses to his words. “And third… well, perhaps I should ask this question first: If you uncovered the source, what would you do?”
“What would we do?” Harry repeated, eys narrowing at Draco. “Arrest them, probably. Shut down the smothering spell as quickly as possible.”
“Are you certain that's a good idea?” The others stared at him, but Draco held Harry's gaze. “After all, as long as it's in place, they won't have to act. But if you take it down, perhaps they'll panic, do something rash.”
“But eliminating the smothering spell has been the goal all along,” Harry replied. “It's the first step in the investigation.”
“If you know who is generating the spell, you could simply watch him for a while,” Draco said. “It would be an opportunity to learn more about the entire operation.”
“He has a point,” Hermione interjected.
Harry looked away and pursed his lips. “Yes, he does. I just… How do we know we won't learn a great deal by lifting the spell? Perhaps people will remember things, or we'll see new clues we've been missing.”
“Yes, that could be true,” Draco said, keeping his tone even. He had more than one reason to convince them not to take down the smothering spell, and he knew he needed to tread lightly here. “But as long as the spell is in place, it could provide cover to investigate who in this building is working with the Death Eaters. If the source is caught, we'll have lost that opportunity.”
“Perhaps we could just wait a week,” Manny suggested, “and continue our investigation as if nothing had been learned. If nothing turns up, we can arrest the source.”
Hermione looked thoughtful. “I agree. If they don't know we've found them, they won't have their guard up.”
All three of them turned to look at Harry, who remained silent for a moment. He pressed his fingers into his forehead and sighed. “I seem to be in the minority. But for the record, I think this is a bad idea.”
Hermione nodded. “Noted. It's settled, then.”
“Of course, all of this is still hypothetical,” Harry said, casting a glance at Draco. “And we've no way of finding out who the source is.”
“Any ideas how to go about finding him?” Draco asked.
“Or her,” Hermione said. “We shouldn't make assumptions just yet.”
Draco studied his fingernails and shrugged.
“Even though Draco objects, there's still the net,” Harry said.
Manny shook his head. “Too easy to sense. I agree that everyone will know we're up to something. We should do this as quietly as possible.”
They all stared at the table for a long moment.
Draco rubbed at his temple. “If you can narrow the pool of suspects down to a handful, it might be possible to cast tracking spells.”
“They'd notice that, don't you think?” Harry snorted.
“Not necessarily,” Draco replied. “There are ways of casting such spells surreptitiously. I used to do it quite a lot when working undercover – though never with something as complex as what you'd need here.”
“That was Ron's speciality, actually,” Hermione said, twisting a lock of hair around one finger. “In fact, I still have his old notes. I coded them all myself and packed them away after he died.” She looked at Harry. “He might have found something useful. Maybe I should look through them?”
Harry's forehead furrowed. “Are you sure? I could do it, if you want.”
Hermione smiled. “No, I can do it. I want to, actually.”
Draco glanced at Manny. Manny's expression was a mix of sympathy and concern. He wasn't trying to catch Hermione's eye, and he didn't seem the least bit uncomfortable at the emotion in Hermione's voice at the mention of her late husband. Draco wondered how Manny managed not to be jealous of Ron – especially since Draco could barely manage it himself, and Ron and Harry were never even involved.
“In the meantime, let's split up the list of suspects,” Harry said, pulling a piece of parchment from Hermione's stack. “We can narrow it down to a handful while we're trying to find a solution.” He read the list of names aloud.
Draco claimed a few that he knew were allies of his father's, thinking he could kill two birds with one stone. If anyone thought his choices strange, they didn't say.
:: :: :: :: ::
Tonks hadn't responded to any of his owls this week, so Draco didn't expect her to respond to this one. Of course, he hoped she'd find this information a bit more intriguing.
He folded the note and prepared to cast the sealing charm, then looked up to see Grizabella standing beside his desk. She had an odd expression on her face – even more odd than usual.
“There's a man all dressed in brown asking for you,” she said.
She nodded towards the entrance. “Outside. Seems a bit agitated. I found him out there pounding on the door. Says he has something for you.”
Draco followed her to the front, wondering who the hell would know to find him here. He held his wand at his side as Grizabella pushed open the front door.
A man in a UPS uniform stood on the pavement, clutching a clipboard and a small package. He looked rather confused.
Draco grinned at Grizabella and sheathed his wand in his sleeve. “It's all right,” he told her, then turned to the man. “You have a delivery for me?”
The man handed him the clipboard and pointed at where Draco should sign. “I've been standing out here for ten minutes. Didn't think anyone was in this building.” He craned his neck to peer into the open doorway, but Grizabella closed it until only her foot was keeping it open.
“We're renovating,” Draco told him. “It'll take a while to clean up the mess, though.” He smiled and handed the clipboard back.
“Here you are,” the man said, handing him a thick envelope. “Good luck cleaning this place up.”
Draco waited until the man's back was turned before opening the door enough to slip back inside. “It's a Muggle delivery service,” he told Grizabella.
“Ah,” she said, but her strange expression hadn't changed.
“Oh, there's a note on my desk that needs to be owled to Ms. Tonks at the Ministry. Will you take care of that right away?”
“Yes sir.” She disappeared around the corner.
Draco turned the envelope over. The return address was that of the FBI office he'd worked for in New York. He opened it while walking back to his office, not looking up when he passed Grizabella in the corridor. The envelope contained a thick stack of papers, and on top of the stack was a hand-written note.
Draco spread the papers out on his desk, scanning over them. He had been deep undercover for much of this time period, so the records were sketchy. In November, he'd been assigned to infiltrate a group of Canadian wizards who were running drugs across the border at Niagara . The assignment had lasted until the beginning of January, and the record mostly consisted of his own reports highlighting how much he hated Buffalo 's weather. That assignment had been semi-successful, though. He hadn't had to buy weed for months after, and he still kept in touch with a few of those blokes. One never knew when such connections might be useful.
In mid-January, he'd gone undercover again, this time staying in the city. His assignment had been to investigate the murder of an FBI informant by a particularly malicious group of Death Eaters who operated on the lower east side. He'd infiltrated the group easily using his own identity – the Malfoy name carried a surprising amount of weight on the east coast of the US .
Draco read through the papers twice, but found no records between January 20 and February 25. He'd sent a brief note in to the FBI reporting his early success in infiltrating the group, and then nothing until another report more then a month later indicating that he'd learned the informant had been feeding the FBI false information in the first place. As had he, of course, but that was beside the point.
Draco leaned back in his chair and rubbed at his temples. He remembered the day he'd filed that second report. He'd just come from a particularly interesting meeting with the Death Eater crew and realized he hadn't reported in weeks. The fact that he'd made such a huge slip had frightened him at the time – he'd worked hard to maintain a delicate balance as a freelance operative. Forgetting to report to one of his employers was uncharacteristically irresponsible of him. It had been another two years before he'd realized he couldn't remember anything from that time period.
He had hoped the FBI's records would reveal something else, but they seemed to be restricted to his own reports, along with the occasional summary written by a supervisor. There was a record indicating he'd been out of the country when he'd lived just across the border from Buffalo , but no record suggested he'd left the US during the missing weeks.
Perhaps Snape was wrong. If Draco had left the US , surely the FBI would have a record of it. He'd checked his passport three times in the last few days, but there was nothing there to indicate he'd been back in the UK three years ago.
It was just another dead end. Draco gathered the papers back together and shoved them in a desk drawer. It was beyond frustrating. He had no idea what was real and what was not.
Perhaps he should ask his father after all. With the exception of their first meeting, their communications had only consisted of a few words sent by owl. Draco didn't want to spend any more time in the man's presence than was necessary.
At least Lucius wasn't tormenting his dreams any more.
:: :: :: :: ::
At a quarter to seven , Draco couldn't wait any longer. He flooed to Harry's flat.
The scent of something roasting filled the air, making Draco's stomach rumble. In the kitchen, a few pots were bubbling away on the hob. Harry was nowhere in sight.
“Harry?” Draco called, dusting himself off. He put the bottle of dessert wine he'd brought into the refrigerator.
“In here!” he heard from the bedroom.
Draco peeked through the doorway to see Harry standing before the mirror over the dresser, staring at his own reflection. He ran a hand through his unruly hair, smoothing it down, then picked his glasses up from the dresser and put them on.
“You're early,” he said, straightening out the black jumper he'd apparently just pulled over his head. He wore nothing else but his underpants.
“Is that a problem?” Draco asked, leaning against the doorframe.
Harry turned and smiled at him. “Of course not. I'd just planned to be dressed before you got here.”
Draco walked towards him, grinning. “Why bother? It's all going to come off again straight away.” His hands slid around Harry's hips to squeeze his arse.
Harry laughed. “Dinner's almost ready.”
“Oh, come on,” Draco whispered, lips trailing over Harry's neck. “If we do it now, we'll be ready for another go after dessert.”
“I'm in the middle of cooking,” Harry protested, though he let his head fall back enough to give Draco more access.
“This won't take long,” Draco said, dropping to his knees.
Harry put his hands on his hips and grinned down at him. “Oh, all right.”
Draco tugged his underpants down enough to free his cock. It stiffened before Draco's eyes and then even more in his mouth. A moment later, Harry's hands were in Draco's hair and he was gasping for breath.
“God, that's… you have to teach me how to do that thing you do with your tongue.”
Draco did it again, and Harry leaned back against the dresser for support, groaning.
“Wait,” Harry said, pushing him back. “Timer's going off… shit.”
“Cast a spell or something.”
“Can't. Sorry. I'll be right back, okay? Don't move.” He kissed the top of Draco's head and kicked his underpants off before disappearing through the door.
Draco sat on his heels for a moment before following. Harry was removing a baking dish from the oven when Draco turned the corner. He was naked from the waist down and his erection jutted out from his body almost comically. He set the dish on the hob.
“Don't hurt yourself,” Draco said. “That's quite a valuable part of your anatomy you're letting get close to open flame.”
Harry grinned. “You think I haven't cooked in the nude before?”
Draco eyed Harry's erection. “Is it always so exciting for you?”
Harry rolled his eyes in response. Draco stepped behind him as he pulled foil back from the dish to reveal a whole chicken. “That smells fantastic,” Draco whispered, catching Harry's earlobe between his lips.
“Is this really such a good moment to distract me?” Harry asked.
Draco reached down and found Harry's erection. “Maybe I'd better keep this safe for you.” He stroked slowly and felt Harry shudder against him.
“Draco, please.” Harry managed to toss the foil aside, and then planted a hand on the countertop on each side of the hob. “Just give me a minute, okay? I need to taste what's in these pots and then I'm all yours, I promise.”
“But I need to taste you,” Draco replied, dropping to his knees. He pried Harry's arse cheeks apart with his fingers.
“Oh god,” Harry said. His hands hadn't left the countertop.
Draco flicked his tongue lightly across Harry's exposed hole and Harry whimpered. Draco pulled his cheeks further apart and continued a slow tease with his tongue. The fact that Harry liked this so much motivated him to go as slowly as he could bear, even though his own cock was aching in his trousers. He pressed the tip of his tongue into the center of the hole and was surprised at how easily it gave way.
He smiled and pushed his tongue in, and Harry groaned. Draco fucked him with his tongue slowly and steadily, trying not to think about how much he wanted to do this with another part of his body. Maybe later. Harry wasn't putting up any resistance at the moment, and that was a good sign.
Harry's hand had drifted down to stroke himself while Draco rimmed him. The display was nearly shocking – Draco hadn't seen Harry touch himself like that before. Unfortunately, he still couldn't see it well from this position.
“Harry,” he panted, “I want –”
“Me too,” Harry said turning around and pulling Draco up. “I want to touch you.” His eyes were dark and wild, and the sight of it made Draco melt. He let Harry fumble with the fastening of his trousers and push them down, even let Harry bat his hands away from that gorgeous cock Draco wanted to taste again. Harry looked around the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of cooking oil.
“Wait, you're not going to–” Draco's protest was cut off by Harry's mouth over his. He felt Harry's slick hand around his cock, felt him press it against his own and stroke both together. “Mmmmphff,” Draco said, twining his arms around Harry's neck.
Harry backed them up against the refrigerator and pumped his hand, pressing their cocks together. The oil was slick and getting warmer by the second, and the sensation of Harry's foreskin sliding against his own felt better than Draco could remember it doing before. He was nearly limp from the pleasure of it, from the feeling of Harry's tongue swirling around his, from the heat and desire pouring off his body in waves Draco could nearly feel. He was drowning, he thought.
His orgasm hit him hard, so hard his knees buckled. He was dimly aware of Harry biting his shoulder, hand clenched tightly around their cocks, motion frozen.
Draco slid down the refrigerator and felt Harry follow him. He opened his eyes and gestured toward the living area. “Why are we in the kitchen when there's a perfectly comfortable sofa over there?”
Harry's damp forehead was pressed into his neck. “Why not?”
Draco let his head fall back against the refrigerator. “I don't think I've had sex in a kitchen before.”
“You're kidding,” Harry said. He kissed Draco's cheek and pushed himself to his feet. “Hungry?”
“Mmmm, yeah.” Draco sighed, smiling up at him. The fluorescent light above Harry's head framed his hair, almost looking like a halo. Saint Potter. Draco grinned.
:: :: :: :: ::
The chicken was good, if not fantastic. Harry had paired it with a light American pinot noir, which surprised Draco. Either Harry had learned enough to know it was a good match or he was so ignorant of wine that he wasn't even aware of the common misconception that all chicken should be served with white wine.
“This is nice,” Draco said, taking a bite of chicken.
“Thanks,” Harry replied, smiling. “This is a standby, actually. Easy to make when distracted.”
Draco grinned. “I'm just glad you're not cross with me about the meeting today.”
Harry seemed to looked startled for a moment before he shrugged and cut a piece of asparagus in half. “Let's not talk about work tonight.”
“All right.” Draco thought for a moment, searching for a topic. “Did you ever get your floo wards reset?”
“Been too busy. Besides, I sort of like the fact that you're the only person who can pop over unannounced.”
“I never pop over unannounced.”
“But you could,” Harry said, sipping his wine.
“I prefer that you know I'm coming, so a lavish feast such as this can be prepared.” Harry rolled his eyes, and Draco laughed. “No, it's very good, really!”
“I used to hate cooking,” Harry said, pausing to take a bite of chicken. “My aunt and uncle made me do all of the cooking once I was old enough to reach the hob.”
Draco placed his knife and fork at four o'clock and picked up his wine glass. He knew a little about Harry's upbringing, but it was a topic Harry didn't discuss much. “Did they?”
“Yes. Of course, my aunt was a terrible cook and a worse teacher, and they all had completely pedestrian tastes in cuisine. I can make eighteen different kinds of casserole, but that's hardly cooking.”
Draco swirled the remains of the pinot in his glass. “So who taught you to cook?”
Harry pursed his lips. “Cho, actually. Her mother is a gourmet, or something, so she was very good at it too. She started dreading my cooking nights, and she finally took it upon herself to teach me some of the basics.”
Draco wasn't sure he liked discussing something good about Harry's ex-wife. “I took a cooking class in New York once.”
“Really?” Harry pushed his plate away.
“I had a few friends who were into that sort of thing. I'd grown up with wine and fine food, and I was tired of having to go to restaurants all the time to get it. I decided to learn how Muggles managed.”
Harry laughed, then looked thoughtful for a moment. “You're so different than you were in school.”
Draco drained his wine glass. “So are you. I brought some dessert wine. Want to try it?”
Draco retrieved the bottle from the fridge and searched the cabinets for appropriate glasses. When he could find none, he dug out his wand and transfigured the ones on the table into slim flutes with flared rims.
“You're trying to tell me something,” Harry quipped.
“Took you long enough to catch on.” Draco opened the bottle with a quick spell and poured wine into each glass. “This is called ice wine,” he told Harry. “It's a speciality in upstate New York .”
Harry swirled his glass, watching the liquid cling to the sides. “Did you bring this with you from America ?”
“I bought it in the wine shop down the street from my flat, actually.”
“Sweet,” Harry said. “I like it.”
Draco smiled at him. “I thought you would.”
Harry stood and moved to the sofa, gesturing for Draco to follow. They sat and leaned against each other, watching the fire. Harry sipped his wine for a few quiet moments, and then set his glass down. “I have something for you.”
Draco grinned. “My surprise?”
“Hold out your hand,” Harry said. Draco did, and Harry dropped something into it.
It was an ordinary-looking key. Draco stared at it for a moment, and then looked up at Harry.
“To the flat,” Harry explained. “I thought you should have one.”
“Okay,” Draco said, staring down at it. “Thanks.” He'd been expecting something a little more interesting than that.
“And I was thinking,” Harry began, words a little rushed, as if he were nervous, “that you could move in. If you wanted.” He bit his lip and picked up his glass again, taking a large gulp of wine.
Draco felt his stomach drop. “I… move in?” He stared at Harry.
“Yeah,” Harry said, fingers twisting around the stem of the wine glass. “Move in.”
“You're serious,” Draco said. He had no idea how to respond to this.
“Yes, of course,” Harry replied, finally looking up. “We're always at each other's places anyway, and–”
“I have a lease,” Draco interrupted. “I can't just leave Manny there.”
Harry blinked at him. “I'm sure he'd be fine. We could just buy it out.”
“We?” Draco repeated. His stomach was churning. “Harry… don't you think it's a bit soon to be thinking of living together?”
“No,” Harry replied, eyes earnest.
Draco stared at him for a moment. “It's only been two weeks.”
Harry's face was carefully blank. “Almost a month, really. I… I thought this was what you wanted.”
“What I wanted? Oh, god.” Draco put his wine glass down and leaned forward, head in his hands. This was terrifying in a way he couldn't have predicted. He was in love with Harry, but the idea of living with someone he barely knew–
“Well, what do you want, then?” Harry asked. His voice had an edge of frustration to it. “When you came here you said you wanted to get married someday and I thought–”
“I never said that!” Draco blurted, tone harsher than he'd intended. Hurt flashed in Harry's eyes for a moment, and Draco felt full-fledged panic begin to settle in his gut. “I mean, someday is a long way off. We barely know each other. Why rush things?”
“We barely know each other?” Harry repeated. “How can you say that? We've spent most of the last month together. You know me better than anyone, even Hermione.”
Draco cringed. Harry only thought he knew Draco, and that made the whole situation worse. “Can we please just take it slow for a while? My lease is up in a little more than two months. I'm supposed to go back to New York , but–”
“You're still thinking of going back?” Harry was on his feet now, staring down at Draco. “Have I been misinterpreting all of this?”
“No!” Draco said. “That's not it at all.”
Harry was staring at the fireplace. “I'm a world class idiot, aren't I?”
“Harry… don't, please.”
“Oh god,” Harry breathed. “I thought you felt the same way I did.”
“I do, I just…” Draco pulled his knees into his chest. “This is new to me, you know. I've never been in a serious relationship, and you… you've been married. Maybe it's easy for you to just rearrange your life around this, but I can't.”
“Why not?” Harry said, pacing now.
“Because… I don't know. Because I'm terrified. Because I have no idea what to expect. Because I need more time.”
“Because you still don't trust me,” Harry said.
“That's not true!”
“I've tried to be who you want me to be, Draco. What more do you want me to do?”
“I want you to be yourself. I don't want you to pretend to be something you're not.” He looked away from Harry then, flinching at his own hypocrisy. The truth was that Draco didn't think Harry would want him if he knew everything. If he knew Draco had been meeting with Death Eaters all week, or that he'd been lying to everyone all along, for years now. He wasn't going to let himself get too entangled in this relationship before all of that was sorted out. He had to protect himself. No one else would.
“I love you,” Harry said, voice so soft Draco almost missed the words. He looked up. “And that's who I am right now. Someone who loves you.”
Draco felt emotion swelling in his throat and pushed it back down. He had no doubt that Harry was being earnest, that he really, truly loved the person he thought Draco was.
But Draco wasn't sure that person was real.
“I'm sorry,” Draco whispered, voice hoarse. “Please just… I want this Harry, I really do, but–”
“But you don't love me,” Harry said.
“No, that's not… I do. I really think I do. I just–”
“You think you love me?” Harry said, turning to stare at him. “Don't fuck with me, Draco, not now. I've handed you my heart on a silver fucking platter, and you've rejected it. Don't patronize me on top of everything else.”
“I'm not patronizing you!”
“Has this all been about sex for you?” Harry asked, eyes hard. “Is that it? Were you just going to stick around long enough to get me to bottom for you and then head back to New York , another notch on your bedpost?”
“Don't be ridiculous!”
“I think you should go,” Harry said, folding his arms over his chest and turning away.
“What?” Draco's voice rose to an embarrassing pitch.
“Go,” Harry said. He didn't sound angry, just tired. Sad. Hurt. “This is only going to lead to a fight, and I really don't want to fight with you right now.”
Weren't they already fighting? Draco remained where he was, dumbfounded. Harry couldn't be serious.
“Please,” Harry said, voice wavering. “I've made enough of a fool of myself tonight as it is. Don't make it worse than you already have.”
Draco stood and took a step forward. “Harry, please–”
“Just go!” Harry said, nearly shouting. He wiped at his face with the heels of his hands. “Please.”
Draco swallowed and nodded, backing towards the fireplace. There must be something he could say right now that would fix everything. There was always something. Why couldn't he think of anything?
“Maybe… I'll call you tomorrow,” Harry said, still not looking at him.
Draco's fingers were numb as they fumbled with the dish of floo powder. He didn't want to go. He wanted to stay right there, to march across the room and take Harry in his arms, knock some sense into him. He ought to do that.
But Harry's eyes met his at that moment, and they were hard, even cold. Draco felt his stomach drop. It was too late. He closed his eyes and stepped into the fireplace.
A moment later, he was standing in his own flat, shivering in the darkness. His hand hurt, and he realized he was still clenching his fist around the key Harry'd given him.
“Oh god,” he said aloud, then covered his mouth with the other hand. He'd just been offered exactly what he wanted, but he'd been too afraid to take it – and now it might be too late. A sob escaped the tightness in his throat as he sank to the floor.
The key hit the floor with a sharp sound and skittered across it, lost in the darkness.
:: :: :: :: ::
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