Actions

Work Header

Waiting For A Song

Work Text:

Harry stirs in the milk and sugar, then takes the spoon out and taps it on the rim of his mug. He leans forward to blow on his tea.

“You’re not taking my case, Potter.”

Only eleven years as an Auror keep Harry from jumping and spilling boiling hot tea all over himself. He turns to find Draco standing in the doorway of the break room glaring at him.

With a small frown Harry sets his mug down. “How did you—?”

“I don’t care if you have the highest arrest record, or that you may be the, ‘strongest duelist,’ here,” Draco rages and gestures irritably, “You’ve no idea how to handle this sort of case!”

“Malfoy—”

“You never even took Arithmancy!” Draco throws his hands up and starts pacing the break room.

“Malfoy—”

“You’ll probably rush in wand first, splinch yourself like that oaf, Chesterfield—”

“Malfoy!” Draco finally stops and looks at Harry. “I’m not taking your case from you.”

Draco’s eyes narrow at Harry in suspicion.

“Robards assigned me to it, and he has made me lead—” Harry throws up a quelling hand as soon as he sees Draco’s mouth open to argue, “—I know, I don’t like it any more than you do. Honestly, it just means more paperwork for me.”

Draco continues looking at Harry with a sharp, shrewd gaze, but his expression slowly softens from suspicion to curiosity. “You’re really not stealing my case?”

“No, I’m really not. He gave me my choice of partner on it and I said I wanted you,” Harry says, and Draco’s eyebrows jump up a fraction in surprise. “You’ve already been working it for two weeks and these—these kinds of cases, they’re your area of expertise. I’ve only been put on it because of politics.”

“But Robards made you lead,” Draco says slowly, watching Harry’s expression carefully.

“Again, politics. As far as I’m concerned you’re the actual lead since you have a better idea of what it is we’re dealing with.”

“Well then,” Draco says stiffly, smoothing down the front of his Auror robes, “as long as that holds true we’ll get along famously. We’ll wrap this case up and have you chasing down criminals again in no time.”

“Sure,” Harry says, furrowing his brow, “how did you know I’d been assigned? I only just came from Robards’ office.”

“Please.” Draco rolls his eyes, as if it were obvious. “Finish whatever work you need to with Weasley today. We’ve a portkey out to the Vitenium tomorrow morning. Seven o’clock sharp. Pack a bag, we’ll be there three days and three nights.”

“Tomorrow?” Harry asks in mild surprise. “Shouldn’t we start searching for our missing person as soon as possible?”

“No. I’ve already spent the last two days searching. I need to get some equipment and do some things before returning.” Draco turns and starts walking out of the break room then says carelessly over his shoulder, “Just the basic necessities, Potter. I have accommodation taken care of.”

Harry can’t stop his eyes dropping and watching that pert arse stalk out of the room. He exhales heavily and then runs a hand through his hair.

Three days spent in the woods with Malfoy. Well, this will be interesting.

Harry picks up his mug, takes a sip of his tea and burns his tongue.

“Ach!” Harry spits it out. “Damnit.”

- ~ -

Ron looks up from his work for the first time since Harry started recounting his meeting with Robards and his run in with Draco in the break room. “You asked to keep him on?”

“Yeah, and he's acting lead. Not officially, but between us he is,” Harry says, wondering why, of all details, Ron had taken an interest in that.

Ron eyes Harry in disbelief.

“What? Why wouldn’t I want him on this case? His clearance rate is insane; he’s good at what he does.”

“I know he is. I've worked cases with him before. You're just…” Ron trails off, then shrugs.

“What?” Harry asks defensively.

“Well normally you avoid him, because you fancy him—” Ron starts to explain, but Harry cuts him off.

“What!? That's not—I—I don't avoid him,” Harry sputters out.

Ron raises an eyebrow. “It's been, what? Two, two and half years since he transferred here? But this is the first case you've worked with him.”

“I don't choose the assignments,” Harry points out. “And what does that matter? Did you not hear me when I said I’m going to have to spend the next three days alone with Malfoy?”

“I did, and honestly it’ll probably be good for you. Maybe you'll finally shag and either get him out of your system, or admit that you like him and ask him out,” Ron says dryly, as if he’s already over it.

“Like him!?” Harry yelps then notices Maisy Reynolds peering into their office curiously as she walks by. He quickly moves to the door and shuts it, and then whirls on Ron. “But he’s—he’s Malfoy.”

“Harry. Come on, mate. You’ve been bird-dogging him since you gave Alex the shove.”

“No, I have not,” Harry argues stubbornly.

“Yes, you have, don’t pretend like you haven’t,” Ron says, leaning forward over his desk and finally seeming to take an active interest in their conversation. “I’ve known you for too long, and he’s exactly your type: tall, blond, and cheeky.”

Harry sigh. “I don’t have a type.”

Ron snorts and puts a fist up, counting the names off on his fingers as he recites The List. “Ginny, Ashley, Claire, Paul, Ian, Jessica, Liam, Graham, Nicola, Alex.”

Harry groans throughout The List and moves over to their couch, flopping down onto it dejectedly. “They weren’t all blond.”

“No, but there’s enough to see a pattern,” Ron says, “As if it weren’t already obvious by the way you’ve been staring at his arse.”

Harry glares at Ron. “You’re the worst best friend. Hermione would be sympathetic.”

Ron barks out a laugh. “Really?”

“Okay, fair, but Neville would be sympathetic,” Harry points out.

“Sure, Neville would sympathize, and then he’d tell you that you like Malfoy and you should get on with it.”

“I don’t like him,” Harry insists.

“Right, and you stare at his arse for what? Research?”

Harry glares at Ron then huffs out a sigh and looks out their enchanted window, watching the Quidditch players flying around the pitch.

“How long have you known?” he finally asks.

“Longer than you, I reckon,” Ron says with a smug grin.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Harry asks with an accusatory glare.

“Because you know I’m not good with this stuff. But every time I do try to give you advice, you do the opposite. Just like with—”

“Jessica,” Harry groans out the name at the same time Ron states it matter-of-factly.

“I warned you about her—”

“I know, I know,” Harry cuts in.

“—but you didn’t listen. And what happened?” Ron presses on over Harry, putting his elbows on his desk and leaning forward over it.

Harry groans. “Can we please not rehash this again? That was years ago.”

“She took pictures of you, mate. And sent them to Witch Weekly.”

“Rooon,” Harry pleads, his head falling back against the couch cushion.

“And I still think you’d really like Evan, but you won’t even give it a chance because you’re mental.”

“He’s boring,” Harry insists.

“No, he’s not. You have a lot in common, and if you would just give him a bloody chance—” Ron stops himself with an irritated sigh, then says, “But I know you won’t. So just ask Malfoy out already. I know you want to.”

Harry frowns, rubbing his lip thoughtfully. Ron’s right, of course. Harry had noticed Draco as soon as he moved back to London. Draco stalked into the Ministry straight from France, looking all lithe and fit, just as pale, but with an attractive, confident air that only comes from years spent working as an Auror. He matured well into his pointy features, and instead of gelling his hair back as he had in school, he now wears it down with his long bangs sweeping artfully to one side, which Harry thinks looks much better on him.

Harry hadn’t honestly considered anything with Draco when he had been with Alex. His mind just didn’t work that way. When he’s with someone he’s with them, but since he’d broken it off eight months ago Harry has certainly noticed Draco more and more, and he wonders what it might be like to be with him.

He assumed because of their history it wasn’t likely that they could be friends or have anything more than a one-off, but it has been years since Harry has had any interest in that. With each birthday he can feel the years slipping by faster and faster, and his dream of having a big, happy family getting further and further away. He wants to settle down, not sleep around.

Not to mention the fact that they are co-workers, and although their cases never seemed to intersect, an office romance could be messy.

Ron sighs, and Harry glances over at him. It’s only then that he realises he’s been spacing out.

“It’s like you’re waiting for a sign from the universe telling you you’ve got the right person, but that doesn’t just happen,” Ron says, “You know what does happen?”

“What?” Harry asks warily.

“Your friends giving you advice that you should listen to,” Ron says, and Harry laughs. “Now get back to work. You don’t get to go skipping off on a romantic getaway with Malfoy and leave me with all this paperwork.”

- ~ -

“Was getting a portkey at the arsecrack of dawn really necessary?” Harry asks, trying to contain another yawn. He can't remember the last time he’s had to wake up this early.

Draco glances up from signing their paperwork just long enough to quirk an eyebrow at Harry. “Yes, if you intend to get anywhere on time.”

“It can't take that long,” Harry grumbles, scratching at his chin and only then realising he’d forgot to shave.

“Do you never portkey anywhere?” Draco asks incredulously, putting his signature neatly on the last of the forms and then sliding them over to Harry. “Sign there. By nine o’clock, this office is busier than a two Knut hooker in Knockturn Alley on Christmas Eve.”

Harry stops midway through signing to gawk at Draco, though the blond man doesn't seem to notice.

“The Portkey Office just loves their bureaucracy, has to have everything done in triplicate, and not a letter out of place. Isn't that right, Gale?” Draco asks the very bored looking older witch behind the desk. “And once you start factoring in large families with small children, agitated businessmen, and geriatric witches and wizards looking for the last huzzah before they kick the cauldron, well that's just a recipe for long lines, missed portkeys, and a major headache.”

“I didn't even know anyone worked here this early,” Harry comments.

Draco looks back at him as if he’d forgotten he was there and then eyes Harry’s half-finished signature. “Aren't you done yet? Merlin, maybe all you need to halt efficiency is one sleep deprived Harry Potter. I hope this isn't an indication of what working with you will be like. I prefer to move fast, Potter. Do try to keep up.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” Harry answers sarcastically, finishing his signature and pushing the papers to Gale. She hands him an empty beer can and a copy of their receipt.

“Departure Stage 12,” she says blandly and gestures towards the designated portkey departure area.

When Harry turns back to Draco, it's to find the other man scowling at him. He opens his mouth to say something right as Harry winks at him, and his words catch in his throat.

Those pale cheeks flush a lovely shade of pink, and Harry grins. He shoulders his duffel bag and walks past Draco toward the departure area.

When he doesn't hear Draco following after him, Harry turns around but keeps walking backwards. “Departure Stage 12, Malfoy,” Harry echoes. “Do try to keep up.”

Draco’s mouth snaps closed, and with a sharp flick of his wand, his trunk rises into the air and floats neatly next to him as he strides after Harry.

- ~ -

Harry is grateful for the ten minute walk from the apparition point to the forest’s edge. It’s still early enough that his Auror robes are not too hot to walk in, and the cool morning air helps to clear his head and settle his stomach—portkeys always made him nauseous.

“Tell me about this place,” Harry prompts on the walk up.

“Have you never been before?” Draco asks, glancing at Harry. “It’s an ancient magic site, lovely to visit. At least when people aren’t mysteriously going missing.”

Harry snorts. “I’m sure.”

“The Vitenium is an especially magic section of Galloway forest. It’s, oh, I don’t know, about a 100 square kilometre section of it, more or less, and warded from Muggles these days. It’s a sort of natural well spring.”

“Natural well spring?”

“Yes, of magic.” Draco glances at Harry, and then seeing his expression goes on to explain, “Magic is… Well it’s sort of like its own unique force in the universe. It has a life and a movement to it. Normally it flows through and around the Earth smoothly, consistently. But there are some places where it,” Draco pauses to find the right word, gesturing vaguely, “accumulates—eddies, and pools, and wells of magic, if you will.”

“Okay, is that why it… feels like this?” As soon as they had landed, Harry had noticed a change. It felt like a sort of tingling presence in the air around them, similar to the sensation of having a strong charm cast on you. It also seems to be getting stronger the closer they walk toward the forest.

“Yes. You’ll feel it more when we’re in there. The Vitenium is—or, well it used to be, anyway—a sacred site for witches and wizards. For centuries it was tradition to spend seven days in the forest after coming of age. The Vitetia they called it.”

“Like a rite of passage?” Harry asks curiously.

“Yes, I suppose so. The tradition died out years ago, but supposedly the magic in the forest would give one insight or purpose—a sort of clarity on their life. Supposedly a lot of the most powerful seers would come here to enhance their visions,” Draco says thoughtfully, then shrugs and continues. “Now it’s more of a tourist spot. The Ministry divided the most magical section of the forest away from the rest of it, warded it, and some enterprising wizard built Vitenium Lodge on the outskirts.” Draco gestures in the distance to a bit of roof poking up out of the trees.

“Are there many creatures in the forest?” Harry asks, his mind on the Forbidden Forest.

“Some, mostly harmless—jobberknolls, bowtruckles, gnomes, jarveys, horklumps, knarls. Apparently there used to be whole herds of unicorns, but not anymore. There is supposed to be one small herd left.”

“So nothing that could have attacked our missing persons?”

“No,” Draco says with a small shake of his head. “There is a kelpie in one of the lochs, but I’ve already eliminated that possibility.”

“All right. You think it’s something to do with the magic here? The file says there’s been some sort of disturbance of it?”

“Yes, it’s increased. It’s not normally quite this strong and from what I can tell, there have been fluctuations of it. I’ll have to do some tests and compare it to the data I got last week to be sure.”

They continue walking side by side down the dirt trail for a while, Harry asking Draco various questions he has on the case. Spots of sun strike them through breaks in the canopy as the trees get denser around them. The sounds and smells of the forest are a stark change from the streets of London Harry has gotten so accustomed to.

- ~ -

“Hm, nice place,” Harry remarks as they walk up to the lodge. It’s a lot bigger than he was expecting.

Upon entering, Harry first notices the displeased look the concierge gives them before pasting on a somewhat more customer friendly expression.

“Back again?” asks the concierge, who, according to his nametag, is called Sean. He’s a skinny, middle aged looking man with red hair, blue eyes and a pockmarked face.

“The missing persons are still missing, are they not?” Draco asks breezily.

“I suppose they must be,” he answers in a clipped tone, turning a tight smile to Harry. “And you’ve brought along a friend. Lovely.”

Harry smiles pleasantly, but chooses to remain silent and watch their interaction. He studies the concierge’s expressions as Draco checks them in, his dislike of Aurors instantly having caught Harry’s interest.

After Draco finishes, he leads them further into the large foyer and sets his trunk down on a table. With a swish of his wand, the trunk pops open and Draco pushes the lid the rest of the way up.

Harry watches curiously for a moment as the other man starts digging through his luggage. The trunk looks to have an undetectable extension charm on it, as well as several levels of small compartments that fold out and are filled with all sorts of interesting bits and bobs.

“No keys?” Harry asks, turning away after catching sight of a pair of blue pants and starting to feel like too much of a snoop.

“No, we’re not staying the night here,” Draco says as he sifts through his things. “Just want to take a few readings around the—aha!—the area before we head into the forest.” Draco straightens, pulling a device out of his trunk and setting it on the table.

Harry stares at the Muggle instrument, not sure if he’s seeing it correctly.

“Is that… Is that an EMF reader?” Harry asks.

“Yes,” Draco answers as he straightens the things in his trunk.

“And you know what an EMF reader is?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re using that for this case?”

“Yes.”

Harry frowns, watching Draco as he folds the little compartments back into his trunk and shuts it. “Can you give me a little more than a one-word answer?”

Draco looks back at Harry and a small smile creeps onto his face. “Yes.”

“I should have expected that,” Harry sighs, but smiles despite himself. “Could you be more childish?”

Draco unexpectedly sticks his tongue out and Harry laughs, surprised by the playful gesture.

Draco gives Harry a small smile, then picks up the device and fiddles with some of the dials. “It’s not actually an EMF, not anymore anyway. I’ve modified it to read the levels of magic in an area. I call it my Excess Magic Detector.

“And I’m betting it’s not authorised?” The minute upward twist of Draco’s lips is enough of an answer for Harry. “The Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office is going to have a field day when they find out you've been using that for Auror work.”

“Yes, well, report me if you must, but if you don't mind waiting until after I get my readings?” he drawls in a bored tone.

Harry rolls his eyes. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Ta.” Draco finishes his tinkering and flips on the device, watching it as he makes a slow circle. He stops turning when he and the EMD are pointed at Harry.

Harry slowly raises an eyebrow, then asks, “Like what you see?”

Draco’s eyes flick up to Harry’s, keeping a straight face as he says airily, “Acceptable.”

Harry snorts.

Draco turns away from Harry and flicks his wand, summoning a piece of parchment and quill, which float next to him and start taking notes as he walks away.

“Malfoy?”

“Hm?” Draco turns back. “Oh. I just need to get some readings, should only take about twenty minutes.”

“And what am I supposed to do?” Harry asks.

“Er, I don’t know. Just—stand there and look pretty,” Draco says and waves a hand dismissively.

Harry throws a hip out and puts a hand on it, then flutters his eyelashes at Draco. He grins after managing to get a startled laugh out of the other man.

“Okay, but really,” Harry says and drops the pose, “can I help?”

“I…” Draco frowns a bit and bites his bottom lip, appearing to consider it, then says, “not really.”

“Do you have another of those magic EMF things?” Harry asks. “Just show me what you want me to do. I’m a quick study.”

Draco raises an eyebrow and his gaze travels all the way down Harry’s body and back up. “I’ll bet you are.”

A wave of electricity travels down Harry’s gut straight to his cock.

“But no,” Draco continues, clearing his throat. “I only have the one, and it’s not really a two-man job. Just...” he gestures vaguely around the room, “do whatever it is the Ministry’s Golden Boy does.”

Harry frowns. And they’d been getting on so well. “Like what, Malfoy? You want me to just wait here and guard your trunk?”

“Ah, brilliant. I knew you could find some way to make yourself useful,” Draco says with a smirk, already turning and walking away from Harry.

Harry glares at his back, but lets him go this time. He tosses his duffel next to Draco’s trunk and looks around the foyer. The lodge has a cabin sort of feel with its log walls, wood flooring and hunting trophies mounted above a large, stone fireplace. The difference being how much larger it is with its high ceilings, antler chandeliers, and three floors.

Apart from Sean, the concierge, Harry is alone in the large room and he wonders if this is normal or if the mysterious disappearances have scared off most of the visitors.

He glances at Sean, who gives him his very best fake smile, but decides to have a look around before talking to him. Harry moves around the foyer, not looking for anything in particular, just looking. He slowly explores all of the first floor, moving from the foyer to the tea room, to the dining room. He glances up the staircase, but it looks like the higher floors only contain the guest rooms.

While he scouts the lodge, Harry idly thinks about Draco. He’s surprised how well they’ve managed to get on thus far, for the most part. He’s mostly surprised that Draco had flirted with him; of all the things he expected from being partnered with Draco, flirting had not been one of them. Regardless of whatever attraction to the blond he might have, he had not expected that it could be returned.

Harry mostly had tried to avoid Draco because he thought his attraction to him was mental, considering their past, and that nothing good could come of it. He never would have expected Ron to be in favour of them dating, and he assumed if Draco ever learned of his little crush he would laugh Harry right out of the Ministry. But between Ron’s encouragement and Draco’s lingering gaze, maybe he has a better chance than he assumed. If nothing else, this case will be the real test of whether they can tolerate each other now.

Harry moves back towards the front desk and the peevish concierge. “Hullo, Sean.”

“Auror, is there something I can help you with?” The concierge responds, trying for a courteous tone.

“Just curious if you could tell me a bit more about this place.” Harry notices flyers for their missing persons behind the desk and nods at them. “Kind of you to have those up, can’t imagine it does much for business.”

Sean appraises Harry with narrowed eyes for a moment before giving a short nod. “That—your coworker strongly suggested I put them up.”

Harry gives a deep, warm laugh, one he’s perfected over the years, one that puts people at ease, and leans on the counter. “Yeah, he can be a bit much. Sorry if he’s caused you any grief.”

The concierge furrows his brow, then glances in the direction Draco had left before looking back at Harry and saying, “He’s a real piece of work.”

Harry laughs again. “Tell me about it. You’re lucky, you only have to bother with him for a few weeks. I’ve had to deal with him five days a week, every week, for the last four years.”

Sean gives Harry a cautious smile. “I don’t envy you.”

“That’s all right, comes with the territory. You’ll have to forgive him, he’s one of those genius types. He’s very good at what he does but very aware of his brilliance and not so good with the social niceties. If it’s any consolation, it hopefully means we’ll have this case wrapped up soon and your business can pick up again for the rest of the season.”

“I hope so. How am I supposed to make a living? Summer is my busiest time, and now with the forest acting up, people going missing, and the Prophet reporting it all in big block letters, I’ve had reservations cancelling left and right. Then anyone who doesn’t cancel comes here, sees these and leaves early!” The man rants, gesturing at the missing persons flyers behind the desk.

“I get it. It can’t be easy trying to maintain this place, and this is just the worst time for all of this to be happening. Then on top of that, some poncy city boy comes and marks all over your territory. But I assure you, we’re working to have this solved as soon as we possibly can,” Harry says, using his reassuring Auror voice. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? I’m sure my partner’s been over this already with you, but I was taking some vacation time and prefer to go over the facts myself, if you don’t mind.”

Sean frowns, but gives a small nod. “No, that’s all right, what do you want to know?”

Harry asks about the lodge, its employees, how many people were staying when the victims went missing, what he meant by the forest acting up, if he’d seen anything unusual. Sean seems happy enough to answer, and as Harry had started suspecting, it seems that he actually doesn’t have an issue with Aurors, just Draco.

Harry keeps talking to him using familiar and empathetic language to make him more willing to talk, and Harry quickly eliminates him as a potential suspect. He doesn’t seem to have any motive and he’s not nervous about talking to Harry, just worried about his business.

Harry thanks Sean for his help, then takes a map from a stand of flyers advertising the various activities the lodge offered. He unfolds the map and walks slowly to the far end of the room, back toward his and Draco’s luggage, as he looks it over.

“Did you have fun talking crap about me with the mingdingler over there?”

Again, Harry’s many years as an Auror are the only reason he doesn’t jump. He wonders if Draco has silencing charms woven into his shoes. He also wonders when Draco had picked up so many crass terms.

Harry turns to him with a grin. “I did, in fact.”

“Learn anything new?” he asks as he opens his trunk and packs his EMD and parchment away.

“Not really. I doubt he had anything to do with the disappearances,” Harry says with a shrug.

“I told you. Did you not read the file?” Draco asks sharply as he starts unbuttoning his Auror robes.

“I did, but there’s no harm in having fresh eyes on…” Harry trails off as Draco slides his robes off, revealing his outfit underneath. He’s wearing a fitted black shirt, tan skin-tight breeches, and black riding boots that go up to his knees. “...on it,” Harry slowly finishes.

Harry tries to swallow, but his mouth has gone very dry. Draco’s arse looks fantastic in the breeches, shapely and much more clearly defined that it ever was under his Auror robes. For once his toned thighs are not hidden under layers of fabric, and when Draco turns and the elegant jut of his hipbones become visible, Harry wants to lick a path up those thighs right to them.

Harry’s not sure how he’s going to survive the next three days if that’s what Draco is going to be wearing.

The blond clears his throat, and Harry’s gaze snaps up to find Draco watching him with a sly smile. He closes his mouth once he realises it had been hanging open and glances away, feeling his cheeks start to heat in embarrassment at having been caught staring so blatantly. A little banter wasn’t so bad, but he shouldn’t be openly ogling his partner. Draco seems as like to slap him with a sexual harassment charge as he is to return his interest.

Draco watches him for a moment with an eyebrow raised, then asks, “Do you plan on riding in your Auror robes?”

“Oh. Er, I guess not,” Harry says and unbuttons his robes. Underneath he’s wearing the usual t-shirt, jeans and trainers.

Draco looks him over, then his gaze stops on Harry’s shoes. “Haven’t you got proper riding boots?”

“I—No. You didn’t exactly give me an itinerary, Malfoy.” Harry rolls up his Auror robes and hastily stuffs them into his duffel bag.

“Hm.” Draco flicks his wand and his trunk levitates next to him. Harry takes the cue and picks up his bag. They walk back across the room to the concierge.

“Rental contracts and liability forms. We’ll be back morning of the 18th. What’s the total for three nights?” Draco asks.

Sean glances at Harry, then reaches under the counter and pulls out the requested forms and slides them to Draco and Harry. “25 galleons and 11 sickles for the both of you. Deposit is another eight galleons each, which will be refunded to you upon return of your horse and tack in good condition as outlined in your rental contracts. Upon the death, loss, or injury of a horse, you will be charged an extra cost, as stated in your contract.”

“Yes, yes,” Draco says impatiently, pulling a handful of coins out of his money pouch, picking out the correct amount and slapping it on the counter. He then pulls the forms closer to himself, picks out a quill from the ink stand and starts signing.

Harry raises an eyebrow at the cost, surprised that Robards would approve such a high expense request. He skims through the documents, and they appear to be fairly typical so he takes up a quill and signs them.

Sean takes their forms, glances through them, and then gestures down the hallway. “Stable is on the East side of the building. Pete should have your horses ready for you.”

Draco takes off at a snappy pace and Harry throws back a quick, “Thanks!” as he follows after.

They walk out to the stable in silence, and Harry looks around the grounds and the forest as they walk, taking in a deep breath of the sweet, clear country air.

A rugged, middle-aged looking man with light brown hair and skin darkened from many days spent working in the sun stands waiting for them just outside the stable. Next to him are two hitched horses already in full tack. He smiles upon their approach and holds out a hand that Draco shakes.

“Auror Malfoy, nice to see you again,” he says sincerely, an interesting change that also catches Harry’s attention. The man, Pete presumably, turns dark eyes on Harry and offers his hand, “And you must be Auror Potter. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Harry says, taking his hand. He’s never very happy about being recognised, and has worn his hair just long enough to cover his scar for years now, but it still happens. At least Pete doesn’t show any inclination toward swooning.

“Hello, my love,” Draco croons next to Harry, and Harry turns in surprise to find the other man smiling and rubbing down the face of one of the horses.

Harry opens his mouth to say something, but isn’t sure what to say exactly. He’s never seen such open affection expressed by the other man, and it’s thrown him off balance.

“Thought you might like to ride Hyperion again, you seemed to get on last time,” Pete says, supposedly of the palomino Draco is lavishing attention on. “I caught Crius for your partner, wasn’t sure what your experience level would be, but he’s a solid all-around horse for any rider,” he continues, turning to Harry and talking of the bay horse next to Draco’s.

“That’s fine, thanks,” Harry says with a nod.

“You know your way ‘round a horse?”

“Yes, you know I do, of course,” Draco answers, even though the question is directed at Harry. “This one, though… Well, honestly, I’m not sure if he knows the difference between the head and the arse.”

Harry glares at Draco.

“Do you?” Draco asks in feigned innocent curiosity.

“Malfoy,” Harry sighs, “I’m not going to answer that.”

“Ah. As I thought,” Draco says in a lofty tone, absently stroking his horse’s neck.

Harry rolls his eyes, then looks back at Pete and says pointedly, “I know my way around a horse.”

The stable hand smiles and nods. “Let me tie on your luggage and you can get on your way,” he says and pulls Draco’s trunk out of the air.

- ~ -

Draco had mentioned that the magic of the area would be more evident once they got into the forest, but Harry hadn’t expected it to feel like this. The only thing he can relate the sensation to is the heavy, present feeling of humidity after stepping out onto to an island near the equator. He can feel it, thick and sticky in the air, emanating from the forest and the earth, present around him and in every breath he draws, and getting denser the deeper into the forest they go.

They ride through the forest in silence as Harry adjusts to the sensation of magic, and gets into a rhythm on his horse. It’s been years since Harry’s sat a horse, but it comes back to him easy enough.

After Harry has mostly adjusted to the strange, all-encompassing sensation of the forest’s magic, he is better able to appreciate the forest. He can’t remember the last time he’d been out somewhere like this, and he breathes in deeply, listening to the soothing sounds of the wind blowing through the trees, the birds chirping, and the rush of a nearby stream.

After some time has passed, Draco is the first to break the silence. He looks over at Harry and asks, a bit incredulously, “When did you learn how to ride?”

Harry shrugs. “I’m a man of many talents.”

Draco raises an eyebrow, eyes Harry, and says coyly, “I certainly hope so.”

Harry bites his lip and he suppresses a shiver. Is this what being with Draco would be like? A constant yo-yoing between flirting and insulting each other? Harry thinks he should be less surprised by that.

“Well, you do already think I’m the strongest duelist on the force.” Harry smirks.

Draco blinks. “What?”

“Yesterday, in the break room.”

Draco scoffs. “Trust you to latch onto that one, insignificant comment,” he mutters and rolls his eyes. “Yes, well, you do have a reputation.”

“So do you, I’ve heard,” Harry says. “Did you really take out five wizards in Maryport by yourself?”

Draco glances over at Harry with a small smirk. “I did.”

“Did you have the jump on them?” Harry asks, curious to hear the story first hand.

“No.”

“Really? How did you manage?”

Draco shrugs carelessly. “Quick thinking and a bit of luck, I suppose. I’m sure you’re familiar enough with that.”

“True,” Harry nods. “Were you not able to request any backup?”

“I was, and I did,” Draco says, his light tone turning a bit sharper.

“What happened?” Harry prompts.

Draco heaves a put-upon sigh. “Robards sent that idiot, Chesterfield.”

Harry’s brows jump up. “He sent a trainee?”

“Yep. First thing he does is trip and hit his own foot with a Reducto.”

Harry erupts in a short laugh. “Did he really?”

“Oh, yes. He did. Then, after he got the attention of all the wizards I was hoping to sneak up on, he passes out and leaves me to take them all on myself.”

“Oh my god, I’m sorry,” Harry says, laughing all the while. “Fucking hell. Chesterfield.” He shakes his head, and Draco looks over at him with a short smile. “What happened?”

Draco shrugs. “As you’d expect. Neutralised the perps and took them into booking, sent Chesterfield to St. Mungo’s,” he says, then glances at Harry with a small smile. “I suppose if nothing else, at least I was able to close my case with a bang.”

“Yeah, I suppose so.” Harry laughs.

They fall into silence once more, their horses walking side-by-side along the wide the path through the forest. Harry’s eyes travel again down Draco’s form, admiring his attire and his seat. Draco sits a horse like he does a broom, with a natural ease that makes it look as if he was born on one.

Harry looks away and watches the trees as they pass by. The forest feels so different from the Forbidden Forest, just as mystical and alive, but it seems so much more open and bright. The colourful undergrowth is a dense green of grass, moss and ferns, dappled with the purples, reds and yellows of various wildflowers. That paired with its tall domed ash trees, bright skinny birch trees, and graceful little rowan trees with their vivid red berries, make the forest feel welcoming rather than ominous.

He stays quiet, turning his thoughts toward mulling over the case and thinking about what he’s read in the file and the few tidbits Draco has shared with him.

After a short while Harry chews on his lip, then makes up his mind to address something Draco had mentioned.

“Malfoy?”

“Hm?” he hums without looking at Harry.

“I… Look, I only hesitate to bring this up because I know it’s going to sound like I’m accusing you of something, but I’m not. I just… It’s been bothering me.”

“What?” Draco gives Harry a sharp look.

“Two days. Yesterday you said you’d been searching for Elizabeth Whitehall for two days already, but she’d only been reported missing for a day,” Harry says, watching Draco for his reaction.

Draco frowns a little, but by the look in his eyes he seems impressed. “Yes. I was already out here working the case. When she didn’t show for dinner plans we’d made I went looking for her, and then after she’d been gone for over 24 hours I reported her missing.”

“You made the report?” Harry asks in surprise.

“You’d know that if you’d read the file,” Draco says waspishly.

“I did read the file, I just haven’t looked at it through a magnifying lens,” Harry says, keeping his tone even.

Draco gives Harry a long suffering look.

Harry shakes his head and exhales heavily. “No wonder Robards told me to keep an eye on you. If you have a personal relationship with one of our missing persons—”

“It’s not personal,” Draco snaps defensively. “Our relationship is purely professional. Our areas of study overlap at times.”

“But you’re close enough to have dinner together.”

“We’re not close, we don’t have dinner together,” Draco stresses. “We were both studying the magic in the area and wanted to discuss our research and theories. Dinner was the best time for us to do so.”

“Hm,” Harry hums, studying Draco. “All right. So what happened?”

“Potter, if I knew that the case would be solved already,” Draco drawls.

“Malfoy,” Harry sighs, taking his reins in one hand so he can scrub down his face with the other. “Are you going to be this difficult the whole time?”

Draco tuts, then acquiesces. “We had plans to meet at my tent at seven o’clock Friday evening. When she didn’t show, I assumed she had got stuck in her research and lost track of time. It happens. Saturday morning I went to check on her but there was no sign she’d been back to her tent at all the previous night. Obviously since I was there looking for another missing person, I was worried. I searched the areas I knew she’d been working in, but there was no sign of her. When she hadn’t shown by Sunday morning I reported her missing. I came back on Monday knowing I’d probably have to fight with Robards to keep it my case.”

“Because she went missing on your watch?” Harry guesses, still curious how Draco knew Harry had been given his case.

“No, because she’s Elizabeth Whitehall. Daughter to Richard Whitehall. You know, very rich, important wizard, sits on the Wizengamot,” Draco explains impatiently. “I knew he’d come raise a fuss and make Robards put his ‘best’ Auror on the case.”

“I’m not the best Auror,” Harry says with a small frown. “Besides, you’re the most qualified to work these sorts of cases.”

“It doesn’t matter. Your name carries weight. Mine…carries a much different sort of weight,” Draco says, glancing over at Harry. “Putting you on the case would satisfy Ellie’s father and make Robards look like he’s giving it top priority.”

“Bloody politics,” Harry grumbles. Harry loves being an Auror, and he’s good at his job, but he hates that even after all these years his name sometimes still means more than the actual work he does.

“Mm,” Draco intones in agreement.

“So what’s the plan now?” Harry asks.

“Well, we’ll set up camp farther in, near Ellie’s tent. Then I want to take some readings of the forest. I want to map as much of the magical distortions as I can and compare them to the readings I took last week. I think… I can’t be certain yet, but the magic feels denser than it did before. I think the magic here is still increasing for some reason.”

“Okay. And you’re certain they’ve not just been taken by someone?”

“Well, I suppose I can’t be completely positive. We shouldn’t really rule anything out yet, but it doesn’t seem likely. And it’s too much of a coincidence, people disappearing right after the magic fluctuations started happening.”

“Fair,” Harry says and nods. “I assume you’ve gone through all standard locating and tracking spells?”

“Of course I have. I’m not an amateur,” he snaps.

“I know you’re not. I’m just trying to get caught up with what you’ve done so far,” Harry says, keeping his tone even to try and mollify his temperamental partner. The last thing he needs is to get on Draco’s bad side in the first few hours of working with him.

Draco looks over at Harry with a curious expression, then makes a small noise of assent and turns his gaze forward. “I’ve cast every spell I know to try and find them. Either they’ve gone from the forest completely, whatever happened to them has made it so the spells can’t find them, or the magic in the forest is interfering with the spells. The last option is, honestly, highly likely.”

“Hmm.” Harry absorbs the information, turning it over in his mind as he’s been trained to do. He’s never had to deal with errant magic like this before. He’s used to having a culprit to have to chase—a person with a motive. Trying to figure out how magic has gone awry to make two human beings disappear without a trace and then find them seems a whole lot more complicated. Magic itself can’t have a motive, it just is.

“You’ve dealt with this before? Specifically people gone missing through… random magical means?” Harry asks.

Draco glances over at him and nods. “I’ve seen and solved a few of them, yes.”

“How do you work a case like this? When there’s no motive?” Harry asks, wanting to pick Draco’s brain and understand how he approaches these sort of problems. Harry may have only been assigned to this case because of politics, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be dead weight.

“There’s always some trace of what’s happened—clues that slot together to form a picture. You just,” Draco pauses and shrugs, “ ‘eliminate the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ ”

The words strike a familiar chord in Harry, and he tilts his head and squints at Draco in thought. “Is that… Is that a Sherlock Holmes quote?”

Memories of a summer spent hiding under the hydrangeas reading the Complete Works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle surface. Harry remembers seeing the large book in the trash, thrown out by Dudley the day after his birthday. He always hated getting books as presents, but the Dursleys seemed to think reading Sherlock Holmes would inspire their little ‘genius.’

Draco looks at Harry first in mild surprise, then gives him a small, appreciative smile. “It is.”

Harry returns the smile before Draco turns away. “So what sort of cases have you seen like this?”

Draco hesitates, glancing at Harry, then says, “I recently solved a cold case of a girl who’d got trapped in a little valet box not much bigger than of a deck of cards.”

“Really? How’d that work?” Harry asks curiously.

“The magic woven into the box shrunk anything you put in it to about a tenth the size. Imagine carrying the entire contents of your Hogwarts trunk in your pocket. Useful bit of magic, that,” Draco says coolly. “Except it was old, the safeguards spells had worn down, and it couldn’t differentiate between something living and something inanimate.”

“What happened?” Harry prompts.

Draco shrugs lightly, but Harry notices how tense his shoulders are. “Well, she was dead when I found her, of course. Had been in there for about five years.” Draco pauses for a moment. “I was able to finally bring the family some peace, though. Missing case like that, you find it’s better after a while—bad news is better than not knowing.”

Harry nods. He’s worked enough missing persons cases over the years that he knows exactly what Draco means. “Do you like working cold cases, then?” Harry asks, wanting to lighten the mood a bit, and knowing Draco has solved a few since transferring to London.

“I…” Draco licks his lips as he hesitates, then glances at Harry and answers flatly, “I enjoy being able to solve them.”

“Did you work these sort of cases in France as well? Cold cases, and magic gone awry?”

“No. I worked Unforgivables mostly,” Draco says in a clipped tone, his chin tilting up just slightly higher.

Harry’s brows raise in surprise. Unforgivables are what Harry does, and what many Aurors consider the ‘best’ cases. Most spend years working their way up to earning Unforgivables. “Why did you switch focus when you transferred?” Harry can’t stop himself from asking the question, even though it’s probably a bit personal.

“I didn’t,” Draco says sharply.

Draco’s hardened tone and clenched jaw tell Harry that he shouldn’t ask his follow up questions, not yet anyway. He realises then that he’s not going to just have to learn how to work with an entirely new investigative process, he also has to learn how to deal with his very fit and very tetchy partner. Luckily, reading people is something Harry’s gotten rather good at.

Harry falls quiet, letting the sounds of the forest and the soft clop-clop of their horses’ hooves against the earth fill the silence between them.

After a short time Harry starts to probe again gently. “So that—what did you call it? EMD? You made that?”

“Yes,” Draco answers shortly.

“And it allows you to get more accurate readings when dealing with wild magic that could disrupt arithmancy spells?” he continues.

Draco looks over at Harry, once more seeming surprised and impressed by his correct deductions. “Yes,” he says again, with a somewhat easier tone.

“That’s brilliant,” Harry says and smiles. “Where did you come up with the idea?”

Draco blinks at Harry, thrown off guard by the compliment. “I—A case I had about six months ago,” he says slowly. “Couldn’t cast any spells in a house where discharges of errant magic were happening, so I had to figure out another way to analyse it. I suppose I could use a visometre, but they’re so cumbersome and outdated. I wanted to make something faster, portable, easier to use, so I tinkered with a few designs.”

“How do you even know what an EMF reader is?” Harry asks curiously.

Draco looks away from Harry. “I… may have watchedalltwelvsrs…” Draco mutters and quickly trails off, rubbing a hand over his mouth.

Harry grins and leans closer. “Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

Draco looks at him and tilts his nose up haughtily. “I said that I might have watched all twelve series of Most Haunted,” he drawls, a faint blush colouring his cheeks.

Harry laughs warmly and says, “I had no idea you watch telly.”

“Yes, well, I had no idea Muggles were so terrified of ghosts. It’s rather fascinating,” he says airily.

“Mhmm,” Harry hums and nods, wanting to tease Draco about it but worried that he might take it personally.

The farther they get into the forest, the narrower the path becomes and eventually Harry pulls back on his reins to slow his horse and let Draco go ahead of him. They continue in single file and Harry starts asking more questions, wanting to know what Draco knows about the magic in the forest and any running theories he might have for what’s happened to their missing persons. Draco says he has some ideas but nothing concrete, and he has yet to find much about the sudden and unusual fluctuations happening in the forest.

They continue deeper into the forest for about another hour before Draco turns off the trail and stops.

“We’ll make camp here,” he says and smoothly dismounts his horse.

Harry follows suit, taking his feet out of the stirrups, swinging a leg over and landing neatly on the ground. His horse turns his head to look at Harry, and Harry smiles and strokes down his face. “What did he call you? Crius?” Harry asks his horse, carefully shifting the reins over his head.

“Yes,” Draco answers idly for Crius as he unties his trunk from the back of his horse.

Harry unties his own luggage, then watches as Draco gathers some branches and transfigure them into a pen around them.

“Why horses?” Harry asks as he unbuckles the girth strap. “Why not brooms?”

“You can’t fly a broom here, Potter, they’re banned. Even when the magic isn’t acting up, certain areas of the forest can strip a broom of all the charms on them. Have you ever tried riding a stray bit of magical wood?”

A slow, sly smile grows on Harry’s face. “Yeah, I love riding a bit of magic wood.”

Draco snorts, and Harry can see the corners of his mouth fighting a smile.

After he starts taking the tack off his horse, Draco clears his throat and continues. “I hope it goes without saying that you shouldn’t try to apparate either. The magic here is normally dense enough to interfere with such spells, but with how strong it is now I can only imagine that the results would be quite gruesome.”

“Okay,” Harry says, sliding the saddle off and setting it down, and then pulling the saddle pad off.

“I’m serious, Potter,” Draco says sternly, pausing in removing his saddle to give Harry a hard look. “Do you know how I got this case?”

“I hear you, I won’t apparate,” Harry says, a bit exasperatedly, and runs a hand over his horse’s sweat soaked back. “And no, I don’t know how you got this case.”

“Finnigan and Jones had it first. Chesterfield was shadowing and then he tried to disapparate and splinched himself like the bleeding div he is.”

Harry stops and blinks at Draco. “Did you just call Chesterfield a ‘bleeding div’?”

“Of course I did. Have you ever worked with the man? He’s a complete imbecile. Did you not hear my story earlier of how he shot his own foot off?”

“No, yes, I mean—of course, he’s as incompetent as they come. It’s just weird hearing you say something so…” Harry trails off, looking for the right word.

“Crass?” Draco suggests, giving Harry a small, sly smile.

“Yeah, and common.” Harry grins back.

“Yes, well, you can blame Crabtree. The mouth on that woman. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I heard come out of that tiny old hag.”

Harry laughs. “That’s right, you were partnered with her for what, two years?” He asks as Crius nudges at him with his big, heavy head. Harry mumbles an apology to him at getting distracted and unbuckles the throat latch on his bridle.

“Year and a half, until the cow went and retired. Couldn’t get out of here fast enough,” Draco grouses as he pulls off his horse’s bridle and then runs a hand down his back. “Don’t know how she even managed to live long enough to retire, bloody barmy old bat.”

“Were you close?” Harry asks as he slides the bridle off his horse’s head, then gently pushes at his neck. Crius takes a couple steps away, then drops his head and starts tearing into a patch of grass.

Draco laughs. “Do you know what she said to me the day she left?” Harry shakes his head. “She said she, ‘couldn’t fucking wait to see the back of this bloody joke of a pisspot office,’ and if she ever had to look at my, ‘ugly fucking boney face again,’ she’d hex her one good eye out.”

Harry laughs. “Did she really?” he asks, watching the other man. Despite what he’s saying, Harry can see the subtle signs of affection in Draco’s expressions—the small upward tilt of his lips, the crinkle next to his eyes, the amused tone of his voice.

“She did,” Draco confirms with a small smile. “She was nutty as a fruitcake. And so damn stubborn. She bloody well knew who she was and what she was about, and nothing could stop her when she put her mind to something. And god forbid if you got on her shitlist…”

“Oh, are you still talking about Crabtree? Thought you were describing yourself just then,” Harry quips.

“Watch it, Potter, or you’ll be on my shitlist,” Draco warns, but his tone is amused and Harry smirks at him.

Harry throws his duffel bag over his shoulder and picks up his saddle and saddle pad, moving toward the fence. He hoists the tack onto one of the wooden rails, drapes the bridle over it, and then climbs through the fence.

“I can’t say I knew her well,” Harry says of Crabtree, recalling the short, dark witch. “I only worked with her a handful of times before you transferred, and she always seemed very… guarded. Didn’t seem to think much of me, so I’m sure you two got on.”

Draco snorts, putting his saddle next to Harry’s and ducking through the fence, his trunk floating smoothly over it. “She didn’t think much of most. You have to prove yourself to her.”

Harry raises an eyebrow at that.

After seeing his expression Draco amends, “You have to prove yourself directly. She didn’t put much stock in stories.”

Harry huffs out a laugh, but drops it.

Draco pulls his trunk out of the air, sets it on the ground and opens it up. He starts digging through it, pushing some clothing out of the way, and then pulls out a furled tent.

Harry watches as Draco waves his wand at the tent and it glides through the air, dropping neatly onto a flat, open patch of grass, and then erects itself.

“So brooms break, but tents don’t?” Harry asks, eyebrow raised.

“Not as long as we camp in appropriate areas,” Draco answers.

“Okay, and what sort of magic can we use then?” Harry follows Draco as he makes toward the tent.

“Basic charms and transfiguration seem to work all right, anything more complex is where it gets uncertain,” Draco says over his shoulder as he pushes up the tent flap and walks in.

Harry steps into the tent after him, then stops in his tracks. He had expected to step into the small, one-room tent that was standard for Auror work, but the inside of the tent actually looks more like a swanky London flat. It has an open floor plan with a fully equipped kitchen, dining set, and some cosy looking armchairs next to a fireplace. Bright squares of sunlight slant through enchanted windows, and on the far side are three doors, presumably bedrooms, possibly a bathroom, and there’s even a loft with a desk and bookshelves.

“Make yourself at home,” Draco says dismissively, setting his trunk on the table and starting to rifle through it once more. “Bathroom is the one on the left, my room is the far right, yours is the one in the middle.”

As Harry gazes around the tent, something that had been nagging at him—something that he hadn’t quite been able to put his finger on until now—finally slots into place. He realises that he never saw any expense reports in the case file.

“Malfoy, are you paying out of pocket for all of this?” he asks in disbelief.

“Yes,” Draco answers without looking up at Harry.

“But how do you—is anything you use authorised?”

“Probably not,” he says indifferently.

“Malfoy,” Harry says and exhales heavily, running a hand through his hair, “There’s a reason we’re not allowed to do this. I know you’re probably not used to slumming it with the peasants, but you’re supposed to use regulation gear.”

Draco rounds on Harry, eyes flashing. “And if I could get a regulation tent I would use it.”

Harry really doesn’t want to fight with Draco, but there’s something about challenging the blond that has always set his heart racing like nothing else could, so he stands his ground. “But have you actually put in a request for one?”

“No, Potter. I’m an idiot who needed a tent but never actually requested one,” Draco says sardonically, “Of course I bloody well requested a tent. Robards has not authorised it.”

“Well of course there’s no way he would if you put in for something like this,” Harry says, gesturing around the posh tent.

“I didn’t!” Draco snaps, hands balled at his sides. “I requested the same cheap, manky tent that every Auror uses in the field. And what’s been done with it? It’s been in ‘processing’ for nine months.”

Harry narrows his eyes at Draco and considers his words, thinking over whether that’s true and all the reasons why it might be so. When it’s clear he’s not going to respond, Draco turns away sharply to continue rummaging in his trunk.

After finding what he was apparently looking for, Draco slaps the device down on the table, slams his trunk shut, and then stalks off to his bedroom.

Harry looks at the new device, which seems to be some sort of GPS tracker with straps attached to it. He sighs and puts a hand through his hair, then walks to the door that is supposed to be his bedroom and opens it.

Inside is a large bed with a soft white duvet, a wardrobe, an empty bookcase, and a bedside stand. Sunshine spills in around white curtains onto pale blue walls, and plush beige carpet. Well, Harry figures, at least he’ll be able to sleep comfortably. Even if it isn’t regulation.

Harry throws his duffel bag onto the bed then leaves the bedroom to find Draco looking in the fridge.

Draco doesn’t look at him. “Are you hungry?” he asks, his tone still a bit cold. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”

“Sure,” Harry says, cautiously moving closer.

Draco pulls a couple wrapped sandwiches from the fridge and then moves to sit at the table. “There’s sandwiches in the fridge, a few different kinds. I didn’t know what you like, so,” he says and finishes with a small shrug.

“Thanks.” Harry looks in the fridge, which is fully stocked. On one shelf sits several neatly wrapped and labelled sandwiches, and as he looks at them he feels a small pang of guilt for fighting with Draco. He grabs one, and then sits across from Draco at the table, gently moving his Muggle device aside.

Harry looks at Draco and says, “I got the wrong end of the stick.”

Draco swallows and glances across the table at him. “Yes, you did.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry apologises.

Draco pauses and looks back at Harry, those pale eyes moving over his face, seemingly judging his sincerity, and then he shrugs and says, “It’s all right. I know how this looks.”

Harry starts unwrapping his sandwich, and concludes flatly, “Robards doesn’t like you.” He half expects a biting comment in return—Draco lashing out at Harry for stating what probably should have been obvious—but doesn’t get one.

Instead, Draco says lightly, “No, he doesn’t. But not everyone gets on with their boss, so it’s fine.”

Harry studies Draco for a moment, and then turns his attention to his sandwich. They spend the rest of their lunch eating in silence.

Draco packs away two sandwiches faster than it takes Harry to finish his one, then flicks his wand at the table to vanish any stray crumbs.

Harry shoves the last bite in his mouth, then stands.

“I want to check Ellie’s tent first, I don’t think she will have reappeared, but I want to be sure there’s no sign of it,” Draco says, picking up his GPS instrument. “After that I’m going to start mapping the magic in the forest.”

Harry nods.

After stepping outside, Draco stops, inhaling deeply as a gust of wind kicks up around them.

“Smells like it’ll probably rain soon, let’s bring the tack inside.”

He’s right, Harry can smell the approaching storm too, so he agrees and they move the gear. They put their saddles on stands just inside the entrance, and hang the bridles on the coat rack.

When they get to Ms. Whitehall’s tent, Draco takes a cursory look around inside it, which is even larger and nicer than their tent, and concludes that it looks exactly the same as the last time he was here.

Harry moves to start investigating and looking through her things when Draco stops him.

“Hold off, Potter, I want to do my mapping first, and search for her while I do. If there’s still no sign then tomorrow I want to really go through everything here and try to retrace her steps.”

“All right, however you want to approach it,” Harry says. He has to fight his curiosity and investigative instincts to stop himself from poking around, because he wants to stand to his guns. He gave Draco lead on this, so he’s going to follow Draco’s lead.

Draco steps outside the lavish tent and Harry follows. “Only, you can’t exactly help me with this bit either.”

Harry raises an eyebrow. “Okay… Why?”

“I’m need to change into my Animagus form. I can cover more distance a lot faster that way,” he explains.

“Please tell me you’re at least registered.”

“Of course I am.” Draco says harshly, sticking his nose up just a bit higher.

“All right,” Harry says, then out of curiosity he asks, “what’s your Animagus form?”

Draco wavers for only a second before saying, “Its—it’s a nightingale.” He watches Harry with cagey eyes.

“Oh, nice.” He’s not especially familiar with nightingales, but knows of them. A bird would probably be a fun form to take. Harry had meant to work on becoming an Animagus after the war, but then he got busy with Auror training and his career, and it never happened.

“You’re not an Animagus, are you?” Draco asks.

“No, so I guess you’re on your own,” Harry answers. After this morning Harry had a feeling this might happen again and had already thought of a few things he wants to do. “In which case I’d like to take the Rowan Falls trail, check out where our first person went missing. I know you’ve gone over it, but if you’re going to ditch me then I want to investigate a bit, get caught up with where you’re at.”

“All right, that’s fine. Let's meet back at our tent at six?”

“Okay,” Harry says, then furrows his brow. “You’re not afraid you’ll get stuck in your Animagus form? Because of the magic? Or end up with half the wrong parts?”

“No, I’m not worried about it,” Draco says blithely. “I already spent the weekend transforming back and forth after Ellie went missing. The shift—it's not a spell, it's just a part of who I am.”

Draco presses a few buttons on his gadget and then hands it to Harry.

“Will you put this on me after I change?” he asks, and Harry nods. “Like this—this strap goes around my neck, this goes around my belly.” Draco indicates the straps as he explains them.

“Okay.” Harry waits, and then watches as Draco morphs swiftly and smoothly into a small, light brown bird with a cream coloured belly.

Harry smiles in wonder, just as he had the first time he’d seen McGonagall transform, and thinks that maybe he should get more serious about finding the time to become an Animagus. He puts his hand out, and Draco flies up onto his fingers.

“You are just the cutest little bird I have ever seen,” Harry says and grins, stroking the back of one finger down Draco’s fair chest.

Draco’s head flashes down and he bites Harry’s finger sharply.

“Ow!” Harry jerks his hand back. “All right, all right. You are not cute. You are big and fierce.”

Draco jumps off Harry’s hand and flies to the tent, landing easily on one of the ropes holding it up. He looks back at Harry and chirps impatiently.

Despite being bitten Harry can’t stop smiling. The sight of Draco, with his surly demeanour and dark history, as this delicate bird fills Harry with an unexpected warmth. It’s not what he would have expected—it’s probably not what many would have expected—that this unassuming little songbird would be the physical manifestation of part of Draco’s soul.

Harry steps over to Draco and then starts putting the device on him, getting one strap on and then bumping him as he tries to get the other.

Draco stumbles and has to throw his wings out to keep his balance, then he bites at Harry’s finger in reprimand.

“Ach! Sorry,” Harry mutters, then tries once more to get the second strap on. As he fumbles with the buckle, Draco nips at him again and Harry jerks his hand back, glaring at Draco. “Would you cut that out? How do you expect me to get this on if you keep biting me?”

Draco turns his head up and away imperiously, but one of those pale grey eyes is still fixed on Harry, watching him warily.

Harry slowly reaches for the bird again, and then finishes attaching the device to Draco and says, “All right, I think you’re good.”

Draco’s head twists down, and then around, checking the straps. He shakes himself out, as if wet, seemingly to test Harry’s work. The device stays put, so Draco looks at Harry one last time before jumping off the rope and flying away.

Harry watches him until he's out of sight, a smile growing on his face.

- ~ -

Looking up, Harry watches the patches of blue sky between the trees pass overhead as they walk at a sedate pace on the trail, Harry rocking lightly with the shifting of Crius’ shoulders and hips beneath him. The forest is entrancing, and Harry can see how it was once considered a sacred place.

Like getting his sea legs, Harry has adjusted to the heavy sensation of magic in the air, but that hasn’t lessened its awe-inspiring power. He can still feel its constant presence, pressing in on him and coursing through his blood and his very being, connecting him to every other plant and creature within its realm. Even the very earth itself feels alive with it. Inside, his stomach roils with a feeling of wonder and reverence at its power.

Deeper in the forest the trees have become thicker and taller. Like ancient, imposing watchmen, they tower over Harry, their canopy casting him in shadow and sheltering him from the heat of the summer day.

As they follow along the trail, Harry watches the forest pass by. He’s not sure what he’s looking for, but he knows this is where their first missing person, a Lewis Thomson, was meant to have been.

A pair of butterflies glide ahead of Harry, dancing around each other and then flutter away, caught on a breeze that rushes across Harry’s face and tousles his already wild hair. The grass and long stems of purple flowers around him ripple and wave, and the leaves whisper overhead, joining in the melody of the songbirds.

Harry lifts his head and breathes deeply, taking in a faint, floral scent caught on the breeze for just a short moment before it’s gone again. It’s a familiar fragrance that Harry can’t quite place. It reminds him of another hot day years ago.

The sun beats down on him much harder then, racing his horse across a wide, open stretch of grass toward a copse of trees on the horizon. Harry can hear the rush of the wind in his ears, hooves pounding the ground beneath him, and his own laboured breath as he kicks his horse faster and leans forward into the racing gait.

In glancing over he catches the eye of his competitor, a young man with sun bleached hair and gold tanned skin. His blue eyes are alight with challenge as he grins and yells across to Harry, “Think you’ll win this time, city boy?”

But Harry already knows that he will win, and afterwards they’ll collapse under the shade of the trees; they’ll snog and eat oranges, surrounded by sweet smelling wildflowers, glad for every small breeze that blows by. Eventually they’ll head back inside the ranch to escape the oppressive Australian heat.

After the war Ginny and Harry had struggled to get back together, and when they finally agreed it couldn’t work at that point in time, Harry decided to get away from it all. He’d met up with Hermione in Australia but when she was ready to leave, he had chosen to stay on for the rest of the year and got a job as a stable hand. It’s where he first learned to ride, and where he figured out that he wasn’t as straight as he’d thought after meeting his first boyfriend, Ashley.

Harry shakes off the memory and refocuses. It’s not long before he makes it to the waterfall and he explores the area. Two weeks is a long time to find any clues left over, especially in a natural setting like this, but Harry still runs through his usual investigative spells and searches the area.

Harry finds nothing, not even a trace of Draco’s magical signature, which should have been there if he had cast anything here on the weekend, and he thinks the forest must either be affecting either his spells, or will have washed away any evidence.

Once he’s finish searching the area, Harry finds the flattest rock he can and sits. He wants to give his horse more time to drink from the stream and take a break before heading back. Harry figures he’ll probably return before Draco and can get dinner started for them. They haven’t talked yet about how they wanted to divvy up such chores, but Harry enjoys cooking, and he wouldn’t mind making dinner for the attractive blond.

The waterfall cascades off the craggy limestone outcrops, the roar of it, as it rushes down into the water below, almost drowning out the rest of the sounds of the forest. The reflection of the moon ripples and flutters on the shifting surface of the pool, and Harry watches it for several minutes in silence before looking up at the moon in the sky.

The surrounding area is rocky, and creates an opening in the trees where Harry can see the sky. The stars and constellations are so much clearer here than they ever are in London, and Harry spends a long moment tracing them.

The temperature has cooled noticeably since midday, and after sitting on a cold rock for a while Harry is happy to get back on his horse and share in his body warmth through the saddle.

The ride back to the tent is just as peaceful, but doesn’t feel exactly the same. The forest feels alive in a different way. The birds have quieted, their songs replaced by crickets and the delicate sound of water dripping off the trees onto the forest floor. The rich scent of the foliage, decay and damp earth flood his senses. Pale streams of moonlight soften the forest floor in muted colours. An owl hoots somewhere overhead.

When he makes it to their campsite, Harry puts Crius in the pen and removes his tack, wishing for a moment he had a brush to groom him with.

As he starts walking toward the tent he hears flapping behind him, and turns just in time to see the nightingale swoop down next to him and shift seamlessly into a very wet, angry looking Draco.

“Potter! Where the fuck have you been!?” Draco yells, throwing his hands up.

“Er, at Rowan Falls, where I said I’d be,” Harry says, furrowing his brow. “Why? What’s happened?”

“ ‘What’s happened?’ ” Draco echoes fiercely. “Do you have any bloody idea what time it is!?”

“No, not exactly, but it can’t be that late.” Harry casts a Tempus, and his brows jump up when it reads half eleven. “That can’t be right. Is that right?”

“Yes. It is. So where the blooming hell have you been?” Draco demands through gritted teeth.

“I—” Harry’s forehead creases as he tries to figure out where the time went. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know!? How can you not know!? Do you have any idea what you’ve put me through!? I’ve spent the last five hours scouring this forest searching for you! I sent up sparks, I sent my Patronus, I flew all over the goddamn place trying to find you!” Draco rages, gesturing angrily. “I thought you’d ridden off a fucking cliff and I’d find your mangled corpse at the bottom, and then have to explain exactly how that happened to your army of Weasleys!”

“I—” Harry tries to say something, but Draco bowls right over him. Harry furrows his brow and studies Draco, his gestures, his expressions, his tone of voice.

“You do realise we’re working a case where people have gone missing here, right? And then you decide to go and disappear for no reason and with no explanation for hours! Now I’m fucking ravenous because I spent half the day flying around taking readings, and the other half flying around like a bloody lunatic looking for you! Do you have any idea how much faster my metabolism is in my Animagus form? And of course dinner’s not been made—”

“You were worried about me,” Harry says suddenly, when he realises why Draco is so angry.

Draco halts mid-rant, the wind taken out of his sails, then he bristles and says, “Of course I was worried about you! What do you think people will say if Harry Potter goes on an outing with a Malfoy and doesn’t come back?”

“No, that’s not it. You were worried about me,” Harry presses.

“Christ, Potter,” Draco mutters with a frown. He smooths a hand over his wet hair and puts the other on his hip, “Of course I was. I’m not completely heartless.”

Harry smiles. He looks over Draco and only then does it sink in that he is soaked to the bone and shivering slightly. His already fitted clothing sticks to him like a second skin.

“Why are you all wet?” he asks.

Draco eyes him sceptically. “Because it was raining. For hours.”

Harry’s brow creases in thought. “I never saw the storm.”

“How do you miss an entire thunderstorm?” Draco asks incredulously, then he tilts his head a little and repeats quietly, “How do you miss an entire thunderstorm?”

“Maybe it didn’t reach the area I was in?” Harry suggests uncertainly.

“No, I was in that storm. It was over the whole forest.” Draco shakes his head, then bites his lip in thought and really looks at Harry. The look in his eyes has changed from irritated scepticism to brightly keen, his current discomfort seemingly forgotten. “Tell me exactly what happened.”

“Okay, but let’s go inside,” Harry says, putting a hand on Draco’s arm and guiding him into the warmth of the tent.

“You went to Rowan Falls, correct?” Draco asks, walking inside mechanically. “Did you go anywhere else?”

“No, just to the Falls,” Harry says.

Draco is solely focused on him as he moves to the kitchen, so Harry suggests, “How about you change into some dry clothes? I’ll get dinner going, and then tell you all about it.”

“Oh, all right.” Draco glances down at himself, as if just remembering how cold and wet he is, and then heads to his room.

The kitchen is fully equipped, and Harry finds everything he needs to make spag bol. He remembers how hungry Draco said he was, so he decides to double his usual recipe.

After Draco comes out in a dry set of clothes, he instantly starts questioning Harry. Harry explains his day in the best detail he can remember as he cooks. Draco sits at the table and scratches out notes.

When dinner is ready, Harry brings a plate to Draco and then sits down across from him with his own serving.

“What do you think happened?” Harry asks after Draco’s questioning has slowed.

“It’s hard to say. It could be any number of things. I’ll need to do some research,” he says thoughtfully, “But at this point any incidents are important to document.”

“You think it has something to do with our vics?”

“Quite possibly, except they’ve been missing for days, and you were only gone a few hours.”

By the end of the night, Draco has put away three plates of spag bol and taken extensive notes on Harry’s day. Harry is exhausted, and he leaves Draco at the table thinking.

- ~ -

The next morning Harry finds Draco in the kitchen already showered, dressed, and putting on the kettle.

“Morning,” Harry greets when Draco turns to look at him, and notices how his damp hair has turned from platinum to a darker, ashy blond.

“Good morning,” Draco responds, scanning over Harry’s night clothes of boxers and an old t-shirt before turning away to open the fridge. “I was about to start breakfast. Bangers, eggs and toast all right?”

“Sure, thanks,” Harry says. “I’m just going to hop in the shower first.”

“How do you like your eggs?” Draco asks as he starts pulling out ingredients.

“Over hard,” Harry answers and moves toward the bathroom.

When he opens the door, the steamy room is filled with a delicious, citrusy sweet scent, like freshly peeled oranges, and Harry breathes it in. It smells like Draco, Harry knows from the few occasions he had stood close enough to catch a hint of his scent.

Harry washes quickly, and then only realises afterward that he’d brought his toiletries, but forgot to bring in a change of clothes. He wraps a towel around his waist and leaves the bathroom.

“Food’s—” Draco starts, and then cuts off when he looks over at Harry, swallowing as he takes in Harry’s bare chest and legs. “Food’s, er, al—almost ready,” he stutters out, blushing lightly.

Harry smirks, glad to not be the only one caught out staring.

Draco bites his lip, then looks up to catch Harry’s gaze. He stops, and then laughs out loud. “Merlin, your hair’s a mess even when it’s wet. Is there nothing that can stop it?”

Harry laughs self-effacingly and shrugs. “I gave up on it years ago,” he says with a sheepish smile. “I mostly just try to get it a decent cut.”

Draco turns back to the stove with a smile and a shake of his head. Harry gets dressed and then goes back out to the kitchen.

“Tea?” Draco asks.

“I’d love some,” Harry says and moves next to Draco as he pulls a cup down out of a cupboard for Harry. Draco reaches past him to open another cupboard and gestures to the shelf filled with a variety of tea.

Harry chooses a Ceylon blend and scoops some into an infuser Draco hands him.

“There’s cream in the fridge and sugar’s just there,” Draco says, pointing to a jar on the counter and then switching off the hob.

Harry puts a couple spoons of sugar into his mug, then grabs the cream from the fridge and mixes it in. He blows on his tea, then takes a small sip and sighs appreciatively. He gets a couple forks and pulls down some plates for them, and Draco dishes up their servings.

Harry has always loved morning routines, and he’s pleasantly surprised by how naturally they move together in the kitchen. He glances across the table at Draco. Harry wonders what the blond might look like in his own kitchen, and thinks that he might like to see that.

“So I’ve been thinking,” Draco says, pausing to give Harry a thoughtful look. “I’d like to go to Rowan Falls first today. I want to backtrack everything you did first, and then we’ll come back and search Ellie’s tent.”

Right. The case. Harry reminds himself to focus on the reason they’re here. “Sure, sounds good.”

They finish breakfast and Draco starts washing the dishes by hand. Harry joins him, drying and putting them away.

“Avoiding using magic?” Harry asks.

“As much as possible. I’d prefer not to destroy all my fine china with washing charms gone wild.”

Harry laughs, and Draco gives him a small smile.

- ~ -

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Draco gripes, tapping his EMD’s screen irritably. “There’s nothing! No change!”

Harry folds his arms and watches Draco do another circuit around the pool’s shore.

“You’re sure it happened around here?” He shoots Harry a suspicious look.

“I told you already that I can’t be sure, but it probably was. I spent the most time here, but I didn’t even realise so much time had passed until you told me. It felt completely natural—seamless,” Harry explains once again.

“Whatever happened to you should have left some magical signature, but it’s the same reading!” Draco storms.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Malfoy. We’ve been over it a hundred times already. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, and I have no idea what happened or how it happened,” Harry says impatiently.

“I know, I’m not—” Draco sighs and runs a hand down his face, “I’m not blaming you. It just doesn’t make any sense.” He frowns down at his EMD.

Harry takes a breath and consciously relaxes his tense posture. Getting irritated and building off each other’s anger is too easy of a habit to fall into, and something Harry prefers to avoid.

He walks over to Draco and puts a hand on his shoulder. “Hey,” he says, and Draco looks up from his device. “Why don’t we move on and investigate what we can? Let’s go to Whitehall’s tent and just chalk this up to one of the many inexplicable events in the strange life of Harry Potter, all right?”

That gets a snort and a small smile from Draco. “Of course, I forgot to account for the Harry Potter factor,” he jests. “You’re right, we shouldn’t waste any more time on this.”

They get on their horses and ride in an amiable silence back along the trail.

After a while Harry breaks the silence. “Hey, Malfoy?”

“Hmm?” He hums, looking over at Harry.

“Is your Patronus a nightingale as well?” He asks.

A brief flicker of discomfort passes over Draco’s sharp features before he turns his face forward. “Yes.”

Harry chews his lip a moment, then lets his curiosity get the better of him and presses on, “Why a nightingale?”

Draco glances at Harry with a frown, then says, “Why the sudden interest?”

Harry shrugs. “Just curious. I didn’t know you were an Animagus,” he says, and then in an attempt to lighten the mood he jokes, “Seems a little common for a Malfoy.”

It’s not the right thing to say, and Draco’s anger flares. “There’s nothing wrong with my Animagus form, Potter,” he spits. “It’s damned useful in the field and has been integral to the many stealth and reconnaissance missions I have worked. My form is covert—small and fast, and I can fly.”

“All right, okay, I’m sorry. I was just joshing,” Harry says, holding up a placating hand.

Draco sends him a sharp look, then tilts his nose up imperiously. “And nightingales are not common. Not as an Animagus nor a Patronus. And I’ll have you know that out of the thousands of songbirds across the world, nightingales are said to have the most beautiful song.”

Harry tries to contain an amused smirk. Of course Draco wouldn’t let it go, and of course he would have to be the best at something. “Okay,” Harry says easily. “I just thought it was nice. It must be brilliant to be able to fly without a broom.”

Draco is quiet a moment. He exhales and his shoulders visibly relax. “It is,” he then brags loftily.

Harry falls silent once more, letting the sounds of the forest—the bird song, the trickling of a stream, and the rustling of leaves overhead—fill the space between them.

After a turn of silence the slow patter of rain on the canopy of leaves above them joins the melody. A drop falls through and lands on Harry’s arm. He idly wipes it away and then looks up, watching the drizzle falling between the spaces in the trees, slowly increasing in frequency.

Looking at the sky Harry’s eyebrows shoot up. “Malfoy,” he breathes.

“What?” Draco grunts, without turning.

Harry pulls back on his reins to stop. “Malfoy!” he repeats, more insistently.

Draco reins his horse to an abrupt stop and swivels back toward Harry. “What?” he asks, already reaching for his wand, his eyes first on Harry and then darting around their surroundings.

Look,” Harry urges, pointing up to the sky—to the clear, blue sky.

Draco furrows his brow and looks up. “What? I don’t—oh.” Draco’s jaw slowly opens. “I…” He trails off, watching the rain falling through the trees out of nothing.

After a moment Draco shakes off the shock and his inquisitive mind seems to turn on. He holds a hand out and catches some drops, bringing them to his nose and sniffing them, and then poking his tongue out and tasting them. Draco draws his wand and casts a few different charms, and then hums thoughtfully at the results. He nudges his horse forward the few steps back to Harry and then tosses the reins over, which Harry reflexively catches.

“Hold my horse, I’ll be right back.” He looks as if he’s about to shift, but then hesitates and gives Harry a shrewd look. “Stay right here, Potter,” he says, then shifts into his Animagus form and flies up through the trees and out of sight.

The palomino startles slightly at the sudden loss of his rider, his ears turning around first and then he looks back, whinnying anxiously. Crius shakes his head and takes a nervous step back, and Harry squeezes his legs gently to stop the backward momentum, reaching down and rubbing his neck reassuringly.

Once he’s confident the horses aren’t going to bolt, Harry looks up after Draco but the nightingale is already out of sight, so he slowly looks around the area. He watches the unlikely rain falling around him, then draws his wand and casts a few spells of his own, mostly revealing charms. His history as an Auror tells him that they aren’t alone and someone must be here messing with them, but his instinct tells him that they are alone, and this is just part of the strange magic of the forest.

Despite his spells not showing any hint of danger, Harry starts to feel a bit uncomfortable. He’s always hated standing around and not being sure what the next move is, but Draco returns soon enough. The little brown bird swoops down and morphs back into a man with practised grace.

Crius nickers and Hyperion startles back a couple steps at the sudden reappearance of a much wetter Draco. Harry pulls back on the reins to keep Hyperion from moving any farther away.

“Sorry, love. Did I startle you?” Draco asks in sweet voice, walking slowly up to the palomino and offering a hand for him to smell, then stroking down his neck and scratching under his chest consolingly. “See? It’s just me.”

Harry can’t help but smile at the sight of Draco coddling an animal. It’s not something he had ever thought to imagine before, but now that he’s seen it he finds it rather endearing.

“What is it? It’s not dangerous?” Harry guesses from Draco’s nonchalance.

“No, it’s—” Draco cuts off, looking up at Harry with a somewhat confused expression, then continues, “I mean, not that I can tell. It’s just water. It’s rain—real rain—but for the life of me I can’t figure out where it’s coming from. There’s not a single cloud for miles around.”

Draco looks away thoughtfully, then moves down his horse to dig through the saddlebags he’d thrown on this morning. He pulls out his EMD and flicks it on.

“Ah!” Draco exclaims when he gets the first reading, “See? I told you it was working! The magic is reading much higher here.”

Draco pulls himself up into his saddle and Harry hands him back the reins. He urges his horse forward into a brisk trot, holding his reins in one hand with his EMD in the other.

Harry follows after him, spurring his horse up into the same gait and starting to post. Draco sits the trot, but Harry had never learned how to do that comfortably. He watches Draco, the relaxed rolling of his hips, sitting deep in his seat and flowing with the movement of his horse as naturally as breathing, looking every bit as if he and his horse are one being.

Just as they pass the edge of the rainstorm Draco stops them. Harry exhales and sits back in his saddle. Even with as good of shape as Harry is in, he hasn’t ridden in a long time and posting is hard to do for such extended periods.

Draco hums and turns his horse around, walking back into the area where it’s still raining, then turning and walking back out. “Fascinating,” He exclaims under his breath.

“What?” Harry prompts.

“Huh?” Draco looks up at Harry, as if having forgotten he were there. “Oh, er, the increase in magic, it ends right at the edge of the rain.

“So it’s some sort of charm or magic causing it,” Harry states.

“It must be,” Draco says, looking back at the rain with a curious expression. “A naturally occurring atmospheric charm, maybe? But I’ve never heard of such a thing happening before. I’ll have to do some research.”

After a few beats of silence Harry prompts, “Should we move on?”

“Oh,” Draco turns to Harry, then with one more glance back at the rain he prods his horse into a walk. “Yes, we’ll grab lunch on the way.”

The rest of the walk back is quiet and uneventful. They leave the horses at their tent, grab some sandwiches and eat as they walk to Whitehall’s tent. Once there they find it’s exactly as they left it, with no sign of their missing person having come back.

Harry is glad to finally have something to do that he understands and is good at. They move through the tent, searching it for anything unusual, or anything that might give a hint to where she had gone or how she went missing.

Draco takes an interest in the books and papers spread around her table and as he reads through those, Harry searches the living room and then moves to the bathroom. He opens up the cupboards and drawers, reading through some potion bottles.

“Potter!” Draco yells from the other room, and Harry rushes out.

“What?” he asks, glancing around, fingers around his wand handle.

“Just,” Draco gestures around vaguely. “Don’t get too far.”

Harry frowns and throws a hand out, palm up, in confused irritation. “We’re in the same tent. Where am I going to go?”

“Just stay close,” Draco bites back and turns back to the book he was leafing through.

“Okay, Malfoy,” Harry scoffs, going back to searching the bathroom. When he finishes in there he moves to the next room, which turns out to be her bedroom. Harry moves through the room slowly, opening drawers and sifting through everything. He goes through her wardrobe, moving around the clothing and keeping his eyes peeled for anything that seems strange or out place.

“Potter.” Harry turns to see Draco standing in the doorway.

“What?” he asks.

“Find anything?”

“Not yet,” Harry answers.

“I’m going upstairs,” Draco declares.

“Okay.” Harry turns back to the wardrobe, opening one of the built in drawers and rifling around the socks. He can feel that Draco hasn’t moved, so he looks back at him with a raised eyebrow. “Did you need an escort?”

“No,” Draco snaps and turns on his heel, leaving Harry to it.

Harry shakes his head and continues searching. He pulls the bedding off the bed, feeling over the mattress and then flipping it to search underneath. He straightens and looks around the room with a small frown, then pulls out his wand and tries a couple forensic charms that should light up anything dark, or anything with certain concealment charms. The spells don’t have any results, so Harry continues searching physically.

When he’s finished downstairs he moves to the second floor, finding Draco in the library pulling books from bookshelves and flipping through them. He moves on to the next room, a study, and starts looking through the scrolls on her desk. They’re mostly old manuscripts on prophecy and divination and Harry scans through them before setting them aside.

The desk drawers have spare parchment, ink, quills, and some letters. Harry reads through the letters, but it sounds like typical correspondence with a friend. He notes with some interest one letter from Draco, asking how long she’ll be in the Vitenium, requesting to meet and discuss her research, and urging her to be careful.

Dans l’attente de votre réponse. Veuillez accepter, Madame, mes salutations distinguées. The letter ends in French, with Draco’s signature just below.

Harry mostly works out what seems to be a formal closing, and runs his finger over the delicate, slanted handwriting, admiring the romantic loops and flourishes.

“Found anything yet?”

Harry doesn’t jump, but he does drop the letter hastily back into the desk and shuts the drawer. “No,” he says, turning to watch Draco as he walks into the room, looking around Harry at the desk then walking to an armchair with stack of books next to it.

“Most of her research is missing,” Draco comments distractedly as he starts flipping through the books, “She had whole pages of notes and theories and equations, but I can’t find it anywhere. Have you seen it?”

“No,” Harry replies, continuing his search of the desk, “Maybe she had it on her?”

“Maybe…” Draco says doubtfully.

They continue searching the room in silence. Harry finishes going through the drawers and then crouches, looking under the desk and running his hands over the bottom panel. Harry frowns and stands, taking a step back and looking at the desk, then walking a half circle around it.

His gut is telling him there’s something off about it, so Harry runs through his detection spells nonverbally, and the bottom of the desk glows a faint blue. He casts another spell and the front of the desk glows red and yellow.

Harry squints at the magic, he’s pretty sure he recognises the spells so he considers it, and then casts the counter curses. The glow fades, and the desk expands with another large drawer.

“Malfoy,” Harry calls, and Draco drops what he’s doing and strides over to Harry, stopping just behind and to the side of him.

“What did you do?” he asks, resting a warm hand on Harry’s wand arm.

Harry turns and give him a brash smile. “Found a secret compartment.”

Draco huffs out a nervous laugh. “That was stupid, Potter. What did I tell you about using complex magic here?”

“No, it was a calculated risk. She probably knew the most about what was going on here, right?” Harry asks and gets a frown but also a nod from Draco. “So would she be using charms she couldn’t undo safely?”

Draco squints at him, then agrees reluctantly. “Fair.”

Harry looks back at the new drawer, reaching for it cautiously. He’s pretty sure he unravelled all the hexes from the desk, but in this line of work you can’t take anything for granted. Harry holds out his other arm in front of Draco protectively as he opens the drawer.

The drawer opens without incident, and inside it sits a stack of papers and a journal. Harry picks up the journal and glances over at Draco with a small smile.

Draco shifts closer behind Harry, his breath ghosting over the back of his neck as he looks over Harry’s shoulder.

Harry suppresses a shiver at the sensation. Draco’s so close that Harry can feel the heat of his body emanating off him and smell his citrusy scent, and he swallows then tells himself to focus and flips to the back of the journal.

“ ‘June 11th, 2010,’ ” Harry reads, glancing at Draco. “The day she went missing.”

“Read it,” Draco say in a low voice.

Harry hesitates, admiring Draco’s pale grey eyes. He’s never seen them this close before, holding Harry’s own gaze. They’re close enough to kiss, if they just leant a few inches closer to each other they would be.

Harry’s eyes drop to Draco’s lips, and he’s certain the other man must be thinking the same thing if the light flush over his cheeks is any indication.

He tears his eyes away from the gorgeous blond and back to the journal. Focus, he tells himself.

“ ‘I’ve detected pockets of powerful magic cropping up along the Lane. Whatever I find I’ll be able to discuss with Draco tonight. It’ll be nice to finally talk to someone about this. I feel as if I’m going mad, nothing out here makes sense. The magic in the forest is still growing. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Is this the heart of the Vitenium’s magical wellspring, erupting after hundreds of years lying in dormancy?’ ” Harry reads, then looks a back at Draco. “The Lane?”

“Must be one of the rivers. Maybe Eglin Lane? She was working not too far from it before she went missing,” Draco says, holding his hand out, and Harry passes him the journal.

Draco steps away from Harry and scans through its pages. Harry watches him, then looks back in the drawer, pulling out the sheaves of parchment covered in the same sharp, narrow scrawl.

“Is this what you were looking for?” Harry asks, and Draco looks up from the journal, then takes the notes from Harry and skims over them.

“Yes, this is it,” he says, giving Harry a rueful smile. “She’s not going to be happy with me taking her research.”

- ~ -

“Potter?” Draco calls, the concern in his voice causing Harry to draw his wand and run back around the trees.

Harry looks at Draco, then glances around the scene warily. Everything seems to be exactly as it was a minute ago. “What?”

“Nothing, just don’t go too far,” Draco says irritably.

Harry sighs and puts his wand away, then pushes up his glasses so he can scrub down his face. “Malfoy, are you going to hold my hand this whole investigation, or can I do my job?” he asks, readjusting his glasses.

Draco flushes and screws up his face in indignation. “I’m just asking that you don’t wander off without me.”

“I was ten feet away,” Harry argues, pointing to the trees he’d just walked around. “I don’t see any reason why I can’t look around while you do your thing.”

“And I don’t see any reason why we can’t investigate together! Or is that not what partners do? Have I been partnerless for so long that they’ve completely changed the way that works?” Draco snaps, throwing out his hands angrily.

Harry sighs and runs a hand through his hair. “No. Of course we can. I just hate standing still, all right? Now may I go look around this area while you take your readings?” Harry asks, fighting to keep the sarcasm from his tone.

Draco frowns, but agrees, “Fine.”

Harry cannot figure Draco out. The first day he seemed like he couldn’t care less what Harry had been up to, and the next he’s watching Harry like a mother hen.

As Harry walks away he casts a glance over his shoulder and sees Draco looking after him with a worried expression. Realisation hits then, and Harry feels a bit slow for not having figured it out sooner.

The reason Draco had been sticking so close to him and repeatedly asking him not to go too far was because Harry had been missing for most of the previous day. Draco was worried about losing him again. A warm sensation floods his belly at the realisation, and a small smile tugs at his lips.

Harry moves through the rest of the day with a higher awareness of where Draco is. He sticks close to him, bounces thoughts off of him, and lets him know before he wanders as they search along the river. Draco stays in a noticeably better mood as he does this. They find some fluctuations of magic here and there, but they don’t observe any other strange magic happening.

- ~ -

“That’s better, huh?” Draco asks his horse sweetly after taking his saddle off. He runs his hands down his neck and then scratches under his chest. Hyperion closes his eyes and wiggles his lips in bliss. “Does that feel good? Yeah.”

“I didn’t know you liked horses so much,” Harry comments, his tone amused as he watches Draco pamper the gelding.

Draco scoffs at him, glancing over at Harry then turning his attention back on his horse.

“Come on, I’m seriously curious,” Harry presses, running a hand over Crius’ back as his horse chews on some grass.

Draco hesitates, looking briefly over at Harry again before answering. “All right. We had a stable at the Manor. I grew up riding.”

“That must have been nice.”

“It was,” Draco says, then hesitates before continuing. “As an only child I didn’t have much in the way of companionship. My horse was—well, I guess you could say he was my best friend.”

Draco blushes lightly, but gives him a fierce look, challenging Harry to tease him. Harry doesn’t, he’s more surprised than anything, and it must show on his face.

“Don’t look so shocked, Potter,” he says defensively.

“Sorry, I just, I guess I never really imagined you having a lonely childhood.” Harry had always assumed that Draco’s childhood had been the exact opposite of his own.

“Well, Pansy visited, of course. Vince and Greg as well, but Father was always working, and Mother,” Draco shrugs. “She spent time with me when she could, but she had many of her own projects and charitable organisations she was involved with. Much of my free time was spent riding.”

Harry gives Draco a soft smile and says, “I wish I’d had a pet when I was younger. Hagrid bought me my first owl when I was eleven, Hedwig. I loved her, she was my best friend, and my only company over the summers.” Even after all these years thinking of Hedwig still hurt a bit.

“I remember her, she was beautiful,” Draco says, giving Harry an empathetic look.

“Thanks.” Harry exhales, then asks, “Do you have a horse now?”

“No. I’ve thought about getting a property with enough land for one, but… Being an Auror—the long hours, and travelling as much as I do—I just don’t have the time to devote to one.”

“What happened to the horse you had growing up?” Harry asks delicately.

Draco frowns, taking a soft brush out of his saddle bag and running it down Hyperion’s neck and shoulder. “We had an accident, he broke a leg and Father had him put down.”

“What?” Harry sputters, “But why—how—was that it? Was there nothing else wrong with him?”

“No, but it’s a hard injury to heal properly. The likelihood of him being sound afterward was low.”

“So what? He’s still an animal, an intelligent creature, how can you just kill him as soon as he gets injured?” Harry argues, his tone rising.

“You don’t understand,” Draco bristles. “In that world equines are not seen as intelligent creatures. They are property. They are a means to an end—prestige, medals, money.”

“Well I think that’s horrible,” Harry seethes.

Draco goes quiet. He says nothing for a long moment, grooming his horse pensively.

“When you’re raised in that culture it’s an easy mindset to fall into,” Draco says, finally breaking the silence. “It wasn’t until after Storm died that I understood how wrong it was.”

Harry frowns, furrowing his brow and studying Draco’s remorseful expression. “How old were you?” he asks, softening his tone.

“It was the summer before seventh year, so I’d only just turned seventeen,” Draco says lightly, and Harry’s stomach twists. They normally avoided talking about anything even remotely related to the war.

“I…” Draco hesitates, darting an uncertain glance at Harry, then swallows and pushes on. “I went riding in the forest to get away, for a moment at least. A badger jumped out and spooked him, he bolted and we ended up falling down a ravine. I broke my clavicle and my arm, and dislocated my shoulder. He broke his leg, tore some tendons.”

Draco falls quiet again, and Harry waits. After a moment Draco continues.

“I begged Father not to kill him. Riding was my only escape, and at the time Storm was my only friend. He didn’t care. In his mind Storm was just broken property, not fit to ride, not fit to show—useless. And with everything else going on… He said it wasn’t worth the trouble to keep him.” Draco pauses, chewing on his lips as he brushes over Hyperion’s hindquarters. “I’d never even realised until then how much he meant to me.”

“I’m sorry.”

Draco shrugs. “It’s okay. It was a long time ago.” He takes out more grooming tools and they stay outside for a while, picking their horse’s feet, currying and brushing them out.

Harry braids Crius’ tail and Draco teases him about it, to which Harry responds that, “Hey, I’m the godfather of three children, of course I know how to braid hair.”

- ~ -

They start the next day in the same place they left off the night before, and Harry idly wanders the area while he waits for Draco to calibrate his equipment.

“Wasn’t there a fallen log here yesterday?” Harry calls over to Draco, as he studies the area. He’s fairly certain he’s in the same spot he was yesterday—there was the same flat rock next to a cluster of purple foxgloves and thistles.

“Hm? I don’t know,” Draco says, sparing Harry a distracted glance.

“There was, right here. I know there was,” Harry says with more certainty.

“You’ve probably mixed up where you were,” Draco responds dismissively.

“No, I haven’t. I peed on that birch tree right there, and I was looking at the log because it had a knot on it that kind of looked like David Bowie.” Harry looks around, and then finds the tree with the same mark, except it’s standing. “This is it, this is the tree. Only it’s… Alive. It hasn’t fallen over.”

That finally catches Draco’s interest. “You’re certain?” he asks, coming over and inspecting the tree.

“Yes, look!” Harry gestures at the knot. “Well, now it’s upside down, but—Bowie.”

Draco tilts his head and squints at it. “I don’t know… Look at those cheekbones, bears more of a resemblance to Cher, if you ask me.”

Harry laughs. “Or maybe we’re just seeing what we want to see?”

“Most likely,” Draco says with a smile. He turns on his EMD and then exclaims, “Ah! The reading is much higher here than it was yesterday! Actually, it’s about the same as it was in that cloudless rain.”

“Hm.” Harry screws up his face in thought. “Some sort of natural repair charm? Or maybe a healing charm?”

“Maybe…” Draco trails off dubiously, furrowing his brow.

After searching the area more thoroughly they move on, spending their last day going down the river looking for any more anomalies or any sign of their missing persons. Much of the day passes uneventfully, and Harry enjoys the peaceful ride through the forest with Draco.

- ~ -

On their last night, Harry and Draco cook dinner together. They eat and chat about the investigation with an easier camaraderie than they had started off with three days ago.

They end the evening with a nightcap in the comfy armchairs by the fireplace, laughing and swapping stories of the weirdest things they’d seen on the job over the years.

As they’re leaving the following morning Harry watches the forest passing by wistfully. He’s actually surprised by how much he’s enjoyed his time here with Draco. It’s changed his opinion on the other man. He’d never given him a real chance before, and Harry realises now what a mistake that had been.

Draco had grown and changed a lot from the arrogant class bully he used to be. He was still just as dramatic, but he was smart, and witty, and perhaps much kinder than he let on. Maybe Ron was right, and they are more compatible than Harry had assumed they could be.

- ~ -

“Ergh, I hate portkeying,” Harry grouses to Ron back in their office. “Always makes me nauseous.”

It wasn’t just the portkey though. Ever since he’d left the Vitenium, Harry had felt off. The sudden lack of heavy, intoxicating magic pressing in around him makes him feel bereft, and too light—as if he’s floating around on a cloud.

Back in the real world, everything feels sort of drab and lifeless. Is this how Alice felt after waking from her dream of Wonderland? Harry wonders how Draco is handling it.

“Want a Nausea Tonic?” Ron asks, breaking Harry out of his thoughts.

“No, thanks,” Harry says, collapsing on their couch. He prefers not to take potions if he doesn’t have to.

“How was your holiday with Malfoy?” Ron asks with a grin.

“It wasn’t a holiday, Ron. We were working the case,” Harry says, but he can’t stop the smile sneaking onto his face.

“Did you shag or bicker?”

“We didn’t shag,” Harry snorts.

“Don’t tell me you argued the whole time,” Ron says accusatorily.

“No, we didn’t argue,” Harry says, then after seeing Ron’s raised eyebrow he amends, “Okay well, we did a little, but not nearly as much as I thought we would. He’s actually… He’s a lot nicer now than I thought he’d be.”

“I told you,” Ron says and shakes his head. “You going to stop being daft and ask him out now?”

“I don’t know,” Harry says, glancing away, “You really think I should?”

“I think it’s bound to happen anyway. Regardless of what Hermione or I think, you’re still going to go charging into whatever relationship you believe will work out this time.”

“That’s not true,” Harry counters.

“Do I need to recite The List again?” Ron asks flatly.

Harry sighs. “No.”

“Harry, I think I’ve known you long enough to know your pattern by now. You date someone who is bad for you and try make it work, then you date someone who’s good for you but you won’t let yourself be happy. Then you start dating someone who’s bad for you again, and on and on. You know I just want you to be happy, but I feel like…” Ron trails off with a sigh.

“What?” Harry presses.

“It just sort of seems like… After you and Ginny didn’t work out, it seems like you’ve been stuck on this romanticised idea of the perfect family. But there’s no such thing as perfect. Love is work. Family is work. You have to be willing to compromise.”

“Easy for you to say, you met your soulmate at age eleven,” Harry scoffs.

“Soulmate?” Ron echoes, his brow creasing, “Harry, this is what I’m talking about. It’s not that simple. You know we’ve had hard times, and we had to put in a lot of work to get through them.”

Harry sighs. “I’m sorry, I know you have, but you know what I’m saying. You met Hermione at school, you were best friends, you’d known each other for years. You don’t know what dating is like now as an adult. It’s kind of awful.”

“Okay, sure, I’ll give you that. I’m just saying that you’ve always been a bit of a hopeless romantic, and there’s nothing wrong with that, except when it keeps you from being able to just be happy with someone.”

“I guess…” Harry mutters, running a hand through his hair.

Sometimes he wonders what he would be like if his parents hadn’t died, if they had been there as role models to him for what a marriage is like. He knows the image he has of them in his mind is romanticised, pieced together from happy photos of when they were young and in love. They never got the chance to struggle, to argue, to fight to maintain a relationship.

“Hang on,” Harry says as a thought occurs to him. “If you’re right about my dating pattern, does that mean you think Malfoy would be good for me?”

“Well,” Ron frowns thoughtfully, “mental as it sounds, I think if anyone could knock some sense into you, it would probably be him.”

Harry laughs. “That’s probably true,” he says, then shakes off thoughts of romance and Draco. “Anyway, get me caught up on the Morrison case.”

Harry spends the rest of his Friday working on the other cases he has with Ron.

After he returns home that night, he looks around his flat and feels lonely for the first time since Alex had moved out almost nine months ago.

It’s exactly the same as Harry left it, but as he cooks a single serving for himself and sits down to a quiet dinner alone, the space somehow feels emptier than it had last week.

- ~ -

“I figured you’d be in here.”

Harry exhales and slowly sets his mug down, then turns to see Draco walking into the break room. He really has to find out how Draco keeps sneaking up him like this.

“Did you?” he asks.

“You’re a bit of a tea fiend,” Draco informs him as he comes up next to Harry and fixes his own cup. “How was the ear-bashing from Robards?”

“How did you know?” Harry asks, raising an eyebrow at him.

“Pass the cream? I saw Whitehall leaving his office this morning looking rather cross.”

“Ah.” Harry hands the cream to Draco, who pours some into his tea. “It actually wasn’t that bad, but he wants us to wrap up our case soon as possible.” Draco snorts. “So he’s assigning us to work on it exclusively from now on.”

“Oh, all right then,” Draco says, slowing stirring his tea. He looks up at Harry and says casually, “Guess that means you’re mine for the foreseeable future.” He gives Harry a little smile that makes his pulse speed.

Harry returns the smile, putting a hand on the counter and turning his body to face Draco. “Just tell me how you want me,” he says smoothly, but on the inside his stomach is fluttering with nerves.

Draco flushes lightly, holding Harry’s gaze a second longer and then turning away. “Come along then, Potter.”

As it turns out, Draco’s office is more of a cupboard that anything else. It’s tiny, and easy to miss. Harry must have passed by it tens of times without ever noticing it.

Small as it is, Draco has somehow managed to cram nearly as many books in his office as Hermione has in hers. They cover every surface—the floor, the desk, the built in shelves, the over-large bookshelf shoved against the wall behind the desk, books on top of more books. What little wall space Draco has is covered with various maps, charts and notes.

Harry stops in the door to the office and turns to Draco. “Malfoy, please tell me you didn’t spend the weekend working.”

“I didn’t spend the whole weekend working,” Draco responds breezily, and brushes past Harry to get to his desk.

The ‘whole’ says everything. That, and the state of his office. Unless this is what it usually looks like.

Harry wonders if Draco is always this messy, or just when he’s working. He had imagined the man as being fairly neat, and the organised state of his tent had leant some weight to that theory.

“You should have said something, I would have helped you.” Harry moves into the office, carefully stepping around stacks of books. He takes a sip of his tea and looks over the maps of the Vitenium on the wall.

“Over the weekend?” Draco asks sceptically, stopping his rifling through the papers to quirk an eyebrow up at Harry.

“Yeah, I would have helped,” Harry says, turning to grin at Draco. “I would have told you to save it until Monday and then bought you a drink.”

“Yes, well, maybe next weekend, Potter,” Draco says with a small smile and turns his attention back to his task. “This isn’t for our case anyway,” he adds, gesturing around at the mess. “Most of it anyway. I wanted to close another case I’m working before getting stuck in ours. Now where did I put that damn—ah! Here it is.”

Draco pulls out a piece of parchment and skims over it. Harry gives him a questioning look.

“Finish your tea, Potter. We’re going to question everyone else who was in the Vitenium when our missing persons disappeared.”

- ~ -

Harry collapses on his couch after a long day interviewing potential witnesses with Draco. The interviews had taken all day, and there were still many more to do. Some hadn’t been so bad, some of the interviewees were clear and to the point with their answers. One was very suspicious of having Aurors knocking on his door and answered every one of their questions with another question. One older witch had gone on for what felt like hours, telling them all about her vacation and about reliving this lovely memory she’d had about the orchards at her childhood home. Harry thought she was probably lonely and didn’t have anyone else to talk to.

Harry discovered that he and Draco work rather well together in interviews. Draco knows the right questions to ask, and Harry knows how to read the people and temper Draco’s sharp tongue.

He’s also come to realise that Draco is a bit of a workaholic. They’d finished their last interview at half six and Draco was already talking about moving on to the next one. Harry had had to stop him and tell him to go home and assure him that they would pick back up again tomorrow.

- ~ -

“Here,” Harry says, holding out a cup of tea to Draco.

“Oh, thank you,” Draco says, looking up at the proffered cup with an expression of mild surprise. Their fingers brushing as he takes the drink, and he gives Harry a small smile.

“No problem,” Harry replies and smiles back.

“Mmm,” the blond moans after taking the first sip, and the noise goes straight to Harry’s cock. His eyes shut in pure bliss, seeming completely unaware of how erotic he looks. Harry bites his lip and tries not to let his dick take too much interest.

“That’s heavenly,” Draco says, looking from the teacup to Harry appreciatively, “Where did you get it?”

“The cafe near my place,” Harry says, then holds up his paper bag. “There’s pastries too.”

Draco raises an eyebrow and smiles slyly, “Trying to win me over, Potter?”

Harry gives an impish grin. “Maybe. Is it working?

Draco laughs. “Possibly. The fact that I skipped breakfast isn’t hurting your chances.” He holds his hand out and Harry gives him the bag.

“Ohh, pain au chocolat, my favourite,” Draco says after looking through the options, then adds mournfully, “I haven’t been able to find any as good as the ones in Saint Denis since I moved back.”

Harry watches as Draco takes his first bite, and the same look of pleasure crosses his face.

“But this is not too bad,” he allows with a small nod.

Harry grins and takes the bag back, pulling out an almond danish for himself.

They take their tea and pastries with them as they head out of the Ministry to continue interviewing potential witnesses.

Their day is much the same as the one before—looking for the people on Draco’s list and asking them about their recent experience in the Vitenium, and if they’d seen either of the missing persons while they were there.

It’s late again when they finally call it a day after some prompting from Harry, and Harry is determined to get Draco to leave on time tomorrow.

- ~ -

The following morning Harry brings tea and pastries again, if for nothing else than to see that incredible expression Draco makes.

When he gets to the Ministry, he finds that Draco’s office has been tidied up. The stacks of books, scrolls and parchment have all been cleared away but even so the office still feels very small.

They continue working their way through the long list of everyone who’d been in the Vitenium over the last three weeks. They end up with some very chatty witnesses and take much longer to make any progress.

“Merlin’s saggy balls, I thought we’d never get out of there,” Draco says after their last interview. “That one could talk the head off a jarvey.”

Harry thinks that’s rather ironic, considering how much Draco seems to like talking.

Draco heaves a put-upon sigh and says, “Well, on to the next one.”

“Malfoy, it’s almost five already,” Harry says, putting a hand on his arm to stop him from pulling out the list of visitors.

Draco furrows his brow. “So?”

“So the work day is pretty much over,” Harry explains slowly.

“We could squeeze in one more,” Draco insists.

“Not if they take that long,” Harry argues, gesturing to the house they just stepped out of. “Merlin, I had no idea you were such a workaholic.”

“The next one won’t be that talkative. Surely we’ve used up all our bad witness karma for the day,” Draco argues.

Harry’s not convinced. “You know, working too many hours can make a person crazy,” Harry says, then slowly smirks. “That would explain a lot, actually.”

Draco raises an eyebrow, but the corners of his mouth twitch as he fights back a smile. “Anyone would seem nutty if you’re the measure of sanity.”

Harry laughs. “How about we get some food? All we had for lunch was tea and those stale biscuits at Mrs. Bennett’s.”

Draco regards Harry curiously as he considers his offer. He glances away, rubbing his lips together.

“Come on, I know a good Indian place not far from here,” Harry coaxes.

“Well,” Draco says slowly, then finally agrees. “All right. That does sound good.”

The London sky is overcast, but the summer afternoon is still fairly warm after the heat of the day. They walk side-by-side down the street in a comfortable silence.

Harry unbuttons his Auror robes and slides them off, surreptitiously shrinking them and shoving them in his pocket.

“It’s a Muggle place,” Harry explains after seeing Draco’s questioning look. “Is that all right?”

“Oh, yes, that’s fine,” Draco says and follows suit, removing his Auror robes and carefully shrinking them the first chance he gets.

The outfit he’s wearing beneath his robes is just as classy as his riding outfits. He has on a grey waistcoat over a long sleeve, collared blue shirt, and creased black trousers.

Draco glances over at Harry, and after seeing his amused expression he asks, “What?”

“Nothing,” Harry says, smiling. “Just—I should have guessed you’d be such a toff.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being well dressed,” Draco says indignantly. “You could take a lesson.”

No, there certainly is nothing wrong with Draco being well dressed. The outfit is very handsome and just so Draco, and Harry rather likes him in it.

“I prefer to be comfortable, thanks,” Harry responds.

“Yes, I can see that,” Draco drawls, and Harry chuckles.

“Here, this is the place,” Harry says when they get to the restaurant and holds open the door for Draco.

They go in inside and after they’re seated, Draco gazes around the shabby, hole-in-the-wall restaurant warily, then raises an eyebrow at Harry.

“Trust me,” Harry says confidently.

“If I get food poisoning, you’re the one who’ll suffer,” Draco warns him, and then opens his menu.

Harry waits for the other man to decide, already knowing what he wants, and when Draco shuts his menu, Harry smiles across the table at him. “See? Isn’t this nice? Getting off at five o’clock like everyone else, having a nice dinner, not working ridiculously long hours every day.”

“That depends,” Draco says with a sly smile, lacing his fingers together and resting them over his menu. “Are you paying?”

Harry laughs. “Is this a date then?” he counters, leaning forward to put his elbow on the table and rest his chin in his hand.

Draco drops the sly smile and looks away. He meets Harry’s gaze again with a casual shrug and an offhand, “It was your suggestion.”

Harry smiles softly and watches Draco, his too casual demeanour betraying his nerves.

After he takes too long to respond, Draco brushes it off with a smooth change of subject. “Maybe I should slow down anyway. Apparently I’m getting Chesterfield duty for my next case. I wonder if we could keep this case open indefinitely.”

Harry grimaces. “I don’t envy you. Ron and I had him last month. The kid is a walking disaster,” Harry says and shakes his head. “At least between the two of us we were mostly able to keep him out of the way.”

“It’s a wonder that pillock hasn’t failed training yet or that he even got this far,” Draco huffs.

Harry leans back and gives their waiter a ‘thanks’ as he sets down their glasses of water.

“Are you ready to order?” the waiter asks, looking between Harry and Draco.

Harry gestures at Draco. Draco orders the saag paneer, and then he orders a spicy biryani for himself.

“Actually, that reminds me,” Harry says after their waiter leaves. “I was telling Ron that story the other day, about how Chesterfield shot his own foot off, and he hadn’t heard about it either.”

Draco’s eyes narrow and he studies Harry for a beat of silence before saying, “You think I’m lying?”

“What? No,” Harry says, putting up his hands in a calming gesture. “I just thought it was strange, is all. How did a story like that not get around the office?”

Draco looks suddenly uncomfortable, darting a nervous glance away from Harry and taking a sip from his water.

“Malfoy?” Harry prompts.

With a sigh Draco runs a hand through his hair, then meets Harry’s gaze. “It was erased from my report.”

“What?” Harry’s eyebrows jump up in surprise, then lower in confusion. “Did you erase it?”

“No! Of course not,” Draco snaps. “I turned it in with all the gory details.”

“You’re saying someone else erased it from your report?” Harry clarifies.

Draco nods, his mouth set in a hard line.

“You’re certain?” Harry presses, leaning forward.

Yes,” Draco stresses with an irritable huff. “After Chesterfield didn’t receive any demerit I went through the files and checked. Any mention of him being there had been removed from the record.”

“Are you serious? But who—why—?” Harry cuts off and slumps back in his chair, looking off to the side. He cards his fingers through his hair as he runs through possible motives in his mind.

Draco is quiet while Harry thinks it over, looking away with a small frown, one finger anxiously running along the lip of his glass.

“But you know,” Harry finally says. “Anyone who asked, you would have told them, like you told me, right? He hexed his own foot off. How did something like that not spread around the rumour mill?” It’s the one bit that still just doesn’t make sense to Harry.

“Oh, yes of course, the rumour mill, because my office is just the hottest gossip spot in the Ministry,” Draco says sardonically with a big hand gesture. “Don’t you know? Everyone comes to me for the latest news.”

Harry chews his lip, watching Draco curiously. Did it not spread because Draco had no one to tell? Surely he would have some friends at work, right?

The more he thinks about it, the more he realises how absent Draco tends to be. He’s an Auror, part of the department, yet Harry hardly ever sees him. He’ll be in staff meetings, and they bump into each other in the break room every once in a while, but never beyond that. Harry had never even seen his office before three days ago, let alone been in it.

Before Crabtree had left the two of them used to come to Friday pub nights occasionally, but now that Harry thinks about it he hasn’t seen Draco there at all since his partner had retired almost a year ago.

While it’s true that Harry had sort of been avoiding Draco, as Ron had called him out on, it had never been a difficult thing to do, despite them both working in the same department.

“Who do you think did it? Erased it?” Harry finally asks, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.

Draco hesitates, glancing at Harry and then shrugging. “Robards, most likely.”

Harry exhales heavily. “You think so?”

“He’s the one I give all my reports to. It’s not a hard conclusion to draw,” Draco answers, his tone still a bit sharp and his posture very rigid. “Chesterfield’s father is filthy rich. I’m sure he could buy his way into any career he wanted.”

Harry glances away, feeling a momentary flash of guilt knowing that he had once speculated the same of Draco. He sighs and pushes up his glasses to rub at his face. “Shite,” he mutters.

Draco groans, and Harry straightens his glasses and looks across the table at him. “Potter, don’t.”

Harry blinks. “What?”

“I can see that little Gryffindor brain of yours churning away,” Draco says, pointing at Harry. “The last thing I need is you going around stirring up trouble.”

Harry sets his jaw stubbornly. “Malfoy, if files are being tampered with, that’s not something I can just ignore. Even if it is the department head doing it.”

“You’ve been ignoring it just fine until now,” Draco says lightly, looking away from Harry and taking another drink from his glass.

His mouth twists down. “That’s not fair,” Harry says harshly.

Draco drops his gaze to the table, rubbing at a water ring for a moment, then looks back up at Harry. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I just—” Draco cuts off and looks away again. “It’s been a difficult enough transfer, and I don’t want to give Robards any more reason to hate me.”

Harry purses his lips but nods his acceptance.

In the silence that follows, the waiter returns and sets their food in front of them. Harry waits for Draco to take his first bite, watching as the blond’s eyes close and he hums in content satisfaction.

The corner of Harry’s mouth turns up in a small smile and when those pale eyes open and meet Harry’s, he asks, “Good?”

Draco nods and licks his lips. “Shockingly so. I don’t know where you find these places, Potter, but one way or another you are going to tell me all of your dining secrets.”

Harry laughs, then bites his bottom lip and says, “I don’t know, Malfoy, it’s a heavy price. To learn my favourite restaurants you’ll have to go out to them with me.”

“For shame, Potter. That’s ridiculously overpriced. But it might just be worth it,” Draco says with a coy smile, and Harry has to fight from grinning like a loon.

Harry digs into his plate, and then after a minute his curiosity gets the better of him and he asks, “Why did you transfer from Paris?”

Draco looks up from his curry, pauses, and then lifts one shoulder in a small shrug. “It was time.”

Harry raises an eyebrow. “That’s a little vague.”

Draco’s lips quirk up in amusement, and then he expands on his answer. “England is my home. I never wanted to leave, not really, but Mother… I knew she wasn’t happy here after the war. She started taking long holidays to the villa, especially after they seized the Manor, and I knew it was only a matter of time before she didn’t come back. I didn’t want her to be alone or to feel like she couldn’t move permanently because of me.”

Draco pauses, looking away. Harry stays quiet and waits for him to continue.

“I suppose it was probably the best thing for my career. It would have been harder to get into the Aurors here, with—” Draco’s sentence breaks off briefly as he runs a finger over his left forearm, the movement seeming to be an unconscious one. “—with how tarnished our name was after the war. After Father finished his sentence and I helped get him resettled, I knew it was time to come back.”

Draco’s face is turned slightly away, looking off to the side, but then he blinks and meets Harry’s gaze again, as if suddenly remembering that he’s there.

Harry’s far from ready to talk directly about the war with Draco, so he gives him a gentle smile, and in an attempt to lighten the mood he says, “I lived in Australia for a year after the war.”

“Australia?” Draco asks incredulously, regaining his composure. “Why in the world would you do that?”

Harry laughs and then explains how he ended up there and why he stayed.

They spend the evening exchanging stories of their time spent in the different countries over dinner. They laugh and tease each other, and Harry is pleasantly surprised at how easy of a thing it is to fall into.

“...only he got the spell wrong, and ended up transfiguring our perp into a carrot! And do you know what he does then?” Harry shakes his head. “He turns to me and he says, ‘les carottes sont cuites!’ ” Draco’s laughing so hard now he can’t continue, and though Harry doesn’t totally get it yet, he can’t help laughing because of how hard Draco’s laughing.

Draco clutches the table and wipes a tear from the corner of his eye, trying to stop laughing long enough to translate.

“Which literally—” he starts trying to say between laughs, “—literally translates to, ‘the carrots are cooked!’ ” Draco clutches at his stomach and has to take a moment before continuing. “And—oh god—basically it means, ‘what’s done is done.’ ”

Draco breaks off into another round of laughter, and Harry is right there with him, doubled over the table.

“What—” Harry starts trying to ask, but is cut off by another bout of laughter before he can finish. “What did you do with him?”

Draco takes a deep breath, grinning, and answers, “Well, Moreau gave us strict orders to bring him in no matter his condition, so—so Simon restrained him, and we took him in.”

They both start laughing at the image that produces, and it takes Harry a minute before he can ask, “How exactly do you restrain a carrot?”

“Potter, I was there and I still couldn’t tell you,” Draco says between giggles.

Harry laughs again, and takes several deep breaths in an effort to stop. They grin at each other across the table, and the waiter comes by then with the bill.

Harry grabs the bill before Draco can reach for it, and takes out his wallet. He pulls out several Muggle notes and puts them on the table.

When he looks up, Draco is watching him, and Harry winks at him. Draco flushes and glances away, a small smile playing on his lips.

“Ready?” Harry asks, pushing his chair back and standing.

“Mhm,” Draco intones and stands.

They leave the restaurant and walk side-by-side to the nearest apparition point. The sky is a wash of purples and pinks behind a thin blanket of cloud cover, and the temperature has cooled some since the afternoon.

Their fingers brush accidentally, and Draco murmurs a quiet, “Sorry.”

“S’all right,” Harry replies softly.

They both glance over at each other at the same time, and share a small smile.

After a quiet moment, Harry is the first to break the silence. “Hey, Malfoy?”

“Hm?”

“I am going to look into Chesterfield,” he says decisively, and Draco gives him a short sigh. “I’ll do it quietly. I have to, and not just to cause trouble for you but because if Chesterfield becomes an Auror, he’ll probably end up setting fire to the whole of London.”

Draco snorts. “That’s probably true.” He looks over at Harry, considering him, and then rolls his eyes. “Fine. Play hero, if you must.”

“Prat,” Harry says, bumping his shoulder against Draco’s.

“Git,” he returns, bumping Harry back.

Harry chuckles, then gestures to the alley they’re coming up to. “Here,” he says, “we can apparate here.”

They walk to the alley then turn and look at each other. Gazing up into Draco’s pale grey eyes, Harry feels like he should say something, and he wants to.

He can tell that Draco wants to say something too, but instead they both stand in silence, looking at each other.

The tension between them crackles like electricity, and all Harry wants to do is put his hands in that fine, platinum blond hair and yank Draco down into a fierce kiss. But he doesn’t.

“See you tomorrow?” Draco asks, and the moment shatters like glass between them.

“Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Harry says, swallowing.

One side of Draco’s mouth quirks up and he adds, “Preferably with tea and pastries. I like Assam.”

Harry laughs and says, “Assam. Got it.”

After apparating to his flat, Harry goes through the motions of a typical evening. He checks his mail, feeds his owl, reads the paper for the Quidditch scores, and after he’s in bed, he thinks about how wrong Ron was.

Two weeks ago Harry didn’t fancy Draco. Two weeks ago he would think about what a fantastic arse he had, but now, lying in bed, Harry finds himself thinking of the distant expression Draco gets when he’s engrossed in thought, the rich sound of his laugh, and the content of his smile.

- ~ -

Harry stops in his tracks just outside Draco’s office. Seeing Draco in his tiny, cramped office reminds Harry of the first time he had visited the Ministry and saw Arthur in his equally small space, and Harry is struck by the comparison. Draco is essentially in the same position Arthur had been then, shunted to a veritable closet because of prejudice.

The blond man has his nose buried in a book and hasn’t noticed Harry yet. Harry bites his lip and takes a moment to regard the scene—Draco sitting at his desk, surrounded by books and parchment, with a quill magicked to take notes as he reads.

Looking at Draco working alone in his cupboard of an office makes the idea that Draco is rather lonely seem suddenly very real. It’s becoming painfully obvious how much of his time he devotes to his job, working impossible cases while being partnerless for almost a year, and fighting Robards every step. He won’t even allow himself the time to care for a horse, even though it’s obvious how passionate he is about riding.

All this time Harry had assumed he’d been partnerless since Crabtree left because he was a spoiled git that didn’t want to work with anyone else, and only now he realises how wrong he’s been.

For a moment Harry feels guilty for being such a stubborn idiot for so long, not wanting to get to know Draco because of the boy he used to be. He fantasised about him but never bothered to learn anything about the man he’d grown into.

Regardless of past mistakes, Harry knows better now, and he’s resolved to change things.

Draco looks up when Harry walks in and sets the cup of Assam tea next to him. “Oh, Potter. There you are.”

“Hey,” Harry says, handing Draco his pastry. “What are you up to?”

Draco’s already taken a bite, and Harry waits for him to chew and swallow before he says, “Research.”

Harry looks around the room at all the new stacks of books scattered around. “All this is for our case?” he asks, taking out his cranberry scone.

“Yeah. I’ve been thinking,” Draco says, pausing and taking another bite of his pain au chocolat.

“Malfoy…” Harry sighs, looking around at all the research he’s already done.

“We’ll finish the interviews this afternoon, but I want to start taking a different approach,” Draco says distractedly, munching on his pastry and flipping the page in his book. “Searching for the missing persons and talking to everyone else who’s been to the forest recently hasn’t been very fruitful. I think we should be looking more into the magic, and trying to figure out what we’re working with.”

“I agree,” Harry says with a nod, and Draco looks up at him with a somewhat surprised expression. “Don’t look so surprised. I was thinking the same last night, I was going to bring it up today, actually. It’ll be hard to find our missing persons if we don’t know what happened to them.”

“Well. I’m glad we’re on the same page, then.” Draco finishes his pastry and sticks his thumb in his mouth, sucking a bit of chocolate off it.

Harry watches his light pink lips wrap around the digit, trying to not let the sight distract him. Harry clears his throat. “So, what now? Research?”

Draco slides his thumb out of his mouth then licks his lips before confirming. “Research.”

“And how much of this have you already done?” Harry asks, gesturing around at the many books and scrolls.

“All of that I’ve already been through,” Draco says, pointing to the multiple piles on the floor, then puts his hand on the pile on his desk. “These I’m still working on.”

“Malfoy,” Harry says sternly, getting Draco to finally look up at him. “How much time have you spent on this? We’re partners on this case. We’re supposed to be working together.”

“I—” Draco starts and cuts off, blinking and glancing away, his brow creasing. “I didn’t really think you’d be interested in any of this.”

Harry sighs, looking at Draco in his cramped office, separated from the rest of the Auror department, surrounded by his work and instruments, and thinks that he shouldn’t be surprised. After working alone for so long it must be automatic for Draco to do everything by himself.

Harry realises that if he wants to really work with Draco, he’s going to have to carve out a space for himself. Harry conjures a chair in the one, small open space left on the other side of Draco’s desk and sits down. “I’m here and I’m just as invested as you,” Harry admonishes, “And you’re forgetting that Hermione is my best friend. I can do research,” Harry says. “Get me caught up.”

“Okay…” Draco says, wrinkling his nose and eyeing Harry’s chair. He sighs and then explains, “Based on the readings I took in the forest, and the events we witnessed, I’ve been trying to find any other reports of similar incidents or magic that lines up with it. Or any theories that might explain such happenings.”

“And what have you found so far?”

“Well, not much yet,” Draco says, standing and moving around his desk. “I’ve got a system. Each stack has different levels of probability to being related to our case. These are Have Potential, these are Wild Speculation, these are Crackpot Theories, these are Possible But Highly Unlikely, and these are Not A Chance.” Draco gestures to each stack in turn. Almost all of the books are in the Possible But Highly Unlikely pile. “Comparing what we’ve witnessed in the forest and the readings I took,” he points to the maps on the wall, “we can start narrowing down possibilities.”

“Okay, take me through your theories.”

- ~ -

At one o’clock, Harry convinces Draco to break for lunch by enticing him with one of his favourite restaurants, an Ethiopian place in his neighbourhood.

“Pinch, twist, and pop it in your mouth!” Harry repeats, sitting beside Draco and watching him struggle to eat with his injera.

Draco manages to get the food in his mouth but smears some on his lip and then licks it off.

Harry laughs, and Draco frowns at him. “That was better,” Harry assures him, ripping off his own piece of injera, grabbing some wat from their shared plate and getting it in his mouth with practised ease.

“I don’t see what’s wrong with using a fork,” Draco pouts.

“Come on, try again,” Harry says with a small smile. “This is how it’s done, and isn’t it delicious?”

“Well, it is rather,” Draco allows, then starts tearing another piece of injera to eat with.

“No left hand,” Harry says again, putting his hand on Draco’s left arm to stop him using it.

Draco groans in frustration, but keeps trying. His piece of injera ends up too small and he gets food all over his fingertips. “I’m making a mess of myself,” he whines, sticking his pointer finger into his mouth to suck it clean.

Harry hesitates for just a second to watch, then catches Draco’s wrist to stop him. “Don’t lick your fingers, it’s considered rude,” Harry explains. “They’ll bring a wash basin over when we’re done.”

Draco frowns at him, but drops his hand.

Harry smiles at the adorable sight of the blond Auror pouting. “Here,” he says, picking up another portion and offering it to Draco, “this is gursha, it’s a common expression of friendship in Ethiopian culture to feed each other.”

Draco quirks up an eyebrow at him, but opens his mouth and allows Harry to pop the bit of food in cleanly.

He chews and then swallows, the edges of his lips turning up just a bit as he asks, “Does that mean we’re friends now?”

“Yeah, we are,” Harry says easily, then challenges, “Got a problem with that?”

“Potter, you’ve no idea just how many problems.”

Harry chuckles and bumps Draco’s shoulder. “Wanker.”

“Tosser.” Draco bumps him back.

Harry eats another helping, and then watches as Draco tears a piece of injera and reaches for one of the wats to fill it with.

“That one’s spicy,” Harry tells him.

“I know,” Draco says, his brow creased in concentration as he tries to keep the stew contained in the bit of thin bread, then he looks at Harry and offers it to him.

Harry’s eyebrows raise a fraction, but then he smiles and opens his mouth. Draco feeds the serving to him, and when his thumb pushes in a bit too far Harry closes his mouth around it and sucks it clean.

Draco gives Harry a heated look that sends an electric sensation coursing down his whole body.

“Licking fingers is rude, Potter,” Draco chides him and pulls his hand back, a small smirk lighting his features.

Harry feels a blush warm his cheeks. “You’re the one who stuck it in my mouth.”

A matching flush colours Draco’s cheeks and he turns his attention to trying to eat. They fall silent and spend a few minutes focusing on their shared meal. Draco keeps working to get better at eating with injera, and Harry admires his determined expression with an amused smile.

“I never knew you were so versed in Magical Theory,” Harry says conversationally, deciding to break the silence after a few minutes.

Draco glances up at him and having just put some food in his mouth, he takes a moment to chew and swallow before answering. “It comes with the territory when you get cases like I do.”

“It’s not what you’d choose to do, though,” Harry clarifies.

“No,” Draco answers flatly. “But it’s what I get assigned, so I grew where I was planted and found out that I’m damn good at it.”

“Do you enjoy it?” Harry asks curiously.

Draco purses his lips, then shrugs. “I suppose I do. It’s not always exciting, but it is fascinating. And it… I don’t know, it gives me perspective.”

“What do you mean?”

“I suppose it’s that...” Draco says slowly, looking away thoughtfully as he considers how to explain. “Somewhere in the monotony of Scourgifies and Accios and Reparos, people forget the source of it. They forget that magic is strange, that we actually understand very little of it, and that it exists in spaces we rarely see or imagine. Magic is… Well, it’s unparalleled. It’s as old and mysterious as the universe itself, and though we’ve learned how to channel it, it is not beholden to us.”

Hearing Draco speak so reverently, bringing to mind things Harry had never even thought to consider before, and watching that soft, pensive expression he always gets when he’s thinking deeply of something, Harry realises how fucked he really is.

- ~ -

“It’s gone seven already,” Harry grouses as they make their way from the apparition point to the elevators, having finally finished questioning all the witnesses.

“Chin up, Potter. Now that we’re done with interviews we can devote all of our time to reading dry, ancient texts and calculating arithmatic equations instead,” Draco says in a perky tone, and then laughs at Harry when he groans in protest.

Draco pulls open the elevator door and gestures for Harry to go first. They ride it up to the second floor and head to the Auror department. Harry turns into his office without thinking about it, walking in and checking his inbox.

After breezing through the notes left for him, Harry looks over at Draco, and then realises his mistake. “Oh. Sorry, habit.”

“It’s all right,” Draco says easily, peering around the room curiously.

Harry’s desk is not the cleanest. There are several files, papers and old teacups scattered over it, and he wishes he’d thought to tidy up a bit recently. Maybe Draco won’t care though, considering the organised chaos of his own space.

Ron’s side is covered with orange Chudley Cannons posters, several children’s drawings, and many pictures of his family. Harry’s side has a poster of Puddlemere’s handsome, blond keeper, Lucas Davies, posing on his broom and flashing an attractive smile at them. On his desk he has a framed photo of him and Teddy.

Harry looks around the office, trying to see it from Draco’s perspective, and he feels some measure of shame at how much bigger it is. Not only does it have plenty of room for both his and Ron’s desk, it also has a couch, bookshelves, and an enchanted window.

When Draco’s eyes snap back down to Harry’s, Harry half expects a biting comment from the blond about the obvious favouritism.

“Potter, I’m commandeering your office for our investigation.”

“Oh. All right, then,” Harry says, then adds, “well, it’s fine to use my side. I don’t think Ron will be happy if we take over his area.”

“That’s fine, there’s plenty of room,” Draco says shortly, then turns to leave, throwing back a, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Potter.”

- ~ -

When Harry gets to his office the next Friday morning, obligatory tea and pastries in hand, he discovers that Draco seems to have shifted his entire library into Harry’s office. He’s also stuck his maps and charts all over the walls, one of them right over top of his poster of the handsome Quidditch star.

Draco is standing angled away from the doorway, holding the framed picture Harry keeps on his desk of him and Teddy when they’d gone to the last Quidditch World Cup. Teddy is sitting on Harry’s shoulders, grinning and waving a Burkina Faso flag.

“Hey,” Harry says, walking up to the blond and holding his tea out to him.

“Oh, good morning,” Draco says after turning to Harry. He sets the frame down and takes his tea, then gestures at the photo and comments, “He’s bigger than I imagined him.”

“Bigger now,” Harry says, one corner of his mouth lifting as he watches the expression of pleasure on Draco’s face as he take his first sip of tea. “He’s starting second year this fall.”

“Really?” Draco exhales and shakes his head. “Where have the years gone?”

“Search me. That was four years ago,” Harry says with a nod to the photo. “I’m taking him again this year.”

“That’s good of you,” Draco says, then makes grabby hands at the bag of pastries Harry is holding.

“Do you never eat breakfast?” Harry asks incredulously, watching Draco tear into the bag.

“I do now,” he says, giving Harry a cheeky smile and then biting into his pastry.

“What would you do without me?”

“Waste away into a flimsy little wisp of the man I once was, and get carried off on the first stiff breeze,” he says airily with a dramatic gesture.

Harry rolls his eyes. “Twat.”

“Todger,” Draco fires back.

They smirk at each other, and then Draco breaks their eye contact to grab a book.

“Let’s get stuck in,” he says, then gestures to the large stack of texts on Harry’s desk. “I want to get through all of these today.”

Ron walks in and stops dead. “Oi! What’s all this then?” he exclaims, gesturing around at Draco’s mess of research.

- ~ -

Harry’s not sure how Draco does it. Reading magical theory, and talking magical theory, and calculating magical theory. All. Day. Long.

While a lot of it is very interesting, especially when Draco talks about it, doing it for eight hours straight is mind numbing.

Harry closes his book and pushes back from his desk, standing up and walking over to Draco. He shifts a few books out of the way so he can flop down on the couch next to the blond.

“How’s it going?” he asks.

“Mm,” Draco hums distractedly, finishing his paragraph before looking up at Harry. “Good. I think this might go with the Have Potentials,” he says, pushing his bangs out of his eyes and behind his ear. His hair is right at that length where it’s almost long enough to stay behind his ears, but not quite, so after a moment the fair strands slip back into his face.

“Which are you on now?” Harry asks, kicking off his shoes, pulling his feet up and under him on the couch, and angling himself toward Draco.

Draco eyes Harry’s position with distaste.

“What?” Harry asks, smirking.

“You’re entirely too comfortable, Potter. We’re in the Ministry,” he reproaches. “And I still can’t believe you don’t wear your Auror robes at work, have you no sense of decorum?”

“Why should I? We’re just sat here reading all day.”

Draco huffs out an irritated sigh and pushes his hair back again. “I’m reading Anima Mea In Silva: The Mysterious Minds of Europe’s Magical Forests.”

“And it seems promising?” Harry presses, desperate for any interaction other than turning the pages of a book. He reasons that it’s almost five anyway.

“Yes,” Draco gives in, shutting his book and turning a bit toward Harry. “It’s similar to a few other texts I’ve read already, actually. It theorizes on what makes magical forests magic, and talks about many strange incidents that have been witnessed in them as well as what might cause them.”

“Anything similar to ours?”

“Well, the disappearances of course. Thousands of people have disappeared for different stretches of time in these sorts of places over history.”

Harry nods, he’s been reading about such cases all day.

“It’s too vague though, there’s too many potential reasons for loss of time,” Draco says, brow furrowed in thought. “And the thing is, all of the strange magical events in these forests are caused by something else. Even in a magic laden environment, like the Vitenium, things like this don’t just happen for no reason. Magic, as a force, doesn’t use itself to do spells. It just is—like gravity. It’s the other things in the environment, like us, who harness it and create an action, but we’ve already ruled out any other witches, wizards, or creatures being involved.”

“Except the victims themselves,” Harry points out, and Draco shoots a somewhat surprised look at him.

“Right. Our missing persons could have been the catalyst for whatever happened to them. Which does help to narrow it down somewhat…” Draco says, trailing off and looking thoughtfully into the distance.

After a minute Harry prompts, “What are you thinking?”

“Huh? Oh.” Draco looks back and Harry, he shifts more towards him and puts his arm across the back of the couch, and then says slowly, “Well, I don’t know, there’s… There’s something about it, the Vitenium, something familiar… Something about the way it feels…”

Draco’s looking at Harry with soft, half-lidded eyes, and speaking in a low tone. They’re sat quite close to each other on the couch, and Harry licks his lips nervously.

There’s a sort of warm, dreamy expression on Draco’s face as he gazes at Harry, and Harry’s heart starts to beat just a bit faster for it.

This is it. Draco’s going to kiss him. The thought sends a flutter of nervous sensation down to rest in Harry’s stomach.

Harry drops his gaze to Draco’s silky, pink lips and starts to lean forward.

“Longbottom.”

Harry jerks back, staring at Draco wide-eyed.

Draco blinks at him, his eyes suddenly clear, as if coming out of a reverie. “I…” Draco starts saying, then hesitates, furrowing his brow and giving Harry an odd look. “I think we should visit Longbottom.”

Harry must have it bad if he’s misinterpreting Draco’s deep-in-thought expression as one of affection and invitation for Harry to kiss him.

He sits back and releases an annoyed sigh. “Okay. When?” he asks, then guesses, “Now?”

“Potter—” Draco cuts off when Ron and Seamus walk into the office.

“Wotcher,” Seamus greets.

“Hey Harry, Malfoy, you guys are coming out to pub with us, right?” Ron asks with a grin.

“Yeah, where are we going?” Harry asks. He feels more than sees Draco shift just a little farther away from him.

“The Soused Siren,” Ron answers.

“Really?” Harry asks and furrows his brow. “Isn’t that place kind of swanky?”

Ron and Seamus glance at each other, then Seamus quickly answers, “Yeah, Chesterfield chose it.”

Harry narrows his eyes at them in suspicion. “You let Chesterfield choose?”

“We didn’t!” Ron interjects. “Jones had the bright idea of inviting him, so naturally he made a fuss about it.”

“All right…” Harry says slowly, then looks at Draco. “You’re coming, right?”

“I…” Draco chews his lip hesitantly. “I don’t know, I wanted to finish this today,” he says, gesturing to his book.

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” Harry says, putting his shoes on and standing.

Draco looks up at him and raises an eyebrow.

“I’m not letting you stay here and spend your Friday night working.”

Draco glances away, then heaves a put upon sigh and stands. “All right. I suppose I can come for one drink.”

Harry grins at Draco in triumph, and then they all leave the Ministry together.

Right as they get to the door to the pub, an owl swoops down and lands on Ron’s raised arm. Ron takes the letter and opens it.

“Sorry, mate. We’re going to have to run, something just came up for one of our cases,” he says.

“But you guys go on ahead, I’m sure everyone else is on their way,” Seamus adds, then claps Harry on the back and winks at him. He and Ron turn and head back to the apparition point.

Harry’s brow creases as he watches them leave, then he turns to Draco, who has an equally distrustful expression on his face. They look at each other for a moment, then Harry shrugs and opens the door for him.

The Soused Siren is more of a gastropub, and, as Harry had thought, it is a lot classier than their usual fare. The ceiling is draped with shimmery, translucent blue and aqua coloured fabric. The fabric is charmed to billow and wave, and with the lights behind it, it casts the effect of water rippling around the room.

Soft, melodic music plays in the background, and along the walls are several windows enchanted to show scenes beneath the sea with coral reefs, brightly coloured fish, and the occasional siren swimming by.

Harry looks around for the other Aurors, but he doesn’t see any, and he has a sneaking suspicion that no one else is joining them here tonight.

“This is… interesting,” Draco comments carefully, glancing at Harry.

“Yeah.” Harry looks and him, and then shrugs. “Well, want to get a table?”

Draco hesitates, then nods. “All right…”

To give Ron the benefit of the doubt and not make it look like they are just here on a date, they get one of the large booths in the corner meant for a bigger party.

The first half hour they talk idly about the case, checking the door every once in a while to see if any of the other Aurors might happen to show up. After it becomes clear that they’ve been set up, Harry decides to just roll with it and they order some of the seafood.

Despite already having eaten together at a couple restaurants, this time feels different. This feels much more decidedly like a date, and not even one they had arranged themselves. It’s easier to talk about the case, and so they spend much of their time discussing it.

Draco finishes his third Dark and Stormy, and waves the waiter over for another. Harry shoots back what’s left of his whiskey on the rocks so he can get another while they have the attention of the waiter.

Harry bites into a forkful of his salmon, chews thoughtfully, and then asks, “Do you think it’s dark? Maybe similar to your Maryport case?” He’s already concluded that it isn’t, but since Draco has more experience with it he wants to get his opinion.

Draco hums thoughtfully, then shakes his head. “No… I don’t think so. I—I can’t explain it exactly, but… that just had a different feel to it.”

“You mean the dark magic?” Harry clarifies.

“Yes. In Maryport you could feel the magic being gathered there was dark, if you’re sensitive to it. It’s like you can feel the intent behind it almost. With dark magic, it has a whole different sensation—the way it feels, the way it tastes, even the way it smells. It’s like the person wielding the magic imbues it with a bit of themselves.”

Harry nods, knowing the feeling Draco is describing.

“The magic in the Vitenium doesn’t feel dark, it just feels… I don’t know, neutral? Like it doesn’t have an intent. It’s powerful, and awe inspiring, but indifferent. Which is why I don’t think any other witches or wizards are involved in our disappearances.”

“Agreed. So what are you thinking?”

“Well, that book you tore me away from had just started talking about plant magic, and I’ve been wondering if that could be the explanation. Ellie mentions it in her research, but she never looked very far into it. I’d like to talk to Longbottom about it. I was thinking that his orchard reminded me of the way it feels, actually.”

“All right,” Harry says, then remembers he’s going to see Neville tomorrow and adds, “you know, Luna’s having a barbecue tomorrow and Neville will be there. You could come with if you like and talk to him.”

Draco seems surprised by the offer, then he looks away, twirling his glass, and shakes his head. “Thank you, but no. I’ll set an appointment.”

Harry gets the feeling that pushing him on it won’t do any good, so he lets it go.

After the food is gone, they stay and drink for a while and when they’re drunk enough, the conversation turns away from work. Draco goes off on another funny story, and they laugh and joke with each other.

When they move to leave, Draco stumbles after he stands, and Harry grabs at his waist to keep him upright.

“All right?” Harry asks, his voice coming out huskier than he intended. He can feel the warmth of Draco’s body next to his and can smell citrus, and he wants to lean forward and devour the graceful neck in front of him, flushed a delicious shade a red from too much alcohol.

“Yes, thank you,” Draco says, biting his lip, and then patting at Harry’s chest to signal that he’s good. “Oh.” Draco stops patting and presses his hand more firmly against Harry’s pec, then curls his fingers and gropes the well-developed muscle.

A grin spreads across Harry’s face, and he laughs.

Draco blinks up at him and lets go. “Apparently I’ve had far too much rum.”

“I don’t mind,” Harry says with a cocky smile. “I didn’t know you were such a handsy drunk.”

“Yes, well, now you know and I can’t be held accountable if you stand too close,” Draco says, and Harry laughs. Draco smirks at him, then leads the way out, managing to only swerve a little.

After walking out into the cool evening air they turn and look at each other.

“I don’t think I should apparate,” Draco says.

Harry takes stock of himself, then nods and says, “Me neither.”

“Well, lucky for me I don’t live that far, so I can walk home,” Draco says smugly and starts down the street. “I don’t even want to think about taking the Knight Bus. Last time I took it drunk, I puked and,” Draco pauses and throws his arms out widely in front of himself, “it went everywhere! Worst drunk decision of my life.”

Harry laughs, falling in beside Draco. It’s not the same direction to his flat, but he’s warm and tingly, and enjoying the company.

“Aw, are you going to walk me home? My hero,” Draco says, dramatically throwing a hand over his heart.

“Anything for you, Your Highness,” Harry jokes back.

“Knob,” Draco says and leans over to bump Harry’s shoulder, but ends up doing it a bit too hard and they both stumble more than they would otherwise. They grab at each other’s hands in a drunken effort to keep their balance and catch each other.

Once they’ve got their footing, they laugh and let go of each other, and then Harry tries to give Draco’s shoulder a light shove as he says, “Prig.”

Draco stumbles a couple steps, laughing all the while.

They grin at each other and keep walking.

“Do you think that’s it’s a—that it could have been—a Transfiguration thing?” Draco asks haltingly.

“What? The Knight Bus?”

“No, no, the case!” Draco throws a hand up, his gestures becoming much bigger when he’s drunk.

“Oh. Yeah, maybe,” Harry says, screwing up his face and trying to remember all of what he’d read today. “There was one that I read about. Transfiguration.” Harry nods.

“Yeah?” Draco looks over curiously. “What was it?”

“Someone got changed into a—er—what are those things called?”

“A desk!” Draco throws out.

“No, not a desk.” Harry shakes his head.

“A donkey! A doorknob! A duck!” Draco keeps excitedly tossing out guesses.

“No, no! Stop, you’re throwing me off!” Harry exclaims, trying to put a hand over Draco’s mouth to stop him.

“A dildo!” Draco cries, laughing and stopping to fight Harry off.

“No!” Harry manages to wrangle both of Draco’s thin wrists into one hand and get the other firmly over his mouth. “Merlin, but you’re a loud drunk,” Harry laughs, looking into the dark grey eyes gleaming at him in amusement and challenge.

Harry feels the warm flat of a tongue run over his palm, leaving a thick, wet trail of saliva.

“Ergh!” Harry jerks his hand back, letting go of Draco at the same time.

Draco crows in success, and Harry wipes his hand down Draco’s nice, clean robes.

“Oi!” Draco bats away Harry’s hand and they laugh at each other, then continue down the street.

“It was a toadstool!” Harry finally remembers. “They got transfigured into a toadstool.”

“Oh. Well, see? I was very close,” Draco says haughtily.

“No you weren’t. How is a dildo anywhere close to a toadstool?”

“Mushrooms look like dicks,” Draco points out. “I’m probably the only reason you remembered. You’re welcome.”

Harry laughs, and decides it’s just better to not fight the blond about it.

“Well, shite. We’re naffed if our missing persons are toadstools!” Draco exclaims. “How the buggering fuck would you find the right one? And what if they get eaten by a deer or something?” Draco throws out his hands in frustration, and one of them hits Harry smack in the face and sends his glasses flying.

“Ow!” Harry curses and stops. He can hardly see anything without his glasses, and he’s practically blind without them in the dark.

“Oh my god! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Draco quickly apologises, grabbing Harry’s face and checking him for injuries, then turning and looking for his glasses. “Here, let me,” he stumbles as he leans over to pick up the glasses, and then casts a Reparo on them. He turns back to Harry and quickly tries to put them on, but ends up poking Harry in the eye.

“Ouch! Fuck.” Harry jerks back, putting a hand over his eye, “God, you’re a menace!”

“I am so—so sorry,” Draco says, but he’s laughing all the while, and after a moment Harry can’t help but start laughing too. “Let me see it.”

Draco peels Harry’s hand away from his eye and inspects it.

“See? No damage,” he assures him, running his hand over Harry’s brow soothingly.

“Yeah, but it still hurts,” Harry grouses.

“Okay, okay,” Draco says and he leans forward.

When Harry realises what he’s doing he closes his eyes, and lets Draco press a light kiss to his eyelid.

“There.” Draco pulls back, giving Harry a small, tender smile. “Okay. Now I promise I won’t hurt you this time.”

Harry holds himself still as Draco slides his glasses on more carefully.

“You are dangerous when you’re drunk,” Harry says sternly, but when Draco laughs his composure breaks and he laughs with him.

They continue down the street and walk for another fifteen minutes before Draco stops. Harry looks over at him curiously.

“This is me,” Draco says, gesturing to the building they’re stood in front of.

“Ah, right,” Harry says, eyes travelling up the tall building, then landing back on Draco.

Draco bites his lip, darting a nervous glance away, then says, “Did you want to come up?”

“Oh,” Harry says, taken by surprise at the offer. “Yeah. But I wouldn’t want to be a bother…”

“No, not at all,” Draco waves off Harry’s concern with a nervous smile. “You can tell me more about your toadstool theory.”

“All right,” Harry says with a slow smile, and follows Draco inside, riding the elevator high up the block tower. He feels somewhat sobered by the walk and the nervous adrenaline suddenly coursing through his veins.

“Do you want another whiskey?” Draco asks after they’re inside his large, posh flat.

Ill advisedly, perhaps, Harry accepts the offer of more alcohol. “Sure,” he says, moving further into the open living room and looking around curiously as Draco rifles around in his kitchen.

Harry’s most surprised by the fact that Draco lives in a Muggle flat. It looks very modern with its dark hardwood floors, white walls and furniture, and dark teal curtains and accents. There are some books spread around, but it’s tidier than Harry had expected. The living room is an open floor plan with the dining room and kitchen, and one wall is made entirely of windows with an excellent view over the city.

Harry moves to the windows and looks out at London, all lit up against the dark sky. Draco comes to stand next to him and holds his drink out. Harry notices that Draco has removed his Auror robes, and he’s wearing a black shirt, a pale green waistcoat, and black trousers. Harry finds the stark black against his pale complexion rather fetching.

He accepts his drink with a quiet ‘thanks’, taking a sip, then moving to the couch when Draco gestures toward it. Draco joins him, sitting close to Harry despite the long settee having plenty of space.

“You live here alone?” Harry asks then sips his whiskey.

“Mmm,” Draco intones with a nod, taking a swallow of his own drink.

“It’s nice. You must feel like the King of England with that view.”

Draco chuckles. “I do, rather.”

They smile at each other, falling silent a moment. The entire mood has shifted between them from the playful ease on the street, to a nervous anticipation of what could happen.

“You have your own place in the city too, don’t you?” Draco asks.

“I do, in Chelsea. It’s nice, but maybe a bit big for just me.”

“Is it?” Draco takes another sip of his drink, then asks lightly, “And what ever happened to that boyfriend of yours? What was his name? Allen? Adam?”

Harry’s surprised Draco remembers. He’d had to introduce them at the last Ministry Ball when Draco happened to be standing with another person Harry was introducing his ex to.

“Alex,” he corrects, “We broke up.”

“Really? When was that?” Draco asks curiously, crossing one leg over the other and angling toward Harry.

Harry shrugs. “It’s been a while. Maybe nine months.”

“Oh. That long?” Draco seems surprised. “Why did you split?”

Harry looks down at his drink, fingering the rim of his glass. He normally hates talking about his personal life with anyone other than his best friends, but he’s drunk and doesn’t care. “He cheated on me, so I kicked him out,” Harry says, looking back up at Draco.

Draco raises an eyebrow. “You mean he had the Chosen One and still wasn’t satisfied? Talk about hard to please,” he says, an amused smile lighting his features.

Harry’s stomach twists. He narrows his eyes and clenches his jaw. “Yeah, well, you’d know, wouldn’t you?”

Draco’s smile drops. “I was joking, there’s no need to get nasty.”

“Yes, I’m sure my life is a great source of entertainment for you,” Harry bites out, putting his glass down and moving to stand. “Thanks for the drink.”

“Hey, hey,” Draco says quickly, putting a hand on Harry’s shoulder and stopping him from standing up. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it, honestly.”

Harry furrows his brow and regards Draco critically, wondering if maybe this whole thing is a big mistake.

“Sometimes stupid crap just comes out of my mouth without me even realising it, especially when I’m in my cups,” Draco says, running his hand up and down Harry’s arm soothingly. “Stay. Please?”

Harry purses his lips, then sighs quietly through his nose and sits back.

One corner of Draco’s mouth lifts in a tentative smile, and he runs his hand down Harry’s arm to hold his hand. “I was trying to make a joke at his expense, not yours. You’re brilliant, Harry,” Draco says softly.

Harry draws in a sharp breath. The sound of Draco calling him by his first name sends a thrilling shock of sensation from the top of his head all the way down to his toes.

“And anyone who would step out on you is not only a fucking imbecile but also not worth your time.”

Harry’s eyes dart around Draco’s face, reading his expression and his sincerity. Harry slowly returns Draco’s small smile then says, “Thank you.”

Draco lets go of Harry’s hand, and reaches up to push a lock of unruly, black hair behind Harry’s ear. “It can’t have been easy for you, living under the weight of that title and all the expectations it carries. I struck a nerve.”

“Yeah,” Harry says, running his hand along Draco’s thigh. “I suppose we’re good at doing that to each other.”

“Always have been,” Draco agrees softly, his fingers sliding into the hair on the back of Harry’s neck as his eyes drop to Harry’s lips.

Harry and Draco both lean in at the same time, their lips meeting and pressing together. The kiss goes from zero to sixty almost immediately. Their mouths open against each other and their tongues press inside and rub together fiercely.

At first it’s messy—clumsy and drunk, trying to figure out how the other kisses and adjusting to suit each other. But after the initial awkwardness, their mouths slot together and the kiss feels perfect and inevitable.

It’s exactly what Harry expects, and yet he still finds it surprising how well they fit together, how intense every touch feels, and how willingly Draco drops any hesitation and matches Harry’s passion unflinchingly.

Draco tastes like a delicious mixture of ginger, rum and whiskey, and Harry chases the taste of him. He slides a hand into that fine, blond hair and pulls Draco to him, his other hand moving onto Draco’s waist and gripping onto one sharp hipbone.

Draco slides his hand down Harry’s chest, and then back up into his hair again. When Harry tugs at Draco’s waist he breaks the kiss to set his drink down and shift over to straddle Harry’s lap.

Harry takes the opportunity to kiss and suck along Draco’s neck, slowly making his way to Draco’s earlobe and then bites at it softly.

“Harry,” Draco moans into his ear, and Harry’s hips give an involuntary jerk up into the blond.

“Fuck,” Harry breathes, his dick starting to push against his tight jeans. Harry runs both hands up and down Draco’s sides, pulling the blond down tighter against him and reconnecting their kiss.

Draco slides both hands into Harry’s wild hair and grips it, tugging at Harry as they kiss deeply and passionately.

Harry rocks up against Draco, feels the matching hardness of him, and moans into their kiss. Draco grabs onto the back of the couch with one hand, keeping the other holding onto Harry’s hair as they start into a natural rhythm, rocking against each other as they snog.

Harry is completely entranced by the sound and smell and feel of Draco. He loves hearing the little gasps he makes, feeling the way he moans into Harry’s mouth, and all Harry can think is that he wants more.

Shifting one hand off of Draco’s hip, Harry reaches up for the buttons on the blond’s waistcoat.

Draco abruptly pulls back out of the kiss. “Wait,” he says and puts a hand on Harry’s chest.

“What?” Harry asks dazedly.

He drops his hand and looks up at Draco, whose gaze is heated and his pale face flushed a dark red. His lips are full and slick, and Harry just wants to kiss him again.

“Is it all right if we stop?” Draco says.

Harry swallows, then nods. “Yeah, of course. Are you okay?”

“Better than,” Draco says with a small smile, licking his bottom lip and then running a hand down and back up Harry’s chest. “I’d just prefer it if we… take things slow.”

“Slow?” Harry echoes. Until now this felt anything but slow, but Harry doesn’t want to pressure Draco. “Okay, whatever you want.”

The edges of Draco’s lips curve up into a small smile, and he watches Harry through half-lidded eyes. He leans forward slowly, closing his eyes and then pressing his lips against Harry’s, this time in a leisurely kiss.

Harry runs his hands along Draco’s thighs as they draw out the kiss, then Draco pulls back once more and stands, pushing himself off Harry with the hand on his chest.

“I'm going to go to bed now,” Draco informs him and straightens his waistcoat.

Biting his lip, Harry draws his eyes up the other man’s tall, lithe form, then exhales slowly.

“Okay. Do you want me to…?” Harry trails off, gesturing to the door.

“Oh, no, you’re welcome to stay the night,” Draco says, regaining something of his usual stiff composure. “You shouldn’t be apparating, and my flat isn’t hooked to the Floo Network.”

Draco draws his wand and, without warning, transfigures the couch into a small bed.

“Oh!” Harry gasps as he topples backwards, the back of the couch that was supporting him having suddenly disappeared.

Harry blinks at the bed he’s lying on, and the corner of his mouth turns up in a slow smirk.

He rolls onto his side and props his head up on his hand, then looks up at Draco and says, “If you wanted to get me into bed all you had to do was ask.”

The blush that had started to fade from Draco’s pale cheeks returns, burning brightly. “You should be so lucky,” he comments, and Harry laughs.

Draco gives a small, pleased smile, then Accios pillows and blankets for Harry.

“Good night, Potter.”

“Good night, Malfoy,” Harry returns and watches as the other man turns on his heel and goes into his bedroom, shutting the door behind him.

Harry flops onto his back and releases a long sigh, then pushes his glasses up to scrub at his face. He reaches down and shifts himself in his tight jeans, then gets up.

For a moment Harry considers leaving, but the imagine of making breakfast with Draco tomorrow morning and maybe getting to kiss him again comes to mind, and he decides to stay.

Harry walks across the room in search of the bathroom. He opens one of the doors Draco didn’t leave through, but it turns out to be a closet, so he tries the next one and gets it right.

In the bathroom Harry wanks, knowing that otherwise this erection isn’t going away anytime soon. Harry thinks about the kiss they just shared, of the way Draco smells and tastes and feels pressed against him, and it doesn’t take long at all to get off.

- ~ -

Harry wakes to the sound of humming and the smell of bacon. For a few minutes he stays put, smiling and listening to Draco, but his head is pounding from a hangover, his mouth is bone dry, and he has to pee. He reaches for his glasses and puts them on, and once he can see properly, Harry notices that Draco has set out a small vial of Hangover Potion and a glass of water for him.

Pushing himself up onto one elbow, Harry reaches for the potion and takes a deep breath, then downs it in one go. A shiver travels down his spine and he makes a face at the disgusting taste, then switches the vial for the glass and gulps down the water in relief.

Harry sets the glass down, then flops back on the bed and rolls over. He smiles softly as he watches Draco cooking and rocking slightly to the song he is humming surprisingly on key.

After a few minutes, Draco glances over and discovers Harry watching him. He stops and says, “Oh, you’re finally awake?”

“Mhmm.” Harry nods, then sits up and stretches.

Draco watches him another second, then turns back to the hob. “I’m almost done making breakfast, if you’d like some.”

“Sure,” Harry answers, getting up and sliding his jeans on. “And thanks for the potion.”

“You’re welcome,” Draco answers distractedly.

Harry takes a trip to the bathroom to pee and wash his mouth, then afterward he walks over to Draco and puts a hand on the small of his back. When Draco turns to look at him, Harry says softly, “Hey.”

“Hey,” Draco returns quietly, a small smile lighting his features. Draco’s eyes drop to Harry’s lips and Harry smiles, then leans forward to kiss him.

The kiss is meant to be chaste, but it heats up quickly, and Harry finds himself running his hands through Draco’s hair and pushing him back against the counter.

“Mmm,” Draco moans against him, returning the kiss with interest, and then putting a hand on Harry’s chest and sighing out, “You’re distracting me.”

“And?” Harry asks against Draco’s lips, kissing him repeatedly.

“And I’m—going—to burn—breakfast,” Draco protests weakly between kisses. Despite his own words he slides a hand up Harry’s jaw and pulls him into a deeper kiss.

Harry swirls and rubs his tongue against Draco’s, and then when the blond breaks their kiss again he repeats, “And?”

Draco huffs out a small laugh, pecking Harry once more and then pushing him away gently. “And I’d rather not have to cook it a second time.”

“Suit yourself,” Harry says with a grin, stepping back and letting Draco tend to the food on the stove. “Can I help?”

“Mm, will you set the table?”

As they sit down and share breakfast together, Harry is filled with a sense of warmth and contentment he hasn’t felt in a very long while, and he can’t stop smiling.

After the dishes have been charmed to clean and dry themselves, Harry entices Draco into another kiss in the kitchen. Now that he knows he’s allowed to, and now that he knows how Draco tastes, Harry can’t get enough of him.

“What time is it?” Harry asks as a second thought after Draco pulls away.

“About half eleven,” he answers, looking at the clock on stove.

“Damn, really?” Harry asks, glancing at the clock and then groaning, “I’ve got to get going. I have to prepare some food for Luna’s barbecue. Are you sure you don’t want to come with me?”

“I can’t, I’ve got a portkey to France this afternoon, and I’ve a few errands to run first,” Draco says with a shake of his head.

“Oh, all right. See you Monday?”

“Yes, I’ll see you Monday, Potter,” Draco says, giving Harry another quick kiss before Harry disapparates.

- ~ -

“Hey mate,” Ron says, walking up next to Harry. The too-casual tone in his voice makes Harry stop loading his plate with food and look over at him. Ron’s smile is a bit smug, but Harry can tell by his red ears that he’s embarrassed. “So. How was last night?”

“You set me up,” Harry accuses. “You set us up. On a date. I would have expected that from Hermione but not from you.”

“Yeah, well, you kept going on about how funny he is, and how smart he is, but not doing anything about it and I was sick of it,” Ron complains, then adds sheepishly, “and Hermione may have had a hand in it too.”

“I was doing just fine on my own,” Harry says defensively.

“You weren’t doing anything,” Ron says flatly, grabbing himself a plate and starting to load it with various meats.

“Yes I was, we’d gone to eat a couple times already, and—”

“On dates?”

“Well,” Harry pauses and runs a hand through his hair, “not exactly, they were sort of working lunches.”

“See? You’re my best bud and you needed a friendly shove,” Ron says and claps Harry on the back, “and apparently it worked.”

Harry narrows his eyes at Ron, watching his blush darken. “What do you mean?”

“Didn’t come home last night, did you?” Ron asks lightly, not looking Harry in the eye.

“How do you know that?”

“Firecalled this morning, but you weren’t there,” Ron says easily. “And you haven’t stopped smiling since you got here.”

Harry feels his own blush start to light his cheeks. “We didn’t shag,” he says casually. “Just snogged a bit.”

“Okay, okay, I don’t need any details,” Ron says quickly.

They eat and talk about other things, and Harry makes the rounds chatting with various groups of friends at the get together. When he sees Neville arrive, Harry grabs him and Hermione and tells them about his case and asks if they’d heard of anything similar.

“I dunno, that’s some weird stuff,” Neville says, trailing off and screwing up his face in thought. “Rain with no clouds? Really?” Harry nods. “And a tree that fixed itself?” Harry nods again. “Hmm, I don’t know if there is a plant that can do all that. Maybe some that could make people disappear in various ways…”

“Sounds like you’re looking for a Tempoppy,” Luna says next to Harry, nodding her certainty.

“A what?” Harry asks, then immediately regrets it. He loves Luna as much as any of his other friends, and they’ve all gotten close over the years, but by now he should know better than to ask about any of her imaginary creatures.

“A Tempoppy. It’s a magic flower that blooms backwards and eats time. They cause all sorts of funny magic when they bloom. Haven’t you heard of them?”

“Oh, er, no, I hadn’t heard of them,” Harry says.

Hermione leans a little closer and mutters, “They’re not real. Hogwash invented by some batty herbologist years and years ago.”

“They are real,” Luna says confidently, apparently overhearing, her eyes wide and unblinking. “Real as you or I. Professor Darby wrote about them. The Ministry assassinated him to keep him quiet, but they didn’t stop him before he published his book.”

“Yeah, I think I read that. The guy was nutty,” Neville says, then gives Luna an apologetic look. “Sorry, but it was a weird book. Found it buried in Gran’s library when I was a kid. I suppose I could dig it out, if you want it.”

Hermione snorts and Harry looks over to see her roll her eyes. “I’ll lend you some books you might actually find useful. There’s all sorts of reasons a wizard might go missing in a forest like that.”

“Oh, I have others that might help too,” Neville says sheepishly. “About plants you might want to look into. I’ll give them to you on Monday.”

“Monday?” Harry asks.

“Yeah, aren’t you and Malfoy coming to see me Monday? He wrote me this morning asking for a meeting.”

“Oh, right. Yeah.”

- ~ -

“There you are. Do you never get to work before nine o’clock?” Draco asks incredulously as soon as Harry walks in, already up and moving. He snags his tea and the bag of pastries as he brushes past Harry and leaves the office.

“Er,” Harry says, taken off guard and having expected a somewhat warmer welcome.

“Come along, eat and walk,” Draco calls back to him. “We’re supposed to be meeting with Longbottom now.”

Harry shakes his head, but smiles as he catches up with Draco. “If you needed me here earlier you could have sent an owl, you know.”

“Yes, but where would the fun be in that?” Draco gives Harry a sidelong smirk, then bites into his pastry and hands the bag back to Harry.

Harry huffs out a laugh and grabs his pastry. They walk and eat in silence until they get to the apparition platforms.

“We’re meeting at Longbottom’s farm. I assume you know where you’re going?” Draco asks.

“Yep.” Neville had been Harry’s first partner before he’d quit the Aurors to start his farm. They’d gotten close, and had stayed good friends ever since.

Draco nods and disapparates. A moment later Harry apparates next to him on Neville’s property.

Draco looks Harry over, seemingly to make sure he’s in one piece, before saying, “He should be expecting us.”

When Draco turns to start down the path to the house, Harry catches his arm. “Hey,” he says.

Draco turns back, tilting his head just a bit. “What?”

“Good morning. How are you? How was France?” Harry asks with a cheeky smile.

Draco snorts and rolls his eyes, but a small smile lights his face. “Good morning, Potter. I’m good. France was good,” he says, his tone just a little mocking.

“Yeah?” Harry asks with a grin, stepping closer and shifting his hand onto Draco’s hip. “Did you miss me?”

Draco’s expression softens as Harry moves closer. He slides his hand onto Harry’s cheek and angles toward him. Harry watches Draco’s eyes darken as he leans in and his gaze flicks down to Harry’s mouth.

As Harry sways toward him he whispers, “Not even a little,” pats Harry’s cheek and steps away.

“Brat,” Harry huffs and laughs, catching Draco’s wrist and pulling him back. Draco smirks as he runs his hand over Harry’s shoulder and up the back of his neck, and Harry wants to kiss the smug smile right off his face.

“Brute,” Draco murmurs, keeping his tea held out away from them. He presses his hips against Harry’s and they meet each other with a slow kiss.

Harry slides his hand around Draco’s waist, holding his tea out in his other hand. He presses firmly against Draco, and when the other man opens his mouth Harry follows.

Draco pushes his tongue past Harry’s teeth, and Harry slides his against Draco’s. He sucks lightly as their mouths close and kiss and reopen against each other. Draco is an incredible kisser, and Harry thinks he could do this all day.

“We’re working,” Draco objects faintly, after breaking the kiss to take a breath.

“Are we?” Harry asks, pulling away just enough to study Draco’s soft, well-kissed expression.

The edges of Draco’s mouth curl up into a little smile. “You’re a horrible influence,” he breathes, pulling Harry back into a kiss and grabbing a fistful of his messy, black hair.

Harry chuckles against Draco’s mouth, and Draco silences him with a heated kiss. When Draco rocks against Harry and moans, it goes straight to his cock.

Right as Harry starts thinking that maybe they should stop before getting too excited, he hears a twig breaking and the scuffle of approaching footsteps on the dirt path.

Draco jumps away from Harry so fast he spills some tea on his hand. “Ah! Fuck!” he curses, switching the paper cup to his other hand and sticking his fingers in his mouth.

“Hey Harry, Malfoy. Heard the wards go off,” Neville says as he approaches, a small, amused smile on his face. “All right?”

“Fine,” Draco says shortly, then straightens his posture and switches his tea back to hold his clean hand out to Neville. “Thank you for meeting us.”

Neville takes the hand with a nod. “Of course. Harry told me a bit about your case. Would you like to talk in the house?”

“Lovely, thanks,” Draco answers.

Inside Draco asks Neville all sorts of questions regarding his land, his plants, his knowledge of magic forests, the Vitenium, thoughts he might have on what plants could be involved in their case and how the influx of magic might affect them.

Harry mainly listens to the both of them with interest, occasionally breaking in with his own questions. When the conversation turns toward a discussion of theories and debate, Harry unconsciously focuses on Draco. He watches his expressions and gestures, listens to the way his tone gets higher the more excited he is about something.

“I’d like to take some readings around your farm, if that’s all right with you,” Draco says.

“Sure, did you want me come with? Show you around?” Neville asks.

Draco shakes his head. “No, I remember the way,” he says then turns to Harry. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, all right.” Harry shakes himself out of his reverie.

Draco gives him an odd look, then stands and leaves Neville and Harry at the table.

Harry watches Draco walk out, then turns and finds Neville smiling and shaking his head.

“What?” Harry feels a bit of heat rise to his cheeks.

“So it’s true then? You’re dating Malfoy?”

“Er, well,” Harry looks away and rubs the back of his neck. “Sort of? The only date we’ve had we were tricked into going on, so I don’t know that it actually counts. We haven’t really talked about it, we’ve just snogged some.”

“To be honest, I thought Seamus was off his rocker when he told me.”

“Do you think I’m crazy? Getting involved with Malfoy?” Harry asks uncertainly.

Neville shrugs. “I don’t think I really know him well enough these days to say. He visited here once before, but this is the most I’ve spoken to him since he’s been back in London. Ron tells me he’s become something of a decent bloke though, which coming from him is really saying something. I suppose he can’t be that bad anymore if you’re dating him,” Neville says thoughtfully, then smirks and adds, “Although, considering your track record…”

“Hey! Don’t you start on me, too.”

Neville laughs. “I won’t. I’m know you get enough of it from Hermione and Ron. I just hope you’re not getting yourself into something stupid. You two have a pretty dark history.”

“I… I know, and we haven’t really talked about it yet, either. Kinda been avoiding it, actually,” Harry drums his fingers on the table anxiously. “So I guess we’ll see what happens then, but… I really like him.”

Harry glances at Neville and sees the little, knowing smile on his face and sighs.

“I know, I know. I’ve said it a lot over the years, but I mean it. He’s prickly and stubborn, and he talks a lot and works too much, but underneath it he’s kind and smart, and so funny and driven, and I—I like it, all of it.”

Harry looks up at Neville, a small, sly smile growing on his face before he adds, “Not to mention how fit he is. Merlin, if you saw him in breeches you’d understand why I’m so arse over tit.”

Neville laughs and shakes his head. “All right, but are you sure it’s the best idea to start dating when you’re in the middle of working a case together?”

“No,” Harry exhales on a nervous laugh, “but it seems like it’s happening anyway.”

- ~ -

Back in the office, Harry and Draco have been working their way through the stacks of books Neville and Hermione had given them.

Harry’s been reading through the nutty Professor Darby’s book, which is really more of a journal. His account of how the Tempoppy sent him on a journey through time and space, and the subsequent Ministry campaign to silence him reads just like a Quibbler article.

With a sigh Harry closes the book and tosses it on top of the Crackpot Theory stack. He stands up from the couch and stretches.

“How was it?” Draco asks distractedly, standing over Harry’s desk and flipping through a book.

“Er, it was interesting,” Harry says with a lopsided smile, “but rubbish, as they said it’d be. I think Nev included it as a laugh.”

“Mm,” Draco intones, not bothering to look up. He looks as flawless and untouchable as ever in his crisp robes, focused completely on his work, even after hours of studying. Harry feels the sudden urge to ruffle his feathers and make him come undone.

Harry walks around the desk, sliding up behind Draco and finding both of his perfect, angular hipbones to grip on to. “How about you?” he asks against the back of Draco’s neck.

Draco leans back into Harry, and he can hear the smile in Draco’s tone when he says, “There’s some plants Longbottom’s bookmarked that have potential. Some flowers, trees, mushrooms,” he says and smirks. “I think I saw some of them in the Vitenium, and I’d like to—” Draco breaks off with a quiet gasp as Harry sucks on the soft spot of flesh just under his ear, “—I’d like to look into them.”

“You want to go to the forest again?” Harry clarifies, starting to kiss his way down Draco’s neck.

“Yes,” Draco breathes, putting one hand flat on the desk, and the other over Harry’s.

Harry reaches up to pull Draco’s collar down and get more access to his lovely, pale neck. He kisses a path to the small bump of the seventh cervical right at the base of the back of Draco’s neck, opening his mouth to taste and suck the sensitive flesh.

“Harry,” Draco moans, and a shiver runs down Harry’s spine. “We’re at work.”

Harry pulls back a fraction and asks, “Do you want me to stop?”

“Merlin, no,” Draco huffs with a short laugh, “but I think you’re ridiculous. Anyone could walk in. You’re going to get us in trouble.”

“It’s almost five, everyone is either gone or on their way out,” Harry counters, smiling against Draco’s neck and continuing his ministrations.

Draco moans and laces their fingers together over his hip. “Is this what it’s always like working with you?” he asks in a low, breathy tone.

“Mhmm,” Harry hums as he kisses the back of Draco’s neck.

“I certainly hope you haven’t—ah!—haven’t beguiled Weasley with these tactics as well,” Draco comments, and Harry breaks off with a laugh.

“He’s married,” Harry points out.

“So you’re saying you would if he wasn’t?”

“God no, he’s my best friend,” Harry says, leaning forward to kiss the edge of Draco’s ear and murmur, “I couldn’t think about him the way I think of you.”

“Oh, be still my heart,” Draco says sarcastically, and Harry can clearly imagine the accompanying smirk.

Harry nips Draco’s earlobe, and the blond gives a delicious little gasp in response.

“Come to mine tonight, let me make you dinner,” Harry offers. The work day is almost over and he is more than ready to leave the research behind in lieu of the comfort of home, a good meal, and potentially more necking.

“You do realise that I’ve tasted your cooking already, right?”

Harry nips the back of his neck, and Draco releases a short, needy whine and pushes back against Harry.

“How is my cooking?” Harry asks in a deeper tone, biting just over the seventh cervical, canting his hips forward and pressing his growing erection into Draco.

“Excellent—it’s excellent,” Draco concedes with a moan, and Harry smirks.

“And you’ll come for dinner?” He presses, gently biting and kissing his way up to Draco’s earlobe.

“Yes,” Draco gasps as Harry’s teeth close over the sensitive skin of his ear. “Just don’t stop—”

The door swings open suddenly and Ron walks into the office. Harry jumps away from Draco, and Draco drops himself swiftly into the desk chair, staring intensely at the open book on the desk.

Ron glances from Harry to Draco, then back to Harry with a small frown. “Harry, we found Harper’s gang. Robards wants you with us on the raid.”

“Right now?” Harry asks, switching back into Auror Mode and pulling his robes from the coat rack.

“Right now,” Ron confirms. “Come on.”

Harry follows after Ron, glancing back at Draco to find the blond man scowling at him. ‘Sorry,’ Harry mouths at him before walking out of the office.

As they stride down the hall toward the elevator, Harry tries to surreptitiously adjust the crotch of his trousers.

“Are you mental?” Ron hisses at him. “I told you to ask him out, not shag him in our office!”

“We weren’t shagging!” Harry snaps back in a low tone. “We were just about to leave. Together. I’d only just convinced him to come home with me—”

“No details!” Ron cuts in, the tips of his ears burning red.

“—for dinner,” Harry finishes with a pointed glare.

“Sure,” Ron whispers back sceptically. “You’d better hope some of that blood returns to your brain soon.”

- ~ -

“Hey, sorry I’m late,” Harry says upon entering his office the next morning. He sets Draco’s tea next to him on the desk.

“It’s fine,” Draco says shortly, not looking up from his notes. His quill scratches against the parchment, and Harry waits, but Draco doesn’t stop to take his tea or make a grab for his pastry like he usually does.

Harry furrows his brow and sets the bag of pastries on the desk. He waits another beat, and when Draco still hasn’t looked up or reached for the bag, Harry asks, “Hey, are you all right?”

“Yes,” Draco answers shortly again.

When Harry reaches for his shoulder, Draco jerks away. Harry stops, then drops his hand. “Malfoy—”

Ron yawns loudly as he walks into the office and drops into his chair. “Man, what a night,” he says and starts rifling around the files on his desk. “I almost didn’t make it in.”

“Yeah?” Harry asks half-heartedly, not really wanting to talk to Ron, but unable to ignore him or tell him to sod off.

“Yeah, I’m exhausted, and Rosie was being an absolute terror this morning. Didn’t want to eat breakfast, didn’t want to put on her socks, didn’t want to go to Grandma’s house. I had to fight her the whole way.”

“Hmm,” Harry intones politely, but disinterestedly, eyeing Draco’s closed expression.

Ron finds the files he’s looking for and opens it, then looks up at Harry. “What about you? How’s your arm?”

Harry looks up at Ron, then glances at Draco when he sees him shift out the corner of his eye. Draco is still not looking at Harry, and is writing very stiffly. Harry can practically feel the waves of tension radiating off of him.

“Erm,” Harry says and looks back at Ron, running a hand up his left arm, “It’s good—good as new. Easy fix.”

“Oh good, it looked pretty bad last night,” Ron comments with a laugh and Harry gives him a smile that he doesn’t really feel.

When Ron turns his attention to his work, Harry looks back at Draco. “Malfoy,” he says quietly and reaches for him again.

Draco grabs a book and shoves it in Harry’s outstretched hand, still avoiding eye contact. “Get stuck in,” he says sharply. “Granger dropped off another cartload off books.”

Ron looks up at them with a raised eyebrow. “You know, she’s not a Granger anymore.”

“I know, poor thing,” Draco drawls with mock pity.

“Oi!” Ron draws himself up in offence.

Harry sighs and moves to sit on the couch with his book.

- ~ -

An hour later and even Ron has finally caught on to the tension between Harry and Draco. Harry has tried to work, but he’s barely gotten anywhere because he keeps glancing up at Draco, wanting to say something to him. Draco still hasn’t looked at him once.

Harry watches Draco writing intently, and sighs quietly.

Ron clears his throat and stands. “I’m going to fix myself a cuppa, either of you want one?”

Harry looks over at him and shakes his head.

“No, thank you,” Draco says stiffly, not looking up from his work.

As soon as Ron closes the door behind him Harry is up, striding over to his desk. “Malfoy, what is going on?”

“It’s called work, Potter. You might try it sometime.” Draco keeps writing and still won’t look up.

“Malfoy, you haven’t looked at me once,” Harry says, and Draco finally looks up at him defiantly. “Are you cross? About the necking? About dinner?”

Draco scoffs in frustration. “I’m not angry about dinner!” he hisses.

Harry furrows his brow, studying Draco, who holds his gaze fiercely. “You were worried.”

“Well bloody spotted,” Draco bites out sarcastically.

Despite being the focus of Draco’s cold fury, Harry can’t help but smile, which only makes Draco’s scowl deepen.

“Don’t mock me, Potter!” Draco snaps, and Harry tries to reel back his grin.

“I’m not, I promise,” Harry says, putting up his hands in a calming gesture. He waits a beat, and then reaches for Draco’s hand, hesitating above it, and when Draco doesn’t pull away this time Harry takes it gently. “I’m just happy.”

“Well, I’m not,” Draco snipes, looking away from Harry. “I waited. All I heard was you’d gone to St. Mungo’s and nothing else.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry apologises, rubbing his thumb in soothing circles over Draco’s knuckles. “It really was just a scratch.”

“Would it have been so difficult to send an owl?” Draco asks petulantly, tapping his quill against his parchment and getting blotches of ink all over it.

“It was gone two by the time I got home. I did think about sending a letter, but I didn’t want to wake you,” Harry says softly.

“You wouldn’t have,” Draco sniffs, spreading his fingers so Harry can lace his between.

“I’m sorry. I’m an idiot. I should have let you know that everything was all right,” Harry says again, smiling and leaning over the desk. “Forgive me?”

Draco looks up at him, then sighs and angles his face up to Harry, closing the last inch between them and pressing his lips against Harry’s in a chaste kiss.

Draco pulls back far too soon in Harry’s opinion, but he doesn’t want to push his luck. Harry returns to the couch and his book in a much better mood, and is finally able to concentrate.

When Ron returns he makes a show of opening the door loudly and slowly before stepping into the office, glancing between Draco and Harry. Harry gives him a small smile, and Ron exhales a quiet sigh of relief and returns to his desk.

Just as Harry is really getting into his book, a green paper airplane flies in and lands in front of Draco.

Draco snatches up the letter, tears it open and scans through it.

“What is it?” Harry asks and sets his book aside, knowing the green envelope is from St. Mungo’s.

Draco stands abruptly, looking at Harry. “Our first missing person has appeared,” he says, moving to leave the office. “He’s just been admitted to St Mungo’s, let’s go.”

Harry jumps up and strides after Draco. “Did they give any details?” he asks as they get into the elevator and Draco slams the button for the lobby.

“No, it’s just an alert I set up to have sent to me if either of our victims got checked into the hospital.”

They make their way to the fireplaces and floo into St Mungo’s. After talking to the receptionist, Harry and Draco make their way up to Spell Damage. The desk clerk on the fourth floor directs them to wait until the healer is finished with her examination.

After about twenty minutes, the healer exits his patient’s room and Harry and Draco stand and move toward her.

“Ah, you must be the Aurors,” the healer says, extending her hand and shaking both Draco and Harry’s hands. “I’m Healer Packett.”

“Pleasure,” Harry says.

“Can you tell us about Mr. Thomson’s condition? Anything about what’s happened to him?” Draco jumps instantly into the questions.

“Well,” the healer exhales, “Honestly, not really. He’s perfectly healthy. As far as I can tell, nothing has happened to him. He’s experienced some time loss, but I can’t find any evidence of damage or memory charms. I’ll do some more tests, but at the moment I can’t tell you anything.”

Harry and Draco glance at each other, then Draco looks back at the Healer and asks, “May we speak to him?”

“Of course,” the healer gestures to the door and Harry and Draco enter.

“Mr. Thomson?” Draco asks, and the man sitting on the edge of the examination bed looks up at Draco and Harry in surprise. He’s young and healthy looking, with brown hair and tanned skin.

“You’re Aurors,” he says, looking between them. “Why’re you here?”

“Well, erm, we’ve been looking for you,” Harry says glancing at Draco. “You’ve been missing for over four weeks.”

“Ah, right. Well, I s’pose you found me,” the man says and laughs.

“Mr. Thomson, we need to know what’s happened to you,” Draco says briskly, pulling a quill and sheaf of parchment from his robe.

“Oh, all right. I’ll tell you what I can, but as I just told the healer, I don’t remember much of it, and what I do remember is hard to describe.”

“Anything you could tell us would be a great help,” Harry says.

“Sure, sure,” Mr. Thomson says and nods. “I like to visit the Vitenium every summer if I can, marvellous place. This year I only had time to stay the weekend. Saturday I took my portkey, hiked in and camped by Opal Lake. Sunday I hiked the Rowan Falls trail, had my lunch by the waterfall, it was when I was on my way back that something strange happened.”

“What was it?” Draco prompts, his quill hovering over the paper.

“Well, I stepped off the trail to have a wee and found this lovely little field of wildflowers. Pretty things, petals flying all about in the breeze. Anyway, I got thinking about my life, and… well, I dunno, I think it might have been something like the Vitetia, like in the old days. I walked out of that field clear headed and happy, with a real sense of purpose and rightness in where I’m headed in my life.”

Mr. Thomson gazes up at them with a dreamy smile, and Draco glances at Harry. He can tell the blond is fighting the urge to raise his eyebrow.

“And is there anything else?” Draco asks, trying to keep his tone even.

“Well, I do sort of feel as if I’ve forgotten something, but… Honestly I couldn’t tell you. And as I said, I had no idea until I walked out of the Vitenium that so much time had passed,” he says and then shrugs. “The Healer said she couldn’t find anything wrong with me.”

Draco releases a quiet sigh, and then says with a faint air of irritation, “Okay, let’s go over this again.”

Draco questions the man as thoroughly as he questioned Harry when he’d disappeared, but he doesn’t get much else out of him. When they leave Draco, is frustrated.

“The man was missing for a month! A month! And he can’t tell us anything about what happened to him!?” Draco rages as he strides through the Ministry at a snappy pace.

“Still, it narrows down what could have happened. And he’s back, and seems no worse for the wear,” Harry points out.

“Yes, but it doesn’t make sense,” Draco growls, turning down the wrong hall.

Harry furrows his brow and stops. “Malfoy,” he calls after him, “Where are you going?”

Draco pauses mid-stride, then turns sharply on his heel toward Harry. He raises an eyebrow and gestures down the hall. “To the Portkey Office. And I’d like to get there before the sun sets,” he says impatiently.

“Let’s just apparate,” Harry says, gesturing down the other hallway toward the apparition points.

“Apparate? You want to apparate there?” Draco asks incredulously.

“Yes, it’s much faster, come on,” Harry says, taking a few leading steps backwards.

“Potter, that’s a long jump. We’ll be sick all day. Let’s just get a portkey,” Draco argues.

“Are you serious?” Harry asks, stopping. “Portkeys are way worse. And we’ll have to spend half the day with our thumbs up our arses writing the request, waiting for Robards to approve it, getting it to the Portkey Office, waiting in line, waiting for them to process it, and on and on. Let’s skip the bureaucratic shite and just apparate.”

Draco’s brow creases as he studies Harry.

Harry tilts his head a little, then offers, “I’m comfortable with long distance apparation. I can side-along you if you like.”

Draco frowns, but slowly starts walking back to Harry. “I think you’re forgetting that I was there with you during our apparation classes. You spent the entirety of it eavesdropping and staring at my arse.”

“I was not—!” Harry starts to argue fiercely, but stops himself and takes a breath, forcing himself to say evenly, “We were both a little distracted at the time. But that was years ago. I passed my standard apparition and long distance apparition tests with flying colours.”

“Fine,” Draco says imperiously, “but if you splinch me, you will be buying my drinks for the next ten years.”

A slow grin spreads on Harry’s face. “I think I can live with that.”

Draco rolls his eyes, but Harry can see the corners of his mouth fighting back a smile. They walk to the apparition points and Harry offers Draco his hand.

Draco starts to reach for it, but then pulls back at the last second. “You remember where we landed with our portkey?”

“Yes.”

“Take us there, Potter. Do not try to apparate us closer to the forest. There’s a reason the landing spot is so far away.”

“Malfoy…” Harry sighs in frustration.

“Okay, all right,” Draco huffs. “Much as it pains me to say this, I don’t actually think you’re an idiot. I just need to be sure.”

“Trust me, you damn prat,” Harry says, and wiggles the fingers of his outstretched hand.

Draco looks down at the hand, hesitating another second, then takes it and looks back up to meet Harry’s gaze.

Harry smiles. He has to look away from the blond so he can focus on their destination.

- ~ -

Thunder rolls across the forest and Harry can smell the approaching storm in the wind that pulls on his robes and whips through his hair. The purple flush of bluebells, foxgloves, and thistles ripple and wave across the field in front of them.

“This has to be the one,” Draco says for the third time as they step into the clearing, but after he takes out his EMD and looks at the reading, he pulls his arm back to chuck the device.

Harry catches his arm before he can. “Woah, woah,” he says quickly. “You aren’t going to be happy if you do that.”

Draco growls but drops his arm, and Harry lets him go. He runs a hand angrily through his head of pale, messy hair, dishevelled from the wind and his own temper.

“Hey, come here,” Harry says, and, perhaps against his better judgement, steps closer to the enraged blond.

Draco looks at Harry crossly, but he doesn’t resist when Harry slides an arm around his waist and pulls him closer.

“It’s all right,” Harry murmurs, reaching up to push some stray locks of hair out of Draco’s face.

Draco sighs and relaxes into Harry, wrapping his arms around him and letting his head fall forward onto Harry’s chest. Harry kisses his hair and rests his cheek on the top of Draco’s head.

“How many more god damn meadows could there possibly be in this area?” Draco gripes, and Harry laughs. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

“We’ll figure it out,” Harry assures him.

Harry feels a drop of water hit the back of his neck, and he looks up at the grey, stormy sky. Draco follows suit and flinches when a raindrop lands on his face. Draco sighs and pulls away just enough to draw his wand and cast an umbrella charm over them.

The charm lasts for all of about ten seconds before it dissipates. Draco frowns as the rain really starts coming down on them.

“Could this day get any worse?” Draco whinges and Harry laughs.

Lightning flashes briefly through the sky, followed by the crash of rolling thunder a few seconds later.

Draco looks like a wet, angry cat, and Harry smoothes back the blond hair sticking to his forehead and kisses him. Draco’s grip tightens and he moans faintly into the kiss.

Harry pulls back just enough to smile at Draco and say, “I don’t know, I think it’s looking up.”

They shake lightly as Draco laughs. “You’re such a sap, Potter,” he says with a small, crooked smile.

“Git,” Harry says and grins.

“Prig,” Draco retorts.

They both lean in, their mouths slotting together in a sensuous kiss. Draco gives one of those little gasps Harry has come to love as Harry pushes his tongue into his mouth.

They get lost in the heat of each other, forgetting for the moment the rain and the case and everything else around them.

When they finally pull apart Draco sighs says, “Let’s keep searching then.”

They investigate the field for any signs of magic plants like Thomson described, and then move on. They follow the path the rest of the way up to the waterfall, cold and wet and wishing they hadn’t left their horses back at the tent. The trail isn’t that long, and they don’t find any other areas like their first missing person had described.

By the time they return to their tent the rain has slowed, but is still drizzling some. Harry changes into a dry set of clothes, then finds Draco making tea still wearing his wet riding outfit.

“Are you not going to change?” Harry asks, eyeing the jut of Draco’s sharp hipbones, made apparent by the tight breeches clinging to him.

“No, not yet, I’m going back out in a bit,” Draco says distractedly as he takes the whistling kettle off the stove and fills two cups.

“Are you?” Harry steps behind Draco and slides his hands down his sides and onto his hips.

“Yes, and you’re not going to distract me,” Draco says, pouring milk into their tea.

“No?” Harry kisses the back of Draco’s neck.

“No,” Draco says, but leans into Harry and closes his eyes, allowing Harry to kiss and suck at his neck for a moment before he pulls away.

“Here,” Draco says, pushing a cup of tea in Harry’s hand, and then taking his own over to the armchairs by the fireplace.

Harry follows and lights the fireplace, then sits in the chair next to Draco’s. “Are you going to fly over the forest again? Get more readings?”

“Mm,” Draco answers, sipping delicately at his hot tea. “I’d like to see if it’s changed, or how it’s changed. Maybe with a third reading a pattern will appear.”

Harry nods, and they drink their tea in silence, warming themselves by the fire.

Once the tea is gone, Draco prepares to leave.

Harry watches, completely enchanted, as Draco shift into the handsome little nightingale. He clips on Draco’s magical mapping device to him, and the cheeky bird can’t seem to help himself from biting Harry’s finger again.

“Ow!” Harry jerks his hand back and glares at the nightingale, “Brat.”

Draco chirps at him then flies off, and Harry follows his path off above the trees until he’s out of sight, a small smile on his face.

Harry goes inside and looks through the kitchen, seeing what he could possibly do for dinner. He knows he has plenty of time to work with, so he makes a chopped vegetable salad and moussaka. Once the moussaka is in the oven, Harry steps outside.

The rain has stopped, and with the wind having died down the temperature is nicer outside, but still cool. Harry grabs his jacket, then pulls a chair just outside the tent and settles down.

The air is filled with the rich scent of pine and wet earth. Harry listens to the breeze roll through the trees and the wet canopy dripping down onto the forest floor below, soaking in the beauty of the woods.

As the hour passes the sky turns from blue to shades of pink, orange and red behind scattered threads of clouds.

When a little brown bird glides out of the trees and lands on Harry’s knee, Harry breaks out of his thoughts.

“Hey,” Harry says and smiles. Draco shakes himself off and sprinkles Harry with water. “Oi! Prat.”

Draco chirps and looks up at Harry imperiously. Harry laughs and works to unclip the device from the nightingale. Once he’s free of it Draco shakes himself out again.

“Are you going to sing for me?” Harry asks, running a finger lightly over Draco’s soft head and down his back. Draco twists his head around and nips at Harry’s fingers. Harry jerks his hand back and shakes his fingers out. “You were the one bragging about how beautiful your singing is. Don’t you want to prove it to me?”

Draco turns his beak up in the air imperially. He watches Harry with one beady silver eye, silent a moment, and then starts in on a string of flute-like notes, whistles and trills.

Goosebumps raise on Harry’s arms as Draco sings. The song resonates within Harry and touches him at his very core. He’d never known something that could sound so beautiful, and until he heard Draco’s song, he’d never known how much his soul had longed to hear it—that he’d been unknowingly waiting for it.

A warm, electric sensation courses through Harry’s body, radiating out to the edge of every limb and corner of his being. His face flushes, and his heart starts dancing to a rapid beat against his chest. It feels strange and frightening, overwhelming and somehow completely perfect at the same time. It feels like he’s jumping out of an airplane, or diving through the air with his fingers closing around a snitch, or in the last moment of a duel when he knows that he’s about to win. It feels like falling in love.

Draco ends his song then shifts back, and Harry gets a lapful of the slender, blond man.

“Now shall I make you a glass of warm milk and tuck you in too?” Draco gibes with a cool smile.

In this moment Harry wants him so intensely he can hardly think of anything else. Harry grabs Draco’s face and pulls him into a desperate kiss. Draco makes a high note of surprise against Harry’s mouth, still at first, and then slides his hands into Harry’s hair and presses himself against him.

“Draco,” Harry moans between kisses, and a violent shudder travels down Draco’s spine.

Draco pulls just far enough back to look at Harry, his gaze jumping back and forth between both of Harry’s deep green eyes. Harry slides his hands down Draco’s chest and around his waist, pulling them flush together. He presses a hot, wet kiss to the protrusion of his Adam’s apple, and then traces a slow path under Draco’s jaw up to his earlobe.

Draco moans and grips at Harry’s hair and shirt as Harry sucks on his earlobe, then bites down and drags his teeth over it. “I want you,” Harry murmurs into his ear, and another smaller shiver makes Draco tremble in his grasp.

“Yes,” he breathes, using his handful of the unruly hair to pull Harry off his ear and crush his lips against Harry’s.

They kiss deeply and ravenously, gripping and pressing and tugging at each other. Harry’s not sure how long the kiss goes on for.

His cock is fully hard and aching in his jeans, and he can feel the matching pressure from Draco. He wants Draco so badly he feels like he might die from the need of it. He doesn’t care where they are or how they do it, he could fuck Draco right here in the open air under the trees and the stars and he would probably think it’s the best decision of his life.

Draco breaks the kiss and takes a deep breath, his eyes still closed and his lips brushing against Harry’s as he sighs out his name, “Harry.”

Harry moans and devours Draco in another heated kiss. Draco returns Harry’s passion and intensity kiss for kiss, bite for bite.

When they break apart again, Draco slides his hands up the side of Harry’s neck and whispers, “Let’s go inside.”

Harry wastes no time. He moves his grip to hold Draco under his knees and stands up. Draco quickly shifts his grip, hanging on around Harry’s neck as he is carried inside the tent. Draco starts to press another kiss on Harry, but stops when they step into the richly aromatic tent.

“Are you cooking something?” Draco asks, looking at the stove.

“Oh, yeah.” Harry had completely forgotten. He quickly sets one of Draco’s feet down and waves a hand toward the stove, shutting it off wandlessly and then picking Draco’s leg back up and walking them across the tent.

Draco is looking at Harry like he’s surprised, impressed, and aroused all at once. He presses his lips against Harry’s and kisses him fiercely, and when they get to his room Harry pushes his back against the door. They open their mouths to each other, sliding their tongues together, and Harry sucks Draco’s bottom lip into his mouth to bite it.

Draco takes one hand off of Harry’s neck and slaps it back against the door, feeling around for the doorknob and then turning it once he finds it. The door swings open, and Harry stumbles in the first few steps, but gets his balance without dumping them both on the floor.

With a quick glance around the room he takes them to the bed. When his knees hit the edge of the mattress, Harry drops them onto it, falling over Draco and quickly seeking out his mouth to reconnect their lost kiss.

Draco threads his fingers into Harry’s hair and pulls at him, moaning when Harry rocks his hips down and presses the bulges in their trousers together.

Without breaking the kiss, Harry starts to unbutton Draco’s shirt and then is stopped by Draco grabbing the edge of Harry’s t-shirt and yanking up on it. Harry leans away briefly so he can pull his shirt the rest of the way off and toss it aside.

Once it’s gone Draco’s gaze and hands travel up Harry’s chest. Harry leans down to kiss him and start fiddling with the buttons on his shirt again, but Draco grabs Harry and flips them over.

The smirk he gives Harry makes a shock of heat travel down his chest to rest in his groin. Draco leans over Harry and takes a nipple in his mouth, sucking on it and flicking the hardening nib with his tongue.

Harry moans and cards his fingers through Draco’s hair. Draco leaves Harry’s nipple and trails his tongue and lips down Harry’s abdomen. He shifts off the bed and kneels between Harry’s legs, sucking on the skin just above Harry’s jeans.

Harry spreads his legs further and tilts his head up to watch as Draco pops the button on his jeans and pulls the zipper down, then tugs Harry’s jeans down.

“Fuck,” Harry breathes when Draco palms at his dick through his pants, then curls his fingers around the outline of it and slides his hand up and down the length.

“Tell me what you want, Harry,” Draco says, his voice low and husky.

Harry shifts to sit up and lean forward, taking Draco’s chin and pulling him up into a kiss.

“You,” he breathes, against Draco’s lips, “I want you, any way you’ll have me.”

Draco’s mouth curves into a smile and he kisses Harry once more, then pulls away. He slides his fingers into the waistband of Harry’s pants, and Harry holds his hips up off the bed so Draco can take them off.

Draco licks and bites at his bottom lip as his eyes travel along the length of Harry’s penis. He glances up at Harry with a smirk, then unbuttons and unzips his breeches with a small sigh of relief.

Rubbing at his erection through his pants, Draco slides a hand up Harry’s leg and presses kisses along the inside of his thigh.

Harry draws in a sharp breath when Draco takes Harry’s cock in hand, stroking slowly up and down the length of it, then leaning forward and tonguing the sensitive underside of its head.

A desperate sound escapes from Harry and he flushes and bites down on his lip. It had been so long since anyone had touched him like this, and something about doing it with Draco makes it all ten times more intense.

Draco runs the flat of his tongue up the length of his cock, and Harry groans, shutting his eyes for a moment, then opening them and putting a hand in Draco’s hair. He takes a handful of the fine strands, but doesn’t push or pull at him with it.

“Please,” Harry says breathlessly, aching to feel Draco’s mouth around him.

A smile curves the edges of Draco’s mouth, and he slides his fist up and down Harry a few more times before leaning forward and closing his mouth around the tip of his cock.

Harry gasps and shudders as Draco sucks on the head, sliding his tongue back and forth along the underside.

“Ah, God!” Harry curses, shutting his eyes tightly when Draco moves down and takes more of Harry into his mouth.

Draco starts a slow rhythm, pumping the base of Harry’s prick in time with the bobbing of his head. Harry spreads his legs just a little further, panting and gripping onto Draco’s hair.

Harry feels breathless and hot all over, hypersensitive to every touch as he watches Draco eagerly suck him down, his talented tongue sliding against him and finding the most sensitive spots to tease. Those pale eyes flick up to meet Harry’s, watching Harry watch him as he releases Harry’s cock and slides his hand lower, taking his bollocks in hand and gently cupping them.

A hot sensation radiates out from his stomach as Draco massages him. Harry curls his toes and fights to keep eye contact and not close his eyes. Draco gives an appreciative moan, and the vibration has Harry cursing under his breath.

He holds Harry’s gaze as he relaxes his throat, and slowly dips further down, taking in all of Harry until his nose is pressed into the dark curls at the base of his cock.

“Oh fuck, ahh, fuck, Draco,” Harry pants, the muscles in his abdomen clenching and unclenching. He can feel the tight, electric sensation of orgasm building at the base of his spine, and Harry knows he’s not going to be able to last very long if Draco keeps this up.

Draco sucks on Harry with just the right amount of pressure as he slowly slides back up the length of him, and then pulls all the way off Harry’s dick with a small pop. He looks up at Harry with a pleased smile, his lips full and red and slick with saliva and precome, and Harry wants to kiss them.

Draco’s tongue darts out and laps at the underside of the head as he rolls Harry’s balls in one hand and pumps his fist over him a few times with the other. After a moment he dips back down, taking Harry all the way to the base and swallowing around him.

“Draco,” Harry pants. “Wait, I’m going to—”

Draco’s gaze snaps up to Harry’s, and the sight of those pale eyes, challenging Harry to come while he has his nose buried in Harry’s curly mound of hair, is what sends Harry over the edge.

The intensity of the pressure built up in his groin peaks with such power that Harry swears his vision goes black for a second. He gives a deep groan, toes curling, fingers gripping at Draco’s hair as his hips jerk and twitch, his come surging down the blond’s throat.

Draco sees him through it, then slowly pulls back and sucks lightly at the tip as Harry’s prick gives its last spurt. His hips give another involuntary jerk when Harry looks down and sees that Draco is tugging at his own cock while swallowing Harry.

“Fuck,” Harry breathes, gently pulling at Draco’s hair when the sucking becomes too much for his sensitive cock.

Draco pulls back with a small smug smile, and Harry flops onto his back on the bed, panting and rubbing at his face.

“Yeah?” Draco asks, dropping onto the edge of the bed beside Harry and laying on his side next to him.

“Yeah.” Harry exhales a long breath, then looks over at Draco, admiring his pleased expression, and his wide pupils and dark lips.

Harry toes his trainers off his feet, and then kicks his jeans the rest of the way off. He sits up so he can pull his socks off, and then stands and looks down at Draco, who turns on his back and returns Harry’s heated gaze.

Harry’s eyes roam down the lithe form, lingering on the aching erection standing out between the open fly of his breeches, a drop of precome gathered at the slit.

Harry looks back at Draco and finds him biting his lip, taking in all of Harry’s naked body. He feels a bit vulnerable, and wants to even the playing field. He picks up one of Draco’s feet and slides his hand around the back of his calf, finding the zipper and pulling it down the length of his boot. He tugs the tall boot off, and does the same with the other and his socks.

“Budge up,” Harry directs, and Draco scoots further back onto the bed.

Harry follows after, crawling over top of Draco and meeting him in a heated kiss. He can taste himself on Draco’s tongue as they slide together. Harry gets his hand between them and grips Draco’s cock, giving it a few slow strokes before pulling away.

Harry moves to unbutton Draco’s shirt, but Draco stops him with a hand on his wrist.

“Fair’s fair,” Harry says with an amused smile, but drops it when Draco’s eyes dart away nervously. Harry furrows his brow as he regards Draco’s expression. “Is there a reason you don’t want to take your shirt off?”

“Yes,” Draco sighs, meeting Harry’s gaze anxiously.

Harry’s stomach drops, and he looks down at Draco’s covered chest, then back up at Draco’s eyes. He’s silent for a long moment.

“I didn’t know they scarred,” he says softly.

“Don’t make a big deal of it,” Draco huffs, glancing away and starting to unbutton his shirt himself.

Harry sits back and watches as more and more of the pale chest becomes visible, along with the slightly raised, pink slashes carved into it.

When Draco pulls the sides of his shirt open, Harry takes in the sight, feeling a sinking feeling of guilt at the permanent reminder of the time he almost killed Draco. He had never even considered that they might have scarred.

Harry opens his mouth to apologise, but Draco puts his fingers over Harry’s mouth, stopping him. “Don’t. I don’t want to talk about the war right now,” he says firmly. “I forgave you a long time ago.”

Harry frowns, but nods.

Draco drops his hand, then sits up just enough to pull his shirt the rest of the way off. As soon as he does Harry’s gaze zeroes in on the Dark Mark. It’s the first time Draco’s exposed it since they’ve been working together, and Harry is surprised to find more tattoos surrounding it.

With a hesitant glance at Draco first, Harry gently takes his forearm arm in one hand and runs his fingers over the tattoos with the other. He traces the stag antlers crowning the top of the Dark Mark, then gives Draco a questioning look.

“Yes, of course it’s you,” Draco huffs, his expression defensive with a light blush colouring his cheeks. “Everyone who saved me—who saw me through the war.”

Harry looks back the tattoo, recognising the narcissus flowers to the left, and the peacock feathers on the right. He’s surprised by the phoenix feathers between his antlers, and his fingers pause over the lilies at the bottom. “Snape?”

Draco nods.

Harry hums, running his hand over the tattoo and up Draco’s arm. “It’s beautiful,” he says before pressing his lips against Draco’s in a soft kiss. Draco cards his fingers through Harry’s hair.

Harry reaches between them and finds that Draco’s erection has flagged some. He grips and strokes it slowly, working it back up to its previous glory.

After a moment Harry breaks the kiss to grab onto Draco’s breeches and tug at them. Draco shifts his hips up off the mattress so Harry can pull them off, followed by his pants.

Harry straddles Draco’s waist, sits back on his heels and soaks in the sight of Draco, naked and sprawled over the pale blue duvet. He’s completely enchanted by the way Draco’s blush colours his pale skin, travelling all the way down his neck to the top of his chest.

“You’re gorgeous,” Harry tells him.

“You aren’t so bad yourself,” Draco responds with a smirk, running his hands up and down Harry’s thighs. “Not that I haven’t seen it before, but it is better in person, I’d say.”

Harry stops and blinks at Draco, then understanding slots into place and he groans, flopping forward and burying his face in Draco’s chest.

“You have the 2004 Explicit Witch Weekly Valentine’s Special,” he mutters into his chest.

“Of course I do. It sold out everywhere almost instantly, even in France,” Draco says breezily. “Naturally, I had to see what all the fuss was about.”

Harry groans and Draco laughs.

“I’ll never live it down,” Harry whinges.

“Come now, it wasn’t that bad,” Draco says, rubbing his hand down Harry’s back. “I thought the snitch boxers were rather fetching.”

“Twat,” Harry snipes, flicking one of Draco’s nipples and making him gasp.

“Plonker,” he returns, slapping Harry’s arse.

Harry inhales sharply, then laughs and leans down to kiss him.

Draco smiles against the kiss, then opens his mouth and deepens it. Harry eagerly follows his lead, rubbing his tongue against Draco’s.

As they’re kissing Harry’s glasses slide down his nose and bump into Draco’s nose. Draco makes a small noise of surprise, breaking the kiss and blinking up at Harry.

Harry laughs. “Sorry,” he says and sits up, pulling his glasses off and setting them on the bedside table.

They start snogging again heatedly, and Harry presses himself down against Draco. He’s started getting hard again, and he rocks himself against Draco’s erection, urged on by Draco’s gasps and moans of pleasure and the way his fingers dig into Harry’s waist, pulling him tighter and closer and faster.

“Lube,” Draco breathes out between kisses, gesturing vaguely, “in the drawer.”

Harry pauses to reach over, feeling for it and then pulling out the tube once he finds it. He uncaps the bottle and squeezes some out, spreading it over his cock, and then Draco’s. Harry shifts a bit to line them up together and then takes them both in hand, stroking their cocks together rapidly.

“Yes,” Draco moans, reaching for Harry and pulling him down into a passionate kiss.

Harry fists them as Draco arches against him and runs his hands all over Harry, pulling at his shoulders and his waist and his hair, and repeating his name softly against his lips like a prayer.

Draco’s hand slides down to Harry’s arse, gripping it, and then tentatively exploring further down.

“Is it all right?” Draco whispers.

“Yes,” Harry says quickly, pausing to hand Draco the lube. Draco spreads some of it over his fingers, and then reaches back and rubs a fingertip against Harry’s entrance.

Harry moans and rests his forehead against Draco’s, holding himself up and thrusting against him. Draco presses and gently penetrates Harry’s arse with one finger first, pushing in slowly and matching Harry’s rhythm as he fingers him.

Harry releases a shaky exhale, and kisses Draco as he increases his speed. He takes both their cocks in hand again and starts stroking them in time with Draco. He moans when Draco pushes a second finger in, rocking back on his hand and then forward against his cock.

“Draco,” Harry whispers as the pressure builds, his toes curling. He knows he won’t last this time either at the rate they’re going.

“Wait, wait,” Draco says, putting a hand on Harry’s chest and stopping him. Harry pulls away a fraction and blinks down at the somewhat blurry man beneath him. A bit of uncertainty flashes across Draco’s face, and he swallows visibly and then says, “I want to fuck you.”

An excited shiver runs up Harry’s spine at the thought, and he nods and breathes, “Yes.”

Draco flips them over, and Harry lifts his arse to grab the bottle of lube he’d just rolled onto.

“Sorry,” Draco murmurs with a laugh, giving Harry a quick kiss, then reaching to the side and grabbing a condom from the bedside drawer.

An electric thrill courses through Harry’s body as he watches Draco unroll the condom onto himself, then slather his cock with lube. He spreads his legs as Draco shifts closer, watching Harry with dark eyes as he presses a finger back into him, pushing it in him a few times before putting the second in again.

Harry follows Draco’s hand as it moves back and forth below him, then when Draco curls his fingers and finds Harry’s prostate, he gasps and moans loudly, throwing his head back on the pillow.

“Draco,” Harry cries as Draco massages his prostate, his cock achingly hard and leaking precome. “Another,” he pleads.

Draco kisses the inside of Harry’s knee and pushes a third finger into Harry, fingering and stretching him surely. Harry resists the urge to grab his cock and tug at it, wanting to be able to last long enough that he can climax with Draco inside him.

“Good?” Draco asks.

“Yes, yes, please,” Harry gasps, and nods quickly. “I’m going to come if you don’t stop.”

He desperately needs Draco inside him. He’s experienced many lovers before, several of them quite talented, but he’s never wanted it this badly before in his life. Something about Draco is just different, and it drives Harry wild with need.

Draco slides his fingers out, and for a moment Harry feels bereft, until he feels the press of the blunt head of Draco’s cock against his arse.

Harry gasps as Draco breaches him, trying to remember how to breathe.

Draco stops and takes a deep, steadying breath. “All right?” he asks in a low tone, and Harry hums and nods.

The look on his face. It makes Harry’s heart feel like it’s going to beat right out of his chest.

Draco looks at Harry in wonder, like he is where the world begins and ends. He looks so fucking beautiful.

Harry grabs Draco’s neck and pulls him down into a needy kiss.

They kiss deeply as Draco slowly works his way deeper into Harry, pushing further in, then retreating, then pushing further in again.

“Harry,” Draco moans against him when he’s fully seated inside him.

Harry kisses him, grabbing and pulling at him wildly. “Fuck me,” he begs, wrapping his legs around Draco and trying to pull him tighter.

Draco shivers, seeming just as affected as Harry, and watching him with a heated gaze as he slowly pulls out, then pushes back in.

“Draco,” Harry groans, feeling so full and hot. His cock throbs painfully, and he has to squeeze his eyes shut and grip tightly onto Draco to keep from touching himself.

Draco kisses down Harry’s neck to his collarbones, nipping at them as he rocks faster into Harry.

Draco leans back and watches Harry with half-lidded eyes, snapping his hips forward and thrusting deeper into him.

Harry presses up to meet every thrust, arching and unable to stop the stream of sounds he’s making.

“Harder,” he gasps and clenches around Draco.

Draco hisses. “I’m going—to come—if you do that.”

“Yes,” Harry chokes out, “Come in me.”

It’s too much, Harry feels like his very blood is on fire, and he needs Draco to come with him. He clenches tightly around him, and Draco curses and cries out, thrusting harder and deeper until he’s shuddering over Harry.

Harry grabs his cock and it only takes two—three—four strokes before he’s coming, his orgasm ripping through him. He jerks beneath Draco, spilling white streams of semen over his abdomen and clenching down hard on the cock still throbbing inside him.

Harry holds Draco to himself with the arm around his neck and the legs around his waist. He looks up, and locks eyes with Draco as they pant and tremble and come down together.

With a tug at his neck, Draco meets Harry in a deep, languid kiss. Harry’s heart is racing in his chest, in his cock, in his neck.

His hair sticks to the sweat on his forehead. He breaks the kiss with a sigh.

Draco pulls out with a quiet grunt and rolls off Harry. He pulls the condom off his softening prick, tying it and tossing it aside.

Harry turns on his side and runs his gaze down the flushed, sweat slick body next to him.

Draco takes a minute to catch his breath, then grabs a tissue and tenderly wipes Harry off.

Harry curls up to him afterward, lightly dragging his fingers over Draco’s scars.

Draco watches him silently. He puts a hand in Harry’s hair, carding it through the wild strands.

After a minute of silent, affectionate petting passes, Harry decides that he has to know. “Why a nightingale?”

Draco closes his eyes and sighs slowly, but doesn’t tense up the way he did the last time Harry asked.

Harry finds Draco’s hand and laces their fingers together. He brings the pale hand to his lips and kisses it, waiting.

“Do you know anything about nightingales?” Draco finally asks.

Harry shakes his head.

“It’s believed in many cultures that the nightingale’s song is one of love. To wizards, they are symbols of love, and the magic that comes from it,” Draco says slowly, then snorts and says, “it’s a ridiculously romantic Patronus.”

Harry laughs softly, and Draco smiles at him. He’s silent a moment. The smile fades, and he looks away, fingers idly twirling locks of Harry’s hair.

“When I first cast it, I felt… Well. Nightingales are a double edged sword. Many do view them in terms of love, but they’re also symbols of death. Loss. Ill omens.”

Harry runs his thumb over Draco’s knuckles and waits for him to continue.

“The first time I was able to make a corporeal Patronus was after the war, and I laughed and laughed when I saw it. I knew—I believed that it could not represent love. Not for me. And it seemed fitting at the time, that the embodiment of my soul, of my happiest memory, would be a dirge.”

Harry chuckles, and Draco frowns at him.

“What?” he snaps defensively.

Harry smiles and shakes his head, “I think that’s the most dramatic thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

Draco huffs and pulls his hand back, his relaxed body turning tense against Harry.

“Hey,” Harry says softly, putting a hand on Draco’s chest, “listen. Coming from someone who's died before, I can tell you that it’s really not so bad.”

Draco still looks cross, but curiosity colours his pale eyes.

“And I honestly don’t think your soul is a dirge,” Harry says with an amused smile, coaxing Draco into a short kiss, then finishing, “your Animagus is beautiful.”

Draco slowly relaxes against Harry, and they kiss slowly and deeply.

A loud growl breaks the moment.

Harry pulls back and looks at Draco. “Was that your stomach?”

“Yes.” Draco looks faintly embarrassed. “I’m bloody starving.”

Harry laughs. “I did make dinner, you know.”

They wrap sheets around themselves and leave the bed to eat. The moussaka is a little overcooked, but Draco greedily wolfs down three servings.

When Harry follows him back into his bedroom, Draco says nothing. Harry puts an arm around him and presses light kisses to the back of his neck as he falls asleep.

- ~ -

Harry wakes, warm and comfortable, curled around Draco. He watches the other man, brushing some hair out of his face, a sense of steady warmth and peace resting in his core.

Careful not to disturb Draco, Harry slips out of bed and tugs on his jeans. He goes to the kitchen and starts making breakfast, envisioning returning to Draco for a lazy morning in bed and hopefully more sex.

When the food is almost done, Harry hears Draco walk into the room.

“Oh, you’re awake,” Harry says, turning to the blond. “You weren’t supposed to get up.”

Draco raises an eyebrow at him. “Ever?” he asks. “I mean, you were good Potter, but not that good.”

Harry laughs. “I just meant that I was—”

An owl flies into the tent, and lands on the table. Draco moves to it and unties the letter, tearing it open and reading it.

“Robards wants us back. Today. Now. We’d best get packed,” Draco says, turning and walking back into his room without another glance at Harry.

“...going to bring you breakfast in bed.” Harry finishes quietly, sighing and looking at the untouched food.

He shovels some eggs in his mouth, then grabs the bread, butters it and fills it with bacon. When Draco comes back out, Harry pushes the bacon butty in his hand and goes to his room to pack.

- ~ -

“How was it?” Draco asks distractedly, not looking up as Harry enters his office.

Harry groans and runs a hand through his hair.

“That bad?”

“Whitehall’s in a strop. Robards is just as angry, thinks we haven’t made any progress.” Harry has just had to spend the last forty minutes arguing with Robards to keep Draco on the case.

“But one of the missing persons has been found,” Draco says, quirking an eyebrow up.

“Yes, but not the right one,” Harry huffs and collapses on the couch, then looks around at the reorganised mess of his office. “What have you been up to?”

“Sorting. Almost all of our working theories are rubbish now,” Draco says, shifting piles of books. “The fact that Thomson came back alive and unharmed eliminates over fifty percent of the possible explanations. Then you factor in the fact that it messes with memory, is caused by a plant, and is possibly related to the history of the Vitenium, well, that doesn’t leave us with much.”

There are only five books left in front of Draco. They spend the rest of the afternoon looking at each type of plant more closely. Draco writes out furious notes and calculates probabilities and with complex equations Harry has no interest in learning. Harry goes through what’s left of the books Neville gave them, but can’t find any other plants that might work.

At the end of the day Harry persuades Draco to join him for the dinner he had promised to make him Monday night.

They fall into bed afterward, and Harry takes his time winding Draco up, kissing at his thighs and hip bones and stroking him slowly and deliberating before finally swallowing him. Harry sucks Draco off enthusiastically, stroking himself and coming easily from the open, erotic way Draco trembles and moans and writhes under Harry’s ministrations.

They snog and frot and pet at each other until they’re hard again, and Draco fucks him into the mattress. Harry falls asleep easily, warm and sated and drunk off the tender way Draco looks at him as he runs his long fingers through Harry’s hair.

- ~ -

Draco slams his fists down and Harry jerks his head up. He pushes away from the desk and gets up to pace the room in frustration.

Harry’s eyes follow his path, back and forth, from Harry’s desk, to Ron’s desk, and back again.

“It doesn’t make any sense!” Draco finally explodes, throwing his hands up in frustration.

“Draco—”

“I’m good at my job, Potter! Damn good.”

“Draco—” Harry tries to stop him again, but Draco bulldozes right over him.

“Of course I would get saddled with you on the one I couldn’t solve!” Draco rages, gesturing and pacing furiously. “No matter what I do, I always end up here on the wrong end of things with Harry Potter there as witness to all of my failings! That is my modus operandi after all, the cycle repeating itself anew!”

“Draco!” Harry stands.

Draco finally stops and looks at him.

Harry walks up to him and grabs his face, forcing him to make eye contact. “Listen to me. You are a great Auror. I know you are,” he says firmly. “I do not think you are a failure. I think you are clever, and stubborn, and I know you will solve this. We will solve this.”

Draco’s brow is creased as his eyes jump between Harry’s. He’s silent a moment, then releases a shaky exhale. His shoulders visibly relax, and he sways toward Harry.

“All right?”

“Yes.” Draco swallows. “I’m sorry, I lost my composure.”

“You don’t have to apologise, I’m just as frustrated as you.” Draco snorts, and Harry chuckles. “Okay, maybe not quite as frustrated. But close.”

Draco gives him a small smile, then takes a deep breath and slides his hands around Harry’s waist. “And we always have brought out the worst in each other.”

“True.” Harry nods. “But I like to think we could also bring out the best.”

Draco huffs out a laugh. “That’s because you’re an optimistic sod.”

“I am,” Harry agrees with a grin, “but I think we’re doing pretty good so far.”

The edges of Draco’s mouth twitch as he fights a smile, and Harry kisses him.

“How about we take a break? Get some lunch,” Harry suggests as he pulls away.

Draco heaves a put upon sigh. “I suppose.”

Though they leave the office for lunch, they still talk work the whole time. Draco bounces thoughts and theories off Harry, trying to figure out what in the forest could possibly have made a grown witch and wizard disappear without a trace, and then reappear weeks later. Harry wonders if Whitehall will appear, like Thomson, but Draco doesn’t want to bet on it.

Back in the office they keep searching for and reading any new books or manuscripts on any rare, magical plant that they can find. At six Harry finally convinces Draco to leave work and come home with him. They cook dinner together and afterward they kiss as they stumble their way through the flat to Harry’s bedroom.

Harry pulls Draco’s clothes off and they fall into the bed together.

They kiss passionately, and when Draco breaks off, it’s to say, “I want you to fuck me.”

A shiver rakes through Harry’s body at the thought, and he pulls back to take in Draco’s expression.

“Fuck me, Harry,” Draco reiterates firmly after seeing Harry’s hesitation.

Harry had thought a lot about what it would be like, seeing Draco spread and open to him, unwinding the guarded blond, and making him lose control.

Harry kneels in front of Draco, picking up one of those long, graceful legs and tracing a path down it with his lips.

Draco sighs softly and runs his fingers through Harry’s hair.

Harry puts the leg up on his shoulder, then finds his way to the peak of one angular hip.

“Harry,” Draco breathes as Harry kisses and nips at it.

He slides his hand down Draco’s abdomen into the blond curls at the base of his cock. He slides his fingers through them, and presses his palm against Draco’s hard prick.

He kisses the soft flesh between Draco’s hip and his groin, inhaling the heady, masculine scent of him. He looks up at Draco and takes him in hand, stroking him slowly, firmly.

“Harry, please,” Draco whines, and Harry smiles and rewards him by licking a stripe up his penis.

He loves foreplay, and teasing the stubborn man to the point of begging is becoming a regular goal every night.

Harry laps at the sensitive spot under the head of Draco’s cock, and then takes the tip into his mouth and sucks lightly, swirling his tongue around it.

Draco moans and pulls at Harry’s hair and Harry dips down further.

Harry slides his hand down to cup and massage Draco’s balls. He moves his hand farther back, sliding his fingers through the cleft of his arse and then pulling his head back and looking at Draco for affirmation.

“Yes, do it!” Draco looks down his body at Harry with an impatient expression.

“Yes, Your Highness,” Harry smirks. He grabs the tube of lube and slicks his fingers with it, then reaches down and rubs a fingertip around Draco’s furled hole.

“Get a move on, Potter,” Draco demands, rocking his hips to press down against Harry’s hand.

Harry laughs. “You’re so bossy in bed,” he says, rubbing his finger slowly against Draco’s arse.

“You love it,” Draco taunts, pressing down and chasing Harry’s finger.

‘I do,’ Harry wants to say, but he bites back the words. Draco doesn’t seem to notice.

Draco tugs on Harry’s hair impatiently. “Fuck me! Please!”

Harry chuckles and pushes his finger into Draco, earning a delicious gasp for it.

He takes his time, working his finger deeper into Draco knuckle by knuckle, fucking him on it for a while before working a second finger in, and then a third. He searches out Draco’s prostate, and strokes it until Draco is trembling and panting and swearing at Harry.

“I swear to Salazar, if you don’t fuck me right now I’m going to hex your fucking bollocks off!” Draco snarls and flexes the leg he has over Harry’s shoulder.

Harry laughs and pulls his hand back.

“Will you?” he asks with a cheeky smile, rolling on a condom and slicking himself with lube.

“Try me,” Draco says, glaring at Harry, except the corners of his mouth are twitching up in a smile, and Harry can’t help but lean down and kiss the gorgeous, irritable blond.

Draw claws at Harry’s shoulders when he finally presses the head of his cock against Draco, then sinks slowly into him.

Draco is so tight and hot, and Harry has to take a breath and ease into him with slow, small thrusts.

“Harry,” Draco breathes, when Harry is finally fully sheathed inside him.

“You okay?” Harry asks, his forehead pressed to Draco’s shoulder, breathing slowly against him.

Yes,” Draco urges, grasping and pulling at Harry’s waist and shoulders.

Harry lifts his head up to meet those pale eyes, darkened and hazy with lust. Harry leans forward and slots their mouths together in a needy, passionate kiss.

Draco grabs a handful of Harry’s hair and thrusts up against him. “Fuck me, Potter,” he demands, eyes closed, lips brushing against Harry’s.

Harry pulls back, gripping onto Draco’s hips, and starts thrusting in a slow rhythm into the blond.

Draco moans appreciatively and presses back on every thrust, grasping Harry’s shoulders and urging him faster, deeper, harder.

It’s not long before Harry is snapping his hips forward, beating a gruelling rhythm into Draco, and Draco is pleading for every thrust.

He can feel Draco clenching around him, and he knows he’s close.

Harry sinks into Draco and stops, leaning forward and pressing a heated kiss to his lips.

“Harry,” Draco groans into the kiss. He reaches down to stroke his cock, and Harry grabs his wrist, pressing it against the bed.

“Not yet,” Harry murmurs against his lips.

“Harry, please,” he begs, trembling beneath him, his achingly hard cock pressing against Harry’s stomach.

“Patience.” Harry smiles against him.

He pulls out and applies more lube, then rocks back into Draco slowly. He finds Draco’s hands and threads their fingers together.

Harry starts a new rhythm of deep, slow thrusts, pressing down on Draco and kissing him languidly.

The little gasps and moans Draco makes into his mouth are well worth the effort, and Harry releases one of Draco’s hands so he can take his cock and stroke it in the same slow beat, keeping the pressure light and not quite enough.

“Fuck,” Draco groans, pressing up against Harry and trying to get harder pressure, harder thrusts, “please, please.”

Harry takes his time, rocking into Draco with long strokes for a while, and then thrusting shallowly against Draco’s prostate. Draco gasps, grabbing at Harry’s hand on his cock and trying to make him pump faster, and more firmly.

Harry pushes his hand away, continuing the light rubbing of his cock and short thrusts into him, brushing against his prostate with every stroke.

As the pressure coils and builds inside him, Harry clenches his jaw and curls his toes, trying to stave off his orgasm, wanting to feel Draco come around him.

“Fuck, fuck,” Draco swears, clawing at Harry’s back and panting heavily. “Please, I’m so close.”

“Come, Draco,” Harry breathes, focusing his strokes at the top of Draco’s cock, brushing his thumb lightly against the underside of the head, and thrusting sharply against his prostate.

“Oh god, Harry!” Draco cries out his name, closing his eyes, his mouth wide as he shudders and jerks beneath Harry, his orgasm ripping through him violently.

He clenches down hard on Harry’s cock, and Harry gasps and groans out Draco’s name as his own climax hits him like a freight train. His hips jerk forward, and he buries himself deep inside the blond.

Draco’s legs are flexed and tight around Harry, anchoring Harry to him as they ride out the rocky decline of their orgasms together.

Harry collapses onto Draco, pressing tired kisses to the beautiful pink flush across his chest.

“Fucking hell, Potter,” Draco exhales on a shaky breath.

Harry laughs and smiles against his chest. “Good?”

“Fantastic,” Draco corrects him, and slides a hand into Harry’s hair, using it to manoeuvre Harry up into a slow, languorous kiss.

Harry sighs softly into him, then pulls out with a slight wince and rolls to Draco’s side.

He pulls the condom off and grabs his wand to vanish it, then aims cleaning charms at both of their stomachs. Harry sets his wand aside, then curls up against Draco.

He gazes at the blond devotedly, runs his fingers lightly up Draco’s cheek, down his jaw, over his lips, wondering how he could have ever avoided the completely addictive man.

Draco is looking back steadily into Harry’s eyes, his skin still a bit flushed and sweaty. He’s watching Harry with a soft expression as he cards his fingers through Harry’s messy hair.

Harry knows that he’s already lost himself to those fathomless grey eyes. Harry is used to falling hard and fast for people, Ron was right, it’s his usual M.O., but this is beyond anything he’d experienced before.

Harry’s falling for Draco. He knows it unequivocally. And if he thought it would do any good, he would tell Draco—he would shout it from the rooftops. But Draco is so careful, so slow to trust, he knows it’s not the right time, that it’s too soon.

“Harry,” Draco whispers, and Harry inhales sharply. Normally once they’re not fucking anymore Draco reverts back to calling him ‘Potter.’

Harry swallows, the relaxed rhythm of his heartbeat accelerating. His gaze darts between Draco’s stunning grey eyes.

Is he going to say it? Already? And before Harry? This has never happened to him before, not even with Ginny.

“Yeah?” he asks roughly.

“Are you investigating me?”

“What?” Harry freezes, then blinks and sits up. He furrows his brow and studies Draco. “What do you mean?”

“It’s all right if you are,” Draco says easily, but his gaze has dropped to watch his hand as he runs it up Harry’s chest. “I’d just like to know. Especially if we’re going to keep doing this.”

“I’m not,” Harry states firmly.

“Okay.” Draco idly twirls some of the sparse curls on Harry’s chest around his finger.

“Draco,” Harry says, catching Draco’s hand to stop his fidgeting and get him to meet his gaze, “why would you think that?”

“I don’t know,” he says evasively at first.

Harry waits him out, and eventually he continues.

“I just have the feeling he’s trying to get rid of me—Robards. You mentioned he told you to keep an eye on me. What better excuse for a dismissal than to have Harry Potter denounce me?” Draco shrugs lightly.

“Draco,” Harry says, turning over the pale hand in his grip and laying a kiss on his palm. He leans down, slowly pressing his lips against Draco’s.

It’s chaste at first, Draco seems tentative, but Harry is patient. He runs his fingers through Draco’s hair, and Draco opens up to his prodding.

They deepen the kiss, and for a moment Harry loses himself in the warm heat of Draco’s mouth.

When they finally manage to pull away, Draco’s expression has completely changed from carefully closed off, to warm and open.

“I promise,” Harry says with a soft smile. “There is a long list of things I want to do to you, and getting you fired is not anywhere close to one of them.”

Draco runs a finger over Harry’s slick bottom lip, looking at him heatedly. “Perhaps we should get started on that list, then.”

- ~ -

In the morning Harry wakes Draco with a mouth around his cock, and discovers that he rather likes a sleepy, sated Draco sprawled across his bed, the early morning sun slanting across his naked form.

They snog, and then take it to the shower, where Harry presses Draco against the tiles and has him coming a second time around his cock.

At the office Draco seems quiet and thoughtful, going through Elizabeth Whitehall’s research for the umpteenth time and digging out old scrolls and manuscripts from his own office.

Neville had sent over a new batch of texts on rare plants, and Harry tries to read through them, but he has a hard time focusing.

It’s Friday, and all Harry can think about is the way Draco looks with his legs spread open, and the way his tone changes when he cries out Harry’s name, and the completely unguarded expression he makes right before he comes.

Harry wants to bend Draco over his desk, or be bent over his desk—either way, he’s not fussy.

The day drags on, and as the hours pass, Draco’s change of attitude is more and more apparent. In place of the frustrated hair-pulling of yesterday, he’s furtively digging into his research, and spending many moments looking into the distance and chewing his lip thoughtfully.

Harry recognises the signs of Draco finding and working through a new theory, but every time he asks about it, Draco brushes him off.

It’s not until Ron leaves them alone at the end of the day, that Harry finally gets Draco to share his thoughts.

“I think… I think I know what we’re dealing with. I think I’ve known for a while, but I’ve… It seemed too ridiculous. I thought it couldn’t be true, but it adds up.”

“What is it then?” Harry prompts.

“Time.”

“Time? As in, time magic? Like time turners?” Harry asks with raised eyebrows.

“Yes.” Draco nods his certainty, “It matches. It matches everything, and the math works, and it—it explains it all.”

Harry exhales a long breath. He has to admit that he had wondered at that as well, but it just seemed too farfetched. There is always an easier explanation.

“Okay. So, what now? We hand the case over to the Unspeakables?”

“I… Yes. We’ll need to,” Draco answers after a brief hesitation.

Harry raises an eyebrow. “But?”

“Oh, no. There’s no ‘but.’ We have to tell the Unspeakables. Time Magic falls under their purview,” Draco says, shaking his head. “I have an acquaintance in the department, I’ll talk to him Monday. I’m sure he’ll have gone home for the day already.”

Harry sighs. It’s never a great way to end a case, handing it off to someone else, but there’s no choice. “Okay,” he says and stands, “is that it then?”

Draco nods at him with a rueful smile.

“That’s a rather disappointing way to end,” Harry says, walking over to Draco at his desk and sliding a hand along the back of his neck.

“Hmm,” Draco intones, closing his eyes and leaning in to Harry’s touch. “It happens, sometimes.”

“Does it?” Harry runs his fingers through the shorter hair at the back of Draco’s neck.

“Well, I’ve only ever had Unspeakables take one of my cases before.”

“Yeah?” Harry asks, leaning forward to kiss Draco, but stopping when he sees a familiar book poking out from under all his notes.

Harry furrows his brow and moves the parchment aside to pick up Professor Darby’s book.

“Hold on,” Harry says, looking to Draco incredulously. “You think that this nutter was right? Those flowers Thomson described are Tempoppies?”

Draco laughs and shrugs. “It fits. In all his ranting and raving there is a nugget of truth to what he says. I’ve been reading a bit about him actually. Seems he was a well-respected herbologist, before he got hit with an Obliviate gone bad that put him round the bend. No one believed him because of it.”

Harry hums thoughtfully. “ ‘Obliviate gone bad?’ ”

“Probably the Ministry’s work. He was studying them not long after the Mintumble Mishap of 1899. The Ministry had just outlawed all time magic,” Draco says. “They were very harsh on anyone mucking about with it, and they were purging every library they could find of any texts on time magic. It’s no wonder we couldn’t find anything about it. But here, listen to this—”

Draco holds out his hand expectantly, and Harry gives him the book.

Draco flips through the book for a few seconds, before finding the passage he wants. “ ‘Time magic is temperamental, elusive, constantly shifting and flowing through the land separate from regular magic. It is a force all its own, and almost nothing can divert it, but I have found one such creature that thrives off time magic, like a tree with water.

“The roots of the Tempoppy can perceivably stay dormant underground for hundreds, maybe thousands of years until a new stream of time magic passes by, and then it blooms magnificently. Anyone caught within its pollination cycle will be granted the omniscience of a god until the cycle is ended.’ ”

“Yeah, I remember that bit. That’s where he started to lose me,” Harry laughs.

Draco gives him a small smile. “It does sound rather absurd.”

“Are all your cases this insane?”

“Sometimes.” Draco shrugs.

“I think the most unbelievable thing about it is that Luna was right,” Harry says, and Draco laughs.

Harry grins, then leans down and presses a kiss to Draco’s lips.

“Come on, let’s go meet everyone at the pub then, celebrate with a drink,” Harry says, turning to get his robes from the coat rack.

“I can’t tonight,” Draco says, shaking his head and pushing away from the desk.

Harry stops and frowns at Draco. “Don’t tell me you’re seriously going to keep working.”

“Erm, no,” Draco stands and starts packing up his research, not looking at Harry, “No, nothing like that. No point anymore. Pansy’s coming into town tonight. She’s staying with me over the weekend. I would bring her along, but I really don’t think anyone would be happy with that.”

Harry laughs. “Yeah, probably not.” He grabs his robes and slides them on, then moves to Draco and puts an arm around his waist. He presses a few kisses along Draco’s neck and asks, “Will I get to see you at all this weekend?”

Draco sighs softly. “I’ll try to get some time away from her tomorrow,” he says, sliding his hand over Harry’s, and then patting it. “Go on, go have fun with everyone.”

Harry smiles and presses a last kiss to Draco’s lips. “All right.” He pulls away regretfully, glancing at Draco once more before leaving the office.

- ~ -

Harry fingers the edge of his glass and chews on his lip.

Seamus and Jones are dancing, and everyone else is laughing at their antics.

Harry wants to join in the festive mood, but his mind is on Draco and the case, and he can’t shake the nagging feeling that he’s missing something.

Why did Draco seem hesitant about handing the case over? Why did he wait until the end of the day to tell Harry? Why did he not want to talk about it in front of Ron?

Harry gets an uneasy feeling in his gut, and he leaves without drinking any of his first pint. He goes back to the Ministry and checks his office, then Draco’s office, but Draco is already gone.

He starts rifling through Draco’s desk, looking for the notes he was taking today. He finds all sorts of parchments and scrolls filled with old theories and equations, some he recognises from having read before, but none of it is about time magic.

Returning to his own office, Harry looks through the books and papers Draco left on his desk, but he finds a lot of the same old notes. He stops and turns, looking around the walls at Draco’s maps. Harry chews on his lip and taps his fingers against his desk.

There’s only two maps on the wall. Where is the third?

After a beat, Harry makes up his mind and leaves the office. He apparates into Draco’s flat.

“Draco?” Harry calls. There’s no response.

Harry walks around the flat, checking the bedroom and bathroom, but it’s empty. He rummages around some books and papers Draco has on his table, and then looks around his desk. Harry finds the most recent map next to Draco’s computer, and he grabs and unfolds it.

Draco has circled one spot on the map with very high numbers. Harry’s heart starts to pound.

The sinking feeling in Harry’s gut gets worse. He focuses on the apparition point outside the Vitenium, and makes the jump.

“Has Malfoy been here?” Harry asks the concierge, panting from the exertion of running all the way from the apparition spot to the lodge.

Sean the concierge gives Harry an odd look. “Yeah. He came through about twenty, thirty minutes ago.”

“I need a horse. Right now.”

- ~ -

The wind whistles past Harry as he gallops down the trail. Crius’ hooves pound the ground beneath him. As they round the bend, Harry sees the golden horse standing to the side of the path up ahead.

Hyperion raises his head stiffly and watches Harry racing up to him. Harry pulls up sharply next to him, and the lone horse whinnies takes a few nervous steps away.

Harry jumps off Crius and ties him next to the palomino. He draws his wand and rushes off the path into the shrubs.

Harry run through the trees, looking around wildly for Draco. He beats his way through the undergrowth, then catches a glint of blond hair through the thicket.

“Diffindo!” Harry cuts his way through the bramble and comes out into a meadow.

“Draco!” he calls to the man across the field.

Draco turns sharply, looking at Harry in surprise.

“What are you doing here, Potter?” Draco sputters, wide-eyed when Harry rushes up to him.

“What are you doing here?” Harry counters angrily, panting. “You told me that you’re giving the case to the Unspeakables!”

“I will! I just,” Draco pauses and swallows, “I had to see.”

“See what? That you’re right? Let it go! It’s not worth it if you get stuck in a time loop and go missing forever!”

“It’s time magic, Potter! Naturally occurring time magic! Do you have any idea how rare that is?” Draco effuses, gesturing widely.

“I don’t care, it’s dangerous!” Harry says fiercely. “What do you even think you’re going to do with it?”

“Nothing! You think I don’t know better than that?” Draco growls. “I just want to study it! These plants, they bloom once a millennia, maybe—”

“Then why lie about it? Why sneak around?” Harry cuts him off. “Do you not trust me?”

“I can’t trust anybody,” Draco says harshly, and Harry’s gut wrenches.

“What’s this all been then?” Harry asks, unable to keep his voice from breaking. “If you can’t even trust me with this, then why—?” Harry stops, a thought slotting into place. “It’s because you think I’m investigating you, isn’t it?”

Draco hesitates a beat too long and Harry clenches his fist around his wand. A painful flood of thoughts enters Harry’s mind, and he remembers how he always had to be to one to initiate every touch, every kiss, every embrace. How Draco always pulled away first.

“That’s it, isn’t it?” He asks, his heart beating rapidly from pain and anger. “Do you even like me at all?”

“Of course I do!” Draco snaps, glaring at Harry. “I’m not a whore! I’m a Slytherin.”

“So what, then? You’re just taking advantage? Making me fall for you so that I won’t report you to Robards?”

“It’s not that simple!” Draco growls, throwing his hands up in frustration. “I’ve lo—” Draco chokes on the words, swallows, and corrects himself, “I’ve liked you for years.”

Harry stares at Draco in shock.

“But you—all you ever seemed interested in was my arse. God forbid you actually try to get to know me!”

Harry licks his lips and swallows. “You’re right, but I have been trying, and I do know you. As much as you’ve shown me,” Harry says, taking a careful step closer to Draco, “I see you now, Draco.”

Draco scoffs and looks away, his hands balled tightly against his sides.

“I do,” Harry asserts calmly, taking another step. “And I like it, and I want to see more.”

Draco looks back up at Harry warily, his posture stiff, his gaze uncertain.

Harry steps up to him and cautiously reaches for his hand. Draco’s fingers relax and unclench as Harry runs his own over them.

“I swear to you that I am not investigating you. This has all been real for me,” Harry says evenly, studying Draco’s face, “but I need to know—is it just a game to you?”

Draco frowns, but holds Harry’s gaze. “I tried,” Draco says haltingly, “I tried to keep it separate. How I felt, and what we were doing. But then you’d look at me with those ridiculously green eyes—”

Draco cuts off and exhales a shaky breath. Harry waits, his stomach roiling.

“I do like you, Harry. And being with you—it’s been amazing. But this is who I am,” Draco says firmly. “I fucked you to keep my job, and I’d do it again. And if you want me, you have to accept the whole manipulative, Death Eater package. I’m not easy to live with. I’m not easy to love.”

Harry opens his mouth to disagree, but Draco stops him.

“Don’t. Don’t romanticise me. No matter how hard I work, or how much good I do, this mark will always be on my arm,” Draco says, his right hand gripping onto his forearm above his Dark Mark, “and our past will always be written across my chest.”

Looking at Draco’s resolute expression—his clenched jaw and dark eyes—Harry knows that he’s right. It will not be easy. But he also knows with absolute certainty that it will be worth it.

“Draco,” Harry says softly, taking Draco’s hand and gripping it. He sees movement over his shoulder and looks past him. “Draco,” he repeats sharply.

Draco turns, and they watch as large pink flowers push their way up out of the earth at the edge of the meadow. Their petals swirl around on the still air, falling and floating, pulling off of their flowers and then reconnecting to them, blooming, closing, and reopening.

Harry stares at the sight. It’s nonsensical, and completely enchanting.

More flowers steadily emerge from the ground and bloom, adding their petals to the troupe dancing through the air, getting closer and closer to Harry and Draco.

“Harry, we should probably move farther away,” Draco says lightly.

“Yeah,” Harry agrees, but neither of them moves. Harry is so enthralled by the vision that he can’t seem to make his feet move.

The air is so still, but the petals twirl and float up, side to side and around each other, heedless of gravity.

There’s something about the way the flowers move and the way they smell. It seems familiar, but Harry can’t quite put his finger on where he’s smelled it before. It tickles the back of his mind.

Harry is reminded of the cherry trees in the park in Little Whinging he used to go to escape Dudley, and how in the spring he'd watch their petals fall and swirl around each other. It was like that, but so much more.

Harry feels like he’s six years old again, seeing the cherry blossoms fall for the first time. He remembers how the trees had towered over him back then. He can feel the squeeze of ill-fitting shoes on his toes, and he can smell the approaching rainstorm in the wind that rushes around him, blowing through his overlarge shirt and sending a chill down his spine.

He still remembers the wonder and the magic he had felt then, in that rare and precious moment of peace in his volatile childhood.

But he's not in Little Whinging right now, he's in Scotland with Draco.

The field around them is filled with the light pink flowers pushing up out of the ground. Their wide petals fly and fall around them, and all of Harry’s senses narrow down into this moment. In the flowers. In Draco. In himself. It feels like an eternity stretches before him, contained all in one second.

The flowers bloom and their petals fall up into the sky, floating on a breeze Harry can't feel, and at the same time petals are falling down and attaching themselves to their stems.

Harry can't tell if it's sunrise, daytime, or nightfall. It feels like all of them at once.

The universe is laid before them on a path of pale petals, and they are standing on the sands of time.

An endless sea of stars are forming, burning, and exploding above them in the night sky. The forest a desert, is ice, is seedlings, is wild and thick, is ash, is saplings all at once.

Harry looks over at Draco, right as Draco looks at him, sharing an expression of wonder.

Harry stands next to Draco like he has so many times before, and like he knows he will again. He can see their past, present, and future all in the one glance, laid out behind, underneath and before him.

A pale boy with his nose in the air, getting his Hogwarts robes fitted, a bit of baby fat still clinging to his cheeks.

A blurry face coming into focus as it moves closer. Recognition sparks in the grey eyes, but his words deny it.

Shadowed eyes circled with dark rings watching him in disbelief, chained to the chair beside him as Harry gives testimony.

The same face but more matured, shining in wonder at Harry, and at the sight before them, as pink petals swirl all around them.

Snow falling and cheeks turned red from the cold. They take each other’s gloved hands as they walk up a long drive, the house ahead of them lit with warm lights and a Christmas tree twinkling through the window.

A small brown bird flying around him, landing on his antlers as he walks through the wood.

Golden hair shining in the sunlight next to him. Their hands are clasped together, their white robes fluttering in the warm spring breeze. He can feel the eyes of all their friends, family and loved ones gathered there to witness this moment.

Straight, white teeth worrying a bottom lip as he watches the shining red hull of the Hogwarts Express disappearing down the tunnel through the billowing steam it leaves in its wake.

Hair once golden, now silver. Deep lines drawn by a long life of love and many, many arguments crinkle on a smile next to familiar eyes.

In this moment of singularity Harry knows, and Draco knows, and he feels anxious for what's to come, happy for how he is, and satisfied with the life he’s lived. Every moment of a lifetime played out in a second. A drop of water in the ocean of time. Rippling, expanding and contracting.

The flowers slowly disappear into the air, the last of the petals pulled and draw up and away on an intangible wind.

Things start to come into focus. Things Harry had forgotten about. Things that, until then, he didn't realise existed beyond the pale rings of grey irises filled with love and hate—with a dark history and promises of a brighter future.

He can feel a breeze ruffling hair again, and his brain remembers what a breeze is.

Oxygen, his mind supplies as his chest expands and fills his lungs with it.

The sounds of the forest slowly trickle in, softly, one at a time, and growing into a chorus, like the slow beginning of an orchestra.

Bird song, the tinkling of a river, leaves fluttering in the wind. It feels unnaturally loud at first, after the stillness of the moment before, but then Harry remembers that this is what a forest sounds like, and it doesn’t seem so loud after all.

When Harry looks away he thinks this event must have lasted only a moment, except he feels as if he’s stood here and lived a hundred years.

As the present forces itself back on his perception, Harry tries to cling to the vague images he just lived. But he can’t, and they start to fade.

Harry feels as if he was just thinking about something very important, and he can feel the memory floating to the back of his mind, like a piece of driftwood floating out to sea. The more Harry tries to grasp onto what he’d been thinking about, the further he pushes it out of reach.

He feels like it was something about Draco, had he been thinking about their future? Maybe. Or maybe he’d been thinking about their past. There's something about it that feels incomprehensible now—knowledge beyond his current perception of the world.

Draco exhales a shaky breath. Harry shivers.

They stand and stare at each other for a long moment in silence.

Harry swallows. His gaze slowly drops to their hands, still clasped together, and then raises back to Draco’s eyes.

“Can you…?” Harry trails off, gesturing vaguely.

“Remember? No. I… I remember the flowers, but I feel like…”

“Like you’ve just forgotten something?”

“Yeah.”

A long moment passes where they don’t say anything.

“Should we…” Harry’s not quite sure how to finish the sentence. Suddenly nothing seems to matter beyond what just happened to them. “Call the Unspeakables?”

Harry breaks eye contact to slowly look around the meadow. It seems the same as it did before the flowers bloomed, but he can’t be certain.

“Erm…” Draco looks around thoughtfully. “No.”

Harry furrows his brow and opens his mouth to argue, but Draco cuts him off.

“Not yet. I just—I want to get our stories straight first. I don’t think they’ll try to Obliviate us, but they might… Time magic is a highly guarded secret.”

“Okay… What do you want to say to them?” Harry asks, the fog in his mind slowly clearing.

“I—I don’t know. I just know that I want to keep this. Whatever it is. It’s…” He pauses and gives Harry a long look. “It’s important.”

“Yeah,” Harry agrees. Their hands are still clasped together, and Harry runs his thumb over Draco’s knuckles.

Whatever they’d been fighting about before seems so small now. Harry knows deep inside his blood and his soul that he’s doing the right thing, and he’ll fight through whatever hardships to stay with Draco.

Harry takes a deep breath, then lets it out slowly. He licks his lips and glances around. “Do you think… When do you think it is? Is it still today, or have we been missing?”

Draco crinkles his brow and looks around. “We’ve likely been missing for some time.”

“Shite.” Harry runs a hand through his hair. “I should let Ron know we’re alive, just in case.”

Harry pauses, watching Draco, then holds up his wand after Draco nods his agreement.

“Expecto Patronum!” Harry casts the spell with familiar ease.

The silver wisps pour out of the tip of his wand, swirling and twisting, and form into a nightingale.

Harry stills, a shock courses down his body at the sight.

Draco says nothing. Harry says nothing.

They watch the bird flying around them, and then stop to hover in front of Harry.

Draco turns, and Harry meets his gaze. Draco is looking at him wide-eyed, his mouth hanging open and his jaw working, but no words are coming out.

Harry doesn’t know what to say, and yet some part of him is not surprised. Before he would have been shocked and embarrassed by the sudden exposure of his heart to Draco. But somehow, now, it makes perfect sense.

If Harry had been waiting for a sign from the universe telling him who to be with then this would be it.

Harry loves Draco.

He knows now that he does and he trusts in it, but not because of some sign.

He knows it when he hears Draco laugh, when he buries his nose in Draco’s pillow to chase the scent of him, when he wakes up and his first thought is of Draco.

He feels it every time Draco sighs his name, or laces their fingers together, or pulls Harry just a little closer at night.

Harry loves him, and he knows that Draco loves him in return. He sees it reflected at him in Draco’s eyes, and he heard it in his song.

Harry squeezes Draco’s hand and feels an answering pressure.

- ~ -

Epilogue

“Come ooon Dad! If you walk any slower we’re going to miss the train!”

“James, slow down. We’ve got plenty of time,” Draco chides the impatient boy, “Now just wait until no Muggles are about, and walk straight—”

“I know how to do it!” James exclaims and then runs trolley first into Platform 9 ¾.

Draco sighs and gives Harry The Look, the one he’s all too familiar with, that says, ‘He’s your son.’ He always seems to like removing himself from the equation whenever their children are being particularly difficult.

Harry just chuckles and follows after James.

They exchange kisses and goodbyes, and then watch their eldest board the Hogwarts Express for his first year.

Harry catches the worried expression on Draco’s face and takes his hand. “Don’t worry, he’ll be all right.”

“He’ll be more than all right,” Draco scoffs. “He’s a Potter-Malfoy. He’ll be an unholy terror. McGonagall will likely resign on the spot.”

Harry laughs. “You know that we’re going to have to do this again next year for the twins.”

“Don’t remind me. And don’t remind McGonagall that we have twins. If she doesn't quit the moment she sees James, she certainly will once she sees them. The poor woman. What have we done? We’re going to kill her.”

“Babe, this is McGonagall we're talking about. She's made of steel,” Harry says and grins, “It's the kids I'm worried about.”

That finally gets a small smile to break through Draco’s anxious expression.

“Stop worrying, you’ll give yourself wrinkles,” Harry teases, running his thumb up and down Draco’s hand.

“Git,” Draco snipes.

“Prat,” Harry returns.

Draco looks at Harry for a moment, warm affection colouring his pale eyes. The train starts to move and his eyes snap back to watch it.

Harry looks at it, watching it slowly disappear down the tunnel, and then he looks back at Draco.

Draco is chewing his lip nervously as he watches the train move out of sight.

Harry feels a sudden sense of deja vu, and is filled with the bone-deep certainty that he is exactly where he should be.